Merry meet and merry part.

Well, it has come down to this. I’m closing up shop.

I started this blog when I thought I was going to have to move to another country and keep a myriad of friends and family updated on what I was doing and on the growth of Archie Jr. When that didn’t happen I thought I would make it an honest to goodness real blog about Viking archaeology and going back to school.

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“And now I just sit back and wait to get internet famous…”

I did enjoy it. I met some cool people from all around the world, learned some neat things, and processed through writing a number of issues and questions that I had about life, the universe and everything. But it’s time to go.The reasons for that are kind of all bound up together but I’ll try to tease them apart a bit.

First, there’s a personal standard of quality. As I mentioned before I went on hiatus, I think I’ve already written about all the topics I know of that would make a good blog post. This leaves me with the option of conducting research for the blog, bluffing my way through, or repeating things I’ve already written on. I am of the opinion that if I’m going to do a blog, I should do a good blog, and I don’t have the time or energy to do that.

Second, I’m kind of sick of the sound of my own voice. The internet is where we all go to scream into the void. Maybe what we scream will mean something to an anonymous stranger out there. Maybe not. But we mainly scream for ourselves and I don’t feel the need to anymore. Some things have happened in my personal life recently that have given me pause, and I have concluded that my creative energy should be spent more close to home right now.

Third, I have a dissertation to write. I am in its early stages and need to dedicate my writing and research skills to this thing that will be the foundation of my academic career. Simple as that.

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I got this…

I will be going through the blog in the coming weeks trimming away a few articles – mainly personal, non-Viking related posts – but I will leave up some of the more popular and relevant ones. To those of you who followed this blog with some regularity, I really am grateful to you. I met some interesting people and learned some interesting things. If you are interested in carrying on correspondence, you can send an e-mail to bonediggerdad .at. gmail.com and if you are as cool as you seem and aren’t a bent-out-of-shape skinhead, I’ll get back to you.

Thanks for being my audience, everyone!

Archie

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

College isn’t for everyone?

*The opinions expressed herein represent the experiences of one particular instructor at one particular institution in one particular class.  It is not the goal of this piece of writing to endorse any one political or pedagogical viewpoint.*

My students did really well on a map quiz today and I’m depressed.  As I was grading today I looked at them and said out loud “I can’t believe I’m asking a group of 19 year olds to identify the Thirteen Colonies.”  Even more, I can’t believe that I was impressed that they did well.  Even more, I can’t believe there are students at a four year institution who can’t spell “Maine.”

As I have mentioned before, education runs deep in my family.  I am fortunate enough to have been born to a group of people who emphasized academic rigor and gave me the support I needed to do well (even when that involved a humiliating experience with an algebra tutor when I was 13).  But beyond that, my parents never dared utter the phrase “College isn’t for everyone,” especially Dr. Mom.

“O.K., quick question: how many of you can spell ‘Wessex’?”

Dr. Mom’s family was sending women off to college as early as the Jazz age.  They stepped off the boat and when my great grandmother showed some aptitude in her one-room schoolhouse they bought her a coat and put her on the train to the City.  A couple years later she had her own one-room schoolhouse teaching poor-as-dirt Finnish kids how to read, write, and play baseball because by God she wasn’t a Swede and they weren’t Finns, they were Americans now and in America even immigrant kids get to learn, damn it!  We take this shit seriously.

THE THREE ‘R’s, MOTHERF—ER!

So imagine my surprise today when I looked at this pile of quizzes and said “Man, some of these kids probably shouldn’t be here.”

I hate the Randian, social-Darwinist attitude that the right takes toward education in this country.  Hate, hate, hate it.  School shouldn’t be a grueling war of attrition designed to weed out “weak” students and consign them to a life of menial labor, nor should it make the declaration that STEM fields are more valuable than the Arts.  Ken Robinson (as I’ve mentioned before) hits the nail on the head here with what’s wrong with education in this country, namely that it’s obsolete in conception and implementation.  I completely agree.

But…

But even if I throw pitches so soft they don’t move I still watch these students step up to the plate and smash themselves in the face with their bat.  Regardless of how obsolete our education system may be in this country, or how understanding I am of the low-income, first-generation demographic I serve at this institution, it is beyond belief that a student can even get into college without knowing how to spell “Maine.”

E! THERE’S AN ‘E’! RIGHT THERE!

Imagine, if you will, a student who cannot tell you what he likes to do for fun.  A student who has not heard of any major world event that is happening as you speak.  A student who hands in a paper that is literally a cut and pasted chunk of Wikipedia, complete with [citation needed].  A student who cannot spell Maine, nor sees why it is necessary for her to do so.  A student who actually falls asleep while you are talking directly to them.

I have a class full of them every year.  I try to explain it to them: “Listen,” I say, “All the answers to this exam are on your study guide!  If you can give me a two or three sentence explanation of what each of these terms means you will pass with flying colors!  All you must do is read your book and write down what you see!”  And they don’t.  When I worry that the poor performances might indicate my poor teaching abilities, I realize that these students can’t (or won’t) remember ten phrases on a sheet of paper, and then I despair.

I know of all people that these students mainly do not come from environments where academic performance is valued.  I get that they did not get help to address learning disabilities at an early age, or that their home lives may be difficult, or that they are emotionally stunted due to drug use, but I find myself wondering now more than ever why are they here?  I can’t help them overcome those problems in any fundamental way at this point, and they would rather take the ‘F’ than do an hour of reading.

“When do I get to make a ton of money? This is gay.”

I want to help them succeed, but sometimes it seems like my options are to lower my standards or let them all fail.  I am doing nobody a favor by letting them eke by with a D+ so they can go off into the world and “make bank,” because they’re not going to.  They will get out of my remedial program, spend another 30 thousand dollars on a year and a half of school before dropping out because they cannot or will not open their text books and other instructors are less forgiving than I am.

It’s causing a good deal of inner conflict in me, because both in and out of the classroom I work with at-risk student populations to support them on their quest to improve their circumstances.  The government SHOULD get involved with that.  It is a GOOD thing to spend tax money on, and I am proud to do it.  But how, how HOW do I impress upon these 18 year olds that it isn’t a one way street?  You don’t deposit a few thousand dollars in the machine and get a diploma at the end!  By 18 it is essentially too late to make them see how worth it the effort is, at least until they’ve been in a dead-end job for 10 years and decide to go back to school with a house and a family.  I almost feel that I should tell them from the get go “If you’re not going to work at this, go home and try again in a few years,” but what sort of encouragement is that?

What would my great grandmother say?

Posted in Academics, MADNESS, MADNESS I TELL YOU! | Leave a comment

Break time

Hello noble readers.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been the best at this “regular updates” thing.  This is due to a number of factors that I wish to address:

1) I am extraordinarily busy at the moment.  I took on an extra adjunct course at Benedictine College in addition to my full time commitments at Satellite University.  It’s a lot of prep time and I am still trying to balance it with my doctorate and Mrs. Hopeful’s time commitments.  There’s a lot going on.

2) I am getting nervous that I’ve begun to repeat myself.  (I do this all the time in real life, so I know I must be doing it here.) Believe it or not, I actually do try to put some effort into my posts here and when faced with the choice of researching for my blog and researching for my degree, I choose the degree.  As a result I rely on things I already know to blog about, and I think I may be reaching the frontier of “things worth writing about that I haven’t already written about.” (I do this all the time in real life, so I know I must be doing it here.)

I didn’t have a good visual aid for this one so here’s a kid scared of a donkey.

3) My shuffling of the schedule was originally meant to give me more time between posts to even write a few in advance and have a buffer zone for deadlines.  That didn’t work out like I planned for the aforementioned reasons.

So, where does that leave us?  Well, my next semester is not as busy as this one has been.  I have decided  to make this a “when I have something to say” blog (rather than having regularly scheduled updates) until further notice.  Regular updates will likely resume after Christmas when I’ve had some time to both get done the things that I get paid for and recharge the batteries for stimulating and enjoyable postings.

I really do appreciate all of the readership and support I’ve seen since starting this blog.  I feel that I owe it to you, the readers, to take some time off for quality control.

Thanks!

A.H.

Posted in Academics, Living arrangements, Topics, Writing | 2 Comments

Another day, another dollar

Archie Jr. is learning mighty fast.

The other day she made animal noises for each farm animal I pulled out of her puzzle.  She likes to “read” by herself now.  She can count to two (and repeat numbers through five).  She wanders around giving kisses to everyone and everything.

“Hey! I figured out how to put stuff in the VCR!”

And I’m missing it.

Mrs. Hopeful can lactate and I cannot, so there isn’t even an argument about who has to work.  Still, it is no fun.

Mrs. Hopeful has started a part time internship for her grad program, and on Monday nights I pick up Archie Jr. from the babysitter and we go home, play, make dinner, and take a bath.  It’s just a few hours of alone time with her but I’ve had so much fun doing it I am re-appreciating how much I miss on a day to day basis.

Well, perhaps I don’t miss EVERYTHING…

I know there are a couple grad-school parents following me – how do you get by?

Posted in Archie Jr., Parenting | 1 Comment

Fifty Shades of Frey

There’s something sexy about Vikings, or at least there is among the heaving bosom genre of dime store romance novels.  I assume it has to do with the same phenomenon that is making EL James’ teenage sons cringe – that harried suburban moms long for a bit of excitement and danger, be that entering into a torrid kinky affair with a young businessman or, for the purposes of my post today, being carried off by a hairless, muscular Viking.  I thought today I would test my interpretive skills on what we can tell about these books while judging them by their covers!

Section 1: Sandra Hill

Over half of the Viking romance books I found were written by Sandra Hill.  Her website doesn’t allude to any formal study of Vikings, but then again nobody is reading these for the historical accuracy.  She doesn’t write exclusively Viking fiction, but it does seem to be her trademark.

In this story a Viking clearly based on John Stamos has fallen in love.  He has fallen in love with a woman who clearly must be from the Mediterranean because that shoulderless dress is a recipe for pneumonia in the British Isles.

My how the tables have turned!  The captor has now become the captive.  A deliciously historical way to spice up the bedroom, straight from the pages of Cosmopolitan magazine!

Bewitched?  He seems way more overconfident than bewitched, to me.  The creepiest part of this is that I’m sure that’s how that model hits on women in real life.

O.K., I know this doesn’t appear to be explicitly Viking in nature, but I must admit I am intrigued by that tagline at the bottom…

Section 2: Everyone Else

This Viking is a Native American, apparently?

Is it just me or is HE the unwilling looking one in this picture?

Since I see no heaving bosoms, I wonder if this is merely a very poorly designed cover for a gritty, bloody, piece of historical fiction.  Though, judging by his six pack and the half-hearted way he’s swinging that axe, I would guess not.

Clearly, Ms. Irving just wants to cut to the chase.  I bet it starts with “There was a Viking.  He was in my bed.  Then, we made love.  This is how it went…”

Judging by the crappy computer generated image and the fact that you clearly can’t see that woman’s hands, I’d guess this is the raunchiest of the bunch except that Viking is apparently a Christian.

Joanna Fulford brings us back to romance with this exploration of the Old Norse concept of “first base.”

I have not, in fact, read any of these books and after looking at the tag lines I’m starting to think that’s a shame.  What about you?  What’s your favorite Viking Romance?

Posted in Fun Stuff, I SAY! | 3 Comments

A crisis of confidence

I faced a crisis of confidence a little while ago.  I suppose that’s par for the course in graduate school, but it flooded my mind with a variety of accusations so cutting and effective they could only have come from my own psyche.

You have never known what you are talking about.

You’re doing this for the wrong reasons.

All your research is has gotten you nowhere.

You don’t, nor will you ever, understand the things you are studying.

Your scholarly identity is a litany of excuses for your ineptitude.

Your hopes of becoming better will be thwarted by your laziness.

“No idea how you can be here, but there’s only one person in the universe who hates me as much as you do.”

So, yeah, that wasn’t especially pleasant.  It’s odd because I have highs, too – times when I feel like I’m on a roll and that I can’t be stopped.  Thank God for those times, because without them I may have quit by now.

It was due to a series of factors, I suppose.  Work had started again and I had a few new duties that I was learning, Mrs. Hopeful is now out of the house a couple days of the week and we’ve been adapting to a new schedule, and the end result is that I hadn’t made the time to seriously catch up on my research and writing.  Essentially, all of the dangers of doing a part time Ph.D. while working full time have occurred in the last few weeks.  And it rattled me.

Gunderson sent me an article a while back that I’ve linked to before about the fear of being a fraud and how pervasive it is in academia.  I suppose I should take that as a positive sign?  That sounds awfully Douglas Adams to be wholly good news, though.

I suppose that is the danger of living in one’s own head.  I have a relative who is a fairly prominent psychologist in his particular field of psychology, and he told me a story about visiting a conference with another prominent psychologist and touring the poster-session in between talks.  His associate noticed a poster that was similar to some of his research.  After a while of thoroughly grilling the young woman presenting it, she burst into tears.  He then realized that he had been nonchalantly poking holes in the work of one of his greatest admirers.

“I…I just thought the wavelength variations… I thought they… Excuse me!” *flee*

The two managed to console her in what must surely have been one of the most uncomfortable scenes at any psychological conference, and as they were leaving my relative’s companion, who felt terrible, said something to the effect of “I forgot what it was like trying so hard to do something important.”

So, when I am tearing myself down because I’m not the world’s greatest archaeologist after starting a year ago, I try to remind myself that I’m new at this.  Then I tell myself that I need to just keep my damned mouth shut and listen so I might learn something.  Then I think, though, that if I don’t explore and get corrected and take chances that I’ll never grow as a scholar.  Then I get mad because nobody has any respect for a loudmouthed n00b trying to play in the big leagues.  Then Mrs. Hopeful will say something like “I respect you, though, because you’re doing something difficult and trying and learning as you go!” And then I’ll go all Paul Lynde from Bye Bye Birdie.

“I don’t want your respect! Who wants the respect of a ten year old kid (READ: 27 year old wife)?!”

So, as you can see, I don’t always make it easy on myself.  (Or Mrs. Hopeful who is far more decent to me in these times than I deserve.)  I wonder if anyone does, though?

“That’s just perfectly normal paranoia.  Everyone in the universe has that.”

Great.  Thanks, Doug.

Posted in Encouragement, MADNESS | 1 Comment

My favorite experimental archaeology projects

The closest I’ve ever come to experimental archaeology was firing a trebuchet dressed as a knight.  (Why a knight would be bothering with the lowly duty of firing siege weaponry is unknown.)

But the more I learn about experimental archaeology the more intrigued I am by it.  Intrigued enough, perhaps, to drag poor Mrs. Hopeful and Archie Jr. off to some remote part of the country to spend our vacation lifting rocks and splitting logs with inefficient tools.

To some it may look like these projects are glorified make believe, but experimental archaeology has contributed to some significant discoveries in our understanding of past technologies.  I thought I would share a few of my favorite projects.

The Butser Ancient Farm

This is the grand-daddy of them all.  The Butser Ancient Farm was established in 1970 to recreate the processes of building and operating a farm in the British Iron Age.  It has been moved several times but is now also home to an authentic Roman Villa.  Here is a video of the late, great, former director Peter Reynolds explaining what the farm is all about and, by proxy, experimental archaeology.  The music and video quality will bring you right back to grade school if you’re my age!

Marcus Junkelmann Crosses the Alps

Marcus Junkelmann looks like a character Brian Blessed might have played in an Indiana Jones movie.  He’s a German experimental archaeologist whose focus is on the Roman Military.  In the 1980s Junkelmann determined that the best way to understand the practical implications of moving Roman Legionairres was to reconstruct their armor and gear and cross the Alps on foot.  I tried to find some footage in English, but the best I can come up with is this more recent German documentary.

Replica Longships

Building a replica long ship has been an archaeological pastime since the first boat burials were excavated in the 1800s.  The first one was built in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exposition, but there have since been countless reconstructions (of varying accuracy) made.  To my knowledge, the current record for largest reconstruction goes to Havhingsten fra Glendalough, or “Sea Stallion from Glendalough.”  It is a reconstruction of the 100 ft. Skuldelev 2 recovered from Roskilde Fjord in 1962.  Dendochronology revealed that the original ship was constructed near Dublin in 1042.

Middelaltercentret

I’ve mentioned these guys before, and it’s mainly because I have now seen my dream job and it is in Denmark.  Nestled in the Danish town of Nykøbing Falster there is another, smaller town.  A late medieval town with its own port and artillery range.  A place where you can see people firing catapults and cannons that they made, or where Leonardo DaVinci’s fantastical designs are attempted using medieval technology, and where you won’t see any pirate-fairy-gypsy-prostitutes because they’re not period.  Here’s another non-English video, but who needs vocabulary when you have cannons?

Michel Guyot builds castles from scratch

Michel Guyot is my kind of people.  It is probably fair to describe his overarching philosophy as “Castles are Neat.”  Michel has a history of restoring historic buildings, up to and including buying his own set of ruins and funding their restoration by staging flashy, touristy shows.  It wasn’t long before he had the bright idea to build a castle from scratch.  Twice.

Good on you, M. Guyot.  Good on you.

Posted in Fun Stuff, I SAY! | 3 Comments