June summary

Not the most productive 30 days on record. I remind myself that my goals are often multi-tier, in that there are essential and aspirational goals each month. Total success isn’t actually part of the plan.

The essentials included several Oxford-related tasks such as the financial guarantee, student photo, and follow-up work once I had the necessary material to start the UK student visa application. That went largely as planned, although the visa process itself is an ordeal, and an expensive one, that will drag on into July..

My progress on writing fell well short of goals, even if the goals were childishly optimistic. I did very little work on the Thesis-to-book project, although some work is better than none. The book review, scheduled for submission around the 15th of June, was finished and submitted… on July 2.

Two shorter articles, based on research threads that have no real place in the book project, are coming along nicely. One of them should be finished by the end of this week and ready for submission a few days after that. The other one has metastasized somewhat, but that’s because I learned something neat, and have more to say than originally thought.

Progress was made in the great heap of reading I have assigned myself. I mostly finished David H. Fischer’s Historians’ Fallacies, which is a pleasantly readable, if occasional frustrating, book. I think I like Fischer’s take on many of the mechanical aspects of history writing, although his conservative approach, particularly to issues of causality, feel dated. However, there is a great deal of useful material in Fischer’s examples. I have made good progress with Miri Rubin’s The Hollow Crown. My knowledge of the basic political history of late medieval England is unforgivably vague and this book, while very general, is just the right level of detail for a review of the major chronological landmarks. I’m still working through Euan Cameron’s The European Reformation for the same reason. I read Patrick Collinson’s The Reformation a year or two ago, and although that was a good choice—I regularly quote from his conclusion—not much else has stuck.

Less tangible accomplishments include a great list of newly discovered funding sources that I will need to apply to in the fall and winter. I found one that I was technically eligible for last year, but the Oxford website, specifically the funding search system, didn’t think I was eligible. The History Faculty site gave the same impression, but persistent digging showed that I was only excluded from one version of the scholarship (UK and EU nationals can apply for the full award while overseas applicants can only apply to cover fees, and that’s certainly worth the effort).

I did get some good news from the Spring Convocation at the Alma Mater. Graduate awards are saved up from the previous calendar year (May-June, 2011-12) and although I technically graduated with the MA back in October, the convocation awards for graduate students are given out only at the Spring Convocation. The History Department recommended me for the Humanities and Fine-Arts thesis award, which is nice considering the Department can only recommend one of their graduates and they picked me over other PhDs. That award went to someone in Fine Arts but that nomination still gets a place on the CV. I was also recommended by the Department to the University, as a candidate for the Western Association of Graduate Schools MA Thesis Prize, an external award given by that association to one thesis out of the 120, or so, member schools. The University agreed and I’m the nominee for the 2011-12 year. Now, that prize isn’t actually awarded until March, 2013, and I will be asked for a 1500 word thesis description and something like 5 copies of the thesis sometime in September, but again, this gets a place on the CV. That’s nice.

I have also stuck to my blog exercises this month, writing ten entries for about 5000 words. I didn’t count up the number of draft entries and their length, but there are at least five, for about 3000 words. I may not have done as much formal writing this month, but I am getting the practice in.

Of course, some of this productivity was limited by unforeseen events. Our venerable house mate, a once taciturn, but now mellow Calico (her attitude likely softened by senility in her 18th year) was less than stable in her health. There was the surprise failure of the original Wiglaf, and all this elevated stress has made me less than energetic about anything other than absolute essentials and the daily necessities of survival and household management.

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