Thursday, July 30, 2009

lyme frustration

I posted about this in passing, but was reminded about it by this NYTimes post.

Why the hell doesn't Lyme disease get any respect? Are there actually doctors out there who don't think it exists? Why is the medical establishment so resistant to diagnosing it? In my experience, you'll get better treatment from a vet.

I know, I know, the test for it is dodgy and the symptoms aren't very exotic and it can look like a million other diseases. But it's very simple. Do you work outside on the east coast? Are you regularly in contact with grass/shrubbery/second growth areas? Then you're at risk.

My doctor had a laughably bad understanding of the disease (I panicked once when I found an embedded tick) so I thought I'd post this simple list:

1. You may or may not have a bulls-eye rash.
2. Ticks don't transmit the disease until they've been feeding for a while, so if you find one embedded and remove it later (i.e. in the shower once you get home), you're ok.
3. Ticks like warm, dark, um... furry places. Also, ticks can be really, really small. So they may not be spotted so easily.
4. Lyme disease gets harder to treat the longer you wait. Unfortunately, because the test is prone to false positives/negatives and it often seems to be the last thing a doctor will think of when you present with joint pain/neurological symptoms, you can go for years before diagnosis.

Also, lyme disease is only one of a whole bunch of diseases transmitted by ticks. The CDC sez babesiosis, crimean-congo hemorrhagic fever, southern tick-associated rash illness, tick-borne relapsing fever, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and rocky mountain spotted fever can also be spread by the buggers.

This is why I always wear pants and light-colored in the field...and take a very thorough shower afterward.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

mapping preference

I've got a question for all you geologists out there (or whoever's left after my little blog break)...

if you have to create contours of some sort (bedrock elevations, water table, contaminant plumes), do you use software, or do you hand draw them?

I always contoured by hand, using a combination of triangulation and that elusive "professional judgement". Wherever I worked, we were too cheap to have any real contouring software, so I really didn't have much of a choice. I didn't even use simple software like surfer until I was in grad school.

At the same time, I've seen a number of astonishingly bad contours drawn by software. Here's a hint: in the real world, you tend not to have little divots and hills around all of your data points.

In the ideal world, I'd have some sort of software that would do a really basic set of contours, but that I could tweak by hand, using some sort of tablet and pen device. And the software (and peripherals would be not only cheap, but somewhat rugged.

Oh, well - a girl can dream, anyway.

Monday, July 20, 2009

blog vacation

I've been running myself ragged recently and I've got a bunch of stuff to do this week, so I'm going to be taking a wee blog break. I'll be back next week.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

trivial answers

So here’s the trivia answers – I waited until today for late entries.

It was hard to decide because nobody said “highway x in state y” for all three. But Marciepooh had the most specific answers and did have something for all 3. Send me an e-mail and we’ll work out a way for you to get the tchochke.

What was I thinking of?

I did a lot of driving around the east coast, as you would guess from my profile. So that’s where I was thinking of.

1. I-84 in the southwest corner of Connecticut (gotta catch those New Yawkers)

2. I-81 in northern Pennsylvania (ditto)

3. I-95 south of Boston, in Massachusetts (incidentally, as a rule, try to avoid I-95. As the spine of the northeast corridor megapolis, it has horrific traffic jams pretty much along its entire northern portion.)

Of course, the east coast doesn't have a monopoly on bad road engineering, as you've shown in the comments. And we haven't even started on secondary roads, which can be mind-boggling...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

job gap

FSP posted recently about employment gaps in an academic CV. It's true that academics have special problems with employment gaps because they have a ticking tenure clock. But I don't really understand why employment gaps should be viewed so negatively. Sure, if you've got an applicant who's clearly a dilettante - two years at this job, 6 month gap, 8 months at this other job, etc - then you may want to question their commitment.

But the odd gap doesn't necessarily mean that a worker is going to be a slacker or a short-timer.

One of my friends had such a gap. He was applying to a non-academic job, and this particular gap wasn't long enough for him to lose any technical skills (less than a year). One potential employer (female) asked him about it, but he knew his rights. So he hemmed and hawed. But she wouldn't stop asking about it. So he got fed up and told her the truth...

"I spent 8 months taking care of my mother when she had cancer!"

On the plus side, he made the interviewer feel like a royal ass. But really, did it matter what he was doing while he wasn't working? What if he decided to be a ski bum for a winter before settling down? How would that affect his 30-year career?

I don't have dependents. My longest employment gap since I was 14 was about 2 months (not counting grad school). My parents are relatively young and healthy. But I can't guarantee that I won't need to stop working at some point. Sometimes life happens.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

chased out

There are times when environmental consultants aren't exactly welcomed with open arms when they're in the field.

In any number of situations, you can find yourself working either right next to a hostile person's property, or in the steet in front of them. Or maybe you have to be on someone's property because of a court order. I know folks who have collected samples with a sheriff standing guard. Drillers have told me that they've been shot at before.

I haven't been personally attacked, maybe because I looked young and the locals assumed (wrongly) that the other person with me was in charge. But I've witnessed coworkers getting screamed at or having folks get in their face.

Sometimes environmental issues get contentious. Having a well in the street in front of your house may lower your home's resale value, even if the source of contamination is a mile or more away. An environmental site may be the focus of consolidation, causing contamination to be concentrated (although capped or otherwise stabilized). And libertarian types may be offended if the government appears to be imposing on property owners (or paying "my tax dollars" toward cleanup).

Just remember: the person who actually comes around to do the sampling is 90% of the time a consultant working for the property owner, the law firm, the government, or whatever. And we're pretty careful to make sure that we have all our legal issues worked out so that we're not trespassing.

The environmental folks coming to the site didn't cause the mess. And the person doing the sampling is almost never in any position to make a decision about the property - they're just doing a job. Abusing the person collecting the sample does nothing to hold back or otherwise change the course of a project. If you actually drive them off, chances are they'll be back and accompanied by law enforcement. If you disagree about the project, contact your local newspaper, government, or the property owner and register an official complaint.

Monday, July 13, 2009

trivia 2

I didn't quite have a stampede of answers on the last post. So how about this: trivia contest goes until Friday and then the person with the most answers wins the tchochke (it's pretty good - actually, my sweetie may have a hard time parting with it). Tiebreaker is whoever answers the most questions first.

In the meantime, it's hot out and I had a long-ass day and I need a shower. I'll be more insightful tomorrow.

Friday, July 10, 2009

driving trivia

Folks who work in the field tend to do a lot of driving. And when you do a lot of driving, you run into some especially aggravating or hair-raising sections of road. With that in mind, here are a few trivia questions for my US readers: can you name the interstate highway and state?

1. Miles of perfect, freshly-paved 4 lane highway, no construction, no exits...with a permanent 40 mph speed limit... Doesn't sound bad, until you drive it and realize that nobody's changing their usual 80 mph driving and if some poor sucker tries to drive the speed limit, they'll get rear-ended within a minute.

2. On-ramps with stop signs...Not even a bugatti will do 0-70 in less than 2 seconds.

3. Driving in the breakdown lane is legal during rush hour...There are so many things wrong with this, I don't know where to start. How you know what happens when there's an actual breakdown?

First reader who gets all 3 gets an environmental and/or geological conference tchochke!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

air conditioning

Now that it’s getting quite hot, I’m happy to report that I finally got my AC fixed. You know who’s even happier about the AC?

My spider plant.

The spider plant (Herbie, in case you’re wondering its name) has totally perked up in the last 24 hours. It was looking a little sickly and yellow, but now it’s bright green and I could swear it’s started growing more already.

Now I have an excuse to keep the temperature at a non-environmentally friendly level. Just think of the poor houseplants!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Readers who come here via some geo-aggregator like this may come here and wonder, how is she part of the geoblogosphere, exactly? Especially if it's one of those weeks where I spend more time ranting about my internet connection than anything else.

I do post about general geology topics, whether it's politics or just the most recent geology carnival. But those posts were getting lost in my "miscellany" tag, grouped in with endless discussions of my migraines and whatever else doesn't fit anywhere else. So I made up a new geology tag and back-tagged everything.

Most of what I discuss is applicable to other fields of geology and to fieldwork in general. So I'm reserving my new "geology" tag for whatever geology topics don't fit anywhere else. And now that I have a separate tag, it'll prompt me to write more posts about general geology stuff if/when I run through my post backlog.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Accretionary wedge – inspiration

So July’s Accretionary Wedge is about how you came to be a geologist…

It’s funny, I took earth science in 8th grade and it didn’t exactly light a spark. I remember saying, “well, that was interesting, but it’s certainly nothing that I’d want to do for a career.”

In high school, I decided that what I really wanted to do was to be an archaeologist. I didn’t care about finding super-cool artifacts, but I wanted to be the person down in the trenches, peeling away layers, excavating shards of whatever and putting things back together.

I was always involved in some fundraiser or another, so my parents ended up getting a lot of magazine subscriptions. One of those was to Archaeology, but oddly enough, I usually didn’t read much of each issue, even though I was generally a voracious reader.

So, archaeology it was. When applying to college, I used “must have an archaeology department” and “small liberal arts school” as my two main criteria. That cut the number of potential schools way down.

By the time I actually entered college, I’d realized that archaeology isn’t exactly awash with jobs and I didn’t think I was good enough to compete in a tough job market. So I turned my attention to geology. I took a terrific intro to geology course that was designed essentially to suck in people who hadn’t considered geology as a major. And I was hooked.

I never did take a pure archaeology course…but I never would have guessed in high school that much of my work would be so similar to traditional archaeology.

Monday, July 6, 2009

job stress

I’ve recently admitted to some job stress. When I've been working long hours in the field and everything keeps getting screwed up, I start to get tempted by every other job I encounter. "Receptionist at a doctor's office? In the AC? I could totally go for that! Grocery bagger? No responsibility sounds pretty good…”

The problem is now I’m starting to think, “It’s pretty sweet being a grad student. I get to do science, but I set my own hours, my research is my own, and I have an infinitely smaller amount of paperwork. Wouldn’t it be cool to be a PhD student and not have to worry about this responsibility stuff for another couple years?”

…no, it would not. As much as I bitch and moan, I do like having enough money that I can afford meat with my dinner. And actually building up savings instead of losing money. And not having to live with 3 strangers who walk off with all the forks I brought to the house. And…

Thursday, July 2, 2009

200 posts

200 posts! Time for a word cloud of the last 100 posts...

As before, this shows I use a lot of qualifiers and casual language. My thesis word cloud, which I can't show because it's a little too accurate and has certain "terms of art" that would pretty much blow my pseudonymity, has almost no qualifiers.

The other thing I noticed about this word cloud is that while the big words are the same as the 100-post cloud, you can see that I had certain topics that I harped on, like spiders, that don't make it here. Spider spider spider! Instead, "hotel" appears relatively large because I had several posts on various aspects of hotels.

Well, that was fun, but it took way too long to compile all my posts into one document. I won't be willing to that for, oh, another 100 posts...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

party pooper

My sweetie is out at the weekly "cheesy 80s movie nite" at the local bar. I used to enjoy doing this, but fieldwork has me completely beat. So instead I stayed in, "cooked" some dinner (1 rotisserie chicken, some reconstituted mashed potatoes, and some frozen veggies), and will be going to bed at about the time they start the movie.

If I'm traveling for work, I don't really get to unwind at all. But the end of a long day, it's hard to be sociable even when I get home and could actually meet up with some friends.

It could be that I'm just getting old...