blivet – 11/26/2001

With that, I’m going to go enjoy my extended family… Be well.

It has been quite a year with Ian’s birth and finishing this degree. It has also been wonderful telling you about it and hearing back from so many of you. Thanks for being there. You’re great. I even had the distinct pleasure of meeting Susan and garret this year. Life is pretty darn good.

Just Another Dissertation, by Christina Petersen.

God loosened his tie and hoped the committee would go easy on him. He faced five professors seated in the front row of the biology department conference room.[…] [BioMedNet (registration required)]

Many thanks to Dan Bowman for that. I laughed out loud, Dan. It was definitely worth ‘a moment of my time’.

As of 10:50 PST (-0800 GMT) I am done, Done, DONE! La la la la la! And sing and dance and play! (And go back to work and try to get caught up.)

Do not worry, where is a long list of ‘honey-do’ tasks and some to-do tasks of my own appointing, but they are for our own domain, not the University’s. That is what I mean by ‘guilt˜free leisure’. I may not be leisurely, but there is no more guilt for that undone task.

Yes! This is a great day! I hope it is for you as well!

Off to campus to get the final signature on my thesis approval page. Then I will be through with my degree. I’m looking forward to this. </understatement>

Have a great day.

blivet – 11/21/2001

Breaking silence

Good road garret

Congratulations Andrea! Guilt free leisure!

I’m almost there as well… just waiting on the signature page to circulate and the archival copies to be made. I had the printing done on campus ˜ it was cheaper per page to have it done than to just buy the paper. That doesn’t include the time and toner to do it myself. Such a deal. Economics influences behavior yet again. I love handing the printers a CD with a fat .pdf file for things like this. The graphics will be crisp avoiding the problems with the grayscale on second generation photocopies.

blivet out…

blivet – 10/15/2001

Best of luck on your Wednesday oral exams, Andrea. You’ll do great!

On Friday I found out, much to my chagrin, that the deadline for turning my thesis in to the Graduate College was six weeks later than I thought. I was operating under the assumption that it was today. You can imagine my relief. My eyes are only just now beginning to uncross. I don’t write easily or quickly. I think one of the primary tools for ‘success’ for someone who lives by the written word is excellent touch typing skills. There is a big difference in your output when you type 20 words a minute and several times that.

Yes, I have a copy of Mavis Beacon over there. One task at a time… This one is more important than picking up Python, PHP, or anything else relating to computers. Other things will follow.

I didn’t do multiple ‘up until 3, back up at 6’ days well or with grace when I was 20. Now it is just painful and a recipe for dysfunction. I can’t imagine why I was making no progress. Talk about ‘Abe Vigoda eyes’.

I gave a very abbreviated tour of the Preserve to a friend today. Hopefully some pictures will show up soon.

I had a great day today, how about you?

I came, I saw, I defended

Things went really well, really, really well, at my thesis defense yesterday. I was worried that there would be a repeat of the Nevada Archaeological Association meetings when I couldn’t see my notes. garret had emailed me some suggestions about contingency plans which I took to heart. I had my Mini-Mag flashlight and multiple copies of my notes. I had a set of color transparencies for the overhead projector in case … something happened to the laptop or the lcd projector. The room is fairly small, so I wasn’t worried about audio problems. That just left the guy making the presentation

Historically, that is always the weakest link in a performance, at least for me. I arrived on campus about 10 and found that none of my committee were on campus. This included my advisor who was six hours away doing fieldwork in a remote location about 20 miles past Middle of Nowhere, Nevada, and driving in specially for this defense. No committee = no defense = no degree. The crowd started to get a bit ugly in the back of the bus. The feeling of calm and control and ownership was still there, but I could see torches and pitchforks beyond the heads of the ones who have been driving for most of the last 17 years. Those would be the years since I came to the realization I have a problem with drinking and substance abuse. Some spectacular public embarrassments and outright failures live back in those years. I have never fully regained my confidence in my ability to be more than a trusted Lieutenant. The last time it was really all up to me I, shall we say, imploded. This was a lecture at the Denver Museum of Natural History, and yes, a lot of ‘important people’ were there… A year and a half later (May 14, 1984) I walked into a basement meeting room of the Episcopal Church in Cortez, Colorado and asked a group of people what I needed to do to make the pain of being me go away. But this was going to be different and I digress. I’m not talking about AA this time, though it does concern the fruits of a long association.

I got the key to the conference room from the Anthro Office and began to set up. Things get a bit casual when the department is more or less abandoned in the summer. The big conference table was littered with big drink cups from the Student Union. There were pizza boxes, burger boxes, napkins, and other bits of flotsam and jetsam scattered around. I went to the Janitor’s closet and got stuff to clean up the room and the table where my committee would sit. I picked up the boxes, cups, and other trash. I found pizza crusts stuffed between chair cushions. I sprayed some sort of general cleaning goo on the table and wiped it off with paper towels. I wiped off the chairs people would sit in. For two hours this was going to be my room. There was no ‘why didn’t they clean this up for me?’ inner dialog nonsense. These were just things that needed to be done. I was glad I was there early. Memories of many ‘Things to do for a great presentation’ articles came back. They all had said to get there early.

I had never set up this computer and av equipment, but with a minor rep as the department tech geek I wasn’t going to go asking. Yet. I wasn’t going do something stupid rather than asking, but I did not want to ask where the “On” button was either. I plugged the laptop and projector into the power strip and the strip into the wall. I started punching power buttons. Win2K came up right away on the laptop but the projector was dark. Concurrent with someone in the back of my head screaming “See! All your supposedly careful plans are going to shit!” I punched the ‘Video Mute’ button on top of the projector. The Win2K desktop popped up on the far wall. I grinned and thought to myself, “That was then, this is now”.

I popped the cd I burned that morning with everything concerning my thesis on it in the laptop. If I had to I could reconstruct the whole presentation. I opened the cd in the ‘My Computer’ thing Windows has and saw that the Joliet formatting in Toast had worked – I had long filenames. No stupid 8.3 DOS tildes (~) in the filenames. Cool, everything was working. I double clicked my file and the first slide was on the screen, just like it is supposed to. I actually found myself feeling affectionate towards Windows 2000. The remote for the PowerPoint didn’t work, but it never has, so that was no big deal. It has become a tradition that someone gets to hit the space bar to advance to the next slide when prompted. It is never a disinterested party, sort of like the notation that ‘Mrs. Jones poured’ in the society pages of yore.

Then I went to the podium and ran through my presentation in the room I would give it in. I figured it would help if things got rocky. It felt good. Five and seven syllable words came out of my mouth clearly. I knew I had to be an evangelist selling me if I was going to get what I wanted. I was confident I would pass the defense, but I wanted to excel. Hell, I wanted to pin them glassy-eyed to the back wall. I had decided months ago that the years of snide asides and cryptic slurs directed at us from the podiums that are the currency of the faculty to graduate student relationship were going to be answered by simply being better than they ever possibly imagined I could be. Don’t get me wrong, this was not about revenge, it was about achieving parity. I should also probably add it wasn’t about my advisor who has proved to be the best of all possible academic mentors. I have heard through third parties that he has defended me more than once to other faculty members. I wanted to give him the luxury of not needing to say anything further. It definitely was about the other department members on my committee, and some that would not be there. In this case – to paraphrase Mark Twain – the best revenge is defending well.

I ran through the presentation again, with feeling. I walked around as I practiced. I gestured broadly, I pointed at the screen on the wall. I walked up to the six foot high images and drawings, faced the light and said things like “You have no choice except to agree with me!”. I felt like I had to be out there now, way over the top, so I could walk down the middle path when it counted. When I defended my thesis and presented the paleo-environmental data I’ve mentioned on blivet, my lithic interpretations, my geological interpretations that I went ahead and made when my outside committee member dropped the ball during the Burnt Rock field work (oh yes, there is relationship history embedded in those clear drawings. the stories I could tell you …), it would be come on my turf. I felt good. The field was mine…

Over the next hour and a half I wandered around. Committee members trickled in. I went to their offices and solicited their opinions. I showed them my notes and printout of the presentation. I did not want them to be surprised by anything. I listened and took notes. Their comments were good, their criticisms were accurate. My advisor showed up, looking tan and jovial. I showed him the presentation. He got real enthusiastic. I felt great.

We went to the Union and I got some water. I listened to the ups and downs of the past month of fieldwork. I passed along some messages that people had given me. We laughed a lot.

I changed into my white shirt and red tie with the fossil hominid skulls on it. Field boots, old Levi 501’s, white shirt, paleoanthropology tie. I felt like an archaeologist. It was show time. People started showing up. My best friend Greg, other friends like Doug who did the soils at Burnt Rock, SirDeath who came to be supportive, other Archaes who I’ve worked with and gone to school with like Kelly and Dave and Jake and Claudia and Gene, another Dave who is a Geologist, and some people I’ve worked for. The Park Service Archaeologist showed up, the Forest Service Archaeologist came in. Audrey came in, beaming. The Department Chair -person -man -guy walked in and sat by the door. He never comes to Archae defenses. I thought, Cool, you came to the right one. People were talking and laughing, telling stories. It felt like a festival atmosphere.

My advisor got up and introduced me. Doug had agreed to ‘pour’ (advance the slides). I felt great as I walked to the podium. The second slide was a summary of everything my thesis is about. It is full of Big Academic Words˙. Audrey says that I never paused or got off rhythm, but it was a little different from my point of view. I have this mental image that there is this sieve or grate between where the words that are made in my brain pass through before they come out of my mouth. Most of the time the words go through little end first and things are fine. But if one of them gets sideways… Kind of like a storm drain, it runs free most of the time, but when a bunch of branches and cups and junk comes down, it clogs the grate up. If it is raining pretty heavily you have a problem pretty fast.

In rapid succession during that second slide several big words fell sideways onto the grate and my brain was raining a torrent of words. Instant blockage. I am convinced that the squeal of rapidly moving, suddenly unlubricated mental machinery locking up was audible. I froze (and started to panic). The villagers with torches and pitchforks were back. This time they were very, very close. I saw a lot of possible outcomes, all of them bad.

I felt like I must have stood there rigid and mute for at least 30 seconds. What happened next I can only describe metaphorically. One of the people who I recognized as a good driver of the noisy bus that is my mind stepped up and said, “I’ll drive, you talk”. The similarity with Krishna driving Arjuna’s chariot in the Gita was obvious, and I figured if my brain wants to present this to me in this way, I was going to go with it. I relaxed, the terror disappeared, and the words came again. I found myself mentally working about three sentences ahead of what was coming out of my mouth, rearranging the phrases and choosing the exact words I wanted. I saw transitions, good transitions, between slides and topics I had not seen before. The words just flowed in this torrential data dump. I felt great, I was back and knew I could just let it happen. I did know more about this than anyone else after all. I don’t have a clear memory of exactly what I said, though I do remember that I tried to make eye contact with everyone in the room. I have this mental image of Greg and he was grinning – a good sign. Nothing else stands out except that when I looked at people they were all looking at me, rather than down or away. The audience seemed to be engaged with what I was saying, which is good.

Suddenly, I was done. I had talked for 45 minutes using 44 slides. My notes were still turned to slide number seven. I thanked the audience and invited questions. I got some softballs and a few hardballs, but I was able to handle them all. Then my advisor stood up and said, “I think we should give Hal a hand for that defense” and I was engulfed by this wave of applause. It was really loud in the conference room. I felt like a rock star. That was when I realized that I had done it. There were no more villagers with pitchforks and torches. The chariot driver smiled, bowed, and retreated. Everyone but my committee and I left the room and I got apprised of the shortcomings. The Geology Prof said was that he really liked the maps and figures, and that he hasn’t enjoyed a defense this much in years. The two Anthro Profs talked about the same things we had talked about earlier, nothing about the defense. My Advisor hadn’t said anything, he was just looking at me and grinning. The silence almost got audible, then he realized we were all looking at him and he kind of jumped back to present tense. We all chuckled and he said, “That was perfect!” Then, “We need for you to leave for a bit so we can talk about you”, so I did.

They called me back in after about 20 minutes. I had passed! The things I need to add are some summary tables and some alternative explanations of my results. I have a 15 October deadline to get the final version past the formatting guardians at the Graduate College. That was it! So very, very cool!

Eventually we all ended up at the Crown and Anchor near campus. It is a British themed pub that has Guinness and Bass Ale on tap, as well as a host of the sort of beers you might expect. I drank some Kalibers, Guinness‘ nonalcoholic beer. People kept shaking my hand and telling me what a good defense it was. I was in a daze. My advisor pounded me on the back when he arrived and said, “you were great!” which started another round of congratulations. We were a raucous bunch of primates hooting by firelight in a clearing at the edge of the trees for most of the night. I just grinned a lot, something I’m still doing. About 10:30, I was suddenly, incredibly, very tired, so Audrey took me home.

I wish you could have been there Dad. I was great.

blivet – 7/24/2001

Mothers Against Peeing Standing Up via wood s lot:

Today’s strange referral log entry: miss+universe+2000+nipple. I bet they were disappointed…

Wow, I had no idea that so many people delete every attachment. For those of you here in town who wrote back, “I deleted that email attachment you sent me, what was it?”, the answer is ˆ my thesis defense announcement (48k graphic). I guess I should have just put it up here and pointed to it in the first place. Oh well…

And Dan is exactly right. I’m …sorta’. …kinda.

Two from today’s Got Caliche?:

Inland Empire ˆ National Park Service historians and others nationwide have suggested recognizing the Gram Parsons legend in the context of the counterculture era. Around the country, historic sites are updating their official chronologies as they ask the question: When does the past become history?

North Country TImes ˆ Antiquated farm equipment will be sold July 29. The Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum will be packed with thousands of items for an auction which the museum uses to raise money to support its collections.

I’ve been to the monument for Gram at Joshua Tree. It’s a nice place, You could do the same thing for me when my time comes.

And an old farm machinery auction! I’d need a place like John’s to keep such beasts. Still, I’d love to have a 20-horse Rumley Oil Pull or a 25-horse Avery. Those are both internal combustion tractors (kerosene and gasoline respectively). I think finding a steam engine would be even harder. I don’t even want to think about the care and feeding of a dinosaur like that.

Speaking of Kansas, I wonder how Jeff is doing? It sure gets lonely out here on the plains…

blivet – 7/23/2001

Happy eighth anniversary to John and Laura!

How is everybody out there?

I really don’t have anything to say ˆ insightful, witty, or profound. Except that I feel drained and quite frankly, more relaxed than I’ve felt in what may be years… I guess turning in a thesis will do that to you. There is still a lot to be done here and there, some more maps, graphs and charts, and perhaps five or six pages of expanding some things like the physiographic setting, some previous work from the early 1960s that came to light, and a bit of tying things together at the end. But, I have every confidence that my committee will let me know about those things…

Next stop is constructing yet another PowerPoint presentation. But not for a couple of days.

Sorry for the empty update for 12 hours. After I flipped the page at work (yes, I was taking a break ) the flipped page wouldn’t load. I didn’t get near Hayduke until I had been home for several hours. Me thinks I have the NT problem Doug Miller (sorry I haven’t replied yet Doug!) mentioned to me the other day via email. Essentially, some NT user accounts (as opposed to admin) develop caching problems and won’t refresh pages for some reason.

Thesis turned in, defense announcements posted, we are now in the end game… I have my queen, a rook, a knight, and both bishops. I should be fine.

blivet – 6/21/2001

Today is our 4th Wedding Anniversary. I love you honey and I’d do it all over again. i got a call at a stoplight from her in Boulder, CO. it is going to be a great day

Thanks to everyone for their wellwishes for our anniversary!

It is also the beginning of summer and the longest period of daylight for the year.

Wow! Great lyrics from an amazingly good band. Thanks Al!

I should have noted this earlier – dangerousmeta! is back up. Later: cusp people checking in — I wrote about my Dad’s slide rules about a year ago…

blivet 6/16/2000: Lark Farm/Mike’s Weblog: “The Slide Rule Universe.
An outfit that buys and sells slide rules … they also have a lot of info on the history of these classic instruments and instructions on how to use them if you happen to be lucky (or crazy) enough to own one.” I’m looking at my Dad’s 24″ K+E #N4081-5 he used in college right now. It’s ivory (I think – and I feel bad about that) with bamboo cores. It (and two others) usually live on a high shelf beside the Moroccan tar drum I got during my ‘Mickey Hart’ phase, the Millennium Falcon model Audrey gave me, and the fedora my great-uncle bought in 1942. (I’m an archaeologist, you know I’d have to have one somewhere.) “Until I bought your mother’s ring, that was the most expensive thing I had in my life.” Of all the things I have of my Dad’s, this has his essense. I think its beautiful, perhaps because it so reminds me of him. Update: I’m still carrying it around two and a half hours later. I thought some more about it. I think everything else I have of his is Dad-stuff and family-stuff. This was his, from when he was just Jim. Before anybody called him husband or Daddy.

You’ve got a good point Susan! I wonder how to tell which time for the solstice is authoritative? I suspect it would be the time it occurs at the Prime Meridian, but that reference point may have been superseded by another location. Trouble is, nobody says what their standard is. At least I couldn’t find a reference at the Sky & Telescope site.

It is 6:30 and I need to go to work so I can get back in from the site before my brain gets baked. OK, more baked than I already am. Have a great day everybody!

A lost text of Archimedes has been discovered. It appears he beat Newton. “Whereas Newton guessed at numbers and volumes, Archimedes, like mathematicians are able to today, precisely calculated them.” via craig at Bookotes who was tipped by Fred Lapides (Bushwacker and GoodShit)

Craig has a number of Archimedes links up today.

How to add the “no-smart-tags meta tag” to your site. blivet now blocks those tags, though the smartosity of the content here remains unaffected. thanks brent!

Frankly, I’m offended as hell that I didn’t get a notice from The Net Authority. I am such a slacker.


Every day death walks among us, yet we live as though we are immortal –The Mahabharata

John Lee Hooker has died.

Carroll O’Connor has also died.

blivet – 5/8/2001

I met with my thesis advisor for four hours today. I’m there. The statistics work, the null is rejected. I’ve already written this part up three times, only to watch it crumble as problems with the methodology or data were uncovered. This time I’ve waited for that joyous advisor phrase, ‘yeah, you got it’. A couple of weeks of hammering ought too it – i imagine slightly more than 100 pages of text total (sans figures, tables, and graphs). I need to write about 25-30 pages. Then it’s time to dump it into PageMaker and ‘sign ze papers’. Piece of cake.

I have no idea where this phrase came from but it always seems to fit. Now that you’ve got the first 80 percent done, you only have to do the last 80 percent.

David Singer is going to accompany his son Jeffrey’s class to Space Camp. I think there should be an adult Space Camp. I’d go! ‘Mr. Rager, you’ve been in there long enough. You need to let the children try the Lunar landing simulator…’

Just in from the site, 11:30 and it’s 97°F. Yep, it will start getting warm soon…