Saturday, January 31, 2009


This lazy/busy blogger wants to post a wrap-up of the first week of classes, and I promise to do so tomorrow. But since I have a book waiting on me, let me promise that post tomorrow, and fill the space here with three things:

  1. This recent post has generated some very thoughtful commentary, so I've done my best to respond in the comments.
  2. Don't forget to submit to Carnivalesque Logo -- details can be found here.
  3. I'm out of coffee. This cannot be good.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Et tu, Nina?

fig. 1: This is what a crusading feminist looks like.

An update on yesterday's post, in which I noted that only two of my students were willing to claim the name of "feminist." Several commenters noted that the Right seems to have won the branding war on this. But this morning... this morning, while reporting on the passage of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (hooray!!!), Nina Totenberg, whom I normally like (law geek that I am), began her report by noting that the 70 year-old Ledbetter, "doesn't look much like a crusading feminist." ::sigh::

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I know the reason behind it

...but it still makes me sad when, out of 20 students in a women's history course, only two will self-identify as feminists. And even then, their little hands only go up as far as their shoulder.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Certain Student

[advertisement: don't forget to send in your nominations for Carnivalesque 47!]

Our semester begins today, and I'm worried.

I agreed to take on a fourth prep this semester by running a subsection of our senior seminar, taught by the Ancient Historian (we have a small field, so informally sharing classes like this is something we commonly do, though I'm starting to question the wisdom of the idea). These seminars are work-intensive for the students as well as the professors, so they are capped at 15 students. As of close-of-enrollment last week, we had 14. At this point, any student needs to petition to add. And of course we can take them, because after all, there are two instructors.

But there's this one student who wants to add, and add my section. Let's call him Sigibert.

I've had Sigibert in two of my upper-division classes before. The first, I barely noticed him, because he rarely showed up. Failed the class through sheer neglect. This past semester, he retook it, and got a B, though his work tended to be either excellent (a 96 on his midterm!) or utterly lazy. He's a bit of a medieval obsessive (SCA), and it comes through in his discussion contributions when he's there, but he's done more or less okay.

BUT please consider:

  • The reason Sigibert is looking for a senior seminar this semester is that he failed the one he took last semester -- again, by simply showing up rarely, and doing the work even less often than that.
  • The same semester that he effectively blew off my upper-division class, he was in the class of another colleague, doing lacksadasical work -- and somehere at mid-semester, he came into her office, got all up in her personal space (he's a big guy), and yelled at her for ten minutes about how her refusal to cut him slack was causing the deterioration of his relationship with his girlfriend or something like that. He got to the point where he was livid and shaking, and she refused to meet with him in her office for the rest of the semester.
  • He's obsessed with Vikings.**

So, I was hoping that someone would come along and take that fifteenth spot, so the primary professor and I could steer him into another seminar. Either that, or he could delay too long, and I could legitimately tell him that he had missed too much, and I couldn't let him in. But apparently he showed up at my colleague's office on Friday, asking to be added, and I guess he was the first one to do so. So, there's one spot left, a student who is qualified to take it, and no reason to keep him out.

So... my mini-class that had 5 truly excellent people in it (I've had them all before) now has 5 truly excellent people, and one guy who may be okay, may disappear, or may decide to snap while on my watch. Should be interesting.

[UPDATE: Sigibert came to class today. So far, so good. Looks like I may have gotten all worried over nothing. And this is the only class he's taking this semester, so I'm going to be cautiously optimistic.]

**My seminar is not on the Vikings. It is on the Crusades. Yet when Sigibert first came to talk to me about the class (right after he found out that he'd failed the previous seminar), he responded to my explanation of the topic by asking if he could do his paper on the Varangian Guard.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Carnivalesque LXVII: Call for Submissions!

I am pleased to announce that I will be playing host to the 47th Carnivalesque Logo -- this one on ancient/medieval themes** -- right here, next month. Carnivalesque, for those of you who don't know it, is a blog carnival dedicated to showcasing outstanding recent posts in premodern history.

But blog carnivals are not spectator sports! So, send me your suggestions for noteworthy posts. Nominate anything posted since the most recent ancient/medieval carnival (November 23rd) up until around February 15th (You can either suggest them in the comments for this post, or e-mail me directly at notoriousphd ~at~ mac ~dot~ com). Also, please link to this announcement from your own blogs.

What kinds of blogs/posts should be nominated? I think the Carnivalesque boilerplate says it best:

"Carnivalesque is certainly not just for academics. We welcome perspectives from a variety of fields, especially history, literary studies, archaeology, art history, philosophy - in fact, from anyone who enjoys writing about anything to do with the not-so-recent past. You can nominate your own writing and/or that of other bloggers, but please try not to nominate more than one or two posts by any author for any single edition of Carnivalesque, and limit nominations to recent posts."

Selections will be based on interest of subject matter, wit, and whatever strikes your genial hostess as kinda nifty when she reads it. Selections will also be subjective. Appeals may be submitted in writing to the proper authorities.

But there's room for all under the Carnivalesque tent, so send those posts in!

**For early modernists, Carnivalesque 46 will be an early modern one, and will be posted at Chronologi Cogitationes in late January.

"We like proper English and we cannot lie."

I am ridiculously tempted to show this in my classes:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Early to Rise

I'm a lapsed morning person.

When I was in my early 20s, I regularly got up sometime between 6 and 6:30 to begin my day. At some points, it was to get in an hour workout before school. At others, it was to go to work. And for one semester, it was so I could have a nice walk and cup of coffee before I hit an 8 a.m. Latin class. I've always enjoyed the relative peace of the early mornings. More importantly, I've always done my best work then.

But over the last several years, I've let this slide. I stay up later, and need more sleep. And when I get up, I listen to the news, check e-mail, putter around, and suddenly it's 10 a.m. and I can't seem to get started.

But this morning, I managed to do something that I hope I can make a pattern again: I got up early-ish (still not "early"), turned the news off (I can stream it later, I told myself), turned good working music on, made a pot of coffee, got some no-prep-time food in me so I didn't collapse, and immediately set to work. No e-mail, no blog, nothing.

The result: I got in an hour and a half of solid work before I took a break to make and eat breakfast. I think I can squeeze in another 45 min. after posting this.

Part of this results from motivation: I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past couple of days over what I want out of my career. I've got a couple of ideas, shiny prizes that I dangle in front of myself, but all my ideas require me stepping up the pace with my research work. So, while I know that there's a lot of this that's out of my control, but there's a lot that I can do to put myself in a good position. Also, when I get stuff accomplished during the day, I sleep better at night.

And if I want to keep getting up early, I'll need that sleep.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I'm ready. Change, hope, all that.

Let's go.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tragically Disorganized (again)

(Fine, you win. No light-on-dark background. Though I can appreciate how the regular format is easier on the eyes, I will miss how the photos look on that black background.)

Yes, I know that most of my readers have already begun their semesters, so pardon me if I'm late here, but still: I feel completely unprepared for this semester.

This is one of my goals: to have an organized semester, with assignments posted and returned on time, lectures ready to go, me knowing what I'm talking about... And still, one week to go, and there may be problems with a couple of the books, I still haven't ordered my own copies of the books, and my grad course has only four students in it, and three of those are only enrolled so they can get course credit for a course they're taking with a totally different professor. And four might get the class canceled anyway.

Did I mention that severe disorganization throws me into anxiety? Yep, last night I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep. So, today I'm going up to the office (where the coffee emporia are closed! for the holiday), to work near my books. At least I can get the syllabi done. And getting that done should help me sleep better tonight.

Three Things update: new sidebar widget, started yesterday. Managed to get two of yesterday's three knocked off, and added an asterisk to the one I had to carry over. If it's still there tomorrow, it gets two, then three... eventually a long row of asterisks will, I hope, shame me into doing something about it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Planning a trip!

Whoo hoo! It looks like the Fellowship City girls are going to get together again!

Due to recent ructions in all our lives, we got in contact, and decided that what we really needed more than anything was a few days together at A.'s family's house on the shores of one of the Great Lakes. No internet, no TV -- just wooded acres on one side, and one of the Great Lakes on the other, and each other.

Not much we can do about it right now, what with our various semesters starting up, but sometime between Kalamazoo and Labor Day, it looks like we'll be headed for a reshoot of this photo from last year (that's K. on the left, me in the middle, and A. on the right -- and two santeria candles, apparently).

Something to look forward to as this semester moves along.

ALSO: Read this. It won't make you happier. But it's worth the read.

ALSO, ALSO: You all will have noticed the new light-on-dark skin for the blog. This was a strategic decision, as I want to post more photos this year, and I really want to make them pop. I know that white-on-black can be a bit hard on the eyes, so this should encourage me to keep my posts brief. But if you really, really hate it, let me know, and I'll take it under advisement.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I've been telling colleagues and anyone who will listen that, until about the middle of November, I was really angry that the faculty at our university hadn't gotten the raises we had been promised. We're talking anywhere from 4-6.5% a year.

Then, the news started coming in of canceled searches and pay cuts at other universities, and of course the horrific news from people outside academia who six months ago had good jobs and some economic security, and are now worrying about keeping their homes and feeding their families. And I realized that the biggest economic sacrifice I was making was switching from twice-daily lattes to making coffee at home, and shopping for groceries at the local chain store instead of Organic, inc. I still pay my bills on time. I eat well, and even eat out once or twice a week. I am healthy, and if I ever become unhealthy, I have a darned decent medical plan, mostly paid for by my employer. I even got a professional massage today, courtesy of a very thoughtful Christmas gift.

The same goes for my personal life. Whatever my own crises are, they are small compared to the news that one friend's serious illness is now dire, and another friend is getting divorced.

I'm only sorry that it seems to take other people's misfortune to make me really appreciate what I have: good friends, meaningful work, decent health, intelligent mind, loving (if sometimes bizzare) family, and a youth just misspent enough to have accumulated some good stories along with the inevitable small scars -- in short, a better life than most people get a shot at.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Three Things

(warning: dull list-making post follows)

First of all, thanks to everyone who offered good wishes in the comments on the last post. I've deleted it now, because I've decided (rather belatedly) that there are some things that perhaps I should be keeping out of the blog, even though I took care to obscure the issues and particulars involved (so don't worry if you missed it, because there was absolutely no substance there). But that doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the support (I especially liked Alice's assertion that I have a "tribe" -- way cool).**

In the meantime, I'm putting one foot in front of the other, and taking up again a suggestion that my friend The Wonder Chimp (tm) brought up way back when: the idea of doing three things every day. Just three. So here are mine for today:

1. Complete syllabus for senior seminar and get reading list out to students. (This is not as dire as it sounds -- our semester doesn't begin for another week and a half, so y'all can be very, very envious.) [done -- now I just have to order those books for myself!]

2. Get out announcement of annual competition for Outside Project. This is one of those things that is the work of ten minutes, yet manages to get put off for ten weeks. ::sigh:: [also done, at least my end of it: there are some technical things that are out of my control right now.]

3. Go to exercise class, and push myself a bit, rather than just lifting the easy weight. [Done! Hooray! We'll have to see how I feel tomorrow -- there were walking lunges involved.]

Small, achievable goals. I'll amend this post with an update tonight. In the meantime, I hope you all have wonderful, productive days.

[note to self: three things tomorrow...]

**(I seem to have an addiction to parentheses. Em-dashes are a problem, too. I just can't seem to stop interrupting myself.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Depths of My Ignorance

There's nothing quite like adding in entries of interesting books from the catalogs picked up at a conference book display to make you realize just how little one actually knows.

Life isn't long enough for this many books. ((makes 18,967th resolution to spend less time dinking around on teh internets...))

Monday, January 5, 2009

"Historians TV"


Can you imagine the conversation in the lobby of the Hilton?

HOTEL GUEST #1: Wow, so many people with badges! What are they here for?

HOTEL GUEST #2: I asked one of them: apparently, they're professional historians, here for their annual convention.

HG1: Really? How fascinating! You know, I've always wondered what it would be like to be a historian. I wonder what they get up to all day... Hey! I know! Let's go back to the hotel room, turn on "Historians TV", and check it out for ourselves!

Honestly, I can't imagine what else it might be for. God knows that, after days long of the AHA, the last thing that any of us wants to do is watch more historians on TV.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

AHA report

Well, not so much a report as a brief check-in:

[incredibly detailed post deleted, replaced with the following bullet points]

Friday morning: Got up at a time my body was telling me was Far Too Early; ate my way across New York with fellow blogger Clio's Disciple.

Friday afternoon/evening: Panel and plenary session. Both very inspirational for Shiny New Project.

Saturday morning: Got up at a time my body was telling me was Even Earlier Than Far Too Early; ate $30 yogurt-and-muffin breakfast (seriously); book display (half of it, anyway); lots of meetings with lots of people (including a certain Damned Medievalist and also occasional commenter Susan). Also ran coffee to my department's search committee (who admitted to being "a little slap-happy at this point").

By the time I got back from a couple of very good receptions, I was far too tired to go out to dinner, and so I ended up being completely lame and eating a salad in my room.

In all, it's been very encouraging, and I got encouraging bits on the current book MS, Shiny New Project, and even a co-edited volume project. There will be more details on all these in the future, but I don't want to burden this post.

And now, I'm going to call ID, then go to bed early. Tomorrow, I'm going to utterly ignore the conference and go to the Met. Hope everyone out there is having a good New Year so far, and I'll check back in with you when I'm back in Sunshine City!