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.