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Running pictures

I thought I would put up a quick collection of some of the photos that I’ve been taking while out running, particularly motivating for long runs because I get to stop for a little bit and admire where I am and what I’m doing!

I’ll put these up as a page when I’ve collected a few more.

Travelling for work

I don’t really like travelling for work. Today, I did a round-trip to Belfast for the purpose of a meeting with counterparts in a variety of other organisations (the meetings are every six months and rotate around us). It made for a long day (12+ hours), but in all honesty I quite enjoyed it. I got to do some MA writing on the plane, and I have never been to Northern Ireland before. Although I didn’t have any recreational time there, I got a quick gander at bits of Belfast on my (short) taxi journeys to and from the airport. It didn’t rain, which was nice, and the view was lovely! I will have to try to go back.

At least travelling for work means I get to see things that I wouldn’t otherwise….

Writing on trains

This morning I am cutting more or less across the entire country by train, and I always find trains lovely to work or read on. I’ve got Idylls of the King with me, which is the subject matter for chapter 3 (of 3) of my MA thesis, along with multiple printed and annotated versions of the Intro and other chapters, and… a pen and paper!

My laptop is in my bag. When I did my undergrad thesis, I was laptop-centric, and when I was in my secondary literature note-taking phase, Scrivener and I were best buds. Now that I’m trying to write, however, I seem to need the paper and pen approach. It may be because there are ten million other distracting things on my laptop (although Scrivener’s editor view helps a bit with that), or just because there are many tens of thousands of words of notes in Scrivener that mean I can’t see the wood for the trees. Still, I find it a bit odd to have all these gadgets (this post is being written in an email on my iPhone), and yet boil things down to some thin-ruled paper and a black biro!

I’m making summaries of the key bits of the poems for my analysis, anyway, so I can work from three sheets of paper and not 350 pages of it! I might do a post on the rest of my madcap, ill-advised writing strategy later.

“Poison Study” (Maria V. Snyder): Review

As I mentioned earlier, I spent yesterday travelling on a seven-hour-long plane trip with limited entertainment opportunities. As always, I was armed with various books (including that other Xmas read, The End of Mr. Y, which I’ve been writing about (but not quite finishing) here and here), but also, this time, a new Sony E-Reader, which my father bought me for Christmas. Being the bibliophile that I am, I admit that I wasn’t wholly sold on the idea when he brought it up, but I couldn’t think of anything better, and I confess that I thought it would be nice to be able to view the countless JSTOR articles I read on a more suitable screen than that on my Macbook.

Well, I’ll say now that I was (half) wrong, and the Sony E-Reader is marvellous for reading both online journals and books (although it will never take the place of books I truly love, only the sort of ‘travelling’ or ‘holiday’ books that one reads for simple enjoyment). It comes with several free books already installed, and one of them was Maria V. Snyder’s fantasy book, Poison Study, which I began reading on the plane because I’m rather a sucker for fantasy books. If you are too, I’d certainly recommend this one to you. While it certainly has no pretensions to be ‘Literature with a capital L’ (like some other books I could mention), it’s exactly what one needs on a plane ride, or even a slow Saturday afternoon: quick-paced, engaging, a likable heroine, lots of mystery, and equal amounts of action. Yelena is a genuinely likeable character, and she rarely says or does anything that I’m not convinced I would do in her shoes. Yalek, the man who trains her to become a food taster (and, naturally, the love interest) is not quite so engaging, but then, Yelena’s character and personal story is so much bigger than him that it seems right that he isn’t.

When in need of something light yet absorbing to read, I will certainly be searching for more of Maria V. Snyder’s books, for the e-reader or otherwise.

When does the New Year start?

No, the answer is not “00:01 on 1st January”, thank you very much. I think most people will agree that, in fact, the New Year begins where the holiday season ends: going back to work. In my case, the New Year started yesterday, when I flew back to Boston for the final time. (Can you sense the excitement?) I flew with American Airlines, not wholly of my own volition; I bought the tickets on Priceline‘s “name your own price” service, where you don’t find out your airline until after you’ve booked. In my experience, American Airlines have old planes, which means poor entertainment systems (think back to ye olden days of one screen mounted on the ceiling showing one reel of PG films/sit-coms), mediocre food, and in this particular case poor staff (because I turned down the initial drink offering—I had my own bottle of water with me, and I don’t like to be wasteful—when the actual meal came around the hostess then asked me snidely, “Will you be eating?”). Still, I got back in one piece, and that’s the main thing.

As I’d booked a morning-afternoon flight, I got back in fairly good shape and not overly tired, so I went to the gym. I’ll confess, however, that it wasn’t solely my willpower driving me to the gym. It was the fact that the night before, my father and I had watched Claire Sweeney’s Big Fat Diet. I thought that it might be a bit like awful, rubbish celebrity ‘reality’ tv, but it wasn’t. I felt so much empathy for Claire as she embarked upon what was essentially the ‘living as you want’ diet. Watching her health risks rise scared both me and my father, aside from the shocking visuals of how only 3 weeks without exercise or controlled diet can begin to radically change one’s body shape.

Between watching that and getting back here (where deadlines suddenly seem far more real and close), my New Year has definitely leapt out of the gates after what threatened to be a sluggish start!