Saturday, May 22, 2010

Linlithgow Palace

How conflicted must the man have been
Who, posted high atop Linlithgow's tower,
Would daily scan the placid, verdant glen
For any sight of opposition's power.

The loch below, on clear and sun-filled days
Would gleeful play with cooling gusts of air;
The multiplex, refracted rainbow rays
Were dancing, rapt in the Creator's care.

And even through a damp mid-Lothian mist
The guard would look about at gentle slopes
And wonder how the present world had missed
Its true and peaceful Avalonian hopes.

Instead, he knew the harshness of that state
That all around him called reality.
“For anger, lust, deceitfulness and hate
Is all there is or has been or will be.”

Perhaps the guard would dare imagine, with
A disbelieving grin, a time and place
When one could stand up here (it is but myth)
To merely wonder at Edenic grace.

Then shaking peaceful thoughts out of his head
He deems mere idle dreams, he looks again
Upon the far off hill; from there his dread
Will any moment come, his violent end.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Time Management

Having Peter at home is so much cooler than having him at the hospital. Obviously, Peter's presence 24/7 demands an immense (though not entirely unexpected) amount of time, but if all I had to worry about was Peter, who cares about the time commitment? And, let me give a tremendous shout out to Lara who spends more time with Peter than I do and still manages to be surprisingly productive, though she doesn't see it that way. The problem is not Peter, it's all these other things I'm supposed to be doing, most especially a little thing called a doctoral dissertation.

The way the PhD program at New College works is that your first year is technically probationary. After nine months or so in the program you go before a review board. For that review board, I have to submit an official dissertation proposal, a sample bibliography, and a sample chapter of around 7000 words. My review board is June 9. I knew back in February as I was looking ahead to the coming year that March would be very busy with Peter related things, and that we would have visitors in May, so I expected to have a busy April working on getting ready for the review board. Fortunately, I've managed to produce something that I am actually satisfied with. It's not really related to what I thought my dissertation would be about when I first got here, but it's good work, I think, and I've learned a lot doing it.

What's really surprising, despite the fact that every time I've tested it its proven true, is how the more I have to do the more I am able to do. This was always the case in undergrad, where my worst semester was the one where I did not take 19 or more credit hours. All the extra time strangely drained my general productivity. The same appears to be true now. Not only do we now have Peter at home AND I have a hard deadline in front of me, but I've also continued to be involved in soccer and church, joined the church's men's choir, started attending an OT reading group, worked on my increasingly glitchy desktop computer (AARGH for defective motherboards), read at least one novel a month, played a lot of Nintendo and Super Nintendo games on my computer (via emulator), and begun two new online MMORTS games to the two I was already playing regularly. All this AND I wrote a chapter that was too long (the unedited file for my 7,000 word chapter originally had around 20,000 words). I trying to figure out what I've been neglecting. Oh yeah. This blog. But I did post the two poems.

Ok, so I really want to tell everybody about this MMORTS game I'm playing called Lord of Ultima (MMORTS – Massively Multiplayer Online Real Time Strategy, for those not in the know; though it actually looks like some sort of Mars candy, maybe like chocolate-covered fruit-flavored M&M minis). It's a city/empire builder where the construction times and army march times take longer time than a standard single-player real-time strategy. There are no NPC (non-player character) cities. Every city on the map is (or was; many are abandoned) operated by a real live person who might very well live in an entirely different country. So when you raid a city, somebody on the other side of the world curses in a different language. I love cultural experiences!

The “Ultima” part of Lord of Ultima is familiar to those who have experience in RPG's (role-playing games) going back to the 80's. The Ultima series is classic, and the foundation for Ultima Online, the grandaddy of MMORPG's (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game; this one just sounds like a Borg whose circuits got crossed: “Serstistance is fulty!”). Admittedly, Lord of Ultima's connection to the Ultima game series is thin, but it's still kind of cool to see some familiar monsters, dungeons, and place names. Plus, the graphics are among the coolest I've seen for MMORTS's (though it would be even better if the buildings changed as they leveled up, like in Kingdoms of Camelot).

So as you can see, I've been spending my time well. Seriously, in actuality, as I've filled up my schedule, my productivity has increased more than accordingly. I find that having a game or two (or three) to check periodically throughout the day helps my concentration when working and increases my research/writing stamina. This welcome paradox has been very fortuitous (or, should we say, providential?) recently, because I have not been able to dedicate five days of any week in the last three months to research because of either Peter's doctors appointments or computer troubles. Fortunately, the three to four days per week that I can dedicate have been doubly productive.

Instead of a haiku of the week, I will try to post a haiku or some other poem at the end of each blog post.

Squeaky noises mean
That Peter is sucking on
An empty bottle.

A Haiku by Kerry