- Biggest failure of 2005: Excessive eating and lax exercising leading to weight gain.
- Biggest non-event of 2005: Baby, what baby?
- Biggest research acheivement of 2005: Submitting my first paper for publication.
- Biggest professional acheivment of 2005: Gaining valuable teaching experience with first college course and teacher-development workshop.
- Biggest marriage acheivement of 2005: Getting through the first 3 months of the year.
- Biggest personal acheivement of 2005: Maintaining this blog for 8 months.
Saturday, December 31, 2005
Friday, December 30, 2005
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
So what is a flood? For most people, a flood is when a river overtops its banks and threatens or damages homes, roads, and property. For scientists however, only the first part is necessary. A flood is any water level that overtops the banks of the stream or other water body and submerges normally dry ground.
How often do floods occur? Using the scientific definition, most natural streams spill out of their channels every 1-2 years. In urban areas where parking lots, rooftops, and storm sewers have increased impervious surface area, reduced the infiltration capacity of the soil, and routed water rapidly to the stream, floods often occur multiple times per year. Similarly, agricultural areas with extensive tile drainage systems may experience greater magnitude floods more frequently than under natural conditions.
What is meant by a 10-year flood? How about a 500-year flood? A 10 year flood has a discharge that has the probability of occuring once every 10 years. The same idea with a 500-year flood. So a 10 year flood has a 10% probability each year, while a 500 year flood has a 0.2% probability. Frequently, these numbers are misunderstood. There have been numerous instances of journalists, politicians, and the general public saying things like: "Last year we had a 500 year flood, so we won't have another one for a long time." That's wrong. If you had a 500 year flood last year, this year you have the same probability of having one (0.2%). Thus, you can have 10 year floods 4 years in a row, or 500 year floods twice in a decade. But on average, you will have 1 10-year flood in a 10-year period.
How are these probabilities calculated? The probability of a flood of a given magnitude is calculated by looking at the historical record of streamflow for a given site. The highest flows for each year are sorted, ranked, and divided by the number of years in the record plus 1. The magnitude of the flows and their exceedance probabilities are then to fit a curve, which can be interpolated or extrapolated to get probabilities not represented in the original data.
How accurate are the calculations? While these calculations tend to be fairly robust for high probability events, there are several problems with estimates of low probability event magnitudes. First off, the records at most gauging stations are no more than 40-70 years long, which means that magnitudes of 100-year and 500-year floods are almost always beyond the range of observed data. And slight variations in how the extrapolation is done can lead to very different estimates of the streamflow. Compounding these uncertainties, very few watersheds (particularly those of interest to the general public) have been free of land-use changes during the period of historical data. Any changes within the watershed (urbanization, road building, agricultural drainage, reservoirs) will change the way water is routed to the stream, and consequently, change the distribution of flood magnitudes. Finally, the United States Geological Survey has current gauging sites on ~7000 streams in the United States. That means that the flood frequency calculations for many sites are based on regionally-calibrated models, not from data on the stream itself.
Filling in the picture: Based on data from nearby USGS gages, my little stream is experiencing a 1-2 year flood right now. But as you can see, the channel isn't very natural (note the submerged saplings from a restoration project a year ago) and my stream gets extensive storm sewer runoff, some of which comes from outside its natural watershed. When you combine those factors, it could be that the stream and surrounding areas (as well as all the plants and critters) are now getting deluged on an annual basis with what might once have occurred (on average) once every 5-10 years.
For more information: USGS National Streamflow Information Program; Floods Q&A; Flood Frequency Analysis Tutorial (math-intensive)
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Monday, December 26, 2005
I wish I had more time to read for fun, but for the past few years, scientific literature has taken almost all of my reading bandwidth. I'm so bad that when I want a little light reading before bedtime, I'll open up my professional society's weekly newsletter. Partially this malaise is due to my reading style, which borders on obsessive.
Usually come vacation time, I'll devour a book or two to compensate from my normal paucity of literature. When I start reading fiction, I read for hours at a time. Often, I'll start reading a book at 8 pm, and I'll read until 1-2 am, waking at 8 am to finish reading by early afternoon. During that time I won't eat or shower or even talk to anyone. After the last page, I wander around in a daze for a while just trying to get closure on the book and prepare my mind for returning to the real world. The last book I had a chance to read a good book in that manner was Harry Potter 6. When I can't read fiction or literature all at once, I don't tend to be very good at reading it all. In the past year, I've given up on Sometimes a Great Notion and I'm currently stuck on Reading Lolita in Tehran. It's not that they are not great reads, I know they are, it's just that I haven't been able to give them the chunks of time that they deserve and that I need to surrender to the world in the book.
And that's the beauty of non-fiction. By it's very nature it's not as escapist as literature, and often times it doesn't need to be read linearly. I can open to a chapter or a page, read for a few minutes at breakfast or in the bathroom, learn something, and then proceed to mull it over during the course of my day. For example, last night I read a section in Boundaries of Her Body about the mixed bag of judicial rulings on whether a woman can refuse medical treatment that might save the life of her fetus. Sure, the discussion might make more sense if I had it in the context of the preceding 250 pages, but it was interesting and thought-provoking nevertheless.
I hope that someday I can once again devour a book a week, or a day, escaping into the words of great writers who weave their tales so beautifully. But until then, until I can give the wordsmiths justice, I'll take my non-fiction. Just the facts, ma'am.
P.S. I know that Reading Lolita is actually a memoir, but it reads like a novel, so I've intentionally miscategorized it above.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
To all my friends near and far, in-person and virtual, I hope your day has been filled with joyful noise and peaceful quiet, solitude and companionship, and all that you hold dear.
Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, and I've been trying to figure out why. I think it's the sense of anticipation in the lead-up to Christmas. The sense that something new and wonderful and exciting is going to happen. There will be presents to be unwrapped and carols to be sung and feasts to be eaten and church to attend... The actual Christmas Day doesn't have to be spectacular (as a kid, I just spent the day in my jammies devouring the books I'd been given), because that sense of anticipation is what delights me in Christmas.
My husband says that his favorite part of Christmas is buying presents for people. He says that it's not that he has creative ideas or anything, but that once he figures something out for his family and friends, he knows that it will make them happy. (And, husband, my boots are fabulous). My mom likes the carols and the return of the sun with the solstice, and the fact that its a break between semesters is pretty nice too. My cousin likes how Christmas time is the culmination of the year and a new beginning for the next year. My 7 month old niece couldn't tell me what she likes best, but she thought the sweet potatoes were pretty wonderful. And my dog likes having everyone home and our extra-long walks.
As you reflect on this Christmas and those in your past, what is your favorite part of Christmas?
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
While I have been known to enjoy your products, and never those of your competitor, I am saddened by the misinformation you are spreading in your current advertising campaign. I am referring to the television spot in which you show a family of polar bears who espy a partying penguins and slide down the hill to join the merriment. It's a very cute advert, but is totally factually wrong. And it contributes to the misconceptions I see my students exhibit. For this reason, I am asking you to correct your advertisement and make amends by providing some educational material about polar bears.
First off, what's wrong? It's very simple really. Polar bears only live in the Arctic (the northern Hemisphere), while penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere, principally the Antarctic. Thus, the chances of a wild polar bear happening on a penguin are zero. Maybe you are saying that everyone already knows that, why does it matter if we take a little creative license with our art? Because, sadly, not everyone knows this. I had a student who suggested in a paper that the native peoples of Antarctica would do well to make clothing out of polar bear skins.
If you don't believe me, ask others. Here's a quote from Polar Bears International:
One final misconception is that polar bears live at both poles. The belief is common among school children, who grow up seeing illustrations of penguins and polar bears together. Polar bears, of course, live only in the circumpolar North. They never encounter penguins, which do not live in the same regions as polar bears.Polar bears are a potentially endangered species, with an estimated population of 22,000 to 25,000 worldwide, about 60% of which live in Canada. Most sport hunting is now banned by international treaty, but polar bears face increasing threat from shrinking Arctic sea ice as a result of anthropogenic climate change. Polar bears also have high levels of PCBs and other pollutants in their bodies as a result of the distillation of atmospheric pollutants from all over the world. These pollutants may be the cause of higher juvenile mortality rates and suppressed immune system functions.
One of my earliest memories is of a trip to Churchill, Manitoba when I was four. We saw polar bears along the shore of Hudson Bay, and I slid down a slide shaped like a polar bear. I especially remember a post card of a polar bear looking in the window of our hotel. The next time I saw a polar bear in the wild was at age 23 from a plane window on the ice south of Ellesmere Island. These are memories I will always cherish. But most people will never see a polar bear in the wild, which is why they need the images that they see on TV to be truthful. And that's where Coca Cola Company has a responsibility to their customers.
By choosing to use the polar bear as your corporate mascot, you also chose to tie your company's fortunes to that species. Endangerment or extinction of your mascot would be bad PR. Instead, create some good public relations and media for your company. Start with the simple: Polar bears live at the North Pole, while penguins live in the south. Then tackle the more complex: Educate the public about the threats facing polar bears. Adjust your corporate operations (manufacturing, marketing, etc.) to reduce Coca Cola's impact on the Arctic and on polar bears. Lead by example, and future generations of children will know the magic of the bears.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Friday, December 16, 2005
|You Are Donner|
The most loveable and sweet reindeer, you're also a total dork!
Why You're Naughty: You keep (accidentally) tripping the other reindeer while flying.
Why You're Nice: You're always smiling, even if you've fallen flat on your horns.
I'd like to think I'm loveable, and I sure am a klutz.
You Are "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth"
Gee, if I could only
Have my two front teeth,
Then I could wish you
At Christmas, you are a happy soul who's easy to please.
You're biggest concern is making those around you smile.
Hmm...this one fails to capture the selfish side of me that comes out at Christmas, when I lust for new things and just want down time for myself...everyone else be damned. But then again, I do love Christmas carols and cookies.
You Are a Losing Lottery Ticket!
Full of hope and promise.
But in the end, a cheap letdown.
I actually got one of those from my in-laws a few years back. But the jackpot was >$100 million, so one uncle bought them for the whole family. It was kind of fun to think of the possibilities and kind of scary to think what a winning ticket might have done to the family. I'm glad no one won.
|Your Christmas is Most Like: A Very Brady Christmas|
For you, it's all about sharing times with family.
Even if you all get a bit cheesy at times.
I'd say that one's probably pretty accurate.
There are a fair number of other fun but quasi-work-related things I'd like to read this weekend:
- Nature has a series of news features on natural disasters. One addresses "the world's growing vulnerability to catastrophe," while another focuses on Hurricane Katrina's effect on Louisiana's coastline, and a third talks about replanting tsunami-devastated trees to mitigate storm impacts.
- Science and HHMI bemoan the loss of American students pursuing careers in science because our undergraduate education system is defective and propose to help remedy the situation by presenting innovative educational ideas in Science once a month in 2006. It's a good idea, and I think it's great that science education is finally getting some press in the scientific literature, but it's only a baby step toward fixing the problems. There was also apparently a summit on U.S. scientific competitiveness.
- On the web, Zuska has a scary piece on an attack on Girls Inc. Apparently, anything we do to empower girls will only make them rabidly pro-abortion.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
The society to whom I'm submitting says that journal titles should be abbreviated according to the Chemical Abstracts Service Source Index. Which is fine, except that I can't get access to it via the web. So I am forced to paw through other papers published in my target journal and see if I can find the words abbreviated there. But that doesn't help with everything. For example, how would you abbreviate Letters? Lett.? How about analytical? or report?
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Good science takes time.
Either spend 60+ hour weeks for a few years or 40 hour weeks for a lot of years (or unfortunately, 60+ hour weeks for a lot of years). Plan on experiments, field work, and writing to take much longer than you anticipated. Plan on pursuing a lot of dead ends before you make something work. I once read that you should budget one third of your time to planning a field campaign. For example, if you anticipate 2 months of field work, plan on a month getting equipment ready, devising sampling strategies, making travel arrangements, looking at maps.... Read relevant journal articles more than once - you will always miss something the first time. Go through multiple revisions with the other authors of a paper before submitting it. Expect that the time from writing first (nearly-complete) draft of your first paper to submitting your first paper to be several months longer than you anticipated.
Make friends of your fellow grad students.
Your fellow grad student friends are the only ones who will understand what you are going through. Faculty members have either forgotten or repainted their memories with rose-colored glasses. Family members will wonder why you are "still in school" and why you don't " just get a real job." Friends from high school and college will get good paying jobs, marry, and have babies while you are "still in school."
Your grad student colleagues will be there to share late night pizzas and mid-afternoon coffees. They will listen to you vent about committee deadlines, broken lab equipment, and stupid classes, as long as you take your turn listening. More importantly for your career, they are often willing to offer occasional field assistance, proofreadering, constructive criticism, and collaboration. Again, you must take your turn helping, but in the end a few hours spent prepping someone else's samples or ripping apart a paper may net you a life-long collaborator. And don't limit yourself to only those in your lab group, look for people in complementary fields. They'll bring a different set of expertise and perspective to your work.
Don't forget the big picture.
In the throes of thesis work, it is all too easy to get lost in the details of your specific experiment, theory, or field site. Force yourself to step back every once in a while and put your work in context. How does it advance our understanding of the way the world works? How does it solve a problem for society? How is it not limited to a specific, unique place or species? Try to write the introduction to a planned paper. If you are left feeling like it is only a minor contribution not deserving of your field's attention, then you've probably forgotten the big picture.
I'll add more as I get a chance. I'm going home to bake cookies and play with the dog.
10 Random things you might not know about me
- When I was a child, my favorite color was pink. Then I read Anne of Green Gables...
- I don't drink coffee
- I have a weakness for good ice cream
- When I read journal articles for the first time, I tend to skip the equations
- At one time, I intended to go to law school
- I used to be a vegetarian, but my husband likes meat and he likes to cook
- My grandfather built wooden saiboats and played the organ
- I have ancestors that lived in the 13 colonies
- I didn't start liking the outdoors until late in high school
- I listened to goth and industrial music in high school
9 Places I've Visited
- Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia - during a flood
- Ellesmere Island, Nunavat, Canada - north of the north magnetic pole
- Baraboo, Wisconsin - home of circus world
- the Tongariro Crossing near Taupo on the north island of New Zealand
- Uppsala, Sweden in December
- a small town on the prairie where you can see the August thunderstorms rolling in for 50 miles
- Pocahontas County, West Virginia - the most rural county in the state
- Akureyri, Iceland - the second largest city in the country, population 15,000
- Mt. Desert Island, Maine - where my commute was a 2 mile bike ride through National Park
8 ways to win my heart
- Give me good chocolate
- Do something totally uncalled for that makes my life easier
- Go with me for a hike in the woods with my dog
- Give me a good night kiss and bring me a glass of water for my bedside table
- Make me laugh
- Give me a hug
- Be a good listener
- Be nice to me
- raft the Grand Canyon
- finish my Ph.D.
- stop caring what other people think of me
- raise kids
- set some major physical activity goal for myself and succeed at it (climb a high peak, run a marathon, hike the appalachian trail)
- finish a Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle - with no cheating or help
- play in an orchestra again
- being so demanding that no one could live with me
- losing my mother or my brother
- losing my husband
- my dog getting run over
- false sincerity
- male chauvinism
- People who have unchangeable opinions but don't know the facts. And don't care.
- Students who are convinced that they are no good at math (or can't write) and are unwilling to give it a try.
- being short on sleep
- stay home on all day while I work but don't walk the dog or clean the house
- look down your nose at me
- lie to me
- disparage my views and interests
- cuddle with my dog and husband, or at least think cuddly thoughts
- take my temperature
- drink water
- bright sunny winter days when I have time to get outside
- live performances of classical music
- How to balance what is best for my career, with what is best for Husband and I as people, in face of uncertain options and conflicting time lines
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
So last night he drove to the big city to pick me up at the airport and we talked seriously for a while on the car ride home. And I'm worried about him. I wonder whether he's slipping into depression. And yes, I know that if he is depressed, he'll need professional help. But for the moment, I think I will see if I can get him moving a bit. I know that I always feel better if I've got something to do. So I roused him at ten, we ate breakfast together and straightened the Christmas tree. Then I caught up on email and bills while he watched TV. Around lunch time, his mom called with an update on his grandpa, he started cooking a pot roast, and we just came back from a big shopping trip. Now, I've ordered him out to fill out an application for a temp agency (his choice, not mine, I'm just imposing follow through). When he gets home, we'll make Chex mix (a Christmas favorite of his), decorate the tree, and maybe rent a movie for the evening. He loves The Santa Clause.
On a happier note, I got asked for letters of reccommendation for UWIRWTW.
Friday, December 09, 2005
in your research statement - be specific enough that the search committee
knows that you know what you are talking about but not so techincal that they
can't understand the jargon and may think that it is not a big idea. If you can
you could say "et al and et al have said this but my data make me think this..."
that will be persuasive that you have a good idea and know what you are talking
if you get one job interested in you, you should be sure to let the places you
are interested in working know that you have a competing offer/expression of
interest. For some reason, that will increase everyone's desire to employ you.
Of course, the trick is getting that first fish on the hook. (pardon the
a friend of mine has been able to nicely summarize one science thing that she
has learned each day of the conference...I've been trying to sit in talks and
figure out how to remember the 1 thing I've learned. I did well yesterday, but
today was a wash.
I've been encouraged to apply for an Ivy League job by a faculty member in the
department. Not a post-doc mind you, but a TT job. And in that related
engineering field. It seems so ridiculous, but what the hell.
I gave my talk today and I had a bad bad case of the nerves. In me these
nerves cause a tightness and tickle of the throat that leads to spasmodic
coughing. Not as bad as last time, but still rather embarrasing. I knew it was
going to happen and I still couldn't talk my brain/body out of it.
But after the talk, while watching another nervous grad student present, I
compiled a list of the most common symptoms of stage fright:
o coughing (check!)
o talking very very quickly (I don't think I do?)
o wild laser pointer behavior (No!)
o apologizing when you mis-speak or pause (hopefully not too much)
o blushing (likely)
o profusely sweating (yes, unfortunately)
o umms and errs (no?)
o tongue clicks
last night's conversation with potential prestigious post-doc advisor seemed
to go very well, although we didn't get to really concrete plans. And
unfortunately the next NSF proposal deadline in my field isn't for 6 months.
And the reprecussion of that is that I wouldn't know whether or not our
proposal got funded until around the time of my defense....which means that I
would either be facing the possibility of unemployment, or having to take a
second-choice post-doc. I suppose I might get an actual job, but that's feeling
very remote right now. I can totally empathize with Ms. PhD and her math/month
thinking right now.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
And then in no particular order:
- best quote: Attributed to Jane Doe as a comment on a paper draft: "The work is in the past, the paper is in the present, and god knows what the future holds." (If you want to know who Jane Doe is, you'll have to email me (science dot woman at hotmail dot com) because it'll give away my -ology.
- # of society award winners: 9, number of females: 2 (one of whom was my undergrad thesis advisor)
- # of new society fellows: 43, number of females: 7 (plus/minus a few where I am too unfamiliar with the name to assign a gender)
- most frequently heard job advice: get a post-doc, preferably someplace prestigious, and get a few publications out, then start hoping
- but don't get too many pubs out because you'll need some of your Ph.D. or postdoc pubs to count towards your tenure quota.
- in your cover letter, mention specific people with who you would envision collaborating
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Sunday, December 04, 2005
I still need to write the cover letter, revise the research interests, finish printing. Oh and pack for the conference (turns out my toiletry bag was here too) and write those darn conclusions for my talk. I think I'll sleep on the plane tomorrow.
Speaking of - I am leaving early early tomorrow morning for 8 days for a conference/short course...I'll be bringing the laptop and the new wireless card but I may or may not post much.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
8:30-11:30 - plane ticket buying
11:30-1:30 - recovering from above, eating lunch, doing laundry
1:30-2:00 - dealing with flaky roommates for conference (at this point I'd just like a room to myself, no matter the cost)
1:00-3:00 - at the library getting articles from "obscure journal on small particles" which of course is not available on-line. I never go the library, but naturally the one time I need to it is overrun by undergrads cramming for their finals. At least the parking meter was broken.
So now I am here at my office where it is blessedly quiet and I might actually be able to gather my thoughts and figure out what I need to do before I leave. So, to do:
install wireless cardand make sure it is working cancel extraneous hotel reservations and double check all flight times and requisite hotel reservations, incl. getting phone numbers and maps as necessary
- write conclusions slide for talk
gather materials needed to apply to Midwest U. gather last paper drafts so I can make edits
- pack up all necessary electronics
organize/hide piles of papers on my desk so I am not overwhelmed when I return
- get cash
- get gas for my car
read jnl articles from library that may hold key to talkthey don't gather other jnl articles/books so I can review background info before talk transfer my notes on who I am meeting where and cell phone numbers from random scraps of paper to one organized list
- plan schedule for 1st day of conference
drink my chamomile tea
- hem pants
- apply to Midwest U
- keep polishing talk
- practice talk?
Friday, December 02, 2005
- Pancho and Lefty - Emmylou Harris
- Are you out there? - Dar Williams (classic teen angst)
- Luna - Smashing Pumpkins (I actually don't listen to them that much, they just keep popping up in the shuffle)
- Zombie - Cranberries
- Better Be Home Soon - Crowded House
- Road to Dead - Paula Cole
- Where you lead - Carole King
- Halcyon & On & On - Orbital
- Puff the Magic Dragon - Peter Paul and Mary
- This Train Revised - Indigo Girls
Thursday, December 01, 2005
This is made more complicated by two main facts: (1) I am essentially new to the sub-sub-field and am not finding it easy to make the interpretations or even know what things need to be interpreted, (2) while I can present an observed set of phenomena, we really don't know the mechanisms that create the phenomena. So I'm left with "well, we see this, and then this happens, but we don't really know why, but it could be one (or more) of these 10 things..." Which is fine, but not good. And good would be a really nice impression to make. (sigh)
However, even if I were to get no sleep for the next week, and have a brain transplant, we will not know the mechanism any time soon. So that's just the way it's going to be.
Having re-formed the conclusion that the science is only so-so, the stress is gone. Instead it is replaced with a draining of my energy. Who cares about this talk? Not me. I'd rather go back to polishing my manuscript, writing job apps, sleeping...just about anything.
But giving up isn't an option, so I guess I'll go back to working on the powerpoint.