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March 30, 2006

Prayer and Health

Here is an interesting article about prayer and health:

Prayer Does Not Help Heart Bypass Patients
NEW YORK (AP)—In the largest study of its kind, researchers found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery patients had no effect on their recovery. In fact, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications.
Researchers emphasized that their work can't address whether God exists or answers prayers made on another's behalf. The study can only look for an effect from prayers offered as part of the research, they said.
They also said they had no explanation for the higher complication rate in patients who knew they were being prayed for, in comparison to patients who only knew it was possible prayers were being said for them.
Critics said the question of God's reaction to prayers simply can't be explored by scientific study.

Interestingly, I had just posted a question today on my class' online discussion board about religion/spirituality and health. The book I mentioned two posts ago about the cholera epidemic in Venezuela mentions the role of indigenous or folk remedies. Another article I read today for class* discusses patient compliance vs. noncompliance when receiving medication for mental illness, and appeals to God (including prayer) are cited as one possible type of noncompliance as a means for the patient to gain control over his or her illness. Anyway, here is my question:

If we subscribe to the notion that everything we do as anthropologists should be placed in the context of a particular society or culture (i.e. cultural relativism), how are we to reconcile the importance of health and disease prevention when so many people are blinded by irrational beliefs (i.e. religion, spirituality, etc.)? Put another way, is it ethically and/or morally responsible to refrain from criticizing another’s worldview when that worldview is contributing to the maintenance or spread of disease and sickness?

*Kaljee, Linda M. and Robert Beardsley
1992 Psychotropic Drugs and Concepts of Compliance in a Rural Mental Health Clinic. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 6(3): 271-287.

Posted by Will at 05:19 PM

Bush at Chichen Itza

Here are some photos of President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Mexican President Vicente Fox touring Chichen Itza during a trip to Cancun (story here):

bush_cancun.jpg bush_cancun2.jpg
bush_cancun3.jpg bush_cancun4.jpg

Posted by Will at 12:47 PM

March 29, 2006

Stories in the Time of Cholera

Tonight I am beginning Stories in the Time of Cholera: Racial Profiling During a Medical Nightmare. From the U. of California Press website:

Cholera, although it can kill an adult through dehydration in half a day, is easily treated. Yet in 1992-93, some five hundred people died from cholera in the Orinoco Delta of eastern Venezuela. In some communities, a third of the adults died in a single night, as anthropologist Charles Briggs and Clara Mantini-Briggs, a Venezuelan public health physician, reveal in their frontline report. Why, they ask in this moving and thought-provoking account, did so many die near the end of the twentieth century from a bacterial infection associated with the premodern past?

Sounds like a barrel of monkeys, doesn’t it? This is the fourth and final book for Foundations of Applied Anthropology II and in the true spirit of the discipline, they’ve saved the most depressing for last. I haven’t really blogged about the other books we’ve read, but I’m going to try and do so for this one because I have a feeling it’s going to be quite a kick in the gut. The only book in the past couple of years that has had a profound impact on me has been Sam Harris’ The End of Faith (see my post here). Although about a completely different subject, I hope that Stories has just as much of an influence on the way I see the world around me. So far I’ve only read the preface and learned that the contributing author, Clara Mantini-Briggs, often distanced herself from the writing process because of her level of involvement on the front lines. It doesn’t promise to be a pretty picture of health and humanity, but one of my strongest beliefs is that one has to confront the ugliness of the world head on if change is to be realized. So I'm not sure how much I'll blog along the way, but I wanted to throw out a "before picture" and at least an "after picture" when I've finished. Welcome to Will's Book Club.

Posted by Will at 08:27 PM

How money talks, loudly

This is just a plain fascinating story from ScienceNOW:

When New York University (NYU) officials announced last week the creation of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, it was widely seen as a major coup. The new Ph.D.-granting research institute, devoted to the art, archaeology, history, literature, and geography of ancient societies, was made possible by a private gift of $200 million in cash and real estate, one of the largest donations the university has ever landed. Yet some NYU faculty, along with outside archaeologists, are aghast that the school accepted the money. One leading NYU archaeologist has already resigned from the university's existing ancient studies center to protest the decision.
The fracas stems from the source of the new institute's funds: The Leon Levy Foundation, named after the late Wall Street investor and philanthropist. Levy and his widow Shelby White, the foundation's trustee, have for years been at the center of controversies surrounding their antiquities collection, which some archaeologists believe includes objects that had been looted and illicitly traded. Indeed, several institutions, including Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, have adopted explicit policies against accepting funds from the foundation. "I wouldn't touch a gift from Shelby White with a barge pole," says archaeologist Colin Renfrew of Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.

Posted by Will at 11:00 AM

Dennett on religion

Thought I'd pass along a link from Prosblogion to an audio file of a discussion with Daniel Dennett on the topic of his latest book, religion as natural phenomena (still on the top of my to-read list). He's joined by Alister McGrath, Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford. It doesn't get much more academic than this folks...you can almost picture the tweed sport coats and smell the pipe smoke as you listen. Anyway, it's a good program and worth a listen. Matthew's description:

Dennett opens by continuing to promote the bizarre meme that there is a taboo against the scientific study of religion. He then follows up with his Golden Bough like story of primitive beliefs evolving into more abstract and organized religion by way of memes. It would be nice to see Dennett address the literature in the anthropology and sociology of religion that rejects this Golden Bough view as flying in the face of evidence. As H. Allen Orr points out "...the origin and diffusion of religion, like the origin and diffusion of music, laughter, and xenophobia, reside in a largely irretrievable evolutionary past. We know virtually nothing about the religion, if any, practiced by our ancestors on the African savanna hundreds of thousands of years ago. It's far from obvious that explaining unprovable beliefs with unprovable theories constitutes progress"
You could hardly ask for a more able respondent that the Revd Professor Alister McGrath. A lapsed atheist with a D.Phil for research in the natural sciences McGrath later studied for ordination at Westcott House, Cambridge. McGrath agrees with Dennett's opening remarks to the effect that people often don't like to have their beliefs examined, but I think that this is to generous for Dennett's particular claim. McGrath pushes hard on Dennett's use of memes and attendant problems of deploying memes. McGrath gets bonus points for a touch of humor.

Also see the post for some links to other interviews and such with Dennett.

Posted by Will at 01:29 AM

BODIES: The Exhibition

bodies.jpgToday I got a creepy eye full, all in the name of social science. The Museum of Science and Industry here in Tampa has been the home for the controversial BODIES: The Exhibition for the past several months. If you’re not familiar with the BODIES exhibit, real cadavers are "laminated" by a process called plasticization and then shaped into a variety of positions in order to show how the human body functions. These are then propped up in a museum and people pay to file past them as well as display cases of real body parts, fetuses, and reconstructed circulatory systems. All of the cadavers on display look basically like the photo to the left. They’ve had the skin removed and all that remains are the muscles and/or bones. The complete specimens on display are not under glass: instead they are located throughout the hall doing things like playing basketball, kicking a soccer ball, or reading a book. The most bizarre display was the muscle part of a human holding hands with its own skeleton. Different class-covered displays have examples of body parts in various states, such as a cancerous bone and smoker’s lungs as well as healthy parts for comparison. It all sounds quite odd and it really is, especially when the company putting on the exhibition, Premier Exhibitions, has been the target of some controversy due to the questionable origin of the bodies themselves.

Exhibits like these are nothing new. The Premier Exhibitions version is one of the most popular ones and they have shows scheduled in Tampa, London, Atlanta, and New York. Due to the overwhelming popularity, its stay in Tampa has been extended twice and is now slated to remain at MOSI until September. Not surprisingly, the use of real human cadavers for infotainment purposes draws huge crowds who want to get up close and personal to a former living, breathing fellow human. All in the name of science, right? Personally, I take great issue with Premier Exhibitions BODIES exhibit not because of the concept itself, which I think it a wonderful idea, but because of the questionable nature of the acquisition of some of the display items. Honestly, I have no data other than newspaper reports and information from some of my colleagues, but I have no reason to doubt these sources. Most of the specimens are Chinese and it is believed that they were homeless individuals that did not (or were unable to) give their permission for their remains to be used. With such a huge moneymaker as BODIES, it would not surprise me if certain details were purposefully kept on the D.L.

As I won’t pay to see the exhibit because of the shadiness, I finally got to see it today for free because I have been assigned some G.A. hours working with a student who is doing a project about public response to the exhibit. He has a set of written pre- and post-interviews and plans to conduct oral interviews with people who have just seen the exhibit. We spent most of our time at MOSI today setting up in the main entrance area but were able to tour the exhibit beforehand and meet several of the museum staff. Although it was mostly large school groups, I was surprised by the overall turnout for a Tuesday morning. One of the museum administrators was telling us that they’ve been averaging about 5,500 visitors per day during the week and a little more than twice that on the weekends, most to see the BODIES exhibit. Just goes to show that one doesn’t have to be breathing (or even fully articulated) to achieve rockstar status.

Posted by Will at 12:02 AM

March 28, 2006

USF Summer Study Program in Guatemala

June 26 - July 31st, 2006

This five-week course focuses on the history of indigenous cultures in Mesoamerica and offers students a first hand experience with one of the more successful stories of indigenous activism in the Americas, the Maya Movement of Guatemala. Beginning with the documents created by and about native peoples around the time of the Spanish invasion, the course traces the cultural histories and resistance of indigenous populations from the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century to the present. While we will cover Mesoamerica in general, we will focus upon the Maya activists of Guatemala in order to present case studies to complement and enhance background readings.


After one initial week of meetings on the USF main campus in Tampa, we will travel as a group to Guatemala and spend the first week in beautiful Antigua. This colonial town, ringed by three volcanoes, thrives today as a meeting ground for indigenous and non-indigenous Guatemalans, international students and travelers from every corner of the world, and intellectuals from all over the Americas. Amongst the colorfully painted houses, which line cobble-stoned streets, are nearly thirty ruined and reconstructed churches, many of which date to the 17th and 18th centuries, when this was a colonial stronghold in New Spain.

We then move to Lake Atitlán, located in the western highlands of Guatemala, for two weeks. Bordered to the south by four volcanoes, Aldous Huxley called this "the most beautiful lake in the world." Fourteen indigenous towns surround the lake and this region has become one of the most politically active areas in all of Guatemala, due in part to the efforts of indigenous activists to reclaim their identity and further erase the colonial legacies of racism and discrimination, which continue to plague the Mayas today.


Prior knowledge of Spanish, although recommended, is not required for participation. Classes will be held in English. Both USF and non-USF students are welcome and the program is open to those 18 and older with an interest in anthropology, history, political science, comparative literature, cultural studies, plant biology, and public health (to name a few).

Program Inclusions

Pre-departure orientation and class sessions at USF
6 credits (undergraduate or graduate)
LAS 3002 (6 credits) Undergraduate
LAS 6936 (6 credits) Graduate
Hotel accommodations (double occupancy) for four weeks
Three meals per day for four weeks
Group breakfast and allowance for lunch and dinner
Entrance fees for tourist sites
Group transportation throughout Guatemala
Field trips to neighboring cities
Three-day excursion at end of course
Group airport pickup and return
USF Group Insurance

Not Included
Personal expenditures
Beverages, bottled water

Program Fees

$2,400 Undergraduates (total of all fees)
$2,970 Graduates (total of all fees)

$1,529.00 In-Country Program Fee
$540.00 USF instructional fees (6 undergraduate credits)
$1,110.00 USF instructional fees (6 graduate credits)
$300 USF Study Abroad Administrative Fee

Payment Schedule

To the Study Abroad Office:

A $500 deposit is required at the time of application, no later than March 30, 2006 (payable to the USF Study Abroad Office). The remainder of the program fee is due to the Study Abroad Office by May 15, 2006.

To the Cashier's Office:

A separate $300 USF Study Abroad Administrative Fee for six credit hours is due before the program, payable to the USF Cashier's Office. Tuition fees of $540 (ndergraduate) or $1,110 (Graduate), payable to USF Cashier's Office

About the USF Instructor

Timothy J. Smith, Ph.D., is Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean at the University of South Florida. Dr. Smith's research covers the anthropology of politics, ethnicity, democracy, and social movements in Latin America, specifically Guatemala and Mexico. In addition to holding visiting appointments in anthropology at Harvard University and Columbia University, he has taught social anthropology, humanities, Latin American studies, and linguistics at the University of South Florida, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University at Albany, SUNY.

For general enrollment information, registration and payment questions, contact:
Julie Hale
Study Abroad Office
International Affairs
University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Avenue, CPR 107 (CPR 468)
Tampa, FL 33620
Telephone: (813) 974-3933
E-mail: jhale@iac.usf.edu

For program specific, academic, or course-related questions, contact:
Dr. Timothy J. Smith
Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean
University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Avenue, CPR 107 (office located in CPR 474)
Tampa, FL 33620
Telephone:(813) 974-2962
Email: smith@iac.usf.edu

Cancellation and Refund Policy

If a student cancels once the deposit is paid, $200 of the deposit is refundable; the remaining $300 is non-refundable. If notice of cancellation is received after final payment is due, all monies paid may be withheld and are refundable only as recoverable from providers of service. If USF must cancel a program, all monies paid are refundable.


All participants are responsible for carefully reviewing the USF General Study Abroad Information document. This provides important information on your responsibilities with regard to study abroad, including terms and conditions of participation, insurance, financial aid, and cancellation/refund policies.

Access the USF Study Abroad website: http://web.usf.edu/iac/studyabroad or request a printed version of this document from the Study Abroad Office.

Posted by Will at 01:01 PM

March 26, 2006


18.75 %

My weblog owns 18.75 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?

The other 81.25% of me is owned by writing papers.
(via Afarensis)

Posted by Will at 09:02 PM

March 25, 2006

Marathon Writing

Although I do love writing research papers, there does come a point where I wonder why. It’s now midnight on Sunday morning and I’ve reached that point. I have a 15-20 page rough draft due on Monday for peer review. What is it about culling through dead trees and slowly building calluses on my fingertips that I crave? I have been working solid for the past two days (OK, I took a few breaks to eat and void) and my appetite for information seems insatiable. I get antsy and shift in my chair when I hit instances of writer’s block or when it takes me ten minutes to finally realize that “Examining the broader role of agriculture in the political economy of important lowland sites provides a firm basis on which to draw conclusions regarding food production at Lamanai and how this may have contributed to a rise in complexity” is a pretty good way to put it. I have about a dozen other examples of these “ten-minute sentences."

This paper is easily the most involved and extensive I have written so far, and the sad thing is that it’s still miniscule compared to what’s being published. There’s lots of “yada, yada, yada…and this is what I, a first-year graduate student, think about your life’s work.” It is discouraging at times but then I remind myself that I’m still feeling my way so to speak; slowly narrowing in one what exactly it is about agriculture and subsistence that literally (no pun intended) keeps me up at night. The clock is ticking until my four-week gig in Honduras so I'd better figure it out soon. I’m off to bed for a few hours, only to get up again tomorrow at the crack of noon to churn out another four or five pages. This must have been one of the deleted scenes from the Indiana Jones films.

Posted by Will at 11:57 PM

March 23, 2006

Gee, Mr. Wizard!

What better way to spend a dreary Thursday than learning how to fill up jugs of seawater? That's exactly what two classmates and I did this afteroon in south Tampa Bay as part of our paleoclimatology reserach project. We met up with our professor and a St. Pete PhD student to collect about five gas containers of seawater from a protected area of the Bay with the eventual goal of testing the nitrogen content of its organic matter. We took the samples to a lab on the St. Petersburg campus and got as far as passing the water through an incredibly fine filter which basically trapped everything that's not dissolved, creating a layer of brown goop on the filter. This is what we'll be testing. As you might have guessed, I'm no expert on whatever it is that we're supposed to be doing but I still enjoyed today's semi-productive field excursion and felt a little like a real scientist.

Here's a shot from the trusty camera-phone. Not exactly postcard quality but neither is most of the Bay area. We did get a few stares from some fishermen who were probably wondering why the hell we were wading in shin-deep water off the side of the road collecting gallons of bay water in the rain. We should have worn lab coats.

Posted by Will at 09:30 PM

Intermarriage and Genetic Diseases

Here's an interesting story from the New York Times about the practice of intermarriage among Bedouins in the Middle East and how this is having an effect on the prevelance of genetic diseases:

Until recently their ancestors were nomads who roamed the deserts of the Middle East and, as tradition dictated, often married cousins. Marrying within the family helped strengthen bonds among extended families struggling to survive the desert. But after centuries this custom of intermarriage has had devastating genetic effects.
Bedouins do not carry more genetic mutations than the general population. But because so many marry relatives — some 65 percent of Bedouin in Israel's Negev marry first or second cousins — they have a significantly higher chance of marrying someone who carries the same mutations, increasing the odds they will have children with genetic diseases, researchers say. Hundreds have been born with such diseases among the Negev Bedouin in the last decade.

Posted by Will at 12:13 PM

March 21, 2006

When presentations go well

After this semester’s first paper/presentation a couple of weeks ago, which went horribly and embarrassingly wrong, it feels good to hit one out of the park. Tonight my classmate and I gave a talk on sustainable agriculture and cultural landscapes, loosely based on a chapter from one of my favorite books of late, Charles Redman’s Human Impact on Ancient Environments. With several graduate-level talks under my belt I feel myself getting better and more comfortable with public speaking each time. So, a celebratory beer and maybe a movie will cap off a pretty good evening. Then tomorrow it’s time to get my head out of the clouds and come back to the real world of reading and writing.

Posted by Will at 11:17 PM

Cenotes in the news

One of my favorite topics in Maya archaeology is making some news: the large limestone sinkholes that had ritual as well as practical use for the ancient Maya. If I wasn't so obsessed with agriculture and subsistence I would probably be doing something with cenotes.

Mayan underworld proves researchers' dream
TULUM, Mexico (Reuters) - The ancient Maya once believed that Mexico's jungle sinkholes containing crystalline waters were the gateway to the underworld and the lair of a surly rain god who had to be appeased with human sacrifices.
Now, the "cenotes," deep sinkholes in limestone that have pools at the bottom, are yielding scientific discoveries including possible life-saving cancer treatments.

Posted by Will at 11:22 AM

March 20, 2006

Welcome another Anthroblogger

Jen has come aboard the anthroblogs.org crew to rant and rave with the rest of us. Her blog is still new but she's left an introductory post on the main blog. Best part of all she graduated from USF last year with a degree in anthropology. Go Buuuuuuuuls.

Posted by Will at 09:17 PM

March 19, 2006

More Apocalypto

Looks like TIME is turning out to be the source for Apocalypto news and features. A web feature was published today about the filming.

Says Richard Hansen, a Maya scholar at Idaho State University, head of the Mirador Basin Project and a consultant for Apocalypto: "This is by far the best treatment—the first treatment really—of the Maya any film has ever done. I'm amazed at the detail Mel’s shooting for."
In fact, says veteran production designer Tom Sanders, Apocalypto "is the hardest show I've ever worked on." Stacks of archaeology books and magazines are strewn about a massive warehouse in Veracruz, where an army of costume and makeup artisans from Mexico and Italy are painstakingly re-creating feathers of the nearly extinct quetzal for royal headdresses and long, looping earlobe extensions for warriors. (Because those prostheses are difficult to apply, the actors must wear them for days on end, which rather spooks fellow guests at the Fiesta Americana Hotel.) This month Gibson starts filming at a sprawling and meticulously appointed city of Maya pyramids and markets that Sanders' crew spent six months building outside Veracruz. It all suggests a Titanic-size budget, but Gibson will say only that his production company, Icon, is spending less than $50 million. (The Passion cost $30 million.)

Apocalypto in TIME
Crazy Mel at it Again
-5 pts. for Apocalypto (yes, already)

Posted by Will at 04:35 PM

March 18, 2006


The Caffeine Mug from ThinkGeek:


Posted by Will at 11:54 PM

March 17, 2006

How I get by

I’m hesitant to even entertain the possibility that I have some sort of attention deficit disorder, but I am confident that there are far too many distractions in my room. Various civilian activities take up valuable minutes that could be spend coating the inside of my skull with one of the densest books I’ve ever read (Bruce Trigger’s Understanding Ancient Civilizations) or vomiting highlighter ink on articles about political economy and state formation. So goes my quiet Friday evening in: all the distractions of the outside world are drowned out in favor of my computer, the internet, blog reading, music downloads, television (i.e. Law & Order: SVU), and books (i.e. NOT Bruce Trigger). As the caffeine wears off I start to consider watching a movie, listening to my trusty iPod, or hanging upside down by my ankles for a few minutes to make room for more information.

Posted by Will at 11:27 PM

Foundations of Applied Anthropology: Public involvement in archaeology

I had heard of some archaeologists using community volunteers to carry out fieldwork but I always thought that it was sort of a public service apart from getting real work done. Of course this is not the case and it’s (in my opinion) completely necessary for archaeologists to not only engage the public but invite them to get dirty and make real contributions to research results. From what I know about the field many archaeologists can be rather elitist or give the impression that their research is too important to invest time and effort in involving the general public. This is where applied archaeology comes in and why I think it’s important to constantly engage the public on several levels. Would involving non-archaeologists in actual excavations and analyses compromise the rigorousness of a study? Basically, I feel that in most situations (but not all) the benefits of inviting the public to participate in archaeology far outweigh any potential risks. I think it’s irresponsible for an archaeologist to assume that just because a person doesn’t have a degree they are going to ruin a dig or compromise results. There’s an inherent risk in bringing aboard untrained individuals to help with your work, but so is believing that your training automatically makes you a better steward of the past.

Another interesting point is raised by some anecdotal evidence. When I was in Belize two summers ago with a field school it turned out that the locals hired to help with clearing and moving dirt were actually very successful at contributing to the goals of the project. As students we were learning all about methods and types of analyses but were still very new to archaeology. Some of our helpers had been on many digs throughout Mesoamerica and although they had no formal training, they were able to locate certain artifacts more readily than most of the students (usually the very small copper prills our instructor was primarily interested in). Richard Leaky describes how some of his fossil hunting expeditions were only successful after local guides were able to spot skeletal fragments on the surface, objects that would be invisible to most people unfamiliar with the terrain. Finally, many untrained people who participate in archaeology will sometimes come up with ideas or theories that may never have crossed the mind of the trained archaeologist. We often get so caught up in our research goals that we can easily miss things that aren’t immediately relevant to what’s in our cluttered mind at that moment. Of course overcoming this obstacle is part of the archaeologist’s training and takes practice and patience, but I find it hard to believe that a single individual with a piece of sheepskin is the end-all when it comes to ensuring sound treatment of the past. Finally, I’ll end by saying that there are indeed certain situations where having untrained individuals would be detrimental or impractical to a project, especially when you are dealing with human remains or highly publicized sites.

Posted by Will at 10:47 AM | Comments (2)

March 13, 2006


I'm up in Wilmington, NC on my "spring break" and aside from the debilitating pangs of nostalgia of my undergraduate years at UNCW, I'm having a wonderful time. I don't think I've missed a physical location as much as I do Wilmington. Apart from the people and relationships over the four years I was here, which is enough to make me want to drop everything and become a beach bum once and for all, the smallest details about the town make me miss it. My favorite downtown restaurant, Front Street Brewery, is closing soon but I'll get to eat there one last time before I leave on Wednesday. Here are some shots from the ever-present camera phone. The quality of the shots is irrelevant because not even the most expensive equipment could do this area justice:

A path to my heaven, Wrightsville Beach

The dock behind a friend's house...

...where we did some fishing but caught nothing but seaweed (this is my girlfriend Angela)

Posted by Will at 11:58 AM

March 09, 2006

Apocalypto in TIME

There's an online article over at TIME Magazine about Apocalypto and it's actors:

Their obscurity should come as little surprise. Just as he did in The Passion of The Christ, Gibson is using relatively unknown actors in the film (in which the actors speak only in Yucatán Maya), many of whom either are Mayas or are descendants of other New World tribes. "It brings an honesty and a valuable reality to what weíre doing," Gibson tells TIME, which was given the first exclusive look at the Apocalypto production for an upcoming story in the magazine. "These characters have to be utterly believable as pre-Columbian Mesoamericans."

Posted by Will at 11:59 PM

March 08, 2006

Application for Graduate Student Research Award

This is a short "grant" proposal that I'm applying for with the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean at USF. It's supposed to be what my thesis is this summer, but as I haven't yet nailed down a specific topic it's sort of vague, but it does provide a general picture of what I hope to do. The prize? A plane ticket to Honduras.

Two of the central goals of the Department of Anthropology are to provide “applied archaeological insight of the prehistory of Florida, the Caribbean region and the world” and “historical and contemporary studies of Latin America and the Caribbean.” These goals, along with those of the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean, will provide the foundation for the research project outlined below.

The proposed project will be carried out in rural northwest Honduras, near the country’s second largest metropolis and one of the fastest growing urban areas in Central America, San Pedro Sula. This rapid expansion is expected to result in an urban population of more than one million people in the coming years, leading to increased human pressure on land and resources already stretched beyond their limits. Widespread poverty and concerns about the sustainability of current land management strategies create an urgent need for applied research. Archaeology is one of the many fields that have the potential to inform the situation in Honduras and offer insight regarding sustainable development. Methods that will be used to gather such data include surveying and mapping of local communities and archaeological sites, excavations in areas where ancient subsistence is apparent, laboratory analysis, and formal interviews with individuals living in communities potentially affected by urban expansion. The practical and theoretical tools of archaeology will be used to structure a research design that (a) is informed by past and present research in the area including useful projects in other areas of applied research, (b) incorporates the goals of the Department of Anthropology and ISLAC, (c) makes the best use of resources offered by USF and the local community in Honduras, and (d) has an end product offering useful data with the potential for practical application.

First, specific methodologies and theoretical frameworks employed over the course of the project will be informed by past and contemporary research which has demonstrated the usefulness of archaeological approaches in addressing issues of sustainability. The extent of such research is great and will be enhanced by the contributions made by this project’s applied dimension. Second, the goals set forth by the Department of Anthropology and ISLAC will guide the project to completion by placing the often static nature of archaeological “snapshots” in the social, political, and environmental universe of contemporary Honduran life. Third, the goals of the project will be realized using the resources offered by the University as well as by the Honduran government and local communities. At USF, these include but are not limited to financial resources, research and laboratory facilities, and the expertise of archaeologists and other applied researchers. The Honduran government works closely with archaeologists from all over the world and the local community will provide an important resource for information not available anywhere else. Finally, the project will result in a written thesis that will be used as a requirement toward a Masters thesis in Applied Anthropology with the potential for subsequent publication and presentation at professional conferences.

As always, this weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Posted by Will at 11:54 PM

Going home

Tomorrow is the start of my unofficial “spring break.” One thing about graduate school is that you don’t really get a spring break other than not having a week’s worth of classes; hardly a break. Plenty of reading is still waiting to get done and I’m not getting a paycheck from the State of Florida to travel home and spend time with my family and girlfriend. Don’t tell Jeb. This past week has easily been the most trying so far for a number of reasons. I love two-thirds of my classes and crave a workload, but I’m starting to get more than my feet wet in the graduate school game: the politics, professional relationships, and plenty of deep breaths. So my unofficial spring break couldn’t have come at a better time, and May 2007 won’t get here quick enough.

Posted by Will at 07:16 PM

March 07, 2006

Can I take my head out of the sand now?

Remember that paleoclimatology paper I mentioned earlier? Well, I gave the presentation yesterday and it wasn't pretty. Quite disasterous, in fact. I won't elaborate other than to say that a) it takes a huge set of cajones to get up in front of a classroom full of geology and biology graduate students in a graduate-level course and present a paper on a subject which you know little to nothing about. For that I have no regrets because now I'll never be nervous about public speaking ever again. And b) I'm sticking to archaeology.

Posted by Will at 04:41 PM

March 05, 2006

Crazy Mel at it again

Tune in for Oscar history tonight: Mel Gibson speaking the Maya language. From Time Magazine:

His last film, The Passion of the Christ, was spoken entirely in the dead languages of Latin and Aramaic. Now Mel Gibson will appear in a brief spot on this Sunday’s Oscar broadcast speaking another exotic tongue: Maya. That's the sole language of Apocalypto, the adventure epic set in Pre-Columbian Mexico that Gibson is currently shooting on the edge of southern Mexico's rainforests, in the state of Veracruz. ""I wanted to shake up the stale action-adventure genre," Gibson told TIME, which was given an exclusive peek at the filming for a story to appear in a forthcoming issue. "So I think we almost had to come up with something utterly different like this."

(via Eric at blogcritics.org)

Posted by Will at 05:29 PM


As you can see I've moved around a few things, mainly for the sake of simplicity. The front page was starting to get a bit crowded in my opinion so I cleaned it up a little bit and moved most of the links and such that were in the sidebars to the about page, which I redesigned and updated. Everything looks good in Firefox but IE doesn't seem to like the HTML padding tag that I used on my picture in the about page (the text is right up against the right side of the picture when viewed in IE). Any suggestions or comments are welcome. But remember, it's the thought that counts!

Posted by Will at 12:58 AM | Comments (2)

March 04, 2006

Hatred, from the inside

Alternative newspaper The Orlando Weekly has a fascinating story about a reporter who infiltrated a National Socialist Movement rally a couple of weeks ago in Orlando. Posing as a Nazi, James Carlson witnesses first hand what it's like to be on the other side of such a disgusting display of ignorance and hatred. It's an eye-opening read and I highly recommend it. Here's a short excerpt:

I introduce myself to a couple of people. Most of the Nazis milling about are from out of town. There are two burly guys from Wichita, Kan., two thin-framed friends from Tampa Bay and a carload from Savannah, Ga. There are a few marchers from Ohio, a couple from Lynchburg, Va., and one man down from Alabama. I count about 25 total waiting under I-4 to march. At least six are in "storm trooper" outfits like White's. Another quick fashion observation: long, stringy goatees are in with Nazis.

Posted by Will at 06:01 PM

March 03, 2006

Jared Diamond Interview in the Houston Chronicle

The Houston Chronicle has an interview with Jared Diamond, where he addresses some of the criticisms that have been following him since Guns, Germs, and Steel. It was given after a talk he gave in Houston last week and right before he spoke at USF (thanks to 3 Quarks Daily). An interesting tidbit coming from the article:

Diamond is currently working on another big book, due in 2012 ("If I live that long"). But he's not ready to talk about it yet.

I can't imagine what's next. Let the anticipation begin.

Posted by Will at 10:00 PM

Beware of the monkey

There's an opinion piece in today's Statesman Journal of Salem, Oregon about the new Curious George animated film and its misrepresentations of archaeology and history and how it seems to promote Western cultural supremacy. I fear many parents won't pick up on this unintended message which I feel is far more dangerous than what is found in any video game or rap video. Ann Nicgorski writes:

My concern with this story line, in which The Man in the Yellow Hat is an archaeologist and museum curator (as opposed to the gun-toting, pipe-smoking animal poacher of the original book series by Margret and H.A. Rey), is the insidious underlying assumption that one simply can go to Africa and transport significant cultural artifacts to a museum in New York. Granted, this is fiction, but even so, it provides our children with a clear lesson in Western cultural hegemony, a lesson that contemporary American children definitely do not need.


Posted by Will at 02:30 PM

Sudan is for lovers

Matt Bors, a cartoonist/artist/blogger created an image that I thought would look great on a t-shirt (see below). It was originally proposed as a t-shirt design to beawitness.org but didn't materialize, but Matt mentioned he would consider doing his own t-shirt if he thought he could make some money off of it. Jump over to the original post and leave a comment of support if you think "Sudan is for lovers" would make a great wearable statement.


Besides promoting the general awesomeness of Matt's drawings, I'll also use this post to plug beawitness.org, a valuable website to counter basically everything that is wrong with the media and society today. For example:

During June 2005, CNN, FOXNews, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur.

Posted by Will at 02:06 PM

Well Said

Add my name to the list:

A group of 12 writers have put their names to a statement in French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo warning against Islamic "totalitarianism". Here is the text in full.

(Brought to my attention by dvarisco of Tasbir, who offers a response from a Muslim perspective)

Posted by Will at 09:49 AM

March 02, 2006

Jared Diamond Lecture

Tonight was the big Jared Diamond lecture on the USF campus. I attended with a group of fellow anthropologists and was pleased with both the lecture and the turnout. A couple hundred people listened intensely as Diamond provided insight into the research and writing of Collapse and how history’s lessons are relevant today. His overarching message, or at least what I took from the talk, was that we do have quite a bit to learn from the past and that we as a human species are united through our impacts on the natural environment. Diamond mentioned how the message of Collapse is sometimes interpreted as pessimistic and suicide-inducing but he dispelled that myth by providing general guidelines for the future. The audience questions were impressive and a few even challenged his central theses quite eloquently, although I still tend to agree with him more than I disagree. If anything, his talk tonight gave me even more motivation to save the world one pit at a time.


Posted by Will at 09:33 PM

Lost in Translation

Here's the short introduction to my paleoclimatology paper and presentation that's coming up on Monday. Does anyone know what the hell I'm talking about because I sure don't:

This paper will examine the methodology used in examining variation in the shell and tissue of marine organisms. Sources of shell and fossil tissue variation, how shell and tissue relate, and differential carbon and nitrogen signatures within and between tissue types and shells will be examined for the purpose of how these processes can illuminate paleoclimate reconstruction. A discussion of the role of tropic layers and geographic location of organisms will account for the various contributing factors.

Oh what fun it is to write about something that you have no background in whatsoever. And I'm not kidding, I really don't comprehend 90% of the stuff I'm trying to talk about in this paper. Just use big words, nice sentences, and hope for a little pity.

Posted by Will at 01:26 PM

March 01, 2006

Jared Diamond at USF tomorrow night

Needless to say I'll be there, front and center. Scans of my autographed books to come...

Jared Diamond
“Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”
March 2 at 7pm in the Special Events Center
Co-sponsored by the USF Humanities Institute
Author and biologist Jared Diamond is renowned globally for his popular scientific works that combine anthropology, biology, linguistics, genetics, and history. He is the author of the 1997 book Guns, Germs, and Steel, which asserts that the main international issues of our time are legacies of processes that began during the early-modern period, in which civilizations that had experienced an extensive amount of "human development" began to intrude upon simpler civilizations around the world. In his most recent book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Diamond examines what caused some of the great civilizations of the past to collapse into ruin and considers what contemporary society can learn from their fates. Diamond is currently a professor of geography and of environmental health sciences at the University of California – Los Angeles.

Previously on Nomadic Thoughts:
More on the Guns, Germs, and Steel Special on PBS
GG&S Episode One Review
GG&S Episode Two Review
My psuedo-interview with Jared Diamond
Guns, Germs and Steel: Final Review and Analysis
GG&S Debate Heats Up
A belated Reply to my Guns, Germs and Steel review

Posted by Will at 10:48 AM