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.