" A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist. "
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Back in the day


British Troops Burn the White House

During the War of 1812, a year after US troops burned Canadian Parliament Buildings in the Battle of York, British troops retaliated by marching on Washington, DC, and setting fire to its public buildings—including the Capitol and the White House. According to some accounts, First Lady Dolley Madison refused to leave the White House until just moments before British troops arrived, gathering valuables, documents, and other items of importance, including what notable painting?




One of the oldest mystical symbols in the world, the ouroboros, Greek for "tail-devourer," is an ancient representation of a serpent or dragon swallowing its own tail and forming a circle. It is important in the religious and mythological symbolism of many cultures and generally represents cyclicality, unity, or infinity. In Gnosticism, it symbolizes the soul of the world. What organic chemist claimed that a dream featuring an ouroboros inspired his discovery of the structure of benzene?

Born on a day like today


Jorge Luis Borges

Borges was an Argentine poet, essayist, and short-story writer. Much of his work is rich in fantasy and metaphorical allegory, including the story collection Ficciones, which won him an international following. In the 1920s, Borges was afflicted by a worsening hereditary blindness and was totally blind by the mid-1950s. Forced to abandon the writing of long texts, he began dictating his works. What literary movement is Borges credited with establishing in South America?

Last updated on Tuesday, 24th August 2010

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