Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Recent Acquisitions

Some of the new books (not school related) that I've recently added to my library increasingly teetering pile of books (I've started reading one of them...a girl can dream):
  • Baker, Jean H (2011) Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion. Hill and Wang, New York. I heard the author interviewed on NPR not long ago about Sanger -- advocate for access to birth control and reproductive rights. I appreciated that in her interview, Baker didn't shy away from difficult issues like eugenics and didn't make Sanger out to be a complete saint. Complicated people are way more interesting. Can't wait to read this one.
  • Bernstein, Peter L (2005) Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation. WW Norton, New York. I am beside-myself fascinated with the Burned-Over District of Western New York. One of the common themes in everything I read is the Erie Canal, so I figured I'd read up on it. I hope there is a lot of human story in this telling, though I do have a bit of an industrial-engineering-feat geek side so even if it's a straight "look at this amazing thing we built here is how we did it" I won't be bored.
  • Harris, Sharon M (2009) Dr. Mary Walker: An American Radical. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey. From the back cover: "The nation's first female army surgeon, a pants-wearing divorcee, and the only woman ever to receive a Medal of Honor, Mary Walker was a plucky character ada courageous reformer." Disliking the use of "plucky" there (seriously, would you describe a man as "plucky"?)... but looking forward to reading this. Also, there's a photo of her on the front cover in a jacket and tie. Who doesn't like a woman in a jacket and tie... yeah, well, I do. So there.
  • Rath, Richard Cullen (2003) How Early America Sounded. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. I don't like sterile house museums; they feel so fake. I think that's ultimately what provoked my interest in sensory history/archaeology ... thinking about how the past smelled, tasted, sounded -- not just what it looked like.
  • White, Richard (2011) Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America. WW Norton, New York. White is the guy who came up with the concept of "the middle ground" in history -- that place where Europeans and Native Americans interacted. I first heard about it in a blog post by historian Jonathan Rees, who wrote that he'd never be able to look at a railroad the same way again. That, coupled with my slight infrastucture-geek-side, and how could I resist? The thing is enormous, though... just over 650 pages.
  • Weisberg, Barbara (2004) Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism. HarperCollins, New York. I did mention a fascination with the Burned-Over District, didn't I? In 1848, the same year as the first Women's Rights Convention (and not far away) the Fox sisters began to hear spirit rappings. They soon were able to use them to communicate with the dead. The social factors surrounding all of this -- and why them, and why then -- are fascinating. Really interesting for me though, are the connections between the story of Spiritualism and other major movements in the area -- connections based on people. Amy Post, well known for her abolitionist and suffrage work, was also a supporter of the Fox sisters, sitting with them on stage in support (and for protection); Horace Greeley, founder of the New York Tribune, was a supporter; according to the author, a sceance by the Fox sisters was held around the very table that the Declaration of Sentiments was written on.  I'm part way through this book; it's a relativey quick (and very interesting) read. Lots of footnotes for information about the Fox sisters, but I've found it lacking in footnotes about other events and people surrounding them.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

RBOC: November Edition

I'm in holy-shit-where-did-November-go-end-of-semester-full-hunker-writing-writing-writing. Survival, and even successful survival, of my first semester of doctoral studies seems likely! I'll let you know in a few weeks once I've dug myself out (and been graded)...

Some random bullets of crap:
  • Back in August 2009 (omg two years ago; I've so completely lost track of time) I posted a post on time-to-Google-Scholar and reported that posting papers to Selected Works was the fastest at one month. That time span has shrunk: I posted a paper to Selected Works on October 25-ish after a conference, and by October 31 it was listed on Google Scholar.
  • I found a link via Canada-Supporting Women in Geography (lots of good stuff not limited to geographers or women) to DiRT (Digital Research Tools Wiki). Tons of tools to help you work; worth at least a few minutes of your time!
  • Speaking of tools and time, I apparently lose vast amounts of time screwing around on the Internets... checking mail, scrolling Facebook. It only takes a few seconds each time, but very inefficient (and the risk of a Complete Sidetrack). I found a little tool called Freedom that disconnects me from the Internet for a set period of time (from a few minutes to a few hours). You *can* bypass it before the time is up, but that requires restarting the computer, which is too much trouble. Result: I can be really quite productive when I'm not screwing around. There are some 'net jonesing issues for me while it's off, which brings up a whole 'nother set of issues... I'm finding that using Freedom means that I quickly check the 'net in-between sessions (often to get info I needed while I was writing... and to check FB...) but am eager to get back into what I was working on.
  • What I wear when I'm writing: sloppy and comfortable. What I wear when I'm writing in public: less sloppy and slighty less comfortable. Teaching clothes: tidy and not terribly comfortable. I like the scarf-as-swiss-army-knife, but can't quite figure out how to incorporate one into my wardrobe. Douglas Adams is more my style, but I'm also not sure how I can incorporate a towel into my everyday wear-in-public outfit without looking like I'm carrying a blankie...
  • I keep setting off the smoke alarm in my apartment by cooking. The threshold seems to be setting the oven at anything over 350. Unfortunately, there are lots of noms that require higher temperatures. :(

Monday, November 7, 2011

Radio Silence

I've been very quiet here lately.

Part of it has been just being busy (middle of my first term as a grad student), being sick (two freaking weeks, back to back, two different reasons), not going anywhere to take pictures (a cop out; I could take pix anywhere, I just haven't), and part of it is professional blogging-under-my-real-name elsewhere (professional as in real life archaeology stuff, not as in getting paid for it stuff!).

Most of it, though, is that I'm in transition, and figuring out who this new me is, what voice this new me has, how pseudonymous this new me is (or is likely to be), and what this new me has to share that won't a) blow my pseudonymous cover or b) if said cover gets blown/revealed/whatever, won't be a liability. Nothing here I think *would* be a liability, but I did poof a post yesterday because it felt too personal.

There's a lot of negotiating at school, too -- who are all these people, these classmates and professors? Who can I trust? Whose opinions and readings of things seem grounded and helpful? Who do I want to study with? Who will be helpful when I go to them in the weeds? How the hell am I going to get everything done? What things are more important than others, and I can therefore spend less effort on them?

I need to stop fretting so much and trust what I know, but it's a lot to process. And that's what I've been doing by not writing here... processing. As things settle, I'll be back.

In the mean time, I know what to wear for an interview!

Sunday, November 6, 2011



Monday, October 24, 2011

Busy Weekend

1007 miles and eight states this weekend (Friday to Sunday): CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, NJ, NY, and PA.

It was a fantastically wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Open Letter to Professors

Dear Professor,

For the love of all the gods, please don't sign your emails with just your initials. I use your sign-off as a clue about how to address you. I know that calling you Dr. when you'd prefer I call you by your first name makes me look insecure. I also know that calling you by your first name when you'd prefer I call you Dr. is anathemia.

Signing off your email as Dr. X or Bob is a clear message to me about which fork in the road is safe. Signing your email with XYZ leaves me lost. Because really, do you want me to call you XYZ?????

All best,

Friday, September 30, 2011


Suddenly, and really without warning, the pieces of my Why Wheels At All arguement have clicked into place. I still need to work out how to fit in the "What Other People Say About Why Wheels," but that's just literature review. And I don't think they're wrong, but are just looking at small pieces of this bigger thing, often describing the What of Wheels, and not the Why of Wheels.* The pieces just clickity-clicked together... and they're SO not the pieces I thought they were going to be.

Side moral: I'm learning that I really think best in and while writing. Apparently lots of things sound logical in my head, but fall to incoherent custard on paper.**

* Saying things are pretty because lots of similar things were pretty does not explain why it was important that those particular things were pretty.
** Nicked the phrase "falls to custard" from another participant in the Another Damned Notorious Writing Group. I like it; not as earth-shattering as going to hell, not as dire-sounding as going pear-shaped. I mean, custard's still yummy, even when it's not pretty anymore. It's just kind of sad.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Autumn Equinox

Overlook, South Rim Trail.
Taughannock Falls State Park, New York. September 23, 2011.

This is the second consecutive Autumn Equinox I've spent in the Finger Lakes area, this time on my way home from a family funeral.

I stopped briefly in Seneca Falls at Women's Rights National Historical Park. The interior is finished, but I didn't get inside this time. Perhaps next time I'm in the area? Peeking through the window, they've done something interesting along the base of the walls that I'd like to take a look at (as well as just being nosy). The Park is now on Facebook, and have been posting quotes and lots of photos from around the sites, including of places you'll never see as a visitor. It would be great to see more "likes" on their Facebook Page (hint hint).

Brickwork, Wesleyan Chapel. Women's Rights National Historical Park,
Seneca Falls, New York. September 23, 2011.

Then, to Taughannock Falls. I decided to poke around the South Rim Trail this time, in the rain. Kind of surprisingly, I wasn't the only one out in the rain. A continuous stream (no pun) of people looking at the falls from the overlook, a woman walking her dog, and a pair of hard-core hiker-types (with walking poles, not just walking sticks). The falls were running like it was the Spring Equinox, what with all the rain we've had.

Top of the Upper Falls. Taughannock Falls State Park, New York. September 23, 2011

After some time at the falls, I turned the car towards home. The ride home was, for the first time, not my usual route as I headed south instead of east, mapping the new geography of my life.

Texture of the ground, almost 500 feet above the base of the falls.
Taughannock Falls State Park, New York. September 23, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

No. 476

No. 476. South of the Mason Dixon Line, July 2, 2011

Not at all who I expected to be sharing this enormous and densely populated campus with.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Still Here.

Still here, still alive. Working to make sense of this new place, new school, new people, new schedule. Not enough hours in the day, but different than before when I was working 9-5. Finding that I still want to/need to blog about stuff.

Another death in the family. Another funeral.

Things are not all bad or stressful. I am grateful for good music, good people, good humor, dancers/ing, whoever invented beer, and the beginning of fall (in spirit, if not yet in fact).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Last weekend, I moved. I quit my job(s), packed up my shit, and am now residing South of the Mason Dixon Line gearing up for grad school.*

I'm still unpacking, but can finally see most of the floor space in my apartment. A big day tomorrow: my new bed arrives. It will be my first bed with a real headboard and footboard. Ever. I feel so adult-y. Hopefully, I can assemble that sucker and actually sleep in it tomorrow! My new desk arrives tomorrow too... I may never want to assemble anything ever again.....

* I am eternally grateful to the gaggle of friends who helped me move said shit across several state lines.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Random Photos

I was sorting some digital photos (my poor, old hard drive is all full, so migrating images to an external), and found a few to share. Enjoy!

Mallards hanging out on the dock, Lake George, New York, June 2011

View along Taughannock Creek towards Cayuga Lake,
Taughannock State Park, New York, December 2010.

Happy moss, Ausable Chasm, New York, October 2010.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day of Archaeology 2011

Today is the first Day of Archaeology. If you're interested in the variety of jobs that archaeologists have, or are just curious about what it is archaeologists do, check it out. Over 400 describe what they do in a day:

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Swimming in the caldera.
Taughannock Falls State Park, New York, July 10, 2011

I did not join them, but I wish I had.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Faeries! No... for real!

Fairy house, found tucked up in the roots of a tree off the path.
Taughannock Falls State Park, New York. July 10, 2011.

The paper there, by the door, reads:

Fairy's sleeping at night
Fairy's sleeping in the day light

If you see a tiny fairy
lying fast asleep
Shut your eyes
and run away
Do not stay to peek
Do not tell
or you'll break the fairy spell.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


If my math is correct, today is the 163'd anniversary of the First Women's Rights Convention. Approximately 300 people attended the convention, which spanned July 19 and 20, 1848 and was held in (and around) the Wesleyan Chapel, Seneca Falls, NY.

The Chapel is now part of the Women's Rights National Historical Park. The reconstruction of the Wesleyan Chapel, which has been an ongoing project for the past 3+ years, is complete, and today was its rededication. I wasn't there for today's events, but was recently while they were getting ready (that's a guy washing the Chapel windows):

Wesleyan Chapel, Women's Rights National Historical Park
Seneca Falls, New York. July 7, 2011

Finally, in honor of the day, The Distillers and their tune, "Seneca Falls":

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Portrait of the Author as a Young Girl

Bloggers are posting their portraits all over the place... Far be it from me not to chase a meme, so here I am, some 30 years ago or so:

Wot, this blog is pseudonymous!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I've been looking for a particular bit of information for a while now. One of those "legend has it"s that I've been looking for proof of; one of those ones that you don't actively chase down, but keep an eye peeled for.

And last night? While watching Master Chef on demand (shhh, I have a secret cooking competition show vice) and screwing around on the Internets... I found it. Three lines in an obscure topical newspaper from the turn of the last century. One of those ones that makes you wonder how anyone found it to digitize in the first place, and still, what a crap shoot finding *anything* in the endless forest of digital databases is (I just happened to randomly be rooting around in what turned out to be the right place).

What a freaking rush! I felt like I'd won the lottery. I am totally addicted to this research thing...

Monday, July 4, 2011

New Digs!

I finally set eyes on my new digs, and I'm very pleased (timing and distance = signing lease with apartment unseen). The big move to Hippy Town for Grad School is next month, but a friend and I ran some boxes down and picked up my keys this past weekend. I am totally excited, and totally overwhelmed by how much there is to do still!

Camping out my my new place. South of the Mason Dixon Line, July 2, 2011.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Abstract Distraction (and a photo)

After much humming and hawing, I've finally mashed together an abstract for an upcoming paper. I'm never terribly fond of putting together conference abstracts because I don't have the paper written yet (obviously!) and I worry about writing something either too specific and limiting what I'll be able to write about when I write the paper, or writing something so generic that it's useless. Generally, though, I'm presenting after all the work is done, so I have *some* idea of what I'll be talking about.

This time, I'm presenting on the starting end of a project -- what we know, what we don't know, previous work, research questions. It's hard to write a paper (or abstract a paper) when it's not about having the answers, but about the process. Or thinking about the process.

If I don't have the answers, what am I doing? Well, I'm trying to introduce people to the site, and put the impending research into context, geared towards the contexts associated with the session I'm in.

And that right there is the clearest I've been about this thing. I'm going to go re-write my abstract. Again.

This is what abstract writing feels like.
Ausable Chasm, New York, October 2009.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Linky Goodness (and a Photo)

Today's post: a jumble of really good or interesting links, and a photo.

Bitch or Bathmat?
Over at Historiann's is a really wonderful discussion about Gender and Performance in grad school. As ever, H'ann's comments section is worth a careful read. In this particular instance, profs and students give examples of their own experiences as well as deconstruct the issue and offer alternate approaches. I'm reading very closely myself, with grad school seminars looming.

This Season's Fieldwork Brought To You By A Whole Bunch of People
Announced over at Middle Savagery, the Maeander Project, a group of folks doing archaeology in Turkey, are looking to fund some fieldwork using a crowd-sourcing/micro-financing model. I'm very interested in how this pans out, as I've considered a similar approach to funding portions of work at OMGSuperCoolSite. While you're there, and if you can, kick them a couple of bucks. If they don't meet their goal, they don't get any of the money (no one's credit card gets charged unless they meet their $$ goal by the date given).

Skulls on the Internets
For the physical anthropologists: Kristina Killgrove over at Powered by Osteons announces the University of Michigan has digitized their human skull reference collection and made it available online. This is a big deal; usually this kind of data is a pain in the ass to access. Kristina's blog is, IMO, one of the best resources for announcements and analysis of cool and interesting stuff in the world of biological anthropology. Don't believe me? She followed up the internet skulls with the plot to exhume William Shakespeare to see if he was a pothead (nope, don't need to make this stuff up).

The Goal of Your Conference Paper
Academic coach Jo VanEvery frames the conference paper in a way I've not seen explicitly spelled out before. And made me feel better and more focused about an upcoming paper I'll be giving.

Being Constructive
The folks at Daily Writing Tips have posted 10 Tips for Critiquing Other People's Writing. Good to know, and filed for future reference!

Sunrise over Lake George, New York. Fall, 2009.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


OMGSuperCoolSite vicinity. May 29, 2011.

The Board of Directors at OMGSuperCoolSite have approved my proposal to do my dissertation research there! *happydance* I will try not to freak out about logistics for a while, and just enjoy the elation/relief of a yes :)

Having a nosh near OMGSuperCoolSite, May 29, 2011.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Embedded and Implicated :: Responsibility

As archaeologists, we pride ourselves on the long view, but if we train our view only on the past, we neglect our present. And, if we have come to understand that our work is embedded and implicated in social and political context, then we cannot present that such was true only in the past, only during periods of acknowledged colonialism, or only true for earlier generations of archaeologists. It’s true right now.
-- Barbara J. Little*

* Reintegrating Archaeology in the Service of Sustainable Culture, Patty Jo Watson Distinguished Lecture in Archaeology, December 4, 2009, American Anthropological Association annual meetings, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

We're Modern Now, Put On Pants

The Fabulous Historiann had a recent post on The Intellectual Value of Being Wrong, where she argues that conferences should be places of playing with ideas and trying out new things. I agree entirely, though I've not yet had the gumption to do it. I have, however, committed myself to a conference at the dawn of 2012 where I just might, by necessity, if nothing else (I won't have actually done any sub-surface fieldwork by the time I present...).

The post is worth a read, as is, as ever at Historiann's, the comments section. Good, insightful, and crazy-knowledgeable. And funny. I had to share this one from Rustonite; in addition to making me laugh out loud (for realz), Rustonite makes a really good point about periods and timeframes that I think we'd all do well to remember:
I don’t get why there’d be controversy about applying the word lesbian back, any more than there is about periodisations like modern and medieval. Nobody in the middle ages though they were living in the middle (of what?), and it’s not as though somebody came out at new years 1600, ringing a bell and yelling “we’re modern now, put on pants!” Everything we say is a bit anachronistic. It’s important to be aware you’re doing it, but if we tried to write non-anachronistic history we’d find it impossible.
You'll just have to visit Historiann to find out what that lesbian comment is all about!

PS: I highly, highly recommend Judith Bennett's book History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism. I can't recommend it enough; it should be required reading for historians and historical archaeologists.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lightning Update

  • I have a place to live come August. I am grateful to the person who responded to my plea, and went to check out the apartment on my behalf to make sure there were no bugs, dead things, or other reasons I shouldn't take it. Yep, I've not yet seen the inside of my new digs; but the building looks good, and the lease is signed.
  • I'm no longer an adjunct. Feels........ weird. I've described this transition from working archaeologist/adjunct/married person to student/single as "between lives." It totally is. And as much as I'm a fan of writing about liminal places/spaces, living in one over several months is losing it's lustre.
  • Wrangling a conference session seems pretty straightforward. Until critical email to one of your presenters bounces with no forwarding address, one presenter hasn't given an abstract nor responded to pleas for same, and the conference registration software does weird shit. And somewhere in there, I need to find a laptop that's running MS Powerpoint 2007, because I'm using Open Office on my machine, but I need to bring the hardware.
  • Friends rock.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What is history?

I'm in Grading Jail. And I've been procrastinating, so it's off to solitary for me tomorrow...

In the mean time, I ROFLMAO'd to Shit My Students Write. Did you know that "Through out history there have been various events that took place to shape the world in which we live in today"? Srsly!

(h/t More or Less Bunk)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Privilege Bleg

Anyone have suggestions for methods to encourage students to become aware of and engage their various privileges? In this particular case, it's white privilege.

I have tried leading questions, I've tried telling them that more evolution = white = better is just a plain wrong reading... I know you can only lead a horse to water, but suggestions on getting them to drink greatly appreciated.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Article Done!

After literally years of trying to secure image permissions, I finally was able to get an article written and submitted. It's just a short research note, that poses way more questions than it answers... but it's done!

And forms a small part of The Book (for which I was truly wrangling the image permissions)...

A nice relief, and now on to the next thing...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guess the Connections

Am I the only one who plays "Guess the connections" on LinkedIn? When I see a "you may know this person" and it shows the people we have in common in our Networks, I always try to guess who they are. Sometimes I'm right; sometimes I'm surprised. Surely I'm not alone. Right?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Scary To Do List

I think I may have over-committed myself, or at least gotten frighteningly close...
  • Revise article for regional journal, by end of April
  • Write book review for topical newsletter, by mid-April
  • Write short research note for topical newsletter, by mid-April
  • Write article for sub-field journal, no distinct deadline, but needs to be done, as I've been exchanging email with the editor.
  • Wrangle session for annual conference: participants confirmed, aiming for abstract submission for early May (hopefully I shall escape the curse of the 8am Sunday slot...)
  • Write my own abstract for the session.
  • Do research at OMGSuperCoolSite over the summer (June?) so that I have something to present at said conference; paper draft due mid-Novemberish
  • Write paper for regional topical symposium, mid-May
  • Skim notes for paper presentation at regional meeting, late May
  • Oh yeah, The Book....
Hm... it's a lot, but actually not too bad, once I get out of April. I must not say yes to anyone else or find something cool to distract me for a while, though....

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Giving Good Poster

Let me preface this with the fact that I've never presented a poster at a conference. Lots of papers, but no poster. I should probably do something about that... but I find it much easier to write a talk than to prepare a poster. That said, I did prepare an information poster for work that I *really* liked and got good feedback for, so perhaps all is not lost. I -did- spend several years working in graphics-y type jobs, including book layout, copy design, and at newspapers, and I think picked up a few things along the way.

And you know, it's not a bad thing to have to force myself to think about data differently -- i.e. how to present it largely visually as a poster vs. as a narrative. Hmm.

But posters aren't just posters anymore; they're going multimedia!

Bone Girl recently posted about putting QR codes on conference posters. As a poster-maker, you go to a website (here's an example) and tell it what information you want encoded, and it feeds you a QR code that you then put somewhere on your poster. Poster-goers then snap a picture of the code (it looks like a bunch of pixels) with their smart phones and have access to whatever data is linked. It can be a digital version of the poster, poster author contact information, more detailed background, reference list... you name it. It's a great idea, especially for poster-goers who don't have time to read your poster right there and then, or who come by when you're not there, or who are notorious at losing business cards, or for things no-one has thought about yet.

QR codes are cool, and can be put to good use. But please don't forget not everyone has a smart phone, no matter how adamantly the phone companies want you to believe it's true!

I particularly liked the link Bone Girl posted to Better Posters, a whole blog targeted to the academic crowd (by an academic). The blog contains very good general points (no more than 2 fonts, don't use comic-sans, etc.) and lots of nitty gritty (columns, color theory, poster critiques, fonts and more fonts, poster software reviews, etc.). I particularly liked this graphic, from the Poster Venn post:

I disagree that no-one cares about references, though; or contact info. But the rest? Yeah, I see his point (though some funders require you to mention them whenever you present info they paid for).

Another website on creating good posters that leads by example: An Effective Poster
This site is much more of a how-to, from start to finish, than Better Posters. If you need to make a poster fast, I recommend Effective Poster because it will sequentially walk you through the steps. If you have some additional time, or want to improve a poster you've done, or are just interested in the process and considerations, then definitely pop over to Better Posters.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Declarative Voice! Okay?

This rolled through my Facebook feed this afternoon, and I am entranced.

The animation is beautiful, I have a love of fonts, and the poem is really quite wonderful.

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Enemy of Good Work

More reading writing about writing. This is an excerpt from Squadratomagico. The parts about frustration and fear? Yeah... I have no idea what she's talking about...
So, what do I take away from all this? Above all, impatience is the enemy of good work. It leads to frustration and fear, and tempts one away from the creative play and curiosity that are essential to finding an innovative entry into new research. Trying to write this book in what seemed like an easy, obvious way — extending the previous articles, centering it on the most familiar elements — turned out to be a dreadful mistake for me. Instead, allowing myself the breathing room for free reading and open thinking helped more than anything else. A good book cannot be forced into a mold envisioned at the outset; a good topic makes its own demands; and a good historian has the sense to respond to them.
What I also noticed in this post by Squadrato~ and her previous one, "Thence She Came Forth to Rebehold The Stars" is writing makes one a better writer. I mean, Squadrato~ is a great writer, but these last two posts are really quite wonderful. All that hammering and forging and wandering and finding that she's been doing on her book is shining through in her blog. (I'd post a bit from "Thence She Came Forth..." but it's not terribly excerptable! Go read it over there...)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Recent Acquisitions

I've been on a bit of a book-buying spree, even though I've been trying not to. I've been making healthy use of Inter-Library Loan to get access to anthologies that have only one or two chapters I'm interested in. But sometimes... well, sometimes you get a book via ILL, and within 5 minutes of cracking it, you know you have to have it.

Since January, here are a few of the books I've acquired:

  1. Meacham, Sarah Hand (2009) Every Home A Distillery: Alcohol, Gender, and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. I'm very much looking forward to reading this as it addresses several of my research interests. Sarah did a little shameless self-promotion on the H-OIEAHC email list for early American history (where shameless = mentioned she'd written this book). I'm very glad she did!
  2. Kupperman, Karen Ordahl (1995) America in European Consciousness 1493-1750. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. Placing us as The Other; an exercise in perspective.
  3. Stilgoe, John R. (1982) Common Landscape of America, 1580-1845. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut. A way to think about and see the landscape. Prompted by an increasing interest in landscape archaeology and a conference presentation by a colleague that included an anecdote of passers-by insisting that the wooded area they were digging in was "virgin forest." (Hint: not too long ago, it had been an agricultural field).
  4. Archer, Steven N. and Kevin M. Bartoy (2006) Between Dirt and Discussion: Methods, Methodology, and Interpretation in Historical Archaeology. Springer, New York. Looked at it for a chapter or two and ended up getting the whole thing. Some very interesting discussion on methodologies, including regarding the use of GIS, soil chemistry analysis, and identifying earthfast buildings. There's a great chapter on the Harris Matrix by Harris himself, about how we've not quite got it right.
  5. Hicks, Dan and Mary C. Beaudry (2006) The Cambridge Companion to Historical Archaeology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. I'm not generally a fan of buying field-survey anthologies, though I do recognize that they often contain great material. I usually borrow them, read them, and give them back. Yeah, I tried that with this one. I gave it back only after ordering my own copy.
  6. Groover, Mark D. (2008) The Archaeology of North American Farmsteads. University Press of Florida, Gainesville. There's a movement afoot to recognize that Not All Farmsteads Are The Same. Groover grabs the bull by the horns, and shows us -- from the colonial era through the twentieth century. And THEN he outlines a research framework for investigating farmsteads that includes scales of analysis and what sorts of questions can be answered. When two farmsteads -- even ones that date from the same time period and might even be located right next to each other -- can provide different data about the lives of the people who lived there, then both should be investigated (often, one or both will get written off and not subjected to further work, in a "you've seen one nineteenth century farm, you've seen them all" approach). Other people who have had really cogent stuff to say about this are Mary Beaudry and LouAnn Wurst.
  7. Shackel, Paul A. (2009) The Archaeology of American Labor and Working-Class Life. University Press of Florida, Gainesville. I actually can't wait to read this.
  8. Smith, Frederick H. (2008). The Archaeology of Alcohol and Drinking. University Press of Florida, Gainesville. Yes, it's a theme. Shush. It's *research*.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Vivid and Continuous

I'm reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamot. A friend loaned it to me, and I'm enjoying it. I've been a fan of Lamot's Shitty First Drafts since I clapped eyes on it (it's a chapter from this book). This passage re: plot caught my attention; though there aren't what you'd consider traditional plotlines in archaeological reporting, her process of the characters speaking to the author and of the story revealing itself in fits and starts really resonated (substitute data for characters and narrative for story).

And wouldn't it be grand if archaeological writing were vivid and continuous?

Your plot will fall into place as, one day at a time, you listen to your characters carefully, and watch them move around doing and saying things and bumping into each other. You'll see them influence each other's lives, you'll see what they are capable of up and doing, and you'll see them come to various ends. And this process of discovering the story will often take place in fits and starts. Don't worry about it. Keep trying to move your story forward. There will be time later to render it in a smooth and seamless way. John Gardner wrote that the writer is creating a dream into which he or she invites the reader, and that the dream must be vivid and continuous. I tell my students to write this down --that the dream must be vivid and continuous -- because it is so crucial. Outside the classroom, you don't get to sit next to your readers and explain little things you left out, or fill in details that would have made the action more interesting or believable. The material has got to work on its own, and the dream must be vivid and continuous (pp. 56-57).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Profane Mountains, Polite Plains

I love fun maps. Here's one for you:

Profane Mountains, Polite Plains by Daniel Huffman. It maps the frequency of swear words on Twitter, by location. The lighter the color, the more the profanity. The title of the blog post to which it is attached? "No Swearing in Utah".

The comments section is quite wonderful, with a geek-fest of methodology and data presentation questions. Including a discussion of the profanities in question and the use of wildcards to find them. Oh, and there's a bar of soap in there too, for when you talk to your mother with that mouth.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

RBOC Part 2... "Soon" = 1 week

Parking lot, Jacob Riis Park, Gateway National Recreation Area, New York, March 2011. When this parking lot was built in the early 1930s, it was the largest parking lot in the world. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sooooooooo...... yeah. The week got completely away from me, and "Shortly" became a week. Here then is RBOC Part 2:

  • I didn't follow-up on the job search mentioned in Part 1 because of impending grad school. Which I am very excited about. And the more things unfold, the more clear it is that the school I'll be attending is really a fantastic choice.
  • I have to get The Book done. I'm starting to freak out a little, though mashing data from a chapter I've eliminated into a chapter I'm keeping for several hours this week has made me feel better. Now I have to write about what it means. And stop researching, already!
  • There is hope. Squadratomagico recently posted some quite beautiful writing about writing. I think any writer knows That Place. And I rejoice that it is possible to find the way out, and that Squadrao~ has both found the way, and shared.
  • I'm writing a book review. I agreed because I've never written one before, and the book is about something I'm interested in researching once The Book is done, and you know, in my otherwise copious spare time. As I jump in with both feet, thank goodness for Historiann and her mailbag (not, by the way, the first time this week that I've thanked goodness and H'ann herself for her professionalization posts). Advice for book review writing: here and here. I'll definitely be keeping the second in mind as I choose my words.
  • OMGSuperCoolSite may be closer to being a reality for dissertation research (happydance). I really hope this pans out; I'm starting to get terribly invested.
  • Stumbled on this blog through links of links of links of other peoples' blogs. Gorgeous photography, and I really liked her how-to. This particular one on shooting the light. I still aspire to good photography taken on purpose even with my Little Sh!tty Camera. Mostly what I take now are "take lots of shots of things that look cool and see what turns out."
Speaking of, I have been remiss in posting pictures for months now, though I've dutifully been taking them. The last few RBOC will consist of pictures:

The Peterborough Lift Lock (Trent-Severn Waterway Lock 21), built 1904, Peterborough, Ontario, January 2011. This is the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world. Cool for skating in the winter, pretty amazing to watch in action in the summer.

Tangle. Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware, March 2011.

Disposing of an outbuilding, near Dover, Delaware, March 2011. When I called 911, they thanked me for calling, but the farmer was just getting rid of an outbuilding. Archaeological implications: yeah, taking note.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

RBOC, Part 1

There is much going on, but not much time to share it all. I will micro-blog some of it in RBOC, Part 2 shortly... but let me start the list with:

1. Holy shit, I just got recruited for a job opening out of the blue. LinkedIn, I think we may become BFFs.

2. Crow is tasty. I'm eating some after deciding, after much consideration about the specifics of the object, that painting it really is the best option. After proper cleaning and rust conversion, of course.

More to come...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Philosophical Positioning

1. The personal is political. (Source of some debate)

2. The medium is the message (Marshal McLuhan)

3. All history is local (Joseph Amato, possibly others earlier)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Suitable Conservation of Iron

I don't give two craps what you plan to do with the big rusty iron thing you found and want to keep. I don't care if you plan to leave it outside in the snow and ice, Rustoleum paint is not a suitable conservation treatment.

Yes, I understand it doesn't come off. That is, exactly, my point.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Burnt Out.


That is all.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Application Watch: Early Results

Seven applications to PhD programs mailed out. I've heard back from four:

1. The Land Far Far Away: Rejected.
2. South of the Mason-Dixon Line: Unofficial acceptance; waiting for paperworks.
3. Snowstorm City: Accepted.
4. Hippyville: No word.
5. Place With Brutalist Architecture: No word.
6. Unique Program: No word.
7. Hippyville East: Waitlisted.

No. 2 is my super-first-choice, and I'm stoked. But I don't want to say no thanks to Snowstorm City until I have official officiallness from South of the Mason-Dixon Line. I know the department chair doesn't just call and tell you that you've been accepted for shits and giggles. And I know that the sooner I tell Snowstorm City no thanks the better for anyone on their waitlist (and they're being quite aggressive in keeping in touch; not annoyingly so, but persistently so).

But I Just. Can't. Do. It. This is too important, and it hits some "Look! A Good Thing! Watch Now As I Snatch It Away" buttons. So I will wait, possibly irrationally so.

Re: rejection from Far Far Away? I'm ok with that. I just wanted to see if I could get in! Hippyville East: ok with the waitlisting; not the best fit, really.

Update February 28:
5. Place With Brutalist Architecture: Accepted

Update March 4:
2. South of the Mason Dixon Line: Official letter received (yay email and pdf). Heading down late next week for the meet n' greet. *excited*

Update March 8:
4. Hippyville. Rejected. An expected rejection; many good things have come and will continue to come from this application.

6. Unique Program: Accepted.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Drive-by Post (aka RBOC)

1. I remain alive, though it sort of feels like barely. Massive work deadline, waiting on school acceptances, mid-term grading and exam writing, not enough sleeps. Yeah, it's that time of year. I see the end, I just need to not get sick in the mean time.

2. A shredder is a Most Awesome accessory to purging oneself of stuff. Very, very satisfying. I highly recommend it.

3. Oooooooo the Internets!!!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Archaeology in New York City

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has made their library of archaeology reports accessible online. The reports (almost 1,200), available online as .pdfs, are searchable by keyword and borough. It looks like the keyword search hits author, title, and abstract.

It is exciting to have ready access to this otherwise grey literature (research that is done, but not published) -- not just regarding specific archaeological projects in NYC, but also to the incredible and detailed micro-histories of parts of the city that are included in the historic contexts sections. I've done some work in NYC, and the histories of individual properties can be fascinating.

For a really fascinating take on changes in the NYC landscape when the street grid was dropped on it in the early nineteenth century, have a look at geographer Reuben Rose-Redwood's 2002 MA thesis, Rationalizing the Landscape: Superimposing the Grid upon the Island of Manhattan. Manhattan used to be rolling hills; they flattened it for the grid, and didn't pay *any* attention to former property lines or buildings. Amazing.

For some really great archaeological work in NYC, check out the series of reports titled Tales of Five Points: Working Class Life in Nineteenth Century New York. Six volumes of really great stuff, now available for free online thanks to the NYC Landmarks Commission:

Volume 1: A Narrative History and Archeology of Block 160, by Rebecca Yamin (2000).
Volume 2: An Interpretive Approach to Understanding Working-Class Life, by Rebecca Yamin et al. (2002)
Volume 3: Documentary Data, by Rebecca Yamin et al. (2002)
Volume 4 (2 parts): Basic Artifact Inventory Part I, and Part II, by Rebecca Yamin et al. (2002)
Volume 5: Conservation of Materials, by Rebecca Yamin et al. (2000)
Volume 6: The Long and Short, Being a Compendium of 18th and 19th C. Clay Tobacco Pipes from the 5 Points Site, by Rebecca Yamin et al. (2002).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Two Steps Back...

I buckled down yesterday and spent several hours on the Why Wheels At All chapter of The Book. What I ended up doing was ditching everything I'd previously written and starting on a fresh page in a whole new document.

The result? Not as much as I'd hoped (I am always optimistic about what I can actually get done in a given period of time). But, the blank slate seems to have worked. I wasn't overwhelmed by the thought of reworking what I'd already done and trying to make it coherent (a condition that's paralyzed me for extended periods of time in the past), I just started over. And there was flow. It's a shitty first draft, but it's a flowing shitty first draft.

Lots more to write, but for now, I'm off to a Superbowl Party!*

* I am not a fan of The Football. I do, however, very much enjoy hanging with friends.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Writing... and writing... and writing...

A productive day so far in the world of writing, which is fantastic. I'm often easily distracted at home, so it feels good to get in a non-distracted groove.

  • Made some revisions to a report for work and edits in another. Have to remember to email the files back to the office (I *hate* when I forget that part)
  • Finished up edits (almost) for a paper to be sent out for publication in a regional journal. I hate conclusion sections, I really do. So I put that part off until tomorrow, along with manipulating the graphics into the necessary format. They said they wanted it by the end of January. Hey, January 31 is still January! Plus, I was a good girl and formatted that sucker exactly as they required in their guidelines for contributors.
  • Worked on tackling a scholarship application for grad school. It's a leadership-based scholarship program not an academic-based program, so the format is different than what I've been wrangling lately. It is very strange to me (and a little uncomfortable) to be tooting my own horn about myself in contexts that don't have anything to do with archaeology (yes, baggage, thanks). One thing I've been coming to terms with over the last few years is that no one will toot my horn for me, so I'm just going to have to suck it up and do it myself. And I don't have a lot of time to fret about it, the application is due soon (making that deadline work for me!).
One thing I've noticed in all this writing is that I use way, WAY too many commas when I write.* I mean, I knew that, but damn. I could delete every second one out of one of the reports I was working on and you'd hardly notice. Mostly they're in places where, if I was speaking, I'd pause. (See? I just did it right there. And left it in on purpose.) But there were a few commas that really, truly made me wonder what the hell they were doing there. No surprise, I suppose, that I'm a fan of the serial comma.**

* Dear editor friend: You're right, this is not news.
** Especially see the funny bit under "Unresolved Ambiguity" re: Peter Ustinov, Nelson Mandela, a demigod, and errr... personal accessories.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


That there is me squealing. Not like a piggie. Not in fear of a mousie (they don't scare me anyway). But in a jump-up-and-down happy excited way.


Because I just found out, in an unofficial because it isn't in a letter from Admissions way, but from a Very Reliable Source that starting this Fall semester, I will have a new academic home as a PhD student. At my first choice school.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Exposure to sawdust...

... inevitable.

Just saw a job posting online for a dendrochronology [tree-ring dating] tech position at Cornell. Pretty standard stuff... educational requirements, etc. etc. And then, what they're *really* looking for:
"Very detailed visual acuity and concentration required, as is the ability to lift 20 lbs. Limited exposure to chemicals, although bleach is often used to discourage micro-floral growth on wet wood samples. Exposure to sawdust inevitable."

Translation: must have good eyesight, be moderately fit, not have ADHD, not mind the smell of bleach, and not be allergic to sawdust.

Next thing I'll see is an ad for an archaeologist that says "Exposure to dirt inevitable!" A good giggle for a snowy Friday.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Recent Acquisitions

So here are some recent book acquisitions (yes, I know I'm trying to divest myself of stuff and am very careful about what books I acquire because of it). I saw this on another blog, and thought it was a pretty fun idea. Ok, I'm a geek. I get it! Enjoy :)

  1. Seeman, Erik R. (2010) Death in the New World: Cross-Cultural Encounters, 1492-1800. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. This *just* came in the mail today (thank you, Amazon Gift Certificates!). I'm very excited to read it, and the little bit I've skimmed indicates it is really quite readable. Chapters include deathways in the Old World, first contact in the Americas, the Chesapeake, New France, New England, African-American deathways, and the Seven Years' War. It's distantly related to The Book, too; I'll have to be careful not to get all tangential.
  2. Zinn, Howard (2003) A People's History of the United States, 1492-Present. Perennial Classics, New York. I've wanted to read this since I first heard about it, oh, five years ago or so? (Yes, I've been living under a rock). I got it about two weeks ago, and have been reading it. Good stuff; I'm very much enjoying the different view of history, and have actually already incorporated some of it into my work. I only wish there were more complete citations for information and other leads I could chase down. I understand editors often cut those things out for general audience books, but I'm *really* missing them.
  3. Drooker, Penelope Ballard and John P. Hart (2010) Soldiers, Cities, and Landscapes: Papers in Honor of Charles L. Fisher. New York State Museum Bulletin 513, New York State Education Department, Albany, New York. This one is available free online as a .pdf courtesy New York State (click on the title to get there). A quick peek suggests there are a lot of good papers in here, including early military stuff and two chapters on delft tiles in the state. Flipping through, I saw a very neat wolf-head effigy European smoking pipe, which I need to read more about, and I'm very interested in reading the chapter on the Tenant-To-Owner Agrarian Myth (agricultural ladder) in the Adirondacks.
Edit 1/20/11: I should clarify which fields these are from! #1: history, with some archaeology; #2: history; #3: archaeology, mostly historical. I almost applied for PhD studies in history, but I'm pretty hard-wired as an archaeologist.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reflections, Resolutions, and the Big Four Oh

It's my birthday. The big 4-0. I didn't post a New Year round-up/resolutions post because, well, I didn't. So I'm going to do it now, all balled up with my holy-shit-I'm-40 post. I may decide this is too much personal information, at which point I'll take it down. *shrug*

I started this blog as part of an exercise in expressing my voice. There's a backstory, of course, but the upshot was feeling that everyone elses' stuff and voices were more important than my own. That I didn't matter. Sounds bleak, and it sucked. It's not a "poor me" thing; just how it was. Some of it was taught to me by others when I didn't know better, some of it was self-imposed as survival strategies that became less effective over time, and some of it was tied up in low self-esteem issues. I was getting by, and I thought that was enough.

In my 38th year, with my eye on the Impending Forty and catalyzed by a series of events that I have a hard time passing off as merely coincidental, I had a good hard look at my life. And I didn't like it. I wanted more... to be happy, for one. To pursue my interests. To find my voice. I poked my head out of the tiny little existence I'd built for myself, and holy shit, there's a whole amazing world out there!

I made a lot of changes. Left a long term relationship. Got back into reading and researching. Cultivated a social life. Applied for grad school. Piped up and pissed a few people off. Piped up and apparently scared a few people off. Piped up and got misunderstood some. Piped up and made some new friends both in person, via email, and in blog-land. Piped up and met some great people both within my field and in others that share similar research interests (also in person, via email, and in blog-land). Started taking pictures again. Had FUN! Ups and downs -- deaths, divorce negotiations, good days and bad days, neighbors who shovel their snow behind my car, health scares.

Overall, though, life is pretty good. I laid a lot of groundwork over the past couple of years, and things are looking up.

My resolutions for 2011 and my 40th year:
- Speak up
- Speak out
- Do things that scare me
- Get out of my head and into the world

They served me well last year, so I'm dragging them out this year too. Ya gotta do what works, ya know?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's not really about wheels...

I've been hammering away at The Book. I'm happy to say I've made some progress. I'm sad to say it hasn't been in the parts of the book that need it most. That is to say, I've spent a lot of time tweaking parts for which I already have a Shitty First Draft. What I need to be doing is buckling down and writing Shitty First Drafts for the parts that I have notes for but no text.

At least I've been able to reconsider the structure of the thing. There's been enough work on the subject that I no longer need a chapter Inventing The Wheel: Chronology, and I can therefore collapse two chapters into one. Instead, I'll write the chapter, Wheels Are All Round But Not Necessarily The Same Thing: Dating Your Wheels Is More Complex Than It Seems. Or at least jam the discussion somewhere into The Book.

Really, the only chapters I have left are:
  • The Introduction (write this last)
  • Why Wheels At All, Really? (the Bear in the Book. OMG. I have over 100 pages of notes that are freaking me out. I need to just bite the bullet; I suspect they will condense nicely. I don't need to regurgitate everyone's take on Wheels, just summarize and refer. Right? Right.)
  • Wheels Are All Round.... (as I write this post, I'm mentally condensing this chapter into a blurb and incorporating it into a Case Study Introduction section that I didn't know until right this minute I'd be including)
  • Special Wheels: The class of Wheels that won't fit right into my overall organization of Wheels, but which make their own easily identified, tidy little class
  • Case Study: The Necessity of Wheels
  • Case Study: Variations in the Use of Wheels by Religion
  • Case Study: Variations in the Use of Wheels by Ethnicity (possibly too uncritical a use of "ethnicity", but pretty sure this isn't the place to resolve the nature of the concept in historical archaeology)
  • Conclusion: Aren't Wheels Cool? Future Directions in Wheels.
Hmmm. That looks like a lot. I'm confident I can get through the Case Studies pretty easily, as long as I don't think about stuff TOO hard, and go off on TOO many tangents. I need to do the Why Wheels At All chapter. That's my hangup right now.

And I'll get right on it, as soon as I've finished messing around with my Really Early Wheels chapter.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cold. Brrrrr.

Both images Taughannock Falls, Tompkins County, New York January 9, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Applications: Done!

I submitted my last grad school application this evening.


Now... the waiting. Patience is something I'm working on and the next couple of months will be an exercise in it, for sure.

In the mean time, more work on the book, apply for an outside "take it with you" fellowship, and (gods help me) write a book review. Because I volunteered. Because the book looked cool, and I've not written a review for publication before.