The Art of the Deal

I consider myself a fairly astute political observer but I will confess I am extremely puzzled and concerned by the deal Trump and Democrats struck over raising the debt ceiling. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would result in the country defaulting; the deadline was looming. Since defaulting would obviously have very negative consequences for our economy, I assume the longer we could go before having to raise it again the better.

Apparently Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, and the Republicans wanted eighteen months. Although that seems like a good idea, I don’t trust the Republicans so I assume they had ulterior motives or a hidden agenda, The Democrats counter offer was three months and they didn’t budge. Since there was no back and forth of offers and no compromise in the middle you can’t really call it a deal. It is more like Trump caved.

However the media seems to be spinning it as an example of Trump’s deal making. Trump sees it as a win and is ecstatic about positive press coverage. This is one of the things that concerns me about the deal. I think independents may look at it and think Trump is being bipartisan, something Obama couldn’t achieve. Of course, the reality is that Democrats generally care more about governing and it is therefore easier for a Republican president to be bipartisan. Republicans revel in being in the opposition, don’t really care about governing and are usually really bad at it. All of that made it very hard for Obama who wanted bipartisanship to achieve it.

I don’t want this to improve Trump’s approval level in polls and increase his chances for reelection. I don’t know why the Democrats are helping him to get a win. Apparently they wanted the short time frame to maintain or increase leverage on DACA and other key issues.This feels like a gamble to me since there is no guarantee that in December there will be enough Republicans to form a coalition with Democrats to pass the Dream Act in the House. The extreme political nature of this is upsetting. The short time period before the debt ceiling has to be raised again and Trump getting a win are both bad for the country which is my bottom line.

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Back to School Report

September always feels like the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. I am not in school anymore, but September still feels like the start of something new. Given that, here is an update on my social media and book writing goals.

Since my Quarterly Report in April, I have tweeted 222 times. My total for the year so far is 2317. If I didn’t tweet anymore this year I would still have met my goal of 365 new tweets. My top tweet since April was about the Jerusalem Church in Bruges, Belgium. I have 123 followers which is not a lot but it took me forever to get to 100 followers so that number is fine with me.

Tweeting every day has remained very easy. If I do miss a day, I usually wind up tweeting at least twice the next day. The current political situation makes that a snap. At the very least there are excellent tweets available for retweeting.

Blogging every week continues to be more difficult. My personal life has been so hectic that I haven’t been able to stay on my preferred schedule of writing on Thursday and posting on Friday.

There is a positive reason I have had  trouble blogging. Since July I have been working on my book about faculty wives two to three days a week. At the beginning of that month I had 17 pages on the chapter I am currently writing and I now have 43 pages. I had done a bunch of research in the winter on the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACW) and I  am now using that research to write the chapter on African American faculty wives clubs.

One reason I wanted to blog more regularly was that I hoped it would help me with my writing. That has happened which  makes me very happy. Hopefully I can figure out how to do both.  In December or January I will let you know how it turned out.


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There was recently a death in my family. Several other people I know have also lost members of their families recently. In honor of all these losses, I offer two poems that I have found comforting and meaningful at times of sorrow. I read this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay at my brother’s memorial service several years ago. She is one of my favorite poets. 

Dirge without Music
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

I saw the following poem on a subway in New York City. I find it very moving.

by Patrick Phillips

It will be the past
and we’ll live there together.

Not as it was to live
but as it is remembered.

It will be the past.
We’ll all go back together.

Everyone we ever loved,
and lost, and must remember.

It will be the past.
And it will last forever.

“Heaven” by Patrick Phillips, from Boy. © The University of Georgia Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission.

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Computer Troubles

Since Monday I have been dealing with a failing computer.  It stopped charging and since then only charges when the cord is in a very specific position. There is obviously something wrong with the charging port. This is always the weak link on PC laptops. I don’t like MACs but their power cords are magnetic and make much more sense.

My computer is a Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus and it has had problems for a while.  When I have a browser open and have another window open as well like my email it can freeze when moving the cursor from one window to another. The only way to fix it is to reboot.  At other times Firefox will just freeze and go to a blue screen with a black box on the top.

When this first started happening, I reinstalled both Windows and Firefox. That didn’t help so I called Samsung because  I had owned it for less than a year. They wanted me to do a full recovery which I did. That also didn’t help.

Since the problem was intermittent I decided to ignore it. This spring it started getting worse and I called Square Trade since I had bought an extended warranty from them. They wanted me to send them the computer. I didn’t want to do that so I once again ignored the problem.

Now my power port is broken and I have to send it to Square Trade. I am reluctant to do this for two reasons. One I am afraid they will wipe out my data and I will have to reinstall all my programs and settings. The other reason is that it is hard to be without a computer for at least five days.

I don’t think I would buy a Samsung computer again. I also used to have a Samsung phone and that wasn’t a very good product either. I would like a laptop that will last at least three years and maybe four. If anyone has a suggestion please let me know.

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Alcohol Task Force Sub Group

On Wednesday, I attended the first meeting, via Zoom, of the Alcohol Task Force sub group on Public Health, Safety and Prevention. The chair, Lisa Wong, laid out the areas we will focus on in making our recommendations to the State Treasurer. They include education, data, college drinking, funding of prevention including an alcohol tax, advertising and the role of technology.

Much of the discussion focused on the role of education and the level of awareness of the general public about some of the harmful effects of alcohol.  The group includes people from the liquor industry as well as public health advocates. It will be interesting to see how the chair and the committee balance the economic imperative  of robust alcohol sales with the need to keep the public safe.

I will keep you posted about how the deliberations go.

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Not Remembering

I am sorry that I didn’t blog yesterday as scheduled. I was dealing with a family emergency in Virginia and just got home on Thursday. My father-in-law died there last Saturday at the age of 95.

Losing a parent is a very difficult thing to experience. When both are gone, you feel like an orphan, no matter how old you are.

My father died following heart surgery when he was 65.  I was 29. My mother developed Alzheimer’s when she was 68 and died ten years later.  When you mourn for your parents you are partly mourning for the lost opportunities and experiences. My father never saw my children which is one of my greatest regrets.

My mother having Alzheimer’s has left me with a fear that I will also get the disease. This is a poem I wrote about that fear several years ago:

Not Remembering

Not remembering frightens me.
Not remembering the spelling of a word is scary.
Not remembering what happened fills me with dread.

When someone is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s
They look in the mirror and do not recognize themselves.

I am afraid of not remembering.
Not remembering is painful.

I do remember my mother when she was whole,
When she spoke, laughed, cried.
She was beautiful and strong.

Then she stopped speaking, laughing, crying,
But she followed the baby on the bed with her eyes.
Was she still there?
Did she still know?

When I don’t remember
Remembering her is what makes me afraid.



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Book Review: Tidying Up

The life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo describes the author’s system, Kon Mari, for keeping your house clutter free. Her main claim is that by following her system, you will never have to tidy up again. You will do it once and never have to do it again. This does not seem realistic or practical. She does acknowledge that it could take six months.

Kondo wants you to start with clothes and move on from there. You are supposed to take out all your clothes, look at and hold each one and determine if it brings you joy. You would follow the same process for books, mementos and miscellaneous items.

It is easy to mock her concept of inanimate objects bringing you joy. The recent revival of Gilmore Girls did just that when it portrayed Emily Gilmore in a frenzy throwing out most of her furniture and possessions because they did not bring her joy.

Some of Kondo’s processes make more sense and seem easier to put into practice. She believes you should have a place for everything which is something I agree with.

More fundamentally, Kondo believes you must visualize what you want your space to look like before you start the tidying process. This is because tidying is not a goal in and of itself but rather part of the journey.

As far as mementos go, if you can’t tell right away whether an item brings you joy it is either because “you have an attachment to the past or a fear of the future.” I found this to be very insightful.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. I don’t think I will follow the overall process but I may apply some of the individual principles to specific situations. My goal would be a clean, pleasing to look at and peaceful home.


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World’s Fair

One of my goals for 2017 was to work more regularly on my book on faculty wives. Recently I have been able to do that and I have run across an interesting subject. Various World’s Fairs have come up in my research because the fairs have often been contested spaces.

The chapter I am working focuses on African-American wives and their clubs. Beginning with the Chicago Exposition of 1893 and going on until at least the NY Fair of 1939, African-Americans sought a seat at the table. Women, both black and white, also sought representatives.

The fair that is most interesting to me is the St. Louis Louisiana Exposition of 1904. Josephine Yates, President of the National Association of Colored Women, (NACW) negotiated with the Fair managers to have a World’s Fair Day for the organization. Other African-American groups also arranged for days.

Hallie Q. Brown, a member of NACW sought employment at the Fair and was refused. This prompted Margaret Murray Washington to urge the NACW convention to boycott the planned event. This became the official position of NACW, however many convention attendees did visit the fair. Interestingly, Booker T. Washington disagreed with his wife, feeling that cries of racism were over stated.

Over 10,000 people picketed the offices of the NY World’s Fair in 1939 demanding employment for black people. The women had more success, happily attending  a National Association of Colored Women Day at the Fair.



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How to Behave at an Academic Conference

I recently attended the ADHS 2017 conference. I have attended many conferences over the years and chaired many panels. These are my observations about how to have a successful panel at an academic conference. As chair you have to keep time to insure each panelist speaks for the same amount of time. Unfortunately there is now way to compel someone to stop talking. People have to police themselves; in my experience some are better at this than others. If the chair does not keep good time it is unfair to everyone. The speakers and the audience all suffer. It is rude if you are one of the speakers and you go way over time.

The chair should definitely have all the speakers talk and then have questions and answers at the end. Allowing questions after each speaker exacerbates the time issues and very often leads to the final speaker either getting very few questions or the whole session goes over. Making sure there is time for questions and answers is  important for two reasons. Without some interaction between the speakers and the audience the session becomes a completely passive experience. Also speakers like to engage with the audience.

Four speakers at a session is too many and makes time more of an issue. To maximize time the chair should not make a statement. Maybe panels should have only two speakers but that would probably lengthen the conference.

The ADHS conference at Utrecht did have some time issues at some sessions but as always it was a very interesting experience. Utrecht is a great city and I had a very nice time.








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Schedule Update

My faithful readers may have noticed that I have been blogging a little more frequently recently. I have been blogging every Friday since the beginning of 2017. I have deviated from the pattern for two reasons. I did a bunch of interesting things in a row and I wanted to write about them while they were still fresh in my mind. The second reason is that I will not be able to blog for about three weeks so to keep my total the same I front loaded a few posts. I will resume my Friday blogging schedule on July 14. Have a nice June.

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