Gaze Into the Crystal Blog

In my last post I offered a glimpse into the past, into the various and sundry reasons I feel inclined to add another blog to the mess of them clogging the arteries of the Internet. Today, I want to look to the future. What exactly is SMDS going to cover, and why? Put differently: what’s the plan, Stan? To a certain extent, I’m going to let this blog write itself. In the recent past, a great many very accomplished people have reminded me of the old adage that “the more you write, the more you write.” So, to a certain extent, this blog will be me putting words on paper in a good faith effort to speed up the dissertation research and writing process. I hope that at least some of those words will be devoted to the following:

  • Graduates student life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There’s a veritable boatload of books out there about how to succeed in graduate school—and I’ve read many of them. Most of those books, though, have left me wanting. “Okay,” I’ve found myself saying, “so I need to make sure I’m writing every day. How the eff do I do that? Where does that discipline come from?” At a more personal level, how do I—an historian of HIV/AIDS activism and death—spend every day swimming in a river of tears, without getting wet? Even if I magically discover the discipline to be the next Gregory M. Colón Semenza (and that, a best I can tell, would be amazing; so far his has been the only book I’ve seen fit to recommend to my friends), how do I stave off the sadness inherent to my work? What about the fact that the two people I love most in the world, my mother and my brother, live 2,500 miles away? How do I get, and stay, in shape? The point I’m (clumsily) trying to make is that graduate school is a way of life, and I want to make sure I’m living the best life I possibly can. This blog will chronicle my attempts to do just that.
  • Discussion of scholarly texts. By NO means am I going to fill SMDS with academic book reviews. Nope. What I am going to do is keep a log of the books and articles I’m reading, and share my reactions to those works. In the event that anybody starts reading this blog, they’ll be introduced to a very specific—and, at least in my mind, fascinating—body of scholarly literature. At a more self-serving level, I’ve never trained myself to take notes while reading, and have accepted that I never will. It’s just not my style. Instead of scribbling on the pages of my books and articles, I’m going to scribble on this blog. In order to write a semi-decent post on a monograph, I’ll have to type up something, and that’s a hell of an improvement over the nothing I’ve been doing for such a long time.
  • Six Million Dollar Book Club. I need to read things that aren’t about AIDS. I need to. I listen to audiobooks when I work out, and as much as possible (which is far less often than I’d like) I try to read a few pages of something before bed. I’ll read fiction, creative non-fiction, and even—in service of the first bullet point—the occasional self-help book. If I read something I enjoy, I’m gonna tell y’all about it. If this blog gets any traction at all, I’ll post in advance of beginning a book, so that we can read together. Kind of like a book club, without the living room.
  • History and higher education rants. I occasionally have opinions, and have been known to share them liberally. I try to keep track of hot topics in both the field of history and in academia writ large, so you can expect the occasional post on those subjects.
  • FUN. I go places and do things, and some of them are fun. When I do fun things in fun places, I’ll tell you about it. I’m an historian who sucks at journaling and has an average memory, so if I’m going to devote my time to writing this blog, at least some of that time is going to be reserved for recording all the awesome things I do.

So there you have it. You know where I’ve been, and you know where I’m going. The only question left is: do you want to join me?


“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

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