Off-topic: Graduation Day!

July 21, 2009

I hesitate to inflict these images on SV-POW! readers, but I have to post them somewhere if only so I can point my family to them; and who knows, maybe some of the rest of you will enjoy the amusing hat.

Last Friday (17th July), I drove down to Portsmouth, with my wife Fiona, to graduate — the consummation of my Ph.D programme.  I’d expected to be issued with a sober black robe and one of those hats with a flat square on top, but I was unprepared for just how silly the kit would turn out to be:

Me with Fiona, trying not a laugh at my nice red uniform

Me with Fiona, trying not to laugh at my nice red uniform

In fact, I looked less like a palaeontologist and more like a member of the Spanish Inquisition.  Which, I’m sure I need not point out, was the last thing I’d expected.

My supervisor Dave Martill was there for the ceremony, also dressed up as a silly person; and Darren came along in civvies to say hello before the show, and to meet up afterwards at the reception at the Department:

Me, Dave Martill and Darren, sharing a joke about astrapotheres or something.

Me, Dave Martill and Darren, sharing a joke about astrapotheres or something.

Also present and graduating was Portsmouth pterosaur maven Mark Witton, but I don’t have a picture of him in regalia, as he turned up too late to have his photo taken — wise man.

As I sat through the very, very long ceremony — if you’ve never listened through a list of 600 names being read out and watched 600 people walk up on stage and shake hands with the pro vice chancellor, you don’t know the meaning of the word “party” — I became bored enough to read the programme cover to cover, and so I discovered that photography during the ceremony is strictly forbidden.  Fiona, however, did not realise this, and so I am able to show you this actual photograph of me caught in the act of graduating:

Me at the moment of graduation.  Or perhaps Bigfoot.

Me at the moment of graduation. Or perhaps Bigfoot.

We doctoral graduands got special treatment: not only did we shake hands with the pro vice chancellor — as though this were not thrill enough — but we also had the titles of our dissertations read out.  As mine sounds rather vague (“Aspects of the history, anatomy, taxonomy and palaeobiology of sauropod dinosaurs”) I was left wishing that I’d stuck with my original title.

After the ceremony it was back to the department for nibbles and also to — finally! — pick up the printed-and-bound copies of my dissertation, which until then I’d not seen in the flesh.  Apart from the two mandatory copies (for the University and Department libraries), I had four printed — one each for me, Dave, Darren and Matt.  Those of you not fortunate enough to have received one of the printed copies can assuage your lust for my dissertation by buying it in mug form:

My dissertation, on a mug, for some reason.

My dissertation, on a mug, for some reason.

I’m not quite sure what made me think this would be a cool thing to do, but anyway I did it, and this is now my first-choice mug as I make my way through the numerous cups of tea that, as an Englishman, I am obliged to drink each day.  (And yes, you really can buy one of your very own.)

Irrelevant addendum

You may wish to know that, at the time of writing, the top five search terms that are bringing people to SV-POW! are: rabbit, flamingo, basement, svpow, and twinkie.

30 Responses to “Off-topic: Graduation Day!”

  1. Tor Bertin Says:

    If only the graduation kit came with a wand as well! Perhaps a duel to the death with Harry Potter would come at last. ;-)

    Jokes aside, congratulations man.

  2. Zach Miller Says:

    You look as though you might have just come from attending a ren-fro (Renaissance Fair). At the reception, did they hand out meat still on the bone?

    I kid, I kid. Congrats, brother, more for sitting through the ceremony than actually graduating. I attended my wife’s Master’s ceremony, and UAA was kind enough to pair undergraduates with graduate students, so we sat through an ungodly amount of name-reading.

    I have a funny story to tell. During my own senior year, I wrote a paper about dromaeosaurs for the Student Showcase (basically the university journal). I now look back on that paper with shame and regret, but at the time I was elated to make it in. Anyway, at THAT reception, when the names of the accepted papers were being read and hundreds of fingers were being crossed, the emcee looked at me before reading my paper’s title and apologized for, seconds later, butchering the title: “A new phylogeny of the Dromaeosauridae.” Despite that, I was thrilled to make it in. They even gave me more pages than anyone else for my illustrations.

  3. Nathan Myers Says:

    That look really suits you (except maybe the tie). Probably you should wear that all the time, at least on campus. Also, you should tell Fiona that she looked great, if you didn’t yet, or frequently enough, or today.

    I can tell you’re in England and not here, because there’s no way you could have worn all that in the 45°C (113°F) we had here that day.

    So, congratulations; you Exist now.

    See, the title really should have been “Long Necks, Short”… something. I dare you to use one on your next paper:

    Long Necks, Short Hairs: Evidence for Sauropod Pelvic Integumentary Structures

    Long Necks, Short Pants: Growth Rates in Juvenile Sauropods

    Long Necks, Short Breath: Tobacco’s Contribution to Sauropod Extinction

    Long Necks, Short Memories: A Survey of Sauropod Cranial Capacity

    Long Necks, Short Tons: Units Confusion in Published Sauropod Mass Estimates

    Long Necks, Short Circuits: Sauropod Weather Exposure Risks

    Long Necks, Short Stories: Life among the Sauropods

    Long Necks, Short Sleeves: Cumulative Effect of Sauropod Digestion on the Jurassic Climate

    There’s really no limit.

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Nathan, there are some good titles there that I might just use one day. And one (Long Necks, Short Tons: Units Confusion in Published Sauropod Mass Estimates) which is an issue that I touch on in an in-press paper.

  5. Vertebrat Says:

    There are sauropod mass estimates accurate enough to worry about which kind of ton they’re measured in?

  6. Mike Taylor Says:

    There are sauropod mass estimates accurate enough to worry about which kind of ton they’re measured in?

    Well, sort of. I may as well give the game away, so here it is. The lowest published estimate for Brachiosaurus brancai is the “14.9t” of Russell et al. (1980). This seems astonishing enough — as Paul (1988:10) picturesquely observed, this estimate “is far too low at 15 tons — so little flesh simply cannot be stretched over the animal’s great frame”. But the truth is worse: Russell et al. also cited “the generally accepted figure of 85 tons” (p. 170), which can only be a reference to Colbert (1962). Colbert stated a mass of 85.63 U.S. tons as well as the metric version, so we must assume that Russell et al. were using U.S. tons throughout. That means that their “14.9t” is a mere 13518 kg, which is more astonishing still: the weight of a pair of large African bush elephants.


    COLBERT, E.H. 1962. The weights of dinosaurs. American Museum Novitates 2076:1-16.

    PAUL, G.S. 1988. The brachiosaur giants of the Morrison and Tendaguru with a description of a new subgenus, Giraffatitan, and a comparison of the world’s largest dinosaurs. Hunteria 2:1-14.

    RUSSELL, D.A., BELAND, P. and MCINTOSH, J.S. 1980. Paleoecology of the dinosaurs of Tendaguru (Tanzania). Memoires de la Société Geologique de France 139:169-175.

  7. Heinrich Mallison Says:

    ah, there you are partying in splendidly ridiculous wardrobe, and there half our curatorial staff is lamenting and whining in fearful expectation of your brachio paper. Pah!


  8. Graham King Says:

    Several joyous guffaws reading/viewing that! Congratulations, of course.

    There are jokes about astrapotheres? Please, do share..

    Fiona’s photo makes me see how exciting graduation really is! What with the Stargate de-mat rings and the trekkie transporter-effect and all.. And I am glad to see that a representative selection of droids were included in the ceremony.. those are droids, right? Though I can’t quite make out what instruments the orchestra are playing. And upstanding at stage rear, a Knight Who Says “Ni” with accompanying shrubbery..


    The mug is a great idea. Should be obligatory. Does it come with requisite viewing equipment – bifocal microbinocular spectacles with auto-image-stabilization, or some such? I see you have diagrams in colour.. classy!

  9. Graham King Says:

    PS you’re not, strictly, off-topic, since surely there is among your dissertation a mug-shot of a Sauropod Vertebra or so?

  10. Mike Taylor Says:

    Graham: jokes about astrapotheres? Well, not really … I was thinking about the headline Darren chose for the post at which always makes me giggle when I think of it.

    Good spot on the Knight who says “ni” (although now, of course, he says “Ecky-ecky-ecky-ph’tang zupoing”) — I’d not noticed him there.

    Regarding the obligatoriness of the mug: is it not, quite, unique: I also made this one, based on Wedel et al. (2000b), which I bought as a present for Matt:

  11. Nathan Myers Says:

    There’s really no limit

    Actually there is. Including the couplets already noted elsewhere — “Long Necks, Short Shrift”, “Long necks, Short Rations”, “Long Necks, Short-sightedness”, and “Long Necks, Short Tempers” — all possible funny titles of this form have been identified. I defy anyone to come up with even one more.

  12. Mike from Ottawa Says:

    Long necks, short fuze.

  13. Mike from Ottawa Says:

    And ‘Long necks, short stumps’ when Mike describes the first sauropod dachshund mimic.

    I like those medievally costumes. Way more panache than systems people usually display. You’ve got to wear it to work one day. Bring a stick to wave the peons about.

    Congrats, Mike.

  14. Nathan Myers Says:

    “Long Necks, Short Attention Spans: Sauropods in the Media”

    “Long Necks, Short People: Challenges in Sauropod Museum Mount Design”

    “Long Necks, Short Program: A Weekend Sauropod Conference”

  15. chris y Says:


    If you’d spent months researching that shirt and tie to clash with the robe you couldn’t have done better. Awesome!

  16. dd Says:

    Well those cranial crests do appear highly pneumatic, compared to Darren’s dorsal hump in the photo, which looks full of ballast. Agree with chris y, the colors match some birds of paradise for boldness, but the pattern coordination is simply stellar. Congratulations!

  17. Allen Hazen Says:

    Sorry to be late. Official rituals in medieval institutions (universities haven’t changed as much as hospitals and courts have!) SHOULDN’T seem important, but…
    Congratulations, Dr. Taylor!

  18. Tor Bertin Says:

    Shameless blog promotion!

    Nearly as unexpected as the ever unexpected Spanish Inquisition.

  19. Nancy Beiman Says:

    Congratulations! I love the outfit.
    I am mentioning SAUROPOD PICTURE OF THE WEEK in my new book on animation.

  20. Tom Green Says:

    Congratulations Doctor Taylor!

    Nice try on trying to convince us peons that the garb is traditional graduation dress, but you don’t fool me, as I know what a superhero looks like!

    So out with it: what’s your secret paleontological power?

  21. Mike Taylor Says:

    Tom, you’ve obviously not been paying attention :-) See this page:

  22. jeff Says:

    It is interesting(more like infuriating)that my search term of “rabbit +phylogeny” brought me to your site. Just one more idiot creating a traffic jam on the information highway. Go rubber-longneck on your own time. At least your not trying to shove a product down someones throat but you really aren’t much better…. on second thought, hijacking a search for no good reason might even be worse….

  23. Mike Taylor Says:

    Jeff, it’s hardly our fault if the Internet loves our rabbit posts and phylogeny posts so much that Google ranks them highly. We could try to write more boring articles, I suppose … or are you suggesting that we should banned from mentioning rabbits? Even when they figure in our published papers?

  24. Matt Wedel Says:

    Just one more idiot creating a traffic jam on the information highway.

    Just one more idiot who doesn’t understand how the PageRank algorithm works. Your Google-fu is weak, old man! This is humorous!

  25. […] touched on this several times in various posts and comment threads, but it’s worth taking a moment to think in detail about the various published mass […]

  26. […] Sauroposeidon mug, the old black-and-white Archbishop mug, and the single-view Xenoposeidon mug. The dissertation mug still survives, but has faded into total illegibility, so I don’t count it any […]

  27. Samantha Thompson Says:

    That mug is the best thing ever!

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