November 16th, 2010

Portrait as a Renaissance artist-enginee

Symposium, Part 1

The real reason I went to Toronto last week was for a surprise symposium in honor of my PhD Supervisor's retirement, entitled, "On Pre-Modern Technology and Warfare". To ensure the surprise, the event could only be passed on together with words of warning: one could only tell someone else if one told them too that it is a surprise. Logistics were enabled by his wife, coordinated with a former graduate student of his.

As a result, he had no idea it was happening in advance. It was a total, successful, utterly improbable surprise, a reunion of 40-some people in his honor, well-attended by faculty, current and former graduate students, and a handful of local medievalists.

This also meant it was a work trip for me. It would have been anyways, since teaching doesn't stop just because I'm in transit; but it was especially so since I had a paper to give. The symposium was good: seven papers on topics of interest to me, and from which I learned a great deal. We were fed, I saw friends I haven't seen in years, and my supervisor had questions for all of our papers. Indeed, last I knew, he was sorely tempted to ask if he could contribute to his own festschrift.

A highlight for me was being told by a friend that when I put my main evidence slide on the screen, and pointed out the entwining, unlikely eyeglasses, his jaw dropped in astonishment. I wish I could show you in public what I was presenting on, but the image reproductions I have are wrapped up in copyright restrictions, and none of the publicly available versions of the print are at all detailed enough to show you the relevant parts. More in writing, at least, on it later, since the source material should be better known than it currently seems to be.