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Archive for January, 2009

Brain on fire; neurophonology …

Brain on fire; neurophonology thesis in my future?

Nutation, n. (1a, obs.)

Deep breath, Laurie, deep breath.

It was a wonderful day.  I’ve been inordinately cheerful lately, a most unusual occurance in my normally staid life.   I liken it to the rush of endorphins you get when you spend the proper time eating well and exercising.  Instead of my body being filled with energy (though that too is true) it’s as though my mind is getting all the mental nutrient and exercise required and it’s just ready to go, all the time.  This is a good thing.  I just can’t help but feel really optimistic about my life and my studies.  That post this morning about job prospects was meant to be more tongue-in-cheek than it came off.  To be honest, I just can’t bring myself to care much about the job market.  I like what I do, I’m going to keep doing it, and I’ll work better under my own direction and with fewer outside pressures than I would work with an eye on the future.   Like I said, I think linguists just like to talk about how doomed we are!

It’s almost awkward to write about what a cheerful day I had when I find myself so exhausted at the end of the day.  Unlike the last few entries, tonight is one of those nights where the body is awake and the mind started dragging its feet and snipping tiredly hours ago.  This is entirely due to having slogged through a massive neuroscience paper I just finished reading.  My brain is now completely done.  I couldn’t do more work if I wanted.  I can barely speak English.

Other great things that happened today.  Had a fantastic semantics class.  I really, really enjoy computing truth conditions and mussing with the combinatoric denotations.  By gum, I’m even a little jazzed about this Boolean alegebra business.  It’s not often you hear the word “septuple” in a linguistics class, let alone get to talk about this much math.  I like math.  I think that’s the only academic thing I got done today, actually, besides this triumphant finishing of neuro paper.

It seems quite distant now, but I also took several long walks and got a lot of life-administrata done today.  Saw the doctor for a general check-up; all is well.  I’m feeling like I’ve just been tuned up, having been to the eye doctor last week, and the doctor doctor this week.  I’ve even got a dentist appointment next week!  I’ll be in ship shape.  Better than new.  Anyway, speaking of optometrist, I also picked out my new frames with help of Lewis today, and had a grand time at Dr. Guerreri’s office per usual.  It’s so handy to have family friends who are doctors and dentists.  And as a special treat, Lewis took me to get some delicious frozen yogurt after we made it through all our chores.  Lovely day to sit in central park and have a little chocolate-peanut butter frozen yogurt.  Mmm.

Ever since then I’ve been sitting here, in my desk chair, ticking things off my Tasque list.  And lo, that list is done.  It must be time to retire.

We like to talk about how doomed we are.

An early morning post… just can’t resist linking to a post on Language Log this morning that included a really nice graphical representation of the job market.   I guess this is what I mean when I talk about not counting on going anywhere with phonology (at least I’m not a syntactician!):

Number of dissertations by field per job ad

Structuralist / Anastructuralist

What a ridiculously successful day.  I don’t even really know where to start.  I’m really tired, I should have gone to bed hours ago when I got tired, but I’ve been on such a roll, and there’s so much little stuff I could be getting done.  Lately it’s been seeming like I don’t need as much sleep as I need to get stuff done.  In other words, I’m getting physically exhausted before I get mentally worn out, which is a rarity.  I think this is probably good.

So there’s not actually that much to report from the day.  Feeling of success is mostly stemming from the meeting with my research advisor this afternoon.  Before that I just had Quechua, and it went pretty well, though was sadly full of frustratingly unexplained new and strange grammatical junk.  I guess that’s always what I get in Quechua.  Anyway, after that I met up with my research advisor and sort of brain dumped everything I’d been working on, and through a series of things I don’t really want to rehash it seems that I’ve gotten him really excited about the direction of my project, and I’ve uncovered the threads from which I might unravel some of my fundamental misunderstandings of Optimality Theory.  I really can’t go over how much this excites me.  It’s like a choose your own adventure version of my mental life.  I do a lot of work, I turn a lot of pages, and with every page I turn, another little hint is dropped… thus a whole mental universe contained in pages connected to pages connected to pages.  My own mental labrinth.

I’ve gone astray.  Met later in the afternoon (after a trip with Lewis to Sams… mmm) with my TA professor for a tiny meeting on this week’s homework grading.  Another thing I can’t say enough of:  how nice this professor is to work with.  So far, at least, he’s been really considerate, pleasant, and amiable.  He also ascented to look over anything I need while I’m working on this phonology paper (as he is, in fact, a phonologist).  This is great.  I’m TAing for his Optimality Theory class, so it’s the perfect stage for us to get our brains together on the Optimality Theory portion of the paper I’m working on. As an added bonus, my graduate program advisor had just recommeded him to me as a likely candidate to be on my PhD committee if I am in fact going to go forward with a phonology thesis.  I can’t imagine doing otherwise, so good to get the relevant folks on my side earlier than later!

Saw a colloquium from John Ohala this evening, which was slightly less eventful than I might have hoped.  At first, his presentation seemed to be speaking directly to the conversation I had been having with my research advisor, but then it veered off in a different direction and left me wanting.  It was nice to see everyone I know all in one room at once though, since pretty much the entire lingusitics program – professors and graduate students alike – was in attendance.  It’s always good to see famousy linguists talk though, if for no other reason than it’s healthy to separate the reputation from the man and to see how peers interact in these environments.  I’d like to think I wouldn’t been so star struck as to avoid the risk of making a fool of myself in front of someone big-named  in favor of being meek.  It’s funny how much of my graduate school education lately seems to be learning to operate as an equal and valid individual in such a small field.

Tomorrow… doctors appointment, and only one class!  Also, perhaps, picking out new frames for my glasses!  Could be good times.


Today was a day for doing what I ought, taking my self-prescribed medicine, and getting on with my life.  I’ve been living under this fog of being underworked and unfocused.  Like trying to start a car which is frosted over and too cold to turn over.  LA was just the little vacation I needed.  It came on the perfect weekend – I just got a whole bunch of stuff to do, but wasn’t behind on anything, and thus got to go play and get all my work done.  I got a cold my last day there, and skipped yesterday’s Quechua and today’s semantics classes, and now I’m feeling really rested, restored, and caught up.  I worked all day today.  One of those life-affirming, productive, well-paced work days.  I got started this morning when Lewis went off to class, and I worked all the way until he came home for dinner and I got a ton of stuff done.

(Now to deliniate my list in a self-fulfilling manner:) I cleaned my desk, caught up on neuroscience powerpoints, did some neuro-reading, did Quechua homework, pronounciation practice, and song practice, set up a meeting with my TAing professor for tomorrow, cleaned the living room, did some research and brain-dumping on my phoneme paper, read an article for that, prepared for my meeting with research professor tomorrow, went out to Chinese food with the Lawyers (+Emily & Andrew!), screwed around with my computer’s layout, and studied all my Quechua flash cards!

Now it’s almost 11, and I’m feeling so accomplished and vaguely prepared for tomorrow.  I can’t remember the last time I went to bed feeling prepared for my next day of classes because I’ve actually studied everything I intended.  It’s good to be TAing again (at least, having work to grade) and I’ve got midterms coming up!   Not to mention, researching for my QP always gets me all excited.  I imagine this is what archeologists get to spend their lives doing – unearthing artifacts and surprising relations between things.  It gets my brain working so quickly, it’s like all my synapses are firing at the same time.  It’s crazy, like no other feeling I know.  I think I’m built for critical analysis.  I keep discovering these quotes in papers that just make me jump out of my chair.  I want to run down the street announcing, “Hockett said it in 1942!  It’s right here!  I can’t believe it!!” and have everyone I meet be pleasantly surprised to see that a quote I’ve found proves a thing that we hadn’t thought was true.  That everything I need to know is right there, on paper, lost somewhere in the annals of history.  It’s like the Da Vinci Code, but with linguists arguing over the existance of theoretical units of sound.  That’s my new line for whenever anyone asks what I’m doing.  “It’s like the Da Vinci Code, but with linguists”.

And on top of it all, I’m feeling pretty much non-sick this evening!  Sore throat still, but all my sinus stuff seems gone.  Did I mention I’m listening to The Moody Blues?  I love The Moody Blues.  I’m a happy camper!


Got a cold… house is freezing.  I’m thinking it’s bed time.   Didn’t go to my early class, but managed to make it to my later one (thanks to the help of being able to drive, and it’s a short one)… got all my work done this afternoon though.  That’s good.

Passing through Stockton? I lo…

Passing through Stockton? I love Amtrak!

The good: Brite Spot, Devin &…

The good: Brite Spot, Devin & Greg!!

The bad: rear-ended, tight ba…

The bad: rear-ended, tight backs, stressed parents.

Philippes! I miss LA somethin…

Philippes! I miss LA something fierce.