Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pressure Gradients and Uncertainty

Lately, I've been losing sleep. Part of it is Nyquil withdrawal. I was sick for two weeks straight (since Thanksgiving week), so I was on Nyquil cough syrup for those same two weeks so the cough attacks would have a less chance of shaking me from my sleep. Unfortunately for my sleep schedule, the end of the semester also coincides with me pumping caffeine into my blood system.

The other part of it are the things that take up my thoughts. Thoughts of mostly uncertainty in data analysis and uncertainty in life. At least the semester is almost over.

Oh. The semester is almost over.

The M on Mount Zion in Golden has a countdown each semester to the number of days until graduation for the last nine days. We've now seen it seven times.

"Look at the M. Next time it will be for us."

A rallying cry for the Geophysics Junior's hardest class that we Seniors stumbled into

It is during the last ten minutes of a last final of the week that one probably is the most unmotivated. I was particularly unmotivated during this semester's last one, for it was an open computer final and had concepts that contradicted fundamentals from the final I just took an hour earlier.

Plus my hand hurt from writing so much. Even though I stayed up until 2AM studying on accident, I wasn't stressed out about finals. I have done it so many times by now. I was more stressed out about getting my talk finished and everything else. After Tuesday...I would be relaxed.


The semester is now over, and the tail end of the year quickly following after it. My sources of December stress are resolved, but uncertainty carries into 2015.

The year I graduate college. The year I start grad school...somewhere.

I was able to reset my sleeping schedule at the AGU Fall Meeting, ironically. Usually people don't get much sleep at giant earth science conferences, but the first two days had me waking up at 6:30AM to prepare for my talk, which was on Tuesday afternoon.

This AGU Fall Meeting was my second, but already was very different from my first, when I was overwhelmed by the bigness of geoscience and taking in the amazing facets of our field of study. This year, my Fall Meeting was defined by prep for my talk and networking. And sushi. I ate sushi twice. (Can I just say how much I love that NSF supports my caffeine and food habit?)

Networking is actually cool because these are my kind of nerds: from people who sing and write poems about geoscience to people who I might be working with in the future. My week was also busy catching up with multiple circles of friends that converged at AGU: Mines Geophysics peeps, 2014 REU friends, and 2013 REU friends. 

My talk went well, and though it was a lot of pressure, it was a huge honor and actually a lot of fun to give. I ended up being up a lot less nervous than I expected it being my first AGU talk. Probably because I was singing in my head the entire talk before mine.

"Ain't no mountain high enough..."


It's my last trip of the year. From my first trip of driving through the Arizona desert during Spring Break and receiving the email that I was accepted to the Haystack REU, to the drive to Field Camp, DEN to BOS, BOS to SEA, SEA to BOS, BOS to YYC, driving back from Calgary, DEN to SFO, SFO to DEN.

What's next?

I can't begin to think about going back to school right now and starting my final semester at Mines and all the uncertainty beyond that. I just want to stare at geology from thirty thousand miles above the ground.

The Sierra Nevadas

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Where Chalk-White Arrows Go

“There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.”

― Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

My high school graduation speech was titled "Where the Sidewalk Begins", inspired by my kindergarten days of listening to "Where the Sidewalk Ends". I stood up there, ready to end high school and take on college, not fully comprehending the sheer stress (pun intended) and challenges and sheer joy of experiences that were ahead. I began:

The path of our education has led up to this day.
That path might have been bumpy, winding, or a joyous ride, but I know it was very long.
Yet, as weary as the walk might have been, here we stand.
We made it.
Now we are ready to look both ways,
cross to the other side of the street,
and go make prints in the wet cement with our bare feet.

This is where sidewalk begins.

It's so cheesy...I know. It's even more cheesy now that I laugh at my high school self who hadn't a clear picture of what bumpy, winding, and weary meant. Or even joyous. But if I thought graduating high school was where the sidewalk began, does that mean college is where it ends?

Silverstein seems to think that it is not so. Or does he?

Colorado School of Mines has been the place where the grass grows soft and white. It has also been the place where the smoke blows black and the dark street winds and bends.

Maybe this is before the street begins? And when did my life take on so many road, path, street, or sidewalk metaphors? college I stopped looking both ways before crossing streets and also started jaywalking across them. And some of my favorite times in Golden have been walking with a walk that is measured and slow in the middle of the campus streets in the late hours of the night when no one else is awake and around to crash their car into me. 

What does that have to do with life and paths? 

I don't know. I'm just going to miss it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dear Older Self

Dear Older Self,

What's the future like? Did I make the right choices about the future? So how 'bout that grad school thing, huh? What about the non-school stuff? What about spending senior year well? How did that go? What should I do better? What should I do?

Did I make the bright-eyed freshman proud?

So many questions...sorry.

Best regards,

Your senior self

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Four of Four

I look up from my phone. There’s a British man scribbling in chalk at the bottom of the  auditorium, pushing Fourier transforms into our reluctant brains, which are mushy from waking up a mere  ten minutes beforehand. I am utterly bored, for I already have learned to make functions as a product of sines and cosines the year before. My brain turns off. I try to turn it back on. It turns off again. I turn it on. It wanders…

I can’t do this.

The southwest stairwell of the Green Center fills with the echoes of my sandals climbing the ugly stairs. So many times I have climbed those same stairs up. Year One, for freshman Calculus. Year Two, for field theory. Year Three, for everything geophysically imaginable. And now, Year Four. For the end.

The days and nights spent in the Green Center blend together now. So many times I have climbed not knowing when I’d see the light of day again. So many descents after those long hours, with my brain relieved, tired, or both, my eyes tired from squinting at my code, laughing, or both.

These years have been piecewise continuous. Each has its own flavor. The setting is mostly the same, the cast of characters slightly adjusting with time, but the story has only one more chapter left to be written.

Chapter Four of four.

The room on the northwest corner and second floor of the Green Center is frigid.  The geophysics seniors have gathered there for guidance on the capstone of our undergraduate career: senior design. “This course is filled with pitfalls,” our professor and department head begins.

I can’t do this.

But after we walk out of the frigid room, maybe we feel slightly more prepared for the future. Or at least senior design.

Still, the future seems like a cold and scary place, and sometimes I’d much rather stay in my bed than travel towards it. But then the future nudges me, “Hey, it’s time to wake up and get dressed. You should probably read those scientific papers for senior design. And put together a spreadsheet of potential grad school advisors.”

I can’t be a senior. I still sleep in a bunk bed. And to think next year I’ll be a grad student?

My eyes are still blurry as I stare at errors in my code at the Linux Lab. Indices are funny things, my coffee-deprived brain remembers.

Chapter 0 of N. Where N is the number of years I am in grad school and is equal to about five or six. Or possibly more. I don’t know the setting or the cast of characters. But Chapter 0—the searching and application process—has me excited.

Chapter Four of four.

They overlap. One story wraps up, another waits to begin, despite my simultaneous resentment and welcoming of it all. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Pre-Senior Year Paradox

I want to graduate. Right now.

I miss people.
I miss Golden.
I want senior year to start.
I miss my favorite restaurants.
I don't want the summer to end.
I'm excited to think about grad school.
I'm not excited to write grad school apps.
I don't want to think about doing homework.
I can't wait to have more adventures.
I think the future is overwhelming.
I don't want things to change.
I don't want to leave.
I'll miss Golden.
I'll miss people.

I don't want to graduate. Ever.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

How to Find a Grad School #1: Where I DON'T want to go

There are many different factors that one must consider when searching for graduate school to apply to, but when it comes down to it, there are many good schools all across the globe. How to narrow it down? Start crossing entire regions off the list.

I've lived in Colorado my whole life. Colorado is probably the best place in the world, let's just face it. The climate is nearly perfect, although its bipolarness, no tripolarness is annoying. Spoiled in this lovely region, there are some places I cannot bear to live in for two to six years (depending on if I stay for my PhD). Thus began my search.

I hate humidity. And heat. And extreme cold. I don't really want to leave the continent. That left nowhere. But I narrowed it down to this:

So I'm getting somewhere. (Just kidding: I have a list, don't worry, and will probably have a spreadsheet soon). But none of these places are perfect, of course: my short stint in the Northeast thus far is showing me how humid is too humid, and how my hair might be unhappy there. Winters there also suck more than Colorado winters. So my red region might even be shrinking more. But everything is a compromise, right?

Next in How to Find a Grad School, I'll look at schools based on the number of windows in their earth science buildings. You know, the important stuff. 

Note: The posts in this series contain an undisclosed percentage of sarcasm. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Stuff Mines People Say, v3.1: Now with even more Geophysics flavor!

Catastrophic loss of credit!! Donuts. Tests that took up two classes. Skipping Structural to go to Chick-fil-a. Writing "I'm sorry :(" on the front of a test. You know, normal things in the GP lyfe (geophysics life, for those who don't understand) and Mines life.

In the craziness of rushing from the end of the semester, to field camp, then straight to internships, I almost overlooked at how great of a year Junior Year was. I never want to do it again, and thankfully I don't have to, but there were some crazy, dorky, difficult, fun, and all-around good times spent with both new and old friends.

So without further rambling on the nerdiness and hilarity of Mines kids (and professors), here are Junior Year's quotes. These also include some from Field Camp. There aren't many from second semester...I think I was having too much fun, or got Junioritis or something, so I'm sure I missed some gems that I didn't save. (Sophomore and Freshman Year's are linked for nostalgia's sake.)


"I hate boys. I hate Dynamic Fields." ~ Rosie

"I want to get a telescope lens and take pictures of people who are at the top and then run up and meet them with prints." ~ Jayden, on hikers on South Table

"Sometimes I think life would be easier as a MechE." ~ Rima

"Storm's taking a procrastishower real quick." ~ Shane

Cashier at Snarf's: "Do you have your CSM student ID?"
Me: "Not on me, but I do have the emotional scars."

"I call him the gravity whisperer....[whispers] because he talks like this..." ~ Shane, on Rich, our gravity prof.

"If I would've taken this class in 4th grade I would've gotten an A in this class." ~ Shane

Me: "Why are you ramped up?"
Shane: "Because of Field Methods...that class sucks."
Me: "But it's not even Thursday yet..."
Shane: "But it will be...eventually."

"There are two kinds of fedora: real fedora and CompSci fedora." ~ Laine

Rosie: "I bet if you polled the school, the majority of them would say they like hockey."
Shane: "I bet if you polled the school, the majority of them would say they like baseball."
Brandon: "If you polled the school, they would say they watch Pokemon."

"Without me, we wouldn't have made it this far in college. Well, I wouldn't have made it this far without me. True story." ~ Shane

"Anna was almost our 29th electrode." ~ Joey, after Anna almost touched an electrode during a DC survey in GPGN303

"If I got a B in AEM, I would punch myself in the face." ~ Shane

"What happens in the Linux Lab stays in the Linux Lab." ~ Stephen and Colton

"And that is why we are esteemed geophysicists. We are not limited by that thing known as reality." ~ Stephen, on geology

"The great thing about Structural is that it's worth just as much credit hours as Continuum." ~ Bradley, because Structural Geology was easy and Continuum was NOT

"I was actually really productive today. Probably because all my homework was due." ~ Emily

Nik, on the Continuum Mechanics final: "There was a little k, and kappa, and a big K. You can't have three k's in a problem!!"
Jennifer: "Yeah, that's just racist!" 

"What's a Green's Function?" ~ All of us Juniors, all the time

Professor quotes:
"You guys have seen this notation before...probably." ~ Jeff

"Do you know what a SWAG is?" ~ Terry

"That is one crunchy potato chip...You could just let it soak in your mouth a while." ~ Switzer, to a kid eating chips in ProbStats

Student: "On the test, are there points for a picture?" 
Switzer: "No. A picture should be reward in itself."

"Oil is a metamorphic rock derived from the primary rock, dinosaurs." ~ Jeff

"This is basically Maxwell's 5th equation. Don't quote me on that...actually, no one would ever, ever say that." ~ Andrei

"Can anyone tell me what isopach means? Iso...pach..Iso...Iso...Iso...pach...pach [waving hands] Pach... Pachy...Pachyderm.. Iso…pach ...?" ~ Dr. Bob

Random quotes from field camp:
"In the beginning, God created the Laramide orogeny."

"That DC inversion was beautiful."

"And it's not even smoothed yet, just raw beauty." 
"No makeup and still a ten."

"Last one in the vans is a geologist!"

"There are more buttons in this truck than the MT equipment!" ~ Andrei

"Do these trucks automatically downshift? Because mine just did." ~ Andrei, not too long after the buttons quote

"Look! Geology IS useful!" ~ Batz, after propping a door open with a rock

"So where is this water coming from?"

P.S. Yep, I miss you guys. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

First Week in New England

Last Saturday, I hopped on a plane to be the furthest I've ever been from Colorado while living in New England for nine weeks. I'm living in Nashua while working in Westford at the MIT Haystack observatory through a NSF REU (research experience for undergrads). First big difference: green forests everywhere. Second: people drive very fast here. Third: Springtime actually lasts longer than three weeks here, and it's nice. Fourth: I can't walk up a mountain that's a ten minute-jog away anymore. It'll be fun though.

My office building.

Talk about fire hose. My first day was kinda crazy, and I didn't have coffee in the morning. The drive to work is cool, though. It's a half hour commute through the green forest. My mentor gave me a bunch of MATLAB code. And by a bunch, I mean a boatload. I now have a few subprojects: One looking at a storm on Oct 14, one looking at the convection patterns, and one that is supposed to clean up a former REU student's code (which is terribly disorganized and not well-documented...c'mon people--it's CompSci 101) and check if it actually does what it says it does. Yikes. I've gotten to run some MATLAB code, which I had missed dearly, but no writing. Science-wise, I feel like I need to know what's going on.

Today was less overwhelming. I spent the morning researching what I'm doing and getting the jargon cleared up by reading papers. One of the things I'm supposed to understand is the South Atlantic Magnetic Anomaly. This is an area on the east of South America where the magnetic field is much weaker, which poses problems to GPS and spacecraft flying through this area. So that was cool learning about. I also tried to learn about how sudden stratospheric warmings affect the ionosphere, which is the area of the atmosphere I'm studying this summer. After meeting with my mentor in the afternoon, I had a better picture of where I'm going, at least in the short term. I then fought with MATLAB over shading and interpolating the plots I was making and making a movie out of them.

Right before lunch, we were notified about free food in the conference room. There were delicious muffins and coffee (my would-be second cup). The day before, I went to Target and bought some K-cups because the office does not have a regular ole coffee maker, and buying the K-Cups in the vending machine will add up. Still, my coffee habit will cost me $40 this summer, assuming I drink two cups a day only on workdays and manage to get another box of K-Cups on clearance when this box runs out.

I made a movie before 10AM! Great start to the day. The rest of my day consisted of making more movies and freezing frames that were interesting. Then I looked into what scintillation was before looking at the scintillation patterns that corresponded to the interesting time. What is scintillation? It is bad. It messes up GPS stuff with refraction and diffraction.
We have seminars at 4PM some of the days. Today the Radar Equation came back to haunt me, which I kind of learned in Intro to Electromagnetic Methods. 


It was really good programming weather today, as it rained all day. It was nice to drink coffee and code with the drip drop of rain. The only downside is that my hair is super frizzy and poofy. Maybe I should straighten it. 

I spent most of my day looking at one piece of code and making a similar script that gets scintillation data rather than TEC (total electron content) data, and from a different database. At lunch, it felt like I had done nothing, but I got a plot to work by the end of the day. MATLAB isn't visualizing the data how I want to that's the struggle now. 

I'm starting to get into a rhythm now. The days are really running together, and I only have a few hours of free time after work, exercising, and then cooking and eating dinner. The summer is zooming by already. 


I still fought with MATLAB for hours today, trying to overlay some data on some plots. I might need to do it in Python. My mentor is trying to find me the code that does it in Python. 

This morning a scientist from the MIT electrical engineering dept. came by and gave a seminar. I really enjoyed it because a). There were donut holes and coffee b). She was really awesome c). The technology she was talking about was very interesting. Stuff like being able to track people's movements with WiFi. 


This weekend was the first my fellow interns and I ventured into Boston, and was a lot of fun. Yesterday we went to Cambridge and checked out Harvard. The buildings are so old and cool. We went to Harvard's museum of natural history. I ended up in a conversation with one of the people who worked there about Mines and geophysics. Random. One thing that this museum had that Denver's doesn't is gross animals in clear jars including millipedes, eels, and spiders. Boston was pretty cool. We walked along the whole Freedom Trail, past Paul Revere's house and the Old North Church, and leading up to the USS Constitution. Oh, and along the way we ran into this parade in Charlestown that had colonial-era to current era living history people, as well as bagpipes. It was strange to run into, but a pleasant surprise. We then went back by Faneuil Hall and ate a bread bowl of chowder...yum. 

Downtown Boston
I'm really enjoying getting to see different places. I'm sure we'll hit up Boston again, as well as visit the MIT campus. I really want to explore Nashua as well. But it's been a great week! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Geophysics Field Camp Week Four: Onwards, Upwards

The view as our caravan left Pagosa Springs, CO

"Remember this moment," Dr. Hale said to us at the end of the final presentation. "There have been only a few times in my life where the geophysics gives something completely unexpected."

We did it. We survived Colorado School of Mines Geophysics Field Camp. And in style, too, as our professors, industry people, and our beloved department head said it was the best Geophysics Field Camp they had seen in their years at Mines. All the early mornings and those two late nights and the weird weather and the orange vests and wanting to kill our classmates and loving our classmates to death and funk music and spilled coffee and being annoyed at geophysics and being convinced that geophysics is awesome went into those four weeks. And in the end, it an incredible experience.

It is such a privileged to be able to do geophysics in every stage of its process on an area that no one has seen down in the subsurface before. "You're right, this isn't Kafadar Commons anymore," Andrei said to me after we got so excited from the preliminary seismic section. Doing geophysics on Kafadar is incredibly uninteresting, when it comes to the subsurface. Doing geophysics on the unknown is exciting. It's like being an explorer.

Here I am getting ready to drive and operate the vibroseis truck.
Andrei is in the background, waiting for me to hurry up. 

People hate airports and fly all the time, but for me, it never gets old. I rolled to the United terminal and the sign above me advertised Mines. As if it needs my attention some more.

Where is the water coming from? Where is the water going? Two important questions when doing a geothermal investigation.

Where are we coming from? Mines.  And before that, other various places that all combined to lead us to here.

Where are we going? 


"So how does it feel to officially be a senior?" Michelle, the Geophysics Department assistant asked at the End-Of-Field-Session BBQ right after our final presentation.

I responded with 10% sarcasm: "It's surreal. I feel like this year and field session have all culminated in my geophysical journey though Mines as a sort of rite of passage to make us seniors."

"But now there's Senior Year..."

"Yeah. But in all seriousness, as I told Austin earlier, we've made it through Junior Year, and now we've made it through Field Camp. We can do anything."


I actually ate breakfast that morning at the airport. I never eat breakfast other than coffee. While I finished my sandwich, the television report showed something about California Chrome. I laughed. California Chrome was the name of Craig's (one of the TAs) van. I guess Field Camp held some fun times.

I was exhausted. My brain had been going non-stop since...well, January. The swift transition from school to Field Camp to summer internship had left me no time for processing (mental processing, not data processing). Even while going through security my brain did not fully comprehend that those four weeks were over, and I was moving on to Massachusetts for my summer internship. I was so glad that Field Session was over. And thinking back, I was pretty miserable academically right before that, yearning for Field Session to start. I had spent my time looking forward to things ending. I even dreamed about graduating during those four weeks.

Where am I coming from? I knew this.

Where am I going?

I buckled up and sat for a while, waiting for the plane to take off. It began rolling. It began rolling slightly faster. Then it pivoted onto the runway. It stopped. Then, WHOOOOSHH! 

It was then when I realized where I was going; where my classmates were going.

Onwards, upwards.

The 2014 Colorado School of Mines Geophysics Field Camp (photo by Dawn)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Geophysics Field Camp Week Three: I Like Processing Things

Out in the field, I had geophysics dreams.

I was walking along the survey line taking measurements with the magnetometer. I wasn’t the only one who had geophysics dreams out in the field. Our professor and field camp coordinator Andrei (more affectionately known as "Swiddy" or "Dr. Drei.") said he had dreams about driving around in his truck, making sure everything was going well. My classmate Roy said he had a dream about a geophysics survey as well.

Back in Golden in front of a computer, the hours are less intense than when we were out in the field. Geophysics doesn’t take over our entire lives…well, at least we get weekends back here.

But geophysics still takes over my dreams.

I’m part of a two-woman team that is processing the gravity data from our geophysical surveys down near Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Gravity processing is fairly uncomplicated, and as a result, we have been able to get things done relatively quickly. First we had to apply some corrections to the data, since gravity measurements are sensitive to elevation, latitude, and terrain/topography. Then came the fun part of creating a model for our data. This consists of drawing a geologic model of the subsurface in a program. The program tells us how well our model matches our data, and we tweak the model to reduce error but at the same time to agree with the interpretations that our classmates in other methods are producing. The past couple of days have mostly consisted of forward modeling for us.

Our working forward model of the subsurface created in GMSYS. It fits the data pretty well.

All this gravity gets into my head I think, because I had a dream that the Gravity and Magnetics team was racing to get everything done before everyone else. Which is weird because in real life, we really don’t need to race.

At any rate, I'm enjoying the computers part much more than the exhausting part. It’s not as fun in some ways of course, but I love the fact that my team is on track and that we don’t have to do geophysics stuff from 7AM until 6PM anymore. Our classmates in charge play funky music. Sometimes there are donuts. One day I ate two donuts. It's a good environment for geophysics. 

Out in the field, I would shovel my lunch into my mouth and be done in ten minutes.
Back in the lab, I go make myself a nice sandwich and savor the hour lunch break we get to take.
Out in the field, time would fly in the flurry of activity that geophysical surveying is.
Back in the lab, it’s more relaxed, at least in this third week. We get time to process processing.

I like processing things…I like being able to think about something and understand it. I have also had time to mentally process the field part of field camp and catch up on sleep. As one of my friends in the GP class of 2014 said, "It's the most fun you never want to have again." So true. 

I had another dream. I was helping the EM team (electromagnetics) write their report while they did some processing stuff. That dream was way too realistic, because it ended up happening. To add to the list of realistic geophysics dreams, Roy said he had a dream that he was processing the EM data. This also continued to happen. My classmate Tiffany had a dream about a bear, which makes sense because we saw a bear almost every day out in the field, but the part where the bear attacked did not come true.

I wonder if I will ever have ordinary dreams again, such as the ones I used to have a a kid; dreams containing tornadoes, tsunamis, and giant earthquakes that are geophysically inaccurate. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Geophysics Field Camp Week One

Geophysics knows no weekends.

I completely forgot it was Saturday in the midst of surveying. We're working for eleven days straight of data collecting without weekends. Whatever. One week down, one more week in the field, and then two more back in Golden. It's gone by pretty quickly, mostly because we're constantly busy. I'm also extremely exhausted. My feet hurt. Quiet or alone time is hard to come by. The food's okay.

Alright. I think I have my complaining out of my system. Field Camp is mostly cool, a lot of hard work, and some parts awesomely weird. I wake up at 6:15AM angry at the world and myself for not getting to bed sooner. When I have my coffee at 7, I'm extremely happy and cheerful, sitting down at our morning meeting saying, "Good morning, Terry! Good morning, Andrei! How's it going, class mates?" and such. Depending on what's being talked about, around 8 I feel meh. Then we get out in the field after driving for a half hour, and then I'm like, "Yay, Geophysics!" until 4. Then we go back to our meeting place and then I start getting frustrated, especially if the data takes a long time to download. I become extremely hungry and moody until 6, and then I'm happy but exhausted. At around 9 I stop being tired and then don't get to bed around 11 or 11:30 because I don't think I need to. But then I wake up at 6:15 again the next day.

Field camp is also awesomely weird. Our class is weird. Our professors know so, even if they are weird themselves with their own quirks. Geophysics people in general have this awesome weirdness about them. We're the weirdest thing to happen to the small town of Pagosa Springs in...well, a year.

I hope to blog every week, but here are a few quotes from last week so far. I have been taking notes in my field notebook, but the TA didn't give it back to me tonight.

"Last one in the vans is a geologist!"

"There are more buttons in this truck than the MT equipment!" Andrei

"Do these trucks automatically downshift? Because mine just did." - Andrei

"Look! Geology IS useful!" - Batzle, after propping a door with a rock.

"Geophysics girls get frisky." Craig the TA, who might have been joking around.

"That DC inversion was beautiful." "And it's not even smoothed yet, just raw beauty." "No makeup and still a ten."

"Geophysicist uses's not very effective." Roy

"I'd rather grades you all's tests than listen to Rod Stewart." Rich, who hates grading exams

"We can fill up at the Flowing Well." - Shane, on this oil seep in a field (we almost ran out of gas).

But yeah. The highlights of my day include hanging out with professors on the line, in the car, and elsewhere, watching a pickup truck accidentally roll into our headquarters building, getting malts at the malt shoppe while the boys got girly temporary tattoos, having way too much fun on the walkie talkies, getting called an idiot after I asked my professor Rich to (it's an honor, believe me), having Dr. Bob call our geologic cross section "elegant", our department head's sense of humor, and joking around with the TAs.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday left for data acquisition. I will make it to the weekend after the longest week of my life.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Thoughts Running Through My Head During the Continuum Mechanics Final

Jeff, our professor, begins passing our tests out. Gosh, Jeff. What the heck, this test is huge! There are so many words! Uhh..let's see, do I have an equation for this problem? No? Crap crap crap crap crap. Test: "What is the word for the temperature gradient in the mantle?" Hot? Uhh...let's look at the quantitative stuff.  Better plug some numbers into my calculator and pretend I know what I'm doing.  I have literally never seen this type of problem before. Maybe I can figure it out. My brain hurts. Let's write down an equation and move on to the next problem. Test: "Explain in words..." No words, just math--wait I can't even do that so never mind. 

Well, it's been an hour and I'm getting nowhere. I'm kind of hungry. I wonder if everyone else thinks this test is terrible too. Emily sure is writing down a lot of stuff. Hmm, I bet Jeff thinks I'm stupid. Maybe taking his Planetary Geophysics class next Fall isn't a good idea for me. Hmm. Jeff: "One hour and 27 cupcakes left." Jake gets up. "Jake can you grab me a cupcake too?" I ask. "Thanks." Stuffing my face is the only good thing about this test right now. I hope I can still get into grad school after this test. Why am I in Geophysics again? Is it too late to switch majors? Yeah, it's pretty late. Maybe I should become a writer.  I bet English majors can BS their entire tests. I bet they hardly ever have moments where they are thinking, "I have no idea what to do right now and we never learned this before!" Maybe if I write an essay or story on this test, Jeff will be appeased. I'm getting really hungry now. Only had a sip of coffee for breakfast. 

Dimensional analysis...wait, okay so Pascals are Newtons over meters squared. But what's a Newton again? Oh God, oh God, I can't believe I forgot what a Newton is. How the heck am I supposed to figure this out?? I should have written it down on my equation sheet, dang it. [a few minutes later] Oh! I can just do F=ma. Bam! Better check and make sure...three times. I'm getting really hungry now. I wonder if people will want to go out to eat. BUZZZZZ. Oh crap, there's the alarm again. We have 25 minutes. In just 25 minutes, it'll all be over!! Maybe I should just turn in my test now...naw, I better battle it out. I wonder if I'll get partial credit if I write "42" on everything? BUZZZZ. Okay, fifteen more minutes. Better write down any relevant equations. Maybe I should write "I'm sorry" on the test? Why, Jeff, why? 

Jeff: "Alright, time to turn in your tests." It's all's finally all over!

Friday, April 18, 2014

What to Do After a Test

  • Watch a movie 
  • Read
  • Clean room
  • Run around in circles
  • Go for a drive
  • Listen to music
  • Go on a night hike
  • Play ukulele
  • Write
  • Internet
  • Do homework due the next week
  • Take pictures
  • Eat ice cream. Definitely eat ice cream.
  • Breathe. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Galaxies and Relativity

My motivation has fallen away, like the snow melts and falls off in sheets from Marquez Hall, endangering any passersby. I've resorted to looking forward to stuff, and those stuff included Spring Break and E-Days, both of which are now gone.

So now I look forward to summer.

But hey, baseball is back, and E-Days did not disappoint, so there's that.

I think I've finally recovered from my disease of comparing everything to freshman year and finally found a year to just enjoy. My third E-Days held the same philosophy. I did things that made me happy, like took naps, rather than trying to do things to just do them. GalaxE-Days Lesson #1: Don't volunteer for events just because you want a t-shirt. I love Orecart Pull, but volunteering wasn't the best idea ever. I mean, it's a good thing to do if you have time and your heart is in it (and things are organized well). GalaxE-Days Lesson #2: Wear good shoes. GalaxE-Days Lesson #3: Naps are amazing. I spent the rest of my Friday napping (for 5 hours) until I woke up to show up to a rootbeer kegger late. But whatever, you know. GalaxE-Days Lesson #4: Starting E-Days early is totally great. Even if it's due to snow canceling a class.

E-Days was a lot of fun and I didn't do homework at all, but it made me tired. My feet are still silently weeping from the stuff I put them through during Orecart Pull. I get the feeling I'm going to be tired for a long, long time...

Sigh. Is it Summer (Field Camp) yet? No, but registration for Senior Year is tomorrow. What. When did this happen? When did we become so close to responsibility, to pretending that we know what we're doing?

As Orion sets slowly below the horizon and South Table Mountain begins to look more green than its usual brown color, all I know is that we got older somewhere. Maybe it was during the coffee-stained tests, or the index out of bound errors. It could have been all the free food we've eaten, or the late hours we spent just talking when we should have been doing other things. It was probably climbing all those stairs in the Green Center, or reaching over to open the doors to the Student Center. But no matter how much I notice that time is passing more and more quickly, it still accelerates. It probably has to do with Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, but I think has to do with the number of times that we've laughed so hard that it hurt.

 While my classes increase the gravity on my eyelids and put my head on my desk, life is still good. It's a good year to be a Mines kid.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Seven Days of Spring Break

Spring break tomorrow, homework today. Wake up to MATLAB. Rain rain snow snow snow, programming weather. Coffee for breakfast. Sherpa for lunch. More procrastinating, more computing. Barely done in time. Again. Sigh. No time to go to Seismic. Rent a Three girls and a dude at 5 Guys. Too many fries. Fries dipped in ice cream, yum. Driving driving. Packing packing. Downloading music for the road. Too little sleep.

At dawn we go. Ski bums and traffic. Hunger. Getting off schedule. Oh, well. Walkie-talkie battleship. The Utah sun beating down on my face like it did in my dream in January. So much deposition and erosion. Oh, the glorious erosion. Sitting in a car makes my muscles more sore than Corona Arch hike. More driving, and will we find a campsite? Old western-looking sunset with spires and purple sky. Darkness, and stars. How many engineers does it take to set up a tent at night? Amazing Grace under the Milky Way (as performed on top of a rock acoustically).

Time travel and confusion. Coldness of the desert does not bode well for sleep. No firewood equals no coffee. So much driving. Evading the law GTA style, but not really. Furthest destination: Grand Canyon. Status: reached. It looks like the pictures, and amazing in real life. Extensiveness blows the mind. Arizona sunshine. One point five miles into the heart of the canyon. Crossing layers, crossing time. Even more time travel in DST-less AZ. Professional camp-setting-uppers-at-night. Quick! Be loud before it's quiet hours! Sing! And the story of Henry the tree/boy/man. (Pretty sure we ran over Bob the tumbleweed).

This place has everything, including hot showers. Wat. I got to drive all the way from Grand Canyon to Four Corners. Passing cars...vroom. Sky. Silence, and mostly sleeping (not by me, the driver). When I stopped driving and got 3g, MIT Haystack REU emailed me an offer. Approaching Four Corners, the CO side is obvious: corner with mountains. Snow on ground after crossing state lines. Campground didn't work out...getting super hungry. Golden only six hours away! But actually seven. Operation Straight-Shot. "When I wake up, well, I know I'm gonna be..." plays in Wendy's right after having a conversation about it. Weird. And awesome. Near-elk encounter. Train encounter. THE longest train. I-25 is a boring road to drive. It's not an all-nighter if the sun doesn't rise before you go to sleep.

Solid six hours of sleep after waking up at noon. Then it started to snow. Packing again, then driving some more, but only twenty minutes. Sleep. Warmth.

Whilst jamming: "What am I thinking right now?" "We should go to Village Inn." Yes. Free pie Wednesday. A third-annual tradition, and the last with all three of us being students. Sadface-happyface.

Sleep. And good food. I probably gain so much weight when I go home. Good times with great friends. I don't want to go back to school.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014



One good thing about February is that it's the shortest month of the year. Bad things about February include bitter cold and wind, no real baseball games to attend, and of course, midterms.

I got my first smathering of midterms of the semester last week. It was the worst of weeks: Electromagnetics, then Probability and Statistics, and then Continuum Mechanics. I also received the "Procrastinator of the Year" award for not starting my math homework until after it was due. PotY is a prestigious award created by myself for outstanding feats of procrastination. The award includes eating cupcakes. (I ate two last Friday).

After my great accomplishment, it was nice to relax with the three-day weekend because of President's Day. It was almost a four-day weekend, because Structural Geology is not really a class. I mean, all we do is color. But now I've been studying for a math midterm this Thursday. It's funny how easy a week seems when you only have one test compared to three and homework and a lab report.

This semester has been going by pretty quickly, though. In a couple weeks, it'll be Soiree (a fancy dinner party for Mines girls) and I'll start finding out about REUs. Mines baseball plays their first home series a week after that. A week after that it's Spring Break, during which my friends from InterVarsity and I are going somewhere warm...probably southwest. A couple weeks after that it's E-Days! And Rockies Opening Day! And then the semester is almost over!

Woo. Sometimes when us Geophysics buddies are studying or whatever, we'll be like, " it Field Camp yet?" Soon. Very soon. Like 80ish days soon.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Viscosity of Maple Syrup, and Other Breakfast Properties

The viscosity of a fluid depends on temperature and pressure. It measures how resistant to stress a material is, and is expressed in units of pressure times seconds.

There are a few important things about any material. Strength of the actual material, porosity (or how many pores are in a certain area), and permeability are a few properties.
But some would argue that the most important characteristic would be the fluid inside the material.

This is what I was thinking of when I poured a slightly viscous and mostly sweet non-Newtonian liquid over a layer of permeable pancakes. Those layers of the stack were deposited over time, just as sedimentary layers are.
Yet they resemble the flat overlapping volcanoes on the planet Venus.

Does a pancake's porosity correlate to its taste?
Is there an ideal permeability of the layers that the viscous liquid will have the ideal concentration in?

Grains are classified according to size. There are boulders, cobbles, pebbles, sand, silt, and clay.

The pebbles of coffee beans are eroded down to sand--coarse, medium, and then fine sand.
Depending on how strong I want the coffee to be, I grind it down to silt.

Grain size affects porosity.
Porosity affects strength.
Strength affects taste and how awake I am.

Two heaping scoops for every cup of water, and another scoop for good measure. And maybe another dash to prevent against weak coffee. A semi-quantifiable algorithm.

The tensile strength of bacon, the permittivity of orange juice, and the bulk modulus of scrambled eggs...

Perhaps a pancake's porosity correlates to taste, but taste is only semi-quantifiable as bleh, meh, delicious.

The taste of syrup is positively correlated to viscosity. Making my permeable pancakes filled with viscous maple syrup delicious along with my strong, light-absorbing coffee.

That is how you have physics for breakfast.