dolorosa_12: (Default)
I've added a bunch of new people as a result of [personal profile] st_aurafina's recent friending meme, so I thought it was high time to introduce myself.

Feel free to skip if you've had me in your circle/flist for a while )

I'm really looking forward to getting to know you! Please feel free to ask whatever questions you like.
dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
I'm a cautious person, so I like to wait for contracts to be signed and things to be in writing before telling the world, but now that that's all happened, I can talk about two pieces of very good news. Both are employment-related.

Firstly, Matthias recently applied and was successful in applying for a new job. His old job was an entry level library assistant job in one of Cambridge's departmental libraries, and although he liked it and got on well with his coworkers, it was more junior than he really wanted, and it was also only full-time on a temporary basis: he'd originally been hired to work two days a week, and three extra days had been added on to do a specific project, which was due to end in October. We had been quite anxious about what would happen then, and he had been applying for new jobs since January this year, and had been shortlisted and interviewed for several, but not made it past the interview stage. So it was a great relief when he was successful in this particular job - a more senior role in a different branch of the university's network of libraries, doing varied work in a field in which he has a great interest. Most importantly, the new job is three grades higher than his old one, and the resulting pay increase has come at a very good time, given that we're trying to save for a wedding. He's just started this week, and has found things to be good so far.

Secondly, my job, which was originally a two-year fixed-term contract (due to finish in December, 2016) has been made permanent, which was a great relief. I really enjoy it, like my colleagues, and appreciate how supportive my boss is in terms of letting me do lots of training, attend workshops and conferences, and generally develop my skills for career-related reasons. I was not relishing the prospect of jumping back on the job applications merry-go-round, so I'm thrilled to be able to stay on as long as I want in my current role.

As you can imagine, we are both over the moon, and realise how fortunate we've been. I hope those of you going through stressful job hunts have similar luck.
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
Today I spent the morning teaching a bunch of bioinformatics PIs (who had come from institutions all over the world) how to create data management plans. It was different from my normal teaching sessions for two reasons: firstly, it was a broader audience (I normally only teach Cambridge staff and students), and secondly, it was senior academics (I normally teach undergrads, postgrads or postdocs). Even though I've taught variations on this content multiple times, I was a little bit nervous, and my anxiety was not helped by the fact that the teaching took place in a giant, shiny glass and steel conference centre, like some kind of futuristic space station planted way out in the fens, rather than in more familiar IT suites or seminar rooms within the university.

The session, however, went swimmingly. The researchers were engaged, interested, and curious, and asked perceptive and practical questions which we (I was delivering the training with two colleagues) were, for the most part, able to answer. Although we have not yet received feedback, it felt to me like one of my best training sessions ever.

It's funny how these things work out. I embarked on a career in librarianship feeling emotionally battered by six years in academia,* including a solid final year being rejected for close to one hundred academic jobs. It had made me doubt my own abilities and intelligence, and feel a little lost. I held onto my little foothold in academic librarianship for dear life. And yet two years on, after a year and a half in my current, teaching-focused role, I feel comfortable, confident, and challenged, with a clear professional path ahead of me, support for professional development, and a deep intellectual interest in my field. If you'd told me, ten, five, or even two years ago that I would become the kind of person who relished the prospect of standing up in the middle of a room of bioinformatics PIs and teaching them about data management, I would have been astonished.

___________________________
*Technically, only the last three years were hard. The MPhil, and the first two years of the PhD were wonderful. The year intermitting as a visiting scholar in Heidelberg, and the final year-and-a-half's slog were draining, in every sense of the word.
dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
The big news this week is that my application for British citizenship was approved. This has been a long time coming, and the application itself was very stressful, so it is, as you can imagine, a great relief to me to finally be free of the endless cycle of expensive, complicated visa applications. I still have to go to a ceremony before I'm actually a proper citizen, so right now I'm in a strange halfway position of knowing I've been approved, but not actually having the document in my hand to prove it. The next step will be applying for a British passport, but I'm hoping that will be a bit more straightforward.

I've had a rather full on weekend, in which I socialised a lot, but failed to make any headway in writing my assignments for the two fic exchanges in which I'm participating. Oh well, I suppose there's still time for both.

On Saturday I went down to London for a library workshop. Unlike most library events I attend (which always end up being very Cambridge librarian-heavy affairs), I didn't know a single person there, which was a little bit stressful, but everyone was really kind, and the panels were interesting, giving me lots of ideas for stuff I might be able to implement in my own library. It was really great to see that so many intelligent, empathetic and forward-thinking people were working in so many different libraries, and gave me a lot of hope for the future.

I followed this up with dinner with [livejournal.com profile] catpuccino, who's currently based in London, and it was great to catch up with her. We've known each other since we were twelve, and there really is nothing like friends who knew you in that time of your life, and continued in that friendship through adolescence, undergrad, and the rocky years of your early twenties, into the older and comparatively wiser, calmer years of your thirties. It's a more comfortable kind of friendship, because they know your context, if that makes sense.

Today I've been rushing all over Cambridge — I've just got back from my second trip out of the house, and will be going out a third time this evening for drinks with old college* friends of Matthias'. This afternoon I met up with [personal profile] naye and [personal profile] doctorskuld for coffee, which was lovely. I was fortunate enough to also be able to meet their cats!

Right now I'm trying to catch a breath before I'm launched into yet another busy week. Last week was really teaching-heavy (on Tuesday I ended up with six hours of teaching out of an eight-and-a-half-hour day), but I'm hoping things will be slightly calmer next week.

How were your Sundays?

_________
*'College' in Cambridge (and Oxford, and Durham, and possibly several other old UK universities), refers to the places within the university in which students and academics live, eat (if they so choose), and through which most undergrads receive their teaching. Rather than applying to study at the university, you apply to a particular college to study a particular subject, and the college itself, as well as the university as a whole, accepts or rejects your application. I hope that makes sense.
dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
This weekend was the alumni festival at Cambridge, and my former department hosted a drinks reception on Saturday evening. Matthias and I went along, although we spent more time speaking with current PhD student and postdoc friends who are still based in Cambridge, rather than people who have moved on. It was great to just hang out with so many medievalists again, though. I say I want nothing to do with academia any more, but it really is wonderful to be able to talk to people about medieval Irish literature or Welsh manuscripts or Anglo-Saxon legal history and not have to justify why you might be interested in stuff like this. It reminded me how much I really did love my PhD subject and do enjoy talking about it from time to time, in contexts where the pressure to perform isn't there.

The reception also included a presentation by my friend Myriah, who is in the final stages of a PhD on the Black Book of Carmarthen, and whose research gained a lot of attention from the mainstream media earlier this year (to the extent that she was fielding questions from the BBC and the Washington Post on the one hand, and having her work misinterpreted by alien conspiracy theorists on the other). Her talk was essentially an expanded version of her earlier post on the departmental blog, with PowerPoint slides, and it sounds as if the experience was both surreal and rewarding.

After the reception, several people came back to our place to watch the rugby. I'm not a huge fan, but Matthias and many of our friends are, and I'm always happy to hang out with people at home and drink wine, so that was lots of fun.

Today my boss at Newest Library Job had invited all of us over for lunch at her place, along with partners and families. She and her partner live in Shelford, a small village five minutes away from Cambridge by train. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we sat out in the garden in the autumn sun, watching chickens wandering in and out of the bushes and two colleagues' children throw balls for the dog. Everyone brought a plate of food, and it was massively overcatered, so I suspect a lot of leftovers will show up at work tomorrow. It was great to meet the families of my colleagues, and to introduce them to Matthias (although several people already knew him, given that he also works in the Cambridge library system).

All in all it's been a really relaxing weekend.
dolorosa_12: (what's left? me)
I'm taking my turn at that meme that's been doing the rounds, the one where you're assigned an age and answer a few questions which contrast your life then with your life now. [personal profile] naye gave me 18.

Answers behind the cut )

It was really great to do that meme. A lot of the things that caused me great distress at 18 had obvious fixes in retrospect, but I wouldn't have lived any other way. It makes me happy to see how far — literally and metaphorically — I have come.
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
Hello to all the new people now following me as a result of the friending meme (and for those of you who haven't seen the meme yet, it's here).

I thought I'd introduce myself to all of you. Feel free to ask me questions about anything.

Feel free to skip if you've had me in your circle/flist for a while )
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
Slightly flippant title, wildly inaccurate characterisation of my reasons for doing these linkposts. Over here I am gearing up for a much needed long weekend, after one of those weeks that just seem to go on and on and on.

Kate Elliott wrote a great post on 'Diversity Panels: Where Next'. I would encourage you to read (most of) the links that follow, particularly the panel discussion at The Book Smugglers, which I included in a previous linkpost.

Some (unintentionally Australian-centric) Hugos follow-up posts:

Liz Barr of No Award livetweeted the Hugos.

Galactic Suburbia did a podcast discussing the results.

On a less awesome note (in the sense of this needing to be said at all), Sumana Harihareswara responded to the use of the Hare Krishna chant in the Hugos ceremony in an extraordinarily open-hearted and giving way.

A lot of people were sharing this (old) 'How to (Effectively) Show Support' by Dahlia Adler. This part particularly resonated with me:

There is a really big difference between being a person who only rages and a person who both rages and makes a real move for change. And maybe people don’t realize that. Maybe they don’t get how. But I’m tired of seeing raging with no support counterbalance, and I’m tired of people thinking raging is enough without backing it up in a meaningful way. I’m tired of people not realizing how limiting the effects are when all you do is talk about who and what is doing things wrong and not who and what is doing things right.

(Incidentally, I think the first person I saw sharing the post was Bogi Takács, who very effectively shows support with regular roundups of #diversepoems and #diversestories recommendations.)

Aliette de Bodard has set up a review website, designed to host reviews of 'books we love, with a focus on things by women, people of colour, and other marginalised people'.

Here's Sophia McDougall doing a podcast with Emma Newman. My poor, Romanitas-loving heart hurt when Sophia talked about one particular scene in Savage City involving the Pantheon. (I know at least one friend is currently reading the series for the first time, so it might be wise to avoid this podcast until you've finished - it's mildly spoilery.)

More on the invisibility of older women authors, this time from Tricia Sullivan.

Ana has gathered some great, library-related links at Things Mean A Lot.

'Breakthrough in the world's oldest undeciphered writing'.

Via [personal profile] umadoshi, these photos of the world's oldest trees are really amazing.

I hope you all have wonderful weekends.
dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
Those of you who are friends with me on other social media will know this already, but I wanted to let the LJ/Dreamwidth crowd know my good news as well.

Just over two weeks ago, I interviewed for pretty much my dream job: a full-time senior library assistant post with responsibility for the library's teaching and training programme. You may recall that my work situation was rather complicated: I had three part-time jobs in three different libraries, and, while I didn't talk about it much, the main job of those three was extremely unsatisfying. It was chronicly short-staffed, chaotically managed (as a result of the understaffing), and I was paid two grades lower than my responsibilities would have suggested. I appreciated it as it came along just as my PhD funding stopped, and my coworkers were well-meaning people, but I had been looking for a way out for some time.

In any case, to cut a long story short, I was short-listed for this new job, gave what I thought was a very good interview (and, more than that was just really impressed by the people running this new library, who seemed extremely energetic and competent, which is what I want from colleagues) and then spent a fretful twenty-four hours waiting to hear back.

In case it isn't fairly obvious by now, I got the job!

I'm utterly over the moon about this. I feel rejuvenated and re-inspired about library work (which had been wearing me down and making me feel like I was gradually becoming a very angry person whose empathy was being eroded), I feel enthusiastic about the thought of going to work, and I just feel as if I'm finally going to be able to use my academic teaching experience in a productive way. I got into library work to help people learn, and I care a lot about information literacy, so this job is going to be perfect. I'm thrilled, as you can imagine.

Due to a series of administrative screw ups, I ended up being owed a huge amount of time in lieu, as well as holidays left over from the last academic year, and as a result I'm not going to have to work in my current Main Library Job again. My other two jobs are term-time only, and so from 6pm today onwards, I'm on holiday. It's quite nice to have essentially an entire month off.

2014 has (mostly) been a very kind year to me.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
I made a whirlwind trip to London on Friday, as I was attending a course on book conservation at this library. I really enjoyed it as it was hands-on, practical training. The organisers had damaged some books beforehand (all the librarians attending winced at this) and then taught us how to repair the various torn pages, broken spines and peeling covers. My favourite aspect of library work is the sense of making order out of chaos, of tidying things up into organised categories, so I think that book repair is going to suit me very well.

It was an interesting bunch of people attending - I'm used to courses at Cambridge, where everyone works in academic libraries, but everyone on this course worked at museums, cathedral libraries, stately homes and so on. I was the only one who didn't manage a special collection in some way, although one of the three libraries in which I work does have a large number of rare books.

I'd never been to Middle Temple before, but it's a pretty cool part of London, filled with odd little winding passageways and hidden old buildings. The library itself was very interesting, although there wasn't much time to explore it.

On Saturday morning I actually managed to have a Skype session with all of my four sisters. Mim, the oldest, was visiting our father, stepmother and other three sisters, and we had set up the session so that I could see Maud, the newest sister, in person. As it turned out, our other two sisters, Kitty and Nell, popped in and out of the conversation as well. Maud herself is super cute (although she looks disturbingly like a shrunken version of my dad), and it's a real shame that I'm not going to be able to see her in person until at least September next year. That Skype conversation was the first time all of my sisters and I have been 'in the same place' since Nell's baptism in 2008. This is, I suppose, one of the unavoidable side effects of being an immigrant.

There are a few fanworks and other pieces of writing making me very happy at the moment.

This short story by Rachel Swirsky retells the early parts of the Iliad from Iphigenia's point of view. This is exactly the kind of Iliad I like - one that's all about the women and their relationships, is filled with anger at what the men around them do to them, and doesn't paint Achilles in a good light. You should definitely read it, although be aware that it includes depictions of violence, murder and an extremely misogynistic society.

This story by [tumblr.com profile] notbecauseofvictories is basically the story I'm searching for every time I read: the interaction between human and non-human characters, in which each is overwhelmed and slightly unable to comprehend the other's nature. It's called 'Ten Things Gabriel Finds Fascinating About Humanity' and I highly recommend it.

There are some great Vividcon vids starting to emerge. My favourites so far are 'Bones' (Luther) by [personal profile] gwyn and 'Fembots' (multifandom) by [archiveofourown.org profile] Grammarwoman.

Also, I just noticed that someone finally wrote Romanitas fanfic, which makes me so unbelievably happy. It's by [archiveofourown.org profile] a_la_greque, and is Marcus-centric.

I hope you are all having marvellous weekends.
dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
So things have been pretty full-on since I graduated. I had two jobs while I was doing my PhD - one was working as a library invigilator in my own faculty library (which I'd been doing since 2010), and the other was working as a library assistant in another faculty library (which I'd been doing since January, 2014). However, in the past two weeks, I've picked up another two jobs. One is an invigilator job in yet another faculty library. The hours are a bit erratic - I'm currently doing a project for them which involves sorting through old volumes of the Cambridge University Calendar (a sort of diary of events for each academic year) and noting down any damage or interesting annotations before the library gets rid of them. After that's done, I'll be doing normal invigilation work for them, with more regular hours.

My fourth job is a temporary thing, and involves helping an academic sort and catalogue his book collection and then clear out his office. He owns over 1500 books (I counted), as well as numerous bound and loose journals and periodicals, which makes this a fairly full on task. However, I quite like sorting things out, making order out of chaos and putting things into categories, so I'm finding the whole thing quite enjoyable.

These latter two jobs I got through my bosses at my faculty library, and the library assistant job I got initially through my former boss. I say this because I've been thinking about mentors and the importance of making professional connections. I've been lucky in that a lot of people have acted as informal mentors to me over the years. They've all tended to be, if not well-connected, at least very knowledgeable about the workings of the various Cambridge libraries - who's about to leave their post, who might need some temp work, which job is about to be advertised. My experience of this kind of system has not been limited to libraries - my work in journalism, childcare and retail was all, for the most part, enabled by similar environments. I've been really lucky and privileged to have these kinds of mentor relationships throughout my working life, to be honest. I might write some more about that in a later post.

But for now, suffice it to say that I'm swamped with work, and it came along at exactly the right time. I'm going to have to start looking for something with more regular hours after the work clearing the academic's office out has finished, but at the moment, things are good.
dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
Kingston (later Griffith) Public Library, Canberra
This was my local public library when I was a child, and it was like a treasure box to me. It was in Kingston until about 1993, when it moved to a bigger and better location at the former Griffith Primary School. It had the most amazing children's and YA collection, and I discovered many of the most meaningful books of my life there (The Girls in the Velvet Frame! Of Nightingales That Weep! Shadowdancers!). As a teenager, I began every school assignment there, reading the relevant entries in encyclopedias in order to find reference books (my cohort was on the cusp - the internet existed, but it was all but useless as a reference tool). But the truly amazing thing about this library was its librarians, and how dedicated and passionate they were. Every weekend, two of them hosted a reading group for children, where they would read stories aloud and run activities. They were really knowledgeable about children's books and genuinely loved children and encouraged them to read. I wish I'd been able to go back as an adult before they retired and told them how much they meant to me.

The truly sad thing is that in 2007, the ACT government shut down Griffith Library due to a perceived lack of use, leaving the entire inner south of Canberra without a public library. The real reason was that the rest of the old Griffith Primary School site was being used as lucrative conference spaces, and the government wanted to cash in and use the space occupied by the library in order to make more money.

Narrabundah College Library
This was my school library during the last two years of secondary school, which in the Canberra public school system takes place in separate schools to the four earlier years of high school. There was nothing particularly revolutionary about it - it was a fairly average public school library, with an okay range of books, dial-up internet that crawled slowly, and a couple of librarians who seemed to know the name of every student.

What was special was the library as a space. College was the first time that we, as students, were given free periods (the timetable functioned in such a way that if you took the recommended six subjects per trimester, you ended up with one free period on four out of the five school days). We were allowed to do whatever we wanted during the frees, and I often wound up in the library with a bunch of friends, ostensibly 'studying', but in actual fact playing cards, drawing in our exercise books, reading novels or gossiping. One of my friends once wrote a poem based on snippets of every conversation she'd heard in the library during her free period.

In other words, the library was our space. The social life there moved at a slower and less urgent pace than on the oval, in the quad or cafeteria, where the push and pull of high school politics and diplomacy exerted more force. The library was a space where we could take a break from worrying about the overwhelming drama of our social lives.

Fisher Library, University of Sydney
The first thing I did in the orientation week at uni was take a tour of the library, as I was anxious to know how to use it. I remember walking in and feeling as if I'd died and gone to heaven. I'd never seen so many books in one place.

Back in the dim dark days of 2003, the library had an eight-floor research library (where books could be borrowed for two weeks by undergrads) and a four-floor undergrad library (where loans were only for a week), a bunch of computers (which always had a huge queue - this was in the days before laptops were common on Australian university campuses, and those that were were extremely heavy). There was also a special reserve area, where course coordinators would move set texts for their courses. Books in special reserve could only be used in the library, and only borrowed for a two-hour period, which did a huge amount to ensure equal access. That said, some of my fondest memories of undergrad were engaging in vicious recall wars with fellow students, as we fought to borrow a limited number of set texts. I used to be particularly ruthless about going in at the start of term and borrowing whatever Shakespeare text we would be studying in the various English classes I was taking.

I got to know the contours of Fisher particularly well. I haunted the two or three cases covering medieval Celtic literature, and knew exactly where to find the history books that were relevant to my Jewish Studies course. Whenever I had to do translation for my Medieval Irish class, I'd take the huge Dictionary of the Irish Language down from the shelf and sit near a ground-floor window, furiously trying to figure out how the spelling of Old Irish words might have changed in Middle Irish texts. In other words, Fisher was the library that taught me how to be a student.

In the years since I graduated, Fisher has got rid of most of its books, to the extent that it's impossible to do any form of postgraduate research in the humanities there. This breaks my heart.

Goyder St Community Library
When Griffith Library got closed down, the people of the inner south of Canberra were so incensed that they decided to do something about it. The result was a community library, run by volunteers out of a demountable building on Boomanulla Oval in Narrabundah. I lived in Canberra during the early stages of Goyder St's existence, and through a series of coincidences, got involved.

In 2007, I had moved back to Canberra basically because of a quarter-life crisis panic. In retrospect, it was a terrible decision, causing the depression I'd had on and off since the beginning of my adult life to reach almost intolerable levels. Cut for a little discussion of the effects of depression ) Anyway, somehow, I remembered through the desperate fog of my mind that I had joined a Philip Pullman fansite several years earlier, and logged back on. I was extremely fortunate that the denizens of that site were truly amazing people who gave me the sole reason to get out of bed that year. Every evening I was in chat with the few European night owls, and [livejournal.com profile] lucubratae, who was the only other Australian on the site, and who, serendipitously, lived a short walk away from me in Canberra. Pretty soon, I'd met up with him in person - the first internet friend I'd ever met 'in real life'. And he volunteered at Goyder St. Pretty soon, I'd been roped in.

In those early days, it was chaos. The volunteers had more enthusiasm than technical library know-how. No one knew how to catalogue, internet was erratic, and there were tensions among the different volunteers. Many residents were outraged at the closure of Griffith Library, wanted to do something to help, but had no time to volunteer. Instead, they donated vast numbers of books, often of poor quality, creating a huge backlog of cataloguing work for the volunteers and contributing to the cluttered, claustrophobic atmosphere of the building.

The point is, for one shining moment, enough people were angry enough to come together and do something to make their corner of the world a little bit better. And I was carried along with them. The community library got me out of the house for something other than a job that made me anxious and miserable, and for that I will always be grateful.

English Faculty Library, University of Cambridge
While the main Cambridge University Library is more imposing (it's a copyright library and thus has a copy of every book ever published in the UK, as well as an impressive collection of rare books, maps and manuscripts), the English library had much more of an impact on my life. Not only have I spent the past six years researching there, using its excellent collection of books on Celtic Studies, it's also responsible for my current career as a library assistant. In the first year of my PhD, I decided to take a job at English as a weekend invigilator in order to make a bit of extra cash. I loved it so much, and the assistant librarian and librarian were were such inspirational and helpful mentors that I decided to go into library services, rather than academia, after finishing my PhD.

The librarian in particular is just exemplary. She goes out of her way to make sure that English is exactly the library that its users want. She holds training sessions in referencing and editing software and other research skills. She holds weekly tea-and-biscuits sessions for students, a way for them to take a short break from their studies and relax over a hot drink. There are beanbags in the library for students to sleep on. There are poetry competitions, Easter eggs at Easter, sweets and chocolate during exam term and the week when dissertations are due, annual surveys whose results are collated and then responded to in comprehensive reports addressing the main points raised and explaining what, if any, changes will be made. In other words, it's exactly as an academic library should be: a community where everyone's voice is heard.

I love libraries so much.
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
It appears that I didn't write anything on LJ/Dreamwidth for the entire month of April. I'm not sure exactly why that was, although I will say that I had Matthias' family staying for two weeks, which made it very difficult to find a spare moment. His sister and her fiancé stayed with us for one week, and his parents were here for two weeks, although they stayed in their caravan in a camping site nearby. The fiancé had never been to Cambridge before, so we did a bit of sightseeing, including going up onto the roof of my college chapel, from where you can see the whole of Cambridge. To get there you have to climb this very claustrophobic, winding spiral staircase. It's worth it when you get to the roof, though.

Anyway, after they left, Matthias went to Aberystwyth for four days. He's just started doing an MA in library and information studies there (via distance learning), and you need to attend a week-long course there every year. The rest of the coursework is done by distance. I really, really dislike being home alone. I find it almost impossible to sleep and generally feel unsafe at night. I can cope with it when I live in an apartment building, or at least on the upper floor of a house, but our house is single-storey, which is just about the worst for me. But Matthias had a good time on his course, and met all the other people in his cohort, who all seem a very interesting bunch. They're mostly in their 20s or 30s, and tend to have done at least a BA (and in some cases an MA and PhD) in some kind of humanities field and come to librarianship indirectly, like him. I'm interested to see how he goes with the course, as I'm keen to do it myself in a few years' time (once I've recovered from the exhaustion of doing a PhD!).

On Friday, I went to London to hear Samantha Shannon (author of The Bone Season, the first of a series of novels about a dystopian London where people have supernatural abilities) in conversation with Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish, whose film company has the rights to adapt the first book. I did a write-up on Tumblr. The event was mostly awesome, although there was one sour note. One of the main characters in The Bone Season is an otherworldly being called Warden. He's not described in much detail in the book, aside from mention of him having 'dark, honey-gold'-coloured skin. People in the audience were asked to suggest actors who fit their mental image of him. Those suggested were Tom Hiddleston and Cillian Murphy. I think you can figure out why those are appalling suggestions, but in any case, I was heartened to see that most of the fandom seems to support me in perceiving Warden as just about anyone other than a white actor. What was even more encouraging is that Samantha Shannon herself agreed with me and said she was committed to fighting against whitewashing in any adaptation of The Bone Season. I will be very disappointed if a white actor is cast as Warden, and will not see any film in which this is the case.

Yesterday, our department hosted the annual colloquium which we share with Oxford. It's for students of Celtic Studies at both universities to present papers on aspects of their research, and alternates between Cambridge and Oxford as a location. I found it interesting to note that when we went around introducing ourselves at the beginning, all the Oxford students said their individual college affiliations, whereas the Cambridge people all said the name of our department rather than our colleges. It's a subtle indication of how we perceive ourselves, I guess.

The conference was good fun, particularly as I didn't have to give a paper this year. I just relaxed and hung out with all my friends, most of whom I hadn't seen in over a month. My supervisor was there, and we were talking about my decision to leave academia and work in libraries. She asked me if I missed research, and I realised that I didn't miss it at all. Most people I know who work in academia have this drive, this single-minded obsession with whatever they research (in much the same way as authors have this drive to tell stories). I've never had it, and I guess that's another indication that I was never cut out to be an academic.

I finally succumbed to the lure of 8tracks. I'm ridiculous enough about music as it is, so I guess it was only a matter of time before I joined. If you're on there, you should add me. I've already made one playlist.


We Own the Sky from dolorosa_12 on 8tracks Radio.



In other musical news, the new Seven Lions EP, Worlds Apart, is simply glorious.

dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
As most of you know, I've been temping in a library job for the past couple of months (this is in addition to my original job in a different library, which has very erratic hours). A little while ago, the advertised the position as a permanent job, and I applied. I was shortlisted, and my interview was on Wednesday. I felt that it had gone very well - I tend to do a good job in interviews, because I find it quite easy to recognise the questions behind the questions that get asked (if that makes any sense) and know how to reply in order to present myself well. In any case, when I went into work on Thursday, I was taken aside and told I'd got the job! I was absolutely ecstatic, as I've loved working there so far, and it's a great first step on my road to becoming a full-time librarian.

For the sake of clarity, I will refer to my first library job (which I'm still doing) as Original Library Job, and the new one as New Library Job when blogging about them from now on.

On Wednesday night, Matthias and I went to see Chvrches play. I've been a big fan since last year, and had been really looking forward to the concert, which didn't disappoint. Lauren Mayberry had great rapport with the crowd, the music was absolutely fantastic, and the lighting was spectacular. They played all the songs I wanted to hear, including my two favourites, 'The Mother We Share' and 'Gun', although not the song Matthias wanted, which was their cover of 'Bela Lugosi's Dead'. We'd booked the tickets almost the instant they went on sale, which was lucky, as a lot of people missed out and were trying to buy them for extortionate prices on eBay.

Yesterday we had friends - Former Housemate H, Former Sort-of Housemate J2 and her partner E, and J, who has never been my housemate - over to watch the three rugby matches. J2 is a massive Ireland supporter, and the last match was very closely fought, but Ireland ultimately won by two points, which meant that they won the tournament. We then watched Hammer of the Gods, a truly dreadful, cheesy medieval film. This group of friends consists of current and former medievalists, and it's something of a tradition to collect and watch terrible medieval films together. This one was very mockable. (It also features Alexandra Dowling, who is currently playing Anne of Austria in the BBC Musketeers TV series - a step up in the world for her, then!)

Today, Matthias and I watched the Veronica Mars film. I'm going to post a full review later, so suffice it to say for now that the film was very satisfying, and was exactly what I wanted. It means so much to me that the fans were able to work together with the cast and crew to make this happen. I made a point of watching it through legal means (and thus paying for it) because it matters to me that this film exists. I've been very fortunate in the things about which I'm fannish - Firefly was cancelled but got a film sequel, and now we have the Veronica Mars film too. Now if we could just make a Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles film happen, I could die happy! Just a note - if you are planning on watching the Veronica Mars film, be sure to watch through the credits, as there are a few extra things you'll want to see there.

I hope your week has been as fabulous as mine.
dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
I'm sorry I've been so absent recently. I just haven't felt much like blogging. It's strange how energy-draining I find my current job, considering it's only part-time and considering I've been doing similar work for the past four years! I think I may have to look into getting another blood test, as I've had ongoing problems with absorbing iron all my life, and my low energy levels may be related to this.

Aside from that, though, my job has made me more certain that I made the right decision in not staying in academia and pursuing work in libraries. My original library job always made me extremely happy (to the extent that I looked forward to going to work, which is something I've never experienced before in any other job), and I've loved the opportunities that this new job has given me. My weakness as a library assistant was always that I had no formal training in cataloguing, but I've since been taught how to do it. It's actually surprisingly simple, at least for the tasks I've been doing.

At the moment, I'm only allowed to work twenty hours a week, which rules out any second job or full-time work, and I'm thinking that once I've finished my PhD corrections, I'm going to try and volunteer at the local municipal library for one or two days a week. I'd like to try and spend as much time as possible on my feet, as well as gaining experience in a different library system, so that seems a sensible thing to do. At the moment, it's not feasible, as I need to spend some of my days off on my PhD, but I should be done by April.

Aside from work, I don't have a huge amount going on. Two weekends ago, my department had its annual postgrad student conference. I helped organise it several years ago, and I gave a paper there once, but these days I just go along, hear the papers, enjoy the conference dinner and catch up with friends from other universities. I don't usually enjoy conferences all that much - I find the need to be constantly chatty and engaged and making small talk during the tea breaks extremely draining - but I like this one, because it's basically a gathering for a whole bunch of my friends.

And that's basically it from me. Have some links.

Matthias first alerted me to this really excellent article by James Wood about the literature of exile and immigration. One line in particular jumped out at me: To have a home is to become vulnerable. Not just to the attacks of others, but to our own adventures in alienation. It just described so perfectly how I have felt about my hometown of Canberra, about my adopted hometown of Sydney, and about Australia itself, ever since I was eighteen years old. The weird thing is that I only left Australia when I was 23, and for a lot of the time, my own sense of displacement and vulnerability was related entirely to age, and not to a place. Being an adult made me feel dispossessed of my own identity, and I sort of transposed those feelings onto physical places. It was only when I moved overseas that I started to feel at home in my own skin and as if my mental identity mapped onto my physical identity again. But this came with a price: Australia doesn't feel like home any more. Wood's article conveys very nicely all my complicated feelings about place and migration and identity.

Here is a great article by Megan Garber about the peculiar power of nostalgia, and how it's been harnessed by the internet. As you can probably tell from all my wittering about home and identity, I'm an incredibly nostalgic person, so much so that I have a specific tag for it on Tumblr.

This article by Caitlin Flanagan about fraternities in US universities will make you really angry (and note: it contains discussion of abuse, hazing, rape and victim-blaming, so if those are things you'd rather not read about, don't click on the link), but is well worth a read. For more on rage-inducing fraternities, check out this article by Kevin Roose about a fraternity of Wall Street's wealthiest traders:

I wasn’t going to be bribed off my story, but I understood their panic. Here, after all, was a group that included many of the executives whose firms had collectively wrecked the global economy in 2008 and 2009. And they were laughing off the entire disaster in private, as if it were a long-forgotten lark. (Or worse, sing about it — one of the last skits of the night was a self-congratulatory parody of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” called “Bailout King.”) These were activities that amounted to a gigantic middle finger to Main Street and that, if made public, could end careers and damage very public reputations.

It's enough to make you sick with rage.

It's not all bad news, though. The recent extreme weather in Britain has exposed a prehistoric forest in Wales that had been covered by sand:

The skeletal trees are said to have given rise to the local legend of a lost kingdom, Cantre'r Gwaelod, drowned beneath the waves. The trees stopped growing between 4,500 and 6,000 years ago, as the water level rose and a thick blanket of peat formed.

Super cool.

Finally, the internet is kind of awesome. Two young women, raised in adoptive families on opposite sides of the globe, discovered each others' existence through the power of Youtube.

I hope you are all having lovely Mondays.

Letter meme

Feb. 9th, 2014 04:58 pm
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
[livejournal.com profile] lynn82md gave me the letter L for this new meme.

Something I hate - libertarianism
Or, as I like to describe it, a weak excuse for shutting off empathy and shirking your responsibilities as a human being.

Something I love - libraries
It's not just because I'm a librarian, I swear. But growing up, libraries were the source of most of the stories that became my favourites, the books that I still read and love to this day. Libraries are not a luxury. They are essential.

Somewhere I would like to go
I would say London, but I feel that's cheating a bit, as it's a 45-minute train trip from Cambridge and I go there all the time. I wish I could live there, though. In terms of countries, I'd love to go to Latvia and Lithuania (and Estonia) because I have a thing for interesting Baltic states and they sound really cool.

Someone I know - Lynne
She is one of my five aunts, the next sister after my mother (who is the oldest of four sisters). Growing up, I probably saw her the most; she visited our family in Canberra all the time, and I frequently went to stay with her in Sydney. I always used to think she was especially glamorous, and always wanted to wear her clothes as dress-ups. She is really good at drawing, and I still have a lot of pictures she drew for me when I was younger.

Best movie - Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run in English so I'm cheating somewhat by using the German title)
This film is just glorious. Perfect soundtrack, perfect aesthetics, perfect '90s-ness.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
I've been really busy lately, which is why I haven't posted for ages and ages. I have two very good excuses, however:

1. My PhD viva is in just a week. I'm actually feeling quite calm about it, which surprises me, but I seem to have given myself the attitude that there is nothing I can do now to change how the viva goes - as the examiners already have my thesis and I can't alter it - so I might as well not worry. I imagine I'll be a nervous wreck next Monday, though.

2. I have a new job! It's only temporary and part-time, but it is in another academic library in Cambridge, it's a step up from my current library job* (I'm learning how to catalogue, and my job title is library assistant rather than library invigilator) and it's come along at a really good time, as I don't get money from my PhD scholarship funding body any more and was really worried about what I was going to do for money. So far I'm really liking it, although it's very different to my other library job, and I've had to cut back my hours there, which is sad as I really love working there.

I have a bunch of links, although I must admit that some of them are very old and you're likely to have encountered them already. These are more for personal reference so that I can find them again, and close some tabs on my laptop and iPad. The first, however, is a link to my latest post on my review blog. It's mainly a review of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but also talks more broadly about the (published and unpublished) wish-fulfillment fantasies of teenage girls and whether such things are valuable or dangerous (or both, or neither).

As someone who wrote a story about her book boyfriend being in love with her idealised character, I have a lot of sympathy for teenage (and not-so-teenage) wish-fulfillment fantasies depicting their protagonists being pursued by a multitude of love interests. It’s a powerful trope for girls who may be feeling unlovable or simply baffled at how to have romantic relationships. However, this desire to be desired should not be portrayed at the expense of functional friendships among teenage girls. Portraying all female relationships as inherently competitive and antagonistic creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in the real world whereby girls and women view all other girls and women with suspicion, undermining one another instead of supporting each other.

The Dreamwidth community [community profile] ladybusiness is not new, but it is new to me, and I point it out here to those of you who are interested in reading (or participating in) thoughtful discussion about female characters in a variety of media. There are podcasts, linkspams and lengthy meta posts. At some point when I have more time, I'm going to read through all the archives. I recommend it highly.

Speaking of podcasts, this speech by Maciej Cegłowsk, the creator of Pinboard, about fandom is thoughtful and well worth a listen. It's an old link, and I can't remember where I saw it first, but if you haven't heard it yet I would encourage you to do so.

This link is more for my own future reference, and I haven't actually read through all its content yet. It's a series of posts on Making Light about dysfunctional families, and looks as if it will be really interesting. I'm saving it for after the viva.

On a related note, this post about so-called 'Ask Culture and Guess Culture' had me nodding my head a lot. I don't know if there's any data to back up its assertions, but I can certainly recognise elements of this phenomenon in my own life.

In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.

All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you’re a Guess Culture person — and you obviously are — then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem presumptuous and out of line, and you’re likely to feel angry, uncomfortable, and manipulated.

If you’re an Ask Culture person, Guess Culture behavior can seem incomprehensible, inconsistent, and rife with passive aggression.

Obviously she’s an Ask and you’re a Guess. (I’m a Guess too. Let me tell you, it’s great for, say, reading nuanced and subtle novels; not so great for, say, dating and getting raises.)

Thing is, Guess behaviors only work among a subset of other Guess people — ones who share a fairly specific set of expectations and signalling techniques. The farther you get from your own family and friends and subculture, the more you’ll have to embrace Ask behavior. Otherwise you’ll spend your life in a cloud of mild outrage at (pace Moomin fans) the Cluelessness of Everyone.


I am definitely from a Guess Culture family (you were never supposed to ask for things unless they were the right things, the things that people would say yes to, and there were so many subtle ways to hint at what you wanted to ask, figure out whether the answer would be yes or not, or, from the other side, hint at whether or not you were going to say yes; it was considered indescribably selfish and rude to state preferences for e.g. food or drink options at other people's houses (the only acceptable answers were 'whatever everyone else is having' or 'whatever is already open'); and so on). My partner is very much of the Ask Culture school. It's easier now that we've been together for years, but at the beginning of our relationship (and indeed, in many other of my romantic and friendship relationships) I used to work myself up into a hysterical level of anxiety whenever I was required to ask for anything directly or given options to state a preference (because the asker wasn't hinting properly about what answer they wanted from me!). I'm told that this has the potential to come across as being very passive-aggressive, and if it's true that it is some sort of culture clash, a lot of things about my interactions with other people make a whole lot more sense!

Tumblr user thefrenemy posted this great defence of the selfie.

I hate with a boiling passion 99% of all of these photos, all of these memories of my life documented on film. Every time I get a notification on my Facebook saying that somebody added a picture of me, I get an actual nervous feeling in my stomach. Like, oh great, let me take some time out of my day to analyze my body and feel like shit about myself! I check the picture. I get taken out of the wonderful moment it was taken in to nitpick my flaws. Ew, I hate my face. Ew, I hate my tummy. Ew, my arms. Ew, ew, ew.

[...]

I think I look like a goddess in my selfies. I think I look like Dolly Parton, a witch, and pretty much every street blogger rolled into one. They make me feel absolutely fabulous and alive and gorgeous. I rarely feel this way and when I do, it’s because it’s exactly how I want to look for me. It’s exactly the way I’ve always wanted to look and felt I could look without all that loud noise about how I should look better. It is the evidence, the proof positive, that there are moments we can feel and look fan-fucking-tastic in our own eyes. That alone is worth its weight in gold.


I have nothing to add.

As a final link, have John Scalzi's predictions for the Oscars. He's not always right, but his reasoning is always pretty solid and I appreciate that he predicts what he thinks what will win as well as stating what he thinks should win.

_____________
*Although it actually pays less, which is a pain.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
This article about children's literature on The Guardian by Meg Rosoff (warning for discussion of death, suicide and illness):

There is a theory that children's literature should uphold the idyll of childhood, offering charming scenarios and happy endings to protect the innocent from life's harsh realities. But children have extraordinary antennae for the things no one will explain. If a child has enough imagination to conjure dragons and monsters under the bed, he has enough imagination to figure out that something adults won't talk about must be truly terrifying. Sex, for instance, divorce or death. And that's where literature can help – by exploring the scary stuff with insight and, on a good day, wisdom.

This article by Malorie Blackman, about libraries. Also on The Guardian and brought to my attention by Matthias:

Libraries are the best literacy resource we have. For children they provide an equaliser that allows everyone access to books, story-telling sessions, homework clubs; expert librarians who give non-partisan assistance and advice regarding books; and warm and safe environments within which to discover and explore the world of literature. Libraries switch children on to a love of reading, with all the ensuing benefits, and can make them lifelong readers. Without them, literacy may increasingly become the province of the lucky few, rather than the birthright of everyone.

As a librarian, and a lifelong lover of libraries, this matters to me.

This astonishing post on Wait But Why. Like all discussions of the vastness of space seeming endlessness of time, it left me feeling disoriented, overwhelmed, slightly teary, and very humbled. Existence is an amazing and terrifying thing:

I'm not really sure why it's okay that the eventual fate of the universe is cold silence, and I certainly as hell don't know what was going on before the Big Bang. And this is why the most important skill of a species intelligent enough to understand both their insignificance and their mortality is the capability for distraction. Because the facts of reality are just too intense. This is also a reminder of all the things that needed to happen exactly as they happened, for billions of years, on this very particular planet, for you to exist.

This poem by Tumblr user wytchbytch.
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
My department is on Tumblr. If you like medieval geekery, and are on Tumblr, you should check it out! In related news, my boyfriend and a friend of ours have started up a blog where they translate Old English riddles and write commentary about them. (For those of you so inclined, Tolkien probably had these kinds of riddles in mind when writing the famous scene in The Hobbit.)

I'm reading The Iliad. I thought it was about time, considering how many adaptations and reworkings I've read (let us not speak of That Travesty of a Movie), including studying a course call The Literature of Troy as a undergrad (which looked at the medieval and Shakespearean versions of the story of Troilus and Cressida). I knew the basic shape of the story, I knew what happened, and yet I still found it extremely confronting to read. The problem was, I inevitably latched onto Briseis. That got me thinking about my whole way of reading/interacting with texts these days. I'm much more alert to issues of agency and voice, which characters are given words and which remain silent. So while I wasn't surprised by the presentation of Briseis, I feel very protective of her as a character, and I want very much to read adaptations of the Iliad that give her a voice. (My first port of call was fanfiction, but I found nothing, other than some stuff based on That Travesty of a Movie. Inevitably, Iliad fandom is all about the Achilles/Patroclus slash, and even more inevitably, Hector/Paris.) In any case, I need to think more about these things, and possibly write something more than these rambly musings.

Horrible Histories author Terry Deary wrote a diatribe against libraries. Foz Meadows wrote a powerful response:

And then, of course, there’s the moral/historical angle: “Because it’s been 150 years, we’ve got this idea that we’ve got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of authors, publishers and council tax payers,” Deary moans. “This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that.”

The bolding above is my own, and it’s there for a reason. Take a good, long look at that sentence – specifically, at the crucial use and placement of the word wanted, whose past tense indicates that allowing the impoverished access to literature is something we don’t want to do any longer; or rather, that Deary believes we shouldn’t. There’s so much wrong with this statement that I hardly know where to begin. With the fact that, under Deary’s ideal system, the poor are only entitled to literature while they’re of school age, perhaps? With the fact that most of the literary benefit one experiences while a student comes, not from English class, but the school library? Or how about the novel idea that treating support of literacy in poverty as a quirky Victorian prerogative rather than an ongoing social necessity is not only morally repugnant, but incredibly shortsighted when one depends for one’s living on the existence of a literate, interested populace?


John Scalzi also responded:

I don’t use my local library like I used libraries when I was younger. But I want my local library, in no small part because I recognize that I am fortunate not to need my local library — but others do, and my connection with humanity extends beyond the front door of my house. My life was indisputably improved because those before me decided to put those libraries there. It would be stupid and selfish and shortsighted of me to declare, after having wrung all I could from them, that they serve no further purpose, or that the times have changed so much that they are obsolete. My library is used every single day that it is open, by the people who live here, children to senior citizens. They use the building, they use the Internet, they use the books. This is, as it happens, the exact opposite of what “obsolete” means. I am glad my library is here and I am glad to support it.

Every time I publish a new book — every time — the first hardcover copy goes to my wife and the second goes to the Bradford library. First because it makes me happy to do it: I love the idea of my book being in my library. Second because that means the library doesn’t have to spend money to buy my book, and can then use it to buy the book of another author — a small but nice way of paying it forward. Third because I wouldn’t be a writer without libraries, hard stop, end of story. Which means I wouldn’t have the life I have without libraries, hard stop, end of story.

I am, in no small part, the sum of what all those libraries I have listed above have made me. When I give my books to my local library, it’s my way of saying: Thank you. For all of it.


My own library story is similar, but different. What I will say is this: libraries gave me words. They gave me the words to understand myself, my space in the world, the people around me. They opened doors, they opened my mind, but it all comes back to the words. They gave me my voice.

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rushes into my heart and my skull

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