How I Blog

I have been blogging since the spring of 2003 or 2004 (I can’t remember exactly when I started), but I really began serious writing about it for only a couple of those years, running and writing for a couple of different and diverse blogs out there. Writing online is a good thing, I’m finding, and if it is something that is incredibly easy to get started. Because of that, there are a lot of bad sites out there, from people who started doing pretty much what I started with, and I wanted to share what I have found that works.

Come up with a plan.

The first major step towards creating something that will be of public interest and a resource is knowing exactly what you are intending on writing about. This blog isn’t really devoted to anything in particular: I cover a wide range of popular culture, from books to films, but I also touch on history of several areas (Military, Space, etc), or political commentary. It’s decidedly not like my other blog, Carry You Away, which is devoted to various types of music, and while I’m not as active with it, I’ve maintained a very different sort of focus for it. I read a lot of book and music blogs over the course of a day, and the thing that some just can’t step away from is what they’re focusing on: books? Movies? Music?

But beyond the topic, the big goal is to fully understand what (or who) you are writing for. Coming up with a small strategic plan, which helps to lay out where you want the blog to go in a week, in a month, 6 months and a year, will help steer the focus of the blog, and thus approach your material in a prepared fashion, rather than off the cuff. This is especially important for sites that depend upon revenue to keep running, through ads and so forth. Growing a blog to gain a significant audience is especially good for reviewers, because A) People will respect and look to you for opinions while B) you can do a good service towards whatever community that you are writing for. Moreover, people tend to cluster based on their interests, and communities exist for science fiction, military history and music, and being able to write for these groups helps everyone by putting a good, polished opinion out there with sound reasoning.

Write well, don’t write good

Grammar and spelling is important to writers. Once you understand what you are working towards, you must be able to articulate your opinions in a clear method in which you can address the topic at hand. In the case of a reviewer, you are talking about why a product is a good one, which comes down to two parts of the equation: what are the parts that make it worth spending money on, and what is not good? In the midst of that, you begin to speak towards elements of plot and style, characters and everything like that. When looking at literary theory and analysis, you will want to have a good background in what you’re writing about: know your subject, read background material and come up with an argument that makes sense. In all cases, concrete evidence and sources are essential. In talking about a good book, I’m likely to do more than simply say that I liked the book: what specific instances make the book a good one, what element of history supports your argument. Gut feelings are good, but things to point to are even better.

Beyond writing well, it is also good to edit oneself. I have long since broken the habit of writing up a blog post in the actual window: entries and reviews are typed up in a different window, with a spell check, and with at least a read through to change things here and there. This extra effort goes a very, very long way. As someone at ReaderCon noted during a panel: “If you submit work to an editor, and they consistently find that they don’t need to change much, they’re likely to go to you again.”

Don’t be a fanboy. (Or girl)

This falls more towards the annoying sites that I’ve come across, but whether this is towards a specific subject, author, publisher or reviews in general, don’t be completely positive with everything, and try and write about more than one or two subjects: diversify. This comes in two forms: subject, and specific instances.

The blogs and sites that I like the most have a wide variety of material on them, and they can bring some of those things together over time in their arguments. I’ve largely passed on sites that shill a single type of book or film, simply because there’s only so many times that I can read about X, Y and Z. While I’m a huge Star Wars fan, there’s a lot of things wrong with the series, and a lot to nitpick. Specializing is one thing, overdoing it is another.

The same goes for any author or publisher. There are several authors that I’ve read extensively on, and reviewed, and while their material is good, it’s not perfect, and it’s better to point out these things, to be a bit critical, to avoid becoming someone who simply gives everything an A and moves. It destroys credibility, but it also weakens the review if there are things that the reviewer misses.

(This same sort of over-grading applies to graduate school and education in general, and it’s something that is very, very annoying.)

Write a lot. Then write some more.

Now that you have your direction, you have your topics, and you’re taking care to review things carefully, the final step is to keep plugging away with content. This is where I have issues with most reviewer blogs, because of the sheer volume of books that are reviewed by a single person. A variety of content is good, mixing reviews and analysis, because it demonstrates that there is a synthesis of what you are reading with commentary based on the same (or similar) subject. More content generally means more people coming in to see if you’ve written something new, and the big sites such as io9 and SF Signal upload a lot of content throughout the day.

When I blogged extensively in the music world, I saw a definite uptick of hits when I write every day for the site – the same is true for this page as well: more posts = more readers. If it’s not practical to write every single day, regularity is key. I know that I check into Post Secret like clockwork on Monday morning after the page has been updated. People fall into habits, even with things like Google Reader and RSS feeds.

The point of all this isn’t to feel magnanimous about my meager efforts writing, but because it’s something that I’ve come up with over the past seven years through a lot of trial and error. I have only come to begin writing professionally in the past year or so, and in that time, I have met a lot of people who are in the same position that I am in – people with big aspirations. Hopefully, we will all reach that point someday. In the time being, writing is like any profession: it takes a lot of work, effort and persistence.

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Rick Atkinson & History

 

This summer’s entry in the Todd Lecture series at Norwich University was Pulitzer Prize winning author Rick Atkinson, former reporter for the Washington Post and author of several of books, most notably, An Army at Dawn, about the Invasion of Africa (which won him the Pulitzer in history), and more recently, The Day of Battle, about the invasion of Italy, both part of his epic trilogy on the events of the Invasion of Europe. In an already cluttered field of works on the Second World War in Europe, Atkinson’s books stand out immensely as some of the best books about the conflict, and the third book, of which he’s completed the research for, and is now outlining and writing, will be out in a couple of years, and will undoubtedly be a gripping read.

Atkinson spoke about an important and relevant topic to the history graduates before him: the value of narrative history, and more specifically, the need for a writer to recognize the value of a story within the heady analysis and synthesis of an argument. Personally, I find the division and outright snobbery of most academic circles to be frustrating, especially when it comes to popular and commercial non-history. Within history is a plethora of stories, values, themes and lessons to be breathed, learned and valued, and an essential part of education is bringing across the message to the reader or general audience in a way that they can comprehend and relate to the contents of any historical text.

Commercial nonfiction has its good and bad elements to it. Bringing anything to a general audience can water down an argument, and the balance between good stories and good history is one that has to be balanced finely. Some authors do this well, and from what I’ve read of Atkinson’s books, he has done just that.

Mainstream history is important. It is what helps to bring the lessons and analysis of the past to the people, and a population that reads and learns from their historians is a population that can intelligently call upon the past to make decisions for the future by comparing their current surroundings to similar happenings in the past. More than ever, this is important, and Atkinson’s talk and follow-up questions help to drive this point home.

Atkinson’s books are in the unique category of bridging the divide between academic and popular reading, and he noted that the failed to believe that history needed to be dry, uninteresting and irrelevant. History does not need to be relegated to only the academic circles, but it should be something that is in the foremost thoughts of the American population.

History is important, not just because of the lessons that are learned from it, but because of the mindset that is required to comprehend it. History is not a record of events gone past, but of the interpretation and story that those events tell. What is required from those who examine the field is an understanding of how a large number of events, political and societal movements and individuals all come together in a sort of perfect storm to create the past. Much of this is cause and effect, and contrary to popular belief, the past holds no answers for the future: it is the understanding of how said events occur, within their individual contexts that allow for the proper mindset to understand how similar happenings might happen in the future and how to prepare for what is to come.

Atkinson’s talk was a good one for students to hear, and different approaches to history are simply the nature of the field. The Military History students who graduated last week were ones that have a large number of options open to them, and Atkinson’s talk (and his own stature as a historian) demonstrated that a doctorate isn’t the only way to make a living at this.

You can watch Mr. Atkinson’s talk here.

RIP, Waldenbooks

On Tuesday, our local branch of the Waldenbooks franchise closed down for good. Undoubtedly, there will be a number of customers that will be coming to the mall in the next six to twelve months asking whoever rents out that spot where the bookstore went, but there you have it.

Borders, which owns Waldenbooks, decided late last year that they were going to close down 200 of the smaller mall locations around the country. Two in Vermont – Berlin (My store) and Rutland, were both on the cutting block, although the Borders express in South Burlington will remain open. I’m guessing that this is a bit of a complicated position for Borders – the recent financial crisis added to the already piling issues that brick and mortar face: declining sales in light of competition from online retailers, not to mention absolutely inefficient business practices on the part of how Borders runs their stores, something I’ve ranted about before.

Still, with all my issues about Borders aside, I will miss working there, and the store itself. I began work in the fall of 2006, where I worked at the Kiosk, and continued to work through the winter and next fall as a regular employee, before leaving to work at Norwich University. I returned late last year after a friend left, because I was hit with a bit of nostalgia for the store and working there. While that didn’t last long, it was nice while it lasted. I’ve long been a customer at this particular branch, even before I went to work there. The selection for what I was looking for, mainly science fiction, was always top-notch, and when I began to work there, I met a number of people who I likely wouldn’t have met normally, and like camp, I’ve managed to hold onto a good group of close friends.

Looking back at my time there, I’ve often told myself that if I’m ever going to be in a position to make a television show, I’ll write something about here. There was endless problems with customers, other employees (there was always drama of some sort) and from all that, quite a lot of humor and laughter. Romance books were something that could easily be thrown across the store at an annoying co-worker, but also the slow times, after all of our duties were done, chatting with people for a couple hours in-between customers. There are a lot of good memories there, which I’ll remember over the bad times that I’ve had there (and there were several). Hell, I’ll even miss some of our crazy regular customers who were really out there.

Plus, the bookstore was a source of a lot of books for me. We made sure (when we could) that the comics and Science Fiction and Fantasy section was well stocked, special ordering books that we knew would move out the door, kept it well stocked and neat, and offered a good selection of other books as well. There’s a bunch of stores in the area, such as Bear Pond Books, Rivendell Books and the Northfield Bookstore, but they just don’t have the same selection. I’ll stop in when I can, but I just won’t make a point to stop by and browse, because my friends won’t be there either, as I’d often do over the past couple of years.

So, farewell, bookstore. I’ll miss giving you money in exchange for feeding my habit of books, and while my wallet and bookshelves won’t thank you, I’ll miss the fun times that never will be, and the friends that I made there.

Your fantasies merge with harsh realities

The movie Toy Story had a profound effect on me as a child – for a little while, I had my doubts that toys were really inanimate objects, much like the same doubts about the validity of Santa Claus and god. I was pretty sure that they didn’t exist, but who knew for sure? Thus, I made sure to take very good care of what I had, lest they awaken in the middle of the night and try to exact revenge. Almost fifteen years on, and I know that’s an amusing quirk, but I did gain some useful skills out of it: treat what you own with some semblance of respect, and they last longer. As I grew older, I found that I applied this philosophy to other things – namely books. I made sure that they were kept in prime condition, even going to great lengths to ensure that friends didn’t abuse them while in their care. Even today, I’m still wary of lending books to people.

Thus, book stripping day is particularly troublesome for me at the bookstore, and even more so now that our store is closing for good. Recently, it was announced that Borders was closing 200 of their Waldenbooks stores in a response to the economy and to focus more on the bigger box stores that they have littered around the country. Our humble store is being shut down, and part of that entails scaling down our inventory in preparation for that. The Christmas season is a logical time to do that – there’s a boost in sales, and I’m sure that a lot of inventory will go. Still, there is a lot of books that we are returning, and even more that we are destroying. Mass Market paperbacks are those that the store has us destroy, rather than mail back to a central holding area in order to resell them. Other chains carry a similar practice, and books are stripped of their front cover and thrown into recycling or the trash, with the covers mailed back to be accounted for.

This bothers me, a lot, because I absolutely hate the idea of both books being tore up, but also that a perfectly good book is otherwise tossed in the trash. As I’ve written many times before, I’m an avid reader, and I hold onto my books. I like the idea of having floor to ceiling shelves packed to capacity for that occasional time when the power shuts off and I’m left with nothing to do but read. I rarely give away or resell books, even if I’ve read them before – there’s that niggling ‘What if’ in the back of my head when it comes to re-reading things, and I figure someday, I’ll have a great collection of books to give away to a library or something like that. The corporate policy in this instance particularly grates with my own beliefs when it comes to books, especially when these books could easily be donated to those in need of a good read, or to struggling libraries somewhere.

What is even worse, in my mind, is that many of the books that are being destroyed are books that would likely be sold in the next month – I pulled a number of reputable authors off the shelf and from overstock to put into the pile, only to leave a number of other books that I don’t think that I’ve ever sold or moved. It boggles the mind that we’re reducing the number of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s books to make way for David Weber. The end result is that our Science Fiction section is being diluted with crappy books, which will likely hurt sales even more. It’s frustrating to begin converting some of these genres to tie-in stories with huge, dedicated fan bases, away from some of the more ‘original’ SF/F that is far better in terms of quality and personal interest. I can understand the reasoning behind it, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a better.

The other problem that I have with this situation is that it’s an incredibly wasteful symptom of commercial policy that demonstrates a lot of the excesses that got the country into financial trouble in the first place. Borders sent our store too many books with every shipment – something that I’m assuming falls under the notion of: “if the customer wants it, it should be there”, rather than ordering the book for them, and having them either come in again, or pay for the book there and have it mailed to their home. The end result is a store that is packed to capacity – and most likely violating several fire and safety codes – with too much merchandise that is not going to move. This makes me wonder how much of Border’s budget is devoted to the shipping of books back and forth, not to mention the amount of money that is spent on books that will ultimately never sell.

The large chain stores are really not doing well, especially in the face of major sellers such as Amazon.com, and it’s no wonder, when you look at just how inefficient their business practices are. It’s even more of a shame when it seems likely that excesses such as these have helped to contribute to the closing of stores – it’s no longer cost effective to keep them in operation, but only because they have such a high push of merchandise that is designed to boost sales.

I’m annoyed that this is happening, and in a way, glad that I’m no longer going to be employed with the company anymore with the shutdown (or earlier, if some middle-management desk jockey decides that he/she’s offended by this) because I dislike the sheer industrial and commercial grinder that these stores have become. There’s no love for the books, for stories or for really retaining customers. It’s a business in a place where there should at least be some pretense of an institution that is at least interested in what they’re selling.

Return to Waldens

Last night, after a two year absence, I’ve returned to work at Walden Books, where I worked for about a year while in college. I didn’t leave on the best of terms in my mind. Two of my best friends who worked with me had just been fired. I’d just graduated college, lived at home and wasn’t making much money, and I was often paired with a dull woman whom I couldn’t stand. The Norwich University job was a welcome change, one that I’ve never regretted taking. I still stopped by the bookstore regularly – I still had a couple of friends who worked at the branch, and because Borders was kind enough to continue to send coupons via their rewards program, I had a good incentive to shop there.

The past year, I’ve missed working at the bookstore – a bit. When I first worked at the store, I had a very positive outlook on just how a bookstore would be, and that lasted for a little while, before it became a form of hardened cynasism – the bookstore wasn’t a place of books, it was a store, one with goals, objectives and key items that needed to be sold. Rewards cards had to be checked, signed up and logged, drawers had to be counted over and over again, and the customers take on an attitude that we’re not there to help them, we’re there to serve them. Thinking back, I wasn’t sure why I really missed working there.

Stepping back behind the register desk, going up to customers and everything came flooding back when I went back last night. I actually remembered my old store code, how to work the register, and everything that I really needed to know to start up again. The Berlin Mall hasn’t changed from an employee’s point of view. The same customers walk up and down the hallway, the food is still just as greasy and bad as I remembered it. Essentially, almost nothing has changed.

But, returning there, I realize just how much I’ve changed in the meantime. My entire view of customers, the business process and the book industry has changed as a result of my work at the bookstore and the ensuing years of different customer service sort of work, as well as how I think about problems and approach solutions, for the better, I think. I still anticipate customer problems, but I’m far more confident in myself and how I work that I can address these sorts of things in a much better and more mentally-stable fashion. That’s the plan anyway.

Making the Grade

Through my work here at Norwich, I have a somewhat unique perspective on the online education field, as I am both a participant through the Masters in Military History program, but also working as an administrator for it. Something interesting came across my desk a while ago, a request for interview subjects from MOAA (Military Officer’s Association of America), who wanted to speak with some of the officers in our program, to see what their perspective on the online program was. So, I e-mailed everyone and we got a good response. The article just went live, and it’s interesting to see not only Norwich University well represented, but I was alluded to by one of my classmates. Here’s the article:

Making the Grade
By Latayne C. Scott — July 24, 2008
More than two-thirds of American colleges and universities now offer online courses, and information provided by eLearners.com shows 62 percent of employers say the value of an online degree from an accredited school is equal to — or superior to — a traditional college degree.

Why? Because, although “cyberstudy” offers flexibility, it demonstrates initiative and great self-discipline.

Advantage No. 1: Convenience

Juggling work, military commitments, family, and a side career of breeding Tennessee Walking horses hasn’t kept Lt. Col. Nancy Cantrell, USAR, from pursuing a degree online. “You can fit your studies into your schedule and . . . you can study from home,” says Cantrell, who is pursuing a master’s in military history (MMH) from Norwich University in Vermont.

Also pursuing the same degree from Norwich is Maj. Craig Grosenheider, USA, who says, “I did not have time to attend night school — and was not interested in the programs or schools available locally anyway. Moving was not an option, and I was not able to take advantage of a fully funded graduate school program during my time on active duty. The online program offered the degree I wanted, from an institution I respected, in a format I could manage — easy decision.”

But not all active duty military officers who pursue online degrees focus on military subjects. Capt. David Leaumont, USAF, says he “didn’t want to just fill the ‘master’s’ check box in my [personal readiness folder].” Leaumont hopes to write, teach, and work in a church after retirement. But his local seminary required full-day attendance three days a week. “That’s an impossibility for [an Air Force] officer,” says Leaumont. “The only way I could get a master’s from a seminary program was to go online.”

Advantage No. 2: The world as your campus

Lt. Col. Donald R. Emerson, ARNG, is seeking a master’s degree in terrorism and counterterrorism at exclusively online Henley-Putnam University. He cites the institution’s accreditation and military tuition assistance requirements, but the clincher was he could study anywhere. “I travel too much to attend a traditional program,” says Emerson. Others, such as Norwich student Maj. William O’Brien, USA, laud the rich, diverse nature of online classmates. “We have students in California, Ireland, and, in my case, Iraq,” says O’Brien. “Some have civilian backgrounds, some military, some academic, and we even have a B-movie actor that has decided it’s time for a change of pace.”

Advantage No. 3: Cyberspace camaraderie

Lt. Lawrence “Mac” McKeough, USN-Ret., just completed his master’s in public administration through American Military University. W.Va. As a retired officer, he found the interaction with active duty students stimulating — as does Cantrell, who shares photographs with fellow students to reduce the impersonal nature of cyberspace.

Capt. Daniel J. Kull, USA, wanted to study at a traditional campus but knew he would be deployed to Iraq for 15 months and wanted to “get a jump on a master’s degree.” Kull found fellowship with a Norwich MMH major and fellow movie buff. “During our online discussions, we often drop movie quotes into our academic postings,” says Kull. “It is amusing when I am reading something he wrote, and I recognize a line from ‘The Big Lebowski’ or something.”

Advantage No. 4: Benefits beyond the diploma

Getting a degree online requires some proficiency with computer technology. That will pay off in other ways, says Norwich student Capt. David Weber, USA. “An understanding of other applications of technology directly helps . . . [because of] the rate at which technology is advancing in the military.” Another Norwich MMH student, Capt. Christopher Center, USA, has reaped a different kind of bonus from his studies. Armor magazine published an article based on one of the papers Center wrote in his first seminar online.

Most people take an online degree with the idea of qualifying themselves for something in the future. But Norwich MMH student Vice Adm. James A. Sagerholm, USN-Ret., isn’t looking toward a future in the Navy. At 80 years old, he finds it “amusing and ironic” that one of his classmates, a 2002 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., is exactly 50 years behind his own graduating class. After graduating, this articulate man would like to write a book, possibly about Navy founders John Barry and President John Adams.

If the convenience of a work-at-your-own-pace online college education sounds appealing, keep in mind there also are a few aspects of an online education some might consider disadvantages.

Disadvantage No. 1: The nature of online coursework

Some students find online coursework more strenuous than a traditional course.

“You’ve either read the material and done the work, or you haven’t. This is especially evident due to the necessity of written communication,” says O’Brien. “You can’t roll the dice and hope you’re not called on in class, and you can’t tank an assignment and figure that you’ll make it up in class participation.”

Though O’Brien cites the difficulty of absorbing academic materials when he reads late at night, daytime study can bring another kind of difficulty, according to Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Urbanek, USA-Ret., who currently works at U.S. European Command Headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, while pursuing a Norwich MMH. “I spend about 20 hours on the weekend doing course work, and that’s hard to do when the sun is shining outside.”

Disadvantage No. 2: Impersonality

One issue that is difficult for many online students is they usually never get to meet their professor face-to-face. McKeough cites the disappointment he felt after working hard on a paper and getting it back with the sum total feedback “agro-terrorism is all about money.”

And sometimes the increased interaction with other students can be unpleasant, as Lt. Cmdr. Stanford Fisher III, USN, observed when “liberal-minded” students without military experience voiced “heated” opinions in discussion rooms. In addition, Fisher notes — as do almost all online students — the insufficiency of “cyberdiscussions” to convey a tone of voice or other nonverbal clues.

Disadvantage No. 3: Juggling priorities and finances

The difficulty of integrating a college education into an already full life is extremely difficult for most — and impossible for some. Boatswain Mate 1st Class Keith W. Underhill, USN-Ret., graduated with a bachelor’s in business management from what he characterizes as the “military-friendly” University of Phoenix — but only after cancelling his online classes. “It was not my style of learning,” he says, and was happy to learn the university offered on-campus classes in his area.

“Some instructors require you to work in teams, which is very difficult when you have people all over the world in different time zones,” says Capt. Sandra Davis, USAF, who is nonetheless enthusiastic about her master’s in management and leadership from Webster University. Davis also notes her online studies are more expensive than a brick-and-mortar facility, and “you probably won’t have the opportunity to sell books back at the end of the semester.”

Disadvantage No. 4: The world as your campus

Finally, for all its flexibilities, online education has its challenges abroad.

1st Lt. Richard Ingleby, USA, recalls “I was writing a response to a discussion question, and I swear, every … bug in Afghanistan decided that night to fly into my face or computer screen, since it was pretty much the only light on in the whole FOB [forward operating base],” says Ingleby. “I just remember thinking how this was definitely not your normal educational setting back at the university library.”

After weighing the advantages and disadvantages, is an online education right for you?

Article Source

It’s a decent enough article – I did pick out a couple of spelling mistakes, which is odd, but for the most part, it’s largely on track with it’s view of advantages and criticisms. The only thing that I really took issue with was the jab at liberal students without military experience – I don’t see this as a drawback, and while the online format does eliminate verbal and visual cues, there are ways around it. Liberal opinions aren’t wrong opinions, any more than conservative ones. It’s just different. This is one reason why I don’t like tying myself down to any one belief, because it’s incredibly limiting.

Random Stuff

  • I’m liking this blogroll application that Blogger has allowed to be added to blogs. There’s been a bunch that I’ve tracked over the years, but this lays them out in a neat manner, and arranges them according to when they’ve been updated, via RSS Feed. I’ve grouped the history ones, people I talk to, Authors I follow and my other two blogs (501st and Music) together to make things easier for me.

  • Residency is here at Norwich University. I’ve been back and forth between campus, working extra hours while all of our students have been here. It’s been interesting thus far. I’ve sat in on one presentation, Explorations in Military Effectiveness, which was facinating, and I’ll write up something about it at some point.

  • Did a troop at the Montpelier Kellogg-Hubbard Library with our newest Vermont storm trooper, Mike, which went pretty well. Details here.

  • I get to see José González tomorrow night at the Higher Ground! So excited to see him in person, finally.

  • Anna’s coming up on Friday for the weekend and a couple days. Can’t wait for that.

  • George Carlin died yesterday, at the age of 71, from heart failure. Undoubtedly, he would have something funny to say about it.

75th SMH Conference

I’m currently at the 75th Society for Military History conference out in Ogden Utah, which is pretty interesting thus far. Society for Military History is the big, official group of military historians, and I’m here because of my position at Norwich University. Dr. Ehrman, our program director and Dr. Broom, out assistant program director (and incidentally, my instructor for Seminar 1) are both presenting something on the nature of online graduate schools, which is later on today.
What was really cool was that I got to meet a number of instructors in the various programs that I administrate:
Dr. John Broom, Dr. Dennis Showalter, Dr. Mike Wadyko, Dr. Kevin McCraine, Dr. Joyce Sampson, Dr. John House, Dr. Sanders Marble, Dr. Antulio Echevarria, Dr. Kelly Devries, Dr. Doug Peifer, Dr. John Kuen, Dr. John Votaw and a couple others. Really great to meet them all.

I’ve attended a couple of panels already, some very interesting:

Military Support to Civil Authority: From Pax Britannica to Hurricane Katrina
This was an interesting one, about the ways that the US military has approached disaster relief, through three examples – The first paper was called In Support of the Civil Power, by John Beeler, University of Alabama. This looked at how the British navy was involved with non-military roles and how they focused on police actions, such as anti-piracy, relief for Ireland and a bunch of other things.
The second paper was on the 1906 Earthquake in San Fransisco (ironically 102 years to the day): In Support of Civil Power, by Charles Bylar, Carroll College. This one discussed several legal issues that arose – after the earthquake, a local military commander ordered his troops into the city and placed them under command of the mayor, to help evacuate people, prevent looting and rioting. This was a completely illegal action, and it’s thought that a number of people died as a result of this, although there was little public outcry at the time.
The last paper was entitled The Air National Guard’s Response to Hurricane Katrina by David Anderson, Air National Guard History Office, which focused on how the Air National guard was able to supply and evacuate hurricane victims, which was not as interesting to me.

The second panel that I attended was called Nationalism and British Military History, 1850s to 1914, which I found really fascinating. The three panelists were a lot younger, and there was a different dynamic to the presentations.
The first paper was Moral Militarism in Victorian and Edwardian Britain by Stephen Shapiro, Ohio State University, which looked at volunteer militant forces and the fear of French invasions of England, and a number of trends associated with that. This one was interesting, as it highlighted some interesting aspects to the way the British public and the army interacted, or didn’t interact.
The second was a paper by Kate Epstein, called Torpedo Development in Victorian Britain, which seemed a little scattered, but mainly looked at political developments and the development of the British Military during this era. The last paper was Nation, Identity and Conflict: British Popular conceptions of War and Martial Service in the Summer of 1914 – this one had a lot to do with the upcoming first World War, and a fairly dramatic public shift in opinion of military service from it being the lowest occupation to a highly thought of one.

I’m looking to hit a couple others later on today after Lunch, What Good is an Educational Philosophy if it doesn’t get your heart racing, about online graduate studies, and Nothing but Blood and Slaughter: The Southern Tory/Whig conflict in the American Revolution. There’s also a banquet later on that I’ll be at.

One of the highlights thus far was meeting up with members of the Alpine Garrison for dinner last night, which was an absolute blast – got to meet several people, including the LCO, Mark Fordam, which was neat. I’ll probably talk about that on my trooper blog at some point.

Also, there’s a ton of booksellers here, and they’ve really discounted their books. I’ve gotten the following:

The Big Red One, by James Scott Wheeler, about the 1st Infantry Division from WWI through Desert Storm.
Western Warfare 1775-1882, by Jeremy Black – this and the next are about military theory in the West (Europe and US)
Warfare in the Western World 1882-1975 by Jeremy Black (Both by him signed)
The Great Uprising in India 1857-58, by Rosie Llewllyn-Jones
Gathering at the Golden Gate: Mobilizing for War in the Philippines, 1898, Stephen D. Coats

More Later…

Statement of Intent

So, I’m enrolled in grad school now – Masters of Military History at the Norwich University School of Graduate Studies. I’m excited. This is why I want to do this:

It is my intention to complete the Masters in Military History program to fulfill several personal and professional goals in life. While participation in the School of Graduate Studies is a requirement for employment, the Military History program is closely in line with my own personal interests, while the online format will provide valuable experience for the various directions that education will trend towards in the future.

When I was in high school, I picked up a book about the Attack on Pearl Harbor after watching a film about the attack, to see what was historically accurate. This led to other books about the second World War, about the Pacific Theater, D-Day, and more, sparking an interest in history that would lead my interests into other parts of world history and to achieve a degree in the subject from Norwich University.

It was at Norwich University that my interest in history matured to the point where I could find a career and livelihood. During my senior year at the school, I started a research project on the Norwich University alumni who fought in Operation Overlord, completing a paper and a chapter of Norwich history. Shortly after the paper was finished, I was able to travel to Normandy to tour the battlefields, which has only further cemented my interest in military history.

During my career at Norwich, as an undergraduate, I tried to distance myself from most aspects of military history because of the over-enthusiastic interest from my classmates, and the desire to study other aspects of history that were relatively untouched and therefore, new. From that background, I was able to approach my study in a far better way, in context and in depth.

I plan to take my studies at Norwich as further refinement of my methods and knowledge in the field for the future – I intend to obtain a PhD in history, and I have found that military history is a field that is particularly useful in the field, as there are a number of influences in the peripheral subjects. Indeed, with a subject that deals with such confusing and convoluted subject matter, study of it makes for excellent practice and a better understanding of the world in which we live.

Random Stuff

I have Heroes on DVD, a paycheck, the Takeski Kovacs Trilogy in Trade paperback, a cell phone on the way, a real job and a new friend. Life is finally good.