Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tenured Radical: Department of Snark: Or; Who Put A Tack On Gordon Wood's Chair?

Tenured Radical: Department of Snark: Or; Who Put A Tack On Gordon Wood's Chair?
I was hoping for a more focused discussion on the actual Gordon Wood review of Jill Lepore's book rather than the rhetoric-filled default to the Tea Party. But, I guess those are the limitations of Facebook.

First, it is important that Professor Lepore put the Tea Party in its historical context. In other words, it's nothing new. And similar phenomena have occurred on both sides of the aisles. It's not just the rightest of the right that utilize this historical reference. What is most important here is that she analyzes tea party identification throughout our nation's history. This is something we all need to better understand if we want to understand the world around us.

Based on his not-so-kind review asserting "non-historical approaches", it appears Dr. Wood is quite simply jealous of his colleague who regularly communicates with more public audiences, especially via The New Yorker. Even Sam Wineburg likes her work. In my world, that is certainly saying something.

On a random note, although more people have migrated to Facebook and even to Twitter than ever blogged themselves (although many more commented on blogs), it appears there is a blogging renaissance. Maybe scholars are finally getting the potential of blogs to put their work out there and think it through in more than 14-character bytes? Could it possibly be? Time will tell.

Hmmm, this is first blog post I've written in quite a while with more than a token hyperlink or two. Maybe I am experiencing my own blogging renaissance?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Students arrive back on campus officially today. We will be more populated tomorrow, however, given that we have more MWF than TTh students given our commuter campus. The weather is a bit iffy this morning but not as bad as it can be. Given that we had no weather-related closings in December, I'm afraid of what January and February holds. Hopefully, students will try to stay safe. With all of our online technology, professors no longer face falling "way behind" unless it is there choice to do so. That is in most cases. I know that when it happens with my teaching methods class at the exact wrong time, we spend a few weeks catching up if it is in the spring semester. With the preponderance of larger projects in that class, missing class because of weather at the end of the semester is less problematic.

We have two grad students who tackled world history head-on. At least one is so energetic that they wanted to switch sections this semester. We tried to advise them that they still had a lot to do to revise what they had only done once and know that later this semester they will be grateful. We are lucky this year since not every year do we have such capable graduate students.

My department chair has given me my assignments of what we need to get done this semester. He is great at delegating and feeling confident that it will all work out. I realize now how much I let other people were glad to let me take all of the responsibility for endeavors that were really supposed to be collectively in support of students instead of an over-reliance on one person to hold up the requirements even when they remained static over the course of several years or even over a decade. It goes back to that concept that you teach people how to treat you. My new chair appreciates and, more importantly, understands how much I do to document how I have helped and supported students in their progress through their degrees and in providing the mechanisms for them to do so. Teacher education programs in the liberal arts are quite a different beast than the BA degree. In the long run it will work better for all of us as students can no longer continue to work their way around requirements that actually do prepare them for what they face ahead. Sometimes they do not realize we are trying to do what is best for them to help them succeed.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping to make it through the anniversaries between now and March 4.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Yesterday would have been my mother's 73rd birthday. We knew that she would not make 75 because of her declining health but we certainly didn't expect to lose her right after she turned 72. She, however, had been ready to go for quiet some time. I imagine that once she could no longer keep an active schedule outside the house along with her increasingly feeling worse each day had more than a little to do with her readiness. She had just gone to Mass for Ash Wednesday the night before she passed and kept talking about how she felt like she was right with God when she could talk to us a few short times in the hospital.

I went to a conference in Boston the latter part of last week and was certainly feeling out of sorts before I went. My commitments at the conference kept me busy. Most importantly, however, I was able to visit with a distant colleague who has become a close friend. In fact, he is the one who was able to get my flight home arranged while I was struggling to get back in the slow part of the subway system between Newark and Manhattan. Tragically, he had lost his mother quite unexpectedly the year before. He reinforced what I had been reading - the grief will come in waves and very often in unexpected ways. Not necessarily crying, but not being able to concentrate and just generally not feeling "with it". It was especially nice for us to catch up over the course of a few days. He did not I was quieter than he had ever seen me in groups - especially our dinner with "big gun" researcher that we just happened to run into in the hall. Like me, this colleague notices friends and colleagues from our "other-centered" approach to life. I will try to keep that positive attribute even as I feel the grief overcome me less. I am learning that everything is not up to me, including the dinner conversation.

Our university does not start back until AFTER the MLK holiday for the first time I can remember. That actually feels like it gives me another entire week to get both personal and work tasks done. We've had our first big snow but, luckily, it coincides with my interest in moving around. The big thing was actually getting home via Boston after our direct flight was canceled. 3 hours in the DC airport was not fun but at least my colleague who has never been there before had the best seat in the house as the plane departed late Sunday night. And I am so glad she was riding with me as we drove home - much less chance of my falling asleep or someone not noticing I didn't get home because I had run off the road since her husband knew when to expect us. That is yet another thing I miss when I travel - I talked to Mom at least once each day - especially when I was in Newark so that she knew I had made it back to the hotel okay each night.

There are lots of projects both before school starts and after it begins. I did get all but about 10% of my course material up before I left and so I can concentrate on my annual report when I return since it's due Monday of the 2nd week of classes. I still don't understand why we aren't evaluated on the same academic calendar year like we are hired. I'm sure there is an administrative reason for it. It does penalize you your first year. I can remember my first chair telling me not to expect to be rated well because I only had "half" of the activities to document given that I had not been teaching there the spring of the evaluation period. At least he warned me.

I am going to enjoy the snow along with Molly - it's so great being able to let her run the yard on her own. And not having anything on the schedule this week is absolutely wonderful. I should be able to get a lot of writing done. Hopefully the website I'm using as a motivator will recognize me when I return to its homepage.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Pretty Woman

I'm watching one of Mom's favorite movies, Pretty Woman.  I haven't gotten done what I wanted to get done today but some unexpected tech challenges as I installed new equipment are the cuprits I am blaming.

Mom loved good movies and I had just helped her buy a laptop with a great display. What I didn't realize was that it was too heavy for her to watch. So, we ordered her a netbook that I did not have time to set up before we lost her. One of the guilt things I am still working on letting go of - obviously! 

Dad and I went through her large collections of tapes. Luckily, the DAV store welcomed those we did not want to keep as we didn't want to throw them away. Someone out there is still watching a vcr, after all. 

On a technology notes, it's interesting how proprietary the physical parts of the media are and that the broadcasting companies are still struggling with handling protecting their "rights" despite the diverse ways we can now access the same content. It will be interesting to see where we are even a year from now. 

And, I wonder what it does to our memory when we have digital copies rather than analog/physical to remind us. I do love my Kindle but I still love books. I just have too many of them. Certainly information overload at its finest. I am still in the process of culling out the books I don't need in my office - and also finding good homes for them. 

I am working in general, but especially at home, at utilizing the storage space I have INSTEAD of filling it up and then working "outside the box" with the end result being too much long-term clutter. I am making gradual progress at home with various spots. Today I cleaned off the last of my desktop computers that I haven't accessed in at least a year I am sure. I was so afraid of losing "something" even though I transferred the docs to an external hard drive. I have several computers of email that are gone forever even though I still have hard copies of some of the very early emails. They were much more manageable in print then but, most importantly, not easily accessible except on the university network. 

Hmmm. More topics for more thought here later.

One of the lessons we did learn is to push Dad to update his computers so we can transfer what they want. That is still a conundrum I am facing given that I can only hope I have retrieved everything vital from Mom's three computers that cannot talk to each other and none of whom have operable sharing/storage CD technology.

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

January 1

It is the start of a brand new year. A year I totally never expected to be what it already is. The first year on this earth without Mom. But I know mentally she is in a better place but emotionally I miss her like hell. We (Dad and I) are coping as best we respectively can. I am still learning to let myself not feel like all of the responsibility it still on me. But I will get there.

I am already doing better at focusing on one task at a time. Most importantly, I am acknowledging that I cannot do everything all of the time. And, not taking time out to have some fun and be with friends does not make Kelly a fun person to be around. So, I deserve the non-work/non-responsibility parts of life that everyone else enjoys on a regular basis.
I read the papers and presentations that will be part of one session that I chair at one of our annual professional conferences later this week. I chair sessions each of the last two mornings. Of course, I much prefer to present at the beginning of a conference than at the end. But, the timing will allow us to take the direct flights each day and the return flight from Boston is at dinnertime, anyway. It may mean spending the night in KC if we are too tired when we return but, since I can't pick up Molly until the next morning, that will be fine.

I have finished everything I can do for my taxes until the official paperwork starts arriving in the mail later this month. This is definitely the first time I have been this far ahead. And I have a better feel for balancing out my spending this year from the get go. Changing accountants was definitely one of the positives that came out of a tragic situation.
As I reflected today, I wondered if I still want it to be the Christmas season because, as long as it is, it will not be the anniversary of Mom's heart attack, death, and funeral. I am so glad Dad will be gone with friends on a cruise for the final part. And we will get to spend an evening out in Kansas City the night before he leaves on the train. It will give both of us a chance to connect with mom's friends there. Her best one was dealing with our own husband's lengthy illness and ultimate death and was unable to make it. She was and is always so cheerful. We will definitely have  a good time meeting up with her. And, our work with teachers the next day as Dad is already a few states away on the train will be fun - especially with our guest speaker coming in. I hope to stay to do some research the next day at the National Archives - some great records I want to look at.
I should have an easier time this upcoming semester getting in my hours. I am not sure all the people that think they have to know realize I spent more hours than I was supposed to do - primarily by needing to come up on days I did not have office hours. But I have moved from Mon/Wed/Thurs to Mon/Thurs/Fri given that we have department meetings every Friday.

I was getting a good start on my writing a few days ago and will dig in more the next few days before we go on our trip. The only two sessions I have to go to are the ones I am chairing and that is simply all I have to get done.

I imagine there will be some correspondence with Newark on two fronts given that everyone is 'back on duty' on Monday. It will be nice to solidify some things. And, in many ways, tomorrow is a work day for me.

I caught up with some old family friends today and, as a result, Molly has a new canine pal.

I linked my Slideshare account to my LinkedIn account and encouraged my fellow presenters to do so the same.

I am so glad that the university does not start classes again until  AFTER Martin Luther King, Jr's, birthday this year. It just makes sense and gives faculty almost another week to do research/writing.
Happy New Year!

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