Conference blogging

This week I’ve been attending the CLIR Scholarly Communication Institute here at UVA and having a blast. Among the highlights: a presentation on the amazing Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library; another on the history of the Roman de la Rose project at Johns Hopkins; and a talk by Deanna Marcum of the Library of Congress during which a lightning bolt struck and I suddenly started having ideas about how to reconfigure my dissertation topic into something rather different but very much connected with what everyone was talking about at this gathering. (More on this anon, I think.) Oh, and some really, really good food. I haven’t been this well fed in months.

Now my brain is reeling a bit from four days’ worth of uploading. You know how the title character of William Gibson‘s Johnny Mnemonic has cybernetic memory implants in his brain so that he can courier information back and forth?* That’s kind of how my head felt after a while. (Note to self: the next time you go to a conference or convention or similar, do not continue drinking coffee late into the afternoon just because there’s a coffee urn right there, because then you won’t be able to sleep at night and will find it much harder to concentrate the next day, coffee or no.) But it’s a good kind of brain-reeling.

Best of all was being among people who believe in democratic access to information, who are deeply and articulately concerned with making sure that knowledge doesn’t stagnate in tiny, isolated pools of specialization, and who want scholarly work to reach outward and over (in the words of one of the speakers) rather than simply upward to the tenure-gatekeepers. I rarely heard this kind of public engagement — or this kind of collaborative effort with people from other disciplines — when I was in graduate school. Watching the digital-library presentations, I thought "This is exactly what I want to be doing."

And now I get to actually do it. Honestly, I still can’t believe my luck.

* I’m thinking of the short story, not the movie adaptation, which was not one of Keanu Reeves’ greatest moments, alas, and not one of the great moments in book-to-movie adaptation history either.

Various and sundry notes from the past week

This is going to be another miscellany post. I’m still catching up. Anyhow…

Fun with arcane cataloging systems: Today I spent the morning taking a mini-class on MARC records. And I dug it. Once I realized that the bibliographic software I used for my dissertation uses the same fields, it all made sense, and I started plotting ways to catalogue my own book collection. LCC@home, here I come!

Strange C’ville legend learned today: rumor has it that Theodore Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, used to live here in the big house visible on the top of a nearby hill, and that Charlottesville is the model for Hooville in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (this is funny if you know that "Wahoo" is the term for UVA-ers). I’m told that there’s no truth to this rumor, though.

Oddest food item seen at Foods of All Nations, a grocery store specializing in imported goods (thanks to Todd for telling me about it): vegetarian haggis. In a can. (It may have been Macsween’s Vegetarian Haggis; I forget.) If you, as I did, wonder what exactly goes into a vegetarian haggis, the Vegetarian Society UK has a recipe. The part of me that’s descended from a long line of Scottish people is intrigued, but also a little horrified by the sacrilege. However, the rest of me would rather eat something made of lentils than something made of sheep’s innards.

On the recent news coverage of the Kerry/Edwards campaign: My thoughts exactly. Also, as for the ongoing marriage amendment thing: I’m getting very, very tired of trying to think of clever ways to say "Bite me, Bush administration."

Weather report: lots of crazy thunderstorms, including one last night that resulted in flash-flood warnings. I looked out of my window and saw the red clayey soil at the edge of my neighbors’ garden turning into a big rust-colored puddle.

Current state: twitchy about continued apartment-hunting.

And, according to the latest quiz that’s been making the rounds…

The Hermit Card
You are the Hermit card. The Hermit has chosen a solitary spiritual path. He shines light on his inner self and, by this means, gains wisdom. The Hermit’s home is the natural world and it is by being in tune with that world that he learns the laws of nature and learn how they operate within himself. His path is a lonely one as he lives in silence and has for companionship only his own internal rhythms. But those crossing his path are touched by his light and wisdom. Though often alone, he manages nevertheless to instruct those who meet him and guides those who chose to follow him on a path towards enlightenment. Image from The Aleister Crowley Tarot deck.

Which Tarot Card Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Perhaps it’s because I just moved to a new city where I don’t yet know very many people? (Via Harrison, who’s the Hierophant, and Rana, who’s the Moon.)

Dear blogosphere…

Dear blogosphere,

I know I’ve been too distracted to pay much attention to you lately, but I do miss you, and I promise I will stop neglecting you before too long. The thing is, I don’t want to use my working hours for blog-surfing, and I’m temporarily without home internet access. But I haven’t abandoned you, honest! I’m just short on time and on things to link to. My writing urge is coming back now that I’ve had a chance to settle in, though. I just finished my first week of the fellowship, and later this month I’ll be taking a class on electronic texts in XML at the University of Virginia Rare Book School; later still, I’ll be attending a seminar at Bryn Mawr for all the CLIR fellows. I’m already learning an immense amount, and I feel more eager and excited about my work than I have in quite some time. In my spare time (and it’s rather wonderful to have evenings and weekends clearly delimited as "spare time" with no I-should-be-grading-papers-why-can’t-I-get-anything-done guilt), I’m slowly exploring Charlottesville and figuring out where to go for used books, alfresco meals, cheap movies, and international foodstuffs.

And now I have to go get ready to look at some more apartments, because my current apartment is only mine until mid-August. If I can get my hands on a camera before I move out, I’ll post pictures.

Apologetically yours,
Amanda, who is currently using a terminal in the student union next to some random undergraduates

Greetings from Virginia

The move is over — or at least Phase 1 of the move, Phase 2 being the part where I find a more permanent place to live and get my stuff out of storage. Everything went fine, even with down-to-the-wire packing and three airplanes to catch. I arrived in Charlottesville on Friday and spent the holiday weekend recuperating from the move and catching up on a massive sleep deficit. The change of setting — from gloomy basement grad-student apartment in the Midwest to pleasant little 19th-century building back east — is already doing wonders for my state of mind. This morning, I got up early and ate breakfast on the balcony of my new apartment, which is only mine for the next month, so I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can. Tonight, if I can get tickets, I’m going to go see Fahrenheit 9/11 at the Vinegar Hill Theatre. (I was so busy with moving that I missed it on its opening weekend.)

I don’t have internet access at home yet, so there will be limited bloggage for a little while. I start work on Wednesday. Further bulletins as events warrant.

Totally loopy

Yes, it’s yet another post about packing. Sorry, but that’s pretty much all I can think of right now. Those of you looking for hardhitting critiques of academia, random poetry, or amateur music-criticism, try back in a week or so once the dust has settled. And I mean that literally: I just vacuumed under my bed for the first time, well, since the bed arrived in the apartment, and there was so much dust that my stalwart little vacuum cleaner overheated and spluttered to a stop. Killer dust bunnies. Terrifying dust bunnies. Frank from Donnie Darko dust bunnies. Bunnies, bunnies, it must be bunnies!

Ahem. Anyway. What I was going to say was, I’ve come to think of packing as having a depressive stage ("urgh, why bother, just pitch everything, my God why do I even have this much stuff, everything will go horribly wrong, I think I need to lie down now") and a manic stage. This evening I got some kind of strange second wind and hit the manic stage. Suddenly I was all "hey, this is FUN, this is like doing a great big jigsaw puzzle, whoohoo, I can cram the Tupperware into that stockpot! I’ll just keep going all night!" The triggering event may have been the discovery of the missing jumbo roll of tape, which had rolled under the one piece of furniture I didn’t think to look under.

I’m now winding down for the night, but I’m still a bit loopy. Imagine the Magnetic Fields‘ song "Chicken with its Head Cut Off" as the background soundtrack for this post. (Nothing like singing the chorus of that song — "Well, my heart’s running ’round like a chicken with its head cut off, all around the barnyard, falling in and out of love. Poor thing’s blind as a bat, getting up, falling down, getting up…who’d fall in love with a chicken with its head cut off?" — as you run from room to room like the proverbial headless chicken yourself.)

Entering countdown mode / Summer movie reports #2

A week from today and I’ll be in Charlottesville. Lots of packing still to do. Expect light blogging for the next couple of weeks.

In other news, I saw Chicago the other night as part of the outdoor film series, and it’s just as enjoyable on repeat viewings (I’d seen it twice or three times before, but only on the small screen) as it was initially. I thought that maybe my attention would start to drift after a while, since my two favorite songs — "When You’re Good to Mama" and "The Cellblock Tango" — both come within the first half-hour or so. But that wasn’t the case. Nobody sang along, but there was a ripple of applause for Richard Gere at one point, which reminded me that Chicago is one of those movies that made me like an actor or actress I ordinarily don’t like. Usually, Richard Gere bores me, but make him tap-dance in front of a courtroom and I find him much more tolerable. (Other movies in this category: Wonder Boys, where for once in his career we weren’t supposed to think of Michael Douglas as sexy, thank God; The Royal Tenenbaums, in which I actually liked Gwyneth Paltrow; and Magnolia, in which Tom Cruise convinced me that he could act, not just stand around smirking while occasionally dodging explosions.) Though, of course, Chicago really belongs to Mesdames Zeta-Jones, Zellweger, and Latifah.

You know, between Chicago and Moulin Rouge and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, I think I might be entering a movie musical phase. Anyone have any recommendations?

Right. Back to packing. Talk amongst yourselves…

The Secret of the Mysterious Secondhand Book

(That’s my attempt at a Nancy Drew-ish title, by the way.) Via Bookslut and LISNews: an article about the enigmatic and fascinating objects found in secondhand books. I once had an idea for a short story about a character who likes browsing for used books, and starts to find a lot of books that have all been owned by the same person (he can tell by the handwriting), and eventually pieces together an entire history based on this person’s marginalia, discarded train tickets used as bookmarks, jotted notes on stray pieces of paper, and so on. But, according to this article, other writers have had the same idea. Grumble.

Signs that you may be getting overly preoccupied with moving

1. You drop off a few pieces of clothing at the dry cleaners’ and then forget to pick them up until the beginning of the following week, at which point you discover that the cleaners have closed for the summer and won’t re-open until September, by which time you will be long gone. And your first thought, after "Crap! How am I going to retrieve them?", is "Well, at least that’s less to pack."

2. You’ve lost all vestiges of self-consciousness about being seen in public scavenging discarded boxes. Sure, people occasionally give you weird looks, but so what? If they have no idea why someone would want to economize on their moving costs, well, that’s their problem. They’re probably the same people who live in the quarter-million-dollar houses on the edges of town, keeping the property values astronomical and contributing to the ridiculously high cost of living in your area. You dislike these people anyway, with their SUVs and their expensive all-natural hemp-fiber clothing and their bland privileged cluelessness. Il faut épater le bourgeois! Or so you tell yourself as you duck down another alley in search of another promising stack of cardboard.

3. You would ordinarily be happy at the thought of your 19 or 20 smallish cartons of books, because rooms with lots of books in them make you feel at home, and you know that once everything’s out of storage, they’ll be one of the first things you’ll unpack. But now you lie awake worrying about how much they’re going to add to your moving bill.

4. Upset at the fact that you’ve managed to lose a jumbo roll of packing tape somewhere inside your small one-bedroom apartment, you wind up on all fours peering under furniture muttering "I just saw it ten seconds ago, now where did it go?" and also "What the hell is wrong with my BRAIN, I’m coming down with ALZHEIMER’S, I’m having a senior moment and I’m only twenty-nine, aaagh," and — hey! There’s still no sign of the tape, but a search under the sofa turned up a missing tin of shoe polish and a copy of James ElkinsPictures and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings (highly recommended, by the way) that you thought you’d lent to someone and never gotten back.

Somewhere in one of Margaret Atwood’s novels (Cat’s Eye, I think) there’s a passage about the Madonna of Lost Things, who looks after objects that have gone missing. I’ve a feeling I’m going to be invoking her a lot in the near future. Madonna of Lost Things, pray for my missing roll of tape! Our Lady of Objects That Disappear, keep the books safe on their long journey to Virginia!

A cure for the book-box woes

Given all the books I’m moving? I seriously need some of these. And while I’m fantasizing, maybe this lamp for overhead reading light. (Via Apartment Therapy, which is just waaaay too addictive for one who’s already obsessing over potential living spaces and how to furnish them.)

Tea break

In the Food Blogs to Watch category: NiceCupOfTeaAndASitDown. Because on days like this one where I’ve gotten into a severe fret over the sheer amount of packing/jettisoning/selling-off that has to happen within the next two (gulp) weeks, I could really use a nice cup of tea and a sit-down. Actually, even more than that, I want someone to pat me soothingly on the shoulder and suggest a nice cup of tea and a sit-down. And this blog, with its focus on tea and biscuit reviews, is somehow very reassuring.

And now I can’t resist quoting an all-time favorite Buffy line:
[Spike to Giles after the latter has just finished fighting a vampire:] "Poor Watcher. Did your life pass before your eyes? Cuppa tea, cuppa tea, almost got shagged, cuppa tea?"

Dammit, a world with no more Buffy in it. I need a nice cup of…oh never mind.