Monday, July 31, 2006

Russian history exam today.

Wish me luck! I predict my prof. will ask me about: women, foreign policy, the Revolution (or perhaps the Rev. and civil war together), and something about workers/peasants/cities. We'll see. I have to write two essays in 3 hours . . . which seems like a long time, but apparently time flies. (Let's hope I can remember enough relevant and smart stuff, though!)

Up next is my international relations (19/20th c.) field, and 20th c. US foreign relations. Then the oral exam on 15 August. It's gonna continue to be an all-comps-all-the-time life for me for the next while. But it's not so bad. Well, let's see how I feel about it in about 12 hours.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

More procrastination.

But this is slightly amusing . . . though tan is an awful colour on me!

Your Birthdate: [It's a secret]

You excel at anything difficult or high tech.
In other words, you're a total (brilliant) geek.
It's difficult for you to find people worth spending time with.
Which is probably why you'll take over the world with your evil robots!

Your strength: Your unfailing logic

Your weakness: Loving machines more than people

Your power color: Tan

Your power symbol: Pi

Your power month: July

Friday, July 21, 2006

Headlines, again.

In lieu of a proper posting---because I've actually been reading a lot lately---I present my list of articles that I would write if I had the time. Sigh.

"Hipsters ruined Kensington," says FN.

Investigative journalism piece on the degeneration of Kensington Market---and downtown Toronto in general---because of hipsterification. Features an in-depth interview with Toronto resident FN.

Why I hate political science.

Oh, so many reasons. (And I'm only exaggerating slightly.)

Agreeing with John Gaddis.

Yeah, that's right, I agree with John Lewis Gaddis. But only because of this piece: "History, Science, and the Study of International Relations," in Explaining International Relations since 1945, ed. Ngaire Woods (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996). Otherwise, I still think he's degenerated over the years. (Maybe the hipsters are to blame for this one, too.)

Falling in love again.

A sentimental piece about rediscovering my love for the history of Canadian foreign relations. (And I'm only exaggerating slightly.)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Too hot to live.

And therefore also too hot to write blog posts. I need to leave my sweltering room. Now.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I'm better than you.

Question: Why do/have/can/will/are/is you(r) . . . , Jen?
Answer: It's 'cause I'm better than you.

Try it and you'll see what I mean ;-)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

4 libraries, a print shop, and Sid Smith.

That's what I did today. Well, for an hour and a quarter of it, anyways. I have a total love-hate relationship with Robarts, and the hate comes out on days like today, when it doesn't have ALL the books I want. And then I have to go to Trin, Pratt, and Kelly to get the rest. Sigh. But I should stop whining, 'cause this totally beats my old university, which had one library, and not an especially big one at that. Yes, Robarts, I do love you indeed. So strange-looking and oppressive, but within your concrete walls you house one of the finest colections of what I need on the planet! And, it's absolutely the best place to run into fellow history grad students. I ran into two of them there today.

But I digress. So, I was really motoring this afternoon in the squelching heat. (I even wore a hat to ward off future sun-inflicted headaches.) I walked to Robarts, Trin, and Pratt to return and take out books, then off to the print shop on Yonge to pick up the newsletter. Me, the box, and my backpack semi-full of books then headed off to Kelly to take out more stuff, and then to Sid Smith. I made it to the department just as it was closing. Phew! I then chatted with JS for a while in his office. I hadn't seen him since American Thanksgiving, so it was nice to catch up. Robarts was the last stop, to get more books which I lugged home. Unfortunately, my feet were by this point very unhappy with me. I stupidly wore nice heeled strappy sandals, which is so not what I ought to have worn to go trekking all over campus and downtown and back. Stupid, stupid me, and I have no one to blame but myself! I now have big blisters on the bottoms of my feet. Ouch.

In other news, I've decided that Russian history actually is cool, and that I do like it. I'm reading Donald Raleigh's Experiencing Russia's Civil War. It's quite good.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I don't have an ethnicity (or whatever).

I am reading about the Russian multi-ethnic empire right now. The book really isn't that great. It's good, solid history, and I appreciate it on that level, and respect the author for doing a detailed analysis of parts of the 1897 census and using Hroch to critically discuss the development of national movements, etc., etc. But it's not particularly interesting to read for me right now, because I'm just reading it for "general [comps] knowledge," and not for a specific project.

Reading this is making me think about ethnicities, nationalisms, etc. I believe in the whole "imagined communities" thing, which is to say that I think nations exist for real, but their defining characteristics are changeable; discourse creates nations. You know what I mean. They are important and meaningful, but they only exist because people/societies/institutions/whatever decide they do. Anyways, what's my point?

I don't have an ethnic group, as such. Yes, I'm white (which is terribly boring, eh?), and "culturally" Christian but spiritually agnostic (is that an oxymoron?). I am Canadian, because I (mostly) grew up here, and Anglophone, because English is really the only language I can speak with any fluency. I am educated -- I've been in university, studying humanities, social science-y stuff for a long time -- and "historically-minded," but not especially well-read in terms of classical (western) philosophy or "great books." I don't know much about anything except what I do, though I'm always happy to learn more! My mom is French-Canadian (in denial), and my dad's parents were American. So... this makes me what, exactly? I am young(ish) and female, urban, but not afraid of small-town life. I lived in Dar-es-Salaam for three years when I was a kid. I don't feel like I have any strong personal, familial, national, ethnic, whatever history that, because of my upbringing or schooling, has provided me with any kind of specifically identifiable ethnicity. I think I'm just me: Canadian (legally and because I choose that identity for myself), but that's it for anything with a label. But labelling me Canadian doesn't say very much about me. (It does mean, however, that I spell "labelling" with two "l"s, and can choose between "program" and "programme" depending on how American or British I'm happening to feel that day.)

Maybe one day I will be a yuppie. Does that count as something? How about historian? Multiple identities, man. Ramsay Cook was right: identities are not like hats.

See, this is why I find reading about ethnicity and other identities problematic. Of course they exist and are to some extent explanatory, but they are limited, and sometimes very much so. Which is why EC's research is so interesting. What is it about your Jews, EC, that makes them different from other people otherwise very much like them? And it's that difference that I think I don't have, because what makes me different is not that I'm part of a larger, identifiable group, but just that I'm an individual. Hmmm.

"Write crap, write something."

Uh, ok, FN. Some thoughts:

- Don't pluck your eyebrows too much when you're young. You'll regret it later!
- Make time for big breakfasts every once in a while. I recommend banana pancakes with real Canadian maple syrup.
- EC just introduced us to the marvels of eBay and Oh, we're so gonna display our nerdiness on our walls!
- Israel is problematic. The whole world is problematic. People suck.
- I have a Russian leaders matrioshka doll. It has Putin, Yeltsin, Gorby, Stalin, and Lenin, and they all have Russian-style hats with Soviet symbols on them. Awesome.
- I have to read Russian history this week. Don't get me wrong: I like grad school, and I like reading about stuff. But, right now, I hate Russian history!
- Our landlord fixed the plaster on our bathroom ceiling. He also painted over some of the grime on the walls. Yay!
- I'm waiting for the printer to call, so I can make plans to pick up the newsletter. Exciting!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Man on my futon.

My friend JR is in town for a few hours, crashing at my place. He got in at 7pm from a place far, far away, and is leaving for the States tomorrow. I think he should stay and hang out with me some more. But no, he shouldn't, because I have no time for this! He's been really low-maintenance so far, though. We chatted for a bit, he took a shower, and then he went to sleep. A little mini-excursion in the car to park in it a better place at 10pm is the only other thing we did. Then he went back to sleep. Yawn.

In other news, EC and I ventured down to Yonge and Bloor today. We checked out the proofs for the newsletter we had a small hand in putting together. And then did a little (unsuccessful) shopping. The H&M on Bloor is really no good. Seriously no good. I wouldn't have gone in, but EC was apparently unaware of the crappiness of the place. Sigh. Jacob wasn't much better. Too boring for me. But, EC tried on the super cute for-work dress. She totally needs it . . . once she gets a job! After checking out the stores, we moseyed on over to McDonald's across from the ROM -- which, by the way, is looking cooler every day -- for sundaes. McDonald's sundaes really are good. Can't be beat. Last stop was a definite step up on the classy scale: Whole Foods on Avenue. It is so nice in there! Came home with Italian bread and camembert. Yum.

But now JR is on the futon and I'm basically stuck in my room with nothing to do except e-mail and blog and play on the internet . . . oh, and read for comps. Yeah, I should do that . . . .

Monday, July 10, 2006

An academic milestone.

I just finished writing my first peer-review report for a scholary journal. How cool is that? (Notice how I wrote "first," implying that I foresee doing more of this kind of thing? My subconscious must be telling me that it thinks I should be an academic. Awesome.)

I decided when I woke up Sunday afternoon that I really should read that article. I mean, it came in the mail almost two months ago. Half-way through reading the article, I looked at the cover letter, and realized that there was a deadline indicated. Oops: I was supposed to have it done a month ago! Oh well.

Anyways, I read it, marked it up, and then have been writing the report for the last several hours. Interesting process. Kind of like marking a student paper, which is how my main supervisor said it would be like. Except that this took much longer, and the paper itself was a little higher quality than first-year papers. And, yes, I did mean to write "a little." Because the paper wasn't very good.

And, no, I'm not gonna tell you which journal the paper was submitted to, or what it was about. Anonymous peer-reviewing, remember? I will say that I felt qualified to comment on this particular piece, though.

P.S. There's a fly flying around my room, and it's annoying me.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


I have just read this article on the recommendation of my main supervisor. I am shocked. But perhaps I shouldn't be. Read it: it's incredible.

Elizabeth Drew, "Power Grab," New York Review of Books 11, no. 53 (22 June 2006).

It starts:

During the presidency of George W. Bush, the White House has made an unprecedented reach for power. It has systematically attempted to defy, control, or threaten the institutions that could challenge it: Congress, the courts, and the press. It has attempted to upset the balance of power among the three branches of government provided for in the Constitution; but its most aggressive and consistent assaults have been against the legislative branch: Bush has time and again said that he feels free to carry out a law as he sees fit, not as Congress wrote it. Through secrecy and contemptuous treatment of Congress, the Bush White House has made the executive branch less accountable than at any time in modern American history. And because of the complaisance of Congress, it has largely succeeded in its efforts. Continue reading.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Reading about wartime.

From the book I'm reading today for my major field, Charles Richie's The Siren Years: Undiplomatic Diaries, 1937-1945 (London: Macmillan, 1974). It is a collection -- you guessed it -- of diary entries from the time Richie worked at the Office of the High Commissioner for Canada in London during the Second World War:

"I suppose once the war gets under way we shall get back to more normal conditions." (1 September 1939, p. 43)

"Prisoners [of war] without their guns and helmets have the look of having suffered an amputation, as if they were deprived of a vital limb or had been castrated." (2 June 1940, p. 55)

"Our standards are being overturned. What is brought home to me is my existence as a member of a community in a way that I never dreamed of before. I rather fancied myself as a cosmopolitan who laughed at blimpish patriotism. Now I subscribe to all the old cries -- 'My country right or wrong,' I could have my room plastered with these cracker mottoes which have now become for me eternal truths. Meanwhile we [men on the homefront] are all waiting, almost longing for these bombs." (6 June 1940, p. 56)

The memoirs, diaries, other reminiscences, and fictional writings from wartime(s) that I've read are awesome. Some other recommendations: Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth, Roméo Dallaire's Shake Hands with the Devil, Chris Hedges's War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, and George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. There are many others. Which ones have moved you?

Friday, July 07, 2006

What is going ON?!

Outside my house right now there are three enormous fire trucks, a bunch of suited-up firemen, and some cops. There's something up three houses down from me. But I don't know what! I went down, but I have no idea. It's freaking me out slightly, but I guess it's okay. But still: there must be something up, or else they'd all be gone by now!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

What (technology) I need for research and dissertating . . . maybe.

In no particular order:

Dragon Naturally Speaking, or something else voice-recognition-y. Because typing gives me carpal tunnel, or something.

A USB memory stick (if that's what they are called). Because more memory devices = more compatibility and more backups = good.

Digital camera. Because photocopying archival documents is damn expensive ("expeez," says EC), but it's still nice to have the original (of sorts) to refer back to. This doesn't mean that I shouldn't try to transcribe as much as I can as I go along, of course. Oh, and voice recognition software might make the transcribing go faster. Maybe.

A new battery for my laptop. Because the one I have now is pitiable. Really. I feel sorry for it. So weak and un-powerful-like.

A new note-taking program. Maybe. Scribe 3.0 is disappointing me. I was willing to deal with the un-user-friendly-ness of Scribe 2.5, but I'm not so sure I am willing to deal with the lack of outline feature in this one. Unless it means I'll have to learn another un-perfect program. Which I wouldn't like. I could just use 2.5 again, but I think I should explore my options first.

A scanner. Some options: (1) flatbed, (2) pen/handheld. Hmm.

I already have a fax machine, thanks to my parents, who bought it and used it once. The instruction booklet was too long -- they couldn't deal with it. I kid you not.

What do you think? Give me advice, all you fellow research nerds out there!

Back online.

The last eight days, in point-form:

Thursday -- Electrical storm. The power goes off . . . and stays off for 8 hours. How annoying. BBQ at CS's. Fun. Come home to power back on. Turn on computer . . . and discover that my AC adapter/plug no longer works. Ack! Turn off computer.

Friday -- Call HP to order another adapter/plug. Told I should order it online. Checked e-mail at Trinity and order aforementioned computer part. Lunch with main supervisor and another grad student. Laundry, shopping for party.

Saturday -- Mexican-themed Canada Day fiesta!

Sunday -- Reading.

Monday -- To Robarts, check e-mail, get more books to read.

Tuesday -- To other campus libraries. Run into and chat with a handful of different people from department. Spend WAY too much time doing this. Need to read.

Wednesday -- Missed Purolator delivery of adapter/power cord. Grrr! Who delivers before 9am?! Arrange for redelivery.

Thursday -- Wake up early to not miss delivery. Have working computer again! Read. Bake cookies with EC; eat dinner and watch Rushmore with EC and FN. Exhausted but must read for meeting tomorrow. And, need to call HD at 11:40pm. Must not forget.