Full speed ahead

I’ve had a pretty good day so far. I had to get up early to do two major assignments that really can’t be done in a single morning: my thesis prospectus (where I say what I want to write on and why it’s important), and my application for funding for my research (this isn’t as big as it sounds; I just need to demand money for BART tickets to SF and for photocopying). But I got them both done okay, in fact pretty well except for a few things, and in time too, so it turned out all right. (This does not mean I can do the work of a week in a couple of hours. Actually, I’d outlined and carefully thought about both of these assignments before this, but I just hadn’t written them out. Though writing itself takes so much more time than we always think it’s going to…) And as it turned out, getting up early wasn’t so horrible either, because Mommy took me to Sheng Kee yesterday so I had a half-loaf of that ridiculously fluffy soft white Taiwanese toast bread just sitting around waiting to be eaten. So I toasted a piece and had it with plum butter and some ginger peach tea. Definitely a nice way to bribe myself into doing work at eight am. 🙂

Unfortunately, after that excellent start to my day, I completely conked out in my thesis seminar, the place I was supposed to be presenting all this brilliant work, and when Prof Vernon asked me to talk about my project, I just blinked a few times and kind of babbled until he reminded me what we were supposed to be talking about. (Digression: I don’t know what kind of opinion my classmates have of me this semester. I’m either talking/listening intelligibly and giving logical, insightful comments, or I’m just totally zonked and have no thoughts whatsoever–and I’m sure my eyes show it. Or because I’m tired, I just say whatever comes into my head, which may be insightful and brilliant but is definitely not logical or concise. Perhaps like I’m doing right now. Erik thinks my classmates probably just think I’m a mad genius. I’m afraid they just think I’m mad. And now I’ve picked up on Prof Vernon’s Britishisms!)

After class, in which I acquitted myself tolerably well after being reminded what I was supposed to say, I visited Prof Nylan at her office hours. Melissa came by too, and we had discussions about our assignment for this week, the poo-ness of the possibly impending war with Iraq (not to mention the poo-ness of Bush, as well), and these incredible candy-coated sunflower seeds Mommy and Shra gave me yesterday. That was fun. Prof Nylan observed that everyone she has talked to today is tired, which makes no sense because we had a three-day weekend. She thinks it’s possible that the subtle stresses brought on by all this talk of war might be what’s making us all tired. I don’t think it’s farfetched. I think we’re often taxed more than we realize by what goes on around us. I also use this theory to ascribe my not-so-great schoolwork one semester to September 11. I’m not making light of the situation; I would never do that, and anyway, I’m quite serious. I’ve thought ever since then that I would be really, really interested in a study on the subject, if anyone wants to make one. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if grades that year dropped noticeably, nationwide. My fifth-grade tutee’s did, I know that for sure, because that was why she was in tutoring; she’d gone from being a straight-A student to a C and B- student. Actually maybe I can make my own informal study here. Okay: if you’re reading this, leave a message in my comments section, and tell me: How do your grades for 2001-2002 compare to your grades before and after that year? You don’t have to tell me your grades, just say if they changed and if so, by how much (like A to A-, or A to C-?). My fall grades actually weren’t bad at all, but I was taking easy classes and my instructors are really nice people. Maybe actually they graded easier because of the feeling in the air at the time. Because I definitely remember thinking at the time, oh goodness I’m just not performing at the same level as last semester and this must be why. At any rate my spring grades from that year are markedly worse. I’m really interested in others’ experiences. Maybe my theory will be completely unsubstantiated. At any rate we’ll find out…

So back to what I was saying. I digress SO much. Actually I might as well make another digression here before going back. Erik and I were having a conversation once on my to-him peculiar way of conversing. If you envision the way you speak as a plant, my manner of speaking looks a lot more like a conventional tree than his does, because mine has a lot of little branches off of one big trunk, while his trunk waits to finish growing before sprouting branches. This probably makes no sense to you and now you’ve got trees in your head. Maybe the best I can do is demonstrate. Say we each have to talk about toothpaste, and in the course of our speech, each of us gets reminded of three separate new topics: dentists, chocolate, and rubber ducks. Erik will finish his talk about toothpaste, then when that’s logically concluded will move on to talk about dentists, and then chocolate, and then rubber ducks. Somehow he can remember all that after his toothpaste talk. I’ll start off with toothpaste, but as soon as I realize there’s this funny story about my dentist, I will tell it, and then go back to my main toothpaste idea, and talk about that for a while, but then something will remind me that I had this absolutely fantastic chocolate the other day, and I’ll tell you about that, and then go back to toothpaste again, then be reminded of rubber ducks and talk about that, and eventually I’ll finish my toothpaste story. Sometimes I even have sub-branches, which I may or may not choose to tell immediately (chocolate, for instance, could remind me about cake…). I find this method more natural than Erik’s method, because it’s easier for me to remember the main thread than to remember the digressions after I’m done with the whole thing. But he says my method makes me really difficult to follow, though entertaining to listen to. And he says it makes me weird. Does it? It does seem like more people use Erik’s method. Maybe everyone else just suppresses their digressions, while I run with them. Do I confuse people? I wonder. I hope not. Or maybe I hope so, if they’re at least being entertained at the same time. Oh my goodness, this IS a long digression. I think I should get back to the original story now. And yes, I do actually remember it, without having to go back up to find what I was talking about.

So, back to those candy coated sunflower seeds. (Those of you who talk with me often, this should feel familiar to you. A seemingly random topic after loads of other topic, isn’t really random, just something I’m coming back to after a while.) Apparently there’s a new Asian candy store that opened in Cupertino Village, that sells all kinds of stuff from Asia–not the typical Asian sweets, like Pocky or, oh, Super Lemons and things like that. So Mommy had picked up a whole bunch of it and brought it to Shra, and among those was a shiny bag of what look like little tiny earthy-colored M&M’s in teardrop shapes. (Earthy doesn’t mean various shades of mud, it means yellow and green and orange and brown.) They turn out to be sunflower seeds which are coated with chocolate and candy in the same way that M&M’s are. They are SO GOOD! I don’t like sunflower seeds normally, but I could eat these forever. I get the biggest kick out of them. Apparently this is a little weird. But they’re like eating bubble wrap! They taste so interesting, and the texture is among the best I’ve ever eaten. They feel hollow, so they’re like little tiny crispy bubbles. I can’t describe it, you have to taste for yourself. Which is why when I was in Prof Nylan’s office telling her and Melissa about them, I got so excited when I suddenly remembered that I had stuffed them in my backpack! So I pulled them out and made them eat some. You can’t eat them one by one; you need to pour some into your hand and them tip them into your mouth so you can crunch them. They were not overly impressed either. I can’t believe other people don’t get as excited about these things as I do. But apparently they find it amusing… Erik totally cracked up watching me eat them. He says it’s because my eyes get really big and I just get smiley. Prof Nylan and Melissa laughed at me too. *shrug* They’re just so good… AAAAAAAHHHHH I just found them online! Okay go here… Sunflower Seed Chocolate… the photo makes them look like these huge things, almost M&M size, but if you realize the seeds in the photo are just about life size, you’ll know how tiny they are. The store is called Aji Ichiban, and the English caption says ‘Munchies Paradise.’ Oh yes. They have a SF location… I’d better figure out how to get there…

So after I visited Prof Nylan, I went to see Prof Vernon, to discuss my grant application (he has to write an evaluation of it). He had just looked at my prospectus and said he’s looking forward to my paper. He thinks I should try to get it done early so I can apply for the Undergraduate Library Research Prize/ that’s new this year, which both he and I think is ‘maddeningly broad’ in that practically anyone can apply and it sounds like it’ll be an absolute terror to choose just a few winners. For these reasons I don’t think I’ll win, but it’s nice to know he thinks I have a chance. He also commented on something I’d written in my prospectus and said in class, which is that I’ve been finding more and more related topics in my research which individually would all make great papers, and it’s driving me crazy as well as totally exciting me to do more research. He said that because of all these great new topics, my topic as a whole (Chinese food in the Bay Area/US) has all the makings of a potential PhD dissertation. Almost alarmingly so, he said, which I take to mean that it’s really scary that I could be a third-year undergraduate and already have a dissertation topic. I think it’s scary too, because it’s just not supposed to happen this way, but I’m also really happy about it, because this is what I had been thinking too as soon as I realized all these topics were just throwing themselves at my head. It’s nice to have some backup.

Then you take this impressive idea and put it together with the mental image of me touching ecstacy by stuffing my face with handfuls of little chocolate-covered sunflower seeds…

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]