Category: miscellany

    Creepy noises outside: Sounded like a life-and-death struggle between two small creatures in the woods, but maybe they each got away in one piece.

    Was in the dentist’s chair for two hours today. (One procedure became another, the second done by an extern.) I don’t want to use my mouth, but I haven’t eaten in twelve hours. Gotta cook something soft.

    Loud TV screen at the gas pump. Will have to remember to not stop there next time.

    Pandemic Dreams

    Recurring theme in my pandemic-era dreams: I am in a social situation with many other people, and then I notice none of us is wearing a mask. These scenes used to freak me out, even wake me up. Now my dreaming mind sometimes thinks, “not this again.” Seems the thrill is gone.

    Monsters in the News

    If you have the stomach for more on relating to a filmmaker's work who you now know (but perhaps tried to forget) is a child molester, this piece from May 2016 by Matt Zoller Seitz is worth considering: "I Believe Dylan Farrow."

    Such is the kind of reading I sometimes find myself doing these days when I least expect it. I'll try to escape the everyday with a comedy, but then I'll dig around the web to learn more about its makers or players. If this effort lands me back in the ugly everyday, pieces like this one help me see how other people deal with such contradictions, which are about much more than art.

    Automation

    I was standing near the driver in my bus yesterday, waiting for the light to change so I could get off. When the light turned green, but the car in front of us didn’t move, the driver beeped his horn. I said, “People need to get off their phones,” which earned a laugh from the driver. Then he added something I hadn't recognized about the situation: “Uber drivers are the worst. I thought taxi drivers were bad . . .” I almost quipped something about how automation will soon take care of that, but then thought better of it. Will we lose our bus drivers too?

    Today there was this piece on NPR, “As Automation Eliminates Jobs, Tech Entrepreneurs Join Basic Income Movement,” which asks,

    When we talk about the economy, we spend a lot of time talking about jobs—how to create more of them and how to replace the ones being lost. But what if we're entering an automated future where there won't be enough jobs for the people who need them?

    This is an interesting, if not entirely new question, but also something of a gut punch when I think of all the ordinary human interactions I have in a day. On the other hand, it's possible that the Silicon Valley crowd is informed by more than a little hubris and so can't imagine all the areas of life that cannot—or should not—be automated.

    Work Update

    Although this blog would seem to indicate otherwise, I am still alive. Here's what I've been up to besides my usual not-blogging:

    Archive Seminar

    Someone else will be doing the GHI's archive seminar next year. Part of me wishes I was still doing it, because I enjoy working with the students, and I was looking forward to rethinking part of the program. At the same time, I need all the time I can get at the GHI for editing at the moment.

    Editing

    I'm finishing up the editing for a translated monograph by Annelie Ramsbrock called The Science of Beauty: Culture and Cosmetics in Modern Germany, 1750-1930. It has been a challenge in terms of making the translation more accurate and readable, while at the same time working to keep my inner control freak in check.

    Research

    I have been revisiting my Groener project, but most of my reading is on gender and war in the middle decades of the nineteenth century in Europe as part of a handbook project. I'm enjoying this work, and I'm managing to do it because I'm not teaching this semester—probably not next semester either.

    German Handwriting from 98 Years Ago

    This evening I pulled out old handwritten sources from 1914 to reexamine some quotes, because I wanted to use them in a different way than I did in my dissertation. To my initial consternation, I found them hard to read. (That's what I get for letting so much time pass without reading that old handwriting.) Fortunately, there are so-called Deutsche Fibel around that children used to learn this handwriting back in the day. I've got a couple of these books that I used to teach myself well over a decade ago, so I pulled one of those out to review.

    If you want to learn or practice yourself, I scanned one of these schoolbooks a couple years ago, and someone put a copy on the Internet Archive: A. F. Lorenzen, Deutsche Fibel (Columbus, OH: Lutherische Verlagshandlung, 1901).

    Working through More Journals

    I've been working through more journals, putting interesting articles and reviews in my bibliography database and reading the things. It might be faster just to search databases for what I'm interested in, which I also have to do, of course, but browsing many issues of a journal offers a helpful overview of what's going on in the scholarship more broadly. I still have to pick and choose from the huge mass of offerings, but at least this way I see things that I likely never would have looked for otherwise.

    I'm doing most of my data entry and sorting on my iMac with Bookends from Sonny Software, and I'm reading and reviewing on my iPad though the new Bookends on Tap, which syncs with the Mac nicely. And I've got the Mac database on Dropbox, in case I need to add or reference something from the office.

    One valuable benefit of otherwise rather poorly paid adjunct teaching is the access I get to periodical literature online through the university library that is not available through my institute. But I'm finding that I'll still need to visit Lauinger Library at Georgetown for some things, too. Fortunately, that's only a thirty-minute walk from here, half of that through the woods, which can do this sedentary body good.

    Catch-Up Reading and Article Idea

    Am I the only one who can get years behind on relevant readings? Silly me let teaching and editing get in the way of basic readings. But maybe I'm not the only one who gets behind. As much as I appreciate discussions about how digital scholarship could speed up the dissemination of research results, sometimes I'm quite glad these results come out slowly through journals, and that these journals are available online through the library for me to look at as time permits. I'm trying to get caught back up in a more systematic way, so that I can't use earning money as an excuse for missing new scholarship on certain topics. Still, we are talking about dead people who aren't going anywhere, right? And the pace of historical research is slow anyway. Besides, how often are the results of historical research advanced in real time? It's not like cable news channels and NPR are standing in line to review our output. Even blogging, tweeting, facebooking scholars have their own research projects to do, so that they can't pay attention to every new development of their colleagues at the moment it occurs.

    The Schlieffen Plan debate has been dragging on for over a decade, so maybe I shouldn't feel too bad that I have only now read Gerhard Gross's excellent intervention (available in both German and English), in which he explains the whereabouts and wherefores of Schlieffen sources better than anyone I have seen (at least for those deeply immersed in the problem), not to mention addresses Zuber on his own chosen operational turf—albeit with politics as well as incredibly thorough archival work and careful, nuanced analysis. Now I need to make time to explore the differences between his Schlieffen and the one I see Zuber's other historiographical opponents offering, especially regarding the question of "preventive war" in 1905. But that will have to wait. Right now, I'm more interested in Schlieffen's image of war, what he imparted to the General Staff, and how. And I'm interested in matching Groener's timeline against this, because what I'm really trying to get at is the evolution of Wilhelm Groener's Schlieffen Plan, that is, how he understood and wrote about Schlieffen over the years.

    By the way, how does "Wilhelm Groener's Schlieffen Plan" sound for an article title? That's what I've decided I'll write first.

    Still Reading the Dissertation

    I am continuing to reread and ponder the dissertation. After getting over its many weaknesses, I see there is lots of good stuff in it, even if it is clearly in no way close to a book (following William Germano). There's also no easy way to extract articles from it. These will have to be conceived and written from scratch, although the dissertation contains plenty of useful building blocks for essays on Groener and the Schlieffen Plan debate, military culture and the General Staff, images of officering and professionalism, and so on. First, however, I have to consider the extent to which I should make general arguments based on Groener versus offer work that focuses more narrowly on him, albeit to foster further work for broader conclusions.

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