Weekly facts and quotes, 10/27 – 11/2

I keep little facts and quotes that I find interesting in an evernote notebook. I thought I’d start sharing them because everyone should learn one fact per day.


The Circumcellions regarded martyrdom as the true Christian virtue (as the early Church Father Tertullian said, “a martyr’s death day was actually his birthday”), and thus disagreed with the Episcopal see of Carthage on the primacy of chastity, sobriety, humility, and charity. Instead, they focused on bringing about their own martyrdom.

On occasion, members of this group assaulted Roman legionaries or armed travelers with simple wooden clubs to provoke them into attacking and martyring them. Others interrupted courts of law and verbally provoked the judge so that he would order their immediate execution (a normal punishment at the time for contempt of court).[6] The sect survived until the fifth century in Africa.


When the first European settlers reached North America, lobsters were so plentiful that they would reportedly wash ashore in piles up to 2 feet high. Their bounty made them a precious source of sustenance during hard times—and gave them a nasty reputation as the poor man’s protein.


When crowded into tight quarters such as store display tanks, lobsters tend to become cannibalistic. Sellers tightly band their claws to prevent them from feasting on their neighbors.


But a story is told about Psammenitus, a King of Egypt. When he was defeated and captured by Cambises the King of Persia he showed no emotion as he saw his daughter walk across in front of him, dressed as a servant and sent to draw water. All his friends were about him, weeping and lamenting: he remained quiet, his eyes fixed on the ground. Soon afterwards he saw his son led away to execution; he kept the same countenance. But when he saw one of his household friends brought in among the captives he began to beat his head and show grief.

On Sadness, by Montaigne


I will underline certain characteristics of Japanese zoning that makes it different from North American practices and that I find particularly interesting.

1- Zoning is a national law, not a municipal by-law

2- There are only 12 different zones

3- Zones still restrict uses, but they tend to allow a “maximum” use instead of an exclusive use for each zone

4- Japanese zoning doesn’t differentiate the types of residential use

5- It includes rational rather than arbitrary height limits

6- Cities still conserve the right to require certain geometric criteria


The ancient Florentines were so far from wishing to get the better of their enemies by surprise attacks that a month before they sent their armies into the field they gave them warnings by continuously tolling the bell they called the Martinella.

“Whether the governor of a besieged fortress should go out and parley” by Montaigne


But for a soldier going to war, a pocket watch was cumbersome and fragile; it took time to remove it from a pocket, open the case, and put it away safely. The alternative, strapping a watch to one’s wrist, seemed obvious but presented a quite different, and stickier, problem. “Wristlets,” as they were known until the 1920s, were designed for women. As the name implies, they were essentially bracelets designed for showing off jewels (and shapely wrists), and were equipped with a tiny watch face for decoration rather than practicality.

A 1919 Bulova advertisement makes clear how far the wristwatch had to go to become accepted in America. “No more is it considered dandyfied for men to wear a strap watch on the wrist.” On February 15, 1918, the Stars and Stripes military newspaper (edited during the war by Harold Ross, the postwar founder of the New Yorker) ran an extraordinary piece titled “The Wrist Watch Speaks,” which vividly underscores the sexualized panic that had surrounded these “bejeweled and fragile” timepieces…

The war had turned this symbol of unmanliness into a military tyrant. “Everything that is done in the army itself, that is done for the army behind the lines, must be done according to my dictates.” But its proclivities still seem to be in question. “On the hairy forearms of the husky artillerymen, I am there with every tug of the lanyard, and can feel the firm biceps tighten from below.”

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