Posts filed under ‘School’

Door #11: Academic Hilarity

Today one of the research fellows at work regaled my boss and I with the following joke:

[A classicist] goes into a bar.

[At this point, both of us started laughing already since the jokester used the actual name of our resident classics fellow.]

He walks up to the counter and says “Give me a martinus.”

The bartender says, “Don’t you mean a martini?

The classicist bangs his fist on the bar, ” If I wanted a double I would have asked for it, dammit!”

How do you say ba-dum-chuck in Latin?


11 December 2007 at 1:15 1 comment

Door #6: Uncommon Consent

Tonight’s session of my social science research methods class covered research ethics: Institutional Review Boards, vulnerable populations, confidentiality, risk/benefit ratios, etc. Although the lecture sparked some lively discussion, the most interesting part of the evening was my teacher’s use of consent as a transitive verb.

Midway through the discussion of informed consent, the professor started a sentence “Before you consent someone…,” meaning, I gather, before you get them to sign an informed consent form.

There was a time when I might have used this as an occasion to rail about the decline and fall of the English language. But now, after a couple of linguistics courses and a lot of time spent reading Language Log, I’m just thrilled that English can still grow and change and surprise me with new meanings and usages.

6 December 2007 at 22:31 Leave a comment

Closing Time

I’ve never been at the big library on campus at closing time before tonight. When the bell rings, squinting scholars skitter out of the stacks like termites when you pick up a piece of rotting wood. Some of them even have the same pallor as termites. They look like they haven’t seen sunlight in weeks.

Does that sound like I have an aversion to libraries? Nothing could be further from the truth. I still remember the first time I walked into the campus library at the folkhögskola I attended in Sweden. What a relief it was to find that it smelled exactly the same as every other library in my life. All I need is to get a whiff of the drying glue and crumbling paper, and I know I’m home.

21 November 2007 at 17:30 2 comments

Anthropology Projects Ripped From the Headlines

I don’t think a week goes by without my finding a great idea for a social/cultural anthropology project in some newspaper or magazine article. (Of course, someone may already be working on these projects, but that’s okay. It seems like there’s no shortage of possible topics.)

After reading a review of Scott Weidensaul’s Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding, I realized that someone should do for birders what Gary Alan Fine does for mushroomers in his book Morel Tales: The Culture of Mushrooming. That is, an anthropologist should do a sustained ethnographic study of a group of birders, looking at the meanings nature takes on in this specific cultural context, analyzing the stories birders tell and teasing out the complicated (and sometimes overlapping) relationships between amateurs and professionals.

19 November 2007 at 22:03 Leave a comment

Finding My Tribe

Tonight I went to the weekly dinner sponsored by the post-doc fellowship program where I work. These are swanky affairs with sherry and mingling followed by a four-course meal in the program’s private wood-paneled dining room. As a part-time administrator I don’t usually go to these; but one of the fellows, M, an anthropologist had invited some colleagues, one of whom is a friend of a friend of a friend of mine, so I decided I’d attend this week.

When I got there, I introduced myself as one of the program administrators, and M added “And she’s an anthropologist.” I almost contradicted her, but then decided, anthropology is as much a way of being and thinking as it is an occupation, so why can’t I be an anthropologist — even if I’m not yet officially accepted into the program where I’ve been taking courses.

As the evening progressed and I chatted with them, it dawned on me that I really don’t need to be so intimidated. Not only did I understand what they were talking about, I even had things to contribute. The more I hang out with other anthropologists, the more I realize how much I enjoy the field. It all seems new and fascinating and exciting, and even more that that, it feels like I belong.

It’s almost the same feeling I had when I first found out that there were other people (here in the U.S. even) who were as obsessed with Swedish folk music as I was. When I described that feeling for an acquaintance of mine, he smiled and said “You’ve found your tribe!”

12 November 2007 at 23:19 Leave a comment

Reason # 4124 Why Everything’s Better in Sweden

Coffee Naïvté

In 2003-2004 I spent year studying music in Sweden. One day, at the end of lunch I drank a mug of hot chocolate and leafed through my new copy of The Atlantic that had just come in the mail. My classmate Gustav reached out and grabbed my hand just as I was about to turn the page and conceal a Hewlett-Packard ad. “Ooohh, psychedelic,” he said as he looked over the rainbow-hued artwork.

The type, which looked like it was fading into multicolored smoke, read “Stop and smell the coffee” and touted a business partnership between HP and Starbucks. Gustav is fascinated with all things 1970s, despite being born in 1979 (or maybe because he was born then).

After a second Gustav looked at me and asked “Vad är en Starbucks för nånting?” (What the heck is Starbucks?), and I just laughed and laughed. When I saw the look in his eyes change from indignant to hurt, I tried to explain. “I’m not laughing because you should know what Starbucks is. I’m laughing because I think it’s great that I’ve spent the last eight months in a place where it’s possible for people not to know what Starbucks is. Back home, you can’t escape Starbucks, they’re everywhere with their green logo and their expensive coffee.”

I’m sure Stockholm exists somewhere on Starbucks’ road-map to global domination, but it was comforting to know that young Swedes could live their lives in blissful ignorance of all things tall, grande and vente.

7 November 2007 at 23:32 Leave a comment

Time On My Hands

So what am I going to do with myself and all the copious free time on my hands between now and a week from Monday when the new semester starts?

  • Let’s start with the boring necessities, shall we. I need to clean my room. It’s never completely organized, but it’s gotten worse over the past month since I’ve been working on end-of-term assignments. Stacks of paper everywhere. CD cases fallen down behind the bookshelf. A thick layer of crap on the top of my dresser: ponytail holders and pill bottles and receipts from my pockets. The air conditioner sitting on the floor where it’s been for the last month. (Finally, in December, it was actually cold enough in El Niñoed, globally warmed New England to justify pulling the A/C out of the window.)
  • Fiddling. After months of feeling like my playing was deteriorating, I finally got it together to take my fiddle to a luthier. When I got it back, it was like having a whole new instrument – and for only a fraction of the price. What’s more, I actually feel like I’m a better fiddler. (There’s a lesson in this: something along the lines of “don’t be to eager to blame yourself.”)
  • I’ve been so excited about playing my newly repaired fiddle that I signed up to go to the annual Ski Dance Weekend in Vermont. This weekend is officially about dance and fiddle classes, but I tend to just go to hang out with my fiddling friends and maybe go on an outing to some local (usually food-related) attraction or other.
  • I’m going to read books for fun. I would be exaggerating if I said that I’ve forgotten what this feels like. I actually found time to read two novels during the week of bronchitis and three term papers. But it will be nice to read books without the knowledge that there’s some assignment I should probably be working on instead. Here are some of the things on my to-read list (some already in progress):
    • Kalla det fan vad du vill by Marjaneh Bakhtiari – I’ve actually started this already. It’s a great Swedish novel about a family of Iranian immigrants in Malmö. Kind of like the Swedish White Teeth.
    • The Atoms of Language by Mark Baker – When I first bought this book three or four years ago, I gave up on it as over-my-head linguistically. (I think I was intimidated by the syntax trees.) After a semester of linguistics, I’ve been finding it much easier going. (Heck, now I can even draw my own syntax trees.)
    • This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitan – There aren’t so many books that let me indulge my love for science and my love for music, but this is one of them.
    • Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages by Mark Abley — Okay, this is admittedly not reading, but rereading. I read this book (in hardback) when I lived in Sweden, and then at the end of the year gave my copy to one of my classmates, an aspiring linguist. I’ve never regretted giving her my copy, but I’ve regretted not being able to reread it at will — especially while I was taking linguistics this past semester. So, as a present for finishing up my coursework, I bought myself a new copy.
    • The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig — This is the third in Willig’s romantic comedy adventures set in Napoleonic Europe. The series centers around a group of English spies (the Purple Gentian, the Pink Carnation) modeled on the Scarlet Pimpernel, and the first two books were a whole lot of fun. And how can you not love an author who, when she started the PhD history program at Harvard, told her professors that she was studying history so she could write romance novels.
    • There are many other books on the pile by my bed, so I’ll just stop with the ones I’ve listed. I’ll be lucky if I manage to finish the ones above by the time classes start up again.
  • Last but by no means least, I’m going to watch the Firefly box set for what must be the sixth or seventh time. I finally bought my own copy — yet another end-of-semester present — which I actually had to leave sealed in its packaging until all my papers were turned in lest I watch the adventures of Mal and the gang instead of doing my schoolwork.

There’s probably more I could add, but I think I just leave it at that.

20 January 2007 at 10:57 2 comments

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