Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Out of Grading Jail and Yay! Sun!

I just submitted my final grades for the semester, and am hereby liberated (temporarily) from Grading Jail (I have an approximately 3-week pass).

Happy lunar eclipse of a full moon on the winter solstice, all (yep, I'm totally setting my alarm). The ride to the darkest night of the year has been, well, dark. I am looking forward to welcoming back the sun.

Click here for some Ear Candy

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Email Discussion List: H-DEATH

From the folks at HNet (Humanities and Social Sciences Online), a new moderated email discussion list:

H-Death is a scholarly discussion group that explores the multitude of historical issues surrounding the process and experience of dying and death. The H-Death discussion group will allow scholars to compare and contrast the processes and experiences of dying and death across time and space, including American, European and non-Western contexts.

I'm impressed by the breadth of experience that subscribers are bringing to the list (at least, those who have opted to introduce themselves). There are archaeologists, historians, theologians, literature profs, avocational researchers, hospice workers, artists, philosophers, and more.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Acasocial Networking Update

Back in August of 2009, I posted the results of a little experiment I conducted. Specifically, I posted some papers to several Acasocial portals to see what happened. I was particularly interested in Time-to-Google-Scholar, in an attempt to make my stuff more available for others to cite. Part of academia is, after all, getting cited. Nothing wrong with a little self-promotion; while making my work more easily accessible won't guarantee citations, if no one can find it it sure as hell won't get cited!

You can read my previous post for The Way Things Were; after assessing the features of each, I determined that "The real winner here is SelectedWorks. I can see people are accessing and downloading my stuff. It is totally easy to update my site. And, time to Google Scholar for everything (book, journal articles, conference papers) = 1 month."

In the year and a bit since I posted my results, a lot has happened. Here's an update:

Mendeley.com I am still using Mendeley as a reference management tool. In fact, I abandoned EndNote in favor of Mendeley for this purpose. Mendeley lets me access and manage my bibliography from any computer with internet access and to grab .pdfs from my personal library. From any computer with the Mendeley desktop installed, I can access, upload, read, and make comments in .pdf files. I've put Mendeley Desktop on my home computer, my laptop, and my computer at work. The ready access to my research library has been invaluable. Mendeley's incorporation of DOI has made adding journal articles to my database fast and painless.

But there is more to Mendeley. One advantage to the bibliography software is that you can group papers by whatever topics you like. Mendeley gives you the opportunity to make those groups public so you can easily share your bibliography with others, and (depending on how public you make it) can collaborate with others. I made several of my groups public, and have had several people join them. I haven't yet taken advantage of the collaboration/discussion abilities. A new improvement that I quite like is the ability to find publications related to ones I have in my bibliography; to do so, I just click the button from within the Desktop and a window opens in my browser showing how many others have that article in their databases, and a list of similar publications. I can add these other publications to my database with a quick click.

Mendeley has a free option (1GB storage space); they also have very reasonably-priced paid options (up to 15GB storage space). Their support folks are very, very responsive and helpful.

CiteULike: Although I reviewed this back in August 2009, I quit using it. Too clunky, and I much preferred Mendeley. I have no update for you.

Academia.edu: Still Facebook for academics. People are finding me and my publications via Academia (and I can see how often and when my stuff is accessed), but this isn't the real strength of the site. For me, there are three main strengths at Academia: 1) being able to follow specific journals; 2) being able to follow specific topics; 3) an environment conducive to contacting researchers.

1. Being able to follow specific journals. This is a relatively new feature, but may actually be the best part. I have pretty wide-ranging interests (I am, after all, a fox), but can't afford the money or time to follow printed journals. With Academia.edu, I can "Follow" particular journals; when they come out with new issues (or pre-publish stuff to the 'net), I see the table of contents in my feed. If a particular article interests me, I click on the feed, grab the citation, and pop over to my Friendly Neighborhood Inter-Library Loan Request Form (a total, total perk to my adjunctivity) and within a couple of days, have a .pdf version in my email. I can also see which journals others are following; I've found several of interest this way. I've found some really great stuff this way, in journals that I'd normally never read.

2. Being able to follow specific topics. Following particular researchers is great (though there are several people whose work I'd love to follow who haven't signed up to Academia yet); being able to follow particular areas of research is super-great. I've found publications and researchers using this feature that I'd not previously been aware of.

3. An environment conducive to communication. It is very easy to send a short note to others via Academia. I've had some very good exchanges with others, generally prompted by reading a paper they'd (or I'd) just posted. The setup, whereby you can read someone's paper and send them a note from the same page, that makes this sort of communication easy. Though people without an account on Academia can see my basic profile, they cannot see my updates nor send me notes without signing up. So far, I've not been on the receiving end of any weird/abusive notes.

One more note about Academia: their technical support is super-easy to access (there's a field at the bottom left of every page) and super-responsive.

SelectedWorks: No real changes here since last August. But still my favorite place to get my stuff "out there" -- fast to Google Scholar, monthly updates with statistics of downloads, and emailed notifications for whatever search criteria you give them. Not as "networky" as Academia, but I've still found papers this way (especially conference proceedings and gray literature) that haven't surfaced elsewhere. As best I can tell, more people are finding my work via SelectedWorks than all the others combined.

To my surprise, I ran experiments on four sites and ended up using three of them on a regular basis. I was expecting to find one place to dump my stuff to make it easily accessible online. What I ended up with was a suite of Acasocial Networking tools that have made my research and organization more efficient; exposed me to new research; allowed me to easily collaborate; and make my stuff more easily accessible.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

To Do

Arrived home yesterday following my dad's death and funeral. Through his illness and passing, I've been away from home about two and a half weeks. I have a ton to do; to wit (and in no particular order of priority or preference):

  1. Submit three grad school applications (two require additional essays, on top of the personal statements that I need to tweak). One due Jan 1; two due Jan 15
  2. Apply for outside funding. Main one due early Feb.
  3. Grade students' assignments (how is it that I have 2 weeks to go, while other schools are wrapping up/wrapped up for the semester???). Not due for another full week, but if I don't get cracking I'm screwed.
  4. Prep for this week's class (heavy on the review). Due soonish.
  5. Find a financial planner that I can trust. By early Jan.
  6. Laundry. Today.
  7. Ignore work gremlins until Monday, at which time they will have to be tamed. Although I feel vindicated, being correct in this case = wrench in the works.
  8. Write OMGSuperCoolSite. Today would be good.
  9. Return a book I never ordered. Coordinate by Monday.
  10. Apparently my brakes need to be checked because the person driving my car today said they made a funny noise. Under advisement.
  11. Take my vitamins. Preferably today.
  12. Go for a walk/to the gym. Maybe today, probably tomorrow?
  13. Do some work on the book. Hopefully tomorrow morning; maybe today if I can get motivated.
  14. Call SnowboundHistoricalSociety regarding cost of photocopies, since they apparently don't answer their email. Monday.
  15. Call FederalCurator regarding image permissions, since they are apparently ignoring my email. Monday.
  16. Breathe. Ongoing.
  17. Formulate ConferencePaper into JouralArticle (ha, I saved a version all full of citations; this, at least, should go quickly!). Due mid-Jan, I think.
  18. Outline paper for upcoming journal and make arrangements for research visit; coordinate research visit with visit home to see family while avoiding the worst of the Jaws of Winter, even if this means missing visit with portions of family. By mid-Jan.
  19. Blog post following up on an earlier post re: getting your work out on the 'net. Sometime this weekend?
  20. Holiday shopping. I don't feel in the spirit. I'm putting this off until I decide how much holiday cheer I can take.
  21. Two more articles to get out. Research is done, just need to massage into papers. By April.
  22. I'm sure there is more; there is always more.

All that, after I take a long, hot bath.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Community and Precious Snowflakes

More Reverb10

December 7 – Community.

Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

I have discovered community in 2010, yes. It's a nice thing. But very new; needs more time to coalesce.

December 8 – Beautifully Different.

Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

Seriously, I'm glad I hadn't eaten before I read this. For realz?

Instead I will briefly address Clio's Alternate Prompt "what pisses you off." At the top of my list right now are Precious Snowflakes. Especially when their Precious Snowflakeness is SO much more important than that of all the other Precious Snowflakes.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Another Reverb10 Entry.

December 6 – Make.

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

(Author: Gretchen Rubin)

Hmmm. I have to think about this. I create things for work -- reports, graphics, stories... I mean narrative descriptions, budgets. I cook dinners, which is making things. I make lesson plans, syllabi, and hopefully a learning environment for my students. I am writing a book, which is sort of an abstract making of a thing.

The first thing that popped into my head when I read this, though, was making in the sense of creative hobby. And the things I immediately thought of were baking and cross-stitch. I haven't baked in years because, quite frankly, my oven sucks and has no temperature control. I haven't done cross-stitch in years because I haven't had the time. I should pick it up again; I have an assortment of unfinished projects, many of which I think are ugly now and have no desire to finish. There are a couple of them, though, that I still really like. I did a lot of work a few years ago when I was sitting in hospital every week during a friend's treatment.

This prompt makes me feel like I should make some time to work on my needlework. That makes me feel overwhelmed; I need to feel less overwhelmed. I need to make some time for me; and that making needs to include letting go of a bunch of shoulds. My needlework will be there when I'm ready to do it again.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Passages, Wonder, and Letting Go

My dad passed away yesterday morning. I was there, as were several of my siblings and his wife. I am so glad that I got to be there, and I'm sorry that not all of us could be. Dad always was happiest when all his kids were around. Though it was the first time I've been present when a person passed, I've been there for several pets. Being there when someone/something I love dies is, in my experience, not nearly as traumatic and horrible as I always imagine it will be.

Reverb10 entries for yesterday and today. Theme: minimalism:

December 4 – Wonder.

How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

(Author: Jeffrey Davis)

The tagline of my blog sums it up... out of my head and into the world. The world is actually a pretty amazing place, if you care to pay attention. Things that have made me feel wonder this year: nature; art; genuine friends; research.

December 5 – Let Go.

What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

(Author: Alice Bradley)

The easy answer is that I got rid of mountains of stuff. The stuff, though, isn't really important (the fact that I was hoarding it and that I got rid of it is important; the actual physical stuff not so much). It has felt wonderful to un-burden myself of stuff I've been lugging around with me for literally decades. There's been only one thing that I wished I hadn't gotten rid of, and that wish was very fleeting.

The more complicated answer: the process of letting go emotionally for me this year has been more about transformation than about erasure. Not about forgetting about someone or a relationship, but changing my perceptions of it. Of dis-investing myself of a particular outcome or reality and accepting what is. Certainly not a fait accompli on my part, but I'm getting there.

Friday, December 3, 2010


More Reverb10.

December 3 – Moment.

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

(Author: Ali Edwards)

My first response to this question was to skip it. My dad is dying, and I didn't feel like writing something happy. Then I started to consider what "feeling alive" means. Some moments from the past year that I've felt alive include being shit-faced drunk on red wine with good friends (and a place to crash out, and huevos rancheros for breakfast the next morning); dancing with great dancers to a great band and caller; sitting in the woods listening to the birds and the breeze in the trees; the rush of adrenaline and amazement from discovering that I'm physically stronger than I thought I was.

The common theme to these for me is being connected -- to friends, to nature, to a community of dancers, to myself. And that means that grieving is also feeling alive.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

One Word

I stumbled on Reverb10 via Clio Bluestocking's faboo blog, and thought that it might be just the thing I need. It's been a hell of a year, and it isn't over yet. I'm hoping this exercise will help me with some perspective. Hopefully, I won't lose points for handing in my December 1 entry a day late!

December 1 One Word.
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
(Author: Gwen Bell)

My word for 2010 is upheaval -- in the sense of big changes, not necessarily in the sense of bad things (though there are bad things). The biggies this year: break-up of a long relationship and subsequent pending divorce (and negotiations over property and cats); grad school applications and good noises about having an academic home next year; a couple of publications; the sudden decline and pending death of my father; deaths of a friend, a colleague, a grandmother, and a pet of two decades; new and surprising hobbies that I love; some great new friends and renewed connections with old friends; finding myself and being myself a little more; active pursuit of my mental health, with good results; and in the last few months, actually feeling happy.

The word I would like for 2011 is resolution.

December 2 Writing.
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
(Author: Leo Babauta)

I do a lot of things every day that don't contribute to my writing (and I define my writing as writing for me, as opposed to the writing I do for work). Working takes up a lot of time as does sleeping; but both of them do contribute to my writing in terms of paying bills and staying functional. I watch tv, but not a lot; not contributory to writing, but usually occurs when I'm too fried to do anything else. I spend a lot of time surfing the Internets instead of firing up my writing. It's easier to skim emails and read Facebook than to open Word and do something.

Thing is, not writing just makes me feel worse about not having written. Which makes me more unlikely to write. It is a vicious cycle of inertia. Can I eliminate it? I can work at it. I'll try leaving my writing open on my computer; if I don't have to work to find and open the files, perhaps I can get something done.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Little Bit Anthropologist

For your viewing pleasure, while I continue to wrangle grad applications...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Public Archaeology

1. I'm still alive, and life is pretty good, especially when I stop freaking out about looming grad school application deadlines, and just work on getting the suckers finished up and out the door.

2. I've been doing some reading in applied anthropology/applied archaeology/critical archaeology/engaged archaeology and all those other variations that involve archaeology being explicitly relevant, engaged, political, and collaborative. I found this summary of what public archaeology is, and wanted to share, since it's generally one of those amorphous concepts:

[Public archaeology is] more than learning how to handle volunteers at the site, making public talks, and presenting archaeological information in interesting ways. It includes those aspects, but also includes a willingness to share fully in both the production and presentation of archaeological knowledge, and to engage in the debates that surround public perceptions of those materials. (Carol McDavid, quoted in Michael Lucas)

McDavid, Carol (1997) Introduction: In the Realm of Politics: Prospects for Public Participation in African-American Archaeology. Historical Archaeology 31(3):1-4

Lucas, Michael T. (2004) Applied Archaeology and the Construction of Place at Mount Calvert, Prince George's County, Maryland. IN Paul A. Shackel and Erve J. Chambers Places in Mind: Public Archaeology as Applied Anthropology, Routledge, New York, pp. 119-134

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two Too Cool Sites

There are two, and they are too cool...

1. Abandoned America. Fantastic photography of abandoned sites including hospitals, asylums, steel works, commercial, military, etc. Gorgeous photos; the ones of Bethlehem Steel took my breath away. Alas, I don't remember where I came across this link.

2. Insignificant Topographies. Zoom in super close for the history (?) of things you see (and ignore) every day. Link gleaned from the Contemporary Archaeology email list (check it out if you're into the archaeology of the recent past, or happen to be a theory wonk). This big-to-small zoomy thing is a bit clunky, but has a ton of possibilities for presenting sites to the public.

Monday, October 18, 2010

And SHIFT...

That rare, amazing moment when you realize that what you're reading has fundamentally changed how you think about things? Happened to me tonight. It started as casually flipping through an Inter-Library Loan while my class wrote their mid-terms, and ended with me sitting in the classroom after everyone had left to finish the section I was reading, and wishing it wasn't borrowed, because I was itching to annotate. Obviously, not the only person to have that impulse, as there was already marginalia.

The book: Jones, Andrew (2007) Memory and Material Culture. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

The passage:
We take for granted the survival into the present of artefacts from past. Indeed, the discipline of archaeology would be impossible without the survival of such artefacts. What is the implication of the durability or ephemerality of past material culture for the reproduction of societies in the past? ... [R]emembrance is a process made apparent to the experiencing subject by the continual and dynamic encounter between the subject and the material world he or she inhabits rather than an abstract and dispassionate transaction between the external world and the mind. This opens up the possibility of thinking about memory differently. Rather than treating memory as a function of the internal processes of the human mind, we might consider memory to be produced through the encounter between people and the material world.
All kinds of good stuff about the dynamic production of memory and meaning between people and things (things take an active role in his approach). I haven't finished reading the book yet (barely started), but I have fireworks going off in my head.

This has happened to me twice more over the last couple of years. Once reading Judith Bennett's History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism and once reading Mary Daly's Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism. I'd bought a copy of Daly's book, but had borrowed a copy of Bennett's. I hadn't cracked it for more than 5 minutes when I ordered my own copy, lest I vandalize a library copy. My copy is now massively annotated and dog-eared. Interestingly enough, these events have not been isolated incidents, but are linked by a series of people, places, and events. I've been reading crazy-wildly lately on all sorts of topics* but these are the works that set something off.

* All sorts of topics include: the history of death; ritual concealments; fine metal refining; soils for growing tobacco; the prevalence of pig in certain foodways assemblages; colonial distilling; memory; landscapes; the Progressive era; contact period tribal organization in parts of the Mid-Atlantic; public archaeology; critical archaeology; etc. Dude, no wonder I'm tired...

Friday, October 15, 2010

And Breathe...

Clear Water, October 15, 2010

October is whooshing by; hell, the whole year is whooshing by! I've been super busy. Visited Prospective Grad School South Of The Mason-Dixon Line, which went very, very well; got a collaborative paper mostly written (this weekend's job); FINALLY heard back from someone regarding photo permissions for The Book (I've been trying for almost 2 years now); and got to visit OMGSuperCoolSite again. Which is looking increasingly promising, and I'm so excited I could bust.

I will sleep in November sometime. In the mean time, here are some photos from my October Adventures:

Grant's Tomb (The General Grant National Memorial), Riverside Park, New York City, October 2, 2010. According to the National Park Service (of which this is part), it is the largest mausoleum in North America. How could I not go see that? Unfortunately, I could not get inside, as they were closed.

Part of "The Rolling Bench" by Pedro Silva and the Children of New York City, October 2, 2010. This sculpture, done in 1972 to commemorate the 100th birthday of Yellowstone National Park, snakes around the entire perimeter of Grant's Tomb. A very cool public art project; I had to walk around the whole thing and check it out. An odd juxtaposition with Grant's Tomb, though.

Near OMGSuperCoolSite, October 15, 2010.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Out of Towner and Some More Alternate Public History

Home from New York City. On the Subway, after chatting with the woman beside me a little about what trains were running where and when (track maintenance, whee!) ... she says "You don't strike me that you're from the City. Where are you from?" Too funny; 2 minutes of conversation, and she knows I'm not from NYC! Before I could ask her why she said that, our train had pulled into the stop, and she was gone.

Back in February (holy shit, the year has vanished...), I posted a link to Kymerica, a faux public history about a place that doesn't exist... except now it does, because it has sites and site markers and history. There is another, similar project called the I-75 project, that I found out about here, via a post from a Facebook friend (who says FB is useless?). The I-75 project, instigated and carried out by Norm Magnusson, places faux historical markers at rest stops along Interstate 75. The gist is a little different from the Kymerica project, in which an alternative universe is created through memorialization. The I-75 project challenges viewers by memorializing social and political ideas and commentary. I think it's pretty compelling, and I'd love to hang out by one of his installations for a while and see what people's reactions are. Brings up questions about memory, legitimacy, and significance. Does just sticking a historical marker at a place make it significant? Can you create history? If someone reads one of the signs, gets inspired, and then goes out and changes the world, does that then make that place truly significant? Apparently, several people who see the signs are unsure whether they are "official" or not, which makes me think that we have a LOT of public education to do.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Home Again and Happy Fall!

Autumn Field, Tompkins County, New York, September 22, 2010
Happy fall, everyone. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend much of the first day of fall outdoors!

I'm very pleased to say that the meeting with Prospective Advisor went great. I was totally not nervous when I arrived, probably owing to the fact that I'd been for a hike, had not entirely imagined that visitor passes and parking zoos would take up quite that much time, and had left my directions to hir office somewhere that wasn't with me. I'd pretty much run the nerves out of me by the time I got to hir office (on time); I would have preferred to be a little less sweaty, but w/e. Zie was also very welcoming and easy to talk to; it quickly went from "interview" to "shop talk." Prospects are iffish because of funding constraints, but making the connection with Prospective Advisor was totally worth the trip.

I drove up a day before my meeting and took the opportunity to spend some time in one of my favorite places (within a couple of hours of the U., definitely a perk) and took some pictures. I also had the opportunity to hang out in a cafe in a very small town in upstate New York and overhear several conversations. The statements that liberalism is Satan and you can't believe in god and vote Democratic gave me pause. The pumpkin-pear bisque was very yummy, though!

And now, some more photos!

First stop, Women's Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, New York. The reconstruction of the Wesleyan Chapel is complete. You can see the difference in the brick; the redder brick is the surviving original structure of the Chapel. The reconstruction is to size, built over the original foundations. I think this reads so much better as the Chapel than the standing ruins that it has incorporated/replaced. Honestly, I was skeptical of the reconstruction of history, and didn't expect to like it. But I think I like it.

Wesleyan Chapel, Women's Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, September 22, 2010

Interior, Wesleyan Chapel, Women's Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, New York, September 22, 2010. There is screening on all the windows, which will be great in the summer. But it means you can't easily see inside, which sucks. The doors were closed and locked when I was there.

I was also able to spend some time at Taughannock Falls, New York. I try to do something different every time I'm in the area. This time, I went up the South Rim trail above the falls, and was pleasantly surprised. Next time, I may try the approximately 2-mile round trip up the North Rim trail, across the top of the falls, and down the South Rim trail. I wanted to try it this time, but just didn't have the time.

Taughannock Creek, Taughannock Falls State Park, Tompkins County, New York, September 22, 2010. The creek bed is exposed shale (no sand/mud); there wasn't much volume of running water, so you could actually walk up the creek bed.

Fall in the caldera, Taughannock Falls, Taughannock Falls State Park, Tompkins County, New York, September 22, 2010. I just love the colors.

Abandoned road alignment, Taughannock Falls State Park, Tompkins County, New York, September 22, 2010. I kind of cheated and took an unmarked path off the South Rim Trail; the trail itself runs across the top of the bridge. This would have been one hell of a curve to take; there is a sheer drop into the creek gorge just above the falls immediately to the right of this photo.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

First Date Jitters!

Bright and early I will be on my way to a meeting with a prospective PhD advisor. I kind of think of these meetings as "first dates" -- we meet briefly, talk about mutual interests, and all decide if we want to spend more time together.

I am not nervous about my abilities, background, interests, or anything on a professional level about this meeting. I'm actually feeling good about what I want to do, why, and why I chose this particular person to work with. But I'm nervous nonetheless!

Fortunately, I am driving up a day early, and will be able to spend some time before the meeting not too far from the U. in an area that I absolutely adore. Hopefully, the thunder storms they're calling for bugger off, and I can spend some time in the gorgeous fall outdoors doing a little hiking and a little reading without feeling like a lightning rod. (Fine, it will be reading Prospective Advisor's recent work...but I -do- find it interesting, or zie wouldn't be on my list of prospective advisors! Also a good reason for no rain: I could only get my hands on an interlibrary loan copy. Is it just me, or is it weird that the closest library with a copy to lend was very-far-away Texas?).

Still feels kinda like a first date, though. I will endeavor to return with pretty pictures, and a synopsis of the meeting.

On another note: I continue to not hate my body. And sporting equipment that was tight on me a couple of weeks ago... not so much. I cannot tell you how completely different this is for me...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

An Open Letter to My Body

Dear Body,

We have had a strained relationship for just about as long as I can remember. I have ignored you, and I have hated you. I have hated how big you are. I have hated when you don't work right. I have hated when you don't move right; when you drop things; when you hurt.

Today, I asked you for what I thought was impossible. And you delivered more than I thought was possible, and then delivered again, and again, and again.* I am in awe. I did not think we had it in us. I cannot hate you any more. You are awesome. And together, holy shit, it's *all* possible.

-- Me.

* I took part in an athletic event today as a member of two teams. I took part in a total of at least 10 heats (possibly 11, but I really can't be certain right now), and a total distance of at least 5,300m or 3.3 miles. Most of the heats were sprints of 200 to 500m; the last race was a fight to the finish for 2,000m. I thought I was done after Heat 3, but emptied the tank for 7 more heats. Holy shit.

Monday, September 6, 2010

PhD Application Grumble

I'm going through the application materials for the schools I am applying to (at least, those which have application materials available so far). I'm making notes about what, in particular, certain schools want to see in their personal statements/statements of interest, etc. etc. (One school in particular wants to know why, if there is a significant gap between previous school and PhD land. I am assuming 10+ years counts as significant).

Here is what has me stumped and grumbly: the GPA. I did my undergraduate and MA level schooling up in The Great White North. The Great White North does not (or at least, did not, when I was there) bother itself with Grade Point Averages. That was an American thing... like calling universities colleges, and second year students sophomores. For the record, in TGWN, universities are universities; colleges are colleges; and your second year of university is referred to as your second year.

One university has specifically requested that students with international credentials just leave the GPA thing alone, and they'll figure it out when they get the transcripts. Another school gives no guidance, and I've popped off an email. This is why starting so freaking early is a Good Idea; grad school applications are rife with niggly bits that take time to sort out.

So, while I am frustrated that I can't just answer the question, at least there is time. What I *am* worried about are these online recommendation letters that require me to complete my application online before recommendation letter requests are sent out to recommenders... it means I have to have all my shit sorted and complete sooner rather than later, including those personal statements...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Social Annihilation

America was a very interesting place in the very late eighteenth/early nineteenth century; interesting, at least, from the distance of two hundred years.

Fresh out of the Revolutionary War, riding early waves of the Industrial Revolution and snowballing scientific discovery, Americans sorted out what it meant to be American. We left our small towns, and pushed west; we mined coal and built canals to carry it to increasingly industrialized cities, our manufacturing no longer dependent on water power. We built railroads, and new towns sprung up along them like a string of pearls. Free of the Church of England, we sought our own meaning in utopian communities and home-grown religious traditions.

It all sounds very progressive and romantic. But there was, of course, a price. When a person's world was limited to a couple of days ride by horse or buggy on shitty roads, and they knew or were related to pretty much everyone they encountered, they (and everyone else) knew exactly what their place in the community was. As people began to travel further, move to industrial centers, or set out to make their fortunes, communities became very fluid. Members of families who had lived in one place for generations would move away; people who had no family ties to an area would move in, or just stay a spell before moving on. The social order was in flux, and there were so many strangers...

It became necessary to wear your social rank and status on your sleeve; to visually advertise to the strangers around you, where you placed in the social pecking order. There was an entire ballet of right clothing, right mannerisms, right pursuits, right language that, it was assumed, only true members of the elite could pull off. But because none of these things are inherent within a person, social rank and status became contested -- people of lower social rank and status emulated the social ballet of the elite, and when too many of them got close to being good at it, the bar was moved. This even played out in cemeteries:

... the working poor tried to assure themselves a place in funerary society by securing burials in cemeteries or churchyards that were equivalent to those of the bourgeoisie, or within bourgeois cemeteries in inferior graves and spaces. The alternatives - to be sold and/or stolen, dissected, and/or displayed in a museum, or to be dumped anonymously in a mass grave in a potter's field - represented social annihilation. The dissected body was nothing but a collection of body parts and waste, a thing; potter's field was a dumping ground, a place of exclusion…. For working men and women, burial in the cemetery or churchyard symbolized inclusion in the social order. (Sappol 2002: 35-36)

It was important to be important enough that your body was not exhumed by the Resurrection Men and sold to medical schools for dissection or dumped in an anonymous paupers' grave. Funerary display was one way that families could assert their place in society; that they could show, by virtue of having All The Right Trappings, that they belonged. I think the idea of social annihilation is an interesting one in the context of material status display and negotiation.

Significant sources for the above include:

Baker, Faye Joanne
1977 Toward Memory and Mourning: A Study of Changing Attitudes Toward Death Between 1750 and 1850 as Revealed by Gravestones of the New Hampshire Merrimack River Valley, Mourning Pictures, and Representative Writings. M.Phil Disseration, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Halttunen, Karen
1982 Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-Class Culture in America, 1830-1870. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.

Hoffman, Frederick L.
1919 Pauper Burials and the Interment of the Dead in Large Cities. An address read at the National Conference of Social Work, Atlantic City, N. J., June 4, 1919. Prudential Press, Newark, New Jersey.

Sappol, Michael
2002 A Traffic of Dead Bodies: Anatomies and Embodied Social Identity in Nineteenth-Century America. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

Shively, Charles
1988 A History of the Conception of Death in America, 1650-1860. Garland Publishing, Inc., New York. PhD dissertation, Harvard University.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Wrangling Meetings

I've been scheduling visits to prospective PhD schools. One was done a year ago, one is set, one is pending, one won't happen because I've already been there (though it was many years ago), and prospective advisor and I will meet at an upcoming archaeological conference.

One school I haven't heard back from re: are you taking students and request for a visit; I will re-send, now that school is back. One school I haven't written to yet (and need to get on that). And I won't be visiting School On The Other Side of the Country, at least not at this stage.

I feel like I am running out of weekends and time. Thank goodness I have a healthy chunk of vacation time left this year; I'll be using it!

Also on the To Do list:
- Write statements of interest
- Retake the GRE
- Perhaps a nap

Monday, August 30, 2010

As if I don't have enough to do...

... I have just discovered the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

Yes, well it IS a bit of a tangent. Though I suspect probably not, in the long run. Right now, however, I should be focusing on a) finishing The Book and b) writing kick-ass statements of interest for PhD applications.

Which of course I'll get to, as soon as I finish perusing the contents of this journal... Ah, the Internets.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bated Breath, Pins and Needles, Fingers Crossed

No no, not waiting for grad school application responses YET, though there was some progress in the transcript department.... after giving me a new, 7-digit student number, which also didn't work in the online payment system, they finally realized I've been out of school so long that my shit isn't digitized. So, they will let me use the old-fashioned telephone to pay for my transcripts.

Anyway.... the pins and needles, etc.

I've been having several discussions with people regarding grad schools. Where is good, thoughts on statements of interest, picking advisors, that sort of thing. In one conversation with a colleague, zie mentioned that it is good to go in with a site, rather than taking what they give you, or doing a non-site degree (i.e., analyzing stuff that others have dug up years ago, and which is now mouldering in storage).* The reason zie gave is one I didn't actually consider: once done with PhD work, and on the job market, hiring schools generally want their archaeologists to hit the ground running with a field school. You cannot hit the ground running without a site; so, in a case of all-else-equal, an applicant who can guarantee a field school in Summer 1 will get the job over an applicant who could probably pull something together for Summer 1. Makes total sense, and I filed this tidbit under "things to fret quietly about."

I have ideas of things I want to study; broad brushstroke-y things In A Particular Theme. Within that Theme, there are various Big Questions that I find interesting**. And then there is a particular research question staring me right in the eye (it's all very cross-disciplinary too, which is exciting, though I'm not sure how the Historians will feel about it; hey, I'd let you present at my conference...). But, I do not have a site.

Then. Yesterday. I receive an email out of the blue (yes, handing out your business card to anyone who will stand still long enough to take it, pays off). What would be involved in doing an archaeological dig at OMGSuperCool site?

So, I explained what's involved... lots of little holes, a few bigger holes, lots of bigger holes, possibly heavy equipment, you know, depending. And I explained that hiring someone to do it can be costly (though there are grants available, especially for OMGSuperCool site).

Or, I explained, someone could do excavations as research for their PhD. And then I mentioned that I am applying for my PhD. And that I would LOVE to dig up OMGSuperCool site, because it is OMGSUPERCOOL *and* fits perfectly with my Particular Theme and Big Questions. Not so much with the beady-eyed research question I have in mind, which continues to stare me down, but I can bat that sucker around elsewhere. So, I explained, the PhD route is cheaper, invariably will involve public archaeology/field school, is grant-fundable, but will also take longer than hiring someone. And then I said that if they're interested in pursuing this to let me know, that I'd love to discuss it further.***

And now I am waiting. Impatiently. And hopefully. Did I mention it would be SUPERCOOL?

Tangent Storage For The Very Tangential:
* Artifacts mouldering in storage totally need to get analysed and written up. There is no point excavating stuff if you're not going to do anything with it. But colleague makes a good point.

** Big Questions in Historical Archaeology include: why do people buy what they do? How do we (or is it even possible to) identify ethnicity in the archaeological record? What about gender? Class? What happens when two groups of people meet? How does the individual interact with society and what does that look like in what they leave behind? What can I tell about these people, who I cannot find in the documentary record? What does their voice tell us about the world?

*** I would be STOKED if I could mention the possibility of digging at OMGSuperCool site on my grad school applications. Which I can't do, unless OMGSuperCool site people express an interest.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Foxes, Hedgehogs, Squirrels, and A Carnival

1. Creatures.

Back at the beginning of August (holy crap, it's almost over already...) I posted about being mostly foxy with shades of hedgehog, and admitted in public to being a splitter, not a lumper. JaneB posted a comment that I find very interesting: in her field (which is, I believe, quite unrelated to mine, only a close enough relative that she was able to instruct me on the correct way to eat dirt, for which I continue to be grateful) foxes tend to be lumpers, not splitters.

I suppose that makes a certain amount of sense... when foxing from subject to subject, how CAN you be a splitter? How can you spend enough time with a subject to split it all out, rather than going "big picture" and looking at general trends? This caused me to rethink my self-imposed pigeon holes (oh! another critter...). I still say foxy with hedgehog tendencies AND still a splitter. But my splitting is at the dirt and artifacts (data) level, not at the subject-matter level.

The caretaker over at Notes From The Field ponders whether she is Fox or Hedgehog, and concludes that she is a Squirrel: "...What has become most clear to me as I look through my research notes, and find myself using things I wrote down years ago - not because they were pertinent to the project at the time, but because somehow they seemed relevant and worth keeping - is that I am neither a hedgehog or a fox. I am a squirrel. I seem to have a habit of finding useful sources and connected ideas, and putting them somewhere safe for me to go back to in the winter." I like it.

2. Carnival
Samia, over at 49 Percent, has posted the zomg grad school!!!1 carnival. It is chock full of posts about choosing and surviving grad schools. Including a guide to free food sources. I'm applying for PhD programs for Fall '11, so this came totally at a perfect time. I'm so ready to do PhD, that even lessons on how to line your pockets with ziplock bags when fresh veggie platters are on offer has not put me off.

I will post more grad school application stuff. This will likely become A Theme. Look! I gave it a tag :D

3. (Bonus) Grad School Application progress:
- tentative campus visits awaiting final scheduling. One meeting with prospective supervisor scheduled for upcoming conference.
- transcript requests completed, and wrangling of transcript request payment systems begun ("Yes, I know I need to pay online. No, the system won't work for me. Yes, my student ID number has 9 digits instead of 7. Yes, I've been out of school that long. Yes, I'll hold...)
- GRE Round 1 complete; Round 2 scheduled
- Funds secured to pay for this application process (thank you, Giant Online Auction Service)

To Do:
- Everything else.

4. (Added bonus whine and tentative victory dance):
Why chapters are HARD. But I think I have mine pegged.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Study Hall

I've recently been studying for the GRE, and found a great place to actually get some work done. Behold my Study Hall:

I'm sitting at a nice picnic table at the top of a hill overlooking a river. I'll definitely be going back to this place, either to write or study for a GRE re-take. I did very well overall, except I was not happy with the analytical writing part. I'm currently weighing whether the 30 points I can probably gain in my math and improved analytical writing section is worth a month of studying, or if my time is better spent on statements of interest and other application-y stuff.

One other nice feature of this study/work location is the presence of wooded walking trails. When my head was ready to explode from Teh Mathz, I went for a walk and saw cool stuff like these:

I didn't see any foxes or hedgehogs, but I did see some squirrels... more on that, later!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mostly Foxy with Shades of Hedgehog

Notorious PhD has two posts up (and a third brewing) about academic identities -- Fox vs. Hedgehog -- and what it means when you aren't anymore (Part 1 and Part 2).

Foxes, in this dichotomy, know a little about a lot of things; hedgehogs know a lot about a few things. I've tended to be more foxy than hedgehog-y (except in the mornings, just after a haircut, when I really do LOOK like a hedgehog...). In fact, the deep knowledge hedgehogs have of their subject matter has intimidated me. And I've fretted that I don't have such a topic that I want to dive into and commit myself totally to, for the rest of my career. It was very cool to find out that I'm not alone in being a fox, and that it is not necessarily a detriment! There are some broad common themes I'm interested in, but the specifics of addressing them are very varied (and their are more than one...).

In addition to being mostly foxy with shades of hedgehog (which I shall embrace and no longer decry!), I am also a splitter.* So there.

* Splitter: in archaeology, there are lumpers and splitters. These traits are deeply coded into our very beings. Splitters are always splitters, unless forced to lump; lumpers are always lumpers unless forced to split. As a splitter, I tend to put things in several smaller groupings; lumpers tend to put things into fewer, larger groupings. These "things" can be soil layers, artifact types, fill deposits, etc.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I've scheduled my GRE for less than two weeks from now. I suppose I should study??

I do wish they never got rid of the paper test; I like to graze when I test-take. That's not possible on the computerized test, and if I screw something up, there is no going back... ah well. At least everyone taking it is in the same boat.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Thing I Didn't Know But Should Have...

I didn't know that Samuel Fraunces of Fraunces Tavern in New York City was black. At least, he was until he was made white in the 19th century before becoming black again recently.

This sort of manipulation of history is something I find interesting. But, it does annoy me to read the debates about Fraunces' color as debates about his ethnicity. The conflation of color and ethnicity makes me bonkers.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Roller Derby

The Philthy Britches (in black) say hello to the Broad Street Butchers (in red), July 10, 2010

Home from the Roller Derby. Damn but the arena was sweltering! Had a blast... if anyone is interested, I heard that the only banked track in the East will soon be completed. Very old school; roadtrip!!!

Ready to race! (Philthy Britches vs. Broad Street Butchers) July 10, 2010

Out of my way! Heavy metal hookers (in lime green) vs. Charm City Speed Regime, July 10, 2010

And they're off! (Philthy Britches vs. Broad Street Butchers), July 10, 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Next Book,What?!?!?!?!

I was driving around this morning doing errands and chatting with a friend when the conversation turned to a subject that I suddenly realized would be a cool topic for a next book. It is COMPLETELY different from the one I am currently working on, but is a offshoot of things I've been dealing with and glancingly interested in for a long time. The goal would be to construct it so that it has enough research value to be useful and attractive to historians and historical archaeologists, and be accessible and interesting for a general audience. I think the particular topic I have in mind could straddle these two universes quite nicely.

Of course, I need to finish the current book... and apply for grad school. But I shall start a research file.

It's an interesting sensation when scattered pieces that have been part of your reality for a long time suddenly come together and become An Entity...

Oh Gods, Commitment....

I haven't even started writing any formal statements of interest for grad school applications; I've only been corresponding by email with some prospective advisors to see if they're taking students, will meet, etc. But writing down what I'm interested in studying? Kind of daunting; in a few sentences I'm on the road to committing myself for years of study. I better mean what I say, no?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Some random randomness for the middle of this thankfully short week of too hot:

  • I spent some time in a bridal store today. It was about half an hour. It was freaky and surreal. I've never spent time in a bridal store before, even though I'm almost 40. I do so have friends! Just not the marrying kind :) For the record, I think I need a drink to recover. All that polyester, shoddily made to survive a single wearing, for outrageous prices, and officious, hovering staff (well, except for the woman on the phone explaining to someone that, whoops, her dress WASN'T in). It was an alien place, and I am skeeved.
  • It drives me bonkers when various groups are identified as ethnic groups, but white Western culture is never included in that category. Oh HAI! White "been here since forever" Americans ALSO constitute an ethnicity! It's like defining women by how they're not men; ethnicities get defined by how they differ from "the norm."
  • I have poison ivy ON MY FACE. Granted, there are places that are soooooo very much worse to have it, but I was hoping to actually go out in public this weekend.
  • I'm gearing up for grad school applications. Total Impostor Syndrome kicking in. What if they don't like me?!?!?!?! I will suck it up and cope, but holy roller coaster. I am very thankful to all the bloggy friends I read who have offered up suggestions on how not to apply to grad school, what to ask, who to ask, etc. etc. I will very likely bleg at some point in the near future for application letter feedbacks! In the mean time, I've scheduled my GRE for soon.
  • I have an article coming out very soon on a ritual concealment. I am excited!
  • If the stars align, I will be going to the Roller Derby for the first time this weekend. I will endeavor to arm myself with my camera!
That is all.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves, by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.

- from the Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls, 1848

Thursday, July 1, 2010

More Fieldwork Pix

Clouds, unretouched. July 1, 2010

Creek, not as cool and refreshing as it looks. July 1, 2010

Overgrown house, July 1, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fieldwork Pix

Some photos taken while doing preliminary fieldwork. The house (probably eighteenth century) is long abandoned, and unfortunately not part of the project. The buzzard on the chimney is a nice touch! Anyone know what those little white flowers are? They look like morning glories, but are very small.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Deepwater Horizon Disaster and Cultural Resources

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster continues to unfold. While there is some good news that they've been able to capture some of the oil currently spewing out of the ground, they're not catching all of it. Frankly, based on BP's track record of blowing smoke on how much oil is gushing into the oceans, I don't believe their numbers. I will go with "they are catching some of it."

Part of the problem with BP bullshitting about how much oil there was flowing into the ocean, is that the emergency response was planned around those really, really low numbers (1,000 barrels a day, they said). Most people are aware of the ecological impacts of the oil to the fisheries, marshes, and wildlife, and of the economic impacts to the fishermen, tourism industries, and even the oil industry. But most people are not aware that the spill also has impacted, and will continue to impact, cultural resources, including historic and prehistoric archaeological sites, historic structures, Civil War military sites, shipwrecks, etc.

For starters, here is the oil spill as it was on June 5, with Binghamton, NY as its source (still nothing personal, B'ton...):

The spill projected with Binghamton, NY as its source, as of June 5, 2010. Via Ifitwasmyhome.com

Here is the projection as of June 18, 2010:

The spill projected with Binghamton, NY as its source, as of June 18, 2010. Via Ifitwasmyhome.com

US/ICOMOS (U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites) has a website with an interactive map where you can see cultural resources that are threatened by the spill, and areas where the spill has reached the shore. It doesn't translate as anything I can reproduce here, but click on the link above, and then click on the icons for details on the cultural resource. It looks like a lot, but they've left off archaeological sites and shipwrecks to discourage looting. The potential for archaeological sites along the waters' edge, particularly around marshes and tidal estuaries is generally pretty high -- transitional zones like that often provide a huge variety of food resources, as well as access to the Gulf for travel and trade, and easily accessible areas for initial exploration and settlement. The number of shipwrecks noted for the area is "many." I was alerted to this link from the Historic Preservation Group at LinkedIn.

The National Park Service also has a website detailing their response to the Spill. Several National Parks and properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places (which is managed by the National Park Service) are being affected.

And finally, we shouldn't forget that eleven people lost their lives when the rig exploded in the first place. This huge disaster and its media circus is also a very, very personal tragedy for people who have lost friends and loved ones, and for those whose means of making a living have also been lost.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Camera Spin

Trail at Ganondagan, New York, June 13, 2010

I just returned home from an unscheduled trip to the Great White North. It was a mixed trip; sadness for a grandparent who is very, very ill and joy at seeing a very dear friend and watching siblings and second cousins mix it up at a local contra dance for the first time. As I get older, I get more and more practice at simultaneously holding wildly conflicting emotions.

Seneca Knitting Mills, Seneca Falls, New York. Wesleyan Chapel is to the right. The National Women's Hall of Fame is restoring the Knitting Mills and will move in when the work is done. I can't wait to see the inside! June 9, 2010

During the drive, I made a few stops to get out of the car and stretch my legs. A couple of stops, at Taughannock Falls and Women's Rights National Historical Park, are standard for me when I'm in the area. I also made a new stop at a place near Victor, New York called Ganondagan -- the former location of a Seneca town destroyed in 1687, and now a New York State Historic Site. Really nicely kept trails; I took "The Earth is Our Mother" trail out to Great Brook. Quite the workout, especially in the humidity, but well worth a visit to falls on Great Brook at the end.

Taughannock Falls, from the overlook, no zoom. June 9, 2010

Taughannock Falls, taken from the same location as above, using the camera's zoom. I'm pretty happy! June 9, 2010.

The Longhouse at Ganondagan, June 13, 2010

The falls at Great Brook, Ganondagan, June 13, 2010

It was a good excuse to take my new camera out for a spin. I need more practice with it, but so far, so good!

Reconstruction of the Wesleyan Chapel at Women's Rights National Historical Park continues. It should be finished by the end of June. The exterior structure is mostly done; I couldn't get a good peek inside. June 9, 2010.

A closeup of the new brick (lighter) and the original 1843 Wesleyan Chapel brick and stone foundation (darker, to the right). The brickwork looks fine to me; at the moment, the discontinuity in the foundation from stone to nothing bothers me. June 9, 2010

A structural history of the Wesleyan Chapel. Quite the dog's breakfast; I am still amazed that any of the original building was in there, and that people remembered its significance. The folks at the Park very kindly let me take a photo of their display. I need to figure out how to kill the fisheye effect, especially for flat things like this. I left this file big; click to embiggen for details. June 9, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Courseblogging: Course Blog

One week from now, this online course will be behind me. Which is good, because then I can sleep!

I have to say that my students really stepped up. The online discussions, conducted in blog format, have been particularly successful, in my opinion. I start with an overall theme, pretty general -- for example, "culture and evolution," and give them a few resources to start from. I've used radio podcasts, websites, YouTube, TED talks, and blog posts (secretly exposing them to The Internets Beyond Google). They need to summarize and respond to the posted resources (at least 2 posts), and to each other. As the course has progressed, the students have increasingly engaged each other in discussion, including posting their own internet resources. Some of what has been posted has been fantastic, and I'll be using myself next semester. Periodically, the discussion gets off track, or someone draws an incorrect conclusion from the material, and I'll hop in to push things back on track.

I may well try integrating a similar discussion blog into my real-world classes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Toy

I just bought a new digital camera. I've had my Olympus D-460 Zoom forever and a day now. The photos are still pretty good, and fine for work stuff, but I've noticed the quality starting to deteriorate. The colors are off, and at 1.3 megapixels, grainy for any sort of zooming in. The D-460 will be moving to my car to continue service as a work camera.

I just received a shiny new Kodak EasyShare Z915. One of the big office box stores just had a ridiculous sale on it; originally $199, they had it for $120. My test photo of my computer screen came out all fish-eyed and weird, but that may be because I'm practically sitting on it. I am looking forward to taking the camera out for a spin and putting it through its paces.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Visualizing the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The spill projected with Binghamton, NY as its source, as of June 5, 2010.

For several weeks now, I've had the blog "Strange Maps" in my RSS feed. Today, as I flipped through my RSS, Strange Maps had featured a website where, through the magic of Google Earth and data made available by the government, you could project the current extent of the spill over any location on earth. It looks so small when you see the extent in the Gulf itself.

When I dropped it over where I live, much of it extended into the ocean, so I shifted it inland (nothing personal, Binghamton, honest!). It's huge, people... and getting huger.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Sleep Away May : Pix!

Interior arch, Wiawaka, May 31, 2010

May has been busy, what with the online course, garage sales, regular work, etc. etc. But I've also managed to sneak away a couple of weekends.

Dance camp morning, May 1, 2010

At the beginning of the month, I went to a dance camp. It's a sleep away, where, for the entire weekend, you eat, sleep, and dance. I had a total blast. Only one picture from there; I was too busy dancing (or sleeping) for much more. The water was just cold enough that it felt good on my feet, but too cold to jump in.

Lake George shoreline, May 31, 2010

And, I've just returned home from a women's retreat up at Lake George, New York where I helped with their season-opening preparations. There were almost 40 of us there pitching in; a great time, and a stunning property. Georgia O'Keefe stayed there when she was a student. Opened in 1903, Wiawaka is the only remaining operational women's retreat center begun during the early twentieth-century women's rights movement. If you need to recharge your batteries, this is the place.

Upstairs Bathroom, Wiawaka, May 31, 2010

Labyrinth, Wiawaka, May 31, 2010

Remains of a springhouse, Wiawaka, May 31, 2010

Treefall, Wiawaka, May 31, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Courseblogging: Holy Crap

I am fried. This pace is relentless. If I teach an online course again, it can't be less than 6 weeks, unless it's 1/2 a course.

Holiday weekend plans: Away! Somewhere peaceful. Yay!

Hope you all enjoy the long weekend!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Courseblogging: The Perils of Multiple Personalities

Yep, it happened. I posted to my course blog under my pseudonymous identity. Fortunately, I caught it -immediately-. Hopefully, no one is getting email updates when someone posts a comment...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Courseblogging: Dear Students,

Dear Online Students: Thank you for being proactive and for (at least most of you) reading the instructions. I have not graded your first assignment yet, but I am encouraged. Keep it up, and we'll all get through this!

Dear Plagiarist: I did not make you fail; you made all sorts of choices that resulted in you failing my class. I do not grade you on the number of other courses you are taking. I do not care that you insist that you are acing those classes. Do not blame the unwitting student you plagiarized from for the fact you submitted their paper as your own, and then announce that their paper was crap. When you get busted for plagiarizing, do not hand in a second assignment to me that is also ripped off from somewhere else. Also, you got a raw deal on the essay you paid $100 for; I found it for free.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Courseblogging: Here goes!

I start teaching an online introductory course in physical anthropology tomorrow. It is thirteen weeks of regular semester squashed into four weeks. I know there are lots of folks who teach online, but it's all new to me!

So far, the challenges I see are that the students will have to be exceptionally self-motivated in order to complete the course, and that I won't have that in-person contact with them that I get in lectures, where I can see on their faces if they are puzzled about something.

I do see possibilities for applying some of the self-directed learning they have to do for the online course to in-person classes. The online format is making me totally renegotiate the material and figure out how to direct the students to it, rather than feeding it to them. This is a good thing.

So far, I have plans for individual exercises where they must retrieve and apply information from their textbook and supplemental material; online discussions in a blog format, with points for participating and more points for valuable contributions; and a group project tackling some of the larger issues in physical anthropology to be presented as a website, but with ongoing chunks submitted for grades and comment throughout the course. I'm also excited to try a grading method for the group project that I recently was told about that very elegantly combines my grade with the students' assessments of who pulled their weight in the group assignment.

I hate not assigning an essay; I will have to work that into the textbook/supplemental material section. It is a delicate balance between keeping them engaging and working with the material, and my ability to keep up with the grading. This is largely a function of the seriously compressed time line. Even so, I will be taking in and grading material three times a week. I think I'd have been happier if the course was six weeks, but that's me now, before it starts. I'll see how I feel at the end...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Waay TMI...

... for you, that is.

Without all the gory details, let me just say this: Love at first sight is, apparently, totally possible.

I realized this afternoon that I didn't just -like- a certain someone, but that I'd fallen in love. Fallen. Quickly, apparently. But, for a series of reasons, not least of which was that we barely spent any time together, I never quite connected the dots. (And yes, I know... how can you love someone you hardly know? Seemingly common sense, logical questions exactly like that one kept me in the dark. Hearts apparently are illogical.)

The realization of being in love was promptly followed by my little heart breaking. The certain someone cannot/will not/does not share the same feelings (it's complicated).

Yes, fine, emotional progress... a good thing, and all that. But not so fun while writing a report in the middle of the office at 2 in the afternoon.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

OMG Maps! Strange Maps!

I love maps. And I love strangeness. So imagine my delight to discover the blog, "Strange Maps."

If you liked the Great Soda Divide, or you find yourself constantly referring to the map of strange lands printed on the inside cover of your fantasy fiction to figure out where the characters are, or if you like to look at familiar things in new and interesting ways...

... then check out Strange Maps. I am so totally hooked.

In honor of cool maps, I give you a detail of the c. 1639 "Manatus" map, zoomed in on Manhattan. Probably done by Vinckeboons; I love his Delaware River map as well.

Detail, from the Stony Brook University website. The original is at the Library of Congress -- search the Digital Map Collections for Manatvs.