Archive for March, 2012

Calgary conference

March 31, 2012

Yesterday was the first day of the conference, so I spent most of the day listening to presentations. I am definitely in the right field when after eight hours of talks I’m still interested in hearing the next one. The papers cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from laughter as a response to battle trauma to poetic descriptions of Alexander’s campaigns to the capabilities of the breeds of horses used by Roman and Parthian cavalry forces. It is fascinating to get glimpses into areas that I know so little about.

I gave my paper yesterday afternoon. It was well received and I got many interesting questions, and several people complimented me on the presentation afterwards. I’ve been so absorbed with teaching for these past few years that I haven’t had the energy to devote to a lot of scholarly work and the articles that I have sent out for publication have all been rejected, so I’ve been feeling disconnected from the larger academic world. This has helped me feel like I’m back in the game.

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Observations on Calgary

March 30, 2012

As some of you know, I am in Calgary to give a paper at a conference. The conference is titled “War and Society” and is being held at the University of Calgary. I am presenting on mercenary soldiers who came from north of the Roman frontier and took service with the Roman army.

I flew from Boston to Calgary yesterday by way of Montreal. This is the farthest west I have ever been by over 1,000 miles and things are very different here. I’m sure any local would snicker at this list, but these are the things that stood out to me because, like Ms. Dickinson, “I see New-Englandly.”

– It’s flat. Very flat. The city of Calgary sprawls over a bit of a ridge and the Rocky Mountains rise quite suddenly in the west, but otherwise it is as flat as the proverbial flapjack.

– I haven’t seen a tree yet that wasn’t obviously planted. It’s mostly birch and spruce.

– Corollary to the above: the sky is huge and you can see for miles.

– Even the birds and the weeds are different. I haven’t seen much that looks familiar.

– The roads run north-south or east-west. That’s it. They cross at right angles and even turn at right angles.

– After about 16 or 17, “Count the Tim Hortons” stops being a fun game to pass the time on the taxi ride from the airport.

– A house from the 1950s is old.

– The city sprawls over the plains, but its edges are sharply defined. On one side of a road is farmland and open pasture; the other side is chock-a-block full of houses and apartment buildings.

– The local big box stores make our big box stores look like shoebox stores.

– Everyone I’ve dealt with so far has been welcoming and friendly, but most of the people I’ve dealt with so far have been somehow connected with the tourism and travel industry, so “welcoming and friendly” is part of the job description. Still, it feels genuine to me.

In like a lion

March 2, 2012

This has been a very strange winter. The first big snow fell just before Halloween, then we got nothing for months. The past few weeks have been so warm it almost felt like spring was coming a month early. Even some of the trees were starting to push out buds.

Then on the night of February 29 it started to snow. The snow kept coming down all night and all the next day. I was surprised that SSU didn’t cancel classes, given the state of the roads. Around campus it was mostly just melting on the ground, but not too far north and west the roads were getting covered in sticky slush. I hear that southern New Hampshire got more than a foot in places. Given the conditions, I was surprised at how many students showed up for class.

The front of the house with snow-covered lawn and bushes

Driving home at night was especially unpleasant. I stayed on the back roads and took it slow. I hardly dared imagine what the highway might look like.

The snow tapered off last night and this morning is cloudy but quiet. Everything is covered in white like we haven’t seen all winter. The snow is already starting to melt and with the warm temperatures that are forecast for the next few days I’m sure it won’t last long, but it was nice to get at least a little snow this winter.

The fruit trees out back