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Category Archives: Blogology

When a Blog Goes Insane

OK, there’s something strange going on. Today, and the day ain’t done, I have 674 page views on my blog. Of those, 552 are to my post on whether Origen castrated himself. Heck, even the 122 non-distesticulation hits would be a pretty decent day. I have only averaged 100/day for a couple of months since I started it up. The even stranger things is the vast majority of visitors came to the site once, to that page, and from all over the country. I’ve had times where an ISP locked onto the blog with quite a few hits and there was a period a couple of years back where the Russian Federation seemed to take an interest which I have never figured out.

When I first saw the stats for today I wondered if someone had hacked my account with a free car offer or Cirque du Soleil tickets or something. Nope, it’s Origen’s self-surgery or, IMO, lack thereof.

This post has been a favorite since I put it up, supplanting my A World Lit Only by Fire review as the most viewed post. And there have been some rather disturbing search terms which have accompanied it such as, “How do I castrate myself?” or “Self-castration methods.” But whatever’s going on today is something else.

I’m happy for the traffic but it can’t be real – my best previous day was somewhere in the low 300’s. If this has happened to someone before and you have an idea of what caused it, I’d appreciate some insight.

I logged on to work more on, maybe even finish my first session report from Kalamazoo but this has distracted me. Maybe by the end of the week. Or maybe 700 hits/day is a new normal – maybe I should do the ad placement thing after all?

Or not.

Edit: Found it. My blog is on Esquire!. Or a link to it anyway, next to the last paragraph. And I thought it was cool when I started being listed as a source by Wikipedia. Of course the main article has nothing to do with medieval history, unless Bob Schieffer is really old.

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Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Blogology

 

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A Post About Guilt

I’ve been making a lot of posts about Early Christianity lately so based on the title you can be forgiven for thinking that this post is about that.

It isn’t. I’m currently sitting at home waiting on some deliveries and feeling bad because I’ve neglected this blog for so long. Interestingly, my traffic has stayed fairly high, though for some strange (and slightly disturbing) reasons – you would be amazed how often people have come across this blog using a search term which includes some variant on how to self-castrate. I mean, I want this blog to be helpful but that isn’t a direction I really thought I’d be taking it with this post.

I have a bucketfull of draft posts where I’ve written the framework but haven’t done the detailed reference/citation checking. I also have a review copy of a book where the publisher’s likely beginning to believe they wasted an effort (you haven’t – I’ve read it, it’s good, and I’ll get there). However based on my recent output, you could be forgiven for believing that this blog is dead, or at least terminally ill.

So here’s my excuse. I touched on it a few months ago and since I’m finally seeing the finish line, I thought I’d provide a couple of details.

In short, for the past 20 years I’ve been living here:
DEC2013_1

By the start of next week (I’m also currently waiting on the builder to stop by so I can sign the paperwork) I’ll be living here:
5_18_141

This may not look like much but I’m pretty much quadrupling my living space (the old house was about 900 square feet, the new is over 1800 with a full basement) Since I’ve never built a house before this has been a new experience. Now there’s a fair amount of work yet to do and I’ll be moving belongings (other than books I really don’t have many belongings) this weekend but in a little while – say a month or so – I should be able to give this blog a bit more attention. If nothing else, I suspect I’ll be very ready for something to give me a break from house-related issues.

So happy medievaling everyone. I’ll be with you shortly.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2014 in Blogology, Not Really Medieval

 

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Death and Disease as a Christian Recruiting Tool

It’s nice when mainstream media utilizes people who actually know what they’re talking about. This morning CNN had an article from early Christian historian Candida Moss, “How an Apocalyptic Plague Helped Spread Christianity” in which she talks about a significant disease (she mentions smallpox, I’ve also seen measles proposed) affecting the Roman Empire during the middle of the third century.

In the article she discusses some themes I’ve talked about over the past few months. Chief among them is that Christians saw the terrible death from this disease as a sign that the apocalypse was imminent. As non-Christian Roman Emperors died from the disease, and with Christians believing that death from this was a gateway to heaven, this may have inspired many conversions. And it’s not hard to believe that a period where death by disease was so common made it easier for Christians to endure martyrdom during the Decian persecution. 1

I’ve been waiting for something to come up which I could quickly comment on so I could apologize for my long absence. The house thing is continuing but winding down as I expect to close at the end of this week. But that will still leave me with a bunch of buying furniture, landscaping, putting in a lawn, etc., to work on. I estimate that it will be a month or so until, when I have a few spare hours, I’ll feel that I can put a post together rather than do something house-related (I am currently boxing up books – there’s a surprise). However I haven’t retired from blogging, am currently reading up on Neoplatonism, and have a bunch of half-started posts to finish up, some of which should be pretty cool.

1 The persecutions of Christians was real and did happen but was almost certainly far less widespread than Christian sources portray. Once I get past Diocletian I figure this will make a nice post. The Decian persecution, beginning in 250, appears to be the first formal, systematic persecution in the Empire.

 
 

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Reading Christianity Interregnum Number 2

With Tertullian finally out of the way, this is something of a “catching my breath” post. I have a couple of more books on Origen to read and I imagine a post will follow shortly. I have about 25 more Christian authors to read before I get to Lactantius, my final pre-Nicene author. This is not as scary as it sounds as several of these are minor authors. The person I have my sights set on is Cyprian of Carthage.

But it will be some time before I get to him. I have a few authors who predate him such as Hippolytus and Julius Africanus. Once I finish them and before I get to Cyprian I plan on tackling the neo-Platonists; Iamblichus, Plotinus and Proclus (and any others I find to be important).

All of that won’t take so long but I have some secondary sources on second and third century Rome and early Christianity which I should go through. When I add all of them up, I think I have 23 books to read before Cyprian.

Usually when this happens I caution that this blog may become quiet for a while. I’m going to try to avoid that. I have a couple of basic, general posts on the way I view some things which I think may be interesting and if not, I want to mention them anyway. I’ve also started using well-out-of-my-period books as “what I read before I go to sleep” material. I don’t have to concentrate on them as much but, as with Medieval Italian prisons, I am hoping I’ll come across other stuff interesting enough that I’ll want to post on it. And somewhere in the middle of all this, if I can figure out how to summarize it in a couple thousand words, I want to talk about philosophical influences on Early Christianity. But I need to get through the neo-Platonists first.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Blogology

 

This Bugs Me II

I’ve posted before about being a stats geek. Yesterday I received several hits from a site which apparently offers my World Lit Only By Fire Review as a free pdf download. Now I have no problem with someone reposting this review, reblogging it, etc. Heck, this blog is free – I just wish it was a better review. My problem is when I go to a site and in order to get it, you have to click on something titled: Attention, you need to make free Credit Card verification to start download this pdf file.

Beyond the grammar error, I don’t know what sort of cookies this will load on their computer but someone will have the reader’s cc information. If you’re going to give this review(or any of my other material) away – which is fine – give it away. No conditions. I’ve included the text of the link below, without hyperlinking it (had to add a few DOT’s and SLASH’s so WP wouldn’t try to be psychic and make it a hyperlink even though I don’t want it to). And to be fair to the site, today when I click on it the publication title is a karaoke cloud song list. So maybe they’ve already taken it down. But it bugs me anyway.

wwwDOTmuebooksDOTcomSLASHbook-review-a-world-lit-only-by-fire–medieval-history-geek-PDF-225646335DOThtml

I’m planning to put up a Tertullian post about every other day. There will be a delay though as I’m at a conference Monday-Wednesday (fortunately nearby so I can commute) I could time my post releases but I like to create the post, see how it looks on the blog, then make tweaks if something doesn’t read right.

I know, I should have everything 100% proofed and ready to fly when I click “publish.” But I never know quite how it will look until it’s up (I type in my own code so I use the text editor). Plus it’s a friggin’ blog. Anyway, I don’t want to have something up without it being fixed for several hours so it’ll be Thursday at the earliest. I still have three sections to finish on the full post so I’m not sure how many I’ll end up with.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2014 in Blogology

 

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Taking Stock on Early Christianity Reading Progress

Ever have one of those moments when you look at where you’ve been and where you have yet to go and wonder what in the world you’ve gotten yourself into? Most of us probably have at one time or another. As I’m about to start reading on Origen, I took a look at my to read bookcase (a few years ago this was a single shelf, now it has 236 books on it) to get an idea of what Early Christianity books I have left.

This was a mistake. Over two years ago when I first started reading on Early Christianity I had 37 books on my Late Antiquity/Christianity shelf (books on Christianity to about the year 700). I’ve been reading on this for 25 months. During that time I’ve read 85 books on this or related topics, not to mention however many sources I’ve gone through from the Ante-Nicene Fathers Series along with a few things I’ve found online.

Here I am two years later and I have 90 books on the shelves, though to be fair five are actually about Neoplatonism (still need to be read). I should not have counted. I really thought I was making progress. With Origen I’m approaching the middle of the 3rd century. I thought I’d read up to Nicaea, fill in a few gaps on the 4th century Cappadocians, get to Jerome and Augustine, read a bit on the development of monasticism and then turn to the Carolingians (27 books on them) followed by the Anglo-Saxons (21 books). I thought I’d be done with my intensive Early Christianity reading by early summer. On counting books, I honestly have no idea how long it’ll take. And I have no illusions on my not buying a few more books to add to the pile.

I’m stubborn so I’ll finish this up. I just had no idea that I had this much material to go through. Crazy. I think I need to have an electrode plugged into my brain so whenever I start thinking about buying books I’m shocked back to my senses.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2013 in Blogology, Books, Religion

 

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Semi-Random Thoughts, a Little on Tertullian and a Bit on Historical Models

I really have fallen off on my posting lately. I just have a lot going on, some of it personal and some professional. I’ll leave the personal alone, for now, but on the professional side I’ve moved from working in this office to working in this office. This is a parallel transfer, not a move up or down, other than now being head of the office (so maybe it is a bit of a step up) but it’s a new location, new co-workers, and new clientele. I can’t swear that my posting frequency will radically increase in the near future, however the main reason, overall, for this post is to get myself back in the habit. I have a few days off around Christmas and maybe I’ll put something together, or at least finish that second post on Irenaeus which I started last August.

For the past several weeks I’ve been reading Tertullian. This has been a slog. There is some interesting material but there’s been an unfortunate side effect. I don’t like him. Personally.

Obviously I don’t know the man, but from what I’ve read (which is all but the about 50 pages I have left from the Ante-Nicene Fathers Series) I’ve developed a personal distaste for him. This is important, and unfortunate. I think it’s very important to try, as well as we can, to understand, at least a little, where historical figures were coming from and develop some empathy for them. I’m having trouble doing this with Tertullian. He is so absolute, so rigorous, so unwilling to entertain the legitimacy of any opinion but his own, even from other Church authorities, that I can’t seem to get my empathy mode going. As yet another point highlighting my own ignorance, before going through his material I’d read how Tertullian is often referred to as, “The first of the Latin Theologians.” Silly me – I thought this meant he was the first to write his stuff in Latin. I now think – and I have a secondary book on him to read to confirm if this is the case – that this means that he is the first to adopt a completely different method of argument from prior Greek authors. Maybe method is a bit wrong as he does use philosophical arguments, but he doesn’t believe the writings of the ancient philosophers contain any hint of wisdom and he doesn’t say, “This is what I think, here’s why and you should consider this,” but rather, “This is what I think, here’s why, and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong.” Whether he felt this way when he wasn’t writing or not is another thing but all I can go by is what’s in print. I’ll have more analysis of him later but I wanted to get this preamble out of the way to warn you of this basic fact; I don’t like Tertullian. On a visceral level. So far as I can recall, this is a first when it comes to a source author.

To add to this potpourri of a post, a few months ago several posts were written which discussed new findings which were at odds with established historical models. I’ve mentioned several times that as I learn more I’ve come to increasingly distrust models. It’s not so much that patterns didn’t exist – they did. And I don’t see the problem with using them in books or in teaching. You can’t just teach everything so some synthesis is necessary. But so often it seems that researchers have a preexisting bias toward a model and view any new findings through this model-tinted lens. Katy Meyers has a very good post on Bones Don’t Lie about discovering that some Etruscan skeletal remains had been wrongly identified re their sex and how this is indicative of how modern bias and a reliance on models can lead researchers down the wrong path. This post becomes really good about halfway through it, just beyond the second image. Rosemary Joyce at Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives also wrote an interesting post about this same discovery.

You know, when I started writing the above paragraph I was sure I could come up with another post or two on the same basic theme but my memory of who wrote what seems to be flawed. Instead I’ll offer two new blogs I’ve come across:

James Palmer has a blog, merovingianworld which I’ve found interesting. I have one of his books, Anglo-Saxons in a Frankish World, 690-900 on my to-read shelf and have come across his name plenty of times but haven’t read much of his stuff.

From an American-centric perspective, in her blog, Manuscript Road Trip, Lisa Fagan Davis has been taking a virtual tour where she discusses holdings of medieval manuscripts in the United States on a state-by state basis. Lisa is co-author of an online resource, Directory of Institutions in the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings so she’s well qualified to embark on this trip. Oh, and if you know of anything in North Dakota, please let her know.

That’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll have more to come shortly and if you know of a way for me to start feeling warm and fuzzy towards Tertullian, let me know.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Blogology, Historiography, Other Blogs, Resources

 

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