Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

29 Jun 2001, 2:07 a.m.

Obtuse Angling, and Conjugating Imaginary Verbs

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Classes here in St. Petersburg have been actual work. And I'm not just talking about homework. Every day it's exhausting to go through six hours of struggling through it all in bad Russian. At least I didn't have to take that experimental test in which subjects conjugated imaginary verbs. (They all had 'i' in them, I guess?)

Below, a pretty much unedited transcript of my personal notes from Russian History lecture.

And here's a shout-out to my new fans, including Susanne Cohen's friend, and Sunil, and John Stange's friends.

(BTW, note that the history lecturer makes us all zone out because she uses lots of vocabulary that we don't understand. We fall into the language holes and -- to mix metaphors -- drift, surfacing into meaning only about once every ten minutes or so.)

  • Lamarckian evolution and Connie Willis. There's a short story she wrote about faculty at some university and "learning to fly" as some sort of Lamarckian evolution bit. I am not sure how I feel about the Connie Willis motif of constant and systematic nuisances, such as obsessive parking meter monitors, or bureaucracies in general. There are lots and lots of people in Connie Willis worlds who act like AI bots, or like Douglas Adams characters. I'm not sure how the resemblance runs there.
  • My head hurts and I'm tired.
  • I wonder what it's like to kill someone. I imagine that it's seemingly surprisingly easy to commit the actual action, but with haunting repercussions eternally after.
  • ETAOINSHRDLU, I once read, is a letter-frequency rule-of-thumb in English. I wonder what it's like in Russian? Maybe a few of the first letters are the same. Maybe it's ye, T, A, M, K, ee, ui, O or something.
  • I want to be in Stacey's bookstore in San Francisco.
  • My eyes close of their own accord.
  • She just keeps talking! In Russian!
  • I wish this were Folktales. This lecturer isn't doing any impressions. [The Folktales lecturer impersonated Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev, Kruschchev, Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin on Monday.] Well, I suppose it would be tough for her to impersonate Oleg or Igor. She's kind of young; she wasn't around back then.
  • I'm remembering that time in India when I visited a Western-style apartment, with the Care Bears movie playing on a VCR in a room with sofas and knick-knacks and natural light. And a toilet! My God. It was such an oasis after a month and change of squatting. I don't think I wanted to leave.
  • I wonder how long she could continue lecturing, if denied food and water.
  • I really like nastayashii [a Russian word] more than "real" or "authentic."
  • There are so many different meanings for the word "civil." War, politeness, legal jargon, etc.
  • Twelve brothers! [Sons of some King of Kiev a thousand years ago. By the way, I will gladly accept a gift of some English-language Russian history text, mailed to me here in St. Petersburg!] Sounds like a fairytale. Or does the resemblance run the other way around?
  • Only 35 minutes left. I'm checking my watch a lot less often since I'm writing down my thoughts. Less often than I usually do in Russian History lecture or section.
  • This is verbal doodling.
  • I miss [home].
  • I should see Gattaca again.
  • What's "censor" backwards? "Rosnec."
  • 3 Daughters! [Princess Ilya and Princess Ingrid and somebody.] More fairy-tale near-nonsense. What was that word for nonsense, in that Daniel Harms poem we read in Literature?
  • 30 min. or so. This reminds me of philosophy back at San Joaquin Delta College w/Jeremy. "The thought is a person in the city of the soul!" Note-passing. Hey, I know a Leonard now, and my philosophy prof was Leonard, "Call me Lenny." We watched "The Masterpiece Society" (a Star Trek: TNG episode) and part of A Clockwork Orange. [other stuff]
  • My need to be "different." Why? Here, by virtue of my skin color, I'm already different, an involuntary nonconformist.
  • [differences between guys and gals, advantages of either to me]
  • I remember a summer, I think, around fourth grade, that I spent in a day camp. And some before-school chess class, around that same time.
  • Only 10-15 min. left. Thank God.
  • Maybe I should act more like Genly Ai in Strang-, no, Left Hand of Darkness.
  • I'm imagining trying to lecture to her twice a week re:, say, the history of the personal computer, in English.
  • I need to drink more water.

Oh, and by the way, the main way Dostoyevsky got famous and financially secure was through his monthly serial, "Diary of a Writer," to which lots of people subscribed. So, Fyodor had a weblog, so there.

First published by Sumana Harihareswara at