Thursday, May 11, 2017


I am once again at the International Congress on Medieval Studies on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It is my seventh time attending the conference in eight years; I've been coming since 2010, missing only 2012 in that time. And in the day that I've been in transit to the Congress and on site so far, I've run into a number of old friends and begun to make new ones, both of which are always welcome.

I have a fair bit of work to do at the Congress this year, as I have most years that I've attended. This time around, I'm giving a talk on a roundtable and presiding over two sessions of papers. I'm also set to chair a business meeting for the Tales after Tolkien Society, about which more information is here. I also have plans to attend no few sessions and some few other events, and I still have to do some work for the teaching that I yet do, so I am and will be busy.

That I am and will be so, though, does not mean I am not paying attention to what is going on around me. Some will have been following the Blanket Affair, but others will not know, so: between the opening of Congress registration in February and, well, the Congress, some authority at Western Michigan University decided to retire the blankets that had traditionally been issued to those who register for dormitory accommodations. (I am one such person; the dorms are convenient because on-site and inexpensive.) No replacements for the issued blankets were forthcoming, although many have been made available for sale at the "low" price of $17. I am not alone in reading the gesture as something of a money-grab--although I am also not alone in forbearing to vent my anger at Congress staff, who have no say, or even Congress administration, who might not have had any input into the decision. I am, to note online testimonies, not alone in having brought a blanket with me--although I did not sleep with it last night. And I am far from alone in noting the action of medievalists to support our own by working to make blankets available to our colleagues who acted in good faith with an understanding that has since been changed. I support it as I may (which, admittedly, is not much, but, hey, this).

And, on a less serious note--because cool to cold weather is expected here, blankets matter--the dining hall that has long been in place at the Congress has moved. Instead of the old cafeteria system that had been in place for decades, Congress meals are now served in a new-built dining facility--and the complaints are many. The aesthetics of the facility are at odds with the dormitories it serves, and the clash is unpleasant. Too, the position is not as convenient as the old location--which matters little for me, but there are many Congress attendees who are limited in their mobility, and the extra walking does not do them much good. To my mind, the food is not any better than it was--which is not to say that I do not eat more of it than I likely ought (because I do eat more of it than I ought), but I would have thought that the shift to the new facility (and staffing) would have improved the product on offer.

I will certainly have more to say about things as the Congress moves forward. Hopefully, more of it will be to the good. In the meantime, though, I have some work I must address...

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