beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 Guys, I... I think I just finished my thesis. 


There are no more notes to myself, no more highlighted bits, no more "well, I should probably cite this sentence as well, just to be sure"... I did all of that today. It's pretty much done. Even the conclusion is looking so much nicer. I may rework it a LITTLE, but tomorrow, after I've slept on it and focussed on other things for a day or so, but essentially... it's done! 

I'll read through it one more time just to catch any sneaky little typos and I'll read through every single footnote to make sure I get rid of errant commas in my formatting and so on and so forth, but most of that is also finished. 

Just to head any potential tragedies off at the pass, I've also sent copies of it to myself to two separate e-mail addresses, and I've backed it up on my external harddrive. I don't want all of this to end in tears. I have other, earlier versions of it floating around elsewhere, in those places, but I spent many hours working on it this weekend. 
I feel numb. 
It's nearly done!
(Good thing, too, because it's due on Thursday.)
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 Good news, everyone! I'm actually FINALLY starting to feel somewhat comfortable with my thesis! I've been working on it for... way too long. Technically I began in October or November of 2009, when I took a 300-level history of American medicine class with my current Honour's supervisor, Professor Susan Smith. I wrote a short, 12 page paper on Civil War medicine and how it wasn't as bad as people say, really. 

Now, nearly a year and a half later, here I sit, with piles of books on the Civil War and 19th century medical practice surrounding me, threatening to topple at any moment and trap me here in my study space, and... the end is actually in sight. 

I'm planning on handing it in on March 31st, so I can get a chance at winning an award. (Money! Glory! Stuff that looks good on my resumé!), and I really am gearing on handing it in on that date and not two weeks later because there is only one other student planning on applying for it. That means on a most basic level I have a 50-50 chance of winning it. Odds don't get much better than that. 
Anyway, I've been working on this particular document - the thesis itself - really since this past December. I agonized over word choices, organization, numbers of sources, etc. I also beat myself up inside for not starting to write it earlier, like, last semester when I was only taking four classes instead of five like I am now. I felt WAY better this past Wednesday when all of us History honour's students met up to compare notes on what we'd done so far. Two of the other five hadn't even begun writing the thing yet, still finishing up their research. Even the mediating professor seemed taken aback by this statement. Granted, they're not planning on handing theirs in until April 15th, but when asked by the professor how long they thought it would take to write 50 pages, one guy answered: "two weeks."
Now I feel much better about the series of drafts I've handed in to my research supervisor. I just finished making the edits based on the second draft she looked over, and I'm still planning on handing in a third draft next week. 
Today, I read through the whole thing to make those changes. It's starting to come together. For pretty much the first time, it actually looks GOOD. 
And about an hour and a half ago, I reached 50 pages. 
AKA the required page count. \o/
Now if only meeting this goal meant that it was over and done with... ;) I've still got a bunch of edits to make, and there are some examples that I still need to track down, but... the bulk of the work is done. I'm going to FINISH it. 
I feel GOOD.
(Now I just have to stress out about the other four papers I have to write this semester, most of which I've done little more than do some reading, plus some outlining. That'll be my task for Sunday. But for now, I celebrate!)
beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
 I think I mentioned a few weeks ago (it was before things went crazy with the job application) that I’ve been reading this really awesome recently published document. I suspect I was talking to [ profile] feral_shrew  about some history subject or another. The edition I have of this text (the only published edition?) is entitled Practicing Medicine in a Black Regiment: The Civil War Diary of Burt G. Wilder, 55th Massachusetts. It’s edited by a historian named Richard M. Reid, and only came out in 2010.

About the surgeon and his diary... )

Discovering exotic flora & fauna, recruiting others to do your collecting for you, and making spider-silk jewelry! )
Quick note re: adaptation )

Astonished horses! )

Unusually large amounts of spider silk! )

Bitching about Doctor Brown )The epic quest for sweet potatoes... )
The quartermaster resorts to monetary fines to make Wilder actually eat something )
Billy the horse! )
African American superstitions re: pulled teeth, and on the method of "locking" the door of a tent )
A colonel admires Wilder's awesome horseriding skillz )
Well, HE hasn't seen any fleas yet... and he also almost loses his hat. And falls off his horse. )
Wilder overhears a debate amongst the men of the regiment and is surprised. )
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 Sometime in April, I think, I'm going to organize an excursion for some friends of mine (history dorks, all), which I want to entitle "A Day of the Dead at the U of A". Essentially, it's going to amount to making an appointment to visiting the mummy (we have a mummy! The only one in Western Canada! His nickname is Horace - AKA Horus)... and then, we'll go into the bowels of the Health Sciences library (which is itself in the middle of the labyrinthine building that is connected to the university hospital, so it's a quest to even get that far), heading down to the special collections room to look at... THIS. 

LJ cut because I'm morbid and some people don't really want to see books bound in human skin. A (horrifying) part of European heritage, people. )
beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
 (Oh hey, my post this morning on the wearing of the poppy in November sounds so angry! I just wanted to clarify that I'm not angry, I'm just frustrated with people who have the knee-jerk reaction of "war is bad and anything to do with war must also  be bad" and thus taking it out on people who only have good intentions. I hope that I didn't come across as some kind of fanatic. >_> )

ANYWAY I just wanted to share something interesting with you guys. As you may or may not have gathered, I'm doing my honour's thesis this year (all 50 intimidating pages of it...) on perceptions and innovations in American Civil War medicine. I've been reading some really cool books with interesting titles, like Microbes and Minié Balls, Gangrene and Glory, The blue and gray in black and white: a history of Civil War photography, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War... Of course, you get the opposite end of the spectrum with books with absolutely boring/uninformative/uninspired titles like The Civil War... which is in fact a brilliantly written book! (If, of course, I'm talking about the one by that title by a man named Paul Cimbala.)

But to get back on track, I just wanted to share a passage with you from a book called Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War, by Edmund Wilson. It's bound in a serious-looking blue cover, with very thin pages that actually remind me more of books from the late 1800s, not one published in 1962. This, combined with the title and even the man's name (I always associate the name "Edmund" with sour-faced men with dark goatees), I expected this to be a serious, possibly even depressing, work. And it is. For the most part. Except for this one completely unexpected passage in the introduction in which he makes reference to something completely unexpected, right after talking about having lived through two world wars:

"In a recent Walt Disney film showing life at the bottom of the sea, a primitive organism called a sea slug is seen gobbling up smaller organisms through a large orifice at one end of its body; confronted with another sea slug of an only slightly lesser size, it ingurgitates that, too. Now, the wars fought by human beings are stimulated as a rule primarily by the same instincts as the voracity of the sea slug. It is true that among the animals other than man it is hard to find organized aggression of the kind that has been developed by humanity..."
Holy crap, guys. This author is... I don't even know what to think! I think awesome. He goes on to continue with a pretty serious philosophical/historical point about the inherent evil in humans and why wars are started and perpetuated and such, and he uses long words like "pugnacious" and "Lebensraum" and others, but I cannot get over the fact that he used Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID to start off this discussion. 

How did this serious historian, of at least fifty years of age (he lived through both world wars, remember?) encounter this movie? Did he go to the movie theater with his grandchildren with the American Civil War on the mind? 

Just thought I'd share. 

And always remember, guys: 
(Image courtesy of

EDIT: Wait, upon reviewing some respectable internet sources, I've realized that the Little Mermaid was only released in 1989. Now which Disney film was Mr. Edmund Wilson, the serious historian, referring to? He needs to source his statements better, OMG! :P 
beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
 My facebook status this morning read "in contemplating the pile of books sitting next to my desk, ready to be poured over for three separate papers including a 50 page thesis, I have had the sudden urge to flee the house. >_> Instead, I remain here, trapped and weighed down by several large hardcover books. Besides, they're in between me and the door. D: "

Almost all yesterday and today (granted, it's only 2:30 in the afternoon as I write this, but I began working both days before 9 o'clock in the morning), I've been chugging steadily away at my homework. Mostly readings. This is the first chance I've really had to start working my way through the research for my papers. 

I took out a whole whack of books about a month ago from the Rutherford library (taking full advantage of my extended library privileges now that I'm in my fourth year in the honour's programme), but they've just been sitting in my room as I've been distracted by things like midterms and Spooktacular volunteering. To be fair, there may be a connection between zombies and gangrene and thus Civil War medicine, but whatever. 

Anyway, a few days ago, I stacked the books I have out by category (AKA which paper they're to be skimmed through for), and as I got an e-mail reminding me that half a dozen of them are due within a handful of days, I began working on them first. I have a growing pile of books next to my school bag that are ready to be returned to the library. I feel like I'm getting stuff done! ... At least in my scholastic life. :P

I'm actually writing this because I just finished writing a rough, 2,000 word outline for my honour's thesis on innovations in medicine made during the American Civil War. Hopefully my research supervisor will like it and have lots of helpful suggestions (but not enough of them for me to feel like this isn't a solid base), so I can then use it as a template for my 50 page thesis. I'm getting excited about my topic again! ... But also slightly intimidated by the amount of readings I have to do, because I also spent an hour and a half trolling through the library databases adding things to my bibliography and my "to read" list. Lots of short documents have been digitized and are available for free online, though, which is a plus!

In other news... I'm doing National Novel Writing Month again this year! I'm not nearly as happy with it, though, as I was at this point in the last three years I've done it. My characters seem flat, and I'm having a lot of trouble writing action. Not like fight scenes, but just ACTION, like moving from one space to another. Told from the first person POV, my main character just seems to want to THINK all of the time. She's too perceptive! Stop it! D: 

I think that I bit off more than I can chew, and didn't do nearly enough planning, despite the fact that this is the first year I've even tried to create character profiles for everyone. I think that I should have thought of an entirely different novel set during the Civil War era so that I can use a lot of the research I've been doing for university. :P I may actually have to drop this plotline and make up my wordcount by writing out some fanfic I've been meaning to write for a while... Probably a Temeraire piece, so I actually have fun writing this month, possibly an Avatar: the Last Airbender one. Right now, I don't think that my novel will be going anywhere without significant overhaul, and while I'll cast my eyes upon what I've written so far again throughout the month, and I WILL try to add to it, I don't think that it's conducive to my stress levels (or my writing ability) to grit my teeth and type out something that clearly isn't working... 

Yeah, so that's the decision that I've made, for now, I think. I still need reassurance that I've made the right decision, though. :(

Also, here, see how I'm doing! 

beboots: (Default)
Well, now, I know that at the end of my last post I had a very intriguing bit of foreshadowing: I said I was in Inverness, which meant that I'd be soon visiting Loch Ness, with all the exciting implications of monster hunting and cryptozoology inherent therein.

Well, we DID visit Loch Ness. No Nessie, though, unless you count it's depictions upon hundreds of cheap tourist souvenirs.

(My personal favourites were the little four piece statues, comprised of two loops of the body, a tail and a head that you line up in a row to depict Nessie in the water on your desk, and the "Sexy-Ness" and "Drunken-Ness" t-shirts with dressed up Nessies. I didn't buy any of them, but I giggled a bit.)

I quite liked the small bit of Inverness that we saw. Our hostel was conveniently located one block over from the bus station, and two blocks down from the trains. We used the bus station quite a bit. Also, I loved the atmosphere in the Victorian Market. I shall post photos demonstrating why next week.

We visited Loch Ness not for the monster exhibition but for the ruins of Urquhart castle... Because we poor North Americans have a wonderful fascination with such things, having as we do a terrible paucity of picturesque crumbling ruins in the New World. We seem to trip over them everywhere here, but that hasn't dimmed my enthusiasm for them - or for photographing them.

We visited the castle on the shores of the famous loch in the afternoon. That morning, though we visited a completely different sort of structure: Fort George. It's an extremely well preserved military fort from the 18th century. It's so well preserved, in fact, that in addition to being a museum (I'm told they also have costumed historical interpreters in July and August!) it's also a functioning, modern military fort. We saw some pretty fine examples of modern-day members of the Scottish Highlander regiment stationed there. :) They also had a very neat regimental museum, full of artefacts. Highlights include silver-plated sheep skulls decorated with regimental symbols, a mechanical arm used by one of the soldiers ofthe regiment after he lost a limb in the First World War (fully articulated elbow, hooked ring and pinkie fingers for holding things, and moveable first two fingers), and, of course, a small metal cigarette case with a large dent and a bullet beside it. You know the story: the soldier has the case in his breast pocket, and his life is saved when the bullet that would have otherwise killed him ends up hitting the case of cigarettes instead of his heart. The accompanying label said that the man died in a completely different battle soon after, though. Ah, well. 

The day after we visited Fort George and Loch Ness, we took the bus to Culloden Moor, a really well-designed museum dedicated to the battle that took place there in 1745 (the past battle to take place on British soil). I love soundscaprs, you see, and they got on my good side immediately by having a man in 18th century military costume greet us at the door by tipping his hat to us and allowing us womenfolk to hold his rifle (not innuendo, guys, I mean his reproduction bayonet). I love historical interpreters! :) 

There was also a little four-walled room that played a video on all four walls, which was a short reenactment of the battle. It makes you feal a hint of the confusion and terror of it.

Afterwards, we wandered about the fields were the battle was actually fought. They have flags put out showing the approximate locations of the Jacobite (AKA the supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie) and government troops. There are also cairns and gravemarkers that point out the locations were each clan's men were burried if they didn't survive the battle. I had a shivery moment when it struck me that the entire field was really one mass grave. 

(But really, aren't huge swathes of Europe?)

Anyway, speaking of death and such, the next post will detail  our experiences in Edinburgh, which include ghost tours, exploring underground vaults, amd hearing about Mary King's Close and other nastiness.

I should also mention that it was in Inverness that Sara and I finally met up with two wayward members of our group: Erin and Kelsey! They'd seen Chad off onto a bus to Cork, where he flew home direct to Edmonton last week. We for had a happy reunion. :) 
beboots: (Default)
Things are slowly getting organized again after that big, uh, upset a few days ago. Sara and I are in Galway, leaving tomorrow for Belfast (For which Sara is excited, but for my part I'm trying to put some of those last few lectures on modern Irish history about sectarian riots from my mind.) 

The last I heard, Chad was supposed to be released from hospital today or tomorrow, so things may be looking up! After a brief scare when we were told by the doctors that he'd be well enough to accompany us, Erin and Kelsey convinced him to go home. If this sounds harsh, well, he needs to give up the rest of his trip and go home and rest, not run all over Britain. If anything else goes wrong, like an infection or a re-broken bone, he shouldn't be in the Isle of Lewis, hours and hours away by bus, ferry or plane away from medical help. Also, selfishly... He can't move his arms. This means that us girls would be obligated to carry his bag on top of our own, give him his meds, feed him (literally spoonfeeding!), and, uh, other things one needs one's hands to do involving personal hygiene.

Um... No. That's not a vacation for the rest of us. Erin concinced him to go home, for his health and dignity, plus our sanity. 

Anyway... Sara and I have been making calls and firing off emails for two days. Most of Chad's hostels and tour bookings have been cancelled, Erin's and Kelsey's postponed or cancelled. 

A few of our tours were cancelled too. For instance, one that was to show us around the Ilse of Lewis proved too expensive (reasonable to split amongst a group of five, but not between only two). At least Inverness onwards on thr itinerary should remain almost unchanged (I look forward to reuniting with our wayward Kelsey and errant Erin!).

Also, note to self: never try to figure out ferry schedules alone. In a fit of hubris, I believed that we could skip flying to Stornoway (where we have almost nothing to do without that cancelled tour) and book a ferry to the Isle of Skye directly from Belfast... Yeah, no. You can't get to Skye from like any large major port city. Who knew? :P 

Anyway... Things are almost sorted. Today Sara and I took a tour bus to the gorgeous Cliffs of Moher (yet another photo post to make!) plus some sites in between: fairy tree rings, crumbling abbeys, famine walls...

Oh, and if you don't know, famine walls are an interesting remnant of the history of Ireland. 1845 through 1849 + potato blight = starving Irish, especially in the West, with it's rocky ground unsuitable for all but potato crops... Which failed again and again. Add to the equation: LOTS of starving Irish + antiquated strict British poor laws = a lot of people who need to work (and work hard) for poor relief. The administrators ran out of things for these skeletal workers to do to earn their soup and bread, so they were made to build roads and walls that literally went nowhere. They're kind of creepy, but also make a sad and plaintive image, winding their way through the rocky countryside of Western Ireland.

On a different note... (AKA "and now for something completely different!"): 

I totally broke down and bought a book at the gift shop today (at the "Gifts of Moher", haha!). Up 'til now I had been resisting the temptation to buy books everywhere, as is my usual code of conduct. I didn't want to carry them on my back in my giant turtleshell backpack, you see. Books are heavy, so I've been making do with small trinkets and things that fold or squish. 

But today, I found a book that my inner history dork couldn't resist. It's called "The Feckin' book of Irish History for anyone who hasn't been paying attention for the last 30,000 years." I hesitated, but when I saw that they had a lovely photo of a memorial to Countess Markievicz, I was sold. 

P.S., for those not in the know: the good Countess is a national Irish hero of the 1916 Easter Uprising. I think I wrote a post on her in November (probably tagged "histories" and "oh those crazy irish") My last name is Markewicz, which is a version of the same name that was simply anglisized differently. I don't THINK that I'm a relation... But I don't advertise that fact when I'm fishing for discounts or goodwill. And besides: "I know very little of my great-grandparents and their Polish relatives" isn't a lie. :3 
beboots: (Default)
I am going to write something now, and you may think it is a typo. I will double-check, but I assure you that it is absolutely NOT a mistake.

Today, we went for a bikeride through the national park near Killarney. Sara and I biked ahead, because we are more intense bikers, and had a lovely day exploring the park. I will write about all the details later. Chad was more unsure of a cyclist (he never learned as a child, and only leaned before the trip to go on this daytrip). I planned this activity, you see, and we didn't want to wait, but Kelsey and Erin did to keep him company, and besides, they wanted to have a more of a leisurely day. Sara and I wanted to get exercise, so we decided to meet for supper.

This isn't the unbelievable part - but this is: Chad wiped out. Went over his handlebars. 

He broke his arms. 

BOTH of them. 

He's in the hospital in Tralee, in surgery. He'll be fine, need homecare for a few months... But he has to fly home. Trip-ending accident. One of the bones was poking through his skin, I'm told.

Am I a horrible person for being grateful that I wasn't the first first-aider on the scene at that accident? I think I would have fainted. I've never dealt with anything more seriousthan a bee-sting on a child before. 

I feel horrible that I gave Erin some bandaids and gauze to carry for him, just in case, before we separated. We joked that he might have a new war wound (AKA a skinned knee or something) to show off at dinner.  

Sara an I will continue on to Galway. We have no other option. Apparently this weekend is one of the busiest weekends in Killarney - a motorcycle convention or something and something else. Long story short: there are no rooms to be had, here. 

So Sara and I will continue on our own for about a week and a half, after which Erin and Kelsey will join us in Inverness. Chadley will then be on a first-class ticket home (yay health insurance?). Erin's mum somehow found a flight direct to Edmonton from Cork, of all places, which we just left.

If you think Sara and I are callous for leaving them... Erin and Kelsey are really all Chad needs. Sara and I had met him perhaps three times before we left on this trip. Two extra people (just acquaintances, not friends, so of little comfort) are just expensive, and extra stress. 

On the plus side, as Sara said, we've hit rock bottom, and things can only go up from here. 

(This I say as I take a fortifying shot of Bailey's.) 
beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
Here's a picture of cross-dressing/dress reformer Dr. Mary Walker (the only female military surgeon in the Union Army!) for you:

Hey guys, who else here has studied Hamlet? Well, even if you haven't, if you're familiar with the famed "To be or not to be, that is the question" soliloquy, and/or you have a dark sense of humour, listen to what I've just run across in my Civil War research...

(cut for mentions of gore)
Let me tell you a tale... )
beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
Let me tell you of medicine in the American Civil War... and interesting things hiding about at the University of Alberta.

History is full of serious-looking men.

Follow this serious-looking soldier into the abyss... )


beboots: (Default)

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