The logo of this blog is a diagram of the quadratrix of Hippias.

Quadratrix of Hippias

The name of this blog, Polytropy, is derived from the tagline, Ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ πλάγχθη. This is the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey. With some embellishment, Robert Fitzgerald translates the phrase as,

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end.

The prose renditions of Murray and of Butler, available from Project Perseus, are simply

Tell me, O Muse, of the man of many devices, who wandered full many ways.

Tell me, O Muse, of that many-sided hero who traveled far and wide.

I have left off the ensuing description of when Odysseus did his travelling; in Fitzgerald’s version, it was

after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.

The root meaning of the adjective πολύτροπος (polytropos) is “turning many ways.” This may describe my choice of topics in this blog; it usually describes the individual posts.

I tend to pursue or suggest tangents, despite the warning I found in an essay by Zat Rana called “The Philosopher’s Problem: When and Why Thinking Can Be Harmful” (Medium, February 15, 2017):

Not every tangent we think about is worth exploring. Not every idea that pops up is worth considering. Not every nuance needs to be given its time.

I take this blog as being precisely a place to explore tangents and consider ideas that pop up. Often these ideas are keyed to specific texts; my posts may then be notes on these texts. I do intend for each post to be readable, with a common thread, though it may become tangled.

My name is David Pierce. You can read about me on my Wikipedia page; you can see the ideas with which I started this blog in my first blog article, “Hello world!” published May 29, 2012.

Below is a list of all of my posts, in chronological order. It might be desirable to list also the articles that I find myself referring back to the most; but I have not done this yet. Meanwhile, if I have assigned my articles to the appropriate “categories,” then one should be able to see all articles on a topic by clicking on the appropriate category, somewhere in the left column of this or any page. There is also a selection of categories and subcategories near the top of the page.

Finally, for future reference, I give here some information about how I lay out my pages. To increase physical readability, I narrow the text of articles by beginning each one with the code,

<div style="text-align:justify;margin-left:10%;margin-right:10%;">

and ending with


(without the end tag, the sidebars don’t display properly). One of the more elaborate WordPress themes would provide the same effect; but as far as I can tell, the theme would also set block quotations in italics, and I do not want this. Italics are already used to emphasize words and phrases within a text; to emphasize that an extended passage is a quotation, well, that it was what the indentation of a “block quotation” is for.

I prefer that block quotations have a smaller font size than the main text. I achieve this with the code,

<blockquote style="font-size:90%;">

In preparing these very notes, I originally had difficulty displaying code as code. First I tried just using the tag


but then this stopped working as expected. I found some explanation of the problem in an article, “Writing Code in Your Posts,” but following the advice here was not enough either. Finally, from “Posting Source Code,” I learned to replace the angle brackets with square brackets.

For centering poetry horizontally, I have learned to use the code

margin-left:auto; margin-right:auto; display:table;

as described at the end of the article “Some Say Poetry.”


  1. Robert Fenton Gary
    Posted December 7, 2012 at 1:33 am | Permalink | Reply

    OK, here I am Fenton visiting your blog. I see that you are a teacher of math, and would be most interested to know in some detail how you feel about my post today on my FB page (6 Dec 2012) about “High Performance Math” as an aspect of Fentonian Education. I’m working on the theory that you start with math that is maximally useful and minimally painful. It’s math that right now today the kid can use to run a small business, or make a bet, or design a product, or decide on a purchase. So, it’s Kid-Centric not Egghead-Centric. It starts with serving the kid. Showing him that math has value to him. After that, and when he gains some real math power, just using painless math, the kid can take a real interest in why Rolle’s Theorem is essential to Cauchy’s Theorem, and whether Hospitalier’s Theorem was ever adequately proved to the satisfaction of Courant and Hilbert. Yes, all that comes (or doesn’t) later, and in the meantime my kids have a happy, positive, skill-building experience in their learning of something that’s a bit like math (but not according to the imbecile Department of Education, who really are fools and dunces, and totally devoid of innovative potential).

  2. Posted December 23, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hello David…

    Here’s a little message from Türkiye to say “thank you”. I appreciate your recent ‘follow’, knowing how many interesting and entertaining blogs there are out there.

    Blogging since June 2013, my little corner of the world tries to offer an eclectic smattering of posts, from basic amateur photography, to sharing my travel adventures over the decades, as well as day to day happenings here on our fruit farm in southern Turkey. I also throw in a few of my observations on life and lighter-hearted stuff for good measure.

    You are more than welcome to have a look around, stay a while and have a trawl through my small collection. There are plenty of drop-down categories within the menu bar to help in said digging process. Of course, if you have any comments, suggestions or concerns, feel free to let me know – I’m not easily offended 🙂

    Thanks again and hope you have a great day…


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