>Happy Women’s Day 2011!

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Today is the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day. If you don’t know what this holiday represents, here is some basic information:
When:  Tuesday 8 March 2011

Where: Everywhere
What:   International Women’s Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women’s Day is a national holiday.
Why:   Suffragettes campaigned for women’s right to vote. The word ‘Suffragette’ is derived from the word “suffrage” meaning the right to vote. International Women’s Day honours the work of the Suffragettes, celebrates women’s success, and reminds of inequities still to be redressed. The first International Women’s Day event was run in 1911. 2011 is the Global Centenary Year.

Make sure you congratulate the women in your life (I’m congratulating my mother, my sister and my niece today. I’d congratulate female coworkers were we not on spring break.) 



Happy Women’s Day, everybody!

>Frustrated with Blogger

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Blogger is living a life of its own today. Half of my gadgets don’t work, including the great “Random Posts” gadget that is very helpful in introducing people to my old posts. The “Followers” gadget has also been dead. I futzed with the template for an hour, trying to get the gadgets to work. Then I noticed that other blogs that use the Blogger platform have the same problem today. 
This is really annoying. I have observed that there are several moments during a year when you can increase your blog readership dramatically. January, March and August are the months when readers seem to roam the Internet in droves looking for new blogs to follow. 
See, for example, this graph of my blog stats from January 2010 until today: 
See what happened last March? The readership grew from 3,973 to 7,398. After a long and painful struggle with my rusty memory of what I learned about percentages in fifth grade, I think this means that the readership grew by 86.2% in that one month. (I’m mathematically challenged, so please correct me if I’m wrong here.) 
Of course, now that the gadgets are not functioning properly, I’m not sure there will be a rise in readership this March. And that annoys me.

Ricardian: A Review of Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time

Most of my readers didn’t warm to my first Ricardian post. This is completely understandable since the subject of whether Richard III did, in fact, murder the princes Edward and Richard in the summer of 1483 is quite academic. I will keep indulging my love of Ricardian arcana from time to time, while you should feel free to skip posts tagged “Ricardian” if the subject bores you.

Josephine Tey created several classical British mysteries that any lover of the genre would appreciate. Few people know, however, of her contribution to Ricardian Apology. In The Daughter of Time, Tey offers us her take on the provenance of the myth that blames Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, for the murder of his nephews (the Princes in the Tower.)
Inspector Alan Grant finds himself stuck in a hospital, bored and desperate to participate in some sort of an investigation. While he is in a hospital bed, he only has access to history textbooks. The story of Richard III catches his eye and as he begins to read accounts of Richard’s “crimes”, Grant realizes just how senseless and lacking in logic all accusations against Richard are.
I might have believed Grant’s asseverations
that murderers don’t look like this
had I never seen pictures of Ted Bundy,
a wholesome-looking serial killer
The Inspector’s journey begins in a way that I didn’t find very convincing. Grant looks at the famous portrait of Richard III and realizes that a man who looks this way could not have possibly been a cold-blooded murderer of two small boys. This, of course, is very naive and smacks of Lombrosianism that had been discredited long before Tey wrote The Daughter of Time.
This, however, is the only weak point of an otherwise logical and reasonable account of the numerous holes in the myth of Richard’s guilt. Inspector Grant and a young researcher who helps him discover the truth soon realize that Richard III had absolutely no reason to kill his nephews. The boys had been declared illegitimate by an Act of Parliament and Richard III occupied the throne as a well-loved and legitimate King of England. Elizabeth Woodville, the boys’ mother, was friendly with Richard III until his death. Would she had visited his court and allowed her daughter to do so had Richard III, indeed, murdered her small sons? That seems highly unlikely. Moreover, after Henry Tudor defeated Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth Field, he never declared publicly that Richard had killed the boys or even that the boys were dead. He did, however, imprison the boys’ mother in a convent.
In the view of these facts, Grant arrives at a conclusion that the first Tudor king, Henry VII, was the only person with means, motive and opportunity to kill the Princes. Having absolutely no claim to the throne, he needed to destroy the Plantagenets so that nobody would dispute his rise to power. I need to tell you right now that not every Ricardian shares Tey’s belief in the culpability of Henry Tudor. There are many other suspects, and you can make up your own mind as to which one is the likeliest murderer. I will keep bringing you these accounts on a regular basis.

>Argentinean "Intellectuals" Against Vargas Llosa

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What I find confusing is the use of the word “intellectuals” in this piece of news:

 Intellectuals close to President Cristina Kirchner launched a campaign Tuesday to stop Mario Vargas Llosa from opening the Spanish-speaking world’s largest cultural fair because of his disparaging remarks about Argentine politics. . . Peru’s Vargas Llosa, winner of the 2010 Nobel prize for literature, has been invited to inaugurate in mid-April the International Book Fair in Buenos Aires, which UNESCO expects to be attended by more than one million people. The intellectuals are angered over Vargas Llosa’s statements on Argentine politics and personal attacks against Kirchner. In a recent interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, the writer, who is an outspoken proponent of free markets and liberal democracy, described Kirchner as “a total disaster.” “Argentina is going through the worst form of Peronism, populism and anarchy. I fear that it is an incurable country,” he told the newspaper.

Since when do the “intellectuals” ally themselves with politicians who are in power in order to hound a writer for expressing his views? Vargas Llosa does, in fact, have a tendency to espouse unintelligent political beliefs. In this, he is no different from many other writers who make fools of themselves by becoming mouthpieces of barbaric regimes. (Juan Goytisolo immediately comes to mind.) 
Still, no true intellectual would even think of defending some dime-a-dozen politico at the expense of one of the greatest writers of the XXth century. Historically, nothing could be more insignificant than the antics of the Kirchner couple. Vargas Llosa’s contribution to the artistic legacy of humanity will remain long after everybody forgets who the Kirchners were. Argentinean “intellectuals” just made themselves look very stupid here.

>Kindle Singles

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Very rarely do I criticize anything that has to do with the Kindle. I love it and I wouldn’t be without it for any amount of money. However, this new invention by Amazon called Kindle Singles is annoying. Amazon’s attempts to push it on faithful customers who have no interest in this weird format are even more annoying.
Kindle Singles are short essays (30 pages or so) on a variety of topics, each one of which is more idiotic than the next. Why would I want to read the story of somebody whose only claim to fame is that his father didn’t manage to make money as an Amway employee? Or a weird “love story of a teenager hunted by a diabolical voice?”
Of course, people should read whatever rubbish they want in any silly format that suits them. What I find irksome, though, is that now the entire e-books page of the Kindle store is filled with these Kindle Singles that are interspersed with regular books. Also, Amazon keeps recommending them to me, even though I have no idea what in my buying history could have suggested that I might like either the content or the format.
I’m in a crabby mood today. If you are looking for the definition of the word “cantankerous,” come meet me.

>The Real Reason Research Doesn’t Get Done

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Do you want to know the real reason why people end up doing a lot more teaching and service than research? I’ve been sitting here, struggling with two sentences from the first paragraph of my article since 9 am. And I still don’t like them. 
The temptation just to leave the whole thing aside and go grade some papers, plan classes, create the next mini-quiz, answer emails or prepare for a departmental meeting next week is definitely there. It would be so much easier to postpone revising the article and then blame the administrators, the colleagues, the students, the husband, the weather, or the “effectively gendered” research. Unless we recognize that we don’t do as much research as we would like to for the simple reason that it’s very very hard, we will not be able to move ahead and find actual solutions for the issue.
P.S. Sorry for the stupid alliteration in the post’s title. I can only concentrate on making the article more or less stylistically acceptable for the moment. The posts will have to stay the way they are.

P.P.S. Finished the pesky sentences that had been giving me trouble since morning. Went to get a glass of pomegranate juice to celebrate. Drank the juice, came back, reread the sentences, and realized that they are crap. Back to rewriting the sentences.

>Save Women’s Shelters in Afghanistan!

>One more important issue demands our attention today:
“The government of Afghanistan has recently introduced a bill that wrests control of women’s shelters in Afghanistan from the local Afghan women’s NGOs that have founded and run them, and transfers that control to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA).  This bill could become the law of the land ANY DAY NOW.  

If this bill becomes law:

Women and girls seeking shelter will be required to plead their case before an eight-member Government panel, including conservative members of the Supreme Court and Ministry of Justice.  This panel will determine whether a woman needs to be in a shelter or should be sent to jail or returned to her home (and her abuser).  

Women will have to undergo “forensic” exams (virginity tests) to determine whether they have had sex and therefore committed adultery. The tests are medically invalid. 

Once admitted to a shelter, women will be forbidden to leave. Their shelter will become their prison.
 If any family member comes to claim her, even her abuser, she will be handed over to that person, in most cases to be subjected to the harshest retribution for shaming the family.”