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October 31, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mom

Yes, my mother has a Halloween birthday, and today she turns fifty-seven. As a child, I never let her have much of a birthday -- I always dragged her out trick-or-treating -- but it was certainly fun for me! After I went off to college and did my trick-or-treating there, Mom started having her own birthday parties. Her fiftieth was particularly fun; she was still living in the beach house then, which she decorated it with really classy Halloween stuff -- think orange candles encased in spider webs -- and she had all her friends over to read poetry. Now she lives with her boyfriend Ken, whose birthday is just a few days from hers (I can't remember whether it is before or after), so they celebrate together. This year, I was so excited about the gift I made for Mom (purple silk/cashmere hand-knit legwarmers) that I put it in the mail two weeks ago!

Halloween kind of snuck up on us here at the Ann Arbor homestead. As of this morning, we do not have any candy to give to hypothetical trick-or-treaters (I say hypothetical because we didn't get any visitors last year and poor David had to eat all the candy himself), but we hope to rectify the situation before the kids come out in force. On Saturday, my aunt reminded me that one traditionally carves a pumpkin for Halloween, so I picked one up and David carved it last night. We hadn't done it since 2002, but David hasn't lost any of his carving skills -- our pumpkin is adorable, even if the top is a bit rotten!

I like Halloween a lot because it is one of those low-stress, take-it-or-leave-it kinds of holidays. No cards or gifts required! I haven't dressed up for Halloween since I was nineteen and found the costume to end all costumes. That year, I was a fairy: I wore a rather busty silver dress along with wings on my back and glitter on my face, and carried a wand. It was quite a fun costume, except for getting groped all night at the Harwood Halloween party. But Halloween is fun because one never outgrows it, one simply finds new ways to celebrate. I just got an email from my thirteen-year-old sister in Pittsburgh, who is debating whether or not to go trick-or-treating tonight. She wants the candy, but fears she may be too old. Sophie, you are never too old for candy. Dress up, go out, and have fun!

Posted by eklanche at 08:32 AM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2006

African History in Detroit

Yesterday David and I went to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. I had never been before, and enjoyed it quite a bit. The permanent exhibition, And Still We Rise, is a fabulous account of African American history, from the beginning of civilization in Africa, through the slave trade, the middle passage, and emancipation, to present-day Detroit. It was neat to see photographs and artifacts from places I had been in Africa, particularly those associated with the slave trade, such as Elmina Castle and Cape Coast Castle in Ghana.

We began with the permanent exhibit, and then moved on to a temporary exhibition that David particularly wanted to see, Lasting Foundations: The Art of Architecture in Africa. For the most part, it was a superb exhibit. It covered many different regions of Africa, demonstrating how the architecture in these places used available materials and reflected local religious affiliations. One of the most remarkable was a mosque in Mali that is the largest adobe structure in the world. A video showed how its congregants replaster it with mud every year.

I was disappointed, however, that there weren't many examples of contemporary African architecture. Only the South Africa section showed modern buildings, and these were presented as "white" buildings that have been reoccupied by black South Africans since the fall of apartheid. When I was in Ghana in the summer of 2005, I was quite impressed with the way Ghanaians used shipping containers as storefronts, particularly in Accra, the capital. I told David that I wished they had shown some of that architectural style, and he replied that it was probably too depressing. I don't find it depressing, at all, however. Rather, it is an ingenious use of available materials and reflects the entrepreneurial spirit of Accra residents. As it was, the exhibit presented Africa as ancient, static, and stuck in the past. Including contemporary architecture would reveal the dynamism, initiative, and creativity of Africans and African societies. It is fine that the permanent exhibit left Africa in the past, as it is about African-American history rather than African history. But in an exhibit on African architecture, I feel that presenting only "traditional" architecture hides the true modernity of present-day Africa.

Posted by eklanche at 08:48 AM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2006

Costco Shopping

My favorite essay in Before the Mortage is "Costco-Obsessive Disorder" by Carson Brown, who made me laugh out loud with her description of her mother's addiction to shopping at Costco. As far as large corporations go, Costco is a pretty good one. It is a socially responsible company that engages in fair labor practices. In fact, Costco's CEO has even been criticized (by shareholders) for caring more about employees than shareholders.

Furthermore, Costco does offer good prices -- if you are shopping for an army! Otherwise, shopping there falls into the category of "spaving" -- spending money in order to save money. At Costco, the unit price is much less than at the grocery store, but you have to buy much more of whatever it is than you actually need in order to get that savings. For example, if you buy a pound of salad at 3/4 the price of a pound of salad somewhere else, but you can only eat about half the salad before it wilts, you really haven't saved anything. Studies have also shown that if people buy food in larger quantities, they will eat the food in larger quantities because they don't want to feel as though it is going to waste. With Costco-Obsessive Disorder spreading rampantly, it is no wonder we have an obesity epidemic!

Of course, there are plenty of things that one can safely buy in large quantity, such as toothpaste, toilet paper, and paper towels. When Costco opened a store about twenty miles from us, David and I thought about joining for just this reason. But we quickly scotched the idea when we found out that they don't carry our favorite brands of toilet paper and paper towels (Kimberly Clark should really be paying me for this advertising).

Despite our distaste for spaving, however, David and I did spend one memorable afternoon at Costco with my friend Sara. Sara is a notorious spaver. I have seen her buy clothes several sizes too big because they were on sale but sold out of her size. Sara lives in West Lafayette, IN, and happened to visit us on about the worst summer day of 2005. Not only had the temperature topped one hundred degrees, but it was also thunderstorming. A proud Costco member, Sara suggested that we hang out there, where at least it would be air conditioned. Because David and I didn't have any better ideas, we agreed. And we had a marvellous time. The store is full of free samples. We all managed to eat lunch there without spaving a cent! I did, however, succumb to the spaving impulse by buying a case of Pepto-Bismol to take with me to Africa. I had heard from so many people how sick I would get there, and I wanted to be prepared. Eighteen months later, I think I still have about four packs left...

Posted by eklanche at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2006

Fun While It Lasted

The Tigers' brilliant season ended last night with their fourth loss against the Cardinals in St. Louis last night. I think everyone in the state of Michigan watched last night's game with baited breath.

Everyone, that is, except for me, David, Ken, and my friendly ex-boyfriend Erik. We went to the UM hockey game, where we watched the Wolverines defeat Northeastern University in overtime. Actually, we were pretty surprised that the game was so close. Earlier, we had been sure it would be easy to beat the fourth (or fifth?) best hockey team...in Boston! But the referees were apparently from Boston as well, and kept penalizing our players. It was easy for Northeastern to score on us when they had five players on the ice and we only had three! The students at UM hockey have recently been censured for an obscene cheer that they seem to enjoy. I have been to several hockey games, but have never actually been able to make out the words to the cheer, so I'm not quite sure what the big deal was. This time, we sat directly across from the student section, so I could make out more of what they were chanting, some of which was pretty funny. My favorite was when Northeastern would get a player back from the penalty box and the announcer would state that Northeastern had returned to full strength, which the UM students countered with, "but they still suck!"

Erik, who is visiting from Los Angeles, proudly wore his Tigers cap to the hockey game, where we were periodically updated on the baseball score. When we left the hockey game, the Tigers were ahead. By the time we got to Miki, where we stopped to pick up some sushi for dinner, the Tigers had fallen behind. We were surprised to find the baseball game on at Miki, as it is a rather upscale restaurant. Usually they only televise a Japanese nature video loop that shows the same scenes over and over. But, as I said, everyone watched last night's game.

Except for us. We would have put the game on when we got home, but, due to our unique television situation (no cable, no antenna -- DVDs only!), we had to listen to it on the radio. We tuned in at the top of the ninth inning -- the Tigers' last chance for a comeback. With two outs and two men on base, Brandon Inge came up to bat. If anyone could have hit it out of the park for a three-run homer, it was Brandon. But he struck out. Erik sadly removed his cap, but a few minutes later put it back on defiantly. After all, the Tigers are still better than any team in California! And there is always next year...

Posted by eklanche at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2006

Adulthood

Over the past week or so, I have been reading Before the Mortgage, a collection of essays by writers in their twenties and thirties that describe the kind of extended adolescence we experience before settling down with a mortgage. Contributors discuss dead-end jobs, apartment/roommate living, dating fiascos, and the general woes of a very privileged youth. The BTM website describes this period as post-college and pre-picket fence.

As I personally am not "before the mortgage," I hesitated at first to read this book, but it got an excellent review in Bitch, so I thought I would check it out (from the library, that is). Overall, it was a fun read, but I'm a bit annoyed by the premise of the book. Its editors seem to think that one day they will get their s--t together, and that having a mortgage signifies adulthood. I can testify to the fact that having a mortgage doesn't necessarily make one feel like an adult, nor does it mean that I have my s--t together. David and I still experience financial anxiety, career uncertainty, relationship insecurity, and the fear of parenthood. We may have a mortgage, but we don't have it all figured out.

Ultimately, I think the phrase "pre-picket fence" summarizes the problem with the whole BTM concept. Its contributors and particularly its editors apparently were raised in picket-fence families -- wealth, suburbs, married parents, stability -- and they fully expect to someday have their own picket-fence families. They still have the illusion that "real adults" have their s--t together, and that someday they too will have it all figured out. Call me cynical, but I don't think anybody ever really does figure it out once and for all. I don't think anybody ever really feels like a grownup, and I know for sure that nobody ever really gets their s--t together. This used to bother me, but then I realized how boring life would be if we all had that picket-fence ideal.

Posted by eklanche at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)

October 26, 2006

Vampires, Part II

Discussing Dracula with my students yesterday was actually quite fun. They were excited to talk about it, and I was able to help them contextualize it, which I think is the first step to reading a novel as a primary source. What shocked me was that many of them hadn't picked up the fact that blood sucking is a metaphor for sex. It is pretty obvious when you read the book: male vampires suck women; female vampires suck men; the female vampires are described as sexually alluring; the sucking happens at night, often in bed, and, of course, it involves the exchange of bodily fluids; it also results in the creation of a vampire "race." Granted, Stoker's language is Victorian, and hence restrained, but it is still pretty obvious, particularly for anyone who has seen Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 film version. My mostly-nineteen- and twenty-year-old students were pretty embarrassed when I pointed it out to them, and most of them hadn't seen the movie. After all, they were only five or six years old in 1992!

What I love most about being a GSI is how much I learn, either directly from my students or from the act of teaching them. Through the three discussions yesterday, it became apparent that Dracula is a commentary on modernity. I typically think of the turn of the twentieth century as kind of the triumph of modernity. Reason was in; superstition was out. Technology was all the rage and Britons viewed themselves as the most "advanced" nation in the world. At the same time, however, middle-class Brits hungered for a sense of meaning that science and reason did not provide. Alex Owen's The Place of Enchantment charts the rise of occultism in Great Britain at precisely this time. In Dracula, Stoker suggests that science and reason can't account for everything in the world. Some phenomena have no logical explanations, and some dangers can't be averted with modern technology. The heros of Dracula certainly needed modern technology to catch him -- typewriters, phonographs, telegraphs, railroads, and Winchesters -- but in order to truly defeat him, they had to depend on religious symbols, and not just any religious symbols, but those of Catholicism -- the host and the crucifix. The novel thus suggests that science, reason, and technology are necessary developments, but not, in and of themselves, sufficient tools with which to engage the world.

Posted by eklanche at 09:21 AM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2006

Historical Denial

On Saturday night, I was supposed to go to the Michigan Theater with Ken and a couple of other friends to see The Last King of Scotland, but I ended up staying home to read Dracula instead. I was, however, determined to see the movie, so David took me on Sunday.

It was an intriguing film, though hard to watch at the end, when things got really gory. The problem, however, was that it didn't teach me anything new about Uganda's history. My friend Susie said that she didn't know anything about Uganda when she went into the theater, and she still didn't know anything when she came out. The film told the story of Idi Amin's dictatorship from the perspective of Nicholas Garrigan, Amin's personal doctor. Garrigan was a Scottish physician who moved to Uganda in 1970 order to escape his father's medical practice. He had no particular interest in Uganda, he just spun the globe, determined to go wherever his finger landed. Garrigan arrived in Uganda the day General Amin took over the country in a coup and, after a chance encounter, Amin (who was obsessed with Scotland) seduced Garrigan into becoming his personal physician.

Through most of the 1970s, Garrigan was either innocent of or in denial about what was going on in the country. What was going on, exactly? Well, I don't know because the movie didn't say. We just see the British embassy getting really concerned (after they helped install Amin in the first place) and trying to get information about Amin from Garrigan, while people all around are complaining about how bad things are getting. Meanwhile, Garrigan is merrily going about his job and falling in love with Amin's third wife. Toward the end of the movie Garrigan gets scared and starts trying to leave Uganda, but it is still hard for the audience to understand why.

My main complaint about this movie is that it tells Garrigan's story, rather than the history of Uganda. Granted, the movie is supposed to be Garrigan's story, but a bit of contextualization would have made it a lot more compelling. The film could have shown the audience what Garrigan himself wasn't seeing (or wasn't admitting to having seen), thereby educating the audience about Uganda's history and emphasizing the extent of Garrigan's denial.

Posted by eklanche at 11:18 AM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2006

Going Wireless

For today, anyway. I brought my laptop to school so that I could work on grading during my (very quiet) office hours and after lecture, and I have found that there is wireless internet access here! This is the first time my little computer and I have used wireless, and it is a lot of fun. I can even talk on the phone while surfing the internet! I could easily get used to this. The only problem is that it is quite seductive. I turned on the computer to type comments about my students' papers, and then I found myself blogging. We'll see if any real work gets done this afternoon!

Posted by eklanche at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

Happy Mole Day!

Yesterday, October 23 (10/23), from 6:02am to 6:02pm, was Mole Day, a day to celebrate Amedeo Avogadro's discovery of the constant 6.02 x 10 to the 23rd power.

It may not be apparent from reading this blog, but I was a huge chemistry geek in high school. I took two years of chemistry (regular and AP), and in the tenth and eleventh grades, chemistry was my favorite subject. I loved the neatness of balancing chemical equations and the knowledge of how to turn one substance into another (I guess that is technically alchemy, but they do bear a resemblance). Yes, I liked history too, but it didn't fire me up the way a good chemical equation could. Once, in a fit of post-AP boredom, my friends Libby and Clare and I broke into the chem lab to precipitate silver out of a solution. We let the silver dust dry, but couldn't get it hot enough to melt and solidify, so we just gave the dust to our teacher as a gift. I don't think he quite knew what to do with it...

But despite being such a chem geek, I didn't know about Mole Day until yesterday, when David came home from work and told me about it! There was a big mole celebration at Belleville High School, which was written up in yesterday's Ann Arbor News. It had caught David's attention because Avogadro's Number was the topic of discussion at a recent M--- family bar night. I can't remember how it came up, but I was shocked at how long it took me to remember Avogadro's constant and the significance of the mole. After all, for two years, the mole was my basic unit of measurement!

So what is a mole, exactly? It is a unit of measurement consisting of 6.02 x 10 to the 23rd of whatever. For example, a mole of books is 6.02 x 10 to the 23rd books. Why would you want a mole of books? Well, you wouldn't -- that is even more books than I have to read for prelims! The mole is the basic unit of measurement in chemistry because it is the basis for chemical weights. For example, the chemical weight of Hydrogen is 1, which means that a mole of hydrogen atoms weighs 1 gram. I guess the mole doesn't have much significance beyond that, which is probably why I promptly forgot about it after I passed the Chemistry AP!

Posted by eklanche at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2006

The Advance of the Inevitable

It has been getting harder and harder to dial in to the internet lately. I have been getting busy signals pretty much every time I try during "peak hours" (5pm to midnight) and today I got a busy signal from about 9am until noon. I fear the end of my free internet access may be near. Reader, if my posts get fewer and farther between, you will know why. Do save me from the obsolescence of my technology!

Posted by eklanche at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

Shaving Like a Man

The last time David went to the Michigan Union Bookstore for a pop, he received a free razor. Given that he shaves his head weekly in addition to shaving his face every couple of days, David is an avid user of razors and is always on the lookout for a superior shave. The Quattro was not quite up to David's standards, however, so he passed it along to me to try.

This was the second time I have used a man's razor. The first time was when David and I took a weeklong road trip to New Jersey for my grandfather's birthday party, and I planned to wear a sleeveless dress but forgot to bring my razor! In any case, I was pretty impressed both times. Men's razors just seem to be better made than our razors. They are a bit awkward to use, as they seem to be angled for a jawline rather than for a knee or an armpit, but they feel more substantial and I think the weight lends a bit more momentum to the razor's stroke. Granted, the Quattro isn't as pretty as the Venus, but I may just be willing to sacrifice aesthetics for a superior shave. Even if I shave with a men's razor, however, you won't catch me with shaving cream. Real women use soap!

Posted by eklanche at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2006

Vampires

This week I have been reading Dracula for the class I'm teaching. I am embarrassed to admit that I haven't really gotten into it. Everyone in my department who hears I'm reading Dracula responds with, "I love that book!" which makes me extra-ashamed of my inability to quite dig it. I should love it, given that I am a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but maybe that is the problem. Buffy was too good and the original can't measure up. Plus, Buffy is all about female power and empowerment, while Dracula is one of the most sexist novels I have ever read. Furthermore, and I hate to admit this given my pretensions to being a historian, I just don't have much patience for nineteenth-century literature. Don't tell my dad -- he is an English professor!

As someone who took the bare minimum of English classes in college, I don't really feel comfortable teaching a novel. I guess the whole point, though, is that this isn't an English class -- it is a history class -- so I need to teach Dracula as a primary source. One of the things that I'm liking about it is that it is an epistolary novel; it unfolds as a series of letters, diary entries, and newspaper clippings, rather than as a story told by an omniscient narrator. This allows Stoker to use many different voices and to let the reader see the action from a variety of perspectives. This also makes it a series of fake primary sources. After all, what do historians do? We read other people's letters and diaries to find out what their lives were like. In a sense, the novel encourages its readers to do the same kind of detective work that historians do as part of our profession.

The professor with whom I'm teaching assigned Dracula because, as she says, everything in late-nineteenth-century Britain shows up in this novel: sex, gender, science, anxiety, immigration, madness, class politics, and so forth. One of my students has a critical edition of the book, whose editor claims that the whole novel is an allegory for the system of land tenure in Ireland. When I heard this, I thought I had failed as a GSI: I'm the teacher -- if the book is about Ireland, I should have figured it out! As I researched this concept, however, I found that the "Irishness" of Dracula was first argued in 2002, by Joseph Valente in Dracula's Crypt: Bram Stoker, Irishness, and the Question of Blood. Previous scholars had read Dracula as feminist, antifeminist, nationalist, antinationalist, colonial, anticolonial, and Marxist, which suggests to me that, in true poststructuralist Death of the Author fashion, readers have read much more into the novel than is actually there. This is a pulp novel, and prominent Dracula scholars have argued that its historical references are garbled and vague at best. My edition has an introduction by Leonard Woolf, who says that Dracula was penned without much though, and then developed a life of its own. This seems particularly apropos for a novel about rising from the dead!

The problem with teaching Dracula as a primary source is the fact that it has been read in so many different ways by so many different people at so many different times. This layering of meaning makes it particularly difficult to empathize with the reader of 1897, to try to understand how she might have read it and understood it, and how the novel might have jibed with and shaped her worldview.

Posted by eklanche at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2006

Tying Up Loose Ends -- Pyramid Scheme, Part IV

I hope this will be my last entry about TEAM. I have enjoyed dissecting this fraudulent business, but I want to write about other things too! In the first three parts of this series, I described my encounter with Darren (notice that I no longer refer to him as a friend) and his pyramid scheme, TEAM, which is a subsidiary of Quixtar, Amway's internet-based sister company. Today I just want to wrap up by discussing a few things I didn't manage to get to before.

I have explained why TEAM is evil and why it creeps me out, but I haven't quite explained why it is a pyramid scheme. To get there, let me start with Amway. Amway was founded in 1959 right here in Michigan by Jay van Andel and Rich DeVos (father of our current Republican gubernatorial candidate, Dick DeVos). For evidence of the company's success, look no further than the city of Grand Rapids, which appears to have been built entirely with Amway money. Amway works in much the same way as TEAM, but without the internet. People sign on as "Independent Business Owners" (IBOs), paying yearly fees that allow them to sell Amway products. They also have to attend training seminars and purchase training materials. IBOs move up in the Amway hierarchy by recruiting other IBOs below them and by selling higher volumes of Amway product.

In 1979 the FTC ruled that Amway is not a pyramid scheme, but rather an example of Multilevel Marketing, and hence legal. Multilevel marketing (MLM) is the business model used by such companies as Tupperware (I use Tupperware as an example because I am a sucker for their products). Salespeople register as independent contractors and earn a commission, not just on the stuff they sell, but also on the stuff sold by salespeople they have recruited. In a legitimate MLM business, members only earn commission on stuff, and are not paid to recruit. Another marker of a legitimate MLM is that it sells a unique and useful product at fair market value, and it sells to people who are not themselves salespeople.

Amway is technically an MLM business because one can buy Amway products without being an IBO. The question is, would one want to? I don't know enough about Amway's products to answer this question, but David, an avid reader of Consumer Reports, tells me that Amway products are of neither high quality nor low price. They always score poorly in CR ratings. Moving from Amway to TEAM, I can tell you that I, as an ordinary consumer, would never buy their products. As I related yesterday, they don't offer anything I can't get from amazon.com, and their prices are much higher. TEAM is thus a dubious model of MLM because only its salespeople buy its products.

When we get to why TEAM members buy from TEAM it becomes apparent that TEAM is, in fact, a pyramid scheme. A traditional pyramid scheme might look like a chain letter. I get a letter asking me to send $1 to the person at the top of the list, and to send the letter on to a certain number of my friends. As they send the letter on and on, my name moves higher up in the list, and, as they pyramid widens, more and more people will send me their $1. Thus, for an initial "investment" of $1 I receive exponentially more money. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it. TEAM works in the same way. If I were an IBO, I would buy a product from the TEAM website, knowing full well that I could have bought the exact same product somewhere else at a much lower price. In effect, buying the product from TEAM rather than from TEAM's competitor is like writing a check to someone higher up the chain of IBOs. Why on earth would I do such a thing? Because I know that, as I recruit people below me, and they recruit people below them, when enough layers get added to the pyramid, I will receive some piece of that differential between the fair market value of the product and the TEAM price.

I'm not saying that people don't get rich from this. TEAM is able to recruit suckers like Darren by inviting them to workshops and seminars where people who have gotten rich tell the suckers that, if they simply follow the example of those who have gone before, they will become rich too. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work that way. A pyramid scheme is an unsustainable business model, as a result of market saturation. For example, say that TEAM managed to recruit everyone in the US (or even everyone in the world). The people at the bottom of the pyramid have nobody left to recruit. They will, by definition, lose their "investment."

Poor suckers like Darren don't understand why they lose their money. When I asked him why he hadn't yet seen a return on his $12,500 "investment," he replied that it was because he has poor people skills. Gosh, Darren, if you have such poor people skills, why did you get involved in a company where your income depends on swindling people? The point is, he thinks it is his fault that his "business" isn't succeeding, while the truth is that failure is built into this business model. TEAM gurus tell the IBOs they recruit that they want them to succeed, which is the truth. After all, the more people Darren recruits, the more commissions his recruiter earns. But the recruiter's livelihood doesn't depend on Darren's success, it just depends on Darren's gullibility and his willingness to continue to "invest" without seeing a return on his investment.

Darren's sales pitch met all of the identifying criteria for pyramid schemes listed by Wikipedia. I'll add one more: Darren himself didn't quite seem to know what his business was or what he was selling. When he told me that he would continue to "invest" in his "business" for as long as it took to turn a profit, I warned him that it might take longer than his natural life. He didn't care. He told me that, even if he never turned a profit, simply being a part of this business had made him a better person. It had taught him people skills (I beg to differ) and had increased his perseverence (I'll concede that one). I said that I was very happy for him that he had gained so much from being a part of TEAM, and then asked, "so is this a program of personal development?" He brightened up and told me that that is exactly what it is. So I asked why he was promising me money, rather than personal growth. He said that he had simply not pitched TEAM to me correctly, that "Orrin says" different recruits need different kinds of pitches. Then I asked what exactly he was selling. He picked up his half-drunk energy drink and said "we specialize in sports and nutrition products, but we also offer a website where you can buy anything through our partners." Again, I ask, "Darren, what are you selling? Is it an energy drink, a business opportunity, or a personal development program?" I guess he is selling all of these things, but the reality is that he is selling none of them. Legitimate businesses offer a product or a service. Granted, in a profit-making venture, that product or service is always secondary to the goal of making money, but TEAM dispenses with the product or service altogether. For example, David and I buy a lot of Kleenex products. The Kleenex company exists primarily to make a buck for its shareholders, but in the process, it offers the public top-quality toilet paper and paper towels (plus the obvious, tissues). TEAM doesn't offer me anything I couldn't get if TEAM didn't exist. The product is there, but only as wallpaper to fool the FTC. What TEAM actually sells a promise that it can't fulfill, which is why it is a scam.

The part that hurts me to the core is that TEAM taps right into the capitalist American dream. Our country was founded on the premise that money makes the man. We worship the independent entrepreneur, but most of all we worship the independent entrepreneur who makes money. TEAM sells the right to call oneself an "Independent Business Owner" and the belief that one is no longer an employee, but rather an entrepreneur. It also sells the potential for creating a system that will make money without the need to work. It offers a semblance of ownership (as in George W.'s "ownership society") and the vague promise of unlimited unearned income. The founders of Amway knew what they were selling: they were selling the "American Way."

I'll wrap up by listing three more features of TEAM (of the many) that rub me the wrong way. First, TEAM utilizes the language of revolutions and grassroots movements. Their recruiting book is titled Leading the Consumer Rebellion. Its authors refer to their company as a "grassroots movement" of consumers who are banding together to take the profit from the retailer and keep it for themselves. Gosh, why not form a consumers' cooperative or operate on a business model like amazon.com? Because co-ops don't turn a profit (by definition) and Jeff Bezos already thought up Amazon. Second, TEAM takes advantage of Christian trust. The book's acknowledgements list Jesus himself, stating "we also want to give all glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Everything we have and will ever accomplish is by His grace." If I were a Christian, I might be duped into thinking that this must be a good organization because its founders are good Christians. I don't know much about Christianity, but I am willing to bet that swindling is not a Christian value. Finally, this organization is uber-sexist. IBOs work in husband-wife teams. When Darren was trying to sell me on the "business," he kept referring to all the money "Dave" and I would make. I didn't bring David into it; the TEAM simply assumes that women can't run businesses on their own, so I would need "Dave's" help. The goal of each husband/wife team is to earn enough so that the wife can stay home and raise the kids. The overall company is headed by a group of four men, known as the "Policy Council." Their wives form the "Ladies' Council," which "has provided common sense and perspective where we otherwise would have been remiss." In other words, women's status in the company is based, not on their own achievements, but on whom they have married. Furthermore, women provide "common sense" because everybody knows that women have no business sense. Please.

Apparently, my vitriol is unlimited, but I'll wrap up this four-day-long rant by pointing to some other resources. The Quixtar Blog offers much more information about TEAM, Quixtar, Amway, Alticor, and MLM in general, presented by the husband of a former IBO. Blogs by other former IBOs include Quixtar Demons Blog and Quixtar Inside Out. The Cleveland Free Times recently published an article about TEAM that doesn't give a whole lot of information, but is a good quick summary of the organization. I printed it out for Darren, but he refused to read it.

Okay, I think I'm done!

Posted by eklanche at 08:23 AM | Comments (4)

October 20, 2006

How It Works -- Pyramid Scheme, Part III

Today, as I promised, I will explain how TEAM works. In parts one and two of the pyramid scheme saga, I described the sales pitch I received to become an "Independent Business Owner" with TEAM, and I reviewed three of the business models on which TEAM is based.

What TEAM offers is a website that, like Amazon, allows users to buy products from a whole range of partner businesses, such as Barnes and Noble and Disnesy. This website concentrates ordering so that, like Wal-Mart, TEAM can buy from its partner businesses in large enough volume to leverage a discount.

The difference is that, unlike Wal-Mart, which passes a bit of that savings on to customers, TEAM's website does not offer any kind of discount to its users. Rather, it divides the differential between what the customer pays and what the supplier gets between the people who recruited that customer. What it is is a commission. For example, as a consumer, I could buy a book for $20 from www.barnesandnoble.com or I could buy the same book for the same $20 from www.the-team.biz. However, because TEAM brought the business to B&N, they get a commission. Who gets that commission? It gets split up among the person who recruited me (which would be Darren), the person who recruited him, and so on, all the way up to the founders of TEAM, Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward.

In a sense, it is almost like a consumers' cooperative, although it is totally uncooperative. Co-ops work by allowing consumers to buy products together in order to get a discount from the supplier; they then split the discount among themselves. For example, the People's Food Co-op buys 50 lb. sacks of brown rice. No individual consumer could eat 50 lbs. of brown rice before it went off, but together, the people who shop at the PFC can. Because the Co-op doesn't make a profit, it sells the brown rice to the customers at the same price per pound as it gets the rice from its supplier, or adds a slight markup to rent the the storefront and to pay employees. In contrast, TEAM takes that discount and pays everyone up the chain from the consumer, such that people who recruit more customers make more money.

This is not illegal. Darren was offended when I referred to it as a scam, arguing that scams are, by definition, illegal. I used the lottery as an example of a legal scam. But at least the proceeds from the lottery go to the government, rather than into the pockets of unscrupulous individuals.

So, if the TEAM isn't illegal, what is wrong with it? My main objection is that it is totally dishonest. A business sells either a product or a service. What the TEAM sells is a dream. Granted, there is a product, which is what makes this scheme legal. But there is no reason why anyone would buy the product from the TEAM. With very few exceptions, they don't sell anything you can't get somewhere else. They don't even offer a discount on the product. Rather, everything is marked up. Orrin Woodward, TEAM's founder, even admitted that a person who typically spent $300 a month on household goods would probably spend $350-400 on the exact same products buying them through TEAM's website. So TEAM is selling products, and it is selling a service (the convenience of buying online at one website), but there is absolutely no reason why a person would buy these products from TEAM, rather than buying the exact same products for a lot less money from a website like Amazon.

In order to get people to buy from this website, TEAM makes people think that their livelihood depends on it. Rather, they convince people to believe that, by buying from this website, they are actually investing in a business that will eventually earn them money beyond their wildest dreams.

Let me back up for a minute to describe the TEAM's definition of a business. TEAM's business philosophy is based on Robert Kiyosaki's Cashflow Quadrant. Imagine a 2x2 grid with the letter E in the upper left corner, S in the lower left corner, B in the upper right corner, and I in the lower right corner. The left side of the grid represents active income -- working for money. E is employment, working for someone else, and S is self-employment, working for yourself. The right side represents passive, or unearned income. I stands for investment; B stands for business. So what is the difference between S and B? An example that comes to mind is hairdressing. An S hairdresser works out of her house; a B hairdresser owns a salon. In other words, S business owners make money from their own labor, while B business owners make money from other people's labor.

TEAM basically works by convincing people that they can become B business owners by recruiting people to work under them. The sales pitch I received from Darren on Tuesday included absolutely no information about what the business actually was; he just told me that it would fund a lifestyle in which I wouldn't have to work. Instead of telling me what he was selling, or what I would be selling, he asked me where I wanted to have my vacation home. Instead of describing a typical work day, he promised me that, if I worked hard at the beginning, I would be able to retire soon and raise a family. What TEAM is selling, then, is not a product, but a dream. In business terms, Darren is selling a franchise. His business isn't selling products, but selling the right to sell products. In other words, he is selling me his business. The products are incidental. Yesterday I compared TEAM to McDonald's in the sense that both are franchise businesses. There is, however, a major difference. The McDonald's franchisee buys a burger store, but he doesn't sell burger stores; he sells burgers. His profit is based on selling burgers. The burgers serve a purpose. Imagine if you went into McDonald's and they were flipping burgers in the background, but what they were really trying to sell you is your own burger store. Or imagine if you couldn't even buy a burger unless you first bought a burger store.

That is exactly how TEAM works. I can't just go to their website and buy an energy drink. First I have to become an "Independent Business Owner." So Darren isn't selling products, or a convenient way of ordering products. He is selling a business, a vision, a dream. I say vision and dream because it isn't really a business. Orrin Woodward owns a business. He consolidates orders for online businesses and recruits people to recruit people to recruit people to buy from those businesses. In fact, by this point, he probably doesn't have to recruit people any more because he has so many people under him recruiting people. He has achieved B business-owner status. He can just sit back and watch the bucks roll in.

In contrast, Darren doesn't own a business. Rather, he is simply a recruiter for Orrin Woodward's business, paid in commission. Unfortunately, he isn't smart enough to realize this. Orrin Woodward has told him that he is an Independent Business Owner, and he believes it. This phrase, however, is Orwellian; it doesn't mean what it says. In fact, in TEAM's literature, Independent Business Owner is always capitalized because it is trademarked by Alticor, the parent company of both TEAM and Amway. Once you trademark a term, it can mean whatever you want it to mean. Similarly, when I worked at Starbucks, my job title was Partner, but I sure as heck wasn't a partner in the business!

So how does one become an Independent Business Owner with TEAM? There is an initial investment of $270. That $270 gives one the privilege of buying marked-up goods from the TEAM website and the opportunity to begin making commission by bringing people in under oneself to buy products as well. But, again, why would they want to buy those products? Well, the truth is, they wouldn't want to unless they thought they could eventually earn money by recruiting people under them. But that isn't all. TEAM promises to help its Independent Business Owners (IBOs) succeed in their "businesses" through a series of seminars and workshops, not to mention a whole raft of motivational books and CDs. So in addition to the initial investment, TEAM members also spend $50 a month for these workshops and seminars, and $25 a pop for book/CD packages. IBOs also buy all their consumer products from TEAM's website, which raises their own cost of living by at least $100 every month.

Darren estimates that he has "invested" about $12,500 in his "business" so far. He has been doing it for four years. When I asked how much he has earned, he said I wouldn't believe him if he told me. Why wouldn't I believe him? "Well," he answered, "because it isn't very much." No, Darren, I believe it isn't very much! But he kept saying "yet." He hasn't earned much "yet," but he is sure that he eventually will, and he won't stop until he does. He will keep on "investing" $3000 a year until he sees a return. When I asked why he was so sure he was going to see a return, he that he believed it because the person who recruited him told him so.

The sad part is that Darren truly believes that he is failing at this business because he isn't good at it. On the McDonald's website, the corporation tells potential franchisees that "profitability depends on many factors including operating and occupancy costs, financing terms and most important, your ability to operate the business effectively." TEAM tells its members the same thing: if you don't succeed at this, it is your own damn fault. After all, look at how much money Orrin Woodward has made! Furthermore, when I told Darren that the TEAM is a scam, he refuted my argument, saying that it wasn't a scam; I just thought it was a scam because he didn't explain it very well. Poor guy -- he is blaming himself. Then he offered to lend me a CD by Orrin Woodward explaining to team members how to deal with criticism of the "business." If this business were legitimate, such a CD wouldn't even exist.

Darren has been brainwashed, and it is easy to understand why. The more money you invest in something like this, the more desperately you want it to work, and the less willing you are to see the truth.

Posted by eklanche at 11:58 AM | Comments (10)

October 19, 2006

The Inspiration -- Pyramid Scheme, Part II

Yesterday I started to tell the story about being recruited into a pyramid scheme by my so-called "friend" (with friends like that, who needs con artists?) Darren. I have already described our meeting, so today I'll relate what I have learned about Darren's organization, TEAM, which is owned by Alticor, the parent company of Amway.

I'll begin with a disclaimer: it is very difficult to get any real information about this company, so what follows is my own synthesis of the research I have done over the past few days.

TEAM combines and builds on three different business models, those of Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, and McDonald's. I'll briefly describe the innovative aspects of these three businesses and how they make money:

Amazon.com is one of the most successful businesses that operates solely online, with no real-live stores. The innovation here is virtual centralization. In the beginning, Amazon's operations were centralized. From one warehouse, they shipped books all over the country, saving all kinds of money on distribution and passing that savings along to its customers. As Amazon expanded beyond books, it partnered with manufacturers to move products directly from the manufacturers to the consumers. For example, if I were to go to Amazon to buy a toaster, that toaster doesn't come from Amazon's warehouse, but rather from Kitchen Aid's warehouse. By selling me a toaster through Amazon, Kitchen Aid saves on distribution, warehousing, and advertising. It passes some of that savings along to Jeff Bezos, who passes it along to me. I buy a toaster from Amazon rather than going into a store to buy it because I get a better price.

Wal-Mart's contribution to the business world is the economy of scale. Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer, and its size gives it leverage over its suppliers. Just like Amazon, Wal-Mart doesn't sell anything you can't get somewhere else. But also like Amazon, it gains a following by offering its shoppers the convenience of buying everything they need in one place. Furthermore, it sells in such quantity that it can leverage low prices from its suppliers, and it achieves customer loyalty by sharing that savings with its customers. People buy at Wal-Mart because, let's face it, Wal-Mart is cheap. Economy of scale, however, is not the only innovation that has enabled Sam Walton to offer his customers such low prices. He also engages in highly unethical business practices, such as forcing employees to work unpaid overtime, hiring part-time workers rather than full-time workers in order to avoid having to provide health benefits, and simply refusing to pay its suppliers for the goods. What makes Wal-Mart even more dangerous is that it has achieved monopsony status, which allows it to dictate what goods are actually produced. As the world's largest retailer, it can put manufacturers out of business by refusing to buy items that don't meet its specifications. This means that Wal-Mart has the power to determine not only what is sold in its own stores, but what is sold period. Again, Wal-Mart's innovation is size, which it has achieved by offering a substantial savings to its customers, thus building their loyalty.

McDonald's is (in)famous, not for inventing burgers and fries, or even for inventing the drive-thru, but for popularizing the franchise as a business model. Franchises are great for people who want to own a business but don't have the intelligence or creativity to come up with their own product, service, or business plan. They simply buy the right to operate a new location of an existing business. In effect, they are buying a system: everything they need, from the advertising, to the employee training, to the raw materials, to the storefront itself, is provided by the franchising company. This is, in effect, what McDonald's is. The McDonald's Corporation doesn't sell burgers; it sells burger stores. The individual stores, each owned by an individual franchisee, then sell the burgers. I won't get into the dark side of franchised businesses here, but Eric Schlosser does a good job of it in Fast Food Nation. Suffice it to say that the least evil of the fast-food companies he discussess are corporately owned and not franchised.

Now that I have described the inspiration for TEAM, it is time for me to eat breakfast. But stay tuned for Part III, when I will reveal how TEAM's founders combined these three business innovations and built on them in a truly evil way!

Posted by eklanche at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2006

Pyramid Scheme

Yesterday, someone who I thought was a friend tried to recruit me into a pyramid scheme. It was one of the most bizarre experiences I have had in a long time. At first I was angry and felt violated. After all, I thought he was a friend, so why was he trying to scam me? And then I got intensely curious, both about this company, TEAM, which is basically Amway's internet-based sister company, and about pyramid schemes in general, so I did what I do best. Research.

The whole thing started when I met Darren through another organization with which I am affiliated. In the context of a friendly conversation, I asked Darren what he did for a living. He replied that his day job was providing direct care for "retards" (his word), but that he also had his own internet business. When I asked what it was, he replied that it was too complicated to explain at that point, but that he would be happy to call me back another time to tell me. I figured it was probably porn, and didn't care enough to find out, so I let it go.

Last weekend, I was talking to Darren again. Ever since I decided to go on leave from grad school, I have become very curious about what other people do for a living, so I asked Darren again. He said he would call me at 10am on Monday to tell me about it. When 10am Monday rolled around, my curiosity had waned, and I found myself too busy blogging to take Darren's call. Darren is a persistent guy and, as soon as I loggd off, the phone rang. But he still wouldn't actually tell me what his business was. Each time I asked him what he does, he would ask if I had heard of some business principle, such as Robert Kiyosaki's "Cash Flow Quadrant." When I said no, he would reply with, "well, it will all make more sense when we meet in person. How about eleven o'clock tomorrow?" After going through this about three times, the curiosity overcame me, and I agreed to let him come to my house Tuesday at eleven.

David was pretty skeptical about the whole thing and, as he left home yesterday morning, reminded me that, if any trouble came up with Darren, 911 is only three digits. Darren showed up promptly at eleven, wearing a dark suit and red tie, and bearing two cans of a root-beer flavored energy drink. My first thought was, maybe that's his business -- selling energy drinks.

Darren began with chitchat and, when it seemed after ten minutes like we weren't getting anywhere, I asked how it was that he got into this business. He said that he had run into an old friend, and the next day her son had called him up to offer him a business opportunity. So what was this business? Darren wouldn't actually tell me. All he would say is that it offers a fantastic lifestyle: he works for himself and can earn as much as he wants to.

But what does he do? Again, Darren wouldn't answer this question. He opened up a case that contained two CDs and a booklet, and told me that these would explain the business better than he ever could. When I asked him what TEAM is, he told me that it is an acronym that stands for Together Everyone Achieves More. But what do they achieve? Money. Where does that money come from? Again, Darren referred me to the book and CDs. Maybe the business was selling these books and CDs, so I asked if he was selling them to me or lending them to me. He assured me that it was a loan; I wouldn't have to pay anything.

Darren kept referring to himself as an Independent Business Owner, but when I asked him what his business was, he didn't seem to know. He also kept saying that, before he could offer me this fabulous opportunity to earn as much money as I want to, he had to know why I wanted to join TEAM. He didn't quite seem to get it when I told him that I didn't want to join TEAM, I just wanted to know more about it. Or, rather, that if I knew something about TEAM, I might be able to decide whether or not I wanted to join. But Darren couldn't or wouldn't tell me anything about it.

After having given me absolutely no information about this business, Darren said that I could get started right away, by going to a workshop that evening, right here in Ann Arbor. Since it was my first one, he could get me in for free. When I asked what the workshop was about, he told me that two couples would be speaking, and that these couples were so amazing because they had earned enough through TEAM to have the lifestyle they always wanted: the wives had been able to quit their jobs to raise babies!

The workshop was from 8pm to 10:30, which is when I typically eat dinner, watch television, and go to bed, so I told Darren I couldn't make it. He tried for quite a while to talk me into going, but I finally said, "Darren, I'm not going." By that point, I was so curious that I desperately wanted to read the book and listen to the CDs, just to find out what this was all about. I told Darren that I needed to know more about TEAM before I could make any further decisions, but that if he would leave the stuff with me, I would return it to him on Saturday, when we would be seeing each other anyway. That wasn't soon enough for Darren, however. He also said that I would probably have a lot of questions after reading the book and listening to the CDs (because they don't actually give any real information either), so we made another appointment for Friday.

I've got to run now, but I'll continue the story in another post soon.

Posted by eklanche at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2006

Calling In Sick

I have been sniffling for several days now. At first I told myself that it was just allergies, or the weather change, but yesterday I finally admitted that I have a cold. I don't like being sick, but the good thing about it is that it means I will get better. If it were just allergies or the cold weather, I would have to deal with my sore throat, congested head, and aching sinuses all winter! So the bad news is that I feel like crap today, but the good news is that I will probably feel better tomorrow.

I wonder if I got this from one of my students. Many of them were sick last week (or so they told me when they missed section on Wednesday!). For some reason, in both college and grad school, I was always terrified to miss class, so I never did, no matter how sick I was. When I worked full time after college, calling in sick was a brand-new experience. At first I felt guilty about not going to work, then I realized that if I went to work sick, I would be less productive and would probably just get more people sick. So today I'll take advantage of that understanding and call in sick for tutoring. I wouldn't want to get the kids sick, after all!

When I was a kid, staying home sick was a lot of fun. I would watch soap operas and game shows, and my mom would buy trashy magazines for me. Today I get to relive the experience by curling up on the couch and reading Dracula. Technically, this is work, because the book was assigned for the class I teach, but reading a trashy novel never feels much like work!

Posted by eklanche at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2006

Correction

In a previous post I referred to my parents as "communist," and my father has emailed me to say that I had socialist parents, not communist parents. The distinction, of course, is that after the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, the word "communist" became irrevocably associated with Stalin and his "unethical, antisocial, authoritarian politics" (in Dad's words). Thank you, Dad, for this correction. As an historian, I should have been more sensitive to the distinction.

Dad describes my parents' politics as "democratic socialism." They were members of the New American Movement, along with Kathie Sheldon and Steve Tarzynski, whose papers are archived at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. Dad and Kathie were co-founders of the Socialist Community School, and Mom worked with Steve on reforming the American health care system.

I may have sounded flip about my parents' politics in my previous post, but I'm really proud of them, both of their revolutionary vision and of the steps they took to bring this vision to fruition.

Mom, Dad, if you have anything to add, log in and post a comment!

Posted by eklanche at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

Give Me A Call...

...and help support my favorite radio station! Tonight David and I will be answering phones at Michigan Radio to help out with their semiannual membership drive. David has been volunteering with Michigan Radio twice a year since before I knew him, and I began going with him when we moved in together. Answering the phone made me quite nervous at first, but at least it was better than calling people to ask for donations! Over the years, however, I have come to enjoy talking to the people who call in because, whoever they are, we share a love of public radio. And people call from all over the world now that they can listen to Michigan Radio via the internet.

Michigan Radio is the only thing I listen to anymore. I know their schedule from memory and I look forward to my favorite shows each week, even if I don't always tune in. Michigan Radio kept me sane through years of data entry and keeps me alert on the road. When David and I travel, we look for NPR stations wherever we go. I have even been known to say, "If they don't play it on NPR, then I haven't heard it."

So help support the best radio station on earth by calling 888-258-9866. If you call between 5:15 and 8 tonight, David or I might just answer the phone!

Posted by eklanche at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2006

My Soul Mate

Apparently, there is someone in Ann Arbor who is just like me. Not only do we share interests, but we share a tendency to research the heck out of whatever has piqued our curiosity.

I found this woman, or rather, her library receipt, while flipping through The Well-Fed Writer, which I just checked out from the Ann Arbor Public Library. Other books on her receipt included High Tide in Tucson, a book of essays by Barbara Kingsolver (I just finished Kingsolver's other essay collection), a knitting book, and a book called The Fastest Way to Get Pregnant Naturally. At first, I was amused that such a book even exists, but then I realized that whoever checked it out really is my soulmate because, if I did want to get pregnant (don't worry, Mom and Dad, there are no plans in the works), the first thing I would do is go to the library to find out how!

Posted by eklanche at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

World Series

In a last-minute victory, the Tigers swept the Oakland A's in Game Four of the American League Playoffs yesterday, winning the pennant and advancing to the World Series. The score was tied at the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Tigers had two outs. With two men on base, Magglio Ordonez stepped up to bat and hit the ball out of the park. It was a brilliant night for everyone in the state of Michigan. Everyone, that is, except for David and me, and certain of our friends.

Why, you ask? We were holding tickets to Game Five! David pulled the tickets out of his wallet, and threw them on the bar at the Zukey Lake Tavern in disgust. Mock disgust, actually, because, although we were disappointed for ourselves, we couldn't have been happier for the Tigers. The game ended at 7:55, five minutes before the Michigan Wolverines were scheduled to kick Penn State's a--. I wasn't there at the bar, but David told me later that he had three competing concerns. In David's words: "I wanted the Tigers to win so they could go to the World Series; I wanted the Tigers to lose so we could go to Game Five; and I wanted the game to just be f--king over so that we could watch the Michigan game, but the only way the game would end was if the Tigers won!"

Go Tigers -- we'll never root against you again!

Posted by eklanche at 08:51 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2006

More About Me

Awake at 4am, I decided it would be a good time to take the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Why? Because the internet is fastest early in the morning, and it is also my most honest and least self-censoring time of day. The results?

I am an Idealist. This means that I am

passionately concerned with personal growth and development. Idealists strive to discover who they are and how they can become their best possible self -- always this quest for self-knowledge and self-improvement drives their imagination. And they want to help others make the journey. Idealists are naturally drawn to working with people, and whether in education or counseling, in social services or personnel work, in journalism or the ministry, they are gifted at helping others find their way in life, often inspiring them to grow as individuals and to fulfill their potentials. Idealists are sure that friendly cooperation is the best way for people to achieve their goals. Conflict and confrontation upset them because they seem to put up angry barriers between people. Idealists dream of creating harmonious, even caring personal relations, and they have a unique talent for helping people get along with each other and work together for the good of all. Such interpersonal harmony might be a romantic ideal, but then Idealists are incurable romantics who prefer to focus on what might be, rather than what is. The real, practical world is only a starting place for Idealists; they believe that life is filled with possibilities waiting to be realized, rich with meanings calling out to be udnerstood. This idea of a mystical or spiritual dimension to life, the "not visible" or the "not yet" that can only be known through intuition or by a leap of faith, is far more important to Idealists than the world of material things. Highly ethical in their actions, Idealists hold themselves to a strict standard of personal integrity. They must be true to themselves and to others, and they can be quite hard on themselves when they are dishonest, or when they are false or incinsere. More often, however, Idealists are the very soul of kindness. Particularly in their personal relationships, Idealists are without question filled with love and good will. They believe in giving of themselves to help others; they cherish a few warm, sensitive friendships; they strive for a special rapport with their children; and in marriage they wish to find a "soulmate," someone with whom they can bond emotionally and spiritually, sharing their deepest feelings and their complex inner worlds.
I quoted this description at length because it is so flattering, which makes sense because the website wants me to sell me my full "Temperament Report."

I was actually a bit surprised to score as an Idealist, because Idealists are NF (iNtuitive Feeling) in terms of the Myers-Briggs personality types, and I thought I was NT (iNtuitive Thinking). In the Keirsey temperaments, NTs are Rationals. In Myers-Briggs terms, I thought I was ENTJ (Extraverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging), which, translated into Keirsey, would make me a Field Marshal, one of the four types of Rationals. The famous example given is Margaret Thatcher. Given that I don't identify in any way with Margaret Thatcher and because, let's face it, she is just downright evil, I'm glad I scored as an Idealist rather than a Rational! Of the four types of Idealists, my extraversion and judging make me a Teacher, or an "educative mentor." Big suprise there, given how much I have always wanted to teach and mentor. The famous example of a Teacher is Margaret Mead, with whom I identify much more than Margaret Thatcher!

I'm still surprised to have scored as a feeler rather than a thinker, though, because I have always prized my rationality. However, as I learned when I initially took the Myers-Briggs test in college (my results at that point were inconclusive), women are socialized to be feelers rather than thinkers. So maybe, as I have gotten older, that socialization has become more complete. But when I think about my teaching experience it makes a bit more sense. The hardest part of teaching for me has always been grading (don't tell my students!). As a grader for multivariate calculus in college, I put happy faces next to all of my students' correct answers, and I was always eager to give them partial credit whenever I could. But I am definitely Judging rather than Perceiving, as my fondness for deadlines and insistence on "correct" grammar suggest!

Posted by eklanche at 04:32 AM | Comments (0)

Values

At the Career Center yesterday I took a rather playful test of personal values. The test went like this. The following five things are all happening at once:

1. The phone is ringing
2. The kitchen faucet is running
3. Someone is banging on the door
4. The kids are screaming
5. The laundry is hanging outside and it is starting to rain

In what order do you deal with these problems?

My answer: First I deal with the screaming kids because I hate discord and I absolutely can't stand screaming. Plus I want my (hypothetical) kids to know that I am there for them when they need me. Second is the kitchen faucet. I once had a toilet overflow all over the house and I know how damaging water can be. Third, I answer the door. If the person outside hears the kids screaming and the water running, she knows I'm home, and, if it is important, she will wait for me to come to the door. If it isn't important, having to wait may drive her away! I deal with the laundry fourth for two reasons: first, by the time I have dealt with the other three things, the phone is probably no longer ringing; second, if I haven't dealt with the laundry first, it is already wet, and getting a bit wetter won't hurt. I deal with the phone last because I have an answering machine -- if the phone wasn't my first priority (which it obviously wasn't), then the machine has gotten it either way, and I might as well wait until I have taken care of the more pressing issues before calling the person back anyway.

So what does all this mean?

Apparently, the kids represent family, the faucet represents money, the person at the door represents friends, the laundry represents my sex life, and the phone represents my job. The order in which I deal with them reveals my priorities. A child of communist parents, I was surprised that money scored so high on my priority list, but readers of this site are probably less surprised, given how often I write about it. The more important question for my job search, however, is what does it say about me that I answered the phone last? And David is probably wondering why it took me so long to get the laundry!

Posted by eklanche at 04:11 AM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2006

Moment of Truth

I have a confession to make. Many of you know this by now, but I wanted to refrain from blogging about it until I had discussed it with my advisor. I don't want to be a professor when I grow up.

I know, the horror! How could anyone not want to be a professor when she grows up? More to the point, what the heck am I doing in a history Ph.D. program if I don't want to be a professor one day? That is what I have started to ask myself (and my advisor), along with asking whether it makes sense to go through the hell of taking prelims and writing a dissertation if I don't want to be a professor anyway.

So now I am (publicly) embarking on the project of trying to figure out, first, what it is that I do want to do with my life and, second, whether having a Ph.D. in history will help me with that. I actually began this process a few weeks ago, when I attended a Career Center workshop on nonacademic careers for graduate students. This was less of a practical workshop on how to get a nonacademic job and more of a chance for us to explore why we have decided to leave academia and what that means for our career identity. One of the more useful exercises was listing the reasons why we entered academia, and then what has changed to make us want to leave. I'll share my answers with the world:

I came to grad school because I was frustrated and bored in the work world, and sure that I could not get more interesting or challenging work without an advanced degree. As I had enjoyed studying history in college, it seemed natural that, if I were going to pursue an advanced degree, it should be in history. Contributing to this perception was the fact that I had gone to a liberal-arts college, which treated everyone as a pre-Ph.D. student. I had also received relatively poor career counseling at said college, and came from an academic family, so I wasn't aware of the full range of opportunities out there. But there were also things about the academic lifestyle that attracted me. I have always loved learning and I enjoy being part of an intellectual environment. I longed for more flexibility in my work life and, when people warned me that, as an academic, I would have to work twenty-four hours a day, I retorted that at least they could be any twenty-four hours i wanted. I also simply wanted to work harder. I came home from my full-time job each day feeling as though I had much more in me to give, and nothing to give it to. Finally, I was curious about history and wanted to travel.

So what has changed? One major change is that I realized I am an extrovert. I had assumed I was an introvert because I hated the customer service jobs I had had in high school and college, and it never occurred to me that there is a difference between working with people and customer service. I entered history because I thought I would enjoy the solitude of research and writing, and instead found myself climbing the walls. I have also come to realize that academia requires more sacrifices than I am willing to make. I have already sacrificed family, friends, and health, and I have come to realize that I actually value these things more than I value prestige or income. Finally, I realized that academic historians speak to a very small audience -- each other -- and I want to do something that makes a difference in the real world.

There are, however, some things about academia that I love: learning, reading, writing, sharing ideas, having smart colleagues, flexibility, intellectual engagement, teaching/mentoring, campus life, and even public speaking. I hope to be able to integrate some of these things into whatever I do next.

I am blogging about this because I want to get it all out in the open. I'm tired of hemming and hawing every time someone asks me when I'm planning to take my prelims, and I was starting to feel like I was lying to my advisor through omission of this not-so-minor detail. I am also blogging in an attempt to solicit advice from anyone who might be reading. Today I raided the Career Center library, made an appointment with a career counselor, and checked out What Color is Your Parachute from the public library. I am in full-on job search mode and I am eager to use all the resources at my disposal!

Posted by eklanche at 04:17 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2006

Snow

Today we had our first snowfall of the year. Even though October feels way too early, I still get excited by the idea of snow. When I was a kid in Los Angeles, snow was a place we went, not something that happened. We would say "I'm going to the snow this weekend," which meant that one was going to the mountains, where there would likely be snow. We could control how much or how little contact we had with snow. In high school I even had friends who had never seen snow! Here in Michigan, though, snow is something that happens, whether we like it or not. Fortunately, I live with a very good shoveler, though that won't be necessary today!

Posted by eklanche at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

British History in Da UP

Yesterday I managed to inject a small bit of Michigan history into all three of my discussion sections. Tuesday's lecture covered regional differences within the British Isles. The professor told us that Cornwall was a mining district, but that the copper and tin mines were depleted by the early nineteenth century, at which point miners from Cornwall emigrated to other places with mines, but she did not specifically mention the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. For section yesterday, the students read an article about Cornish identity, so, when we discussed this article, I asked how many of them had been to Michigan's UP. At least a few students raised their hands in each section, so I asked them what they eat in the UP. The answer? Pasties. And where do pasties come from? Cornwall? So how did Cornish pasties get into the UP? You have probably guessed it by now, but the UP has its own mining industry -- mostly copper, iron, and silver -- which attracted miners from all over the world, but particularly from Cornwall. One of my favorite things about British history is that it happened all over the world, even right here in Michigan!

Posted by eklanche at 08:21 AM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2006

The Industrialization Saga Continues

Over the next week, my students will be writing their first papers for me. I'm geeked about reading them because the professor I'm teaching with came up with a super-cool paper topic: How does Britain become "an industrial society" by the mid-nineteenth century, and how does this change the lives of ordinary people? It is a huge question. After all, everything we have covered so far in the course, from empire to enclosure, could be said to have contributed to industrialization. The challenge will be covering it all in 2-3 pages!

Posted by eklanche at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2006

The Dubious Joys of Home Ownership

Most of the time, I enjoy owning my house. David painted my study purple and relandscaped the entire yard. When I write my mortgage check each month, I like the fact that I'm building up my own equity, not my landlord's. But when something goes wrong, I miss being able to call the landlord and let him deal with it. And it seems that many more things have gone wrong in the two years since we bought the place than in the four previous years. Especially plumbing. We have had the toilet mechanism, the garbage disposal, and the kitchen faucet all replaced within the last year.

Nevertheless, when David's brother's friend Mark went upstairs to use the bathroom on Saturday night, he found water leaking out of the toilet and onto the floor. Neither Mark, nor David, nor David's brother Mike could figure out how to fix it, so they turned off the water at its source to the toilet and set up a small trash can to catch the drips. Each time we used the toilet, we had to turn the water on, let the bowl fill up, and then turn the water off before we could flush it. By Sunday it had pretty much become second nature, but it made going to the bathroom quite a drag.

We were kind of dreading calling the plumber because David was pretty sure we would need a whole new toilet. In fact, I was out when the leak was discovered, and when I got home on Saturday night David greeted me with the words "I think the toilet is shot." We even researched new toilets in Consumer Reports, and were reassured when we saw that we could get the highest-rated model for under $300, but in the end we didn't need to buy one.

I finally got the plumber in this morning. He diagnosed the problem (leakage between the tank and the bowl, which is what we suspected), went out to his van to get some parts, replaced the tank-to-bowl connectors, the flapper, and the handle (he said that if he didn't do those today he would have to come back in a month to do them), and used the toilet to test his handiwork. With less than an hour of work, the toilet was as good as new. I had forgotten how nice it is to just be able to flush the toilet like a normal person, without all those extra steps of turning the water on and off!

Posted by eklanche at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)

Outrage

I just got an email from my thirteen-year-old sister informing me that her middle school in Pittsburgh has installed metal detectors, through which the kids must pass every morning on their way in. Her main complaint was that she has to wait outside in the cold, and she asked me if we had metal detectors in my middle school. The answer? Of course not! When I was her age, nobody had ever shot up a school. We signed a form on the first day of each year promising that we would not bring weapons of any kind to school and we kept this promise. Metal detectors give off the impression that teachers and administrators are scared of the children they are supposed to be teaching and guiding, and that is just a sad state of affairs.

Posted by eklanche at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2006

Columbus Day?

When I was a kid, Columbus Day was a holiday, at least in the sense that school was closed and most grownups seemed to have the day off work. Back then, Christopher Columbus was a hero. After all, he had discovered the New World, hadn't he? Around 1992, the five-hundred year anniversary of this "discovery," it seemed that people started questioning Columbus's legacy and calling attention to the genocide of indigenous Americans that his landing inaugurated. Columbus Day began to fade from my awareness, and by college, the day passed unremarked-upon. In fact, I had totally forgotten about its existence until after I graduated, moved out of the dorms, and came home one Monday in October to find my mailbox empty. Was the mailman sick? No, it turns out that some people do still observe Columbus Day, though the holiday seems to be restricted to the banks and the postal service. So what Columbus Day means to me today is that David and I will have to wait yet another day to receive the next Six Feet Under disc in the mail!

Posted by eklanche at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2006

Apple Season

Fall has fallen: the air is cool and crisp; the sky is clear and blue; leaves are yellowing, turning red, and raining from the trees; and the apples are ripe. Not content to simply buy a bag at the farmers' market, David and I went with our friends Sara and Josh to Wasem Fruit Farm to pick them ourselves. This was my second apple-picking adventure, and Josh's first. David and Sara, having grown up in the Midwest, had picked plenty of apples in their lifetimes, but neither had been in a long time. David and I do try to get to the Alber Orchard each fall to buy apples, but they don't let us pick them ourselves. And, considering what a mess we made of things, I can now see why.

We paid 25 cents each for two half-bushel bags, and set out into the groves. Signs warned us to pick only from the labeled rows, but as we made our way down a row of Empire apples, we found that only one end of each row was labeled, so when we got to the other end, we had no idea what kind of apples surrounded us or whether we could pick them. So we just started tasting. David and Josh accepted this challenge, biting into apples from various trees and telling Sara and me whether they were worth picking. They came across Red Delicious as big as our heads, though we deemed this variety a waste of time; Red Delicious are just about the most boring apples in the world. They declared the Ida Reds tart but mealy. I wasn't such an apple snob until I moved to Ann Arbor. In Los Angeles we had three kinds of apples -- red, yellow, and green (just like a traffic light!) -- and none of them were that great. But here we have enough varieties that I can distinguish between the good and the better. Apparently we were not the only ones taste-testing the apples: the ground was strewn with half-eaten fruit.

Eventually we filled our half-bushel bags and paid for them -- $20 for the two bags -- wondering all the while whether Wasem charges more or less for U-pick apples. On the way home, we stopped by a corn maze but, after a brief conversation about the movie Children of the Corn, we decided not to actually do the maze. I think David and I now have enough apples to get us through the winter. The question is where to store them all?

Posted by eklanche at 05:28 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2006

Toward Shabbat

I have been blogging quite a bit lately about Michael Lerner's Jewish Renewal, and I have said it before, but I'll say it again: this book should be required reading, not just for Jews, but for all of humanity. Yesterday I read the chapter on Shabbat, which argues that Shabbat is a revolutionary practice. Lerner tells us that

Shabbat is both the result and celebration of the first national liberation strugle. Ruling elites throughout most of recorded history have sought unlimited power to expropriate the labor of others. When there is no limit, when people are forced to work till they drop or drop dead, we have a condition of slavery. Shabbat is the first historical imposition of a limit on the ability of ruling elites to exploit labor. It is the embodiment of the first time when the people who work were able to say no to a ruling elite and make it stick. The notion that working people could do this, that they had rights that limited the power of the bosses, was a new notion in history. The Jews built their religion around it.
Lerner goes on to claim that the weekend is the Jews' gift to the world: the secular version of Shabbat brought about through the efforts of trade unionists, who were disproportionately Jewish.

The fact that I am blogging on Shabbat, and that I blogged on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, should tip you off to the fact that I'm not a terribly observant Jew. My observance has waxed and waned at various points in my life, and has particularly ebbed since I moved to Ann Arbor. In college, however, I dated a guy who was shomer shabbos and, when we were together, I observed Shabbat with him. We attended Friday night services at Hillel, followed by dinner with friends. On Saturday we awoke to what our friend Leslie referred to as the "sun alarm" and spent the day reading, playing games, and going for walks. As night fell, we would break out a bottle of kosher wine, light the Havdalah candle, and sing the prayers. Then off to the movies! Although I did enjoy this observance, at the time I was more focused on what we couldn't do (turn the lights on and off, cook, ride in a car, watch television, use money, etc.) than on the gift, power, and luxury of rest.

Today it seems like there are so many reasons why I can't observe Shabbat: there is no synagogue in walking distance, I would miss the farmers' market, and there are just things that need to be done on Saturdays. In my mind, Shabbat is a luxury that I just can't afford, especially in grad school, which pretty much requires 24/7 attention. Lerner's point, however, is that Shabbat shouldn't be a luxury reserved for those who can afford it. The Torah commands not only that the wealthy rest, but that their employees and even their animals rest as well. But Shabbat doesn't just happen on its own. In a sense, of course, it does just happen; today is Shabbat whether I observe it or not, but the cessation of work doesn't just happen. I used to be confused by the phrase "to make Shabbat," which is how observant people tend to refer to it. After reading Lerner's chapter, however, it makes sense: in our secular world, we have to choose to make Shabbat happen; we have to choose to say no to the responsibilities of the rest of the week.

The problem, however, is that I can't make Shabbat on my own. Sure, I can light the candles, say the prayers, and take a rest, but Shabbat is really a community activity. Lerner points out that, unless a critical mass of people observe Shabbat, the capitalist market will force us to "choose" to work (or do our shopping, or clean our houses, or whatever). Furthermore, part of the joy of Shabbat is being able to share our leisure with friends and family, which requires being part of a whole community that observes Shabbat. Judaism is not a religion that can be practiced in isolation. Even reading from the Toray requires the presence of a minyan -- ten Jews. We need each other, and Shabbat can only happen if we all make it happen together.

Posted by eklanche at 01:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2006

Lunchtime Guilt

I feel guilty about my lunch. And my dinner. Not just today, but most days. Today's lunch is navy beans, broccoli, and olive oil. I'm not a vegetarian, I just prefer to save my animals for dinnertime. I don't feel guilty about the olive oil -- it is a "good" fat (still fattening, but not cholesterol-producing) -- nor do I feel guilty about the navy beans. They are cheap, full of fiber, minerals, and protein, and they are organic. The part that's got me hanging my head in shame is the broccoli. On Tuesday, David and I went to Kroger, which was having a sale on frozen vegetables -- a dollar a pound. I bought about twenty-two pounds: broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, okra, spinach, and corn (which is not a vegetable at all, but is still delicious). Given that I eat a pound and a half of vegetables a day (12 oz. at lunch and 12 oz. at dinner -- this is why I feel less guilty about breakfast), this purchase will last me about two weeks.

I was actually feeling pretty good about the fact that I wouldn't need to buy vegetables again until mid-month, until yesterday, when I read the chapter on Judaism and ecology in Michael Lerner's Jewish Renewal, which describes an eco-kosher ideology

that questions whether food that has been grown in ecologically destructive ways, or food that has been harvested by underpaid farmworkers, or food that has been produced by companies that are exploiting their workers or by companies that are destroying the environment, can really be considered kosher.
Each element of this sentence felt like a stab in the belly. I know that Kroger vegetables are grown in ecologically destructive ways and harvested by underpaid farmworkers, I know that the transportation to get the food from wherever it was grown to my local Kroger freezer case is destroying the environment, and I know that Kroger as a company has a history of exploiting its workers. I felt even guiltier when I picked up Small Wonder, Barbara Kingsolver's new book of essays, and read that, not only does she shun conventional produce, but she refuses to eat anything that has traveled more than an hour to get to her!

If I feel so guilty about my the impact my vegetables have on the planet, and if I live in Ann Arbor, where I not only have a vibrant farmers' market two days a week, but I also live in walking distance of a food co-op that boasts a not-too-shabby selection of organic produce, why do I even buy the Kroger frozen stuff? I have to admit that I'm seduced by the convenience (not to mention the price). Though I once loved cooking, I have grown bored by the tedium of washing, chopping, boiling, steaming, and roasting vegetables. Or maybe bored isn't the right word. I guess I just don't find it as entertaining as I used to, and today there are so many other things I would rather be doing: blogging, reading, knitting, watching television (yes, I'm embarrassed to admit it, but it's the truth), or playing with David. I guess life is just all about compromise.

Posted by eklanche at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)

The Sweetest Thing

I have the best boyfriend/lover/partner/companion/housemate/fiance in the entire world!

Awake at 3:30 this morning, with mind racing, it became clear to me that I would not get back to sleep, so I went downstairs to brew a pot of tea. When I turned on the kitchen light, I found a ceramic bowl on the counter (one of the few usable remnants of my ill-fated attempt at pottery), filled with water, a perfect pink rose floating in the center. Alongside it, a post-it note read "I love you, Emily Rose."

Thank you, David Floyd. I love you too. More than I can express in words right now.

Posted by eklanche at 04:11 AM | Comments (1)

October 05, 2006

Emerging from the Dark Ages

Yesterday I received an email from the University of Michigan informing me that, although they will officially continue to offer dial-up internet service until January 2, I should not hesitate to make other arrangements because dial-up service will become increasingly difficult to use as more and more modems are removed from the UM dial-up pool. I have to admit that this email caused me some distress.

In lecture on Tuesday, the professor I'm teaching with discussed Luddism. She said that, although professors who don't use Power Point (or, I'll add, GSIs who don't know how to work an overhead projector) are often referred to as Luddites, Luddism actually expressed a political and moral vision that valued work and opposed technology only when it eliminated workers' ability to earn a livelihood. So my resistance to high-speed internet is not Luddism, nor is it even neo-luddism because I'm not opposed to high-speed internet access per se. I actually enjoy using it at school and at my mom's house.

Rather, I think David and I are simply late adopters of technology. We still use a film camera and we don't listen to MP3s. We don't have cell phones, and we use an answering machine rather than voice mail. My laptop has a wi-fi modem, but I have never (successfully) used it. I use a paper planner rather than a PDA. Our philosophy is, if the old technology still works, why drop the bucks on new technology? We pay $40 a month for our land line, which we also use to dial in (for free) to the internet. Going high-speed and cellular would triple that monthly expense: at least $40 each for two cell phones, and another $40 (at least) for high-speed internet. And that is if we get rid of the land line. I will admit that I like the idea of having cell phones and high-speed internet access, but, as a grad student, the price tag hits me in a very sensitive place!

Posted by eklanche at 08:56 AM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2006

Dialect Update and a Public Apology

Today I would like to make a public apology to Caroline Eisner (whose name I inadvertently misspelled in a previous post) for not discussing my concerns about African American dialect with you when I had the opportunity. I am fascinated to learn the pedagogy and theory behind the argument you made for not correcting our students' dialect. Thank you for emailing me this passage:

NCTE, "On Students' Right to their Own Language": We affirm the students' right to their own patterns and varieties of language -- the dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style. Language scholars long ago denied that the myth of a standard American dialect has any validity. The claim that any one dialect is unaccpetable amounts to an attempt of one social group to exert its dominance over another. Such a claim leads to false advice for speakers and writers and immoral advice for humans. A nation proud of its diverse heritage and its cultural and racial variety will preserve its heritage of dialects. We affirm strongly that teachers must have the experiences and training that will enable them to respect diversity and uphold the right of students to their own language.

I agree with this passage that the idea of a standard American dialect is a myth. After all, there has never been a single standard dialect, which is why such people as Noah Webster spent so much time trying to standardize American English. What I refer to as "standard American English" really is just the WASP dialect. This passage says that "the claim that any one dialect is unacceptable amounts to an attempt of one social group to exert its dominance over another"; in other words, the claim that one dialect is more correct than another is cultual imperialism. I can't disagree with that. The problem is that those in power have been exerting this dominance for the entire history of our nation. As a result, those who make hiring decisions in workplaces and admissions decisions in universities tend to be (but are not uniformly anymore) members of the dominant group. Furthermore, because they learned in school that their dialect is "standard American English," they will view grammatical constructions that may be correct in another dialect as unacceptable. I am speaking for myself here, but I don't think I'm alone.

I'm not arguing that this is moral, just that it is the reality. Unfortunately, not all members of our nation are proud of its diverse heritage. I agree that teachers must respect their students' diversity, but they also must prepare their students to get by in a world that, unfortunately, isn't always so respectful.

Posted by eklanche at 11:15 AM | Comments (4)

October 03, 2006

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

This semester, my colleague Rebekah is teaching a freshman seminar titled Global Food Histories: Tales of Commodities and Cookbooks. The assigned reading for yesterday's class was none other than my second seminar paper, "The Imperial Housewife and the Familial Empire: The Empire Marketing Board's Family Analogy, 1926-1933." I had presented this paper at the "Gender in the Archive" grad student conference back in April, 2005, and Rebekah served as the discussant. Apparently, she thought it was good enough to serve as an example to her students of how to use primary sources. It also helps that I had some really fantastic sources -- posters, advertisements, radio broadcasts, a film, and, of course, recipes. So yesterday Rebekah invited me to make a guest appearance in her class, to tell her students about how I found and used these sources, and to do a workshop with them on reading primary sources. It was a lot of fun. I showed them photographs of the archives I visited in London when I researched the paper during the summer of 2004, and Rebekah and I prepared a packet for them of some of the different kinds of sources, which they then read and interpreted for themselves. It was a lot of fun for me to get to revisit the paper and the sources, and I found myself reading the sources very differently than I did two years ago when I wrote the paper. The students also pointed to things in the sources that I hadn't noticed, and I loved being able to learn from them. It was also pretty fun to be introduced to the class as "the famous author who you read for today"!

Posted by eklanche at 10:30 AM | Comments (1)

October 02, 2006

My Hat Is Off To You, Ken

You may not blog often, but when you blog, you blog! Keep it up, I'm reading.

Posted by eklanche at 08:58 AM | Comments (1)

The Saga of the Shawl

As I sit here at my computer on this chilly and rainy morning, I'm warmed by a red plaid woolen shawl wrapped around my shoulders. This shawl has quite a history. It began life as my mother's baby carriage blanket, and my grandparents used it for my aunt Lesley as well. On a recent visit to my grandparents in New Jersey, my mom mentioned to them something about me always being cold (I live in Michigan -- what do you expect?), and they dug the shawl out of their basement for her to give to me when I visited in August.

When I returned to Ann Arbor from my much-blogged-about trip to Los Angeles, my grandparents asked me if I liked the scarf. What scarf? The one my mother had given me when I was there. So I called mom and asked if she had a scarf for me. She didn't know quite what I was talking about because, in reality, it is more of a shawl than a scarf, but she quickly remembered and went off to search for it. After not finding it and not finding it, she called her parents, who found it in their house; she had forgotten to take it with her. This past weekend, my mom and my aunt both visited my grandparents, and my aunt returned yesterday with the shawl in hand.

So thank you, Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, and Aunt Lesley, for this gorgeous shawl. It is soft and warm, and, best of all, it smells like Grandma and Grandpa's house!

Posted by eklanche at 08:46 AM | Comments (0)

Detention for Parents

This morning on NPR I heard that some upscale day school in Manhattan has started issuing detention slips to parents who bring their children to school late; parents and children then have to serve detention together! This made me smile. After all, parents have no incentive to get their kids to school on time, so this is a consequence for getting them there late. How I wish they had this when I was in high school! Halfway through eleventh grade, my mom divorced my evil stepfather and we moved out of district, so she started driving me to school in the morning. I had to be there at 7:20 for band rehearsal, which meant leaving the house at 7 and, let's just say, that was a bit earlier than my mom was used to getting out the door. I kept telling her that, if I was even a minute late, I would get an hour's worth of detention, but I don't think she quite understood. If she had to serve the detention, however, it may have been a different story...

And I will admit that I don't have much to complain about. After serving detention once, I realized that my school's record-keeping systems were pretty sub par, and that nobody would notice if I never showed up to detention!

Posted by eklanche at 08:36 AM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2006

Thank You, Claire

For emailing this quote to me. It is exactly what I needed to hear:

Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?" Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God; your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in every one and as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear our presence automatically liberates others. --Marianne Williamson

Posted by eklanche at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)