Knitting at the Berks

Eleanor Knits

Those of you who attended this year’s Berkshire Conference may have noticed a small cadre of us knitting while listening to sessions. I had intended to bring my digital camera to capture all the creativity that was going on around me, but since I’m an air-head, on Lamictal which makes me more of an air-head, I forgot to bring it with me. So, I’ve substituted the photo above from an American Experience documentary. Apparently, ER used to knit in UN meetings, not just in the privacy of the White House. So, the next time someone gives me a hard time for knitting in Senate or some other faculty meeting, I’ll dig out this key fact.

Off to a Bad Start

Well, everything was going so well — my flight was on time, got my bag right away, got to the hotel quickly, saw lots of friends, nice dinner. I’m staying in the Holiday Inn for the Berkshire Conference since the U. is paying for the trip and because it’s quieter — except for last night! Some very unfriendly person turned on her TV very loudly after she arrived at 1:30pm, to some Christian show (could hear the preacher praising Jesus through the wall). I’ve had scary encounters when I’ve confronted folks myself, so I called the night manager to ask her to turn down the TV. My instincts turned out to be right, since she proceeded to scream at the manager that it was her right to watch TV, she was paying for the room, yadda, yadda, yadda. After threats to call security she finally shut up and turned off the TV. I was so rattled by the incident that I never got back to sleep. So, now I’m off to the gym. I can suppose I can take a nap this afternoon (although not during anyone’s talk — ha, ha!)

Unfortunately, the Inn is fully booked and I don’t want to sacrifice convenience for some really selfish, for lack of a better word, bitch. I hope she’s not with the conference — but she probably is since everyone else here seems to be. Looks like I’ll be dodging her in the hallway unless I can find another room

P.S.  The hotel upgraded me to a suite at the same price — it helped having Priority Club.  The first day of the conference went very well too, will write more about that tomorrow.

Getting to Know you Meme

Historiann has been tagged with the following meme, and requested that her regular readers answer the following questions. Here it goes:

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?

Same thing, except I was an associate professor not a full professor.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

  1. Drink coffee
  2. Answer email
  3. practice guitar
  4. grade papers (although I may find a way to procrastinate yet again)
  5. department meeting

3) Snacks I enjoy:

Tostados lime flavored tortilla chips, pita crisps, wasabi peas, cashews.

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. retire

2. move to Nova Scotia

3. buy a vacation home in the South of France

4. start a charitable foundation or donate to the one Natalie Portman endorses

5) Three of my bad habits:

1. constructive procrastination

2. answering contentious emails without thinking first

3. pulling at my eyelashes

6) 5 places I have lived:

1, Newport, RI (birthplace)

2. Athens, GA

3. Norfolk, VA

4. White River Jct., VT

5. Ithaca, NY

7) 5 jobs I have had:

1. Lifeguard

2. chambermaid (for one week)

3. restaurant hostess

4. Interlibrary loan assistant

5. historian

Pass it along!

Back to the Kitchen, ladies: Washington University will give honorary degree to Phyllis Schlafly


According to this article in Inside Higher Ed, officials at Washington University in Saint Louis have announced they will award an honorary Ph.D. to noted conservative, anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schlafly. Now, Mrs. Schlafly certainly has a number of impressive academic credentials, so why does she need this one? Given that she’s spent the past thirty-five years opposing equal rights for women, including Title IX, even going so far as to call feminist critics of Lawrence Summers a bunch of whiners, I wonder what kind of message this sends to the young women who will be graduating from WUSTL this year?

If you think this is a bad idea, please see this Facebook group.

Blogging Against Disabilism Day this Friday, May 1

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2008

This is really more a reminder to myself to have something ready to post on Friday. Still, I thought I’d give you all a heads up. More details about this can be found at Diary of a Goldfish.

Now that the day is here, I have something to post! This is a comment on the Inside Higher Ed article,”One Year Later,” on the Virginia Tech shootings. The article itself was okay, although as usual the discussion centered around gun laws, not the rights of mentally ill persons to adequate treatment. The disabilism was very apparent in the comments though. The first comment, from Clayton Cramer, concluded

“Deinstitutionalization was one of the major mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s. The mentally ill are paying the price for it today, and so is the rest of our society.”

Of course, this fellow opposes gun control (and supports home schooling, and criticizes affirmative action. citizens of Idaho — do not vote for him!) So, his solution is to lock all the “crazies” away — oh wait, we’re already doing that at least according to what my colleagues in criminal justice say about the high rates of mentally ill persons in prison.

Rod Bell, Adjunct Professor at College of DuPage, said something similar, blaming this all on the hippies in the sixties who revolted against authority. Sheesh, I hope this guy isn’t an adjunct professor of history. This is just a sloppy historical analysis that would get an “F” in any of my classes. For the record, dude, it was John F. Kennedy, not the hippies, who initiated the move away from warehousing the mentally ill in asylums in favor of community-centered mental health. Also, exposes of the hideous conditions inside psychiatric hospitals were made by WWII conscientious objectors, i.e. long before Ken Kesey’s novel.

Added later:  In reply to Mr. Cramer’s comments, I would say first that my point is that it is indeed simplistic to attribute the current mental health crisis solely to the anti-psychiatry movement and/or the anti-authoritarian impulses of the 1960s (whatever is meant by that — a subject for another post). As Gerald Grob and Howard H. Goldman observe in their recent book, The Dilemma of Federal Mental Health Policy, the move from mental hospitals to a community-based system of mental health care delivery was the product of a broad coalition of mental health experts, patients and their advocates, and politicians such as President Kennedy among many others.  The complexity of this movement, I think, gets lost because of the fame of Ken Kesey’s book and the academy-award winning film that was made from it, as well as the notoriety of Thomas Szasz’s work (for the record, I have multiple problems with Szasz, but that too is a subject for another post).

The reason the Community Mental Health programs initiated in the 1960s failed is not because they emptied the hospitals, but because there was never enough funding to meet the need for services.   We have millions of uninsured individuals in this country, and many insurance plans do not offer mental health parity.  Although the state of Connecticut mandates this for all health plans, the new Charter Oak Health plan proposed by our Governor to cover uninsured adults excludes mental health parity because it is too costly. A bill (HB 5617) has been proposed to solve this problem.

I could go on and on, but I do have to get ready for class, where we will look at all those crazy feminists who messed things up for the rest of America by asking for the radical notion that women be treated like human beings.

New York Times on Professors and Social Networking Sites

Well, Historiann beat me to posting on this article from the Style section of Thursday’s New York Times. Most of the article discussed Facebook and Professors Strike Back, a reply to Rate My Professors (just FYI — there is also a site called Rate Your Students — can’t wait to contribute to that one).

Now, I joined Facebook last fall not so I could look “cool” but so I could create a group for the WGSS program and plug events to students and others in a place they were more likely to check than their email. I started a blog last spring partly as a way to get into new media so that I could eventually teach it to graduate students. Only a few of my students have checked out my blog, more contact me through Facebook but I think the novelty has worn off. Also, if the Times is writing about it, then it’s about to not be cool anymore!

I’m not about to use this blog as a voicepiece for my dog or cat, but I may follow Historiann’s example of using Fridays for blogging about dolls — the only one I have is Mrs. Beasley from the sitcom Family Affair. Stay tuned!

Look Out: It’s the Civility Conservation Corps

Well, once again our faculty listserv is totally out of control, this time over an issue regarding the Dean of our School of Business. I’m not going to comment on that here since all I know is based on second or third hand reports. After several days of tit for tat among a handful of individuals, my colleague suggested creating a “Civility Conservation Corps,” as a follow-up to a statement on civility crafted by concerned women on campus, and presented to the Faculty Senate in December. Of course, it won’t work (we’ve already caught flack about it from the chief offender, as well as a boring harangue about how we don’t know much about history and FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps — obviously this fellow has no sense of humor or irony!). Still, it’s a way to inject some levity into a very annoying situation.

More on Menstruation

Last week, there was a post on H-Sci-Med-Tech asking for colloquial terms for menstruation for a colleague who is writing a historical novel set in the mid-twentieth century. I immediately thought of Anne Frank’s reference to her “sweet secret” in her diary, as well as Judy Blume’s Are you There God, It’s Me, Margaret. One reply mentioned “my friend is here” and “fell off the roof.” I did a quick Google search and found an extensive list here. Then the Onion has a nice little top nine list. I doubt any of these are what this person is looking for, though. Maybe this is one for the guy at the Museum of Menstruation.