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August 29, 2006

Mapping Community Landscapes in Northwest Honduras

palmarejo.jpgNow I have something new and exciting to blog about: my first NSF grant proposal and thesis project. My thesis topic is finally deciding to show itself to the light of day. An idea for a National Science Foundation grant my advisor had set aside is moving forward because I fell in love with it when I read her notes. Essentially, the Palmarejo Valley in northwest Honduras consists of several rural agrarian communities of varying sizes (see figure...this past summer I worked at Palos Blancos, a class 2 site), which have only been classified by observation and limited test excavation (in other words, size). The project my advisor and I want to get off the ground will test this classification theory archaeologically and look at community organization. It’s far too big in scope for a M.A. thesis alone but I hope to get things moving next summer, with investigations continuing through the 2009 season (when I’m long gone). Components of the research questions include sustainability and water management! (excuse me while I adjust my nerd glasses).

I have agreed to do the footwork for the grant so that we could get some major funding that will enable me to do thesis research next summer in Honduras. No small task, an NSF grant is a big deal, especially when you’ve never done one before. I figured it would create a load of extra work for me between now and December 1 when the application is due, but the project idea is very appealing.

Posted by Will at 12:16 PM

August 27, 2006

Iraq antiquities take another blow

From Guardian Unlimited:

Saviour of Iraq's antiquities flees to Syria
Iraq's most prominent archaeologist has resigned and fled the country, saying the dire security situation, an acute shortage of funds, and the interference of supporters of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr had made his position intolerable.
Donny George, who was president of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, achieved international recognition for his efforts to track down and recover the priceless antiquities looted from Iraq's National Museum in the mayhem that followed the fall of Baghdad in 2003.
But this week he revealed that he had resigned and was in hiding with his family in the Syrian capital Damascus. In an interview with the Art Newspaper, Dr George said Baghdad was now so dangerous that the National Museum, which houses a trove of Sumerian and Babylonian artefacts, had been sealed off by concrete walls to protect it from insurgent attacks and further looting.

Read the full story here.

Posted by Will at 02:53 PM

The Anderson Cooper Rule

"Is Anderson Cooper in Tampa yet?" That's StormTrack's latest headline. Definitely not a good sign. I have accordingly formulated a new rule of thumb that is potentially life-saving: The Anderson Cooper Rule. Anywhere you see Anderson Cooper in front of a camera, get away FAST. Why? Take a look:

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As always, StormTrack has the latest:

Currently, Ernesto is surrounded by very favorable environmental conditions. There is low shear (Figure 4) and the upper-level outflow is strengthening. Both of these factors are what is providing the environment for rapid intensification. In addition, these two parameters are forecast to only get better with time for Ernesto. Also, Ernesto is currently over extremely warm sea-surface temperatures and is forecast to continue over these warm waters, except for when the storm is over land. Any shift in the forecast track will have significant effects on the intensity forecast and for that reason, folks on the Florida coast need to realize that there is very real threat of a Category 3+ hurricane making landfall in the next 4 days.

Update: from Chris Mooney at The Intersection:

Ernesto is now a Category 1 hurricane, and appears to be one of those spooky ones that comes up through the Caribbean bouncing off of islands as if in a pinball machine, before finally expending its fury against the Gulf Coast. "Unfortunately," in the words of forecaster Stacy Stewart, the track has recently been adjusted so that Ernesto could be aimed towards some very vulnerable areas of Florida, namely, the Keys and Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg. Of course, anything could still happen, but the new projected track is a disturbing one. Moreover, the NHC sees little reason not to expect a major hurricane at landfall. It is going to be an interesting few days, to say the least...

Posted by Will at 12:25 PM

Oh great...

144732W_sm.gifI would show you where Tampa is on this latest hurricane track map, but it's obscured by that big black dot that says "8 AM Thu" They're expecting a Cat 3 by that time. From StormTrack:

Ernesto's limited strength thus far has been due to moderate wind shear displacing the convection from the center of circulation. While the center of circulation used to be on the very edge of the convection, it is now within the convection but displaced towards the west. This wind shear should lessen today and tomorrow, and allow for strengthening to continue. The current convective pattern is very healthy and Ernesto seems to mean business.

Posted by Will at 11:36 AM

August 26, 2006

An excuse to leave Tampa?

The folks over at StormTrack (the best resource for up-to-the-second storm info and analysis) seem a bit ominous about Ernesto's personality lately:

For a couple days now we have been talking up Ernesto and warning that there was a significant chance that this could be the new big story. After looking at the situation today, I am convinced that things could be very bad indeed. I always try not incite undue worry, but Ernesto could get ugly. Those of you in the Gulf Coast need to re-examine your hurricane plans, especially is you live in the north Gulf from Houston to Tallahassee. A very deep layer of warm water in the northern Gulf could allow for Ernesto to become a very powerful hurricane if it reaches the area.

The first classes of the Fall semester are next week and my girlfriend is visiting Tampa next weekend. I'll be watching this one closely...

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Posted by Will at 06:08 PM

August 22, 2006

Welcome Back, Klinger

welcome-back-kotter.jpgI would be lying if I said that my lack of blogging lately is due to me being busy with school. In reality, I have been enjoying my new apartment and the joy of not living in the crappy section of central Tampa near campus. As the semester is getting geared up so is my graduate assistantship. I will be working on some really interesting projects having to do with 3D laser scanning technology as well as the ol’ Total Station. One of the projects is mapping and completing a site survey of Crystal River in Florida. I am also going to get my first teaching experience, covering at least one class in my advisor’s Intro to Archaeology course. Later this semester I’ll get to lecture on one of my favorite topics: the origins of agriculture. Classes start next Monday but I only have meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays: Archaeological Theory, MA Stats, and Bioarchaeology. Let the caffeinated insanity begin.

Posted by Will at 03:20 PM

August 20, 2006

Special Letters Unit

This isn't really anthropology, but it has to do with two of my favorite things: Law & Order and learning. And it's hilarious.

Posted by Will at 04:58 PM

August 12, 2006

Lowry Park Zoo

Now that I am all moved in to my new apartment, my father and I decided to take in the Lowry Park Zoo here in Tampa. It was a hot day, but the zoo turned out to be excellent with some great up-close encounters with the animals (especially the giraffes). You can find the entire collection of photos on my Flickr page.

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Posted by Will at 02:32 PM

August 10, 2006

New Place

Sorry for the recent lack of blogging, which will probably continue the next several days as I get settled in to my new one-bedroom apartment here in Tampa. Further west than my previous dive, it's a step up (both comfort and money). It's major selling point for me was it's quiteness (WORTH EVERY PENNY OF THE RENT) and the wonderful lake view right of my screened-in balcony:

The View

Posted by Will at 10:03 PM

August 03, 2006

Ancient Ruins and Respect

When describing the archaeological ruins I have visited such as Tikal, Copan, or Lamanai, I often remark that it’s like Disney World for nerds. Climbing the highest temples constructed and utilized over a thousand years ago is an emotional experience for me. Here is a structure that was built not for me to study or excavate, but instead for another generation of human beings with a very different view of the world to incorporate into their existence. Perhaps that is too much of a romantic view of ancient cultures, but I have yet to meet an archaeologist who doesn’t enjoy trekking up and down temples and mounds for hours on end in the hot sun.

A post this morning on Tasbir suggests a “hubris of Western travelers, who desecrate sacred spots of the past by their attitude.” The post’s author, Daniel Martin Varisco, quotes Pierre Loti in a magnificent passage about his feelings while observing a group of travelers at the ancient temple of Abydos. Here is a passage from that passage:

Oh! poor, poor temple, to what strange uses are you come. . . . This excess of grotesqueness in profanation is more insulting surely than to be sacked by barbarians! Behold a table set for some thirty guests, and the guests themselves – of both sexes – merry and lighthearted, belong to that special type of humanity which patronises Thomas Cook & Son (Egypt Ltd.). They wear cork helmets, and the classic green spectacles; drink whisky and soda, and eat voraciously sandwiches and other viands out of greasy paper, which now litters the floor. And the women! Heavens! what scarecrows they are! And this kind of thing, so the black-robed Bedouin guards inform us, is repeated every day so long as the season lasts. A luncheon in the temple of Osiris is part of the programme of pleasure trips. Each day at noon a new band arrives, on heedless and unfortunate donkeys. The tables and the crockery remain, of course, in the old temple!

Varisco’s post reminds me of an issue in archaeology that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. That is whether or not Western imperialism and the attitude of the Western traveler inhibits a respectful understanding of sacred spaces. At the risk of sounding imperialistic myself by suggesting the superiority of Western science or science in general over sightseeing, a distinction can be made between the typical traveler and the legitimate researcher. This thought crosses every archaeologists’ mind, if only briefly: who has the right to be at this site, either to take pictures or to excavate its surface? Surely I, the trained archaeologist, have more knowledge of the area, the environment, and the ancient peoples than the typical shutterbug! But, does that give me more of a right to experience the beauty and intrigue of the site’s history? Moreover, do I, the trained archaeologist, have a right to be here considering I am an outsider, one who did not participate in the activities and lives that played out here hundreds or thousands of years ago?

Posted by Will at 10:59 AM

August 01, 2006

Midnight snacks explained?

From Science:

The body's internal clock is set by both light and food signals--that's one reason doctors recommend fighting jetlag with sunlight and regular meals. But just how these signals dictate our circadian rhythms is still being sorted out. In this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists report that they have identified the region of the brain that seems to adjust a body's circadian clock in response to food. If confirmed, the find might help scientists explain a little-understood connection between obesity and late-night eating.

Full story here.

The name for that area of the brain? From personal experience, I propose the "Hot Pocket" region.

Posted by Will at 10:02 PM

Always back up your data

Don't you hate it when your word processing program crashes while you're typing a paper or you loose your flash drive? What about humanity?

Cue the Alliance to Rescue Civilization, a group that advocates a backup for humanity by way of a station on the Moon replete with DNA samples of all life on Earth, as well as a compendium of all human knowledge — the ultimate detached garage for a race of packrats. It would be run by people who, through fertility treatments and frozen human eggs and sperm, could serve as a new Adam and Eve in addition to their role as a new Noah.

Full story in the New York Times.

Posted by Will at 01:43 PM