Finding Gratitude in a Demon-Haunted World

Carl Sagan wrote about the importance of understanding science (the habit of rational thought) in preserving our democracy, and said that “if we don’t practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us – and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, a world of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who saunters along” (from The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1996).

img_5384

I was hoping for a photo here that would appear a bit scarier…But maybe these clownish jack-o-lanterns are perfectly appropriate.

Continue reading

Earth as 1989 Planet of the Year – We’ve come so far. Not.

(Alternative title: How I became a climate scientist). I’m back! After a long hiatus (also known as ‘spring semester’), I’m getting ready to publish a few posts that have been in the works for some time. This post, in fact, has probably been ‘in the works’ for more than 25 years.

I recently gave a talk to a group of faculty at my university. I was asked to speak about my work, but also share a bit about how I got into climate science in the first place. I started with this cover from Time Magazine – January 1989.

2016_May17TimeMag

The cover of Time Magazine: January 2, 1989

This was the magazine cover that changed my life. Continue reading

Favorite Spots in Cuenca #5 – Quinta Balzay

For those of you wondering about my silence on this blog lately, I should let you know that I landed safely back in Colorado last weekend – I’m HOME! But I still have a lot to say about Ecuador, and many blog posts in the works, so stay tuned! Today I want to share a bit about another of my favorite places in Cuenca.

I’m one of those lucky people who, mostly, enjoys my job. Given how much time I spend working, that’s a good thing. So, for this installment of ‘Favorite Spots in Cuenca’, I felt I had to mention the place in Cuenca where I spent the most time (other than the house where I lived): The Quinta Balzay, a satellite campus of the University of Cuenca.2015_0721i Continue reading

Oh, wait…What did I just say?

2015_0719a

Learning to communicate effectively in another language is like putting together pieces of a mosaic. There are so many little details to consider – sometimes you’re able to see the beauty in the big picture, but you may not understand exactly what it all means. (Photo from the Quito Basilica – Feb 2015)

“I have already lost my meal,” I say as the waitress walks up to the table. I don’t realize what I’ve said until she looks at me a little funny. Of course, I really meant to say, “I have already ordered my meal,” but the Spanish verbs for ‘to lose’ (perder) and for ‘to ask for, or, to order’ (pedir) are too close in my head, and I constantly mix them up. If you’ve spent any amount of time trying to communicate in another language, you’ve certainly had moments of enlightenment where you realize exactly how silly you probably just sounded.

Continue reading

Life and times on the slopes of the Andes

2015_0523a

If you’ve been following this blog, on thing you might notice here is the BLUE SKY. While I do post pictures of Cuenca with blue skies, those photos were taken in rare moments. You will also notice the color of the vegetation turns brown further down the slope – that is the desert at the base of this immense valley.

Living in the Andes has forced me to rethink everything I know about what drives weather and shapes climate. I come from a country where it’s always winter in December – no matter where you are. In Ecuador, people will change their minds about what season it is depending on what’s happening right outside their window. Also, there is such wide variation in ‘season’ and climate from one valley to the next, from the east slope of the Andes to the west. Two hours in a car, descending thousands of feet, can take you from a cool, cloudy mountain climate to a desert. Last week I visited the Yunguilla valley – an hour away from Cuenca – but another world entirely.

Continue reading

Keeping Creativity Alive in the Ivory Tower

I have taught for 19 semesters straight – yes, almost 10 years – two or three classes per semester, sometimes with a lab. That’s 19 sets of midterms (2-3 per semester per class), 19 sets of final exams, probably close to 2000 students, and many thousands of homework assignments, papers, and projects to grade. Now, in my 20th semester of employment, I get to take a breather.

Continue reading

GSA Resource Roundup

Alternate Post Title: Saving the Planet – One Website at a Time

I recently added Canada to the list of countries I’ve visited. (I know, of all the places I’ve been in this world, I had never been across the border just to the north.) Vancouver gave me a chance to experience truly cloudy skies, rain, lush green vegetation, and a rush of thousands of geoscience enthusiasts on their way to catch the next talk at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.

GSA_Globe

Continue reading