An AHA moment.

After attending Bill Cronon’s presidential address on “Storytelling” at the American Historical Association conference a couple of weeks ago, I decided it would be worth my while to go back and read all his presidential columns from the newsletter in 2012. I’m posting links to them here for anyone else who wishes to do the same.

The Public Practice of History in and for a Digital Age (January 2012)
Scholarly Authority in a Wikified World (February 2012)
Professional Boredom (March 2012)
Loving History (April 2012)
Breaking Apart, Putting Together (May 2012)
Two Cheers for the Whig Interpretation of History (September 2012)
How Long Will People Read History Books? (October 2012)
Recollecting My Library… and My Self (November 2012)
And Gladly Teach (December 2012)

More to come on storytelling, public history, digital humanities, the future of the long-form narrative, and a host of ideas that are swimming around in my head in the wake of the meeting.

[ADDENDUM: As soon as I had posted this, I was perusing Bill’s web site and noticed that, of course, he has all his columns collected there as well. The AHA has links to ’em up too, they’re just at the bottom of a very long page of presidential addresses going back to Andrew Dickson White.]


As of noon today, I have successfully defended my dissertation, and have made my appointment at the grad school for the final review. Now I just have to get all these edits into the document and deposit before day’s end tomorrow…

Almost there!

LaTeXed and lovely.

Well, I’ve now sent a draft of the whole dissertation off to my committee. I spent a goodly portion of the last couple of days before the deadline learning TeX stuff I have never had the pleasure of applying before: making more complex title pages, compiling tables of contents, resetting footnote and page counters, and using the \chapter{} heading. (This page on document structure has been particularly useful.) Things are looking beautiful, of course. Maybe now I will do some optional awesomeness like generating a list of figures. LaTeX, I love you.

Now comes the real drudgery: edits, revisions, fixing notes and citations, and learning more of the biblatex and biblatex-historian customizations that will allow me to format the bibliography in proper historian format, with archival collections separated out, and with appropriate abbreviations for those collections in the notes themselves. But it will be good to read the whole thing through from beginning to end once or twice. I did enjoy writing it most of the time, so reading it should be interesting as well.

Defense in two weeks. It’s the final countdown. Wish me luck!

The final push.

Just finished work on the last chapter of my dissertation. Now it’s time to print everything out and figure out what this whole thing is all about so I can write the intro and conclusion! Good times.

A lament for ginger ale.

Why is it that it is almost impossible to buy ginger ale at most establishments these days? The stuff is, I swear, scarcer than Mello Yello and Squirt (both of which I can buy at a nearby vending machine, should I be seized with such a strange urge). Seriously. I can by fountain Sprecher root beer, but not obtain a can of Canada Dry within lunchgoing distance of my office. What is going on?

At this point, I’d be better off fermenting my own. At least Megan says it’s easy. And her hibiscus ferment was a-ma-zing. Amazing.


We waited in line at Washburn, but it was cloudy, and they ran out of glasses, so we went to the Terrace for a beer. On the shore, we saw a good proportion of the department setting up telescopes and chowing on popcorn and beer. Mike Shank treated us to brats. It stayed cloudy, but the beer and company were good. A few of us left and headed to the bus. By the time I got off at my stop, the sun had come out. I made a pinhole in a piece of paper and tried my best to project it onto another piece of paper, with not much luck. Down the street I saw two people with viewing glasses. I asked if I could see. I did.


A digital pedagogy for the non-digital.

Via Bill this morning comes Greg Downey‘s excellent post on what he calls a “counterintuitive digital media assignment”. As he describes it:

…students are asked to turn their digital expertise and expectations upside-down: to use online search tools specifically for the purpose of figuring out what’s not available to them with the click of a mouse, and to go through the process themselves of making a portion of that non-digitized world available in the network realm for future use.

The results: Helping undergraduates to get a really concrete sense for the vast set of sources out there that are not digital, not full-text searchable, not available online. Forcing students to actually enter the library stacks, or go to the archives, and helping them appreciate the labor and knowledge of archivists and librarians who know how information is organized, and who are responsible for so much of the materials that are now available in digital form. Giving students a sense of what libraries are, once you leave the computer lab. Demonstrating the long history of creating and organizing knowledge.

Library love.

Reason x of N (where N is very large) why the University of Wisconsin Libraries are amazing and wonderful and the absolute best: Distance Services.

Distance services are designed for people who, like me, are UW students and faculty who are living outside of Dane County, and who do not travel to Madison frequently, but who still want to be able to take advantage of the world-class holdings that, as members of the UW community, we are fortunate enough to have access to. By submitting requests through an online system, people like me can have articles that are not available via the university’s online journal subscriptions scanned and delivered to us electronically, or to have books in the library’s collections mailed to us directly, with return postage paid. I just received my first two distance-service books, and let me tell you, it’s like Christmas.

To the UW Libraries: thank you. I feel honored to be a member of a community that places such a high value on its library collections, and provides such amazing services to scholars. May it always be so.

Walking and thinking.

Since we spend a lot of our time here in Maine going for walks around the island, both together and separately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the positive effect walking has on my thinking. I do (and have always done) some of my best thinking while walking. I essentially wrote my prelim essays while going for nighttime walks with Paul. I worked out the argument for my HSS paper while going for walks this past week. And whether it’s a walk where I talk out ideas with someone else, or one where I spend the time talking to myself or going over ideas in my head, I always come back with a new thought, ready to write.

There’s been a thread on H-Environment about “Walking as methodology and practice in environmental history,” and someone sent out a link to this really interesting conference website, Walking as Knowing as Making: A Peripatetic Investigation of Place. I love the idea of organizing a workshop around going for walks together. We do some of this at the Center for Culture, History, and Environment on our annual amazing Place-Based Workshops, but because of how far we have to travel and how much we work into a four-day period, we’re always going for fewer walks than we’d probably like. I can imagine how amazing a walking place-based workshop would be.

Since I’m still working on this HSS paper, I don’t have much time to elaborate on everything I’d like to say about walking and thinking, but perhaps I’ll have more to say after my afternoon walk.