I Met Bill Kelso

Yes, it’s true. I shook his hand, I talked a little about my dissertation, had lunch with him, and I received a tour (with the HSMC 2008 Field School) of Jamestowne, his lab, and the museum. Please note in this photo (taken by me) how close I am standing to him. No zoom involved here, folks. I was this close.

For those of you who don’t know who Bill Kelso is, let me run through a couple of his accomplishments: He excavated the Kingsmill Plantation in the early 70’s, one of the earliest plantation and slave excavations completed. He excavated Mulberry Row, the row of slave quarters at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation. And, oh by the way, he found the Jamestowne Fort, the birthplace of America, which had been previously to be lost to erosion. No Big Deal. He is, as I like to say, an Archaeological Rock Star.

At any rate, as you can probably pull from this post, I was a “chaperone” (i.e. driver) for the 2008 Historic St. Mary’s City Field School annual trip to the Virginia historic triangle. We visited Williamsburg and Jamestowne (both the excavation and the settlement, which are entirely different things. The former is an actual excavation of the real thing, while the latter is a Disney-fied recreation). All were fascinating. I went last year as well, but that did not make the trip any less exciting. There is a lot of great work going on, and it was neat to see the behind the scenes of other archaeology labs, excavations, and museum interpretations. I would highly recommend a trip to these places for anyone with any interest.

On Baseball Parks and Scoreboards

Ashleigh and I caught another Orioles game this past weekend, a dissapointing 5-3 loss to Texas. We sat directly underneath the scoreboard in centerfield, and it made me realize something different then when I had done same thing at Wrigley Field.

I’m going to preface this post with a disclaimer: I think that Camden Yards is one of the most beautiful ball parks in the Major Leagues, and a fantastic place to watch a game. I haven’t been to many, but I have always been impressed, ever since my aunt took me thare when it first opened. As should be no surprise, Wrigley Field is, I think, the best place to watch a baseball game. The reasoning hadn’t been entirely clear to me, although this weekend helped solidify it for me. So anyway, if this sounds like a knock on Camden Yards, it isn’t meant to be, it is simply a description of a dramatic difference in two ballparks that were built nearly 80 years apart, and I think, therefore, reflect quite dramatically all that has changed in America during that time. At any rate, my job is to look at man made structures and figure out how they reflect or shape human behavior, so here it goes.

Wrigley Field was built in 1914, and became the Cubs home field in 1916. It is the second oldest ball park in the majors. It is small, seating just over 41,000 people. The foul territory is incredibly limited, the outfield wall is made of brick and covered with ivy, and fans can watch the game from the rooftops across the street. The scoreboard is enourmous, operated primarily by the individuals inside it, who replace the numbers on all the scores by hand. It keeps track of the time (analogue), the batter’s number, strikes, ball, and outs. An electronic ticker was added underneath it that puts the batters name and a couple stats up.

Camden Yards was built in 1992, and was the first of many new “retro” ballparks built in the 90s. These parks were built in the downtown areas, and were supposed to mimic the fan-friendly styles of older parks, such as Wrigley Field. Much like Wrigley, Camden has some unique features: the warehouse on Eutewa Street and the high right field wall come to mind immeidately. The scoreboard is one of modern extravagance: Although topped with a classic rendering of The Baltimore Sun and an analogue clock, two large screens depict videos, games, and highlights between innings, full head shots of players, and stats galore.

It is interesting to consider how the differences in scoreboards changes the way you watch a baseball game, but I argue that it most certainly does. It hadn’t become clear to me until Saturday, when I would have to physically turn around in order to watch the Crab Shuffle or the blooper real in between games, or to figure out who was pinch hitting. It was also interesting to watch everyone else in our seciton do the same, and to watch the umpires watching the board between innings. At Wrigley, this doesn’t happen. You watch the drunks, or the players taking warmups or flag down the Old Style guy or listen to the five piece pep band. It is an entirely different baseball experience. I’m not advocating one over the other (although I prefer Wrigley, but again, personal preference), simply pointing out the differences.

So why? What’s going on here? As should be no surprise, parks with the multimedia scoreboard are trying to keep baseball “interesting”. Most sports only have serious down time every half hour, whereas baseball could have it every ten minutes. Someone paying 30 bucks for a seat should be stimulated at all moments of the game, so the scoreboards have become the center of the baseball action. For most of the game, you are consulting the scoreboard, be it for a batting statistic or some between inning entertainment. About the only inning that the scoreboard is not being watched at Oriole Park is during the 7th inning stretch, when the same country song is played and everyone dances (I should point out that this is the most exciting inning break for everyone). At Wrigley, the focus is always on the field. The park is small, you are on top of the action at all times.

The newer parks of the last twenty years are all fabulous structures. Camden, more so then most, has managed to capture the feel of the small park, and it is a shame that it does not fill up as it did in the 1990s. Wrigley continues to fill up the seats, and has for a long time, in part because it is a tourist attraction in and of itself. People go to “experience” Wrigley Field, not so much to watch baseball. I’m not sure what that says about the park itself, but I think it implies that the afternoon at Wrigley can be relaxing place, whereas the newer parks are trying to constantly create a frenzied, constantly stimulated place to be -- which is precisely the kind of world we live in.

All that being said, baseball still is the most wonderful game in the world, and the ballpark has a lot to do with that. It is a variable: only in baseball does the field vary from place to place. The only restriction is the distance from the mound to the plate, and from base to base, and that makes this game unique, and that makes it special.

Go O’s! Go Cubs!


Some links...

Here are some links to some stories I’ve read in the past week:

Apparently, someone actually decided to write a story about
Rape in Darfur. Femicide is alive and well all over the world. It’s nice to see actually making this article a headline (for a couple hours, anyway). Wouldn’t it be even better if a presidential candidate “took a position” on rape and sexual assault in the world? Talk about a great way to shore up the female vote...

Okay, now this one is messed up.
17 girls, all under the age of 16, ended up pregnant in Massachusettes because they made a pregnancy pact. What? Good lord...I saw this on the news this morning. Still can’t quite believe it. Sounds like this school has some issues to deal with in this regard.

If anyone is curious about
why I work in slave archaeology, here is an article that might help you get an idea. The final bit, where a Philadelphia woman makes a connection to a part of her city’s history that she didn’t know, and it caused her to “take a class”...that’s important. Go Archaeology!

Clearly, Mike Bauman has been
reading my blog, since his article this morning says the same thing: Cubs can make it without Soriano, but not Zambrano. As if to respond with an affirmative, the Cubs got swept for the first time this season, losing their third straight to the Rays. At least the Rays are a team worth losing to this year.

Get Fuzzy makes a fantastically subtle comment about immigration, ethnicity, and possibly even, agism. As a bonus, you get a pun and talking domestic pets:

Edwards is apparently on Obama’s short list. No complaints here.

Interesting discussion of Apple’s new MobileMe, and the transition from .mac, brought to you by Lonely Sandwich. Worth reading if only for the phrase “gramatically-questionable productivity tool Minesweeper”. Trust me, makes sense when you read it.

Archaeology and trash

Recently, I have begun thinking hard about buying in bulk. This has been due to a blog I often visit, The Simple Dollar, which preaches what the author calls Anticipation Buying. He also has preached the benefits of buying bulk in previous articles,
where he looks at the pros and cons of bulk buying. All in all, the benefits look pretty appealing. However, archaeology might have a different bend on the entire topic...

Enter archaeology into the debate. In 1973, a famous archaeological project was begun, financed by the Department of Agriculture (of which my grandma was a part of during that time!), which was to analyze consumption and waste in the United States. This project is known by every person who has ever taken an intro to archaeology course. William Rathje led the excavations, which have continued on from 1973 until 2005, and he has excavated over 20 landfills across the US.
In this article on archaeolog, a response to this article by the Wall Street Journal that says that we are about to enter a food shortage and people should start stockpiling, warns that this might not be the best approach. He states that responses to food crisis, according to the material record, have resulted primarily in wasted food.

Once again, archaeology proves to have important ramifications for things that are happening
now. In the end, bulk buying is great for some items, such as household non perishables like soap and shampoo, but stocking up too much on some foods may be more of a waste then not.

Sketch Up

As promised, I wanted to write a little bit about the application of Google Sketch Up to archaeological research, and a little bit about how I am planning on using it. Over the last couple days, I have been playing around with Sketch Up, to see what was possible. SketchUp is free 3D drawing software developed by Google, and is available for Mac and Windows.
2-pen fireplace

Archaeologically, this software can be very helpful when recreating what a structure might look like based on the evidence gathered through historical and archaeological research. The image I have included here is the double-pen slave quarter that is the focus of my dissertation research. By using the archaeological sketches of the central chimney stack, I was able to recreate the hearth to scale. Additionally, I will be able to add the windows, doors, joists, and the root cellar. More importantly, I can recreat aspects of the structure that did not exist at the time that the quarter was relocated in 1993, such as the partition dividing the two rooms. My next goal is to complete a similar sketch for the single pen quarter. I will be able to eventually bring in the elevations of the landscape, the river, and the ravine into the sketch, to give a full representation of the entire landscape.

Additionally, one could recreate the actual excavation space by drawing in the walls and floors of excavation pits. Since SketchUp works in multiple dimensions, sub-floor excavation pits could be drawn in. From a presentation standpoint, one could show how the archaeology led to the recreation of the structure, by showing both the excavation units and the recreated structure on top of them.

Analytically, I will be able to examine these buildings in their actual landscape at a variety of time periods in three dimensional space - a space that they now do not occupy. Additionally, such recreation is very helpful for the public display of the research. Since HSMC has chosen to recreate the 17th century landscape instead of the 19th century landscape, the use of programs such as Sketch Up will allow a digital recreation of the space to exist. Doing so allows visitors to understand the way in which the space of St. Mary’s City has changed over time, which is precisely the goal of archaeology in the first place: to understand how human behavio develops and changes over time through their material culture.

Bookmark and Share


Something geeky...

On an exceptionally geeky note, I’ve upgraded my MacBook’s hard drive today, all the way from an 80 GB to a 320 GB machine. I also added some RAM, although one of the chips I ordered appears to be faulty. So I’m now running at 1.5 ghz, soon to be 2 when I get the bit replaced. The entire process was relatively painless, as I followed a nice tutorial I found on the web. In fact, the MacBook is definitely designed in such a way that makes such an upgrade almost expected. Even better, it was a pretty inexpensive venture: 1 GB of RAM and a 320 GB hard drive didn’t even cost me $200. My machine is running much faster, and I am excited about all this extra space I have on my computer. I get terrified when I get too low (I’ve been running with only 2 GB of space available, and that’s not much), but I also hate to clean things off the computer.

The extra speed and space will come in handy when I start doing GIS and GPS work, and using large files for mapping. I’ve also been wanting to get into Google Sketch Up, since its application for archaeology could be very, very interesting. I might have more to report on that later. I know that HSMC has been using it to do recreations of some of the buildings here, but I think it might be interesting to integrate the 3D recreation along with the maps of the excavation pits...I haven’t had a chance to dabble, yet, since my computer hasn’t been up to speed.