PhD Land

I think I’ve now been officially accepted into the PhD club.

Well, I was “officially” accepted yesterday when a letter in my history department mailbox informed me of my Teaching Assistantship for the 2009-2010 academic year. This sweet little gig comes with a grand total of $13,005!

That is, of course, before deductions of $777 per semester in fees and the annual $935 health care premium. But what the heck, Lafayette’s cost of living is fairly low and I get to keep on, keeping on with what I love to do.

(Speaking of cheap, I’m keeping my fingers crossed in hopes of landing a little 525 sq ft apartment in this rehabbed Midwest river building for $450/month):


No, the reason I feel like I’ve been officially accepted is that Dr. Ingrao asked me to ride with him in his car down to the Indy airport and then run it back to his wife who hates driving in the vicious spring storms we’ve been having around here. He flew out today to DC for a conference on the importance children’s textbooks play in preventing (or stoking) ethnic conflict. From there he’s heading on to Germany to give a short speech on Serbia.

The nicest part was that he warmly opened up to me, discussing all kinds of future plans on his end and possibilities on mine. We discussed three-week courses he’ll give in Bejing, Costa Rica, and hopefully Budapešt, as well as his upcoming 39th trip to the Balkans, this time to promote the Serbian language release of the magnum opus he edited, Confronting the Yugoslav Controversies: A Scholars’ Initiative.

Then, fully trusting my language skills, he asked me to look over his German speech for errors. I snapped back a few suggestions in a thoughtful manner. Man, such a nice feeling! Afterward, he promptly handed me Holm Sundhaussen’s 514 page tome Geschichte Serbiens 19-21. Jahrhundert (The History of the Serbs 19th-21st Century) to read over so that we could talk about it before he meets Sundhaussen in Germany. Yeah, that’s a lot of f’ing work, but the trust relayed my way charmed me to the core.

Not a bad life this man leads. He meets regularly with heads of state, provides historical background to ethnic problems for public officials, and once stayed at a four-star hotel in Priština that was actually a sex-trafficking whorehouse. He didn’t know that, of course, until he got there and it was too late to stay anywhere else.

Perhaps he’ll be around as long as his 93 year-old father who passed away just last week. He used to worry so much when he was younger that his father would die early from the toxic fumes of a dry cleaner’s life and a poor diet of grease. I guess those Sicilians are just pretty damn resilient.

Yeah, I think I’m gonna like being in this club. It suits me well. Now I just have to really start reading the article a week in Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian (cyrillic, ah!) that he’s suggested for me.

So, um, yeah. I better get on that now. Čao!



Thirty-five is the half-life of 70. The path to Ithaka is long, with jewels lining the route by sea, air, and land. Some of these jewels now line my pockets, while others lie up ahead, waiting to be connected to their destined discoverer. The path is clear: we need only fear the brigands of our own invention.

by C. P. Cavafy
Translated by Edmund Keeley

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can; and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.


Blossoms and the Sky Blue Sky

Blossoms mixing with leaves outside my house yesterday under the Sky Blue Sky.


At the Chime of a City Clock

Listened to the High Llamas version of this song on today’s 38.83 mile bike ride. Worked my way to the Nick Drake original:

Middle English Flowe

These guys are the ultimate nerds, you know, when you’re so nerdy that you “rap” all the way back around to cool: