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.