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2017: a balance

Before we leave the office to spend the last week of the year in a drunken stupor and with permanent indigestion, let’s take a moment to make up a balance of 2017.

Even though it’s been pretty quiet here on the Data Ninjas front, we haven’t been sitting on our ass, as they say here in Belgium [which isn’t exactly true, since to be able to do my job, I need to sit on my ass, so I do that quite a lot, actually]. Not a lot of new networky stuff, I’m afraid, although I have given quite some workshops and classes this year. All hail the Spaghetti Monster!

Silke has an awesome job in Dublin, home of U2, Guinness, Guinness, coddle, and Guinness. She has infiltrated the corporate world, and is now soaking up invaluable skillz and is brainwashing strategic players so that one day, in the hopefully not so distant future, world domination is ours. Her first mission was Google, one which she accomplished with great success. She has now moved on to the next big corporation on our list, which I cannot reveal here, since it would endanger her operation. So may you forgive her for not reporting to you as frequently and enthusiastically as she used to; her work is now classified as top secret.

Rest assured, I have not forsaken pastafariansim either. I have simply been expanding my personal ‘DH toolkit’ with a new set of digital skillz that allow me to become a true master of the digital universe: web design and programming. You see, the Trismegistos website was becoming a bit outdated, so we’ve been updating some of the sections. To guarantee the ultimate Trismegistos experience, we’ve enhanced some of the sections with all sorts of interactive stuff so you can watch the wonderful world of the ancient Mediterranean unfold before your eyes. And yes, that is a gross exaggeration. If you want that full-blown experience, go buy Assassins Creed Origins. It’s addictive, and surprisingly historically accurate [check out the detailed review by one of our in-house specialists]!

TM Collections homepage
TM Collections homepage

First up in our makeover series was TM Collections. This is a database that stores all information on where ancient sources are preserved today. Museums, excavation warehouses, private collections (for some reason I always imagine these owners to be insanely wealthy, quirky, old Englishmen), even shoeboxes, are included if they are known to conserve a scrap of papyrus, a chunk of chiseled stone, or an insolvable puzzle of inscribed pottery. Its homepage starts with a world map, developed with the help of the Google Geochart API. We’ve noticed that scholars have become very, very lazy these days, and even typing a few words requires a most serious effort. You can’t blame them of course, with all the pressure there is to publish, teach, rake in grants, provide public services, sit on 10,000 boards, and not have a life. All you have to do now, is click on the country you’re interested. So if your partner blackmailed you into going on vacation (where does this annoying non-academic habit come from??), let’s say to the tropical island paradise that is Cuba, do not despair. We are here to save the day. When he/she is ready to hit the beach, just feign an acute episode of traveler’s dysentery, and retreat to the bathroom. Once you’re sure that he/she’s at a safe distance, cooking up a not-so-healthy dose of skin cancer under the fierce Cuban sun, fire up that laptop (oh, who are you kidding, of course you bring your laptop on vacation), head to TM Collections, and click on Cuba. You’ll then see that the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana holds 8 hieroglyphic texts. Sneak over and find your inner calm. You’re welcome.

TM Editors: detail page for U. Wilcken
TM Editors: detail page for U. Wilcken

The next section we tackled was TM Editors. This is a database of all modern scholars who have published ancient sources. It is perhaps a bit disappointing, but this homepage does require some typing, unless you’re such as procrastinator that you don’t mind scrolling through a list of over 20,000 names looking for the person you are interested in. If your motive for joining academia was a compulsive obsession with one of the great masters of papyrology or epigraphy, you’ve come to the right place. There’s no place to drool over academic success like TM Editors. Wilcken, for example, was at his most productive in 1899, when he published 1,655 texts. No doubt he wanted to get that out of the way before the millennium bug. He wasn’t a big fan of demotic, or anything un-Egyptian. His co-publication network was of a modest size, but he more than made up for that with his impressive moustache.

TM Authors homepage
TM Authors homepage

TM Authors is our newest creation. It’s basically a revamped version of the Leuven Database of Ancient Books. It allows you to search for a specific ancient author (e.g. Sappho), a specific work (e.g. De bello gallico), or sets of authors (e.g. women who wrote in Latin between 600 and 400 BC – NB: there are none in Trismegistos). Word clouds (presented to you by jQCloud, a surprisingly user-friendly Javascript plugin) allow you to focus on a specific work, and various charts (Google again…) can be used to filter the results. Again, no more typing. Just clicking. We’re here to make your life easier.

You like what you see? You hearing Britney Spears singing ‘Gimme more’ in your head right now? Then you can definitely start looking forward to 2018. TM Words, TM Archives, and TM Places are next on the list! And… a cool new networky feature as well. But for now, my lips are sealed. Patience you must have, my young padawan.

Other positive evolutions in 2017 include, but are not limited to:

  • The office souvenir exhibit becoming too large for my small shelf. Plus, a colleague brought back a bottle-opener in the shape of a penis from her summer holidays on Mykonos. After which another colleague came back from Amsterdam with a booby mug. So I’m going to have to rethink the arrangement to allow for a screened off 18+ section.
  • Double stuf Oreo’s have finally found their way to Belgium (although I must say, the calculations by this math teacher are rather disconcerting), along with Pop Tarts, Lucky Charms, and American pancakes with good ol’ Aunt Jemima syrup.
  • I tasted haggis, and I actually kind of liked it…
  • I haven’t grown fat.

Some regrettable incidents include, but are not limited to:

  • We seem to be on the verge of my prediction that Trump would mean the end of the world as we know it becoming true.
  • I’ve run out of Le Parfait.

And since we can’t take responsibility for the Trump mess, I guess all in all it was a pretty good year!


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