Saturday, June 30, 2007

Wait, what?

OK, how is it I didn't know the Tour de France was going to be here next weekend? Should I brave the crowds and watch some of it? Or given recent events, stay away from big crowds? [Update: Given the car bomb at the Glasgow Airport now and the fact that Saturday is the two-year anniversary of the Tube bombings, I think I'll stay away from the race and all large crowds.] And I guess if I'm going to Canterbury next weekend, I better go on Saturday because the race will be getting there on Sunday. Though will this mean Canterbury might be kind of crowded, even on Saturday. Hm, maybe I should go to Hastings and Battle instead and Canterbury the following weekend. I skipped any day trips today because it's raining all over southern England (I'm going to head out to the British Museum, instead, and spend the day indoors).

So guess how I found out about the Tour -- by reading the "How to Find Us" part of the Shakespeare's Globe web site. I find that particular conjunction of past and present kind of hilarious. And it's perhaps a bit like having to plan around a royal entry or something, this time with flash-enabled interactive maps!

And by the way, why is the Tour de France starting in England? And with the opening ceremonies in Trafalgar Square, no less? C'est ironique, non?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Clueless me

[Update below]

So today I played hooky from the archives (more on them later - there's lots to tell) and met up around 11am with a former professor of mine who's staying on the edge of Chinatown on Shaftesbury Ave. (which street always makes me think of the address of a radio show I used to listen to as a teenager: Rock Over London, with Graham Dene). We walked down to the National Portrait Gallery (passing through Leicester Square, where I saw the TKTS booth -- but I still haven't gotten tickets for anything yet), and walked through about half of the collection, including the exhibitors and winners of the BP Portrait Award. After, we had lunch in a lovely little bistro, where I accidently spilled my white wine all over my senior colleague, but she still paid for lunch (thanks!) and the kind proprietors brought me another glass of wine.

And I did all of this completely clueless that this morning at 2am, not far from where we were, at Haymarket and Coventry St., right off Picadilly Circus, police were defusing and disassembling a car bomb, and that streets around the area were closed off for some time. It wasn't until my colleague said something about sleeping well this morning because (as she would find out later) the street was so quiet from being closed off due to the scare. What scare, I asked? I suppose I should read the news online *before* I go out.

Then again, I had a perfectly enjoyable, albeit clueless, walk from my room to Shaftesbury on a sunny and pleasantly warm late morning, so maybe ignorance is bliss. After all, what good is fear going to do me? Deputy Asst. Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism unit, says "we must all stay alert." Alert to what? What if, while we're all staying alert for the last thing that happened, something *different* happens? (This is what drives me nuts about the no liquids rule on airplanes and still having to take my damn shoes off.)

So I'll just go about my business and figure that the concealed-carry law in the state where I make my home is statistically more a danger to me than potential terrorism in London.

A quote from a New York Times article today (2 am EST edition):

“It’s only when I got to work that I realized what was happening,” said Renee Anderson, 32, a New Zealander from her country’s nearby diplomatic mission. “I feel surprisingly all right about it. We all kind of thought, ‘Well, you could be hit by a bus anyway.’ ”
Kiwis and me: san souci.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Random bullet points of Britain

  • On my friend's A to Z map of Leeds and its environs, "built up" areas are shaded in pink, and any collection of three or more residences not belonging to the same farm counts as "built up," even if everything around it is countryside. I find this charming.
  • While visiting said friend, I went for a couple of runs in her semi-suburban, semi-rural town. These runs included a loop around a "tarn" (which I find cool to say, even though it's just a pond) and a pass by the end of the Leeds/Bradford airport's runway. Just as I was going by, a plane came in for a landing. Don't worry though -- Yorkshire is a hilly place, and the runway was actually up above me. I thought it was kind of sublime watching that plane fly so close overhead. The sheep across the road were unimpressed, however.
  • We went for a visit to Harewood House, and I wondered, 'How did they manicure all that lawn in the 18th and 19th centuries? Would sheep alone do the trick?'
  • There are three libraries in Harewood and I want them all -- especially the one with the secret doors.
  • Something I learned: the Leeds to London/London to Leeds train is always crowded.
  • Something I learned about myself: I don't get the point of Big Brother. But I *really* don't get the point of Big Brother's Little Brother. A commentary show on a reality show? WTF?
  • I cannot find my way around the maze of where I'm staying and it's just one big building built around a courtyard. I have to figure it out tomorrow or it will drive me nuts.
  • There is an angry, or at least irritated, French woman in the room next to me. She's on the phone chattering away in irritation.
  • I heard 8 different languages being spoken in the Tesco across from the Russell Square Tube station, and then I stopped counting. For the record: English, Spanish, French, German, something Middle Eastern which I'm unable to specify, Cantonese, Italian, and something I couldn't place at all.
  • Weirdly, I could understand the woman speaking Spanish in Tesco better than I can understand my French neighbor, and I've had many more years of French. Hmm.
  • There's an old man in a flat across from where I'm staying who seems to spend all of his time watching the world go by on the street below. I don't have a view of this from my room -- I look onto a lovely interior garden -- but I saw him when I was roaming the halls trying to figure out which toilets and showers were closest to me. If I see him again, I'll try to snap a picture.
  • I have not changed the time on my computer. It's still in Rust Belt time. I think perhaps I should change it, eh?
That's it for now. Must unpack!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Required reading re: graduate school

Horace at To Delight and To Instruct has posted his collection of links about graduate school in a series of posts helpfully organized in stages from 'deciding to go' to 'the job market'. But you can find them all by following this link: Grad Compendium.

When I get a chance, I'm going to make that a permanent link in my sidebar.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Teaching the research paper in my upper division literature course

As many of you know, this past spring semester I assigned students a research paper as their final project in my medieval literature course. This is more or less a medieval survey course -- from the beginnings of English literature through the 15th century -- but I tend to think of it more as a medieval "highlights" course. Relative to the body of literature written in the British Isles in what we call the Middle Ages -- Old English, Middle English, Anglo-Norman, Latin, and the Celtic languages -- I teach only a small selection. I prefer whole texts where possible, though that means selected plays from cycles and collections, selected Lais from Marie de France, selected books of the Morte Darthur (though in their entirety), and generous parts, but the not the whole, of The Book of Margery Kempe. And then if you think of manuscript collections like "The Exeter Book" as a whole, obviously I'm only doing parts of that, as well. This is an "excluding Chaucer" class as well, which I'm fine with, as Geoffrey gets a class all to himself. But even with Chaucer excluded, there's still so much I leave out. But I rather teach a text thoroughly and give students the opportunity to know it well, than to skim lightly over it in the name of "coverage." I see my class as teaching them how to read medieval literature with a selection of texts that work best for me and that speak to each other well.

So this year, I decided to teach them how to read and write about medieval literature on a more complex level and in conversation with more advanced readers: professional scholars. But before I did that, I wanted them to learn how to read the literature on its own terms and with their own wits, before the voices and ideas of others drowned out their own nascent thoughts. So over the course of the semester, they had three stages of writing assignments (no tests -- it was all about the writing this term), one of which was a series of short writing all semester long, the second of which was a short, formal essay, and the last of which was the research paper, in two stages (proposal/bibliography and paper).

Stage one was an idea I totally ripped off from Rob Barrett (with his permission), who rocks for giving me access to his syllabuses and his great pedagogical ideas. It's a short writing assignment called a Crux Buster (his name for it, which I love), in which students must take two non-consecutive passages from a text and write a two-page, informal response that addresses how those passages shed light on each other or the text as a whole, and/or how they are meaningful (locally or globally). I had students write six of these over the course of the semester, and they always had to address the part of the text we were discussing that day, so that they'd do this writing *before* hearing class discussion. (Theoretically this was supposed to improve discussion, too, but I'm not sure if it did or not. That's a post for another day.) And they were expressly forbidden to write about plot or character development. It took some students to catch on, but since I had a grading scale that ended up being very generous, it gave them some room to fail miserably on the first couple of Busters and still come out with a good grade in the end -- thus giving them the space to learn from mistakes.

OK, so what does this have to do with the research paper? Well, for one thing, I was trying to teach them how to come up with interesting questions and to find discrete parts of a text worth investigating closely -- the basis for good research papers. I was also trying to get them to hone their close reading skills, which I wanted them to apply to the more formal assignments as well. Next time I need to be more explicit about this, because I don't think all of the students got that, and slipped into the usual broad generalization in their research papers. Most of them did get it, however. I think a lot of them realized that a good paper -- whether a research paper or not -- is an extended and more shaped Crux Buster, that close attention to one's subject (in this case, the literary text) is what an essay is supposed to convey, too. And I think they were more primed to see the critics doing this, as well.

In the second stage of preparing them for the research papers, I asked students to write a more formal essay. Often I give topics, but frankly, I'm pretty crappy at writing specific topics -- they all end up being "write what I'm thinking" topics. Ugh. So I left this one rather open-ended. However, it had one requirement: they had to take some element of text that a casual reader might overlook in a first reading and argue for its significance to the text as a whole. Again, this was designed to teach them how to ask the good questions and find the good topics to write about. It also forced them to think of themselves as something *other* than a casual reader, and to think of themselves as teaching an imagined audience about the text under discussion -- something a good research paper should do, too. I modelled this approach throughout the semester, as well. For instance, we talked about the word "aeglaca" in Beowulf and how it's applied to "monsters" and "heroes" in the text, as well as the various ways it's translated even in single translations. We talked about how the very multivalence of that word might hold meaning for the poem as a whole.

Then, soon after that paper, in the second half of the semester, I began teaching the research paper. From advice I got here on this blog, I learned that it's important to really *teach* them how to do this -- not simply expect them to be able to do it. So I took three days out of my syllabus to talk about how to do research. Because I already expect not to be able to "cover" all of medieval literature in my class -- and don't see that as the point of the class -- doing this is perhaps less painful than it might seem. Here's what I did on those three days:

Day 1:
Why we do research (student perspective / scholar's perspective)
How we do research – Part I: Asking the right questions
How we do research – Part II: Judging the sources; using good sources

Day 2:
How we do research – Part III: Finding secondary sources (met in library - orientation to MLA Bibliography, etc., by library staff member)

Day 3:
How we do research – Part IV: Writing the research paper

Readings to be completed: They Say / I Say (entire book); Jane Chance article on Beowulf
Review of research tools, skills in using them
Discussion of Chance’s article as model research paper, in light of the “moves that matter” outlined in They Say / I Say
The only thing I'd change is that last day. I think I'd use a different article. The one I used is Chance's classic argument for the centrality of the fight with Grendel's Mother to the structure and meaning of the poem as a whole, and while it's a clear and accessible article, and though students were intrigued that the Grendel's Mother episode was once seen as a mere footnote to Grendel, it didn't work so well with They Say / I Say. That book teaches you how to make an argument in context of the critical discussion already going on (no matter what your topic), in response to other writers, so it's a great introduction to how to *write* the research paper. But Chance's article frontloads the critical history of Grendel's Mother, and the rest of the article consists of her original argument. As I told students, that's a fine way to structure a paper, but it gave us fewer opportunities to see the rhetorical "moves that matter" in action.

I think I'd give more attention to audience on that last day, as well. I might even have students imagine that they're writing for a journal to be distributed among their classmates, so that they'll assume a wider audience.

Once students got down to doing the research, they had two assignnments to turn in: 1) a short proposal and an annotated bibliography of at least 5 secondary sources of scholarly value, turned in about a month before the final paper was due; 2) the final paper itself, which had to be 8-12 pages and have a bibliography with at least 10 secondary sources. The proposal wasn't graded, but I gave them detailed feedback, helped them find more sources, and warned them if some of their sources weren't appropriate. (Even with this warning, two students did poorly on the final projects because they lost serious points for non peer-reviewed, non-scholarly sources.) Next time I do this, I might more emphatically warn students how much time ahead they have to start the research, and I will also spend more time talking about how srouces that are generally about their subject might be of help, too. Some students doing cool topics such as "homosocial desire in Guigemar" claimed they couldn't find secondary sources, but that's because they were only looking for sources specifically about "homosocial desire in Guigemar." D'oh!

As you may recall, I was really excited by the proposals students turned in. And for the most part, I was not disappointed by the final products. Again, I need to emphasize more that the close reading they did in the Busters is still necessary in the research paper. Students still have a problem with being specific, using evidence, and getting close to the text, even when they're reading models of such criticism. I think I need to point out more how they might model their own essays on the scholarly essays they read! But what I was really pleased with is the fact that almost every single paper actually had an argument. With only a couple of exceptions, gone were the merely descriptive papers and the plot summaries. Students said something about the texts they were addressing. And as far as I'm concerned, that is no minor triumph. So I'm going to do this again, and not just in my medieval survey class, but also in Chaucer (where the online Studies in the Age of Chaucer bibliography makes things oh-so-easy).

And here's another cool outcome: one of the students who wrote one of the best papers is going to turn into her senior honors thesis with me. So at least one student was inspired enough to learn more, and *that's* what it's all about.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Civilization comes to Rust Belt!

Holy cow! While I wasn't paying attention, Rust Belt got an H&M store and it's been there since about September! How did I only just discover this? Well, thank god it was there, because it *finally* provided me with the perfect top for a kick ass skirt I got some time ago at Anthropologie in another town. (Alas, we still don't have one of those.) The skirt is a really cool assymetrical flippy number in chocolate brown lace over a dusty pink satin, and I'm planning on wearing it to a semi-formal wedding, but I needed something dressier to go on top than the dusty pink knit top I'd previously worn with it for a slightly more casual wedding. You wouldn't believe how hard it was to find a top in the right shade of brown -- even though brown is big right now -- and the right shape and right level of dressiness (without being too busy for the lace skirt). Finally I found a chocolate brown tank in stretch satin. I also got a necklace, earrings, and a wrap in shades to match the dusty pink in the skirt -- all for under $40! H&M rocks!

Oh, and though I'm not a big cosmetics junkie, I'm also pleased that we now have a Sephora. Perhaps the Anthropologie, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's (all stores we're sadly missing) aren't far behind!


On an unrelated note, I'll do the promised posts on undergraduate research and my plans for the graduate research methods class in the next two days. And then I'm off to England on Wednesday, and since I'll be visiting a friend for the first few days, I probably won't be blogging until I'm settled in in my London digs.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hey, scholars like dismemberment, too!

No, this isn't another silly zombie post.

The NY Times Book Review has a review by Charles McGrath of two new and one year-old adaptations of Beowulf for children and young adults. They sound pretty cool and if I get to teach a graduate seminar on the original poem and its adaptations and translations, I may add these books.

But what inspire the post's title is the opening paragraph of the review (bold mine):

"Beowulf," a 3,000-line epic poem composed early in the eighth century, is the first significant text written in English, or in what eventually became English. What interests scholars about the story is its place in our linguistic development, and also the way it blends both Christian and pagan details. But what recommends “Beowulf” to children — and to older readers who haven’t lost a child’s delight in stories that are both scary and gory — is that it’s also a first-rate horror yarn, featuring slaughter, dismemberment and underwater sword fights.
OK, first of all, that "What interests scholars..." sentence should be in the past tense; that's what interested scholars half a century ago and more. But more important: what's with the false dichotomy between scholars on the one hand and "older readers who haven't lost a child's delight in stories that are both scar and gory" on the other? Doesn't he realize that's precisely why many of us became medieval scholars?


But the books sound pretty cool. Surely they have to be better than Beowulf & Grendel or that Grendel movie on SciFi that Dr. Nokes so hilariously skewered.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

PSA: The Sister Study

As many of you know, my sister Ms. V. died of cancer in 2002, four years after being diagnosed with breast cancer. So Virgo Sis and I are enrolled in The Sister Study, a massive, long-term epidemiological study of the genetic and environmental risk factors for breast cancer, sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The study has one more year to reach their goal of 50,000 participants. They currently have just over 35,000 enrolled. You can become a part of The Sister Study if you meet the following qualifcations:

  • Your sister, related to you by blood, had breast cancer.
  • You are between the ages of 35 and 74.
  • You have never had breast cancer yourself.
  • You are a woman living in the U.S. or Puerto Rico.
If you don't meet these qualifications and can't join the study, you can still help by spreading the word across the blogosphere. The Sister Study investigators would especially like to encourage under-represented women to join the study: women over 65, African-American women, Latinas, and Asian-American women. Let your readers know! Don't forget to link to The Sister Study home page. Interested women can also get information by calling 1-877-4SISTER or e-mailing

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Even the Rust Belt zombies are down on themselves

It's a good thing I live with a man who makes the Boy Scouts look disorganized and unprepared, because so far the Rust Belt zombies have been easy to deal with. We've got ourselves holed up on the second floor of our house, and Bullock has done a mighty fine job of barricading the top of the stairs with the oak and walnut he was going to use for our dining room table. We also brought up all the saws, blades, knives, and other sharp objects from the woodshop and kitchen (man we have a lot of knives), all of the first aid kits (yes, plural -- Bullock is big on safety around all those sharp objects), and all of the astronaut food and water jugs from the disaster preparedness kit. It's too bad I no longer own a bow.

Meanwhile, the Rust Belt zombies are a little lackluster. I think we're over-prepared. The first ones were from the 19th century graveyard around the corner. They were quickly mowed down by the cars on the main drag that runs through Leafy Lea. But even the more recent undead aren't exactly high energy. In between the groans of "Brains!" I keep hearing things like, "Uh...nothing happens here" and "Arrrr...why bother?" I keep wanting to remind them of the fabulous art museum, the world class zoo, the wonderful symphony and opera, and the great park system, but then I remember that they're zombies and I shouldn't be nice to them.

Oops, sounds like some of the more ambitious one have realized we're up here. Gotta go!

[This silly post -- which has a certain grain of truth to it (minus the zombies) -- is brought to you by My Elves are Different's Blog Like It's the End of the World Day: Zombie Attack. Hat tip to Morgan.]

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On feeling like a n00b

In just over a week I'll be leaving for London and I'm still not sure what the hell I'm doing in terms of the archives I'll be working in there.

It doesn't help that one archivist still hasn't written me back to give me permission and set up an appointment for me, nor that another one, at a similar privately held archive, pretty much told me I probably won't find anything and I'm wasting my time. OK, fine, but at least I'm doing the scholarly version of due diligence. Of course, he was right, in part because I didn't discover an edited version of just about all of their medieval documents until long after I'd made non-refundable housing and air travel arrangements. D'oh! In my defense, it's really recent and didn't show up in the bibliographies of even more recent secondary works related to the subject. I found it in a rather serendipitous way while looking for something else.

So I may go bust in both of the above archives, but there's still a lot of stuff I can work on at various libraries and public archives. And that work might lead me to archival resources or microfilms or out of print edited versions of documents and information I'd have a harder time getting here in the US. I keep reading the information leaflets of some of these places and thinking, "Hm, yes, that might be useful. I'll see where that leads me." And doing that will be a lot easier and more efficient if I can just walk over to their shelves or call up one of their microfilms instead of using interlibrary loan, etc. So the trip won't be a total bust. Of course, I'll be spending about $5000 dollars for this "efficient" use of my time, so I feel a little bit like I've done some bad planning.

But still, I do have to go to Oxford for 3-4 days to see the manuscript that this whole project revolves around, so I would have had to fly to the UK regardless. And *that* I have arranged with the manuscripts librarian. *That* I know how to do, since it involves a literary manuscript, where I'm not a total n00b, and where, apparently, I have mad skilz enough to get people to respond to my e-mails. It's even an extra-special, heavily guarded, you-can't-see-this-unless-you-prove-you're-worthy kind of manuscript, and I didn't even have to flirt with anyone* to get permission to see it, so ha! I can do some scholarly things right! (*That's a joke. That's not my usual MO.)

So, meantime, why not blow a bunch more money being all scholarly in central London and meeting up with bloggers, getting a little urban fix for a month, seeing some theater -- some of which I can justify as work related (I teach Shakespeare!) -- and taking some side trips which I can also justify as work related (pictures of Canterbury and the site of the Battle of Hastings for the classroom!)? Why not?

And on top of all this I'll get to see my friend E's new baby (not work related, obviously).

But still, I feel a bit like a scholarly flibberty-gibbet. Granted, a lot of this is new stuff to me -- manuscript scholarship, working with civic and archival documents (oh god, please let it mostly be English -- I can do French and Latin, but the script is so much easier for me to read when it's English) -- and I'm largely teaching it all to myself (or re-teaching, in the case of my paleography skills), so maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself. But I so hate looking like an ass, *especially* in front of English people, and *especially-especially* in front of Londoners. (Don't ask me why -- I really don't know.)

BUT, the good news is I'm feeling more confident about my latent paleography skills. I'm reviewing that Oxford manuscript now, looking for where the interesting (to me) marginalia is (using the PDF I made of the microfilm) and I'm working in tandem with a printed edition of part of the MS that reproduces the marginalia, as well. Anyway, I was just now looking at a MS page and then looking at the printed edition when I said to the long-dead editor, out loud, "Are you a retard? That's clearly an 'l' -- not an 'i.' Duh." Te-hee!

Oy, but in general, I have to say that being a medievalist seems always to make me feel like I need to go back and do graduate school all over again, as if I'm just now ready for it. And as a side note, there need to be grants and awards for young profs just to get the skills they need to do the research that grants usually cover. For instance, I have only two languages -- French and Latin -- but I'd like to do German and Italian. And I sometimes fantasize about making myself into an Anglo-Saxonist, but where would I get the Scandinavian language training? And my paleography skills are limited to late medieval and early modern books and documents, and mostly to English (damn those Latin abbreviations!). But that's a post for another day.

The point of *this* post is I hope all the librarians and archivists who encounter me while I'm working in London are kind and patient. My mantra is going to be "this is a new area for me," and hopefully they'll understand!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dog breed(s) of the week

Don't worry, I'm not starting a new feature of this blog. Rather, my post title refers self-deprecatingly to the fact that I keep getting obsessed with yet another dog breed or two every week. Bullock and I are thinking of getting our own dog when I get back from England, so I've been researching different breeds, trying to find the one that's right for us.

As many of you may know, I was previously obsessed with the Portuguese Water Dog. But I've learned that they're a pretty high maintenance breed ("willful" is a commonly used word -- along with more positive terms) and some informational sites even warn that they're not really good for first time owners. Plus they're not that common, so the chances of finding a rescued young adult one nearby are slim, and if I'm going to get a specific breed, I'd rather adopt one without a home rather than get a newly bred puppy. Puppies are hard work and I'm not sure either Bullock and I are up for it. Plus, PWD puppies are expensive! Good god, they're expensive! I don't really want a luxury dog. I'm interested in specific breeds because you have a better chance of knowing what you're in for, but I don't necessarily want to support the demand for designer puppies, if that makes sense. (I'm trying hard here not to insult either those who have pure bred dogs with papers, or those who've adopted mixed breeds from shelters. I get it. Seriously, I do. It's all about what works for you.)

Anyway, I want an active dog who might be willing and able to go for runs with me. S/he doesn't have to be able to do the really long distance ones with me, but a dog who can be trained to run 3 miles at an easy pace would be nice. And I'm totally willing to get a dog that needs a good daily workout as long as it generally has an eager to please personality. Bullock would like a dog that's not willful and demanding, or that needs to be trained and worked constantly to know who's boss. (So no Border Collies -- sorry Tommy! -- or any kind of terrier, for example.) And after the ear infection/vertigo incident with Wiley, I decided I wanted a dog small enough that I could lift him/her on my own. But Bullock wants a dog that still seems "doggy." Too small and it's not "doggy" enough for him. Oh, and a low maintenance coat would be nice. (That's the other thing with PWDs -- they need to be trimmed all the time because they have hair that grows like ours. It's super soft and virtually non-shedding, but I barely have enough time to get my own hair cut!) And we'd both like an affectionate, friendly dog who gets along with people and other animals of all kinds.

So it seems, from what I've found browsing around web sites and talking to other dog owners, that a lot of the gun dog breeds, especially pointers and "versatile" gun dogs, satisfy all these requirements. In particular, I'm looking at Brittany Spaniels and Pointers. They both need a lot of exercise, but I think between my running, our backyard, and the park around the corner with plenty of safe, encloed space for throwing a ball or a frisbee, we can give a dog that. (Btw, I walk or run by that park all the time and *no one* is ever in it with dogs. Why not??) Plus, Bullock and I are often home. In fact, we usually have alternating schedules that makes one of us home every other day for at least half the day. And since there are lots of hunters around Rust Belt, there are also a lot of recue organizations for these breeds, full of perfectly nice dogs who simply didn't show adequate skills or interest in hunting.

So, that's where I am now. If you know any Brittanies or Pointers and want to either encourage or discourage my latest obsession, let me know! And hey, feel free to suggest other breeds and get me obsessively reading about them!

How to look like a 1970s NASA scientist

In response to Medieval Woman's desire in the "Readers' choice" post below, here's how Bullock gets his 1970s NASA Scientist Dude look (well, as we imagine it -- I can't find a photo of an actual 1970s NASA scientist looking quite like this):

1) Wear these glasses:

(Made by Shuron Ltd.)

2) Cut your hair this short:

3) Grow out this facial hair combination (yes, that's Seth Bullock from Deadwood, from whom my Bullock gets his pseudonym):

4) And add longish but not extreme sideburns, a bit like "Greg" on CSI (though Bullock's are fuzzier):

And voila! You have a guy with 1950s hair and glasses who's trying to be cool with 1970s facial hair -- in other words, a 1970s NASA scientist. (Pocket protector and short-sleeved shirt + tie combo not necessary. Please.) And in 2007, it's a perfect pomo pastiche of a look.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Readers' choice!

Bullock and I are going away for the weekend for a wedding-related shindig (not actually the wedding itself, since that's in New Zealand), and when I get back I intend to blog something substantive. The question is -- what?

Which would you rather read about: whether or not my students' research papers from the spring were a success and how/why I taught the research process in an undergrad class? What I'm planning on doing in my graduate research methods class this fall?
A post-conference meditation on what it means to finally feel "grown up" in the profession? A post-conference meditation on the mortality of my mentors? Or my fears about looking like a fool and not knowing what I'm doing on my upcoming research trip to the UK?

Or would you rather read something breezy and summer-light -- for instance, my newest dog breed obsession? Or how Bullock has transformed his look into a NASA scientist ca. 1975 and why I dig it? Or why I like "The Starter Wife" and have given up on "Hex"? Or how I may break down and get an all-regions DVD player to watch the second seaons of "Life on Mars," now that it's out on DVD in the UK? (Uh, I guess that's it for that last category!)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Oh that's so wrong

There's a billboard on the main commercial drag in our neighborhood, Leafy Lea, that is perhaps a perfect example of why the close study of language matters (especially to folks who go into advertising, in this case). The sign is advertising a hair salon and one of its "d'oh!" moments is in the fine print, where it says, "We specialize in all hair types." Um. Someone needs to look up the word "specialize." But that's really not the worst of it. Oh no, there's more.

First of all, the name of the salon is Master's Touch. Ew. Creepy! Seriously, when you read that name, doesn't it give you the heeby-jeebies? Doesn't it sound like the name of an S&M web site or something? And hair care is certainly not the first thing I think of here. Shouldn't a name of an establishment convey what it does? OK, so clearly the name is not the advertising firm's fault. But wait, there's more...

So what's the image used to convey what Master's Touch does, to make that vaguely creepy sounding name more clear? It's the head of an African-American woman with straightened hair that covers half of her downturned face and one her averted eyes.

No really, I'm not making this up.

I'm sure they were trying to invoke the skilled touch of a master artisan with that name, but when it's paired with an image of an African-American woman in a submissive pose (and hair imitating the dominant culture) a whole 'nuther set of associations with the word "master" springs to mind.

Yikes. Not what they were going for, I'm sure. At least I hope the hell not!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Why I became a professor

Over at Reassigned Time, in discussing the "good stuff" about graduate school and being an academic in general, Dr. Crazy writes:

I like that some of the hardest work I do can be accomplished in pajamas.
What she said.

(That said, I'm in my running clothes right now and really should sign off and get out there! More substantial blogging soon, I promise!)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Surviving grad school

Horace at To Delight and Instruct is collecting all your favorite posts of yore having to do with how to survive graduate school. He's thinking of it as a kind of permanent carnival. I think once he's put all the posts together, I'll put a permanent link to it in my sidebar.

His Call for Posts is here. Go give him your links.

Thank you, Horace, for doing this.