Thursday May 28, 2009


OK, so I haven't posted since January.  Yes.  Fine.  But I did write a 263-page dissertation that I successfully defended today.  So I've got that going for me.

And, to answer your next question, yes, Dr. The Tensor is the proper form of address.  (Um, after I file.)

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Sunday January 4, 2009

LSA 2009

I'll be attending the LSA 2009 meeting in San Francisco next weekend, and as in previous years, I think we should get together for drinks or food or something.  Now, if you read those posts about our previous gatherings, you'll find the following, which I still believe to be true this year:

  1. Some of us may not have arrived on Thursday
  2. Friday evening is the grad student mixer, which some of us will want to attend
  3. Saturday Friday evening is the ADS Word of the Year event

Given this, the last couple of years we haven't tried to organize a single event, but instead have designated a corner of the hotel lounge as the spot to hang out, if you're so inclined, after the day's activities wind down.  I plan to reconnoiter the hotel to find a good spot and announce it here Thursday evening—and unlike previous years, I'm just going to update this post rather than adding additional posts, so watch this space.  I see the Hilton has a place called the Urban Tavern, but it apparently closes at 10:30 every night, which is...disappointing.  I'll let you know what I find out.

Did you notice the antecedentless "we" in the first sentence of this post?  Who, you may ask, are "we"?  "We" are a loosely-defined set of linguistics bloggers, language bloggers, and blog readers, along with our colleagues, friends, and others (signifcant and otherwise).  Basically, if you're reading this, you're invited.  There's no minimum unique-visits-per-week or posts-per-month requirements.  (Whew!) 

Thanks to Claire and Russell for reminding me about this, and my apologies for taking so long to get around to it.  I've been busy, I swear!

[UPDATE:  Fritinancy points out that the ADS Word of the Year event is actually on Friday this year.  That makes Saturday evening more open than in previous years—maybe we should consider going to dinner after all?]

[UPDATE:  Well, I explored a bit.  The Urban Tavern is nice, but the tables do seem to be under hostess control, so we can't just wander in and stake one out.  The only other alternative I can see is the "lounge" area near the registration desk.  It gets of lot of traffic and is kind of noisy, but at least it has wireless.  What do you think?  Tavern or lounge?

Friday evening is going to be busy: in addition to the ADS WOTY vote, they're apparently giving an award to Language Log at the LSA business meeting.  Afterward, I'm planning to attend the computational linguistics session, possibly followed by the grad student mixer (because I'm frankly feeling a little old for grad student mixers).  I suggest we focus on a plan for Saturday.  Is there any good Chinese food within walking distance?

Oh, and did I see Semantic Compositions wandering around earlier?]

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Thursday January 17, 2008

Famous Last Words...

The Wife sent me a link to the Wikipedia page of Alan Dundes, a professor of folklore at Berkeley, whose class we took together many, many years ago.  She highlighted the final paragraph of the article, which concerns his final words:

Dundes collapsed while giving a graduate seminar; the topics that week were Marxist and Feminist theory, both approaches that Dundes disliked intensely, but thought were nonetheless important for his students to be acquainted with. He left his audience with a cliffhanger. He was introducing the topic (Marxist theory) and then said with a dismissive wave of his hand, "But there are really only two uses for Marxist theory in folkloristics..." and then collapsed.

Well done, Alan!  This makes me want to concoct a similar open-ended gnomic utterance, which I will then pronounce when I feel the Big One coming on.  That's dying with style.

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Wednesday December 19, 2007

LSA 2008

It's that time of year again—time to organize the fourth (!) annual language-blogger get-together at the upcoming LSA meeting in Chicago.  In previous years, we've had trouble finding a time that works for everybody, though we do seem to end up with a pretty big group nonetheless.  I think Grant Barrett's suggestion from last year—that we pick a corner of the hotel bar, designate it The Spot, and meet there casually as we're available in the evenings—worked out great, so I'll try to scout out a good spot again this year.

Do we want to get ambitious and try to schedule a dinner?  It'll be hard.  Thursday not everyone will be there, Friday is the business meeting and the grad student social, and Saturday is the conference reception.  Furthermore, the ADS Word of the Year vote is on Friday.  What say you all?

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Friday July 20, 2007

No Longer Ictic?

After discussing reading pronunciations in academic talks just a few days ago, I encountered a perfect example today in a talk at a conference.  All through the talk, the speaker used the pronunciation  [di.ˈɪk.tɪk] (roughly dee-IK-tik) for the word deictic.  The two standard pronunciations of deictic are  [ˈdaɪk.tɪk] (DIKE-tik) and the less common [ˈdeɪk.tɪk] (DAKE-tik), but you can hardly be expected to figure that out from the spelling.  I remember being surprised the first time I heard it spoken aloud—I had been pronouncing it [deɪ.ˈɪk.tɪk] in my head.  Apparently today's speaker came to a similar conclusion, although I can't rule out the possibility that she's a faithful reader of this blog and decided to attempt to pull off the prank I proposed in my earlier post.  If that's the case, then I salute you!

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Tuesday July 17, 2007


Run, do not walk, over to Crooked Timber and read this awesome Ph.D. defense story.  It even has a linguistic angle, namely reading pronunciations.

Oddly, I was just telling someone over the weekend that I'd love to do this as a prank.  I'd show up to my defense and pronounce all the technical terms wrong, as if I'd only ever read them: TYPE-a-LOW-gee for typology, ee-LATE-iv for elative, PAIR-a-DIME-a-tic for paradigmatic, HEER-artch-ee for hierarchy, and so forth.  For extra points, I could even, with a condescending smile, correct the audience members who would try gently to help out by pronouncing the terms correctly in their questions.  I think I could pull it off!

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Tuesday February 27, 2007


Today I was walking through the student union building at Unnamed University, and as I passed the mini-branch of the University bookstore I glanced into the display case out front.  It contained, among other things, this:

Oh, brilliant.  Nice work, University bookstore—what a great way to help students focus on academic excellence.  After this, can University-branded crack pipes be far behind?

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Tuesday January 9, 2007

LSA 2007

I'm back from the 2007 meeting of the Linguistic Society of America:

...and it was great.  There's nothing quite like hanging out with a thousand or so colleagues for four days to renew your enthusiasm for linguistics.  After the jump, you'll find my notes on the meeting.

Continue reading "LSA 2007"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Saturday January 6, 2007


The Word of the Day for those of you attending the LSA Meeting is plenary.  You've all heard of plenary sessions, but I'll bet the great majority of you don't know what the word means.  Well, the OED defines it as:

2. a. Of an assembly, conference, etc.: having all members in attendance; fully constituted, fully assembled; esp. attended by all participants, who otherwise meet in smaller groups. Now freq. in plenary session.

Get that?  It means that when there's a plenary session, you're supposed to be there.  If you're not, you're a bad linguist.  For example, I didn't attend Friday evening's plenary address, and you know what?  I'm a bad linguist.


I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Friday January 5, 2007

LSA Gathering: The Plan

OK, several people showed up to hang out at The Spot on Thursday night.  Beforehand, we left the hotel to eat dinner, and from what I could see along the way, there don't seem to be many nearby restaurants, just more hotels.  After some circling, we ended up eating at Catel in Downtown Disney, which wasn't much cheaper than the hotel restaurants.  (Tasty, though.)

Rather than risking a long walk on Friday, let's meet at 5:00 sharp in the lobby of the hotel right at the entrance to "The Avenue"—that's the corridor with all the restaurants along it on the first floor.  Look for me—I'll be wearing a black blazer and a gray shirt, carrying a black leather backpack, and wearing my name tag.  (You can look my name up in your program—I gave the talk about phonesthemes in Thursday's "Modelling [sic] Phonological Learning" session.)  If somebody (one of the locals?) knows of a convenient place nearby, we'll head there promptly at 5:05; otherwise, the Avenue has a bar for those who just want a drink and a couple of places to eat for those who want food.

See you at 5!

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Thursday January 4, 2007

LSA Update

It's on!  I'm at the Anaheim Hilton, and it's absolutely crawling with linguists.  As promised, I've checked out the various bars and restaurants.  The Avenue Bar looks like a good place for The Linguistics Blogger Spot—specifically, the back-right corner as you're facing the bar (the southwest corner, if I'm not turned around).  I'll be down there later tonight—look for the guy without the purple hair (though it's grown out a bit), wearing all black, looking relieved because his talk went smoothly earlier (thanks for asking), either using a laptop or reading, drinking a Shirley Temple.

Both the Italian and Japanese (sushi) restaurants look reasonably tasty, but the prices are pretty high, geared for Disneyland tourists.  This may argue for having the Friday get-together at the bar as well.  I'll do a little research on local restaurants and bars and see if anything is nearby—the area around the hotel looks pretty spread out, and we don't want to have to walk too far between sessions.

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Saturday December 23, 2006

More on LSA 2007

As previously mentioned, we linguistics bloggers are organizing a get-together at the upcoming LSA meeting in Anaheim.  So far, it looks like there's no evening time slot that works well for everyone.  The best one seems to be Friday from 5 to 7, but that conflicts with the ADS word-of-the-year extravaganza.  Various other suggestions have included lunch on Friday or Saturday and having a "spot", perhaps in the hotel lounge, where whoever happens to be free at any given moment can gather and hang out.

I propose the following, then: drinks (and dinner, if you care to order it) from 5-7 on Friday in one of the hotel restaurants (maybe the sushi place) with whoever can make it, plus a hang-out spot to be announced.  I suggest that, as happened last year, the 5-7 crowd on Friday plan to hook up with the ADS word-of-the-year folks after their moment in the sun.  (BTW, I wager 100 quatloos on macaca.)

How does that sound?  If you have any final suggestions or strong opinions, leave a comment.  Otherwise, check back here for details late on Thursday the 4th, when I will have had a chance to scout out the hotel restaurants and bars.

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Monday December 11, 2006

Gathering at LSA 2007

I propose we have another get-together of linguistics and language bloggers at LSA this year.  That would make it the Third Annual Linguist Blogger Social, and since previous installments have been wildly popular, with literally halves of dozens of attendees, I think we'd better start getting organized.  I put these three questions to you:

  1. What kind of gathering?  The last couple of years we've done dinner, which I'm certainly amenable to doing again, but I know dinner can be hard to schedule around.  Should we make it drinks in the hotel bar instead?
  2. Where?  This obviously depends on the answer to the previous question.
  3. When?  A glance at the LSA 2007 schedule shows that conference events finish at 8:30 on Thursday the 4th and at 8:00 on Saturday the 6th.  Sunday is presumably out because everyone will be gone.  Friday seems pretty full: a plenary address at 7:00, a grad student panel at 8:00, and a student mixer at 9:30; however, if you/we aren't planning to attend the business meeting, there is a window between 5:00 and 7:00.

The sooner we can decide on these details, the better we'll be able to plan.  Who's in?

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Friday December 8, 2006

LSA 2007 Schedule

As anyone who has attended can tell you (and I've mentioned before), the annual Linguistic Society of America meeting offers a daunting array of events.  This year on Saturday afternoon, for example, it looks like there are going to be about a dozen parallel talks, poster sessions, symposia, and workshops, so it's important to plan ahead to make the most of the conference.  To help you do so, I emailed the nice people at the LSA, got a copy of the schedule of events, put it into a consistent file format, figured out the iCal format, wrote a few (dozen) lines of Perl code, et voila!  The entire schedule for the conference is available as a public calendar on Google Calendar.

Continue reading "LSA 2007 Schedule"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Monday December 4, 2006

DNA Filter Plates

Today at The Institute I received an email from one of the geneticists that read (slightly edited for anonymity):

Hi, all, sorry for the mass mailing, but do any of you have the DNA filter plates?  Either the Footech XYZ-123 or THX-1138.  We need them  urgently.  Thanks!

Have a nice day!

I am happy to be able to report that the email did not read as follows:

...we need them urgently down in Subterranean Containment Vault 3.  There's a tiny little issue with the Eadly-day Uper-say Irus-vay.

Have a nice day!  Don't forget to use your hand sanitizer!

(Because that would be bad.)

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Sunday November 26, 2006

Friends in High Places

Quietly and without any fanfare, an important milestone has been reached.  Can you feel it?  As of a couple of weeks ago, every one of the linguists on my Ph.D. committee has been mentioned on Language Log.

Can you say the same?  No.  No, you can't.  (Unless you can, in which case feel free to leave a comment and declare your membership in my exclusive club.)

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
01:37 AM in Academia , Linguistics , Weblogs | Comments (3) | Submit: | Links:

Sunday September 24, 2006

Proceeding Apace

On Thursday, I had my general examination, which I passed.  Passed, do you hear me, passed!  They laughed at me at the academy, you know, but soon I will show them all—by proposing and then writing a dissertation.  Yeah, that'll show 'em.

Until then, I'll be basking in the warm, comforting glow of candidacy.

[Note to myself:  Must scribble out "M.A." on all my business cards and replace it with "Ph.C.". ]

[Note to myself:  Must get business cards made.]

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Tuesday June 6, 2006

Academia in a Nutshell

This last weekend was the retirement party for one of the pillars of our department, though "retirement" may be a little strong—it sounds like he's planning to remain fairly active as an emeritus professor, which is good news because he's on my committee.  I waffled about whether to attend or not—I was (and still am) up to my eyeballs in a language modeling project—but finally decided to put in an appearance.  When I got there, about an hour late, I immediately ran into a group of four other grad students with a worrisome scheming look in their eyes.  They were planning something.

Continue reading "Academia in a Nutshell"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Monday January 2, 2006

Mountain Surmounted

I don't do New Year's resolutions—I have enough deadlines and unfinished projects already, thanks—but if I did then my first one for this year would definitely have been to do my backed-up school-related filing.  In a fit of industry, I've gone ahead and done it anyway.  I collected the various piles of documents from around the house, put them into one big pile, and started categorizing, stacking, and labeling.  Two and a half hours later, the deed is done.

Continue reading "Mountain Surmounted"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Saturday December 31, 2005

LSA Gathering?

[Update: Mark Liberman of Language Log has taken on the task of organizing the get-together.  Send him email if you're interested.]

Claire of Anggarrgoon, in a comment on a recent post here, asks:

Is there going to be a bloggers meeting in Albuquerque this year? I don't know who's going apart from you and me. I'm happy to organise something if there's interest, although my regular anggarrgoon site is down (I think someone turned off the server for the holidays...).

I hadn't given it any thought, but it's a good idea.  Who's in?

Continue reading "LSA Gathering?"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Thursday December 29, 2005

Collapsed in a Heap

Whew!  I hadn't thought I was going to make it, but the Quarter From Hell is over, Christmas with the families went as smoothly as could be expected, and I've actually got a few days of calm before the next, not nearly so hellish quarter begins (and is then immediately interrupted by LSA 2006).  Time to do the several quarters of filing that's arranged in various stacks around the house, I guess.

Continue reading "Collapsed in a Heap"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Tuesday December 6, 2005

Surprised by the Literature

If you're like me (and why wouldn't you be?), you're always worried, when writing a paper, that you haven't done a deep enough search of the literature related to your topic.  The uncomfortable possibility that somebody out there has already spilled the particular flavor of ink I'm mixing up is always in the back of my mind, but at some point, I just have to hope I've found everything relevant and start spilling.  Well, this week The Wife, who has been soaking in the literature related to her dissertation topic for long enough that she should be well past the part where surprises pop up, had a memorable encounter with some theses that were surprisingly relevant—maybe too relevant.  Head on over to her blog and read about it.

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Monday November 21, 2005

Quiz #4

Part of my responsibilities as a TA in a traditional English grammar class is writing and correcting quizzes (including coming up with bonus questions).  There are six quizzes over the course of the ten-week quarter, and we just had the fourth on this Friday.  I spent all day correcting it—a laugh riot, let me tell you—and I wanted to share the high points.

Continue reading "Quiz #4"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Sunday October 16, 2005

Norman Who?

The class I'm teaching (a traditional English grammar class) just took their first quiz on Friday.  At the end of the quiz, we wanted to have an extra credit question worth a couple of points.  I suggested, "Name two non-Indo-European languages spoken in Europe," which I'd had show up as an extra-credit question in a CS (!) class once.  The professor vetoed it because we hadn't discussed it in class.  He clearly misunderstood the purpose of an extra credit question, but no matter, because just afterwards I had a brainstorm.  At one point during his discussion of the history of English, he'd mentioned the Norman Conquest in 1066.  Sweet!  That's one of only two dates you need to know in English history.

Continue reading "Norman Who?"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Tuesday September 20, 2005

TA Training

I'm TAing a class this fall, and since I've never done that sort of thing before, I'm attending the required pre-quarter TA conference.  Note: it's not an orientation, it's a conference—I heard two different people start to say "orientation" and then correct themselves—and we were told explicitly that attending it should be the first item in our teaching portfolios.  Which isn't a CV-padding racket, apparently.  I went to three sessions that covered teaching a social science section, motivating students, and dealing with difficult situations.  Here are the high points:

Continue reading "TA Training"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Wednesday July 20, 2005


This week's unpleasant curveball: when The Wife and I got back home late Sunday night, we found a chair propped up under an open window and the back door standing wide open.  Uh-oh.  Upon investigating we discovered that both our laptops were missing, along with their associated AC adapters, external CD drives, and docking stations, and also my backpack and The Wife's day-planner.  Fortunately, our two (all-indoor, never been outside) cats were OK: one was waiting for us in the kitchen, and the other came running up the walkway when I called him.

Continue reading "Reburgled"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Friday June 3, 2005

The Wrong Side of Dawn

The Wife just sent me email saying "Look familiar?" with a link to this comic strip.  All too familiar, in fact—at a guess, I've been seeing the wrong side of dawn five days out of seven for the last month.  I usually tend towards insomnia, and the sky has been getting light earlier and earlier as summer has approached.  The inevitable quartersend burst of activity hasn't helped any.

Continue reading "The Wrong Side of Dawn"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Tuesday November 30, 2004



  1. Completing the required courses
  2. Finishing my thesis
  3. Receiving comments from all three committee members and making the necessary revisions
  4. Printing out a draft and submitting it for a format review
  5. Fixing the three (minor!) formatting issues that turned up
  6. Printing out two final copies (89 pages each)
  7. Getting ink signatures from all committee members, including two who were out of town, on both copies of the thesis and also on the degree request form
  8. Paying a $25 fee (which includes binding the thesis)
  9. and taking all the various theses, receipts, and forms to the appropriate office

...I have, as of today, satisfied the requirements for the Master's degree.

Continue reading "Milestone"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Eye Chart Pledge

Seen today in the Student Fiscal Services office: this (subliminal?) pledge, formatted as an eye chart:

I wonder if this actually has any effect on student loan default rates.  Some enterprising psychology or education grad student is no doubt running that study at this very moment.

Continue reading "Eye Chart Pledge"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Tuesday August 10, 2004



(Yes, I know I could use copy and paste to work around it, but where's the fun in that?)

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Thursday June 17, 2004

The Last Straw

After lurking for months in the comment section here, including a recent comment that was almost as long as the original post, The Wife has finally decided to strike out on her own and start up a dissertation-blog (using Blogger instead of TypePad, for some reason) called EdC. Welcome, sweetie—I mean, "Terminal Student"!

Continue reading "The Last Straw"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Tuesday June 15, 2004


Dorothea over at Caveat Lector discusses the interaction of age and graduate school admissions:

Nobody in academia blinks when somebody comes back for graduate study after a few years on the outside. I’ve always been in grad school with people older than I am, last time and this time alike. As far as I’ve ever been able to tell, age plays absolutely zero role in admissions decisions.

I'm in a similar position, so I wanted to add two cents about my reentry student experience.

Continue reading "Reentry"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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