Thursday, August 31, 2006

Uncontrollable grinning.

I am home! I feel a bit silly admitting this, but as the plane landed at Pearson, a big smile broke out on my face and would not go away. Yes, I do love it here!

Nothing especially exciting happened today (or, "to-day," as it was written back in 1919). I flew from C'town ("SHARlatown") to Toronto . . . but ended up visiting a province to which I'd never been before: the plane had a stopover in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Okay, so I didn't "deplane," but still. Managed to get to Toronto without incident, and even managed to get myself home on the bus and subway without any difficulty. I did have to buy a postcard at the C'town airport, because I was so unorganized yesterday that I didn't buy enough. Silly me.

FN is off for the long weekend, so I'll have the place to myself. Whatever shall I do? Oh, yeah: all the errands I have yet to do, plus starting organizing my life to start dissertation research. Sigh. And when I need a break, HD lent me the first season of "MI-5," a British TV series. We watched the first two episodes tonight, and I must say it was entertaining.

Hey, did I say above that nothing exciting happened? Clearly I was wrong, because I installed my new RAM! And this makes me very happy because my computer is now significantly faster. It's probably still slower than yours, but it's good enough for me. Yay!

Tomorrow I'm going to see about all the rolls of microfilm that have apparently come for me. Year 3 of the PhD begins . . . .

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Trying to be a tourist.

I have managed to do a little touristy stuff while on this trip, which is a change from my last trip. (I went to Kansas in June and came home with nothing! I am ashamed.) Yesterday after a day at the archives---yay!---I walked next door to Province House to check out the goings-on in there. I discovered that not only is this place a semi-perserved museum of sorts, but houses the provincial legislature. I got to walk into the actual legislative chamber, and see where the MPPs (or are they MLAs?) sit when the legislature is in session. (The members' offices are in the same building as the archive.) PEI's legislature has only 27 representatives, so the chamber was not very big. It was nice, but a little funny looking since I'm used to the size of the House of Commons in Ottawa and Queen's Park in Toronto. Today after I finished up at the archives I went in search of souvenirs to bring home with me. Ok, so you can buy all kinds of stuff that says PEI on it or has a dog/cat/countryside/seaside theme. Not particularly unique. I was comtemplating getting a nice mug with a lobster on it, because, well, another mug is always a good thing, and it was kinda cute. But then I saw the "Decorated in PEI" stamp on the bottom. Somehow this made the mug feel less authentic than what I was looking for. I settled for some postcards, and then headed over to the post office for stamps. Friends: my heart was in the right place, so I hope you aren't too upset when I don't bring you anything! I'm just not good at this sort of thing. I should also confess that I did not venture out to Green Gables.

There are lots of really nice houses around here, and the architecture is quite different from the standard brick you see in older parts of Ottawa and Toronto. Some of the structures here date back to the eighteenth century, and most of the houses have wood siding or wooden shingles, usually painted bright colours. It's really pretty. My parents' house, for example, is bright yellow with navy blue around the windows and doors.

Yesterday after I got home from touring Province House---which, mind you, took only a few minutes---my dad told me that old family friends were coming over. Turns out they had just dropped off their daughter at her university, and were at a nearby camp ground. It was nice to see them again, and then we all went out to dinner in the heart of downtown, which also happens to be just up the street. Literally up the street. It was nice. I had seafood chowder and chocolate cheesecake. Jealous? Tonight the plan is for my dad to treat us all to a home-cooked lobster feast. I've also visited a couple of nice churches in town---this island has a huge number of churches! Today I went into St. Paul's "Anglican" (yes, with the quotation marks), and on the weekend I took in the amazing Trinity United Church.

The last thing I did at the archives today was ask one of the staff members there some questions so I could write up something for Archives Made Easy. HD: Remind me to do this, since I may forget! Oh, and the guy I talked to has the deepest voice I think I've ever heard. It was so weird. (Things I get distracted by when I'm reading about Vladivostok . . . .)

P.S. In case I forget later, let me say "thank you" to jeffclory, Wireless, and Jacob for not having security on your wireless internet connections, thus allowing me to borrow your signals!

Monday, August 28, 2006


Today I ventured forth to the PEI provincial archives in Charlottetown. Its about 5 (walking) minutes from my parents' house, on the top floor of a building that houses the offices of provincial legislators. It looked like most or all the other researchers there were doing genealogy, which isn't surprising. I started to look through the papers of a nurse who served in Vladivostok during the Russian civil war. I already know a little about her because there's an article written about her adventures in "Vlady." Actually, I was telling my dad on Saturday what I would be looking at in the archives, and mentioned that article, and then a few minutes later when we got into the car en route to check out more PEI scenery, I noticed a book on the dash . . . and the book was written by the author of the article! The author's written several books on Atlantic Canadian history, but it was still a surprising coincidence.

So far I've only read a few letters, but I'm hooked! Letters and diaries are just so much fun. Well, as long as the handwriting is legible, but I haven't had much of a problem with this so far. I'm such a history nerd that I'm really looking forward to going back to the archives tomorrow morning . . . even though I will have to wake up at an ungodly hour to do so. Blech.

Before my archive adventure this afternoon, my dad and I took the dog to the vet. My parents mean well, but they just can't be trusted with my dog's health, having stopped giving her the medicine she needs since they moved out to C'town in late June. Parents! But she's now got all new stuff, a new vet, and my dad has detailed instructions on how to care for her. She should be much less sore from now on, and better able to enjoy her romps on the beach!

The end of August was not the best time to come to this part of the world. It really is quite chilly, and most of the touristy stuff is over. It's a good thing that I'm not much of a traveller, or I might be more disappointed at having missed the historical reenactments of the Charlottetown Conference! (The building where it all happened back in 1864 is just a few minutes away from here, as it seems is most everything in C'town.) If my dad manages to drag me to a ceilidh, I'll let you know.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


It's darn cold here in Charlottetown, PEI. How do people live here? When my plane landed Thursday morning, it was 12 degrees (celcius) outside. Twelve degrees! In August! And it's been chilly ever since. The house is drafty, but seeing as how it's technically still summer, there's no way we can turn the heat on. Sigh.

I haven't been doing much since I got here. Hung out with my sister, dad, and dog. She likes to swim, which is probably why she's not as fat as she used to be. The countryside is very pretty on this island, and the ocean views are really something too. And there are a whole lot of potato fields. I ate mussels for the first time Thursday evening. They were alright, but I probably wouldn't pay much to eat them.

My parents' house is an old 3-story house with exterior wood shingles painted bright yellow. It's quite nice, if a little rough. As in, the bathrooms and kitchens need remodelling. But I do like the country-style wallpaper and leaded windows. The "bathroom" upstairs is actually two rooms right beside each other. The first, smaller one has nothing but a toilet in it. Yes, that's right: a room with a toilet. Next door to it is a bigger room with a sink and bathtub. So, yeah, you have to go to another room to wash your hands. How odd. (Or quaint, which is how my mom thinks of it, I'm sure.)

I need to wrap myself in a blanket now, so blogging must end. I will post again depending on the internet connection (which I'm stealing from a neighbour).

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A gathering of historians.

Thanks to all who came out to my place to celebrate our collective marvellousness! Today was a nice day, full of good friends and good food. (This even though I've now been up for more than 24 hours straight. How odd.)

Started out with gabbing and breakfast with EW, who stayed over upon seeing the filth in her supposedly clean new apartment. EW, FN, and I then spent a few hours chilling at home, before we headed off to do our respective errands. For me it was laundry and buying a cake for tonight's festivities. After a dinner at home, HD came over to put together FN's bookshelf, and soon the party was on. A bunch of historians and a few other hangers-on arrived ready to eat cake and cookies. It was nice to see people whom I hadn't seen in a while, and it was an excellent send-off for my trip to C'town in a few hours. We finished the evening at a local pub, so as not to disturb the upstairs neighbour. There were at least 4 jet-lagged party-goers in attendance, and with my wacky sleep shedule lately, I felt in good company! It was also great to see "CLM" after his year-long stay in the Far East.

At the moment I am taking a break from packing for my week-long trip to visit my parents . . . er, parent, sister, and dog: my mom got a new job and had to go back to Ottawa last weekend. Oh well. I can't wait to visit the east coast! And to begin my dissertation research with a short visit to the PEI archives. Yay!

Congrats on finishing your master's, AG!!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Just another day in Toronto.

Active day. I woke up at 10:30am after about 6 hours sleep, and decided I should get up and finally do my errands in the department. Did them. Came home. HD came over to use the fax machine. I still don't understand that thing, but since my parents gave it to me for free---they bought it but used it once (or maybe not at all?) and then decided that the instruction booklet was too long for them to deal with. Nutty, but I got a free fax machine out of it!

In the afternoon I went to the airport to pick up friend EW. She was coming back from a research trip to England, and asked me if I'd meet her at Pearson to help her with her bags. Unfortunately, I didn't get more detailed information from her about her flight, other than that she was coming in at about 3pm. So I checked the flights from London online, and it looked like all the London flights landed at Terminal 1, so off I went. In addition to helping EW, I figured it would be good to make the trip out to the airport on public transport to see what it was like, considering I'll have to do that for real when I go on my own research trips.

At the subway station near my house, a man with a suitcase asked me for directions to another stop---the stop to which I was going as well. He came up to me again on the platform of the next station, where we both had gotten off to switch trains, because he was of course going to the airport. So I asked him where he was headed, and we took the subway to the end of the line together. He had just been at the AIDS conference, and was a doctor from Portugal. It was nice chatting with him about Canada, history, the conference, etc. (He was very impressed by Bill Clinton, but less impressed with how the conference had become more about socializing and less about science over the years.) We got to the end of the line---where we had to switch to the bus---and were still chatting when who should appear at the bus stop, but my friend from the department, AB! She and her brother were headed to the Prairies for a wedding and to visit family. I abandoned my new Portuguese friend, but AB and I had a great time on the bus together. (I did wish the doctor a safe flight when he got off the bus, though.) We both got off at Terminal 1, and I went off to investigate the whereabouts of EW.

Hmm. No sign of her, even though it was by this point 3:20, and from the looks of things, the last flight in from London had landed on time at 2:29. Problems. (By the way, this is not what the airport website had told me!) I waited, wandered, and wondered until 4pm, when I decided to call EW on her cell phone---thankfully I remembered her number---and she answered! Turns out she had landed at Terminal 3, and was then making her way to the bus station. Hold on, EW, I'm coming!

Getting from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 was kinda fun, I must say. There's a newish "monorail" that took me there, like the one I took with DS at the Minneapolis airport back in June. Signage wasn't the greatest, but I found EW, and we and her ginormous bags made it back to my place without any more problems!

FN and I had a planned dinner for historian-turned-working-woman EC, and EW stayed over too, which was nice. We had a lovely dinner and yummy dessert. Newlywed friends of FN's came over for a bit later for pie, and by then I was just exhausted! So much so that I went to bed just after 11pm. Which is very unlike me. I had a sneaking suspicion that my body would think I just wanted a nap, and, well, I was right. Sigh. Hence this blog post in the wee hours. Hopefully I'll be able to fall asleep again soon, so I'm ready to run more errands tomorrow (er, today).

Welcome home, EW, and good luck moving into your new apartment!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Nocturnalism and fear of potential muggers.

Another unexciting day. I managed to leave the house to get groceries, which is good. I walked out after dark, and felt a little uneasy. This is how I always feel when I'm walking alone at night. I've even been known to run home from the subway station . . . and it's a block from my house. But I can't help it. I'm constantly afraid that I'm going to be mugged or otherwise assaulted, and it makes going out at night rather stressful. Every person that comes near me is a potential attacker! And it's all because I was mugged a few months ago, and a man did grab me on the street a bit after that. Stupid people, ruining my peace of mind. Grrr. Anyways, I am ok despite the mild case of paranoia.

Knowing my fear of people on dark, deserted streets, I decided to take the subway home from the store, though it's only a 10-minute walk from home. So I went to the "token/pass only" entrance, put in my token, pushed the barrier to get in---to no avail! Rat bastard machine ate my token and didn't let me in! I was very unimpressed, but out of luck, so away I walked. The walk home was uneventful, though I almost had a heart attack at one point when a man moved his arm a little as he was passing me. Walking alone at night is bad for my health.

Seeing as how I only woke up at about 5:30pm, I didn't get much accomplished today. I did place bids on two items on eBay---necessary items for my computer---so hopefully those will work out. I still have errands to run at school, laundry to do, and need to mail a book to a prof. in Ottawa . . . and more cleaning. Tomorrow (as in, later today), I'm headed to the airport to fetch a friend and help her into the city with her bags. I guess she must have lots of photocopies to bring home from British archives!

Here's hoping I will fall asleep at a decent hour tonight. It's nearly 4am now, though, and I'm wide awake. Sigh.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Onto dissertation research!

How very exciting. I'm off on my first research trip Thursday morning---AKA visiting my parents in C'town---and have spent the past few hours going through my files, checking for archives that I still needed to contact. Fun times. I've also rethought the whole driving to Urbana-Champaign plan, and think the train is a way better option. Way better. I suspect US rail travel will be cheaper than Canadian is---is it?---and I could potentially work on the train. Driving, I can't do this. So, I don't think there will be any US driving in my near future. We'll see.

I've ordered a large microfilm collection from my school's inter-library loans department, and it should be here early in September. Archival documents! I've also jotted down the call numbers for the major government document collections I'll need to flip through in the library, so I should have lots of preliminary research to do in the fall before I head off on my research trips.

Sunday evening I (in HD's car) returned most of my remaining comps books to the library, and it felt good to purge them from my sight! This, and having organized some of my files yesterday, made it only natural that I should be taking my first dissertation steps. I do have to do a proposal at some point, but I'll worry about that in September, after I've met with my main supervisor.

In other news, the apartment is nearly clean. A few more things to do still, though. Wish me luck with this and my other errands.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Lazy Saturday.

Yesterday was fairly unexciting. I'm embarassed to admit that I didn't leave the house except to take out the recycling. I did have a dinner party, though. Ok, not really: HD came over, we cooked, ate, and then watched a movie I own ("Sneakers" [1992], which is so good). We (read: she) also planned my research year.

Looks like I'll be off to Minneapolis and Urbana-Champaign in late fall, then X-mas in Ottawa, followed by Washington or College Park, MD in early 2007. London (and maybe Leeds and Geneva too) in early spring, and the Hoover Institute at Stanford University next summer. Phew! She's trying to convince me that I should drive myself from Minneapolis to Urbana-Champaign, which I don't wanna do. I hate driving to places I've never been before---this really stresses me out. We'll see. Maybe I'll be forced to actually become a real adult and do grown-up things like taking long-distance roadtrips by myself. Sounds awful! I did have an awesome time in Kansas in June---though this didn't entail renting a car, taking public transport, or even staying in a hotel. Hmmm. My first "research trip" is this coming week. I'm off to Charlottetown, PEI to visit my parents . . . who live 5 minutes from the archives, walking time. How great. Too bad there's only one small collection for me there.

I am still in the process of cleaning and organizing my apartment and room. I think this is what I will be doing today too. It's good, though. Just hanging out, watching movies, and doing all the things that I put off during comps. There's still lots more to do, and I also need to go through all the stuff I've collected for my dissertation. Fun!

You know what's also fun? "Sneakers"! Watch it. Now. It's really interesting to see how a movie that came out in 1992 interpreted the "new world order" at the end of the Cold War. "You won't know who to trust," said the Russian consular official. [Should that be "whom"?] Indeed. Love it.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Some rambling comments about JLG.

I was reading John Lewis Gaddis's Surprise, Security, and the American Experience---his second-most recent book---last night, and got about half-way through. Before you think this is very good of me, being post-comps and all, the book is really, really short, so it didn't take too long. It was also 4am, so there wasn't much else to do.

This book is an odd little set of lectures, whipped together to make an odd little triumphalist "history book." Gaddis can be a decent historian, but he seems to have lost his way in recent years. His Cold War was apparently very bad. I haven't read it, but Tony Judt gave it a scathing review, and one of my professors, who is a fairly conservative guy, thought it sucked too ("the research is embarassing"). In Surprise Gaddis riffs on unilateralism, preemptiveness, and hegemony, basically providing some "historical analogies" (read: uncritically chosen anecdotes unworthy of a serious historian) to justify American foreign policy immediately after 9/11. I don't object to this book being written, but I'm disappointed that Gaddis would write something so un-historian-like. It isn't an attempt to put current practice into historical perspective---not really---or show how foreign policy thinking has changed over the years in response to changing circumstances. Part of my problem is that I am uncomfortable with all his essentializing of "security" (and everything else he essentializes), but even if I let him get away with this, I'm still bothered. I don't think it's the historian's job to soothe public and policy maker anxieties about complex and significant state policies. I rather think it's their job to explain things critically. And, if they are going to write about current events, shouldn't they point out philosophical hipocrisies and other evidence of unthoughtful thinking on the part of policy makers and leaders? Hmmm. Gaddis is also too quick to blame the other side for doing things which force Americans' hands in certain directions. To read him, you'd think the US is an island of civilization in a vast sea of barbarism that is the rest of the world. And that questionable actions by Americans---or American-supported groups---do not much affect America. I know lots of people believe this, but I don't buy it. What is my point? I guess it's just that I find Gaddis's underlying assumptions and beliefs really bizarre, and this being the case, his book is of little use to me other than as an example of how people like him think. Which is why I only read half of it: I realized that I'd learned enough. And I've already returned the book to my supervisor.

P.S. I just scanned some of the customer reviews on, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised. For non-academic types, Gaddis seems erudite and he writes all the right things (for the right-thinking people), but, to quote another of my professors, "oh, that's an awful book." I probably wouldn't say that, but it is profoundly embarassing.

Home improvement week continues.

Another day of picking up craigslist buys, running errands, and cleaning the apartment. It wasn't very exciting. But it's nice to be home alone for a bit and just chill out. Our apartment still needs more improving, but it's really getting much nicer. And proper cleaning and decorating is good for the soul, I've decided. Seriously.

I promised HD that I'd clean before she comes over for dinner Saturday night, so I'd better keep at it.

Oh, and I will get back to school work at some point . . . but not until I've purged this apartment of stuff we don't need, and made sure everything in here is clean and has a proper home!

Friday, August 18, 2006

More errands.

After a 3-hour sleep this morning, I got up, talked to AT on the phone, and then got ready to start my day. First up was acquiring, cleaning, and stocking a huge new (for me) dresser. It's so nice to have all my clothes out of sight and in a proper clothing repository! Then it was off to Loblaws to restock our pantry. HD then dropped me off at home so I could clean the house in preparation for dinner guests. And clean I did! The apartment still needs lots of work, but it's getting there. Dinner and conversation was much fun, though I'm not nearly girlie enough to get excited talking about dream weddings of the future! One of our guests tonight is getting married this October, and it sounds like it'll be a fun party.

I spent a whole lot of time organizing my closet, and picking out clothes that need to be dry cleaned or brought to Goodwill. This closet cleaning was prompted by the disastrous state of my closet, and me noticing how my hanger rod is drooping dangerously low. No, it's not 'cause I have too many clothes; it's just that I needed to move some of the heavier coats to other hooks. Unfortunately, I now have a load of laundry to do, so I'll have to trek out to the laundromat rather sooner than I'd hoped. Oh well. It must be done.

I have big plans for another errand-filled day tomorrow. I'll keep you apprised ;-).

P.S. Finished the "Forsyte Saga"---it really is great. And why am I not tired? My body just refuses to allow me to get out of this nocturnal mode, I guess.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My first non-comps day.

Today was the first day that I didn't have to think about comps in a long time! Despite being pretty tired last night, I couldn't manage to fall asleep at a decent hour, so watched more of the "Forsyte Saga" and obsessed over craigslist until after 6am, when I finally went to bed. After waking up at 2pm, I managed to do a couple useful things today. FN and I went to get more posters framed and plaqued. I spent $250 framing my big Red Cross poster. Yikes! But it is really nice, and I'll have it forever, so I don't mind. (This is what the poster looks like.) By the end of next week I will have three "soldiers with books" plaques, which should go really well on walls near my bookshelves. My room will have a WW1 theme, which I suppose is potentially creepy, but it really isn't.

HD came over after dinner for cake and more of the "Forsyte Saga." We are nearly through the series by now . . . and it was originally a 12-parter on "Masterpiece Theatre." We are crazy, but it is quite good.

Tomorrow afternoon HD and I are going to pick up a craigslist find (chest of drawers) to continue this week's home improvement theme. I'm excited.

There are a handful of school errands I need to run at some point, but I guess they will have to wait for now. Post-comps life is a little hectic!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


I passed my comps this afternoon. This is great, and I can now get back to doing some normal things . . . like cleaning my house, going grocery shopping, etc. And, you know, generally enjoying the last bit of summer!

The oral exam went ok, but not fabulously. I'm not the best speaker, so I caught myself rambling a bit too much. Oh well. My supervisors really liked my written answers, which made me happy, especially when my super famous advisor told me that I had "a real flair for history"! She is too nice.

After my oral, my committee took me out for a drink at a fancy bar at the top of one of the posh hotels on Bloor at Avenue. My main supervisor bought us a bottle a white wine, and we snacked on complimentary munchies (nuts, olives, etc.). It was very nice, but 1/5th of a bottle of wine is too much for me. I felt really lightheaded toward the end! But that's ok, 'cause I walked out with one of my supervisors, whom I absolutely love, and she was totally feeling the same as me!! Related side-note: History professors are so cool.

The rest of the day was taken up having dinner with HD, and then cake and, ahem, watching most of Miss Teen USA with HD, FN, and AG at EC's fabulous new apartment. FN and I are determined to continue the swankification of our own place, so that we don't pale too much in comparison. Finished off the day watching another episode of the "Forsyte Saga."

Next up is the aforementioned normal things, including watching more movies and seeing some friends. Oh, and then the dissertation proposal. I will do that at some point. But probably not tomorrow.

Last thing: Good luck finishing your paper (etc.), AG!!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Another task from a blog that I read.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 4 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.

"There were never more than a hundred prisoners there at any time, and after 1908 never more than thirty. Few stayed more than a month or so before being transferred to provincial jails. In February 1917, when the fortress was finally taken by the crowd, the anti-climactic reality of liberating a mere nineteen prisoners (all of them mutinous soldiers imprisoned only the previous day) was not allowed to intrude on the revolutionaries' mythic expectations. The event was portrayed as Freedom's triumph over Despotism."

Yes, you guessed it, I'm studying Russian history! This is from Orlando Figes's A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924 (1996). An excellent book, and one that nonhistorians can read and enjoy too. Which doesn't happen that often!

But this is lame. I have studying to do, and dinner to prepare. Ciao.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Instead of studying . . .

I am obsessing over craigslist at the moment. I want a big, nice dresser to put all my clothes in. And then I will feel more like my room is inhabited by a professional grad student instead of a poor undergrad. What do you think?

But I promise to go back to reading very, very soon. Honest.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Done . . . almost!

Written exams are over. (That's assuming I pass, of course.) Thank goodness! Oh how they were so terrible. Comps are awful. I mean, doing the reading was fine (mostly), even fun. But the last couple weeks have not been so great. I just have my oral exam on Tuesday, and then (hopefully) I'll never have to take another exam again!

In other news, FN, HD, and I watched the first two epidodes of the "Forsyte Saga." It was pretty fun, actually. (Yes, at least two of us are history nerds, but what can we say?)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Major field exam today.

I did my international relations (19th-20th centuries) exam today. It was okay, fine. So, that's good! Three essays in 4 hours. I was feeling light-headed afterward. And I'm tired. Maybe I should have a nap . . . yeah, sounds like a good idea.

Good luck in Boston, EC!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Five things.

E from My life as an Alien in modern-day USA has tagged me. Not that I know what this really means, but apparently I must now do a questionnaire thing. So here goes:

Five things in my freezer: Greek-style pita bread; enormous chunk of steak; pumpkin pie from last October; ice cubes; Indian spices.

Five things in my closet: Shoes I never wear anymore; vacuum cleaner; empty boxes I don't want to throw out; an old cutlery set; and lots of clothes.

Five things in my car: (I don't have one at the moment, but when I drove my parents', this is what was there) Library books I needed to return; my brother's CDs; a broken umbrella; random paper that no one bothered to throw out; lots of dog hair that no one bothered to vacuum up.

Five things in my purse: Wallet; watch (because it bothers my skin to actually wear it); a pen; keys; an elastic band for my hair. [Technically, there's nothing in any of my purses at the moment, though, because I empty them each time I come home.]

Five things in my wallet: Subway tokens; Gift of Life donor card (so that when I die, my body gets donated); credit cards; old receipts; UofT student ID card.

I think I'm supposed to now tag five more people to do this . . . but I can't think of any people I know at the moment, other than dead ones (Metternich, Bismark, Wilhelm II, Nicholas II, Kennan, Kissinger, etc., etc.), so feel free to tag yourselves, readers, and post your lists in the comments section! (Yes, I am weaseling out of the blogging-tagging rules.)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Complaining about poli sci and other annoyances.

FN and I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday agreeing about our inherent superiority and discussing other deep things. Which is to say that I didn't get nearly as much reading done as I needed to. But I blame the book I attempted to read/finish, the book that I've now dipped into for the third time, and I still haven't managed to finish. Let me explain.

The book is Force and Statecraft: Diplomatic Problems of Our Time by Gordon Craig and Alexander George (3rd ed., 1995). It's fine, but boring and not particularly interesting. You see, it just doesn't really tell me anything I don't already know, and it does it in this super-annoying poli sci kinda way. Ugh. Craig is actually a historian---George is a political scientist---but he's a very traditional one, and right now I am just not in the mood for a traditional, simplified overview of world leaders' decisions. Blech.

Basically, my problem with this book is that it sucks the past out of history. The Cold War---to focus on what much of the book focusses on---was seemingly about rational, realist, level-headed leaders making clearly-thought-out decisions (within their own worldviews) . . . this is my impression of the book. The authors believe in some way that we can distill past events down to simple models of the international system, and learn from this how to avoid problems in the future. I mean, I get it that it's in human nature to want to simplify complexity, but I'm annoyed by this tendency. Plus, the book makes the Cold War seem so sterile. The authors talk about "thermonuclear war" a great many times, but the writing is just so blah that it makes the past seem, well, totally unlike the past. I think books about history should evoke the past in some way! They should try to get readers to empathize---and I don't meant sympathize---with people who lived in the past. How else can their be any kind of understanding?! The Cold War was about emotions, people! When Nixon talked about bombing Vietnamese "bastards" like they'd never been bombed before, doesn't this strike you as evidence that he'd personalized the war and wasn't always being rational? (See George Herring's excellent survey of the Vietnam War for more quotes like this from American leaders.) The past wasn't straight-forward and rational and based on some kind of realpolitik, etc., etc. Of course, it was partly those things, but to read Craig and George, you'd think people were all automatons. Annoying.

Frank Costigliola is writing a book about emotions and the Cold War. Or something like that. That guy is awesome. I am totally sold by his chapter in Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations (2nd ed., 2004): "Reading for Meaning: Theory, Language, and Metaphor." And I think his "'Unceasing Pressure for Penetration': Gender, Pathology, and Emotion in George Kennan's Formation of the Cold War" in the Journal of American History 83 (March 1997) is fantastic. He is so cool.

So, anyways, I gave up on Craig and George half-way through. I realize this is bad of me; after all, I really should read the whole thing before I start complaining. But, seriously, I don't have time to be annoyed right now. I only have time to blog and talk and read good books for comps. Sheesh. I'm a third of the way through Bob Bothwell and Jack Granatstein's book on Trudeau and Canadian foreign policy, which is fairly good. And it makes me feel so much better about history. (By the way, I heard Granatstein hates being referred to as "Jack" in print. Sorry, Jack, I meant to write "J. L.")

Which leads me to my final thoughts. Is all poli sci as wacky as I think it is? I've actually tried to like and respect it, but even in undergrad I had this love-hate thing going on. I mean, poli sci was intellectually interesting---as in, it could be cool to perform mental acrobatics in an essay and to hell with the facts!---but it was just so reckless with the past. I'm totally open to the possibility that I just don't really get what political science is really all about. Please, tell me I'm wrong about it! Because right now, I think it's a fool's discipline, and I'm really unimpressed.

I have my last meeting with my main supervisor today before I write her exam on Tuesday. I think I will tell her that I think poli sci is crazy.

On an unrelated matter, why is it that I seem to be unable to sleep these days? Is is just too hot to sleep? Just another thing to annoy me. Oh, and my ear still kinda hurts too.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My ear hurts.

I don't know what's wrong with it, but it hurts. It's distracting and painful and I don't like it. This is not an ear infection, and I don't have time to worry about this! How annoying. And ouchy.

I'm increasingly thinking that the essays I wrote on Monday were not so good. Bad, even. Which is worrying me. I really need to study hard and do better on the other two exams. Feel sorry for me, people! I am beginning to stress out a little. Which is uncommon for me. (Stupid Russian history - ruining my life. And making me be overly dramatic about things. But passing these exams is important, you know.)

Also, my ear really hurts!

P.S. I'm now reading this article. It's great.