Thursday, July 31, 2008

Vocab Bleg

Vocab Bleg

Can anyone remember the word we use in English (or better, Latin) for Ger. Vogt. I want to say it starts with an 's', but I can't get it past the tip of my tongue. Oh -- and it can't be 'reeve', because that doesn't work for the geographical area. Thanks1

update: Duh -- advocatus is the word, although the one I was thinking of was scabinus. Thanks, all!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

unemployment as lifestyle choice

unemployment as lifestyle choice

Via a friend, an interesting Judith Warner article that discusses how a very real employment downturn for women has been recast (for years) as a 'lifestyle choice'.

I am one of those people who will argue strenuously that choosing housewifery as a career is, or at least can be, a feminist choice. And I honestly get annoyed with people who denigrate that decision, because my idea of feminism is that women should be able to make that choice -- and that so should men. My feminism looks a lot like equality, in opportunity, pay, and responsibility. It's one of the reasons I took a financial hit in the divorce -- X was a bit older and had less time to make up a decent retirement than I did. More careful figuring would probably have meant a smaller hit, but I don't resent that a bit of generosity meant things remained amicable. But I digress.

I think what makes the report that gives this article substance most interesting is that it confirms that sneaking suspicion that many of us had -- yes, being a SAHM is a lifestyle choice, but it's often a choice made as a response to factors we don't like to admit. I can't really think of any of my acquaintance who has made this choice, who has not mentioned the cost of child care as a factor. For many women, it's not that it's the first choice, just the most sensible, given the situation. I think that, in academia, we see this less, but only because we already have the phenomenon of the trailing spouse who takes adjunct work, hoping eventually for a spousal hire. But the fact that one partner has already taken the lesser position because it's the best choice for the couple's survival is something we've learned to live with. Doesn't make it right, though.

Friday, July 25, 2008



One of the high points of my conversation with a blog-friend whom I met IRL the other night was talking about post-colonialism, race and identity. We only touched the surface, but it was exciting to be able to discuss such things. Doing so makes me feel connected to the wider world and also tends to inspire my teaching. It was also a timely conversation, given Obama's European Adventure, on at a news channel near you. We know that race plays a large part in this election, and Obama himself has been very good about not "playing the race card" (I'm putting it in quotes because I hate that particular phrase). Except that he has, or at least I think he did in the speech he gave in Germany yesterday.

It's a funny thing. I think that concepts of race are different in the US and in Europe, partially because of the difference in colonial and post-colonial experience, and partially because the US has for most of its history had to deal with the tensions roiling beneath the surface of its identity as "a nation of immigrants." I would also argue that a lack of historical knowledge and different generational experiences also play important roles, but admit that those things are harder to generalise. Whatever the reasons, though, I do think that there are differences that don't always translate clearly.

In the case of Obama, there has always been a question of authenticity -- is he Black? is he Black enough? If we listen to Jesse Jackson's latest foot-chewing, Obama is neither. It's an issue that has drifted to the background in a lot of the political rhetoric surrounding his candidacy. Realistically, he has not had the same sort of experiences and background as someone like Jackson. Obama is African-American in a different sense -- arguably his formative experiences of the US are more those of recent immigrants, rather than those of people who have the mutual ties of having descended from slaves and being treated as lesser humans for several centuries. On the other hand, there's the whole skin color thing, which is key for a lot of people (and again, there's the "black enough" question, where actual shades and tones of skin color really can make a difference in social status and assumptions of group identification and authenticity in the US African-American community). If there's a test there to be passed, I think Obama's strength is in the fact that Michelle Obama does fit in. And by marrying her, Barack Obama has linked himself to that community. I don't know if it's a conscious choice, and it really doesn't matter. I mention it only because I know that, for some, there is a conscious choice not to blur the lines and let skin colour be the default.

I admit, it's anecdotal, but I know that the members of my family from the Caribbean have been fairly adamant in sticking to their own community; if pushed to identify with somewhere other than St. Lucia or other Caribbeans descended from slaves, they default is England (despite the fact that they speak a French patois). When I have taught students from Africa (mostly East Africans), most of whom have emigrated to the US, I've noticed the same phenomenon -- these are immigrants, and they consider themselves a separate community even while there is some assimilation going on. (I'm not even going to get into assimilation, except to say that I was raised to believe in a US as salad bowl, rather than as melting pot). I think that, for many USians, the concept of 'lots of kinds of people who just happen to have similar skin color' is touch when the color is the range of browns that come from the largest continent. It's sort of ironic, given that so many white people get cranky that they can't put "Irish-German mutt, with some French in there somewhere" on government forms. The idea of different European heritages is pretty well ingrained. USians who have been exposed to Asian immigrant communities seem not to have problems recognizing that there are many different cultures and nations represented there, as well. But black people and Hispanics (who really just aren't all Mexican, folks!) are sort of lumped together (in their separate groups -- I've worked with a couple of Dominicans and Brazilians, and it's fun to watch people try to categorize them).

It's all about categories and fitting people into a place that suits the cultural comfort zone, I think. The recent New Yorker cover that caused all the ruckus (because you know? there's no way it wasn't offensive) had more truth to it than I'd like to think. The inability of the media (and likely many voters) to decide where Obama fits, racially, is a problem, and one that has been getting mileage from the pro-Obama people and his opponents. The arguments cut both ways, though. Scared or offended by the idea that Obama will be the first black president? Eh, he's not really black ... he's of mixed race, and has lived abroad. Scared he doesn't understand the experiences of your average African-American? Look at his wife! (on the other hand, clearly Michelle Obama is supposed to be scary to the first group). But ... he's not really a proper Murcan, then, is he? In fact ... he's really more like the people it's ok to hate and fear these days -- Muslims! And of course various media and smear campaigns have been all over that one. It's in their interests to convince voters of exactly what the New Yorker cover implied -- Barack Obama is a terrorist of the new school, while Michelle Obama is going to be the next Angela Davis.

In an atmosphere of ignorance, and where there is a lack of historical context, it's pretty easy to do this. But it did surprise me when I heard Obama speak yesterday. Speaking to the US, while pretending to speak to the citizens of Germany, Obama redefined Us and Them, with an Us that crosses racial and cultural boundaries, and a Them that ignores them. I suppose you could argue that it's the same on either side, but I'm not so sure. Because Obama's Us was one that claims cultural similarity despite skin color or heritage -- it's an optimistic Us, and the one that most people I know would like to see exist. But his Them ... they're Muslims -- and really, I think that the image (and you have to take this in context of his trips to Iraq and Israel leading up to this European trip) is that they are Arab and (maybe) South Asian Muslims. They are the Muslims = Terrorists = people from the Middle East, and Obama conveniently bypasses the questions of how different cultures and traditions play into the development and practice of Islam, instead relying on popular stereotypes to promote a negative and monolithic Them while reinforcing his position as a member of a new Us -- an Us that can only exist in the US when looking beyond the borders. It's subtle, it's savvy, and I think it is to some extent "playing the race card", even if it's in a games with a different set of rules than we are used to.

Me, I'm still voting for him. But I think that it's naive to think that the only kind of racism playing a part in this election is being perpetrated by Obama's opponents. I can see an argument that it's not about race, but I think that here race is the shorthand that many voters understand best, and using that shorthand will have long-term effects that are Not Good.

I realise I'm saying nothing particularly conclusive here, but then I think that it's far more important to ask questions and remind ourselves that there is a lot going on, than it is to make any kind of statement. Think of it as just one more set of steps on the path of "what the hell does all this mean, anyway?"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Carnivalesque LXI

Carnivalesque LXI

Hey folks -- not that anyone reads here much anymore (really, I will post something of substance soon), but if you are reading, please go visit Carnivalesque LXI at xoom. It's Ancient and Medieval, and has a bunch of stuff I wouldn't have seen if meg hadn't done such a fine job of rooting around and finding good stuff for us to read!

And as far as that goes, please do think about submitting links to especially good posts for the next versions, Early Modern in August at Early Modern Notes and September at Archæoporn.

Suggestions for inclusion are always welcome -- email them to carnivalesqueATearlymodernwebDOTorgDOTuk, or use the handy submission form. Also, Sharon has set up another way of submitting -- tagging the posts.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Carnivalesque alert

Carnivalesque Alert

The next ancient/medieval Carnivalesque will be up at xoom in the next day or so. I have been a bad Mistress of Misrule this time around, so if there are any late entries that you think need to go in, please e-mail meg at the address linked there!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Again with the perfume

Again with the perfume

Same woman, same perfume. And there are plenty of seats, so why sit next to me?

I ask you, gentle readers ... is there a polite way to ask someone to take their perfumed (I think it may actually be a very floral/powder spray deodorant, come to think of it) self somewhere else?

Yeah, I could move, but I always sit here and I was here first.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

aargh charters

aaargh! charters

Stuck in BL, reading Stengel. Suddenly remember why I never wanted to focus on charters: brain numbs at discussion of provenance (auf deutsch, danke). OMFG is this the most incredible boring stuff ever! Also, it is a major time-suck, because 1) dull! and 2) picky with lots of notes. I am torn between feeling grateful that these wacky Germans did the groundwork, and resentful that it's not in English. Harumph.

All right, you men -- it's the snip for you lot

All right, you men -- it's the snip for you!

Seriously, because if HHS really is able to re-define a large number of perfectly sensible contraceptive devices as 'abortion', we're all fucked.

or not. Abstinence does work. But somehow, I'm not seeing that as an option for a lot of people.

Blogger Meet-up!

Blogger Meet-up!

Met up last night with Matt Gabriele and Jonathan Jarrett and a senior colleague for a drink and dinner, and as usual felt pretty outclassed -- golly those guys are smart! It was far too short a get-together, though, even though it was long enough to convince me I should go to Haskins this year, if only to schmooze!

Anyway, it was a jump-around conversation that has started lots of things in my head -- if I can only find the time to write them. I have to say, it's hard to explain to the family that, after a day of reading and trying to write academic things, I still want to come home and write. To them, I'm on holiday. To me, I'm on a work schedule, and am trying to squeeze days of holi in amongst the work. Speaking of which, I've got two days of time booked with LDvery muchW this weekend. And a trip to see a colleague in Oxford on Wednesday, w00t!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Charter Bleg

Charter Bleg

Does anybody know if there is a QAD list of charter terms and their equivalents in different languages online somewhere? I've checked the ORB, and there isn't anything I could find. Mostly, it's trying to figure out if words that look like technical terms in German are in fact technical terms, so, for example, I am assuming that the Eschatokoll is the technical term for the closing formula, maybe ... but does that mean that, in a similar context, the Protokoll is the opening formula?

I did not sign up to be a charter historian!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

A suggestion to the British Library

A suggestion to the British Library

Dear BL,

In addition to all those other restrictions (with which I agree), perhaps it might also be a good thing to remind users that the heavy use of scents, perfumes, etc., can make working in the BL very uncomfortable for one's neighbors -- especially those for whom scents can trigger migraines.



PS -- maybe the whole world would like to think about this? I love perfume, myself. I try to make sure when I wear it that a person has to get really up close and personal to smell it, though.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Citation Bleg

Citation Bleg

Argh! For some reason my request for this book did not go through, and it's a 48+ hour request -- the article is supposed to be in today.

Do any of you have a copy of Barbara Walvoord and Virginia Johnson Anderson, Effective Grading. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1998)?

I'm looking specifically for a page(es) ref to the discussion of using "the Muddiest Point" as a type of assessment.

If you can help, but need more info, you can call, text, or e-mail me, whichever works best for you. Thanks!

Update: Got it! Thanks!

Monday, July 07, 2008

First weekend in London

First Weekend in London

Friday was all BL, except for lunch at my favourite nearby pub with a friend now famous for the picture of him dancing at Kazoo.

Saturday, after the kids went to Kung Fu and I went and worked in the BL for a bit, we went bowling. In Finchley. Bowling over here is nothing like bowling in the US. First, way more kids than adults. Second, most of the lanes had bumpers up to prevent gutter balls -- trying to convince my niece that it was really not acceptable to use the bumpers for bank shots was a non-starter. Mostly, though, the difference was that there was no bowling etiquette in evidence. It was really kind of weird for me, rules-oriented person that I am. And, as usual, I was rubbish.

After that, we went for a walk in Golders Hill park, and had an ice cream. It was a really nice walk, and the family bought a membership for the tennis courts. We went and looked at the animals -- there were lots of empty cages, which I think was good, since they were rather small, mean places not really suited to wild animals -- and then came home and had a lovely dinner after I demonstrated my rubbish talents at Halo 3.

Yesterday, the weather was not wonderful, so we stayed in for the most part. I went grocery shopping, during which time the weather held (yay). Then there were alternating bouts of Halo and Wimbledon. I tried to read blogs and catch up on the news, but to no avail.

Now I'm in avoidance mode, because I've just picked up my first load of books, and realised I've picked up the wrong edition of the [book whose new reprint edition with introduction and electronic index I am working on] (wrong in the sense that I need to read the preface to the reprint edition and I got the original, which I can still use for some things), and two volumes of [dinky local journal about my favourite monastery], entitled, "Lots of long German words on which manuscripts can be attributed to said monastery"

Thank goodness I can make more cuts on the pedagogical article today and hide from the evil German stuff.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I Can Haz Kontrack

I Can Haz Kontrack!

Got an e-mail as I was leaving, which basically said that, under German law, the emails already exchanged on my book-length project were enough documentation to show a legal contract. This scares me a little, and makes me happy I was very careful to mention and make a correction on subvention amounts, but I am also relieved! I have a contract! I must now finish the bastard thing.

Fortunately, I am right this minute sitting in the British Library, having arrived this morning at 7:00 (to the country, not the BL). I can do work here! After I finish my article revisions. And concurrently with writing a very overdue review.

My Dean will now be both pleased and annoyed. Contract = good, but the timing means that this project probably won't count towards my next promotion. Me, I'm fine, because I think it will seal the deal on this promotion and the security of my position at SLAC. And, because one does not stop looking at ads if one hopes one day for the Dream Job, I hope it will make me look just that little bit better on paper.