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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spacebeer's meme

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
This is the kind of meme I can be down with, even if it buries my snake picture.
This is a list of the top 106 books tagged "unread" on Librarything.
Here is the plan:
Bold = I've read it for fun
Underline = I read it for school
Italics = I started it but didn't finish
Asterisk = I own it, but haven't read it

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights (I've heard the Kate Bush song a thousand times, does that count?)
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick*
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov*
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged (I think they might have tried to make me read this in school)
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian: a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera (I might have read this, I don't remember)
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula [actually reading right now] (I copied this from Kristy and don't have to change it!)
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver's Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury (Ohhh, it was a struggle to finish too)
Angela’s Ashes: a memoir* (He was a teacher at my high school)
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter*
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake: a novel
Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye (Don't get me started...)
On The Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit*
In Cold Blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Ha, I'm not well read in the classics or in "modern literature", which is funny because I read all the time.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Is to mock a sin?

water moccasin
Originally uploaded by texasrobo
If I told you how close we were to this snake without noticing, and for how long, you'd be freaked out (no more than 15 feet, for at least 5 minutes, and we actually had walked right past it). Tina was wearing snake boots and I had my snake guards on, but this snake was resting after eating something, maybe some eggs. Tina thought it was dead, so I poked at it with my shovel handle, and it didn't move. Then I tossed a piece of bark at it, and it twitched, so we knew it was alive. Then, suddenly, it turned 90 degrees and took off in the other direction. I always think that I could react in time if I noticed a snake coming at me (as opposed to being blindsided like the damn rattler), but that sucker was really fast and I think it would have been a close call.
The main highlights of this job have been shallow shovel tests, long hours (meaning overtime), seeing Tina again, and FRESH BLACKBERRIES! There are blackberry bushes all over the place in our survey areas, and they are big and ripe and delicious. Yesterday, my afternoon snack consisted of a bunch of blackberries. We're thinking about filling a plastic container or two the day before we leave so we can take them back to Austin and make cobbler.
Not finding a lot of time to work on the thesis (although I'm working on it right now while Tina watches some horrific chick flick on HBO) but i should have Chapter 2 finally finished by the end of the week.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

mr. nice guy

So one of my sources (which I'm currently discussing in the work-in-progress) is a master's thesis by someone I don't know, but who is friends with friends of mine at UT. Her work is directly relevant to my thesis, and the excavation actually took place the summer of 2004, after I left Belize for Texas and CRM.
I'm trying to be very nice in my discussion of it, but the thing is...it's not a very good thesis, and I don't really agree with her interpretation of the excavation results. I'm trying to dance around this in the text, because I can fully relate to the time issues she experienced, but I don't think that's the ultimate issue.
I'm not trying to rock any boats with this thesis, because it's honestly not a subject I'm interested in at all, and therefore I have no desire to be pulled into the debates. I also know that there are some pretty big weaknesses in my own work that I can't fix due to data issues.
I just feel like this person had a fixed idea of what they were looking at and interpreted their limited data set to demonstrate that their idea was right. I'm going to have to make a least a passing mention of my problems with the interpretations of the data, because otherwise I'd feel like I was tacitly endorsing it.
And hope it doesn't come back to bite me in the ass.

Oh yeah, almost 2 pages written today during slow times at work, plus the image fixes. Of course, I then waited until almost 10 to get back at it...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

...and one

Yep, met my goal, plus a page, plus I dropped in a figure and cleaned up a little bit of the introduction (which I think still needs just a little more work). Including figures and tables (and not counting 2 full page figures) I'm almost at 45 pages.
I think I might be able to sneak in a little time at work tomorrow to resize those full page images to a suitable dimensions to be added to the formatted document. Probably not time for much else, as the new every-other-week schedule at TxDOT keeps me a lot busier while I'm there.
I'm finding that I have to really really push myself to write while it's light out. I'm not going to totally stop trying (because I can't stay up past 2am every night) but I'm also not going to feel really guilty if I decide to read a magazine for a while instead, or sit with Kit Kat.
My goal for tomorrow is 4 pages. I'll have to tape my shows, but that saves me even more time in the long run. If I hit that goal, I think I'll be pretty close to having Chapter 2 completed!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008


So I haven't been up to working lately. Well, yesterday I did about a page and a half, but considering I took the day off from work (it was a state holiday so TxDOT was empty) that's not really good. I'm up to 11 pages in Chapter 2, which is longer than I thought it would be when I started. When all is said and done, it might be as long as 20. It's an important chapter, as it lays the groundwork for the layout and the analysis of the excavations. It also is important to demonstrate a familiarity with major sources related to my project. On the other hand, there are some things in the chapter that are only peripherally related that might be trimmed out in rewrite.
Had a great day on the party boat Saturday. The weather was perfect, the boat was decent, and there was lots of beer and nice people. Didn't get the tan I was hoping for, but that's the only downside.
I'm setting a 2-page goal for tomorrow.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Productive day

I was finally able to get a day off from work today. I finished my draft report and FedEx'd it off to the client before leaving on Thursday. It took all day to get it wrapped up, which was unfortunate because I was really hoping to only work a couple of hours. It also drained me, and the Screwdriver I had to calm down when I got home went straight to my head. So I didn't really get anything done Thursday night, even though Tina had gone out so I could be alone to write.
Today, however, was a good day. I only slept in until a little after 8, took a shower, ate some breakfast, and got to it. I took breaks to eat lunch, to wash some dishes, and to put away laundry that was left in the dryer overnight and make the bed. By the time Tina got home, a little after 5, I had written about 5 and a half pages! Those are all text, 1.5 spaces with the exception of the numerous single spaced block quotes.
I took a few hours after to hang out with Tina. I drank some beers and we ate dinner and watched the Thursday NBC shows that I taped and The L Word on DVD. I got back to work around 10:30, and finished up the half page. So 6 pages today, a little over 9 pages in Chapter 2 and notes on where to proceed.
Weekend looks full, though. My friend Carolyn called to invite Tina and I on a party boat tomorrow afternoon. Since drinking and sun will be involved, I'd say the odds of me working afterwards are slim. Sunday Tina and I will celebrate our 2-year anniversary a day early, as she's going out of town on Monday (the actual day). Brunch reservations at Chez Zee, then seeing Forgetting Sarah Marshall at the Alamo Drafthouse.
Next week I'm at TxDOT and Tina is out of town (as mentioned above). I'd say the odds are terrific for finishing Chapter 2 and making a lot of headway on Chapter 4. It's not out of the realm of possibility that I actually finish it up next week. The deadline to get all my shit in for spring graduation is May 2, which would be cutting it extremely close, and I'm not getting any sort of hopes up for that.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Beware of HPOs

I've been writing a survey report at work all week. I finished my draft yesterday before leaving work, hoping to make a few quick edits this morning and be done with it. Once I get the final draft approved and ready to be sent to the client, I can take the rest of the week off and grind away at the thesis (which I'm taking a short break from right now). Unfortunately, my boss wanted me to make a few additions.
See, a CRM report is not really for the client but for the regulatory or permitting agency requiring the work. I had failed to give explicit reasons why the sites were not significant and would require no further work. Secondly, this particular work was required by the city of San Antonio Historic Preservation Officer (HPO, pronounced "hippo") who is a historian. There's a tendency among Texas archaeologists (myself included) to downplay or even ignore very minor historic sites. Really, a dozen pieces of chert debitage and scattered burned limestone are equivalent to a dozen clear glass shards and scattered brick fragments, but I guess a lot of people don't think that way because they could probably find the latter assemblage in your average vacant lot.
Anyway, we had encountered a small concrete foundation, a bored-hole well, a small limestone block tank and a huge linear pile of bricks. These were located in an area where two structures were depicted on our topo map (compiled in 1953, updated in the 80s). The only artifacts were some clear glass shards. The bricks had 3 different manufacturer's marks, which can be diagnostic. Unfortunately, while each mark was first registered in the early 20th century, all of the marks continued in use for a very long time (and one might be in use today). So, the brocks could be 60 years old, or 20. I took photos and talked to our historic archaeologist and tried to find as many ways as I could to not call this a site. But my boss figured that the HPO, being a historian, would almost definitely come back with a lot of questions about the non-site. So I had to add some more description and conduct some additional archival research, then convert it all into the proper language to justify why the site was not significant. Honestly, I should have just gone ahead and called it a site to begin with,
Yeah, it was about as fun as it sounds, although I did learn that the PCL library at UT has a lot of older topographic and general maps online.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Procrastinating, again

Can you say that you're taking a break from work when you've done more breaking than working?
I did get to dig on Monday and Tuesday. I didn't find anything noteworthy at all, just some lithic debitage and very small burned limestone pieces. I also forgot my gloves, so I started getting blisters, although they've already hardened into calluses.
Wednesday I finished a survey in a different part of San Antonio, which I started writing about on Thursday and Friday. I'll finish that report on Monday or Tuesday. I'm hoping that maybe, just maybe, they can spare me the rest of the week and I can stay home and write.
Got word on the Oklahoma survey. Starts in mid-May. We'll be working 6 days a week, 10 hour days. That means lots of overtime. It also means I'll be out of town for a month, unless they do some kind of rotation (which I'd rather not do, since I'd really like as much OT and per diem as possible). The client is being super-hardcore about safety, which means I'll need to get a pair of steel-toed boots and some lightweight long sleeve shirts (since getting poison ivy is considered an "incident"). I think we might even have to wear safety glasses in addition to hard hats, safety vests and steel-toed boots.
Other than all that, Tina's best friend Kensey is in town for the weekend and last night was Dan's birthday party. I watched some Japanese women's wrestling earlier this evening. I've written maybe 3 pages the past week.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

No way! Digging?

I actually get to dig tomorrow and Tuesday. They're extending the golf course mitigation in San Antonio and I asked if I could go. I actually visited the site on Thursday, and found a point on the (stripped) surface within 5 minutes. Yep, still got it. I hear that I'll be working in the area where some Paleoindian points were found during the monitoring. That would be the oldest stuff I've worked on (besides the mammoth).
The thesis has not progressed the last few days. I sent a chapter to my main reader and have gotten no response yet. I just sent that chapter and the introduction to my second reader, hoping for some kind of feedback. I'm beginning to lose hope of graduating in the spring, but I'm planning on having my part done.
Looks like I might be spending the better part of two months in Oklahoma soon. More on that when I know better.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Writer's block

So yeah, I think I spent a good 2.5 hours or so in front of my computer, trying to make myself write something, then finding something important to distract myself with (like Google's awesome April Fools Joke, or Ric Flair's farewell speech and tribute), then staring again and trying to make something happen...so I finally gave up. I spent pretty much all day the last two days at work reading site forms and writing background reviews and project overviews, and I just can't spend another 5 hours tonight writing about archaeology, or even caring about archaeology.
Tomorrow I get to walk around in the woods in northwest San Antonio. Then, Thursday and Friday I get to go back to a different part of northwest San Antonio and walk around in woods (and pasture). I might even get to do some metal detecting. I think the fresh air will do me good.
I'm going to go to bed early and read Dracula until I fall asleep, and try this all again tomorrow.

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