Welcome to Berkeley

Hey all,

It has been an insane couple of weeks :). The last time I wrote I was in Cambridge, and since then I’ve been in Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, London, Cambridge, London again, San Francisco, San Jose, and now I’m in my resting place of Berkeley. I’m still in the process of settling in here, but it feels like England has been months ago rather than a little more than a week. I’m back to that life of each day feeling like a millennia—it’s good, and I’ve been waiting and anticipating to get back into that flow.

I’m going to go roughly chronologically, with the piecemeal style I’ve been using for when way too much happened and I’ve only had time for thoughts here and there :). Which, I think, sets me at the point where I was preparing to leave for my rapid-fire European trip while in England. Here we go!

Sitting on the computer in lab, printing out stacks of papers. Airplane tickets. Google maps from the airplane to the tour. Google maps from the first tour to the next tour. Google maps from second tour to the hostel. Confirmation papers from each tour. Directions for how to transfer train stations. How to get from every city.

Comment to self that I wrote down:

“What happens when you don’t use a cell phone with GPS (and you’re poor): you need to be hella organized”

I find vacations fairly stressful. They’re not bad when I’m traveling with people, but I find traveling by myself both valuable and convenient so I’ve mostly done that during the past year. It depends on what the purpose of traveling is, but if it’s to get a slight grasp on a different city and culture (which I’ve decided, in the end, is one of the major purposes for me) I think that’s best done when you’re by yourself. I’m stressed enough that my attention is always on my surroundings, and the fact that I don’t have anyone to talk to keeps me focused on what I can observe.

I was surprised, at the end of my Germany-France circuit, to have enjoyed myself as well. What makes trips enjoyable rather than just learning experiences are whether I engage with people for a few hours who like me, and that happened on every leg of the trip. I’ve found that what I like best in visiting places is to do long hour-long bike tours (walking tours will do, but bike ones are my favorite), often several in a row, where I get to learn about the history and the feel of the city as it currently is. I did this in Berlin, stayed with my gracious host and friend Sanja in Frankfurt, and did walking tours in Paris. I really enjoyed my time in Berlin—I could definitely see myself living there if I spoke the language, and I think I’d make a good German—a fantastic time in Frankfurt (I’ve never had the luxury of having someone show me around a city for a few days, and it was wonderful) and a fine time in Paris. Paris was a little worse because I can speak the language to a “vraiment pas mal” level (translated: “really not bad”) which meant that not only was I having to focus on everything going on around me, but I had to focus on trying to translate the French tours I’d signed myself up on. I’m actually rather impressed at what French I’ve managed to hold on to over the years though I was easily missing chunks of the conversation.

My labmates all have different approaches to traveling. Poly will plan many small things to do and schedule how to get to all of them. Joey will just meet up with friends and see where the pursuit of good beer and food takes them. My friend Leslie will plan some events she wants to see and figure out the order and how to get there when she comes to them. I find it interesting that there are so many different approaches, and levels of enjoyment and purposes of visiting, for something as glorified as “traveling around Europe”. “Traveling around Europe” means different things for Americans and Brazilians and the English, and the personal differences are layered on top of that makes this kind of fascinating quilt of perspectives.

Anyway, I’m relieved I’ve found something that works for me. I like my routines, just as much as I realize I should break them, and a routine of “plan a bunch of bike / walking tours and forget about anything else that is recommended” works for the crazy-organizational part of me and my tentatively-established goals for traveling. Of course, if I wanted a real vacation I’d just take a few days off to sit by myself, do work that doesn’t immediately need to be done, and hang out with people (the ultimate combination) but I’m glad I’ve gone on all the trips I’ve done this past year, as they’ve brought new cultural perspectives that I’ll be able to reference for a long time.

Funny thing I noticed: up to about two months before I left Cambridge, when I referenced specificities of American culture, I’d say “I used to…” and was tentative in bringing these up at all. After about two months, I’d say “In my country,” and “In the US,” and “where I come from” and would bring these up whenever they occurred to me. It was interesting, watching the transition. From trying to assimilate to just being aware to knowing that time was almost up and I’d be returning.

My Viva

On my European trip, I was doing corrections for my thesis. There was a bit of an email fiasco in which I did something I knew I wasn’t supposed to but did anyway, but I’m still sorting out my feelings on that so I won’t get into it now. What I do want to describe was my actual thesis defense, my viva.

My Masters viva was the same format as Cambridge’s PhD viva. 1.5-3 hours, in a room with an Internal Examiner (researcher from Cambridge) and an External Examiner (researcher from outside Cambridge). Unlike my undergraduate defense, my PhD advisor was not involved in the defense portion. I could “Fail”, “Pass with Major Corrections”, “Pass with Minor Corrections”, or “Pass with No Corrections”. Passing with no corrections is almost unheard of, so I was hoping for passing with minor corrections.

I don’t know quite what I passed with, but it was somewhere between passing with major and minor corrections. My literature review (this is where you reference other people’s work, and you end up going through a hundred-ish papers for a 20,000-word document) was fine, my figures were mostly fine, and my data analysis was fine. This is great news, because literature review and data analysis both take a huge amount of time. On the other hand, what was really lacking was the in-depth analysis. I hadn’t spent much time thinking about how to connect my results back to the literature, and what it meant for future studies. I’d also, surprisingly, failed to make my methods clear. I usually devote a large amount of effort to making things accessible for the reader (I’ve been told that I do this to an unusual degree, and it’s one of the things I’m always working on) but I didn’t do so in this case, which resulted in a lot of frustration for my readers. Part of it was certainly that I’ve been doing this project for a year, so I definitely know what I’m talking about but I’d lost track of what other people didn’t. Also surprising to me, I hadn’t structured my arguments in a useful scientific way. The clarity and structure critiques were surprisingly to me because while I’ve made the “lack of in-depth discussion” mistake before, I hadn’t realized that my structure was so lacking.

The viva was really great. It wasn’t a happy time either during or after—at one point during, I was just repeating to myself “calm down, you’re fine, it’s okay,” because vivas are all about critique and there was a lot of critique coming very quickly. After wasn’t fun either because I’d be gearing up for Berkeley and wanted to finish the project. But it was nevertheless really great.

What was so excellent about it was that my two examiners were heavily invested into this document. They’d spent the time to read what I wrote, understand what was going on, and critique. They were both experienced in writing papers and could evaluate the work from an outside perspective. They were both patient, personable people who listened to my arguments before describing why I was wrong. It’s the nature of the thesis defense that they had to evaluate my knowledge of the material, so they asked a lot of open-ended questions and shaped their responses around my answers.

And they held me to a high standard. I have a hard time holding myself to scientific standards because I don’t really know what they are. I haven’t published a paper yet, so I’ve not had to write something in a publish-able worthy manner. Thus the only feedback I get in evaluating my scientific work comes from smaller projects—project proposals, class assignments, descriptions of work to friends and ideas to supervisors. And the thing is, people just don’t have the time and interest to invest themselves in giving really detailed critique.

Critique is hard. You have to actively think about the work, since at this level the work is going to be mostly good so the errors aren’t going to be glaring. Even if they are glaring, it’s much easier to say “it’s good / fine / etc.” rather than take the time to explain what was wrong, and explain it in the way that doesn’t make the other person feel attacked. Plus, you’re going to be fairly annoyed at the other person for any mistakes they made—understanding why mistakes are made is much more time-consuming than just getting the one right answer, so that’s going to be thought of as wasted time. And if things aren’t written clearly, then you’re also annoyed they’re making you do hard work when they could have just done the hard work of making it clear in the first place.

Long story short, people don’t usually invest the immense time and energy necessary to give a good critique. We’re not so good at thinking from others’ perspectives, and this whole thing is an exercise in the difficulty of trying to understand what someone else is saying. And so as much as I struggled with all of the things that I didn’t do right in my defense—and my immediate response is to just forget about it—it was a very good thing. I would do well to hark back to everything that I did wrong on this round, so that the next time I’m writing something up, I’ll have detailed notes on what I personally struggle with and can do better.

It’s a gift, what my two examiners gave me. An investment of time and energy from experts, who had far better things to do with their time. And it’s so funny, what our human quirks are—because I’m still upset about being criticized, and what’s the point of that? Why is supernatural confidence and self-righteousness built into our cognitive processes? What are the informational trade-offs that took place to say: in this situation we’re just going to assume we’re right, because it’s way too energy-consuming to be uncertain?

And this is another quirk that made me laugh as I was going along. One of my examiners gave me her copy of the thesis defense, where she had been taking notes. I’d made a mistake where I’d written “Experiment” instead of “Experimental Group” consistently throughout the document. It’s a conceptual mistake, easily corrected. But she’d spotted it on page one, and made a note with a question mark. On page two, she’d gone into a description about why she thought I was wrong about what word I’d been using. On page three, she’d said “refer to page 2”. And on every subsequent page of this document, she’d circled this same mistake, which increasing frustration.

It’s a sign of emotional investment in the document. I’ve experienced the same thing when I was reading papers and found something that I thought was wrong, and saw it again and thought about it and considered it carefully and determined that yes, it actually was wrong, and then it just kept on being wrong in all of the rest of document. And you’re so angry about this, fixated, so annoyed that they kept ignoring you, and that’s such a funny idiosyncrasy to me as well. I think part of us is still back in the age where there wasn’t written documentation, when we spoke exclusively to each other. In verbal communication we adapt our thoughts and words immediately to a single instance of correction. When someone doesn’t adapt we have grounds for hating them on account of their being inflexible, but you can’t do that do someone who’s just submitted a thesis with far greater errors than being consistent in their use of the word “Experiment”.

It was really great, the viva, and I’m so grateful to my examiners in helping me to become a better writer and for forcing me to think deeper and in different directions. I’m also annoyed with them, as they are at me, due to the intricacies of human cognition. The specifics of the conflicts and the balance, the computations that made this the way we are, through the timeless impetus of being wrong. All a gift, you know? All beautiful.

Hugging

Poly says, “Are you going to hug her?”

I say, “Well… hugging can make people like you, but I don’t know if that applies in this situation, and I guess it could be useful, but, like, I don’t know…”

Poly looks faintly appalled at the logic, and she expresses that she would hug her. The rest of the labmates assembled express agreement or disagreement.

I have ambivalent and uncommon opinions on hugging. The description that I found best expresses my feelings on it went like this: “Imagine an alternate universe in which everyone greeted each other by giving a light, painless kick in the shins. Mildly disagreeable, but perfectly fine—on an everyday basis you’re happy to kick and be kicked in return. If someone asks for a kick, you can do that. But when you’re upset and crying, and people keep coming up and kicking you, and you’re thinking: why are you kicking me?! Can’t you see I’m upset! Now replace that with hugging, and you’ve got how I feel about that.”

This wasn’t my post, and the original had me laughing out loud, but that’s roughly how I feel about hugging. It’s so automatic by this point though that I’ll actually go in for the social hugs without prompting, if it unconsciously feels like the appropriate gesture.

My last day in lab. “All right, are we doing hugs?” I ask. Turns out everyone was doing hugs.

It was… right. I was being passed along in this circle of hugs, and people were talking to me and joking with each other, and everyone was wrapping their arms around each other, and it was real, and it was warm, and it was solid. Because I have these conceptions of people, right—people exist in my head as conceptions, ideas, collections of preferences and personalities and emotions, and just these moments, of connecting with their bodies, of centering them in these warm, breathing, solid physical bodies they have. Of—this shared affection, of how much each of them care of me, of how much I care about them, the strength of concrete connection here, the meaning of it being the first and last times we’ve done this, the last time we’d be together. And it being like that for everyone around the circle, right—right—right—right—right—, over and over again, our usual means of connection, chatter, talking, connecting—floating and interweaving over top.

I’m not expressing this correctly, I’m not expressing this normal, and reading over the previous paragraph I know I haven’t read a description of “hugging is good” like this before. But it seems too deep for the word “hugging” even, for how I feel that word means, for what I felt the meaning was.

I don’t feel the emotion of bittersweet often, but as I pressed the green button to open the door (how many times have I told my participants, “just press the green button to exit?” How many times have I heard my other labmates tell their participants the same?) that was it. Bittersweet, as I was clomping down the stairs, my labmates’ goodbye cards in my backpack (they made them thank you cards). Goodbye as I headed off on my bike, planning what I needed to finish for my packing.

Love and mutual affection and hugging, the end of a year, the end of these people as the suns in my universe. A goodbye.

Getting on the plane to the US. Comment I wrote down:

“There are people who unironically read the trashy magazines.”

“…Then again, you have stupid reading material as well.”

In line to get on the plane to the US: annoyed with all of the Americans. Sloppy dressers, way too loud. Didn’t they know that people don’t like Americans? Keep it down. Plus, I was one of the masses now—not the sole American in a lab of international people, just one of the many. Sigh…

Landed in San Francisco, America, lining up for passport control.

“Welcome! Is this home for you?”

I say, “Uh… I guess so?”

I say, “I mean, it will be.”

That will forever be my best response to confusion about “home”. The lab in Cambridge is home, Minnesota is where my family is, my friends are in Boston, and Berkeley is… it will be.

I’m on the sidewalk in front of a shopping mall, staring with an idiotic grin at a patch of grass. You aren’t allowed to walk on patches of grass in Cambridge. Colleges own the grass, and you can’t walk on College grass unless the College says so. You can walk in parks, but not on small patches of grass.

I get off the sidewalk and walk across it, idiotic grin intact.

I’m in Target, rejoicing the fact that I’m in Target. Target is a commercial chain in the US and Target is awesome. I’m taking a picture of multi-colored goldfish.

I’m in Target, Walgreens, CVS, more, and can’t find the food-scented lotions and scent products they have in England. What. The. Heck. Why don’t people sell cheap perfumes, and why don’t they sell them in mango and vanilla and coconut.

I’m in Target, and blinking in astonishment at this contraption set up to move between two floors. There’s an escalator, fine. And next to the escalator there’s a special escalator to bring up the shopping cart / trolleys to the second floor as well. I’m boggling. Taking pictures. Only in America. WTF.

Had an absolutely wonderful stay with my aunt, uncle, and cousins in San Jose. Love them and am so grateful to them.

Getting catcalled in Berkeley. Whhhhhhyyyy.

Being surprised when perfect American English comes out of everyone’s mouths. I’m realizing that because I was in such an international community where English was a lot of peoples’ second, third, or fourth language, I have low expectations for native-level (British or American or Australian) English. My expectations seem to divide along ethnic lines as well—there’s not a large Asian-British population, for example, and most of the Chinese I encountered in Cambridge were from China. Additionally, a lot of my stereotypes are going through whiplash right now, because the British have biases across different ethnicity lines than we do (…”we do”). I was born and raised in the US, so it’s been astonishingly easy to fall back into old cultural habits, but I keep on getting this “surprise” signal that shows that some of my year abroad has stuck.

Also, thank god for Asian-Americans. You can’t pigeon-hole people, but there are some shared cultural things that shape groups of people to some extent, that make certain attitudes more common, and I have missed Asian-Americans. (Am I one? I guess I don’t really consider myself Asian-American, because I don’t speak Chinese at home, but I identify with the upbringing.) I missed Asian-Americans and Asian food in Cambridge, and it is the BEST being here in Berkeley, where this is a large population, and people are happy to eat Asian food day after day.

I live up in the Berkeley Hills now, with a really wonderful family. The bike up at the end of the day is going to kill me. I’m either going to get stronger or give up and take the bus. (It feels like cheating, though, to bike down the massive hill every day and not bike / walk up it. Kind of feels like my moral compunction with elevators between four and six stories up from where I am.)

What do I want in a research advisor? How do I want meetings to be run? I was just in a meeting we did the brief small talk and then he opened with: “So what do you want to talk about?” I laid down my bullet points and we went bullet by bullet. He’d printed out the materials I’d sent him beforehand and referenced them occasionally. No drama, no straying into anything personal, prepared and focused and engaged.

Right now, where I am, where I have been, what I’m thinking: sounds pretty perfect to me.

I’m at Neuroscience Bootcamp right now. There are 8 incoming first-years to Berkeley’s Neuroscience graduate program, four of which came straight from undergrad and four who have been out in either the real world or doing research. 8 other students from Berkeley’s Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) program and Berkeley’s Psychology program have joined us in the Bootcamp.

The Neuro Bootcamp has about two days of orientation, but mostly was established to get everyone caught up to the same-ish level of neuroscience. We come from different backgrounds—I have one of the widest ranges of neuroscience knowledge, since I did neuroscience in undergrad in a program with fairly comprehensive courses, did research in systems neuroscience, and am focused in cognitive and computational neuroscience. I’m very much lacking in molecular and cellular neuroscience. Other people have a lot of knowledge in molecular and cellular neuroscience but not the higher levels. Two people have computational knowledge but not much neuroscience knowledge. In Bootcamp, we’ve been hearing lectures and doing laboratory exercises to drill some basic concepts at all levels in for everyone.

So apart from the two days of orientation—in which we learned about the program and how to get healthcare and what you’d expect—we’ve being doing these 9am to 7pm days of neuroscience lectures. We usually have three hour-long lectures in the morning, a 5-hour lab in the afternoon, and one to two lectures in the evening. Food’s mostly provided, and it’s fun to hang out with the same people and get to know them. I’ve learned a lot, especially since the lectures have been mostly focused on molecular and cellular neuroscience up to this point.

Everyone’s nice :). It’s actually been funny to me how much personality everyone has been showing—usually it takes a bit for a group to warm up to each other, but people have been expressing who they are very quickly. (I’ve already moved onto wearing dresses paired with sneakers based on the other eccentric fashion choices around me :)). It’s a function of the age and the environment, I think. Most of us have moved across the country, so we’re looking for friends, quickly. We’re all 22- to 26-year olds, and screened for ability to represent ourselves well, so everyone has reasonable social skills. We’re screened for research ability and focus, so everyone’s a nerd and asks good questions and is responsible. We know we’re going to be here for forever, so we’re invested in creating long-term connections.

It’s weird because I don’t know how much detail to go into here, because I’m not sure who I’ll be interacting with on a daily basis once this kind of summer-camp thing is over. The neuroscience program here has rotations, where we spend ten weeks in three labs over the course of two semesters. The goal of the rotations is to establish the lab we’re going to thesis in, and also to gain some experience in related techniques. So I figure I’m going to be interacting with people in my labs, people in my classes, and also the people in my neuroscience class, because we’re paid to have lunch together once a week by the program :).

However, in the interests of me not knowing who I’ll be spending a lot of time with, and thus requiring the effort of you learning their names, I’ll just hold off on the individual descriptions until a little more time has passed. I’ll get to know everyone better too—everyone’s fun and people are strong-willed and smart and happy, so I know it’s going to be good however things pan out specifically :).

(It’s also been fascinating trying to figure out where I fit in the group. I have a lot of confidence built up from my time in Cambridge, which has been very helpful. I’m also realizing I’m kind of crazy even for people in this program? Like, crazy in the aspect of how much I plan things. On the other hand, I feel like I’ve had a long time to think about what I want research-wise so I’m ready to get started.)

In sum, I’m feeling a bit uneasy with all the newness but to an expected degree. I don’t have a solid social group yet, so I’m paying a lot of attention to what’s going on there, and I don’t have established habits yet for working / living / working out, which means everything’s still in the conscious realm there as well. Things have been getting easier in the week I’ve been here and I have no doubt that they will continue to get easier still. The lectures have been uniformly wonderful—we have a truly spectacular group of faculty on campus—I like who I’m staying with and have figured out the gym situation, and am happy with the research and class situation as well. Now all I have to do is wait :).

Research Interests

…So you know those moments which you’ve prepared for for forever, and are so worried about making work that you wouldn’t be surprised if none of it worked and thus have contingency plans and invest a lot of energy and otherwise get unduly stressed about?

(Well, my first observation is that I think I need to chill. Luckily, everyone around me is way more chill than I’m used to, so I’m optimistic about this process. Plus, I have had an upward trend of chillness since high school, so there’s historical precedent.)

Getting into grad school was one of those moments for me. It’s astonishing to me that I’m in such an awesome grad program—like, these professors, they’re talking to just 16 of us, just these random kids, they’re putting their time and energy into us, and they’re FAMOUS. Sometimes people even take pictures with some of these people, like movie stars. I just saw a parking space here that was reserved for Nobel Laureates.

And as a grad student, I have access to these people. I emailed a few people for meetings, and not only did they agree, but they looked me up beforehand. Every professor I’ve met has been friendly, helpful, so smart, and willing to engage with me.

As a grad student, I also have access to the grad student population. These people are great. So many unique stories, so many personalities, so much welcoming. And they’re on the whole optimistic people as well—that’s why I chose Berkeley, because most of them seemed happy.

Berkeley is fantastic, and I didn’t even realize until interviews what a perfect choice it was for me. And there was only one thing that would have made it more perfect: getting to do the type of research that I’ve always hoped I’d be able to do but didn’t really expect to get to do.

Which is social cognition.

I like social stuff. If that’s not immediately, terrifyingly obvious, I like looking at the way people interact with other people. I like quantifying these interactions, breaking it down into computational structures and trying to frame it evolutionarily. I’ve done this sort of thing since as far back as I can remember, trying to formulate “rules” to describes how I should interact with people.

I never thought I’d be able to study this sort of thing, especially since I was raised to focus on the “hard sciences”, and social psychology falls pretty far from the math and physics tree usually. I figured it was something I’d do on the side.

Then I discovered computational cognitive science junior year, and that was astonishing, because it describes mathematical and computational ways of quantifying what we think people believe and how they behave. And there was a subfield in there called computational cognitive social science which does the same thing for social cognition.

And then I discovered computational analyses of language, called “natural language processing”, which can take huge volumes of text on the internet, most commonly Twitter, and extract out common themes and ways of interacting. It was similar to the magic of personality tests, which I adore for their ability to compartmentalize and predict behavior.

And then I discovered all sorts of computational things and models that were going on between these ideas and in the interaction of these ideas and formulated what I’m interested in, which is really trying to quantify social interactions. And these are all new fields, and interdisciplinary fields, and exactly where I wanted to be.

And I got it.

Prof. Tom Griffiths has agreed to take me on for a rotation, and if that works out I think I’ll be in his lab permanently. I’ll be taking his class for first semester and doing my second rotation with him, and we’ll see where we go from there. He’s aware that I’d like to do computational cognitive science with social elements in his lab, and he’s going to help me get there.

Nothing’s set in stone yet, because we have to make sure this rotation works out, but I’m so very pleased to have made it this far. I thought I was going to have to struggle a lot harder than I did to make this work—and it’s going to be a lot of work from here on out, but it’s such a relief to have someone understand what you’re interested in, and say: yes, I think these are valid interests, I do think they align with mine, this seems like a good fit for both of us.

I… still can’t believe it, really. It doesn’t seem like this could have happened. There’s so many ways that it couldn’t have worked, I wanted everything to fit in this hole and didn’t have too many back-ups or workarounds if it didn’t, I just wanted this so much, and I think I’ve got it.

I… like, I can do this. I can study something in this broad range of interests I have (everyone says so. Everyone says that. This broad range of interests, but it’s consistent, people can guess what I’d be interested in once I explain it to them) and make progress in science in this domain. I was talking to Lukas before I left, and he was saying that he can see this is my passion, this is what I really care about, and while it might not be true for him he can respect what he sees in me. And I never thought—I’ve been picking my path for a while based on “what’s the best option if we eliminate all alternatives.” I’d given up on the “passion” idea, had been advising people to ignore the passion standard and just pick what they liked best given the alternatives. I have a whole lot of reasons why I like the academia path and why I’m on it, but what makes me the most sure that this is what I want to do is that I don’t want to be doing anything else more.

I might have one of those jobs where the work I’m doing every day would be the work I’d do in my free time. I haven’t believed that would happen for a long time, if it happened at all. I thought I’d do something close to what I wanted to do—some sort of learning and reduction to baseline structure, but not social—for a while, and then transition over to social if I could make it work. It’s happening now, and with an incredible advisor and expert in this field. It really shouldn’t have happened—I only discovered the field three years ago, I mentioned it in almost none of my graduate essays, I only really formulated this interest in the last year—but it’s happening, and it’s happening now.

It’s been the series of informed decisions, but this situation just really shouldn’t have worked. I have an advisor whose personal style I like, whose research I adore, in an incredibly welcoming and competent community (Berkeley). I started out life with incredible benefits and advantages, but even within that community there was so much chance and luck that was involved, so many people and opportunities, and I can’t believe I figured out what I wanted in time, that I was competent enough to make this work, that I was in the right place and at the right time to have this happen. There’s just so many ways it wouldn’t have happened, so many unpredicted things, so many uncontrollable factors, but with me and all of the incredible people around me it happened. I cannot.

I’ve known a lot of great people who wanted things and worked really hard for things and something out of their control occurred and it didn’t work out. And I’m so, so thankful that this did.

Wish me luck, readers :). Here I come.

I think I’ll leave it there, since this post is already approaching 6000 words. We have talks starting in another 30 minutes, and then dinner and more social things. (Hm, I’m so glad I’m blogging :). My dad mentioned I could take a break from blogging, but it always makes me feel much better. Calmer, sorted, ready to reach out and excited to connect with people again.)

Looking forward to what comes next, and wishing you all the best. Much love to those in Cambridge (Joey, the weather is ridiculously sunny but surprisingly cold? I’ll continue delivering weather reports)—and many thanks and love to all of you for reading :).

Monica

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