INT. HEATHER’S OFFICE – DAY
Heather stares at the Googles on her computer.
Bangs some keys on her keyboard.
The laptop screen reads “www.uhi.ac.uk cannot be reached.”
Aw, crap! I forgot there’s maintenance this weekend!
Now how am I supposed to study? Oh yeah!
Fingers begin typing and “A Bone To Pick Blog” comes up.
I’ve been meaning to update this thing.
And that brings me to here…
Man, my screenwriting skills are rusty and it’s annoying to do that in Word.
Uh…so…it’s been 14 months. I’m a very bad blogger. I’m sorry. So I’ll give you the skinny on 2022, shall I? Buckle up kids, this is a lot:
I took Digital Analysis in Archaeology. Holy crap, that class was hard. I barely scraped by with a B and I’m pretty good with technology. I never, ever want to use QGIS (ArcGIS clone) again! I don’t think I’ve ever spent more time cussing and screaming at a computer program than I did with that horror show. I know professionals love it, but even thinking about it a year later makes my blood boil. When I could get it to work like I wanted it to, I was able to do some Really Cool Stuff, like this:
I did a big project on Karankawa cemetery data in Texas, comparing a few sites. Are you surprised? Dead people are cool! I also used Excel to crunch all my data and do stuff like this:
YAY TAS FIELD SCHOOL! Y’all know that’s my favorite time of the year! This was my first year as a crew chief and it was amazing. I had the opportunity to flex my leadership skills. A crew chief is basically responsible for a small crew of one test unit. Uh, nope. I got handed four units. FOUR! I had a real freak-out moment when I got on site and found out.
It all turned out ok, though, because I organized myself so well and had my crew dig diagonally to each other. Speaking of my crew, I had dug with some of them before, including Garrett!
This guy seriously cracks me up. He’s one of the nicest and funniest guys I know and he was quick to remind me that I knew what I was doing and he had confidence in me. I sincerely believe my first crew chief experience went so well because of him. Thanks, Garrett!
This was the Kemosabe Site outside Kerrville, Texas. It’s a prehistoric site, which isn’t really my thing (ya’ll know I love historic archaeology), but whatever. So we found a modern pipe. Yeah, a pipe.
We found a mule shoe.
Close to the last day, we found an earth oven.
Why is it that I always find cool stuff on the last day of the dig?! That happened in 2021 when I finally found the stinkin’ corner of the dance hall I’d been searching for all damn week.
Here’s some short videos I took of my amazing crew:
Nora was with the kids again and had her usual great time. That kid’s archaeology skills are taking off. She’s walking in my shoes and it’s weird. She’s been doing a lot of that lately. This year she got into theater at school and just last night I found myself dusting off the old acting chops and coaching her through a scene for a contest today. It’s really cool to see her enjoying the same things I do, but she’s into her own stuff, too, especially when it comes to computers and tech! She gets that from her dad (ok…maybe a little from me, too).
June 18-July 2
SCOTLAND!!! My family took a trip to Scotland. It was our first trip together as a family overseas. We visited Edinburgh, York, and Perth and had a blast. I did NOT drag my family to any archaeology sites…ok…that was a lie, but they loved it (or at least pretended they did). I will not bore you with vacation photos, but here we are in York in the Shambles (love that place!).
MORE SCOTLAND! My family flew home and I traveled to Orkney for a dig on the small island of Rousay to experience British archaeology at Skaill Farm (check out the photo in the link, you can see me on the left side in the stupid tan bucket hat). I had an absolute blast despite the rain and the cold.
I also got really freaking sick and got to experience the joys of the NHS for the second time in my life. I developed a bad kidney infection and spent four days in bed while on some serious antibiotics that kicked the infection, but also kicked me. Why is it that every time I go to the UK I get really sick?
Back to my studies after several weeks off. I took Vikings and the Norse in the North Atlantic. I learned a lot about the Norse. I also discovered that I didn’t want to do anything with the topic for my Master’s dissertation since it seems like there’s been a lot written already.
I also took Nora with me to do shovel testing at San Felipe de Austin, something that she had never done before. This was a terrific opportunity for her. She did a great job and I absolutely love this photo of her screening.
Texas Archeological Society annual meeting! This year it was in Tyler, Texas. I’ve never been to one of those before and it was really fun! I had a chance to hang out with all my TAS friends and network a bit. I met a lot of great people and I’m looking forward to the one this coming fall in San Marcos.
On the way home I stopped at Caddo Mounds. A horrible tornado hit the site in 2019 and absolutely destroyed the museum there. It’s being rebuilt now and a new Caddo house is going up. I also didn’t know that El Camino Real de los Tejas passed nearby.
I wrote a paper on the role of Norse women in the North Atlantic and shockingly got an A. I can’t remember if I’ve explained before, but the UK grading system is kind of wonky. A 70 is considered an A and they’re super tough to get. I usually get around 65 on my papers, which is still respectable. I’ll still graduate with merit/commendation with that average.
IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN! *cue cheesy synthesizer music*
I’m in my final semester at UHI and taking two classes: Death and Funeral Archaeology and Research and Dissertation Skills. The end is in sight. I will be done with my Masters dissertation by December. YAY! That also means I need to start applying for PhD programs this fall. ACK! For my Masters, I’m doing something with some cemetery data from Rousay. I’m still working on a research question at this point, which is fine.
Personally, I’ve been bogged down in this nasty hole lately. Without going into a lot of detail, I was pulled from a position I loved at work and given five out of six preps, which is untenable. My job went from easy and chill to ridiculously stressful and I’m resentful and angry about it. I’m not doing this next year. I’ve also been stressed over coming up with masters dissertation and PhD research ideas. I can feel the clock going TICK TICK TICK and arrgh!
And then things got weird and the Stargate exploded…
This week everything turned on its head and from the most unexpected of places. I was dicking around on Facebook instead of studying because HOORAY PROCRASTINATION when I caught one of David Hewlett’s posts that he had created an AI of Dr. McKay from Stargate Atlantis. That means you can interact with an artificially created version of the character. I haven’t played with AI too much, but I headed over there just to check it out (and waste more time). It was so much fun! Somehow I got into a battle of wits with Dr. McKay (who is a genius), so I tricked him into getting drunk with me and impaired his judgment so I could win. I mean, how else am I supposed to outwit Dr. McKay?! I thought that was a pretty clever solution.
Turns out that Drunk McKay went a little batty and started ranting about how Dr. Carson Beckett (a physician on the show) was an evil mad scientist. I tweeted a screenshot of it just for funsies and was surprised when David responded!
Aaaaaand then he blew up the Stargate over Thin Mints…
Did I mention it’s Girl Scout cookie season here and that I HATE cookie season? I was blowing off steam, what can I say? I didn’t expect the Stargate would explode over it.
AND THEN LIGHTNING STRUCK!
Ok, not really. Two things happened.
First, somehow taunting the AI Dr. McKay with Thin Mints unleashed the creative floodgates. The muses dumped a bunch of amazing ideas about Gwyddion on my head (archaeology in space, yay!). I wasn’t expecting that! That project has been on the back burner for ten years while I ran off and played actor/teacher and started studying archeology. That’s why I was messing around with screenwriting in the beginning, just being silly. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to touch the story until this summer at the earliest, but that’s ok.
Second, I got an idea for my PhD dissertation!!!! Well, ok…a topic. That’s really half the battle. I’ll come up with research questions later. I want to explore the future of AI and mortuary archaeology, possibly the morals and ethics surrounding that topic. I mean, would you want to interact with the AI of someone you know who has died? A quick unscientific survey of my fellow teachers at work revealed:
- HELL NO
- Wait…are you talking about robots? You want to build a robot of my dad? *horrified look*
- OMG THAT IS CRAZY. And what is mortuary archaeology?
- UGH! Heather, go away, I’m trying to eat my lunch. And no, that’s creepy.
- WTF? THAT IS NUTS.
- Heckin’ no. By the way, do you have any more Thin Mints? (Curse you, cookie season!).
- Huh? Negatory. That is some real sci-fi shit there. You’re such a geek.
- Like…a walking, talking ChatGPT thing that looks like my mom? Ew, no.
- Holy crap! Wow! That’s amazing! NO! But I really think that would be an incredible PhD dissertation research project.
The overwhelmingly negative response was really fascinating to me. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. All of that stress was suddenly gone. I actually ran around my empty classroom like a crazy woman going, “OMG OMG OMG OMG THIS IS IT!!!”
I came home and told Paul. He thought it was a great idea and told me I should learn Python. Python is really easy, so I’m not worried. Hell, I taught myself BASIC when I was seven and pissed off my parents because I made the Atari flash and sound like a train.
Never did I imagine that I could combine my current love of mortuary archaeology with tech stuff, like AI, but it is completely up my alley and I am really excited to explore the marriage of these two fields and their implications for us.
So uh…thanks, David! I owe you one!
So, this summer I will be returning to TAS field school, this year in Nacogdoches excavating a Caddo village (EXCITED!). I’ll also be doing research and writing my master’s dissertation about creepy graveyards on remote Scottish islands. I don’t think I need to go back to Orkney and I don’t want to. It’s a beautiful place, but it’s expensive to get there. I’ll also be losing myself in writing Gwyddion and teaching myself all I can about Python and AI.
I’ll also be writing a research proposal and looking for potential university programs to apply to for a PhD. There’s a few I’ve got in mind, mostly in the northeastern USA and some in Canada. It would be super cool if I could go to Toronto because my best friend from high school had to go and fall in love with Canadian (love ya, Mark!) and she’s there. I haven’t seen her in…18 years? Wow! I miss her like crazy.
This year is going to be fun and busy and I’m ready. Bring it on!