Friday, March 31, 2006

Last Quarter, This Quarter

Last Quarter, This Quarter

You know, what with all the hunting of jobs and trying to arrange my life after getting a job and panicking about conference papers last quarter (not that I've stopped with the panicking), I was pretty sure that I had not been at my teaching best. Got my evals, and the students disagreed. Apparently, they all felt they'd learned a lot. At least, the ones who stuck it out did. My favorite negative comment was that I assigned too much reading, but that I couldn't improve, because the student just didn't like to read. Most of the comments were more along the lines of High expectations/hardest/best class they'd taken. Woohoo!

This quarter is very different. I only have two classes (my contract is slightly less than full-time -- that way, they don't have to pay union scale, which would raise my salary about $13k). One of them is too damned early. The students in TDE class are almost all young women, and all of the students seem engaged and interested. Both the classes are hybrids -- 20% of the class takes place on the online discussion boards, and we only have 4 hours of actual seat time. The online discussions this week have been fairly lively -- not everyone participating, but most. They've responded to suggestions I've made on the boards, and look like they'll start responding more to each other ... I'm happy so far.

The other class ... small -- about 10. It's that class. The Spring term class we all know and dread. We will all have at least one in our teaching lives, but I still don't know how to deal with this dynamic. Most of the students are there to fulfill a requirement. Clearly, however, they haven't yet passed their math requirement, because not only is 20% of the grade based on online discussion, but another 20% is class participation, because, well ... they are supposed to do the readings before class and be prepared to discuss the primary sources. They're not supposed to know how to do this from day one. But I have given them questions to answer for each source (same questions, folks -- the ones historians start off with about authorship, audience, kind of document, etc.). They are required to bring their answers to class. And ... if they can't answer the questions, or if they don't get something in the document, they get equal credit for bringing in their questions!.

At this point, class two have mostly each logged into the discussion board once, to introduce themselves. One student has posted answers to the two substantial discussion questions. One. The discussion guidelines I hand out on how discussion is graded are pretty specific in what the minimum requirements are. I went over them in class and did the math with the students -- it is almost impossible to fail my class if you actually do the work. A person can turn in every assignment and bomb on it, but if they've been maxing out in class and online, they will pass the class. Conversely, if they ace every assignment, but blow off class and online discussion, they will get no higher than a D.

What are they thinking, and does anybody have a suggestion for how to engage them before it's too late? Yesterday there were far too many 3 minute silences while people refused to answer questions. And they were easy questions -- who was the author of "X"? What kind of a document is it? A pamphlet? OK -- what does that mean? What was the purpose of such pamphlets? (this is the modern course). And then, after teasing (well, more like dragging, kicking and screaming) the answers out of them, I asked them to help me re-cap what we'd learned. The same questions, mind. No answers.

I have not dismissed a class for wasting my time in a long time. I may be doing it next week. But really, I'd like some constructive suggestions, if you've got 'em.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Not a Cheery Post

Not a Cheery Post

But perhaps worth blogging for. Had you seen this article about the Duke Lacrosse team? I hadn't. Some of the best coverage so far is at Alas, a blog. You'd think that, with 46 suspects, there'd have been a bit more coverage. Not that race or class might have anything to do with it. Or the fact that the victim was a stripper.

Update: Ralph Luker has posted more at Cliopatria. Ralph, I'd forgotten about your Duke connection. And while I do agree that people are innocent until proven guilty, I have to say that I consider every person at that party who did nothing to stop the alleged assault, each person who has not come forward to either turn in a temmate or help clear a teammate, to be guilty. Obviously not of rape -- the victim claims that only three people actually raped her -- but the silence of the team makes its members complicit. Also, from what I can tell, this all happened on March 13 ... it didn't hit the nationals till almost two weeks later, as far as I can tell. I could be wrong -- after all, I didn't listen to the news as much while on break.

Two Confessions

Two Three Confessions

I have not read Chaucer since high school. I only know who John Gower is through inference. And I really don't mind.

Apologies to you late and/or lit types ...

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Oooh ... Books!

Oooh ... Books!

Hello, the internets. I'm taking a few moments from my self-imposed, not-very-well-managed exile from blogging to pose a couple of questions...
  1. If you teach World Civ, what text book(s)/reader(s) do you use and and what do you like about them? I'm going back to teaching World at SLAC, and the last time I taught World (last year), I used the new edition of Bentley and really didn't like it. I need to teach World in a way that meets new state's secondary teaching requirement, which still has an awful lot on Europe's Middle Ages (yay), but also major Asian and African empires and religions -- South America not presented as contemporaneous with Rome would be nice.
  2. I get to help build the non-US collection in SLAC's library!!! If you have suggestions for books you think a solid undergrad collection can't do without, please tell me what you think. I really want to order the new Chris Wickham, but at $175, I'm thinking no. Also, since I will be teaching Historiography eventually, and also directing 300-400 level research papers, can you think of good medieval and ancient primary sources in translation?? My stuff tends to all be edited, but in Latin and German, and I really don't know what's out there for non-Carolingians anymore. I used Chibnall's Orderic as an undergrad, and was thinking that might be good ...

On an entirely other note, I saw V for Vendetta last night. I thought it was very good, with a couple of icky moments, and was OK with the updated historical context, although I can see how people might object.

OH -- and I need to buy an electric screwdriver. I'm just hanging curtains. What I want is a decent cordless drill/screwdriver, but I think that might be excessive and I'll just have one more heavy thing to move. Is a basic Black and Decker-type cordless screwdriver good enough to screw curtain rod hangers into wooden window frames? (Yes, I let X keep all the power tools -- he does actually use most of them).

Thursday, March 23, 2006

But before I go

But before I go into semi-seclusion ...

This post at New Kid's, and the ones to which she links, is really good. I've thought about this a lot (if you read the comments, you'll know why), and I've figured out what bothers me about all this. It's about blame and fault and obligation. It's really the SD anti-abortion argument all over again (but not).

The author, Morphing into Mom, says:
“No, because some weight gain is inevitable with age. Five years ago when Husband and I married, I was 120 pounds. I now weigh 125. I would have to use extreme measures to get back down to 120. That’s not a weight gain I can control within reason. However, if I’d maintained the 40 pounds I’d gained during pregnancy, well, that would be unfair since I can actually do something about that.”

So, if a woman were to have a radical mastectomy, or one partner were to lose a limb or undergo some kind of horribly scarring and disfiguring experience -- or if a male partner became impotent due to some physiological reason (like, I dunno, prostate cancer? Hey, I've gone out with significantly older men, and it's something one thinks about), it would all be ok, because it's not the partner's fault??? And our love for each other would make it all OK? And if we couldn't deal with something that isn't our partner's fault, we're bad partners??

Me? I think those things would just be harder to deal with. And I think that people who love each other will try very hard to deal with them and probably will. But I don't know that it's natural or easy. Hell, if I had, for example, a huge scar running across my torso and no breast, I'd have a hard time with it and I'm guessing I'd want some serious counseling. How could I expect a partner to deal with it any better? The physiological is part of attractiveness. It just is. But compounding the difficulties in dealing with major physiological changes in a partner with whether or not the partner is responsible for those changes seems to be both wrong and ultimately damaging to any adult relationship.

I haven't said this as well as I'd like. But I really need to go away and work now.



Best. Pr0n. Spam. Name. Ever.

I just got a spam from a "Tiberius Erectus."

Sorry -- I just had to share.

Oh, and now I'm going into semi-seclusion to worry about and procrastinate write my paper.

Wish me luck and send good thoughts! I really want to get this done in time to beg Extremely Cool Colleague at Jesuit U to see if she can arrange a practice delivery session. Because I haven't presented to grown-ups on anything but pedagogy since defending my damned prospectus. Oh ... wait. That actually counted for something. THis time, it's all about the humiliation.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Random bullets #1

Random bullets o'Crap #1 (Punchy ADM Remix)

  • Guess what? I'm sitting at my desk waiting for the web grade submission server to let me post. Because grades are due tomorrow at 8 a.m. I don't know if the server is down for regular maintenance (they bring it down at 10:30 most days) or if lots of other faculty people are madly trying to submit their grades.

  • I might have got this done a bit earlier, but had a previous blogger coffee engagement that turned into coffee,grading, and a really nice Thai dinner. I gave fellow blogger, who is getting ready to head off for Mediterranean climes, a ride home, and it turns out she lives literally around the corner (two buildings over) from my friend The Mathemetician (btw, if you're reading this and still have my Pink Martini CD and that volume of Early Medieval Europe, can I please have them back? And The Librarian is up to see V for Vendetta, although she saw it with The Physicist last weekend.) Fellow blogger is pixie-ish in a wonderful way. Too self-effacing for someone as clearly smart as she is, and has the most amazing eyes -- they turn vivid green in the sun.

  • Tomorrow, I'm looking forward to reading some Gerd Althoff -- in English!! and working hard in the library at Flagship U until the evening, when I will be going to play pub trivia for probably the last time before Kzoo. I hope it's crowded and that we win, because I could use the cash!

  • I know it's probably sacrilege, but I prefer Linda Thompson's voice to Sandy Denny's.

  • I've been trying to get onto the web grading thingy for 25 minutes now

  • New Kid has good stuff to say about writer's block

  • Don't Give Up : V for Vendetta :: ? : ?

  • Is it better to go to bed now and get up really early to input my grades?? Or will that make me fall asleep in the library?

  • I have made a deal with myself. No TV unless I am exercising or sorting through 10 years worth of filing and shredding everything I can in preparation for the move

  • Oh. Maybe I should e-mail the realtor who's supposed to be helping me find a place to live?

  • Did I mention that last week I got my first traffic ticket (speeding) in 26 years of driving? $132. Ouch

  • One of my students actually plagiarised part of his final exam from the intro to the Guy Burgess translation of Roland. I assigned the damned book. Did the student think I hadn't read the intro?? Fortunately, the student in no way answered the question, so I didn't have to track down the plagiarism in much detail. It's not like the administration does anything about plagiarists anyway.

  • Eric Clapton or Jerry Garcia? Gotta go with EC. But it's a tough choice. In a polytheistic society, it's not a problem. Hmmm. That's probably good for Offler the Crocodile god.

  • Can you tell I'm getting punchy waiting for the server? I am now reminded of why I almost always get my grades turned in at least 24 hours before they're due.

  • Two of my students somehow managed to include references to a certain aging Anglo martial-arts-guy-turned-actor-turned-adman-for-exercise-equipment in their final exams.

  • Far too many of my students got the part where we don't talk about the f-word. Way far too many thought that serfs were vassals. Or that the more accurate term for the f-word is manorialism. But only one person wrote about 'surfs.'

  • In other news, Gregory, Bishop of Tours and author of Historia Francorum, won the Battle of Tours. News to Charles Martel. Although I suppose if Santiago Matamoros can show up with a mystical banner and win, so could a gossipy and long-dead Gallo-Roman. Still, I don't think that's really Gregory's style. Sniping about strong-willed (yeah, and maybe a little murderous) Frankish queens? That's more like it. Oh hell -- Gregory wasn't a warrior bishop, was he?? I don't remember him being a warrior bishop. I really want to put my grades in and go to bed.

  • I've been trying to post grades for over an hour now. It isn't busy. They've just brought it down the night before frigging grades are due. Oh well, with any luck, they'll screw it up the way they did last time, when I did submit my grades two days early, and they lost a bunch of them in the backup so that I had to submit paper grades after the deadline anyway. Bugger this for a lark. I'm off to bed.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Early Modern Grad Programs

Early Modern Grad Programs

Hello, the internets! Super-wonderful ex-student wants to go to grad school in Early Modern History. England, and most likely Reformation and/or recusancy. Student is giving a paper at a conference (yeah, still an undergrad ...) on the Jesuits and shifts in confessional culture sometime soon. Anyway, student is looking for programs where student could get a good PhD, good mentoring, and (duh) an eventual job. Obviously, student is looking for funding, otherwise grad school won't happen. So, anybody got any recommendations for where a very bright and affable student (madly working on the languages) should apply? Student isn't limited to the US or to any geographic area, as long as there's funding.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Best thing ever said by a student

Best thing ever said by a student

At least to me ...

"This was the hardest class I've ever taken here. But I enjoyed it more than any other class I've taken."

Sorry. Just had to share that. I am soooo basking in the love.

Don't worry -- we'll return to regular programming and I'll start worrying about being a fraud again any time now. But first, I might just have a small, self-congratulatory single malt.

Personality DNA

Personality DNA

Does this look like me to you folks??

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Oh my

Oh my

How can you not have a crush on this man? I'm just saying. Him, Jon Stewart, and Gary Cooper (yeah, I know he's old and dead, but have you seen Ball of Fire?).

We now return to being a boring academic.

Update: Well, this is annoying. Apparently Clooney said all of the things that were blogged under his name, but it kinda looks like Arianna Huffington kinda pieced them together herself. So he said those things, but didn't blog them nor did he say them as a coherent whole.

Monday, March 13, 2006

History Carnivals

History Carnivals Abound

The very kind Alun is hosting his second Carnivalesque, Carnivalesque XIII, which has a Women's History Month theme tied in with the main Ancient/Medieval theme. Still trying to tie down definite hosts for Ancient/Medieval versions in May and July!

Also, the latest edition of the quarterly Carnival of Bad History is up at ahistoricality's place.

Go, read, be entertained and educated!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Grateful Blogging

Grateful Blogging

I've been a blogging flake lately. What can I say? Job hunt, job acquisition, implications of job acquisition, end of quarter, and impending conference paper of doom have all mixed to make my world a very busy and crazy place. Anyway, I figured it was time to blog a little before another self-imposed semi-exile while I get all of my stuff taken care of.

On the job front, I've now signed the contract and returned it to SLAC. I've been sent all kinds of information on the department, accreditation reports, syllabi, course descriptions, etc. Each of my preps will be either a major overhaul or brand-new. Part of this is just the shift to semesters (yay!),and part is that I haven't taught upper division courses before. And (big surprise to me) the Modern Europe course is really new. Me, when I think modern, I think the long 19th c. Or even 18th and 19th. I've taught those. But this is Europe from the Great War to the present. That's like ... current events!

Despite the initial freak-out, it'll be fine. I'm just thinking that I will not have much of a break this summer. Also, I've received personal notes from the junior historians and dean, all offering help with realtors, a place to crash when I come out to look for a place, etc. And the numbers of the folks in IT so I can order my computer and people in the library so I can start to help build up the library. Can you tell I'm hugely excited???? I think I'll be really happy there. No lingering feelings of loss over not staying at my present job, either -- they cancelled the search on Friday!

That's not what I wanted to blog about, though. Mostly I wanted to say 'thank you.' I really don't know that I'd have come this far and got the job without my blogfriends and supporters -- I hope my RL friends who read this realize that they are included in this, too. You have all been incredibly kind and have made me feel a member of the larger academic community in a way that has really made me try to behave like a member of that community. You've helped me through a divorce, you've helped me to build my confidence enough to write again, and you've traded ideas in ways that make me feel truly alive. More practically, blogging actually made me the connections that have added me to two conference panels, got me a gig editing a list serv, and introduced me to a bunch of people who are now (and in some cases, again) RL friends and colleagues. It's funny -- one of the reasons I kept blogging and the place I made my first real blogfriends was through the Invisible Adjunct. She left the professorial track. I'm so very grateful that I don't have to make that choice. Despite the fact that women in general tend to attribute these things to luck rather than skills or talent, I still feel incredibly lucky. Thank you all.

Oh -- and from my student who asked about the Ottoman Turks? He says he's going to be doing some reading during the summer, and asked me to pass on his thanks. He was blown away by your generosity.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Submit entries for the next Carnivalesque on ancient/medieval history, by Sunday, to Alun for the Monday 13 March edition! Email carnivalesque[at]archaeoastronomy[dot]co[uk].

Sorry for the late call -- groveling explanatory blog entry to come.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Money Trumps Scholarship?

Money Trumps Scholarship?

Thank goodness for small favors. At least now the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail are no longer trying to claim it's historical scholarship.

Not that we didn't already know.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Mom! They're making me think!!

Mom! They're making me think!

I ask the internets for their opinion. Got this from one of my students, and thought I'd throw it open:
Do you think the Ottoman Empire would have been able to make a foothold in Western Europe if they consistenly didn't have to defend themselves to the East against the Mongols/Persians or maybe they had a hard time because European nations would form coalitions against them, in fear of a global empire? I think if they had been safe on their Eastern borders for much of the 14-17th centuries that they would have been able to expand into Western Europe especially during a time of political instability such as the Reformation. If yes, then do you believe that could have had major consequences in the centuries thereafter and do you think that could have changed the result of World War I where they were completely erased? I'm no expert on this and that is just an educated guess by me, but I was wondering if you could speculate with me because I find the vast empire of the Ottomans an intriguing and relatively unknown society in the sense that you never really ever hear about them compared to other great historical empires...

My initial impulse is to say that the Ottoman Turks did make the inroads that they made precisely for the reasons the student states -- and were stopped by many of those reasons, as far as westward conquest is concerned. But I really don't know enough about what was going on on the eastern borders. Anyone?

It's always something

It's always something

Via Sharon at Early Modern Notes, The Bayeux Tapestry online and why I probably won't be using it in class. Nice diagram of the feudal system ... Not! Well, except if it existed, England after 1066 is a better place than most. Hmmm.

Best. CafePress. Ever

Best. CafePress. Ever

Via medievalstudies ...

I bet my readers could spend a whole lote of money here. I know I could!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Still looking for a Carnivalesque host

Still looking for a Carnivalesque host

Really. For March. Any volunteers? It's Ancient/Medieval this time!! Classicists and Medievalists, I beg you -- it's not all that hard, lots of fun, expands your readership ...