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spartacus (103-71 BC) is a somewhat mysterious historical figure. a greek, or possibly a thracian (from what is today bulgaria), little is known of his life except that he was a military leader, then a gladiator, then he led a massive slave uprising against rome, one of the few wars in history where it's totally uncontroversial to side entirely with one of the belligerents.

since his background is so mysterious, he is one of those historical figures you could potentially turn out to be if you're ever a time traveler (blackbeard is another!)

ptolemy i

ptolemy i soter (367-282 BC) was a doofy-looking greek man who served as a military commander under alexander the great, for which he was made satrap (governor) of egypt, starting a new greek dynasty over the whole country (as well as other bits of the levant). he also responsible for establishing the musaium, the great library and university at alexandria.

following alexander's somewhat mysterious death while on campaign in babylon, ptolemy was on hand to have the conqueror's body taken to alexandria to be properly buried, which would have been read, by the custom of the time, as a declaration that he was alexander's "real, for true" successor (and it's rumored by some that he might have been alexander's illegitimate brother, though this is unlikely)

the ptolemaic dynasty of egypt was plagued by incest and treachery (yadda yadda) until it finally ended in 30 BC, when julius caesar decided egypt would make a nice backyard extension.


an epic poem written by the 1st century roman poet virgil, it describes the flight of trojan refugees following the destruction of their home city in the conclusion of the trojan war. the central character, a young royal named aeneas, leads his people west, hoping to find a place of sanctuary, finally finding it in alba longa.

the strong implication of the story is that aeneas and his band of trojan refugees will eventually be responsible for founding the city of rome, thus giving romans a more impressive and mythical pedigree (the story even attempts to explain the long rivalry between romans and carthaginians by having aeneas get up to hanky panky with a carthaginian woman with the somewhat stupid name of dido).

do you believe this story? you probably shouldn't.

trojan war

a battle between the greeks and the trojans which probably never happened, but remains one of the most famous battles not in history.

the war allegedly began (sometime in the 12th century BC) over helen of troy, a queen who jilted her greek husband, king menelaus, for a trojan prince named paris. menelaus, incensed, declared war on the trojans and summoned his fellow greeks (including his brother agamemnon, who sacrificed his own daughter to the gods to get them some favorable sailing winds) to lay siege to the shining city of troy.

what follows is a long complicated story involving guys with long greek names, and is most notably summed up in homer's "iliad." the famous conclusion of the war, which actually isn't in said story, involved greeks sneaking themselves into troy inside a big wooden horse and massacring the populace. some of the participants got their own little self-contained sequels; for example, the tale of odysseus' return home in homer's "odyssey," and agamemnon getting iced by his wife in a play by aeschylus

ramses ii

Userma'atre'setepenre, mercifully also known as ramses ii (1303-1213 BC) was a pharaoh of ancient egypt, more specifically early in the nineteenth dynasty, and considered one of the better and more significant rulers in egyptian history.

among his more notable achievements: ordering the construction of the temples at abu simbel, marrying nefertari, many outstanding military victories against the syrians and nubians and pirates, and even signing one of history's oldest recorded peace treaties (with the hittites, egypt's longtime enemies, since you asked). he is also sometimes believed to be the pharaoh mentioned in the biblical tale of exodus (evidence is sketchy, though the book of exodus does allude to the city of pi ramses, which was founded by and dedicated to ramses ii).

he died, somewhat predictably- according to manetho the historian, from simple complications relating to advanced age after 66 years of rule- and was entombed in the valley of kings, in a tomb today called KV7 by academics.

today he is best known for lending his name (or its greek form "ozymandias") to a poem by percy shelley. the theme of the poem is that the weight of history will gradually drag even men of great achievement into the dark depths of obscurity.


(n.) a corrupted term deriving from bantu by way of haiti. according to folklore the zombie is a hollowed-out shell of a human being, utterly devoid of any semblance of free will, just like (insert-adherents-of-unpopular-political-movement here).

if there is any truth to the stories of zombies, it may derive from the shamanic use of pufferfish toxin to place individuals in a state of excited catatonia. whereas this is a topic best analyzed by historians, and therefore boring, the concept has influenced a number of popular horror movies in which masses of zombies are presented as a stand-in for consumerism or man's inhumanity to man or some nonsense.

irish rock band the cranberries once expressed interest in the contents of a zombie's head

precious metals

there are a number of naturally occurring metallic elements which have historically been noted to be worth significant monetary value, by which standard mining them has been known to be extremely lucrative. historically some of them have been used to mint coins, and today people invest in large lumps of them

among these precious metals are gold (the mac daddy of precious metals, which glows like the sun) and silver (the mac mommy, which glows like the moon), as well as platinum and its orgy buddies ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, and iridium (these guys just sort of glow like industrial kitchenware).

it is unclear which of these is used to make printer's ink, but it must surely be one of them.


(n.) a dining room cabinet or sideboard, short enough to serve as a secondary table, in which one (presumably one unwilling to admit they have a problem) may store their booze.

the name 'credenza' comes to us from italian, and means 'trusted one,' apparently because these cabinets were where food was taste-tested for poison before being presented to the pope


(n.) the red-tinted stepchild of precious metals, a mutt born of wanton copper and petulant, abrasive tin.

ever in the shadow of its more accomplished siblings gold and silver, bronze lived an unromantic yet functional existence as a material for weaponcrafting, until it reached high school in the 13th century and was bullied out of existence by steel


(n.) a straw human acting as a piece of autumnul decor, as well as to frighten corn thieves away from corn (it operates on the same principle as the panopticon; the corn thief cannot be sure if the scarecrow is a real human capable of reprisal or simply a sack of hay. the uncertainty eats them alive from the inside until they destroy themselves.

compare gargoyles, similarly created as symbols of fear to ward off evil


(1542-1604) third ruler of the mughal empire, which was based in india but whose ruling class was persian. akbar was a fascinating study in contradictions; although illiterate (possibly dyslexic), he was a patron of intellectuals and philosophers. although an accomplished military leader in a land of sectarian conflict, he promoted peace and understanding between his muslim and hindu subjects

under his rule, the mughal empire grew to encompass much of india, and reached a golden age characterized by unimaginable heights of prosperity. then everything just sort of fell apart after he died. ah well.

no, he was not a space squid, and he did not help destroy the death star


(n.) the demon cluck-bird is its name, eat its wings to make it tame

these birds, often raised domestically on farms, are known for their gormless stupidity and delicious versatility: their flesh is high in protein, their eggs make a nourishing breakfast, and their necks are easily wrung for convenient sacrifices.

defying the age old philosophical query, there is no particular motivation a chicken might have for crossing a road, as they do not know what roads are.
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