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Tuesday at 5

All I have left is to print it, staple it, and bike it to campus.

I have no idea what happens after I turn that paper in.   Well, other than I have a 2:30 meeting to find out what the rest of my next two weeks is going to look like.  Summer project, ho!


So we meet again, blog.

It’s 7:30, and I’ve just sat down at my desk to start my night of work.  I was anticipating being a little more busy today, but this morning I got the very pleasant surprise of getting my paper deadline extended until Monday.   So now I actually don’t have anything due this week – just two papers to finish by next week.   Life is good.

This morning I gave my cognitive neuroscience talk, which was the thing I was dreading most all quarter.  I practiced it three times this weekend, and looked my slides over with Lewis already, and I think it all paid off.  I felt very comfortable giving the talk, and I think I sounded like I knew that I was doing.  There was only one question from the audience, which was the part I was really dreading (the students in this class are a little… brash and cock-sure sometimes) and it was only to ask if the scan parameters I quoted was really what they did – which it was, of course.  So yay!  I also got to go first, so it was really great to get it out of the way, and be done for the rest of the morning.  And nearly the rest of the quarter!

I’m at the point where I can list all the places I need to be and all the things I need to do: two Ling 1 lectures to attend, one to collect homeworks, and one to hand back papers, one section to teach, one study session to help run, one informal paper discussion to give, and two papers to hand in.  And in 8 days, I’ll be completely and totally done until nearly October.  Incredible, isn’t it?

The only other piece of news on the Laurfront is that I seem to have contracted Davis allergies.  Yesterday on the way home from sushi, my eye sort of itched.  By the time I got home, my eyelid was all poofy.  I washed it off and it went away.  This morning when I woke up, my *other* eyelid was swollen.  It felt like it was twice the normal size, and I had trouble looking in all directions.  But I took a shower, and by the time I was done, it was pretty much gone.  Same thing happened this afternoon – suddenly itchy eyeball, which puffs up as soon as you scratch it, and goes away 15 or 20 minutes after you wash it.  Yuck!  I haven’t the faintest idea what it is that’s setting me off like this, but I’m putting my money on pollen or dust of some kind.  Davis is well renowned for being one of the most allegry inducing places you can live, and I guess my allergy-free self finally met her match.


It’s been quite a productive day, eh?  I feel like I’ve been working nonstop.  There’s a trajectory of zone-ness.  Avoidance, then heart-pounding timeloss, an overwhelming sense of largeness, and lastly warm optimism.  I’ve been feeding off warm optimism all night, watching PBS and pottering through some of my essay.  There’s something wonderful about an approaching deadline, like you’ve been cursed with a pox, and you’re about to finally see the doctor.  Maybe you don’t like the doctor, but you know that after you see him, you’ll finally be better.  I’m ready to be cured of my deadlines.  And I’m ready to drain my head of the swelling ideas – encephalitus of the research organ.  The looming possibility of acheivement and satisfactory performance.  10 more days.

The first day felt like two days, the second day felt like a few hours…

Today was a go-go-go-go kind of day.  My buddy and co-TA Ariel emailed me last night to say that she had gotten food poisioning (boo!) and asked if I could take over her sections today.  I have my Friday section at 9, and she teaches the 10 and 11 sections… so that meant three straight hours of teaching this morning.  It actually went really well, and it was the last week of section for our Friday kids, so it was kinda nice to know I wouldn’t see these folks again.  I had to bump my office hours back an hour to accomodate the sections, so by 1 when I was finally free, it had already been quite a long day.  Tried to grade papers over lunch, and then I had my three-hour typology class… by then I was pretty spent but I hadn’t even started on my own work, let alone finished grading for the day.  So I had Lewis come pick me up and take me out to dinner (I had to be driven to school this morning because my bike tire was flat and I didn’t have time to fix it!) and then I came home and got right back to work.  Now it’s 10:30.  And it’s bedtime.  But i got so much done today, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing.  Kids taken care of, essays graded, classes attended, and I’m ready for my weekend preparing for the big presentation Monday.  I’ll try not to panic about that too much between now and then… but damn if I’m not a bit nervous.


Another day wasted on an early morning migraine – 7:45 am this time. So on the plus side, I didn’t have to bike to school in the heat. Though I did miss my students turning in their essays, which is a shame since I kinda like to keep an eye on how things are going there. Lewis managed to pick them up for me later, and so at least I’m not behind on my grading. I got sadly little work done today, though I did read a paper and write the first section of my neuroscience essay. Mostly I just wasted my day, waiting for my head and eyes to feel like they were done being pressurized. 10 day to go or so, eh? Maybe that’s what’s stressing me out.  But for the record can I just slip this in: Three migraines in four weeks?  What the fuck?


I think it’s that time again. That’s “final papers and presentations in the next two weeks” time. Where I sit around all day doing god knows what, but seemingly getting work done, and leaving myself with nothing to blog about. Yeeup.

Well, we did take a few hours off today to take Lewis’ parents to high tea at Ciocolat for Francie’s birthday. That counts for something, right? Woot!

I keep on slipping, slipping, slipping…

It seems around now, at the end of each quarter, this void opens up in my head. It’s a place I know I shouldn’t go, because I can’t be there and here at the same time. It’s full of thoughts: unorganized, murky, recursive thoughts. My papers live in here. I can dip my toe in, and pull out paragraphs like seaweed. But I can’t organize a paper, and think it at the same time. Today, I’m slipping in. I’ve organized, organized, organized… I’ve outlined, I’ve re-outlined, neatly stacked my books, prepared my topics, summarized my readings. This is as far as this line goes. From here, you must disembark, grab your paltry outlines, and step into the fog. If you’ve done a good enough job you’ll have stashed food in your pockets, water in your bag, and brought a map of the right city, in the right time. You gather this fog in your arms, package it, label it, store it, and arrange it. Three weeks pass, and you can’t remember why you were here, or why it seems like so much time has passed and there’s nothing to show for it. More weeks of silence, relative freedom, organized thought returns after a restorative period of languid disinterest. At the end of it all, someone gives you a grade: an A. The same grade you would have gotten regardless of the sequence of events that lead you here. Not because your paper earned it, but because your graduate school admission came with this clause: you’ll spend the next several years writing papers no one reads, compelled to do so by a sense of duty and a fear of the unknown, which will earn you in all circumstances the letter signifying your continued acceptability: an A.


Ah, Monday nights.  Monday nights are my slow n’ easy yoga nights.  So round about now, I’m feeling all relaxed and ready to crawl into bed for a restful sleep.  It’s always somewhat difficult coming home and trying to decide what to do with myself in these last few hours, but tonight I think bed might win out.  Bed and some enjoyable (though still school) reading.  It’s the first time I’ve really read science papers outside my discipline, and it’s funny now how relaxing the old structural linguistics books are.  These cognitive neuroimaging papers are going to be the death of me!

Today was a nice and abbreviated day.  The reading group I thought we had finished setting up apparently didn’t fit enough schedules to go through with, so it’s sort of indefinitely on hold.  That’s just fine with me, the short day was nice.  CogNeuro was a little troublesome this morning because I hadn’t realized we were supposed to read the papers other people were presenting on in advance and come prepared with questions and all that.  So I don’t think I got any participation points, and it bothers me somewhat that it appears my professor writes down the name of everyone who talks in class thus somewhat obliging everyone to have something to say all the time.  I understand it’s supposed to make us critical thinkers, but I feel so far out of my domain on these cognitive neuroscience topics, especially the vision research we’re talking about right now, that I seem to either have no questions at all, or they sound dumb to me.  Oh well.  I’m running through my “options” mantra and reminding myself that ones days worth of performance is nothing that needs to reflect on me generally, and I’ve got all quarter to get myself going on this.  Not to mention, I’m feeling a bit pleased with myself for understanding any of what’s going on, and if my deficit reflects itself in an absence of participation… that’s fine.

So I spent the whole rest of my day reading cogneuro papers, and preparing myself for reading more neuroling papers soon.  I got that all squared away pretty early, so I still had time to pin and cut Lewis’ jammies!  It’ll all be coming together before I know it.  I just hope they fit.  The material is really comfortable, so I’m not too worried about them being cozy, but it would be nice if they fit in some rational way.  Then I took myself off to yoga, and sort of failed to get in “the zone” cause the room was rather crowded and the lady next to me was quite distracting. At the end, though perhaps not feeling all centered, I am at least feeling all stretched.  I’d go so far as to even call myself relaxed!  And as I said before, that’s my only gym goal.  So hurrah, another success.

Now I think Roman Jakobson and I have a study date!

Language counciling

Pretty good day today, but mighty long.   Had a lovely surprise evening with our friends Heather and Kevin who kept me company (and took me to Sudwerk!) while Lewis was out with his padre tasting some tasty cheese and beers in SF.

Section this morning was great!  I skipped the stuff that I thought was crappy from the earlier section, and went straight to the exercises and group work.  I think it went really well, and there was a great vibe with the students.  I’m feeling quite good about both sections this quarter, and I hope I can keep that feeling rolling for a while.  Had office hours after that, which was kind of a disaster.  I only had one kid come in, sort of at the end of my time, and I spent a full 90 minutes with him.  Arg.  I don’t know quite what to do with this kid, but I’ve never seen anyone completely lacking in any kind of linguistic intuition before.  I never even got to the point where he could tell a consonant from a vowel.

I feel bad, cause I know he’s really struggling with his phonetics homework, but I just don’t know what to do to teach him this stuff that should theoretically be intuitive.  He keeps blaming it on being a second language learner, but I’ve had tons of esl kids before, and that’s really not a valid excuse.  As a linguist, I think I’m more atuned to the difficulties language learners face since we spend so much time talking about SLA and bilingualism.  This really turns me around in application though – it’s impossible to know when you’re being too hard and when you’re not being sympathetic enough.  I don’t think asking people to memorize the IPA and the position of your articulators.  I think there’s a leap of faith you need to take as an ESL student that what we’re saying isn’t some kind of crazy conception of how the English language should be done.  [t] is the most common sound cross-linguistically, the least marked if nothing else, so asking an ESL student to decompose a [t] into it’s phonetic parts isn’t ridiculous – they should be the same parameters in their native language as they are in English, more or less.  I have a lot more sympathy for the vowels, because I know English has a middling-to-terrible vowel system.   Urgh.  I’m doing my best, but by the time I explained what the questions on his homework were supposed to be asking (and spending 90 minutes doing that…) I was just so totally drained.  I want to help him, but I really can’t keep this level up all quarter.

Thankfully, my afternoon class was great.  Lots of interesting discussion on typology, and I got my assignment for the presentation I’m giving for that class.  Got the paper (book?) I wanted, and I’m looking forward to getting my one presentation out of the way early (I’m going the first day) since I’ve got my cogneuro presentation on the last day of class.  It’s probably time to start thinking about paper topics, I suppose.  The quarter system is rough that way – it’s just the end of the second week, and it’s already time to start hammering out final papers.  It’s at least good to get your topic started so you don’t get blindsided later when you’re completely lacking in time to do research.  My topics for both classes are completely open, so it’s almost more difficult to start thinking about whether I can work these papers into the thesis-y master plan.  Or something like that.


Finals week.  Things to say.

Awesome day off yesterday.  Got hair cut by favorite, Melody.  Much catching up.  Ethiopian dinner with Ben.  Major life questions deftly unanswered.  Mind-blowing free jazz concert at favorite Oakland club/cement box/accordian repair shop.  Home very late.  No studying at all.

Took Quechua final this morning.   Utterly flubbed oral portion.  Actually spaced out instead of answering questions in dialog!  Brain: -1.  More amused than bothered.  Feeling happy about pass-fail.  Confident about spending study time at Ethiopian + jazz.

Came home.  Celebratory (abashed?) sushi lunch.  Recieved email from neuroimaging professor / goon.  Surprise, your quiz *is* an essay!  Discomfited.  Rejected from working memory until semantics is attended to.   Worked outside on semantics paper all afternoon.  Did I mention, 75 degrees today?  Saw more birds than semantics.

Manual labor break to wash, clean, oil bike.  Feeling very mechanical.  Much grease under fingernails.  Hands well chafed, bike well tended.

Spent all night (is it midnight already?) working on semantics.  Triumphantly (abashed?) emailed Quechua professor all remaining lexical questions.  Feeling somewhat assified.  Isn’t this paper done yet?