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On Writing (Anywhere)

Today I received a note from a Twitter egg that read, “what papers have u published in this area. very interested to find out more” Putting aside the lack of punctuation and that it was a response to a pithy two-year-old observation on the questionable usefulness of “groundbreaking” academic studies, it’s a very good question. What papers have I published in my current area of oil and gas exploration? None. Depressingly none. Not that I haven’t begged and pleaded with management, only to be rejected by the lawyers citing proprietorship, confidentiality, etc.  Welcome to the world of frontier exploration, upstream of the upstream business, where concepts aren’t even embryos but their constituent molecules floating in space seeking purpose. We’re the ones who painstakingly forage for and wade through data and hypotheses, winnow them, pick the good stuff (we think) and synthesize all into a geological play model to test with a well. It is sad that we give nothing back to the terabytes of published literature gathered and analyzed, but never let it be said we don’t write. We’re always writing – summaries, studies, reports, white papers, proposals, authorizations, you name it – and 75% of it doesn’t see daylight inside our organization. What an exciting place to be, I just can’t talk about it. There’s your answer, eggdude.

Speaking of “can’t,” there are also the physiological roadblocks. Pity our modern hand joints, for they are overused and poorly upkept things. Keyboarding, mousing, smartphoning, driving, cooking, lifting, hauling, bicycling, strumming, holding, how do our bodies adapt to rapidly-changing requirements? Or they don’t, and we’re prescribed painkillers and steroids, which explains our latest drug problem. Now that the base of my left thumb has been relocated to its rightful position and is also bionic following a bicycle accident at the end of 2015 (it took a year and three doctors to figure out what was wrong, yay American healthcare), it’s important that I resume writing here.

While I am very vocal on some social media, it just doesn’t feel right. All of it. I don’t want to speak solely into a purposeful mishmash of walled garden and popularity pageant with little user control. When you have the Twitter A-list and Promoted Posts, and the real conversations happen in secret Facebook groups, something is fundamentally wrong. For instance, South Asian Americans have never needed Sepia Mutiny as a well-moderated but open and searchable blog more than since January 20th 2017, but it is an extinct resource. A former mutineer countered that “Sepia was then. There’s a profusion of new desi media now. To me, the hardest thing is figuring out how to cut through the noise of too much desi media.” It’s wonderful that there are so many more outlets now and, as for “cutting through the noise,” that’s a failing of currently-available search engines, not an abundance of media. There’s a lot of everything out there, including meaningful conversations. That is a good thing but something doesn’t click: We no longer have easy access to archived information, moderated conversations and the communities that form and thrive on them. If we want to openly converse and organize around the concepts of science, reason and progress instead of whatever your uncle read on crazyunclebait.com and threw up on FB, I submit one way is to get back to long-form writing. The kind that forces us to work through our thoughts, share our work and tell our stories so that others may benefit and give back. Or write and who cares who reads it.

This year, I’m running a new experiment: keeping a diary. Nothing fancy, one 6″x8″ page a day. On some days I maunder into the next day’s space and on others I can barely muster “Tired, must sleep.”  The point is I have to write at least one word a day. I also write in my mind as I walk, and wish there were a brain-wave transcription device. The journey between brain and tongue, pen and keyboard is often too long. Hence the diary, and the notebooks in office, purse, living room. Write now. Rearrange later.

In the seventeen years I’ve kept this blog, the highest activity followed disasters (9/11, Bush II, the second Gulf War, Katrina, the BP oil spill). And here we are at President T. rump. Or Fear and Low-Grade Depression in America, as I refer to the whole heartbreaking debacle.  There’s something to be said about open writing at a time when hate incidents against people who look like me are on the rise. It’s either “You’re stupid” or “We need it,” and both answers are terrifying. Without science and women’s rights, I am quite literally nothing. So, how can I stay quiet?

I write because I can; it’s a privilege considering those who cannot or aren’t allowed to. I encourage you to do so, too, I’d love to read it. Write what you would want to read in the papers and magazines, anywhere. No one ever died from too much information and perspective, but they did from not having access to a lot of it. Hi, blog, my old friend, it’s nice to be back.


Only 11 days until the Society of Exploration Geophysicists Annual Meeting in Dallas! The Women’s Network Committee has worked very hard and is currently putting the final touches on a number of high-quality events pertinent to women in the field of applied geophysics. Please plan on attending at least one, if not all, of these events to grow your network, identify areas for personal and group action and help build a better geophysical society.

  1. Networking event [PDF]: Monday 5:00 – 6: 30 PM at the Omni Hotel. A brief welcome and introduction to the SEG Women’s Network on my part will immediately precede the featured Pioneers in Geophysics posters that highlight five pioneering women in geophysics. Networking will begin immediately thereafter. Tickets for this event are $20 each. Students are eligible for half-price tickets if they bring a friend.
  2. Women’s Network Breakfast [PDF]: Wednesday 8:30 – 11:00 AM at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. The breakfast features keynote speaker Patty Walker, ExxonMobil Chief Geoscientist (pictured at top right above), and a working breakout session. The theme for the breakfast is Brand Me for Change and the breakout session is on the topic of What can the Women’s Network Committee (WNC) do for SEG members during trying times? Tickets are once again $20 each with students eligible for half-price entry with a +1.
  3. Post conference workshopWorkplace Navigating: How to Recognize and Avoid Bias and Bullying in the Workplace [PDF]: Thursday 1:30 – 5:00 PM at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. This workshop will focus on discussing and providing tips for navigating the workplace when there is bias and bullying. It will offer strategies for dealing with the offender without triggering backlash. This workshop is timely because in the last couple of years, the industries and institutions that focus on oil and gas exploration/production have suffered significant down-sizing due to the ongoing oil burst. This inevitably increases anxiety and job security concerns in the workforce, leading to unhealthy competition which can trigger increased hostility in the work place for everyone, particularly junior staff members, under-represented minorities and female professionals. This workshop which will be led by expert sociologist, Professor Sheryl Skaggs of the University of Texas at Dallas (at bottom left in the picture above).

I really look forward to seeing you all again in Dallas! If you plan to follow along at home, I will be live-tweeting via @maitri and @SEG_WNC with the hashtag #SEGAM2016.


August 29th, 2016. It’s 2016 and this country still hasn’t figured out that the disaster is never the event itself, but everything that happens or doesn’t in the aftermath.

Losing their homes will be the least of the worries of East Baton Rouge residents.  New Orleans Advocate | Insurance concerns: Half the flooded East Baton Rouge homes not in ‘high-risk’ areas

If you’re a homeowner in any of these fifty United States and haven’t purchased flood insurance in the last week, you’re not paying attention.

Humans are remarkably forgetful creatures. This amnesia is great for protection from continued trauma, but, boy, do we ever repeat history and in bad ways.

Once it “fell apart over Cuba,” I let go of worrying that TD9 was heading right for us. I let go more often now, but can never forget.

Brett Anderson | Louisiana loses its boot

Our fate is your fate.


Women in geoscience. What are we all about? What are some of our barriers to progress? How do these issues affect those working in academia vs. industry or office vs. field? What can we solve now and what may take time? If you want to know more, especially about the Society of Exploration Geophysicists Women’s Network, listen to the first-ever episode of the Seismic Soundoff podcast. Women In Geophysics is hosted by SEG’s Andrew Geary and me, and features a conversation with Klaas Koster, former SEG president who helped launch the SEG women’s network and all-around cool dude, a Q&A with Sally Zinke, the first female president of the SEG and fellow Wisconsin graduate, and inspiring stories from geophysicists all over the world.

There’s a whole host of women’s events coming up at the various applied geophysical society meetings this year. These events are open to all interested from any facet of the applied geophysics profession. I invite you to attend and help me spread the word among your colleagues, especially students. In fact, my challenge to you is to invite at least 10 geoscientists in your network to the following events.

Women in Geosciences Forum at ICE 2016: How To Divesify and Take Control of Your Career In The Industry Downturn A special forum featuring a diverse, interactive panel, will be offered by the AAPG Professional Women in Geosciences (PROWESS) Committee and the SEG Women’s Network Committee (WNC) at ICE Cancun 2016. I will be a part of this panel with Sylvia Anjos, Victor Ramirez, Elena Centeno, Robbie Gries and Susan Morrice.



Women’s Network events at the SEG Annual Meeting in Dallas

SEG’s Women’s Network Committee will offer four events at this year’s SEG annual meeting!

  1. Evening networking event A brief welcome and introduction to the SEG Women’s Network by WNC Chair (me) will immediately precede the featured Pioneers in Geophysics posters that highlight a few pioneering women in geophysics.
  2. Women’s Network Committee business meeting Join us to discuss strategy and make plans for the coming year that include development of short, mid-term, and long term plans and goals. The WNC is actively soliciting new members to represent South America, Europe/Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific.
  3. Sixth Annual Women’s Network Breakfast The breakfast features keynote speaker Patricia E. Walker, Chief Geoscientist of ExxonMobil followed by a breakout session on what the Women’s Network Committee can do for SEG members during trying times?
  4. WNC’s Inaugural Post-Conference Workshop Workplace Navigating: How to Recognize and Avoid Bias and Bullying facilitated by Dr. Sheryl Skaggs, professor of sociology at University of Texas – Dallas, will focus on discussing and providing tips for navigating the workplace when there is bias and bullying.

Both the evening networking event and breakfast are only $20 a ticket and half-price for students if they bring a friend. No excuses, folks!


If you’re in Houston on November 10th, please plan on attending a Diversity and Women’s Network happy hour, brought to you by Geophysical Society of Houston and SEG Women’s Network. More information coming soon.


What are some of the women in geoscience events you are attending?


Earth rocks, rock ‘n’ roll, on the rocks. All Rock Spoken Here.

Matt Hall and Graham Ganssle had me on as their guest on Episode 17 of Undersampled Radio. In Rock Women Rock!, we talked about the future of energy and the exploration industry, women in geophysics and public domain publishing. Next month, I will be on a podcast on women in applied geophysics with Andrew Geary of the SEG.


The Society of Exploration Geophysicists 2017 Election is underway with two accomplished female presidential candidates: Anna Shaughnessy and Nancy House. But, wait, there’s more: Manika Prasad is running for vice president! Anna, Manika and Nancy are my friends, mentors and advisors on the SEG Women’s Network Committee. SEG members, please don’t forget to vote before July 31st!

A good year for women in the leadership of the Geophysical Society of Houston as well. The wonderful Amy Rhodes is now President, with Lisa Buckner as 1st vice president, Neda Bundolo as Secretary, Edith Miller as Treasurer and Katherine Pittman as 2nd Vice President Elect. I’ve known Lisa and Edith for years in various SEG capacities and glad they now have an opportunity to lead in the societies they helped build. Good luck to all!

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