Costumes and Beads

The Loft no longer seems to offer as many wines by the glass as it used to. Boo.


That sounded like I was going for a Halloween “BOO!!”

Well. I didn’t exactly grow up with Halloween. One of those American holidays that never made it over the Pacific. The closest I came was United Nations Day at the International School of Beijing, when all of us (kids and teachers) would dress up in our “national” garb and parade around the school grounds. The PTA would hold a bazaar in the gym, with stalls themed for different countries offering food, handicrafts, etc., like a mini (very mini) World Expo. Yes, that was my Halloween – dressing up in national costumes, which Singapore does not exactly have, so we (the Singaporean girls) would have to wear the closest thing we had to an internationally recognized garb, which was the Singapore Airlines flight attendant uniform. UN Day was my birthday, too. How about that?

I turn 32 soon. Thirty-two. I feel simultaneously older and younger than that. I’ve always liked that number – four times eight. There’s something very memorable about it as a multiple. I always imagine the number as it appears on the abacus: three beads up, followed by two beads up. There’s a lovely tactile and visual symmetry with four and eight, which are four beads up followed by three beads up (and the five-bead down). As if the four and three collapse into three and two.

Music and math go together in my head, via the abacus.

Happy New Year 4

The first time that I thought I was done with school forever, I was looking for work as an academic librarian, and someone told me that all I needed was one job that wanted me. All I had to do was find that one job and – presto! – all would be fine. It turned out to be true. (Sort of. You know how these things go.) Now, exactly one week before classes begin for my fourth year as a doctoral student, I hope that the same is true for fellowships. I’ve just sent off a first draft of a major fellowship application to my advisor for feedback, and I hope that this is a “match made in heaven” because it is literally the only funding opportunity I have found that matches my research focus and demographic eligibility. Combing through over 2000 listings of grant and fellowship funds has showed me that although I am a woman and of Chinese ethnicity, I nonetheless do not study in a STEM field and am also not a U.S. citizen (I am a permanent resident), which means that finding my “one” is like sifting for a needle in a haystack. So this year, I am putting all my eggs in one basket. I am applying to only one thing. At least I can say that I did a thorough search. At least I can say that I’m practicing “less is more.” At least I can say that I am doing a project I feel committed to in spite of these challenges. So even though the funding pastures look greener on the other side, I feel like I am actually in the greener pasture. My kind of green anyway.

Isn’t it interesting how so many idioms about scarcity are agricultural?

Today also brings two nice things: UCSD fall quarter bus passes are finally available, and my favorite campus dining spot is open late for a back-to-school event. This means I get my independent mobility back (not knowing how to drive in Southern California is, well, problematic, and not having a bus pass on top of that makes everything truly insane) and I get to nurse a gigantic glass of pinot noir in a/c while writing this blog post. This is my treat to myself for finishing that fellowship application draft. (One must have treats.) The moody alt-rock on the stereo system is a plus – Radiohead, and then what sounded like recent Matchbox 20! Ah, to have been a teenager in the nineties. This is what nostalgia sounds like.

Sometimes being in a doctoral program feels like being in college again, except this time with more emotional and intellectual maturity. I cannot imagine I am alone in this feeling. For the more academically inclined among us, I imagine that pursuing a Ph.D. often seems like you get a second chance at a college education. As in, “hey, if I’d been less obsessed with finding myself, or if I’d flipped out less, or if I’d just been, I dunno, smarter, this is what I would have done with my time in college.” For someone who used to swear that I would never do a Ph.D., I guess you can call me a convert.

So cheers to the new year. I wonder what my new students will be like.

The Click of the Mythosphere

Warily, and very belatedly, I am, at long last, an iPhone user.

A little over a year ago, when the iPhone 3GS went on sale for AT&T upgrades, I seduced my husband into getting one for himself. We stood there in the store, fascinated by the slick colors and smooth surfaces of the surprisingly heavy yet slim device, amazed at all the things it was that our “dumbphones” were not. Continue reading