Anyone have a spare Andy Goldsworthy?

I’ve been a definite blogging rut lately, more than a rut really, more like a chasm, thalweg, canyon, trench, graben……..the list goes on. The trouble is that I have some ideas, but I am still unsure of the direction of Apparent Dip. As I’ve mentioned before, the department I currently work in does an amazing job of bringing in outside speakers. This means that every week I see a new talk, some excellent, most OK, and a few that were truly terrible. I mean embarrassingly bad. Same went for AGU, I saw dozens of talks and posters, had a lot of interaction and feedback, and plenty of blog ideas, but no posts.

My problem is that although I like the idea of blogging about peer reviewed research, I am not sure if my blog is currently a great place for that. I am pseudo-anonymous, meaning I am amazed how many people tell me they like my blog, even though I don’t associate my name with it anywhere. I tend to dislike anonymous reviews, so it seems like if I wanted to comment on other people’s work, I’d have to remove anonymity completely before posting. But, I am not sure I necessarily like that yet. I will be on the job market again in the not-too-distant future, and I am not sure if random critiques of invited talks is the best thing for the resume.

It is like deciding whether or not to give anonymous reviews for papers. I am always proud of the reviews I’ve written, but end up chikening out and checking the “anonymous” box. Might it hurt me, might it help me, who knows.

So I was thinking about this dilemma and realized how analogous my blog chasm was to my collection of copper ConFlat gaskets. Let me explain. In order to connect equipment in ultra-high vacuum lines, you can either weld things (huge pain), or use special fittings that use metal gaskets to create amazingly tight connections. One of the most common systems is called ConFlat (when you have a leak in a ConFlat fitting it is called ConFlatulence.) Anyways, these fittings use special copper gaskets, and these gaskets are single use only. For some reason when I started working in a noble gas lab I started collecting the used gaskets. At first I had no idea why, but as time when on I decided that I’d collect all of the gaskets used for my PhD and make some sort of installation art out of the whole thing. This was also inspired by my affinity for the art of Andy Goldsworthy. Andy Goldsworthy is one of the most amazing artists I have ever come across. As an earth scientist who love the outdoors and the beauty of the natural world, Goldsworthy strikes a particularly strong chord. I was actually introduced to his work by a professor in my graduate department. He uses materials that he finds locally, and spends hours and days and weeks constructing the work. Many of his pieces are left to erode naturally, that is actually one of the tools he uses, showing the response of the art to time and the elements.

Anyways, if there was a local material in a noble gas lab that one would try to make some sort of art with, I’d have to guess it would be copper gaskets. Every lab I’ve worked in has a pile of these things, waiting for someone to figure out a good way to recycle them, or for the price of copper to skyrocket. I want to make something out of them, but I’d like suggestions.

So like my blog, I have all these ideas, but for various reasons have yet to pull the trigger. Below are some images of the gaskets, if you have any inspiration by all means pass it along. And if you have suggestions on how to deal with the problems of blogging about peer research pre-tenure, by all means I’d love to hear it.


For scale the viewport (steel ring with the window) is ~3 inches in diameter.

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8 Responses to Anyone have a spare Andy Goldsworthy?

  1. Chuck says:

    “I am pseudo-anonymous, meaning I am amazed how many people tell me they like my blog, even though I don’t associate my name with it anywhere.”Part of this may be due to the fact that when you first started describing your current institution as “snowbound”, only a tiny proportion of the country had anything on the ground other than colored leaves.

  2. BrianR says:

    Whatever you decide to blog about … make sure you keep coming up with stuff like this:“One of the most common systems is called ConFlat (when you have a leak in a ConFlat fitting it is called ConFlatulence.)”Love it.

  3. CJR says:

    I don’t see any particular problem with you talking about peer-reviewed research without revealing your identity. The fact that this a blog means that an actual conversation is still possible if people happen to disagree with your take on something – they can just comment on the post.

  4. Maria says:

    I agree with Brian, professional fart jokes are always awesome. Also, I can imagine Andy Goldsworthy building one of those egg-shaped cairns out of gaskets, but I’m not sure that Yet Another Egg-Shaped Cairn is the metaphor anyone wants to apply to their blog.I try to stick to “if you can’t say anything nice, say it in a friendslocked entry on LiveJournal” with regards to blogging about other people’s work (as opposed to general trends or politics, which feel like safer topics even if they are more likely to attract vehement disagreement – people are <>supposed<> to argue about politics, scientific disagreement still suffers from weird 17th century codes of gentlemanly conduct where if you’re not careful about how you say someone is wrong, you have to fight a duel). I don’t quite have the audience on LJ to feel like that’s worth my time unless I’m really feeling logorrheic, though. Which is too bad, because man have I ever seen some crappy talks lately…

  5. andrew says:

    I think it’s already clear that you can’t hide. So get ready for the limelight–prune the Stan Rogers references, get a new gmail account, put up a nice head shot, and be ready to defend your opinions.

  6. Chuck – Yeah, I never really tried to hide, I guess I was surprised that many people actually looked me up. Don’t know why that surprised me, I do the same.Brian – ConFlatulence, yeah, when you spend a lot of time leak testing by yourself in a lab your mind wanders…CJR – I agree to some extent, I just feel that if I actually have a position I shouldn’t be such a lame-o about saying “oh by the way, my name is Elmer.”Maria – I’m thinking more about sticking the flanges on a rock in the middle of a stream and photographing them as they disappear. Or dump them all in nitric acid and make a big nasty green gas cloud.Andrew – I am afraid the Stan Rogers references are here to stay. I am someone who associates music and songs with most every aspect of my life. For as long as I can remember different songs, guitar solos, or refrains are inseparable from events and experiences. Being a geologist is no different, Stan is common fare on field trips. For me, I cannot separate the music I listen to on trips, or in the lab, or while I’m writing or making figures from the actual science. Hey, this might be worth a Venn Diagram! I do think I might get rid of the anonymity though, kind of pointless….

  7. andrew says:

    Just kidding about Stan Rogers. Music has a death grip on me.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Copper gaskets make nice windchimes, man.And old SEM’s make nice Christmas tree ornaments.LOL!

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