Thursday, February 21, 2008

Woke Up, Got Out of Bed

And now for something completely the same: a day in the life of a not-busy-enough grad student.

4.01 AM. My alarm goes off.

4.06 AM. Again.

4.11 AM. And again.

4.16 AM. Yet again. I'm awake, really, I'm just trying to pretend that I'm not. I don't usually get up this early, but I was too tired last night to write up the problem set that I spent about five hours solving. I drag myself the three feet across my bedroom to my computer, turn it on, and start writing: syllable structure in Chaha blah blah blah...

4.57 AM. My roommate, who has been working an early-morning shift at her retail job, stumbles out of her room to find me in the kitchen stirring cottage cheese into spaghetti. For some reason I am always starving when I wake up early, and oatmeal just won't cut it. "Good morning!" I say brightly. Once I'm out of bed, I'm a morning person. It's annoying.

5.36 AM. I'm only three pages into my writeup and am beginning to worry that it won't get done, so, of course, I take a break to reply to some emails. I'm trying to set up a Visiting Teaching appointment for later in the week, so my companion gets some bright-and-early scheduling details.

6.01 AM. I hate Chaha. Curse you, speakers of Ethio-Semitic languages! And I hate how frequently I'm using the word "generate." I check and decide on "produce." Grad school kills prose style.

6.43 AM. I've already solved this problem; can't I just explain my solution to the professor orally? It would take five minutes, tops. I hate writing, and the sun hasn't even come up yet. I'd rather be somewhere, anywhere else.

6.44 AM. I find off-season plane tickets to Algiers for only $900. It's not like anything important will be going on in school in March anyway, right?

7.01 AM. On Thursday mornings I go running, and I won't let phonology stop me from that. I throw on some sneakers and head out. I can think of more synonyms for "generate" on my way. Effect. Cause. Induce. Engender.

7.29 AM. It was a short jog this morning, thanks to Chaha. I start writing again. Page five. I am a slow writer.

7.41 AM. A friend emails me, looking for dating advice. I reply. Why do people think I might have constructive advice about dating? I am a solid friend but terrible at romance.

8.03 AM. Marrakesh for $850!

8.56 AM. Panic! Panic! I have class at 9.40 and I still haven't showered or dressed or packed a lunch or packed up my school stuff. I put the finishing touches on my homework and jump in the shower.

9.26 AM. I'm leaving slightly later than I hoped, so I run. It's a rainy morning, not too cold, which I love, so I'm loping across downtown Berkeley with a huge grin on my face, my backpack bouncing up and down behind me. I don't pass any protests this morning, not even Code Pink, which is unusual. I guess that brouhaha has mostly died down, which is a pity, because I always enjoyed passing that intersection when someone was holding up a "Honk to Impeach Bush" sign. Nothing like every car horn in the area honking to get you ready for class.

9.46 AM. I am always late to class. I should have given up being late for Lent.

10.01 AM. Due to my fancy-schmancy graduate education, I now know the Yurok word for a Pacific lamprey. I totally love this class.

11.31 AM. In my next class, we get distracted from our discussion of case-marking in Australian languages as the professor tells a story about a six-foot long goanna charging at her. What's with the wildlife today? Not that I'm complaining.

1.07 PM. In my third class, my professor, who be administering the phonology section of our MA orals, says, very slowly and clearly, "You can't graduate with even an MA in linguistics without knowing that Finnish has transparent vowels." Finnish. Transparent vowels. Check.

2.00 PM. Classes are over for the day. I wander over to the student store to buy Kleenex, cough drops, and various Vitamin C tablets and lozenges and juices that, all told, constitute about 4000% of the recommended daily value. I'd really rather not get a cold right now. Or ever, for that matter. Bring on the Vitamin C!

2.11 PM. I check my email. Gmail is advertising tickets to Jakarta for only $810. I am tempted.

2.30 PM. I arrive at the Institute building, which is close to campus and boasts several comfortable study spots. I settle in to do some reading about nonconcatenative morphology. Isn't that fun to say? Nonconcatenative! Nonconcatenative!

4.51 PM. I am struck by guilt that I have all this time to sit around reading. I should be doing research or working or something, even if I have no idea what I want to research or where I could work. I just feel like a lazy underachiever.

5.01 PM. Speaking of which, I give up trying to fight the nap.

5.20 PM. My alarm goes off. I know not to hit snooze this time or I'll be late.

5.36 PM. I step on a bus heading north, wondering if this time I'll actually see the intersection or if I'll have another one of my get-off-the-bus-a-mile-too-late debacles. Last time I ended up having to run the extra mile, and I've had quite enough "I'm late" running today.

5:59 PM. Success! I am actually on time! I'm babysitting for some friends during stake temple night. They only have one kid, and he's ridiculously cute and good-natured. After his parents leave, I put him in his stroller, and we go out walking.

7.30 PM. This kid has a long attention span for sitting in his stroller, and I have a long attention span for walking around aimlessly. We're a good combination. I give him a bath, put him in bed, and sit down on the couch with some articles to read, amazed at how this was the easiest babysitting job ever.

9.30 PM. Home again, home again, jiggity jig. My apartment is, as usual, a mess, so I spend a few minutes washing dishes and folding clothes, glad I've only got one person to clean up after.

10.00 PM. I love wasting time on the internet. I reply to a few emails--if you're reading this, yours probably wasn't among them; I'm sorry--read some blogs, look up recipes for this week's Sunday dinner, continue winning at Facebook scrabble, chat with a friend, and find plane tickets to Australia for $1000. I want a six-foot goanna to charge at me!

11.15 PM. Time for bed, which really means time to brush my teeth, wash my face, floss, read my scriptures, and then read a novel for a half hour or until I conk out, whichever happens first. Lately it's been the latter, which explains why it's taking me so darn long to get through the 600-page novel a friend recommended. I should have saved it for spring break.

12.00 PM or thereabouts. I fall asleep thinking about living in a white house in Algiers, one of my ultimate life goals. I'd better start saving for those plane tickets.


Confuzzled said...

You have no idea how much I envy you this type of day...

Th. said...


I don't know if "envy" is the right word, but I think I know what you mean.

ambrosia ananas said...

I am struck by guilt that I have all this time to sit around reading.

I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to feel guilty about anything when you've gotten up at 4:00 am and gone to bed at midnight.

Lizzie said...

Finnish has transparent vowels. There is such a language as Chaha. Got it. With those essentials in hand, perhaps i can pass myself off as a linguistics grad student while Colin actually pursues higher education...if only i knew what 'transparent' meant...

Confuzzled said...

I'm pretty sure 'envy' is the right word for me. Much better a day like that than the monotony I seem to have fallen into . . .

NAlton said...

But, can you tell me what vowel(s) is(are) transparent? Can you? Didn't think so...

But I can tell you, that's right.

Petra said...


Just think, next year this could be you!


I have nothing to say to you. Hope you're not offended.


Sure, I'm allowed. I'm allowed anything I want when I'm that tired.


If I tell you that transparent means, in this case, that vowel harmony does not affect those vowels but does affect the vowels which follow them, you'll know pretty much everything I know on the subject. And every other subject, for that matter.


/i/ and /e/. So there. Remember how I'm also getting an MA in linguistics?

gar said...

okay.. yeah... you're the only person i know who would feel like a lazy underachiever while doing some fun reading on nonconcatenative morphology.

NAlton said...


Did you also know that the rest of the vowels are opaque?? That's why the borrowings come out all hinky like...It just felt too obvious, I was offended by the ease of that homework...I better score well on it!!

my name is amy. said...

I really like your blog.

Petra said...


I don't think "opaque" is quite right for the rest of the vowels--they participate in front/back harmony, after all, conforming with the initial vowel of the stem. If they (or any of the vowels) were opaque, they would block the spread of the front/back feature of the initial vowel trigger the spread of their own front/back specification. Maybe I'm unaware of examples--possible, I don't speak Finnish--but most of the data I've seen has shown all non-transparent vowels fully participating in and not blocking harmony.

Sarah Louise said...

The thing is, Petra, that in my head, you roam the planet being this totally cool, insanely intelligent, articulate, human, well read, and generally observant, vigorous, and sane lady type, and then I read your blog, and I am convinced that it's even truer than I fantasized. What's the deal with that? How can you and my fantasy of you both exist in one universe? Something will implode. I'm not sure what it will be, but something will.

I hope it's not me. Or your brain.

Petra said...

Whoa, praise from Sarah O.! I'm pretty sure my brain won't implode, but it might explode from the swelling that must result from such a compliment.

Oh, and we still need to hang out. Sometime soon, I promise.