28 October 2012

Ramblings on Sandy

Public officials in my area (northern NJ) seem to be doing all the right things: evacuating low-lying areas, shutting down public transportation, sending out all kinds of warnings. For my part, I find myself driven to skepticism by the slightly creepy enthusiasm of the media weather people...as usual. In this instance, this was fueled by the way a rather hasty mention on the Weather Channel Saturday morning of the injection of some dry air from the southwest which resulted in a serious drop in rainfall south and east of the storm.

So a few thoughts, not all of which are cynical:

  1. The Modeling - Everyone keeps talking about the uniqueness of this storm. It's a strange kind of hurricane now, and is likely to lose hurricane status soon. It's also supposed to take an unprecedented left-hand turn, from what I can tell. Here's a plot of historical hurricane paths for hurricanes that were very close to Sandy's position. You'll notice that none of them takes such a sudden change in direction. So how good are the models at handling this kind of thing? We'll find out tomorrow morning, when Sandy either turns or doesn't. I'm genuinely curious...and not only because I'm not interested in bailing out my basement tomorrow night. (For the record, right now the consensus puts landfall somewhere in southern NJ.)
  2. Rainfall - Last year we got seriously dumped on my Irene, about 6" in less than a day in my neck of the woods. In addition we'd had a fairly wet lead-up, so the ground was already full of water. This year in contrast has been average or even a bit dry, and Sandy is forecast to leave a total of 4" of rain over several days, starting some time tonight. I'm sure the coastal and riverine areas are gong to be much worse, but we're likely not to have as much potential for in-house flooding as last year. (If the power goes, we're definitely going to get water, but right now my sump is totally dry.)
  3. Some people on the air (e.g., Al Roker) are giving warnings for 7-10 days of power outages. Now I'm sure that it's very possible that some small isolated areas could experience such a long absence of power, but most of us are very likely not to. In part this is because of the response to all of the problems after last year's Snowtober event, which resulted from many, many fallen trees and limbs, and the subsequent difficulty of getting around in the aftermath. I'm sure the state hasn't solved all the problems of last year, when only the rare spot had outages even approaching a week, but it's likely taken care of some of them, so we should see fewer problems this year.
  4. Finally this timing of this year's storm is a lot better than last year's pair (Irene and Snowtober), both of which hit on Friday/Saturday. This year we started getting warnings on Thursday, and so had the entire weekend—instead of a few workdays—to empty out the shelves at our local hardwares stores (and surely others were better behaved than we've been and prepared in advance).
Bottom line? While I won't be surprised if the models are right, and the coasts really get hit hard, and the power goes out for a while, I do think the overall situation may well be better than last year (either big storm), and our personal one won't be any worse. But we'll all know much more in just a day.

Meanwhile...gotta find those AA batteries for my alarm clock.

04 October 2012

Update II: "'Crisis' in Classics" briefly revisited

The APA has just announced the results of the annual elections for 2012. So what kind of institutional representation do we find the members voted for (not that there was much choice in this dimension)?

Office              Institution     Description
President           UCincinnati     Big Public U.
Financial Tr.       UC, Davis       Big Public U.
VP Prof. Matters    UVa             Big Public U.
VP Pub & Research   UT              Big Public U.

Board of Directors  Ohio State      Big Public U.

Board of Directors  UPenn           Big Private U.
Nominating Comm     Princeton       Big Private U.
Nominating Comm     CUNY            Big Public U.
Education Comm      Phillips-Exeter Elite Prep School

Goodwin Award Comm  Bowdoin         Elite Private LAC
Prof Matters Comm   Episcopal Acad  Elite Prep School
Program Committee   Harvard         Big Private U.

Pub & Research Comm Cornell         Big Private U.

So that's 6 from big public universities, 5 from big private universities, 2 from elite prep schools (1 of which has an endowment that easily dwarfs that of all but the wealthiest of LACs in this country) and 1 from an elite small LAC.

Classics' main professional organization continues to be dominated by the "haves."

Reminds me of the Romney campaign...

Previous posts in this category:

My New article

I've been getting more and more involved in digital humanities, so I'm happy to announce that my most recent publication is now out in an open-access journal:
John D Muccigrosso, “Re‐Interpreting the Robinson Skyphos,” Studia Humaniora Tartuensia 13, no. A.1 (2012): 1–15
That's the old-school citation for this new-school journal, and hardly befitting a 21st-century open-access publication, so here are a couple of better choices:
  1. The direct link to the journal webpage for the article
  2. My Zotero library reference
  3. The article itself as a pdf
The article is of course free to download (hence the OA bit), so knock yourself out. Please.

Here's the abstract:
The scene on the Robinson skyphos was wrongly identified for years as a depiction of clay‐working, either in a kiln or other preparation area. Recent scholarship has correctly identified it instead as one related to the grain harvest. This article presents a new examination of the scene, pointing out details the importance of which had not previously been noted. It also brings to bear comparanda from Egyptian art which put the identification of the scene beyond doubt.
The article began as part of an exploration of depictions of what were called potters and pottery workshops on ancient Greek pots, but which I thought were often not. It's inspired to a large extent by the work of David Gill and Michael Vickers on the elevation of ancient pottery-making to an "art" instead of a "craft" to reflect modern rather than ancient thinking. (And let's not get into the whole issue of how we distinguish between those two things!) The work actually started as an grad-school exploration of how much Greek pottery was exported, not only in terms of the number of physical pots, but also the economic value of those pots. It won't be surprising to learn that the course was taught by William Loomis, the guy who studied how much the ancient Greeks actually got paid (Wages, welfare costs, and inflation in classical Athens), and, upon reflection, the topic was probably a good indicator of my interest in what we now call digital humanities in the first place!

And for a little academic genealogy...David Moore Robinson, the classical art historian and collector after whom the pot in the article was named, was the teacher of George Hanfmann, who in turn taught John G. Pedley, with whom I studied at Michigan (though he was not my advisor) and who invited me to join the on-going excavations at Paestum, Italy at the end of the last century(!), which were conducted by Jim Higginbotham of Bowdoin College, with whom my previous article was co-authored. So far, so good. Fairly normal academic stuff, especially for a fairly small field like mine. But wait, there's more!

One of the standard works on the manufacturing techniques of ancient Greek pottery was written by Joseph V. Noble, who died in 2007, during the period in which I was working on this article. Turns out he had lived for years in the same town as me (Maplewood, NJ), just a few hundred meters from the train station where I daily stood for my commute, though unfortunately I never knew that until it was too late.