Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

And Happy Holidays too, because Christmas ain't the only holiday. (According to Straight No Chaser's "Christmas Can-Can", anyway!) Hope everyone is enjoying good food, friends and family, and staying safe - especially with all this crazy weather!

(This and a bunch of other cool backgrounds come from VladStudio. There are lots of Christmas ones, but this will always be my favorite!)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2 Year Blogiversary

Two years already! (It's a good thing Callan started his blog up before I did, because otherwise I would completely forget to do this. Hope you're having fun in Patagonia, Callan!)

Things have changed quite a bit for me since I started this blog two years ago. I finished working at my first real job, started graduate school in a new state, got my first apartment, earned a great fellowship, visited active volcanoes in three countries, been invited to be on a GSA committee, started freelance writing, and adopted a new kitty. (Surprise! I thought I'd avoid putting a bunch of kitty photos up, but maybe just one or two at the end of the post...) It's been a very exciting time. Sometimes - in fact, often - stressful, sometimes crazy, but always interesting. (Isn't there some sort of curse to that effect? May you live in interesting times!)

The past year has been a big part of that. So far...
  • I earned an NSF Graduate Fellowship, and because it guarantees three years of funding, I'm almost finished switching from a masters to a PhD. This was something I certainly hadn't expected, but I'm happy with it, since after my first semester of grad school was over I knew I didn't want to stop work with a masters. It's just so fun! And I have great teachers at Buffalo - I've learned so much in the past year, and I'm really lucky to have found such a good fit in my graduate school. (And hey, I can't help but be excited about the fellowship, since it takes a lot of stress away. TAing and taking classes and trying to research all at the same time was rough.)
  • I went to Guatemala and Italy, and got to see volcanoes erupting in both countries. Guatemala was a real eye-opener for me - not just because Santiaguito is a really cool (and unique) volcanic dome, but because I'd never visited a third-world country before. Aside from the food poisoning, it was a fascinating experience, and it really drove home that I want to study volcanoes so I can help people as well as for the sake of research. I also felt my first big earthquake there! Italy was amazing, naturally, and I don't think I'll ever find another place that combines history, food and volcanoes in such a fun way. I hit a few rough patches on that trip too, but I'm glad I had the experience. 
  • I gave my first talk at a professional conference. This was, frankly, petrifying, at least before I gave the thing. First talk of the session, 8 in the morning, in front of a whole room full of geologists who'd been working in my field area for decades? Talk about nerve-wracking! But the talk went well, I didn't run over my time, I managed to answer questions without sounding like an idiot, and no one got angry or argumentative when I gave conclusions that differed with their older studies. I know this won't always be the case, but at least I had a chance to ease myself into giving talks in a professional setting without being totally traumatized. 
  • My volcano articles on started getting pretty popular! In fact, one of the professors at UB who assigned an extra credit paper about volcanoes said that my articles were the second most popular reference in her 300-person intro class. She even congratulated me on it, which was neat. I'm glad that they're proving useful (and that people think they make good references for geology students).  And I'm getting a lot of good writing practice in at the same time...
As I said, some big changes and great experiences. Hopefully there are a lot more to come! And now, because I promised, here's Sabrina, the newest member of my family, busily absorbing volcanology along with me:

Well, maybe not absorbing. But the Encyclopedia of Volcanology seems to make a good blanket, too!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Talk about a white Christmas!

So in case you hadn't heard, the East Coast got hit with a lot of snow yesterday. I managed to get back to Virginia from Buffalo pretty early on Friday, so luckily I didn't get stuck in the mess. But I can't ever remember seeing this much snow in the DC area before! And especially not all at was pretty crazy to be shoveling the driveway and have an inch of snow fall to cover what I'd just shoveled in less than 15 minutes. 

Here's what it looked like at noon on Saturday:

Well, there used to be something growing in those planters...

It was pretty neat how much snow piled up on the fences.

Here's what our street looked like this afternoon. We actually got plowed pretty early on, but we haven't seen much traffic lately. Everyone's pretty much staying home, which is a good idea anyway.

I had to climb over our fence to get into the backyard, since our back porch is snowed in and the gate wouldn't open. I landed in snow to my knees.

Of course, I had to make a snow angel. I plan to make a snow volcano tomorrow.

Not quite deep enough for tunneling!

Crazy weather. (And I just found out that they closed all the schools in the county for the rest of the week. My mom is pretty surprised, but at least she gets a long winter vacation!) And since the DC area doesn't deal with snow well, I'm guessing we won't have really dug out until after Christmas. 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A year of traveling...and not traveling

I saw this over at Sciencewomen, and I thought it would be a good way to recap what I've done this year. 

January: NOVA & Washington D.C.

February: Stayed in Buffalo...

March: Guatemala!!

April: Florida

May: Utah, Toronto

June: Italy, Utah again

July: More Utah!

August: More Virginia

September: Niagara Falls

October: Portland

November: Ellicottville & Little Rock City, NY

December: Almost home again...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Old books and allergies

Alas! Coursework strikes again, in the form of a rather intensive thesis proposal rewriting process, numerous projects on advanced topics in volcanology, and exams pretty much every week since September. (Perhaps an indication that I should quit taking classes for a bit, no matter how interesting I find them...) I feel bad for not posting much in the past couple of weeks, but blogging has to come after school obligations.

This topic popped into my head after I got fed up with my messy apartment and went on a cleaning and organizing spree, during which I probably shifted a few tens of pounds of books back to their shelves. A lot of my books are textbooks I've used in classes, or popular-science type volcanology books, but I've also got a small collection of older books about geology. One thing that I love to do is browse through the older journals and textbooks in the geology section of our library, and collect older texts that I find at book sales or used book shops. These are probably bad habits on my part, since I'm quite allergic to some sort of book mold, and I inevitably end up with itchy eyes and a nasty headache afterward.

But I can't quit! It's really fascinating to me to pick up an introductory geology text from, say, the pre-Wegener era, and see the old explanations for tectonic processes, or go even further back and find a 19th-century description of a field area that's as much a travelogue as a geologic history. Old maps are just as cool; one thing that I need to do sometime this winter is make my way down to the Buffalo central library and go see their copy of the William Smith 1815 geologic map of Great Britain.

My favorite discovery, though, was in the geology library at my alma mater. I was trying to see what the oldest book in our collection was, and came across a 19th century intro geology text. There were a lot of scribbled notes in the margins - and by scribbled I mean "more elegant cursive than I will ever achieve" - but one of them wasn't about geology. It read something like, "February 24, 1842...Rained all day."

This just cracked me up. Although it's not terribly likely that the book was ever used by a geologist at William & Mary back in the 19th century, that is just the sort of comment that I'd expect a bored student to write in the margins if they were sitting around Williamsburg in February, where it does, quite often, rain all day. Some long-dead student got bored with reading, just like I do sometimes...It was a neat way to connect with the past, and I'm always on the lookout for "new" old things, even if they make me sneeze.