Spring semester started this week at Berkeley. But, if most of last fall felt like Spring and Summer, Spring semester feels like winter. It’s no snow belt (though there is snow on Mt. Diablo), but I felt almost as warm in Dayton, Ohio a few weeks ago as I do now.

I don’t update this blog very much as my two readers are aware. But every semester I try to start up again, so I thought I’d do a little update to kick this one off. For me it’s the beginning of my last phase of grad school. I’ve been here longer than I spent as an undergraduate. But last semester, I passed my qualifying exams, which ended a not-so-fun semester of working seven days a week and missing most of my friends (who work strenuous days jobs, but get paid and get to take most weekends and evenings off).

To give you a picture of what last semester felt like, picture poor Smeagol:

“And we wept, precious. We wept, to be so alone… And we forgot the taste of bread, the sound of trees, the softness of the wind.”

Yep. That was me. Beady eyes and all. (Thanks to these folks for being number one on Google for the search “we forgot the taste of bread.”)

But somehow the worst part was all over by Thanksgiving and by the time I took my quals a few weeks later, I was more Deagol than Smeagol, and by the time I passed my quals, I was more Merry, than Deagol. Now, I’m just me (here endeth the silly LOTR references), ready to finish my dissertation proposal, begin research in earnest, and live a normal life again. Yee-haw.

I’m not supposed to take any more classes (though Berkeley still requires us all to have 12 units of something or other), but I can’t help myself and will try to get some classroom time to help me structure my life a bit. I’m also continuing to work with my research group as we try to figure out what’s going in the everyday technological lives of American youth.

On that note, a couple of my colleagues (CJ Pascoe and danah boyd) were interviewed for last night’s Frontline — “Growing up Online.” It’s all online now and I think it’s definitely worth watching. It’s not the whole story by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s more nuanced and compelling than a lot of the other stuff I’ve seen on TV on this topic. The stories were quite powerful and while I’ve been reading contrasting opinions on the balance of positive and negative portrayals of young people’s engagements online, I found the many of the statements made by the young people and their parents transcended the positive/negative debate. I hope this show sparks more discussions between parents and their children and sets a different tone for discussing these issues.