- Worked from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
- Registered with my new temp agency (technically I will be employed and paid by them, but for all substantive purposes I will be working for the firm).
- Stunning Japanese commercial in which a long, gravity-driven xylophonic device plays a Bach cantata in the middle of a forest
- Article about the discovery of an Egyptian catacomb containing the mummified remains of 8 million dogs
- Blog post about how fat people are becoming increasingly stigmatized across the globe
October 14, 1066, was one of the decisive days of history. The battle itself was nip and tuck; the shift only of a few elements here or there, a gift of luck would have given the victory to the Anglo-Saxons. If Harold had won at Hastings and had survived, William would have had no choice but to renounce his adventure. There is little likelihood that anyone would have attempted a serious invasion of England during the next millennium -- by water, at least. England would have strengthened its bonds with Scandinavia while remaining distrustful of the western Continent -- even more distrustful than it is today. The native Anglo-Saxon culture would have developed in unimaginable ways, and William the Conqueror would be dimly known in history only as William the Bastard.
[Pope Urban II] was taken aback by the success of his proposal [to take Jerusalem from the Turks]. No plans had been made for the prosecution of the crusade. Several important kings of Christendom happened to be excommunicated at the time. Urban placed the bishop of Le Puy in charge of the undertaking, and French nobles assumed military control. The church's entire organization was set to the task of obtaining recruits, money, supplies, and transportation. In some regions, under the spell of compelling voices, enthusiasm was extreme. Reports the chronicler William of Malmesbury: 'The Welshman left his hunting, the Scot his fellowship with vermin, the Dane his drinking party, the Norwegian his raw fish. Lands were deserted of their husbandmen, houses of their inhabitants,; even whole cities migrated.' This is pious exaggeration, but exaggeration of facts. Proudly the dedicated wore their red crosses or exhibited scars in the form of the cross on their breasts.
The crusades began with grotesqueries, comic and horrible. A band of Germans followed a goose they held to be God-inspired. Peter the Hermit, a fanatic, filthy, barefoot French monk, short and swarthy, with a long, lean face that strangely resembled that of his own donkey, preached a private crusade -- known as the Peasants' Crusade -- and promised his followers that God would guide them to the Holy City. In Germany Walter the Penniless emulated Peter. Motley hordes of enthusiasts -- having plucked Peter's poor donkey totally hairless in their quest for souvenirs -- marched through Germany and the Balkan lands, killing Jews by the thousands on their way, plundering and destroying. The Byzantine Emperor Alexius sent them with all haste into Asia Minor, where they supported themselves briefly by robbing Christian villagers. They were caught in two batches by the Turks, who gave the first group the choice of conversion to Islam or death and massacred the second group. Peter the Hermit, who was in Constantinople on business, was one of the few to escape the general doom.