I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pre-conference discussion on medieval blogging

Many moons ago, I proposed a panel for the New Chaucer Society congress in Siena next month on blogging and the idea of community. Yes, other conferences have often featured such panels, but this would be a first for NCS.

I did have a grand plan, at one stage, to set up a pre-conference blog about blogging; and possibly arrange a kind of live, on-line session in the conference so people could twitter in reponses, etc. Especially as I know there are many bloggers who are unable to attend this conference.

But on account of reasons, as they say, it's just going to be a regular panel with four short presentations and a response.

Still, I thought it might be interesting, even at this late stage, to open up a few topics and questions for debate in the comments thread here on humanities researcher. I'd love to hear from you on these or other related questions. I realise they sound a bit like essay/exam questions. Sorry about that: it's the time of year. Oh, and you don't have to be a medievalist to buy in here: comments  on these or other topics are welcome from all.
  • what would you say were the distinctive features, if any, of blogs by medievalists?
  • does blogging build new communities?
  • does blogging affect the way we write (and read) medieval criticism and historical studies?
  • does knowing the "real" identity of the Chaucer blogger affect your sense of (a) his blog or (b) Chaucer?
  • have you read Brantley Bryant's book, Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog? Medieval Studies and New Media?*
  • has medieval blogging (whether you read and/or write blogs) changed the way you think about the nature of academic work?
  • has blogging had any affect on the kind of work you do in medieval studies? 
  • if you could ask Chaucer a question about his blog, what would it be? (no promises, here...)

Here's the lineup of our panel:
(Thread M)
Session Organizer: Stephanie Trigg (University of Melbourne, sjtrigg@unimelb.edu.au)
Jeffrey J. Cohen (George Washington University, jjcohen@gwu.edu)
"Blogging Past, Present and Askew"
Carl S. Pyrdum, III (Independent Scholar, cspyrdumiii@gmail.com)
“Blogging on the Margins: Got Medieval, Medieval Blogging, and Mainstream Readership”
Stephanie Trigg (University of Melbourne: sjtrigg@unimelb.edu.au)
“How do you find the time? Work, pleasure, time and blogging”
Jonathan Jarrett (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, jaj20@cam.ac.uk)
“An Englishman's blog is his castle: names, freedom and control in medievalist blogging”
David Lawton (Washington University, Saint Louis), Respondent

* my copy's on its way from the warrior women of the internet, as Chaucer describes them. Hope it gets here before I leave: what a great book for the plane ride!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I told you I was sick

... and have now had confirmation.  (And how lucky I am to be registered with a medical practice that holds a no-appointment clinic on Sunday morning for regulars who haven't been able to get in during the week.) I came home with
  • a referral for a chest x-ray, as it seems as if my rib is cracked, not just bruised; 
  • a prescription, plus repeat, for top-strength anti-biotics since the lingering cough turns out to be bronchitis;
  • instructions for lung-clearing exercises that promise to be so painful (see cracked rib, above) I have to take paracetamol before I start them; 
  • disprin to start thinning my blood before the flight to Italy, to counter the greater risk of DVT with a lung infection; and 
  • a warning that if I don't get better soon I should think about cancelling my trip. 
Sigh. Still, I realise I have been fighting this cold since the day I got home from Berlin last month. No wonder I'm feeling a bit flat and run-down.

But also feeling strangely out-of-body, unexpectedly thrown back to 1971. I'm listening to Joel's new CD of Tea for the Tillerman, which was the very first record I ever bought. It cost $5 and I played it and played it over and over, and pored over the lyrics. And now "Longer Boats" is playing; and I realise how much I love this music still, its lyricism and its passion. Pity I have no breath to sing along with.

I've just dropped Joel at Trinity College for a week-long residential jazz intensive, being run by five members of the Juilliard Jazz programme. Yes. That Juilliard. So many excited teenagers running around looking for practice spaces to start jamming, before sessions start tomorrow. Can't wait for the Friday night end-of-course concert.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A momentous day

OK, so the circumstances look a little like electoral panic, but what a neat photo (following Pavlov's Cat's similiar image) is this? For non-locals, here are our first female governor-general and our first female prime minister:

I would normally have been transfixed to the computer or the television as events unfolded yesterday, but was on a plane to Perth then in a meeting, a lunch, and then a mock interview; then back on a plane. I caught brief glimpses of talking heads in airport lounges; and the pilot announced the news on the way over (I thought the plane might have burst into applause, but no response, really). I can't help feeling a bit excited, as Gillard seems smart, tough, level-headed.  But then I felt excited when Rudd was elected, too.

Seems hard to believe Rudd had painted himself into such a tight corner as the events of the last few days seemed to suggest, but so it obviously seemed to some one. It's going to be fascinating watching a Gillard-Abbot election...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A scary moment

Now that it's seriously cold, the old cat climbs up on my desk, where I have a little oil heater underneath. Well, she used to jump up onto the desk but it's too high for her arthritic hips; now she jumps on my lap and then climbs on the desk and takes up position between the keyboard and the screen. She doesn't always sprawl or sleep soundly, but rests on her haunches, front feet tucked under, with head sinking slowly down to the desk. But I only have to tap on the keyboard or cough, and she starts, and lifts her head up again. It's as if she sitting in a lecture or a conference, trying very hard to stay awake... I want to tell her to relax, to curl up in the drawer, but I think she needs a more giving surface if she is to sleep. Maybe it's time to put a cushion on the desk...

Now that she's nearly 19, I am taking her to the vet every six months, to top up her various medications (blood pressure, thyroid) and to collect her special renal diet food. She's also now completely deaf, whereas only a year ago you couldn't say "tea" after 4 in the afternoon without inviting her to step ahead of you, leading you to her bowl. Yesterday as she was being weighed (she has dropped down to under 3 kg), the vet said, "She's been at your side for a long time now, hasn't she?"

Mima's one of those cats who likes to cuddle, and as my sister says, to get up close to your ear and tell you all her secrets. She made us laugh one day...


Would you believe, as I wrote that, the poor darling had some kind of fit. Jumped up as if chasing her tail madly but then twitching and shaking uncontrollably. I put her on the floor and tried to hold her closely as she convulsed. It stopped after a minute or two, and she took another minute before she could stand up and put all her limbs in order. She seems ok, and is walking normally now after a long soothing cuddle, but oh dear: I do wonder if we are adding epilepsy or some such to our list of ailments.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nasty combinations

One. A lingering cough with a bruised rib after skidding off my bike at the weekend (on the bike path, just changing direction too quickly over wet leaves). Everytime I sneeze I yelp in surprise; everytime I cough I groan.

Two. Renato the dentist's scrupulous cleaning of my teeth with a windy day and a blocked nose. Riding the streets of Melbourne with the wind whistling through my scraped gums a mild kind of agony.

Three. The University's impossible demands of our essay marking: a tightly regulated bell curve of grade distribution, an inflexible average, a finely tuned characterisation of the standards of each grade, combined with an insistence on including in the averages those students who never turned up to class and never bothered to withdraw. Statistical hell for my two wonderful tutors who valiantly battled to do right by the students and the system today.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The work experience kid

... has just come home from his first day in the office with a family friend who's a Senior Counsel in the city. Still looking pretty spruce in his skinny black jeans, dark red shirt, v-neck jumper and sharp black tailored jacket, he's collapsed exhausted in front of the Simpsons (well, I presume he's taken the jacket off!). He spent much of the day in the Supreme Court, observing appeals today; and meditating on the balance of incredibly interesting and boring that is the law.  He also had the fun of catching up for lunch with a dear friend who's doing his work experience in the Federal Court.

For his second week, next week, he's working in a fruit and vegetable shop in Brunswick.

Of all the things this boy has done this last year — grown taller than me, cycled in Italy, wandered around selected blocks of Manhattan on his own, performed with his jazz group at various school venues — this business of heading off into the city for work is the one that has most made me reflect on the years that have passed since he used to sit up in his high chair wearing a stripey jumper knitted by Nana and eating toast.

Weird to meditate on the nature of work, today, too. I gave a little talk this morning on a panel about finding academic employment. Don't know what planet the HR person was from: the advice to find an academic job by searching the University of Melbourne's job list would have sounded somewhat hollow to anyone in Arts...  But the muscle wastage expert and I were of surprising accord: no, the pay is incommensurate with the hours you put it; no, it's incredibly difficult to strike the right balance between teaching and research; but yes, the job is great and still worth doing if you love the research.

But the struggle never ends. As Gordon and I both said, you will be continually asked to excel, to exceed expectations, to perform and to compete.

For example. We've just heard that our application for an ARC Centre of Excellence (the History of Emotions, 1100-1800) has made it to the final cull. We think there are about 15 applications left, of which perhaps 10 will be funded. So I have to start preparing to go to Canberra to be interviewed in early July — and to Perth next week to be grilled by way of a practice interview. L'horreur!!! But it would be truly wonderful if this UWA centre, with nodes in Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne were funded. Fingers crossed...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Following sport is HARD

I was about to give up on sport. I was so disappointed for Sam Stosur; then Essendon lost narrowly to Sydney and dropped out of the top eight; then Australia lost to the US at soccer (soccer!) in a World Cup warm-up. Well, but why did I tie my happiness to a woman I've never met who hits balls back and forth for a living? I told myself it was because I felt she was an ordinary woman who had recovered from serious illness and who was now about to make it really big. That's a pretty nice narrative to identify with. And she's not a prima donna. And she doesn't dress in chiffon to play tennis. And she is, after all, an Australian. But really, it's so arbitrary.

But we got home at midnight after seeing Richard III (run, don't walk, by the way, to get tickets for the last week of Ewen Leslie's extraordinary performance) and I turned on the TV to watch the second set. It was hard, for all my patriotism, not to be moved by Schiavone's late-career-blossoming, and her passionate kissing of the clay of Roland Garros, but I was all the same very disappointed for Stosur; and that feeling stayed with me much of the day (not improved by Essendon's last-minute loss to Sydney).

But I've just now seen Stosur on TV, saying how thrilled she was with her winning performances in Paris, and that while she was disappointed, she was still going to enjoy her success. So I'm somewhat reconciled, now, and reminded of all those truisms about sport; that it teaches you how to lose, as well as how to win.

I think with sport, I'm particularly fascinated by what looks like the purity of a good athlete's focus and concentration: evident, often, only when they have stopped competing and let go. I find it much harder to have the same kind of on-off switch with my own work. But could wish for it. And I think that's why I like vicariously switching on to see that kind of concentration at work. And surely, Sam's set up well for Wimbledon? No one will take her for granted, at least.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

measuring the sunlight

The man from the power company has just been to install our new metre. We've recently had eight solar panels put up on the roof. Before he changed over to the fancy new box with the digital read-out, he showed me how the old one was working: the horizontal disc very slowly revolving backwards; and the dial very slowly winding backwards. Yay! we were putting power back into the grid! But as soon as the new box was put in; and all the appliances kick-started again after a 20 minute break; and the sun went behind the clouds, the new metre was registering that we were drawing power again. How distracting could that be? the possibility of running out every half hour to see if we are producing or consuming power?  Still, this means that in summer, I'm not going to feel too bad switching on our little air-conditioner in our upstairs bedroom.

Ooh, the sun's coming out again: hooray!