2010/10/27 W – Mid-term

The first snow came this week.I called for another job today, one that I actually thought I would get: a very-early-morning custodial job at the Maxwell Building, quite near my apartment.  I just noticed it posted yesterday… but it was already filled by this morning.

Today, our Korean class had a cooking day instead of studying.  The food turned out nicely.  Some weeks ago, I joined a few members of our Viet class (and their friends) on their visit to a Viet restaurant.

Myeong-seon helped me register for my winter classes just after midnight this morning.  I have four left in my program, but I hope to fit in two language classes beside them (I’ll have to increase my allowance to 19 again).  The next Korean class conflicts with the schedule of a program requirement.  I’ve been putting some thought into enrolling in Hebrew.  This is also my chance to regain my footing with Thai.  I would have liked to go forward with Viet…  If the teacher is nicer (as he indicated earlier this semester that he would’ve been last winter), or if Meredith allows it for Hebrew, I might try to sit in on one or the other.  For now, I’m signed up for Thai.

We had some mid-term tests last week.  I took a couple, but had to reschedule the one for my syntax class, which I then forgot about.  I had imagined getting straight As this semester because of having had a head-start in nearly all of the classes (having previously taken them), but now that plan is gone.  During summer term, I also forgot about a mid-term test, in my religion class.  That teacher, Sister Woodger, allowed me to re-take it, but ended up failing me by a very slim margin, as I have written about here.  I’m still waiting for the response of my syntax teacher.

The class is “Theoretical Syntax”; I find the subject over-done.  I think there is some basis for elementary syntactic analysis, but not to the very detailed extent that it’s taken in this class, because mostly that the details rest on opinions of grammaticality that are in no way absolute, whether restricting oneself to standard speech or taking the language fundamentally, as I tend to.  I find myself in a dual position.  For the most part, spelling and pronunciation and grammar rules, remnants of systems of English that must have been much easier to learn, I am more stringent about, and I disparage those who lack the grammatic gift and blunder their way through rules that, if anybody cared enough to explain to them, would become accessible and useful; yet the rules I’m faced with in this syntax class about word order and so on, even when energetically insisted on and zealously received, seem to be without any substance, and I would prefer to break them.  So, “rules”, I take either position on; but my consistency either time is that the things I oppose rest only on popularity, what is commonly, ignorantly said and thought.  Ask a kindergarten class to vote on what grammar should be, and write it in your book.  Instead, I hold to the rationality that supersedes the popularity that naturally cannibalizes pieces of itself over time.  As a clean stove or room gets progressively dirtier, naturally, and ends up looking like a junk yard, so a language unkept and neglected entropies into a very irregular mess, in the end, I suppose, becoming less and less possible for the non-native to adopt, at least without major amputations and reformations — re-regularizations of things that were already regular before the mentally slovenly got a hold of them.  A language cannot persist without cohesion of some kind, without demands of conformity, either consistent or jumbled.

The only thing that bothers me is the unnecessariness of it.  If language must mutate, let it do so; but if it mutates only because bad students inherit academia and refuse to educate the next generation, instead creating their strange descriptive doctrines and assuming the untrained babbling of babies as the standard, then it’s a shameful misapprehension of stewardship, similar to industrial wasters who carelessly, endlessly, unsustainably grow their poisoned landfills in a crusade for profit and convenience.  The most convenient use of language is not the wisest use of it — yet wise language is efficient.  The easiest education is not the best education — yet good education is unconvoluted.  The mental crippling and historical segmenting of the rising generation is not the proper way to bring it in to this old world — yet to sufficiently prepare it to improve on the past is proper.  Of what has gone before, we must not only become aware; we must become masters; else our buildings of knowledge will begin to lean, and may someday collapse.  We’ll be too high up in the clouds to have any idea of what our buildings were founded on, or how they grew so tall.  Nor were humans meant to live as hapless wretches scurrying under the shadows of a mightier, nobler past.  Progress indeed bends the back, but straightens the spirit, and expands the mind to manier possibilities rather than chaining it to the slave ship of popularity, to row and to die without direction, as if not a man’s mind.

…But the English language is becoming the tongue of slaves… of monkeys who can learn a couple hundred hand signals only.  We’ve made English an obsolete computer with limited memory; we can copy in the new, but only after deleting the old.  Memory upgrades?  Not popular.  In a way, popularity is a force that tries to shrink a continuum into a single point.  Ignore possibilities; collapse imagination; only do what the next guy does.  Run like an ant — but even ants leave traces.  Fall like a leaf.  Throw away the old; only the present matters.  The new…?  Ah, the new!  Throw away the present — only the new matters.  Then throw away that new.  The only constant is “change”, or, in other words, “birth” and “death” leading only to a final nothingness.  It’s insufficient for human life, and insufficient for human thought and human language.

Bad history repeats itself ignorantly; good history repeats itself intentionally.  Though we all live in the moment, living only for the moment leads to disaster and a waste of life.

Anyway, the class, along with a few others of my linguistics classes, makes me vaguely unhappy, preaching its sort of human restrictionism.  In the end, I guess I just need to rethink the rules I disagree with, leaving whatever parts of the models appear sound.

Roughly three Saturdays ago, I talked with Myeong-seon on the phone, declaring our distance.  She seemed sad, and I reassured her of friendship.  I met her the day after, and each enjoyed the other’s company, but as I looked into her face at one moment outside her apartment, I was struck with the thought that I couldn’t recognize her… I couldn’t see her in my future.

We’ve been eating and studying together every Friday at least.

Since my doctor visit, my chest pain shifted a little, and I noticed a sort of indigestive pain, and had a couple very uncomfortable days.  My mother recently suggested internal gastrointestinal pressure…  I had guessed some sort of injury from my roll, or else an ulcer, since on the worst day, abdominal posture seemed determinative, and I had to hunch over for some time.  After that, I spent a few days moving carefully, and since then, a week or more has passed without any serious pain, but with a comparable diet and level of exertion.

I finally returned again to Salt Lake last week-end (contributing to my forgotten test).  I talked a little with my mother about Myeong-seon.  She thought her a smart girl, not old, and not unappealing, though she plainly reminded me of our disparate beliefs.  I came to Provo again on Sunday.  That night, I met Myeong-seon…  I reflected on how my mom had been right about her in some ways.  We lingered past midnight outside my apartment.  It was raining a little, and a wind storm came upon us at a particular time, blasting us with falling leaves.  We went briefly down to the parking area, then got some more jackets and rode to her house.  There was a loss of electricity between the soccer field and her house, and the rain was almost blinding.  Fortunately, few cars were out.  The rain let up on my way home.

I will try to be nice to her…  I tried telling her on Sunday night how superior she was, and how she should not expect low things.  She truly outclasses these mascara cattle at BYU in many ways…  The chance to have met her was rare; but the line between respect and compatibility is somehow still present when I think of her.  At first, I didn’t want to be obstructed by a temporary attachment.  Now I feel sure that I won’t meet another here, since my time is short… but… still, there’s something…

-Steve

[Edit: An hour or more ago, I was responded to by my syntax teacher, Heather Willson.  I was a little surprised (but not extremely, having witnessed her take offense before), that she made no effort in her e-mail to flex her policies, even after she had told me in class to talk to her about the missed test.  It somehow seemed like she was just having a bad day, which in my experience is somewhat more common for her in the seclusion of her office than during the showmanship of her lecture.  I had assured her in my e-mail request that I would not be resentful if she didn’t allow me to take the test, since her policies had been explicit and the test was forgotten by my fault only; as far as that went, I had been serious.  Nevertheless, since I now am convinced that she has no reason (excepting personal ones) not to at least make some effort of accommodation, as did the religion teacher that failed me last term, I’m going to have to mark her lowly on the relevant portion of the course evaluation when that comes around.  I’ll give her an honest accounting, as I always try to do.  The lower grade itself is no issue… unless, of course, she fails me by questionable grading.  If so, I’ll surely have a few comments for her in person about refusing this mid-term test.

Was it my fault?  Yes, it was.  My second fault was forgetting about the test.  My much bigger first fault was to stop by her office and ask about the test length last Thursday, as I was on my very way to take it.  She suggested I give myself longer, so I put it off… permanently, as it turned out.  I should have just rushed the test.  Her opinion may have been correct, but it failed me this time, and, unfortunately, she has sensed no responsibility to shoulder up to her correct opinion when unforeseen consequences came.  I certainly would have.]

[Edit 2:
Something slipped me again…

On Saturday, I saw somewhere that that day was the only early-voting Saturday till the election next Tuesday.  I asked Shane to drive me to my bank, whence I withdrew every last saved cent and cashed an old cheque, and then to the city building on 2100 South.  The voting was painless… at least till driving back with Shane, when he started making unwanted political comments.  I knew he was trying to not be obnoxious; I was reminded also of Kelly, and wondered if his complaints wouldn’t be coming against the very same party.  I think Kelly would have been far more Libertarian than godless Liberal.  Anyway, I know that Shane, like me, has inherited his discontent.  Before, I had thought that he (and perhaps Shanna) were negating my vote.  Now, I’m content that I’m negating his vote.  Let democracy have the rest; at least our family won’t be a net burden on our fellow men.  I was pleased to find out on Sunday that both Dave and Bonnie were voting by mail almost exactly as I had, on candidates as well as constitutional amendment propositions.  I deviated on a judge or two, and I had granted a couple local Democrat votes for merit; my parents later confirmed their philosophy of not taking away some one’s job in a position that was only nominally partisan.

Of most interest, for the first time I refrained from the two-party vote in our senate race.  My support was toward the Conservative, Mike Lee (well, more so to the one he defeated in the initial primary votes); but considering that he would handily carry the election over our former neighbour and inexplicable Democrat, Sam Granato, I took the opportunity to vote for a Constitution-party candidate, Scott Bradley, to give whatever momentum that was available to the third-parties that I suspect will eventually rise in this country of over-inclusive traditional parties.

I guess the Book of Ether didn’t go that way… but Nephi 3 at least leaned toward states’ rights.  Maybe we’ll stick in these two camps forever…  Then again, there are already camps within the camps.  Somehow negotiating issues seems like it would go more smoothly if the interests were more particularly divided among parties.  I guess there’s not the homogeneity in the states for very many to want to risk sacrificing their preferred mega-party… but it has been done.  It may depend on how many are driven to swing votership by recurrent political misdeeds.

It’s been a happifying election season.  Over the past year or so, I’ve realized that there are still people called “Americans” that I can look up to.  2008 had surely shaken whatever confidence I had left toward this flag that I no longer salute.  We’ll see how things turn out yet.

Last Friday, there had been a State Department man (Dinkleman) coming to explain Foreign Service Officership.  He was late; the kids were mulling around mindlessly in the room as is normal at BYU.  Seeing their indolence, I went looking for the guy, and found a BYU Humanities Department counselor looking for him too.  He asked if I were “from the club”; I told him I wasn’t.  After a trip back and forth, he told me he couldn’t get the man on his hand phone; he was coming up for a couple days from his Mexican post.  He gave me his description.  I assumed something had delayed his travel…  With twenty minutes having passed, I went back to the classful of students and told them that the guy may or may not be arriving, and they may or may not want to stay.  One asked, how long should they wait?  If he wasn’t here in forty minutes, I answered, they shouldn’t wait any longer.  Some left immediately; within a few minutes, the majority had left.

About five minutes passed, and the counselor returned informing me that the guest had been contacted and was on his way.  My heart sunk…  Probably some of those students would have sat there all day if I hadn’t informed them of the situation; maybe it was my fault they left.  I ran upstairs and outside to see if I could find any of them out in front of the JFSB, but they had dispersed.  Soon, I noticed a man who fit the description I’d heard.  I approached him and his two escorts, female students here; he said he’d been told the presentation had been set at the following hour (later I saw a third time announced: two hours after what we’d been told in our e-mail).

It was almost time for me to meet Myeong-seon, but feeling responsible for the diminished audience, I spent some time trying to convince the other Humanities girl, Paula Landon, to re-send her e-mail and get back some of the students.  She felt a little pressured (she was advising other students), and the chance was wasted… but eventually she relented — or claimed to.  I never got a re-sent e-mail.  But she next told me that somebody had wanted to know what the guest was talking about, and asked me to provide her with a summary after his presentation.  I agreed.  I had contacted Myeong-seon by phone and told her the room number, but she mis-heard it.  We didn’t meet for another hour or so.

I had stayed after a little and talked to the man individually, and Paula was gone by the time I got through…  I never gave her my detailed notes… but I did learn a little about the Foreign Service, and considered what it would mean to me to pursue it…  At the very least I would probably have to start saluting the flag again, if I were representing it…]

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