Tag Archives: books

as powerful and as strong…

Last week we did a fairly strenuous canoe paddle, more than 60km, in a remote northern area of British Columbia.  The paddling wasn’t so daunting (3-4 hours per day of solid work), but it was the portages from lake to lake, the lightning storms, and the persistent pelting rain that quickly dampened my sleeping bag and all of my clothing that took their toll.

Now that it’s over, however, so much of that difficulty is forgotten.  And instead what remains are the gorgeous images imprinted into my memory and onto the roll of film that we shot as we traveled.  Such as this one, taken on the home stretch to Bowron Lake:

glassy waters(Note: the horizon is slightly crooked due to the boat leaning a bit to the right side that morning)

As I was writing in my journal when the journey was completed, the first thing I put on my list of lessons learned was:

I like to do hard things

And it’s true.  The stretch of an ambitious endeavor makes me happy.  Doing the mundane, the repetitive, the easily achieved task…boring.  I thrive when presented with a challenge, which is why the trip to British Columbia was so much more appealing than a resort stay or some other leisure activity.

While on this trip, these two books, Tracks and Paddling My Own Canoe accompanied me everywhere:

two books for my travels later this month…journey narratives ftw #JSLFL #booklover

A photo posted by @janaremy on

I just finished reading Tracks today, which is a book about a woman who walked across the Australian desert with four camels in the 1970s.  At the close of the text, this quotation jumped out at me, as a better expression of my thoughts about hard things, than I expressed myself in my journal (emphasis my own):

As I look back on the trip now, as I try to sort out fact from fiction, try to remember how I felt at that particular time, or during that particular incident, try to relive those memories that have been buried so deep, and distorted so ruthlessly, there is one clear fact that emerges from the quagmire.  The trip was easy.  It was no more dangerous than crossing the street, or driving to the beach, or eating peanuts.  The two important things that I did learn were that you as powerful and as strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavor is taking the first step, making the first decision. 

on my nightstand…

This week’s books-in-progress (click on the book covers to connect to the titles on amazon):

Highly recommended for those of us who are struggling to keep writing academic articles amidst our other busy-nesses.

Enjoying this historical-fiction book immensely. It’s got a bit of everything that I love: ocean explorers, early America, science, feminism, and engaging characters. Nothing like that other book that Gilbert is so famous for writing.

And speaking of Elizabeth Gilbert, here she is again on my nightstand. I haven’t yet started this one, but I aim to later this week.

I’m skimming this one as part of my resolution to worry less about money. I’d prefer to enjoy money rather than fret about it obsessively.

Historians as Project Managers

“Students in history [must] learn techniques of project management” because of the growing need for collaboration on “Big History” projects, says James Herbert in the most recent issue of Perspectives (the magazine of the American Historical Society), in an article titled “Professions and Publics.”  Herbert is paraphrasing the words of author James Cortada, who writes about the ways that historian need to change their research practices in his recent book History Hunting: A Guide for Fellow Adventurers.

It would be nice to see those skills incorporated into graduate school, but I can hardly imagine such a sea-change occurring anywhere but at the most innovative of institutions, where staff support, in the form of technologists and project managers, is available to graduate students.  Off the top of my head, I can only think of two (well-heeled) programs that might have such resources allocated to their graduate students.  Few (too few) even have technical support for faculty, much less their students.

I haven’t yet read Cortada’s book, so perhaps it’s premature for me to offer my concerns about the practicality of his suggestions.  However, I’m looking forward to reading it to see what concrete ideas he offers about how this change in curriculum might fit into the training of students at non-elite universities.


things I like…

At my daughter’s suggestion, reading one of her favorite book series (the Protector of the Small trilogy, my entree into Tamora Pierce’s oeuvre).  And then talking about the characters and the feminist themes at the dinner table.

It’s such a simple thing, but it’s been making me very happy lately to have my daughter share a bit of her literary world with me (that, and I love bouncing my writing ideas around with her–she’s one smart cookie!).