Saint Olga, Mass Murderer of Kiev.

dscn08521When Princess Olga’s husband, Igor, was murdered by the Drevlyans (an Eastern Slavic tribe), she took over the rule of Kiev and the surrounding provinces.
The Drevlyans didn’t quite fancy having a female ruler, so they sent Olga a bunch of suitors to win her hand. She had slightly different ideas.
The suitors were carried by boat to the courtyard of her castle, and then dumped into a giant hole where they were buried alive.
That’s one way to say ‘nope, not marrying you’, thats for sure! Olga still felt like she had to keep up appearances with the Drevlyans, so she organised a little tete-a-tete.
Once all her Drevlyan guests had arrived, the doors to the venue were barred, and the building burnt to a crisp.
But, Olga didn’t want to appear crass. She held a memorial for the victims of the fire.
But lo and behold, once the Drevlyan guests had arrived, Olga ordered her royal guard to kill all 5,000 of them.
The Drevlyans had started to see the error of their ways, and asked Olga for forgiveness.
Being a compassionate woman, Olga asked the Drevlyans to send her three pigeons and three sparrows from each home in their capital city, as a peace offering.
Once the birds arrived, Olga had hot coals tied to their legs and sent the birds back home. Safe to say, the city burnt to the ground and any survivors were enslaved or murdered by Olga’s army.
And after all that murder…
Olga is still recognised as a Saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
via Historical Honey

The Bodysnatchers of Axley 1830.

In 1830, William Patrick and William Whayley, labourers of Farcet were charged with bodysnatching from Yaxley churchyard.
Together they stole the recently interred body of Jane Mason.
Abraham Rist, labourer of Yaxley told the court of Patrick’s attempts to get him to enter a body-snatching partnership.
Patrick assured him that the watchmen turned a blind eye when he carried the sacks from the churchyard if he tipped with a few pieces of silver. Patrick also said that a certain ‘Grimmer’ repeatedly offered him money for the dead bodies.
A common purpose of body snatching, especially in the 19th century, was to sell the corpses for dissection or anatomy lectures in medical schools. Those who practised body snatching were often called “resurrectionists” or “resurrection-men”.
Before the Anatomy Act of 1832, the only legal supply of corpses for anatomical purposes in the UK were those condemned to death and dissection by the courts.
Those who were sentenced to dissection by the courts were often guilty of comparatively harsher crimes. Such sentences did not provide enough subjects for the medical schools and private anatomical schools (which did not require a licence before 1832).
While during the 18th century hundreds had been executed for trivial crimes, by the 19th century only about 55 people were being sentenced to capital punishment each year.
However, with the expansion of the medical schools, as many as 500 cadavers were needed.
Read more via The Yaxley Bodysnatchers.

The Strange Old Lady in the Restaurant.

Grandma_icecream_KurpeDiemAs a student, I occasionally helped out as server at a small American, family-owned restaurant (it wasn’t my regular job).
On one occasion I was beckoned over by an elderly lady (imagine Driving Miss Daisy) who said there was a mess under her table I needed to ‘see to’.
I knew it was clean before she sat down, but I smiled and looked underneath and saw about 15 perfect yellow rose petals underneath. I smiled, probably made small talk, cleaned it up and then buzzed off to refill drinks.
Two minutes later she called me over again and said I had missed some of the mess, this time there were several pink rose petals carefully spread equidistant under the table.
The first time I thought maybe someone had a bouquet that had fallen or something but this time it was clear this lady was spreading flower petals on the ground JUST FOR ME TO CLEAN UP!
The third time the petals were red and the fourth white. I never accused her or anything (I was just there helping a friend and didn’t want to make to trouble) but just smiled and cleaned them up.
At the end of her meal she gave me a very condescending “good job dear” and a lousy 50 cent tip.
After that, the owner kept calling me and saying an elderly lady was requesting me, saying I was clearly smarter than the ‘normal sort’ he had (because I could clean up rose petals?) and could I work regularly?
I declined the kind offer and kept my office job. I could smile through that as a one-off, but no way could I deal with stuff like that all the time.
via Stories of Old People in Restaurants.

The Freckles of My Father.


Photo: Paula Aparicio

By Sarah Jones, Orange, New South Wales

I have been dealt a cruel hand in life… I have freckles.

Fat ones, speckly ones, ones with abstract shapes, lonely ones that interrupt the landscape of white skin and social ones that form groups so that I have dark clusters.

They multiply in chlorine and turn green under sunburn.

The unsightly blemishes are my father’s fault, or rather, the fault of his DNA.

In the family gene pool lottery, I was the loser. My sisters inherited smooth tans and blonde hair, but not me.

Instead, I was given the melanocortin 1 receptor MC1R gene variant.

In other words, my life was destined to be miserable from birth.

My friends often made quips about them, which they thought were witty, but I had heard them all before.

No, if I keep getting freckles, they will not join up and make a tan.

Not only did I have to endure this from my peers, but also from adults.

One parent used my face as a deterrent for their child who would not wear a hat – “You’ll get freckles like Sarah if you aren’t careful.”

I became very skilled at feigning laughter and pretending not to be offended.

Nowadays, I am lucky.

My freckled face has faded. The brown pigments do not contrast so harshly against my skin anymore. The horror of my childhood is getting fainter, and I can see a ray of hope.

I am smarter now. I wear sunscreen outside, because I know that even ten minutes on a sunny day will scorch my skin like meat on a barbeque.

My moisturiser has SPF30 in it, and I have an array of hats for different occasions, because my greatest fear is finding a melanoma on a patch of skin that got particularly burnt as a child.

Of course, there are many good things from my dad’s side.

He gave me his green eyes. He gave me the passion to stand up for myself.

He gave me courage.

Read on via ABC OPEN: My father’s freckles || From Project: 500 Words: Family Trait.

The Inventors of the Escalator, Jesse Reno and others.


On 15 March 15, 1892, the young Jesse W. Reno, one of five children of the Civil War hero (who, just for the record, our Biggest Little City is named after), patented his moving stairs or inclined elevator as he called it.
With a rather inauspicious curtain opener, Reno created a novelty ride at the Old Iron Pier in Coney Island, N.Y., a moving platform if you will, that elevated passengers on a conveyor belt at a 25 degree angle to another level from which they now had to walk down.
You had to hold on tight with this design because the steps were also inclined at a 25 degree angle causing many people to stand sideways, one foot higher than the other.
Although a little hard on the feet, Reno used his profits from that venture to begin a small production facility, eventually founding the Reno Electric Stairways and Conveyors company in 1902.
Reviewing his patent today (470,918), it seems to have most of the things we take for granted in an escalator.
The moving belt was made of sections of cast iron and had grooves cut into it to comb people off of the steps at the end, preventing them from getting caught as the belt turned around a large end roller below the floor level.
It also incorporated a moving handrail to which passengers could grab onto for “… the feeling of security and comfort as they move along.” A great invention for its time but one other people were working on as well.
renoJesse W. Reno.
In 1896, Chicago engineer Charles Seeberger came up with an idea for a spiral type escalator that also used a moving belt. His design was novel in that it had separations that rode in grooves on the upwards helix to the next floor.
About the same time George Wheeler of New York invented a flat step escalator and received patent 617,788 for his design. This one allowed people to stand upright comfortably as they moved between floors.
All of this people-moving business was newsworthy and eventually attracted the attention of the Otis Elevator company — a leader in the enterprise of transporting people vertically from one floor to another.
By 1899, Seeberger bought out Wheeler’s patent, probably realizing it was an improvement over his own, and coined the name “escalator” from the word “scala,” which is Latin for steps and the word “elevator.”
He was hired by Otis as a design engineer. Sensing escalators might intrude on their elevators, the Yonkers, N.Y., business invested heavily in its design and produced the first commercial one in direct competition with Reno’s company in 1899.
Within a short time the new Otis wooden escalator — with Seeberger’s help — won first prize at the Paris 1900 Exposition. Seeberger eventually sold his patents to Otis in 1910 and the next year Reno followed suit.
According to Otis history, “In the 1920s, Otis engineers, led by David Lindquist, combined and improved the Jesse Reno and Charles Seeberger escalator designs, and created the cleated, level steps of the modern escalator in use today.”
Over the years, Otis dominated the escalator business but lost the product’s trademark.
The word escalator lost its proprietary status and its capital “e” in 1950 when the U.S. Patent Office ruled the word “escalator” had become just a common descriptive term for moving stairways.
Just like Kleenex and Jell-O, the word was used so much it became part of our vocabulary.
via Professor Hanington’s Speaking of Science: The history of escalators.

The Happy Eyes of the Telephone Wife, 1925.

Image: Telephone-wife [Source: The Illustrated London News, February 21, 1925.]
I’m sure that there’s a song in this, somewhere, if only we had the power to return to 1925 to write the thing.
This advertisement spoke to the married couples of the United Kingdom, an appeal from the Telephone Development Association (TDA, of London), reminding people what the telephone was good for.
Not the least of the reasons for installing a ‘phone in the house to help reduce worries to insignificance, and rid her of “that womanly feeling of loneliness.”
via JF Ptak Science Books: Women, History of.