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this moment in time

maura @ 10:54 pm

Not too long ago we started to wonder whether Gus is old enough to see Raiders of the Lost Ark. I have to say that even though I loved it, the ending of the movie scared the crap out of me when I saw it in the theater lo those many summers ago. I was 12 and Gus is 9 1/2, but everything’s scarier in movie theaters at night, right? And it’s only rated PG, for goodness sake! (Though I bet it would be PG-13 now, easy.)

The other thing is that he’s apparently already seen at least part of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Which I think is perfectly appropriate even with its PG-13 rating, though I was somewhat dismayed to hear that he’d seen it at school. Sometimes they show movies during recess when it’s raining too hard to go outside, and I’m not sure that’s such a great flick for littler kids. I didn’t believe Gus at first when he told us he’d seen it, but then he said: “Yes I have! There was a huge explosion and a man inside a refrigerator.” So there you have it.

In the midst of thinking about all of this we thought, say, what about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Neither of us remembered much about the movie other than it was vastly inferior to #1 and #3 (and #4, too, frankly). But there’s no melty face ending, and since we have the DVDs of 1-3 we decided to fire it up one night and take a look.

O. M. G. You know, I think this is actually the worst movie ever made. For complete serious! It’s both racist (the Chinese! the Indians!) AND sexist (you just want to smack the whiny Kate Capshaw pretty much constantly). The plot jumps around and is ridiculously stupid. And, here’s the kicker: it’s not actually about archaeology at all. There’s no archaeology in it! At the beginning Indy’s in China delivering some relic to a gangster, and then he ends up in India saving people from some sort of ritual death. No. Archaeology. Anywhere.

We still haven’t decided whether to show Gus Raiders, but suffice it to say we will be skipping right over Temple of Doom. The worst case scenario, of course, is that he would actually *like* it. Just ask any 40-ish yr old Star Wars fan with young kids about Jar-Jar and watch for the sad face.

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i’m kinda busy

maura @ 10:54 pm

Recently not one but two completely unrelated people asked me about archaeology. Specifically they asked if I ever thought of getting back into archaeological research. I guess I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about it sometimes. I read news stories about new discoveries with interest, and whenever we go to the AMNH or anyplace at all historic I bore my family with any archaeological details I happen to know. And there is one chapter in my dissertation that I might be able to convert into an article someday. I wouldn’t say that I’m incredibly interested in heading back out to the field (and definitely not back to the lab), but there are lots of other archaeological research topics to consider.

But I’ve got lots of other research plates spinning right now, and not a lot of time for new stuff. There’s my big research project, which has a pile of data to analyze and more on the way (I started student research process interviews this week). And I’m working on an article with another colleague. And I’ve spent some time this semester developing a game to teach students about evaluating information, which I’ll be presenting at a conference in June and probably trying to write up somewhere. And I’ve got a couple of other ideas floating around, too.

Time is always the issue. I’m a greedy time junkie — I crave more time the way shopaholics can’t wait for their next consumer fix. It’s not that I want to do less librariany stuff to fit in more research. I love the librarian parts of my job, and I’m still totally thrilled to be teaching our new course this semester. If anything I want more time for that stuff, too. And family stuff and leisure stuff and and and…

Maybe I should stop reading. Clearly that’s part of the problem. Reading leads to new ideas, and new ideas lead to yearning for time for implementation. Literacy: the hidden dark side!

(Or, of course, I could always just relax a bit.)


grab your skeleton key

maura @ 9:34 pm

Today I had RT* and worked on a poster for my research project that I’m giving at the faculty poster session later this week. I’ve done posters before, but not since I’ve gotten all ethnographic with this qualitative study I’m working on right now, and it’s been a bit weird to make this poster. I mean, my old archaeology self was really comfortable with posters. Charts + graphs? Check. Photos of the site or the faunal remains? Check. Brief bullets w/salient data points and conclusions? Check.

* Reassigned Time, boon to the jr faculty member, in which I do all much** of the research + publication that will (I hope) eventually earn me tenure + promotion someday.

** Because I have my Morning Writing Time, too.

But this poster is different. First off, these are only preliminary results — no final conclusions yet (though they’re interesting enough to make the poster feasible). Stranger to me is that I don’t have any charts and graphs. No charts and graphs! I feel a bit naked.

It’s been harder than I thought it would be to recreate a narrative on the poster (this is the project, here’s why we’re doing it, here’s what we’ve done so far, and this is what the interviewees said). I’ve pulled out a few interesting quotes and highlighted them in blue. I’m using Creative Commons-licensed photos from Flicker to illustrate the salient points, e.g. a big twisty clock for the “students have many demands on their time” point. And, I sheepishly admit to using a bit of clipart, too (hey Flickr, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if you had more photos of people of color).

Is there going to be enough info there without my friends the Charts and their neighbors the Graphs? Tomorrow I have to pick up the posterboard, so we’ll see how it turns out.


and i don’t feel so bad

maura @ 10:15 pm

This morning* I had an idea for a short story/novel/work of fiction, the second this month. I don’t want to write it, but I do want someone else to, because it sounds like a cool story.

* Where this morning = 4/29, because that’s when I started the draft of this post.

Today’s idea is about pens. Yesterday I went to a meeting and passed around my own pen with the sign-in sheet, and of course it didn’t make it back to me. Which is not a big deal — frankly, the library is nothing if not a repository for pens left behind, so I never want for pens. But I started thinking about pens, how they move around between people. What if there were tracking devices in them, cameras and recorders? What if the pens were semi-intelligent and they had a plan, an agenda?

(Probably this was inspired by the evil pen that kills people in The Lost Room, btw.)

Pens left behind in the library might be part of the story, too. You decide!

The other idea actually got a bit more fleshing out because I started thinking about the last time we visited my mom; it’s a 2-ish hr drive, so I made Jonathan talk to me about it for a while. The basic framework sprang from archaeology: archaeologists assemble knowledge of prehistory from an incomplete record.* No one knows how incomplete it is, and while they work in scientifically rigorous ways there’s still never 100% certainty with any interpretation of the past.

* I remember a great diagram in the shape of an inverted triangle from my archy days that depicted the estimated amount of stuff (animal bones, I think, because that was my bag) that makes it into the archaeological record. Each level of the triangle depicted something else that happens to the bones: carried off by scavenger animals, crushed by accumulating sediment, etc. Probably under copyright; I can’t find it on the interwebs.

(This goes for historical archaeology too, but I feel like the existence of historical records can make a big difference in interpretation.)

Anyway, then I started thinking about ground-penetrating radar, and how it’s been such a boon to archaeology to have the technology to “see” sites before digging them up (and even instead of excavation, in some cases, since excavating a site essentially destroys it). And I started to wonder: what will the next technological breakthrough be? What if a machine were invented that could not only see the shapes of buried objects and features but actually tell you with certainty, this posthole is from a dome-shaped structure made of wood and skins, or this bone fragment is from a domesticated goat? That kind of technology could potentially completely rewrite prehistory and even history as we know it.

As Jonathan and I talked about it we tried to come up with a plot, since this is really just a setup, but we couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t involve aliens, which is kind of lame (and makes the whole dealie too much a derivative of Battlestar Galactica anyway). And this is probably a book only an archaeologist would love, sigh.

So if anyone wants to take these ideas and run with them, please do! Just write them quickly, because I’m almost out of things to read.


can’t fight the undertow

maura @ 1:25 pm

We’re back from our fabulous trip to the Midwest, but this week has been depressing, sad and frustrating in for many many reasons, completely trashing our stress-less vacation moods. I am still so sad about London, though thankfully all four of our friends currently living in London’s environs are fine.

So let’s sweep that downer stuff under the mental rug, pour ourselves a cup of our favorite caffeinated uppers, and recount amusing vacation anecdotes!

…or even not that amusing. We had a fantastic time. Gus was, as ever, adored and doted upon. This year there was a new, huge, motorized Thomas train set for him to direct the big people around (“Grandma, I am Thomas and you are Percy. No, go on number one track only!”). Plus a Slip-n-Slide, which admittedly gave me a little pause (I am so vain — whenever he falls I always say a little prayer that he won’t land on his beautiful face) but which was rejected by my usually cold-loving child anyway because the (well) water was too cold.

We parents slipped off to a “meeting”, overnight, in Chicago, to stay with college friends, ride the Ravenswood line, gawk like the rest of the tourists at Millennium Park, and stuff ourselves with lingonberries + potato sausage at Ann Sather’s for breakfast. Good times. We felt a little bad while riding the El — our train freak child would seriously have loved it — but the El’s not going anyplace and neither are the grandparents, so it’s not like he’ll never get his chance.

I only read ONE book (Because I Said So, which I ripped through in less than 24 hrs), but I did write in my journal three times. And we did spend about 6 hrs in the car with the Chicago trip, time which could’ve otherwise been devoted to reading. But also, I just wasn’t that into the other books I brought. I actually returned two nonfiction books to the library yesterday, mostly unread. Yes, my nonfiction love affair has been rudely broken off, thanks to Jonathan and his pesky fiction recommendation. It’s sad, really, because mostly right now I just want to go back a few weeks and read Time Traveler’s Wife again, how lame is that? But I got three mostly fiction books at the library yesterday which should hold me, I hope. The first is starting out well, at least.

Which all makes me wonder why the nonfiction glut happened in the first place. I mean, the parenting/momoir (ugh, hate that word) stuff is easy: duh, I had a kid, didn’t you know? But the other stuff, I don’t know. Maybe it’s that having-a-degree-I-don’t-use complex rearing its ugly head.

And speaking of that complex…we topped off our vacation with a visit to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum (which really is fantastic, if you have kids and happen to be in Indy you should totally go — it has FOUR floors of fun for all ages!). Of course Gus now claims that his favorite thing was “the running ramp” — the ramp spiraling up the middle of the museum, leading to each floor. We made him run up and down this a zillion times, thus insuring that he was mellow + quiet (read: tired!) on the flight home.

But I digress! There’s also a big dinosaur exhibit called Dinosphere which mostly consists of huge skeletons in a dome shaped room. The walls of the room change colors + there’s a booming sound system to imitate the weather, plant and animal sounds + visions of the Cretaceous. When we walked in here, Gus said darkly, “I don’t like this world,” like it was a video game level or something. But on the edges of the sphere there was a fake (? maybe real, hard to tell) paleontology lab. Gus had fun fitting together the rubbery, amber-colored molds and bone casts. And I made Jonathan’s stepfather take a picture of this case for me:

Look, it’s Paleontology Barbie and Ken!!! Is this not hilarious? Note her supine, loungetastic posture! Check out the spiffy attire (yes, those are tiny dinos on her shirt) and the bright pink canteen! And there’s no alcohol in sight! Surely this CAN’T be right. At least Ken is wearing latex gloves. Sigh, maybe they should hire me as an exhibit consultant.