in august will told me "amy, you are going to just fall in love with language."
i thought i already was. but i was wrong.

tomorrow is march and i am in love with language.

i have sound allergies. certain words, when spoken out loud, make my insides cringe that nails-chalkboard kind of cringe. just regular words. my very kind and helpful friends seem to be trying to innoculate me because they kindly and helpfully fling these words at me every chance they get. they inject them into conversations where they have no place. i wonder if anyone ever went into anaphylactic shock from sound allergies. i wonder if that's how you spell anaphylactic.

but aside from that i just want to know everything about language. i want to eat it so it's inside me all the time. i have only ever loved one person this voraciously, and no thing. i don't think i want to love another person this voraciously, but i want to know the bones of language. sometimes i can see its skeleton, when someone says something i see the undershape of the sentence and i can sometimes spin the pieces around and reattach them. i want to see how the flesh of language lays over the bones. i want to know how the meaning is connected.

i want to poke at people's brains to find the edges.
like that guy in pi, absorbed in the swirl of cream into coffee.
but i don't think it's math that holds the kind of answers he was after.

i want to know the history of every word in every language.
i think if i could know that then i would know truth.



apparently the same ridiculous part of my brain that said "hey it might be cool to go to start my life all over again and go to grad school" decided, at 4pm on this friday afternoon when i want to leave work a little early to get on the tahoe road, "hey it might be cool to upgrade my firefox version."

if you do this and you are like me and running a 3 year old version of redhat on your work machine, you will suddenly find yourself lost in a mazey wilderness of dependencies. you will find yourself configuring, making, and installing such classic hits as glib2.8.6, atk1.10.3, pongo1.10.3, and cairo1.0.2. good times.

i have a weird relationship with technology, i told will this morning.
i really hate doing this but i'm unable to stop until firefox is happy.

one thing i love about living in the bay area is that my hairstylist spent 1/2 hour yesterday telling me all about her band's recent tour with the thrill kill kult. and that my boss (an engineering manager) just got a movie deal for a graphic novel he wrote. a good friend quit her research job to pursue photojournalism and now has a rocking summer internship with the oakland tribune.

we haven't all ended up where we thought we'd be, but we're students, artists, astronomers, body piercers, and home repair specialists. we're geniuses. we're seekers.

it's not that i don't think there are people like this everywhere, but we seem to have a particularly high concentration of them here. we have a high signal-to-noise ratio.

another thing i love about living in the bay area is its proximity to tahoe.
where i am going for the weekend.
thereby missing a raging houseparty at hot ex-coworker's house tonight.

and so the universe and friends and stuff (and my boss that one night) have successfully conspired to head off the drunken makeout that threatened for awhile. i think this is good.

see you on the flip side


the mind is a terrible thing to taste

i got the greatest compliment from my mom.
i told her about a school acceptance and she said:
"you've got a lot of brains in your boca!"

the words sound so good together that i didn't even notice until she said wait, is that the right word for head? and i started laughing and said no, you just told me i have a lot of brains in my mouth.

so she either called me a smartmouth or implied that i'm a zombie.
either way, i'm cool with it.


the weight of potential

when i was five years old i decided i wanted to be a bellydancer when i grew up, because i saw one on sesame street and she had a jewel in her navel and i thought how cool is that. when i was a little older i thought maybe someday i'll go to berkeley (i swear to you i did, and i have no idea where that came from either, certainly not my parents). i've been a bellydancer, sort of, and i've gone to berkeley, sort of. of course i also figured i'd be married by now with two boys and a girl but instead i'm divorced and really not too sure about the whole kids thing.

when you were little, what did you think life would be like at this age?

did you think you'd be married?
have children?

where did you think you'd live?
are you there?

what did you think your job would be?
lawyer fireman writer rockstar? proctologist?
(someone wondered recently: does anyone dream of becoming a proctologist?)

did you think you'd change the world?

when did we learn to stop imagining the future with the wonder of infinite possibility?


reindeer games

i know you all love me for my rock&roll lifestyle full of cheap cars and fast women (or is it the other way around?) but you know it hasn't always been like that.

when i was in junior high i was not 'popular' but wanted to be, very badly. it's just that whenever i tried to talk to one of those kids my brain would seize up and i couldn't think of anything to say that would be cool enough, flip enough, witty enough. the worst was the time that a teacher needed someone to bring something to the office so she assigned me & a classmate to go. a popular classmate, a cool classmate, a classmate i wanted to impress with my boundless (but heretofore unexpressed) moxie.

but as we started walking my brain did that thing and i couldn't say anything and the longer we walked in silence the worse and worse it got because the monologue in my head kept escalating: "oh god now you haven't said anything at all for two whole minutes! say something! but it better be really damn GOOD after all this silence! now it's been even longer! you suck!!" the necessary perfection of whatever it was i was about to utter kept rising with each silent step. and so i never said a word the whole way there&back, and those ten minutes of selftorture are indelibly imprinted on my psyche, even all these years later.

and that stuff comes back in the weirdest ways. like when i've neglected my blog for a three-day weekend and i can't even say "oh i was too busy to write because i was earning my nobel prize" or anything worthy like that. the thing is, i was just lazy. and if the first post-silence post isn't mind meltingly impressive, maybe you'll let me sit at your lunch table anyway.


a perfect moment

i talk a lot about great days, great evenings, great moments. because i have them a lot. i'm a super lucky person with amazing friends and a good job and school and everything. but even for lucky people, truly perfect moments are incredibly rare. it's rare for them to happen, and even rarer to recognize one while you're in the middle of it.

last night i had a perfect moment.

at my favorite wine bar with many of my favorite people and we bought a bottle of champagne with money my parents sent me and filled all the glasses for a toast (to ME!) and just as we filled the last glasses one of my favorite songs by my favorite band started playing. this song that just pulls at your heart anyway but right then...

and i almost started crying.
because how do you even react when you realize you're in a perfect moment?

it hurts a little. it fills you up and you know you can't hold onto it for more than a few seconds and so you just try to restrain time a little and let everything expand and you laugh helpless because you can't really think.

perfect moments always seem to have a soundtrack.

and today i wanted to stand on my office chair and sing la marsellaise.
and monday i'm going to hike muddy marin waterfall trails.
and god damn if it isn't a beautiful world.


soylent black

bloopy wrote about the five second rule and it reminded me of why i can't eat raisins.

imagine, if you will, an eight-year-old amy: innocent, happy-go-lucky, raisin-loving. prone to using big words, but otherwise a fine patriotic product of the american midwest.

until one day in the dank basement of a neighborhood friend. a raisin was dropped into the dark green shaggy carpet, i retrieved it with my pudgy little fingers, and half a second before it went into my mouth i noticed that it was wriggling. i'd missed the raisin and picked up a HUGE juicy black ant.

i almost threw up and have not voluntarily eaten a plain raisin since. baked in things or as part of trail mix, fine. but a solitary raisin always seems vaguely, disturbingly animate to me.

interestingly, the five second rule (which is more like a thirty second rule, in my case) was unaffected by the incident.

the dreamlife of linguists

in my dream, months had gone by with no word from berkeley on funding. finally it came in the form of a printed out excel spreadsheet with everyone's awards. all the other people had tens of thousands of dollars plus tuition support. i had no award whatsoever, i even had to pay full tuition. i was sitting around crying about it when i realized that the school year was starting and i didn't have a schedule and my nemesis-turned-mentor had forgotten that i was a student there and i knew i should go to class but i didn't know where or when, and so i just kept riding bart around and around but it would never stop at the right place.

i've been accepted and nominated for a fellowship at suny. i decided to apply there because i thought talmy was still teaching, but it turned out that he retired at the end of the year. he's hanging around berkeley now, i sat right next to him at bls.

it is comforting that my waking reality is better than my dreamlife.
and that my dreams are absolutely transparent.


big paws i know you're the one

and i will love him, and pet him, and squeeze him, and call him george...

story @bbc


computers vs. other computers vs. humans

amy: i love macs but they're kind of frustrating too
will: o?
amy: their specs are...underwhelming
amy: so you have to spend a bunch of money beefing them up
amy: then again, i got the low end mac, so.
will: well i still can't stand how other laptops look.
will: i really don't think it's that hard to design a good looking piece of hardware.
will: so if a company can't get the look right, i don't trust it..
amy: i would guess that the people designing the hardware don't actually care so much about aesthetics
amy: in general
amy: and yeah macs look a lot better than anything else but they're also way more expensive and with less memory, disk space, and wimpier processors. in general.
amy: but i love them
amy: strange
will: well not anymore ..
will: with those intel macs.
amy: wha?
amy: intel...macs?
will: whoa.
will: where have you been?
amy: in a grad school dream
will: the new powerbooks are running on intel processors.
will: go to their webpage.
will: or anywhere.
amy: oh okay
amy: i don't normally pay attention to such things
will: and yet you read about giant bunnies on mischa's blog.
amy: yes, i like to keep tabs on people
amy: computers, not so much


the predictable valentine's day post

over sushi dinner with a friend tonight it occurred to me that the people who spend the most time talking about how great their relationships are...are often the people who are in the least satisfying relationships. i suppose i was thinking of this because of the company, and because of the time of year.

it seems senseless to pretend that february 14 is just another day; obviously it is more loaded than that. especially with memories of last year sleeping with someone next to me. with him next to me. i have rarely been single on v.day and when i have it's been spent with good friends. tomorrow i think that i just want to stay at home with my new music and fold some origami stars or something.

i'm not really sad though.
i'm not really anything.



today in oakland it's sunny and 70. i went for a run around lake merritt and during the part in the arcade fire's "rebellion" where it gets all soary and inspiring, a flock of birds took off and flew over my head all around me and everywhere there was sun and people smiling and i thought...it is a pretty good thing to be me.

i somehow made it down to bls yesterday morning in time for minicrush's talk, even after the excesses of friday night. so 12 hours after being spun crazily around a noisy bar by hot, i was watching minicrush be all smart in the basement of dwinelle hall. he is sweet and understated and the complete opposite of hot (hot the noun, not hot the adjective). for some reason i didn't feel like going over to chat with him but i did get a charming little wink. i also introduced myself to several of the berkeley first years, and had lunch with one of them.

i wonder how i forgot for so long how awesome it is just to be alive in a world where there's sun and music and birds and dancing and linguistics conferences. a boyfriend or girlfriend would be nice but it's not necessary, and in fact it's probably best that i don't have one now as i try to figure out where i will be in the fall. i think i must be seeking the little thrills of that kind of connection without the possibility of a real relationship (i.e. hot is completely unsuitable, minicrush is leaving in march to travel around south america for two months).

right now my windows are all open (which sounds metaphorical but i meant it literally) and everything feels gentle and full of possibility.
i spent a day dreaming of dying in mesa, arizona
where all the green of life had turned to ash
and i felt i was on fire with the things i could have told you
i just assumed that you eventually would ask

and i wouldn’t have to bring up my so badly broken heart
and all those months i just wanted to sleep
and though spring it did come slowly, i guess it did its part
my heart has thawed and continues to beat

--bright eyes


makes you wanna blow the stars from the sky

if you're not a girl and you have never had a crazy crush on a bad idea, you would never understand.

but if you are, and you have, you would know how it might feel if he looked and saw an empty space next to you and came over to fill it. now he nudged you with his elbow before doing the lighter-over-alcohol-filled-mouth trick, look at me, look what i can do. because you brought two shots of sambucca but only his was alcohol, yours was water. and you know how it might feel if you're sitting there and he's standing and you're working on your fourth whiskey drink and he holds out his hand, saying let's dance but without the words.

what you do is you put your hand into his and you stand up and follow him. he pulls you in and your arm goes up around his shoulder and you feel his hand on your lower back. you feel his arm is around you and you have watched his arms for months wondering how they feel and now you know.

he realizes you have no idea what you're doing and he leans down and says low in your ear "you see this hand" his left. you say yes and you're grabbing it just to stay upright because for you three whiskey drinks is just about all you can take. you say yes and he says "this hand is your master. you got it?" and you gleam up at him and say yeah i got it. he pulls it away and says ohhhh! puts it back you grab it he pulls it away again ohhh! the third time you just hold on tight and he says good, very good.

and then he's pushing you and pulling you and he spins you under his arm around this way and that way and you're dizzy laughing and you don't care. you vaguely realize for a moment that everyone is watching and these people you work with and you don't care.

spins you out pulls you back in spinning the other way and you collide with him and you feel the way his body feels pressed against you and...


then you're in close to his ear and he's saying you know what this song is? and you say yes it's rapper's delight you emailed it to me...and he says yeah...


finally you stop and he starts you again and then h is saying i'm leaving and peter says i should take you home and she says something else i can't remember but it seems convincing and so you go. because people don't like this, they think you should go and you know they're probably right and nothing really good can come out of you staying there.

maybe i'll never feel him so close again and maybe i'll never know his smell again but i don't even care. for awhile i was twirled around and around and i could lay my head down on his chest. i was laughing and everything was spinning and right. and music and laughing and his hand sliding around my waist and everything was perfect. and the rest of the world didn't exist anymore it was me and him and his hands in charge. and spinning and pressing and what could possibly be more vital, more beautiful. what could possibly be more perfectly what i haven't felt in a long time which was i don't even care if i die right now this is exactly what i want to be doing.

and him saying in my ear "you're going to be great, you're going to go to school and be great" and how that sounds different from him than from everyone.

so you see why it's good that he is going away.
it is good

and i will miss him.


stuff and things

right now it is overcast and lightly snowing in ithaca.
today i rsvp'ed for the cornell open house.

if i think about it a little i get really excited because there are a lot of great things about the school. if i think about it a lot i start to get nervous because my dream department is here, my life is here.

today i had my pupils dilated and it was nice because for awhile things were fuzzy and toobright and so i could just sit there and stare vacantly at things i couldn't even see. instead of feeling like i should be reading my syntax textbook, for example. it was like listening to the cocteau twins or something, you can't understand a damn thing they're saying so you are free to just tune out a little and enjoy things on a less cerebral, more sensory level.

this weekend is bls and tomorrow i'm going to see my new minicrush give a talk.
i told him i would sit in the front row and heckle.
and when he smiles it touches every part of his face.


college and dwight

i always knew it was gonna happen. i used to write about it even, that noise. the conditioned response.

the thing about skateboards is they all seem to sound a little different. i knew the sound of his, low fast and rough. whenever i'd hear one like it i'd have to casually look over my shoulder hoping it was him. lately i haven't been looking but tonight i was running up near campus and i heard it low and rough spiral to a stop across the street and a few beats and "hey...amy!" a voice i haven't heard in several months but it's not like you forget.

and i guess i had a second to stop and turn and wave or something...something allowing a conversation to start but i just. didn't.

there was no noise of him kicking off, i had a feeling he was watching me run away and so at the next corner i just turned. and kept going until i was home.

sorry, david.
this sucks but right now the last thing i need is you.
the world is confusing enough.
but i'm glad to know you're alive and around.


acting and reacting

i used to think that the best litmus test for true friendship was disaster.
now i'm starting to wonder if it's success.

careful what you wish

just when i stopped shaking from the berkeley news

i got into cornell.
with a five year funding package.
and they want to pay for me to go out to their open house next month.
which is on the same dates as berkeley's open house.

i never expected to feel torn about this.

it's stupid to be drawn to a school partly 'cause it has the ivy league cachet.
isn't it?

i know this is a good problem to have but right now i'm a bit terrified.


in praise of everyone i love

poem in praise of my husband
diane diPrima

i suppose it hasn't been easy living with me either,
with my piques, and ups and downs, my need for privacy
leo pride and weeping in bed when you're trying to sleep
and you, interrupting me in the middle of a thousand poems
did i call the insurance people? the time you stopped a poem
in the middle of our drive over the nebraska hills and
into colorado, odetta singing, the whole world singing in me
the triumph of our revolution in the air
me about to get that down, and you
you saying something about the carburetor
so that it all went away

but we cling to each other
as if each thought the other was the raft
and he adrift alone, as in this mud house
not big enough, the walls dusting down around us, a fine dust rain
couteracting the good, high air, and stuffing our nostrils
we hang our pictures of the several worlds:
new york collage, and san francisco posters,
set out our japanese dishes, chinese knives
hammer small indian marriage cloths into the adobe
we stumble thru silence into each other's gut

blundering thru from one wrong place to the next
like kids who snuck out to play on a boat at night
and the boat slipped from its moorings, and they look at the stars
about which they know nothing, to find out
where they are going

suddenly everything changes

From: Gary xxxxxxx
To: Amy xxxxxxxx
Date: Feb 5, 2006 10:47 PM
Subject: admission to graduate program

Dear Ms. Campbell,

I write on behalf of the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, to inform you that we have recommended you for admission into our graduate program in linguistics. (Technically, at Berkeley, departments only "recommend" admission and the Graduate Division makes actual offers.) Congratulations! -- We were extremely impressed with your application and your career to date, and we hope we will be able to persuade you to join us in the coming academic year. (This was a very competitive applicant pool; we had 153 applicants and a targeted incoming class size of 9.)

At Berkeley the system of funding graduate students is complex, and we cannot make financial support offers at the same time we make admissions offers...


etc.etc. on and on about funding and open houses and who i can contact with questions and that kind of thing but since my brain is vibrating a little (a lot) right now i will have to figure that stuff out later.

i read it over an hour ago and i'm still shaking

omg i just did that thing where you lie on your back and frantically wave and kick your arms and legs around

i'm running around my apartment like a crazy person
what will the neighbors think?

hi, my name is amy and i am a ph.d student at uc berkeley.


reward for safe return

i lost a post, the one from 2/3. i published it and it was there, then the next day it was gone. i'm bummed too, because i thought it was a pretty good one. it was about hot, the return of my crush, and the song 'playin' with the queen of hearts'. and an embarrassing grade school memory, always good material.

did anyone see it?

you never know how much you love a post until it's gone...


impressions of today

confused boarding 5.30a oakland airport. long beach cold & foggy morning drive to the mortuary. once we drive in we all stop talking and laughing. we park, get out, there's annie. she sees us and in one moment she starts sobbing and walks towards us. we all hug her and this one moment makes the trip worth it.

service all in mandarin kathy whispering translations in my left ear. there's a lot from the minister about how if you believe in jesus you're cool and otherwise you're fucked, but the family tributes are lovely.

annie tells a story. she's 9 and they've just moved to the us from china and annie gets a barbie doll for christmas. on the back of the package, an array of fabulous barbie outfits is pictured but annie knows there's no money for those things, she's lucky to have gotten a present at all. she doesn't say how badly she wants the outfits but her mother sees her looking. the next morning when annie wakes up, her mother has stayed up into the night making the barbie outfits by hand.

it ends with a slide show and the crying from the front row starts softly and builds into the strange animal sounds of deep grief and it breaks my heart in half.

when sorrow is so profound there is no right thing to say.
the only thing to do is offer love and bear witness.

after we line up cars and drive to the interment. i feel strange walking across the lawn and try to stay maximally distant from the headstones. i don't want to walk on anyone. they put her urn in the earth, the family places some items in with her. i'm standing at the hole, the five of us stand there and place our pink roses inside and bow three times. i whisper a message of my own. the hole fills up with pink roses.

it's strange watching them fill the hole with dirt as the family stands right there and the photographer (who was everywhere all day) snaps shots of their faces as they watch them pack it down and cover it with sod and pour water. i think if it were me i would think "they are putting dirt on my mom. they are pouring water on my mom." i suppose it might provide a sense of closure but it is still surreal.

then a luncheon and the five of us who woke up at 4.30 to fly in start to blink around in a daze and then we're going to the airport and on the plane i fall asleep before takeoff and sleep hard until a screaming child wakes me up.

and tomorrow will be just a normal day for me. i was only visiting that place but i think annie will be living there for awhile.

and i suppose i will just try to offer love and bear witness.


reflections on adulthood

some things about being a grownup are good like you get to eat popcorn and a mango for dinner if you want to. you could even buy like four different kinds of candy from the store and have that for dinner but popcorn and a mango seems better. when you're a kid you just think you'd want to eat candy all the time but then it turns out that you really don't.

yesterday i got a plane ticket to fly to los angeles saturday morning and back here saturday evening. i haven't been to a funeral in like 12 years. because i'm only in la-la-land for about eight hours total i won't be able to stalk any of my favorite celebrities like philip seymour hoffman, parker posey, johnny depp, or willtheboy. sad. i don't think i like la too much but i haven't spent that much time there and someone told me i would dig the getty.

last february i also took a lastminute trip, i bought a ticket to nyc on wednesday and flew on friday. maybe it's a february thing. i decided i had to see the christo gates in central park before they disappeared forever. david asked me to call him; i called from the park on saturday and the top of the empire state building on sunday. that seemed cute and whimsical at the time but now i think i should've just saved myself the roaming charges. but i also saw the new moma, was in the general vicinity of potential criminal activity at a weird karaoke bar, and ate crab soup dumplings in chinatown and a bagel at h&h (no relation to the h&h made famous on the pages of this blog).

i wish i could go to nyc like right now.
and i wish i had another mango too.

i do not speak to the italian

email from my mother.


From: Linda xxxxxxxx
To: xxxxxxxxxx@gmail.com
Date: Feb 1, 2006 9:34 PM
Subject: RE: Fwd: Travel Document - Rome 4/20/06

Buona Sera. Mi Chiamo Linda. Come sta? Non parlo l'italiano - Mi
dispiace. Lei e'n molto gentile. Vorrei pane, formaggi,Vini,
-delizioso! Buona fortunai.. Tiamo!!!!!!!!!!!!

Madre xoxoxo


i could provide a less awkward translation, but i prefer babelfish's:

Good Evening. I call Linda. How it is? I do not speak to the Italian - Me dispiace. She e'n much kind one. I would want bread, cheeses, Wines, - delicious! Good fortunai.. Tiamo!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mother xoxoxo


how it is, man.
how it is.