I'm sitting in my hotel room at Kzoo, comfily tucked up in bed (this hotel now has Sleep Number beds, and while they're not as nice as Tempurpedic, they're pretty close!), having enjoyed a yummy room service meal. I am completely lame, but I love room service, and the hotel now has three restaurants' worth of stuff to choose from, so I had some nice pasta with shrimp and a piece of tiramisu. And in true introvert fashion, I find that by the end of three full days of conferencing and talking to people I don't know very well, no matter how much fun it is, I'm very ready for some time on my own to recharge.
So, what's worth reporting on?
Thursday night was the blogger gathering, and it was lovely to meet some of the folks out there face to face. It's been really funny meeting you all in real life - some of you are just as I'd pictured, and some are very much not, but either way, it's great to be able to put faces to words. Celandine and I met up with Another Damned Medievalist, and while I knew we were likely to be meeting up with her at that particular place and time, when she walked up to us with a big grin on her face, I thought, "Oh, that must be someone Celandine knows." Well, yes, but it was someone I knew too! I did the same thing at the blogger meetup - when people showed up after I'd got there I kind of goggled at them to begin with, thinking, "Who are they and why are they here?" So I'm a little slow, folks. Oh, and I wanted to apologize in general because at least twice at the blogger meetup I found myself asking people questions they'd already answered, and I really was paying attention, I swear - it's just new-person-overload! You realize I live (mostly) by myself and don't get out much, so I'm losing all my social skills. Please bear with me!
Many of the bloggers were also present at the blogging panel, too, which I enjoyed, although most of what was said there was stuff that I've seen come up in discussion on blogs before. But that's kind of inevitable, when you don't know what the audience does/doesn't know about the conversations on the different blogs. And there were some very interesting points about how people who blog under their real names/who blog more medieval content than I do have benefited professionally from their blogs. I started feeling a little inferior (I'm good at that) and wondered if I should include more medieval content. But then, if I really do want to talk more specifically about medieval matters, it may be easier just to blog under my real name. After all, pseudonyms don't eliminate the need for self-censorship. Although if I used my real name, I'd probably self-censor different things. So who knows which works better.
The session I was in went very well, I think - I was rather overprepared (VERY unusual) and so I'm not sure I was incredibly graceful in winnowing things down for my own contribution, but overall the panel was very good, with lots of interesting discussion from both participants and audience. And it was fun. And one of the panelists turned out to have rather similar interests to mine, and I ran into her at another session and we had a lovely conversation, so that was a nice bonus.
I've also run into the Number Two Mentor, another person who has been incredibly helpful and supportive without any material benefit to herself (she's Number Two Mentor because there is a Number One Mentor who's done the same but to an even greater degree - and no, neither of these are my graduate advisor). Well, okay, our work overlaps a lot and so she has legitimate (self-interested?) reasons to be interested in what I'm doing, but I think I still benefit more than she does. She gave a fascinating paper and we had a couple of lovely conversations, too - she asked after my research and volunteered/agreed to read my manuscript (someday!), and we had a neat talk about publishing and spouses. (Oh, and I got to see my name in the acknowledgments to her new book!)
I have to say, it definitely gets easier and easier to come to this conference - it continues to be huge, and ever-growing, but each year there are more people that I know, and that makes it easier. It's so nice to walk through the crowds and run into people I can talk to and am happy to see, and a lot of that is just endurance - the more often I attend, the more I meet and talk to people (who actually seem to remember me in subsequent years).
Of course, the less fun part of being here is wandering through the book exhibit and seeing books out by people who finished their degrees when I did or since then. That rouses my green-eyed monster, who sleeps only fitfully at the best of times. But it's not like I can do anything about it, except perhaps to harness that monster and put it to work writing my own book (which Number Two Mentor said would be "fabulous." I hope she's right!).
On the comic relief side:
Celandine and I walked past Terry Jones, who presented here this afternoon. After watching his Crusades documentary a bunch of times (because I show it every time I teach the class), I find I'm a little Terry-Jones-ed out, so I didn't go to hear his talk, but it was still amusing to see him in the flesh, just walking by himself like any ordinary medievalist. (I thought about asking him for an autograph, but he was carrying heavy stuff and looked cranky.)
I also attended a session today in which one of the speakers was a classic old-fashioned British gentleman - he had a rather sharp tie and shirt with French cuffs and nice cufflinks, as well as VERY long (and not especially clean) fingernails, and, um, well, a fragrant aura. Seriously. I mean, I was sitting through the papers and suddenly thought, "My goodness, I STINK! How embarrassing! How did I get this stinky without realizing it?" But eventually I came to my senses and realized that it was NOT ME.
Finally, in the spirit of previous conversations about how to look at conferences, there is the woman I've seen around a few times - she's probably around sixty, and has a short little bowl-esque haircut with very short bangs, and her hair is dyed about four different neon colors - orange, gold, fuschia, and purple. It's pretty amazing, especially paired with the leopard-skin skirt she had on the other day. It's not a look I'd go for, but I have to salute her courage.
Anyway, Celandine is back and I should relinquish the ethernet cord momentarily. To end on an academic note, I have heard some interesting sessions - some on London, some on love and marriage. If I'm looking to avoid grading tomorrow, I may post some brief summaries, if anyone's interested.