Thursday, April 19, 2007

Two Months of Hell are Coming to a Close

The Presentation
Well, thankfully that's over. When I finished talking about parliamentary sovereignty, the king's two bodies, the expression of the commons in the county courts, and so forth, I was greeted with what I normally see when I talk Medieval history: blank stares, glazed-over expressions, and snores... but no questions! Proof positive that this stuff interests only me, but no questions means the paper can be wrapped up in very short order.

In the past three months, I estimate I've read over 3000 pages, an average of 30 per day. Now that doesn't sound like very much, but none of it was exactly bubble gum dime novels. For the most part, it was pretty dense stuff, and the 30 pages per day clip assumes there is never a day off! I can say that I'm quite glad to have it over.

However, I'd never claim I didn't learn anything. I can talk about dynastic struggles, governmental institutions, and the construction of each monarch's so-called affinity until people start hitting their snooze buttons, but the class did hit several things I had no previous idea about. Here's some quick hits:
  1. Did you know that for most of the 15th century, the life expectancy at 20 for people in England was between 19 and 25 years? What that means is that for all people who actually reached the age of 20, thereby eliminating the atrocious child mortality rate, they could expect to live only another 19 to 25 years. In some cases, half their life on average was already over... at 20! If child mortality is included, the total life expectancy would probably dip into the 33-35 year range. That is a huge drop from 300 years prior, when life expectancy was in the upper forties or low fifties! Look to repeated plagues as the reason.
  2. Did you know that the average Benedictine monk in some of the richer abbeys ate on the order of 7 lbs of meat, 2 lbs of bread, 1 lb of cheese, and a gallon of ale... per day? The study was one that looked at the eating habits of the monks at Westminster Abbey, and there are some minor details that modify this under certain circumstances, but it gives an idea where the 'fat friar' stereotype (ala Friar Tuck) comes from. Btw, this does not apply to other orders, such as the Cistercians.
  3. Speaking of Westminster Abbey, I guess I never really considered that, prior to the dissolution of the churches in the time of Henry VIII, it actually was an abbey with real monks. If I'd been asked that before this class, I guess I would have thought about it and said it must have been, but it is easy to lose sight of the fact when you see the massive museum the Abbey is today. Most of the extraneous buildings and gardens that would have made this obvious are long gone.
Gather my Readers and you Shall Hear a Hectic Tale of... Tiberius?
The title of this post says it all: Two Months of Hell. In December, I was minding my own business in my dreary life when I went to school to register for class. I'm slowly working towards a Master's Degree in history, and unlike most semesters, this one actually offered a class in my thesis area, the oft-mentioned Medieval England. Cool, right? Should be fun. I'm definitely in.

Then, in January right as I'm preparing for my first day of class, I get a call asking if I'll come in to interview for a new job. Frankly, I'd been looking, and the company was one I was highly interested in, so the answer was "Hell yes, I'm interested!" One day of interviewing later, and I get a job offer. Now my comfortable life just got a whole lot less comfortable, but I'm moving in the right direction. Sure, I'll have a lot of school work to do while I'm breaking in a new job, but it's all OK. Nothing I can't handle. So I accept from my new employer, put in my notice to my old employer, and start my transiton weeks of essentially rearranging the pencils on my desk when I get an interesting e-mail.

"Hey, Russ. This is Luke (aka Alazander). We want you to join Ossian." My first thought was that there was no way I could do that. My second thought was that there's no way I'm not going to do that! Someone wants to pay me to do... uh, secret things... that I'd otherwise do for free? Sign me up!

So I went to my wife and said, "Think real hard. Do you know of anything you'll need from me for, oh, say the next two months?" Luckily, I have the coolest wife in the world, because there's been a big lack of face time recently, which she's been entirely too cool with. But now that the class is over, I can go back to working 'just' 60 hours per week now... and maybe - just maybe - I can actually have dinner with her too!

Hello, Portugal!
Something that's been in the works for a long time is our annual trip to somewhere new. This year, it's Portugal. We'll be gone from May 29 to June 11, and I'll post pictures when we get back, so everyone can see Mr. and Mrs. Tiberius as we enjoy the (hopefully) sun-drenched Iberian peninsula... because we don't get enough sun here in Florida.

The Maimed God's Saga Update Soon
Sometime this weekend, I'll post the beginnings of what can be expected of the first module, so be sure to check back.

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