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.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The red baton

I guess Baton Rouge is nice. I spent most of my time here so far holed up with a bunch of maps in the Archaeology Division hallway. It's right near the Capitol building and by a bunch of historic stuff. I don't really know much about this area. The building which houses the Archaeology Division (and a bunch of other offices) has a lot of nice art deco touches and some Depression-era murals in it. I am a big fan of both of these things, so maybe tomorrow I'll take a short break and check the murals out. I really don't have much time, unfortunately.
Today: Leave house 5:50, Leave Austin 7am. Arrive 10am, pick up car, drive to maps. Leave at 5:15 and check into hotel. Go to truck stop diner down the road for dinner (ummy red beans and rice with sausage and cornbread. I do miss cajun food) and grab a couple of "baby arms" of Tecate. Watch Kathy Griffin on Bravo. Get on computer and work for another hour. Try to unwind.
Tomorrow: Wake up at 7am. Shower. Eat breakfast and check out of hotel. Drive back to state office building. Hope to have time to drive to wherever the historic structures information is ( I think LSU). Be at airport by 6 to return car and catch plane at 7. Back in Austin at 10:15, meet family at airport. Since travel time is billable, 26 hours on the clock in 2 days. Too bad that's not my sleep schedule!!!!

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Oh Susannah

I spent the first part of this week working on a background review for a 300-mile pipeline in east Texas and Louisiana. This involves getting the project maps and plotting all of the archaeological sites, cemeteries, historic markers, National Register of Historic Places properties and previous archaeological projects within a 1-mile area of the project area. Normally, I would log onto the Texas Historical Sites Atlas (this is a link to the public version) and find the project area and start drawing and clicking. I would also go to the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory and look at hard copies of the maps and also copy any relevant information not available online. After that, you write a short report detailing the results. This was, the client knows of areas that might need to be avoided or will require some investigation.
Of course, a good chunk of this project is in Louisiana. They also have an online cultural resources database but it lacks a lot of the information we need. So next Monday morning I'll be flying to Baton Rouge to spend a couple of days researching in their offices. I'll get back Tuesday evening about 20 minutes after my family's plane lands, which works out pretty well. I'm a little bit nervous because I'm still pretty new at doing full-scale background reviews and our time is kind of limited. I also haven't been back to Louisiana since living there briefly in late '97.

Other than that, spent Wednesday in the field surveying for a roadway expansion outside of Georgetown. They're building a ginormous new high school east of town and they're adding turning lanes for the school traffic. Only thing we found was one beat-up projectile point base, but it was actually kind of sunny and I got a little bit of a tan. I ended up assigned to write the report, which is a first (but don't get too excited, it's all of 5 pages long). It's funny, because there's a pretty standard format that we use for reports, so it's really a lot of cut-and-paste and change the details. Not acceptable academically, but apparently okay for the nuts-and-bolts clearance reports of consulting. I think I did alright, but my boss hasn't had a chance to edit it yet, so I may be sorely mistaken. Another line on my CV, yay!

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Mischief managed

Started the last Harry Potter book about 2:30 on Saturday afternoon. Finished it at 10:45 this evening. I also watched 3 movies and hung out at Eric and Joolie's all night Saturday night (thanks for the bed, guys!), and worked today, so I wasn't reading the whole time. I think I spent a good 12-13 hours reading, though. Now I can left my partial media blackout, since I no longer have to try and avoid spoilers! And I can get back into the Jules Verne book I had just started.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007


So it's 7:35 and I'm too tired to go to Dan's and watch a movie because I just had a killer workout. But I also have a 40% off Half Price Books coupon that's good TODAY ONLY and it's less than 2 miles to the nearest Half Price Books. It should be noted that I also rented 2 movies which I have yet to watch, and that I stink, and that I have a 50% coupon good on Sunday only, and that I really don't have much extra money to spend.
But it's 40% off!!!!
What to do...

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More sound archaeology

It's been slow around here archaeology-wise, although I did get to see a bunch of maps that trace the Old San Antonio road and the Camino Real and some other old Spanish roads across Texas.
However, there was another really interesting story on NPR the other day about new technology to recover old recordings. I posted a while back about a record company specializing in "lost" recordings, and this new story kind of builds on that. Basically, a physicist was listening to NPR a couple of years ago when they did another story about old acetate and cylinder recordings and how they were so rare and fragile that playing them would actually destroy them. So this scientist devised a way to use a camera and a computer to basically photograph the grooves (like a scanner almost) and then use that data to "play" the recording. Nothing actually comes in contact with the original, therefore there's no damage being done. Not only that, but it can actually "smooth" out skips and flawlessly play a record that was broken but put back together. Essentially, this means that one-of-a-kind old recordings can be heard, and are digitized in the process. Naturally, the Library of Congress is already on it to digitize their archives. An interesting anthropological note is another project to play old cylinder recordings of Ishi, which is an interesting story in itself and worth talking to Colleen about when she gets back from Turkey.
One other interesting (to me) aspect of this is the devising and/or borrowing technology to uncover the past. While most people think of archaeologists with a pick, shovel, trowel, brush and screen, we sometimes use some pretty fancy gear. GPS units with sub-meter accuracy to record precise locations of artifacts and features, magnetometer and ground penetrating radar to search for deposits in a non-destructive fashion, some places even do seismic tests on structures. Then there's all the crazy dating methods you can use, mineral sourcing, it goes on and on.
There's so much we can learn about our culture, and our past, from these old recordings. It's really exciting and I really hope they make these available online at low or no cost, for the information and aesthetic value.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Just checking in

It's been a pretty slow week, and I haven't really felt inspired to write about anything in particular as a backup.
I'm kind of sad that Lady Bird Johnson died, because she seemed like a pretty nice lady. If I didn't have an awesome grandma already, I imagine she would've been a pretty cool choice (sort of like Ann Richards being your super cool aunt or some such). As someone who spends a decent amount of time on the side of Texas highways, I definitely appreciate the work Lady Bird did in beautifying the state and the roads. The "Don't Mess With Texas" campaign certainly did a lot to discourage littering, but it might get a little too much credit. On NPR, they suggested that the wildflower program was a major step because it encouraged Texas pride as the Bluebonnet is the state flower, and no one would dare throw trash on Bluebonnets. We all know that it's not 100% effective, but there is a lot of pride in the roadside wildflowers and a lot less trash than there could be. She also apparently was very influential in the development of all the green space along Town Lake in Austin. And then there's the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which is a great place to visit at the right time of year and a real gift to Texas (especially considering that it's almost surrounded by Circle C and other upscale subdivisions at this point).
So RIP Lady Bird. Our accidental patch of Mexican Evening Primrose in the backyard is a small, indirect part of your legacy.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

More from the garden

can you see the caterpillar
Originally uploaded by texasrobo
While inspecting the garden this evening, I suddenly realized that I was not looking at a weird leaf but a very large caterpillar. So naturally I went and got the camera before moving him elsewhere in the back yard. He looks like the Very Hungry Caterpillar (which I called the Hungry Hungry Caterpillar, oops). Our dear President once called that his favorite childhood book, which is funny as he was in his 20s when it was published. My favorite was Corduroy, by the way.
As usual, there's other new garden and related pictures on the Flickr page. Some of the Sweet 100s are starten to ripen, and there's a couple of zucchini growing, plus one that I harvested this evening!
Today I got 154,000 points for "More than a Feeling" on medium on Guitar Hero. I only missed four notes the whole song. I totally feel like a rock star while I'm playing that song.
Back to TxDOT this week.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Evil video games

I borrowed Guitar Hero from Billy and Choo. I played it after getting home at 1:30am on Wednesday, until 3. I played it again last night, from 7:30 till 9. I'm up to the last level, which is really hard and I pretty much hate the songs that I have to play. SRV SUX.
And then there's Neverwinter Nights. Played it on Wednesday for about 5 hours before going to Dan's BBQ. Played it yesterday for 6 hours before Guitar Hero, and then again for another 2 hours after, even though I should have been going to bed. How will I spend my Friday evening? Yep, you guessed it.
The morals of the story: I am a total nerd/slakcer and my wife has NOTHING to worry about leaving me home alone for a few days, except maybe my eyes.
ps: Anyone building an ark yet?
pps: Will no one humor me with a guess about Hari Seldon or Harrison Bergeron? It's probably on Wikipedia, and the odds are 80% that it's actually correct.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Weird spam and a contest of sorts

You'd think that weird spam would be a thing of the past at this point. I've been on the internet for probably 13 years now, before there really was spam. These new random word generators they have going for subject lines sometimes catch me, though. For a while at work, we were getting fractured bible verses with random names thrown in.
Tonight though, tired and with a slight buzz, I logged onto my work email account to "mail" in sick tomorrow and one of the spam subject lines included HARI SELDON.
So, is anyone else here as big a nerd as I am and can comment with the answer to who Hari Seldon is? For a bonus (semi-related) point, my Neverwinter Nights character is named Harrison Bergeron: where did I get that?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bone Examination

Bone Examination
Originally uploaded by texasrobo
This is me at work at SWCA, examining an extremely large bone (identified as a humerus) for cut marks that would indicate butchering. I'm using a giant magnifying glass that has 3x and 6x magnification. By the way, I didn't find any cut marks on this particular bone. Photo taken by Tina.
Not much going on. Yesterday I actually got to do some writing at work, which was pretty exciting. Unfortunately, I didn't quite get everything done in the hours available, but what i did get done was pretty thorough. I spent some time now making it so that hours will be saved further down the line.
Today I examined bones under a magnifying glass all day. Most of the time, I was actually sitting on the floor, because that's where a lot of the bone is. The sand bins weigh between 40-70 pounds (depending on how full of sand they actually are) so I wasn't really feeling the need to move them around. I ended up using a photo flood light for extra illumination (and extra heat!)
BBQ tomorrow! Yay!

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Ripe tomatoes and other backyard stuff

ripe tomatoes
Originally uploaded by texasrobo
Some of the cherry tomatoes are ripening. The one in the middle, near the bottom, will be ready to go tomorrow. This way Tini can enjoy the first taste of our tomatoes before she heads to Vegas. The first fruits of the garden were the hot peppers, which Tini passed on, so the tomato will be her first reward for all of our efforts. None of the other tomato plants have ripened yet. While outside, I also took another picture of Jack the live oak (which was supposed to be better than the first one but really might be worse) and of the new screen door. If you click on the picture to the right, you can see the new photos.
Speaking of photos, Yahoo Photos is closing so all of my old photos on there were transferred to my Flickr photostream. Now there's a bunch of archaeological and other pictures to look at there!

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Lots accomplished

Today my father-in-law helped me (and when I say helped me I mean did almost everything) finally hang the screen door on our screened back porch. So now I just have to patch some of the holes in the screens and we'll be relatively bug-free back there. Tina and I also cleaned the house up really well, especially in a couple of rooms that had been pretty bad. I also mowed the lawn. So yeah, things are looking pretty nice around here.
Dan's photo show last night was quite fun. I was pleased to see that he had sold a number of pictures (and the in-laws bought one, too!). I was quite happy to see an old friend and her hubbie, who I hadn't seen in probably three years. The sad thing is, there's really no good reason except that life just gets busy and neither of us go out very much any more.
Eric and Joolie's new pad is awesome. Lots of space and a really nice deck. The floor was comfy for sleeping on, too! If only someone else lived south...
Think I'll have to take Thursday off so I can enjoy a big ol' July 4th party. Beef, beer and pyrotechnics!
Yeah, that's about it today.

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