Ashley’s Sack (and A Small Rant on Bad Word Choices)

CWU Professor Mark Auslander has researched and proposed likely identities for the names on Ashley’s Sack, a piece of embroidery from 1921 tracing one family’s lineage through slavery. Really neat work digging into American history.

For almost a decade, a slavery-era artifact known as “Ashley’s Sack” has intrigued historians unable to identify Ashley—the girl’s name preserved in needlework. The Smithsonian, where the sack is on display, may now attribute the recent discovery of Ashley’s identity to Central Washington University Professor Mark Auslander.

Auslander, who teaches in the department of Anthropology and Museum Studies and is director for the Museum of Culture and Environment spent the last year researching the lineage of the three women whose names were needle worked into the cloth. Research led him to North Carolina and Philadelphia where he searched slave, court and estate records, as well as early bank and census data.

“The object has become a kind of obsession for me during this past year,” said Auslander.

His findings were recently published in the article “Slavery’s Traces: In Search of Ashley’s Sack,” in the noted academic journal Southern Spaces.

Ashley’s Sack, on loan from Middleton Place in South Carolina, is currently on exhibit in the newly opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. 

However, reading CWU’s writeup of the news has one unfortunate bit that really stood out to me (emphasis mine):

The original object was found in 2007 at a flea market in the small town of Springfield, Tennessee. Little was known of its history, but it gained great attention by historians and academics. Even less was known about the females listed on the sack.

This really, really should have read, “Even less was known about the women listed on the sack.”

Using “females” instead of “women” is rude and dehumanizing, and to do so within the context of a historical artifact of the slavery era makes it even worse. Just don’t do it (especially if you’re writing for an institute of higher learning, and again especially if your writing about an artifact of an era where the dehumanization of an entire race, let alone gender, was the norm).

Life in Ellensburg: All Graduated and Employed!

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve done much in the way of “real” blogging. Believe me, I know — it’s been bugging me. However, the reason for the delay has been for two very interconnected reasons: I don’t like blogging about things that are happening until they’ve actually happened, and I’ve been a lot busier here than I expected to be. It’s all for good reasons, though — Ellensburg has been treating me very well, as it turns out.

So. Last time I wrote much of anything, I’d just joined Prairie at our little apartment here in Ellensburg, had technically/officially graduated from CWU, and had picked up a temporary part-time job reworking the website for the CWU Department of Law and Justice.

Not long after starting that part-time position, the secretary for CWU’s Math, Writing, and Academic Advising centers left for a new job. Prairie put in a good word for me, and since working on the LAJ website had already put me into CWU’s system, hiring me was easy, so I added a second temporary part-time position covering the secretarial position for those three departments.

Right about the time I was wrapping up my work on the LAJ website, the LAJ secretary put in notice that she’d also accepted a different position. Once again, I happened to present the right combination of availability and ease of hiring — with the added bonus of already having started getting to know the Ellensburg LAJ staff and faculty — so I did a sort of sideways slide from the website work into filling in as the temporary secretary for the LAJ department.

So, for the past couple months, I’ve been working nearly full time in two temporary positions; part-time as the LAJ secretary for half the day, and part-time as the UMC/UWC/AA secretary for the other half of the day. It wasn’t what I was expecting — Prairie and I had both figured that I’d be spending this summer relaxing, goofing off, and generally bumming around Ellensburg — but it’s also felt good to be doing something. Plus, it seemed like both of these positions were great ways to get a foot or two in the door at CWU to see where that might lead.

June was in many ways all about graduation. Early in the month, Prairie and I drove over to the CWU-Kent campus for the annual end-of-year banquet for the Westside Law and Justice students, at which I was awarded Outstanding Graduating Westside Law and Justice Student honors. Then, in mid-June, Prairie and I took a week off of work for the formal graduation ceremonies.

My parents drove down from Alaska, and we started the festivities with the formal Honors Convocation here in Ellensburg, where I was recognized for achieving Dean’s Scholar status. Then we all drove over to the Westside so I could march in the Westside graduation ceremonies with all the classmates with whom I’d actually gone to school. I got my special silver tassel for graduating Magna Cum Laude, marched across the stage, and got my moment on the Jumbotron. Back to Ellensburg for a few days with my parents, a day in Olympia to meet Prairie’s newest niece, and then back to Ellensburg and back to work.

A couple of weeks ago, as soon as the position formally opened, I put in an application for the LAJ secretarial spot that I was filling. Just over a week ago I interviewed, and early this week, I was notified that I was the chosen candidate! Right now, I’m in the midst of my two-weeks notice for my UMC/UWC/AA position as the paperwork goes through for the LAJ spot, then as of mid-July, I’ll officially be the Secretary Senior for the CWU Department of Law and Justice. Not bad at all!

(And as a congratulatory prize, I ordered myself an iPad 2. It hasn’t shipped from Apple yet, but I should have it in another week or two. Yay, new techy geeky toys!)

Meanwhile, Prairie continues to do well running the Writing Center. At this point, we’re sure we’re set to be here in Ellensburg for at least the next year. Though we toyed with the idea of moving up to renting one of the houses nearby, we’ve decided to stay in our little apartment. It’s cute, we have it arranged so that it’s working quite well for both of us, and with both of us working good solid jobs, staying here will allow us to save a ton of money over the next year. At that point, we’ll reassess, decide what we’re going to do and where (if anywhere) we’re going to go, and our next move should be into a home of our own.

So, that’s where things stand at the moment — all in all, pretty darn good.

Ellensburg Update

Well, we’re here! We’re finally officially out of Kent and living in Ellensburg, in a cute little one-bedroom apartment just a block off of the CWU campus.

Though the official ceremony won’t be until June, I am now officially a CWU graduate, having earned my Bachelor’s degree from the Law and Justice program. Not only that, but I graduated with honors, Magna Cum Laude! I’m not sure what my final cumulative GPA was (the one that’s used to calculate honors status, after combining the CWU GPA with the NSCC GPA from when I was earning my AA degree), but my final CWU GPA was a very respectable 3.925.

After winter quarter finished, Prairie came over the mountains to Kent, and we spent the next week and a half packing up everything in our Kent apartment. We donated a ton of stuff to various local organizations (over a trunkload of food to Northwest Harvest, two trips totaling roughly a carload and a half of stuff to St. Vincent de Paul, and our old pay-as-you-go cellphones to the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network), almost completely filled a 10’x20′ storage unit with the majority of our belongings, and took us and one final carload of stuff back over to Ellensburg. A day or so of unpacking and organizing, and we’re nicely settled in.

The first week in Ellensburg has been pretty good to me, as it turns out. Over the past two quarters, I’ve been working with CWU-Des Moines Law and Justice department head Professor Reimund on putting together some outreach material, one Des Moines-centric, and one covering the entire CWU Law and Justice department to be distributed to alumni. As we’ve been working on this, we’d started playing with ideas on how to improve the LAJ department’s online outreach. Well, it looks like I’ll be able to continue working on those ideas, as thanks to a recommendation from Professor Reimund, I’ve been hired by CWU to work with the LAJ department on revamping their website. It’s a temporary part-time position through this spring quarter, but not only is it better than being unemployed, with luck this may lead to other opportunities in the future.

So, the next few months are going to be a mix of some fun part-time work drawing on my geek tendencies and generally relaxing and exploring eastern Washington, with a jaunt over to Norwescon come Easter weekend. I think it’s going to be a good spring and summer.

Moving to Ellensburg, Part I

We’re moving to Ellensburg!

Bet’cha you never expected those words to come from me, did’ja? But you did, and this is the point where I can finally publicly ramble on about what I haven’t been allowed to talk about until now.

(People who know me on Facebook know some of this already, since I could ramble there and lock the posts away from the public eye. Feel free to just skim over to look for stuff that doesn’t look familiar.)

Here’s the deal.

For the past two years (for those of you who don’t know this already), Prairie has been working as the Assistant Director of the Central Washington University Writing Centers. Though CWU’s main campus is in Ellensburg, it has a number of branch campus spread along the I-5 corridor on the west side of the state, and Prairie has been overseeing the writing centers at each of those branch campuses.

Sometime in December, Prairie found out that her boss had received a very generous job offer from another school, and was planning on accepting the position. We knew that this was going to create a fairly major shakeup, we just weren’t exactly sure how major or what the final outcome would be. Prairie and I discussed a number of possibilities, and far down at the bottom of the list, filed away under “longshot idea that’s kind of fun to think about but would never happen” was, “what if they offered Prairie the directorship?” We briefly discussed the idea, but didn’t give it a whole lot of thought.

As it turns out, we probably should have put a little more thought into it than we did, because that’s exactly what happened. On December 21st, Prairie got a call from her boss’s boss offering her the directorship on an interim basis, with the option of applying for the formal search process. Of course, this is a huge boost for Prairie’s career, so it didn’t take a whole lot of time for her to accept the offer. However, there were two “catches” that have created no small amount of upheaval in our lives.

Catch number one: She’d have to move to Ellensburg.

Catch number two: She’d have to be able to start her new position on January 4th.

To put this into some amount of context, she was getting the offer on Tuesday, Dec. 21st. That gave us just under two weeks between when Prairie received the offer and when she had to be available in Ellensburg for a rapid one week transition. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, those two weeks included both Christmas and New Years, both of which removed a couple days from actually being able to get anything substantial done. And if that wasn’t crazy enough, one of Prairie’s sisters was getting married on New Year’s Eve! Prairie was helping with flowers and parties, and I was the photographer, so we had to be in the Vancouver/Portland area from the 29th through January 1st for all the wedding festivities (bridal shower on the 29th; rehearsal/family dinner on the 30th; final setup, decoration, and then the ceremony and combination reception and New Year’s Eve party on the 31st) — and that’s four more days that weren’t available for the Kent-to-Ellensburg transition.

Oh, and one last little thing: Because I’m in the final quarter of my bachelor’s degree and as the lease on our current apartment isn’t up until the end of April, I can’t move to Ellensburg with Prairie right away. While she’s moving to Ellensburg and jumping headfirst into the directorship position, I’m staying behind in Kent and living a pseudo-bachelor lifestyle for the next three months. It won’t be until April that we get to close things out in our current apartment and schlep me over the pass to join Prairie in Ellensburg.

So…things have been a little bit crazy. Actually, they’ve been a lot bit crazy.

In the week after we got the call, we managed to get the ball rolling quite quickly. That Tuesday was the initial offer and the day we took to talk things over with ourselves. Wednesday Prairie formally accepted the offer, and Wednesday and Thursday we started the process of figuring out what Prairie would need to start things in Ellensburg on her own, checked Craigslist for available one-bedroom apartments, and called and set up a viewing on one for after the Christmas weekend. Friday was Christmas Eve and Saturday was Christmas Day, so we took those two days to rest as much as possible and have a quiet Christmas for ourselves. Sunday we took down all the Christmas decorations and prepared for the next week of running around.

Monday we went over the pass to Ellensburg, managing to dodge winter storms and make it over without any issues. We met with the landlord of the property we’d found, took a look at it, decided that it would work just fine and filled out the rental application, then got together with Prairie’s old boss for a nice dinner at her home. Tuesday Prairie had meetings with her former boss and new boss to hammer down as many details of the transition as they could, then we came back over the pass for a night at home. Wednesday we were back on the road again, and made it down to Prairie’s mom’s place in Vancouver to begin the wedding festivities. Finally, Prairie was able to sneak away to notify her west side writing center staff, and while we weren’t quite comfortable with announcing things publicly before the torch had officially been passed over to Prairie, I was able to make a private Facebook post to let some people know the basics.

Also going on during all this, and adding its own little bit of stress to our adventures, was the question of whether my new camera would arrive in time or not. We’d originally ordered it from on November 2nd, figuring that even with Nikon’s notorious supply line issues on new cameras, two months should be plenty of time for the camera to arrive before the wedding. We waited, and waited, and waited…. Eventually, about a week and a half before the wedding, we called one of the local Ritz stores to ask if they knew anything about when D7000s would start shipping out. As it turned out, the brick-and-mortar stores had been getting shipments to customers for the past month, and they had no idea why their online store (which is run as a separate company) was stalling. So, after checking warehouse stock to be sure, we cancelled the online order and placed an order with the store.

Unfortunately, we managed to hit the breaking point and swap things around just as the warehouse ran out of stock. Thankfully, the manager of the store was quite sympathetic to our frustration, and was willing to sell us the floor demo model to use for the wedding, and then allow us to return it afterwards and get our money back. We waited until the last possible moment, but once it was clear that my camera wasn’t going to show up on time, we took him up on his offer. So, part of that one night at home between Ellensburg and Vancouver was a quick run out to the Southcenter Cameras West to “rent” (ahem) a D7000 for the wedding. While I never want to deal with the online storefront again, Travis and the crew at Cameras West were wonderfully helpful.

Anway, back to Vancouver and the rest of the wedding festivities, which ended up going quite well. I haven’t started going through all the photos I took yet, but I have posted a short video of the bride and groom dancing during the reception/New Years Eve party. Saturday we drove back up to Kent, Sunday we packed Prairie up (and I returned the D7000), and on Monday her dad helped us haul what little she took over the pass. We got to her new apartment, started unpacking…and then began the next part of the adventure. Suffice to say, things did not go smoothly. That story will come momentarily, in Part Two of our Ellensburg adventures.

Seagoth Survey

Are you now, or have you ever been, involved with or considered yourself a part of the Seagoth (Seattle gothic) community? If so, please take a moment to help me out!

Note: I’ve had to remove the survey, as in about 36 hours I’ve received over 120 responses, roughly six times what my instructor expected us to collect, and I don’t want to bury myself in the data collation and analysis stage. Thanks for your interest and assistance, everyone!

This quarter, I’m taking a Research Methods class for the Law and Justice program at Central Washington University (Des Moines campus). As part of the class, every student has to do a small research project, and I have chosen to focus on exploring differences in self-identification as a member of the Seagoth community. To that end, I’ve assembled a short, fourteen item questionnaire. Please take a moment to complete this survey. In addition, if you could forward a link to the questionnaire itself or to this blog post to other members of the Seagoth community, I’d greatly appreciate it!

All responses to this questionnaire are entirely voluntary and completely anonymous: Other than demographic information, there is no personally identifying data being collected in the questionnaire. Participation is entirely voluntary (and greatly appreciated), but please — due to CWU requirements, all respondents must be 18 or over.

Thank you very much!

Complete the survey

School Schedule, Winter Quarter 2010

Well, even though classes don’t officially start until tomorrow, I’m already up and running and beginning to dig into the readings for my classes. Here’s what I’ll be playing with this quarter:

LAJ302: Criminal Procedure

A review of guidelines for police arrest, search, interrogation and identification procedures based upon rules of criminal procedure derived from the U.S. Constitution.

LAJ400: Research Methods in Criminal Justice

This course examines current research in criminal justice and research methods and statistics. Students will critique current methods.

LAJ403: Sexual Minorities, the Law, and Justice

This course examines sexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgender/transexual issues related to the legal system. It provides a political and sociological overview of history, morality, law, and law enforcement practices related to sexual orientation.

Plus, I’m TA’ing for LAJ300 (Administration of Criminal Justice), which I just took this last quarter, and tutoring in the Writing Center four days a week. I’ll be busy, but it looks to be an interesting quarter.

Schoolboy Once Again

There’s been a change of plans that’s taken place over the past couple weeks, and now that I’ve verified that talking about it publicly won’t risk my status with the unemployment office: I’ve decided to take advantage of having a lot of unclaimed free time and head back to school!

Prairie and I had discussed this in the past, but I was always nervous about not bringing in any money and leaving Prairie as the only provider. One of the benefits of having been unemployed these past three months, though, is finding out that with careful budgeting, we can survive on just Prairie’s salary (I haven’t even had unemployment insurance to help out, as my case is taking a little longer than usual to review thanks to the current backlog) — and so, now that we know that, I filled out the financial aid paperwork, put in my application, and yesterday got the official acceptance letter from Central Washington University.

Rather than moving out to Ellensburg, I’ll be going to classes on the Des Moines branch campus, going for a double major in Psychology (.pdf link) and Law and Justice (.pdf link). Once I’m done with that in two years or so, this should give me a very solid foundation to find a good spot somewhere within the general area of social work, which fits right in with a lot of my family’s background (Dad’s work as a custody investigator for the State of Alaska; Mom’s years working at the Covenant House runway shelter in Anchorage; and in a smaller way, my time at Gig’s helping give kids a safe place to be off the streets of Anchorage…and occasionally keeping an eye on kids that had also been helped by Mom and Dad in their respective jobs).

So, in just a few weeks, at the start of summer quarter, I’ll be a full-time schoolboy. About time!