Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Why blog?  I'm not really sure I know the answer to that question.  Before I attempt to answer it, however, let me tell you a little bit about myself.

I'm a middle-aged (assuming I live to be a very old man) geology professor at a community college in a rural area of the mid-Hudson Valley.  Where is not important (Google me if interested) since what I write here is not related in any way to my job there.  Well, that's not really true, obviously, since where I've spend 50 or so hours a week over the past 10+ years has certainly shaped me in many ways.  Let's just say that the opinions I express in this blog are not those of my employer (or anyone else, for that matter).  They're mine. 

I guess this is one of the reasons I've chosen to blog.  In the classroom I constrain myself to the issue at hand - the formation of sedimentary rocks, Rb-Sr dating, the role of anthropogenic CO2 in global warming, etc.  Here I can talk about any damn thing I'd like.  As someone with a lot of opinions and ideas, this appeals to me.  I also like writing, but only if I can do it on my own terms (unlike most of the writing I have to do in my professional life).

Will anyone read this?  I suppose some colleagues, students, family, and friends will stumble upon the blog and read a bit out of curiosity.  I'm not especially promoting it.  Will anyone else care?  Will I get "followers?"  (Putting quotations outside of punctuation marks always bothered me).  I don't know and I'm not sure I care.  I follow some other people's blogs because I find them interesting so I suppose I would be flattered to have people read what I write here but we'll see.  This is an experiment and I may simply get too lazy to continue it after a few weeks.

The biggest problem I had with starting a blog, even though I've been toying with the idea for months now, is that it seems too egotistical.  Literary masturbation.  Self-publishing (traditionally a sign of failure as a writer).  I guess it is all those things.  Who that hell am I thinking I have anything interesting to say?  I have no answer to that.  But I'm doing it anyway.  If it bothers you, click the back button and go away.

So what will I write about?  Whatever interests me.  I do have a fairly eclectic set of interests, however.   Some of the things that have caught my attention lately include:

- A paper explaining how mammoth DNA collected from permafrost soil in Alaska has indicated that mammoths (and horses) may have been present in North America as recently as 7,600 years ago (a few thousand years more recently than previously thought).

- 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 11, ... The infamous Fibonacci sequence.  I've been reading about some more surprising things (at least to me) about this endlessly interesting mathematical sequence.  Sometimes I wish I had studied math instead of geology (I didn't think I was smart enough and I would have gone into a completely useless field like number theory :).

- The Cahokia Mounds in southwestern IL.  Visited there a couple of years ago and recently read a book (Cahokia: Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi by Timothy Pauketat).  North America was surpisingly populated and advanced (at least compared to what we were taught in school) around 1,000 AD.

- A news story out of Berkeley (where else) that they're proposing to get rid of science labs in high schools because they're benefiting "white students" while taking resources away from struggling "black and hispanic students."  Morons.  Why would any parent send their kids to public school in that city?

- Sinornithosaurus, a possible venemous dinosaur recently discovered and described.

- The Mayan calendar and mathematics.  My interest actually grew, not out of the 2012 apocalypse bullshit, but rather out of the development of an Ancient Astronomy class I hope to teach next fall and a trip to Mexico in January of 2011.

- The passing of a professional acquaintance whom I wished I knew better.  I was even thinking of seeing him the same week I heard he passed away suddenly.  A lot of knowledge passed away with him.

See, lots of interesting topics.  I just have to get around to writing about them and not my plans to write about them.  I'll initially try a post or so a week and see how it goes from there.

By the way, for the record, I'm also married (16+ years) with two kids but I won't write about my family. I have to live with them!