Friday, 29 October 2010

Spooky deskcrops

This month's Accretionary Wedge asks us to share photos of our favourite deskcrop, with bonus points if it is spooky. As one who moves, often, I have managed not to accumulate a personal collection of rocks, but rather catalogue them appropriately and store them in the collections of which every university I was with when I collected them. However, I have many photos on my computers of my samples. My personal favourite "spooky" rock photo is this back-scatter electron image of a monazite grain. Every time I see it I think I'm looking at the skull of some sort of humanoid creature.

This was one of the many grains in Tasmanian metamorphic rocks analyzed for U-Th-Pb dating for my PhD thesis. Analysis of a point near the optic lobe of the skull of this grain gave an age of 508 +/- 5 Ma for this grain, which is in good agreement with the main Cambrian metamorphism within Tasmania.

Lots of choices; life is good

This morning Female Science Professor discussed an interview she did with a first year student on the topic of How We Choose A Career. This subject has been on my mind a lot lately, as I am sending out applications for my next job. There are ever so many interesting sounding directions I could go from here. I'm applying to positions that are teaching-based and others that are research-based. I've applied for post-doc positions, lab-tech positions, and even museum curator positions. Each of these vastly different jobs all have one thing in common: they sound like fun. I still have no idea while I will be doing when this contract ends in December. Perhaps I will be rushing straight off to start a new job right away in January. Perhaps I will have a few months off to relax and travel before I start the next job. The only things I know about my next job with reasonable certainty: It will probably be on Earth, and I will probably enjoy it.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The rocks under St. Andrew's

I enjoyed another visit to Scotland last week. While there I went up to St. Andrew's, home of the third-oldest English-speaking University in the world. In addition to a noteworthy University, the town's other tourist attractions include the ruins of a castle and a cathedral.

These first two photos show what is left of the castle up at the ground level.

Here is the view from the beach, looking up at the castle.

This is the cliff just to the left of the castle, showing the sedimentary rock upon which the castle is built.

This is a tunnel under the castle. During a siege the attackers dug a mine, hoping to get under the walls and blow them up. But the folks in the castle heard them digging, dug a counter mine, and managed to fend off the attackers in the tunnel.

Here is a view through the walls down onto the beach, showing more of the sedimentary rocks below.

While the rocks in this part of Scotland aren't as pretty as the metamorphic rocks in the interior of the country, still it was fun to see the interaction of the human history and the geology.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

transition to day-shift

The past three weeks and a bit have been even busier than usual. My mother arrived from the US on the 25th of September for a visit and stayed through to this weekend. While she was here I took the weekends off to go sightseeing with her one weekend, and to return to the ancestral home in Finland to meet some delightful family I didn’t know I had on the other. In between I’ve been working and preparing a talk for an upcoming job interview.
The Interview will take place starting at 08:20 in the morning, and as a result of that start-time I decided to adjust my schedule to being on day-shift starting from the day I got the letter letting me know the day/time. For those of you who have been working jobs which are tied to “business hours” for years being on day shift is unlikely to sound remarkable. However, I have been in academia for many years now, and am accustomed to setting my own schedule. While I have had occasional things that are tied to a specific day/time (such as conferences), most of what I have had to accomplish has been to deadlines that are not precisely defined (e.g. the degree will be awarded when you’ve completed your research and written the thesis). As a result my sleeping schedule has tended to wander around the clock based on the whim of the moment. Some days I accomplish my most productive work after midnight. Other days it is in the morning, and still others I’ve got the most energy in the afternoons or early evenings. This flexibility has served me well, and permitted me to achieve my goals thus far.
However, if I land the job for which I will be interviewing it will be one of those wherein I will need to report to work during business hours. Therefore for the past couple of weeks I have had two alarms set. One to go off every day at 21:55, to tell me to stop what I’m doing on my computer, go home, do my yoga, and go to bed soon, the other which goes off at 06:30 every morning telling me to get up and start my day. This seems to be working very well. Some days I am aware that it is closing in on 10 pm, and I’m wrapping up what I’ve been working on before the alarm tells me that I need to. Some days I’m so absorbed in my work it goes off and I’m surprised when it does. On those days it is harder to stop, but I have been making myself do so anyway. (Other days I’m not working at all, but only hanging out on line chatting with friends—it is hard to stop that because the clock says so, too, but my friends have been supportive of my wish to be on day shift, and encourage me to actually say good night promptly, even when they are in a another time zone and it is still hours before their bed time.)
One advantage of this schedule is that I am finding it easier to make time in the mornings to go for a run or put on my rollerblades before breakfast. Somehow, even though there are the same number of hours available in a day no matter which ones I choose to be awake (assuming that the total number of hours I sleep is constant), I feel like I can delay the start of my working day more when I get up at 06:30 than when I get up at 09:00 or 12:00 or 16:00). All in all, I pronounce this experiment a success, and feel confidant that should I be offered a job which requires that I be on day shift that I will thrive, even though it isn’t what I have been used to.