August 25, 2007

Pseudoarchaeology on Point of Inquiry

Although I haven't listened to it in a while, this week's episode of the excellent Point of Inquiry podcast features Garrett G. Fagan, a Penn State archaeologist:

In this interview with D.J. Grothe, Garrett Fagan explains the differences between archaeology and pseudoarchaeology, emphasizing how the science of archaeology benefits society. He explores possible motivations of pseudoarchaeologists, and challenges various pseudoarchaeological theories about Atlantis, the origins of the Great Pyramids in Egypt, and about the discovery great pyramids in Bosnia. He also details the various ways that pseudoarchaeology and other pseudoscientific thinking may harm society.

Read more and download the podcast from the Point of Inquiry website.

Posted by Will at 02:33 AM

March 28, 2007

Four Stone Hearth @ Afarensis

One of the most consistently interesting science bloggers out there, Afarensis has the latest edition of the Four Stone Hearth blog carnival. My post about the portrayal of women in prehistory (which includes a magnificent photo of a scantily-clad Raquel Welch from the 1966 film One Million Years B.C.) made the cut, as did many other great posts, so be sure to check it out.

Posted by Will at 10:13 PM

March 15, 2007

Free New York Times Select subscriptions

Excellent news for news junkies like myself: The New York Times is about to start offering completely free subscriptions to their Times Select service, which provides access to all the newspaper's articles, archives back to the 1851, and opinion pages, with a valid university or college e-mail address. A year or two ago they started putting a lot of content behind a subscription wall, to which I paid $25/year to access. Even better news, previous subscribers will get a refund for their current subscription! Take advantage of this if you have a university email address.

Posted by Will at 04:15 PM

March 02, 2007

When readings science blogs pays off

I was checking out the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog (yes, I know, not exactly TMZ or PerezHilton) and I was linked up with a fantastic website, the Beer Mapping Project. They use Google Maps to plot the location of your favorite beers and where you can find them. The list of cities with maps is limited at the moment, but my spring break houdestination next week, Chicago, is included. There is also a national map showing all the breweries and brewpubs. This is a more complete map, which has my favorite brewpub, Front Street Brewery in Wilmington, NC.

This is a brilliant site, and is essentially a geographic information system (GIS). So, the site is combining two of my favorite things: beer and maps (in that order).


Posted by Will at 09:49 AM | Comments (1)

February 28, 2007

Four Stone Hearth #10

Carl at Hot Cup of Joe is officially the most creative (and busiest) archaeologist-blogger out there with the latest edition of the Four Stone Hearth blog carnival. In edition 10, he treats each entry as a translated ancient tablet. You'll have to check out it to understand.

Posted by Will at 10:57 AM

February 15, 2007

Four Stone Hearth #9

A special, short-notice edition of the Four Stone Hearth blog carnival is up at Hot Cup of Joe. Props to Carl for filling in for Boas Blog. There are some great entries this week so check it out.

Update: Boas Blog has come through...more posts there.

Posted by Will at 07:08 AM

February 01, 2007

Sharing anthropological knowledge: the future

I met a colleague the other day in my department who is also a blogger and actually came across Nomadic Thoughts through the growing network of Anthropology-related blogs on the internet. I was pleased for two main reasons: I'm not the only one who does this at USF and I didn't realize that the internet-based anthropology movement was as big as it is. The website Anthropology 2.0: Rethinking Why and How "Information is Power" sums up many of the aspects of internet publishing and idea sharing such as the debate surrounding Open Access and blogging in general. So what is Anthropology 2.0? Marc (author of the 2.0 website) writes:

Anthropology 2.0 may refer to the current stage in the evolution of anthropology, as a discipline being impacted by information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as cell phones, computers and the Internet. Similar to computer software upgrades from the original version often identified as 1.0 to the new and improved 2.0 version, the current stage of the Internet’s evolution is popularly called Web 2.0. The term Web 2.0 also implies that creating, collaborating and disseminating information is easier and more widespread than before.

The many who communicate professionally online are far ahead of the curve in my opinion. The internet has permeated virtually every aspect of our lives and a growing portion of the population, especially in research fields, literally cannot do their job without an internet connection. Traditional ways of sharing knowledge will always be with us (journals, conferences, etc.) but the future of the discipline is online and I predict within 10 or 15 years, maybe less, as older generations of anthropologists retire and newer ones ascend to positions of power as department chairs, journal editors, and society presidents we will see a more profound move to "digital academia." It also helps to recognize the fact that the field of academic anthropology (and even archaeology in the public sector to an extent) is all about who you know. By maintaining a presence online, potential connections are increased dramatically. This is particularly important to job seekers.

That being said, I can easily recognize the hesitancy of academics and students eyeing academic jobs to share their thoughts about the field and their research in an online setting (department politics, anyone?). The realm of public research has much to gain from electronic dissemination and idea-sharing. As my favorite graduate school professor often reminds her students, "all archaeology is public." This is especially true when public funds are underwriting cultural resource management projects. One of the great debates within public archaeology is what to make of the mountains of "gray literature" that is produced from government or privately contracted projects. This, I feel is where the effects of Anthropology 2.0 will be most felt and why non-academic research will experience a revolution of sorts in the coming years.

Posted by Will at 09:58 PM

January 31, 2007

Four Stone Hearth #8

Be sure to head over to Northstate Science for the latest edition of the Four Stone Hearth carnival, the latest in anthropology related blogging. Boas Blog will be hosting on February 14th so stay tuned for submission information.

Posted by Will at 10:36 PM

January 30, 2007

Break out the champagne!

Not only has an archaeology news item made the front page of, it's also the most read story as of about 1:30pm. Unless Paris Hilton does something ridiculous in the next few hours, the story should stay up for a while (see screenshot and update below the fold).


Update (about 10 seconds after writing the previous sentences): The gas station explosion in West Virginia has knocked the archaeology story to #2 most popular story. Also notable, as of 1:30pm the top three stories are all real news that matters (some would disagree about the Stonehenge village I suppose), with "Stun guns used on streaker" dropping several slots. This isn't the America I know!

Posted by Will at 01:34 PM

January 17, 2007

Four Stone Hearth #7

The seventh installment of the Four Stone Hearth blog carnival is up at Aardvarchaeology. Check it out for some great reading, as always.

Posted by Will at 11:35 AM

January 04, 2007

Four Stone Hearth is up

Be sure to check out No. 6 of the Four Stone Hearth blog carnival, up at Bipedal Locomotion. Some interesting reads this time around.

Posted by Will at 05:53 PM

December 28, 2006

Test your "brain sex"

I took the Sex I.D. Test on the BBC website and discovered that I have a brain more like a woman than a man. Needless to say, I take the results as a compliment. It takes about 20 minutes, and as PZ points out one shouldn't put too much stock into the results because of normal human variation. Regardless, I'm sure I'll score some points by telling my girlfriend the news...


Posted by Will at 06:07 PM

December 20, 2006

Four Stone Hearth, No. 5

Welcome to the newest installment of the anthropology blog carnival, The Four Stone Hearth. The submissions this time are quite good, so let's get right to it:

Cheers to Carl at Hot Cup of Joe (Dallas/Ft. Worth, United States), who writes about GPS use in archaeological field work. I'll be using Mobile GIS technology (which utilizes GPS) in my own research next season in Honduras, so I found this post particularly interesting. He first summarizes a few features of GPS and how it can be used in archaeology, like for site discovery and remote sensing. Then Carl describes a few projects that highlight the benefits and limitations of GPS and offers some insight about the future of the technology:

The future of GPS in archaeological applications will certainly include data collection, particularly as equipment becomes readily available to excavation teams. The ease of use, increased rate of data collection, the quality of data, and the ability for a single surveyor to collect data will be appealing to archaeologists seeking to maximize their time. In addition, the ability to transfer data from the GPS to a laptop in the field for processing and rendering to a map further simplify the survey process and, perhaps, eliminate errors in calculation that can occur with optical methods.

A blogger after my own heart, Tim at Remote Central (London, England) highlights the almost always problematic relationship between religion and science. He describes a recent story involving leaders of the Pentecostal Church in Kenya and how they are trying to curb the teaching of evolution in classrooms by way of actually criticizing fossil evidence for human evolution. Tim provides extensive analysis of the situation and thoughtful comments, concluding that

...the light of spiritual enlightenment coupled with its scientific equivalent, should have combined to produce something that was even brighter - instead, the result so far has been sonic in aspect, a deafening cacophony of bitter accusation and recrimination, fueled by the deep resentments of two mighty adversaries engaged in a fight to the death, as they bid to gain control of a world, its opinions and ultimately its very soul.

Next up is Martin (Stockholm, Sweden), who writes at Salto Sobrius about, I am not kidding, Tolkien and Archaeology. Unfortunately, the world of Middle Earth doesn't agree with the archaeologist in Martin:

Actually, my studies of archaeology and neighboring subjects have somewhat diminished my enjoyment of Tolkien. They have made the flaws, joints and white spots in his work apparent like they never were to me as a child. Middle-earth doesn't really work when seen from anthropological and economic viewpoints. And Tolkien's world-building makes heavy use of models and interpretations of real-world history that are no longer accepted by scholars. But still he's one of my great favourites.

I found this post infinitely fascinating because I just fishing reading Tilley's A Phenomenology of Landscape, which is essentially a postprocessual treatment of Wales' and England's ancient landscape. Tilley argues that the relative location of megaliths and natural land features tell a story about how the ancient Mesolithic and Neolithic peoples viewed their world. Martin notes how the ancient monuments of Middle Earth contribute to the "landscape" of the book itself. Very interesting read.

Switching gears, Yann is back (Albuquerque, United States), talking about group competition and human cooperation. He's prompted by a recent Science article to explore the evolutionary bases for altruism and cooperation among humans. I'm glad he posted this because I read the article myself and had trouble digesting it, so it's helpful to read a different take on the issue. According to Yann,

...using the Price Equation for the evolution of altruism which takes into account the balance of a within-deme and between deme effect, and some estimates of group competition and within-group relatedness among modern hunter-gatherers, S. Bowles argues that with group competition and group relatedness being high enough (and he provides evidence that it may indeed have been) and with reproductive leveling due to monogamy (thereby reducing the amount of inter-group competition), human large scale cooperation can flourish.

Finally, but certainly not least, is Scott from Bipedal Locomotion writing about progressive evolution. He gives a great overview of the concept and offers a bit of his own perspective. I found this post easy to read and informative, so definitely check this one out. He concludes with a point that I think is completely missed by many people who claim to have an informed opinion about evolution, especially in the United States:

So, the take home message is essentially that biologic evolution is a series of processes continually acting on organisms, producing new morphologies, genotypes, and species. There is no single, inexorable direction that these processes take. Evolution is contingent on random, chance events, and our own existence, rather than an inevitability, may simply represent only one of numerous possible evolutionary outcomes.

Well, that's it for the fifth installment of the Four Stone Hearth blog carnival. I had a great time reading all of the submissions and have since added a couple of blogs to my list. There really are some great writers out there and I can't wait to read more from them. Hope everyone has a nice holiday. Cheers!

Posted by Will at 12:51 PM | Comments (2)

December 15, 2006

Four Stone Hearth coming to Nomadic Thoughts

Just a reminder than the 5th edition of the Four Stone Hearth blog carnival will be hosted here on December 20th. If you have any posts you would like to submit, e-mail a link and short description to!

Posted by Will at 10:05 AM

December 12, 2006

Top Tens from National Geographic

Check out the Top Ten Stories and Top Ten Videos of 2006 from National Geographic News.

Posted by Will at 02:01 PM

December 07, 2006

More mappy goodness from the Earth Institute

The Earth Institute at Colombia University has compiled a bunch of 2000 census data into several maps of the United States that reveal patterns in things like education, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity. The most interesting (to me at least) is the map that shows percentage of people 25+ with a BA degree. You can clearly see concentrations around cities with major university, such as the Triangle region of North Carolina (home to U. of NC, NC State U., Duke U.). If you look close enough, there's even a little splotch over Wilmington in southeast North Carolina, where I got my BA degree.


It is also very interesting to look at different maps and see how certain areas overlap depending on the thing being measured. For example, look at the maps of American Indian individuals and then percentage of people living below the poverty level (notice the Four Corner region in particular).


Previously on Nomadic Thoughts: Poverty Maps

Posted by Will at 11:12 AM

Four Stone Hearth #4

The Four Stone Hearth, the latest and greatest in anthropology blogging, is over at Yann Kilmentidis' Weblog. I submitted my post about the Steven Johnson piece in the New York Times. Also, Nomadic Thoughts is up next on December 20 so stay tuned for info about submitting posts.

Posted by Will at 12:17 AM

December 06, 2006

National Geographic "excavates" file footage amid Apocalypto hype

I hate to sound like the typical arrogant archaeologist but I feel the hype surrounding this Friday's release of Apocalypto is going to get old pretty fast. National Geographic has some "archival footage" of Apocalypto's resident archaeologist Richard Hansen excvating a tomb at the "lost city" of El Mirador. Note the spotless white shirt and pants of Hansen in the video, even though he is "searching for the tomb of King Great Fiery Jaguar Paw—perhaps the namesake of Apocalypto's hero, a commoner called simply Jaguar Paw." Hell, I was just looking for a few pot sherds this past summer in Honduras and I still have dirt in my ears.

Posted by Will at 04:53 PM

November 28, 2006

Social (dis)connections

Steven Johnson, a fantastic writer that I came across last week who writes about the intersection of science, technology, and personal life, has a post up on his blog (unfortunately available only with a TimesSelect subscription) about the ever-increasing distance between, well, people:

This is the lament of iPod Nation: we’ve built elaborate tools to connect us to our friends – and introduce us to strangers – who are spread across the planet, and at the same time, we’ve embraced technologies that help us block out the people we share physical space with, technologies that give us the warm cocoon of the personalized soundtrack. We wear white earbuds that announce to the world: whatever you’ve got to say, I can’t hear it.

Social landscapes have been studied extensively in sociology and anthropology. How people interact and organize themselves can be indicative of how people organize themselves in certain social contexts. Johnson is speaking primarily about big urban cities like New York, but the iPod silencing effect (my awkward phrase) seems to me to be plausible for a variety of non-urban situations. For example, when we plug in we can not only cut ourselves off from other people but from nature as well. Imagine taking a hike in a forest only to miss the sounds and subtle vibrations that contribute so much to that environment’s beauty. There are social landscapes and natural landscapes each with their own unique characteristics (sometimes overlapping) and the encroachment of technology into our everyday lives invariable has an effect on our perceptions of our surroundings. In my opinion, it is often to the deficit of the perceiver.

So while Johnson eloquently describes the social distance that is often caricatured as the iPod-wearing urbanite, he is optimistic about the relationships that can be introduced and the dialogue that can be facilitated by technologies that permeate our everyday lives, mainly the internet:

So the idea that the new technology is pushing us away from the people sharing our local spaces is only half true. To be sure, iPods and mobile phones give us fewer opportunities to start conversations with people of different perspectives. But the Web gives us more of those opportunities, and for the most part, I think it gives us better opportunities. What it doesn’t directly provide is face-to-face connection. So the question becomes: how important is face-to-face? I don’t have a full answer to that – clearly it’s important, and clearly we lose something in the transition to increasingly virtual interactions.

The reason Johnson’s post satisfies me is because it strikes a happy medium between a hypersensitivity to the effects of technology in our lives on the one hand and the unbridled technophilia that so many of my generation have succumbed to. I wish that I could say more than this or offer some sort of insightful analysis, but like Johnson I believe the true sociological/psychological benefits of face-to-face connection are elusive at best and unattainable at worst. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that intimate communication is infinitely important to healthy social development, but to what extent can science (social or otherwise) lend itself to understanding the recently-renegotiated relationships and social dynamics brought about by the rather swift emergence of the iPod Generation?

You heard it here, you'll be hearing big things from this guy in the coming months. Stephen Johnson’s new book The Ghost Map (subtitled “The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World”) is currently on the top of my to-read list. His website is

More iPod Generation:
Anxious life of the 'Ipod' generation - TimesOnline
Murdoch tunes in to iPod generation - The Register

The above are only two of many news stories and websites out there, and from doing a simple Google search most of them, interestingly, seem to be from UK-based publications.

Posted by Will at 11:20 PM

November 08, 2006

Four Stone Hearth Ed. 2

The second installment of the Four Stone Hearth anthropology blog carnival is up at Afarensis. Check it out, there's some good reading. Reminder, the carnival pulls into town here on December 20th.

Posted by Will at 09:14 PM

October 25, 2006

First Issue of the Four Stone Hearth is up!

I recently wrote about the Four Stone Hearth, a new blog carnival some bloggers and I developed with Kambiz from He has done a great job on the inaugural issue (which includes my recent post about Lewis Binford), so be sure to check it out. Remember, the Four Stone Hearth will be hosted at Nomadic Thoughts on December 20th! Next up is Afarensis on November 8th, so stay tuned to that blog if you want to submit one of your anthropology-related entries.

Posted by Will at 07:54 PM

October 10, 2006

New Anthropology blog carnival: Four Stone Hearth

Myself and several other bloggers have been collaborating with Kambiz from on a new project called Four Stone Hearth. It is a blog carnival focusing on topics related to the four subfields of anthropology (hence the four stones). If you're not familiar with blog carnivals, check out the brand new official Four Stone Hearth website at or the Wikipedia article. Kambiz did a fantastic job on the web design and organizing everything. Nomadic Thoughts will be hosting the carnival on December 20th, so stay tuned for more info as that date gets closer. Until then, first up is on the 25th.

Posted by Will at 10:57 AM

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

July 11, 2006


This is just too funny not to disseminate and is making the blog rounds accordingly: an anti-abortion blogger cites an Onion article to back up his case. And no, this is not satire...

(thanks Pharyngula)

Posted by Will at 08:07 AM | Comments (1)

July 02, 2006

Firefox vs. IE

To kill some time I decided to download and try out Internet Explorer 7, Microsoft's response to the success of Mozilla Firefox, which I have been using for at least the past two years. At first glance, IE7 is better looking than the default setup of Firefox, but looks aren't everything. Even so, IE7 seems to have more useful and streamlined features than Firefox and is a little more robust feeling. I originally switched to and got hooked on Firefox because of tabbed browsing, something that IE now has. They even do it a little better, with a "quick view" that lets you see all your open tabs layed out in thumbnail view. To top it off, migration of my bookmarks was pretty seamless so the switch was easy, making a permanent move likely. And thanks to free market competition, Microsoft has apparently addressed several security issues which answer my original concerns when I switched to FIrefox a few years ago.

Update: Nevermind, Firefox is still better. Try again, Microsoft.

Posted by Will at 12:07 AM | Comments (1)

May 21, 2006

It was one year ago today...

Today is the official one year anniversary of Nomadic Thoughts. On May 21st, 2005 I made my first entry:

I'm flying out of Charlotte tomorrow morning to visit South Florida and take care of some pre-Fall business. I need to stop by the financial aid office, of course, and get some things situated. I learned early on that of all the stuff that's involved in getting ready for graduate school, pretty much all of it depends on being able to get it paid for. I haven't been offered anything from the Anthro Department yet, but I'm hoping for an assistantship. Maybe teach or something? So far what I have are some general government grants and a work study grant. Who knows, maybe I'll be serving mashed potatoes at the cafeteria.

Since then, I've made 310 posts at an average of 1.18 per day. Not bad. Here’s to another year of blogging madness.

Posted by Will at 03:00 PM

March 29, 2006

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 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

March 20, 2006

Welcome another Anthroblogger

Jen has come aboard the 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 05, 2006


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 03, 2006

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 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, 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

February 22, 2006

Weekend Hiatus

I won’t be blogging much (if at all) this weekend because it’s going to be a mini-vacation for me. My parents are coming to Tampa tonight to visit and we are going over to Orlando to check out Disneyworld on Friday and Saturday. It’ll be their first time, my second. Disney may be a multinational, exploitative, money-hungry evil mouse empire but they do know how to make a fun theme park.


Posted by Will at 09:20 PM

February 18, 2006

I am my father's son...

I've never posted any photos of my family but this should do: my father and I as characters from...well, you know...

Tim Simpson:


Will Simpson:


(Thanks to PZ for passing along the link to the Simpsonmaker...his is particularly funny)

Posted by Will at 01:13 AM

February 17, 2006

Grab a coat, or a surf board

PZ (from Pharyngula) notes how it's "-16°F (-26°C) out there, with 15-20mph winds" this morning in Morris, Minnesota. In the comments of the same post, pablo cites his thermometer in Missouri at 13° F. Must be rough for's going to be a brisk 78° F today in Tampa. And I thought I was going to go all winter without sweating while walking to campus!

Posted by Will at 09:25 AM | Comments (2)

February 11, 2006

"The New Christian Science Textbook"

Mad props to PZ for the link to one of Matt Bors' recent comic strips, "The New Christian Science Textbook." My favorite "page":


While you're there, check out more of Matt's work. It's hilarious.

Posted by Will at 04:33 PM

Tabsir: Insight on Islam and the Middle East

I normally don't mention every great blog I come across but this one is worth special mention, especially in the wake of the Danish cartoons that are causing so much unnecessary violence across the globe. Tabsir is a blog written by "scholars concerned about stereotypes, misinformation and propaganda spread in the media and academic forums on Islam and the Middle East." The lineup is quite impressive and includes a handful of professors and chairs of anthropology departments in the US. I'll be reading with a critical eye, however, because as I argued in a previous post I have yet to be convinced that Islam is not an inherently violent religion, with blood spilt over the Danish cartoons being the single response consistent with Muslim theology.

Posted by Will at 01:16 AM | Comments (1)

February 02, 2006

Introducing Will's Notes and Clips

I use a service called Bloglines to manage the 90 or so RSS/Atom feeds that I read on a regular or semi-regular basis. This web-based aggregator includes a blog tool that I haven't really found a use for until now. As sort of an offshoot of Nomadic Thoughts I'm launching Will's Notes and Clips, an offsite blog that will have links to news stories and blog posts that I find interesting. Posting is effortless within Bloglines and it will allow anyone with a disturbing amount of free time on their hands to see what I'm reading and following on the web. And if you really want to creep me out, it has an RSS feed of its own. It also contains my complete blogroll (the relevant ones are on the left sidebar). It couldn't be more self-serving, but isn't everything in life these days? Enjoy!

Posted by Will at 07:15 PM | Comments (1)

February 01, 2006

What does your birthday mean?

Via Afarensis:

Your Birthdate: October 1
You are a natural born leader, even if those leadership talents haven't been developed yet.
You have the power and self confidence to succeed in life, and your power grows daily.
Besides power, you also have a great deal of creativity that enables you to innovate instead of fail.
You are a visionary, seeing the big picture instead of all of the trivial little details.

Your strength: Your supreme genius

Your weakness: Your inappropriate sensitivity

Your power color: Gold

Your power symbol: Star

Your power month: January
What Does Your Birth Date Mean?

Posted by Will at 12:12 PM

January 26, 2006

Georgia on my mind

I'm taking the weekend off to drive to Savannah to meet up with my girlfriend for a little getaway. We are staying at a couple of bed and breakfast places which are old historic homes. Savannah looks like a neat town and was chosen because it's roughly halfway between Wilmington and Tampa. First night at the Dresser Palmer House and then to the River Street Inn on Saturday night. Click the photos to check out the websites. I'll post some more next week (that we took ourselves).

Dresser Palmer House:

River Street Inn:

Posted by Will at 08:30 PM

January 25, 2006

Searching for Nomadic Thoughts

I'll have to start doing this more often...I was looking at my visitor stats and I can see what pages refer people to this blog including what they search for on Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. to surf here. Most of it is by chance but it's quite amusing. I noticed today that I've hit a milestone: I am the 3rd highest ranked site for the Yahoo search term "Jesus Christ will get a new body and be reborn in 2006."

Posted by Will at 05:01 PM

Two sides of the same coin

At (an excellent site by the way), blogger gringoperdido has an enlightening post about the disparate natures of the American and Latin American education systems. Besides pointing out the differences in the logistics of degree-seeking, he speaks to the dynamics of actually carrying out archaeology (and interpretation) in the Maya world when two different educational structures (and languages) collide in the same region: one emphasizing method over theory (Latin America) and the other theory over method (US):

This has resulted in 2 separate dialogues about the nature of the ancient Maya. The gringos pay little attention to Guatemalan archaeologists and the Guatemalans are unable to access many of the interpretations and a lot of the recent theoretical schools. In addition, there is the actual language barrier. As most of the American projects in the Maya world are in Belize (an English-speaking country), there are many gringos who do not speak fluent Spanish and are thus unable and/or unwilling to read the reports of the Spanish-speaking projects. Most of the Guatemalans do not speak English and the few English-language books and articles that make it here are in out-of-the-way libraries, they do not use them much.

Posted by Will at 12:58 AM

January 15, 2006

The God Survey

PZ of Pharyngula linked me up to a blogger who recently carried out a two-month informal study of Christians on message boards where she asked a variety of questions related to Christian ideas about the existence of God and atheism. She found some interesting tidbits, nothing new but good to see in writing. She posts basically a bunch of lists like the "10 most common misconceptions about atheists" (Jealous of theists is #1), etc. More interesting was her receptiveness (or lack thereof) on the message boards and how she concludes that one of the main problems in initiating a dialogue between theists and atheists is a language barrier:

The entire experience can be summed up fairly easily. Generally speaking, they know next to nothing about atheists, they are extremely emotionally attached to their deities, and they are just people looking for truth as we are. The animosity that sparks between atheists and theists seems to stem from the two camps speaking two different languages - atheists speak in terms of empirical evidence and logic; theists speak in terms of faith, emotion, and the unknown. An atheist expects proof before acceptance, a theists sees acceptance as proof.

This is essentially an anthropological approach to studying a group of people (however informal and unscientific the study is). Here we have an interested individual who sets out to gain insight into the worldview of what can be described as a different culture. As with any study of "the Other" there are meanings that cannot be translated, ideas that cannot be adequately put into words, and implied hostilities that cannot be reconcilied. Trying to understand how an atheist or theist thinks without actually being one or the other is incoherent and ultimately impossible. In other words, you'll never find a Christian that fully agrees with an atheist's characterization of Christianity and vice versa.

Posted by Will at 12:56 PM | Comments (2)

January 13, 2006

New Evolution/ID Debate Forum

Mark at Backfill, one of the newer archaeology bloggers, has set up a forum focusing on evolution and the debate over intelligent design. Looks like a worthy endeavour so spread the word and hopefully we can get some good discussion going. You can find the forum by clicking here.

Posted by Will at 09:53 PM

January 08, 2006

Carnival of the Godless #31


The 31st Carnival of the Godless is up at Buridan's Ass. I mention it this time because I submitted my post about science and religion. Check it out because there are some great posts to be read.

Posted by Will at 12:12 PM

January 07, 2006

Thomas Hylland Erikson to guest post at Savage Minds

Keep an eye on Savage Minds because Rex has announced that Thomas Hylland Erikson will be guest posting for about a week. Erikson is a Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo and the Free University of Amsterdam. He is also the author of Engaging anthropology: The case for a public presence, which has been collecting dust on my Amazon wish list. As an applied anthropologist I'm interested in Erikson's ideas about involving the general public in anthropological matters. So read, comment, and be enlightened.

Posted by Will at 03:03 PM

January 01, 2006

Hello TampaBLAB

Looks like I passed the rigorous background check because Nomadic Thoughts has been added to TampaBLAB site, a Tampa Bay area blog aggregator. If you're not sure what I mean, whenever I post here it will automatically show up on that blog as well along with other writers who are a part of the community. It's essentially an easy way to read a bunch of blogs at one central location.

Posted by Will at 08:08 PM

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)

December 24, 2005 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)

October 30, 2005

Biker Tony

I suggest everyone take a few minutes to check out, the website of a man who treks around various parts of the world on his bicycle. Besides being a simply beautifully-designed website, it includes some of best photos of Machu Picchu I've seen on the web (they make great computer backgrounds) and detailed travel logs and even stats he recorded while riding. The site says he's riding through Africa "sometime in early 2005" but he hasn't updated in a while.

Now to find a way to combine what Tony is doing with a degree in archaeology...

Posted by Will at 11:09 PM

October 14, 2005

New Banner

I get bored quickly so I decided to spruce up the walls of Nomadic Thoughts a bit. Makes things a little more exciting around here, doesn't it? And stereotypical too!

In other housekeeping developments, I'm getting an abnormal amount of hits because of a Ghostbusters logo I posted a while back. I've since deleted the post but Google image search is still directing a bunch of hits to NT. Now if my hits go up even more starting tonight then I'll know it's because of the new theme!

Posted by Will at 09:12 PM

September 22, 2005

Dorky Blogger Fun

The following nerdy blog "game" is making its rounds and I couldn't resist (props to Pharyngula):

1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

Mine from June 17:
"For scientists bred to tolerate and even enjoy the often harsh conditions of field work, an anthropologist "forced" to serve in the Amazon reads like a cheesy joke, as the Times Online headline suggests."

You can follow this thing back a few posts. It'll be interesting to see how many "generations" it goes.

Posted by Will at 01:12 AM

September 11, 2005

Religion Majors on the Rise

My father sent me this article that reports on a recent increase in undergraduate religion majors and an overall increase in students taking religion courses:

A report from the American Academy of Religion said that the number of religion majors increased 26 percent from 1996 through 2000 and that total enrollment in religion classes rose 15 percent.

As I started reading I thought of why I decided to take on a religion major in addition to anthropology and almost prophetically (no pun intended) the article said:

Professors cite three possible reasons for the increases: the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, spurred many students to learn about Islam and their own religions; recent immigration has made Americans more curious about their new neighbors' faiths; and Christian evangelical students seem more comfortable studying religion on campus.

The first two reasons are what got me interested in religious studies. As I've mentioned on Nomadic Thoughts before, the 9/11 attacks had a profound impact on me not only emotionally but intellectually as well. I had the sudden desire to try and understand what happened instead of just sit back and run my mouth as so many people have done since. 9/11 happened around the time I lost what little faith I had so having the opportunity to expand my understanding seemed only logical.

One reason the number of religion majors has not risen even higher, professors say, is that many students and their parents worry they won't be able to get good jobs with the degree.

That's why anthropology was my first major...

Posted by Will at 11:42 AM

September 02, 2005

Guest Bloggers at Savage Minds

I am excited to learn that Savage Minds has brought on two guest anthropologists-bloggers, Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz. They each have a pretty impressive background as evidenced by Rex's introduction. My interest in them has to do with Yali’s Question: Sugar, Culture, and History, a book they co-wrote partly in response to Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel. As many of you know, a debate raged a few weeks ago about Diamond and GG&S in the wake of the PBS/National Geographic television special with the same name. Some Savage Minds writers were highly involved in that debate so it will be interesting to see the results of adding yet another qualified opinion. I look forward to Drs. Errington's and Gewertz's posts.

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

Posted by Will at 04:09 PM

August 27, 2005


My domain name,, now points to a little website I slapped together on my new laptop. Not much there yet but I anticipate it to be a clearinghouse for all my work and news at least while I'm at USF.

Posted by Will at 06:09 PM

August 23, 2005

Last Week of Fun: Day 4

Today was easily the hardest. My girlfriend and I finally checked out of the La Quinta Inn after 4 nights and moved into my new apartment near campus. I brought with me from North Carolina only what I could fit in my Honda Civic which wasn't much. After huffing and puffing it all up to the third floor we proceeded to hit up Target, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy for some of the essentials that didn't make it to Tampa with me. That took all day and took everything out of us. The new place is pretty cool and I have a nice setup. It's smaller than my other place but it's kind of nice because I won't be able to accumulate so much crap as I did over the past two years. The roommate seems to be really nice as well; an environmental biology major.

Posted by Will at 10:08 PM

August 17, 2005

New Banner Image

I was playing around on my new laptop and ended up designing a new banner image for Nomadic Thoughts. Like the previous banner, this one was taken while I was in Belize last summer for an archaeology field school I attended with UNC-Wilmington. Our dig site and lodging was adjacent to the village of Indian Church. The picture shows one of the main roads going through Indian Church and one that we would walk many a night to and from the local bar, the Blue Bird. The banner keeps with the symbolism of not knowing exactly where I'm going or where I'll end up but appreciating the beauty of things along the way.

Posted by Will at 04:03 PM

August 03, 2005

GG&S Debate Summary at Inside Higher Ed

In the wake of the PBS special based on Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, a multi-blog debate exploded that brought in all kinds of opinions and thoughts on the matter. I posted quite a bit about the series itself, including one post about the debate, which started at Savage Minds. For anyone who wants to catch up or find out what all the uproar was about and what started it, Inside Higher Ed has a great piece on the debate's short history (thanks Kerim).

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

Posted by Will at 03:10 PM

July 28, 2005

Trackbacks turned off

Because of spam, I have decided to turn off the trackback feature of Nomadic Thoughts which allows readers to follow discussion on other blogs. John, who runs AnthroBlogs, has done the same for the group blog.

Posted by Will at 10:01 AM

July 18, 2005

New Blog: Cosmic Variance

Thought I'd join the crowd and help announce the launch today of a new academic blog called Cosmic Variance, written by a group of five physicists. Wonderful site design and the posts are already very interesting...check it out.

Update: Crooked Timber writes about CV here.

Posted by Will at 04:02 PM

July 14, 2005

Way too many blogs?

It occurred to me tonight as I was reading my blogroll that it's really starting to get out of hand. I currently have 121 total feeds on my list. Broken down, about 30-40% of these are written by anthropologists, philosophers, academics, and other scientists. The other large chunk is political blogs encompassing conservative, liberal, progressive, and radical view points. The rest are news feeds, delivering headlines and other non-opinion bits that are of interest to me. I have only recently (in the past couple of month) began reading academic blogs and they take up most of my time. As a result, political blogs, which I started reading first, have started to become unread as I devote more attention to the scholarly realm of the blogosphere. Afterall, I can only read so many Malkin posts before wanting to urinate on my CPU.

Over the past several weeks, I have spent on average at least one hour a day just reading other blogs. It becomes increasingly more time consuming as my blogroll grows at the rate of one or two blogs or feeds a week. No problem yet, as it’s only summer and I don't have any real obligations other than my optional summer job at the yacht club. Currently, I can hardly bring myself to not at least read every post title in my anthropology and philosophy lists every time I check Bloglines (at least once a day for my day to feel "complete"). When they pile up over the course of a day or two, this usually means a rapid scanning process until something pops out at me (that's how you know a blog is good).

I fear, however, that come Fall when I am knocked over the head with the hammer that is graduate school, I will spiral into an ugly episode of blog withdrawal. What will happen when I'm not able to devour and absorb every tasty Savage Minds or Pharyngula post? I can picture myself waking up at night in a cold sweat, rushing to the warm glow of my computer screen and making sure that I haven't missed something that Brian Leiter has written.

I write the above paragraph partly in jest (my addiction really isn't that bad), but I do find myself spending awkward amounts of time reading blogs and posting on my own. Previously, when I was "addicted" to Radiohead message boards I now find myself swimming in a sea of blog posts about everything from evolutionary theory to the latest opinion on how Bush is trying to turn the US into a Church. I'm confident I'll be weaned off my obsessive blog reading when I am intellectually stimulated as a graduate student as opposed to a blog junkie. Same addiction, different drug.

Posted by Will at 12:27 AM

July 12, 2005

Death to Academic Bloggers contd.

The academic blogosphere has been going nuts over this opinion piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which (anonymously) blasts academic blogs, claiming that they can, and usually do, hurt potential job applicants (I mention the article in my post here).

Well, the article has hit #4 on BlogPulse's most active links and while virtually all posts I've read have been critical of the piece, Jeff feels otherwise:

Thank you, "Ivan Tribble," whoever you are, for reminding me why choosing not to pursue an academic career was one of the best decisions I ever made. Thank you, "Ivan Tribble," for personifying the petty tyranny that I am newly grateful to have avoided. Thank you, "Ivan Tribble," for confirming that I was right to spend the past seven years working, traveling, and writing rather than leaping through hoops to please fickle and cowardly hiring committees. Thank you, "Ivan Tribble," for showing that there are few rewards, spiritual or otherwise, in scholarship and pseudo-collegiality predicated on the fearful question, Gosh, what if some fool expresses his personal opinion?


Posted by Will at 12:33 PM

July 11, 2005

MIT Blog Survey

I know this has been circulating for a while, but nevertheless:

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Posted by Will at 05:44 PM

July 07, 2005

Blogging and Annonymity

I'm prompted to write a post about the more functional aspects of blogging because of this post at The Valve in which Scott wonders why many academics using the platform blog anonymously. While I haven't seen such a correlation personally (I really haven't been paying attention to blogging platforms, although I do notice them for aesthetic reasons), I have noticed the two major groups in academic blogging: those who divulge their personal information and professional affiliations and those who do not. As Scott points out there seems to be no reason for anonymity if your blog is professional, on-topic, and not too political. My experience has been that academics that choose to remain anonymous do so because they write about individual colleagues, students, and controversial opinions.

In the comments section of the Valve post I describe why I chose to put quite a bit of information in my "About" page:

As a pre-first-semester graduate student (how’s that for “new to the game") I recently began writing an academic blog of sorts. I chose to divulge my name and bio only after careful consideration of what that may mean down the line. No matter how much we like to think it’s not, academia is characterized by its politics as much as its quest for knowledge. I’m about as new as you can be to higher education and while I’m not sure where I’ll end up, I’m fully aware of anything I write on my academic blog (as opposed to my personal blog) now can have very real implications for future plans, jobs, etc.

Pretty straightforward. I have nothing to hide because most of what I write on Nomadic Thoughts is on the topic of anthropology: news stories, general observations, and responses to posts on other blogs. My personal blog, on the other hand, could get me in trouble only if it provided a direct affiliation between my career as a new graduate student and my personal life. I think it's pretty obvious that what I write in The Journal has nothing to do with how I conduct myself as an anthropology student. However, in the wake of the story about the Brooklyn College professor who "chose" to remove himself from the process of becoming the Chair of the Sociology department (see my post here), I am starting to rethink how controversial I do get on my personal blog. The last thing I want is for something I wrote years ago to come back and haunt me at a very inopportune time, although I like to think such a scenario is unlikely.

Update: Oneman throws down in response to this opinion piece in the Chronicle for Higher Education criticizing academic blogging (first noted by Bitch, PhD. here).

Posted by Will at 12:14 PM

June 25, 2005

Moving, Pt. I

The journey to graduate school continues with the first of two moves in the next couple of months. The lease is up in my current apartment next Thursday so I'll be living with my buddy for a month in an upstairs spare bedroom. It should be fun living out of boxes and sleeping on just a mattress for a few weeks. I'm still waiting to find out when I have to start my assistantship in Tampa. It's supposed to start August 7th but my lease down there doesn't begin until late that month so I'm hoping to get a little "extenuating circumstance" action going on. It's a bit frustrating being in sort of a limbo, but it's exciting at the same time.

So if I'm not blogging as compulsively as I have been, moving is why. I'll at least try to keep up with the now world-famous Nomadic Thoughts Week in Review series. I'm also going to be purchasing a new Dell at some point because my current HP notebook is four years old and, well, just don't buy a HP notebook if you're in the market.

Posted by Will at 11:48 AM

June 15, 2005

The Tangled Bank

Today I came across a new (to me) blogging concept called "carnivals." The concept is pretty straight forward: bloggers submit what they feel are their best posts to one individual who aggregates the posts, comments on them, and then publishes it. This happens once a week and each week a new blog is the "host," that is to say that each week a different blogger publishes the carnival on his or her own blog.

The one I came across is called The Tangled Bank (around since April '04) and it's focused on writing related to science, nature, and medicine. It's a wonderful concept because it introduces readers to the best of the thousands of science blogs out there, plus you discover a potentially new blog each week as the hosts rotate. Naturally, I'm thinking about submitting in the future and maybe even hosting one day. So, if you like a particular post leave a comment and let me know!

The Tangled Bank

Posted by Will at 04:20 PM

June 09, 2005

Crooked Timber

Not to toot my own horn, but Nomadic Thoughts has been added to the granddaddy of all academic blog lists: Crooked Timber (it's buried in the list under "anthropology"). Something tells me that this small step toward blogging immortality may have something to do with the fact that I submitted NT asking to have it put on the list. But for the time being, don't burst my bubble.

Next goal, the fabled and much-sought after link in a Michelle Malkin post which has been said to increase one's blog traffic ten, nay, a hundred fold (I'm not holding my breath).

Posted by Will at 12:53 AM

June 01, 2005


As you can see, I've been messing around with Nomadic Thoughts' template to include a sidebar to left, which will hold my growing blogroll and link list. If you have an 800x600 screen resolution you'll have to scroll to see the whole page, but other than that everything should be fine. Please leave a comment if something doesn't look right from your end!

Posted by Will at 11:52 PM

May 19, 2005


Nomadic Thoughts is a part of the AnthroBlogs community.
Questions or comments? Send me an e-mail at nomadicthoughts(at)gmail(dot)com (replacing the (at) and (dot) with the corresponding symbol).

The Basics

Location: Tampa, Florida, United States
Occupation: Grad Student
Interests: history, religion, anthropology, philosophy, music, computers, politics
Favorite Music: Radiohead, The Beatles, Interpol, Beck, Secret Machines, Nine Inch Nails
Favorite Movies: The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction, Vanilla Sky, Scarface, Gladiator, Bad Santa, Indiana Jones trilogy (of course)
Favorite Authors: Wade Davis, Jared Diamond, Richard Dawkins

I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 2005 with a BA in Anthropology and a second major in Philosophy & Religion. I grew up in Winston-Salem, NC and came to UNCW intending to major in film studies. I lost interest in film pretty quickly and for some reason declared Anthropology as my major. The history and "prestige" of the field was the initial attraction but I soon realized that the subject matter itself was incredibly interesting and very important. At that point it was pretty clear that I wanted to study humans for a living.

My first extensive field experience was at the Ancient Maya site of Lamanai, located in present-day Belize. I attended a month-long archaeology field school there and became very interested in the religious significance of the ceremonial architecture (hence the second major). I worked closely with the field school director in producing the follow-up report. The whole field school experience is what led me to apply to The University of South Florida in order to continue my studies in Central America.

In the summer of 2006 I conducted research at the Lenca site of Palos Blancos near the prehispanic site of Palmarejo, located in northwest Honduras. Specifically, I am interested in ancient agriculture, subsistence, land use, and human-environment interaction.

About the title and banner image

I chose "Nomadic Thoughts" only after realizing that it's virtually impossible to pick a cool title for a nerd blog (as my girlfriend affectionately calls them). It basically refers to how my personal thoughts materialize, change, and develop. It also has an anthropological ring to it.

The banner image is a photograph that I took in the town of Indian Church, Belize (Summer 2004).

Favorite Websites

Personal Links



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Philosophy and Religion:


This page was Last updated on Sunday, March 5, 2006

Posted by Will at 10:00 PM