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Maitri’s VatulBlog

This is the blog of Maitri Erwin. I am a geoscientist, first vice president of the Geophysical Society of Houston, Society of Exploration Geophysicists Women’s Network leader, publisher of MaitriLAB and Back Of Town, and Project Gutenberg board member. More in About. Here is where you can find me. Blog posts follow below.

Events

Online

Since my last post, I am now officially First Vice President of the Geophysical Society of Houston (GSH), and my talk abstract was accepted for the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Annual Meeting 2018 special session on Geophysicists In The Workforce: Challenges, Trends & Future Outlook. It has also been a pleasure to get to know Carla Arimont and her management consulting team at Lincoln Leadership Advisors (LLA) and Elena Dutcher, Houston Chair of the SEG Emerging Professionals International Committee (EPIC). Together with these fine women, GSH and SEG will put on two career mobilization events in Houston and at the SEG Annual Meeting in Anaheim, respectively.

The following are September and October events I am hosting and/or participating in, in the Houston area and at the SEG Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California. A lot of thought and planning went into each one of these offerings and they are very fairly priced, so YOU should be there!

  1. GSH Tech Breakfasts | Discriminating between Commercial and Residual Hydrocarbon Saturation by Integrating Prestack Seismic and Controlled Source Electromagnetic Data by Pedro Alvarez of RSI | September 4 and 5 | Houston, TX | Register here: North West
  2. Build Your Professional Brand over a fine glass of wine | A collaboration among GSH Diversity & Women, SEG’s Emerging Professionals International Committee, SEG Women’s Network and Lincoln Leadership Advisors | September 11 | Sable Gate Winery, Houston, TX | Register
  3. GSH Tech Lunches | Human Capital in a World of Analytics and Big Data in Exploration Workflows by Katya Casey of Actus Veritas | September 18, 19 and 20 |  Houston, TX | Register here:  West Downtown North
  4. SEG Fall Icebreaker | St. Arnold Brewing Co.| September 27 | Houston, TX | Register
  5. GSH-Houston Geological Society Joint Dinner | Discovery and Delineation of SNE Field, Offshore Senegal by Igor Effimoff | October 8 | Houston, TX
  6. Eighth Annual SEG Women Networking Event | Anaheim Convention Center | October 15 | Anaheim, CA | Info
  7. SEG Annual Meeting Career Workout course hosted by SEG Women and Lincoln Leadership Advisors | Anaheim Convention Center | October 16 | Anaheim, CA | Register
  8. SEG Annual Meeting Special Session | Geophysicists In The Workforce: Challenges, Trends & Future Outlook | Anaheim Convention Center | October 16 | Anaheim, CA | Info

Below are advertisements (in their various versions) for the events listed above. Please help GSH, SEG and me by sharing these with your geo-friends far and wide. If you are in Houston or Anaheim at any of these times, come on down!

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Forbes | May 2018 | A New Report Uses Data To Drive Diversity In STEM Fields

Medium | May 2018 | The Absence of Women in STEM

U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration | 2017 | Women in STEM: 2017 Update

Fast Company | Companies Like Nike & Apple Preach Empowerment But Ignore Issues

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Here’s the deal on my reluctant enjoyment of Ready Player One, the book version. As for the movie, it isn’t really worth reviewing. Instead of gently leading today’s viewer to the discovery of a richer, deeper nerd-gamer ethos, the film did the exact opposite by dumbing down the story and its quests to cater to a much wider “80s-lite” audience. There was a lot more to Halliday’s and even Spielberg’s 1980s, and Dungeons and Dragons and Oingo Boingo’s Dead Man’s Party are not references too obscure for today’s movie-watching masses. How about a special remake for those of us who actually played Joust? Back to my concerns with the book and what it means.

  • Nostalgia Cud – Our pasts, our memories are functions of what we have consumed. So, to take what I have already devoured and assemble and repackage it so easily for me to re-consume is an affront. You know what? I consumed the hell out of the book. So, who’s the worse person here – Ernest Cline or me? It is entirely valid to view RPO as a paean to the 80s and Back When The Internet Was Plain Vanilla 8-Bit ASCII And Ours, and who am I to gatekeep our history? But, it’s not a coincidence that 1980s worship has made a resurgence when its core demographic is at peak spending power. The moment I hit 40, long-lost memories from my childhood came zooming back. Perhaps it’s called a mid-life crisis because the first half of your life flashes before your eyes very slowly, over the course of a few years. Is this a natural biochemical thing or memories triggered because Richard Blade is my radio DJ again, and I Ran and 99 Luftballons is in every drug commercial and cover band’s repertoire? Couldn’t tell you, but I strongly recall Cousin Dhivya still owes me for “accidentally” pouring hot pink nail polish on my favorite grey net tank top while we danced to the MTV premiere of INXS’s New Sensation. Sure that blast from the past has nothing to do with #INXS40.
  • Greed Is Good Again – What led to RPO’s dystopian 2045? How did Wade Watts end up orphaned and living in the squalor of a stacked trailer, watching “the outbreak of some new killer virus, or another major city vanishing in a mushroom cloud?” All the way from before the 1980s to today, we have created and continue to make that terrible, dark future right now. Let’s get in our cars and drive to the climate-conditioned IMAX theatre to then buy/use the past to consume/fight a future that we made in the past and present. (If that isn’t head-screwy enough, listen to the words “Because reality is real” in THX surround sound while wearing 3D glasses.) So what are we doing about it other than collectively nodding our heads at a Real impending apocalypse? Not much. And that’s problematic.
  • Not Neutrality – James Halliday is Project Gutenberg‘s Michael Hart and OASIS is the internet Michael envisioned. Here are some of the last words Michael wrote me before he died in 2011.

    The purpose of Project Gutenberg is to provide raw materials to anyone and everyone who needs or wants them.Those who do not need or want them will tell us, denigrating the materials in such a manner that we know these people are not consciously in need or want of them, or at least so they would like to appear. As I have said from the very beginning, “Let me be the first to scatter these bricks,” so that from the first you learn a school is not made of particular bricks in particular order, but of the idea of schoolness.

    Take the bricks and create anew. OASIS is about so much more than gaming, coin mining and escape from a terrible reality. It is where thousands of people like Wade Watts go to learn, explore and build in a space that belongs to everyone, not just to blindly ingest a reconstituted past. Further, IOI, like Disney, AT&T, Viacom, Elsevier and many more, wants to destroy this public domain to privatize, gate and charge for entry. They don’t want to build anything, just resell us to us. So, how is writing this book and publishing it with Random House while simultaneously selling the film rights to Warner Bros anything other than plain cheek or, worse, cold resignation and “clanning up” with the Sixers? Wade and the gunters may have won, but we didn’t.

Yeah, I feel like I am being trolled by Ernest Cline, but also feel in on the joke by being one of its perpetrators. Maybe the real easter egg of the experience is that it is pre-packaged irony. What am I going to do about it?

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The April 2018 issue of the Geophysical Society of Houston Journal is out and my Word From The Board with it on Page 4. The short essay is called GSH Into The Future. Here are a couple of key excerpts.

Coming up on the year 2020, is the scientific society still relevant? If so, what sort of community do young scientists want?

.. tomorrow’s GSH relies on your active contribution to the conversation today. We ask you to engage with us on Facebook and Twitter to share your thoughts on these topics:
• What activities make GSH valuable to you?
• How would you measure the success of these activities?
• Finally and most importantly, in my opinion, how are you willing to motivate yourself and
attract other busy geophysics professionals to volunteer effectively?

Let’s see what answers we receive. The Facebook crowd is usually pretty responsive.

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Despite that I rarely enter the kitchen anymore, I love using cooking analogies to describe time management in fast-paced, interdisciplinary teamwork. I’m pretty sure my team is sick of it and plotting to buy me a microwave for Christmas this year.

The second half of 2017 has been extra-brisk with:

Geophysical Society of Houston First VP-elect duties: Allow me to gush a bit about how much I love this local geophysical society. Over and above organizing and hosting technical talks and social events, we meet face-to-face each month, discuss and make reasonable plans with realistic direction, assign responsibilities to those fit to accomplish them, report successes and failures, and generally get things done. There is very little of the politics and faffing about associated with many other organizations, and we are all about offering the most to our membership in the greater Houston area. How? Every board member is a geoscience professional, and we have just two office personnel and several event volunteers. We are, however, an aging organization, so if you are a student or early- to mid-career applied geophysics professional in the Houston area and would like to give back to your local community, please get in touch in the Comments section below. We want your input and effort, and your future leadership!

The SEG Women’s Network Committee (WNC): After two years as Chair, I handed the reins of our Committee and Network back to the Energizer bunny known as Maria Angela Capello, Chair 2013-15. Despite our best efforts, the succession plan fell apart. We were unable to convert an early-career member of the Women’s Network to a contributing/committee member to a leader. It is so easy and lazy to blame millennials and spout suspect theories that they are asocial and cannot rally for their own good. Instead, I ask what the modern scientific society should become to attract students and young professionals, and convert them into longstanding members who take on leadership responsibilities. In order to answer that, a couple of other questions pop up: Coming up on the year 2020, is the scientific society still relevant? If so, what sort of community do young scientists want? My biggest reason for being a SEG and GSH member is to meet face-to-face and share “our” science and experiences as scientists. But, is that considered scientific community any longer? I’d pay big money to attend a SEG annual meeting dedicated just to this topic. Seriously, folks, we’re technical sessioning, postering, paneling and exhibiting ourselves into irrelevance. Or are we? Let’s talk about this.

While no longer Chair of WNC, I am Vice Chair (interim *please, someone take my place, please*), Full Spectrum column contributor, author of reports and exhibits, and editor of the upcoming SEG Women eNewsletter. And general SEG busybody. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

Mentoring365: One of the big requests by students and young professionals at SEG Annual Meeting 2016 was mentoring. SEG WNC’s collaboration with the American Geophysical Union on several other topics led us to discover their development of an online mentoring portal. We quickly partnered with the American Geophysical Union to jointly support Mentoring365.org, which was unveiled at SEG Annual Meeting 2017 and is now fully operational. Here’s a nice description of what the program offers:

Mentoring365 is a program developed among Earth and space science organizations to facilitate sharing professional knowledge, expertise, skills, insights, and experiences through dialogue and collaborative learning. The program provides mentors and mentees with structured, relationship-building tools to develop and attain focused career goals. Mentors must be current members in one of the program sponsors, AGU, AWG, or SEG.

More earth science societies will soon join us, but if you are currently associated with AGU, SEG and/or AWG, please become an earth and space science mentor or mentee! Also, listen to AGU’s Leslie Marasco and me talk about Mentoring365 in the next Seismic Soundoff podcast!

Travel: The Virgin Islands and Beijing were great, but the highlight of my year was attending the Association for Women Geoscientists awards ceremony in Seattle. I was given their 2017 Special Recognition for my “efforts to build the relationship between AWG and SEG as we work together to tackle issues that face the recruitment, retention and recognition of women in the geosciences.” AWG is a great organization, and if you do great things on behalf of women geoscientists, you get to be honored alongside women like Kathryn D Sullivan (I’m not worthy!).

Following the AWG event, I attended the joint AGI-GSA Societies meeting as a SEG representative, in which we discussed American Geoscience Institute’s proposed anti-harassment statement. More context here and here. A question I posed is if a statement is a policy and what about enforcement? Policies without enforcement are meaningless, so the next positive steps are education and consequences. Without these, there is no point to anti-harassment initiatives and hashtag movements – the disease will still remain in the tree. A meeting attendee offered that due process is a means of enforcement. Due process sounds good on the face of it, but the more I think about its implementation, the onus and burden of proof are placed on the individual harassed rather than on the harasser and makes for a great legal CYA maneuver (like the ever-popular corporate Training Video) rather than positive action. Then again, it also keeps a workplace from reflexively keeping or throwing out a harasser, and is an opportunity to formalize and document consequences for the harasser. More discussion required.

Right, this has nothing to do with travel, but going somewhere to work on the future and politics of living is always so fulfilling. Speaking of the politics of living, I recently watched a Billboard songwriter roundtable that included Tori Amos. The interviewer asked a question on gender politics in the music industry and Tori recalled how she once told a producer to keep her music intact and market it as she had made it. “Sell me to [the music exec]. Why not? You guys have been selling us [women] for thousands of years.” Here’s the transcript of that whole great panel interview. All of life is political – where you work, how you live, who your friends are, what you eat, what you read, watch and listen to, where you travel – and it’s not like you detach from that truth because you tune out to pop tv shows, smartphone games or the beach. Instead, you’re probably even more locked in to your choices.

Here’s a picture of Valerie Jarrett, all-around impressive person and former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, speaking at The Art of Leadership for Women conference in Calgary this October.

Further reading:

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