beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 Today was a lovely day! ... Not the least of which was because I did next to no homework! (I may pay for it in stress later on, but man if it doesn't feel good right now. <3 )

The sun is shining! I feel that spring is on the way. After a long dark winter, the snow seems to be consistently melting. You get these lovely patches of crackly ice on the sidewalks that make a satisfying crunching noise as you walk over them in the morning just after the sun has risen. I've loved doing that ever since I was a child. 

Last class with my research supervisor. Feeling melancholy, but at least there were cookies. ) 

Happy news about pretty dresses at Fort Edmonton! )
 
Job interview for the Quebec program - definitely nailed it! )

 Today was a really good day. I needed a day like this, after weeks (months, really) of stress about my future and about papers and research and such. The end of the semester is in sight! I'm feeling really positive at the moment. :) I hope that some of my good cheer spreads across to you, o reader! I'm thinking positive thoughts your way. :)
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 I try to make mental lists of things that make me happy every so often, just in case I have a bad day.

What am I anxious about? Jobs, papers, group projects... )

Things to make me happy: visas, interviews, shopping wins, and free dinner & drinks. )
 
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 HEY GUYS, I FEEL LIKE WRITING THIS ENTIRE POST IN CAPSLOCKS BUT THAT WOULD BE ANNOYING. So I won't. But imagine a capslock mood. 

CUE JAUNTY, UPLIFTING, CELEBRATORY MUSIC

(I would totally use the serious Civil War man icon that I have for this post, because it's the most historically appropriate, but it doesn't convey the sense of glee I feel at the moment. Imagine me as the man on the right, Jacques Cartier, at least in expression and mood.)

I just got back from Staples (AKA the office supply store) and I came back with three printed copies of the final copy of my thesis: the one I'm going to hand in for my final grade. 

It's done. It's sitting in a box downstairs, by the door, so I can bring it to school on Monday when I return a huge stack of books to the library. I had to fiddle with the formatting this morning (you have to expand the left hand margin to one and a half inches instead of just one because they're going to bind them into BOOKS), but after looking over my conclusion one final time, changing two or three words... I declared it completely and absolutely finished. 

You can make tiny little nit-picky edits forever, you know? I could probably still be making changes in a month's time, if I wanted, adding in one more source, chasing down one more salient example... but I've made myself stop. It's as good as it's going to get. And it's finished. \o/ \o/ \o/

Here my honour's thesis is, by the numbers... 

Title: Too Easily Blamed: American Civil War Surgery and Medical Care in Context

Pagecount (main body): 51

Pagecount with bibliography, title page and table of contents: 59

Number of sections: 12

Wordcount: 14,789

Wordcount (including textboxes and footnotes): 17,789

Character count: 96,768

Character count (with spaces): 114,537 (THINK ABOUT HOW MANY KEYSTROKES THAT IS FOR A SECOND, NOT INCLUDING EDITING)

Number of items on bibliography: 15 primary, 37 secondary, 52 total

Number of footnotes: 215 (many of which cite more than one source)

Number of hours put into this project: COUNTLESS.
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 Guys, I... I think I just finished my thesis. 

\o/

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)
Yeah, so my last post was a bit short (although it had a nifty video!) and I realize that only a handful of my friends list can read it, so I thought that I'd write an English-language update with extra information.

Stuff is slowly getting done. Last night, I all-but finished my thesis. I should feel more jubilant, but it's not done yet. I made edits based on the comments on the final rough draft that I just got back from my research supervisor. A lot of it was "good!", "excellent!" and checkmarks, with the occasional "typo" or "move this here" or "this should be your topic sentence, not this" and so on and so forth. I've also had to redo some formatting. I wasn't consistant with where I put my punctuation, outside or inside of quotation marks. I still have to chase down a few more examples/citations, double-check my formatting, and give my conclusion a bit more "oomph", but I'm essentially done!

Which is good because it's due a week from today. It'll get there. My bigger problem, now, is to finish all of the research papers that are due in the two weeks after I hand it in. I've done most of the research for them, and I have loads of reference books sitting beside my desk, so if I run across a point I need to double-check, I won't have to take the bus all the way down to the university or scour the internet for extra sources... which is good. I've just got to sit down and write the darn things, and you know what? I'm tired. And when I'm tired my brain doesn't like to be creative.

I have next to no readings to do this week (huzzah, professors understand our workloads at this point in the semester?) but now I have nothing to passively absorb: I have to be actively creative. I'm tired. I feel so done with school. But I'm going to have to keep on chugging along until I can finally rest at 4:00pm on April 21st. That's when I finish my last exam. I won't even be able to begin to study for exams until the week before. Luckily, I just have gigantic research papers in lieu of most of the exams, and they're due in the final week of classes.

Anyway, this Saturday is a complete write-off as far as doing homework goes, because I'm going to be presenting at the History of Medicine Conference at the U of A! If you're in Edmonton on Saturday, feel free to pop by. It'll be in Classroom D (room 2F1.04) at the University Hospital. I know a bunch of the presenters, and it looks to be very interesting. It's an interdisciplinary conference with undergrads and graduate students, from the history, English, and medicine departments (and possibly others like art history, dentistry, psychology, etc.). Highlights will include talks on "The Evolution of Kotex advertising and the Introduction of the 'Negro Market'", "Eugenics in Alberta: Lasting Effects".... The guest keynote speaker is Dr. Jackie Duffin who will talk to us about "Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints and Healing in the Modern World", which will "explore how medical science is used by the Vatican in the canonization process."

My presentation is right after the break in the morning and will begin at 10:20 (so hopefully nobody will be figeting because they have to go to the washroom or something). I'll be essentially presenting a condensed version of my thesis argument, on Civil War medicine and surgery and how it wasn't as bad as you think, really... immediately afterwards we'll have a presenter on prosthetic technologies from the 1850s through the 1880s in America (which works really well, leading off of my talk) and then we'll have a guy talk about cholera epidemics in the mid- to late- nineteenth century, which can also build off of what I say about the miasma theory of disease. The subjects lead nicely into each other!

As a side note, there's free food, too! Breakfast, lunch and snacks. :) A friend of mine on twitter said that as long as I didn't advertise with posters saying "Breakfast, lunch and cholera!"... ;) But they go so well together! Everybody loves cholera, y/y? D:

Anyway, it will prove to be super-interesting, I know it. I'll write about the highlights the next day, possibly including pictures from my powerpoint presentation. :)

Saturday is also the fifth anniversary of my little brother going into remission! This means that he's officially cured of cancer! \o/ He works in the morning, but we're going to go out to a fancy restaurant for dinner to celebrate. :)

Aaand... I was going to end off on a history linkspam note, but it kept growing so it shall be a separate post, soon to follow. (Can you tell I'm procrastinating working on my papers? Bad beboots! D: )
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: (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: (Default)
I honestly am not sure if this was a bad day or not. I think, although it started off rough, it ended off half-decently. Let's break it down...

Bad stuff:
-woke up with a headache. Haven't had alcohol in weeks, so this wasn't a good sign.

-woke up tired, had to get out of bed.

-started sneezing, sometimes so violently my tummy hurts when I suddenly bend over double. :P

-I've gone all sniffly, and my cough hasn't gone away. Verdict? I have a cold. :( WHY, BODY?? THIS MONTH IS THE HOME STRETCH! DON'T GIVE IN NOW!

-It's cold again. -20C or so for most of the day, overcast, with lots of wind and snow. It's rumoured on facebook that factoring in the windchill, tonight it's going to reach -47C (!!)

-I didn't realize until I'd already gotten on the bus this morning that I'd forgotten my bus pass. :( That never happens to me.

-One of the girls in the group project that I'm working on for Women's Studies didn't show up to our brainstorming session. I'm worried that she'll be dead weight and ride on our coattails for a good mark. 

GOOD STUFF:
-Met an old friend of mine at the bus stop (an old bus buddy! We used to take the same bus all the time!) and ended up debating feminist theory for the hour-long bus ride. Epic. I love it when you can have smart, rational conversations with people. Very entertaining, and a good mental workout. Woke me up. 

-Although I forgot my bus pass, the first bus driver recognized me and let me on for free anyway, even giving me a transfer ticket so I could get onto the commuter bus for Edmonton for free! :) Of course, when I went to take the bus home at 3:00 after class, it was a grumpy elderly gentlemen driver that I didn't know, so I coughed up one of my commuter bus tickets from the summertime, which I still happened to have in my wallet. It's a good thing I'm a packrat and I avoid opportunities to clean out old stuff. >_> 

-I visited the Special Collections room in the Health Sciences library and spent some time with my favourite giant tomes, working on my thesis. Also, STAY TUNED FOR ANOTHER BLOG POST ON THAT, now with photographs! You are all very excited, I know

-Despite missing one person, the other two members of my assigned group seemed to have their act together. One girl was a science student and didn't really know how to research arts faculty papers, but me and the other guy gave her some pointers, and anyway she offered to create the powerpoint with our input because she has lots of practice with that. Less work for me! At the very  least I'm not carrying the whole group on my back, which has happened before. :P These other two seem all right! 

-Although I was very anxious about trying to chase down a French professor from last year to fill in a short piece of paper that says that I can speak French and English competently so I can apply for this job in France, and I had resigned myself to waiting on campus until 4:00pm for his office hours... I went to his office just to see if he had his hours posted on the door (hoping that they were earlier so I could go home and sleep), he walked up just as I was checking! And then he signed the paper and gave me a lovely paragraph-long review. :) I wasn't even expecting him to remember me very well, although I did take two French translation classes with him, but he remembered my name and the classes without prompting! :) He also asked me many questions about what I was going hoping to do in France, and I answered him fluently. The entire conversation took place in French. I felt strong. :) (I still have to chase down one more prof, though.) 

-In my History of Translation class, I got my first paper back! That was the one on the Métis translator who wouldn't take shit from anyone. I got an A+! :) She really liked it. Her comments were all like "fascinating!" and such. :) This makes me feel a bit better, although I'm still anxious for my midterm mark, which we will get back on Wednesday. Fingers crossed!

Anyway, so I'm now back at home and although I still feel sickly, I've had some honeyed tea and my little brother made me supper. (Kraft Dinner AKA Canadian macaroni & cheese, but hey, little steps.)

Stay tuned for a blog post that I've been wanting to make for a long long while...

beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
 Remember how a while back, during my first week of classes, I had a little panicky moment about how much work I had to get done? Well, I thought that I'd write an update on that situation. Today's the first day of our "Spring Break": called "Reading Week" because it's a bit cheeky to call February in Canada "spring". 

What I have finished so far since January (strike through), and what I still have to do:

MLCS 400 - History of Translation
-5 page essay, a portrait of a translator. Came out awesome; I wrote about Jemmy Jock Bird, this Blackfoot interpreter who didn't take anybody's shit. Remind me to do a history post about him.
-study for midterm. Done as of writing it yesterday. 
-Final research paper: working on it. I'll probably be writing on Métis intermediaries at the numbered treaties in the 1870s. Some of the research is already done, because it overlaps with the portrait essay.
-Study for final exam (now, with special permission, going to be written a week earlier so I can actually go to Spain! :D Huzzah!)

Women's Studies 201
-Lots and lots of blog posts: half done. I've been writing a blog post each week for the class's website. I'm on track. 
-Write research paper (due first week of April)
-Work on group presentation on my paper topic.
(Yeah... this class I'm just coasting through. I'm doing the weekly readings, coming to class, writing on the blog... doing my time and not thinking about it too hard. I'll have to do a lot of reading for the final paper this week.)

History 450 - History of Slavery and Emancipation
-Biography of a historian short presentation
-Primary source short presentation
-Secondary source presentation

-Second secondary source presentation: in two weeks
-Work on final research paper - possibly on slave health? Like, the battle for control over slaves' bodies?

History 488 - the Health Consequences of War
-Long class presentation
-Three reading response papers
: two down, one to go
-Four-way book review final paper: halfway through reading book one, although I've skimmed two others before. Cleverly, I've doubled up my readings by picking four recent books on Civil War medicine that I've been meaning to read for a while for my thesis. Now I have the excuse to read them in-depth!

History 501 - THESIS
-50 pages: I've got 25 pages written (well, 28 if you count bibliography). I handed in this draft to my research supervisor last week and got it back a few days ago... and I've been avoiding it since then. I need to organize the crap out of it and elaborate on a lot of points. It'll get done. Probably. I'm on track, at least. I just need to think hard on my exact argument. I've thought of a brilliant framing device for it... but I need to sit down and write a really brilliant sentence or two that epically and concisely sums up my argument. 

On a separate note, here is something to make you smile, especially if you've watched Martin Freeman in BBC's modern adaptation of Sherlock. <3

beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 Good evening, everyone! Happy Valentines day, for those of you who celebrate it! 

First, a brief link recommendation. If you've never heard of Postsecrets, you should definitely check them out: essentially, people send in anonymous postcards with their secrets on them. Some are sad, some are quirky, some are touching, and all are absolutely awesome. This week they have a Valentine-themed series of postcard secrets for you to look at. This one was my favourite: 


Furthermore, the Edmonton Journal (which, along with the National Post, I read almost every day to keep up with news about the world) apparently held a contest for the best Edmonton-themed Valentines cards, most of them poking fun at the city. This particular one was my absolute favourite, mostly because I had to cross that bridge five days a week to get to Fort Edmonton this past summer. It was murder during rush hour when it was down to one lane. >_<; It's been under construction for at least two and half years.

For more, see here!

As a side note, I did celebrate this Valentine's Day as a single person. Here's hoping that I shall find my true love in the coming year! :) I should mention that I mostly enjoy Valentine's Day because it also doubles as my dearest mother's birthday! We have flowers and chocolate about the house, then, regardless of the state of our personal lives. :) Happy birthday, mother mine! Now, tomorrow is the holiday I look forward to even more than the events of St. Valentine... Cheap Chocolate Day! Celebrated: wherever chocolate is sold!

On a final note... I actually began writing this post in response to the lovely surprise left for me at [livejournal.com profile] atla_valentine. I hadn't realized that people would leave me messages! :)  They made me smile. Therefore, my original plan had been, in response to people writing lovely flattering things about the history dorkery that goes on in this journal, to write a post about some of the crazy little tidbits I've been learning about in my History of Translation class... which just so happens to be what I'm studying for at the moment (even as I procrastinate reviewing for the midterm to write this post). I'll get around to that very soon! It will still happen!

I did, however, just have a thought. Maybe I could do something completely and utterly crazy and unprecedented. I could... do a history meme. I want to share the love with you guys. I love telling historical anecdotes; I like to think I got quite good at it while working at Fort Edmonton. Maybe no-one will want to play with me. I will still tell crazy history stories to the world! Just give me a direction, guys. :) What do you want to hear?

It shall be a shameless effort at trying to emulate the cool kids (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE), only instead of fanfic, it will be random history tidbits, in the style of the posts that have appeared in this journal before.

THEREFORE, what I resolve to do is ask you, the readers, for history prompts! Ask me a historical question: anything you like. For instance: "who is your favourite member of European royalty and what was the most interesting thing they ever did?" "What do you think is the silliest reason a war ever started?" "What is the most unusual historical artifact you have ever seen in person?" "What can you tell me about Canada's participation in such-and-such a war?" It can even be something like "tell me the craziest thing you know about the 17th century/the bubonic plague/aboriginal history/etc., etc., ad nauseam." I shall even search for an appropriate image to accompany the historical blather! 

If I don't know the answer to your question, I resolve to use my research skills and access to university databases to find the answer! You may get more coherent history squee if I've heard of the topic before, though. I have studied European history across the ages, some East Asian history, and lots of Canadian and American history, but still, don't let that limit your selection! I suspect that if you ask me something about the history of medicine or the French or English languages you will get extra-long anecdotes. Indulge your curiosity, and I will try to be interesting in return! :) 
beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
 These last few days I have spent many hours pouring over microform and microfiche, doing research for my thesis. I've looked at the Hospital Steward's Manual (essentially, how to run a military hospital, according to the Union army standards) and the first reel of at least two dozen that contain the United States Sanitary Commission records. That sounds dead boring. It really, really wasn't.

I thought that the U.S. Sanitary Commission records were going to be a republishing of documents regarding camp conditions, bureaucratic matters, and so on, like my favourite text of the era, The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. I was wrong. They're microformed versions of the ACTUAL, handwritten records, collected in person from military surgeons and soldiers and so on. Many of them have strange shadows on them; my dad assures me that they're probably not bloodstains but water damage. It doesn't always look that way. 

Anyway, I really enjoyed skimming through these records... which is good, for me, because if I find them interesting then I'll be able to work my way through at least a few more reels before giving up in disgust to rest my eyes. 

The super-neat thing about the microfilm readers in the Rutherford library is that they're brand-spanking new digital things, so I can create a real-time digital image on a giant computer screen, with a magnifying glass as well as the ability to create giant multi-page PDF files of copies of what I'm looking at, saved conveniently to my memory stick to peruse more closely from the comforts of my own home.

And in a continual effort to avoid doing homework while pretending to do just the opposite, as I was skimming over the stuff I looked at today I created a mini-collage of some of the lines that really jumped out at me from the page. Civil War surgeons had much nicer penmanship under duress than I ever will. 

In case you're having difficulty reading what some of the handwriting says...
Box on the left: On /Penetrating Wound/ of the Thorax/ Death. / Battle of Ruaca(?) / 1864

Flesh wounds of the forearm... Erysifielas(?? Latin medical word?)  Recovery
Lieut. G.G. Bickett, Co.G.46'' Ohio in the Battle of                                                        Pulse
Report of the Sick and Wounded                                No. of wounded admitted. 665
Died.                              Skull unusually thin.                     Death.                                      ???(illegible, blotted by water damage or rushe dpenmanship)
Wound of the back.   ???? Deaths.
nothing like gangrene
Ball extracted                              Pneumonia                             Gunshot injury           amputation
Post mortem examination            Amputation                                Everything progressing favorably
remaining 508
                                   Refuses amputation
             Received orders
                                                                The inflammation rapidly spread
               Died 2nd day                            left
Gangrene                        Death
                                                                                          Exhaustion
                             From this time patient gradually rallied
                  recovery
                                             very cheerful
                                                                       U.S. Sanitary Commission (letterhead)
 
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 (Oh hey, look, new icons! :D )

As I mentioned on Twitter, today was a good day on the "free stuff" front. One of my professors gets sent a LOT of American history textbooks by publishing companies, all in the hope, of course, that she will pick THEIR textbook to assign for all of her classes... She brought in a huge stack of them (it took several trips from her office) to class today and told us all to take one each. For free. Some of these are so new they're still in the wrapping! The one I ended up picking didn't even have a barcode. I think that it's print run is still on the way and that this one is just a preview copy or something. But hey, I'm not going to say no to a free textbook! :D 

I also got free food - pizza! pop! - at the public lecture by Christopher Moore. A bit of background: remember how last summer while working as a research assistant I used to talk about some of the interesting things I ran across while doing research for that course I was helping Professor Muir design, on the legal history of Canadian Confederation? Moore wrote the book I ended up recommending as a basic textbook: 1867: How the Fathers Made a Deal. Maybe I should have put it on yesterday's book recommendation list. It's very clear, informative, and downright entertaining in how it approaches what I always thought of as rather boring legal histories. Instead of having a revolution or something, we just waited until we were ready and then asked nicely. More or less. (Hey, did you know that Nova Scotia of all places was fiercely independent and was kind of conned into joining all of the rest of the British North American colonies into joining? Also, argued against Confederation with puns and other arguments.) Anyway, read that book if you're interested in Canadian history. I really want to read his children's books, too. >_> 

ANYWAY Professor Muir invited Moore to do a series of talks at the U of A on selected topics. I'm going to one on the 1864 Quebec Conference on Monday. Today's was on "Doing History in Public": AKA what someone passionate about history can do without going becoming a professor and getting mired in academia. (SO RELEVANT TO MY LIFE RIGHT NOW WHAT AM I GOING TO GROW UP TO BE??)

It was a really interesting talk! First he rambled a little bit about his own life story - which was immediately relevant because it was interesting how he fell into becoming an author. He actually had no clue what he was going to do after graduating with a BA in Honour's history in the mid-1970s, so he ended up working... at a costumed historical interpretation park! Well, as one of the historians working at the Fortress of Louisbourg back when it was just getting started. (Some of the stuff he was telling us about his work there was fascinating. For instance, they were really working on trying to furnish the buildings and glean clues about the architecture and interiors of the place, so he'd be searching through fascinating court records about someone being dragged before a judge for bashing someone over the head with a candlestick, killing them, and he'd be making notes like "had metal candlesticks at hand in house." XD )So I'm currently right where he was like forty years ago. 

But yeah, so he spoke about his different book projects for a while, spoke about "public history" projects... For instance, he's been commissioned by various (legal) societies to write their histories. He said that the advantage with working with societies of lawyers is that they can afford to pay for a history to be made. ;) He then gave us a few life tips, then opened the floor to questions. I remember one of the funny things he was explaining was that when he first started writing books of Canadian history in the 1970s, he was one of like five different historian-authors working in Canada at the time, it seemed. "I used to say that the others all starved to death", he joked to us. One of the messages he had was that, well, history wasn't necessarily very profitable, but it was interesting. ;) Also, that historical training can be immensely valuable in a huge variety of jobs... especially research-based careers.

I also asked him about his writing style, because he's written both legal histories as well as children's histories: what differentiates the two? He said that he's learned not to patronize children in his writing - so he doesn't gloss stuff over, I gather - but he does think twice about using certain "big words" and he never takes a reference for granted. For instance, if he makes an allusion to Pierre Trudeau, he will have a short aside explaining who the man was. Things like that. Super interesting!

Professor Muir introduced me to him afterwards. It was all very informal... but still, it's nice to make contacts! :) I'm looking forward to his talk next week as well! :D
beboots: (Civil war lithograph)
 So [livejournal.com profile] beckyh2112 and I have been chatting a lot about history stuff since I made that post a few hours ago (about Two-Spirited People), and I thought that hey, it might be a good idea to recommend some history books for people! There are a lot of history books out there – too many to fully digest, let alone really pick out the good ones – so I thought that I’d share (and recommend!) a few of my favourite titles. I was originally planning on writing this post in a few days, when I had less homework... but I've lost all motivation to do more readings and I had this on my mind... so I may as well just get it out of my system now.

Some of the books on this list are so-called “popular histories” (meaning they’re published by a more mainstream publisher), but others are more academic histories. The difference between the two is usually that the popular histories are more readable (they’re meant to sell better and appeal to a wider audience) and the academic histories are more rigorous and possibly more expensive because of limited publication runs. Be wary of some histories published by the popular press: some don’t go through actual, y’know, peer review, which means they can be published even if they’re saying untruths. Take, for example, the horrific work by Gavin Menzies. He’s the guy who wrote a “history” book so full of bullshit actual historians have dedicated their entire academic careers to proving every last little detail wrong. Menzies is the guy, for instance, who lied about HIMSELF on his “about the author” bit in his book, saying he was born in China (instead of visiting it as a babe in arms) to give himself more credentials. Because he has none. I had a professor (now the head of the East Asian Studies department at the U of A, I think?) give an entire hour and a half long lecture to us on the subject of how much Menzies sucked. So yeah, caveat emptor when it comes to the popular press. They still have lots of awesome stuff!

…And now that I’m done that little soapbox speech… Let’s get down to some recommendations, shall we? (Many of these authors have their own websites which talk about their books... so you can at least take a peek at the cover, and possibly special features, which is why I link them here.)

-There is, of course, the awesome book with the awesome title I’m working my way through, discussed in that last post: The Importance of Being Monogamous by Sarah Carter. See that post for more (awesome) details.

-Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadaversby Mary Roach. Perhaps this is more of a text on modern medicine/culture/etc. with historical elements, but I still enjoy it even though it is quite morbid. A friend of mine who knew I liked the history of medicine leant me her copy and I've been reading through it slowly. It's all about "life after death" - what happens to human bodies. Not just things like new alternatives to burial and cremation (although it talks about that too) but things like practicing surgery on the dead, examining the bodies of a plane crash to tell the story if the black box fails, what precisely happens when a body decomposes, human remains being used in ballistic testing... even modern cases of cannibalism. The author has an interesting attitude towards death (in the epilogue she talks about what she'd like done with her body, a decision made in light of all the research she did for this book), which is refreshing but also kind of unnerving at times. Not for the faint of heart... but I'm glad I read it. 

-The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History by Katherine Ashenburg. This book is more of a pick me up, compared to the one I just described. It's essentially a history of cleanliness in the Western world. I think most of us have a vague idea that in the middle ages nobody bathed and such, but we're a bit fuzzy on the details. This book is wonderful for filling those details in with lots of fun facts and awesome anecdotes. It really does answer the question of "how dirty were they, really?" For instance, during the Renaissance, the rich would often just change their crisp white linen shirts several times a day and be considered clean. Queen Elizabeth bragged that she would take a bath once a month "whether I need one or not". It wasn't until the late 1700s that the rich were noticeably cleaner than "the great unwashed" masses of the poor. I was particularly interested in the later chapters that dealt with changing views towards cleanliness in the regency era onwards... 

-The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson. This book really exemplifies what I find fascinating about the history of medicine and the development of ideas and theories during the mid-nineteenth century. This book is absolutely fascinating. It's about Dr. John Snow (also, incidentally, the anesthetist to Queen Victoria during childbirth) developing theories about the waterborne spread of cholera, directly challenging prevailing ideas of miasma at the time. I'm heavily citing this book during a section of my thesis to demonstrate how hey, these health theories had a logic all of their own and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand by people in the 21st century who have the benefit of generations of experiments and clinical experience. (And really, to people without microscopes, does "tiny invisible creatures" make any more sense that "bad smells" as a cause for disease?)

-Intensely Human: the Health of the Black Soldier in the American Civil War by Margaret Humphreys. (That's a link to it available on Google Books! Bits of it available for free!) Informative, but a bit depressing. This topic is rarely discussed in medical histories of the war or histories of the African American contributions to the conflict. I think it's the only book that's entirely dedicated to this topic. Incredibly well-written, though, and definitely a recommended read if you're into such topics. 

-Our Mother's War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II by Emily Yellin. I did a four-way comparative book review on American Women's roles during the Second World War for a women's history course last semester, and this book really stood out for me. The author is a journalist and it does show in her format: lots and lots of short little anecdotes, light on the analysis... But fresh and energetic and darn interesting! They all couldn't be Rosie the Riveter after all... A very good read. 

-The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way by Bill Bryson. One of my favourite non-fiction books of all time by one of my favourite authors of all time. His writing style is informative as well as being highly entertaining! The title is self-explanatory, but the chapters cover not only the history of the English language but also things like what it CAN'T do (which amounts to examples from other languages for things that English can't describe), to chapters on English place names (and surnames, and their crazy pronounciations) to even a chapter on wordplay and puns. My favourite example? How do you turn a piece of paper into a lazy dog in three steps? Answer: A piece of paper is an ink-lined plane. An inclined plane is a slope up. A slow pup is a lazy dog. Say it out loud. My mind was blown. Anyway, if you can only read one book on this list, this one had better be the one. <3

Aaand... that's all for now. I could recommend more, but I'm tired at the moment. Feel free to ask me to recommend books or articles on specific topics! There's no harm in asking! (All I can do is say no, I am prostrate that I have never heard of you're topic and I am clearly woefully uninformed and I will remedy that post-haste by running out and reading a bunch of articles on the subject you bring to my attention. ;) )

OKAY, NOW I REALLY HAVE TO FINISH MY HOMEWORK FOR SERIOUS. D:
beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
 So [livejournal.com profile] beckyh2112 has been doing some awesome research on women who have taken on men’s roles in various cultures, and when she put out the call on Twitter I responded with the question – “Have you ever heard of Two-Spirited people?” After a quick discussion, I agreed to transcribe a fascinating passage from a fascinating book, detailing a subject that very few people actually know about.

The book itself was published by the University of Alberta Press (I go to this university! <3 ). I picked it up this summer because they had a sale on the history books at the Fort Edmonton giftshop, and since I’d walked past this shelf every day for months on my way in and out of work, and this particular book had been recommended to me many times by my co-workers… The temptation was too much to resist. I can claim it’s research for work, too, because I portrayed a Metis country wife. ;)

Sarah Carter’s The Importance of Being Monogamous: Marriage and Nation Building in Western Canada to 1915 (2008) deals not only with aboriginal peoples, but also later polygamous religious societies like Mormon groups. The chunks of the book on aboriginal culture were particularly relevant to me and my work, though, and fascinating to boot. Analyses of societies like these really do demonstrate that the supposedly “natural”, heterosexual, monogamous model proposed by Western Europeans… isn’t exactly as “natural” as it is made out to be.

This particular passage (pages 122-125) is on Two-Spirited people, who are super-cool. Originally, Becky was looking for specifically female-to-male gender reversals, I believe, but the reverse is also fascinating, and some cultural expectations applied to both groups.



Read on to hear about Trim Woman, Running Eagle, Pidgeon Woman, Elk-Yells-in-the-Water, and other Two-Spirited people. )
beboots: (confusion)
Winter 2011 Semester Checklist

MLCS 400: History of Translation (technically a language course and not a history course, though taught by a historian/classicist who also happens to be a translator)
Women’s Studies 201: needed for that “breadth and diversity” credit. :P
Hist 450: History of Slavery & Emancipation (seminar)
Hist 488: The Health Consequences of War (History of Medicine seminar)
Hist 502: Unscheduled Honour’s Thesis project (independent research)

Ongoing projects with uncertain due dates/due dates of my choice:
-Write honour’s thesis! (11/50 pages so far, but what there is still needs a crapload of editing)
-Write three short (3 page?) reading response papers to articles of my choice discussed in Hist 488
-Write one (4-5 page) reading response paper to article of my choice discussed in Hist 450
-Write blog entry (& a reply or two) at least once a week for Women’s Studies on e-class website.

Due dates/ stuff that needs to happen (so I can get it straight in my head) )

Pros & cons )

So it’s not all bad. The problem is just that there’s a LOT of it. Plus my thesis.
beboots: (Harry Potter Face)
Classes have begun! Already, my workload is crazy. My thesis should be getting written. I've kept up with my readings - so far - but then again, it's only been three days. My classes seem super-interesting, at the very least, so hopefully it won't be too difficult or onerous to keep up. :) 

In the meantime, I've been finding solace in actually writing fanfic again. I'm sure that many people who know me through various fandoms may have picked up on the fact that I love alternate universes (no, not "high school" or "all human" AUs, but awesome ones), especially crossovers and time travel fics. There may be some of you who may recall my most prominent fandom works, Alchemy's Child (a Fullmetal Alchemist crossover with Harry Potter) and Rise of the Jinchuuriki (A Naruto!verse fic in which both Naruto and Gaara go back in time and race to become the leaders of their respective villages once more). Well, this fic that I've been working on has elements from both. 

It can be roughly summarized thusly: 

"Draco may be an arrogant, selfish little git, but even he has principles. When Voldemort kills his parents, well, he’s going to do something about it. Timetravel fic."


Essentially, Draco goes back in time to make sure that the Dark Lord doesn't win again. Or come back in the first place. He's only twenty-three or so when he does this, but he's already pretty world-weary. Mostly he's just tired of killing muggles, although he has a healthy dose of PTSD from his time as a Death Eater as well. One thing to note: he's not doing this because he had suddenly developed a great love for muggles and mudbloods. No, this Draco is still pretty racist. He still believes in the pureblood cause; he just dislikes Voldemort's methods. Of course, this outlook on life will change over the course of the fic, slowly, with many fits and starts. 
I also want to combat certain fandom trends that I'm not too fond of, the least of which is the fandom!Draco who comes to love soap operas and microwaves and other such things immediately upon being introduced to them. This Draco still isn't entirely sure that being a mudblood isn't contagious, and so many of his reactions to muggle things are still going to involve some uneasiness. (And no, it won't be the other extreme of "WHAT THERE ARE PEOPLE TRAPPED IN THAT TALKING BOX??" reaction to televisions or something.)

I also want to play off of the idea that people who return to the past have a completely perfect memory of what happened before. Um, no. Can you remember what you did when you were ten, over a decade later? Down to the exact dialogue and what you had for breakfast? Neither can Draco. My Draco is very much an unreliable narrator, too: keep that in mind, because it will come up, again and again. 

Also, things will change. Plot-type things. One of my pet peeves is when people write crossovers or time travel fics and just have the same things happen in the same order, perhaps for slightly different reasons or with another person speaking. Not so! Draco will change things, sometimes in ways that surprise even him. Make a few changes, and events will cascade differently, in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways. :3

So far, I have over thirty pages of it written; three completed chapters and lots of other scenes. My planning page, including a lot of back and forth ideas I've thrown around with a few beta-readers, is about the same length. I want to do a LOT more planning before I think of posting the first chapter. I've already rewrote quite a bit since I first wrote it. Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] feral_shrew  and [livejournal.com profile] kuiskata for letting me bounce ideas off of you two! :) I think that once I finish up to the summer after first year, then I'll start posting: then I should be safe from the urge to go back and make too many changes. ;) I suspect that I'll be writing a lot to avoid working on homework. Besides, with even more snow falling outside, and the mercury in the thermometer dropping right along with it, I don't think that I'll be up for going for long jogs or anything. It's weather that tells you to stay inside, make some tea, wrap yourself in a blanket and get some reading or writing done.

Anyway, I'm quite proud of what I have written so far, so I thought that I would post a little preview so that interested parties may be able to get a feel for the flavour of this Draco. 

Draco's father reacts, passive-aggressively, to his son speaking to a mudblood in public, and Draco gets his first wand for the second time. )

beboots: (Default)
 So [livejournal.com profile] beckyh2112  got me thinking about lists, and organizing my thoughts and goals, etc., in time for the new year. :) 

Awesome things that happened to me in 2010:
-For the first time in my life, I managed to actually KEEP a new year's resolution! This bodes well for the future. I vowed to take up push-ups: I began in January barely able to do one set of five knee push-ups at a time, and now I tend to do sets of thirty or thirty-five in a day. I think that I'll keep going with this, working my way up to fifty at a time by the end of school this April. :3
-I figured out a topic for my thesis! (Now, to actually WORK on it...) I've kept up with the honour's programme, which means that I have consistently kept a ridiculously high GPA... through lots of hard work. I just have to keep it up for one more semester... 
-Everyone in my immediate family has remained healthy and happy, more or less. No deaths! We're all going strong. :)
-I went on an amazing trip to the British Isles. The experiences I had there will stick with me for my entire life. :) I had fun, learned history, became independent, and realized that I can always work my way through the troubles life throws me. Keep calm & carry on, right?
-Despite setbacks, I was hired at Fort Edmonton in the funnest job I have yet to have. Where else would you be able to dress in costume and talk to people all day about fascinating subjects? Learn to light fires with flint and steel, and cook meals with wild game in cauldrons on fireplaces? I learned valuable skills that will serve me well in the case of civilization-destroying apocalypses in 2012. ;)

Things I am anxious about for the coming new year:
-Jobs jobs jobs. I have an almost guaranteed job at Fort Ed for the summer, but what am I to do for a career? I'm going to apply for grad school for the year afterwards, but in what program? Decisions, decisions... 
-I do feel a bit lonely at times. I mean, I have a very loving family and some very good friends, but I have to say I wouldn't mind meeting a special someone. Until last year, I never really understood that old adage: "all the good men are gay or taken." This year I found out that damn, that is so true! D: Still, I hold out hope. :)

Things to look forward to in the new year:
-During the second week of January, I get to be an extra in the short film "Northern Lights"! It's a ten minute movie that they're filming for the new Capitol Theatre they're constructing at Fort Edmonton which will serve as an introduction to the park and to Edmonton's history: it's to tell 10,000 years of the history of the area in 10 minutes. I'm going to be one of the extras in the background of the fur trade era scenes. :) I'll have to skip a class to do it, and there's apparently going to be a ridiculously early start time (like 7:30 in the morning at a place that's nearly an hour a way from my home during rush hour), but it will be entirely worth it. :)
-As of sometime in the next year, my little brother would have been in remission for five years straight, which means that he will be effectively "cured" of cancer! :D Huzzah and well-wishes for my brother dearest!
-While this could (and is) also placed up above under the "anxieties" list, this year will also be the year that I figure out what I'm doing with my life. Probably. :) So that's something.
-I have two very good novel ideas floating around in my brain right now. I'm not going to wait for November: I'm going to actually write them, I've vowed to myself. I'll work on them in between working on my thesis and doing other things. :) Which brings me to...

New Year's Resolutions. As I did so well on last year's resolution, I will have several this year:
-Keep up the exercise! I'll keep doing push-ups, and I will endeavour to do at least three days of intense exercise a week: that's swimming sessions, jogs, etc. I may join the fencing club or take up Tai Chi with Cassidy dearest. :)
-Stop chewing my nails. It's a horrible habit I've had for as long as I can remember. It's not as bad as some people, but I'm self-conscious about it and I want it to stop. Must resist...
-Be more confident in myself. Be more personable. Stay positive. I generally am an optimist, and I hope to stay that way. 
-WRITING WRITING WRITING. I'm going to try to be a more prolific writer. I've got my thesis to work on, but also those novel ideas as well as several fanfic in the works. I endeavour to FINISH some of these stories floating around on my hard drive. Also, schoolwork. 

Hopefully, these aren't unreasonable resolutions! ;) I love you all! Happy New Year!
beboots: (Default)
(Edit: I feel that I need a more "jubilantly" happy icon as opposed to "mildly positive". Hmm... Suggestions?)

 Huzzah! This doesn't mean I'm free, though, or that I even am finished all of my scholarly pursuits for the semester. Here is my to do list:

-apply for teaching assistant jobs abroad/in Quebec (I have three on my list)
-WORK ON THESIS. I have a bunch of books checked out, and they need readin'. Also, I should get some writing done. 
-repair the tears in my favourite winter coat (along the seam of the pocket, the inside of the lining of the shoulder)
-RELAX AND ENJOY LIFE
-Also, bake cookies! Here is an amazing recipe that they use to bake cookies at Henderson house on 1905 street at Fort Edmonton, which they have been baking every night I've worked Christmas reflections (and were kind enough to give me a copy of the recipe):

Fort Edmonton Shortbread (from an Edwardian-era recipe)
(For best results, of course, use a cast-iron wood burning stove, but as this isn't an ideal world I've included modern temperatures)

Ingredients
-1/2 cup cornstarch
-1 1/2 cups flour
-1 cup butter
- 3/4 cup icing sugar.

1) Mix butter with icing sugar
2) To the above mixture, mix in corn starch and flour to make a soft dough
3) Roll out the dough, and punch out your cookie shapes 
4)Using a moderate heat (300F) bake for 8 minutes

Then let cool, of course (they stick the entire pan out the side door to sit on the snow for a few minutes), and OMNOMNOM. No regrets! 

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