Over the years I’ve developed a habit — one of my few good ones — of carrying around a small journal that fits within a leather cover. There are a few variations, like small notebooks that fit in my pocket or a hardbacked lab notebook, but my standard has been this 8×5 inch flexible collection of unlined pages that allow me to take notes, scribble, or just jot ideas. Many people come to expect the notebook and even wonder occasionally what is going into the book. Most of the time I openly show them the etchings and admit that at least ninety percent of it is useless*, but the simple act of writing is useful. It keeps me engaged, and there’s a scroll of possibilities that I might want to go back to remember.
Today I went to an instructional session that wasn’t entirely useless. I was introduced to a software package in such a way that I now have an open door to running t-tests and ANOVAs on a whim, so it wasn’t a waste of two hours. Yet, I didn’t come away with a new model for inspirational instruction. Our institution brought out an individual who apparently lives in a dark closet in a basement with the acronym “IR” labeling the door. I’d never seen him before, and like everyone else I’d seen in this office (which is only one other person, and he, too, only is seen occasionally) he had a pasty complexion with a hint of mildew. Institutional researchers don’t get out much, so I can’t fault him for not having refined timing and instructional flair. I found myself starting to make notes, not just of the intricacies of the statistical software package, but of little gems he’d throw out. These included, “If you don’t find one, find another;” and, “Click on ‘help’ to get a helpful tip.” But the real point of my little notebook was realized when we came to an obscure software button that would allow one to run the “Cox Regression.”
The 8th grader in me loves stuff like this. It’s the same person that snorts when someone mentions the “Woodcock-Johnson”, a reading diagnostic test. A Cox Regression is so much better, because there’s so many great possibilities to work seamlessly into a statistical analysis conversation. (I’ll leave it to the reader to imagine the scenarios in his own mind.) For me, I suddenly flashed to the real, covert reason for my little notebook. I flipped to the last page and wrote this new phrase down in my list of “Good band names.”
It turns out that physics seminars and educational speak are great sources of good band names. So, if you’re ever wondering what I’m really doing with the notebook, I’m really just compiling obscure but interesting (to me) phrases that I think could look great on an album cover. In addition to Cox Regression, these include:
- Fetal Pigs (brought up in a teaching methods class, it sounded like the ultimate name for a rebellious foursome)
- Laminar Flow (smooth jazz?)
- Degree Qualification Profile
- Astronomer in a Cage (like Rage Against the Machine, but more angry)
- Missing Fundamentals (“fundamentals” has at least three meanings, including the musical notion)
- Sheer Lexical Density
- Carbonaceous Objects
- Minkowski Metrics (I can’t even really remember what this means, but I like saying it)
- Synergistic Activities (I do remember what this means, and I hate saying it; but it would still make a good band name, even though I think it would be a pretty shitty band.)
- Electric Quadrupole Moment (I’m really fond of this one, because “moment” sounds so urgent)
- ELO (an actual acronym in higher education that I jotted down because I liked the sound of it, and moments later recognized that it was already taken as a band name, which only encouraged this pursuit even more)
Other used notebooks sit on a shelf, but in most of them are lists like this one. I offer this sample as a public service. When you head out on tour as bass player for Astronomer in a Cage (touring with opener, Cox Regression), please let me know when you’re in town, and see if you can get me a backstage pass. I’d like to meet the members of the band I helped to create.
*Except that time when I was meeting with someone upstairs and he exclaimed, “Christ, don’t write this down!” And so, even though I wasn’t actually writing down what he was saying or inferring at first, I made a point to write down at least his reaction, because that was more interesting.