Well, it’s a whole new year according to the fairly arbitrary human construct that is a complete circle around the sun, and you know what that means–it’s the season of empty promises!
Yes, now that we’ve imagined a clean slate for ourselves, let’s renew that annual gym membership so we can visit two (maybe three!) times this calendar year, all the while feeling guilty about the money we’ve commoded… Let’s also vow we will stick to a diet consisting only of kale and almonds, until that fateful night we have to stay late at work and don’t really feel like cooking and, oh look! There’s a McDonald’s on the way home. Surely just one Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese won’t derail our progress. Not a chance!… And yes, let’s buy several books that we fully intend to dutifully page through every night instead of gaping at the tv screen—except all of the shows we’ve been following are returning from their holiday hiatus, and we can’t be the ones in the dark on the latest plot twists at work tomorrow…
Sure, it’s a dangerous time to make promises—to resolve to break the rhythm of the past year, or even many prior years. And that’s why I’m here to tell you what you can expect from Twinfamy in 2016.
You may have noticed I have not regularly been attending my own party here at this fine publication, especially in 2015. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to apologize. (See what I did there?)
The truth is that for the most part, 2015 felt like an entire year of recovery, reshaping, and even occasionally (*GASP!*) relaxing—and in the middle of all that, while I occasionally peeked my head out of my cave, for parts of it I wasn’t all that sure what this blog actually ought to even be anymore. Continue reading
After four years of non-stop nerdery (which predates both the Twins and this fine publication), I finally defended my dissertation on Friday. I know I left you in terrible suspense all weekend by withholding the results, but I’m ready to break the silence. Are you ready?
Well, guess what? I DID IT!
If you so choose, you can now call me Dr. Pseudonymous. John Pseudonymous, PhD will also work. I will also respond to “Doctor,” “Doc,” and “Hey, you with the diploma!”
To commemorate this momentous occasion, I thought I’d remind you how excellently I’ve chronicled this journey and thus, from beginning to end, here are some of my favorite PhD-flavored Twincidents, for your re-reading pleasure. If you don’t read them now, they may disappear into the Disney Vault forever, as after acquiring Star Wars, a Disney-Twinfamy merger seems to be the most logical progression.
On any given night, from about 10 pm to whenever gets the job done, you’re likely to find a single light on in my house–one in the living room by a recliner we inherited from my wife’s grandfather. And in that chair, you are likely to find a disheveled, stubbly-faced thirty-something man hunched over a laptop, cussing out a Microsoft Word document at a volume that will wake neither the sleeping three-year-olds around the corner nor a pregnant woman passed out on the nine-pillow sculpture she has meticulously perfected over the past few weeks. While verbally abusing his own abused verbiage, he’ll likely be nursing a craft IPA or a bowl of ice cream (or both)–you know, just to take the edge off.
In case you haven’t already Sherlocked where I’m going with this, the insomniac in question is me.
While sleep and I are super duper BFFs and take cute selfies with each other like every single night, I elect to stay up after corralling the kids into the bathroom so they can spend 15 minutes whining about not wanting to brush their teeth and two minutes actually doing it; after reading multiple bedtime stories and refusing third encores; after watching my unborn child kick around my wife’s uterus while taking in whatever’s on our DVR; after my wife crashes in the middle of a show and I’m fighting sleep myself even though it’s only 9:30. Yes, despite all of this, I stay up because I have unfinished bidness. Even though I’ve found a big boy job I absolutely love and am working it full-time, I still have that all important, all-encompassing, all-kinds-of-psychotic last step of my PhD to plow through–my dissertation.
I’ll admit I take weekends off, and even a weekday here and there, but since about May of this year, I’ve been on this late-night regiment for a consistent four nights a week. Come 10 pm, I’m in that chair. Thinking. Number-crunching. Writing. Chasing. Snoozing. Wiping the drool off my face. Deleting the full page and a half of letter W’s my dead hand made while I was unconscious. Taking a sip of beer. Taking another five sips. Sighing loudly. Thinking. Number-crunching. Writing. Chasing.
In mid-September I cleared the first hurdle and laid the first draft of my thesis to rest–all 229 pages of it–and turned it into the chair of my committee for his feedback. Then came revisions, which bled into October, and once that was finally done, November’s late nights have been spent tackling the slideshow for presentation at my defense.
For those unfamiliar with the process, after writing and revising your kajillion-page dissertation, you are then asked to “defend” it to a committee of faculty chosen by you. This committee reviews your thesis, and then, at the “defense,” you present your findings in person, followed by the committee asking questions to challenge the validity and thoroughness of your work while barraging you with paintball guns to break your concentration. If the committee is satisfied with the answers you provide, 99 red balloons fall from the ceiling and Bill Murray inexplicably wanders in from the street to shake your hand and congratulate you on becoming a doctor just before performing an impromptu karaoke rendition of The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” On the other hand, if the committee is not satisfied, you are handcuffed by an enormous sluglike creature named Jabba and shuttled out to the middle of the desert to be cast into a Sarlacc pit for all eternity.
“Are you done yet?” my wife groaned.
It was almost 11pm on a Saturday and I’d been working non-stop since breakfast. I could tell she was getting annoyed with me, but I was almost done with my final read-through.
This was Day 1 of The 3-Day Great Comprehensive Exam-A-Thon that would be my weekend. See, near the end of a Ph.D. program, they have you take an exam relevant to your field of study that’s reviewed by faculty in your department who basically decide if you’re competent enough to start the final stage of your program–the dreaded dissertation. Sometimes it involves a major project done over the course of a few weeks, and other times the student is essentially locked in a room for several consecutive days to cuss at bubble sheets and essay response booklets. In my case, I was handed about a 90-page packet (not an exaggeration) which provided directions and resources for writing four different papers–each of which was to be 6-8 pages long, due in four days.
Fortunately, these four days started on a Friday and I was allowed to complete the exam from the comfort of my own home. Unfortunately, I have twin two-year-olds in my own home, who, from the moment I enter to the moment they collapse in their beds, shout spirited requests of me. Here are some of their greatest hits:
“Daddy! Sit down dare. Read book-y.”
“More juicy! Pleaseokaythankyou! Apple juicy. Yesokay!”
(performed melodramatically by my son, hanging from one monkey-hand on the pantry doorknob, usually fifteen minutes after refusing to eat a single bite for dinner)
Since I barely had any work time on Friday, I was hitting it hard on Saturday, and decided that while I was still fresh, I’d hammer out two of the four papers, leaving the remaining two for Sunday and Monday. My wife was incredibly supportive, taking the kids out for the day while I pounded coffee to a soundtrack alternating between death metal and utter silence, my fingers furiously pecking at the keyboard.
It hadn’t been pretty, but I was now finally finally finally closing in on my goal for the day. Still planted in my seat at the kitchen table, I was looking over Paper 2 for any final edits when my wife, who was in our bedroom watching tv, suddenly became strangely persistent.
I’m fairly confident I will look back on this semester as The Semester That Shall Not Be Named, and my reasons for this are statistically based.
And that is because, against my better judgment, I enrolled in two statistics classes.
At the same freaking time.
Although, yes, it was ultimately my decision to plague myself with such nerdery, I was not left with a whole lot of options. You see, certain classes I need to take are only offered during certain semesters, and because I’m hoping to finish all of my classes in the Spring (before taking the dissertation plunge), I needed to be economical with my schedule.
However, once I’d plotted everything out accordingly, my eyes were drawn to this semester, where a Dark Mark had materialized above my yellow legal pad. Sadly, the optimal schedule meant a double dose of stats, meaning that fun would be SO out this Fall.
While–if I say so myself–I can hold my own in the subject, I find it incredibly boring and tedious. The time required to understand it and perform well on tests is way more than I’d like it to be. As you may have gathered, I’m a word guy, so if I have to do school work, I’d much rather spend my time reading interesting research or writing papers for publication, NOT verbally abusing uncooperative math problems.
When working on a dissertation, one of the most crucial components is its research question. It is the argument’s overall purpose–essentially the question the author aims to answer with his or her kajillion-page opus. Having waded through an obscene amount of academic literature on possible topics for the better part of this summer, I recently sat down to take my first stab at my own research question, and thought I’d share some of the questions that didn’t quite make the cut:
1. If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, who gives a crap?
2. What are the longitudinal physiological and psychological effects of allowing an old man to knick knack on various parts of one’s body prior to rolling home?
3. To what extent does a random sample of people report whether or not they let the dogs out?
4. Where’s Waldo? (A Case Study)
5. In the event of seeing a little silhouette-o of a man, will a sample population do the fandango? And furthermore, in the presence of very, very frightening thunderbolts and lightning, will they let him go? (The researchers hypothesize that bismilah, no, they will not let him go, even despite numerous protests.)