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Does anyone reading this still play any of the Sid Maier Civilization games, or even just have them on their computer?

I posted earlier today about my science & technology course. The first lecture back in January, I'm going to be talking about the industrial revolution and the Needham Question. Crudely put, the Needham Question asks "why didn't the industrial revolution happen in China?" Slightly less crudely put, the Needham Question asks, "why did an industrial revolution happen in England?" Less crudely put than that, the question involves me yammering on about coal deposits and opium and counterfactuals for three hours or so. (There is a twenty minute break.)

So I thought I'd use Civilization as a way of getting in to the question. Not just because you can play out alternate histories where the Sioux get the bomb and the Mongols discover the secret of cheeseburgers, but because I figure I can use the Civ tech tree as a metaphor for technological development, contingency, and determinism. What I'd like to have is a couple of screen shots from Civilization that I can use for slides. I especially want one of the discovery screens that says "Chinese Wise Men Discover the Secret of Industrialization" or however it's worded. But I could also use a handful of images of, say, ironclads putting the hurt on phalanxes, or really anything from the game. I've Googled around and found various screen shot collections but none of the discovery screen for some reason. (Did they drop it from the later versions? I thought I remembered it from Civ 3 but maybe my memory is playing tricks on me.)

If you're wondering why I don't just dig up a copy, reinstall the damn thing, and get the screen shots myself--well, that's a little like asking a former junkie to throw together a heroin kit for old times sake. Anyway, I can certainly get by without the screen shots, or with ones I pull together from the web. But if you were looking for an excuse to kill 36 hours over the holidays...
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Big Stack of Papers (not to scale)

It’s paper grading season! Forecast calls for lighter posting here and across the academic blogosphere with a 60% chance of griping. If you’re in the thick of it right now, feel free to plagiarize my own deathless wisdom on responding to student writing, posted last year.

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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I am not getting enough sleep.

00664 km

Aug. 3rd, 2006 09:51 am
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Originally published at Route 96. You can comment here or there.

This illustrates something about academia in the 1990s, I think: of the five people in that picture below, four eventually got PhDs. Yet only one (the handsome bearded gentleman on the far left) works in academia today. The others have all done very well for themselves, mind you, make more money than I do, and have no regrets. Just saying.

Joe and Renee are married now and just had a baby! There’s photographic evidence of this, and other ravages of time, at Joe’s website.

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Just taught my last class of the year. It was about THE FUTURE!

Time to kick back and take it easy! grade this stack of papers! have and raise a child!
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I teach my first class as a professor today! In about two hours.


Jun. 17th, 2005 12:03 pm
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I'd better talk about 1998, because I'm three years into my memories of grad school, and I've managed to say nothing about school itself. Here goes. )

Don't forget: Doyle's, 3484 Washington Street in JP, tomorrow night at 7.


Jun. 15th, 2005 12:20 pm
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That's you! You're a triangle! You!

OK, it's 1997, and can we have something a little more cheerful this time? In my second and third year of grad school, I lived with three friends from the dorms (see, I did make friends in the dorms eventually—they were all Americans, mind you) in a gorgeous apartment in Inman Square, one that four grad students couldn't possibly afford today. Once or twice a year, we threw massive house-shaking parties there. I don't know quite how we did it, to tell the truth. I've never thrown parties like that before or since. But the emails went out, and the guests poured in, and our place would be packed with bodies, some in attractive shapes, and nearly all shimmying and shaking and bumping up against each other in a way that belies my usual portrait of grad school as a social wasteland. This was soon after the Chemical Brothers muscled into the mainstream, and I can remember the aptly-named Block Rocking Beats rattling windows all the way down the street. For years to come, people I'd never met would tell me about the epic parties they attended on Marie Street in 1997.

But my signature memory is not one of the raging parties—it's the hour or two after one of them. Read more... )

Shout-out to Inman Square: Dining too fine to waste on grad students, so get those property values rising! East Coast Grill, the first good place in Boston I managed to take my parents! The Druid, which is fun to say in a ridiculous Irish accent ("tha' DROOOOOOD!"), and where they pass the hat for the I.R.A! Jae's (not there anymore), with great-for-beginners sushi and killer pad thai! 1369, when you absolutely need coffee served by a lesbian but you can't make it all the way to Jamaica Plain! Olé, for awesome $8 guacamole served in an infinitely dense chunk of black hole! The Thirsty Scholar, where I got to hang out with Jim Carroll! That Portuguese sandwich place, where L and I went after several early dates! That Indian place, that wasn't actually that good! That Southern place, that I never went to!


Jun. 14th, 2005 11:23 pm
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This is supposed to be a memory from 1996, but it needs a memory from 1994 for context. Or maybe I just want to brag/confess. Read more... )


Now here's a random 2005 moment for you, no extra charge. In fact, this took place just today, though it does have a bit of an early 90s feel to it. I got an ice cream this afternoon at J.P. Licks. When I got to the counter, a middle-aged woman was shouting at the cashier that one of their flavor names was offensive. "We are a multi-racial family, and we find that completely inappropriate!" But I didn't catch which flavor it was, and I'm dying to know. They all seem so innocuous. Lumpy Primate? Black and White Malted? Cow Tracks? Rum and Raisin?

Another mysterious but very J.P. moment, come to think of it: I walked by a cop today giving a driver a ticket. The woman getting the ticket was screaming at the (male) cop, "I'M A LESBIAN! A LESBIAN! A DYKE!"

Ok, one more. This was a few weeks ago, and it actually took place in Allston rather than J.P. But it stuck in my head, and the theme of angry women continues. Woman on cell phone, yelling well above the din of a coffee shop: "LET ME TALK TO HER! LET ME TALK TO HER! CHRIST, WILL YOU LET ME TALK TO HER?" She then hangs up the phone and says calmly to the woman behind her in line, "I wish I'd never made contact with my biological family."

Edit: I got it! The new wasabi-flavored ice cream, Turning Japanese. Seems pretty harmless to me, but that's gotta be it. You can take J.P. Licks out of Jamaica Plain, but you can't take the Jamaica Plain out of J.P. Licks.


Jun. 13th, 2005 11:55 am
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Kids today growing up too fast
Nostalgic for the last ten years before the last ten years have passed
So why you gotta act like you know when you don't know?
It's okay if you don't know everything.

I set foot in Harvard Square for the very first time on a sunny, sweaty Sunday in September 1995. Ten years ago, or just about. Here's 1995-me: he's getting out of a taxi in front of Out of Town News. No, actually it was across the street in front of Mass Army Navy, where there's now a Verizon store inside another Verizon store inside a bank inside three co-located Starbucks. 1995-me wears jeans, Converse hi-tops, a Grateful Dead T-shirt, and a red and black hoodie: one of those rough wool hippy hoodies you might buy at a campus bazaar for Guatemalan social justice in the earnest early '90s. (Which is exactly where 1993-me bought it.) 1995-me is skinnier than 2005-me and he doesn't need glasses. He has much longer hair—not as long as it was four months earlier at graduation, but still shaggy, Kurt Cobain length. And he's dragging a humongous blue duffel bag, which weighs a ton because it contains most of his life. And he doesn't know anything about anything.

Meandering memories and lame philosophizing.
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Oy, my aching head. I went to Minneapolis this weekend for a business history conference, the aptly-named Business History Conference, actually. I had one very good day there sandwiched by two disappointments. I was giving two talks on Friday: the first as part of a panel on the history of the Bell System, and the second as one of four nominees for the association's big dissertation prize. The first disappointment was that my flight Thursday night was delayed so much that I missed the last connection to Minneapolis and thus my own talk on Friday morning. The good day came after I gave my other talk. It was a plenary session, so basically everyone attending the conference was there, and my talk was probably the very best short summary of my work and its significance that I've done to date. I rocked it. All that night and all the next day, people were coming up to me to rave about how great my project was—and to whisper that it was, they thought, the best of the talks, and that the prize was mine to lose. Which is exactly what I did, so that was the second disappointment.

Ah well. My profile was nicely raised for a few hours at least, and I saw some excellent talks. Plus I got to catch up with some people I rarely see, meet some very smart new people, and have several awkward little moments with folks who've turned me down for jobs in the last two years. I didn't see a lot of Minneapolis, but what I saw was friendly and green. (And it was about twenty degrees warmer than Boston, omg wtf.) There was a Canadian-themed restaurant across the street from the hotel—mounties, moose head, canoes and float planes—which I enjoyed on all seventeen levels of irony and sincerity. And the big reception took place in a gorgeous old flour mill converted into one of those zinc-y museums of industry, complete with multimedia show and breathless tour guide spiels about the awesome destructive power of, well, flour. "And so it was, on that fateful night in 1882, a single blast reduced the flour milling capacity of the entire city of Minneapolis by one-third!"

Other highlights: Dinner with the telephone history mafia. I do feel for all the other people at that restaurant, though, whose romantic evenings were drowned out by three hours of alternating toasts to AT&T and its demise, interspersed with insanely animated and arcane debate over telecom rate structures and long distance-local separations. And then the cool kids' invitation-only party after the awards banquet, where it is possible we took the names of certain leading business historians in vain. As the fun of that wore off and the night rolled on towards dawn, someone came up with the scheme of watching Sideways as a drinking game, complete with all the appropriate wines for every scene. Hence the headache. But that was Saturday night, or at least Sunday morning. Should my skull still be hurting like this?
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Way back in September, the very second post in this weblog was an account of lunch with Jason Kaufman, a smart young sociologist at Harvard who wanted to talk to me about the comparative history of Canada and the United States. Reading that post, it’s easy to see my respect and envy (as a historian) of Jason’s willingness (as a sociologist) to make big generalizations and bold, contentious claims. I now have another reason to respect and envy Jason: he had an op-ed piece in this Sunday’s New York Times. (If that link expires, try this one.) But the reaction to the piece by other smart people I also respect reminds me of something about big generalizations and bold claims: they can easily be disputed, and they can often be wrong.

The op-ed is a teaser for Jason and his co-author Orlando Patterson’s article in the next American Sociological Review. Their NYT piece is called “Bowling for Democracy,” which is cute because Jason’s first book was an extended take-down of Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone. But they’re talking about a different kind of bowling here. The question they started with was, “why don’t Canadians play cricket?” Cricket remains popular in almost all the former British colonies; Canada and the U.S. are the two big exceptions. Kaufman and Patterson’s thesis is that in nineteenth-century Canada and the United States, cricket remained the preserve of upper-class elites. Anxious to maintain their class identity in an increasingly egalitarian society, Canadian and American elites clung to upper-class signifiers like cricket and kept the plebes off the pitch. When baseball came along in the late nineteenth century, it was all too easy for promoters like A.G. Spalding to caricature cricket as a sissy, blue-blooded game and position baseball as the manly, populist alternative. In India and the Caribbean, by contrast, British elites had little fear of class assimilation. There were easier ways to tell who was in the club and who wasn’t, so elites encouraged their colonial subjects to play the game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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I usually turn to Cliopatria to keep up to date on campus speech controversies. So I’m surprised that I beat my colleagues there to the following scoop: This past Tuesday, the College Republicans at the University of Connecticut invited Jim Hellwig, better known as face-painted pro wrestler “The Ultimate Warrior” to speak at their school. But students in attendance were shocked, shocked when, instead of comporting himself like a proper professional wrestler, the Ultimate Warrior launched into an angry, incoherent tirade.

Students started heckling Hellwig when his remarks turned (allegedly) racist and homophobic. The Ultimate Warrior (who, you may recall, bested Ravishing Rick Rude in a steel cage match at Summer Slam ’89) only got angrier, and eventually campus security had to shut the event down.

The UConn College Republicans have apologized for the incident, but Warrior (my Chicago Manual tells me it is correct to drop “the Ultimate” after second reference) appears unrepentant. In a memo “from the desk of Warrior,” he dubs the UConn Republicans “spineless,” and calls his critics the “World Class Crew of Crybabies.” (Which is ironic, because I’m pretty sure the WC3 took on the Hart Foundation in Wrestlemania 4.)

(Crossposted to Cliopatria.)

(Edit: David Noon’s Axis of Evel Knievel has the story in more chair-throwing, turnbuckle-smashing, pile-driving detail.)

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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This post has a soundtrack! It's the song "The Rest of My Life" by the band Sloan, on the album Action Pact. I've been listening to it constantly for the last two weeks, which probably means that for the rest of my life, whenever I hear that song it will take me back to February 2005.

I started thinking 'bout the rest of my life )

Edit: Hey, I should point out that none of this is quite as impending as I might have made it seem. I mean, we won't be moving until July or August. Certainly not before L's school year is over. It's not like we're going to London tomorrow. Well, actually we are going to London tomorrow, but just for a visit. We're coming back Wednesday. Lots of time between Wednesday and July to see all you Bostonians and do stuff and game and not game and all that.
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My dear, dear friends:

I have been offered and am probably going to accept (pending negotiation of salary details, etc., which is the reason this post is still Friends-only) have now accepted! a tenure track job at the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario.

This is wonderful news: it’s a great job at a great school, it’s tenure track, it’s a respected research university, I get to teach grad students, I get to develop one of the first programs in United States Studies in Canada, it means being in the same city as my sister and her family, and far closer to the rest of my family, and all my Toronto friends, than I’ve been in years.

This is terrible news: it means moving away from Boston, and so many of you!

More to come, no doubt, in person and on this LJ, about the decision and what it means, and what you all mean, to me. But, yeah. Big news.

Edit: One of the first U.S. Studies programs—turns out University of Toronto has one too. Grumble, grumble, Torontonians think they're so great... :)
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Coffee, tea, meat?

Home again, at a little after 1 am last night. A long rant about everything that happened on my 48+ hour trip home would sure be cathartic (It included a two-and-a-half hour cab ride (!) from London to Detroit, an hour trapped in the plane after landing in Boston because the exit ramp was frozen*, and finally, abandoning my cab driver after he got stuck in a snowbank a few blocks from my house, to finish the journey on foot. Plus lots of people not coping with life at their very best.) but I'm now so under the gun for the campus visits / job talks I have on Thursday and next Monday, I really can't do it justice.

It was great to see my sister and brother-in-law and their kids, though. And London looks nice, though the weather precluded much sightseeing. How did the interview itself go? OK, I think. I really can't remember.

*After an hour, this vexing dilemma was solved by moving the plane forward three feet.
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So, as I might possibly have mentioned in this journal already, I graduated! (See icon for robe and funny hat.) Thanks to everybody who traveled from far and wide to mark the occasion (my parents, L's parents, Kofi Annan, [ profile] princeofcairo, Ali G...) and to everybody who came to my party last week, which raged from about eight pm to midnight and then instantly turned into a pumpkin. Which is actually pretty much how I like it. It was so great to have Mom & Dad here—their only visit to Boston this millenium (they did make it to Amherst for the wedding). My Mom apologized for getting weepy. We're such WASPs. Weepiness is good! It reminds me that this graduation thing might actually have been kind of a big deal. Thanks for everything, everyone.

Another great success was [ profile] djwilhelm's salon, where a random sample of our generation's greatest minds gathered to discuss the weighty issues of the day. It was a lot of fun, and some of those present may have said something intelligent at one point or another, though alas, nobody was writing anything down, so our genius will be lost to history. The one moment I will remember is when [ profile] narcissime suggested I do an LJ post about five alternate Harvards, and I said something like, "Five goofball variations on some ridiculous premise seems to have become my thing." And Ken Hite said, quite rightly, "Your thing? [Krusty the Klown voice:] If this is anybody but Avram Davidson, you're stealing my bit!"

Which I shall treasure for a couple of reasons:

1. Because it's actually validating to have someone as cool as Ken Hite acknowledge that I am blatantly ripping him off, occasionally artfully.

2. Because while the geek conversational habit of just tossing out obscure references without stopping to explain them can be deeply irritating if you don't know, for example, who Avram Davidson is (he's a science-fiction author and fabulist whose influence can definitely be seen in Ken's magnificent Suppressed Transmissions), or you don't immediately recognize a line from The Simpsons (Krusty the Klown gets a prank phone call from rival TV host Gabbo. After realizing he's been punk'd, he says, "If this is anybody but Steve Allen, you're stealing my bit!"), it is both pleasing and flattering when you do.

3. Because Ken had no way of knowing that that line from The Simpsons is an old favorite of mine. See, in my Golden Words days (GW = the weekly humor publication at Queen's University), I became keenly aware of the long chain of homage, inspiration, and outright plagiarism that lay beneath each attempt at "original" "humor." I started out a somewhat slavish imitator of the senior writers and cartoonists on the paper, but stayed long enough to be imitated myself. By the time I reached the lofty heights of editor-in-chief, I often responded to cartoon and article submissions with some variation of Krusty's klassic line. "If this is anybody but Joey DeVilla, you're stealing my bit!"

Literature is full of such coincidences, which some love to believe plagiarisms. There are thoughts always abroad in the air, which it takes more wit to avoid than to hit upon.
—Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

We're all part of the great circle of rip-offs, remixes, and pastiches. It's like that Elton John song with the dancing warthogs. Hakuna Matata, baby. You're stealing my bit.
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1. Thank you all for the assorted woos and hoos and other forms of congratulations on finishing the dissertation. I am particularly delighted with [ profile] krustukles' little tribute. "May your suede elbow patches always be frayed, your spectacles always lost, and "love you" always inscribed on the eyelids of your nubile admirers." Hee. The girl knows why I went into academia.

2. Mark your calendars! I get the robes and the funny hat on June 10th. On Friday June 11th, I'm having a party chez moi to celebrate. If you're reading this and in the vicinity of Boston (or likely to be on the 11th) you have just been invited. Details to follow.

3. Another milestone! L&I just got back from our green card interview. Our marriage has been deemed "not a sham" by the Bureau of Homeland Security! The interview was a breeze. They didn't even ask to see our careful selection of pictures spanning time (spot the movie reference). Though L did giggle just a bit when I was asked "Do you plan to commit espionage and/or genocide?" which earned us a fisheye from the interviewer.

4. Those of you clamoring for gaming: I can't make Age of Paranoia tonight (celebratory dinner for #3, above), but I am gung ho to get Starchildren, Battle Without Honor or Humanity, and/or other gaming going again. In fact I'd be up for an impromptu session of something this Friday (it is the fourth Friday of the month, after all) if anybody is around. I'll use the Ad Hoc Gamers list to send out feelers, so if you're interested in any of those games but not on the Ad Hoc list, or if YahooGroups has been derelict in forwarding you those emails, you should check it for messages over the next couple of days.
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Say, who's that pictured in your LJ icon, [ profile] robotnik? Why, it's Doctor Robotnik!



Get it?

Tenacious D
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[ profile] wordwolf reports that the Ivory Tower has lost another gentleman and scholar to the Hosts of Mordor. I sympathize. In fact, my very own words have in the past pushed people out of academia and into law school. "The academic life rules; academic jobs are a dead end," WW writes. Very true, on both counts. Best wishes to Phil, and to the guy I helped talk into taking the Blue Pill. He seems to be bored in his classes but otherwise doing well. Read more... )


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