Monday, February 12, 2018

old-time academic burn

Sometimes my work leads me in interesting directions. Working in East Coast Big City means that I occasionally deal with contamination that is centuries old. And because geology doesn't necessarily change that much in a few centuries, occasionally I end up digging into papers and manuscripts that are more than 100 years old.

One particular thesis had some pretty sharp opinions on previous work. I've redacted it because it's subject is too close to my current work, but you'll get the gist:

"[Previous investigators' work] I am unable to accept, on the palpable errors in their field investigations. I do not believe that [this correlation] is to be accepted. I dissent from the conclusions of these papers, because the structure of this region has been worked out along untenable lines. Professor X makes the assertion that the cleavage and bedding practically coincide, and my own observations disprove this statement. Professor Y, who has been able to recognize these two structures, has evidently not made any use of the information."

I shall endeavor to work "has evidently not made any use of this information" into my next set of review comments.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Why we care

I came across an old article that I'd received ages ago (before blogging was a thing) and I think it's still relevant today as a reminder of why environmental regulations are so critical.

The Philly Inquirer did a a great series on the aftermath of a fire at an old chemical warehouse, called "beyond the flames", and lo and behold, I was able to find it online without having to go through a paywall. Link below:

I've been lucky that by the time I got involved in environmental cleanups, the most blatant contamination had been addressed, and we had procedures to stay safe. But many first responders back in the day weren't so lucky.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

field clothing closet

I have recently moved to a new place, and now I finally have adequate closet space for all of my clothing (fieldwork, office, casual, fancy)! I also inherited closet organization systems that I have no interest in changing or upgrading.

So here's how I've organized it:

Full-size closet #1 (field gear):

1. top shelf: field sweaters, hats, and non-bib style coveralls
2. 2nd shelf: bandanas, lightweight pants
3. 3rd shelf: bras, socks, mid-weight pants (like regular carhartts)
4. hangers underneath 3rd shelf: all the shirts. So many shirts. long-sleeve tees acceptable as outerwear, long-sleeved underlayers, short-sleeve tees acceptable as outerwear, short-sleeve tees only acceptable as undershirts...
5. hangers with more space beneath: all outerwear (pants, tops) and jacket-like items (vests, fleeces)
6. floor: everything else that I don't really use and bib-style coveralls on top of/in field duffel bags

Hall closet

Non field coats, hats, gloves, miscellaneous sporting items (snowshoes, trekking poles, skates, etc) 

Little closet (regular clothing):

I took this one over so I could get ready for work without disturbing my sweetie. It has almost all of my standard office and hanging around stuff, including underwear, socks, etc, with a few exceptions that are in...

Full-size closet #2 (formal stuff and miscellany):

Jeans (because I ran out of room in the little bedroom closet), pajamas, all the shoes that aren't in the pile close to the front door, suits, skirts, dresses, and my sweetie's entire wardrobe.

I remember squashing most of this stuff into a single closet and under the bed when I was in grad school, and I am so glad I don't have to do that any more.

Monday, January 15, 2018


The comments on this Ask a Manager post, from someone who was uncomfortable using Uber/Lyft and preferred taxis, ended up going into four digits. Most of them were anti-taxi.

I've mentioned quite a few times that I am not exactly an early adopter of anything, so it probably won't surprise the reader to hear that I come down on the  side of using taxis. But hear me out.

For a while, I lived in the downtown core of East Coast Big City and also did quite a bit of long-distance travel to other cities.

To start my trip, I'd call the taxi company, have a 20 second conversation with dispatch: "It's Short Geologist. I need a taxi at (my address) at 6AM tomorrow. Going to the train/airport... yes, you can use this number as the contact number" and that would be it. The only problem was that the taxi was invariably 10 minutes early and the dude (it was always a dude) would be impatient. I said 6AM, and I meant 6AM, damn it! There were a million taxi companies I could call, but the first one I ever called was fine and so I never tried a different one.

I'd arrive at my destination city and there would be a long line of taxis at the cab stand for the airport/train station, and I'd walk up and just get in.

I stayed at a hotel close to where I was working, so I'd just walk (or take public transit) during the week - no need for a taxi or ride-sharing.

At the end of the week, I'd go back to the hotel, ask the front desk to call me a taxi, and head home. Go to the cab stand at the train station/airport and get home within 15 minutes (it helped that I was always getting back long after rush hour).

I get that flagging down a random taxi can be uncomfortable, but that's never anything I had to do for work travel. And in my years of living in the city, I ended up using a taxi that way only a handful of time (coming home from a bar across the city) because we usually either walked everywhere or drove to a friend's place where we had an "in" for visitor parking.

I don't have any particular animus against ride-sharing, but I never saw the point of it for myself.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

New Year, new start

I sort of lost the thread of this for a while. It was the usual hiatus: have a few (or more) long/rough weeks, and fall out of the blog posting habit. After those rough weeks, I kept busy doing work that was hard to anonymize and not particularly relevant to this blog, which I keep to certain focus areas (see labels!), so I didn't have immediate new post ideas.

But I'm still hanging in there - hopefully I'll be able to more consistently post in 2018!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

fieldwork and wedding planning

It seems to be wedding planning season for the field folks that I know, so I've heard quite a bit about the stresses of wedding planning while in the field. I planned my own long-distance wedding at a time when I was in the field essentially non-stop, and I have a few pieces of advice:

1. Pick the very few things that are important to you, and gloss over/ignore the rest.

We had one major priority for our wedding: make things easy for our guests, many of whom were some combination of poor, far away, disabled, and/or elderly. We also wanted to have an open bar and not worry about anyone needing to drive. So that meant that we were looking for a reasonably handicapped-accessible place where we could have a ceremony, reception, and cheap hotel rooms all in the same place. Everything else was secondary.

2. Have a not-short engagement, if you can, so that you don't feel utterly pressed for time.

3. It's ok to have a non-unique wedding. If you're working a ton of erratic hours, traveling, and have lousy internet, it's far easier to find a "wedding factory" that has a standard plan to follow, rather than trying to corral a bunch of contractors who don't usually do weddings.

4. It is the era of the internet. You can easily organize 95% of the party from afar. If there are certain vendors/items that you need to buy/look at in person, you can at least cut down the list of places that you need to go.

I ended up using three vacation days to make long weekends to take care of all of my long-distance pre-wedding planning:
   a. one to test drive the hotel rooms at the venues we were considering,
   b. one after venue selection to confirm the photographer and make sure we were on the same page (I had two that I was considering), meet the DJ, and check out dresses, and
   c. close to the wedding, to do a taste-testing for the dinner/cake, pick a color scheme for the decorations that were included in my package, and do a test hairstyle with a local salon.

5. Have fun, and remember that if you have some major crisis, it will make for a great story someday. We had various wedding snafus before the wedding, during the ceremony, during the reception, and after we got back from the honeymoon, but really, we were married and that was all that mattered.

Friday, July 21, 2017

field selfie

I still do not have a good professional photograph of me looking like a Serious Geologist In the Field. But I had some downtime in a scenic area, waiting for yet another part to be delivered, I wasn't actively burnt and/or rashy from poison ivy, and I thought, "hell, I'm just sitting here. I'll take my own damn photograph!".

Man, hot day + sunscreen + logging soil samples and brushing at stray bugs means I am really not going to get a professional looking photograph in the field. Ladies in the movies can look dewy and/or artfully grease-stained. I just look gross.