" I've never any pity for conceited people, because I think they carry their comfort about with them. "
George Eliot

Back in the day


The Silvertown Explosion

During World War I, a chemical factory in the highly populated area of Silvertown, England, was used to purify TNT in order to meet the urgent demand for explosive shells. Although a newer, safer plant was built elsewhere, production continued at the factory until a fire ignited 50 tons of TNT in 1917. The explosion killed 73 people, injured hundreds more, and destroyed the plant, many nearby buildings, and a gasholder—sparking an enormous fireball. To what is the low death toll attributed?



El Cid

Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar—popularly known as "El Cid"—was an 11th-century Castilian military leader and national hero. His unauthorized raid on the kingdom of Toledo in 1081 prompted his exile by Spanish king Alfonso VI. El Cid then entered the service of the Muslim rulers of Zaragoza, becoming known as a general who was never defeated in battle. Revered as a hero, his exploits were celebrated in a 12th-century epic poem. According to legend, what did El Cid's wife do with his dead body?

Born on a day like today


Patricia Highsmith

Highsmith started out as a comic book artist before becoming known for her chilling tales of crime and cruelty. Alfred Hitchcock propelled her career by adapting her first novel Strangers on a Train, and Highsmith gained further attention as a master of psychological menace with her books about handsome and "talented" psychopath Tom Ripley. Like many of her characters, though, Highsmith was prone to self-destructive and bizarre behavior, including keeping about 300 of what in her garden?

Last updated on Sunday, 19th January 2014

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