Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Small SUV, please

I occasionally go to remote sites that have bad access roads, and for those I need something with all-wheel drive and clearance to get all the way to where I need to go (otherwise, it's a loong hike). The rental company's default appears to be a giant-ass SUV and/or extended-cab pickup truck (and sometimes those inexplicably don't have the all-wheel drive that I specifically requested, but I digress).

Here's the problem: a huge SUV is not only heavy (as I complained about a long time ago), but it's decidedly less maneuverable than a smaller vehicle. If you have a bunch of remote locations to check, that's a huge number of 78-point turns as you attempt to turn around in tiny clearings and wide spots in logging roads.

The other thing about a huge SUV, often with out of state plates, is that it's a big old flashing light saying "I'm associated with big government/big business and I'm not from around here" and that can be downright dangerous in many areas. At the very least, it makes things awkward when you're residential sampling or trying to find something you need in the only store within 30 miles.

I once ended up with a Kia Sportage while I was on a drilling job in the mountains. The drillers thought it was the most ridiculous thing they'd ever seen, and then it turned out that they couldn't get their pickup truck up to the drilling site after a rainstorm and I became the primary crew transport because my silly little Korean box could.*

I have zero ego bound up with my choice of vehicles (unlike certain coworkers), so I'm always happy to take the runt of the lot.

*Point to the pickup truck, it was carrying a full water tank and had bald tires. Point to the Kia, I wasn't nearly as willing to hit the hill at maximum speed to try and get over a particular steep/slippery spot.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

computation allocation

I occasionally need to manipulate a bunch of data, either to input into another program or to pick out trends/issues, that are for whatever reason not easily reducible or have issues that are not immediately obvious. And sometimes this data manipulation takes the form of tedious and relatively simple excel crunching to simplify things.

I have a couple of options here:

1. I can offload the manipulation to an intern/low level scientist, give them extensive directions, set them loose with the first iteration, and then look at what they have and have them refocus/redo a bunch of stuff. They will spend an exceptionally long time doing this, but they have a very low billing rate.

2. I can give the data to my data manipulation colleague, who will do some sort of macro/program building magic. I will get the data back relatively quickly, but it's a bit of a black box and I will need to go through her results and figure out what might have been missed/what didn't sort correctly. My colleague has a very high billing rate, and depending on how much massaging is required, it may take a while to get set up.

3. I go ahead and do all the crunching myself, even though it's tedious and surely there must be a better way for me to get what I need, because I need the data evaluated now, not when the cheap staff member or the expensive specialist are available.

If I have a forgiving schedule and the data set isn't ridiculously large (can be conveyed in one spreadsheet file of less, than, say, 4 MB), I go with #1. If the data set starts to get out of control, I either go with #2 entirely (less often) or use #2 to cut out the data that I'm sure I don't need and focus on what I think I may need. But at crunch time, when it looks like it would just take me a day or so, it's all me.

Monday, June 19, 2017

seasonal blahs

This is the second year that I've fallen off the blogging wagon in starting mid-February to late March, and I think you can look back to previous years and see at least a fall-off at the same time. The problem has gotten more pronounced since I've moved to mostly office work.

Back when I was out in the field all the time, I had access to light in the winter. Sure, it was weak winter light, and there were short days, but I was absorbing something even if I wore a million layers and had no skin exposed. After all these years, it's clear I have a bit of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and everything sort of... grinds to a halt after a couple months of darkness. I keep writing for a couple months after November/December out of stubbornness, but then it's so hard to get motivated to keep up.

I don't have any real solutions, except to try and come back up for air sooner rather than later. But in the meantime, I'll keep plugging away.