Friday, February 27, 2009


Everybody has a different way to dress for cold days in the field. Some folks throw on a sweater and winter coat, but I’m a firm believer in layers. In fact, I probably over-layer, but I’d rather be able to chuck stuff if I warm up. And I avoid being underdressed at all costs – there’s nothing more miserable than working all day outside, being cold, and not having any more clothing.

So here’s what I do, from inside to outside layers:

1. Synthetic exercise tank with built in bra.

2. Undershirt. This is any t-shirt that’s too small, thin, stained, holey, or otherwise inappropriate for public viewing.

3. 2-layer thermal wool shirt. It’s protected from sweat by #2, which also keeps the seams from itching.

4. Cover shirt. I always cover the thermal shirt to keep it clean. Also, it’s a wee bit disreputable now. The cover shirt varies from a long-sleeved t-shirt to a fleece shirt to a sweater.

5. If it’s cold enough, a fleece vest, fleece pullover, or sweater.

6. Raincoat or overcoat.

In the winter, I usually have long underwear (regular or 2-layer wool) under my work pants. If it’s rainy or super cold, I wear windbreaker pants over the work pants. I don’t fool around with bad weather.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I was at a sports bar last night, and they had a screen showing CNN. The sound was off, but the title was "is volcano monitoring an economic benefit?"

I didn't have any context, so I just thought that this was some sort of oddly reductionist "if you're a hammer, all you see are nails" sort of thing. I mean, monitoring volcanos doesn't do much for the economy per se, but what you're trying to do is give sufficient notice to have timely evacuations, so you'll save that money in avoiding disaster relief. This is pretty basic.

So then I did a little searching online and found that it was in Bobby Jindal's rebuttal to Obama's speech. Ok, so it's just a bunch of partisan arm waving about the stimulus bill, which includes (along with the kitchen sink) some money for volcano monitoring.

We can argue that basic scientific monitoring should go through some other funding channels, but really, nobody thinks that spending a little federal dough to prevent/mitigate a natural disaster is a bad thing, right? Right? The fact that we're talking about the governer of Louisiana, beneficiary of decades of intensive weather monitoring and hurricane forecasting, is either infuriating or hilarious.

Edit: Maybe I should read the other geoblogs before posting. Once again, late to the party! See here and here and...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

book meme

I got this one from Sciencewomen. Once again, I’m the last one to the meme party.

1) Following Sciencewoman’s lead, I'm bolding those I've read and italicize those I haven’t finished. I’ll read any book all the way through unless I truly can’t stand it. So now you know which of these I hated.

2) Add a '+' to the ones you LOVE.

3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien (I’m sorta cheating on this because I did some serious skimming of the songs and the “let’s spend 10 pages telling our new friends what’s happened so far”)
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (sorry, folks, I must be the only sci-fi geek who cannot stand this series. God knows I’ve tried to read them. Several times.)
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis (couldn’t get into this series, either, but I did finish this particular book)
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame (another classic that I must’ve read 10 times before forcing myself to finish. Hated it.)
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (did this leave anyone else totally cold? Anyone? Maybe I was too young when I tried to read it)
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy*
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot*
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson (I may have read a bastardized/abridged version of this)
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas*
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King (I’m a big wimp and skipped the really scary bits)
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl+
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky+
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough (not really my thing…I think I stopped about ¾ of the way through)
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett+
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind*
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett+
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce*
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy*
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel (I read this too young, and the sex weirded me out)
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez*
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

I got 39, but my list was severely inflated by Pratchett and Dahl, who are two authors whose entire body of work I’ve read. Yes, that includes Dahl’s naughty stories– if you like seriously twisted stuff, I’d recommend picking up his omnibus.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

gear and the blog

I’ve often posted about the various items used in fieldwork and how they work/don’t work. The stuff that I recommend often gets tagged “stuff I like”, but really, I should have a separate tag for gear. So I’ve gone through and added it.

I’m trying to keep my labels from expanding too much, so I’m doing some trimming as well. I don’t foresee blogging much about bad science because that’s not really my focus, so I’ve removed that tag. Instead, I’d recommend Ben Goldacre’s bad science blog, which about covers everything.

I can think of additional posts that will be covered by some of the tags that are relatively unused, so I’ll keep everything else for now.

Monday, February 23, 2009

outdoor explorations

This post mentioned a topic dear to my heart - outdoor play. I grew up in a suburban area with small house lots, so I didn’t have access to a whole lot of “wilderness”. What I did have was an undeveloped patch within shouting distance of my house where I spent most of my free time. This patch was probably on the order of ½ an acre and has now been developed.

My little patch of woods had previously been used as a dumping ground for household refuse. Judging by the stuff I would find, I would say that it’d been used as a disposal area from the early 1900s to midcentury. Lots of porcelain shards, glass, metal bottle caps that were rusted beyond recognition, and the odd bit of shoe leather. One of my prized possessions when I was growing up was a piece of slag that I found there.

What else did it have? Some 2nd growth trees at full maturity, lots of boulders (probably deposited as construction debris and not by glaciers), a little stream that usually had some sort of oil slick, and large patches of thorn bushes that I strategically de-thorned and made into a secret lair that only a small child could fit into. If I the undergrowth was all leafed out and I pretended not to hear the people in the houses around me, it became a good approximation of wilderness.

Kids don’t need to have access to pristine wilderness to find nature. Once they’re old enough that they don’t need to be watched continuously (obviously this varies, but my parents left me alone with my woody area starting at about 8), they can find undeveloped patches or parks to explore and make their own fun. I realize that some folks live in exceedingly dangerous urban areas and this may be harder to do, but usually parks are a bus ride away.

I was in girl scouts, and I did my share of hikes and various activities in the woods. But what really started me on the path to a career in geology was my hanging out in my little patch of woods, making thornbush lairs, collecting porcelain bits, swordfighting with branches, and generally having fun without interference.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Master's investment?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve met a number of undergraduate students who are trying to figure out what they’re going to do once they graduate. They’re often intensely curious about environmental careers. One student was particularly insistent about getting my opinion about the financial advantages of a master’s degree. If you spend 2 years in grad school, sacrificing a full salary (such as it is), how soon do you recoup that investment?

Honestly, I don’t know. I went for a master’s degree so that I wouldn’t limit future career options, rather than because of specific financial calculations. And even if I did know that I could make x more money with an advanced degree, I started out with a different degree and in a completely different geographic area than the student who was interrogating me.

What you’re paid depends on the local market, the sum of your academic and work experience, and how you present yourself to the hiring manager. You can fool around with various salary comparison websites to see approximately how much money a geologist with a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degree may earn. But just because I’ve worked in the industry doesn’t mean I’m a universal expert on compensation.

I also think that if you’re going for an advanced degree, you should be going for more than just a theoretical financial payoff. But maybe that’s my perspective as an older student who waited until she was emotionally ready to go back to school.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Environmental work often involves supervision. I’ve been watched/overseen by facility managers (who may or may not represent our client), regulators, and other consultants.

Subcontractor oversight is pretty simple because the relationship is spelled out in a contract. But when I do oversight of fellow geologists or consultants, I tend to have more of a co-worker relationship. I’ll speak up if I see something wrong, and if they disagree or ignore me, I’ll make a note of it, but I’m not out to get them. This is true even when our respective clients are adversaries.

I’ve only had one experience where another consultant was really aggressive and difficult. In that case, the owner of the consulting firm was a close personal friend to a property owner who was opposed to our investigation (and with reason – the investigation indicated that part of “our” contamination originated on “their” property). The consultant for the other side sat on the public road as close as they could get to us, just outside the safety zone we’d set up, and tried to intimidate me by taking pictures, questioning our methods, and generally being a big pain in the ass. We had other rigs working on the project, but they stuck to me because I was the least experienced geologist. They were clearly hoping to find some errors in what I was doing, or even to force a mistake by harassing me. They only left when the field manager showed up.

Now I have a lot more confidence, and I’m not afraid to tell people “I will NOT discuss this subject with you further. If you have further questions, you’ll need to contact my client representative (PR person) directly.” But in my experience, overly aggressive consultants are thankfully rare.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

non-rock geology

I have to admit that I am not a rock geologist. This sounds funny to a lot of people. What geologist doesn’t like rocks? I think certain minerals are pretty cool-looking (who doesn’t like big chunks of watermelon tourmaline?), but I don’t go haring off through the countryside in search of rocks or minerals for fun. Most of mineralogy and petrology was a painful slog of memorization to me. And to this day, mineral identification is problematic for me unless it’s pretty obvious. For example, in petrology, I hated trying to figure out QAPF diagrams, like this one below

(from Wikipedia) because my feldspar hand sample identification sucks.

I am a process person. How did this landscape come to be, and how may it affect the people living nearby? To go back to petrology, what does this particular mineral assemblage tell us about the conditions under which the rock formed? Closer to my own grad school and work experience, if something nasty is spilled in this area and percolates into this bedrock, where does it go and how does it change as it comes into contact with various materials?

It’s not as simple (or as impressive to non-geologists) as picking up a rock and saying, “Of course! It’s a porphyritic granite with some lovely smoky quartz!” But I’ve always been intrigued by complications.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

rig training

I’ve written several posts about my interactions with drillers. See here and here. When I started working, I was pretty shy, so it was hard to speak up and tell the drillers what to do and what not to do. It is an essential skill, though, because drillers will always test limits.

So when I started training a brand-new geologist who was painfully shy, I understood. But at the same time, I needed to have the drilling done correctly, and I wanted to make sure that she understood everything. I told her, “I really do understand what you’re going through. This is hard. But the only way to get better is to speak up when you see something wrong. And please don’t hesitate to call if something looks wrong or you’re not sure what the drillers are doing.”

Did she ever call me to ask something once she was on her own? No. And although I stopped by when I could, I was busy with my own stuff.

I was trained somewhat half-assedly, and then when I was left on my own and an experienced geologist happened back on my site, he let it be known (to everyone else in the office) that he was not impressed with what I was doing. And he made noises about not letting me watch a drill rig on his project and generally undermined my trust instead of actually helping me to learn. But you can be sure that I was working my ass off to make sure I was doing things right.

I am trying not to be that geologist. I want to support inexperienced geologists, but I’m still not sure of the best method to get folks up to speed quickly. There’s just so much that can go wrong…

Monday, February 16, 2009

pocket problems

I mentioned in a recent post that maybe I should keep an emergency whistle in my pocket. However, my pockets are fairly limited in real estate. So what did I usually have in my pockets when I was out in the field?

1. personal cell phone
2. work cell phone or radio
3. well/gate keys
4. at least 1 regular pen and 1 big sharpie
5. car keys
6. hotel card
7. a replacement hair elastic
8. a ratty old tissue or shop towel
9. a couple of business cards
10. digital camera
11. spare change
12. an extra nitrile glove or two

I was also required to have a logbook, but no matter how compact it was, it was always way too big for a pocket. So it got carried around (and frequently misplaced).

Some of this stuff doesn’t take much room (hair elastic, well keys, spare change, tissues), but it’s still a lot to drag around. It’s ok in the winter, when I have a coat of many pockets in addition to oversized pants (to fit over long underwear). But in the summer, I run into serious space limitations. I’ve considered something like this:
or these (all from Ben Meadows,, but I don’t ordinarily wear belts. Maybe I should reconsider, though…digital cameras don’t play well with keys and other sharp objects, and I’m carrying around a lot of gear that probably shouldn’t be sat on as often as it is.

Friday, February 13, 2009

professor activity

So what do professors do? I’m pretty well informed; besides having first hand experience as a grad student, I also keep an eye on a lot of academic blogs. So sometimes it’s interesting to read the general public’s reaction to what a professor actually does. Check out this op-ed, from the NY Times: Sorry that it’s sort of an old article by now.

I don’t have a problem with loosening some control on scientists and letting them follow research where they will. We already have a fairly decent mechanism for discouraging utterly useless research; it’s called “publish or perish”. You need to have something that’s of interest at least to other scientists in order to merit inclusion in a higher-ranked journal, and publishing in higher ranked journals is the main way to get a professorship and tenure. I’m generalizing wildly here, of course.

If we tailor our science to examine what we think is important only right now, we’re missing out on the chance to do off-the-wall, seemingly useless stuff that may have other applications we can’t even conceive of right now. Wringing incremental advances out of stuff we already know is what businesses do all the time to stay current. They do it well, so let them fund that stuff. But someone needs to encourage the basic research that doesn’t have an immediate payoff.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

unit conversion

My department has lots of international grad students, and they’re all boggled by our strange units of measurement. Inches? Yards? Fluid ounces? Acre-feet?

The metric system is so nice. When you’re working with contaminants, you work on lots of different scales and they’re a cinch to convert. 1 m3 = 1000 L; 1 L = 1000 cm3 (mL), etc etc.

And then you start doing fieldwork, where you have a horrible mishmash of units. For example, you often need to remove x well volumes of water. And you’ve got a 5 gallon bucket to measure your water volume and dump into a 55-gallon drum. And how do you measure flow? In mL/minute! Then you’ve got a well that’s 2 inches in diameter, and has x feet of water in it (measured in tenths of a foot, rather than inches, of course – the need to find measuring tapes/rulers scaled in 10ths of a foot is another pain). Back of the envelope-y calculations are fine, so you start figuring, ok, it has a 1 inch radius, so if you convert it to cm, then square it, then, multiply it by 3.14, then, um…

So you do all the conversions, and if you have a standard 2-inch well, then each foot of water is 0.16 gallons (I think…it’s been a while). Ok, that’s doable, right? And then you find that your site has some odd 1.25 inch temporary wells and then you start calculating all over again.

That’s why there’s always a cheap calculator in my toolkit, along with everything else.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

whistle while you...

One of my deficiencies is that I am unable to whistle. At all.

This can be a problem when you’re working outside and you’re trying to get someone’s attention. It’s especially annoying if you’ve around drill rigs, construction equipment, or other noisy machinery. A nice, piercing whistle cuts through low-frequency rumbly noises in a way that shouting doesn’t. I usually have an emergency whistle buried in the bottom of my backpack, but that means that by the time I find it, I could’ve just gone up to the person.

I don’t have a terribly loud voice naturally, but over the years I’ve learned to do a passable field bellow that will carry a fair distance. Even so, what usually happens is that someone notices that I’m trying to attract another person’s attention, and they whistle for me.

I am pretty adept at duck calling using a blade of grass, but that’s a specialized skill most often used to amuse small children and international grad students. Maybe I should just graduate the “emergency” whistle to a dedicated pocket…

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

thesis QC

This is prompted by EcoGeoFemme's somewhat recent post on thesis mistakes.

When I worked in consulting, the standard procedure was to have someone else check your work, even if it was painfully simple. When I first started working, I spent probably 1/2 my office time checking numbers because nobody else wanted to do it. Labs would fax over 20-30 pages of data, and then someone would enter the numbers into a spreadsheet and I would check the two sets against each other. Now, of course, that data is sent electronically, saving some poor low-level employee a little work.

That didn't happen for my thesis. I did a bunch of complex calculations (complex in that it was a lot of manipulation, not that the math was difficult), and it was like pulling teeth to get my advisor to look over them. Sure, he'd look at the write-up and if something wasn't right, he'd point it out. But if I said "this value is multiplied by some other factor based on this assumption", he didn't actually check my math as long as the statement was technically correct. Nor did anyone else. When I first started my thesis, he was a lot more careful checking things. So maybe he decided I was trustworthy once he'd seen that my work was more or less error free?

So I'm hoping that I caught everything myself. I'd rather be in EcoGeoFemme's position and have it caught at some point before publication, though.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Another degree!

A comment on the previous post reminded me of a silly (but real) reason I wanted a graduate degree. Hey, I’m a pseudonym, might as well admit it, right?

I wanted the graduation ceremony.

I had planned to go to grad school for a while, but the spring before I started, I attended a family member’s graduate commencement ceremony and it got me all fired up.

You see, I went to a fancy SLAC that boasted of a super high 4-year finishing rate and had mostly middle to upper class students who were expected to finish college because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Graduation day felt like just a long ceremony with a party at the end. Of course, my school had students for whom graduating was a singular accomplishment, but they’d been assimilated, borg-like, into an overprivileged party-hard atmosphere.

My relative’s graduation ceremony was entirely different. The average student was my age or older, with several bringing infants and small children when they got their diploma. This was something they’d chosen to do, and they’d sacrificed a lot to get where they were. I could picture myself there, getting that certificate – I wanted to be there.

Also, they had nifty academic regalia.

Any other silly-but-real reasons to get an advanced degree? I bet everyone’s hiding one or two…

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hey, you!

It’s hard to know how to address females in a business capacity. My single pet peeve, as you may have noticed, is to be considered younger/more inexperienced/more helpless than I actually am. So I hated being called “Miss”. I felt like “Miss” should be reserved for someone under the age of 18.

So it was pretty funny when someone called a friend (same age and stage in life) “Ma’m” and she got really mad because she thought only old ladies were addressed as “Ma’m”. That’s when I realized that no matter what you call a female business acquaintance or client, you’re probably going to irritate someone. From then on, I resolved not to get worked up about being called “Miss”, because the hapless addresser has no idea what my personal preferences are. If they knew me, they’d use my given name.

By the way, calling me “sir” isn’t the best way to go about things either. The number of female geologists has increased significantly since the days of yore, so if you’re a driller, I’d suggest not having “yes, sir” as your default response to requests.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

blog update

So sciencewomen and other sciencebloggers are following a “blogroll amnesty” where you’re supposed to list five worthy, less read blogs than your own. Honestly, most of the blogs I follow have significantly more traffic than I do, but my list of blogs that I read on a regular listing could use some updating.

So here’s my list of additional recommended blogs:

Silver Fox at Looking for detachment
Chris Rowan at Highly allochthonous

General Science/Academia:
Sciencewomen: Being the change we want to see in science and engineering
Brazen Hussy at What the hell is wrong with you

Just for fun:
Sara Lorimer at It’s lovely! I’ll take it!

Now let's see if I remember how to update my blogroll...

(ok, I did my editing. If anybody wants to be in a different category, let me know!)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Lil' girl, big truck

That’s the comment I got a lot whenever I had to drive a super-duty pickup. I didn’t drive them regularly, but sometimes you’re planning on transporting a lot of purge water or drums of soil, and a regular pickup doesn’t have enough of a load rating.

I know trucks aren’t designed with short females in mind. But super-duty trucks are uniquely bad. I had to physically leap into the truck if I didn’t want to do a beached-whale impression to drag myself in. I had to kick my partner and most of the gear out of the front seat so that I could yank the (bench) seat far enough ahead that I could reach the gas. On a couple of these trucks, the dashboard was so high, I actually had problems seeing over it. I’m short, but not outside the range of normal female height. And if there’s any “lumbar support”, it hits me midback and is crippling for driving more than a half hour or so.

Back to the comment. It irritated me because it’s not like big pickups are any more difficult to drive than any other vehicle, especially compared to, say, box trucks. Is it really so unusual for a female to drive a large vehicle? And who thinks it’s appropriate to yell random comments while I’m trying to fill the gas tank, anyway?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

hotel warrior

FSP discussed her travel for work recently and concluded that despite travelling a lot of miles, she didn’t consider herself a “road warrior”. I wouldn’t call myself a road warrior either, because most of my travel over the past several years has been relatively local (within 200 miles, mostly) and once I get somewhere for the week or for a 10-day shift, I don’t move around too much. What I am, however, is a hotel warrior.

I stayed in a hotel recently, and when I checked out, the desk clerk asked if I wanted to keep the key card. I asked why, and she said that some people like to keep them as souvenirs. I had to laugh at that one – I told the clerk that if I were collecting key cards, I would have a stack several inches high. I think that qualifies me as a hotel warrior.

That led me to thinking, what else makes someone a hotel warrior? So here’s a list.

1. You have a hotel rewards card that is so full of points, you never have to pay for a hotel room on vacation, and you got most of your major appliances using hotel points.

2. You never bother to pack shampoo, but you always have a bunch of conditioner. Why is it that hotels give you free lotion (and shoe polish, and shower caps) and no conditioner? 2-in-1 doesn’t count.

3. Your travel (in this case fieldwork) suitcase or duffel never makes it into a closet when you get home; it’s always waiting for fresh clothing or already packed.

4. You don’t bother taking hotel pens (or shampoo, or anything else) home anymore.

5. The entire hotel staff knows you (only applicable if you’re in a long-term project).

6. It takes you 3.5 seconds to unload your stuff to your satisfaction when you get to your hotel room.

7. The only things you really care about in a hotel are internet and breakfast.

8. You are a master of every type of alarm clock known to man.

9. You know off the top of your head which major hotel chains give you conditioner (score!), which have the pillows you prefer, which have fridges for leftovers, which have non in-room internet, and which have lame continental breakfasts.

Am I missing anything? Let me know!

Monday, February 2, 2009

culinary adventures

If you do environmental work, at some point you may find yourself in an overgrown, nearly forgotten contaminated site. This contaminated site may appear to be an oasis of wilderness (or at least second growth), and if you’re at the site at the right time of year, you may find a profusion of wild berries. I’ve run into blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, mulberries, and grapes myself.

These particular berries may look utterly innocuous. In fact, they may look downright luscious, especially if you’re a little thirsty and it’s been several hours since you last ate. And they will taste terrific (as I know from, um, experience).

But do not eat the contaminated berries! They drink contaminated water! You wouldn’t drink the groundwater you’re sampling, so ignore them.