Friday, May 30, 2008

Adjusting to a New Life

Having a new puppy in one’s home is a big adjustment for everyone – including the puppy. Giggs, Gregg and I are all adjusting to his presence in our lives. I think the biggest adjustment is for Gregg. Gregg has never had a pet before. He is learning everything from scratch – how to tell if Giggs needs to go outside, how to train and discipline Giggs, how his routine should work etc. The hardest part is the training because Gregg wants Giggs to like him and is very loathe to scold him for anything.

Giggs, in the meantime, has transitioned quite well. He was terrified of the stairs his first night here but he has mastered them now. Good thing too because it would be very difficult to keep carrying him up and down 2 flights of stairs every time we move from one floor to another!! He is also becoming better at letting us know that he wants to go outside – he has only had an accident once since Tuesday night. He has also learnt to walk on a leash and is getting a little too fond of going outdoors and exploring the area. The funniest thing about Giggs is that he has decided that I am his friend who he can play with and Gregg is the person he wants to sleep next to. Whenever he wants a nap he goes to Gregg; when he wants to play he comes to me.

I must say that this is the most relaxed I have been since I started grad school. Sad to say but it seems that I needed a dog to relax me. On Wednesday, for the first time in months, I did no work at all – no chores, no bills, no reading, nothing. And I did not even feel guilty about it!!! Gregg made dinner (salmon and veggie stir-fry in a balsamic vinaigrette reduction) and Giggs and I sat on the steps outside the kitchen and watched him. Did not even offer to help!!!

I like this transition.


An Update on Giggs’ Health:

I have been writing this entry off and on for two days, so I thought I would add an update on Giggsy’s health. We took Giggs to the vet to check out his eye today. She said that his eye is healing but would scar. The scar will not affect his vision but he may get glaucoma later in life. This is what we should watch out for. For now, she said we should finish his round of medication and that’s it. Since his eye is scarring, it means he does not need another visit for it – at least for now. Otherwise, he got a general checkup and a clean bill of health. We are very very relieved.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Giggs Lindskog

Meet Giggs Lindskog – the newest member of our household. He is a Welsh Corgi-Chihuahua mix who we drove to Spartanburg S.C. to get this Memorial Day weekend. He is TINY – 6 pounds and 5 months old. He will grow to a max of 12 pounds. Though he has the Chihuahua size, he has Corgi ears as you can see. He is named after Ryan Giggs, a famous soccer player from Wales. Can you guess who thought of this name?

This is the story of this sudden adoption. On Thursday my sister called me to say that Critter Connection, the rescue she works with, has a Corgi-Chihuahua mix who had just been rescued from the shelter where he lived for 6 weeks. She sent me pictures and he looked so sweet that Gregg and I decided to take him – though we had been looking for a bigger dog. We drove to S.C. on Friday (a 10 hour drive) but 3 hours before we arrived, my sister said that he had hurt his eye (she does not know how), had to go to the vet, and would not be able to leave with us on Sunday. Gregg and I were very disappointed but since we were almost in Spartanburg we decided to make a trip out of it.

Saturday: We visited poor Giggs whose eye seemed very cloudy and swollen. Then we went to PetsMart and bought all the stuff he needed. My sister went with us and bought him toys, a crate, bowls etc.

Sunday: My sister, Kenn, Gregg and I all went to the mountains in Tryon, N.C. and did some leisurely walking next to the waterfalls. We also went to Hendersonville, N.C. Fortuitously, they were having their spring fair and we walked around the grounds, looked at the goods, ate kettlecorn etc. My sister bought a purse and then she bought me a pair of earrings. I introduced her to kettlecorn. Then, that night, Gregg and I went to a baseball game in Greenville, S.C. – it is a single A team called the Greenville Drive which is also an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

Monday: Gregg and I drove to Atlanta and watched the Memorial Day Braves game – it was very very hot and Gregg is sunburnt since we did not think of buying suntan lotion. It was a good game and the Braves won. I loved the fly-over they did after the national anthem because of Memorial Day. Monday night, we had dinner at my sister’s house – she made biryani – a traditional Muslim meal which I love. I got the recipe from her because it was an awesome rendition of biryani.

Tuesday morning: Giggs went to the vet and he said that he could come with us but his eye is still very bad. He was given antibiotics and eye drops and there is the possibility that he has an ulcer in that eye or torn his cornea. If it is the latter, he may have to have his eye taken out. Critter Connection said we had the choice to take him or not but if his eye is removed, he may never get adopted. So we took him anyway and will take him to the vet next week. We know we will love him regardless of his eye.

Giggs was very good on the drive home. Cried and screamed a little in his crate, so we took him out and one of us sat in the back seat with him while the other drove. Though he did not throw up or anything, he got more and more cranky during the 12-hour drive. But he perked up when he got home and ate a huge meal. He did not want to be crated but slept soundly for 6 hours or so. He seems very happy today and is learning to climb the stairs in our apartment.

Please pray that Gigg’s eye gets better and that he settles down well with us.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Perception of Academia

I know that all of you must have encountered this in some form or other from someone in your life (I remember Kathleen blogging about it at some point): the perception that you have an easy life. A few days ago, I was trying to find something to listen to on the car radio and came across a sports talk channel. The host was talking about jobs which you would not want to retire from because they are easy. To his credit, being a radio sports talk host was on that list but so was “being a college professor.” This is how he summed up our profession: it pays $100,000 a year, you get summers off, you teach 2-3 hours a day and the rest of the time is yours. Oh, and according to this guy, you can also hit on co-eds!!! Why would you want to retire if you have a cushy job like that? No need to summarize what is left off the list: committee meetings, advising, grading, answering emails, prepping, publishing etc. To say nothing of the fact that I certainly do not make anywhere close to $100,000 a year and summers are usually spent trying to do the research I could not cram in all year. (I am not even going to demean myself by addressing the sleazy comment about co-eds).

I have to say that I love the flexibility of my work schedule and I do love the job. But I hate this perception that as academics, we can fit anyone and anything into our schedules. Family and friends (not in academia) always tell me: “Come one, you can do this. Why not? You have the time.” Academics do not have unlimited amounts of time. The time that they do not spend in their offices or in the classrooms or in meetings are allocated to one big thing: research and publication. It is like having a perpetual job which you can never finish. It is true that we can probably be more flexible than most people but that does not mean that we have nothing to do. It means that for every non-academic task I add to my list, I have to find time for the academic task later.

I found this wonderful article on The Chronicle today. I am planning to send it to all my non-academic friends and my entire family. It explains that academics need to do research and writing – this is the least visible part of their job. But it also explains why people do not understand that part. It is because research is unlike all other jobs. When you are reading in a coffee shop curled up in a comfy chair, people see you as spending a nice lazy day reading in a coffee shop. And on a workday, no less!!!!! Yet, academics consider that working hard. And that disjunction of perception remains very difficult to bridge. Read the article – I am sure you will empathize.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Exploring Lancaster and The Problem of Choice

Gregg and I have some competing goals for this summer.

Goal Numero Uno: Get work done on the dissertation
Goal Two: Be frugal
Goal Three: Explore Lancaster in particular and northern PA in general

While the first two goals go nicely together, they do not mesh very well with goal three. It is easy to stay at home, cook at home and work on your dissertation. But we like living in Lancaster – it is great to be in a town where you can go to a Barnes and Noble, an Indian restaurant or grocery store or get pizza delivered which is not from Papa John’s. Not that Gregg and I do any of this regularly but it is nice to have this option. So we want to get to know it better. Let me add that I am awful at directions and would never find my way around this town without some practice.

Anyway, Gregg and I understand that some of these goals are in tension and so we have been doing one new thing a week – a new Chinese restaurant, a new farmers’ market etc. (Gregg is trying to make me go to a game of the Lancaster Barnstormers soon – a tiny local baseball team). Anyway, out of all the activities we have done thus far, my favorite is the Central Market – the farmers’ market here in Lancaster. It is a huge building with a wide variety of stands – fruits, vegetables, meats, Amish specialties, even Greek foods, African foods etc. Whenever I enter the building I get hungry. We try to go on Fridays. Though they are open on Saturdays, the place is usually packed and we try to avoid it then.

Anyway, the farmers’ market is awesome for vegetables. My favorite is that they sell bags of peppers for $2. The bags are mixed (3 or 4 peppers in each) – 1 green, 1 red and 2 red for example. I love peppers and they are too expensive at the grocery store. They also have everything fresh which means they keep very well. You can also get a whole bag of tomatoes for $1.50.

The farmers’ market also allows us to fulfill one of Gregg’s favorite goals – support local businesses. Gregg and I have discussed how we should balance our own financial goals with support of local businesses. Obviously consumers have to pay more at small businesses than at stores like Wal-Mart. We hate supporting Wal-Mart but it had become a financial necessity. In Farmville, it was not only a financial necessity but literally our only option. But the Central Market allows us to achieve both goals. Vegetables and sometimes even meat and fish are cheaper at these local stands than at grocery stores. We do not have to buy these from Wal-Mart anymore. We can be both financially responsible and support local businesses.

What about you? What goals do you have that are in tension with each other?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

To Blog or Not To Blog, That is the Question

This morning, Gregg alerted me to this article on the impact of blogging (and YouTube and podcasts) on divorces. State courts have handed down decisions on whether an ex-husband or ex-wife is allowed to blog about the details of their failed marriages. The courts have upheld the bloggers’ rights of freedom of speech. However, the issues are not merely legal; they are ethical and psychological as well.

On one hand, blogging can be cathartic for people. This is especially true for people who are going through a divorce. Thus, it has psychological ramifications. At the same time, blogging is a rather public form of therapy. While it may help the blogger, it could – and often does – hurt the other party. Second, as this article mentions, reading details about their parents’ marriages may hurt the children of these divorces. But, again, divorce is rarely clean, easy and simple and therefore, these blogs are probably not the worst things that children of divorced parents have to endure.

But this got me thinking. What should we blog about? What is off limits? The article mentions that 1 in 10 Americans have a personal blog. On one hand, I believe that anything that gets people to write and read is a good thing. I also like the fact that I can keep in touch with people through the blog as well as know what they have been doing. Blogs are not just news (we could get that through emails or phone calls); they are thoughts, actions and everyday life shared with others. That is what makes them fascinating.

On the other hand, are we too open? Are our lives becoming too public? What thoughts, actions, events and details should we share and what should we not? Do we feel that we are writing for ourselves and our friends while forgetting that a blog remains a public forum?

What do you think? What are the lines? What is off limits for a blog?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A New Apartment

Speaking of transitions, moving into a new apartment is a major transition. Most graduate students go through this experience again and again. I have moved 3 times in the past 4 years and I hate it. I always end up liking the places where I live – it is the packing and unpacking that I loathe.

But there are more mundane things about moving which take some getting used to. Primary among them is remembering where your things are. I do not mean finding them when they are in boxes, I mean finding them when you have unpacked them. For the past couple of days I find myself futilely opening one kitchen cabinet after another to locate a particular utensil or wandering through the rooms trying to find a book or piece of clothing.

The second thing is light switches. This apartment is a three-floor townhouse. The bottom floor is half den, half storage space; the second floor is a living cum dining room with the kitchen and half bath and the top floor has two bedrooms and the bathroom. This means that there are lights for the stairs – with one switch at the top and one at the bottom. I spend some time turning lights on and off as I can never locate the right switches at the right time.

The third thing to get used to are the sounds of the house. Every house has sounds – the one in Farmville was the noisiest house I had ever lived in. This apartment has sounds too – sometimes you hear doors slamming (which I have realized are car doors in the parking lot), sometimes you can hear people climbing stairs (this is the one that freaks me out but it turns out that this can be next door), sometimes you hear what sounds like the house settling. However, this house is remarkably quiet by any standards. It is carpeted and you cannot hear the people next door at all.

What about all your moves? What do you need to get used to in a new apartment or house?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Free At Last, Free At Last

That’s it!! I turned in all my grades for all my classes this semester last night!!! My semester – and school year – is now over and summer is officially here.

This is one of my favorite things about academia – the summer. But that makes me wonder: isn’t there something wrong in loving your job because you can spend 3 months not doing your job? But then again, after a whole year of answering emails every spare second of the day, writing lectures, teaching, grading, doing assessments, trying to write your dissertation, applying for jobs and a green card, and finally moving, I am glad to have a little time off.

This summer we have few plans. Gregg and I have spent the past three weeks driving back and forth between Farmville and Lancaster between classes and exams. Four trips in three weeks. On each trip we brought as much of our belongings as possible. We also did a trip with one U-Haul. Each time, Gregg drove 6 hours while I graded in the car. So the plan is to get another U-Haul and get the last of our stuff by the end of this month. But we are waiting till the end of the month to do the final trip because we just cannot be on the road any more.

I also hope to make some headway on the dissertation over the summer – something which was completely neglected over the school year. I had a paper accepted at APSA which means I need to write it over the summer. It is a chapter of my dissertation, so it is a much needed deadline.

I also need to unpack. Everything in Lancaster is in boxes and my goal is to unpack it all by the end of June. This will be a huge improvement on our last two moves. In Grady Avenue (Cville), I never unpacked the boxes for the entire two years we lived there and in Farmville, I did not unpack for the entire year. So, unpacking in two months is a huge step up.

On the lighter side, I need to get to know Lancaster. We have been going to the Farmer’s Market here and I love it. More on that in my next blog. Anyway, I plan to “explore” Lancaster this summer. I also need to explore Millersville University while I have the time.

Any concrete summer plans for any of you?