Friday, March 28, 2008

Proposing a Thesis Thing, Part the First

Sometime in November or December I started writing a blog post (most of which is included in this one, with the tenses slightly changed) on how I have to do a thesis proposal this year and what all that entails. So this is going to be a roughly five month saga compressed into a multi-post few week funfest, seeing as how there's been this Date set for April 18 or somesuch.

As I alluded to at the time, I spent several days just after Thanksgiving at a conference in Tucson. One of the ironic aspects of attending a conference on galaxy and black hole evolution is that I have done very little work which could be construed as directly relating to most of the topics discussed those three days. And yet I kept being drawn to galaxy evolution and I kept saying it is what I want to work on... The idea, I supposed, was to actually get around to doing just that.

See, I was supposed to present a "thesis proposal" in February, as the next step in this whole getting a PhD thing (the previous step being the candidacy exam last summer). (Or so was the case at the time. April is the new February, apparently.) The thought of choosing a thesis topic somewhat terrifies me, mostly because of the stereotype that choosing a thesis topic is equivalent to choosing what I'll be working on for the rest of my life. My aversion to such a decision stems from the same aversion I have to say, traditional marriage: it's not that I can't see myself working on something for the rest of my life, it's that I wouldn't want to work on one thing to the exclusion of all else.

Luckily, real life isn't a pure manifestation of stereotypes, and what a "thesis" (or, more relevantly, a "thesis proposal") should be varies from advisor to advisor. If all goes as planned, I'm essentially halfway through graduate school (or at least I was in December), which means that I will be applying for jobs in (eep!) about a year and a half. My advisor seems to think that the thesis proposal should basically be a default plan for how I am going to write enough interesting papers in that year and a half so that people will want to give me a job. In other words, it's not so much what I will be doing, but what I can do if nothing else more interesting comes along. Yet, despite the seemingly nebulous nature of said proposal, I was still somewhat freaked out over the whole thing back in November. And December. And January. Then in February and March I just kind of ignored the problem, hoping it would go away ...

Monday, March 24, 2008


δ Carina recently figured out how to get on top of the bathroom door. I haven't seen her actually get onto the door, but she's pretty funny and proud of herself once she's up there. For your lolcat captioning pleasure...:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Brunch Review: L'Antibes in Columbus, OH

This morning we tried out brunch at the fairly new French restaurant, L'Antibes, in the Short North. We were clever and realized yesterday that today is apparently a holiday on which lots of people like to have brunch out, so we even had reservations this morning. The restaurante is on the small side, but the atmosphere was pleasant and comfortable. The brunch menu price is fixed at $18 per person; this includes drinks (I recommend the orange juice even though it was very pulpy and I do not usually care for pulp; the coffee was also delicious). The meal itself consists for two courses; for the first course the choices are toast with fresh cream, butter, and jam (what I got), a cheese sampler, and a small salad (what the significant other got). For the second course, you have a choice of poached eggs, quiche (my selection), lobster potato gratin (what the SO got), and stuffed French toast. I was pleasantly surprised with the quiche, mostly because I don't think I've ever actually had quiche before; people have the tendancy to fill it up with ingredients I consider nasty. This was just eggs, cheese (asiago and goat), and boar bacon; simple yet light and fluffy and filling. The lobster potato gratin (a soupy mixture with a sunnyside up egg on top) was apparently a disappointment, unremarkable and "not that good" (but the entire thing was eaten).

The CMH Gourmand has also weighed in (despite a sore lack of brunch reviews over there), if you would like a more professional sounding review. The pictures are from a review by the Restaurant Widow; we cleverly forgot to snap some photos ourselves.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Paper Writing

The Sunday before last, I finally got to the point on my current distraction project where I could begin writing it up as a nice paper. That evening I started coughing, no big deal, but by Monday afternoon I was completely overcome with the flu. As it turned out, over half of the graduate students succumbed to the same flu ... and essentially all of us fell sick within 24 ours of each other. As we explained to the prospective graduate students visiting Thursday and Friday, one of the great things about the department here is the high degree of interconnectivity... so that everyone is put out by the plague simultaneously. So last week became an utter waste, but by Friday I was beginning to feel like myself again. Then between Friday morning and Saturday night, central Ohio was visited by about 20 inches of snow—the most snow in one storm here ever. I managed to dig myself out and get into the office on Sunday. And so for the last few days I've been trying to remember how to write a paper.

The quote of the week, I think, comes from Tuesday when I told a professor (with whom I have co-authored a paper) that I can't remember how to write papers. I said I was in my "wandering the halls" phase. The response? "No, no, you seem to be remembering just fine ... this is how you've done it before, if I recall." I couldn't argue with that.

Then Wednesday morning a link was sent my way, and I had no choice but to rearrange the books on my shelf.I discovered that a large fraction the textbooks I own are black or blue; apparently I am not a mathematician (because, as everyone knows, all math books are yellow). I don't know how long I will be able to keep the books like this; normally I sort by genre and then by size within genre (I think I'd need at least an order of magnitude more books before I considered sorting by author, which is apparently how God intended).

The amazing thing is that I'm actually making vague progress writing the paper; I'm almost finished filling everything in—including figures and tables—so soon I'll officially be at the "revision" stage... when I go back and redo everything so that it is at a quality level where I am not embarrassed to show the manuscript to my coauthors. Whee fun.

Monday, March 03, 2008

A Kitten's Decision Tree

How δ Carina decides whether or not to attack something:
Basically, she wouldn't have attacked Iraq unless she was feeling hyper that day, and I'm not 100% looking forward to flipflop season.