Friday, December 29, 2006

Family fun.

This house is somehow very conducive me to being a complete night owl. My sister too. It's good for catching up on "The Office," but bad for managing to drag oneself out of bed at an archive-going appropriate hour. Sigh. All of which is to say that yesterday I went to the bank, took the dog for a walk, and helped unpack boxes of books in the basement, but that's about it. Today was a little more productive and exciting, but not terribly. Allow me to explain. I was at the archives today just after 12pm (noon). Plenty of time to photograph documents in 8 folders already ready for me to look at, since I would have until 4:45pm when the staff leave for the day. Or so I thought. (Ready for it?) The archivists left at 1pm today . . . because it's the "day before" New Year's. Huh? I don't get it. Whatever. Nice job, though, eh? Not only do you get the stat holiday (on Monday), but you get half the day before it! Sigh. Well, serves me right for not double checking . . . though I had no idea about this.

Anyways, so I took pics for 50 minutes. And I got halfway through the folders. Not bad, I guess. (Stupid, stupid, stupid me.) What this means is that I'll have to come visit my mom/parents in the spring! They can't complain too much about this.

At the archives I ran into a prof. friend of mine from Carleton. I never had a class with her or anything, but she works on similarish stuff to me, so I lectured in her class when I was in the first year of my PhD, and we were on a panel together at the SHAFR conference in June. It was nice to see her again, and here what she's been up to. She said the British Red Cross archives was really nice and easy to navigate, so that's good news!

After that, I hung out in the lobby reading my new favourite self-help book (ha!): Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day. It's seriously useful, PhDers. I read that until the rest of my family (sans brother and dog) came by to pick me up . . . and head over to the casino! Yes, you read me right. My dad's xmas present to us all was a trip to the casino, $20 in spending money each, and dinner at the buffet there.

We had a good time! My mom and I spent $20 between the two of us, on slot machines we mostly didn't understand. "Just press the button and see what happens!" My dad and sister went off for their own one-armed-bandit adventures. We then hooked up again for---you guessed it---more slot machine playing. At one point, I was up to $10.20 from a start of $2.50. But then . . . my dad came over and was all like, "Guess what I just won?" (Grinning.) "What?!" "I put in $5.00, and I just won $92.50!" My mom would not let him spend it, and so that's what paid for (most of) dinner. Fun times. My sister ended the evening with $5 more than what she started with; my dad with about $75; and my mom and I lost everthing. Not bad for a nice family outing, eh? It's a nice casino, methinks, not that I have vast experience with such things. (Clearly.) And dinner was very, very yummy.

Tomorrow is more organizing off jun . . . I mean, stuff, in the basement, and then I head back to TO on Sunday afternoon. Have a good weekend, all!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Complaining about relatives.

My parents/our family got two Christmas cards this year. (This is normal, since we don't send out any ourselves.) One of them was from one of my mom's work colleagues. Fine. The other was from my cousin (my mom's niece), her husband, and their child. This is the one I want to complain about. The card was your standard pre-printed holiday greeting, and then it was signed "happy holidays," followed by their names. And that's it. At this point, I don't really object, but I find it kinda stupid to send a card that clearly has no thought behind it except "must send them a holiday card." But then today my sister, my dad, and I went to visit my grandmother (mom's mom; cousin's grandmother) who is living in a retirement residence and who is not doing well at all . . . and I spotted that same xmas card in her suite. My cousin, living in the same general area as all of us, is of couse aware of her grandmother's health. I pointed the card out to my sister, who immediately opened it up to see what was written. And, guess what? The exact same thing: "happy holidays" followed by their names. Also, this was apparently written in English! (All these people are francophone.) My mom told me later that my cousin's been to visit her grandmother once in her residence. This is, well, kinda shocking. I mean, she's an adult (over 30), and quite able to go visit once in a while. I live in Toronto and I've been several times! I still feel bad about not seeing her more often, but that's because I have a conscience.

This is just one more piece of evidence proving that my cousin and her husband have no souls. They are nice people, but they are completely without substance. All they want is to gradually make more and more money, move into bigger and bigger houses, and generally live their lives like richer and richer people. They care not for self-enlightenment or learning or, well, thinking about the world. Example: They registered for their son's 1st birthday at a big toy store. (My mom was disgusted and brought some books instead.) I haven't ever seen this child (who is now more than 2 years old), and neither has my sister (who lives in Montreal), but I don't feel badly about it. I just don't have much to say to this family. It's too bad, really, but what can I do. I might be being unkind, but I think I'm basically right about them.

Anyways, my grandma was apparently a little better today than she was the last time my parents saw her, but not much. Sigh. Oh well. She's really out of it, and needs to move to a higher level of care pronto.

Yesteday was another family-filled day, this time with part of my mom's side of the family. It was fine, though we have thoughts about a couple of the kids. Ah well. What's Christmas without bitching about relatives, eh?

Also, to quote my sister: "this house is bad for my health!" Seriously. All we want to do here is watch TV, stay up all night, and eat junk food. My sister and I watched 6 hours of TV last night (11pm-5am). Oy. But I better eat up now because soon enough I'll be in Washington and will have to fend for myself. Double oy.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Xmas!

After a sleepless night---I must have been reliving my childhood of being too excited about Santa Claus to sleep---I awoke this afternoon in time to hurry up and join my parents and sister in the car for the drive to visit our friends. We had a lovely time, eating good food and playing a card game and generally catching up, etc. I ate way too many sugar cookies (mmm), and am eating them still, since HB packed some up for me to take home!

I brought my camera along to document the event. My sister absolutely would not let me take a decent picture of her! But here's one anyway: (She's wearing my brother's favourite shirt . . . from when he was ca. 5 years old. Perhaps because he couldn't come with us.) And also one of my parents:
And that's pretty much the day. I should probably go to bed early to try and get back on a normal-ish schedule, since I am planning on hitting the archives later this week. But I have a suspicion that won't happen.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dinner with family.

Yesterday I finished grading (in the wee hours) and packed for my trip home. In the morning (after the sun was up, that is), FN and I went to get breakfast and then chilled out for a bit before I left for the train station and she to a xmas brunch.

Union Station was a mad house! There were so many people, and nearly all the trains out of town were sold out. But in the end the train only left 5 minutes late, and we were totally on time (miraculously) until suburban Ottawa. So we ended up getting to the Ottawa train station rather late. Stupid suburbs....

But here I am in Ottawa, and all is good with the world.

Today was dinner (etc.) with my dad's side of the family. The regular shenanigans ensued. But then my dad decided to drink way too much and had to pass out just as we were sitting down to dinner. As in, he didn't eat with us. My mom is not impressed. Whatever. (He hardly ever does this, hence his not being able to hold his liquor.) It was a good evening, despite the drunken passing out. (My aunt passed out on one of the sofa's later too! What crazy people.) I don't wanna make it sound like these people are all losers: they were having a good time!

My aunt nagged my brother until he sang a song for us. He's a singer in a rock-'n-roll band, you know. And he's much better than he was the last time I heard him. Not that he was bad before or anything. Him and my sister were jamming too, him on the guitar---here he is, and she on the banjo. (But, no, I have no musical talent.)

After dinner my mom and I watched "Little Miss Sunshine." It's fine, but I'm not in love with it like some people I know are!

Tomorrow we're doing the usual Christmas thing, but this time with a twist. We always host our old friends / former neighbours, but this year we're going to their house. Should be good. Also, we decided there will be no presents in our family this xmas (and no tree either), which is most excellent.

To end, here's a pic of our dog, Xena. Happy xmas and etc. to all!!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

78 down, 4 to go.

Almost finished grading! I would have been done already, but was stricken by a crippling headache this afternoon/evening. Awful. And since my prof. doesn't want the papers until 1 Jan., there's no big rush. I will finish them all in the next few hours and then they can hang out here while I'm in Ottawa for a week.

There's not much else to report. LG is gone; FN is busy being a social butterfly; EC is in Europe; and most everyone else has fled Canada's largest city for their respective home towns. I am sad that I'll have to miss brunch in the morning at JDS and TC's place. FN will entertain them in my stead while I pack up and head to the train station.

The black flies have stopped appearing, which is nice. They were driving us batty. But now there's another potential problem with the apartment: the fridge is acting up. By "acting up" I mean that it has decided to make a very loud buzzing sound periodically. It did this last night when FN wasn't home and it was dark inside and totally freaked me out. Imagine it: I'm all alone grading, and suddenly this really loud noise starts emanating from the living room! And it didn't stop for another 15 minutes. I was worried something was going to explode, and I didn't really want to be in the way when it happened. I only realized later that it was the fridge, and I don't think that's going to explode. But still: sheesh!

I will miss TO when I'm in the nation's capital, but it will be a good change of pace. And then I'm back for less than 2 days before flying out to the other nation's capital, the one south of the border. I will definitely miss Toronto when I'm there. Sigh. But I will likely enjoy the archives!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Proof that I am what I read.

My first attempt at drafting's today's posting did not start off too well. Actually, it was rather disastrous. And then I realized the problem: I was writing like my students! To wit:

This blog was began so as I could tell my allies how my days was passing by. Thusly it was a Chronicle, of Jen's life. A few people only know about it's existence, and over the several months for which it was being written by myself there are fun times, boring times. The state of blog today is such; I want to write what I want.
And so I took a break and thought about my peers and read some news online. And now my English has improved somewhat. But hopefully this grading will end soon so I can begin the recovery process in earnest.

Conclusion: Good lord, people [read: my students]. Learn how to write!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Not much to say.

I've only marked 8 papers since I woke up Tuesday morning. Sigh. I really didn't waste much time doing unimportant things, yet here I am.

Laundry took hours. Goodness. I always forget how long the entire process is, but, man, it is long. Think of all the stages: (1) gathering dirty clothes and other things to wash; (2) getting out cart to carry the bag in (because it's invariably too heavy for me); (3) measuring laundry detergent for the both of us; (4) heading out the door (which is never a fast process); (5) walking to the laundromat; (6) loading the machine and starting the wash; (7) going home again---often with a stop at Shoppers along the way; (8) going back 30 minutes later to switch to the dryer; (9) doing that; (10) going back home---today with a stop at the dry cleaners; (11) going back to pick up (hopefully dry) clothes; (12) shoveing said clothes and assorted other items into my bag/cart; (13) going home for good; (14) unloading, folding, and putting away laundry; and (15) today that included making my bed (and helping FN with hers), and that always takes a while. Phew! Ok, I'm whining, but seriously people: it's a long, tiring process!

So now I am grading. "And miles to go before I sleep."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I spent all day grading.

Yeah, that's right. And I didn't even leave the house. Only 40 more essays to go! I think that they are making me dumb, though. You know, in the sense that being around smart people makes me smarter . . . and grading undergrad papers makes me stupider. Sigh. Once the lawyers emerge from exam hell, they will have to have intelligent conversations with me. Or, well, at me.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Grading hurts.

It pains me so. I have a rubric to use, and although I really think I'm being generous most of the time, so many of these assignments are in the 50s . . . or worse. This is a third-year course, and half-assing it just won't cut it! Well, we'll see what the instructor thinks when I tell him about my troubles later this week. Sigh.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Russianists are the best people.

I went to a(nother) party last night, this time at SM and J's place. All the cool Russianists were there, plus a smattering of east Europeanists. Excellent. It was too much fun, and included a couple shots of vodka (AB insisted I celebrate with him), yummy munchies, and lots of good conversation and laughter. True to form, GO got on my case about being single and getting older! (But only because he cares ;-). And, I got him back by countering with, "well, I am dating someone!" Haha.) And his wife SF was looking beautiful (as usual). My other favourites were there too: AB and OB, PR and AM, WB and his M, SJ and his great family, and MK the young. I took lots of pics to remember the occasion.

I left just after midnight with big plans to grade essays. I did one or two, but spent the better part of the rest of my night putting the pics online for all to see. Grading can wait.

At the moment more procrastination is taking place, but this time it is totally necessary: I am reading about philanthropy! Oh, and tonight is another party. Of course.

Friday, December 15, 2006

It can no longer be avoided.

Yep, it's true: grading is upon me. Finally. How dreadful. But I really must do it or else I will never be able to go home for xmas. And that would be uncool.

In happier news, I had lunch with my main supervisor today at a local pub. (Fellow historian CS was also there.) It was fun, though I find I don't have too much to say to my supervisor. I feel boring when I'm around her! I think it's just that I haven't read the books or seen the movies she mentions. It's also that I'm in the midst of researching, which isn't particularly interesting to talk about. I mean, I'm gathering material at this point; I'm not even reading it yet.

I stopped by the department a couple times today, and ran into historians (as usual). PM and JT were out enjoying the unseasonably warm weather (well, ok, JT was smoking); EW was in the office; and super-cool east Europeanist SJ was there too! He is too awesome. I bothered LG for a few minutes before coming home early in the afternoon to face my doom. But first I procrastinated for a long time. Sigh. And then FN came home with dinner, so that (mercifully) took me away from work too. After dinner we put up art (totally necessary for our mental health), and then I had to rearrange my desk (so I can grade). I feel like Steve Carrell's character on that episode of "The Office" where he has work he must do, but he does everything except do it until the last moment . . . at which point he tells his underlings to do the work for him. Double sigh.

So now there's really no getting around it. Grading is upon me. After I eat.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Tonight some of us gals gathered at HD's place for cheese and chocolate fondue. Yummy! It was a nice evening, and good to see CS, VMc, AG, and EC. Thanks, HD! (Also, appenzeller really is the best cheese. Ever.) DR showed up much later, sporting an interesting new hair look. Hmm.

Once again, I managed to do very little work today. I am still feeling weak, but really need to get grading so I can go home for the holidays! How annoying.

Until tomorrow . . . .

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Side note: I have supervisor love. I can't help it: They are all too awesome.

Anyways, today I went to another book launch, this time at the Munk Centre. It was for Allan Gotlieb's Washington Diaries. He spoke---seems an interesting fellow---as did CSIS director Jim Judd (booooorrrrrring), Historica president Colin Robertson (nice, intelligent, interesting fellow), and Janice Gross Stein (of course). The talking ranged from excruciatingly boring to semi-interesting. But the reception and milling about afterwards was great fun. (It was also great fun to sit beside one of my supervisors, who provided some entertainment during the excruciating parts). Since I am on a mission to convince said supervisor that I do drink, I had a glass of wine. Two of my (very tall) supervisors then got to work introducing me to all their friends in high places. (I exaggerate, but you know what I mean.) I met Roy MacLaren, whose book on Canadians in Russia I have read and enjoyed, and re-met David Hilton, an excellent person who once met one of my Siberian guys! Yeah, he told me he once spent a day and a half in a company of the former trade commissioner to Vladivostok. Crazy! I must find out more about this encounter, because I know almost nothing about this particular official. There are only a few reports or letters of his at the archives. Oh, and Robertson told me at the reception that he liked what I had written. Now, at first I thought he meant the report that I had written for his foundation. But I soon realized that he meant my blog post! (This one.) Seems like it made the rounds a bit, and there were some mean e-mails back and forth, etc. How crazy.

After the reception I headed over the Massey to find LG (no luck), and then off to Bloor Street to pick up art and buy bread. And now I am still feeling the effects of supervisor love but must get over it so I can get to work!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Historians, and more historians.

Turns out the book launch event was on Monday, so that's what I did last night. It was held at my supervisor's place on campus, and it was a lovely affair. I caught up with some fellow grad students whom I hadn't seen in a while, chatted with my favourite historian/prof couple, spotted Jack Granatstein, and talked with some new people. It was nice, though I do have something to say about two of the new people I met. Both are former students of the prof whose book was launched. One of them was a Massey fellow while he did an MA in history; the other was a history undergrad a few years ago. Apart from both of them being very tall---thus making is slightly painful for me to talk to them (despite my being in heels)---I soon came to realize that they were very uninteresting people. Nice and stuff, but boring. Maybe because they are both corporate/banking types now. How unfortunate. The former Masseyite was waxing nostalgic, but only managed to prove my point about Massey being white, preppy, and elitist. All of which is fine, except that he didn't see it this way. Strange. Apart from them, though, the conversations I had were interesting/entertaining. I heard tell how Michael Ignatieff was "quite pleased with himself" and "pretentious" during his early undergrad days at Trinity. Awesome. And, because I know the prof/author/committee member pays attention to such things, I drank most of a glass of wine! (Instead of opting for water.) I must add his book to my to-read list.

After the party I headed over to visit LG. It was nice to see him.

This morning I had a reading group meeting. A few new historians have joined, and we heard about one of them's project. Very interesting and cool! We talked about it for more than 2 hours---and it totally didn't seem that long.

Apologies for the boring post. My brain is moving slowly these days. I am mostly better, but quite tired because I have been having trouble sleeping. Sigh.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Too much excitement.

I am feeling ill again. My head hurts. It's unpleasant. I am sapped of energy. I feel slow. Even looking at the present I got yesterday from AB2 and SA doesn't make me feel much better. Boo.

But I am determined to be better tomorrow so I can party it up with more historians at a book launch event for one of my supervisors. How fun!


I am feeling better today, thank you. Enough so that I had a very full day of hanging with historians. My favourite thing to do! After a student association meeting and lunch with AB, DS, and YT, I headed home for a nap to gather my strength for our grad student wine & cheese. Much fun.

Some of my favourite people were there . . . HD, JDS and TC, AG and JC, AT and JS, EW and CW, PR and AM, AB and OB, YT, HD2, DS, AC, and the super-cool upper years (some of whom are now Drs) and the crazy MAs and new PhDs: DR, CB, PM, JT, CS, MK, MS, etc. I'm getting tired of the initials. You get the point.

I am looking forward to a weekend of relaxation, reading, and maybe grading. Ok, so I'm not really looking forward to doing all those things. Night!

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Blech. I am not feeling well. My body has been fighting this for a few days, and yesterday, it lost. I decided not to leave the house today and rest. But that doesn't mean I was totally unproductive! JT and I did our search committee report this afternoon.

I hope I feel better soon, because I wouldn't want to miss the wine & cheese Friday night!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Discussion is the spice of life.

There was lots of this going on yesterday in the history department and at Massey College. The third job candidate gave his research talk in the morning, and sparked a lively (of sorts) discussion afterward. I learned a few important lessons from the experience: (1) When giving a job talk, make sure to speak directly to larger historiographical, methodological, and theoretical issues. You must do this to show intellectual depth and engagement with the broader world of historians (beyond your subfield) and because most of the people in the room won't know or care much about the details of your research. (2) If you're questioning someone in a professional setting, and the person being questioned isn't understanding you, you can reformulate your inquiry in an attempt to get an answer, but there's no point doing this more than once or getting upset about the other person's inability to respond adequately.

After the job talk I had lunch at Massey. I tried my best to ignore the lawyer talk going on beside me, and eventually found myself surrounded by intellectual types. Yay! Much interesting discussion ensued. Back at the department for coffee, I had a great chat with a fellow historian. He told me a little about being an Aboriginal historian (as in, a historian who studies early Canada, or whatever I should call it). Cool. JT and I then had our interview with the candidate, and then some more history talk before class. After the lecture, I dashed home for a bit to drop off my stuff, and then went back to school to give my lecture at Massey. I was slighly worried because I hadn't prepared much, but it went ok. But the discussion afterwards was awesome! I do like some of those Massey people. I think I will go back there today for lunch.

Monday, December 04, 2006


I tried. I really tried. To do work today. And I did some. I stared at microfilm for 2 whole hours! And I even thought a bit about the presentation I have to give tomorrow. But that's pretty much it. The rest of the day I, well, hung out with / talked to people. To be fair (to me), it turned out that I was needed for consultation on various academic matters from at least a couple people. And I did some catching up with another three academic colleagues (but ok, these people are also my friends). So, you know, I wasn't just being lazy or anything. However, this re-proves my point about it being extremely difficult to get work done in Toronto, especially on campus. Historians and their ilk seem to be around every corner! Or leaving e-mails in my inbox! Or at the other end of the telephone line! Sigh. So, all in all, I didn't manage to be overly productive today.

(I suppose I should point out that I also ignored my alarm and got out of bed ca. noon. Bad me.)

Tomorrow is another day!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A date and a resolution.

Yes, fine---say it with attitude---I'll admit it now: I went on a proper date with a boy last night. It was fun. I'm still not completely convinced that he equals FN, but I'm going to give him a chance. I'm looking forward to a whiff of scandal (or something much less interesting) about the whole thing, since we were spotted together by a couple historians (JT and NL) and a Masseyite. ;-) I'll keep you posted.

In other news, I have big plans to be productive this week. I'll keep you posted about that too.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Interesting, entertaining, unproductive days.

Yesterday EC inadvertantly came up with a new expression: "packed the boat." She was telling FN and I about PB's birthday bash on Monday night, which I skipped out on, bemoaning my old age. She said that he had packed the boat. Or, that's what I heard. What she really said was that he had packed "The Boat." (The Kensington Market club where the festivities were held.) Apart from this being a case where having our conversation take place in proper written English would have solved my confusion, FN and I found this expression rather amusing. She had images of Noah's Ark in her mind. I was thinking about a raging harbour party. Anyways, so now we have a new expression to describe someone with lots and lots of friends. "He can really pack the boat, that one." AG confirmed later in the evening that PB is a legend. "Yeah, he packs the boat."

But anyways, getting back to my own less exciting life . . . .

Wednesday: lunch with SW ("the theologian") at Massey, failed attempt to hunt down and chat with one of my supervisors, coffee with PC in the afternoon, session in the department on moving from research to writing. Good day, though the lunch crowd left something to be desired. The usual entertaining suspects weren't around, though SW is always fun to spend time with. The departmental session was definitely the highlight of the day. Very little was said that was directly helpful in a practical way, but the sense among the profs presenting and the other (more advanced) grad students in attendance was that writing a dissertation is damn hard. "I am so glad that I'm not you," said awesome professor LV. "It was the hardest thing I ever did." This makes me feel better, since I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by the potential enormousness of my project.

I stayed home most of Thursday to continue .pdf'ing images of archival documents and catch up on other work. After dinner I headed over the Massey to learn about concrete recycling and its environmental impact. This isn't something I'd necessarily be interested in, but it was good to support a fellow junior jellow (that's awkward phrasing, right there), especially since I am going to give my own lecture next Tuesday. After the lecture I went and visited LG for a few minutes, before dashing off to the pub. Yes, another history pub night! It was much fun. Let's see . . . DR was his usual laugh-riot self, and talking and laughing with AT, PM, MS, and HD took up most of the rest of my time. Historians. They are an entertaining bunch. I love them.

Yesterday I went to school bright and early to take in the job talk of the second candidate for the search that I'm participating in. The talk was awesome. I don't know anything about the topic, but the candidate was very impressive and got me excited about her research. The room was buzzing during the questions. The profs in the room were totally into the research and couldn't get enough of talking about it. After the formal session was over, people were milling about in little groups to continue the conversation. In the afternoon JT and had our interview with her, and she continued to impress. Did I mention that historians are cool? Actually, at lunch at Massey yesterday, I went on another tirade about the inherent awesomeness of historians. Turned out that one of the guys with whom I was talking is a physics prof---and a very handsome one too. Ah well. I can sometimes be a charicature of myself, and I wouldn't want it any other way!

FN, EC and I had dinner at home last night, and then EC and I went to Massey for X-mas festivities. This was mostly entertaining, and I introduced her to some of my friends and acquaintances there. Here is EC decorating a gingerbread cookie in the Junior Common Room! Some of the junior fellow are so odd, though. What I mean is the ones who seem to have no interest in knowing who I am. Well, maybe they are just shy. But still, it's odd. I am very friendly and generally nice, right? Whatever. I'm sure some people there must find me tiresome and offensive, but if so, well, it's their loss! The evening's activities ended with wine at AG and CB's house. Good day, but clearly unproductive. Today I must do laundry and hopefully finish some school-related work. Bah.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Slowly, very slowly, getting things done.

Let's see. Today I finally finished and just sent off a grant application. I .pdf'ed more images. And I bought a place ticket to London---yes, the real London. I will be there for two weeks in February. Which means that between X-mas in Ottawa, January in DC, and my London trip, I will be all over the capitals of the Anglo-Atlantic world this winter. I haven't been to London as an adult, so I'm looking forward to it. That, and I will get to hang out with JDS and TC while I'm there! Awesome. Plus. I think EW will be there then too. Between my Toronto friends, the archives, and the sights of London, I'm sure the two weeks will go by extremely quickly.

I'm still looking for a place to stay in Washington, but I am hopeful that will get sorted out shortly-ish. DR---a DC native---gave me the run-down this evening on the areas to look for . . . and the places to avoid. I would not like to arrive and find myself staying in a sketchy part of town. Not cool. Not for me.

FN made a yummy dinner tonight (again). I am spoiled.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Staring at my computer.

I've done almost nothing except stare at my computer screen today. I spent hours going through finding aids from the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University, and then spent more hours turning .jpg files into .pdf's. This is mostly brainless work, and very tedious, but necessary. Sigh. There's nothing more exciting than this to report.

But perhaps I should apologize to some people for skipping out on the b-day party/concert tonight. It's just not in me, gals. A night club in Kensington Market is really not my scene. I am too old. I was always too old.

I am feeling slightly panicked at the moment. I have several things I need to get done ASAP, and now there's a bunch of microfilm waiting at the library for me to pick up, and I'm going to come home tomorrow evening with about 100 assignments to grade! Ack. Serves me right for not doing too much since I got back from my last research trip. Double sigh.

Our apartment is suddently over-run with large black flies. It's very annoying! We don't know where they are coming from . . . it's not from us. Let's blame the neighbours.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A day of new things.

On Friday I woke up early after a great time at HD's American Thanksgiving bash Thursday night with lots of awesome people, including AG and JC, PR, CLM, FN, EW and CW, DR, and JDS and TC. I had to get to school for a research/job talk. This was my first new thing. I am on a grad student search committee. Which means I go to each candidate's research talk, and then the three of us get to interview each candidate later on in the day. I'm not gonna say much about this, since it's confidential. But it was a learning experience, and I trust the next two candidates that come in will teach me things too (even if they aren't intending to).

After the talk, I hung out for a bit in the department before heading off to lunch at Massey with AG. She is very lovely, and it was great to spend time with her in my favourite mid-day surroundings (the sights and sounds of Ondaatje Hall). Awesome. I had to dash off for a meeting, followed by another meeting, and then the interview with the candidate. Ok, busy day. But, for dinner, I did my second new thing of the day: The Feast for the Founding Master. This Massey event was held in the Great Hall at Hart House. It was quite the event. There were tons of older people in evening wear, drinking wine and being served fancy food. I sat with my new(ish) Massey friend, TaV (because her name on my blog can't be "TV"), which was good. But I had to skip out before the brass band started playing and Colm Feore read a Robertson Davies ghost story.

Which leads me to my third new thing . . . "Casino Royale"! AT was right: I had a great time watching this movie. Very entertaining. And what I haven't mentioned yet is that the movie-watching was also a fourth new thing. But I'm feeling shy and won't tell you what I mean. (You can probably guess, though, if you ask yourself who I might have gone with. No, it wasn't FN.)

Today was slightly less busy. I had a very nice lunch with BB, a fellow historian whom I don't see too often, but with whom I always have a lovely time. Later on I got my hair cut. (It looks better now. Even FN thinks so, and she's hard to please!)

It's now after 11pm, and I have many things left to do this weekend. At the top of the list? Start looking for a place to stay in Washington for all of January.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

He'd have to fight FN for me.

To all those boys and men who think they have a chance with me, a Warning.

Here's the deal: I lead a rich and full life, and I quite like it. My roommate and best friend, FN, enriches my life in untold ways. She does the obvious: cooking, decorating. She does the more difficult: provide hours of entertainment and intellectual stimulation on any one day. She does the near impossible: Challenge me to rethink my fundamental assumptions about the world and humanity . . . and sometimes even succeeds in modifying my views! My life with her is significantly better than it was without. And that's saying something, because I was always a fairly happy person.

So, anyone whom I would actually, seriously date---and to my mind, any other kind of dating is a waste of time---would have to enrich my life enough to make up for taking me away from FN when I spend time with him. This doesn't mean he has to enrich it in the same ways as she does (of course not), but he'd have to be pretty special. I like having interesting friends, but an actual boyfriend? That's a different matter.

You have been warned.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Now I've been to the opera.

I went to the Elgin Theatre last night to see Opera Atelier's The Magic Flute. Since I had never been to an opera before, I figured it was good to go and see what it was all about. Although the production seemed quite good, this particular piece wasn't for me. It was just so silly and fluffy! I think I might enjoy a more robust, masculine opera better. Because, seriously, there wasn't much depth in this one. Which is fine, but I feel like there's more to be had in an operatic experience.

After the semi-entertaining entertainment, DS, EW, and I went for a late dinner downtown. This was the best part of the day by far! The second best part was probably catching up with historians at our departmental coffee hour in the afternoon. I really am all about the talking. I just can't help it. And so guess what I did more of today? Talk with historians! I went to school to support HD's charity event---and came home with a new pair of jeans---but kept running into people. Much fun. For lunch I met UO, a newly-minted PhD (as of last Friday), at Massey. That place might be a tad odd, but it's a great place to have lunch.

So, when am I gonna do work? Well, I have big plans for the rest of today and tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Busy, busy.

After my weekend of learning fun, I must now get down to the more regular business of being a PhD student. There are grant applications to write, lectures to attend, social events to appear at, and research to do!

I went to a Cuban-US relations conference today and heard 4 papers. It was okay, if not overly stimulating. But I'm now convinced of the sharpness of one of historians here, and think that I should go hear him speak more often. (It's not that I wasn't suitably impressed before; I had just never encountered him before this fall.) Good, good.

HD and I spent a long time grocery shopping this evening, stocking up on non-perishables. FN sent me off with strict instructions on what to buy, but of course I bought more stuff than that. She chided me for coming home with 20lbs of rice . . . but this way, we won't have to buy more of it for quite a while!

Tomorrow I must cross some things off my list before I head off to school in the afternoon. In the evening, I am going to the opera with VC and a bunch of historians. I've never been before, so am looking forward to it. Should be culturally educational, at the very least.

I suppose I should mention that yesterday's post was read by a great deal more people than was true of any of my previous postings. Cool. I think.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Learning a lot.

I came back this afternoon from a day-and-a-half Historica Council meeting. I'm not sure what I expected the thing to be like, but boy I did not expect what I experienced!

The Council is a large body which advises the foundation's Board of Directors, and is made up of a number of committees that do a bit of work each year. Council members come from across the country, and include teachers and historians as well as a large number of business/corporate types. At the meeting were also representatives of most of the provincial boards of education and a smattering of academics. The annual Council meeting is a chance for members to come together and deal with business, but primarily (to my mind at least) a chance for the foundation's staff and board to show what they've been up to and are planning. The event was well organized and expensive, with members and invited guests---including me!---brought in to Toronto, housed, and wined and dined on the foundation's tab.

So, I learned about the foundation, both from what I heard and what I gleaned from the discussions. But, what was most valuable and completely unexpected from the weekend was what I learned about different kinds of people. I have spent most of my recent life in the company of academic and intellectual types, engaging with them and learning from them. What this weekend afforded me a chance to do was learn something about how "bean counters" and others like them think. And, wow, what an experience!

These people are not intellectuals. Don't get me wrong: these are smart, accomplished, very successful people, highly respected in their fields and for their contributions to Canadian society. I have no quibble with any of these things (though for the most part I have to take this on faith, not knowing much about these people personally). They are also generally friendly, if not super chatty with outsiders (i.e. me). They have lead interesting lives, have good ideas, and are extremely capable, efficient people, able to make things happen in a relatively short amount of time.

All of this is great, of course. But what I came to realize the more I listened and interacted with them, is this: They have not been taught or encouraged to ask why. They are not critical thinkers in the way that many of my friends and colleagues are. We try not to essentialize or accept things as fact without analyzing our thought processes. Or, at least, this is what we are supposed to do. "Just because" is never a sufficient answer, and we struggle to teach our undergraduate students this. We understand the power of discourse---not only because language is a marketing tool, but because it creates reality.

The one lesson I take away from this weekend is that communication is crucial. If people from different backgrounds and worlds are to understand each other, we must try to speak each others languages from time to time. The "bean counters" recognized that they did not understand "academese," and quickly became frustrated by this. But who can blame them? The academics were on their turf, and it was thus up to the academics to translate their ways of communicating into the appropriate language. Of the two main "academic" speakers at the meeting, one did this more successfully than the other. At first, I interpreted his talk as less sophisticated than the other one. And although I was right, I also missed the point: He may have been grappling with less complex ideas, but he also managed to make himself understood very well. Incredibly well, in fact. What an accomplishment for a talk which was delivered without any visual aids coming right after a long visually- and orally-stimulating (if mentally unchallenging) presentation. Impressive, that.

The second academic speaker was eloquent, engaging, and just plain impressive. To my mind. But left most of the audience members cold. This was partly because they did not understand where he was coming from---a failure on the part of the foundation, I think, to communicate effectively ahead of time to Council members. But it was also because he simply was not speaking the right language. I'm sure Council members are certainly capable of grasping most of what he was talking about without too much difficulty. He took away from the weekend a very valuable lesson about communication, and the challenge ahead of him will be to translate the complexity of his ideas to people who aren't used to thinking critically. And this is a necessary task. If he---and the others involved---fails to communicate effectively to a "general audience," and especially to a group of people dedicated to history education in Canada, the project will likely fail. This would be a sad thing; the foundation is involved in creating an exciting set of tools for ministries of education, teachers, and all others interested in history education and "historical consciousness."

My weekend was clearly a learning experience for me, and I'm very grateful to the foundation for having a chance to participate in it. It was also interesting (for reasons both mundane and intellectual) to meet and see people whose names I have heard and books I have read. I shook hands with Charlotte Gray (whom former CTV head Trina McQueen thought was representing the Dominion Institute!), heard Denise Chong report on the work of her committee, had a little disagreement with Desmond Morton, questioned Irving Abella, met current and former commissioners of two of the northern territories---and heard one of them speak in Inuvialuit "to make a point." I also got caught up with a couple of my old profs from Carleton who are on the Council. And that was great; I missed them! I talked with a woman from the Manitoba Ministry of Education who is one of three people who are now coming up with the grade 11 history curriculum. She thinks about philosophy and history and deals with teachers and issues of pedagogy on a daily basis. How exciting. Former Senator Laurier LaPierre was there, vigorously and passionately opposing what he saw as the academic takeover of the foundation! A former chancellor of York University was similarly unimpressed, though less agitated. I could go on. (And see me if you want my personal assessments of these people.) Oh, and I should mention that I came home with a "swag bag." Nice, if a little silly.

Tomorrow, another conference!

Friday, November 17, 2006

A visitor from across the pond.

Yesterday was a good day. I met with my supervisor, which was nice and semi-helpful. I ran into UO, PhD in the department, and made tentative plans to have lunch with him at Massey next week. I had dinner at Massey with LG and the other fellows. We went to the fall orchestra concert at Hart House. I went to pub night to catch up with other historians. And then foreign friend CS came! CS and I then went back to my place to talk with FN. Fun times. Busy social day. She is too cool, that CS. Sad that she's back in Blightly this year.

Today has been a little slower, though I did take 4 historian-friends to Massey for lunch after our student association meeting. But the big news---sort of---is that I just spent nearly $400 on a plane ticket to Washington and back in January. Ouch! Now that I've decided to be gone the whole month, I need to find a place to stay. So, give me advice if you have any! Friends EB and DS will have some thoughts for me, I'm sure.

Tomorrow and Sunday I will be at the Historica council meeting. It should be fun, though I hope I don't feel out of place! I think I will need a vacation after the weekend. But I won't get it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


My supervisor's latest book came in the mail today---yay! Since I love reading acknowledgements, I did that first . . . and guess what? I'm in there. Check it:
Notice how I seem to have been outed as a trekkie? :-)

In other news, a Russian-language book also arrived for me. It's a novel about a story that's part of my dissertation, so it's good to have. But it's in Russian. Which means I may scan it at some point, but I can't possibly ever read it!

This afternoon, I was a good TA and met with a student. Afterwards, I went to the Christopher Hitchens talk at the Munk Centre. He wasn't as controversial as I'd expected. It was good to go, though, because it's always good to listen to "big picture" people.

And then tonight I listened to a prof. of mine on the radio! No, this time it wasn't my main supervisor---though she's been all over place recently. Historians are cool, methinks.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Organizing, recovering, celebrating.

I spent most of yesterday running errands: laundry, grocery shopping, opening mail, etc. Very exciting, I know. But salmon for dinner was yummy, and then I dashed off to the Green Room to celebrate AB passing his comps! It was much fun, and I must say that the U of T Russianists are way cooler and more entertaining than the UIUC ones . . . or, at least the ones that I met!

Yesterday was also election day here in Canada's largest city. FN and I voted at the nearby elementary school for mayor, city councillor, and school board trustee. Apparently the election officials asked her whether she was 18! Since she is, ahem, significantly older than that, she was mighty amused.

Nothing too interesting is on the agenda for today. Which I suppose is a good thing!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Back from the other Twin Cities.

I am now safely back in Toronto, after spending about 12 hours travelling yesterday. The University of Illinois was great, and I took literally thousands of pictures of archival documents---on Friday, I took 1,524 images at the University Archives. No joke. All that photographing is hard on the back, but good on the wallet. Some highlights of my trip include: hanging with KP; spending time with kitties and Lily, the lovely white dog; eating with Illinois Russianists; marvelling at the campus and the grounds; and doing some more marvelling at the residential areas. I didn't realize how flat Illinois is until I took the train back to Chicago. Every time I looked up from my laptop, there were more corn- and soy fields.

I decided not to spend any time in Chicago, staying Friday night in Champaign-Urbana. So yesterday I took the 10:15am train to Chicago's Union Station, and then got on the "el" to O'Hare. And, oh my, I am not a fan of that airport. It was very confusing, and I was particularly unhappy being lost with my heavy luggage. Although I bought my ticket from United, it turned out I was flying Air Canada. Grrr. But it worked out in the end. Pearson is the worst signed airport that I've been to; O'Hare is the busiest. Minneapolis is the best signed and the nicest. Apart from finally arriving at home last night, the best part of my day was seeing Canadians get off the Air Canada plane at the O'Hare gate where I was waiting: some of them had poppies pinned to their lapels! It made me smile.

Here's Lucy, one of the two cats. I am retarded and forgot to change the setting on my camera before snapping this, but there you have it.

FN, ST, and I went to a great little place in the 'hood for a late brunch today. Nice!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

College town, U.S.A.

This place is so cool! The university is completely out of a movie. Lots of the buildings are kinda nouveau plantation mansion style with columns, high wood-panelled ceilings, and ginormous chandeliers. Ok, I may be exaggerating about the interiors, but the exteriors are impressive. There's lots of green space and frat houses. Oh! And when I walked out of the archives, I heard music! The marching band was practicing. For the game on Saturday!! How cool is that?!

Anyways, I can't get over UIUC.

I took nearly 900 photos at the archives today. Yikes! It was good---really good---to get all those images. But my back was unhappy.

For dinner, KP and I met up with a couple other UIUC history grad students to talk shop and sample the local cuisine. Yummy, and much fun! Have I mentioned recently that I love history and historians? I really do!

Here's a quick pic I snapped while on the walk to school this morning. Pretty town, ain't it?

Election Day, Revolution Day . . . travelling day.

It's election day here in the United States. I am writing this on the train from Chicago to Champaign-Urbana. Which means I made it this far! BC drove me to the light rail station in Minneapolis this morning, and I took that to the airport. My flight was delayed about 45 minutes, so I read a few more pages of Poiger, which is good but very dense. [Side note: downtown Chicago looks ginormous from here. I must come back for a proper visit at some point. It's foggy now and there's lots of construction. I didn't know Chicago had a waterway going through it.] I got in to O'Hare no prob, and waded through the throngs of travellers to the train into the city. Also very easy! (HD: I couldn't find the transport pass you gave me, so I had to pay $2. Silly me. I must have it somewhere in my luggage.)

On the train (the "el"?) into the city, I chatted with a United minister. She sounded like she'd led an interesting life. The train took a long time to get into town, but at least once I got off, getting to the Amtrak station was fairly easy. Except for one thing: I can never, ever find an escalator/elevator when I need one. It's very annoying when I have a 50lb. suitcase with me!! But good for my muscles, I guess. Union Station is awesome. As in, the architecture is awesome. Wow. And with enormous American flags hanging from the ceiling.

[Side note: It's pitch black outside. Pity I can't enjoy the Illinois countryside. On the bright side, though, this train has plug-ins at every seat. Take that, Via!]

Later . . .

I arrived safely in Champaign, and am just getting ready for bed after a lovely dinner and extended conversation with my new historian friend KP. Tomorrow it's off to the archives again!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Best Research Trip Ever.

I felt the need to capitalize the title. It just seems appropriate. I have had a great time here in Minneapolis with BC, TT, and Kwill (AKA Terror Kitty). They are all super awesome. So sad to leave!

Today was my last day at the archives, and I finished all my research. Yay! There was a ton of stuff for me, and I've ordered many hundreds of dollars worth of photocopies. The YMCA was really up to a lot of interesting things in revolutionary and civil war Russia . . . and there's no way I can even begin to do justice to it all in my dissertation. Especially since the American Y is only a part of my project. Goodness. But I would love to come back in a few years and work some more on this stuff.

Minneapolis is a nice city. Very liveable. Yes, it's a little chilly (though the past few days have been nice), but, heck: we're used to the cold up in Canada! The "U" is also really nice with impressive buildings, and lots of people walking around in maroon and gold. The bus system is decent, though of course Toronto's subways are better. But Minneapolis is significantly smaller than Hogtown, so I can't complain too much.

Tomorrow I'm off to Chicago and then I'm taking the train to Champaign. Wish me luck! More YMCA-related research is coming up.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Well, I haven't been blogging because I haven't been home very much since, well, Thursday night. Friday after the archives I went to hang out with local historians, and we didn't get back until nearly 2am. Much fun! Saturday was a full day of outings, including the Mall of America and three of the city's lakes, and another home-cooked dinner out. And then today I went off by myself to check out some of the city's tourist/cultural offerings. I did the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Cowles Conservatory (actually a green house), and three churches, including the country's first basilica. Very impressive, if not nearly as old at the churches I saw in Charlottetown. I also walked through Loring Park, which is one of many large green spaces in town.

The Walker only has modern art (1960s+). It's a great facility, very nice and calming atmosphere, etc. But art is odd. Very odd. I just try and take it in without worrying about it too much. This is the best way, I think. The outdoor sculptures were nice, and the weather was good, which made all the difference.

As for the churches, I seem to have a thing for them. But at the basilica, I walked in just as a service was starting. I stayed for a few minutes, but then couldn't take it any more. Too much to handle, that.

I am tired and have some work to do before I can sleep. Tomorrow is my last day at the archives in Minneapolis, and I hope I can get everything done!


UPDATE: Here are a couple pics of the Basilica of Saint Mary.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Canadian in Minneapolis.

I forgot my lunch today, so when I got hungry I ventured out of the archive builing and over to the student centre. So far, this is not particularly interesting, But, when I sat down to eat, I noticed a flyer on the table announcing a campaign event taking place right then. And guess what? Al Gore was giving a speech about 200 feet away from me! After I ate---and had a bizarre encounter with a crazy woman---I ventured over to the Great Hall. But then I got distracted by men in uniforms. (You know how I like a man in uniform.) These guys were National Guard, and I chatted with one of them for a couple minutes. I forget his name (naturally). I had to dash, though, because I could hear the clapping and cheering from the next room! So, yes, I saw Al Gore. I stayed for about [aboot, my hosts claim I say] a minute . . . "What you want is an independent voice, someone who will stand up and vote for Minnesota!" Nifty lunch break, eh?

After work I took the bus downtown to have dinner with TT. We met up at the central branch of the MPLS public library---a very impressive building! [Here is a bad picture of the inside.] TT then gave me a mini tour of "the Mall," and some of the skyways that link the buildings. It's an interesting downtown because it combines shops (the Gap, Neiman Marcus, Macy's, etc.) with office towers. So of course I didn't make it to the art gallery, but I can go on Saturday if I'm up to it. It was just too cold out, and I was tired of lugging my laptop and other crap around with me. That, and I'd just eaten a ton of food. We went home and make chocolate cheesecake instead. (I am not kidding.)

Whatever shall I do for the rest of the evening? This is seriously the first time since I got here that I've had the chance to wonder such things at 9:15pm. Research trips are busy!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Working 9 to 5

Well, more like 8:45 to 5:15. Ouff. It makes for a long day. But good thing I didn't have much work to do tonight after I got home. There's very little to report. I am going to spend hundreds of dollars on photocopies, but it's ok. I mean, it's great that they have all this stuff for me! I just hope that I can get it all done in time. Pretty sure that I can.

The only un-archive thing I did while out today was buy a new winter hat. Which sounds boring, I know. But I bought one with a Minnesota gopher on it! (The university team is the Golden Gophers -- see the last pic of yesterday's post.) Plus, it's really cold outside.

Tomorrow it's back to the archives and then dinner with TT downtown. Should be fun!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Settling in.

Day 2 at the archives involved me going as fast as I could through my boxes so that I'll have enough time to get to everything before I leave for Chicago early next week. Of course, there's a big difference between flipping quickly through a hated comps book, and carefully turning 85-year old pieces of flimsy paper, making sure to note when you want things photocopied. It is a long process, and hard on the eyes and back.

I took advantage of the mini kitchen facilities that the archives has, and brought my own lunch so I could eat quickly and cheaply. Boring, I know.

But after my long day, I ventured off to the East Bank of the Minneapolis campus and the Coffman Memorial Union to pick up some touristy/info things and get a bus pass. Success.

To close, here are a few pictures. The first two are of the Weisman Art Museum, and the other two are for HD. (And, after taking these two pics, I was told I wasn't allowed to take photos! So, these are illegal pics, or something.)

Oh, and by the way, it's cold down here! Yesterday I laughed when I saw a postcard that read "MinneSNOWta," but now I understand.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Day 1 at the archives.

Well, I went to the archives and started my research. It was a good day. The weather was amazing, and so I took some time after lunch---I ate amongst Minnesota undergrads in a cafeteria---to stroll around campus a bit. But not for too long, because I do have work to do!

I found out a lot of stuff today, stuff that I wouldn't have known except by coming here and reading about on old pieces of paper! There's lots more to do for the next week. At the moment, my brain is a little fried.

After my day was over, I went with TT to the local organic grocery store to get food for myself and for dinner tonight. We had yummy pasta, bread, and I contributed my specialty: salad! BC and TT's housemates joined us, and Kwill provided some of the entertainment. The other guy's strong Minnesotan accent provided some of the rest.

Oh, I almost forgot! I saw my first real-life Arby's today, and had "shmear" on my bagel this morning . . . AKA cream cheese. Three pictures to share with you. First, my station at the archives; second, campaigners for an independent gubernatorial candidate (remember: elections are next Tueday [Toosday]); third, downtown Minnesota as seen from the East Bank of campus.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Safe arrival.

[This is me on the train from the airport into the city. It was a super nice day out -- I was way over-dressed!]

After a not-so-long day of travelling, I am settled in Minneapolis with my hosts, BC, TT, and their kitten, Kwill. A run-down of my day: subway, bus, customs, shuttle bus, waiting, plane ride, baggage claim, light rail, car, lovely conversation and dinner, NPR.

On the plane I sat next to a physician, who told me all about his practice. From the sounds of it, he is one of the top hair transplant guys around. (He had to rush off the plane to meet a patient who had flown in all the way from Australia!) He was a really nice, interesting person, and it made for a lovely flight. He answered all my many questions. Who ever said doctors were no good? Oh, wait: that was me! Clearly, I was mistaken ;-).

My hosts are lovely, and we have tentative plans to do the Rocky Horror Picture Show on Tuesday night and the Mall of America on the weekend. I should go to bed soon to prepare for a 6:45am wake-up.

But before I do that, let me introduce Kwill, whom I caught checking out my luggage :

A Massey day, grading, and packing.

The last couple days have been busy. On Friday, I went to lunch at Massey (and had a nice time and a good meal), then ran a few errands before a quick dinner and back to Massey to head over to Convocation Hall at U of T. This is where the last Massey Lecture for this year was held. Margaret Somerville was the speaker/lecturer. She's been in the news, making people angry with her over her views about same-sex marriage. She's clearly an intelligent person who has thought through her views quite carefully, and that's always something to be appreciated. She did make a couple uninspired statements (at least to my mind), but these were overshadowed by an interesting, thought-provoking talk. Now, mind you, I don't share her worldview and assumptions about the duty and nature of humanity, etc., but I feel better now that I understand where she is---and other people like her are---coming from. And, she's really not anti-gay/lesbian as an overall philosophy; she just doesn't think they should be getting married. (Which to her mind, doesn't make her anti-gay/lesbian, though I suppose many people would disagree.) Read her stuff if you're interested in finding out more. Whatever you think about her worldview or the policy implications of it, this kind of thinking is important, and I was very glad that I went.

After the lecture us Massey folk and assorted hangers-on went back to the college for the reception. I had a great time talking with new and nearly-new friends. LG strolled in later on, just back from a day trip south of the border. (I might have a minor crush on him.) He insisted to walking me to the subway station at the end of the evening, despite the gross weather.

Thus ended my Massey day. Well, except for the part where I came home and told FN all about it, because I know she would have loved the entire evening . . . especially the lecture part!

Needless to say, I didn't get much grading done on Friday, so I still had 15 left to do Saturday. I managed to get those done and handed in to my prof. at his house this afternoon. I just managed to finish in time! Craziness.

I am missing Hallowe'en parties (including the famous Massey one) so I can pack. Which I should get back to . . .

I'll write from Minneapolis when I can! My plane leaves Toronto early Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Leaving academia behind.

No, don't be alarmed: These essays haven't turned me off the academic life!

My new friend LG has a PhD but is now in law school. In and of itself, this information is a little surprising to me, seeing as how I can't imagine being a lawyer after having done research and teaching. But, what really saddened me was when he said that when he finished his doctorate, he gave away all his books on the subject. Wow. Imagine me getting my PhD and then saying, "Screw Siberia and all you other dead people. I wanna enter professional school!" As if. I love history! I mean, it's one thing to not get a job and then end up doing something else, and even liking the something else . . . but to give it completely up after all those years? I don't walk in his shoes, so I wonder what happened.

I must ask next time I see him what went wrong (or right?). Of course, it's none of my business, but it just seems like such a sad story.

In happier news, though, I saw some historians that I hadn't seen in a while yesterday. I do love those upper-years . . . they are too cool. And then I went to Massey, where my new friend EM and I checked out the pumpkins that had been carved by Masseyites the day before. We had to walk past people in fancy dress, a few menacing-looking cops and even a sniffer dog making sure the books in the Upper Library weren't concealing any bombs! Why, you ask? Well, the Swedish royal couple was in town, and Massey wined and dined them last night. I skipped the post-dinner festivities at the college to watch the first episode of "Firefly" with FN and LG. Oh, and when I came home, there was scrumptious chocolate ca... er, chocolate something-without-flour waiting for me. Thanks FN!! It was too good.

What is wrong with these people?

By third year of university, I had assumed (very wrongly) that students had acquired some capacity to think intelligently and analyze documents in a somewhat sophisticated way. Oh my. How stupid of me. Forgetting for a moment about cases of sheer laziness and uncaring, the essays I have marked so far---more than 50 of them---have nearly universally displayed a real lack of critical faculties on the part of their authors. These students have almost no sense of what history is all about, and, more problematically, they have almost no ability to present a reasoned argument based on provided evidence and rational thinking. For example, so many students have argued that Stalin was to blame for the Cold War in 1946 because his communist ideology was anti-capitalist. End of argument. I realize that these students may not have studied that much history before, but they surely know at some level that Stalin hadn't just picked up on this in February 1946! Don't they realize that they need to ask themselves, What changed in 1946 as opposed to 1917 or 1928 or . . . .? So many students focus on Soviet actions without seeming to think that perhaps they should also think about US actions . . . and yet they accuse the historians they read of being "one-sided" in their interpretations. Do they not realize that they are the ones being one-sided? Is is just haste in completing the assignment? If I pointed this out to them, would they see it?

I could go on, but I guess one point I want to make here is this: these students could really benefit from having tutorials. No, I didn't have tutorials after first year during my undergrad, but then I also had smaller classes and 3 hours of lecture a week. These students only get 2 hours. They can't be irretrievably stupid, can they? I'd like to think they just need some good educatin'. And one way of getting that is to confront them with their own assumptions in small settings. This is not going to happen, at least not in this class. How frustrating.

Part of me also thinks that a lot of students are simply incapable or unwilling to think critically in the way that scholars should. And so what the hell are they doing in university in the first place. But that's very unegalitarian of me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Happy birthday to me!

Historica asked me today to send them a picture of myself for the package their putting together for the council meeting in November. (I'm going to that.) And since I have no appropriate head-shoulders pictures of myself, I figured I could take one with my fancy new digital camera! Ok, so I might not be able to get my shoulders in there, but it would be better than what I've got. (I have a tendency to be very unphotogenic.) Anyways, which one is better? I suppose I could also attach one to my blogger profile....

Oh, yes, and I'm 27 years old today.

UPDATE: FN says the pictures don't look like me. Ack!
UPDATE 2: In the interests of load times, I've removed the other three images. This is the winning one!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Just one of the insane plans hatched by two young(ish), bored women.

FN has decided that I need to hook up with Zach, a NYU grad student who blogs. Not that she actually knows the dude, or anything. I pointed out to her that while I appreciate her turning her matchmaking gaze my way, this sounds a litte nutty. Not least because, well, we don't know the dude. Or even live in the same city/country. But she persisted. So I then changed tactics. For round two, I employed the, "well, he does seem lovely, and it would be great to meet him, but methinks perhaps he is a little too intense for boring old me." And did this sway her? Hell, no. In fact---and here I must admit that I immediately saw the lameness of my retort---she insisted that the intense hippie type was exactly the sort of man for me! I (once again) lamely complained that he would make me think too hard on a daily basis were I to date him. (Thinking hard is hard work, after all, and who wants to do that?) But, again, FN thought this was a perfect reason to get in touch with said blogger. Sigh. I then compounded my troubles by suggesting (jokingly of course, in the stalker-joke kind of way) that I could add him to my AOL chat list. But she thought I was being serious. Oh, woman.

Perhaps when she e-mails her one-true-love, Sufjan Stevens, I will tell Zach about our meant-to-be-ness.

I will give the lady the last word (at the risk of her yelling at me upon reading this): "I'm not crazy! this is serendipity or something....that I found this guy...on the interweb....for you!"

Monday, October 23, 2006

My nerdiness: the visual representation.

This is my fabulous, framed American Red Cross propaganda poster from 1918. (A reproduction, of course.) I can't get over the awesomeness of it.

These are my three "soldiers with books" posters on my mantle. Aren't they great? If you're jealous, you can get your very own nerdy posters from eBay.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A break from grading.

What was supposed to be a short break away from grading awful papers has turned into a many-houred Siberian sojourn, with stop-offs in Minneapolis and Illinois. In other words, I booked my train ticket to Urbana-Champaign from Chicago, and figured out how to get around Minneapolis and Chicago. As for Siberia, I've been doing dissertation research for the past while, and . . . yay!

Even if I get all my archival and other primary research done by the end of the summer (and let's hope I do), there will be a lot of work ahead of me. A lot. This won't come as any suprise to anyone in my shoes. Though there isn't mounds of secondary literature to go through, there is still a bunch of it, and in a bunch of different areas. I will make my workload even heavier by writing thematic chapters, meaning I have to engage different fields of historiographies in each one, in addition to the more obvious lit. I have to deal with.

In 16 hours a few people are coming over to dinner, so I suppose I best get thinking about going to bed. There's lots of shopping, cleaning, cooking to do tomorrow (er, today). And of course I still have more than 70 essays to grade! And, yes, they are still quite dreadful. It's very depressing and not a little shocking.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


I am in a state of semi-shock over the badness of so many of these essays that I'm grading. They are seriously disastrous. This is a 3rd-year class, and these students are at "the Harvard of the North"! ;-)

But maybe the next one will be an A paper . . . .

Friday, October 20, 2006

Putting faces to nicknames.

Today FN and I went to high table at Massey. Since I had told her a little about some of the people I've met there---or in some cases, apparently a lot!---it was fun to see and hear her reaction to actually meeting them. Handsome guy seems definitely to have a g/f, which is fine: I'll just admire from afar. (It's not like I even really know the guy, after all, so it's no biggie.) FN was ever so slightly shameless, doing her best wife impersonation, and inviting the interesting/attractive people (read: men) to dinner. Awesome.

I am now continuing to grade, which will be the story of my life for the next week. I've had some better essays today than I had yesterday, but I'm still not overly impressed. The trick will be not to become terribly bored grading 95 papers all on the exact same topic. Sigh.

In other news, I ordered a 1GB memory stick (USB thing) online, and a Russian-language book. Doing the latter was a little iffy, since the website was in Russian! But hopefully it'll work. If not . . . , well, I'll deal with that when I have to. It is strange to get confirmation e-mails in Cyrillic script, though. But this is nothing compared to potentially having to actually read the book. Now that will be a challenge/impossibility.

Grading, grading.

I've started grading the 95 papers I brought home with me on Tuesday. And so far I'm not happy! Ah well, hopefully I've just happened to mark the bad ones thus far.

And, speaking of stupid people, I went to a Massey lecture tonight on DNA and genetics. I asked during question period what a parasite was. Yeah, that's right: for some reason, I couldn't remember what a parasite was. Ugh. Ah well, hopefully the other Masseyites won't think I'm totally retarded. I retreated to the history crowd at the pub afterwards, feeling much more at home among fellow historians, even if most of them were MAs!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The importance of being away.

When I was in Ottawa last week, I had very little to do during the weekdays except spend time at my archives. I would wake up (early), get to town, start working, take a lunch break, and then do more work before heading home at the end of the day. I didn't get as much done as I would have liked---darn having to meet up with friends, and having a chatty archivist!---but there were few distractions. Especially because I did not have internet access.

Now that I'm back in Toronto, I understand the value of being out of town for actually getting work done. So far this week, I've been busy, but I've accomplished very little. Very. Today: Hosted my reading group, went grocery shopping, decided what grants to apply for, and need to meet EC in a bit for more shopping. Yesterday: Prepared for the reading group, went to lecture, spent 1.5 hours at the bank, went to coffee hour. Monday: Trin high table dinner (much fun---thanks DS), met with a student, prepared for meeting with said student, spent an hour with HD (just back from being away), and did internet and telephone errands. So you see how I really haven't done anything dissertation-related this week. (I did send my committee members my proposal by e-mail on Sunday, though.) And starting tomorrow I need to begin grading assignments like crazy. I brough 95 of them home with me last night . . . and I'm leaving town in a week and a half, so they have to be done by then.

I now understand why some profs or students might want to isolate themselves for a bit: not because they are antisocial or being difficult, but because then they might actually produce something!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Back in T.O.

I had a lovely (if tired) last day in Ottawa, hanging at LAC, having lunch with old friend JH, running into former Carleton colleagues, and chatting with my bus driver. My mom and I then watched "The Stepford Wives," which is one of her favourite movies, and I must say that it is quite good. Freaky! (The original movie, of course. Not the Nicole Kidman version, which I haven't seen.)

After hurriedly packing all my stuff Saturday morning, my mom and I did a bagel run before she dropped me off at the train station. The (rather cute) guy at the bagel store told me he once had a customer who bought 5 dozen bagels to bring back with him to Toronto! I believe it, because it is impossible to get good bagels here.

It was a little sad leaving Ottawa, but it's good to be back. I was pleasantly surprised at the train station that the bag I had left behind was at the lost & found waiting for me! Which means I don't have to buy another pink scarf.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bloody history.

OMG: I love archives. But I digress....

So, yeah, I went to the Canadian War Museum today. What a bloody history us Canadians (broadly defined) have had! And on the 10 o'clock news so far there's been stories about the 90th anniversary of Beaumont Hamel and now something about the 1970 FLQ crisis, the War Measures Act and internment on the homefront during the world wars . . . and now Peter Mansbridge it talking to Jack Granatstein! Jack!!

But I digress. Let's get back to my day.

It started very early once again; I was back at Library and Archives Canada at 8:30am. Since I can't function that early, I headed up to the cafeteria for a bagel and tea. A good way to spend 25 minutes. And then I got to work. I found this great document that I totally could have used for my MA. It made me very happy, and even better, it confirmed a few things that I thought had happened, but had never before had hard evidence to prove them. Yay! I didn't get through much before lunch, mostly because I had to type out this long report. (The type was very faint, so I couldn't photocopy it.)

I headed off to the Canadian War Museum to meet friend and real-life historian JN. We had lunch in "The Mess" (of course), and I even got to benefit from JN's employee discount. Awesome. After gossiping---"it's not gossip, it's the social history of current events," says JN---and talking shop, we both headed off to work. The Military History Research Centre is definitely an improvement over the old museum's archives facility. I chatted with the archivist for much too long about all kinds of geeky things, and she gave me a personal tour of the preservation/archives inner rooms. Very cool stuff. Needless to say, I didn't get all the research done that I had wanted to, but it's okay: this gives me a reason to go back in December.

After the research centre closed, I visited the museum itself . . . for the first time. (I am ashamed to admit that I'd never even been to the old war museum.) An hour and a half in, I was spent and only up to the end of WW1, so I'll definitely have to go back another time. The museum wasn't super exciting, but I think it's fairly well done, and it was good to see in person some of the things I've read about. Like, how big and heavy guns were back then. The museum goes all the way up to Afghanistan, so I missed a lot.

I bet you think thus ended my day . . . but you're wrong. It was back to the archives for me. A little more work before finally leaving downtown at 8:30pm. Busy day. Lots more work to do tomorrow. It was a good day, though. Ottawa is totally the place to be for archive junkies in this country. Which has me wondering, What do I like about Toronto? (Other than FN, of course.)


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Can't stop the rain.

But seriously, folks, I am having a good week here in the nation's capital. Must go to bed soon (for real), but I will tell you all about it at some point... maybe.

Archives: yay! Historians: yay! Downtown Ottawa: yay!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


There are many things to tell you, none of them particularly exciting. But I found a great few lines in a diary I was reading today at one of my archives! I have plans to meet up with friends and hang out at the war museum to round out my archive-crazy week before I head back to T.O. on the weekend.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Beautiful Ottawa

My mom, sister, and I visited my grandma yesterday for lunch. It was nice, but kinda shocking to see her so, well, old. (We think she must have had a stroke. She's still walking around, and remembers who we all are, but she's pretty clueless about a whole lot things.)

After lunch we headed off to Carleton University to take in the butterfly exhibit. It was lovely! Every fall two greenhouses are taken over by exotic butterflies and opened to the public. After marvelling at the bugs and the great greenery, we took a walk along the edge of the river-side campus. So beautiful! Carleton is such a strange university. The buildings are of course rather ugly (compared to parts of U of T), since they were mosly built in the 1960s and 1970s. But the campus itself is set on lovely landscape. It's right on the Ottawa River and the trees are really colourful right now. Squirrels, birds, and chipmunks were out in full force. We also got to see the third-year architecture students' design projects, which were set up along the riverbank. It was a really nice afternoon visit to my alma mater, and the weather was great!

The plan for today is to relax some more and get ready for heading to the archives tomorrow. It turns out that the War Museum is super close to Library and Archives Canada, so I'm happy about that. But I'm unhappy about having to take a bus so early tomorrow morning. Sigh.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Trains, suburbs, and automobiles.

I'm back home in semi-rural Ottawa. Except it doesn't feel too much like home. There's one big thing missing: my dog! Oh, and I guess my dad and my brother and sister too. But, seriously, it's really wierd that the dog isn't around. (She's in C'town with my dad.) I keep wanting to check on her outside, or lean down and give her pats, or else watch that I don't put food on the floor. And when this ginormous air balloon flew by the house today, there was no dog to run and hide in my brother's closet because she's terrified of those things. Sigh.

The train to Ottawa yesterday was fine (apart from it taking an hour longer than it should have). I sat next to this chatty lawyer man who immediately introduced himself to me even before I had a chance to sit down! Coby is 42, a father of 2 daughers, grew up in Ottawa, but now works in Calgary as a will and estate lawyer, etc., etc., etc. I can tell you more. But he was a nice, sincere guy. And, FN: He likes his job a lot! (But he doesn't strike me as the intellectual type.)

It's been really beautiful weather and scenery 'round these parts. The leaves are just about at the height of their fall colour season. (Coby told me that there are no maple trees in Calgary, so they never see red leaves. How sad!)

There's not much to do at home except hang out with my mom while she watches home and decorating shows, among other things that you only get if you have cable. We went grocery shopping today, and got stuff for turkey dinner tomorrow as well as bagels and good old fashioned (fake) Chinese egg rolls. (I've never seen egg rolls of this sort in Toronto's Chinatown.)

Tuesday through Friday I'll be leaving the house at 7:23am to catch the "late" bus into town. Oy. And then I get to leave the archives at 5:05pm to get the last bus back home. So I'll get a taste of the 9-5 (well, 8:30-4:30) thing next week. Sounds dreadful.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Packing takes a long time.

I am taking a break from packing. It always takes me a long time to pack for trips. I do it slowly so that I have enough time to remember everything that I've forgotten. I should make a list---this would probably speed up the process. Hmm. A job for another day.

I went to our grad student pub night tonight. It was a good time, and I met some new people and got to spend time with old friends too. AT even came! So did AB, CB, EW, DR, and AG and JC. There were all kinds of law students about, and, well, they all looked kinda sketch to me. (I'm only half joking.) Historians may be less well-dressed---though not necessarily---but we're so much better! I mean, they're not all bad . . . .

It was apparently Alexander Keith's birthday, so lots of folks got free drinks and some people got to take home free beer mugs. The bar was also lit up by these little green light things, and people were eating a large birthday cake! I didn't win or get anything, though. Not that I'm complaining.

Paying the bill at the end put a bit of a damper on things. We were $40 short when the bill came, and since most people had already left, there was nothing really to do expect shill out the extra cash. Another historian and I split the cost. I doubt we'll get paid back. Sigh. Oh well.

Oh, and my computer is up and running again. There's a few things that it looks like I forgot to save, but nothing really important. Hopefully I won't have the same problem that forced me to reinstall Windows yesterday.

Back to packing. I'll post from Ottawa, assuming I have internet access!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Reinstalling, loading, hoping.

At the moment I am in the process of restoring my files and downloading the programs I lost when I wiped my hard drive clean and reinstalled Windows. It's taking a long time. But so far, so good! All my e-mails seem to be intact, and my research and school files seem to all be here too. Yay!

The only dissertation-related work I did today was to speak to an archivist from Library and Archives Canada. She gave me some good suggestions for I might look at next week when I'm in Ottawa. I'll also head over to the new(ish) War Museum for some research, and will hopefully be able to spend some time exploring the museum itself. I'm looking forward to my week in Ottawa. I'll be spending time with my mom, catching up with my sister and brother during Thanksgiving, and then spending the rest of my time in archives. I'll hopefully also meet up with a couple friends who live in Ottawa. Should be a nice week, but a busy one! The worst part of next Tuesday through Friday will be my waking hour: I'll have to catch a bus into downtown at 7:30am, I think. Ugh.

Yesterday I skipped out of lecture (for the class I'm TAing) an hour early to go to an event at Massey. (The Master's Buffet Dinner.) It was really nice. I got to chat with some nice people, most of them new acquaintances. One guy is, well, kinda unreal. Let me explain. He did his undergrad at the most prestigious institution in the US, and his doctorate at the most pretigious university overseas, and is now in med school here. Oh, and he's nice and personable, well-dressed, and good-looking. (And younger than me, of course.) WTF?! Insanity. In other frivolous news, I saw handsome guy, but I didn't manage (once again) to actually talk to him.

Tonight EC invited us over for pizza dinner an ANTP-watching. AG, PB, and a couple other people were there. Good times. I'm glad PB took some time out of his insanely busy schedule to chill with us for a couple hours. Does that guy ever sleep, AG?

I will continue my downloading, etc.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Socializing, shopping

After another busy weekend of socializing---housewarming at SF and GO's place; birthday party and housewarming at AT and J's place; Nuit Blanche with YT, FN, and CLM; Sunday dinner with FN's cool girl-friends---today I got back to, well, not doing school work. Crap. I woke up very late. As in, 2:14pm. And I had a meeting scheduled with one of my supervisors for 2:30. Needless to say, I didn't make it, but called him instead to talk about my upcoming research trip to Ottawa. He had some good advice for me.

Later in the afternoon and through the evening, FN and I went shopping. I was in search of nice grey flannel type work-y pants to wear to nice-ish events and perhaps some nice tops to go with the pants. I didn't manage to find those things, but I did come home with decent striped grey work-y pants. They'll do. I also got a red v-neck sweater and a couple casual tops, and 7 pairs of socks. Because one can never have too many socks. (Shopping for clothes is really hard when you're me. Or FN. Though she looks good in more things than I look good in. Pity me.)

A very late dinner at home was followed by, well, what I'm doing now: catching up on little errands. I will hopefully be more productive tomorrow. There's a talk I might go to, and maybe I'll skip our departmental coffee hour and go to the library instead. This will be followed by the lecture for the class I TA for. And then there's a dinner thing at Massey I must attend. Seriously, people, my life is all about not getting any actual work done these days. It's terrible!

P.S. FN is no longer sick, but I'm sure she'd still appreciate sympathy and bouquets of flowers.