Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Updated blogroll

A warm welcome to all the blogs on The Clutter Museum's expanded blogroll.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, but you aren't yet on the blogroll and wish to be added, please leave me a note in the comments.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Urbanism and federal policies

Tomorrow I'm lecturing (for real, like talking all by myself, which for some reason I've been loath to do this summer session) to my Intro to American Studies class. I've assigned them some online reading about Detroit as a case study, and I'll be providing them with a lot of history about federal policies and corporate actions that led to the Rust Belt and the depopulation of and white flight from cities in the Midwest and Northeast.

I've also been reading Eric Avila's book Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight, and I'm realizing how little I really know about how these processes work. Broad strokes, yes; specifics, no.

And now I'm wondering (of course at 10 p.m. on the night before I must lecture) how to tie all this in to today's New Orleans and the aftermath of Katrina. I'll figure out something, but if you have any tips, please leave them in the comments. :)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Anonymous academics, history bloggers, and blogs as salons

(cross-posted at BlogHer)

Open mouth, insert foot.

That about sums up my mentioning in a post on my personal blog that I was disappointed that more women weren't writing about history on their blogs. I specifically mentioned the lack of women blogging at my favorite history blog, Cliopatria.

Almost immediately, Cliopatria blogger Ralph Luker took me to task for my ignorance of a whole slew of women bloggers. In his post, he named several women bloggers with whom I was unfamiliar, many of whom blog under their own names.

How the heck did it happen that I'd never heard of these women? I think it's because I frequent a corner of the academic blogosphere where women blog largely anonymously. And if you want to remain anonymous in academic circles, it's best not to reveal too many details about your work. In fact, some women academic bloggers even disguise their fields. (For example, Profgrrrrl claims to be a practitioner of "Complexification Studies.")

Even stranger was that my exploration of other academics' blogrolls hadn't turned up many women blogging about history. In a comment on Ralph Luker's post, Gillian Sarah Polack offered one explanation:
A blogfriend has a rather nice theory about blog society resembling 18th century salons. If someone doesn't see women historians then that person has simply not discovered which salons they attend. There are a bunch of us out there who don't often make lists for the same reason: I tend to be found on the lists made by sf/f writers, for instance, but I am an historian and I *do* post about history. I also post about food and about fiction, but that's because I have a faction of culinary history in my makeup and I publish fiction and review it etc. So I don't blog *only* history.

I use technorati to trace the visibility of bloggers in the eyes of other bloggers, and I think Sartorias (her LJ user name) is completely right about the salon effect.

Identity and race discussions also fit the salon notion. We talk with the people we know and extend from there, so there will always be people who don't know we exist or that we are saying anything of note.


Polack's comment is very insightful. I've tended to think about the academic blogosphere as being composed of overlapping neighborhoods, but the salon paradigm works well, especially when we're talking about discipline-specific blogs.

One of the reasons my sector of the academic blogosphere is such a tightly knit (yet quickly growing) community stems, perhaps ironically, from many bloggers' anonymity. Since they can't talk about specifics from their disciplines, they end up blogging about more universal concerns, like teaching, research, tenure, collegiality, and rogue students.

Still, this anonymity is a double-edged sword. When I run across the blog of a particularly thoughtful academic, I want to read his or her scholarly work. And until blogging no longer poses threats to one's academic career, it's unlikely these faculty and grad students will begin blogging under their own names.

In the meantime, I'm making a concerted effort to find academic bloghers who blog under their own names. Expect to see an update of the BlogHer Research, Academia, and Education blogroll soon. Until then, check out Luker's round-up or click around the Cliopatria blogroll to find more blogs by women historians.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Update on women historians who blog

Ralph Luker at Cliopatria has posted a thoughtful response to my lament that more women aren't blogging about history. He includes a terrific round-up of women historians who blog.

Most of the anonymous bloggers he mentions I already read, but the women who blog under their own names were largely new to me. I think this is because many of them don't appear on the blogrolls of the blogs I read regularly--and blogrolls (and in-post links from other bloggers) are the primary way I find academic blogs. FWIW, I'm subscribed to the RSS feeds for approximately 200 blogs by women academics.

I'll be adding these to my blogroll, as well as the Research & Academia blogroll at BlogHer soon.

In the meantime, if you have any women bloggers to recommend who blog regularly about history, please leave links to their blogs in the comments.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Two down, one to go

My committee members continue to fall in the face of my dissertational fabulousness.

Tough Reader has said she'll sign off on the diss. (She added she'll even bring her special pen.)

Fantastic Adviser has provided final feedback on the intro and first chapter. She said I need to package up the intro and a chapter and send it off to university presses ASAP.

Scary stuff.

Fantastic Adviser has promised me a high tea at the local chocolatier once the diss is finished. Fantastic Adviser ROCKS.

Numbered Bullets of Lucas, August edition:

1. Lucas will be a year old on September 5. How the hell did that happen?

2. Lucas is still nowhere near sleeping through the night, despite #1, above. How the hell did that happen?

3. The best sleep Mr. Trillwing and I have had since Luke's birth: two nights in Tahoe, bankrolled by my parents, who shared a townhouse with us. They took Lucas into their room on BOTH NIGHTS so that we could get some much-needed, uninterrupted sleep. It was glorious.

Here are the saintly grandparents with Lucas on the shore of Lake Tahoe.



4. This month Luke learned how to sit down from a standing position. He's still not putting much effort into learning to stand without holding on to something.

5. On last Thursday evening's stroll, Luke blurted out his first noun--"the dog." So thorough of him to use the definite article, eh? It came about because we're always referring to The Liability as "the dog." And so "deh dahgh" is how he knows all canines. I was impressed that he recognized two dachshunds as the same species as The Liability, who tips the scales at 50 pounds.

He used the phrase repeatedly throughout the walk to refer to all kinds of dogs. He did not, to my great surprise, use it to refer to the chickens we sat and watched for half an hour. I guess he understands there are at least two kinds of animals in the world. (Have I ever mentioned that one of the local chickens is named "Fabio"? Really, I must get a photo. He's fabulous.)

Beyond The Liability, the animal that has most fascinated Lucas thus far? It's a tie between chickens and sheep, I think. That's what happens when you live in an agricultural county. No zebras or lemurs for us!

6. Lucas has decided he's just not that into baby food, and thus he has moved into kiddie menus, as Mr. Trillwing and I usually order stuff that's just too unhealthy for baby consumption. (Yay us.) Entrees so far: grilled cheese sandwich and chicken soft taco. Boy, was the latter a pulverized mess by the time he was through with it.

7. The separation anxiety had waned until today, when Luke decided that I must sit on the couch, and not at my desk, when he's playing in the living room--otherwise he shall wail. Distance between these two pieces of furniture: approximately nine feet. Distance between desk and Lucas, on average: 5 feet. Distance between couch and Lucas, on average: 4 feet.

8. Attempts to explain to Lucas that I can't finish my dissertation on the couch, especially if he's crawling into my lap: too many to count. Days until diss is due: ten.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bloggy recommendation

If you don't read Indexed, you are so missing out.

Women in Science, Historical Edition: Doris Cochran's struggle for promotion at the Smithsonian

It's been bothering me lately that there aren't many women blogging about history. Sure, there are women historians blogging about grad school or teaching, and there are women historians who comment on current events, but I'm having a helluva time finding women writing about history on their blogs. I like Cliopatria but I sense very strongly the absence of women writing for that blog.

I'm not a historian, but I play one in my dissertation. And I realize I've been coy about what my dissertation exactly is about. So I thought I'd share some stories from it. I'm not going to provide much commentary here, as I suspect such explicit interpretation would be less interesting to my readers than the stories of these women's lives. Many of their less pleasant experiences are, I'm afraid to report, being relived by women scientists today. (Check out my latest BlogHer post for bloggy women-in-science news.)

Without further ado, then, I introduce herpetologist Doris Cochran.


Doris Cochran with frog, ca. 1930


Cochran’s decades-long struggles for promotion up the Smithsonian’s curatorial ladder allows for an institution-side review of a woman’s quest for recognition and remuneration. Cochran herself did not write extensively on her promotion battles, but her supervisor, Waldo Schmitt, worked through internal and external channels to support her ambitions. His efforts and communications with the leadership of the Smithsonian are well-documented in letters, memos, official forms, and personal notes. These resources not only tell, in detail, the history of Cochran’s employment at the Smithsonian, but also shed some light on the institutional culture of the midcentury Smithsonian and its attitudes toward women.

For the final twenty years of her career, Cochran struggled to be promoted to titles and pay levels consistent with her actual job duties, as well as with the quantity and quality of work she produced. Cochran joined the Smithsonian in 1919 as an aid in the Division of Reptiles. In 1941, she was promoted to salary grade P-3, which was equivalent to an assistant curator’s initial appointment. When her supervisor, the renowned naturalist Leonhard Stejneger, died suddenly in 1943, Cochran’s nearly quarter-century of experience merited her appointment as acting head of the division. Two years later, Cochran was still serving as head of the division, but her salary grade remained at P-3, and she sought appointment to P-4 or P-5. Schmitt, the head curator in the department of biology and Cochran’s nominal supervisor, wrote to the Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian that Cochran’s work was at P-5 level, but because "we can say that she is working under general supervision" he can understand why the institution would only approve her for a promotion to P-4.

In March 1950, Cochran appealed for a higher grade, this time asking for GS-13, a grade made available by a midcentury revision of the federal white-collar pay scale. (1) This promotion would elevate her from associate curator to full curator. In a letter later that year to the Civil Service commission, Cochran explained her situation:
I am supervised by the present Head Curator of Zoology [Schmitt] in just the same way that the full curators of other divisions are supervised, that is, with regard to invoices and other routine papers and official correspondence for which his endorsement or signature is required. In broad matters of policy, along with the other curators I am always mindful of his counsel and advice. But as he is not a specialist in my special field of Knowledge, he has never assigned me any herpetological problems or suggested any special procedures for the presentation of the results of my original investigations.

Schmitt supported her application with a note backing up these claims. (2) Schmitt received his start at the Smithsonian when carcinologist Mary Jane Rathbun gave up her own salary so that she might hire him as an assistant. That gesture, plus the decades of mentoring she provided to him, may have motivated Schmitt to pay off a debt of gratitude by assisting other women scientists with their careers. (3)

In October 1950, Schmitt’s supervisor sent him a memo that makes it appear that Schmitt was reluctant to supervise Cochran and that he had given her a good deal of autonomy. Remington Kellogg, who was then director of the U.S. National Museum, directed Schmitt to undertake a weekly inspection of the reptile collections and related files. Schmitt also was to review all "outgoing official letters" signed by Cochran. In a conversation with Schmitt, Kellogg apparently had cited a series of errors Cochran had made in identifying some specimens. The day after receiving Kellogg’s memo, Schmitt wrote to Secretary Wetmore, "I am shocked to hear that your chief objection to Miss Cochran is her misidentifications. It has never before come to my attention that you considered her work so low grade, in view of the papers she has written and which you approved for publication." In his personal, handwritten notes, Schmitt wrote of Kellogg and other Smithsonian leaders, "They continue to want to rate her down. [Smithsonian Secretary Alexander] Wetmore is prejudiced against career women." He noted as well that Kellogg’s complaints against Cochran "amount to rating her on secretarial work, on which no prof. on staff is rated." He believed Kellogg and Wetmore were colluding against Cochran, with Kellogg being unduly influenced by Wetmore’s opinion of Cochran. Mixed in with these papers is Schmitt’s August 3 response to Kellogg’s initial demand that he supervise Cochran; in his notes, Schmitt writes that he accepts Kellogg’s instructions to supervise Cochran. However, Schmitt never sent this memo, he writes in his notes, “on lawyers [sic] advice.” (4)

In support of Cochran’s bid for promotion, in 1950 Schmitt sought letters from herpetologists outside the institution testifying to her strengths as a scientist and curator. The letters he received in return were for the most part warm, although two of them called for a younger herpetologist—one specifies a man—to be placed under Cochran’s supervision in preparation for her retirement. Two letters also point out that Cochran’s research interests were not ideal for someone serving as curator of such a significant collection, as her research agenda was focused outside the U.S. and was not as up-to-date in systematics as some would desire. (5) Despite the general tone of commendation, the Civil Service Commission turned down Cochran’s appeal to become a full curator. Schmitt blamed "representations made by Drs. Wetmore and Kellogg." (6)

All of this raises an important question: Was Cochran undeserving of the post? In an application nominating Cochran for the annual Federal Woman’s Award in 1963, Secretary Leonard Carmichael noted Cochran had published 83 scientific papers, contributed to popular literature, described six new genera and 94 species or subspecies, and illustrated many publications by herself and colleagues. He points out that in Brazil in 1935, she collected 2,700 frogs. He also notes that she was only the second person to be elected a distinguished fellow of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. (7) Clearly, Cochran was an accomplished herpetologist who had won the admiration of her peers.

After years of wrangling, at the very end of 1966 Cochran received a final promotion to GS-14, but with the title “Systematic Zoologist” instead of curator. She would not enjoy this status for long. Just over a year later, in February 1968, she received a letter informing her that the Civil Service Retirement Act would force her into retirement on her seventieth birthday, May 18, 1968. Cochran retired voluntarily on April 30 and died four days after her birthday, on May 22, after 50 years of service to the Smithsonian. (8)

The pressures limiting women’s advancement in the museum sciences varied by institution. In Cochran’s case, it appears the Smithsonian’s leadership, as embodied by Wetmore, Kellogg, and perhaps others, threw up roadblocks in her quest for advancement. In addition, the letters Schmitt solicited from colleagues outside the Smithsonian indicate that herpetologists at the time may have placed more faith and trust in men’s abilities than in women’s. Finally, the institutional culture of the Smithsonian may not have been welcoming of women scientists, as the hiring of women in collections positions all but came to a halt during Cochran’s tenure. Cochran thus faced a triple trap: individual, disciplinary, and institutional constraints on women.

(Messily formatted) Notes:

(1) For details, see Smithsonian Institution Archives Record Unit 7151, box 7, folder 4. Initial appointment to aid: memo from C.D. Walcott dated 27 Oct. 1919. P-3: Schmitt’s handwritten account of Cochran’s work history. Acting head: letter from Alexander Wetmore dated 2 March 1943. P-3 grade: Waldo Schmitt to Wetmore, 26 Apr. 1945. P-4: Schmitt to J. E. Graf, 20 June 1945. For Schmitt’s thoughts on this promotion, and his belief that Cochran should not push any further within a year’s time, see his green handwritten journal, undated, but probably from the mid-1940s, in SIA Record Unit 7321, Box 66, Folder 5. Appeal: Schmitt to J.B. Newman, 2 Aug. 1950. The P grade system was replaced by the GS (General Schedule) system in 1949. For more on pay grades, See the Office of Personnel Management’s historical timeline, "Evolution of Federal White-Collar Pay."

(2) Cochran to Civil Service Commission, August 1950. Schmitt, "Note by supervisor emending position description of Dr. Doris M. Cochran, Systematic Zoologist," 2 Aug. 1950. Both found in SIA Record Unit 7231, Box 7, Folder 4.

(3) Schmitt’s papers at the Smithsonian corroborate this claim. He corresponded with, and contributed to the careers of, women from across the sciences.

(4) Remington Kellogg to Waldo Schmitt, memo "Management of the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians," 17 Oct. 1950. Schmitt to Wetmore, 18 Oct. 1950. Schmitt, undated notes titled "Kellogg’s complaints." Kellogg and Wetmore’s collusion: See Schmitt’s undated notes that begin with "Nov. 1 1919." Schmitt to Kellogg, 3 Aug. 1950, memo titled "Management of the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians." All found in SIA Record Unit 7231, Box 7, Folder 4.

(5) See letters to Schmitt from M. Graham Netting (2 Nov. 1950) and Karl P. Schmidt (stamped received 30 Oct. 1950), SIA Record Unit 7231, Box 7, Folder 4.

(6) Schmitt to A.H. Wright, 14 Nov. 1950, SIA Record Unit 7231, Box 7, Folder 4.

(7) Leonard Carmichael to Katie Louchheim, 18 Nov. 1963, letter and accompanying “Nomination for Federal Woman’s Award,” SIA Record Unit 7231, Box 7, Folder 4.

(8) GS-14: "Position Description," dated 22 Dec. 1966. Mandatory retirement: Babel A. Byrd to Cochran, 28 Feb. 1968. Retirement: "Notification of Personnel Action" form, dated 26 Mar. 1968. Death announced: Announcement from S. Dillon Ripley, 22 May 1968. All found in SIA Record Unit 7231, Box 7, Folder 4.

See historical errors? Please let me know: trillwing -at- gmail -dot- com.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Quote meme: better late than never

Seen just about everywhere:

Go here and select five random quotations that reflect who you are or what you believe.


We are bits of stellar matter that got cold by accident, bits of a star gone wrong.

Sir Arthur Eddington (1882 - 1944)


Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.

Robert Heinlein (1907 - 1988), Time Enough For Love


Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)


I happen to feel that the degree of a person's intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting attitudes she can bring to bear on the same topic.

Lisa Alther, Kinflicks, 1975


Go to your bosom; Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know.

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616), 'Measure for Measure'

Signs Lucas might be a toddler

1. When he pitches a fit, he arches his back so suddenly that he almost launches himself from my arms.

2. "Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah!"

3. Clothes size: 18 months.

4. Hobby 1: chasing The Liability from room to room. (Poor doggie!)

5. Hobby 2: opening library books and ripping the "date due" tags out of them. (My new hobby: taping "date due" tags back into library books.)

6. He's taller than the kitchen table, my desk, and the bathroom sink. Seriously. Is that freakishly tall for a kid who's not even a year old? 'Cause it's freaking me out that he can just about reach up and type on my laptop while standing on the floor. Have I mentioned that's just freaky?

I suspect he's been snorting Miracle-Gro for babies.

7. He's a little Sir Edmund Hillary. We turn our backs and he's sitting atop a random piece of furniture. His favorite spots: the couch endtables. We can't keep anything on them anymore. And it's pretty clear his next goal is to use one of the tables to mount an attack on a neighboring bookshelf.


But:

a. Sleeping through the night? Not so much. It's only 10:30, and he's woken up three times since 8:45.

b. Actual toddling? Not yet.

c. The slightest wisp of interest in walking? None at all.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Job interview--and party?!

Yesterday I received a call regarding a job I applied for more than six months ago. I've been asked to come in for an interview in mid-September.

Since I'm happily employed for the rest of the academic year, with a slate of interesting courses to teach, it might seem odd that I'm even bothering to interview for this position.

Here's the deal: It's a quasi-academic job (no teaching, but it requires academic research, esp. archival research). It has the words "history" and "science" in the title, and the organization encouraged Ph.D.s to apply. It sounds like wonderfully interesting work, and I'm thrilled to be invited for an interview. It definitely represents several directions in which I'd like my career to go, including work in historic preservation and public history.

But there's a twist: On the day before the interview, the organization is loading all the candidates on a bus and giving them a tour of the sites and facilities related to the position. And then, that evening, there will be a "party" for candidates where we'll meet board members.

Pressure, anyone? I guess it's good to see all the facilities before the actual interview, but having us meet the other candidates and board members seems to up the ante a bit, doesn't it? I'm assuming they'll be testing our ability to schmooze. I'm looking forward to it!

Another important detail: the midpoint of the salary range for the position is three times what I'll be making this year if I teach. And the salary tops out a few dollars shy of six figures. Neat, huh?

I so need a new interview outfit. (Two or three, actually--tour, party, actual interview. Damn.)

Wish me luck in preparing for the interview. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Woohoo!

One of my committee members says he's ready to sign off on the diss.

Woohoo!

One down, two to go. . .

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

4 easy-to-use online resources for higher ed learning

When I designed my Introduction to American Studies course for second summer session,I decided to take a bit of a risk and ask my students to interact with some online digital media. The jury is still out on how they'll perform--after all, the second summer session is still young--but I wanted to share some of the resources I'm using and have used in the past, in case anyone else is looking to experiment a bit more with digital media.

1. CommunityWalk describes itself as "the easiest way to map things out." I like it because it was incredibly simple to take a map of my university town and allow students to log in and annotate it. We're doing a cultural landscape survey of a road that runs from one edge of the town to another, and CommunityWalk not only lets students place markers on the map, but they can add notes, photos, and links to each marker.



I like the collaborative nature of CommunityWalk, but of course you could use it to set up your own map to help students study for any number of disciplines or projects, from plant identification to architectural history to forensic science.

2. Photos: I turn frequently Flickr, Google Image Search, and American Memory at the Library of Congress. No, I'm not using these in particularly innovative ways, but they're my go-to sources when I need an image for a lecture. For example, today we're talking a bit about the Manzanar internment camp where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II, and I wanted to show my students photos of both historic Manzanar and the tourist/memorial site it has become. I found some terrific photos, including some by Ansel Adams that, according to the Library of Congress rights and reproductions info on the collection, are apparently open to use by anyone:





My next goal is to get students annotating and commenting on a common set of photos on Flickr, as seen here.

3. Class blog: I've set the Intro to American Studies course blog up on Blogger because it's the platform with which I'm most comfortable. It's also easy to add students as co-authors, or what Blogger calls "team members." Students can choose any usernames they wish; I gave them the opportunity to remain anonymous to everyone but me. Most students, however, have followed my lead and use their first name and last initial to sign their posts.



I assign them one brief (250-500 word) post each week that relates to the course texts but asks students to draw on their own lives. This kind of prompt helps them, I think, write in a conversational, yet not too informal, tone that's appropriate for the web. I count their blog posts as a discrete part of their writing grade and their comments on others' posts as part of their class participation grade. They're also welcome to post additional links, photos, thoughts, or other items of interest at any time.

Only I have administrative control over the blog, but students can post and edit their own entries. It's a bit of a pain to set it up at first, but once it's rolling, it's easy to administer. To make grading the posts more efficient, I've created a sheet to allow for faster grading. I based it on a rubric that makes my expectations for student blog posts very clear.

So far, my only complaint is that students aren't commenting enough on each other's entries. I need to give them more incentive to carry their conversations outside of class and onto the blog.

4. PBS and NPR offer a wealth of resources on just about any topic. For example, in my material culture course, when I was giving a presentation on women and hats, I used a PBS piece on the tradition of hats in the African American church. Both PBS and NPR also had some good resources on the quilts and quilters of Gee's Bend. In both that class and my current one, I'm using excerpts from This American Life. For the material culture course, I used the episode The House on Loon Lake. This quarter, I'm drawing on an episode on alternative ways of mapping, since I'm asking my students to come up with alternative, imaginative maps for their street survey.

Depending on the length of the class period and the length of the NPR or PBS episode, I either share an excerpt in class or assign listening to the episode as homework.

I'd also like to get them to explore the free podcast subscriptions on iTunes. Certainly there has to be something relevant to our coursework that's worth listening to. . .


In implementing new media in the classroom, of course, I try to remember my goal is to help students

1) develop critical thinking skills
2) practice collaboration
3) learn course content
4) acquire new tech skills

. . .in that order of importance. In the end, it's not about technology. It's about learning and collaborating.


3 goals for my future media use:

1. Learn to use one or two open-source content management systems, and set up one that meets the specific needs of my courses. My university is moving to a Sakai-based platform that supposedly makes it simple to integrate many course functions. It's about time--for years we've been using a system that pretty much only allows for posting of grades and multiple-choice quizzes. Still, I'd like to be in control of my own course site; besides, it scratches my creative itch.

2. Explore wikis, especially for collaborative essay writing. I'd like to really get students thinking about the process of writing, and a wiki might promote that goal.

3. Podcasting. I'd like to see my students gain a few potentially valuable multimedia skills while focusing intensely on American Studies content. Creating podcasts or digital videos might also get them thinking about intellectual property on a higher level than simply worrying about whether they're plagiarizing from a website in their papers.

What about you? What resources do you recommend? With which ones are you merely flirting?

Note: I was inspired to write this post by the group list-writing project at ProBlogger.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Student living

For my intro to American Studies course during second summer session, I chose to focus on how we can read place and space to uncover American beliefs, habits, and values about community. We're starting inside the home and moving outward to neighborhoods and cities. (OK, my syllabus isn't really that smooth, but let's pretend it is, shall we?)

Yesterday we took a survey of my students' apartments. In addition to comparing them to their family homes, we talked about the material culture of their apartments and how the rooms were arranged. Based on the stuff we found in each room, we drew conclusions about how students interact with each other (or fail to interact) and what they value.

Random things I learned, some of which you undoubtedly already knew:

1. Students like to keep pets in the kitchen. Hamsters, fish, whatever fits.

2. Reading material in the bathroom is almost exclusively a male domain.

3. Students eat on their couches. They don't cook with their roommates. Sometimes they'll eat different meals, sitting side-by-side on the couch, while enjoying different forms of media.

4. Most students' parents still bring them home-cooked meals, which the students bank in their freezers. WTF?! My parents fell down on the job. (Of course, it could have been because I lived 2,000-3,000 miles away from them during college. Stir fry just doesn't travel well, even through FedEx.)

5. Students keep their bongs in their bedrooms. (Why did I ask about this? Well, because one student had to go and say she kept her "alcohol and alcohol paraphernalia" in her kitchen. And so I ran with "paraphernalia." The kids think I'm soooo cool.) *sigh*

Sunday, August 13, 2006

You might have finished a full draft of your dissertation if. . .

. . .you find yourself dancing a jig to "Hard Times Come Again No More."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Big day

We've hired the babysitter for pretty much all day tomorrow (Sunday) because it's a big day for me:

I am going to FINISH the damn dissertation.

(Well, the full draft to send to my committee for final review, that is.)

I'll keep you posted on my progress, but here are the day's tasks:

1. Proof chapter 1
2. Proof chapter 5
3. Light-moderate revision of chapter 4
4. Light-moderate revision of chapter 3
5. Revise intro in light of chapter 3 & 4 revisions
6. Send chapters to committee W00t!

Then, over the next week, I'll be sure my footnotes are all in the correct style (I'm assuming most are) and finish a massive update of the bibliography. Woohoo!

Please pour libations to the margin-checking gods to help me secure a close-to-the-deadline appointment with Grad Studies to turn in the final document. I need every extra day I can get for final revisions, formatting, and chasing people down for signatures.

(Note: We don't do dissertation defenses in my department. The quals are grueling enough!)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Last word

Some time ago, there was a meme going around about the last word of one's dissertation.

Well, I just completed a draft of the final chapter, and my tentative last word is "scientists." (OK. The last word of the text is "scientists." The last word on the page, in a footnote, is something entirely different. See below.)

A couple paragraphs for context:

Recall the hope of Atwood’s Lesje: she wants to wear the badge of science, to become a member of the museum and scientific communities. I saw the same kind of passion, albeit more na├»ve, among elementary school students, especially girls, who approached me on many occasions to ask, “Are you a real scientist?”

I didn’t want to lie to them. No, technically, I’m not a real scientist. I was an English major, failed poet, and cultural studies grad student trying to earn some extra cash by creating vinegar and baking soda volcanoes and explaining what coprolites really are. (1) But I did want to empower them. So instead of saying, no, I’m not a scientist, but I wish I could have been because it would have opened all kinds of doors and worlds to me, and you should never, ever give up your dream of becoming a paleontologist, I said something else, something that always made little girls smile.

I said, “We are all scientists.”

----------
(1) Petrified poop.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Wikipedia and original research

The Little Professor drew my attention to this discussion on the Wikipedia entry for danah boyd. Fascinating stuff.

As The Little Professor points out, there are some interesting issues surrounding Wikipedia's policy on original research. In this document, Wikipedia's community has made an interesting distinction between "original research" and research undertaken using primary sources. According to this policy, my dissertation, which relies extensively on archival sources, does not qualify as "original research." Egads! Please don't let my committee know.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Blog carnival for grad students

StyleyGeek has posted a call for submissions--your posts or others--for the first Carnival of GRADual Progress, which takes place on August 15.

Submit!

A good day

1.) I managed to pull together 80% of a course reader in a matter of hours. I'll probably regret that speed over the coming weeks, but I'm glad it's almost done. On the docket: architecture, neighborhoods, streets and highways, public spaces, food. I even managed to work in a Puritan, which makes me officially old school American Studies. (Yes, Jeff, it is your distant uncle, and he's giving childrearing advice.)

2.) My students were hilarious today. They did final group presentations based on interviews with collectors. The collected objects and collectors they chose to investigate? Piercings, tattoos, and sex toys.

After a lively class, my students tried very, very hard to get me to go have margaritas with them. Tempting, but I am not stupid. (I'm thinking the course evaluations they filled out today will be nice?)

3.) I found out my second session summer class, which now has more than 30 students, qualifies for a reader. And I happen to have a really cool, hardworking friend who's looking for work. And she specializes in the area in which I've chosen to focus the course. Huzzah!

4.) I may have found employment for winter quarter. If it comes through, it will be another 100-person class with two TAs, and with it I'll qualify for benefits. Woohoo! Plus, the department decided to hire me at a higher step than they usually do for lecturers. Score.

Now if only the dissertation fairies would visit. . .

Please help Mr. Trillwing

Mr. Trillwing, our resident agoraphobe, has decided he's outgrowing his need to hole up in his office. This daddy needs some time with adults, and his daily two-minute chats with our apartment complex's maintenance guys aren't scratching that itch sufficiently.

He wants to find some activity or location where he can drop in and chat with people. He doesn't want to schedule any regular obligations (e.g. scheduled volunteer work, weekly classes). And we're not churchgoing types.

He doesn't want to have to drive too far. He wants to stay in town.

Now most of you, I imagine, know who I really am. I blog pseudonymously, not anonymously. I like to keep my name and location off the blog, but it's likely you know where I live. If you happen to be a local with an idea, leave a comment.

If you're not a local, imagine you're a newcomer to a very nice town of 60,000 that has a high quotient of Ph.D.s and aging hippies. You're looking for a venue that meets Mr. Trillwing's specifications. Where would you begin?*

So. . . Any ideas?

*I would send him to the dog park, but The Liability is, well, a liability in such situations. The potential for injury is too high.