Blogroll

I have finally created one.

It’s an alphabetized jumble, without categories for academics, ex-pats, writers, gardeners, readers, travelers, or friends-of-blogfriends, and some of the blogs haven’t been updated for awhile. Nonetheless, I recommend their archives and continue to hope that their authors will return to regular blogging, or at least give annual updates, or something. As a somewhat irregular blogger myself, I’m in no position to criticize!

Grumpy and grumpy, with a side order of grumpy

Could I have some with not so much grumpy in it?

I have lost a stripy scarf I’m fond of. There is a great deal of snow on the ground. The house has settled a bit more so there are more cracks in the ceiling (we were hoping to sell it before any more settling happened). Sir John has had an infection that could have been serious (fortunately he is responding to antibiotics and all is well, hence I am merely grumpy about this and not freaking out). We’re a little under-equipped for being snowed in, due to his illness and me not getting the right things at the store, which happened because I was distracted by the first week of classes and having to finish off final edits to the revised introduction to the Big Honking Translation (okay, yay that that’s done). Lady Maud’s father has entered hospice care, which is sad though he has had a good life and people are rallying around because he is a wonderful, loving and beloved man (a great contrast to my father, the old grouch). The son of a friend of Sir John’s has been diagnosed with cancer. This child is still in single digits. I feel guilty feeling grumpy about my scarf (let’s just say I’m displacing my distress) when 2019 is already sucking very hard for a couple of sets of friends.

The nicest thing this week was reading The Dalemark Quartet, which I got for Christmas and finally broke out. But the downside to that is that now there is no more Diana Wynne Jones that I have not read. I put off Dalemark for years, so that there would still be something. I’m trying to persuade myself to do some work rather than getting out Rotherweird, which I got in London, intending it for the plane, but then our over-seat lights didn’t work so I spent the flight working on my laptop (and got quite a bit of useful course prep done as well as saving the book, so ill winds etc).

Bah!

Humbug.

The great thing about Christmas is that once the 25th rolls around, the hoopla is over and normal life can resume. I could use some normal life. I went and visited my family for nearly a week, as soon as exams were over, so I was still grading, and I managed to do a little writing each day as well. Sometimes only a sentence, but I did something.

Then I came home and stopped writing for nearly another week. I don’t know how that happened. A dab of jet lag, getting up later in the morning so I didn’t have my preferred early morning writing slot; determination to re-establish a gym habit; assorted small distractions that really are no excuse. Really I think what happened was that I needed to recover from the family visit. I spent a lot of time reading novels, doing crosswords, and working on a jigsaw puzzle, all prime self-soothing activities. I wrote six single-spaced pages about my father and the one brother I saw during my visit. I saw him for an hour, total: can one person be that irritating in one hour? If it’s my Brother Less Reasonable, why yes, yes he can. I keep reminding myself that I have had far more therapy than he has, that I can understand what is going on and feel compassion, that I need to keep in mind my goal (our father’s care) and not get distracted by petty complaints about our father’s character.

Unfortunately, doing all that emotional labor tends to exhaust my store of patience for dealing with Other People, so that I get snappish with people at the gym, and impatient with my mother-in-law’s political discourse. (Seriously, what is it with people who can’t stand the current president and yet talk about him all.the.time? Anything, anything else would be preferable. Explain the rules of football to me [again]. Talk about the Kardashians. Your favorite television shows. The iniquities of handymen and plumbers. Anything!)

Today there will be no Other People. That is, my gym will be open for another couple of hours, so if I get my act together I could go work out and hope not to run into anyone annoying. But I could just spend the whole day at home and not see anyone except Sir John and the cats. Since I’ve finished La Belle Sauvage (A, looking forward to next one), Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children (B: okay but will not go on with the series), and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (not so satisfying as I remember; question: to teach or not to teach?), I can go on to Pedro I El Cruel y Enrique de Trastámara, which was supposed to be my winter break project (research plus language maintenance). I could give up and look up the answers for the crossword puzzle I’m stuck on (far too many names of TV and sports figures) so I can fill it in and go on to another. At some point after Sir John wakes up, we will exchange presents, and then maybe go back to the jigsaw. I cooked yesterday so we will eat leftovers. As usual when writing has been not-happening, I feel like I ought to Write All The Things, but let’s set the bar low: one sentence on the Overdue Thing, and some polishing of an abstract for a conference submission, and then I’ll have re-started.

If you are celebrating today, then I hope you’re enjoying yourself and don’t feel like murdering your relatives. If you’re not celebrating, then I hope you’re having a peaceful and productive day.

Things I have done on a snow day

  • Slept till 8:00.
  • De-iced the bird feeders.
  • Put up an online assignment and dealt with some other online stuff for classes.
  • Added nearly 1000 words to the research document I am working on. Not new words. Old words whose time has come.
  • Edited those words and some others.
  • Graded a complete set of very short papers that didn’t need a lot of attention.
  • Posted at TLQ.
  • Finished and submitted a set of responses for program review.
  • Skulked indoors all day, apart from de-icing the bird feeders, attempting to de-ice some bushes, and taking a picture of damage to the house. I hear exercise is a good thing . . .
  • Sent the picture to our handyman to see if it’s something he can fix.
  • Made a Christmas wish list, mostly books.

Things I expect to do now:

  • Cook dinner.
  • Read a book. I have been reading some extremely fluffy cozy mysteries by Rhys Bowen. The “Royal Spyness” series is like the Mitfords on helium, with a dash of Peter Wimsey doing his silly-ass routine.
  • Stretch.

Things I did yesterday

  • found my travel mug’s lid that went missing on Friday when I was trying to leave Very Early
  • wrote 481 words on the Introduction
  • got an e-mail asking about progress on the Introduction
  • wrote a blog post
  • put in 40 minutes on the treadmill
  • cooked/mixed three things
  • put away groceries
  • went to the library, returned books, checked out books, noticed they thought I still had a book I thought I returned weeks ago, found the book in my car and returned it.
  • read a scholarly essay
  • opened one of the boxes we retrieved last weekend, got out some items, moved the box upstairs
  • went to bed at 10:20

Don’t overthink it

I spend a lot of time living in the past (as longtime readers may remember).

Lately some of that has been the more recent past, as I go through the archives of Grit’s blog, letting time spool backwards as her daughters grow younger. Thanks to her, I have learned of the Battlefields Trust, an organization I would gladly join if I spent more time in the UK, and also got some new ideas of places to visit next time I am there in the summer.

I also reflected on the usefulness of a Just Do It attitude, as in the following post from 2011:

As I drive home with the lovely safe brakes that don’t SCHCHGLMSHKSCH each time I lay my foot on the brake pedal, I consider how I have reached that point where I solve difficulties by throwing cash at them, and sort problems in minutes that otherwise would take me months, simply by doing, and not thinking or planning at all.

There seems to be so much stress in academia on planning, but really, you’re often better off just acting.

Where the day went

0540 alarm goes off. I hit snooze and pull some clothing into bed with me so it will warm up.

0545 alarm goes off again, and I get up and dress, feed cats, make tea, boil eggs, toast waffles.

0645 wake up Sir John to say goodbye.

The drive to campus took one hour and twenty minutes, during which I ate breakfast and listened to foreign language radio. I arrived in time to make a second cup of tea before

0830 Latin group.

0930 half an hour of “writing” (actually reviewing an outline and comments on a previous draft, and writing 75 words of notes about what to do.

1000 assorted teaching-prep activities, including answering e-mail from a student who needs a lot of hand-holding. I do some research to figure out what s/he should read, and make general suggestions designed to lead Stu to find these works.

1100 teach in the classroom.

1200 eat lunch and read some of TenthMedieval and the medieval frontiers blog. Translate a sentence of Greek. Wander the building to warm up; encounter a colleague and chat for a bit.

1245 meet with another student to discuss paper draft.

1300 bibliography search: trying to find a suitable critical essay to assign to undergrads; adjust syllabus accordingly; place announcement on the CMS.

1330 take care of some administrative doodah that is due today. Further e-mailing, including forwarding to chair and undergrad director a nice message from a former student who has achieved an advanced degree and a job.

1430 pack up to leave office. Combination of walk/drive/train until I reach home at 1715. On the train, I plan out the week in my Moleskine and start doing a bit of planning for year-end review/setting 2019 goals. I also read 20 pages or so of Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver, and take another look at the outline/comments from the morning research session.

1715 sort mail, make tea, investigate the whereabouts of cats, feed cats.

1745 eat dinner with Sir John, play a couple of Lexulous moves while he reads me bits out of the morning’s newspaper, which I have not seen at all.

1820 start thinking about how to spend the evening. Probably play with the cats, read some more, take a bath and go to bed early. When it’s dark at 1700, I have trouble staying awake for more than a few more hours.

 

All the tea in China

Fortunately, road work is slacking off and I got home in tolerably good time last night.

Unfortunately, I messed around for awhile before feeding the cats and heading to the bathtub.

Fortunately, my lovely husband likes to talk to me when he gets home.

Unfortunately, chatting meant it was very late before I picked up the book I wanted to finish (Foundryside).

Fortunately, I enjoyed it, despite what I thought was a bit of hand-waving at several key points (aka Thing That Has to Happen just Happens, OK?).

Unfortunately, staying up to read meant it was midnight before I went to bed.

Fortunately, I fell asleep quickly.

Unfortunately, when Sir John came to bed, he snored in every position he tried. Also I was hot and a bit congested. Further, Basement Cat thought he should get up around 5:30.

Fortunately, we have a large house and a comfortable couch, so I could try to go back to sleep in a quiet space.

Unfortunately, our new next-door neighbors’ bathroom window faces the window of our quiet-room-with-couch, and they turned on their FIVE THOUSAND WATT bathroom light at 6:20 a.m., at which point I gave up on sleeping any more.

Fortunately, I have my choice of lots of flavors of tea around here, and have now sucked down three cups of Russian Caravan.

Unfortunately, that may interfere with sleep tonight.

Fortunately, I have managed to get at least a few tasks done this morning, and will keep trying to work on the list. If my brain gives out, I can go dig out more oregano roots.

Another book someone needs to write

I was reading Helen Cooper’s review of Richard Firth Green’s Elf Queens and Holy Friars: Fairy Beliefs and the Medieval Church, in the July 2018 Speculum (852-4), when I tripped over a line containing a quotation from Green himself: “Elfland, Green claims . . . was ‘a contested site in the struggle between the official and unofficial cultures of the Middle Ages'” (852, citing Green 2).

Now, I’m looking forward to reading Green’s book for scholarly purposes; but I really want to read an urban fantasy in which Faerie is a contested site in any struggle between human cultures. Faerie is almost always difficult to get into and hostile toward humans, so the idea that it could become a human battlefield intrigues me. I’d be fine with a medieval setting, as in the quote itself, but I’d love to see what Emma Bull (for example) could do with this. I suppose Emma Newman‘s Split Worlds series comes close, but there’s room for more of this sort of thing, IMO.

The only reason I haven’t already read Elf Queens and Holy Friars is that I’m going to have to get it ILL (thanks to budget cuts to LRU’s library and the Excellence Without Money initiative), and since I’ve been working on finishing assorted projects, I’ve held off on ILL’ing books I don’t actually need for such purposes. If it had been on our shelves I’m sure I would have snatched it. I don’t know why I didn’t buy it at K’zoo this year; that seems like uncharacteristic restraint. Maybe I was just too overwhelmed in the book exhibit, or ran into a friend at a key moment and got distracted from my buying spree.

Fun reading: Noctis Magicae

There’s a newish fantasy series by Sylvia Izzo Hunter, a Canadian writer: The Midnight Queen, Lady of Magick, and Season of Spells. I have read the first two and expect to pick up the third at my local bookstore this afternoon.

The genre is fantasy mixed with Regency romance and alternative history (the mad king is Henry XII), seasoned with a dash of Gothic. The setting is England and Scotland, mainly Oxford, London, and Edinburgh (Din Edin). The universities instruct young people (men in Oxford, but both sexes in Din Edin) in magic. Most people still worship the Roman gods, or local gods; Jews and Christians exist but are minor sects. The main characters are young, in their teens and early twenties, with lots of interesting, active women, including gay and lesbian characters. The plotting is lively. Hunter handles romance tropes with humor and some unexpected twists. Nothing too awful happens to anyone; your emotions will not be harrowed by the loss of major characters. Major characters have human flaws but are on the whole admirable (that is, nobody is a wanker like Quentin Coldwater). (I like reading books about people who behave well, or at least try to do the right thing. If I wanted to read about people behaving badly, I could pick up a newspaper or many works of literary fiction.)

Some very minor quibbles: I could live without the K on “magick,” though I expect that is part of the Regency-era flavor (eighteenth-century spelling being quite unreliable). Also—a very general complaint, not this writer’s fault, and something I would be subject to if I wrote fantasy, because of where I have traveled and what I study—I am a little tired of “Matter of Britain” fantasy and would be thrilled to read something set in (let’s say) Istanbul and Athens, or Marrakesh and Valencia. However, Hunter is very good at describing libraries and other elements of setting, and I greatly admire the verisimilitude regarding place.

Also a piece of praise that might be construed as quibblesome: the Latin in these books is decently grammatical. OMG the number of fantasy or alternative-history works I have read with grossly inaccurate Latin. This probably doesn’t bother most people, but I am not most people. Thank you, Ms. Hunter, for your language skills.

I enjoyed the first two very much and am looking forward to the third (and more?). Excellent fun reading/ quality brain candy.