WoB Talk

March 5, 2013

March 4 – 16, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kari Maaren @ 4:56 am

It’s one of those weeks.  I’m behind on everything and too tired to catch up.  Meanwhile, Marie is defending, and Barbara and Rahim are about to launch their investigation.  Casey’s probably hiding behind a tree somewhere.  He does that.

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19 Comments »

  1. I think the joke on the wall is too subtle for me. Maybe someone can explain?

    Comment by fan — March 7, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

  2. Badger badger badger

    Comment by blackwolf3 — March 7, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

  3. Sorry, fan. That was a reference to Chekhov’s Gun (the idea that if there’s a gun hanging on the wall in the first act of a play, it will inevitably be fired by the end). It may have been more appropriate to bring up brick jokes, which are a related concept (the first joke ends with a brick being thrown into the air. Two or three jokes later, the brick comes down in the last joke in the sequence). Both concepts refer to narrative elements introduced early on that return before the end of the story. In this case, the element in question is Marie’s tendency to go temporarily insane after she pulls an all-nighter.

    Comment by Kari Maaren — March 7, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

  4. I image the defense for my masters thesis will go about the same way and end with “Mushroom Mushroom” just to really confuse my jury.

    Comment by geminisykes — March 8, 2013 @ 4:04 am

  5. Geminisykes: Or you might wait for a quiet moment, then go, “SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE…”

    Comment by Kari Maaren — March 8, 2013 @ 4:06 am

  6. Or Snape, Snape.

    Comment by SunshineRain — March 8, 2013 @ 5:46 am

  7. To Tim Horton’s!

    Comment by blackwolf3 — March 9, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

  8. Amazon turned its nose up at me when I went to get your excerpt, as I’m in the UK. I searched the Kindle UK store, but no luck. I suppose it won’t be available to us at all?

    Comment by Ana Stubbs — March 13, 2013 @ 5:51 am

  9. Ana: that’s odd. It should be. I know some of the entrants are British, and one of them found his story in the UK store. But yeah, I just checked the UK store myself, and no luck. I don’t know what’s up with that. It doesn’t seem particularly fair to people who aren’t permitted to buy books via the American store, especially considering that it’s a worldwide contest. I’m sorry Amazon is being a douche.

    Comment by Kari Maaren — March 13, 2013 @ 11:49 am

  10. If anyone Amazon is rejecting really wants to see the excerpt, e-mail me, and I’ll send you a copy.

    Comment by Kari Maaren — March 13, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

  11. I think you just need an account on the amazon.com store. I have multiple accounts with Amazon stores in different countries, all associated with the same e-mail address.

    As for Marie’s defence: she is sitting down! sitting! is this really what a PhD defence looks like outside of the sciences? you get to *sit*?

    In my defence, the committee wanted to see whether I can ‘think on my feet’. So of course *I* had to stand. For almost three hours.

    Comment by Emily — March 15, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

  12. Actually, other Brits have had problems with this; some of the British contestants are unable to read any excerpts save their own. It’s kind of stupid, but that’s Amazon.

    Emily: you weren’t allowed to sit? Isn’t that a bit barbaric? I actually sat at a table with all the committee members ranged around it and the external examiner communicating via a speaker in the middle of the table. I didn’t draw the table because I was imitating an earlier strip in which Barbara had HER defence. I expect my motivation there was to isolate Barbara as much as possible.

    My defence lasted for two hours, and by the end, I desperately had to use the bathroom. I don’t think I would have survived if I’d been forced to stand up the whole time.

    Comment by Kari Maaren — March 15, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

  13. I suppose standing was more natural given than I had to give a 1-hour seminar (using either a blackboard or slides, I had slides) and then answer questions, often writting on the blackboard. I think that if I wanted to sit down, I could have done so, but it would have felt extremely weird. I have witnessed a number of defences in mathematical sciences and never have seen a candidate sit down. They are always too busy pointing to bits of stuff on blackboards or screens, saying things like “I don’t have to worry about because my functor is monoidal, as can be seen from this equation,” all while desperatelly thinking “It’s monoidal, right? that’s what monoidal means! That’s what that paper I didn’t really understand said… I think… is my adviser nodding his head? oh, I hope he nods soon… Maybe if I throw in ‘reflexive’? I hope there is not a big glaring gap in my result. Please let me move on. Please, please, please. I never properly understood this bit! maybe if I say Kac-Moody? oh, he is nodding. oh, good. oh, thank god.”

    Comment by Emily — March 15, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

  14. Hey, the silly webside ate part of my reply! here is the correct version:

    suppose standing was more natural given than I had to give a 1-hour seminar (using either a blackboard or slides, I had slides) and then answer questions, often writting on the blackboard. I think that if I wanted to sit down, I could have done so, but it would have felt extremely weird. I have witnessed a number of defences in mathematical sciences and never have seen a candidate sit down. They are always too busy pointing to bits of stuff on blackboards or screens, saying things like “I don’t have to worry about [objection raised by one of the examiners] because my functor is monoidal, as can be seen from this equation,” all while desperatelly thinking “It’s monoidal, right? that’s what monoidal means! That’s what that paper I didn’t really understand said… I think… is my adviser nodding his head? oh, I hope he nods soon… Maybe if I throw in ‘reflexive’? I hope there is not a big glaring gap in my result. Please let me move on. Please, please, please. I never properly understood this bit! maybe if I say Kac-Moody? oh, he is nodding. oh, good. oh, thank god.”

    Comment by Emily — March 15, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

  15. Emily: intriguing. In the humanities, we begin with a short presentation, but in my discipline, you’re less likely to need visual aids. I just read off my notes as if I were giving a lecture with no PowerPoint slides. It wasn’t particularly formal. The examiners went around the table and asked me questions, but I didn’t need a blackboard for the answers. I suppose that’s what really makes the difference.

    Comment by Kari Maaren — March 15, 2013 @ 8:52 pm

  16. ‘Reading off the notes’ is another difference, of course. It’s considered a very bad thing to do. You may consult your notes and you may copy bits of equations off of them, but reading more than a single sentence would be considered very stilted. Of course, this means that there is often a lot of stuttering going on in talks (and defences).

    Actually, now that I think of it, I much prefer standing. It made me feel in charge. Marie does not look in charge.

    Comment by Emily — March 15, 2013 @ 9:37 pm

  17. By “reading off the notes,” I mean using the notes as a guide rather than reading them word for word. But yes, I’ve heard this practice is more common in the humanities. Part of the difference is that we don’t have slides to guide us; if we weren’t allowed notes, we would probably just babble. There’s plenty of that too, of course.

    Marie ISN’T in charge. In my experience, you do not feel in charge when you are defending your thesis. Maybe that’s another sciences/humanities difference. (Of course, Marie is in the social sciences, so perhaps I should have given her a projector. I had no idea scientists stood up while they presented. The rooms U of T reserves for defences are kind of teeny, or they were when I defended. Granted, the real defence rooms were being renovated at the time, and we were in a back-up building.)

    Comment by Kari Maaren — March 15, 2013 @ 9:42 pm

  18. Emily — That sounds a great deal like my defense, especially the part where I had to explain wonky statistics that no one but my advisor really fully grasped.

    Kari — I liked you story. I hadn’t heard that one before.

    Comment by Earthgirl — March 17, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

  19. I see the defence as a type of hazing ritual. It’s largely unnecessary; if the thesis itself is good, why test the candidate’s ability further? As well, is it really possible to judge years’ worth of research in a two-hour grilling session? Under the good points, I suppose the defence may sometimes flush out plagiarists.

    Earthgirl: thanks. It’s a common variant of the “frog prince” story. Joseph Jacobs recorded a version of it in English Fairy Tales. The version of the story people know nowadays (with the kiss) has, as far as I know, no known oral providence; it seems to be a bowdlerisation of the tale type, with the kiss standing in for the girl sleeping with (and, in some versions, subsequently decapitating) the frog. The weirdest version is possibly the one found in the collection of the Brothers Grimm. It involves a seriously immature princess who has a snit when the frog demands that she lift him into her bed. She throws him against the wall, and he turns into a prince. This may very well itself be a bowdlerisation; it also effectively breaks the story, as the princess ends up rewarded for her self-centred temper tantrum.

    Comment by Kari Maaren — March 17, 2013 @ 4:45 pm


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