Superprofessors have a lot to learn.

Originally posted on More or Less Bunk:

I wanted to follow up my call for a superprofessor educational campaign with a post about something besides academic politics that the average superprofessor [Is that a contradiction in terms?] might not understand either, namely the pedagogical details of commercial MOOCs as currently constructed.

If there’s anything that you’ve been able to read on this site that you might not find elsewhere in the MOOC backlash blogosphere, that would probably be the details of what it’s like to take a MOOC and, to a lesser extent (because I will never teach one) what it’s like to be a superprofessor. Michael Feldstein makes an important distinction which anybody who wants to be a superprofessor will eventually have to face:

The distinction between a “course” and “courseware” is a blurry one, but basically, if you take the particular instructor out of the course, what you have left is the courseware. If the…

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“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe Is Published-This Day 1852

Originally posted on slicethelife:

Harriet Beecher Stowe c1852.jpg

A book that helped to change history- Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was published on this day in 1852. The anti-slave novel helped to lay the groundwork for the Civil War. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was the best selling novel of the 19th century and the second best selling book behind The Bible. In the first year after it was published it sold over 300,000 copies and this was in 1852 not today. It sold over 1 million in Great Britain. Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe during the Civil War and remarked “So, this is the little lady that started the war.’

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ALZ observes: I think this has to be one of the most bizarre “just so” stories told in a historic house museum. Most of them are attempts to square the circle, to give some sort of “practical” or “common-sense” explanation for some sort of human behavior that, like a lot of human behavior, defies common-sense. But this is so counter-intuitive that it baffles me, just a little bit. Does that mean I don’t think that someone has spun this story to a group of rapt visitors? No. I can easily believe that they did.

Originally posted on History Myths Debunked:


Thanks to Brian Miller at Historic Odessa in Delaware for submitting this oddball. He says it is often stated in Odessa kitchens that cooks went barefoot for this reason.

I had not heard this one before, nor had Frank Clark, food historian and supervisor of Colonial Williamsburg’s foodways program, but he said, “I can pretty much tell you from experience that would be impossible. You might not burn your feet on the hot brick, but the heat of the fire on any bare skin is hard to take, especailly when you have to get your feet up next to the fire to get out coals and the like. Plus the chance of stepping on a stray ember is constant. I do it all the time. Sounds like a unsubstantiated myth to me. I think if someone was barefoot, it was only because they had no shoes, not for any advantage…

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March 10 1813: Presidential Letter

Originally posted on pastnow:


On March 10 1813, President Madison, in Washington, writes to former President Thomas Jefferson, in Monticello.

Dear Sir,—I have received your two favors of the 8 and 21 nit. The conduct and character of the late Commander at Niagara, as portrayed in the narrative enclosed in the first, had been before sufficiently brought to our knowledge. Some of his disqualifications for such a trust were indeed understood when he was appointed Inspector General. Gen1 Dearborn seems not to have been apprised of some of the sides of his character, though he has an apology for what’he did in the paucity of General officers provided for the army at that time, and the difficulty of making a satisfactory selection. The narrative is returned, as you desire. It gives me pleasure to receive a confirmation of the unchanged dispositions of those whose sympathies with R S- could not fail to be most…

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Cures for Depression: Confront the Pain of Being Human

This concludes the series on Samuel Johnson and depression. This quote does not come from Boswell, or even my Zotero “note cards” of Johnsoniana, but from Jack Lynch’s great The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page. Originally it was recorded in the “Anecdotes of the Revd. Percival Stockdale”, which was then collected and included in Johnsonian Miscellanies, edited by G.B. Hill.

I called on Dr. Johnson one morning, when Mrs. Williams, the blind lady, was conversing with him. She was telling him where she had dined the day before. “There were several gentlemen there,” said she, “and when some of them came to the tea-table, I found that there had been a good deal of hard drinking.” She closed this observation with a common and trite moral reflection; which, indeed, is very ill-founded, and does great injustice to animals — “I wonder what pleasure men can take in making beasts of themselves.” “I wonder, Madam,” replied the Doctor, “that you have not penetration to see the strong inducement to this excess; for he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

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Teaching in a straitjacket.

Teaching in a straitjacket..

via Teaching in a straitjacket..

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“A Bowl of that liquor called Bishop…”

A liquor called Bishop? What could that be?

Perhaps that quote from Boswell’s Life of Johnson stirs another literary memory:

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”

But Bishop is old enough that Samuel Johnson himself defines it in his Dictionary as “a cant word for a mixture of wine, oranges, and sugar.”

Not just any wine, though, but port.

Johnson harangued upon the qualities of different liquors; and spoke with great contempt of claret, as so weak, that “a man would be drowned by it before it made him drunk.” He was persuaded to drink one glass of it, that he might judge, not from recollection, which might be dim, but from immediate sensation. He shook his head, and said, “Poor stuff! No, Sir, claret is the liquor for boys; port, for men; but he who aspires to be a hero (smiling) must drink brandy.

A truly excellent recipe by Eric Felten is provided here.  Traditionally, Bishop was flavored by a clove-studded roasted orange; Felten recommends the later Oxford tradition of instead using roasted lemons. And that is not the only possible variation, though I would refuse to drink a Smoking Cardinal, made with champagne. I prefer to drink my champagne chilled, thank you very much; I don’t really see how any flavors can be coaxed out of champagne by heating it.

Whatever the citrus, this is a classic hot punch recipe, not just for Christmas but for any bleak, grey, rainy day. In England this of course could mean a day in any month of the year. But on the eastern seaboard of North America, it seems to me that the perfect antidote to March is a bowl of Bishop.

However, when taking that medicine, remember Johnson’s dictum that “Melancholy, indeed, should be diverted by every means but drinking.”

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