dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
I had my PhD viva nearly three years ago now, but it still reverberates in weird ways, even though I've long since left academia.

Quick description of how a PhD is examined in the UK, for those who want to know )

I wake up almost every day grateful for the fact that I never have to do another viva again. Some examiners will tell you before you get started that you've passed, although they're not technically supposed to (Matthias' external examiner wanted everything done by the book, so he left the room not knowing if he'd passed or failed). Mine tried to tell me without saying so directly — they said something like, 'before we get started, we want to say that we do have some concerns, but you have nothing to worry about. Now let's talk about your PhD,' which helped a bit, but didn't do much to make the experience any more pleasant. Some friends have told me they enjoyed their vivas, but to this day (and I say this as someone who has had some pretty awful things happen to her), that viva remains the worst two hours of my entire life. A few weeks before it happened, I dreamt that the process would involve lying on a rooftop while two senior Celticist academics shot at me with sniper rifles, just to give you some indication of the state of my mind...

Anyway, you get the idea. I passed, and although I couldn't look at my PhD or my examiners' reports for at least two months after the viva was over, the corrections themselves only took about a week of my time, and I got my PhD, graduated, and got on with a life outside academia. But because I still live in Cambridge, and still have a lot of friends within medieval studies, and because my former department is extremely sociable, I tend to come back from time to time to local conferences, free annual guest lectures, alumni events and so on. And because medieval studies is such a small world (and Celtic Studies an even smaller world within it), I tend to run into my examiners when I least expect it. And, inevitably, I bumped into my internal examiner at a guest lecture late last year. We fell to talking about my viva, and he told me something I found both hilarious, and a great source of perspective.

The entire time that I had been in a state of extreme anxiety and panic, feeling besieged and terrified, he had been in such awe of my external examiner (who, for some reason, he had never met in person before) that he had reacted by being extremely formal, and more critical than he perhaps intended, because he wanted to make a good impression on his fellow examiner. It's odd, but it's nice to know I wasn't the only one in that room feeling scared and overwhelmed!

Anyway, academia. It's a weird little universe.
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: (emily hanna)
I'm sitting here drinking a cup of tea and eating salted caramel fudge in the late afternoon sun, and thinking it's been a pretty great weekend.

Yesterday we mostly hung around at home, apart from an hour or so when we went out for one of the talks at Cambridge Festival of Ideas (this is a free programme that runs every year, a series of talks and panels by a mixture of Cambridge academics and other speakers on various topics, aimed at the general public). The panel we went to was about new media, and panelists ranged from fairly senior editors at Buzzfeed and Open Democracy to an academic doing research on the role of the media in Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia, and was excellent, although it didn't really tell me anything I didn't know. We've been trying to take more advantage of events like this — there's always a lot on in Cambridge, frequently free and generally right on our doorstep, so we're trying to make an effort to go to as much as we can.

Today we went to Apple Day at the Botanic Gardens. This happens once a year; you can taste about fifteen varieties of apple (kinds you can't buy in supermarkets), and buy bags of them to take away. There are stalls selling stuff like apple juice, cider, jams and cakes, honey, and (our favourites) cheese and gin. We walked away with three bags of apples, cherry sloe gin, and some cheese. There are also a few food trucks, a stall selling coffee and cake, and activities for children. We went last year and it was overcast and occasionally rainy, but this year the weather held (always a bit of a gamble in the UK in October) and we had a fabulous time in the autumnal sunshine, eating apples, bumping into a couple of friends, and wandering around the gardens. The only drawback was that you had to queue for ages for everything, but we were aware this would happen and thus weren't shocked by the long, slow-moving queues.

Now we're back at home and just lazing around until dinner time.

Over the past few weeks I've oscillated between cheerfulness and moments of crushing despair, and had to do things like avoid reading any news or thinking about the state of the world. At times the darkness, cruelty and sheer violence of the world has been overwhelming, and it seems like many people I care about are going through particularly difficult times. It's left me feeling helpless and despairing, and struggling to know what I can do in the face of it all. But every so often there'll be these moments of kindness and gentleness, existing almost out of time, like a pause in which I can gather my strength. This weekend was one such bright moment. I have to store it up with the others, for later. These brief moments of warmth and light are a small, fragile thing, but I have to believe that they will be enough.
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
Last night, Matthias and I braved the Cambridge rains and went out to see Aurora. For those who don't know her music, I can best describe her as another in the long line of fey, ethereal, slightly discordant female Scandinavian electropop singers whose lyrics are vaguely unsettling. Think a calmer Niki & the Dove, a less pointed Karin Dreijer Andersson, or a sweeter Susanne Sundfør. It's very watery music, both in sound and lyrical content.

I'm not the most seasoned concert-goer: I get really tense in large crowds, particularly if they're close enough that I'm going to have lots of strangers touching me, so I have to really want to see the act, so I'm not sure exactly where I'd rank this in terms of Concerts I Have Been To, but it was a very different experience to any other concert I've attended. It was somehow warm and welcoming and meditative, and almost magical, as if she were reaching out and enveloping the audience in a hug, or a blanket. It was interesting to me that so many of the audience — the most passionate of Aurora's fans — were young teenage girls, aged around 13-16 to my eyes. She was so gentle and encouraging to them, and I found that quite precious and moving. It was as if she could relate to them on their level and see the power of the moment — being in the same space as someone they admired and loved — without ever being patronising or minimising the depth of their emotional engagement.

And as for the music? It fed my soul, somehow. The convert came on the heels of a really trying, exhausting, and in many ways upsetting week, and being in that space, in that moment, was exactly what I needed.

My favourite songs from the set (links go to live versions, but not from my concert):

'Black Water Lilies'
'Conqueror' (in this clip, as at our gig, she engaged in what Matthias describes as 'Ronni dancing', which I'll have to admit is true)
'I Went Too Far'
'Through the Eyes of a Child'.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I have a brief moment of calm between a week that's been very full on, with lots of intensive teaching, and essentially a week with an event happening almost every night. This is mainly because the Cambridge Film Festival, and the Cambridge Festival of Ideas have pretty much overlapped this year. For someone like me, who has very low energy and needs to spend a lot of time doing quiet stuff at home, it's going to be fun but exhausting.

Coming up over the next week or so:

  • A concert (Aurora) on Saturday 15th

  • A film (American Honey) on Tuesday 18th

  • A concert (Birdy) on Wednesday 19th

  • A talk ([twitter.com profile] Nalo_Hopkinson) on Thursday 20th

  • A talk (on new media) on Saturday 22nd

  • Apple Day (basically show up and eat as many types of apples as you can) on Sunday 23rd

  • A film (The Handmaiden) on Monday 24th

  • A film (Toni Erdmann) on Tuesday 25th

  • A talk (Farah Mendlesohn on children's fantasy novels) on Wednesday 26th

  • A film (Into the Inferno) on Thursday 27th


  • I feel exhausted just thinking about it! But everything should be a lot of fun.

    I wrote a new post on my Wordpress blog. It's a review of A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir.
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    The three things in this post's title sit rather incongruously next to each other, but together make up this weekend. I spent most of yesterday in Bedford, where Matthias had to travel to take his 'Life in the UK' test, a prerequisite for a successful application for British citizenship by naturalisation. Matthias will be applying for this in the near future, and this test is simply one of the administrative hoops through which he is required to jump. It involves answering a series of simplistic and somewhat silly questions about British history, culture and politics. Although he had studied, and passed every practice test without difficulty, we were more concerned that his proof of address (a printed bank statement) wasn't going to be accepted by the test administrators, as at least one person we know had been turned away for the rather silly reason of not having his name printed on each page of his bank statement. Thankfully, Matthias was not turned away at the door, and the test was so easy that he completed it in three minutes. He was informed that he had passed then and there, and so his naturalisation application can go ahead. For various bureaucratic reasons he will not be able to apply until early next year, but it's nice to have this out of the way good and early.

    After the test, we met up with some friends who live in Bedford for beer (or, in my case, gin) and curry, which struck me as a very British way to celebrate Matthias' impending Britishness.

    Today the two of us met up with [personal profile] naye and [personal profile] doctorskuld and went to a food fair. There were a lot of free samples, and Matthias and I came away with sausages, various types of cheese, and a small collection of vinegars and sauces. We opted not to eat lunch at the food fair and headed over to a hipsterish cafe with antique bikes hanging from the ceiling, and a menu in which half the items consisted of avocado on toast. I don't like avocado, but luckily the other half of the menu was filled with things I like, so there was no danger of going hungry.

    I've just written a review of some of my recent reading. It's a review of books by Shira Glassman, Becky Chambers, and Kate Elliott, and can be found at my Wordpress blog. I highly recommend all three books.

    Yuletide is fast approaching. My nominations have all been approved (there was never any danger of that — I'm highly unlikely to nominate borderline fandoms, but it's nice to have the confirmation), so I guess I'd better get on to writing my letter and thinking about what fandoms to offer myself!

    I hope everyone else has been having wonderful weekends.
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    Earlier this year, due to a law change, I was able to apply for British citizenship by descent through my father — something that had previously been impossible for me due to various quirks of British citizenship law. I put in my application, which was approved in May, and had my citizenship ceremony shortly thereafter. This was the last in a run of extraordinary good fortune for me and Matthias. He had received permanent residency in the UK (the optional equivalent of Indefinite Leave to Remain for EU residents in the UK, and a prerequisite for applications for British citizenship by naturalisation). We had got engaged and set a wedding date. He had successfully applied for a new job, which represented a significant promotion. My job had been made permanent. In other words, we had been putting down deep roots, taking steps towards the future we were choosing to build in the UK.

    On Thursday, that future became a lot more shaky and uncertain.

    By a bitter twist of fate, my new British passport, which represented the final stage in my immigration journey, something that I had been looking forward to so much, arrived at my house in the early hours of Friday morning, at almost precisely the moment Nigel Farage was crowing on TV about 'independence day' and his 'revolution achieved without a shot being fired'. A moment that I had been dreaming of for years had become a sick joke.



     photo Image-Passport_zpsmdvxd8sr.jpg

    I keep looking at that top line on the passport and feeling bitter, bitter sadness.

    It's not just about me. Over the past few days, I've been hearing story after story from EU migrant friends, as well as non-EU migrants, and non-white British friends of acts of appalling racism and xenophobia, of feeling unwelcome in their own homes, of the feeling of suddenly facing uncertain futures. I've heard from countless people about various ways this referendum result is likely to affect their current or future employment, their visa status, their ability to sponsor non-EU spouses and other relatives for visas, as well as from British people furious and terrified that they have been stripped of their ability to live, love, work and study in 27 other countries. The loss of free movement is a particularly bitter pill to swallow for me, as someone who has lived visa to visa, keeping track of the implications of small changes to immigration law. A whole world — cosmopolitan, international, collaborative and outward-looking — has been rejected.

    I'm particularly furious on behalf of the Scottish and Northern Irish citizens/residents of the UK, and those of Gibraltar, who are being dragged into this by Little Englanders (and the Welsh) without their consent, as well as residents of London, and the bigger cities and university towns of England and Wales, all of whom voted overwhelmingly to remain. My own second home of Cambridge voted to remain by 73 per cent, so at least I don't have to look around and wonder which of my fellow residents are frightened racists. I'm proud of my city. I'm also enraged on behalf of the millions of EU residents of the UK who were denied the ability to vote on their future and forced to watch helplessly as others decided it for them. (A post of Matthias' to this effect caused an ignorant Tory friend of his to question why he hadn't become a citizen if it mattered so much to him, which I must admit gave me a white hot fury. The reason why he hadn't become a citizen was that it would have invalidated my previous visa. He was on track to become a citizen in January next year, but that's now up in the air, as Germany only allows dual citizenship with other EU nationalities.)

    I have particular contempt for David Cameron, selfishly bargaining the futures of millions of younger Britons, UK citizens' lives in the wider EU, and all immigrants here in the UK for a shot at stabilising his ailing leadership. Close behind come the Tory Leavers, opportunists stirring the pot for their own personal gain, as well as the Farages and Rupert Murdochs of this world. The Leave voters who didn't actually want to leave, but just wanted to register a protest are utterly beneath contempt. Don't make protest votes unless you actually want to live with the consequences. Otherwise register your disenchantment with spoiled ballots, or by staying home. The rest of us have to deal with your mess.

    There was a lot of talk of reaching out and finding common ground, but to hell with that. I, and most people I know, are not taking this lying down. I will be writing to my MP and MEP, urging them to fight against the decision, given that it is an advisory, rather than binding referendum. I strongly encourage you to do the same. You can find your MP here and your MEP here. I would also encourage EU residents in the UK to write to the MEPs of their home countries. A friend of mine has written a good letter and is happy for it to be used as a template, so please get in touch if that's something you would like, and I can pass his template on to you.

    If you're based in Cambridge, there is a rally on Tuesday, starting at 5pm at the Guildhall. Details are on this Facebook event, which also includes links to equivalent rallies in Bristol, London, Exeter, Liverpool and so on (although be aware that you'll have to wade through a lot of awful comments from gloating Leavers). I'm almost certainly going to be attending, although I will be late coming in from work, and I encourage anyone who feels up to it to do the same (or at equivalent rallies in their own cities).

    There are also various petitions floating around, which I encourage people to sign and share. Most importantly: demand for a second referendum, and guarantee the status of EU citizens currently resident in the UK. If you have any other relevant petitions, feel free to share them in the comments.

    I also want to say that I have extensive experience dealing with UKVI, deciphering their incomprehensible forms, gathering the extensive documents required for visa applications, and understanding the byzantine requirements for various visas, including the EEA (Permanent Residence) cards that are a prerequisite for British citizenship. If you or any EU resident friends and relatives want help making such an application (although I can understand if you don't feel welcome and want to get out as soon as possible), get in touch and I will help in any way I can. Please stay and help me vote this pack of fascists out!

    Most importantly, if you see any acts of racist abuse, please do what you can (and what you feel safe doing) to challenge them and protect their targets. This result has emboldened a lot of racist xenophobes, who suddenly feel they have a mandate to unleash their vicious, vicious hatred. We need to speak out against this behaviour when we see it, and not yield the public square to them. I'm not naive enough to think that Britain was entirely free of racism, but I have never seen it so blatant, and so publicly acceptable. I am not exaggerating when I say that I feel like I woke up in 1933.

    But I still love this, my second home, my international city, my found family of friends from all around the world. I love my job, my university students and researchers, my NHS nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers, who enrich my life every time I teach them.

    As I said on Twitter on Friday, I will remain here until the lights go out.
    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: (pagan kidrouk)
    It's the early afternoon, and the sun is streaming through our living room windows, and there are daffodils in a vase, and everything is generally wonderful. Today is the last day in what ended up being a ten-day holiday — something I didn't realise I needed until it happened.

    I spent the first four days of the holiday up in Anglesey staying with [tumblr.com profile] gwehydd and her husband and son. Matthias and I have quite a few friends in that part of the world, and try to get there once every year or two if possible. Apart from going out to a restaurant on the Saturday night and a pub lunch on the Sunday, we stuck pretty close to home, as our friends' toddler son makes it difficult to do lots of travelling. But to be honest, a weekend spent hanging out indoors, playing board games and laughing at the adorable antics of our friends' son was exactly what I needed. Anglesey is a really beautiful part of the world, and unfortunately on all previous trips it's poured with rain. This time we were lucky enough to get sun during the moments we ventured outdoors, which was fantastic. [tumblr.com profile] gwehydd and her husband are going to be doing a lot of travelling in the upcoming months — he is a university lecturer and is on the verge of taking first study leave and later a sabbatical — so it was good to be able to catch up with them before they head off overseas. Our other good friend in Anglesey is married to a Polish woman and is about to move to Poland with her, so we're also not likely to see much of him in the next year either (unless we go to Poznan for a holiday, which we've been idly considering for a while but not planned seriously). It was therefore great to be able to catch up with everyone before they scattered to the four corners of the Earth.

    After our trip to Anglesey we spent the rest of the holiday in Cambridge. I realised that this was the first holiday I've had in about four years that hasn't involved either going somewhere else to stay with friends or family, or having people stay with us, neither of which I find particularly relaxing. It was so amazing to just be able to hang out in Cambridge, binge-watching TV, cooking loads of food, and doing life admin without any demands on my time or feeling like I needed to entertain people. I think I'm going to insist on having at least several consecutive days of holiday like this every year from now on!

    We did go out with Cambridge friends to the pub on Thursday night (I think I ended up spending most of the time ranting with [tumblr.com profile] shinyshoeshaveyouseenmymoves about Song of Achilles (which I detest and which seems to pop up in fandom spaces when I least expect it) and our general dissatisfaction with the direction some corners of fandom seem to be taking), but other than that, Matthias and I only left the house for some forays into town to buy food. (Inevitably, these coincided with pouring rain.) We made an attempt to binge-watch Daredevil, but have so far only made it six episodes in — not because we don't like this season, but because we had so much other TV to catch up with! In any case, I'm thoroughly enjoying Daredevil so far, although it does suffer in comparison to Jessica Jones.

    I'm also doing a reread of Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart books, which are as good as I remember them. There are some authors I like for their characters, some whose plotting is exquisite, some whose themes resonate deeply with me, and some I like for their turns of phrase. Pullman is one of the few whose work is good at all four of these elements, and whose books always reward rereads. Coming back to these familiar stories is like settling in under a warm blanket.

    All in all, the past ten days have been utterly restorative. I kind of wish I didn't have to go back to work tomorrow!
    dolorosa_12: (emily)
    This has been one of those weekends where everything came together perfectly, seemingly without much effort on my part. It was desperately needed: not only was the past week particularly exhausting (and seemingly endless) but I have also not really had a free weekend for at least a month. So although this weekend ended up being quite packed, it was relaxing, and I feel rested in a way that I haven't for a long time.

    On Friday night my colleagues and I had our work Christmas party. We went to this restaurant, which had amazing food. I'm someone who likes to keep a fairly rigid separation between work and the rest of my life, so although I get on well with my colleagues, I always feel a bit weird about seeing them socially and drinking alcohol with them. However, the party was fun, and I'm glad I went.

    I ended up spending most of yesterday rushing around running errands. The final Obernewtyn book (an Australian YA dystopian series that has been in existence since 1987, and which I've been reading since 1999, to give you some idea of how long I've been waiting for the last book) was delivered on Friday, but as no one was home, I had to go and collect it from the depot on Saturday. (My heroic mother pre-ordered a copy, and then paid $AUS60 to send it to me in the UK, as it's not published here yet.) As the book is over 1000 pages long, and as it's the kind of thing that I will need to start, and then not stop until it's finished, I haven't actually begun reading it, but it is reassuring simply to have it in the house.

    Instead, I've been reading Evangeline Walton's Mabinogion, fantasy stories based on the Middle Welsh Mabinogi. This was on the recommendation of [livejournal.com profile] la_marquise_de_'s essay on the author. One of the things Kari emphasised in her essay was the way Walton's writing captured the tone and mood of the original Welsh material, and this was something I most appreciated about the work. It had the strangeness, cadences of the original language, and that undercurrent of melancholy that I find running through so much medieval literature. I'm grateful to Kari for alerting me to the existence of Walton's writing, and highly recommend it.

    On Saturday night, Matthias and I celebrated his birthday with several friends of ours. We went out to dinner at a new pub, which seems to be focusing on Belgian beer, gin (its gin menu listed about thirty different types), mussels and steak. This somewhat strange combination worked really well: the food was excellent, the place was heaving, and I was forced to choose between gin or mulled wine. It was freezing, so I stuck with the wine, which was handmade, and fragrant with cinnamon, cloves, and oranges. Now that none of us are students any more, it's difficult to get groups of our friends together, so it was great to be able to hang out with everyone for an evening.

    Today has mostly been filled with Yuletide writing — I finished my assignment, which means I should have time to get at least one treat done before the deadline — and watching Jessica Jones. We've only watched the first two episodes, but I'm absolutely hooked. It's everything I ever wanted from a TV series, and I'm finding it powerful and resonant in a variety of ways that I will outline further once I've watched the whole thing.

    Now I'm just drinking tea and gearing up for the next working week. I wish I could have more weekends like this!
    dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
    This weekend seems to have been filled up mostly with eating.

    My friend [livejournal.com profile] lucubratae came up to stay with us on Saturday. He's moved from Australia to London to do an MA, and wanted to get out of the city for a day or so for a change of scene. We hung out for a bit in one of the faculty libraries so that he could work on an essay for his coursework, and in the evening we went with Matthias, and several of my medievalist friends to a pub that was having its own Oktoberfest, selling lots of German beers and serving German food instead of its usual menu. The pub was busy and lively, and I almost lost my voice by the end of the night, but a good time was had by all.

    Today Matthias and I went to the Cambridge Botanic Gardens for their 'Apple Day'. They had twenty-nine varieties of apples available for tasting and for sale, none of which were varieties I'd ever tried — or even heard of — before. I prefer apples that are really sour, and which have a very crispy texture, and I was able to find a lot that fit these specifications. We bought bags of three different types of apples.

    I also came away with a little sampler box of gin — sloe and cherry, lemon, and raspberry — and several jars of chili sauce.

    After hearing [personal profile] naye talk about [twitter.com profile] GuerrillaKitch, I'd been keen to find an opportunity to try their bao, and I was fortunate enough to discover that they were at the Apple Day. So Matthias and I each had a chicken bao and shared pad thai chips for lunch. A cup of coffee for me and a cup of perry for Matthias and we were set for the afternoon. Thankfully the weather today has been lovely, and it was the perfect day to wander around the Botanic Gardens and walk around in the sunshine.

    On a sadder note, I'd like to remind everyone about the fundraiser for Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. It's still going, although the organisers have met the original goal. They are now leaving it open and attempting to reach various stretch goals. As well as helping out a really wonderful human being during a horrible time in her life, donors gain access to a site full of downloadable goodies, including short stories by Aliette de Bodard, printable colouring sheets by [twitter.com profile] Likhain, poems by Rose Lemberg and Shveta Thakrar, and a short story by Bogi Takács. Donors also go into a draw to win lots of other rewards. Please spread the news about the fundraiser, and donate if you can.
    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: (teen wolf)
    I was going to devote this week's post to the Hugo Awards situation, but to be honest, I thought better of it. Why waste my energy on the emotionally draining behaviour of a bunch of immature, selfish, cruel, destructive people? I'd rather talk about people who build, create, nurture and share.

    At Safe, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz talks about words, actions, and using power for good. It's a post filled with hope and compassion. (Content note for discussion of abusive behaviour.)

    Rochita's post refers to this one by Laura Mixon, which comes with a similar content note.

    I absolutely adore M Sereno's poetry. Her latest, 'The Eaters, published in Uncanny Magazine, is gorgeous. Amal El-Mohtar reads it aloud here.

    BBC Radio 4 is doing a programme featuring extensive interviews with Ursula Le Guin, Ursula Le Guin at 85.

    Short stories I read and enjoyed this week include 'Monkey King, Faerie Queen' by Zen Cho (published at Kaleidotrope) and 'Ambergris, or the Sea-Sacrifice' by Rhonda Eikamp (published at Lackington's, illustrated by Likhain).

    Over at SF Signal, authors pay tribute to Terry Pratchett and Leonard Nimoy.

    Ken Liu discusses his new novel The Grace of Kings at SF Signal.

    This round-up post at Ladybusiness has some fabulous short story recommendations.

    It's always disorienting for me to see real-life friends and former academic colleagues getting discussed in SF publications.

    This is the most Cambridge story ever.

    Please spend your weekends being lovely to each other.
    dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
    For various reasons, although Matthias and I moved into our current house about two-and-a-half years ago, it's remained a bit of a bare shell with very little character, beyond a collection of mismatched bookshelves, filled to bursting with our books. Apart from a coffee table (that the TV stands on), Matthias' bedside table and one low bookshelf, none of the furniture is ours. We inherited it from a mixture of friends and Matthias' relatives, acquiring it incrementally. The walls are bare, the tables and other surfaces are unornamented (although covered with books and DVDs), the couches lack decoration and the courtyard garden is a weed-filled mess.

    Initially I was too overwhelmed with stress about my PhD, and then I had the time, but no money when I was working three part-time jobs, and Matthias has always worked four different jobs so he had no time either. But now I have both the time and the money and I am determined to turn this little house of ours into a proper nest.

    There are several hooks already on the walls, and we have a few prints and pictures ready to go up, so I'm going to get quotes from framers and fill the walls. I've just ordered some cushions with prints from Likhain's collection and they should be arriving next week. I want to replace the hideous red rug we currently have in the living room: it's a pain to vacuum, and it just looks awful. I want to buy a vase so we can have flowers in the house, and I've started buying candles again so that the place will smell nice.

    The garden is another matter. The fences are all weighed down by massive ivy bushes. Periodically I cut them back, but it's really beyond me, and I'm considering getting someone to clear the whole lot away so that I can start with a blank slate. Same goes for the weeds that keep growing up from under the patio. I've never gardened before: my mum did it when I was a child, and when I was a teenager we moved into a flat where a pot of mint and a pot of thyme was the extent of our garden. I'm a bit at a loss as to where to begin. We have two narrow strips of dirt running along the two bits of the fence (the other half of the garden is bordered by our house), and the area on the other side of the fence is technically free for us to grow stuff, although I think a series of large pot plants might be better. I've always wanted to grow herbs, but I think we need this ivy out of the way before I'd be in a position to plant a single thing.

    But I'm determined to do something. If all goes well, Matthias and I will be here for quite some time, and I'm sick of the garden being a wasteland and the house having no character. This post is mostly an attempt to hold myself accountable!
    dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
    I was given these six questions by [livejournal.com profile] christinafairy as part of a meme. Answers are behind the cut.

    Questions and answers )

    Please comment if you would like six questions of your own.
    dolorosa_12: (what's left? me)
    Day Twenty-One: Favourite female character screwed over by canon

    Kendra (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

    The thing that frustrates me most about Kendra is that of all the show's wonderful recurring tertiary characters, she's the only one who feels as if she was just written to give Buffy character development and feelings. Buffy is generally excellent in terms of recurring characters - even if they only appear in three or four episodes, they feel fully human, with understandable motives, fears and developed personalities.

    But Kendra is something of a blank slate. She has only two obvious personality traits: her fondness for the rules, and her lack of social ties. In other words, she is only remarkable in the ways in which she differs from rule-bending, social butterfly Buffy, and she serves to illustrate that Buffy is right in her choices. Kendra's rule-following makes Buffy look intelligently flexible and adaptable, while Kendra's apparent disconnection from other human beings makes Buffy look warm and protected by the support of her friends and boyfriend.

    Now, Buffy is the protagonist, so other characters are always going to be used to move her plot forward and help her develop as a character, but Kendra is the only character who gives the impression that that's her sole purpose. And there's no reason why she had to be written in this way. Faith, the slayer who follows Kendra, is also written as a foil to Buffy, but the show also manages to show us why she is the way she is, and why she makes the choices she does.

    As it is, Kendra shows up for a couple of episodes, makes Buffy feel inadequate before reinforcing the rightness of Buffy's choices, and then dies in order to illustrate the seriousness of what Buffy faces in the season finale. It's a profoundly unsatisfactory character arc - if arc is even the right word - and I can't help but feel that the character was a wasted opportunity.

    The other days )

    Also, I have been thoroughly enjoying the late autumn weather here in Cambridge, so have a few photos of yesterday's frost.

    Photos behind the cut )

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