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Final Thoughts – Kara

I think feedyourmindfebruary was a rousing success! I had a great time with both the overall project and the blog. It was awesome to spend time with Katie and I really enjoyed writing about all the events I attended.

My adventures this month have taught me a lot. I feel like I’ve learned so much, and not just objective facts about sloths, Russian spirituality, and Patty Hearst. I found that I didn’t mind going to events by myself, though I have to admit I’m still not crazy about my friend Natalie’s side mission which involved talking to people I don’t know. Blech.

Partners in not crime

Katie and I talked about how the hardest part of attending any of these events was that first step out your front door. (Well, that and parking downtown on a Friday evening.) One of the benefits of not going solo was that company really helped in taking that first step. If I knew I was meeting someone, or if I had a friend who also wanted to go, it really helped with my motivation.

It was also hard to keep up the pace. I missed having a day where I didn’t have to put on pants. Though, to be fair, there were six days when I didn’t go to events and I probably spent a few of those pantless.

Even if I didn’t enjoy all the events I went to (I’m looking at you Scandinavian Cultural Celebration) I never felt like it was a waste of time. Either I learned something interesting, or I went somewhere I’d never been before, or I was just having fun being with my friends. I want to give a special thanks to everyone who attended an event with me: Katie (of course), Liz, Maggie, Anne, my mom, Ashley, Al, and anyone else I might have overlooked.

I always told myself before going that if the event sucked then I could just leave, but I never did. I never thought: “Golly gee, this time would have been better spent sitting on my couch watching re-runs of Law and Order.” For instance here is a photo montage of my life today:

Rockin' Fraggle hair

Cat glaring at me

Grading midterms

Watching Dr. Who on my laptop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the course of the month I went to 25 different events. I attended six lectures, two plays, five museum exhibits, two art galleries, four films, and various other events I don’t even know how to classify (RC car racing? Masquerade Gala?) With the exception of two events they were all free, they also took me all over the city and made for a memorable, unique, and incredible month.

I don’t think I can express enough how much I enjoyed this project. I didn’t realize how much I missed going to random academic lectures and learning interesting things from people who are truly passionate about their topics. I got to go to so many places I’ve never been before. I was genuinely surprised by this since I do consider myself a townie and thought I knew the city.

I thought I knew you

My friend Carrie said that my blog was like a British television show. It was only ever intended to last for a limited period of time, but it was better than what most other blogs were doing. I think that’s kind of a weird analogy, but it made me laugh.

I want to thank everyone who read about Katie and my adventures. You all have been amazingly supportive. Everyone who left a comment or sent me an encouraging text, you made it that much easier to continue. I also have to give a shout out to my mom for proofreading just about all my posts. Damn you passive sentence structure, I just can’t quit you.

Now that the month is over and I’ve taken some time off I’m ready to begin my next project: makestuffmarch.

~ Kara

Material culture from feedyourmindfebruary

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Final Thoughts – Katie

Feed Your Mind February was a great experience/experiment. February is usually such a drag, and this undoubtedly made it less depressing. All in all, there were great free local events going on in the Ann Arbor area all the time. All you have to do is muster enough motivation to get in the car and drive there. Having a partner made this a lot easier, and we carpooled to a lot of things. Once you get there, you’re always happy to be there. And if you’re not, you don’t feel bad leaving because it didn’t cost anything.

I will definitely try to attend more free local events in the future, and I’ve already circled a bunch of stuff in March’s Observer. But not for every day.

Things I liked about Feed Your Mind February:

  1. Mostly everything was free (good for a partially disabled starving artist)
  2. I learned a lot
  3. I got to hang out with Kara more
  4. I was able to do activities that didn’t revolve around drinking
  5. I discovered local venues I have never been to (such as the RC car racing warehouse and the secret planetarium in Angell Hall)
  6. I got ideas for new art projects without even trying
  7. I saw strangers of all ages doing something worthwhile, thus slightly restoring my faith in humanity

Things I didn’t like:

  1. Being very busy
  2. Sitting in a variety of uncomfortable places
  3. Finding parking downtown
  4. Paying for parking downtown
  5. Feeling pressured to write blog posts about events I didn’t have much to say about (see Day 20)
  6. Dealing with crazies, the unknown demographic that attends free events

Signing off,

Katie

Different kinds of mummies

Day 29: Karanis Revealed part II, an exhibition at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: Holy crapballs! It’s the last day of the month!!! Katie and I will be doing a February wrap up/overview tomorrow as a grand finale for this project.

February began and ended on Wednesday, which is the worst day for Katie to attend an event so, like the first day, I was on my own today. Fortunately for me, my mom is awesome and unable to withstand prolonged pouting so I was not alone.

Side note about my mother: she is an Ypsi snob (oxymoron?) and hates Ann Arbor, and driving herself places. It was hard to lure her to this museum which is located on State Street right in the heart of U of M’s campus. I was really only able to convince her by explaining that it was Spring Break and would be super easy for her to park.

My mummy blended in with her surroundings

I had never been to this museum before. In fact, I don’t think I ever really noticed the building before, which is kind of weird because it’s a pretty cool building.

The museum itself was okay. We were there for less than an hour. It was very beige. My mom thought it was interesting, in a forty-five minute sort of way. I also thought it was interesting, but  kind of disappointing.

Soothing track lighting contributed to the lack of excitement

The second floor, which was the Karanis Exhibition, was the coolest part. What I thought was fascinating was learning about when and why U of M sent archaeologists to Egypt. The expedition was started by Dr. Kelsey (it was his museum, after all) who was a Latin professor in the 1910’s and 1920’s. He started the dig in 1925 and it continued well into the 1930’s, even after he died.

Original Karanis expedition, 1925

At first my mom and I were commenting on how U of M stole all these artifacts from Egypt and how we thought that was a little weird and sketchy. The exhibit actually addressed this. They said that everything they uncovered was then subject to the oversight of the Egyptian Antiquities Service and that they had to divide everything between the excavator’s institution and the Egyptian government. That’s not to say that the Egyptian Antiquities Service wasn’t totally corrupt, but it’s nice to know that U of M wasn’t just blatantly robbing another country of their history and heritage.

Cat mummy: the second best mummy there

Overall, I liked this museum. Though, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever met a museum that I didn’t like. It’s not the best, or the most fun, or the most interesting but if you have an hour to kill it’s not a bad way to do it (if you’ve already been to the Natural History Museum). The Karanis Exhibit runs until May, drop by if you get a chance!

~ Kara

Makestuffmarch?…

roar

Day 28: Evolution and Health Exhibit at the U of M Museum of Natural History

Katie emailed me last night and said that she thought this exhibit sounded more interesting than the hip pain seminar and asked me if I wanted to go with her. I said I would and we met at the museum in the late afternoon. Let me just say again that I love going to campus during spring break. It’s awesome, and super easy to park, and the museum was totally empty!

When we got there we went up to the fourth floor where the exhibit was. This allowed us to completely bypass the exhibit on the invisible world of mites. Gross. Unfortunately, the evolution and health exhibit turned out to be totally boring.

“I don’t want to trash the Natural History Museum, because it’s, like, my favorite museum in town, but that exhibit was totally wack,” Katie said.

Katie has backpain

Kara has skincolor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They were scientifically answering questions that I didn’t ask and don’t care about. “Why are people lactose intolerant?” I’m not, so I don’t care. “Why is giving birth so difficult?” First of all, ewwww. If I was ever thinking of having kids, this exhibit cured me of that notion. Katie seemed very into the fact that birthing got harder as people walked more upright. I even had to hear her explain it to her husband, Al, when we went back to her house.

The only thing I liked was this machine that was supposed to take a picture of your skin color and tell you where you were from. Mine was mildly accurate but Katie’s kept giving her an error message. Finally, proof that Katie is not human.

Empty museums are awesome

After spending a grand total of 12 minutes in that exhibit we started to wander around the rest of the museum. I hadn’t been there since I was in high school. I forgot how much I liked it. I love the dinosaurs and the dioramas! Katie and I are going to try and make some dioramas. I’m really excited.

Oh no! I'm being eaten!!!!

In fact, this inspired me to try and create a new project. This new project will be called makestuffmarch. Next month I’m going to try to make a project a week – including a diorama which will probably be the last project so that I have time to collect stuff for it. I hope it turns out as well as feedyourmindfebruary has.

Tomorrow is the last day of the month and I’m going to the archeology museum.

~ Kara

Nazis and science and medicine, oh my

Day 27: Deadly Medicine – Creating the Master Race

Since my friend Maggie works as a biologist in the next building over she agreed to meet me at this exhibit when she got off work. The exhibit was at the Taubman Science Library – which was nice and empty since it is U of M’s spring break.

Maggie is not a deadly scientist

The first part of the exhibit was on the idea of eugenics.

This dude needs to keep his seed to himself

For those of you who don’t know, eugenics is the pseudo-science of race. Back in the day it was defined as, “the study and practice of improving humans through selective reproduction.”

In the United States eugenics was linked to the idea of social Darwinism (social welfare interfered with natural selection- the poor should starve).

Where eugenics really found a home, however, was in Germany. Hitler and the Nazi regime loved eugenics. It was the perfect justification for their “final solution.” It was interesting when the exhibit explained that German doctors supported eugenics and Nazis as a way to eliminate Jewish doctors from the over-crowded medical profession.

As a 20th century historian there was nothing here that was all that surprising or new to me. It was a fascinating exhibit and had a lot of interesting pictures; interesting and disturbing pictures.

This was either Goebbels or a Republican presidential candidate

One thing I did learn was that the Nazi’s were waiting to implement their “euthanasia” policy until after the war started because they knew there would be a public outcry. The first group that they targeted were children, mostly non-Jewish, who were born with physical and mental disabilities. That’s messed up.

I always find pictures of Nazi’s outside of their uniform’s doing Nazi things particularly disturbing. It somehow drives home the fact that they were just normal people. In their uniform it’s easier to think that they were different from me, but to see pictures of people who committed some of the worst atrocities of all time laughing and drinking and looking happy is just so very creepy.

These people like to drink wine, play the accordion, and commit mass murder

I think Maggie, as a scientist, was extra horrified. She said that she was shocked at the end of the exhibit where they talked about how many of the scientists who committed horrible atrocities went on to have long careers, sometimes based on research and samples they collected under Nazi rule.

This guy put the Eugen in eugenics

Neither of us realized that Mengele, the most famous Nazi “scientist,” was free in exile in South America until his death in 1979.

I liked this exhibit, though I don’t know if I necessarily enjoyed it, and I do recommend it. It’s on loan from the Holocaust Museum in DC and will be at the library for another few weeks.

Tomorrow I’m taking the day off to grade midterms but Katie is going to a seminar on hip pain. I’m looking forward to reading about that one.

~ Kara

What’s there to RAVE about?

Yum in my tum

Day 26: Bad Habits: Drinks, Drags, and Drugs in Washtenaw County History, an ongoing exhibit at the Washtenaw County Historical Society

Looking for events at the beginning of February I realized that there were not a lot of events that I wanted to attend at the end of the month. With this in mind I saved a lot of the ongoing exhibits that sounded cool for, well, now.

My friend Maggie called me this morning at the crack of 11am to have a little girl’s day downtown. We got a late start.

We began the afternoon with brunch at the Jolly Pumpkin. I had never been there before, it was good.

I especially liked that my eggs came with a little salad of mixed greens. Yum. It was delicious. Maggie and I chatted about vampire movies and drank diet Coke.

Museum fun time hour!

After breakfast we walked down to the Museum on Main Street. I had never been there before either. The docent/hippie/Sierra Club member gave us a brief history of the house and the museum, then set us loose on the first floor where the exhibit was. It consisted of three main rooms, each with a different theme.

The first room was on Prohibition. This was, I think, the most interesting part. They had a lot of information displayed on these nicely designed placards that had history and pictures. It was neat to learn about the specifics of how Prohibition affected people locally. Prohibition advocates in Ann Arbor used the problem of annoying drunk students to get locals onboard. That makes sense. They even had some old drinking songs. Maggie and I tried to sing them, but we were largely unsuccessful. It’s hard to sing a song in a round when you don’t know the tune. (Maggie and I are famous for our rounds.)

Early 20th century U of M drinking song

It’s probably the historian in me but I really enjoyed that room! They also had some old timey wine making equipment which made me think of my friend Patrick.

The middle room was on pharmaceuticals. As much as I like drugs I thought this room was pretty boring. They did have this cool cabinet full of old tonic bottles.

They even had some Simpson and Son Revitalizing Tonic

The final room was on illegal drugs. Most of it seemed to be about John Sinclair, who I think is a sexist douche monkey. Or, the D.A.R.E. program. This was also where I got into a conversation with the museum’s one other patron (you’re welcome, Natalie). He informed me that he was a recovering crack addict and asked me how long I had been off drugs. He told me he hadn’t smoked crack in 35 months. I think only ex-addicts and new parents tell time in weeks and months like that. It’s weird. Why didn’t he just say, “almost three years?”

Drug Abuse Resistance Education

Anyway, we picked up some anti-drug pamphlets, including one called, Ecstasy: What’s there to RAVE about?. We also grabbed a few D.A.R.E. bumper stickers and then left.

On the way back to the car we stopped at a store called Bongz and Thongz. I’d never been in there but I had always wanted to because it’s in the old Liberty St. Video space.

Worst/best store name ever

While the whole store reeked of incense and hippies (gross) the proprietor was very nice, and seemed sober.

We ended the afternoon at Washtenaw Dairy, where Maggie ate an ice cream cone the size of her head. I think it was a successful day.

Giant cone of Birthday Cake ice cream

Tomorrow I’m going to an exhibit on Eugenics at the U of M science library at 5pm.

~ Kara

Skymaster

Day 24: Observatory Open House

Katie and I both went out to dinner with our respective parents and then met at Angel Hall for the event. We were joined on this occasion by Katie’s husband, Al, and our surprise guest, Maggie.

Angel Hall actually turned out to be really hard to get into. Katie and Al called me and told me the front door was locked. When I got there someone was putting a sign on the door saying that the Open House was on the third and fifth floor. He let me in, then he re-locked the door.

Angel Hall is totally majestic, Maggie slightly less so

I waited around and let Maggie in the building. Then we went in search of Katie and Al. They found a sidedoor and weren’t picking up their phones, so it wasn’t exactly easy.

There is no phone reception in Angel Hall

 

We made our way up to the fifth floor for the observatory stuff but it was cancelled because it was overcast. Then we went downstairs to the third floor and found the world’s tiniest planetarium.

Informative chalkboard

 

We got there right on time for the show. There were only two seats left, and they were not even together, Katie and Al got them, so Maggie and I found a spot on the floor. This actually turned out to be nice because there was just enough space for us to lie down. Heeeey.

The show itself was fun. It was mc’d by a guy and girl who apparently had a side job as bad amateur stand-up comics (I think they were from the student astronomy club). I was not amused, though they did make Maggie and Al laugh with a constellation bestiality joke. The dude kept saying anyways and acrost. Part of me hated him.

Afterword, Katie commented that the seats were very uncomfortable, but it could be a very romantic date. I would like to note that she was sitting nowhere near her husband.

I don’t think I really learned a lot in this one but it was still kinda cool. Plus, the machine that runs the planetarium was called the Skymaster.

Behold the SKYMASTER

They do this Open House twice a month. I recommend it, but you should try and go when it’s a clear night.

The planetarium show was about 40 minutes long. After it was over we went to Knights for some post-cultural drinks and wrap-up.

Then we attended a wood paneling conference

Tomorrow Katie and I are going to a DNA talk at the U of M Natural History Museum at 3pm.

~ Kara

Robot Wars

Day 23: Lecture titled, “The New Cold War: Hackers, Drones, and Cyber Spies,” by Shane Harris

I thought this talk sounded really interesting. I’m pretty much into anything about modern American history or politics. I realize that my interests in cultural events run a bit more academic than most. This is evidenced by the fact that I couldn’t get anyone to go to this talk with me and four friends showed up at that event about cheese.

I also wanted to go to this because it was at the Ford Presidential Library and I had never been there before. They had a pretty nice little Ford museum and exhibit in the lobby.

I had a conversation with Katie yesterday about where I feel comfortable. I was explaining to her that even though I never went to U of M, or really knew any of the buildings, I pretty much feel at home in any University type setting. I think it’s because I spent my entire adult life in college. There are a lot of places and situations in which I feel completely awkward, but even if I’m lost and have no idea where I’m going, if I’m in a university building or library I feel at ease.

HESSE Library at Purdue, my home away from home

Anyway, the Ford Library was nice. The talk was in, what seemed like either a very large conference room, or a very small lecture hall. There were probably around 100 people there, which would make this one of the most popular events I’ve attended so far. There were a lot of older people there (the dude in front of me had a neck like Grandpa Simpson) and a few younger people who looked like they were there for school extra credit.

The speaker, Shane Harris, was very witty and engaging. He was a journalist who was awarded the Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize for reporting on national defense.

The talk was about national security in the 21st century and the way that new innovations in technology may usher in a new cold war. It was really good! Harris began his talk by stating that he thought the war on terror was over. He said that if you marked the beginning of the war on terror by the attacks on 9/11 then you can mark the end with the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

Harris outlined his ideas about a “new cold war.” He said that conflicts among nations and organized groups would take place in an arena not recognized as battlefields, i.e. on the web, and using new technology and weapons, i.e. automated drones.

He talked about the government, starting under the most recent Bush administration, trying to secure cyberspace. It sounded like the latest Die Hard movie. The government then turned to industry and made it their problem. They basically demanded that companies who have defense contracts keep the information and technology safe if they want to keep working for the American government. On one hand, that makes sense, but on the other, if mostly Chinese and Russian cyber spies are hacking these companies to get proprietary technology and government secrets shouldn’t the government also try to protect them? There is a Defense Industrial Base Initiative which is now under the purview of Homeland Security to try and make banks, power grids, and electric companies more secure from cyber attacks. Scary.

He said that the Obama administration really seems to get the newer threat and issues caused by technology, whereas W. Bush talked about “the google,” Obama has a twitter account.

Harris spent the end of his talk discussing drones and other technological advancements in weapons. He said that at this point unmanned drone technology was not really hampered by lack of capabilities, but rather by people’s unwillingness to unleash it. This made me fear Skynet.

Keep Skynet offline, you idiots!

At one point Harris actually used the phrase “robot wars.” In the future humans could fight wars with each other through technological proxies, though he actually didn’t think that would ever happen.

The talk was really good, and interesting, and I feel like I learned a lot, most of which freaked me out. On a side note I think that President Ford has an unfairly bad reputation.

Tomorrow night Katie and I are going to the Observatory Open House at Angel Hall at 8pm – weather permitting.

~ Kara

No sloth left behind

Day 22 – Meet the Animals from the Creature Conservancy

Since I had already attended one event today, and Wednesday is always a rough day for Katie since she goes to the chiropractor then work, I wasn’t sure if we would really make it to tonight’s event. I called Katie at 6:30 to see if she still wanted to go.

Me: Do you still want to go to this thing tonight?

Katie: Yes. I want to see the animals.

Me: I just don’t want you to be disappointed.

Katie: Me either. I’ll be mad if it’s just, like, hamsters or something.

Me: Well, it did say wild animals. Do they have wild hamsters?

Katie: There’s the world’s largest hamster.

Me: A capybara?

Katie: They have one at the Toledo zoo.

This capybara is not in Toledo

Me: They freak me out.

Katie: Me too! I wonder if they eat other littler hamsters?

Me: I think hamsters are vegetarians.

Katie: What about Carrie’s hamsters that all ate each other.

Me: Oh yeah. I guess they’re omnivores.

Katie: I’m eating a sandwich; I don’t want to talk about this.

Me: I’m coming to pick you up now.

And then we drove to the library. We walked in a few minutes late because I had to drive around the block eight times to find a place to park since the library parking lot is a sinkhole. Don’t fall in.

When we walked in I was met by two surprises. A two toed sloth and Katie’s dad. Katie’s dad, Rick, is the second parent to attend an event with us (my mom tried to be a beekeeper with me).

Katie and her biggest fan

It turns out this event was amazing. They had six wild animals to show us. We learned about each one and got to touch most of them. I GOT TO PET A SLOTH. I put that in all caps because it might be the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me.

The people running the event were way cool. They were from the Creature Conservancy which is a group that rescues wild animals that people tried to keep as pets and then had to get rid of because they are wild animals, and people are stupid. The group operates in the Ann Arbor area and in the next year or so they should have a public facility for people to come see the animals. They do these show and tell things at the Library every once in a while and, if you see a listing for one, you should totally go! You can learn more about them at their website.

It was startling to walk in late and see a sloth hanging off a branch in the middle of the library basement. They walked it around and let everyone pet it. Apparently sloths are pretty mean tempered. They move so slowly you’d think they’d be chill. Plus, they only go to the bathroom twice a week and they poo, like, eight pounds worth.

My new best friend

The next animal was a Kookaburra. Which just made me want to sing that song, “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree.” The bird kept interrupting the presenter with its crazy loud calls. Here is a video.

Then we saw two ball pythons that were found in a dumpster in Chelsea. Boring. Katie used to have one and drive around with it in the passenger seat of her car. Katie is weird.

Next was an African Fruit Bat. It was a lot cuter than you expected it to be even though it creeped Katie out.

We also got to see a giant tortoise. It wasn’t that big yet but it was already 12 years old. Katie really wants one that she can just let loose in her backyard to eat the grass/mow her lawn. I don’t think that’s a very practical plan, but we’ll see.

The last animal was a Caiman, which was like a little angry crocodile. It was amazing. It stared and hissed. The handler had to wrestle it out of a giant Tupperware box and at first all you could hear was thrashing and hissing and we had no idea what animal it was. The Caiman kind of reminded me of a cat-lizard. It hissed and it had slitted cat eyes and it was really pissed the whole time.

Best picture ever!!!!

I need to backtrack a little and tell you about the crazy woman who was wearing an all camo outfit and I’m pretty sure was also drunk. I named her Katie’s best friend. It seems that in many of these free events that Katie and I attend there is one “crazy.” They are the weirdo who will not shut up and asks insane questions in the middle of the talk. Plus, they always seem to know more than the lecturer, and they are always wrong. When they talk everyone else in the room shoots commiserating looks at each other. They do not seem to notice, or care.

Image has been obscured to protect crazy’s identity

After the talk the librarian actually recognized Katie and me from Cheese Night, even though that was at a different library branch. She jokingly accused us of bringing the crazy with us. We told her our theory that there is always one at every evening event. She said that unfortunately we were probably correct.

Tomorrow I’ll be attending a talk called “The New Cold War” at the Ford Library at 7:30pm if anyone wants to join me since Katie refuses to go.

~ Kara

Sin and Salvation

Day 22: Sin and Salvation in Russian Spirituality, a noon lecture sponsored by the U of M Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies given by UC Berkeley professor Victor Zhivov.

First of all nothing is free downtown when you have to pay for parking. Once I parked and found the building, it was the School of Social Work building on the corner of South and East University, I had a bit of a problem. I had the building’s address written down, not the room number. This led to much confusion as I wandered around looking for a room with the same number as the address – which didn’t exist. But thanks to Michigan Time I got there well before the lecture started, though I was too late to get one of the handouts.

My first thought upon entering the room was, “Holy crap, I’m totally hungry! Why didn’t I eat lunch before I left my house?” This was followed quickly by: “Everyone around me is speaking Russian. That’s a good sign in an ethnic restaurant. I wonder if it’s also true in an academic lecture?”

Dude had an accent like the villain from an 80's action movie

While Dr. Zhivov was outlining the theoretical framework of his lecture he said that he would be using Foucault. Foucault within the first minute of a lecture usually means I’ll either a) tune it out because it’s gonna be some pretentious overly theorized crapballs, b) have no idea what they are talking about, or c) both.

I was pleasantly surprised by this lecture. I really liked it! And I really liked Dr. Zhivov. He had a fairly thick Russian accent and he looked like the cartoonish version of an ideal professor. He wore a bowtie! Bowties are cool!!!

Photo-realistic depiction of Dr. Zhivov

He discussed the emergence of the idea of purgatory and how ideas of penance were different in Russian, as opposed to Western Europe.

Russians, in the middle ages at least, were less concerned with what happened after death than Westerners. They didn’t have the social, or religious, push to confess at least once a year. Pentenance was sort of popular in monastic circles but it was not uniform and not particularly popular among the nobles. Zhivov was pretty clear that no one really knows what the peasants were doing at the time.

In the 16th century Russian nobles would actually brag about lying during their confessions. Death bed confessions became the norm. Pentenance was a marginal element on a holy man’s path to salvation. You could sin all your life and confess right before death and it would be all good. The risk, of course, was that you die unexpectedly. That could really screw you.

Some nobles even went so far as to take monastic vows right before death. These vows worked like a second baptismal and washed away all the sins you committed before the vow. This was used by princes and high standing nobles. It was really a last minute way to cheat god. A religious loophole, if you will.

The talk did push into the 18th century but I won’t really go into it except to say that by then if you didn’t confess once a year then you could be double taxed.

Then it was time for the question and answer portion of the lecture. Now for those of you who haven’t been to many academic lectures there are three basic reactions to Q and A.

1. Professors who use this as an excuse to talk about themselves and only marginally ask a question. This question usually amounts to: “How does what you’re talking about relate to what I study.” But it takes a long time to get there.

2. Grad students who are trying to impress the lecturer, professors in the audience, each other, and themselves by how smartypants they are and really want to find a hole in the theory/research/presentation to prove that they really did deserve that grant they didn’t get.

3. Undergrads who walk out as soon as the lecture is over.

I have to admit that today I left with the undergads and went to find myself a burrito.

~ Kara