Thursday, January 27, 2005

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Sunday, January 23, 2005

blue over yellow

Plaza Escalante is located in downtown Albuquerque at 414.5 Central Avenue SE. These intriguing adobe shops were constructed in the early 1930s by W.E. Anderson. According to my sources, Anderson was a carpenter by trade and lived in the adjacent Neo-Classical Revival house at 412 Central Avenue SE that he built around 1907. You can buy cookies there today that are as pleasing to the tummy as they are to the eye.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Archaeology Recipes 101

Curiously, people expressing a newfound interest in the daily routine of archaeologists almost always get around to asking, “What do you eat?” I guess they think we all eat chilled monkey brains as depicted in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In reality, archaeologists tend to consume normal food just like regular people. Possibly, archaeologists do drink more beer.

I’ve heard that cooking blogs are all the rage these days, so I thought I’d pitch in and include a few recipes of my own in an attempt to kill a few mockingbirds with a single stone tool. Of course I don’t intend to post them all at once, as I wish to make interested readers feel like they have reasons to return and check out future installments.

First up is the Excavation PB&J Sandwich. Personally, I find the name somewhat misleading, as this classic sandwich makes for ideal eats on practically any archaeological project- be it an excavation, survey, research, or even while hidden away from the rest of the world in the belly of an archaeological laboratory. (Incidentally, people who work in archaeology laboratories oftentimes refer to themselves as “lab rats.”)

Preparation time averages about 3 minutes, assuming of course that you concentrate on the sandwich and don’t get distracted, or drawn into a lengthy argument with your co-workers about which came first- the pot or the shard. The key to making the perfect Excavation PB&J Sandwich is being prepared and having the essential ingredients on hand. Minimally, this includes bread, peanut butter, jelly, and raisins.

Bread: Use two slices of practically any type of bread, except garlic. If you’ve blown your per diem at one of the local bars and find yourself short of cash near the end of a 10-day field session, it is perfectly acceptable to gather uneaten slices of toast from the continental breakfast bar from your hotel in the morning. If you are too shy to do so while the rest of the crew is present, wait till everyone is in the vehicle and tell your crew chief that you forgot your compass and run back inside. An added benefit of that maneuver is that the vehicle will be well on the way to having been warmed to a comfortable temperature by the time you return.

Peanut Butter: Use Skippy! Skippy’s 16-ounce plastic jars fit easily into even the most moderate-sized dig kit without overcrowding. Forget those other name brands, and whatever you do, avoid anything that claims to be 100% natural. You’ll spend more time trying to stir the oil back into their butter to make it halfway spreadable, and regardless of what you may have been told by those lunatics on NPR… it won’t taste nearly as good.

Jelly: I won’t even begin to recommend a flavor since there are so many. Yet, grape, blackberry, and mixed fruit come to mind. Experienced archaeologists realize that traveling with glass jars of jelly or jam is as hazardous as it is impractical. Thus, it is recommended that you grab a handful of those little plastic jelly packets whenever you see them on your table at a restaurant. Free jelly is one of the earliest indications that a society is evolving into a socialistic mode. I bet you didn’t know that!

Raisins: You’ll want a handful of these little buggers for sure since constructing an Excavation PB&J Sandwich without raisins is paramount to making a pitcher of Kool-aid without water. Sure, you CAN do it, but why on earth would you want to? Both Sun-maid and Dole offer raisins in convenient travel-sized boxes, but those are usually cost prohibitive. Your hard earned per diem would be much better spent buying raisins in the rectangular 8-ounce boxes. Again, if you find yourself low on funds, odds are very good that you will be able to sweet talk one of the members of your crew out of a few raisins from their Trader Joe’s Trail Mix. Don’t worry if they have chili flavored trail mix. You can still salvage the raisins by soaking them in Coke. Use the peanut butter jar lid for this purpose, but be sure to rinse it off before screwing it back onto the jar. Otherwise, you’ll soon have a dig kit filled with ants. Be sure to begin the soaking process as soon as possible as the longer they are allowed to marinate in the Coke, the tastier your sandwich will be when you eat it.

You should take care to not offend anyone who offers you more trail mix than you actually want. If they should press you after you say “No thanks,” I find that it is generally easier to accept the offer with gratitude. Later you can always discard the unwanted materials in your back dirt pile when no one is looking.

Okay, with all the necessary ingredients gathered together, you are ready to construct a delicious Excavation PB&J Sandwich!

First, you’ll need to position your two slices of bread on a relatively clean surface. I normally employ my field notes for this purpose, but you may substitute any USGS 7.5 minute topographic map.

(I also use my handy weatherproof clipboard as shelter during light rain showers to prevent my bread from becoming soggy.) Anal-retentive people tend to make sure the slices of bread are laid out to mirror each other. Although this doesn’t really affect the overall taste, it could be important if you are concerned with presentation.

Next, trowel a glob of peanut butter across the exposed surface of the slice of bread that is either furthest north or west (obviously depending on how you are situated at the time). You should apply the peanut butter liberally to a depth of not less than 3 millimeters, making sure you end up with a level surface, but not necessarily “smooth.” A good rule of thumb is to add an additional millimeter of peanut butter for each increment of 10 degrees as temperatures plummet below 70 degrees (Fahrenheit).

Then, open three jelly packets and dump the contents onto the surface of the other slice of bread. You may substitute only two packets of jelly if you wish, but four packets is really too many. You will want to spread the jelly around on the bread using your trowel as before. There is no need to clean off any remaining peanut butter before this step, but I should mention that you WILL want to make sure you clean the majority of attached sediment from your trowel BEFORE you begin the peanut butter phase. Don’t sweat it if you didn’t since a little (hanta virus-free) dirt isn’t likely to cause long-term health problems. Besides, is it really a SANDwich if it is completely grit free?

With the slices of bread covered with appropriate lenses of peanut butter and jelly, it is time to add the raisins. If you’ve got them soaking in Coke, this would be the time to remove them from that container. Make sure that you always add the raisins to the jelly side of the sandwich. Sprinkle a handful across the jellied surface evenly, or if time permits, create an interesting design or likeness of a particular artifact you wish to find once you get back to digging. For instance, I’ve been known to add my raisins in the shape of a Clovis projectile point.

The final step involves lifting and flipping the slice of peanut buttered bread and placing it (peanut butter side down) on top of the jellied slice. Although you are likely starving at this point, it is very important that you take your time and complete this phase with a steady hand. One slip and the whole thing can land face down in the dirt, and will be reduced to food for ground monkeys. Also, don’t let anyone kid you into trying to flip the jellied side onto the peanut butter half. Previous studies have proven that this methodology is both flawed (Smuckers 1987) and “highly inefficient” (Goober and Peas 1992).

Now you are ready to kick back and enjoy one of the tastiest lunches known to mankind. Wonderful complements to this sandwich include Poore Brothers potato chips, Little Debbie brand snack cakes, and strawberry Twizlers.

A word on substitutions… I’d say that once you are comfortable with the process, go for it! As expressed previously, you really shouldn’t mess with the peanut butter. Bread is also an essential ingredient, but if you are REALLY in a fix, you may substitute plain strawberry Pop-tarts for the bread (and reduce the jelly to say a single packet). Also, you might enjoy substituting either candy corn or chocolate chips for the raisins, or honey for the jelly.

Dig in, and enjoy!

Is it April YET?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

electronic bumper stickers

People are funny. Unfortunately, not in the Steve Martin style of funny, but more in an Andy Rooney sort of way. About as funny as driving down a road dotted with speed bumps after you’ve eaten too much spicy food at a Mexican restaurant.

What prompted this outburst is an email I recently received from some random person who had happened across Blog Kabin Fever. To make this entry longer than necessary, I’ll be referring to this mysterious person as “Mouth Breather.” I guess Mouth Breather assumed (incorrectly I should preface) that because I live in New Mexico and maintain my own blog, that not only would I agree with their political views and agendas, but that I would also be quite happy include a hyperlink in my cyberspace that would direct my own misguided readers to their blog where YOU would be completely assaulted with bizarre suburban myths and conspiracy theories so grand that nothing comparing to them has been heard (or in this case, read) since the latter days of the 2004 presidential race.

I think what bugs me most about this particular email, is wondering whether Mouth Breather even bothered to read my entries before cutting and pasting the insanity into an email and sending it my direction. I’m beginning to think that unwanted emails are the 21st century’s reincarnation of the phrase “AVON calling.”

Seriously… I can’t figure out this whole blogging trend. I do realize that I’m part of the problem rather than a solution. Friends and family are constantly sending me links to other blogs they find interesting. To be honest, I don’t read other blogs. Heck, I barely have time to write this one, let alone wade through the hundreds of thousands of other electronic journals floating around in the etherworld just waiting to suck.

Wasn’t it Benjamin Franklin who coined the phrase, “Read much, but not too many blogs?”

Friday, January 14, 2005

the boy who cried BLOG!

For those of you scoring at home or the office, I finally have some news regarding what some circles describe as my “abdominal concern.” Given that this topic has pretty much preoccupied my mind for a period not less than a number of weeks, I figure I should jump right into it and forget about trying to think of something interesting to write about.

The results of the previously discussed CT scan failed to indicate anything that could be causing pain or discomfort. With that in mind, my doctor referred me to a general surgeon to discuss options. I met with him this week, and after reading my chart and a general laying on of the hands, he announced that he didn’t detect anything in my gut that he could “fix” by cutting me open. Although I was in no position to argue with the man who said EXACTLY the words I wanted to hear, my brain couldn’t help comparing his examination with my newest trick of determining whether or not our mailbox contains mail simply by listening to the echo produced when I slide the key into the lock assembly.

We decided to just give it more time and see if the condition changes one way or the other. He did indicate that he could always stick a scope into my belly and see what he can see, but nobody really thinks that is warranted.

A couple of weird moments worth typing about played out in the office before I met with the surgeon. First, after the nurse weighed me in, she mentioned in passing that she probably should have asked me to remove my boots. I thought how strange that statement was to hear in this crazE, mixed up post-nine-one-one universe- as if I was thinking about using my boots to blow up their scale or something.

While taking my blood pressure, the same nurse asked, “So, have you ever had heart trouble?” Almost before I could begin thinking the worst, I replied “No.” Then she said that my pulse was barely 60, and suggested that that was outstanding for a person of my age. I laughed when she asked if I exercised often, as my normal daily routine is from bed to shower to truck, from truck to desk, back and forth between my desk and a Coke machine twice a day, then back to my truck, and finally… from my truck to the living room couch. What a workout! To think that it was nothing for me to survey at least 10 miles of highway a day for a decade and a fifth before becoming so sedentary.

Curious about the heart rate, I later looked online and learned that the average pulse for a relaxed adult is 72 beats per minute. So, unless my math is wrong, that means my heart has beat approximately 1,261,440,000 times in my lifetime- or 252,288,000 less than the average joker born under the same moon. Given that people always appear dumfounded when they discover how old I am, it makes me wonder if one of the tricks of looking younger than you are is related to having a slow heart rate and poor circulation. Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to look and feel older is to worry about things that you have absolutely no control over.

That said, you can stop wondering about my health, as I will have by the time I post this entry. Obviously with just over 79 days left until the beginning of baseball season, it is time to begin thinking about more pressing issues including whether or not the Albuquerque Isotopes will field a decent pitching staff.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

My first archaeological dig

Okay, not really. These photos taken in Toulon, Illinois during my formative years (ca. 1967) actually depict me playing in (or near) the sandbox that I shared with my older brother and sister, stray cats, and numerous squirrels.

Early discoveries included mostly short-haired Barbie doll heads, fragments of Tonka trucks, acorns, and kitty scat. Although my documentation efforts were significantly hampered by my inability to read or write, it is obvious that even at a very young age, I had a great desire to dig.

Many years would pass before I would fill my first 5 gallon bucket with sediment to be screened for cultural artifacts.