Research Progress Notes – Weeks of December 3rd and 10th

I planned to post last week, but I got sidetracked by preparations for this week.

Last week:

The Arabic manuscripts I wanted to look out turned out to be a bust. First, both had their original covers ripped off and start in the middle of a chapter – not a deal breaker, but not great. But more importantly, I can tell from the paper that these are modern, probably 19th century – nice, even paper without watermarks – so I can’t really get much out of them. The other two manuscripts I’m waiting on are probably not going to show up – the librarians have been looking for one of them for almost two weeks, and the other one is also potentially missing (the librarian I’m working with thinks a previous librarian might have stolen it). Weirdly, I expect this kind of thing for medieval books.

I also went looking into the first text of the manuscript I found the previous week. I was hoping to identify it, but no such luck. I have three thoughts as to what it could be, generally: 1) an unknown Latin translation of an Arabic text; 2) a known Latin translation; or 3) an original medical text from Salerno. I used my adviser’s favorite technique for finding a text – google an unusual phrase. I tried a few different ones, but no luck, nothing came up in Latin. While that doesn’t definitively knock out any of the three options, it suggests that the text is not well-known, since there isn’t a transcription available online. I’m not particularly intent on really hunting this text down, though, because it’s a fairly small question in terms of payoff, but it involves a lot of work to answer. If my dissertation were about this one manuscript, I would definitely do it, but since this is a fairly small part, I’m avoiding getting too deep into it – that’s how my kind of interdisciplinary research becomes a massive rabbit hole of a project.

This week:

Unfortunately, no actual research got done this week. My family came with me to LA, ostensibly for two final events related to my UCLA fellowships. One of my fellowships required me to do a research progress talk in Special Collections. But because of issues with planning the talk didn’t happen. The other event was a coffee chat with the family funding my other fellowship. This was a nice social event, but didn’t really add to my research in any way. So, in terms of research, this week was kind of a wash.

What this week did show me, though, was that I can’t bring my kids with me on my research trips unless I have someone living with me and full-time reliable childcare for when I need to work. My kids both have a little cold right now, which I caught on Saturday night. I just could not get out ahead of taking care of them on Monday – they wouldn’t nap, I couldn’t sleep the night before and was exhausted, and they kept trading off needing something (instead of their usual slightly staggered schedules). When I got a sitter during the day on Tuesday, I had only the exact amount of time I needed to go to the coffee talk, and as soon as I got back it was back to the difficult juggling of the kids’ basic needs and mine, no room for any work. Not to mention that things that buy me more time are really expensive – ordering food, getting a babysitter (or a full-time nanny). So while I can manage this balance when I’m at home and have both a co-parent and available childcare (which is getting less expensive as we renegotiate our options), I just don’t think it’s going to work when I’m by myself in another country, even when I can get someone to watch my kids. My husband agrees and has been pushing for this since we found out that not enough of my family would be able to come with me to provide consistent childcare. So I at least have the incredible support of a partner who wants me to succeed and is willing to be an equal participant in getting me there. It means he’ll be a single parent for almost half of the next year, but he’ll be at home, with regular childcare and family nearby to help out. So in coming to that realization, this trip was pretty useful.