Thursday, 11 September 2008

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Meet the New Scott, Same as the Old Scott I tried to file today. Woke up early. Did one last read-through. Handed it into the printer by 10:00 a.m. Specified paper weight and margin width. They said give them half an hour. I walk across the bridge to campus with my signature page. Try to get Second Reader to sign it. He won't sign it until my chair signs it. I email my my chair. He says he can't sign it until he arrives home at 4:00 p.m. Says I should drive up to his place and he'll sign it. I say I'll see him then. Third Reader's signatures are in the mail but didn't arrive with it. The department secretary immediately phones Third Reader. He assures her he'd sent it UPS. Not campus mail. Not FedEx. The library archives—housed in that library—close at 5:00 p.m. It is now 12:00 p.m. I walk back across the bridge to the printer. They handed me two copies of my dissertation in boxes. The boxes say "Copy Paper" on them. The woman behind the counter rings me up. My total comes to $41.00. Or approximately nine fewer dollars than the cost of a box of the specified 20-lb 100 percent cotton bond. I open one box. It is my dissertation. Yay! Printed on copy paper. Boo! I mention the error. Show the woman my copy of the order. She needs to talk to her manager. He is exasperated. Says to do my order again. Says this order will come out of her next paycheck. She says it will be about half an hour. It is now 1:00 p.m. I return to the department and check the mail. Nothing from Third Reader. Department secretary says not to worry. The UPS guy arrives late. I don't worry much. I still have four hours. I double-check my paper-work. I FORGOT TO PRINT OUT MY EXIT QUESTIONNAIRE! IT IS ALL OVER! Department secretary says not to worry. Says I can walk to Graduate Studies and print it out. I do. I can. I return to the department. Still no mail. Wait a minute—we still may have mail. No! It is now 2:00 p.m. I return to the printer. I am handed two boxes. They say 20-lb 100 percent cotton bond on them. I open one up. It is my dissertation. Yay! Printed on the proper paper. Yay! With new margins. Boo! I mention the error. The woman denies it. I show her my table of contents. Show her where it says CHAPTER TWO begins on page 81. Pull out the first page of CHAPTER TWO. Point to the page number at the bottom. Ask her whether 76 and 81 are the same number. She needs to talk to her manager. He is exasperated. She is exasperated. She is told to be exasperated at home. The manager apologizes. Explains he charged her for the mistake. That she must have widened the margins to keep down her costs. Says I still need to pay for the paper. I...
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Galveston, 1900-2008? As Ike bears down on his namesake's home state of Texas, it behooves us to remember what Ari wrote a few days back. The only element absent from Ari's post was the reaction of the rest of the country. The first chapter of Erik Larson's excellent recreation of Galveston's last hours, Isaac's Storm, reads: TELEGRAM Washington, D.C. Sept. 9, 1900 To: Manager, Western Union Houston, Texas Did you hear anything about Galveston? Willis L. Moore We already know the answer---in 1900, everyone was confused. On Wednesday, September 4th, the Louisville-based Christian Observer reported that "all the great damage done to the roads [in Puerto Rico] by the hurricane of August 8, 1899, has been repaired."[1] By the time anyone read that article, the pluperfect had supplanted the perfect: another nameless storm had already slammed into the island and re-destroyed its infrastructure. The New York Times tracked the storm in its daily weather bulletins: For those of you with eyes like mine, I'll transcribe the important bits: September 5: "The tropical storm was moving over Western Cuba in a northerly direction last night, and had increased somewhat in intensity. It has thus far caused rains through a portion of Cuba, and brisk to high northeasterly winds, which have extended as far north as Jupiter, Fla." September 6: "The tropical storm was central last night near Key West, Fla., and has increased greatly in intensity. It has caused northeast gales over Southern Florida, and is moving slowly northward. The storm will cause high winds and general rains over the eastern portion of the country, and will probably terminate the high temperature period." It's in poor taste to mock forecasts before the Live StormTrack 8000 Triple Doppler Radar Slaves™ made it to Moline, so I won't say a word---I'll italicize theirs instead: September 7: "The tropical storm continued slowly northwestward, and was apparently central last night over the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and has still a tendency toward a northwesterly direction. Note how on September 6th, "The Weather" columnist---for the sake of clarity, I'll pretend one person's responsible---confidently declares the storm's "moving slowly northward." He's pinpointed the speed and direction of the storm and stated them in no uncertain terms. Now, note how on September 7th, this same person rewrites the history it mis-predicted: saying the storm "continued slowly northwestward" creates the impression it has been and "still" is headed "northwesterly." But it hasn't and it ain't. It's "apparently" headed northwesterly now, but under what or whose power? Where before the storm moved, now it exhibits a "tendency" to intercardinal "directions." As you've no doubt guessed, "The Weather" is not the kind of column that requires flair. The tone of a typical column resembles a bureaucrat's notion of a copy-editor who writes with the brio of a type-setter. The party (or parties) who composed "The Weather" were, after all, forced to translate the daily bulletin compiled by The Divison of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce and Agriculture. If you spy...

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