I like a moose.
Some snippets from my research lately:
o O o
So, what did you think of [university]?
Well, the linguistics faculty was in the humanities department…
Yeah, all those students walking around, talking about books.
o O o
Every so often something happens to bring it home to me that at heart, I’m not so much a researcher as a scientist. Most often, this happens when I scoff at questionable research methodology. Or statistics abuse. Sometimes I have to remind myself that qualitative research is research, too.
I have a feeling I’m going to be in for a shock when I move to another university and end up immured in the humanities.
I’m pretty sure this is all just more evidence that every syntactician secretly wants to be a physicist, a condition known as physicist envy. (Not quite the same as physics envy).
o O o
How would a microfiche concordance of Old English even work? Basic corpus work was a lot more difficult in the past.
o O o
“The time frame under investigation will be primarily the first millennium before and the first millennium after the birth of Christ.” Since I was translating, I did a double take here. Yes, it really said millennium. That’s a whole lot of ground to cover. We’ll see how that goes.
In the same paper, I discovered that the change from BC to AD is called Zeitwandel in German, which translates to ‘timeswitch’. I don’t know why this doesn’t exist in English, and suggest we start using it forthwith.
1. My chair. Last week, after extricating myself from the depths of the couch and moving to the floor, and then moving from the floor to the couch for the fourth time when the dust got too bad, I actually said to NTS, “You know what I need? I need a chair that’s just a platform for me to put my giant pillows on. Then I’ll be away from the cold and the dust, but able to sit upright without hurting my back, unlike on that couch.”
Fast forward two days to find me struggling down Merchiston Crescent with a great big chair frame pressed to my chest. I made it about halfway home before giving in and calling NTS to come help. But before he could get there… enter the marine. A stranger, soon to be part of Her Majesty’s marine corps, who carried the enormous chair frame the rest of the way home for me. I know nothing more about him, but he has my lasting gratitude. So I get the perfect platform for my cushions and an act of kindness from a stranger, all in one day.
2. On my way to the hairdresser, I discovered the New Leaf Co-op, a wee whole foods shop. Unlike Real Foods, where I get a lot of my “odd” groceries (you know, like legumes, grains, dried fruit and tea), it feels even more as though it’s part of a co-op barn somewhere, with plain wood shelving and things packed in everywhere, though it’s quite organized. My favourite part of the shop is the back, where you can scoop out whatever quantity of herbs, spices, legumes, bouillon, or fruit you want into a bag or jar. I bought a few tablespoons each of dried licorice root, juniper berries and peppermint for a project (see 5), and it came to 50p. Obviously, I will be trying my hand at home-mixed herbal teas in the near future.
The other charming thing about the shop is the jar station. People bring in clean jam jars with lids, and people take jars as they need them. As simple as that. A small act with no monetary gain, or even barter value, for the bringers of the jars or the store. Just a little bit of community.
3. This quote: “Today in Western culture, yurts are routinely used for glamping. (That’s glamour+camping, the bougie version of roughing it.)”
Ever since I first came across the term, “glamping” has rubbed me the wrong way. I think it’s because I’ve been camping since I was one. (There are pictures involving a tent and snow. I slept inside my daddy’s down vest, the perfect teeny-tiny down sleeping bag for a teeny-tiny person. My parents were obviously insane, but awesome.) We’ve always brought just enough to be comfortable, including enough amenities–rugged yet dainty wine glasses, delicious booze, pie–to feel like camping is already a delightful retreat, not a hardship. And the atmosphere can’t be beat. If the scenery requires gauze and quilts to make it palatable, you might want to move on anyway.
(UPDATE: My mother informs me that I was about 3 months old, which puts my snow-filled camping experience in spring. Because it turns out there’s a word for “spring” in Maine. They call it “winter”.)
To be sure, I’ve stayed in some campgrounds–cough, Mystic–that might have been improved by amenities. That’s because the campground consisted of a field with lanes for driving. It would have been improved much more by containing some nature. Maybe trees. This is not camping, it’s a DIY hostel. If this is your situation, I recommend trying actual camping sometime in the near future, so you can see what nature looks like.
I think I dislike it because the word “glamping” implies that regular camping is not glamorous. Like it’s somehow lacking. I don’t object to the pretty amenities, but the word rubs me wrong.
Nice wine and battery-powered fairy lights, on the other hand, never hurt anyone and are an asset to any camping trip.
4. Actual conversation in the PhD office today:
“I saw your friend, Doctor Hu, yesterday.”
“He’s not a doctor yet.”
“Yeah, but he will be soon. And anyway, it’s too much fun to say. Does The Doctor even have a doctorate?”
“Of course he does.”
“In everything. While The Master only has a masters degree.”
“Oh, right. That’s why he’s so cranky.”
5. Flavored simple syrups. The name suggests that simple syrup, mostly used for making cocktails, mocktails, and flavored coffees, is easy, but it’s hard to express just how easy it is. Pour boiling water from the kettle over sugar, stir for a minute. Done. Adding herbs adds steeping time, but not a great deal of labor. The peppermint was very easy. And it smells delicious.
Now, the juniper… Do you know what’s stickier than sugar syrup? Crushed juniper berries soaked in sugar syrup. Those little bastards are almost up there with pine pitch. I finally used grapeseed oil to get the residue out of the mortar and pestle. They still smell like good gin, but I can’t say I mind. Incidentally, if you aren’t already a fan of gin, I suggest you find a small, unknown gin and give it another shot. I’m not a huge fan of the big-name gins, but there’s a local Edinburgh one that hits all the right notes. Every gin maker has their own recipe, and craft gin seems a lot like craft beer: that is, delicious. And not terribly expensive, either.
Why the fancy simple syrups? Yesterdays are a housewarming gift for someone, and today’s are going to a Mexican food party. Yes, for once all of us expats will have Mexican food. It will be delicious.
I should probably go buy tequila now. Or get back to work. I’ll leave it up to your imagination, which one I’m likelier to do now.
My towel rack is smaller than your towel rack. The whole rack fits under the sink.
1. I waterproofed my shoes today!
I always feel a glow of satisfaction when I’ve waterproofed my shoes for the winter, like the glow of stacking firewood against the cold season to come (although that’s actually not against the coming winter, but the one after). It’s an atavistic comfort in being prepared for the hard season ahead. Right now, as I acclimate to rapidly shortening days and the new norm of ‘windy, high of 59F (15C)’, the glow of preparedness warms the heart as well as the feet, and is very welcome. (Protip: The further north you are, the more rapidly the length of the days changes.)
2. It’s getting colder. Does your coffee have a sweater?
No, I didn’t hand-knit my coffee a Fair Isle sweater with size 1 needles. This is the happy remains of one smartwool sock with a hole too large to darn comfortably. (i.e. in the bottom of the heel. I haven’t had much success darning holes larger than a dime in the sole of the sock. The extra cushioning is fine where the heel rubs the back of the shoe, though.)
4. She blinded me with library signs.
These are the stacks in part of the Dewey Decimal section of the library, i.e. the older books. The newer ones have Library of Congress classifications. You can’t quite see it in the photo, but the stacks are on rails, so I suspect you use the spidery hand wheels to move the stacks back and forth until you can reach the shelves you want. The fourth floor is kind of awesome.
Sadly, even in an institute of higher learning, Scots have yet to figure out exactly what the purpose of door handles is. I’ve even seen pull handles that have the word PUSH molded directly into the handle. Other buildings with this problem: Edinburgh Central Library (Edinburgh and Scottish Collection), the Informatics building where they build robots and program things. And that’s just off the top of my head. Scots don’t really understand how doors work.
5. Buckwheat pancakes. Words cannot express how much I have been enjoying them lately. I’ll try some pictures instead. Recipe will follow in a later post.
BRID Ow. Ow. I can’t unsee that.
NTS What’s wrong?
BRID Someone is wrong on the internet. On this linguistics forum. The comment is so simplistic that it’s effectively wrong. And the thought of sorting out the terminology enough to fix it just hurts my little head. This is why you never read the comments.
… Although at least they were mostly polite. On the internet I’ll take what I can get.
o O o
BRID thinks for a moment. Oh, dear.
BRID It just occurred to me that I know more about this topic than most people in the world, statistically speaking. And yet not quite enough yet.
NTS shakes head sympathetically.
BRID This is going to be a recurring pattern, isn’t it?
NTS nods solemnly.
BRID Thank you, dear.
o O o
Last weekend, I went to a friend’s birthday party. A costume party. The theme? pajamas and glitter. It was the most comfortable party ever. Don’t worry; the glitter was Lush glitter bars, not the craft stuff that stays in your hair indefinitely. Em was describing her day at work. She works some odd jobs, so while I thought it was odd for her to be working on a Saturday, it wasn’t that odd.
But then the light dawned.
BRID Oh. It’s Friday, isn’t it?
EM Yes. Yes, it is.
A FELLOW PHD Every day is Saturday when you’re working on a PhD.
BRID And you work Saturdays.
o O o
That’s probably the most accurate description of how time passes around here. I just can’t decide if they’re words to live by or words to rebel against. Mostly, they’re just true.
“Every day is Saturday when you’re working on a PhD.
And you work Saturdays.”
Except for last Saturday, when I did not go to the aforementioned party (that being on Friday), but did go to the farmers market. More on that later.
Today I went to a 3-hour workshop on how to go about starting an academic career: where to find job listings, what they’re looking for on CVs and interviews in this field, etc. (In case it hasn’t been clear, my intentions after getting my PhD are to set up as a research and teaching professor of linguistics and Germanic languages at a college in New England. How’s that for a career in a nutshell.)
It was immensely informative. Everyone knows the basic CV and interview tips, but discussing all the things I’ve been wondering about industry-specific detail was reassuring.Also scary as hell, because looking for a job is soooo much effort and so many applications and interviews, when in the end, all you’re really looking for is one single (permanent) position. Unless you’re one of my professors, who, forty years ago, applied for a job and got it. He’s the one we shake our fists at when we get frustrated. Except that he’s so sweet, you really can’t even grudge him his good fortune.
In the first 15 minutes, a term came up: networking. Networking is the most over-discussed, over-worked term, that whenever it comes up I want to hide in my office and read obscure languages until it passes. And considering how much I whine when I have to translate things with insufficient spelling reform, that’s saying something.
Except. Networking per se sucks. If I go into a conference with the intent to network, I get annoyed by the idea of forced social interaction. But meeting people with whom you have a lot in common and similar life experiences, who are working within a similar framework as you but on different projects? Discussing both shop and non-shop topics? Kind of fun. Kind of what a lot of people enjoy spending their life doing. Networking sucks, but having honest conversations with other academics is pretty much a cocktail party. (Cocktails optional. Coffee not optional.) At least, it is if you’re a woman who doesn’t give a damn about posturing and one-up-manship. Down with networking. Up with meeting interesting people.
Even so, if you mention networking to me, there will be a pavlovian response, and you probably won’t enjoy it.
Also! I made a friend. Who works in my department, but on a different floor. It turns out I don’t actually hate people.
Well, not all people.
UPDATE: My 288th post! It’s doubly gross! Ew.
It’s not fair to compare academic German from 1954 with academic Dutch from 2004. Not at all. So I’m sure the authors of the former are not to blame for the bizarrely complicated sentences, which send not only verbs, but also nouns to the end of clauses. It’s the only language I’ve ever seen that will go through an entire long almost-sentence describing the subject of the larger sentence… before telling you what they’re describing. The [by the worthy doctor carefully collected and painstakingly copied manuscript] can be found in the Niedersachsen Museum…
The concerning thing is that German academic writing doesn’t actually appear to have changed substantially in the past 50 years. It’s still like that. Between German (which I know well) and Dutch (which I don’t), it’s almost easier to read the Dutch. After making the acquaintance of a number of Dutch people, I suspect that Dutch academics may be, on the whole, more straightforward in general.
And then there’s the fact that Deutsch/Duits means German, while ‘Dutch’ is Nederlandisch/Nederlands. Sometimes English speakers are our own worst enemies. (Unless you’re reading academic German, in which case the your worst enemy is probably the author.)
o O o
In non-Germanic news, I’m about to leave work (I work from the PhD office most days) to go thrifting with a friend. And then we will have delicious salmon for dinner, because I am in a trying-new-recipes sort of mood, sparked partially by a website I stumbled across the other day, Pinch of Yum. Which is pleasant, since I’ve not been giving a lot of thought to dinner this week. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Happy weekend! Do actual fun things. My Valentine’s Day plans so far consist of cooking a delicious (but not terribly time-consuming) dinner and making a blanket fort in the living room to watch movies. I refuse to buy Valentine cards, preferring cards with no particular occasion, baked goods, and snuggles. So go forth, love each other, and do fun things.
This afternoon a 4th-year (senior) came by with a giant box of biscuits. She said people had been feeling down this week (for university reasons that don’t affect me at present), and she thought biscuits would help cheer everyone up. It was the sweetest thing I’ve seen in a while.
Another example of community happened in Bolton Castle this weekend, when a friend realised on the way down that she had forgotten her small daughter’s wool dress, the one that was going to keep her from freezing as she ran around the castle with her young friends. Conveniently, we had stopped at a wholesale fabric shop on the way down and grabbed some lengths of wool, including a yard of heavy lavender for the tot in question. (We may or may not have also found several yards of wool in a gorgeous self-patterned bronze, and we may or may not have squealed like little girls when we realised there was just enough material, at £3 per yard, to make 14th-century Italian court dresses for her, me and her little daughter. But that’s another story.) And so Friday night found three of us by the fire, each stitching away from either end of a child’s dress meant for the morning. If got done, too.
I’ve never been one to get involved in neighbourhood activities or what have you in search of a sense of community. I’m wary of organisations and cheesed at committees, and when it comes to mental exercises and group projects, have always done better on my own than trying to process too many streams of input. But helping friends and being helped, when help is freely offered, seems to slide past the tiresome and formal questions of obligation. When people are already a community, the organising seems to take a back seat to the doing, and that’s a kind of community I can live with easily.
I’ve now lived in the UK long enough that when I see a book marked $0.10 on Amazon, I think to myself, It’s only 10 p (pronounced pee). Then I remember, and realise it’s actually only 6p. Now to find out whether it’s worth reading at any price. Right after I finish this translation. And the one after it.
You know what, I’ll get to it next week.
o O o
A few weeks ago, I went to a conference in Cambridge.
I was struck by how much sunnier it was than Edinburgh. 4 degrees in latitude and a lack of cloud cover are not insignificant during the deeps of winter. I spent a lot of time indoors, but when I did get out, I found the town smaller than I expected, and charming.
The colleges (rather like the houses of Hogwarts, I gather, in that you live within your college and, unlike in Hogwarts, take your meals there) give a (justified) impression of age, dignity and continuity.
Corpus Christi college, where we stayed, contained old and new courtyards surrounded by a labyrinth of archways and tunnels connecting venerable buildings. Instead of long hallways, students live on ‘staircases’ that honeycomb the outer buildings of the complex. I stayed on X staircase, right past the statue of the pelican that marks the college pub. Happily (and necessarily, as we were staying in student rooms, the occupants having packed their things out for Christmas holidays), term had not started yet and residents were still frequenting other pubs.
I got to see firsthand some of the puzzling institutions Sayers describes in Gaudy Night, though her university was Oxford, not Cambridge: the Buttery, an old-school cafeteria where the tables are still divided into the short head table at the top and three running the length of the dark-paneled, rich-windowed refectory; the porter’s lodge, where a friendly gentleman dispensed keys, mail, maps and directions, and watched over the gate–a set of solid, dark doors beneath a tunnel to the street–after hours; the various colleges scattered throughout town.
Incidentally, if I have even given you advice regarding the taking of buses (airport buses don’t count) in unfamiliar towns, I hereby reiterate it: Don’t. Walking will save you much trouble in the long run.
So, Dearest Readers, I am back. No one actually wants to hear excuses, so let’s skip to the good stuff.
In December, I presented at my very first conference. In the Netherlands. It turns out that it’s one thing to know academically that a country consists largely of dirt dredged up from the bottom of waterways to make fields, and another entirely to see with your own eyes that even these fields consist largely of water, with trenches every 20 feet for runoff and wider channels on every side. The difference between grass and water seemed to be about 8 inches. 8 meagre inches of depth between actually submerged and merely nearly submerged. It actually started to make me think of Edinburgh as a dry place.
Amsterdam, on the other hand, is well built up, with the streets well above the water. More on that soon, with pictures. With Christmas coming on, the streets were especially delightful around twilight. (Which is good, because with the solstice coming on, there was a lot of twilight.)
Christmas happened, as it so often does. We had friends over for mulled wine and board games on Christmas eve, one of which involved being bean farmers, planting different kinds of beans. Very pastoral. This, by the way, is one advantage of having Dutch friends: they often celebrate with their families over St. Nicholas Day (6 December) and are thus conveniently in town come Christmas. And they have funny games with the directions all in Dutch.
Another local friend kindly invited us to a traditional Yorkshire Christmas dinner, complete with a flaming Christmas pud. It was then that I discovered that no British dessert is, apparently, considered complete without its complement of alcohol, including brandy sauce and cherry liqueur in the black forest trifle. Somehow, though, I can’t bring myself to object.
I had a quiet week in the office, as term hadn’t started yet. Yesterday life returned to campus, surprising me with the sheer number of students.
Tune in next time for pictures from Cambridge.