(no subject)

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 24 Dec 1997 14:18:26 +0000 (GMT)

Dear Colleagues:

I do two things at this moment in the year: celebrate Christmas with my
family and send a celebratory note to Humanist. This year the family
gathering is especially warm and poignant, since it is likely the last
time for a while that all of us are together in one spot. Offspring
disperse in early January, one to Alaska for a protracted time to study
the Inuit culture there, the other to Toronto, also to study. Gift-giving
is of course an important part of the family event, but as far as I can
determine, I've never before been able to offer a gift to my fellow
Humanists at Christmas, and so bring the two solstitial events together.
This year, however, I can and do: if you go to the Humanist homepage and
explore it carefully, you will find something quite special. Old-timers
will know its significance, but many of you will not, so allow me to

An Excite search for "duck", "mallard" and perhaps also "quack" will
reveal an early thread of discussion that began in a suggestion made by
Sebastian Rahtz and Abigail Young about a secret society or "frarority" of
Humanists, which would have meant a symbol or logo, for which Sebastian
suggested the mallard duck. As I recall, a plan then formed to have
T-shirts made, and perhaps sold at an ACH/ALLC conference. Sebastian then
produced the design and motto, which by now I hope you have found.

Years passed. It was on a visit to Goteborg, Sweden, in April 1994 that
our colleague Jan-Gunnar Tingsell so kindly presented me with a copy of
the printed design. (I hope this gift in return is particularly welcome to
him!) It then had to travel back to Toronto, wait years in a special
(paper) folder, neglected but safe, suffer packing up and shipment across
the Atlantic by sea in a container, unpacking in our first house in Bow
(where from time to time I would run across it), packing up again for the
move to Leyton, then a brief period on the notice-board in my office at
King's before I was able to acquire a scanner, get that to work under
Windows NT with much help from HP Tech Support, construct a Web page for
it and upload the thing. Thus the history of my gift -- with apologies to
E. Annie Proulx.

Finally, in the remainder of the quiet time I have before certain members
of my family return with the turkey (this once deviating from a de facto
vegetarian diet), and frantic last-minute grocery-shopping pulls me up the
High Road to Tesco's, allow me to wish all of you the happiness of our
virtual fellowship, at a time of year when so many traditions allow us to
notice such things. I for one treasure it more than I can reckon or

A good, warm and silent night!