Monday, February 23, 2009

Place-name bleg

Place-name Bleg

Could someone with access to Bach's Deutsche Namenkunde or sim. check for me and find out if there is (and what is) the better-known name of 'Rezi' in the following:
'villa qui dicitur Thininga sitam in pago Rezi super flumen Agira'

Thininga is modern Deiningen, Agira is the Eger.

But I'm stumbling over Rezi and don't have the resources here on campus.

Thanks in advance!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Carnivalesque LXVII

Carnivalesque LXVII

Hey, everybody! Just in time for Carnival, Carnivalesque LXVII (or as my mind is calling it this morning, "El Ex Vee Eye Eye -- need more caffeine) is up at Notorious, PhD: Adventures of a Girl Scholar. It's got some really good stuff, and as Notorious herself says, it's got some great reminders of how much good stuff is out there that we sometimes miss.

The next Carnival will be in March -- mid-Lent, which seems entirely right for an Early Modern version!

And as always, we're looking for brave souls to host the next Ancient/Medieval editions. Anybody? Muhlberger? Noakes? Drout? Bueller?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Economy Ramblings

Economy ramblings

I've been thinking about the economy, as are many people. And I have to admit that my spending, when spending large, tends to be global. I spend money on travel, and my biggest expenditures that aren't on things like vet bills and car maintenance are for visiting family and research. Leeds will cost a bundle ...

Fortunately, I fritter money away at the local pub, too.

But anyway, I've been thinking about houses. It looks like I'll be staying here for a while -- at least till I get a second book well under way (and that means getting the first one out the door). (and let's touch wood on that -- the last round of approvals still has to go through).

But as my TIAA-CREF takes huge, sucking dives, I am thinking that it might not be the worst thing to buy a house. Preferably detached. I'm only in the 'thinking about it' stage. And even now, prices are probably too high for a middle-aged single woman to buy what she might like ...

But anyway, I was thinking about the housing boom. And Prop 13. Yeah -- the one in California that has been such a long-term success in terms of state revenue.


Mostly, though, I was wondering: did the unreasonably low property tax rates in California (and in those places that have followed California's lead) contribute to the ridiculous prices for houses and the mortgage bust? That is, if taxes had been higher, might there have been less speculation by buyers and by lenders?

It just seems to me that, had the taxes been higher, California might not be in quite the trouble it's in right now, and (if property taxes are figured into the income checks for mortgages -- I can't remember) there might not have been quite so much crazy borrowing and crazy lending.

Strangely, I'm not so worried about the economy per se, although I'm worried about my retirement and am slightly concerned about my job, although SLAC seems to be in pretty decent shape and fills a niche in our area, and they seem to approve of me, and I'm the only person who does what I do. So not really worried yet. And I did hear someone on NPR today say that he'd rather think of the economy right now as in re-set mode, rather than a depression -- and that actually sounds about right to me. Those boom years boggled my mind, because I never felt I had money to spend on the kind of things people were buying. Why on earth would I want to spend a year's income on a car? Do I need to spend $100 a month on cable?

So I'm thinking a lot of industries will suffer. I'm really pissed off that money going to auto makers isn't tied to re-tooling plants and building smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Hell, if the result is that we'd end up with long-run savings and a cleaner planet? I'm fine with subsidizing that.

And why are we not funding more public transit? There are tons of white- and bluecollar jobs involved with building more train and light rail systems. Where I live, lots of people commute over an hour to work to the nearest big city. Why not spend the money on public transport? And maybe it would even be ok to encourage more markets and shops immediately near that transport, so that people don't need to drive to the store so much, either...

And sidewalks! And encouraging developers to develop communities that encourage walking and have shopping available ...?

I could see that kind of rescue package.

In the meantime, my credit card company is talking about raising my interest rate to 18%. How is that going to stimulate the economy?

I'm confused.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oh, Look! Stanley Fish, being an Asshat!

Oh, Look! Stanley Fish, being an Asshat!

The asshat king of straw man butchering is at it again! This time, he's pulling out selective comments to his last column so he can build some more straw men.

Here's a nice little excerpt -- "Look! people objected, so I'm going to say in different words that, really, those pesky, spoilt faculty members really do think they are all special snowflakes and would do this if they could!" :

It may be outlandish because it is so theatrical, but one could argue, as one reader seemed to, that Rancourt carries out to its logical extreme a form of behavior many display in less dramatic ways. “How about a look at the class of professors who … duck their responsibilities ranging from the simple courtesies (arrival on time, prepared for meetings … ) to the essentials (“lack of rigor in teaching and standards … )” (h.c.. ecco, No. 142). What links Rancourt and these milder versions of academic acting-out is a conviction that academic freedom confers on professors the right to order (or disorder) the workplace in any way they see fit, irrespective of the requirements of the university that employs them.

I have a book to work on and a department meeting to run. Excuse me for not writing more, but please, can I just say: Gods. What. A. Feckin'. Tool.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Judith Bennett Roundtable

Judith Bennett Roundtable

So last week I opened my e-mail to find an invitation from Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar (who, by the way, is hosting Carnivalesque in a few days!) inviting me to participate in a cross-blog discussion of Judith Bennett's History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism. Notorious and Historiann are the forces behind this venture, and they also invited Tenured Radical. On each successive Monday one of us will offer a post talking over a few of the many provocative ideas in Bennett's book, and invite our readers to join in. So think of this as an extended version of the Book Events they hold at Crooked Timber, but spread across time and space!

Our hope is that all of our readers will follow each conversation and participate, which is why we're announcing this while it's still February. There's still time to get your copy of the book--either from a book seller, or from your local library. Please join us!

Here's the schedule:

  • Monday, March 2, Notorious Ph.D. will get us started, since she is one of Bennett's fellow medieval European historians
  • Historiann will roll the chariot along on Monday, March 9, straight outta the colonial Americas
  • Tenured Radical will weigh in with her perspective as a modern U.S. historian on Monday, March 16
  • And I'll be bringing a different medievalist's perspective to bear on Monday, March 23
  • And since March has five Mondays, we hope to offer a special guest post on March 30 -- and invite you all to use that day to post your own thoughts on Bennett's book, or on the conversation we've been having

Monday, February 09, 2009

Stanley Fish: Hating on the Academics

Stanley Fish:Hating on the Academics. Again.

Is it me, or can Stanley Fish no longer write on topics where most sensible people -- including academics -- would agree with him without sounding like a complete and utter tool?

Short version: Academic Freedom doesn't protect you from not actually doing your job.

Longer version:

I have a faculty meeting to go to, so this will be shortish. What the hell is it with Fish? This entire piece reads as though those of us in the professoriate actually support idiots like Denis Rancourt. No, really. Most of the people I know are incredibly frustrated when we have colleagues who hide their tendencies to be lazy, stupid, or just plain ol' mean bastards behind a false banner of academic freedom. We know that Academic Freedom doesn't mean that. We've read the AAUP definition, among other things.

So it would be really nice if blowhards like Stanley Fish would not set up straw man arguments that basically imply that "academics" think this way. Because you know? Most of us don't. We aren't the enemy, Stanley. You are.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Parenting again

Parenting again

Well, the question of how parenting affects academic careers, especially those of women, has surfaced again. There's a discussion here, at Crooked Timber on whether parents should be hired. It's sort of a follow-on from Harry Brighouse's earlier post, which addresses an article sadly behind the CHE firewall. I've done this from both sides, and I have to say, there's no way that parenting doesn't accentuate the problems many women have in academia. Get pregnant (or, in my case, start raising a pre-teen), and people start to write you off.

There is a perception that people will be distracted by parenting. It's worse for women than men. Or at least it has been most the places I've worked, and was definitely the case in my R1 grad department. Woman gets married, profs start to worry. Woman gets pregnant, and there's a subtle shift in the kinds of opportunities the student is guided towards. As it happens, I have a bunch of medievalist women friends who have kids. They mostly started having their kids while on the tenure track. But I think we medievalists are a little bit anomolous -- medieval history is one of the first places to have let women into the club (no pun intended). But I don't know that it's that much easier for us. My advisor was certainly very supportive, but I think much of the rest of the department despaired of me -- and some washed their hands of me -- when I stayed abroad and became a non-resident, new parent student.

And you know what? grad school with kids is hard. Grad school while working with kids because you're out of fellowship is harder. Getting back on the job track when the parenting and supportive wife thing has required that you step off for a time? Even harder. I wouldn't recommend it. And I know that I'm damned lucky to have landed a job. I'm still worried about my T&P (although that will be true till I have the paper in my hand, even though I know I've made it past hurdle 1). And I work at a fairly family friendly university.

Or at least SLAC seems very friendly to faculty families. Our top two administrators have young children, and they regularly bring them to campus events. Most of my colleagues with kids have little trouble scheduling around them, and one colleague interviewed for and got her job while pregnant with her second child. When there were complications, she was given a reduced load. I have a couple of male colleagues who regularly leave campus early and work three-day contact weeks so that they can share in the child care. Parties generally include people bringing their kids of whatever ages. It's very family friendly.

I really do like that. In so many ways, it counters what we are hearing in the Chronicle. I think one of the reasons it works is that we are a 'teaching' campus. Service and scholarship are important for promotion, but not as much as at research-heavy campuses. I wouldn't trade it. And I agree with everything that Harry and many of his commenters, especially Kieren and Magistra, say.

So why write anything? Well, first, I think you should go read the posts over there. But second, I'm now in a different postion. I'm single, with cats. So now I'm finding that people can't make it to meetings, because they have kids. They can't show up at non-course-related events, because they have kids. If kids are our of school when we aren't, then classes sometimes get cancelled. Not all the time, but enough that it's noticeable. And you know? lots of things do require faculty attendance -- job talks, guest lectures, meetings, workshops. So frequently, it's those of us without children who pick up the slack. It's as if our 'free' time is less important. And some of my colleagues with young children are actually able to find more time to write, because they can often arrange things at home so they can supervise kids and write. The important thing is that they are home. So, for example, when students come to the department to ask an advisor for help, they end up on my doorstep. The bodies who are on campus working are also the bodies that administrators, students, and even sometimes parents can find.

I know, I'm grousing. And I really prefer working in a place where people can parent. And part of this really is our own fault -- we are all aware that women (and more recently men) with families tend to get screwed. No one wants to rock the boat and say, "hey, this is your choice, but you also took a job with stupid requirements when it comes into having a life." But one of the things that I think hasn't been mentioned (and usually is in any such discussion) is the affect that the family life of other academics has on those of us without children. There really is often an attitude of, "of course you can do X (where X = service outside teaching and scholarship), you don't have any responsibilites, and you can always write/go to the gym/hike/read/whatever it is that you may have chosen over children later." And I have noticed that the brunt of this work falls on the childless women. So if academia has been making strides on equality for women who want to have children, or for families where the men want to be more active parents, I think it's improtant to look and see where the shifts of responsibility are taking place. I bet it's not just anecdotal that single, childless women are still getting the short end of the stick.

It's just that that stick gets used to beat a lot of us.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

RBOC -- Sunday Edition

RBOC -- Sunday Edition

My, it's been a while, and I haven't updated in forever. So here's some random bullets of crap to tide you over.

  • I keep seeing Barack Obama on TV, magazines, newspapers, and every time, I do a double-take. He doesn't look like a president. By that I mean, he looks like someone I'd actually want to work with and have a drink with. He looks like somebody I'd hang out with. Damn. He looks so young. Actually, he's a little older than I am. But to me, that's young. I wonder if this is how people in their 40s felt when JFK was elected?

  • I was going to have my cable TV cut as soon as the election was over. But I seem to have got hooked on Sunday morning news analysis. What I really need is someone to help me analyze my rapidly dwindling TIAA-CREF account. I'm never going to be able to retire. But at least I have a job. And I do need to get rid of the cable. It's a time such I don't need.

  • I committed filk for the first time yesterday.

  • I think it's fairly clear that I didn't get Dream Job. The history job wiki shows that campus interviews indeed were scheduled, and I didn't get the golden ticket. I think I mentioned that I thought I'd totally botched the interview -- both too nervous, and not nervous enough; three pages of notes and questions that I never took time to refer to because I felt terribly rushed, and also a bit worried that they thought I didn't want it enough. Well, no. I mean, I didn't apply because I needed a job. I didn't apply so I could try to leverage my position at SLAC. I applied because it's a totally fantastic place, with what appear to be great students and great faculty, a good teaching load and support for research, and the opportunity to work with one of my favourite fellow-bloggers. I admit to a deficiency in Anglo-Saxon (that never came up), but did suggest all kinds of ways my courses could fit into their larger curriculum. But whatever. No golden ticket. I'm really bummed about it, but have to say that it's a different feeling when you don't get the interview when you're already employed in a job you like, working with people you like.

  • Speaking of which, life at SLAC is still kicking my ass. I'm hiding from my publisher (must write tomorrow with update). I think I will be back to work on the book this week, though. I've got a good teaching schedule this semester: rather than 4 classes plus a colloquium (and one new, one drastically revised prep), I have a three class schedule, two days a week. One class is a new prep, and the other is again drastically revised but it's going well, I think. My T&P portfolio made it past the first hurdle, and I should be hearing whether it passed the second one this month. I'm hoping there are no problems. In the meantime, I'm now chair of my department and on yet another new task force which will probably end up being a time suck, but not till next year. And there are benefits to it, at least, although as with most things at SLAC, they aren't really in tangible form, like course release or money. Having said that, I'm just now starting to feel a little less burnt out.

  • As soon as I find out about the promotion, I think I'm going to start looking for a house. I am not closing my mind to the idea of taking another job elsewhere, but it seems to me that, housing prices being what they are (there are lots of foreclosures in Dabbaville), I might actually be able to have my own place for about what I'm paying in rent, and it would certainly help me in terms of taxes. I spent about $3k last year on research trips and conference travel, and because I don't have more than the standard deduction, I end up eating that. Also, as much as I hate moving and love my flat, I'd like not to share walls with neighbors. But again, just as I feel no need to run from my present position to a different one, I am not desperate to move unless it really makes sense.

  • My classes seem to be going pretty well this semester, and that makes me really happy. My biggest problem with SLAC is that we admit students who would likely not have a chance elsewhere, but we don't offer remediation, nor enough tutorial support. This is reflected, I think, in our retention rates. And sadly, many of us feel that this particular message is not one that TPTB want to hear. We also have faculty who seem to think that it's ok to 'weed out' the less qualified, rather than changing their teaching to help these students succeed. It's hard. I really understand the attitude. After all, we're supposed to be teaching at a certain level, and if we'd wanted to teach high school (or even middle school) skills, we'd be teaching in the public schools and probably making more money! But you know, once the students are in, they are people we need to teach. My larger question is how this should figure into our outcomes and assessments. I mean, one of my personal learning outcomes is that students will write clearly articulated analytical essays. But when about a third of the students can't write a good sentence, how do we communicate this to the accreditation agencies? (I think I just found a topic for a post!)

  • I am reading a novel to review here. Bernard Cornwell's Agincourt. Free book through blogging!

  • I really need to clean up my apartment. I'm doing laundry at the moment, and tidying and cooking come next. If I get a move on, I'll also get my hair cut and get to the gym AND do work on the book.

  • Speaking of the gym, honestly, I'm feeling old. I really need to start strengthening the muscles that hold my hips and knees in place. And maybe start taking glucosamine?

  • And that's me for today. I think I'll write about assessment next. Or maybe about the circus that is being a department chair when you are the most junior person in the department (at least I'm older than half of them!)