Thursday, October 30, 2008

air pollution

I'm not allergic to many things, other than a wee bit of hay fever. And perfume/cologne.

My "smelly stuff" allergy has gotten worse as I've gotten older. And I get more than just a runny nose, as I discovered when an officemate came into the office on a saturday all decked out and doused in perfume (although to be fair, she had a cold, so she may not have realized exactly how much she was wearing). I can deal with a constantly runny nose. After about 10 minutes, what I could not deal with was a massive, pounding headache and a general feeling that my entire respiratory system was clogging. I didn't feel better until the next day, and my nose ran for a couple days after that.

I am not a hypochondriac or a medical weirdo. I know I am not the only person sensitive to strong perfumes. Please, please, please: When you attend a meeting or a conference where you can reasonably expect to sit close to people you haven't met, for the love of God, don't add any extra scents. Except deodorant, of course. There's nothing like spending an entire day (or several days) stuck in a miasma that makes you feel like you're contracting an exotic disease.

Incidentally, if you're a lover of fine perfumes, and somebody suggests that maybe you're coming on a little too strong, smell-wise, you are. Nobody is going to go up and mention it to you unless it's a real problem. And if someone tells you "other people have noticed this" it means that a significant number of people at the office/conference/meeting were overpowered by your smell and that you need to tone it down, stat.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

weather WTF?

I had to go on a long-ass drive yesterday. Part of my drive was through part of what I'd call the mid-atlantic region. I hadn't checked the weather, so I was shocked (shocked!) to find I was driving through a slush and then a snowstorm before November. That's fine, I've got all season tires for a reason. But at the top of the hills, it actually got sort of treacherous because of course they didn't have any equipment running. And then you get some truck going 30 with a narrow median strip, and you have to try and pass it with the slush and snow being sprayed on your right and from the other side of the road (smack!). Oh, and gale-force winds blowing you around.
I didn't expect to have to ramp it down to 45 on my long-ass drive. Going that speed with both hands clenched on the wheel and doing some fairly active braking/accelerating to keep control for hours is not my idea of fun, especially when I had determined my travel timing based on setting the cruise control at some level above the speed limit.

Even when I'm going to be working all day in the field, my natural tendency is to assume that the weather is going to be what it was yesterday. By this point, you'd think I would know to check the friggin' weather forecast before I go.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

asses and elbows

One of my favorite pieces of advice is, “when you see asses and elbows, start running”. Basically, most professional adults will not run away from anything unless it’s an actual emergency. So if you space out or something and you see grown men with big bellies sprinting for the hills, don’t sit there and wonder what’s going on. Get the hell out and then find out what the fuss is about afterward.

This sort of thing doesn’t come up very often, luckily, and I’ve never seen a high-pressure line break loose or a drill rod assembly fall and hit a power line or anything like that. But a good friend of mine did have a genuine “asses and elbows” moment. They were digging some test-pits in a scrubby area, so he was getting his stuff ready. He heard a commotion and saw the operator leap out of the excavator and hit the ground running, so he turned tail and ran himself. The excavator shovel had ripped open a hornets’ nest.

Monday, October 27, 2008

more meta

This is the last post I'll make (for a while, anyway) about blogging instead of remediation or grad school or science. But since I've passed the 50 post mark, I decided to pull together a word cloud based on the previous posts.

What does it show? Either I'm especially fond of analogies, or I'm speaking like a valley girl. "Like" is way too big. But that's the blog in a nutshell!
By the way, this week is my last week of being incredibly busy. Yay! I've managed to post a lot more than I expected over the last couple weeks. But once again, I make no promises how much I'll be able to post this week.

Friday, October 24, 2008

pseudo something

There's been some chatter recently about pseudonyms and blog anonymity, so I figured I'd mention my take on it.

I'm not really interested in blogging about the state of the industry and the various players, although my various connections from my work do keep me updated. First, that's not a personal interest of mine, and second, going there brings me too close to "industry gossip" and I have no interest in commenting on specific companies or groups.

I will say, however, that the environmental consulting industry is pretty incestuous. I've heard it said that "you'll get your first real raise when you quit" and there is something to that. There's a fair amount of movement when companies gain and lose contracts, and then field folks are forever overseeing or being overseen by contractors from litigating firms, regulators, etc. So you often see the same people over and over again working for different companies.

This means that you need to be careful if you want to blog about the industry and not run into trouble. My goal isn't to write exposés, but rather to share some experiences that are common to many of us. So when I write blog posts, I change details, and I will not be writing about some of the more amusing/embarassing things that have happened that are odd enough to identify me.

I would imagine that someone who had worked closely with me and knows me well would recognize me from my "voice" on this blog and the pattern of incidents I discuss. If you think you know who I am in meatspace, feel free to drop me a line. But there are a lot of short female geologists who have struggled to project authority, especially when first starting out, and have later gone on to grad school. I know several myself.

I'm not interested in being much of an "authority" on consulting, geology, or anything else on this blog. I'm incisive and brilliant enough elsewhere. Here, I just want to tell stories.

ps. if anybody can tell me how to add accents here, I'll fix my spelling. "Exposes" is sort of hurting my inner perfectionist.

pps Thanks! You learn something new every day...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

a table for two

Two people is the usual number for a standard field crew for a simple monitoring-type job; you're not out in the woods totally alone, and two people can fit safely into one cargo van or pickup truck. We always met for dinner at night, unless we were lucky enough to have a kitchenette and a per-diem job. In that case, we disappeared into our respective hotel rooms to cook pasta or grilled cheese sandwiches or something.

So I spent a lot of time going out to dinner with one male coworker. Restaurants see this and they think "date", unless the coworker is 10-15 year older. In that case I always felt sort of awkward because I felt like other people were thinking "he's way too old for her" (remember, I look 10 years younger than I am). This leads to sort of funny situations where we're given some romantic booth in the back corner.

I've had dinner with lots of folks over the years, and only once has the meal ever been awkward because my male tablemate tried to pursue some sort of romance. In that case, I think the person I was eating with would have made a pass at any female who made the mistake of straying into his orbit. He was the only person who I actively hid my hotel room from as well, incidentally, because he completely creeped me out. It did make me appreciate the scores of normal, professional dinners I had with all the other guys I've traveled with.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

extracurricular work

I think that FSP made an interesting point here about how much time scientific types spend "on the job" when part of that job involves thinking and is not necessarily reflected in face time at an office or lab.

I tend to fret a lot before a big job. This may look like a whole lot of needless energy, and maybe it is, a little. But what I'm doing when I'm worrying is going over all the contingencies and trying to make sure I have everything covered. I'm naturally absent-minded, so what I try to do is always write things down. I have a tendency of think of all the things I need to do just as I'm starting to drift off to sleep at night, so I pull out the old pen and paper and write it down, and then I know I've got it covered and I don't have to worry about that particular item. Of course, in the morning I end up with this weird unintelligible chicken scratch because I was writing in the dark and I was half asleep.

When I was in consulting, billability was paramount. I was paid overtime (which, as I mentioned previously, is not necessarily true for all consultants) and I rarely had a problem being billable. But if I spent a significant amount of time out of work planning stuff (not just worrying over a few details, but actually figuring things out), I did bill that time. I'm not talking about a lot of time; just a half hour or so the weekend or the night before the big field project. Same thing with dinner in the field if we actually had a productive pre-food arrival conversation and weren't just bitching about whatever.

What different people consider to be billable varies. It may sound as if I bill the client for every stray thought, but my productivity was generally a lot higher than certain folks who put in more "face time", even though they were standing around the proverbial water cooler for a big chunk of the day. Everybody works differently, so I think a fair amount of lattitude is required as long as the work gets done within reasonable time and financial constraints. But maybe where I worked was an exception...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

on reviewing

I have some advice based on recent experience:


If you add a cloud of question marks on top of each other in the margin, the reviewee gets a good idea of the intensity of your opinion about the paragraph it’s floating near. What the reviewee doesn’t get is what provoked the intense opinion and what to do about it.


Make sure that you really go over the first couple pages of your manuscript, because if you’ve got dumb typos in the beginning, the reviewer will get a poor impression of the overall manuscript, regardless of the fact that your intro is just “big picture” BS and your actual scientific data is terrific. If a reviewer has a foot stomping, red pen-throwing pet peeve, try not to include it in the first two paragraphs.

Monday, October 20, 2008

the first five feet

When I was doing fieldwork, the most stressful time was during the first five feet of drilling. Why? Utilities.

Sure, you have a state-specific marking program run by the utilities (who don’t want you breaking through their stuff) that will send someone out. But they may be off in their markings, late in getting to the site (as in a day or two after the site goes “live”), or you may be drilling on private property, in which case utility locations are often just an educated guess.

I have hit two utilities. The first was a probable water line about 2 feet from the marking. The casing bounced off it, we realized something was wrong, and we stopped quickly without breaking through. In that case, we went through super-clean sand and then went “thunk” and the driller realized we were drilling through bedding material. We didn’t break the pipe because we were just pushing the casing with no real weight on it.

The second utility I hit was in an old industrial area. The area I was trying to drill in had every utility you could think of and there were only two narrow spaces available. So we tried to thread the needle. It turned out that those two spaces were occupied by old (unused) steam lines, which we broke through. We had apparently no soil for the first couple feet. In that case we gave up and told the project manager he was just going to have to live without monitoring wells over there.

I have been extremely lucky. Better geologists than I have hit things spectacularly. You go through all sorts of hoops, do a walk through with a property owner (“now I am going to be drilling in this exact spot, ok?”), and then you hit some sort of irrigation/drinking water/waste removal line that they didn’t think of and have a very public (and possibly very stinky) mess. And that’s not taking into account the ones that are dangerous to hit.

So, even if I’m out in the middle of nowhere, I still hold my breath until we’re past the first couple of feet.

Friday, October 17, 2008

my shortcuts

I'm super busy today, but I just want to make one observation:

Spider solitaire is now at the bottom of the little program shortcut pop-up on my computer. This is the first time in my grad school career that spider solitaire isn't right near the top. It's an indication of how hard I've been working - I haven't been playing silly time-wasting games for two months now!

When I was working, I was always afraid that if I played computer games, that little pop-up would betray me if Ihappened to use the computer while my boss was watching. Or that some pinhead network nanny over at corporate headquarters would get me in trouble (hell, they could control my computer remotely). I do realize that my bosses and any pin-headed computer oversight people probably had bigger fish to fry than some illicit solitaire, though.

The one thing I do like about grad school and will miss when I go back to work is the unfettered freedom to do whatever I want with my time and computer, as long as I finish what needs to be done. The downside of this freedom, however, is having to exercise restraint so I don't spend my working hours playing solitaire and finding funny websites and then doing grad school stuff blearily late into the night.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

pretty theses

The most important thing in the thesis is the actual science. I know this. However, it is really tempting to get anxious about stupid stuff, like the number of pages. With appendices, my thesis is turning out to be quite the paperweight, but the actual number of written pages is somewhat low. Not anomalously low, but less than 100. I have a little bit of leeway in the pagination and text, and I could make the spacing and the typface bigger, increase the spacing around figures, etc, but this makes the thesis look silly after a certain point.

Until fairly recently, my thesis was hovering around the 60-page mark. This had me really worried, although it didn't faze my advisor. So I ran around doing all these calculations and trying to discern more trends in the data and now my thesis has a little more content.

I have a friend who is a mechanical engineer, and we have fundamentally similar theses in that we did something fairly simple to explain (I can describe my topic in five words - I just counted) and a lot of the science and learning (and most of the time) was in getting the damn thing to work. My friend's thesis involves machining something very non-geometric to the nanometer, and his thesis is essentially a short video of a laser cutting away bits of material until you end up with what looks like a misshapen lump. So maybe I don't have it so bad.

I am glad that my thesis isn't 200 pages of "equation, equation, jargon, jargon, jargon, equation". I would like to think it isn't totally impenetrable and dull. But at the same time, I still sort of wish it looked more "scientific".

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I have an elaborate, polysyllabic given name that lends itself to nicknames. The nickname I grew up with essentially from birth can be compressed further. So if my given name was "Shortencia Q. Geologist III", I grew up as a "Shorty" and some people call me "Short". I'll answer to Shorty or Short, and as long as I'm not trying to be overly professional (i.e. at a job interview or a pre-bid meeting) I tell people to call me Shorty.

I've noticed that people from a working-class background (whether or not they now have white-collar jobs) will call me Short, while folks from a privileged background (and male supervisors) never call me anything other than Shorty. For comparison, I consider myself to be from a middle to upper middle class background. Drillers always call me Short. There's some interesting sociological interaction going on with nickname selection.

Incidentally, you know how if you use a particular word too much, it starts to look really silly? Yeah.

Anyway, nobody has ever called me Shortencia within about a half hour of interaction, with one exception. I was working in a team with several other scientists, all male, from the deep south. For the entire time we worked together, they would call me nothing except Shortencia. A couple days in, it started to feel really strange, but then I felt sort of silly making a big issue of it at that point. I got the definite sense that they were using my elaborate name as a way to separate themselves from me. They certainly didn't have any problem giving anybody else a nickname.

Before that point, I'd never considered a female scientist to be unusual. Both my parents are scientists, and in college, grad school, and the offices I worked in, there was a roughly equal number of males and females. This was the first time I was made to feel different because I was a female scientist. There was more to this than just how I was addressed (making it clear the use of my given name did not indicate respect), but it was the refusal to use a nickname that really made me feel out of place.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

STEM networking

No, I don't mean the type of networking that helps you get a job. I mean the goddamn computer network.

I'm at well-regarded institution whose primary claim to fame is computer/math stuff. The secondary claim to fame is engineering, and then the rest of the sciences are sort of an afterthought to most people. I don't think we claim that we've invented the internet, but our former students and profs did invent a whole crapload of influential programs and software.

Do you think that if we're such a friggin' awesome computer school, we could have a working network around here? Hmm? I was trying to download a moderately large file from e-mail, and the download rate was something like 400 bytes/second. Helloo!? Some of us are trying to do research, and it doesn't help when we can't actually look at all those articles that are supposedly available on the science servers.

It got so bad, I went to our school's computing help desk. After I finally got the guy to focus on my network problem instead of how much I (over)paid for my laptop, he told me that "some buildings have weak networks." That's it? How about a solution?

Part of the problem is that my office is a (poorly) retrofitted lab and when they added network cables, all they did was plug them into a wireless hub of some sort, so even though I plug into the wall, I get the same reception as my usual wireless reception. Which is to say, flaky. And then if my computer goes to sleep, I can't regain my network connections. I'd go to the computer labs, but those computers appear to date from the 90s and they can't handle big files.

I realize that keeping all the buildings wired properly and updated is a big task. But considering the amount of money the school pours into quantum/nano/next big thing computing, the least they could do is cut the rest of us a break.

Monday, October 13, 2008

the suit

Once again, I am going to be super busy the next couple of days, so blogging will be minimal.

Part of my work the next few days will involve wearing a suit. I must be moving up in the world! When I was last applying for jobs, I just had a blouse and nice pants. Same thing for my other conference presentations. But now I'm at the stage where I think a nice suit is a requirement.

I had the damndest time trying to find a suit. First, I am built like a (young) teenager. Second, I wanted an actual suit, not a "come hither" club ensemble and not some sort of quasi-casual drapey outfit. Suits that fit me, that I can afford, and that are appropriate for a lower-level management interview are few and far between.

I tried jcrew, but the only suits they have in stores have these ridiculously short jackets. That's the last thing I need. And I'm not going to drop $250 on something from the internet I can't try on first. The other places I could think of that were suit-y and had stuff in my size (Ann Taylor's the only one that comes to mind, but I know there are others when I was trawling through the mall) didn't have actual matching jacket/pants combos that didn't have massive shoulders (*shudder*). I ended up finding something from a local store, but I had to get the pants hemmed 4 inches (?!) and the sleeves hemmed 2 inches. I just tried the jacket and the sleeves are still too long, but at least they don't cover my hands.

I can't be the only small female under the age of 40 who needs a respectable suit. I know lawyers my size and age who get their suits essentially custom-made, but I really wish I could find a decent option that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. Same thing with tops - if I see something that's remotely work appropriate, I snag it because 90% of the time, what looks like a perfectly normal blouse will have all the buttons from midchest up missing. I don't get only need 2 tops if you're going clubbing, but you need at least 6 work tops so that you can at least rotate them a little.

It could be worse - my grandmother's 4 inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than I am, and she has so few options, she'll buy whatever will fit without regard to style or cost. One option is the girls' sections, but once you're 90 years old, having "hot stuff" written over your ass looks a little silly. At that age, though, you don't care so much about the right suit.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I didn't post yesterday because I could feel a migraine coming on and I had a whole bunch of computer-type work to do. So I did nothing but work until I physically couldn't stand looking at the computer. Then I crashed for 4 hours.

I have friends who get aura migraines. I tell them, "that sounds like fun" because what I get are nausea migraines. Yep, exquisite sensitivity to light, aching eyeballs, and the need to crawl off and die in a very dark, very quiet room. Oh, and I also feel like I need to throw up the whole time.

My problem in this sort of situation is that I am pretty much unable to throw up. It seems to me that I would feel a lot better if I could just get things over with, but the only times I've ever vomited have been when I got a norwalk-type stomach bug and, um, when I did a scientific study of how it would feel to be really drunk and I didn't take into account the fact that alcohol doesn't impact your system immediately. In both cases, my body was saying "this is something you're not screwing around with. Puke or die."

I am fortunate in that I have never gotten a full-blown migraine while in the field (I have occasionally developed them at the end of the day) but I'm pretty careful to prevent them. My field bag always has a container of pain medication, a big old-lady hat, and sunglasses. Polarized sunglasses are key. I put them on when I step out the door in the morning and they don't come off until I get home that night. The silly-looking hat keeps my head from burning and keeps glare from sneaking over the top of the sunglasses.

I'm a lot more prone to migraines in the office, especially when I'm refering to a paper document (as in editing) while glancing back toward the computer screen. My old office had a library, and a couple times I would sneak in, close the door, turn off the lights, and have a little power nap with my face buried in my arm. Usually 20 minutes would be enough to keep me functional if I had to be there, or worst case, drive home.

You know what else triggers migraines? Long seminars or presentations with spindly black text (like times new roman) on an all-white background in a dark room. That glare kills me. I'm preparing a presentation right now, and it has a neutral backround (not too dark) and sort of off-white tables and graphs. It's sort of my "signature" color scheme, but I'm a little worried that non stark white tables and graphs look "unprofessional" for the venue it will be seen in. I'm sending it off today and I'll see what my advisor thinks. Anybody else have a favorite background/typeface combination?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

did you fall or were you pushed?

When I was in college, I quickly found that I really liked environmental geology - dirt and groundwater. At the same time, I didn't have a whole lot of other options. Here was what I could do for a career in geology:

1. Teach. This post explains why this was a non-starter from the beginning.

2. Resource exploration: generally, mining/oil.

3. Environmental stuff.

Am I missing anything? I don't really think so. I could have fallen in love with some corner of geology and gone on in research, but I was insecure in my brains/geological abilities and I didn't think I was cut out for it. Now that I'm older, my self-confidence is a lot higher, but I'm fairly happy with my career path. Also, I detest teaching.

#2 was out for a simple reason. I am an east coast city girl at heart, much in the way I will always be a geologist at heart. There's not a whole lot of mines or oil fields close to east coast big cities. The last thing I wanted was to be living in Texas or Alberta or Colorado or Dubai for the forseeable future.

I haven't mentioned some marquee jobs like working for the USGS in some cool researchy capacity, because they require lots of experience or there's lots of competition for them. My low self confidence and utter lack of experience when I graduated effectively eliminated those.

So, did I fall into environmental work because I loved it so, or was I pushed because I didn't see other options? Well, a little bit of both. If I could have had a viable career right off the bat involving plate tectonics or certain aspects of petrology, maybe I would have gone in that direction. But I do enjoy working in the field, doing science-y stuff, and I'm hoping that my masters degree will point me toward cooler and more scientific work in the discipline that I'm focusing on. That is, if I get this friggin degree! Back to work...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

mah audience

I'm getting some geoblogosphere traffic, so I know at least a few of my (4?) readers are geologists. I hope I'm not coming off as pedantic or obvious to you experienced folks, so I thought I'd discuss who I'm writing for.

Now, we all know that the audience I'm writing for is not necessarily the one I wish I had. If I could magically exclude all easily-offended potential bosses and coworkers and have an audience of the rest of the world, that would be terrific. Instead, I am changing details and avoiding talking about more embarrassing/hair-raising but possibly more identifiable subjects.

So who am I writing for?

When I post, the person I have in my head is, well, me. That is, the person I was years ago who was just starting to consider work in the environmental field and had no friggin' clue what she was doing. See this post.

There's a lot more info out there than when I was first starting out, but at school I come in contact with a lot of undergrads who are considering a job with some sort of field component (usually geologists, ecologists, certain engineers, and some "environmental science" generalists) and they are hungry for inside information on the work. What is it really like? How much training do you get before you're on your own? Are you happy with your long-term prospects? This is also true for grad students who haven't been out in the "real world" yet, but since they have friends who are/were consultants, they tend not to overwhelm me with questions like the undergrads.

So please be patient, experienced geologist readers. Some of the stuff I'll write about is obvious to us, but it may not be obvious to them.

Monday, October 6, 2008

vehicle safety

One of the reasons I started this blog was that I had a fair number of mishaps and screw-ups that are fairly amusing/instructive, but which I may not want to admit to publicly. Based on these experiences, I can give two pieces of advice for driving in the field:

1. Always wear your seatbelt
2. Don't park on railroad tracks.

#2 sounds pretty frickin' obvious, but I had spaced out or something and didn't notice (I wasn't in the vehicle when it was parked). The train tracks my partner had parked on looked unused and rusty, and in fact a local had parked on the tracks nearby earlier that week. Well, apparently, these tracks were used by the local "scenery old-timey" train. I heard a looong whistle blast and found that the train was bearing down on the car. My partner ran into the car and started the engine while this train got closer and closer. She did manage to get it out of the way, but the whole time I was yelling "just leave it!". That was possibly the biggest "oh shit" moment in my career.

#1 goes with my earlier post about off-roading. I wasn't wearing my seatbelt once because all we had to do was drive from one location to another about 100 yards away over an open field. I just hopped in with a pile of paperwork. My hopeless-at-practical-stuff helper started driving but then he hit a rut. Not just any rut, but a huge gash where a drill rig had gotten stuck months earlier. So this guy slams on the brakes just as we hit the rise on the rut, launching me through the air. I managed to grab the dashboard on my way past it, slowing myself down so that I didn't actually break through the windshield. He was going less than 10 mph.

So when you're out in the field, buckle up! And take the 10 seconds to actually look at what you're doing/about to do to avoid stupid mistakes.

Friday, October 3, 2008


When I rent a vehicle for a job, I prefer cargo vans. They hold a ton of stuff, the bare metal floors (if you're lucky) make sliding heavy stuff in and out easy, and if the weather's bad, you can work out of the back (if you've forgotten this, that is).

But if I'm going to be going over rugged terrain and need 4-wheel drive, I rent an SUV. This puts me in the very small minority of people who actually use SUVs the way they're supposedly intended. And I've been burned before by "SUVs" that apparently don't work off-pavement.

For example, I had to do some work in an undeveloped area owned by someone who let us in as long as we didn't make a mess. We had to take "before" and "after" pictures to show we didn't disturb anything. This was back when the super-big SUVs had just come out, and we were driving a Yukon or something. Well, we made a wrong turn and ended up in a bog. It was covered by a nice layer of leaf litter, so it didn't look any different from what we were driving in before.

We got stuck. Ok, no problem, put it in 4-low and try again. All 4 wheels started spinning. We hopped outside and found out that the ground was a little, um, soft. I pushed while my partner tried rocking it back and forth (hey, it works for snow sometimes) and all that happened was I got covered in mud. And the SUV settled in up to the chassis. This was also the age of cladding, so we couldn't physically reach a metal bit when we dug a hole and tried to jack it up.

By the time the tow truck had rumbled in and we'd been hauled out, we were covered in mud and we'd made a monster mudhole. We didn't take an "after" picture.

We would've been better off with a civic - at least you can push those out yourself. Luckily, that whole cladding fad has passed and so has the era of monster SUVs. Now I have the opposite problem - I ask for an SUV, I get some minivan with no ground clearance. Oh, it's a crossover. "But it's got all-wheel drive" sez the perky enterprise rep.

I got crossover once (it was too late for them to bring another car) for a site where I had to cross a railroad track, and the underbelly smacked into the track. Now why have a high ground clearance in the front, so you think you're ok, and then the clearance of a subcompact in the middle?

So I'm pretty specific when I order an SUV. It has to have actual ground clearance, 4-wheel drive, and no 3rd row seating so there's actually room for my gear. I'm moving equipment, not a soccer team, dammit!