Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I returned from a short, but well-deserved, vacation last week. Some reasons why it was great include:
  • babysitters available 24/7
  • leaving Middleofnowhere
  • grandparents (S's, not mine)
  • new sights (like the Arch, above, and Plaza, below)
  • forgetting momentarily that I don't know how to sleep and sleeping-in on three consecutive mornings (accomplished using the first point above)
  • new and unusual spectacles (like a pre-Vatican II Mass. That was a trip in itself.)
  • going out with R sans child
  • staying out - past midnight - with good friends

One of the more remarkable sights was this one of the Plaza in Kansas City. The historian in me can't help but note that this was the first shopping district planned for automobile traffic. The admirer-of-arts in me enjoys both the Spanish/Moorish-influenced architecture and the notion of planning urban spaces - no box stores here and everyone has to get out of their cars and - gasp! - walk. I enjoyed strolling around the Plaza.

(note the blue-clad child doing some illegal fountain wading.)

The only draw-back to my vacation, now that it is over, is I have only five remaining days to work. School ends for the summer next week and I transition to full-time parenting.

Monday, May 7, 2007


What is it called when you have so much to do that you loose the inclination to do it? You know, that point where the sheer number of tasks makes you freeze like a deer in the headlights?

I thought I had been doing well recently. I burned through a few of books on my things-I-should-have-read-long-ago list (turns out those skills developed while preparing for comps are useful after the exam). My major discovery from this effort is that the American Crossroads Series is fantastic - most of this is cutting edge stuff. Also worth mentioning is Von Eschen's Race Against Empire, one I recommend to anyone thinking about 20th-century world history. (She shows how McCarthyism re-calibrated both the Civil Rights Movement and anti-imperialism in Africa so that neither could offer critiques of or alternatives to capitalism. It is a great pair with Dudziak.) Nevertheless, reading these books just made me realize that I need to read others; my stack didn't get any smaller.

So, I turned to writing my first chapter and I started wading through sources. I've found many interesting and useful tidbits of evidence. Also, a lot of what I've read is insanely boring. Some of the crap that was printed as "news" 70 years ago was just as inane as what gets passed off as "news" today. I realize that reading through all of this stuff is how the dissertation process works, a sort of needle-in-the-haystack hazing ritual. I wish that I could sleep on my stacks of photocopied newspapers and just have the information seep into my brain the easy way.

This sense of getting nothing accomplished made it easy for me to do very little this weekend (it also helped that R finished teaching on Friday - yeah! - and became my enabler). We explored some hiking trails on Saturday and discovered the local go-cart/mini-golf place on Sunday. The latter also has batting cages. I had never gone into a batting cage before. It was fun. (I wish I had discovered this contraption long ago. I think it would have been great for working off stress.) But the weekend is over and my enabler is gone. Now, I will reluctantly return to rearranging my imposing piles of un-completed work.