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, March 31, 2008


I asked my supervisor today if I might be able to take off a couple of days this week to work on my thesis. He asked our boss, who said that they had a lot of stuff for me to do this week and couldn't spare me. I'll be doing at least one day survey in San Antonio on Wednesday, and probably at least one more on Thursday or Friday. While it's nice to go out in the field and help write reports and such, I must admit I was really hoping to be able to work at home for a couple of full days.
The classical radio station I listen to while writing (KMFA) is having their spring fund drive right now. It's not so bad late at night, as they only mention it once or twice an hour, briefly, and then get back to the music. During the day, they play a lot of shorter pieces and have two hosts chattering back and forth for a few minutes between each song. It's not as bad as the KUT fund drive (which starts Wednesday) but I listen to KMFA because of the long stretches of background music with minimal interruptions. They did almost get me last week, though. First, they talked a couple of times about how a lot of students use it as study music while writing. Then, they played the Theme from Indiana Jones. I do plan on giving some money once I finish (and get my tax return).
Only 2.5 pages this evening, relatively minor in that it was about a specific unique artifact rather than the overarching research questions. Also spent an hour getting the format just right for the finished chapter, which was a pain because of the pictures not wanting to cooperate. The formatting did add a page, though (I had to make my top and bottom margins bigger).
Still not sure I'm going to get all this done on time, but I'm gonna try my damnedest

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

One down, 3 to go?

I just finished one chapter of my draft thesis, complete with tables and photos. I'll probably end up putting a few relevant drawings in a different chapter, since I won't really have good copies of them until next week. I doubt I could actually get away with an archaeology report that did not include any stupid profile and plan map drawings.
I think I'll work on the project and area background chapter next. A lot of that will be citations from other sources that I've already typed in, so I just need to start stringing them together in a coherent and meaningful fashion. I've already got a small part of that started anyway. I've also got a few pieces of the discussion chapter started, although they're not the most important parts.
Not tonight, though. I'm spent, and I can't take off work again tomorrow. I'm hoping to save a few days for when it's absolute crunch time. Like maybe next week.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

No fun

So yeah, some real archaeology (as in something like what you would see on TV) is going on now in San Antonio. Tina is there. I'm not. I'm filing like a mofo at TxDOT again. I thought I might want to be around to take care of some business on campus, but it turns out my prof is out of town this week. Oh well, Kit Kat is happy, and I do get more writing done when I'm at home and Tina is out of town. Unfortunately, I'm far enough behind that I can't justify going to see The Dirtbombs tomorrow. I'm hoping to stay up late tonight and stay home tomorrow so that maybe, just maybe, I'll get enough done to sneak out and rock out. Oh, the places I will go once I finally get this monkey off my back!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Another easy day

Today was more like "real" monitoring, in that I mostly sat around in the truck doing stuff for my thesis, occasionally checking on two different drill crews. I did walk through some swamp first thing in the morning, but my waders actually do a pretty decent job of insulating against cold water. The cold also meant that any snakes would be sluggish. But I didn't see any.
Tina sent me a text around 11:30 saying that she had just almost stepped on a water moccasin, and then 5 minutes later Laura (the other person with her in Baytown right now) almost stepped on another one. Tina's apparently just moved a little, which got her attention and she screamed and ran. Laura's actually drew back its head and opened it's mouth as if to strike. I think we're all about done with swamps for now, even though it's likely to be a long, marshy summer of work.
Speaking of snakes, the snake I saw yesterday was a Broad Banded Water Snake. I don't know if it was a nice snake or not, it was really just lying there and didn't move an inch. So I guess it wasn't mean, anyway, unless you're a frog or mouse or some other prey.
Speaking of snakes and prey, I saw the coolest thing today. I was driving and noticed something reddish flailing around one of the house lots. I slowed down and noticed that it was a hawk. I was digging around trying to find my camera when he flew up a bit and I noticed that it had A SNAKE in it's talons that was still squirming. It flew maybe 50 feet further back from the road and landed, and started trying to kill the snake with its beak. By the time I found the camera, it was gone.
Raptor, snake, water...almost like the Aztec myth regarding the founding of Tenochtitlan!
Tomorrow I get to go back to Austin. I was originally hoping to get everything done today and then leave tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, the person who had the map I needed for the remaining points took today off and did not leave a map for me. So tomorrow I have to get up early, put on field clothes, pack the truck and check out, go to the 7:30 am safety meeting, and go clear 10 drill locations (probably in some overgrown shit too, but I have my fingers crossed), then I can drive home. It's all overtime at this point, so I'm okay with it (except waking up early).
Next week, I might actually get to work on some cool stuff, in a much nicer location!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Another snake

Water Snake
Originally uploaded by texasrobo
I saw another snake today, hanging out in a puddle formed by a tire rut. I was probably two steps away from it when I noticed (the photo is a zoom in). I have no idea what kind of snake it is, just that it's not venomous. I suppose I should look these things up. Maybe I should find a volunteer research associate.
It was not nearly as wet as I expected. I guess the Rosharon area only got around a tenth of an inch of rain. I still wore my waders, which was good because I hit some wet areas, but nothing higher than my ankles.
Nothing to report archaeologically yet. It's probably just as well, as the client would rather not have any more sites and I'd rather not record anther crappy early 20th century trash scatter.
Speaking of, I put some photos up on my Flickr of the cistern and some of the bottles I found at the site in Fort Bend County last time I was out here. There's also pictures of an owl I saw yesterday. Check them out!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Back in Alvin again

Not staying at the Best Western this time, so no HDTV with 100 channels. Decided to stay next door at Comfort Inn, to distribute my hotel points around. From what I've been hearing about the potential work schedule for the rest of the year, hotel points shouldn't be a problem unless we stay in places without the "name" hotels.
Out here by myself (and the drillers), taking care of a bunch of drill holes in a huge subdivision that looks to be suffering heavily from the housing slump. Most of the lots are undeveloped, there's a few empty houses for sale, and even a couple of the occupied homes (which are no more than 20% of the total lots) are for sale. I'm sure there's lots of nice things about Brazoria County, but I can't see buying a home and a couple of acres in an area that has such bad drainage issues. Sure, you can elevate the house, but you'd have to add a good 6-8 inches of fill dirt to a yard to make sure it wasn't a mucky mess most of the time.
Today the severe storms were a major concern, but they seemed to have missed this area. It didn't even start sprinkling until 2, and didn't get really heavy until 4 or so. I never heard any thunder or saw any lightning either. We are in a tornado watch right now, so I suppose some bad stuff can still happen. But mostly, I think I'll just have to deal with another inch or so of rain on the already saturated ground. Thus far, nothing archaeological at all. The highlights have been seeing an owl and the awesome soul and R&B station in Houston (Magic 102.1).
I've heard that I might be out in the field for the better parts of April, May, and June. I'm sure I'll blog about it when I know for sure. Kind of makes getting the thesis read and defended and graduating a little more challenging...

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Not tonight, baby

I just couldn't get cracking on the thesis tonight. I was up until 3am yesterday, and I did a bunch of bibliography and scanning stuff today during slow times at work. I decided to work out instead (I have been really lazy and it showed), drink some herbal tea and read.
Unfortunately, tomorrow starts the SXSW mayhem. I actually have a light schedule planned out for tomorrow, which will leave me time to write tomorrow night. But Thursday through Saturday will likely be washes as far as getting work done, although I may try and read some articles on the bus.
After that, I have somewhere around 3 weeks to get a complete rough draft to my readers so they can edit and prepare for the thesis defense. Sigh...

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Yawn redux

Okay, I definitely accomplished more today, but it is a constant struggle to try and rectify my notes, field forms and drawings, and photos and make a cohesive and thorough excavation narrative out of them. There are so many gaps in the information that I simply can't fill, that aren't crucial but are going to bug me long after this thing is finished.
I want to not care, but this is going to have my name on it and be in the library and probably online. It's going to be on my resume and future employers may want to take a look at it.
In my field notes (and I think in my old LJ) I spend a lot of time near the end of the project upset and frustrated. Trying to make sense of all the information (and lack thereof) brings all that right back, so I'm basically nodding my head when I read a section where I'm venting or on the verge of a breakdown.
Anyway, I know I've learned a lot since then and I can't do anything about what was done but try and explain what I can and hope I can get away with ignoring the rest. I miss digging in Belize, but I'm sure not going to miss writing about it!

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008


I'm actually up late working on the damn thesis. Didn't get a whole lot of words on the page, but it was a start. I had to spend a lot of time cross-referencing my notes with field forms and photos. I also started on the most complicated unit to describe in a lot of ways. Tomorrow I hope to get a lot more actually written.
March is going to be a long, boring, painful, low sleep month for the most part (except the big wedding this Saturday and then the big festival next week).

Oh yeah, still somehow managed not to vote for the winner. I think I know my strategy for the next primary...

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I just got back from the sign-in for the precinct caucus. I knew it would take a while and there'd be a lot of people there, since this is Austin and it's the first time we've mattered in a while on a national level. Still, I've never seen that many people standing around in one place that didn't involve live music or free beer. It was like a practice run for next week (SXSW). I'd say there were 400-500 people there for the Democratic caucus. I didn't even know there were that many Democrats in my neighborhood. Up until the last 3-4 days, all you saw was R-- P--- signs (then again, I was also out of town for most of early voting).
People were, for the most part, pretty patient. I guess we've waited 7 years, we can wait another 90 minutes. I imagine the actual caucusing will start around 9pm. I'd say Obama is getting at least 2/3 of the delegates from my precinct. It was a real mix of young and old, all ethnicities, aging hippies, punks and cool kids, mainstream mommies. Hillary definitely was winning the hottie vote.
All in all, I was glad to be a part of it, since I doubt it will ever happen again. I'm still a little surprised that I actually got involved in one of the major party's political process. Wonder what it feels like to actually vote for a winner?

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