Fun historical artifact:

Computer price lists from 1964.  Check out the price of a monitor and memory.  Here’s what a printer cost:

This was for a dot-matrix printer, with output that looked like this:

Time marches on.


Natural Disasters in History

The horrifying news from Japan makes us realize the awesome power of nature.  Many times, the course of history has been changed by natural occurrences.

It’s hard to come up with a definitive list of the worst natural disasters in history, but here are some various sites that put forth their candidates.

This site explains the difference between natural disaster and natural hazards, and then lists the worst of the disasters.  This site’s choice for #1?  The Yellow River Flood of 1931 in China.


Survivors of the 1931 Yellow River Flood


This site doesn’t rank the natural disasters; it lists them in reverse chronological order. This list includes the Black Death, which is probably a contender for the deadliest natural disaster in history.











This site ranks disasters by death tolls; it ranks the 1920 Haiyuan earthquake as the worst.



Newsweek put together a list of natural disasters you never heard about.









Finally, from a website appropriately named Epic Disasters, here is a list of epic disasters, broken down by category.

Stained Glass: Beauty with a Purpose


The Middle Ages gets a bad rap for being a period when life was devoid of beauty or innovation — but then we see its magnificent cathedrals and we know that wasn’t true.  We could spend a lifetime looking at all of the amazing features of cathedrals.  There are so many elements to examine, such as the sheer mass and complexity of the architecture and the intricate stonework.

The stained glass, a distinctive innovation of Gothic architecture, provided more than just something pretty for worshippers to see.  The windows often told stories from the Bible so that the illiterate masses could see them — think of it as a medieval form of television.

Because cathedrals cost a lot of money to build, the windows also featured images of patrons.  Donors and royalty would be rendered in glass in recognition of their contributions and support. Here’s one example from the chapel at Merton College:



Scientists as well as historians and artists marvel at the beauty of stained glass.  Nova has an interactive feature that wonders how medieval artisans created stained glass using only sand, wood and fire.

Of course, there are great web resources that you can use to see the beauty of stained glass, such as these tours of Canterbury Cathedral and Chartres Cathedral.  Here you can see detailed images from the Cathedral of Tours.  This site provides a comprehensive look at stained glass from all over Europe.

To take a video tour and see beautiful rose windows, you can take a look at this piece from the BBC:

Cathedral Fascination — Size!

Awe-inspiring. Beautiful. Majestic. Amazing.

Imagine the impact a sight like this must have had on a medieval commoner coming to a town for the first time.

To get a sense of scale:

Chartres Cathedral, France

The message is clear – CHURCH: BIG! Man: Small.

Know your place, puny human.


Behold for yourself.

Pictures from

Coming up next:  gargoyles and stained glass windows.