Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Luxury Living

As all of you know, I love dogs and since I have gotten Giggs, I have been spending all my spare time looking for things that will make his life happier when we are not at home. My guilt at leaving him alone while I am at work (this never exceeds 5-6 hours in a day) makes me a compulsive shopper for him. But even I draw a line when it means spending over $500 for a “luxury crate”.

I saw this online – it is a luxury crate system for Giggs where he has a two-storey crate with stairs between the two and a set-up where you can add a webcam to view your dog playing when you are gone. While I was extremely tempted to get it for Giggs, I started comparing it with the money we spend on hotels for ourselves:

a. To save money while in grad school, Gregg and I have repeatedly stayed at Howard Johnson Inns while at conferences. So, I am assuming that Giggs’ current accommodation which consists of a pen and a crate (we put the crate inside his pen and let him move in and out) is like a Howard Johnson according to the people from SuiteDigs.

b. Only recently, Gregg and I have started getting better hotels when we go somewhere – usually on hotwire or Orbitz. For Giggs, it seems that daycare or a pet hotel would be the equivalent of places we have booked recently (3-4 star). It is the canine equivalent of upgrading from a motel to a hotel.

c. The doggy suite is the canine equivalent of a 5-star hotel. It has stairs, a bedroom floor upstairs and a place for him to “go” downstairs, a treat and toy dispenser which can be activated remotely (imagine being a dog and seeing treats shooting at you – it would freak me out!!!!) etc. It is a doggie condo of sorts.

The thing is: since Gregg and I do not always treat ourselves to 5-star hotels and we certainly do not stay in a 5-star hotel every day, does Giggs need it for the 5-6 hours that he is alone during weekdays? Would he truly be more comfortable there? Wouldn’t he just be happier being with us and sad when we are not home, no matter what his accommodation is like? Is this just consumerism appealing to the emotions of people who would do anything for their dogs (or cats)?


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Becoming An Adult

Gregg and I have been discussing the logistics of commuting to Philadelphia. As I mentioned earlier, Gregg will be taking the train there and back. I will pick him up and drop him off at the train station. The problem we have is during his orientation week. Unlike my extended orientation, Temple only has a two-day orientation. However, the orientation starts at 8am which makes it necessary for Gregg to take the 5:30am train get there on time. The next train is at 7am which will be too late.

While discussing this, it suddenly hit me. We are now adults. We are living an adult life. You see, in the 5 years that Gregg and I have been together, we have never simultaneously held full-time jobs. In fact, last year was the first time that we did not work together in the same location. Before that, we worked together in adjoining cubicles at the Miller Center. When that was done, we could go to a coffee shop and read or go home. There were days when we did not have to go in to the Miller Center at all and these were my favorite. We studied at home, moved to a coffee shop, then to a B&N and then went out with friends at night. So, this is the first time we will be driving off to work every day in different directions.

Most people will find it sad that Gregg and I are embarking on full-time jobs this late in life. Certainly, I have never been the one to eulogize graduate school or deny its tendency to delay significant life events. But this is a milestone which, in my mind, deserves comment. And while I am excited about it (and not merely for financial reasons), I also feel a little sad at the end of an era. But then again, as I always remind myself, we are academics and our lives, however full it is with committees, advising and classes, have a flexibility which allows us to approximate graduate student life at least some of the time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The End of Summer

First, let me apologize to Jill for blatantly plagiarizing her blog entry. For those of you who would rather go to the original source, click here. Second, in my defense, Jill also asks her readers what they have to do before school starts – so I am only giving her a detailed answer!!! However, unlike Jill, I have two lists here. The first one is my list of things to do before school starts next week and the second one is a list of things to do this school year.

This summer has been one of the most hectic ones we have had. Moving to PA took a lot out of us, especially because Gregg and I packed, loaded, unloaded and unpacked all by ourselves. Plus, getting used to a new place always takes time. Emotionally, the job search for Gregg was draining – the euphoria of West Point, the discussions on living apart, the joy of Temple etc. But we have since settled down wonderfully – and thank you to everyone who visited. Living in a new place does get lonely and I am so happy that so many people made the time to come and see us in PA.

Starting Monday, for the first time in my life, I have to go to work every day – just like everybody else. So, I have to be ready for it. This is my To Do list for this week – my last week off from work.

1. Prepare my Intro to American Govt. syllabus (the American Political Thought and Intro to PT syllabi are already done).
2. Make copies of all my syllabi for all 4 classes
3. Write lectures for next week’s classes on APT, Intro to PT and Intro to AP
4. Move more of my books into my office
5. Set up the voicemail and computer in my office
6. Scan and upload the syllabi and readings for next week onto Blackboard
7. Complete the paperwork for benefits

To-Do List for this school year:

1. Attend and present papers at least 3 conferences (Since I am already going to APSA and Northeastern, I think I will try one more)
2. Have the entire draft of my dissertation written
3. Have a written record of all my lectures for the 4 preps I have this year
4. Exercise at least 3-4 times per week
5. Get to know one person in Lancaster well (I have to learn to make friends where I live)

I always make resolutions made for the new school year. The question is: will I carry them out? I have always been terrible about implementing New Year resolutions - will school year resolutions be any different?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Orientation and Disorientation

The line between hope and fear, orientation and disorientation is so thin!!! This is something which has been brought home to me this past week while going through the grueling orientation schedule I mentioned earlier. Orientation has been both a positive and negative experience this week. Negative because I have had to work on my APSA paper after getting home around 5pm every day. Positive because I met a lot of nice people and got to know a lot more about the school than I did before.

However, as you can imagine, I feel overloaded by information. This happened by the end of Tuesday which was only my second day of orientation. This may be because that was the day we listened to Human Resources personnel talking about disability benefits, health insurance plans, retirement plans, dismemberment benefits, life insurance etc etc. Now, I am an excellent money manager (I balance the checkbook and make sure we stay within budget) but I know nothing about investments, retirement plans etc. To make matters worse, all the people I asked (both at the University and outside it) had different pieces of advice. The situation was not made any easier when Gregg sat down with a calculator and said, “It all depends on how long you live!!!!” My head, already reeling from all the financial and academic advice I had received in the past two days, felt like it was going to burst. Orientation was clearly disorienting when it came to financial matters.

When it came to academic matters, things went well. I learnt a lot about the policies of the school, its student body and its campus life. But even here, lines became blurred. Any talk of tenure led to an increased heart-rate. Since the tenure system is divorced from the promotion system here, promotion was just as frightening a subject as tenure. The large chunks of information regarding the various services available to faculty and students – how to deal with students with disabilities, class reserves, FERPA, disruptive students, academic support, student affairs etc. – were overwhelming. While I am starting the school year hoping that this is the beginning of a successful career here, I am also terrified that this is not the case, that something will go wrong, that I will not get tenure etc. etc.

The good thing about such an extensive orientation is that while you may not remember all (or, in my case, any) of the information you are given, you do get information about who to contact with questions. It also gives you a good idea of the culture of the school. What do they value? What are its students like? What is the relationship among faculty, students and administration? By reading between the lines as well as talking to people, I have gotten a lot of good information about the nature of the school. You also get to know the people who are starting with you, giving you a ready-made group of acquaintances.

How do you feel about new faculty orientations? Did you go through one? If yes, what was most helpful and unhelpful? If no, would you have wanted one?

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Olympics

Gregg and I watched the opening of the Olympics in China tonight. It was absolutely beautiful – a spectacular display of art, harmony, discipline and power. Having read a lot of utopian and anti-utopian fiction for my dissertation, I was intrigued as I watched this awesome spectacle.

A lot of utopian works speak of mobilization of people in the service of the common good. For the utopians, this mobilization is not like an army recruitment – it is almost always voluntary. The desire to showcase the arts, crafts, beauty and talent of a utopian regime is what motivates its people to put on a performance like the one we witnessed today. People are proud of their country, their culture and their own talents and this is what makes something like this possible.

Obviously, anti-utopian writers turn these arguments around. According to them, efforts like this also require stringent discipline and it essentially needs centralized direction. The anti-utopian writers use the analogy to the army and argue that displays like this are essentially displays of power as well as art and beauty. The perfection demanded from each man, woman and child in the program, they would argue, cannot be extracted without power and authority. Therefore, they argue that it requires an authoritarian regime to spend the time, money and discipline which makes these national shows possible.

As I watched the show, I wondered, which of these two positions were true this time? Can they both be true? And, by thinking of these things which watching this show, was I missing some part of its beauty?

Having said all that, let me add that the grand scale of the program and the breathtaking, dazzling, stupendous performances by each of the 15000 participants was stunning.

If you watched the show, what were your thoughts on it?


Last Weekend: Gregg and I spent last weekend in Boston. Gregg was a groomsman for his friend Keith’s wedding. It was a beautiful wedding though we stayed up way too late every night. I also got to hang out with my cousin who lives in Boston and meet his girlfriend.

This Week: Betty came to visit on Wednesday and left today. I had so much fun – we did not really do anything much, just sat around and talked. On Thursday, we went to this little place called Kitchen Kettle Village which has a lot of little artsy shops and on Friday we went to the Farmers’ Market. Betty also went with me to the outlets to help me find a couple of jackets for the school year – I got one from Ann Taylor and one from Banana.

Things to Do: This weekend I have to finish all three of my syllabi. Next week, I start a grueling 8am-5pm orientation schedule on Monday and that continues till the Monday after that. Sometime next week I also have to write my APSA paper - which is still in its first 3 pages.