strange_complex: (Snape writing)
I seem to have rather good work mojo on at the moment. Not in an achieving incredible things sort of way - but just in a rather satisfying getting on with it and ticking things off the 'to do' list sort of way. I'm in a run of busy teaching weeks which will last for another fortnight - but I'm keeping on top of things in a way which suggests that once things slacken off a little on the teaching front, I should be able to get some Actual Research done. Y'never know.

While this is clearly a Good Thing, it does seem to mean getting behind with my LJ. So, in order not to accumulate an overwhelming backlog of stuff which ends up preventing me from posting, let's have some bullet-points:
  • I went to a lovely concert in Chapel Allerton on Saturday with [livejournal.com profile] big_daz, featuring northern-based choir Renaissance Voices singing a rich programme of Monteverdi, Palestrina, Gabrieli and the like. It was very beautiful, and Daz and I had a grand old time drinking and chatting in a nearby pub afterwards.
  • I finally chose a bed! And Argos are delivering it tomorrow. I look forward to this immensely, as I deliberately chose a super-comfortable mattress for it, and am pretty sure it will be a great improvement on my current cheap single mattress.
  • All week long, some Tibetan monks have been creating an amazing multi-coloured design out of sand in the University's Parkinson Court. I thought they were painting it at first, but when I looked closer, I realised that they were actually very slowly and carefully releasing a stream of sand-grains onto the paper from thin conical tubes. It's incredibly intricate and amazing - and tomorrow afternoon they are going to destroy it, to show the impermanence of things. Their work, and the associated exhibition of photographs, trinket-stall and information stand, has triumphantly outdone a similar photographic exhibition which the Chinese society put on in the same space a few weeks ago, and which I'd forgotten all about until [livejournal.com profile] glitzfrau reminded me. In the Parkinson Cultural Propaganda Wars, it is China: 0, Tibet: 1.
  • On Sunday, I shall be going along to the opening rehearsal of a non-auditioning Leeds-based choir, The Sacred Wing. Basically it's for LGBT people who like singing sacred music, and this year they're preparing Vivaldi's Gloria, Handel's Zadok the Priest and a few carols for a Christmas concert. This is very cheering to me after last week's experience - not having an audition is a very promising start, and I'm assuming they'll be more than averagely receptive to the idea of a woman singing tenor. Plus I looked through my score of the Gloria, and the tenor line doesn't go below the E below middle C, so NO-ONE can tell me I don't have the range for it!
That's all of note, really. But at least I can post from fresh next time.

strange_complex: (Snape writing)
1. Last Wednesday - went off for the day with Mum on the Severn Valley Railway. We saw partridges, pheasants, rabbits, butterflies, great crested grebe, elephants, bison and gazelle. Although I suppose it's only fair to explain that the last three were in a safari park visible from the railway. Enjoyed a lovely picnic at Arley, then walked along the river a bit, glorying in the warm weather. All the way there and back, I examined properties along the route with a buyer's eye. I can't help it now - force of habit.

2. On that note, I'm still waiting to hear about the house. My first offer was rejected; I raised it to what was my absolute upper limit and said so; the seller relayed that it was rather less than she wanted but she'd think about it; I enquired again of the estate agents on Friday, but they said she still hadn't decided. I do know that no other offers have been made, though. So ideally she'll wait a bit longer, see that no-one else is offering and accept my bid. Two people saw it over the weekend, apparently, but I know a lot of people have seen it by now and very few have offered, so I'm cautiously hopeful.

3. Thursday to Saturday saw me attending the annual Classical Association conference. Well, actually it carried on this morning too, but I decided to bunk the last part for the sake of a lie-in and some more relaxed parent time. I must say it was probably the best CA conference I've been to (out of three altogether) in terms of papers and general conviviality. Logistics perhaps not so great - it was in a fairly second-rate hotel, with not wonderful food and tedious queues at the lifts to move around the building. But I spent the conference dinner last night (in the much nicer surroundings of the University of Birmingham's Great Hall) with a big grin on my face, feeling on a high from the whole experience. There's too much to record now, of course, but highlights were the comedy caretaker during John Henderson's opening lecture, some cracking panels on Roman cities and all flavours of Classical Receptions (including Buffy and Achilles / Patroclus m-preg fanfics), and all the lovely people I got to catch up with.

4. Did some enjoyable shopping in Brum on Saturday afternoon - scheduled as excursion time for conference-goers, but I'd been to all the places they suggested visiting many times before, having grown up here. Surprised myself slightly by buying some baseball boots - not my normal style, but I really was desperate for new shoes by this stage, and I think they can become my style. Also got CivCity: Rome, which I've wanted for about a year now, ever since I first heard it was coming out, and was reminded of by a great session on Classics in computer games at the conference. And I enjoyed just generally wandering around Birmingham city centre, experiencing the weird combination of things which haven't changed at all and things which are totally unrecognisable, and exploring the various memories which streets and buildings threw up in my mind. I'm proud of my roots here.

5. Term starts again tomorrow. Wah! Only two weeks of teaching and one of revision classes, but they're going to be pretty tough. I'm more-or-less ready, but have a lot to do over the next few days.

6. Haven't seen this week's Who yet, as I was out at the dinner last night, and now my parents' cable box is broken! So that will have to be squeezed in over the next few days too. Have been reading people's online reactions, though. It seems to have provoked quite a lot of discussion and some division.

7. I am travelling home first class in the train tonight, because there was a cheap weekend upgrade available, and I've always wanted to try it out. It'll be a bit different from the Severan Valley Railway, where we were in a third-class compartment!

All in a day's work

Wednesday, 7 March 2007 11:00
strange_complex: (Cathica spike)
Yesterday, leaving work at around 7pm, I realised that I had spent three hours of the day teaching (lecture on sources for Julius Caesar; lecture on Roman houses; seminar on issues and problems with Pompeii) and three and a half learning things (2-hour Italian class1; 1.5 hour Leeds Classical Association lecture on ancient entertainments as illuminated by inscriptions from Aphrodisias and Ephesus). And I wasn't even going home, either - I was going to have dinner with some colleagues and the lady who had delivered the Classical Association lecture, Prof. Charlotte Roueché.

I'd not met her before, but wow! She was amazing. A firebolt of energy, fantastically interested in everything and everyone around her (related to her subject or not), extremely insightful and superbly well able to communicate her specialist area in all its complexity to non-experts, and have them laughing along and utterly absorbed in what she had to say. That's what I want to be like when I grow up, please.

It was a great day, though. One of those where you feel wrapped up and stimulated by everything going on around you, and it's all so exciting that you don't feel tired at all. Well, not until the end of our meal, anyway, by which time I had faded like a wilting violet, and was fighting unsuccessfully to suppress yawns...

Now today I have just spent the whole of the last two hours writing important emails and filling in a rather silly risk assessment form for the trip I will be taking students on to Lincoln: "Is the area politically stable?"; "Are at least two members of the party competent in the local language?"; "Have the local police been consulted?". Um... I know Lincoln has its dodgy areas, just like any town, but seriously - the most dangerous thing my students will be doing on the trip is crossing the road... just like they do every day.

Time for a bit of lecture preparation, I think.
---------------
1. During which we made origami penguins and told each other how to make our favourite recipes.

strange_complex: (Oh Penny!)
Man, it's a good thing that when I finish writing lectures on my home computer for use at Warwick the next day, I not only upload them onto the University server over their intranet, but also email them to myself, just in case.

Because it means that when I do something completely and utterly stupid, like upload two copies of my lecture notes onto the server, instead of one copy of the notes and one copy of the handout, I still have another place where I've put the files, and another chance of having got it right. Which, thankfully, I did.

*blood pressure slowly normalising*
strange_complex: (Claudius god)
Because, when looking up primary texts to illustrate a lecture on Augustus' use of imperial freedmen, you find gems like this:

Cassius Dio, Roman History 54.21.2 (on the year 15 BC) - 'Not only had the Gauls suffered much at the hands of the Germans, but much also at the hands of a certain Licinus. And of this, I think, the sea-monster had given them full warning beforehand; twenty feet broad and three times as long, and resembling a woman except for its head, it had come in from the ocean and become stranded on the shore.'

Presumably this 'sea-monster' was actually some kind of whale. But yes, of course: when a whale gets beached on your shores, you just know financial exploitation (Licinus' main crime) is bound to be around the next corner. Good old Dio.
strange_complex: (Handel)
My journey home should take about an hour and a half. That's rather longer than anyone would wish to spend travelling of a cold and frosty night anyway. And when Virgin cancel one train and delay the next, leaving you waiting for an hour in the dark and the fog, you tend to get a little annoyed. Especially given that I do not think I have ever experienced an on-schedule train on that journey, ever. And delays of an hour happen at least once a fortnight. Leamington Spa station has become like my own personal hell. And as winter draws in, it's getting worse.

Still, there are points on the plus account. For one thing, I got to use the word 'fuck' perfectly legitimately today in a lecture. Twice. The lecture was on literacy, and this came up in the context of graffiti around a brothel in Pompeii. The kids loved it, as I'm sure you can imagine.

I also inherited a discarded copy of the Guardian on the train, which had a Sudoku puzzle in it. I think I am just going to have to buy a book of those, as I'm frittering away quite a lot of money these days on newspapers which I buy primarily for the sake of their Sudoku.

But, most importantly, when I finally fell into the house at 9pm exactly, I found waiting for me the Alessandro Moreschi CD which I'd bought in a fit of excitement after hearing extracts from it at a pre-concert talk in Birmingham two weeks ago. So I'm listening right now to a voice recorded more than a century ago (some tracks 1902, some 1904) - a voice which had already been artificially shaped and preserved through castration by 1870.

Between the gulf of time made palpable by the crackly recordings, and the almost alien quality of the voice - not just in its pitch and range, but in the very different singing conventions of turn-of-the-century Italy, and the obviously Papal context of the music - it's arresting and astonishing. When I first put it on, I actually found myself sitting curled over into a protective, foetal position on the sofa, gaping in astonishment and slight uneasiness at the un-human (not inhuman) sound I was hearing.

I'm used enough to it to sit here and type now, but it hasn't lost its impact. To think I'd thought for years that barely 3 minutes of this existed, and now I have 52 minutes of it, here in my very house! I'm always going to prefer Robin Blaze and his ilk. But this has, yes, a very special beauty all of its own.
strange_complex: (Claudius)
I really like what Ovid has to say about Februry 9th in his Fasti1: so much, in fact, that I am going to share it with you here. The reference at the beginning relates to the last entry: he didn't write about every single day of the year, just the important ones.

"When, five days later, the Morning Star has lifted up its radiance bright from out the ocean waves, then is the time that spring begins. But yet be not deceived, cold days are still in store for thee, indeed they are: departing winter leaves behind great tokens of himself."
(Fasti 2.149-52, Loeb translation by Sir J.G. Frazer - also of Golden Bough fame).

It seems to fit nicely with today being the Chinese New Year: a fresh beginning is upon us, although winter ain't over yet.

Meanwhile, here in Belfast, I am starting to see crocuses in the University's flower beds (purple ones, no less), and blackbirds are singing.

Now, I return to writing about gigantic and unwieldy early Roman coins (with pigs and elephants on them - yay!) for tomorrow's first-year lecture.

-------------
1. A poem about the Roman year which describes all the festivals and astronomical developments which occur day by day... up until the end of June, that is, after which either the text is lost, Ovid never intended to write any more anyway, or he was sent into exile while the poem was still unfinished (most scholars today prefer option b).

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