the parezcoydigo year in review

It was a pretty good year here at parezcoydigo. Page views were up more than 30%. In looking back at the posts, it’s fun to see what I’ve been preoccupied with in this space, which I’ve tried to keep focused on two specific things–> the technologies I use, and their intersections with Early Latin American History. The past year-and-a-half, since I first attended a THATCamp at the Center for History and the New Media, there has been a decidedly geeky turn to many of my posts. Looking back to 2008, when I first started this blog, I was much more likely to write about content I was researching, whereas now I’m much more likely to write about method, workflow, scripting hacks, and if “content,” more frequently with a technological cast. It’s where I’ve been this year in many ways. It’s also an imbalance, I think, that I’m planning on addressing in 2012. In fact, as part of the Bourbon Quito Project, I’m going to be posting summaries, transcripts, and analysis of a bunch of interesting criminal cases in the coming year.

Looking back on 2011, I can loosely organize the posts into four categories (something maybe I should do with my actual categories): research, teaching/professional development, conferences, and digital hacks.


I’ve been playing around this past year with a couple of computational techniques for analyzing the Archive. At this stage, that has largely meant organizing/analyzing/visualizing the Criminales Series of the Archivo Nacional del Ecuador (ANE). In February, I wrote on how word frequency plots can be useful in tracking shifts in policing priorities. Of course, policing is an anachronism for the 18th c. in Quito, but nonetheless, in plotting keywords from the Criminales Series guide across time, definite patterns emerge.

In that post I compared plots of the keywords concubinato (literally concubinage, but covers most types of consensual illicit heterosexual sex and especially illicit cohabitation) and muerte (means death, but almost always indicates homicide). I’m interested in those terms, and in the system of punishment that grew up around them in the late 18th c. as part of my current book project, described in this post from September in the form of a grant proposal. Later in September and again in October, I took a couple more stabs at how one would conceive of an algorithmic approach to studying legal culture, and then more specifically on how normalized compression distance works as an unsupervised method for clustering like texts (in this case, decades in the Criminales Series Guide).

Of course, the big news on the research front this year was the final release of my book, The Limits of Gender Domination: Women, the Law, and Political Crisis in Quito, 1765-1830. While it officially has a 2010 copyright, and was scheduled for release with UNM Press’s Winter 2010 list, it wasn’t officially available until April 2011. I’m happy to report that feedback I’ve received from readers has been overwhelmingly positive, including I’m told the external reviewers for my tenure file. Some of the other readers I’ve heard from are graduate students who’ve had it assigned for seminar. That prompted me to post a new prologue for the book on this site in August, in anticipation of just what a graduate student reading of any book looks like. Just in case The Limits of Gender Domination didn’t show up in your stocking, it’s still on sale from the publisher through January 15. Or, pick it up at the AHA and I’ll give you a heartfelt, personalized inscription.

teaching and professional development

I did a bit of writing on teaching this year, which is ironic since I was on research leave in the Fall. Maybe it’s being away from the classroom that sets my mind on my actual classes. As with other aspects of this blog of late, mention of teaching has frequently intersected with mentions of technology. In April I wrote about the experience of hosting one’s own course sites (using wordpress) and getting pwned. That experience put me on the trail of migrating my sites off of wordpress, and into a static site generator (hyde in my case, though jekyll’s a more popular one). Over the summer, I spent quite a bit of time doing just that, and migrated most all of my sites from wordpress instances to static sites. Links to my old courses are always available at my other home. Starting in a couple of weeks, I’ll be teaching a graduate seminar on teaching world history. Thinking through what that class will look like prompted two recent posts, on conceiving the class and soliciting your feedback on what you wished you’d known before stepping into the college classroom for the first time.

Finally, in a more professional development-oriented pitch, I published the teaching philosophy statement from my tenure file, and also a guide to writing a history position job letter.

conference reports

I attended some great conferences this past year, including a few THATCamps, the AHA/CLAH meeting in Boston, RMCLAS in Santa Fe, and SECOLAS in Wilmington, NC. For the latter I also served as a program chair, which gave me purchase to many new young scholars and others more mature who I’ve only recently gotten to know. I posted a conference report on SECOLAS in March. I published the text of a talk I gave on google’s ngram viewer for the Latin American history classroom. Finally, I posted session notes on CMSs, Intro to Omeka, and Project Management from this year’s THATCamp Prime, as well as a roundup of my experience this year.

digital hacks and workflow

Finally, I did a fair amount of documenting my attempts to learn python through scripts and modules I’m finding useful, as well as the requisite couple of posts on my current workflow. We have scripts for monitoring server memory, batch renaming photos, tweeting from the command line (here and here), bursting and OCRing pdfs, posting to using markdown, using easygui for pythonic historians, and on making a static-site digital history archive. I did a series of posts (here, here, and here) on integrating Google Tasks on the command line. And, in that never-ending quest for an efficient academic workflow, published pieces on the current state of my workflow, using bitbucket private repos to source control research materials, and on using markdown for all my writing tasks.

It’s been an enjoyable year on parezcoydigo, and I’m looking forward to a better 2012 with more Early Latin American history thrown back into the mix.



Associate Professor of Early Latin America Department of History University of Tennessee-Knoxville

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Chad Black

I, your humble contributor, am Chad Black. You can also find me on the web here.
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