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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 in review

2015 was the year when I could count the number of alcoholic drinks I consumed on one hand, and 99% of the people on Facebook had babies. Either that or the people who had babies posted 99% of the photos that appeared on Facebook. (The other 1% were photos of Alex's cat and Phoebe's dog.) I think this is a pretty good configuration though.

Some things happened in the world, but politics moved from something that happens in the world to something that happens primarily in retweets.

Last year's resolutions were mostly fulfilled, because low bars produce easy winners. The only areas of little progress were in generating publishable non-academic thoughts, and escaping California. But I suppose this was balanced out by good things that I didn't explicitly resolve to do, like incubate a small person who has my genes (although I'm not certain that she will see that as such a good thing when she discovers what these genes are) and get another academic article accepted.

So the resolutions for next year are to find a job and move back to civilization, or one or the other, but the one will probably facilitate the other.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

An open letter to Google Scholar

Dear Google Scholar,

I would like this amazing thing added to my citation count pls. Actually, I would like it double-counted. Can you arrange for that with your techno-wizardry? Kthnx.

Sparkly hearts,
Miss Self-Important, Very Serious Scholar

Saturday, December 12, 2015

On lullabies

I wouldn't have thought to consider this strategy of sleep inducement because white noise was working so well,* but then an accidental playing of the Brahms Lullaby knocked her right out, so I decided to look into what is obviously an old and well-worn method of making babies sleep.** It's not that I don't sing to the baby, but I just make up horribly unmusical things on the spot, mainly containing the lyric, "Go to sleep so Mama can finish her dissertation." Pre-made lullabies seemed easier than trying to come up with verses that rhyme with "dissertation." The problem is that the only lullabies I know are...questionable. For example:

- "Hush Little Baby": In this song, a parent bribes the child to sleep with a number of bizarre gifts that no infant could possibly desire or use, including a diamond ring and a "cart and bull," and when all these extravagant bribes fail, assures the baby that it is sweeter or cuter than everyone else. The primary lesson is one of unfettered materialism and vanity.
- "Frere Jacques": This song encourages waking up instead of sleeping. Definitely the wrong lesson.
- "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star": The child narrating this song just wants to know what the star is, and instead gets five stanzas of quaint digression that never answer his question! Lyrics could stand to be updated by an astrophysicist.
- "Rock-a-Bye Baby": In this song, the eponymous baby falls from a tree and presumably dies. What kind of message is that?!

Further research turned up a number of more comforting songs for babies, but they're more complex musically and lyrically, so they take work to learn. Also, they're usually Christian. (Babycenter claims "Amazing Grace" is a lullaby - as if someone as musically-defective as me can produce that on demand!) I assume this is why they've failed to attain the popularity of the simple, secular songs above. One poem I was surprised not to see turned into a popular lullaby is Stevenson's "Land of Nod." I found it set to music in - of all places - Natalie Merchant's album of children's songs. (My childhood musical enthusiasms are now making music for my children.) But her tune is not very sing-able. Actually, few of these tunes are, so as an effort to create lullabies out of old children's poems, this album is kind of a failure.

* Nobody else seemed to think that putting babies to sleep by piping the sophisticated sounds of "rain on car," "washing machine," and "hair dryer" into their ears is creepy, so I accepted this practice (plus, it's so effective), but I'm still a little troubled by the sense that white noise represents a way of pushing the baby back into the womb rather than leading it out into civilization, as music does.
** But its antiquity and repute may be such only because of the failure to discover the magic of white noise earlier.