Welcome to Dinosaur Bear’s version of a February check-in. Nothing too exciting to discuss this time around, but I won’t let that stop me from filling up some more space on the interwebs.
I suppose the biggest piece of news is that after months of preparatory work to accomplish oh-so-very-little on the administrative side of things (see “meh“) I’ve finally put pen to paper on the ole’ thesis. I mean that metaphorically of course, pens are extinct. That pen on your desk doesn’t actually exist, it’s just a replica pen used to fool us into thinking wild pens didn’t go extinct in the late 90s.
To be even more precise, I haven’t even really started writing the body of the thesis, but I have begun working on the structure of it. This means lots of revisions with supervisors, and of course one supervisor telling you to do something that the other supervisor specifically tells you not to do (hint: go with whoever is actually giving you a grade). So that’s gonna be fun. Now, regarding the thesis, it’s big. The thesis itself is over an entire semester’s worth of credit load, which isn’t surprising considering how much larger it will be than my undergraduate thesis. I think the page total will be somewhere around 120 pages at 12-pont font and 1.5 spacing (alas double-spacing isn’t a thing here) on A4 paper. While not a tome by any means, it’s certainly the largest, most complicated thing I’ll have ever written and hopefully, Baby Jasus willing, will ever write (at least unless I want to). It will also be my first piece of any real size to be published! Yep, it will be peer reviewed and published including a print version! So that’s kind of cool. But also not cool, because more eyes means more expectations. Where are those 1000-2000 word undergrad papers with zero citation checking when you need them!? (In a landfill, that’s where – or to be optimistic, recycled into something more useful, like toilet paper)
Anyways, why I’m slightly more stressed about it than might be normal isn’t because of the length or depth required. It’s the timeline. Without getting into specifics (see here) I’m going to be attempting to do the thesis with only 42% of the time as the program (really vaguely) intended. This is hugely problematic for a variety of reasons – the largest of which is that I’ll be taking 60 credits. Yes you read that correctly S-I-X-T-Y credits at once. I have also have a part-time job on top of that, which granted is a small number of flexible hours but it’s still a thing.
So that’s what I’m concerned about, the time-frame. I’ve started an aggressive strategy towards my other classes which involves writing papers months in advance and that’s gotten really draining really fast. But hey, I have a pretty good track-record of spewing out A/A+ papers (of usual graduate school length) in one day – though it makes for a really shitty day, unless you own stock in coffee and/or energy drink companies.
Now, with all that said, here is my goal: not to turn Dinosaur Bear into a massive thesis QQ-fest. I’ve found that there is this really odd culture of incessantly crying about your thesis at all levels, be it Bachelor, Master, Doctorate, or Post-Doc. Heck, you can find entire websites devoted to wallowing in thesis misery. On one hand I get it, but on the other hand, even if we assume that this post-doc thesis will be 4x as bad as my undergraduate thesis (no real basis for that, 4x just sounds fun) it still won’t be as bad as cutting up scrap metal with a blow torch in the middle of a parking lot in high-humidity, August, 90s heat. While cutting up scrap metal had its fun factor, a Midwestern heatwave/humidity bomb in August generated one of those “Yep, I don’t like this” moments in my life that I haven’t forgotten. Therefore, I probably won’t talk much about my thesis, sort of like I haven’t really spoken a whole lot about my program in general, at least in comparison to earlier academic endeavors. Yes, I’m going to mention it from time to time, but I’ll leave the thesis to the thesis and Dinosaur Bear to Dinosaur bear. This post is more of a historical “checkpoint” as to when I roughly started the thesis and which also serves as a rudimentary overview of what the thesis will entail.
So on that note, let’s talk about something more exciting!
One thing that I don’t think I mentioned on the blog between the new year festivities and Meem’s visit was Pigsten’s birthday! Yes, little ole’ Pigsten (who was “born” in New Mexico) turned 2. We celebrated with a plate of some of his favorite foods and all of his “window” friends came down to enjoy it with us.
That sucker lasted us for awhile, heck even Meem got to sample some of them.
Now, this is probably a good point to introduce Pigsten’s new friend, Broli!
Broli is a hatchling Brachiosaurus who came to live with us in December as part of a gift-package from one of the Boys’ friends in the United States! As Broli is super-tiny, Pigsten acts as his chauffeur to the world – plus I think Pigsten likes to have someone even smaller than him around! In fact Pigsten and Broli spend a lot of their time keeping an eye on Pigsten’s construction site, which continues to progress at variable speeds.
While it’s certainly come a long way from the big dirt pit that greeted us when we moved here, it’s not changed quite as much as you might think. The latest change involves the addition of a third, larger, crane in the pit nearest to us (there are two).
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll probably do a dedicated construction site post sometime closer to when we leave. It’s been a pretty big part of our existence here, from the hours of entertainment in the first bit when we had no internet, to enjoying our neighbors QQ hardcore about the jack-hammering, to karma catching up with us and the site shining multiple 7 trillion candlewatt lights into our apartment 24/7 (to the point we had to buy more curtains), to just trying to guess what is going to happen next. It’s also interesting to watch them work in some of the really crappy weather, or, as Lucretious put it:
“Pleasant it is, when over a great sea the winds trouble the waters, to gaze from shore upon another’s great tribulation: not because any man’s troubles are a delectable joy, but because to perceive from what ills you are free yourself is pleasant.”
Speaking of weather, it’s been really weird lately. We are in this cycle of “really cold and snow” and “less cold and rain,” and each comes with a dabble or two of gale force winds. I’d say we’ve been leaning towards the snow side of things lately.. as made evident by this photo from earlier in the week showing some whiteout conditions.
But what happens is that the snow falls, then it gets compacted due to foot traffic, then we get just barely above freezing, then it freezes and more snow falls. The result is a several-inch thick layer of ice over everything. I remember this happening in the Midwest, but never to this extent.
On the flip side, as least the snow is pretty before it turns to ice.
Now, to segue from one snow topic to the next, I recently realized something that might seem really basic to you – but it took me months to fully understand.
As mentioned, we get a lot of snow and rain – really more snow and/or rain than sun. But in my near-daily outings, I noticed that there are some areas that simply never have snow or ice on them. Here’s a good example.
Now, that’s from a period without much snow, but you can clearly see what I am talking about on the sidewalk. The thing is, there are areas like that all over the place (though not as many as a pedestrian would like). At first I thought that people were simply clearing them, though as the weeks wore on I came to notice that the areas didn’t bear any signs of being cleared. Further, if they were being cleared, these people were clearing them at like 3am – every single day. So from there I just presumed that they were treated with some chemical, but then I remember that unlike the U.S. where we’d happily dump nuclear waste on the snow if we could, Iceland isn’t so keen on chemicals (heck they don’t even really use salt – which as “green” as that may be, generates some real pain in the ass walking routes). Plus, the way the clearings appeared didn’t really look like any sort of chemical had been applied. I’ve seen how melting chemicals look (as Boston LOVED their salt and chemicals DEAR GOD – R.I.P. Entryway Floor), and these areas bore zero signs of any application.
Then, one fine day, it finally hit me. Geothermal heating. Yep, you may have thought of that first thing, but for some reason I did not. It’s actually really obvious. The buildings have geothermal infrastructure running to them already, so you just build off that and you can “heat” entire areas. This explained why the area immediately around the university was almost always perfect, but less than one block away you needed ice skates to get anywhere.
Here’s a really good example of it in action.
You can clearly see where the pipes are running. It’s really awesome, and kind of embarrassing that it took me so long to figure it out, especially when our own building has it in a few areas – though notably not in the interior (yet exposed) hallways for some reason.
However, I grew up in an area with zero geothermal utilization, so using the flames of hell itself to remove snow are not something I generally think of. So there’s a cool “The More You Know!” moment for you. In Iceland the devastating friction of two entire continents grinding against one another as the magma core of the Earth bubbles to the surface in the drift between them is harnessed so you don’t slip and die on the stairs. Science!
Sadly one cannot always utilize geothermal heat, so one tends to hide inside the geothermal-warmed building on the nasty days. The plus side to all that inside time is that Pigsten and I have really nailed our oat-pancake recipe.
It also leaves plenty of time to sample the nectar of the hops – beer.
Speaking of beer, I’ve really been branching out lately. One of the many awesome things Meem did while here was buy me a lot of beer. Sadly I don’t get much beer here (aside from near-beers) due to cost, which makes Taco sad. However, Meem bought me quite a few, then SB picked me up a few the week after Meem left, so I’m decently well stoked on brewskies right now. I’ve implemented a “ration” system where I space out my “real” beers with “near-beer” mixed in to make the good stuff last longer. Such is the life of poor folk in one of the world’s most expensive countries. 😀
However, one key element of the ration system is “reward” beers. The most recent reward beer was from completing my second group project in two weeks. If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you’ll know that f*cking loathe collegiate group projects and can soapbox for thousands of words about how I don’t feel like they replicate real life (job) group work in my experience, at all. I also dislike the fact that this program even requires them – and I’m only half done with them for this semester, but enough about that. I completed the one last week and rewarded myself with this funky beer.
I mostly bought it because I thought the bottle was cool, but it was an intriguing fruit beer with lots of fruit flavors I wasn’t expecting. It was also vibrant red, probably the reddest beer I’ve ever seen. Once I completed it I added it to the “beer stand” which is a little area where I keep beer bottles and cans before recycling them (excluding near-beers, they go straight into the recycling bag as they aren’t nearly as cool).
But yes, that’s about all I have to share for now. Nothing too exciting, but just enough that I felt like writing a post about it. Now I’ve got to get back to editing a (non-thesis) paper I am working on. I think I might enjoy a few of my chocolate-covered-salt-licorice bites that I picked up from Bónus the other day.
If you think chocolate covered “black” licorice sounds weird, then you should probably read this post because you have no idea just how weird it actually is. However, despite some initial reservations, I think I’m actually starting to enjoy the ammonium-filled “lakkrís” that Iceland is so obsessed with.
There’s probably going to be a few week gap until the next post, but it should be an exciting one when it comes! 🙂
Until next time,