26 December 2006

The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Tea Cozy

Last week a friend gave me a tea cozy. It wasn't so much a Christmas present as something she picked up when she saw it, knowing that I've had trouble finding one that wasn't in the shape of a little lamb or in some, um, busy floral print.

This thing is amazing. I have quite warm tea three hours after it was brewed. It works so well, in fact, that the handle becomes almost unbearably hot, especially for the first hour or so.

This post exists mostly as an excuse for the title.

20 December 2006

What I learned from Carl Sagan

Today is the 10th anniversary of the death of Carl Sagan. There is a memorial blogathon going on. See his son's blog, Nick Sagan, for many more links.

I first encountered Carl Sagan from the TV series Cosmos. I convinced my mom to get me the book for it, which I read repeatedly. Of course I loved the astronomy in it. Though I never once considered a career in astronomy, I have photos from the Hubble on my walls, and belong to The Planetary Society, which Sagan helped found.

But the two things that really remain in my mind about Cosmos have to do with the ancient world. First, I learned that the ancient Greeks were pretty cool. Most computer science people will know the name Eratosthenes from a method for finding primes. I know him as the first guy to measure the circumference of the earth. I learned how easily learning can be lost.

Second, I learned about the horrible death of Hypatia of Alexandria at the hands of fanatics, and I learned Sagan's opinion on such things. Suddenly I had the start, at least, of a framework for my own nebulous skepticism about religion. A more systematic skepticism would have to wait for me to grow up and read a lot more, but Sagan pointed me in the right direction.

At the end of Contact, just before the credits, the word "For Carl" appear. That can still choke me up a bit. I should dig up my copy of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark...

12 December 2006

Filtering the Online

I recently added to new feeds to my RSS reader. Sometimes I add a site only to remove it a week or two later. These two will stay.

The first is for Cartoon Brew, a dual effort. I found it when searching for some information on modernism in 50s era cartoons, and found one of the site author's books, Cartoon Modern (linked to from the Brew page itself).

The second is the appallingly named No Fat Clips!!!, which has comments in English and Italian on very short pieces (films, commercials, etc.), including the very recent and — what? charming? sweet?!And The Red Man Went Green. Just watch it (other formats here).

11 December 2006

The Lunacy of the Lunate Sigma: A Rant

I was very excited last week to get the OCT edition of Hesiod — a requirement for a class I might actually get to take. My shocked, initial joy at finding a legible text in a new OCT, and decked out with a beefy apparatus, was dampened when I noticed a serious pet-peeve of mine — the silly lunate sigma.

For those who don't know Greek, the lowercase letter sigma (sounds "s") comes in two forms, one used at the end of a word, one used everywehere else, like σῖτος sitos "(food made from) grain" (cf. parasite). The lunate sigma, an ancient form of the letter, looks like a lowercase "c", ϲῖτοϲ.

For reasons I cannot fathom, it has become fashionable to use the lunate sigma in modern editions of Greek works. What is so bizarre about this that the lunate form is a zombie. In any modern text of, say, Homer, the font used is based on the habits of the Late Byzantine scholars from whom Western Europe reacquainteded itself with ancient Greek learning. The lunate sigma is alien to those hands. If we really must enforce sigma to a single form, there's much better precedent for using the non-final shape everywhere (see Thompson's A Handbook of Greek and Latin Palaeography for the evidence).

Another problem with the lunate sigma is that, as an intruder, it rarely plays well with other letters in a face. I've seen one book (I think the current "Teach Yourself" for classical Greek) that appears to have had the lunate form crammed in without any kerning information. It looks just terrible. OCT has done a better job with the lowercase form, but the uppercase form looks like it's delirious from a wasting disease. The best lunate sigma I've ever seen seems to have been designed with the rest of the font, and appears in H. van Thiel's Scholia D on Homer.

Now, I would be happy to see lunate sigmas in an apparatus. In fact, I would applaud it. But I cannot figure out why it's ending up in the main body of texts. It isn't more historically accurate, or is so only in a wildly eccentric way. It often looks awful. Greek offers a vast array of difficulties for beginners, so simplifying sigma isn't going to help anything at all. Finally, it is an active impediment to reading for people experienced with Greek. Unless they've never seen a word before, people don't actually phonate words when reading an alphabet. After years of experience "the" goes straight into your brain as "the." The shape of the word counts, so ruining my familiar εἰς and σῖτος to favor εἰϲ and ϲῖτοϲ is just annoying.

And don't get me started on adscript iota.

29 November 2006

Focusing the Mind

At my place of work 2006 started with three Unix sysadmins. It appears it's going to end with one, namely me. Today was my third day solo.

A lack of options, the saying goes, focuses the mind admirably. In my situation, that means I've been scripting like mad to make sure I get information in a timely way and don't overlook anything. And the last few days I've been coming home and writing even more code, but of a more complicated nature. Normally this would make me cranky, to be doing work programming in the evening, but since this particular project is intended only for me, I get to choose my language. I've been reacquainting myself with Common Lisp. I had forgotten how fun programming could be —

;;; Insert timed data point, returning the previous value (useful for
;;; some statistical models).
(defmethod update ((dh ts-datahistory) val &key timestamp)
(let ((ts (if (null timestamp) (get-universal-time) timestamp)))
(multiple-value-bind (idx daytype) (bin-index dh ts)
(macrolet ((ref-and-set (accessor)
(,accessor dh idx)
(setf (,accessor dh idx) val))))
(if (eq daytype 'weekday)
(ref-and-set weekday-history-ref)
(ref-and-set weekend-history-ref))))))

I don't know how many of my readers will understand that, but it just fills me with joy to use such a tool. Lexically scoped macros!

Next up, quality time with North & Hillard's Greek Prose Composition...

07 November 2006

Crowded Voting

Since my polling place is only slightly out of my way to work, I vote on my way in. I got there just as they were letting people vote, and already there was quite a line. The poll workers seemed cheery, but the polling official already looked a bit harassed. He may be in for a tough day.

30 October 2006

Double Dipping the Surplus Value

I have been thinking recently, as I often have cause to do, on the wretched state of software. This has lead me to an economic analysis of the software industry, not something I'd normally indulge in, but now that I have the vocabulary for what was annoying me, perhaps I can dwell on some other matter.

"Surplus value" is a technical term, associated with Marx but by no means discovered by him, describing how capital accumulation takes place. Horribly simplified, surplus value is the difference between the selling price of something and the labor cost, with the idea being that it's mostly unpaid labor that makes value for a business (i.e., people aren't really paid for the full value of their work). As I said, this simplification is gross, but it's the basic idea, no great surprise nor particularly radical.

Whatever you feel is the correct relationship between labor and the pay for that labor, it seems to me that software companies who produce crappy software (that is, most of them) rely on not one but two sources of surplus value, first from their own employees, second from the poor shlubs who buy their software and then have to hire even more IT staff. How much of that expensive software companies are convinced buy would get any use if there weren't an army of acolytes running around tending to it?

What percent of the average IT budget (training and salaries) is devoted to necessary infrastructure and what percent to dealing with software that doesn't quite work as advertized?

04 October 2006

An Eye on Alzheimer's

Now this is just cool: Optics Tests For Early Alzheimer's Diagnosis Make Significant Advances. It turns out that Alzheimer's isn't just a brain disease, but a systemic one. The same amyloid protein that clogs up the brains of Alzheimer's victims also collect at the edge of the lens of the eye. They already did a Phase I human trial, so it may be that in the not too distant future it will be possible to catch, and verify the diagnosis of, Alzheimer's earlier in the course of the disease.

This comes by way of ScienceDaily, which everyone should have in their syndication list (feed).

03 October 2006

Quotable Euripides

I've been reading Medea recently. As I read (slowly), I keep coming across tidbits that recommend themselves for memorization. My pocket Moleskine now has quite a few lines from the play, and I use that to memorize from while on the bus. It turns out books of quotations were popular even in ancient times, and quotations from plays, especially Euripides and Menander, seem to have been especially popular.

Last week, during a review, I noticed a few lines of anapests that I decided I should be able to recite:

δεινὰ τυράννων λήματα καί πως—
ὀλίγ’ ἀρχόμενοι, πολλὰ κρατοῦντες —     120
χαλεπῶς ὀργὰς μεταβάλλουσιν.

The wants of despots are terrible and —
since they are ruled little and command much —
only (πως) with difficulty do they change their impulses.

Suddenly it's completely current.

17 September 2006

Ode to Stalin

Since reading the AKWN article about the Astronautilia — a modern, sci-fi poem by Czech author Jan Křesadlo in Homeric Greek — I've been trying to find a copy. No luck so far. But in searching for it I found an article from this year about Křesadlo which has a small image of "Óda na Stalina" - an "Ode to Stalin" I presume. [Article] [Image]

The image is a bit small, so it's sometimes hard to be clear on some of the letters, though the basic tone is pretty clear:

Στᾶλιν, ἄναξ, ἄγαμαί σε. σὺ λευκολίθῳ ἐνὶ Κρέμλῳ
ἑζόμενος κρατέεις πάντας Ῥώσσας Τατάρους τε...

Stalin, lord, I revere you. You rule all Russia (?) and the
Tatars while sitting in the white-stoned Kremlin...

The image ends with the line “Πάντες δειδίοτες (sic) κινέουσι ποδάς τε πυγήν τε,” "everyone afraid moves (their) feet and butt." There doesn't seem to be punctuation at the end of that line, so it may be there's more after that.

I don't know when Křesadlo wrote this. The language of this ode is filled with Epic morphology and phrasing, λευκολίθῳ ἐνὶ Κρέμλῳ, but it also contains a number of eccentricities in accenting and scansion, which, with the subject matter, make me suspect this is an early work. If anyone can read Czech, I'd love to know if the article makes mention of when this fragment was composed.

05 September 2006

Recipes of my Father

Yesterday my dad called, and we started off our chat in the usual way — he griped about the sorry state of the Red Socks, the even sorrier state of farming on the east coast (he's in rural New York), and, sorriest of all, the state of politics. He has worked all his life on farms in some capacity, and in these coversations I sometimes learn many interesting bits of wisdom based, often, on the cow. When it's raining hard, "it's like a cow pissing on a flat rock." Once, when discussing politics, he said "the more you kick shit, the more it stinks," something most of us would do well to remember.

Of course I talk to him when I'm planning some bit of house repair I've never done before, but yesterday I asked how he felt about clam chowder. He paused, and then said gravely, "I love clam chowder." I found out his preferred version: no tomato! But then he offered a soup recipe of such audacity that I feel I have to share it.

Oyster Soup

1 pint oysters (he usually gets his fresh)
1 stick butter
1 1/2 pint half-n-half

Simmer oysters gently, and not too long. Serve.

I'm a little scared to make this. Certainly I'm not going to make it until I plenty of guests around. It seems like it'd be rich enough to serve a dozen.

23 August 2006

There is a language, terrifying to us...

Since that remote time when I was a wee lad and learned there were other languages, I have never stopped learning as much as I could about language. Apart from seriously studying a few languages, I like to take tastes of pretty much any language I can get some reference on. There is a joke — "What is a linguist?" "Someone who takes a Swahili grammar home on Friday, and says he knows Swahili on Monday." But you just never know when it's useful to be able to say, "why, yes, West Greenlandic Inuit is ergative."

Apart from these many sampler plates, I have managed to reach what I call a "philological reading ability" — that is, I can read the language fairly reliably with occasional (or more frequent) recourse to no more than a good dictionary — of a number of languages with a somewhat scary reputation. Ancient Greek of course, by far the strongest currently, Classical Chinese, Sanskrit. My Classical Arabic is very poor these days, though I can still use a dictionary reliably, a greater accomplishment than you might think. Once I could read Old Norse somewhat well, and Old English.

But there is one language that has always stopped me dead in my tracks. It is the only language, apart from perhaps Navajo, that gives me anxiety to think about. That language is Old Irish. I have approached it several times, only to be defeated. Every time I pick up Lehmann's book, I become inconsolable before the week is out. Fortston, in his Indo-European Language and Culture gives the best description of the horror (I omit the macrons):

14.45. As these examples hint at, the effects of syncope and apocope in Irish are nowhere as apparent or as devastating as in verbal conjugations, especially those of verbs compounded with one or more preverbs. The effects are particularly widespread partly due to the fact that Old Irish had an especial fondness for piling preverbs together, giving syncope and apocope no shortage of syllablic gallows-fodder. ...

4.46. The amount of allomorphy (that is, variation in the form of a given morpheme) that these changes created was incredible, and it is worth digressing to give some examples. The Irish root fed- 'say' appears in such varied guises as fét, id and d, as in the following forms of the compound verb *at-fed- 'relate': 3rd sing. present ad-fét 'relates', perfective present ad-cuïd (*ad-com-fed), and 2nd pl. conjunct perfective present -éicdid. Sometimes the root is reduced to a single sound, particularly in the conjunct 3rd person singular s-subjunctive. Thus the 3rd sing. conjunct s-subjunctive of the verb as-boind (*as-bond-) 'refuses' is simply -op (pronounced -ob, the regular outcome of *-óss-bod-s-t!); and from *ret- 'run' (present rethid 'runs') we have the compound do-fúarat 'remains over' (*di-fó-uss-ret-), whose conjunct 3rd sing. s-subjunctive is -diúair (*dí-fo-uss-ret-s-t), with only the -r remaining of the original root, subjunctive suffix and personal ending (and very little left of the preceding preverbs).

Some famous historical linguist apparently said that learning Old Irish is like mowing the lawn — you have to do it regularly. (I forget the details of the quote, but that's the gist of it.)

So I know perfectly well what sort of language this is. And yet, last week, when I saw Sengoídelc: Old Irish for Beginners at the local bookstore (do they know I shop there?) I was overcome by language lust, and had to buy the thing, even though I had sworn myself to study no language other than Greek for a year last May. I'm just not going to have time to study OIr. until I retire or win the lottery (which I don't play).

But I'll be happy to have this book around when I finally decide I need to learn it. It's much nicer than the standard presentations available heretofore. It has graded sentences! which are even marked to give you some idea how much they've been modified from a wild original. Normally I'm a big fan of seeing wild version of the language as quickly as possible, but the amount you have to learn before you can reasonably understand OIr is so great that this somewhat gentler start is very welcome. There's still an awful lot to learn, but this book I think organizes that better.

I cannot imagine anyone other than a college student learning Old Irish, but this book is nonetheless somewhat eccentrically filled with cartoon sheep saying improbable things like guithir in tón "the hind side is being warmed" and fech in rríg "behold the king." But these are probably a relief when you're dealing with a language with a regular declension that goes fer, fir, fiur, fer, a fir ("man").

The standard list price of this is a little excessive, and it's not like I really needed it at a discount price either. Perhaps I'll dedicate a single dollar to the Tuatha Dé Danann and see about the lottery.

15 August 2006

Aoidoi.org - Three Homeric Hymns

Three new poems are up on Aoidoi.org, all Homeric Hymns.

The first two are quite small, and I worked these up as an example of the small prelude-like hymn, to Artemis and to Hephestus. Nicholas Swift, who last year worked up the The Shield of Achilles portion of the Iliad, did the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, all 495 lines of it. It's a great thing.

Nick sent me the first lines back in January, and the last few days saw the finishing touches. Neither of us is quite sure what life without Demeter is going to be like.

03 August 2006

Homer and Hittites

Another classics blog has appeared, Nestor's Cup.

I have petitioned him humbly to change the color scheme.

30 July 2006

Two Thoughts on the Homeric Hymn to Demeter

I expect the aoidification of the Hymn to Demeter will be complete in a few weeks. All the really major work is done, and I've made my full second pass through with the big pen. Now we just need to refine a few details, and settle the remaining questions.

One of those is a trivial textual question, for the end of the poem, ll.494-495:

πρόφρονες ἀντ’ ᾠδῆς βίοτον θυμήρε’ ὀπάζειν·
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ καὶ σεῖο καὶ ἄλλης μνήσομ’ ἀοιδῆς.

This ending nearly perfectly repeated in one other hymn, 30 (To the Earth, Mother of All):

πρόφρων δ’ ἀντ’ ᾠδῆς βίοτον θυμήρε’ ὄπαζε·
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ καὶ σεῖο καὶ ἄλλης μνήσομ’ ἀοιδῆς.

And less exactly on line 17 (of 19) of hymn 31 (to the Sun):

χαῖρε ἄναξ, πρόφρων δὲ βίον θυμήρε’ ὄπαζε.

It turns out the manuscript for the Demeter hymn actually has not ὀπάζειν but ὄπαζε, a singular imperative. Voss is responsible for the infinitive, which, it must be said, is a perfectly good use of the infinitive in Epic Greek. But if the only reason to use it is to avoid a problem with concord in number, I can't help but think lectio difficilior should guide us here, and accept the ms. reading. Such a mismatch isn't exactly unprecedented Greek. I think we'll go with ὄπαζε.

In How to Kill a Dragon Calvert Watkins argues in support of the existence of a particle ταρ (pp.150-151). It is frequently used with interrogatives, πῶς ταρ, τίς ταρ, κτλ. (I was delighted to see that West even uses this in his Teubner Iliad). However, the particle also occurs a few times after verbs of fearing, wailing and the like. The verb is usually at the start of a line, and occurs as V ταρ ἔπειτα.

There are two places in the Hymn to Demeter where verbs of shouting are followed by δ’ ἄρ’, which arroused my suspicions. Neither is at the start of the line, though they do start after the caesura. They're very similar:

ἦγ’ ὀλοφυρομένην· || ἰάχησε δ’ ἄρ’ ὄρθια φωνῇ     20
πολλ’ ἀεκαζομένην, || ἐβόησα δ’ ἄρ’ ὄρθια φωνῇ.     432

Line 20 describes Persephone's abduction. Line 432 is her describing this to her mother, Demeter. My Allen OCT lists no variants for either line, but I don't trust it. I have emailed someone to check for τ’ ἄρ’ in Richardson.

20 July 2006

Doomed to Dilettantism

I have been trying for over a year to take classes at the local U as a special student (so called — you get the last choice in everything). I was repeatedly thwarted by warps in the bureaucratic spacetime contiuum and communications trouble that almost lead to a local classics department getting immortalized in the most Hipponactean iambics I could manage.

I discovered yesterday that the one professor I was interested in studying with has retired, which also has taken away the one class I wanted to take in the fall. There will not be anyone to teach it this year.

Is δύσκολος a good translation for "cranky?" That'll fit into iambics, and elegy.

25 June 2006

Stoic Universalism

τὸ βούλημα τῆς φύσεως καταμαθεῖν ἔστιν ἐξ ὧν οὐ διαφερόμεθα πρὸς ἀλλήλους. “It is possible to learn the will of nature from those things by which we do not differ from one another.” Encheiridion of Epictetus, c.26.

21 June 2006

On people who wear too much scent

παντοδαπῶς με τυφλοῖ μύρου ὀδμὴ ᾧ σὺ κέχρισαι·
    κείνης πως ὀδμῆς κρυπτομένη κακίων;

At the bucolic caesura I have taken a Homeric liberty with hiatus. Sterner metricians may substitute τῷ.

Yes, it does.

Apart from Pascal's Wager — which is at best a caution to cover your derrière — this has got to be one of the worst arguments in the Great Theism Debates:

What is Dawkins’s response to those for whom his popularization of evolution causes so much pain? Essentially it is this: “Keep a stiff upper lip.” If “something is true,” he responds, “no amount of wishful thinking can undo it.” No doubt this is correct. But we might with as much propriety ask Dawkins: “If something is painful, does its truth justify inflicting it on people who find it disturbing?” Let us grant — only, to be sure, for the sake of argument — that Dawkins’s Darwinian explanation of Life, the Universe, and Everything is true. Does this in itself justify his strident shoving of it into our public discourse, knowing full well the emotional distress it will cause the spiritually sensitive? [full article]

How patronizing. "Oh, the poor, sensitive dears, leave them their comforts, even if false." Further, it is not wild-eyed idealism to believe that having more true information allows you to make better decisions in life, both practical and ethical. Mollycoddling the spiritually sensitive (whatever the hell that actually means) corrupts their decision-making process.

People are under no obligation to accept Dawkin's arguments. To suggest that they need to be protected from even hearing them due to their sensitive constitutions is manipulative emotional coercion.

15 June 2006

An Ancient Greek on Obstetrics

Medea, talking about the difficult life of women:

λέγουσι δ᾽ ἡμᾶς ὡς ἀκίνδυνον βίον
ζῶμεν κατ᾽ οἴκους, οἱ δὲ μάρνανται δορί,
κακῶς φρονοῦντες· ὡς τρὶς ἂν παρ᾽ ἀσπίδα     250
στῆναι θέλοιμ᾽ ἂν μᾶλλον ἢ τεκεῖν ἅπαξ.

And they say we live lives without danger
in our houses, while they go out and fight.
Their wits are addled! I'd rather stand in battle with
a shield three times than give birth once.

In the Greek the men "fight with spears" and she would "stand beside a shield", but "fight with spears" seems silly to me in English.

I have an old school edition of a few Greek plays in which some avid annotator has filled the margins with quotes from Shakespeare. It seems a bit excessive. But I can't help but think of Lady MacBeth when I read this, so I understand that mysterious compulsion a bit better.

11 June 2006

My Oldest Books

Several other people have been discussing their oldest books. Since I've not biblioblogged in a while, I'll mention my oldest.

My penultimate is Polybius, ex recognitione, Immanuelis Bekkeri, printed in Berlin in 1844. It was originally a two volume set (owned by Paul Geyer in 1867, and one Benedict Einarson some unspecified later time). At some point both volumes were jammed into a single library binding. This was a very high quality production, the binding and paper are sound and usable to this day, with minimal foxing.

My oldest book is ἩΡΟΔΟΤΟΥ ἹΣΤΟΡΙΩΝ ΛΟΓΟΙ Θ’, textus Johannis Schweighaeuseri, Volumen Secundum printed in 1818, apparently in Glasgow (Glasguae?). The paper is in good shape, though it has a lot more foxing, but the cover is falling apart. Once in the library of the Kimball Union Academy, Shelf D, No. 75, (which institution still exists).

I probably have a dozen more books from the late 1800s, mostly Greek topics. While I love a good, old book, I expect all of my books to survive actual use. For editions of Greek texts, I'm usually a more eager collector of the most current edition available, because I love a giant app.crit. more than I love the aroma of old books.

08 June 2006

The Sycophancy Fallacy

While I have, for health reasons, radically cut back on my reading of politcal blogs since the last presidential theatre season, a few times a week I do nonetheless check in on a few blogs, both left and right, to get a feel for what has caught people's attentions.

Just today I saw yet again an assertion I see regularly, namely, that the bloggers on The Other Side never say anything bad about their party of choice, that they're totally in thrall to them. On the face of it, this is positively delusional. If there is anything both left and right political bloggers as a class have in common, it is a passion for mercilessly savaging allied politicians. Not all of them of course, but there is hardly a lack of examples. The week following the "Nuclear Option" filibuster show-down probably offers 1000s of examples from both sides.

I have to wonder if people even think when they say something like that, or if it's some sort of phatic (WikiPedia def.) expression, like "well, that's the end of this post, I hope you enjoy it."

05 June 2006

Wisconsine-Sichuan Duck

On Saturday I had dinner with some friends at a local Chinese restaurant, which is best when you stick to the last two pages of the menu, where the Sichuan specialties are. Eric relates our dinner at length on his own blog. I agree with him that the duck was particularly fine. It was just finely sliced duck even more finely match-sticked red and yellow bell peppers. I know some people find duck a bit cloying at too fatty, but the slightly tart and crisp flavor of the pepper balanced it out better than I would have thought.

So I had to try my own version tonight, with a little twist. Rather than wait to thaw and quarter a whole duck, I indulged a bit and got a smoked duck breast (from Nueske's Farm — it was costlier than I recall from the last time I got it).


  • half that duck breast cut into 1/4in strips (the short length, not long)
  • one red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • one yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • mirin
  • light soy

Start your rice. Slice your peppers, and the duck. I took out about 1/5th of the peppers from each color and shoved them into a bag for later snacking. If you don't, you'll want to use more duck.

Get your favored frying device very, very hot. Add oil (peanut, by preference), then add the duck strips. Keep them moving, and when they've browned a bit, chuck in the peppers. Keep it all moving quickly. After the heat gets back to the pan (1-2 minutes), add a splash of mirin and a splash of soy (maybe 1tsp each). Cook until the soy and mirin are well reduced, the result should be nearly dry.

Eat, and delight how something so simple can be so tasty.

24 May 2006

Any Hellenists have some free time for Aoidoi.org?

After we finished the Aoidoi commentary on the Shield of Achilles, Nick and I discussed what we might want to work on next. We settled on the Hymn to Demeter, as practice for work on a rather larger work (a secret for now), largely because Nick had already read it and had plenty of notes at hand. Today he sent me the last chuck of the just under 500 lines of the Hymn. Right now the document weighs in at 54 pages, and we have fine tuning and additional notes yet to finalize, so it will certainly be longer.

Between the two of us the final editing is pretty good. But this is big enough that I would feel better if we could get someone else to take a close look at it once we get closer to the final draft. I know there are practicing scholars who read this blog. If any of you out there has an interest in this particular text and the time to proof 50+ pages of Greek verse, vocabulary and grammar notes, please do contact me (email). I'm afraid all I can offer in compensation is gratitude and the modest κλέος Aoidoi.org has to grant.

18 May 2006

Bragging: Metrical Breakthrough

After years of reading hexameters, I can now usually read unseen verses in the correct meter without stumbling. I have had a much harder time with iambic trimeters, however, even after reading the entire Cyclops. All those substitutions! and the ancipites! This morning on the bus, while reading the opening to Medea, it finally clicked.

Using Euripides as my first serious exposure to trimeters was probably not the smartest decision.

14 May 2006

Random Philology

The Vedic Verbal Edifice. One curious turn of phrase common in Epic is βῆ δ’ ἴμεν. It has dozens of variations, from βάν ῥ’ ἴμεναι out to the set phrase βάσκ’ ἴθι (Iliad 2.8., though some might object to that last one being included). The phrase is a little unusual in that it's just a finite form of "to go" followed by an infitive with basically the same meaning. "He went to go?" Now forms of βαίνω sometimes take on the sense of "to step," so I can see how these both might be used together.

Since both stems have clear cognates in Vedic I wondered if there were parallels. At the moment I don't know of a good database that'd let me do a lexical search like that for the Vedic corpus, so I went to my Vedic grammar to look up forms. In Macdonell's Vedic Grammar for Students the entry for i (cognate of ἴμεν) has this listing of infinitives: étum (B.); étave, étavái, ityái, iyádhyai, áyase; étos. Such riches!

Phonetic Echos in Epic. Another common turn of phrase in Epic is αὐτὰρ ἐπεί/ἔπειτα. In fact, some Hellenistic critic referred to hackish Cyclic poets as "people who say 'αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα.'" I recently ran across αὖτις ἔπειτα in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (325), but a quick search shows that it appears once in the Odyssey, too, 11.98. I wonder how much that leading αὐτ- motivated the following ἔπειτα.

Mesomedes 1

This weekend I got email from someone who brought my attention to a musical rendition of Mesomedes 1, a Hymn to the Muses (MP3). This reminded me that I had completed comments on this poem — probably really two poems — some time ago. I never published it, though I have no idea why. So I will now: Mesomedes 1.

His "Hymn to Nemesis" is interesting. I should work that up, too.

07 May 2006

On second thought

I think I'm tired of maintaining software when I'm not at work. I'm happy to let someone else manage the database and software maintenance for my blog for now. It's one less thing to take away time I'd rather spend on more interesting things.

Please excuse the visual horror while I get the CSS worked out.