January 23, 2003

I know I've been bad,

I know I've been bad, not posting and all, but I was busy. You know, being in Hawai`i. :)

I will, at some point (hopefully in the next few days) write up a whole long summary of my time on the lovely island of O`ahu, to post. But not now. Right now, I have an even cooler story.

See, I'm sitting in a motel room in East Galesburg, IL. Why am I here? (And how cool is it that there was a data port in the room that I could just plug into? But anyway.) Because Knox College paid for me to come visit them and chat with a bunch of their faculty. As I've said for a while, Knox has been one of my top choices all along; it very nearly meets all of my criteria. It had perhaps been flagging a little lately, as for some reason I was getting bogged down in the idea of it being "only second tier", despite knowing better than to put any real faith in the US News rankings (ugh). Then I came here and visited.

All the people here are just the nicest people ever, of course---I sort of expected that, really. But it's also a very comfortable feel; and there's a definite feeling that I'd immediately be a major voice in the department, not to mention have a say in a sort of de facto restructuring of the program, since the most senior CS fac member just started here about a year and a half ago. Still, I was expecting a lot of that.

The real moment of the day came when I talked with the dean of the college. See, he's a linguistic anthropologist. He really loves the idea of getting some sort of linguistics minor going here, perhaps to eventually develop into a program down the line. They already have a few people that teach linguistics courses here and there---one guy in French, one in Russian, I think another one somewhere else; plus of course I'd teach a computational linguistics class in the CS dept and would be able to teach other more theoretical linguistics besides. He also thought it was great when he mentioned interdisciplinary classes and I (on the spot thought of and) proposed a "constructed languages: linguistics and literature" class where we could do some linguistics, some study of the constructed languages themselves, and some reading of e.g. Tolkien with accompanying analysis of the use of conlangs in the books. A little like the conlinguistics class I taught at IMSA, but more fleshed out and more interdisciplinary.

Everyone loves that I do ballroom dancing, and I got at least three separate (excited) suggestions that I "start" a ballroom club here. I better not get stuck with the organisational stuff, but if the students'd do that, I'd love to teach. Heck, I'd teach a ballroom PE class, free and on top of any more academic classes I taught. It'd be fun. :)

Like Quincy, Galesburg was a big shipping and transportation hub in the mid-to-late 19th century, then slowly faded into obscurity (never really shrank, but never really grew any further either). The net effect of this is that there are a lot of old Victorian mansions near the centre of town, that never got knocked down for progress to sweep through; and they are now being lovingly restored by various current owners, and can be had in every state from like-new to fixer-upper-no-really-we-mean-it. Have I mentioned that I've always wanted to live in a Victorian mansion? Have I further mentioned that for upwards of four years now I've planned to "eventually" buy or build a house with a ballroom?

Have I mentioned that with the imminent Maytag plant closings in Galesburg, the housing market is already starting to drop through the floor? (I really do feel bad for the 1,600 workers losing their jobs, and I hope that the town of Galesburg works to attract new jobs---preferably in smaller groupings than 1,600, so that the loss of one business isn't quite this catastrophic. But boy, those houses are cheap.)

So yeah, Knox is looking pretty peachy right now. I guess we'll see how I feel after I've visited the others.

Also, not directly related to this, I met with fellow IMSA alum Chris Tessone this evening. He's a math/Russian double major here, and got pretty excited by some of the stuff I talked about in my job talk. Through an amazing sequence of coincidences, we hatched the following plan: he comes to Providence this summer to work in my NLP research group on Czech machine translation, then he writes up his work for an honors thesis here at Knox. The amazing coincidences? He's a Russian major, but he's looking at Slavic Studies for grad school; his advisor is a linguist; he already speaks Czech; he can already program; my research group has this amazing grant that could probably even fund him while he's in Providence; he's going to be abroad in Hungary this fall already anyway, and can easily visit Prague while he's there to work directly with the folks working on the Prague treebank; and finally, if I do end up here at Knox, I could totally advise the thesis. Ah, the powers of alumni networking. It probably won't work (we still need to check with a lot of people, not least his fiancée, his advisor, my advisor, and probably a few people I'm forgetting. But still, it was fun to talk about (and just might yet work).

Ok, done talking now. I'll definitely post more soon, though.

"The making of language and mythology are related functions; your language construction will breed a mythology." --J.R.R. Tolkien Posted by blahedo at 12:45am on 23 Jan 2003

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