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Updated: 2014-10-04T19:30:22.391-06:00

 



This blog has hit the road. . .

2011-03-16T21:51:38.785-06:00

It's now at ClutterMuseum.com. About damn time, n'est-ce pas?

Update your bookmarks and feed readers, ¡por favor!





The rising of our women is the rising of us all

2011-03-10T22:02:56.868-07:00

I'm too angry to blog thoughtfully about what's going on in Wisconsin.

My parents were schoolteachers under a string of Republican governors, and I remember seeing a photo in the newspaper of my dad and his fellow workers protesting at some school board meeting, singing union songs. When I became a graduate student, I joined unions and participated in picket lines, so I'm definitely feeling some solidarity with the people of Wisconsin.

Many times over the past few days, I've seen folks reference Martin Luther King Junior's reminder that "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." That sentence has become a sort of mantra for me over the past few days.

(image) Suffragists, Section of Working Women, 1917 (source)

As many people have pointed out, the end of collective bargaining disproportionately affects women employees--as do various other actions being taken this legislative season in state legislatures across the nation.

I feel moved, then, to share one of my favorite songs. Here's Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco performing their version of "Bread and Roses" (scroll to 1:18, where the song begins):

title="YouTube video player" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/BuE-_46-VlA" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="390" width="480">

Lyrics (slightly different from the original lyrics):

As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray
Are brightened by the beauty a sudden sun discloses,
And the people hear us singing, “Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.”

As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men –
For they are in this struggle and together we can win.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes –
Hearts can starve as well as bodies; give us Bread, but give us Roses.

As we come marching, marching, a hundred million dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew –
Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for Roses, too.

As we come marching, marching, we're standing proud and tall –
The rising of our women is the rising of us all –
No more the drudge and idler — ten that toil where one reposes –
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.



Crossfire

2011-03-10T20:43:27.292-07:00

Have I shared with you my red-state nightmare?

A gunman enters a class I'm teaching in a large lecture hall. Students at first look shocked, but then they all stand up, draw their handguns, and start shooting. (Take a moment to imagine the crossfire and the terror.)

Thanks to the lovely politicians in my new state of delusion, that nightmare is one step closer to reality.

My campus has banned smoking anywhere on the university's grounds. But it's likely that very soon students will be able to bring guns to class.

(image) Smart is sexy--in the classroom, on the job market, pretty much anywhere. Guns, not so much.
Photo by Janina Szkut, and used under a Creative Commons license


I know many students at Boise State come from rural areas and grew up hunting. They're comfortable, therefore, with hunting rifles. But let's be honest--we're not talking about letting students and others bring rifles onto campus. We're talking about handguns. (Including at football games. Because football isn't already enough of a blood sport.)

As someone who grew up in an area scarred by handgun violence perpetrated by teenagers and young adults, I am profoundly uneasy with this latest development.



I have no words

2011-03-04T09:51:35.408-07:00

. . .except for these: the folks at this protest are bigots and racists, plain and simple. Even worse, some of them are elected (Republican) reps, one of whom made death threats against the Muslim families attending this charity event.

Please spread the word of these protesters' and representatives' hateful wrongdoing.

title="YouTube video player" width="480" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/NutFkykjmbM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>



Ups and Downs, Ups and Downs

2011-02-22T22:36:23.164-07:00

When I was in elementary school, a teacher read my class a book that followed the pattern "Fortunately. . . Unfortunately." It was like this one--and maybe it was that one, but the copyright date doesn't seem right. Anyhoo, cribbing from Amazon's description of that book, the plot went something like this:Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party.Unfortunately, the party was a thousand miles away.Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane.Unfortunately, the motor exploded.Fortunately, there was a parachute in the airplane.Unfortunately, there was a hole in the parachute. Lately my life has seemed to be a big, disjointed narrative of Fortunately. . . Unfortunately. . .Some episodes:I get a nasty head/chest cold. I begin to recover. Then I get a second round. Then I begin to recover again, but with a twist--my head and chest are clear but I have all the tiredness of a mononucleosis victim. Plus: insomnia! Today, in fact, is the first day in a while that I've had enough energy to make it through the day intellectually and physically intact.Today I turned in a grant application I've been working on for months. Yay! I've even come to grips with the university's indirect cost rate scaling down the project to the point where it's a bit embarrassing. I even found the strength to correct the grants guy when he called the $50,000 grant proposal "small." (Those of you in the sciences may not realize that a grant over, oh, $3500 is pretty damn big for a humanist.) And then, just as I think I have all my ducks in a row, I learn there's another form specific to my university--a big, complicated one--that I need to get filled out and double-signed. And no, my first thought was not, "What the fuck am I paying indirect costs of $19,500 for if the grants folk aren't going alert me to the fact that I need to fill out this friggin' form?" Fortunately, the grants folks are actually quite nice, and this was in the big scheme of things a small oversight, and they'll help me get it filled out quickly.Lucas starts kindergarten in the fall. Unfortunately, our local elementary school is kind of sketchy. I'm not one to look at test scores, but let's just say a 50% drop in boys' reading proficiency between kindergarten and first grade raises a red flag--especially when that decline isn't mirrored throughout the district. Fortunately, Lucas earned lucky #13 (of ~150) in the lottery for one of the area's best-regarded charter schools, the one to which local hippies and commies (read: the professoriate) long to send their kids. Unfortunately, through the whims of fate (read: large Idaho families + priority for siblings of current students), even #13 might not be a good enough number to get him into the school. We'll know within a couple of weeks. Keep your fingers crossed for us, OK? As Fang has detailed on his blog, Lucas has been running into a number of budding sociopaths in his preschool, and we'd really prefer that he fall in with the kind of kids whose parents are serious about sending them to a great school, even if it's in what's widely acknowledged as Boise's armpit.Then there's Utah. That post was a way for me to come to grips with the fact that a doctor found a giant tumor in my 87-year-old grandmother. In her colon. Because her primary care physician is (literally, alas) in a coma and thus no one had pointed out to her that her symptoms might indicate a cancer-scale problem--which means she hadn't had a colonoscopy in, well, ever. Fortunately, the surgeon thought he could excise the tumor, do a temporary colostomy, and reconnect the remaining parts of the colon. Unfortunately, he found the tumor is cancerous, the cancer has metastasized to her liver and pancreas, and the primary tumor is inoperable because of scar tissue from an apparently botched hysterectomy from 40 years ago. The surgeon gives her two years to live.I'll write a blog post about my grandmother when I have the emotional strength t[...]



Putting things in perspective

2011-02-21T19:28:56.663-07:00

From Robert Reich, on the Republican strategy:

Last year, America’s top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion. Much of their income is taxed as capital gains – at 15 percent – due to a tax loophole that Republican members of Congress have steadfastly guarded.

If the earnings of those thirteen hedge-fund managers were taxed as ordinary income, the revenues generated would pay the salaries and benefits of 300,000 teachers. Who is more valuable to our society – thirteen hedge-fund managers or 300,000 teachers? Let’s make the question even simpler. Who is more valuable: One hedge fund manager or one teacher?




Next stop: Hellscape

2011-02-19T11:24:14.203-07:00

Caution: I may be channeling Fang.Photo by Shane Gorski, and used under a Creative Commons license.In recent years, I haven't been prone to pessimism, but I'm beginning to believe that the Republicans won't be satisfied until we're all living in heavily armed survivalist compounds outside of dead (liberal!) cities. Only then will we have achieved the vision of the Founding Fathers--only it will be a twisted, post-apocalyptic version of Jefferson's agrarian middle landscape.I know I need not provide much evidence on a national scale to readers of this blog, but may I share a few highlights gleaned from a few of the blogs I read, and only from the past few days? (Then, my friends, only then shall we turn to the clusterfuck that is Idaho.)First, there's Historiann's post about representation without taxation. She sums up the Colorado governor's delusion plan to make the state more "pro-business"--the plan is awfully familiar to those of us a bit to the north and west of Historiann--and then provides this commentary: What a brilliant “pro-business” plan this is! Absolutely everyone wants to move their businesses to a state that’s cutting education! It’s so easy to get your employees to see the advantages for their children of attending schools with huge class sizes and no “extras” like music, art, sports, or anything that’s not covered on the Colorado Student Annual Progress (CSAP) tests. And if they love that, they’ll love the nonexistent state support for universities here! (And guess what? Republicans here are lauding the governor’s “seriousness,” while Democrats are treating Hick’s budget like a flaming bag of poo left on their doorstep.)We get the politicians we deserve. The fatuousness of these conversations among our elected representatives reflects our own unseriousness as citizens. We expect to enjoy quality schools, universities, parks, roads, hospitals, medical care, emergency services, low-income assistance, prisons, public transportation, and all other services without paying taxes. We’ve been living off of the crumbling infrastructure Americans invested in fifty years ago and more, expecting that nothing would change and that no further investment was required.A-fucking-men.Then there's Bardiac's upper-Midwest state, which has been in the news quite a bit lately for its attempted pounding of public-sector labor unions. She provides a round-up of Republican plans to, for example, eliminate health insurance and pensions for "limited-term employees" (who, she points out, are mostly women), as well as cut funding for Medicaid, so that even the children of these newly health-insurance-free employees won't have access to affordable healthcare. She then nicely details the difference between pro-business factions and those of us on the front lines of public service and in particular education: There's some bluster on both sides, of course. But the bluster of state workers is so much less effective. I was thinking about how ineffective our bluster is.And here's what I figured out: our problem is that we actually care.We value education and care about educating our students.We care about doing jobs we think are important enough that we take less pay than we'd get in the private sector (it's in the news, not just some opinion I have).So we aren't going to mess with students or do less work.Can I hear another amen, people?(Arbitrista seems to agree:Why so glum? My nature perhaps, and the fact that these are discouraging times. But more importantly I don't have a great deal of confidence that the Democratic Party will do anything to stop it. As with abortion rights or gun control, Democrats have stopped fighting very hard for unions. They're pretty much absent from the public debate on these issues, which means that one one side you have a barrage of relentless propaganda and on the other....nothing.) And then, via Shark-Fu,[...]



Utah

2011-02-12T08:50:30.954-07:00

I have several blog posts in draft, but I haven't had the energy and focus to finish them because I've been thinking about an Unbloggable Thing (UT, so I'll call it Utah).


Random vague bullets of Utah:
  • A person I care about deeply has gone to Utah.
  • This loved one is not ready to share with others in hir family that ze has gone to Utah.
  • This trip to Utah could have been avoided, had adequate steps been taken.
  • The people who could have taken these steps are, I imagine, really angry with themselves that, despite their love and attention, this person has ended up in Utah, which, in this metaphor at least, is not a very nice place to visit.
  • Indeed, I'm upset with myself because I might have urged others to take the steps to prevent the trip to Utah.
  • I'm exceptionally frustrated that ze has gone to Utah, especially considering the trip was avoidable.
  • Still, I'm pretty much endlessly forgiving when it comes to people I care about, even when they make mistakes that take them (or others I love) to someplace like Utah. (With myself, I'm considerably less forgiving.)
  • This recent trip to Utah is making me very sad.
What would help, in the comments:
  • Stories about how you had to keep quiet for a while (perhaps a long while) about something that made you very frustrated or sad, and how you dealt with that, even though it was always on your mind.
  • Good vibes for my loved one in Utah.
  • Sympathy. This is going to be hard.



A bit surreal

2011-01-31T14:05:46.691-07:00

Just received notice that one of my journal articles was rejected--with a note that I should familiarize myself with the work of Leslie Madsen-Brooks.*

headdesk

*
There is, of course, the chance that one of my grad school profs or former colleagues was the anonymous reviewer, in which case ha ha ha--thanks for the shout-out.



Fun with Name Profiler

2011-01-25T09:57:33.750-07:00

Ah, I could play with this world names profiler all day. . .

Here are maps of my parents' surnames. When I say my people are from icy climes, I'm not kidding:

(image)

The map does explain the origin and utility of my ridiculously straight hair, however: no droplets from this morning's freezing fog are going to cling to it--they'll slip right off.

Methinks my Dad's people find Mormon missionaries to be highly persuasive:

(image)



Liking Ike

2011-01-19T21:43:38.129-07:00

I can't believe I missed this anniversary, but one of my favorite American speeches turned 50 a couple days ago. It was overshadowed by the mainstream media's hoopla of the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's inauguration, so I'm dragging it into the light here.

title="YouTube video player" class="youtube-player" type="text/html" width="480" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/8y06NSBBRtY" frameborder="0" allowFullScreen>

Read Eisenhower's farewell address.



A few gems from Stephen Colbert

2011-01-19T21:35:22.586-07:00

Colbert is on fire this week. If you haven't seen these clips, take a break--you deserve one! The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30cThe Word - Run for Your Lifewww.colbertnation.comColbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30cThe Word - Disintegrationwww.colbertnation.comColbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30cVideo Archive [...]



Playgrounds

2011-01-15T20:20:57.779-07:00

What I'm about to describe is going to sound a little kooky to many of you, but I feel moved to share it.

I spent most of the last week in Portland, Oregon at a little place called the Playground. Founded last year by Havi Brooks, the Playground is home to several different interesting events, all led by Havi. I attended a Rally specifically for folks who have been members for at least a year of a group run by her.

We began each day with some really, really difficult Shiva Nata. (Disclosure: For me, all levels of Shiva Nata are difficult; there's a reason, after all, its practitioners frequently refer to it simply as "the flailing.") At one point Havi had us do some level 7, which is unbelievably brain-scrambling and resulted, for me at least, in a day-long series of epiphanies in a week already packed with them. Shiva Nata was followed by savasana, and then by some reflective journaling and setting of intentions for the work we'd like to accomplish that day.

There were ten of us on the retreat, all of us working on separate projects and giving one another mutual support when we became stuck on a particular part of our projects or when we felt stymied in a more general way. My fellow Rallions were all bright, creative women who were so delightful to finally meet in person after a year of communicating online. I suppose the best way to describe Rally is as a silent retreat punctuated by whimsy and play (and profoundly fabulous pie from a nearby café.) I accomplished so much in three days—lots of writing and planning, but after doing the work I felt less intellectually exhausted (my usual state) than exhilarated.

I've been reflecting, then, on how I can bring the spirit—and some of the physical aspects, because they're also central to the experience—of Rally with me to my home and work.

Some ideas:
  • There was one pattern-recognition exercise in particular—it involved various kinds of walking with intention—that I'll be trying out on my students when I'm teaching the capstone writing seminar this semester.
  • I'm noting, now that I'm back home, a distinct lack of floor pillows in my house, and they're much needed, particularly when I play with Lucas on the floor of his room.
  • Candles! Funky lamps! Plush monsters! A hammock (and we already have a hammock chair ready to mount on the back patio when it warms up).
  • I'm going to recommit to practicing Shiva Nata. I was doing it every day for a while about a year ago, but then I stopped, and I'm not sure why. It provides some light, much-needed physical exercise, and I could benefit from the brain workout, too.
Mostly, I want more play—more playgrounds—in my life at home and at work.

What about you? What are you trying out this semester or this year?



Writing Guide Assistance?

2011-01-05T12:17:56.674-07:00

I'm writing a very practical, step-by-step guide aimed at undergrads in the humanities or social sciences (but also probably useful to advanced high school students and grad students who need a review) about how to write an argumentative essay. After a dozen years of teaching writing-intensive courses, I'm pretty confident about teaching the essay, so I'm approaching the guide as an (organized!) download of my brain onto digital paper. I'm going to give it to students in my classes and also maybe make it available for Kindle or as a PDF through ejunkie or some such outlet.

I've already received some great ideas about what should be included in such a guide, but I'd love to hear your thoughts as well. What would you want to see included?

I've drafted about half of the book, and I'm thinking it will come in at 40-50 pages single-spaced—longer once formatted into a book—plus worksheets and appendices. It's not a guide for last-minute, night-before-it's-due essay writers, but rather for students who really have no idea where to start and need a good deal of hand-holding between receiving the essay prompt and turning in the paper. Most importantly: I'm not looking for it to be the be-all, end-all compendium on student writing; I want to keep it under 100 pages when it's formatted.

On this first pass, I'm using a hiking/camping metaphor, though I may abandon it because it might be too precious—and it might not resonate with students who rarely leave an urban environment. Anyway, here's a rough section outline:
  • Packing Your Knapsack: gathering your tools
  • The Trailhead: examining your topic
  • Mapping Your Route: preliminary brainstorming
  • Foraging: gathering more information
  • Mountaintop Vistas: crafting your argument
  • Setting up Camp: organizing your essay
  • Campfire: revisiting (and possibly revising) your argument, and getting feedback
  • Packing Up: final clean-up
Additional topics covered in subsections or sidebars (listed below in no particular order):
  • making a checklist from the assignment instructions
  • how to narrow your topic if the essay assignment is wide open or vague
  • how to figure out if your instructor believes there's a "correct" answer, or if she's less interested in a "right" answer and more interested in seeing how well you make your argument
  • how to articulate the thesis statement
  • paragraph structure and transitions
  • using tables for brainstorming
  • advanced strategy: using metaphors effectively
  • using a rubric for assessing the paper
  • primary vs. secondary sources
  • scholarly vs. popular sources
  • clustering
  • outlining
  • plagiarism
  • citation styles
  • reference librarians are your friends
  • revision strategies
  • recommended resources (e.g. Strunk and White's Elements of Style)
  • 20 most common errors of grammar and usage (at least in my classes)
As always, your thoughts are much appreciated.



Common rites

2010-12-31T23:58:50.442-07:00

As I write this, the midnight hour sweeps round the world, ushering in a new year. It's a half hour 'til midnight here, and I'm the only one in the house who remains awake.I'm remembering tonight the New Year's eves of my childhood. We'd spend the evening at my grandparents' house, a classic bright yellow, brick-porched California bungalow just a few doors down from our own home. Perhaps folks would drink a bit too much, but usually my sister and I didn't notice--we were drifting to sleep as my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles laughed at The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.At midnight, we'd run out onto the porch, banging pots and pans with wooden spoons. Some of the older neighbors joined us in this rite. At some point during these years, my grandfather declared it was an old Scottish tradition to run around a tree three times at midnight for good luck. We're not a superstitious people, but we gave in to Pops's tradition, circling the block's palm trees.Fang and I don't have any New Year's rites, though I suppose we will concoct some as Lucas grows more cognizant of the significance of a new year, and how in one moment we can be in (for the nation) a truly awful year like 2010 and in the next moment be completely free of it, at least temporally.2010 has been a dynamic year for my little family. So that I might pursue a tenure-track job, we uprooted the family and moved to Boise. It's a move I don't regret, as I really do love my job and adore my new colleagues, but at least once I day I think of California and feel very much as if I'm in exile from where I ought to be. After all, California is more than just a place I was passing through--my family has deep, deep roots there. I suspect one day I'll return, though not any time soon, as I have lots of exploration and growth waiting for me here.One of the things I've learned in my first semester here is that faculty here really do have a great deal of autonomy. I'm enjoying that tremendously, and I plan to write more here about how my teaching might change as a result of that independence. The expectations for my position really do seem to be wide open, and folks have seemed interested in whatever I propose. 2011 may, then, be a very interesting year intellectually.On the home front, I have more work to do. We need more grounding in this place, as individuals and as a family. I need to help Fang find what he needs here—and that means both meeting physical needs and finding him greater intellectual and emotional fulfillment. He is, after all, a newspaperman in an era of newspaper extinction. What do you do when you're almost fifty years old and your entire industry disappears--especially if you don't have a college degree? Fang says he suddenly feels sympathy for hoop skirt makers, but I suspect under his humor there's a good deal of pain and perhaps even some fear about how he fits into our new life here.So we need to spend more time together, to establish rituals and common rites, and to aid one another's intellectual, personal, and professional development in this next stage of our lives. I need to remind Fang that the advice offered to Seamus Heaney's narrator by the shade of James Joyce applies to both of us, even though our recent move was driven by my career, not Fang's:‘Your obligationis not discharged by any common rite.What you do you must do on your own. The main thing is to writefor the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lustthat imagines its haven like your hands at night dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a breast.You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous.Take off from here. And don’t be so earnest, so ready for the sackcloth and the ashes.Let go, let fly, [...]



This Friend speaks my mind

2010-12-20T18:12:19.754-07:00

Chuck Fager, director of Quaker House, on the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell:
This change has two important effects, I think:

First, it will enable thousands of present and future soldiers to pursue their careers on their merits, which is only as it should be.

Second, beyond these individual cases, repealing DADT strikes an important blow to the identification of war with masculinity, with heterosexuality, with America, and all three with God.

This identification is idolatry, pure and simple. But it is all too widespread in American Christianity, and it is way past time for it to be broken up.



Enough

2010-12-20T15:26:32.124-07:00

Someone who is close to me recently returned from six or seven months of service as a Marine in Afghanistan. He drives trucks for the military.

Earlier this year, family members were informed he had been involved in an "incident," but they weren't given details. Today I learned a bit more about the nature of this event.

I wasn't surprised to learn that a truck he was driving hit an IED. He regained consciousness in a helicopter.

Physically, he's allegedly recovered. But now that he's stateside, he has terrible PTSD. He can't sleep or drive, and even riding in a car is apparently too much for him. He cries a lot.

What's his family's response to this? They're criticizing him for not being sufficiently masculine. They can't make the connections among the Bush-era anti-terror wars they supported, the crappy economy made worse by Bush administration policies, this guy's joining the Marines because he felt enlistment was his one ticket out of Hellmouth, Arizona, and the total shattering of his life because of his service in Afghanistan.

The family's proposed solution is that he accept Jesus and go back to Afghanistan like a real man.

Fuck you, conservative America.



Band names inspired by grading my students' papers

2010-12-15T22:55:48.736-07:00

  • Sketchy Secondary Sources
  • The Successionists* (a Civil War-era band)
  • Captain Obvious and the Weak Theses
Play along in the comments!

* Yes, multiple students managed to write research papers about the South's succession from the Union.



RBOC, Transitions (and Buried Lede) Edition

2010-12-15T23:09:50.742-07:00

More quasi-random bullets, because that's all I have in me. (Now with subheads!)TeachingI'm finishing up my grading for the semester. I'm down to the single digits on my lower-division students' research papers, and then I have their final exams as well. I hope to finish tomorrow, and then submit grades on Friday, assuming I can figure out the LMS gradebook.That means--yay!--I've finished my first semester on the tenure track. Two course preps down for the year, and two to go--though the next two should be significantly less time-consuming than this semester's.One of the students in my public history class said she thinks she's found her calling as a public historian, instead of the schoolteacher path she had always imagined for herself. She's had a really rough time of it lately for reasons that have nothing to do with her academic ability, and it's nice to see her really come into her own as a critical and creative thinker who's willing to try new things. She also discovered her classmates valued her for her informally learned knowledge of local history; they dubbed her "Boisepedia." She talked to the department's internship coordinator today, and I'll be writing her a letter of rec for what sounds like a good position for her.One of my lower-division U.S. survey students wrote me a really nice note that went a long way toward soothing my I'm-not-a-papered-historian impostor syndrome. She explained she had hated history since fourth grade because that was when she first received a B in any subject, and that my course marked the first time she had been invited to engage meaningfully with history rather than memorize dates and consider only privileged people's histories. She said she now "loves history as a subject" and wants to study feminist theory. Also, there's this: "Most importantly, you helped my writing. I never thought that a history teacher could better strengthen the papers I write. I learned more from you than my [redacted] class. You showed me to come to my own conclusions about the sources I had, not let the sources guide my paper. I will apply this in any future writing I have to do. . . So thank you, Leslie, for making history important to me once more." Her note makes me sad about the state of history in K-12, but for now I'll just enjoy the warm fuzzies. I'll be teaching a section of the capstone writing course next semester. Apparently the seminar raises a tangle of issues about students' patchwork preparedness for historical research and writing. This course has, I'm told, been designated one whose products are to be used for assessing the efficacy of the history department in teaching its majors to think critically and write well. In theory, I suppose I should feel some pressure about that. Still, I'm approaching the course more like Icarus than Sisyphus; we'll see how long it takes for me to plummet to the ground, my wings destroyed by my own hubris.I'm teaching a graduate course next semester called "Introduction to Applied History." I applied for a grant to partially subsidize mobile devices for students in the class, so up to 15 of the students (so far there aren't 15 registered for the course) will each be able to buy an iPod Touch at a 50% discount. We'll be exploring the possibilities engendered by existing apps, sort of a "small pieces loosely joined" approach to local digital public history.We'll also be contributing to a very, very large project I began to organize this week. It's a wiki for Boise. It will be modeled on the absolutely fabulous Davis Wiki, but we'll be doing some stru[...]



Public Service Announcement: For Folks on the Job Market

2010-12-13T21:24:41.753-07:00

A good friend is hiring for a position in her organization. She instructed her assistant to run Google and Facebook searches on each applicant.

I present, then, an object lesson in why folks on the job market need to set their Facebook wall posts to be private. Here's the most recent update from one applicant:

(image)
And yes--as the applicant in question might say--THAT SHIT'S REAL.



Because it's time for a meme, dammit

2010-12-10T20:34:25.302-07:00

Created by Oatmeal

(Velociraptor quiz as seen at The Seacoast of Bohemia)



Created by Oatmeal


Clearly I haven't been to enough concerts.



More brilliance from Stephen Colbert

2010-12-09T09:04:34.689-07:00

It gets really interesting around 2:50, and absolutely brilliant at 3:50.

For once, I'm grateful I speak cultural studies. Colbert's writers are awesome.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag - Art Edition - Brent Glass
www.colbertnation.com
(embed)
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogMarch to Keep Fear Alive



Post-Structuralism Explained

2010-12-06T15:53:41.102-07:00

Finally!

src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/17431354" width="400" height="335" frameborder="0">

ART THOUGHTZ: Post-Structuralism from Hennessy Youngman on Vimeo.



I probably should mention it's NSFW--unless you happen to work in the academy.



Wonder

2010-12-04T20:41:11.042-07:00

Cross-posted from TerraFirma CreativeHere's the prompt for Day 4 of Reverb10:Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?(Author: Jeffrey Davis)When I consider wonder, I think primarily of two things:being in awe of, or delighted with, something in the world.being intensely curious.These are two of my favorite states of being.I think these two poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins artfully capture my own sense of wonder. Go ahead--read them aloud to get their full effect.God's GrandeurThe world is charged with the grandeur of God.It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oilCrushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;And all is seared with trade; Bleared, smeared with toil;And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soilIs bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.And for all this, nature is never spent;There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;And though the last lights off the black West wentOh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —Because the Holy Ghost over the bentWorld broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.The WindhoverTo Christ our LordI caught this morning morning's minion, king-dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his ridingOf the rolling level underneath him steady air, and stridingHigh there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wingIn his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend the hurl and glidingRebuffed the big wind. My heart in hidingStirred for a bird -- the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, hereBuckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billionTimes told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillionShine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.Do you know what makes those poems different, other than their lovely imagery? Their sound, their diction. Hopkins tried not to use words derived from Latin, and the result are poems rich with Anglo-Saxon sounds and rhythms, sounds from a time and place that's foreign to me.And so: wonder.WordsWords are how I cultivate a sense of wonder in my life. I notice things, and I try to put them into words: November, the last orange leaves still snagged on twigs, coated by a heavy dusting of snow. Mountains rising suddenly beyond the city, glowing that western-dry-grass gold in the last sun. Iowa, and its threat of sky. Tracks of unfamiliar mammals in the backyard snow.Sometimes I fail. And that really underscores the wonder of a thing--when I can't adequately capture a moment in words.Wonder for me comes when reality exceeds my expectations, at the seam of the urban and rural or natural worlds. Boise has been full of these moments: a badger in the yard. The first snowflakes I've seen in a decade. A river behind my office; a giraffe beyond that, peeking over the zoo's fence.Negative capabilityThat's what John Keats called that state "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." For me, wonder engenders negative capability—it happens when I've transcended that left-brain moment of "how does that work?" and shifted into the right brain's "rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!" [...]



Pssst. . . Look over there.

2010-12-03T19:42:42.992-07:00

I'll still be blogging here quite a bit, but at the moment I'm also trying to build up a blog on the relaunched website for Fang's consulting biz (in which I am a very occasional partner and collaborator).

It's a very non-businessy business site, if I do say so myself. Très Leslie. (I need to get Fang writing over there, too, but he needs some WordPress tutorials first.)

I'm doing the Reverb10 thing over there, in fact. Go check it out. . .