Wednesday, May 29, 2013

June Excursions and End-of-Semester Reflections

Well, I almost never update this blog. But I'm going to update it today. No special reason, though things have been pretty busy around here. I've ended my first year of teaching, and I am more than pleased about how it all turned out. I got a very positive teaching evaluation in December, and was teaching two sections this time around, with a bit more room to breathe now that I wasn't writing and teaching the class at the same time quite as much! I also just finished writing a chapter for a guidebook my father is preparing, on the geological history of the Grand Canyon-Zion region; I contributed some anthropological insight on those pesky little archaeostratigraphic deposits that seem to clutter up all of the Holocene layers. The research was a lot of fun, and I've stumbled across quite a lot of holes in the data set as I go, which makes me think that I know where I'd like to devote further research and maybe even publication to in the future. We were down in Tucson visiting family last week, a good trip all around, and I took worthwhile advantage of UA's vast southwest studies library one of the days we were there.

The guidebook is tied to a professional tour we are running out to those locations this coming week. It will be cutting a circular path through the familiar stomping grounds of the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon, closing the circle at Las Vegas. I'm coming along as a driver and guest lecturer. The participants are mostly oil geologists and their kin, so hopefully they will tolerate my nattering on about anthropology. :) It makes for a busy June. A week after we get back from that we'll be leaving again, on the school's annual geology field trip. It is focusing on the northern Colorado Plateau this year, and I'm looking forward to seeing some places I have never been (Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Goblin Valley) and some that I have spent much time in but miss dearly (Ouray-Durango). No official archaeology component this year, so I guess I'll provide my own entertainment in that respect :)

Otherwise, things are okay. The Central California summer is never especially fun, but we're on the road so much that it hasn't had a chance to get too monotonous so far. In January our dear friend Meaghan moved to a nearby town along with her little guy, who recently learned how to crawl; being able to spend time with my "nephew", and pestering everyone with photos and videos of his continuing development, has been a consistent source of joy in the last few months.

Photo I took at the San Joaquin Wildlife Refuge last month

Not all news is unstressful. There's a rather troubling (literal) hole in the roof, and I am effectively unemployed until August, so if we ever stop traveling around my "backyard" there may be some slim months ahead. To say nothing of moving into our own place again. I'm keen to do, but with the job I have occupying a tenuous place to begin with and no nibbles yet on additional applications, it's hard to guess at when I'll be in the market again. I got turned down for a job at Yosemite that I was really hoping for and was moping around for a while about that, though there are still plenty of jobs out there to try for. Meanwhile, the loans eat up most of my current salary, and the "deals" offered by the loan agencies to make them easier to pay are inevitably predatory in character. Oh well! If I'm going to be underemployed, I'm glad I'm employed doing a job I actually like! And if May was any indication, unemployment certainly isn't dull, I feel like I've barely had a moment to catch my breath! I'm sure I will be updating again after the trips, hopefully with pictures.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

By the Way

I got a job! Teaching anthropology at MJC, of all places. Er, several months ago. Sorry, we're not very good bloggers. It's going pretty well, though.

Uh, Christmas was pretty fun. Very rainy. Here's a nice picture I took at Clear Lake. I have a Dr Who scarf now. It rocks.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I'm a Master now!

I am proud and relieved to announce that I have graduated with an Master of Arts, Anthropology. This is as of June 16th, actually, but I didn't officially confirm that I'd graduated until yesterday, so I'm celebrating now. If by "celebrating", you mean looking for a job. Ha! Anyhow, good to have a milestone behind me and a new Very Important Piece of Paper attached to my name.

Yes, you may call me "master".

In other news, I recently tagged along as a guest lecturer on MJC's sort of annual combined geology/anthropology field course, which took an expansive tour of the Colorado Plateau and the Chaco cultural region this year. Pictures below, and more on my DA account if you are interested. Zeo and I are hoping to go back out to Arizona just for personal visits before the end of the month.

I have a number of job applications out for various teaching positions, and I'm constantly on the lookout for new opportunities. I may have an opportunity to teach at my own dear alma mater, so that would certainly be fun. For now, I'm helping one of my former professors collect materials for an introductory textbook on anthropology, which is an enjoyable if expansive project, and also planning to write a guidebook to the cultures (past and present) of the American Southwest. I am also planning to launch a new blog soon, to discuss contemporary issues in public anthropology and religion. I'll let everyone know when it is up. The weather has taken a blessedly cool streak lately, so we've spent more time out and about. Hope you all are having a good summer as well. Cheers!

Sandia Mountains

Las Vegas, NM

Kasha-Katuwe, NM

 Pecos Pueblo

 Bandelier National Monument

Chaco Canyon

Clear Creek Canyon, UT

Bryce Canyon


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Moving On

Hello everyone!

Those of you who follow my website have probably found out that I've deleted my archives and canceled my service (this includes my comics and my crochet blog). The reason for this is because I had never managed to find the time or motivation to keep the projects I had started going. They were just sitting there collecting dust, to the tune of several dollars per month. So I let it go in hopes that something better will present itself.

Thanks for following me and supporting me in my projects! I promise this is not the end of my productivity, just a means to make way for something new!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hey everybody!

We are too often out of touch, so I thought it was well worth taking the time to do a newsy post despite nothing particularly world-shaking going on at the moment. Things are going pretty well, though. I finished the income taxes two weeks ago, and the government was kind to us in the form of a sizeable EITC refund. Not often that being poor is a good thing, but we had a bit of much needed extra funding this month, and, like good little Millarian economic agents, of course went out and spent it all immediately. We needed a new vacuum ( been without a working one for almost a year) and got a good deal on Amazon, Z's glasses needed a new prescription, and in general we've been badly in need of groceries, so Wednesday was a fun if wallet-depleting much needed shopping day.

Yesterday, I started going through our many bookcases and selecting volumes to sell to Half-Price Books. I let myself be a bit more extreme than usual and got rid of a large number of books from the seminary era, figuring it's past time to accept that my interests then and my interests now are not necessarily synonymous. Z joined the party and selected out a lot of her college textbooks and the like that have been following us since Colorado. Altogether, we filled two boxes and two bags, and drove them up to Concord where we got a whopping almost $60 for the whole collection, more than twice what I had been expecting. We must have had good books, too, because they accepted almost all of them. Makes me happy to think they are going to other homes instead of the recycling center.

Between the bookselling activities and the new vacuum, our house is looking much trimmer and neater. It feels like the first stages of preparing to move; an event that, after all, is now only a month and a half distant. I have mixed feelings about it; I'm going to miss the Treehouse, the town it's in, and the mountain we live on. I'm going to very much miss the intellectual stimulation of grad school in general and in particular the weekly seminars with my most excellent and brilliant cohort of fellow students. And it would be nice to know in much more specific terms what I am doing next. On the other hand, I am always excited to try new things, and presuming I land a real job, it will be very exciting to start my career properly in whatever town we end up in. I have applications out all over the country now, from Shasta to Monterrey to Ontario CA to Phoenix. Hopefully one of them will play out into a job. In the meanwhile, Tucson is lovely, and it will be nice to get to know my father-in-law better. My parents are running a field trip through the Southwest in late Summer, and there's talk of my going along perhaps, even possibly as a consultant, if I 'm still free.

Speaking of schooling, it continues apace. I'm taking two classes, a surprisingly intensive course on statistics in the social sciences and a seminar in sociocultural anthropology. The latter is focusing on ethnographies past and present, and the estimable Dr Nelson has us on a book-a-week reading binge at present. Between that and the preparation for my comprehensive exams (first week of June), I spend most of my unscheduled hours reading and taking notes on reading. It's interesting reading, though, so I am not unhappy about it. I'm getting to be fairly well-informed on theoretical issues in my field, which is nice to be able to say honestly as I go job hunting. I've been considering starting a new blog, separate from this one, to publish on topics in public anthropology. So far this hypothetical blog is in the form of a handful of outlines and a few written posts hastily converted from class notes, but if all else goes as planned will probably make its internet debut sometime in early summer.

Hmmm, what else? The last few days we've had a humdinger of a rainstorm. I'm told an airplane got struck by lightning over the Bay on Tuesday and had to return to SFO. No one hurt, thankfully. The same day, I had to postpone my commute due to atrocious conditions and ended up waiting out the storm in a Peet's cafe, reading about Benedictine configurationalism and watching the world float by, in the end not the worst way to spend one's evening. The day before, I saw a water main or something fail spectacularly in San Ramon, which was rather unsettling considering I was in a car at the time and not that far away. Easter was very nice; I'd discovered a new church just before and caught the good friday and sunrise Easter services. Then we met up with my folks and spent a pleasant day driving around Marin county, from Muir Woods out to Tomales Bay and back. Geological details on my dad's blog, naturally. :)

Guess that's good for now. We hope all of our faithful readers (yes, all three of you) are well and happy, and wish me luck on my Stats quiz Tuesday.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Application is Out Again!

Hi! Sorry we are such bad blog-updaters! It has been a crazily busy quarter for various several reasons. Anyone who has been through a graduate program or known someone who did will NOT be surprised to hear that I hit a maze of distressing bureaucratic paper-filing, hair-pulling madness about midway through January. All of it, of course, threatening graduation. Luckily, I had enough warning and a lot of much appreciated help from the faculty, and that (as far as I know!) is settled. One of the things that came up was that I apparently needed to take a Graduate Writing Skills Test. Which I did. You may be shocked to learn that I passed. Apparently, I did not make it through 20 years of school (and get, I must say, a pretty good score on that portion of the GRE) without learning to write a simple essay. Inconceivable, I say. 

Otherwise, have been keeping busy with classwork. I took a French course for review, which has been an interestingly different challenge; the professor is from Marseilles and the class focuses heavily on conversation. Never my best talent, even in English, and in this case it had me desperately trying to reacquaint myself with all manner of forgotten vocabulary. The only French I'd read in years was in journal abstracts, and they tend to skip past the "how do you do"s. My anth class for the quarter was a seminar in biological anthropology, which has been a lot of work and a lot of fun. It's not my normal focus, but I wanted to get a bit deeper into it just on the off chance that someone wants me to teach an intro phsy anth lab at some point, and I think it is fair to say that I have a much more comprehensive view of human biology and evolution at this point. The class was run by Dr William Gilbert, a not-undistinguished researcher in that field, who is one of the excavators of the Homo erectus site at Hadar in Ethiopia. He organized the class around a massive collaborative project, experimentally organized through facebook (yes, facebook, which I left! had to create an account again to do the class, but their spammy attitudes toward my school e-mail have done nothing to woo me back). 
I'd say the experiment was reasonably successful, though. Sometime this weekend I'll be finishing the results: a comprehensive alpha taxonomy of the human race, from A ramidus onward. We tried to include more or less all of the species that have ever been named to our clade, which may be more than you are thinking; we had 46 designations to research at the start of the project, and the list more than doubled as we dug into to the publication history. Some are pretty obscure and no longer used- Homo modjokertensis? Homo louisleakeyi? Others are well-known but the subject of much popular debate; the status of Neanderthal Man, whether Homo ergaster should be used at all despite making it into all the textbooks. One thing the project has taught me is that very little is certainly agreed upon when it comes to human taxonomy. The only certain things in this field are the fossils themselves, the sites, and the general trajectory through time that they reveal. The second you try to assign a species name to something, confusion and debate and academic politics reign supreme. 

It's been fun though, and I now know a lot more about a previously neglected subfield in my discipline. The final paper has passed thirty pages, though luckily I did not have to write all of them myself. Still quite a ways from done, so good thing it's a rainy weekend. (It has not, indeed, stopped raining since Tuesday night).

 Okay, so if you made it this far through all the science talk, you may be wondering by this point: but what about the post title? What about the application? Alas, that is a reference to my bad news... The University of Arizona, Tucson, sent me a not-exactly politely worded form letter this week informing me in a thousand words or less that my application to the doctoral program has been turned down. Well, their loss, innit? I won't say I'm happy about it. In fact, I'm distinctly unhappy about it. But there's nothing for it except to move forward. That was the only school I applied to this year, but I've got some job applications out there and I'm considering applying for a seat at the University of Victoria in Wellington, which is looking for someone with experience in anthropology and political ecology. I'll keep you all apprised of further developments. Pending other diversions, we still plan to move to Tucson in June.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Application is in!

I've submitted my application to begin a PhD program a the University of Arizona, Tucson. Last minute, true to form, but it is all in, thank goodness. Now I can maybe enjoy Christmas even more properly! Looking forward to seeing everyone, both at Christmas and on my parent's customary whirlwind tour of Arizona in the days following. Is there a Bay Area resident on this blog who rather misses the snow? Yes, yes there is. Grand Canyon, here we come!