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Primary Sources Can Be Fun

October 31, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the courses I’m taking this semester is a history course concerning the Revolutionary War as it was fought in and affected the province of Maine (which was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at the time, and after the Revolution was part of the state of Massachusetts until 1820).  One of the documents we’re using in the course is called the Baxter Manuscripts, and is a compiled transcription of various letters, notes, legal documents etc., mainly pertaining to the provincial assembly of Maine and its communications with the Massachusetts legislature in Watertown.

Now, as anyone who has read anything about the American Revolution probably knows, the state of the art in English written communication in the 18th century was, er, interesting as compared to today.  There was a great deal less standardization as regards orthography, in particular, and the rules of capitalization and punctuation were observed somewhat less conscientiously even by well-educated people like the Founders.  And there was that whole thing with the two versions of lowercase s, so that you ended up with sentences that looked like they were saying “at which point the foldiers were told to take themfelves outfide or face the confequences.”

Even by these liberal standards, though, there are some utter gems in the Baxter Manuscripts.  Take, for instance, this letter to the Massachusetts revolutionary council regarding militia units in Falmouth (now Portland), Maine:

To the Honorabel the Counsel of the Massachetts Bay

Gentlemen – you may Remembr that you gave ordors for Raising Two Companys To Be Stashond on Nashone the Captns have Borth Ben With me Sence & Returnd and Say they Cannot Inlist any men By Reson of the Wages Being So Loo  I have Ben Indavoring to forawd the mater But find that To Be the younavarcel Compaint – if your Honers Are pleasd To Give any farther ordors About the Mater I Shall Indaver To Conduct Agreabel thair to
I am yours To Sarve

Joseph Dimuck

Dated att Falmouth Desembr ye 23 1776

Now that, my friends, is a missive.  I particularly enjoy (as does our instructor) the word “younavarcel”.  The younavarcel Compaint would make an excellent band title for an American Revolution-themed punk rock band (there must certainly be at least one making the rounds of the historical re-enactment community).

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Registration Day

October 29, 2012 1 comment

I just registered for my spring classes.  I think the schedule I’ve constructed might be a little too ambitious – I’ll be jumping from 9 credits this semester to 18 in the next – but it does have its advantages.

spring2013sched

Here’s the schedule grid for the week after we get back from Spring Break.  Notice the big block off to the right?  That’s an odd, odd course; it meets all day Saturday, but only three times over the course of the semester.  You may have noticed that the designation shown on the schedule is somewhat less than illuminating.  That’s because it’s one of those catchall course designations that can mean different things at different times.  I’m taking a course called HTY 398 this semester, too – an online class entitled “Maine in the American Revolution” – but next semester it’s a non-online class that meets on three Saturdays and involves attending a full-weekend conference in Camden in February with the ominous title The Middle East: What Next?

Now, I’ll admit right up front that I am not terribly interested in the Middle East barring T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but one of the requirements for a history degree at the University of Maine is that you must have taken at least two courses involving the history of some part of the world other than Europe and North America.  With the schedule above I’m hitting both of those next semester (“History of the British Empire” counts as one too; Britain is in Europe, or at least next to it, but the Empire was not), as well as clearing off the last of the 100-level courses required (106, the followup to HTY 105, which I took in fall 1993).

I also have to admit that I’m awfully tempted to drop HTY 450, despite the fact that it gets the other half of the foreign history requirement out of the way (and that the instructor is my HTY advisor, Professor Miller), because it’s been verrry nice having Tuesday and Thursday off this semester, not only from an oh-God-not-more-driving perspective but also from an oh-God-not-buying-more-gasoline perspective.

On the MET side, what I’ve got there is the sequel to this semester’s thermodynamics class; officially they’re “Thermal Science” and “Thermal Applications”, but basically they’re Thermodynamics I and II.  MET 126 is also a sequel to a class I’ve had already, but has a new instructor.  Not sure what to make of his scheduling choices.  Has he got a day job or something?  I think the way that and Thermo II are scheduled will keep me out of my work study gig altogether on those days, but on the other hand I’ll be open for both the afternoon and night labs on Tuesday and Thursday, which is a point in favor of not dropping HTY 450.

Have to wrap this up right now, as I need to go post a sign at the MTL noting that there is no night lab tonight, then head home and wait for the power to go out.

A Snapshot In Time

October 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Yes, it’s well past time for an informative post about what’s going on this semester.  This, however, is not that post.  I just wanted to note something that happened today.

One of the classes I’m taking this semester is a very basic introductory U.S. History class, because it’s a degree requirement on the HTY side of my schizoid program.  Being a basic class taken by a lot of freshmen, this is held in one of the giant auditorium-style lecture halls in Little Hall.  I’ve had several classes in these rooms, but never one quite like this.  It’s sort of your classic college Giant Introductory Lecture, where the instructor’s not that bothered about whether people turn up or what they’re doing as long as it doesn’t frighten the horses.

I sit up at the back, behind all the stadium seats, at a desk thoughtfully provided by the DSS office; from my perch I can see what all the people in about a third of the auditorium are up to.  As you might expect, a lot of them are up to using their laptops for stuff other than paying attention to the lecture.  Facebook, sports websites, lolcats, that kind of thing.  I usually pay it little mind.  It’s no skin off my back if the kids aren’t with the program.

Today, though?

Today someone was playing Galaga.

Thought we wouldn’t notice… but we did.