Archive for August, 2009

August 19th 2009
Wait a minute, Mr. Postman, look and see–is there a nightmare in your bag for me?

Posted under jobs & students & wankers

postmanInside Higher Ed has an article this morning, “Getting the Letters Right,” with advice for people asking for letters of recommendation, and nudging grad students and junior scholars to mentor your mentors into providing quality letters of recommendation on time.  It’s good advice, and it all boils down to providing your letter-writers lots of details about you and about the job/s or fellowship/s to which you’re applying, and giving them plenty of notice before the letters are due.  In my experience as a junior job- and fellowship-seeker, nothing was more anxiety-producing than wondering whether or not those letters of recommendation were sent on time.  Now, with digital systems, letter-writers are prompted to submit letters on time by the institutions to which their students or colleagues are applying–at least, that’s been my experience with some recent letters I’ve written on behalf of professional colleagues.  But–what they say remains (or should remain, I suppose) a mystery to the applicants.

In my experience as a faculty member and as a veteran of several search committees, I’m happy to report that the vast, vast, vast majority of letters of recommendation arrive punctually and they do their job of fluffing the job candidate thoroughly and fulsomely, if not also extravagantly.  People who have the honor of training Ph.D. students recognize that the successes of their students will reflect on them, so that’s usually sufficient motivation for most grad advisors and committee members to do their duty.  However, the occasional loser of a letter comes across the transom– Continue Reading »


August 18th 2009
It’s Back-to-Girl School time, kids!

Posted under Gender & women's history

The Bittersweet Girl has a fun post up about what she never learned in “Girl School.”  She writes,

For years, Golden Boy and I have had a bit that we do, in which we joke about what we did or did not learn in “girl school” or “boy school.”

For example, if I were to do something particularly girly like sew a button on his shirt or arrange a vase of flowers just so, GB will say, “Is that something you learned in girl school?”

However, the joke is more common in the negative. Neither GB nor I particularly conform to gender norms — he’s the bookish, sensitive type, while I like to repair things with large tools — so usually we use this concept in moments when we’re not able to perform as our genders dictate. For example, if GB declines to kill a particularly large, scary bug, I would say, “But, isn’t that a skill you learned in boy school?”

cowgirlchapsThis is apropos of the Lessons for Girls series that Historiann initiated and is archiving. I’ve enjoyed this series immensely and have wanted to participate but whenever I sit down to compose a lesson for girls, I get stuck on the feeling that there are so many lessons I haven’t learned or have yet to learn, who am I to give anyone else advice?

Hey, BSG–that lack of self-confidence is extremely “girly,” don’tcha think?  Otherwise, it’s true:  she doesn’t sound like a very good “girl,” to me.  She doesn’t know how to put on makeup or do her hair, she can’t cook to entertain, and she is chronically “sweaty, flustered, wrinkled, and cranky,” among other non-”girl”-like attributes, but then, I bet we can all think of ways in which we’re not sex/gender normative!  I never learned to shut up when people told me to, like a good “girl.”  (Shocking, I know!)  Continue Reading »


August 17th 2009
What to do about colleagues who shirk work for family responsibilities?

Posted under Gender & jobs & unhappy endings

It’s that time of year again, folks–at least for those of us on semesters with absurdly long semesters.  (15 weeks!  FIFTEEN WEEKS–say it like Cruella DeVille’s “FIF-TEEN PUPPIES!”, plus a week of exams!  How did I ever get into grad school or get a job with a B.A. earned in slight 12-week increments?)  Mid-August is a funny time of year, because classes haven’t yet started, but most of us have been fielding requests to meet with advisees, and most of us have a faculty retreat, or a first-of-the-new-academic year departmental meeting, and maybe a meet-and-greet the new grad students get-together.  These meetings are a part of the obligation of faculty life–and attendance at these events seems to me a small thing to expect, especially considering the favor of the previously unscheduled 12 or 13 weeks of the summer that many of us enjoy.  But–and you all know who they are, because there’s at least one in every department–there are some of our colleagues who treat these August meetings and obligations as though they’re merely optional.

cryingbabiesThus, the question from the mailbag at Historiann HQ:

Dear Historiann,

My question for you and your readers is a faculty-with-children thing.  I am in a tiny department, which is even smaller now because one colleague is on leave in the fall.  This week is opening week, and we’re all supposed to be on campus.

A female colleague with children lives 75 minutes out of town, so she normally only comes in three days a week. This week, there is a day that we really must have someone available for advising duty, according to our Dean.  I would normally do the job, but am in meetings for most of the day — meetings that in part have to do with me already taking on a duty no one else in the department could bother doing.  I’ve informed my colleagues of this, and another (male) colleague with children has not responded, and the female said she couldn’t do it and couldn’t our other colleague?  Continue Reading »


August 16th 2009
Whig of Illusory Progress awarded to the New York Times!

Posted under American history & Gender & women's history


The Whig of Illusory Progress!

Good morning, folks!  Autumn is here on the high plains desert.  The light even in late afternoon is looking paler and whiter, and a cold front blew in last night that demanded window-shutting and sweater-putting-on.  Amazing!  Well, at least some members of famille Historiann get some use out of winter through skiing.  We still have a lot of warm, sunny afternoons to look forward to in September and October (and sometimes into November!)

The seasons change, but some things don’t apparently, so today I award a Whig of Illusory Progress to the New York Times for its proclamation that because of the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, “G.I. Jane Breaks the Combat Barrier as War Evolves!”  It’s a decent article, summarizing what people who study women in the military have been saying for at least the past thirty years:  warfare has changed, and military technology demands a wider skill set than pure brawn, with evidence and interviews with people who have served in our current wars for the empire.  Since the majority of today’s military is no longer a majority of infantry or combat positions, women are everywhere:

From Necessity, Opportunity [ed. note:  this sub-head is worth a Whiggy of its own!  Where have we heard this before?]

No one envisioned that Afghanistan and Iraq would elevate the status of women in the armed forces.  Continue Reading »


August 15th 2009
A violation of trust in the classroom

Posted under jobs & students & technoskepticism & the body & unhappy endings

Over at Mama Ph.D., “Math Geek Mom” Rosemarie Emanuele revealed something that happened to her last year which I find unbelieveably shocking and upsetting:

Ursuline College [her employer] has excellent programs in fashion design and fashion merchandising, along with several tangential programs, including interior design and the only master’s program in Historic Preservation in the state of Ohio. I often have students from these programs in my classes, and can’t help but feel a little self-conscious at my own wardrobe, which is classical “preppy”. It looks ok on me, and saves me money in buying new clothes, since I only have to replace things when they wear out. I make no pretense of trying to be in style, and I therefore don’t have to even try. However, last semester I discovered that my own disregard to fashion was not necessarily shared by my students.

I learned, from one of my math majors, that a student in one of my classes had been taking pictures of me in class and sending them to friends at another school. She overheard this student talking in the cafeteria about a new picture she had taken of me, which she was e-mailing to her friend [emphasis Historiann's.]  Continue Reading »


August 14th 2009
Why not start at the top?

Posted under Gender & happy endings & jobs & women's history

womanonladderThe College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin has decided that it’s not enough to hire junior women faculty and wait for them to progress through the “leaky pipeline“–it has a specific strategy for hiring women as full professors (h/t Inside Higher Ed).  (Although if you read down into the story, you’ll see that they’re also hiring these women’s husbands/partners who are also scholars, presumably as senior faculty, too.)

“What they did is very unusual, because there are more issues with recruiting full professors, who have more complicated lives and who may be very happy where they are,” said Philippa Levine, a British historian who will be moving to Austin from the University of Southern California. Levine said she wasn’t looking to move, but was swayed by the “dynamism” she found at Texas. And at a time when public universities are complaining that they can’t outbid private universities in putting together packages, Texas did so.

Texas “absolutely” offered her more. “It’s an entirely appropriate and extremely generous package,” she said. “My sense was that UT was very shrewd in understanding the way these politics operate.” She added that while she is pleased to see Texas and other institutions hiring more women in the junior ranks, “you don’t change the structures” unless you also expand the number of women in the senior ranks.

UT focused on identifying people who were “moveable,” and worked at recruiting them!  What an unusual strategy for women job candidates–regular readers will recall Associate Professor Alice’s Adventures at Blunderland U. on a misbegotten interview.  Continue Reading »


August 13th 2009
Pointless “gotcha” article, or “gotcha?”

Posted under jobs

Yesterday, the Boston Globe published an article announcing that “Strapped Colleges Keep Leaders in Luxury” (h/t Inside Higher Ed yesterday.)  Daring investigative journalism has revealed that:

From the many windows of her stone mansion, MIT president Susan Hockfield enjoys a commanding view of sailboats gliding along the Charles River. When Northeastern president Joseph Aoun steps outside his five-story brick town house, he finds himself just across the street from Boston Common.

Their counterparts at other private colleges reside in luxury as well, many on centuries-old estates surrounded by well-tended gardens and lawns cared for by loyal staffs. The homes, many provided by universities as part of their presidents’ compensation, are the ultimate perk in this college-rich region, but one that increasingly appears to represent a bygone era.

Now the opulence risks standing out amid frozen faculty salaries, widespread layoffs, and slashed programs. While the houses often serve an important ceremonial role and it is questionable how much money could be saved by their elimination, the very mention of them has elicited low-level grumbling on campuses and anxiety among university officials over the Globe’s request to tour them.

Scandalous!  Shocking!  I suppose the next revelation will be that some of those college and university presidents make more money than everyone but the football coach!  Continue Reading »


August 12th 2009
Oh, Daddy!

Posted under American history & art & Gender & unhappy endings & women's history

This is hillarious, and more than a little disturbing (via Shakesville.)

My family! My daughter! My wife! (Kind of reminds me of this scene from Chinatown–scroll up to 2:30 for the dramatic revelation.) Continue Reading »


August 11th 2009
Julie & Julia: Mastering the art of feminist filmmaking

Posted under American history & art & book reviews & European history & Gender & publication & women's history

With a cameo by my favorite casserole dish!

With a cameo by my favorite casserole dish!

I got out to see Julie & Julia today–it was a very fine movie.  Sentimental, of course, as are all of Nora Ephron’s movies, but it was a terrific story that centered on women characters–not just Julie Powell and Julia Child, but their wider circles of friends (and the occasional nemesis or frenemy) were dominated by women, and for the most part, by middle-aged and non-Hollywood looking women.  Seriously–I’d bet that this movie cast more women actors than the rest of all of this summer’s movies combined, so for that reason alone it deserves the support of all right-thinking grown-ups everywhere.  All of the major characters (except for Paul Child and Eric Powell) are women.  Other people have written about the sympathetic and supportive husbands in this movie–you can go read elsewhere about them.  I’m more interested in the women and the food. 

The next most important stars were the dishes cooked and/or eaten by the Julie and Julia characters–one must admire the on-set chefs who needed to produce these dishes to be photographed and used as props.  (The Julia Child scenes featured more actual eating–the Julie Powell scenes had more food-as-comedy-props in them–for example, the calf’s leg, the lobsters, and the chocolate cake, in pretty much the cliched ways you’d expect.)  I was also thrilled that a Le Creuset casserole in the fabulous color called “flame” had significant cameos in both the 1950s and the 2002-03 scenes, since I own the very same dish!  And I too have cooked many a fine Boeuf Bourguinon in the very pot you see here.  (Watch for it!)

More thoughts, and a spoiler, after the jump: Continue Reading »


August 11th 2009
Medicare for All: not so scary, is it?

Posted under American history & European history

Ian Welsh at Open Left (via Corrente):  just get over it and offer Medicare for All.  He writes,

Ruling out “single payer” from the very start was an act of mind-bending incompetence on the level of disbanding Iraq’s army during the occupation of Iraq.  From a policy point of view “Medicare for all” provides massive savings, and we know it works because the equivalent policies have worked for every other nation in the world who ever implemented then.  From a sales point of view it’s much harder to demonize Medicare and much easier to explain it.  From a negotiation point of view pre-compromising is so stupid that anyone who has spent 5 minutes in a third world bazaar or taken even a single negotiating class knows better.

The current health reform “bills” are turning into a cluster[fr@ck] of epic proportions.   Continue Reading »


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