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Showing posts from May, 2007


Burnout is a common problem for us graduate students. I was really burned out after quals, but fortunately I rebounded better after prelims, only taking a few weeks to get back to work. After quals I couldn't understand why I couldn't do anything, why my brain was just jello. Then I found out what was wrong from reading Ph.D. comics: post-quals syndrome. While the strip said this was incurable, I found that my prelim / post-prelim syndrome cured my post-quals syndrome - kind of like curing bronchitis by contracting pneumonia.
Well, while there's no sure-fire way of recuperating from burn-out, the following is what I advise my friends to do, in addition to a long vacation:

1. mindless, relaxing activities
2. spiritual meditation & reading good Christian books
3. doing something intellectually engaging but unrelated to your research or studies.
4. thinking / dreaming about life after grad school, even sort of looking at jobs and such

For #1, it can be pretty mindless like play…

How about a Dalek president?

I was thinking of setting up a little website to promote Dalek Sec for president (from Dr Who), or maybe a MySpace page. But unfortunately, he was killed off in a recent Dr Who episode ("Evolution of the Daleks"), as the other Daleks didn't appreciate his progressive ideas about genetically mixing Daleks and humans. Otherwise, he would have been an interesting presidential candidate... "What would you do about Al Qaeda and Bin Laden?"
"I will exterminate them."
"Just like that - just exterminate them, like it's that easy?"
"I shall exterminate."
"What would your policy be toward companies whose factories or products that still contribute to global warming?"
"They must be exterminated."
"How would you handle the president of Iran?"
"I will exterminate him."
"How would you deal with members of Congress who oppose you on foreign policy?"
"They will be exterminated."

What I do...

The essence of what I do and how I spend my life:

I like linguistics & psychology, which I pursue empirically as a an experimental psycholinguist. I grew tired of armchair linguistics research, and found an area that meets my need for a real-world reference point to the otherwise very abstract study of language.

I love theology, which I approach from multiple angles. The most helpful thing I've learned: Ponder God, don't try to reduce him to some sort of religious rationalism (as many evangelicals and skeptics sadly do). Rather, ponder him, and stand before him in total awe, wonder, and fear. We cannot begin to understand him or wrap our minds around him. But we can know him to the extent that he has revealed himself to us thru Christ, the Holy Spirit, and his word.


Here's a cute limerick about a form of hyper-Calvinism called supralapsarianism [from Latin: "above the fall" (i.e., Adam's fall)]; this is apparently by a Presbyterian minister, Harry Lars Norlander.

Franciscus Gomarus
Was a superlapsarius
He actually gave Adam an excuse,
Saying God had decreed,
Fore-ordained Adam's deed.
God had pre-cooked Adam's goose.


I just got awarded a grant that will cover my research expenses for my dissertation! Praise God! Lauda Deum! Gott sei hoch geehrt und gepreist! 讚美主!

Biblical self-esteem

Another example of pop psychology is in the area of self-esteem, and equally disheartening, religious over-reaction against the concept of self-esteem among fundamentalists.

Many self-help books and pop psychology pundits talk about self-esteem without a proper understanding of it, and thus oversimplify and misapply it. First, self-esteem is a legitimate concept, and an important domain in social psychology research. There's been a good deal of interesting research in psychology over the years. However, self-esteem is not just one simple thing, that people need more of. There are different types of self-esteem, or different dimensions to self-esteeem. These dimensions can include one's self-knowledge and self-understanding, one's appraisal of one's abilities and general self-evaluation, one's feeling of control, in addition to evaluation of self, others, and social relationships. Often these things are fluid, and can actually vary depending on the context - specific…

My research: psycholinguistics

In my websites I describe myself as a psycholinguist, so you may wonder what that means. Well, I study the processing of language in the brain, including how linguistic information is represented in the mind, cognitive processes behind language, and the psychology of reading.

My dissertation project deals with Chinese character reading - how people make use of the linguistic information in characters in the process of reading. When you read a word in English (or other alphabetic languages), you translate the letters into sounds, and from the sounds you access the word in your mental lexicon, where words are stored in your brain. But at the same time you also are looking up words directly based on the spelling. Depending on how regular the spelling is and how frequent the word is, one of those routes - the phonological or orthographic - will end up retrieving the word from the mental lexicon. That's the standard dual route model of reading in psychology.

But what about Chinese? That&…

Pop psychology: "left / right brain" [part 2]

More on "left brain / right brain" pop psychology, and why it is incorrect:

4. Is the left analytical and logical, and the right intuitive? There's no evidence for that, really, and that represents a gross misunderstanding of how language, intuition, math, music, or whatever work in the brain. To say that language can be reduced to something logical and analytical is terribly simplistic, and reflects a total ignorance of linguistics and langauge structure. Traditional logical cannot explain how semantics, pragmatics, the lexicon, syntax, phonology, and morphology function or interact in a way that we can produce and comphrehend langauge. In fact, non-traditional types of logic form the basis of more recent linguistic and psycholinguistic theories, like connectionism, optimality theory, cognitive linguistics, and dual route processing models. These are based on optimization logic, or abduction (as the philopher Peirce described it; it is also the type of logic behind game …

Annoying urban legends: language and pop psychology

Okay, I want to rant and vent about this pop pscyhology stuff that keeps popping up. As a linguist and cognitive psychologist, I find references to "left brain / right brain" annoying, and this stuff pops up on the Internet, in business or marketing contexts, in sermons, on TV, etc. This is pop psychology because it is a grossly inaccurate distortion of what psychology and neuroscience tells us about differences between the two brain hemispheres, and is always misapplied. It is wrong for these reasons.

1. You use all of your brain all the time, not just half of it (unless you're a politician or TV/movie celebrity). Just because the whole think doesn't light up under an MRI or CT scan at a given moment doesn't mean the rest is dormant; it's working, too, just at a lower level. And there's more than the left and right cerebral cortices (upper advanced mammalian brain) that this pop theory refers to. There's the front brain (frontal corex), which is neith…

Student's prayer

The Student's Prayer (or Scholar's Prayer), by St. Thomas Aquinas:

Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all being, graciously
let a ray of your light penetrate
the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness
in which I have been born,
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding,
a retentive memory,
And the ability to grasp things
correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent
of being exact in my explanations
and the ability to express myself
with thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning,
direct the progress,
and help in the completion.

I ask this through Christ our Lord.

Some prayer requests

If any of my Christian bro's or sistuhs read this, I would appreciate prayer for the following long-term requests. (I don't exactly advertise or promote my blogsite.) And feel free to share requests with me, if you need prayer for anything.

1. In the past year, I have started to understand the biblical concept of the fear of God, which has been revolutionary for my spiritual life. It is barely mentioned or very misunderstood in modern evangelical circles; it's not inherently negative, and is in fact quite a blessing to understand it. I've turned more to older Christian writings and varieties of religious experiences to help me better understand and express it. But I need to understand it much better and live it out more, especially in terms of practical spirituality. Please pray for my deeper understanding, practice, and experience of the fear of God.

2. Please pray for my research - the labor-intensive design & running of experiments on Chinese psycholinguistics, ge…

Life as a grad student: balance

As a grad student, I face a lot of stress, especially now as I'm trying to finish up. The following verse has always helped me to maintain balance in my life for years, and is my favorite verse:

The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of humanity.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:11-14

Also, for a good perspective, be it life, school, dealing with others...

When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many who say, 'O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine upon us, O …

Paradoxes and dichotomies

Some fundamental theological paradoxes seem interrelated. The transcendence of God and how he can also be personal and involved in the world. Creation ex nihilo rather than via emanation (an old non-Christian belief that the physical universe was a sort of physical cast-off or stuff that came out of God's being). The nature versus grace dichotomy, which Francis Schaeffer notes has been problematic in Western intellectual history. The creation of humans in imago dei, or human essence, versus original sin and human nature. Reconciling religious rationality and objective theology with personal spirituality, mysticism and awe, without degenerating into religious rationalism or into unbiblical subjectivism or superstition. Biblical inspiration of human writers and the canon. And the dual nature of Christ as God and man.

These all involve the interaction of the divine and the created, the trancendent reality beyond the physical universe interacting with people and the created world. Thes…

Thought for the day

You are not just supposed to praise God
Your are to BE praise to God
You do not just GO to church
You ARE the church
You don't point people in the direction of Christ
They should FIND Christ in you
You don't just pray
You should BE a PRAYER to God
You are not to just follow the Son of God
You are not supposed to only love Christ
You are to BE the Love of Christ to others
You are not just READING the Word of God
You are TO BE the WORD OF GOD

In contrast with...

THE LORD'S PRAYER (Laodicean Version)

Our Grandfather, who art in heaven, special be thy name,
Thy candy come, thy will be changed, on earth as in our wishful thinking.
Give us this day our daily cake;
And wink at our trespasses, as we wink at ourselves when we trespass against others;
And lead us not into commitment, but deliver us from dedication.
For thine is the lap, and the chuckle, and the pat on the head, forever and ever.
You bet!
[from Ecunet]

Beckman time

As we're now enjoying the longer daylight hours, in honor of daylight savings time, here is a cute email that was sent last year at this time by a Beckman Inst. administrator: Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2005 08:10:19 -0600
From: "Wiltzius, Pierre" wiltzius [at]
Subject: [BI Announce] Time change Having grown tired of the upcoming annual ritual of changing time for Standard to Daylight Savings I decided that the Beckman Institute would henceforth have its own time zone. In what will be known as the Beckman Standard Time (BST) zone we will not change our clocks forward or backward, a process which Indiana farmers know leads to all sorts of confusion among cows. So when you come to work next Monday, or Sunday for the very eager ones, do not change your wall clocks. Unfortunately, the computer industry, over-reaching as it is, will reset your computer clocks automatically. You will have to undo that ingression. Since I realize that not everybody will know right away …


Here's a cool and totally funny website, devoted to "depressionist art" -- a cute commentary or reinterpretation of famous art -- at In particular, I like the Dutch government building painting.

Another funny site is Tom-in-the-box, a Christian humor / satire blog-style site - highly recommended.

And for sci-fi buffs, the official Doctor Who website and the Outpost Gallifrey fansite are quintessential sources of info on the series currently running on BBC1. Exterminate!

My bio

I wrote up my personal & research bio, which might come in handy later for job search & publication purposes. Here it is...

Kent Lee was born many years ago in Denver, Colorado, but while young, moved to Amarillo, Texas, where he lived for 15 years. He was generally considered a strange child, and later in his youth was known to classmates for his unusual hobbies such as igloo building, self-contortion, and turning invisible.

He later attended Amarillo College, a community college in Texas, and later moved to Indiana to study at Purdue University. He majored in German, a degree that he thereafter never used in any meaningful way. (When asked why he chose German, Kent reportredly explained that it "seemed similar to my native Klingon".)

After much soul searching, he decided to apply to grad schools to study linguistics, under the mistaken notion that it had to do with linguini and Italian cooking. Due to this tragic error, he found himself studying the structure of hu…

Welcome to my blog

Welcome to Kent's mind. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Just started this blog. Probably won't post here too consistely. I'm busy with research now, putting experiments together and all that. Also trying to exercise a bit. Exercise helped me thru my first qual. Interesting; hope I can continue it, not as some smarmy New Year's resolution that people make for the purpose of breaking. I want to keep it up as long as I don't encounter back problems again. I'm getting old and worried about my health. Don't want to end up like my relatives, who are seriously overweight, unhealthy, and out of shape. Our family reunions look like blimp conventions.

Note: Most of my postings will be reposts from my former blog at the now-defunct, as well as mirror posts of my Xanga blog,

Other websites:

My research page: psycholinguistics & linguistics stuff; past pragmatics, SLA/ESL research
Personal & academic page: ESL, language, linguistics, …