Thursday, February 22, 2018

Papyri of the Iliad; Also: Academic Conventions

In my recent blog post entitled Manuscripts, I wrote:

"[...]several months ago, I sent a email to a distinguished scholar, asking him whether he could round out some areas of my knowledge of the Oxyrhynchus papyri project: Are any of the papyri still in the boxes Grenfell and Hunt put them into between 1897 and 1904? Are we approaching the state of things where all that is left are tiny little pieces of papyrus? Questions like that.

"He hasn't gotten back to me. That hurts my feelings, but it's entirely his prerogative, of course. Finally today I sent an email to the general guestions-and-suggestions-etc address of the Oxyrhynchus project, which is perhaps where I should've inquired to begin with."

In Studies in the Text and Transmission of the Iliad, Munich & Leipzig, 2000, p 87, West writes that, as the Egypt Exploration Society wished, he did not give any details of the 850 unpublished Oxyrhynchus papyri (Correction: 827 unpublished papyri used by West in his edition, plus 23 first published in Manfrdi et al, Papiri dell'Iliade, Florence, 2000. I think. Much of what I write in CI and about Classics on my blog should be proofread by experts before anyone thinks of taking it seriously, because of things I don't know and full-time academics do know.) used in his edition of the Iliad, 1998--2000, and he thanks them for their permission to now include their inventory numbers and summary details in his catalog of papyri of the Iliad, which contains a total of 1569 items.

Because of those details, I can see that those 850 papyri which in 2000 were either unpublished or published for the first time, are certainly not inconsequential little scraps. They seem generally to be about as big as most of the Homeric papyri already published. This does not give the impression that the Oxyrhynchus project is almost all out of significant papyri. I need to try to find out how many more have been published in the last 18 years, and discovered in that time, if the existence of those latter have been made known to the public.

To judge from West's pointed expression of thanks to the Egypt Exploration Society for their permission to divulge details about unpublished papyri, maybe the reason that neither the above-mentioned distinguished scholar nor anyone else from the EES has yet gotten back to me with details about unpublished papyri is that such details are conventionally thought of as proprietary secret knowledge of the EES, only rarely made public in extraordinary circumstances, such as when a scholar of West's stature is involved. I'm ignorant of the ways in which things are usually done in Classical Studies and papyrology, Perhaps I've been making making requests for information which are generally considered impolite at best. Consultation with some Classicists and papyrologists about mores and conventions, learning a little about the way things are usually done, certainly would do me no harm, and might save both myself and some scholars a great deal of future embarrassment.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"The Big Bang Theory" : Fake

I'm talking about the TV show, not the well-known theory in physics.

"The Big Bang Theory" is just fake "Malcolm in the Middle." They even have theme music by Barenaked Ladies, who are the fake They Might Be Giants, who made the theme music for "Malcolm in the Middle." "Malcolm" is made by and about authentic geniuses, including TMBG; TBBT is made by fake geniuses, and its characters are crude stereotypes of geniuses, just as BNL are crude imitations of nerds, and specifically, crude, inept imitations of TMBG. TMBG, besides being geniuses, are too nice to call BNL on this. I'm not.

The repeated guest appearances by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking on TBBT do not refute my thesis; instead they show 1) that quality sitcoms are not Tyson's or Hawking's area of expertise, and 2) how desperate the producers of TBBT are to demonstrate (to themselves most of all) that they are really smart.

The presence of scientist and actual smart person Mayim Bialik in the cast (in a role as stereotypical and tired as the rest) does not refute my thesis. Let's see what you or I would do if offered that much money (reportedly Bialik receives half a million dollars per episode currently) after several years' worth of slowed-down career.

An Open Letter to Hodinkee re: the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical

You want me to get excited about the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical, a new item in your online shop.

And maybe I should be very excited about it, I don't know.

I know that the Hamilton 992b pocket watch, made from 1940 to 1969 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was an outstanding watch in its time, maybe the one truly outstanding model made by the American company (the 992 and 992a, as well as most of the other models made by American Hamilton since the late 19th century, didn't quite get it right). But 1969 was a long time ago, and I don't know squat about the current Swiss Hamilton brand except that it's one of the many brands owned by the Swatch Group. Does it really have anything in common with the old American brand except the name and the look of the dial?

And even if it has a lot in common with the old American brand, does that mean that a new Hamilton is as good as a new watch from a quality Swiss brand? Horological technology hasn't stood still for the last 50 years. A good new watch tends to be much more durable, reliable and waterproof, to name just 3 things, than a good watch made in 1969.

If all of you watch journalists didn't tell me to get excited over each and every watch you write about -- with the lone exception, as far as I know, of the Watch Snob® at askmen, who goes perhaps too far in the other direction -- then I actually might get excited about watches even more often than I already do, which is very often.

Just not about every single watch. Your recent rave review of the new overpriced mechanical piece of crap from Timex, to name one egregious example, was not helpful in this regard. You wrote that even if it's not a great watch, hey, it's only $200. For some of us, $200 is actually a lot of money which we'd rather not throw away if we can help it, especially not when $200 will get us several perfectly good mechanical watches from Seiko. And for a watch enthusiast for whom $200 really isn't a lot, it still could be $200 toward the price of something like a nice Longines, which might cost 5 or 10 times as much as the new mechanical Timex, but will look much nicer (because it's the actual item which the Timex [American English for "fake Rolex"] is trying to resemble), keep much better time, last far longer than 10 times as long as the Timex, etc, etc.

But that's the sort of advice one never gets from watch journalists, with the exception of the Watch Snob, and for all I know, he has to remain anonymous because if any of you wrote what you really think and it were known who you were, the entire industry would banish you and you'd never be able to write about any new watch again unless you bought it, and, unfortunately, not all of you can afford to spend a million Euros a year on watches, year in and year out, because life is unfair. I realize there must be reasons for the current state of affairs, and I don't think that people who write about watches are bad people.

But until some of you buck the trend and start writing in a much more straightforward manner, how will things ever change?

Monday, February 19, 2018


I derive great joy from learning about numbers of extant Classical manuscripts. I don't know why. It doesn't bother me that I don't know why. Perhaps it goes back no further than my figuring out, perhaps as recently as 2010, that certain fundamentalist Christians had made widely-repeated, spectacularly-inaccurate assertions about the numbers of manuscripts of some Classical authors, claiming that there were only 20 manuscripts of Livy, 10 of Caesar and similar nonsense.

A few months ago, I found what I had thought was a mention, somewhere in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, that the manuscripts of Aristotle are literally myriad. I looked up myriad in the OED and discovered that its literal meaning is 10,000.

My memory is not perfect, and for that and other reasons, I should write these sorts of things down more often when I come across them. I realized that what I had seen might not have been what I remembered it to have been. Finally, yesterday, I found it again: the assertion that the manuscripts of Augustine are literally myriad. Augustine. Not Aristotle. Score one for the Christians.

In the process of looking for the reference to Aristotle which was actually a reference to Augustine, I learned a lot of interesting things about Aristotelian manuscripts. Such as that there are very large numbers of manuscripts of Latin translations of his works.

Whether the number of manuscripts of translations of an author's works are conventionally counted in the number of manuscripts of that author -- that I don't know. If it turns out that, between Latin and Arabic and other languages, there actually are myriad manuscripts of translations of Aristotle, would one conventionally say that there are myriad manuscripts of Aristotle? Or would one count only the Greek manuscripts?

Also several months ago, I sent a email to a distinguished scholar, asking him whether he could round out some areas of my knowledge of the Oxyrhynchus papyri project: Are any of the papyri still in the boxes Grenfell and Hunt put them into between 1897 and 1904? Are we approaching the state of things where all that is left are tiny little pieces of papyrus? Questions like that.

He hasn't gotten back to me. That hurts my feelings, but it's entirely his prerogative, of course. Finally today I sent an email to the general guestions-and-suggestions-etc address of the Oxyrhynchus project, which is perhaps where I should've inquired to begin with.

Also a few months ago, I found a reference to a list of manuscripts of Livy compiled by Virginia Brown. I have since learned that Ms Brown compiled all sorts of information about manuscripts which I would find quite interesting. Just today I noticed a remark by Prof Winterbottom in Texts and Transmission, ed LD Reynolds, pp 35-36: "Virgina Brown has listed seventy-five manuscripts [of Caesar --SB] later than the ninth century, and suggested tentative groupings." In the case of the Livy manuscripts, someone in the FB group Classics International kindly gave me a link to the Pontifical publication containing Ms Brown's list -- but, as has so often happened to me, once I've found the website of some sort of Classical catalog or database or publication, I had no idea how to navigate it.

It seems to me that all of these difficulties and many more which I've had are the sort which could be easily handled if I were a Classics student, rubbing elbows with other Classics students and with Classics professors: Say, do you know how to navigate this website? The answer could be: Yes, you just do this and that; or: No, but there's a hard copy of the volume on the shelf right behind you.

I don't think I'll be re-entering grad school. (I'm 56 years old and just as autistic as I ever was. [That's an autism joke, because an autistic person is born autistic and remains so his or her entire life.]) But today I feel slightly more inclined to do so than I have for a while.

Just in case anyone is politely suppressing the urge to ask whether I've ever actually examined any Classical manuscripts -- yes I have, both via photocopies and actually up close in person. But I've spent much more time studying numbers of manuscripts.

[PS, 21 Feb 2018: Speaking of numbers of manuscripts: today I received an inter-library loan copy of M L West's Studies in the Text and Transmission of the Iliad. Some of you may already be familiar with the following figures. They came as quite a surprise to me. On p 86, West says that around the turn of the 20th century, Ludwich cited 33 papyri of the Iliad, that Munro and Allen listed 103 in 1920, Allen raised that number to 122 in 1931, Collart listed 372 in 1948, Pack listed 464 in 1965, in 1990 Sutton said that there were 703, and West says that in his edition of 1998-2000, he made use of 1543, 850 of which were then-unpublished Oxyrhynchus papyri in Oxford's Ashmolean Museum. West writes of Homeric papyri: "They will continue to accumulate. There is no end to them." On pp 88-129, West catalogues 1569 papyri. By the term "papryi," West refers to all ancient manuscripts, whether written on papyrus or some other material. On p 139, West doubts that a thorough catalog of the Medieval manuscripts of the Iliad will ever be written. (Because there are simply too many items to be considered? I don't know. West doesn't elaborate.)

West passed away in 2015, his edition of the Odyssey was published in 2017, and De Gruyter's website says that it consults 500 papyri, 250 of them unpublished.]

Thursday, February 15, 2018


I admit, I'm fascinated by guns, especially by contemporary double-action revolvers, I don't own a gun, I don't plan to acquire one, but I think about them a lot, daydream, even. For example, I have a recurring daydream of being a Sheriff in the southwestern US, somewhat like the character played by Tommy Lee Jones in No Country For Old Men. I've spent some time in stores looking at the revolvers in the display cases and talking about them with the people behind the counters. When I was a kid I upset my pacifist family by buying and carefully studying a few gun magazines. Shooting Times was the best one, in my opinion. There were also thick annual reference guides listing every sort of gun you could get; I think they were published by Shooting Times. My Mom wouldn't let me get those annual volumes. We couldn't even have toy guns.

I don't want to hurt anybody, much less shoot them. In the fantasies about being a Sheriff in some place like Arizona or semi-rural southern California, I sometimes have to resort to carrying a gun to protect the citizens whom I have sworn to protect from a bear or mountain lion. I imagine that some other government agency calls me and angrily tells me to stand down: they want to capture the animal and return it to a place more far away from people. I tell them that I hope they succeed in doing exactly that, but that I am still sworn to protect the people in the area, and if I get to the mountain lion or bear before they do, rather than risk a person being mauled and perhaps killed, I will shoot it. My office has a live satellite image of the animal, and we're glad to share it.

To those who have a zero-tolerance policy against shooting animals, whether by hunters or law enforcement, I ask whether they are vegetarian, or at least only eat meat which was raised free-range. I flunk that test, and I know that a lot of meat and poultry is raised under conditions much more cruel than anything anyone ever did when they were hunting.

I'm in favor of much stricter gun control. I think that people who show tendencies to violence or the potential toward violence or potentially violent mental instability should be separated from guns with all reasonable and unreasonable means.

And I'm autistic. And some people who've gone on mass-murdering shooting sprees may or may not have been autistic. So some people think that autistic people should be at or very near the top of the list of those who need to be kept away from guns.

I don't think autistic people are more likely than average to go on shooting sprees, in fact, I suspect that we're less likely, and that those shooters mentioned above may not actually have been autistic. I don't think I'm crazy. I don't think that autistic equals crazy, or dangerous, or mentally unstable. Autistic people may sometimes seem crazy or dangerous or unstable, but, for the most part, that's because we're different and difficult to understand, and if and when we are better understood, we reveal ourselves to be mostly quite gentle and harmless.

So this leaves me with the very uncomfortable question of how I should react when -- I think it will be when, not if -- greater gun control comes to the US at long last, and it includes restrictions applied to autistic people. On the one hand, gun control is needed, badly, and I shouldn't slow try to slow it down. On the other hand, if we autistic people are kept away from guns, because we're thought to be crazy, does that also mean that we'll be prevented from driving, or having bank accounts, or from holding certain professions for which we may be well-qualified?

Life is sloppy and imperfect, and in emergencies -- the lack of gun control in the US is a huge emergency, just in case it wasn't entirely clear that that is my opinion -- in emergencies, some people's rights and privileges tend to get stepped on. Wars have collateral damage. We try to minimize it.

Today on Facebook, someone sarcastically said: if it's too soon to talk about yesterday's school shooting in Florida, can we at least talk about Sandy Hook now? That made me wonder whether Smith & Wesson have a Facebook page, and whether yesterday's shooting was mentioned on it. They do, they have a very popular page, and yesterday's shooting is not mentioned on it. Weak. And, unfortunately, hardly surprising. In the 1990's, an executive at Colt mentioned in a magazine interview that he was not opposed to all forms of gun control, and the gun buyers' backlash and boycott to that was so severe that it very nearly put Colt out of business permanently. Much like the Republican party, in its relationship to the NRA and Trump and many other things, the gun industry has very few people with the guts to stand up against the nuts. And that's truly shameful.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

So, It's Valentines' Day,

and I'm confidently looking forward to being showered with lavish gifts by my many passionate admirers.

Do I actually know that someone currently admires me passionately enough to give any sort of Valentine's Day gift?


Do I get something every Valentine's Day?


Not even a card?

Sometimes not even a card. Some years, all I got was a Valentine's Day card from my Mom, which in some ways was worse than getting nothing. Still, it shows you how great my Mom was. Love you, Mom, you're the best, happy Valentine's Day, RIP. And they make Valentine's Day cards that say From Mom to my Son, which makes it a little less weird. Thank you, Hallmark, for making it less weird.

So why am I confidently looking forward to a completely different kind of Valentine's Day today?

Because they say that confidence is sexy.

Are they right about that?

I have no idea.

Who are they, anyway?

Beats me.

Whatever kind of Valentine's Day I end up having, there are some people who no doubt will be showered with lavish gifts by passionate admirers today. For example, Scarlett Johansson.

Seems perfectly reasonable and right that she would be showered with lavish gifts from many admirers today. I almost feel bad about not getting her a Valentine's Day gift myself, and I've never met her. You know who else is going to be showered with lavish Valentine's Day gifts from admirers today? Donald Trump. And that doesn't seem right. You threw up a little bit in your mouth just thinking about it, didn't you? And you're somewhat annoyed with me for bringing it up. Sorry, but I was trying to make a point, and I think I made it. Donald Trump on Valentine's Day illustrates the Tom-Petty-It's-Ab-So-Lute-Ly-Back-Wards Law of Microeconomics particularly well.

So if I socialized more, would I have better chances of getting Valentine's Day gifts?

No doubt. No doubt at all about that. I'd also have better chances of being married or having a girlfriend or something.

Is being autistic, so that it's more difficult and stressful for me to socialize than it is for most people, a valid excuse for this Valentine's Day predicament of mine?

Yeah, probably, but whether it's valid or not, excuses are not nearly as likely to get me many lavish Valentine's Day gifts, as getting out there and mixing it up with the other humans. Exactly the same as with other people, autistic and not.

Do I think Scarlett Johansson is awesome?

Yes. Yes, I do. She's gorgeous, intelligent, talented, has a good sense of humor, and, although I've never met her, from what I hear, she's also a real mensch. I could be wrong, but I think she's awesome. Happy Valentine's Day, Scarlett Johansson!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Dream Log: Business and Anger in NYC

I dreamed I was living in NYC and working in midtown Manhattan at an import-export business.

I have often dreamed about being in NYC, both before and after living in Manhattan for a few years in the 1990's. Often, in these dreams, the city has not looked or sounded or smelled like any actual place on Earth, but last night's dream was much more realistic in that regard.

Some of the people I worked with in this import-export business were Orthodox Jewish men, with the side curls and the fringes for their prayers shawls and their heads always covered.

The part of the business I worked in was concerned mostly with keeping records. We did this partly with computers, but to a great degree we still used paper. And it seemed that some of the ways in which we treated these pieces of paper was somewhat ritualistic. It was hard to say how much of this was purely for the sake of ritual, or was actually efficient, or both, or neither.

The record-keeping part of the business where I worked was divided into two parts. One part faced the street, and then the part where I worked was farther into the building. We in our part had to walk through the other part any time we arrived to work or left. It was unclear whether the two record-keeping divisions actually belonged to two separate companies, or if one company divided the record-keeping section into two parts for some reason.

A young man named Michael who worked in the front section, whose appearance was not distinguished in any religious way, had rolled up a long receipt in a manner which was not the way we usually did it. We usually rolled such items starting at the top, so that the bottom, with the signatures, showed when we were done.

Michael reacted angrily to the criticism. Soon Michael and I were yelling at each other. We all closed up for the night and went outside, and Michael and I continued to escalate our verbal fight out on the sidewalk. Michael and I and a few other people from the business or businesses were going to fly to Tel Aviv on business, and as we walked toward our transportation to the airport, Michael and I went from yelling at each other to yelling and shoving. Michael screamed, "I'm going to kill you!"

I said to him: "Look at you!" He was an average-sized thin young man. I said, "Look at me!" I was about twice his size. I asked, "What are you going to kill me with?!"

Michael spluttered for a while, and then said, "Guns! Guns!" And he threw a couple of punches at me which missed, and I tried to get him into some sort of wrestling hold, and then our co-workers dragged us apart and took us separate ways.

I had one stop to make before the airport, to pick up my dog, Lucretia, at my apartment. Lucretia may have been a mutt. I'm not very knowledgeable about dog breeds. Lucretia looked like a smaller version of a German Shepherd, except that her fur was grey all over.

Next, we were at the airport, I, my dog and the people from my section who were going to Tel Aviv. Lucretia was a very good-natured dog, and being with her was calming me down.

It wasn't clear which airport we were at, JFK, LaGuardia or another one. We were in a section of the airport which mostly handled freight. Just as at the office, so here we had our own little terminal, and the guys who had their record-keeping section out by the street had a little terminal right next to ours. It wasn't clear whether we were taking the same flight as these other guys, or two separate flights. It was also unclear whether or not we owned our own plane or planes. Michael was already in their terminal when we showed up.

Michael saw me and looked away. I walked up to their terminal, told Lucretia to sit, and said, "Michael. Could I talk to you for just a minute? I just want to say one thing." I looked down at Lucretia, whom Michael had never met before this. "This is my dog, Lucretia. She's a good dog. Very gentle. She's never bitten anyone."

Michael approached.

I said, "They won't let me take her in the cabin with the people. She has to ride in a cage with the cargo. They say it doesn't tend to bother dogs very much. And she's a very even-tempered dog. So I'm probably a lot more upset about her being in a cage than she's going to be. If you hold out your hand and let her sniff it, she'll probably like you right away and be very happy to have you pet her. If you want to. You know. She won't lick your hand. That's one of the things I like about her. I don't like dogs slobbering all over me." Michael was petting Lucretia and starting to smile, and Lucretia's tail was thumping against the floor. "Anyway, all I wanted to say is that I can't remember what we were fighting about."