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Strange Enough For Love

Reeking Little Piles of Doggerel

3/11/14 01:10 pm - Fitness

I have been working out pretty hard since the beginning of February. I gained 5-7lbs over Xmas, so I was trying to burn that off, which I have already, although I think I could lower my body fat percentage a bit more. I really want to be stronger, so I have been doing more hand weight work, mostly using Xbox One Fitness with its Jillian Micheals videos. I decided to try to run again because I need more cardio and I really enjoy the challenge of running. So far my Achilles seem to be holding up fine. I am still doing the PT the doctor prescribed--those eccentric calf raises that are supposed to stretch the muscle and tendon while strengthening the muscle. It seems to be helping. I'm only on day 6 of C25K, so I may find the tendons just haven't been strained enough yet. If I get to the point they are becoming an issue I'll back off to the previous weeks training schedule and leave it at that.

Food and macro nutrients have been a challenge. I have backed off the bread and pasta as much as I have ever managed, so most of my carbs are complex. Beyond that I decided not to worry about carbs and instead just focus on protein, fiber, and calories. If I can get my protein past 70 grams a day, my fiber past 25 grams a day, and my net calories around 1100 a day, the net carbs and fat pretty much take care of themselves. I don't eat a lot of meat, so it took me a while to figure out how to get to 70 grams, but I have got it now (and it is not even that much--I have been reading more about it more and there are lot of people that think your grams of protein should equal your weight, in which case would I need to be eating 115 grams protein!). I'm still in a calorie deficit, so I am losing a little bit of weight, but not much. I just want to kick the muscle up at this point and loose enough fat that you can see the muscle, which is going to bring my weight loss to a standstill when I reach some sort of fat-muscle equilibrium. I estimate that I am burning an extra 200 calories a day through exercise, so I am getting to eat a good 1300 calories a day--Unless it is a rest day I am pretty full. I think I am going to try to keep some sort of calorie deficit up until I start working again this summer and then maintain, matching my caloric intake to whatever my estimated total daily energy expenditure is for that day (probably an average of 1350 calories a day--I'll base it off my fitbit), and keep eating back my exercise calories if I feel like it. Basically I'll be able to eat whatever I want, within reason (especially since I'll likely be hiking or digging my ass off in some desert somewhere).

On that note, I have applied to almost 50 jobs this semester. I have two referrals, one at Great Basin National Park and one at an inland Alaska National Forest (fuck yeah!), and I interview for the GBNP one tomorrow. I haven't applied to much in the way of private jobs because there really haven't been that many that I qualified for, but it is possible that one of my on-call companies will come through with something.
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3/11/14 12:31 pm - Thesis

Working on my thesis is like pulling teeth. I have to fight for every hour. I am making progress, but not quickly. I did get a one semester extension due to my extenuating circumstances, so I have until December 2014 until they kick me out of the program. It is easily doable.

I had a 1/3 of the graduate faculty helping me force this ancient dos program to work in order to get all my Monte Carlo trials run. With their help I finally have two plots, so I can officially finish my final two chapters and get them to my chair. It only took a month to get the program to run! Ugh! It takes my chair at least a month to read anything, so it will be at least that long from the date I turn it in before I can send it to my committee. My committee will take another month, and then I will be able to complete their edits and turn in a reading copy. The reading copy is due by April 11, so there is physically no way to get a reading copy in this semester. However, if I can get a reading copy in my the first day of the Fall semester I will have plenty of time to do rewrites and defend.
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12/12/13 03:43 pm - 2013 Wrap-Up

It’s about that time of year again: the dreaded 2013 wrap-up slash New Year’s resolution. My mother dying was obviously the main event. I still don’t know the cause of death; I spoke with the medical examiner’s office a couple of days ago and the autopsy is still pending. I’ll give then a call again in January. When it comes to the seemingly endless slog through probate, estate sales, and taxes, I feel like my Uncle and I have made very little progress. Next week I start working on the house again. Now it is apparently covered in tagged knickknacks and very difficult to navigate. With this most recent death, I have been made more attuned to my imminent loneliness. This is my fault, mostly. If I even remotely liked children or saw any value in marriage I might not be facing such a void after my uncle’s death, who is the last family member I give a shit about (or who gives a shit about me). However, I see no point in making myself unhappy now, so I will be marginally happier in my old age. I may as well be happy now, while I am young and relatively free, not burdened with a nagging husband and demanding children.

Apart from the death, this year’s highlights include hiking in Alaska (even though that coincided with my mother’s death), and my first serious break into commercial CRM. Excavation with backhoes looming is absolutely backbreaking work, but if I keep working-out I am confident I can keep up (with the occasional surgery and cortisone injection). Snowmobiling in Yellowstone was an exciting trip as well, but I have not intention of doing it again (way too loud and obnoxious). In terms of my heath, it has been good this year, apart from my various overuse injuries that I suspect will plague me forever. Stopping running has helped with my Achilles, and I have found other ways to do cardio (an hour on an elliptical machine seems to do the trick), but it came too late for me to hike the Rainbow Plateau in April, as planned. So far, I have a short ski trip planned for my birthday, and then a possible overnight or two night backpacking trip in Guadalupe NP in the spring. There will be more trips, once I figure out where I will be working this summer and when I will be defending. On that note, I have a draft of the thesis in with my chair, but I don’t expect to hear back from her until the end of January. I am confident I will graduate in 2014, and which point I can pretend that my overlong stay in grad school never happened (or at least, wasn’t so long).

My cats, as always, are a big part of my life. They are both nearly seniors now, and each have small health problems that makes leaving them with friends for 3 months at a time untenable. I am buying a new pickup this month. I am hoping that the cats might adjust to living in a small travel trailer as well as they adjust to living in the Motel 6. I am not saying that they adjusted well to the Motel 6, but they were tolerable, and did not appear to be miserable. I really don’t know if that investment will turn out well. They may be too stressed to handle it, at which point I will have to put off much of CRM archaeology until their deaths.

For 2014, I don’t have any Resolutions. I am pretty happy with how I have been managing my diet and exercise this year, and believe it will continue to serve me well for the rest of my life. Counting calories is a drag, but it works. Once I have defended I suspect I will want to go back to studying Spanish. I will do some work in archaeology this summer, at least. Not sure where or when yet, but I have started applying to federal jobs. Once the thesis is done I should have more time for backpacking trips, although I may have to up my exercise regime slightly to get back to carrying more than 30lbs. There is a possibility I will move when I complete my thesis, but I am going to take my time deciding where. Right now, the Eastern Mountains and various small towns on either side of the Sandias is my pick, but it may change as I research it more. Overall, with my mother’s death, the major stress in my life is gone, and I am looking forward to what next year has to bring.

9/28/13 03:25 pm - Status Quo

My mother died on September 8, 2013, a few days before her 68th birthday. The cause is still unknown to me, but I will pick up the death certificate soon. She died in a bathtub. Accidental drowning is my top pick but internal bleeding and heart attack are also contenders. I was slightly more upset than I thought I would be when I imagined her death. She surprised me because she had improved her health, compliance behavior, attitude—pretty much everything—and then promptly died. Funeral was yesterday. I cried for approximately an hour and half, straight through the memorial service, receiving line, and most of the luncheon. For whatever reason, I was fine during the internment. It was less a reflection of my actual pain than my empathy. I tend to cry when people are nice to me.

Today, I attempted to sell a significant portion of her furniture—things she specially told me not to ditch—to people I know she disliked. I felt mild guilt, but everything must go!

People keep telling me, “Oh, your mother would understand.” It’s a nice thought, like heaven, but equally as laughable. She would be furious with me for many of the decisions I have made since her death. It’s the status quo; I may as well roll with it.
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8/3/13 03:17 pm - What do I know about Archaeology?

As my time on this project is coming to a close (at least temporarily, if not altogether), I feel that I should attempt to consolidate what I have learned. Not that what I have learned is the type of knowledge that can be jotted down and pulled up when needed. Sure, I could type up my notes for setting up a total station or a transit to be accessed later, but I feel confident that the next time I encounter survey equipment the procedures will come back to me. What I have learned is more nuanced and less procedural, but of course, this is ME. I will attempt to turn it into, “if A is encountered, proceed to B, etc.” I can’t just know something. I have to makes rules that never hold up in all circumstances.


What have I learned?

-It can be difficult to obtain excavation permits in a timely manner. If you can afford to do so, keep your archaeology technicians and crew chiefs on the payroll for as long as possible. If you lay them off, for even a week, they will scatter to the winds, and you will have to dredge up a new work force.

-Providing housing per diem will attract more archaeological technicians to your project. Of course, they will not all being staying in the same location, causing some transportation difficulties. For instance, those who choose to camp down long dirt roads may become stuck after a downpour, and not be able to make it to work.

-My body is weak. Carpal Tunnel, Trigger Fingers, Achille’s Tendonopathy—all these conditions were aggravated by excavation—how many years can a feasibly do this before my body breaks down?

-Speculation makes one look unreliable or prone to flights of fancy. I have yet to see a single pit house on this project, but they have been predicted or proclaimed by the Powers That Be at least five times. For myself, I already lean toward the “it’s not cultural” camp. This conservative leaning seems somewhat out of character, but after this summer, I am significantly more conservative in what I consider to evidence of prehistoric activity. I recognize that this is somewhat premature—I haven’t seen evidence of enough features, especially as they are being excavated, to even know what I am seeing. Yet, I am already a nay-saying-sally. In this vein,

-Pursue the data as it presents itself, but don’t impose your preconceived notions. Let the data speak for itself. How many sparse lithic scatters produce features? In my limited experience, not many. Let us pursue the ash stains and artifact concentrations, but leave our interpretations until the data has run its course. Sure, in some cases in order to follow the data you have to proceed as if a likely natural feature is, in fact, cultural; but that does not mean it is evidence of prehistoric human activities.

-What makes a sparse lithic scatter have data potential? How many artifacts are necessary? Does one need a certain number of artifacts and possible features to assign data potential? So many of the sites I excavated on this project and less than twenty surface artifacts (almost all uniformly flakes) and no possible features. Such minimalist sites seem pointless to excavate. I feel like I am missing something (experience?).

-Don’t promote people unit they are ready. This begs the question: how do you know when they are ready?

-Good tools are necessary. It is hard to dig an attractive excavation unit with the crappy tools the company provides.

-Don’t walk behind a backhoe, which is actually the front of the backhoe.

-String your units, even if they cool kids don’t. My units looks immensely better once I started stringing them.
--I know shit about leadership, although I can muddle through. I want to inspire a crew, not just keep them walking in a straight line and digging holes efficiently.

-I have learned that I don’t enjoy being homeless or living in cheap motels. This is a bad sign for one wanting to be an archaeologist. I suspected this about myself before. This is why I chose to pursue federal archaeologist path at first, only to find that way closed to me (at least for now). I doubt I will have a permanent job for at least a decade. I have met several people who have been living out of their cars for five or more years. I don’t think I can live like that, nor did I pursue two degrees in order to be homeless.

-And finally, I NEED MORE EXPERIENCE--Weeks, months, and years of more training in various cultural areas and various site times. What I don’t know about archaeology could ruin me, and a Master’s Degree qualifies me for jack shit. Sure, it gets me a skill set beyond the level of a tech. I can do research and write passably (I will never be an engaging or skilled writer), but that doesn’t mean I don’t need spend a few more years on the basics. Getting the degree doesn’t mean you can skip that step.


The reason why I am writing this now, in the middle of the session, is because I had to take the day off. This is my first sick day in three months, apart from the 2 days I needed to get my carpal tunnels injected. There is no need to go into it—it’s one of those “chained to the toilet” issues. It’s a good thing I am crew chief only in name now. They didn’t really need me at the site.


I am thrilled that this will be over soon. I can’t wait to get out of this shitty motel and in to my own bed. I am so tired of the screaming babies, sex, and fights that my various neighbors inevitably have. I am tired of washing my dishes in the shower, cooking in a “caldron,” and using the Laundromat. I really miss the internet. I feel like a sick blob watching cable—I have now seen every episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
Home sweet home…

5/31/13 12:19 pm - Archaeology hurts

It has taken me 40 work days, but I now believe I could properly test a site on my own. This is a Phase III project, but they skipped the II and most of the sites I have been getting are better described as testing—overall, very boring sites with a lot of empty holes. However, I am familiar with all the forms; can lay in grid with the transit or triangulation; excavate a marginally clean unit with straightish walls; take pollen samples; identify sediment types; munsell; produce site, plan, and profile maps; and wrangle an FS log and artifacts with minimal mistakes. I have learned more practical aspects of CRM archaeology these 40 days than I have in years! This is what I told my Project Director yesterday when I thanked him for giving me this opportunity and explained that I need time off the get my carpal tunnel treated. I am in the process of destroying my wrists. I knew carpal tunnel was going to be a problem, I just didn’t realize it could get this bad. I am barely getting any sleep because of my constantly aching and throbbing hands and fingers. It gets even worse if they go numb and then come back to life. The braces don’t help at all. So back to the orthopedist I go, the same one who suggested I stop running after my hip strain, who told me to not going on the hiking trip this last April because of my Achilles tendonopathy (but that it was not a career-ender—I could return to survey in a few months), and who is now probably going to tell me to take a break from excavating. I’m going to push for cortisone injections so I can go back to work, and then try to get the surgery this winter. My Project Director is being very supportive—he told that he was absolutely willing to work with me, that he had hired me because he needed an excellent survey crew chief and that he was happy to take the time to train me to phase II/III until a phase I comes along. He is even willing to let me work in the lab a few days if I need to stay out of the sun after the injections. It is a good deal, apart from no sick time.

I am trying to avoid getting depressed about all these injuries. My Achilles are not quite healed yet. When I started this job, I stopped doing the eccentric exercises and my left tendon has tightened up and again and starts aching occasionally. I am pretty sure it will completely regress as soon as I start surveying again—especially on slopes or in deep sand. So I can neither survey nor excavate without hurting myself. I appear to have picked the wrong career and am generally fucked.

4/28/13 08:49 am - Field Session 1 Recap

After my first five-day field session at this large and prestigious company I am trying to focus on all the things I have learned, and not focus on all the things I have yet to learn. It is quite clear to me (and I suspect the Project Directors) that I am not ready for my own crew. The fact that I have never dug a feature, apart from one burial, is glaringly clear. Nor have I chosen where to located test units based on artifact concentrations or topography. Nor have I ever established a site grid with any sort of instrument such as brunton, transit, or total station. The list continues. I don't know that the PDs think that they have made a bad choice--they certainly aren't paying me much--so it doesn't seem that catastrophic that I be stuck with a more experienced crew chief for a few more sessions. I have learned a lot from the current head crew chief and would not mind being shuffled around crews to learn from others. On the promising end, I learned a huge amount this week; that can only help!

Our site sucked like only a 200m long diffuse lithic scatter can suck. After two 1x1m test units yielded no cultural deposits beyond the first level, we started laying in shovel tests from one end of the site to the other. These yielded the same results. Tough calcium carbonate rich sediments appeared within a few cm of the weak A horizon, and given the composition of the horizon it seemed clear that all the artifacts were deflating onto the caliche horizon as well as being moved by high winds (boy we had some of those!) and water erosion. Boring, boring, boring. Good thing is that I got tons of experience on the transit, laying in grid, taking elevations, and mapping. I think I almost understand how to use this particular instrument!

I was not prepared for the weather. It was warm in Albuquerque, but as soon as you got to the other side of the Sandias it was below freezing with 8 to 35mph winds that lasted all day. It warmed up to the 60s by the afternoon, but we were starting at 6am so it was cold. We are moving up the hill into an even higher saddle this week; it is only going to get worse. I packed way more clothes for the next session.

Logistically, everything seems to be working out. I have a $46/night motel 8 mins from the office. My per diem is $86 a day except for the last day ($11 only). I have about $350 in per diem to pay for $270 of hotel room that Steve and I are splitting. I have a hot plate and a mini George Forman so food costs are low, and I have had very little desire to go out because of the bone-numbing exhaustion--I went to sleep at 8pm the first two days! We only get paid drive time to the site on the first day and from the site on the last day, so days are long and I end up having to put in my own time to write notes and do some office work. However, I rarely take our federally mandated two 15min breaks, so it probably works itself out (I make sure the field techs get their breaks, however!).

I am looking forward to switching from a regular work-week to a 10 day work-week. It is hard to drive 3.5 hours home on Friday knowing that you are going to have to drive back Sunday afternoon. A Thursday to Sunday weekend would be better, even though I know I will be exhausted after 10 days of continuous field work.

In Session 2 my goal is to make more decisions regarding where to place units and how best to lay in the site grid efficiently. I really hope they don't force me to lead a crew independently anytime soon. There are a lot of techs starting work in Session 3 (university holiday is beginning then), so there will be more pressure on me to take a crew. I know a lot of grads and undies from ENMU have taken tech positions and are starting that session. I have learned a lot, but not enough!

3/18/13 12:36 pm - Jobs 2013--38 applications, 22 rejections, 2 interviews, and 1 offer

As of 3/18/13 I have applied to 38 jobs this year. Ten were with private CRM firms, all of which were temporary or on-call positions. Only two of of those were at the crew-chief level. Out of those ten I have been offered one on-call field tech position (which I took, but no jobs have materialized). Out of those ten I have gotten two interviews, one for the position that I took, and one for a crew chief position for a data recovery project in New Mexico. I have not received the result of that interview. I have received four definite no's.

There have been many more federal jobs posted for which I have felt qualified. Apart from the continues open vacancy announcements (1 for the USFS, 1 for the BLM, and 1 for the USFS student programs), that leaves 25 individual positions. I applied to only two permanent positions (neither of which I was referred) and no GS09 positions (I have been told that I am qualified for that level, but I have never gotten even close to getting one, so I chose not to apply to any). I have Applied to 18 GS07 positions (some were co-listed with GS05 and GS06 positions) and have not been referred to a selecting official on 13 of those positions, meaning that I did not make the first cut. GS07 is generally crew chief level. I am still waiting to hear from the rest and have no expectation of getting referred. I have applied to two GS06 positions and have not been referred on either. There are either crew chief or field tech level. I have applied to 6 GS05 positions, and have not been referred on all of those. These are only for field techs, and below the level that I have worked at for the last two summers.

Of the three continuous open vacancy announcements, I have been refereed to the selecting officials on two GS05s and 1 GS07. These are all for 6 month temporary positions.

Basically, I am not getting anywhere. I have been told repeatedly that I have almost no chance of getting hired with the feds as a non-student, and yet I just keep applying like something is going to change.

2/25/13 10:32 pm - Months of Sick Cat

There was a small blizzard last night, enough to shut down the roads, and one of my cats vomited bile all night. The vet was very helpful over the phone, and Charm seems better now, but he is just not right. Tomorrow will be the fourth time I have taken him to the vet this year. He has had a bout of cystitis, and now the vomiting. At least one of the vets thinks the conditions are related and has suggested blood work. That is on top of an X-ray, two urinalyses, 2 injections, and 2 prescriptions, all administered this year.

If I had not been here observing his behavior daily, he could have gone for days without anyone knowing he was sick. It is becoming clear, now that my cats are 9 and 10, I can't just leave them in the care of a friend who drops in 3 times a week. This drastically restricts the jobs I can take, by season or by project. They would have to be jobs with hotel rooms that accepts pets, short jobs that happen to occurs when I could impose on my friends, or jobs in places where I could get an apartment. Plus, I travel a lot, mostly back to Florida. This is going to make my life very difficult.

When I got my cats 10 years ago, I didn't know I would be doing CRM archaeology, or that it would require so much travel. They have been such a joy and a pleasure, and it makes me feel sick to resent them now. I won't get rid of them, but I won't be taking any remote and exciting jobs, joining the peace corp, or trekking in Nepal, either.

These last two months have been rough. All night vomiting, peeing, administering medication twice a day, having to set up a separate room for Charm and listing to him cry to get out all night. It's starting to grind my nerves. I know pets are not children, but it doesn't matter if you have a distressed and vomiting child or cat: you are going to be up all night (and, if you are able to ignore a distressed animal, you are not fit to raise children).

I do love my cats, but they may be my last pets.

2/24/13 01:56 pm - Tendinosis

I had to cancel the backpacking trip in April. My Achilles are noncooperational, and will be for a few months. According to a reading of the ultrasound, I have mild tendinosis in the right, moderate tendinosis in the left, and small bone spurs growing from both calcanei.  All I can do for now is go heavy on the cross training, increase hiking slowly, and keep doing the eccentrics. The physical therapy takes about a half-hour a day; more on the days that I hike.  Right this instant, I can't do survey.  I can do excavation.  If things go as planned, I should be able to hike 6 miles by the middle of March.  Maybe I could do survey then, but I am pretty sure I won't.  Doctor was good enough to tell me that this was not a career-ender, but I should make hiking a priority and give up any other exercise that could aggravate my Achilles.  No more running, and I probably can't ride for a long while (or maybe I could ride without stirrups?).  Regardless, the new company is going to call me before the end of March, and I am going to have to tell them I can't work.  This sucks tremendously.  In terms of later work, I have gotten a few rejections from the government lately, but I did get one referral through the continuous open announcement for a not to exceed GS07 in North Texas.  I don't really want to work in North Texas, but I cam going to call the archaeologist and see what the work entails.  They seem to be hiring pretty early, so I assume that their funding is set and will not be affected by the sequester.  Consequently, it may the the only federal job I have any chance of getting.
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