Monday, June 27, 2005

A Memorable Weekend (Part 1)

In case anybody was worried, I passed my final.

I spent the day Thursday at home with Jeff, cleaning the house and installing quarter round in the kitchen. I measured the quarter round and sawed it, and he installed it. In the evening, I taught both karate classes, because my karate instructor is doing his annual National Guard training. By the time I got home, I was exhausted. At about ten, my dad, bonus mom, and younger sister arrived. We chatted for a while before they made their way to their hotel.

On Friday, they came over after breakfast and we hung out for a while. I gave my dad and bonus mom their birthday presents (their birthdays were in May and February, which shows what a bad daughter I am!). Dad's present was some Red Skelton DVDs, which he then decided to watch immediately. So we watched the DVD until it was time to leave to pick up the pirozhki from Lyudmila at 1:00.

We were to pick them up at her apartment near campus. Upon entering the building, the smell of baking pirozhki hit us, and I did not envy her neighbors who must have to smell that delicious smell every week without the chance to eat any of it. She lives in a tiny studio apartment, where she bakes all the pirozhki every week. I knocked on her door and she answered. She had all my pirozhki boxed and ready to go.

Her friend Natasha was there helping her bake. I spoke some Russian to them and introduced my sister and my father's wife, which was the closest I could get to expressing my relationship to Marvis with my limited vocabulary. Natasha was impressed with my Russian, but I told her that I'd taken Russian in college and forgotten everything. She said that she wished her English was as good as my Russian. That was very polite of her but I think I sound like a better Russian speaker than I actually am. I'm pretty good at speaking any language because I have a musical ear and am not afraid to contort my mouth into strange positions to make foreign sounds. I'm also pretty good at forming sentences, and imitating the ways in which native speakers make shortcuts in their speech, so I sound a lot more competent than I actually am.

Lyudmila asked what the pirozhki were for, and I explained to her that they were for my Ph.D. defense. She told me to wait a second and she went into her apartment and brought out a painted Russian spoon which she gave to me as a good luck gift. I thanked her profusely and said goodbye.

My husband and I went to my office to wait until 3 p.m. while my family went back to their hotel to freshen up. At about 2:30 p.m. I changed into my purple silk suit and put on my makeup. I chose that outfit because Laura wanted to see me in it. My officemate remarked at how dressed up I was. "I don't know how to give this talk if I'm not wearing a suit," I quipped.

I didn't feel nervous at all until I started giving the presentation. Then I got a little panicked. My mouth got dry and I regretted not having drunk more water before the presentation began. But I kept my concentration and tried not to look at my family members. Mostly I watched the professors on my committee to see their reactions. One professor, my favorite cantankerous committee member, interrupted me a few times, and my bonus mom told me afterwards that she didn't like how he did it. At one point, he said, "I just can't believe that what you said is true," at which point I calmly replied that I had a more detailed explanation in chapter 3 that explained how it was true. Bonus mom was bothered by his abruptness and lack of tact, but I was not fazed because I know him and that's just how he is. You have to either accept it and appreciate him despite his limited social skills, or be really offended. I choose the former over the latter.

At the end, the public was permitted to ask questions. My dad asked whether the optimization method could be applied to the problem of the spread of soybean rust. I told him that I thought it probably could, provided that the objective function did not have too many parameters. That was the only question I got from the audience. Then they were dismissed and the committee asked their questions. They kept me there for a full 45 minutes. The first part was spent explaining to the cantankerous professor about the details in chapter 3. He was finally convinced, and the discussion continued. Aside from some off-the-wall ideas from the professor in chemical engineering, there were some good suggestions. I need to make a few minor changes to the dissertation. In particular, I need to explain why I wouldn't want to use some of the other global optimization methods, and add a section about the success of using my approach to the application problem. Then they kicked me out to discuss me for a few minutes, and I went back to my office. After a few minutes of deliberation, they decided to pass me unconditionally, and sign all the papers right then. Unfortunately, I hadn't realized that I was supposed to bring a certain paper with me for them to sign: the "red-bordered" form, which once had a red border but doesn't anymore, yet is still referred to as such. So we frantically printed it out and got the form to them to sign.

After all that was done, I realized that I had been locked out of my office! Fortunately, I have an actual key to the office. But unfortunately, that key was located in my backpack at home. So Jeff and Laura headed for our house to get my backpack and the key to my office. In the meantime, Dad, bonus Mom, and I sat in the lab and waited. Eventually they came back with the key and I got into the office, grabbed my casual clothes, and went to the bathroom to change.

The rest of the weekend was spent in celebration. But that is the story for another entry. This one is already much too long!

1 comment:

rachel said...

Thanks for sending along the pictures of you in the suit! Dude, you didn't tell me you were HAWT!