A Saturday Wedding

May 29, 2011 2 comments

I went to a wedding yesterday.  It was for two of Matt's friends.  He actually knew both of them separately before they met.  Funny, huh?  Anyway, they had their wedding at Hotel Albuquerque, which we missed because we're slowpokes (and who knew some weddings only lasted 30 minutes?  Catholic weddings seem to last about 30 years... haha)

Anyway, the reception was in the building right next door to the hotel, so we hung out in Old Town while we waited for the party to start.  I've been to Old Town a few times before but we ended up finding some places that neither of us had explored before.  We also went to see the "Adult Room" at The Candy Lady, full of penis shaped lollipops and other naughty goodies.  And the rattlesnake museum.  We didn't pay to get into the actual museum part but we wandered around the gift shop and watched a turtle mow down on a piece of lettuce.  It was so cute! 

The reception was held at Casa Esencia, which is basically a large renovated old house.  I only had my phone with me, so I didn't take many pictures.  (I wouldn't be able to get the pics off my phone right away anyway) So I took some from their facebook page,  Tee hee.

This is the main dance room where the bride and groom were introduced, where they cut the cake, made speeches and played dance music.  Fancy, huh?

The whole place was like a traveling buffet, with different foods in each room.  The newly married couple are vegans, so I wasn't sure what to expect food-wise, but it was all really good!  I especially loved the butternut squash soup.  This room had a chips and salsa bar.  The piano wasn't there, though.

The groom is the singer in a cover band, so he serenaded his wife with a few songs out here in this courtyard.  One song she had requested was "New Age Girl."  It brought back memories of being in middle school, hanging out in my friend's basement listening to that song.  Haha.

And of course, what is a wedding without a bar?  The first $1000 in drinks were free.  I managed to get one free drink before they reached the cutoff point.  I chose my old standby, vodka and cranberry, with Ketel One vodka.  Not too shabby!   

We spent a good majority of our time in this courtyard.  It was a lovely, warm evening and the landscaping was just beautiful.  What an awesome place for a wedding reception! 

Blue Photo Contest

May 22, 2011 8 comments

This is a picture I took of my sister and her friend at our cottage on Portage Lake in Michigan.

I'm participating in the photo contest sponsored by Bella Skye Photography.  The theme is blue.

Bella Skye Photography's 100 Follower Photography contest

Buckman Cave

May 18, 2011 7 comments

I'm trying to remember when I went to Buckman Cave.  Let's see... I didn't go rappelling at Ship Rock, which was a bummer, but it hailed, so it's ok... That was one week.  Then it snowed and our next trip was cancelled.  That was another week.  Then I gave a speech about it at Toastmasters.  That may have been a few weeks after.  Or one week after. So, if two trains are travelling at a rate of....  Oh, who am I kidding?  I have no idea.  It's been a while.  But I have pictures to prove that I was there.  So it did happen.  At some point.

To get into the cave, we had to climb over basalt rocks

and through a narrow passageway

to get to the cave entrance.

After looking at the following pictures, I realized that a lot of them look the same as my previous pictures of Alabaster Cave.  Even though they're completely different caves with completely different rock types.  However, my camera doesn't understand that.  It says, "It's dark in here! I was built in 2004! I don't know how to do this!"  And it makes everything look the same. 

The rocks really weren't that light colored
I don't remember where we were at this point in the above picture, but this random person's butt gives you an idea of the kind of passageways we had to finagle ourselves through.  My teacher said that all the soft parts in our body are basically the consistency of jell-o and can be squeezed through many small spaces.  This is an interesting concept.  Not extremely comforting when your organs feel like they're smashing against your ribs, but I guess it works.

This was a pretty cool part.  We had to start up at the top where Red Shirt is standing and then get down to the bottom where White Helmet is.  It's higher than it looks.  But if you shimmy down through a hole and around the back of those rocks, you can climb down and get to the bottom. 

After getting down, there was a spacious passageway

that led to... the end of the cave?

So... now what?

Well, yeah, it's the end.  You have to turn around.  And climb back up the crazy tall narrow passageway you just went down.  That is, if you want to get back out.

But we didn't get out.  Not yet.  It may have been the end of the cave, but it wasn't the end of our journey.  There were a few more obstacles to get through before emerging from the depths of Buckman Cave...


How I Became a Geologist

May 15, 2011 8 comments

When did you decide to pursue this course of study? Was it something you've been interested in from childhood? Did you love playing in the dirt as a kid? If you weren't pursuing this course of study what would be your second choice? (from Carma)

How/why did you chose geology over english/writing? (from Pam)

As you can infer from the second question, geology was not my first choice.  It wasn't really even my second choice.  Not from the beginning, anyway.  In fact, I was completely uninterested in science.  I went to college planning to major in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing.  I wanted to be a journalist.  I joined the newspaper staff my freshman year in college and became a paid staff writer very early on.  I was Arts Editor for two years and Editor-in-Chief my senior year.  I liked the writing, page layout and the people I worked with (most of them, anyway).  But by that time, my desire for a career in journalism was slipping, for a variety of reasons.  Looking back, I'm not sure I should have dismissed it so quickly.  But I did.  And I gave it all up to pursue a completely new field that had never even phased me before.

This is where I spent a large majority of my senior year.  Murray (the skeleton) and I had some good times together.

I first became interested in geology when I took a required science course called The Planet Earth.  In the beginning, I HATED it.  It's not a good idea to begin an intro geology laboratory with topographic maps.  HUGE turn off.  There are some complicated concepts that go along with them and when I taught my own students during grad school, they despised it as well.  But after that first day, the labs got better and I enjoyed the lecture topics as well.  On my first test, I got one of the highest grades in the class.  Then, for an English class, I had to write a paper on a controversial topic, and we had to interview an expert on that topic.  We had just been discussing creation vs. evolution in geology, so that was on my mind.  I asked my professor if I could interview him.  It was a bit of an awkward interview, which I later found out was due to the quirks in that particular professor's personality.  But while we were talking, he asked me what I thought about getting a major in geology?  My first thought was 'Ummm....what?  No way.  I'm not a scientist.'  But I couldn't get it out of my head.

After that, it was really just a progressive decision that happened over time.  I felt much more comfortable and at home in the geology department than the English department.  I got to look at rocks and go on field trips.  I liked the people better.  When I got stressed about the newspaper, I'd go work in the geology lab. But one main determining factor happened during my sophomore year.  The career counseling center called me up and basically forced me into doing their "sophomore spotlight" career thing.  So I went and the whole time the girl talked about how I could work at a publishing house.  It was just "blah blah blah publishing house."  And that sounded really boring to me.  (this seems funny now, considering...) I thought if that was what I was destined to do with an English degree, then I didn't want to do it.

That same year, I declared a minor in geology.  (I still wasn't totally committed to the degree yet)  I talked to the department chairperson at the time about what classes I should take and I signed up for them.  One class I took was a field course over spring break.  We went to Arizona, and it was amazing.  I learned so much.  It was sometime during that trip that I could no longer imagine my life without geology as a part of it.

In Arizona, we played hackey sack while our professor was falling off a cliff in the background.

Soon after that, I talked to my professor (the same one I interviewed my freshman year) and he said, "You know, if you just take these few more classes next year, you could get a major."  I had never thought of that.  I wanted to do it, but I needed some more confirmation.  So I did what I thought was best.  I called my mom.

To answer the question "Did you love playing in the dirt as a kid?"  Yes, in fact, I did love playing in the dirt as a kid.  I LOVED the sandbox.  We didn't have a liner on the bottom so we could dig all the way down into the soil, which was all clay-ey.  I thought that was totally awesome.  I also loved picking up rocks.  I'd forgotten about it, but I had a huge collection in the garage.  So when I told my mom I wanted to major in geology, she was not surprised at all, and told me to go for it if that was what I wanted.  That was all I needed, and so, at the end of my junior year, I declared a major in geology.

In the end, I graduated with a double major in English and geology.  So I suppose I could still be a writer if I wanted, but like I said, I can't imagine life without geology.  At the same time, I can't imagine a life without writing either.  Blogging helps with that, but I'm realizing that I want writing to be part of my professional life as well.  I feel like my current position does not showcase my natural talents as much as I'd like it to.  This is part of the reason why I want to do research.  A big part of research is writing and publishing papers, which I would be good at.  My thesis committee in grad school complimented me on how well written my thesis was.  So I know I can write about scientific topics.  Maybe I could be a science writer.  But I also want to do at least some of the science myself.

Overall, I'm happy that I was introduced to geology in college.  If it hadn't been for that, I wouldn't have had many of the experiences and met many of the people that I have.  I learned a lot about science and also about myself during that time.  I hope that this next chapter of my life will build on those experiences to give me all that I hope for in my life and my career.  We'll have to see what happens.

Science-ish Questions

May 10, 2011 7 comments

Welcome to questions part two!  These are mainly related to science/field work.  Things like that.   With some other stuff thrown in for fun. 

When you take samples of soil from a given area, how many do you take? (From cgbookcat)
Generally, the only time we collect samples is when we dig out a site.  This is different from our normal everyday mapping, which are just "observations," or small holes that we dig to get a basic idea of what we're looking at.  Site descriptions are done in much more detail and the holes are bigger, so we can see better and describe it in more depth.  Each person on the crew does about 3-4 of these per year.  We take one set of samples at each site, which are collected in special cardboard boxes with separate partitions for each horizon.  These are kept on hand in our office mainly for reference purposes, so that we can run color and pH tests.  For pH, I use indicators.  Various indicators are mixed with the soil, and then drained.  The color that comes out in the liquid indicate what the pH of the soil is. This can be done at the office and don't require a lab.  Honestly, I prefer a pH meter.  It's much more straightforward (if it's not broken), but unfortunately we don't have one of those.

Do you do cores so you can see layers? 
We do not take core samples and the main reason for that is the soil here is much too rocky.  I've used an auger before, in training.  They're really nice and way easier than digging a 100 cm soil pit, but it just doesn't work in this climate and soil type.  The best place to use them is in the Midwest where there is a lot of agricultural land, glacial till, stuff like that.

What kinds of tests get run on them? 
There are a variety of tests that we can run on soil samples, for various purposes.  If we just need to do basic property tests, like I described above, we use the box samples.  If we need to do more complex tests, they get sent out to a lab.  For this, we'll collect a larger sample, like in a ziploc bag or something.  Examples of tests that would be run are calcium carbonate equivalent and cation exchange capacity, which basically tell you how much carbonate or clay-type molecules are in a sample.  We can also get a more accurate percentage on particle size using the hydrometer or pipette method (which I have learned about a little but it's been a while). However, sending samples to the lab is extra time and money that we don't particularly want to spend, so it doesn't happen too often.

How much analysis can easily be done from the site, and what proportion of them need to be brought back for lab tests? 
Most analysis is done directly from the site.  We analyze physical soil properties and plant characteristics right there in the field.  This gets documented and we use that documentation and its interpretations to make our maps.  We use lab data mainly to confirm soil taxonomy, which often requires things like a specific particle size ratio or a percentage of a certain mineral or something like that.  A lot of times we can just infer a lot of it from previous data or other information that we've been given, and the lab data is more of just a back-up. 

What kinds of stuff are you looking for?
What we do is called Terrestrial Ecological Unit Inventory, or TEUI.  The name, Inventory, says a lot about what we do.  It is mainly about collecting data and creating a map from it.  We look for patterns in the landscape, vegetation and soil type within a certain geology or parent material so that when we make our maps, we have some consistency in our data and how our maps come together.  The final product is entered into a database so that land managers, researchers and other staff can look at our data and use it as necessary.

First question: What is an ANZAC? :) (from off-black)
Oh oh, I know this one!  ANZAC is Australia New Zealand Army Corps.  Yep, I'm so smart.  Haha.  Thanks for the info.  Americans seem very hesitant to teach much more than American history.  I learned that in England when some little kids were spewing off a bunch of info about the Iron Age and I had no idea what they were talking about.  You learn something new every day. 

Just kidding, actual question: Weirdest/most unusual thing you have had to do in the field?
Hmmm... the weirdest thing?  I think I've been doing this so long, nothing really seems weird and unusual anymore.  I asked Matt if he remembered me telling him about anything and he said, "tell them about the poop sack." Which doesn't even have to do with field work.  It's for caving.  You're not supposed to go number 1 or 2 in a cave, because people crawl around in there and that would be gross.  So you bring ziploc bags, and go in them.  You can also use a "pee bottle"  or a bag that holds a material that will convert your pee into a weird gel-like substance.  The poop bag is also called a burrito bag, in case you were wondering about that.  I guess, in general, using nature as facilities was one of the main things I had to get used to when I started doing regular field work. But it's just one of those things you have to do, you know?  There's even a plant called mullein, aka Indian toilet paper, that you can use for such occasions, but apparently it will give you a rash if you use it too much.  Sorry if that's TMI, but you asked  ; )

If, after this, you're like totally WTF, well... I was too at one point.   Until I became a geologist.  I will explain how that happened in the next Q&A post.


The Empty Briefcase

May 8, 2011 1 comments

Last Thursday morning, I drove to work, as usual.  When I arrived at the entrance to the parking lot at 7:30, I discovered I couldn't get in because it was being completely blocked by three cop cars.

Hmmmm.... I thought to myself.  What is up with that?  And how the heck do I get into the parking lot?

I had no choice but to continue past our parking lot and go around the block.  Fortunately, one of the security guards was standing outside at the corner telling people where to go.  He said if I went around and took the (creepy) back alley way, I could get into the lot.  So, I went around the block, but being my usual self, I completely missed my turn to and had to go back around again.  Awesome.

I'm not sure how I feel about that back alley.  It's right by a furniture warehouse and what I assume to be a parole or probation office.  Something like that.  There are always shady people walking back there, coming out from doing who knows what behind the dumpster.  And there are always shoes.  Before I moved to Albuquerque, I watched an episode of Extreme Home Makeover that was based here, and they said shoes were an indication of where and what type of drugs were being sold.  Nice.  One day, I saw a pair of black dress shoes hanging from a wire and three more pairs of black shoes lined up in a row on the ground underneath it.  I didn't stick around to see if any drugs would be dealt.

Anyway, off that tangent and back to my story...  Fifteen minutes after I first arrived, I finally made it to the parking lot gates, where I was told to sit in my car and wait for the all clear.  However, no one else was sitting in their cars, so I went to the closest group of people standing around to find out what was up. 

They told me that a "mysterious package" had been left outside the building and the bomb squad was bringing dogs and whatever else a bomb squad brings.  We waited outside for an hour for them to show up and x-ray the "package," which I later found out was a briefcase someone had left somewhere outside on the south end of the building. 

Finally, I got sick of waiting and went to get some coffee.  This turned out to be a bad idea, because I had coffee jitters for the rest of the day.  This is why I don't normally drink the stuff.  Or at least not that much of it. 

During the time I was gone, the bomb squad had given the all clear and everyone had been allowed back  into the building. 

The next day, I went to happy hour with some coworkers at a very cool but unfortunately pricey rooftop bar where I was informed that the briefcase had been empty.  I have no idea why someone would have left an empty briefcase.  Perhaps it was left there on purpose to freak people out.  Or maybe someone just got a new briefcase, emptied out their old one and forgot about it?  Who knows.  Maybe no one ever will.

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May 1, 2011 2 comments

Wow, lots of questions!  That's cool.  Thanks, everyone!  As it is, I'm splitting it up into several different posts.  This one will be more general questions and the next will be more science related questions.  Then I will write a post about why I became a geologist. 

Have you ever been abroad? Where? (from Chloe)
I have been abroad.  I've been to England for a class in college.  At my school, everyone had to take a senior seminar.  Basically a culminating course usually having to do with some sort of religious aspect.  I decided to take my senior seminar abroad.  It was called "The Sacred and the Profane" and focused on the relationship between traditional English church and folk music.  We went to London, Cambridge, Stratford, Dover...  (I'm totally forgetting all the places we went) I even got a semi-private tour of some Napoleonic caves/forts built into the Dover cliffs.  All of it was amazing, but my absolute favorite place we went was Cambridge.  I loved the college town atmosphere, the farmers market, the buildings, the fact that everyone rode bikes (except for the presence and subsequent arrest of a guy who went around stabbing people on bikes while we were there).  It was the coolest place.  If I were to go back to anywhere in England, it would be there.

in the tunnels

Cambridge market

Why do you blog?
I started keeping a blog in college, as a way to just release my emotions or whatever out into the world.  I liked writing and it seemed like a good outlet for me.  Blogging wasn't really social back then.  It was more just writing and putting it out there.  Then, I got LJ to communicate with a few college friends and kept that through grad school.  It wasn't until I moved onto wordpress that I actively started reading other blogs and writing in mine more regularly.  Now, I blog because it's fun and I like reading about what other people have to say on various topics.  It's entertaining. 

What is your favorite hobby?
Ummm... I'd have to say blogging.  It's the only thing I do on a regular enough basis.  Although I also enjoy scrapbooking and yoga, and I'd do a lot more kayaking and rappelling if I had the time/water/money. 

Tell us about one of your happiest memories/moments.
Some of my happiest memories are of Las Vegas.  My field trip to California, a boat trip on my 24th birthday, Cinco de Mayo... I could go on forever on how much I love and adore Vegas.  But I think my happiest, proudest moment was the day of my thesis defense when everything I'd worked for just came together perfectly and I was finally able to share it.  And afterward, when my advisor told me I gave a "kickass" presentation.  I was so proud of myself to have accomplished something so big.  The day I handed in the final copy of my thesis and walked away with a Master's Degree was pretty great too.

What are your plans for the next 5 years? (from Chloe) What do you hope for in the next ten years? (from Rachel)
Well, there are some things that I want to do within the next 5-10 years.  I want to go back to school to get a PhD so that I can fulfill my ultimate goal of having a research position.  I want to collect data, and work in a lab and do analyses and write papers and go to scientific meetings.  I'm currently tossing around ideas of what I'd want to get my doctorate in.  I've thought about paleontology/paleoclimate, or just climate studies in general.  I think it would be fun to work in a museum for a while.  Or in a national research lab.  However, I'm not sure this will ever happen since I have this full time job now and I'm not exactly in a position to leave it, and that bums me out a little.

Favorite movie? (From Wildology)
Oh, I can't just pick one favorite movie.  So here are my top five as per Facebook.
Little Miss Sunshine - makes me laugh/cry every time
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson, Vegas, and Johnny Depp... what else could I possibly want?
Frequency - it's just cool
Amelie - made me want to learn French
Finding Nemo - I like the ocean 

1 embarrassing/funny moment/memory?
Ok, this one is kinda bad... So, one day in high school I was walking into the building and the girl who drove my carpool told me I had blood stains on the back of my pants.  I didn't really know what else to do except untuck my shirt to cover it up. (We had a dress code that required us to tuck our shirts in) I got away with it for my first class, but while I was waiting in the hall to get into my second class, the assistant principal noticed and asked me why my shirt wasn't tucked in.  So I'm in his office, explaining to him that the reason I'm not following dress code is because I got my period and it's leaking so I wanted to cover it up.  Suuuuper awkward.  All he could say was "ummmm.... ok, well don't do it again..." and send me on my way.  I don't think I got in trouble after that.  Even when I was late for school three times and walked around without a hall pass.  I was such a rebel.

Miracle Whip or Mayo?
Hmmmmm...  they're both pretty gross.  Miracle Whip, I guess.  But only a little.  A very, very thin layer on a sandwich.

If you could click your fingers and be anywhere, doing anything - what would you choose? (from Rachel)
What I'd really like is to have several months of free time to just travel, with no worries about money or time commitments.  If I had that kind of time, I'd go to Europe -- Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium...  I'd stay in hostels and walk or take public transportation everywhere.  I would keep an actual paper journal and write in it every day.  Maybe I'd write a book and become famous like Eat Pray Love.  Haha.  I'd probably do some blogging too.  And I would take a lot of pictures.

That's it for today.  I'll be back later with questions part two.