From the President - March 2013

HGS President's Column - March 2013  by Martin Cassidy

Early Spring Awakening Time to Renew

'Round about March 1, the normal high temperature in Houston usually gets above 70 degrees as we leave winter and begin the relentless climb to 90 degrees and above for June to September. This trend is documented in “Houston’s Year in Weather” in the January 1 issue of the Houston Chronicle that contains a fun graph of daily temperatures, records, and rainfalls of all of 2012 on page B6.

Nature begins to renew itself, and so does our Houston Geological Society organization. All of our 49+ committees will have revealed at MidFest 22 Jan 2013 what they want to accomplish before the summer break, and what they envision for next year. Specifically they will be asked how many additional members they would like, what additional resources they can use, and what they expect to budget for next year’s activities. Most of our activities are planned to break even, some will make money for the HGS in general, or for special goals, and others will spend money to accomplish their worthy goals on behalf of the HGS.

An example of a special fund raising event for scholarship funds is Legends Night. Put together this year by John Tubb, with help from the office and others, the event went quite well this January 14th. There will be a story on the event in this issue of the Bulletin. Two hundred and twenty guests filled a large dining room at the Westchase Hilton to honor special geologists, our Legends of Sedimentology, Dr. George Devries Klein, Dr. James Colman, Dr. Miles O. Hayes, and Dr. Robert L. Folk. Dr. Coleman was unable to attend, but each of the other three spoke eloquently of the paths they followed to their success in discovery and education about sedimentation. Sponsorship funds raised allowed John Adamick to present $2500 scholarships for from the HGS Foundation to outstanding undergraduate geoscience students from each of six different universities and $3000 to a seventh as the winner of the Maby prize.

This event is related to all three of the HGS general goals, Technical Training, Networking, and Outreach to the community, which comprise our mission to serve our members and geoscientists at all career stages in the Houston area.

Technical training was shared in the information that each speaker gave about his life’s progress in science investigation and teaching. Networking occurred as the registrants met around excellent hors d’oeuvres before a sit-down dinner. Outreach was accomplished by grants of scholarships to honor and help develop promising young geoscientists.

More about training in general and our HGS training in particular will be described next month along with several of our outreach programs.

Now I wish to concentrate on meeting and greeting. Note that I do not just use the term Networking. It is a valuable idea but it implies to me an emphasis upon extracting, from the parties involved, information about their skills, the organization in which they are involved, and their position in the organization. Afterwards, the exchange of business cards that may be filed for later possible use of the “contact” may occur.

HGS meetings should lead to more just this. As computer and workstations separate people from one another, and as the internet and social media expand, communication becomes more condensed and more telegraphic. That which is lost is subtle and may include relevant details and real friendliness.

Quality face-to-face communication is more important now than ever. People from different companies can share general information. Stories told and discussions about attitudes and cultures of companies allow us to learn what we do not personally experience. Hearing about the culture of different companies can encourage us to say internally, “Well, when I am manager I’ll never do that” or “What a clever idea!”. That is, we learn what works and what doesn’t; a skill we might like to add to our toolkit. When someone relates “I dodged a bullet today” it is time to listen. Their close call can be a lesson that can save you or your fellow worker pain or injury later.

An instructive incident is that of a green teenager at his first job as a roustabout at a lab. His final job of the day was to close the rolling warehouse door at the back of the office. Finding it open when the front of the building was already locked, and not wanting to go all around to the front to unlock and go in to shutit from the inside, he decided to shut it from the outside. It hung up partway down so he put his fingers in the open crack in the horizontal panels to encourage it down. All too suddenly, the door descended and pinched all eight of his fingers in the crack. There he crouched, the door almost down, with two thumbs free trying to raise the door on the backs of the ends of his fingers. Can you imagine his pain? His efforts were unsuccessful. Fortunately, his calls for help did raise a late departing coworker to raise the door and free his fingers.

The good news was that no bones were broken. The only evidence of the near disaster was a blood blister on the end of each finger. I never see a rolling door going down but that I do not pull my fingers to my palms. Yes, I was that young man.

How often have you heard of near blowouts from people who were on wells? Our Pan American geologist years ago helped save a well because he knew what cuttings shaped like fingernail clippings indicated. It is extremely instructive to hear the signs of a blowout and learn what was done to control the well. It is truer than ever now that some geologists have never sat a well.

So what is all this discussion about? It is a call to come to HGS luncheon or evening meetings at least once a month. At such meetings there is time to meet, greet, and discuss. It is more than Networking; it is learning from each other. You can make friends for life there. It is a call to participate! Come and bring a friend. Any meeting can be instructive, perhaps even provide the key to something you are puzzling about. Keep listening!


Martin Cassidy
Friday, March 1, 2013
From the President