Bells and Thistles


UC Berkeley’s iconic Campanile, pronounced /kæmpəˈniːliː/

Today was the last official day of classes for the academic year. It hasn’t quite dawned on me yet that I’m (very nearly) finished with my first year of graduate school. This is due, naturally, to the fact that I still have lots to finish in a very short amount of time, and while I’d love to be out dancing at a moonlight swing right now, I have studying to do instead. And blogging to catch up on (shh).

Although I’ve written more about a certain TV show these past few months than about my life, rest assured that I am still attending classes and working on my research. In just a few days, I will take a very important oral exam, administered by three of my professors, that is one of the requirements for my Master’s. I’m a little bit nervous about it, since my Honors exams at Swarthmore didn’t go that well. Then again, those were probably harder than this one will be. And I’ve been preparing for months. So… fingers crossed!

After that, I’ve got to crank out a couple of papers and finish up a small experiment. Then, I can finally start preparations for my two-month stint in Korea. Yup, I’m going back! Ostensibly to study, but more importantly to collect some data and meet up with Korean linguists in Seoul. Hopefully I’ll improve my Korean language skills and my academic network by the time I come back in August for… year two!

It’s really hard to think so far in the future (I know, just a couple of months, it’s not much, really) when something so important looms so close. I’ve been visibly stressed out, as my classmates can attest, but rather using anticipation of a sure-to-be awesome sumer as some sort of anodyne to the pain of my current projects and papers, I’ve just been unable to focus on anything. And no amount of pleading or complaining is going to lessen the workload. Call it a thorn in the flesh; I’m just going to have to deal.

But today at noon, as I was walking back to my office, I heard the Campanile, our belltower, chime out the hours. And then, someone performed the carillon, an amazing instrument that allows melodies to be played on the bells themselves. So as I walked by the tower and heard the theme from Spirited Away, I stopped for a moment and thought, “Hey, this isn’t so bad. Yes, I’m stressed out. But it’s a beautiful day. There is literally music in the air, and it’s from one of my favorite movies. This is nice.”

It was one of those moments that you wish you could prolong indefinitely, that you have to sacrifice unwillingly because of your obligations. But later you realize that if the moment had indeed lasted any longer, it wouldn’t have been nearly as special.


Word of the Day: euphony, pronounced /ˈju.fə.ni/, is from the Greek roots for “good” and “sound, voice”. It means a pleasant, rhythmic, beautiful sound, either words or music. I’d say that the “Summer” theme from Spirited Away is quite euphonic. When it’s played on bells instead of a grand piano, it might sound a bit less than mellifluous, but it’s hard to ruin a gorgeous melody.

I came across this word while browsing a deck of GRE vocabulary flash cards that a friend owns. I was really geeking out about them, too. I guess it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I like well-designed vocabulary flash cards. I’m such a nerd…


About Andrew C.

I'm a grad student at UC Berkeley.
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