Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sorrow for Wenchuan

As the true tragedy of the recent earthquake in China unfolds, I along with everyone else can only struggle to wrap our brains around the magnitude of the many people whose lives have been devastated. I had the chance to visit many of the affected areas years ago, yet still the sheer magnitude of the number of people and the difficulty of the terrain are something entirely out of my sphere of understanding. The roads are treacherous even in a good rainstorm, delivering food and water require huge amounts of infrastructure and resources even on a daily basis. The only possible thing I could equate it to is if you took the population of LA/Inland Empire and the San Francisco bay area and combined them into a region the size of Connecticut and then bordered it all with terrain that would have the relief equivalent of that from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney surrounding it, then make it all a jungle and top it with the infrastructure and resources of 40-30 years ago.

It seems we always learn these lessons too late, because this was all inevitable, some time, some day. But none of this can help the people of Sichuan now. Thankfully the PLA is getting every resource at its disposal to save those who could still be saved (unlike Myanmar), and those resources are vast. Godspeed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Taking rocks hi tech

Our institution is, like many others, encouraging the use of technology in large lecture courses. I jumped into the deep end with the CPS clickers and think once I really learn more than basic uses that it will be really great- although I completely underestimated how awkward it would feel to stand around in front of a large class for 60 seconds while they all entered an answer. I am now contemplating the use of a GeoPad, not only in teaching but in research as well.

Geopad is "the integrated combination of GIS software, a GPS receiver, and a Windows XP TabletPC (GeoPad) or a PocketPC Personal Digital Assistant (GeoPocket)." Sounds great, but I have such little experience with this stuff and really no clue where to start. My biggest fear is that I drop a bunch of dough on some equipment that will take a ton of time to integrate. On Inside-out, based out of Lawrence University, there's a good bit of blogged info on using this technology in teaching intro environmental science courses. I'm scrounging for info and hope that once this semester reaches its final throes I'll be able to dig into this a bit more.

But I mean check it out- how cool would it be to be able to do this:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rocks are hott!

I just advised my first undergrad geo major who had only recently declared as GEO... he wants to "go into ether petroleum or minerals" and I didn't get the sense his motive was altruistic. The geoblogosphere is abuzz with the high demand for geo grads and it seems even in Dixie there's some people who are noticing the opportunities in earth science right now. I will sheepishly admit it is strange to watch a 22 year-old go out and make more $ than I've ever made in a job, despite my oodles of years of training. I honestly wouldn't trade places, but from my perspective it does seem like a weird phenomenon of the current job market. I still feel like I have so much to learn about the earth, but learning takes time and time is money and apparently there's no time like the present to be a geo major!

When this new geo major went on to say "Oh, petrology... I should take that class if I'm interested in petroleum, right?" I will again sheepishly admit I felt a bit better about my oodles of training. Guess if I don't have the big paycheck I at least have my work (that I like) cut out for me! As the housing market shows again, all booms will bust, but I plan on enjoying this part of the ride for sure!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Edward Abbey avenged?

This is a special Western Exposure report from the desert southwest of the US. My first venture to this area was back in '97 and in 10 short years there has been a world of change - human habitation of this arid ecosystem has skyrocketed. I read Desert Solitare after moving to the desert southwest in 1998 and was instantly smitten. For a geohead like myself the significance of anthropogenic scars on what was such an incredibly outcrop-rich geo-wonderland environment was heart-wrenching! After Desert Solitare, I moved on to The Monkey Wrench Gang and since then, my daydreams often involve small explosive devices at the base of those dreaded LCD billboards or legislation outlawing the creation of McMansions in greenfields when brownfields are in such dire blight or severe damage to any major place of commerce beginning with "Wal" and ending in "Mart".  

I have said for years TMWG would make a great movie and LO and Behold! there is a such a film in production! I am very excited about this development and I so hope the film lives up to the book.  My greater hope is that urban sprawl sticks to Vegas, Phoenix, SLC and others like it and that some of the most amazing landscapes and ecosystems that make up the desert SW survive until collectively we get smart enough to value them for the treasures that they are without condos or casinos.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What google can't give me: elucidating the manuscript review process

So its been a long lapse in blogging but honestly, I promise, I swear I've been meaning to do so for a while now. I even have a couple blog-goals (blogoals?). One is to put up a link for a YouTube library of sed-o-liscious videos. They can be INVALUABLE in teaching, but take time to track down. Check out one of my favorites for demonstrating thixotropic behavior. I love it! I also have an incredibly hilarious/geeky one for fluidized sediment to the soundtrack of Forrest Gump's Theme Song (to which we're partial in the South). I'll save that for another time. Anyways, I figure if I searched for 'em, others must have too, so why not save someone some trouble someday. I also want to do one for Intro Geo, but there isn't as much surprisingly except for mass-wasting and other natural hazards.

What I'm here to do now, though, is to lament that despite the push to publish, we don't always get the review criteria for every journal before we submit. What exactly will the critique entail? Well, submitting is one way to find out! Once I've reviewed more papers I may find that the actual check list is meaningless. But right now all I can ask is "Is it meaningless? If not, what does it mean? Heck, what IS the review process for a specific journal?" Some have them available on line, but not all. In particular I've struck out with Journal of Sedimentary Research but found it available on Sedimentology. It just got me thinking about the review process and its subjective nature and how it might be good to give yourself a pre-review if you knew what the criteria were. Or maybe it wouldn't be good and would just be a waste of time. Or maybe it would be good but wouldn't make the difference b/w accepted and rejected.

Mostly I was thinking of this in terms of how to teach my students to write for a critical audience (me). I find they want details of what I want so they can tailor their paper to the criteria. But in the "real world" of academia (ok, I can hear the guffaws from here :) or industry for that matter, we don't often get such a detailed request. In the end, I guess what enhances learning isn't the way things are done in the "real world". So what should I teach? "Real world" or "learner-centered classroom" modus operandi? For now I think I'll try to do a little of both.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Save the earth? How could it be destroyed?

This is also incredibly cool in the most geeky sense of the word:

Top 10 Ways to Destroy Earth


This is the coolest thing I've heard of in a long time- controversial and possibly bogus/inaccurate, but conceptually so awesome!

Humans have altered Earth so much that scientists say a new epoch in the planet's geologic history has begun.

Say goodbye to the 10,000-year-old Holocene Epoch and hello to the Anthropocene.

Among the major changes heralding this two-century-old man-made epoch:

The idea, first suggested in 2000 by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen, has gained steam with two new scientific papers that call for official recognition of the shift.

Read more here.