This week, I’m doggedly finishing my presentation for the conference this weekend, dealing with last-minute alteration and mending, and packing my backpack for the trip. The story of my great academic manumission will have to wait, but I promised pictures, and as I’m on my home laptop, today I deliver.
This is the second time I’ve stumbled upon the idea of disposing of bodies in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney in the past two days (the first was on the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast, which you should listen to, possibly while commuting). I’m pretty sure this is not just a case of cognitive bias.
o O o
In slightly less creepy news, I graduated last week! That’s right, after working on my PhD for three months, I got my masters. I am a Master of Science. Cower before me, shivering mortals!
The photos are on my other computer, so you’ll have to be patient.
o O o
On Saturday some of my [mostly] American friends came over for a potluck Thanksgiving. In the spirit of the day, we consumed vast quantities of freshly-cooked food. It was delicious. I only regretted that I was unable to watch and/or play football, as well. I suspect I am the only one who regrets this in the least.
As the days get shorter, I’m more thankful to be working in the postgrad office, where there are bright lights and people in the afternoons. It is fall now, with a vengeance. I’d forgotten, but fall in Edinburgh is actually rather nice, because when it’s not actually raining, the weather is dry and crisp. Mostly.
I am finding that planning for conferences is a royal pain. Not even writing the presentation, if I’m giving one. It’s the travel plans that do it. Usually if I go to an event, such as a historical re-enactment, the website offers directions on how to get there, and start and end times so one knows when to get there. Not so for European conferences, apparently. And I hope attendance is free, because no fees have been mentioned. It’s a wonder anyone makes it to these conferences at all.
And good heavens, what does one wear to a conference? And what does one wear to a conference when one intends to then spend a day, say, sightseeing in Amsterdam while carrying all of one’s luggage? Ditto for a 3-day conference during which I intend to go straight to and from the conference venue without going to the (distant) hotel. Answer: the same thing for a long time, I suppose.
These are the questions that occupy my mind. I find myself missing my actual research. I think I’ll go read a nice, complicated book and forget about this travelling-with-limited-information business.
“You’d have to have a big, big slug of whisky next to you, because it’s hard reading.”
– a lecturer
o O o
“Presentations… may be held in any language belonging to the family of West-Germanic languages.”
– call for abstracts for a linguistics conference in the Netherlands
o O o
“Your message says ‘I’ve attached’, but there is no attachment on the email. Send anyway?”
– Google, heading off one of the embarrassments of work emails. Although in this case, I really didn’t need to attach anything. But it’s nice to know Google has my back on this one.
o O o
“It’s raining and you shoved your raincoat in your locker before coming to class? What a perfect time for a fire drill.”
– my building. (Maybe it didn’t say that out loud, but that’s definitely the impression it gave as it stood impassively in the cold morning drizzle and I stood, much less impassively, clutching a thin, professional-looking wrap around my shivering shoulders.)
o O o
Some Dutch vocabulary I needed to get through my e-mail this morning:
hoogleraar: academic. I may never use the English word again. What do you do? Oh, I’m a hoogleraar.
kwestie: question, quarrel, dispute.
gefeliciteerd: congratulations. Having written the English word up there next to it, though, I’m not sure I can bring myself to make fun of the Dutch.
o O o
“Leeuwarden has a mild humid temperate climate with warm summers and no dry season.”
– weatherspark.com on Leeuwarden, The Netherlands
A work day/week consists of two phases, which alternate more or less rapidly depending on the individual.*
There is the high-energy phase, in which one is Able To Do Many Things. Ironically, in this phase you are able to think up many more things than you can actually do before running out of energy, most of which are productive and helpful.
Then there is the phase you hit around three in the afternoon (and at various other times including, but not limited to, any time you have to read long articles written by someone who likes academic German syntax). In these off-peak times, not only can one not apply oneself to any of the obvious tasks at hand, one is seemingly incapable of thinking up any less difficult but still useful tasks.
This is where a pencil and paper come in handy. During peak times, I write down all of the handy ideas I’m having for later, so as (mostly) not to interrupt what I’m working on so successfully. Then during the off-peak times, I don’t have to think at all; just do the next thing on the list. Preferably one that doesn’t involve involved articles.
Panicking about giving a talk at a conference can be slotted in at any time, but is, in the interest of mental health, best done in brief intervals instead of sustained slogs.
So far, so good.
* If you have only one phase, with an Edison-style consistent and direct flow of energy, I’m not sure I will ever be able to understand you. Academics seem, by and large, to run on the Tesla model of alternating current.
Did you miss me? You know you missed me.
I’m back on campus for real now. Last week was dedicated to meeting people, the people I’ve been used to hang out with around school having gone home at the end of our masters program. (Of course, we don’t actually graduate until November, but it’s not stopping me from starting my doctorate.) Today, however, I bagged a desk in my PhD office, which so far contains a nice mix of empty (though colonized) desks and really friendly, yet un-noisy, fellow scholars.I met with my adviser to set the agenda for my next two weeks.
When I say “agenda”, of course, what I really mean is “reading list”. And do you know who’s really excited about that? I am. I get to read about linguistics for pleasure and my own edification for a while, instead of skimming for text bites and key-points-in-five-words-or-less. This is what academia is like when it isn’t 14-hour days and panic. This is the autumn rush, the pleasant glow of confidence with which a scholar greets every school year.
I also, with great effort, picked up my laptop. Not that the line was particularly long or the process difficult. The laptop, a MacBook Pro, just weighs a ton. (It’s a hard life.) Since students who are seldom in the building don’t keep permanent desk space, PhD students are allotted loaner laptops for the duration of their program. We get macs, presumably because they dual boot with macOS and Windows, and are thus reasonably user-neutral. The three other PhD students in the room all boot Windows most of the time, calling into doubt the adage that “once you go mac, you never go back”. I always did have my doubts.
The rest of my day has been spent in administrative details. Exit counseling for student loans is terrifying. I tell you, it’s traumatic. Although no more traumatic than actually living in the real world for three years. Sadly, the insouciant cluelessness that graces one’s college years does not bother with grad students. We’re like grown-ups, but without the income. The work is better, though.
I’m reading coverage of DragonCon–like you do–and come across epbot’s picture of Peter Davison, along with anolder picture for comparison. He looked awfully familiar. My brain says he looks like a medical man… A doctor. Then I have to laugh, because of course, he played the Doctor. But my stubborn brain insisted no, that’s not what it meant. So I looked it up, and you know what? My stubborn brain was right. Peter Davison played the vet Tristan in BBC’s James Herriot series. Which may make me the only Whovian in the room who recognises the actor better with farm animals than with celery.
Incidentally, the Oxford English dictionary recently added the word whovian to its hallowed pages. Just sayin’. (Also incidentally, it turns out that I have no control over the italicization within hyperlinks in this app.)
o O o
In more local news, I spent a wonderful day on the campus of my undergraduate alma mater visiting with old professors. (Were I writing in Spanish or French, you would be able to tell whether the professors are aged or merely former from the word order. But I’m not, and you shall have to languish in uncertainty.) Things are, unsurprisingly, both changed and not changed. Part of the dustbowl is now covered by a massive new humanities building, full of elegant conference, seminar and class rooms. The quad is now somewhat devoid of shade until the new trees grow in (but it no longer smells like ginkgo fruit, which is an improvement to one sense, at least).
Now for one last night in the States. My glimpse of the beginning of fall semester and old friends, combined with enough sleep, makes me just about ready to go back to Edinburg and pick up real life where I left off. Which is to say, as a Master of Science. Which means that everthing I’ve done is FOR SCIENCE.
“Give me a verb, I need a verb!”
… Translation is nothing more than a sick, sick game of Go Fish.
From the dictionary:
Undfan transitive verb
1) to receive, welcome
2) to take on
3) to recognize (a child)
4) to undergo (an ordeal)
5) to light on fire
…Wait, what? One of these things is not like the others. No wonder the Old Frisians died out, if that’s their approach to hospitality/child rearing.
An Irish nun, a Saxon monk, and a Roman bishop walk into a mystery novel, and all of a sudden I can’t remember how to pronounce a <c>. #OldWorldProblems
(Incidentally, I’m reading Ellis Peters’ Shroud for the Archbishop, a murder mystery set in 7th-century Rome and peppered with Latin, Irish and Old English. Talk about your busman’s holiday.)
On Wednesday I finished the last of my coursework. Ever. (Unless I get another MSc sometime, which is theoretically not impossible, but is not highly likely.) I would feel a lot more poignant about this if I hadn’t would up my studies with an exam and a paper deadline on the same day. For the same class.
Now it’s just my little (MSc) dissertation, which will take 3 months, and my big (doctoral) dissertation, which will take three years.
Tomorrow the real fun begins: a ceilidh Saturday night and on Sunday a barbecue on the beach. We’ve been told to bring our swim togswhatever the weather, and I think I will. The question is, will the water be colder in Scotland than in Maine, or warmer?
The weather has gotten downright lovely these past few days, being warm(er) even when it’s cloudy. It’s a great consolation to take walks and really enjoy them, though I do snatch the time from my studying to do it. Sunday evening NTS and I had the most delightful ramble along the edge of Arthur’s Seat, down toward the Parliament building.
The only mitigating factor was the enormity of swans milling about the bottom edge of the pond. Swans are notoriously bad-tempered, but in small numbers one has a tolerably sure chance of avoiding them. There must have been some two dozen swans in this over-burdened pond, however, swimming about in tiny orbits practically on top of each other, like bees in a hive. It felt like an aristo version of Hitchcock. They may have been the queen’s swans, but this time I was not amused.
Tomorrow the cake club meets again, and it’s my turn to play Lady Bountiful. The cake club is a charming institution designed to prevent certain MSc students from losing human contact for more than a week at a time while writing our dissertations. Heaven help the woman who is absent without warning. Her fellow students will fear the worst and alert the authorities at once. I’ve not baked a cake since I’ve been in Edinburgh, being inclined to toothsome cookies myself, but I shall give it my best, with hearty helpings of cocoa and my specialty butter cream icing.
NTS, being the best husband going, went above and beyond this week by procuring a certain elusive beverage for which his wife has pined for months. Asian restaurants, sadly, tend toward certain discrepancies between menu and refrigerator, leading to repeated disappointment in the procurement of bubble tea. Much to my surprise, it does not appear to have caught on in Scotland. I suspect they don’t have much truck with drinks consumed primarily during the summer months, as they are so seldom in demand. Only fancy my surprise when my husband, having nipped out for a wee constitutional, returned brandishing that much-desired beverage! Above rubies, that one.