Thursday, August 22, 2013

geoscience career stats

This is old news, but I only saw it recently...

The American Geosciences Institute has a series of newsletters regarding the state of the industry here. I was particularly interested in number 068, which compares the 2011-2012 geoscience student cohort to previous years. The number of bachelors degrees awarded (a little more than 3,000) seems awfully low nation-wide - I guess we are a small industry.

Number 063 and 064 from last year compares median and starting salaries for a number of different geoscience-related occupations. I wasn't surprised to see relatively low starting wages for environmentally-based occupations (oh, how I know about those), but the overall median range for non-technicians is pretty similar.

Anything in these newsletters strike you as surprising?

Monday, August 19, 2013

another book meme

I'm a sucker for a book meme, and even though I did one almost identical a while back, I'm following Lockwood's lead.

So this is flavorwire's list of 50 science fiction/fantasy books that everyone should read. Lockwood's rules: bold the ones you've read, * the ones you found particularly outstanding, / the novels or series you've only read a fraction of, that is, not finished. ? if you're not sure. Add notes as desired. Make a suggestion or two for ones they missed.
  1. Ubik, Philip K. Dick
  2. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card (this is a classic that I just never got around to)
  3. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien (can I admit that I was sort of bored by all the songs and traipsing around?)
  4. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  5. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
  6. A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin/ (I read up to book 5 and then got irritated that at the ever-increasing universe of characters to the detriment of who I really cared about. In this case, I think the TV series is better)
  7. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  8. The Gormenghast series, Mervyn Peake
  9. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein
  10. Kindred, Octavia Butler
  11. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
  12. Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelazny (I just read this a couple months ago and found it super annoying - he basically picks up the characters and moves them randomly for nine books)
  13. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
  14. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut* (this book blew my mind in high school. An all-time favorite)
  15. The City & The City, China MiƩville (I like everything by Mieville, but I think Perdito Street Station is much, much better)
  16. The Once and Future King, T.H. White (this is a classic, but I first read it when I was quite young and the animal deaths were traumatic)
  17. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley (eh, I read them but never got why everybody liked them so much)
  18. Zone One, Colson Whitehead
  19. The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
  20. The Time Quartet, Madeleine L’Engle (I must have been in the single digits when I read A Wrinkle in Time. I don't think it's aged terribly well, but I do still like the later ones)
  21. The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis/ (tried to get into these, probably read about 4 of them before giving up)
  22. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
  23. The Female Man, Joanna Russ
  24. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne
  25. Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson
  26. Solaris, Stanislaw Lem
  27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams/ (tried reading this multiple times, but it's just not my bag)
  28. The Dune Chronicles, Frank Herbert (this was a groundbreaking series. Unfortunately, I read it decades after the world of SF/fantasy had moved on, and it just seemed dated and silly)
  29. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
  30. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
  31. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
  32. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  33. American Gods, Neil Gaiman
  34. The Foundation series, Isaac Asimov
  35. Discworld, Terry Pratchett (I've read all five million books. They hit their stride after the first couple)
  36. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  37. Among Others, Jo Walton
  38. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  39. The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle
  40. The Drowned World, J.G. Ballard
  41. Witch World, Andre Norton
  42. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
  43. The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
  44. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
  45. Little, Big, John Crowley
  46. The Dragonriders of Pern series, Anne McCaffrey (I read up to the point where the spaceship appeared and the books ran off the rails, so somewhere in the late nineties. I read all her older stuff, including a ridiculous [but entertaining] softcore porn story)
  47. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, Charles Yu
  48. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Patricia C. Wrede
  49. The Castle trilogy, Diana Wynne Jones
  50. The Giver, Lois Lowry (this came out after I was past the target age - I always meant to pick it up, but never did)      
So I got about half - not too bad. I do think a few fantasy classics are missing. I'd replace 47 through 49 with either The Stand or the dark tower series by Stephen King, something from Lovecraft, and (for a newer author), something from Brent Weeks.

So consider yourself tagged...

Monday, August 12, 2013

boxes and circles

I wonder if this happens to other people...

So, we're discussing something complicated, or I'm trying to provide a semi-to-scale diagram. I start blocking it out on a pad of calculation/graph paper, but then I run out of room. Or I decide it needs to be a little neater than the last version.

No problem, I can just make a bunch of boxes and lines in powerpoint or excel. That's a cinch to manipulate, right? Then I end up making refinements, and someone suggests a few more details, and suddenly I've spent 3 hours essentially drawing a picture with boxes, lines, and other fragments. Like this:

(for non environmental geologists, the above picture is two monitoring wells screened in different aquifers)

... Or perhaps I'm trying to show information on a map for a casual discussion. So I print out a copy, start circling features of interest, and decide that the resulting mess would be impossible to scan and send out of the office.

That's ok, I have Adobe Acrobat. I'll just add little circles to my PDF, and add little labels, and then I'll need some sort of legend... before I know it, I've spent another 3 hours making circles when I should have just gotten my friendly CADD or GIS expert to put the locations on the map accurately in the first place.

Yes, I did build a very complicated series of figures out of itty-bitty excel rows and columns for my thesis. Perhaps I should get some actual graphical software...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

500 posts!

This has been quite the week for blog milestones!

So this word cloud represents the last 100 posts. I was debating switching to a longer interval, but that would mean that each word file used to create posts would be even longer than the 53 pages it took for this one. I think eventually would start to have problems with its word-frequency magic... and it would be even more painful for me to compile all of the posts.

So "field" is a lot more prominent this time. I still have a lot of casual language and "fluff" (just, stuff, really, much), but we do see a trend of discussion topics: environmental, geology, site, consulting, manager, coworkers, technical, office, samples, water, experience, drill...

Edited to add the previous posts - 400, 300, 200, and 100.

Monday, August 5, 2013

finding field staff

Just like sales and other businesses which involve travel, environmental consulting firms will have a good chunk of their staff out on fieldwork. And that fieldwork is generally erratic. At most of the places I've worked, there were a few really big projects, but most of the time, the field staff had 1- to 6-week stints all over the place.

At each place I've worked, the scheduling and sign-out procedures were two separate items - one involved the planning, and the other involved, well, if you were in or out.

One time, I got in a wee spot of trouble because I left to do some minor, verbally agreed-upon fieldwork for a manager who was out on vacation. I didn't have management access to adjust the master planning schedule, but I did sign out. Some upper-level management folks went looking for me, and they checked the planning schedule and asked around to all the other managers they could find, and I was AWOL. After about an hour, they found my personal cell phone number by asking around (this was when I was still keeping my cell phone a semi-secret) and asked where I was. My answer? "Why didn't you check the sign-out book?"

Ok, well, that was a long time ago. Now, we have a fairly common scheduling software that you can use to see everyone's schedule. And we have smartphones and e-mail auto responses in case we are somehow out of range.

However, all that technology doesn't help if you don't update the schedule...or check someone else's. Just ask the guy who was trying to find me by calling my office phone repeatedly while I was out of cell phone range on a multi-week field project.

Friday, August 2, 2013

growth and progress

When I was writing my last post about my blogiversary, I had two ways I wanted to look at this blog. So last time, I wrote about how my situation has changed over 5 years, and how that affected how much I wrote. But I also thought about how the content has shifted over the years.

When I first started, I thought the blog was going to be sort of a "geology confidential" where I would complain about the parts of the industry that bugged me, tell stories about the people I worked with, and admit to all the mistakes I've made. But that didn't really happen. At first I was paranoid about my pseudonymity. Then I had enough to say that I didn't really depend on stories about crazy coworkers. And finally, I found the reasons for the bad behavior or annoying management a lot more interesting than just venting.

I also started to develop more of a long view - my posts became less about whatever had bothered me that particular day (like this or this post) and tended to have a little more thought behind them. I've also dropped the obsession with saying something even if it's just complaining that I'm too hot/tired/whatever. So any individual blog post may not be directly relevant to whatever was bothering me as I got home from work and sat at the computer, but perhaps over time, they've become a little more...thoughtful.

As I've developed as a geologist and a professional, not everything I posted in the past is relevant to where I am today. In no particular order, I've finished grad school, had stuff published, got professional certifications, taught classes, moved to totally different areas of the country, managed projects, and have worked on projects that have gone spectacularly to hell. All these things have given me new perspectives that I perhaps didn't have when I started.

Who knows what will happen in the years to come...all I know for now is that I'm certainly not out of topics to write about!