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Kalamazoo 2015 Saturday Update and Wrap-up

Well, Saturday was another warm one but absent the rain for the most part. I went to the first two sets of sessions and took the third one off for a nap. This wasn’t so much to make it through the rest of the day but so I could drive home today(more on that later). Once I got up and cleaned up I hit the mead tasting, grabbed my two display copies of books, and headed to the Pseudo Session.

I don’t review the Pseudo Session – I mean, you have to be there, right? I believe this may be the best session I’ve ever been to for overall quality of “papers.” I’d rate two as outstanding – worth being on my list of all-time greats. The other two were very good though you did have to really follow along for one of them as it was a textual analysis. Besides, learning more about the Vikings, IKEA, Petrarch, King John and Anselm is always useful. I should note that after however long he’s had the job – he was doing this at my first Kalamazoo in 2000 or 2001 (I forget) – Richard Ring is stepping down as the organizer of the Pseudo Society Sessions. He’s put a lot of work into this for a lot of years and the program always delivers. There are some folks taking over but we’ll all be sad to see him go (though I really think he needs to give a paper next year).

I did make it to the dance but didn’t hang around long, really for two main reasons. First I was bored and didn’t work very hard at not being bored – you get out of things what you put into them and I didn’t put much into it. Second, my back was bothering me. As you age, you’d think you’d want to be sedentary and sit around. For me it’s the opposite. If I sit much over multiple days my back tells me it doesn’t appreciate it and by Saturday night I’d sat a LOT. I don’t know if dancing would have helped or hurt things and didn’t want to chance it so I headed back to the dorm and went to sleep.

Which brings me to why I’m posting at about 10 a.m. Sunday. What! you may ask – does Kalamazoo not last through Sunday? Do they not have sessions? It does and they do. I was planning to attend an 8:30 but not a 10:30 session as I didn’t see one which really interested me and that would get me on the road sooner. Well, I woke up this morning – wide awake with my brain not giving any hint that sleep might return any time soon. This was at 4 a.m. So after thinking on it a bit I decided that I might as well put wheels on the road which I did and I got home right about when the first sessions would have been starting, around 8:30.

I don’t have a long wrap-up. I enjoyed it as always. I appreciated having the chance to talk to several medievalists, particularly Guy Halsall and Cullen Chandler, more extensively than in the past. As always, I like interacting with grad students. I really appreciate their enthusiasm and it always fires me up too, a little. There are worthwhile things going on and a lot of good, young people involved in doing them. I enjoy this when it’s in agriculture and I enjoy it here too. Plus while everyone is a discoverer in life, quite often I find myself more on a par with grad students when it comes to where they are on the voyage, at least when it comes to history. I’m afraid in my field I must come across as an old fogy.

I’m a bit surprised how many people recognize this blog, which also means I’m feeling guilty for not posting more often over the past year or so. The sessions were good but it surprised me that it took me a couple to really get in the flow of following arguments. I don’t recall that from the past few times I’ve attended so evidently a gap of one year between hearing papers isn’t enough to atrophy my brain but three years is. We’ll see how that works when I get to session summaries. Medievalists construct arguments differently from what I’m accustomed to plus it’s largely textual where I’m used to charts, graphs and numbers. I know in general I think a bit differently from historians, at least when it comes to looking at evidence and this was another reminder.

And finally, we should talk books. I ended up with 21. That visit to Powell’s sent me above my goal of 20. I was right on target until, while making a last scan, I spotted a translation of, On Anatomical Procedures by Galen for $10. My shopping was very different this year. I only visited about 8 booths, those where I have historically bought a lot in the past. It helped me to keep from getting tripped up though I had to work very hard to stay out of Brepols. Love their stuff but I don’t need to be buying high end monographs right now. If you’re interested in seeing the damage, you can check out my LibraryThing account for books tagged, “ICMS 2015.” Hopefully the link works.

I’m glad I had the chance to meet and talk with some of you. For those I didn’t see, maybe next year. Something could always come up but as of now there’s nothing on the horizon which should keep me away in 2016.

I’ll close with an image which you’re welcome to take a look at any time you start to miss Kalamazoo.Bilbos

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Books, Conferences

 

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Kalamazoo Friday Update – Social Time and Not Farming Naked

It’s Saturday morning and I’m waiting for it to become late enough to head to breakfast. This year I’ve generally been sleeping well, but not long. I’ve awoken each morning around 4:30 a.m. The downside of this is that in pretty much every session I’ve been to, there’s been some point where I had to fight to keep from nodding off. I’ve not snoozed my way through much, but there have been struggles and I suspect there will be again today.

Yesterday started out with light rain but that stopped early and by midday the sun was out and it warmed up. I spent the entire day in Schneider and went to three very good sessions, including my first Anglo-Saxon one in some time. I also got some work done during the break which was necessary. The intern I’ll have starting at work next week will now have a job description.

I did the solitary dinner at Bilbo’s thing, then went to the Early Medieval Europe Reception in Bernhard where I ran into Cullen Chandler, Chris Armstrong, Guy Halsall, Julie Hoffman (briefly) and several grad students, some of whom recognized this blog (one said it’s an inspiration which was very pleasant to hear).

This was evidently my evening to be a party animal as I rejoined several of these same people back in Valley III for more libations. I’m not absolutely certain but I believe these were hosted by Brill and the University of Pennsylvania Press. Brill might argue as I own only one of their books but I have enough of Penn’s that I don’t think they’ll mind me having a drink or two on them.

I very much enjoyed getting a chance to talk to some of these folks. The evening was also interesting in that I was able to discuss some aspects of my real job with several people, particularly a cover crops project I’m just getting started. Remember – don’t farm naked! Anyway, for a few minutes here and there, I actually wasn’t the least intelligent person at this conference.

Today will of course mean more sessions, Pseudo Society, possibly the dance for the first time since my first Congress 15 years ago, and I still haven’t gone through Powell’s at the book exhibit. Current book count stands at 14. I’ve been very good.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2015 in Conferences

 

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Kalamazoo Eve

Thought I’d drop a quick note before I start running through my program book and finalizing which sessions I’m attending tomorrow.

Got away from home around 2:30 p.m. after I finished mowing my pasture. After a stop at a McDonald’s that didn’t realize they’re part of a fast food franchise I got here a little after 6. Saw Lisa Carnell and Marca of Medievalist in Transit and chatted a bit, plus gave Lisa my bottle of wine for the Blogger meet-up. Saw ADM very briefly as well a bit later.

I almost left my fan at home. I figured that with highs in the mid-70’s and low’s in the 40/50 range I wouldn’t need it but I threw it in at the last minute. Good thing. My room’s on the West side of Eldridge and with the sun shining in all day and the windows closed it had to be 90.

So I opened the window, turned the fan on and got the heck out of there. I sort of hung around the lobby for a few minutes, didn’t see anyone I knew so I decided to head to Bilbo’s. I looked around for a bit and still didn’t see anyone I knew (though I think I later saw Scott Nokes – his table was full anyway, if that’s who it was). So I sat down next to a guy at the bar and it was James McNelis. Now I’d never met James before but his name was sure familiar as he and Larry Swain run the Congress Facebook Group. James and I talked about a whole bunch of things before he left. Then I started chatting with some grad students but when they started doing what students are predisposed to do in a bar I got out of dodge. At one time alcohol was fun – now it’s a poison, at least more than the one beer I’d had.

I have decided to return to my old Congress standby where I introduce myself as “the least intelligent person here.” I’ve appointed myself the Colonel Klink of Kalamazoo.

I’ve also decided to finally come out with it and call medievalists crazy. See, they write these papers, THEN present from them. That’s just plain backwards. It is SO much easier to present first and write second.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work. A couple of weeks ago myself and a colleague from the University of Wyoming gave a webinar titled Enhancing Biosecurity at Fairs and Shows. There were maybe 40 or so on the live show though hopefully more will watch the recording. Anyway, after we were done we stayed on the line to debrief and one of the first comments from one of the organizers was, “That was great, you guys should put together an article on it.” Present first – that’s the easy part, THEN put a paper together.

The humanities have been doing things their way for a long time so I don’t suppose a note from Colonel Klink will get them to change things but this process sure seems easier to me. Guess that’s one of the reasons why I’m not a historian.

If you’re at Kalamazoo hopefully I’ll run into you over the next four days. The description still fits – fat guy wearing a baseball cap who describes himself as “the least intelligent person here.” That’s OK, I’m on vacation. And starting at 8 a.m. tomorrow, that means the book exhibit. I just hope I can control myself.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Conferences

 

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Next Stop: Kalamazoo

I’ve been waiting to get excited about this year’s Congress. It finally happened this afternoon while I was mowing pasture. I have no idea why.

Yup, this is the source of my finally getting fired up for Kalamazoo. It's funny - I bought a new tractor last fall. All the bells and whistles, but I still like put-putting around on this one to mow.

Yup, this is the source of my finally getting fired up for Kalamazoo. It’s funny – I bought a new tractor last fall. All the bells and whistles, but I still like put-putting around on this one to mow.

The plan for tomorrow is as follows. My truck is all packed, with trash to haul to the landfill. Need to do that, run a few errands in town and I still have a few hours’ worth of grass to mow, about 6 acres or so. Once that’s done I’ll clean up and head north. I have no idea what time I’ll get in. And other than the blogger meet-up, I have zero social plans.

And this year’s book goal? No more than 20. I have a mortgage again.

Hopefully I’ll see some of you there.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Conferences

 

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Kalamazoo Registration is Up!

What’s more, after a two-year absence, I’m registered. For those interested, here’s Western Michigan University’s Congress page. The registration link is on the left menu bar.

For those wondering what this is about, each May a couple of thousand medievalists, along with a scattering of ignorami such as myself, attend the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. This year’s Congress will be held May 14-17. Click on the Sessions link on the left menu bar of their page to get an idea of the program. Plus there are all those books …

If you want an idea of what I think of it, you can take a look at my Kalamazoo page on this blog. There’s a lot there but this post from 2010 captures why I like it as well as any of them. There have been a few changes over the past few years (the free wine used to double as furniture polish, I’m certain of it, and now it’s fairly passable) but most of it’s reasonably accurate.

I’ve been to 8 or 9 of these since my first Congress in 2001(I think) and always enjoy myself. I had a hot streak from 2009-2012 where I made four in a row but missed the last two years. I’m looking forward to this year though I need to control my book-buying. Unfortunately, I’ve said that before.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in Conferences

 

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2014 Kalamazoo Registration is Up

The online registration for the 49th annual International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University is open. This year’s Congress will be held May 8-11 at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Great conference which I always enjoy though I wasn’t able to make it last year and it’s questionable if I’ll get there this year, though I have hopes.

If anyone wants way more information than you probably want to read, you can check out my Kalamazoo page for recruitment posts, tips, and summaries from the past three times I’ve attended. Wonderful event and a lot of fun. I encourage you to attend if you can.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Conferences

 

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2013 Congress Registration Up and Book Buying II

I really must update my Book Buying Posts. I’ve made way more than two of these but didn’t decide to number them until recently.

In any case, the first part of this post is to mention that the online registration for the 2013 International Congress on Medieval Studies to be held May 9-12 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, is now open. And yes, I was almost weepy when I saw this. Chances are good I won’t make it this year. I won’t know for sure until April and my attendance is possible, but unlikely. Still, I’ve had a run of 4 years straight, the best I’ve done since I started attending back in 2001.

In order to make this up to myself I just bought six books from an Oxford University Press Sale. Only one of those was something I’d previously wishlisted but I bought all of them at 50% or 65% off. Not bad.

Here’s the list:


  • Architects of Piety: The Cappadocian Fathers and the Cult of the Martyrs by Vasiliki Limberis (this was my wishlisted book)
  • Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium by Bart D. Ehrman
  • Foreign Cults in Rome: Creating a Roman Empire by Eric Orlin
  • The Stabilization of Rabbinic Culture, 100 C.E. – 350 C.E.: Texts on Education and Their Late Antique Context by Marc Hirshman
  • The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy by Paul F. Bradshaw
  • Perfect Martyr: The Stoning of Stephen and the Construction of Christian Identity by Shelly Matthews

My version of comfort food.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2013 in Books, Conferences

 

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Friday at Kalamazoo Part II

I left off with my last Kalamazoo Session Post about five months ago. I intend to finish these which will be an interesting experience. A couple of weeks ago I gave an agrosecurity presentation for a bunch of university types. I was able to go back to past programs I’d been to over the previous 5 years, look at my notes and instantly figure out what they meant. I’m less confident about being able to similarly decipher my Kalamazoo notes a few months later but I intend to give it a shot. I imagine there will be a few papers I won’t be able to figure out and will ignore and others where all I’ll be able to give are a few key concepts without an overall theme. So picking things up from 11:30 Friday morning …

After the morning session I took advantage of the two hours before the next in the same building and made my one foray into last year’s antisocial behavior by grabbing a chair to make some calls and make sure the program I’d strung back together with duct tape for the following week was still in one piece. Following this I grabbed a bite, ran into Cullen Chandler and proceeded to Session 282, Late Antiquity II: Christian and Pagan Culture in Late Antiquity.

First up was Doug Jarvis of Carleton University. Doug (I can call him Doug because we chatted for ten minutes or so before the session started) is a Law History student which gave him a bit of a different perspective in his paper, “The Politics of Empire and Desire in Late Roman Antiquity: A Post-sexual Revolution Era Reading of St. Augustine’s Confessions.”

My notes for this are sparse and I won’t editorialize so this will be a brief list of some key concepts. He approached this topic from the basis of two historical shifts; the modern sexual revolution and a late Roman change in faith combined with the disintegration of Roman family structures. Augustine’s conversion story was a reaction in response to failures of the Romano-Pagan society. In joining the Church an individual found him or herself with immediate value while as a member of society one’s best hope was to become a friend of the Emperor. Lust and the response to it was prominent in The Confessions. My notes related to sexuality are rather thin however I do have that a theme of The Confessions is that sexual desire is the basis of original sin and that Carleton argued that Augustine’s discussion of his personal issues were a response to the contemporary political situation. Bleh – really poor synopsis there. Sorry folks but keep reading, the rest of this post is better. I recall that Carleton faced tougher questioning, more aggressively challenging, than I’m accustomed to at Kalamazoo but I don’t remember the specifics.

Craig Gibson from the University of Iowa followed with “Art and Rhetorical Education in the Late Antique Greek East.” He looked at how education was evolving during this period to focus on the artist and art as having a responsibility to teach morality. He opened with a focus on the Progymnasmata which was a handbook of writing exercises Libanius put together to use in his school and which later became widely disseminated. Libanius emphasizes that the artist will struggle with passion and must take care that this will not destroy his capacity to create. The artist cannot escape passion, particularly love, but must be transformed to be able to create meaningful images (Gibson had a handout which emphasized visual images but Libanius must have also meant written representations). Pseudo-Nicolaus, a student of Libanius whose writings are believed to make up part of Progymnasmata, adds morality into his writings. He depicts Hera as lawfully married, a preferred status to the unlawful seeking after pleasure which existed previously. In order to honor Hera, she must be depicted as lawfully married. Ps-Nicolaus also discussed modesty, describing Athena as possessing womanly modesty however, as one breast is often exposed, she is also engaged in a battle with lust, which must constantly be guarded against. Gibson believes that this (and a couple other examples he used, such as Choricius) shows a new understanding of the role of art. The artist has become a public figure with a responsibility to perform art in such a way as to benefit their community, morally as well as by providing beauty or inspiration.

The next paper continued to focus on art. Simon Zuenelli, a Phd candidate from Leopold-Franzen University in Innsbruck, presented on, “The Dionysiaca of Nonnos as a Typical Poem of Late Antiquity.” The main purpose of this paper was rehabilitation. The Dionysiaca has a very negative reputation these days. Zuelli admitted that there are some grammatical errors however he feels it qualitatively fits in quite well with other Late Antique poetry. This poem is very digressive however this is fairly standard for poetry of this time and should not be used as a criticism.

The final paper was my favorite of the session. Robert Winn from Northwestern College in Iowa gave, “On Avarice: Eusebius of Emesa and John Chrysostom.” The primary question this paper tried to answer was, Did Eusebius’ On Avarice influence Chrysostom’s later denunciations of greed in his sermons? Winn proceeded to examine this by taking a close look at Eusebius. He denounces his audience. For Eusebius, Christians are greedy but don’t have any idea that they are wrong. He tells them that wealth causes war and divides families. Christians believe they can bribe God through offerings using money they’ve stolen from others. People are selling their souls and are willing to sell the truth. Redemption is possible however and people can achieve this by following models. These include Christ, John the Baptist, Martyrs, and the Apostles. For Eusebius, modern Christians are the Apostles’ successors, should they choose to behave in such a manner. Chrysostom uses many of Eusebius’ themes in some of his sermons, including that wealth causes war and greed results in violence. Chrysostom echoes Eusebius’ descriptions of those to model good behavior on, particularly John the Baptist. Winn believes it is possible that Chrysostom’s inspiration may have been Origen but thinks it much more likely that it was Eusebius. Really good paper and I suppose I should mention that I marked in my notes to look for Winn’s book which you can find on Amazon. I’ve wishlisted, but have not purchased it – one of the benefits of being too busy to read much on history has been that my book purchases have gone way down over the past few months though I expect that will change before too long.

I had debated what session to go to for the 3:30 session and chose wrong. Instead of heading to the third Society for Late Antiquity Session I decided to go to Session 327: Networks of Travel and Communication in the Early Middle Ages. I’ve mentioned before that a few months after hip replacement, when I really had to hustle to walk somewhere the hip started to bother me pretty significantly. So I decided that rather than walk from Bernhard to Schneider I’d take the shuttle. Well, the shuttle didn’t show up outside Bernhard until it was about time for the next session to begin so I walked in late. I’m a stickler for punctuality. One of my peeves I guess. It is a very rare meeting where I’m not on site 15 minutes or more ahead of time – the only exception is when it’s in my building. So I was very unhappy that I walked in 10 minutes late, which was not helped by the fact that the door was locked and someone had to get up and let me in. And when I walked in late I didn’t walk in on Andrew Gillett talking about, “Making Networks: Strategies of Communication for Western Embassies to the Imperial Court in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries” which was the reason I chose this session. And no, this change was not in the Congress Corrigenda.

However two speakers were there and their papers were pretty good. Although I walked in late, I enjoyed “Reconstructing Networks of Travel and Communication in Early Medieval Ireland” by Rebecca Wall Forrestal of Trinity College at the University of Dublin. She used some nice visuals to help describe archaeological evidence for local networks. When I entered she was discussing textual evidence from the Life of Bridget. Based on this, regional rulers were responsible for road maintenance. They were subject to fairly strict requirements detailing what a particular road should be able to do and instructions for building. A big issues is that while placenames may be used to indicate where roads may have been, it’s difficult to use names to date them. She provided a more detailed examination of County Waterford which includes the Blackwater Valley. As a summary, mills generally served as a community center, churches were generally located close to roads and ringforts were also fairly close. Several long distance roads (20-50 km) have been identified but they have not been able to solidly establish dates for them. While towns/villages have not been identified, they have found that many homes on farms were built fairly close to each other. She suspects there were many local trackways which archaeology hasn’t been able to find. The overall impression she had of the area is that it was a series of interlocked clusters of homes and communities.

Matthew Harpster from the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M gave a very interesting paper on, “Maritime Connectivity and Regionalism in the Mediterranean.” Harpster related what recent finds in the Mediterranean revealed about naval trade networks. By analyzing the origin of materials found in shipwrecks they are able to re-construct trade linkages. What he found was that trade by sea was regional. Materials originating in the East tended to be found in the East while materials originating from the West were found in the Western Mediterranean (his East-West boundary was the Italian peninsula). He contrasted this with the fact that a great deal of eastern amphorae are found in the west along land routes. I regret that I did not write down the dates which his finds covered. Good paper (actually he gave a presentation – not sure it was a paper) and a good session even though I showed up late and didn’t hear what I’d hoped to.

Following this session I headed back to Valley and the books. I worked my way through the rest of the exhibit by the time it closed, except for Powell’s. I debated grabbing something to eat and decided to drive up to Fetzer instead. They have a bunch of social events there in the evenings, complete with a cash bar so I thought I’d grab a beer (ended up having two) while I waited for the Projects in Digital Medieval Studies poster session. I ran into Guy Halsall on my way in and chatted with him for a few minutes. Then after I sat down I talked to a woman from Kalamazoo who home schools her kids and brings them to the Congress every year which I thought was very cool. Unfortunately, the session itself was a disappointment. It was designed for all digitally oriented sessions from Congress to have displays at and when I showed up there were only three, though a couple were pretty interesting.

I headed back to the dorm, planning to clean up a bit and then call some people and find out if anyone was as late for dinner as I was, or at least thinking of going out where there was food. Near the entrance to the dorm I heard some grad students lamenting that they hadn’t gotten to Bilbo’s. I told them that I wouldn’t take them there (figured there’d be no tables by that time on a Friday) but I’d pick up a pizza if they wanted. So I ran up there (was surprised to see that there were empty tables after all), ate with the grad students for a bit and then headed for bed.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2012 in Conferences

 

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Kalamazoo on the Blogs

Last year I saw relatively few bloggers posting about Kalamazoo. This year they’re all over the place. This page will be my attempt to provide a list of bloggers who have posted about the 2012 International Congress on Medieval Studies and who have described something about it, beyond simply, “I was there.” As I’m posting this just three days after Congress I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’ll be adding more links. Also, if I link to a blog post about Kalamazoo and that blogger adds additional posts, I won’t add all of their links (I don’t think – if I change my mind this sentence will disappear). If you know of a blogger posting about K’zoo and I haven’t included it here, feel free to either e-mail me or post a comment. The same goes if I’ve posted a link to your blog and you’d prefer I remove it.

Medievalists.net made their initial K’zoo post here and mention there may be more. I wonder if they’ll describe how they were featured at the Pseudo Society Session?

At Modern Medieval Matthew Gabriele provides his contribution to a BABEL Panel, “Against the 19th Century: A Mini-Manifesto.”

Notorious PhD posted about a strange encounter she had at this year’s Congress. I think I may throw a post in sometime about how I approach Medievalists with suggestions.

JJ Cohen discusses his Kalamazoo experience on the group blog, In the Middle. Because this is a group blog I will try to provide a link to a K’zoo post from each individual blog author as they appear.

On Grateful to the Dead, Chris Armstrong posted his Congress Paper, “C S Lewis: The classical and medieval resonances of his moral teachings.”

Historian on the Edge posted his paper from a BABEL Session (I really need to get to these), “History and Commitment: A Miniature Manifesto.”

Steve Muhlberger posted a couple of links from BABEL Session papers, including the one from H.O.T.E.

Jonathan Hsy guest posted about Kalamazoo on In the Middle.

From a new blog, for me, Bachanal in the Library discussed his first Kalamazoo experience.

Michelle Ziegler of Heavenfield and Contagions provides a summary of her Kalamazoo experience.

Jonathan Hsy just shared a post from James Smith of Australia where he talks about his Kalamazoo experience on his blog, Fluid Imaginings.

I hardly ever come across LiveJournal Blogs for some reason, I really don’t know why, but here’s what looks to be the final Kalamazoo Post from The Rose Garden. Heather Rose Jones was live blogging from Kalamazoo – I mean posting about sessions pretty much as they happened. And she has a bunch of ’em. I’m in awe.

Charlie Rozier at Rozier Historian offers a few Kalamazoo observations.

Jonathan Hsy also shared a post by Anne from Medieval Meets World. This post is less about the events of Congress than its spirit. It’s a different way of looking at Kalamazoo, at least for me.

In the Middle’s Eileen Joy authored a lengthy post in which she provides a summary of the Exemplaria Roundtable (Session 12) as well as her perspective on some issues related to Medieval Studies as a discipline and as a profession.

Jim Tigwell, another individual whose blog was previously unknown to me, posted some of his thoughts.

Megan Arnott from The Society for the Public Understanding of the Middle Ages posted a summary of their Kalamazoo session.

MEARCSTAPA, the Medieval Monster Group, (I’m not gonna try to type that out) posted a quick summary of their two sessions.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2012 in Conferences, Other Blogs

 

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Kalamazoo 2012 – Day One; The Arrival, Accommodations and Other Miscellany

Folks will be getting sick of me posting about Kalamazoo, if they aren’t already, and this one will have almost no educational content. However I want to get this out while it’s fresh on my mind, particularly since there were some significant changes which I think reflect favorably Lisa Carnell and the Congress organizers. Lisa is flat-out awesome. I’m annually impressed with what she puts together. In some ways this post follows the format of Jonathan Jarrett’s recollection of his first Kalamazoo experience.

I had some trouble getting away from home, which led to minor troubles once I arrived. Literally half an hour before I’d planned to depart I received a call about a major snafu regarding a program I’m hosting this week. I won’t go into details but basically the site where I was bringing a hundred or so attendees, several pieces of equipment and several speakers to was no longer available. The host site had a very good reason for this and there’s no blame here but I had to find an alternate site and notify speakers and attendees. This helped me to forget several items, among those being my Kalamazoo Program Book, which is essential. I realized this was absent literally on arrival. There’s a simple fix – buy a new one – but I also had to go through it and re-mark which sessions I was planning to attend. And somehow I managed to forget deodorant. This may not have mattered much to me but I’m fairly certain it would have to those around me. Luckily I have wheels so at about 10:00 I found a grocery store open (the first I came to had already closed which began to concern me) and took care of that issue. I also had thought I might pop by a winery to help ADM a bit with the Blogger Meetup but this didn’t happen either. In essence, I had a bit more stress on leaving, left later than I’d wanted to, brought work with me, contrary to my plans, and was without a few items, though I did remember my soap dish.

Shortly after getting to my room and on discovering that I could not give myself a deodorant “booster shot” (do people really want to read this? how mundane some aspects of us as a species are) I decided my attitude needed some help and I went down to the wine hour sponsored by Witan Publishing and Scott Nokes. There I had my first of several Cullen Chandler encounters and I enjoyed briefly chatting with him. I had initially thought I’d run into town Thursday morning but instead I ran up to my room and did an inventory; toothbrush-check, razor-check, shampoo-check, etc. On finding that deodorant was indeed the only personal hygiene item I was lacking, I made my town run (don’t worry, I’d had just one of those little plastic cups of wine so I think I was safe). On returning I filled in my shiny new program book with sessions to attend the following day and made my bed, thus ending day one. Now on to some accommodations/amenities details.

The food has improved. The dining hall meals were as I remembered them, however the snack bar in Schneider was open through the week where in the past it was only open Thursday. This is a major improvement. The food there isn’t exactly good – you grab a sandwich which has been pre-made and sealed in plastic – however it is a way of consuming calories without having to run off if you happen to have your last morning and first afternoon session in Schneider, as I did on Saturday. Bernhard has a complete food court with multiple options (long lines but you have two hours for lunch).

The provided soap was brand-name. I always bring my own soap as I have literally dozens of little bars of the stuff at home from hotel stays and might as well use it up – same for shampoo(I actually like the stuff Sheraton provides, maybe I’m weird) – but I was impressed by this anyway. My bed/mattress was the best I’ve ever had there. They had bolted plywood to the bedframe to eliminate the pesky sagging issue and I actually had a real mattress, not one of those thin foam things. I also had two beds which always helps as a location to put books.

Wireless Internet access is now available in most of the dorm rooms. There were only a couple of dorms without and happily mine received it. I have a feeling as I read other reports that this will be HUGE. Of course there was the inevitable letdown when I returned home to 3G access through my aircard but it’s not Kalamazoo’s fault that I live in Siberia/rural Central Indiana. The same held true for the exhibit area. Most used digital credit card readers. I only had a couple of mechanical card swipes.

Now a word of caution. Among the items I forgot was my leg weights. Since my hip replacement I have some exercises I do and even 5 months post-op, doing these absolutely makes a difference. If I ever forget them again for four days and have wheels I’m finding a sporting goods store; for some reason I didn’t think of this until I was driving home. I walked to sessions Thursday and realized this was about all I wanted to put the hip through once I’d come back from Bernhard to a late afternoon Valley Session. However I didn’t want to drive for some reason. I soon found that the shuttle service is fine to get to things first thing in the morning, and fine for the two-hour lunch break, but on Friday I tried to use it to get from Bernhard to Schneider in the half hour between the two afternoon sessions (my hip was speaking to me rather loudly at the time) and ended up walking in late to that session (where the speaker I really wanted to hear was not in attendance, more on absent speakers later). I hate walking in late. It’s rude and disrespectful and shows a lack of concern for the others in the room. Sometimes this is unavoidable. For instance, a speaker may end up talking to several folks following their session and just not be able to make it. I had no such excuse though the young lady whose talk I walked in on accepted my apology graciously. In any case, that was the last time I used the shuttle for the half hour between sessions. This is likely more my fault than theirs and I don’t want to come across as blaming anyone for it but offer this for future reference as to what the shuttle can and can’t do. I ended up making at least one “half trip” (usually back to Valley) each day. It was OK and there was never any risk of any injury/harm, it was just uncomfortable, particularly when I had to set a decent pace.

So the accommodations were improved (my camping with walls reference may no longer be applicable), as were the meal options. The wine and free coffee service continue to be good; I only availed myself of the coffee Saturday morning following my ill-advised pizza and beer dinner when I had no interest in breakfast.

I’ll follow with posts on sessions and what I did Thurs-Sun in the coming weeks. If I recall anything to add regarding facilities/accommodations/amenities I’ll insert those but I think this is most of it. Lisa Carnell and the Conference Committee deserve a lot of credit for continuing to work to improve Congress. I was pleasantly surprised by a number of things.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Conferences

 

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