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Archive for September, 2008

Pumpkin time!

Pumpkin sage goodness

Pumpkin sage goodness

My sources tell me tomorrow it’s October.  Incredible!

So we got a pumpkin from our vegetable box guys a few day back, and I’ve been looking forward to chopping it up and getting to all the tasty innerds.  But first maybe I should talk about class.

Had my first real day of classes today, since I finally made it to 260.  That class is turning out much more interesting than I had hoped, and much less scary than I had feared.  I’m looking forward to both my classes a lot, actually.  I do think the field work portion of 260 is going to be pretty difficult… but I’m blissfully ignorant / confident at the moment.  And it’s going to stay that way at least for a few more days, until I have to turn in my research proposal next week.  Yoikes.  Discussions in both classes went really well, and I’m ready to swear by the wiki note taking methods.  Hopefully I just don’t end up taking so many notes I can’t keep them straight in my head and thus invalidate the method…. but for now, it lead to one of my most productive, constructive lecture days probably ever.  And that was even with Saussure in the picture!  I feel like if I can do that, I can do anything.  I’ve been feeling very mighty lately.

So maybe that should bring me back to my pumpkin.  I mapped out my papers for the week and I’ve got one a day to do.  So I came home, blasted through my paper (and notes!), and then spent the rest of my evening cooking.  Made pumpkin risotto to start with, which was really bueno.  I put a picture up on the left there; I always find risotto to be very picturesque.  After that I baked the remaining pumpkin so it would be puree-able, for tomorrow I shall make pumpkin ice cream!  Actually I have a bit more pumpkin left over besides that, and I need to figure out what to do with it.  Yay.

Sadly, it’s not yet 9:30 and I’m dog tired.  I think I’m going to go to bed and read a little Flaubert, or if I’m feeling fidgety, the textbook reading for 260.   Oh!  I forgot the only other important thing today — I got stung by a bee!  I was biking past some oleander and all off the sudden my neck stung really bad.  Never saw or heard or found any evidence of an actual bee, but if it’s not a bee sting, I’ll be jiggered.  It’s itchy tonight.. ew.


Yurt is about the only sound my brain makes right now.  Thanks, brain.  Keep on truckin.

Mondays are sort of weird days for me, since I don’t have class, but I’ve got lots of TA stuff to do.  Went to campus as early as I could get away with, though still later than I had planned.  I wanted to get to the gym in the morning and check it out, if not actually work out, but this morning as my alarm was going off at 6 am and I didn’t need to get to campus until 1… so I missed my first sort of engagement, but no matter.  Got to campus with a few hours to spare and did a little library reading.  Sadly, I couldn’t get my favorite desk at the biblioteca but I finally found a suitable one upstairs.  The library is much bigger than I realized, and I really haven’t had an opportunity to check it out fully yet.  I imagine they must have more computer-parts-endowed desks hanging around, but I never saw any today.  Success anyway!

Went to LIN 1 and class went fairly well.  Kids seemed fairly aware and the topic was fairly interesting for them, I think.  Read for a while in between LIN 1 and my next appointment and nearly got all the reading I had intended done.  Had a meeting with my co-TA and Professor Ojeda to talk about the stuff we want to do in sections this week.  We’re actually only showing a video, so we’re not doing much and the meeting was pretty short.  I tagged along with Dionne to her first section so I could see what the materials we had to work with were, and how to operate the VCR and stuff like that.  Stayed through her opening schpeel and snuck out at the beginning of the movie.  I’m feeling pretty confident about the sections at this point, after getting to see the students in other contexts a few times now.  Nothing to worry about!

Came home and finished up my reading, had a lovely dinner with Lewis, and decided to pretty much take the remainder of the night off.  I can feel myself getting pretty sapped this afternoon and since I’ve gotten myself fairly well covered for tomorrow I think I better take the chance while I can!  Silly as it is, not working is as important as working at this point.


With her faithful steed by her side, the Laurie plows ahead.

With her faithful steed by her side, the Laurie plows ahead.

Well, there’s no good way to sum up my days these days except to say: I read the hell out of my day.  I woke up, put food in my mouth, read, went grocery shopping, read, had dinner, and finally finished reading!  Yay!  Knocked back my first Bloomfield essay today, which was nice to get off my plate.  I put together a little plan for what essays to read on what days, and I know it probably doesn’t matter much, but that’s how my brain works.  Gotta read long essays on less busy days, short essays in short spurts, etc., etc. So it was a long-essay day.  Got through a good, basic, foundational-type work from 1914 that sort of set out everything I’m supposed to know about the basics of linguistics in fancy-pants philosopher talk.  Except it’s all the stuff we learned all those years in undergrad, so it was more like a little review than a mind-blowing experience.  Still, nice to get the explanations of the basics by guys laying them down, instead of reading one of the modern textbook reduxes like the kids I’m teaching now.  Plus, I learned like 15 new words today, which is pretty impressive!  At any rate, the picture at the right there should serve as a pretty good summary image of my entire life at this point.  Looks cosy, doesn’t it?

Only other notable success today, besides actually having gone grocery shopping, is that I finally threaded my new sewing machine!  The directions they sent me were lacking some pretty crucial information, and Lewis and I both read through and failed to get it working the first night.  Watched a slew of youtube videos — the first constructive use I’ve found for them! — and managed to get my way through.  Momentary major disasters aside, I sewed two things together!  Hurrah!  Maybe tomorrow or the next day I’ll get to repair some of my stuff, which is what I’m really looking forward to.

I had planned to make pumpkin ice cream tonight, but I just didn’t have it in me after all that reading.  It’s crazy how difficult it is to switch modes from this stuff.  Like I’ve mentioned, I’m reading in a manner I’ve never tried before, and it’s both mentally exhausting and really rewarding.  I’ve never lived this cerebrally before, and it’s mind-blowing in its own way.  I feel like sometimes my mind just completely empties when I’m trying to do something like remember how to make a sandwich, and it’s not as if I’m thinking about linguistics… I don’t even know what I’m thinking about.   I’m just failing to do anything at all.  But I don’t mind so much, it’s a bit like being on my own private mental adventure, full of mystery and surprises around every turn!  With that in mind, tomorrow I start my first full week.  Phew.  I feel like I’ve been in school a year already.

Rockin the Berkl’

Berkeley day today!  Yay!

But before the Berk, I started the day off right.  Sort of.  I’ve been feeling like I’m swimming upstream a bit all week, or at least since class started.  So of course, I woke up 15 minutes before the alarm went off and I panicked about being ready to leave on time, and whether I could squeeze any work in before Lewis got up, and what to have for breakfast, and whether I should blog, and all that ridiculous stuff.  So I got up and made apple cinnamon muffins, which are superb.  And I blogged!  At the end of the day (or morning, really) what really matters is that we got out of the house on time, without forgetting anything, and with breakfast in our tummies.

So I went to Albany, and I got my hair cut, which was badly in need of being done.  Cost me way more than I should probably be spending on these sorts of things, but I just have not gotten around to figuring out who else to go to, and besides, I love Melody.  She’s a really cool person and she’s been doing my hair since we moved to the Bay Area, and frankly is the only hair stylist I’ve ever had.  I fear trying to find another one, though I’m sure someone in Davis ought to be able to at least placate me.  It’s not so much about the hair as trusting and liking someone to do it.

Anyway, post-hair we headed to the Berkeley Farmers Market to grab a little lunch and meet up with Nina, the person I miss most from the Bay.  The Farmers Market was cute, and had tasty foods for us to consume.  Saw lots of neat booths as well, and I was glad to see it was a different variety of people that go to either the El Cerrito or Oakland markets, so it felt a litlte unique.  Thence to Jupiter to meet up with Armand and have a few pints.

It’s always so heartwarming and life-affirming to spend time doing nothing with the people you like the most.  It’s so great to see Armand, and he fits in so well to Berkeley!  I’m glad he finds the place comfortable and to his liking.  So we had a few pints, talked about the good old days, introduced Nina to Arms and vice versa.   Yay.

Home again, and back to studying.  Made it through the first of the papers I need to read for 280, and got all the notes I needed for that one as well.  Very  pleased with how the wikinotes are going — I took almost 4000 words worth for Saussure!  Labov was much easier reading, and sadly I didn’t enjoy it as much as the Saussure.  I seem to be getting into the more cerebral philosophical papers, and I suppose sociolinguistics has never really been my forte.  Also sad but true… this blog is slowly going to turn into barely coherent linguistic musings and/or braindump.  Sorry, non-existent readers!

Saussurian Days

Guess I’m going to start writing these in the mornings, or perhaps more intermittantly overall.  This grad school stuff keeps me busy!

Yesterday was my first day in LIN 1, the class I TA for.  The way my classes are arranged now, I have all my “real” classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and all my TA classes on MWF.  The class went really well!  It was just about what I expected – bleary eyed freshman all hping they don’t have to buy the reader and don’t have to come to my discussion sections, which are primarily on Fridays.  The good news is, the discussion sections aren’t required, so they won’t show up anyway.  Talked with my Co-TA Dionne after class and got some good pointers from her.  She’s thinking about maybe getting our in-session exercises done this week so we can hand them to the disabilities center to get translated to Braille for our blind student.  Not only is this probably a reasonable idea, it’s also makes my anxiety level really decrease about planning my lessons.  If we do them together, especially with such an experienced TA (she’s taught this course, and TAed for it 6 times already!) I really don’t think I can get in too much trouble.

Spent a little while reading on campus after that, and I must say that so far the main library is very satisfactory!  Read quite a bit of Saussure in there while waiting for Lewis to get out of his Latin class.  I was on so much of a roll with my reading we actually put off meeting until a while later, and I got quite a lot done.  I finished up that Saussure last night, and I feel really triumphant about it!  It was a thick, heavy, reading and I feel like maybe for the first time I really understood and was totally behind what the author was saying.  I think the wiki note taking really does help.  Saussure also is a pretty hilarious graph maker, and I think later I’ll put up some of my favorite Saussurian hilari-graphs.

Also had the Linguistics Grad Student Association (do we have an official title like that?  I’d like to think so) mixer.  Had pizza at Steves, which was bueno!  They were sort of finishing up when we finally got there, since my reading took so long, and we wanted to drop by the bookstore and copy shop before hand to get the materials for our new class.  Sadly the readers were 45 bucks each, and the books 40 a piece, so we knocked back a few hundred bucks in books yesterday I was hoping we were done with already.  Oh well.   Anyway, the pizza party was friendly, and it was nice to get to gossip a little bit about what’s going on with our classes and the department and all that.  And to verify with our compadres that we’re all a little lost and overwhelmed at the moment.  Good times!

Came home, watched the debate, and finished that reading… a very productive night.  Debate wasn’t great, but it was interesting.  Guess that’s maybe what one should hope for on those things.  Today — to Berkeley!  Going to see Nina, Armand, and get my hair cut.  Should be great!

Day One!

First day of class today!   It went really well.  200a sounds like it’s going to be a really vigorous but thorough philosophical journey through early 20th century thought.  I’ve spent all day (and all night…) busting through the first of the first half of the Saussure reading, but it’s going pretty well.  I’m trying out a new reading technique whereby I take notes on a desktop wiki as I go.  I have really high reading comprehension (or so standardized tests always tell me) but this stuff is just too thick and too plentiful to read straight like I did as an undergrad.  Anyway, I definitely feel like I’m getting a lot out of it so far.

Only other thing to note today is that we got a kind of scary sounding email from the professor of the other class I’m signed up for – Theories of Second Language Acquisition – essentially telling us that it’s intended for people who either have a research project in mind or are already working on one, and that it might be best for the rest of us (read: the entire 1st year class, which all signed up) to take it next year.  So I swapped out of that one and now I’m back in the class I was originally so excited to take: Variation in Speech Communities.

Sadly, this all happened after the first meeting of that class, but no matter.  My best non-Lewis Ling buddy is in that class and we’ve agreed to an exchange of notes, and I’ve already gotten to look over the syllabus and handouts from today on the class website.  The syllabus makes the class look really demanding… but I think I’m up for the challenge.  It is, after all, the only other class I’ve got this quarter.  And though 200a is reading-tastic, we only have one assignment for the whole year:  a paper at the end of the term.  I think I can handle the extra work from 260.  Or at least, my fingers are crossed!    One more beneficial thing to note from this class swap:  I now TA exclusively on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and have “real” class exclusively on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  This is good!

I Never Had It So Well

Can’t manage any more than a good bad list tonight.  I’m tired, frustrated, nervous, resigned, excited, aprehensive, defeated, and at the moment a bit taciturn.  Anyway:

The Good

  • got the laundry done
  • got my sewing machine delivered
  • finished chapter one of the LIN 1 reading
  • had a nice walk & talk this evening

The Bad

  • see above list of tumultuous mood swings
  • couldn’t figure out how to thread sewing machine
  • something happened to Boo outside today (something peed on his neck? maybe?) and he’s been sad all day
  • Lewis is maybe getting the flu
  • failed to make dinner, or pumpkin bread, both of which I had big plans for
  • spent an unjustifiable amount of time futzing with new email programs trying to get something to check my two addresses non-buggily
  • additionally: something in my wordpress is fucking up, so I can’t even post this blog.

Tomorrow = first day of classes.  Happily, I’m not nearly as nervous as I could be about this.  I know most of the 1st years now, and I already know and like the professor.  We’ve been doing orientations all week, so I already know where the building is and all that, and I feel a bit like an “old hand” around the department.  I even have my “own” (read: shared with 6 other TAs) office.  Also, I only have one class tomorrow, and one class Friday, which seems like a nice small load.  Now to go to bed so I can get up at an appropriately early hour.

From the Window to the Doorway

Having one of those not-knowing-where-to-start blog days.  I’ll start at the beginning, and then not really finish anything because I’m tired and it’s time to go to sleep.

Had “New TA Orientation” at the Department this morning which wasn’t much about TAing and was a lot about the professors we’re TAing for sharing their teaching experiences with the new professors.  Not much to protest about, it was interesting to listen to and sort of helped put my mind in the framework of what Linguistics 1 is really going to be about.  Lots of actual useful information about the types of students, material that is always hard to teach, who to expect to preform well, etc, etc.  General goodwill for all.

Followed by “Department Orientation” which wasn’t much new news at all, and rather similar to the graduate student introduction-type day we had in March after we’d all been accepted but before we all committed to coming to UCD.  A little more frivolous this time, very amusing, and very jovial.  Plus lunch was provided.  Anyway, general got to catch up with some other folks, and a good time was had.

Met with the instructor I’m TAing for and my co-TA for this quarter.  Co-TA is very nice, professor is very nice, and everyone is twice as organized and twice as well prepared as I was fearing.  Not many frets over how TAing is going to go now, as several important things were discovered.  First, turns out the sessions aren’t mandatory.  Everyone who is there either wants to come, or needs help, both of which are great.  Second, the professor’s syllabus lists out exactly what it is the students will expect we’re discussing in sections.  Third, the class is rather hard, and the sections realistically will be all problem sets and very little “discussion” or “lecture”.  And lastly, the department and the internet are full of wonderful resources for problem sets, and I (lucky me!) even get the answer keys.  All I have to be is not boring-as-hell or needlessly confusing, and todo es bueno.

Came home, crashed out a bit, got lots loaded into my calendar (TA stuff mostly) and even put a little light reading under my belt.  I got the books for LIN 1 from the professor (another bonus: TAs get those class books for free and can even keep them…) so I thought I’d start putting a dent in the first weeks assigned readings.  It’s actually serving to excite me about some of the fundamentals and hows-and-whys of linguistics that got me into the major in the first place.  It’s turning out to be a really nice refresher course!

Had a nice hang out with Ben and Maya, possibly my favorite Davisites.  Taught Maya cribbage, had lots of tea, and finally got to try out our hookah!  Very enjoyable, and rather relaxing.  Tomorrow is our last big day off — class doesn’t start till Thursday, and it’s certainly felt like I’ve had a whole weeks worth of stimulation already.  Big plans in the works though — pumpkin bread perhaps, and laundry!  And perhaps a bit more LIN 1 reading.  Phew.  I’m really raring to start class though.  I’ve gotten all hopped up on orientations and I’m ready to go give my best and all that, tut tut, cheerio, etc.


The view from my bench

The view from my bench

It certainly has been a day.

This is the first day in a long time I’ve actually been busy all day. I guess the first day since I left Ask. And the first day in nearly forever that I’ve been busy all day in a constructive, focused way. I’m not sure how I feel after all this orientation, except that I’m a little nervous, a little excited, and very tired. It both went better and worse than I expected. On the one hand, it was nicely informal (despite having to sign in all over the place to make sure you weren’t skipping stuff), which was relieving since I was worried about the nuts-and-bolts of the actual orientation part. On the other hand, it was much less informative and helpful than I was hoping. I think perhaps the information I’m looking for will become obvious tomorrow when we have our department TA orientation. Or at least, that’s what I’m hoping.

Really what I took away from today was a sense of both the enormity and accessability of TAing. It’s mind boggling to think of me in charge of 25 students, leading them in some meaningful way. Yet when I look at it in the light of tutoring 25 students, it doesn’t seem nearly so difficult. Scenes of all my various TAs have flashed before me all day, and it’s comforting to think that very little of the interaction I ever had with them mattered very much. There were certainly classes I had that were saved by the TA reviewing our materials, but also sections which seemed very little more than a waste of time and energy. I do hope to avoid that, but I also realize that an hour a week out of each of these kids’ lives isn’t a make or break session. If we can get by without it being too unenjoyable for either party, I’m going to call it a success.

Garage Rocked

Today sort of feels like the last day of freedom.  Tomorrow I’ve got a day-long TA orientation, followed Tuesday by a day of more orientation, then a day off, and then my first day of class!  Egad!  So I woke up this morning in a bit of a panic.  Sometimes I just burst awake in the wee hours, really feeling like I need more sleep, but completely unable to justify staying in bed any longer.  So instead I snuck off to the study and spent a few hours getting some pretty non-essential computer work done before Lewis got up and very sweetly made us breakfast.

I was a bit afraid to crash like yesterday, so instead I jumped right in to organizing the garage.  I’ve been wanting to set up a work area for myself out of the old kitchen prep table, and yesterday we got the last component – a bar stool so I can sit at my new “desk”.  Anyway, it was just about the last thing on my list to do before school starts, and today was finally the day for it.  I must say, after Lewis got his side together and we got all the various remaining furniture items assembled and put away the rest of the clutter.. it looks way better in there than I anticipated!  I’m really excited to have an excuse to hang out in there.  As an added bonus, I finally learned how to put together and use our socket wrench!  I’m never going anywhere without that thing again.  I should build some kind of holster.  Anyway, here’s our final product pictures of Lewis’ space and my space:

Laur side, with table and storage!

Laur side, with table and storage!

Lewis side, complete with desk and chair!

Lewis side, complete with desk and chair!

Still feeling a bit like I was being hounded by the Ghost of School Work Future, I tidied most of the rest of the house.  There are a few straggling boxes to be put away in the guest room, and our study seems to be in a perpetual state of near-disaster, but otherwise I got everything squared away.  When I think about these sort of chores I can just feel all my muscles tense up, but I need to remind myself that school is only so many hours in a day, and if Lewis and I could manage to have a fairly tidy and satisfying existence while both working 40 hours a week, graduate school is not going to destroy everything I love about life.

Now I just have to master this getting-up-before-8 thing again.  In a perfect world, I’d even get up so early I had time to go to the gym before class… phew.  Baby steps.  I only have to be on campus at 8:50 tomorrow.  The other thing I need to figure out is how not to carry stress in my teeth.  When I woke up this morning I felt like I needed a crowbar to unhinge my jaw, and at lunch today my teeth were so sensitive I could barely eat.  Everything was fine by dinner, which is great, but I definitely need to figure out some kind of strategy.  Arg.