Saturday, October 25, 2008

Blogs... and countdown

With the election just around the corner, I've found myself having a hard time concentrating on much else. I know my fretting isn't going to make a difference but I just can't help worrying what it would feel like if we lost. Holy crap.

Well, as a distractor, I decided to list the archaeology blogs that I tend to follow. I guess this is known as a "blogroll." If anyone knows of other good archaeology blogs to read, let me know.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Been working on implementing the IIRMES web site on the Google Sites platform (now imperative since they have deprecated Google Pages). You can view the new version at

Another one of RCD

Another photo from Patrick McCutcheon. This one is RCD at Meadowcroft Rockshelter - a stop on a field trip that RCD usually ran during the Society for American Archaeology meetings.



Pat McCutcheon just emailed me an old photo he had of RCD (and Mark Madsen) in the background. It dates to the late 80s, I believe and was taken in one of the fields in southeastern Missouri (Buffalo Slough? Cude Site? Cottonplant?) Mark's outfit has changed - but not RCD's. He wears exactly the same shirt/pants/boots to this day. Ah, those were hopeful times. We certainly know a lot more about doing this archaeology thing now, but we also know that we don't know much and that most folks fight against even trying to know anything.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

PSPP 0.6.1

Version 0.6.1 of PSPP ( a bug fix release) was just announced at I created a new set of Mac OS X binaries and put them in an install package so they will end up in /Applications/PSPP (PSPP and PPSPIRE). You can download them here: Windows users should get the binaries at:

For more info on PSPP, please see:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Stats for Students - PSPP

An anonymous comment on my previous post about "Stats For Students" suggested I take a look at the free open-source project PSPP. This program provides all of the core functions of SPSS and has a GUI that makes it much like its commercial counter part. It seems pretty functional and useful, though to use it on a Mac, one has to build it from source (and the many prereqs and pre-prereqs and pre-pre-reqs...). Windows users have it a bit easier as there are binaries for that platform: For those who use Mac OS X 10.5, I created a binary distribution package: for the 0.6.1 release. This is a *new* version from what was previously posted here and now includes libraries required for the software to run. The binaries and libraries are now included in the package. Once you download it (about 86 megs due to the mass of libraries required), run the install program. PSPP and PSPPIRE will be installed the /Applications directory (in the PSPP folder). [[UPDATE]] In a previous packaging of PSPP, I somehow failed to include the actual applications. The package has been updated so that you will now get the PSPPIRE and PSPP applications installed in /Applications/PSPP (or a place of your choice). Sorry about this messup. [[UPDATE 2]] I'm uploading a new binary right now. It's uploading sloooowly as I am at the airport on wireless. But eventually there should be a functional binary available. [[UPDATE 3]] I've created an entirely new package that fixes the many problems that others had. At least it doesn't give the errors it used to. The new version is now loaded on the website. It also does not require logout (which was my mistake for not unchecking that box in the package building). <<<>>

Monday, October 6, 2008

Stats for Students

While the statistics software package available in most labs around campus is SPSS, the fact that it is not freely distributed to students (an academic version is available to students for $200 -- with your student ID you can buy it online at makes conducting independent research and working at home on stats related projects somewhat difficult. There are a number of free solutions to this problem that you can check out:

(1) For CSULB students, it is possible to freely download (while on the campus network) a copy of Minitab ( You can only do the download while connected to the CSULB network . This package has a similar interface to SPSS (and is produced by the same company as SPSS). It excels in descriptive stats but also has many other kinds of statistics that you will find in SPSS. It is a windows only product. I use this software myself for simple kinds of analyses.
(2) Systat offers a free version of their stats package to students (MyStat): I have always liked Systat as a statistics package and use this often as an alternative to SPSS. The free version has a number of limits but generally covers all the statistics that you might use in basic research.
(3) For those who are truly geeky, I highly recommend learning how to use "R" - an open source, free statistic package modeled after S and SPlus. The range of statistics is mindblowing and you will likely find every conceivable statistic and graph that you have ever encountered (from traditional stats, to bioinformatics to spatial stats, to phylogenetics to well, just check out: It works on every platform (windows, mac os x, linux) and is entirely free. You can get it here: It is not necessarily for the faint-of-heart when it comes to intuitive interfaces. While there are some project that offer a GUI to R (see: I like the Java interface JGR) R works best on the command line and you have to learn its language to run statistics. However, once you do you can virtually do anything (for free!).

An Education in Evolution

Like many universities, the teaching of evolutionary theory at CSULB is front and center in most students' class schedules. Evolution is often taught in classes, but only as a feature of a particular topic. For example, I assume that the classes in biology (and this is actually an assumption since I know there have been reports of faculty who hold creationist beliefs - even in the biology department) teach their subject matter in a way that is consistent with evolution. But there are few (only 1 actually) classes that specifically focus on the details and structure of evolutionary theory. Ironically, that course is not taught by biologists, but by anthropology faculty (physical anthropologists who are part time instructors for biological sciences). I do not believe it is offered very often and given state of our physical anthropologists (moving away from biology and retirement plans) I do not know if it is even taught any more. If it is still taught, that course has minimal influence on the general student body: the set of pre-requisites for the course make it largely an elective option for biology majors -- not a central course that would benefit everyone. One alternative to the biology offering is Kevin MacDonald's course in Psychology (Evolutionary Psychology). MacDonald, though, is a nutball given his interpretive story-telling application of "group evolution" to explain the apparent success of Jewish populations. His connection with Nazis and angering everyone on campus (see also here) means that I don't have much hope that sending a student to one of his classes is going to lead to them learning much about evolutionary theory per se (at least in the way most evolutionary biologists and philosophers of science perceive and use it).

Following David Sloan Wilson's "New Humanities" curriculum, I've started talks with Jeff Davis in Sociology about creating some kind of curricular structure that could link evolutionary offerings in the campus and to provide more of a structured set of courses for everyone. Right now this initiative at CSULB is basically conceptual, but it is a long term goal of mine to find a way of making education in evolution a more central part of every student's degree training. Given the promise of such an effort, I am excited to see it take shape.

One set of resources that might be useful in creating an evolution-focused curriculum are the free online lectures that have been produced by the Cassiopeia Project. Available via iTunes, the videos cover basic science and include lectures on the origins of the universe, complexity, chemistry, physics, quantum mechanics, origins of life, space, relativity, etc. The evolution lectures consist of 10 chapters (ranging from 7 to 17 minutes in length) that can be downloaded and played on any computer equipped with iTunes (i.e., windows or mac). Check 'em out at: