Archive for December 2007

It has been awhile

December 20, 2007

I have been AWOL from the blog, so here is what I have been up to. On Monday, I handed the report that has been owning (or pwning, if you are a gamer) my soul. That monster was 14 chapters, 32 pages (single spaced), 17 tables and 5 figures. I feel I confident about it as I put in a lot of thought and effort into it. One important lesson I have learned is that a budget of £100,000 does give you that much time in the field.

Two days ago, I traveled downtown, on my trusty two-wheeled chariot, to see Glasgow’s Cathedral, St Mungo’s museum of religion and the Necropolis. I took some awesome pictures as the sun was setting and just as the sun set and Glasgow’s lights illuminated the sky, my battery died. I think the Necropolis is truly amazing as it is both one of the most beautiful places in Glasgow (especially at night, much to my chagrin) also one of the most beautiful view points of Glasgow. The Necropolis itself is a huge hill, dominated by a statute of John Knox, with winding paths creeping up to the plateau. There were two obstacles to my picture taking. First, the Cathedral is being restored so scaffolding dominates parts of my shots. Second, some of the paths were blocked off as they were being repaved. However, I locked and hid my bike and snuck down from a upper level to snap some shots. It seems that photography favors the bold.

For all you contact wearers do not attempt to pamper your eyes. I needed to buy new contact solution and beside my regular solution I spotted the ‘for sensitive eyes’ equivalent. “Well, I am a pretty sensitive guy”, I thought to myself, “maybe my eyes are too”. When I got home, I found that the contact holder was completely different and so I read the directions concerning the case and then I stopped reading. Big mistake that. I missed the part, in bold, about the active ingredient being hydrogen peroxide and not applying it directly into my eye. The next day I followed my daily routine and per usual I applied a few drops of the solution to the contact before placing it into my eye. What followed was a type of pain I have come to equate to being tazered…in the eye. After I forcefully removed the contact from my bloodshot eye, and repressed the urge to put my fist through the mirror, it dawned on me that directions are there for a reason. The moral of the story is my eyes are indeed sensitive; they are sensitive to the thought of change.

I have seen the future (but it was limited to archaeology)

December 6, 2007

Warning this post is archaeology heavy!
A few classes ago, we had a very interesting discussion about site recording. As we moved from the theoretical to the professional practices used today we discussed electronic site recording. The system that was mentioned by name was Penmap ( This system integrates directly with total stations and GPS units, acts as an on-site CAD and GIS facility and it displays data as it is collected (so mistakes can be corrected on site, not months later when the report is being written). In other words, it does everything except for threaten those people who keep looting your sites (well it might, but binary death threats just don’t have the same impact).
We were provided with two case studies by Ziebert, Holder, and Dare (2002). The first site they worked on was the Royal Docks in London and it took two weeks with everything being recorded electronically using penmap or an equivalent (3000 finds, 30X45m site). After all was said and done they saved 36-37 person days and 6000 pounds sterling (which in perspective was 50% of the total cost of excavation). The second site was Bishopsgate and 45 person days and 7000 pounds sterling were saved. From these sites, they also calculated that the optimum ratio of surveyors to archaeologists is 1:6-10. However no other extensive cost benefit analysis have been undertaken (but think positively in two sites if you could save 81-2 person days and 13 thousands dollars).
So that’s one interesting technology, well here is one interesting man, Mike Rains. Professor Rains (no he is not MY professor nor is he at Glasgow, although my proff is awesome too) seems to be a pioneer for electronic archaeology as he is working on/created “Integrated Archaeology Database Systems” (IADB), and Virtual Research Environment for Archaeology (VERA-, and no, I did not misspell those acronyms.
Now many professional “arch. vets” may read my post bubbling with optimism and envision me as a wet-nosed pup oblivious to the corporate boot sure to crush my dreams. While I am indeed wet-nosed, as I currently have a cold, I know that technology is not perfect and moving to near-paper free recording has many risks and often scares the “bejesus” out of those who are not “computer-savvy”. I also know that it takes time and money to train people but lets keep this post up beat and look at computers “the wave of the future”. If systems such as Penmap can incorporate wireless technology to back up information, using a program similar to the off site ‘iDisk’ feature on .Mac  (DotMac- on a fixed schedule, say every half an hour, then the risk is greatly reduced.
As I mentioned in class, as flash technology (transmitting information via light, used in such common devices as thumb drives or USB data sticks) continues to improve flash hard drives will soon be cheap and mass produced. What is so important about that you may say, well imagine a computer with no moving parts and think of the additional abuse that it can take.
Well now, you have some of my knowledge, and you did not even need to copy my class notes.
Here is another useful nugget I found in my Internet travels. A big list of useful archaeology programs, many are free ware or Scottish, a.k.a. cheap (lame joke I know but when in Rome…make fun of the Romans).

Bicycle! Bicycle!

December 4, 2007

I bought a bike. I actually bought it a while ago I simply forgot to mention it earlier. I bought it off, it has full suspension and while that usually indicates that the bike was expensive, however, it should be noted that I bought it for 30 quid. I have never heard of the bike company name ‘Saxon’ but honestly if its named after an invasion its got to be good! Right?  I have already spent more money on accessories than I should have. I bought a mudguard, as I was tired of having a muddy ‘rooster tail’ up my jacket and shirts, lights, a helmet and gloves. Recently I traveled around Glasgow looking for the family homes of a friend of mine. It was raining hard and I found that my breaks were slipping, I chalked it up to the rain, however, yesterday I attempted to ride my bike to the gym only to find that I had no breaks at all. Luckily, I discovered this early, sadly it may have at the expense of my tailbone (aka the coccix). 20 quid later I have a bike that is not as dangerous as the Saxon invasion. A friend of mine also bought a bike and he is also having similar problems so its not just my bike. Bike chains rusty quickly here (we joke that they are allergic to the smell of cooking haggis and deep fried mars bars) and lots of rain combined with road dirt devours break pads. As I said to my friend “My bike is a black hole, not even your lighter-colored money can escape it”.