Archive for July, 2010

July 20th 2010
Sisters, sisters: Part I of our discussion of Terry Castle’s The Professor

Posted under American history & art & book reviews & fluff & Gender & happy endings & women's history

Can you guess I’ve been waiting all summer to post this one? That’s George Clooney’s Aunt Rosemary starring as Tenured Radical on the left, and Vera Ellen as Historiann on the right. (Or the reverse. It doesn’t matter! She’s the smart sister, though, whichever side she’s on.) Anyhoo–we’re co-hosting a  three-part conversation about Terry Castle’s collection of essays The Professor and Other Writings this week on our blogs.  Plus, our pal Comrade PhysioProf is going to chime in with his review of Castle’s book–just in time for beach reading season!  Part I is over at Tenured Radical today–go read and join the discussions over there and at CPP’s blog, and I’ll host part II at el Rancho Historiann tomorrow.  We hope you have fun!  Continue Reading »


July 19th 2010
Helicoptering: what does it matter to faculty?

Posted under American history & childhood & jobs & students

What does it matter?

Last week’s discussion of helicopter parents inspired a lot of comments.  But, I felt a little bad about having started the conversation without more of a setup or guidance from me.  (Aren’t any of you away from the summer, or unplugged from blogs at least?  Jeezy Creezy!)  After all, the author of the original article opened up her life and her parenting to close scrutiny by the general public, which I think was terribly brave of her.  (If I am a parent, I certainly am not courageous enough to write about my family life like she did.  After all, I won’t even tell you if I am a parent!)  I didn’t mean for our discussion to be a pile-on of one woman, and I was really pleased that the discussion you all generated remained focused on the issue of helicoptering generally rather than on one parent personally.

But, really:  why should college or university faculty care about the parenting styles of our students’ parents?  Is this discussion of parenting just an online form of rubbernecking and taking easy shots at what goes on in other families?  (After all, I’m the blogger who has urged us all to refrain from judging parents too harshly because of the bucketload of cultural assumptions and expectations we put on parenting, and on mothering in particular.)  Continue Reading »


July 17th 2010
Ah, wilderness!

Posted under fluff

A bit overdressed, aren't we?

Well, friends–it’s time for me to head on up to the mountains again.  Summer here is short–so we’ve got to get a move on, and it’s a good weekend to get the heck out of Dodge.  It’s our annual wilderness camping trek, so tonight I’ll be sleeping at 11,000 feet!  That’s right–unlike the campers shown here, we’re carrying everything in and out on our backs.  Phew!  Apparently, there’s good fishing where we’re going.  Now, I don’t fish–so I’m wondering just how heavy a few books are going to feel after hiking a few miles in with my frame pack.

In the meantime, I think the last time I updated my blogroll was in about. . . well, never.  Here are some fun and fab blogs I’ve been meaning to add to my list–please put your suggestions (or your blogs) in the comments below, and we’ll see if I can get around to this little bit of housekeeping this summer when I get back!  Click around and stay awhile. Continue Reading »


July 16th 2010

Posted under childhood & jobs & students & technoskepticism & weirdness

Unsound methods

Is it possible that “helicopter parents” are just responding to incredibly needy and dependent children?  (Is it possible that some children shouldn’t be sent away to college, but continue to live at home while they study?)

Mobile phones and the erasure of long-distance charges has enabled this kind of codependence, or whatever you want to call it.  I also completely understand the urge to answer the phone when a child is calling.  When I was in college, it never dawned on me to call my parents with every question or concern that popped into my head, and not just because it cost more money than it does now.  I was happy to be away from home and my parents–even if it meant screwing up or not taking care of myself as I probably should have.  Continue Reading »


July 15th 2010
Here’s why plagiarism is a bad thing, kids

Posted under American history & local news & unhappy endings & wankers

Scott McInnis, plagiarist

Perhaps I spoke too soon about Colorado not having any political races this year worth watching.  Two days ago, we awoke to the news that a Republican candidate for Governor, Scott McInnis, whom I described here as the Snidlely Whiplash of Colorado politics, plagiarized articles he was to write as a requirement of a $300,000 fellowship by a private foundation here in Colorado.  (Where can I get that kind of fellowship?)  Then yesterday, the Denver Post reported that McInnis had plagiarized an op-ed that was originally published in the Washington Post back in the 1990s when he was a Congressman, and it called for him to drop out of the Republican primary race.  (Our primary is August 10, but most counties are holding a mail-in ballot election only, and the ballots are being sent out today, so this story breaks at an especially bad time for McInnis.) 

Last night, the octogenarian engineer whom McInnis tried to blame for the original plagiarism said not only that McInnis is lying, but that his campaign tried to force him to sign a false statement taking blame for it!  Today the Post reports that the authors of the plagiarized op-ed, lackeys of the Heritage Foundation, say that they had given McInnis permission to use their words, but most people seem to see it as confirmation of a pattern of Snidely Whiplashian corner-cutting. Continue Reading »


July 14th 2010
Writing houses

Posted under American history & art & book reviews & European history & happy endings

Undine had a nice post last week about “Writing House Fantasies,” in which she explores her fantasy about a little detached cottage in which to write.  Most writers’ houses, she writes, “They have a window or two, and a view that’s just beautiful enough to reward a glance without encouraging prolonged staring out the window. They have lots of natural wood surfaces, including tables or desks, and room for some books.”  She continues,

The writing house of my fantasy has electricity but not Internet access or phones. Sometimes, in the nineteenth-century version of my fantasy, I bend the rules a little and picture working in a screened-in porch attached to a beautiful old shingle-style house high above the water (a recent house I saw inspired this one). So–wood, light, air, and nature are the only real requirements.

Undine also includes links to a bunch of different writers’ cottages/studies:  Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, and Road Dahl, for example.  (Mark Twain’s unexpurgated autobiography?  Sign me up, please!  Can’t wait!)

I’ve always thought this was a great idea, ever since I saw Thomas Jefferson’s writing shed at Monticello (above right.)  Continue Reading »


July 13th 2010
The Case Against A/C?

Posted under American history & local news & technoskepticism

Stan Cox makes a provocative argument against air conditioning in Washington, D.C.  (He’s plugging a new book on the topic.)  Now this might be a bad time to consider ditching the old A/C, especially for you easterners who “enjoy” suffocating humidity all summer long and have recently suffered through a spate of 100-degree-plus days.  But I think it’s something we should talk about.  I can say with smug (if slightly sweaty) satisfaction that this is what summer at El Rancho Historiann looks like:

Families unplug as many heat-generating appliances as possible. Forget clothes dryers –post-A.C. neighborhoods are crisscrossed with clotheslines. The hot stove is abandoned for the grill, and dinner is eaten on the porch.

Line drying in such a dry climate makes my clean towels look and feel like something a dog chewed up and spit back out–but I’ll make the sacrifice!  Because my house is literally a one-story ranch house with large overhanging eaves, the inside of the house stays at least 20 degrees cooler than the outside.  A strategic use of shades on the South- and West-facing windows helps a lot, too.  We have a bedroom in the basement, in which we could sleep in an emergency since it’s always cool.  But, that hasn’t happened in 8-1/2 summers, so far.  Plus, it’s only really hot one month of the year out here–in July.

At the very least, I think Cox asks a good question:  why shouldn’t we consider shutting down a city in an extreme heat wave, just as we do when snow and ice storms make travel impossible?  We’d at least avoid having to air condition most workplaces and homes, and the absence of commuting would also save fossil fuels.  We westerners should really take the lead on taking out the air conditioning, since aridity is on our side.  Plus, those of us at altitude benefit from 30- to 40-degree swings in temperature from daytime highs to nighttime lows, so opening up the house after 7 p.m. to let in the cool night air makes a big difference. Continue Reading »


July 12th 2010
Sex and job satisfaction

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

Inside Higher Ed has an article today about a survey of Assistant Professors at R-1 universities and their relative job satisfaction.  Interestingly, “these satisfaction gaps vary by discipline. In many measures of satisfaction with various policies or conditions, the gaps between men and women are not statistically significant in many disciplines, but are significant in others, especially in the social sciences.”  To be sure, men appear to have higher job satisfaction than women across the board:

The finding is significant and potentially challenging to many universities, because the social sciences, on average, are more likely to have significant numbers of women in departments than are some other fields. “The fact that these differences cut across disciplines and, in fact, are most evident in disciplines in which women are relatively well-represented is important to keep in mind,” said Cathy Trower, research director of COACHE, which is based at Harvard University. In other words, any university that thinks it has solved problems related to gender just by recruiting a critical mass of women may find otherwise.

Some gaps in job satisfaction (all with men as happier than women) were evident across several disciplinary categories. These job areas include: reasonableness of scholarship expectations for tenure; the way professors spend their time as faculty members; the number of hours they work as faculty members; the amount of time they have to conduct research; their ability to balance work and home responsibilities; and whether their institutions make raising children and the tenure track compatible.

“Social Sciences” is hardly as cohesive a collection of disciplines as Humanities or Natural Sciences, in my opinion.  (And I really hate it when they include History as a Social Science!  Please.  The linked summary report doesn’t appear to specify the disciplines included in each metacategory, so I don’t know if History is included in Social Sciences or in Humanities.)  Their emphases, subjects of inquiry, and methodologies are very widely disparate.  (Sociology versus Economics, anyone?)  Continue Reading »


July 11th 2010
Spain conquers the Netherlands–again!!!

Posted under European history & fluff

Spain is victorious!  (Belgium anxiously awaits news of its fate.)

Would this joke be funnier if the Netherlands had won?


July 11th 2010
I am Governor Jerry Brown, my aura smiles and never frowns

Posted under American history & art & bad language & childhood & fluff & jobs & local news

I sure am envious of you folks out in California this election season.  I think the race between Meg Whitman (R) and Jerry Brown (D) will be one of the few worth watching, if only because I’d be waiting and hoping for a reporter to ask Brown about this classic from 30 years ago:

“You will jog for the MAS-ter race, and always wear the happy face. . . The hippies won’t come back, you say?  Mellow out or you will pay!”  Ah, if only Jerry Brown were elected President in 1980. . . (For those of you born either before 1960 or after 1980, that’s the Dead Kennedys, fronted by Jello Biafra, performing “California Über Alles.”  I’m assuming that the rest of you Gen X-ers will just play through.)  Continue Reading »


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