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October 2003 Archives

October 31, 2003

Book List I am


Book List

I am adding a book list to the right. Pardon all the publish statements.

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Red Ted
at 12:35 PM | TrackBack
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Pants. There is something


Pants.

There is something about pants that is just plain funny. Maybe it is the sound of the word, maybe it is the body parts that they cover, but they are funny. Spongebob Squarepants is funny because of his last name, at least to me. I just tested this - say the word "pants" out loud three times. Pants Pants Pants. By the third time I was smiling. Were you?

There is also something about pants that is just plain annoying. For such a simple garment, they are hard to find in the correct size and shape. Buttocks and thighs are funny shapes and hard to cover well, we are self-conscious about our crotches, that is part of it. But still, how hard can it be to cut two tubes of fabric and connect them at the top? It must be harder than it looks.

Women's pants are sized according to the old standard sizes, first standardized during World War Two. Men's pants are sized according to two standard measures, waist and inseam. If you know how round you are in the middle and how far it takes to reach the ground, you should be able to buy pants. Right?

Those standard sizes only describe two of the three measurements. There is a third, the rise, or the distance between the crotch seam and the waistband. Some people wear their pants high, other low. Some people like the crotch of their pants high, others low. The current trend is for low waist, low crotch, pants for men, and low waist, high crotch, low rise pants for women - hip huggers.

I buy my chinos from LL Bean - they are solid, they wear well, the price is right, and I would rather surf the web for 10 minutes than take half an hour and drive to a store. The problem is that you can not try them on, you have to guess at size and shape. Fat as I am, I still wear their thin cut pants - the mail order catalogs really do cater to pear-shaped desk warriors. I also have to guess about the rise, something that varies from pant to pant, from manufacturer to manufacturer, and from shipment to shipment.

Why am I ranting about this? I am about to order more pants, and I was baffled for a while as to why I could pick between a 35 waist and 29 inseam, 34 waist and 30 inseam, and in dress pants, a 34 waist and 27 1/2 inseam. The different inseam measurements are largely a by-product of the different rise in the various cuts. Two and a half inches difference in an inseam is a LOT; no wonder their dress pants chafe the middle of my thighs. I seem to be replicating all the fun of women's clothing and their "standardized" sizes - these run big, those run small, I am a this size in these cloths and a that size in those clothes, and so on.

It could be worse: a couple of years ago I ordered some fat-ass-cut (natural cut?) pants from one or another catalogue company, and they were so freaking BIG that I tried to get both of my legs into a single pants leg, and almost succeeded.

The current trend towards computerized custom clothing helps a bit. The first iteration of those was not so good. The new generation, especially Lands End's new custom shirt software, is pretty good. They still do not know how to cut a shirt for someone with big traps and scrawny arms, but there are not all that many unathletic mesomorphs out there.

Standard sizes, whether the women's scale of even numbers or the men's scale of inches and dimensions, are a sign of the tail end of the second industrial revolution. They are an attempt to adjust standardized goods for semi-standardized human shapes. The third industrial revolution, the moment that some people call the post-industrial economy, is about using information technology to provide custom results from mass production machinery. That Lands End automatic boutique is the third industrial revolution's answer to the problem of how to get custom tailoring (first industrial revolution - machine cloth and hand sewing) with mass production standard sizes (second industrial revolution).

This is not an original thought, several other people have commented on boutique manufacturing over the last few years. I suppose my final thought will be the mandatory navel-gazing. Blogs are the op-ed pages of the internet. Between blogs, newsfeeds, and the ability to use portals to sort and file news stories, can we produce a custom newspaper/news feed for ourselves? If so, is this the future of information?

George W. Bush recently got a lot of flack for disclosing that he does not watch television news. It was unclear if he reads newspapers. Instead he depends on his staffers to filter and summarize the day's news for him. This can be a good thing - no one needs to get caught up in the pack journalism and media phrenzies of the crisis of the moment. It can also be a bad thing if his news filters are doing a poor job of it. This is the hand-tailored version of a newspaper.

Perhaps instead of getting my news from many different sources I should try to use information technology to create a news filter for myself. I currently read the Philadelphia Inquirer in paper form, the Washington Post and New York Times on line, and about half a dozen political blogs (see the blogroll on the left) for extra commentary and op ed. I do not watch much television and I never watch television news. If I was better about my time management, I would set up a news portal.

But, I am easily distracted and I like to read the news.

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Red Ted
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Parents and children Da



Parents and children

Da Goddess tells about taking a drive through San Diego with her 7-year old son, Little Dude, and talking. The recent fires upset him a lot. She was very good about waiting for him to bring things up, then explaining them. What was striking about her story was the way that mom and son are, in addition to everything else, friends. It is not all that common for parents and children to be friends, either that or the storms of adolescence tend to bury that friendship, but it happens.

I hope that I can be a similar high quality low-key parent for our kids. Tip o' the hat to Da Goddess.

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Red Ted
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Template Change I like


Template Change

I like the Garamond font. I was using it for my heading while the rest of the page was in Ariel, but I did not like the mix of Serif and Sans-Serif fonts. So, I went to Garamond-Times New Roman-Times for everything.

I will use this for a day or so and then see if I still like it. Please let me know which was easier to read, the old or the new.

EDIT - as of right now I am getting ready to go back to sans-serif fonts for the web page. Is there a sans-serif font that has the lightness and ease of Garamond?

Edit again, 9:00 pm, going back to Blogger standard fonts. They are just easier to read.

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Red Ted
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October 30, 2003

Well, I edited up


Well, I edited up the thing on toasting and sent it to the forthcoming Carnival of the Vanities.

All of my posts are wonderful, I don't think I have any real stinkers to send to the bonfire of the vanities. I am so vain that I expunge the bad posts once I identify them.

Speaking of which, this post is feeling nervous.

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Red Ted
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Homework answer. Last week


Homework answer.

Last week I asked for comments on a paraphrase of some things that Jefferson wrote.

I told the kids that it was a Jefferson paraphrase from the start of the War of 1812, and then asked them to write 200 words responding to: "A free people in arms, fighting in defense of their liberty, are superior to any army in Europe."

I was looking for some recognition that the militia, a free people in arms, broke and ran when they faced professional soldiers (except at New Orleans, where the militia had been in the field with Jackson for over a year and were far more frightened by and inspired by Jackson than they were scared by a few thousand men in red uniforms.)

I was looking for some discussion about the role that Valley Forge played in turning American farmers into soldiers who could stand up to the professionals. 18th century warfare was a matter of nerve, discipline, training and practice. I thought I had blogged about it, but I can not find it in my search history. Perhaps I will do a cameo on it, as I did with drinking toasts down below.

I was hoping for some discussion of the current American debate on guns and gun culture, or some references to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Chechnya.

I do not like what I got. I have graded about a third of them so far. Most of the students mailed it in. I got a lot of pro-forma "free men in arms always win." Those got C at best. A few people talked about the ideology of a nation of arms, either directly or by turning the discussion to the hollywood myth. One so far has quoted Braveheart. Those got B. A few people have talked about Jefferson and placed the thought into the context of the Republican military build-down. Some of those got an A.

I will not use this homework next semester. I will find something real, not made up. I might give them Montlezun's line about "The United States are the great warehouse of the democratic virus. All the widths of the seas are insufficient against these pestiferous influences." It sounds better in French: "Les Etats Unis sont le grand depot de le virus democratique. Tout les espances des mers sont insufficient contres ses influences pestiferees."

Either that or I just like to say "influences pestiferees."

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Red Ted
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Karl Marx Interview Now


Karl Marx Interview

Now this is good fun: via Crooked Timber I learn that Prospect Magazine conducts a posthumous interview with Karl Marx.

The most interesting, certainly the most memorable, of my undergraduate classes was an upper-level reading class on Marx, Melville and Thoreau, team taught by a historian who studied Thoreau's world and a very good deconstructuralist literary critic ( but of the literate variety, not one of the folks who does the postmodern drone). We met in an octagonal room on the ground floor of the old college observatory and sat at a large round table. We read Walden, we read 18th Brumiare (good stuff that), we read short stories. We tried to read Melville's Pierre, I think some of us even finished it. I did not. Marx loved Sir Walter Scott, so we read Waverly and then we talked and talked about them. Some of us started calling the class "talking about talking about."

Maybe I will assign some Melville short stories next semester. I miss talking about them.

Both Melville and Marx are actually fun stylists, in a perverse and Romantic kind of a way. "Hegel remarks someplace, that all history, as it were, repeats itself. He neglects to mention, however, that it does so twice: the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce." (from memory - not sure if I quoted it correctly.)

And, as we learned that semester, Marx mis-quoted. The bit about History repeating itself comes from Heine, not Hegel. So when Marx quoted, or repeated, these words, he got them wrong. How farcical!

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Red Ted
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I need a new



I need a new comment software.

The one I am using, by blogextra, is limited to 400 characters and loads very slowly.

Any suggestions?


EDIT - Thanks for the suggestion, trying Halo Scan. It should be the comment tool on the Left.

EDIT 2 - Halo scan works, but not at the same time as blog extra. Commenting out blogextra to try Halo scan. Hope I don't lose my comments.

Edit 3 - adding some carriage returns to the template seems to have fixed it. I hate voodoo html. Now I get to figure out how to transfer my comments.

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Red Ted
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Andrew Jackson Day Today


Andrew Jackson Day

Today is the class on Andrew Jackson. I think I have a solid class put together. We did not get to the Market Revolution on Tuesday so I am folding that into my discussion of 1819 and the 1830s Bank War for today. I intend to stick with my previous narratives showing Jackson as an angry old man. Some people will tell you "Don't be a hater!" Andrew Jackson was a hater.

I know that I have not yet discussed last week's homework question, but I want to introduce this week's question now. I asked the kids if Andrew Jackson should be honored by being shown on the American currency? In the past this question has led to some pretty good discussions, I hope I get a good one today. Jackson was a controversial figure in his own time, he should remain controversial.

And so to finish class prep

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Red Ted
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October 29, 2003

Either I can not


Either I can not read, or a lot of other people can not read. I am not sure which scares me more.

Greg Easterbrook has tried once again to be controversial. This time he has tried to frame the American intervention in Iraq in such a way as to force the Bush 43 administration to either change their actions or change their rhetoric. It is a false premise - the misplaced rhetoric about the presence of WMD and an active WMD program was important but not everything during the run-up to war. Or, to be more precise, the causus belli was Saddam Hussein's refusal to comply with the monitoring process. Evidence of WMD was presented to suggest that Hussein was hiding something when he refused to cooperate. Easterbrook, like many anti-war commentators, has merged the extra evidence with the causis belli. By doing so he loses the opportunity to make more valuable criticisms of the Bush adminstration's earlier decision to force a confrontation over WMD. Invading Iraq was probably a good thing to do, but was it the best way to advance the war on terror?

Back on topic (it is tired and I am late), Easterbrook argues that if the invasion was really about WMD, and we have not found any WMD, then we should leave. If the invasion was not really about WMD we can stay, but the Bush administration has to come clean about its "real" reasons for starting the war. He is attempting to use the threat of withdrawal as a bludgeon to force the Bush administration to confess to its ulterior motives. It is a clumsy bit of rhetoric.

Even clumsier are the editorial decisions made by Glenn Reynolds, Eugene Volokh and some other pretty smart guys who read Easterbook as calling for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Iraq. They then condemn that option.

Rhetorically, they are calling Easterbook's bluff. As they do so, they are missing the point he was trying to make. As I read Easterbrook, he was assuming that withdrawal was not an option, and thus that the only logical response if you did not want to withdraw is to 'fess up. It was a re-iteration of the "Bush lies" theme. By simply saying that withdrawal is a bad idea, Reynolds, Volokh and the cast of thousands are ignoring Easterbrook's real point. That might be good stump tactics, but it is a heck of a bad way to engage the issues.

Between this and the whole Kill Bill goof, I wonder if Easterbrook might want to get copy editing from the folks who do the Dick and Jane readers for kids. His ideas are better than his ability to express them, and now that he has stumbled a couple of times he has sharks circling every time he goes to post.

Ted K.

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Red Ted
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Thoughts on yesterday's class.



Thoughts on yesterday's class.

Class went pretty well, but I made one bad decision while planning it.

The story of the class was the story of the second generation of Americans, the people who came of age after the Constitution and, in Joyce Appleby's phrase, inherited the republic. I tried to set this up with political history, which let me lay out the first party system and national republicanism. This was not a bad decision. I then tried to use the Hamilton-Burr duel as the hook for the class. This was a bad decision. It ate a lot of time and was a poor proxy for the generational change. I ran out of time and only got partway through my intended outline. Ah well, at least when I tell of Jackson's duelling they will have some context.

After telling the duel, Joanne Freeman style, I laid out the First party system using an ideal type of republican (small r) and democratic (small d) political theory. I traced splits from patriots to madisonian federalists to the 2nd party system to the national republicans. Thursday I get to create the Democrats.

I took a few minutes to introduce Clay, Calhoun, and Webster.

I put most of the focus of the class on demographics, the sheer volume of young people in the Early Republic, and on the problems that a young society faced. I emphasized alcohol, working backwards from the standard Rorabaugh figure of 6 gallons of hard alcohol per adult per year, to show that the average man took about 8 drinks a day.

I then talked about westward expansion into the Northwest and Louisiana territories. This was pretty quick.

I laid out the counter-enlightenment. I was not happy with my explanation. I gave it as English anti-French revolution invoke revelation and cry down reason, arguing that enlightenment reason leads to deism and the guillotine. This is true, but I don't know what the kids understood of it. I then laid out American revival religion with capsule biographies of Lyman Beecher and Peter Cartwright.

Finally, in the last ten minutes or so, I argued that the Revlutionary movement towards emancipation was reversed by the dual forces of the counter-enlightenment, which discredited theories of inalienable human rights, and economic advantage, following on the cotton gin in 1793. People stopped manumitting and started selling slaves. I once again fumbled the details of the PA and NY gradual emancipation laws. Before I next cover this era I need to grab the full texts of those laws and also to review the narrative of Anglo-American Quaker lobbying against slavery and the slave trade at the end of the eighteenth century.

I had really wanted to lay out the early market revolution, including Rhode Island thread spinning, the Lancaster Pike, the Erie Canal, and the rise of the seaport cities. I never got there. I had also wanted to lay out Republican Motherhood, which I intended to position as an attempt to govern and control the horde of young people by educating them in republican and moral values.

All in all this was a lot of background and biographies and not a lot of narrative or analysis. Thursday is Andrew Jackson day. I know I want to work up Jackson's personality, the creation of the two party system, nullification, and herrenvolk democracy. I should be able to get the market revolution in as part of a discussion of the bank war. That will mean cutting back on Indian removal. I do not know how to get Republican motherhood in, unless I do a riff on Jackson's mother. I might do that, place her in the context of republican motherhood. That will swing my focus early again.

I like the fun of adjusting the classes to what we have just covered during the semester, but it adds a different sort of stress to my week.

And so to lunch.

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Red Ted
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Carnival of the Vanities



Carnival of the Vanities is up at bloggerrabbit. It is a long one, with some good stuff.

I submitted my thing on Meatloaf lyrics and compulsive honesty. I liked Blogger Rabbit's own little funny on dogs.

Next week it will be at Wizbang. I wonder if I will write anything I will want to brag on.

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Red Ted
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My "Why am I


My "Why am I not sleepy?" thought

I am done working for the night, done reading and discarding weeks of old magazines, done puttering around on blogs, it is late, I am tired, and yet I am still not sleepy.

So, I will add one brief thought and then go lie down and see if I will sleep or if I will have palpitations.(1)

Looking over my blog and comparing it to other blogs, I noticed that many of my posts are quite long. The thing I sent to the Carnival of the Vanities was three pages single spaced, a little over 1500 words. It took me about an hour to write and edit, in part because I had been chewing on some of the ideas for a while and I wrote it up quickly. 1500 words is a magazine article.

If I were shorter, would people read more?

If I am going to put time into crafting that many words, should I try to shop some of these pieces around? In-flight magazines pay a dollar a word for interesting popular history and book reviews.

And so to bed.

(1) These palpitations are not dangerous. I take a niacin variant for my cholesterol. Sometimes I can feel my heart beat, especially if I am lying down and tired but not sleepy. That is all a palpitation is, feeling your heart beat. I am out of shape these days, so the bumps are about once a second and not too strong. When I was running a lot my resting heartrate was 40/minute, very strong, and if I got palpitations I could feel my whole body pulse and lift off the sheets every second and a half. That was not so good, but that does not happen any more.

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Red Ted
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I miss things when


I miss things when I am tired.

Just below you can find me fisking Greg Easterbrook, Eugene Volokh, and Glen Reynolds for systematically mis-communicationg with each other. On further review, what I may be seeing there is a case where underlying assumptions lead two people to read the same document to two very different effects. If, as Easterbrook seems to, you believe that the whole business about WMD was a lie and a smokescreen, then Easterbrook's blog is an attempt to bluster away the smokescreen. If, as Volokh and Reynolds seem to believe, the WMD business was a good faith depiction of our knowledge of Iraq, then Easterbrook's blog is a call for unconditional withdrawal from Iraq.

If I had thought of this last night, while tiredly waiting for the loaf of bread to finish baking so I could go to sleep, I would have written something very different.

In personal news, I just finished revising chapter three, it looks very good, and I will use it as my writing sample in the job applications that are going out later this afternoon.

I want to blog about the Boykin speeches, extending an argument I started with Brian at Junkyardblog, but that is chapter two stuff and I want to bash through chapter four one more time before I go back to church and state in the Early Republic.

And so to fine tune job letters.

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Red Ted
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I'll Drink to That!


I'll Drink to That!

As part of my discussion about alcohol in the Early American Republic I explained toasting and dram drinking. My students had encountered dram taking before; Ben Franklin condemns the practice in his Autobiography. They had encountered toasting as we discussed the American Revolution; I mentioned it briefly in class and the textbook commented on it as well. What was different in the EAR was that the toasts and drams were whiskey and not beer or cider.

I call toasting the drinking game of the nineteenth century. It started in the eighteenth century and continued to be popular into the early twentieth century, but it was mostly an antebellum practice. It started as a political ritual, but it quickly became a celebration of masculinity. If you ever watch the movie Sergeant York, you will see Alvin York and his buddies toasting during their three-day bender.

Basically, toasting involves going around the table, having each person propose a toast, and everyone drinking agreement to the sentiment. You fill the glasses. The first person proclaims a toast: "The Union, may it ever be preserved!" All drink. The glasses are refilled. The second person proclaims a toast: "The ladies, may they ever be beautiful!" All drink. The glasses are refilled. And so it goes, around the table or around the room. That first example is a Jackson quote, the second is something you might hear in a tavern.

If you wanted to get drunk, you tossed off a full drink for each toast. If you were pacing yourself, as for example when Patriot assemblies gathered to drink 92 toasts in memory the Massachusetts Legislature's 92-14 vote not to take back its circular letter condemning the trade acts, you probably wanted to barely sip at each one. For important events, say the Philadelphia reception for Citizen Genet, the toasts were written out ahead of time. If people were just sitting around, the toasts were more impromptu.

Toasting made a good nineteenth-century drinking game because every person had a moment in which they could speak in public, display their manliness, and express themselves in words. The toasts had to be original, or at least original to the evening. Casual drinkers made them up as they went along. Proposing a toast was a risky moment - you try standing up and phrasing a strong sentiment while drunk - but that made it a rewarding moment as well. More, a "man" controlled his alcohol, and it could be hard to give a good toast after a few rounds had gone by. Similarly, "To Anacreon in Heaven" - the drinking song whose tune was stolen for the "Star Spangled Banner" - was a good drinking song because it was so hard to sing.

Toasting also produced a high level of peer pressure. If you refused to toast with someone you were repudiating the sentiments of their toast. Toasting first grew popular as a political ritual, and many toasts were patriotic in nature. If the bar starts toasting to "America, home of the free," you will feel some pressure to drink with them. Having once joined in the toasting, it was hard to stop. For this reason toasting was a particular target of temperance advocates. As they saw it, toasting bastardized patriotism and turned it into drunken debauchery.

Of course, the same folks who liked to toast were the same folks who liked to have noisy parades and shoot off cannon on the 4th of July while the Temperance folks were all sitting in church listening to sermons. Popular culture was contested in the Early American Republic, and toasting was an important ritual of social manliness.

edit - grammar and clarity.

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Red Ted
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October 28, 2003

Non-Bush approaches to the

Non-Bush approaches to the War on Terror.

Sebastian Holsclaw
asks for suggestions for a Democratic party policy towards the war on Terror. I got into the comment discussion there and wanted to copy my main points over here for my own reference. Off the top of my head, this is what I suggested.

The United States should shift from its current binary notion of terror=bad, non-terro= good to a policy based on human rights, the rule of law, and national self-interest. The current administration's approach forces us to either choose between ideological purity coupled with some foul policy partners or a more practical and humane set of allies and enemies at the cost of creating a clear division between national rhetoric and national policy. Opening up a gap between claimed ideals and practical actions is always a bad idea.

As it is I worry that the Bush administration has encouraged Iran and North Korea to speed up their nuclear weapons research, has forfeited our authority to comment on the civil war in Chechnya, and is otherwise pursuing a worldwide foreign policy based entirely on clever sound bites designed for domestic consumption.

Instead what would a foreign policy look like if we based it on:
1, human rights
2, rule of law
3, continue Bush's notion of extending the idea of active pursuit to include using military means to attack harbors and safe havens for international terrorists
4, do a better job with intelligence gathering.

In effect this would be a realist/liberal foreign policy approach. Off the top of my head this would lead to the following policy suggestions:

I, follow through in Iraq. this means 1, making sure we do not _look_ like an imperial power; 2, helping Iraq transition from a rule of cronyism to a rule of law; 3, quickly bringing Iraqis back into basic governance - police, military, etc.; 4, giving up some measure of control over this process to international agencies (even if they are less effective at 2 and 3) so as to avoid creating an imperial image.

II. Stop trying to fund foreign policy through unfunded debt. That was Johnson's mistake in Vietnam and it hurts to see Bush repeating most of Johnson's follies.

III, Resume the search for Bin Laden. If this means getting troops out of Iraq to do the work, then either increase the US military or turn over control in Iraq to other countries (but not Turkey - see I.1)

IV, Remember to do some basic cost-benefit analysis in anti-terrorism prevention. Don't spend billions to reduce a low-risk threat before spending millions to reduce a high-risk threat. Don't be afraid to educate rather than just scaring people.

V, Continue the process of encouraging democratic politics, free speech, and economic activity in the Middle East and the rest of the Third World. Do this not with sabre-rattling rhetoric or military intervention but with cultural tools such as Radio Free Iran (or whatever they call it), the paunch corps, and the outreach efforts made over the last couple of years by the American muslim community.

VI, Focus this cultural effort on the schwerpunkt (spelling) of the middle east - Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia in that order. Any change that does not effect the most populous and richest nations is bound to be epiphenomenal. Wolfowitz et al are trying to reach these countries via the domino effect and contagious liberty. The Iraq strategy might work, but I would use the cultural press described in V instead.

VII, As part of the full court press, adjust American farm policy, American policy towards Kyoto-style environmental talks, and American influence over international lenders to improve the basic economies of the developing world, especially the muslim parts of the developing world.

VIII, Try to reduce tensions in Israel. I would suggest 1, supporting the Israeli protective fence; 2, insisting that the fence run along the minimal border enclosing the 1967 line plus the densely populated suburbs; 3, insisting that Israel repudiate and abandon the aggressive settlements on the West bank, including putting up the money to buy out relocate all West Bank settlers outside the protective fence; 4, pressing the Palestinian authority to move to greater democracy and open-ness; 5, extending economic aid to Palestine, through small business loans administered outside the Palestinian authority if need be; 6, insisting that both Israel and Palestine commit themselves to full adherance to human rights and the rule of law, preventing Israel from continuing on their current path toward apartheid.

And so to do the dishes.

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Red Ted
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What is he worth?


What is he worth?

Baron de Montlezun, Voyage fait dans les annees 1816 et 1817, (Paris: Gid Fils, 1818) p 8

"Dans ce pays plus qu'en aucun autre, l'estime se mesure sur la fortune. Le talent est foulé aux pieds. Combien vaut ce homme? dit-on: How much is he worth?". The italics and English are his.

Translated, he says "In this country more than in any other, status comes from wealth. Talent is trampled underfoot, `How much is he worth?' they ask instead." Montelzun inserted these words in his travel narrative while describing his first arrival in the United States; he landed at Norfolk, Virginia in 1816.

I am using these words as the opening phrase for today's class on the early nineteenth century. It will be a strange class - on Thursday as I went to put the class together I realized that I had no memory of what I had originally intended to do today. I had to make up a new class based on that quote from the class reader, on the textbook chapter I had assigned for today, and on the things we had left out of our discussion on the Early Republic.

I will be focusing on the second generation, and will touch on Hamilton's duel, the cotton gin, the Erie Canal, Cane Ridge, mobile populations, and the mental situation of the people who grew up in a republic. Joyce Appleby did an interesting prosopography of this generation a few years ago; I doubt that I will lean on it much.

Improvisatory teaching is a lot of fun, I just hope I can make it worthwhile for the kids. (I do have 2 pages of notes, I just don't have a good narrative for the day yet.)

And so to prep

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Red Ted
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October 27, 2003

Scriptural Literalism Allen Brill



Scriptural Literalism

Allen Brill has another very good essay in Open Source politics about the history of Scriptural Interpretation and why it matters to the world today.

He has elsewhere commented on the process of proof-texting, which in its most outrageous forms assumes that the Bible is a single, coherent whole. If it is, if every verse is equally Divinely inspired, the we can use any verse anywhere to interpret any other verse anywhere, and if we can find any verse or verse snippet anywhere that supports our position of the moment, we can claim Biblical sanction for our opinions.

I think this approach is nonsense. I am a historicist, which is odd because my current research is on the ancestors of today's evangelicals. Speaking of which, I need to get back to editing.

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Red Ted
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The Politics of Personal


The Politics of Personal Appearance

My random thought for today was inspired by discussions of Ann Coulter's Adam's Apple. Some people argue that because she has a visible Adam's Apple, she must be a transgendered individual. I forget how I found it, but Lies.com points out that if you do a google search you will see commentary on her anatomy from all parts of the political spectrum. Ms Coulter is a remarkably skinny woman and, like many very skinny women, you can see her larynx through the skin of her throat. Her face is stretched over her skull exposing the bones of her cheeks and forehead. You can also see neck tendons and, in some of the pictures on her website, you can see that she just about flunks the knee test. She looks skeletal, not masculine. Her Adam's Apple is visible because she is so very lean. If I had a student with that body type I would be concerned about eating disorders and would contemplate an intervention. But, that is not my point.

What struck me by this was the way that people who disagree with her politics do not just attack her ideas and methodology, they attack the person as well. Unlike common Type-M arguments that focus on the motives of their opponent, this argument goes for her gender, suggesting that Coulter is transgendered and then using this supposition to justify ignoring her positions and arguments. It is ad-hominem: because she has a nonstandard gender history, her critics suggest, we need not take her seriously.

Now, while I disagree with most of Coulter's positions and despise her tendency to use arguments that systematically misinterpret other people's positions, I am also very concerned with this critique of Coulter. It not only reinforces traditional gender roles but, by assuming that unusual gender de-legitimizes a speaker, it also reinforces a system of deviance where "normal" is contrasted with "transgendered." This reinforcement does not come in formal critiques, most of the people who make those critiques will also argue that the issue is whether Coulter is lying about her past rather than about the plumbing she had at birth. The reinforcement comes as the meme about Coulter's Adam's Apple reaches into the mainstream. "Did you hear that?" "Is it true that" "What Glee, I hear that" and so on. At that point you are reaching towards character destruction, you are making a Limbaughesque argument based on derision and not content, and you reinforce traditional gender patterns and deviance patterns.

You find this sort of reinforcement and derision in many places in society. One place where it is particularly prominent is men's sports. "Lets beat these pussies" is commonplace. Men and boys in competitive sports, especially physical sports, will often call their opponents women and will use a rhetoric that links gender to moral and physical weakness, lack of competitive fire, and essential worthiness. Men, even men on their team, who do not display the right sort of aggression might be taunted as "gay" or "fags" because they are displaying "feminine" weakness despite wearing a masculine body and attempting to engage in "masculine" competitive sports.

I make this connection because Ann Coulter is a particularly competitive and aggressive woman. She competes with words and ideas, not with physical strength, but she competes in the realm of politics and ideas - a historically male realm - and she displays "masculine" aggressiveness as she does so. One way of coming to terms with a woman who displays "masculine" attitudes is to suggest that she is not really a woman. One way of putting down someone you dislike is to mock their sexuality and, especially against women, to mock their secondary sexual characteristics.

So far this interpretation is relatively timeless. I could change the names, find something other than the Adam's Apple, and dig around and find similar strong women and similar criticisms at almost any point in the last forty years. However, at the start of the twenty-first century we are engaged in a national discussion about gender roles and gender norms. People with non-traditional gender identities are refusing to be second-class citizens, while the national Republican party is attempting to replace its Cold War anti-Communism with anti-homosexuality. This means that the whole silliness about Ann Coulter's neck falls within a context where gender roles are both looser and more political than they have been in the past.

The silliness about Coulter shows a group of people who disagree with her positions, and are thus presumably moderate or liberal in their own politics, picking up on a social conservative meme to undercut a vocal conservative. If it was a conscious decision, we could argue that it was a form of rhetorical jujitsu intended to topple the social conservative movement: if their leaders do not practice the narrow gender roles that they preach, perhaps anti-homosexuality will be recognized as a particularly cynical bit of hypocrisy.

But, the strongest appearances of the Adam's Apple meme come in passing, as folks use Coulter's mixed-gender appearance to mock their opponent without really thinking about what they are doing and why they are doing it. That, in turn, warns me that social conservatives may well win both electoral and cultural contests by continuing to taunt, despise, and dehumanize people whose gender roles do not fit within a very narrow set of norms.

So what can we do about it? In this particular instance, do as I did at the top of this rant. Turn the focus from gender roles to body shapes. Coulter has a ballet dancer's neck and a marathoner's face. I would rather speculate about the psychology of someone who prefers to be thin than to be strong than speculate about what it says on her birth certificate. In broader terms, John Lewis may be right to turn the focus from gender roles to individual rights, and from religion as the basis of social norms to national political principles as social norms.

When you catch people using gender norms to establish deviance, ask them "What part of 'all people are created equal' don't you understand?"

And back to work.

edit, revised lead paragraph, added links to knee test and Coulter's page, new title.

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Cable 2 Ted 0



Cable 2 Ted 0

I dug farther into my walls over the weekend. The good news is that the fish tape was caught on something in the middle of the living room wall. The bad news is that even with a larger hole to work with I could not get either a fish tape or the cable itself to feed through the gap in a sill, through the space between the lathe and the exterior boards, and then through the gap in the sill at the other end of the wall cavity. We are not a true balloon frame, and so running cable is not as easy as I want it to be.

I now have a half-removed baseboard in the office and we still have ethernet cable running all over the upstairs. I convinced J that it was best to call it quits. We are either going to call in the cable company and have them do it or, and we will try this first, we will hire the handy neighbor to do it for us. Those who can, do. Those who can not, hire it done.

I feel like a yuppie, only poorer and not as well dressed.

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The Knee Test. I


The Knee Test.

I refer to the "knee test" in my rant on the politics of personal appearance but do not define the term.

People come in all shapes and sizes. Some shapes and sizes are unhealthy for the wearerl; the most common unhealthy shapes are obese and emaciated. The knee test measures for emaciation. Physical appearance is linked to self-esteem, and some people believe that you can never be too thin. Many college women obsess about their appearance and some people (I almost said some women, but a few men have similar body issues) try to control their body shape as a proxy for controlling the rest of their lives. Whenever I have a skinny student, male or female, I try to give them the "knee test." Quite simply, your knees and elbows should be SMALLER than your arms and legs. If someone's limbs go out as they move from muscle to bone, calf to knee to thigh, then they are skinny enough that I will talk to them and see if I need to call University health services on their behalf.

In this picture of Ann Coulter you can clearly see that her knee is wider than her calf or lower thigh. This is a warning sign. It is possible to be that thin and still be mentally and physically healthy - look at the top marathoners like Tegla Laroupe - but it is also possible to be that thin because of an eating disorder or a medical crisis.

For contrast, see this picture of Twiddlybits modeling her "assalicious pants." Her knees are just a little narrower than her calves and thighs. And, may I add, the pants look good on her.

Edit, added the contrast pictures, edited text for clarity.

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October 26, 2003

Now this rocks !


Now this rocks !

I stumbled across Bloggus Caesari, a web log written by Julius Caesar (as channeled through an amateur historian in LA.)

I have no idea which of my little categories to put this one in. I dropped it in with the academics for the moment since I do not have a set of war blogs on the left.

And so to bed.

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Accidental Roses I am


Accidental Roses

I am often amused at the way that unexpected items become important to us. For example, consider the roses around our house. Before July I rarely thought about roses, and when I did I generally did not care for them. They had their place - we knew a nice rosarian in Virginia and for a while I grew a miniature yellow rose on our kitchen window sill, but roses were something that other people grew.

The new house has rose bushes around it. There are five of them, two red and three in shades of pink and peach. There are also some gaps in the front landscaping where azaleas once stood. I have become obsessed with finding the right two roses to add to that spot. Just a few months of caring for roses, reading about roses, and talking to rose people has gotten me hooked on a new gardening bug. Now that we have a house that has roses, I will continue to add roses to the house. (Current thoughts are to add a Dream Yellow and a Dream Red to the front of the porch and grow an Iceberg up the side railing of the porch. If I could fit yellow miniature roses into the garden, I would. I might still put a tiny rose in a pot on the porch.)

The story of the roses illustrates two of the core concepts behind the history discipline, concepts that Annie from The Same River Twice commented on in an email: Contingency and Path Dependency. She had previously encountered path dependency in the Matrix movies, movies that I have still not yet watched. These are important ideas and should be more widely spread and more clearly spread. While I have not seen the Matrix movies, I do read Eric Flint's science fiction, and one of the reasons I like his work is that he is very aware of contingency, path dependency, and change over time. Of course, he was trained as a historian before following his ideals and going into labor organizing, which he did for years before switching to writing science fiction full time.

I want to blog on the core historical concepts, if only to get the ideas clearly phrased so that I can add them to my syllabus for next semester. I will briefly explain Contingency, Path Dependency, Change over Time, and Agency.

Contingency is one of those simple ideas that we never think about. It is a philosophical truism that at any moment we could do one of many things. You could stand up and start singing the Marseilles, or you could keep reading this, or you could move away. One of these is highly unlikely, two are fairly likely. Historians try to find contingent moments, moments where either influential individuals or society as a whole had two very different choices, both of which were fairly likely, and picked one of them. By looking at that decision moment we learn more about the universal human condition as we decide, more about the particular people and culture who were making that decision, and we gain insights into nuances and details of that particular decision.

Thus Eric Foner argues that Reconstruction, that period between 1865 and 1877 when the United States was trying to bring seceded states back into the union, white southerners into political society, and freed blacks into citizenship, was a contingent moment when the nation might have created a biracial society based on equal rights and citizenship. We failed, but the promises of reconstruction resonated down the years and shaped both the turn of the century movement towards legalized segregation and the long-continued black movement against legal and social repression.

Path Dependency is another simple idea. Once we start doing one activity or set of activities, it can be hard to change to doing another set. We use path dependency any time we pick one design element or one scheduling element and then work around it. So, once I made the contingent decision to keep the roses, I went onto a path that was dependent on landscaping around roses. For a less banal example, consider the British Navy's decision to switch from coal to oil at the start of the twentieth century. From then on they had less need for convenient coaling stations located all around the world, a need that had caused all the European naval powers to colonize or seize bits of land; they had a large need for continued secure access to oil fields and immediately maintained a much larger presence in Persia (now Iran). Once started down the oil path, their foreign policy needs, ship design requirements, staffing requirements and, operational philosophies all had to adjust to the new technology.

Contingent moments and path dependency combine to create Change over Time, the third of the big ideas. People change, institutions change, the physical world changes, the ways we understand the world change. Changes come from human decisions, often multiple human decisions, often in feedback loops where one person's contingent moment creates a path that shapes the choices available to another person. For convenience we sometimes refer to waves of similar decisions as movements, trends, or revolutions. The Industrial Revolution was the result of a few people coming up with technological innovations (remember that organizing a work force is itself a technology, just like a clever machine is a technology), innovations spurring innovations, the new systems and new machines altering other people's conception of time, labor, and self-worth. The whole process can be described on a macro level with big words like industrialization, proletarianization, and embourgeoisment. It can also be described on a micro level through case studies, individual narratives, or the glimpses into workers lives afforded by Parliamentary commissions.

This brings us to the final big idea, an idea that many undergraduates struggle with: agency. Agency is historians' jargon for who makes the decisions that the historian will be studying. We can tell the tale of industrialization from the perspective of Arkwright and the factory owners, emphasizing their contingent decisions and telling the tale of the way that industrialists responded to and shaped their society. We can cover the same years from the perspectives of the workers, emphasizing their decision to move from field to factory labor, their attempt to control their work time and work place, the communities they built in factory villages, and so on. Here the workers have agency; we look at their contingent decisions. Agency is in part a narrative decision, in part an evaluation of what "really mattered" in a particular time and moment. As a demonstrative exercise I sometimes go through a simple event, usually a child being born, and show the students how many possible narratives might include that event as crucial evidence: the mother's biography, the father's biography, the child's biography, the story of medical care, the story of demographic trends, the story of migration and settlement, and so on.

To return to my story about the roses in front of my house, I give myself agency as I tell the story - I am the person discovering the plants, learning how to care for them, and making the decision to buy more. I do not have total control over these decisions, I had to negotiate all of them with J, but as I told the story at the top of this long rambling rant the narrative was about my adapting to my new surroundings. For change over time, well the front of the house has already changed dramatically over the last five years as the old owner died, the house went through estate, the previous owner bought it and landscaped the front, and I then bought it and started making my own changes. The porch remains much the same, but the decorations have changed and the uses we find for the space have changed.

But maybe I want different roses. There are not a lot of 3 to 4 foot tall yellow roses.

And so it goes.

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October 25, 2003

John Lewis writes a



John Lewis writes a strong editorial for the Boston Globe: Boston.com / News / Boston Globe / Editorial / Opinion / Op-ed / At a crossroads on gay unions.

Lewis makes two good points: that there is a distinction between the religious liberty to conduct or refuse to conduct a marriage ritual for two individuals and the human right to get married, a civil right. He places this conflict within the context of the civil rights movement, comparing current laws against gay marriage with earlier laws against interracial marriage. "But our rights as Americans do not depend on the approval of others. Our rights depend on us being Americans."

Strong stuff, and he seems to be joining in a Democratic/Liberal attempt to turn Republican/social conservative gay bashing into a debate about human rights, civil rights, and the meaning of citizenship. See, for example, what Counterspin has been saying.

It is hard to defend abstract rights against cheap shot slurs. Consider the way that people have used flag burning to frame politicians as anti-American when they defended free speech rights. I remember a few years back John Warner of Virginia was cheap shotted as anti-patriotic for refusing to vote for some silly flag-icon law. He responded with a wonderful essay explaining the nature of basic liberties and tying his defense of those liberties to his service as a Marine in Vietnam. He was still chickenhawked, although he did win that election.

John Lewis is very aware that it takes time to convince people that abstract rights are more important than inherited prejudices. I hope that Counterspin et al are able to turn the debate to free speech and the nature of American citizenship. We are overdue for a debate on that. I just dearly hope that the debate comes to the right conclusions.

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Happy Birthday to J


Happy Birthday to J

Happy Birthday to J
Happy Birthdya to J
Happy Birthday on Yesterday
Happy Birthday to J

Yesterday was J's birthday. To celebrate we went out to dinner at a French restaurant near us. It was fun, despite the noise, and we held hands throughout dinner. I want to make a couple of notes about the food, because it gave me ideas for my cooking.

J had roast venison and duck sausages in a port wine sauce. The venison was good, the sauce was good, the sausages were spectacular. I have no idea what was in them or how they got that intense combination of flavors, but they rocked. I had a tuna steak au poivre. I have previously used tuna for recipes that call for rare beefsteak and gotten some good results. I had not thought to try tuna with a poivre sauce, but the two went together well, and even better when you added a bit of the watercress garnish to the bite. I like food where the bits together taste better than bites of all the separate bits. This restaurant had the knack of combining flavors so that the end result was ver' ver' nice.

For dessert I had an apple tart - I make a better pie crust, they had a nice filling and some very nice burnt sugar ice cream. Here having a full bite of ice cream and a full bite of tart let the burnt sugar taste dominate the mouth. But, a bite of apple tart with just a little of the ice cream, or a bite of ice cream followed by a bite of tarte flavored with the recent memory of the ice cream, that was spectacular. J had their chocolate sampler - a little pecan chocolate tarte, a chocolate mousse tort, and some very rich ice cream. Hers was too rich for me, especially the ice cream, but I liked the melted French chocolate in the tarte.

I have been teased in the past for "praying while I eat." If I take a bite of something really good I close my eyes so that I can pay attention to the food - much like many people close their eyes when they kiss. I spent a lot of dinner with my eyes closed.

Of course, between this dinner, wednesday's dinner, and a couple of my lunches this week I am well over my fat budget. I need to eat lean for several days and let my body recover. But it was worth it. J had a good birthday.

And back to typing in comments.

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October 24, 2003

Updated Blogroll I updated


Updated Blogroll

I updated my blogroll. So far I have found a couple of automated programs to take care of blogrolls for me, especially blogmatrix and blogrolling. I do not care for either of them. Blogmatrix is clunky - I use it to read blogs but do not want to imbed it. Blogrolling is pretty spiffy, and if I ever shell out the $20 for the full version I will use it. But, I like to sort my links and their free version jumbles it all together.

I made a new link category, Academical Villagers, for blogs that have a more academic background and focus. Several of the Law, Politics and Punditry blogs are also written by professors - I decided which went where based on whether they tended to write about the concerns of their discipline and teaching, or about contemporary politics and culture. We all write about our jobs, about the larger world, and about our private lives - I am simply sorting by what, based on what I read, they spend more of their time on.

I also messed with style sheets to try to make the blogsnob link look more like the rest of the page. I have not used them before. I might see if I can get the site to show in Garamond, my preferred font, for those folks who have the font installed.

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Was it a fair


Was it a fair paraphrase?

Source for the Jefferson paraphrase: "A free people in arms, fighting in defense of their liberty, are superior to any army in Europe."

Some of the students asked about this yesterday, and last night when I could not sleep (got to bed at 1:30 or so) I went and finally dug it up. It was not in a Jefferson letter, which is why I could not find it earlier. Instead it appears that I had conflated sections of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Jefferson's First and Eighth Annual Messages, and the letters. The relevant bits are:

"That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided , as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power." VA Declaration of Rights, June 12, 1776, Article 13.

"No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms [within his own lands]" - Draft Constitution for Virginia, June 1776.

After explaining why he is cutting the standing army, "For defence against invasion [the regular army] is as nothing; nor is it conceived needful or safe that a standing army should be kept up in time of peace for that purpose. Uncertain as we must ever be of the particular point in our circumference where an enemy may choose to invade us, the only force which can be ready at every point and competent to oppose them, is the body of neighboring citizens as formed into a militia. On these, collected from the parts most convenient, in numbers proportioned to the invading foe, it is best to rely, not only to meet the first attack, but if it threatens to be permanent, to maintain the defence until regulars may be engaged to relieve them." Jefferson, First Annual Message, Dec 8, 1801.

"Considering the extraordinary character of the times in which we live, our attention should unremittingly be fixed on the safety of our country. For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security. It is, therefore, incumbent on us, at every meeting, to revise the condition of the militia, and to ask ourselves if it is prepared to repel a powerful enemy at every point of our territories exposed to invasion. Some of the States have paid a laudable attention to this object; but every degree of neglect is to be found among others." 8th Annual Message, Nov 8, 1808.

"Our present enemy will have the sea to herself, while we shall be equally predominant on land, and shall strip her of all her possessions on this continent. ... The partisans of England here have endeavored much to goad us into the folly of choosing the ocean instead of the land, for the theatre of war. That would be to meet their strength with our weakness, instead of their weakness with our strength. ... Some have apprehended that we shall be overwhelmed by the new improvements of war, which have not yet reached us. But the British possess them very imperfectly, ... We have nothing to fear from their armies." TJ to Thaddeus Kosciusko, June 28, 1812

"We shall indeed survive the conflict. Breeders enough will remain to carry on population. We shall retain or country, and rapid advances in the art of war will soon enable us to beat our enemy, and probably drive him from the continent. We have men enough, and I am in hopes the present session of Congress will provide the means of commanding their services. ... But although we feel, we hsall not flinch. We must consider now, as in the revolutionary war, that although the evils of resistance are great, those of submission would be greater." TJ to William Short, Nov 28, 1814

You decide

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Twenty Movies in ten


Twenty Movies in ten minutes.

Via Begging to Differ I find that many people are following Roger Simon's dare and are making lists of twenty movies. Simon's list excluded the last 20 years, the others are filling in at the end.

A quick list of great movies I have seen.

Birth of a Nation - not a nice movie, but they do not have to be nice to be great.
Triumph of the Will
Mishima
Seven Samurai
Ran - yes, that is two from Kurosawa.

Razor's Edge - oddly enough I liked Bill Murray's version better than the smoother more accurate Tyrone Power version.
Breaking Away
The Apostle
Last Orders
City Lights

Star Wars: A New Hope (original print, no having Greedo shoot first) - camp but influential and fun.
The Best Years of our Lives
From Here to Eternity

and here I run dry. It appears that I am not much of a movie person. I certainly can not come up with twenty movies from the last twenty years that I would praise, even if I go back to the beginning it is hard.

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The Friday Five is



The Friday Five is on hiatus this week.

So, I will ask a Friday Five myself. Someone has to step up, it might as well be me. I spent the morning working on the house.

1, What sort of a structure do you live in? If it is an apartment, describe the apartment building.

2, When was the building constructed?

3, What have you done to make the space suit you?

4, How long have you been living there?

5, How long do you intend to keep living there?

My comments are short, so I suggest answering on your own blog and simply commenting this with a link to your blog.

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October 23, 2003

Cable 1, Ted 0


Cable 1, Ted 0

We have cable for cable TV and cable modems in two of the three bedrooms, but not in the bedroom that we use as the office.

When the cable guy came to the house in August I could have gotten him to run the cable, he would have charged about $35 and although he would have wanted to come in through the outside wall I might have been able to get him to pull it up an interior wall. But I was cheap, and did not realize until too late that he would have pulled interior cabling.

I decided to do it myself.

Earlier today, I finally tried to do it. I had previously figured out which of the wall cavities to use, gotten a fish tape, and otherwise prepared myself.

I decided that I would rather get the fish tape through the broad gap between the ground floor floorboards and the basement wall than through the right spot in the upstairs plaster, drilled a hole in the bedroom wall, and started feeding the fish tape.

Maybe it got down, maybe it did not. I was alone and could not tell. I do know I fed a lot of tape into the wall and could not snag it at the bottom. So, I tried turning the tape over so it would coil towards the outside of the house and perhaps hit the basement gap correctly. Nope, no dice. I went to pull it out again to see how far I had gotten it, and it has snagged.

I have the very bad feeling that the tape is caught on the power line that runs around the baseboards in the office. I stopped messing with it tonight. I will grab my handyman neighbor tomorrow and ask for help, call my brother the theatrical electricion (works in a theater, not overly emotional), flip the appropriate circuit breaker, and pull the baseboard off. Feh. This was supposed to be easy.

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Mr. Madison's War. Teaching


Mr. Madison's War.

Teaching Recap.

I stuck pretty much to the notes, but the weight of the class was once again swung towards the early part of the outline.

I did indeed set up the class as the United States struggling to retain sovereignty in a world at war, emphasized the total war between England and France, and argued that the law of nations says that a nation must do whatever it needs to do in order to survive, and for Britain and France this meant that they had to make their foreign policy decisions about neutral countries on purely pragmatic grounds involving self interest and the war.

From there I gave them a standard diplomatic/political history - we have not had diplomatic history before. We got the Jay Treaty, the election of 1796, the French privateers, XYZ, (forgot if the navy was mobilized before or after XYZ), Quasi-War with France, Hamilton gets caught by Adams, Adams and the theory of balance between rich and poor, Adams makes peace, Hamilton splits Federalists, Election of 1800, Hamilton pick Jefferson over Burr, Peace of Amiens, Louisiana Purchase, War again, Orders in Council of 1805 ending broken voyages, Impressment again, Embargo, end of Embargo.

That took about 50 minutes, leaving me half an hour for the rest. We spent a chunk of that time talking about the homework provocation. The morning class was pretty dead. The afternoon class was livelier, if only because a couple of the kids had gotten curious and tried to find the quote. They could not find it - it was my paraphrase of a Jefferson line.

Both classes brought forward the ideas that a free people are more likely to go to arms, that the American Revolution had only been won by professional soldiers, French and American, that there is a difference between fighting and continuing a resistance.

I then brought it forward, and asked what the founders' opinion of the current gun control debate might be. They had little to say, so I tried to provoke them. I made the point, loosely in the morning and explicitly in the afternoon, that the founders would have been willing to accept a law that urged people to own assault rifles and banned all hand guns. That got the afternoon folks going, and they quickly pointed out that the state militias evolved into the national guard, and that the state militias had all used armories rather than expecting everyone to show up with a Brown Bess. (I have not refreshed myself on the early national militia, as I recall from the militia laws of VA and PA, sometimes the law said show up with your gun, sometimes the law said that the state would provide guns for the militia, and as time passed the second approach was more and more common.) Brown Bess was the assault rifle of the eighteenth century: optimized for rapid fire military use of up to three shots per minute, equipped with a bayonet, and heavy so you could use it as a hand-to-hand weapon. I made a stronger provocation in the afternoon than in the morning, in both I urged them to use their knowledge of the Revolution and the War of 1812 to parse and test any modern argument made about gun laws, gun restrictions and the like. I had intended to bring up Chechnya and perhaps Afghanistan in class, but forgot to.

An aside, I may actually be more pro-gun than many of my kids. And I do not want one in the house. What I do intend, J permitting, is once the kids are old enough to know what they are doing we will take the NRA or equivalent gun safety class and the kids will learn how to shoot rifles at targets. I agree with the folks who argue that the way to keep kids safe around guns is to let them know what they are, how to use them, and how not to use them.

We took the last few minutes to hit the War of 1812 very quickly. I gave them John Stagg's interpretation about Madison and Canada. I covered the war in four minutes: Canada invasion repelled, US navy at sea, New York militia refusing to fight, Naval forces on the lakes preventing invasion, Militia running in front of Washington and the capital burned, Militia under Harrison fighting Indians in the Northwest, Militia under Jackson fighting Indians in the Southwest, Militia under Jackson being more scared of AJ than they were of the British and winning a victory. I told them they would get more Jackson next week, which they will. I like my Jackson lecture.

I think this class went fairly well. I will have to chase down that TJ letter and check the original quote. As I recall, he hinted at the sentiment that I put forward clearly.

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Out, OUT damn thought


Out, OUT damn thought

I need to write this down to get it out of my head. Inspired by last night's performances, if I am ever in a situation to affect a core curriculum decision I will argue for the addition of "personal performance." Just as many cores have a "writing across the curricculuum" requirement where students must take a writing intensive course, preferably within their own discipline, in order to perfect their written communication skills, I would also require that they take a course on non-written communication.

This is something that would work best as a Chinese menu item, like a diversity requirement. You could take acting, any acting class, or musical performance, or public speaking, or we could put together an interdisciplinary class on personal communication where students would learn how to make, and how not to make, a Powerpoint presentation, how to speak to an audience, how to trim and edit a spoken presentation, how to use body language to convey interest and emotion, and so on. I would have students read poems, read speeches, create presentations, perform skits and otherwise get good at presenting ideas without mumbling or rambling.

Phew, it is gone. Now I can get back to work. I will come back to this idea.

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Follow up on public

Follow up on public speaking

I checked with the morning section to see how many of them had ever done public speaking or personal performance. About a third of them had. Several had taken public speaking in high school, one was taking it this semester, many had been in plays or in small group musical performances.

When writing the syllabus I had thought about assigning Daniel Webster's Second Reply to Hayne and spending a class to have the students read it out loud. I decided it was a bad use of time, and that Webster was a little long-winded. Instead I gave them something else for the 1830s and some Abraham Lincoln speeches to read.

What I will do, when we get to Lincoln, is require them to read at least one of the speeches out loud, preferably Gettysburg or the Second Inaugural. They can talk to their room-mates, their cat, their dog, or the picture on the wall, but they will have to read it out loud and in a projecting voice. I find that when I read the Gettysburg Address out loud it hits me hard; I often choke up. When I read it silently, not even moving my lips, it is just words.

Trust me. Hit the link and read it out loud. The folks in the next cubicle won't mind much.

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Free Ships make Free



Free Ships make Free Goods

Free Ships make Free Goods? Or Jefferson, Worms, and Embargo?

Today I am wrapping up the early republic, and I am a little behind. I know that I have to get through the War of 1812 by the end of the class, and I know I want to talk about the trade troubles, and I know I need to cover the late 1790s because that is where interposition/nullification first gets articulated. But, I am still not entirely sure how I will get there.

Following Elkins & McKitrick I will organize class around the way that the US was not taken seriously by European powers and had to constantly struggle to keep from having its sovereignty ignored by the participants in the world war of 1791-1814.

And I will do this while tired. Last night we went to a my brother-in-law's gig. He had gotten a travelling fellowship for last summer, and last night he went out to dinner with the sponsors, thirty of their closes friends, selected deans and professors, his girlfriend, and us. After a nice (but overly rich) dinner the other fellowship person talked for 50 minutes (using the word "articulated" incorrectly over 23 times - I counted) BiL talked for about 12 minutes about industrial spaces along the seafront of the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. It was good stuff - but we did not get home till after 10:00, to sleep until near 11:00, and the alarm went off at 6:00 as usual.

BiL is a good photographer. I liked a lot of his images, especially images showing the way that space was shared - shipyards, fishing boats, and people playing in the surf all within a quarter mile of seafront. European space is heavily layered, the other guy talked about walls as palimpests where one use is scraped off and another use made, but with traces of the former use still left behind. Just as you will find archways, filled in with brick, with a door and a window, BiL found harbours that had layers of use placed on top of one another. I find change over time fascinating. Then again, I am a historian and that is what I do.

The whole experience last night reminded me of the streetcar suburb that we live in - built in the 1920s with lots of bungalows all alike, and ever since then the houses have been modified and altered, the roads have been modified and altered, the people have passed through generations, and yet still the traces of all the earlier uses remain around us, shaping our space and informing our decisions.

I do think that when I talk about Sovereignty later today I will keep in mind the layers of decision, precedent and otherwise, and that I will emphasize some level of path dependency on the students. People made one set of decisions, and that led to others, and yet to others.

And, I get to talk about John Adams. Adams was fat, fussy, and vain - he was also remarkably balanced.

And so to finish prepping class

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October 22, 2003

Homework: Respond to the


Homework:

Respond to the following statement: "A free people in arms, fighting in defense of their liberty, are superior to any army in Europe."

This is a paraphrase of a statement Thomas Jefferson made around 1810. The students are reading about the War of 1812 this week, while as I wrote the syllabus I was thinking about Charleton Heston and the gun lobby.

Answer posted Wednesday Oct 29.

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Homework answer How did


Homework answer

How did the presence of slavery in the colonies affect the American Revolution.

I was looking for a coherent essay that hit some or all of the following points.

1, Presence of real slavery in the colonies, especially in Virginia, sharpened American colonists' thought about what it meant to be subservient to another. I had spent a lot of time in class arguing that because of slavery many Virginians had an essentially binary notion of freedom: you were free (and white and male) or you were a slave (and black). For the crown to make decisions for free white Virginia males without consulting them, was to reduce them to the status of slaves. They read George Washington to Brian Fairfax, 1774, where GW uses this rhetoric and we had done a close reading of the letter in class.

2, Lord Dunmore offered freedom to any slaves who would leave their masters and join the British in 1775. His action was disowned by his superiors, but it was too late: Dunmore had radicalized a lot of Virginia planters who would otherwise have been very sympathetic to the crown position.

3, Former slaves served in both armies. Particularly during the Southern campaign, British officers continued Dunmore's policy of offering freedom to slaves who served Patriot masters. They did return slaves to loyalist masters. A lot of black people fled to British lines, many black men took up arms, these former slaves all left the country after the war - part of the roughly 5% of the North American population who emigrated after the Revolution. Slaves and free blacks, especially from the North, also took up arms with the Continental Army and Washington made offers to slaves as well.

Several students made another point which I had not been looking for but which I gave them credit for.
4, The colonies had a strong economy before the Revolution. This economy was built on exporting tropical staples from Virginia and on trade between New England and the Caribbean. The colonial economy was based on slavery, without slavery they would not have been in an economic position to contemplate independence.

I ended up getting a lot of bad essays on this question - it was the preferred choice for people who had not been keeping up and wanted to BS their way through the exam. I also got a lot of discussion about slavery and the Constitution, something that was outside of the topic.

Scroll up for this week's homework.

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Jefferson Recap The lecture


Jefferson Recap

The lecture on Thomas Jefferson went well, but I had seriously overprepared and did not get past the early 1790s in either class.

I spent a few minutes at the start handing back midterms (median C+/B-, 3 A, 3 F, generally good) and giving them the "this contains offensive words, the author presents her characters offensively, we know it is offensive, tell me why Stowe is doing this with her characters" speech about Uncle Tom's Cabin.

I organized Jefferson around "why does he matter" so that I could conclude that Jefferson's use of "The Earth Belongs to the Living" encouraged the nation to turn from worship of a dead set of documents to a live and constantly changing understanding of the founding ideology.

The tall woman in the afternoon class pointed out the ironies in this after class - living constitution is normally associated with John Marshall, Jefferson was a strict constructionist when in the opposition. I reminded her that Jefferson grounded his constitutional thought in natural law - need to remember to put that in on Thursday - and that his strict construction was somewhat tactical.

I did the usual narrative of his life, focused on his ideas, and so on. I added something to the outline (it is now in the outline for next semester) where I talked about Jefferson's inability to speak in public. In his one speech in the House of Burgesses, he panic'd. His throat choked up, he squeaked, and people laughed at him. I put this into a gender context, arguing that public speaking, proving yourself and bending others to your will, was an essential part of turn of the century masculinity and a central part of education in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. TJ could not do it. So, he displaced his masculinity from his voice and gesture into his pen. He wrote incessently, he proved himself and bent others to his will in letters and in personal conversation, and his wrist was his public organ. This let me set up Head and the Heart by focusing on the opening paragraph where he talks about his sprained wrist keeping him up all night - while with Maria he had hurt the body part that expressed his public masculinity, this hurt reminded him of his likely deathbed promise to his wife, and TJ broke off the flirtation in Head and Heart.

I moved Sally Hemings up. I might well have spent too much time on TJ's family and romantic life. I know we spent a lot of time looking at Head and the Heart - not sure if it was worth their time to plow through that. I know I got bored when I re-read it. I did not go into much depth on Sally Hemings and his second family, did not give the pop psyche of "his wife's spit and image, but black and not married so does not count (and the kids can not contest inheritance)." I am not sure if I should squeeze that into Thursday. Probably not; we need to move on.

I tried to do the French Revolution quickly. I need to check to see where I gave the French Revolution in other semesters; it crowded TJ to have to explain the rev althought the time pressure kept me from getting bogged down in the details. I did the quick Financial Crisis --> Political Crisis --> National Assembly --> King Loses Control --> Series of Governments --> Terror and Robespierre (very brief) --> Directory. It was all pretty sketchy, just enough to make the point that TJ was in France at the start of the Rev, and from then on whenever he heard about it he imagined the early days of reasoned debate and not the later period of civil war, scorched earth atrocities, and guillotines in the streets. Put French Rev dates on the board again for Thursday to help give context to the Adams-Madison lecture.

Morning section made it to 1795, afternoon section stopped in 1793. For both I was able to give Joanne Freeman's take on how to practice politics, but in both it was a little short and obscure. Give that again on Thursday.

We stopped in 1795 and then jumped to five minutes on why TJ matters. I had set up Jefferson and slavery in the second ten minutes. The kids read Jefferson's "Fire Bell in the Night" from 1820 but we did not get to talk about it. Use that when we get to 1820 next week. I need to remember that I do not need to talk about everything we read.

What I did not do was give the blow-by-blow of 1794. That is twice now in this era that I have skipped the hardcore review, the first being the Imperial Crisis. I need to think on this: are they better off having me explain Citizen Genet, Democrat-Republican Clubs, and the Jay Treaty or are they better off having me explain writing letters, gossip, and the personalities of the guys? The first is better for the weak students, the second for the strong students. Based on the midterm results, I need to reach out more to the weak students. But, based on class attendance and the midterm results, most of the weak students have been voting with their feet, not attending class, and digging themselves in even deeper holes. Most of the regular faces scored a B or better; most of the strange faces scored a C or lower.

How can I make class more compelling for the weaker students, and how can I grab their attention at the start of the semester so they get into the habit of coming to class?

This was notes for me, sorry readers. It helped me plan my class for tomorrow.

Edit - added paragraph on wrist

And back to work.

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Carnival of the Vanities



Carnival of the Vanities

Carnival of the Vanities is up at Eric Berlin. I just submitted something for next week, my first Carnival submission.

I sent them last week's piece on Truth, Lies, and Compulsive Honesty rather than this week's long rant on Out of Character. Both are good, but longwinded.

I probably should have sent in the bit about not having to beat my wife, it amused me and funny is important. But, it is older and that piece has already served its primary purpose - it made J laugh when she read it.

A writing day today.

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October 21, 2003

Thomas Jefferson Day Today

Thomas Jefferson Day

Today I give the big Jefferson lecture. I like this one, I spent a lot of time doing Jeffersonia while down in Virginia, I co-taught a Jefferson letters class, and I use TJ a lot in my dissertation.

I am review it in another window as I blog this, so that I can customize the lecture for this semester, and I had a random thought.

Jefferson never had a thought in his life that he did not quickly scribble down on a piece of paper. Many of those pieces of papers were then mailed to his friends - about 18,000 Jefferson letters survive and we estimate that he burned another 10,000 while preparing his papers for his death.

I tend to blog my thoughts, almost as I get them. I wonder what sort of a blog Jefferson would have kept?

And back to trying to fit a lifetime into 80 minutes.

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A New Hero I


A New Hero

I am incredibly impressed with one of my students. She is a single mom with three children, 1, 2, and 4 years old. She works. She is taking 5 classes, and she is holding an A- average in all of them.

She makes me feel like a slacker.

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October 20, 2003

Monday Homework. A while


Monday Homework.

A while back I said I would start handing out homework on Monday and answering it on Friday. I like the idea, but the timing does not work. I collect homework through Tuesday of the following week, and I do not want to post an analysis of what I am looking for until after that date. Some students are very good with google.

So, I will start posting homework questions on Thursday and will answer them on Wednesday of the following week. This week's question will be a Jefferson paraphrase that will get the attention of the pro-gun folks. How shall I keep you busy until then? I shall give you one of my midterm essay questions:

How did the presence of slavery in the colonies affect the American Revolution?

And back to grading.

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I am not a


I am not a historian of the Vietnam War.

I study the nineteenth century, and I study ideas and culture rather than war and diplomacy. Still, I teach the surveys and so I have a passing familiarity with Vietnam. Why do I feel impelled to mention this?

There has been a recurring theme in the punditsphere comparing the Vietnam War with the Iraq War. So far I have seen the comparison in Op-Ed pages, on blogs, and in editorials. Some comparisons are better than others.

The next time I have brain energy and am not getting work done I will answer these questions, for now I leave them to the readers and to the punditsphere at large. I shall phrase it in the form of a student exercise.

In what ways is the Iraq war like the Vietnam War?

In what ways does the Iraq war differ from the Vietnam War?

What lessons from the Vietnam war are most appropriate for the Iraqi reconstruction?

My answers in a day or so after I write them up. (And after I dig up some of those things that I remember reading.)

Grading done, and so to fetch the little man from daycare, and then to buy more coffee.

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Baby names to avoid.


Baby names to avoid.

J and I have been talking about names for the Macadamia (forthcoming). We have a short list, and we are fairly happy with the names on the short list. Going through this exercise has made us very aware of the difference between good, bad, and strange baby names. Eugene Volokh points out some most extremely bad names, including Latrina and Titiporn. Those are bad enough that I no longer feel quite so guilty about trying to get Norbert onto the short list.

I like the name Norbert, despite having a not very impressive neighbor named Norby when I was younger and despite knowing a gnome warrior in Everquest named Norbert, because Norbert is unusual, because it is a family name (as Norbertus, to go with Martinus and Marinus), because I like Norbert Elias's sociology, and because I like a name that means nor, North, and bert, bright or shining: Bright, Shining North or bright light of the North. Norbert is like Aurora Borealis, only clunkier and not in Latin.

It could be worse. My cousin has told his mom that the leading girls name on his short list is Norberta. He is a notorious kidder, so he might well be kidding. We will know in a few months. Norberta makes just about anything look modern and stylis.

Down to 10 papers, but I grade the essays in order of the identifications, so these ten were written by folks who had train wrecks on the first part of the exam. No wonder I am trying not to grade them.

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October 19, 2003

Second followup Why did


Second followup

Why did I care enough about this to spend about 90 minutes of my valuable time writing it up? I am a cultural historian. My next project will be a study of masculinity, personal appearance, and physical charisma in the long nineteenth century. I have long been interested in the middle classes and in the way that people construct their social realms. When I saw the critical comments about Cat they pushed my "this is significant" button and I tried to tie them into these concerns. I should really have been polishing my skills at discussing legitimacy, the sub-topic of my current project, but I am grading and off my usual rhythms.

I write my blog in large part because it lets me try out ideas and write think pieces. This explains why the blog gets repetitive sometimes - I am working on variations of the same thought. Right now my thought is that writing this was more fun than reading blue books, even though I do not like my conclusion. Like most of my big blog entries, it needs a rewrite.

And so to bed.

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Followup to the long


Followup to the long thing just posted.

The Public-Private dichotomy helps explain why same sex marriage is so disconcerting to many people. Marriage is a public celebration and recognition of private acts. It creates a legal protection around intimate human behavior. And, while the precedent of this legal protection stems from concerns about property and inheritance, not about individual privacy and happiness, the institution has changed.

It is possible to feel that same-sex sexual contact is acceptable in private, like pooping, without wanting to see it in public. If someone has internalized the notion that same-sex romance is filthy or disgusting, then they will respond to two people holding hands on a city bus in much the same way that the rest of us would respond to someone defecating on that bus. It helps me understand the distaste with which some people view actions that have never bothered me. It also explains the surprising popularity of the military's "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" policy. That policy pretends that sexuality is a completely private matter, that people who work together never develop friendships and never discuss intimate matters - remember that "who are you going out with on Saturday?" is an intimate question.

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Out of Character? Folks



Out of Character?

Folks are often surprised when Eugene Volokh and other pundit types post recipes. Sometimes Volokh gets grief for cutting corners in those recipes, sometimes folks like them. No links, but you can find all sorts of commentary on his salmon croquettes if you google for them. Often, however, folks are surprised to see law professors and semi-professional pundits opine about things other than law and politics.

I bring this up because Cat Nastey has been having trouble with her commentators every time she changes her focus from her sexuality to the rest of her life. This got me thinking. Many people write blogs that are little more than diaries - I know that if I am at the computer I tend to blog whatever comes to mind at the moment. Many of the more readable blogs are focused in one way or another, whether on politics, or on religion, or on sexuality, or on some other hobby. Many of those blogs will often, as with Volokh and recipes, tell their readers about other interesting things in the authors' lives.

What strikes me is that many biographical blogs or commentary blogs will have an apology before giving Too Much Information - I know one person who puts spoiler space around TMI as if she were telling the plot of a movie. Many others edit themselves before giving TMI, I know that I certainly do. The odd thing is that there is a class of voyeurism blogs, like Cat Nastey's, where the entire point of the blog is that the author DOES give Too Much Information. And, oddly, those are also the blogs where commentators get all bent out of shape if the author has a life, a brain, and a personality. (Ob disclaimer, I sometimes visit voyeurism blogs for the cheap thrills, I read them more than twice for the personality)

Why is it that we are more disconcerted to discover that an exhibitionist woman likes Shakespeare than we are to find that a law professor approves of fellatio?


My first thought is that it revolves around the old Virgin/Whore dichotomy, with men feeling somehow ashamed of their own sexuality at the same time that they feel pressured to gratify their sexuality. They resolve this shame by displacing it onto the people with whom they gratify their physical desires, particularly if they have been engaged in what Gandhi called the sin of "sex without love." This is a common mental pattern among modern Western men, less common than it once was, and a pattern that the feminist in me critiques whole heartedly.

My second thought is that this is more closely tied to the history of manners and of polite behavior. Norbert Elias argues in his The Civilizing Process that manners were invented during the Early Modern era as a means by which people could create social distinctions. In the process they created social conventions that first treated defecation, urination, and filth as "disgusting" and then moved on to create refinements in the tools and methods used for eating. The whole was hinged to the use of custom and behavior to alter the animal actions of our bodies. Those who failed to follow the new social codes were stigmatized or, in extreme cases, treated as deviants.

Now, I am much happier to live in a land of flush toilets and regular baths than in the pre-modern world. The thing to note from this is that, according to Elias, the first animal actions to be marked as deviant are those that deal with elimination. Sexual actions soon followed, and although the limited privacy available before the nineteenth century certainly made sexual modesty and sexual prudery less common, sexuality was still something best reserved for private or for bed. (Pre-nineteenth century beds were often common sleeping places used by several people, not always related to one another. Consider Ishmael and Queequeg.)

Thus, to take an example of an 18th century man trying to learn his manners, the second precept George Washington wrote into his commonplace book in 1747 was "When in company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered" (made known to others) and the seventh was a warning not to go about half-dressed or change clothing when out of your chamber - both involved physical modesty. The last twenty of the one hundred ten precepts all deal with food and table manners. He does not mention sexuality, but it is hard to be sexual without going at least half dressed or putting hands to "Part of the Body, not usually Discovered."

Most of the time when people are disconcerted by Too Much Information, the information involves the groin - either sexuality or excretion. By the same token, someone whose discourse regularly involves those "Parts of the Body, not usually Discovered" has marked themselves as a person without manners or social status. They are, in the Western European caste system, unclean. For an unclean person to claim a place in polite society, especially by participating in intellectual discourse, is something that hits us on the level of basic socialization. It produces a visceral sensation of wrongness even if we can not explain why.

This second explanation for folks' disparate reactions to people who break their pattern is less helpful than the first. We can try to train ourselves not to despise our sexuality and thus not to have to displace it; we can try to train ourselves not to engage in sex without love and thus not to have to despise our sexuality. Do we really want to train ourselves to drop our basic socialization?

Thus I do think that Carly is right, and pornography will never become mainstream even though the mainstream media continue to titillate themselves and their audience with mention of or discussions about pornography. So long as we have a strong acculturation that the groin is somehow unclean and disgusting, those who make their money from exposing their groins will remain outcast.

And yet, this too is incomplete. Let us add location to our discussion. Remember that Washington made two comments about body modesty when he summarized half a dozen books of manners back in 1747. Both involved the notion of "public." Do not touch below your clothes in public, do not go unclothed outside of your chamber. He says nothing about what we do in private. Indeed, because we can not escape the animal nature of our bodies, we resolve our learned disgust by seeking privacy to fulfill the animal need of elimination: the "littlest room." We could very well have decided that we would need privacy to fulfill the animal need of consumption, private dining rooms hint that way, but we did not. What is done in private may be disgusting to others, but because it is kept behind closed doors we effectively tell others that they need not concern themselves with it. In private, we do as we please.

The question of Too Much Information, then, turns from one of manners and the groin to a question of public and private. And, the line between public and private has moved and continues to move. We can continue to agree that some behavior is public and should be carried out regardless of whether others are around, and that some behavior is private and should only be engaged in when by ourselves. We disagree about where the line should be drawn (kissing in public? holding hands?) but we agree that there are some lines (pooping with the doors open).

Thinking in these terms helps us resolve the question of what is going on with the disparate reactions to people who go out of character in their blogs. The question about blogs boils down to whether a blog is a public or a private document. That, in turn, will vary by blog. Greg Easterbrook's blog-column for The New Republic is obviously public, so is Glenn Reynolds at MSNBC. Blogs written for a friend or a family or as the electronic version of a diary are more private. Many of these, the truly private blogs, are either kept locked and password protected or are rendered effectively anonymous through obscurity. If you do not tell anyone about your blog, they can not read it. Thus, most of the blogs that we actually read are semi-public. They are edited glimpses into the author's thoughts; nothing could be more intimate. But these thoughts have been shared, and edited, and selected.

A blog exists in an intermediate sphere, part public and part private. There are many transitory zones like this. Consider that while most work places are public by definition, most people work with a small group of people who get to know over a period of time. You can get to know your co-workers and become intimate with their thoughts and personalities, although you need not do so. Intimacy varies from person to person. We can think of the gradations of public and private in terms of intimacy.

"Too Much Information", then, will depend on the level of intimacy that exists between two individuals. This is something that is difficult to measure, and so to prevent embarrassment most of us limit the personal information that we share with people.

We can now answer the question we first posed, why do some forms of sharing violate some readers' expectations? When Volokh shares a cake, or a salmon croquette he is sharing something that he cares about, that he likes, but that is not particularly intimate. We do, after all, eat food in the company of strangers. It fits with the level of intimacy he has created in his blog. When Kat shares her love of Shakespeare, it fits perfectly with a blog that is a fairly intimate disclosure of the things that she cares about.

I suspect that the people who are offended or bothered by it are bothered because it violates their expectations of intimacy. They had come looking for a fairly mechanical discussion of ballistics (the science of moving bodies.) When she shares her ideas, she has opened up a level of intimacy that does not exist. My blog is in some ways the converse of the sex blogs: I share my mind and my ideas and am reticent about my animal nature. If I were to recount a sexual encounter, or tell you about my latest poop, it would jar and disconcert my readers just as her revelation of emotion and intellect disconcert hers.

And so to post some followups - let me know if you waded this far.

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October 18, 2003

Things I learned while


Things I learned while grading

Firstly, I did not spend enough time on New England, particularly declension and the role of the British government in softening the original Puritan system. Next time, make some more time for that, and even if I do not talk about the Salem Witch Trials, do talk about the dominion of New England and do put a brief sketch on the board with the dates and highlights of the various charters.

Secondly, We pretty much ignored the Carolinas. As far as the kids are concerned, there were three regions in the colonies, not four. They know of New England, the Middle Colonies, and the Chesapeake and that is all. Oh, they have some awareness of the Caribbean and we did talk about South Carolina but we only talked about it once in the slavery class and in passing during the mercantilism sub-lecture. I do not know how much time I want to spend on the Carolinas but I do need to say more.

So far I have read the essays from the kids who did well on their identifications, gotten a feel for what was possible, and then graded a couple of essays. I am going with minimal markup so I can try to crank these things out by Tuesday. I also started reading Uncle Tom's Cabin so that I can give them their paper topic. I have no idea on the topic and need to focus on grading and Jefferson prep not on Ms Beecher Stowe. I also have to give the little warning talk on Tuesday to let them know that I am very aware that there are obnoxious language and offensive attitudes in the book, both from the author and from the characters.

J and baby are off to the farm market. I get to grade.

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Allen Brill has a



Allen Brill has a very smart piece on the recent comments by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir and American general Jerry Boykin. He points out the terrible irony in people who worship the same Abrahamic God claiming that other worshippers from the same religious family are evil. He then takes the comparison in an interesting direction, focusing on a speaker's duty to tell an audience what it needs to hear rather than what will make it comfortable.

It is a good sermon point, I have heard similar sermons before, and it is a point well worth repeating. Perhaps the most destructive intellectual impulse is sanctimony (is that a word?), assuring yourself that you are fine while those other people are flawed, so flawed that you need not pay any attention to their words, their wants or their needs.

Discourse within a closed circle often turns this way, and it turns badly when it does. Brill looks at speech within religious communities, but you can say the same thing about speech within political communities and within intellectual communities. If you are reading this, you probably read other web logs. Look at your blogroll and your bookmarks - is there a pattern to them? Do you link to people who you do not agree with but who do make you think? If not, why not?

And I hear the wife calling.

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October 17, 2003

LeeAnn wonders about shaving



LeeAnn wonders about shaving with a brush and soap.

I wear a full beard, which means that I only have to shave my neck and not the tricky bits around the chin and mouth. Even so, I cut myself regularly - my skin is just rough enough to catch the razor blade.

I prefer the brush and soap to the stuff in the can - it smells better, it applies more smoothly, and there is a certain ritual to working up and applying the lather. It does not take a lot of time or give me problems because I am stumbling tired in the morning - if only because I often wake up, eat, write, and only shower in the mid morning after I have gotten some work done. But even on mornings where I pour myself into the shower while half asleep, the hot water wakes me to the point where, if I am safe using a razor I am safe using the brush and the soap.

I recommend the shaving brush over the can; folks who are looking for a gift for their honey should consider giving one. There is something to be said for morning rituals.

And back to work.

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Homework answer. I asked


Homework answer.

I asked Was the U.S. Constitution a continuation or a repudiation of Revolutionary Ideals?

This is an old chestnut in American history and, like many of the homework questions I give, there is no obvious answer. What I look for is that the students take a position and support it with historical evidence. So, rather than answering the question itself, I will lay out some of the main positions and the evidence for each. This is going to be quick and superficial; the alternative would be for me to write a short book.

It is pretty clear that the Constitution was something of a reaction to the revolution, and especially to the way that the contagion of liberty was leading more and more people to desire revolutionary rights. The question is whether the changes in the constitution limited the excesses of the Revolution in order to preserve the core values of the revolution, or whether the constitution so limited revolutionary ideals as to change the very nature of the social experiment. The answer will depend on what you define as the core values of the American Revolution.

If revolutionary ideals were those laid out in the Declaration or the VA Declaration: inalienable rights; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; government by consent of the governed - then the Constitution was a way of ensuring that these ideals would be carried out.

If revolutionary ideals were those laid out by Tom Paine in Common Sense and by the rabble rousers: government immediately responsible to the governed; an end to hierarchies and elites; society as a commonwealth based on virtue and simplicity - then the Constitution was a repudiation.

We did not read Paine this semester, and so most of the kids decided that the Constitution was a continuation of the revolution because it created a stable structure so that a republic would survive. So long as we have republican self government, we do not need to worry about the detailed workings or ideals of that republic.

I will post next week's homework question on Monday.

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I like movies. I


I like movies.

I like movies. J generally does not like movies. Ever since we got her early birthday present (a DVD player) I have been checking out movies from the library and watching them while rocking the baby to sleep.

Tonight we wanted to do something together. I had gotten Gladiator from the library, a movie that she wanted to see. So we had family movie night. The movie was on, the baby was crawling around and every so often standing in front of the TV being opaque, J folded laundry, I read the Chronicle of Higher Education and we were social together.

We do not do that enough.

After about half an hour of the movie, the laundry was folded, the baby was restless, and we turned off the tv and continued our nightly rituals. Baby got to bed late, I am blogging briefly and then to bed myself. I just like to use Sam Pepys line.

And so to bed.

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The Friday Five for


The Friday Five for Oct 17, 2003

Answer the following five questions in your weblog or journal. Make sure you leave a comment here with a link to your post (or just leave your answers in the comments section).

1. Name five things in your refrigerator.
- Skim milk
- hummus
- home-made jam
- leftovers
- sourdough starter

2. Name five things in your freezer.
- frozen yoghurt for me
- ice cream for J
- frozen peaches for the baby
- bakers yeast
- ice cubes

3. Name five things under your kitchen sink.
- big box of trash bags
- fire extinquisher
- dog fud
- cat fud
- I think that is all we have under there.

4. Name five things around your computer.
- piles of papers
- desk lamp
- scissors
- paper weight
- small statue of a dog that I got in junior high

5. Name five things in your medicine cabinet.
- niaspan (cholesterol drugs)
- aspirin
- cold medicine
- baby tylenol
- shaving brush and shaving soap

I do not much like this week's Five. It is a list, it gave me no pleasure, no memory, no self-knowledge to make this list. I might get or give some voyeuristic pleasure through this sort of virtual peeking in cupboards, but I doubt it.

Still, I posted it.

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Flirting and relationships The



Flirting and relationships

The Washington Post has a nice article on the role of flirtation in modern youth culture.

This ties into my earlier thoughts about romance as the new edge play. There is a very real thrill to a conversation, a lingering brush of the hand, or to eye contact across a room.

Looking back over what I wrote, and over Carly's reading, I realize that two words that I thought were partially overlapping synonyms turn out to be technical terms. "Erotica" appears to be the publishing industry term for written words intended to produce some level of sexual arousal, while "Porn" is images and moving media. I was using the terms as they are found in Academe, where "porn" is material that is solely intended to produce sexual arousal while "erotica" produces sexual arousal in addition to having some artistic, cultural, or political value. So, D.H. Lawrence would be filed under erotica, a Beeline double novel under written pornography.

Under the same criteria, the mainstream movie 9 1/2 weeks would be erotica, pretty explicit but still erotic, while the porn knockoff 10 1/2 weeks would not be. That, of course, leaves the question of how do you file a movie that has both artistic value and graphic sex - imagine that say Henry and June was a little more hardcore. But, that is the problem with ideal types - there is always a grey area in real life.

How does this connect to the death of flirtation and to romance as edge play? Simply in the realization that sometimes, often, emotions are more powerful than physical pleasures. Or, from another perspective, desire is highly compelling. Desire is created from feelings, emotions, and anticipation - the imagination of future physical pleasure. It is a mental state. And, while lots of people will say that the most important aspect of sexuality is internal and mental, it is rare to see that art of sexuality, especially the commercial art of sexuality, take these mental aspects into account.

So, what is our application for todays little rant? Do something nice for your sweet baboo, just because. And, while you are at it, take some time to flirt with them. I think that, tonight at dinner, I shall distract the baby, take J's hand in mine, kiss her hand, and tell her I love her. That would please me, it might please her.

And back to work.

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Morning teaching thoughts I


Morning teaching thoughts

I was looking over the midterms, and I was looking over that LONG thing I wrote yesterday, and I had a couple of thoughts.

The first is that I really do need to make sure that I have time in the classroom to go over the Imperial Crisis in good detail, blow by blow. I already knew that I had to walk community college students through it, and at Urban University I can safely say that while the good students can figure it out from the text I need to walk the weaker students through. So, I need to find about half a class of stuff that I can jetison to make room for the full crisis.

The second thing that I was mulling over was that I was wondering why my writeup for How Do You Work This was so very long. It was four pages, single spaced, in the word processor. The answer is, of course, that I went into more detail about what I covered. But why the more detail? For colonial history my teaching notes boil down to mentioning that I gave them one historian's opinion on one thing and another historian's opinion on another thing, we reviewed some facts, and there you go. For the Early Republic, I have been so immersed in it for so long that I can't simply pick one interpretation and summarize it for the kids - I have my own interpretations. So, I need to explain what we did rather than just blogging a pointer to it. I expect that the blog for Jefferson day will be long as well, although there I do intend to summarize a couple of the standard Jefferson interpretations and to use Joanne Freeman's understanding of the practice of politics in the EAR.

In other news, I feel much better today. I slept 8 hours - got to bed early and even spooning with J could not keep me awake. Then she took all the late night baby duty and let me sleep in until 6:30. Thanks J, I needed that.

And so to work. It is a grading day so expect occasional random updates.

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October 16, 2003

How Do You Work



How Do You Work This?

Today I got more experience at teaching class while running on not enough sleep. All things considered, it went pretty well. I did better in the morning than in the afternoon class, mostly because I was exhausted by second class and lost my trains of thought several times. It is midterm week and we had a midterm on Tuesday. Not surprisingly, the turnout was low today.

The outline was:
Ratification
First Congress
Hamilton and Funding
Madison, Jefferson and the opposition
Women and society

I think I need to find some more recent cultural references. I got the name for this section from the Talking Heads song "Once in a Lifetime." I checked, and only one of the sixty-odd kids in class today had seen the movie Stop Making Sense. Another half dozen or so knew the song and a few more got it when I started reciting lyrics. "You may find yourself at the wheel of a large automobile, ... you may find yourself living in a beautiful house ... and you may ask yourself, self, how did I get here? ... and you may ask yourself, how do I work this?" In the movie of their live concert, David Byrne looks at his hand and wiggles it as he says the words.

My mind makes strange connections, and ever since I started working in the Early American Republic I have connected that early 1980s pop song with the period in which the founders were trying to figure out how to make a republican government work properly. I organize the first class in the three-class sequence that runs from the First Congress through the War of 1812 around the notion that the guys were figuring it out as they went along, were very conscious that they were setting precedents, and were very nervous that their fellows were going to make a mistake or become corrupt and so doom the whole endeavor by setting the wrong precedent.

So, what did we do in class?

After introductory remarks focused on the Talking Heads song I went back to ratification. I spent about half an hour working them through ratification and the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debate. I framed the difference between the two in terms of democracy v republicanism, with the anti's believing in direct representation where each delegate represented a small homogenous district, every delegate was bound to comply with the policy wishes of his constituents, and constituents could, at any time, hold a public meeting and send binding instructions to their representative. He could then either vote as his constituents desired, or resign. There was no other honorable course for a direct representative. The Federalists, by contrast, believed in indirect representation. They were closer to the old New England assumption that it was the voters' duty to choose a proper magistrate and then accept whatever decisions the magistrate decided were in the best interests of the whole community. I proved this by pointing out the indirect nature of representation under the Constitution, whether the large districts for the House, the indirect nature of the electoral college, the effectively indirect method of having the state legislatures pick Senators, or the mediated election of the ratification conventions.

At around this time I did a brief discussion of the Federalists. I laid out their role as talking points for Federalist delegates, first written for the NY convention but then used elsewhere. I checked, about a third of the morning section had read Fed 10, a quarter had read Fed 51. In the afternoon only one or two had read them before. Note: three Federalists is about right - they were glad we read them but were glad not to have read more. Also, I am not fond of 72 - find a different Hamilton document. Both sections had someone who could re-cap Federalist 10, afternoon section had someone confuse it with 51 but we got there eventually. I worked them through the Montaigne argument pretty quickly and tied Madison v Montaigne to the ideal type of the democratic representative and the republican magistrate. I then reminded them that the US Const was not Sam Adams's Christian Sparta - there was no reliance on morality to create a perfect citizenry who could run a republic. Instead they assumed that people were imperfect and selfish and tried to build a structure that would contain and control human weakness. It was secular social engineering. I think I said more on it, but I was mazy at that point in the afternoon and I am adding this paragraph later at night, and I do not remember.

From there I made sure, in both sections, that I made the popular sovereignty point about the ratification conventions - the constitution was ratified by the people in convention assembled, not by state legislatures. The guys in Philadelphia (I blamed it on Madison, not sure if it was he or not) wanted to be clear that the basis for the new union was the people themselves, not the sovereign state legislatures. And, while this was largely forgotten in the Early Republic itself, it would be re-stated by Jackson during nullification and Jackson's notion of the union would then later be fully enunciated by Lincoln in the Gettysburg address and elsewhere. I even drew the little diagram on the board, with "the people" at the top and two arrows pointing down at an angle, one to each side. At the end of one bottom arrow I wrote "states" and at the other I wrote "national" to give them a visual reminder that the Constitution put the people in the sovereign location that had earlier been held by Parliament.

At this point we finally talked about whether the Constitution was a continuation or a repudiation of Revolutionary ideals. It was a short discussion, but I got some talk from them. I will talk more about that in tomorrow's blog.

Finally, I pointed out that the conventions ratified with amendments. I explained that the guys in Philadelphia had expressly chosen not to include a bill of rights because, as Gouvernor Morris and others argued, to enumerate rights is to limit them to the rights that happen to be on the list. Because no one can write down every right, it is better to have a system that is inherently structured around the notion of inalienable human rights. The guys in Philadelphia bought that argument; the anti-Federalists did not. They had had enough experience with rights developed from precedent and reason under the unwritten British Constitution and they did not trust a new written constitution with an internal structure based on unwritten rights. They wanted it in ink, and they insisted. While some of the proposed amendments were intended as Constitution-killers, in the end most states ratified conditionally and the conditions included rights.

That ended ratification and I was ready for the First Congress.

I was tired and goofed - I had intended to give them Madison's race against Patrick Henry for the US House in which Madison only won because he promised to write a Bill of Rights into the Constitution as amendments. And, after he got to New York, he pushed and prodded the other guys into doing a Bill of Rights so he could fulfill his campaign promise. But, I left that out. I won't be back. And so it goes.

Instead I jumped right into the metropolis problem. I asked what was the largest city in Pennsylvania? What was the capital of Pennsylvania? And Why they thought the founders had packed government off to a small town in the boondocks when colonial government had been located in Philadelphia? I then said a few words about metropoles, using London, Paris, and Boston as the example, and suggesting that while a metropolis that combines wealth, society, politics and culture can produce a rich and wonderful society, the founders feared that the confluence of wealth, society, and power would lead to corruption of the delegates. So, they packed the legislatures off to the boondocks and, not surprisingly, only Boston had a rich cultural life in the nineteenth century.

I did much better with First Congress in the morning section. I got there earlier, I was less tired, I had moved more smoothly through the material to that point. For second section, it took me several minutes to put a train of thought together, articulate it, and then remember it so that I could move on. It was not a good performance.

I did finally get going. I emphasized the problem of precedent, using the examples of Washington and treaties and of the Judicial system to point out just how vague and general the US Constitution really is. That is the genius of the document, it leaves the mechanics to Congress and the political system, unlike State constitution that tend to spell everything out much more clearly and have been amended and re-written almost constantly since 1776. Having set up the problem of precedent and, better in the morning than the afternoon, used MaClay and his diary to set the tone of constant suspicion about the meanings and purposes of precedent, I moved on to Hamilton and Madison.

In the morning I put my pocket Bio of Hamilton here. The afternoon got him closer to the end. I did my usual - bastard, orphan, Nevis, patron-client send him to college, King's College, Imperial Crisis, Army, Washington's staff, marriage, break with GW, colonel of a regiment, back to being lawyer, nationalist, at Philadelphia, the monarchy speech, in cabinet, active and energetic, wrote a lot. We will do more with him on Tuesday as well.

I limited myself to funding. I had not reviewed but rather did it from memory - one of the afternoon students caught me and asked about the bits I was leaving out. I explained that I was focusing on the parts that got Madison nervous, and she accepted that.

I started with assumption, arguing that Hamilton wanted to replace most of the old US debt and most of the state debt with new debt certificates, bonds, paying 4%. These new bonds would be supported by the government while the old ones had not been paid, so it looked like a good deal. (I simplified, there were several tiers of debt and Ham had subtle differences in how he handled foreign and domestic debt. She called me on that, and I did correctly explain that he wanted to pay off the foreign debt with a sinking fund (like a mortgage) while keeping the domestic debt going as part of his system.)

Then, to get these bonds back in place, he set up a bank and said that the bank would accept these debt certificates as capital - you could trade a piece of US debt for a share in the bank. (I simplified here, had to give one quarter cash, three quarters debt.)

The bank then issued currency. I forgot to mention this part in morning section until someone was confused by the whole money circle and, when reviewing it, I realized my goof. They got it the second time after I did a little visual exercise using the students in the front row as members in the monetary chain. This currency was backed by the bank assets, which mostly consisted of those debt certificates. The money circulated, fixed the former shortage of specie by giving new money, and could even be used to pay taxes.

Finally, Hamilton set up an extensive system of taxes. I focused on the import taxes - forgot to say anything about excises. Excises were irrelevant for the political point I was making today, but they will be very important on Tuesday. These taxes could be paid in bank currency or in specie, and the revenues went to pay the interest on the domestic debt and the sinking fund on the foreign debt, thus maintaining the value of the debt, which maintained the capital of the bank, which maintained the value of the currency, which was used to pay the taxes. It was a perfect cycle and very clever indeed.

But, Madison hated it. I set up his hatred in Elkis & McKitrick style by focusing on Madison's dislike of Britain. Madison wanted to favor France, the ally, but France could not generate enough trade to make money through the tariffs, so pragmatic Ham wanted to trade with Britain regardless of any wrongs they had previously done. Ham and Mad began to distrust each other. I then made brief mention of the deal that sent the capital South in exchange for debt assumption and moved on.

That previous section ran me through two whole chunks of my outline without a clear break or demarcation. I think I need a better outline. (Oh, for the record I brought into the classroom a sheet and a half of 14 point type with my key points on it. I only goofed once, in second section, as I was elaborating the very bare talking points.)

At that point, in both sections, I had about 12 minutes left. In the morning I gave them the long version of Martha Ballard, in the afternoon I talked about Ham and then gave the short version. In both I introduced Martha, explained why she was in Maine, talked a little about her work as a midwife, recap'd Laural Ulrich's story about the doctor with the forceps and the laudanum, and then worked them through a brief life trajectory. I did more detail in the morning, including her husband's work as a surveyor, the white Indians who trashed the survey party, his tax collection failure and jailing, her struggle with her son for possession of the house, and her husband's return and the resumption of patriarchal authority. In the afternoon I just kept it to Martha and the doctor. In both, I finished by looking at Martha and subordinate women. In the 1780s she had two daughters and some servant women living in her house, working at weaving on a loom, and selling the cloth. In the middle of the story she was alone. In old age they once again had a servant, and by this time the servant would not mind, looking in a mirror rather than doing what she had been told and then railing at Martha when Martha tried to correct her.

Finally, in the last two minutes, I gave them a precis of the Jefferson letters we are reading for Tuesday. I am looking forward to the Jefferson class. I am going to revise my usual outline for it, I have decided to work the emotional and family story in line with the political story and give them TJ in straight chronological fashion. That means I need to make sure that I have both families and ALL the kids in his time line. It should be fun.

I am glad I got some women in; I have been slacking at women's history. I need to remember to talk about Dolly Madison and the social role of women in a political system where crucial decisions were made over dinner tables. This is a very long writeup. And, even though I stopped to bathe the baby, I need to get back to either housework or grading.

Edit - added paragraph about reviewing Federalists and wanting to change Fed 72 for another.

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Zombie Day I have


Zombie Day

I have managed to mess up my sleep, something that I do far too often for my own good. For the last week or so I have been getting to bed around midnight, sometimes a little earlier and sometimes, if the baby cries as I am heading to bed, a little later. The baby wakes sometime between 5:00 and 6:15. J's alarm goes off at 6:00 and I have to get up to help her with the baby. Last night I got to bed after 1:30, so I am on about 4 1/2 hours of sleep.

This would not be so bad if I were not running on several days of short sleep. Yesterday I took a nap in the afternoon so that I could function. I needed that nap, but it may have helped keep me up. If I had gone to bed at the same time J collapsed, around 10:00, I would have gotten some rest before the baby got going.

Or maybe not. The weather changed yesterday. We had wonderful strong winds much of the day - I opened all the windows and celebrated the cyclone. I did not shut all of the windows in the late afternoon, and when J and baby came home at 8:00 the upstairs bedroom windows were still open and the upstairs rooms were chilly. So, we closed up house and turned on the heat. The baby was cold, so we turned it up. J went to bed. The baby was cold and woke, so I turned the heat up again, and then again. I think I have the downstairs thermostat at 73 or so in order to keep the baby's room at a comfortable 68.

When we upgrade the HVAC, this spring, we will indeed want to pay the extra moneys to get a zoned system.

It will be an interesting day of teaching today. I have a LOT of material planned, including a discussion, and when I am tired I tend to fall off the pace, get sidetracked, and then lecture over the time that was supposed to be spent letting the kids talk.

I do like today's class title: "How do you work this?". It is about the First Congress and the Early American Republic, a period where national leaders were very aware that they were setting precedents that would shape all subsequent operations of the government, and it always makes me think of the Talking Heads song "Letting the Days Go By."

See, rambling and distractable. That is me today.

And so to finish prepping class

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October 15, 2003

Classroom clothing Jill Carroll


Classroom clothing

Jill Carroll writes about in-class persona and the way we present outselves.

I think I need to videotape one of my classes and see how I handle myself these days. I tend to have different problems than the person Carroll uses as her example - I am male, bearded and in my 30s, in other words I look a bit like Dad to many of the kids. This helps. It also helps that I learned that you dress to teach, if only to show respect for the discipline. I teach in jacket and tie, slacks, and polished wingtips. I am one step less formal than a lawyer, but still dressier than most office workers. Of course, office workers no longer dress as they once did - downtown Philadelphia is mostly shirtsleeves and dockers.

Appearance is only part of your classroom persona. Carroll suggest that, on the first day of class, you answer syllabus questions with simple yes and no rather than going into detail. I might try that. I already work on presenting a LOT of energy. I walk around, I make excellent eye contact, I project as needed, and I use my hands when I talk. I should probably dig up one of the 19th century elocution manuals that Kenneth Cmiel talks about in Democratic Eloquence because I am sure I could be using my arms better. There is a very important middle ground between being stuck behind a podium and sliding around like Billy Sunday.

I agree with Carroll on a lot of what she says about teaching as performance, I certainly do think of teaching as a form of performance art. When the clock swings around to class time I break off my chat with the students in the front row, take a deep breath, and tell myself "Showtime!"

The wonderful thing is that teaching is largely improvisation. Especially for US history, I know the stuff. All I need is a brief outline reminding me of what I am going to say and, for some days and some classes, a few numbers or data to write on the board. Other than that, I just go. I really really like the classroom part of teaching.

Speaking of which, I have finished prepping tomorrow's outline, which is what I came up to the computer to do. Time to go back to grading, and eat lunch, and so to continue my day.

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Warm Fuzzy It is


Warm Fuzzy

It is a very nice warm fuzzy when you get a random phone call from someone who wants to give you a job. This is true even if the job is only adjunct work paying an hourly wage comparable to entry-level retail work. About a year ago I sent cold resumes to all the nearby schools. Monday I got a call from a nearby comprehensive suburban state university. Yesterday I interviewed, and now I have two sections of Western Civ for the Spring.

It looks like I will not be teaching at the community college next semester - unless urban research university has an unexpected lack of demand for the US survey. I expect them to make me an offer in a month or two.

Now I have to dig out and update my Western Civ syllabus - and pick new texts, and pick readings, and do my work. Still, Western Civ is a fun class to teach.

And back to grading.

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The new edge play?


The new edge play?

This is an unformed thought. I am writing it down to pin it down. I will elaborate in a week or so. For some people, particularly people who have been embracing a lifestyle of relatively frequent, promiscuous, and kinky sex, romantic love and even monogamy are the new "edge play." They provide an excitement, and a sense of risk and potential hurt, of a comparable magnitude but different nature to their edge play. Dirty Whore is in the process of negotiating with a potentially serious honey. Cat Nastey found that the most exciting thing all week was chocolate chip cookies delivered at work. I think I can find other examples if I look around, including a study of the physical pain of rejection via the Speculist.

I mention this because, elsewhere, Carly asks what is the new genre for pornography. One of the attractions of pornography is that it plays with taboos - this is not the only attraction but it is one. Porn generates excitement by standing right at the edge of social norms, pushing buttons to generate a feeling of unease, coupling that unease with sexuality, and then combining the two to induce fascination. This is one reason why inter-racial erotica is still prevalent, though dated, and why it always uses "Black" with the capital B rather than any of the other words to describe African Americans. This is one reason why youth, or age, or strange sex have been recurrent themes. (Ed. This definition is very unlike the German definition of pornography as anything that encourages the audience to treat a human being as an object.)

As you play with a taboo you both reinforce it in the short term and undermine it in the long term. Howard Stern, for example, gets much of the energy from his show from "I can't believe he just said that" - focusing his listeners on the norm that Stern just violated. But, over time, he needs to find new boundaries to push. Similarly with sexuality and sexual foci, they change as what was once edge becomes mainstream. Examples of this include genital shaving - from kinky to mainstream - and even anal sex. If I recall from when I last rented dirty movies back in the 1980s, anal was unusual, exciting, and rare. These days, it is difficult to find hardcore erotica that uses the vagina. The point of all this information is simple, not so much that we are waltzing to Gomorrah but rather that fashions change, that erotic charge comes, in part, from risk and discomfort, and that falling in love with another, committing to another, is a huge risk which will lead to terrible emotional discomfort if things go poorly.

I could say more about how many young folks these days no longer date. They go out in packs, they "hook up" for casual sex. Sometimes they hook up regularly and get married. But there is less of the ritual, less focus on one-on-one social interaction. I may be hopelessly mired in the world of the nineteenth-century people I study, but perhaps there is something to be said for dating, for emotional risk and physical caution, and for love.

This definitely needs a re-write, but not this morning.
Edit: grammar, white space, and one comment. It still needs a major rewrite.

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Weak arguments The little


Weak arguments

The little man woke up at 5:00 this morning, and while he got back to sleep neither J nor I did. I was lying in bed with my mind drifting, and I figured out that the long blog on Lies, Truth, and the Meaning of Words has a massive hole and two questionable rhetorical decisions. Now I need to write it down so the criticism will leave my head and I can grade.

The hole should be pretty darn obvious. I use the rhetorical technique synecdote to argue that popular culture can be reduced to Jim Steinman. And, despite the passing reference to J. D. Salinger, I do not provide any other evidence of a popular culture that values pathological honesty. If I were going to submit this for publication, even as an op-ed piece, I would have to go digging around in the lyrics of Eminem, Britney Spears, and other popular entertainers. Or, possibly, I could include a paragraph on "keeping it real" and the politics of personal presentation. I might still do that, but I won't research for a blog article. Blogging is self-indulgence, and there is a limit to the amount of time I will let it absorb.

The questionable decisions came as I tried to decide what to do with my comparison of Stevenson and Steinman. I chose to take it personal. This fit with the motif of speaking truth that had come up in the previous two entries, and the whole 3-piece set may well have been inspired by an email I sent to DW yesterday morning responding to her blogging about how best to tell the very vanilla man she is starting to date that she can be romantically faithful but not sexually faithful. I told her to tell the truth, for living a lie just eats away at you. (Edit - she agrees that she is compulsively honest.) Writing that email in the morning brought the Stevenson-Steinman thing to the forefront of my mind, I chewed on it all day, and when I got home I blogged it myself. The point of the story is that the whole thing came out of personal reflections and personal experience. A blog is, in the end, self indulgence and my blog is a diary not a manifesto. So, I went personal. It was the best choice for a blog entry, but having taken it personal I am less likely to submit the entry anywhere, even to Bonfire of the Vanities.

The second questionable decision was to go from the personal to the political. Short-term political speech is something that has also been lurking around the back of my head for a few weeks - I posted a teaser to the thought on one of Kevin Drum's Calpundit response threads. I was ignored there, I might be ignored here. In any case, I saw the connection to political speech. If I ever revise these thoughts and put them into proper culture-vulture form, I will return to the opening dichotomy between artistic speech valuing a pathological honesty and political speech grounded in expediency. As it was, coming out of a discussion of personal approaches to truth, I continued to frame the political question in personal terms.

Finally, of course, like a good New England sermon, I gave an application for my doctrine. That, I think, was a good decision.

And so to grade, and to revise chapter three some more.

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From Handy Latin Phrases


From Handy Latin Phrases

Te audire no possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.

I can't hear you. I have a banana in my ear.

For some reason this amuses me a lot.

And back to the blue books - slept poorly last night and keep stopping grading to do class prep.

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October 14, 2003

Lies and Truth and


Lies and Truth and the Meaning of Words

The previous two entries have both centered on speaking truth. That, in turn, got me thinking about Adlai Stevenson and Jim Steinman and the role of truth in popular culture. Stevenson famously defined a lie as "an abomination unto the lord and a very present help in time of trouble." Stevenson was notoriously witty. He was also a professional politician and a man very aware that it is not always in the best interests of a person or a community to speak the truth at all times. In part as a reaction to that expedient approach to truth telling, Jim Steinman has been celebrating a sort of compusive honesty in popular culture.

Steinman came of age during Vietnam, a war defined by flexible definitions of truth. He became famous writing music and lyrics for Meatloaf. A recurring motif, perhaps the strongest statement in the music, is his compulsive honesty:

I want you
I need you
But-there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you
Now don't be sad
'Cause two out of three ain't bad


or more recently
I would do anything for love
I'll never lie to you and that's a fact.
This aversion to lying extends to a commitment to oathtaking
I swore that I would love you to the end of time!
So now I'm praying for the end of time
To hurry up and arrive
'Cause if I gotta spend another minute with you
I don't think that I can really survive
I'll never break my promise or forget my vow
But God only knows what I can do right now
I'm praying for the end of time
It's all that I can do
Praying for the end of time,
So I can end my time with you!!

It is worth quoting that at length because it emphasizes the extend to which Steinman takes the fulfillment of an oath as a binding duty. For him, lying and oathbreaking are the sin against the holy ghost which can never be forgiven. Steinman's lyrics are flamboyant and extreme; he pushes his points for rhetorical effect, and a pop song is not a philosophical treatise. A pop song is, however, a powerful meme. Andrew Fletcher once argued that he would not care who made the laws of a country so long as he could make the songs, and the principle holds true today. The assumptions and norms that we pick up through popular culture provide a lens through which we view our surroundings. At some level, we do judge our leaders against our bards and see if they measure up.

Compulsive honesty is at the forefront of Steinman's lyrics, but it appears elsewhere in popular culture and popular media as well. I do wonder to what extent the common adolescent distaste for "hypocrisy" is cause and consequence of the popular media's celebration of honesty. Holden Caulfield raged against phonies, and we all read Catcher in the Rye in high school, and his distaste for phonies resonates among Americans, just as it has resonated for generations since Salinger created the character. Adolescents, teenagers, are more likely to listen to music, read accessible fiction, and look for simple patterns to shape their world views. Part of becoming an adult is seeing and recognizing the urge to lie, temporize and spin; to see it in yourself and to understand its attractiveness to others. But is that a measure of adulthood that we want to encourage?

I admit that I still have a strong preference for truth telling and a strong preference for fulfilling a sworn oath. One of the things that I have discovered about myself is that I can not lie - a lie makes me so visibly uncomfortable that no one believes me. My dislike of lies is part of why I chose to give the little man the middle name Micajah, the man who spoke truth to power. (1 Kings, 22; 2 Chronicles 19) This compulsive honesty might mark me as a permanent adolescent, but I think a celebration of honesty does have important civic virtues. It is not such a bad thing to assume that others are speaking truth, and then to hold them to their statements.

I tend to accept what others tell me, once. If I find that they have lied or misled, I cut them dead - a fine 19th century tradition of social ostracism that we seem to have dropped. Salesmen, renters, people doing commercial business with me get one lie. Once I find it, I refuse to have any further to do with them. J and I walked out on renters when we were househunting when we caught them in a lie - in one case the man lied for no particular reason or benefit - and we turned and walked out of the house. I may have learned this habit from playing the board game Diplomacy, but it is a habit that suits me.

My approach to truthtelling extends to politics. When I teach the late twentieth century to my students I emphasize one essential similarity between the Clinton and Bush-43 administrations: both tend to use short-term rhetoric. Clinton was long notorious as a waffler and a "pander bear" because he consistently told whatever audience he was facing whatever it was he thought they wanted to hear. All public speakers do this to some extent, but Clinton went farther than most and consequently he regularly contradicted himself. Similarly, when lobbying for legislation on Capital Hill he tended to call Congressmen on the phone and tell them whatever they wanted to hear before they voted Clinton's way. He was good at it. But, each short-term victory came at the cost of long-term losses in credibility. By the time Kenneth Starr got rolling, many folks in Congress were perfectly willing to believe that the Clintons had lied about their financial history because they had all that experience at being pushed and prodded over the phone. As one Representative put it at the start of the impeachment trial: he did not care about Starr's evidence; he knew that Clinton had lied to him and so he was going to vote guilty.

George W. Bush is a similar short-term politician. He tends to tell people what he thinks they want to hear, and he tends to make political decisions for short term reasons. While Kevin Drum and others on the left argue that the Texas Republicans who currently dominate Capital Hill and the White House have a long-term plan for total domination based on hard-right ideology, I believe that most of their actions can be explained by short-term thinking and purely expedient rhetoric. Debts appear in the future, tax cuts come right now, so lets emphasize the present political value and not the future fiscal problems; tax cuts are the order of the day. Some workers might change their votes this month, so lets change tariff policy, and not worry about what it does to future trade policy, balance of trade, overall employment, or total voting patterns; selective protective tariffs are the order of the day. It is all short term thinking.

I think that much of the overblown rhetoric about the Iraq invasion grew out of this short-term political approach to language. The White House had a basis in international law for its intervention in Iraq, that is why they pushed so hard to get UN Resolution 1441 through. What they did not have was a political consensus at home stating that enforcing that resolution was a compelling state interest. So, they pushed and they puffed and they convinced enough people that Saddam Hussein was an immediate and real threat. Some of this rhetoric is coming back to haunt them, and regardless of whether dislodging Saddam Hussein was a good or a bad idea, and regardless of what we have actually found on the ground in Iraq, there is a gap between very specific claims made before the war and what we have actually found on the ground. Either we had a massive intelligence failure, or there was a planned and systematic lie.

I am using the same approach to the Bush administration that I use with my students when they tell me tales of woe and sickness. I believe them, at first. I then look to see what they do. The folks who are telling the truth tend to followup on their statements - I fully expect that the policewoman who forgot that the midterm was today and not Thursday will appear on time for the makeup, do her best, and recover from her goof. Some of the other students who told me stories will surprise me if they appear for the midterm, and will surprise me more if they do well on it. But, I will wait and let them tangle themselves up in their lies, or dig themselves out of their hole. I offer encouragement, this is not a cold and heartless professorius abscondus, but in the end the slackers will reveal themselves.

I have been watching the Bush administration to see if they will also reveal themselves as moral slackers. Anyone can lie once, if they do it again it is a pattern. And while I am willing to give a national politician a little more wiggle room than Jim Steinman gives his fictional characters, I can only go so far.

And so to bed.

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No and "No" The



No and "No"

The folks in thepress and on the law blogs have been talking about "No means no." The problem with that is, as a practical matter, a meaningful percentage of women regularly us the word "no" when what they mean is "I want to have sex but I want you to do more to convince me that you want me." One study (unlinked because I read it yesterday and don't remember which blog had it) suggested that about a fifth of university women occasionaly use the word "no" this way.

As a practical matter, any time one person has sexual contect with another without the consent of the other, it is rape. They can use force, or noice, or a power relationship, or shame, or celebrity, but if there is no consent there is no go. (A couple who want to play rape fantasy and have a safe word, have consent so long as the aggressor obeys the safe word.)

So, what should we do? Should we expect women to say "this is rape" when a man goes too far? Should we draw a distinction between saying no and screaming NO? Certainly if we are teaching self defense classes to women to prepare them for future action it is a very good idea to train them to use words and noise to shock a drunken, horny date-rapist into realizing exactly what he is about to do. But these are not useful criteria to bring to a courtroom.

In a trial situation, such as the Kobe Bryant trial that is setting off these speculations, as long as she clearly and firmly says no, she has indicated her lack of consent.

As a man, these discussions lead to a sort of self-searching. Have I, in the past, ever put a date in a situation where I was pressuring for sex, where I disregarded her intentions? I don't think that I have, in part because I tended to mention that I knew the difference between "no," "not yet," and "not tonight" and would abide by them. I did. I am not particularly forceful or dominant in intimate situations. Luckily J does not play word games. That is one of the reasons I like her and one of the reasons why we stick together. If she is tired or not interested or not yet warmed up, she will say so in clear language. She does not play games with words, she does not do the "yes/no/maybe/dangle them on a string" thing. I do not and did not like those games myself. I tended to drop a person like a wet glove if they started to say one thing and mean another, or expect me to guess their thoughts. J and I are both awkward geeks, and we get along well.

That works for us, I still do not know what to say for "he said/she said" situations like the Kobe Bryant trial. I do know that if Macadamia turns out to be a dafter we will do our best to make sure she knows how to scream if she has to.
(Edit 1, added links. Might come back again.)

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Homework I assign homework


Homework

I assign homework most weeks. In the spirit of the Friday five, I will post the week's homework question on Monday or Tuesday and then give my answer to the question on Friday or Saturday. Keep the answers to about 200 words.

There is no homework this week - they have their midterm - so I will give you last week's question.

Was the United States Constitution a continuation or a repudiation of the principles of the American Revolution?

I should have warned you, I am recycling historical chestnuts for many of these questions. They are not meant to be deep, they are just meant to make the kids think about the material we are covering and then write 200 words or so.

And so to the rest of the day

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Morning thoughts This morning


Morning thoughts

This morning we had yet another gorgeous sun rise. The little man and the hound and I started out when the sky was just turning dark crimson and dark blue. We could barely see as we went down the path to the lake. As we walked around the lake the sky kept changing colors and getting brighter. There was light cloud cover high and to the east and the undersides of the clouds were wonderful. By the time we were heading back up the hill half the sky was glowing in shades of gold and apricot. The sun itself was still hiding behind the trees, but it snuck up soon after we got home.

The skies here are much prettier than they were eight miles farther north. I do not know why. I have some thoughts - it might be the little lake (75 yards wide and several miles long), it might be the Delaware River a few miles to the West, or it might just be that the lake opens up the horizon so that I can see more of the sky than I could when we lived underneath trees and surrounded by three-story apartment buildings. Several skies this week, including this morning and last night, have almost been up to Charlottesville standards. It is hard to reach that - Charlottesville's unofficial motto is "yet another beautiful day in a row."

One more thought then off to the office

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Midterm day On midterm



Midterm day

On midterm day I get a good look at the oddities of the student at a modern urban university. Most students show up and take the exam - I try to build a moderate level of stress to get them to study. A few students do not show up. I was the good teacher and called them (why did you think I collected your contact information at the start of the semester.) Two were in court, one as a witness the other as a police officer. One had been in a car accident a day earlier, two more have mentally ill parents.

I assume that the stories are true - most are, and the folks who would rather lie than take a midterm are folks who will bomb the makeup just as well as if they had bombed the actual exam. I will print out many copies of the makeup exam, it will be harder than the real exam, and my office will be very crowded on Thursday afternoon.

In the meantime, I will do what I can to comfort them, for we all need comfort.

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October 13, 2003

And so it begins.


And so it begins.

I mailed out the first seven job applications today. I decided not to apply to three more, either because they were bad jobs or because I was too intimidated to try for them.

That means seven targetted letters, assorted writing samples, and lots of Fed Ex. Someone (me) forgot to check the calendar last week. I need to get the next tranche out earlier so I can use cheaper shipping.

So far my job searches have gotten me three interviews and no offers. Lets hope for a better showing this time.

In other news, a local state University called me to see if I could teach Western Civ part 2 for them. They run 1660 to the present, which means that it is nicely focused in the era that I know more about. If I can pass the interview and they can pay me, I might make enough this spring to pay for day care.

And back to checking schedules and grading homework.

ps, Is the term "A-shirt" really that obscure?

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Thang About eight years


Thang

About eight years ago we were at an all-night contra-dance in central Virginia. One of the callers was from Texas. He had a remarkable accent. Among other things, he would call for the dancers to "swang" their partners. He liked to call dances with a lot of swanging; he was also a good caller and a lot of fun.

Afterwards, we started to use swang for swing. Through a process like that of Cockney rhyming slang, we began to use thang for thing. But, a "thang" is not a "thing" - the word had grown more precise meanings in our household vocabulary. A thang is a thing that you do that is distinctly yours, either in that no one else does it or more often because no one else does it the way you do. One of my thangs is making up terrible rhymes on the spot when singing nonsense to the baby. Another of my thangs is that I teach history with a focus on the words and ideas we use to comprehend our surroundings, and on the ways these words and ideas change over time. Popular intellectual history is my thang.

Recently, blogging about teaching, babies, and random mental effluvia has also been my thang.

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Random thought I have


Random thought

I have to write this one down to get it out of my head so I can go back to concentrating on Lyman Beecher and the boys.

My blog suffers because I am eclectic. The sex bloggers do their thang (see the nws blogs on the left). The diary bloggers do their thang (see the Cheese over there on my blogroll). The pundits are all over their thang (see the top half of the blogroll.) I think about sex, I have a life, I have opinions on almost every article in the newspaper and on most of the items on pundit-blogs. I could very easily run small blogs specializing in each of these subcategories if I wanted to divide myself up that way.

I do not want to have lots of splintered blogs. I do not have time, or more importantly writing energy, to write about everything that interests me. This is most noticeable with the punditry: I will start thinking about something to punditize, I will even fire up Wordperfect and start writing it up; unless I can finish it fairly quickly, the idea will pass or the baby will cry or I will figure out whatever writing problem I have been stewing over, and I will walk away from the pundit piece. Most of my punditry never ever gets posted - I have a policy against taking serious work energy and using it to research or edit a blog.

I think this is why my blog is so heavily focused on quick impressions of my life - they are things that I can write up in the course of a single study break. I do write many of them offline. You can usually tell the offline entries - they are more polished, more grammatical, and do not wander quite as much. Even so, each of them takes only a couple of minutes to write and polish.

In any case, I am something of a frustrated pundit. I have opinions on everything, I will not post an opinion piece without putting some time into it, and I do not choose to take the time. So, I almost never opine on the questions of the day.

And back to Beecher

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Writing sample? I was


Writing sample?

I was revising chapter three again this morning hoping to get it clean enough to use as a writing sample by noon. I can get the text clean enough; I will not have the footnotes in order. Do I send this place that I think would be a really good match a draft chapter with gaps in the footnotes but tight prose and a good argument or do I send them my published article, tightly polished, with a logical hole in the middle of the piece that you can drive a truck through?

If I can get through the last few pages quickly, I will send the big one.

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October 12, 2003

I do not have to beat my wife


I do not have to beat my wife. She does it for me.

J has been doing a very good job of beating herself since long before I met her. That sounds terrible, I know. The funny thing is, she claims that she does not mean to do it. She just walks into things - her little toe on one foot is permanently fused. She walks into more things - she has quite the collection of scars on her shins. She has ripped the meniscus in her knee not once but twice - she claims it was a dancing injury - and has been scoped for it.

She did the best job of beating herself up when she was figure skating. Her first ice rink had grooves in the ice, her rental skates got caught, she fell and slid into the wall, and for the next six weeks she wore a sling because of the hairline fracture in her radius. In a different incident she bruised her tailbone and bruised some of the inner workings of her SI joint. And yet, she kept going back. She even woke up early in the morning to go to the rink, fling herself in the air, and bruise her hips and legs. For a while I would, before hugging and certainly before anything further, first have to check to see where the bruises were.

Lately, she has not been beating herself up as much. Now the kids beat her for me. The little man caught her a good one in the jaw earlier today, and while he did not knock her out or fracture anything, she has been sore ever since. His other new game has been the love tackle where he gets two feet on the ground, one arm around the front of your neck, and drives a hug through you like a blitzing linebacker (only cuter). Meanwhile Macadamia (due at the end of February) has been punching and kicking up a storm.

Maybe I should get an a-shirt one of those sleeveless t-shirts to wear around the house. I wonder if you can get those shirts in the 18-month size?

Edit - clarified last line for the Carnival.

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October 11, 2003

Another silly poll -



Another silly poll - putting this one up so J can take it too.

According to the Belief-O-Matic, I am Reform Jewish. The funny thing is, I thought very hard about converting to Reform Judaism before deciding that I was more comfortable retaining some Christian rituals and simply worshiping from the "courtyard of the temple" when I went with J. J prefers the worship practice at Conservative Jewish Shul, so that is where we go.

Your Results:
The top score on the list below represents the faith that Belief-O-Matic, in its less than infinite wisdom, thinks most closely matches your beliefs. However, even a score of 100% does not mean that your views are all shared by this faith, or vice versa.

Belief-O-Matic then lists another 26 faiths in order of how much they have in common with your professed beliefs. The higher a faith appears on this list, the more closely it aligns with your thinking.

How did the Belief-O-Matic do? Discuss your results on our message boards.



1. Reform Judaism (100%)
2. Liberal Quakers (96%)
3. Unitarian Universalism (93%)
4. Bahá'í Faith (87%)
5. Sikhism (84%)
6. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (82%)
7. Neo-Pagan (81%)
8. Orthodox Judaism (72%)
9. Mahayana Buddhism (68%)
10. Islam (67%)
11. Secular Humanism (64%)
12. New Age (64%)
13. Theravada Buddhism (62%)
14. Jainism (61%)
15. Orthodox Quaker (59%)
16. Hinduism (52%)
17. Scientology (50%)
18. Taoism (48%)
19. New Thought (47%)
20. Nontheist (39%)
21. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (38%)
22. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (36%)
23. Seventh Day Adventist (36%)
24. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (33%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (31%)
26. Roman Catholic (31%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (18%)

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The Friday Five -


The Friday Five - what's a day between friends.

1. Do you watch sports? If so, which ones?

I watch pro football on TV, rarely for more than half an hour at a sitting these days. I will sometimes watch college football or pro baseball on TV. One of my favorite naps is where I turn on a sporting event on the TV, lie down on the couch without my glasses, and drift off to the sound of the crowd and the white noise chatter of the announcers.

2. What/who are your favorite sports teams and/or favorite athletes?

I tend to watch the Philadelphia Eagles. I check my undergraduate team in the sporting papers, but they are division III NESCAC and are never televised.

3. Are there any sports you hate?

There are none I hate, there are many I am apathetic about. I honestly do not know and could not care who is the current middleweight boxing champion, who leads the NASCAR or IROC, or who plays first base for the Yankees.

4. Have you ever been to a sports event?

Yes. I had season tickets to the Eagles for a couple of years during the Buddy Ryan era with a buddy. We were up in the 700 level with the drunks and rowdies. It was fun. I left town about the time we could have moved down to the 600 level, but we would not have gone down. Sure, you see the game better, but you lose the fun.

I have also been to occasional big time college football games while in grad school, to a fair number of Phillies games (sit in the bleachers, good fun), to see the Sixers (once), Flyers (once), a few college hoops games, and during undergrad I caught all the home football games, some away football games, some men's rugby games, and many women's rugby games.

5. Do/did you play any sports (in school or other)? How long did you play?

I played in high school. It was a small school. I took two or three varsity letters in track, running sprints and throwing weights, one in cross country my junior year, one in soccer for managing the team my sophomore year, and one in football for being a warm body my senior year. I was a senior, so I got in on enough special teams to get the letter. The scary thing is that as a 5'6", 140 pound senior I was not the smallest of the defensive linemen. If I had gone out the year before as well I probably would have started (strong for my size, and all that sprinting in track made me very quick off the ball).

Of them all, cross country had the hardest practices, football made the biggest difference in my personality while I was playing.

That was easy enough!

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Job applications. The first


Job applications.

The first set of job applications are due on Wednesday of next week. I help off on sending them because 1, I let myself get eaten by the grading and 2, because I wanted to be as far along my revisions as possible before I signed my name to a letter saying I was almost done.

Well, grading took too long, and I am still looking at chapter 3. But, the letters will go out anyhow.

This is a much thinner year than last year. Of the half-dozen jobs with deadlines in mid October, there are two good jobs in my field, another three or four so so jobs, and another three that I am underqualified for. I am not a senior scholar, and I only have one weak publication.

Still, nothing ventured nothing gained. And out they will go.

And so to revise my stock letter

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Site meters I am


Site meters

I am playing with site meters again. The first two do not agree with each other. Why? because I am both vain and curious and I want to see how many (few) people visit my ramblings.

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I put a provocative


I put a provocative comment on Kevin Drum's blog talking about short-term goals and the Bush (43) and Clinton presidencies. I should probably elaborate on that - but not at the expense of getting real work done. I might have something later this weekend.

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Fall Blues Why do

Fall Blues

Why do we call them the fall blues, when the colors for fall are the red and orange of the fading leaves, or the greys and browns of clouds and bare branches?

In the last few days I have had a couple of students come to me to explain that they had fallen into a funk, had stopped going to class, and needed to get their academic lives back on track. I gave them what advice and encouragement I could, steered them to counseling, and worked up recovery plans to get them back up to speed in my classes.

Looking back at late September, I wonder how much of my getting stuck in grading was also related to a fall funk. I certainly went through a couple of not very productive weeks; I have had a little more trouble with my sleep than sometime, and the light is indeed fading.

But, the leaves are just barely turning - it is almost too early for seasonal emotional troubles.

In any case, I am working on job applications, and while the jobs in New Hampshire and Vermont are not as good as I first thought, the jobs in Washington State and industrial Ohio look better than I had first thought. All of them, other than the Ohio job and a not very good job in West Virginia, are far far to the north. I would have to invest heavily in full spectrum light bulbs.

We use artificial light to correct for the fading colors of the fall; electric sunlight keeps us on a more even keel if only we can get it. Mechanical light makes a fine metaphor for, well, something - especially when we remember all the other metaphors that use light. We had the enlightenment, that period when people praised themselves for spreading, well, new light, and helping others see. The Great Awakening was also built around the "new light" - odd that the illuminati, or enlightened ones, were so strongly opposed by the new lights. Light is a powerful metaphor for knowledge and ability, whether in these cases or in Plato's cave. And false light, mechanical sunlight, brings happiness and, in another meaning of the word, lightness to our emotional selves. Franklin always held that we can change ourselves by acting in a new way, rather than seeking for the natural he was perfectly willing to create naturalness - I forget how he referred to the artificial but I suspect that he praised artifice as skill and hated it as pretense.

But, false light can create happiness. One of the many things that makes me happy is hot peppers, and with the turn to the fall they are dying unless I put them in pots, an environment even more "artificial" than my garden and bring them inside. But even inside our windows are not big enough, and the baby is so destructive, that I fear the peppers will not survive if I just leave them out. I shall have to put them in the basement, and then talk to the marijuana growers to get the right combination of lights, heats, and timers to grow a crop of hot peppers in the basement. That will indeed be an artificial environment, driven by false light. But, it will indeed make me happy.

And back to research jobs - that was one heck of a ramble wasn't it.

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October 10, 2003

Hoorah, Hooray, a writing


Hoorah, Hooray, a writing day today.

I am taking most of this morning as a writing day - going through chapter three again and copy editing. I found a couple of awkward bits, a couple of bad transitions, and a couple of paragraphs that said nothing and had to go. I still have a logic problem where I set up a problem, mention a couple of people who talked about it, give a close reading to a primary source, and then seque directly into a new problem or issue raised by that source - without ever resolving the initial problem. It gives the whole thing a strong Alice's Restaurant feel, even after I don't know how many drafts where I tried to keep myself on tack. The argument itself is tight, I just don't like the feeling of indeterminacy I am getting out of the middle sections of this chapter.

And so to shower, eat lunch, and meet a student - she probably wants to talk about her paper.

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October 09, 2003

Constitution It was Constitution


Constitution

It was Constitution day. We opened with housekeeping - returning the papers, talking about Tuesday's midterm, then dove into Constitution.

I need to revise the first section of this outline; it did not flow well. I started with the Articles and the problems of the Articles. I emphasized the Newburgh conspiracy, Rhode Island inflation, inability to fulfill the Treaty of Paris, British forts on the frontiers, internal trade barriers, and an unwillingness to pay their debts. I placed the whole thing in the context of 18th-century states as institutions devoted to collecting taxes, borrowing money, and paying soldiers, and argued that because the US under the Articles was unable to collect taxes or pay its debts that it was not taken seriously as an 18th century state.

I then did the short version of Shays's rebellion - map of MA on the board, laid out merchants, eastern regions, western farmers. I ran through western grievances and made it clear, by using revolutionary language to describe the dispute, that the western farmers were using the rhetoric and ideals of the Am Rev against the eastern leaders who were trying to perpetuate and continue the Am Rev. I did not do the roleplay exercise, it takes too much time.

From there I broke, and this was a break in the rhythm of the class. I turned to religion, quickly summarized what the continental congress had done, then ran over MA tightening its establishment while loosening test acts, the middle states loosening both establishments (weak to begin with) and test acts, and Virginia doing Jefferson's statute. Note - assign the Jefferson statute, Madison's memorial and remonstrance, or both next time.

The religion mini-lecture broke the buildup to Philadelphia. It should have come first, or in another class. I probably should have cut it and used the time to talk about this week's homework question: "Was the US Constitution a continuation or a repudiation of Revolutionary ideals?" We are long on lecture, short on discussion.

Finally, we got to Philadelphia. I introduce Madison, gave them the VA and NJ plans, ran through the great compromise, and briefly explained split sovereignty. I compared it to the drawings I did earlier on colonial v British notions of the imperial constitution - sort of a Jack Greene light. I took the last couple of minutes to cover constitution and slavery - import restrictions and the 3/5 clause.

Tuesday is the midterm, next week we get to play with Ratification and the First Congress. Reminder - keep ratifications short short short.

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October 08, 2003

Sleep Trouble I sometimes


Sleep Trouble

I sometimes have trouble sleeping. Last night was one of those times. But last night was different, last night the little man also had trouble sleeping. I am now very tired indeed.

Baby was cranky at dinner, skipped dinner, had a bottle, refused to sleep, got a second wind, played, got cranky, had a second bottle, and went to bed around 9:00. I goofed - through much of the evening J had been waiting for me to tag out from grading and take the baby, and I had been waiting for J to tag out from baby duty and give me the baby. She got cranky because she felt stuck with the baby while she had things to do for work. Baby to bed, J went to bed around 10:00. I stayed up to work on the exam for Thursday. Around 11:00 I finished that subset of the exam and decided that I was tired and not very functional. I was also not sleepy. Got to bed around 12:00 and drifted lightly - the weather warmed up and I think the furnace was set too high.

A little after 1:00 the little man woke up and started to screech; it was a horrendous sound. I tried rocking him, tried giving him his pinkie, tried moving to the bed in his room, all to no avail. We went down and had something to drink; little man had some milk and some cheerios and part of a slice of challah, then we went up again around 1:35 or so. He was wet, so I changed him. He was very wet, as was the bottom of his undershirt. J had added an extra layer because he had woken up cold the night before. I do not know if he sweated up his shirt, if he spilled milk on it while leaving his blanket-sleeper dry, or if I had squeezed urine out of the diaper while holding the baby, but his shirt was wet. I was putting the bottom of the sleeper back together so I could open the top and remove the T-shirt when J came in. She sent me back to bed and took over on baby. Baby was asleep within ten minutes.

Around 2:00 J got up to get a snack, and I got up to get a snack a few minutes later. I was hot and hungry and not sleepy. My pulse was going pretty fast, in the eighties, and I could not settle down to sleep. Niacin and the frustration of screaming baby seem to have teamed up to keep me awake. J had some cereal, I had some yoghurt, J went to sleep, I stayed awake until almost 4:00. Finally I got to bed. At 6:15 the baby woke up screaming again. I took him downstairs and fed him breakfast, then fell asleep in the kitchen chair while "watching" the baby while J showered and got ready. Once she came down, I went back to bed and slept until 10:00. I then took a little while to get woken, to walk the dawg, and to eat. I am just now blogging before starting my work day.

I am sometimes tempted to seek a prescription for that new tiredness drug.

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Red Ted
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October Calendar

Dult I love to


Dult

I love to teach. I do not like to grade. I grade slowly and I have trouble keeping myself at it. Teaching, alas, means grading. Unles, of course, I end up at a research university where TA s or hired graders can help me out. Even a MA University should have grad students I can farm the grading off to.

It is a mark of adulthood that you are able to make yourself do things that you do not like to do. Sometimes I worry that I am not yet a dult. I am very self-indulgent, something that really bugs J and that bugs me as well.

And so to fetch the baby

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Red Ted
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October Calendar

October 07, 2003

Morning Twilight Fall is



Morning Twilight

Fall is well on its way. It was cold last night and dark this morning. I woke at 5:00, in part because I was cold, in part because I had to pee, but in the end because the baby was crying. I had been having a strange dream - we were moving from one apartment to another apartment, in the winter. I was married to J, and I was at the same time back in undergraduate. The apartments were very like those that J's friend C used to live in, a place I only visited once or twice when C and her boyfriend were moving house. In my dream, I took a break from moving to walk the dawg. She went out and peed on a piece of ice, and it froze instantly. I then peed on the same ice and it also froze.

I got out of bed, peed properly, and then got the crying baby. He had gotten cold. I brought him into bed with us. He quickly warmed up as long as I had my arms around him, and he went back to sleep. I did not sleep. I had a baby on my arm, and the baby's free hand was flailing and flailing. It is hard to get to sleep when someone keeps poking you.

I drifted a little, and then the 6:00 alarm rang. By 6:30, the baby the dawg and I were off for the morning walk. I was quicker out the door than sometimes for I had already gone through the mazy period of just waking. We walked around the middle lake, about a half-hour walk. The little man was wearing his new orange hat and a sweatshirt over his pajamas. His hands were cold when we returned. We did the entire walk, from start to finish, in the nautical twighlight of the morning. At the start there was just barely enough light to make it down the root-filled path from our street to the lake. When we were done the sky was glowing and perhaps if there were no trees we might have seen the sun. It feels wrong, and autumnal, to take a full walk and be back before the sun is above the trees.

I like the autumn. I like the crisp air, the smell of apples, the aromas of the seasons. I do not like the fading light. I sometimes have mild seasonal depression when the leaves fall and the skies turn to their many shades of grey and pearl. Yesterday was an apple cider day: for most of the day I wanted apple cider, the air felt like apple cider and hot cider donuts. Fall sunshine is a very good thing; fall darkness is not so good.

All in all, it was a good morning. I have prepared class and now I get to go grade and then teach.

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Red Ted
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October Calendar

The One and the


The One and the Many

Today was the One and the Many. Because we are running late we also fought the American Revolution. I linked the two through Continental Congress, even though I cut back on what I usually say about Congress and its actions to hold the colonies together.

We opened with a brief discussion of the midterm next week and with an apology from me for not getting the papers back. I have had them for two weeks - and that is too long. I just have trouble making myself grade more than a couple at a sitting. Even now, I am writing up class rather than grading papers.

We went on to the war. I laid out war aims for Congress and for Britain, focusing on Britain and military conquest v Congress and political goals. I argue that Congress wanted to 1, hold the colonies together, 2, maintain a viable field army, and 3, get European recognition.

I then talked about the army itself. I gave them the John Keegan take on 18th century armies, emphasizing the need for drill and practice and discipline. I argued that militia were not all that useful in the field, invaluable as political police - the Ed Countryman interpretation. I argued that the only reason that the colonists won was French intervention. Thus, the turning points of the war are Saratoga, which convinced France to come on in, and Valley Forge, where the Continental Army learned how to hold the field as a proper 18th-century Army. Once Congress had proved that it could fulfill the two basic functions of an 18th-century state (Raise taxes and field an army), France helped and French soldiers and the French navy won the war.

I had to leave things out, and what I cut out entirely was Ben Franklin goes to Paris. It is a wonderful story, but something had to go. So, no Franklin changing his modish fashionable clothing that he had worn in Philadelphia for homespun and a coonskin cap once he hit Paris, no mention that the coonskin cap was the badge of the Paxton Boys - Franklin's longstanding political enemies in Pennsylvania, and no mention of Franklin swimming in the Seine, romancing the ladies, or making use of his Philosophical connections. Perhaps some of those will sneak back into the French Revolution, but I doubt it. I always take too long on the French Revolution.

Instead, we went to State Constitutions. I ran them quickly through the constitution-writing frenzy of 1776, I summarized the early state constitutions, pointed out that they would be re-written in the 1780s, 1830s, 1850s, and then intermittently until the present, and gave them the 1776 PA constitution to read. I pointed out the difference between written and traditional constitutions, linked written constitutions to colonial charters and the form of the constitutions to the colonial tensions between governor and legislature, and then moved on to the contagion of liberty.

I organize my discussion of the contagion of liberty around the Quoak Walker case in Massachusetts. I read them article 1 of the 1776 VA Declaration of Right:

All men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
I read that twice, then asked them if anything seemed odd. They missed it, so I read them Article 1 of the 1780 MA Constitution:
All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.
I read that twice and then asked what was different between the two statements.

The second time, they got it. Both sections jumped on the bit about "entering into a state of society" and both sections figured out that that language meant that Virginians could declare independence in the name of inherent rights while still denying the exercise of those rights to their slaves who, by definition, are legally dead and outside any organized society.

I then told them about Quoak Walker in MA suing his master for assault and battery, it going to the superior Court, and the justice relying on Article 1 of the Constitution to declare slavery inconsistent with the laws of MA. This was an obiter dicta, his decision was effective only on Walker himself because this was before organized judicial review, but his words were taken as the formulation of what most people thought, and slavery in MA faded away. The Massachusetts legislature had no idea that they were abolishing slavery when they adopted that language in 1780, but it turns out that Revolutionary ideals had radical consequences that the revolutionaries themselves had not expected. Liberty was contagious.

In both sections I then lectured briefly on contagious liberty and the change from Winthrop's City on a Hill spreading the religious commonwealth to all the land to the Revolutionary generation's Republic on a Hill spreading the republican commonwealth to all the lands. I included a brief rundown of other events: South American independence, US in world affairs, and brought it to the present by arguing that the underlying goal behind the US presence in Iraq is to settle the Middle East by bringing contagious liberty to the region. I pointed out that this was a noble endeavor, and a high-risk strategy, and that I hoped it worked. The very smart lady in the second section was grinning and looking skeptical. I think I would have fun talking politics with her.

That pretty much ran us out of time. Both sections had a brief discussion on whether the conflict of 1775-1783 was a Revolution or a Civil War, both sections leaned towards Revolution, and because Boyer et al do not use this question to frame their discussion of the Am Rev the way that Norton et al do, none of them worked out the connection. The smart single mom in the afternoon section was right on the verge of getting it, but I jumped the gun and explained it for them rather than working them through the connections. I probably should have taken the time and made them figure out that it was an trans-Atlantic civil war that had Revolutionary consequences and that was fought as a Civil War among colonists and among British Citizens from both sides of the Atlantic.

The last couple of minutes I used to run over the Northwest Ordinance. I hit Onuf's point that the key here was that new states would enter the Confederation as equals - Ohio with a couple of thousand score voters would be the equal of Virginia with hundreds of thousands of voters.

We are back on track, in large part because I cut Shays's rebellion and Franklin in Paris. Now I have to finish grading papers, write an exam, and grade all the stacked up homework. I am also a week or two behind on editing my dissertation AND I have job applications that need to go out on Friday. Yoicks!

I am glad I wrote this up - it is good for me to write up the class I just taught. It lets me see exactly what I covered and where I may have gone for too much coverage at the expense of understanding. I lecture too much sometimes.

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Red Ted
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October Calendar

October 06, 2003

Licorice - Revised and Extended

"Not everyone likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice." J and I use "licorice" to refer to most forms of kinky sex. I felt the urge to write an erotic story without using any potty language. I revised the earlier sections after Twiddlybits gave some commentary. If I add anything more it will just go up as Licorice (Number) with a link to this entry.

One

The bell tinkled. Susan walked into the store and looked around. The place was dim and gloomy; rich scents came out of the dusky corners and from the display cases: chocolate of course, but below that licorice and anise tantalized her. Hints of anise, of cinnamon, and of vanilla lurked like dust motes in the air. She inhaled, carefully tasting the air and savoring its promises.

A long glass counter ran along the right side just inside the door. Shelves within the case held the ordinary confections: chocolate bark, and raspberry creams, and all the many variations on nuts and caramel. She stepped farther into the room, her head turning as she looked farther.

To the left, in the crowded clutter of the open space were a couple of small tables, looking unused and unwanted, crowded by spinning racks with boxes of salt water toffee and presentation chocolates. She went past these as well.

Towards the back of the store, deepest in the gloom, were the real treasures. This was an old case; the wood was black and glossy as if it had been old even when it was first constructed. The licorice was here. Little papers held the squares of red and black licorice, the licorice creams, drops of dusky jelly. Sleeves of anise cookies rested before the counter. Swinging above it, drying in the air like twisted sausages, were ropes of red, and black, dusted with sugar. The air here was thick, redolent. Her nose wrinkled, responded to the acrid bite, to the drying sugar, to the seeds and oils trapped in the candies.

She pressed her hands against the case, leaning forward. The tip of her tongue extended and, gently, pointedly, licked her upper lip. She inhaled again, closing her eyes to concentrate on all the odors.

"Can I help you?"

He was tall and thin and dusty and, somehow, twisted like the ropes of licorice that swayed from the motion of his recent passing. He stood still behind the counter, looking at her.

"Yes, I want ... I want to buy some licorice."

"We have licorice here." He coughed lightly; perhaps it was a chuckle, perhaps it was dried sugar in his throat.

She smiled.

Two

The bell tinkled. Susan stood up from the little table in the back room. She walked through the curtains into the space behind the two counters. There were three of them there, standing towards the front of the room. Two were standing at the front case, looking at the chocolates and the creams, picking and choosing, speculating aloud about what they might be buying. The third wandered aimlessly, turned a white rack, looked at the dried out cookies, the boxes of toffee.

Susan began to fill orders for the first two, taking out three of these, four of those, weighing out the chocolates and putting them into little boxes and bags. While she did this, she watched the wanderer. He was thin, as she was, and looked distracted. He glanced at the back counter, then quickly looked again at the rest of the room. She rang up the order, took money, handed over change. The two left; she could not have said if they were men or women, all she had seen were the pointing fingers, the greedy voices. He was different: still here, still moving in a sort of Brownian motion through the space to the left of the door. He must have just come in at the same time as the other two; he did not leave with them, had not talked to them. They were not together after all. He was alone, except for Susan and the store.

She swung up the gate between the two counters, walked forward. He turned, surprised by her silent presence. His eyes darted to her, to the counter, to the ceiling above the back counter, and back to her again.

She smiled at him.

"Can I help you?"

"Do you sell, erm," He looked at the floor. "Licorice here?"

"Oh yes, we sell licorice. We have all kinds of licorice here. Follow me."

Three

They sat at a small white table in white wooden chairs. She was thin, pale, blonde. Her hair hung back to her collar. He was older, thinner, and grey. He looked like he had been hung up to dry, and while drying had gathered dust in all the crevices of his face and clothing. Even his voice was dusty.

"Let me pour you some tea."

He stood, crossed to the stove, poured water from the kettle into a small blue-grey teapot. He busied himself gathering cups, spoons, and honey. She sat and watched him. The smell of the tea began to spread around the cluttered little kitchen.

He poured into two plain white teacups, placed them on saucers on the table. She took hers in her hands and brought it to her nose. She inhaled, concentrating, then turned and looked at him with raised eyebrows.

"I smell tea, black tea, and licorice root, and ... something more?" Her voice was a soft alto.
"That's most of it. There are some rose hips, a little lemon zest."
"It smells nice."
"Add honey, honey goes well."

He sat. They sipped their tea. His voice was still dry and dusty.

"So, how long has it been?"

"Since I first walked in here? Years. Time seems to stop when I am behind those counters: every moment is just right and every moment is forever."

"And do you still feel the same way?"

She looked at him, and smiled.

"I think so, yes."

"And now what will you do? Summer is almost over."

"I thought about it. State is close, and I could still work here weekends. But I think I want to get farther away."

"You had a lot of offers."

"Yes, I did. I think I will go East. They have the food chemistry, and the writing program. I will be better prepared when I come back."

"I will miss you, but your young man should be able to take over for you."

She smiled again. "My young man? He belongs to you, or to the back counter more than he does to me." She paused, then continued.
"I will miss that back counter."

"Yes, I know."

She looked at him, at the wedges and angles of his face, at the lines in his cheeks. He was ageless, without race, grey, brown and dusty. His clothing smelled of licorice. The powder he worked with had gotten into his clothing, into his skin. It was part of him now. She loved that about him.

She stood.

"I need to go, I have to finish packing, I have to tell State I won't be coming."

"Come back before you leave. Please."

"Of course." She smiled again.

She went out through the curtain. He heard the bell tinkle as the door opened and then closed. In the air disturbed by her movement he could smell licorice.

Four

It was hot. The line in the bookstore snaked back from the ringing cash registers. Students held books, and bags, and little plastic baskets full of books and notebooks, pencils and pens. The woman in front of him was short and thin. Her blonde hair fell to the collar of her white dress, parted in the middle of her head. She was wearing an unusual perfume; he could smell licorice. They bumped as the line lurched forward.

"Sorry, lost my balance" He was apologetic, curious to see her face.
She smiled up at him.
"It's ok. It is crowded here."
She had a thin face, grey-blue eyes, strong cheekbones. Her voice was low and husky, surprising in such a small woman. Her hair was yellow and blonde and grey all shaded together, but her face was young, the eyes plain and unmarked. She wore no makeup.

He looked at her basket, hoping to see something he could use to continue the conversation. Several slim volumes of poetry were lying on top of the textbooks. He recognized psychology, and the great big textbook for introductory chemistry.

"Do you read a lot of poetry?"
"Yes, I do. I love to see words used precisely."
"I do also. Do you have any favorites?"
"I am taking the English romantics this fall. But I read all sorts. I like to read about desires and compulsions."
She looked at his eyes as she said this. Her voice dropped even lower on the last words.

Later, his friends came over to him.
"Did you get her number?"
"No, but she got mine."

Five

He made little names for his students to help him remember which name went with which face. Susan Blonde-in-White was sitting at the front left of the class again. She was wearing a dress. She always wore a white dress. This one was short sleeved and showed a little leg; it was still very modest. The other women in the class were all dressed more casually. Susan was always very formal and she always sat very still. He could feel her eyes on him as he chatted with the students at the front right, by the door.

The bell in the tower on the other side of the quad rang the hour. He took a deep breath and began the class. He explained what they would be covering today. He drew on the board. He began to question them about the reading, and to elaborate on their fumbling answers. She sat upright and watched him teach, her pen in her hand.

After he worked through the first reading he told them to re-read the next item. While their heads turned down he walked over to the left side of the room. Her notebook was full of fine copperplate handwriting. He had never seen her pen move.

He continued to teach. She remained still and silent, watching straight-backed in her chair. He caught himself moving to the left again, and making eye contact with the front left part of the class. He forced himself to shift back to the right and look at the others.

He asked a question, and another. Hands rose, always the same hands. Susan sat very still. The sunlight had crept across the floor and onto her feet. She had slim ankles.

He paused, class was almost over now. He turned and asked her a question, ignoring the waiting hands, wanting to see what she would do. She smiled, took a breath, and answered. Her voice was low but clear. He was glad of that; so many of the skinny little women were mumblers and then he had to repeat their words to the class. She spoke on. He noticed in surprise that she was speaking in paragraphs. Most undergraduates, many professors, never mastered that skill. She finished. He raised an eyebrow, gestured with his hand. She continued to speak, elaborating her first answer. He had moved towards her as she spoke, to hear better. Partway through the paragraphs he realized that he had forgotten what he was going to ask next, had forgotten how he had planned to wrap up the class. He was very close to her now.

He tore his eyes away. She finished speaking. He managed to say a few words, to praise her thoughts, to lurch towards a wrapping point. Class ended in the usual shuffle of bags and papers. She smiled at him on her way out. As she left, he could smell licorice.


Six

She smiled as she poured, looking at him more than at the two glasses. The liquor glistened in the tumblers, then turned white as she poured the water. She raised her glass, extended her tongue to the surface, inhaled the aroma. He held his glass in both hands but did not look at it. His eyes glanced from her to the room and back to her again.

She put her glass down and spoke.

"Aren't your friends having that party tonight?"
"Yes."
"We should go."
"I know. They have been bugging me about no longer seeing them. They don't know what to make of you."

She smiled.

"I am not sure what to make of me either. I think of myself as a series of straight lines, but it seems that most other people see me as a spiral."

He frowned at her, then looked down at his glass. He raised it to his lips, sipped.

She raised her glass again, inhaled the vapors again, then drank. He could see her swirling the white liquor around her mouth before swallowing. She opened her mouth and inhaled, savoring the lingering aroma of licorice.

Later he looked at her and spoke.
"Lets have one more before we go."

She raised her eyebrow.
"Are you sure. We still have to get dressed you know."

He reached past her to the bottle, lifted it, and filled the glasses again.


Seven

"Is the Prince of Darkness blowing us off again?"

"He said he would come."

"Yeah, he always says he will come. He might be coming, but he sure ain't coming here these days."

They chuckled at this.

"Man, that boy is whipped."

"What does he see in that little white chick anyhow?"

"Don't ask me. I think she look like Caspar the Ghost's grandma. So pale, wearing those little white dresses all the time. She always smells like medicine or something. But he takes one look at her and its like, BAM, nobody home."

"Maybe he likes the blonde thing?"

"Naw, if that was it he could still be going with Gina. Now there is a woman who wiggles when she walks."

"Heck, she ain't really blonde. Gina she get her hair from a bottle an her tits from the plastic store."

"Who cares where she got 'em, they sure are big enough."

"Hey, look who just walked in"

"Yo, Prince of Darkness! We ain't seen you since forever."

"Hi guys.
"Do you guys know Susan?"

Posted by
Red Ted
at 12:42 PM | TrackBack
October Calendar

Potty Language It was


Potty Language

It was in July, perhaps early August, so the little man was about 11 months old. We were in Sears. We had gone to get baby clothes and something or other from the house, and after doing the real shopping we were wandering through the tool section window-shopping on toys for Dad. I had the little man in my arms and was holding something or other in my off hand. A couple were looking at some of the power tools. It is odd, this was a few months ago, and I remember them but I do not remember what they were looking at, routers and drills I think, but they could have been looking at shop vacs.

She was medium height, perhaps a little taller than I am, blonde, in her late 30s. She had some sort of shirt and shorts combination on. He was talking to her and he was the one who caught my eye. He was short, shaved or crew cut, wearing a muscle t shirt. He had a thick fireplug torso - he either worked construction, lifted weights, or both. His left shoulder was covered with a large tribal tattoo. It ran out from under his shirt and looked like tiger stripes. He looked like he was naturally hairy and that he shaved to show off the tattoo. I am vaguely interested in tattoos, and while I have yet to find anything I would be willing to wear for the rest of my life I do tend to look at other people's ink to see what they have done. As a result we ended up close enough to hear them talking.

He was going on about, I think, the tools. It was hard to tell because every other word was fuck or fucking. There was a constant stream of profanity coming from that aisle. He might have been permanently angry; he might have been accustomed to talking in this manner; he might have been having a bad day. I do not know and I try to limit my judgements.

I walked away, carrying the little man. He is old enough that he is beginning to comprehend language. I explained that that man had a potty mouth, that he was talking in a very boring manner, and that potty language was what you used when you did not have any better way to express yourself. I repeated that it was boring, and we kept shopping. I try to limit my judgments, and I did not feel like provoking a confrontation on that day at that time over that issue, so I waited until after we had wandered away to explain potty language to the little man.

The funny thing is that we do repeat our parents. Dad was in the navy during the 1950s; he worked his way through law school as a deck hand on Great Lakes freighters after the war. He knows the language, he has worked with people who had a working vocabulary composed of nothing but four letter words. He does not care for it, does not use it, and taught me that an overuse of that language is boring.

When the little man is a little older I will talk with him again about the use and abuse of potty language. I do not mind that he will learn it, you can not help but learn it. I do hope that he will use potty language as I do, as a shock word that gains its effect because it is so rarely used.

Posted by
Red Ted
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October Calendar

October 05, 2003

Butterflies and Barnacles. J


Butterflies and Barnacles.

J is a butterfly. I am a barnacle. In social situations, she will flit about the room, going from person to person, seeking out particular individuals, contacting them, and then moving on. I tend to drift about for a while until I find a well-located spot, usually in the kitchen or near the food. I then attach myself there and keep my eyes open for any interesting people who might wander past. She seeks out her friends; I wait for them to come to me.

We both have much more fun at parties when we recognize this about ourselves and do not try to make the other person accommodate their movements to our pattern.

There is one exception to the pattern: I love to dance and J is slow to hit the dance floor. If there is dancing, I will grab J, her friends, my friends, and anyone who gets within 20 feet of me, and drag them onto the dance floor with me. J will let herself be talked into dancing a little, but then her feet will hurt, she will feel self-conscious, or she will see someone on the other side of the room that she just HAS to talk to.

Can you be a dancing barnacle?

Posted by
Red Ted
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October Calendar

October 03, 2003

Rules for a successful


Rules for a successful relationship

J is trying on clothes. I am working on class prep and commenting on her new purchases. As I do so, I am once again reminded of three basic rules for maintaining a successful relationship:


  1. She is always beautiful
  2. Some clothing accentuates that beauty; some clothing disguises it.
  3. If you can truthfully tell her that something looks terrible, she will believe you when you later tell her that something looks good.

It has become a cliche. Woody at /gu comics has turned it into a running joke. And yet, it is a joke because it is true: women are more likely than men to seek fashion advice, and women are more likely than men to measure their self worth by what people think of their outward appearance. Most of us have figured out the difference between "Does this make me look fat?" and "How does this look on me?" The first is a call for reassurance, the second is a question that needs a practical answer.

The trick, for a guy, is to always provide both answers, if only because it is too easy to hear the second question when she has asked the first question. So work on variations on: "The color on that is wonderful with your skin, but it is pulling a little at the hips" or "You have such a beautiful neck, why not wear something that focuses attention on it?"

If she thinks you are feeding her a line, she will get even crankier than if you said something bad straight out. This can be dangerous, which is where the third rule comes in handy. If you can truthfully tell her that something looks hideous on her and do so in memorable language, she will remember it. Oddly enough, being critical once or twice buys you almost endless credibility as you tell her she is beautiful. Of course, even when you are critical you should remember to say bad things about the clothing, not about the woman. I am still reaping the benefits of the night eight or nine years ago when I told her that the new cheap stirrup pants she bought made her look like she had crapped her pants and was walking around with a load in her drawers. (They did, they were a really cheesy pair of pants.) I, of course, followed up by adding that she has beautiful legs and that it was a shame that the droopy-drawered pants were disguising the wonderful line of her hamstrings.

Of course, mixing a critique of the clothes with praise of the lady requires that you learn something about the way your honey looks and about the way your honey thinks about her appearance. J has magnificent legs - long and shapely with well defined hamstrings. Rowrr. She has a short torso and does not look good in clothing that emphasizes the midriff and hips; not surprisingly she does not like to show her belly even when she has been working out and has a firm flexible torso. Starting with these basic traits I can usually say something that is both flattering and useful.

If you can make the combination work, you get the benefit of pleasing her ego while steering her towards the sorts of clothing that you like to admire on her. These are both very nice rewards.

Whoops. She is done with the fashion show, and I should put this away and go back to work.

And so to prep more classes.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 10:20 AM | TrackBack
October Calendar

Little Man? I call

Little Man?

I call the baby "little man" fairly often. He is. He is a perfect little man - we got very lucky and grabbed the happy good-looking baby out of the sack. Sometimes I call him Mr. Man; this seems to be a recent occurence for I have only noticed it over the last week or two.

We have another baby coming, due February. We do not yet know if it will be a boy or a girl. I have been trying to figure out what is the female equivalent of "Little Man"? I do not like the rhythm of "little woman;" I do not like the implications of "little lady;" I do not want to use a cutesy name like "kitten." For now, my best thought is to use "Miz FIRST-NAME". To remind me of that I have been calling the little man Mr. Sam, something J's Dad does. I do not really like the feel of that name, but I do like the feel of Miz Norberta (Norberta is the standin that we are using as a placeholder for the real names on our short list. )

I think that my caution about names for a baby girl is out of place. We do not even know what is on deck yet, and my family runs to boys. And yet, I keep reading about the difficulties that many women and girls face due to pressures and expectations. I do want my children to grow up self-directed and self-confident, able to ignore or at least adjust external pressures and external exectations. The girls are getting both trucks and dolls, just as the boy is getting both trucks and stuffed animals, and all the kids will get the full range of balls and sporting equipment. I do believe that the words we use shape (not determine, but shape) the thoughts we hold and the assumptions we make; words are how we articulate our ideas and our mazeway, our understanding of the world, is in turn made up of those ideas. I want to think that an awareness of words, on top of all the other parenting things, will help create caring, self-confident kids.

Names do matter. I will continue to think about use-names for the children. Miz Norberta is not all that bad, even if I do not care for Mr. Sam.

And so to go grade papers.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 09:34 AM | TrackBack
October Calendar

I feel busy J


I feel busy

J feels busier - she needs more sleep what with the baby on board - but I also feel overburdened. J feels a little cranky with me. I spent my after dinner time last night babysitting and watching a video (The Rookie on DVD), then I read Sports Illustrated before coming to bed. So I looked like a lazy bum, and when I took baby duty between 4:00 and 5:00 J slept through it. I was hard to wake this morning, J had to wait for me, and she got out of the house late. It appears to be my fault.

Things to do today or this weekend:
Grade papers
Edit chapter 3
Grade homework
Prep for Tuesday
Mail a book, pick up mail
Get a haircut
Pick up the little man from day care.
Grocery shopping
Cook meals
Move the Azalea from the front to the back of the house
Dig up the hot peppers and put them into pots for the winter
Arrange with the kids down the street to pressure-wash and refinish the back deck
Walk the hound
Supervise the cleaner when he comes by
High Holy Days

There is more, on the list downstairs, but it is a LOT. I did feel the need to write up yesterday's class before I got started.

One more thought then to work.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 09:23 AM | TrackBack
October Calendar

Revolution I Yesterday we


Revolution I

Yesterday we had our class on the Revolution. As I usually do, I focused on George Washington for this. Washington is so very important for 1775-1796 that I make sure that we do a good biographical thang on him.

Washington holds an unusual position in the national pantheon. On the one hand, he is the indispensible man - not for the war itself as Nathaniel Green and some of the other generals were also quite capable, but for the aftermath. If he were not there, the guys in Philadelphia in 1787 would have written a very different document with a much weaker chief executive. If GW had not put his prestige behind the Constitution it would not have been ratified. Everyone knows that GW is very important. But, very few people really know much about him. So, I decided a couple of years ago when planning the survey that it would be a very good idea to focus on GW the whole man.

I opened by asking the kids what they knew about GW. We had just read a mess of his letters and documents:


  • George Washington to Bryan Fairfax, Aug 24, 1774 (why resist),
  • Thomas Jefferson and the Continental Congress: Declaration of Independence (adopted version) July 4, 1776,
  • Washington to John Hancock, Dec 5, 1776 (militia),

  • Washington to John Hancock, Sept 11, 1777 (Battle of Brandywine),
  • Washington, General Orders, Dec 17,1777 (Valley Forge),
  • Washington, General Orders, May 5, 1778 (Celebrate French alliance),
  • Alexander Hamilton to Philip Schuyler, Feb 18 1781 (AH quarrels with GW),
  • Washington to Charles Cornwallis, Oct 17, 1783 (Yorktown),
  • Washington to Congress, Dec 23, 1783 (resigns).

I had really hoped that the kids would be able to tease something out of those letters. The morning section caught Washington's prickly disposition from his quarrel with Hamilton - they called it arrogance, I called it temper. The morning section also talked about the cherry tree, which gave me a chance to deliver a canned 5 minute spiel on mythmaking and the founders, and on the differences between the real guys and the Mason Weems plaster saints. The afternoon class wanted to talk more about GW as a general, they did not realize where they got the idea, but they repeated Hamilton's critique of GW as a battlefield general.

From there I went into my canned GW bio. I tried doing a stand-up thing with a student 6'2", a student 5'8", a student 5'6" and a student 5'4" standing side by side to illustrate the heights of Washington, the average continental regular, the average British regular, and the average British marine. I then went into the short spiel on heights in history. This was a bad idea, not the best use of time. I need to remember to drop the bit on heights.

We talked about GW the land speculator, GW the planter, GW the highly effective businessman - I included the distillery, GW the slaveholder, GW the local elite, and GW the moderate enlightenment man. I pointed out that GW always talks about Providence rather than about God, and that he insisted that the Continental army attend Divine services regularly. I made what I thought was a nice contrast between Franklin's self-improvement where he teaches himself how to write in style and Washington's self-improvement focusing on manners. Next time I use GW letters I will need to include the list of rules to live by. It will be useful here and I will be able to refer back to them when I talk about the transition from genteel to democratic society in the early 19th century.

Once we had GW down I recapped the tail end of the imperial crisis. I really should have done this Tuesday, but did not because I spent Tuesday catching up on the British Empire. We spent too long on Franklin on Thursday of last week and it has me about half an hour off sync. I focused on Adams' argument that the "real revolution took place in the hearts of the American people long before the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord" and used that as a kickoff point to talk about creating shadow governments, committees of correspondence, sons of liberty, and the like. This was important stuff and I presented it badly. It really did belong with the rest of the Imperial Crisis and I do need to think about how best to present the story of shadow government - I started with Sons of Liberty and Committees of Correspondence and what I should have done was start with Maier's point about hue and cry, posse comitas, militia, and all the other instances where the people police themselves. Then I could have shown how the Imperial Crisis simply changed the norms and direction that the people used, how the Sons of Liberty and the Committees of Correspondence took up administrative competancy from the local governments that were dissolved or paralyzed by the Crisis, and how the radicals seized legitimacy from the Crown through these shadow governments long before the crisis turned violent. It all comes back to getting through Franklin more quickly.

From there we dug into GW's letters. I really like that letter from GW to Fairfax: it contains a precis of almost every colonial argument for independece, it shows the writing style of the Republic of Letters, and it brings up the oddity of slave holders terrified that, if they did not stand up to the British, they would be reduced to the same condition as the black Slaves that they "govern with such Arbitrary power." This is always a good talking point and it let me re-emphasize the Virginian approach to liberty with a binary black-white, slave-free, dependent-independent mentality co-existing with an awareness of status, gradations, and patron-client relations within the white community.

Finally, with half an hour left, we declared independence. I gave a close reading of the Dec, emphasizing the preamble and the penultimate paragraph, emphasizing Jefferson's genius for taking the commonplace ideas and wrapping them in compelling prose, emphasizing the way the document is rooted in enlightenment social thought, and pointing out the differences between Jefferson's accusation against the British people and the final document's appeal for them to join the Colonists in defending British liberties.

I never did get to the war, to 18th century armies, to war goals, or any of that good stuff. I will need to fight the war in the first half hour on Tuesday, then jump into state constitution making. We had about 5 minutes left at the end of each section and we used that to start talking about the homework for this week: "Was the conflict of 1775-1783 a Revolution or a Civil War?" They agreed that it was a hard question - harder with this textbook than with Norton's A People and a Nation because Norton uses that question to frame the chapter while Boyer Enduring Vision never brings it up. I did not collect homework but told them that we would be talking about that question on Tuesday.

So, for Tuesday, it will be:

Fight the War
Was it a Revoluton or a Civil War?
State Constitutions
The Contagion of Liberty
The Northwest Territory

I think I am going to have to cut out my long section on Shays' rebellion to make it all fit. I can do that.

And so to finish planning my day.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 09:19 AM | TrackBack
October Calendar

Argumentation 101 I am


Argumentation 101

I am grading papers today. I just told a student that when they argue against someone, they have a moral responsibility to summarize their opponent's position fairly and accurately. You can not simply ignore their evidence and appeal to the emotions of the reader.

As I wrote those words, I was struck by the extent to which I have internalized some of the norms of the nineteenth century clergymen I study, and by the extent to which twenty-first century political discourse has fallen away from those norms. My guys, particularly the widely respected guys like Charles Hodge of Princeton or Nathan Bangs of the Methodist Episcopal Church, made a very clear distinction between good and bad controversies. Bad controversies were marked by people twisting their opponents arguments, extending their opponents positions to outlandish extremes, or selectively engaging their rhetorical foes. These arguments almost always degenerated; they are certainly no fun at all to read. Good controversies tended to engage their opponents full points, to go out of their way to summarize their foes positions, and if they did argue from extrapolation they kept that extrapolation to the main points of their opponents position.

In contrast, the norm these days, especially in the political blogs I read, is to engage in all the attributes of a bad controversy. People assume that the best way to beat their foe is to savage them, dehumanize them, turn the argument away from the key points, and otherwise weasel their way through. The recent discussion about Valerie Plame and White House leaks has shown many of the worst aspects of this rhetorical style.

It is much easier to make a weasel argument than it is to fairly summarize your opponents position. And, if you are good about the summary, you may very well convince some of your readers that your foe has the better of it. (Ben Franklin, after all, was converted to Deism by reading polemical tracts against Deism) That is a risk we take, but to do otherwise is intellectually dishonest. And frankly, if someone is intellectually dishonest in the manner in which they argue, it destroys any faith I might have about the merits of their position.

I doubt that I will change any minds or styles in blogistan or talk radio land. But, perhaps I can convince some of the kids to take arguments seriously and to doubt people who refuse to take their opponents seriously. That would be something.

And back to grade.

Edit: Timothy Burke has a similar take on the moral obligation to be true to your sources. He is talking about historians working with primary documents rather than polemics taking their opponents positions, but there is an essential similarity between our positions.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 03:44 AM | TrackBack
October Calendar

October 02, 2003

This really has become


This really has become a teaching blog.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 04:42 AM | TrackBack
October Calendar