The forgotten medieval habit of “two sleeps”

A historian researching medieval social habits gradually came to the conclusion that sleeping twice during the night — a first sleep, from about 10 pm until midnight or 1 am, followed by a few hours of wakefulness, and then a second sleep until the early morning — was commonplace not just in England or Europe, but also in other countries around the world.

First sleeps are mentioned in one of the most famous works of medieval literature, Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (written between 1387 and 1400), which is presented as a storytelling contest between a group of pilgrims. Ekirch found casual references to the system of twice-sleeping in every conceivable form, with hundreds in letters, diaries, medical textbooks, philosophical writings, newspaper articles and plays.

The practice even made it into ballads, such as “Old Robin of Portingale. “…And at the wakening of your first sleepe, You shall have a hot drink made, And at the wakening of your next sleepe, Your sorrows will have a slake…” Biphasic sleep was not unique to England, either – it was widely practised throughout the preindustrial world. In France, the initial sleep was the “premier somme“; in Italy, it was “primo sonno“. In fact, Eckirch found evidence of the habit in locations as distant as Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Australia, South America and the Middle East.

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Civil War fortress for sale — would make a perfect super-villain hideout

If you’ve always wanted to own a Civil War fort, then this is your lucky day: Fort Montgomery is for sale for the discounted price of just $1.4 million, which includes about 350 acres of land (although about 85 of those are underwater at the moment) and a huge pile of crumbling limestone, complete with slit windows for firing cannons out of. The limestone came from the same quarry as the stone that built Radio City Music Hall, according to the realtor’s website (which looks like it was designed in 1994 using Windows Notepad). “Rebuild your dream on the rich ruins of history,” it says, along with a Powerpoint presentation of the fort’s charms, which include tunnels covered in graffiti.

There’s no rush in case you actually do want to buy this crumbling pile: the fort, and the man-made island it sits on, have actually been for sale since about 2006. Prior to that date, a businessman named Victor Podd owned the fort, and used it as the headquarters for his company, Powertex. After he died, his heirs tried to sell it, and in 2006 someone offered $5 million for it, but the sale never went through.

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A combination piano, BBQ grill and three-wheeled car? Why not!

In case you like to play the piano, but also want to grill some shishkebabs at the same time, and want to drive around as well, this creative inventor has just the solution — a piano with 52 individual motors connecting the keys to spits, with an internal firepit and three motorized wheels. Spectacularly useless? Definitely. And why did this man create such a thing? Because he could.

Turns out our artist/inventor is Geng Shuai, also known as “Handy Geng,” a Chinese YouTuber whose fans call him “Useless Einstein” (if that’s what your fans call you, imagine what others call you!). He got the idea for the piano-grill-car — Grillano? — from a reader comment. In case you are in the market, he also makes phone cases that look like meat cleavers, of which he has sold 10. And he made a driveable mech with tractor treads and hydraulic arms:

On a related note, there is a Japanese term, “chindogu,” which loosely translated means “useless tool,” and covers an entire category of inventions that solve prosaic problems in an overly engineered way. Examples include the “noodle cooler”:

chindogu chopsticks with fan attached

For the billionaire who has everything but taste

This week’s Zillow monstrosity comes courtesy of Rebecca Makkai, who shared some truly bizarre photos of a massive house in Woodstock, Connecticut that was built by millionaire castle afficionado and alleged camel -killer Christopher Mark, who apparently comes from a long line of steel tycoons. If you also like castles, but you think that the ones at Disney World aren’t fake-looking enough, then this is for you — and the 20,000-square-foot behemoth with 9 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, 12 fireplaces, and its own moat is just $35 million.

Said the Daily Mail when the castle went up for sale in 2014 for $45 million: “Eccentric millionaire Christopher Mark is unloading his property, which he began building in 2001, and was only completed in 2008, just three years after he made headlines for reportedly kicking out girlfriend Marina Isakova and the couple’s child from the lush digs.” Connecticut magazine said that during Mark’s divorce from his wife, both sides tried to make the other out to be responsible for the death of a camel that was kept as part of a petting zoo/wild animal operation:

The animals on the castle property also came up in the case. Mark has long run a nonprofit refuge for exotic animals called Wilderness Kingdom, Inc. Since 2004, the property has been licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a traveling zoo. When a camel died in 2010, both Mark and Galt alleged the other was neglectful. In a motion filed on June 25, 2010, Galt claimed “the animals are not being properly taken care of” and “a camel on the property has recently died.”vIn an email to Galt written on July 3, 2010, Mark countered that “when you sent the workers home and animals were not fed for 4 days, the camel lost a lot of weight since and died last week.”

Yes, this is a bathroom, and yes, it has a big-screen TV and a fireplace

That’s not an iceberg, it’s a superior mirage

Simone Engels saw something bright on the horizon while taking photos from a beach on Vancouver Island, near the Strait of Georgia — so she took a picture and zoomed in to see what looked like a giant glacier. The object remained on the horizon for a full half hour, and when she posted the photo on social media, everyone was convinced it was an iceberg — even a friend who’d studied iceberg geomorphology for her PhD. “I was very stumped,” Engels told the CBC. “We don’t generally see icebergs here.” But it was not an iceberg — it was a mirage.

“It’s not an iceberg,” said Colin Goldblatt, an associate professor of atmospheric science at the University of Victoria. “It’s a beautiful photograph, and what we’re seeing is a lovely example of a superior mirage.” He explained that this kind of mirage is possible during an atmospheric inversion, when warm air is sitting on top of a layer of cooler air, causing the light to bend downward. What Engels was seeing was the peaks of the Cheam Range near Chilliwack, more than 180 kilometres away. Normally, these mountains would be on the other side of the horizon, hidden by the Earth’s curvature.

A Black singer named Tina Bell helped invent grunge

If you’re like most people, when you think of the term “grunge,” you picture a bunch of white guys with long hair and plaid shirts playing angst-ridden, power-chord style rock and roll. Canadian folk artist turned rock musician Neil Young is often seen as the godfather of grunge, for his love of both plaid shirts and hard-rocking music. But some would argue that one of the real pioneers of grunge in the 1980s was a tiny Black woman named Tina Bell and her band, Bam Bam. Not only was the music pioneering, but the band gave some more famous grunge artists a start as well, including a drummer who went on to play with Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, and a young roadie name Kurt Cobain.

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New York eccentrics and their apartments

New Yorkers reveal their fabulous apartments in photographer Sally Davies’s portraits of larger than life characters in their equally colourful homes– a glimpse into the grit, elegance, poverty and humanity of an ever-changing city:

Flloyd NYC. Photographed at his home in the East Village on 26 October 2019.

Flloyd: “Shortly after moving in I discovered the person before me paid one-fourth of what I paid and I spent the next two years in court. Afterwards, my rent was lowered to an insanely low amount. This has given me the ability to live the life of a starving artist. I live a very sober life, and I enjoy cooking and baking, and watching old movies with my boyfriend.”

X Baczewsky. Photographed at her home on 1st Avenue on 2 May 2019.

X Baczewsky: “When I moved into this tiny apartment I decided that I would think of it as a small parlour in a much larger home, rather than the small apartment that it is.”

James Kaston. Photographed at his home in Stuyvesant Town on 2 November 2019.

James: “I still like New York City, but not the bike lane, not the bikes, not the people on the bikes. I don’t like the glass towers and I don’t like all the chain stores in this city. It’s really become a city of greed. I don’t like the way the word ‘luxury’ is tossed around regarding things that should just be described as “plain”.

The “influencer selling her farts in jars” story just will not stop, but is it true?

I know there are those who will argue this story is beneath me, but they are wrong! I first came across Stephanie Matto when the former reality-TV star (who appeared on something I have never seen, called “90-Day Fiance”) talked with a British tabloid about how her sideline — selling farts in a jar to obsessed collectors online — had sent her the hospital. Matto, who claimed to be making as much as $50,000 *a week* selling the jars, said she overdid the flatulence-inducing foods and thought at first she was having a heart attack, but it was just (you have probably already guessed it) gas.

“I thought I was having a stroke and that these were my final moments,” Matto told the UK’s Jam Press about her unexpected trip to the hospital near her home in Connecticut. “I was overdoing it.” Matto, who refers to herself as a fartrepreneur, started farting in jars and selling them online in November and documented the foods she was eating on TikTok to keep up her flatulence, like beans, protein muffins, and eggs. Matto was reportedly taking in roughly $50,000 per week through her highly profitable endeavor.

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