Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Kennedys - A Fumbled Handoff of the Torch -

The Kennedys - A Fumbled Handoff of the Torch - "It was fitting — or at least symmetrical — that the inauguration of Barack Obama, with its promise of a new political order, should have coincided with the further decline of the political fortunes of the Kennedy family, who for so long have occupied a dynastic place in the American imagination."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Presidential Retrospective

Although it now seems like "simple technology", the New York Times' photographic retrospective on Bush 43 is an excellent historical record.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

wikipedia and Obama

Larry Cebula brings to light some even more interesting aspects of inauguration day.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

The new administration

The New York Times has an interesting exploration of the new administration members in Washington.

It really brings a personal face to the administration. And possibly some insight on what to expect.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009


Winter is back and the semester is rolling. I'll meet students teachers who are out in the field on campus this week. And grant writing is going on in earnest as the deadline approaches in early March. I have a couple of fun outings planned for later today - seeing old friends and new friends.

Spending more than a night or two earlier in the week at the farm was great therapy to get my head on straight for the semester. I kept the fire going and did some cooking, too. The deer were everywhere most days and, of course, the armadillos was back out and about at night when no one was around to help shoot it.

I have a feeling that this semester will go even faster than last semester.

There are two meetings in DC (one includes Baltimore), a conference in Seattle, and a trip to Albuquerque. And of course, I can't go to Albuquerque without going to Santa Fe. Then, summer brings Boston and other Kansas towns. All in all, engaging opportunities and seeing old friends/colleagues and the opportunity to meet new ones.

I still keep trying to figure out how to get it all done. I think an assistant might help but that is only a fantasy.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reiterating the Call for a New Federal Writers Project

Larry Cebula's award-winning blog, Northwest History, has a post that should interest all of us invested in saving and preserving our nation's history.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Your Word is "Think"

Your Word is "Think"

You see life as an amazing mix of possibilities, ideas, and fascinations.

And sometimes you feel like you don't have enough time to take it all in.

You love learning. Whether you're in school or not, you're probably immersed in several subjects right now.

When you're not learning, you're busy reflecting. You think a lot about the people you know and the things you've experienced.
What's Your Word?

Thanks, profgrrrrl! (and I often overdo it, also!

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There is plenty to do but a feeling that it is all possible if I don't let myself get overwhelmed. There's still a week before one of my F2F classes meets to start the semester. I will put up some more material for them to prep for the first part of the semester. Seeing who has taken time to take a look and work on some of it enough to have questions will help me get to know my students a bit better before I see them the first time. I keep thinking of ways to get around the various issues perplexing students when they enroll in a class late. I don't want to hold the rest up but it's hard not to create extra work for yourself when students seem to think it is up to you to catch them up instead of their showing a bit more initiative - esp. with all of it online on the university's CMS site. (If I'm rambling a bit more than usual, it's because I'm thinking aloud.)

The best news right now is that my annual performance report that is due Tuesday is already submitted. I was able to get enough of it done before break despite the numerous distractions from the normal semester. This year I'll aim to get it done before I go on break and maybe just have to wait for the end-of-course evaluations.

One of the small breakthroughs I've had lately is to look at these evaluations as what they are - course evaluations - and not evaluations just of me. Some students love the technology throughout the classes while others are still struggling with it apparently unaware how much of it will govern their future work lives. I have a course release for an outside service responsibility for the next two semesters and am hoping that, unlike my last course release, I don't let the work on fewer classes just expand to still fill the normal time it takes to handle a 12-hour load.

I've been able to get quite a bit of Truman work done even if it's not as much as I'd like. And I can finally give up the hope of finishing all the big household rearrangement tasks (if I haven't used it since I moved in over 15 years ago, I can probably get rid of it or donate it to charity) and resign myself to just keep plugging away on them. At least the outside isn't calling as much given the weather although more leaves need gathered. (That's probably related to the immediate neighbors who haven't picked up any and they keep blowing this way. . .. )

Not meeting my first class until the second week is preferred to meeting it once right away (it's once a week) and then having a week off. There's not as much playing catch up with the students who add in between.

I've posted the graduate syllabus for the course on political cartoons for the semester with all of the detail on the assignments. All that is left is creating the unit folders and links in the CMS. But that's a task for late in the day or evening and not when I'm at my best writing.

I had been feeling guilty that I wasn't working til 11pm like I did back in my 20s and 30s but am discovering that I can actually get more done if I take some time off. And in talking to a colleague that is a prolific scholar, she said she always stops at 6pm (unless there's an immediate deadline for indexing or proofs) and chills out - watching tv reruns is a favorite. She says some of her best ideas come then when she is letting her scholarly brain rest. I remember my major professor saying my best ideas would come when I was walking on the beach (my first TT job was at the University of West Florida) and while I didn't quite believe him and did NOT spend enough time on the beach the year I was there, I did finish the dissertation.

So, this week I need to get in my regular pattern for the semester before the grant teacher institutes and travel starts in late February.

But I am now ensuring that I take Sundays to read the newspapers. I used to not let myself do that until late in the day but have decided that is a good reward for working so hard all week. Besides, I will be working later today anyway.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Spring Semester

Yesterday began the semester with a 3-hour meeting on MTSS. It was great seeing colleagues. We were disappointed, however, that the secondary team members who could answer our questions were not able to attend.

A few students who didn't take care of what they needed in November are now in panic mode since consequences are now quite clear.

Today, I'm finishing the online syllabi for the grad course on political cartoons and the 20th century diplomatic history course. Since it's a Monday course and we're out for the MLK holiday, that course won't meet in person for about 10 days.

There's a little male poodle at our local humane society. Fighting the impulse to go get him, I sponsored him via Petfinder. You can also find him through

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Friday, January 09, 2009

TAH Project Directors Meeting - NYC

Once again, Ale Stein and his staff at the US Department of Education put together an engaging meeting for project directors and other staff, including historians, of Teaching American History grants. Historians such as Darlene Clark Hine, Edward O'Donnell, and James McPherson discussed timely topics. Breakout sessions featured a wide range of sessions focusing on grant implementation and evaluation.

Elise and Rich were both able to join us and, once again, David Gerwin was busy running all over the conference. Sam Morgan of the Gilder Lehrman Institute put together a session featuring Carol Berkin and former teacher of the year Rosanne Lichatin. I concluded the session with a brief overview of how TAH partnerships with GLI work.

That evening, GLI held a reception and presentation at the Union League Club. As always, a classy get together focusing on teachers and historians and all others interested in history.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

AHA - Day Four

During the final half day of AHA sessions, I planned to stop by to hear Carol Berkin's portion of the panel focusing on women historians in New York City. I ended up staying for the entire session which engaged the audience with diverse stories of how women advanced in the male-dominated profession along with dealing with the rewards and challenges of living in "the city" over 5 decades.

Later in the day I joined a friend to see Defiance. Quite moving. Then, more time in the city before the TAH Project Directors meeting.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

AHA - Day 3

Day 3 began with my teaching-focused panel with my colleagues Cary Wintz and David Gerwin. We discussed teaching techniques and technology related to teaching African-American history. David focused on slavery in the Chesapeake while Cary talked about the behind-the-scenes work that went into his book, Harlem Speaks.

Then, I discussed how we have gradually increased the technology we use with teachers in our Teaching American History grants dating back to 2001. We also discussed our delivered master's degree and the struggles of the approval and implementation of off-campus programs. Here's the link to the PPT.

Lunch brought a meeting with Cengage (formerly Houghton Mifflin) about the current edition of Making America now in preparation. Other meetings with colleagues followed along with more time in the expansive book exhibit. I headed to an afternoon session but the main speaker that interested me was unable to attend.

Dinner was with a history/techie colleague (there aren't many of us) and then more drinks with the St. Louis crew. They are _always_ fun.

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AHA - Day Two

Saturday brought the full force of historians and interactive energy to the Hilton and the Sheraton and the blocks in between.

I attended the Historians Film Committee session on Why We Fought: America's Wars in Films and History. As the panel chair noted, a few years ago, the room wouldn't have been filled because interest in films and history used to be seen as more to the periphery of more traditional historians. The overflowing into the hallway crowd heard about Ken Burns' Civil War, Clint Eastwood's foray into WWII era films, and Cold War Berlin at the movies.

Sam Wineburg was the luncheon keynote at the National History Education Clearinghouse all-day event. It was great getting to say hello when I ran into him in the hallway and, as always, his presentations always intrigue his audience. He turned Bloom's Taxonomy on its head to emphasize historical questions and questioning as opposed to primarily concentrating on rote memorization of facts and dates, especially without the proper contextualization. Our teacher leadership team member joined me there and we re-visited the book exhibits afterward. The OAH was so frantic that I wasn't able to really look around the book exhibit so this afternoon opportunity seemed like a real treat.

I joined a colleague and his wife for dinner at Dervish that evening. I'm not sure I've ever been to a specifically Turkish restaurant before. More common for me is the Mediterranean food.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

NYC - American Historical Association - Day One

We arrived in New York for New Year's Eve given the great rate the AHA was able to secure for those of us able to fly to the city early. The snow was beautiful and we survived New Year's Eve.

More historians filtered in on Thursday, but it wasn't until Friday that the historians dominated the lobby, including the lobby bar. The atmosphere was that of running into old friends and colleagues mixed with the uncertainly facing not only those seeking new or their first faculty positions but those with positions hoping they would not be cut due to budget constraints before a suitable candidate accepted their positions.

The email information for registration ensured a much faster and smoother registration process - especially for those of us with last names beginning with one of the last letters of the normal groupings. Keep up the great work, AHA staff! We know what a major headache registration glitches can be for everyone involved.

The ever-anticipated Exhibit Hall opened at 3pm and stayed open until 7. My duties at OAH prevented me from spending any real time there so I looked forward to not having rushed time among the books during this convention. Additionally, it's always a good place to run into the people you want to make sure to see, even if just to briefly touch base.

Presidential Professor Carol Berkin was her usual dynamo self running around the convention and checking on her books. She is always surprised by her enthusiastic fans but her fans certainly aren't. Great scholarship that is actually fun to read is not all that common. And her dedication to the profession and her acknowledgment of the importance of teaching despite her scholarly status is most effectively demonstrated by her editorship of History Now.

A member of our Teaching American History grants Teacher Leadership Team was able to fit the meeting into his busy schedule although he has to leave early to return for an in-service on Monday. It's great to see one of our program's graduates take in the complexity of offerings at a professional conference such as the AHA. My first "mentoring" duty was helping him dissect the diverse program.

Spending some time with my major professor/continuing mentor was also enjoyable.

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