Sunlit Water

August 24, 2009

I Haz A Bed

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 10:11 pm


August 23, 2009


Filed under: Land,Transportation — by teofilo @ 10:55 am

This sort of thing shows that planning as a profession still has a long way to go to turn away from the mistakes of the past.  There are a lot of good ideas out there about how to do planning right, but they clearly aren’t getting through when you have projects like this being proposed.  If they’re expecting that many more people to move into the area over the next few decades, they should be figuring out ways to fit them into the already-existing development in that area, which is already quite extensively developed.  Building new highways to facilitate new greenfield development is so twentieth-century.  We should be past that mindset now, but it seems we’re not.  Note, by the way, that the cowboy and the Sierra Club representative quoted in the article are on the same side of the issue here.

August 21, 2009

How I Spent My College Education

Filed under: Academia,Personal — by teofilo @ 1:36 am

Inspired by AWB’s post of her college transcript (with annotations!), here’s mine:

  • Fall 2003
    • History 209 – Seminar in Early America – Quite possibly the best course I have ever taken, with a professor who is a towering figure in the field and has since become something of a mentor for me.  Much followed from this course for me.
    • Medieval Studies 101 – Freshman Writing Seminar: Sacred Pilgrimage – This was an okay class.  Freshman were required to take two writing seminars, in place of freshman comp, and this was one.  There was some interesting information, and it probably made me a better writer, but otherwise I doubt it had much effect on me.
    • German Studies 121 – Introductory German I – I was not all that interested in taking German, but I figured it was a useful language to know for many purposes, and I’m glad I took it.
    • Linguistics 101 – Introduction to Linguistics – I was somewhat interested in linguistics going in to college, but not 100% set on majoring in it.  It was just one of several subjects that I was considering.  I ended up deciding to do this course my first semester, rather than trying out something else, and I liked it enough that I decided to go ahead and major in it.
    • Physical Education 007 – Trail Maintenance – There was a PE requirement, for which there were many options, most of which involved rather high fees.  Some, however, which were considered to have redeeming value beyond recreation, were free, and this was one of them.  We rerouted a section of trail.  It was fun.
  • Spring 2004
    • Classics 237 – Greek Religion & Mystery Cults – An elective.  The course material was quite interesting, although the professor wasn’t the most scintillating lecturer.
    • Math 275 – Elementary Probability – I had to fulfill the math requirement somehow.  It was an okay course, but I don’t think I ended up getting much out of it.  I probably should have just taken some more calculus.
    • German Studies 122 – Introductory German II – More of the same, really.  I continued to do fairly well, as I tend to do when first starting out with new languages.
    • Linguistics 236 – Introduction to Gaelic – An interesting language, and a pretty good class.  I’ve forgotten all the Gaelic I learned by now, of course.
    • Spanish Literature 127 – Freshman Writing Seminar: Writing about Conquest – Another writing seminar.  This one made me wish I had taken the damn AP exam, which could have gotten me out of one of these seminars.  The subject matter, on the Spanish conquest of the Americas, was interesting, but the instructor was terrible.  She was a grad student who had only taught language courses before, and she was just totally in over her head and couldn’t handle the class at all.  I felt kind of sorry for her, but on the other hand she just made the class miserable for everyone.
  • Fall 2004
    • English 311 – Old English – This class was a lot of fun.  It was cool to learn a language in a more philological way, by reading original texts and translating them, rather than the conversational method by which modern languages are generally taught.
    • German Studies 200 – Contemporary Germany – Here my German studies hit a wall.  The class, basically an intermediate language course with lots of cultural content, was conducted entirely in German, and I was able to more or less muddle through, but I didn’t have the motivation to put in the work necessary to bring my German competence up to the necessary level to really excel.  This was the last German course I took.
    • Linguistics 301 – Introduction to Phonetics – One of the core courses for the major.  It went okay.  The instructor was a grad student who wasn’t the best lecturer, but he was a nice guy and did a passable job of running the class in general.  I decided I kind of liked phonetics.
    • Linguistics 303 – Introduction to Syntax – Another core course.  This instructor was another grad student, who was fantastic.  I realized quickly that syntax was not for me, and this class would have been excruciating if she hadn’t been such an engaging lecturer.  The members of the class also developed a rapport which would serve us well later on.
    • Near Eastern Studies 111 – Elementary Arabic I – I had been intending to take Arabic since I began school, but held off for the first year to take German and make sure I could handle the college courseload.  (I did fine.)  When I did finally take it, it turned out to be quite interesting, and not nearly as difficult as people generally make it out to be.  The way it was taught was rather unusual compared to other schools, which meant this first part, which was taught by a Lebanese grad student, may not have been as difficult as it might have been elsewhere.  Still, I think I learned a fair amount.
  • Spring 2005
    • Food Science 250 – Kosher & Halal Food Regulations – Kind of a famous course in some circles.  An evening course that met once a week.  Very interesting, somewhat entertaining, and not at all difficult.  I learned a lot.
    • Astronomy 104 – Our Solar System – I needed to get some science requirements out of the way.  This is one of those huge lecture courses that people take for this reason, but one of the professors (it was team-taught by two) was a really prominent guy who had a huge role on the expedition that had just sent two rovers to the surface of Mars.  He would come in on his days and show us pictures he had just downloaded from Mars before beginning his lectures.
    • English 312 – Beowulf – Followup to the intro Old English class.  We read most of the poem in the original.  It was great.  I ended up translating the rest on my own over the summer.
    • Linguistics 302 – Introduction to Phonology – Another core course, with a professor who happened to be my adviser.  I mainly learned that I didn’t much care for phonology.
    • Linguistics 303 – Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics – With the same instructor as the syntax class.  Just as fun.  I definitely learned that semantics was not for me.  We didn’t do much pragmatics, but it seemed a bit more intriguing.
    • Near Eastern Studies 112 – Elementary Arabic II – Different instructor, but otherwise more of the same.  Still interesting.
    • Physical Education 007 – Snowshoeing – Not free, unlike trail maintenance, but not very expensive, and a useful skill to have.  This was a really fun course.
  • Fall 2005
    • Economics 301 – Microeconomics – Not actually Econ 101, but the higher-level calculus-based version.  The math was a little beyond what I’d taken before, but not to the extent that I couldn’t figure it out.  The econ, though, was really hard.  I had thought of taking more econ courses, but I just barely made it through this one.  I’m just not very good at that particular sort of problem-solving, I guess.
    • Linguistics 314 – Introduction to Historical Linguistics – This was the sort of linguistics I was really interested in, and the class didn’t disappoint.  Unfortunately, it was basically the only class in the subject that the department offered regularly.
    • Near Eastern Studies 113 – Intermediate Arabic I – With the professor this time.  Getting into more difficult territory, but still an interesting language to study.
    • Near Eastern Studies 333 – Elementary Akkadian I – Another more philological language.  We didn’t learn as much of the original cuneiform as I would have liked, and worked mostly from transliteration, but it was still a great class.  Only three students.
    • Earth and Atmospheric Sciences 131 – Basic Principles of Meteorology – Getting more of that science requirement out of the way.  Not a difficult class by any means, except that it met early in the morning and was really far away, but very interesting.
  • Spring 2006
    • Linguistics 400 – Language Typology – Sounded like an interesting subject, but turned out to not involve much actual typology.  More just the professor teaching her somewhat idiosyncratic theory of syntax, using a variety of languages from around the world for examples.  One of the languages was Southern Tiwa, the language of the Pueblos around Albuquerque, which was cool.  My final paper for this class was one of the worst papers I have ever written.  I pulled an all-nighter the night before it was due to write it basically from scratch.  This was the semester when I began to develop real problems with depression, which did not make getting my work done very easy, especially for the classes I didn’t like.
    • Linguistics 419 – Phonetics I – Since I still had some linguistics electives to take to complete the major, and since phonetics was the core course that I had enjoyed the most on an intellectual level, I decided to go for more phonetics.  It turned out to be a great choice.  The class wasn’t always the most organized, but the professor was great.  She worked in the private sector doing speech synthesis and had for a long time, so she had a different perspective on things.
    • Near Eastern Studies 210 – Intermediate Arabic II – Still pretty interesting, but starting to get into that area where it gets harder and less interesting as time goes on.  The innovative methods that the Arabic program uses may only contribute to this feeling.
    • Near Eastern Studies 310 – Language of the Qur’an – Luckily, there was this course, team-taught by my Arabic professor and another professor from the department.  It looked at linguistic issues in the Qur’anic text from a variety of perspectives, and thus gave us a level of insight into Classical Arabic and linguistics as applied to Arabic well beyond what we got in the regular Arabic sequence.  A fascinating course.
    • Near Eastern Studies 334 – Elementary Akkadian II – A bit more cuneiform this semester, but still not much.  Otherwise similar to the last.  Still great.
  • Fall 2006
    • Linguistics 425 – Pragmatics – I still needed a couple more linguistics courses, so since I had been somewhat intrigued by pragmatics before, I decided to check it out.  I was not pleased with the course.  The professor was disorganized and not good at making anything clear (ironically enough), and the whole class was kind of excruciating.  The subject matter wasn’t even very interesting.  It was much more like the semantics I had learned in the previous class than I had expected.
    • Linguistics 493 – Honors Thesis Research – I don’t know why I even decided to do a thesis.  It wasn’t required.  I did have a subject in Arabic historical linguistics that I found really interesting, though, so I went ahead and did it.  The first semester I basically just read a bunch of books, which was fine.
    • Near Eastern Studies 311 – Advanced Intermediate Arabic I – Here my Arabic studies faltered at the same point where my German studies had.  The course was theoretically supposed to be conducted entirely in Arabic, but our spoken Arabic wasn’t quite at that point yet, so there ended up being quite a bit of English.  I eventually decided that I wasn’t going to get any further like this, and I didn’t have the motivation to put in the work necessary to actually improve my Arabic beyond where it was already, so I decided not to take the next semester, which would have been the last of the basic sequence.
    • Policy Analysis and Management 210 – Introduction to Statistics – I still had one math class to get out of the way, so I figured stats would be a useful thing to do.  And it was.  The class was not very interesting, but it was pretty easy, and I did fine.
  • Spring 2007
    • Linguistics 416 – Structure of the Arabic Language – Here my linguistics and my Arabic finally came together, in a course taught by my (former) Arabic professor but on the linguistics of Arabic.  The class was an odd mix of Arabic students and linguists.  The material wasn’t much of a surprise, but it was not stuff that the regular Arabic sequence had really covered, so it was nice to have it all laid out.  There were some interesting side topics covered as well.
    • Linguistics 494 – Senior Thesis Research – Here, when it came time to actually write the damn thing, my escalating depression and lack of motivation became serious roadblocks.  In addition, my hard drive crashed in the middle of the semester and I had to deal with that (and eventually get a new hard drive) while trying to write the thesis.  I’m amazed that I actually got it done, but somehow I did, and graduated Magna Cum Laude.
    • Linguistics 648 – Speech Synthesis – A graduate seminar with the professor I had had for phonetics earlier.  It was a great class, and I learned a lot about speech and programming, but one of the things I learned was that I was no good at programming.  At least in Python.
    • Near Eastern Studies 214 – Qur’an & Commentary – Although I had given up on the regular Arabic sequence, I was still interested in a more philological approach to Classical Arabic, not least because it was important to my thesis, so I took this course with the professor who had team-taught the earlier language of the Qur’an course with my Arabic professor.  It was a pretty good experience, and I think it helped my thesis quite a bit.

So there it is.  Looking back at it, it really doesn’t seem to contain any courses even vaguely related to what I’ve ended up doing with my life since graduation or to what I intend to study in grad school and do with my life from then on.  Ah, well.  Such is life.

August 19, 2009

Sweet, Sweet Internet

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 2:17 pm

Getting cable internet hooked up in my new apartment was, well, pretty easy.  I signed up online a few days ago, got a call back yesterday, and the cable guy came this afternoon and installed it.  Well done, Cablevision.  Well done.

August 14, 2009

Looks Like A Nail

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 9:02 am

Last night was my first night in my new apartment, which is quite nice.  It’s unfurnished, and I don’t have any furniture yet, so I slept on the floor in a sleeping bag.  About 1:00 am I was awakened by what sounded like a sort of constant knocking, varying in intensity, occasionally very loud.  Especially when it was loud, it kind of sounded like someone knocking on my door.  I considered getting up and answering the door, but then I realized that it was extremely unlikely that anyone was knocking on my door at 1:00 am.  Hardly anyone even knows I’m here, and almost everyone who does lives far away.  As far as almost everyone around here knows, the apartment is still empty.  So I didn’t answer and just tried to go back to sleep.

A few minutes later, I heard a voice outside say “Uh, it’s kind of late for hammering.”  The voice went on to explain that he was staying with his girlfriend, who apparently lives in the building, and that the hammering was keeping them up.  I never heard the phantom hammerer say a thing, but the hammering stopped.

August 10, 2009

Going Back To Houston, Houston, Houston

Filed under: Personal,Transportation — by teofilo @ 9:22 am

For reasons that are complicated but not very interesting, I am going to begin my journey from Albuquerque to New Jersey by driving to Houston.  I’m leaving in a few minutes.  I’m going to take a relatively leisurely drive out there, then fly from Houston to Newark.  I should have internet access for most of the trip, but I don’t know what the situation will be once I get to NJ.

August 9, 2009

Antisocial “Scientists”

Filed under: Academia,Personal — by teofilo @ 9:49 pm

While I’m glad overall that I went to this thing, it definitely reminded me that I’m not an archaeologist, and that there’s a reason for that.  The people I talked to there were all very nice, and there were a handful of people that I already knew, but for the most part it was a lot of strangers who didn’t seem very friendly or welcoming.  I think much of the reason for that is that archaeology attracts a lot of shy, introverted people who don’t get along well with other people if they don’t know them well.  It’s a relatively solitary profession in some (but by no means all) ways.  Archaeologists tend, therefore, to be rather cliquey, and as an outsider I didn’t feel like anyone made much effort to include me.  Which is fine, of course, since I don’t particularly care to become part of the world of archaeologists, but it made the conference a little lonely.

It was also kind of frustrating that the conference didn’t seem very well organized.  This is the downside of it being such an informal, impromptu thing, which is pleasant in many ways.  There’s no permanent organization that runs the thing.  Every year a different organization in a different place agrees to host and run the conference.  This year it was the Cortez Cultural Center; next year it will be Fort Lewis College in Durango.  While this reduces the amount of annoying bureaucracy, it increases the amount of annoying amateurishness.  For example, when I showed up to register the first evening I wasn’t on the list of people who had pre-paid, but when they went to the book of pre-registration forms there I was.  So it was fine in the end, but annoying.

On the plus side, an archaeology conference is probably the only place where you can tell people that you’re going to grad school for city planning and have then respond with “wow, that’s a really lucrative field.”  Archaeology is not a lucrative field.

August 2, 2009

Onward And Upward

Filed under: Academia,Personal — by teofilo @ 12:26 am

I have to say that when I was graduating from college two years ago I never imagined that I would end up spending a year at Chaco Canyon.  It’s been a great, even life-changing, experience, frustrating at times, but overall very positive.  I feel now like I have a real direction in life and an idea of where I’m going.  In the near term, at least, that direction is east, to New Jersey.  After that, who knows?  Wherever I end up, though, I now feel confident that I’ll do well in whatever I end up doing.

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