Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gardening and the Art of Dissertation Writing

My holiday dissertation goal is to cut the thing to approximately the maximum length my advisor deems desirable. Last I checked there were still about 240 pages to go. While that's a lot, I'm confident that there are lots more notes and disconnected quotes that can be trimmed away, and for that matter whole sections that can be used as conference papers and such.
Still, this week, Rob Brezsny hints that cutting and polishing the dissertation too far might be counterproductive:
LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Some weeds are good for flowers and vegetables, protecting them from predatory insects. So say horticulturalists Stan Finch and Rosemary Collier, writing in *Biologist* magazine. When the bugs come looking for their special treats -- the plants we love -- they often get waylaid by the weeds, landing on them first and getting fooled into thinking there's nothing more valuable nearby. So for example, when cabbages are planted in the midst of clover, flies lay eggs on only seven percent of them, compared to a 36-percent infestation rate on cabbages that are grown in bare soil with no clover nearby. I recommend that you use this as a key metaphor in 2008, Leo. Make sure there are always a few chickweed or henbit weeds surrounding your ripening tomatoes.

I think I will not be polishing the dissertation to such a slender and glossy form that it will lack interesting and amusing footnotes or the occasional mild tangent. After all, I have to leave something for my committee to chew on!



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