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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 park, 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 to 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?


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.


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:



  • FEMA.gov Harvey resources 
  • FEMA Mobile App
  • Texas Muck Map connecting people with flooded homes with clean-up volunteers
    “If your house got flooded during the storm, then it might need to be mucked. Mucking means activities like removing wet carpets, flooring, dry wall, mud, or other items to prepare a flooded home for drying out and renovations.”
  • Houston Food Bank Help feed hungry Houstonians when they need it the most!
  • Texas Diaper Bank  Collecting baby items, diapers, and incontinence supplies.
  • Please don’t forget feminine hygiene products and UNEXPIRED baby food and formula in your relief packs. It boggles the mind that we have to remind grown people not to dump expired goods.
  • IHaveFoodINeedFood.com Connecting chefs, commercial kitchens and food suppliers with shelters and services who need meals.
  • Volunteer for High Water Rescue
  • If you NEED High Water Rescue
  • Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation 501(c)(3) organization
  • If you wish to donate your time, “The Red Cross says it needs volunteers at its shelters across the city, but don’t plan on just showing up to the George R. Brown Convention Center. Volunteers must fill out registration forms online and typically hear back from Red Cross in 24 to 36 hours. Those who are approved must commit to ten days of work. Places like the Houston Food Bank, Catholic Charities and Convoy of Hope also require registration.” [Houston Press]

Please help me gather more links in comments to this post. Thank you, Chuck Cook, for providing several of the local aid links.




Hey, VatulBloggers, do you remember how to say HURRICANE? Now a Houston resident hunkering down for Hurricane Harvey, the blog has reawakened for some old school hurricane liveblogging. You can also find me @Maitri on Twitter and Instagram for quick updates in the case that power, wireless network, will to update blog, etc. get knocked out here at VatulBlog World HQ.

Was it really 2005 when a Category 3 last made landfall on these United States? The number of and accessibility to media outlets sure have grown since then, when this medium was really the only way to reach and inform a mass audience. A dozen years in which to increase the signal, but with it grew the noise and walled gardens, so here we are. Back at the old personal, archived liveblog again, where I control the timeline and feed.

Updates From The Front:

September 4th, 2017 14:27 CDT My office building ostensibly reopens tomorrow, but questions remain about mobility and safety in the greater Energy Corridor area, given the ongoing release of water from the large west Houston dams into Buffalo Bayou. Further, wastewater plants in the area have flooded and are still being repaired, raising concerns over the normal use of office buildings. I warned folks that re-entry is not going to be straightforward.

September 3rd, 2017 22:45 CDT Flooding in Kingwood, where we evacuated to right before Katrina made landfall and where we slept through Rita. That smell of decay takes months, sometimes years, to dissipate completely, and haunts my olfactory memory still.

September 3rd, 2017 0:12 CDT Dear Houston, here’s what you can expect next

There of course were some differences. Our flooding came thanks to failed levees designed to protect us, while your flooding came from rains of biblical proportions thanks to a stubborn storm that refused to leave. How you came to suffer, though, is not as important as the fact that you are suffering and for many the toughest part is yet to come. You’ll be challenged emotionally again and again and again.

September 2nd, 2017 17:19 CDT Advice I received from Karen Gadbois, friend, OG NOLA blogger and co-founder of the New Orleans Lens. “Take care of you and yours. Scream at people and agencies that deserve it and write or record every conversation with insurance agents. And breathe breathe breathe.”

September 2nd, 2017 13:46 CDT Lt. General Russel Honoré, former commander of Joint Task Force Katrina and ultimate badass, says, “Stop congratulating each other.” This goes double for humblebragging by some members of the mainstream and citizen media (and Houston chef-lebrities). The disaster has just begun.

September 2nd, 2017 08:30 CDT Buffalo Bayou Harvey timelapse

September 1st, 2017 10:48 CDT Overhearing casual talk of insurance fraud and how to profit from the upcoming FEMA recovery business opportunities. But, by all means, let’s condemn, arrest and prosecute those who steal small amounts of necessities so that they can stay ALIVE DURING A DISASTER. If the moneyed thieve, they’re canny and strategic. The desperate poor looking out for themselves? Throw them in the dungeons!

September 1st, 2017 CDT Houston resources if you can help, or you need help, compiled by photographer, awesome person and fellow nerd Chuck Cook:

August 30th, 2017 21:20 CDT  ArsTechnica | This is probably the worst US flood storm ever, and I’ll never be the same by Eric Berger of Space City Weather. It’s always the tragedy after the tragedy. We never fail at making things worse. Read the paragraph below and commit it to memory.

If Houston is to remain the prosperous, vibrant, great city that it was before Harvey, we are going to have to take a hard look at our unfettered development and willingness to let almost anyone build almost anywhere, including in floodplains. Our state officials are going to have to recognize that these events will be possible again, especially in a warmer world. I’m not holding my breath for all that to happen. And as dark as these last five days have been, that may be the biggest tragedy of all.

August 29th, 2017 13:20 CDT Map of Houston area flooded streets.

August 29th, 2017 11:00 CDT Still high and dry, but we probably have one or two more big whips of rain to get through before this system moves to the east. Not like I want it to move east over New Orleans on the 12th anniversary of Katrina or any day, for that matter. Each rescue chopper that flies southward over the house tears my heart open a little more, and once again, I feel so useless just sitting here as I did a dozen years ago. Domingo and I will head down to the George R Brown convention center to drop off clothing and supplies, and volunteer if required, and I am helping raise money for Houston Food Bank. Even a dollar you can spare will go a long way to help exhausted and hungry people in need. Houstonians, if you need anything, my home is open to you.

August 28th, 2017 15:45 CDT Pictures from today’s survey. We managed to leave Oak Forest after checking out White Oak Bayou, made it all the way down to Sawyer Heights and Rice Military in the Buffalo Bayou watershed and then drove back home through Timbergrove and Shady Acres. The water has gone down quite a bit across the northern Inner Loop as of this morning, but expect flood levels to fluctuate over the next few days.

Still flooded at the corner of Studemont and Washington

August 27th, 2017 13:00 CDT Pictures from our mid-morning survey of Oak Forest. All major roadways out of Oak Forest are Difficult Navigation to Impassable, so stay put! White Oak Bayou has crested and has overflown TC Jester Blvd, Rosslyn and Watonga, making its way into the neighborhood. Our area within Oak Forest is an island with a wide moat forming around us.

White Oak Bayou at TC Jester and Latexo

August 26th, 2017 19:53 CDT The skies were quiet all day with rain and damaging winds going around Houston’s inner loop. Well, we’ve gone from 0 to Tornado Warning, with the power flickering, winds picking up, and us preparing to take shelter in an inner room. Stay tuned.

August 26th, 2017 08:00 CDT Power still on. Cable and internet out. Local rain gauge measures roughly 4″ in the last 24 hours. Harvey is now a tropical storm that is expected to sit and swirl over Houston until Wednesday morning. Great, I always wanted a large moat around my property.

August 25th, 2017 22:45 CDT Neighborhood hurricane party! Harvey is making landfall right now as a Category 4 between Port O’Connor and Port Aransas. This is me at this time. Seriously, I hope everyone on the coast evacuated and we don’t hear of deaths and stranded residents in the coming days.

August 25th, 2017 18:36 CDT Harvey is now a Category 4 storm ~60 miles offshore. Swell. And swell.

August 25th, 2017 17:39 CDT The second band of rains is here. Bayou levels in the Greater Heights and Near Northwest – “Water just out of the channel, but well below the grass at W 34th and TC Jester”

August 25th, 2017 15:54 CDT

Via KHOU.com Hurricane Central

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