Saturday, December 20, 2008

End of semester Saturday morning

My grades are in.

The revise and resubmit with a firm deadline is in.

I need to go into the office today to catch up on some minor things (email new grad students, email colleagues regarding a grant proposal and next summer's fieldwork, send off some figures to the coauthor for another revise and resubmit and write a recommendation for a student), but aside from that I'm done for now.

I've caught up on sleep, been out to celebrate with the husband who has returned from far, far away and am getting ready for some last-minute Christmas shopping before leaving to spend the holidays with the family.

I can't remember the last time I've felt this caught up on things, but it's unbelievably good.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Geologists' 100 things meme

It's a little lame already to be doing a meme again, I know, but I'm in the middle of revising a manuscript with a deadline tomorrow, so this is all I've got for now.

As seen at All my faults are stress related

Obviously I have a long way to go before I'm a fully educated geologist.

1. See an erupting volcano
2. See a glacier (every day, except right now when it's too dark to actually see it)
3. See an active geyser such as those in Yellowstone, New Zealand or Iceland (Iceland)
4. Visit the Cretaceous/Tertiary (KT) Boundary. Possible locations include Gubbio, Italy, Stevns Klint, Denmark, the Red Deer River Valley near Drumheller, Alberta. (Denmark)
5. Observe (from a safe distance) a river whose discharge is above bankful stage
6. Explore a limestone cave. Try Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Lehman Caves in Great Basin National Park, or the caves of Kentucky or TAG (Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia
7. Tour an open pit mine, such as those in Butte, Montana, Bingham Canyon, Utah, Summitville, Colorado, Globe or Morenci, Arizona, or Chuquicamata, Chile.
8. Explore a subsurface mine.
9. See an ophiolite, such as the ophiolite complex in Oman or the Troodos complex on the Island Cyprus (if on a budget, try the Coast Ranges or Klamath Mountains of California).
10. An anorthosite complex, such as those in Labrador, the Adirondacks, and Niger (there's some anorthosite in southern California too).
11. A slot canyon. Many of these amazing canyons are less than 3 feet wide and over 100 feet deep. They reside on the Colorado Plateau. Among the best are Antelope Canyon, Brimstone Canyon, Spooky Gulch and the Round Valley Draw.
12. Varves, whether you see the type section in Sweden or examples elsewhere (ice-dammed lake deposits in Russia)
13. An exfoliation dome, such as those in the Sierra Nevada
14. A layered igneous intrusion, such as the Stillwater complex in Montana or the Skaergaard Complex in Eastern Greenland.
15. Coastlines along the leading and trailing edge of a tectonic plate (check out The Dynamic Earth - The Story of Plate Tectonics - an excellent website).
16. A gingko tree, which is the lone survivor of an ancient group of softwoods that covered much of the Northern Hemisphere in the Mesozoic.
17. Living and fossilized stromatolites (Glacier National Park is a great place to see fossil stromatolites, while Shark Bay in Australia is the place to see living ones)
18. A field of glacial erratics
19. A caldera
20. A sand dune more than 200 feet high
21. A fjord
22. A recently formed fault scarp
23. A megabreccia
24. An actively accreting river delta
25. A natural bridge
26. A large sinkhole (only small ones)
27. A glacial outwash plain
28. A sea stack (what is this?)
29. A house-sized glacial erratic
30. An underground lake or river
31. The continental divide
32. Fluorescent and phosphorescent minerals (only indoors)
33. Petrified trees
34. Lava tubes
35. The Grand Canyon. All the way down. And back.
36. Meteor Crater, Arizona, also known as the Barringer Crater, to see an impact crater on a scale that is comprehensible
37. The Great Barrier Reef, northeastern Australia, to see the largest coral reef in the world.
38. The Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, to see the highest tides in the world (up to 16m) (not Bay of Fundy, but some other impressive high tides in Bay of Mont St Michel,France and the yellow sea coast, China)
39. The Waterpocket Fold, Utah, to see well exposed folds on a massive scale.
40. The Banded Iron Formation, Michigan, to better appreciate the air you breathe.
41. The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
42. Lake Baikal, Siberia, to see the deepest lake in the world (1,620 m) with 20 percent of the Earth's fresh water.
43. Ayers Rock (known now by the Aboriginal name of Uluru), Australia. This inselberg of nearly vertical Precambrian strata is about 2.5 kilometers long and more than 350 meters high
44. Devil's Tower, northeastern Wyoming, to see a classic example of columnar jointing
45. The Alps.
46. Telescope Peak, in Death Valley National Park. From this spectacular summit you can look down onto the floor of Death Valley - 11,330 feet below.
47. The Li River, China, to see the fantastic tower karst that appears in much Chinese art
48. The Dalmation Coast of Croatia, to see the original Karst.
49. The Gorge of Bhagirathi, one of the sacred headwaters of the Ganges, in the Indian Himalayas, where the river flows from an ice tunnel beneath the Gangatori Glacier into a deep gorge.
50. The Goosenecks of the San Juan River, Utah, an impressive series of entrenched meanders.
51. Shiprock, New Mexico, to see a large volcanic neck
52. Land's End, Cornwall, Great Britain, for fractured granites that have feldspar crystals bigger than your fist.
53. Tierra del Fuego, Chile and Argentina, to see the Straights of Magellan and the southernmost tip of South America.
54. Mount St. Helens, Washington, to see the results of recent explosive volcanism.
55. The Giant's Causeway and the Antrim Plateau, Northern Ireland, to see polygonally fractured basaltic flows.
56. The Great Rift Valley in Africa.
57. The Matterhorn, along the Swiss/Italian border, to see the classic "horn".
58. The Carolina Bays, along the Carolinian and Georgian coastal plain
59. The Mima Mounds near Olympia, Washington
60. Siccar Point, Berwickshire, Scotland, where James Hutton (the "father" of modern geology) observed the classic unconformity
61. The moving rocks of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley
62. Yosemite Valley
63. Landscape Arch (or Delicate Arch) in Utah
64. The Burgess Shale in British Columbia
65. The Channeled Scablands of central Washington
66. Bryce Canyon
67. Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone
68. Monument Valley
69. The San Andreas fault
70. The dinosaur footprints in La Rioja, Spain
71. The volcanic landscapes of the Canary Islands
72. The Pyrennees Mountains
73. The Lime Caves at Karamea on the West Coast of New Zealand
74. Denali (an orogeny in progress)
75. A catastrophic mass wasting event
76. The giant crossbeds visible at Zion National Park
77. The black sand beaches in Hawaii (or the green sand-olivine beaches)
78. Barton Springs in Texas
79. Hells Canyon in Idaho
80. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado
81. The Tunguska Impact site in Siberia
82. Feel an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 5.0.
83. Find dinosaur footprints in situ
84. Find a trilobite (or a dinosaur bone or any other fossil)
85. Find gold, however small the flake
86. Find a meteorite fragment
87. Experience a volcanic ashfall
88. Experience a sandstorm
89. See a tsunami
90. Witness a total solar eclipse
91. Witness a tornado firsthand. (Important rules of this game).
92. Witness a meteor storm, a term used to describe a particularly intense (1000+ per minute) meteor shower
93. View Saturn and its moons through a respectable telescope.
94. See the Aurora borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights.
95. View a great naked-eye comet, an opportunity which occurs only a few times per century
96. See a lunar eclipse
97. View a distant galaxy through a large telescope
98. Experience a hurricane
99. See noctilucent clouds
100. See the green flash

Friday, December 12, 2008

With all that time spent in the field it'd better be good

The new Accretionary wedge on Favorite Places for fieldwork is up at Geology News. As usual I was behind on everything, so writing a post of my own slipped to the bottom of the todo list (and that's far down). Anyway the call for submissions did get me thinking about the field, which is my home for some months each year, and to try to work out whether I had a favorite place.

I have a bit of a crush on all my field sites. They are all in the northern part of the northern hemisphere in a a type of landscape I've come to love. They are all in areas where I would probably never have come as a tourist and they all involve my favorite activity of all times - travel. But they are also different. Not only as in actual geographical differences, but also different to me. The first place was like the first love that completely changes one's perspective on the world, but didn't last and now is just a faint memory. The second is the full blown longterm relationship, that gives me a great deal of happiness and inspiration, but which also sometimes sucks beyond belief because I know all it's downsides. The third one is the fling, that now seems to be developing into something more serious.

My first field site was my home for two summers more than ten years ago, when I did fieldwork for my MSc thesis. I went with a fellow grad student whom I didn't know particularly well before we left, but who became one of my best friends. We were both new to geology and to the Arctic and to field work. We didn't understand what was up and down in our outcrops. We didn't know how to do good descriptions of the sediments or what was an appropriate size of a sample and got frustrated with the quality of the data we brought with us home after the first year. The data were really that bad (at least mine were) and we did go back for a second summer to remedy this, but while I was learning how to collect data and what things to look for, I also got sucked into the geology. I hadn't been a particularly enthusiastic student prior to this, but little by little I got genuinely excited about what I was doing. I began to see patterns and systems , to see where my observations fit in with the literature and where they didn't. I went from picking the topic mainly because it gave me the possibility to go to the Arctic, to thinking that fluvial sediments were one of the coolest things ever (I still think so). It also gave me a longlasting crush on Arctic landscapes. I haven't been back to this particular place in ten years, but somehow the Arctic still looks like this* to me.
My second field site is here, and as some readers might know, I go there every summer. It has been the backbone of my professional existence for years, and will, for all I know, continue to be so for many years to come. It's where I get my best ideas. It's where I spend time with my "field family" and where I have local friends and colleagues. It's where know how things work (to whatever degree that is possible), where I know beautiful, peaceful and fun places and places I'd rather never go to again, where I have a history with people and places and where I feel at home.

Lately I've added another field site to the collection. I have spent some time in this area before, including a short field season last year, but next year will be the first time I'll have a real longterm field program here. As with all new things this is one part exciting and one part unfamiliar and a little bit frightening. I don't have the comfort of long term experience or of connection to the people who also work here. It's new and different and a little mechanical, because it is about reusing routines once learned elsewhere and about getting students involved rather than engaging wholeheartedly in the work myself. I do know the area is spectacular though, and that this is something I will be returning to.

*(no photos from this site because I did my Master's back in the day when digital photography was nothing but wishful thinking, and I'm too lazy too scan any of the real photos).

Wordle your dissertation

Couldn't resist this one. Alice explains how to do it.

I dumped my entire dissertation into the wordle webpage and was more than surprised to see how quickly the whole thing was turned into this little summary.

Click for a bigger image

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some random thoughts

If a journal has some very special rules for how they want reviewers to structure the review wouldn't it be a good idea to put that information somewhere on the webpage where the review is being uploaded, and not only in an email that was sent weeks ago? Needless to say that I just messed up and put everything in the wrong boxes according to the system outlined in the email.

A major administrative thing is going on at work and although I don't have any real role in this, it is difficult to shake the feeling of somehow being responsible for some action after a year and a half of administrative duties in former workplace. On the other hand it's been nice to see that there are people here who will and do speak up for my interests, even if it feels weird to be in a position where I am not in a role to speak up for other people's interests.

Most of my department has left for holidays or for that big conference on the other side of the pond where the geobloggers are going to meet up. It would have been awesome to meet the geobloggers and to attend this session, but I'm actually happy, I'm not going anywhere. Quiet hallways, no students and the dark time is just what I needed to up the writing productivity. I will go conferencing in Scandinavian town where it always rains in January, so I'll get my fix. Speaking of which, I also need to come up with some ideas for a maybe slightly too ambitious talk, I've been stupid enough to submit an abstract for at said conference.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How do you do your science?

The way I tend to think my kind of earth science should be done

1) Sit down, read literature, think of interesting problems and come up with a suggestion for a study

2) Go in the field to collect data

3) Type up field notes, organise waypoints, photos, sketches and samples

4) Spend many hours in the office bent over said data thinking up explanations for variations, comparing data from different sites and looking up references in the literature.

5) Carefully draw clean versions of figures to go into papers and presentations and write up the findings.

What the process (and division of time between tasks) really looks like these days

1) Meet with some random friends and colleagues and throw some ideas around at a meeting or a party or both, chat to another colleague over email, do some sketching on the back of a piece of paper, send some emails back and forth to people who may or may not be collaborators some day and bingo at some point a project idea has emerged.

Secure funding

Plan logistics, buy tickets, get permissions, buy and get together equipment, organise maps, food, safety gear, people, travel plans. Pack. Travel.

2) Advise students and other newcomers, buy food, gas, equipment, stuff, whatever. Do some field work and collect some data. Organise logistics and plans for the following days. Talk to people, make arrangements for next years field season. Discuss potential developments of future projects.

3) Type up field notes and organise data in small one hour increments throughout the year or in a frantic last minute sprint come May. Meanwhile tell students about the importance of keeping good field records.

4) Throw some ideas around at conferences or workshops with colleagues, prepare some preliminary figures when getting stuff together for talks or lectures, prepare some preliminary figures for co-authored talks given by colleagues, throw some more ideas around when talking to people about other things or while discussing writing projects. Travel to meet with collaborators and maybe collaborators and discuss potential presentations, collaborations, publications and some research ideas. Occasionally jot down ideas or outlines for manuscripts or put aside articles that will be relevant.

5) Start working on a paper based on various preliminary figures and descriptions used in presentations and more or less well organised field data. Do some literature searches and read up on the literature that seems most important. Draw final figures and write up the work. Meanwhile think about the implications of the study and how this can be developed into new projects.

I sometimes think about what happened to reading and actual analysis of data, but hope that discussions and presentations is just a different way of working through the material.

How do you do your science?

100 things I maybe did or did not do

I'm working on keeping up with my priorities. It's not working very well to be honest. Last week it was writing that fell by the wayside, this week it's sleep and exercise. The plan is probably too ambitious or just not flexible enough. I do however think that it's been good and useful to think in terms of priorities, in the sense that it makes me more aware of how I choose to use my time. It's for example a choice to spend all day working on the revise and resubmit because it's more important and put off the evaluation of student reports until tonight. It's also a choice to leave you with this little meme placeholder, while I go and type up some comments for the students.

Seen at Bright star's

(Bold the ones you've done)

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars (I'm a geologist after all. I live outside for about a quarter of the year)
3. Played in a band (does it count if one was twelve years old and part of an after school music activity)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain (again - a geologist, what do you expect)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables (not since I had a small piece of vegetable garden as a kid though)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train (oh yes, many times)
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise (worked on one)
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language (Russian, I'm not saying I'm any good at it)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud (this is my favorite question as it is practically what I do for a living)
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie (does a sixth grade school project movie count)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia (more times than I can count)
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (this is a very americanized meme, so I'll substitute this with girl scout advent calenders of which I must have sold hundreds)
62. Gone whale watching (or rather seen whales when out doing some science anyway)
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book (does a digital book count)
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Day 4...or are you bored yet?

I spent nine hours working today and didn't get home until 8 pm, so I'm giving myself a break tonight.* Hiding under a woolen blanket with a big cup of coffee and realising that this week has been the first in more than a month where I had any significant downtime at home. I had to reschedule my plans for today and take care of an urgent budget issue, but I did get another few of the admin/teaching tasks out of the way. As the semester and the fiscal year is coming to an end there are all sorts of paperwork things that must be attended to now within the next few weeks. I keep a list of correspondence/paperwork/follow-up things I absolutely must do and it's good to see the strike-throughs on the list add up. Today I finished the exam sheet for my undergrad class, did all remaining travel accounting for this year and had a meeting with a colleague to go over the details in the budget for a project I'm leading a module of. Yesterday I was discussing the outline for a master's project with a potential new student, sent off some follow-up emails to people I met at meetings lately regarding collaboration and gave a talk at the university. Earlier this week I got through my email after weeks of neglect, submitted a final course description for my graduate course, found someone who agreed to be external examiner for the undergrad course and had a phone meeting with a new collaborator regarding joint field work next summer. It's good to see that things are happening. It's also good to see that things are coming together and reaching a natural break, where it is acceptable to leave it for a while over the holidays and pick it up again later.

The new research program is coming together. I have two new projects in the start up phase. Am getting people together and building a network of activities. I have a new master's student who will start working on some of this and maybe another one on a different side project. I have a new collaboration with someone I will go in the field with this summer and between us we have a bit of funding and possibilities for some more. After the break I need to deal with logistics for the field season and some serious preparation for a proposal with one project group, but right now things are more or less on track.

The teaching related administration is almost done. I need to spend some time tomorrow going over the budgets and maybe order some maps and field equipment as long as I can still squeeze them into this years budget. The course plans are submitted and will either be approved or not. It's out of my hands now. If I get the go-ahead for planned courses I need to start developing plans in more detail, organising logistics for field excursions and inviting guest lecturers, but all this awaits decisions from the higher-ups.

I'm not burdened with a lot of general administration. I'm on one committee thus far and I have a small task to complete in that capacity. Most of this involves a colleague who will be away for the next month or so, so it seems this must be postponed. I should probably begin to look into my part before the break, though.

I may be whining and complaining, but things are really going rather well. If only I could find enough time in the day to get the revisions I'm working on now turned around, before they kick me out of the volume for being too slow, I think I could be happy.

*It goes without saying that I didn't reach my goal today either. I did two hours of writing this morning and then the rest of the day was swallowed by meetings and all the accounting business. I haven't given up on the goals, but wanted to talk about something else today.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Day 3 ... or not quite there yet

This is getting old. I still have no real success to report. The first part of the day went well. I did a couple of hours writing in the morning, went into work to give a talk and take care of some of the administrative tasks on the agenda for today, ended up staying longer than planned, and lost the good schedule entirely in the evening. I didn't get back to writing as planned and I didn't get out to do any exercise, but I did talk to my mom on the phone for two hours, which I guess was a good thing. It had been a while, so it was definitely a good priority, but still the hours just doesn't add up. Sigh.

Amanda commented in the post below how it's difficult to make life outside of work a priority, when the work part is always driven by deadlines and expectations and I replied that I felt I couldn't go on like that for ever. I wanted to talk a little more about it, but thought I'd do it here rather than in the comments. It totally agree that it's difficult, because it's simply not possible to make other things a priority without letting work suffer to some degree. I'm not sure I'm quite prepared for that, because it will mean opportunities gone by, and I'm really just making this experiment now when I have few outside responsibilties (so that's how committed I am after all), but I think it's good to think about it, and realise that it has consequences to make the personal life a priority. Most of the time I just complain that I don't have a life, but don't do anything about it. The thing is also that this has been going on for so long, that at some point it just has to change.

It's like a moving target. First it was about going full steam ahead while finishing up the PhD, then it was about giving it all I had for the post doc, and the visiting position in order to get a faculty position and now it's about establishing myself here and get grants and papers and grad students and I don't know what and it just never ends. We don't have a tenure track system, so basically I've made it by now. Sure, I need to be competitive for jobs if I want to be able to move and competitive for grants in order to keep going here, but there is no specific goal post with a specific date on right now. Still it's not possible to kick back and say that this was pretty well done and now it would be OK to take it a little easier. Most of the time it feels like the bar has just been raised once again, and I don't see that this is going to end any time soon. I can't actually see other solutions than to either accept that my life is so that I will never have time off and don't have a personal life or spend any meaningful time with other people, or to decide that maybe what I'm able to achieve in my professional life is slightly less than what I'm physically able to do if I give it all I have. I think especially for someone who doesn't have kids, elderly parents, health issues or other pressing demands on time, work easily becomes all consuming because one can just never do enough. Maybe I don't need to have a lot of time off every day, but I really want to have enough time off to want to (re)connect with people, to have interests outside of work and to want to do things in this town and to become part of the community at the university. I hope it will be possible to find some sort of balance to make this work, because having no personal space at all really makes me a grumpy old lady and that's not who I want to be.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The life balance challenge Day 2 or one can't have it all

So, exercise, sleep and having a life outside of work has moved to the top of the list. It's surprisingly difficult to make these things a real priority. As in actually taking time off work to go running and to relax at home without feeling guilty. There are always things that should have been done or ought to be done right now, and making the decision to let work things slide to make time for myself is harder than I was aware of. But I've done it today. I went running and did some yoga, and spent time this afternoon connecting with some long distance friends on facebook. Writing on the other hand have so far not even made it to the list. I had to be in the office early for some meetings and spent the afternoon doing all this healthy for-me stuff and now it's evening and I've got a talk to prepare for tomorrow. It's a mystery to me how succesful people manage to work long hours, exercise, sleep and have a life at the same time. I seem to able to do one or the other, but not all.

The life balance challenge Day 1

It started out as a complete failure yesterday. I got to bed too late, got up too late, were too tired to even contemplate exercise and ended up spending all day on administrative tasks. But I did get through the mountain of email and the most overdue course administration tasks and no one commented on me for being slow and lazy. I now have a description for a new course, that will hopefully be approved by the powers that be soon and an external examiner for the upcoming exams. I also went home after a normal work day, spent the evening reading a book (and blogs, who am I kidding), talking to my brother on the phone and went to bed at a decent time. Today I'm going to make a new effort towards sticking to my priorities. At least I'm not completely exhausted anymore.