Day two – The Book of Big Concepts

although last night i stayed up until four or five am drinking, taking ritalin and being rude to my beloved, this morning i managed to get into the office at a very respectable 11am.. and as it is now past seven i have done a full eight hour day.. it is essentially my first real day as a grad student. It has gone very well.

I met my supervisor at 2pm to discover what it is i am to be doing. he has a cold, is rushing around a bit, has lots to juggle and is a bit distracted.. this was the same as the last time we met a couple of months ago.. but i don’t think it is normal.. in fact, i am beginning to think he could be an incredible supervisor.. i started to see it as our first proper meeting progressed.. thoughtful, experienced, generous and demanding.

I am part of his pan-European project investigating how we, babies, rats, squirrels and even computers can get From Associations to Rules. So two bonuses of my project is that I get to be very inter-disciplinary and have to travel to glamorous european locations to work with my new colleagues. First stop, is probably glamorous Cardiff next month to meet the team looking at adult concept formation. After that i need to meet some mathematicians and computer-scientists in Belgium. I also need to meet the other members of the project here in Birkbeck and all the other infantologists come to that. Ideally, i will be able to start testing babies myself soon after christmas!

But it turns out that the first thing i should be doing is discovering what i should be doing.. and this can take several months! i’ve already done some reading but now i can hit the literature with a vengeance and come to terms with the difference between pattern spotting and rule use.

Rather wonderfully, the first book I have bought is called ‘The Big Book of Concepts’. It is by Gregory Murray.

I cannot think of a more perfect book title for the first thing that one reads for any Pee Aitch Dee.. (I’ve no idea what it’s about.. but apparently whatever it is that is what I am studying too! ) I shall waste no time in reading it.

But my ears echoing with my supervisor warning not to become a dull specialist, i bought some other books too..

The Brain’s Sense of Movement – I skimmed this in a bookshop in New York, 2 1/2 years ago and though it is nothing to do with my field it seemed fascinating.. for some reason (sulking probably) i didn’t buy it then.

the a book about Sengai – a zen painter/calligrapher – little bits leapt out at me and not wanting to make another 2 1/2 year mistake i had to have it.

I got a few others but best of all i treated myself to the complete poems of Emily Dickinson.. a favourite i’ve only ever seen in small doses before.. now i have all 1775 poems of her poems.. nearly two a day for the rest of my phd so i have decided that it will sit on my desk for the course of my course..

here’s one..

no. 317

Just so — Jesus — raps —
He — doesn’t weary —
Last — at the Knocker —
And first — at the Bell.
Then — on divinest tiptoe — standing —
Might He but spy the lady’s soul —
When He — retires —
Chilled — or weary —
It will be ample time for — me —
Patient — upon the steps — until then —
Hears! I am knocking — low at thee.

About caspar

Caspar is just one monkey among billions. Battering his keyboard without expectations even of peanuts, let alone of aping the Immortal Bard. By day he is an infantologist at Birkbeck Babylab, by night he runs BabyLaughter.net
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