Saturday, November 14, 2009

Stuck in Perissodactyl Hell

I've not been very productive on the blog front this month, partly because I'm mired in a project to develop a website on perissodactyl evolution. This is something that I should have kissed goodbye to when I left AMNH, but like Brer Rabbit's tar baby, it seems to have come along for the ride to Yale. Between editing the reams of text generated by our consultant; trying to find decent, copyright free images of obscure Eocene perissodactyls (Palaeotherium, anyone?); and manually inserting creative commons links for said images, I've been run ragged.

Then there's the etymological glossary of names of perissodactyls and other fossil mammals mentioned in the site. Why did we ever decide to do this? One of the problems with early authors of names (e.g. Cope and Marsh) is they assumed that their readers would have had the benefit of a classical education and that providing an etymology was a redundant exercise.

Thank God for Theodore Sherman Palmer, who in 1904 published the Index Generum Mammalium, 984 pages giving the authors, citations, and etymology of every genus of living and fossil mammal known at that time. And thank Google for scanning the whole thing and putting it on line - you can view it and download a PDF copy here. Of course, those pesky Greek roots are all in the Greek alphabet (even Palmer wasn't above making assumptions about his reader's education), but armed with MS Word's Greek typeface and the awesome Greeklish Converter even this problem is not insurmountable. God, I love the web.

Anyhoo, I'm on track to deliver the site content to my colleagues at AMNH next week. This is about the time that the content for the Paleoportal Fossil Preparation website should arrive from my other consultant. Which also needs editing for a deadline. Then in the monthly collection managers meeting, I get told that I'm being volunteered to review collections content for the Peabody website.

God, I hate the web. I'm going to unplug my computer and go back to writing letters. With a quill pen.

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