So?

That most compact of adverbs has its place, but it will have no room in anything I edit. I know that its insertion in the margins of student papers, usually adjacent to some concluding sentance which, the author hoped, made a point of sufficient clarity, is meant to indicate both the failure of that goal, and a prompt to defend the statement with more vigour.

When I read an editor’s comment that consists of only this, I don’t read it as ‘So? Please make your claim more explicit.’ Instead, I see this; ‘So? Who cares? Certainly not me. You have wasted my time and I will not waste it further with unnecessary key-strokes. Count yourself fortunate that I even bothered to hit shift at the start.’

Yes, that’s harsh but really, that’s not helpful. This is, or rather was, on my mind a while ago because that adverb was repeated with painful regularity by two editors who returned a paper last week. They still want the paper, and their comments are, ultimately, beneficial. I’m just not in the mood for that sort of interrogation. I’ve got until Jan 15 to make fixes, so it’s not an emergency.

Speaking of emergencies, one may ask what was manner of crisis kept me from PBS since 23 Oct. You can ask, but there is little to tell. The trials of the doctoral student are well known but they are not really part of my experience. My research is going well, although slowly. I have no serious doubts about the course of the project, my methods, or my goals. My supervisor is the model of helpfulness and dedication. The minor irritations that most students experience, but accept as part of the ‘life-style’, for me, become colossal obstacles to work, sleep, and ultimately mental health. Now that’s a touch of hyperbole. I would not even consider joking about clinical depression and I know that my experiences are not universal and thus worthy of universal sympathy. However, there is only so much one can do on 3-5 hours of sleep a night, for 5 weeks straight.

The little room I was given in a 4 room flat, at the start of this term, would have worked out if there was some way of replacing all the occupants with ninjas. The people themselves were fairly quiet, when they were in their rooms, working. Otherwise, they were the loudest people I have ever had the misfortune to experience. Everything was loud. The doors, the kitchen cupboards, the chairs, the cutting boards (every chop, and it was always ‘chop’ and never slice) was audible. Every dish that was cleaned required several good whacks on the stainless sink. And all of this could and would happen at any time of the day or night. No-one (other than me) closed doors on their own. Everything was left to slam shut on its own, except the front door.

Oh, the front door. I had written the most polite and respectful note (necessary as hardly anyone was reliably around when I thought of this) and taped it to that door one early morning, in hopes that I could stop people from slamming that door shut as they came and went. This way, I wouldn’t need to wear earplugs constantly, and I wouldn’t jump from my chair (or bed, or slumber) at the gun-shot level volume. That note was promptly torn down by the first person who read it, and the door continued to be slammed, quick energetically, when that particular person left the building.

Sometime around 9pm, maybe 27 Oct? I was typing in mid-sentence for a draft that was, by then, a good 4 weeks behind schedule when the door, in a manner that would have produced diamonds if coal were left in the jamb, blasted through my earplugs and kicked all my careful prose out of my head. I jumped up, ran to the window, stuck my head out and stopped.

I’m not sure what I would have actually said (or shouted) at the back of the student, heading up the street, ignorant of the wreckage he was making of my already damaged psyche but I doubt it would have been at all coherent or fit for reproduction in text. I had already told the college about this and, to abbreviate the details, a room did appear, which is quieter (at least so far as the maximum volume of any one source of noise is concerned) and I am now safely re-deployed.

I’m still very far behind in the non-thesis projects. I have a massive sleep debt and I have to un-do my irregular sleep pattern I developed at the other room. I am now capable of some writing again, which is why PBS is getting this little catalogue of complaint.

As compensation, here is a picture of what £100 will get you from Bennett & Kerr, rare books in Steventon Oxfordshire:

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And, here is the new place, with ample shelving and more desk space.

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And now, back to some normalcy.

Tiny Bookcase

This bookcase is too tiny! How am I going to finish my DPhil with such a tiny bookcase? If I am not careful, I could be trapped in the tiny bookcase, because it is so tiny.

 

It's so tiny and wee, that I think the pixies made it.

It’s so tiny and wee, that I think the pixies made it.

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Summer Summary

Now is the stage in the student’s progress where he or she records all that one hoped to do over a break, and in doing, reflect with growing bitterness, on failures that outnumber successes. That’s melodramatic by design because I have set myself up for this sort of disappointment from the start, and I suspect most students in my place do the same.

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Secret Handshake

Apropos of nothing, I find myself in need of an academic literary agent. I got it in my head that Penguin Classics should include some 15th and 16th century English texts in their backlist (Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes, or the Great Chronicle of London, for example) but I am tightly locked out in the cold because they do not take ‘unsolicited’ proposals which means they do take unsolicited proposals, just not from the unwashed public. One must convince additional intermediaries to take on your project and hand it over to the relevant people in the corporation. I suspect the best strategy here is to find someone I feel comfortable approaching, and who has successfully published in the series, and see if they will pass me on to their agent. I don’t, at the moment, know anyone who fits that profile.

Not that I actually need more work at the moment, but this is an idea that could go somewhere and it’s best to start early, than not at all.

Because!

What would have been an otherwise unremarkable and unremarked interview on American television has, thanks to the plague physics of the interwebs, come to my attention. I confess I have not actually sat through said interview but I don’t really need to (yes, that’s unfair of me but I have a tiny reserve of ‘care’ and it has prior commitments). The gist is this: An academic wrote a book about the historical Jesus of Nazareth and dutifully made the rounds deemed necessary by his colossal publisher (the new Penguin-House, or Random Penguin which now owns about 25% of the entire publishing world). One of his interviewers was hung up on an apparent contradiction in that a Muslim was writing about a Christian figure. The author, who displayed the patience of a saint (and I am aware of the humour in that), was accused of defending his ‘right’ to write on this topic by arguing from authority. This is a common counter when someone exhibits their credentials as a specialist or because they have some formal qualification in the field. Of course this is one of those times when an argument sounds like a fallacy but isn’t.

 

It’s also a nice example of how the news is rarely about ‘news’ and tells us more about the economic or political basis of any media source. It is also a case-study in controversy selling things, even when some of the buyers are those most offended by the product. The author’s book came out in mid-July and while it has only 2 reviews on the Canadian Amazon site it has over 200 on the American one and it is already at the #1 spot on several non-fiction bestseller lists. That is never a mark of quality but it is proof of an investment well made by the publisher (and publicist).

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All work and no play makes Midgardarts a DPhil… eventually

Rather than write the usual summary of my work over the last few months, which is rather tedious and unhelpful, I thought it would be better to remind myself what I am currently working on or what I should be working on, when I am not writing little entries for this deliberately obscure blog. Continue reading

Neurotransmitters of the brain unite! All you have to loose is your synapses!

The easiest way to explain the unfortunate lack of content at PBS over the last three months is by way of my usual analogy wherein my brain is represented by a complex and not entierly efficient collection of offices and workshops. Starting around late May, the workers in the cognitive resources branch decided they could no-longer maintain the usual level of productivity—working conditions had deteriorated thanks to a steady increase in exterior noise and stress—and so they took action. There was no wildcat strike but there was a very clear decision to work-to-rule, meaning that they would do what was strictly required of them, as per their various job profiles, but no more. The blog was one of those ‘additional duties, as determined by the office foreman’ and it was left to sit out the period of stress. Otherwise, work progressed as planned with two more conferences since K-zoo, packing of the room for storage over the break, and other tasks no less vital despite their lack of glamour.

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Leeds Stack

As is my habit, born of many birthdays and other gift-related occasions, here is the stack of new books, arranged neatly, from Leeds. All but two of these will have to stay in Oxford when I go back to Canada for what is left of the summer break.

Not as heavy as it looks

Not as heavy as it looks

Of particular interest, because of their improbable availability is the one at the bottom, and the green one in the middle. Paul Watson, the publisher of the Harlaxton proceedings took over as the publisher for the Richard III society and they gave him some of the back-stock from Sutton Publishing (now absorbed into History Press). The Sutton stuff is uncommon and when it does appear it is way out of my price range. This stuff was well within that range.

Also, being a rare example of print-on-demand being a good thing, is the trade edition of Klaassen’s Transformation of Magic which is not otherwise available outside hardback. That one is coming home to live with the other esoteric stuff and, if conditions allow, to get ‘inscribed’ by the author himself. Although I will probably have to help build his cabin to compensate for cheaping out with the trade ed.

And honestly, I will actually write something for the blog in the relatively near future, once I get out from the oppressive… oppressions that I currently labour beneath.