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/ 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!

And we’re back.

Day one of classes, finished.

My night closes with me feeling more confused, lost, and hesitant than I have been in a while.  This is probably okay.  Perhaps even expected, since you can’t really go through your PhD without having at least one period of aimless flailing and panicking about not having a future.

Despite this, my day was pretty good.  We had our first 103A class this morning, and I think it might be a TA’s dream.  A few of the kids I’ve taught in Lin 1 are in this class, and if they’re the measure by which I judge the overall character of the class, we’re in good shape.  The only students of mine that are signed up all got As in Lin 1, and I consider all very bright, promising linguists.  The professor teaching it is very laid back, and section attendance is not mandatory, so I’m hoping it all adds up to a stress free quarter at least in the TA domain.

I also had the first of my real classes today – just syntax.  We’re doing a really interesting topic in this class, and it’s being taught by one of my favorite professors.  I’ve had classes from him before, and he has the singular ability to teach very complex theory so carefully that it all ends up seeming intuitive and logical and very much digestible.  We’re definitely going to need that to get through this class, because we’re learning very much non-standard syntax, and it’s a system not a single one of us has worked with before.  But so far, it sounds really intriguing and I’m looking forward to getting into it.

We had a great hang-out of ling folks afterwards.  We chilled in our office for a while, and unlocked our secret door (it leads to the library next door, but you can’t actually get through it because it’s mostly blocked by a bookcase.   Got some posters hung up as well, and planned a cleaning day for us all to come in and tidy the room up.  It should be worth the work, because right now it’s covered in cobwebs and dust and uncollected homeworks stuffed in bookshelves from classes taught 5 or 10 years ago.  I love my classmates, and especially my office mates!  We all met later this evening for drinks at Sudwerk, and got to talk about how things are going so far and the new kids and such.

This talk is really what has left me feeling so conflicted.  Some fears of mine are feeling a bit confirmed with regards to the professor I was thinking about picking for my advisor, and the lab I’m trying to work in.  I’m just not sure this is going to be a good direction for me, and I need to do a lot of hard thinking about whether it’s one of those things worth fighting for, or one of those things that it’s time to walk away from.  But on the other hand, our hang out tonight also reminded me how much I love the people here, and how supportive and pleasant everyone is.  Even if my advisor issues are making life here frustrating, there are lots of people to help get me through it.

That is, if I survive the hot air balloon ride that’s knocking at my door at 5:45 tomorrow morning!

collocation or whatever

I don’t like how much I’m relying on lists these days.  But I’m just so busy, and so tired by the time I get to my poor blog!  With resignation, I give you today’s list:

  • Ling 1 this morning was very amusing!
  • Did some laundry in prep for the upcoming San Diego trip
  • Decided at the last moment to hit up the corpus linguistics group meeting
  • Ran out at the end to hit the gym – good yoga today, but fast and intense.  Chatted the teacher up after class and she was very nice.  Nicer than anticipated given her class demeanor!
  • Made it home just in time to meet Heather and Kevin for a dinner out to celebrate good news for them!
  • Got an email from research professor setting up my first fMRI shadowing adventure for next Tues.  I’m really excited!

I’m looking forward to my last day of classes here… but dang, it’s been a long week.  And it’s going to be a pretty crazy weekend.  Phew.

Counting down

Ah, the most bittersweet night of the week, Sunday is.  But it’s really not so bad.  I’ve only got two weeks of school left though, so I can slog through no problem.  The worst of it is the five remaining Quechua classes, which is really making a mountain out of a molehill, since class is always enjoyable, and never particularly stressful.  I just don’t much enjoy it overall, and though I’m learning a little, it seems like a waste of time.  It’s a series of ill-explained half-successful in-class exercises, and time consuming dialog recitations.  I miss my Russian classes, with their textbooks and small class size and clear goals.  I did way overdo some Quechua homework today.  We got the remaining class materials emailed to us this weekend and I’ve gotten pretty tired of doing these orally in class so I just did them all ahead of time.  It says something about how useless our class really is when I can do the next two weeks worth of home and class work in about two hours before the material is even introduced.  I should put that in quotes:  “introduced”.

Anyway, it’s been a very nice and very relaxing weekend for it being during the quarter and all.   I’ve been doing a lot of baking, which is nice.  Made two loaves of whole wheat sandwich bread today, but I haven’t tried it out yet.  Maybe tomorrow.  I sure am looking forward to getting through all this to finals, by which I mean writing the one paper I have to write and being done with this quarter.  I don’t know how much I’m looking forward to next quarter, but the plus side is that I’ve got a whole new set of classes, one of which is with one of my favorite professors from USC.  I’m TAing, too, which always makes life sort of fly by.  I hope my sections are good!  Still not sure whether I can audit my neurobiology class, or whether I’ll just take that pass/fail, but either way, I’m looking forward to change up.

and put me a peg leg on

Hooooboy.  It’s a week.  It’s midterm week for my chilluns.  I feel like I’ve been doing nothing but work for this class in the last week (overlooking, of course, our oh-so-important data gathering fieldtrip Sunday I failed to write about).  I spent all weekend grading papers and homeworks and writing the midterm for this Friday.  Blurg.  I got no reading done, and have been generally lacking in sanity for a number of consecutive days.

I just need to focus on getting through tomorrow, and get through Thursday.  I have some freedom thereafter.  No sessions on Friday, one class canceled on Thursday.. if only I didn’t have to present a few papers that morning anyway.  Sigh.  But it’ll be alright.

I guess I was just hoping that I’d feel footloose and fancy free after the scariest part of my quarter, collecting data, was over.  But instead it felt like the last milestone before the marathon.  I didn’t know I could “buckle down” any more than I have been, but there you go.  A few nights worth of being up at 8 am and working till midnight is starting to wear on me a bit.  But I think I can hold out till Friday.  Which is also Halloween.  Maybe I’ll get a chance to carve my pumpkin that afternoon?  Seems sad that it would happen after Halloween…

I did sign up for classes today, and pretty much get (finally) caught up on my work that’s been slippery-sloping (if you will) since last week.  Pretty soon here I need to pick my paper topic for my theory class and get moving on my research.  Classes for next term are looking really neat.  I’m taking Advanced Semantics, the Philosophy of Language (why do I do this to myself?), and the introductory Functional Cognitive Imaging (where I get to learn to read fMRIs from a cognitive science standpoint) …  It’s quite a load.  Also, I’m the reader (as in, paper grader) for Intro Phonology, which ought to be righteous.  I’m a bit nervous overall, but it should be good to sink my teeth into some serious theory and stretch my wings / broaden my horizons into the more concrete brain science business.  I hope!

Alright, it’s midnight already and by my count I’ve finished everything on my to do list today and more.  Quite a bit more.  Go me.  Go me, to bed.

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.

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!

California, Curtains, Cocktail

Got so much stuff done today, it’s great.  I should probably also mention I just had a delicious cocktail and I’m feeling both sleepy and spunky.

Lewis made scones this morning, which was pretty much the best way to kick off a Monday.  Went to Woodland thereafter (to the very sad, very run-down County Fair Mall) to get some cheap supplies for the new bed in our guest bedroom, and curtains for ours. Boy do I hate shopping in those big department stores. When you’re looking for cheap, they’re the way to go, though, and that is definitely what was on the order of the day. Did manage to find some sheets for our odd-sized (single?) bed and curtains, and two new pillows to boot. Too bad it took us forever!

Came back to Davis to do a little Lewis-birthday shopping (while he got some bike supplies and more folk music at Armadillo). Feeling a little better about the inevitable belatedness of the major present, but it’s still rather silly that I mussed this all up. Anyway, wrapped some presents this evening on our awesome work desk and got a little bit of cleaning done – vacuumed, swept the kitchen, etc. It’s really starting to look pretty homey in here with our curtains and all that. Or I’m just getting used to where everything is. Finally!

I spent forever on Facebook last night, a thing I’m not normally apt to do. Perhaps I was feeling my having-nothing-to-do collegey best, or was just feeling disconnected from everyone. But I finally friended a ton of people who were in my “you may also know” list, and it’s pretty excellent seeing what everyone is up to. Making me excited to go back to Seattle next week! Good gravy, that’s next week already… we really need to get some stuff done before that happens. Like send in our residency paperwork to UCD.

Speaking of UCD… I told Lewis today if they were a service I was paying for (and not expecting something like my PhD back from) I would have cancelled them by now. I can’t figure out how to do anything, and I refuse to believe it’s because I’ve been out of “the school environment” for three years already. I have no idea what classes I’m supposed to take, should take, can take, must take… I got waitlisted on the class I was most excited about. The prereq-type class I thought I had to take (though now am unsure I even need to take, if it’s even a graduate course..) cooccurs with the class I TA for. All I managed to register so far is a class I’m rather nervous to take cause I’ve never been any good at it — Semantics. I’m really starting to get frustrated that I’m going through all this trouble for a bunch of classes I don’t even want to be in.

Every time we ask the department for help we get this crazy roundabout answer that leaves me more confused about what’s going on that I was before I asked. And that’s saying something! We both got billed (though only Lewis got an email about it…) and I’m not sure how we pay the school, since our funding packages both include our fees and tuition. Though the email I got from the department today told me I would be responsible for the (heretofore unmentioned) “remaining 214 dollars”. …sure. Whatever.

I really feel like I need an advisor just to get me to the point where I walk into campus and sit down in a class. You know, with my registration done, residency verified, fees cleared, and a paycheck in my hand. Oh. And why in the world does the first stipend disbursement happen in *November*? That’s six weeks after school starts! What the hell does everyone do for all that time, just sitting around waiting to get paid? Why would that take so long? Sigh. I wonder how much of this has to do with graduate school generally speaking, how much is Davis specifically, and how much of this has to do with being at a state school instead of a private school.

Sigh. This is nothing I should be getting worked up about right before bed. We have a breakfast date tomorrow to a pub in Sacramento, and I spent all evening working on an amusing geography project. Perhaps I’ll close this blog with the fruits of my labors: a map of California counties and whether Lewis (blue) or I (yellow.. nearly completely absent) or both of us (green!) have been to them. Criteria dictates that we had to have slept a night there, or done some kind of serious touristing to count as having “seen”. No interstate fly-bys. Viola:

Map of Counties Visited in CA

Map of Counties Visited in CA

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