Thursday, January 28, 2010

on blogging

My eagle-eyed readers may have noticed a (small) change in the blog yesterday.

My miscellany tag was getting more and more prominent, and I’ve been debating adding a tag for all my musings about blogging: the writing process, my concerns about being positively identified, my word clouds...

So I finally went through and added a new tag, getting “miscellany” down to only the fourth most commonly-used tag. My tag list is getting long…if I don’t add any more posts that I can label “world studies” in the next couple of months, I’ll retire that tag.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

more bad news

I just posted recently about the loss of sciencewomen, and now Brazen Hussy has announced that her blog will be ending in the near future. How depressing.

One of the things I liked about Brazen Hussy's blog was her photos of angry birds (check out her "birds" tag). I've thought in the past, "gee, those photos may be somewhat identifying...". In the post I linked to, she mentions being found out by both readers and real-life acquaintances.

I've been in some fairly interesting/amusing places for fieldwork. And I've gone as far as taking some photos (with no obvious identifying details, like road signs) of these places with the intent of posting them, but I'm afraid that they'll still be somewhat identifiable. Maybe I'll post them years from now, when everybody I've ever worked with has forgotten them...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

it just walked off...

In environmental consulting, sometimes you work in dicey areas. If you do so, you’re usually hyper-aware of your equipment and keep a close eye on it. I never had anything stolen in that situation.

But if you’re working in the middle of nowhere, or you run out for a couple of minutes…that’s when you’re likely to lose something.

I’ve had various items stolen from job sites, with costs ranging from less than $10 (the odd screwdriver) to thousands of dollars (sampling/analytical equipment ain’t cheap). The worst experience, however, was when the drillers came back from lunch on a cold winter Monday to find that their duffels and suitcases stuffed with jackets, pants, spare boots, and all sorts of personal items had been taken. They were not happy.

Monday, January 25, 2010

appointment annoyances

I’m writing this post while I wait for my car to get fixed. I always go to this particular location because it’s convenient and they treat me well. But it’s not in a very, um, nice area.

The techs are chattering about a particular customer who just called. She has an appointment later today, and she just wanted some standard maintenance. But her car got “all shot up” and now it’s going to need a lot more work. Can they still fit her in the original appointment slot?

The funny thing is, the techs don’t sound that surprised. Is this such a common occurrence? Maybe I need to find another, less exciting place to get my car looked at. But my choices are severely limited when I’m traveling all the time and working 13-hour days (when I’m actually in the same region as my car). I need to find places that are open on weekends.

Don’t ask me how long I’ve gone without a dentist appointment…

Friday, January 22, 2010


Apparently the “geologists heart beer” stereotype has gotten around to wired. Link here. Note that this is an old video, but I didn't notice it on other geology blogs the last couple of months.

Why is it that geologists are famed for their love of beer?

I do have geologist friends who sort of enjoy beer but aren't beer snobs, but very few geology friends who don't like it at all. But get a bunch of geologists in a room, and they tend to go a little beer-crazy. Especially if they have access to a local microbrewery.

I admit to being a pretty big beer snob. Then again, I'm also a big fan of good tequila, fancy dark chocolate, and local cheeses. So maybe I just have expensive taste!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Eclectic coursework

FSP has a post up today on eclectic courses.

I touched on this subject back when I was in grad school. In my old post, I mentioned a common criticism of a BA with some random-looking courses: the coursework isn’t rigorous enough. The other big criticism, which was raised in the comments to FSP’s post, is that liberal arts students, with their greater freedom of courses available, take all sorts of oddball subjects and don’t learn the fundaments of whatever.

Presumably, even if a student appears to be majoring in a bunch of random stuff, their primary coursework is still organized into a concentration, under the supervision of a department that approved the graduation requirements. And if they want to apply to graduate school (therefore putting aside the straw student who takes the easiest courses available, whether they’re “creative basket-weaving” or “chemistry through true-false exams”), someone should have made it clear that they’d need more than the bare minimum of primary and supporting courses.

So what’s left after you take your recommended number of primary and secondary courses for your major and (possibly) minor? Probably not a large number of classes. If a student takes a few courses that appear to be random and/or easy, but they’ve learned something fundamental to their broader education (how to critically examine a work of art, construct a logical argument, etc), then more power to them.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Let me tell you...

I recently met an undergraduate science major who is debating going into environmental consulting. Should he go directly to grad school? Work for a few years first? And what is this environmental consulting gig really like, anyway?

I was so tempted to tell him, “Check out the blogosphere! There’s this chick who has a blog called “accidental remediation” and it’s perfect for the sorts of questions you’re asking!”

Unfortunately, the blog might be a little too applicable to his situation. I had visions of him reading it and saying, “heyy…wait a minute. Do I know this person?”

Have you run into this, my pseudonymous readers/bloggers? Would you bring up your own blog if it’s super relevant? I didn’t, but maybe I’m overly paranoid.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

structural integrity

For a fantastic geological explanation of the Haiti earthquake, see this.

It's so depressing to see horrific death tolls year after year from earthquakes. I realize that Haiti is a desperately poor country and has no construction standards. Oh, and that it's deforested and now we have to watch out for landslides.

We have a lot of top-down foreign aid. Over the past decade, low-tech engineering organizations (the big one, of course, is engineers without borders) have started to fill in the gaps by helping with basic sanitation and water projects. But we need to figure out a way to build super low-cost, sturdy housing on a large scale, especially in disaster-prone regions.

Picture 37 from the bigger picture blog here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

blogroll notes

This is over a month late, but I am so sad to hear that sciencewomen is no more. This means that I now have 2 dead blogs on my blogroll (the other, of course, is this one).

I’m not removing either, because the archived posts for both are terrific. I will, however, add a new blog to each category on my blogroll.

For the geology blogroll: Magma Cum Laude. I’m not a big volcano person (cue the chorus of “how can you be a geologist and not love volcanoes!”) but I enjoy Tuff Cookie’s posts, which are invariably both scientifically interesting and well-written.

For the science/academia blogroll: Isis the Scientist. My very favorite photoshopper. However, sometimes the arguments get tiresome. I’m sort of glad I’m not popular enough to have my own trolls.

For the miscellany blogroll: The big picture is a photography blog that captures some of the best pictures being published. Right now they’re showing some terrific pictures of the Dakar rally. Question: if a race is on another continent from its namesake, is it time for a name change?I think I got this one from Lockwood a while ago.

Friday, January 8, 2010

continuity = good

If you're managing a somewhat long-term project, it's best to at least attempt to keep some continuity between field people. Otherwise, you end up with these phone calls when you're out in the field:

Short Geologist (SG): "Hello?"
male voice: "Ok, I'm on Flibbergidget Street."
(long pause while SG tries to figure out why Flibbergidget Street sounds familiar)
SG: "Are you...making a delivery?"
male voice (exasperated): "Yeah, like I said, I'm waiting on Flibbergidget Street. They told me to go this way, but I've got a [very large piece of equipment] and the gate is locked and I can't turn around."
SG:...(light dawns) "Oh! You're delivering the [very large piece of equipment] to Site X! I'm actually 200 miles away, on an unrelated site, but I think I know who your contact person should be. I'll call him and let him know you're waiting, but here's his number for future reference."

...three days pass...the phone rings again, right in the middle of some new field crisis...

SG: "Hello?"
different voice: "Hi, I'm on Flibbergidget Street with [another piece of equipment]. I'm stuck outside the gate."
SG: "For the last time (something crashes in the background), I am no longer the contact for Site X. Call this number."
different voice: "Well, I tried that number, but the guy said he's not working at that site and doesn't have time for this."
SG: "Ok, what you need to do is..."

Two months later, guess who was back at Site X? No wonder the contractors got fed up.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

this year's resolutions

My last post was an update on last year's resolutions. So what about this year?


1. I've been cagey about it, but what I'm doing right now isn't exactly what I intended when I graduated. My big goal this year is to find something that uses my fancy degree and that doesn't require me to jet across the country on two days' notice.

2. Add a publication to my résumé. This is cheating because an article I co-authored got accepted (yay!) and should appear in a journal within the next several months.


1. Floss daily. This should be easier than the exercising thing.

Let's see how this one works out.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

back for the new year

Happy new year! I've been out because of holiday duties, traveling in areas with minimal internet, and illness.

Last year, I mentioned some resolutions. So how'd I do?

1. I did not get back to working out 2x/week. I did, however, lose 15 pounds in three weeks because of a particularly stressful field event. I don't recommend this.

2. I kept blogging. Sort of. Um, I'm still here, right? We'll ignore my 3 week silence.

3. I did not go somewhere exotic. I did have a lovely week on a familiar beach this year.

4. I did keep up with my correspondence, at least a little better - I still don't communicate enough (the odd blast of TMI on facebook does not count), but I got back in touch with a very old friend who I hadn't spoken to in years, and I re-connected with a group of loved ones I'd been neglecting far too long.

5. I stopped wasting quite as much time on stupid internet stuff, mainly because I'd gotten sort of bored with my old favorites.

So, I didn't keep 1 or 3, but I'll give myself partial credit for the other 3. So...25%?

Tomorrow I'll get to this year's resolutions.