Monthly Archives: January 2015

Who paid what for whose which


Take Tuesday’s¬†post tray full of¬†income tax records, a fraud inquiry, a government report, and some instruction leaflets on self-assessment. ¬†Throw them up in the air. ¬†Take half the scattered sheets¬†and turn them into papier mach√©. ¬†Discard. ¬†Of the remainder, cut about three-quarters into pieces, return to the floor and give a good stir. ¬†Leave for three thousand years. ¬†When the Novaustrals¬†turn up, they will try to answer the following questions:

  • Did the nation include all of Europe this side of the Alps or if not, which parts?
  • Was the¬†Church of England a wholly educational programme?
  • Would all the males have borne arms?
  • What proportion of coastal towns were engaged in maritime trade?

When finance departments¬†at Mycenae, Knossos and Pylos burned down, some of their ¬†account books, instead of being destroyed, were rendered imperishable. ¬†For this was the age of the clay tablet, and the ones which were accidentally¬†fired outlasted the millennia below ground, fragmented and muddled as they were. ¬†It has been a work of years to stick them back together, sort them into related heaps, and begin to interpret them. decoding This book was a bit of a slow starter (or perhaps I was the slow starter) but gradually¬†Chadwick’s¬†deductive process drew me in. ¬†Some tablets would make perfect sense, for example, except for one or two words which have no Greek equivalent and are forever unknowable. ¬†Some are so specific that we can tell what women textile workers had for dinner. Occasionally the author shares a private moment of enjoyment with us, his unknown readers. ¬†For example, he takes time to inform us that someone¬†at Knossos was driving oxen called Dapple, Dusky, Noisy and Whitefoot. ¬†Again, Chadwick mentions an item in a inventory:

One stool … is described as inlaid in ivory with a man, a horse, an octopus and a phoinix; the choice for the last word seems to be between ‘palm-tree’ and ‘griffin’, the first being the more likely. ¬†This is probably not a single scene of a groom leading a horse while the octopus climbs a palm-tree, though we have it on the authority of the elder Pliny that octopuses do climb palm trees …

John Chadwick is no longer with us.  I wonder how his project is getting along?

Getting the feet organised


Yesterday I was pulling myself together.  Especially my feet.


Excuse: that does include walking, tidy, leisure, summer, winter, beach, hiking, weddings, gardening, interviews, black, blue, tan, brown, cream, gold, green, white, flats, heels, sandals, boots, toe-posts, lace-ups.

No red though. ¬†Perhaps I should go shopping …


Things to do when you can’t sleep: xlix


xlix : Get lost 

It’s been a long time since I observed the Moon in its last few days, and with the terminator so far over the few remaining visible craters look different. ¬†I’ve mislaid my clipboard, repurposed the little astro table, (in the frost my hands were too cold to draw anyway), and I didn’t achieve a competent snapshot. ¬†Which left me hunting up and down to identify everything afterwards.

IMG_8172The little crater just in from the terminator is Reiner. ¬†In the photo it’s not prominent at all, but it stood up beautifully in the eyepiece and I could see the distinctive ridge running away from it. ¬†Schickard and Phocylides were very prominent too, though I completely failed to notice the peculiar Wargentin.

After crawling about with a magnifying glass on my paper charts for half an hour, I found Dial-a-Moon Рthough I felt a certain guilt at using it.  Is it me, or is this just too lazy?  But I love it.



I got up early to go to Burgess Hill.  I have never been to Burgess Hill before.  I will probably never go to Burgess Hill again.  I bought velvet and feathers.  I came home with a lighter case.

Later I went comet hunting with the 5″ reflector. ¬†Comet Lovejoy is zooming past Orion and tonight was CLEAR, windless and not (quite) frosty. ¬†First I tried star-hopping, without any success, and was reduced to the most primitive method of all: ¬†use the finder chart to spot a pattern, visualise it on the real sky, point¬†the telescope¬†at the bit you are visualising, and hope.

On this occasion it was a nearly right-angled backwards L with Aldebaran and Rigel at the extremities and Lovejoy (I hoped) at the angle.  Bizarrely, this immediately worked.

Lovejoy didn’t look very exciting, what with the small aperture telescope and a great shouty moon blasting everything out of the sky. ¬†A little fuzzball, no tail of course, blink and you miss it. ¬†Nevertheless, I was smug about finding my comet, even my small scope showed, very faintly, that characteristic green tinge, and it felt good to wave as it passes.