November 15th, 2006

goldenrod, ballroom, hover cross

update: school, dance, and more

It's nearly two and I'm not tired and for once I have no urgent assignments to finish, so perhaps I should write a bit about how my life is going. I haven't updated in -- how long has it been now? -- well, either mid-summer or the end of spring, depending on what you count as an update. In that time I've passed the quarter-century mark; moved to Palo Alto; started blues dancing; tried hanggliding and waterskiing; participated in a wedding (as a bridesmaid) at the Grand Canyon; performed with a lindy hop troupe; finished up my internship at Yahoo! Research, helped write two papers for CHI, and started classes at Stanford all in the same week; mobilized my incoming PhD cohort to collectively buy a printer, provide cheap snacks, and have a social email list like my last two departments did; bought and built a fancy new desktop computer for data storage and processing; started competitive ballroom dancing again with a new partner and won second place in a recent competition; went backpacking with first-timers stellae and zestyping; presented at two conferences (one with dag29580863!) ... in short, I've been insanely busy and that's why I haven't been posting, even though I have millions of things I want to write about.

Despite the prevalence of social-sounding events in that list, what has been consuming most of my time is classwork. I'm loving my courses down here, but they really do keep me busy every spare moment with readings and assignments. I've found my Theory of Communication class, though focusing more on psychological measures and political communication than I (currently) do in my research, fascinating. We've discussed emotions and cognition, attitudes and persuasion, verbal and nonverbal communication, interpersonal and mass communication, and political communication, and will be talking about news, campaigns, and the Internet before the semester quarter is over.

I have two other classes which I am particularly enjoying, one on ethnography of virtual communities (taught through the anthropology department) and one on qualitative research methods (taught through the sociology department), which is a lot like a class I took at Berkeley except more structured. I have a list of at least fifty other classes I would like to take in the next few years, which of course I probably can't really do. I think I was at Berkeley long enough -- seven years altogether -- to exhaust most of the classes I wanted to (and was allowed to) take, except for the new and exciting one-time offerings through SIMS the iSchool. It's great to be in a place with a different (though similar in many ways) intellectual tradition and a whole new set of course offerings and opportunities. I have so many sociology and anthropology classes that I want to take that I may end up getting PhD minors in both (if I'm allowed), and maybe even getting a Master's in sociology along the way. The inimitable Jean Lave gave me the names of about twenty professors who she really likes at Stanford, and their course offerings all sound fascinating. I'm having trouble keeping the number of units I want take each semester quarter (eventually I'll get used to the new nomenclature) below the maximum.

My advisor Fred is fabulous, though he's been very busy this quarter promoting his new book -- which I guess is just as well, because I've been preoccupied with classes myself. I really look forward to interacting more with him and with others in the Communication department and beyond, though. And I'm also excited to do what I can to help forge more ties with Berkeley's iSchool, something several of the folks in Communication are interested in doing but lack the time to actually implement.

Aside from classwork, I've also become quite involved in several dance communities around the Bay Area. A good friend in the Stanford Ballroom Dance Team invited me to be their teacher training coordinator, so I set up a program for them at the beginning of the quarter. A fellow Yahoo! Research intern introduced me to blues dancing over the summer and I was hooked, and am now helping with R.A. Blues, a blues dancing venue in the South Bay. I've also been helping Julia Minson with her Mad Hot DanceSport program, teaching elementary school kids how to ballroom dance once a week and choreographing their end-of-year cha-cha/swing medley performance. (Stay tuned for more about this -- this will probably be Dec. 9, and the more who attend, the merrier.) Finally, after a four-month break, I've started dancing competitively again, this time with a Googler who recently moved up here from Southern California. So far it's going great -- though it was really important for me to take a break from ballroom dancing to rehabilitate myself, I've found that I have really missed it. Other kinds of dance, though they all share features, just can't make me as euphoric as International Standard danced at a high level. *contented sigh*

Well, there's a lot more to write -- I have a dozen outlined or half-written posts in my blog.txt file. But it's now approaching three and I'm finally starting to feel tired, and I have to get up early for physical therapy tomorrow (Stanford's health center is SO AMAZING! You Stanford students who complain about it don't know how lucky you are), so for now I'll sign off and leave my midnight railings and political rants for another day.