Thursday, 19 December 2013

Book banning and the Anarchist's Cookbook

This popped up on the Library Link of the Day today.

After latest shooting, murder manual author calls for book to be taken 'immediately' out of print, NBC

I have to say that my basic stance is a big fat NO to banning any book. Most knowledge can (and will) be misused, whether that be The Anarchist's Cookbook, Fifty Shades of Grey or Winnie the flipping Pooh1. I also feel that it is easier to blame the book than seek solutions (whether that be regarding gun control, alienation, mental health issues, bullying or whatever).

The list of banned books grows each year and I'd hazard to say that all are bloody stupid. I may disapprove of material published by

Thursday, 14 November 2013


In the middle of a write up on QuadriviumIX but this just came to mind...

How many hours can one feasibly study for when also working full time? Given I'm a PGR student my times to study are fairly flexible, but what is reasonable to expect of myself?

24 hours per day, 7 days in a week, gives a starting point of 168 hours.
I'm straight away going to deduct 8 hours sleep and night because I know I need that, so minus 8x7 leaves 112
So far so good

Now I work at 37 hour week officially. Then add 2 hours each morning for up and travelling, plus at say and hour and a half home again in the evening. That's minus 37 + (3.5 x 5) = 54.5 hours lost.

Still leaves me 57.5 hours to study. In theory... :)

So my current self expectation of 24 hours ago week is probably quite reasonable and still leaves time for spending with TGO and basic living.

What was the point of this? Dealing with the unreal expectations of Evil Ex Manager who tried to put me off by telling me that he'd had to study 40 hours ago week minimum every week (and therefore by implication that I shouldn't do this). I feel less overwhelmed too by seeing what is available to me to use if I don't spend all my time swallowed up in tinterwebs.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

I did it!

Still mostly in shock, but I did it! Didn't dare say anything sooner but it's finally real and hit me that it's real.

As of 30 September 2013 I have been registered on the MA by Research course at a rather good university in the Midlands :) *happy dance*

For a short while it looked like I wasn't going to be able to take up the offer, as I was originally registered to do the MRes, which has a small taught component, and my employers changed their minds about letting me have a day release (would have been doing 37 hours in 4 days instead of 5). My department have been awesome however and helped me to find a solution which turns out to be even better than the original plan!

So, I am studying part-time, meeting my tutor in school holidays when I can travel to her, or meeting via Skype otherwise. This is good!

I'm working on an analysis of wills from the Testamenta Eboracensia examining paternoster beads / rosaries (PN/R). Aim is to try to understand how the owners viewed the objects - as jewellery, a devotional object, to be left to men / women / children / servants / superiors? Yes, I have a lot of questions, but I'm hoping to continue this study into doctoral research, so I don't expect to answer even half at this stage.

Currently I'm working on a list of 21 wills which I know contain mentions of PN/R and logging basic data on a spreadsheet.

Next stages:

  • Decide how the data is going to be logged in Access (TGO will be writing it for me thankfully!)
  • Complete a literature review which can then be beaten into being an opening chapter
  • Work out what the chapter structure will be (no idea at present)
  • Arrange to got to York to view a few of the originals to see how faithful the TE transcriptions are to the originals
  • Decide if / how many wills other than my pre-selected 21 I will analyse for comparison.

Well, should keep me busy for the next few years at least! :)

Oh, and I'm off to Quadrivium IX too, which is pretty scary for me, as I'm still heavily in the Imposter stage of my academic life..

Anyways, back to data extraction!

Friday, 30 August 2013

BL Yates Thompson MS 13 – Graphical stories 1

Recently I've been trawling through various manuscripts looking for marginalia to use in a possible future project (more on that another time, if it gets off the ground!). This evening / early morning I've been flicking through the BL digitisation of the Yates 13 mss, which has a long series of bas-de-page scenes. Unlike some mss these neither link to the nearby text nor are (semi) random images that the illustrator liked. All these seem to be depictions of events in a story-like format. I don’t know enough about this specific manuscript to know whether there is a known reason for why these illustrations are shown, but I loved them so I thought I’d share with the BL’s descriptions of the scenes alongside. The one that particularly caught my eye was a scene of hunting ladies, particularly because they show archery and hawking. There are three women shown, I think, which the last image seems to back up. I have identified them to myself as Blue Lady, Red Lady, and Purple Lady, because I'm creative like that! I may do the preceding story later as it’s a retelling of a short story of the 'elderly knight Enyas' (BL description) rescuing a damoysele from a Wildman, some of which have captions in Middle French. I've tried to lay the images out so you can easily see which were facing one another. For context, the text at this point is the part of the Hours of the Virgin. The manuscript itself is dated to the 2nd quarter of the 14th Century, and is in the use of Sarum.

Hunting scene story

Cy comence jeu de dames...
(Here begins the game of the ladies...)
f. 68r: Bas-de-page scene of a lady with a bow and arrow, and a hare, with a caption beneath reading, 'Cy comence jeu de dames'.
f. 68v: Bas-de-page scene of a lady shooting an arrow at a rabbit. f. 69r: Bas-de-page scene of a castle, with two ladies in the battlements, and another lady sending her hound after a rabbit, which scampers up a hill at the right.
f. 69v: Bas-de-page scene of a lady hunting, beating a bush for rabbits. f. 70r: Bas-de-page scene of a lady setting a net over a rabbit warren to catch rabbits.
f. 70v: Bas-de-page scene of a lady sending a hound into a rabbit warren in order to flush out rabbits. f. 71r: [...] bas-de-page scene of a lady feeding the entrails of a slaughtered rabbit to her hound.
f. 71v: Bas-de-page scene with a lady tying two or three rabbits she has caught. f. 72r: Bas-de-page scene of a lady walking towards a tower, carrying rabbits on a stick in one hand, and leading two hounds from a leash in the other.
f. 72v: Bas-de-page scene of a lady hawking by a golden fountain, beating a gong to frighten two ducks. f. 73r: Bas-de-page scene of a lady hawking by a stream, releasing her hawk to fly at a duck.
f. 73v: Bas-de-page scene of a lady hawking observing her hawk bringing down a duck. f. 74r: Bas-de-page scene of a lady hawking, bringing in her hawk with a feathered lure, while a rabbit flees to the left.
f. 74v: Bas-de-page scene of a lady hawking, carrying a dead duck in one hand and her hawk in the other. f. 75r: Bas-de-page scene of a lady hawking, perching her hawk.
f. 75v: Bas-de-page scene of a lady hawking, bringing her hawk to another lady. f. 76r: Bas-de-page scene of a huntsman kneeling before the entrance to a castle to inform the nobles within that game has been sighted.
f. 76v: Bas-de-page scene of two ladies riding out of a castle gate, followed by another horse. f. 77r: Bas-de-page scene of two hunting ladies dismounted ; one holds her horse whilst the other carries a boar spear.
f. 77v: Bas-de-page scene of a hunting lady, piercing a boar in the throat with her spear. f. 78r: Bas-de-page scene of a hunting lady blowing the mort, carrying a boar’s head on her spear.
f. 78v: Bas-de-page scene of a hunting lady whipping her horse, urging it onwards. f. 79r: Bas-de-page scene of a hunting lady mounted, stringing her bow as she rides.
f. 79v: Bas-de-page scene of a hunting lady shooting an arrow from horseback. f. 80r: Bas-de-page scene of a stag rearing on its hind legs, having been just shot through the throat by a hunting lady.
f. 80v: Bas-de-page scene of a kneeling lady in the middle of a hunt, with two hounds on a leash and a bow in her hand. f. 81r: Bas-de-page scene of a grazing stag (the prey of a hunting lady).
f. 81v: Bas-de-page scene of a kneeling lady in the middle of a hunt, having just shot an arrow towards her quarry. f. 82r: Bas-de-page scene of a fleeing stag (the prey of a hunting lady).
f. 82v: Bas-de-page scene of a hunting lady holding back one of her hounds. f. 83r: Bas-de-page scene of a hound leaping on a downed stag (during a lady’s hunt).
f. 83v: Bas-de-page scene of three ladies cutting up a stag they have hunted, whilst another lady blows the mort.

I admit to some small disagreements queries on these interpretations:
  1. f. 75v - the bird looks more like a dead duck than a hawk. The beak is more hawklike than the other ducks shown, so I can accept this one with a bit of squinting
  2. The ladies at the beginning have their hair covered, but the later ones don't. Why? A simplistic interpretation could be that it was meant to show them loking 'immoral' or even more 'manly'? Their dress seems definitely female so not at all sure what, if any, significance their uncovered heads may have.
  3. What's with heads on poles? Both the boar and the deer heads are held aloft - just standard trophy taking?

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

IMC 2013

Two days done and thoroughly enjoying myself. Staying overnight this year for the first time which has proved to be a fantastic idea.

Sessions so far (which will turn into links if/when I get around to writing them up!)

Am- travelling
Lunch - 199 cookery books
219 multilingualism
334 osteoarchaeology
Round table: modern medievalists and avant-garde archivists.

Breakfast too good :-)
532 only caught the last paper but was a thoroughly interesting one on ladies in waiting of Philippa of Hainault.
630 Digital Pleasures II: Tools for dating and describing script - absolutely packed session!
712 Did they have that back then?
833 Water
Round table: Assessing the Mediaeval Digital Ecosystem

And now to bed, and no perchance about sleep! Zzzzzzz

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A few articles

A few articles to talk about sometime:

Education and Pornography
Should teachers discuss pornography as part of a child’s sex education? (

Do we need more ways to measure HE?

Why is everyone so annoyed with me?
A recent opinion piece by a Nottingham academic in the New York Times on whether literature can help us to become better human beings has sparked fierce debate across the internet. Professor Gregory Currie, of the Department of Philosophy, looks at the arguments for and against and why his editorial has caused passions to run high.
~~ fiction has taught me emotive responses

The Political Power of the Idea
Because they can contain ideas, the tyrant will always fear the power of words and images. It may be force that ultimately topples them, but it is always an idea that motivates people to threaten such force. Ideas may be vague or mean many different things – freedom, equality, fairness, change – but if enough of the people can unite around them, the unjust ruler knows there is everything to fear.


"I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by." 
~ Douglas Adams (Simpson, 2003)

Or perhaps I ought to quote Britney with “Oops, I did it again!” but that’s a shuddersome thought, so I shall NOT go there *fingers in ears, whistling*

I am good at talking myself out of doing things because I doubt myself to the point where I convince myself it’s pointless trying. It is something about myself I am trying my hardest to stop now that I’ve caught myself doing it, and I’m realising it’s a fault I’ve been guilty of over most of my life so it’s going to be a hard habit to break, but ultimately one I NEED to fix.

So far this year I have not done many things I wanted to do. This is pathetic and I must fix it.
To self shame, here is my list of things I've not done because I've talked myself out of it. Some are retrievable and I WILL do so.
  • Applied to Manchester (MA / MRes) 
  • Applied to Leeds (MRes) 
  • Applied to Trinity St. David’s (MA) 
  • Contacted Birmingham (MRes) 
  • Applied for an awesome Institutional Repository job 
  • Applied for another half dozen jobs
It’s June, that means 6 months of this year gone. I need to be realistic and pragmatic, but I also need to take some risks. Not bad risks, just to try things that might fail. I’ve made a small start – I have applied to some jobs which are probably beyond my reach (Hi there Oxbridge), which would be dream opportunities for me. Not all of this has been self-doubt and procrastination though – I’ve lost the last two weekends to in-law deaths and big figure family birthdays, which I things I have to acknowledge as being beyond my control.

I will say though, that more and more jobs are fibbing about what is Essential vs. Desirable. It used to be (or at least it seemed that way), that if you met all the essentials, you would get a call to interview, but now it seems that unless you also meet ALL the desirables, you’re not really in with a chance. Either that or every single job I’ve applied for over the last year or so has had someone already in mind, which I doubt!

My plan to stop dithering:
  1. Complete MRes draft by Next weekend – all the background is done, the reading that isn’t complete can be done after I’ve passed it to Potential Supervisor #1 for commentary
    Problems to solve – “I’m not good enough!” “My research idea is poor!” “They’ll laugh at me” and “But it’s not perfect!” 
  2. Apply for a job per week – if I don’t get interviews, I don’t get interviews, but it’s practice at selling myself
    Problems to solve – “I’m not good enough!” “My experience is insufficient!” “I don’t know how to describe how I know it” 
  3. Fill in applications for Manchester(s) and TSD
    Problems – Pretty much as for #1 
  4. Contact Potential Supervisor #2 – while doing background reading I noticed that two people who are/have been researching related aspects had both had the same PhD supervisor in the last couple of years. I will send Draft to her and ask whether they feels this is an area they could supervise.
    Problems to solve – All of #1 PLUS “They won’t want to talk to someone like me!” and “They won’t even bother to reply”
Initial responses to my internal wibblings:

“I’m not good enough!”
I have a good (2:1) undergraduate degree from a perfectly good university and an MA from prestigious one. I am passionate and interested.

“My research idea is poor!”
That is what the submission of the first draft to supervisor will challenge (either me or the idea!)

“They’ll laugh at me” / “They won’t want to talk to someone like me!”
If they do, I won’t go there, but most academics I have spoken to have been positive and encouraging. The only knockbacks have actually been from administrators at a general level, or from other faculties (i.e. ones I wasn’t interested in anyway!)

“They won’t even bother to reply”
That has only happened once, and I probably didn’t approach the situation in the correct way. This time I have spoken to Academic #1 in person (who asked me to send a draft), and I will contact #2 with draft so that there is something to discuss rather than a vague “I’d like to study with you”.

“But it’s not perfect!”
It won’t be – I have to just deal with that fact!

“I’m not good enough!”
Try, learn, try again, learn more

“My experience is insufficient!”
13 years post graduation is NOT insufficient (in general)! Work with The Ginger One to practice elaborating on what I have done so that I bring out the skills I’ve learnt.

“I don’t know how to describe how I know it”
Practice. Work with TGO to sell myself more positively. Keep a running list of “things wot I ‘ave done”, especially for vague concepts like Project Management, Working through Change, etc.

Added bonus one:

“It’s too late in the year”
Then the application will be for NEXT September or a January start. Get it in, get sorted out, get the place secured as early as possible instead of rushing.

Simpson, M.J. (2003) Hitchhiker : a biography of Douglas Adams

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Busy busy

Lots of radio silence while writing up an MRes proposal. Bloody frustrating trying to track down things you "know" but now can't cite for the life of you...

Currently trying to track down the source of a memory regarding mediaeval widows. My memory is of a statement that it was not uncommon for mediaeval women to take vows of chastity in widowhood to avoid forced remarriage before the were ready. Google searching leads me to suspect that my memory is drawn from Henrietta Leyser's Mediaeval Women but since my copy is still packed away I'm a little stuck. Since this isn't central to my proposal I'm working around it, but its going to bug the hell out of me until I track it down again!

I have also 'found' Twitter. Awesome, another way to procrastinate... *rolls eyes at self *

Have promised myself that I will complete the draft proposal this weekend and send it to my hoped-to-be-tutor(s) next week. Had a mad panic when an article seemed to be exactly what I want to do, but since it wasn't her thesis I think I will be OK, and I may even have found a possible supervisor in the supervisor of the author. We will see...

Friday, 8 March 2013

Role models and Women

An article in the BBC Sports section this morning set me off thinking about role models past and present... Who did girls look up to? Why? Who do we remember and why?

Two things stuck out to me:

1. The women the general public remember from the wider medieval period are the sensational, not the politically active (or at least not primarily FOR being politically active), not the religious nor the wholesome...
2. Plus ça change - looks remain important...

Who are key medieval women?

How does the fact that they were female affect how they are viewed in their own time and historically?

Giovanna di Napoli / Giovanna d'Angiò - was a Queen in her own right, yet her reign seems frequently to be analysed in the light of her femininity (or lack), her alleged sexual indescretions and whether she was complicit in the murder of her first husband.

And it's not just medieval women either. Ask many lay persons about Catherine the Great of Russia, and they will talk of her as the woman who allegedly died having intercourse with a horse (she didn't), or who had innumerable lovers.

To Be Continued

(Publishing as part of a push to stop leaving stuff eternally in draft)

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Old but funny...

This happened a fair few years ago, but I just remembered it.

Location: Well established, multi-group cross period re-enactment event in the South East of England.

Man walks up to friend in medieval encampment and asks various sensible questions.
Friend explains answers.
Man asks if he can take a photo.
Friend agrees.
Man asks "So how did they take photos in your time?".
Friend just was too thrown to do more than stare.
Man shocked that Medievals didn't have cameras


It was people like this gentleman though that set me off studying history formally. How? Well both re-enactors and audiences have this sort of perception of the Middle Ages, and would ask questions which I could only answer with research. Biggest example of this was "But wasn't everyone dirty in the medieval period?"... cue 8 year (and counting) project on personal hygiene and the perception and interpretation of cleanliness in the past.