Sunday, May 29, 2011

We are the people of the book. We love our books. We fill our houses with books. We treasure books we inherit from our parents, and we cherish the idea of passing those books on to our children. Indeed, how many of us started reading with a beloved book that belonged to one of our parents? We force worthy books on our friends, and we insist that they read them. We even feel a weird kinship for the people we see on buses of airplanes reading our books, the books that we claim. If anyone tried to take away our books - some oppressive government, some censor gone off the rails - we would defend them with everything that we have. We know our tribespeople when we visit their homes because every wall is lined with books. There are teetering piles of books beside the bed and on the floor; there are masses of swollen paperbacks in the bathroom. Our books are us. They are our outboard memory banks and they contain the moral, intellectual, and imaginative influences that make us the people we are today.
-Cory Doctorow

Friday, May 27, 2011

Looking to the future

A couple of months ago I was certain that I would not get into any of the grad schools I was applying to. I fucked around a lot in my first two years and while I did pull my marks up they still weren’t that great. I had resolved myself to taking a couple years off to go travel and teach English abroad and do a bunch of other things to make money before returning to school and hoping those things would make my application more appealing when I did re-apply. I was being realistic- I had a back-up plan. Turns out I didn’t need one.
            I, somehow, got into the three schools I applied to: The University of Oslo (Norway), Aarhus University (Denmark), and the University of Iceland. Oslo has always been my number one choice and it is where I will be going in August. The other schools look fantastic but Oslo’s program just seems to be the best fit. Iceland was Medieval Icelandic Literature: while I’m super interested in the literature I want to focus more on the Vikings and their history and what the sagas and literature can tell us about them and what the medieval Icelanders thought about their cultural Viking history then studying the literature itself in-depth. Aarhus’s Viking Studies program doesn’t officially exist but is made up of a combination of a couple different faculties and a partner institution. I would have to make up my own program between all of them and perhaps even take some undergrad courses where the assignments would be tailored for me. While developing a custom program for myself has some appeal I think it would mostly be a major pain and I’d rather not deal with the politics of several faculties. So at Oslo I’ll be in the Nordic Viking and Medieval Culture Masters which is under the Medieval Studies (middelalderstudier) program. It’s interdisciplinary (the only right way to study the Viking/Middle Ages) and has some very interesting looking courses. Runes ftw!
I’m ecstatic about getting in and very very excited to go but there’s always the self-doubt. What if I’m not ready? What if I can’t handle it? People (mostly Wardy) have told me I’ve grown over the past couple years, that I’ve matured and that they’re proud of me. But have I really? What do I do differently? (besides rarely partying)?  I still wait last minute to do assignments, in my last term I still skipped a number of the readings for each class, I still slept through some ridiculously early-morning classes. Even in my last term I handed in an assignment a week late; first because I needed to get another more important assignment done and then because I had no motivation to do it, and then the paper I did eventually submit was admittedly way sub-par. The way I approach and complete assignments has not changed yet I manage to get higher marks on them. It’s possible I have become a better writer or am now able to make more poignant connections and conclusions but I’m not sure I have made the necessary personal changes necessary to excel in the academic world.   
I’m also going to have to make a painful trip to the bank soon and get a loan in order to afford living in Oslo and that has prompted numerous questions from the parents. Namely- “you will be able to get a job after this right?” I’m well aware of the crappy job market in academia so I bend the truth a little. This fact is something I’m much less concerned about at the moment then the other worries because it’s something I’ll deal with when the time comes and there’s nothing that makes me want to jump into a career post-graduation anyway.    
I should go work on my presentation for a conference next week. See, I’m even working on my dream topic and I’m still not motivated.
Tl;dr- whiny self-doubt about school. Blah.

But then every once and a while I'll just be sitting and remember that OMFG I'M GOING BACK TO OSLO IN AUGUST!!! I GOT IN. HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT FAEN! and that overwhelms the crappy doubt issues. :D

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review: The Protector's War by S.M. Stirling

 Rating: 3/5
Why I read it: Read the first in the series for a medieval studies class and really enjoyed it. 
In Dies the Fire,  the Change stops all technology from guns to cars and everything between. In the post-change world people are forced to adapt to the new yet old modes of living and most form a pseudo-medieval type society. This books takes place ten years after the Change and life has become oddly normalized but the evil medieval history professor is still hell-bent on controlling everything. The communities of Juniper MacKenzie and Mike Havel work together to improve life for their people and protect everyone against the machinations of the Protector and his warlord barons.
What I thought: I think it's largely a case of middle book syndrome because while I enjoyed the book I didn't really care about it. It was mostly just setting the stage for A Meeting at Corvallis. As a medievalist who is getting more and more into the re-enactment side of things I think I enjoy these books so much because of their premise. Several times I thought that it would be great if such an event did occur and my skills and knowledge would become relevant while we "return to nature". I think I enjoy the premise more than I like the actual book considering there are several things that drive me crazy:
1)The Wiccan stuff. I'd feel the same about any religion or faith because there's just too much of it and it just exudes craziness way more than any of Astrid's fantasies. I understand and appreciate the way religion is used for social cohesion and it's understanding how such a religion could take ground in such a world. However at times there was so much of it it bordered on preachy, especially when Rudi is concerned.
2) the italics . He uses them for both thoughts and sign language dialogue which when used together on one page can get choppy and confusing. He also uses italics and un-italics for emphasize which is simply annoying on the eyes when used with the frequency he does. 
3) Juniper, Signe, Eilir all annoy the crap out of me. Astrid may be the crazy one but she annoys me the least. Stirling is terrible at writing female characters apparently considering I love severl of the main male characters.
4)I did enjoy the descriptions of everyday life in the post-Change world but there was way more of it than really necessary.
5. Parts of the book skipped back and forth in time. He provides little chapters heading with the date and location of the chapter but I had gotten into the habit of ignoring those as they are unnecessary for all but perhaps 6 chapters.
6) Should have a different title. There is no war in this book.
Overall, it was a fun read despite the aforementioned problems and I will read the third novel eventually.