Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

It has been a fairly lazy Memorial Day weekend for me. Surfing in the morning has provided the start of the day, while futzing around the house has dominated the afternoon. It actually feels great to do a whole lot of nothing. I did get the new blog worked aout and the blog completed. I've also toyed with creating a communal blog for the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts ( I guess Ill have to see if any of the faculty are interested in discussing their research, students, etc. Who knows. In addition, I've done a bit of work with Drupal ( to see if ejournal ( might be a better, more flexible solution than OJS. I started this setup ( but I still have to get the ejournal layer installed. Now, it is back to grading - method and theory II (456/556). Hopefully I can get that done today so that I can finish up 451/551 tomorrow and wednesday.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Artifact Analysis: Results of the Semester's Research

Sometime in February I wrote in this blog about the various research project's that students in my ANTH 451/551: Archaeological Artifact Analysis class were beginning. Over the course of the semester and in addition to 8 lab exercises, students conducted an independent project on assemblages that we have available here in CSULB. Working in groups of 2 or 3 graduate and undergraduates, each team develop a set of research questions and made measurements on these collections. The results of the analyses were presented at the 2007 CSULB/CLA Student Research Poster Showcase (previously mentioned). I have turned all the posters into PDF files so that this remarkable body of work can be shared with everyone. Here are the posters: (1) Beveled Projectile Points and Ballistics Technology Veronica Harper, Azzurra Di Marcello, and Jessica Jaynes (note: first place winner of poster competition) (2) Stylistic Analyses of Abelam Woodcarving from the Sepik River Papua New Guinea Jason A. Miller and Kristen Voss (3) Tracking cultural transmission in the Lower Mississippi River Valley using GIS and seriation Katie Eskew and Kristin Safi (4) Stylistic variability of stemmed obsidian biface tools on Easter Island Roberta Thomas and Brooke Hundtoft (5) Corrugation trends in Southwestern Pottery Margarita Cordova, Marisela Galindo, Amy Tupa (6) Digital image process of shell tempered ceramics from the Mississippi River Valley Jimmy Daniels and Lara Nemeth (Note: second place winner in the poster competition) (7) Analysis of wear patterns on lithic drills from the San Pedro Site (LAN-283), California Adia Shy and Tony Quach I've made links to pdfs of the posters as they become available (some students are slower than others... [Jimmy, Tony and Adia!]). These are all excellent examples of student research that results in real knowledge about the archaeological record. All the students involved deserve significant kudos for their work and dedication in getting these projects completed!

Veronica Harper - 2007 Franklin Fenenga Award for the Outstanding Graduate Student in Archaeology.

Every year, we nominate an archaeology graduate student for the Department's Franklin Fenenga Award for the Outstanding Graduate Student in Archaeology. There have been years in which it has been difficult, if not impossible to identify a student who really stood out from the others (and deserved to be called "outstanding"). In this case, the problem was the opposite - we had a number of excellent students and had to discuss who was first among equals. I am really pleased to announce that the 2007 Franklin Fenenga Award goes to: Veronica Harper Veronica is an excellent student who obtained her BA in Anthropology from the University of Kansas. She started at CSULB in the Fall of 2005 and has steadily gained a reputation at CSULB for being a serious, hard-working, intellectually sharp and talented student. Her Master's thesis focuses on the sourcing of basalt artifacts on Easter Island and her work provides a foundation for studying the movement of basalt tools and architectural features across the island. Her thesis should be complete in the Fall of 2007 and she will be applying to Ph.D. programs at that time. We expect to see great things from Ms. Harper in the future. Congratulations, Veronica!

2007 CSULB/CLA Student Research Poster Showcase

Last week, we held our first annual CLA Student Research Poster Showcase. We had 70 groups of students present posters, mostly from archaeology, classics and human development. I'm not sure why the other departments were not represented - Geography, for example, should have had 10-20 posters at least. Same with Anthropology... Four judges participated in the showcase and reviewed the full set of posters. I am extremely happy to report that the #1 and #2 positions were achieved by students in my ANTH 451/551: Artifact Analysis class. First place: Veronica Harper, Azzurra Di Marcello and Jessica Jaynes "Beveled Projectile Points and Ballistics Technology" Second place: Jimmy Daniels and Lara Nemeth "Digital imaging processing of shell temper variability in late prehistoric ceramics" First place receives an award of $200, while second place receives $100. There will be a small award ceremony on Wednesday in which the Dean will bestow these awards. Congratulations! BTW: I will be posting the posters in PDF form shortly.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

O' the end of the semester! Tis' time for cheer!

The end of the semester is a busy time but it portends to much less busy times in the coming weeks (or week?). Of course, Easter Island will change that (again) but until then I should have much more time to surf. And do some various futzin' with models, simulations, reading, etc. Whooohoo! BTW: The LipoCam is back up. Not that it matters. One of those cheapo USB hubs did its cheapo thing and failed.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

After a bit of wrangling with the DNS reseller relationship between and Google, I finally have configured to serve as the "home" for my blog and other kinds of activities. Wheeee! I suppose this means almost nothing in the scheme of things, but the sense of finally getting this tattered bit of technological coordination on track provides a modicum of satisfaction (ala "It's times like this when I find a modicum of snuff to be quite efficacious."). I believe the old URL continues to work but you should now be prepared to use, for all eternity, Oh, and tomorrow I am going surfing, dammit. How can one have beach in their blog title and not actually get out to the damn sand?

Friday, May 4, 2007

Yellow Aster Butte 2003

Yellow Aster Butte 2003 003
Originally uploaded by carllipo.
I've been working on a way of getting better integration of my photos with the blog. Following the way Mark has been doing it, I think the Flickr solution is a reaonsable one. Unlimited upload and direct linking with the photo manager. Pretty sweet.

Here Tom Gaffney is waking up after a cool evening on top of Yellow Aster Butte in the Washington Cascade. Ah, the joys of the bivvy.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The potential dark future for anthropology?

Yesterday, I receive a number of forwarded emails from folks about the relatively crazy amendments to the NSF Authorization bill that was being voted upon in Congress. These amendments were being added by Congressmen Garrett (R-NJ) and Campbell (R-CA). They basically were making the specific case that a bunch of what is done in the SBE Division of NSF (this includes Anthropology) is "silly." The email from AAA is shown below.
URGENT ACTION REQUIRED Dear AAA Member: Please consider this request for immediate action -- review the following and make a call. BACKGROUND: The NSF Authorization bill for FY2008 is scheduled to come up for debate today on the House floor. Two proposed amendments – introduced by Reps. John Campbell (R-CA) and Scott Garrett (R-NJ) – would prohibit funding of nine already funded National Science Foundation grants in the Social, Behavioral and Economics Science Division based on their “silly” titles. Five of the nine grants targeted fall under the anthropology or archaeology portfolios. There are also amendments being considered to reduce NSF’s overall authorized funding level. The amendments and links to the abstracts of the nine grants follow below. The anthropology/archaeology grants are noted with an asterisk (*). AMENDMENTS to H.R. 1867 Offered by Mr. Garrett of New Jersey At the end of section 3, add the following new subsection; (h) LIMITATION.-None of the funds authorized under this section may be used for research related to (1) The reproductive aging and symptom experience at midlife among Bangladeshi Immigrants, Sedentees, and White London Neighbors; and (2) The diet and social stratification in ancient Puerto Rico. 1 = * 2= * Offered by Mr. Campbell of California At the end of section 3, add the following new subsection; (h) LIMITATION.-None of the funds authorized under this section may be used for research related to (1) archives of Andean Knotted-String Records (2) the accuracy in the cross-cultural understanding of others’ emotions; (3) bison hunting on the late prehistoric Great Plains; (4) team versus individual play; (5) sexual politics of waste in Dakar, Senegal; (6) social relationships and reproductive strategies of Phayre’s Leaf Monkeys; and (7) cognitive model of superstitious belief. 1 = * 2 = 3 = * 4 = 5 = 6 = * 7 = MESSAGE: Call your Representative NOW, identify yourself as a constituent, tell him/her to vote “NO” on the Campbell and Garrett amendments to the NSF Authorization bill (H.R. 1867), and communicate the following simple messages: · NSF’s merit review is the best system for choosing grants, not Congressional meddling; · Titles are not the best judge of the worthiness of scientific research; · Silly sounding titles often produce important research results. Any questions, please call Paul Nuti at the AAA office – contacts below. THANK YOU!!! Paul J. Nuti Director of External, International & Government Relations American Anthropological Association
Fortunately for the researchers listed as under attack by these Congress members, the amendments were tossed out and the NSF bill was passed. Basically, enough people lobbied and argued that the relatively random meddling by Congress was in appropriate. Enough lobbying occurred and Congress backed off. The incidence, however, has really made me wonder whether or not it is as sign of a much greater troubled future for Anthropology. Sure, we can all express our outrage that judging proposals on the "silliness" of their titles is absurd and thickheaded. But are the critics of SBE and Anthropology really off the track for wondering whether or not these projects are worthy of funding by NSF in an era of increasing competition for resources for these kinds of projects (given shrinking dollar power and increased numbers of individuals working in the field)? Although I am certain an anthropologist and could face the same kinds of arbitrary criticisms about my own work (and titles... is "Mapping a Buried City" worthy of funding?), I have to be concerned that Garrett and Campbell's attack isn't a harbinger of things to come. From the uninformed public's perspective one has to wonder what kind of contribution is "Bison Hunting on the prehistoric Great Plains" going to provide to our economy, functional knowledge of the world, understanding of future outcomes. Now, from an archaeologist's point of view this kind of research seems entirely innocuous -- of course, I want to know more about bison hunting in the past.. that's what I study. But should anyone else care? That, I am not so sure about. Of course, I have to believe that the work we do has the potential for providing products of use and interest to the public at large. And by a product, I don't mean an interesting story that serves largely to entertain or to provide some moral perspective on resource use and downfall (or whatever). And I also don't mean a product that we have to sell to the public as being something they want but don't know they want (e.g., "you really need this Chia pet, though you don't know that yet until you get a Chia pet"). This latter "product" is simply marketing and PR (and all too much of the SAA and AAA group's emphasis). For anyone that knows me, the product I'm talking about is something else. It is a conceptual (dare I say "theory" or the "e word" these days?) model for accounting for historical change in human populations. Boom. Tough to build? Yes. Potentially powerful and productive? Absolutely. Now my point here isn't to flog this particular product as a goal that anthropologists and archaeologists must be working. Rather, I want to point out the implications of Garrett and Campbell's attack on a random sample of NSF projects in the SBE division. Without a product (and with only marketing to provide "substance"), it really isn't very surprising that these folks used the titles to make their judgement (and calling them "silly"). Would the result have been much different had they read the abstracts? Or the proposals themselves? I really doubt it. Yeah, the choices might have been different, but the result would have been the same: much of what we do really is "silly" in the sense of contributing to scientific knowledge about the world (which, I assume, is still the goal of the National Science Foundation). Detractors from this perspective might argue that there really isn't a way that a couple of bumbling Congress members could ever figure out value in anthropological research. They also would probably argue that "peer review" is the the "best" means by which evaluation of research proposals can be done. However, I have to ask: is it really? In the case of physics, I can see how peer-review of proposal works. Individuals who have a solid record of contributing functional products have a good handle on the classes of things that have to be true in order for a research proposal to be successful. In the case of physics, they don't have to agree a priori with the results (i.e., the competitive nature of science). Rather, they simply have to be able to judge whether or not the proposal provides evidence for the potential of producing a product. In the case of social sciences (especially anthropology and it's offspring), I have to wonder whether or not "peer review" serves the same purpose. Lacking a clear product (other than the stories we tell and sell), the process of peer review becomes entirely sociological - rather than ientifying classes of criteria that must be in place for potential to be judged, peer review necessarily focuses on whether or not the story supports the same kinds of things that the "peers" do. Peer review serves largely to reinforce the mean, perpetuating the lineage of researchers who do what they do because they can continue to do what they do (and often for little other reasons). I don't mean to be overly negative here (although I guess this is). Instead, I want to point out the inherent risk that we (as anthropologists) have to face in the future. And this is: as resources become more constrained and competitive (across all disciplines) choices will have to be made. The implications of this are fairly obvious. Given that we can only judge the potential of research to produce a product, those disciplines who have a greater degree of uncertainty of achieving anything are going to be the first to face having funds reduced. This is simply the consequence of switch from a resource-rich environment (where you fund as much as you can in an effort to maximize output and simply eliminate false positives) to a resource-poor environment (where one funds specific directions that reduce false negatives). In the former case, it pays to fund as much as possible with the idea that we need to give everything a chance (even though we might include some bogus stuff, like anthropology). In the latter case, it pays to fund only the activities that you know will be successful. Thus you recognize that you might be cutting funding from research that might have a product - but you narrow your focus to just the "no brainers" (e.g., energy research, genetics, whatever). This is what scares me. The amendments to the NSF Authorization bill are clearly signals that our work is going to be more carefully scrutinized. The public (yes, uninformed as they are) are going to demand more for their buck - and we need to be in a position -sooner than later- to be able to demonstrate this. If it isn't too late already.