October 29th, 2002

Of Late

Another session of Diplomacy tonight. There was a shortage of players, so three out of us four took two teams--Allan satisfied himself with France, and I took Germany and Austria-Hungary. I didn't acquit myself much better than last time, with Austria-Hungary falling to a relentless Turkish and Italian advance and even Germany being reduced to the approximate territory of the Electorate of Brandenburg. Still, I quite enjoyed myself, and i think I was improving--perhaps if I'd had Austria-Hungary expand much more energetically into the Balkans as Germany advanced into Scandinavia?

This reminds me of alternate histories. Diplomacy is an interesting simulation, but it falls short in several respects. The distribution of supply points comes to mind--Britain, Germany, France, and Italy all have the same number (3) of supply points, although Italy and perhaps also France should have fewer supply points that the remainder, while Russia's four points and the Ottoman Empire's three overrates their strength. The Balkan states and Portugal, though likely not the Scandinavian states, are given a power that perhaps outweights their real-life importance by their possession of a single supply point each. And there's also the location of supply points--I'd place Germany's two supply points apart from Berlin in the Ruhr and Silesia instead of Kiel and Munich, Austria-Hungary's Trieste supply point in Bohemia, Italy's Naples supply point in Trieste, and so on. Ah, but still, good fun. And I'm definitely interested in playing future PBEM games.

Allan's excited about his trip to Britain, to see that country and his girlfriend Christine. I wished him luck, of course. A pity that he had to pay extra to get the passport bureau to rush his passport to him, but at least he has it; it's certainly excellent ID, if nothing else. He recommended, again, that I read Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind; Allan is doing his Honours project in part on Bloom, and I know enough about Bloom's writings to be intruiged.

It's ironic, then, that I'm reading Michel Foucault, who in so many ways is Bloom's antithesis and secret comrade. I've read volume 1 of Foucault's The History of Sexuality. I can't offer up a very detailed impression of it apart to admire his theoretical audacity and his historicism, but a quote lept out to my reader's eye:

"The nineteenth-century homosexual became a
personage, a past, a case history, and a childhood, in
addition to being a type of life, a life form, and a
morphology, with an indiscreet anatomy and possibly a
mysterious physiology. Nothing that went into his total
composition was unaffected by his sexuality. It was
everywhere present in him: at the root of all his actions
because it was their insidious and indefinitely active
principle; written immodestly on his face and body
because it was a secret that always gave itself away. It
was consubstantial with him, less a habitual sin than as
a singular nature."

It interested me since this thesis lay at the root of my fears, after I realized in February and even before when I idly wondered, that my innate nature might be revealed to the wider public by some trait: physique, behaviour, something. I don't think it was, or is; enough people have told me that my vibe is nerdish if anything for me to feel approximately comfortable in this. I suppose that this fear of sudden revelation applies to anyone with a secret. Still, it interests me.

[FN1] Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction. Trans. by Robert Hurley. 1990. New York: Vintage Books, 1978. p. 43.
  • Current Music
    Shakespears Sister, "You're History"

Randy's Day

7:10 AM: I leave home. Michelle's not going to school today, Dad's the only one heading out free and charge and he has to get to work at 7:30. So, I leave, after just 15 minutes of preparation. My hair's a mess.

7:25 AM: I meet Susan Brown on the second floor of Main. She has the singular misfortune of having to teach a class at 7:30 AM, but she bribes her students with free coffee. I ask her for the page number of my term project's source material--it's an article in the London Times about a cholera epidemic in September of 1856, but I can't find it. She promises to look for it, but it isn't essential. I mention the topic of my term paper--basically, I'll be drawing from Foucault's definition of the state as essentially a regulatory organism to argue that the mid-19th century British state was concerned with regulating the state of Britons' bodies, perhaps with reference to contemporary France and Egypt--and she sounded interested. Dr. Brown recommended that I look into Palmer's Index for more source material from the Times to support this thesis.

7:30 AM: I got up to the Main computer lab.

7:35 AM: Allan comes in, and we talk for a half-hour. He's definitely looking forward to his trip, and to seeing Christine. As it turns out, he knows I'm bi already; he'd said last night that he read my livejournal, and since it's pretty apparent from that which directions I lean in ... We talked for a moment about a paper of his, in which he argued that same-sex acts were neither morally obligatory nor morally prohibitory but morally permissible on the grounds of their naturalness. I'll have to ask Allan for a copy of that paper. One possible subversive argument: Who's to say that nature is good? After all, evolution produced homo sapiens sapiens in order to have hairless apes who ran about on the East African savannahs bashing in one another's skulls with antelope bones; the Voyager space probes and cities weren't natural, but are they bad?

8:50 AM: I go down for coffee only to find that I didn't turn the coffeemaker on.

9:05 AM: I retrieve my bitter-tasting aqua vitae from the English Lounge.

9:10 AM: Jennifer and I try to figure out how to print out multiple slides on a single page from Corel Presentations. She figures it out.

9:35 AM: I almost lose my breath laughing to Something Positive, reading it for the second time around.

9:45 AM: I try posting this for the first time. Unfortunately, the program hiccups for some indefensible reason and consumes my work. I resolve to type again, from memory.

9:50 AM: I leave for the library. I take out some books for my term paper, including almost all of the library's copies of and commentaries upon Foucault's work, Sheldon Watts' Epidemics and History, and Braudel's A History of Civilizations. This last book is an excellent history of civilizations, actually written by Bruadel as a textbook for Frnech schools in the 1960's but still an excellent history.

10:20 AM: I print off, from findarticles.com, some articles relevant to my topic. They lack page numbers, but I can always go and look up the print copies for those; if, in fact, I need to do that at all. It's done, and stapled, 6 dollars later.

10:35 AM: Finally, I post this. It works.

11:10 AM: I'm typing in the last of my notes and aone of two chapter studies, depsite logging onto Trillian and chatting with two friends of mine, one in Greece, the other in Australia. British history in 20 minutes.

11:30 AM: I finish typing the chapter summaries for HIST 391 and dash down to the English lounge to fetch my folder. There are a few people down there, including Andrew. We chat briefly. I bring up Foucault, and it turns out he's interested in the sociopolitical aspects of Foucault's theory of discipline. Perhaps I should chat with him about that for the paper?

12:25 PM: Two-thirds of the way through class. It's an interesting lecture on the Industrial Revolution in discipline. Among the subtopics: the discipline imposed on workers by industrialism. The wind howls past the windows of my third-floor classroom, and I'd like to shiver.

12:35 PM: I'm feeling quite intellectual, today, somewhat transgressive. it's as if I'm the synthesis of a dialectic that's only now being accepted.

I wish I was in Virginia right now. Warmth, friend.

12:40 PM: I think Marxist theory is right by and large, save for the theory of surplus value of labour: The workers might produce a good, but non-workers do just as critical a job in researching and processing said product. The Communist Manifesto is of use as a warning that's necessary: Don't radical revolutions always develop in those societies which are socially unjust and where the repressive power of the state has been distracted by one crisis or another?

A dialectic: Unregulated capitalism (thesis) and Marxist theory (antitheiss) produce the welfare state (synthesis)?

Leninism is quite a dangerous addition to Marxism with its theory of the vanguard: I never trust people who think that they know best. Joseph, Trotsky was an anti-Leninist, right?

(And for the record, I consider myself a social democrat, pro-globalization and pro-reform of the welare state so long as both are carried out with honest criticism and popular consent in mind. I find Naomi Klein insufferable, for example.)

1:00 PM: I arrive, harried and mildly late, at work.

3:10 PM: I type in previous entries on my break. Work sucks--busy, my supervisor seems to glare at me, maybe I'm overcritical but I just want it to be finished so I can go on lunch in an hour and a half.

4:50 PM: My head hurts. I think I'm going through caffeine withdrawal; that's the last time I had a headache like this. Fortunately for me, I bought a coffee at the Great Canadian Bagel shop in the Confederation Court Mall, along with a Minute Maid lemonade and a bagel sandwich (veggie, on cheddar swiss bagel). That's all I've had to eat today apart from two cold slices of pizza in the morning and three large cups of coffee.

6:25 PM: Normally, the Children's Library is fairly easy. Unfortunately for me, on top of the one cart of books that needs shelving, I need to switch the status of another entire cart of Christmas picture books single thin book by single thin book. Oh, after that, checking in all of the tapes should be child's play. And I still have to type in my HIST 261 notes from today. Ah, well; at least my headache has passed with the consumption of caffeine.

7:40 PM: I've finished shifting the books. Next, the cassettes, but first I want to finish the rough draft of my thesis in Tom's reply. And after the cassettes, I'll type in today's notes.

9:00 PM: I get out of the Library. I managed to complete the sorting of the cassettes and recording of the statistics, along with the shelving of the children's picture books and fiction. I don't do the non-fiction though I do sort it in accordance with the Dewey Decimal System--those books are of all too many shapes and sizes, impossible to sort.

9:40 PM: I finish another update, even as I chat with Steve DeGrace on MSN. I tried to watch Buffy--it's the episode where Glory sucks Tara's mind and learns that Dawn is the key--but couldn't concentrate. Maybe I'll get a half-hour of biking in somehow. In the meantime, I'll concentrate on typing in today's notes. it was an interesting class, no?


Can people tell me, as replies to this post, what they thought of this day's experiment in livejournal writing? Good? Bad? Dear God why did I inflict it upon you?

HIST 261 Thesis

Hi, everyone!

Can I get some feedback on this thesis for an upcoming term paper, between 2500 and 3000 words in length?


The 1856 cholera epidemic was one of the last major recurrences of cholera in Britain, as steady improvements in London's infrastructure and the advance of medical knowledge limited recurrences of cholera, among other epidemic diseases. Indeed, the 1856 epidemic ended largely because of the intervention of John Snow, who famously identified the contaminated water at the public pump in St. James' Parish as the source of the epidemic, prefiguring the germ theory of disease and the development of a modern medical science.

This intervention prefigured the development of the British state, in broader matters of public affairs as in the specific field of public health, as an essentially regulatory entity concerned with ensuring the proper functioning of the bodies of its subjects. As explored by Foucault, western European governments in the early modern era were concerned with prohibiting improper behaviour on the parts of their subjects, whether sexual, religious, or political. It was only in the 19th century, however, that the growth of modern medical science allowed the regulation of disease.

This regulation was manifested not only in terms of action against disease-causing elements--whether infestations of bacteria or virii or inadequate civic sanitation--but against behaviours, particularly those characteristic among working-class communities and the poor, which were viewed as causative or aggravating factors in illness. The regulation and limitation of disease was a primary function of the 19th century state; the ability to act in this area was widely seen as a necessary precondition for modernization, as the roughly contemporary case of the autonomous khedivate of Egypt demonstrates.


Cool link: The on-line edition of On the Mode of Communication of Cholera, by John Snow, M.D., available at