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November 2003 Archives

November 28, 2003

Time and Planning

I wasted $100 today. Actually, I wasted it about a week ago, but today I found out that I had done it.

I am applying for jobs. It costs me about $40 to apply by FedEx. It costs me about $12 to apply by US Priority Mail. It costs me about $6 to apply by US regular mail. This is for my application, my documents service, the surcharge for mailing chapters, and so on.

I lost track of time, got distracted by cranking on the revised chapter 3, and then fell into the drift between sprints of work. I also spent some time being depressed: "why should I apply, I can't even write a chapter." So, I missed two deadlines and came down to the wire on four more.

Then, when I was frantically digging through my papers to find my teaching evaluations for last semester, I found two more letters that had been written but not mailed! I seem to have had a serious self-destructive streak going earlier this month.

So, I got the job letters out. But, I spent too much on them. I have burned more relationship points. And, having blown my discretionary fund on FedEx, it looks like I get a much smaller set of presents this year.

Ah well. At least one of the jobs that went out at the wire looks like a very good match.

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Red Ted
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November 26, 2003

Starting the Thanks list

I got some good news yesterday and today, and I want to start making a list of things that I am thankful for.

Some of these are personal, others are professional.

In my personal life, I am thankful for wife and son; both are wonderful. I am thankful that three out of four grandparents have met the baby, and all three are active if not healthy.

I am thankful that we will be in a position to host a feast for twelve people, that is its own blessing despite also being a lot of work.

In my professional life, the thanks are smaller, or better, shorter term.

My advisor likes chapter three, finally. I am thankful that I may have learned how to write a chapter.

I have an interview next week, there I am hopeful that something will come of it.

Some of my students are wonderful. Teaching a bright, interested student is a fine experience, and I am thankful that I have had it this semester. So too is being able to make someone excited about material that they had expected to hate, the power to convert is a fun power to have.

Despite my flashes of the blues this fall, it has been a good year. And I am thankful for it.

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Red Ted
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November 25, 2003


I wrote a short blog entry last night, but it appears that the packet-loss demons ate it. They have been lurking in our wires for the last week or so, appearing for their occasional meal, then going back like trolls under a bridge.

Today I collect papers from the students, and for the next week I get to go into a grading frenzy. I am bringing chapter four with me to office hours, knowing that I am not going to see it again for a while. Chapter four does indeed have problems much like the previous draft of chapter three - I am still having trouble laying out a clear argument and I am still having trouble making it clear to my reader why each paragraph and each sub-section matter.

Based on the improved homework these last few weeks, and the pretty decent rough drafts I have been seeing, the kids will have done fairly well on the paper. I had them read Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and then tell me, according to HBS, what was wrong with American society? UTC contains language that today is offensive - fighting words - and parts of the plot and character depictions are painfully racist. (Compare the black characters, who are all stupid, inarticulate, passive, and essentially female with the mulatto characters, who are all intelligent, good looking, active, and more male - even the women). Still, the book was a scathing critique of slavery, of the market economy, and of "male" gender roles. I hope we will have a good discussion today.

There are only four more classes left, it is hard to see where the semester has gone too. On the bright side, I got a job interview. I will be doing a phone interview in a couple of weeks for a teaching job on the West Coast. I really really want this - of all the things I applied for it was the best match for me.

But, first I get to collect papers and then settle down for a long weekend of grading, of family, of cooking, and of playing with the baby.

And so to work

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Uncle Tom

We talked about Uncle Tom's Cabin today.

We were supposed to talk about all sorts of things: the Kansas Nebraska Act, Bleeding Kansas, Preston Brooks' assault on Charles Sumner in the Senate chamber, the rise of the Republican party and decline of the Know-Nothing party, Abraham Lincoln and Southern secession.

By the time I finished covering all I wanted to say about UTC, we had 10 minutes left. I used them to preview Kansas and Nebraska.

It is a good thing that I saved an extra class for review, because we are going to need that extra time.

But, we had a really good discussion about Tom, and Eva, and St. Clare, and Marie, and heros and villains, and religion, and slavery. The kids think I should assign the novel again next year.

Now I get to prep a quick dinner before company arrives. I do not know how much blogging I will do over the next few days. Between houseguests, hosting Thanksgiving, and grading papers I may need to remind myself to sleep.

And so to cook sausage and mushroom gravy for tonights dinner, and bread for stuffing, and muffins because I can.

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November 24, 2003

Monday, Monday

That was a particularly incoherent thought yesterday.

Let me explain it a little farther, and in the process I will get a start on my think piece. One of the things that I write about is church and state. At the start of the nineteenth century many people followed Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story's lead when Story claimed that the First Amendment to the US constitution meant that the federal government could neither provide aid to any particular sect, no special grants for Presbyterians, nor provide aid for any general classification of Christianity, no federal equivalent to South Carolina's special status for Protestants. What Story said the US could do was support "Christianity in general," what others called the broad common principles of Christianity, without favoritism to any sect or subvariety.

The modern answer to this, of course, is that there is too much variety in Christendom for this to work. To use a classic 19th century example, if you protect the common Sabbath by preventing all work on Sunday, what does this mean for 7th-day Baptists who rest on Saturday, spend Sunday morning in worship, and then go about their business? Story ignored that, as did the people in the benevolent movements that spread over the country after the War of 1812. They simply asserted a common Christianity, claimed that they agreed in "all the important particulars" and were very careful never to name these particulars.

I link this claim, and its collapse, to the evolution of the Providential promise. National Providence, modeled on the deals between God and Israel in the Hebrew Bible, asserts that if a nation obeys God's wishes, then god will reward them, while if they avoid God's claims, they will be punished as a nation. While Christians generally deny personal Providence - in fact the Gospel of Matthew is pretty clear that personal success is negatively correlated with holiness - they often invoke general or national Providence. The classic American example comes in John Winthrop's Model of Christian Charity where he asserts that God has made a covenant with the Puritans, if they obey God's wishes they will be made into a great nation, if they disobey they will fade into ignomony. And, to raise the stakes, Winthrop asserts that all the eyes of the world are upon them; they are a "city on a hill" and their success or failure will be followed by similar success or failure everywhere else.

The Puritan notion of Providence came as a two-part deal: do well and be rewarded, do poorly and be punished. The interesting thing, for me, is that in the early 19th century we dropped the second part of that. A majority of Americans all over the country denied the claims of judgemental Providence, and Congress backed them up. There are a lot of examples, the famous one was the Sunday mails.

State law prohibited work or travel on Sundays except in cases of charity or necessity. In the early 19th century the travel restriction was increasingly under fire, people who travelled to services said they were travelling for charity, but then they stayed and were social afterwards - they blurred the lines. Many wanted to travel for pleasure, go on excursions, rather than sit listening to Puritan-style sermons all day. Immigrants, especially from Continental Europe, saw the day as a chance to relax with their families, often in parks or promenades or beer gardens. And, of course, rowdy artisinal culture had long seen Sunday as the day for recreations: ball games, contests, and just a wee bit of drink. (Monday, St. Monday, was the semi-official day off while folks recovered from their hangovers)

Starting in the War of 1812, the US mail began to travel on Sundays. The constitution is very clear that the US Mail can not be halted by state law; the post is an enumerated power. Mail coaches made noise coming into and out of town. The annoyance grew during the 1820s as the post road network expanded. It was made even worse in the mid 1820s when a new regulation stated that any time the post arrived, the post office had to open for an hour so folks could get their mail - even on Sunday morning. This was even more disruptive, and folks began to petition.

There had been one petition campaign against Sunday mails in 1813, with most of the petitions invoking Providence and warning that a decision made to aid the war effort would end up losing America the war. Congress repudiated Providence, cited expediency, was polite to the petitioners, and the mails continued. In 1828 Lyman Beecher formed the General Union for the Protection of the Christian Sabbath and started a new petition campaign. Some but not all of these petitions cited Providence. Congress again said no. The House cited expedience and apologized for disturbing the petitioners. The Senate cited expedience and scolded the petitioners for daring to involve Congress in deciding a religious question.

After a new round of petitions, all calling for an end to Sunday mails in strictly secular terms and many of them complaining about the Senate report, the House issued another report. Curiously, the same guy who had authored the Senate report a few months earlier had moved to the House and now authored (it was actually drafted by a friend of his) a new report. This new report claimed that Sabbatarian petitioners were trying to get Congress to decide on a contested matter of religious doctrine, pointed out that it would be a very bad idea to set the precedent of having a legislative body decide religious matters and then impose that decision on the nation, and concluded by using a reductio ab absurdim to claim that the Sabbatarian petitioners were starting down a slippery slope that would end with a re-creation of the old British establishment: mandatory attendance laws, only one sect to preach, those preachers paid out of tax revenue, and thought police to punish those who disagreed with the national orthodoxy. He saw Protestant Popery, and condemned it.

That was long. The point, for these purposes, is that the nation rejected the notion that they had to perform certain actions in order to receive Providential blessings. Or, more precisely, they rejected the notion that they would be punished if they did not follow the 4th Commandment. They wanted Providential blessings, they rejected Providential punishment.

We can write a wonderful sermon condemning the nation as a batch of self-indulgent children who want the goodies but not the work. We should also remember that the reason that Jackson, most of Congress, and Richard Johnson who chaired those committees and signed those reports denied the Providential requirements was that they did not want politicized religion. If the nation accepts as national policy that we will be punished for not following the "right" religion, then it becomes a matter of compelling national interest to choose the "right" religion. We choose that religion either by abdicating the choice to some religious body, forming a strong establishment of religion, or by having our magistrates and legislators decide what the national religious practices will be. That will soon lead to sabbath laws or no sabbath laws, strict or loose sabbath, attendance laws or no attendance laws, long sermons or short sermons, sermons condemning alcohol or sermons condemning strikes, all becoming matters to be handled in election campaigns. No one wanted to go there.

So, while we retain the belief in positive Providence, the blessings, and we call for those blessings any time a magistrate uses the traditional "God bless the United States of America," we reject negative providence for the same reason that the Jacksonians rejected it - we don't want any group to gain exclusive control and we absolutely do not want to politicize religious beliefs.

Despite the best efforts of folks who agreed with Joseph Story, Christianity in general became an ideal that was only powerful when invoked but not defined. People could claim that all agreed, but they could not come up with a legislated plan of action without raising worries about precedents and renewed establishments of religion.

What I need to do in this think piece is tie Providence to my thoughts about the rise of a self-identified Evangelical movement in the 1840s, a rise that with Sidney Mead I tie to Charles Hodge of Princeton and his theology of Unity in the Spirit. I need to check what Hodge says about historical Christianity, the act of publicly stating that Christ was the Messiah, as compared to the church invisible, the international and interdenominational community defined as those who are saved and will go to Heaven. The two overlap but are not identical, and Hodge urged practical unity between individuals on the basis of shared membership in the Church Invisible while at the same time urging them to forego all attempts to reconcile their worship practices or theologies - for to do so would mean that someone would be giving up a sincere belief solely for fellowship, and Hodge thought doctrines were more important than fellowship.

I want to tie Unity of the Spirit into the decline in negative Providence, probably on the basis that since good people should disagree about sincerely held doctrines, it would not be appropriate to call for any detailed national acts in fulfilment of any divine covenant. But, I need to re-read Hodge and think some more.

Thanks, I needed this think piece. I hope it was comprehensible.

If you are interested in learning more about the Sabbath Mails controversy, the easiest resource to find is Richard Rhodda John, Spreading the News. John wrote a very good history of the US Mails in the Early American Republic and has a good chapter on this. He has a better journal article, but that is harder to get to outside of a University Library. If you are a glutton for punishment, email me and I will send you more references.

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Red Ted
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November 23, 2003

Busy day

We went to a wedding today. We drove 2 and a half hours, were there for about five hours, and drove back.

It was good to see J's extended family. She had forgotten to tell them she was pregnant; she got teased for keeping things quiet.

On the drive back I started thinking about Providence, the Texas Taliban, and chapter four. I intend to work up a think piece on Providence to help me figure out what to do with it in chapter four. I think that I might be able to extract my discussions of common Christianity, Providence, and Unity of the Spirit and put it together as a good article for Journal of the Early Republic or Journal of Church and State. Professionally, I need a good article. I have been looking for something I could extract from the dissertation. Right now, I am too tired to write it up. (Coffee while driving, then an idea to write down, and now here I am, rattling.)

And so to try to be sleepy

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November 22, 2003

Poor Man's Matrix

I still have not gotten around to seeing any of the Matrix movies. I have seen enough Matrix parodies to know the plot, and now I can see the special effects as well. This is most amusing.

And I should be asleep

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Red Ted
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I had a terrible day yesterday. I graded a few student rough drafts; I read a book of short stories for fun; I dithered about. I did not do errands because I was trying to work. I did not get work done because I could not focus. It was a wasted day, and I can not afford wasted days.

I seem to have lost the knack of working when I am not stressed out. This is a bad thing. It means that I will have to stress myself out to get things done for the rest of the semester. I don't enjoy stress; it is bad for me, but I am too lazy to work without it.

Then, last night, I rattled around. I was tired, did not feel sleepy, and just moped about.

Today is a day for errands. I caught up on the rough drafts, I will grade some back homework, and we will clear the decks so that tomorrow we can day-trip to a wedding about three hours away.

And, in the midst of my motivational crisis and right before papers come in, I find that EQ is offering two free weeks. I want to play games, I don't want to work, but I have to get things done.

Pardon the whine, I slept 5 hours and it makes me even more self-indulgent.

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November 21, 2003


I baked blueberry muffins last night. I also baked corn muffins on Wednesday morning - I appear to be on a muffin kick. Recipes are at the bottom of this entry.

As I was walking the hound and the baby this morning I thought about the muffin-making process. I like to bake. I have liked to bake ever since, when I was in 7th grade or so, Mom decided that while she did not have time to bake pie for me, she did have time to find me some recipes so I could make them myself. I started with grandmother's lard-based pie crust and a family friend's lime chiffon pie. The first one was OK, the third one was very good indeed, and I have been a baker ever since.

The more I bake, the easier it is to do. Scooping and leveling flour is slow the first time you do it, faster the fourth time. Beating muffin/brownie/chemical bread batter together in a few short deft strokes is a lot easier after you have done it a few times. The first time I had to beat egg whites and then fold them into batter it took me a long time, and I checked Julia Child three times to see if I did it right. These days I think nothing of grabbing the blender and separating eggs so that the waffles will be lighter.

I don't make many pies any more; I am watching my saturated fat intake because of the cholesterol, and both the lard crust that I used to make and the butter crust that I shifted to about 10 years ago will break my fat budget. (The lard crust is flakier, the butter crust is tastier.) I do bake a lot of bread and, when I remember how easy they are, I bake muffins.

Muffins are: 5 to 10 minutes of prep, all of which can be done while the oven heats; 15 to 20 minutes of baking; 5 minutes of cleanup, most of which can be done while the muffins are baking. They are quick and easy.

Or rather, they are quick and easy if you have all the ingredients handy. Because I like to bake, I keep a fully stocked baking cupboard. I rarely find a recipe that calls for something that I do not have, and when I do I usually happen to have a substitute handy. Preparation means that baking becomes a whim, an instant gratification, rather than a project or a bother.

There are other things in life that are easy to do if you have the tools and supplies handy, and are a bother otherwise. When I putter around the house I always have to go to the home store once or thrice to get parts, get tools, and get supplies. Home maintenance is a bother. At some point, it will go from being a bother to being a chore. This pattern is not limited to mechanical things; it also applies to life skills from being able to use a hammer to having practice performing other tasks.

I am teaching my students how to write. Most of them have improved their writing over the course of the semester. Similarly, I am using this blog to give myself extra practice at writing - I still need to get better at short, fluid, effortless prose. We learn by doing.

We also build up stock of emotional tools, personal communication tools. I think of this because Lilith and Rupert have been talking about communication within relationships. Read the comments on Lilith's page. We learn phrases and bits of grammar just as we learn how to beat an egg or wield a hammer. With experience we figure out which phrases best convey which emotions. Every long-term couple has a phrase or three that they use to indicate, for example, a desire for sex. For us it is a simple "Hey baby, what'cha doin'?" In a long term relationship, we figure out when to hint and when to hit our partner with the metaphorical two-by-four.

I found myself trying to inventory life tools. What are the interpersonal equivalents of a jar of powdered buttermilk in the cupboard, or the skill of beating egg whites to a soft peak without using sugar, salt, or vinegar? I am not sure. I might make a list as a study break while I read rough drafts today.

The last few paragraphs were either very deep or very banal. Rather than decide which, I will leave you with the blueberry muffins I improvised last night. This is a lower fat recipe. I happened to have all the parts on hand. Adopt it to your kitchen.

blueberry Muffins, by Red Ted
10 minutes prep
20 minutes cook
my muffin tray makes 12 medium muffins.

1 cup AP flour, scooped and leveled
1 cup cake flour, scooped and leveled, plus one heaping tablespoon cake flour.
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda (crumble it in your palm to get rid of the lumps)
pinch salt (1/4 tsp?)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp powdered buttermilk


1 egg
about 1/4 cup non-fat yoghurt (I glopped with a spoon twice and said good enough.)
about 2 tbsp oil (again, I measured by eye. I use olive oil.)

1 cup skim milk
1 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 425
combine dries in a large bowl, stir them together with a whisk
combine wets in a small bowl, beat the egg, oil, and yoghurt together

spray a muffin tray with non-stick spray coating

Add wets to dries
add milk to dries
mix together in a few short, deft strokes
when almost combined, add blueberries
finish mixing - remember that if you develop the gluten the muffins will be tough, so easy does it.

pour batter in to muffin tray.
use a spoon to steal from the large and fill the low until they are all about even
bake for 15 to 18 minutes

remove muffins from the tin immediately, cool on a rack.
Once they are cool enough to eat, they are ready to eat. (Unlike bread which should breathe for an hour before cutting)

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November 20, 2003

Moving Memories

J completely denies that she is anything at all like this Jennie Breeden cartoon. Me, I wonder sometimes.

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November 19, 2003

Carnival time !

The new Carnival is up at Peaktalk. This one looks particularly good.

Highly recommended are: The Iraqi Fork at Earthly Passions; Angelweave's review of Fast Food Nation - looks like I need to read the book and bookmark the blog; Bogieblog's story about what happens when Chickens go Wild

Many of the others were also good, but these stood out from the pack. I rank my bit about Reagan and Jackson in the middle of the pack: I pick up someone else's idea, but I add value to it rather than just rewriting it. I also wrote too many words for the idea, but I often do that.

Next week is at Setting the World to Rights

And so to work.

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Red Ted
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Wet day

It has been a wet day. The morning was moist, about an hour ago thunderstorms blew in.

The rain makes me sleepy. Actually, to be more precise, falling air pressure makes me sleepy. If I start to nod off, the barometer is sure to be dropping.

I am in a lull between chapters. I was to spend today grading old homework. I got some graded. I prepped class for tomorrow although it will need more work. I baked corn muffins (easy, I need to do that more often). I drove J to and from work twice (she came home when they had a gas leak in their building). I hit the library and the bank, but am still behind on my mail and my book orders. In a few minutes we will go fetch the second car from the cleaners. It has, in other words, been a slow moving day with errands and a nap.

I sprint and I drift, I sprint and I drift. Today I drifted. Tomorrow I get to sprint again until Thanksgiving - papers come in the Tuesday before Turkey Day and I want to get chapter four revised before then.

I still want to take a week off, play Everquest, read novels, bake cookies, and otherwise turn into a fat slug. But, I often want that.

And so to fetch the wife.

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November 18, 2003

Linkrot and NYT

Kevin Drum explains how to fight linkrot when linking to the NYT.

Now I have to decide if I want to read news via RSS feeds.

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Pieter at Peaktalk is hosting this week.

I just sent him my snark about Reagan's legacy. I wanted to send something political this week to test a theory, and that was the least badly written political rant this week.

My discussion about people and distance and weather could have been excellent, but it stops rather than concluding. I suspect that I will return to those themes and try to do a better job sometime in the future.

Am I unusual for critiquing my own blog? Or am I just unusual for posting my critiques of my blog, well, on my blog?

And so to teach. I have a class plan, it is too long, but we will manage.

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Fiction and Literature

As I was commuting in and out of the city today I could have played the audiobook I keep in the care. Even if I was spending the drive in thinking about my class, I could have played it on the drive back. I did not. I have gotten bored with Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure - and I am still on the first tape. The novel is bleak, it is sad, and it foreshadows even more bleakness and sadness. It is read slowly and lovingly by Jenny Sterlin. She reads well, she emphasized the words and the characters and the feel of the novel. And I do not like it.

Audiobooks emphasize the language of literature. They move more slowly than I read for myself. This can be a very good thing - I have read The Lord of the Rings so many times now that my eyes glance over the paper while in an audiobook I linger in the descriptions. If the prose is rich and thick, and the point of the book is the way it is written, then an audiobook is a very good thing. However, when the point of the book is the plot, well, I begin to dislike audiobooks. When the book is abridged, taking out all the rich thick prose and leaving just plot, then I dislike it very much. Audiobooks reveal the weaknesses in a book; they are more demanding than paper. You can not flip back to check something, it is hard to replay a paragraph, you have to get it the first time and, if there are junk words and waste paragraphs in there, your eye can not skip by them. I put down most audiobooks unfinished. Thomas Hardy lingers lovingly on the crushing impossibility of real improvement and the doomed dreams of people who want to break free of their existence. I do not care to linger on that while I drive. Jude goes back to the library tomorrow.

Earlier today, as I was thinking about why I did not like Jude, I also thought about the nature of modern literature.

At one point I divided my library into fiction and literature, light books and serious books. I tried to define each, and could not come up with a definition that both held up in the abstract and matched the way I had shelved my books. I had shelved the genre novels in one room, thrown the crappy stuff in with them, and put the non-genre good stuff in another room. This was fairly arbitrary - some genre fiction is better written than most non-genre fiction: Gene Wolf, Terry Pratchett, Sam Delaney, and Walter Jon Williams all have some work that is absolutely spectacular. But, they went into the basement shelves next to Robert Wilson's Illuminati Trilogy and Mercedes Lackey, and Robert Tanenbaum, and the rest of the science fiction and mysteries and thrillers.

Thinking back to those two rooms of books there was a general pattern. The books in the basement were entertaining; some handled serious themes but all were page turners. And, by and large, the books in the basement were about success. The books upstairs moved more slowly. Some were page turners (Moby Dick is a page turner if you like Melville), others were slogs. But, by and large, the books upstairs were about failure. Especially with 20th century literature, we can approximately say that serious fiction is about failure and light fiction is about success. I wonder how many people will try to write a "serious" piece of fiction with light pages and a happy ending. It cuts both ways, of course. William Gibson voted himself from my "buy this" list to my "library" list when, at the end of Virtual Light he first kills a character and then, in the coda, tells us that the character somehow survived falling off the top tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. He forced his happy ending, and in doing so he undermined the world he had created in the previous 300 odd pages of his novel.

Earlier today I tried to articulate a distinction between fiction and literature that would capture that difference between success and failure, and I could not do it. Fiction is a story that did not really happen; literature is either everything that has been written or, in the narrow definition, everything that has been written well. Using the broad definition of literature, all fiction is literature. If we use the narrow definition then there is a small group of material that is both fiction and literature, well written stories that did not really happen. Those are pretty decent ideal types for someone who has never studied literary theory, but they don't help me file my books.

I have time before I need to work up a new filing system. In the new house there is no room for fiction, and while I am writing and teaching I have little time to read fiction. The books remain in boxes in a storage unit.

Someday the books will be unpacked, and then I will have to file them. I might file them as books about success and books about failure. J suggests that we just file all the stories that did not really happen in one set of shelves, with William Faulkner and Robert Frezza hanging out near each other; I might do that. I might also put all the books with repetitive plots in one set of shelves and everything else in another - that criterion might well put Sir Walter Scott in with Bernard Cornwell and David Drake. Or I might just file the books about happiness, the books about despair, and the books about bittersweet in three separate sets of shelves. That way I could grab a novel that suited my mood.

For now, I am going to go grade papers and read John Pemble's The Mediterranean Passion. That is a work of British history, so it will get filed in non-fiction.

Tomorrow, I will look for a new audiobook. I have summoned Mystic River after reading Sheila O'Malley's rave for its opening paragraph. If the rest of the book is as richly written, it will hold up to the audio process. But I am number 8 on the hold list, so I will need to find something to tide me over. There are not a lot of unabridged books on tape in the library, and most of them are books I do not care to read. But I will find something, I usually do.

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Tired and sleepless

Last night I was tired and sleepless. Even after I went to bed, around 12:30, I lay there. I had some palpitation last night and again this morning, 60/minute, weak pulse, could feel it in my sternum. Why?

I think I am feeling stressed and that I am not handling the stress well.

In the short term, I need to have some coffee, have a morning nap, revise my lecture, and get through the day.

In the slightly longer term, I need to cut back on the coffee and get myself to bed earlier.

And, for the morning non-sequitor, I worry that many of my longer blog posts below are too long. Not in absolute length, but in having too many words for the ideas. Blog entries, for me, are a rough draft of an idea. Like a think piece, they are often what I write to figure out what I really believe. My rough drafts are always long and rambling.

Speaking of rough drafts, make a note to bug the kids - their Uncle Tom's Cabin papers are due a week from today.

And so to have a day.

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Grey and cloudy

I feel grey and cloudy today.

Class went fairly well. It was not great - rambling, poorly focused. I need to work up something better to do with this slot next semester. We talked about Bowery B'hoys, minstrel shows, working class culture, immigration, anti-catholicism, Bible riots, telegraphs, railroads, the commodification of agricultural products, and why people cared about slavery in the Western territories.

I am tired still, and mazy, and, well, grey and cloudy.

Factoid of the day, from The Mediterranean Passion atmospheric pollution was so bad in late Victorian England that many houses had soot screens outside the windows - thin screens that caught the larger particles of atmospheric pollution before they could land on the glass. The skies were often yellow during the day, black at night, and the gas lights which burned constantly were never enough to light the way. Pemble does not mention the poor design of the British gas lights - they did not have a proper vent for the smoke from the burning gas, and so the light sooted up its own globe within a few hours after being lit. American gas lights had chimneys, and were brighter.

Thursday I get to kill the Whig party. That class will be much more focused.

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Red Ted
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November 17, 2003

New Weblog Showcase

I decided to vote in TTLB's New Weblog showcase.

Since Sebastian and I had been discussing abortion, and because it was a nicely written bit of sarcasm, I picked Observation, Complaints, and Lamentations on Catholics and abortion policy as nt political blog and Sound Check for the non-political blog. Kristin's featured entry was a little lame, but the overall blog is pretty good.

I am having trouble cranking out job letters today.

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Surveys while sleepy

Via En Banc I see that Political Compass has a new political survey.

Not suprisingly, I came out to the left. I was a little surprised to see that I was a mild pragmatist and not an idealist.

Axis Position
1 left/right -3.7275 (-0.2244)
2 pragmatism +1.1684 (+0.0703)

On their earlier survey I consistently come out strongly libertarian, mild lefty.

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Red Ted
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HTML is your friend.

It appears that has been hacked. I use them for my private blogroll but, in order to get my links sorted and alphabetized, I write my blogroll on the left in straight html.

I am reminded of the old rule of thumb about web authoring tools like Dreamweaver: they are convenient, they are fast, they are powerful. They are also not perfect. When I was teaching professors how to put up web pages for their classes, I always made sure that they knew the basics of html. Even if someone else was doing the initial coding for them, even if they were using a Dreamweaver, they had to know enough to go in and make basic patches to buggy code.

Sometimes it is cool to be square. Most of the time it just takes more time.

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Sebastian and I have

Sebastian and I have about run dry in the earlier debate. Actually, we ran dry several exchanges ago, but argument and inertia do keep things going. And, as Annie pointed out, we were debating oughts and not actuals.

I want to start a tangent based on the last couple of exchanges, and a tangent gets its own toplevel post.

While Sebastian and I have surprisingly different policy goals, mine by preference and his as a compromise, our approach to the debate was shaped by a surprising similarity. He, a conservative, and I, a liberal, both approached major policy questions from the perspective of beleaguered minorities. And, as beleaguered minorities, we were suspicious of outside policy proposals. Similarly, Annie was feeling left out because we were not engaging her posts, she too felt like a silenced minority.

But why was everyone feeling like a minority? Is there no mainstream any more?

Personally, I look at national policy debates from, well, a national perspective. I see Team Texas in the White House, a Republican majority in Congress that goes out of its way to ignore and marginalize the Democratic minority, and state-level Republican parties, especially in Texas, who are willing to break the code of customary respect in order to gain political advantage (I am thinking of the redistricting proposal). If you know that John Ashcroft will be in charge of executing the laws, you just assume that those laws are going to be executed in a partisan fashion. (1) On the national level, the Republican party is currently dominant, that party is dominated by its conservative wing, and that wing is dominated by the Texas crowd. You don't have to buy into the whole Kevin Drum Texas conspiracy theory to distrust these guys.

So, I fear giving them any advantage because I do not trust them to use their power wisely. Those are harsh words, but there you have it. Emotions can be harsh.

Holsclaw seems to feel that the current legal system is largely to completely to the liberal side. He made those statements when talking about abortion policy. Expanding that insight to other conservatives, Randy Barnett of Volokh worries about speech laws and civil liberties. Many conservatives appear convinced that popular culture and the media are against them and that they have to struggle to get their moral messages through a society dominated by music and images glorifying self-indulgence and cheap populism. I have to admit, when I see Hollywood movies turning again and again to cheap ripoffs of populism in order to rally the audience against "the man", I feel like reaching for God and Man at Yale for a counter-injection of conservativism. I do not yet have Emperor Misha's vitriol at being surrounded by "liberal idiots" - but if you have the stomach to read him go flip through a couple of pages and notice that he writes with the voice of a beleaguered minority; he sees idiots everywhere.(2)

Annie, meanwhile, is cranky at the male-dominated tone of our argument. We were phrasing things in terms of natural law morality and abstract legal justice. We were not using data, or looking at outcomes, or conveying any empathy for women. Women have historically been silenced in political discourse. Contra Kim Du Toit they are still under-represented and under-voiced. There may be more women than men, but they do not have a public voice comparable to their numbers. This might be the mommy track taking people off the grind to high office and high corporate positions, it might be subtle sex discrimination, it might be that the schematic strict father / nurturing mother does indeed describe how we want our politics; if enough voters want an authority figure in office and respond to men who project authority, then women will indeed have trouble gaining office and trouble gaining the bully pulpit.

If everyone feels like a minority, and everyone is defensive about it, how can we raise the tone of political discourse?

The first, something I failed in my original rant about lies, is to be very sure that we understand our opponents before we criticize them. I have been struck this week by how good Eugene Volokh has been at making sure he understands the things he comments on. Other pundits should take lessons from him. To the extent that I opine, I include myself in that category.

Following that, we need, all of us, to ask people if they have made their point in the most constructive way. The challenge is to do this both to the people you agree with (at the cost of appearing to rhetorically disarm) and to people you disagree with (without appearing to be chaining the subject or ducking their points.) dueling rants are counterproductive. I already vote against Republican demagogues; I currently support Clark over Dean largely because Clark can make his points without going over the top with his style and without giving in on the substance.

Beyond that, add my name to the growing list of people who are concerned about the long-term consequences of our current districting system for the health of our polity. While there have always been locations that are strong for one party or another, more and more we are moving to a system of rotten boroughs and safe districts. Too many candidates run unpacked or effectively unopposed. This means that, as in the early 19th century, the real elections are the statehouse elections before the decennial census. One reason that the Texas redistricting hack bothers me so much is that De Lay and his Texas buddies are setting a precedent where once any party gains enough of the statehouse they can redistrict the state, right then, so that they will not lose another election.

That sort of politics kills a two party system. Go re-read Michael Holt's Political Crisis of the 1850s. In the past single party politics in the United States has produced politics of personality and of personal character assassination within the parties or, in the late 1850s, purely sectional politics to the point where people who lost a national election could not imagine life as a minority and seceded rather than be destroyed. One-party politics have been unstable in the past. And while two-party politics has its faults, I would like to think that if we drop two-party politics we do so after serious consideration.

Is there a better way to handle redistricting while still keeping geographic electoral districts and first-past-the-post election laws? Gerrymandering is a fine political tradition, just ask Elbridge Gerry at the start of the 19th century. Redistricting has traditionally protected most minority party members who are currently in the legislature while giving an overall benefit to the majority party. I don't want to turn districting over to a judge, we might turn districting over to a commission but those are not stable solutions. What I want, but can not imagine, is some form of the old cake-cutting solution: I cut the cake, you have first choice of pieces, so I have an incentive to cut the slices evenly.

With luck this would resolve the "waah, we are all minorities" problem. There is a big difference between turning to lawsuits, extra legal pressures, or dropping politics altogether and the fine political tradition of "wait until next election." If we always feel that we will have a chance in the next election, then any loss is only temporary. And, if we know that we can always lose the next election, any victory will not be exploited because, to do so, would be to set a precedent for when the other party has power.

I am not sanguine about electoral reform. If half of what I fear about the Diebold machines is true, then things are getting worse. (Oddly, I have encountered conservatives worrying about what those Democrats are trying to do with the push-button machines. Paranoia runs deep.)

That means that the only way that districts are likely to be shaken up is if we see a new political alignment. Some of the signs of such an alignment are in the air - the small l libertarians are forming their own wing to try to turn libertarianism from men in tinfoil hats to a viable alternative to Texas Republicanism. Dean, despite his terrible phrasing, wants to challenge the current ethnocultural focus of many Southern voters. 2004 is going to be an interesting election. I suspect that women voters are going to be the big surprise here. I have been struck by how many women operate political blogs - in cyberspace no one hears the pitch of your voice - and how powerful their words have been. While women generally vote class, religion, and race before they vote gender, that can change, especially if we see more groups of women working to get women the early funding and name recognition they need to get through primaries and state and local level party committees.

(1) It is not true that I despise all Republicans. I despise Ashcroft, DeLay, and Rove. They are partisan hacks who are perfectly willing to sell out the democratic process in search of temporary advantage. I dislike Bush 43: he has a systematic disconnect between his rhetoric and his policies, and lies are my hot-button issue, but the man appears to be trapped within his world view while the others are aggressively malicious. Cheney and Rumsfield, while I disagree with many of their policies I approve of the men themselves. Both are smart, do appear willing to re-think their assumptions, and can (usually) tell the difference between a political disagreement and a bonfire. Powell is not part of the inner circle, I generally like him. I don't know enough about Rice to have an opinion.

(2) For the record, I think that anyone who seriously believes in a "political correctness" movement is an idiot. And, if you parse Misha and remove the emotion and ranting, he ends up saying very little indeed.

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Founders and Presidents, History and Memory

It appears that, according to a pretty decent looking quiz, of all the founders I most resemble George Washington.

Which Founding Father Are You?

Invisible Adjunct is Hamilton. This ties into something I was thinking about last night after reading Jake at Political Aims talking about Ronald Reagan's legacy.

Several people have compared Reagan with past Presidents of the U.S., and one of the more common comparisons is between Reagan and Andrew Jackson. The two have a fair number of things in common: both were derided as dunces by their foes; both were smart politicians; both introduced controversial economic policies; both presided over a boom while in office but had their vice presidents first succeed them and then lose after one term because of an economic crash; both were strong nationalists; both believed in shifting decisions from the federal to the state government wherever possible. Finally, both were controversial in their day because of their response to law and the Constitution. Jackson played fast and loose with the balance of powers during Indian removal and the Bank War; Reagan presided over the adminstration during Iran-Contra.

What struck me the most about the two men, however, was the difference between their immediate and their eventual legacies. Let me explain. Jackson was censured by the Senate for his actions during the bank war. After Jackson left office, his partisans worked for years until they were able to remove that censure from the official record; they wanted to vindicate his name. Reagan was not censured, but his partisans have worked for years after Reagan left office, trying to name a federal building in all 50 states after him, contemplating adding him to Mt. Rushmore, and otherwise turing RR into an omnipresent visual and aural icon.

When I introduce Jackson to the students, the first thing that comes up is Indian removal. Regardless of what other things they learn about Jackson, they keep coming back to the Trail of Tears. Some students call it genocide, I call it ethnic cleansing, but people in the 21st century are appalled by it. Indian Removal smells bad today; it smelled bad at the time as well. Jackson had a clearly defined choice and took the more expedient rather than the more moral option. Joe Ellis suggests that Jackson was trying to undermine support for South Carolina Nullification by pandering to the other Southern and Wester States, but Jackson still made this moral decision.

The tragedy of Indian Removal came in two parts. In the first part, state governments with assistance from the Federal governments systemattically undermined Indian self-government and pressured the indians into selling out at a loss, trading improved land in the East for less land, unimproved land, in what is now Oklahoma. The Yazoo River Delta is some of the best farmland in the world; Oklahoma is not nearly that good. The second part, the migration, is what everyone remembers. The migration was poorly planned and poorly supplied. Indian leaders wanted to rest before starting the trip, U.S. Army officers in charge of the migration agreed, and the late start meant that they did not arrive in Oklahoma until long after snow fell. About a third of the Cherokees died during that march. Other tribes also had terrible losses during the migration, and all the South East tribes had their autonomy, governance, traditions, and viabilty devastated by the removal process. Indian removal killed about 30,000 Indians, and I know people who don't know much history but, literally, froth at the mouth when condemning Jackson as a genocidal murderer.

How does this relate to Reagan? Jake Rosenfeld links to a NYT article by Frank Rich suggesting that people are becoming more and more aware of Reagan's lack of response to the AIDS crisis. Like Jackson, Reagan made a moral decision knowing that there were better alternatives. He ignored AIDS and hoped it would go away when he could have dramatically slowed the progress of the disease by starting an awareness campaign. Face it, it is hard to catch sexually transmitted diseases; you have to be amazingly intimate before the disease can jump the body barrier. Prevention works, not perfectly, but it works. Reagan knew that, and decided to ignore AIDS and hope it would go away. Over 50,000 Americans died of AIDS during Reagan's administration; Reagan's silence meant that many people caught the disease who would have been spared if there had been better public health policies.

Just as we hold Jackson culpable for both the policy decision to pursue Indian Removal and the deadly implementation of that policy, so too will future generations hold Reagan culpable for the policy decision to ignore AIDS and the deadly consequences of that willful ignorance. If Jackson can be called genocidal for killing 30,000 Indians, what does that make Reagan and his 50,000? I will not get into the details to which we can blame U.S. public health policy in the 1980s for the pandemic in Africa, I do suspect that the disease would have gotten loose there eventually, but even today, in 2003, Reagan fans are effectively spreading AIDS by refusing to share the most effective public health measures. That too is part of the Reagan legacy.

We condem the British officials who worsened the Great Hunger in Ireland because, according to their ideology, the best thing to do was let starving Irishmen find work in the free market. 4,000,000 of 8,000,000 Irish died or emmigrated, over a third of the missing died of hunger or exposure. We should condemn American politicians and officials who are still worsening the AIDS pandemic in Africa because, according to their ideology, abstinence is the only acceptable way to prevent sexually transmitted disease. I do not know how many millions will die, or will die early, because of this policy, but the numbers dwarf the Great Hunger.

So when people make their lists of the great presidents of the 20th century, Reagan will go on that list just as Jackson goes on the list for great presidents of the 19th century. Both men: led a wartime conflict (1812, Cold War), refocused the Federal government, presided over a dramatic political realignment, and promulgated policies that can readily be interpreted as mass murder.

We think twice these days before slapping Jackson's name on things. There was a movement to take AJ off the $20 during the last makeover. I happen to believe that AJ should stay on the money; I would be very cautious about sending my children to Andrew Jackson Elementary School. When people try to slap Reagan's name on things, we need to ask the same questions about moral decisions and moral consequences that we ask about Jackson.

Try putting this appositive phrase after Ronald Reagan's name on the next federal building: Ronald Reagan, the mass murder who presided over the end of the Cold War. Do you still want a batch of Washington party hacks to slap that name on your building?

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I am tired. I have been tired all day. It made it hard to concentrate and slow to work.

I pushed very hard last week, then spent the weekend doing house things rather than resting.

The good news is that the rewritten chapter 3 just went out the email door to my advisor. It is much better. I hope it is enough better.

The bad news is that I tend to work in sprints and drifts, sprints and drifts. I just finished sprinting, but I do not have free time to drift.

Time to get some job apps into envelopes and some more of that TOO MUCH back grading done. Did I mention that I have only a rough outline for tomorrow's class?

I just want to eat pastry and drink coffee and read fiction and nap in my comfy chair.

Ah well.

And so to walk the hound.

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November 16, 2003

Emotional Weather

I spent most of yesterday writing, with a break to go plant bulbs. I was, as I am this morning, somewhat alone with my work while J and baby did other things in the house. I had a good morning, revising chapter three again and printing it out again. I should be able to send it to my advisor on Monday.

Later today J and I are going to sit down and work up a menu for Thanksgiving and then send out an email to friends and family telling them what to bring. We are doing a semi-pot-luck Thanksgiving for 11, including both sets of parents, both brothers, some extended family, but not my sister from Albequerque. We will cook the turkey, other people will bring side dishes. It will be a lot of fun. It will also be a hassle, especially because J's father and his wife are coming early and camping out on our sleep sofa.

Reading other blogs, I see that I am not the only one thinking about the holidays. DW is feeling insecure about an emotional attachment and is sad because she has no one to go to parties with. Sarah Hatter is broken up because she is not going home for Thanksgiving. I like reading what DW and Sarah write; they are both wonderful writers and, like me, they both have a strong loner tendency.

The holidays are hard. They are a time for family and festivity, and yet family is stressful. They are a time when the ambient media clutter turns to tunes of joy and saccharine love, and yet at the same time the days are growing shorter, the leaves are dropping from the trees, and the skies are turning grey. November, for me, is a bare tree with its branches against a sky of moving grey clouds, black against pearl-grey, with undertones of brown. Those are not happy colors.

As I was reading Sarah and DW I was reminded of some lyrics by Jimmy Dale Gilmour, the operatic cowboy tenor.

You've got to go to sleep alone
even if you're lying with somebody you really love
you've still got to go to sleep alone.

I am trying to decide why Gilmour came to mind as I read Sarah talking about the way that her friends get confused because Sarah sometimes prefers to read a book alone in the park rather than sit around and chat. I think that the connection I am getting at, obliquely and poorly, is that we are all, to some extent, locked inside our own heads. And yet we all, to some extent, thrive on human contact. What varies, both from person to person and, over time, within each of us, is how we balance our inner selves and our external contacts.

The holidays jolt us out of our autumnal pattern. We fall into one set of habits as the leaves fall and the weather turns and we begin to move indoors for the winter. Just as we check the roof and fix the weatherstripping on our houses, we also adjust our temperaments as we prepare for our winter retreat. Thanksgiving and the solstice break that pattern: they draw us out when the earlier pattern had been for us to turn within. This is one of the many reasons why we like them, and it is one of the many reasons why the holidays are so stressful.

I take my moods from the weather. I like to walk outdoors, and I like to look at the sky as I do. My walks are my time to attune myself to the season, whether it be the resurrection of green in the spring or the gentle melancholy of the autumn. One thing I have noticed is that, even walking the same route around the local lake, the walk is very different if I take it alone, with the hound, with baby and hound, or with the whole family. I move at different paces; I look at different things; I go from an internal train of thought to a monologue with hound and baby to a chattering discussion with J. All are fun, yet all are different. The way I experience the sky changes depending on who I am with, and my emotions change as well.

I started writing this while partway through this read-through of chapter three. I have finished the read-through and printed the chapter. Now I will let that piece of work sit for a while so that it will be fresh to me when I go back to it. I use time to distance myself from my work so that I can more effectively edit my own words. Time and distance shape our interactions with other people as well. We distance ourselves, and then we rediscover one another. What does this mean?

We still have to go to sleep alone, but we can cuddle first. And cuddling is very good indeed.

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November 15, 2003

Bright Day

The winds have settled down, and while we might have overnight rain, this morning is crisp, cool, and wonderful.

The weather makes a good metaphor for my emotions today. I was in bed for a good long time, 10:30 to 7:00, and while I had broken sleep I also had much needed rest. Six nights in a row of six hours of sleep had begun to wear on me.

So today I will be reading the draft of chapter three, and grading homework (still badly behind), and - hopefully - playing in the yard, and going to Home Depot, and being, well, academic in the morning and suburban in the afternoon.

I let a lot of house projects slide this week while writing. I will be letting more slide later this month. I feel bad about it; I suspect that my strange dream last night relates to my guilt about not getting enough done, but I do have to prioritize.

What this means for you, dear readers, is that this weekend I will again be putting my A-level writing energy into my real work. Any blog entries will be short, self-absorbed, and hopefully funny.

I still don't know how I am going to combine Walt Whitman, the Compromise of 1850, and the Wilmot Proviso into a lecture that matches the title "Railroads, Telegraphs, and Riots." I can see several short sections, but I am having trouble figuring out how to tie it all together. My earlier thought, to use workingmen's culture as the glue, falls down on the Compromise. Talking about sectionalism falls down on riots (anti-Catholicism) and really falls down on Whitman.

It is not quite like solving a jigsaw puzzle, because in a puzzle you know that the pieces do fit together and you just have to figure out how. It is more a problem of how to take a pile of legos and make a cool car that looks like a house and uses all the blue and yellow blocks. It is a fun problem, but it will take some thinking time to solve it. Then again, this sort of problem solving is part of the real fun of teaching.

And so to read chapter 3.

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November 14, 2003

Lyrics Quiz

I only scored 37.5 points on this 80s lyrics quiz that Greyduck posted. I guess I did not listen to enough radio back then. And, although I thought I watched too much MTV, I must have been wrong.

Good lyrics can be hard to write. I know I wrote some real loser lyrics when I played in the comedy-heavy metal college band - we were not good but we were very entertaining. The highlight of the show was the juggling vocalist, that and Dock of the Bay with a punk break halfway through. The other guys came up with those - I penned the lyrics for the generic acid song and the generic war song.

Feh, now I can't remember the only good part of the generic drug song - I had a modulation in a four chord four bar bridge that, I think, walked the circle of fifths to go from G major to A minor.

I played bass, and I can half hear the walk of descending triplets (7,5,3?) as we walked through those chords: long short short, long short short, long short short, long short short. My bass was stolen years ago, the guitar is untuned and sitting in a closet, and the notebooks are long buried in boxes. I guess I won't try to re-create that run - but it was the only thing I wrote that got the crowd to yell. It was brilliantly unstable, and it worked at that point in the song.

The rest of the song was a little boring and repetitive. I found it fascinating because I played a little with the rhythm every few bars, and that made each few bars sound new and exciting to me. Whether from synthesisia or from being mildly weird, to me notes of varying lenghts have a distinct and varying quality. And this quality gets confused with the quality of pitch. So if I play the same note twice in a row, but as a whole and then as a quarter note, it will sound distinct and different.

My confusion between duration and pitch drives J crazy when I try to sing something I do not know very well, for I will get the rhythm of the notes about right and assume that this means that I also have the pitch right - it feels right to me so it must sound good to everyone around me ... right?

Music is one of those things that sounds so easy when talented people do it that we tell ourselves we could do better. Mediocre music is pretty easy; good stuff is most amazingly difficult.

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Domain Names is taken. So are and I am not having luck buying, so, I need either a new identifying tag or a new suffic. I have been Red Ted for years, I don't want to give that up. And, I like the semi-anonymity of not using my last name for some of my internet presence. (You could probably figure out my name from this blog, but if you google my name you won't find the blog.)

So, or or - I am not wild about any of them. I will probably go with the .us for consistency, although a lot of people are using .nu for personal pages. If I want a separate domain for this blog, I can be . Hmm, domain names are cheap these days ...

And where to host? I use yahoo for my free email, I have some friends who run a web server and have offered me space for free, or I could dig around for more.

But, I should be writing or grading or gardening, not musing about domain names. Back to the next transition. Transitions are hard - I ended up cribbing the compound sentence from the previous entry as a placeholder for the last transition.

And back to work.

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Hard Day

It was a good day of hard writing.

I think I only got down a few hundred words, about five paragraphs. But they were all transition paragraphs (well, except for the two sentences, with Greek and Hebrew examples, explaining the difference between translation and transferral in Biblical translation) and transition paragraphs are hard.

I think I made my argument. Tomorrow I get to read the printout and see if I made it well enough.

With any luck I will get to bed at a reasonable time tonight. I have been just a little stressed this week.

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Writing and Grading

Today will be a day of writing and grading. The wind is still blowing outside, though not as hard, and it is a bright sunny day out there. Perhaps, if I do well, I will give myself a break and go finish planting those bulbs.

But, the main focus will be on working on the chapter. I need to do a better job of tying some of my discrete moments into my larger narrative. Briefly, the current section explains how mainstream American clergy tried to combine three sincerely held beliefs: the nation is subject to Providential rewards and punishments based on the religious beliefs of its leaders; religious opinion is personal and inviolate; religious establishments and religious tests, and anything that even appears to be re-creating the former imperial establishment of the Church of England, are all completely impermissible.

So how did they square national providence and religious freedom? I am arguing that they softened the Providential connection between beliefs and rewards. I think I can make that argument, but I do need to make that argument.

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November 13, 2003

Gone to Texas

No, not me. The class is going to Texas today.

As part of the revision of this year's syllabus I changed many of the lecture titles to something a little catchier. This will be my discussion of why John Tyler caused the American Civil War.

Well, he did have help. I am going to remind the students of the concepts of contingency, path dependency, change over time, and agency that I mentioned briefly at the start of class, have used since then, and will be using a lot as we discuss the sectional crisis.

I worry that I have too many elections and individuals planned, and that I will bog down in the early 1840s. I guess I will have to be a little sharper and leave out many of the fun details.

I am using Michael Holt's argument about political parties managing sectional tensions, but unlike Holt I am not devoting my lectures to a summary of political history. Instead I am giving a broader picture and then trying to work the political history into the mix. I need to work on conveying information quickly, smoothly, and coherently. Tuesday's material was a little garbled; I could have presented my points in a better order. With luck this will go more coherently, if only because I have taught John Tyler before while Tuesday was the first time I had done a lecture showing how feminism grew out of Great Awakening and enlightenment changes in our understanding of God.

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Out of Context

Looking back at my blog, I find that I made a glorious wonderful typo. I will fix it below, but not until after I have copied it here:

I must be the wind - wonderful gusting blowing wind that makes the house shake

If I were a singer-songwriter, I would make that into a rhyming couplet. But I am not. I do sometimes write mediocre fiction, and that feels like an opening line for a piece that will straddle the purple line between really cool prose and "It was a dark and stormy night".

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Sleepiness, Writing, and Politeness

I am once again sleepy. I did not get to sleep until after midnight last night. Despite sleeping in I ran about six and a half hours of sleep. I have trouble writing well when sleepy, I have trouble reading well when sleepy, and I get testy when I am sleepy. Last night I think I broke a rule about not blogging while both tired and angry. For that I apologize. I will leave the offending post up, if only as a reminder to myself to be kinder.

Chapter Three revisions seemed to go fairly well last night. After the baby finishes falling asleep tonight, I will stand up, do the dishes, and then either write some more, grade my ever-growing backlog of papers, or sit on the couch and bleeble.(1) I will probably end up staring at Paschal Strong and the 1823 Yellow Fever epidemic, especially if I can clear my mind while doing boring housework.

It must be the wind - wonderful gusting blowing wind that makes the house shake - for today was a day with not a lot of students in the class room and quite a lot of bad drivers on the roads. Normally when I see a lot of bad drivers around me, I am sleepy and am somehow provoking them by giving unclear defensive driving signals. Today there were bad, aggressive drivers all over the place. They were cutting and weaving far in advance, passing on the right while going 70 in a 45 zone, running red lights, gridlocking intersections, and in the case of one lad in a black pickup truck, flailing arms out the window in frustration at a person who dared to drive the speed limit in the right hand lane while coming up on an exit. Mr black pickup truck then swerved into the far right lane and was last seen heading to the left when the road split - I suspect that if there had been an open shoulder he would have passed on it.

I checked the Jersey driving guides when we first moved here, and I could not find the bit that says that when given a choice and a fairly open road you should always pass on the right. It must be there; almost everyone does it.

Perhaps they are sleepy also?

(1)Bleeble: Push your lips out, blow gently, flap a finger in front of the lips and make a blithering, bleebling, burbling sound.

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Red Ted
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Whigs and Democrats

I feel strange about today's class. For one thing, I finished my entire outline in class. That rarely happens. For another thing, I am caught up on political history. That too rarely happens. By referring to the events of Jackson's presidency but never explaining the events in Jackson's presidency I was able to: lay out the sectional crisis; lay out and discuss basic historical theories of contingency, path dependency, agency and change over time; review the rise of the Whig party; begin to show contrasts between Whigs and Democrats (showing change over time along the way); blame the American Civil War on John Tyler of Virginia; and fight the Mexican-American War.

In both sections David Wilmot and the Wilmot Proviso appeared two or three minutes before the end of class and served as a teaser. Students don't retain the beginning and end of class well, but I will review Wilmot on Tuesday. I have two classes next week and the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to get from 1847 to 1861; that is a luxurious amount of time to devote to political history. But, I will need that time.

Tuesday of next week the class is called something like: Railroads, Telegraphs and Riots. We are reading excerpts from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass - selections from "Song of Myself", all of "Song of the Broad-Axe" and "I Hear America Singing."

The problem is, I do not remember what I had originally planned to cover this class. I vaguely remember making sure it was in the syllabus so I would have a fill class in case I got behind on the political history. So I ask you: talk for 80 minutes - the rough equivalent of 5000 words or a 2-page skeleton outline - on Railroads, Telegraphs and Riots. Make sure that you discuss Leaves of Grass and the politics of the 1840s. What story can I tell?

After re-reading my selections I notice that what I picked from Whitman was, for lack of a better description, pastoral poetry about industrial work. The mention of Railroads and Telegraphs tells me that I had intended to talk about national institutions. The mention of Riots in the context of the 1840s means anti-Catholic riots. I will put together a narrative of closer ties across the country and increasing tensions within the country. I will need to review Wilmot, cover the Compromise of 1850, introduce anti-Catholicism, discuss the way that rapid transmission of information speeds up political arguments between the sections, describe the increasing flow of immigration and urbanization in the North, and talk about poetry. I can do that - already the pieces of the narrative are coming together for me.

Thanks blog, you help me think.

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Red Ted
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November 12, 2003

A Strange Day

It has been a strange day. The cat is sick (perhaps because I fell behind on dosing her with all three varieties of laxative), the baby is sick (simple eye-throat bug), and J is sleepy.

I had the baby this morning, then dropped him at daycare and tried to work. I got some things done: a job letter out, prepped class, wrote a few paragraphs on the current chapter revision, a load of laundry, a quick run to the county library. But I still felt tired, cranky, and behind for most of the day.

That might be why I jumped on Sebastian. As Sheila O'Malley reminds us today, sometimes you should just put the keyboard away and go to sleep. I will re-read my bit on Holsclaw tomorrow and see. He sez I am not being fair to his question, and I say he has framed his question so poorly that it is unanswerable: change the frame and the question resolves itself.

I am tired, eyes hurt, and not sleepy. I do hope that the work I wrote earlier tonight is any good. Right now I am revising the middle, the weak part, of my dissertation, and making every sub-section tie into my overall argument. Transitions are hard. My first drafts are always bad. And I am writing a series of new paragraphs to serve as transitions. This is going to need more editing, yep.

And so to take the hound out.

Oh, at least I cooked an adequate gravy for dinner. It has been a week for meat in red sauce, and for junk food.

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Class of Women

Some semesters I have more men, others more women.

Traditionally, history classes have been disproportionately male. Over the last couple of decades this balance has shifted so that, across the discipline, we have about equal numbers of male and female history majors. Some classes, women's history and civil war history in particular, have strong gender biases in the classrooms.

Normally when I teach the survey I have classes that are about evenly divided, often with a few more men than women even though there are more women than men enrolled in colleges these days.

Not this semester. This semester I am about 3/4 women in both sections. This is a good thing in many ways - there are enough women that the women are not being afraid to talk and to challenge me. It is also an odd thing - we do a lot of political and economic history, I like to use students to demonstrate economic and political transactions, and by and large I grab women to play these roles. 18th and especially 19th-century society had strong gender roles, strong gender identities, and people defined their daily lives in gendered terms. It always leads to a moment of cognitive dissonence when I talk about [female name] looking for a wife or raising sons to follow after her or displaying her "manliness" by standing up and voting.

I do prefer to teach women. I do not know why. I started to speculate about the why, re-read my words, and deleted them as specious drivel.

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Class Write up - Reforming Women

This was a little free-form, but it worked fairly well. It ran better in the afternoon than in the morning - better turnout, more interested students, more people had done the reading. The afternoon section is just plain better than the morning section. I do not know why - at the start of the semester I thought the morning kids would be better.

This is a long writeup. I followed my notes for the introduction and conclusion. I changed the middle on the fly. The below is what I did and how I could have done it better.

I told them at the top that last week we saw women and society from an economic and social perspective, and this time we were going to cover the same ground from an intellectual and cultural perspective. I like what we covered, but I might re-arrange the presentation. The other way I framed the discussion was by pointing out that gender roles are always changing and that people are always nervous about changing gender roles. What I did not say, but could have, is that people tend to appeal to the past to justify or legitimate their goal for the future. I used a simple clothing example to make the point. Who wears tights now, men or women? Who wore tights in the 13th century, men or women? The class smiled as soon as I gave the second half of it, but it made the point that at one time men showed their legs and were judged by their legs.

We started by discussing the Beecher-Grimke debate. As expected, the kids liked Grimke. I put the two on the board and we summarized what they argued, their points, and their assumptions. That went well.

Then I did a basic history of women and society.

I started with Benjamin Rush, Republican Motherhood, and the idea that the best way to control the horde of young people in the EAR was to educate them in republican values, that women were the only people who could provide that education, and that women thus had to educate themselves in order to educate their children.

I proved this by drawing on Nancy Cott's (I think) evidence on writing styles. Colonial women who wrote letters, even letters to other women, always apologized for writing. They referred to themselves as a "female" correspondent, they apologized in advance for the errors of the letter, their entire style was self-conscious and showed that these women, while writing letters, were very aware that they were encroaching onto "male" behavior. By the 1820s, women stopped referring to themselves as "female correspondents," stopped apologizing, and not only did their writing get better, they were no longer being self-conscious about the process of writing itself. I argued that writing had gone from a male to either a female or an everyone activity; gender roles had changed.

I then quickly summarized the Second Great Awakening, showed that women were more likely to join churches during this awakening, and that this reinforced the notion that women were more religious than men.

From there I moved to a talk about the sentimental culture. This transition was the weak part in the class. Next time I might want to foreground the role of Jonathan Edwards and the Religious Affections. I used him in the second section but not in the first.

I once again set up two columns on the board; this time they were the 17th and the 19th centuries.

I explained that the 17th century people read their Bibles from the assumption that God was King. They focused on hierarchy, glory, and control. Puritans emphasized original sin and argued that everyone was born evil: we are born evil, family government and social laws and punishments are there to restrain the evils in all of us, and only religion can remove that evil. If you die before getting that religion, you are bound to Hell. Puritans were consistent, and many held to infant depravity - if a baby is born and dies immediately, does its soul go to Heaven or to Hell. Logically, based on Original Sin, the soul goes to Hell. Many Puritans believed this (I did not cite Nathaniel Emmons who elaborated this approach in the 18th century).

Furthermore, most 17th century people agreed with a body of thought dating back to the 13th century holding that women were more easily swayed by evil. Eve had tempted Adam, it was through woman that evil had entered the world, and women were obviously moral inferiors to men. I referred to the Salem Witch Trials to set this up, asking the class if more men or women were accused of witchcraft, and why?

In contrast, as we had discussed earlier, 19th century people assumed that women were more religious than men. There was a change in gender, morality and religion.

I continued with the 19th century position that, because God is Good, God could not condemn an innocent infant to eternal damnation. Dead infants must go to heaven. If so, then we must be born in a state of goodness. But, conversion religion requires that we recognize that we are evil so that we can reject that evil and be saved. So where does the evil come in? Hopkins argued that evil comes with the ability to choose, and that evil consists of knowing two alternatives and choosing the worse of the two. Thus children become evil at the time that they learn to make moral judgements.

This approach to the problem of evil then had two consequences. People who taught themselves that sin consisted of making the wrong choice, flocked to the decision theology of the Wesleyan and Finneyite revivals. Ministers asked their audience to make an immediate choice between heaven and hell. Afterwards people were told that they had to immediately renounce sin whenever they encountered it, and Hopkinsian immediatism led to benevolent reform movements including abolition.

The other consequence was less obvious. Catherine Beecher shows the problem: she never thought of herself as evil. She was the daughter of a minister, she was raised up religiously, she took care of her younger siblings after her mother died, and all her life she devoted herself to doing what she thought was the right thing. According to her biographer Katherine Kish Sklar, Beecher was never able to experience a conversion because she was never able to convince herself that she was utterly evil and worthless. Instead, CB joined the Episcopal Church which did not require a conversion experience and was perfectly willing to believe that people were either morally good or morally neutral from the moment of their baptsm. Later on, Horace Bushnell would formalize Cbs position in his arguments about Christian nurture, and the mainline Protestant churches would continue their movement from conversion to nurture, decision to practice.

The weakness here is that I did not prepare a story for the change. The story I want to tell is Jonathan Edwards who, in his Surprising Narrative and his Religious Affections emphasized emotion. For Edwards, religion without emotion was not really religion. But, critics charged, emotions can come from either God or the Devil. How do you tell if your emotional experience was a good or a bad thing? Edwards responded with standard orthodoxy: the proof of a sincere religious experience comes from the change in our behavior afterwards. While some would say emotion only, others would say practice only, Edwards insisted that you had to have both or you had less than nothing. If I had handled this in a different order, with Edwards in the middle, it would have made a better story.

Instead of a story, I prepared a compare and contrast. I showed them cultural differences between the 17th and 19th centuries. I talked about graveyard decorations, from skulls and demons to angels and cherubs. Death was no longer something scary that came unexpectedly - no one posed for paintings while holding a skull after about 1750. Death in the 19th century was a time to think not of Hell but of Heaven. 19th century cemeteries tried to celebrate the afterlife. In this they were much like popular music, which talked about the afterlife as a time when families would be reunited. (I cited but did not sing verses from "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" and "Circle be Unbroken". None of the kids would admit to knowing Wayfaring Stranger. I might add music lyrics to the reader next time.) Finally I talked about deathbed scenes like those of Little Eva in UTC. People learned of these scenes through literature and religious periodicals; they tried to re-enact them in their own lives. By the 1830s people on their deathbed were often badgered by well meaning relatives who were hoping for a "good death" where the person dies while praising God for the glory that they see. It was a culture shift, it was a turn to sentimental culture.

Finally I ran through a fairly traditional narrative of immediatism to abolitionism to women's rights. I explained the difference between equal rights feminism and separate spheres feminism, typefied by Grimke and Beecher respectively. I told them briefly about Seneca Falls in 1848 and read a little of the Seneca Falls declaration. I closed with the narrative of women getting the vote: local votes in school boards and local option elections, gained because women had responsibility over children and the home. Votes for political office in some Western states, gained through a mixture of equal rights and separate spheres arguments.

Then women lobbyied for the vote on equal rights terms during WWI, comparing Wilson to the Kaiser for both denied democracy to the people they ruled. They got the vote, the crucial swing votes, on separate spheres grounds by arguing that women would reform the voting public. Women activists assured their followers that once women had the vote they would vote in all of the items on the women's platform. Everyone was convinced that women would vote differently, that they would change politics. I was low on time so I did not review the Progressive argument that only educated smart (i.e. white middle class) people should take part in politics, so lets enfranchise white women while disfranchising poor, illiterate, and underclass people.

The irony, of course, is that while women got the vote on separate spheres grounds, once they got the vote they voted like people and not like women. Women voted much like men did - on class, region, and ethnocultural lines rather than on strict gender lines. The equal rights feminists were right, women really were just like other people.

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Bad Pundit, Bad

Sebastian Holsclaw just voted himself off my blogroll with this post.

Edit - see comments. I retract my aspersions of malice. I still think Holdsclaw needs to work on presenting other people's positions fairly and completely rather than making up ideal types about them. Ted K.

I keep two blogrolls, one public and one private. The public blogroll on the left there is for people I read regularly and who, even when I disagree with them, make me think and leave me smarter than I was before I clicked the link. The public blogroll is a vote of confidence. The private blogroll is where I store sites that I want to look at but am not yet sure that I will praise. About half the sites on the private blogroll go public, half get deleted within the week.

What is so wrong with Sebastian's little rant. It is not that he and I disagree on abortion politics. I disagree with many people on abortion politics. What bothers me is the sheer and total intellectual dishonesty of the piece. He posits a perfect set of ideal types, either abortion always and everywhere or abortion never and nowhere. He assumes that all people who are for any form of abortion rights must therefore be for all forms of abortion rights - because you can see some situations in which abortion is a good alternative then you must be a heartless monster in all situations. Holsclaw, in other words, is acting within the modern norms of hyper-political and hyper competitive politics. He is arguing from extremes, painting his opponent into a corner, and - just like George Will - he is doing it by pretending that he does not know what he is doing.

In some ways Holsclaw is arguing like an adolescent: there are no shades of grey, there is only absolute truth, you must be on the side of the angels or the side of the devils. My response to this is, I fear, equally adolescent: by framing the argument in those terms you have either proved that you are too ignorant of the world around you for you to be trusted or you have proved that you would rather willfully misrepresent your opponents than challenge their arguments. Either you are a fool or you are a liar.

Now, that was satisfying but not very useful. I must confess that falsely disingenuous rhetoric will always push my buttons.

What I think Holsclaw is missing here, and what many people who debate abortion are missing, is that rather than abortion being a case where there is a clear and simple choice between two absolute and over-ruling rights, it is a case where two sets of rights conflict. And, to make it difficult, the two sets of rights conflict in a way that is always crucial to the life of one party and sometimes crucial to the life of the other.

We do not legislate other situations where medicine must make us choose between the lives of two people - there are no laws forbidding doctors to separate conjoined twins because the operation may kill one or both. Instead it is handled on a case by case basis, and people make those decisions very seriously because they know that lives do depend on their choices.

The gut sense used in English and American social practice and common law for centuries is the same rough approximation upheld in the original Roe decision. The old rule was that a fetus does not gain rights or protection until quickening - that moment at about the end of the first trimester when the mother can feel motion. Roe codified that, ruling in effect that the competing rights of mother and child should be presumed towards the mother in the first trimester, the child in the third trimester, and roughly equally in the second trimester. We only ended up with fully legal abortion up to the moment the baby is born as a reaction to laws limiting this right. When the decision was politicized, we ended up with law that tastes bad.

Furthermore, while some abortion rights activists take the hardline position that Holsclaw ascribes to all of them, most of them, like most Americans, feel that abortion is a bad thing that is sometimes the best decision. Rather than feigning surprise when people who generally support pro-life positions worry about technology that will lead to more abortions to select for more perfect babies, he needs to realize that even the people who provide abortions see the procedure as the last, worst choice. It is not in the least bit inconsistent to be pro abortion rights and at the same time pursue social and cultural policies that will reduce the demand for abortion.

I guess what bothers me enough that I am writing this and not working on chapter three, is that Holsclaw has taken a policy position and wrapped it in a lie. And lies are contagious. Because he lied, he encourages other people to assume that everyone lies. If we assume that everyone lies, then we spend our time looking at motives and not words. If we look at motives and not words, we project our fears onto our opponents and reduce the chance to create a meaningful compromise. It is because of rhetoric like Holsclaw's that abortion rights advocates are presuming that there is an organized conspiracy to use the recent abortion law as a prybar to take apart the current structure of abortion rights and make the procedure illegal everywhere and at all stages of pregnancy.

I am jumping on Holsclaw because I am chewing on another rant about the politics of lies. It makes me sensitive to lies, and he was there. But he still goes off the blogroll.

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Red Ted
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The Carnival is up at Deadends. Looks like another good one. Max used a Georgetown theme this time.

I did indeed get Red Poppies in under the deadline. It is down towards the bottom with the other unsortable entries.

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November 11, 2003


Via Halley Suitt, I see yet another list of 100 greatest novels, this one from the Observer newspaper.

I have only read 29 of them, am listening to another as my current book on tape, and have put about four of them down unread. Like Halley, most of the novels I marked off were books that had been assigned in class. I stopped reading serious novels after college, at least as a regular part of my reading diet. Since I started doing History, my brain-smart reading has been reading for work, and really good fiction rarely makes brain-dead reading.

This change in reading patterns probably explains why most of the novels I checked off date from before 1950 - I just have not been keeping up with the modern stuff.

Making lists can be a lot of fun. I know I once wrote my own canonical list of things that every well-educated person should have read. I followed that with a list of things that were simply highly recommended reads. Both lists had more history, philosophy, and social science than they had fiction. I might update those lists and blog them.


I just dug up the old list. Yep, they need updating before I post them. I had originally made a list of essential reading, a list of things to be read, and a list of out-takes. I have read some of the items on the middle list, changed my mind about some of the items on the first and third lists, and done some more reading on my own.

What amuses me is that I recorded the list of essential reading in the order in which the books came to mind. The top of the list is Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Is that essential reading? I am not sure. I do know that I decided last time I taught the second half of the US survey, that the next time I teach US 2 I will assign the Autobiography of Malcom X to the kids.

And so to grade homework.

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Red Poppies

Today is Armistice Day.

I did not discuss it in class. I perhaps should have, or at least worn a red poppy, but I was busy thinking about what to teach, how to keep up with my syllabus, and whether the baby was sick or not.

The day has been widened to be a day on which we respect all veterans, and people around the blogging world and around the real world have been respecting veterans today. We should respect all veterans; we should especially respect them today. We respect them for what they all did in their times of service, and we respect them with the rituals and memories that we learned after the Great War.

I am going to share with you a story that I learned from my mother and that I share with my students.

Grandpa Louie was short, just over 5'2". He was also a medical doctor. When the United States entered the Great War in 1917, Grandpa Louie went down to the recruiting office to sign up that same day. He was a doctor, and he knew that the army would need doctors.

They turned him down - he was too short. You had to be a certain height to join the army: I want to say 5'3" but I am not sure. In any case, he was off by just enough. He asked the recruiting office how he might appeal, and they told him that there were no procedures for appealing a height decision.

So, Grandpa Louie got on the overnight train from Jacksonville, Florida to Washington, DC. He then went to the War Department and asked to speak to the Secretary of War. He was told that the Secretary was busy, and that he would have to wait. "Fine," he said, "I'll wait." And so he did. He sat down on a chair in the outer office and waited. Near closing time, the receptionist asked him what he wanted to see the Secretary about. Grandpa Louie explained that he was a medical doctor, that the army needed doctors, and that he was being kept out because he was too short. The word went up the chain, and a senior official (I want to say the Undersecretary for Recruitment, but it could have been anyone) came down and signed a special exemption so that Grandpa Louie could join the Army.

Doctors were officers, so they made Grandpa Louie an officer. Most of the time, he just did the same sort of doctor things that he had been doing in private practice. Officers also had to take part in some of the ceremonies and rituals of Army service, including parades. And, as part of parades, officers rode horses.

Army horses are, well, very very large. Ordinary sized people often use a mounting step to climb up onto them. Grandpa Louie needed extra help over and above that in order to get up onto his horse. But he used a doubled mounting box, or had his orderly hand him up, and he participated in parades and performed his army duty.

That was the funny story, now we get to the sad story.

Grandpa Louie went overseas soon after he joined the army; doctors did not need a lot of training. He worked in the field hospitals in tents behind the lines in 1918. The worst thing he saw, however, came on the voyage home.

He sailed home on a ship full of young recruits. The winter of 1918-19 was the winter of the Spanish influenza. The troop ship they were riding across the Atlantic was one of the ships where the influenza went pandemic. The ship was full of brave, active, healthy and energetic young men. They were the flower of their generation. They got sick with the flu; many of them died. Grandpa Louie did what he could, but in the era before antibiotics there was not a lot he could do but try to keep fluids in them, keep them comfortable, and sign the death certificate when they died. All through that voyage, flag-draped corpses went over the side. Grandpa always cried when he told this part of the story. I am crying as I type it up now. I often break down when I tell the story of the Great War in class.

Despite the terrible losses among a few military units, either on the battle front or from the flu, the United States came off fairly easily from the Great War. Elsewhere, the war really did kill and maim a generation of young men. England raised its military units regionally, and many towns and communities saw every family lose a son over the course of a single battle. The Morris Dancing tradition in England only continued because women took up the male ritual. In France, which suffered the worst per-capita casualties, about one man in five was killed or wounded during the war. One in five! Germany had more total military losses, Russia more civilian losses, the war was a charnel house for everyone in Europe. The flu epidemic that followed the war was even deadlier.

The war killed a generation of young men. It killed the hope of science; it killed the idea of progress; it marks the change from the optimistic nineteenth century to the pessimistic twentieth century. The history of the last eighty-odd years has been the history of the Great War. We are still, indirectly, living with the consequences of that war.

Armistice Day is our collective memory of the Great War. It is why we wear red poppies on our lapels. We remember, because we must remember.

Dancing At Whitsun

* (Trad / Austin John Marshall)

It's fifty long springtimes since she was a bride
But still you may see her at each Whitsuntide
In a dress of white linen and ribbons of green
As green as her memories of loving

The feet that were nimble tread carefully now
As gentle a measure as age do allow
Through groves of white blossom by fields of young corn
Where once she was pledged to her true love

The fields they stand empty, the hedges grow free
No young men to tend them or pastures go see
They have gone where the forests of oak trees before
Have gone to be wasted in battle

Down from the green farmlands and from their loved ones
Marched husbands and brothers and fathers and sons
There's a fine roll of honour where the maypole once stood
And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun

There's a straight row of houses in these latter days
Are covering the downs where the sheep used to graze
There's a field of red poppies, a wreath from the Queen
But the ladies remember at Whitsun

And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun

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Red Ted
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Carnival Submitted

The Carnival is being hosted at Dead Ends this week. I sent them my piece on I do not have to beat my wife, she does it for me from October 12. It is older, but I did not write anything really good in my blog this week, and so I mined the archives.

EDIT - I emailed asking them to run the piece on Red Poppies just above this. If I had known I was going to write the above, I would not have sent in the mild funny. But then I saw invisible adjunct's picture of red poppies, and I had to write.

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Chest Hair

I think I might want to shave my chest hair.


Lets just say that this message is sponsored by the Society of Babies with Small Grasping, Clutching, Pulling Hands and leave it at that.

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Red Ted
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November 10, 2003


I have been pretty whiny this weekend. I look over the previous few entries and I want to kick myself in the butt.

It is easy to get depressed when things do not go well. It is also easy to get mad at someone for not picking up the pieces and getting on with things. I appear to have been doing both, and now it is time to move to the second part. I am prone to seasonal depression, and to depression when things do not go well for me. I can also manufacture energy and get things done.

Well, now is the time to get things done: I have an edit plan; I have started working on it; I have dropped an email to my advisor explaining my plan and its strengths and weaknesses. Get it DONE

On the way, I also get to prep class, grade homework, write job letters, pick readings for next semester, order books for next semester, work on the house, and cook dinner.

If only I did not have a strong urge to curl up with a lot of fatty sugar snacks, a novel, and a reading light.

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A Good Day

After a lot of whining early on, I have had a good writing day. I feel much better about the changes to chapter three. I was able to tighten the first third without garbling the chronology - mostly because I took a section that was already out of chronological order and moved it earlier in the chapter. I know what I am going to do to tighten the rest of the chapter, and while I still have to do it I now feel confident that I will be able to do it. Confidence is half the battle.

I was also able to prep class for tomorrow. The kids are reading parts of the Beecher-Grimke debate and writing a softball homework: "Who did you find more compelling, Beecher or Grimke?"

We will discuss that, then I have a prepared lecture on sentimental culture, abolitionism, the antebellum women's movement, and the Seneca Falls convention. If we have time I will go over some details of Jackson's Presidency and discuss Richard John's argument that Richard Mentor Johnson's response to Sabbatarians pushed religious reformers into the anti-Jackson camp. From there I will be able to introduce the Whig party in time for us to do a political history lecture on Thursday.

As I was reviewing for class I was amused to note that Catherine Beecher was arguing in 1837 for a vision of gender roles much like the one that Kim and Connie Du Toit visibly regret. The difference is that in 1837 Beecher was articulating a new understanding of a traditional division of labor, changing the meaning of the division while continuing the form. In 2003 the Du Toits seem to want to continue the meaning while changing the forms. Beecher, you see, argued that while men engaged in active political debate and worldly deeds, women should abstain, not because they were weak but so that they could gain moral force over men by exerting the soft compulsion of love. The Du Toits are arguing, in part, that while women should engage in active political debate and pursue (almost) any job field they desire, women retain an inherent civilizing and nurturing function which must remain distinct from male roles.

However, all of this work came at the expense of writing job letters, grading homework, or planting bulbs in the garden. Ah well, if I had everything, where would I put it?

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Jobs and chapters

I need to get some job letters written. I need to get this chapter revised. And I have been having a crisis of confidence - as anyone who reads the whining below should be able to figure out.

There are interesting jobs with a deadline in a couple of days, I need to get the paperwork out. I am having trouble selling myself on my qualifications, and this makes it very hard for me to sell other people on my qualifications. Some people are good at faking it; I am good at convincing myself to be enthusiastic and then letting my enthusiasm carry the day.

Still, I need to get the letters out.

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Wanted: 19th century women

If I go with:

  • Textbook, $75
  • Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre, $12

  • Paine, Rights of Man$5
  • Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Fron $7
  • Marx, Communist Manifesto $6 as is, $15 with other readings in 19th century socialism.

Then I will have a good set of readings with one small problem: we will have no primary documents for half the population of Europe. Which of these should I cut so I can give the kids some women's history?

Decisions decisions.

And, because I am an intellectual exhibitionist, you have the fun of watching me distract myself from writing and class prep by agonizing over what books to assign. I hope someone is enjoying this workplace blog into the life of an academic.

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Random Questions

If you like looking at eye candy (cute people of the appropriate gender, for ogling purposes only), do you have a reciprocal responsibility to provide eye candy in return?

Should you have to buff up before you admire the sweet thangs who walk around showing [whatever body part inspires you]?

Can you fulfill this responsibility by sharing virtual eye candy? i.e. by posting pictures on a web page, taking photographs and sharing them, or encouraging someone to work out?

I ask because I am feeling fat and lazy this week, and yet the undergraduates continue to, well, be built like undergraduates.

I think the answer is that, while it would be a good thing if most of us buffed up or dieted down, the free rider effect means that there is no absolute responsibility to provide eye candy to others while admiring it yourself.

Perhaps if we could inculcate this sort of mutual obligation we could counteract the fattening of America. Alas, I fear we have tried it, and all we have gotten is an overweight nation, bulemic teenage girls, body-obsessed young women, folks ranting about Barbie, and lots of boring dirty pictures on the internet. Oh, and of course a growing worship of celebrities - who provide eye candy so that we don't have to.

I rather like that last thought. I have long wondered why we seem so obsessed with celebrities and, especially for folks who have access to the Internet, read People Magazine, or look at the various paparazzi rags, why we keep looking at pictures of these celebrities. Perhaps what we have is some level of transference: we can not provide eye candy for others in our own bodies, but we can swarm after a celebrity, make our little paper shrines to their appearance, perform the cadenced rituals of scandal and exposure, and by caring about them we make them our own. Sharing a picture or a story about a celebrity can then stand in for sharing a picture or a story about ourselves.

This is a wonderful theory. I have no intention of proving it. I do not even know how we might prove it. But, posting in a blog is the solitary electronic version of coming up with nonsense while drinking beer with your friends in the corner pub. I don't have to prove it, I just have to amuse my audience.

I do hope you were amused.

ps, The notion of reciprocal obligations as sex objects is something I first stumbled across in Anton & Wilson Illuminati Trilogy. The notion of fat people posting pictures of skinny people came up as I was surfing about the web and found some sites where folks had both an image of themselves and images of skinny people. Notice that I do not have an image up on this page - but it is also semi-anonymous.

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Picking books

I am thinking about books for next semester. So far the only classes I know I will be teaching are two sections of Western Civ part 2 at Local Suburban University. The history department there are nice folks. This will be my first semester at Local; I should expect students whose reading skills and work loads are comparable to students at Urban Research University; and they insist that I use primary documents as part of the syllabus. I was glad when I heard that during my interview.

I have picked a textbook. The textbook I chose has a couple of short documents in every chapter, which means that I could get away without a reader if I wanted to. I am going with Tom Noble et al Western Civilization: The Continuing Experiment. from Houghton-Mifflin. While I know two of the authors, and am friendly with one of the authors, I am picking this book over the alternative because it has better pictures.

You laugh, but images and art are an important part of Western Civilization and I thought that these images did a better job of matching the material. I also decided that having several short documents interspersed in the narrative would work better than having one long primary document at the end of each chapter. I was interested in some of the Prentice-Hall offerings, but their review copies never appeared. It is too late now, but I will bug them for next semester.

I have not picked readings. Or, rather, I have not finished picking readings. I know we are reading Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. It is an unwritten rule of Western Civ that you have to read Remarque, even though many people also read it in high school. I know we are reading something from the French Revolution. I am currently leaning toward Tom Paine's Rights of Man although I might also add some Edmund Burke. Hmm, perhaps Burke's speech where he makes the points that will later be elaborated into his response to Paine?

What I have not decided is whether I will stick with those two primary documents, if I will add a monograph of some sort, or if I will go with a reader. I want them to have something that shows the ancien regime, I want them to have a monograph, but my historiography is weak on Western Civ and I can not pick a book off the top of my head. I need about 200 pages of easy reading about Georgian or Victorian England, preferably talking about class and social structure; that would be about perfect.

Looking on my shelves of unread books - the read books are all in boxes in storage - I see three candidates: John Pemble The Meditarranean Passion about Victorians and Edwardians on vacation, Ina Taylor Victorian Sisters, about four English sisters who married across class lines; Isaac Kramnick, Bolingbroke & His Circle, about eighteenth-century British politics, or Robert Darnton The Great Cat Massacre about eighteenth century French society and culture. Darnton is the most influential of all these books; he is also the only one I have read for myself. I guess I need to gut a few books this week. I might even have to go to the storage unit and shift boxes. Ugh.

Writing this has been useful. I will add a monograph of some sort, if only to expose them to the ways in which historians think. Darnton is my null choice. I will look for something I like better but if I can not find anything better, he will do very well indeed. So what if it was written in the 1960s; it is still good work and it inspired a generation of historians. If I use a reader, I will add some Burke.

Now if only my Russian history was more up to date.

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Not So Bad

After another email exchange with my advisor I do not feel so bad. I can keep the structure, I just need to work on introductions and conclusions, making my points at the top of the paragraph or sub-heading rather than in the middle. I can do that.

I still will cut down on John Henry Hobart of New York City, which is a shame because he is a fun guy. Well, fun in a very smart-very busy-very argumentative-very high church kind of a way.

I might paste some of the deleted paragraphs here. My academic voice is verysomewhat unlike either of my blogging voices.

And back to work.

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November 09, 2003


Sometimes you want to share something that others might find to be Too Much Information.

I don't run moveable type, so the TMI goes in the comment box.

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Bulb HO

I spent some time this weekend playing in the dirt.

We bought a lot of bulbs to decorate the house with, mostly from Brecks. So far this weekend I have spaded up and bulbed four small beds around the outside of the house. I have one more bed to plant, and then I can naturalize daffodils, tulips, and crocuses around the house.

I think we ordered almost 300 bulbs. So far I have planted over half of them. That is a lot of spring flowers. I hope it will look OK when they come up.

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A Writing Plan

After thinking about it for a day and a half, I have a plan for how to fix chapter three. I think I can get away with one moment where I break chronology. I will break chonology when I talk about Christian Unity, and put that discussion earlier in the chapter even though my money quotes are from Tocqueville in the 1830s. I will cut out my discussion of John Henry Hobart in 1808, putting a short version of those four pages into a single paragraph footnote when I talk about the era after the War of 1812.

That was cryptic, sorry. Look up or down for a more accesibile post.

It is odd. I am generally a very logical person: I look for logic and argument in other people's writing, I max out aptitude tests involving logic, I kicked but on the GRE on logic; and yet I can not write a coherent argument. I struggle with my arguments, with how to present information. I get bogged down describing things when I should be arguing about them, or arguing irrelevancies and ignoring the central question. This weakness is what makes me wonder if I am on the best career path.

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November 08, 2003


I am going back EIGHT drafts. My advisor suggests that I sharpen the argument by re-arranging my sections. This would be fine, except that I have spent the last two and a half YEARS trying to get the argument to make sense while I present my material in strict chronological order. Why? Because back then he complained that he had lost track of the order of events.

I am very frustrated right now.

I am going to take a shower, calm down, and see if I can figure out a way to sharpen the argument within my original chronology OR to re-arrange my chronology without losing track of time and space.

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Interfaith Marriages

From Philocrites: Interfaith marriages.

Here's the first Philocrites discussion topic for Unitarian Universalists, suggested by John B. (Thanks, John!) Is your spouse or partner Roman Catholic? What works and what doesn't work in your interfaith marriage? What resources have helped? What resources would you love to find? And what about the kids: How are you raising or how do you plan to raise your children? Click the "Comments" link below and share your stories and insights.

If you have another sort of interfaith marriage, feel free to join the conversation but we'll probably come back to this topic for UU-Protestant, UU-Jewish, and other sorts of interfaith marriages later.

I answered there, I am reposting here.

I am in an interfaith marriage that, so far, has worked well. The keys for us have been that, despite coming from very different religious traditions we have fairly similar religious world-views and that, we are both able to talk about our religion. J was raised Reform Jewish, prefers the worship practices of Conservative Jews, but lives a theology and level of kashrut that is closer to Reform. I was raised Roman Catholic, drifted away from the dogmatism, and seriously contemplated conversion to Reform Jewish before settling down in the "Courtyard of the temple." On those tests of religious constellations, I come down as Reform Jewish or liberal Christian; for my work I read 19th century evangelical Christians.

The odd thing is that two of J's cousins married a pair of Catholic brothers, and all three households have their own solution to the intermarriage. J and I agreed to raise the kids Jewish; we are handling the Christmas problem by having no Christmas tree in the house until the youngest is 7 - at that point they should be old enough to understand the differences. Christmas is a holiday that happens at Grandpa's house.

Our marriage ceremony was interesting. Both Rabbis in the town we lived in at the time would have been glad to supervise a conversion but would not, as a matter of principle, conduct an interfaith marriage. A Catholic marriage was out of the question; neither of us could have made those promises. We looked into having a Virginia lay officiant marry us; we looked into having our of our friends licensed as a lay officiant; we ended up going to the local U-U church and working with them. The minister was on sabbatical that month, so our marriage was performed by a very nice U-U divinity student. We designed the ceremony, and the celebrant was the legal figure as we stood up before God, family and friends: Protestant ceremony structure, all readings from the Hebrew Bible, vows tweaked for equality.

What works and does not work? You really have to pre-plan. It does not matter how you handle the interfaith question. What matters is that both partners have an honest discussion, in detail, about how they intend to approach it. You can not put the hard questions aside for "later" - you have to figure them out before you tie the knot.

Our intermarriage has made congregation-shopping difficult. Some reform temples trumpeted their interfaith accommodations so loudly that we wondered if they had a Jewish quorum. Others gave us the cold shoulder once they heard about the interfaith marriage. Where we currently live we found a Conservative temple that accepted us, but J worries that I do not have ritual space available to me. If we are still here when our son becomes Bar Mitsvah, I will not be allowed to come up and bless him, and that bothers J a lot.

But, odds are we will have moved by then. That is one decision we will defer. Or rather, we know that while J prefers the worship practice at most Conservative temples, before eldest son starts Hebrew school we will have to go congregation shopping again and will most likely change to a Reform temple.

This is longer than I thought it would be.
Ted K.

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What to do

I looked over chapter three, I looked over my advisor's comments, and sure enough, I have indeed been playing writers whack-a-mole. While I fixed two problems in the October series of edits, I made a third problem worse. So, now I get to go fix this third problem and try not to break anything else. Two steps forward, one step back.

It does not help that I have a complicated 8-step argument, that I am trying to deduce widespread opinions from a data set dominated by the public statements of elite leaders, and that I am trying to explain a complex social phenomenon at the same time that I am making a complicated argument about the effects of one portion of that phenomenon.

I am once again doubting my ability to actually perform in an academic career. That is not a good feeling.

And so to write.

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November 07, 2003

Oof Dah

Yes, I know I just had an Oof Dah yesterday. I am having another one today.

Chapter four is done being edited and has been packed away in mulch until I finish working on chapter two. Then four will get tweaked a final time and sent off to my readers.

Chapter two is 79 pages long and underdocumented. I don't have the energy to dig into it right now - will eat lunch and plant bulbs in the garden instead. But, now that I know where I am going, I should be able to take the metaphorical chainsaw to chapter two and carve it down into a good lead-in to the meatier chapters. My core argument is in three and four; one and two just set the scene.


Chapter done, now I can shower. (today's shower - I shower as a break after my morning work period.)


Ugh, and I am behind on grading homework. Well, I can work on that in lots of little stints.

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Grammar Checkers

I have a problem with comma splices. It is my current most common grammar error.

The grammar checker built into Wordperfect 9 (a very good word processor) catches comma splices. So, I run the checker as I finish editing a chapter.

The grammar checker also always treats a word as its most common part of speech, even when the same word can be a noun, verb, or adjective depending on usage. People is a verb according to grammatic; I use it as a noun. This means that I spend a LOT of time grammar checking because it stops frequently and gives me false negatives. And, if I do rewrite a sentance, sometimes the grammar checker chokes and I get to restart from the beginning. It is boring and tedious, but I have to do it.

The good news is that chapter four is as good as it will get this pass. I am going to finish the grammer run and then put it aside.

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Crappy Porn? or gender roles?

I see via Carly at Pornblogography (NWS) that this is Protection from Crappy Porn Week.

And what is crappy porn? Let me quote Hanne Blank whose idea this seems to have been:

What do I mean by "crappy"? Well, basically, I mean pornography that doesn't affirm what sexuality really should be all about -- or what being a human being really should be all about.

To my way of thinking, CRAPPY PORN is sexually-explicit material that:

* is not produced in and/or does not affirm the principle of informed and revocable consent
* perpetuates damaging stereotypes about sex and the people who engage in sex
* economically and socially exploits any living being, particularly women, children, and members of sexual and ethnic minorities

She goes on to give examples: choking, grabbing, dehumanizing. In the language I like to use, I would say that she likes erotica in various media but dislikes pornography.

To phrase it differently, we can imagine a difference between feminist and misogynist erotica; the first treats sexuality as an exploration between equals, the second treats sexuality as a contest where you should trick, cheat, abuse, and dehumanize the object of your desire. The first is a good thing, although as always I would distinguish between imagination and practice and warn against "sex without love." The second is, well, just plain ugly. It worries me that people like it. And yet, someone must like it or pr0n would not be a multi-million dollar business despite produce products that are chock full of misogynist bullshit.

And back to work.

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Friday Five

This week's Friday Five is better than last week's.

1. What food do you like that most people hate?

Anchovie and onion pizza. I learned to like it in college, where if you ordered a pie to the common room people would try to sniv a bite. Almost no one borrowed from this one, especially if I could get the hot pepper flakes onto it before the lovely lady who liked anchovies pizza but not hot food could ask for a slice. Sometimes I am selfish.

2. What food do you hate that most people love?

I have a hard time thinking of foods I hate: all I can come up with are grits, fried okra, tripe, strongly flavored slimy food. And I can't think of many people who love these, other than grits which are regionally popular.

3. What famous person, whom many people may find attractive, is most unappealing to you?

John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The man had good political instincts, he made a productive life for himself despite living in terrible pain through most of his adulthood, and yet he was also far too willing to take credit for other people's work, polish his image at the expense of others, and indulge himself at the expense of doing his duty. His wife was not much better.

4. What famous person, whom many people may find unappealing, do you find

Whittaker Chambers. There is something, if not attractive, then fascinating about a person whose mind works entirely in modes of pure good and pure evil, and who has the literary skills to express that mind. His hatchet-job review of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is one of the modern classics of reviewing.

5. What popular trend baffles you?

Let me make a list. At the moment, the trend that baffles me the most is the self-reinforcing nature of celebritihood. People talk about them, show pictures of them, they appear on magazines, and I just do not know who they are. Nor do I care who they are. I am not quite as out of touch with popular culture as William F. Buckley, who famously confessed to not knowing the name of "that black woman who is alternately fat and thin," but I get close.

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Chapter 3 comments came back. I have not made a clear and coherent argument, I do not carry my argument between sections. So, I get to work over it yet again.

I am getting sick of chapter 3.

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Chapter Four

I finished scribbling over the latest draft of chapter four last night. Today I get to type in my changes. The chapter now looks pretty tight, but I will leave it lay while I work on chapter two. After it has composted for a couple of weeks I will dig it up and see if it still makes sense. Then I will send it to my advisor and second reader.

Why am I telling you this? Because typing days are also blogging days - expect a lot of short entries today.

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Morning updates

Looking over my blog posts from the last few days, I see a few places to update and remedy.

Kim and Connie Du Toit spell their last name Du Toit and not du Toit. Apologies for the mistake.

In my discussion of fires, I appear to have confused suburban sprawl into canyons and fire zones, my primary target, with Gary Jones' discussion of rural forests. Gary Jones sets me straight.

On the 6th I wrote that Sheila O'Malley is on fire today. Looking again, I see that she wrote her really good piece about talking acting with a French exchange student on the 5th - I just read it on the 6th. Details do matter.

After further review, I do not intend to make any further direct comments on Kim Du Toit's piece on gender roles. I have been covering gender roles in class this week, my next project will involve gender roles, and I expect that I will continue to think about and discuss gender roles - I might even refer to his piece, but I decided it was not a good use of my writing time or your reading time for me to fisk his rant.

And so I go

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November 06, 2003

Cows with Guns

Courtesy of LeeAnn at The Cheese Stands Alone, I give you:

Cows with Guns.

What is it with LeeAnn and music? Half the time when I read her site I wander away singing "The Farmer in the Dell" to myself.

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Edit - the du Toit link works now. I wrote the below from my memory of reading his rant earlier this week. After re-reading du Toit I see that I should have written the below a little differently. Du Toit is very good at pushing buttons, he got mine. I just have to decide if it is worth writing a paragraph or three in response to every sentance in his rant, if I summarize him, or if I let him go as an unrepentant patriarch who prefers ideology to evidence.

Via Meryl Yourish I learn that Michelle of A Small Victory has been arguing with Mr. and Mrs. Kim Du Toit about gender roles. (the Du Toit's like the old-style terms of address and formal gender roles.) The Du Toit's web server is down at the moment, but the whole thing started when Kim Du Toit posted a rant about gender roles in which he blamed violence against women on a society where "political correctness" deprived men of the chance to experience "real" manhood.

I started this post three times, and deleted it each time. My problem is that I have too much to talk about.

Do I go after the Du Toit's simple hunter-gatherer model of social interaction where men hunt, women nurture, and neither must ever cross into the other's realm? That would be tedious to do at length, and it would boil down to: yes dear, but once we invented agriculture we changed our roles. And besides not only are gender traits are overlapping bell curves, any particular behavior you want to describe is found among men, women, "real" men and the various types of "fake" men you use as negative referent groups.

Do I go after the whole conservative bugaboo about political correctness? I have yet to see a rant about political correctness that did not boil down to someone who was resentful because an authority figure either was risk-averse or was trying to enforce politeness. No, I take that back. Some of the cases of "political correctness" involve an administrator who tried to use regulatory power to prevent people from taking advantage of interpersonal power imbalances.

Do I give a history of some of the negative referent groups that the Du Toit talks about, demolishing their entire casual argument that political correctness led to the "pussification" of men and that this then led to metrosexuals engaging in rampant date-rape while singing rap music? Here is a hint, dandies, bullies, and macho men all pre-date the 1960s experiment in consciousness raising, often by several centuries. Once you lose the causal argument, the du Toits' argument turns into a simple rant in favor of rural over urban cultural styles.

Do I go off on gender roles, lambasting du Toit for his intentionally provocative use of the word "pussification" to emphasize the idea that women are inherently weak, non-confrontational, and subordinate, and that any woman who does not fit that description is somehow "un-natural". It is easy to go after people who take culturally defined sets of values and behaviors, assert that they are universal, and then invoke "nature" to support their position. Unfortunately, it is also hard to change their minds.

Do I jump on one of the commentators on Michelle's site who tried to take the old Albion college rules for sexual encounters and argue that this completely opposite the way an encounter should run. If you don't remember, Albion posted rules of behaviors that required that the horny party (they may even have simply said man, ignoring sub-dom and same-sex interactions) ask verbally and receive verbal consent before each increase in intimacy. This can lead to a very cool scene in a mild D/S kind of way. "May I touch you ... here?" "yes" "And here?" "yes" "and where should I touch you next?" "HERE". It, like most of the so-called political correctness, is just a ham-handed way to regulate manners. Sex is like dancing, one partner leads and the other partner follows. A lead is just strong enough to convey a desire: just as when dancing you pull her hand towards you and up to indicate a spin, during an intimate encounter the outward pressure of two fingers between her thighs is enough to signal that you want to place your hand between them. If, at any point (exception, safe-word play) you use a level of force, intimidation, or strength that you would not use on a public dance floor, you have just stepped into the very slippery very dangerous world of using power imbalances to exert sexual favors.

Du Toit has a point, people should not be afraid to indicate their desires, and people should respect the desires of others. He wraps that point in a batch of real man braggadocio, straps guns to its back, sends it out hunting, and feeds it red meat when it returns, but the core point is still there. Take responsibility for your actions; respect the desires of others. At that level, stripped of all the bullshit, Du Toit is pointing out that adults should act like, well, adults. That good underlying point gives the rest of the bullshit some heft, it is the rock in the snowball.

What amuses me is the link between du Toit on manliness and Jones on the environment: both focus on looking in the long term, thinking about consequences, and taking responsibility for our actions. But this common core is wrapped in some very different baggage.

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You Go Girl

Sheila O'Mally is on fire today. She has written a lot of words since I last checked her page yesterday, and they are good words. She writes well, she makes me think, she jump-starts my brain for the day.

We like redheads, yes we do.

This random shout-out brought to you by the Society for Admiring Smart Red-headed Women.

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Forests and Trees

Gary Jones at Muck and Mystery has a very good article about forest conservation and a followup about the Salton Sea. His immediate target is poorly informed, highly emotional environmentalists. His secondary target, and what he sees as the underlying cause of poor environmental decision making, is that people are being insulated from the consequences of their actions.

Jones argues that Eastern and Western forests have different trees and growth cycles, that national fire and forest management strategies were developed and sold for Eastern forests, and that these policies are widely destructive when applied to Western forests. Using California as his example, he praises state-level forest management that tries to reduce ground litter, thin trees, and prevent conditions from leading to over-growth and fireboxes while condemning federal forest management that kills fires while letting forests choke and kill themselves. Jones blames the poor choice of federal policy on several things: the myth of forest destruction shown by Bambi and Smokey Bear, the prevalence of Eastern attitudes in national policy making, and a ferocious yet uninformed campaign of vilification by ultra-conservationists who refuse to see any policy that might look like foresting.

Jones argues this at greater length and with more eloquence than I can summarize here. His point, something he continues in today's post about the Salton Sea, is that environmental management decisions need to be made from the perspective of the hundred-year cycle, not the twenty year cycle or the one year cycle. In the short term, it makes a lot of sense to build a house in the foothills, try to refill a temporary lake in the Salton basin.

I want to move beyond his post and look at some of the barriers to better decision making. Jones focuses his ire in the forest article on environmentalists who respond with knee-jerk vitriol any time a forest products company gets near a forest. He argues that this vitriol makes it impossible to build a sustainable plan. He does not look at where the vitriol comes from.

For many years we have been told, correctly to the best of my knowledge, that American forest management has been a federally subsidized boondoggle for the firms with national connections who pull wood from the forests for below cost, break up ecosystems, and clear-cut every chance they get. From the environmentalist perspective, forest service companies have shown that they can not be trusted. They respond with vitriol to the State level practices that Jones admires because these practices are based on partnerships between state regulatory agencies and what they see as untrustworthy companies. These partnerships are necessary because forest management is expensive, and if a tree has to be culled it makes more sense to sell it than to cut it and let it rot.

There is a second problem with forests and fires. People keep moving into fire zones and building houses. Stereotypically these are new luxury houses, McMansions, and they are inhabited by people who tend to vote against all taxation and for a smaller state. These people then move into unstable terrain and, when fire comes, demand expensive state protection for their private property.

There is a potential way to link these two problems. It is a political problem, perhaps an insurmountable political problem. Most people, it is my gut sense, are very willing to pay for something if they think they are getting a good value for their money. They do not like to pay taxes, in many cases, because they feel that they are not getting that value. This is generally a poor perception, but it is a politically powerful perception.

Basic principles of fairness suggest that people who live in fire zones should pay the costs of protecting their property. Normally we let the insurance system handle those costs - earthquake insurance is cheap in Boston, expensive in San Francisco. In certain situations any event that would lead to one claim would lead to thousands of claims, defeating the insurance purpose of spreading losses around, and the government steps in. It is my understanding that people who live in California canyons have trouble getting fire assistance.

In economic terms, these people are being free riders on the state. Their choice of where to settle adds significant costs to fire regulation and fire fighting, costs over and above the usual infrastructure costs associated with sprawl. These costs are currently being covered through state emergency appropriations. In other words, all of us taxpayers are subsidizing millionaires in California.

The trick would be to somehow use market pricing to reflect the total social costs of having people settle in fire zones. Imagine, if you will, the fire zone tax - a special property tax levied on all construction, old and new, in high-risk fire regions. The proceeds of that tax would then be earmarked for forest management - clearing dead wood, trimming overly dense trees, building firebreaks and then holding contained burns, and insuring against the statistical certainty that some of those controlled burns will get out of control.

The way to sell it is that folks who live in fire zones get extra ordinary fire protection services, and they should pay for what they get. No welfare millionaires! (1)

It will be a hard sell. Somehow we have come to think of money gone in taxes as money lost forever. It is taken from us and we imagine that we have no control over what happens to it - it just vanishes into the black hole marked Government. And yet, at the same time, we think of money and services received through governmental channels as free money. It comes from nowhere, or from a black box, we want as much of it as we can get. Alabama's governor, a Republican, just tried to make the more taxes for more services argument, and saw his proposals go down in a referendum.

Many Democrats are looking for a platform. Most Americans agree with appeals to fairness and equity. We want to do the right thing, we just have trouble telling what the right thing is through our haze of self-interest and the obscuring clouds of spin-laden dust thrown off by the political system. Much environmental policy is based on the simple notion that when a person engages in an activity where they can shift the costs to everyone else, that activity will be more profitable for them but bad for society. Externalities are crucial. The trick is to use regulation to capture and work with those externalities in a way that is: 1, Fair 2, Will not crush individual or corporate initiative, 3, Based on long-term environmental science rather than short term sound bites.

Despite my own inherent democratic (small d) bias, the answer I am coming to here is very Progressive. The answer seems to be to depoliticize some of these decisions and turn them over to a board of experts. The trick is to choose experts who will achieve the policy goals, maintain public trust, and preserve accountability. For the details of that, I will have to turn to the historians of the modern political process.

(1). This is a sample slogan. It would inevitably be met with stories about working people living out a bit, just getting by, and being made homeless by the new taxes. Any new taxation is a form of taking, it lowers the value of the property for any subsequent purchaser. One of the implementation tricks will be to impose the new taxes in a way that does not cause sudden shifts in property values.

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November 05, 2003

Andrew Jackson

Last week's homework assignment was "Should Andrew Jackson be honored by being on the United States Currency."

I expected this one to be controversial: Jackson was controversial in his life; people argued about the man and his policies, and historians continue to clash over Jackson today. I got the idea for the question, which I have also used as an exam question, when I read that a group was lobbying the treasury department to take AJ off the $20 as part of the recent redesign of the money.

I had hoped to have the kids give a balanced argument. Most did not, but simply argued one side or the other. The in-class polls came out about 3-1 in favor of removing Jackson, mostly because of Jackson's role in Indian removal. The numbers were about the same before and after we laid out why Jackson should be honored and why he should be condemned. So, why do we like AJ and why do we hate him?

We like Jackson because he:

  • Personified the democratic (small d) political movement arguing that politics and government should not be the exclusive provenance of an educated elite. Almost everyone with a basic education ought to be able to hold government office.
  • Acted on those principles by bringing in rotation in office
  • Held the nation together during Nullification
  • Provided the basis and background for Unionism, Abraham Lincoln in 1861 simply rephrased Andrew Jackson. If there was no Andrew Jackson, there would likely not be a United States today.
  • Won the Battle of New Orleans
  • Intimidated Spain into giving up Florida
  • Focused American politics on dangerous concentrations of power and corruption, including the Second Bank of the United States.
  • Was always willing to do the right thing, even if it was not necessarily the legal or even the constitutional thing.

We dislike Jackson because he:

  • Presided over Indian removal. While Indian removal was a land grab and "ethnic cleansing" not a full-fledged act of genocide, the forced movement of the Southeast tribes was a land grab, an abuse of state and federal power, and so badly managed that about a third of the Cherokees died during the movement. Jackson may not have intended to starve, expose, and otherwise kill thousands of Indians during the move, but he was chief executive, he authorized the movement, he supported the states against the Supreme court, and he is in the end morally liable for all actions taken under his administration.

    Several of the kids insisted that Indian removal was genocide - I save the term for cases where there is an intent to destroy a people or society. The Holocaust was a genocide, the Rwandan civil war was a genocide. Neither Indian Removal nor the Great Hunger in Ireland qualifies - the one because the intent was to expel the other because the massive deaths came as an unintended consequence of poorly chosen ideology. Of the two tragedies, the Great Hunger comes closer to a genocide. But I digress.

  • Murdered men. Jackson killed men in duels, he hanged militia men, he performed judicial murder on two British citizens in Spanish Florida during the 1818-1819 incursion.
  • Trashed the American economy during the Bank War. Jackson destroyed the central bank; he pursued pro-cyclical economic policies; he made an unstable boom bigger and the ensuing crash deeper.
  • Violated the Constitution and the separation of powers. During the Bank War he moved Federal money around against Congressional legislation, during Indian Removal he refused to enforce Court orders. These were a particular instance of
  • Placed his own interpretation of what was right above law and constitution, turning the American government into a rule of men and not a rule of law.

  • Turned government employment into a partisan perk, sacrificing efficiency in return for loyalty. This would not be fixed until Civil Service reform at the end of the 19th century, and the reform ended up producing what some call a stratified and ossified Federal bureaucracy.
  • Owned slaves. Most rich Southerners owned slaves, Jackson owned a lot of them.
  • Invaded Spanish Florida without orders or authorization, provoking an international crisis. (it turned out well for the U.S., but he still disobeyed orders and conducted policy on his own.)

Then there are quirks about Jackson that describe him but are less subject to praise or condemnation.

  • Jackson broke up Rachel Donelson's marriage. He did so in order to protect her from an abusive husband, and while Andrew and Rachel Jackson's first marriage was bigamous (and they probably knew it) it was also a mitzvah. Jackson broke the law but did a good deed.
  • Jackson had a ferocious temper. He lost it seriously at times, he also faked rages at times. He regularly lost his temper for real when Rachel's honor was challenged, especially involving that bigamous marriage.
  • Jackson drank, especially when he was a young man. But then, so did many people, especially when we were young.
  • Jackson despised paper money, so why put him on a paper dollar?

  • Jackson adopted twice, the second was a Creek Indian baby whose parents and family had all just been killed by Jackson's militia during the War of 1812. Jackson, an orphan himself, took the child in when no one else would and raised Lyncoya as a son.
  • Jackson was emaciated, 6 feet tall and 145 pounds. He was thin by nature, the two pistol balls in his body from duels and the lifelong digestive and bowel difficulties from his repeated dysentary and typhoid during the war of 1812 left him skeletal.
  • Jackson was in constant physical pain from 1803 onwards from dueling wounds, constant emotional pain from 1828 onward from Rachel Jackson's death. Pain made him angry. For most of his political career Jackson was "Ol mean ol man ol Jackson" or "Angry old Jackson;" he was even meaner and angrier as President.

I have my own opinions on whether Jackson should be on the American money. But, before I give my answers, I was wondering if any readers wanted to give their opinions in the comments. You can make a strong case either way, which is why I like the question.

edit - added last few items to third bullet list. Forgot them earlier.

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Grey day

It is a grey, grey day. And my knees hurt. I was up too late, first finishing Harry Potter, then working on classes, and finally just rattling, and even when I got to bed I did not sleep easily. Then, at 3:00, the baby got cold and woke up. Morning was awfully early today.

I am mazy and slow this morning. I still have to finish prepping for the class on slavery. I have a chapter in dire need of editing, and I will have to be sharp for that. Some days I feel like I am swimming in peanut butter. This is one of those days.

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Carnival of the Vanities number 59 is up at wizbang.

Carnivals keep getting bigger and bigger. My entry is buried down at the bottom this time, underneath a great long list of pretty cool titles and subjects. I suspect that I will not get as many readers for 19th century drinking games as I got for Meatloaf Lyrics and the Politics of Lies. Politics and punditry seem to be the bread and butter of blog readers; most bloggers write personal diaries but most people who read blogs like to read punditry.

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November 04, 2003

Birds and Class Prep

I had two thoughts on today's walk, and because I had them near each other they must be connected. Right?

The first was that we saw some new birds in our lake today. There are always ducks and geese, and often seagulls. There are herons - both blue and great blue - and great white egrets stalking the edges regularly. Today we saw something new - a loon was swimming and diving by the near bridge. When you consider that 12 or 15 years ago that lake was completely unsafe, it is remarkable that there are enough fish to support that many fishing birds.

On our way back around the lake, we got an added bonus. One of the blue herons decided to flap over to a log in the water next to the trail. We stopped and the baby got to admire a heron. He has seen them before, but only from a distance. I like the wading birds; they have a gawky elegance.

The second morning thought was that this is election day. I did not stop and vote during the morning walk - dogs still don't have the franchise and I had the hound with me. I will vote in a few minutes - the voting station is at the end of our block. What I was reminded to do was to describe 1840s voting to the students today in class. I will ask them how many of the men rose early to vote? How many of the women chose to praise men for having voted? How many of them felt the need to stand around the voting place afterwards to watch to make sure that no unregistered voters came to pack the box, and to watch to make sure that the box did not get vanished? I will ask how many got together with friends to go vote, and how many went alone.

Voting technology has been in the news a lot lately with the push to electronic voting machines and the lack of a paper trail from those machines. If Diebold's critics are right, the new voting machines are an invitation to electoral fraud. Voter fraud is nothing new, many of the voting rituals I just described were intended to give citizens a chance to act vigilantly to preserve liberty against electoral fraud. Every time we have changed our voting technology we have changed our electoral rituals and, often, we have changed the way we distribute the franchise. The technology shapes the action: viva voce voting, paper ballots, written ballots, punch cards, levers, and now touch screens. Of them all, paper ballots were the most democratic. But, they are also a bother to count, and these days we want instant results from our elections.

And so to vote.

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November 03, 2003

Type type type

"Another great long book, eh Mr. Gibbon. Scribble, Scribble, Scribble, eh Mr. Gibbon"

I am not quite that long winded, but I did finish scribbling on chapter four and am now ready to type in the changes. After scribbling it is much tighter, I cut out a lot of stuff. The thoughts I blogged last night helped a lot. Now to type in the changes, and read it again.

It is just that I have patterned myself. I can not sit down at the computer without blogging. I tell myself that by starting to write, anything, I get myself flowing with my writing. Getting started is the hard part. Once I get started, it goes well.

And so to work.

ps, I enabled titles and commented out the old comments - part of my puttering with the template.

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Monday, Monday

Monday looks like it might be a good day. The weather is nice, I got enough sleep, and I have some good ideas for my work.

Today I need to prepare class for tomorrow, do some grading, and finish hashing through the scribbles on chapter four. With luck I should be typing them up by lunchtime.

Today the handy neighbor and I might also be running the cable-modem wire so that I can put the cable modem in my office and not in the master bedroom. It will be good to no longer have ethernet cable snaking around the upstairs hall.

We have been in the house since July. It is finally starting to get uncluttered and be nice to live in. This is a good thing, as we will be having about ten people over for dinner in three and a half weeks. By then we will have pictures on the walls, the last picture boxes out of the living room, and a pleasant space to live in. We went through a period of slacking off a month or so ago, we had gotten most of the house ready and then we did other work and let clutter pile up. J. got into a cleaning kick - it might be nesting instinct kicking in early, it might just be that she got tired of clutter. She has been reading the FlyLady stuff, and while she is not buying the whole message she is stealing some of their techniques for organizing her time and getting more done.

It is amazing how much better I feel in a clean house. And, according to J, it is amazing how much of the housework I do compared to some of the husbands of the women on her email lists. I am thinking about housework because one of the things I will be lecturing on tomorrow is the invention of housework in the 19th century and the shift of domestic responsibilities in and out of the market economy during the 19th century.

I intend to blame housework on Catherine Beecher. She did not invent it, but she did do a lot to popularize it and we are using the Beecher family as our window into the past this semester. The invention of housework was a two-part story. The first part saw commercial production move out of the house and into separate buildings. No longer did the master live above the shop, the servants and apprentices in the attic, and everyone worked on the ground floor together. People began to separate house and work, at least in cities and villages. The master lived away from the shop, the workers no longer lived under family government but were in boarding houses and other ersatz families. As men worked more out of the house, women, whose work had traditionally been more closely associated with the house and not the fields, saw three countervailing patterns.

The first, the Catherine Beecher pattern, was for middle-class women to get dropped from the productive economy and move over to the consumption economy. No longer making butter, storing food, or managing apprentices, middle class urban women had large houses and not much to do. So, Beecher turned care of the house from a chore, one of many and less important than working the dairy, to a duty. Women were to spend their time entertaining and presenting themselves and their spaces, your gentility was measured by your living space, and so keeping a clean living space became a moral duty.

The second, the middle states farmwife pattern, was for women to turn to from household production to commercial production. This pattern was most common in rural areas. Women had always run the dairy as part of the gendered division of labor. By the early 19th century many American farms had become butter factories. Rather than putting up some butter for family use or local exchange, women were maintaining large herds, hiring women to work for them, and spending all day milking, skimming, churning butter, making cheese, and tending the cheese as it cured. Dairying was the most notable of these rural factories run by women, but women were also involved in broom manufacturing, out-work, and other tasks where they took traditional female jobs and brought them so much farther into market production that the nature of the task changed.

The final pattern was most noticeable among young women, immigrant women, and black women. That was a turn to wage labor outside of the house. The biggest employment was domestic service, helping those middle class women in the first category dust, clean, cook, and present a refined appearance. The second biggest wage employment was factory work, a new category, but factory workers were a mere fraction of all women in the wage economy. Here the common pattern early was for young unmarried women to work in factories for a few years before getting married and setting up housekeeping. For a single women, especially from New England or the Middle States, there were not a lot of choices of what to do before marriage. Many young men headed west to prepare land, coming back to marry their beau's or court a new lady, and the age of marriage was creeping upwards. Meanwhile women could stay at home as part of their parent's household, they could work as dairymaids or productive farm workers in other commercial farms, they could take up domestic service, or they could go down to the factories and use machines to spin thread and weave cloth.

There is a fourth category, one I need to remember to show the kids tomorrow. Slave women continued to do field work. Only a few slave owners had the big plantations and the house servants. These are, of course, what visitors remembered and they are the core of the Moonlight and Magnolias romantic view of the South. But for every gracious mansion on the James or the Mississippi, there were twenty ramshackle shacks in the middle of the cotton belt, buildings thrown up quickly to last a few years before master and slaves moved farther west to better lands. I think I will mention slave women Tuesday but will save the full discussion until Thursday.

Not all 19th-century women bought into the notion that housework was a duty. Housework was most common among middle class women who had dropped out of the productive economy. These were the same women who embraced the theory of separate spheres, the notion that women were more moral, more religious, and had a duty to nurture and educate children. Separate spheres grew out of republican motherhood, the notion that women had the duty to educate themselves so that they could educate a rising generation of good republican men, but separate spheres soon added "evangelical" religion to the earlier scheme. (I use the quotes because evangelical did not become an identity until the 1840s and modern evangelicalism is a twentieth-century phenomenon.)

Catherine Beecher performed a sort of moral jujitsu with separate spheres. She believed that women were naturally gifted with nurturing, religious, and moral natures. She believed that they had a Divine duty to stay out of politics, a men's realm, and focus on domestic concerns. But, in the service of those domestic concerns, women could and should influence society. Early Catherine Beecher, the women we will be studying tomorrow, focused on teaching as a job field for middle class women, giving them a way to earn money and support themselves, without the need for a man, while remaining within the feminine sphere. Towards the end of her life her focus on women's duty to spread domestic values gave birth to the political wing of the temperance and education movements. A few women voted right after the American Revolution before being disfranchised in the early 19th century, women next voted in the late 19th century in school board elections and local referendums on temperance laws.

Enlightenment guarantees of natural rights were not proof against a social climate that assumed a "natural" difference between men and women. Counter-enlightenment appeals to morality and religion did bring women back into public affairs.

Housework is political. As the 20th century feminists reminded us, everything is political. The politics of housework ran in odd and unexpected directions.

That was useful, I just prepped a fifth of my class for tomorrow. And, I have a better understanding for why it makes me happy that I will be working in a clean house today.

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Oof Dah

I finished typing in the edits to chapter 4. It has been a very good work day. The new version of the chapter is 11 pages shorter and, I hope, much more tighly argued.

Now I have a printout to take to office hours with me tomorrow.

And so to go grade homework

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Strange Search Terms

I check to see how folks find my blog. Most of my references come from places like the Carnival of the Vanities or the folks who have blogrolled my little diary. A few people come through google. Over the last couple of days I have seen a surge of searches focusing on: Ann Coulter Pictures Adam's Apple Transgender. It appears that my little piece on the Politics of Personal Appearance has gotten into the search bots, and that people are indeed concerned with this sort of triviality.

Then again, we live in a culture that celebrates "celebrity" - which as near as I can tell consists of being famous because you are famous. Celebrity this, celebrity that. ABC is flogging a night of celebrities to celebrate its 75th anniversary of television broadcasting. The murky corners of the web are full of pictures celebrities with and without their clothes.

I guess that I do not watch enough TV and do not listen to enough modern music. I hear about these celebrities, and all I can think of is "who dat?"

I wonder how many folks in the 19th century had the same response when Charles Dickens went on tour through the United States? I know that many people flocked to see Jenny Lind sing, and she too was famous largely for being famous - and for singing well and letting P.T. Barnum package her well. Can we trace modern celebrity culture back to P.T. Barnum and, perhaps, the sunset tour of the United States by the Marquis de Lafayette in the 1830s? If so then perhaps instead of being grumpy about celebrityhood and praising myself for not knowing these people, I should condemn myself for failing to take part in a fine American tradition.

But I still do not know who most of these people are.

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Gender and blogs

My current study break is to read blogs. I click, I click, I click, and I read. It is like having an entire universe of op-ed pages, academic side notes, and personal revelations.

One of the things that I have noticed about this is just how female the blogosphere is. I went down my blogroll on the left, and while it is about 60/40 male it is not typical. Based on my impressions while surfing, especially on the blogsnob randomizer at the bottom of my blogroll, there are a lot of men with policy and punditry blogs and there are a lot of women with personal diary blogs. As with most gender generalizations, this is of course a question of overlapping bell curves - there are some seriously punditoid (it is a word now) women, and some guys who like to record their emotions and daily life.

I remember when the internet first started to go mainstream - Yahoo had just opened - and the net was a heavily male realm, as were computer games. Women have been moving in, and at the risk of talking out of my ass I would say that women seem interested in using the net to share themselves, while men often use the net to distance themselves from others. I don't know if that distinction will hold up if tested - certainly there are anonymous men and women all over the blogosphere - but it will work as a null hypothesis for me to test in my future browsing.

Women have a long history in information technology. My mom worked for IBM's New York City office installing mainframes the 1950s. Back in those days most of the customer service reps were women. Mom had to go to client offices wearing a hat and white gloves. She is a short woman, about 5'2". She kept a screwdriver in her purse so she could open up the machines and fix what was wrong with them. She still had her Southern accent, she cursed like a longshoreman, and I gather that the overall effect produced cognitive dissonance in the people she worked with.

But, information technology, like most of the engineering-based professions, was a mostly male realm for a very long time. It is only as the web has taken computer use out of the engineering world and into the household world that we have seen these gender changes.

In part this is because the blogosphere, like the larger online society, is itself a part of larger American society. And, as many people have noted, some aspects of the feminist revolution have succeeded to the point where people who deny that they are feminists have internalized the core values of feminism. The college women I work with genuinely can not comprehend the world their grandmothers grew up in, where certain fields and certain life expectations were defined by gender. Male jobs, female jobs - those ideas have to be explained to them. If you tell a modern college woman that she can not be a doctor, or a lawyer, or an engineer because she has the wrong plumbing, she will think you are crazy. And yet, the same woman will deny being a feminist.

We still continue to debate nature and nurture. We still notice gendered patterns in human behavior. And so while women can and do take up any job field and can and do write about anything they want to, I still see a preponderance of women among the personal blogs and a preponderance of men among the pundit blogs.

Perhaps I am following the wrong link circles and looking at the wrong corner of the blogosphere.

(this seems to be gender day - two posts on gender issues already!)

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November 02, 2003

Slow Coffee

One more random thought before bed. I got new coffee today - I seem to be going through about a pound a week of half-caff. I am drinking it so fast that I added my current coffee blend to the blog template.

As usual when I need coffee, I went to the coffee shop with the good roaster and the slow wait staff. This time the counter girl found a new way to make us wait: there was no line, she was right there to take my order, she had no trouble ringing up two pounds of coffee to be paid by personal check. Nope, she simply spent five to ten minutes flirting with the cook while standing around not measuring out my coffee. Meanwhile the little man was playing with the glass counter before the desserts, so at least we were entertained.

In many ways I am too mild of a person. My father in law, who is a bit of a jerk, would have yelled at her and told her to work faster. I try not to act like a jerk. I know that I get taken advantage of from time to time because I am not assertive in trivial situations. I stay quiet because I have a truly terrible temper. When I lose my temper I shout, I stamp, I slam my fist into things, and then I seethe and seethe. I learned long ago that I could either be mad and miserable all the time, or I could take things a easy and let the little irritations of daily life slide off me.

I am much happier this way, but I do have to wait for my coffee.

And so to bed.

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Writing and Gardening Today

Writing and Gardening

Today was an odd day. I spent the morning writing - finished an edit pass on chapter four and started on the third read before typing up my changes. I spent the middle of the day playing in the dirt. We are planting bulbs at the front of the house. I put in about 50 bulbs, although after I got the yellow emporer tulips in J told me she thought they were going someplace completely different. I might dig them up and move them. I spent the late afternoon running errands with the little man - for some reason the discount store was much emptier in the middle of the Eagles game than it is on a Sunday morning before the game starts.

My thought for the day was one of simple curiousity. J and I both do our weekly work seven days a week. She brings things home and gets a few hours done to cover the time she spends on child-stuff, choir stuff, and exercise stuff during the week. I write on the weekends because I write when I feel sharp, regardless of what day it is. Sometimes I wonder about going back to the square world, working in an office every day, and having evenings and weekends to myself. It would be nice to have evenings and weekends, it would be nice to have time to get back into gaming, or to take up a hobby. But then I remember how much I HATED working in an office, and how important it is to me that I am able to take a nap, walk around the block, or otherwise work when I feel productive and not when I happen to be in the building. Of course, I still need to get it done.

Chapter four is not as terrible as I thought it was yesterday. Most of the problems can be fixed with cutting, trimming, moving side points to the footnotes, and re-arranging my points so that they make logical sense. There is a lot of blue ink on the pages (grading in blue this week), but the second read-through was pretty smooth everywhere except my discussion of ultra-temperance. I still need to do a better job of connecting ultra-temperance and ultra-abolition to my larger argument about evangelicalism appearing as a self-conscious identity among American Protestants only after 1845.

Earlier I argue that the continuing nature of controversies meant that religious controversies served as constant reminders about the norms of civil religion. I might be able to bring the idea of repetition into that discussion, and argue that the repeated nature of disputes about ultraism succeeded in destabilizing denominational alignments without re-coalescing around ultra principles. I say that already, but I could say it better if I bring in the repetition meme.

That was a note to me, sorry if it is confusing to you.

And so to drink a glass of milk before bed.

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November 01, 2003

Domain Names? I have

Domain Names?

I have a domain name that I really want. I thought about buying it 10 years ago, and 8 years ago, but did not want to spend the money at the time. That was a bad decision. Since then it has been owned first by a small British company, then by a Hong-Kong based search engine and name-squatter.

The name expires today. If the squatter does not renew, the name will become available in 75 days. I could count the days and mark my calendar, I could pay one of the hosting services to put the name on their watch list and automatically request it when it becomes available. Or, I could use a variation on my preferred name. Or, if the current squatter renews it, I could make them an offer for the name.

The .us and .cc suffixes are available now. I think I would rather have the .com, but my preference for that version of my name is low. So, I think I will count the days and keep checking the .whois databases to see if the squatter renews. If they do, I will make them an offer. If they charge too much, then it is off to two-letter land.

As of right now I prefer .cc, one of the caribbean suffixes but used worldwide for personal sites, rather than the .us suffix.

Vanity, thy name is Ted

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Writing is hard I

Writing is hard

I have spent the last couple of days reviewing my draft of chapter four. This, like three, is a chapter that has a good ending but where I have had trouble setting up my conclusion. The current version of chapter four, after the August rewrite, is three sections of about twenty pages each. The first sets up the situation at the end of the 1830s, lays out the historiography, and argues that continuous controversies shaped the way that religious groups understood one another and they way that they understood civil religion. The second section argues that popular interpretive schemes that people used to categorize religious groups fell apart during the late 1830s and 1840s: temperance and abolition together managed to split the largest denominations even as ultra-ism imploded as a credible intellectual scheme. The final section argues that the crucial new understanding of how to handle the problem of the one and the many grew as a response to anti-Catholicism in the Presbyterian church. This new understanding provided a groundwork for people to imagine a new sort of unity, as "evangelicals" rather than as "Christians" by the end of the 1840s.

That was a muddy and opaque paragraph. It matches the muddiness and opacity of a lot of the stuff I have been editing today. I have a lot of trouble articulating some of my ideas - either I get too subtle or I miss my point and have to beat around the bush. I use a lot of shotgun prose - fire a lot of sentences at an idea and maybe one of them will phrase it correctly.

I need to chop chapter four down to about 50 pages, I need to lose the silly parts of my argument, I need to make sure I can justify everything I am claiming, and I need to say it clearly and forcefully.

So, that is what I am doing rather than starting National Novel Writing Month. This blog is a workplace blog, it lets me explain what I do, vent my frustrations, and get some ideas for what to do next. It is unlike most other workplace blogs in that I work alone. Sometimes as I sit at the dining room table editing manuscript I am reminded of the very sweet, very sad movie "Tout Les Matins des Jours" One of the characters there, a widower, spends the second half of his life rising, eating breakfast, going to a separate shed with his viol de gamba, and playing music all day. As he plays, his late wife's image appears before him, and she keeps him company and gazes at him for as long as the music continues. Late at night, he stops playing and comes back to the house to sleep. Towards the end of the movie he comments to his daughter that he has led a very passionate life. She just looks at him, confused as to why this musical hermit could make such a claim. But we, the audience, know his secret and are touched.

I am not that bad, or that maudlin, but I do find that I have a very busy day behind my eyes even as I sit at my table looking over sheets of paper.

I should be ready to type up my edits by Monday. It is going faster than some chapters, if only because it is now NOVEMBER and I am feeling time pressure.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 10:08 AM | TrackBack
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