This Week in Awkwardness

We learned about photogrammatry in Digital Archaeology & it’s AWESOME.  Basically you take a bazillion photos of something & dump them into a software program that makes them into a super-realistic 3D model.  It’s more complicated than that but it’s still AWESOME & I really want to try it when I have time.

I finally started putting some stuff on my YouTube channel, so that’s something.  So far it’s just a couple of time lapse videos but I’ll keep working on it occasionally.


Added to the Travel Map:

Tobermory, Ontario, Canada – shipwrecks & islands & stuff.

Madame Sherri House, Chesterfield, New Hampshire – ruins of an elaborate mansion in the forest.

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This Week in Awkwardness: Hurricane Aftermath Edition

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My pre-storm experience can be read here.

Irma turned out not to be nearly as big of a deal in West Central Florida as they kept telling us she would be.  In fact, the biggest problems we had stemmed from the total mismanagement of the shelter we were in.

We were supposed to be in the elementary school but they had too many people showing up so we ended up in the high school without anyone ever telling the Red Cross we were there so we had no access to the resources they were bringing in.  Because we were the overflow section they were winging it, sticking people wherever, applying the rules here & there when they felt like it.  I guess after days of telling everyone to get out they didn’t actually expect anyone to do it.  It was pretty amazing on Sunday morning, with this monster storm bearing right down on us, all the hundreds of people who started showing up, a lot of them totally unprepared with no bedding, no cages for their pets, pretty much nothing.

They only had regular coffee so everybody drank that & sat around talking ALL. NIGHT. LONG. making it pretty much impossible to sleep in the echoing gym.

At one point an older lady came in the side door of our hall & said she just wanted to let us know that they were bringing four dogs through.  Someone asked if they were bad, and she said yes, two are aggressive.  Then a younger woman came & said she was bringing “four bad dogs” in.  They brought them through to one of the locker rooms because these people were too stupid to bring cages, but by then the whole hall was in an uproar because nobody wanted to be anywhere near these dogs.  They brought in someone who I think worked for animal control & was there to keep tabs on all the dogs, who then decided because these people had aggressive uncaged animals, they should get a whole locker room all to themselves!  As they were moving around the younger woman said that the problems were because “people don’t know what aggressive means” & something about the dogs getting up in your face.  OK, if you think that an “aggressive” dog is one that “gets up in your face,” YOU’RE the one who doesn’t know what aggressive means!  Somehow these people had “made arrangements” with animal control the day before, something none of us with well-behaved, controlled dogs had been able to do.  The complaints continued until the Animal Control employee brought in a Sheriff’s deputy & told him he would have to deal with it because she’d been yelled at all day.  Eventually the people left with their dogs, according to the younger woman they were leaving because her mom (I guess the older lady) was freaking out “because somebody had to open their big f***ing mouth” ummm…yeah, that was Y’ALL, when YOU BOTH described your dogs as aggressive!  The rest of us probably wouldn’t have noticed if YOU hadn’t said it!

An older couple in one of the other locker rooms moved all their stuff out into the hall, including their dog, an unassuming cocker spaniel, because I guess there was a two-year-old in there SHRIEKING & they just couldn’t take it anymore.  Around lockdown time the Animal Control employee who had been so nice to the people with the big mean dogs got after them for having their quiet smallish dog in the hallway & argued with them about it before finally threatening to call the deputies back down!  The lady said “yes, bring them down, they can kick me out but I’m not going back in there!”  Eventually they moved them & a couple of other people into the locker room vacated by the mean dog people, including one woman who had been sleeping in the hallway but moved her dogs out of the room with the two-year-old.  I can’t even imagine having a kid so out of control that people in a disaster situation don’t even want their DOGS around him/her.

They kept saying that all pets had to be in their crates & everyone had to be in their camps by 6 because they were locking things down to keep everyone safe, OK fine. They locked the pet hall (which you had to go outside to get to) so nobody could go in but never actually stopped anyone from going outside. People were allowed to go out & smoke, but nobody could so much as visit their pets, never mind take them outside or even walk them up & down the hallway, so they were locked in their cages for 12+ hours for basically no reason except It’s The Rules.  My mom’s dog is a tiny, elderly, quiet poodle who stuffs easily into a sleeping bag & doesn’t move for hours at a time so we got one over on the mean Animal Control woman & kept her with us all night.

They made us gather all of our stuff up at 2:30 in the morning to run through ankle-deep water in an open walkway in the middle of the hurricane to the cafeteria because after 5 hours of pouring rain someone finally noticed that the water in the courtyard wasn’t going anywhere & was about to come pouring into the hallway where we were trying to sleep.  The people in charge were out there digging around up to their knees in water trying to find the drain & get it unclogged, which they finally were able to do before all the people in the gym had to be moved.

Finally, around 6 am, we were in the eye of what was then a minor storm that was rapidly breaking up  & people were frustrated enough that they wanted to just get out of there.  The first announcement was that they couldn’t stop us from leaving but they couldn’t say for certain if it was safe for us to do so until the deputies had had a chance to go see what the road conditions were like.  A little later another announcement said, essentially, that it was safe outside so we should gather up our crap & get out.  I think they were as sick of us as we were of them.

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Irma passed directly over Crystal River around 6am. My mom’s house is in Hernando, and we spent the night at the high school in Lecanto.

The one gas station in Hernando that actually had gas had a line from the pumps, around through one of the stalls of the car wash next door, & about another half-mile down the road, which is pretty amazing since it looked like that before the storm too so I have no clue what everybody did with all the gas they were buying then.  That was the only time I actually saw anything close to violence – somebody tried to cut the line & the people behind them ran them off.

Once we got a look at things it really seemed like Irma just made a mess.  Some trees & power lines down, the occasional metal overhang roof peeled back like the top of a tin can, but it didn’t look like anybody’s houses had flooded or blown away, at least not on the inland halves of the counties I drove through.  There are still a lot of people without power, but the worst real damage I saw was a number of large trees down in a yard around the corner, that was likely because of one of the mini tornadoes Irma was spinning off rather than the hurricane herself.  My mom’s yard was covered with twigs & Spanish moss, a situation quickly remedied by hiring a couple of neighborhood teens to rake it all up.  Temple Terrace was largely untouched, my neighbor said the ducks that hang out in our complex’s pond had a great time in the storm.

I certainly have no desire to do the storm shelter thing again after this ridiculous experience.  There’s probably a lot of other people who were there who will be more likely to try to weather storms at home now too.  So thank you, overzealous newscasters desperately trying to make yourselves interesting & county officials who don’t know how to organize anything properly.  Thanks for that.

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This Week in Awkwardness: Hurricane Shelter Edition

My shelter experience & aftermath of the storm can be read here.

Most of you probably know that we’ve been watching Hurricane Irma barrelling at us for the last week or so.  I was going to ride out the storm in my mom’s house in Hernando, figuring with the path she was taking she would have slowed significantly by the time she got so far north.  Then she decided to swing to the west & pummel Tampa instead of Miami.  We can’t drive north because the entire population of Florida is already out on the roads and taking a direct hit from a Category 2 hurricane in a manufactured home isn’t really an option so we’re in a high school gymnasium for the duration.

It was a total zoo getting in here, literally and figuratively.  We came here because it’s a pet-friendly shelter so my mom’s dog and a couple hundred other pets are here, stacked in their crates in a hallway around the corner.  We waited in line for an hour to get her registered, alongside many other barking dogs, yowling cats, and even a handful of screeching parrots.  Then we had to take her to another building because the first one was full, and send her away with some guy because the new pet area wasn’t ready for the public to be in yet.  But I’ve seen her since & she’s alright, aside from I’m sure being very confused & trying to bury her food so the dogs in the cages around her can’t get it.

Besides being in an open gym with a hundred strangers this isn’t so bad.  They’re feeding us 3 meals a day, there’s wifi, & we have air mattresses to sleep on.  It’s kind of amazing how many people are here thinking they’re going to sleep on the hard floor with only a blanket under them.  Little tip – air mattresses, flashlights, batteries, bottled water, & bread all fly off the shelves during a disaster, to the point where they are totally unavailable, so stock up early.

Every store I’ve been to the shelves are picked clean of emergency supplies.  I’m not totally sure why, since most people have perfectly good tap water to fill containers with & generally buy more than one day’s worth of food at a time, but I guess panic begets panic.  In one Winn-Dixie I was watching people snag cases of water off of a couple pallets they’d just put out, then when I wandered back to the meat section I found gallon jugs of water that everyone was ignoring.I heard stories about trucks getting mobbed when they brought more water to the stores & somebody getting stabbed for gasoline.  There’s a bunch of National Guard people here at the school so things shouldn’t get too crazy.  See you on the other side!

This Week in Awkwardness

I made it back to Florida in one piece!  All went well right up until I got off my train in Orlando, only to find that my duffle bag had not made it onto my train in Alexandria.  Fortunately it was just on the next train but I still had to wait around for two hours just hoping it would be there.  Also, Amtrak ripped a hole in it, which is currently covered with duct tape.  I have a little time off before the new semester starts, so I’m just trying to relax a bit when I’m not at work before my hectic fall schedule starts.  It’s good to be home.  I feel like I’ve been gone forever but also like I never left, it’s weird, like I just imagined that I was in Maryland for two and a half months.


Added to the Travel Map:

Wreck of the Francisco Morazan, South Manitou Island, Michigan – a freighter that ran aground in a storm.

Vasa Museet, Stockholm, Sweden – world’s only preserved 17th-century ship, raised from Stockholm Harbor.

Wanli UFO Village, Taiwan – mostly abandoned resort neighborhood of Futuro & Venturo houses.

Hunot Gorge State Reserve, Shoushi, Turkey – wooded canyon with waterfalls & medieval village ruins.


Crossed Off the Travel Map:

Mount Vernon, Alexandria, Virginia

Williamsburg, Virginia

Historic Jamestowne, Jamestown, Virginia

Jamestowne Settlement, Jamestown, Virginia

Field School: Week 6

You know what’s a really great workout?  Bailing water out of holes.  Two days of rain this week meant two mornings of scooping water out of units that looked like swimming pools, dragging buckets around to dump them, & I have pains in muscles that I didn’t even know existed.  But we had a day off from digging, so I guess that’s something?  I think it’s easy to forget how incredibly hard this work is until it’s the end of the week & all you want to do is eat dinner & go to bed at 8:30.

I re-watched all of the Cinema Sins videos of the Jurassic Park movies – & realized how many times they refer to paleontology/paleontologists as archaeology/archaeologists.    Archaeology is the study of human cultures through material remains.  Archaeologists do NOT study dinosaurs!  We also don’t like it when you touch our stuff.  We have to keep track of exactly where each pile of dirt & each item in it comes from.  If you visit an archaeological dig by all means ask questions – but please don’t touch things without permission & DEFINITELY don’t move them!

This knowledge of where each item comes from is called its provenience.  This concept is related to the term provenance, which has to do with tracking the ownership history of art pieces – something that comes up a lot in cases of Nazi-looted art & the like.  Archaeological digs are built on grid systems, with each square assigned a unique identifier.  The entire area of St. Mary’s City is divided into numbered 10-foot squares, & each of those is in turn divided into 4 5-foot units which are dug individually.  As we dig each unit, we keep track of the stratigraphy within it – the layers of dirt as they were laid down over each other in the past.  The earliest layer is at the bottom, with new layers deposited on it so that the most recent layer is at the top.  Within the stratigraphic system there might also be features – things like post holes that are now just a different color of dirt because the post rotted away or was removed & the hole filled back in.  Each layer & feature in each 5-foot square is given a letter designation.  So for example, in one 10-foot square you’d have letters for the topsoil layer in each of the 5-foot units – A, B, C, & D.  Under the topsoil, you’d have a new set of letters for each unit’s plowzone layer – E, F, G, & H.  If a feature shows up, it gets its own letter.  So, if you’re digging the northeast corner of square 4506, the topsoil layer might be layer C, the plowzone under it layer G, a ditch dug through it & since filled in layer K.  The same layers or features in the other three units of that square get their own letters.  Then, each item you dig up goes into a particular bag – things from the topsoil go into a bag labeled 4506 C, plowzone into 4506 G, & anything found in the ditch into 4506 K.  Provenience is so important because the context of an item – where it was found & what it was found with – is vital to understanding what it is & what it means to the site overall.  Without context, OK you’ve got a cool thing, but it doesn’t tell you much.  With context, you might be able to say when that ditch was filled in or what a certain room was used for – you can connect it to the objects in the same layer or the ones above or below, & to the site at large.  Basically, context is everything & provenience is how we maintain our knowledge of that context.

Four weeks from now I’ll be back in Florida!  This summer seems like it’s taking forever, but I’m sure when I leave it will feel like it flew by.

This Week in Awkwardness: The Resurrection of the Website

I have officially reopened my Smugmug site!  If you are so inclined, you can now purchase prints of the best photos featured here on the blog as well as others from my wanderings.

I’ve also been adding to my Instagram, (gaining double-digit followers was exciting for some reason) although I pretty much just stick them on there at random since I’m posting old stuff and putting them in any kind of order is no fun.

I’m DOOONNNEEEEE with spring semester!  I’ve got almost a month to relax before I head off to Maryland.  I don’t even know what to do with my evenings anymore, now that I don’t have something to frantically read or write for class the next day.


Added to the Travel Map:

Keys Ranch, Joshua Tree National Park, California – abandoned; accessible only by guided tour.

Cinnamon Bay Plantation, Virgin Islands National Park, U.S. Virgin Islands – ruins of an 18th-century sugar plantation.

Amatol, New Jersey – ghost town that was once a munitions village.

Fort Ord National Monument, Salinas, California – abandoned military base.

Zamskhang Palace, Sumur, India – abandoned ruin but so hard to get to that it’s still full of amazing Buddhist statues & silk paintings.

Museum of Failure, Helsingborg, Sweden – who doesn’t love a good fail?

North Field, Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands – site where atomic bombs were assembled and loaded before being dropped on Japan.

This Week in Awkwardness

My time living & working on Mackinac Island has left me with a bizarre fascination with little islands.  There are dozens of them on my list of places I want to go, scattered all over the world.  There’s something intensely unique about an island.  Each one is its own little world, especially if the only way to get to it is by plane or ferry.

I was also discussing plantations on Facebook this week.  I admit that I think the houses themselves are really cool, and of course they’re interesting and important from a historical perspective, but they’ve been way over-romanticized.  “Come have your wedding at this place that was built on the backs of slaves!”  Yeah…no.  Maybe people just can’t really connect with the slavery aspect as something that actually happened to actual people, I don’t know.

Speaking of historical perspectives, I hope all my teachers like the in-depth historical backgrounds of everything, because I can’t stop writing that way even when I’m supposed to be working in the present. :/  Good thing I’m going into archaeology, they appreciate historical perspective.

I signed up for my LAST SEMESTER of classes!  I’m taking Digital Archaeology in the fall and I’m REALLY excited about it.  I also managed to test into second semester German, so my little bits of studying over the last few years actually got me out of a whole class!


Added to the Travel Map:

Gamble Plantation Historic State Park, Ellenton, FL – only plantation house left in Florida.

Ushant Island, France – westernmost point in France; also sheep, lighthouses, seafaring history, etc.

Hampi, India – ruins of Vijayanagara Empire’s capital, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hudson Highlands State Park, Cold Spring, New York – lots of hiking trails.

Cornish Estate Ruins, Cold Spring, New York – abandoned mansion in the woods.

Also apparently the Hudson River Valley is just packed with amazing ruins.  I don’t know why I’m surprised, there’s already several of them on my travel list.