Letters to the Editor – January 2001

Title: Letters to the Editor

Publication: The Outcrop, January 2001, p. 6-7

Dear Editor,

There is no way that I can express, or that you can imagine, my delight when Lamina finally made it to town and back, through the last of this year’s snow, and brought me the accumulated mail, including the 2000 issues of the “Outcrop”, and I discovered that you had been elected to editorship of my favorite publication. CONGRATULATIONS! Although you may not now realize it, as time goes on you will come to appreciate not only what a great honor it is but also what incredible power the position entails. This is because the “Outcrop” is the only regular contact that 90+% of the membership ever have with RMAG and so you can tell them anything and they will never know the difference.

Consequently, you may understand my intense satisfaction and sense of justification as I read Jean B. Senteur de Boue’s seminal paper on Negative Isopach Theory in the April issue. I have long been an admirer of Jean and we have had occasional contact over the years. The first instance was a letter in which he wrote to complain about the December 1981 RMAG Newsletter cover picture, because it depicted a cable tool rig with a left handed bullwheel, and requesting that I demand more careful efforts on the part of the editor at the time.

Of current pertinence, however, you will be astonished to know that his Negative Isopach Theory is not new. It first came to my attention when it was forwarded to me in May of 1988 by Jerry Walker of Houston, Texas. It had been published anonymously in some local print media sometime before 1980 and he wanted to know if I could identify the author. Although I could not, I suspected Jean. Nevertheless, I was so impressed by the creative thinking and mindboggling astuteness of the author that I forwarded it on to the “Outcrop” and urged that it be published for the benefit of all Rocky Mountain geologists as it and they deserved. However, the editor, an obviously visionless traditionalist who resisted any enlightened influence and so shall remain nameless (Ed. Note: His initials are Matt Silverman), declined to approve its use in his rag at the time.

So now, I see Jean’s masterpiece, slightly expanded and updated with new examples from the San Joaquin Valley, and properly credited, appearing at last in a major technological publication. Everything in good time! Right? However, in repeated proof readings, I note that in the current version, third line from the end of the second from the last paragraph, “pores are fluid-filled” should read “pores are NOT fluid-filled” as any fool will readily appreciate. Probably just an editing oversight on your part, something I have always taken pains to avoid at all cost.

Hoping you are the same,

Ripley Marks

P.S. Just in case you have any doubts about the historical accuracy of any or the above, enclosed find copies of correspondence from my files that will corroborate everything, and I have lots more if that’s not enough.

P.P.S. Keep up the good work and both Lamina and I will look forward to more of the obscure, but ground-breaking, contributions to the geosciences that have been routinely suppressed over the years by tunnel-visioned, yet influential, representatives of the establishment.

[Editor’s Note: Much to this editors amazement, Mr. Marks included with his letter documentary proof of all his statements. Legal action against Mr. DeBoue for plagiarism is not being considered.]

[Editor’s Note: The following letter was written to the RMAG by the recipient of the 1999 RMAG Journalism Award Scott Montgomery. It was not addressed to the Outcrop, but seems to be something that the membership would like to read. The letter has been edited for brevity.]

Dear Ed[itor]:

I offer my apologies for responding so late to this very nice award, so graciously given and so unexpectedly received. The unfortunate truth is that I did not learn of it until after the time when I should have responded; thus, I am probably doubly at fault. Living by the pen means that one is constantly discovering new ways to do penance for an ill-chosen career.

I would like to express my deep appreciation for this award, which I find all the more humbling in that it comes from what is clearly one of the premier geological associations in North America. For geologists throughout the western U.S., and for those who choose to write professional papers, the RMAG has been an unending source of information, interchange, and opportunity. Through good times and bad [the] RMAG has stood firm as a center of exchange, support, and high-quality publication…

“The world is a noisy business, ” said Daniel Defoe, perhaps the most prolific author who ever put English to paper. If we are to count writing a major contribution to this noise, then certainly science—and geology in particular—forms the source of untold reverberations that carry us all from the quieting past into an open future. The written word remains very much at the heart of science today. I therefore consider it a distinct privilege to be counted among the “noisier” members of our profession.

Let me end with a plea: that writing—and I mean here the set of skills involved in organizing a diverse body of data and ideas into a coherent, readable story that is not merely logical but even pleasurable to read—that such writing be considered a form of expertise no less significant than what is required to perform tasks as challenging as seismic interpretation or reservoir characterization. I say this not for simple self-justification, but because communication is still the blood, muscle, and bone of scientific knowledge, and because we continue to need good writers to keep our science vital and growing. I urge you to appreciate good writing when you see it, and to be proud of societies like the RMAG for publishing so much of it.

Thank you,

Scott Montgomery