Monday, February 28, 2005

on a more serious note

Staughton Lynd has an editorial essay up at History News Network titled Should a Soldier Who Changes His Mind About War Have a Right to Status as a Conscientious Objector? article

(Italics in this post are long quotations from the article.)

He notes that conscientious objection comes in two official forms, though I suspect there are varients of both. One objector is someone who is drafted and refuses to serve because of their religious training and belief. Conscientious objection thus defined is tailored to the subculture of certain small--and thus politically unimportant--Protestant groups: Quakers, Amish, Mennonites, members of the Church of the Brethren, Hutterites. (Viewers of Matewan will remember the tale of Hutterite objectors to World War I who were chained to the bars of their cells at Fort Leavenworth, where two of them died.) Many Jehovah's Witnesses also practice conscientious objection.

I think this is the group most of us think of when the phrase comes up. I'm a little uneasy with "belief" - shouldn't it be possible to be anagnostic or aethist and still believe that violence and war are wrong?

The harder group to define for civilians and certainly for military are the folks who have already served in a combat situation and refuse a direct order. Conscientious objectors in a voluntary military are self-evidently something different. If they come to object to war in any form, it will be on the basis of their firsthand experience in a particular war in which they have been asked to take part. If my commanding officer orders me to shoot, I am supposed to shoot, except that I am also supposed to keep certain basic ethics in mind. What to do when the CO's orders contradict my perception of a situation?

My own struggle comes with the soldiers who joined the National Guard to pay for college and are now upset about serving overseas. I sympathize with the difficulty of putting your life and career on hold for a year (or more) and the challenges posed. As the war continues, employers struggle to keep jobs open for the soldiers' return while still getting done that which must be done at home. At the same time, I don't understand how anyone could sign up for the National Guard, particularly after 9/11, and not expect to see duty overseas. The word "patriotic" gets over-used a lot these days, but I would argue that having volunteered for the army, it is your patriotic duty to serve.

I greatly admire those who serve and have the courage to keep to their convictions, whether spending their spare time teaching orphans to play chess or blowing the whistle; I'm just not sure that either one is getting full due.

Lynd's piece is thought-provoking and if you have a moment, I'd urge you all to read it. Disclaimer: yes, he has a left-wing bias. We're all biased in one way or another. It's called being human.

Words Written: five hundred and six
Lessons Graded: ten
Books on Floor: five

Sunday, February 27, 2005


Latest oddness - the most frequent spelling error in today's pile was not the confusion between it's (it is) and its (ownership) but confusing "loose" and "lose." This one has me baffled.

Words Written: passed the 3000 mark yesterday!!!
Lessons Graded: oh, fifteen or so, not many
Books on Floor: one

Saturday, February 26, 2005

it's happening!

I am a lean, mean writing kind of lemming today - hurrah! PROGRESS I tell you!

It's only 2:35, too.

Sam has gone outside twenty-six times today. I've counted.

Words Written: one thousand seven hundred and twenty-six
Lessons Graded: ZERO!!!
Books on Floor: Eighteen

Friday, February 25, 2005

another RIP

How did I miss this? I've just learned that John Raitt, who had one of the sexiest voices ever, died on February 20.

Raitt introduced the role of Billy Bigelow in Carousel, and brought (in my opinion) deliciously naughty passion to the filmed version of The Pajama Game.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: five

a-cen-tuate the positive

An e-mail from #3 arrived last night. Am I free to meet for lunch in a few weeks to discuss the chapters? Alas, #3 used the verb "meet" rather than "buy you" - grad students learn early on to watch for such minor details. (laughter)

My advisor moved the presentation deadline up about ten days. Granted that I work best under pressure, but this leaves very little room for error. The 'flu is clearly going around now, and staying up late to write is probably not going to give me much of an immunity. (lemming's thoughts wander to the 1918-1919 epidemic)

No! Wait! Must think positive - even viruses must have some compassion. Perhaps I could persuade the 'flu to pick up the tab for lunch, too.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: fifteen
Books on Floor: fourteen

Thursday, February 24, 2005

tests of cerebral fitness

It snowed last night and is still snowing. This is typical of Indiana winter; just when a proper layer of mud has formed over everything, winter sends us a last gasp. Sam's disgust is palpable.

I fell off the writing bandwagon, though I have taken lots of notes and put post-its on various useful pages. I even found a few bits for Chapter Two. Grading awaits - after all, I'm still a working girl. (That's Professor W.G!)

A shout of encouragement and a box of Tagalongs to Rob at Chesterley who begins phase two of his doctoral qualifying exams tomorrow. Remember, they don't have to be perfect, you just need to pass.

Note to self: the same can be said of dissertations.

(Tagalongs are the Girl Scout cookies with the chocolate outside and the peanut butter inside)

Words Written: zero (groan)
Lessons Graded: forty
Books on Floor: twelve

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

push the moment to its crisis

By now, regular readers of this blog know to expect that a day or two of progress and elation is always followed by a day or two of terror and disorganization. So it is today. (sighs) Appologies for another day of moping; you're welcome to ignore me today.

My advisor is really pushing me on this improved version of Chapter One - I've had three unsolicited e-mails from him in the last twenty-four hours, all pushing for tightening and clarifying of prose and concept.

I know that this is to my benefit. Like Michelle's work with her trainer at the gym, I need someone to kick me. The deadline is looming, and he wants me to beat it. (Heck, so do I.)

The presentation worries me not a bit. Even if I get hammered with a series of vindictive or cruel questions (no one is crueler to an academic than another academic who doesn't know what they're talking about but thinks that they do) - it's the writing. I've been working from inside my topic for so long that it's difficult to remember that most people know next to nothing about it at all.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: zero
Books on Floor: fourteen

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

librarians are awesome

and kind and sexy and thoughtful and devastatingly attractive and wise and insightful.

One archivist discovered that a collection of documents cited as the "Fred Smith" collection is actually the "Fred Smythe" collection. Joe has explained to me the best method of flinging my unworthy self upon the mercy of librarians so as to get more information on the elusive Ralph. Yet another says that I don't need to visit Hartford at all, but should head straight for Newport, Rhode Island. As Newport has better clam chowder than Hartford, this may be the best news of all.

(lemming falls at the feet of librarians and all MLS grads, offers sake and eternal gratitude)

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: fourteen
Books on floor: two more

kipping on its back

For a few years now, I've ordered nearly all of my books on line. My local bookstore is, shall we say, lacking in academic press titles (hardly a surprise) and when instant availability could be coupled with free and rapid shipping, what wasn't to love?

The shipping is still free, but I notice that "rapid" has evaporated. Of my last three orders, all took at least three weeks to arrive, on items said to be in stock, with a 24 hour turn-around. One order, placed at the end of January, is scheduled to arrive on March 7. Since all of these books are in print, I could have treked to my local tiny mega-store and ordered the tiles... and, I've just learned, waited ten days, plus the two or three days needed for the store to call me, plus a few days for me to find time to get out there.

If this is a plot by the on-line poeple to get me to pay for shipping, or by the mini mega-store to persuade me to shop in person, it's not working.

I've put the brace back on and am forging ahead, but there's still a long way to go toward getting this chapter into anything resembling something I'll let the outside world even skim. It's tempting to add the category "number of books on the floor" to the end of the day's posts.

Words Written: one thousand, four hundred and two (does my name count?)
Lessons Graded: twelve - they're not happy

Books on floor: nine

Monday, February 21, 2005

hard at work, for once

I don't want to write any more today. I don't need speech recognition software, I need brain wave recognition software. If I just hooked a few electrodes up to my head and let the thoughts flow into the chapter, that would be so much simpler.

Except for the passing thoughts about Alan Rickman; those I'd have to edit out.

Words Written: one thousand, eight hundred and twelve
Lessons Graded: three

Saturday, February 19, 2005

I can take a hint

My advisor (may he live forever) sent me an e-mail last night. (I had the audacity to turn off the computer and curl up with a good book. By now I should know better.) He'd like to know if I "would be interested" in presenting the new! and improved! version of chapter one in a small group setting a month from now.

Uh-huh. It's not "would I like" it's more like "I know that you work best to a deadline and you need one right now, so I'm giving it to you, wrapped up with a bow."

Got it.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twenty-seven

Friday, February 18, 2005

Fra Angelico

Fra Angelico was known in his lifetime (the 1400s) not only as a gifted artist, particualrly in frescoes, but venerated as "Blessed" during his lifetime. Despite this, F..A. was not officially recognized as a saint until 1984, when John Paul II skipped the usual beautification process to declare him a saint and the patron of artists.

There's a moral to this story - possibly more than one.

Words Written: four hundred and six
Lessons Graded: twenty-one

Thursday, February 17, 2005

things can only get better

Acording to this History News Network article about a recent survey on George Washington,

Only 46 percent of the 800 adult Americans surveyed could identify him as the general who led the Continental Army to victory in the Revolutionary War. When asked who they thought was America's greatest president, only 6 percent named George Washington, ranking him seventh among all presidents. Younger Americans are far less likely to know basic facts and legends about Washington and his era. Of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29, only 57 percent knew the tale of Washington and the cherry tree (compared to 91 percent of respondents over 50).Just 45 percent of younger respondents identified Martha Washington as our nation's first First Lady.

(lemming weeps, then picks up grading pen again)

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: forty-nine

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

pining for the fiords

Yesterday the temps hit 66. 66 fer crying out loud, in February. In INDIANA!!! The dog walkers all went round our route in t-shirts and pretended that snow wasn't in last night's forecast.

Well, maybe it did snow, but it's still plenty warm today. This is the kind of weather that makes me miss the days when I commuted on foot, whether on a college campus or through city streets. Everything smells good and some of the braver flowers are coming alive again.

Um, Joe? tell me again that my alma mater is horrible and gray in February? Today seems a perfect day to cross campus while si[ping a diet coke.

Alas, I am indoors, paying pennace for my grading sins. I did e-mail some archivists for assistance at tracking down Ralph and his pals.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: there is nothing like an in-box! nothing in the world...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

it's not pining...

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Take the Dante's Divine Comedy Inferno Test

I'm a graduate student, hence already familiar with Purgatory...

Thanks to Editor B for the link.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: the natives are restless

Monday, February 14, 2005


(extends an electronic bouquet to the readers)

I like the version of Valentine's Day that we learn (hopefully) in grade school: that this is not just a day for flowers and chocolates and a special someone, but for shared affection and friendship. Thanks to all of you for reading, commenting and generally helping my progress along.

I'll even share my chocolate.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: zero

Sunday, February 13, 2005

shoes and ships and sealing wax

I've been very naughty - I spent the weekend reading for fun and ignored my e-mail and in-box full of lessons. Three books later - one biography, one novel [thanks, eileen!] and one historic crime examination) and I feel far more human. E-mail can wait until tomorrow.

Words Written: ZERO!!!
Lessons Graded: ZERO!!!! Hurrah!! huzzah!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

many waters cannot quench...

In case you've not heard elsewhere, the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker-Bowles are getting married in April. They will have a civil ceremony at Windsor Castle, followed by a time of prayer, led by the Archbishop of Canturbury. When Charles becomes king, she will be known as "Princess Consort" rather than as Queen.

Plenty has already been said and I'm sure will be said about the couple, their romantic history and the marriage. What I find particularly interesting is the role being played by the Church of England in all of this. The Anglican communion is already grappling with the issue of homosexuality among the clergy. The previous Archbishop of Canturbury made it clear that he opposed this union, stating that a divorced person could not legitimately remarry until the death of the other spouse. He (and many others) argued that while Jesus called us to love and forgive, he also forbade taking more than one spouse, and that divorce and remarriage was exactly that.

Given his willingness to officiate at a prayer ceremony following the marriage, it is clear that the present Archbishop does not oppose the union as strongly, but is still unwilling to give the official sanction. (Note: Diana, Princess of Wales is dead, but Andrew Parker-Bowles is still alive.) It is my understanding that he is opposed to homosexual clergy, whether celibate or not. This is certainly not a dull time to be a part of the Anglican communion.

I've already seen eight different lists of possible candidates to replace Pope John Paul II. Inevitably, such lists include speculations as to how the Roman Catholic church mght change under a new pope. One list quietly pointed out that Americans are a single-digit percentage of the world's Catholics. The next pontiff, said the author, would probably not have significant ties to America, as the sexual abuse lawsuits and perception of moral laxity do not impress. Truly not a dull time to be a Roman Catholic, either.

On the fourth Sunday of Advent, the preacher asked all of us to set aside our differences for a moment. He observed that each of us knows the arguments of those with whom we disagree. Yes, these differences are important, and we should work with them and through them. Yet as we do this, he asked us to pray for mutual understanding, mutual forgiveness, mutual compassion and mutual patience. Christ called us to love each other, meaning everyone. He loved the sinners as much as he loved the disciples. I deeply hope and believe that all of these challenges can be met, if we remember to bring that love with us.

Words Written: took lots of notes
Lessons Graded: six

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


The title should read On the Banks of Plum Creek. In my vocabulary-induced confusion, I switched the wording around with By the Shores of Silver Lake.

Bad teacher. Points will be deducted.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: I'm hitting burn-out and need some time off...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

what's in a word?

All right, vocabulary experts: can anyone help me with the difference between a creek and a stream? The dictionary had something about creeks being connected to swamps but streams could also be creeks.

By the Banks of Plum Creek, for example - what is it that makes Plum Creek a creeek and not a stream?

Words Written: none, nada, zip. Fell asleep instead
Lessons Graded: not enough

Monday, February 07, 2005

bah! humbug!

Sam and I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday's walk. We're having a typical Indiana mid-winter thaw these days, warm enough for just a light-jacket, yet with enough of a chilly edge to the air that February never goes far from my thoughts. The muddy ground sticks to Sam's paws, only to come off on the one stubborn patch of ice that clings to the front walk.

The precocious neighbor child spotted the two of us and ran over to scratch Sam's ears. She loves dogs, and thinks that I am cool (me?) because I can recite a few of Shel Silverstein's poems. "So, Lemming, are you excited about tonight's game?"

I am not cool. I only knew about Super Bowl Sunday happening yesterday and the names of the two teams involved because I read blogs. Luckily I have gleaned enough information (one of the first processes you master in graduate school) from said reading that I could respond, "why yes! Go Pats!" She sighed. "Do you really think so?"

By now Sam was a furry mass of canine delight, rubbing his head against her hands.

The truth: I think televised football is one of the dullest things on the planet. To borrow George Will's line, football is violence punctuated by committee meetings. Watching the game in person is much more interesting. Without commentators and random lines drawn all over the field, I can simply sit back and enjoy the game. If I want to watch my team's cheerleaders challenge the other team's cheerleaders to a push-up contest, instead of focusing upon the second down, I can. (Yes, I do know what a second down is, thank you very much. I heard the snickers.) The scoreboard is much more intersting in person, and I love all of the noise.

Super Bowl parties are great fun because there's always plenty of good food and plenty of laughter at the commercials. On only one occasion did I ever attend a party at which people watched the game all the way through.

This is not what I said to the precocious neighbor child, who has but to ask and Sam would reveal the location of his Swiss bank account. "Well, you see, many years ago my church youth group had a Super Bowl Party. I've forgotten the name of the other team, but the Patriots lost by a lot. Since the Red Sox won this year, I'd like to see New England win, too."

Preccocious one furrows her forehead. "Lemming, is Boston in New England?"

Words Written: zero (more freelance work)
Lessons Graded: thirty-six

Friday, February 04, 2005


Yes, I went. Yes, it was an amazing talk. Yes, the party was terrific. Alas, #3 and #4 were not in attendence, so I was unable to casually ask what they thought of Chapter Two.

I had about ten minutes with the scholar, during which I managed to blurt out a detailed yet brief summary of Chapter Two, the problems with Ralph, and my latest productive writing. Scholar asked a question or two, admired my argument (!!) then asked if I'd tried contacting a particular archive.

Why, no, I hadn't. (I'd thought of asking my advisor [may he live forever] if he had any ideas how to approach the archive, but thought I'd wait to get a reply to my last two messages before sending a third.)

Well, then, I should e-mail Name of Actual Person, mention that said scholar sent me, and ask about Ralph and his friends. Scholar hoped I would keep in touch about how the search went. Woo-hoo!

Words Written: two hundred and six
Lessons Graded: twenty-one (early in the AM so as to attend the festivities)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

of groundhogs

Much as I love changing seasons, winter is the one that wears thin after a while. That having been said, February 2 seems a bit early to expect spring.

I do think it very funny that the Super Bowl is late this year and Ash Wednesday is early.

For a great piece about Important State of the Union Addresses of the past, History News Network's latest article is terrific. It even has pictures!

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: forty-nine, plus three cheaters

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

pizza toppings

A flier for a national pizza chain arrived in today's mail. They produce tasty pizzas, but hardly gourmet product. Yet (conjunction) the topping list doesn't say "mushrooms" but "baby portabella mushrooms."

I'm trying to juggle my schedule to attend a talk by a visiting historian. I am more excited about attending this talk and the accompanying party than, well, my grandmother probably was when Frank Sinatra came to town. I suppose swooning in the historian's arms would probably be more unusual than baby portabella mushrooms, but it would make me memorable at least.

If I feel really brave, I might even ask to have my badly battered, much marked-up copy of his latest book autographed.

Words Written: four hundred and six - a really promising tangent!
Lessons Graded: forty-one (groan!)