3.523 Notes and Queries (something new, 131)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Sat, 30 Sep 89 21:03:12 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 523. Saturday, 30 Sep 1989.

(1) Date: 30 September 1989 (59 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: new on Humanist: a "Notes & Queries" column

(2) Date: Fri, 29 Sep 89 20:29 EST (15 lines)
From: F5400000@LAUVAX01.BITNET
Subject: Virgin Birth

(3) Date: Wed, 20 Sep 89 10:37:36 BST (32 lines)
From: Donald Spaeth 041 339 8855 x6336 <GKHA13@CMS.GLASGOW.AC.UK>
Subject: 3.478 essential purpose of HUMANIST

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 30 September 1989
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: new on Humanist: a "Notes & Queries" column

Dear Colleagues:

A few months ago Humanist began publishing queries with no obvious
relationship to computing. Personally I have found this an interesting
development; several of the queries and their responses have intrigued
and amused me. Some of us, however, find these non-computational "notes
and queries" to be obnoxious. As I recall, one member recently proposed
that the exchange of technical information remain as Humanist and
another seminar be created for the more philosophical aspects of
computing in the humanities and for the non-computing applications of

I can readily understand why someone would be annoyed by some or even
all of the non-computing messages (again, I am not). At the same time, I
think it is profoundly alien to the humanistic spirit to banish all but
technical information from a seminar called Humanist. From the very
beginning Humanist has been concerned with social and intellectual
issues that arise from the application of computers to the humanities.
In fact it became in part a technical information exchange in much the
same way as it has become a pond for these generally humanistic fishing
expeditions -- by the wish of some of the members. Humanist was not,
however, created in order to trade information, rather in order to
discuss ideas. I am certainly not opposed to the exchange of technical
information, but I hasten to point out that someone who asks about
displaced hearts or the authorship of some obscure popular poem is being
no more lazy than someone who wants to know if any of us have heard of a
Nota-Bene-to-LaTeX translator.

Obviously we have a problem, have always had a problem with sticking to
the very broad set of topics that define Humanist. We have been here
many times before, some of you will be thinking. As the one person
responsible for worrying about the survival of Humanist, when a choice
has to be made I must choose to limit our scope to topics having somehow
to do with computing in the humanities. Nevertheless, as someone pointed
out, the very use of an electronic seminar to conduct research is an
interesting phenomenon, in these pioneering days worthy of our support
and encouragement.

So, what I propose is this: daily to gather the non-computing "notes and
queries" into one number of Humanist, label it "Notes and Queries", and
publish it as often as the volume of mail requires. One Humanist
proposed to me that this invariably be sent as the last message of each
daily batch. That certainly can be done, but I must point out that
messages are not always received in the order they are sent from
Toronto. (I think a network algorithm sends small ones before big; in
any case, I have been told that European Humanists seldom receive issues
in numerical order.)

If you have strong opinions, let me know. In any case, if you are
strongly opposed to non-computing matters, simply delete any message
whose subject line reads "Notes and Queries".

Willard McCarty

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------22----
Date: Fri, 29 Sep 89 20:29 EST
From: F5400000@LAUVAX01.BITNET
Subject: Virgin Birth

Re the Virgin Birth. One should distinguish between the Hebrew
Bible (=Old Testament) passage and the story as told in the New
Testament. The one passage which *may* prophesy the birth of a
child from a virgin is Isaiah 7.14. The best thing to do here is
to consult a standard commentary, e.g. O. Kaiser, *Isaiah 1-12*
(Old Testament Library Series), SCM Press. Personally I do not
think this passage refers to the birth of a deliverer. For the
New Testament passages, apart from commentaries on Luke and
Matthew, see Raymond Brown, *The Birth of the Messiah* which will
at least give you a start. Beware: the list is long. John
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------34----
Date: Wed, 20 Sep 89 10:37:36 BST
From: Donald Spaeth 041 339 8855 x6336 <GKHA13@CMS.GLASGOW.AC.UK>
Subject: 3.478 essential purpose of HUMANIST

[The following note was delayed in its publication because it was sent
to mccarty@utoronto, a seldom used account. --W.M.]

My views are diametrically opposed to those recently expressed by
Brian Whitaker. I find HUMANIST most useful when it enables the
exchange of technical information, on such subjects as OCR and
laptops, and least useful when it degenerates into an exchange of
matters (e.g. hearts) entirely unrelated to computing. As a
alleged expert in humanities computing, I find that communication
of information is the greatest problem. I never trust the word
of a computer salesman and can't try everything out myself. I find
the accumulated experience expressed in HUMANIST very useful, therefore.
So I think Humanist is succeeding here. A read-through of the
discussion of markup earlier this year disproves the belief that
a bulletin-board cannot enable in-depth discussion of technical issues.

Yes, it is easy enough to skip over references to hearts, and I'm
prepared to live with that as a second best solution. But, I believe
a line must be drawn somewhere and fishing expeditions for material
entirely unrelated to computers seem to me to be beyond the pale.
If there is a demand for such a service, surely it should be formed,
perhaps administered by some other willing humanities computing buff.

Donald Spaeth
University of Glasgow