Monthly Archives: April 2012

Note to ricers

To all those foolish enough to try running modern software on their outdated Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Lucid Lynx systems with Intel graphics … a word of caution. DO NOT simultaneously enable Stefan Glasenhardt’s Intel Driver PPA and the xorg-edgers PPA.

They are NOT compatible. Your system WILL NOT display anything other than a black screen, and you will have NO CHOICE but to spend your afternoon ssh’d into your laptop, downgrading packages.


I’ve just sent off the first draft of my dissertation to my defense committee, so I suppose that makes it official. I will be holding a public defense (read: presentation) of my work toward my Ph.D. on Friday, May 4th at 2 PM in TMEC* Room 250 at Harvard Medical School. I suppose it will last (the public part, anyway) for about an hour, maybe less.

After that is the private defense, about which the less said the better.

I have a week to prepare. It will have to be enough.

EDIT: Map, parking.

*: the “Tosteson Medical Education Center”

Pen->paper, nose->grindstone

I’m back in Boston, and frantically writing dissertation. I figure I have 2 days to finish it, maybe 3 at the outside. I don’t even want to begin estimating how much I have to accomplish in that span.

I wish I could compete for some kind of world record on ill-advised high-speed dissertation writing. Not that I’d win, I suppose. There must be someone out there with even worse time management skills than mine.

Beach note

Since I’m in Florida, I feel obligated to go the beach, if only to have an answer to a probable FAQ back in Boston. So here I am, in a cabana facing the Floridian horizon with my hiking boots and smartphone, counting off the minutes spent not working on my dissertation. Sometimes you really have to make yourself enjoy things.

Oh well. It’ll all be over soon enough.

VoiceLab Performances

VoiceLab has 3 performances coming up:

  • April 28th at 4:30 PM in Harvard Science Center C. A short performance (30 minutes or less) as part of Harvard’s Arts First weekend.
  • Sunday, May 6th at 4 PM in Longfellow Hall (Askwith Lecture Hall), Harvard School of Education. A complete concert. Free snacks for concertgoers, courtesy of the Harvard Graduate Student Council. Featuring special guests the HGSE Class Notes and Funk ‘n Junk
  • Friday, May 11th at 8:15 PM in Longfellow Hall (Askwith Lecture Hall). Mostly the same songs as on May 6th, but with a different lineup of soloists (and of snacks)

It’s going to be a very busy two weeks!

Helpful tips from the IRS

From the 1040 instructions, page 88:

How Do You Make a Gift To Reduce Debt Held By The Public?

If you wish to do so, make a check payable to “Bureau of the Public Debt.” You can send it to: Bureau of the Public Debt, Department G. P.O. Box 2188 …

TIP: You may be able to deduct this gift on your 2012 tax return

Someone oughtta make…

… a website where shareholders could discuss their stock’s proxy elections. A central clearinghouse for debate on the issues in every public corporation’s election. Bonus points if you can work out a way to distinguish shareholders from non-shareholders (to maximize SNR) while maintaining anonymity.

I could really use something like this to demystify the incredibly sparse pseudo-ballot I got in the mail to vote my 6 shares of UTC, whose value at this point is mostly sentimental, having been won as a prize along with a 5th place trophy in some high school science fair.

Dissertation Copyright

I went to a seminar today explaining Harvard’s new system for submitting a dissertation manuscript, a topic of more than passing interest at the moment. This spring, for the first time since Harvard began granting PhDs in the late 1800s, the dissertation of record is no longer a printed, bound manuscript. Instead, the digital version is primary (with a printed copy filed away only for apocalypse insurance). Crucially, the digital copy will be available online for the whole world to read, whereas previously they would, at a minimum, have had to file an inter-library loan request for the hard copy from Harvard. (This makes Harvard only about 8 years behind MIT.)

I was shocked to find that by far the most common questions concerned how to make one’s dissertation less available. Two main motivations stood out, both to do with copyright.

The first was secrecy before publication. Journals and other publishing companies have historically been reluctant to publish material that is already publicly available on the internet, reasoning (not unreasonably) that they’re unlikely to make money charging people to access something they can already get for free. The solution for this is called an “embargo”, a limited-time promise by the university not to make your dissertation available for a fixed duration (not more than 2 years) if you can show that this is necessary to assuage some publisher. Of course, a thoughtful publisher might want a longer embargo for the sake of making money longer, but Harvard will not allow it. They (in my opinion admirably) regard free dissemination of dissertations as a requirement of the Ph.D., as contributing to public knowledge is the purpose of the degree.

The second concern was more surprising to me. In fields far from mine, especially Art History and cousins, dissertations often contain reproductions of other works within them, for the sake of reference for commentary. These works are often themselves copyrighted … and astoundingly, it is not considered obviously fair use to include these works within the dissertation manuscript of scholarly art criticism. In fact, many archives that sell copyright licenses to artwork have special rates specifically for dissertations. They are reduced … but not free. Many students asked if they could somehow split their dissertation into copyrighted and non-copyrighted pieces, to include important works without exposing themselves to legal liability for distribution.

If ever there were an example of copyright failure, surely this is it: a packed roomful of Harvard PhD students agonizing over their ability to convey their own work intelligibly to the world without risking a lawsuit. I cannot recall a more blatant example of how intellectual property law interferes with the intellectual development of our society … even when there’s no measurable amount of money to be made on licensing fees.