This marks the completion of a year's worth of Systems articles. I have covered a lot of topics: the history and purpose of operating systems; details of the UNIX operating system; password security; information sources; UNIX zombies, daemons, and orphans; disaster recovery; bizarre and dangerous UNIX behaviour; and computer support specialties. I have received feedback from computing science students, practicing system professionals, and both junior and well established geophysicists. My thanks to everyone who responded. Your comments have reinforced my belief that the geophysical community is very interested in technical computing articles. However, I was surprised that the greatest reader response was generated by an article with little technical content (January, 1998). It may be indicative of the aging of the geophysical community (Boeckx, April 1998 Recorder) that so many appreciate fine pens, paper, and Scotch whiskey! Given this interest, I would like to extend a challenge to all CSEG members and Recorder readers to publish articles in the Recorder. Topics would be constrained only by good judgement, professionalism, and the CSEG's statement, printed on the first page of the Recorder, "... to promote the science of geophysics and to promote fellowship and co-operation among our members." With the broadness of these constraints, I find it difficult to believe that there are not hundreds of articles currently in the minds of their authors, merely needing transcription. In order to jog memories and help initiate the writing process, I would like you to consider potential articles in two broad categories: technical and personal.
Technical topics can include the purely geophysical, such as the use of pencil crayons in the computer age, seismic data archival and retrieval, or seismic acquisition techniques and technology. But I would like to extend the category to other technical matters which affect exploration geophysicists. Computer scientists might write about the Year 2000 Problem (Y2K for geeks), Internet security, or geophysical software bugs and solutions. Occupational therapists could discuss the ergonomics of office furniture as used by geophysicists. Teachers could bring us up to date on current educational and training techniques. Authors could share their tips for technical writing. Other professions might write about land acquisition, geology, management, politics, or investment in relation to geophysics. Writing in an historical context could be particularly interesting, particularly for younger generations who haven't been exposed to the rich history of Canadian exploration geophysics and its tremendous technological changes.
The nature of the Recorder allows room for personal stories about geophysics and geophysicists. They could be happy, sad, serious, witty; anything but dull. As with technical articles, these stories could originate from many professions and benefit from an historical perspective. Topics could range from events affecting the whole industry such as recessions, mass layoffs, and the NEP to individual events such as triumphing over nasty seismic datasets, dramatic experiences with shallow, over-filled shot holes, or geophysics in exotic locations. Granted, some of the best stories can't safely be told until the author has retired, left the profession, or certain companies have disappeared. I'm thinking of stories which start with a catastrophe and end in a triumph through extraordinary effort, or simple blind luck. While embarrassing in the early years, these tend to age well, growing with the telling and perhaps becoming legends. Naturally, good judgement must be exercised to avoid implicating other people or companies without their knowledge and consent.
I hope these ideas for articles will cause those long forgotten events to spring to mind. Once that has happened, all that remains is the writing. To facilitate this, I present some basic rules that have served me well. Once you have a topic, write down all your relevant ideas. Arrange these into related groups, then order the groups and write prose which connects them such that the reader is led naturally from one to the next. Throwaway about half of the article by removing redundancies, condensing phrases, and choosing more concise words. Finally, give the article to someone who knows nothing about its subject and ask her for comments. Address them all to her satisfaction; no chocolate or other bribes allowed. When this is complete, contact the technical editor and arrange for transfer of the finished article. Of course, this technique may not work for everyone but there are universal methods for improving writing. These are best illustrated by the story of the Kung Fu student who asked his instructor, "Sifu, how can I learn to kick well?", to which the instructor replied, "Kick lots." Writers have twice as many ways to improve: read lots and write lots.