Tuesday, January 25, 2005 ______________________________________________________________________________

I Need a Holiday 

This particular insight hit me today as I was sitting in the computer labs on the first floor of the B block of the Buchanan building. I was labouriously making measurements at three points of six sample tokens provided to us by a native female speaker of Cantonese. These tokens were in fact a minimal set, where the only contrast between them all was the tone of the speaker. Certain tokens were level and others were contoured. Some might argue that we could just open the sound file in the relevant program and have it spit out the F0. This might be true for some sophisticated program yet unknown to me. For our purposes at UBC, we are using the free program Praat available for download to a quite impressive range of platforms. While Praat does give you an F0 reading, it's sometimes rather far from accurate. Case in point, there was, at some point in the recording, a segment that Praat reported had an F0 of 76Hz. That's lower than a male speaker typically speaks and, like my partner pointed out: It's a chick!

It wasn't just the tedium of computing the fundamental frequency of Cantonese tones as presented by a single, female speaker (her name is Amy Yiu and she was a former UBC Speech Science student -- if anyone out there was really interested). It's also the fact that my first mid-term is coming up this Thursday accompanied by this particular Linguistics assignment (Cantonese F0 is only a fifth of this assignment). It's also that a major Intro to Stats (i.e. Pri 6 Math ad nauseaum) project and my Developmental Psych mid-term is coming up this Tuesday. It's also that it's very unlikely that I can breathe even after these two heavy-hitting days because there are obscenely time-consuming assignments and readings due every single week.

I thought that I would be able to get a holiday during that one and a half weeks between my last exam of last term (Syntax, remember?) and the start of this term. No such luck. Work required me to come in for extra shifts, making it a rather stressful time. Work is stressful enough when it's just on the weekends, I don't know how other people do it for full work weeks. I thought this term would start slow and give me some time to breathe before the deluge of everything. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Excuse me.

I can't even say that I'll hold out until the summer because I'm going to summer school. Summer school, which typically squeezes a three credit course (usually 13 weeks) into less than two months is just going to be worse than a regular term. Not to mention, it's not like I'm going to stop working for the summer either.

Concretely, all this means is that I look at the amount of schoolwork that I have to do and I don't want to touch it. When I eventually convince myself that it has to be done, I don't do as good a job as I'd like to, because my mind starts wandering and wondering why it's been doing this for so damn long. I'm a perfectionist but it's like there's suddenly two sides in my head. The perfectionist is rightly indignant at the quality of work I'm churning out and the slacker-wannabe is saying that the extra effort is only going to kill me. Which, counters the perfectionist, it well might, but at least the last piece of work that I leave on earth will be something that I can be proud of. Heh. It's not like the profs are noticing the drop in my standards but think about that Rolex magazine ad. They have this top ballerina and she says: If I miss a day of practice, I notice the difference. If I miss a week of practice, my audience notices the difference. So right now the corners I'm cutting are evident only to myself, but unless I do something about it, I might not be the only one who notices.

So here's the plan. I'm deliberately putting it in writing because it's more of a committment than just talking about it and speculating. The plan is that I will not allow work to schedule me for any shifts during spring break. I will take many pains to make sure that I have damn near nothing to do during spring break by working on readings and assignments before spring break. I'm going to try and go away for spring break (I'm going to see if I can convince Jimmy to take some time off). The agreement that I signed when I cashed in my student loan bound me to a promise to only spend my student loan money on tuition and academic supplies. I figure that a break constitutes "academic use" because unless my batteries are recharged...well, you know what cell phones are like when they are running on low battery. They will still turn on if you force them to, but they will shut off at inopportune moments and eventually refuse to come on altogether. Don't worry, I'm not going to spend all of it on an all inclusive to Mexico (and it's not like I have access to my passport anyway). Just a couple of hundred and hide for a week in Victoria. Jim suggested Tofino, which I assumed was just a summer destination but he's going to ask his dad about it.

So while there are no concrete destination plans, I've written down the things I will do to take time out. Believe you me, it's going to happen.

posted by Joie! at 6:18 p.m.


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