Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bedridden 2: Electric Booga - wait, what?

B-Fest was this weekend. B-Fest was awesome.

I fell in love with the movie "Dracula's Daughter," for some strange reason. I can't really put my finger on why I liked it so much, but it wasn't just a stereotypical second-rate monster movie. Dracula's daughter actually had some interesting stuff going on, the leading man was pretty cool, and his secretary was sassy and prank-called him a time or two.

We also watched Lone Wolf McQuade, with lots of Chuck Norris being a Texas ranger. It was, naturally, deeply gratifying. I wanted to go home, drink beer, and eat something that had recently been moo-ing.

As for the 'bedridden' part, post-'Fest, I was struck down rapidly with something strange and unpleasant. My cough never really went away after the flu, and out of nowhere, it got wetter, my sinuses filled up again, my head feels like it's going to explode, I have a fever, and standing up = feeling like I'm going to revisit my lunch. I probably just have an opportunistic cold or a sinus infection, but of course I'm imagining viral pneumonia or the consumption, and slowly fading out of existence wishing I could have only finished and published my brilliant research.

Speaking of, I received my application packet to the Tell Halif dig. It's full of warnings about 100 degree weather, hard work with little reward, minimal living space, having to do laundry in the sink, and poisonous snakes. This is, in fact, awesome. I can't wait. It's exactly the sort of thing that I have wanted to do for my entire life. The only problem that I have is that it sounds like the community is heavily structured - by which I mean, they list a lights-out time. That is not so cool, but I can live with it. Being in the desert = limited resources, so that kind of thing happens sometimes. They will have all manner of side-trips and such to other sites, which I'm not yet sure I will attend. They sound interesting, but I'm there to work, and I don't doubt that I will want my weekend (ONE DAY! ONE!) to relax.

The head of the dig sounds really enthusiastic to have me along. He keeps emailing to make sure I got the packet, and talks about how eager he is to receive it. Et cetera. I guess being associated with the University of Chicago will help a person out. That, and I imagine they really just need money and free labor. Which is also understandable. Still, it's nice to feel wanted, and as I can't think of any glaring problems with my academic history or current status, I get the feeling I'll be going.

That said, I am newly inspired to continue with my personal research. I had just tracked down that Oren study on the nature of the predynastic Sinai sites when things sorta dropped off. I need to pick it back up again and really do some heavy analysis. I'll have to work a lot more in the library now, because my student copy of ArcGIS has expired, but that's okay - their computers are faster than mine anyway. Although, most of the heavy data processing is done. I doubt I'll be adding too much more in the way of SRTM maps or anything like that, and those are the real processor-rapers. What I really need to be able to do is establish a connection between those Sinai sites and the trade route (not too hard, and probably been done before), but then I need to postulate a theory on the spacing. Elise and I had our thoughts, but whatever I come up with will need to be consistent with her interpretations and data as well. As of right now, there are a few common-sense things I can think of, with respect to travel time and reasonable distances, but those are just assumptions. There's no proof, there's nothing hard to tie it down. Also, I really want to look more closely at my projected paths and the sites, and any deviations that exist. I have to imagine that the trail ducked off to the side to visit a well or a wadi, and I want to see if there are any anomalies that will bear this out. Additionally, I REALLY want to figure out what was going on near the Wadi El-Arish. Two sites, six miles apart, when everything else is so regularly spaced. W. T. F. I mean, seriously. I have a theory or two, but I know there is more information out there; I know there is something I am missing, something that will give me even a _little_ direction. This is why I need to get back in the library. I may start spending my afternoons there after work. We shall see.

Oh, and I baked "Brother's Bread" today, out of the delightful book on Jesuit breadmaking that David gave me for Christmas. It's probably my favorite bread recipe so far. It makes 2 big, round, crusty loaves with a nice salty flavor. It's thick and chewy like ciabatta, rather than light and fluffy, or even and soft. Perfect with a big smudge of butter and a mug of tea.

Archaeologist, academic, bread-baker, tea-drinker, Texan... Damn, I'm sexy. Jim, I hope you know what a lucky man you are.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Drudgery

So, I am back on my feet and back at work. I am actually enjoying the world of tech support... It's always been pretty satisfying to fix a computer problem for someone. And now they pay me $17 an hour to do it. Cool.

Mood has been all over the place lately. Confluence of hormones and change in medication = MADNESS INCARNATE. Ah, well. I am working on it. Unfortunately, it did result in a few life crises: am I going to graduate college? Am I going to do what I want with my life? etc... but good folks talked me through it.

On the 'school' note, although this isn't strictly school-related, I may be spending a month in Israel this summer. Those of you that know anything about my research know why this is cool. Those of you that don't: I study predynastic Lower Egypt, specifically, a civilization just south of modern-day Cairo called Ma'adi. The most interesting facet of this interesting culture is that, despite the fact that we're talking 3000 BC, despite the fact that Israel is really fucking far away in that context, and despite the fact that the Sinai is a useless inhospitable wasteland, Ma'adi had a very extensive overland trade relationship with several southern Levantine sites. One of these sites, a noted Egypto-Levantine site with the remains of an Egyptian residence, is called Tell Halif. Emory University has, for the past couple seasons, been doing digs at Tell Halif. This season, they are doing a dig there again. I am applying.

I MAY GET TO GO DIG IN ISRAEL. AT TELL FUCKING HALIF. That's so cool that I think a little piece of my brain just exploded. Whoop, yeah, there come the pieces.

So, keep your fingers crossed for me. In the next couple days I should get the application information in the mail, and they have rolling admissions, so I should know not too long thereafter whether I'm in. Woo! Dig! They aren't focusing on the Egyptian residence; in fact, they're focusing on the residential quarter of the site's Iron Age settlement. But that's close enough for me. My area of interest lies in the Early Bronze Age, so that's not too far off, and to get to visit the site at all is a privilege.

On a completely different note, I am in the process of writing a really fun, if horribly erudite, poem. Its literary reference makes me giggle. I will post it here as soon as it is done (quite possibly later tonight), and the first person to guess the subject gets a cookie. But since nobody reads this blog, I expect I shall just eat the cookie myself as I snicker over my sheer cleverness.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bedridden

I appear to be on the mend from a truly disgusting bout of the flu that had me down for the past few days. My fever spiked above 103 at one point... that was a rough day. But it's way down today, and despite the fact that I don't really feel equipped to handle much beyond tea, I'm feeling more or less alright. Met up with Himself for tea when he got off work - oh, and there was much teasing, you can be sure. From him. To poor little still-addlepated me. Oh, woe.

I have decided - and I'm not quite sure how this came about - that my next project will be to conquer the Gaelic languages. Specifically, the Goidelic ones: Irish, Scots Gaelic, and Manx. This notion is rooted in the strange sort of interest I've always held for the Isle of Man. I can't remember where I first heard it mentioned. I do, however, recall finding its circumstances pleasantly odd: stuck in the middle between England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, but still its own animal. I remember flying from London to Dublin several years back, and thinking that I would keep watch out the window in hopes of seeing it. What I didn't know is that our flight path was a bit far south for that, not to mention the fact that I very quickly got bored. So, no such luck; but Manx is a fun-sounding language. Rather like "a drunken Australian with a mouth full of food," to paraphrase Jim. It's lilting and less hard-sounding than Irish. Of course, it's closely related to both Irish and Scots Gaelic, so if I'm going to learn one, I might as well learn all three. And then I intend to travel to the Isle of Man and see the mysterious place for myself. Also Scotland. Because truly, it's a crime that I've never been there, and that's a fact.

The other thing I'd been working on today is a new short story. The inspiration hit while I was sitting in Istria, and I just started scribbling. It will need a lot of work and a lot more structure, but the basic ideas are down. It's about a person whose body is slowly being taken over by an unknown, apparently evil, agent. The trick is that she's conscious of it the whole time - her body is just doing someone else's bidding. Played-out? Maybe. Creepy? Absolutely. We'll see what I can make of it.

Signing off.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Guilt trip

I have been shamed into returning to you, my loyal readership, by a New York Times blogger. Virginia Heffernan is the author of a weekly blog called The Medium, about living life in the digital age. Today, while perusing the New York Times magazine (as is my wont on Sunday mornings), I came across her most recent article: a review of MS Word alternatives for writers. Sadly, I discovered that she is a Mac user, and that none of her suggestions would actually be relevant to me and my PC-exclusive ways. However, her talk of accommodating interfaces that allow note-taking, outlines, and full-screen distraction-proof mode sent pangs through that little soft spot in my heart that always wants to be a great and productive writer. I am torn between two stereotypes, in that sense... On the one hand, yours truly is an undeniable overachiever, one who skated through a hefty first year at the University of Chicago without hardly cracking a book. On the other, I am a tortured knot of profound anxiety, unproductive in most things, but with hundreds of good ideas. I should either be sitting at a computer, merrily churning out research while earning a 4.0, or slouched over a bottle of gin penning the Great American Novel in ink made from my blackened, burned-out soul. Either one has its romantic charm, but much as I am a creature of extremes, only one of those outcomes is possible right now, and I don't think I like gin that much.

Speaking of the hooch, I am finally, gloriously, 21. This will add a whole new dimension to my blog posts about food, as I will probably also talk about the drink with which I pair it. To finally be legitimized in my understanding of the expression of high culture and the 'finer things' in life is bizarrely liberating. I fail to understand how between Dec 10th, 2007 and Dec 11th, 2007 I gained the knowledge to properly appreciate a 10-year tawny port with my smoked gouda, but who am I to argue with convention?

In that vein, last night was something of a paragon of 'high culture.' My good friend David, a Jesuit seminarian, was in town, and a couple of friends from the apartment across the way joined us for cigars and hot buttered rum. We sat on the back porch to smoke, hands curled around toasty mugs, and listened to Johnny Cash and David's stories. It made for an all-but-perfect evening - had my toes not been numb, I could not have been happier.

Hot Buttered Rum (adapted from a recipe found on Cooks.com)

2 cups vanilla ice cream
2 sticks butter
approximately 1/2 lb. brown sugar
approximately 1/2 lb. granulated sugar
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cream together the butter and ice cream. Mix in the sugars and spices. Store in the freezer as long as you like.

To prepare: drop a heaping tablespoon (or to taste) in a mug. Add a shot of rum (I prefer dark rum), and top off with hot water.