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)