Monday, June 30, 2008

On Thriftiness

There is about half an hour of throwing-things-into-bags to go, and another few minutes of dropping off keys with landlords, but barring the unexpected,** ID will be on the road in an hour or so, to head to... well, I still need to think up a pseudonym for the town he's headed to, but it's his first TT job, and it will take him two days on the road (driving the moving truck) to get there from here.

As we were packing up his stuff, there was an odd assortment of dishes, plastic cups, grad school furniture, etc... and he was putting it all on the truck. This was very different from when I moved: About two years before finishing grad school, at age 31, I had had an "I'm an adult, dammit!" semi-breakdown, and gone out and bought $1,000 worth of "grown-up" furniture, dishes, etc. Additionally, I jettisoned a lot of what remained of my grad-school stuff when I moved, figuring that I would have a grown-up salary, and so would buy the new things that I'd always wanted. Taking a bunch of mismatched dishes would have never entered my mind.

All this is to say: this is why I have over $10K in consumer debt, and ID is going into his TT job completely debt-free. I'm envious.***

**Like the charity org. that wouldn't take the freakin' TV, and the fact that we can't leave it at the curb, and have to take it to a municipal recycling facility, but that facility won't take them without a sticker, but you can't buy the sticker at the facility, but have to do so at the city offices... ::sigh::

***But apparently not envious enough to do anything about it, as I still want a fancy new bike, and have convinced myself that "want" means "need." I apparently never learn.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Personal business

Sometimes, life intervenes with work.  I'm putting my writing on hold for a couple of days while I help ID load all his worldly possessions onto a ten-foot moving truck. I'll check in again on Monday.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Reverse Engineering as Progress

First: thanks to all for the birthday good wishes. That's really great.

So, for the last few days, I've been able to say, more or less, that I've got drafts of all my substantive chapters. But unfortunately, one of them has always been problematic. It's the one chapter that seemed to be a grab bag of all the stuff that didn't fit anywhere else. I slapped a too-vague label on it, and was not at all surprised to see that it didn't hang together. So I've been back at it now, trying to make it all make sense. And the best way to this has been to reverse-engineer the chapter. Here’s what I've done so far:

1. I've gone through and figured out what I think the "hook" for this chapter is – that is, the chapter's unique argument. It's not as strong as that in the other chapters, but at least it's something.

2. Next, I scribbled next to every paragraph in my draft what I thought that paragraph's topic was.

3. Here begins the reverse engineering: I took out a blank sheet of paper, and began doing what I tell my undergraduates to do: write a story, using only topic sentences. It the story doesn't flow, you've got your paragraphs in the wrong order, or have paragraphs that don't advance the story, or are missing paragraphs that are critical steps. In this case, I ended up moving around a lot of stuff, but finished by seeing my point (and my path to it) more clearly.

At this point, I've done this with the first of two subsections of my chapter, and I have a coherent narrative of strung-together topic sentences. I've now got the confidence to go on – at this point, it's a matter of plugging it all in, and getting the flow right. ID is off packing for 24 hours, so I think I should be able to get this covered by the time I'm called upon to help him pick up his moving truck Saturday afternoon.

In the meantime, I've changed my word count: I've subtracted the 13,333 words of this chapter from my overall word counter, bringing my total progress from a glorious 88% back down to a more modest 74%. My goal is to have it halfway back (to 81%, I think that would be) by Saturday noon.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Now We Are Six

...well, okay, actually not six, but thirty-eight.  The point being that this is my birthday.  And I wish I could just take the day off and fuck around.  But messy amorphous chapter looms.  So I'm at my usual coffee shop perch, getting ready to attack it again.  ID will be joining me soon, and we're going out to dinner tonight, so that's good.

And I had the last of that ice cream for breakfast.  Mmmm...birthday.... 

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Tale of Two Messes

Several months ago, Fellowship Institute colleague and friend A. agreed to read what was then chapter three.  It was a mess, and she spent a lot of time scribbling comments all over it.

This morning I was finally ready to get back to it, so I dove into the pile of mess on the endtable in my living room, certain that that's where it was.

It's not.

I am now staring at another pile of mess, this one on my desk at Fellowship Institute.  I hope like hell the commented chapter is in there.


EDIT: Found it.  Thank god. But I could avoid this if I were just more organized.  That's a standing resolution for me, and one that I have a hard time keeping.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Summer Music Meme, work edition!

Okay, everyone's doing it.  The following list is my "what music is shaping your summer, right now?" meme.  The instructions are as follows:

  • List seven songs you are into right now.
  • No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring/summer.
  • Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs.
  • Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.
I'll be ignoring the last one, because pretty much everyone has been tagged by now.  But here are mine (in alphabetical order by performer), and please feel free to play along:

  1. The Chain – Fleetwood Mac (My dirty little secret: I honestly, unironically like Fleetwood Mac. They'll never be my favorite, but they'll probably always be on the list.)
  2. Honey Now – Gillian Welch
  3. Crumblin' Down – John Cougar Mellencamp
  4. Run on – Moby
  5. The Flowers – Regina Spektor
  6. What I Got – Sublime
  7. Counting Backwards – Throwing Muses
And, in case anyone wants to play a variation on the theme, here are the seven albums I'm listening to while working:

  1. The Art of Segovia – Andrés Segovia
  2. Faux Movement – Autour de Lucie
  3. Gulag Orkestar – Beirut
  4. The Moon and the Melodies – Cocteau Twins
  5. A Passage in Time – Dead Can Dance
  6. Requiem – Mozart
  7. Moyen Âge et Renaissance – Hesperion XX

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The only reason I'll be moving is to reach for more ice cream.

Ever have one of those nights where the only thing you want is pure sloth and self-indulgence?  And you don't even feel guilty about it?  I worked in the morning, went to the gym in the early evening... and spent the late evening on the couch with ID, watching Lord of the Rings and eating a heavenly ice cream that started with high-fat vanilla, then swirled in fudge, caramel, brownies, and cookie dough.

I am inordinately pleased with myself.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Publishing Voodoo

Having trouble getting published?  Stuck in revise-and-resubmit purgatory?  Maybe what you need is a blind reviewer voodoo doll, lovingly handcrafted by a grad student in sociology.  

(I haven't bought one yet, but for only $15, I might.  And apparently proceeds are going to fund said student's trip to a major disciplinary conference.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The feminists have infiltrated the academy! Run for your lives!!!

[hat-tip to Tenured Radical]  

[NOTE: There is a troll in the comments. Please do not feed him.]

Okay, the Berks is over, but now there appears to be a post-Berks brouhaha. Hard on the heels of Charlotte Allen's dismissal of the medieval history conference at Kalamazoo, we have an anonymous student of Early Modern Britain who derides women's history and its historians as faddish and marginal. [note: link removed, as the author has once again taken down the post and replaced it with another.]

I'd write this person off as the troll s/he is, except that I was witness to a similar questioning of the project of women's history at Kalamazoo (the now-infamous "Isn't women's history too important to be left to women's historians?" guy – yeah, I was there for that), and the two together have brought home to me the fact that women's history is still seen by some as a fluffy distraction from (or at best, ornamental garnish on) the master narrative. So I'm going to respond – not because I think I will get through to this person in particular.  In fact, I hesitated, because feeding the trolls is generally a bad idea.  On the other hand, there may be some young person with an interest in women's history who needs to hear that her experience isn't irrelevant, or worse, "depressing" (see below).  Also, I don't like the idea of anyone taking my silence for consent.  So here goes.

First, since this blogger keeps deleting and re-posting to prevent anyone getting a permanent link, I'll post some representative quotes (though I think both the author and I would agree that the essay is best read in its entirety), style and grammar left intact :

  • "It is difficult to think of anything more depressing than a conference of female historians or more irrelevant to the future of the discipline of history."
  • "None of these figures [participants in a Berks panel on women and the Atlantic World] has ever appeared in any work on early modern history that I have ever read or is likely to figure on any reading list I see."
  • "Women's history like the histories of gender, sexuality and the family is a transient, ephemeral phenomenon."
  • "Intellectual fashions and fear of contemporary interest groups have led to the traditional focus of the subject being fundamentally altered to appease these interests. It is no surprise that it has been followed by demands for the composition of the profession to be altered too."
  • "I hope to see the tide of women's history, gender history and the history of sexuality recede until it is a tiny creek flowing into the broad river of history. Then we shall have them in proper proportion.

This whole essay makes me sad. It's written from a place of profound ignorance, wherein the author argues vociferously against those who would challenge his/her preconceived notions by simply refusing to listen, and flinging accusations of irrelevance. S/he seems upset that women want to be a part of the profession, and even influence the curriculum. I don't fling the word "misogyny" around lightly, but this essay drips with it. But it is our job to educate, so what do we say to this person?

Dear Person:

First, I'm sorry you're depressed.   Really, depression is a bummer, and since women's history is not going away, this means you're likely to feel this way for a long, long time.   That's got to sting.

When I was an undergraduate, I wondered whether a separate discipline of women's history might not be a bad idea. Did it not just further marginalize women by implying that women's history was somehow different from "real history"?

I soon came to realize that women's history is phase one of a two-phase project (Yes, we do have a nefarious plan! Listen up; I'm about to let you in on it!) to rethink what history means. You see, when we consider history to be the story of Great Men (and one or two women) doing Great Deeds, we get only a very narrow slice of history, mostly having to do with warfare, high culture, and politics. But if we consider history to be the study of the human condition, then warfare, high culture, and politics are only a part of the story. When we look at any event from a woman's perspective (or that of some other non-dominant group), we are forced to see things differently. We have to ask different questions. If we take as our starting point the assumption that women were a part of History, then we must reshape our vision of what history is. Ultimately, our approach to the discipline in general becomes richer, as does our sense of who we are as a society, and how we got here.

I can tell from the tone of your essay that I'm not going to convince you in particular. You have determined that we are irrelevant, so irrelevant we shall always be to you. Not to worry -- to borrow a boy-history metaphor, we will soldier on without the benefit of your scholarly cameraderie.  But consider what
you may be missing.


Notorious  Ph.D.
V.P. in charge of marketing
Feminist Plot to Upset the Applecart

Another Milestone

Okay, I just finished a draft of a chapter. Sort of. There are still a few square brackets to fill in [INSERT EXAMPLE FROM CASE STUDY HERE], and a bunch of it is still at the verbal vomit stage.

But here's the thing. This was the last substantive chapter. On the recommendation of one of the publishers I met with, I ended up shortening what I thought was going to be chapter 2, and folding it into the fairly short chapter one. This is all background stuff, and it means that there's only one chapter (only slightly longer than the others) before I get into the really serious case studies, rather than two.

I've also sketched out 2,500 words of the intro. That's about halfway there, I think. So, add another 2,500 there, 3,000 for the conclusion, 5,000 or so for the bib., tighten everything up, and I'm freakin' DONE.** If the page estimates work out, that puts me at exactly 95,000. Of course, I'm going to lose a bit when I put in the short cites in the footnotes, and cut out the 1,500 words from chapter four that I ended up moving to chapter three. But still, I'm awfully close. Not ready for a Happy Dance yet, but close.

**Well, except for the revisions, but still.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Weather-Related Productivity

Yesterday in Fellowship City, there was a storm. The kind that rains & thunders off and on for hours, and lets the foreboding sky hang there in between. I realized that this precise kind of weather is the kind I associate with work, and that keeps me productive. There are thunderstorms forecast today, and I see productivity in my future.

Sadly, Job City is preternaturally sunny. No wonder I'm never motivated to work there. Hmmm...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

New Feature

Hey, all: In my effort to be better at keeping up with the blogs I read regularly, I've added a new "what I'm reading" to my sidebar. This is mainly for my own benefit, but I invite you to peruse at your leisure. It's about 80% academic blogs (with a high medievalist content), but there are a few other friends and sundries thrown in.

And a bleg to Another Damned Medievalist: I've been trying to include a link to your blog, but it doesn't seem to take. If you know why, and want to contact me, let me know.

EDIT: Hmmm.... some confusion, it appears. "Unassigned reading" is the paper book I'm reading (and apparently have been for months); the new feature, "What I'm reading", is further down, and lets me know when one of the blogs I regularly check in on has been updated.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

To all y'all headed to the Berks this weekend:


Medievalists represent!**

**Okay, and the rest of you non-medievalists going to the Berks have fun, too. Notorious would like to be there, and hereby pledges to get off her butt and answer the CFP the next time it comes around.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I just did some calculations

...and it's entirely possible that I can finish a draft of all the substantive chapters by the end of this weekend.

The thought has me salivating.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Well, this is no big surprise.


As a 1930s wife, I am

Take the test!

On the other hand:


As a 1930s husband, I am

Take the test!

(I would have scored higher on the second one if I provided ID with a better allowance or more labor-saving household devices.)


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Dry as dust

The current section I'm writing, that is.

You know, it occurs to me that I've complained about most of my chapters. But in the end, they're fine. But here I'm writing a section on (spoiler alert!) jurisdiction and procedural law. For the argument I'm making, I think it needs to be in there. The problem is that, for reasons that I won't go into, I know too damned much about this topic. Canon law? Check. Ius commune? Check. The decretals of Innocent III that were the foundation for the high medieval procedure known as inquisitio? Darn tootin' I know that.

The problem is that I can't seem to shut up about this stuff. I know a gazillion little details, and this part of my brain refuses to generalize, for fear of being called out. So this incredibly dry section is up to 4,000 words, including footnotes. And I can't have eight pages of dry, boring shit in my first chapter (already not exactly the attention-grabber that the later chapters are). So, I haven't posted these 4,000 words in my count, but am instead going to force myself to chop this section down to 2,500 words. That will be five in-print pages, by my reckoning, which will probably still be three pages too long for some people, but them's the breaks.

This slash-and-burn is my goal for the next two days. I'll check in Monday night and let you know how it goes.

(Oh, and also? Visit to the Lady Doctor on Monday. Life just keeps getting better and better.)

Friday, June 6, 2008

The View from Inside the Bubble

Last weekend, I accompanied Interesting Development to his college reunion at a selective liberal arts college located in the middle of nowhere.

You have to understand something about ID's relationship to his alma mater: he loves this place. So I was excited to visit the place that had made such an impression on him. I thought I was more or less prepared, because I'd attended a SLAC myself – albeit an urban one, and as a sophomore-year transfer student.

Then we got there, and I experienced some pretty severe culture shock. Sure, it was superficially similar: Student population of under 2000; small classes; emphasis on academic excellence; all that. But this was different. For one thing, the place is located in a "town" of 1900 (that's including the students, mind you). It's a residential college, both by design, and because the college is the town (and the next nearest tiny hamlet is a ten-minute drive away), which means that if you're a student there, you live on campus for four years. You have a sandwich or a coffee at one of the three restaurants in town (a coffee shop with a small breakfast/lunch menu, a brew pub/restaurant, a deli). You buy beer and munchies at the local market, which is really a convenience store on steroids. No need for real groceries, because you take all your meals in the dining hall. You don't worry about juggling work and class schedules, because the only work to be had in town is at one of the aforementioned three restaurants, or work-study. Your life, in other words, is the college. Everyone knows the canonical college songs, and sings them.

It would be easy to make fun of the insularity of the place. But here's the thing (and this is very hard for someone with a longstanding and resolutely lower-middle-class identity to admit): I liked it there. I liked the ivory-tower-ness of it all. I liked the collegiate gothic buildings and the prettiness of the campus. I liked the idea of the centrality of the college to students' lives (as opposed to my own experience, where my job and my off-campus life were important counterweights, and to the experience of my own urban-commuter-uni students, for whom the university is the periphery of their lives, rather than the core). God help me, I even liked the college songs (well, not the songs themselves so much as the idea of them). This, to me, was like a dream of college, rather than anything I had ever seen in action.

It was a bubble, for sure. But after spending 72 hours there, I have to admit that the view from inside the bubble is pretty nice.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Still Alive

...and madly procrastinating. More tonight on the final chapter, the latest from Outside Project, and the trip to Interesting Development's college reunion. Stay tuned...