Category Archives: technology

Nerd Alert

I just bought a stereo microscope with a digital camera….

…so that I can look for forams from the comfort of my home.

No more long, cold, lonely nights alone. No more hunching over in chairs, or going cross-eyed or migraine’s from constant kinks in my neck.

You have no idea how excited I am.
Bonus: I can now take pictures for making 3D models of my forams!



Wham Bam, Thank You Foram!

Let me tell you about the nightmare of a thesis I chose. Okay, the subject itself is pretty awesome…but narrowing it down  is what is driving me up the wall. If I leave it as-is, it’s considered Master’s level work. As much as I would like to say I did that amount of work as an undergrad, it’s just not going to happen.

This idea came about on accident, actually, which is what is making me keep at it. I was taking Sedimentology and SEM(Scanning Electron Microscope) simultaneously. Both require a project. I was originally going to keep them separate, but then one of my good friends was in the lab doing a project for a grad-course called Paleoecology. We chat a lot, so I sat down and he taught me how to look for these creatures called foraminiferans, because that’s what he was doing and I felt bad for disturbing him. Forams (for short) are these little tiny amoeba-like sea creatures that have tests (shells). They are typically about the size of a small grain of sand, for your visualization reference.
The cool part is that the sand we were looking for, by definition, was NOT supposed to even have forams. So when my friend and I discovered some, we were a little excited to say the least. BAM I had my SEM project AND my sed project!! For my sed/SEM project, I ended up doing a paleoenvironmental facies analysis – facies being what kind of environment they were living in at the time of deposition. I was able to get the basics down, and went above and beyond for my project work.
Okay, that’s step 1.
Step 2 was the try to figure out why they were there. This is where I keep getting tripped up. There are so many guesses as to what was going on, and your guess it just as good as mine. No really. I have no idea either.
Here are some possibilities – Well, they were found with a bunch of other fossils, as the samples were taking from a shelly lens. One possibility is that the shells were protecting the foram tests from taking a beating. Another possibility is just that the tests were so small they weren’t subject to the same amount of force as the other shells (which were beat to hell, by the way) – but that doesn’t explain what they were doing in the sand to begin with.
Based on the paleoecology report that the grad class did, it was a heavily storm-influenced area. Could have just gotten washed in? But washed into where exactly? The sand is typical of a beach, but all of the other fossils are things that would  not get “washed up” like barnacles(without sticking to something else) and worm tubes, so it would have had to been underwater.  Thinking about the barnacles though, I guess they would have been stuck to some driftwood that got washed up, but doesn’t explain the giant pile of sand and other shells.
I’m also pretty sure that there is a “gradient” of sand-size particles starting from the largest of the area starting at the beach and getting smaller and smaller the farther off shore you go, but I can’t seem to find that specific of information stated in a book anywhere. Also a problem.
This  is a 3D model of the shelly lens in question. Oh yes. I made that. Take note future employers! I know how to use AGIsoft!
But anyways, trying to figure out why they are there (like the actual God-given reason they are there) is for sure a masters-level type of research project that I just don’t have time for, UNLESS I dedicate a semester to it, which I don’t really want to do. Will if I have to, but now that I know what it’s like to have weekends off again, I feel like I can do it next semester. We’ll see.
Anywhoser,  I may be able to just apply a theory and go with it and then concentrate on identifying and naming the forams I found. WHICH it is very possible that I found a new foram species, and I might be able to get away with going through the process of proposing it as one and getting it added to the database as my main thesis aspect.
It’s a hard decision to make when my thesis adviser has a double PhD in Paleontology and English. That means I have zero wiggle room to bullshit, which I’m glad for, I just don’t know if I can supply the amount of information he expects from me.
I mean hell, my prospectus alone is going to have to be 10 pages long.
FYI, the featured image for this blog is one of the forams in question (well, the inside half of it). We refer to this one as “the Hamburger” because we can’t find jack-shit on this bugger. But check out the recrystalization going on in that one! Awyiss.

Every Student’s Dilemma

Every student goes through this. Probably every year like I do. Stuck somewhere between being a poor college student, and willing to spend a large amount of money on something, anything, that will help you get better grades. 

I’m actually having this dilemma right now. I’m stuck somewhere between needing to pay off my credit cards (gee thanks, field camp), and trying to prepare technologically for the future. I had this dilemma last year as well, and this is what I’ve learned:

Don’t get caught up in wanting NOW NOW NOW

Last year, I needed a new PC because mine was 8 years old started to fritz out. I couldn’t run Battlefield 4 or Titanfall on it, so it had to go (it didn’t help that Office wasn’t working either, because you know, school. Also, don’t judge me). I could have upgraded it, but because it was the type of computer it was, and the way bundle PC’s work now, it was cheaper to get one that was already built, then to try to rebuild my old one. If you’re looking to upgrade your old computer, make sure you’re not going to have to upgrade every component after upgrading one item. This was the case for me, so I just went ahead and spent $100 extra on a more powerful computer that I didn’t know how to build, and would be far easier to upgrade in the future…and some cool accessories that I wouldn’t have even thought to put in my old computer. So I got the new PC. 

I should note that I spent a good 3 months researching building vs buying, debating on what I really wanted vs needed, and pricing. The other thing I learned? That CameCamelCamel is your BEST. FRIEND. It really helps you decide WHEN you should buy. The only draw back is that the item has had to have been on the market for a little while before you get decent information. Thanks to the program, I knew that the PC I was buying was the lowest price it had been and/or was going to be. Thank you CCC!

Now, onto the classic dilemma when deciding it’s time to get a new computer…

MAC or PC?

Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of MAC. Sorry, dudes. So you’re probably like, well why was this even a dilemma for you? You already knew what you wanted! And you’re right, I knew I what I wanted, but in my case it may not have been what I needed. So far, my experience is that geologists LOVE Mac’s. Most techy geology programs have been designed for MAC’s. There are not even that many students in my department that I know of who don’t have MAC’s. They are the cool kids who get the cool programs because their professors give it to them for free because school licences or whatever. Well I wanna be a cool kid with an in with the techy professors! It also crossed my mind that if this what all my professors (and by all, I mean every single professor) use, what if a MAC is what’s preferred in the industry? I should really invest in one. 

I still decide on a PC because I realized that if an employer really needed me to use a MAC, they would give me one. So PC it is. 

At this point in time, I’m needing a new laptop. When I started community college, I got this tiny little Acer One notebook. I used it for biology and typed all my notes, and it was the BEST THING EVER….until it completely crashed two months into the class and I lost ALL of my notes. I got it fixed, no longer trusted it, and just used it for media. 

That was 4 years ago, and it has since had a dead screen, and I didn’t touch it for a year after that happened.  I fixed it a couple weeks ago, and I’m like yeah I’ll use it for Chem! But then when I think back to biology and I nearly have an aneurysm. 

So…on to the next lesson.

Cheap or Durable?

This one is hard to go over, because it’s really up to the person and their experiences. What are you willing to deal with? You have to keep in mind that, more than likely, you would have to constantly replace something cheap. If you get something that is cheap AND durable, awesome! If you are looking into something that has both options, like I am, ask yourself: If for some reason I have to replace the cheaper item, is it going to cost me the same as buying the more expensive item? 

I’m currently looking at a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. It’s VERY comparable to the Macbook Air. There are several versions of this tablet/laptop Frankenstein. Ranging from $200 (I would rather have a Kindle Fire? Does the same things. Had one, didn’t use it, sold it…so this is obviously not what I’m looking for.) to $600. So if I wanted to go for cheap(er) I would look for something in the $500 range. Most of these are refurbished, or older versions. The pricetag for the Pro 3 (Intel i5/128G) is going for $849 student offer from and is so far the cheapest I could find. Not sure if that comes with the keyboard or not, which is also a major selling point. You should look into it. It’s pretty neat.

For me, it’s my senior year. I’m getting thrown into the real world in T-minus 11 months. I need something that is going to be able to keep up with me, my life, the rest of the world, and withstand the constantly upgrading technology. It would be in my best interest to get the Pro 3. It would also be replacing any need I would have for physical books (save  money on the chiropractor AND electronic books are starting to get cheaper than physical books!), no more printing out the slides for the lectures, and would take away at least 3 notebooks that I would have would buy, thanks to the pen it comes with. 
For me, based on my traumatic experience from my $250 netbook, I can’t deal with worrying about losing my information. I have to go with the safer bet.

I think for the next blog I’m going to talk about how I save money and give advice for those who are super low income like me. (Funny to say when I’m  looking at a Surface Pro 3, eh? Thank goodness student loans exist.)



Side note: Please don’t get my way of thinking confused with someone who just wants top-notch band-name gadgets. I am a person who will spend a large amount of money for something that I will not replace for years. I dealt with my broken laptop for 4 years without buying a new one because that’s how long I felt it should have at least lasted for.

I hope this helps in some way. I’m happy to have any feedback,  advice, or recommendation on other laptops, ect ect.