Does the word that just popped into your head show up here? Find out:

28 December, 2014

Yon Rock Art Rock Art

Do archaeology long enough, and you'll fill your bucket with tales of people who come to you with Important Discoveries. Often as not, they have found some really significant Rock Art that may Change History. Often as not, the rock is virginally free of human touch, or has been violated by a bulldozer, its scars mistaken for petroglyphs.

On the other hand, it shouldn't take too many years of doing archaeology to recognize that people do make bona fide Discoveries. Like the guy who took his kid fishing, wasn't having much luck, and noticed what looked like carving on a boulder.

The fisherman contacted the Tribe of that River, as well as some archaeologists for the state. The river rose over the boulder, and fell again. The machinery of state moved slowly, then quickly. The Tribe and the archaeologists agreed that this was a singular boulder, carved with a depiction of K'wati the Transformer, slaying Xa?lax the Lizard. It turns out that the Quileute have an oral tradition about these two, and places their fight about 200 meters up-river from where the boulder was found.

Do archaeology for a very long time, and you see that rarely does Tribal history mesh so well, so specifically. Do archaeology for not very long at all and you'll already notice that there's rarely much Art in artifacts. Mostly, we look at rubbish and broken old tools. Sometimes they're well made, even masterly, but the Calawah boulder represents something more, an artistic vision that wraps through (at least) three dimensions and weaves carving onto a net of red veins in the stone, transforming them into Kwati's comb and tongue, and a cranky red lizard.

Do archaeology long enough, and you witness enough looting that it's inspiring to see a case like this where the guy who found it told the Tribe instead of taking it himself or selling it. Do archaeology long enough, and it gets easier to cynically write off your profession as the production of rarely read reports and unexamined artifacts locked in boxes, so it's good to be part of a discovery destined to be adored by a People.

Be an archaeocrat long enough, and you know that it can be hard to achieve consensus around doing the right thing (not just legally speaking) with different agencies and sovereign governments involved. But in this case a Plan was devised, a Council Resolution passed, and a Permit issued in the course of a couple of days. The boulder was pulled from the River and brought downstream to La Push, where it sits safe and sound, protected by the Quileute Nation. For the discovery, for the mere existence of this multi-dimensional work of art, and for all the right steps along the way, I am thankful.

On the dimension of gratefulness, the boulder resonates further. My colleague shown here retired recently, but got to document and protect this petroglyph as the final act of this long career. Years of recording can scatters, isolated chert flakes, and other near-meaningless junk--not to mention all those days of finding nothing--and he was rewarded with this. It may not sound as scientific as people want archaeologists to be, but I really feel like the land thanked him for decades of his care and work. If you do archaeology long enough, and do it for the good of the sites, your good karma bucket gets pretty full and things like this happen.

07 December, 2014

Admint Calendar

So crazy it just might work.

Being both a mint junkie and a anti-garbage saver of containers, I have on hand a bag full of little plastic disks that once contained mints. I've used some now and then for seeds, but consumption has out-paced re-use for a while now. This fall, however, inspiration struck my younger daughter and I, and we vowed to invent the Admint Calendar.

Decorating the tree. Painting and layout by the child genius.
After some discussion, we settled on cutting out a Christmas tree shape from a scrap of 1/4-inch plywood, painting it green, and attaching the mint containers. She determined the shape by laying out the containers to fit on the board we had; beginning a single one at the apex, her formula for subsequent rows was "add two, then substract one, then repeat." Making the tree took a few minutes, followed by an hour under a fan to dry it enough to do the next step.

Attaching the containers: over-engineering by the dad. (Not pictured: fat ring o' glue)
We have a genetic predisposition to build things to last, perhaps at odds with the surficial preoccupation of some crafters, and so we attached the containers with a glob-ring of gorilla glue and staples slammed deep into the board. Conveniently, the tops of the containers can be pulled off to allow the staple gun to do its thing.

Stashing the candy. Goodbye 'til Christmas day, Eggnog Chocolate.

All that remained was to snap on the lids and install the treats. Maybe the best thing about making your own Adventskalendar is that you get to put good candy in it. Not stuff that was made years ago. No opening up the door to disappointment. It turns out that Seattle Chocolates fit perfectly, and we happen to love them.

No product endorsement intended, but thanks for the glittery labels, whichever corporation markets this stuff.

So, there you have it. The Admint Calendar. The only one of its kind.

Cavalier Attitudes Redux

A few days ago, I posted about the cavalier attitude towards rape at UVA frats and their breathern elsewhere. I was among the thousands of bloggers and hundreds of news media outlets that picked up on the story.

Now, it turns out that the Rolling Stone article that triggered the uproar itself took a cavalier attitude with the truth and verification.

Some digging by reporters at the Washington Post, among others, found that "Jackie," the victim spotlighted in the original article, had said some things that are not verifiable, and others that appear to be outright false. Predictably, thousands of bloggers and hiundreds of news media outlets have picked up on this story.

Part of the response is to point at Rolling Stone and accuse the magazine and its reporter of sloppy journalism. True enough, it appears, although I myself have done zero actual reporting on this and don't believe that most of the critics have, either. I see the bandwagon, but won't jump on.

But another common element in reactions is to jump on Jackie. Another girl with regrets or some other problem claiming rape. I see this bandwagon, and would like to stop it, or at least give it a flat.

The Post story--which does show evidence of thorough reporting and includes interviews with Jackie, her friends, and others at UVA--does not say she was not raped, though there are inconsistencies and doubts about the details. The frat accused in the original article turns out not to have had an official even on the date in question, the "main" rapist is not a brother in that frat, and they deny having a policy of including rape as part of pledging (no kidding). Instead of being vaginally gang-raped and beaten, her friends say she was orally gang-raped by maybe 5 guys, not 7.

Merely forced to perform oral sex while being held in a frat bedroom. You comfortable with blaming her now?

Not me.

The frat, with the benefit of money, lawyers, and status, has launched a counter-attack on Jackie, as you would expect whether they had a role to play or not. Money and power have a way of walking away free, particularly in an institution so steeped in tradition and white male privilege. Even is it were no different than other universities, UVA has the added defense of the enclave; campuses have their own law more often than not. This was a main point of the article (for which Jackie was the misfortunate poster child), that UVA and many other institutions of higher learning steer rape victims toward options other than prosecution of their attackers. Out in the real world, rapists have no such options.

The Post's follow-up and fact-checking does not lead them to the conclusion that the entire story is fabricated. They don't refute at all the bigger points of Rolling Stone's article, that UVA has a culture that glorifies frat boys and winks at rape, and presents victims with a range of options that systematically result in non-prosecution of rapists. Not just winks, but shuts its eyes, as evidenced by the lack of student dismissals for sexual assault while staunchly guarding its reputation by dismissing violators of the academic honor code.

Nonetheless, fratboys and their supporters in news and social media attack Jackie. I feel incredibly sorry for her, having to endure this second wave of assault.

04 December, 2014

Loosies, Not the Sky of Diamonds

Plenty of people are posting about racism in law enforcement, as they should. Black and brown men have reasons to worry that don't really affect a white guy like me.

"Like me," including Middle Classness, and it's class and money that I want to speak about, to add to the conversation. Plenty of poor white people also have reason to worry about law being selectively enforced, and force selectively applied, but this post is not about saying white people suffer too.

No, I just want to ask why Mike Brown (alleged cigar thief) and Eric Garner (alleged seller of single cigarettes, or "loosies") met with deadly force in the course of their alleged crimes. Even assuming that the one guy was stealing smokes and the other selling them, it's hard to imagine that these were the most serious crimes of the moment, much less offences so heinous that the perpetrators needed to be shot multiple times or choked to death.

At the same instant when Eric Garner was executed extrajudicially in a part of New York where selling single cigarettes is a survival strategy, in another part of town men who stole billions of dollars, crashed the economy to an extent where selling loosies is a thing, and then extorted the US government for bailouts walk free. Not just free, but assured that they not only will not be stopped and frisked (or, in the 1%-er analogy, forensically audited), but that were a cop to ever lay a hostile hand on them, massive lawsuit-induced windfalls would follow.

Racism is real, even if race is not. White cops using superior numbers or firepower to overwhelm brown suspects is a shame and a problem; ultimately, it's a threat to democracy.

But so is the fact that police attention is strangely affixed on petty crimes. Call in four cops to take down one alleged cigarette seller, but leave the corporate executives alone. Hell, offer the oligarchs any out conceivable: from paying fines with shareholder money, to bankorruptcy protections, to failing to convene a grand jury identify individuals for indictment. They have diamonds on the soles of their shoes, so the criminal justice system shall not touch them; the sky's the limit for them.

Meanwhile, in the mud beneath the lowest societal rungs, poor people die at the hands of the police.