In my never-ending quest to be more productive in my research I notice things about the way I work. I don’t know about others, but I have a difficult time diving back into a project that I haven’t worked on for a few weeks or longer. At least, picking up where I left off with the same momentum. Whether it’s sifting through data, drafting figures, or the actual writing it takes me some time to ‘get into it’. How much time? Depends. In some cases, I can jump back into the very same task and state of mind within ~10-15 minutes. In other cases, I’ll spend an hour (sometimes much longer) flailing about and making little tangible progress.
In the cases where it takes longer to find that groove, I find myself hanging out, for lack of a better phrase, with my data. Not necessarily analyzing it or doing anything useful with it. Just hanging out and being near it. For example, I’ll print out some key outcrop photos, a map, or a plot I made weeks prior and have it near me while I work on unrelated tasks. The questions, ideas, and speculations related to that problem then begin to re-occupy my thoughts. Sooner or later, I’m in the state where I can devote mental effort and make real progress.
Does anyone else work like this?
All is well here in Patagonia. I can only spend a little over a week down here this season (because of teaching obligations), but my graduate student will be staying for several weeks. We’ve spent a few days getting the big picture, the lay of the land so to speak — we will now spend a few days collecting some data (measured sections capturing cm-scale sedimentology along with detailed stratigraphic correlation at the 10s-100s of meters lateral scale). The weather is pretty typical — very windy, scattered rain showers — however, it’s much warmer than usual, into the low 70s F.
We are getting geared up for another field season in Patagonia — we’ll be looking at these views a week from now! The mountain in the center on the other side of the valley is called Cerro Ventana and is capped by a thick (~300 m) sequence of Upper Cretaceous conglomerate and sandstone of the Cerro Toro Formation. Off in the further distance, and shrouded by clouds, are older rocks (Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous) in the more structurally deformed part of the fold-thrust belt.
Every once in a while the internet produces something elegant. Here’s a simple and, in my opinion, brilliant web text editor that forces you to use only the 1,000 most common words in the English language.
Here’s my attempt at describing my research:
Try it. Whether or not you are satisfied with the result, I think going through this intellectual exercise is worth it. I was forced to pause and think about what word to use several times. I’ve already passed this on to my graduate students and some colleagues. I will definitely use this in the future for teaching as well.
Highly Allochthonous is compiling a list of examples from many geoscientists.
First things first, I’m a novice when it comes to coding/programming. So, those of you who are much better at this are free to point and laugh at my lack of skills. I’ve gotten used to revealing my ignorance on a nearly daily basis, which is fine because the more that I do that the more I learn useful stuff.
I’ve recently started playing around with the free statistical/graphical programming language and software R. (Here’s some good intro documentation.) For a sampling of what the graphics look like, check out this image gallery. I use R through the separate RStudio interface, which I like quite a bit. This image is from the RStudio website with my own text annotation explaining what the four panels are for.
For this first foray into R I’m interested in creating a simple line plot with custom annotation for some grain-size data I have. Down the road I’d like to learn more about statistical analyses with R, but for now I just want to make some nice-looking graphics for a paper I’m writing.
I’m not sure how many of you who read this blog use R, but I thought it might be fun and mutually helpful to start sharing some ideas and code. Just about everything I’ve learned so far (which is the tip of the tip of the R iceberg) was found by googling various commands. There are numerous sites, forums, and blogs out there with people helping each other out. It’s amazing. However, even with all those resources it’s still sometimes difficult to find exactly what you need. This is especially true for a beginner (i.e., me) who isn’t familiar with all the commands yet.
A couple years ago a family member asked me how many days a year I travel so I decided to keep track of it for 2012. Here are the number of nights I stayed at a location; total of 142 nights away from home (nearly 40% of the year).
- Blacksburg, VA (home) – 232
- JOIDES Resolution – 60
- ~Puerto Natales, Chile – 31
- Phoenix, AZ – 11
- Long Beach, CA – 5
- Charlotte, NC – 5
- Calgary, Alberta – 4
- Punta Arenas, Chile – 3
- Tabernash, CO – 3
- Salt Lake City, UT – 3
- San Francisco, CA – 2
- Menlo Park, CA – 2
- Hamilton, Bermuda – 2
- Columbia, SC – 2
- Lewisburg, PA – 2
- airplanes – 2
- Green River, UT – 1
- Danville, CA – 1
- St. Johns, Newfoundland – 1
- Charlottesville, VA – 1
- Reston, VA – 1
I’ve got some travel for 2013 already booked — field work, IODP sampling, conferences — but this year should be significantly less time away. But who knows, maybe some amazing opportunity will come my way.