Sunday, January 31, 2010

This Iz How You Feelz

This is going out to everyone who's back in school for another semester's grind and/or up against some looming deadline.

Perhaps you've heard this in the recent past:

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

You might also be looking a bit like this:

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

You might be harboring these sorts of feelings toward your project:

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Your internal monologue sounds something like this:

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

You might be doing this right this moment:

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Good luck with your LolThesiz.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Puppet "Masters" and Other Nutty Higher Education Ideas

All right folkses. Disillusioned with your program of choice? Thinking that you might rather be a balloon animal artist than a physicist? I have some suggestions, by way of CNN and Mental Floss:

Funky Degrees! Here's a little sample:


Wood & Paper Science, North Carolina State

North Carolina State University's College of Natural Resources offers a variety of masters and doctoral programs through its Department of Wood & Paper Science.

According to the program's Web site, students' coursework can included classes on such specific topics as wood-moisture relations and lumber drying, paper physics, and wood tool design, performance, and wear.


Well, there you have it. Points to whoever figures out which of these programs I'd be enrolled in, if I weren't happily working away in archives.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Crazy Money-Saving Strategies: Shivering Your Way to Savings

Here's a way to make your stipend stretch a little further -- just make like these people and turn off all the heat!

Interesting strategy, but I can't help but wonder if the woman who has the constantly-running toilet and perpetually-dripping faucets is recouping meaningful costs. Also, as an aside, I would like to do a post-doc at the Cyberpunk Apocalypse Writer’s Co-op.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Research Adventures, Part 2

Daring guest blogger survived Day 2 and sends us this message:

Archives Day Two:

So remember when I said that I got yelled out for setting off the security alarm? Well, the guard who in her mind rolled her eyes at me about 4,000 times yesterday actually greeted me with a smile. It was probably because I wasn’t lugging a suitcase with me, but I will say that Day Two went way smoother.

I actually made it up to the Archives room today. Not without issue, of course. Around 11, when I knew my requests had been processed, I walked up the marble staircase to the second floor. People had mentioned all about the Archives being “upstairs” so I figured that those stairs would get me somewhere. But I ended up on the mezzanine where the twin staircases met. There was nothing but an Edwardian era elevator and doors with swipe-card access. The elevator opened and two men in suits asked me if I was lost. I said I was looking for the archives room. By this time we were headed up to the 5th floor and they instructed me to hit the big button labeled 2 which would get me there, and it did.

I then spent the rest of the day engrossed in ship’s logs from the 1850s that still held the smell of the sea in them. Or maybe it was mold. Still, it was way cool. Sailors who misbehaved in the early 1850s were flogged. Sailors in the later 1850s were put in irons. When sailors got too sick and had to be taken back to the United States, they were listed as “condemned”. Not a very promising outlook if you ask me.

It’s looking like most of my research is going to be on microfilm, which is a good thing, as it’s much easier to sort through. But there is something great about the smell of an old book. Maybe I’m just sniffing too much old glue.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Research Adventures!

To give us a taste of what it is like to research in the Grand Poobah of archives, I've asked a daring guest blogger to report from the inside. Here is what she says of the start of her adventure:

National Archives in D.C.:

written by a Ph.D. student researching/writing/stressing over her dissertation.

Day One:

Things to know about the archive experience:

1) You get to go through the back door, which is cool.

2) Security is tighter than in airports. I highly advise you to bring as little as possible to the Archives since they will treat you like a moron, particularly if you really are the moron that brought your overnight bag with you.

3) If you are wearing your coat, do not remove it when passing through security. You will start to because it’s a million degrees and you know that your coat will set off the metal detector, but then they will yell at you to leave it on, then yell at you when you set off the alarm. Once you set off the metal detector, they will then use a wand and tell you that your coat set off the alarm.

4) Bring a quarter. You get to store all your stuff in huge lockers so at least if you are the moron who brings all her stuff, you can at least find a place to store it.

5) Visualize being a camel. You may not drink, eat, take off your sweater, bring a case for your computer or camera, or bring paper or writing implements into “Archive I”. Downstairs they are more relaxed, but do not even think about screwing up upstairs. More on these adventures tomorrow.

6) In all however, people are extremely helpful and just doing their job. Mr Johnson, a middle aged man wearing what looks like a Navy jacket, was particularly helpful. He determined that a big chunk of what I’m looking for is on microfilm which is great (I think) and helped me fill out the request form for the archives (see #7).

7) The archives contain enough paper that if places end to end would circle the earth 57 times. Or 57 million times. Or something like that. This is a big place and while some is organized, be prepared to spend a lot of time searching. And searching. They like their indexes in booklets placed in binders there. Preferably if the booklets were printed before 1957.

Stay tuned for more reports from the front lines of dissertating!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Days 4 and 5, the Rewind

Day 4. Our main objectives were 1) to support fellow grad student Chris, who was presenting a paper, and 2) to attend a soiree thrown in honor of AHA president Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in the evening. We did achieve both, and managed to squeeze in a little pool time. And a margarita.

Day 5, we did zero conference-related stuff. We had still not made it out to the beach, so Sarah's very nice, also-grad-student friend Emily drove us to Mission Beach, where we had a delicious brunch and walked along the pier. I felt mildly guilty about skipping those panels, until I went skipping around in the surf of the Pacific ocean. Then I just felt great.

Now I'm at the airport, wearing a sweatshirt in anticipation of northeastern coldness. I think the conference, and the time spent in San Diego, was very successful. Once I recover from this late-night flight I'll be posting a series of supplementary articles, including "How to Spot an Academic" and "Socializing with Grad Students: A Field Guide".

Day 4, and 5: On the Way!

The posts for Saturday and today, Sunday, will be uploaded tonight during my inevitable long wait at the airport. Right now, we're going to the beach! But don't worry, fun stories about historians at social events are coming soon.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 3: We're Totally Wrecked

These multi-day conferences can destroy you.

So the conference is in beautiful San Diego. That's lovely, but we were still hustling this morning to get to our 9:30 panels. I went to the second session of "Slaving Paths", which turned out to be all about slaves in the British imperial structure. I was pleased with the outcome. After the panel Sarah, Jen, Jordan, and I enjoyed a delicious sushi lunch. We should have ordered sake, though, because my afternoon panel was a disaster. I was really looking forward to this panel on suffering and martyrdom in colonial North America, but it turned into an apology-filled ideology fest. I was sorely disappointed and trudged off to the Exhibition Hall.

The Exhibition Hall is every historian's dream, because it is chock-full of books AND boasts the only free liquor giveaway in the whole shebang. I bumped into Gil Kelly, my supervisor from the Omohundro Institute, and he took me on a tour of Institute authors, all of which were very impressive. It was nice to see the Institute staff outside of their natural habitat.

We finished up perusing the books and headed for Seaport Village for pizza, where we devoured a pie and a pitcher of beer while gazing out into the sunset over the water. We then hustled back to the conference for a graduate student social event, which I affectionately termed "The Graduate Student Friendliness Seminar". We met some nice people, made quick work of the chicken satay, and ran back to the hotel for a bit of rest.

Even though the conference continues until Sunday, I really think that tomorrow is something of the grand finale, so we shall have to see. Now it is time for a nap so we can reboot for ... more history!

Day 2, Part 2: Historians Look Like Debaters!

I’m having some flashbacks here. "The entire Harvard history department is about to run a tight case, with tons of spec knowledge!".

Turns out the “Musical Encounters in the Early Atlantic” was literally just as it sounded (hee hee!). I think in my head I was picturing the worst-case scenario, some kind of historical interpretation of “The Little Mermaid”, where Triton = England. Instead it was all about how soundscape was an important part of Atlantic encounters. An interesting and lively way to wrap up the first day. Also, fun fact of the day: Karen Kupperman apparently once sang “Frere Jacque” on national television. See, I promised you historians some ridiculous gossip!

Tomorrow is an all-day conference adventure beginning at 9:30 am. We are hoping to get a quick sushi lunch in the hour we have off during the afternoon. Sadly the hot tub will have to wait until 9:00 pm.

More updates to follow. It is 2:15 am New Hampshire time and 11:15 here; either way, time for sleep!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day 2, Part 1: Getting the Party Started

It was pretty great to wake up to the sunrise on the harbor. Of course we woke up at the crack of dawn, confused about where we were and what time it was. Fortunately our hotel offers a coffee bar, so we only had to stumble down there in order to come alive.

San Diego is a fantastic place to host a conference, and apparently people know it, because we’ve already encountered people from at least 5 different events. The place is literally packed with people wearing identification badges. We took advantage of a lull in the schedule to lounge at the pool. An outdoor pool – in January! We decided that we will never leave.

When we went to register for the conference, we were met by a slew of historians who were being herded into a room, where they (an anonymous conference staff) put badges on us and handed us a stack of papers and programs. We went to a session entitled “An Empire in Transit: The British Empire, 1780–1880”, which was interesting despite the fact that I know nothing about the nineteenth century. Also, it turns out that the Marriott has a grotto pool. I wonder if we can wear our bathing suits under our conference attire?

Tonight we head back to the conference for the opening remarks, which, strangely, occur after the conference has begun. After the opening remarks we will be treated to an exploratory musical extravaganza, something called “Musical Encounters in the Early Atlantic”. What, in fact, does that entail? I’ll let you know tomorrow morning!

Day 1, Part 2: A Whale of a Time

In an unfortunate turn of events, internet is not free in our hotel. Boo! So I will update as frequently as I can escape to a place with internet.

I emerged from the plane, wrestled my giant carry-on bag to the shuttle stand, and met some very nice people headed to the AHA. Statistically, many of the people around me are historians, and I just don’t know it. In the coming days, I hope to meet at least a handful of them.

Jordan and Jen had already arrived in San Diego, and invited me to go whale-watching with them. After scurrying to the hotel, dropping off bags, and zooming off in a taxi to the seaport, I boarded the Hornblower Adventure in search of Pacific Gray Whales, which Californians insist on calling California Gray Whales.

We had a very excellent time. We saw three whales in addition to many Pacific white-sided dolphins, sea lions, cormorants, brown pelicans, and many more seabirds. If I didn’t get to do any more touristy things in San Diego, I would still be content.

We then proceeded to eat delicious barbeque. In the evening, my hotel roommate Sarah arrived, and we went to bed at 10:00. Our bodies are clearly not adjusted to the new time zone. In the morning we’ll have some time to wander around before the conference gets going at 3. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 1, Part 1: Stayin' Alive (in the airport)

Good morning! I am writing this from the airport. JetBlue, a seriously awesome airline, provides free wireless in its terminal at Kennedy. The terminal also has Jamba Juice, so I am pretty happy right now.

I was not, however, happy about 20 minutes ago, as I battled my way to the front of the security screening line in what looked like a scene from "300".

I'd heard some horror stories about new screening procedures, between the thwarted Christmas Day underpants attack and the guy who walked through the sterile gate at Newark. So I left my house at 5:00 am for an 8:30 flight. When I arrived at the security line, it was already madness. People who had arrived two hours before their flight were still stuck in the line, and were nearing hysteria. Meanwhile, it looked like nobody was actually getting through the checkpoint. We all stood there for a good ten minutes before somebody came to shuffle up the lines.

Then, it completely degenerated. People will usually stay in lines, if that's the clear expectation. Once they started taking down the ropes, it became a cattle drive, only with really vicious cows.

Miraculously, I was pushed to the front by two very strong and angry men behind me, who were attempting to make their 6:30 flight to Jamaica (it was 6:20 at this point). Once there, the TSA worker demanded that I remove my sweatshirt, and didn't seem to understand that if I did this, I might be arrested for public indecency. Finally a rational person behind the x-ray machine arranged a pat-down for all the sweatshirted people, which we found much preferable to being forced to put on a show for the gazillion people in "line" behind us.

The actual screening looked the same to me, so I can't really explain the insane delay. When my items rolled out the other side of the machine, though, someone else's jacket and belt were in with my shoes. As far as I could tell, the workers were unable to locate the man, who will now be cold and have trouble holding up his pants. The good news is, somebody else will be able to purchase the jacket and belt, along with other stuff, at this place.

One hour until boarding. Time to stock up on Jamba Juice!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Happy New Year, all!

Just a reminder that I am headed to the American Historical Association Annual Meeting, held in wonderfully not-freezing San Diego. The conference is January 7-10, and I will be live-blogging as much as possible. At the very least you can expect a nightly update, though pictures will have to wait until I return to my trusty desktop.

The AHA Annual Meeting's theme is Oceans, Islands, Continents, all things I enjoy. For those who may be interested in perusing the program, it can be found here. I'm going to try to rope my fellow graduate student attendees into reporting, so between all of our eyes, nothing will be missed!

Professional conferences are funny things, shrouded in mystery. I was recently asked, "What do historians have to say to each other that they need to have a three-day-long conference?". Hopefully by the predawn hours of Monday morning, I will have the answer to that, along with many fun and fascinating anecdotes. Stay tuned!