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the periils of interdisciplinary research   
11:23pm 28/05/2015
  I love this, I love this, I love this. [I have also been partaking of wine for the last 4 hours, so take this as you will.]

When I hang out with medievalists and go to medievalists conferences, I come away thinking “This is it. This is what I want to do. I want to be one of them. There are SO MANY fascinating topics to study. I want to devote my research career to them.” All other research projects or academic goals seem less important. Then, I got to spend a year doing undergraduate teaching – something I have been preparing myself to do for almost a decade and a half when I decided I wanted to go to graduate school in order to teach at university because high school kids just didn’t cut it. There have been many roadblocks, mostly due to mismatches of expectations, this last year at Durham – some of which I am still unsure whether I will eventually write about here or not; I am not sure if they are the sort of thing where it would be beneficial to do so or only stirring up frustrations; right now, I am not in an objective enough place to say – but even with all the complaints, all the rebellion, the pretty miserable reviews I got, I love teaching. When I have students in my office and I can get the lightbulb to turn on, I love it. When I have half a dozen or more quizzing me on this, that, the other thing, when it feels like I’m the one being examined instead of preparing them for their examination, I love it. It keeps me on my toes, it brings me to questions I’d never considered, and occasionally one of them says something that makes me realize all the work and effort is worth it, no matter how the others complain, these people get it and will remember this class (in a good way) for a long time to come. It is immensely satisfying, and in the last 6 months I have caught myself thinking “I’ve got the permanent job. Who cares about maintaining the research profile? If I can be an excellent teacher, then they’ll be perfectly happy with me.”

And then...and then I come to something like Dagstuhl, and I spend my days listening to, and talking to, the intersection of logic, philosophy, psychology, and computer science, when I find myself not only marked out as that weird person who knows about the history of logic (the quizzes I have gotten over meals and during coffee breaks have been both relentless and awesome) but also as someone who is a real logician and has something to say, and I cannot help but feel utterly at home. I have regained a sense of self this week that had been missing. The move to Durham, from a city that I loved and loved living in, and the resultant switch to a radically different academic trajectory from what I’d been used has been hard (I have a post brewing in response to something Nessa posted on FB awhile back, about what it is that constitutes my identity). This week has filled a lot of holes. I’ve hung out for logicians in close concentration for the first time since AiML in August – and there I only got to be there for one day of the conference before heading to Raglan and then to house hunting, so that hardly counted. I’ve wandered through silent gardens where there is nothing but me and my thoughts and there is no sense of hurry or immoderation. I can pace, slowly, and it is quiet. There is no one asking me why. There is no need to adult – no marking, no laundry, no grocery shopping, no house buying. Glumbunny posted recently about why would anyone ever want to leave home, leave all the things that make up home behind, and I laughed, because in this matter we are so different: Who wouldn’t want to leave behind the cares and chores of being an adult, and spend a week in a beautiful location where food is prepared and served for you without any work on your part, where there are cheese platters and wine in the evenings, where there is a freezer full of ice cream, where there are friends, where there are people who by now have know you for quite awhile, where there are people who are only beginning to know you but are learning they want to know you. I remember, some years back, when suddenly I realized that at some point along the way, sometime between high school and grad school, I became shy. I am recently feeling a sharp switch the other way, that somewhere along the way, I stopped being shy. I am in a context where I feel like I have a genuine contribution, that people have honest reasons for wanting to talk to me, that when I am sitting at a table with a bunch of middle aged men and a couple bottles of wine that this is where I belong. This week has been restorative to me in many respects, providing me a reprieve from daily life, giving me a beautiful garden and a castle ruin that I can wander at will, and then surrounding me with people who are genuinely fascinated by what I have to say. I brought William of Sherwood’s Introduction to Logic along with me in preparation for my talk in Prague in Sunday, and I have unexpectedly found that it has been apropos at so many moments during this week. It has been passed around, photographed, pored over, and enjoyed by so many people. It feels me with a small amount of glee to realize that all these people at this seminar had probably never considered the history of their subject to any great extent before, and now many of them have already been looking up how much used copies of Sherwood’s Introduction are on amazon. It is incredibly satisfying, because it feels like it justifies the organizer’s decision to invite me. That is how Dagstuhl seminars are – invitation only, and how I managed to warrant one in the first place I don’t know, because while there are certainly people here that I know, it is not the usual crowd that I am used to, so I was certainly not an automatic choice for the organizers, none of whom I’d known in any sort of significant capacity before this week. But after a night like tonight, after a week like this, I feel like whatever context I am invited in to, I can make good the organizer’s decision, to make them look back on my contribution and say “yes, it was a good idea to have her. She brought a lot of ideas that no one else would’ve had”.

It has been a good week (and it will be capped off by a weekend in Prague). I now need to cajole the internet access in my room long enough to get this posted, and then go to bed. We shall see...
 
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I've missed this   
12:15pm 26/05/2015
  I made a decision, around the time we moved, to only go to conferences that I'd been invited to (it's not a hard and fast decision, since it doesn't cover either of the medievalist conferences I'm going to this summer) because I didn't have the time -- or the travel money -- to go to lots of conferences only tangentially related. And it's been a reasonable rule of thumb, as this year I've already gone to Manchester and to St. Andrews. But yesterday morning my alarm went off around 6:30 so I could catch the train to Newcastle airport for a flight to Amsterdam and thence to Frankfurt, where I was on the train for another two hours before joining a dozen or so people in a taxi for the last leg to Schloss Dagstuhl, a former castle/manor house in Saarbrucken which is now owned by a computer science institute and used to run week-long comp sci seminars, and while en route, I realized how much I enjoy doing this. I like striding through an airport with my compact suitcase with everything I need for a week, I like telling the immigration guard where I'm from, what I'm doing, that I'm traveling for work. I like the solitude of sitting on a train as it rushes silently through green hills, vineyards, and river valleys. I like watching the clouds roll out below me on the plane, where I always seek out a window seat if I can get it. I like landing in Schiphol, which still feels like coming home.

It's harder to make the effort to leave, when I know how exhausting it is being sole parent to Gwen and knowing I'm putting Joel in that position, when I know that every night she'll ask when I'm coming home, when she wakes up early too to ask for a hug before I go. But every time I make the effort, I'm glad it do. The time to decompress that travel allows me is restorative. Giving Gwen a good model of a working mom is important to me. I'm no longer going to places where I am awkward and unsure and know no one, but instead I know that when I step off that train, there will be friends, people I know and like well enough to greet with a hug, and there will be others who may not know me but know of me, and are interested to meet and talk with me. This is a community I'm a part of only adjacently, and yet I am surprised at how many connections I have in it. And it's always fun talking to the computer scientists, they find medieval logic absolutely fascinating, so I never lack for eager conversation in the coffee breaks.
 
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out of brain error   
03:11pm 21/05/2015
  Recently a meme went around FB, a picture of a pug splatted flat on a patio with a pathetic look in his eyes and the caption "I cannot adult today. Please don't make me adult" (or something like that). Joel and I have lamented the difficulty of adulting quite frequently over the last few months. It takes so much brain to adult, and lately, my brain has all been used up grading. (Received 7 12,000 word theses April 28, that had to be marked by May 15. The next week was spent shepherding panicking students towards their final exam Friday morning in addition to preparing a talk in St. Andrews over the weekend. Came back Monday afternoon, picked up their exams, and have done nothing but mark since then, finishing them around lunch time today. Second class had their exam this morning, I can pick them up in an hour and really want to get them all marked before I leave for Germany on Monday for a week, followed by a week in Prague; when I get back, it will be next month).

Somewhere along there I completely lost track of what the date was until suddenly earlier this week the foggy recollection that sometime soon an anniversary was going to happy. I vaguely thought it was Saturday until I realized last night that, no, the 22nd was Friday.

The traditional gift for the 11th anniversary is steel. Today, one day early, Joel and I picked up probably the best steel gift we could've gotten for each other: Keys to our new house. When we found out yesterday that we'd be getting a call today letting us know when we could come get them, we both paused and marvelled at the fact that despite everything else we've been juggling these last few months, we had managed to successfully adult this one thing. We're actually pretty amazed that it all worked out, and in the end quite smoothly.
 
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Microblog Monday   
09:59pm 11/05/2015
  It says something about my free time/mental energy for writing here when I've been intending to join in the Microblog Monday effort for, um, months now.

But, hey! Today, someone is three and a half years old:

Gwen

First time I made her hold the sign herself. :) She made sure to point out all the numbers to me. "It's 2, mommy, it's 2!"

Gwen

We measured her before bed and she's grown another ~4 cm or so in the last 6 months.

My recent favorite cute Gwenism: Gwen sneezes, and then tells herself "Bless you me!"

Back to marking theses now....
 
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reports of my dy(e)ing are not exaggerated   
12:44pm 10/05/2015
  (Oh, there are so many punny titles one can get when one d[i/y]es).

My dyeing attempts yesterday were successful! I mostly followed these instructions, but used 24 cups water and 6 cups vinegar (using up all the rest of my Dutch white vinegar and all of a new bottle of English malt vinegar), and 1/2 C turmeric (Dutch and British), because I had about twice as much fabric. Over the course of the afternoon I went from this:

white

to this:

yellow

I've been told by those who know better that turmeric-dye isn't light fast, so this could very easily and quickly fade to a lemon-juice color, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing: (a) this is a rather garish bright yellow, I'm not sure it's especially suited for Joel's complexion, (b) I can always redye it. My goal was to have something "not white" so even if it fades, I'll have succeeded!
 
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notes on a coif   
01:18pm 09/05/2015
  In my previous post I mentioned some white cotton brocade curtains I'd picked up cheaply, that I hope to dye and turn into a cotehardie for Joel. Well, not all of it. Given that one of my plans is to put together a summer-weight overdress I can wear with the underdress from my coronation garb, I need some sort of appropriate headgear to wear with it when I'm not wearing the awesome one that Anne made and edith_hedingham embroidered for me -- something that will keep me hair under control and be suitable for washing dishes, but also be something that I could wear underneath my coronet when appropriate.

So about the time I was searching for info about dyeing, I also started looking for coif examples and patterns, such as the following (If you haven't guessed, part of what these posts are is a chance for me to clear out the 100+ tabs that I have open on my browser.):

16th & 17th C men's nightcaps (ok, not relevant for me, but worth saving for the future).
Elizabethan and Early Jacobean Embroidered Coifs
Coif, 1570-1599
Coif, last quarter 16th century
Coif, last quarter 16th century
Coif, 1575–1600
Coif and forehead cloth, 1575-1625
Coif, 1575-1625
Embroidered Coif (Unassembled), c. 1580s
Coif, England, Late 16th C
Coif, 1590-1610
Woman's Embroidered Coif
Forehead cloth, last quarter 16th century
Forehead cloth, last quarter 16th century
Coif with forehead cloth
Coif, 1600-1625
Woman's Coif, 1600-1610
Coif, 1575-1599

And, best of all from my non-sewer point of view, this excellent image from Full Coif Project. So before I dye the fabric, I'm going to cut away enough of it to make one of these.

You'll notice that many of the above are embroidered. My ability to come up with, transfer, and execute free-standing/free-form embroidery patterns is miserable, and I am not even going to try. However, as noted, the fabric is already brocaded, which means there's already a pattern on it for me to copy! I recently received some beautiful hand-dyed silver and purple silks from Felicitas, and I figure I'll "trace" over the already-present pattern with a chain stitch for some decoration.
 
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sometimes it feels like I'm dy(e)ing   
01:04pm 09/05/2015
  Recently I picked up a good charity-shop haul of curtains and bedspreads, cheaply enough that I can experiment with them w.r.t. garb. Joel currently has his complete Landsknecht outfit (shirt, doublet, pants, socks), three very basic t-tunics, and one undertunic. I have rashly promised that he shall have as many undertunics/shirts as we have days at Raglan this year, which means I've got to make 4 more. The backing of one bedspread has already been partially adapted; I need to finish hemming it, cut, hem, and attach the sleeves, and do something with the neck. The best part is, that took less than 1/4 of the fabric, so I can easily make him matching ones from the rest to fill up the quota. It's cotton, so eventually we'll upgrade them to something nicer, but at least it's a natural fiber, and it's also a pleasant light mustard/golden yellow color, so it's not entirely boring.

One of the curtains I picked out is a white cotton brocade, which I was thinking of trying to make a 14th C doublet out of (whether this will be completed before Raglan depends in part on whether he has time to make buttons before then). I've long wanted to dress him a la armillary and Master Robert, but he's always shied away from anything involving hose. However, as he does more pewter casting, he's begun to realize that if he wants to accessorize himself with 14th C accessories, he should have 14th C garb to accessorize. My patience has paid off, and here's my chance. I'm going t try to do something like this, because it doesn't involve TOO many non-straight pieces.

But, the fabric is white. White is both boring, and apt to be dirtied easily (especially if worn by Joel). So I decided this gave me a perfect opportunity to try something else I've wanted to try: Dyeing.

To date, my experience with dyeing consists of (a) tie-dyeing t-shirts, socks, and underwear as a kid, (b) watching my sister dye fake fur with tea in high school, and (c) dyeing a pair of beige pants blue after they went through the wash with a blue pen. Of course, I'd like to dye in a relatively medieval way, which means no simply going to the store and getting RIT (or whatever the British equivalent is). Googling led me to quite a bit of useful information about medieval dyeing, including:

Dye recipes from the Leyden Papyrus X, c. 300 AD
Dye recipes from the Stockholm Papyrus, c. 300-400 AD
Dye Recipes from the Mappae Clavicula
Dye Recipes from the Innsbruck Manuscript
Segreti per Colori
Allerley Mackel
Cleaning & Dyeing Recipes from
A Profitable Booke
Safflower Dye
Colors, Dyestuffs, and Mordants of the Viking Age: An Introduction
Medieval Dyeing: The Dyeing Process

...aaaannnnddd, these involve scary complicated things like Ph balances and lye and the necessity to have a well ventilated place to do it and pots dedicated to dying and not to cooking, and things like that: Not insurmountable, but rather more effort than I have headspace for.

So I thought, surely there are natural ways of dyeing that I could use as a first step. Googling for that, without the added desire for it to be strictly speaking medieval, led me to two options:

Dyeing with beets
The Beet Goes On
Natural Dyeing With Beets
Dye You Bastard
DIY Natural Dyes (also discusses onion skins and spinach)

and

Dyeing with turmeric
Making Natural Dyes from Plants (more than just turmeric)
DIY: Natural Turmeric-Dyed Tablecloth
Natural plant dyes: 4 ways to use turmeric

Now, beets make me ill, and Joel doesn't like them (unless they are small, and pickled with juniper and black pepper, edith_hedingham :) ), so we don't stock them in our house. Additionally, while I tried to sell Joel on the idea of a manly pink cotehardie, he wasn't exactly thrilled. Turmeric, on the other hand...

Gwen and Joel are at the library right now, but when they get back, I think I'll see if Gwen wants to help me investigate dyeing with turmeric! Given that I spent 2GBP on the curtains, there's basically no way that I can screw them up so badly that I couldn't still do SOMETHING with the result -- even if it's not something that I'd want to clothe Joel with, I could make something for her. (I've already promised to turn the yellow crushed velvet velour portions of the bedspread into something for her...NOT for the SCA though!)
 
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symptom spotting: symptoms of what?   
05:46pm 07/05/2015
  1. Headache
2. Fatigue
3. Concentration and memory complaints
4. Irritability and other personality changes
5. Sleep disturbances
6. Depression

If you check "Yes" to all of these are you....

[ ] suffering from a concussion

or

[ ] marking theses

--

Tuesday getting the cat carrier down from the attic, I lost control of the hatch to the attic and it dropped down slamming my head between it and the wall. I didn't pass out or anything, but of course to be safe I googled to find out what I should watch out for in case I did have a concussion, and the lists (which contain all of the above, but do contain more) made me laugh because I could've said yes to so many of them BEFORE the incident simply because I've 7 third year theses (12,000 words each) to grade in two weeks. The first four were really frustrating, and then I don't know if the fifth made things better or worse, because it was so much better than the first four showing that, yes, my standards really weren't too high and that I could expect decent things. It almost would've been easier if I eventually concluded the problem was with me, and not with the writers!
 
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leveling up: becoming landowners   
11:46am 05/05/2015
  Joel got a call this morning from the estate agent, the seller has agreed to lower the price by 5000GBP if we can finish everything up and exchange keys within a week. We don't see any reason why this won't be possible, so this time next week, we should be the proud owners of this place.

Would it be too presumptuous to name it Aller House? I hope sometime (maybe this summer, maybe next) to poke around the city archives to learn more about the history of the neighborhood. The house has been around since c.1700, so maybe someone else has already given it a name at some point.
 
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three tales from nursery   
09:13pm 02/05/2015
  One day when I picked Gwen up, she showed me an egg incubator that was set up on a table, excitedly telling me that chicks might come out of them! Though they'd been checking every day and they hadn't come yet. One of the ladies overheard her, and told me surreptitiously that they weren't sure the incubator was working any more.

A few days later, Gwen relayed to me the equally exciting news that the eggs had gone back to the farm to hatch there, because "the children in nursery were too loud for them to hatch".

--

You always hear stories of children who are much better behaved at nursery than at home, and I've always wondered how Gwen is when she's amongst lots of other children, and under the disciplinary power of the Ladies At Nursery (who are clearly a force to be reckoned with, if I unknowingly transgress their rules, Gwen is sure to let me know).

This afternoon I had to get some things done, and Gwen wasn't letting me, so I eventually took refuge in my room with the door shut. While there, I heard her playing in her room. "Gwendolyn Uckelman, you sit down!" she rapped out in a sharp tone.

Well, now I know. 'Cause that sure wasn't me or Joel that she was parroting!

--

A few weeks ago a sign went up alerting parents that the kids would be taken in groups of three to the Botanical Gardens in the upcoming weeks. I didn't know exactly when Gwen was scheduled to go (and hoped it wasn't Thursday, when she was home for the day ill). This morning on the way to the library suddenly she had all sorts of stories to tell me about how she and Alexander and some other children went to the mechanical gardens, and had a picnic there, and to get there they had to walk down down down the hill and past my office and then take a bus, a double decker one, but they didn't get to sit on top, which was sad. But the mechanical gardens were fun.

Apparently she'd been telling Joel about them too, but he had no idea what she was talking about.
 
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Dies Natales   
10:46pm 27/04/2015
  In truth, this has been in the making for the last 23 years. One day when I was about 10, in boredom I took down the two-volume dictionary that graced one of the lower shelves in the livingroom and in the frontmatter discovered the list of the top 100 male and female names in the US along with etymologies. Something happened then, and some 20+ years later, the result is:


Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources
http://dmnes.org


Getting this finished was just about the coolest birthday present ever.
 
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an argument I could never win   
07:28pm 22/04/2015
  Gwen stopped to pick up rocks on the way home, though I tried to hurry her on before she could. Half-way home, she asked what I knew she would, if I would carry her rocks for her, because she didn't want to any more and didn't have any pockets. I really didn't want to carry around a pocketful of rocks, so I tried to tell her "You don't need those rocks".

"Why?"

Because they aren't special, the answer ran through my mind, and I knew before speaking it that if I did say it, it wouldn't mean the same thing to her as it did to me.

My mom moved at least two 5 gallon buckets of rocks from Waukesha to Marshfield when I was 10, moved them again across town a few years later, then back to Hartfield when I was a freshman in college, where she hung onto them for another 5 years before handing them off to put into storage at my in-law's. She knew. She knew that 25 years on, I would still be able, for every one of them, to say where and when I picked them up, why I picked them up, what names I gave them. They were all special, each and everyone, not just the ones that were shiny or sparkly or distinct in some way. All of them were special, and my mom dared the wrath of peeved movers having to move boxes of rocks three times because she knew they were special.

So instead, the best I could say was "They're just rocks". She replied, "They're just mine."

And into my pocket they went.
 
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book reviews   
02:41pm 13/04/2015
  Following the blogs of a couple of author friends (Heather Rose Jones, Karen J. Carlisle, and Christine Seaforth Finch) has over the last year or so really developed my awareness of the importance of the reader in helping new writers become established -- and in particular, the power of book reviews.

This is something that I've had to become aware of, because I don't generally read book reviews. I'm not terribly interested in what other people have to say about books (and in fact, there are a large number of books that I didn't read until quite late because of how much my mom and sister enthused about them while I was growing up). But it appears that book reviews are important, and I've been reading some interesting things lately and have decided I'll try to write up my thoughts on them.

But because this doesn't really make the most sense as a place to put them (after all, they need to be available to an audience for them to be of much use, and, frankly, my audience here isn't big nor is it interested in something I want to change except organically), I figure I might as well make use of the goodreads account I created to enter a book giveaway. So you can find my reviews here.
 
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The way to get out of the backlog is to write   
10:03am 13/04/2015
  And since I’ve got an hour at Manchester Picadilly before our train back to Durham, let’s see how far I can get catching up on the last week.

Saturday
Mom and Leah flew into Manchester airport and then took the train over to Durham in the morning; it was a beautiful day and Gwen and I walked over to meet them there. In the afternoon, we took a long walk down through Pelaw Woods, walking by the walled gardens and also joining in a dog rescue – two dogs had ended up in the river at a place too deep for them to swim and too steep for them to climb back out, and between another passer-by and us we were able to get both of them out safely. We then headed back into town and had tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam at a cafe. (This was the first time in England for both, so we wanted to make sure we hit ALL the traditional British things we could do.) In the evening, I made pizza and we watched “Frozen” – Joel’s first time.

Sunday
We went to sung matins at Durham cathedral for Easter service. I’d never been to a sung matins before; there was a lot of singing, but unfortunately very little for us. Easter is one time that I miss going to my grandparent’s Lutheran church, because the Easter hymns are some of my favorite.

Our morning got off on the wrong foot when Gwen, Mom, Leah, and I headed out the door and started walking ahead of Joel because Gwen is slow and I wasn’t sure how long it would take her (she’s actually never been all the way up the bailey to the cathedral before), and then he comes pelting down the hill after us because he’s accidentally locked himself out and can he borrow my keys? Um, no. I have no pockets, so I didn’t bring mine because he always has his. Neither of us had our phones with us, either. Thankfully, we had left the window of the upper bathroom (which opens over our backyard) open a few inches to let it air out after showering, so we knew all we needed was a ladder. We know a few of our neighbors on our street, one of whom probably would have one and the other one whom probably wouldn’t. Unfortunately, it being Easter Sunday, the first neighbor wasn’t home. The second welcomed us in because Gwen needed to use the bathroom, and we hung out in her livingroom while we considered options. She suggested someone else further down the street, so Joel want to ask him; and he ended up suggesting someone else further down, and that person had a ladder. So then we had to walk down another neighbor’s driveway – where the barking of their big dog brought them out to see what was up – to climb over the fence into our back yard. Joel was wearing his nice three-piece suit, so mom, who had leggings on underneath, shucked off her skirt and did the honors of climbing in through the window.

The rest of the day was much more relaxed. It was the nicest day of the year so far – probably the nicest we’ll have until midsummer, hitting nearly 20C! We had a waffle picnic in the backyard, and an Easter egg hunt, and then the girls played outside the rest of the afternoon. We made a lamb leg for Easter dinner – Leah’s first time having lamb!

Monday
The plan was to go to Newcastle and get on a train to Carlisle, seeing the cathedral and castle there and then on the way home stop at Hexham to see their cathedral and then Corbridge to see the Roman fort and part of Hadrian’s wall. The timing worked out such that we ended up hitting Hexham first, so that we could do lunch there, and then after that only Carlisle. Leah is studying cathedrals in school this year, so we wanted to make sure she got to see a wide range of them! I particularly liked Carlisle cathedral; its ceiling has been restored so it’s painted all gorgeous blue and gold. Amazing.

Tuesday
We left Gwen at nursery for a few hours so that mom and Leah could go back to the cathedral for a proper visit, including a hike up the tower. I’d already been up the tower, so I sat in the sanctuary and graded essays. There are worse places to grade than in Durham cathedral!

After that we stopped in the SCR for tea before seeing the Norman chapel and then heading down to the covered market to shop. We picked up some salmon for supper, and then headed back to pick up Gwen early, because she didn’t want to miss any time playing with her cousin.

Wednesday
We walked down along the river around the Bailey, and then had lunch at the Dun Cow before doing some more shopping for souvenirs and gifts.

Thursday
We hit a bunch of charity shops in the morning (I came away with some cotton brocade curtains, some linen curtains, and a truly ugly bedspread which one I cut away all the velour will leave me with some decent black and gold brocade (unsure of the fabric content, probably synthetic, but I can do some practice sewing with it). Joel will get a new undershirt and some breeches out of this, and possibly a doublet.

In the afternoon, Gwen and I made a birthday cake, blue with a dinosaur on it, and in the evening we belatedly celebrated Leah’s birthday. The week before, I’d picked up a couple of random books from the kids’ section of the library, and one – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Boat of Her Own Making – was so good, I kept thinking “I bet Leah would like this.” So I ordered her a copy and it arrived that day.

Friday
Friday we packed and got everything ready in the morning, and then got a taxi to the station in the afternoon so that we could head across the Penines back to near Manchester (from which they’d be flying home on Monday) where Crown Tourney was going to be held. We got in around 17:30, and there was already a good crew of people there, and it was lovely to walk in and be greeted with enthusiastic applause (well, most of it was for Gwen: Baba Tam was there and glad to see her granddaughter again).

It was a lovely and relaxed evening; supper was ready not too much later, I fed Gwen and put her to sleep, and then simply hung out and chatted until Joel got in (he took a later train so as to not have to take any time off work) around 22:30.

Saturday
It was a small event; or at least, there were very few people there I didn’t know, and by the end of the weekend I think almost none. The tourney ended up with only 5 entrants, two couples having had to withdraw due to illness, unfortunately. It went incredibly quickly; Her Highness Alessandra ran the list and I heralded the entire tourney, realizing, at one point, that the last time I heralded a Crown Tourney was a long time ago, so long that when I was crying the litany, I had to bite my tongue at one point to keep from saying “Give honor to the crown of the Middle Kingdom”! After the tourney was over, I was off duty for the rest of the day – their majesties’ chamberlain is also their herald, so I had no duties regarding court, etc. I got to inspect all the things in the A&S competition, watch a bit of the archery, hang out and talk some more with people, and...I think it’s actually a good thing that I can’t remember what else I did, because it means I was relaxed and enjoying myself! The Princess of Nordmark took all the young kids “treasure hunting” (i.e., geocaching), which Gwen apparently loved. She certainly came back all muddy!

Court was short and sweet, feast was served promptly and tastily, about halfway through Gwen asked to go to bed so I took her off, and she was asleep almost before I left the room. I then turned up at the kitchen to find out what needed to be done, and Joel (the feast cook not the husband) gratefully put up his hands and said “I’ve cooked, I’m done, take over!” Leah and Alexander Kilianus turned up and were vaguely floating around, so I sent them to start clearing the hall while I started in on the dishes; later, mom, Lady Hilkke, and gothwalk also came and got put to use. We got basically everything washed and put away except for the really nasty icky greasy dishes which needed to soak over night by about an hour after feast was over, meaning it wasn’t quite 22:00! Plenty of time to hang out, try Asbiorn’s lovely not-so-short mead, and chat before getting to bed at a decent time.

Sunday
Since mom and Leah’s flight was out of Manchester on Monday, we decided to spend the night there with them so we could ensure they got onto the right train in the morning. So we had a day in Manchester, and when I was there for a workshop a few weeks ago I just missed (it opened the day after I left) a neat looking exhibit at the Manchester Museum, so I knew how we would spend our day. We went there, and got to see two Easter Island statue heads! They were smaller than I expected. The rest of the museum was a lot of fun too; they had a nature exhibit for younger kids, plus a T-rex skeleton, and a vivarium on the top floor. We all split and went our separate ways after lunch, though I did leave Gwen with mom long enough to go to see the money exhibit, which was really interesting. Then we spent an hour or so in the “Discovery Center” making sock puppets before we headed out to the apartment I’d booked through AirBnB, a nice two-bedroom place overlooking the docks and really close to the station. We ordered in pizza, I finally had time to give Gwen a bath (which she’d rather been in need of since Monday’s trip to Carlisle castle where she rolled down the grass into the moat a number of times). Joel headed back to Durham that night, and we all went to bed early.

Today
Today we delivered Mom and Leah to the station bright and early, and then had an hour or so to hang out until our train. We’ll be back in a few hours and then Gwen will head to nursery and I’ll finishing grading essays today.
 
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Life's good   
10:25am 26/03/2015
  Last night, Goldwine slept on my chest, Nefertari wedged herself along my side and Widget curled up between my legs.

I haven't slept so well in months.


Neffie
Widget and Goldie
 
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a successful weekend   
07:51pm 22/03/2015
  I used to always look forward to weekends because I could get a lot of things done. I think around the time Gwen hit 18 months, I realized this was just never going to work. I'd always end the weekend frustrated and disappointed about how little I'd accomplished.

At some point, it wasn't really conscious, I switched over to the mentality that I just plan to not get anything done on weekends. Which means that some Sunday evenings I sit back and think "Wow, that was a pretty good weekend!"

Yesterday morning Gwen and I took Goldie over to the vet open surgery simply because he's still got a touch of diarrhea and I wanted to be sure it was just a result of stress/moving/surgery/injury etc. And the vet confirmed that, which was reassuring and totally worth 20GBP. Then after Thomas finished golfing he took me out to pick up Nucat, and Gwen and I spent much of the afternoon in my room with her, watching movies and being quiet and unobtrusive. Then, we went downstairs to make this (12-year-old Caol Isla works nicely; next time, I'll omit the marshmallow and put the butter and whiskey in with the caramel. The caramel would be better as a toffee; actual sea salt crystals would be better than bacon; still, tasty and fun).

This morning we ran errands after breakfast, including a nice walk in the sunshine out to the shops. Joel repaired some of the trellis in the backyard, we did three loads of laundry and got to hang them up in the sunshine, and I made rabbit and sage stew for supper.

Gwen's in bed and I've got a few hours before I have to go to bed, so I can even work on my own stuff for awhile.
 
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home is where the cat is   
06:23pm 22/03/2015
  Which means, for all its positives, Durham hasn't really been home for the last six months, at least, not my home. Widget is so very much Joel's cat that even when he cuddles up with me or sits on my lap, I can tell I'm second best. It's been hard. I miss having a cat to cuddle with, and in particular, I miss having a cat to cuddle up with while Widget is sitting on Joel's lap.

But there was always one reason or another that we couldn't go out to the nearby shelters -- all good reasons, but they eventually all disappeared about two weeks ago and I gave Joel an ultimatum: I knew we had a bunch of other things we had to do that weekend, but I didn't care, we were going out and picking out our cats.

Yes, cats. Because I was selfish enough to want a cat that would be mine, but generous to know how important it was to me to grow up with a cat that was mine to know I wanted to get one for Gwen. Besides, three cats, three people, this seems eminently sane. And I figured we could get a bonded pair -- siblings, or a mother and child, or even just a pair that had lived together for a long time.

There are two shelters nearby, and one had advertised on their website a lovely pair, including one grey and white cat with a little grey nose. So we went there first, only to find the grey one had been spoken for the day before. But we looked around anyway, and in the cages for the cats that had been surrendered (voluntarily or not) that day was a sweet little male tabby, in the class black and brown tabby pattern that screams CAT to me (because that was what the first cat I grew up with was like). He had a pretty badly injured leg, so the lady took him out of the cage but then held him rather than passing him around. Despite the fact that he was clearly unhappy and in pain, he seemed very affectionate, rubbing up against her chin and always seeking out her hand for pettings.

The other shelter had quite a few more cats, including some youngish (~6 month) ones; we knew we didn't want kittens, but young cats are fun! But we wandered around and none of them really stuck out, until Joel drew me over to a quiet little female who was simply sitting in her box, a white and calico who had arrived a few weeks earlier due to the death of her owner. The lady opened the door to her cage and I stuck my hand in, and immediately she started rubbing against it, so soft, so sweet, and the next time our friend Thomas (who was our ride) looked over, he was like "yup, that's your cat." (He should know. He came merely as our chauffeur, and ended up leaving with a deposit on Figaro, an excellent little black fellow who has proved to be very much his cat.) We left with earnest money down on her, and the next morning I called back the first shelter and said we wanted the stripey one.

There was various paperwork to do, a home visit, plus waiting for the stripey one to be neutered and have his legged checked out (puncture wound that went in one side and out the other; they think it was a dog), but last Monday (first day of Easter break), I went out to fetch him. Gwen was given full rights to his name, so she declared he was Goldie (after Goldie the Fish in Peppa Pig). I decided that since he will hopefully be her friend for the rest of his life, that a good formal name would be Goldwine (from OE wine, OG wini 'friend').

So, introducing Goldwine, who clearly knows what a good situation he's landed in:

Goldie
Goldie
Goldie

We had our home visit from the other shelter Thursday night, and thus went out Saturday to fetch my kitty home. She is an adorable fluffy sweetheart who purrs and purrs and loves being petted, but has so far spent most of her time under the dresser, so I have one photo from when I first picked her out,, and one from a brief foray onto the bed:

Nucat
Nucat

Note her lovely heraldic nose, Per pale argent and Or. She's currently rejoicing in the temporary name of "Nucat" (her originally appellation of Tinkerbell is not right), but I'm sure we'll figure out her real name soon.

Suddenly, the house we're renting has become a home. It feels comfortably full.
 
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apparently, other people think I'm an expert in names   
11:23am 10/03/2015
  This morning I received an email from the University media office asking if I would be free about 9:50 to be interviewed on BBC Radio Newcastle in my capacity as an onomastic expert. Of course, though the email was sent around 8:50, I didn't read it until about 9:40! Thankfully, I got a very prompt reply to my reply to it saying that the interview was planned for 10:10, not 9:50. I got a few calls to test that my number worked, was told that the piece was in response to this article in the Independent so I could do a quick bit of research and sketch out some thoughts, and then a few minutes before 10:10 my phone rang, I briefly spoke to the presenter to confirm how my name was pronounced while a song was playing on the radio, and then *poof* there I was, on air, airing my opinions about names.

It was pretty awesome.
 
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Gwen quotes   
02:12pm 01/03/2015
  "Please, mommy, can I have two cellotapes?" [Who knew that 'cellotape' was a count noun, not a mass noun?]

"Mommy, you seem to be awake!" [When did she learn about 'seem' vs. 'be'?]

[Gwen cuddled up next to me on the couch, under a blanket, with her head on chest.] "Do you know how much I love this, Babe?" I ask her. "I like it too, mommy."

[Gwen is at a birthday party for a friend from nursery. All the kids are sitting around the table eating; all the adults are milling around the perimeter.] "Mommy! ... I need a hug". [I go and hug her]. "Sank you, mommy!" [All the other moms look at my jealously.]
 
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work-life balance   
04:05pm 28/02/2015
  Sometimes, it's easier than others.

Back in November I found a CfP for a special issue of a journal on a topic that I don't currently work in but which I've always maintained an interest in -- it was actually what I wrote my original Ph.D. proposal on when I was first applying to grad school!: philosophy of fiction. The deadline was March 1, and in December I was going to be covering fictional discourse is Language & Mind. That topic ended up being so interesting, I changed the schedule so that we spent two weeks on it, instead of one as planned. I came away with a lot of ideas, and the sure knowledge that while I couldn't work on it over Christmas break, it was going to be first thing on the top of the priority queue when term started again.

And then Joel went to the US for two weeks, Gwen got sick, I started another paper with a student, student requests for lecture notes increased, Joel returned but continued to be working 70+ hours/week (TODAY. TODAY WILL BE THE LAST DAY.), I got sick, we got serious about looking for a house, and suddenly, the deadline was a week away. I'd know from basically the start what I'd wanted to say, and had written up two blog posts (1), (2) sketching out some of the ideas, but that was as far as things had gotten before they basically stalled. But I looked at my calendar at the beginning of this week and saw: Tuesday afternoon free, Wednesday morning free, plus part of the afternoon depending on how long a meeting went, Thursday afternoon free (assuming no one came to my office hours, which is a reasonable assumption), and ALL DAY FRIDAY free, a rarity which I treasure like gold. The paper is due tomorrow.

Nursery called at 12:30 Tuesday. Gwen had a fever of 39.8C. Took her home, dosed her with paracetemol, by evening she seemed much better, slept great all night long, No fever in the morning, she was perky and happy, so back to nursery she went.

I got out of my meeting Wednesday and they called about 5 min. later; her fever was back. Same story, it was gone by evening, she slept great, by morning was feeling fine. Thursday I taught a master's seminar in the morning, and then my usual Philosophical Logic lecture in the afternoon. In between, Joel let me know nursery called again...so I told him I'd cancel office hours and come home after lecture. We didn't even bother yesterday to take her to nursery, and, like clockwork, she spiked a fever around mid-morning -- and by evening, the snot faucet had turned on and she couldn't stop coughing. It was a rough night last night, for both of us. She was definitely still quite tired and not feeling the best this morning, but she'd been an invited to a birthday party and I knew if we didn't go she'd be devastated, so we went knowing that we could always leave early if necessary (and, as I rather expected, she perked up some when she saw the soft play play, and when she received a promise of ice cream after lunch).

When Gwen is home sick, all she wants is to cuddle up with me; I can usually placate her by playing videos in one corner of my monitor and working in the other 3/4, but the work I do is not very good, since Peppa Pig episodes last 5 min., so I have to stop every 5 min. to put a new one on. (We did managed to watch all of "The Sword in the Stone" one afternoon, that reduced some of the interruptions). I finally managed to bang out a draft. (I'm not even sure I would call it "rough") last night before bed. It is a few words shy of 4,500. The limit for the issue is 12,000. I had been hoping to hit 6,000.

Thank goodness for supportive friends who have nothing better to do on a Saturday morning than read other people's very messy writing, I sent it off to gothwalk and he was kind enough to say it was at least interesting. Tomorrow I will try to read it start to finish one more time and decide if there's any point in trying to submit it. (I probably will. I've long subscribed to the belief that the paper that DOESN'T get submitted will definitely NOT be published, but the one that is....) And in the meantime, placing those 4500 words on one side of the scale, and all the times I've lost my patience with Gwen for being sick (yesterday, convulsive sneezing resulted in mucus come out of orifices on both ends, which resulted in a lot of washing of underwear) in the other, on neither side do I measure up to the standard I want to meet.

But she'll be better eventually, and there'll always be other deadlines.
 
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