Monday, February 12, 2007

My first rant, on Google...

So, since my account was moved from Blogger to Google, that seems like as good a place to start as any.

First, Google is definitely taking over the online world. But, is that a bad thing?

Well, as a critic of corporations and conglomerates, I tend to want to say yes, but Google seems different for some reason. They seem to care about the input of their customers and they seem to treat their workers well (Walmart, are you listening???). So, maybe it is not a bad thing, they are definitely good at what they do but that is not enough, they need to be about more than the bottom line and, from early indications, it seems they are! So, if that is true and it is not just a clever facade, I say good for you Google. If they are just pulling the wool over our eyes with a great marketing strategy, we will find out soon enough...and if Walmart if any indication, absolutely nothing will change except some lawsuits and an occasional insult from the media and the academy.

A New Format for a new host (Google!)

Well, de-Constructing History has become de-Constructing Everything. This Blog (now that my Clio Wired class is over) will now be a place I can rant to anyone who wants to listen and/or engage in a conversation about events going on in this world of ours. From climate change to politics to the war in Iraq, no topic is off limits, although I tend to shy away from discussing issues that don't really effect me and I tend to bow to those that it does (i.e. abortion, gay marriage and the like...I am, as a liberal, in favor of both but not to the point of ranting and raving about it...I would like to leave abortion up to the women, it is their bodies, and gay marriage up to the states because that seems to be where the issue belongs - wow, do I really agree with Dick Cheney on this one??)

If you want to check out my new blog for Clio II, please do so...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Off for the holidays!

This Blog will resume after the semester break. I am unsure of the new format when I resume it, since Clio Wired is over (I wonder if I pulled out an A!?!), but it will either be kept here or possibly a new one will be started with the new format. Or, I have even considered starting a new one, keeping this one and having different themes for I have the stamina for such a thing???

Later, have a good holidays, I plan to gain at least 10 lbs!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Digital Skill #8: Domain Registering and Hosting

I guess I am officially "on the web" now that I have spent money to be on it! HA!! Anyway, I used to get two web addresses (I got both the .com and .net because it was only an extra $2.99/yr for the .net so I said "what the hey"?) and I also used them to set up my own hosting account. Now, uploading the ftp to the remote server can sometimes be very aggravating. It either doesn't want to recognize your file, it crashes (which happened earlier today by the way! luckily, I was pretty much done messing with my website for the time being or I would've freaked out!!), or it has to be constantly refreshed the hard way, from the toolbar not its "convenient" refresh button attached to the file window. To alleviate having to dig into a deep HIST 696 folder every time, I just started putting everything on my desktop.

Now, I am unsure of whether I need to keep this hosting account or if I can get someone else to host it (and how does one go about doing such a thing?), because, while the domain names are only about $12-14 for two for a year with a basic security package, the hosting account is like $6/month and that could get a bit pricey! So, if anyone knows the deal with hosting and whether I'd have to host my domains given my project (the Colonial Virginia Archive) and its possibility for being very large, let me know via comment. Thanks and see everyone after the holidays!!! Out, SaS...

Digital Skill #7: CSS

Okay, I finally got the CSS to work on my homepage with the help of a CHNM godsend. Apparently, the whole time I was trying to load my style.css file from a "c" drive when I should have been loading it from the "\" drive, ir whatever the heck that is. Anyway, check out my homepage now with CSS uploaded:

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Digital Skill #6: database

This one is very important for me because a) this is the central part of my final project and b) i see me using this, along with creating websites, as the two D.S.'s that I will use most in my career.

Here is a very preliminary database for my data that I will be including on my final project's site, in fact it already is on there, linked from

If you want to go straight there:

Also, I did a test run with some non-essential items (my sports bobbleheads and jerseys): (and you can also get here from my "about the author" page:

As for whether Lazybase will be useful for my final project (and I will speak to this much more in my proposal), at first glance it seems to have everything I need. And, it even looks like you can upload existing databases onto it, but I'm not sure how sophisticated it is (I'll have to create myself a small database on another program so I can try uploading it). And it seems you can leave comments, but I'm not sure if you can leave it for the whole database or for each item. If you could leave it for the items on Lazybase itself, then I could create a Forum on my main site (I already have the "comments" link) and then I could get the best of both worlds: comments for each item in case someone notices a specific error, omission, whatever, while also leaving the option for scholars to comment on the whole database!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Digital Skill #1: Blog

I'm not sure if Josh wants us to write a post about our Blog, on our Blog (whoa, did I just blow everyone's mind???), since we obviously did this for a digital skill. But I just wanted to add that I actually really enjoyed the Blog and I plan to either convert this one into a "my rant"-style Blog or, most likely, start another one and maybe keep this one as a quasi-history/GMU Blog. I dunno, but I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. Folks had told me that, with the amount I like to talk, I should have a Blog, so I'm glad I was finally nudged (okay, pushed!) into doing it.

Digital Skills #4 and #5: HTML and Javascript

Okay, these are currently the definition of 3-pointers, but hey, it's my first time! And as you can see, there is not much design to my webpages, I can't seem to figure out how to hook in the CSS page I have and get it to work in my code. But, I am officially shutting it down for the night, 10 hours on the computer is about all I can take, I've listened to all the music in my library twice (just kidding)!! And I do want to pat myself on the back a little for doing this HTML sans Dreamweaver, I just didn't want to spend $200 for it. But, of course, I couldn't have done it without Jeremy's template! Should I give him $20 for that???

As for the cool timeline I have, I need to play around with condensing it a bit since there is a lot of "dead space" in there, but I think it looks pretty snazzy if you ask me. Thanks Jenny for pointing me to the SMILIE thing, it wasn't TOO bad, although I had my troubles. A few times, it just wouldn't load my changes, so I kept changing it, then I retyped the web address instead of refreshing it and for some reason, that did the trick. I am starting to see how finicky these dang websites can be from the other (dark?) side! is my homepage

and is my javascript, although you can get to it from the homepage too. Oh yeah, that's right, I linked them!!!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Digital Skill #3: Zotero My Love!

So, I love this frigin' program let me tell you! It is hard for me to even convey the differences between my old way of note-taking, bibliography-storing and organizing. I have always been a very organized person, especially compared to most historians I have known over my very short career in the field. But Zotero, from an organization standpoint, is just fantastic. I have kept my similar style of organizing my readings, mainly by class, although I will also probably create some topical folders as well since, as we of course know, the entries can appear multiple times!!

Now, I do have a glaring problem: I had ALL of my articles, notes to books I have read, and all the papers I had written in my file cabinet at my old house. And, as some of you know, when Katrina's floodwaters came, they went bye-bye with everything else including all the books I had bought as well. So, I am now faced with the daunting task of recreating all the books/articles I read at UNO. Luckily, I have my thesis notes and some notes/articles from my most important seminar on 17th century America. But, compiling all the other sources from my earlier classes will be tough. I have looked for some online, but UNO in 2002 was very far behind in the put-your-syllabus-online movement.

Okay, enough of that sob story, back to the awesome, the wonderful Zotero! Before, I used to take notes in the margins, simply underline, or write in a notebook (if I had borrowed the book from a library or a fellow grad student). Now, I intend to jot down some really important themes/disagreements/etc. when I read so I can upload them onto Zotero. Also, I have begun to asterisk more (but not too much of course or it loses its value!).

As for the uploading of the sources onto Zotero (which are only my two classes this semester and my thesis sources), Clio was so easy I wanted to cry. With the online, interactive syllabus, I just had to go to the site, then make an entry from the page. As for the other ones, I did them manually because, unfortunately, I attended Josh's Zotero HACK session after adding those books and articles. If I hadn't, I could've taken advantage of the GMU library to find all the metadata for them. But, now I know and that shall be the way I do it from now on.

Just to sum up: thank you CHNM!!!!!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Digital Skill #2: Wikipedia addition and creation

So, I made a new Wikipedia entry and added some stuff to an existing article. The info is from my thesis. The links and what I did on the pages are as follows:

John Mottrom -

This is a new creation, that is why there is not a whole lot to it. But when the link I tried to create in the Northumberland County article to Mottrom showed up red, I figured I would put what little info I have on there.

Northumberland County -

The History section itself and all the info in it is mine. And I also added the last sentence in the geography section.

Hopefully, I can get a 5-pointer for this one since I even created a new page!!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Will people ever look at my website???

So, first of all, I'd like to say "Geaux Tigers" because I was just watching LSU beat its archrivals Arkansas and prevent them from being able to get to the BCS National Championship game!

Now, I also want to blog about our readings for this coming week...not going home for the holiday means I am actually ahead of schedule for once and read over 100 hours in advance of our class! Go me!!!

The website I am planning to create for my final project is based around the research I did for my master's thesis. I want to make a database that includes all the raw data that I used but put into 4 tables in the thesis. The main reason for doing this is (besides being required to do it of course) that I am often frustrated at seeing tables or graphs in an article or a book and not being able to see the data used to make those tables/graphs. And what if I want to do something different with the same numbers, how would I be able to do that without muddling through ALL the data that the author did? Wouldn't it be great if you could see that data without having to do all that leg work??

You will obviously hear more about this when I make my presentation on Dec. 5th, but the Digital History chapter for this week really speaks to the idea of who, if anyone, will actually look at my website! I see this site as a VERY specific website that only 17th century Virginia historians will probably use. So, based on this probable specificity of my proposed site, should I even care about reaching out to other non-Virginia historians? Or should I revolve it around that small, but focused group entirely??

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The article if you want to read it too

It's called "Teachers emphasize the Indians' side" and here is the website:

my rant on Thanksgiving, don't worry it's not near as bad as the Columbus Day rant!

I posted this after a Yahoo! article about a 3rd grade teacher who was actually teaching his kids the real story behind the early relations between the Native Americans and the British colonists. While I think 3rd grade is a bit early, I do like the idea that some grammar school teachers want to teach the truth and not just what is in the textbooks or what the school board says. And I figured I'd post it here too since we have been talking about history and how it is taught in 810, along with the fact that faulty high school and college textbooks was a topic of my discussion sections a few weeks ago (which I brought up in 810 as well for those that were there and remember). So, here it is:

As for kids learning this part of American history, I think it could probably wait until sixth grade or so, but it should not wait too long because most of the history one learns (unless they become history majors in college or take a couple good history courses) will be in high school and jr. high, where history is often wrong, misleading and misinformed.

Personally, I have always found two particular holidays very perplexing: Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. Columbus, obviously, did not "discover" anything since there were already people here and he was not even the first European to land here. Then, when he got here, he slaughtered large numbers of natives on Hispanola and other Carribean islands. Yeah, let's party for that!

As for Thanksgiving, it is right that the first celebration was amicable, relations between the natives and the Protestants in Plymouth turned sour soon thereafter. And by this time, the British in Virginia had already been at war with the Powhatan Confederacy twice, in 1611 and 1622. And then, of course, if Thanksgiving is supposed to represent the natives helping out our fore-fore-forefathers from starvation, I feel, for equal time, we need to have another holiday that acknowledges the land and lives we stole from the Native Americans.

I love Thanksgiving, not for what it represents but because I get to eat a lot of turkey, spend time with friends or family and watch football all day! But every holiday, I quietly appologize to the natives for the violent and expansive nature of those British colonists and the early Americans.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Legalities and disappearing history

Well, the readings this week are swimming in legal jargin. I was not aware of the immense amount of copyright laws passed in the last few decades, but it is somewhat disconcerting that most either do not apply or are questionable as regards to digital history. But, there are a few specific issues I would like to raise in my good ol' Blog.

First, I do not remember if we talked about it earlier in the semester, but I thought of another advantage of online books vs. physical books: in the chapter from Digital History, the 2nd footnote referenced Lessig's book Free Culture and that it came out after Digital History was written. But, obviously, they were able to cite it because it is much easier to alter/update a book if it is online. To do the same thing with a physical book, you would have to put out another edition.

Another interesting aside that I thought I would share came when I was reading in Roy's article "The Road to Xanadu," about the large number of Civil War websites that have sprung up on the Web. When talking about the passion of those Civil War enthusiasts, Roy compared that enthusiasm to Civil War reenactments. I have been to 2 reenactments and both times, knowing the history as I do, I was amazed at how far they strayed from the actual history. At the Battle of Raymond reenactment a few miles from Jackson, Miss., the Confederates (who in the real battle numbered about 1/10th of Grant's Union army but in the reenactment they were about equal) retreated very orderly from a 3 hour stand. In the real battle, the outnumbered Rebels fought valiantly and held off Grant for about an hour and a half, but when they broke, they threw down their weapons and ran for Jackson.

The other reenactment was even worse historically. At Port Hudson (La), there was a reenactment although I have not found ANY evidence of a battle the day the reenactment was held. I am unsure what exactly they were reenacting that day. This worries me, because if I was confused, what would someone think if they had never read a book on the Civil War? I figured I would share this real-life example of the misinformation often contained in websites of amateur historians.

Lastly, I was thinking about the restricted nature of history on the Web via pay websites and other restricted sites that can only be reached by libraries or universities. We have often talked about the idea of "access" in Clio, but usually it had been in the context of limiting academic history to only fellow historians and not granting access to amateurs and non-historians. Now, we see another side of this "access" issue. But this time, the access restricts us!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Does history exist?

First, let me say, I loved the abstract, existential 1932 Carl Becker article, "Everyman His Own Historian." I have told my students in my HIST 125 discussion sections that the search for that one ultimate "truth" in history is pointless. We must, instead, search for the truth through the perspectives of the actors and analysis of the primary sources. Secondly, I agree with his assertion that history changes with each successive generation of historians and that is why we have historiography. I suppose historiography did not exist in Becker's day. Does anyone know?

Now, I do take issue with some other things Mr. Becker had to say. One of them was his claim that historians had to change their style to engage the public more directly. Again, not knowing as much as I maybe should about how historians were viewed in the 1930s, I don't see this as a big issue today. There seem to be two distinct types of historians (probably more but at least two) and that is well represented in our class: academics and public historians. Would we still consider this a problem today? Both sides seem to be well represented both in our class and in our discipline. And that is where our discussion of the ultimate in public histories comes in...museums.

I love museums, as I'm sure most if not almost all historians do. I had visitors in town this weekend and we went to the American Art museum downtown. Their collection of colonial works was great, even though I can tell I will soon want to go to the American History museum again but it will not be reopened for almost two years.

I want to briefly talk about two aspects of museums and new media or Web 2.0 that I have been thinking about for a while. First, the idea of tagging collections. It doesn't seem like a bad idea, but I fear the Wikipedia effect that Kevin von Appen talks about in "Community Sites and Emerging Sociable Technologies." Namely, that a very small percentage of the people will do the bulk of the tagging. Now, if this group is mainly historians/artists/etc., I am fine with it, but will it be?

Secondly, will making more collections available for viewing online either take something away from visiting museums in person or shave off visitors from the museums themselves? I seriously doubt it. If done properly (which seems to be the biggest problem right now, figuring out how to do that), this online access will give people who have never visited those museums at least a glimpse into their content and hopefully encourage them to go see the collections in person. And for those who have already visited, this would give them an opportunity to dig deeper into pieces they liked and even tag the items with their thoughts. Seems like a win-win but it also seems like there is a lot of work to do!

Monday, November 06, 2006

the burden of young scholars

This article interested me very much, mainly because of its discussion on young scholars and how they (or should I start to say "we"?) are "not really entrusted with much breadth" (Manning, paragraph #51). Now, I am not sure we should be entrusted with too much breadth because our experience is limited. But now I wonder, did my thesis advisor advise me to write my thesis on such a specific topic because that is just the way it is done? Hmmmmm...

And in talking about putting/writing books online, something came to mind. Have I been cheating myself and/or the author by printing out many of these articles and reading them in paper format? I know we have talked about this before, but it was mostly early in the semester. So now that we have progressed 11 or 12 weeks into this class, I figured I would bring it up again. Now, I do often have my computer nearby or on so I can link with the footnotes if I want to. But still, am I somehow defeating the purpose of online books/articles by doing it this way?

Sorry for all the questions this week...

Monday, October 23, 2006

A very short word about my possible final project

I will probably Blog about my idea for the major project later this week in more detail but, at this juncture, it is thought to be an online database of the research I did for my thesis (I know I talk about it a lot, but hey, it's the only real research I've ever done!!).

Mainly, this consists of all the numbers I collected about the attendance at monthly county court meetings by justices of the peace and the total number of possible justices at any given meeting. I collected a decent amount of data, then had to crunch the numbers manually to get the tables I put in my paper. If I continue that research and extend it throughout the whole century, it will be 3 or 4 times as much data (my thesis covered 1651-1665 with two years not included b/c the records were missing, so doing a study of 1651-1700 or so would be A LOT more and doing it all by hand would be pretty painful). And, once I got it up and running, other folks doing work on 17th century Va. could have access to the data too! Now, the big question is: can I actually do this with my non-existent knowledge of databases???

These readings hit home!

Now here are some readings I really loved...they are very applicable to my role as a TA for HIST 125 and my future goals as history professor.

I really liked the history of the multiple-choice question/exam in "No Computer Left Behind." I did not really know anything about them, I just knew they were here and they were a scurge on the academic profession...but do have some very useful applications, namely standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, LSAT, GRE, etc. They are not perfect, by an stretch of the immagination (remember Shaq's declaration in that basketball movie with Nick Nolte, where he says, "That test is culturally biased" about the ACT I think??). Also, things like surveys and personality profiles can be used very effectively through mult-choice format. But not for history! And while I hate grading essays (I don't HATE it, I just HATE the time it takes!), they are much better at showing whether a student udnerstands what we are telling them.

Another interesting point was raised by Mills in "For Better of Worse? The Marriage of the Web and Classroom." He says, in his last paragraph, that the hypermedia revolution, while it "does not herald the end of the book, I believe it does herald the end of the coverage model introductory history survey course." And while many things I have been exposed to in this course (both topically and the "under the hood" stuff) scares me sometimes (mainly, a fear of things I do not understand kind of thing...but it also fills me with hope and wonder that maybe, one day, I WILL be able to do some of it!!), this is a welcome subtraction. I have always thought something had to be done about those survey courses in their present formats. I, not being a school administrator or even a faculty member yet, have not really formed any opinions as to what should be changed. But, all I know is, I hate the way most surveys are taught at the present. Changes NEED to be made!

And as for the WHM exercises we were supposed to poke around on, I think they are very good teaching tools and make for some fun and interesting exercises, but I did get one wrong that I was kind of miffed about. The first one, "what can maps tell us," wanted to know how cholera was spread in this 1854 London neighborhood. I got the question about how the disease spread wrong. It was becuase they were drinking water out of a tainted pump but how was I supposed to know the dang public water pump was? Was that actually labeled on the 1854 map Dr. Snow used? If so, why was I not able to see the pump until after I answered the question?? That would seem to be pretty vital information! Sorry, I am starting to enjoy the Blog-rant, as many of you can tell...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Maps and Podcasts

Let me start off by saying that I am a huge fan of anything that makes history more visual. But what I want to talk about a little is the podcasts from the AP article about Historical Websites. They have links to podcasts in the following sites: Colonial Williamsburg, the Smithsonian, Monticello, and the Boston Freedom Trail. I can't wait to download some in mp3 format and upload them onto my iPod/non-iPod. Especially the ones about Thomas Jefferson's writings/speeches on religion and religious freedom/toleration!

The only problem I have found is trying to listen to the podcasts on my computer. With no visual element, it is pretty hard to just sit there in front of my machine and not do anything else while the audio is playing. Then, I get doing something and don't really listen to it at all. But these would be great to have on tours of battlefields, national parks, and other historical areas. It would save money too since often times those audio CDs with the tour guide on them cost a few bucks at the gift shop. And many times, I avoid buying them altogether.

And as for maps, I too, like many of my fellow Clio students, love maps! Maps, charts, graphs, tables, slides, documentaries, whatever!! Anything that can make history more visual is, in my book, a good thing. I would have really liked to add 2 maps to my thesis, but I had no way to do it because no maps from my time period in my area exist. But I do have a lot of geographical information and with that and newer maps, maybe I could have designed them (or maybe I will make them for my dissertation!). I did put 2 tables and 2 graphs if anyone is interested!