Wednesday, September 30, 2015

do as I say...

Regular readers will probably remember that I have a bit of an obsession with clear, concise writing.

And it's nice to commiserate with other reviewing types who also believe in clear, concise writing. Hey, if you come across something like "The subsurface soil sample was collected by the sampler within a discrete zone at the 2 to 4 foot depth interval in the soil column", feel free to call me and we can have a good giggle at the author's expense.

However, if you have spent a significant amount of time raging about the redundancies and general sloppiness of the poor schmo who started a report, and I find that all of your inserted text is either missing punctuation or has obvious factual errors, I start to get annoyed.

Sure, it's good to be concise.You know what matters more? Being correct. And I really don't want to hear about how terrible someone else's writing is when when you can't actually produce readable copy yourself.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

expired sunscreen use

As I mentioned a while back, I use a ton of sunscreen. I am also a bit scatterbrained and tend to lose things like sunscreen, so over the years, I have bought and squirreled away innumerable bottles of both "regular" and "face" sunscreen (critical to prevent serious pain from sweat + sunscreen running into my eyes).

I am also cavalier about expiration dates.

This isn't usually a problem, but I recently found an old bottle of sunscreen and in a pinch, applied it to my face. Two days later, I had a horrifying rash + acne breakout, and checked out the offending sunscreen.

It expired in 2009.

In hindsight, the fact that the sunscreen was not white (or even sort of yellow) but a light brown color should have tipped me off that perhaps the stuff was not trustworthy. I think I've used it relatively recently (like, a year ago) with no ill effects, but I may have restricted it just to non-sensitive areas like my arms.

So I actually went through and pitched everything that expired more than 3 years ago. In the future, I'll try to keep my purchases of new sunscreen to a minimum, and keep my sunscreen storage places to a few safe locations (i.e. not in the car, where they alternately cook and freeze). I would like to avoid looking like a dermatology case study.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

"free" conference

I was still technically part of a research group after I'd finished grad school. The primary grant that I had worked under had a few stipulations, one of which was that the research group would present the findings of the work at x number of national/international conferences. The grant-giving organization had money set aside specifically for the conference attendance, and to make a long story short, I was the only one available to give the presentation.

I had just started a new job. Conference attendance wouldn't be a problem, right? After all, my travel and conference costs were entirely covered. Plus, as a newly-minted employee, I would be representing my new firm as a technical expert at big conference (related to that industry).

Not so much. New employer was fixated on the three days of admin/non-billable work that they'd need to pay me to fly out and give the presentation, so I ended up promising that I would squash three days of overtime into two weeks to avoid any extra admin charges.

I was wiped out by that overtime, plus the presentation prep time (also not allowed to be charged to the firm), and so I didn't do any actual conference networking to support my new employer.

I thought that the firm was outrageously short-sighted for not wanting to take advantage of a (mostly) free conference. I eventually figured out the office politics around having a brand-new employee jet off to a fancy conference (even though it was my research), and considered myself lucky to be allowed to go.

Now if I have a conference I'd like to attend, I make sure to have a business case for going and not just argue that I can give a cool presentation. I do miss grad school in that respect - as a grad student, I'd be able to take a free conference in a heartbeat, and not worry about more complicated financial/business development considerations.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

weight and fieldwork

I discussed this a while back, but I tend to lose weight if I'm doing a significant chunk of fieldwork (say, more than 2 months) and gain weight when I'm back in the office. When I'm in the field, I'm constantly in motion - pacing while on the phone, scurrying back to the truck/trailer/storage unit to grab something, hauling stuff around. When I'm not doing fieldwork, I'm mostly sedentary at the office and then I come home and do maybe an hour of exercise one or twice a week.

I thought that most people lost weight in the field like I do, but when I asked around, I found that many of my coworkers gain weight. This is usually for a few reasons:

1. Regular exercise: unlike me, lots of other people who do fieldwork like physical activity/exercise, and when they're not in the field, they're on an adult rec league or they hike six mountains every weekend or they go on long bike rides/runs. When they're working long days, they don't have the time or facilities/equipment to exercise like they normally would.

2. Alcohol. This really deserves its own post, but briefly, we tend to drink more in the field than when we're at home.

3. Eating outside food: some people are diligent about cooking for themselves, either for their own enjoyment/interest in saving money or because they have dietary restrictions. The rest of us eat out. A lot.

I have no idea whether it's more common to gain or lose weight in the field. Readers, do you gain? lose? or can you actually maintain a steady weight regardless of where you're working?

Friday, August 21, 2015

blogroll update

It's been about 2 years since my last blogroll update. I've rearranged some of the headings and made a few other changes. Notably:

Deletions: Diamictite and The Happy Scientist have been post-free for more than a year, and sporadic before then. I'll keep an eye out, and if posts reappear, I'll add them back in.


The field experiences of ecologists and geologists are pretty damn close, and I've found myself using Dynamic Ecology many times for post inspiration.

I'm also adding a paleontology blog to round out the geology list - check out Fossils and Other Living Things.

Feel free to poke through the blogs!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

restarting transmission

So, that was a big gap. I got hit with a whole bunch of issues (personal and professional) that sucked up all my time, and then my posting fell by the wayside when my newfangled "write on weekends, post on weekdays" schedule hit a snag.

However, I do have a big pile of post-it notes with blog post ideas, which I kept accumulating in my posting absence. Let's see how it goes...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

outside office work

As I've moved into more analysis/inside technical work, I've occasionally had to work long hours inside. Whenever I need to do this, I'm reminded of how much more draining office work is. Sure, in the field I'll work 10-11 hour days with no ill effects, but a lot of that time is running around, collecting measurements, taking notes, and watching contractors.

I fit the extra office-type work in the office. I'm not the sort of person who can work well at home - I prefer to have a clean break from whatever is stressing me out. Even in grad school, where my setup for my apartment and my office at school was essentially the same, I would still make the trek in to do my homework. That means that in a pinch, I'll haul myself all the way to the office on a weekend to work. And because I'm a morning person, and if I'm stressed/under deadline, I will tend to go to bed early in an attempt to get more sleep and then wake up extremely early, I do all my extra office work before hours. By the time close of business rolls around, I may have already put in 10 hours and am wiped out.

I have coworkers who prefer to work extremely late, and ones who prefer to hide out at home to avoid distractions. I also used to work with someone who would take his stuff to a local bar to catch up on work. Of course, the best alternative would be to have a reasonable schedule and not have to work a ton of hours to catch up, but with project-based work, we rarely have the luxury of spreading out the workload.