Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Uromancy is divination by observing a person's urine. Practiced by the ancient Greeks, the uromancer would gaze into urine to see visions. Uromancy was sometimes used to divine whether a woman was a virgin, pregnant, or had a spouse. The Roman author Pliny spoke of "spitting into the urine the moment it is voided" to reverse a bad omen. Try it. You'll like it.

Clifford A. Pickover, Dreaming the Future (77)

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The Ritz looked a great deal shabbier. I doubted whether it had been repainted at all since we were last here. The gold-painted plaster moldings around the stage were dusty and unwashed, and the curtain stained with the rainwater that had leaked in. No other play but Richard III had been perfomed here for over fifteen years, and the theater itself had no company to speak of, just a backstage crew and a prompter. All the actors were pulled from the audience who had been to the play so many times they knew it back to front. Casting was usually done only half an hour before curtain-up.

Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair (180-81)

Monday, October 27, 2003

During the nineteenth century, English Grand Lodge had continued to extend its lodges throughout the world. Lodges were established in Singapore by the daring and romantic Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of the city and a Freemason. It developed in Canada under the patronage of John Lambton, Earl of Durham. Lambton's political career in England, in opposition to Lord Liverpool's Tory government and as a member of Lord Grey's Whig government at the time of the struggle for the Reform Bill of 1830 was so passionately anti-Tory that he was given the nickname 'Radical Jack'. But when Palmerston appointed him ambassador to Russia, he was so captivated by the personal charm of Nicholas I that he became a virtual apologist for the foreign policy of the most reactionary 'Iron Tsar'. As Governor-General of Canada he pursued a wise and concilliatory policy after the rebellion of 1837. He was a Freemason, and encouraged the growth of Freemasonry in Canada. Afterwards the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John Alexander Macdonald, was also a Freemason.

Jasper Ridley, The Freemasons (219)

Monday, October 13, 2003

Then it was 1:20 a.m. but I hadn’t heard Father come upstairs to bed. I wondered if he was asleep downstairs of whether he was waiting to come in and kill me. So I got out my Swiss Army knife and opened the saw blade so that I could defend myself. Then I went out of my bedroom really quietly and listened. I couldn’t hear anything, so I started going downstairs really quietly and really slowly. And when I got downstairs I could see Father’s foot through the door of the living room. I waited for 4 minutes to see if it moved, but it didn’t move. So I carried on walking till I got to the hallway. Then I looked round the door of the living room.

Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (123)