Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I guess I should catch up with my life. Mostly I've just been lounging around the house, alternating between a "JFC, I'm going to India!" panic and a "God, I'm bored" malaise. This morning was lost to the university bureaucracy as I tried to straighten out billing/insurance issues. Going to India w/out insurance? Probably not a good idea, and I don't intend to test that hypothesis.

Also a problem: my airline tickets arrived yesterday, and instead of returning right after my program ends, I'm in India for several additional days. Free vacation, sounds good, you might think. The problem is, my return flight lands me in Indianapolis just 3.5 hours before my lease in C-U expires. How do I get all of my stuff in a truck, moved to Rantoul, and get my old apartment cleaned by 2:30 August 9? This is a problem, and I haven't figured out what I'm going to do. We spent last weekend renting the new apartment, and I thought I had everything under control, but now I don't, so I'm not sure what is going to happen here.

Other than that, I'm just trying to chill ("Love, love is to chill."). We spent Friday at the Speedway, which was TOTALLY AWESOME. It is difficult to describe what a car looks like going 220 miles an hour. So fast your eyes can't track it. I thought stock cars were speedy little things--wrong. There was a lot to take away from the whole Carb Day experience, but I think what I really learned was that spotters aren't the safety net I once thought they were. Paul Dana's death makes a lot more sense now. I don't care what the spotters are saying, and how much evasive action you take--at those speeds, well...yeah. Too fast. But so cool. And thanks to Mr. Dana for the push to ethanol. I can enjoy the sport much more now.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

So, I've finished all my jabs for India (Hep A booster, polio booster), and am halfway through my typhoid regimen, which is making me sick every other day. I start the anti-malarial meds the day before I leave. You'd think no one had ever traveled to India and lived to tell about it the way the travel clinic goes on about all the paths to death in South Asia ($500 for a preventative series of rabies shots? No thanks.). Part of me wanted to JUST SAY NO to the polio booster just because I was irritated at the doom-and-gloom tone of the nurse, but I'd probably be the one person to catch polio in Jaipur this year if I went through with that plan.

I have tons of stuff to do before I leave on June 8. Most importantly, I need to write a paper proposal and re-work said paper in case it gets accepted (the paper is due the week I get back if accepted. It's already written, but needs at least one more re-write). But I find myself endlessly distracted by this whole India thing. I visit Indiamike obsessively. I try not to visit Beth obsessively, but it seems possible that she is exactly as distracted as I am, and therefore good company. I've read the Ramayana. I've read travel advice from Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, and Footprints. I have watched every Hindi film within reach, and some. I even joined up at a local video store last weekend because neither the local libraries nor Netflix can keep up with my Bollywood demands. (As a side note, Netflix is starting to really, really suck. They are so not earning their money, and if they keep up this super slow service, I'm leaving).

I was trying to figure out how Beth managed to spend $600 to prepare for her trip to India. So far, I've spent about $70, and $25 of that was on clothes. I guess she's probably buying more clothes than I am since I will have a clothing stipend to spend on arrival. Also, I realized today that my $70 doesn't include the $200 or so I've spent at the stupid travel clinic. Nor does it include the $90 I spent on the visa ($60 for the visa, $30 for postage). I have to buy a few gifts for my host family (hard to buy when you have never met any of them), and I need to buy a notebook and pens/pencils for class. And some water purifying tabs (once I decide what kind I really want to use for two months). Other than that, I'm good. [ETA: I just spent $30 on water purifying tabs, so I'm quickly catching up to Beth. I don't really like the taste of purified water, but it's a lot more convenient--not to mention environmentally friendly--to purify water instead of chasing after bottled water every day. Also, a shout out to Grayson, whose last name I don't know, and about whom I had more or less forgotten until I re-read one of my old travel journals this weekend. Grayson, who had the room across from ours in the Dvorets Molodezhi in Leningrad (1988), taught me two important things: 1) never pack more than you're willing to carry; and 2) always take Kool-Aid for a break from that purified water taste.]

I am more or less following Travelling Tim's packing advice, leaving out a few things that seem specific to rambling. I have a mosquito net, but I'm not going to take it. Since I'm staying in one place for two months, I'll just have one made to fit whatever bed I'll be sleeping in after I get there. It doesn't have to be lightweight because I won't be carrying it around. Most of the things on his list I already have, though, purchased long ago either for our Thames Path ramble, our trip to Costa Rica, or one of our annual camping trips. In fact, I'm still re-using (for at least the sixth time) the gallon freezer bags we used for waterproofing on the Thames Path. Today I even tossed two things on the "take to India" pile that first traveled with me to the Soviet Union in 1988. Is that good or bad?

My last task is to put together my own guide book. Printing is free for Catherine at the university library, so we're going to print everything I might need, and bind it together with some stuff I've photocopied. I've made a six-page photo album of "life at home" to include, so my host family will have some idea what I've been up to over here. I've also copied a lot of pages out of books to bind into a research volume on the jantar mantar. Hindi text books will be purchased in Jaipur. I can't think of anything I've forgotten, but that is probably because...well...I've forgotten it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Today a professor made me cry, but in a good way (finally!). Just six posts (but fifteen weeks) ago I was suggesting that I was woefully under-prepared for a seminar. This indeed turned out to be true, not just angst-ridden speculation on my part. I tanked the midterm essay, and while I can certainly point to things like travel and funerals that contributed to my overall sense of intellectual malaise at that point of the semester, that would really just be me trying to save face. I tanked, no real explanation needed. However, the professor let me re-write the essay, and I promised I would do better in the future. That mid-term was a one-time aberration, I promise! I did rewrite the essay, and she seemed genuinely pleased that on my second attempt, I did not sound like quite as big an idiot as I did on my first attempt.

Today I stuck my head in the door of said professor's door as I was passing by, and she said that although she hasn't graded my final paper, she was very pleased. The words "fantastic" and "beautifully written" were used, as was the phrase "you fulfilled your promise and more." So, good for me, I say. That might be the only time in my entire graduate career I hear that, so I'm writing it down for everybody to see.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I swear to god I saw a girl running laps in the Engineering Library this morning.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Well, the sign outside the conference hotel in Savannah heavily suggested that we would be seeing some alligators. Or, at least, that if we did see some alligators, we should not feed them. The trip was a failure in that we didn't see even a single alligator.

Just so everyone knows: driving on the interstate across Georgia in a rainstorm is a BAD IDEA. You remember the night the lights went out in Georgia? Well, apparently they stayed out, because it's the darkest damn state I've ever seen. I mean, the astronomer in me hates light pollution, right? But my god, would it kill you all to put a street light or two near the off-ramps? I think your road-side commerce numbers would take a dramatic leap upward if you did. I'm just saying that I'm not getting off the interstate during a rainstorm in the black of night if I can't see what might be waiting for me. Just saying.

We did eventually pull off into the great dark night and get Catherine some boiled peanuts.

The conference was fine, and I learned a thing or two. It was fun having Jim around even though we only attended one session together (and he was late and then left early). Catherine apparently had a good time learning the history of Savannah. That's another thing--you want to know how to tell when you're over-interpreting your town for tourists? When you feel compelled to put up a sign telling everyone where Oglethorpe pitched his tent, that's when. In case you're all wondering where that might be, the sign/bench is in front of Hyatt Regency Hotel on Bay Street (see the Oglethorpe Bench Monument here). I'm serious. I have been trying to think of a more intensely interpreted location, and I just can't think of one. Possibly Gettysburg, but a) you need all the signage you can get to understand troop movement at Gettysburg and b) I still think Savannah has more.

On the way home, we stopped at Chick/Chatt (although we only saw the Chick part of that relationship). I think this is our first Western Theater battlefield, and I liked it enough that I'm writing my heritage paper (due Friday!) on it. Well, Chickamauga and the nearby lost battlefield of Franklin, Tennessee. We couldn't quite force ourselves into the tourist hell of Lookout Mountain (SEE RUBY FALLS), but plan to do it before we leave the Midwest.

There's probably other stuff I could write about if I tried a little harder. Churchill's Pub serves a good beer (says Catherine), as does Moon River Brewing Company (acoustics aren't great at Moon River, but it's your chance to eat in a building that a) is directly adjacent to a demolition site and b) once lost its roof to Hurricane David. I ate two pralines in two days. Over-priced, but good. The shipping traffic on the river is awesome. There was a dead body found in a nearby hotel. Catherine met a nice guy named Mr. Duncan who has a map shop with his wife (conveniently named V & J Duncan Antique Maps, Prints & Books). She bought me two maps of India (one from 1906 and one from 1860) and an 1858 restrike of an engraving depicting a Holi festival. We found out that Nashville, TN is only a 5-hour drive from Bloomington. We found out that Savannah is more like a 15-hour drive from Bloomington (Mapquest lies).