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!

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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.