Monday, May 19, 2014

Things About Stuff and Other Miscellany

Before I even get started, I should be honest with everyone. The following paragraphs will contain little more than brain droppings. I do have some more in-depth topics that I wish to cover, but I'll be saving those for future posts. Today is just a transitional piece to provide an update on what's been going on in my life and in my head since I last wrote. I apologize in advance for the impending randomness. To be fair, it's actually a pretty accurate representation of how my mind actually works.

I guess I should start by delivering on a promise I made in my last post to write more about the 2013 Dino Shindig in Ekalaka, Montana. The Carter County Museum took a group of us out to a microsite and a Triceratops digsite. We discovered a new microsite near the Trike and had lunch. I found a small fossil, likely from the leg of a turtle or small lizard. It wasn't worth anything to science, so I got to keep it. I would post a picture, but I have yet to take one and the fragment isn't readily available. I returned to Bozeman the following day. The choppy nature of this paragraph is completely intentional, as I'm rushing to move on to new material. That day was fun for me, but there wasn't really much to write about.

For those that don't know, I am currently in Price, Utah and will be working for the summer as an intern at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry (CLDQ). (Most people have no reason to know that.) It's still early in the season, but thus far this job seems right up my alley. They needed someone who is good at talking, and I'm championship caliber. (I seriously get mocked due to my propensity for chat.) It's also a huge bonus that my duties involve educating the public about dinosaurs and geology. Unfortunately, my knowledge base isn't up to the standards I would like for the position, so I'm currently putting myself through a trial by fire. As I like to say, "The fastest way to learn something is to teach it to someone else."

While CLDQ offers up a number of intriguing paleontological issues that I'm striving to learn as quickly as possible, the general public is giving me a fair number of topics to brush up on as well. I am genuinely excited by the number of great questions I am having to answer and the opportunities they are presenting as a means to better myself. While these "teachable moments" are great for me, I feel a sense of guilt about providing limited knowledge to visitors. Because of my current shortcomings, I'll be using my blog for self-education as a way to optimize my abilities as a tour guide through deep time. Hopefully my work will be as interesting and educational to readers as I expect it to be for me.

How I ended up with this job is actually quite the random story, which means it makes perfect sense within the framework of my life. I was just getting into my groove for the spring semester when I saw a post from Dr. Thomas Holtz on Facebook about a job listing on USAJobs. I had no intention of pursuing summer employment, but I figured I should take a look. I was already wasting time on the internet, so I figured this would at worst be a lateral move.

As I read the job posting, I became increasingly intrigued by the idea of applying. I wasn't keen on spending my summer in Utah, but the opportunities this position offered certainly outweighed the locality. I was still on the fence until I realized that my status as a disabled veteran gave me an edge in the selection process. For the uninformed, government entities in the United States are required to give former military members added consideration over equally qualified individuals during the hiring process with disabled veterans gaining further advantage. Given this knowledge, I began assembling the required paperwork to submit my application.

I'll admit the application process was fairly arduous and I had no expectations regarding my actual chances for selection. I wasn't even sure I wanted the job, as I was only applying out of curiosity. I just figured that I could always decline the offer, and, as the window for applying was only a week, overthinking was definitely out of the question. I won't go into detail about the selection process, but after an interestingly complicated six weeks, here I am, a Student Trainee (Geologist) for the United States Bureau of Land Management.

Brain Droppings

I'm pretty disappointed about the latest in sauropod coverage in the press. A major peer-reviewed discovery of an early Cretaceous diplodocid received almost no mention, while yet another "world's largest" titanosaur is still generating huge amounts of buzz despite the glaring lack of useful information provided in reports. I suppose science will just have to move forward while the media keeps walking into the same tar pits.

Thanks to my solitude, I'm finding time to catch up on Cosmos with Neil Tyson. It's nice to see something educational on network television and I'm glad to have something I can watch during dinner, since I can't read and eat at the same time. 

Speaking of reading, I really need to ramp up my pace for this summer. I brought a small library with me and I've hardly made a dent. Through exhaustive study, I've discovered that you can learn a lot more from a book if you get past the front cover.

The time has come for me to close this thing down, but before I sign off, here's some of the topics I'm planning to cover this summer: "What are fossils and how are they formed?", the Bone Wars, and an in-depth look at dinosaur eggs. I fully expect to write something extensive about Brontosaurus, and other ideas will likely crop up as time passes, but I don't want to get ahead of myself. Now that I've whetted your appetites, I shall finally bid adieu. Thanks for reading!

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