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February 03, 2008

Another grandkid

Allison was born to Travis and (especially) Karen in December.

She is our third grandchild, following Elliot (Travis and Karen's son, born in October 2005) and Drew (Noel and Inga's son, born in September 2006). Terry and I went to Tucson last month to meet Allison and to spend time with Elliot (and, of course, with Travis and Karen). Allison doesn't do much yet, but she is cute. Elliot is becoming quite a conversationalist. One day, he and Travis and I went to the local botanical garden to see a live exhibition of African butterflies. Elliot commented extensively on them, especially on their colors. He enjoys being read to at bedtime. One of his favorites is a book about farts - very funny.

Drew is closer, right here in Kansas City. We see him every weekend. We had him for a sleepover New Year's Eve. For several hours, he pined for his Mommy, periodically going to the window to look for her. We were partially successful in distracting him with a series of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies showing on TCM. Drew loved the dancing. Eventually, he fell asleep, and by morning he decided that being with us was ok.

We encountered a technical problem with the photo gallery last month, but hopefully Terry will soon be able to upload grandkid and other photos.

-- Norty

February 02, 2008

Hanyu laoshi

Hanyu laoshi is Chinese for ... "Chinese teacher."

I knew I would have some free time during spring semester, because job search activity would wind down and, especially, because I would not have to spend a lot of time preparing to teach my university classes. I am teaching two sections of world history at Washburn this semester, and I am making only minor changes to the syllabus and lesson plans I used for the fall semester.

So, I contacted several private high schools in the Kansas City area to offer my availability as a substitute teacher for English or social science classes. To my surprise, The Barstow School has recruited me as a long-term substitute for three Chinese language classes. The regular teacher is very sick and probably will not return this semester. He also teaches world history, and the initial plan was for me to cover for those classes, too. However, since I can only substitute three days a week, the high school persuaded a retired history teacher to cover the history classes. (They had fewer options when it came to short-notice Chinese substitutes.) I have two classes of second-year students and one class of fourth-year students. They are generally motivated, lively, and fun to teach.

-- Norty

Another road to Harvard?

As academics and people close to them know, getting a revised dissertation published as a book is an important component of career strategy.

It is a precondition to earning tenure at research universities, is a big help in getting hire at such institutions, and adds a bit of luster at teaching-oriented schools as well. (I like a happy balance between research and teaching.) I attended the big annual history conference - American Historical Association - last month in Washington, D.C. I had one formal first-round job interview and one informal one there and have had a couple of phone interviews since, but no definite progress toward a tenure-track job for next year. I also saw several old friends and made several new ones at the conference. Finally, I made the rounds at the publishers' exhibit. I picked up name cards for acquisition editors at the top university presses and discussed my manuscript with several of them. I have sent out the first few book proposals and am waiting for responses - which will hopefully include at least one request for the complete manuscript or at least a couple of chapters. One of the editors I talked with represents Harvard University Press. Harvard's history department did not hire me, but - who knows? - maybe I will have better luck with their press. My friend Marty Sklar gave me the same advice, with respect to presses, that Clint Eastwood gave his partners as he was struggling with assassin John Malkovich in a glass elevator in _In the Line of Fire_: "Aim high!"

-- Norty