Saturday, March 27, 2010

Safe Driving Techniques and More Books!

Last night was my biweekly Inklings meeting (my writing club). As always, it was the best part of the week. And, as always, it lasted for about 8 hours! We tend to like to socialize a bit! Normally I wouldn't spare the time for social activities during prime paper-writing season, but my resolve has been not only to work my butt off in grad school, but also to have a little bit of fun. So, even though that thirty-page bibliographical paper needs more attention (it's well underway, but far from finished), I decided a little time off wouldn't kill me. After all, it's a pretty easy paper to write - more like an expanded annotated bibliography with an introduction and conclusion than anything else.

The drive home from Inklings was . . . interesting. And cold. Apparently, it frosted tonight while we were having our meeting, and when my friend dropped me off back on campus (where my car was), I found the windows and windshield thoroughly covered. I broke my brush back in the fiasco a month ago, so I had to clear the windshield by melting it. I couldn't get the windows to clear, so I had to make the drive home with two open windows, just to be able to see off to the side and behind me. Had there been any traffic, I may have frozen to death!

I was delighted to find that one of my new books has arrived, which will help on the revisions I need to make on the other big paper. It's way ahead of schedule, but I caught a major weakness that has to be addressed: none of my sources were from the Balkans. Everything I used was from English, American, French, or German sources. To get the full story, I needed an accurate account from both sides (this is a practice that I always follow in research, and not just in history). This is no easy matter, as the Communists stifled most of the written accounts that came out of the Balkans from the period I'm covering, so there are not good records, most sources are not in English, and the scholarship in the field is not as thorough as I would like. What sources there are have to be evaluated for accuracy. Luckily, this is also a blessing, since it means there is a void in the field of research that I may be able to fill. So, my chances of getting published are a bit higher if I pursue this topic further.

I ordered some more of my books tonight, mostly sources to be used my research for this semester, which will also likely be expanded into my thesis. I can't believe how well I did at finding some cheap used copies in good condition! While many valuable resources are now online, in my field, most of the scholarship is still in book form. I get a lump in my throat when I reflect that someday books, like newspapers, will be obsolete and will no longer be printed. Fortunately, I think the funeral of the book is still much further off than that of the newspaper. On one hand I love the many benefits technology has brought me; on the other, I mourn what it replaces. I guess that's just the complex dichotomy of the historian.

No comments:

"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"