Friday, December 29, 2006

What I did Yesterday

What I did yesterday

  • Finished the survey syllabus and roughed out about 80% of the assignments and due dates
  • wrote a new assignment sheet. I'm going from requiring students to keep a journal of notes on their primary source readings to a series of four writing assignments. The first is very basic: 300-500 words that identify the particulars of a document and give three specific examples of evidence that would be useful to a historian, written in a general, "the document says X, which tells us Y" way. Still have to do the other three, which will be increasingly complex; the final essay will be still fairly short, but will require the students to look at 3-4 documents, identify a thesis that a historian could derive from them, and then argue the thesis. I really hope this works.
  • finished up the two conference requests, sort of. It will be interesting, because we are supposed to get requests in by Jan 15, but the K'zoo details don't come out till Feb.
  • went to a large and cool zoo, and saw ... many exotic animals, but not enough for me. But it's a very big zoo, and three hours was enough for two 8 year-olds and a 4 year-old (who ended up riding on my shoulders for the last half mile or so). I need to go back and see more large mammals. I'm kind of iffy on zoos ... I just keep hoping that the animals whose freedom is sacrificed are giving that freedom (willingly or no) to engender a desire in zoo visitors to help protect them and their habitats. I never feel that way about the bugs, though. Did I mention there were otters, too?

Got to go and write my 'upper division class in my minor field' syllabus now. If I don't get these into the copy shop this afternoon, I'm screwed.

Also, did anyone notice that the POTUS was having a 'non-decisional' meeting at his ranch yesterday? Is that a real word? (And do I mean locative, rather than locational, above?)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas to all of you who celebrate it!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pop culture, fantasy, and Islam?

Pop culture, fantasy, and Islam?

Last weekend, on my marking breaks, I took advantage of the all-day broadcasts of The Lord of the Rings (I got to see the uncanonical/non-canonical elves arriving at Helm's Deep scene twice, and wept accordingly). I've also been listening to The Chronicles of Narnia on BBC 7. With Narnia, I was struck once again by Lewis' own particular form of misogyny. I don't entirely agree with Gaiman on that, by the way. I always understood Susan's banishment as a result of her rejecting Narnia/rejecting Christianity, salvation through Jesus, etc. However, it seems to me that Lewis had some serious problems with women, if he can tie lipstick and stockings, i.e., growing up into an adult woman to the rejection of salvation. Funnily enough, in The Lion, etc. Aslan is quite clear in his feelings about women in battle, and in The Horse and his Boy, it's Susan who has grown up to feel about the battle the way Aslan said she should -- and Lucy who fights. Of course, it's also Susan who caused all the trouble by encouraging Rabadash's suit -- again, by doing an adult gender-normative thing.

I'm sure this has all been said before, somewhere, but y'all know I'm slow and don't really read criticism. And, of course, I'm informed by the times in which I live. So, where in the 40s and 50s, Lewis' views might have seemed completely innocent (even in the 60s and 70s, for that matter), I'm not sure that we can see them that way through the filter of the last 25 or so years. Now, there's something kind of icky in female characters who are 'good' only before they become 'truly female', if you will. By that, I don't necessarily mean in terms of gender norms, just in terms of growing up and becoming the powerful adult women they logically should become, with agency of their own (and again, Lucy's adult character is problematic -- except that perhaps she's a virgin warrior, so it's ok?). But hey -- I'm a history person, so I can generally put myself in a Lewis-era mindset and also suspend disbelief. Mostly.

But enough of misogyny. It's Islam I want to talk about now. Again, nothing really profound; rather, it's just something that struck me. In the Narnia books, especially The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle, the Calormenes are swarthy and wear the kind of clothing and armour one associates with the Muslims of Roland (especially the Sayers translation) and of the Crusades. In fact, their religion is very like the misconceptions the Roland poet/singer/whatever had of Islam -- polytheistic, but with one supreme god, Tash, who loves things that are cruel and wicked. We know comparatively less about the Southrons who come to fight with Sauron's forces, but I seem to remember that Jackson's interpretation was pretty much correct -- in terms of appearance, they looked like the Muslims (whether Turkish or Arab) of the Crusades. And I know -- Roland is about Rencesvalles and is Carolingian -- but you all know it's also not. And now you are asking, "ADM, what's your point?"

My point may not be a good one. It's probably not even original, so I'm sorry if I'm boring you. Really, it's more of a question, anyway. But both Tolkein and Lewis were (and are) hugely influential, to their readers and to their myriad imitators. Even though the swarthy Arab-like desert peoples who are always on the wrong side are not Muslims in the books, within the context of Lewis' and Tolkein's professional backgrounds, what else could they be?* Please note that I'm not blaming Lewis, Tolkein, or anyone else for the post-September 11 atmosphere. I do wonder, however, if the huge influence of their works on popular culture -- whether or not people have read them directly -- has in some ways reinforced a distrust of Islam and helped to underpin the belief that many people have that we are somehow engaged in a new round of Crusades. One thing that makes me think it might is that I have talked to otherwise intelligent people whose ideas of the Crusades seem very much influenced, whether or not they realise it, by Roland/Calormenes creeping through the mountain passes/invading Southrons -- despite the fact that none of those images actually come from the Crusades. If that's the case, then there's just one more knot we medievalist types have to untangle. Because some people really do forget that Middle-Earth and Narnia aren't actually part of our history.

*I'm sure there is stuff written on this, but did it ever strike you as odd that there are no scary Germanic types (are there?) in Tolkein or Lewis? Clearly, they had no sympathy for the Romans. The closest we get is in Prince Caspian, where I'm pretty sure that the other humans who take over Narnia (and Arkenland?) are meant to be like the Normans.

Anyway, that's my procrastination done ...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Shiny Teaching Carnival!

Shiny Teaching Carnival and Carnivalesque

While I was in grading jail, meg over at xoom posted a Shiny! New! Teaching! Carnival!. Yay for something to do after Christmas cards!

Update!! How could I have forgotten that mj at scribblingwoman has also posted the most recent Early Modern Carnivalesque?? Bad blogger, that's me!

In other news, over break, I have to:
  • Put in requests for conference money
  • buy Christmas gifts for family
  • send a couple of Christmas gifts
  • Entirely revamp my syllabi, because some of the things I've done for years do not work at SLAC
  • turn said requests and syllabi in before jetting off to fabulous city in January (since I get back the Saturday night before the term starts)
  • write another book review (but the last one of the year and one that relates to my research)
  • make substantial progress on my K'zoo paper
  • set up Blackboard classrooms for three courses
  • prep two courses, as I have not taught them in this format before and have never used these books
  • read a friend's MS
  • with luck, turn my campus office into a homier place -- at the moment, it is not gemütlich

Wish me luck, all!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Blogging after grading

Blogging comes after grading

See you soonish

Thursday, December 14, 2006

One step closer to the Lion House

One step closer to the Lion House, I guess

Well, I think this is good news. My K'zoo paper has been accepted. So, that's a paper, a round table, and three potential articles in the works. All of a sudden, it looks like I'm kind of a working academic. Which means, of course, that I'd better get working!

BTW, do papers ever get rejected by K'zoo?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Blogging? Oh, yeah. Right.

Blogging? Oh, yeah. Right.

Er ... changing to 15 week terms from 10 is hard. But FYI, It's finals week at SLAC. I'm giving three tomorrow. Then it's all about marking. And I have to turn in requests for conference funding, but it would look far better if I knew whether my 'cool things about women and property' K'zoo paper has been accepted. Really, it would be nice. At this moment, I know I'm on a roundtable. I submitted an abstract, and told a colleague I'd chair a session if he needed me. So it could be one appearance or three. It would be nice to know. Also, sometime in the next couple of weeks, I should know if my contract has been renewed for next year. I hope so. I really like it here. And I have so much to do, my head feels like it's going to 'splode.

Oh. John Stewart is swearing up a storm tonight. He managed to say every curse word I love to use, plus one of the two blasphemous expressions I use but try hard not to. Hee!

Also, The Girl lost her footing on the balcony edge today and scared the hell out of me as she scrabbled to get her hind end back up. No more balcony for her till I get some chicken wire to keep her in. Or something. Apparently, I can get an invisible fence...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Interesting Spam

Interesting Spam

Just thought I'd share this, because it may be one of the most interesting spam subjects I've ever received. Does anybody know if it has another meaning?

Er macht sich daran, seinen Esel Finnegan in ein Rennpferd zu verwandeln.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

notetaking software

Note taking software?

Hi all -- does anyone use notetaking sofware? I'm awful at taking notes on my computer -- partially because it's uncomfortable, partially because taking notes longhand on paper seems to fix things into my brain in a more permanent way. Nevertheless, paper is a bit more cumbersome and definitely heavier. So, I have questions for you denizens of the internets:
  1. How do you take notes? (format)
  2. If you use note taking software, what do you use and why?
  3. If you take notes on a computer, but don't use software made for notetaking, what do you use and why?

I have just downloaded the new version of Scribe from the GMU site, which seems much more user-friendly and much less clunky than the old version. Does anyone else have specific comments about Scribe?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

NaBloPoMo 29

NaBloPoMo 29 -- RBOC

  • Not posting much because I burned my finger pretty badly. Suffice to say it's pretty lame to turn on the wrong burner, having left a plate on it, and then pick up the plate
  • That new David Boreanaz show, Bones, is a guilty pleasure
  • I'm reviewing a book in my field that I really like so far. It's a good kind of envy, really. Oh -- and it's in English! Really. Not jealous.
  • My cats are driving me up the frakkin' wall.
  • I'm entirely clueless as to how my evaluations are going to go. I'm worried. I think.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NaBloPoMo 28

NaBloPoMo 28 -- for Acephalous

Because I think Scott Eric Kaufman is funny and bright, I'm allowing assimiliation following instructions doing him a favor and linking to his very important experiment post. Scott's presenting at the behemoth of conferences for Lit people. You know the one. Part of his presentation is on the speed at which memes go 'round the blogosphere. Just so you know, I got this from a friend's Live Journal, Scott!

Anyway, here's what you need to do to help Scott and his work:

  1. Write a post linking to this one in which you explain the experiment. (All blogs count, be they TypePad, Blogger, MySpace, Facebook, &c.)
  2. Ask your readers to do the same. Beg them. Relate sob stories about poor graduate students in desperate circumstances. Imply I'm one of them. (Do whatever you have to. If that fails, try whatever it takes.)
  3. Ping Techorati.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Carnivalesque XXI

Carnivalesque XXI

Hello all -- Carnivalesque XXI is up at Even in a little thing. See what happens when you mix a real-life antipodean medievalist/college prof/sff author with a History Carnival!

re yesterday's post

Came home last night and the internets were broken. My provider, whose owners have recently been indicted (prosecuted?) for raping the profits (it's that provider with the Greekish name, also connects people to the TV nets), has been bought out by a huge other providser that sounds like bombast. Bombast apparently made the switch last night and this morning. How do I know? No internets. Came home, unplugged the modem and router, nada. Called the not-Greek company's service number, which was supposed to work for Bombast. Out of service. Got a number for Bombast. "We are performing a network upgrade. Do not reboot your modem, as you will be unable to reconnect to the network until the entire upgrade is complete. Due to an unusually high volume of customer calls, we cannot take your call right now."

It's finally back up. Just before it appeared, as if by magic, I called the service number again. The message? "Do you know that most connectivity problems can be solved by simply rebooting your modem and re-starting your computer?" Um ... thanks, Bombast.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Road Trip

So this Thanksgiving weekend is the first roadtrip I've taken in years. Lots and lots of driving, but well worth it. We went to Our Nation's Capital -- the first time I've been there for the museums and not for things like job interviews (the AHA was there three years ago). We went to the Sackler gallery and saw the Bible exhibit. On the way, we spent hours talking about teaching and historiography -- and teaching historiography -- and World History and other such things.

Seeing finds from Qumran and Nag Hammadi and Oxyrhynchus all in the same place really helped to separate them all in my mind in ways that they hadn't been before. There were also several Syriac and Georgian mss, which were very interesting. Of course, for me, the coolest things were the Carolingian and A/S exhibits. There wasn't much, but what there was, was wonderful in that it represented a good cross-section of 7th-9th century texts and decoration, including an ivory codex cover from Chelles. There were also a couple of things that made my head fuzzy and confused in a "Charles the Straightforward" kind of way:

  • There were big maps depicting Europe and the Near East in the 9th c. The area that encompasses what I have always thought of as Francia was called "Carolingia."* Um. I'm a Carolingianist. Or so I thought. But I did not get the memo on Carolingia. Am I frakkin' ignorant? What is going on? Did you all know this and not tell me?
  • One of the explanatory panels implied that Christianity became the official Roman religion under Constantine.
  • The exhibit was advertised as mss before 1000 CE. There was a Coptic ms dated to ca. 1400 CE. The text mentioned it as being one of the earliest such illuminated Coptic mss. Ruh?
  • Boniface was everywhere! Gospels glossed in Boniface's own hand (probably)! Gospels sent by Eadburga to Boniface (possibly)! But despite discussions of the Palace School and Alcuin (but not Aachen), and the development of Carolingian miniscule and the importance of Carolingian scriptoria, they only mentioned Rheims, and not Fulda! I don't really like Boniface, but how can there be any sensible discussion of Carolingian education that does not include Fulda??
  • There was an elderly man there who explained to his daughter at length that Charlemagne was a huge supporter of education and brought Alcuin (pronounced AL-sue-in) to France, but was himself quite ignorant and uneducated. Um. Because I am a polite person, I muttered very quietly to one of my friends that that wasn't exactly what Einhard said ... but did not offer my opinion to the world at large.

But anyway, wow. I don't know how it affects you all, but there is something really astounding for me to see things that make the people I study and write about so very tangible and real. It's not that I don't think of them as real in the first place, but there's a difference between seeing "stuff from time period X" and "stuff that was commissioned by Y from monastery Z at the time that N was abbot." And in my part of the world, getting a chance to experience that with the MA or LA or Classical world is rather rare. Besides the inherent grooviness of the exhibition, it was also just so cool that my friends enjoyed it, too, and had interesting things to say about what the exhibit said about material culture. After the exhibit, we grabbed a bite, and girded our loins for a weekend of preparation for next week.

*I could understand "Carolingian Empire," but that's not what it said. Carolingia???

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

Hi all -- Happy Thanksgiving!! In honor of the day -- or more in honor of, "I'm actually reading an article in my field and hanging out with historian friends," I have two questions:

  • So I'm reading the new Early Mediaeval Europe and Geoffrey Koziol has a new article where he says that the "Charles the Straightforward" name (rather than Charles the Simple) isn't really a good translation after all. But what I want to know is who started to call him Straightforward anyway.

  • also, one of my friends, Krautboy, is thinking of starting a blog. He's a historian of Technology and is looking for other bloggers/LJ people in his field. So if you know anybody or any good blogs that historians of S&T would like, please pass them on!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Almost Thanksgiving

Almost Thanksgiving

So, today I went on an extended journey to see my friends Good Witch and Krautboy. We managed to traverse five state lines between us, and ended up at an enormous market, where we picked up the turkey and had lunch. Then a very long drive home in absolutely crap weather. GoodWitch is one of my oldest friends, not in age, but in length of time served. College roommates. Krautboy is a newer addition, but we love him. They're both way too smart, but that's ok! Soon to come -- blogging theircats!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

NaBloPoMo 21

NaBloPoMo 21

This is a wimpy post because I am up too late and haven't yet packed to go away for Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, all of you who are celebrating!

Monday, November 20, 2006

NaBloPoMo 20

NaBloPoMo 20 -- Monday RBOC

  • I need to update my blogroll. Seriously. With luck, I'll get it done this week.
  • marking. I keep finding more
  • Students. I forgot I told my early class they could come up with some ways of re-assigning points. They gave really concrete suggestions for fixing things.
  • I think I'm starting to like Heroes. I've never seen it before.
  • One of my cats has an upset stomach. If it continues, I may not get to go away for Thanksgiving
  • Did I mention the marking?
  • Most importantly, if you're still reading this, I had the most awful margaritas ever with WN and D tonight -- but the food was pretty good, I think. No really. Lime jello-y margaritas. Narsty. But mole poblano enchiladas! And let me tell you, where I last lived, mole poblano tasted like satay sauce. This was pretty decent stuff. Not enough chocolate, but decent.
  • I'm so glad The Boy is going to the vet next week to have his teeth cleaned.
  • I think I'm going to buy these

Sunday, November 19, 2006

NaBloPoMo 19

NaBloPoMo 19 -- Gratuitous cat blogging #2

I'm not sure where the ultra-important ribbon has gone to. I wonder if that's what's been upsetting The Boy. Anyway, today is about watching a film for class and marking. As the film is subtitled, I doubt I'll be multi-tasking.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

NaBloPoMo 18

NaBloPoMo 18

Well, I was going to post a kitty pic, but I'm on the wrong computer. Today, I went to a conference. Really, it was one panel for a conference for an entirely different field of study. A friend gave a presentation on pedagogy, and I went to cheer her on. it was a good presentation. One of the others was really excellent and useful. I learned some things that I can use next year when I teach either Ancient or MA (depending on where I put in the panegyric and hagiography), in terms of getting students to recognize constructions and tropes ...

I wasn't all that impressed with the other paper, though, but I think it had more to do with disciplinary differences than anything else.

In other news, I'm looking for boots and I'm way behind on marking.

Friday, November 17, 2006

NaBloPoMo 17

NaBloPoMo 17 -- Teaching Carnival PSA

Hey, everybody -- Teaching Carnival XVI is up at Ancarett's Abode. There's all kinds of good stuff, if I do say so myself.

Also, a reminder that the next edition of Carnivalesque (Ancient/Medieval) will be hosted by Gill Polack at Even in a little thing on or around the 25th of November. Also, Gill has a story published in the latest (and sold out, so you can read it online) issue of Subterranean, guest edited this time by John Scalzi.

More cat blogging later today or tomorrow. The Boy and his Ribbon wait in the wings.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

NaBloPoMo 16

NaBloPoMo 16 -- gratuitous Cat blogging #1

This is why the Girl makes me crazy. Third floor balcony, folks!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

NaBloPoMo 15

NaBloPoMo 15 -- Smiling now!

I just looked at my course rosters for Spring. I have a student in one of my survey courses -- well, I have a bunch of students. But this student has seemed bored and discontented in my class. And the student has signed up for the second half. It is not a required course, but the student's coming back for more! Also, in my other courses, I have non-majors who don't need the second half signed up -- and they're ones I like! And my upper division class? Six enrolled (enough for it to go, but I'd like 15), and I know all but one of them. I love repeat customers!

In other news, I'm behind on my book review (still) and have a pile of papers 7" thick to mark before I can get back to working on my stuff. OTOH, one of them contains blatant plagiarism in the first paragraph, so that's one I don't have to spend time on.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

NaBloPoMo 14

NaBloPoMo 14 -- I said what??

Lordy -- just got invited to be on another search committee. I'd really like to, but turned it down. And I got an e-mail from my book review editor. Where's my review? The one due at the end of December? There isn't one due at the end of December. It was due two weeks ago. Guess what I'm doing over the holiday?

In other bloggy news, I am about to spend my hard-earned money on feline dentistry. Turns out that Mr. Soppy's stinky breath isn't just gingivitis. He's got what looks to be a seriously nasty tooth. Not to mention (this is icky) a cyst-like thing that is either not healthy, or like a big super-sized blackhead. Apparently, Schnauzers get these things all the time. Not harmful. But they want to remove it while he's under for the teeth, and make sure. He used to be a fairly inexpensive cat, but by the end of the month, he'll be the approximately $450 or more cat.

Also -- thanks, to everybody helping at the contest and please keep those good suggestions coming. Actually -- maybe that should go to a carnival???

Daily posting to continue -- can't promise quality till I climb out from under this pile, which just reminded me ... I haven't turned on the washer with my clothes for tomorrow yet. Shoot.

Yeah, this is one of those "raw" , "me, me, me" posts. Consider it insight into the life of a swamped junior academic who is feeling very old tonight.

Monday, November 13, 2006

NaBloPoMo 13

NaBloPoMo 13 -- Administrivia

First, there's a contest on, people!!. We have one judge so far, Jonathan Dresner at Frog in a Well. Any other volunteers?

In other news, I got a set of papers back today. Some look fine. Others? not so much. And one of them has an opening paragraph that's loosely paraphrased from an film review. How do I know? Because I've been doing this job a long time, and there are just some comparisons that freshmen will never make. Why? Because for one thing, none of them have seen a film made before 1990. *sigh* So, now I get to go talk to my chair and the dean and find out how much I need to document.

In other news, I've suddenly gone from trying to adjust and get back to researching to an absolute panic about getting my as-yet-not-accepted-but-maybe K'zoo paper done. Why? I have gone from, "how am I going to get enough service on my resume?" to OMG, I've just been appointed to a Big Important Committee, and a second pretty important committee (both university-wide and one very high profile), and oh, yeah, a search committee. And of course, now we're in the wind down of this term, where I have all kinds of marking, and then I'm gone for at least a week during break, and then all new preps for next term plus two conferences (only one of which I'm presenting at, thank goodness, but if I'm lucky, that'll be a paper and a roundtable on things pedagogical). How absolutely crazy am I for really keeping my fingers crossed that my K'zoo paper gets accepted?

Yipes. Just, yipes. And kind of "wow. It's like I'm a real academic like the other kids!"

Good wishes and advice welcomed.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

NaBloPoMo 12

NaBloPoMo 12 -- A Contest!

Apropos of a conversation over at Pilgrim's, today's post is in the order of a contest. Can't promise anything but glory, but oh, what glory it is. We were thinking ... people keep saying that we learn history so we can avoid making the mistakes our forefathers have made, but historians? We're like Rodney Dangerfield. We get no respect. I think that also makes us like the Cowardly Lion, which is probably more applicable. So... I've got a phrase or two, and am looking for someone to put them together in a cool and groovy kind of way so we can make T-shirts a la Cafe Press or some such. I'd also like about 5 volunteers for a panel of judges.

So here's the phrase:

"If we're all supposed to learn from history, why is it that no one ever listens to historians?"

If you don't like that one, we did have a couple of others for people to play with:

"Historians: ignore us at your peril"


"Historians: ignore us and people die"

What do you all think?

Update: New submissions in the comments!

Saturday, November 11, 2006



I saw no one selling poppies this year, but think we might see it again. So far, non-mortal US casualties are approximately 46,000. I couldn't find the numbers for the UK or Canada, the only other countries I could think of where disabled vets sell poppies.

Friday, November 10, 2006

NaBloPoMo 10

NaBloPoMo 10

Almost forgot. And I was going to cat blog today. But instead, I went to a colleague's house, ate well, drank well, and watched basketball. Now I'm watching BSG. It is so good. It is the best thing outside the Jossverse. But I'm very tired, and I'm guessing I won't be up to watch all of the Doctor. See you all tomorrow, when my post will be appropriately somber.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

NaBloPoMo 8

NaBloPoMo 8

I have nothing of consequence to say today. I could say more to clarify what I said yesterday, but I'm working that out. Many of the anecdotes I would use are personal and I'd have to do some serious editing. Maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, I had a good day today. Good teaching, good marking, good colleagues. I meant to go to bed early, yet here I am. Mostly because I'm kind of hooked on this show, Shark. I should probably watch it on the internets, but it's on right now. It's not all that great, really, but James Woods is really good. He's worth watching.

Also, I guess I need to watch Spiderman 2 because the trailer for Spiderman 3 looks pretty good. Not as good as Casino Royale but good enough. In the meantime, I really want to see The Prestige and the other magician movie -- the Illusionist, isn't it?

I did have one thought, though. Why is it that people always challenge measures that discriminate against gay people on civil rights grounds? I'm asking this because for me, it seems like a clear question of the establishment clause. As far as I can see, all the grounds for discriminating against homosexuals are grounded in religious teachings.* Yet not all religions teach the same thing about homosexuality. In fact, there are religions that bless unions between gay people, and others allow actual marriage ceremonies. So it seems that any law that allows discrimination based on sexual preference, including banning marriage (a contractual legal union -- I think that we should do what countries like Germany do, by the way -- a civil ceremony is the legal one, and if people want benefit of clergy, they can go to their clergyman), privileges some religious groups above others. To me, that seems to go against the establishment clause. But maybe I'm wrong. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.

*OK, there's the cynical argument that the insurance companies don't want to allow spousal benefits to anyone they can ...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

NaBloPoMo 7

NaBloPoMo 7

Not to burst anybody's bubble, but now that they've won back Congress, it might be a good thing for the Democrats to remember than not all of those races were won by landslides. There's a lot of work to be done. Although part of me does tend to think that the average liberal is better informed than the average conservative these days, dismissing conservatives as idiots will do no one any good. We have to take them seriously. I don't know what the solution is. But there are an awful lot of people in this country who don't think anything like what I do. Too many not to take them seriously. I do have one other observation, though. I have a lot more in common with people my own age and a bit older -- basically, other Boomers -- than I do with younger people. In general. These common values cross party lines. I can talk wbout politics with intelligent Republicans in their 50s and we will agree on an awful lot when it comes to civil rights, government intervention in people's private lives, the importance of the Constitution, etc., than with younger people. I don't think it's entirely an age thing, though. I think it's an educational divide. Education in this country is vastly different than it was in my day. These thoughts are rather ill-formed, but they're a start.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

NaBloPoMo 6

NaBloPoMo 6

It's been a very long day. I voted, as did every non-student I saw today. I'm not so sure about my students. I think I've never seen so many people voting, except maybe the first time I voted, when Reagan won. I don't think the election results will thrill me, but there are already surprising ones. I'm amazed at the Pennsylvania Senate result (so far).

I met with my student today to talk about the paper. The student was so receptive to my critique. I thanked them for the insights, and helped them see ways s/he could put forth the same criticisms on slightly different grounds. I also asked them to read some of the sentences out loud. The student could see that there were serious problems, and thought they were due to writing too fast and not proofreading. So, the student is going to go over the paper again and we'll have one more meeting. There is just nothing better than students who are willing to work. It's a good chance that this student might have been weeded out at admissions in many places, but the student is brighter than their writing skills suggest, I think. It's nice to teach at a private SLAC and know that we are not so exclusive that we don't have a chance to make a difference, if you know what I mean.

Monday, November 06, 2006

NaBloPoMo 6

NaBloPoMo 6

Monday about Meme

I've bolded the ones I've done -- nicked from One Bright Star and behind the cut 'cos it's long!

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain Does hiking count?
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said "I love you" and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea - from the shore
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights Very faint they were
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby's diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse (lunar)
34. Ridden a roller coaster Many of them.
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer (one's external, though)
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland not yet
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero not as an adult
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken I wish
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas (well, the airport)
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently well enough to have a decent conversation
95. Performed in Rocky Horror (doesn't everybody? I thought it was kind of required)
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication er ... some day, large being a relative term?
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone's heart I don't think so, but it's early days -- I hope not, though
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours I was very ill
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat unless that Jack-in-the-box scare was real
127. Eaten sushi as often as possible
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach more accurately, have been touched by a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad
135. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read Salinger? useless. Eliot? glorious.
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair Guess what colour!
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone's life

Sunday, November 05, 2006

NaBloPoMo 5

NaBloPoMo 5

Remember, remember.

What we didn't know is what our students don't know -- only arguably more so

I'm reviewing a draft for one of my freshmen. The paper is a review of a scholarly article. This may be one of the best drafts I've ever read -- and it's an absolutely crap paper. It's written badly (OMG -- the sentence structure, or lack thereof!). It's hugely self-referential. It's just pretty awful, full stop. But it's teaching me a lot.

The review is of 'Ancient Historian's “Ancient history Article on something Important” '[sic -- ish]. The student picked out the thesis, and then tells me that it's a very bad article. S/he does this in no uncertain terms. Why is it bad? Because the author has included passages in some other unidentifiable language (Student then asks how people are supposed to understand all that and the author should have translated or something). There are also abbreviations (e.g., "Cicero (Att. 14. 13a)" and "SC") that are unclear. The student is very clear in their (I know, but we're doing anonymous pronouns here) complaints, and gives specific examples -- in fact, s/he is doing what s/he should be doing, albeit in pretty bad English.

While I'm a little upset that the student didn't come to me to ask for help, I'm very proud of them for basically forcing their way through the assignment and getting this done. And I'm actually grateful. Sometimes, we forget what it's like to be introduced to this academic stuff. We forget how alien scholarly writing is to many of our students. Now I know that I need to not just say that a peer-reviewed article (that's the first part of the assignment, to select an appropriate article) is written by a scholar for other scholars, but I need to take the time to point out the challenges that a student might have, and to let them know that it's OK to ask when they hit passages written in other languages. I can also remind them that they should be thinking of themselves as junior members of this scholarly community; while it's appropriate to point out that an article is difficult for a neophyte, the students should also revise their own expectations and their criticisms to reflect an understanding of audience, etc. It's also a good time to point out that the reason I ask them to get some basic books on their article's subject is precisely so that, if they run into abbreviations and other such problematic things, they can look them up -- which should help them to understand how a book is put together. Don't laugh -- many of my students have never really thought about the structure of a book -- why is there a ToC? an Index? a list of abbreviations? a bibliography? Hell, yesterday DV told me that JSTOR is so popular among his undergraduates at Grad U that few of them ever check the stacks!

So this is a painful project, but I really feel fortunate when I am allowed this kind of insight.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

NaBloPoMo 4

NaBloPoMo 4

Oops! I almost forgot!

I learned something really important today. Actually, several things, some good and bad. Good: I really can negotiate the public transport system and city streets of a major and totally new metropolis without getting lost or losing it. Just so you know, I'm not generally comfortable negotiating new cities. well, kind of. It's more that figuring out how much to pay, and whether the charges change depending on time of day and distance, and if there are passes or you have to pay cash, and whether to hand over the transfer or just show it?? I'm fine in Germany -- systems there make sense, but it took me a while to learn them. But I'm embarrassed to admit that I take the tube whenever I'm in London -- at least as often as I can -- because I can't really get the bus system ...

Also, I learned where to get about the best bowl of Tom Kha Gai that I've ever (or in memory) had.

What's more, I learned that I have not lost my ability to do research -- it's just kind of dormant. But ... you know that focus I was worried about? Well, the reason I went to the big city was to go to work at impressive university library. And here's the thing: I went in, with my small list of books, which turned into a somewhat bigger set of books once I hit the catalogue, and went into the stacks -- and let me tell you how obnoxious it is to have the collection divided A-D, DA-H , with two floors between the sections! I didn't get as far as the Ks and the stuff on disputes and feud today. They're also on another floor. But anyway, I grabbed some books (and why did I not know about that Walter Pohl collection of essays on the transformation of Roman frontiers -- there's some good stuff in it!) and sat down at a carrel and just worked. No problems settling or focusing, just work. Apparently, it's important for me to have a separation of work places. My school office is all about the teaching -- partially because it's all about the students, partially because I haven't really finished getting the office together -- it needs plants and things on the walls and more books. And maybe it's also because I have colleagues who play rather loud music? Our library at school is not really set up for research, although considering how many students don't use it, 'm thinking I can start taking things over there if I'll never run into students! At home, it's kind of hard, because there are cats and laundry ...
I'm really relieved, though. I've been so caught up in teaching and campus-y things, that I've not done any real work (I know, teaching is real, but it isn't all I get paid for, even though SLAC is a "teaching school"). I know I went through this last year a bit, and kind of forgot.

I think that those of us with substantial teaching loads find it easier to forget that we do have to make a place for scholarship.* When I was teaching at the CC, it wasn't an issue -- people who managed anything beyond teaching and service were going above and beyond the call of duty. Among my older colleagues at SLAC, there isn't much of a sense of urgency, by and large. Last year, I re-discovered how invigorating it was getting to the library. And then, I kind of forgot. Today, I remembered again. I feel so much better about everything, too. Duh.

So I guess I'll be getting to the library at least once a week from now on. Just think -- I might just get my article finished, plus the two book reviews, plus the paper I hope gets accepted for K'zoo. But I'm starting to think that, if I add in the couple of things I should be doing, rather than diffusing my ability to settle and focus, it might instead force me to spread the load and find some balance.

*like making time to go to the gym, sort of.

Oh -- and I can't remember the bad parts at this point.

Friday, November 03, 2006

NaBloPoMo 3

NaBloPoMo 3

I know I was going to post something interesting todya, but y'all will have to wait. It's BSG night! So instead, can I just say:
  • Cybermen: yeep!
  • Nomination to what I think is a scary-important committee -- why can't I keep my mouth shut? Always have to have an opinion, me.
  • In order, my classes today: sucked, did very well, rocked. But the students who showed for the first class did well, too. There's a post coming on this.
  • I like my colleagues
  • I like my job
  • I think life might be good

Thursday, November 02, 2006

NaBloPoMo 2

NaBloPoMo 2

Pilgrim asked me what I wished at the moment I read her question. At that moment, I wished I was on top of things. I've been dog-paddling a lot this term. I think some of it adjusting. Normally speaking, when my life is full of immediate stress, I just keep going, but at some point, usually when things calm down a bit, I just sort of shut down. I haven't really done that, but I'm having a hard time focusing lately. I'm starting to think I really needed the slightly reduced teaching load -- and thinking I need to make more of it instead of just surviving. So I wish I were more on top of my job and getting to the gym and eating properly ...

But if you asked me that same question right now, I'd say that I'd really like it if I could connect to my school servers. Tomorrow, I think I might talk about my classes. Or research. Or both. Unless, of course, there are more requests.

Teaching Carnival 15?

And by the way, there's an amazing Teaching Carnival up at New Kid's. You should go read it!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Writing practice -- NaBloPoMo

Writing Practice -- NaBloPoMo

Ok, I'm going to try this. Y'all can post your requests, which I'll try to honor, and I will try to post more serious stuff that will help me to get my head back in the writing game, because this semester and the new preps are kicking my butt!

Catching Up

Catching Up

Wow -- it's been a while since I blogged. Personally, it's been an interesting week or so. In a fairly surprising turn of events, I've been invited to visit a friend who lives in an exciting and cool city, so I get to travel many miles (note to self -- must check partner airlines and (finally) update my name on my frequent flyer programs, 'cos I'll be getting miles for this!

Also, I've been shopping, and bought this jacket -- for $99! Not bad for a jacket that retails for $250. It's not glamorous, but it looks good for icky weather. Apparently, it's not all that good for snowboarding, but I don't snowboard.

Also, and this is probably TMI, my cat has nasty bad breath. He's washing himself a couple of feet away, and I can smell his breath from here. I think I need to get a kitty toothbrush. Or maybe just kitty toothpaste. I hear that if they eat it, it still helps, and Mr. Soppy is not really good about having people play with his mouth. He turns into Mr. Fetal Position.

School-wise, I have one class that makes me want to bang my head against the wall. There are some very bright students, but the energy level is so incredibly sucky that even when I run through a set of questions that point back directly to things that I or the students have said in the previous 40 minutes, no one can or will answer. When I mention this, someone will invariably say, "It's [insert day of week]." My other survey never ceases to amaze me. I thought that this would be the class from hell, but after I gave them the, "OK, this is college and these are the expectations you need to get used to" speech, they responded in really wonderful ways. They are fairly brave, there's some cameraderie, and if they don't understand something, they ask. I don't just mean about historical stuff, but they ask basic mechanical questions about how class works, and what they are supposed to be doing. Some of them are infuriating in that several of them are barely starting the paper that's due on Friday, but they are trying and engaged -- and some of them are really stretched. I can honestly say I have little to no respect for many of the people in charge of athletic programs. We have one coach on campus who actually thinks that our athletes may practice too much -- he thinks that they have a harder time getting up their energy for real games because they're always practicing. This is not true for some of the other coaches, who have their students eating and sleeping and drinking sports -- so much so that they really are not able to take proper breaks to eat and sleep, let alone keep up with classes.

Ok -- I have to stop for a minute. I've got some crime show on right now in the backgrouns, and how stupid is it that they keep talking about athletes getting Fulbright scholarships??? Are there Fulbrights for athletes?

That's about it right now. Just thought I'd mention that I was still here, still working, panicking about getting in a bunch of little grant applications so I can go to conferences and maybe get some summer research funding...

And by the way, does anybody know what the timeline is for finding out if my K'zoo paper has been accepted -- I had to submit to the general sessions, because I kind of waited till the deadline.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Carnivalesque XX

Carnivalesque XX

Carnivalesque XX is now up at Recent Finds Weblog. It's Early Modern this time, and may be one of our most international versions yet! And it's also perhaps one of the most elegant I've seen. Did I also mention that it's full of links to blogs I've never seen before? The article on female saddlers at Investigations of a Dog is particularly interesting, in part because it talks a bit about how women's history has changed.

Announcements of the next three Ancient/Medieval versions TBA Real Soon Now!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Help from the Asianists

Help From the Asianists

I'm teaching a 300 level East Asian survey in the Spring. Has anybody used Ebrey, Walthall, Palais, East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History? Mostly, I need something that is solid and will be cost-effective (i.e., not horribly pricey). The class is my own, and I can make it a modern class if I like, or limit to China and Japan (in which cases, I can think of all kinds of books, but they'd be spendy -- the two Spence books alone are pretty expensive), but I think the students would prefer that they have a broader course, because we can only offer Asia every other year. Suggestions? Comments?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

All about the dating

All about the Dating

Saw this at Pilgrim's:
The Maid of Honor
Deliberate Gentle Love Master (DGLMf)

Appreciated for your kindness and envied for all your experience, you are The Maid of Honor.

Charismatic, affectionate, and terrific in relationships, you are what many guys would call a "perfect catch"--and you probably have many admirers, each wishing to capture your long-term love. You're careful, extra careful, because the last thing you want is to hurt anyone. Especially some poor boy whose only crime was liking you.

Your exact opposite:

Random Brutal Sex Dreamer
We've deduced you're fully capable of a dirty fling, but you do feel that post-coital attachment after hooking up. So, conscientious person that you are, you do your best to reserve physical affection for those you you can respect yourself.

Your biggest negative is the byproduct of your careful nature: indecision. You're just as slow rejecting someone as you are accepting them.

ALWAYS AVOID: The False Messiah, The 5-Night Stand, The Vapor Trail, The Bachelor

CONSIDER: The Gentleman, someone just like you.

Link: The 32-Type Dating Test by OkCupid - Free Online Dating.

Hm ...

I dunno. Dating is a mystery to me. For example, I can't explain lots of things, like why no American has asked me out in 15 years ...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Marking Again

Marking Again

I know I said I would be happy to help students learn to write. I was serious. But today, I'm marking ID paragraphs. If you teach History, you know the drill -- 2-3 sentences, max., that answer Who, What, Where, When, and So What (Historical Significance). It's formulaic. I hand out a set of terms a week ahead of the exam -- maybe 20-30, all of which they should know anyway, because they are directly from the readings, except for maybe two that I've gone over in class at least twice.

Here's the thing -- in most of the cases, studying the ID list should give the stuents information they can use in the essays. Also, you just learn the damned things. Put them on index cards and memorize that shit, people! Easy points! So far, the highest score out of 20 is 14. With this part, I cannot help them. Except maybe to tell them to write the things down and make sure they put all of the pertinent information and learn it. *sigh*

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Joys of Academia, pt. 2

The Joys of Academia, pt. 2 -- politics

It may come as a surprise to no one that there are politics in academia. Things are no different at SLAC, although frankly, so far everything seems pretty mild. In fact, so far, most of the politics I've come across seem tied to a few egos. I think. There are probably bigger issues and bigger stakes if one looks at the competition between schools -- clearly the fact that one school has a standard teaching load that is 75% of the teaching load of the other schools might cause tensions, for example. But within my school, things seem pretty good, at least compared to what I'm used to.

After all, my first full-time job was at a place where there was a movement for a much-needed vote of no-confidence. The three years I was there were fraught, and politics were ugly and sometimes vindictive. Actually, I'd say some of the politics are still ugly, because too much damage may have been done for a return to health. The last full-time job I had was less politically challenging, but that's because I seemed to have fallen in on the right side of things. There was a definite old boys' club, and people who were invited in were taken care of with extra travel support, etc. TO be fair, the people who were invited in tended to be the faculty with the highest expectations and the lowest bullshit tolerance. They consistently got good teaching evals, served on committees, participated in campus events (cheering on the various teams, actually participating in in-service day symposia and workshops) and were, despite working at a CC, active in their fields. At any campus where such things were based entirely on merit, the rewards would probably have been distributed to the same group ... it's just that at this place, if you weren't already 'in', you might not have found out that there were rewards to be had.

So far at SLAC, I've been negotiating the personalities. On the good side, I've heard no faculty member actively badmouth another. I've also heard no nastiness from faculty towards administration. People genuinely seem to like working here. Still, I'm starting to see and hear evidence of the kinds of petty tensions that can be annoying at best, dangerous to a paranoid new faculty member like me, if I were stupid enough to take sides. Via one of my departmental colleagues, I have been very fortunate. I seem to have made friends with a group of faculty who have all just gotten tenure and (mostly) promotion. I really like them, and am thrilled that they seem to like me. I've also found myself invited to sit with some of the old guard on a number of occasions (almost everyone eats at about the same time, in the same place). I don't know that I'm particularly special in this -- I think any new person who's a little outgoing would find herself in a similar position. This is a friendly place, and there really is a familial feeling to it. Still, people have opinions, and some of those opinions, when held by the firmly entrenched and longstanding holders of positions, need to be treated with respect. It takes a while to figure out which person will consider a difference of opinion, however polite, an affront, and which person will see it as a necessary and almost enjoyable part of process.

I'm not so good at politics. That is, I can't see the point of trying to get in with the 'right' people, or identifying the movers and shakers. Me? I'm more worried about avoiding the pitfalls. So, when I have a colleague who makes me feel uncomfortable, I start to worry. I have a couple of colleagues like that, people who are giving me advice that just doesn't feel quite right, or that may sound like generally good advice, but which I can't entirely trust because the people, despite being more experienced, are also new to SLAC. I am wary. I am not saying that people are out to hurt me -- I certainly hope not! But I sometimes wonder if the advice isn't predicated on someone's own agenda or experiences. And frankly, I've been burned in life by trusting people too quickly. Plus, it doesn't seem to have hurt me much to be polite to people I don't necessarily like, friendly with people who are friendly towards me, and collegial to everybody, even if I don't like them. Part of that may be that I'm a natural mediator ...

Still, what's a junior faculty member to do? Here's what I'm doing, and why.
  • Seek out some committee work of an appropriate level -- some committees are closed to junior faculty, and some require lots of institutional knowledge. So I looked for a couple of committees that would allow me to draw on my own expertise in pedagogy and assessment -- not entirely the kind of committees junior faculty usually get on, but those are the ones where I feel comfortable offering input
  • Continue to get to know as many of my colleagues as possible. I think that the people I've already started to socialize with will continue to be my friends and the basis of my social circle (did I mention that I kind of feel like they're the cool kids?), but there are a lot of good people who have interesting lives and a lot of experience. I might not hang out with them or go shopping with them, but I think it's a shame to get too comfortable with one little group too quickly. I never really liked clicques, and I want to take advantage that I can sit with different groups of colleagues and staff.
  • Think of my friends as mentors and not blur the line between friends away from work, colleagues at work. I think that, on small campuses, it's very normal for people to become close friends with colleagues. But the reality is that we evaluate each other, we make decisions on who gets development money, etc. It has to be clear that we will give each other the respect we deserve and hold each other to the same standards, friends or no.
  • (I did this today) Go to the Dean and ask him for a recommendation for an unofficial mentor -- someone not a personal friend, nor in my department, but rather a neutral person who can give advice on avoiding the occasional buried skeleton or how best to approach awkward situations. Dean had an idea for one, and will let me know.
  • Trust my gut and keep my mouth shut. One of the things that makes me paranoid is finding myself in a conversation where the other person utters such things as, "what's the deal with her?" or, "there's more going on there than you know" or, "there's background; I'll tell you about it someday." Again, I don't know that anything is malicious -- small school, academics are gossips, etc. But I'm afraid I see things like this is a test. I'd rather come out as a person who is fairminded and neutral than as a person who has thrown in her lot with one group. It's not that I don't want to know about these things -- just that I think it's the kiss of death to take sides unless you are either sure that you need to -- and then, you should take the side whether or not you think you'll win.

I hope my plan, such as it is, isn't too stupid. I'd like to think that all of those things are really just part of being a good colleague and doing the job properly. In fact, I don't like that I think of it as a plan at all. But I want to stay in this job, and that means understanding what I need to do to make that happen. The fact that there are people giving me dubious advice on that just makes it more necessary to concentrate on doing the things that got me the job and that I already seemed to be doing right, and avoiding doing things wrong. What are you other junior faculty doing to avoid the pitfalls?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Appeal to the Interwebs

Appeal to the Interwebs

I'll post that promised post soon, but in the meantime ... I need a new laptop. Right now, I have a Dell that I got in 2000. It was ok till TSA broke the catches that hold in the battery and the floppy/CD drive. By OK, I mean that it works. It still does work, but it only has 128k of memory. A memory upgrade would be (if I get the memory on sale) about $100. I think it will only go to 256k. It would cost about $200 to get the catches fixed. Oh -- and the battery? The kid killed it several years ago, and it only lasts for about 15 minutes. I would really like to be able to go to the libraries in Big City and do some research. It would be nice to have a computer (I keep thinking I should take notes on the computer, rather than on reams of paper, although I think I remember things better when I write them) that I could write on.

Here's the problem. I'm cheap. I want the most computer for my money, but I'm torn between getting something really good and having it last for 5 years, or something that will do, because I have a good desktop at home and an acceptable desktop at work. Oh -- it would be nice if it had a 3D accelerator, DirectX 9 compatible video card, too, because otherwise, I'm going to have to upgrade my Video card on the desktop, which is another $100-$200. Crap. I've just realized if I buy a mac laptop, I'll still have to upgrade the video card on the PC. And if I do start going away on reserach trips, I need to have a good computer that will allow me to plug into European power sources.

So anyway, here are the things I really want: small, lightweight (as close to 5 pounds as possible), keyboard that won't cramp my hands. Good screen. CD/DVD RW (because I don't have a DVD burner). Otherwise, I'm clueless.

I am not married to the idea of PCs, but Macs seem pricier. I do like the old powerbooks, but am kind of annoyed that the new iBooks are bigger. Still, if there's a good reason to go Mac, I would. Any opinions out there?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Joys of Academia, pt.1

The Joys of Academia, pt 1 -- on marking papers

I like being an academic. I really do. I am most at home on a campus or in a library or a classroom -- or at a conference, which is like all of those things with all the smartest kids and the couple who are there so you can say, "wtf???"* I love my job. Like most academics, I am no different in that there are those parts of my job that I love to complain about. The most obvious of these is marking papers. We all whinge about it. It takes up huge amounts of time, and can be really demoralizing. Most of the people I know have got to the point where we can differentiate between totally unprepared students and students who just didn't get it, and our responses are different in each case.

When we have totally unprepared students, we can't really feel that guilty about their having done badly. It isn't our fault as college professors that these students never learned to write in complete sentences, let alone an entire essay that answers the question we asked. It isn't our fault if they can't tell water from land on an outline map. They're supposed to know that coming in. Still, as I've said before, a lot of us really have to teach "How to do College". I'm finding that these things are also true at SLAC. I will be marking exams beginning midweek, and I am pretty sure that I will not really be assessing them on how well they've learned the history, because some of them will have failed the exam before I get to historical data and its use. This is a little demoralizing. After all, I'm a professor (assistant) of History, not Composition, right?

Wrong. Historians are writers. It's what we do. It's how we express to others how all the names and dates and stuff that happened go together in some kind of coherent picture that makes sense. I've always known that as a teacher, but I haven't been able to articulate it very well to students when they complain about my not giving them enough credit for "content." Now that I'm writing again, the importance of written communication is much easier for me to explain. Still, there is something very disheartening about essentially failing (or in this case, giving a lot of 'D's, probably) students because they just can't write.**

If a student can't write, I will help them, either myself or by sending the student to the correct places on campus. And since I know how important writing is to my field, I know I am doing my job. I even know, when students do improve, that I am doing my job well. But the necessary focus on writing and other skills the students should already have can mask or interfere with another grading issue. It's an important issue, and I think it's one of the reasons we dread marking, apart from the time-suck. Whether or not we like it, reading and assessing student work forces us (or should force us) to consider our own performance. When we see a consistency in errors, is it our fault? were we not clear enough? Did we not do our jobs well? Of course, that also gives us an opportunity to change how we teach some things to make them clearer. I like that part, but it's hard to get to. I hope I get there with my new students.

This was going to be a post about new challenges that really are old -- marking papers and navigating political waters in a new climate. I'll have to tackle that one later, but I'll give you a not-surprising preview: SLAC has politics. Navigating them is scary and likely to make a new person paranoid.

*or in a restaurant kitchen -- go figure
** including spelling. I have a student who always writes "sum" rather than "some" -- perhaps a texting thing? But I'm trying to figure out a polite and non-embarrasing way to let him know that he really doesn't want to make the equivalent substitution for the spelling of the word 'come'

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ooh! Shiny!

Ooh! Shiny! (a reason why we have the government we do)

This thread over at Making Light explains a lot to me. It starts with a very small post. The comment thread, like all comment threads at ML, is very long. It includes many thoughtful posts by apparently bright people. But. Well... staying on topic doesn't seem to be one of their strongest suits. The issues implied by the link and comment have nothing directly to do with the majority of comments, because frankly, all it took was one commentator to wave a conspiracy flag and they were off to look at the shiny. It reminds me a little of the beginning of Marc Bloch's Strange Defeat, where he talks about one of the fatal flaws in France's tactical approach to war in 1940 -- the French were still fighting the last war, when the Germans were fighting a new one with entirely new rules. I think many people are justifiably outraged by some of the (many of the, most of the) actions of the present US government. Hell, my father, a dyed-in-the-wool SoCal Republican and a regular listener to Rush Limbaugh is outraged by the way the Constitution has been treated. But sometimes, I just get really effing tired of listening to smart people getting such a rush from how smart they are in hindsight that they wont get off their asses and do anything about it, 'it' being the topic they forgot because they were busy showing how smart they are. And no, world, blogging about it is preaching to the choir. It doesn't count.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Getting Medieval

Getting Medieval

I have too many thoughts right now to put them into anything as articulate as you'll find at Crooked Timber or Making Light or any number of other blogs. But it occurs to me that, when people are talking about how primitive and backwards the middle ages were, it might be a good idea to remember that habeas corpus dates back to the middle ages.

update: links updated and corrected

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Long Time, No Blog

Long Time, No Blog

To quote my favourite historian, "A great many things keep happening, some of them good, some of them bad." I have to say, it's been interesting that I've seen that particular quote in several places of late. It's about perfect for a historian, in that there's never a time that it could be wrong. I'm happy to say that most things are good these days, I think.

Term is about 1/4 of the way down. I'm surviving, which is a good thing. I was pretty sure I would, but there are many times that I worry about the fact that I am just surviving. I'm trying not to worry -- there are a lot of new faculty members, some of them even more experienced than I am, and they all are feeling overwhelmed, too. I know a lot of this is not unfamiliar to many of you, but I really am surprised at how different a T-T job at a SLAC is from a visiting job at a CC. Last year, I did try to act like a well-rounded academic, and produced a conference paper and a couple of book reviews. But this year, even though I'm in the classroom a little less (last year was 12 hours a week plus online discussion, this year, 9 plus online discussion), it just seems harder. OK, so the preps (two) are both new, and one is not in a field in which I have had any significant coursework at all -- and it's the upper division class. But ...

I have two days a week that I don't teach. All I've managed to get done that isn't related to teaching is a single book review and an abstract that I finished so late that I had to submit to the general sessions. Let's hope they like women and land transactions in my place and period of expertise. It's got a pretty good title, at least! Actually, I am really looking forward to writing it, just as I'm looking forward to trying to expand the paper I wrote last year into an article. That's one of the biggest changes, I think. I don't ever remember resenting not having the time to write before. But then, I never had to write before. The pressure of being on the market has been replaced by the pressure of keeping my job. Somehow, I thought I'd feel far more secure this year. Hmph. How did I not see this coming?

Just so you all know, this job is good. The move was kind of hellish, and adjusting from pretty cool big city to really small town -- which I now dub, "Dabbaville" in honor of my grandfather. The town is about the same size as the one my grandparents lived in for almost 60 years, where my dad grew up and where I lived when I was really little. Since school started, I haven't gone anywhere where I haven't run into someone I know. My colleagues are all pretty cool. There are politics, and I'm still trying to get a handle on some of the dynamics, but I've been told I'm fitting in. I got here early enough that I'd started to meet some people outside SLAC -- neighbors I could go out to a local pub with. I liked the idea of separate friends, but Dabbaville is so small that it only took one evening out with a couple of colleagues, and the two groups met -- and were already connected through mutual friends! Even in the big city there were some really interesting 'small world' experiences -- neighbors being close friends of people I knew in an entirely separate way, etc., but this is a different type of small. All of my colleagues are on boards of various charities, or active in churches, or in the Rotary or some such ... it's kind of expected. And yet I haven't run into any students when out on the town. Of course, most of my younger students are too young to go out to the one club in town and are too young to drink anyway. My older students mostly live in the surrounding communities, so aren't likely to go out on the town in Dabbaville. Still, one of the non-colleague friends isn't so lucky. She's a middle-school teacher who regularly runs into ex-students.

And the students ... can I just say that they aren't all that different at the freshman level? Skills-wise, they're about the same. The differences are in attitude -- more of a sense of entitlement at SLAC -- and neediness. My students are a lot more demanding and want a lot more hand-holding than I'm used to. On the other hand, they are cool in the same ways. They ask for help, and really do try when they get it. And I like it that they ask. OK, so I wish they wouldn't ask me things I wrote in the assignment and repeated in class ... twice! But even though they're killing me, I really like them. And I have athletes in my classes. All of a sudden I feel obligated to pay attention to how the various teams are doing ... and I am going to my first Homecoming game ever. SLAC's ways are not our Earth ways, but I think they might be ok. I just want to get some damned writing done.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Carnivalesque XVIII

Carnivalesque XVIII

Welcome to this version of Carnivalesque Button! It's a bit abbreviated, as this particular Mistress of Folly has been fighting a migraine for the past few days. It's also a little light on the medieval ... it seems as though the medievalist bloggers have been blogging their academic lives, rather than their academics, lately. So this particular carnivalesque also includes a few words of encouragement to myself and my colleagues to blog a bit more!!

I thought we might take things in chronological order, more or less, so we'll begin our tour with archaeology. First, because I like pictures and all, take a visit to Memorabilia Antonina and look at Tony's picture of Hadrian's Wall. No particular reason, except that it's a really nice picture! Primed with that, you might want to move on to Towards an Archaeology of Iconoclasm to see the Top Ten Archaeological Sites on the Mediterranean. Then, if you're feeling a bit behind on recent finds, check out this post at Another Boring Academic Has a Blog, where Lisa Carnell has gathered together a very nice collection of links to recent finds. There's also a Classics Carnival up at Rogue Classicism.

If you're the type of person who prefers their archaelogical sources mixed up with a bit of inscription and literature, there's also a nice pair of posts at Classical Archaeologist on Health in the Ancient World (well, the Ancient Western World) here and here. Just to remind you that there are other places one might call ancient, go check out this primary source at Frog in a Well: China. It's so good, I may have to use it in my World Civ midterm!
And for those of you who despair every time you teach Early Christianity, there's a very useful post at Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean on on that very subject

But wait! Early Christianity! that's Late Antique, isn't it? Not really Ancient, not yet Medieval ... Good thing this is the Ancient/Medieval version, folks !

I'm starting off the Medieval section with two PSAs. Scott Nokes reports the Impending Death of Medieval Forum. And at Wormtalk and Slugspeak, Michael Drout reports the online arrival of Oral Tradition. Tiruncula also points us to a new source of things digital and medieval: Podcasts on your favourite heresies!

Over at In the Middle, Karl the Grouchy Medievalist talks about Christians, heresy, and the eating of meat -- not necessarily in that order. And speaking of heresy ... well, not really, it's more like offending Ramon Lull's sensibilities, Steve Muhlberger has an interesting piece about a woman jouster. Talking of offended sensibilities, the last week or so has been pretty interesting for medievalists. Benedict XVI's use of the words of Manuel II Paleologus in a recent speech once again resurrected the imagery of the Crusades in service of popular ideology. Both Steve Muhlberger and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen offer some sensible clarification on Saladin and the capture of Jerusalem.

It may have come to your notice that this has been a very historical carnival ... I'm sorry! I couldn't find a lot of lit, per se. And what there is, is Late Medieval. Over at Got Medieval, Carl Pyrdum offers commentary on a medieval cookbook, which ites back to a very curious post on medieval cheese. For the truly literary tastes, though, if it's Late Mediaeval Lit on the interwebs, it's all about (or by) Geoffrey Chaucer. A serious Heo Cwaeth posits a different interpretation of Chaucer's Knight, while on a lighter note, History Geek makes some connections between Lanval, her other course readings, and how they connect to the present at And gladly wolde (s)he lerne. Chaucer's own contribution to this edition should not be missed: Serpents on a Shippe! (avec spoylerez)

On a final note, there's just no way to have an Ancient/Mediaeval Carnivalesque without Alun. This time, he takes us back to the beginning of our tour, timewise, and close to the end in terms of theme with America really really isn't the new Rome and America really really REALLY isn't the new Rome.

That's it for this time, folks! Don't forget, we're always looking for volunteers to host future editions!

Friday, September 22, 2006

History Carnival XXXIX

History Carnival XXXIX

Ralph Luker has posted History Carnival XXXIX at Cliopatria. It's full of really great stuff, and I'm dying because he's posted some of the stuff I had in mind for Carnivalesque!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Call for Posts

Carnivalesque Call for Posts

The next Carnivalesque Button will take place here on or about 25 September. It's an Ancient/Medieval version this time, folks!

We're also looking for future hosts! (hint, hint)

Carnivalesque is certainly not just for historians (or for academic scholars). We welcome perspectives from related disciplines, especially literary studies, archaeology, art history, philosophy - in fact, from anyone who enjoys writing about anything to do with the not-so-recent past. You can nominate your own writing and/or that of other bloggers, but please try not to nominate more than one or two posts by any author, and limit nominations to fairly recent posts, preferably since the last edition (on the relevant period) and certainly within the last three months.

To submit nominations you can either send an email to another Underscore damned Underscore Medievalist At-sign hotmail DOT com or the carnivalesque e-mail address: carnivalesque At-sign earlymodernweb DOT org ANOTHER DOT uk or you can use the handy submission form at Blog Carnival.

Potential hosts should be regular bloggers with some knowledge of
and interest in pre-modern history (though, again, not necessarily academics). If you are interested in hosting an edition of Carnivalesque, please send an email noting whether you are particularly interested in early modern or ancient/medieval, and telling us a little about your background and historical interests.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

AN open Letter

An Open Letter

Dear General Mills, Kellogg's,,

I am confused. You make breakfast cereals like Special K, Total, and Cheerios without tons of added sugar and no sugar coating. They taste just fine to many of us, but are a little boring, and kind of a pain, because to make them not-so-boring, we have to add our own fruit. Then, you come out with the idea of adding freeze-dried berries (one of the joys of my childhood) to your cereal. Woo and hoo! Problem solved! Except that, for some reason, you also decided to add a sugar coating to the cereal. You couldn't just dump in the fruit? What makes you think that the people who choose cereal without sugar will either: a) not want the fruit, or; b) all of a sudden want a bunch of added sugar? What kind of dumbasses are you?



Wednesday, September 13, 2006



Hello, everyone. Still here. Haven't finished my K'zoo proposal. Struggling with my upper-division class in the one field I really don't know. Dealing with the fact that my students at SLAC are no better than my students at CCs 1, 2, and 3 -- except they whine more. Thrilled that there are some serious liberals on campus to counteract the students who can't stop talking about some odd fundamentalist evangelical view of history and other cultures. Busy as hell. Hope your terms have all started out well.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Because I need to Grade

Because I need to Grade

I'm going to ask about new templates. Because I've realized that this template is over 4 years old. I modified it myself. I like the color scheme (really), and would like to keep some of the same colors. But I think it's time for a change. Opinions and suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

World Keeps Turnin'

World Keeps Turnin'

Since so many of y'all held my hand through summer before last, I thought I should let you know the latest. X is engaged to be married. He kindly waited to tell me till he knew I was getting into the swing of things and felt emotionally sound. Or so I'm telling myself. I wish him all the best. I wonder what took me so long.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Educational Toys

Educational Toys

Via What Now by way of meg at xoom:

Target offers the
Franklin Roosevelt action figure!!! Make sure you read the customer reviews. I'm guessing they don't get comments like that at Wal-Mart!

Update: Apparently, Target has removed the product from its list!

Obesity Pandemic?

Obesity Pandemic?

This just in. Yes, it's bad. Yes, it's a real problem. Yes, there are lots of changes to our way of life that might help -- not adding corn syrup to everything, not commuting and working ridiculous hours so we rely too much on fatty, salty, sugary fast foods and exercise more. Not making those foods so cheap ...
But pandemic? Surely it's not contagious.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Here be Dinosaurs

Here be Dragons Dinosaurs

I know that there are people out there who are quite responsible about the home-schooling of their children in terms of providing instruction and curriculum that is similar or more rigorous than that provided in the public schools. I do not care. Here is why: schools are about more than education. They are about socialization and citizenship. They are about being members of the greater society. Personally, I think everybody should go to public school, but I can accept that accredited parochial and other private schools serve a purpose that public schools don't. And to some extent, I think that private schools still provide that sense of communal belonging and responsibility. But if you care about education at all, and you home school your children, shame on you for opting out. Because while you might be doing a very good job, the eloquent arguments of people like you allow people who
teach stuff like Beowulf, Killer of Dinosaurs! to 'teach' their children at home.

I'm not even going to go into how offensive I find it that home-schoolers frequently demand that their children be allowed to participate in music and sports programs provided in the public schools. You opt out? You're out. I just don't think people should be able to opt out. Education isn't something that should be provided by the non-educated. Parental rights shouldn't trump the rights of children, and the rights of the general public to insist that all our children -- the people who will grow op to live and work with us -- be well educated with us. If you don't like the public schools in terms of facilities, safety, and rigor, get off your ass and do something about it. With the time you are supposed to be spending home-schooling your kid, you could be effecting real change for lots of kids.

(Please note also the blatant plagiarism. That's a good, Christian lesson. Not.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

... and all is right with the world

... and all is right with the world

Today was the first day of classes. I didn't sleep at all well last night. I was too nervous, had a migraine yesterday afternoon, and consequently didn't really get myself as organized for the dread upper division course as I'd planned. All of my classes are on the same days -- which gives me writing days, if I use my time well and carefully. I was a little worried about this, but now? Well, I walked into my first class, and everything just slid into place.

I know I talked a little last week about how this is New Year's for academics. I've noticed elsewhere that other people are writing their Academic Year Resolutions. I'll get to those soon. Really. But it's funny. With all the craziness of the summer, and not getting enough done to feel like I deserved my new job, and panicking about doing the job, I kind of forgot something. I know this job.

So when I walked into my first class -- and boy, were they a tough room: it took most of the hour to get any of them to crack a smile -- I was a little worried. But I thought, it's syllabus day. It's ice-breaker day. You can do this. And I knew I could. What was surprising was that the actual doing of it seemed to lead to a kind of revelation. Nothing particularly stunning, really. In fact, to most of you, it's probably a little lame. But there it was, this complete kind of remembering, of knowing that I not only knew what I was doing in the classroom, but that I knew how to do my job. The whole job. For so long, I've felt like a teacher and make-believe scholar. I mean, I've been calling myself a lion cub, but I've been waiting to be found out and demoted (or maybe just moved) to monkey status. Because They Will Find Out. Every time I've talked about writing a paper, or publishing something, there's been a part of me that felt I was pretending, as though, if I acted like one of the big cats, maybe people wouldn't notice and would let me keep hanging out with them.

Today was different. Yes, I was still a bit panicked about the upper division class (somehow, people kept coming in while I was trying to finish prepping it). After meeting the students (two of whom were there when I gave my job talk, and whom I really liked and want to both impress and not let down), I was a bit more worried, but they all seemed ok with the, "the class is still in development stages, because the schedule to some extent depends on how many students we end up with and how much time we consequently allot to presentations" explanation. Possibly because it's true :-) But somehow, all the second-guessing was gone. I taught. I went over what I needed to get done after classes. I took care of administrative stuff, answered panicky student e-mails, tweaked the Blackboard sites ... and then went to pick up ILL books, e-mailed a panel organizer, thought about ways I might write the abstract that could fit the panel without substantially changing the nature of what I want to look at ... and then I talked to my department chair for a while about course offerings, my responsibilities, program assessment and how the department planned on working together to do well ... And I realized that I'd made this tiny mental shift. Yes, I was checking things off a list ... "I need to do x for class, I need to write this abstract and I have a review due this weekend (Oh crap!), and I have to start checking out editors for the project" But it was a different kind of list. I guess it was a shift from "Here are all the things I have to do to have this kind of job" to "This is what I do, and here are the things I need to get done." It's something akin to a fleeting moment last year when I realised that, as an historian, I am a writer, rather than someone who writes papers.

It's late, and has been a long day, so I know I'm not being as articulate as most of my blogfriends -- or even as articulate as I can be. And frankly, I'm a little out of practice. As New Kid, one of my oldest blogfriends, recently pointed out blogging is a kind of writing exercise, and I'm out of shape! But the New Year has started, and I think I have a better idea of who I am this year. I am someone who might actually know how to do the job I trained for and was (finally) hired for (although apparently, I am not able to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition). For the first time*, I feel like everything fits. It's a weird feeling, but I think I like it.

*professionally, at least.