Saturday, December 31, 2005

no turning back

I've spent New Year's Eve babysitting.

I've danced the night away.

I've had too much to drink and danced the night away.

I've lit fireworks.

On Y2K I fell into an in-depth discussion over the various physical merits of Tom Brokaw vs. Peter Jennings. No, alcohol was not a factor in this conversation.

During my last pnuemonia bout I went to bed at about 8 PM.

This year? This year I will be curled up on the sofa with a book written by one of the most dense, difficult, dull authors in my field. That is, I find him dense, difficult and dull, not to mention dictionary-driven. Nevertheless, he's a hugly important and revered name in the field and I can no longer procrastinate rereading this 515 page (with teeny-tiny print) doorslab of a classic if I am to get a chapter in the mail by January 4.

Happy New Year to all - please stay safe.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

books! books! books!

Following my last, rather blissful, post, John B. asked for titles. I'm in the midddle of a writing binge, so I will post briefly about three of them.

1) Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England by Alison Weir. Isabella, wife of Edward II, is generally described as an odious, ambitious, adulterous, teacherous murderer without any redeeming features apart from her beauty. Weir argues that while Isabella certainly had a strong sense of self and what she deserved based upon her royal status, historians have misjudged and misunderstood many of her actions. In the 21st century we're still unlikely to condone adultery, but we have a better understanding of its whys and wherefores; being married to a man who has no sexual interest in you and actively places you in harm's way does tend to contribute to marital breakdown.

2)Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands - I first discovered Brands when I read his excellent and extensive biography of Benjamin Franklin. This is his latest work. Jackson, though much admired in his own time, now often ranks as the worst of the worst for his policies on Indian Removal. I've always felt that while he did possess admirable qualities and a calculating intellegence, Jackson did not rank among my favorite presidents. I've seen a few presentations by Brands over C-SPAN, in which he has mounted a spirited defense for Jackson. I may not agree with Brands after reading the book, but I am looking forward to it immensely.

3) The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers. "A murder mystery with bells and bell ringing as the central motif??!!" I hear you cry. No, really, it was excellent. Sayers drops just enough clues that the reader could guess at what happened, but you can also just read along and enjoy. Great fun.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Happy Boxing Day!

Not surprisingly, people tend to give me books for Christmas. Generally they fall into three categories:

1) one book that I start reading right awayand devour before Boxing Day

2) a few books that look really interesting and I'll read at some point in the next year

3) one or two books that I would read if I had nothing else to read, but that really hold very little appeal for me

This year, every book given to me falls into category #1, despote ranging across a great many genres and fields. Happiness, happiness, happiness

(melts in bliss)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

a six-pack

"Hello, Kind Friend."
"I've brought you a six-pack!"

A six-pack of brownies, that is. Not that there are six of them anymore...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


I have yet to hear Mariah Carey sing "All I want For Christmas is You." I am bummed.

I have yet to hear "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas." I am beyond bummed.


P.S. to yesterday's post - I was wrong. (It happens.) The first Jewish community in the colonies was established in Newport in 1654.

P.P.S. I spelled 'hippopotamus' correctly from memory, thank you very much.

Words Written: hope to do some tonight
Lessons Graded: waaaaay too many

Monday, December 19, 2005

the good, the bad and the ugly

Thanks to all for kind comments and assurances - I do think that neurotics are drawn to academe in part because it plays on our best and worst personality charecteristics.

The good: I woke out of a sound sleep on Saturday night suddenly struck with the thought: Red book - why the heck haven't I looked it that index? I read Red Book for qualifying exams, but I haven't touched it since - oh, I could tell you the basic argument and evidence used, but I haven't really looked at it since then. Sure enough, Red Book has some really juicy quotations and great bits that I can work in. Hurrah!

The bad: Sam broke into my chocolate stash. It's been an exciting morning. Let's just say that dogs and chocolate don't mix and leave it at that.

The ugly: I went to the P.O. to mail Christmas packages this A.M. The line was long but moving and everyone seemed in good spirits. One man in the queue insisted upon saying "Merry Christmas" to everyone and getting a cheery reply. What a nice man thought I. "After all," he added, "Christmas is for children. All of these ignorant foreigners come here and destroy our culture to suit themselves by getting rid of Christmas."

Do not, I repeat, do not mess with a stressed out doctoral candidate in American history. "Oh, really? Tell me, when did your ancestors come to this country?"

"Huh? Oh, I dunno, sometime in the 1880s."

"Well, Jewish people have lived in this country since the early years of the 1700s. I'd hardly call them 'ignorant foreigners.'"

"What? That's impossible!"


Words Written: have said a great many nice things about the author of Red Book and only thrown Green Book across the room once

Lessons Graded: that's next - not going to be pretty

Thursday, December 15, 2005

is this progress?

It's been horrifically chaotic around here lately.

Ive been reading quite a bit, but not written a lick - too terrifying each time I sit at the computer. I own a very large teddy bear; wonder if I could type with him on my lap?

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: ten
Books on Floor: twenty-two
Books on Desk: seven
Books on Bedroom Floor: fourteen

Friday, December 09, 2005

snow and snowed under

Sam faces a serious problem. He loathes snow, cold and wet. Thus he choses to avoid lakes, rain, baths - oh yes, and snowstorms.

On the other paw, there's eight inches of snow on the ground, so pretty hard to avoid when nature calls. He even slid out on a patch of ice, a thoroughly undignified moment for a serious dog.

Yesterday nearly every yard we walked by had children and grown ups playing in the snow. A few brave souls had shovels out, but it did seem rather like a waste of time, given how quickly the cleared areas filled up again.

I woke up around 2 AM from a series of dreadful nightmares with a dozen good ideas for the diss, half the introduction and half for detail chapters. I'm trying to push the literature as much as possible, without getting into the excruciating detail that drives me mad. I repeated the list a few times so that I wouldn't forget any of them - and then, of course, couldn't get back to sleep. (yawns) Please pass the coffee.

Now comes the challenge of integrating the ideas, most of which actually seem pretty good in broad daylight, into what's already present. You know what this means? Right: more books on the floor.

Words Written: lots of little scraps of paper
Lessons Graded: twelve

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

dueling librarians

My second favorite reference librarian works at my local library branch. He’s smart, funny, and does me the compliment of understanding why I might be curious about something. Over the years he’s looked up all sorts of obscure and not so obscure information for me, always with a grin and a “Well now, that is a good question.”

Not only is he good at reference but he’s recommended several wonderful novels and biographies that kept me sane when I desperately needed a break from academics. In short, this is a Very Important Person in my day-to-day life.

Alas, my second-favorite reference librarian will be working at another library in 2006, so my remaining time with him is sadly limited. When he broke this news to me, he also issued one last challenge: was there anything else I wanted him to look up?

Now, as it happens, I’ve always wondered about the death of John Bellairs. Bellairs was a truly amazing author, one with oodles of research behind his novels, as well as great turns of phrase and he wrote books that I can’t put down. (The covers were all done by Edward Gorey, need I say more?) I knew that he had died suddenly, but not his age or cause of death.

“All right, SFRL, what was the cause of death?”

SFRL leaped into the fray. Within a minute he had dug up all sorts of references and information, but nothing on the cause of death. The digging continued. After five minutes, another librarian walked up. AL sized up the situation, and began to dig, too. In less then ten seconds, he had found the answer, while SFRL was still looking.

“What? Where? How did you--?”

I love librarians.

By the by, Bellairs died from a heart attack at age 53.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

wait a minute, I think I have it

I've blogged before about my inability to understand the president and the war in Iraq. It's felt as though I was just missing one little piece of perspective, and then I would get it. I didn't expect to agree with his reasoning, but I really need to know why.

I think I've figured it out. This isn't Vietnam or the Persian Gulf to GWB. It's post-World War II Japan. He believed (and probably still believes) that following a short but powerful attack (dropping the atomic bombs) the US military would be able to spend a few years writing a constitution, holding elections, and weakening the monarchy.

Now, this thesis has a few holes. After all, Japan had spent quite a few years fighting prior to 1945 and was considerably weakened even before the bombs fell. At the same time, I think I understand why GWB has dragged us into war, and I feel better.

Back to work.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

turkey day

I love Thanksgiving - 40+ people get together for 4 days of eating, bowling, Scrabble, etc. oh yes, and we eat a lot, too. (Yum!) I thought I was well enough for the usual activities, but crashed on Saturday and spent almost all of the day in bed. The hacking cough is still with me. I spent much of Monday and today inhaling sleep, too. Pnuemonia is evil.

I am truly blessed to have such a wonderfully fun & extended family. One of the younger cousins always tries to stump me with history questions. Last year it was kings & queens of England, this year it was presidents and First Ladies. He hasn't yet figured out that I know nothing about, say, medieval China or, even better for him, geometry.

While the grown-ups had coffee and pumpkin pie (no, I am not a grown-up! You can't make me!!) I got involved in a massive hair-braiding affair. Believe it or not, I used to have hair past my waist, and the cousins would spend Turkey Day putting it into 15, 000 braids. Now my hair is, er, short, so I do theirs and they tell me all about make-up. They are of the opinion that boys "might be nice" but "they need to take more showers." There you have it.

Hope you and yours had a great Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

of pumpkins

Confession: I've never really liked pumpkin pie. Fresh, store bought, doesn't matter - it just doesn't appeal. Now, pumpkin muffins are another story altogether, but I doubt that they will be on anyone's dessert menu on Thursday.

Pumpkins were almost certainly served in 1621 (the Pilgrims would have called it a Harvest Celebration instead of Thanksgiving, but that's another post for another day.) Pumpkins were cut into pieces, mashed, a few spices mixed in as available, and then baked. The Pilgrims didn't have any flour at that time and so couldn't have made pies anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. This is my favorite holiday of the year, even with the threat of snow added to travel plans. (Sounds like the Northeast will be particularly challenged this year.)

I think I'm sick again. This is nothappening. (sigh)

Words Written: three hundred, plus repaired commas and citations too numerous to be worth counting
Lessons Graded:forty

Saturday, November 19, 2005

word challenge

Come up with a word which includes the letters "ch" twice.

I've come up with "church" and "Chinchilla" - anything else?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Thus inspired by iTunes, I will join in this meme I swiped from Harriet. Think Magic 8 Ball, except with iTunes set on random shuffle.

1. What do you think of me, oh mystical iTunes?

"You are a creature of ordered chaos, whose minimalism is strangely artistic"
(“The Grid” – Philip Glass)

2. Will I have a happy life?

“Not unless you get the dissertation done right away.”
(“Losing My Mind” – Liza Minnelli and the Pet Shop Boys)

Eerily true – better move on to the next question.

3. What do my friends really think of me?

"You need a shave.”
(“The Moustache” –Samuel Ramey)

4. What does my S.O. think of me?

“You need a vacation, far from here, preferably someplace with the possibility of rioting in the streets.”
(“Normandy” – Once Upon A Mattress)

5. Do people secretly lust after me?

“Don’t count on it.”
(“What a Fool Believes” – The Doobie Brothers)

6. How can I make myself happy?

“Learn Latin. Or maybe take up the trumpet.”
(“Opening Titles” – The Lion in Winter)

(The words to the opening theme of this film are in Latin.)

7. What should I do with my life?

“Massacre urban wildlife.”
(“Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” – Tom Lehrer)

Like Harriet, it would appear that I have chosen the wrong academic path.

8. Why must life be so full of pain?
“Corporate America has pilfered all that is good and glorious and used it to over-market consumer goods.”
(“Hoe-Down” –Aaron Copeland)

9. How can I maximize my pleasure during sex?

(“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” – Dr. John)

10. Can you give me some advice?

“Invest in very large-scale real estate.”
(“Gosford Park” – Christopher Northam)

11. What do you think happiness is?

“Talking for a living.”
(“Come Talk to Me” –Peter Gabriel)

No kidding! Just let me get my notes and we’ll start the class discussion…

12. Do you have any advice to give over the next few hours/days?

“Early morning Mid-July
Anticipation’s making me high”
(“Summerfling” kd lang)

This advice on the day of Indianapolis’ first snowfall? Thanks.

13. Will I die happy?

“Yes, but at a cost – you will be surrounded by hordes of children, all of whom have the same name.”
(“Gavotte in G” – J.S. Bach)

Then again, if that means my work endures for centuries and inspires a brilliant satirist, it would be awfully nice for my ego! (I need a shave, indeed.)

Bonus #14: if the next song is about what's going to happen, what is it?

“Aliens will arrive and take over the music scene.”
(“Purple People Eater” –Judy Garland)

Quite frankly, I think this would probably be an improvement.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Monday, November 14, 2005

wise words from a wise man

"We cannot ask a man what he will do, and if we should, and he should answer us, we should despise him. Therefore we must take a man whose opinions are known."
-Abraham Lincoln, on the process of selecting Surpreme Court justices

Words Written: one hundred ninety-two
Lessons Graded: ten

Friday, November 11, 2005


Every now and again, a student comes along who truly picks my brain and, in the process, pushes me to be a better teacher. Far too many of these students need help with what I learned in high school, such as capitalization and the construction of a thesis staement. Luckily most of them also ask probing questions about history.

The latest challenge poses mechanical questions, as well as philosophical ones, and I keep yanking out books in my search for answers. (It's a wonderful feeling to think, "Oh, yes, I read about that a few years ago...) Right now we're discussing the ethics of warfare - did Grant make the right choice in sacrificing so many men in the Battle of the Wilderness? is this any more or less problematic than dropping atomic bombs upon civilians, albeit armed and militarily prepared civilians, in 1945?

Just to complicate matters, I suggested renting Gallipolis this weekend. Of all the wars I've struggled to understand, World War I is the one I find it hardest to wrap my brain around. Oh, I can tell you about causes, reasons, and all of that good stuff that I learned for qualifying exams, but I still don't feel that I understand.

On a more cheerful note, I dreamed about the diss last night - or, to be more specific, I dreamed that I was sitting at the computer and writing away, books and notes spread all over the place. I then woke up to the voice of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy issuing forth from the radio. Good things are supposed to come in threes, right?

(taps foot impatiently)

Words Written: I'm trying to decifer the notes I carefully took and then besmirched with coffee stains
Lessons Graded: four

Thursday, November 10, 2005

tie a yellow ribbon?

Tomorrow is Veterans' Day. With all of the ink and airwaves dedicated to honoring those who serve, it's clear that Americans have renewed respect and admiration for vets, whatever our opinions of the wars.

Yet how many of the people with yellow ribbon magnets on their vehicles will attend any of the services and festivities organized to honor veterans? Oh, the local paper will send a team to cover them and there will be pictures on the front page of the newspaper, but I suspect very few of my GWB-supporting neighbors will be there. I can't remember anyone ever coming to my school to talk about their wartime experiences, thought that might have had something to do with the post-Vietnam angst.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: fourteen

Monday, November 07, 2005

my kind of saint

Glancing through my service leaflet yesterday, I noticed that today is the feast day of Willibrord of Utrecht. (What? There’s more than one St. Willibrord, so we need geographical distinctions in discussing them? Wow.)

St. Willibrord had older brothers named Willibald and Winebald with whom, according to my saint guide “he is, not surprisingly, confused.” The pope who made Willibrord a bishop could not pronounce his name and changed it to Clement. (Why didn’t it stick?) When the ruler of Holland and Denmark burned the early churches there, Willibrord responded by “desecrating sacred cows.”

At his shrine in Luxembourg, pilgrims and clergy perform “a sacred early-day conga-line dance” on his feast day, taking “three steps forward and two steps back.” The assembly does this around Willibrord’s tomb and then dances out of the church. In art he is depicted with a church in his hands and “because of his ability to multiply wine, a barrel of wine at his feet.”

I’ve slept at least twelve hours every night for the last three nights and might actually be kicking pneumonia. Meanwhile I have at least heard from my advisor (may he live forever) and it’s all good. Whew!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


A year ago today, I stocked up on red wine and cheetos (tm) and settled in to watch the election coverage. Along with an old friend, I watched the results come in, cheered only by the news from Ohio. Joe's wet feet and frustration gave me hope on an otherwise dark day.

365 days later, where are we as a nation?

I don't know.

We're no better off as a nation and in many ways we're much worse. (Never trust an adult man who prefers the name Scooter.) Whatever the low polls might suggest, many of my neighbors still admire and venerate GWB.

He's no James Buchanan, but neither is he Abraham Lincoln.

I can't help feeling that there's something I'm missing, some vital piece that would help me to understand current events and the tone of the nation. Perhaps I'm just too accustomed to my long dead and buried historial subjects. Perhaps. It might also be that there's simply nothing to understand.

I hope not.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

this, that, and the other

I spent the vast majority of my senior year of college writing a senior honors thesis, great preparation for writing a diss. (I attribute my slower diss progress to the cancelation of Unsolved Mysteries, without which honors would not have happened.) The "voodoo prof" was still in my life, but my (fanfare, fanfare) advisor kept him in his place.

I handed said thesis in a few weeks before graduation, and was promptly handed a very large glass of champagne by a very kind friend. For some reason we then spent the evening discussing ee cummings.

With my defense date officially, well, official, I'm trying to imagine what I'll do when done. The champagne goes without saying, though as I'm slightly older, it will probably cost more than $3.99. What will I do with my time? Sleep? read? catch up on movies? learn to crochet?

Let's not count chickens (or any other kind of fowl) as I still have quite a few pages to write first.

Three weeks and still no word from my advisor (so kind, so wonderful, may he live forever, may he find happiness and joy at each turn...)

Words Written: zero, but lots of primary source materials read
Lessons Graded: fifty (groan)

Monday, October 31, 2005

that voodoo that you do

During my freshman year of college, I spent far too much time and energy trying to understand one of my professors. He obviously knew the material and made just enough wry asides to indicate that teaching could have its positive moments. Yet he never kept office hours, met with me to discuss paper options only with the greatest reluctance, and turned most discussions into lectures. Most baffling to me, with a week to go before the final exam, he still had not handed back our mid-term exams. Two or three of us from the class brought our desperation to the chair, and the blue books reached us on the last day of the semester.

A friend once made me a voodoo doll of this man, complete with a list of suggested activities.

Occasionally I've learned something about the way in which my students see my classes, but I've only ever heard bits said with a smile or a laugh ("She's not kidding - her maps are terrible!) ("Notice how she always tells us about the redheads?") I do hope that I haven't inspired any voodoo dolls, but perhaps I have.

Hmm... can you use magic to give your teacher pnuemonia?

Friday, October 28, 2005


1) I am officially fed up with being sick. Even if TNT stopped showing Law & Order all day and gave me more episodes of ER I'd still be annoyed. I called the doctor on Monday and I think I'll call again today.

2) Still no word from my advisor (may he live forever) but I did like the Aruba theory.

3) Sam had his first meal of regular "active maturity" kibble this morning without beef broth to cover the taste of his pills. He looked at me quizzically for a moment, but I notice his dish is empty anyway.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

man's thinking process

Two weeks ago (exactly - 3:15 PM) I sent my advisor (may he live in great happiness forever) a fairly detailed e-mail message. Said message included citations from primary documents as well as from Kate Terabian. As of 3:18 PM today, I'd not heard back.

This is unprecedented. Perhaps he is in Bermuda? Caught Avian Flu? Buried under a bookcase full of essential primary documents? Has decided that he hates me and is ignoring me??

(may he live forever, may his health and prosterity continue, may he know only happiness and joy)

I haven't worried this much about any man's thinking process since my freshman year of college.

Meanwhile, one of the department's secretaries has explained the dean's policies to me in a way that almost makes sense. Cancel the vodka shots; said sec deserves dozens of roses. I don't like the policy and it will make my life thoroughly miserable for several months, but at least I understand it.

Words Written: two hundred and six
Lessons Graded: five

Monday, October 24, 2005

what the hey??!

My blog is worth $8,468.10.
How much is your blog worth?

Good gracious, really??

Have spent the morning trying to understand various deadline related messages from the dean's office. I'm now leaning against buying the staff coffee and toward vodka shots, plus various munchies. Perhaps bribery will make the bureaucracy more comprehensible.

yours in headaches...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

White Sox and white paws

No brilliant dissertation ideas sprang into my mind during the sermon today, which means that for once the rector had my full & undivided attention. Thanks to my assiduous concentration, I now know that the White Sox won last night in a game with some terrific pitching. Trust me, this all had a connection to Moses and David.

As I predicted, Sam now considers his "pills mixed with broth and a few people food scraps" three times a day to be a part of the normal order of life, one nearly as important as the daily walk. I admire John's willingness to nurse pills into Ginger's system with a towel and some TLC. Sam is nothing if not stubborn, and I am a coward.

P.S. A very happy (if belated) birthday to Joe, my very favorite ref librarian.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

dogs and saints

The geriatric dog just cast aside his Greenie (biscuit of clean teeth) in pursuit of a vicious squirrel. Go get 'em, Sam.

Today is the feast day of Contard Ferrini, the patron of universities. "A saint with a PhD," thought I, "this bodes well."

In 1880 CF left Italy to pursue futher study in Berlin. Shocked by the lax ethics of the university and of the immoral Protestant Germans, he took a vow of perpetual virginity before returning to Italy. There his classes were popular and he took up rock climbing as a hobby.

My saint guide asserts that the popularity of CF's classes stemmed from his open admission of his Christian faith. I do wonder if those words carried the same meaning and expectation then as they do now. Particularly in Indiana, "open expression of faith" in the classroom tends to mean "evangelizing" hence its volitility. Many history teachers and professors skirt around the issue of belief in any context, for fear of upsetting the balance. Students learn that the Momrmons faced persecution for their religious beliefs and headed west, but not very much about those beliefs.

Wonder how the CF would do in one of my classes.

Words Written: a hundred or so
Lessons Graded: nine

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Sam came home with pills to be taken every six hours or so. "Just mix them in with his usual food," quoth the tech. Ha! Not this dog. Right now he's accepting the contents of the capsules when mixed with beef broth and a bit of hamburger. By this time next week he'll have me feeding him filet mignon, seasoned with basil, oregano and a dash of tobasco, all with a teaspoon of medication. Yes, I spoil my dog when it comes to meds. Look out: he still has all of his teeth.

Let's not discuss what the "routine geriatric" bloodwork cost, but it was almost as expensive as the dental work.

I'm slowly getting better. As per my beloved doc's instructions, this means spending several hours a day resting in bed. As a result, I've realized just how lame my video collection truly is. Oh, I have a few fun films, and watching Alan Rickman in Sense and Sensibility, followed by Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice isn't exactly a hardship. On the other hand, one can only watch even a brilliant film (such as Singin' In the Rain) so many times before cabin fever sets in. Somewhere I have box of action films given to me by a friend for helping him move, but I've no idea where they might be hiding. In the meantime, it's Bell, Book and Candle for me...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

dogs and the aging process

Sam is at the vet's office this morning, having his teeth cleaned. I signed all sorts of release paperwork and provided an emrgency phone number, all pretty standard stuff. After a quick scan of his medical record, the tech asked if she could also run some bloodwork on him first. "Sure, but why?"

"Oh, he's an older dog, and we want to make sure that he's heathy enough for the anesthesia."

It truly bothers me that my beloved dog is now considered an "older" dog. I don't deny that he is, but the years have slipped by far too quickly. Somehow it doesn't bother me that I have relatives who are "older" - probably of a comparable age to Sam, really, and every bit as active and happy with life as he.

The day may yet come when he needs some sort of medication or special care, all of which I'll willingly provide. I just hope that it's not too soon.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


My undergraduate American Lit professor truly blew me out of the water. Class time passed quickly, papers were always handed back quickly and plenty of humor throughout. She even made Herman Melville slightly interesting to me, which is saying something, given the depths of my loathing for his works.

We quickly figured out that the more handwriting you saw on your paper, the higher the grade. Oh, she could tear apart a B level essay, but the A papers excited her, and she would offer all sorts of comments, suggestions and funny asides.

Rereading the comments made by my advisor (may he live forever) on the introduction, he seems concerned that the amount of red ink on my prose might dissuade or depress me. Little does he know!

Words Written: corrections to intro
Lessons Graded: twelve

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

yak tossing

Sorry to have disappeared from the blog world, but I've been sick. I've had the same "primary health care provider" for years now, and seeing him is one of the few perks to feeling like death warmed over. This time he began my appointment by reviewing my symptoms and asking if I'd visited Tibet recently.

"Er, no. Why?"

"Well, then you probably don't have the same strain of tuberculosis that I diagnosed last week." At which point he grinned his wonderfully infectious grin.

Comments from my advisor (may he live forever) arrived in today's mail. The appropriate use of the comma continues to elude me, but I did garner some praise as well, hurrah!

Words Written: next!
Lessons Graded: four

Friday, October 07, 2005


By the way, I intentionally left Harding out of my previous post. There aren't many Harding scholars, but they're an enthusiastic lot and rarely agree. If you really want to know more, let me know.

In the meanwhile, the presidental discussion made for a lovely distraction from the writing insanity of the week. Instead of focusing upon cranking out as much of a chapter as I could, I had to write all sorts of compressed power-word-driven summaries for the dean's office. (The dean has a very nice office and plenty of assistants - couldn't one of them read the diss and just tell the dean about it instead? I'd even buy the coffee.)

Another reason why #2 is such a great teacher: the comments on my latest introduction being with words such as "interesting" and "fascinating" before observing that page nine is "a tad dense." Whew!

Words Written: impossible to tally
Lessons Graded: twelve

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

more on presidents

An on-going discussion has started regarding the nation’s worst president. Hugh , the instigator, is probably chuckling privately at the contention. I’ve thrown my hat into the ring a few times already, ranking GWB near the bottom, but not at the very bottom.

It is apparent that this dissention stems in part from using different criteria (criterion?) to define “worst.” TRP argues that the definition belongs to someone who leaves the nation in a worse condition than when their term began. Mr. Spoon, when not pondering our examples and exercising his right to change his mind, kindly asked for my opinion. (Such a nice fellow.)

I would posit that the distinction of “worst” should go to the leader who sits idly by while Rome burns. The current administration, though comfortably reclined in their rocking chairs at times, also takes action. Though I disagree with nearly all of their decisions and efforts, and am horrified at the delays associated with Katrina, even the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind qualify as action.

Using this definition, I have argued elsewhere that James Buchanan’s administration best fits the “Rome Burns” description. Mr. Spoon kindly asked for the names of other candidates who might be ranked alongside JB and GWB.

William Henry Harrison - Harrison contracted pneumonia soon after his inauguration and spent much of his one month in office ill and comatose. More than one of my students has ranked him as the greatest president for this reason. (joke!) I cannot blame a comatose man for the chaos inherited by John Tyler.

Millard Fillmore – Fillmore is often faulted for signing the individual bills that made up the Compromise of 1850. I do not advocate slavery, but I laud his attempt to compromise. In particular, I laud Fillmore’s decision to support a compromise first created by the brilliant compromiser, Henry Clay. (I’ll blog about him another day.)

Franklin Pierce - Pierce inherited an unmitigated sectional disaster from Fillmore & Taylor. His foreign policy successes are noteworthy and he attempted to achieve cooperation between the increasingly divided North and South.
Pierce bears further examination by those who study the current administration. Like GWB, Pierce struggled with alcoholism. While in the White House, he remained sober, but clearly battled the depression and anxiety that facilitated the disease. Just before his inauguration, Pierce and his wife saw their only surviving child crushed to death beneath the wheels of a train. Both Pierces struggled with depression during his four years in office and I confess to feeling quite sorry for them. His presidency could have been better but, again, Pierce did at least take action.

The presidents from the second half of the 19th century frequently land high atop the historians’ polls for corruption and graft. All of this is true. It is also worth remembering that corruption and graft fell well within the bounds of ordinary behavior during this time. Briefly:

Johnson inherited an untenable political situation. Lincoln might have created and sustained a lasting peace within the nation, but no one other than Washington could have achieved it. It is worth noting that Lincoln, like GWB, skirted the Constitution, utilized military law to suit his purposes and pursued an unpopular war. I would not compare the two, but others have.

Grant led a corrupt administration, but took action against it and attempted to restore the power of the presidency. Hayes won possibly the most corrupt election of all time then settled into a very quiet and respectable term. Chester Arthur, despite his history of graft in local politics, did his utmost to cleanse the system of presidential appointments based solely upon favoritism.

Now then – the twentieth century. If you use my argument, none of the twentieth century’s presidents can rank as among the worst of the worst. Hoover, Nixon, Carter and Clinton might not assume a position within the upper echelons, but neither are their administrations without merit. Though ranked among the all-time greats, I’d note that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s legacies remain complicated; plenty of people then and now disparaged and disparage his policies. Politicians and activists of the last fifty years or so have expended considerable effort toward dismantling or eliminating many of his policies.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

short post

I just caught an 80 year old plagiarizing.

Words Written: five hundred and six
Lessons Graded: seven
Books on Floor: forty seven (I did pick up a little today)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Aquaman was a hero

he could talk to fish...

1) Microfilm - it's all good. Well, all right, parts of the documents obviously spent a hundred years in someone's basement and have the water marks and mouse chewed pieces missing to prove it. Luckily these are pages I do not need. The microfilm room is still dusty, but the new readers are much simpler to use. Not only that, but some genuis has installed computers next to the readers. Having easy access to my e-mail, search engines and whatnot was truly wonderful. All hail librarians.

2) Lunch with my advisor (may he live forever) proved to be fun and motivational. We've known each other for, er, quite a few years now, but I'd no idea where his political views might lie. Funny, but it's just never come up. At any rate, I was delighted to hear him make a nasty comment about current events. I also dropped by #2's office hours and had a wonderful chat about teaching, reading and the latest work I've done on the introduction. #2 is just wonderful and I am so glad that my project is interesting to said person.

3) Alas, the lunch and the chat also included discussion about a much dreaded topic: the date by which I must defend or else. While it's nice to have the date and a firm deadline, it's also terrifying. I hate projects that are open-ended, but this due date looms large.

4) Naturally, having done all of these professional activities and gotten some great writing done on Friday, I came down with a nasty bug and spent the last three days in bed. I'm worried about it turning into pneumonia, but so far, so good.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

malfunctioning wardrobe

I face a wardrobe dilemma. Tomorrow I have blocked off ten-twelve hours of quality time to be spent with my microfilm. OK, it's Banned Books Week and so I really should recognize that the microfilm truly belongs to the larger university community or, more specifically, the history collections people who paid for it. It's still mine.

I digress.

The microfilm reading area is among the least attractive and more poorly lit rooms in a library that is already rather dreary and dark. If I'm going to be crouched over a dusty microfilm reader all day, I want to do it in jeans and a sweatshirt. Here lies the wardrobe problem: my advisor (may he live forever) is taking me out to lunch at a reasonably nice restaurant. I could wear jeans in a pinch, but not a t or sweat shirt. I could also bring a change of clothes in my bag, but that would cut down on the number of library books that I can carry.

On a more random note, a secondary definition for the word "diligence" is a public stagecoach, esp. used in France [1745]

Words Written: seven hundred-ish
Lessons Graded: three
Books on Floor: forty-three

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

O Frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Exactly seven months to the day of its ordering:


any progress in a storm

Had another very productive day on Sunday, despite the headache-inducing lights in the library stacks. Woke up with a headache on Monday and took a nap instead of working. My advisor (may he live forever) and I are trying to set up a time and place to meet this week to look over my latest and talk strategy.

'scuse me, got to get back to work.

Words Written: haven't counted yet
Lessons Graded: three
Boks on Floor: thirty-five, plus five index file folders full of book reviews

Saturday, September 24, 2005

fact of the day

The bee uses twenty-two different muscles when stinging.

Words Written: one thouand, one hundred and eight (hurrah!)
Lessons Graded: two

Friday, September 23, 2005


Thanks to all for the suggestetions and advice. When I first saw those words, the sentence seemed oddly jarring and it took me a few readings to realize that the "was" truly bothered me. Since the rest of the book is so well-constructed, I thought perhaps this might be a rule exception I'd missed in The Chicago Manual of Style.

The sentence comes from one of the most beautiful and evocative novels I've read in a very long time, Mary Dowing Hahn's The Old Willis Place: A Ghost Story, page 17. (Yes, to cheer myself up after reading about the Clinton years, I read a book about ghosts.)

The writing is not going well and I'm not sleeping well; the two are probably connected. It's been a long time since I had any chocolate, so perhaps a quick supply run would be beneficial.

I'm also worried about the latest storm - and how much gas the folks who left Houston used to fuel their SUVs and Hummers - but no amount of chocolate can fix that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

reader query

Every year there was more traffic, more people, more houses.

I think the verb should be "were." What do you think?

Monday, September 19, 2005

First Ladies follow up

Joe, in response to my last post, asked how many First Ladies have been "publicly active on policy matters" and speculated that H.R. Clinton might be the only one. Ever a kind and thoughtful chap, Joe kindly implied that I might know more about this subject than he and that my answer might interest him.

(beams with pride) Take ten points for Gryffindor for brightening my morning.

HRC was not the first nor, I would argue, even the most villified First Lady to speak out and act in public policy matters. That title would go to Eleanor Roosevelt, who spent three terms plus a tad more as probably the most active, influential and out-spoken First Lady ever.

I could run this post on for screens and screens, but two more ladies truly stand out in my humble opinion. (More examples available upon request.)

Betty Ford worked quite tirelessly, and against much criticism, in favor of the Equal Rights Ammendment. Much pilloried in the press of the time, Ford was also very open about pushing her husband to appoint the first female Surpeme Court justice if ever he had the chance. I think Ford's reputation hs been rehabilitated (if also opened to a new series of nasty remarks) by opening the clinic.

Lucy Hayes, the first First Lady to have graduated from college, was a very outspoken supporter of the temperence movement. All of the jokes about "Lemonade Lucy" aside, she used her status as First Lady to encourage temperence awareness throughout the nation, particularly among its women. In the second half of the 19th century, this was a deeply controversial stance for a woman in her position to take.

P.S. Ten points to Greg, too, for thoughtful follow-up.

(WOW! You actually enjoy my historical ramblings!)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

First Ladies

In my copious spare time, I've been reading The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House by John F. Harris. It's been quite enjoyable, as Harris doesn't bring a particular agenda to the saga, just a very straight-forward approach and plenty of research.

On page 256, Harris discusses Hillary Clinton's attempts to Get Along with the Washington media after the 1996 election. Speaking in Australia, Clinton commented:

There really is no way to escape the politics of one's time if you're in that position, other than to just totally withdraw - perhaps, I don't know, have a bag over your head when you come out into public - or in some way to make it clear you have no opinions and no ideas about anything and will never express them publicly or privately.

I think HRC prophesied the future with this remark. Apart from a picture in People magazine when she lost weight, I haven't seen a thing of Laura Bush all year, other than occasionally smiling and waving as she gets into a helicopter.

Bush must be a strong woman; I admire her ultimatum that George either becme sober or file for divorce. I hope someday to read a Harris book about the Bush years and find out her views and feelings on the events of the last five years.

Words Written: two hundred and nine
Lessons Graded: fourteen

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Your Rising Sign is Aries

You're full of energy - and people look to you to get the party started.

Confident and honest, you'll be the one to say what everyone is thinking.

You are easily bored, and you always find unique ways to do things.

You don't just dream it, you do it. And that's why you're so successful.

Too intense for some, often times people are intimidated by you.

But you're usually smart enough to charm them anyway!

an ordinary morning

Is it just me, or does Jack FM occasionally play Neil Diamond? I could swear that I heard his voice yesterday.

Sam almost caught a cat this morning. I'm not sure who was more surprised. I think he expected the kitten to run and the kitten hadn't met a hostile dog before; she certainly looked surprised.

I've been writing rec letters for former students this morning. Usually these are easy to do, and I can knock off a thoughtful letter in under half an hour. (Someone wrote them for me after all, so I'm mysteriously qualified to write them for others.) Right now I'm struggling with writing a letter for a woman who was an excellent student, but who I didn't really get to know very well in any way other than academic. I hate to fall back upon the usual "great student" platitudes but I suppose they'll have to do.

Words Written: three hundred and six
Lessons Graded: four

Monday, September 12, 2005

of microfilm and mail

Good news: the microfilm (you remember, it was ordered back in March) left the archive at the end of August. The Twenty-fourth, to be exact.

(dance of joy)

Bad news: the library staff at my university have yet to change its status in the card catalouge from "on order" to "being processed."


Yes, yes, I know, materials that will be used by a lowly graduate student are of far less importance than materials that might possibly be used by a professor. I'm still going to request a rush in processing and see if it gets me anywhere.

The grocery store clerk told me that the former director of FEMA had no disaster relief experience and mostly specialized in horses and horse races. Can anyone confirm or deny?

contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says...

Update: ohmigd it's true - and he was asked to resign from the horse gig for doing a terrible job. (Thanks Eileen!)

Friday, September 09, 2005

spam as poetry

Like many people, some of the spam I get is just, well, strange. Most of the time I roll my eyes and junk it unread. One of today's messages sneaked through my initial delete cycle, and I have to confess, some of the random words selected to sneak the thing past any filter in place were not all bad.

clairvoyant coven

A coven of clairvoyants, a murder of crows, a pod of dolphins, sure, why not?

try clomp buzz

I can't decide if "clomp buzz" would make a better microbrew or mead.

burdock within intuitable and influential hieroglyphic but rainier

It's possible that there are hieroglyphics which depict burdock - did burdock grow in ancient Egypt? Certainly there's a certain amount of intuition involved in any translation, and I know I get more work of an intellectual nature done when it's raining.

(I never said it was good poetry...)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

no end in sight

I continue to marvel at the many breakdowns in bureaucracy associated with Katrina. (I also mourn the insistence that people who have lost everything must also abandon their pets.) I'd no idea that one of the levees had needed repairs for twenty years. Others are blogging better about this than I - Editor B has a link up to a vivid survivor story.

On a lighter note, like Mr. Spoon and TRP I've added comment verification. Nothing like landing three spammed comments in under an hour to make this a good idea. Drewster was also hit this weekend and muses that we need a verb to describe this condition.

Monday, September 05, 2005

here we go again

Spent most of the day writing. This is the fourth or fifth time I've had to write a new introduction, and if I didn't have copies of each earlier edition on hand, I'd not recognize the new ideas, let alone differentiate them from someone else's words.

I imagine (pure fantasy on my part) that writers of fiction do not have this problem. Oh, they have editors and I know that Jo Rowling cares deeply about her audience. No one is going to look at a novelist and tell them to reincorporate, reindex and otherwise reorganize and revamp the same twenty pages. I'm citing the same fellow scholars, leaving the same places open for the material I need from the (still not arrived) microfilm... hopefully I've cast matters in a new angle that will appease the powers that be.

#3 offered the very good suggestion of looking at other introductions, pulling paragraphs that really flow and work - or, as I put it, "the ones where you want to underline every word" - and use them as models. Unfortunately I have yet to find an introduction that I really enjoyed, that flowed and did a lot for me, that ran for more than three or four pages. Thus I suspect that what I have would not meet my reading and underlining standards, but will probably please said powers that be very much.

So (reasons my brain) the introduction is kind of serving as a reversal of the three Norns in Wagner's The Ring of the Niebulungs: it tells the whole story right over again from the beginning even before the beginning has actually happened.

Words Written Today: seven hundred and two
Words Written Saturday: six hundred and forty
Lessons Graded: one
Books on Floor: twenty-three

Friday, September 02, 2005

worn out

At the risk of sounding terribly self-centered, I'm bone-wearingly tired right now. Katrina's aftermath is horrific enough, from the damage to the looters. The war in Iraq (am I the only one bothered by the president being able to declare war, despite what the Constitution says to the contrary?) continues. Quite honestly, I don't think the administration or the congress know what to do about either, politics aside.

Now, though, we get the two tragedies combined, as the analysts worry about the over-extention of National Guard troops and the possibility of keeping troops in the South for many months. I cannot wrap my understanding around what will happen to the thousands of displaced people without a place to go and understand why the mayor of Dallas feels the same way.

I'm clinging to faith that God has all of this in hand.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

thought for the day

The latest predictions are that the New Orleans public schools may not reopen for an entire year.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

and now what?

Oh good golly - the aftermath is far worse than even I, the ever and eternally optimistic, had imagined.

The good news is that every one I know (and the ones I just admire, such as Editor B) are safe. My heart goes out to the folks who stayed in the Superdome and now are being bused to the Astrodome. To be alive yet without options and in a place dedicated to fun and frivolity, headed for another as a refugee must be an awful sensation. It's all so much better than it might have been, yet so dreadful.

Words Written: more than expected
Lessons Graded: twelve
books on floor: nineteen

Gratitude that books are all that I have on my floor: priceless

(thank-you, blessed saints above)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

more on Katrina

One of the few nice aspects of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina is that this morning Sam and I had perfect dog-walking weather: cooler and with just enough rain to keep the streets reasonably empty. The geriatric golden retriever did go by twice. For some reason she and Sam have never gotten along. Distant sightings make both of them suspicious and up close they bark. I've chatted (all right, yelled) with the golden's owner, and both of our dogs are generally pretty calm and placid; perhaps they're arguing politics.

Speaking of Katrina, Steve Osunsami of ABC news wins my award for "most helpful image" of flooding. A picture flashed of him walking a street in the hours before the hurricane hit, with water up to his ankles. Last night ABC showed a picture of him well up to his thighs in flooding, and S.O. explained that this was as close as he could get to the old location, shown in the background and obviously with water over his head. For a spacially challenged person like me, this is terribly helpful.

He's easy on the eyes, too. (giggle)

Now back to that pile of things to be marked up...

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Last night I dreamed that I was the mother of 8 - 10 children. Hopefully this is symbolic of all of the books I will one day write. I had hired Vernon Jordan to babysit them. I prefer not to dwell upon what that bit of casting might symbolize.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I'd like to thank the academy...

Which Food Network chef are you?
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Alton Brown

This may be the nicest, most flattering thing anyone says about me in 2005. Thanks to Greg, even if he does think that I throw like a girl. (blows kiss)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

slow progress

I had a pretty good bout of writing just now - I'm sure that the powers that be will have all sorts of changes they want made, but it was nice to reread what'd I'd written and see several pages, all of them essentially on track.

Thanks to spending so many hours reading my students' prose I'm now one of the folks who compulsively notices errors in punctuation and spelling in everyday life. You'd think I could do this with my own prose. Nope. The advisor (may he live forever) thinks I need to proof-read more effectively. (sighs)

Now, now - no comments about my many typographical errors in your comment boxes. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Monday, August 22, 2005

a box of books

Blonde Champagne has a truly great post about the banalities of textbooks.

Actually it's better than great. It's fantastic and hilarious and all the funnier because, as someone who has had to actually teach with these monster slabs as supposed teaching aids, it's true.

Some textbooks are actually pretty good - they've been compiled with an eye toward people having to actually read and use them. Alas, far too many of them are written by really terrific writers and then bled of any soul or purpose by the publishers, who know that they must make everyone happy.

I still have my Lit anthologies from college. I won't pretend that I reread them on a regular basis (I still can't read more than two John Berryman poems in a row) but I've gotten a lot more use out of them during insomnia bouts than, say, the biology books that are unreadable even at 3 AM.

Editor's Note I have no idea how to make a Biology textbook interesting. Smaller words? More jokes?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

papal ponderings

This is a very interesting article about Pope Benedict's visit to Germany. Among other things, he has called for an end to DIY religion.

As a good Protestant, this is a tricky statement for me, which is why it's probably intellectually (if not spiritually as well) good for me to read it. On the one hand, I understand his point completely. The Pope would like to see a return to more traditional forms of religious worship and ways of living out faith and spiritual values in daily life. I, for one, am not entirely comfortable when I walk into a church and see a full drum kit where I would expect to see a cross. On the other hand, I know that this is the setting which has brought a great many people into Christianity. If this kind of worship brings them peace and helps them make better choices, all well and good.

The tricky part, of course, is that all religions are to one extent or another DIY. They are institutions created by and for people. I think that the Pope might be calling for people to struggle more with faith, to be made uncomfortable with the issues raised and to face that challenge head-on, rather than seeking a fuzzy version of that experience.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

message from an old student

Dear Prof lemming,

I'm being deployed to the Middle East soon. Remember how you teased me that I really should sit down and read the textbook rather than just reading the index? Well, I've thrown the book in my bag. It's a long flight and I'lll try to read it then. If nothing else, it might help me get some sleep.

I should be laughing - he's trying to be funny - so why do I want to cry?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

technical assistance?

It had to happen sooner or later - my first spam comment arrived on Monday's post. (Who on Earth would buy stock from a company heard about through a blog comment?) (I digress.) Does anyone know how to get rid of it, or is this the reason why so many of you use haloscan instead of blogger for your comments?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Sir William, I cannot wait until lunchtime

Excuse me.
Oh, hi Sam.
It's time.
Not this morning, I have a headache.
No, you don't.
I'm sleepy.
It's time, mistress. The vicious cats are out and the rabbits and...
Sam, we're going to regret this. There's some really good reason why a walk this morning is a bad idea.
Walk? Did you mention a walk? Nothing could have been further from my mind. The leash is over there.

Walks on summer mornings are great for many reasons, not the least of them being the quiet. Little bits of mist rise from the yards, rabbits scurry about and, apart from joggers, Sam and I have the walk to ourselves.

Today school started. This means mornings full of squeaky brakes, kids lined up in driveways and nary a bunny or bloodthirsty, life-threatening or dangerous cat in sight until Saturday morning.

Public Service Announcement
(aka I've been grading papers again)

It's = it is
its = ownership

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog-time.

Friday, August 12, 2005

My hovercraft is full of eels

I'd encourage everyone to follow Editor B's link to the latest on the Cindy Sheehan story. This is one of the elements of blogging that I most admire - a story and its many perspectives can quickly reach a large audience.

Long-time liberal that I am, I don't understand the enthusiasm for silencing the dissenting voices like Sheehan's. Aren't we fighting a war in the Middle East so that they can have their own opinions? Well-trained historian that I hope I am, I look back at previous military conflicts and understand the enthusiasm. ("Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids...") That's what professional training does for you, folks. Exciting, huh? Don't all of you quit your day jobs to join me, though; the job market is crowded enough already.

It's been years since I made or recieved a mix tape. An old friend who knows more about music than I ever will sent me not one but two mix CDs in the mail yesterday. I'm under strict instructions not to look at the song index until I've listened to both of them, all the way through. Said friend is an avowed loather of anything associated with Liza Minnelli and knows that my computer is oddly obsessed with her voice, so I am slightly trepedacious.

I made slow but steady progress in writing yesterday and hopefully today. It's as though all of those years of graduate school during which I learned to read and summarize a book in twelve hours have washed away. I've reverted to my undergraduate habits, which means I am at my most productive after dinner and before bedtime. I haven't yet abandoned diet coke for gourmet coffee (my big luxury in college) but watch this space come October. Mind you, I can still read and summarize a book in twelve hours, less if it's something interesting.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

do you suppose he drinks possets?

Luke Duke
You are Luke Duke. You are sensible and charming.
You rarely get to drive, but you are okay with
that. You are hard-working and honest.

What Dukes of Hazzard Character are you?
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I always preferred Luke to Bo.

Happy Hour (cheers!)

For a variety of reasons that would be far too dull to explain here, I looked up the dictionary definition of the word "posset" this morning. Thanks to my As in 19th Century British Literature, Medieval and Early Modern History, and having read my fair share of romance novels in which possets are used for nefarious purposes, I was confident that the word meant something along the lines of "a soothing and tasty drink, usually served at bedtime and probably containing either alcohol or opium."

Well, at least I was right about the alcohol. My seven inch thick dictionary defines posset as a drink made of hot milk sounds good so far curdled OK, having seen that verb it sounds rather less appealing with ale, wine or the like, often sweetened or spiced. Said word first turns up in the written record in about 1450.

I think I'll stick to sleeping pills.

I had a good writing day on Monday and a wretched one yesterday. Can't yet tell about today.

Books on Floor: twenty-one

Monday, August 08, 2005

I've got plenty of plenty

"Wait," called the mother of the child who has only read three of the Harry Potter books. "I have something for you!"


The something turned out to be a watermelon. Now, when I say "watermelon" I don't mean one of those partial watermelons that you buy at the store and that goes bad right away in the fridge. I mean a very large, intact, definitely oval and very long watermelon, one picked yesterday.


Friday, August 05, 2005


Celebrating thousands of words written, even more lessons graded and countless books stacked on the floor. Thanks to everyone. I had no idea that this blogging thing would turn out to be so much fun and that I would meet so many nice folks along the way. You've no idea how much I appreciate your support.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Saturn's Moons

One of the great features (to my limited mind) of using Firefox is that you have handy access to the latest BBC headlines. "Really, I'm not procrastinating, I'm just getting caught upon the news and the latest cricket scores."

Every now and again they'll post an update on Cassini's latest pictures and how scientists have interpreted them. The latest Cool Pictures of Titan and an analysis of its atmosphere are up right now. Come on now, everyone needs a break from work every now and again.

Alas, a hot tub has not materalized in my office, but I did find some notes I'd thought lost and several back issues of professional journals whose reviews I can mine.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

more follow-up

US Ambassadors to the UN

For the record, after a lot of digging around through my memory, I came up with six names and two "close but not quite" names. A quick poll among my fellow dog walkers came up with, as I predicted, an average of three names and a good guess or two.

Last night I dreamed about the people I examine in the diss, rather than the authors of the books about them. I think it unlikely that any of these people would actually turn up at my front door on a service call, but am delighted that they turned up to fix the hot tub in my office.

I've been grading book reviews all morning, and am happy to report that while some are better than others, all are improved from last time. My favorite phrase, "I thought this book would be boring but it was actually kind of interesting" showed up on several occasions, much to my delight.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

several updates

Memo to Messrs Bolton and Bush: hop into Air Force One and visit a small American city such as, oh, Indianapolis. Watch while your assistants ask the first hundred people they meet to name a previous American Ambassador to the UN. I predict that few, if any, will be able to name more than three or four. Then ask them what they know about the UN. A little humility here, please, folks...

Shoe update: Despite the furor created by the Women's Lacrosse team at the White House, I opted for the sequined flip-flops.

Writing Update: it's going. I've switched energies around a lot today and yesterday, working on lots of different areas. This doesn't feel productive in the same way that writing 3000 words is productive, but one word plus another plus another will eventually equal done, right?

Words Written: lots of scribbles, wadded up and thrown in the trash can, but also some promising notes alongside the deletions

Books on Floor: thirty-one

Monday, August 01, 2005

of shoes - not ships or sealing wax, just shoes

Most of the time, I own three or four pairs of shoes: one for dog walking, one or two for teaching and attending church and a really nice pair for weddings and funerals. Oh yes, and a pair of good winter boots, since dog walking is a year round activity.

Last week I walked into a shoe store last week and purchased three new pairs of shoes. (I'd claim that Green Book is somehow to blame if I could figure out a witty enough way to do it.) I can't remember the last time I owned this many pairs of shoes.

Tonight I am invited to a fancy cocktail party and must actually gasp make a choice!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Green Book haunts me. I hope the author is happy. I dream about him in ways that I've never dreamed about any man. 'nuff said

Hope everyone is well - I've been ignoring my computer in hopes that brilliance would strike when least expected. No such luck, though I did recieve my first eBay purchase in the mail, an item so obscure that only Steven could guess it.

Best wishes to TRP and Swankette and all participants in the Wedding of Swank

Travel safely and may the appropriate blessings be upon you all.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

time and memory

In July of 2000, I attended a particularly beautiful and all around fun wedding. The best man's toast included the query, "Hands up all of you who remember what you were doing on Valentine's Day three years ago," Boring person that I am, I raised my hand, not noticing until it was too late that I was the only one. Thsi is what too many years of delving into history does to you.

Anyway, this meme on CatholicPacker plays to this part of my memory. I ducked his last toss my way, so I'll pick up part of this one.

What I was doing 10 years ago:
Working in the corporate world and reading history books at every possible spare moment. Though training new hires and temps wasn't part of my official job description, it was a part of my job because the bosses had noticed I was good at it. Hmmm. Should have known then that I was doomed... I also had a lot (measured in feet) more hair than I do today.

Five years ago:
Attending a very beautiful and all around fun wedding. I'd passed my qualifying exams and daydreamed that I would have a tenure track job by 2003. My hair was shorter, kind of a flapper style do.

One year ago:
Pondering the pros and cons of starting a blog about my struggles to write a dissertation and how much I love teaching. My hair was even shorter.

Spent a lot of time on the phone. Sam and I saw eight rabbits on our morning walk. My hair is now the shortest it's ever been, with the possible exception of infancy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Today is the birthday of Lizzie Borden. (She'd be one hundred and forty-five today, in case you're curious.)

There are many kinds of courage. After Borden was acquitted of murdering her father and stepmother, she inherited a great deal of money. Borden could easily have moved elsewhere and started a new life away from the constant suspicion of her neighbors. Instead she stayed in Fall River until her death, active in many charitable organuzations, particularly the Humane Society.

lessons graded: seven
books on floor: fourteen

Sunday, July 17, 2005

of books and writing

Copious comments in the e-mail today from Roger about the article and my introduction or lack thereof. He also offered extensive comments on the rest of the piece.

This is good news and bad news. The good news is that his comments are constructive and thoughtful, even if he does think that I should make more extensive use of the records in and (yawn) text of Green Book. The bad news is that there are lots of comments, all of them excellent and wise and that means lots and lots of revisions yet to be done.

By the by, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is amazing. I read all of it yesterday afternoon, and am almost done with rereading it. I'd love a third go, but Roger and the Hungarian Horntail win out. Like many people, I was incorrect in my guess as to the identity of the Half-Blood Prince.

Here's hoping for a 2000 word day sometime very soon. For me, that is: Rowling can take a few months off.

Friday, July 15, 2005

vow of constant vigilance

Twenty-four hours from now I will be reading Harry Potter. The predictable slip-ups have happened with copies sold early (according to Editor B this includes the Xavier bookstore) but I'm content to wait.

How cool is it that millions of people are excited about reading a book?

Then again, what frightens me sometimes is that dozens of people are excited to read my "book" and I'm still not sure that they'll like what they read. Even the bishop asked to read one of my chapters when I described the project.

I had a really productive day on Monday, but the rest of the week has just slipped away. Oh, I've done stuff, but have not cracked a diss book since Monday and have not a clue where I last left Green Book. I found Brown Book this morning only because it was underneath my coffee cup. I hate it when this happens.

It's not going to happen again. To push the Harry Potter image a bit further than maybe most of you would like, in Goblet of Fire Harry muses to Hermione that the best way to get him to learn a complicated spell is to threaten him with a dragon. My Hungarian Horntail is scratching at the door.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: fourteen

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

lemming did a bad, bad thing

I've blogged about the precocious neighborhood child. The PNC reads good books, is very savvy and gives ear scratches that Sam adores. Given that PNC has read or has had read to her all five of the extant Harry Potter books, I assumed that most children PNC's age shared this experience. After all, the sixth is coming out in four short days.

Another neighborhood child is usually out front when I walk by with Sam. Said child and I had a lengthy discussion about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban last fall and the child mentioned getting a copy of the book for a recent birthday. Foolishly, I assumed that by now books four and five had also been read or heard.

"Hey, Mizz lemming! I think name of person who dies in book four or five is the Half-Blood Prince, what do you think?"

I didn't think. I told the child that the possible candidate died - and in a sickening moment, looking at the child's face, felt as though I'd just told a two year old about Santa.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Making the Constitution

Taken from History News Network

Did the Founding Fathers Really Get Many of Their Ideas of Liberty from the Iroquois? JACK RAKOVE
Rakove's article

Editor's Note: On Monday July 4th the New York Times published an op ed by journalist James Mann that made broad claims about the influence of the Iroquois on American constitutional history. Specifically, he argued that the Founding Fathers were deeply influenced by Indian ideas of liberty and that our very form of government was shaped in decisive ways by Indian influences at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. True? Others have advanced this argument in the past and even convinced NY State a few years ago to adopt this view in teaching assignments. We asked Stanford historian Jack Rakove to assess the legitimacy of Mann's argument.

Rakove's field is Constitutional History. His book Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution won the Pulitzer Prize a while back. Read it, it's terrific, but keep a dictionary and coffee cup handy.

In response to the NYT piece, Rakove writes:
The New York Times has just marked the 229th anniversary of American independence by allowing Charles Mann, author of the soon-to-be-published Before 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus to preview his book on its op-ed page. (By the way, am I wrong to think that the NYT has been doing more of this recently? Call your publicist!) Mann is a journalist, so we can expect the work to be something of a synthesis that won't tell historians much that they do not already know. But what disappointed me about this piece is that it recapitulates the tired and dubious argument about the purported Iroquois influence on the Constitution, and the more general proposition that important elements of Euro-American democratic culture have origins in "the democratic, informal brashness of American Indian culture."

Elsewhere Rakove notes that historians have come a long way in recognizing the interaction and importance of the interaction between Indian/White, Indian/African and Indian/African/White cultures. It's now unthinkable that we would teach American History at any level without recognizing these developments. All of my coursework, save those pointless French classes, included these themes. I've discovered, to my joy, that students expect to cover race and gender in even 100 level survey classes, just as a matter of course.

I think a far more powerful use of the Iroqouis' democratic ideals (they also had some great ideas about the role of women) would be in asserting that democratic ideals are not unique to a particular time, place or culture. (makes teaching note to self)

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Last night I cheered London's selection as site for the 2012 (golly does that seem a long way off) Olympic Games and went to bed humming the theme to Chariots of Fire. (I'd hoped to be in Bloomington meeting Editor B but no such luck.) The G8 seemed to be going well, and Bush had 1) admitted that the world might be warning up and 2) had fallen of his bike. Any time that GWB is both right and humbled is a good time in my book. (Warning, political statement to follow: we all need humility, and I think that this administration refuses such emotions, dismissing them as proof of weakness.)

Sam woke me up at 4 AM. While waiting for him to conduct business, I turned on the radio, and heard about the bombings in London.

So much for jubilation.

Yet the sun still shines and life continues. As the British supported us three years ago, so must we support them. My rector sent around an e-mail this morning, urging our prayers for the dead, the wounded and everyone involved. Faith means acceptance, with the hope that one day we will understand.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

dates, dates and not a drop to drink

When a trained medical professional writes "your next appointment is on Wednesday" on a little card I, an optimist to the end, assume that they mean "the next Wednesday after today, today being Thursday."

So I planned my day and my week, canceled a lunch date and followed all pre-appointment medical orders. I'm not usually one to worry about medical procedures, but fretting about this one woke me up this morning around 4:30 AM. (Though he offered consolation, Sam was pleased about this bout of insomnia, as it meant I took him for an extra long extra walk as soon as the sun came up.)

Naturally, the appointment is for next Wednesday.

On a historic note, I called Joe last night for computer help. Joe, probably out having a life, did not call back, probably planning to do so tonight. This morning, post coffee, I actually succeeded in solving my computer problem all by myself after an hour of scanning help screens. This may not rank up there with the polio vacine, but nonetheless bodes well for next Wednesday's visit.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have a beer.

Words Written: none, but should find it easier to concentrate tonight
Lessons Graded: six

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

science rules!

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

gendered greeting cards

It's July, which meansthe height of birthday season on lemming's calendar. I tend to keep a small stash of cards on hand for such occasions, but none were entirely appropriate for any of the three male relatives who are "next in line" in the July line-up.

"Pas de problem" quoth I, using the French language skills that the History department insisted I acquire because they'll be "very helpful" when the time comes to translate the nonexistant primary source materials written in French that I will need for the dissertation. "Je vais a la Targette et, er, purchase les ecartes de nativitees pour les hommes avec les pommes frites, s'il te plait."

Now, I had a vague idea that most greeting cards were purchased by women, probably for women. I also had a vague sense that grandparents were also frequent card purchasers, followed by male significant others purchasing for female significant others. I had not realized that this means the cards available for me to purchase for these male relatives would be limited to:

1) it's your birthday so go out and get drunk
2) gosh, look at all of the candles
3) only old and ugly women will jump out of your cake

and, to my great surprise

4) cards with pictures of George W. Bush on the front

La Targette featured at least a dozen Bush cards, with messages inside from all angles of the political landscape. One of these cards did pass the "all right, this is kind of amusing" test, though not sufficiently that I would consider sending it to all three of them. I was hoping for a card with Barney the dog (son of Millie Bush) on the front, but no such luck.

Had any of these relatives been female, I would have had a great many more cards to chose from, including three with Hillary Rodham Clinton on them.

On a business note: the article is ready to go out, pending comments from Roger on the new and improved introduction, which should arrive tonight or tomorrow morning. In the meanwhile, I've just completed possibly the easiest freelance project ever to land on my desk, and certainly the most fun.

The microfilm requested in March has finally been copied at the other institution, but is now going through the proof-reading process, which could easily take another month or more and then there's the shipping process before it actually reaches my univeristy. Thus I am reluctantly contemplating a roadtrip this fall, followed by a series of all nighters and the reminders that I am no longer as young as I used to be.

Monday, July 04, 2005

a rather important day

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.
-John Adams, writing to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

I notice that Adams makes no mention of cooking outdoors and bike riding, the most popular activities in my neighborhood this weekend.

Naturally my wise and savvy blog readers know why he selected July 2. I'm always amused that Adams thought we'd celebrate the committe's action in adopting the resolution rather than its signing by Hancock and being sent to the legislatures. One of these is far more dramatic and easy to understand than the other. Great man, Adams, but sometimes lacking in perspective. This is probably why I like him so much.

Happy Independence Day everyone!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Saturn's rings

Oh my, this is so cool - cool I tell you!
news link

Saturn's vast and majestic ring system has its own atmosphere - separate from that of the planet itself, according to data from the Cassini spacecraft. And Saturn is rotating seven minutes more slowly than when probes measured its spin in the 70s and 80s - an observation experts cannot yet explain.

Thursday, June 30, 2005


Everything is formatted and ready, so I took one last look at the comments of my advisor (may he live forever.) Glad I did. I had somehow overlooked his "you need to scrap this introduction and write a new one" comment at the top of the first page. Oops.

Shleby Foote has died, at age eight-eight. The obituary on the History News Network site said that while Foote loved having his books, particularly his Civil War trilogy, read by so many people, he also feared that fame would change him or mean that he was taken less seriously.

On a happier note, I want to share my latest new word. I've mentioned the NPR show "Sez You" before. Thanks to this show, I learn about all sorts of neat words for which I have absolutely no use. Then again, what is a blog for if not to share such information?

owling: the act of smuggling wool or sheep out of England

Words Written: three paragraphs
Lessons Graded: forty-six

Monday, June 27, 2005

so sad...

I am very firmly in the pro-choice camp. I also think that this father is making the right choice. link to article

I would hope that if I slipped into an irreversible coma, was likely to die soon, and was 17 weeks pregnant, my family would do the same and do all that they could (medically and spiritually) to keep me alive until the child could be delivered safely.

Cynic alert: I bet congress ignores this story altogether.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

sweating the small stuff

I think (think) I might have all of the revisions done for the article. I need to go through the comments from my advisor (may he live forever) one more time, and that will have to be it. I'm sure that any journal willing to print this piece will have a few things they want changed, too, but that's for later.

Now to do the notes. I am a geek and therefore read footnotes and endnotes and citations and I do judge a book in part by how much a) information and b) humor the notes convey.

This does not mean that I am any good at doing these notes myself. Oh, I can convey information and occasional flashes of humor, and I always have the correct titles and page numbers. It's getting the correct order for the publishing house and the location and the date and all of those commas that drives me insane. (who, me? leave comments full of typos on people's blogs because I forgot to proofread? Never.)

Naturally, the notation preference of the journal of first choice rejection is a variant upon anything I've ever used before. I'm sure that this makes the reading process easier for their editors and, hey, I need all of the brownie points I can get, so onward I go. If anyone has a spare diet coke or glass of red wine, please come by in an hour or so; I'll need it.

Words Written: whimper
Lessons Graded: sixteen

Friday, June 24, 2005

an active yet brief maturity

As per the vet's directions, Sam now eats senior dog food. Ths means switching from the green bag of Iams kibble to the attractive purple bag of Iams "active maturity." Generally I laugh at euphemisms for aging, but this one I like. (I digress.) (What else is new?)

The green bag (not to be confused with Green Book, which presently sits at the bottom of a teetering stack of other books I'm ignoring) is available in small, medium and large sizes. The large bag weighs something like forty pounds and is how I prefer to purchase dog food. Most other Iams flavors are available in this size.

Active Maturity in the attractive purple bag only comes in the small size. This observation is based upon a very small sample (three grocery stores, no pet stores) but I note that most senior, er, active maturity, dog food only comes in this size, no matter what the brand.


Words Written: I hereby resolve to get the article in the mail to the journal of first choice rejection no later than July 1
Lessons Graded: seven

Thursday, June 23, 2005

clean-up time

My desk, much battered and worn, has two zones. The "computer zone" contains, as you might expect, the computer, along with an assortment of pens, diet coke cans and pieces of scratch paper. Occasionally Green Book or its kin sits there as well. It's generally quite tidy, if you accept the argument that soda cans have decorative value.

The "other zone" is occasionally empty, occasionally tidy, but occasionally attracts an assortment of clutter that never ceases to amaze me. I knew that the latest round of comments from my advisor (may he live forever) was somewhere in the pile, and it was. To my surprise, I also discovered:

-a Renoir painting of a garden party
-three postcards, all sent from England, from three different people
-two clothespins
-a Ron Weasley Christmas tree ornament
-some post-it notes I filched from a temp job about twelve years ago
-an Altoids tin full of chalk

Words Written: four hundred and six
Lessons Graded: three

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Alison's State Meme

All right, I'll join the state meme trend. It's gone through several variations, so I hope I'm sufficiently up to date.

States in which I have lived:

States in which I have spent lots of vacation time:
Washington, D.C.

States I've just visited overnight more than once, for various reasons:
New Hampshire
Rhode Island

States I've Driven or Flown Through:
West Virginia
North Carolina
Tennessee (I Think)

States I've Passed Through In Which I Did at Least Spend the Night:
New York

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Twenty-five days from now, I will be reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I just finished brushing up on Order of the Phoenix, which means I should move on to Chamber of Secrets since that's supposed to have strong background for #6.

As these are books on tape, it means Sam will get extra walks around the block, a delight for him as well.

Meanwhile I'm done reading about domestic violence, have defused some students' anger (they're still angry, but now know that I'm not the one who makes policy) and perhaps can think about something happy until dinner time... such as chickens wearing scuba gear.

Words Written: don't ask
Lessons Graded: forty-seven

Monday, June 20, 2005

query for the day

All right, wise and savvy and thoughtful readers of this blog:

Can chickens swim?

In the course of a long and roundabout conversation this morning, this question came up. It was meant as a joke, Naturally this means that I can't stop thinking about it.

Yours in poultry ponderings

Thursday, June 16, 2005

quick homage to Julia Child

From Mastering the Art of French Cooking:
The maximum amount of oil one U.S. Large egg will absorb is 6 ounces or 3/4 of a cup. When this maximum is exceeded, the binding properties of the egg yolks break down, and the sauce thins out or curdles.

#1 - I wish that I had a use for this information. Really, isn't that kind of cool to know? Do you suppose Julia figured this out, or was it common knowlege in 1966 and just something not discussed in today's fat-free world?

#2 - What a great bit of writing. It's assumed that you know (perhaps from reading other cookbooks) what "bind" and "curdle" mean, whiich I also love.The advisor (may he live forever) would not approve of this passage, as Child writes in longer, more complex sentences and he laments my inability to contruct short & declarative sentences.

#3 - Naturally I now feel an tug to make some mayonaise at home. That's Child's gift. She was able to make people feel that cooking, even a dish with an impossibly long and complex name, could be easily accomplished if taken on a step by step basis.

Instead I will pour another cup of coffee and look at my e-mail.

Words Written: zero (sigh)
Lessons Graded: lots

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

wailing and gnashing of teeth

This just in from History News Network

***Plagiarism Charged Against Bryan Le Beau: The Chronicle of Higher Education has reported a charge of plagiarism against Bryan Le Beau. Sally Greene, an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina's law school, made the discovery via a simple Google search and comments on her finding. The accusation is that Le Beau's Commencement Address at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, in December 2003 substantially plagiarized from Cornel West's Commencement Address at Wesleyan University on 30 May 1993. Greene and the Chronicle of Higher Education identify parallel passages. There is tell-tale evidence, as well, in the misspelling of the name of Toni Morrison, the novelist, in both texts. Le Beau denies he
ever read West's speech, but admits he must have borrowed the language from

You can just imagine how I feel about this.

UPDATE: A blogger has discovered that
Le Beau also borrowed in the same speech from Russell Baker.

C'mon PhDs. If we (and as a wanna-be I put myself in this category) can't behave with honor, how can we expect the same from our students?!

You remember them, right? The ones with whom we share our work so that they can go into the world better informed? The ones who might remember us and thus buy our books?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

answers to questions

Questions have been posed that I have failed to answer. I will do so now. (grin)

1) Greg wanted to know something about the Whig Party. Organized in 1834, the Whig Party lasted until the 1850s (exact dates vary from historian to historian.) Henry Clay, one of my favorite historical figures, is probably their most impressive member, though two presidents (W.H. Harrison and Taylor) were Whigs.

The party's views and aims varied from state to state, apart from agreement that they disliked Andrew Jackson and his policies on the Second Bank of the United States. If they turn up on an exam, you'd be safe to say that they supported workers generally and were kinder toward anti-slavery movements than Jackson's Democrats.

2) Rob and Alison have both been pondering their reasons for blogging and what makes a good blog. I do not pretend to have a good blog; I blog about what's on my mind, and a handful of folks indulge me by reading it.

Chiefly I started and have a blog to keep me on track, to force me to show progress, while reminding me that I really do plow through a lot of undergraduate essays in a given day. When Topor, new to my site, asked what "words written" meant and why I'd had so many zeroes lately, well, that was a good kick. Though trained to motivate thers, I am less skilled in motivating myelf, so the outside influence of reader comments has been a huge help. I'm an extreme extrovert, and the solitary process of writing is very difficult for me. Having an on-line community is a much appreciated sanity saver.

What do I enjoy in reading another's blog? A little of everything, really - a little humor, a little politics, a little education. I like a blog that has a personality, hopefully one that reveals something of the writer's in the process.

3) No, present progress isn't what I need. I've been reading, which is good, but not writing. I'm staring down another stack of essays, the microfilm ordered in March still hasn't arrived and - oh, enough of my whining.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

those who can...

TeacherRefPoet (who is much better at using teaching pedagogy terms than I will ever be) describes a teaching method in practice.

Just had an e-mail from a student, noting the F for plagiarism and asking what can be done about it.

"Think of this as a learning experience," quoth I.

"But what can I do to change it?"

I haven't yet figured out a reply, but now at least I know the name of the technique I'm trying to apply. Luckily e-mail gives me the luxury of time.

Words Written: four hundred and ninety-eight
Lessons Graded: seven

Saturday, June 11, 2005

writing on my mind

I've been doing some hard reading this week. Green Book and Brown Book may be dull as wonder bread, but there's little within them to keep me up nights. Not only are they effective sleep aids, but even if written with a more dramatic & narrative eye, they would still not be all that upsetting.

Alas, I also needed to read some essays (many of them collected into one volume, thankfully) that survey the history of familial violence, murder and other such happy topics. This is much harder going and I notice that the authors cope with the emotional element by either adopting a very clinical tone (one akin to Green Book) or by really capturing the balance between trying to understand larger trends (how did familial murder rates vary over 300 years and what are some possible explanations for these shifts) leavened with pieces of truly tragic stories. Though aware of the horror, they don't shy away from commincating its depths, while struggling with teh impact upon the survivors and upon modern readers. I am in awe of the latter group, but understand the struggles of the former, too.

An older friend often asserts that domestic violence and abuse were far less common before 1950. Would that it were so.

Words Written: six hundred pages read in six days
Lessons Graded: three

Saturday, June 04, 2005

it all comes back to food

1) Sam is not impressed by "active maturity" flavor dog food.

2) Last night at supper (a very nice restaurant) I had a thoroughly unimpressive soup with about 15, 000 ingredients and some portebello mushrooms with a three ingredient dip that were outsnading. Less is sometimes more.

3) The process of rereading (and taking notes on)Brown Book became far more pleasant when I added M N Ms. Note to self...

Words Written: lots of cutting, pasting and adding of links
Lessons Graded: zero (heh heh)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

go away!!!

No, I do not want free passes to a golf course.

I also do not want a free estimate of what it will take to make my lawn look like a golf course.

I really, really, really do not want gutter covers.

Not that I want Sam to bite strangers who ring the doorbell, but it is tempting...

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Deep Throat Revealed?

Vanity Fair claims to know the true identity of the inside source for Woodward and Bernstein known as Deep Throat.

I secretly hope that it's someone else. Something about having B & W reveal his name only after his death seemed right. This is just too close to the world of 24 hour news for me.

Yes, Topor, American Whig Party does discuss the No-Knowings, and at great length. Alas, I've had to put the book down. I'm trying to write - the deadline looms and, like Rob I feel a deep need to move on to the next stage of life.

Words Written: most of the way through comments made by my advisor (may he live forever) on a possible journal article submission. Having made said corrections, I'll mail it out.
Lessons Graded: eight graded, seven others failed for guess what...