Posts filed under ‘Homer’

Argos I Am Not

When I think about recognizing things or having good memories or even the longevity of loyalty, I often think about Argos (sometimes Argus) from The Odyssey.  Argos was Odysseus’ dog who stayed behind while his owner went to Troy.  When Odysseus finally returned to his palace after a 20 year abscence and an ardous journey home, Argos was the first (and one of the very few) to recognize him.  The dog was over twenty years old and lived much longer than most dogs.  He was weak, old and neglected, lying in a manure pile.  But old age and Odysseus’ disguise as a beggar did not prevent the dog from knowing his master.  When Argos saw Odysseus, he was too weak to stand, but wagged his tail and finally allowed himself to die.

 
Argos recognizes his master and dies

Well, I haven’t had a twenty year absence and I’m already struggling to recognize my own siblings!  At Chuck E. Cheese, I didn’t realize my bearded brother was standing right next to me.  I’ve had similiar struggles with my sister and her new blond hair.  An example is when I was looking at pictures from Greg Zumbrook‘s wedding.  Perusing the thumbnails, I quickly recognized Clint:

“Oh, there’s Clint,” I thought, “…and some chick.”

I clicked on the photo and when the larger version came up, I was surprised to find that “some chick” was actually my sister!


Some chick and Clint

Whoops.  I think it is safe to say I have a ways to go to match the abilities of Argus.

February 20, 2007 at 6:16 pm 5 comments

The Walls of Troy, Documentation and Log Files

Walls of Troy Lecture
This evening, I went to see Dr. Sarah Morris of the University of California at Los Angeles speak at Virginia Tech.  Her topic was “Apollo, Poseidon, and the Walls of Troy: Homer and Archaeology”.  She covered a large array of talking points– the excavation history of Troy/Ilium, the new technologies and practices that accompany modern archaeology, how the Trojan Horse may have stemmed from Greek memories of a seize machine, etc.

One note I found particularly interesting was her observation that Troy was the 24th city that was seized by the Greeks.  She mentioned there was even a city that was much bigger than Troy (sounded like “Pegalon”– but not sure of the spelling). 

So she asked, “Why Troy?  Why did this site become more important than the others?”

To answer that, Dr. Morris cited that there were six Epic Cycle poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey all written around Trojan War events/aftermath.  However, it seemed what she felt really solidified Troy’s importance was the continued prominence of the city/site afterwards.  She talked about pilgrims visiting it and she also shared a story about how a city cursed by Ajax the Lessor (aka Ajax of Locris) sent noble young women to Troy for years to serve as prietesses in the Temple of Athena.  Their gesture was an effort to redeem themselves from Ajax’s brutal rape of Temple of Athena priestess, Cassandra, during the war.

Granted, I’m just a layperson, but my biases from years of journal writing and work in document control have me feel without the documentation (even fictional accounts), the ongoing visits to Troy would not been enough alone to sustain its appeal.  In fact, common phrases throughout the lecture were “Homeric Troy” and “Homer’s Troy.”  We did not hear the phrase “Ajax the Lessor’s Troy.” 

Importance of Documentation – Monticello and Ashlawn Highland
I have a relatively contemporary example of the importance of documentation with historical sites– right from my home state of Virginia!  During the Fall of 2001, Sean and I visited the homes of Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.  An excerpt of my November 18, 2001 journal entry:

The two homes were quite different. Jefferson’s had tall ceilings, unique architecture and filled with expansive book collections and interesting inventions. Monroe’s was a modest farmhouse, more functional and less showy.

The tours were a little different too. There was a lot of certainty regarding Monticello and its happenings. With Monroe there was a lot of speculation. A lot of “We don’t know [for sure]”s and “We think”s.

These two men lived in the same time, only 2 1/2 miles apart. They were friends. They died exactly five years apart.

So why the discrepancy in knowledge?

Jefferson wrote things down.

They gave an overwhelming statistic of just the letters he wrote. Perhaps 20,000 letters?

He documented daily life. He recorded his thoughts and opinions as well as the mundane.

We know so much because he wrote. We, 200 years later, still benefit.

The moral– write things down even little things about dry cleaning and toilets, even about the placement of nails. Write it down so the future won’t have doubt.

Back to Troy– remember those young ladies that were sent to be priestesses to redeem Ajax’s offense to Athena?  I’m told there was a lot of doubt and speculation about that transaction.  There were thoughts the ladies had to run a gauntlet when they first arrived at Troy and no one really knew how long they served as priestesses or how it worked.  The picture became more clear within the past few decades– when an inscription describing the legalities of the ladies was found in a completely different city.  The picture became more clear…. because of documentation.  🙂

Log Files
Maybe that is why I’m big in log files and audit trails in my software work.  I recently described the new QualTrax Error Handling, including our usage of low exceptions for logging purposes.  QualTrax has historically had a number of different log files that could be toggled on or off as needed.  Each service had its own log.  We had database connection logging, file access logging and of course, general error logging in the event log.  At the same time, every action to a document, workflow, user, group and test is recorded in an audit trail.  In my Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) work with QualLinc, the importance on logging persists.  The three features that have the most potential for problems (PDF Generation, Processing Incoming Emails and Attachments, Distributing Batch Emails with Attachments) are logged heavily– allowing the system to record each key step for traceability.

In both applications, the availability of this extra documentation proves to be an invaluable tool and is usually instrumental in diagnosing an issue.  And when one is troubleshooting an issue with a software application…. one is trying to answer the some of the exact same questions archaelogists are struggling with:

“What happened?”

“When?”

“Who did it?”

“What went wrong?”

🙂

September 18, 2006 at 10:02 pm 3 comments

Oral Traditions in Action

In civilizations where citizens did not have ample access to a writing system, history and stories were passed down orally in the form of repeated tales and passages.  It is thought that Homer's Odyssey actually pre-existed its written form for sometime being recited and tweaked by poets.  The Gospels in the Bible are pretty readily accepted as being written nearly a century after the crucifixion, a generation after the original followers.  As a more contemporary example, the powerful stories in Roots were passed down verbally to each new generation all the way down to Alex Haley.  

Well in our modern times, where 30 million people have blogs, you can still see subtle signs of oral traditions still in action.  This week, I saw at least two examples:

QualTrax Demos
I got to watch two of our newest account managers perform their QualTrax demos.  During their presentations, I could catch snippets here and there that I could attribute to different sources– other account managers, our training coordinator and even a passage on ISO 9000 Standards that was almost verbatim the way I describe it.  Most interestingly, there were phrases that I use that I have not yet uttered in front of these two presenters, but I had to their teachers and their peers.  And some of those phrases likely originated from my predecessors!

So just like the ancient epics, the QualTrax demo includes repeated "verses" and the influences of the past "poets"…yet still has the unique touch and perspective of the current orator.

Abled-Body Young Man
Story-telling is a favorite activity of my extended family, myself included.  This weekend I had the opportunity to retell the story of when my brother, Jay, was watching my grandfather who was pretty elderly at the time– roughly 92-93 years of age. 

At one point Grandpa lamented about how he could no longer go to church.

"I used to go to church every Sunday," he said, "But now I'm too old and Mother can't take me."

"Well," my brother thought, "I'm an abled-bodied young man, I can take him to church."

"Grandpa, do you want to go to church tomorrow?  I'll take you!" Jay said.

"Oh no, no," Grandpa said, "I'm too old.  I can't go to church anymore.  I'm too old."

Jay waited a few seconds, then he posed another question.

"Grandpa, do you want to go to McDonald's tomorrow?  I can take you."

"Oh yeah!" Grandpa said, "Let's go to McDonald's!!!"

Now, as can be expected, any good story of mine (well one I think is good anyhow–I've been known to misjudge), poor Sean has already heard dozens and dozens of times.  So it is understandable when he is less than enthused with my repetition.  However, his reaction to this particular tale seems to trump the others.

"I just know you are coming to the part where you say 'abled-body young man'" Sean once explained, "I know it's coming.  There's no escaping it.  You always say that!"

He's right!  I do always say that and actually, consciously so– that's the way my brother relayed the line to me.  

I'm just passing it on! 🙂

June 14, 2006 at 10:20 pm 6 comments


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