orichalcum: (Obama)
2009-04-30 01:36 pm

Even Obama makes gaffes...

From the Presidential press conference last night:

"The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is I would like to reduce the number of unwanted _presidencies_ that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion, or at least considering getting an abortion, particularly if we can reduce the number of teen pregnancies, which has started to spike up again."

His best line:
"But I want to disabuse people of this notion that somehow we enjoy, you know, meddling in the private sector, if -- if you could tell me right now that, when I walked into this office that the banks were humming, that autos were selling, and that all you had to worry about was Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, getting health care passed, figuring out how to deal with energy independence, deal with Iran, and a pandemic flu, I would take that deal."

I just came from a lecture about how the identity of the Roman emperor didn't really matter, as opposed to the leaders of modern governments. This did cause the sudden realization that I would be Much More Scared about the swine flu if the Bush-Cheney administration was still in power, not particularly on policy grounds, but because by the end of 2008, I didn't trust that leadership to deal competently with running the Easter Egg Roll. Who knows what's going to happen with the swine flu - but apart from Biden's verbal gaffes, I at least trust that the governmental aspects will be handled competently.
orichalcum: (Fumble bad)
2009-04-26 10:47 am

Swine Flu

For folks who haven't been paying attention to the news lately:

There's a reasonable chance that the swine flu is going to turn into a global pandemic. For most people, it just results in mild flu symptoms. In Mexico, however, there has been so far a 6% fatality rate, entirely among young, healthy adults (which is not normal for the flu). If you're having flu symptoms and having any respiratory distress, going to the hospital and getting things checked out is not the world's worst idea.

We are planning on picking up a few emergency supplies and, if we can find them, some surgical masks later today, in case there's a "no congregating in public places" warning that goes out. I don't think this is time to push the panic button, but it may be time to press the caution button.

CP and I, fyi, have had 2nd-degree contact with a flu victim (the same archaeologist that President Obama met directly, oddly enough), but the point of contact was long enough ago that we would have already come down with symptoms were there any danger. (There's a 2-5 day incubation period; the disease appears to be airborne and highly infectious. We had lunch with my cousin 6 days ago, who 8 days before that had been at a conference with that archaeologist.)
orichalcum: (Pompeii)
2009-04-24 12:04 pm

One of the things I love about Roman history...

So, lots of my sources seem very distant from modern times and issues. But occasionally, you get glimpses into Roman life that could be memos written in any business today.

Pliny the Younger was sent by the Emperor Trajan (one of the more competent Roman Emperors) to govern the province of Bithynia, which is in northeastern modern Turkey, thousands of miles away from Rome, in the late 1st century CE. I've described Pliny to people before as "the guy who decided he'd rather stay home and do his homework than try and rescue people from the eruption of Vesuvius." In this case, he had a habit of writing Trajan for advice about every decision that he was called on to make as governor (even though this would delay by months any decision getting made.) In this case, he had written Trajan a letter saying that he thought a local theater was being badly built, as well as some other buildings, and he wanted Trajan to send out an architect from Rome to examine the foundations.

Trajan's response, slightly edited: )

Or, in other words, OMG, Pliny, do I have to do everything around here?

Given the success of the Facebook Aeneid, I'm mildly tempted to start a Pliny or Cicero IM or Twitter, except I have no Time.

EDIT: Things I don't love about doing research - finding that the last major study on Roman Decadence (before the one I plan to write) was written in 1939 by a German author who claimed that the Romans declined and became sexually profligate due to "the mixing of races." I probably need to read this for my research, unfortunately. I will, um, be taking a different approach.

Also, in honor of the recent babies born to [livejournal.com profile] stone_and_star, [livejournal.com profile] jendaviswilson, and [livejournal.com profile] redhound, I offer: Jack Jack Attack, for those of you who have not seen it.
orichalcum: (teacher)
2009-04-22 11:41 am

The Supreme Court deals with underwear and colliding tubas.

From yesterday's hearing in Safford v. Redding, on whether a school had the right to strip-search a 13-year-old girl on suspicion that she might have prescription-strength Ibuprofen on her person:

Justice Breyer: "In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day. We changed for gym, O.K.? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear.”

Justice Scalia: “You’ve searched everywhere else. By God, the drugs must be in her underpants.”

Sadly, it seems like the plaintiff may lose this case, because most of the justices appear to be taking the position, as Justice Souter put it, "that they'd rather have one kid embarassed than another kid dead."

It's not that I think drug abuse in schools isn't a problem. But I really do wonder if these (older, male) Justices have any real idea of how far beyond "embarrassing" it would be for a sensitive 13-year-old girl to have to pull open her underwear and bra in front of multiple strange adults, _especially_ when the evidence that she might be hiding non-illegal, minor drugs is extremely minimal and based on the accusation from an untrustworthy student. This is _not_ like changing in the gym - and I don't know about boys' locker rooms, but in the girls' locker room in my middle school, many girls either changed behind a bathroom stall or perfected the art of rapidly switching tops and shorts such that no substantial portion of skin was ever humiliatingly exposed, much less touched by a teacher.

Thanks to Dahlia Lithwick, I think that Justice Ginsburg (who turns out to be both brilliant _and_ funny) summed it up best in another recent school case on drug testing for students in all school activities, Pottawatomie School District vs. Earls, when wrote: )

OTOH, from yesterday's hearing, this is why Justice Alito terrifies me: )
orichalcum: (teaching)
2009-04-21 06:14 pm

Happy 2,762nd Birthday, Rome!

We gave our students cookies, which they liked muchly, while meanwhile I tried to figure out if my lecture (which, I should note, featured public hit lists, death by molten gold, love letters passed around the Senate, death by debauched orgy, and the assassination of five major political leaders) was boring them or they were just dying of heatstroke in an un-air-conditioned lecture hall. I _hate_ having to look professional while 7 months pregnant (pretty much exactly) in 92 degree weather.

If you wish to cool down, today is Ben & Jerry's free cone day, and 50 cent day at Dunkin' for iced coffee.
orichalcum: (Pre-Rafe)
2009-04-20 10:48 am

For my writer friends out there

An interesting discussion about what what UK YA and children's book editors want right now.

I'm not even sure what a "modern Anne of Green Gables" would mean, though. Part of the whole appeal of that story is the relative simplicity and limited scope of the characters' lives. I find it harder to imagine the life of a modern Anne who never travels more than 100 miles from her home, though maybe that's just my experience.

I really do think there must be a huge untapped market for YA classical-era novels, though. In my "copious free time," I may see if I can rework my novel idea this fall into something specifically YA.
orichalcum: (Happy Mac)
2009-04-20 10:33 am

The problem with toddler set associations...

So, this is the Week of the Young Child, and there are a bunch of special activities going on at Mac's school. The two he's most excited about are today, when he gets to see a firetruck and meet real firefighters, and Friday, when the Stanford Junior University Marching Band is giving a performance for the kids.

Unfortunately, some confusion may have resulted as a consequence of some earlier conversations:

#1: Me: And on Friday, you get to see the Band!
Mac: I want to be in a band! Like the cows! (in Boynton's books)
Me: Oh, you want to be a drummer like the cows? You can be in a band when you're older. And maybe practice at someone else's house.
CP: (calling out) That's never the way it works. They always practice at the drummer's house.
Me: Maybe you can play the guitar in the band, Mac.

#2: Mac: I want to see the fire truck! And the ambulance!
Me: I'm not sure there will be an ambulance too, Mac. But there might be. And you can see the ambulances when we go by on the way to school.

#3: (This morning, as Mac wakes up) "I'm going to go to school and drive a guitar ambulance!"

I hope the firetruck satisfies his dreams...
orichalcum: (dog)
2009-04-19 09:19 pm

Toddler/Dog Show LXXVI: Too Much of a Good Thing

This new close relationship between Eowyn and Mac is getting way out of hand. We were finishing off the homemade strawberry and blackberry pie from yesterday this evening. Mac had finished his slice, and asked me, very sweetly and pathetically, if he could have some of Mommy's pie. I decided to be generous and gave him about 1/3rd of my remaining piece.

The next thing we know, Mac has called Eowyn to his side and is happily feeding her _my pie_ off his fork. Adam manages to rescue the last strawberry before it gets to her mouth and return it to me.

This was _not_ what I thought the plan was.

He's also started trying to reverse-train us. Yesterday, he woke up from his nap and came out to the living room to find we had cleaned it, in prep for my dad arriving. "Mommy and Daddy have cleaned up the mess," he shouted. "You need to get stamps!" (The standard reward at daycare.) Once my dad had arrived, he kept telling him how Mommy and Daddy needed stamps and what a good job we had done. (My dad, I think, was less impressed; no, we _didn't_ mop the floors for him.)
orichalcum: (cackling)
2009-04-17 02:01 pm

But it sounds so plausible...

I'm looking up good examples of fraudulent websites to present to my students as examples of "why you should not blindly trust the Net for all your historical research, especially if it involves Cleopatra and/or gladiators."

Some of my favorites so far, useful for academics, librarians, and everyone else:

Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus!

The History of Boilerplate, a Victorian Mechanical Man

A Study of Feorran Grammar

The Emily Chesley Reading Circle
orichalcum: (Maleficent)
2009-04-17 01:44 pm

Most random "Tea Party" protest sign

Who knew that the political right had it in for late antique and medievalist manuscript commentators?

I mean, okay, scholiasts get really pedantic, and they write all over the margins, but I hadn't realized they were such a major political force. The one on the right is similarly difficult to comprehend.
orichalcum: (Maleficent)
2009-04-17 12:00 pm

Random food posting of the day

Or, another chapter in Why Epicurious Commenters Are Fools.

So, I was looking up a Quiche Lorraine recipe on Epicurious, because my dad's visiting tomorrow and I wanted to make something simple I could largely make in advance.

This is a recipe that has overwhelmingly favorable reviews and looks extremely easy. Except for the person who gave it two forks (out of four), because the texture seemed wrong. She mentions that she used sour cream instead of heavy cream or creme fraiche, and wonders if that could have made the difference.

You think???

In other food news, Mac has apparently memorized the food layout of the local Trader Joe's, even though he only goes there about once a month or less. Since it was a brief trip today, he was out of the cart, and he kept dragging my hand over to the granola aisle, to find his favorite granola, and then picking out the correct type of milk, and then crossing the store to go to the health bar aisle. Toddler memory is kind of impressive. Plus, I always get impressed by people with good spatial memories, as mine is not so good; I guess he'll be reading the maps for family trips in a few years. :)
orichalcum: (teaching)
2009-04-16 03:54 pm

Interesting statistic

So, I was looking at info for the lecture I'm giving on the fall of the Roman Republic next week, where the lecturer wanted to emphasize that the top ten political families in the last 100 years or so of the Roman Republic held more than half the consulships (the top office).

I was curious and decided to check modern American figures.


From the 2006 election:
Modern U.S. Comparison:
2006 election: 12% of major candidates and 18% of winners came from “political families,” where political families are defined as those that have 2 or more members related by blood or marriage within 2 generations who have been candidates for congressional, gubernatorial, or large-city mayoral offices.

Breaking down by office,
32% of Senators, 17% of Reps, 19% of Governors who won in 2006 came from political families.

Makes Obama look like even more of an outlier...
orichalcum: (teaching)
2009-04-16 02:01 pm

General Happyish Update

First of all, a brief PSA: To all of you who think you might have been infected by Mac's cold in the last few weeks, you'll have to look for another vector. We took him to the doctor this morning, because at this point he's had a runny nose and a cough for six weeks straight and we were getting a bit worried, and she confirmed that he has no cold or flu at all. It's allergies, probably pollen allergies, running in the family tradition. So now he starts on a round of antihistamines, and we vacuum like mad, and we'll see how that goes.

He's also growing very slowly, if at all, now - down to the 75th percentile for both height and weight, although the doctor didn't seem worried at all. But it's odd, because I could have sworn he grew in the last six months, but apparently not so much.

My week was made much happier when I arrived home to an unexpected package the other day from one of my students two years ago, who I wrote a law school recommendation for. She's gotten into at least four law schools, some with full scholarships, and sent me some chocolates and Greek goat cheese and roasted pepper tapenade from Greece as a thank you. :) It was awesome.

Work remains very busy, but I got to tell some of my favorite Roman historical anecdotes this week - Vedius Pollio and the man-eating lampreys, Appius Claudius Pulcher and the sacred chickens, and The Triumph of the Candleabra Polisher. If you're curious about any or haven't heard me tell them 50 gazillion times before you can ask in comments.

Mac managed to impress his pediatrician today; when she gave him an ambulance sticker for having been remarkably patient during the whole exam, he said, "This is an ambulance! It goes to the hospital to help people!" Of course, then he confused her by asking if he could go back to the "alligator" and push its buttons to go down.
orichalcum: (dog)
2009-04-13 08:18 pm

Toddler/Dog Show LXXV: The Unstoppable Combo

For this Monday, two actual toddler-dog interactions worth sharing. At dinner, Mac got bored with his spaghetti, and Eowyn had wandered over to his high chair. He took his fork and started carefully unspinning the pasta wound around it into Eowyn's mouth, which she opened quite readily. It was tremendously hard to stop laughing and discourage this behavior, a horrible idea though it was. But it looked so cute. We took away the fork, and then Eowyn carefully licked every one of Mac's fingers clean of tomato sauce while I was clearing his plate.

A little while later, Mac had asked us to cuddle in bed with him. We had just collapsed into bed when Eowyn came in, wanting attention, and grabbed a sock of CP's (an old bad habit she's revived at the D-Ws) and ran off with it. We called after her to no avail. Mac stands up, "Eowyn shouldn't have a sock! I will go chase her!"
"No," I say, "it's okay, Mac, Mommy will get it in a minute," since I really didn't want to move. CP and I look at each other, each reluctant to get up.
Before we can stop him, Mac jumps off the bed and runs off into the living room. We look at each other and think about our old hard-wired rule that the dog and baby can never be alone together, and all the ways this situation could go badly. I start to pull myself up, just as Mac comes running back into the bedroom, triumphantly waving the sock. "I got Daddy's sock! Eowyn was eating it!"

I guess it's good they've developed such a trusting relationship?

And in another instance of Mac's refusal to accept others' reality:
As we're driving past a P.F. Chang's, Mac points and says, "Look at the dinosaur statue, Mommy!"
I look at the stone horse and say, "That's a horsie statue, Mac!"
"No, it's a dinosaur!"
CP chimes in, "Mommy is right; it's a horse. Look at the head, Mac."
(After a few more iterations of dinosaur/horse)
Mac: "I'm not sure it's a horsie. I think maybe it's a dinosaur," with a tone of great sufferance.
"I think we'll agree to disagree, Mac," CP offers.
orichalcum: (ye pubbe)
2009-04-13 04:21 pm

People I have no sympathy for

Supreme Court Justices who complain about their workload.

If you happen to be a Supreme Court Justice, first of all, you only have formal court sessions three days a week, two weeks a month, 8 months or less a year. Now, yes, there's a lot of writing to be done in those off times - in which you are aided by multiple extremely talented, able assistants, who will work as long hours as you tell them to do as much of the work for you as you want.

Look, I'm an academic. And, yes, sometimes I'll whine in a stressful week. But I'm well aware of the lifestyle perks of my job, and how it compares to a conventional job where you work 9-6 every day or the many, many industries where you're expected to work 60-80 hours a week, let alone, say, medical residents and legal associates. I have it easy - and I like it that way. But I try not to whine about how difficult my overall schedule is, because I'm well aware of how good I have it.

If you can't deal with the workload of a practically part-time job that thousands of lawyers and judges in the U.S. would give their eyeteeth for, there's a simple solution to this problem. Resign.
orichalcum: (Default)
2009-04-12 05:41 pm

Another amusing post-spring holiday reflection

One of the people who was attending Seder for one of the first times was commenting on the oddness of the question about reclining/sitting at table. "For a more modern version," he suggested, "you should ask, 'why do we eat so much more on this night than on other nights?'"
I responded, "It's a Jewish holiday. That really wouldn't narrow it down."

I think I need to fast now...or, at least, since we've got a busy couple of weeks coming up, eat reasonable amounts of very simple food. CP, looking at the kitchen Friday night, asked plaintively, "You aren't planning on doing any more big cooking for a few weeks now, right?" After dinner with my dad next week, I think we're probably good. And the next holiday is Mother's Day, which is Not My Problem, definitionally, in terms of food.
orichalcum: (Pre-Rafe)
2009-04-10 03:16 pm

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday [livejournal.com profile] digitalemur !

May you enjoy the warmth and comfort of your new home and the coming of spring.

orichalcum: (food)
2009-04-10 03:14 pm

Recipes Offered and Requested

So, I attended a particularly delicious Seder this year, which was made even better for me than usual Seders by deemphasizing the Meat and Starch traditional parts of the main course in favor of [livejournal.com profile] eilonwey's arctic char baked in parchment with goat cheese and leeks, which I want the recipe for, and a dish called Jansen's Temptation ), which is essentially a version of scalloped potatoes with Swedish anchovies, which give the creamy potatoes a lovely sharp zing.

I made my family's traditional Passover flourless chocolate cake (with accessories from a Godiva recipe) )

I also made two kinds of charoset, Sephardic charoset balls ) and a more traditional Ashkenazi apple, honey, and walnut charoset. The apple charoset was good although undistinguished; I think it was hurt by chopping the apples in the food processor rather than by hand (which saves a lot of time, although [livejournal.com profile] ladybird97 notes the potentially therapeutic value of attacking fruit with a knife) and also by too much caution with spices; next time I'll add some nutmeg and more allspice, I think.

Now I have a new "problem." I was just at the grocery store and faced with the choice of buying either 1 lb of strawberries for $3 or 4 lbs for $4.50. So, of course, I bought 4 lbs of strawberries. I will use some to make the strawberry-orange variation on charoset and others for a strawberry butter of some sort, but I invite you to share your strawberry recipes (ones with flour are fine), as we've got quite a lot of them!
orichalcum: (teacher)
2009-04-09 10:34 am

The Slippery Slope

So, the Catholic Church in England (and America) is trying to preserve and restore dignity to the service. One recent change is to discourage priests from saying "Good Morning" to their congregations. When asked why, a spokesman answered: ""It is a debate that has been going on in the Church for a long time – are we doing a cabaret or are we actually celebrating the Eucharist? The fear is that if some guidance is not given and general decisions are not put down, the interpretation of the liturgy leads to unsuitable things, like strobe lights and girls in hotpants."

Now, I deeply respect the right of the church hierarchy to modify their liturgy and guidelines as they see fit. But I do love the mental image of the direct line from "Good morning" to "girls in hotpants."

On a more depressing note, the only professional academic prediction I've ever made in print has come true. When I was writing my article about HBO's Rome series a few years ago, I analyzed the new appearance of incest as a sexually racy theme in television and mass media from 2004-7, with actual incest occurring for the first time and not being universally condemned. I suggested that it would not be long before incest became an insult or slander that was acceptable to use against modern political enemies, at least in non-official contexts.

Well, today, the blogosphere has gone there, sadly, and is in the midst of a tawdry debate about whether Bristol Palin's ex, Levi Johnson, has "overly close" relations with his sister. We'll see how long it takes before it hits the tabloids and so forth. But I do think that HBO and the networks have succeeded in desensitizing some portion of the American public to the idea of incest as absolutely unacceptable; what will they come up with next?
orichalcum: (teacher)
2009-04-08 02:40 pm

Explaining the ridiculous math of the Roman voting system

Because [livejournal.com profile] meepodeekin asked, and because, unlike _every other Roman history professor_ I've met or worked with, I would like to figure out a way to explain this coherently and concisely, here's my working explanation of how Roman elections worked. Suggestions for improvement in clarity are welcome; I have yet to find a good diagram.

Roman elections and silly math: )