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Babel (redux balal)

My father worked for the phone company all his life. Actually, that isn’t completely true. In 1943, during World War II, he joined the Marines, got married and managed not to get killed. After the war he returned to his job at the C&P Telephone Co., played around on boats in and around the Potomac [...]

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(Not) Freezing in Inner Mongolia

Thirty seconds seems like an incredibly short amount of time. But a lot of things can happen in thirty seconds. I had removed one of my gloves to turn the page in my field notebook to jot down some measurements on the coal we were sampling. It was a bad idea. In that short amount [...]

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Fire and Brimstone in the Cretaceous

The Hailaer Basin in Inner Mongolia, China has a lot of coal, mostly of Cretaceous age; some beds are over 40 m in thickness. Setting aside any of its economic uses, the scale of peat accumulation is phenomenal. The basin itself is tectonically dissected into coal fields ranging in size distribution from 20×80 km to 40×120 [...]

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Balal

As we travelled between Katowice and Krakow, the Polish translator switched effortlessly back and forth between English, Chinese and her native language. I can vouch that her English was impeccable and can only guess that her Chinese was too, based on the intensity of the exchange and the frequency of the erupting laughter. I confess [...]

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Flotsam and Jetsam of the Digital Age

I just couldn’t let it go. Even after 27 years I still looked. Not continuously of course, but whenever I discovered a book that I’d had for a long time but not opened in a while I’d turn it upside down and riffle its pages to encourage anything jammed in there to fall out. Or [...]

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International Academic Symposium on Deep Coalbed Methane, China University of Geosciences, September 2017

I once visited a coal seam gas reservoir. The year was 2008. The seam was 950 m below the surface. We accessed the reservoir thanks to the helpful personnel of a Chinese mine located just south of the city of Shenyang. It was hot and none to confortable. But a great experience to see and [...]

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Playing the variance lute

It was Ron Stanton (U.S. Geological Survey) who instilled in me the importance of proper representative sampling and John C. Ferm (University of Kentucky)* who drove home the concept of variability. In understanding the character of coal beds, these two concepts should mess seamlessly together. Or so you’d think … As it turns out there [...]

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Musings of Micah on the Equator

At 2:56 pm Brisbane time I crossed the equator for the umpteenth time – heading north on flight CZ382. The time is significant because that is the time my son, Micah, gets out of school. When I left this morning en route to Xuzhou, China, where I’ll be teaching for a few weeks, my son [...]

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Cipher Conducts CBM Workshop for the Geological Agency of Indonesia

Arriving in Bandung at 11pm on an early February evening the first thing I noticed was the coolness. Of course I already knew that Bandung, being over 750 m above sea level, is much cooler than Jakarta. But I was travelling from Brisbane, Australia where the temperatures had been above 35ºC and often over 40ºC [...]

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Part III – The Miocene Coal-Bearing Section: Geological Time Travel in East Kalimantan. The Society for Organic Petrology Field Trip

The next morning we woke up in the Miocene. After two full days of living in the present, we found ourselves fossicking around in sediments that were 15 million years old. They say a lot can happen in an afternoon, and indeed a lot did happen in the previous 5 billion afternoons. The march of [...]

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