Thank you, Steve Jobs

I drank the Kool-Aid about seven years ago.  That was when I got my first MacBook. I bought the black 13″ MacBook, just to see what all the fuss was about. My brother had been a die-hard Apple fan for years, and all of my cool art history friends in graduate school had Macs, the clamshell iBook. Even one of my graduate students had an iMac G3, but I was a hold-out. I think it was because when I first saw the Macintosh in 1984, it looked like a toy computer to me. Not the real thing like all the scientists used!

What did I know?

I think would’ve been a lot happier (and possibly more productive) in graduate school if I had given in to my inner-child and bought a Mac a long time ago. Because once I had used my little black 13″ Macbook for about a week, I knew I would never go back. Today I have a MacBook Pro (I am writing this blog on it). I have had about three iPods, my partner has an iPad, which he loves, and an iPhone 3G, which he is not so crazy about (but this has nothing to do with the phone and everything to do with his hate of being constantly “connected”).  So tomorrow I am ordering my first iPhone, not because I have to have it, but because it was conceived and produced by Steve Jobs, a brilliant artist and inventor who created culture.

And also that cool personal assistant thing. I have always wanted a personal assistant.


A Beautiful Day and I’m Stuck Inside

I am having a childless, housemate-less weekend, so obviously I want to maximize my work time!  Sadly, it is a gorgeous fall day outside, the kind that makes you want to take long walks or head to the mountains. I have all of my windows open.  I want to see the leaves turning colors, even if I cannot be out there enjoying the last of the warm weather.

Sometimes, I wish I had a 9 to 5 job, not very often because I love being able to work on my own schedule.  But today, I wish I had the kind of job that I could leave at the office. Sadly, wishful thinking will not get my grant written, so back to the coffee pot and my overview of the relevant literature.  At least I have big windows!

Creative chaos

I have just completed the organization for a session at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting.  I also submitted an abstract for a paper to be presented in a different session that a friend of mine organized for the same meeting.  So organization is on my mind.

My friend, the one who invited me to be in her session, is another single mother and an organizational genius! She is always on top of her children’s homework and extra-curricular activities, her house is always neat and clean, her lectures are prepared before the semester begins, and I don’t think she has EVER missed a deadline for a paper, chapter or book review.

Me?  Not so much. My office is a mess (but I am working on it), my house is clean (if you don’t look too close), I work on my lectures until the last possible minute, and I am perpetually behind on EVERYTHING.  Don’t even ask me about my child’s homework. In fact, the only thing that is somewhat organized is my research project.

My life is perhaps best described as managed chaos, as opposed to her orderly existence.  Yet we both are considered somewhat successful, we both have made contributions to our fields, and we both are happy (most of the time).

So why do I always feel inferior when I compare myself to super women, like my friend? Perhaps because I envy that she always seems so “on top of things,” while I feel as though I am scrambling just to hold things together. But in reality, being organized may be overrated. Some of the most brilliant, creative women I know were hopelessly disorganized about a lot of things, but not where it counted.

One wrote with four children and their friends galavanting around her. Another had piles of paper and cats all over her house, which was perpetually cluttered. Another did all of her research and writing in her small bedroom, which used to be the living room in her home, so that her two daughters could have their own rooms. And these women, raised children, took care of aging parents, cooked, cleaned, drank wine with friends, taught classes, mentored graduate students, wrote books and articles, produced television and radio shows, and, most importantly, didn’t give a damn about what people thought of their messes. So the next time I start to feel inadequate because my office looks like a bomb went off, I will think of these women and the creative chaos that filled their lives. These women, as well as my organized friend, inspire me daily.

Writing betwixt and between

This week is over. I am already behind and classes do not even start until Monday. I have a bad feeling about this semester.

One of the things that really worries me is my writing schedule. I am trying to finish book draft this fall, and if the past week is any indication, my writing will have to be done in short bursts between a myriad of other (more?) important stuff. I am not particularly good at this type of writing, preferring a long period for sustained writing, like three hours.  It takes me almost an hour to figure out where I left off. But I know it can be done because I have a older female friend, an emeritus professor in our department, who tells me how she wrote at her dining room table with her four children and their friends constantly interrupting her, although I do think she depended heavily on coffee and cigarettes to maintain her focus!

Given that I do not intend to take up up smoking again (grad school is behind me now), I am looking for other writing aids.  I hope that writing this blog will help me, actually. If I get into the habit of writing short blog entries everyday, then perhaps the practice will translate to my academic writing. I also use a program called Scrivener, which I find useful for organizing my writing into small sections. (For more on Scriverner, see The Edited Life blog)

So between meetings, classes, grad students, undergrad students and betwixt cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, children, partner, and dog, I will write. And maybe, just maybe, I will have a good reason to pop the champagne cork on New Year’s Eve!

Women in the field

So who are these women in my banner?  They are a few of the women in my field that served as trailblazers for generations of female archaeologists that followed (like me).  Sadly, these women are not well-know by people outside of their respective academic niches, but without them I would not be sitting in my office writing this blog. So here is a little information about their significant contributions (from right to left):

Alice Dixon LePlongeon (1851 – 1910) was an English photographer, amateur archaeologist, and world traveller. Together with her husband, Augustus LePlongeon, Anne spent eleven years in the Yucatan peninsula, photographing and studying the ruins of the ancient Maya. After spending eleven years in the field, she devoted the rest of her life to lecturing and publishing books and articles on a wide range of topics, including her exploration of Maya civilization, political activism and social justice, and epic poetry.

Ruth Amiran (1914-2005) was an Israeli archaeologist, who from 1962 until 1984, directed the excavations at the Canaanite city of Arad. During 18 seasons, the archaeologists exposed a sizable city of some 25 acres sophisticated urban planning. In 1965, Amiran designed the archaeological wing of the Israel Museum. She was appointed the wing’s field archaeologist and served in that position until her retirement. Amiran’s specialized in the study of ancient pottery in Israel and her articles reflect a multi-disciplinary approach to ceramic analysis.

Grace Crowfoot (1877-1957) was born in England.  After moving to the Sudan, she became a specialist on the textiles and ceramics associated with the Pharaonic tombs. When her husband, John became Director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, Grace organized the excavation headquarters, worked in the field, and saw the excavation reports through to publication. Crowfoot trained a generation of textile archaeologists.

Anne Stine Moe Ingstad (1918-1997) was a Norwegian archaeologist who, along with her husband Dr. Helge Ingstad, discovered the remains of a Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1960. Between 1961 and 1968, Anne Stine Ingstad led an excavation of the settlement with an international team of archaeologists from Sweden, Iceland, Canada, U.S. and Norway. The excavation revealed the remains of an early 11th century Norse settlement.

Dorothy Burr Thompson (1900-2001) was a classical archaeologist  and one of the world’s leading experts on Hellenistic terra-cotta figurines.  In 1934, she joined the staff of the American School of Classical Studies and was the first woman to be appointed a fellow of the excavations in the Agora, or civic center, of ancient Athens. She and her husband, Dr. Homer A. Thompson, uncovered the garden in which the Temple of Hephaistos stood. Later she reconstructed all 20 acres of the ancient garden and replanted olive, laurel, oleander and poplar trees in the garden.

The lost years

Today I was in an orientation meeting for faculty members who have been assigned the honor of directing their department’s respective graduate programs (the subject of another day). One of the new associate deans in Graduate Studies happens to be a woman I have known for several years, but have not seen lately. After the meeting, I asked her how she liked her new position. She was effusive, stating that she loved the dean’s office and felt as though she were getting a lot of support to discover her niche in academia.

She, like me, had given birth, gone through a divorce, and now was a single parent, which had affected her career.  We commiserated about our academic careers slow-downs and discussed how women generally were the ones who picked up the pieces when “life happened.”  She even joked about another faculty member who asked her how her “vacation” was when she returned from maternity leave.  None of this is particularly new or shocking, but it does highlight problems that still abound in academia, especially in the sciences.

Articles come out frequently that discuss the lack of women in senior positions within the university community and within businesses.  These authors write as though they do not understand why this is still happening in the 21st century.  After all we have addressed the issue of women’s rights, right?

Well, it is not all that mysterious.  Simply put, women are far more likely to take parental leave or have career interruptions than men. This causes a slow down in the productivity of women, who then fall behind in promotion and salaries. Sadly in 2010, my university had an average salary gap of 20% between men and women, and it was especially egregious at level of full professor.

Until we figure out how to level the playing field in faculty merit assessments or until our culture changes so that both men and women are experiencing the same degree of career interruptions, women will continue to lag behind.

Returning from the field

I just returned to my home after being away for two months. The house looks great, but the yard is a mess even though I hired a lawn service this year!  I also have discovered that my carport has become a homeless shelter in my absence. Sigh.

Nevertheless, is it nice to be home. No more tents, no more rice and beans, no more cold buckets of water to bath, and no more bugs! Just nice clean sheets, flush toilets, and hot and cold running water.

Yet, despite the trials of camping in the rainy season, we had a very successful season.  I love the start of a new project, the planning that goes into it and, especially, the anticipation.  The site is a clean slate, no one knows anything about it.  We were the first to go in and investigate.  So much new and interesting data was uncovered that it was like opening up a big present on Christmas morning.

First, the site is much bigger than we thought, it covers about 9 square km.  And the large public buildings date back earlier than we thought, to about 600 BC, very early for this area.  Plus we uncovered contemporaneous households deposits, which make it all the more interesting. Given the information retrieved this year, I imagine I will be spending the better part of the next decade at this site.

As difficult as it is–I do always choose the most remote sites in the region– I still revel in fieldwork and find myself planning the next season as soon as I return…

which is what I am doing today.