Dr. Me?

Jun. 24th, 2015 06:15 pm
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
I defended my thesis on Monday afternoon. Viva voce. Successfully: I have minor corrections (the examiners' reports are, between them, 20 pages long) and once that is done I can go do new things.

I enjoyed myself, once I forgot to be terrified. And afterwards some people even came out to help me celebrate, which meant a very great deal to me. People! Showing up to mark this milestone in my life! I felt... cared for.

So many people have helped me get this far, with support moral and otherwise. So much encouragement. I have been deeply honoured by it, and I do not forget how very much I owe to so very many.

Yesterday, I went for a walk and for a swim and got myself sunburned. Today all I want to do is sleep. It is somewhat frustrating. Life feels very strange.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
My thesis is submitted. Until my viva voce examination, it is officially someone else's problem.

Now is the time for sleeping normal people hours again and re-learning how to gym and feel things that aren't stress-feelings.

Today I also got a haircut, went to the gym, and found myself borne out to a coffee shop in good company for celebratory foodstuffs. I am amazed at the amazing people whom I have the privilege of knowing.

Gym log:
Cycling: 7.5km in 21:45.
Rowing: 0.4km in 02:00.
Benchpress: 4x5 reps @60kg
Squats: 1x10 reps @20kg, 2x10 reps @25kg. (Though I'm pretty sure my squat form is terrible.)
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Not feeling up to much communication. Apparently there's less work involved in finishing up a thesis than there is emotional turmoil.

Nope, still not done. Getting there.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)

"Health and sickness -- the suffering self, in all its varied permutations -- is an enduring human concern. The evidence, and our theoretical models, imposes its own necessary limitations on what we may know about life, health, sickness, suffering, and death in the ancient Greek world, but while the past may be a foreign place, where "they do things differently," it is not so foreign as to be unrecognisably human. When we reduce the human dimension of history to plans and outlines and a sterile recapitulation of facts or surmises -- when we elide the sweaty, painful, messy, squishy, essential complicated meatiness of the sense-experience that makes up the human perceptual world -- we do both it and ourselves a disservice. "The dead were and are not," as G.M. Trevelyan once wrote. "Yet they were once as real as we."  Investigating the experiential dimension of ancient practices, particularly when those practices are bound up with universal human concerns, gives us the tools to bring us closer to the reality of those dead generations, and to see how they are -- and are not -- just like us."

Look on my final paragraph, Ye Mighty, and despair. Is it not a thing of horrible beauty? Gnarled and twisted and OH SO DONE WITH THIS NOW PLEASE CAN I BE REALLY DONE?


Jan. 15th, 2015 09:34 pm
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
The draft is dead.

Long live the draft.

Next stage, conclusion and illustrations. But that's next week's bloody problem, so it is.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have a beer.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
I should remember that nice things do. Yesterday, I bought soup in a coffee soup. And bread. It turned out that the bread had started growing its own penicillin. I don't mind bread mould, particularly: there's nothing especially harmful about it mostly. But I pointed it out to the staff because I'd really rather not eat it.

And when I was going they did not let me pay for the chocolate brownie and hot milk I was taking away with me.

So that made me feel rather better about my day. Especially as I was fairly exhausted from visiting the counselling service.

Oh, yeah. I shoved the first mostly-full draft of my thesis off onto my supervisor's hands yesterday, too. So I am taking a break. For perspective. And to let my brain grow a little back, enough to handle Serious Revisions.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
The cat is sitting sentinel on a wheelie bin under the window, lion-like, paws crossed. It's an image that makes me think about how small he is, really, and how fragile. Cats.

I slept both too much and not enough last night. I cannot seem to sleep before 0300 ever, and no matter how I set my alarm it seems impossible to wake much before noon. Today I slept through the alarm right until 1400. I have a vague memory of answering the phone to mum sometime before I got up, but I don't think that counts as consciousness.

I went to the gym yesterday (pathetic), and out with some friends in the evening. For some reason being around them, much as I love them, makes me feel as though I'm not a particularly competent human. Mind you, being around most people makes me feel this way. I had fun and came home to write another 100 words on my thesis. It's never enough.

My thesis is depressing. It makes me want to commit self-murder.

I am a bundle of whine. But the high tide happens soon, so I will dare the jelly-fish and the clouds and go swimming.


Sep. 1st, 2014 11:23 pm
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
I hate everything and I want to be done so badly. I would dig it out of my veins with a dull knife, if I could. But that will not get it done.

I am over-committed with Freelance Stuff. And yet I can't let any of that go, because September holds my last IRC paycheque, and little as the freelance stuff pays for the amount of effort I need to put in, it's far far better than the nothing that will be coming to me otherwise. I don't have enough in savings to feel safe to last until March, and I won't be able to contribute much if at all to the household expenses.

Which sucks fucking rocks, because mum having been on sickleave for two years (and "our share" of gran's funeral expenses) means we're well deep in the fucking hole, and with one income we're going to keep sinking.

I hate this. I fucking hate it. I hate feeling like my body doesn't belong to me anymore, because going to do exercise takes brain and effort that often seems in short supply, and I slack off and eat chocolate and drink too much caffeinated syrup and stare at the walls.

I hate this. And saying "Nearly there, nearly there," isn't as helpful as I could wish - because if I'm nearly there, what the fuck happens next? (And why the fuck is it so hard to get to THE END in the meanwhile, anyway?) I'm twenty-eight years old and I feel like I've made a shitload of poor life decisions in choosing what to focus on. Maybe I should've picked the dole queue after my undergrad degree and tried... something else.

And yet. I love learning stuff. And talking about it.

So why do I hate this so much?

I just want to be done.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
So it seems my experiment in getting up of a morning may be paying off.

On the other hand, it also seems that I have absolutely no idea, anymore, how to take some time off working to do things that have nothing to do with work.

Today: four-mile walk in the early sunlight, the tide in and the sea glittering with colour.

Shopping done. Laundry done. 500 words written on a review. 540 words written on thesis.

It still lacks two hours of midnight. What else can I get done before then?
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Before, or just upon, entering the sanctuary of Asklepios, it was probably customary to have a ritual wash: to pour water over one's head and shoulders as a gesture towards purification. There is neither fountain nor well by the entrance to the sanctuary, so perhaps this was not done here - or perhaps our example, Alexandros, would have found a pithos filled with water and a dipper with which to pour it out over his head.

Whether he (and his slave, who is still carrying the cock in a basket) washes here or not, whether he's still sweaty-faced or whether he feels the breeze cold on his freshly-wet head and beard, he's faced with the rear of the temple of Asklepios. We don't know, at this remove, how it was decorated: whether there were wooden dedicatory pinakes or cloth banners or pleasantly-scented wreathes or wall-paintings or a wax board or piece of slate chalked with a list of days and times during which the iereus (who held the priesthood for life) or his underling, the zakoros (who was required to be an Athenian citizen) would be present to oversee private sacrifices. At this remove, we don't know. Nor do we know where the inventory lists, which listed the dedications previously displayed inside the temple (but removed at intervals to make way for new ones), would have stood: perhaps under one of the stoas.

Alexandros goes either right or left around the temple, perhaps going in under one of the stoas to get out of direct sun. Probably there are a handful of other people present, admiring the dedications or the votive statues (including one of Herodes Atticus and his daughter) or just hanging out having a conversation. Perhaps he knows one or two of them and joins in. Perhaps one of them is the zakoros, or the iereus, with a gathering of friends discussing regimen and dreams from the god. Perhaps Alexandros wanders around for a bit, admiring the dedications inside the temple, or perhaps he goes straight to the temple personnel to make his sacrifice and discuss incubating within the sanctuary.

Perhaps there are no sacrifice-overseeing personnel there, and he has to send his slave or bribe one of the sanctuary's slaves into running a message to them at home inquiring when they might actually be present, who knows?

So say he makes his sacrifice - giving the cock to the temple's throat-cutting slave to kill over the alter while the priest makes a prayer - and makes his arrangements to incubate, discussing what kind of monetary offering he should give the god in order to have a chance of healing dreams. Maybe he makes the arrangements for that night, or maybe he arranges to come back. If it's for that night, maybe he sends his slave home with the leftover sacrificial chicken for his wife and hangs out in the sanctuary until it is time for the purificatory ceremony. Maybe there is singing of praise to the god. Maybe he hears choirs performing in the Theatre of Dionysos or the Odeion, or up at the Parthenon. Maybe he hears a minor procession go by. Maybe he smells incense or sweet flowers from ceremonies, or maybe the air is thick with the smell of offal and burned meat and someone vomiting from a purge prescribed by a doctor or by the god. Maybe he and a couple of other incubants wash in water from the sacred well and make offerings of wheatcakes and fruit and other appropriate things before the priest sends them to lie on a couch either inside the temple or somewhere within the sanctuary enclosure, presumably after dark. All of Alexandros' somatic attention is on the possibility of relief from his ongoing complaint. The lights are doused, and the priest enjoins the incubants and their slaves to keep silent.

And then, presumably, they sleep.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
I try not to think about the future, because it depresses me - on a personal level, and on an ecological one. But it turns out that being away from home gives me plenty of time to think. And it's paralysing.

I'll try to do less thinking about me, and more about ancient Greece.

Yesterday I walked up to the Asklepieion on the South Slope of the Athenian acropolis and tried to imaginatively reconstruct as much as possible what an ancient visitor might have felt. My thesis is concerned with experience, and that means striving as much as possible to reconstruct whole worlds.

So let's take as our example a citizen man of Athens of the mid-2nd-century CE, but not a Roman citizen; a man in the prime of his life, perhaps thirty, married in the last few years. Someone who owns a small bit of farmland but rents it out, whose father apprenticed him to an artisan and who is now a fairly respectable carpenter or potter or something of that sort, who has some education but (unlike Lucian of Samosata) didn't throw over a career as an artisan to make one as an orator and satirist. A man who participates in the duties of a citizen but not at the highest level, who has served as a juror and maybe for a term as a very minor magistrate and/or priest in his deme, who pays his taxes and whose family probably turned out to cheer the emperor Hadrian when he was a child. He has apprentices and owns at least one male slave and more than one female slave for his household; he is prosperous enough to afford to pay doctors and traditional enough to use the amulets and remedies that Lucian satirises in [dialogue whose name I cannot remember but will look up on Monday].

Let us assume he lives on the far side of the agora from the acropolis. Let us further assume that recently he has been much troubled with his digestion and, although having consulted with a doctor and used magical remedies, he has a dream which he interprets to mean he should supplicate the god Asklepios. So let's say he gets up one day and sets out to walk up to the sanctuary, perhaps in company with a friend or neighbour, and attended by his male slave, to sacrifice a cock to Asklepios and arrange to spend the night in the sanctuary as an incubant.

First he must walk across the agora. (Another image.) Let us suggest he lives near the Kerameikos. So he will walk up along the Panathenaic Way, passing the boundary stones of the agora, with the acropolis and the rock of the Areopagus always looming up ahead. It is the middle of the 2nd century CE, so the old agora is no longer quite so solidly the commercial heart of the city. Many shops are now to be found in the Roman agora instead, but the Classical agora is still fairly full of business: fishmongers, hawkers of dubiously edible foodstuffs, greengrocers, buskers, men selling meat from the public sacrifices and men selling live animals for sacrifice - roosters and pigeons in wicker cages; perhaps a few pigs or a handful of goats or sheep roped in a string for the big spenders - sellers of wheatcakes and flour and unmilled grain; the smell of urine and offal and rotten fruit and maybe worse things wafting from the Great Drain; a whiff of smoke and burning meat from a sacrifice at the Altar of the Twelve Gods, perhaps, or one from a private sacrifice at the Altar of Ares beside the Panathenaic Way; a clamour from metalworkers with workshops in the lee of the Hephaisteion; an orator or a philosopher who's attracted a crowd or boys practising their rhetoric under the stoas; stonemasons working on repairs or new construction; dedicatory statues painted all sorts of colours; perhaps a funerary procession going by or a Roman citizen of senatorial rank surrounded by clients and slaves clearing a path or market officials going around inspecting permits or a doctor disputing with a rival over who is best at vivisecting a live monkey.

So our Athenian citizen man - let's call him Alexandros, for the sake of hanging a name on him - sends his slave to buy and carry the cock, and carries on up the Panathenaic Way to the acropolis proper, past the Stoa of Attalos and the Library of Pantainos (probably filled with students of the philosophical schools) and the fountain house and the road to the Roman agora. He goes up the Panathenaic Way under the shadow of the Propylaia, where smoke from the sacrificial altars drifts in the air with the smell of burning meat, and incense or myrrh. Perhaps there is yellow-flowered broom growing in the cracks of the acropolis rock, or white deadnettle or red poppy growing where the road joins a temple wall. Perhaps there is the odd olive tree or laurel or fragrant bay. Anyway, Alexandros doesn't go up to the top of the acropolis rock (plan; Travlos' plan), where the temples of Athena and Artemis are, and the Erechtheion, but he follows the path (the Peripatos) that leads around to the south side of the acropolis slope, under the walls of the temple of Athena Nike and the sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia, behind the top tiers of the fairly new Odeion of Herodes Atticus, past a temple of Isis and a temple of Themis and a fountain house, with the top part of the Stoa of Eumenes on his right and the top tiers of the Theatre of Dionysos ahead, until he comes to the west end of the sanctuary of Asklepios, on the far side of the acropolis from the agora. From here Alexandros can look south to the Piraeus, down past the remains of the Long Walls and see Aegina on a clear day, and beyond the straits of Salamis, and the coming and going of squat merchant ships and lean galleys of the Roman fleet from the harbour.

The Asklepieion is a small sanctuary. Its long axis runs west to east. The temple faces east, with the altar in front of it: built up against the acropolis rock is a stoa of the Doric order, now more than three centuries old, and backing on to the Peripatos is the rear wall of a stoa of the Corinthian order, perhaps about a hundred years old now and only recently remodelled. The east end of the Doric stoa incorporates access to a well cut into the acropolis rock. There is a very modest monumental entrance, possibly including wooden elements, at the southwest corner.

So when Alexandros goes through this entryway... that's when the important bit starts, the bit about which I have the least information.

To be continued in part two.
hawkwing_lb: (Aveline is not amused)
If I'm more scattered and less communicative than usual - or just as scattered and more communicative - I blame being in Athens. Athens is scattering.

This morning I breakfasted on microwave porridge brought from home and marched the fifteen or twenty minutes it takes up (one of) the hill(s) to l'ÉFA, the French School at Athens, picking up a zambontyropita and a couple of mini chocolate croissants for lunch on the way. And passing three paramilitary cops - green fatigues, black berets - standing on a corner staring at passers-by with really hard eyes.

At l'ÉFA I was welcomed once again very graciously to their gorgeous library - Salle A is the original 19th-century article, all old dark wood and moveable ladders and old-fashioned oval reading tables - where, from sometime before 1100 to sometime around 1500, I wrote over 1000 words on my thesis and took some 400 words of notes not directly related to those 1000 words.

Now if only I can do that every day!

Then I came back and messed around instead of working on a review. Went for a shuffle-run in the park; managed to go for 90 seconds, approximately. Better than nothing, right? I can try again tomorrow.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
I need to make a plan for the next and possibly final thesis chapter. In order to do that, I should sum up what I have already done, and restate the goal of my research.

So the question I am trying to answer is "What did the ancient Greek person experience at a sanctuary of Asklepios? What did they experience in religious healing?" We can break down this question around the following axes:

- what is the built and natural landscape of the sanctuaries of Asklepios in our case studies
- how did people perceive and use them: ie, sensory dimension, theories of perception, practice, experiencing place, movement, landscape
- what is the social landscape of the sanctuaries of Asklepios: ie, who went there, why, what did they do there, what sort of social intercourse took place, how does it relate to other kinds of interactions with healing practices in antiquity
- what is involved in religious healing itself: ie compare modern and ancient material, look for ways to using modern comparative material to illuminate ways ancient people may have used or experienced or understood religious healing in antiquity
- combined with social and perceptional questions as well is the issue of what the ancient Greek person experienced in sickness, and how we should understand sickness and health in the ancient world: the context for religious healing

So I have good material for the first bulletpoint, the theory bulletpoint, and the comparative bulletpoint. And I have inadequate but decent attempted hacks at the idea of sickness and health, which I can fix in draft. So what I really need to focus on is the social world of the sanctuary: in particular the social intercourse and interactions, who was there, why, relationship to professional medicine. So I need to dig up everything on Aelius Aristides, everything on Greek public physicians, everything about how medical doctors interacted with each other and their patients... other things as they occur to me.

Aelius Aristides is our one source from inside a sanctuary. Also need focus on Galen, medical training at Pergamon? Public physicians. Inscriptions. Herodas's 4th mime again. Lucian?

Okay. I think that's an outline of a plan. Time to hit the library catalogue and make lists.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
I made a decision to take yesterday off from mental labour - and such is rare for me, since normally the decision is made for me by my thinking parts going STOP NO CANNOT BRAIN.

I did mean to go to bed early like a sane person who intends to fix her sleep patterns, but when I wandered off last night to play videogames, I rather lost track. It turns out that real-time strategy games are the perfect kind of non-threateningly absorbing to occupy the majority of my attention without requiring my emotional investment. I may have mentioned this before. The absence of narrative means it's interesting, like a puzzle, without feeling like work.

But I got distracted by the push-button-get-reward nature of play, and ended up not going to bed until after 0500. I should really put myself on some kind of timer, I suppose...

Cut for some personal meandering )

Anyway. That's life.

State of me

Feb. 5th, 2014 05:00 pm
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Still alive. A lot of anxiety, particularly around communicating with people. I nearly had a panic attack on the way to the gym yesterday, for no good reason. A lot of tiredness, lethargy, DNW: a lot of empty, scraping feelings when it comes to brain.

I'm pretty solidly convinced this is a long depressive episode, which doesn't actually help with fixing it: the last time I felt this way for this long it took three months off on a rest cure before I started to feel like a thinking human being again. Still, all I have to do is hold on a little longer. One day at a time, right?

We're probably telling the family to sod off with their funeral bill, but we're waiting on word from a financial institution before making a definitive decision. Financial stresses, even though we've been (and still are) really lucky, are deeply unfun. Especially since the parent's surgeon has updated her on her prospects, and it looks like July is a more likely date for return to work than April.

This would be less terrifying if my scholarship didn't run out in September. Still, one day at a time, right? Panic when I get to September, if I get to September without committing murder.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Every so often, I look up and am reminded that I'm extraordinarily lucky to have scraped an acquaintance with so many amazing people.

Yes, I mean you.

When I was younger, I never expected anything like this. Never imagined it, even. So that, at least, is one good thing about growing up and learning to adult. And since I'm gradually coming to terms with imposter syndrome, I might nearly be convinced I almost deserve my friends any year now.

This week, Life As A Postgraduate Student offered me a new curveball. It seems I've got a continuing case of anxiety-guilt over not doing work. But the kicker is that I have these feelings while I am actually working. And, even, making measurable progress on things. I feel anxiety-guilt because it doesn't feel enough like work when it's going well, and when it's going poorly, I feel anxiety-guilt because it should be going better.

It's a fun little tangle.

Today's work involved reading through a slim French (translated from the German) volume on buildings and builders in Pergamon and Ephesus from the 1stC BC to the 3rdC CE. I think I actually read (and skimmed) all of fifteen or twenty pages: there are only a couple of relevant chapters. But my head aches like someone took a drill to the bone between my eyes: I'm not particularly literate in French. It takes five times as much concentration - or more - to read the same amount of text and figure out what it means as it does in English.

I'm probably not going to get all my gym-sessions done this week, and I'll be amazed if I manage a proper go at the thesis. Because I need at least a day's worth of downtime somewhere in the next two days. Is it wrong of me to be merely mortal?
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Life does continue.

Yesterday I arranged to get photographs of my grandmother made and framed. It was about all I succeeded in doing, and at that, was more than I achieved on Sunday.

Today I went to town and wrote 600 words of thesis chapter. Dropped in on my supervisor: she showed me a video of a 1919 dance by Denis Shawn, "Gnossien," inspired by things Minoan, and arranged to see her next week to discuss the chapters I sent her in October.

Went to the gym, too. Managed a mile in intervals over fifteen minutes, fifteen minutes of cycling, and 3 sets of 6 reps and 1 set of 5 reps on the benchpress, at 60kg. I weighed in at 110kg, and reconfirmed my own feeling that this is at least 10kg too heavy: it doesn't feel good on the bike or the treadmill, and it really doesn't feel good on incline crunches.

Anyway. Hopefully tomorrow I can get up earlier and do more and actually attend the Classics seminar, and start being more present in my academic life.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Not, at least, for me. I don't think I have the stamina to pull them off.

Another thing I don't quite have the stamina to pull off: the high-intensity cardio workout my new fitness program calls for. Running, cycling, rowing: three sessions of fifteen minutes each. The goal is to be able to run at 7mph for the full fifteen minutes (today I managed seven, four of them continuous) and to do a continuous high resistance on the cycling, while being able to power through fifteen minutes of rowing.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Onwards and upwards. Perhaps someday some I will be able to focus on research reading for more than three hours a day.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
On Wednesday, I got myself a proper fitness program, thanks to one of the lovely staff at the college gym. This new program involves three sessions a week: one pure cardio, one pure resistance, and one mixed.

I started today, with the mixed session. Running, benchpress, lunges, leg press, cycling.

It's tough. The cardio, especially: I've lost more stamina than I have strength. (I can still bench 55kg in four sets of six reps, and my starting leg press is four sets of ten reps at 52kg, so there.) But I will get to a place where I can do better, eventually.

One of the Classics postgrads had her PhD commencements today. So after I picked up some books in the library, I got some soup and ate it on the steps of the chapel (cold November sunlight glittering above the buildings) while waiting for the commencements folks to process out so I could congratulate her... at least, until a security guard came to move us along from the terminus of the procession. It was great to see her and her family so happy.

Of course, then I had to spend some hours reading for research, and then bottom dropped out of my stamina at 1730 so that instead of staying to go out for drinks I had to come home and crash by the fire, but still. Mostly a good day.
hawkwing_lb: (No dumping dead bodies)
Today I did things. Things like spend three hours in a library without internet, so that I could focus properly without distractions on reading for research. Like go to the gym and get advised on a fitness programme to build my stamina back.

I am so tired. I have very little endurance. It is coming back bit by bit, but right now I am brainless and rather sad. SO I think I will go away and play videogames for a while.


hawkwing_lb: (Default)

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