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brigdh: (I need things on a grander scale)
I'm doing that old talking meme, but for May! Feel free to ask me something here.

May 1st - what led you to choose archaeology as a career? for [livejournal.com profile] just_ann_now (I am already a day behind on this meme, go me!)

Ha, well, I didn't really choose archaeology so much as I fell into it. When I was applying to colleges, I– like most people, probably– had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I chose archaeology as a major because history had always been my favorite subject in school, and archaeology just seemed like a more hands-on version of it. It has really worked out for me, though.

In the US (and maybe Canada also?), archaeology is generally studied as a branch of anthropology instead of as a branch of history, as it is in most other countries. Whether or not this actually means anything for archaeology itself is up for debate (a lot of people will argue there are fundamental differences in the approach of American archaeology and, say, European archaeology, but in my opinion this is one of those cases where there are more exceptions to the rule than adherents), but as a student, it means you end up taking a lot of anthropology classes. Which was awesome for me, as I turned out to really like them! Anthropology in the US is called "four field"; that refers to archaeology (obvs), cultural anthropology (what most people think of when you say "anthropology": the study of cultures and people), biological anthropology (the study of the human body and genetic diversity, human evolution, and primates), and linguistics. I love all of these topics, but archaeology appeals the most to me, as it combines the study of people (who are endlessly fascinating) with those people being dead and gone, so it's not as simple as just asking someone "what are you doing?" (which cultural anthropology occasionally gives me the sense of, unfortunately).

Archaeology also has allowed me to do a lot of traveling, which I love. It's a different sort of traveling than being a tourist; the shortest time I've spent anywhere for an excavation is six weeks, and it's often been much longer than that. (This isn't true of all sorts of archaeology, but it is of the academic sort I've done.) Spending six weeks somewhere gives you time to settle into a routine, to shop for groceries and deal with annoying wifi or phone access, to make friends, to be bored, to write and receive letters, to be recognized. It's a much different experience than being somewhere for only a few days or a week, and I've been very lucky to be able to do it in many different places.

Once I started grad school, I also started to teach and, luckily, it also turned out I really love to do that. I think archaeology is a great subject to teach; it interests a wide variety of people (Indiana Jones! Pyramids and UFOs! Mummies!) but also is really relevant to modern life, and addresses some of the big questions that are fun to speculate on, even if you're not a first-year philosophy student: where does our food come from? How do cities work? Does technology influence society, or does society influence technology? Where did status- gender, race, class, etc- come from and how is it enforced? Where do you draw the line between human and prehuman, and what is the most important difference? Granted, I've always taught Introduction to Archaeology, where you get to touch on lots of time periods and areas; if I was teaching something more specific I'd have to cover less.

But it's all been a lot of luck! When I was 17 I would have said I didn't want to be a teacher, for instance, and didn't have any particular interest in spending time in India. I'm glad I have, though.
brigdh: (archaeology)
So, once again, I'm back! This time after a much briefer LJ break. I temporarily returned to the small village of my archaeological site to do some work, but while I had expected to be there for only one, maybe two, nights, it turned into a week-long trip.

The site I worked on this year is quite large- the largest site for its time period in the country- so the work we were doing was less actual excavation and more preparation for a long-term, multi-year project. One of the things we wanted to do was have geologists come to gather data and do some analyses of the area; that's all well and good, but the team of geologists we arranged this with had trouble with the dates when we were available, we had trouble with their dates, and the whole thing kept getting pushed back later and later until everyone else had finished work on the site for the year. Finally last week, the geologists were able to arrive, and so I and a few other of the archaeologists headed back to the site with them; we planned to only point out a few things we wanted done, and had assumed we could then head straight back to Delhi. This turned out not to be the case. The geologists had never worked on an archaeological site before, and didn't quite understand the sort of things we were looking for; also, despite being Indian, they apparently had never spent much time in a small village before, and were disgruntled with every aspect of it: there are too many flies! electricity is not available 24/7! the only way to get hot water is to light a fire and boil it! the tap water is salty and tastes weird*! Etc.

Additionally, the team of geologists- which was only four people large!- had a serious 'too many cooks in the kitchen' problem. They could bicker over anything. They once spent half an hour arguing over whether a direction was North-North East or merely North East, a debate that brought in the location of the sun and two different compasses, one of which was broken and the other of which was a digital compass that no one seemed to know how to work. All this despite that the fact that it didn't really matter what the direction was, since the only reason they wanted to know was to help remember which location was which. Another debate spent nearly as long on whether or not my handheld GPS (which I was using to mark where their work was, so we could add it to our map of the site later- another reason why it didn't matter if it was NNE or NE) could tell temperature. It does not, but apparently I am not an authority on my own GPS, and this debate would not be settled until they themselves had each taking a turn poking at it and trying out all the various functions.

So, it was irritating and hot and mosquito-filled, but it was nice to be back in the village, nonetheless. The end of April is wheat-harvesting time in rural Haryana, it seems, and I got to see various methods, from hand-held sickles to large tractor-combines.

Do you know the scene at the end of 'Charlotte's Web', where she has babies and then they all fly away on little strings of cobweb? Apparently this also occurs in Haryana in late April. The air was full of flying baby spiders: it was not unusual to get one in your face; to look down and notice three or four of them on you at once; to take off your hat and notice one making a web between the brim and the top. Luckily, they were incredibly tiny, and so my normal screaming terror at spiders did not engage.

We finally left to come back to Delhi on Thursday. Normally, I and the other archaeologists leave early in the morning and take the bus, as it's an annoying trip involving two or three bus changes and about five hours, though the worst part is getting through the Delhi traffic, an ordeal that gets considerably worse the closer one gets to rush hour. This involved a lot of debate, of course. Why not hire a car instead? Why not leave later? Why not wait a couple more hours? Why not leave after lunch, in fact?

We managed to compromise by leaving around noon, and- after a random stop in a random small town to buy souvenir jalebis, because I guess Delhi doesn't have sweets- we were finally on the way, and even making good time. Until the combination of a rainstorm, a driver going too fast, another driver going the wrong way on the highway, and brakes that hydroplaned created a car accident. I've never been in a real accident before, but this wasn't bad, as they go: the car didn't flip or spin or anything, and it was still drivable afterwards, if missing its headlights. Unfortunately, one of the other archaeologists got thrown into a metal bar running across the back of the seats, striking his arm. Despite the fact that the geologists were more interested in arguing with the driver and the other car over whose fault the accident was, I eventually managed to convince them to leave for a hospital now, as the injured party had gone into shock (thankfully, he got over it pretty quickly) and had a potentially broken arm. Of course, we were in the middle of nowhere, and no one was local, meaning no one knew where a nearby hospital was. We decided to head for a specific hospital in Delhi that the injured party had insurance at. This seemed like a good plan, until our driver refused to enter the city limits (Delhi is a 'National Capital Territory' and thus entering it was the equivalent of crossing state lines from where the accident had happened), requiring us to find a new driver and car on the road, and transfer the now not-in-shock man from one to the other. All in all, it took about three hours from the time of the accident until we reached the hospital. I herded away the geologists to where they were staying, and somehow managed to not yell at anyone, despite the many arguments about how to get around Delhi (note: none of them was from Delhi or had spent any significant time there), and how one guy's foot hurt (though considering he didn't want my Tylenol, I'm thinking he could have waited on the complaining until no one was in the hospital).

It all worked out in the end, as the arm turned out, luckily, to be not broken, though my friend is now on pain-killers and anti-inflammatories for a few days more, and there may be some tendon damage. Now I am enjoying the decadence of internet, hot water showers, and AC once again.

As an extra note, it turns out that X-rays in India cost the equivalent of $8, making the American medical establishment look even more corrupt and money-hungry than they already did.

* My compliant about the tap water would be that it contains hepatitis, among other things, but whenever I say that they assume I'm being a delicate flower of a foreigner, even though I know people who have gotten hepatitis from this exact tap water, I am not counting on random beliefs about 'Delhi belly', but whatever.
brigdh: (archaeology)
This summer, I'm teaching the 'Introduction to Archaeology' course at my university. I am super excited! I've TA'd this class four times (TA'ing in the sense of actually lecturing, not just being a grader), so I'm excessively familiar with it, but this is the first time I've gotten to be completely in charge: picking out the textbook, deciding what topics to cover, writing the syllabus, everything! I LOVE IT.

However, the actual process of writing a syllabus has made me realize what an enormously broad topic "Introduction to Archaeology" is. It's basically four courses in one: 1) the entirety of human history, including pre-human ancestors (quite a broad topic by itself); 2) how to do archaeology (field techniques, dating methods, etc); 3) archaeological theories that can be used in interpretation (gender, Marxism, structuralism, environmental archaeology, etc); 4) the history of archaeology as a subject, including modern consequences of archaeology (topics like NAGPRA, for example). That is way too much for 24 sessions, especially once you subtract sessions for the midterm, final, and introduction. Thankfully, having TA'd this course with four different professors, I know that we're allowed to basically pick whatever we think is the most interesting and focus on that. But sometimes decisions are really hard to make! Which is why I come to you, o LJ. For reference, most of the students who take this course tend not to be archaeology majors, but come from all departments- music, acting, biology, math, law, pre-med- you name it, I've had a student in it. In addition, they're letting some pre-college (i.e., high school) students sign up for the summer semesters.

[Poll #1740795]

Also, yes, I know the problems with the term 'civilization', but LJ polls do not allow enough characters to get into the whole thing about urbanization vs increased political complexity vs population increase vs writing as information storage vs the possibility of heterarchy as deliberate resistance to hierarchy, ETC ETC ETC, so basically I just mean the 'big name' cultures people think of when they think of archaeology.


Nov. 24th, 2010 02:24 pm
brigdh: (a woman who cheats at tarot)
1. I have been traveling a lot the last few days, and so have not been checking my work/school email (which is a separate account from my fandom/friends email). Also, I have not been checking it because, you know, avoidance. But now I have finally done so and there are two hundred emails to read and deal with, ARGH.

2. Yuletide assignments! Yay! Mine is good; it will be easy to come up with something, at least, though I think I might have trouble coming up with something particularly inspired. I'm still waiting for my assignment to post a Dear Santa letter, though, so maybe I will have more thoughts after I read that.

3. National Geographic Photography Contest 2010. Some of these pictures are amazing; I particularly like the one of lightening striking the Statue of Liberty.

4. This blog, which collects images from Google Maps Street View, is completely fascinating. There's everything from cars accidents to crimes in progress to people posing.

5. What the Bible Got Wrong: awesome infographic of contradictions in the Bible.

6. Did you know Swordspoint fandom now has a high school AU story? I LOVE CHEESY HIGH SCHOOL AUS. Riverside High by Snow. LOOOOOVE.


Aug. 31st, 2010 10:49 am
brigdh: (angry frog)
Tomorrow I'm starting my comprehensive exams (aka prelims, quals, orals, etc)! I'm nervous. The way my university does it, you pick three professors. Each professor will give you one question; I'll get them tomorrow at 9am. Then I have ten days to write ten pages for each of the questions. It's just graded pass/fail, but essentially you cannot fail without having to leave grad school. Thus, the nervousness. Also, I unlikely to be on LJ much for the next ten days! At least I hope so, since if otherwise, I clearly will not be doing well.

Wish me luck! Or, if you have done such a thing yourself, give me tips to keep from going crazy.
brigdh: (look how I got you bitches rockin' to it)
Jungle Favour Go With Thee by SullenSiren. A Jungle Book story, from Yuletide. This is so sad and beautiful and awesome. It's about Mowgli's life after he leaves the jungle.

Gods Are Not Infallible by Trascendenza. A Yuletide fic for True Blood, focusing on Godric. I love backstories!

To Turn A Life Around by lunabee34. Yet another Yuletide fic, this one for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: the backstory of Moist. This is terribly sweet.

Good After-Morning! OMG. This blog is hilarious. The travails of normal dude with a crazy boss. It is addicting and fantastic.

Indian Jones checks his mail and discovers that his bid for tenure has been denied. From McSweeney's.

[livejournal.com profile] halfamoon: a female-centered fic/icon/image/etc-athon, running until February 14th.


Dec. 7th, 2009 06:59 pm
brigdh: (highmaintenance bloodthirsty old as dirt)
1. I have such a bad cold! WINTER WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME. But at least it is not pig flu!

2. I have a paper due tomorrow (probably. It is unclear. Other things which are unclear: how long the paper should be, what the paper should be about. The professor is sorta flaky). I should be writing that. But I am not. See point 1.


4. I am totally addicted to the Plants vs. Zombies video game. It even comes with a music video! Zombies should not be this cute.

5. so much to do drowning ahhhh.

6. Now I am eating chocolate-chip-banana-bread and it is awesome.

7. Oh and also people got me snowflakes and that is awesome! I want to send some to people but I can't figure out how. Was it a temporary thing that I missed?
brigdh: (school)
BLARGH I have three major projects due at the beginning of next week, one of which is proving particularly difficult to research, another of which keeps changing its requirements (note to all teachers: it is way uncool to keep messing with assignments four days before they are due. It does not help me to keep getting emails that say "don't read that, read this instead!" when I have already read the first thing). At least the last one is relatively not too difficulty? (I say now, hoping some major impediment does not reveal itself before Tuesday).

Basically I think I hate everything this semester? That seems likely, yes. Maybe I will run away and join the circus. I COULD TOTALLY LEARN HOW TO JUGGLE YOU GUYS.


Oct. 28th, 2009 09:48 pm
brigdh: (bite me)
1. I have finally, finally finished The Mists of Avalon. I was beginning to think that might never happen. I thought perhaps the end of the book would keep receding, always and forever, and all my life I would only ever read about Morgaine being emo and Guinevere whining. But now I am free again, free! I cannot emphasize this enough.

2. It is Halloween-week! Or Halloweek, as friend christened it. I am thus attempting to wear related clothes all week: Monday was the skeleton t-shirt, Tuesday the shirt that says "Boo", today was layers of orange and black. I have two more days, but I may be running low on Halloween-themed clothes. I used to have a Dracula t-shirt, but I seem to have lost that...

3. I had a meeting with one of my professors today, about a paper due next week! She decided that the topic I had chosen, which we had talked about multiple times and which I had already done the majority of the research for, you know, she just doesn't feel like it's a very good idea, so why don't I do this other topic instead? SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH. DUE. NEXT WEEK. TALKED. MULTIPLE TIMES. But why do I seem upset?

4. My favorite coffee shop now has ginger cookies, and they are amazing: huge and soft and ginger-er than gingerbread, plus with something dark like molasses, and all covered in sparkly sugar. I love them so much. Also, I have chocolate-covered candied ginger. Basically, I'm saying, ginger: NOM NOM NOM.
brigdh: (I'm a grad student)
Downsides of TA'ing a class not in your field, and then using every single class period to read LJ rather than, you know, pay attention or anything silly like that:

oh my god I am grading these midterms and I have no idea what the answers are and google is not helping and I keep googling and googling but I cannot find the right search terms to answer the question and these tests have to be done tomorrow morning and I don't even know what astronomical forcing iiiiiiiiiisssss!!!!


Sep. 9th, 2009 12:04 pm
brigdh: (I'm a grad student)
School started yesterday! I am so not prepared. Still, here are the courses I'm taking for this, my very last (at least of coursework), semester:

Descriptions Here )
brigdh: (the memory of a million vanished stars)
So, originally I was supposed to be back home by now. However, there's been a little change of plans. A few weeks ago, we heard that a construction company was planning on building a resort on a beach near Muscat; unfortunately, this beach had multiple archaeological sites on it. In Oman, as in many countries, major construction projects are required by law to investigate and document archaeological sites before they are destroyed in the process of building. There was a slight scandal around this project, as the company may or may not have attempted to get out of this requirement; whether or not they are actually guilty of doing so, the onus was on them to prove their good faith by doing an unusually good job of it. These types of projects are usually done by contract firm archaeologists, but because of the circumstances, the company hired us, an academic team. And now I'll be in Oman for another couple of weeks, until early April. The benefit is that we're being paid to do this- and quite a lot of money, especially compared to my regular grad student stipend. They're also putting us up in a hotel, which is pretty neat, but the really cool part is that we're working literally right on an absolutely gorgeous beach. You can see why someone would want to build a resort there.

Photos beneath the cut )
brigdh: (angry frog)
Continuing in the vein of people at school who are bizarre and/or suck:

Racheline has said I should make a website called Hitch A Mammoth To A Plow (from a terrible answer I got on a test one time), which would be a place for teachers of all sorts to post horrible stories about their students. This is a story I would post there. I TA for an Introduction to Archaeology course which has weekly labs that allow the students to do hands-on activities, often with actual artifacts, about more technical things than the lectures usually cover. Last week's lab was on lithics (stone tools): the basics of how they are made, what is the terminology used to describe them and work with them, and so on. Yesterday's lab was on North American Lithics; picking up a lot of things from the previous week's, but applying it to a specific tool set and asking more complicated questions.

As soon as the lab started, a girl (who I might say, does not often deign to come to lab) called me over. She was working on a section of the lab that asked you to compare two different styles of arrowheads through intense description of several of their aspects. One of which was "knapping technology", and that was what had confused her. "How it was made," I explained.

"But there are no choices to circle," she said. Not that we have ever done a lab where you simply had to circle one choice out of a list.

"No," I said. "We want you to write your own answer. Look at the lithics, see if they have a lot of flakes or a few, are the flakes big or small, and so on."

"What's a flake?" she asked.

I paused. "Did you come to lab last week?" She had not. "Well, a flake is the mark left when you chip a piece of stone off, as you shape it into the tool you want."

"But that's just an observation. That doesn't tell you how they made it."

"Yes, it does," I said. "Because the flakes are left in the process of making it. So looking at them tells you what the maker did."

"No," she said. "It's just observation. It's just what the tool looks like."

"Look. If you were describing, say, a sheet, and you said it was 200-count. That's an observation, but it also tells you how it was made, that they used 200 threads, and a loom that would handle that."

"No, 200-count is just a description of its quality. It's not a technique."

"It's high-quality because it's hard to make," I said. "They used 200 threads and not less than that during the process of making it."

"No," she still protested. "They're not the same things."

"Okay, think about cooking. If you had a chicken, and you observed that it was roasted, that tells you how it was cooked."

She thought about that for a moment. "Okay, I'll give you that one."

"Uh, thanks," I said. Because clearly, what teachers really want you to do is argue endlessly with them over semantics.
brigdh: (school)
There is a professor at my university who is mildly insane. Let's call him Professor B.

I did not actually know Professor B was a professor until I'd been here for nearly a year. Oh, sure, I saw him around now and then- in a wrinkly, faded hawaiian shirt and straw hat, or sometimes with a bizarrely 50-esqe dark green velvet suit. His hair was always done in the Einstein style: white and flaring around his head as though he'd just woken up. I most often saw him in the office on the first floor, having strange, rambling conversations with the secretaries, who seemed to be trying not to laugh. I figured, hey, clearly he was some homeless person who had wandered into the building because we, unlike most of the buildings in the neighborhood, don't have guards on the doors, but people seem to know him and he seems harmless, so no big deal. I was not alone in my impression, since a friend of mine spent several months thinking he was the senile spouse of someone or other, who came in when he was lonely.

But Professor B is, in fact, a professor. This realization provides my friends with a great deal of amusement (the reviews on ratemyprofessor.com are a particular joy). But I have one particular story about Professor B to share now: a few days ago, a friend and I were on the elevator when Professor B stepped on. We immediately glanced at each other and tried to hide grins, as most stories about Professor B start with being trapped on an elevator with him.

Also, he was singing Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah. Loudly.

He stopped as the doors closed, but then noticed that my friend was holding a muffin, since we were on our way back from the coffee shop. Professor B leaned over to look at the muffin, which had chocolate chips on top of it. But when I say leaned over, I mean he tilted to the point where his face was less than 5 inches from the muffin itself, which my friend was holding- as you do- slightly below waist level. In other words, Professor B basically shoved his face into this guy's groin.

"What is that?" Professor B asked in tones of great disgust.

"Chocolate chips," my friend said.

"BLAH!" Professor B exclaimed, making a face that involved eyes scrunched, mouth wide open, and tongue sprawling. Then the elevator stopped at his floor, and he quite calmly departed. I held my breath until the doors had closed again, and then we burst out laughing.


May. 13th, 2008 10:17 am
brigdh: (school)
So, right! Details about this whole thing. I'm leaving for Syria, uh, tomorrow. I'll be there for nine weeks, working on the Umm el-Marra project. It's a Bronze Age city with an elite cemetery, which is most of what we'll be working on this summer. It's in the north-east of the country, sort of between Aleppo and the Turkish border, though I'm flying in to Damascus (doesn't that sound exciting?)

I'll be back on July 25th, and so am unlikely to respond to comments or emails until then (since, alas, once again I won't have regular internet access).
brigdh: (school)

In other news, today was the last day of one of my classes, and therefore everyone was giving presentations covering their projects. One girl, describing the Stone Age Venus figurines (things like the Venus of Willendorf), mentioned a couple possible theories for their purpose, including "Paleolithic erotica". And then she went on to describe her project.

But before the next speaker started, while we were waiting for the next presentation to load, one of my friends muttered, "Paleolithic erotica."

So I said, "Oh, baby." As you do.

She said, "Are you talking about the theory that they're giving birth?"

"No," I explained. "I am singing to the figurines." And I did. "Oh, baby, baby. You get me hot."

"Paleolithic boybands!"

I had to add to that. "New Kids on the Ice. With their hit single: Oh, baby, your pendulous breasts are so fine / I think about them when I am hunting reindeer."

And then I realized everyone was laughing at me, including the professor, and so I had to stop.

brigdh: (I am hopeless. Yay!)


...well, it's okay. He's not going to google Brigdh, right? Right?
brigdh: (archaeology)
Hey, so, like, school started two weeks ago! I guess I should post about my classes, huh? In my defense, I was SICK last weekend. Like, dying. I could not even live journal.

Classes )
brigdh: (school)
1. How do you not know the name of your own species?! We said again and again and again that only modern humans ever lived in the Americas, so if I have to read one more essay about the migration of Homo erectus into Canada, I will hunt these people down and kill them in their sleep. Yes.

2. Mexico is not in South America. No, really. I don't care how many people write this down, it is still not true.

3. Similarly, New Zealand is not and has never been part of Australia.

4. Jesus Christ, people, mammoths have nothing to do with the beginnings of farming. Where did you even get this theory from?

5. No, Australia was not first inhabited "just before WWII".

6. WTF.

ETA: 7. The end of the Ice Age != end of the world.
brigdh: (archaeology)
So! I am apparently going to Syria this summer.

I feel strange, if just because last year it took so long to figure out where I'd be doing field work, and it's still so early in this year. But! This is pretty exciting.


brigdh: (Default)

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