Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Conservation is key

It's been a dry year here in the South. I enjoyed the 35% humidity in July and only crept up into the 50% range in Aug. It was nice only having one or two tornado warnings chase me into the basement at work when a storm front plowed through. But it's hard to ignore the fact that really this place should be getting a lot more precipitation.

We've been trying to conserve water by forsaking our lawn, but what I didn't realize is that our new habit of unplugging minor appliances (TV, DVD player, cell phone charger) was saving water as well. Turns out power requires more water than our neighbor's 3 ton requires in baths, as outlined in this article in the Free Republic. The numbers were quite interesting to me - I honestly wasn't aware of the magnitude of the amount of water needed to keep the lights on.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Reflections of Road/Air Warrior

I have taken 5 significant trips in as many weeks (I'm sitting in ATL right now, still several hours from my bed). Aside from the slight guilt I have over the carbon footprint incurred while proselytizing others as to the awesomeness of my research, I have made a couple observations:
  • DWF (Dallas-Fort Worth) has to be one of the worst multi-terminal airports around
  • DAY (Dayton, OH) is a surprisingly large airport
  • CLT (Charlotte, NC) has incredibly cute and inviting rocking chairs positioned along concourses that seem to call out to sit a spell, sip some sweet tea and listen to a story about Old Man Jones's tobacco farm or surf the web for free...
  • Frontier Airlines have the least helpful employees I've ever encountered
  • I should really carry a enviro-friendly travel kit with a light-weight, reusable mug for airplane refreshments because I have generated a considerable amount of waste lately by consuming hydration from flimsy plastic cups

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I'm no optometrist, but....

One cultural adventure I had recently is worth repeating. I lost my eyeglasses. I don't need them to see on a regular basis, but my eyes get super fatigued if I have to read or look at a computer screen for very long without them. So I made an appointment with an optometrist to get a new pair.

I walk into the exam room and the Dr. immediately starts chatting me up- if his accent didn't give him away as a native, the conversation quickly would have.

Him: Your name looks familiar... was your husband in here recently?
Me: No.
Him: Are you sure?
Me: Yes (because my husband has a different last name, but I didn't feel the need to go into details on that, as it would surely expose me as a pinko-commie left-wing nut job)
Him: What department are you in?
Me: Geology.
Him: A guy came in from that department recently...
We converse until we converge on the newest member of our faculty (i.e. not me - yay!)
Him: He did an internship with Exxon... so why is the cost of gas so high?
Me: Well, there are a lot of Chinese people that want to use gasoline like we have been using it all these years.
Him: You know what I think, the government needs to lift the restrictions on offshore drilling so we can go drill these areas where we know there's oil, like Alaska. Maybe there isn't enough, but just lifting the restriction will do something to help lower the price.
Me: (mentally slapping my own forehead) I don't think that's going to help very much. There are 2 billion people in India and China that create such huge demand on a dwindling supply- we just really need to start using less. That's why we just bought a Prius- and I even do research in oil and gas related fields.
Him: I bought a pick-up truck a few years ago, and when I bought it diesel was 99 cents a gallon- now it costs me three times as much to fill it! I do think gas should cost more...
[Me: getting excited- yes! Make the price reflect it's true cost to our society and our environment and encourage people to conserve!]
Him: ...[paraphrasing] so we can make a ton of money off of drilling offshore Alaska.

Somewhere along the line I recited some blurry and some not so blurry letters and got my prescription. Sadly, I could tell he would have the same conversation with me if I walked in 10 minutes later, all ramped up and ready to drill ANWAR so an optometrist in Dixieland can drive his diesel to work his office job for the same price as back in 1999.

Later, he brought up Hillary Clinton as an analogy for how popular culture misrepresents the South. It was a strange example for him to choose, as I am fairly sure he is not a fan of Hillary ("When the media say that half the people like her, they don't focus on the fact that it means half of the people don't like her...).

What just happened?

Wow. wow. wow. I look at the calendar and all I can think is "What just happened?" It seems like it wasn't so long ago that we were hunkered down seeking shelter from the sweltering dog daze of summer. Tonight we get frost. Obviously a lot of time had passed since I last blogged - I mean there does seem to be something to be said for more variability in climate as we go full throttle into an anthropogenically enhanced interglacial period so weather alone could be misleading, but I know a lot of time has passed because our football schedule is almost over. And I have only one more exam to give to my intro class before the final (hallelujah!). And my 1 year anniversary of post-PhD-dom is almost here- yikes!

One of the stranger things I've gotten to experience lately is "courting" potential graduate students. I hope to get some good students to apply to the program and with any luck they will actually come to my department and work with me. But the whole process is a sort of sordid version of junior high school role reversals- you know, trying to seem as cool as you possibly can and even flaunting all the geeky lab-bling at your disposal. At least I haven't had to slow dance to INXS "Never Tear Us Apart"- yet - but prospects are good to have some good people working on projects with me- eager, excited, and full of geo-love.

I have to say that talking with these young'uns is hilarious- its like looking in a time-warped mirror of what I was back in my geology puppy-love days. I literally had more than one student say to me "I'm not exactly sure what I want to focus on- I just like it all so much!" Soooo cute! And I admit, put an outcrop in front of me and I pretty much start slobbering like a Labrador, and I even get the Pavlovian response to plotting new data or tweeking a figure to perfection, but all that does get a bit clouded by the publish-or-perish (or fund-thy-research-or-perish as may be more of the case) rat race that is academia. Of course, when it comes down to it, that excitement about rocks is always there, waiting underneath the to-do list of tedium necessary to keep institutions of higher learning operating. And in the end it makes this a pretty cool way to make a living!