Where in the hell am I?

Stories from the road, and home, by a contract archaeologist.

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Location: Texas, United States

I work out of town a lot as a contract archaeologist. Sometimes it's interesting. It can be quite funny, although probably only to other archys. Home is Austin, with my wife and our cute kitty and all of our crazy friends.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hooray for nice days!

When I went outside to the breakfast area this morning, there was frost on the vehicles. I think it was 27 degrees. When we hit the site, the ground was hard and there was frost on the screens. But that's okay, because the cold was a result of the sky finally clearing up! The first 3 days of the dig were pretty miserable, grey and wet and kind of cold. I imagine it's what archaeology would be like in London, without all the Roman stuff. Anyway, the sun warmed things up pretty quick, such that most of us ended up taking off jackets, long sleeve shirts and long johns and digging in a t-shirt like it was August. We also moved a lot of dirt today.
I found a bird bone bead on Tuesday, in the backdirt from the backhoe. It's maybe the neatest, most unique thing I've found while working in Texas. Second place is probably the shell tool I found while monitoring the light pole installations in Corpus Christi. (Note: these are not photos of my finds, but similar artifacts)
Sometime this weekend, I'll talk about some cool stuff I learned about from our geomorphologist. In the meantime, if you haven't checked out the previously posted link to the McKinney Roughs site, take a few minutes. It's become a hot, controversial topic in the Texas archaeology community, from what I've heard.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Website for an old excavation

So, back in the blazing hot summer of 2004, I (along with Tini and Colleen and some others) worked on an excavation in McKinney Roughs Park, outside of Bastrop. If you drive east from Austin on SH 71, the site is now under a parking lot at the new Lost Pines Hyatt Resort. The report was recently published, and won an Award of Merit from the Texas Historical Commission. We also helped to develop a website (somewhat interactive) detailing the site and the work.
McKinney Roughs Website

It's pretty interesting, even if you're not an archaeo nerd (or someone who worked on the dig). You can also see me in a couple of the pictures, wearing a green and yellow baseball hat. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

OMG, sunlight!

After a week or so of rain, sleet, snow and general overcastness, the sun is out today. All the wintry stuff started thawing on Wednesday, and Thursday it was in the 40s, so all the ice was gone. There was about an inch thick sheet of ice on top of my mailbox post. Taking the ice off the cars was actually pretty fun, since we tried to see who could pull the biggest single piece off.
For more on Ice Storm '07, see my last post, or even better, Joolie's illustrated guide
Jack pulled through with only minimum impact. He lost some leaves, and instead of leaning to the east (from wind gusts) he now leans to the south (from the ice weight stress on his trunk). The folks at Natural Gardener told us we wouldn't need to get supports for him, so I'm still holding off. Tough love!
Tomorrow, we head out to Junction. TxDOT has a new per diem policy. Rather than just giving us $36 a day to do with as we will, we now have to turn in itemized receipts for our meals/food. In theory, we're still getting the same amount of money. In reality, I ussed to be able to save a good $20 a day from my per diem. Now, if I don't figure out how to spend $36 a day on food, I'm losing money. Even worse, they won't reimburse for tips, so if I go out for a nice $20 dinner (no alcoholic beverages, either), the $4 tip comes out of my pocket.
The worst part of all is that Junction isn't exactly a thriving metropolis or cuisine destination. They have a barbeque place which isn't very good (but it is overpriced, which works for the new rules). They have a decent Mexican place, from what I've heard. I think they have a diner. Of course, they have a Dairy Queen, and there's a Sonic and a gas-station Subway. As you can see, spending $36 a day on food isn't going to be easy, or good for my stomach and GI tract. The grocery store is a Super S, which is like a little bitty Fiesta. Fortunately, Kerrville is about 40 minutes away, and they have a couple of really good restaurants, and a big HEB (actually, it's the original HEB). So we'll be putting some miles on the rentals.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ice Storm '07

One of the local stations has been using that tagline for their broadcasts. Not to belittle what has been going on, but that sounds a lot more serious than it really has been. I have to give the city and TxDOT props for taking a lot of preventative action.
The funniest thing to me is that this winter storm ruined the big inaugural parade and festivities for ol' Rick Perry. Seems like hell would sooner freeze over than let Rick have a party.
On the work front, this storm has screwed us up pretty badly. Originally, a crew was to head out to Junction today to work a 9-day to finish up some stuff on the site there, before construction is scheduled to start at the end of the month. As of right now, we won't be going out until next Monday, because there's a couple of inches of snow on the ground and all the backhoes in the area are doing emergency road cleanup duty. There's also the question of whether we'll get paid weather days for missing yesterday (and the first half of today) or whether we're going to have to use some of our sick time.
My big concern at home is our Live Oak sapling, Jack, which was a wedding and housewarming present from Colleen and r1b. The freezing rain and ice have been weighing down the leaves and branches. I had him propped up with a board, but last night's ice was too much, and when we woke up this morning Jack was bent so badly that his top was touching the ground. So I jerry-rigged a way to keep him upright and we have our fingers crossed that the thaw will do the rest. He lost a lot of leaves, though, and that's a lot of stress on a young tree.
Here's a picture of the setup (click to enlarge):

This is some icicles inside our screened porch, in an area where the roof leaks:

And the front of our house, taken yesterday. These are much bigger now:

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Squawteat Peak

By request, I totally forgot.