‘Programmata’ and Political Campaigns

Programmata were painted political campaign notices in the ancient Roman empire. These were a common sight in Pompeii in its heyday, and provide us an invaluable insight into the intricacies of Roman and specifically Pompeiian politics at the time of Mount Vesuvius’ eruption. In a study of over 1,500 programmata, 128 were found to give…

Fires in California

So I was going to relaunch Factoid Fridays today, but with the status of the wildfires in California, I think I’d rather use this space to bring up some resources for how those away from the fires can help firefighters and evacuees. I’ve set up a carrd of resources, as well as some background information…

“The Jazz Singer”, First of the Talkies

The first movie to be classed as a “Talkie” was Al Jolson’s “The Jazz Singer” in 1927, which used Vitaphone tech to record the sound. The scenes depicting Jolson singing were recorded on the set, using creative methods to mask the loud camera equipment and work around the limited-range microphones. Sources: Museum of Modern Art…

Hanami, the Cherry Blossom Viewing

By now the expected full blossom has passed, but the practice of hanami, cherry blossom viewing parties, has been around since the 8th century Nara period in Japan. Originally designed for viewing ume, plum blossoms, the practice shifted to viewing sakura, cherry blossoms, in the Heian period in the 8th thru 12th centuries. With shelter-in-place…


The oldest known board game is the Egyptian game Senet. It is thought that the game was seen as a connection between the worlds of the living and the dead, with art from tombs showing the deceased playing Senet against their still-living friends and family Sources: Science MagImage Source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain image)

Modern New Years

The modern celebration of the New Year on January 1st dates back to the days of Julius Caesar, who changed the celebration of the new year from the Spring Equinox in March to January 1st in honor of the Roman god Janus. Janus was the god of change & beginnings, and was always depicted with…

Libreria Acqua Alta

To protect the books from the fluctuating water levels that regularly flood the building, Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice, Italy, stores its books in waterproof containers including a bathtubs and a gondola. Sources: Atlas Obscura

Ether, Early Anesthesia

Ether was first used as a general anesthesia by Dr Crawford Williamson Long in 1842, when he used it as an anesthetic before a surgery to remove a tumor from a patient’s neck. Ether was soon beat out by chloroform as the anesthesia of choice during the Civil War. Sources: History

Stingy Jack

The original Jack-o-Lanterns were made from turnips and beets. They come from an Irish legend about Stingy Jack, who tricked the Devil and kept him hostage using crosses, promising to release the Devil if he would not take his soul to Hell with him. The Devil agreed, and when Stingy Jack died, he could not…


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