Running to stand still

I’ve been lax with the project 52 posts again. It’s been a busy few weeks and in my defence I was either in the UK, or had houseguests for much of the time elapsed since my last (somewhat growly) post… therefore, my two missing posts (weeks 26 & 27) are snippets of what I have been up to!

So, week 26- I left for the UK on the Wednesday lunchtime and had a couple of days with Matt, in which Adventures were had, went to a wedding, celebrated an engagement, saw my folks and played some silly games. On the Friday M and I went to London for said Adventure – we went to the British Museum, but didn’t manage to get in to see Herculaneum and Pompeii, so we wandered around some bits of the museum we missed on our last visit in February, then walked (!) over to London Zoo, via Regent’s Park, to attend ‘Zoo Lates‘ – this was a lot of fun and as you may have seen on twitter, I learned a lot about aardvarks and got a little over excited by the sloths. I only took one picture though, as Matt took his decent camera along and I left documenting the trip down to him. He had great fun before we even got to the zoo, trying to get pictures of the almost tame squirrels in the park.

#project52 Week 26 Park!

#project52 Week 26 Park!


When I came back to the Netherlands last Thursday I brought Cas and Cat with me, and they went home on Tuesday (via awesome pie in Amsterdam). Having two of my favourite women here with me for almost a week was such a treat. We talked about books, and men, and politics, and life as our particular generation. It was particularly interesting to me to see the city through their eyes. Cat is a keen photographer and she looks at buildings and landscapes in ways that I don’t. I think the pictures she took on the trip are stunning. Cas is a writer and inquisitive by nature, especially about people and how they work. She asked me so many good questions, about what life here is like, and how it is different from home. More than anything, it was good to spend a few days with people who know me inside out, and who have devoured the same books as me…. When we get together, Matt swears it is like trying to decipher code as we pull references from authors we love to explain how we feel, or how we see a situation. They are my coven, and I love them.

#project25 Week 27 Cat & Kriek

#project25 Week 27 Cat & Kriek

I went back to work yesterday and spent all of it reading documents that had come in for my edits while I was away, and getting on top of my email. Today I had a ‘supervision’ meeting with a student doing his BA thesis partly with me, then had an afternoon of dealing with Scary Things ™ – like the Student Loans Company, and pressing for feedback on an article I am writing, then cracked on with a report. I met the lovely Vere after work for a catch-up and then came home and decided I had used up all of my bravery for the day, so no more scary things tonight. Once this is posted, I’m going to curl up with a book, and get an early night. My holiday was lovely, but now I need to focus hard on getting some things off of the ‘to do’ list before I leave for fieldwork in twelve days!

repeat after me:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

So. Here is the way through: Breathe. Run (tomorrow after work). Plan: fear of the unknown is more than half of the problem, and a good deal of what is left is due to the chaos created by not having a plan. Eat well, sleep well and remember how in love you are with where you live and what you do. That should do it. Right?

A little bit late, but only for the best reasons

This is last weeks’ #project52 post… It didn’t happen over the weekend because I was too busy doing the things that feature in it 🙂


My wonderful friend Sarah came to visit…

9046995901_75cafb58fc_o (1)

we had a bit of an adventure getting to the cafe at the Noordermarkt for the traditional apple pie pilgrimage… but the pie was worth it



…then we went on an even bigger mission to get kibbeling at Nieuwe Sloten, but it was well worth it


Then she surprised me with this AWESOME scarf, that she crocheted just for me….


… I have named him Benedict. Isn’t he magnificent?


She also brought me a very cool Totoro t-shirt…..


… and a care package with tea, chocolate and jammie dodgers!

… much tea was consumed, we laughed a lot and I get the feeling I am going to spend all week recovering from the lack of sleep. But she can come back next weekend and every weekend if she likes. She’s like a big sister, partner in crime and best friend bundled into a wise, caring bundle of energy, curiosity and wicked humor. My PhD wouldn’t have happened without her help, she’s been there for me through some weird times. I’ve had the honour of being her friend for more than 15 years now, and she’s exactly who I want to be when I grow up…. (and she’ll want to strangle me for getting all sentimental). Love you woman!


This week I have been reminded of my resolution. I’m not going to write a lot today, just explain why the little knight I got in my latest lego splurge actually meant something, enough to be my #project52 for the week.


#project52 week 10 - reminders

I read, a lot. I’m a big fantasy and sci-fi geek, and I particularly love well crafted YA (Young Adult) fantasy, even more so when it has a feminist bent. No, for a million and one reasons, I do not mean Twilight (but that is a rant for a different time and place). Anyway, a particular author-heroine of mine is Tamora Pierce. Cat and Cas and I can talk about her books for hours, even though we’ve all read them so often we know the words by heart. All of her books came with me to Groningen because they’re like old friends: I need them around to see me through homesickness and heartsickness, to keep me company on rainy weekends, and to remind me to better. You see, though many of the heroines of the stories have magical powers, or extraordinary talents, my favourite heroine from these stories is a girl called Kel. Kel isn’t absurdly talented, she has no magical gift, she’s not especially beautiful and she has flaws. But she never ever gives up- she strives in a patriarchal society to become the realm’s second female knight, and she makes it. She gets to where she is with hard work, courage, and a strong sense of right and wrong. She is a heroine entirely on her own merit, and despite being from a fantasy book, this makes her all the more real.

So, when I bought some lego as I left the UK (minifigs- you don’t know what you get until you open the little packet), it seemed exactly right that it should be a little knight, grinning at me. Kel reminds me that you keep going. That the only sure way to fail is not to try in the first place. And that a little hard work is good for everyone.


Last week on twitter I asked whether I should try to do a 365 project this year, or not… I started one when I moved to the Netherlands in 2011 and I made it to more than 250 and then it went a bit wrong. I like taking pictures but Ido feel like I want a bit of structure or a goal to aim for with them. But a picture every day just didn’t work for me; it’s very tough to find something I’m happy posting every single day, and on some days it’s equally impossible to pick just one picture to sum it all up.

Thankfully two different friends (@adammanning, and the awesome Rebecca Bennett) separately suggested making a ‘one picture a week’ project, which I think will work nicely. Bex had the great idea of writing a short blog about each picture, which I really like as well- it’ll give more context, and encourage me to blog. Thus #project52!

I’ll make a flickr album for #project52 shots and each should get their own blog post (except for perhaps fieldwork, when you might get a few at once when I get back), so I’ll set up  tags and categories here too.

I’m claiming last weeks’ Yoda quote as week one, and this week has a Star Wars theme too…

Red Leader #project52 week2

Red Leader #project52 week2

You might have gathered that Matt was here for a few weeks, and that we played a lot of boardgames… One of the games he got me was a neat space skirmish game set in the Star Wars universe; we had great fun chasing our respective X-Wings and Tie Fighters round my dining table. We also played a lot of Smallworld and Race for the Galaxy, and naturally, Civilisation. It made me realise how much I love gaming, in its many forms. Since I moved I’ve not really done any role-playing, except what I can fit in on trips back to the UK. I’ve made few half-hearted attempts to locate the local gaming community, but I’ve not joined any groups yet; too shy (!), and very aware of the effort I am asking people to make to play in english. As part of the ‘do or do not’ mentality I’m thinking about trying to organise a table-top game (that I would run), or some sort of regular board games night of my own, on slightly more familiar territory. Rather than having to walk into a pub-night full of strangers, and hope there is a game I can join… Pretty much my entire non-archaeological life in the UK revolved around gaming and other ‘geek’ pursuits; it is how I met Matt, and almost all of my friends. Part of the idea of coming here was not to treat it as a temporary life (which I feel I did a bit in Bournemouth during the PhD), but to embrace that for now, life is here. And gaming has always been part of my life. So now I need to get on and do it!


… and four weeks to go until I have been here a whole year. It’s really flown by!

This is just a little post to keep my promise to myself about regular posting. I’m also starting to think about online identity more, about where to draw the line between myself and my work-self. The radical feminist in me wants to insist that if everything is ‘political’ then there isn’t a dividing line. I don’t do my research in a personality-less vacuum. Years of post-processual theory have me absolutely convinced that my archaeology is as much about me as it is the past…. but I also worry about jobs, about image. I want to be taken seriously.

We had a big meeting yesterday about how the various projects in Italy plan our communications (outside of finished theses and peer-reviewed papers)- do we have any plans to involve local schools? Do we want a web presence? If so, what do we want it to be? Who are we talking to? What are we trying to communicate to them?

I enthused about twitter and blogging (in particular) as ways to engage with people, rather than just broadcast pictures and text. I talked about the great people I’ve never met in person, but who help me out with tech advice, suggest projects, papers or conferences to me, or cheer me up when I am lonely. @tomgoskar said to me the other night that at times twitter can be like a village. It’s a good thing that @lornarichardson and I have talked about both serious academic research and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the past week. It’s good to be human, and I think the best twitter accounts run by larger organisations are the human ones: I think @metoffice do a great job- it’s a corporate account but the different people running it on a shift always introduce themselves, and though they’re professional, they aren’t policied to death- they chat, they engage.

If we’re going to have a social web presence (as well as or instead of a static web page) then we need to come up with some guidelines and aims. That’s what I am going to spend the weekend thinking about…

So, I think I’ve talked myself into keeping the tone of what I do here and on twitter the same…right? I’ve never ‘marketed’ this blog as anything other than my ramblings, and when I do post about my research it is usually more like ‘zomg Italy is so pretty lookit!’ than prejudicing anything I might want to later put in a journal.

The meeting just made me stop and think in depth about identity and presentation and so forth, and has left me a bit discombobulated.

Also, I love having pink hair, but I suspect that might not help with the job-getting and the ‘serious’ image… But I also once swore that a career that didn’t let me be me was never going to work. I just though I’d left all of this identity-negotiation crap behind me as a teenager (some 10+ years ago), you know?


Your's truly, in a stolen fedora on NYE 2011


Perhaps the Buffy watching isn’t helping with this regression/late ’90s vibe… but I don’t care. I’m off to vicariously re-live my misspent youth some more. Tomorrow I’m heading to see my little brother in Amsterdam before he heads back to Georgia (the country, not the state). We’re gonna eat apple pie, drink Belgian beer and probably tease each other an awful lot. I can’t wait!

Poorly Laptop :( – any help gratefully recieved!

Groningen 365 19

Originally uploaded by girlwithtrowel.

When I first arrived I desperately wanted to play Civ IV so I tracked down a copy, hoping it would run on Clarissa (my somewhat old and crunchy laptop)… it didn’t. The ATI graphics card (and it is a card- it’s just an older one) can’t cope with the 3D acceleration needed. The annoying thing is if I could get the damn game to load, I could probably turn down the settings enough that Clarissa could cope.

So I grabbed Civ III from Steam instead, which is comically old-looking, but otherwise cool. I jumped straight from II to IV so III is a bit odd, but good fun. I was really looking forward to playing some Caeser IV having found it while unpacking, and I decided that today was good day to hang out and be a bit of a strategy nerd, so I tried to fire it up. At which point I got the above. It seems like something in the settings for one of the Civ IV patches has screwed with my graphics card settings, but I have no idea how to fix it and can’t even find the file the error message is pointing at- that directory doesn’t exist on the C: drive.

So, I uninstalled, cleaned up some stuff and tried to re-install, being especially conscious of DirectX issues. And what happens? Bloody thing needs a license key, which is printed on the manual, which (I hope) is somewhere in the UK.

Luckily, I have Ceaser III here and it’s working just nicely, and in some ways I prefer it- resource management is a bit less finicky, so that is what I did today. If anyone can shed any light on the error message, or what might have ballsed up my graphics card, please let me know!

I noticed when I was trying to fix Civ IV that my ram is posting at 800-odd not the 1 gig I know it is… any thoughts on that, too? Here is the DXDiag text (the first bit anyway- further down it is telling me the 3D acceleration is off and I need to check my drivers, but I can’t find the drivers for my card- ATI don’t support it any more):

Time of this report: 3/13/2011, 21:40:56
Machine name: CLARISSA
Operating System: Windows XP Professional (5.1, Build 2600) Service Pack 3 (2600.xpsp_sp3_gdr.101209-1647)
Language: English (Regional Setting: English)
System Manufacturer: SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS CO., LTD.
System Model: R40/R41
BIOS: Phoenix FirstBIOS(tm) Notebook Pro Version 2.0 07YA
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU T5500 @ 1.66GHz (2 CPUs)
Memory: 894MB RAM
Page File: 455MB used, 2416MB available
Windows Dir: C:\WINDOWS
DirectX Version: DirectX 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)
DX Setup Parameters: Not found
DxDiag Version: 5.03.2600.5512 32bit Unicode

I think it might be new laptop time…..

Not with a Bang, but a wiggle…

The Large Hadron Collider/ATLAS at CERN

Originally uploaded by Image Editor under a creative commons license- the photo can be distributed and used for new work, but the source must be credited (just like this blog, you nasty content scrapers)!

The Universe is still here…

I’m not sure if they have started colliding things and re-creating the big bang, but the world passed another doomsday last Wednesday when the Large Hadron Collider switched on at CERN and we didn’t all vanish into a mini black hole or end up in a parallel universe. Sorry, that last link is a very geeky gamers joke.

This project, and many attending factors have fascinated me for a while now. There have been some spectacular photographs from inside the various experiments on the ring of the accelerator. These cavernous spaces, deep underground have, it seems, a sepulchral quality. Just like cathedrals are where we go to talk to God, this is where we talk to the start of the universe, to ponder how and why it all began.

The project involves an astonishing number of scientists and collaborators from a huge list of countries; so large in scope that it could not have been achieved by one nation. It has united a diverse bunch of humans in the pursuit of a common goal in a way I’ve never encountered before. What is even more amazing to me is that this is science for sciences’ sake. There is no profitable final end product, nothing that can be marketed, no projected returns on our collective investment. Just the hope that we can re-create the conditions just after our universe started, and perhaps glimpse some of the most fundamental building blocks of reality.

The reporting of this project has also been very interesting. I watched the switch-on live on 24 hour news channels and was amused by the press, so used to spectacular moments struggle to convey how important the slightly wavering curve on the screen was, how momentous the occasion. They all likened it to the Apollo moon landings, new readers and drafted in experts alike. They also went to some pains to reassure people worried by sensationalist stories about the risks of black holes devouring the planet from within.

There has been great coverage on some of my favourite webcomics too- phd comics and xkcd, as well as some great spoof footage here.

The BBC website had an interesting article about how to talk to your kids about these worries (which I now annoyingly can’t find), and I’m really pleased to say that people were talking about it being a great chance to talk to them about science, whilst reassuring them the world wasn’t about to end. I wanted to go off at this point into a long thought about millennialism and humanity and why we seem so curiously prone to the idea of the world ending; how this all links back into ideas about God, prevailing western paragdigms and science-as-faith, but I think I’ll leave that for another day, or someone smarter than me.

Me? I’m just hoping they don’t find the Higgs-Boson. Much like Prof. Hawking I think that would be far more exciting; we’d have to start again on most of our theories about how the universe really operates on the quantum scale.