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This Day In History

Tags: Baby, baby, baby. (Just one baby, but it bears repeating.)

I don’t normally post much real life personal stuff on this weblog, but this is an event of Great Historical Import: Please meet my daughter Yuki, born yesterday morning and shown here at about 30 minutes of age, looking dubious about the whole proposition. As I might have mentioned on my other weblog and in a whole bunch of emails, she is perfect and healthy and beautiful and awesome and so is her mother.

Do I know you?'

If you’re holding your breath for my reply to Cliopatria’s symposium on transnational history or the sequel to my Superman post (tentatively titled Superman II: What’s the (Anti) Matter With Kansas?*)–not a wise tactic at the best of times given my blogging habits–I’d advise you to take in some air. I have a lot of gazing in awe at this little one to do. (It’s like checking my email, only fulfilling!)

* Yeah, I know that title needs work.

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The Top Five Most Boss Names of U.S. Secretaries of State

Tags: Sorry, Bainbridge Colby.

The top five most boss names of U.S. Secretaries of State:

5. Abel Parker Upshur (1843-1844)
4. Condoleezza Rice (2005-)
3. Elihu Root (1905-1909)
2. Hamilton Fish (1869-1877)
1. Philander C. Knox (1909-1913)

Honorable Mention: Lawrence Eagleburger (1992-1993), who as my friend Ned points out, sounds like something you’d be served at Ted Nugent’s ranch.

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Earthquake Weather

Tags: April 18, 1906; birds and snakes and aeroplanes; the uses of disaster.

Parker Brothers' do-it-yourself catastrophe game.

Caleb McDaniel and others remind me that today is the 100th anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Caleb quotes from the autobiography of the journalist / social activist Dorothy Day, who witnessed the quake:

What I remember most plainly about the earthquake was the human warmth and kindliness of everyone afterward. … While the crisis lasted, people loved each other. They realized their own helplessness while nature ‘travaileth and groaneth.’ It was as though they were united in Christian solidarity. It makes one think of how people could, if they would, care for each other in times of stress, unjudgingly, with pity and with love.

This idea, and I think that very quotation, were at the heart of an essay in Harper’s last October by San Francisco writer Rebecca Solnit, about the relationship between disasters, authority, and human nature. A short excerpt, along with a post-Katrina postscript that did not appear in the magazine, are available at the Harper’s site. Read more

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For Completists Only

Tags: TransAmerica, but not that TransAmerica; grading papers; the most useful six hours of grad school.

Completists take note: There’s a conversation going on at Cliopatria and elsewhere on globalization and transnational history. I wrote a little something on the subject—TransAmerica, which went up last Sunday—and there will be a symposium on transnational American history at Cliopatria next Monday. I’ll try to get something more written for that, but marks are due Monday and I have a pile of papers to read and grade. So don’t plan your week around it.

If you’re really a completist, you can also read my advice to graduate teaching assistants on responding to student writing. Tis the season after all, and if you’re in the thick of grading papers like I am, you may find some useful advice or at least moral support there. Most of what’s written therein comes from a terrific workshop I took on teaching student writing at Harvard’s Derek Bok Center—possibly the most useful six or seven hours I experienced in all of graduate school.
Read more

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The World is Bound By Secret Knots

Tags: The Coolest Guy Ever; Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development; “If this is anybody but Athanaius Kircher, you’re stealing Charles Fort’s bit.”

'Who's side are you on?' 'That would be telling.'

There are a number of reasons why I don’t add to this weblog or post to Cliopatria as often as I’d like to or ought to. Two pretty good reasons why I don’t are wrapping up in the next few weeks, but a bouncing new reason is due (gulp!) by the end of this month. One not so good reason for not blogging is my own paralysing sense that everything I might care to write about has been exhaustively covered by other blogs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve set out to write something, Googled for a little information, and found so many pages on the topic that I just couldn’t bear to add to the bloviage of the blogosphere. I realize this is a lame excuse for not posting. Surely everything that can be written about has been written about somewhere. But there it is.

That’s a bit of neurotic throat-clearing before saying that I really don’t know what to make of this: Read more