5th Jun, 2008

Incognito ergo sum

The title of this piece is Latin for “I am in hiding in order to think”. OK, that’s not actually true as far as Latin goes, but it’s true about me. I am presently conducting an experiment in discipline, work, and lifestyle. That may sound grandiose, but you should see where I’m doing it.

A bit of background may help: As you may know, I have been a graduate student since the early 1920s. I am now making a serious push to get my thesis written and get my PhD. Now that I’m living in Sweden, I realize it would be possible for me to get a permanent (yes, permanent) teaching job without having a PhD, but I would be forever prevented from advancing in academia. Not to mention the psychological burden of an unfinished degree. So I’m totally committed to finishing my thesis within the next year, hopefully sooner. That brings up the question of how to make that happen, and that’s where my current experiment comes in.

In brief, I decided to hide out in an isolated spot and work intensively for a couple of weeks, to see how much momentum I could get going. But where to do it? I make no secret of the fact that I have been in love with Spain for the past two decades. I lived there some years ago, and I go back whenever I can. There are many places I am attached to in Spain, but one of my favorites is Albarracín, a small medieval mountain town in the middle of nowhere. And as luck would have it, some good friends of mine have an apartment in that very town. So when Miguel actually suggested that I go and stay there and work on my thesis, well, I decided that it was an offer I couldn’t pass up.

So, I’m spending two weeks here in the land of jamón serrano, holed up in a flat in what I consider to be the most beautiful town in Spain. As you will understand, I have very little time to write for my blog, but I can spend at least a little time before bed regaling you with stories and musings. I’m going to try to make these pieces a bit shorter than usual in order to make that easier, so we’ll see how it goes. Also, I’m about to put up photos on my gallery page, so feel free take a look. More soon…


This is regarding the nice rainbow pictures in the gallery (as soon as I read “you should see where I’m doing it,” I thought, I know he’s a linguist, but I would enjoy actually seeing some pictures, so I appreciate the gallery very much).

Rainbows appear “at an angle of 40°–42° to the line between the observer’s head and its shadow.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow On May 28th, the day you saw that rainbow, the sun got as high as 70° above the horizon in Albarracín, so at noon, a rainbow could only have been seen by looking down from a high place. I’m guessing you took those photos around 8:30am or 3:30pm, when the sun would have been about 40° off the horizon (like noon in Härnösand) and the top of the rainbow would appear close to the horizon.

Man, Ian, you’re good to have around! Thank you for your investigative legwork. As it happens, consulting the ridiculously plentiful information my camera records in every photograph, the rainbow pictures were taken here at 5:45 p.m. (UTC+2). I haven’t had enough coffee to be able to figure out how high the sun was at that point—plus, we were in a train at an unknown location about half an hour north of Teruel. But yes, I was looking east when I saw the rainbow, and we were at about the same elevation as the rainbow itself, or slightly higher. I don’t know if that fits with the facts of rainbowology or not, but presumably so.

Ian, next can you explain the unicorn I saw the other day?

(By the way, don’t you find it funny that Universal Coordinated Time is called UTC? Not very good coordination there, is it?)

So that’s what UTC stands for! I never knew. Yes, Wikipedia says, “Coordinated Universal Time (UTC,–Fr. Temps Universel Coordonné)” so of all the possible permutations we’ve seen, which now include CUT, TUC, and UCT, how they ended up with UTC seems to indeed be a fine question.

Without taking the time to actually check that the math is the correct direction, I’m guessing that 5:45 in UTC+2 is only 15 minutes off of my 3:30 p.m. prediction (which was UTC+0 because I forgot to include either daylight savings time or the actual time zone that spain is in at the moment).

Ian, nice job! Looks like you have successfully sucked all the mystery out of my rainbow. ;-)

The French have all the best acronyms, don’t they? Like Fnac, for example.

More for that as well can see it all here now. Given options to know about.

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