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15 June 2011 @ 02:37 am
I'm at the airport. My plane is scheduled to leave in two hours. Look for me very soon in Philly, very jet-lagged but on the scene!

Will talk to all the family soon. I need to get myself a new cell phone as soon as I'm on the ground, really, so I'll email the new number as soon as that happens.

Philadelphia, here I come!
07 June 2011 @ 11:52 am
It's just a week until I fly home! How awesome is that?

The realization is penetrating my thick skull that this blog is turning into a chore for me. I think the major problem is that there's really not much to talk about that won't be very technical and shop-talk-focused, and in any case I'm filling a lot of pages in my files with that stuff. Everything is fine with me, in part because my field research has wound down a lot, and I spend a lot of time lately holed up in my apartment, writing. Besides, the little things that cross my mind tend to end up on Facebook instead of this blog.

I'm wondering whether I should bother to maintain the blog at all, once I get home and everyone can let their breath out about my having survived another stint in the Middle East. I dunno. There really isn't as much point in keeping this up as there was when I started it, is there? (Or at least, there won't be after the middle of next week.)

Anyway, things are good with me, and I'm increasingly excited about coming home and seeing the family again. And after that, preparing for my next big move, as the academic nomadism continues!
21 May 2011 @ 10:25 am
I gave a talk this week at my postdoc center, which went pretty well. I got some good comments from my colleagues, and I only had a few froot loops to deal with. (Why the hell would you ever approach a speaker at an academic talk and preface your remarks by saying, "This isn't relevant"?) Now I have some tough questions to work out, since I want to turn the talk into a journal article, but it needs some heavy expansion, I fear. For some reason, I often feel like I'm getting in way over my head, whenever I start thinking seriously about a writing a journal article. Too early to tell if I actually try to tackle too broad a topic, or if I just habitually get freaked out at the start of things. (Probably the latter, I suspect.)

I'm slowly hearing bits and pieces of my schedule for next year. It seems that some of my class times are contingent on some other factors still being sorted out, so I only have the schedule for half of them as yet. Both scheduled classes are set for MWF, and I'm hoping to that the other(s) are too — at least all the intro-level courses. I'm worried that one of them will end up being TTh, which means that the entire course planning will be shifted for that; this would mean that I'd have to remember to tack back and forth between courses where I had yet to explain X, and others where we'd already covered X and should be moving on to Y. It won't take long for me to start screwing things up in that scenario.

I'm also starting to plot out how to get myself settled in my new location. Since I have to drive down my little car from Philly, but I also have to haul my books from Austin, it looks like I'll have to drive down south in late July, nab a place to live ASAP, and then fly out to Austin and acquire a U-haul ASAP. There's going to be a lot of rushing around, it seems. And long-ass highway driving in a truck. Sigh. Knowing what the radio stations are like in those long miles between major college towns, I'm toying with the idea of buying a car adapter for my iPod. But since I don't even know what the stereo in the truck will look like, this might not work out anyway. I may have to resign myself to fiddling with the dial at the low end of the FM band to find the NPR feeds, assuming that Congress hasn't killed NPR by then.
05 May 2011 @ 07:41 pm
Sorry I haven't posted for so long; I've had a lot to do lately. Like acquiring a new job.

That's right, I actually got hired by a university! As a professor! Of students!!

It's just a one-year position, although there's a possibility of it being extended through some murky bureaucracy. But it's at a name-brand school, I'll be working alongside a friend from grad school, and THEY HIRED ME. It took a few days to work out the little bits of negotiation that I asked for, but it's done, and I formally accepted the position tonight. So awesome.

I feel like it's not wise to post the name of the school here, but I'll gladly tell anyone who emails me to ask.

Think I shall have a celebratory drink now.
21 April 2011 @ 01:10 pm
Apparently, the cabinet of the current Egyptian government has canceled Daylight Saving Time for this year. I haven't seen any articles yet explaining why, but the word of mouth is that they decided to cancel it altogether, rather than go through another year of headaches that come from temporarily canceling it during Ramadan. (Are you following that?)

Usually, Egypt goes on DST on the last Thursday of April, and stays on it until the last Thursday of September. The problem is that, as in recent years, Ramadan in 2011 falls during summertime: this year, it's pretty much the whole month of August. With long hours of daylight extending until comparatively late in the evening, summertime Ramadan is agonizing for people in a place as hot and dry as Egypt — it's a total fast, so there's no water, much less food for dedicated fasters. People gripe about it all the time. So, since Ramadan 2011 is already going to suck, given August weather in Egypt, the cabinet decided to pull the plug on DST.

For my part, all this means is that I'm going to stay six hours ahead of the East Coast. Other than that, since I'm planning hoping not to be in Egypt at all in August, it's business as usual for me. Carry on.
17 April 2011 @ 10:49 am
I had a good time on my little vacation, although I got punked by the weather. It was supposed to be beautiful: highs in the mid-70s, lows around 60. I was looking forward to the slight chill of the evening sea breeze. Instead, the weather turned summery: temps shot up to the upper 80s and low 90s, which sort of took the shine off of the late evening coolness.

But anyway, it was nice, and the fresh seafood there is great. I had a lovely bass charcoal-grilled for me at the Greek Club one afternoon while I looked out at the Eastern Harbor, and felt very late-colonial. I also did a little sight-seeing. I'd already been to see the ancient stuff in Alex, particularly the Roman ruins, so I was more interested in seeing some other remains.
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10 April 2011 @ 08:54 pm
On the whole, my work has been going quite well of late. I like the material I'm getting, and – when I can make myself sit down and type it out – my writing is going all right as well.

Still, I've been kind of grumpy lately. The weather's getting really warm in Cairo now, and I've had what I guess is some sort of allergy headache for days on end now. (Whacking my head into the door of my spice cabinet didn't help either. It's frustrating to be the kind of klutz who opens the cabinet door, remembers that the cloves are over on the table, and then brains himself going back into the kitchen.) My mojo reached a high point on Wednesday, and has been in some decline since then.

But I will do something about this, yes I will! I've booked myself a mini-vacation: I'll be spending the latter half of the week in Alexandria, just because I can. Cairo is where all my professional obligations are, and as useful as that is, it's sort of a drag on occasion. I'm hoping that a few days eating fresh seafood, strolling along the promenade, and indulging in a little tourism will recharge me and get my energy back up for powering through all the stuff I should be doing day-to-day.

Now I can count down the days (even the hours) until I get to go on vacation. I wonder if this in and of itself will motivate me to work?
29 March 2011 @ 03:30 pm
I haven't gotten a job yet. I'm looking hard, and I'm applying as effectively as I can manage. Nothing has come through yet. I'm trying to look on the bright side: I was a serious candidate for two jobs already this year, which not everyone can say. I also learn stuff with each interview process, so I'm hoping I will eventually acquire critical mass of knowledge and completely bowl over a hiring committee. That's the silver lining of the whole still-unemployed thing.

Cairo is something of a puzzle nowadays, in terms of the progress of the revolution. For the moment, it appears to me that the counter-revolutionary forces (the military, the remnants of the old single-party regime, and to a lesser degree, the Muslim Brotherhood) have the upper hand. As far as I can see, the government is on track to bolster and restore the regime pretty much the way it was, with the only significant change being that they'll actually have to figure out among themselves whom to put forward as the anointed presidential candidate. The Muslim Brotherhood is convinced that it's going to rock the elections, which may well be an indicator that that organization is deeply self-deluded. The regime, which hasn't really changed so much as been pushed back a few steps, has never, ever wanted the MB to hold power, and they won't hesitate to start locking up and torturing Islamists all over again if they see a need.

The silver lining of this situation is that, since the military is increasingly confident that things are playing out as it wishes, the curfew hours have been cut in half. Curfew is down to 2AM to 5AM. We don't all have to run home ahead of midnight now! It's the little things, you know?
17 March 2011 @ 11:48 am
No news is good news, I guess. I notice that it's been a while since I posted, so I'm just posting here to say that everything is fine. I've been putting some serious effort into writing lately: I am hellbent on creating a book manuscript. (Instead of merely referring airily to a manuscript that I haven't actually written down yet.) I have a Lilliputian publication record so far, and that needs to change soon, either to acquire a job or to hold on to one that I get. My best hope for a job this year is at a place with yearly reviews of untenured faculty, which means no time for slacking.

In other news, the revolution is proceeding with some bumps in the road: in a large sense, those bumps are a powerful and corrupt military elite who never really wanted the revolution in the first place, and a large majority of the country who only vaguely comprehend on a deep level how a democracy is supposed to operate, and are beginning to fight amongst themselves about who should have a voice or not. (Hint, guys: everyone is supposed to have a voice.) A referendum on the lightly revised constitution is schedule for Saturday; I'm guessing there may be a bit of mayhem downtown that day. The political opposition that has spearheaded the revolution is making much of the fact that every political party/movement in Egypt disapproves of the revisions, and encourages people to vote 'no' on the referendum, in order to pressure the government to make more substantial revisions that don't retain the structural flaws that Mubarak and his cronies carefully worked in. That is, every political party except two: the (former?) National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood, both of whom are structurally favored by the revisions. Pretty much all the political opposition has to say is "If the NDP and the MB like it, why the hell would you vote for it? Vote NO!"

We'll see what Saturday brings.
06 March 2011 @ 07:43 pm
Er, I was there, earlier today. I took a few photos while walking around. It's pretty well amazing to see, even right now while things are relatively quiet.

The protests right now are focused around two traffic islands, where tents are still set up, and protesters have erected billboard-style broadsheets identifying the members of the fallen/falling regime whom they most suspect of enriching themselves through corruption.

The caption at the top says "The heads of corruption will not escape just punishment." Notice that the first three (if you read from right to left like Arabs do) are Hosni, Suzanne, and Gamal Mubarak.

People mill around, listening to orators, taking in the scene, and shopping for patriotic kitsch, which is being hawked by vendors all around the square. (No, I'm not kidding.) In the background, you can see the Mogamma, the central bureaucracy building for Egypt. (Again, I'm not kidding.) When I walked by it this morning, I could see that an entire section of the ground floor had been completely burned: there were scorch marks creeping up from the windows toward the first floor.

Oh, and speaking of scorch marks, take a look at this!

That torched-out husk behind the National Museum of Antiquities used to be the headquarters of the now-defunct National Democratic Party. I never really noticed it when I lived around there, but now it's hard to miss, don't you think?

Finally, I caught a close-up of the subway map on the way home. The station formerly known as "Mubarak" has been re-named "The Martyrs of 25th January." People are taking this change to heart pretty quickly, and rather than wait for the city to dispatch an employee to glue new signs on all the subway cars, people have been writing it in with pens and markers. The name Mubarak has been papered over, and scrawled over it with a magic marker is the word al-Shuhadā (The Martyrs).