16.180 gatekeeping & its perils

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty (w.mccarty@btinternet.com)
Date: Sat Aug 24 2002 - 11:25:36 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 180.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Sat, 24 Aug 2002 08:21:40 -0700
             From: Willard McCarty <w.mccarty@btinternet.com>
             Subject: e-mail gone astray & other woes

    Dear colleagues:

    Recently I had to reinstall the operating system on my two main machines,
    with the consequent loss of some files. I was able to rescue all but the
    most recent e-mail. If you sent a message to Humanist that has not
    appeared, it may have fallen foul of these recent events, so please resend.

    Floods of junk e-mail continue to arrive into all of my accounts --
    including this a.m. one offering (I quote from the subject line)
    "humanist,Natural Breast Enhancement". I wasn't aware that Humanist needed
    help in this area, nor am I personally dissatisfied with things as they
    are. Be that as it may, this flood increases the likelihood that I will
    accidentally delete a message genuinely addressed to the group. Again, if
    you do not see your posting on Humanist within a day or two of sending, let
    me know.

    Other metaphorical floods connote changing times. Recently I received
    several dozen applications to join Humanist from what appeared to be
    undergraduate students, all from Malasia, none of whom had read what
    Humanist is about or taken it seriously. ("I am interested in music!")
    Perhaps someone had told them to go join a list and see what such things
    are all about. Perhaps "Humanist" sounded friendly in a way that
    "Philosophy-L" would not have.

    Once upon a time I took it upon myself to investigate whether ancient
    settlements as a matter of course were walled; I also needed to find out
    (for reasons related to a question of interpretation in Milton's Paradise
    Lost) if any significant number of instances a portcullis -- "A strong and
    heavy frame or grating, formed of vertical and horizontal bars of wood or
    iron (the vertical ones being pointed at the lower end), suspended by
    chains, and made to slide up and down in vertical grooves at the sides of
    the gateway of a fortress or fortified town, so as to be capable of being
    quickly let down as a defence against assault." (OED) -- had been placed at
    the inner end of the passageway leading into the fortified settlement.
    Those of you with a proper education in ancient history will know
    immediately that walls were only built when absolutely necessary -- they
    were *very* costly affairs -- and possibly that (to my knowledge) there's
    no evidence whatever of such a portcullis; they're always on the outside of
    a fortification. (Go see A. W. Lawrence, Greek Aims in Fortification; F. E.
    Winter, Greek Fortifications...) But to the point -- of being reminded that
    we built the wall around Humanist only when provoked to do so, and that as
    the siege-engines get taller and more sophisticated, the wall needs to get
    more effective, as will happen shortly, I am told. Meanwhile I hope you can
    have patience with your old gatekeeper, who sometimes is drowsy or
    otherwise distracted.


    Dr Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer
    Centre for Computing in the Humanities
    King's College London
    London WC2R 2LS
    +44 (0)20 7848-2784 fax: -2980
    willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk w.mccarty:btinternet.com

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