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December 31, 2005

Tampa Blogging

I'm starting to discover the world of Tampa blogging and it's a pretty happening scene. TampaBLAB is a website that aggregates blogs in the greater Tampa Bay area (sort of a meta-blog) and I've submitted Nomadic Thoughts to be added to the list. Sticks of Fire is a group effort that seems to be an interesting read. I also stumbled across Tampa Taxi Shots, where "a Tampa Bay cab driver attempts to get thru life in this wonderful place we live in while trying to learn the art of digital photography." Funny how the only aspect of Tampa that I really like (besides USF) is online.

Posted by Will at 02:57 PM | Comments (2)

ID in Florida

I've found a new story to follow closely: Gov. Jeb Bush's handling of the evolution/ID debate in Florida. Several days ago he backed away from making any sort of recognizable comments, but the Orlando Sentinel reports today that he released the following clear-as-day statement:

"Perhaps more importantly, we should encourage the vigorous discussion of varying viewpoints in our classrooms. A healthy debate of issues challenges our students' minds."

It's all about the kids, after all. Gov. Bush released a statement yesterday because "some confusion about my position on this issue has emerged in recent weeks." As you can see (and read the whole release for any context I may have left out) he really cleared it up for us. I'm not the only one who feels this way:

"We shouldn't have to divine what he's saying," said Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach. "Really, there's no reason to be vague. Do you think it should be in science classes or not?"

The most frustrating aspect of the push to teach ID alongside evolution is that everyone but the creationists and evolutionists are afraid to open their mouths about the topic. This includes politicians who know that most of the country doesn't even know how evolution and natural selection operates. Furthermore, most of this constituency will turn right around and demand honesty and sound judgmentfrom their leaders.

Posted by Will at 12:39 PM

Thoughts on the New Year

A couple of years ago I decided that I would never make New Years resolutions, the reason being that if you make such hefty promises you only set yourself up for failure. Besides, how many people do you know that on New Years Eve has said "Woo, I kept that resolution for an entire year! Im glad that's over!?" I would imagine not too many. Instead, in the final days of 2005 I like to think on the past year and look ahead to what 2006 is going to toss my way.

As a professional student, I usually think in terms of academic years. My year begins sometime in August and runs through mid-May. As a result, it's difficult to think in terms of January-December, although the 2005 issue of my life was quite eventful in itself. I would venture to say that it was the busiest year out of my 23. In the past 12 months I graduated from college and started the whole process over again at a new institution in a new state and city. The move from home to Wilmington was a big deal but the move from Wilmington to Tampa was even bigger. It was a move to a larger city with much more diversity and a far greater amount of opportunity academically. I left behind my best friend and favorite person in pursuit of something that I feel will make us both happy several years from now. Indeed, 2005 was a year of personal sacrifice and rock-solid determination.

Whats in store for 2006? As I wrap up my first academic year at graduate school Ill begin my first professional research project. I'm not content simply listening to my friends reminisce about good times in Honduras, Im ready to experience it for myself. The great thing about archaeology is that the experiences are virtually limitless. Sure, there is a degree of monotony to field work but in my case, I get to do it in a new environment, seeking out new information and applying whatever the hell I think up to it. Thats the fun (and scary) part about pursuing a graduate degree.

Its too hard for me to make resolutions because I am only content with making long-term goals and seeing them though. I am growing emotionally in such a way that I can only live my life on moment at a time, being sure not to miss the fun parts while always keeping an eye on the prize. If my goal is to climb Mt. Everest, it doesnt matter how I do it as long as I get to the summit. The important thing is to appreciate and not forget the people that help me get there.

Posted by Will at 02:50 AM

December 30, 2005

American teenager in Iraq

Now this is an incredible story about an American teenager who flew off to Iraq over Christmas break for a class assignment:

The next trimester his class was assigned to choose an international topic and write editorials about it, Hassan said. He chose the Iraq war and decided to practice immersion journalism there, too, though he knows his school in no way endorses his travels.
"I thought I'd go the extra mile for that, or rather, a few thousand miles," he told The Associated Press.
Using money his parents had given him at one point, he bought a $900 plane ticket and took off from school a week before Christmas vacation started, skipping classes and leaving the country on Dec. 11.

Read the whole thing because it's amazing the things this kid did. I realize his parents were pulling every strand of hair out but I really do admire the reasons he did this and what he hoped to gain. It was extremely risky and some would say idiotic, but his motivation gives me hope that not every American kid is hopeless:

"I want to experience during my Christmas the same hardships ordinary Iraqis experience everyday, so that I may better empathize with their distress," he wrote.
Farris Hassan says he thinks a trip to the Middle East is a healthy vacation compared with a trip to Colorado for holiday skiing.

Posted by Will at 12:56 AM

December 29, 2005

-5 pts. for Apocalypto (yes, already)

I've watched the Apocalypto teaser about five times now and didn't catch this (it's nearly impossible to discern with the naked eye) but Mel Gibson pulled a not-so-subtle Alfred Hitchcock on us:

mel_gibson_apocalypto.jpg

You can see it by advancing frame-by-frame around the 1:45 mark in the teaser trailer.

(thanks to Hedonistica for pointing this out)

p.s. - I've added an "Apocalypto" category but I promise Nomadic Thoughts won't become an annoying fan site!

Posted by Will at 12:23 AM | Comments (3)

December 28, 2005

My Animal Personality

Found on The Questionable Authority, my animal personality is:

Wolf
What Is Your Animal Personality?

brought to you by Quizilla

Not 100% correct, but close enough. Now leave me alone, I want to go read a book...

Posted by Will at 10:06 PM

Apocalypto

Not sure if this is old news or not but the teaser trailer for Mel Gibson's Apocalypto is online at Apple. I'll be following this film closely because it's the first big budget action-adventure story set in ancient Mayan civilization, so expect plenty of blog posts about it up until its release next summer. I'll temporarily set aside any academic credibility by completely going ga-ga over a Mel Gibson film about the ancient Maya, but the cinematography and set design are simply going to be too much for me to dismiss. Hell, I'll be the first to admit that I became interested in archaeology because of Indiana Jones (among other romanticized ideals) so drooling over a completely generalized and dramatized portrait of ancient life isn't out of character. As long as I keep one eye toward the thousands of pottery sherds and soil samples I'll be looking at next summer...

Posted by Will at 12:30 AM | Comments (1)

December 27, 2005

So what happened to all the Christmas music?

It's over? Just like that? It's only one day after Christmas (technically two at the time of this posting) and Jesus has already left the building. The guns used in the "war on Christmas" have yet to stop smoking and already trees lay dead on the side of the road as if casualties in that war. Brave were these majestic conifers as they stood proud and tall. But just as their needles begin to sprinkle the carpet below we throw them out for we need them no longer. Their shiny glass badges and luminescent trim have been stripped from their chests and boxed away for another 11 months, after which they will adorn another soldier. The nativity scenes are thoughtlessly re-wrapped in the December 26th edition of the local newspaper, almost as if to give Mary and Joseph something to read while they wait for next year. Jesus will be reborn again next year: birthed from the musty cardboard of an old box (corrugated if he's lucky). Until this time next year, may your 2006 be filled with gluttony, greed, and an insatiable appetite for everything that is contrary to what Christmas stands for. I've learned that its easier to give up and just be good for the hell of it.

Posted by Will at 01:04 AM

December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays from Nomadic Thoughts!

"So, my dear holiday heathens, regardless of our successes or failures in our War on Christmas, rest assured. Tomorrow, 85% of Americans will celebrate Christmas, but there will be very little Christ to be found anywhere. No matter how they may respond to polls or how much Fox News they may watch, most Americans don’t give a crap about Christ when push comes to shove. They just want to hold on to tradition, and they want to be right. They’ll talk at length about their faith, but then they’ll center their Christmas celebrations around stuff and a vaguely Scandinavian demigod in a red suit and hat. The star of the show is no longer Jesus. It’s the gold, frankincense and myrrh."
--I AM, the Evangelical Atheist on churches across the country closing their doors on Sunday

The War on Christmas:
merry_war_on_xmas.jpg

Image from one of PZ's Christmas cards at Pharyngula.org

Posted by Will at 03:01 PM

WilliamKlinger.com updated; Nomadic Thoughts news

I've just updated my personal website...nothing much, just a bit more info on what I'm doing next summer plus a better looking C.V. in PDF format.

Also, because of the volume of spam recently I'm starting to require commenters to regsiter with TypeKey, which is through Movable Type. It only takes a few seconds to do and enables you to comment on Nomadic Thoughts and any other Movable Type blog that has TypeKey authentication set up.

Traffic has been pretty steady over the past several months. Daily hits have (relatively) skyrocketed due to a stupid image I posted a while back that has been archived in Google image search and is currently the number 2 result for "ghostbusters". I deleted the post but we can't seem to get rid of it on the Anthroblogs server. Returning visitors has been consistent, with about 3-7 people coming back on a regular basis...nothing compared to other blogs but at least someone is reading! Bloglines is showing 7 subscribers that read Nomadic Thoughts through the RSS feed.

Posted by Will at 12:57 AM | Comments (1)

December 23, 2005

Missing the Point of "Higher Education"

Michelle Malkin has linked to the Young America's Foundation list of " America’s Most Bizarre and Politically Correct College Courses" a.k.a. the Dirty Dozen. Of course, Malkin is complaining that these courses represent leftist activism in higher education and suggests that they are completely useless. The list shows that some people see things that aren't there (er, like a war on Christmas?):

A little more of my commentary follows this partial list:

Princeton University’s The Cultural Production of Early Modern Women examines “prostitutes,” “cross-dressing,” and “same-sex eroticism” in 16th - and 17th - century England, France, Italy and Spain (emphasis added).
Like something out of a Hugh Hefner film, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania offers the class Lesbian Novels Since World War II.
Alfred University’s Nip, Tuck, Perm, Pierce, and Tattoo: Adventures with Embodied Culture, mostly made up of women, encourages students to think about the meaning behind “teeth whitening, tanning, shaving, and hair dyeing.” Special projects include visiting a tattoo-and-piercing studio and watching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding film, Pumping Iron.
Harvard University’s Marxist Concepts of Racism examines “the role of capitalist development and expansion in creating racial inequality” (emphasis added). Although Karl Marx didn’t say much on race, leftist professors in this course extrapolate information on “racial oppression” and “racial antagonism."
Students at the University of California—Los Angeles need not wonder what it means to be a lesbian. The Psychology of the Lesbian Experience reviews “various aspects of lesbian experience” including the “impact of heterosexism/stigma, gender role socialization, minority status of women and lesbians, identity development within a multicultural society, changes in psychological theories about lesbians in sociohistorical context.”
Duke University’s American Dreams/American Realities course supposedly unearths “such myths as ‘rags to riches,’ ‘beacon to the world,’ and the ‘frontier,’ in defining the American character” (emphasis added).
Brown University’s Black Lavender: A Study of Black Gay & Lesbian Plays “address[es] the identities and issues of Black gay men and lesbians, and offer[s] various points of view from within and without the Black gay and lesbian artistic communities.”

Now, the list put out by the Young America's Foundation represents all that is wrong with America today. As an anthropologist, it is frustrating to read about how conservatives get up in arms about things that cannot be examined on a superficial level. Sure, a course in lesbian psychology isn’t for everyone because not everyone is interested in the subject. But how can it possibly be a waste of tuition dollars and an instance of “leftist activism” when the goal of the course is to educate the student on the experiences of someone other than themselves? This is the entire point of college and it frustrates the hell out of me when people don’t realize this. The Young America’s Foundation, Malkin, and other conservatives are simply not comfortable with confronting the true face of America. They preach diversity and acceptance but they refuse to acknowledge the legitimate nature of the people that make up this culture. It sounds harsh to say, but anything that isn’t Jesus-oriented or based on a conservative western view of culture must be leftist propaganda and thus dangerous. It seems to me that this view stems from a deep-seeded fear of reality which in turn limits the ability of the individual to see the value in the Other. To me the most disturbing item on the list is Harvard’s Marxists Concepts of Racism which looks at “the role of capitalist development and expansion in creating racial inequality. How can this be considered a useless course? Only through the narrow and limited (and often caucasian) window of ignorance that characterizes much of conservative thought in the United States.

Posted by Will at 01:28 PM

December 21, 2005

Victory in Dover

The few people that do read this blog have probably already heard of the court decision in Dover, PA which says teaching intelligent design in public schools is unconstitutional and violates the separation of church and state. Almost every science-related blog that I read has commented on it so take your pick from the list to the left and read the thoughts of people more informed on the issue than I am. I am, however, compelled to offer my opinion on the matter from the perspective of a graduate student of anthropology.

Needless to say, I am elated by today’s news. It is not only a victory for science but a victory for the United States in general. I’ll focus on the former briefly. The more I read about intelligent design and the more I learn about human origins and anthropological theory, the more I realize how important it is to fight these people. My opinion only a few weeks ago was that the best thing we could do as anthropologists would be to ignore creationists and not give them the time of day. After all, it seemed that by getting the scientific community fired up was playing right into their plan of promoting creationism (a.k.a. intelligent design) as a valid alternative to evolutionary theory. If creationism isn’t really valid, why give it the time of day. Now, the more I contemplate the whole situation the more I realize what danger creationists pose to the future of this country.

I am now starting to think about finding a balance between ignoring creationism and its followers and crushing them by continuing to do good science. Currently, evolution is in no danger of loosing its status as a widely accepted theory (both within and outside of the scientific community). Creationists are a small percentage of the population that are trying to elbow their way into the realm of valid science and they are increasingly resorting to “wedge tactics” that attempt to undermine expected holes or “gaps” in the theory of biological evolution. If creationism is a valid alternative to evolution, such methods would not be needed. This to me is the most frustrating aspect of the whole debate. Anyone who has been following the debate will see that evolution rarely even needs to defend itself, just discredit creationism (which is laughably easy).

I won’t pretend to be an expert in evolutionary biology but I do know what sound science has produced in the past century. The Dover decision is a landmark victory (sorry for that cliché) but the fight is not over. Our job here on out is to defend the evolutionary history of humanity by continuing to swat at creationism like an annoying gnat buzzing in the ear of science. I hate to admit it, but the increasing visibility of Christian fundamentalism in the Untied States, creationism and intelligent design will continue to pose a risk as long as it appeals to peoples’ ignorance.

Posted by Will at 02:03 AM

December 17, 2005

"Anthropology's Dream Tribe"

There's a readable article in the New York Times today (to be published tomorrow) about the Ariaal tribe of Northern Kenya, which the story describes as "straddling modern life and more traditional ways."

Read the story here.

Posted by Will at 12:27 PM

December 15, 2005

Holiday Break

My extended holiday vacation began last week and now I am home in Winston Salem for the rest of the month, prepared for battle in the nonexistent war on Christmas. The weather here is icy, cold, and wet…quite different from the 70+ highs I’m used to in Tampa. The power went out about an hour before I arrived in town so it was a chilly welcome, but after a warm meal at K&W Cafeteria with my parents all was well and the power was back on by the time we got back.

It’s great to be back, although a sick part of me misses the caffeine-fueled nights of researching and writing, stressing out about the structure of each single sentence…for ten pages. My baby, the paper for Chiefdoms, apparently was quite good because it garnered a 19 out of 20 score although I honestly wasn’t 100% happy with it. I suppose the saying is true: you are you own worst critic. I ended up scrapping the entire second half of the rough draft (about state-level water management and ancestry of the ancient Maya) and expanded on domestic use of water. The scrapped section seemed forced; the final version of the paper still had those rough edges that only practice will remedy down the road.

So I’m settled here for the next few weeks. I’m heading back to Florida on the 2nd when I’m going to Ft. Lauderdale on the 3rd with some colleagues to see King Tut (or what’s left of him). It’s quite amusing how the King Tut tour resembles a rock band tour…hitting different cities, sold out shows, and spectacular performances.

Posted by Will at 10:51 PM

December 10, 2005

Naachtun Photos

The University of Calgary has a photo gallery up of the recent rediscovery in Guatemala:

A University of Calgary archaeologist and her international team of researchers have discovered the earliest known portrait of a woman that the Maya carved into stone, demonstrating that women held positions of authority very early in Maya history – either as queens or patron deities.

Posted by Will at 09:17 AM

December 09, 2005

Done!

My first semester of graduate school is OVER and I must say that it absolutely flew by. Easily the quickest semester ever, even in four years of college. All I have left to do is turn in three papers tomorrow on campus, return the rest of my books to the library (I have to do it in shifts because I have so many), and pack to go home to North Carolina for the break. I’m going to Wilmington for a few days to visit my old college home…I miss it dearly. Then it’s back to Winston until I must return to Tampa for round two…

Posted by Will at 12:23 AM

December 05, 2005

Under Pressure

I’m downloading Queen & Bowie’s 1981 hit “Under Pressure” to use as my theme song for the rest of the week. It is now crunch time and while I know I’m going to make it out alive, I’m nervous to look in the mirror on Friday night for all the bruises I will have suffered. I basically scrapped the entire second half of my Chiefdoms research because it seemed really forced and my professor politely agreed. My Archaeological Methods paper, which is in the form of a mock NSF grant proposal, is basically finished but I’m not 100% satisfied with it. I am presenting that tomorrow afternoon in class much like I did last week in Chiefdoms. Unfortunately, I do not have to present my Proseminar paper which I think is going to be my best this semester if I can get a handle on Central American land and agriculture policy.

So before I leave for home on Saturday morning I have about 4,500 more words to write when all is said and done. Pocket change by professional research standards but a hell of alot when you’re new at the game and scrutinize every phrase and concept. See you on the other side…

Posted by Will at 11:33 PM

December 02, 2005

King David's Pad

There's a great piece today in the Washington Post about the supposed location of the Biblical David's house in Jerusalem. There is a mouth-watering photo that accompanies the story, sure to excite any archaeologist (click here for the full image):

davids_house.jpg

Posted by Will at 10:45 AM

December 01, 2005

Presentation is Everything

My first of two paper presentations went well. Yesterday was for my Chiefdoms course, where I talked for 15 minutes about water management, ancestor veneration, and the links between the two (I was initially attracted to USF because of my advisor’s interest in water management and environmental anthropology…the ancestor veneration part was to make it relevant to the course topic). It was my first “professional” paper presentation and my first at the USF Chiefdoms Symposium (can I put that on my resume?). I thought it went well despite the fact that I was just a little nervous in front of the huge crowd of 12 people and my professor. My draft was returned with plenty of red ink but some constructive suggestions that are going to keep me busy until the due date next Friday.

To get an idea of what makes a “good” academic presentation, just check out this list of Maxims for Malfeasant Speakers from Harvard…hilarious (and surprisingly, it did help me).

I have to give another 15-minute presentation on my Archaeological Methods paper next Tuesday. Same format and much of the same crowd, but a much different topic: using archaeological data about ancient agricultural practices in the Maya lowlands to address contemporary sustainability in the region. In a nutshell, the Ancient Maya had some pretty good farming methods but they didn’t think too far in the future and eventually degraded much of their land beyond sustainability. It’s been a rough situation ever since the collapse and European invasion, but things are getting better. I agree with many archaeologists that using aspects of ancient techniques along with sound modern technologies is the only way to ensure sustainability in the Maya region, where thousands of indigenous farmers still use some of these traditional methods. I’m basically arguing the exact same thing for my third paper this semester minus the section on a bunch of technical stuff and plus a section about advocacy, politics, policy, etc.

Posted by Will at 10:47 PM