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Archive for March, 2010

/ break

Today was the first day of Spring Quarter classes for me.  It went really well.  I’ve only got two classes this quarter, and they’re both things I’m sort of inherently interested in and professors I like.  Today was Historical Linguistics (i.e. language evolution) and it’s taught by a professor I’ve not had before, but who I rather enjoy.  I’ve been working with him a little on a creolization project, for which Lewis and I recorded stimuli a while back, and he’s someone I get along with very well.  He called me a ‘kindred spirit’ in class today, and we had some hearty conversation after class about some of the applications of theoretical phonology in the functionalist / non-formalist domains.  I really feel like he may be the last missing piece of the advisor Frankenstein I’ve been trying to build.  He’s not into neuroscience, but he’s very interested in the applications of cognitive science to phonology, as I am, and that puts him more squarely in my camp than most neuroscientists anyway.  His class is being run in a discussion-oriented manner, and I did a surprisingly large amount of talking today for a first class sort of day.  It’s nice to have a professor teach to you sometimes, which he tends to do since I’m really the only phonologist in the class, and I’m feeling quite up on the theory points we were debating today.  Anyway, it should be a good class and I think I may ask him to be on my committee before too long.

Other than that, I’m feeling generally really on top of things here.  I’m surprisingly confident about my project and my ability to do it and write a good paper from it.  I did my first fMRI scanner operating this past weekend and it’s certainly not hard.  After so much practice in the operator training, it doesn’t feel strange to stick people in the machine, and running the controls is quite straight-forward.  I thought it might be more scary than it really was, but it’s all so automated and the magnetic field is so basically harmless I don’t feel like I can do that much wrong.  I’ll be doing my next session this weekend, and I have the first date to try my own study booked already.  It’s coming up really soon, but I’m so excited to get it off the ground and get my first subjects in the scanner, I really can’t wait.  I keep telling myself that doing it at all is a laudable achievement in my own eyes – I’ve been wanting to do an fMRI study since I learned it was possible in my first lingusitics class.  I’m so excited that it’s finally going to happen, even if I don’t want to stick with cognitive neurolinguistics after this, I’ll be glad I had the chance to try it.

So it’s going to be a good quarter.  I’m being paid to do my own research this quarter in stead of TAing, and I’m taking a few units with my advisor for that same purpose.  I can’t help but finish getting my data together this quarter.  If only the analysis goes smoothly, I may well have this QP out on time!


I showed Lewis a sample of my handwriting from high school, and it’s almost unbearably minuscule.  Crafted with such precision and detail as to be unreadable.  At the time, that’s exactly what I was hoping.  I could put thoughts so tiny down on paper; so tiny that few would see and fewer would care.  It’s almost as good as writing in code, but better at capturing the meta-level of feeling like a minuscule, illegible individual.

It has been remarked on occasion that I’m more aware of my motives and thoughts than others.  I often wonder how much of this is made up, and how much of this is just the product of too long staring into my own self.  I can’t imagine myself any other way, and a failure of this kind of imagination not only serves to create an infinity of shyness, but the surety of action.  I am the way I am because there’s no other possible way for me to be.  I’ve always felt very sensitive to insincerity and falsehoods – not that I haven’t used my share of both –  but it has keep me on the straight and obvious path in most situations.  When one thing is clearly contrary to my nature, there’s no reason to pursue it.  This strong feeling of right and wrong which seems so entirely undeniable in my make-up also makes me feel like a good case for morality in atheism.  It’s not because some religious authority told me to act the way I do, but because my parents raised me with a strong moral pole.

On the other hand, knowing oneself too well can be very much a maddening endeavor.  When I feel unsettled about something, it’s almost consuming.  The irreconcilability of two potential actions, the lack of an obvious right, the need for action without precedent… all of these cause me undue anxiety.  In situations which require tact, politics, strategy, or serious compromise, I might as well be lost at sea.   There aren’t many situations where what I want and what should be possible or allowable don’t match up.   I generally work hard for what I want, and achieve that, and am satisfied with my results.    Or I don’t try, and I don’t desire whatever result would have come from that effort.

Now, I’m stuck in the middle of something ridiculous, but my brain keeps running over and through the situation.  I’m feeling a little drunk on success of such a minor variety, but I want to repeat it again and again.   After all these miles I’ve come, I’m still the illegible tiny-writing girl dreaming of acceptance and popularity in some circle of those I respect and want to know.  I pick someone I think is a person to aspire to, and I want to know them.  I want them to know me, accept me, encourage and inspire me.  I need intellectual stimulation based in respect and safety and mutual enjoyment.

This weekend, Lewis and I and another couple had a few beers together, and I felt like I was living that moment.  It was a pair I really respect and enjoy, and I want them to like me.  We had a really good night, and I think it was enjoyed by everyone involved.  I want more, but the issue is impossible to push.  The very knowledge that you desire someone else’s company this much is a damnable offense.  It demonstrates irrefutably the political and power imbalance in the dynamic, and I come out on the bottom side.  If having a good time with someone I look up to means this much to me, there’s no way I have anything to offer in return of equal value.  Nothing I can do will mean a quarter as much as this couple having a laugh with me, and it’s so incredibly maddening to know that.

I also know this isn’t likely the way anyone else involved sees it.  I can’t double-think, though the talent would be incredibly useful, and as such, I’ve already ruined it for myself.  I’ve let something get to me, and it’s tarnished me a little.  These moments of mine which are from the heart and soul, and not the mind, are impossible to enjoy without rusting the polished exterior.  If it’s something I’ve worked for, there’s sombre joy at the knowledge of success.  Success at the endeavor of being me and being liked for it is… like watching a movie so engrossing and beautiful that when the credits roll, you can’t help but feel a little more empty.  I see past myself, and the vision of myself as a confident and likable person just leaves everyday-me with an assurance of the impossibility of it all.

Yet I tell myself this – there have been, time and again in my life, people who rouse my spirits to this degree.  And there shall be again.  I’ve reached that point of being settled enough in Davis that I’m longing for friends and laughs outside my own humble walls.  And friends will come – it took me years in all my new homes to find my Bryannes, my Steens, Cerises, Darins, Armands… and I’m already at an advantage here.  I have a happy home life, a lovely husband, a large social network, and twice the confidence of prior years.  I just need to give myself the time and space and opportunity to find those people Lewis and I can spend countless days sparring and joking and theorizing with on the smallest of life’s details.  There are so many invigorating people on this earth, how long can it before we fall into the orbit of another?