About crankyprofessor

I'm an associate professor of the history of art and architecture at a small liberal arts college in Upstate New York.

It’s a fallacy, but it’s one to which I fervently subscribe

I will do better work in a prettier library / better tricked-out study.

Not usually. But I live this way.

I got home from Rome to find my back bedroom/study a big ol’ mess. At least since mid-November I’d been stacking stuff everywhere and the desk and guest bed were entirely invisible.  I dumped a few more things and left it.

For the last 10 days or so I have been working to restore it to usefulness. I’ve shelved and re-shelved books. I’ve recycled a bunch of paper. I hung things in the appropriate seasonal closet.

I had already ordered my new laptop. The black MacBook I took to Germany in 2009 with the cracked LCD screen has been running the external monitor and speakers since that summer – and it was time to replace it with my retired 3 year old MacBook Pro (in between was a MacBook Pro I passed on to my mother as soon as I was eligible for another interest free computer loan on campus).

So I hook up the MacBook Pro to the monitor – and the monitor is dead. As in doornail. Well, it’s at least 10 years old itself, so I bought a remarkably inexpensive replacement (less than $100 at Staples). Then it turned out I didn’t have the right dongle! Well, I went to the office and dug through my electronica there and found a likely candidate – which worked!

So I replugged everything, sat down, and tried to configure the Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. The mouse paired up immediately. The keyboard was recalcitrant. I decided to change the batteries – only to find that they were corroded in place in the oh-so elegant battery-compartment cum keyboard angle-stand.

So, I had to order a new bluetooth keyboard. I’m ashamed of myself, but for once I paid for Amazon next-day delivery.

And here I am typing at my newly restored desk set-up. I’ll straighten more later. I promise I’ll do better work on a sharper screen and with a new keyboard!



One of my goals is to get my home office/back bedroom straightened out before classes start 8/29. Today I managed to break down three Amazon boxes before I started to hyperventilate at the enormity of my task and had to sit down.

further: I really did get more than that done! I’m not a hoarder…I’m not.

Argh – course prep

File under: Things I should have done online from Chattanooga in June.

I got so busy this mid-summer that I let something slide.

A book about the Elgin Marbles I wanted for my First Year Seminar is out of print (of course), but should be fairly easy to reconstruct with PDFs of articles. After all, it started as a Christopher Hitchens screed somewhere.

But there turns out to be an oversupply of good essays about the Elgin Marbles – and I can’t decide!

One had a better opinion of the Oxford University Press

I’m reading an interesting book* but came across three typos in one chart. The author is comparing the Hebrew Torah to the Septuagint version for textual differences**

on page 47, quoting Deuteronomy 6:4 from the Septuagint we read: “And these are the statues and judgements with the Lord commanded to the sons of Israel….”  Statues? With?

And then on page 48, quoting Deut 32:43, “…let all the angles of God prevail for him.” Angles? That’s one of the oldest mistakes in spell-check, so common a typo that when I have any angels in a piece I do a SEARCH just in case some of them get geometrized.

This is particularly conspicuous because the book has the passages in tabular form, so there’s a lot of white space around them and it’s very easy to notice. No one proofreads with eyes any more. No one. *sigh*

*Timothy Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

**he says the correlation between the two versions is actually quite high, but in this chapter he is specifically pursuing differences. His working idea is that the Septuagint reflects now lost variant Hebrew versions, much like the ones found at Qumran, rather than just misunderstandings of the Hebrew.

Sanctimony over deaccession – whose art is it?

I’m teaching a First Year Seminar this fall on cultural property and just found another article for them to read. A regional museum in England sells an Egyptian statue to pay for building a new wing – and everyone is getting up in arms. 

I’m especially amused by the Egyptian ambassador’s fulminations. I’ve BEEN to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo – it’s a museological disaster. And, though there are plenty of packing crates just sitting around in the public areas, they have works in storage, too.

Tuberculosis epidemic?

If TB really is endemic in Central America we may be in for a really bad time. Here’s a rather alarmed blog post on a potential TB epidemic brought on by the massive rise in illegal immigration from Central America.

Two anecdotes:

When I was teaching Latin at Henry W. Grady High School in Midtown Atlanta we had a round of universal TB tests – a student came back from Christmas break in Vietnam with TB and all faculty and students were tested. I don’t think anyone outside her own family had been exposed, but it was exciting for all of us.

I had a weird lung problem in the summer of 2000 or 2001 that was finally diagnosed as a cyst formed around some particle I had inhaled (and no one ever figured out where I might have done that, since the most common form happens to chicken farmers). The initial protocol is to assume TB until proved otherwise. Unfortunately for me, I went in on a Friday afternoon. The pulmonologist didn’t come see me again until Monday morning, so I spent the whole weekend in isolation with an air filter the size of a washer in the corner of my room and all my meals brought in by gowned, hooded, masked nurses. No one checked the results of the TB test (negative, thank goodness) and dropped the isolation protocol until Monday morning.


A new science building at Penn

I’d actually like to walk up the staircase here (you may have to scroll through the slide show to see what I mean). 

There’s been a lot of thought over the last decade or so about how buildings can encourage serendipitous collaboration. Hanging the little seating areas along side the staircase? Interesting idea. I suppose the architect sold it as “you bump into someone on the staircase, he asks you a question, you offer to sit down and talk about your answer.”

I’m starting to look at science buildings — our next capital campaign had better be for that!