Sunday, April 27, 2008


Whew! We just weathered our second 100-degree weekend in April. Those infamous Santa Ana winds that caused Malibu - and some other places - to burn last October are back. Actually, they never went away. I was totally unprepared for the persistence of the wind, the heat and the desert climate. It is uncomfortably hot and dry here. (Something that is not conductive to hours of mental work.)

In this weather, I prefer to sit in front of a fan eating soft service ice cream, but have had no such luck. Some advantages to such weather in this region is easy access to the beach and nighttime temperatures below 60. We all took to the beach on Saturday. I decided I prefer 100 degrees of dry California to 90 degrees of humid Ohio. I don't want to imply that I prefer 100 degrees of dry Californians, because they are simply wacky. I noticed that in this weather they do a lot of leaving family members (like spouses, youngish children) in their running cars. Not just for a minute, but for half an hour or more while they get groceries or shop. I just can't believe that this saves fuel (as in, don't have to cool off the car again); I think they do it because it makes Driver more comfortable to run from fully air-conditioned store to fully air-conditioned car. While I could wax on about wimpishness or self-conceit, I will chose another high road which is to point out that gas is averaging 3.86 per gallon.

Ok, I'm going to crawl back to my jigsaw puzzle and sweat it out.

Friday, April 18, 2008


I just finished drafting my "chapter one"! Ye-ha!

I can't do a crackerjack (others label it, uninterestingly, a 'heel click'), but I will have to learn how because now is a perfect time to execute one. (This is something I'm sure E can do; perhaps she will teach me how?) I made myself wrap it up today a few days beyond the deadline I imposed on myself weeks ago. And you know, the deadline worked for me; it is good to be done with stuff.

I can't say that this draft is the pristine, complete version I want to go into the final dissertation. (And I have to admit that I continue to struggle with the desire to fuss and modify it.) But it is in a condition that I would present to Advisor - a prospect that fills me with some anxiety even though she is a most generous critic. I would say that the chapter, as it currently stands, contributes the point that colonial citizenship did exist in the U.S. and that it has a long, distinguished career.

While I'm at it, I really must acknowledge Cabiria who confirmed my suspicion that two MajorPoints was too much for one chapter to contain. (Thanks!) I split them up which now allows me to claim that one is complete. I should also acknowledge Lindt chocolates for giving me that extra boost in the evenings (after little S had gone to bed) when I didn't think I could go on. :)

Overall, this last haul made my brain numb and made me tense enough to keep away sleep (nothing new there). I hope to rest up a bit over the next month and a half or so. My next deadline is the first of June.

The crakerjack king:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

thoughts from the grind

I recently received my “decline to fund” letter from BigHumanitiesFellowship; it was brief and to the point. It included the stock points: lots of applicants to chose from, tough decision, best of luck, etc. I am not disappointed by the outcome. It was a long shot and I got a lot out of the process of putting together a chapter and staking my future to the overall ‘contribution.’*

The only real disappointment was the letter itself. Considering how much time we all put into this I would have like more than unremarkable stock phrases. Left to my druthers, I wanted something like “your application made it to X round and we thought it needed to be stronger in [stating the contribution/identifying sources/explaining the methodology/relevance to our foundation’s mission].” Or even “we thought this was really promising and in a pinch we chose another project because we just liked it better.” I can sympathize with this position; sometimes these things just come down to personal preference.**

This line of thinking led me to consider the dark underbelly of these competitions. Where available, I’ve looked over the projects (and people) FellowshipFoundations have funded and I couldn’t help but notice that, well, they really love themselves an academic pedigree. A clear majority of FellowshipWinners get degrees from BigEasternSchools – IVs, even. There is generally a BigSouthern or BigWestern school in the mix. Overall, such prizes tend to stay in the already well-off “family.” I don’t imply that BigEasternSchools aren’t worthy of BigHumanitiesFellowships, but considering the interconnection between FellowshipFoundations, BigEasternSchools, and money, I can’t help but wonder if, in a pinch, the committees just turn to what they know – a familiar pedigree.*** Looking at the process from this angle (that of the dark underbelly), it has the grotesque scars of bias written all over it. This would be quite disappointing.

With these considerations in mind, I’ve decided to go with the first theory rather than the gloomy one. And to plug along at the quickest pace I can muster.

*This seems to have already paid off with a recommendation from someone I don’t know to participate in a conference I should go to.

**though how anyone could not prefer my project is inconceivable. :)

***this supposition was reinforce to me last week when one DissertatingBuddy said she was glad she was a historian (and working with BigNameAdvisor) because other disciplines – she has heard – generally evaluate prospective hires based on their university while historians look to who you worked with. (And, I would add, what you’ve done.)

Monday, April 7, 2008

another new discovery & liquid gold

I think I might be emerging from technological vacuum because I made yet another cool discovery recently. A few days ago, while I was planning my trip to the Huntington, I tried tracking my route on google maps. Have you all discovered the "street view" function? Well, I just caught up. It is fabulous for this car-culture region. I could see what my destination looked like. Ok. So go to google maps and type in "Orlando Rd and S. Allen Ave, San Marino, Ca." Click on street view. Then, make sure to turn your virtual self all the way around. Can you get into the Huntington?

Ok, so at the same time that I think this is awesome for driving (and for walking), I did find it a bit creepy. Do I really want just anyone who can access my address to know exactly where I live - and oh, maybe, what I look like as I sit in my front window? Not at all.

Also, I was interested to see that cities like Portland and Spokane have "street view" but Seattle doesn't? What's up with that?

And, as my totally random closing, I did make my way to the Huntington, but before I could get home I had to purchase some of the most precious liquid gold I've ever burned in my internal-combustion engine. It was $3.80 a gallon! (Ok, it was actually $3.799/gallon.) More important, can anyone beat that? This is an omen, isn't it? The end must surely be in sight.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

belated observance

"All labor has dignity.... You are reminding, not only Memphis, but you are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages. And I need not remind you that this is our plight as a people all over America."

I offer this contribution to the iconography of his memory in order to alter the icon and revive the message.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

our break

My little Pixie had Spring Break last week. I didn't; she did. She also didn't want to go to daycare so we compromised - she went in the morning (which gave me two golden hours to work) and was home by lunch. Overall, "our break" was good.

The highlights included haircuts for both of us - her first in professional hands. Her hair looked wonderful and I realized that I should have given up hair-cutting responsibilities some time ago. We washed the car. We "had lunch" with Shamu whose likeness came to OC for a visit - along with some penguins, ibex, and a sea otter. We also visited the arboretum and shopped for tap shoes. I think it was these last things that broke me. Spring Break was going great until I heaped animals-at-lunch, sun, and shopping upon the child in a single afternoon. Never again.

Happily most of our outings (and non-outings) were accompanied by music. S has been watching the movie Annie over and over and the songs are sinking in. My favorite was catching little snippets of her rendition of "it's a hard-knock life."

And here she is with a friend.

Break over.