Grad School Immortals #163 - Fred from Ga Tech
Date: Wed, 23 Aug 95 12:44:55 -0700
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: Grad School Immortals #163 - Fred from Ga Tech
Forwarded-by: email@example.com (Keith Bostic)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Gene Spafford)
[This needs some explanation. Back in 1987, I had finally finished my PhD
and was getting ready to leave GaTech for Purdue. One of the people working
on the Clouds project was a really talented, but easily distracted, Masters
student. Let's call him "Fred."
Now Fred had done some really nice work writing an Ethernet driver for the
Clouds I kernel. He basically put it together with the benefit of little
assistance, almost no documented API to the Clouds code, and rotten
documentation from the vendor (DEC). And it worked. All he had to do was
write it up, and he could get his M.S. degree and graduate. There was
always some distraction, however. May of 1987 was about 3 years from when
he finished the coding phase....
"Fred" sent around a message about erasing cat brains with a strong enough
magnetic field. It would fit in Yucks, if I still had it. I responded with
the message below, which was saved and passed on by many of the people on
the list. I'm putting it in here for all those people with too much free
time on their hands. And for my own grad students, who all waste time
reading stuff like this.:-)
"Fred" finished his M.S. a year or two later. On the non-thesis option.
I think they forced him to graduate, or they were going to enroll him in
the PhD program.... --spaf]
Of course, the really burning question in the minds of many of us is not
whether Joseph Neumann's energy machine can be used to power an electric
chair for cats, but whether Fred will ever finish his thesis in our (or his)
lifetimes. So far, his thesis has been cited in 3 other dissertations and
some published papers, been requested as a tech report, and otherwise
anticipated by Clouds watchers. It has been "in progress" for nearly two
years now, as Fred has ported and rewritten TeX, designed his own fonts and
macro packages, developed tools for imbedding tables and diagrams into the
TeX dvi stream, and so on. Current rumor has it that he is hand-making all
the bond paper to print it on, and developing a new language specifically
for this magnum opus (despite the fact that Charls Pearson already did
something similar for his PhD a few years back). It has also been rumored
that he is involved in the genetic development of a new species of cow, and
will wait until the herd matures so he can have a proper supply of leather
to bind the finished copies. Those of us who know Fred think that is
unlikely; he is probably designing some new inorganic material instead, but
only after he finishes development of his own laser printer.
Dave Pitts and I, world famous procrastinators, took a combined total of
1.5 years to write up our dissertations once we started. Frankly, we're in
awe of Fred's ability to find new projects without finishing the current
one (his thesis). And this is only his MS! It boggles the mind to think
about what he might do while trying to avoid writing a PhD dissertation --
perhaps we can expect experiments in faster-than-light travel? Not only
would it be off the topic, but the time dilation effects involved would help
stretch out the period between finishing the work and presenting his thesis!
I'm thinking of starting a betting pool. To join, send in $10 and a date
(the decade is close enough) when you think Fred will finish (defend and
submit to the graduate office) his MS thesis. I'll invest all the money in
30 year Treasury bonds, and whoever gets closest wins the (probably matured)
bonds, interest included.
Send your bets to:
Are you through yet, Fred?
c/o Clouds Project
School of ICS
Deadline is, oh, by 1 Jan. 1988. He probably won't be anywhere near done
by then either, but at least we'll start getting interest on the money.
© 1995 Peter Langston