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Nov. 17th, 2008 | 11:39 am

I use Gmail and I like Gmail, primarily because of the unlimited space and because of all the fantastic add-ons one can use to give it all the customized utility of an email client.

Unfortunately, this morning I received this dramatic message when I attempted to check my mail:

"This account has been locked down due to unusual account activity. It may take up to 24 hours for you to regain access.
Unusual account activity includes, but is not limited to:
1. Receiving, deleting, or downloading large amounts of mail via POP in a short period of time.
2. Sending a large number of undeliverable messages (messages that bounce back).
3. Using file-sharing or file-storage software, browser extensions, or third party software that automatically logs in to your account.
4. Leaving multiple instances of your Gmail account open.
5. Browser-related issues. Please note that if you find your browser continually reloading while attempting to access your Inbox, it’s probably a browser issue, and it may be necessary to clear your browser’s cache and cookies.
If you feel that you have been using your Gmail account according to the Gmail Terms of Use, you can troubleshoot your problem by clicking here."

The troubleshooting documents make it very clear that using third-party add-ons are in clear violation of the Terms and Conditions of GMail and are probably the cause of an account lockdown. I'm curious about how many people have experience this recently? I use to use Gspace and would occasionally get blocked from sending emails from that account for 24 hours afterward, but that didn't bother me so much since it was a pretty sensible spam-prevention method. This is quite different. I've never been eager to jump on the "Google is Evil" bandwagon, but I guess I may have to.

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Miami always manages to redeem itself

Mar. 22nd, 2008 | 11:45 am

Just discovered this place that serves (supposedly) very authentic Javanese cuisine including full RIJSTTAFELS!
I'm not eating anything else all day in anticipation.

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The Good

Mar. 7th, 2008 | 10:42 am

Following my friend torkwit, a list of Five Good Things:

1) In two days, all the persistent ambivalence about grad school has been shattered. At Chicago, I revisited the best moments of being an undergraduate, eager exchanges that drink up hours and spit you out exhausted and elated on the other side of the night. Someone said, it's like college only you get to devote yourself to bigger projects and there's no PE requirement!--and I thought, oh, that can't be right, that's just what every road-weary academic warns you that grad school *isn't.* (Later that night, I cautiously dredged up CVs and confirmed that these brilliant people, for all their lack of misery, nevertheless have all the lines and entries they're supposed to.) I never forgot that I love linguistics or why, but I am reminded that loving something this way needn't be a lonely pursuit.

2) I will be paid to do this for 5+ years (an annual sum greater than what I will have made this entire year in my windowless box).

3) A visit to a different program last weekend had the opposite effect on my enthusiasm, but did end up pairing me with a roommate who lives in my city and wants to be knitting partners AND will teach me to crochet and has promised to attend Swap-O-Rama-Rama next month.

4) It was almost 60 degrees on Sunday and G. and I walked 7.5 miles around the west side of town talking about architecture and vegetarianism and India and irony as a political stance and ideas about what our lives could look like in a week or 10 years or 50. My legs are still a little sore and each ache reminds me of how warm that afternoon was.

5) The nice people in my office agreed to let me come in only two or three times a week and increase my hourly rate, starting next week. I cannot conceive of what I will do with all the free hours (that's the best part).

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'Now entering Woonsocket, RI. Drive slow your car.'

Dec. 29th, 2007 | 02:58 am

The good:

-this dreary, dead-end mill town, where everybody speaks a mystifying dialect borne of French-Canadian vowel inventory, New England non-rhoticity, and a very insular (and colorful) local vocabulary.

-my grandmother, 95 years old, with new teeth and a new wig, sharper than ever.

-yarn for $1/skein, producing a warm 'Nova Scotia' scarf for my mother this afternoon.

-getting to revisit this favorite place (among others) in the coming week. and getting to revisit warmth and sunshine and very fresh tropical fruits.

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Doing things well

Dec. 19th, 2007 | 12:14 am

My biggest problem with college as a former unschooler (and in general) was feeling that I never had time to do things truly well.

Of course, this was partly the plague of perfectionism. I would turn in otherwise fine Ling papers with a feeling of mortification and shame because the indentation of my data sentences didn't line up properly throughout the text (awful fucking MS Word).

Finally, last weekend, I got to realize the potential of some college papers when I edited and typeset them in LaTeX. I learned I'm not a hopeless perfectionist after all: I can achieve a level of thoroughness with which I feel utterly satisfied, and attain a confident sense of completion. My standards aren't out of reach--it's just that they're not typically accommodated by deadlines.*

(Or, maybe my papers still suck, but LaTeX just makes everything so darn beautiful? I fear I might become one of those obsessive types who, like, makes LaTeX shopping lists.)

*Some people will question why it was impossible for me to take the time to pick up LaTeX--clearly a useful if not crucial tool for a linguist--during the semester. These people have never seen me write a paper. Usually it involved a lengthy extension, a medley of prescription drugs, and an all-nighter culminating in a meltdown beside the library printer, and finally an Olympic dash across campus to submit the still-warm pages, laden with typos my bleary eyes had missed. I got through college on being bright and being obsessively dedicated, if slightly unhinged. It's unfair, I suppose; if professors tended to privilege organizational prowess over passion, I couldn't have made it. (They also tend to be sympathetic about neuroses and eccentricities, respecting and even sharing them!) And it's a luxury of attending a small liberal arts college that professors and administrators know you personally and probably recognize that you're not a total moron despite what the glaring typo in the first paragraph of your paper might suggest.

I know that at a certain point one can't expect to continue to progress in academia propelled by passion alone. I believe that point is grad school. I was so elated doing linguistics again this weekend, and it made me want to go to grad school desperately. And then I realized how IMMEDIATELY that elation would be SQUASHED and replaced with anxiety and self-loathing if I had a deadline in the morning.

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Sassing John Searle over wine and cheese

Nov. 7th, 2007 | 09:02 am

Last night skipped out of work early to go see John Searle lecture at UChicago. I've been cranky ever since.

Where does Searle get off titling a lecture 'Language and Social Ontology' which has absolutely nothing to do with language? In which, within the first five minutes, he explicitly refuses to admit any considerations from formal linguistics, as his theory exists (conveniently) "beyond the scope" of that "naive" discipline?

The deceptive 'Language' tag comes from the lecture's central claim: that humans' distinctive social/institutional existence is entirely (yes, entirely) founded on a single 'logico-linguistic operator', a logical formula which is apparently a core property of our language capacity, although Searle offered absolutely no explanation as to why or how this is. Well, here's what it looks like:

X counts as Y in C(ontext).

Savvy Searle recognizes that he can reduce a room full of humanities people to stupefied awe just by putting a formula on the board. It just looks so sexy and formal and indisputable! Like MATH! Searle paved the way for a Q&A session of worshipful brown-nosing and soft-ball 'clarification' questions ("Dr. Searle, first I just want to thank you for such an utterly riveting talk. I just was wondering if collective emotions and fears count are status functions too? Because I'm totally excited about the prospect of reducing every human social experience to an instantiation of your formula!"). In response to more probing questions, Searle would direct us to one of his books, affably apologizing for his inability to provide a Q&A-length gloss of his answer.

The talk was sponsored and primarily attended by members of the 'Human Development' department at UChicago. (Last night I was embarrassed that I had no idea what they study! Luckily the department website offers this elucidating description: "An interdisciplinary approach to the study of individuals in context.") So, the linguists and cognitive scientists in the room were politely silent during the Q&A, since Searle had already informed us that his claims were inaccessible to our theories. But afterwards there was a reception and I thought it wasn't inappropriate to ask him some of the questions I had. I want to describe in more detail later, but I'm convinced that this man hasn't read (or won't claim to have read) any literature that is outside his field and that isn't either consistent with his ideas or a direct refutation by someone well-known enough to attract Searle's attention. In his lecture, he had the gall to reference humans' intrinsic categorization schemes as an example of how we designate different classes of status-function systems, but told me he hasn't read anything of Lakoff's since Metaphors We Live By (1980) and doesn't remember enough to discuss Lakoff's ideas. (I understand; the 80s were a hectic time for Searle, who was busy suing the town of Berkeley over the rent control laws that limited his financial gain as a real estate investor.)


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a domestic moment

Oct. 29th, 2007 | 08:49 am

This is the best banana bread recipe I've tried. I think the difference is the crème fraîche. It calls for a cup of cooking oil (ew) as well but I used 1/2 melted butter and a splash of almond milk. I've been spreading crème fraîche on top too, which is a more sophisticated answer to my traditional banana bread spread, cream cheese.


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on the timeliness of books

Oct. 26th, 2007 | 12:40 pm

something i've joyfully rediscovered since graduating is the experience of finding a stunning congruity between a random book, passage, or poem i'm reading and my current situation or emotional state. it's true that i didn't do enough pleasure reading in college, and that which i did was mostly non-fiction of the academic or journalistic variety. but i think the real absence was an emotional life rich enough to foster a personal consonance with a piece of literature. (obviously i had plenty of 'emotions', but volatile reactions arising from unchecked neuroses and terrible self-image do not constitute an examined emotional life.)

i haven't miraculously transcended all the neurotic tendencies and destructive habits and thinking patterns i cultivated in college. i don't feel satisfied with things as they are right now, and i'm restless and frustrated by the uncertainties of living in the actual world. and living with a partner isn't easy; compromising every hour, weighing every decision by two sets of interests, constantly guessing and analyzing and misjudging another's feelings and intentions.

in a surly state last night, g. and i engaged in our ritual bedtime reading, i picked up 'If on a winter's night a traveler' (delightful--more on it later) and found us there reflected in the pages, through a hopeful, admiring lens:

"Already, in the confused improvisation of the first encounter, the possible future of a cohabitation is read. Today each of you is the object of the other's reading, each reads in the other the unwritten story. Tomorrow, Reader and Other Reader, if you are together, if you lie down in the same bed like a settled couple, each will turn on the lamp at the side of the bed and sink into his or her book; two parallel readings will accompany the approach of sleep; first you, then you will turn out the light; returning from separate universes, you will find each other fleetingly in the darkness, where all separations are erased, before divergent dreams draw you again, one to one side, and one to the other. But do not wax ironic on this prospect of conjugal harmony: what happier image of a couple could you set against it?"

(i couldn't answer.)

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Oct. 17th, 2007 | 01:19 pm

here's the rare child-related product that i can recognize as cute without getting a vomit-y feeling as well:


i wish there were some way for me to increase the amount of child interaction in my life without actually having or taking care of one. i just want borrowing privileges, really, for the occasional jump-on-the-bed session or game of tag in the park.

something about autumn leaves always gets me feeling this way. only kids appreciate the draw of their crunchiness the way i do.

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stumbling upon poetry, gushing gratitude

Oct. 14th, 2007 | 10:57 am

cleaning in my childhood bedroom, i found a long-forgotten book called 'a year in poetry', a hokey concept anthology of poems relating to each day of the year. bored and curious, i paged through to my birth date and found something utterly marvelous. i know brodsky is renowned and i suspect the poem is quite famous, but this was my first, serendipitous exposure.

MAY 24, 1980

I have braved, for want of wild beasts, steel cages,
carved my term and nickname on bunks and rafters,
lived by the sea, flashes aces in an oasis,
dined with the-devil-knows-whom, in tails, on truffles.
From the heights of a glacier I beheld half a world, the earthly
width. Twice have drowned, thrice let knives rake my nitty-gritty.
Quit the country that bore and nursed me.
Those who forgot me would make a city.
I have waded the steppes that saw yelling Huns in saddles,
worn the clothes nowadays back in fashion in every quarter,
planted rye, tarred the roofs of pigsties and stables,
guzzled everything save dry water.
I've admitted the sentries' third eye into my wet and foul
dreams. Munched the bread of exile: it's stale and warty.
Granted my lungs all sounds except the howl;
switched to a whisper. Now I am forty.
What should I say about life? That it's long and abhors transparence.
Broken eggs make me grieve; the omlette, though, makes me vomit.
Yet until brown clay has been crammed down my larynx,
only gratitude will be gushing from it.

(Translated from Russian by the author)

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