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That is where I am right now. There is a four-week linguistics institute this summer, and the them is "language and the world," which essentially means that the emphasis is on empirical linguistics, rather than theoretical linguistics (although, with almost 80 different courses offered at once, the theory does slip in there.) This is incredibly cool. I'm taking four classes, one of which is directly relevant to my thesis project, two of which are descriptions of an extremely common research protocol (eye-tracking and brain-waves, also known as event-related potentials (ERPs)), and one of which was originally going to be a for-fun class, but turns out to be exactly on the sort of stuff I decided I didn't know enough about when I discarded a different thesis idea: computational psycholinguistics. There are workshops, such as, "here's how to use phonetic analysis software to synthesize experimental stimuli," talks by famous people, movies (although they're all linguistic documentaries), and simply eating dinner with someone is an education in linguistics. I chatted with one woman who is working on how computational pragmatics, and with another who is looking at how people use their feet (feet!) in sign language. True, there's work; I have spent all Friday evening, and all Saturday and Sunday reading things, but if I can keep up this pace I will be very, very smart by the end of July.

Aside from the classes and people, there are also a large number of other things that are making this month awesome:
  1. The location and weather. This institute is in Boulder, CO, which has plenty of pretty mountains and so on, but which even better than that has lots of thunderstorms! There's been at least some thunder every day, and sometimes quite dramatic rain and wind and lightning. They usually don't last more than an hour or two, and even though they tend to come at dinner time, meaning that I get wet as I walk to the cafeteria, my normal home has very boring, placid weather, and these storms are great.
  2. The dorm life! I miss Mr. Philena very much, but it's kind of fun to be in a dorm again. There's a rec room with ping pong and pool and a piano and foozball and air hockey (although I haven't had any time to use them), and each room has a fridge and a microwave, which means that I can have snacks at all hours. My roommate is kinda sorta a young-un, being two years behind me in my program (we arranged the rooming together ahead of time), and kinda sorta a peer, being married and having already gotten an MA before starting here--hence we're both one-year-post-MA. She's totally great, and keeps me from getting lonely without Mr. Philena.
  3. The cafeterias! Don't get me wrong--the food is pretty lousy. However, almost everyone is a linguist, and, especially this early in the institute, it happens quite often that I simply sit down at a table and introduce myself to whoever's there, or I'm sitting alone and someone else simply introduces herself to me, and then we talk about linguistics! It's like the first day of school without any cafeteria-anxiety: adults are mature and intelligent, so there tends to be less cliquishness, and everyone's a linguist, so there's usually a common topic of interest. Also, it's lots of fun managing to put together a delicacy from the semi-raw materials. Someone at my table today mentioned that if you mix chocolate milk and coffee you get a passable mocha! I'll try that at dinner tonight, I think.
  4. The campus! It's not a big deal, as campuses go. It's pretty similar, in fact, to my home campus: big buildings, green areas, lots of paths for walking, a few streets for driving, maps scattered around in case you get lost. But still, it's a bit of an intellectual puzzle to learn your way around a new campus, and my navigational confidence increases every day.
So here I sit, having read ten different papers/chapters/selected excerpts in the past four days, with three more to go, which I will probably not finish before more are assigned. It's warm, but breezy, and it's almost dinner time, which means that the evening thunderstorm should be coming in pretty soon. And indeed, I just heard two rolls while I was typing.

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