well, kids. NaBloPoMo is over. i did it, i wrote every day of november. will i continue to write every day? perhaps i will...i have been enjoying it, particularly i have enjoyed your comments. i like it when this feels like a conversation.


have i mentioned how much i have to do? the big term paper, the squib, the really huge term paper? the other batch of abstracts to review, more dreams to crush, etc. etc.? lots to do, major stress.

so tonight i did what any sensible hardworking grad student would do under these conditions: i baked a pie.

allow me to correct myself: i am baking a pie.
have to get the tense and aspect correct.


what else...oh yes, i updated my profile a little but did you know they barely let you list any music in there? it sucks. they say you can have 600 characters, which already meant i had to cut my original list of favorite bands in half. then after i got blogger to accept my list, they didn't all actually show up! so i had to cut it in half again. i thought about listing more bands in the books and movies sections but (a) i might fill those in someday, and (b) that felt like cheating.

surreal life

this morning my roommate had a friend over.
how nice, right?

except it was at 7:30a.
and they were loud.
and the friend just got out of jail.
for counterfeiting a BART ticket.

what kind of idiot goes to jail for counterfeiting a BART ticket?!
i really hope he's not staying here.


news from the linguistic front

in this issue:
1. an observation
2. a news item and related commentary

1. observation

i was talking with a friend after class today and she said "i feel so guilty, i've been exercising almost every day." and i was like wait, what? that's awesome, i wish i were that disciplined. but no, she feels guilty because it ends up taking an hour or two out of her day, and she could be using that time to work. i gave her the standard spiel about how it will make her more energetic, focused, productive...all the things i tell myself at 7am when i'm trying to propel myself out of bed and go for a run. but then i realized...i feel guilty if i get 8 hours of sleep in a night. how could i possibly sleep for 8 hours, when i have so much to do? so i kind of knew what she meant.

you might think i'm exaggerating...unless you have been a grad student. in which case i bet you know exactly what i mean. the observation is this: i think it's a little sad and fucked up that something about this system causes people to feel guilty for meeting their own physical needs.

2. news

a chilean indian tribe called the Mapuche is suing microsoft over IP rights to their language. they say that MS did not have their permission to release a Mapudungun version of Windows (the article says Mapuzugun, but i have only ever seen it called Mapudungun).

i haven't even been in this field for very long, but already i am well aware that this is not an unusual attitude. the more endangered a language becomes, the more tightly its speakers want to hold onto it. many Indian tribes of the US are no longer willing to work with linguists or anthropologists, and the reasons are diverse and complex. but it makes a certain amount of sense when you think of how tightly language is bound up with cultural identity and self-worth. language distinguishes "us" from "other" and so it is not a great stretch for a people to see their language as a resource of value, owned exclusively by them, to be protected from those who would take it and profit from it. it's also really sad, because it means that these languages will surely die out, and more quickly than otherwise.

as a programmer (can't i live in both worlds?), i am not a great fan of microsoft. some (not all) of their products really are inferior, and their business practices are anti-competitive. that hurts the field. but again, it's understandable; business is business...which is why i'm better off *not* being in business. i would like to know what steps they took when they thought "hey, let's release windows in some obscure chilean Indian language"...who did they talk to? who said it was a good plan? did they really not talk to anyone from the tribe? and where did they get the language materials?

i think, in the end, i have to come down on the side of the tribe. it's not really a question of who holds the legal rights to a language as much as one of human decency. if a group of people who really have very little, relatively, in the way of social, cultural and political clout say "no, we don't want you to use our language" then you shouldn't use their language. it's a matter of respect, you don't take and use something that people don't want to share. everyone has the right to cultural self-determininsm. end of sermon.


last night i dreamt i'd forgotten my name

the thing about doing the right thing is it sometimes doesn't feel like the right thing at the time.

but i looked up at the moon. it was cold and clear and a perfect half moon with perfect clean edges. i thought, i feel a little like that now: still sometimes like something might be missing, but with clean edges. if i remain a little ragged it's only inside where people can't really see it.


i couldn't have scripted it better

we revisited the issue of a housesitter in our meeting tonight and i stayed with my earlier position: i don't like it. i think it only buys us marginal security, if any, and it feels like an invasion of privacy to have someone i don't know living in my house on their own. i realize many people feel otherwise, and that's fine. i argued that the reality is that people snoop through other people's stuff, they just do. even people who don't seem evil or crazy, they do that. and for whatever reason, i'm private about my space and my stuff. it might not be rational but it's how i feel. blah blah blah, we didn't come to a resolution so much as an action plan, but that's fine. there wasn't going to be a perfect solution to this one.

but a perfect moment did come, shortly after the meeting adjourned. earlier in the evening the power had gone out downstairs and the maintenance person had to come here to let us into the basement (which is used as storage by our landlords) to reset the fuse. because the maintenance guy doesn't want to have to come out here constantly all winter, and because the landlords won't let him give us a key, he taught my housemate how to pick the lock. so...back to the story in progress, the meeting adjourns, my roommate stands up and says in full seriousness "hey, does anyone want to go downstairs with me and look through the landlords' stuff?"


he didn't understand why we were laughing so we explained that he had just proved my point that people aren't always good about respecting each other's privacy. and i couldn't resist the mildest "see? that's what i'm saying."


cold & chinese robots

i am wearing multiple layers including hat and scarf and drinking cheap but tasty red wine from a small jelly jar, in order to stay warm in my room. sad. all i really want my home to be is warm, clean, and quiet. at least i (usually) have one of three, but still, this living situation is not working for me and i think a lot about changing it. i am past the point where this dickensian routine is romantic.


some thoughts on mind and meaning
(inspired by yesterday's link #2)

the thing about the claim that as computers become more and more powerful we get closer and closer to approaching the computational power of the human brain, and thus closer and closer to achieving humanlike AI, is that it fails to acknowledge the difference between effectively modeling understanding and actually *understanding*. even if kurzweil's projections are correct, it will take much more than sheer computational power to create a mind. for any system (biological or computational) to have real understanding, it has to do more than manipulate formal symbols...it has to have knowledge/experience of their real-world referents. this is why computer programs can't tell whether someone in a picture is eating pizza. they don't have any way to know what pizza is or what eating looks like, let alone what tomato sauce tastes like, or how it feels to burn the roof of your mouth because you didn't wait until the cheese was cool enough.

deep blue is a higly effective model of (one metric of) human intelligence, a remarkable achievement, but it's tough to say that it *is* intelligent/ce. the machine doesn't understand what it is doing, it doesn't even understand what chess is; it just has a complicated algorithm for calculating the best move. it doesn't feel satisfied when it wins, it doesn't even "want" to win, as such. it does not have beliefs or desires or any mental states at all, and these are indispensable notions in any theory of consciousness and intentionality. thus, any drive or adaptability that deep blue has is secondary, derived; it is the intentionality of the designers and programmers that actually drives the system.

searle uses a thought experiment called "the chinese room" to illustrate the difference between modeling understanding and actual understanding. he asks us to imagine that AI efforts have succeeded in creating a program that can answer questions about a given story so accurately that the program passes a Turing test. imagine that the program does all of this in chinese. let's say the program knows about what kinds of entities and events are found in restaurants. so you give it a story like this: "a man walked into a restaurant and ordered a hamburger. it was perfectly cooked and tasty, so he left a large tip and left satisfied." now you ask it, "did the man eat the hamburger?" the system tells you: "yes, he ate the hamburger." you are tempted to ascribe understanding to this system; it knows something that you did not explicitly tell it. it has made a logical leap!

to convince ourselves that this is not actual understanding, we can imagine searle (who does not speak chinese) in a room with no windows, etc. he has piles of books that contain complicated tables that map certain chinese characters to other chinese characters. someone hands sheets full of chinese characters through a slot in the wall, and searle looks up the characters in various tables, correlating them with symbols in other tables, eventually ending up with a new sheet full of chinese characters which he hands out through the door. the people on the outside of the room are convinced that searle understands chinese, because he always answers the questions correctly. but searle does not understand chinese! and, crucially, since the computer does not have anything that searle does not have, the computer does not understand chinese either.

now, there are many objections to this line of reasoning. in fact, i wrote a short paper for searle's class, aiming to critique the argument. i didn't get very far with it though, because i kept coming back to the point that meaning really does require real-world reference and context, something that a computer program (which is made up entirely of formal symbols) lacks. yes, these forms have semantic content too, but it is only a system-internal semantics. you can try to make the system as big or as multimodal as you like, you can even try to stick it in the head-box of a big robot that can lumber around and interact with the world. still it all comes back to the same problem: if you look inside the robot's head, there is searle, still not understanding chinese.

if you buy this (and if you are not a functionalist which i hope you are not), then it follows that no matter how much computational power a system has (even if it exceeds that of all of the brains in all of humanity as kurzweil breathlessly predicts) it is not really intelligent, even if it behaves in ways that we are tempted to call intelligent, because it does not understand anything. computational power is thus a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for intelligence.

perhaps when we better understand what meaning is and how it connects to linguistic form (one of my major interests, by the way), and when we have technology that can duplicate the neurobiological processes that give rise to human consciousness, it will be possible to create a system that can rightly be called intelligent. until then, the best we can hope for is a clever simulation. until then, there will always be tasks that require "Human Inside" architecture.

okay, there's a lot more to say about this, but i have to go finish my pragmatics paper outline now. and then to sleep, perchance to dream of giant robots spitting out pages full of chinese characters. it's a nice thought.


good things by other people

"sure," said i. "i will review abstracts for BLS. cool."

thinking i would get 10 or 15 submission abstracts but no. i have 100! abstracts! to read and comment on, selecting the best 14 to give talks at the conference. i am the gatekeeper.

today is for working, so in lieu of original content i offer you some neat things i have seen lately:

1. where the hell is matt? (some guy named matt)
yes, it's really real.

2. ghost in the machine (jake jakob)
i have a lot to say about this, hopefully i will get around to saying it.

3. a reason to give thanks (will the boy)
i'm not sure i want to have kids, but this makes me more inclined to do so, if only because then someday i can be a grandma & try to be half as amazing as will's grandma.


;alis f;alsna;sinaorafh

crikey, i almost forgot to post today.

today i realized that i have to write 40-50 (high quality, edited) pages in the next few weeks, and i got scared. it means i have to go back to the bad place, that place i went to right before nsf was due. strung out on caffeine numb brain bruised pissy snappish place. i don't like the bad place. noooooooo don't make me go to the bad place! noooooooooo! noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

school is corrosive.

okay this is inane, sorry, sorry. i had started writing something interesting about intelligence vs. understanding but i'm tired and it's not finished; maybe i will post it during a study break tomorrow.

i was very crabby all day.
i feel like i'm changing and i can't do anything about it.



i woke up a little gloomy and dispirited today. i did not want to do thanksgiving, i wanted to stay in my bed all day. after i showered and walked to 7-11 for coffee (ew, i know, but it's all that was open and missing my coffee would have been far, far worse) i brought all of my special groceries and my recipes to the kitchen. i turned on NPR and the guy from postsecret was on "talk of the nation" so that was a good sign.

now it is five hours later and i am so happy. i love cooking and i have done very little real cooking since school started. since i moved, really. today i made vegetable gravy (i had made roasted vegetable stock from scratch last night, i deglazed the roasting pan with white wine and the whole bit. if you ever want to make vegetable stock i highly recommed roasting first, the caramelized vegetables give it so much flavor) and a ginger-honey pumpkin pie. it is very daunting to bring the pumpkin pie to a thanksgiving dinner, particularly one as high-caliber as judy's always is. i've never made a very good pumpkin pie before but you should see this one, it is beautiful and perfect. and the gravy is rich and smooth and peppery. and then i talked to a bunch of people on the phone and soon i will go to judy's. i love thanksgiving! do you hear me? thanksgiving thanksgiving thanksgiving! i love you!

happy day, everyone. call someone you love. let the sun warm your face. remember it is a beautiful world.


amazon totally has me pegged

Customers who bought items in your Recent History also bought:

I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
~ Yo La Tengo
Lexical-Functional Syntax

Lexical-Functional Syntax
by Joan Bresnan



more fun with words

today an undergrad friend from school was talking about something a professor said in class: "and if you're a crackpot linguist, you can one day write an article about how zuni is related to basque!" hahaha. well, you probably have to be a linguist to find that amusing, but my friend continued: "yeah, and he kept saying it throughout the class. he said 'if you're a crackpot linguist...' like eight times! i started feeling kind of bad, like that's not very nice to people who use crack."

pause. pause.

wait, what? what do people who use crack have to do with it? then it dawned on me that she had done this weird folk etymology which i confirmed with her: crack(head) + (sex)pot = crackpot. wow.

but then i realized...i don't know why crackpot means what it actually does mean. i faux-batted my eyes at will...oh, if ONLY someone around here had a laptop then we could figure it out (having just seen him using his in class).

crackpot (colloq.): A crack-brain, a crazy creature, a crank. (OED)

it turns out that there is this archaic expression pot of the head, meaning skull, cranium, or brainpan. i would consider this a metaphorical extension of pot (in the crockery sense) as a container for food to pot as a container for brain. if your food-pot gets cracked, your food might leak out or be ruined. if your brain-pot gets cracked, your intellect is lost or compromised. crackpot!

all that aside, how sweet is it that my friend was worried about the feelings of the people who use crack? berkeley kids are so great.


tower of power

well, i did have an interesting experience with cheese not too long ago. with apologies to the soy and feline cheese contingents, it involves plain old yellow dairy cheese. it was cheese that my co-op ordered from our bulk food supplier. it comes in a forty! pound! block!

i want to stop and draw your attention to the fact that forty pounds of cheese is like...half of an olsen twin. it was literally (and here i mean literally literally) the size of a microwave oven. a BIG microwave oven. it was a monolith of cheese. i'm serious, i could hear faint strains of "also sprach Zarathustra" in my head.

it happened to be delivered on the day that my house conducted our most recent round of roommate interviews. it was very telling to see people's reaction to the cheese, and to us hacking it apart into manageably sized chunks. some were amused, some were disgusted. one girl was like "...it's beautiful." i wanted her to move in on the spot.

why did we buy 40 pounds of cheese, you ask? you naysayer, you doubting thomas, you recidivist. we bought it because it only cost $35. and they sent it to our front door. what other reason could you possibly need?


on the s-side

boy. writing every day is hard.
just like thinking.
and math. math is the hardest.
let's go shopping instead...

actually no, i hate shopping, unless it's at a bookstore or record store. or an art supply store or sometimes a school/office product store. but other than that, i'd prefer calculus any day. it's just funny to say that, i think, while tilting one's head to the side and speaking in a vacuous tone.

today i went shopping.

haha, just kidding, i spent all day in a linguistics conference, specifically in a syntax&semantics conference for grad students and faculty from berkeley, stanford, and santa cruz. it rotates each year and this year it was in my home away from home, dwinelle hall, on the beautiful UCB campus. actually, i think the co-op is my home away from home and dwinelle is the real thing, maybe...i mean, the co-op probably won't last past this spring, and i'll be lurking deep in the bowels of dwinelle for at least another 4.5 years or so. (aside: wow, i never knew my building had its own website until now.)

well. there are 11 days left in november.
what should i write about next?



do you realize - that you have the most beautiful face

do you realize - we're floating in space

do you realize - that happiness makes you cry

do you realize - that everyone you know someday will die

and instead of saying all of your goodbyes

let them know you realize that life goes fast

it's hard to make the good things last

you realize the sun doesn't go down

it's just an illusion caused

by the world

spinning 'round

do you realize??

(words by the flaming lips)
(pictures by me @ albany bulb today)




these barriers exist for a reason you know. you don't get the choice anymore you know. you gave me no choice but to get over you, and now i give you no choice but to let go of me. maybe all we ever were was a weirdly polarized pair of concepts; we each wanted the other to complete us. it wasn't going to happen though, you weren't going to ever let it happen.

there isn't anyone else but there is the idea of someone. maybe with some echoes of you but unselfish. and okay and grownup and who maybe grounds me a little instead of injecting me with chaos. and who makes me better instead of leading me into dark and alone. i think you saw that happening, i think you knew i would have followed you all the way in. i would have followed you anywhere, maybe like you said you wanted to protect me.

or maybe i confused being used with being needed, as empaths are prone to doing. but i don't think it really matters, in the end. i can invent our past now just like i wanted to invent our present, then. what's different about a past is that it exists only in memories, so i can make it whatever i want. as long as it's in service of my own sanity i think it's fine.

now i just think you should try to go and be happy in your life.
and i will do the same.

your friend,


hot drinks and writing

i discovered mate.

have you ever tried mate? it's amazing. i tend to drink more caffeine than i should so i didn't expect to be too affected but this is a whole different thing. i drank a mate latte with cardamom and vanilla and rice milk, now i feel totally awake, energetic, happy, not jittery, and focused. perfect for the evening of writing which is already in progress. my housemates said i looked a little flushed which isn't surprising because at the moment i feel weirdly suffused with life. it's either the mate or a manic episode; let's hope for the former.

i really love writing during the day. i am a morning and early-afternoon writer, i have discovered. not so surprising, i am a morning person in general. even when i stay up late. and so although i am loving my classes and want to always continue taking a class here and there, i am looking forward to third year, when my schedule will be all about research and writing (and, of course, teaching). big yummy blocks of time during the day to sit at my desk or at a cafe or outside somewhere and write.

the evening is a fine time for reading. but writing goes so well with the sun pushing away the late morning fog, at my little desk next to my big window with some dreamy music or just the sound of life outside, and a cup of coffee steaming near my right hand.


this machine eats students

it must be the time of semester combined with time of year. everyone has that weary look to them, like please don't ask me to do anything else right now or i might lie down on the floor and start crying.

or maybe i'm projecting.

RIDL sat and talked to me today while i was making dinner. it was okay. i think if he would be chill and quiet a little more then i would like him (a little more).

i like quiet.

i just thought of this:
next halloween i want to dress someone up as a magritte painting.

i will make him wear a dark suit, red tie, and a bowler hat. i will make a large, fake, leafy green apple and attach it to the hat somehow so that it hovers directly in front of his face. then i will take a picture of him standing in front of the stone wall that runs along the sidewalk at ocean beach.

maybe i will make a bunch of people join me and we can go as an art museum, all as different paintings. i will be the one that k said i reminded her of, i'll walk around biting my hair all night. it will be awesome.


don't take this literally...

today i relayed one of my favorite language change stories. some time ago, i heard a sports announcer say this on the radio:

(1) the fans are literally riveted to their seats!

now, one can only assume he did not really mean that the fans are *literally* riveted to their seats. i can just imagine a stadium full of bleeding, punctured, riveted spectators.

i have noticed other language changes in process, but few are quite so striking. in this case, we have a meaning reversal: 'literally' is coming to mean 'figuratively'. it seems to occur easily with idiomatic expressions of intensity/extent:

(2) it was so funny, i was literally peeing my pants.
(3) i was literally scared to death.

in fact, my intuition is that when used with an expression of extent, one would be less likely to use 'literally' literally.

(4) there are literally a thousand reasons why i don't want to go out tonight.
(5) #there are literally 7 reasons why i don't want to go out tonight.

unless the magnitude of the extent is very large:
(6) there are literally over a thousand weeds in my lawn--i counted!'

upon checking the OED, it looks like i was on the right track:
b. Used to indicate that the following word or phrase must be taken in its literal sense.

Now often improperly used to indicate that some conventional metaphorical or hyperbolical phrase is to be taken in the strongest admissible sense.
as a linguist, i have an issue with the word 'improperly' as used above. i tend to think that however native speakers use their language is proper. the interesting approach is not to tell people how they should and should not talk, but to describe and explain how they actually *do* talk.


long story short...

a day of massive self-doubt and self-recrimination.
not a good day.

but i'm going to a party on friday where we will throw republican-signifying items into a bonfire. so that will be good.

(hi, NSA.)


trust issues?

house meeting.

tonight i told one roommate that i wasn't totally comfortable with the idea of her boyfriend living here for part of december. somehow she was surprised by this after telling me that this guy has anger issues and she thinks he might be abusive. they are always chaotic, breaking up and getting back together. i don't want this guy in my house at all, i don't want to live with a couple like that, even short term, and i certainly don't want him here by himself.

it is not easy to say these things directly to a person with everyone listening, but i suppose it is better that way.

i also had a rather direct argument with roommate-i-don't-like (RIDL?) about whether we should have a housesitter at xmas. my point was that our house got robbed when seven of us were actively living here. i am not sure it's really going to add any security at all to have one housesitter who we don't even all know. "what is the basis of your fear? what are you afraid is going to happen?" he asked, which made me want to spit. i don't have a list of fears, it's not like that. i am just uncomfortable with someone who is a stranger to me living in my house when nobody is here to host that person. i just don't like it. "but we do know the person." no, maybe YOU know the person, but i don't. and i know you all to varying degrees, and to be totally honest, i trust you all to varying degrees. said i.

i just don't think "living in community" has to mean lack of boundaries and automatic trust of all my roommates and of everyone that they know. but apparently i am in the minority on this point. i felt like everyone was secretly judging me for not being a good little co-operative dweller.

i feel unpopular and bummed.



i just had the best experience with apple tech support.

i'm not kidding. she was competent, friendly, and went out of her way to fix errors made by previous people i'd dealt with over there. now my cantankerous little baby is purring again. (i still don't recommend buying a macbook yet, though..) and the house internet is happy too (unrelated issue).

so now i suppose i have no choice but to get back to work. it was perversely nice when my computer was staging a coup earlier and i didn't want to deal with it. i just sat on my couch with blankets piled on me and watched kieslowski's red. it was really excellent, but i'm not sure what AMG means when they call it the "most accomplished effort" in the trois couleurs trilogy. red is structurally interesting, it deals with ramified connections between people. but it seems a bit lacking in character transformation, at least to the extent that it is woven through the other two films. white is clever and has a satisfying story of turnabout and redemption, but blue is my favorite. it is profoundly, breathtakingly emotional. it exposes the extraordinary toughness of humanity, even at the most fragile point in a life.

still, to say that blue is my favorite is like trying to choose which is my favorite song from in the aeroplane over the sea, or my favorite chapter from lolita. by kieslowski's design, each film is best taken as a figure set against the ground of the coherent whole.


and veni

my house internet hates us and so i am un-online-able at the moment. but because it is NaBloPoMo, i am at my friend's place leeching her internets. you see? you see what i do for you? that's love, baby.

one thing i love about living in the bay area is that when i say things like "i need to go walk in the forest" then i can get up and drive twenty minutes and be walking in a redwood forest (please don't start singing "this land is your land" right now because my roommate-i-don't-like did that). walking in the redwoods is so good, it's so cliche to say but they are totally majestic. all towering around you, you get to the bottom of the canyon and it's cool and damp and forest dark. then you walk back up and burst out into the sunshine. i walked around for a couple of hours, it smelled so good, like redwood and bay. there were no desks or computers and not even that many humans.

then i took a nap.
then i got my hair cut.
then i went to the grocery store.

this post was brought to you by the letters a and s, and the number 839.


vici / vidi

my week, in six lines.

1. apply for NSF: check.
2. turn in term paper proposal: check.
3. class presentation: check.
4. turn in syntax paper: check.
5. turn in grammar sketch: check.
6. collapse and die: imminent.

i'm supposed to go into the mission for dinner tonight.
not really sure how that's gonna work.


i need to sleep.
i need to walk in the forest.
and eat vegetables.

i need to read a poem and watch my derrida documentary.
i need to think about things other than school.
if i can remember how to do that.

i need to make out with someone
go for a whole day without speaking
stay in my pajamas

find a sympathetic face
with eyes that glow into me

there was always something about the eyes.



a few months ago i met someone to whom i had a very powerful, very negative visceral reaction. k put it well, she said most of the time when you meet someone you like them, at least somewhat. i think that's right; humans are inherently social. she said occasionally when you meet people you are neutral. but every once in a while, you meet someone who just makes. your. skin. crawl.

at the time i had a theory that there is some deep evolutionary wisdom at work in such situations. it feels a little like when you see a spider crawling up the wall near you (i have a spider phobia so for me it is a fear/disgust reaction, substitute your own phobia to produce the analogous response). i wonder if somehow we can sense when someone's chemistry is off in such a way that their combination with our own chemistry could be corrosive. when i was younger i would ignore those reactions but i have since learned, through a series of explosive relationships, to trust them.

i have that same feeling again now, not quite as extreme but it is provoked by one of my housemates, so it is continually there at a low to medium level. this is a person i just do not want to be around, ever.

i don't really know what to do about it, because i can't help my reaction and i seem to have been deprived of a normal level of skill in hiding my thoughts and feelings. or if i'm really totally honest with myself, maybe it is just that i don't want to bother to engage in the posturing.

but the whole thing is a little sad, because he tries to be nice and helpful, and i think he would like for us to be friendly. it's not really that he *did* anything wrong. it's just that he somehow *is* wrong. and that isn't the kind of thing you can tell a person.

ps. i never kill spiders. i just put them outside. or, better yet, make someone else put them outside so that i don't have to get close.



it frustrates me when people don't answer my questions well. when you claim that your computational system represents and interacts with communicative (pragmatic) context and i ask how that works, don't repond by explaining that pragmatics is important. *i* know that pragmatics is important, i'm a linguist! an ex-programmer linguist, no less, and i have a good idea of just how hard the problem represented by that innocent-looking little box and arrow on your powerpoint slide actually is.

note to self: if you want to attract people to work on your project, you really need to not only make it look interesting, but present at least a plausible attack. you need to give people handles.

i don't expect anyone to have all the answers. i would be happiest with an honest "yes, that's a hard problem. why don't we sit down sometime and talk through possible approaches."



enn ess eff

i am applied.

i won't hear whether i won or not until some time in march. which i think is nice, in a way. humans (and other animals too) associate temporal proximity with causation. a common fallacy is to assume a causal connection between two events that happen in quick succession. in a way, i can play a little game with myself by consciously engaging in the reverse fallacy. such a long delay between behavior and reward removes the perception of a causal connection (even though it actually IS at least partially causal, working hard = better chance of winning). in other words, i have to find some other internal purpose to having just suffered through the last month and a half.

once i get some sleep, i think i will be very happy to have gone through the exercise. unfortunately that will have to wait for the weekend as i have deadlines every day this week.

i can't get my mind to stick to anything. so i sit here in a campus food court, blogging, cursing the fact that they bother to have electrical outlets installed all around the perimeter but they DON'T WORK.

oh well. i have to go make lists of verbs from an obscure dead language now.


promise, levity, progress

i read about NaBloPoMo and decided to do it. which means that you, dear reader, will have the (dubious) pleasure of thirty days (has september, april, june, and november) of regular updates. perhaps i will get back into my old habits of writing every day.

since i didn't find out about this until yesterday, my name is not on the official list. i guess that means i'm a renegade NaBloPoMo-er, which is really pushing things linguistically. i realize that it appears from my timestamps that i missed nov1, but in actuality, my oct31 writing was posted after midnight. it's just that the timestamp shows when i started writing the post, and not when i actually posted it. it's good enough for me.

q: why do programmers confuse halloween and christmas? (click&drag highlight below for answer)

a: because oct31 = dec25.


all day long i have been sitting here finishing my NSF application. i am deep in the land of diminishing returns and yet i persist.

by the way, i have perfect spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization etc.etc. in my academic writing. i suppose that isn't so unusual, many people have different registers of speech...slangy, formal, domain-based, etc.

poetry is characterized by infelicity; you have to work to get at the meaning and this is part of what we value in the form. i could claim that my typing style here increases my expressivity...but really, it's probably just about saving keystrokes.


a request

send me an argument.

i will explain. i need to write a pragmatic analysis of a chunk of text. i originally thought children's story so i lugged a copy of the phantom tollbooth around today to refresh the memory, it's been a few years since i last sat down and read it all, but nothing seemed quite right. i thought poetry but i am hesitant to so closely analyze any poem worth spending that much time thinking about. there is something fragile about one's relationship to art that does not survive scrutiny entirely intact. i prefer my naive appreciation (though if it is selfaware then maybe it is not really naive). then i thought...an argument. a fight. yes, but it should be text.

so i want someone to send me the text of an argument with a friend or lover that occurred over email or instant messenger. it must be the original text, ideally unedited except that you may change the names. in case you do that, please do assign unique identifiers (person1, person2, ...) to each participant, so that i can keep everyone's contribution straight. in case you do not, i will do it for you. i am particularly interested in exchanges which show metacommunication (talking about how the conversation is going), negotiation, and expectations engendered by intimacy (e.g. "you should know me better than that!").

you will have the choice of remaining anonymous or receiving a citation in the paper, acknowledging your contribution. this is just for a class, not intended for publication, so it's unlikely that anyone other than my professor will SEE the acknowledgement, but still.

if i don't get anything suitable i may use one of my own; i have several that would make good material. but i think it would be better to analyze an exchange in which i did not take part. i will certainly understand if nobody wants to share their arguments, but it never hurts to ask.

send to:
lifeinlimn at gmail dot com


selfcontained, part 1

i'll be all "you call that hpsg? my GRANDMOTHER can do better hpsg!"
--me, explaining to my fellow first-years how i will heckle presenters from other schools at LSA this year.


my roommate is one of those people who serially pins her heart and hope on one unavailable man after another, and disdains the sweet boys who actually like her. it happened again. after spending a night last week with the latest one she came home full of starry calm saying "i know exactly what i want now." with or without reason, she thought the guy was on the same page and so i was cautiously supportive.

other roommates told me this evening that she received an email from him. it said "thank you for the snugglefest, i hope that you felt honored and respected. i just have to be clear that i am still in love with my ex-girlfriend and with my current girlfriend, so blah blah blah."

if i could talk to her right now (she is not home) i would say okay first of all...snugglefest? honored? the sensitive guy thing is an easy target to overshoot, and your pal has gone all the way to girly-hippie-land, if you ask me. second, i know right now you are thinking "but i felt our cosmic connection and i know he felt it too, he's just confused." fine, maybe you're right, but for the sake of your own sanity you must take him at his word. let him go have his girlfriend-and-a-half, let them deal with the reality of trying to have any sort of decent relationship with a dude who just invited you to spend the night making out with him in his van. his HIPPIE van, i'm sure. and by the way, his name is BLAIR. even if you needed some guy or girl to complete you, which you do not, you certainly don't need *this* guy.

but actually i wouldn't say those things because there is something so sweet and a little on the edge about this girl. a little like a past version of me. amy v2.0, i think now i'm on the beta release of v8 or so. rather than frustrating, i find her turns heartbreaking. it makes me want to teach her to build a shell, but who says that's the better solution? lately i hide behind cynicism a little, you can't hurt me if i refuse to accept that you are sincere. i take my intensity in the form of theoretical exploration. like will said, a world of hermetic pretty things. it does have its advantages, like a happy lack of girly hippie men, for example.

this all makes me think of something else; i will return to this point later.


week 10

there is this one professor who scares me a little, because he's brilliant and direct and critical. because he scares me i always seek him out for feedback on things. i make it a habit these days to do what scares me.

today i met with him for comments on my research proposal essay for the NSF fellowship application. which was double scary as this is the first research program i have ever developed.

he said "this is a good topic. this would make a good dissertation." in his scary, matter-of-fact way.

i had a complicated reaction. yay! and: wow, how in the hell did i actually stumble across a good diss topic in my first year? and: oh crap...does that mean i'm actually doing this thing for real? yeah i guess it does. huh.

mostly yay though.
mostly i got crazy interested in a phenomenon and if i choose, i can spend the next few years studying it from every possible angle.

it's funny to meet with a lot of people for comments on an essay because some of them are like "no, this part has to go." and the next person is like "i love that, it is just the right note to end on." one person who studies X is like "you must focus more on X in your plan" and the next person, who is more interested in Y, says "i think you should play up the part about Y". i don't know, i am just trying to prove that i have great potential as a researcher, in two pages max, one inch margins, 12pt times new roman. not an easy task, kids.

i am vaguely aware that the world does not, in fact, revolve around me & my NSF application. i have heard rumors to this effect. but for the next four days, i choose to disbelieve them.

and one more nice thing:
e: hi amy, how are you?
a: really tired.
e: of course you are. you're a first-year.
a: yeah.
e: don't worry. it gets better.
a: really? (perks up)
e: yeah. you don't get as much done. but you get a lot more sleep.
a: cool!

people in my department are so nice to me this week.