Thursday, April 29, 2010

QOTD: Thinking about political complexity

I've been doing some research into the Middle Atlantic Contact period lately as part of a project I've been working on. It's a very complex time period. Below is a quote I read during my research; you know when you think you know about something, and someone comes at it a different way, and your blinders fall off, and the possibilities just explode? Yeah, like that!

To date, the almost unconscious assumption of hierarchy-as-order remains unexamined among social scientists, especially in the area of complex society. Class relations are cognized as social hierarchies: "marrying up" or "beneath oneself," "climbing the social ladder." Ironically, societies not as pervasively ranged (not as complex) then appear "closer to nature," fostering elitism and rationalizing political and cultural hegemony.... This conflation of hierarchy with order makes it difficult to imagine, much less recognize and study, patterns of relations that are complex but not hierarchical." -- Crumley, Carole L. (1995) Heterarchy and the Analysis of Complex Societies. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 6(1); 1-5

Oh... and those tales they told you in high school (and hopefully NOT in university) about the Indians ALL leaving the Middle Atlantic states? Is bunk. A lot of the people who didn't die did leave, either by force or as voluntarily as it can be when you're being pushed out by another group, but there were those who stayed behind.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Going to Write

I've been less than productive on The Book lately. A combination of inertia and real-life, both significant losses (sudden and ongoing) and significant gains (omg, is that an actual social life? How novel!).

And so, I am going to bust out of Grading Jail for a few hours and go do some Book Stuff. Including an update to my editor. I've been procrastinating, wanting to write more so I can report having done more... but I actually think it will be a very useful exercise. I might even surprise myself!

I also need to prep a lecture for Wednesday, but eh, it will have to wait.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Grading Jail, WTF, and Yikes a Bleg

I am in grading jail. One more class and the final exam, but I have a stack of essays and other assignments to grade and get back to my students. At least it is only one class.

Some of their work is very, very good. But, because they didn't actually complete the assignment as given, they're not getting full marks. I read them the riot act at the beginning of the semester about doing the assignments they're given; I re-read them the riot act mid-semester. A lot of them got burned on their in-class presentations for not following instructions. And still? Their written work = incomplete. WTF. I am at a loss.

Finally, Yikes. I'm teaching this summer, but the class will be online. And I have 4 weeks to cover 13 weeks of material. And most of my in-class course is designed for in-class -- films, in-class presentations, handing around casts of human bones, etc. Despite being told that teaching online is just like teaching in-class, but online (another WTF), I have to rejigger my class and somehow do it so that I can get a sense that my students are engaged and understanding the material. I will gladly take any and all suggestions!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fieldwork: An old farm

I was out doing some fieldwork yesterday; dang but it's nice to be outside! Here are a few photos I took. Enjoy!

Exterior. April 21, 2010

Tools of the trade. April 21, 2010

Milking Shed. April 21, 2010

Barn interior (the milking shed is connected, behind me). April 21, 2010

Water, please! April 21, 2010

Old Orchard. If you look through the trees, that's a bulldozer in the background. Fortunately, it isn't there to take out either these trees or the barn and other outbuildings (for a change!). April 21, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tweets From The Beyond and An Obvious Thing Pointed Out

ECS's grave marker in Brooklawn Cemetery, The Bronx, NY. Taken by Anthony22, posted at Wikipedia.

Imagine my surprise when a tweet by Elizabeth Cady Stanton floated through my Twitter this evening. I wonder what future historians, mining the public Twitter-feed, will make of the tweets of a dead suffragist!

And may I just say "Harumph" at the lack of accomplishments listed after ECS's name on the grave marker. Her husband died 15 years before she did; I wonder who made the decision not to list her accomplishments? I also recently found out that ECS was Gerrit Smith's cousin. There were a lot of family ties (and religious ones) among the NY Reform set.


Recently posted by John Sallient, moderator of the H-OIEAHC* email list, "... total agreement is not necessary for action. A statement or action by a group can reflect the diversity within it."

There was recently an archaeological initiative that died because of a small number of extremely outspoken opponents, despite a significantly larger number of supporters who didn't feel the need to scream and yell and call people names. Perhaps consensus was too rosy a goal, and actually an unnecessary one.

* OIEAHC = Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. Pre-1800, in general. Check out their Online Resources to join the e-mail list (a most excellent, moderated discussion forum with an extremely high ratio of content vs. noise), access past issues of William and Mary Quarterly and other goodies.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Public History: The Constitution

The Assembly Room at Independence Hall (a.k.a. the Pennsylvania State House), from the NPS Independence website.

My family visited this past weekend; it was great to see them, even though it was a total whirlwind (much of my life these days is a total whirlwind...). On Saturday, we hightailed it to Philadelphia. Admission to Independence Hall is by ticket (you might be able to squeeze in without one, but it's a long shot). Tickets are free, but don't wait... on this cold April day, we got 4 of the last 9 tickets at noon. I've not spent much time in Philly, most of it work related, so I haven't seen the sights. Particularly as a Freshly Minted American Citizen, I wanted to see Independence Hall, so was pretty jazzed to get some of the last tickets of the day. It's a super-fast, half hour tour, which I guess makes sense, given the numbers of people they must wrangle through there a day.

What struck me during the tour was the part in the Assembly Room, where our guide, a big tall fellow with a BOOMING voice, explained that, when written, the Constitution only expressed the rights and responsibilities of citizens: 21-year old white males who owned property. But that the framers included the ability for the Constitution to change,and as the times and the country have changed, the rights granted by the Constitution have been extended to other groups, including African Americans and women.

I found this official, National Park Service description of the Constitution and it's original limitations and later expansions, refreshing. It was especially poignant in conjunction with the Tea Party Protest going on just next door.

The Tea Partiers had tables and a band, and know how to work their symbolism (a protest, at Independence National Park? Very symbolic!). They were also having people approach you to sign petitions, and were giving out flags. It was more like a festival than a protest; and for the TV cameras? All the people who are just hanging out listening to the music look like they're protesting. Other factions (hello, Democrats!) could take a few lessons in media manipulation.

Philly Notes:
  • The trolly/Big Bus tour was totally worth the time and $$. We got an overview of LOTS of the city over the 90 minute tour, with narrative, and you can use your ticket all day for transportation. Our driver also went out of his way to arrange van transportation for us, for free, to get us to dinner.
  • Your jackets and bags will be searched going into Independence Hall. You CAN, however, take pictures inside.
  • The Park Service public bathrooms across from Independence Hall are very convenient, and were even relatively, mostly clean at the end of the day. They were -actually- clean before lunch.
  • Plan to spend more than 1 day, even in Independence National Park.
  • They had a hammered dulcimer player in the Visitors' Center! I love hammered dulcimer.
  • The ghost building they are constructing between the Liberty Bell building and the Visitors' Center, on top of the Presidents' House, is going to be very cool.
  • I will have to spend more time bumming around Philly; I really like it!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ahh, end of term...

Four weeks to go, including the final exam, and the flurry of excuses and requests for extensions etc. have begun. So far, they are being polite. That may well change, they're out of the blocks on this kinda early this semester.

I need to massage this course into an online offering for the summer. It will be a challenge!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Sunny day. New Jersey, April 4, 2010

I wasn't the only one out in the woods today! Hmmm.. now I can't get Teddy Bear's Picnic out of my head.

YouTubery of the 1932 recording of Teddy Bear Picnic, for your earworm pleasure:

I had no idea it was written in 1907!

Friday, April 2, 2010


In a continuing effort to purge my life of overburden and to give myself some room to grow, I will be spending several hours this weekend purging. I currently have two 2-drawer filing cabinets. By the end of the weekend, I want there to be only one.

The nice thing is, as an adjunct, I have access to online databases like JSTOR, so I can grab digital copies of papers. My net loss of information will be zero. Well, except for the WTF-Am-I-Doing-With-This stuff, which I shouldn't have anyway. I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I really don't need stuff on papermaking or the epidemiology of AIDS.

I just need to remember to purge the stuff I'm ditching from my database.