Friday, January 31, 2003

Longleaf pine forest

This is woodpecker habitat, the longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem. It is maintained by fire--otherwise small hardwoods grow up. The indians used fire, as did the turpentiners and the early farmers whose cattle ranged freely in these open woods. The marked trees have woodpecker cavities.

Rice for Peace

There is a wonderful peace protest I just heard about to send bags of rice to President Bush. The history is:

"In the mid 1950s, the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation, learning of famine in the Chinese mainland, launched a "Feed Thine Enemy" campaign. Members and friends mailed thousands of little bags of rice to the Whitehouse with a tag quoting the Bible, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him."

As far as anyone knew for more than ten years, the campaign was an abject failure. The President did not acknowledge receipt of the bags publicly; certainly no rice was ever sent to China.

What nonviolent activists only learned a decade later was that the campaign played a significant, perhaps even determining role in preventing nuclear war. Twice while the campaign was on, President Eisenhower met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to consider US options in the conflict with China over two islands, Quemoy and Matsu. The generals twice recommended the use of nuclear weapons. President Eisenhower each time turned to his aide and asked how many little bags of rice had come in. When told they numbered in the tens of thousands, Eisenhower told the generals that as long as so many Americans were expressing active interest in having the US feed the Chinese, he certainly wasn't going to consider using nuclear weapons against them."

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Endangered species and the army

Over three hundred people met for 5 days (I am back because I only stayed three) to talk about strategies for saving the Red Cockaded Woodpecker. There was a period in the early 1990s when the RCW almost became the Spotted Owl of the Southeast, and earned the nickname of "the little bird that defeated the 82nd Airborne". Since then the Fish and Wildlife Service has worked hard to compromise with the organizations that control woodpecker land and there has been cooperation instead of confrontation.

Ironicly, military installations are key to that effort, with 26% of the remaining birds living on Department of Defense land. The woodpecker needs pine trees that are over 100 years old, which are scarce everywhere. But it also needs a very open forest, such as is produced by frequent burning. Military based that are used for training have long done a lot of controlled burning, in order to reduce the hazards from fires caused by weapons during training. At Fort Stewart, where we went on a field trip, the environmental staff said that there are particularly successful woodpecker colonies right next to some of the live fire ranges, because the frequent fires produce better habitat.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

in the middle of last minute preparations

I'm hoping this trip will feel like quiet time, though my back is hurting which makes me more anxious about the long drive. I got some extra help and worked through some of the feelings that were scaring me, so I leave feeling more peaceful.

We've had very cold weather for this area, and I was amused to see yesterday that the fire and water fountain in downtown Greenville had become a fire, water, and ice fountain. The fountain is in front of the gas company building and it has a gas jet in the top tier, so there is always a flame coming out of the top of the fountain. In these days of high prices you might think they were sending the wrong message, but I guess they don't think.

Friday, January 24, 2003

off to a conference

I'm off to a scientific conference to do oral history interviews and get a feel for a story part of whose history I am writing. I'll be back Friday Jan. 31st, knowing more than I ever wanted to know about Red Cockaded Woodpeckers. My 9 year old daughter like the idea that the one-year-old males usually stay with their mother and help take care of the next year's young, while the one-year-old females usually go out and start their own families.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Teaching Baptists

One of today's readings is Ephesians 5:1-14, which talks about wives being subject to their husbands. I asked my women's history class last semester to name their religious upbringing or practice, and at least a third of the class were practicing Baptists. Around here if they aren't Southern Baptists they probably belong to an even more conservative group, perhaps with the exception of First Baptist churches in larger towns, many of which have gone with the Cooperative Baptists. But I never had the nerve to ask my students what they thought of the Baptist Statement of Faith that in the section on family says "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband." What is the line between putting students on the defensive and asking them to think for themselves?

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

cart before the horse

My university is divided up into 5 colleges (all with undergraduate programs), of which two currently require laptops for freshman and two more will next fall. I met with someone who is working on laptop training for faculty and she said what faculty most want to know is: "Why would we want to use laptops?" On a pedagogical level that question certainly wasn't answered and wasn't really asked before the decision was made to require laptops. It is really hard to fill in behind when a decision has been made without having the crucial groups of people buy in before it was made.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003


One of the people who supports me on my journey may be moving away fairly soon. I don't handle the feelings well so I get practical: what do I need to do to prepare to say goodbye? When I really want to say "It's not fair!"

Monday, January 20, 2003


This was a full fledged sun pillar when I first saw it but it had broken up some by the time I took the picture. My pictures here have been out a lot due to server problems on my home site, but hopefully will be more often present once this holiday weekend is over.

I remember when I was a teenager I saw a sun pillar and was intrigued, and how hard it was to find information. What a difference the web makes. For lots more information check out Atmospheric Optics, particularly the section on ice halos (sun pillars are in the "frequent halos" section).

Martin Luther King Holiday

We actually have the day off today, for the second year. It is interesting that the university has been willing to make the statement of making Martin Luther King Day a holiday. We don't get any other Monday holidays--apparently that would be unfair to professors who teach courses that meet on Mondays. We don't get Labor Day off--I always claimed that was because people down here think it is a communist holiday. But we don't get Memorial Day off either. What a wonderful statement we have backed into--that we get Martin Luther King day as a holiday but not Memorial day. Burning Bird has a beautiful discussion of the continuing need for affirmative action.

Sunday, January 19, 2003


As a teenage I loved iceskating. We lived in Concord, Mass., and played hockey informally on various ponds and the flooded meadows around the river. Once the Concord River froze so completely that we skated miles down the river and back. Most exciting was skating on Walden Pond. I remember black (transparent rather than white) ice on Walden pond, six or eight inches thick. Near the shore you could see right through the ice and the water to the bottom of the pond. When the sun is low the black ice takes on a dusty look and it booms like a low drum as it expands and contracts (try this pdf file from Sweden for some of the phenomena involved or this story from Minnesota for a discussion of the formation of black ice). I loved the feeling of gliding almost effortlessly and the speed.

Yesterday I took my kids skating, to the only rink in this part of South Carolina. And I couldn't skate. My feet and lower legs hurt as soon as I got on the ice and I couldn't pick up my feet. I could skate backwards, though it still hurt, so I pulled my kids each part way around the rink so they could get the feel of gliding. But then I had to give up because it hurt so much. I had had some problems the last time I skated 2 years ago and I hoped that renting skates big enough for my custom orthotics would solve the problem. But apparently my arch problems, which don't bother me as long as I wear the orthotics, make skating impossible now.

Thursday, January 16, 2003


Near Rosman NC

Wednesday, January 15, 2003


I realize one thing that I didn't learn very well as a child was continuity (actually I suspect a lot of this is about what psychologists call object permanence). If anything changes or if I am away for a while I don't expect a relationship to still exist, still be real. I don't adapt well to change because I feel like I have to start new in everything. I think that is why for me it is very meaningful just to have this blog be a place where there can be room for the very different parts of my life in one place. Part of the lack of continuity is switching from one role to another, and I definitely see one of my tasks in this stage of my life to be developing more commonality between those different roles.
P.S. I hope republishing fixed my archives. Another kind of continuity.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

woolly individuality

AKMA wrote "Or does the kind of intellectual integrity that I stake my life (my identity) on make no difference?" and later followed it up with a discussion of Tom's thoughts on the woolly individuality of bloggers. That is what I would like to think we are about--intellectual integrity and woolly individuality. And I think we are making new spaces for that. But we can never fully escape the problem of social control. Liturgical Churches have traditionally had some method of corporate discernment of the validity of individual spiritual experiences, because there is a suspicion that people who go off on their own will be led astray. I want to just believe in my own experience, but I understand that from an institutional point of view that can be too unstable. To what extent does any community have to function to smooth out our woolly individuality?

Monday, January 13, 2003


I read something a few months ago just in the newspaper about the concept of flow and I was glad to have a name for something I have always valued. It is what I love about teaching--it focuses me so completely that when I was pregnant with my second child and on partial bed rest and very uncomfortable, I kept teaching one course because teaching was the only time I didn't feel physically miserable, when I could forget I was pregnant. (Though my students couldn't--I had a 10 lb baby and I was really big.) Today I am happy being busy with a series of projects, both related to my own research and preparing a workshop I will teach tomorrow. Anyone know any good web sites for historical maps for use in teaching?

Saturday, January 11, 2003


Several contexts have brought up recently the concept of agency. It has been very valuable in all kinds of history of oppressed groups to focus on what members of the group do to make the most of their limited opportunities instead of focusing on discrimination. But I'm enough of the generation that had to name discrimination in order to not feel that we deserved it that I don't want to lose a clear statement of how limited the opportunities were. I like Ellen Carol DuBoise's call (linked above) to think more carefully about agency. In some sense everyone has agency--years ago I taught Deborah Gray White's book Ar'n't I a Woman: Female Slaves in the Plantation South and loved it for how it emphasized how much agency was possible even in slavery. But in another sense agency is something we learn, a sense that we can do something to improve our own situations. We can be empowered to fight discrimination or to find strategies to improve our situation within it, both by role models and by ideas that let us visualize what it means to have rights.

Thursday, January 09, 2003


I am realizing how much I learned as a child not to trust ordinary things, because the abuse proved that what seemed to be a fairly normal life was false. My difficulty in making friends is that casual interactions don't mean very much to me; I only trust deep sharing. That is actually what I like about email and it happens to some extent with blogs--it is possible to jump directly to talking about the deep real things, to get beyond the level of casual conversation.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Blogs in Teaching

I'm going to have less time for blogging here because I am requiring my students to write blogs (instead of the web board assignment I have previously used) and so I am keeping one related to the class myself as a model. I won't put a link here as I don't want to make it easy for them to find this blog, but my course blog is on blogspot with the name hist323 so you can find it easily enough. It will take a week or so before the students start writing their own blogs, which will be the interesting part. Right now I have to go write them directions on how to start a blog.

Monday, January 06, 2003

It's what you aren't used to

After a long day of interviewing job candidates, my colleague and I went Saturday night to a Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown in Chicago (actually the restaurant turned out to be part of a chain). I've been living in small towns in the south (in the Piedmont) for 20 years now, and I just felt happy to be in the city, in a Chinatown. It was snowing lightly and we walked through the snow perhaps a mile and a half back to our hotel. My kids are terribly jealous that I got to see snow and they haven't yet this winter. Here we usually get one or two snows a winter.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Settling in

I'm down to four boxes left to unpack in my office but they are hard ones. My back issues of journals I moved to the seminar room with some confidence, as they are now available on line. But I have several boxes of miscellaneous articles and xeroxes. I didn't miss them when they were in storage while we were in a temporary location for 2 1/2 years. And I don't have room for them. But it is hard to throw them out.

Tomorrow I go to the American Historical Association conference to interview job candidates. I won't have time to do anything else but I hope the weather isn't too beastly. Then classes start again Wednesday so I am having to move towards getting back into the swing of things.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003


I've said for a long time that it is hard to give my children love I wasn't given as a child. By God's grace I can do it, but at a cost in inner pain. What I just realized is how often what my children want is to give me love, and then have me give it right back to them. They aren't asking me to give them something I don't have but to give them something they just gave me. It is the giving I didn't get to do as a child, not just the getting.