Monthly Archives: February 2003

Goodbye, Neighbor

I never thought I would share this little bit of information with the world, but when I was a very young lad, there was a time when I would cry each day when Mister Rogers went off the air. In retrospect, my sadness was largely rooted in my lack of understanding about technology – I thought that Mister Rogers lived in our TV – but the sadness was real, as Mister Rogers would be the first to affirm.

Today, I am also sad. Goodbye, Neighbor.

PowerPoint

I’ve been polishing my job talk in preparation for my first interview next week. I’m using PowerPoint in a way that I have wanted to use it for years. I’ll be looking at the “Presenter’s View” – which includes the speaker’s notes – on my own screen while the audience sees only the slides. I always hate it when presenters use PowerPoint slides as their notes, so this is one way that I’m seeking to buck that trend. In general, a thumbs up to Microsoft for providing this feature.

That having been said, I have a couple of complaints. First of all, I’d like to be able to configure the “Presenter’s View” a little bit more to my liking. At the moment, the majority of the screen real estate is devoted to the slides themselves. If I want to see the slides, then I can turn around and look at the screen. I’d like to devote more real estate to the speaker’s notes. Obviously, this is an individual preference; so, why not make it so I can resize the different portions of the screen, just like in the “Normal View” used to compose slides?

Second, I used bullet lists to create outlines of things I want to say for each slide in my Speaker’s Notes. Well, in Presenter’s View, all of my bullets and indentation disappears! Doh! I had to go back in and change all of my bullets to asterisks and do my indentation with spaces. Bolding and italics, which I used to remind myself to emphasize particular words or ideas also disappeared. If you are going to allow fancy formatting in the speakers notes then please carry it over to Presenter’s View. (Later… When talking about equations, I had mentioned specific parameters in my notes – parameters represented by Greek characters. Presenter’s View completely mangled these, too. Sigh.)

Finally, I want to navigate with the keyboard while giving a talk because I find reaching to use the mouse or touchpad to be very cumbersome. Presenter’s View does provide keyboard shortcuts, but I don’t find them very intuitive. You use Page Up and Page Down to scroll the speakers notes and the spacebar or arrow keys to navigate between slides. I’m having trouble keeping these assignments straight, as I have gotten into the habit of pressing Page Down to move between slides while giving presentations, and I’m always trying to use the arrow keys to scroll the notes. I don’t have a solution to offer, but I’m worried about messing this up during my talk.

On an unrelated note, using Microsoft’s equation editor to edit equations drives me absolutely batty. I’ve gotten used to typing in equations using LaTeX; sometimes LaTeX is confusing, but at least I don’t have to use the mouse. The amount of mouse manipulation required to use the equation editor is really annoying. (Or maybe it just has a bunch of keyboard shortcuts that I haven’t learned yet.)

No weighty world issues today. Just some thoughts on PowerPoint…

Iraq

Medley linked to this yesterday, and I didn’t pay much attention. I ran across it again today, though, and read the whole thing. Don’t you make the same mistake. Go. Read. Now.

John Perry Barlow puts forward the hypothesis that Cheney and company are bluffing in Iraq and actually have two objectives:

First, they seek to scare Saddam Hussein into voluntarily turning his country over to the U.S. and choosing safe exile or, failing that, they want to convince the Iraqi people that it’s safer to attempt his overthrow or assassination than to endure an invasion by American ground troops.
Second, they are trying to convince every other nation on the planet that the United States is the Mother of All Rogue States, run by mad thugs in possession of 15,000 nuclear warheads they are willing to use and spending, as they already are, more on death-making capacity than all the other countries on the planet combined. In other words, they want the rest of the world to think that we are the ultimate weaving driver. Not to be trusted, but certainly not to be messed with either.

It’s the freshest and, in a stange way, most hopeful thing that I’ve read about Iraq in months.

Relief

Well, at least one source of tension has been ameliorated, and now I can share at least part of the story.

I expect to have a draft of my dissertation finished in about a week. I informed my special committee of this fact, and tried to schedule my defense for mid-March. One of my committee members wrote back to say that he wouldn’t have time to read my dissertation until late April! Let’s call him Professor D, for delay. This was, as you might imagine, a source of panic. If I don’t defend until the end of April, then I have hardly any time to make changes before the May conferral deadline. Furthermore, Professor D is the committee member most likely to request a major change.

Several possibilities went through my mind. I considered the fact that my world wouldn’t come to a crashing halt if I missed the May deadline. I could still walk at commencement in May and submit my dissertation by August. I had planned to spend the summer getting settled in a new place and a new job, though; continuing work on my dissertation would definitely put a kink in those plans. I also considered changing my committee. At this late date, though, that requires a petition to the Graduate School and seemed a bit dramatic.

My advisor intervened. The reasons for the delay have nothing to do with me. Although he still will not have time to read the dissertation thoroughly and schedule my defense until late April, Professor D has agreed to take a quick look at my dissertation right away to insure that no major changes will be required at the defense. My advisor also offered the possibility of a committee change, but I think I’m satisfied with the current negotiated agreement. Thank heavens for good advisors.

Crummy

I haven’t updated lately. There are a variety of reasons, most of which I’m not going to delve into tonight. (I am, however, thinking of delving into them soon. They are issues of online identity and authenticity.) One of the big ones, though, is that — while I got a much desired interview invitation this week — my world has been full of much crumminess lately.

First of all, I feel crummy about the situation in Iraq. I’m not at all happy with the current administration’s handling of the situation. We have needlessly alienated ourselves from much of the world community — alienation which we brought upon ourselves before 9/11/01 when the Bush administration started yanking us out of various treaties and whatnot. Yet, I also feel that the world would probably be a better place if Saddam Hussein were gone. I’m having a lot of trouble reconciling these feelings.

Secondly, a certain member of my special committee is making my life difficult. I am trying to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he isn’t doing so on purpose, but it isn’t always easy. It is probably best to refrain from being more specific at this point…

I’ve also been recovering from the crud. For the past week, I’ve had assorted combinations of sore throat, headache, post nasal drip, and nausea. It seems to have settled down to a runny nose cold, but I would rather be rid of it.

That isn’t quite everything that’s got me down, but those are certainly a few of the main things.