In June of 1579, Francis Drake landed just north of San Francisco Bay, at Point Reyes. He named the region New Albion, claiming it for England. Later, in 1667, Virginia Farrer published a new edition of her late father’s map of the Virginia Colony. John Farrer’s map was intended to be something of a promotional piece, meant to encourage settlement and exploration in the new world. The idea was to showcase just how close Drake’s New Albion was from the “Bay of Checepiacke” and the eastern seaboard of the continent. And it was very wrong.

I think it must have been incredibly frustrating for Moses. He probably had no idea what he was getting into when he had that conversation with God on Horeb, in front of the burning bush. If he had, he may have wanted to push back a little harder than he did, when God told him to get over himself and lead the Israelites. You’d think that leading people who had been in slavery for over 400 years out of that slavery would be easy—after all, they’d had plenty of time to see how bad they had it. You’d think they would have been excited to get out and get on. But, as the book of Exodus tell us, they were a hard-hearted people, stubborn and prone to complaining.

Sun Tzu was a Chinese general and philosopher who lived around 500 BC. Today, he is best known as the author of The Art of War, a book of proverbs and instruction in military strategy. Sun Tzu’s book has been used and respected by military, political, and business leaders for centuries, both in China and around the world. Like many ancient works, The Art of War is ripe for proof-texting and finding within its sayings the very thing we want to hear, but Sun Tzu’s perspective on the waging of war is somewhat unique. While he clearly is willing to go into battle, he doesn’t come across as the belligerent war-hawk you’d expect. He says, “Without a full understanding of the harm caused by war; it is impossible to understand the most profitable way of conducting it.

In the 1920s, Solomon Shereshevsky was working as a journalist in Moscow. During a meeting in April of 1929, his section editor noticed that Shereshevsky was not taking notes. Upset with Shereshevsky’s seeming lack of attention, the editor demanded to know the reason. Instead of making excuses, Shereshevsky proceeded to repeat, verbatim, everything that had been said in the meeting to that point. He had not been taking notes because he had never needed to take notes. He remembered everything.

For a few years in the 1630s, the Dutch went tulip-crazy. The reason we associate the flower with Holland has its roots in this period, when single tulip bulbs commanded astronomical prices. Adriaan Pauw, a director of the newly formed Dutch East India Company, built a special mirrored pavilion in his garden to showcase the most stunning of his collection—the Semper Augustus. He received numerous offers to buy offsets of his flower—offsets being the only reliable way to reproduce the color and pattern of the parent plant. During the height of the tulip craze, it was claimed that 10,000 florins was offered for a single Semper Augustus bulb, enough to purchase a luxurious home on one of the best canals of Amsterdam.