Tuesday Questions: Missing the Memo Edition

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77 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Other than the tuition thing, I could happily spend the rest of my life collecting terminal masters degrees. OTOH, I have learned that my friends with PhDs were right when they told me, “We all know you can do the original research, Mike, but you lack the tolerance for academic BS required to get a PhD.”Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


      I could also spend my life getting masters degrees or just reading in a library 🙂

      As for a PhD, my classmates thought I had it in me but I wonder if I could write a 200 page book.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        I think in a past life I would have made a good monk- if I could spend my life in a library reading and studying, it would be bliss.

        Well, aside from the whole celibacy thing.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        Luckily I’m Jewish, we don’t do the whole celibacy thing 🙂Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Intentionally, anyway.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Oh thank god.

        I had the exact same joke – right down to the wording – but was worried that it would come across as jerky rather than jokey and cancelled the post.

        But as a great Jaybird once said: the joke not made eats at the soul.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        It would appear your sense of “I shouldnt’ say that” is set way way higher than mine.
        (I made a joke about Alzheimers… well, I thought it was pretty funny, at least).Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        Do you know who else eats the soul?

        Lawyers 🙂Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Controy says:

        As for a PhD, my classmates thought I had it in me but I wonder if I could write a 200 page book

        In my experience, the hard part is keeping it at 200 (or 300, or 400) pages. That old adage about “not having enough time/skill to write something shorter” applies.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        yeah, that’s why the standard advice is to write for Analog or one of the other short story mags. They’ll help you learn what to cut, and what’s (barely!) salvageable.

        It’s a lot harder to do a short story well.Report

      • Avatar kenB says:

        @gabriel-controy That was not my experience — I had to scratch and scrape to get the page count up to a respectable level (and a lot of it was just lists of examples from various dialects). But then all through my schooling I struggled to reach the target page count for papers, so this should not have been a surprise to me.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        As for a PhD, my classmates thought I had it in me but I wonder if I could write a 200 page book.

        Writing a 200-page dissertation is both harder and easier than writing a 200-page novel. The dissertation typically follows a fixed structure and requires a lot of… not boilerplate exactly, but details. Like methodology. Lots and lots of words to explain details so readers know that you didn’t make some subtle (or not-so-subtle) mistake. To make a (ridiculous) comparison, in a sword-and-sorcery novel, the heroine uses the tricky maneuver her fencing-master uncle taught her as a girl in the first chapter to win a climactic fight. Maybe it’s a page in the first chapter and a paragraph in the last one. As part of a dissertation on combat with swords, it would go on for many pages as you demonstrate that the footwork works, the timing works, that it doesn’t depend on the opponent doing something incredibly stupid, that it doesn’t depend on the young woman having a wrist that bends the wrong way, and on and on.

        Not that dissertations have to be that long. The program where I got my first masters had an instance of a 20-page dissertation. Most of that was the minimal boilerplate that has to be included; the important part was a five-page proof of an important theorem (the guy had had a brilliant insight into a previously unsolved problem).Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:


        “It’s Patty who chose a life of celibacy. Selma simply had celibacy thrust upon her.”

        –Marge Simpson, “Principal Charming”Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        I’ve been reading a webnovel where people are named after virtues. So the image of Celibacy being thrust on her (perhaps by a timely push to his tush), is hilarious. Oh, the expressions!Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Controy says:


        It might depend partially on the discipline. Is yours linguistics?

        For history, there is–at least for me–the temptation to want to display all my research and go into every (or almost every) nuance of every (or almost every) source or factual point. That’s a recipe for overwriting. However, maybe it depends. I’ve known a couple people who’ve written history dissertations of less than 200 pages and theirs are usually much better, or at least more readable, than mine.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      Just publish the papers. Eventually, someone will give you a PhD whether you’ve earned one or not.
      You may even be able to get serfs — erm, grad students.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        The problem with that is that the stuff is spread across a bizarre batch of inter-disciplinary topics. Five odd sorts of math applied to an analog signal analysis problem. Pieces from all over computer science applied to a previously unsolvable telecommunications problem. Dithering algorithms from typography applied to streaming video over the internet. A first-of-its-kind internet test-and-measurement tool (Microsoft is currently infringing on the patent from that one, but the corporate holders of the patent rights don’t care). Currently a long-term political prediction that draws on a wide range of social science stuff.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        It sometimes seems like IEEE has a white paper on anything…
        And there’s no shame in asking one of the math folks around here to help edit, particularly if you’re trying to put something multidisciplinary into a math journal (I know a guy who doesn’t really understand group theory terribly well, but has managed to publish really important papers using it. I guess intuition and a skeptical eye will get you pretty far)Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Most of it’s fallen prey to “technology marches on” since it was done. The telecommunications solution did get published in a special-topic issue of IEEE Spectrum and a couple of conferences (Al Aho, then a computer science demi-god, stopped me at one of the conferences and said, “Best paper of the conference, no question” — made my year). I’ve got no serious complaints — I had a 25-year career where I got to ask and occasionally answer interesting questions. While I may dabble in some of that from time to time — I’m working slowly on proving a small theorem that would be publishable, but of narrow interest — I’m mostly interested in quite different questions these days.

        Minions would be nice, though.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      terminal masters degrees

      Still working on my MSVT100.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      It would appear your sense of “I shouldnt’ say that” is set way way higher than mine.

      No comment.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        It wasn’t me who released the Ferengi Pregnancy Contract to the Mens Rights Advocates…
        they loved it, of course.
        [yes, of course the “real one” — those Star Trek writers loved backstory!]Report

  2. Avatar James K says:

    I found getting my Master’s Degree quite enjoyable. Postgraduate study is when you get to learn the good stuff.Report

  3. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    I enjoyed my teenage years, and high school and university. I’ve never had a job, an employer, an apartment, or a roommate that I hated.

    I’ve been incredibly fortunate.Report

  4. Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

    What were things you were supposed to dislike and find unbearable but you found relatively stress-free and enjoyable?

    The more interesting question would be: what were things you were supposed to enjoy, but instead disliked and found unbearable?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      My answer for this is dance clubs which I find too loud, too many lights, and not my kind of music.

      Watching professional sports as well usually. I find it kind of dull especially football where two minutes seems to take fifteen years to complete.

      Also Vodka, Tecquila, and doing shots in general.

      I find the concept of strip clubs to be a waste of money. The neo-burlesque movement is also kind of odd because I associate burlesque as a kind of entertainment my great-grandfathers were supposed to enjoy and it seems odd that a combination of slight flirtation with really corny jokes is making a comeback as a feminist performance art form.Report

  5. Avatar zic says:

    First, what we have is right now; this moment. Embrace it. Whomever’s sending out memos discouraging anyone from the joy of now suffers the damnation of hell now.

    Second, learning is what we’re meant for, that’s why we have these giant brains. It saddens me that so often we think learning (and love of) should be constrained to schools, childhood and young-adult years, and that it’s a bore/chore/burden.Report

  6. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    Various foods with (to me) inexplicable orthodoxies about how one isn’t supposed to enjoy them – fruitcake, brussels sprouts…

    Also, any insights gained through psychedelic drugs are supposed to be scare-quote “insights” that can’t be usefully applied or even remembered once one is sober. I apparently missed the memo on that one.

    Winter, cold weather, shovelling snow, all that sort of business – the accepted default conversation during a cold snap seems to be to complain bitterly about the weather, wonder why anyone moved to this godforsaken desert of snow, and take dingy concrete tunnels around downtown even if they triple the distance walked compared to walking outside. I quite enjoy being dressed for the cold and going out in it.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Also, any insights gained through psychedelic drugs are supposed to be scare-quote “insights” that can’t be usefully applied or even remembered once one is sober.

      Really? I never heard that, I thought that most people conceded at least the possibility of useful lasting small-‘e’-epiphany (though certainly in many specific instances people have been known to glimpse something that seemed profound, only to lose a grip on it upon re-entry; or realize it wasn’t as profound as it seemed at the time).Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      @dragonfrog – you might enjoy this, a trip report on iboga.


      I really like this gal’s writing; she’s whipsmart and not heavily-wedded to any single specific interpretation of the psychedelic experience (that is, there’s talk of plant teachers and Akasha and the like, but there’s also talk of neurological/psychological phenomena and hard drive defrag and search engines; using each side to conceptually illuminate the other), delivered with lots of gentle self-deprecating humor and warm empathy. Psychedelic experiences are notoriously hard to put into words but she does a bang-up job. I always enjoy her stuff.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I forgot to get screwed up by my parents’ divorce.Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Mine: Grocery shopping.Report

  9. Avatar kenB says:

    The latest Hobbit movie.

    To be clear, it’s not that I thought it was good, it’s just that I thought it was going to be completely unbearable and it turned out to be mildly entertaining. My low expectations helped me to just accept it for what it was.Report

  10. Avatar kenB says:

    On a family trip to Europe when I was about eleven years old, we stayed a night with a friend of my father’s in Czechoslovakia. For dinner, they served us some sort of meat that I didn’t recognize, but I tried it and it wasn’t horrible, so I ate it up. My siblings stared at me in surprise and some horror, and they later informed me that that meat was (OMG!) liver.Report

  11. Avatar Maribou says:

    Repetitive non-challenging mental work.

    You know all those worksheets you get in school? I *loved* those. I would get as excited over getting one as a present as other kids got about candy.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      For me, word problems in math. Math had been pure drudgery, memorize rules and (at least for me) practice procedures past the point of boredom. Then… two trains leave different cities at the same time… OMG! You could describe the world! You could answer useful questions!Report

  12. Avatar Maribou says:

    Repetitive non-challenging mental work.

    You know all those worksheet books you get in school? I *loved* those. I would get as excited over getting one as a present as other kids got about candy.Report

    • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

      Repetitive posting as well?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        And here I was thinking that I caught it just in time.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Do we have any better information on what sort of problems are affecting the site?Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Are you still having issues? The only ongoing thing I have noticed is that it seems to take a little bit longer, once you hit “post”, for the action to complete.

        I suspect they’ve either beefed up the spam filter, or it is working harder than it used to.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Occasionally the post takes, but I get back a partial page (fancy layout missing) and a 404 error. My suspicion is actually that there’s a link to the provider of some Javascript library(ies) and that provider is having problems.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Huh, I have had no issues like that, site seems to be behaving normally for me (Firefox on Mac) except for, as I said, comment posting seems to take a bit longer than it used to.

        Dumb question, but did you ever clear your browser cache and reload? The site-down issue the other day as I understand it was a DDOS against the hosting servers (not against this site specifically), and I needed to do that after it came back up for things to sort out for me.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Same Firefox-on-Mac kit here. I’ve flushed everything up to and including local DNS cache. Most of the site is behaving normally — loads at reasonable speed, has the occasional case of the newest entries in “Gifts of Gab” not being included in the loaded version of the page they refer to. Submitted comments always seem to go into the database, just that infrequent incomplete layout and 404 message. If it happens again, I’ll make a note of the URL generating the 404.Report