Final Kalamazoo Summary – or "I ain’t gonna do THAT Again"

01 Jun

Phew! OK, I’m glad I did it but I won’t be posting summaries like this at any future Congress. I’ve always written up a summary of sessions for my own use and those have taken 20-30 minutes per session to put together. I thought that was where I was going with this until I actually got into it – it’s a very different summary when it’s for public consumption, you have to keep checking notes to make sure you’re accurate and, to be honest, I’m worried that with the level of detail I went into that I would misrepresent what someone said or, particularly for papers outside my area, I might leave a crucial item out. If someone sees something in any of these, please comment. Things put on the web matter – if something isn’t right I’d like to fix it – of course that doesn’t mean I’m going to say I liked a paper when I didn’t.

So as a way to ease myself down, I thought I’d offer a few final Kalamazoo thoughts. This will be a somewhat rambling account and I’ll try to avoid repeating something I posted in any of the daily updates.

As always, I enjoyed it immensely. The sessions I attended were very good overall and I can honestly say I learned something from all of them and a great deal from most. I’ve noticed some comments from other attendees about no-shows among presenters. Interestingly, I noticed this last year but didn’t come across it in 2010. At one of Florin Curta’s 2009 sessions I attended only 1 of 4 was there and there were a few others who didn’t make it, usually no more than one in a session. I attributed this to the growing recession and schools cutting their budgets. This year only 1 presenter didn’t make it for one of my sessions and he was accounted for in the corriega.

Aren’t grad students great? The grad student papers I heard were every bit as good as anybody’s. And I enjoy getting to speak with them after sessions. Grad students always bring energy and enthusiasm – I don’t care what field you’re working in. They still think they can change the world – and some of them will, at least a little.

A note on maps. I happen to build maps as part of my real job using GIS and GPS. And I’m not an expert – there are folks who can make ArcGIS dance. I learned what I needed to do my job. However, PLEASE, if you have a map or diagram in a paper – either as a visual or handout – and it’s not oriented with North at the top, PLEASE (again) put a directional indicator on your map or diagram. There are three things necessary to make a “real” map – a spatial diagram, a directional indicator (usually a north arrow) and a distance scale. Now if your map/diagram is oriented with North at the top, fine, but if not, throw in a little compass with the 4 compass directions. Several presenters included maps/diagrams or used a visual which had things laid out a bit different directionally – when they made directional references – “we found a cemetery to the west” or “there appeared to be some excavations indicating a canal to the south” – it took me a while to figure out what they were talking about. I may be a bit anal about this since I work with maps but it really would be helpful.

A few other observations.

  • The free coffee continues to improve and even the free wine wasn’t horrible
  • Temperature control in session rooms needs to be looked at – not sure there’s much that can be done but I was in several sessions where it was excessively warm
  • I know it’s a medieval conference but is the exhibit room ever getting wired so we can use debit cards?

I always come back from Kalamazoo with a list of “Medieval Resolutions.” OK, maybe not a list but ideas of things I need to work on. Here are this year’s, including one I always ignore.

1A. Re-learn Latin. I knew Latin 25 years ago. Can’t say as I was great at it but I got along OK. I can BS the average guy on the street that I know what I’m talking about but the reason I put “no latin” in my profile is that from the perspective of medieval history, being able to study source material, it’s no Latin. I’m ignoring this just like I have every year – maybe when I retire and have time to really devote myself to it I’ll change my mind but what would I use it for? It’s not like there’s some mystery archive waiting to be discovered by someone without a history degree. And when I look at Wheelock’s or a Latin grammar I feel like I never saw it before in my life. I can live with staring blankly when someone passes out a handout in Latin at Congress – I have so far. And to be honest, I can handle the ones that are a bunch of one-line statements. It’s getting an entire paragraph that leaves me in the dust.

1B. Read some books in Spanish and French. It’s strange how quickly I can pick these back up compared to Latin. I have been pretty decent in both these languages. I am not at the moment but with either of these two, if I pick up a book, the first 20 pages or so are murder, the next 40 are tough, the next 40 a pain but manageable, and by 100 pages in I’m pretty much reading along with occasional assistance from my buddy Larousse. For what I do, reading books and magazine articles – and blogs – in French and Spanish will do me more good than Latin. The next step is writing/posting in them but reading comes first. Unfortunately, no German – REALLY no German.

2. Beef up my historiography. Not only do I not have a history degree but I haven’t taken a formal history course since my junior year in HS – I took an Anthro course in college which I enjoyed. I need to work on general concepts. I’ve picked some things up along the way but I need to take a little time and actually work at it.

3. Use the library more. I was sitting at lunch with a faculty member of a SLAC and started talking about what I could find at our library. He said, “We can’t get those here.” If my employer ever takes a look at what I check out they’d be shocked but having a major research university library system to work from is something I need to utilize. There are five books, all priced at over a hundred dollars, that I want to read in the near future – they’re all in our library with the word “Available” under status. I’ve taken advantage of JSTOR and MUSE, not enough of the books. I am very fortunate in so many ways.

I’ll be putting up a new web page, “Kalamazoo 2010” and will include a link to all my ICMS-related posts. I think I’ll put some internal links so all the session summaries, daily updates, etc., are together.

It was fun – to everyone I met, it was great seeing you, to those I didn’t – sorry but maybe next year. And if you presented and have an issue with something I put in a summary, or you attended a session and see something you feel isn’t right, please either post a comment or e-mail me.


Posted by on June 1, 2010 in Uncategorized


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5 responses to “Final Kalamazoo Summary – or "I ain’t gonna do THAT Again"

  1. Jonathan Jarrett

    June 1, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I've been really impressed with the judiciousness you've brought to these posts, Curt, and you've probably saved me a great deal of writing with them since we seemed to be in so many of the same sessions. But yeah, they're a lot more full-on than I would now contemplate writing. You deserve all plaudits for the effort.'Enough Latin to have a stab' is often enough full stop, especially when you work as late as I do; of course, you have a bit more pressure on if you're trying to read Origen :-) And, lastly, I recognise the speeding-up of comprehension you mention for French and Spanish. Those two I can more or less drop in on, I use them so frequently, but with German it usually takes me about a book to work up my reading speed again—after which, of course, I don't need it for another few months

  2. Medieval History Geek

    June 1, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I was about at number 3 in those when I asked myself what I was doing – but by then I had gone too far to quit. Then again, just about every thing you post has that level of detail and more – your A-S Christianity/Conversion post you just put up, for example.Languages are interesting. When I lived in Texas I became pretty decent in Spanish – no way I'd call it fluent but I got along. But I never wanted to speak it – always afraid of messing up. And most of the folks down there understood English decently but had the same issue, in reverse. The embarrassment factor. So there were people I did business with – and one guy I worked with – who had conversations – I'm talking how we talked to each other all day – where I'd speak in English and he'd talk to me in Spanish and we got along perfectly well. To an onlooker it must've seemed goofy but it worked for us.

  3. Jonathan Jarrett

    June 2, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    I can easily imagine that kind of exchange in Catalonia, actually. My spoken Catalan is pretty weak; I need more time out there…I will give that level of detail for a single paper or review, and that seminar you mention was a full hour's talk, so actually more content than a whole Kalamazoo session, but if you look at my conference reviews you'll see that I now try and keep it down to a small paragraph per paper otherwise they take ages. I'm also trying to do something slightly different from you, in that I also try and impose myself on the content. My blog has that advertising purpose that means I have to add my own voice, whether I know enough to do so or not…

  4. theswain

    June 3, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Curt, Cudos for all you've done, and I found each post interesting and helpful. Seriously. I know it was a lot of work, and being a bit lazy myself, it's why I've never done this either. (That and I tend to be a visual learner: if I read it, I likely will remember it; if I hear it, not so much, and I suck at note taking). BUT having said that, since you and I have similar interests, and I didn't get to a number of the sessions I wanted to, your detailed notes transformed into posts have been so very appreciated and welcome.Let me know if you are serious about the Latin. We can maybe work out an online tutorial.

  5. Medieval History Geek

    June 3, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Nah – some day maybe but there isn't much point right now. Besides, I just looked at my Library Thing account – I have 13 Latin grammars or dictionaries. If I want to learn it, I have the resources, complete with a Wheelock's Workbook.


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