Friday, December 30, 2016

The Day After Coming Home from a Big Trip

Yesterday afternoon we came home from a week-long trip to London, and I’m ready to go back. Or to go to New York. Or Amsterdam. Or Berlin. Or LA. Somewhere. Anywhere. This happens whenever I come back from a big trip: I feel a great need to go travel some more — to go do something somewhere else. And it doesn’t matter how long I’ve been gone. Three years ago, I co-directed our department’s Study Abroad program to the British Isles. It was 7 weeks of pretty stressful travel and teaching and riding herd on a group of students (who were actually really great), and when it was time to leave, I was happy to leave. But when I got home, I wanted to go somewhere else right away.

I don’t think it’s a desire to avoid my regular duties — at least not this time. My courses for Winter Semester are pretty much prepared and I have no big projects that have been on hold while I’ve been away. Speaking more generally, I’m not dissatisfied with how my life usually runs. I’ve got it pretty good. A family who I love and who loves me, a comfortable house, a good job that provides a steady income that meets our needs and allows us the occasional excursion, good friends, etc. All in all, a pretty sweet set-up.

I think I’ve just become accustomed to novelty. I spent a week walking down streets that are unfamiliar, eating food that tastes different, and listening to people who talk funny. Maybe I just want to keep doing and seeing new things. I was talking to Robert (the younger of my two sons) about it as we drove home yesterday, and I asked him what he thought a person from overseas would like to see and do if they came to where we lived. Pretty obviously it’s probably the kinds of things that they can’t see or do where they are from: the novelty of foreign places and people.

So if that’s the case, then maybe the answer for my need for novelty is to start looking for it in my everyday surroundings. I do live in a beautiful state and I should be taking advantage of it — visiting National (and State) Parks, going for hikes, attending cultural events close to home: galleries, concerts, lectures, etc.

Or I could get in the car and go somewhere Right Now. I know I really want to.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Summer Resolutions

The New Year has always struck me as a poor time to make resolutions or goals. For me as an academic, the New Year really starts at the end of August. But August is also a poor time to try to create new good habits; they just get overwhelmed by other things while I try to adjust to incoming students and new schedules. I want to begin creating good habits when I don’t have a lot of other things competing for my attention. So I’ve decided to start making Summer Resolutions to begin when Winter Semester is over (for us at BYU, that’s the end of April). I have some things I want to do this summer to make me into a better person than I am now. I’ve divided them into 4 areas: 1) physical, 2) mental, 3) spiritual, and 4) miscellaneous.


I’m not in good physical condition. I started running a few years ago, but I haven’t done it regularly enough to really see the long term benefits. I’m running again now, but I need to get serious about it. So I’m resolving to increase my runs over the summer to at least 6 miles at a time. I’m not really interested in training for a marathon or such nonsense (those people are crazy), but I need to exert myself more than I’m doing now. Besides, people tell me that running is fun. I’m looking forward to finding out if that’s true.


Since I am an academic by profession, this might seem to be the easiest one to accomplish. But I’ve noticed myself becoming intellectually lazy over the past couple of years; I’m not stretching myself to learn new things or to write up things I’ve already learned to share with colleagues at conferences and in publications. My research program has stalled. I have plans but lately no desire to actually do anything about them. That needs to change, and this summer is as good a time as any. Here are a couple of things I want to do:
  • Learn Nahuatl. Almost 20 years ago I participated in a Nahuatl reading group. The leader of the reading group was trying out a new Nahuatl textbook and I thought it sounded like fun. The textbook wasn’t that good, and I remember next to nothing about the language. Now I’ve got a better textbook and a summer to work on it.
  • Shoshoni Phonology Book. This is the summer when I get serious about writing a book about Shoshoni Phonology. I’ve been thinking about doing it for 15 years now; it’s time to stop thinking about it and start doing it. It will also be a good way to start generating some material to submit to conferences and journals — to get back into the game.


This is private. Suffice it to say that I’ve been on a (pretty low) spiritual plateau for quite a while. I’ve got to move myself off of this plateau to higher ground. This will be a good summer to start.


I have a couple of other goals and resolutions for myself this summer that don’t fit neatly into these categories. One involves refurbishing a pump organ I bought two and a half years ago. It works, barely. It will be a long project, and I’ll probably screw it up. But then I’ll fix it and hopefully learn something. I’m not very handy with tools, in spite of having a craftsman for a father. I didn’t pay enough attention to what he was doing while I was growing up, so now I’ll have to learn the hard way. I’m sure Dad will be willing to offer his advice, but it’s my project now.

Even if I don’t accomplish all of my goals or habits, I’m hoping that the process will have some beneficial effects. If nothing else, it will keep me aware of some of my shortcomings (thus inspiring some humility, which I need) and motivate me to be better than I was before.