Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Language Levels

Part of my summer assignment is revising the syllabus for third year loghatelba7th, which I'll be teaching come Fall.  In preparation for this, I observed the second year class that's going on now, to get an idea of the students' level.  I'm dumbstruck.  In two hours of class, not one of them could put together a complete and correct sentence in loghatelba7th (I'm not even sure they could do an incorrect but comprehensible one, like the equivalent of "he go to store").  Then again, they didn't really talk much, so maybe they can but didn't? The drills all failed, because it's pretty difficult to do a speaking drill when you're not speaking.  Or if you turn a speaking drill into a translation drill.

I hold my students to pretty high standards, because four years of college language classes really isn't much unless you do a lot of extra work outside of class.  So, to accomplish anything, I think you have to push pretty hard (and I kind of wish I had been given this information as an undergrad).  But you also need a base to push from.

So expect lots of frustrated complaining come Fall!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Awal Gomla!

The first sentence of my dissertation is complete.  Actually more like the first paragraph, which is pretty exciting because I've been putting of the actual writing for a while.  I have been working, on both analyzing data and arranging my technology for the writing process (more on this later), but I haven't been writing.  Finally, I decided that even if I wasn't done analyzing, there were still parts I could write, and so I should get moving, as I'm hoping to graduate in May, which means I really need to be done with my first draft by November or December.  This is doable, but I need to focus, and possibly spend a little less time dancing.

Monday, May 23, 2011


This weekend was a busy one.  I flew home for a dance competition Saturday, birthday party Saturday night, and another competition on Sunday.  The competition on Sunday happened to be the regional qualifiers for nationals in my home region (I can't dance in my school region even though I'm currently living here, as I haven't been here for the last six months).  Generally, the top three dancers from the region represent at Nationals.  However, they also give byes to the top three dancers at Nationals from the previous year.  Two of these dancers were in my age group, so five of us went, and I placed fifth.  Due to all of my moving/revolution craziness, I didn't actually know that there were two byes (I thought there was only one) so I was quite surprised to first of all get fifth, and second be going to Nationals.  I guess there are advantages to dancing instead of dissertating after all!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


When my husband and I moved into our current apartment, the only pieces of furniture we had were a bed and a kitchen table and chairs.  The first item of furniture we had to purchase was bookshelves.  As we unpacked all of our books, particularly some older ones that had gotten a bit musty, I bemoaned the fact that e-books weren't yet widespread when we were in college/master's programs and thus we accrued pounds and pounds of books to move over and over again.

In reality, we could probably give most of these books away.  But every time I try to sort through them, I end up spending hours flipping through my favorites, re-reading passages, or thinking that eventually I'll return to studying such and such a language, so I'll need to keep the dictionary for it*

Recently, re-reading has been on my mind.  When I was younger, I read nearly everything twice, and my favorite books probably twenty times or more.  Now, unless something is important academically, or one of my favorite childhood novels (Sally Watson), I rarely re-read anything.  In fact, I feel overwhelmed by all the things I haven't read, both academically and in terms of my other interests.  There's no time to re-read, when there's not enough time to first-read! But then how do I remember things if I don't re-read? What about things I enjoy reading? Sometimes they're even better the second, or fourth, or tenth time.

Books are also far more readily available than they were in my childhood.  I can get a new book in seconds on my Kindle, rather than waiting for interlibrary loan from Big City Library or begging my parents to drive me an hour to Shopping City, the location of the closest bookstore.  In turn, this means that when I want to read something enjoyable, there's no need to re-read old books as I have easy access to new ones.

I would never trade the access I have now for re-reading my favorites, but sometimes I do miss the feeling of having read a book so often I practically have it memorized.

*Even though I really just use Google targama for everything :-)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekend Highlights

This weekend my husband and I took a trip to attend a dance competition at a lovely park several hours south of here.  We stayed in a small town, with a main street, and shop fronts, and all that sort of stuff, which was quite fascinating.  My husband has only lived in big cities, and I have only lived in big cities and places where we identify our origin by county, not town.  So this small town, full of people walking, sitting on the porches/sidewalks, and saying hello to everyone who went by was quite fascinating, although I'm not sure how it's economically viable.  To get to this small town we drove past a number of billboards telling us that "Jesus never fails" and "Everything you need to know is in the Bible".  As my husband remarked, it's really quite sad that some people in the town probably think baladelba7th is full of terrorists and some people in baladelba7th think people in this country are running around sleeping with everyone and shooting each other--they have so much in common--God, sitting on the sidewalk and gossiping/chatting with your neighbors, etc.  I mean, what evangelical Christian father would not want his daughter to date someone who thought their first "date" should be a family dinner, and who would make sure to never be alone with his daughter in order to preserve her reputation, and who would consider it his God-given duty to provide for her and their children after marriage? Forgive me, the stereotypes here are just too tempting to resist playing with.

The dance competition was a bit rainy, but otherwise good--I placed fourth in two dances, which was exciting as there were about 15 dancers I was competing against, and they only gave out four places.  Of course the dances I placed in were the dances I danced badly, but these things happen.

Yesterday, we went to visit some relatives.  They happen to live near the closest Ikea (a little over an hour from us) so we went shopping.  Building furniture later that night, with feline assistance, we discovered that a piece on one of the nightstands we bought was cut the wrong size.  The thought of driving all the way back to exchange it was daunting, so my husband called and they agreed to Fedex us the faulty piece.  Go customer service!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Standing up

Recently, I've been experimenting with working standing up, by placing a portable file box on top of the folding table I use for a desk and putting my laptop on top of that.  So far, I like, as I can move around much more, switch from foot to foot, stand on one foot, and stretch out my hip flexors which get far too tight sitting.  In fact, I can even put one foot behind me on my chair, and lean forward towards my desk for a really nice stretch.

My cats however, are not at all happy with this new development, as they view my working time as optimal lap-sitting time, which they obviously cannot do while I'm standing (although when I was doing the stretch mentioned above, one did sit on the leg that was on the chair.)  While I feel a little sorry for them, I'm also pretty sure that being locked into position by a fifteen pound cat is also not good for my stiffness, so this is overall probably a good development.  And they have plenty of other places to sit.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Abstract Agony

In the four years since I started my PhD program, I have written 2-4 conference abstracts a year.  In the beginning, I thought it would get easier and less painful with time.  Hah! Now, I'm faced with trying to fit parts of my dissertation into an abstract, which kind of feels like trying to stuff an octopus into a teacup.  It doesn't help that the abstract I'm currently submitting is for a conference that is generally opposed to octopuses, but sometimes accepts them dressed as seahorses.  Ikhssssssssss!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Theoretical Frameworks: The thorn in my side

So, first an update on my competition: it was lovely, my calf made it, I got third, and there were cash prizes.  Yay!

Now, onto more serious matters.  I have been trying for over a year to choose a theoretical framework for my dissertation.  I keep reading, and reading, hoping I will discover something that works.  I haven't.  Essentially the problem is that I am doing research on say, how cats wave their tails.  There are a fair number of studies on tailwaving, but they all deal with cats in North America and Europe, and the theoretical frameworks developed so far have done a pretty good job in documenting the tailwaving customs and patterns and meaning of these cats.  But, my cats are in baladelba7th, and although there are similar movements here and there, the overall effect is quite different and the cats themselves are different, and none of the frameworks fit and it's really frustrating.  Plus, you know, not everything revolves around North America and Europe.

In my meeting with my advisor today, I was expressing this frustration.  No, they don't fit, she agreed.  But that's one reason that it's so important that you're studying these cats and their tails.  Yes! I thought.  So, you may have to develop your own theoretical framework, she continued.  What! I thought--isn't writing a dissertation complicated enough without having to create and defend a whole new theoretical framework as well?

I started this project because I think a greater understanding of tailwaving can lead to improvements for all sorts of cats, and it happens to be understudied in baladelba7th.  But oh, what have I gotten myself into?