Where have you been, Dr. Virago?

OK, that doesn’t scan quite onto “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio,” but close enough.

Well, since I last posted in March (!!), the Polar Vortex winter we had here in the Great Lakes continued unabated, giving us an April snow that killed the buds on my flowering bushes and trees. Boo! The hyacinths you see pictured survived, though:

This just isn't right

This just isn’t right

And I finished up my first semester of being Humanities Institute Director with a big talk by a visiting bigwig and a couple more Humanities Happy Hours. The latter seem to be very popular and growing in attendance, so I’m definitely continuing them this coming year. I need to work on publicity, though, especially to draw in off-campus people. I met with a couple of high school teachers this year and they gave me good advice for getting their attention, so that’s good. And I’m collaborating more with local library events coordinators. At the very least, we can publicize each others’ events.

Then after the semester was over, it was off to Kalamazoo for the annual Medieval Congress. I think we did a good job of being more welcoming to newcomers at our annual Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society meeting, and I’m hoping we continue that trend in years to come! If you’re at all interested in medieval drama and are at the Congress in Kalamazoo, please come to our business meeting and find out what we’re about!

Speaking of medieval drama, then I took a long weekend trip to NYC over Memorial Day weekend to see The Mysteries at The Flea Theatre with another medieval drama aficionado and to hang out in Manhattan and Brooklyn with my sister and one of my best friends from graduate school. It was a *gorgeous* weekend, so my sister and I walked the High Line (where I think I was too stunned by the crowds and the thing itself to take pictures) and I spent a day strolling through Brooklyn water-front parks and walkways with friends:

Lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn Promenade

Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade

I also did a dumpling tour of Brooklyn’s Chinese neighborhood, Sunset Park, went for drinks and dinner in Red Hook, strolled Williamsburg, saw the Ai Wei Wei exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, and had a mostly Brooklyn weekend (well, except the day and evening in Manhattan). When I left NYC in 1994, that’s not something I would’ve done back then (except that I did have a friend who lived in Park Slope and did a walking tour of Brooklyn Heights back then) — Brooklyn is a whole new world compared to then, so it was like visiting a whole new city. (Even Sunset Park, which was a Chinese neighborhood back then, too, was much sleepier back in the day, as I recall.) And the High Line neighborhoods in Manhattan, too, were largely new to me — I don’t think I’d ever gone over that far west before in that part of Manhattan. And, of course, the skyline of lower Manhattan has sadly changed since I last lived in NYC, too.

And then in June, I went to Hong Kong for the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes annual meeting. It was kind of a weird conference, since, as scholars, we all work in different disciplines and subfields, but it was very interesting and largely pretty fruitful (though I would like more practical panels and sessions), and hey, it was in Hong Kong! Given the location and the theme (performative humanities), we were treated to performances of Cantonese opera and traditional music, and a poetry reading by a contemporary Cantonese poet and his translator. The reading and music performance also happened to take place during the 10-course opening feast of Cantonese food, which was *included* in the registration price. Other conferences have a lot to live up to! The conference was held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in the New Territories, so many of the rooms reserved were at the Hong Kong Hyatt Regency Sha Tin, right next door. Best. Conference. Hotel. Ever. This was my view of Tolo Harbor (which you could also see from the bathtub because one wall of the bathroom was also a window — though it had a shade if you wanted privacy):

Wish I could have taken this view home with me!

Wish I could have taken this view home with me!

I also wish I could have taken any of the charming Buddhas from the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (really a temple; not a working monastery) home with me. This shrine, nestled in the tropical mountains just steps away from the Sha Tin MTR stop, was such a peaceful respite from the city and its equally busy suburbs that I went there twice. Here’s just a taste of it. I wish you could hear the deafening sound of the cicadas and the chattering of the monkeys, too.

One of the over ten thousand individual Buddhas, each with their own personality

One of the over ten thousand individual Buddhas, each with their own personality

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Nearing the very top

Nearing the very top

The ultimate Buddha

The ultimate Buddha

The view from the very top.

The view from the very top. See the red fences at the bottom, to the right and in front of the buildings in the center? That’s where I started! (The pagoda on the far right is not part of the 10,000 Buddhas monastery, but a cemetery/ancestral hall next door to the base of the monastery entrance.)

These are just a few of the over 700 pictures I took in Hong Kong, and only one of the sites I saw! I had about a day of free time before the conference started and two and half free days after, so I went to the top of Victoria Peak via the tram, visited the Hong Kong History Museum (really great, and new since I was last in the city in 1992), watched the Symphony of Light in the harbor, got a tour of the Chung King Mansions by an asylum seeker from Ghana (arranged by the conference), took a Star Ferry across the harbor, rode all the way up the “Mid-Level Escalators” (outdoor escalators! neat!), visited the Man Mo Temple (where I lit incense sticks upside-down! d’oh!), walked around SoHo and various other mid-level districts on Hong Kong Island, rode the “ding ding” tram car just for fun, and visited Lantau Island, where I saw the Big Buddha, had a delicious vegetarian lunch at a real, working monastery, wandered around the fishing village of Tai O (and felt miles away from the city), and took a boat to see Chinese White Dolphins. And the conference also organized a quick visit to Macau, though the bus tour concentrated too much on the casinos and didn’t give us enough time in the historical parts.

And *then*, in July, I went to Reykjavik, Iceland, for the New Chaucer Society Congress. Owing to a weather-related delays and cancellations of flights, I got there a day later than planned, and only had one truly free day, but also a day and a half of excursions organized by the conference. And I played hooky for three sessions. So I still got to see a lot, though I took fewer pictures because I was often in company. (I take more when I’m alone, as I was in Hong Kong.) I fell completely in love with Iceland and so intend to get back there with Bullock in tow next summer or maybe the summer after (for a 5th wedding anniversary/belated honeymoon of sorts).

My favorite parts of the Iceland trip were…well, everything! But especially a) soaking in cheap public hot tubs at public swimming facilities (no pictures of the hot tubs themselves, alas, just the sign for them); b) riding Icelandic horses in the mountains; c) spending a gorgeous day spent at Thingvellir, an awesome site of historical, political, and geological significance.

Not "bacon sitting," but hot tub soaking!

Not “bacon sitting,” but hot tub soaking!

Foreground: Saga, my horse. Yes, that was really her name. Background: a horse with a fabulous mane!

Foreground: Saga, my horse. Yes, that was really her name. Background: a horse with a fabulous mane!

The hidden waterfall to which we rode. The elf got cut out of the picture, alas. :)

The hidden waterfall to which we rode. The elf got cut out of the picture, alas. 🙂

The horses at rest while we explore

The horses at rest while we explore. Saga is in front right of the group in the center.

Thingvellir National Park, featuring the Almannagja rift, the eastern edge of the North American techtonic plate, and the "logberg" or "law rock" (the white flag pole), the site of the earliest parliamentary meeting in Europe, the Althing, founded in 930

Thingvellir National Park, featuring the Almannagja rift, the eastern edge of the North American tectonic plate where it meets the European plate, and the “logberg” or “law rock” (the white flag pole), the site of the earliest parliamentary meeting in Europe, the Althing, founded in 930

But now I’m home in Rust Belt, where I seem to have brought the cool, gray Icelandic weather with me. So where are our public hot tubs?!

Oh, and by the way, I presented a successful pedagogical paper at New Chaucer Society, which I want to write about in part soon. Now that I’ve settled back into a groove here, I will try to get back to regular posting!

Happy New Year!

2013 wasn’t a bad year or a particularly notable year, though Bullock and I did celebrate 10 years together, and I was named Humanities Institute director. Otherwise, it was a kind of normal year, I guess. We didn’t quite end the year in a particularly good way, though — Bullock had a root canal and Pippi had to be taken to the vet for a foot injury, both on the last days of the year. My two gingers are recovering now.

Professionally, 2013 was solid. The anthology that I co-edited technically came out in 2012, but Spring 2013 was the first semester it was used in classes, and it did pretty well for such a specialized volume. So that’s cool. And I taught our gen-ed poetry class three times in a row (well, two consecutively) to reasonable success. Since this was the first time I’d taken on this particular class, that was good. (But I’d forgotten how much non-majors balk at having to learn technical terms. Seriously, guys, when in Rome!) Oh, and I *finally* finished the Article That Wouldn’t Die (or whatever I called it last) and submitted it to Dream Journal. This is the first time I’ve blindly submitted an article since my very first article submission — everything in between has grown out of something else (like a conference) or been invited in some way (but often still peer reviewed). Scary! Fingers crossed!

2014, however, is already shaping up to be a little more eventful, at least professionally. Here’s what I have planned so far, a list of bullet points I offer in lieu of resolutions.

  • A presentation later this month at a selective, by-application workshop for manuscript scholars that I *hope* will jump start where I need to go next on my in-progress not-quite-a-book-yet research.
  • A trip to Hong Kong for the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes annual conference. I’m looking forward especially to the workshops for directors and for the public humanities, and to being in Hong Kong! I last visted HK in the early 90s, but got sick on the way from Guilin to HK and spent the whole three days of our visit in the hotel room. So I added three extra days in the city — one before and two after — to just be a tourist. The conference and thus the hotels are in Sha Tin, which is outside of the city center in the New Territories (where the university hosting the conference is), but I’m actually kind of looking forward to getting around on public transportation and off the beaten track a bit.
  • A trip to Iceland for the New Chaucer Society. I’ve never been to Iceland, so I’m especially psyched to visit a new country. NCS has arranged a lot of excursions of the kind I might have taken anyway, so I’m only adding on two extra days for being a tourist on my own, especially since, holy crap, hotels in Iceland are freakin’ expensive in high season! Strangely, Hong Kong is cheaper. Even at the non-conference rate, I’ll get to stay in a *swank* high-end hotel with a Tolo Harbor view in Hong Kong for about the same as I’m paying for a two-star, bare basics Reykjavik hotel at the conference rate! (Yes, yes, I realize that the Yuan is artificially controlled and that the hotels in Chinese cities like Hong Kong are probably also partly subsidized to encourage tourist and business travel. But still, it kind of surprised me.) Bullock was going to go to Iceland with me, but when we realized that the two of us could take a non-work-related trip somewhere else less expensive for the cost of taking him to Iceland with me, we decided I’d go solo.
  • And I’m excited about what I’m doing/presenting at NCS, too. My anthology co-editor and I arranged a seminar (something relatively new for NCS — I’m interested in seeing how it goes) on a text near and dear to us both. And I’m presenting on a teaching panel about something I’m doing in my medieval lit class this spring, which brings me to…
  • My awesome medieval lit class this spring! I haven’t been this psyched for a class since I did that awesome ASNaC class in 2011. (That’s Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic, btw.) It really deserves its own post. Maybe the next one. Anyway, this time I’m focusing on manuscript collections and anthologies from the Exeter Book to the Morte Darthur (which I’m reading, somewhat atypically, as a collection of sorts), with a bunch of miscellanies in between (Harley 978, with Marie de France’s Lais and Fables — collections in a collection! — and “Sumer is icumen in”; Laud Misc. 108 with Havelok and Horn and saint’s lives; the Auchinleck MS; and so on). I’ve arranged the syllabus by MS collections and paper assignments are all going to be about how we read such collections (e.g., read a work not assigned for class from one of our collections and write about how it fits the whole or works in tension with it). There will be lots of digital resources, too, to give students a sense of the material book. And I think I finally figured out how to give the grad students in a “slash” course a more graduate student worthy experience — they’re going to present their research projects in the two-hour time slot reserved for the final and the undergrads will be their audience and interlocutors (something I can totally repeat in future classes).
  • And the Humanities Institute will be up and running soon! Our first event is the first of our Humanities Happy Hours. I’m still trying to get a big speaker for a major event — important people are bad at answering emails! — but I’m actually more excited for the Triple-H (as I call it) series, which will showcase *our* humanities scholars in a public-friendly way.
  • I’m also going to write and submit my first big organizational (as opposed to individual) grant for our HI. I’m going to start with a regional one and then if that’s a success, maybe aim higher next year. I’m kind of looking forward to this. Yes, I know I’m weird.
  • I’m also writing a short essay on “managing down time” for a collection of essays that Greg Semenza is co-editing as a companion to Graduate Study for the 21st Century. So, um, first I must manage my down time! 🙂  (Seriously, no big plans for the personal life — just the usual making time to relax and exercise and all that. And maybe get back to teaching myself Italian, which I started last summer and then dropped.)

So what are your plans for 2014, professional or personal, or both?

>The evolution of a professional identity (or: why I had a better time at NCS Siena than Swansea)

>When I first saw my friend G. at NCS Siena, he said something like this: “Virago, I have to say, I’m a little surprised to see you here, because when I saw you at Swansea, you didn’t seem to be having a very good time.” And back in this post from two years ago, I hinted at why.

But NCS Siena was a completely different experience for me, and I don’t think it was just because it was in Siena and not Swansea (although geography does play a part in this). It was different from the start, back when we were all submitting panels and abstracts. First of all, my friend H. approached me about putting a panel together, and that was the first step in what made me feel more involved, and less of an outsider, where this conference is concerned. (I should mention that part of my outsider status is that I don’t work on Chaucer — although my current work sometimes makes reference to him — but NCS seems, in the last few iterations, to be more and more open to being about the “age of Chaucer,” as its journal, Studies in the Age of Chaucer, suggests.) And then when the panels were all arranged and the CFP came out, I felt my current work fit one of the panel proposals much more than it had last time. What’s more, I’d since met one of that panel’s organizers, so I didn’t feel as though I was sending a proposal out into the unknown quite as much. Two years ago, on the other hand, I was rejected from a panel, then told I was rejected from the conference as a whole, and then finally told a spot was found for my paper — as I detailed here. And the panel on which I finally presented — along with my friend G. — was a truly miscellaneous panel in the last time slot of the conference, and it didn’t really generate questions very useful to my project. This time around, though, I was accepted to the panel to which I applied, which was a good fit for my paper. More on how that all went — very well, I think — in a bit.

At any rate, before it even started, NCS Siena was already proving to be a better conference for me than NCS Swansea had been. And it continued to live up to its auspicious beginning. And yes, part of that was Siena — but not just because Siena is a more historically rich place with more things to do. [Digression: in defense of Swansea, the weather was better there, the opportunity for good running was better (something that was once important to me), the bay was lovely (I’m a fan of water, of which Siena has none – not even a river, which struck me as odd), and I’m a weirdo who prefers the British climate and flora and fauna to Italian in the summer (though I did like the presence of cicadas, which reminded me of home – both Kansas where I grew up and the Great Lakes region I live in now). But that’s the subject for another post.] The geography of Siena was better for my mood than Swansea’s was — and perhaps better for the mood of the conference as whole. At Swansea, there were a few people who stayed off campus, but most stayed in the dorms, which weren’t terribly comfortable. But not only that, it meant that we were too much together, I think. So many meals were taken together in the dining hall that you were too often faced with the conference equivalent of the high school lunchroom hierarchy — will I get to sit with the cool kids? And it was hard to escape the campus, situated as it was outside of the city. The edge of town was a long walk away, and the center of town was a cab or bus ride away. And so you were either trapped or, worse, stranded, if the people you knew had escaped and left you behind. But in Siena, we were in many different hotels, and the Arcobaleno, where I stayed, was lovely and comfortable — best sleep I’d had in awhile! And I had a conference buddy this time — my friend The General — which eased any and all anxieties about finding company at meals or on excursions. And even at a hotel 2km outside of the city center as the Arcobaleno was, it wasn’t hard to reach that center, and there was plenty to do there, of course. I actually regret not playing hooky a little more from the conference to be a tourist. I had the morning after the end of conference for that, but that left time only for a couple of things. Anyway, back to my main point here: I think less anxiety brews, and there’s less posturing, when the conference itself isn’t the only focus of your energies, and when you’re not always forced together. And the Siena sun and heat, which could have made people cranky, seemed to mellow people out, to slow us down — we were all in it together, we were all a little sweaty, we all dressed a litte more casually because of it (a strong effect on attitude, I think — especially with all those previously unseen medievalist man legs in shorts!) and hey, we were in Siena!

But really, what made it a different conference for me was more about where I am in terms of my professional identity and in the number of people I know (and blogging has been no small part of that, though traditional networking has helped, too). As I said to G. when he made the comment above, “It’s amazing what a difference two years and a good review in Speculum makes.” Two years ago my book was out and I had tenure, so I should have felt confidence, but I was still uncertain about whether any of it mattered, whether I mattered. The feedback we get on our printed work — the evidence of its impact — is slow to surface. And when you have a job at a place like Rust Belt University, it’s easy to think you’re disappearing, that you and your work don’t matter, that you peaked in graduate school, that after tenure you’re *stuck* rather than *secure*. But in the last two years, four positive reviews of my book came out and I started to be cited in other people’s books and articles, and my work started showing up on people’s syllabuses. And people solicited me for conferences because they knew my work. Over time I became not Dr. Virago, random drudge at RBU, but Dr. Virago, who does good work that people know about.

And this conference reinforced that effect. Here, in bullet point format, are a few really cool moments that continued to boost my confidence throughout the conference:

  • On the very first day, in the first morning break, a Known Figure whom I know and admire, but to whom I’m not very professionally close in any way (despite being FB friends with him!), crossed the courtyard to say hi to me and said, “Virago, we were just talking about you last night!” An auspicious beginning to the conference!
  • A recent PhD had one of her professors introduce her to me at dinner in town one night, and said to me, “I just wanted to meet you and tell you I’m a huge fan of your work and I’m so excited to meet you!” Seriously. I have a fan! If said person happens upon this post, I want you to know you’ll forever be my #1 Fan — I *heart* you for that!
  • One of my friends told me she kept hearing me quoted in a number of papers. Really? I told her I hadn’t heard that — clearly we were going to different panels — but she said that was a good sign: I was moving on with my work, and the work was speaking for itself.
  • The organizers of the panel I’d been accepted to told me that they had rejected papers, even after making three or four panels out of the best submissions they got. And while I feel bad for those who were rejected, it’s still nice to know you made the cut.
  • My paper went really well. I started to feel a little guilty that I kept getting most of the questions in the Q&A, but for whatever reasons, people responded to what I had to say. And they liked it and had useful suggestions (or suggestions phrased as questions). They also liked the phrase I coined to name the phenomenon I was describing, which I wish I could share with you here, but even though I fully expect people to know or figure out my real life identity, I’d still rather not be Googlable.
  • Other than some technical difficulties, the panel I organized with H went really well, too, and people were still talking about it later that day. I’ve seen at least one of the papers on it mentioned as a highlight of the conference, too, out there in the blogosphere.
  • And finally, my paper was mentioned in the one of the final round-up presentations! Woot! I don’t know if the person really *liked* my paper — she was actually maybe a bit snarky about it — but hey, all publicity is good publicity, eh? And it’s always cool to be mentioned in a summary of the conference.

Oh, and I even had a good conference as “Dr. Virago,” too. I kind of came out at this conference — although I didn’t actually name myself in the comment I made during the Q&A at the blogging session, I was happy to tell people who I was in the blogosphere. Actually, I came out in print first, in JJC‘s essay for the Chaucer blog book. And more than one person told me they were excited to know my real life identity or that they were fans of the blog. (Apparently, Dr. Virago has more fans than my real life identity. Heh.) One scholar who has always been supportive of my ‘real life’ scholarship said to me that finding out I was Dr. Virago was as exciting as finding out the Chaucer blogger’s identity! Really?

The other thing that made this conference better for me than the one in 2008 is that I know more people, and the people I know I now know better than I did then. As I mentioned above, that’s in no small part to blogging. I’m especially grateful to the In the Middle bunch for inviting me to lunch in the city the first day, when, because of the business meeting, we had more time to leave the conference site. What a lovely lunch that was! I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to join them on one of their late nights drinking prosecco in the Campo (one of the drawbacks of being in the further-out hotel). But all in all, I felt like this conference was full of fun and friends, and though I’m kind of a social butterfly and flit from group to group, I was happy in all the company I kept, however briefly.

>Medieval waste management in pictures

>I imagine that when most people who are not medievalists think of sewage in the Middle Ages (er, if they do at all), they think of the line about one minute into this clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “Dennis, there’s some lovely filth down here!”

But medieval structures, especially the expensively built ones, had some pretty impressive systems for their waste management. Here, let me show you a couple of examples.

The first set of pictures is once again from the castle Carreg Cennen in Wales. First, you see a castle privy, minus the wooden seat that would have provided a slightly more comfortable place to rest one’s bottom than what remains of the stone edifice:


If you’re wondering what those white, glowing spaces on the right are, either something happened in the data transfer to my hard drive and erased a portion of my picture (most of which I cropped out), or else this is an extra-special haunted loo. I like to think the latter is the case.

OK, so that’s the loo. But where does it go? Here’s my friend G. to demonstrate:


Here’s a closer look:


That’s right, G. is being a giant piece of sh*t. Heh heh.

Ahem.

In this castle the outlet seems to be in the outer yard. Let’s hope it was behind the horse stables or something, but it still means some poor guy was in charge of cleaning it up every so often. Ew. But the yard there slopes down towards the cliff side, so maybe the poor sap just needed to wash it downhill with a bucket.

Meanwhile, the Cistercian monks at Kirkstall Abbey, outside of Leeds, had a better system. And today’s museum curators know what will get the attention of kids and Dr. Virago — a monk on the loo! Look! —


Actually, technically he’s a lay brother, but whatever. “Monk on the loo” is a much funnier phrase (though not as funny as “monkey on the loo” would be.) And no, he’s not pooping on people’s heads. He’s on what would have been an upper floor. Where his waste goes is the clever part. The toilets in this dormitory for the lay brothers were constructed over a trench that ran between the walls. Here’s a picture of fragments of those walls which I borrowed from the Abbey web site:


That trench was fed by water from further up the hill (where the monks had a mill) and ran under the entire monastery complex. Here are a couple pictures of the now exposed trench:



Eventually the trench let out in the nearby River Aire, which I realize is not all that great, but I still find the system kind of fascinating. And hey, maybe it’s why the wild flowers it this final picture are so abundant!

>More pics of castle bits – Part II

>Here’s my follow-up to yesterday’s post.

Carreg Cennan Castle
(Go here for more impressive pictures than mine, as well as some historical background.)

Carreg Cennen wasn’t as well preserved as Kidwelly, but it had that Romantic picturesque thing going for it in spades. Here you’ll see I was so impressed and excited that I started snapping pictures from the bus with still quite a ways to go to get there:


Here’s the approach by foot, about half way up the hill the castle commands:

Tired of all that climbing? Here, why don’t you set a spell while we cook something up in the castle kitchen:


I am obsessed with arrow slits. It may be because I was an archer in college. But at any rate, here are two pictures of well-preserved ones:


If you thought the castle had an impressive perch from the way we approached it, wait until you see the drop on the other side:


Here’s one of the few pictures I took of the layout of the inner parts of the castle, perhaps because I couldn’t get as depopulated a shot as I could at Kidwelly:


Carreg Cennen had a special attraction, a tiny cave carved way down in the hillside underneath the castle. The page I linked to above has good shots of the entrance and the vaulted passageway, as well as the cave itself. The only picture I took down there was this one, of the graffiti of the date 1873 (or was it 1875?) carved into the rock, which you can just barely make out in the center-right of the picture:


Tourism of castles is of course nothing new. Though we were 21st century medievalists visiting the remains of a medieval site, in many ways we were performing a very Romantic/Victorian act. There were multiple pasts and presents speaking to us from those stones, which seems all the more appropriate given the attention to medievalismat the conference itself.

>Pics of castle bits, Part I

>From the NCS conference day trip to Kidwelly Castle and Carreg Cennen Castle, some bits and pieces of castles, part I —

Kidwelly Castle
(For some professional pictures that give you the sense of the whole structure, and for historical background, go here.)

The gatehouse:


I don’t know how, but I managed to get a lot of depopulated pictures, despite the medievalists everywhere. This one is of one the towers of the inner ward and, in the foreground, the hall added later in the castle’s building history:


This medievalist thinks he’s king of the world (or is he threatening to taunt me with a silly French accent?):


I thought the opening in the following picture was an oubliette, but upon consulting my guidebook later, found out it’s just an entrance to the store room. How disappointingly mundane!


But this is definitely a murder hole:


Mise-en-abyme? –


I like the creepiness of the face-like quality of this one:


But for those of you who prefer your ruined castles more picturesque, here’s a pretty flower:

>RBOS: Random Bullets of Summer

>

  • Hm. Random Bullets of Summer sounds like a gansta rap album title.
  • Thanks to everyone who offered congratulations and huzzahs and woo-hoos in the last post. And Karl, that David Wallace as anonymous blogger joke never gets old with you, does it?
  • I have made my summer UK travel plans. I will be at the NCS in Swansea — I have trains and planes arranged — then visiting a friend in Yorkshire for a few days, and perhaps catching up with a former student who will be completing her MA in Medieval Studies at York. And then I’ll be in London from the evening of July 27 just through the 30th (I leave the morning of the 31st) to look at a couple of manuscripts at the BL, and maybe out at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, too.
  • Get this: in order to get in to the library at St. George’s Chapel, I have to pay for admission to Windsor Castle. Hm. I haven’t been there since I was a kid — maybe I’ll do the touristy stuff, too, when I’m done with my manuscript.
  • For those who want to know, you can book train tickets through TheTrainline.com only if you have a UK mailing address to post them to. They’ll tell you you can’t use a non-UK credit card, but I did. (They also claim you can’t even register with a US address any more, and I seem to have done so. But then I remembered I already had an account from back in 2004, and logged in and purchased my tickets with that account.) The AmEx has been charged and my Yorkshire friend should be getting the tickets any day now.
  • I decided to stay at The Euro Hotel in London, partly on Mike Drout’s approval of it for what it is, and partly because it seemed to be the only cheap place available of the places really close to St. Pancras and the BL. I like the fact that it’s on a little crescent street and it’s relatively cheap for London — 55 GBP for a single with shared shower and toilet (the online reviews say the showers are very close, clean, and never busy). I’ll let you know what I think after I’ve stayed there — or even *while* I’m there, as they have free wireless (another attraction).
  • So I think I may fiddle with the blog design. It’s summer — I have time. JJC finds it too soothing after my old template’s screaming orange. (Though was it really that screaming? I always thought of it as an autumnal ’70s rust, and so went with a complementary color with the new design.) He also tsk-tsk’d the flowers at the bottom. OK, so it’s a little genteel and froofy, but I love English gardens (the picture was taken in Cumbria). But he has a point. It’s not very Virago-like. Any ideas?
  • Pippi is also getting ready for summer. I took her to the groomer today. It’s the first time since we’ve had her that I’ve handed her over to strangers and walked away. It was very traumatic for *me*. But for her? Nah. Her attitude was all “ooh! new people to love me! new scents! other doggies! let’s go!” Sigh.
  • So you know what I just realized now sucks about being tenured — aside from more service work? Now I only do a dossier every five years, so I have to be super-organized and save all the proof of what I’ve been up to in research, teaching, and service for five long years. D’oh.

>Conference whiplash

>OK, so it looks like I’ll be going to the Big Single Author Conference in Wales in the summer after all, but the story of how it happened is kind of crazy.

First I was rejected by the panel I applied to and heard about that in the fall. I wasn’t too bummed out — I was in good company and the panel had gotten an extraordinary number of submissions. I didn’t have high hopes for getting placed in the general sessions since my paper was particular to that panel’s subject and also not directly related to the primary subject of the conference. So I pretty much assumed I wouldn’t be going. And about a week ago I got an e-mail confirming this assumption.

So much for that, I thought. At least I wouldn’t have to plan a big expensive conference trip.

But wait, there’s more! A few days after that final rejection I got another message saying that there was room for my paper after all, along with a few other previously rejected papers. there are 7 of us on this panel, so, we were told, we’d be giving papers of 7-8 minutes. Wow, that’s short. But that was OK with me because my project is in such initial stages that 7-8 minutes allows me to present the stuff that I’m most confident about and leave the rest for the Q&A. Although I have to say that going overseas for an 8-minute paper is kind of funny. Of course, a conference is much more than about just giving your paper, and that’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to go — I’m really out of the loop of the current conversations in this area and I’m excited just to hear people present their work and listen to them talk in more informal conversation, as well.

But *now* the organizer is thinking about moving me to yet another panel! Well, at least I know I’m going, so I can put in the application for travel funds and apply for our more competitive international travel award, both of which I’ll need. And while I’m over there, I’ll probably do some research in London as well. But there’s a National Humanities Center Summer Institute that I want to apply for that’s two weeks before the conference, so I’m not sure what my summer schedule is going to look like just yet. I should probably start figuring that out now, I guess. I hate always having to have my head in the next segment of the academic calendar just when I’m trying to wrap my head around the current one, but it can’t be helped.

Anyway, for those of you making plans for your summers, if you’re going to the Welsh conference or going to be in the UK for research, pencil in a blogger meet-up!

PS — I don’t know why I’m being coy about the conference subject and title here, especially since I’m about to make a tag for it!