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Friday, December 12, 2008

How to Be an Explorer of the World: New book

This is EXACTLY what I'm talking about. In school, at work, yes, yes, yes!!! Go Keri Smith. I'm seriously thinking about writing her a thank you Christmas Card, or at least buying several copies of her book and giving it to all the parents I know.

How to be an explorer of the world

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Heat-seeking the Lost Tribes

I’m back, with a complaint. Not exactly "with a vengeance," more like Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes.

By now most people are probably aware of the “Lost Tribes” of Brazil, groups of indigenous peoples hiding out in the Amazon doing their best to NOT make contact with us weirdos. They even threw spears at a plane that buzzed overhead trying to take their pictures.

So now, instead of putting aerial photographers in vague danger, scientists have now begun to use heat-sensing/infrared technologies to follow the tribes through the jungle, calling it a less invasive technique.

If anything, I think tracking people with heat-sensors is even more invasive than with photographs. At least with aerial photography they know when we’re researching them. These groups have obviously expressed that they don’t want to be studied, let alone approached, or buzzed over by aircraft. Why do these people need to be studied and tracked in the first place? I find it very ethnocentric to think that our “need to know” outweighs their right to privacy.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Children and Nature

First, I apologize for my lackluster posting these last few weeks. I am being asked to blog for two different classes, and am working on a blog for work, so this unfortunately is getting little to no attention.

I do have one observation, though, which will probably turn into a research paper, but these are my original thoughts on the subject.

During a weekend visit to my in-laws, three adults took five children out for a walk to visit a duck pond. Actually the grown-ups had planned to go by themselves, but as soon as the children overheard one adult saying they might take a walk to the pond, all the kids were pulling on jackets and boots and were ready to go. I found this interesting because the children had not been very interested until ducks were mentioned.

Armed with a back of frozen hamburger buns, the children raced to the pond, not even distracted as they passed a jungle gym in the neighborhood park. The ducks were particularly hungry that evening, and as we arrived all of them got out of the pond to meet us on the path to be fed. The children practiced ripping off bite-size pieces of bread and throwing it to the ducks, the younger ones sometimes getting intimidated by shoulder-height ducks and throwing half the bun at them to make them go away. The older children mentioned concern about fairness and tried to throw their bread in different spots in the duck herd (or a brace of ducks1). Even after all the bread was gone the children did not want to leave, and even when the grown-ups started complaining about being cold the children wanted to stay and watch the ducks swim.

What I learned later that evening was that humans are born with bio-philia, meaning an innate love of animals. Babies are fascinated by animal pictures books, most children want pets, and the best part of a trip to the museum can be the pigeons strutting around outside.

However, children are not getting the same experiences today with animals that they did even a generation ago. More children today have allergies, and it has been shown that children who grow up on farms and are exposed to animal and dirt microbes have much lesser occurrences of allergies2. Most children today do not even know where their food comes from3. Some child researchers are talking about nature deficit disorder, a term coined by journalist and activist Richard Louv4, and lack of connectedness to nature has been shown to even affect cognitive ability5.

Fortunately, Congress has recently passed the No Child Left Inside Act, which would encourage school curriculums which focused on environmental education, and would increase funding for environmental education programs6.

A child’s idea and feelings towards nature are decided by the time they are five or six5. I think it is incredibly important to provide children the opportunity to experience and interact with their outside environments.

1. An Exaltation of Larks: The Ultimate Edition, James Lipton, Viking Penguin, 1991.

2. “Bacteria Modulates Immune Response to Decrease Allergy Among Farm Children,” Harvey McConnell, Lancet; 360:465-66, 2006.

3. “Kids don't know their onions about food,” Graham Hiscott, The Independent, 3 December 2004.

4. Richard Louv website:

5. “At Home with Nature: Effects of "Greenness" on Children’s Cognitive Functioning,” Nancy M. Wells, Environment and Behavior, 32(6):775-795, 2000.

6. No Child Left Inside Act: Solution

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cultural preservation and empowerment programs/projects:

I was going through my old notes and found this. It's not something I'm working on anymore, but is a really great collection of examples of groups working on cultural conservation/preservation, and resources to help with those sorts of projects.

I just copied and pasted, so it's a little messy, but enjoy:

Cultural Survival:

Work done in American Samoa to preserve Samoan culture:

National Park Service Cultural Resource Training Initiative.

Article about influence of outside world on culture:

NGO for cultural preservation of indigenous peoples:

Tips on how to strengthen culture:

Founding regional tourism:

Native American-owned business plan for CP&E:

Virtual museum?:

Igbo mask culture, changes and preservations:

Projects at Evergreen College, Washington:

Interesting Books/Authors:

Indigenous Education and Empowerment: International Perspectives
Series: Contemporary Native American Communities #17

Sustainable Community Development: Studies in Economic, Environmental, and Cultural Revitalization (Hardcover), by Marie Hoff

Cultural Revitalization, Participatory Nonformal Education, and Village Development in Sri Lanka: The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement.


Colletta, N.J.; And Others; Comparative Education Review, v26 n2 p271-86 Jun 1982

intergenerational relations, and human development (Joel Savishinsky,)

Paul Guggenheim is on the staff of the Chicago Field Museum focusing on conservation education with the population living in the buffer zone of a new national park in Peru.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Applied anthropology and technology

I have been working on an article about activism in developing nations, namely bringing alternative energies to rural impoverished communities.

Barefoot College (see youtube video), works with women to teach them on a grassroots level how to be solar engineers and run and operate a household solar power system. The college also has a lot of other programs helping women with economic independence and with human rights

The group Portable Light just won an award for their work with the Huichol. Sheila Kennedy at MIT created portable, flexible solar panels, which the Huichol women sewed onto their bags so they had a portable power source.

A third group, Light up the World Foundation, develops and installs LED lights and solar power systems in individual households and businesses.

These are example of opportunities for any anthropologist interested in the politics and accessibility of technology, using alternative energy and skipping the whole "industrial revolution" phase while growing/developing/whatevering a nation, or mostly importantly working with different groups to help provide safe, affordable, less polluting alternatives to kerosene and wood fuel.

And of course, everyone's heard about the One Laptop per Child initiative.

However, an interesting point to bring in: many of these types of groups come in with the idea that by providing light they are helping children receive an education (being able to study at night > children can finish homework > children receive good education). However, in many nations the rudimentary education provided to students is more detrimental than helpful. Children learn how to perform certain skills in an industrialized economy, and yet they don't learn enough to pass their final exams, or there are no jobs for them when they graduate. During all of these years of education, they have also become isolated from their traditional ways of subsistence - farming, hunting, fishing, or whatever. They are stuck between two different economic and cultural systems and cannot function in either one.

So not only is it important to provide children with Internet access and computers and non-toxic light sources, it's also important to make sure they are receiving an education that will serve them as adults.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Profile: Gilda Sheppard

I saw a great speaker today, Gilda Sheppard. She's a sociologist who has worked with refugees in Ghana and street youth in Tacoma, WA (she teaches at the Evergreen College, Tacoma branch, which I didn't know there was until today). She discussed and showed a film about her work in Ghana, and the organization that was formed there "Women Together as One." Her main role in the organization was organizer and instigator for the idea, but otherwise in was the Liberian refugee women Sheppard worked with in Ghana that really made the organization exist and work.

The way Sheppard spoke of her work made me feel like I was at a story-telling or poetry recital, or even a gospel church, the way her cadence and voice moved around the words and her body seemed to follow. It was very inspiring for me to see someone using film to inspire repressed people, both in Ghana and here, to take action for themselves, and to use that footage to inspire us as well.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Latest and greatest

Having more “traditional” breadwinner views = more $ over the course of one's lifetime for men; Conversely, women who held the opposite view did earn slightly more, on average $1,500 (£833) more than women with "traditional" views.

The latest news from Stonehenge, including some really good explanations as to what Stonehenge was actually used for.

I've seen this analysis before, but once again looking at the optical illusions found in neolithic art.

Nice article about the issues of anthropologists embedded in the military.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Being social

Brrrr! I'm cold today, and it's not just from feeling lonely. And no the boys weren't gossiping behind my back today, either (or the fruit flies for that matter). Maybe if I started dancing my cares away like they did back in 13th century Europe, I'd get warmer, or people would just think I was possessed by a dancing demon. The weather has changed to cold and gray, and when it does I find that I'm practically a zombie, or on autopilot or something.

If I DID want to make friends, though, apparently learning magic tricks is just as effective as taking sociability courses, and sounds much more entertaining. It helped kids in the U.K., and that's even with their parents being scaredy-parents and not trusting their kids (okay, the article is U.S. parents, but you get the idea).

If I wanted to cheer myself up, I would react differently to happy events depending on how old I am. Or I could just go dig in the dirt; they say it's like prozac. In fact, I think I'll go do that right now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An explosion of Neanderthals

A lot of research on Neanderthals has popped up lately.
A reconstruction of fetal and infant Neanderthals (picture of the natal Neanderthal here) finds that Neanderthals developed at either the same rate as us or even more slowly, increasing in size quickly as infants but possibly not reaching sexual maturity until later than modern humans. According to one quote, if humans were able to reproduce 1% more often than Neanderthals, we could effectively outbreed them in a (relatively) short matter of time.
And just in case you're certain your father-in-law must have some Neanderthal lineage, one study of mitochondria DNA from Neanderthals has found that there is no mixing of Neanderthals and modern humans.
Speaking of distant relatives, a group found that chimps could tell when their friends needed hugs, and in doing so lowered their friend's stress levels. While this behavior has been shown before, the researchers are saying this is the first time they could show that chimps recognized their friends' stress and were empathetic to help.
Also, anthropologists on an island near the homo floresiensis site found bones dating from the same time that were normal human size. Does this mean that the Hobbit was a deformed freak? Who knows.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Today's theme: language

Not the dirty kind. Wow, I can't believe it's already September with no posting. And they're only guaranteed to get more scarce once the school year begins.
But onto language:

Animals can speak in different tones, according to one study. As in, they can say the same thing but in a pissed off way. Can they do sarcasm, I wonder?

More and more linguists are finding holes in Noam Chomsky's idea that language is wired in to all human brains. One is Lise Menn who studies baby's language development, the other is a guy studying a group in the Amazon, the Piraha, who speak without recursion.

Finally, anyone who's interested in how humans express ideas should check out the book Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer. The book looks at cognitive scientist through several authors who were exploring these concepts through literature and doing a very good job. I've only skimmed it so far, but definitely on my to read list.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Today's theme: Housing

The effects of global climate change are real for one village in Africa. They have had to move their village three or more times because of rising ocean levels.

Some cool ideas about "organic" housing, or as I like to think about it a real tree house.

Archaeologists in the Amazon have found old urbanization patterns.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

In the good ol' days...

When I was your age, grandkids, we lived in caves, and we walked everywhere in the snow, uphill, both ways. Why, back in my day, Neolithic women had fashion sense (study from 2007), not like today. Neanderthals created tools just as good as the cro magnon's. Okay, maybe they weren't as creative in their tools, but good work, they did.

Ah, *spit* you kids these days are all weak, you don't get enough "dangerous" exercise, like chasing saber tooth cats around. Boy, those were the days.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Personal note: work-life balance

This is not my typical post; this is a post about the need for a work/life balance in order to remain a complex, healthy human being, and yet how this idea seems to be having a back lash in the late 2000's.

These days there seems to be a mocking tone around the phrase “work/life balance.” It’s become trite, the buzz-word that’s lost its zing, like “self-esteem” was in the 1980s and has now become the bane of every elementary school teacher’s existence. But what is so wrong about

This attitude against the balancing act seems to come especially from people talking about “Generation Y” or “Millenials” or whatever other buzz name is going to stick. The career and gender-gap-in-the-workplace all describe the Millenials as “prioritizing a work/life balance.” Unfortunately, most people who are not Millenials read that and translate it as, “lazy and don’t take work seriously.”

As a millennial, I can staunchly say this is not true. We’re the first generation where “multi-tasking” (another buzz word in its day) is the expected norm, and we do it well. We also find nothing wrong with listening to some vintage Dead Kennedys on our ipods as we sit in front of a computer for eight hours going through tedious emails and menial clerical work that, except for the CEO of Facebook, is about all we can get hired to do so far. Sure we expected more instant job satisfaction after getting out of college (who wouldn’t after getting ribbons their entire life just for participating?), and sure it’s going to make us yearn for our days back in college when our “work/life balance” involved sleeping in and being mentally stimulated and challenged for a living. Does that mean we’re wrong?

Even beyond the slacker Millenials, “work/life balance” also seems to have become a code word for “mother who puts her children before her job.” Is that a bad thing? Apparently so, according to a lot of studies that find women who take time off in their careers to have children, even as brief as a year, have a hard time find jobs again and don’t make as much money as women in the same positions who didn’t take time off. Yet women are still expected to be the primary care-providers for their kids, and if they aren’t super-moms who can stay home with their child and make an organic, meatless, gluten free, protein-filled dinner as their children practice their Baby Mozart and take infant soccer camp, all with a killer bod three months after giving birth, then these women are obviously stunting their child’s development. At the same time, they are also expected to work full time at an office (working from home is still considered suspect). If they miss a day at the office because the kid broke his foot on his infant soccer ball, then they’re not reliable employees.

Unfortunately, many people who are scoffing at this whole “work/life balance” trend are the people who need it the most. For many people who do decide to give up their lives to job and country, “work/life balance” basically means finding time to have a drink with a client and getting (maybe) four hours of sleep. No wonder Starbucks is so popular. In this day and age of blackberries, emails, cell phones, video conferencing, and fairly inexpensive four-hour plane rides across continents now seeming like a long, tedious commute, people are working literally 24/7, not taking time for themselves, wearing down their bodies in the process (obesity epidemic, anyone?), and are expected to give more.

Of course every organization – work, family, church, little league – wants to be the top priority in a person’s life, they will fight tooth and nail to become that. The problem is when we buy into it, or try to prioritize it all.

Especially in American society, competitiveness, standing out, overachieving, and going all the way are appreciated, nay, expected of us all. Students are rewarded for straight A’s; an athlete gets attention only if they score the most points or win first prize; the person who works extra hard on a project gets promoted; being overworked and underslept is are considered bragging rights.

So I say put down your coffee, or at least linger at the office coffee station a little bit longer; hit that snooze button one more time, turn off your cell phone, go out and play catch with your dog (he’s been waiting ever so long). Since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve been working to make our lives better and more efficient, simpler. I say it’s time to take advantage of all that hard work and actually live simply, efficiently, and better. For starters, I’m going to take a nap.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The outer limits...of humans

I've been collecting some weird stuff that doesn't necessarily correlate directly to humans and culture, but they all do in a roundabout, sideways, too-cool-to-not-mention sort of way.

For starters, some researchers have found evidence that humans have taste buds for calcium. I wonder if there is a difference between cultures who practically live off milk compared to those who don't.

Also, there is a cool YouTube video about parasitic worms that can actually recreate or at least mimic the genes of their host insect to the extent that they can send messages to the insect's "brain" and make the insects do what they want, including commit suicide by jumping into a body of water so the worm can escape, essentially turning the bug into a zombie. As the researcher mentions in the video, this has implications for human parasitic diseases (which I can't remember right now but if you watch the video he will explain it better).

Getting back into the traditional "Anthropology" stuff, German anthropologists have been able to genetically trace bones from the Bronze Age to a pair of men living in a village nearby the cave where the bones were found, making this the longest family tree in history.

As a cool example of the power of motherhood and how much dogs have evolved to be co-habitants of humans, a dog in Argentina rescued a newborn baby abandoned in the ghettos/favelas. The dog was a new mother herself, and after the dog's owner discovered the baby cuddled in with the pups, he alerted authorities and the baby's 14-year-old mother came forward. Unfortunately the media attention is actually freaking the dog out a bit, so leave her alone!

Also, for all you star gazers out there, a Top 10 of ancient astronomy observatories throughout the world (interestingly, the Mayan pyramids made it on there, the Egyptian pyramids did not).

Finally, for all you visual or historical anthropologists, a cool article on the history of the daguerrotype, and links to other articles about cool photographic inventions.

Monday, August 18, 2008

News highlights from last week

Scottish penguin knighted as part of 30-year service to Norwegian military. Technically it's the third penguin to serve as the Norwegian mascot, but still, well earned I'm sure (too bad it’s not an emperor penguin).

Cemetery remains of two different cultures separated by several thousand years found in the same spot in the Sahara Desert (apparently much greener once). One woman and her two kids were buried on a bed of flowers; how sweet is that? Awww...

Mayan portal to the world of the dead FOUND! No, really.

Roman empress’ head found too ( not the actual head, just the oversized marble carving of it).

Mothering style can turn on nurturing genes in female mice. First off, who knew there were genes for nurturing?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Women on pill choose mates too close to home

A study, which is supported by research in the 90s, finds that women on the birth control pill will choose mates that have a similar smell make-up to themselves, which evolutionarily is a bad thing; in a normal hormonal stage, women choose guys with contrasting smells (major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gene-produced odor to be more precise) because essentially it means that the woman is not procreating with a distant relative and her offspring is more genetically fit, and will also recognize more smells as familiar and be more open to people. Once women go off the pill, apparently they are more likely to leave or cheat on the similarly-smelling partner.

At first this totally blew my mind! I knew that smell played a MAJOR role in mate selection, but the fact that the pill can mess with one's sense of smell and ability to smell others to the point of evolutionary malfunction is amazing. Although upon further analysis it makes perfect sense, since the pill is a hormone replacement, and there is already plenty of evidence that a woman's hormonal cycle affects her sense of smell. Women have a hard time becoming sommeliers (wine tasters) because their sense of smell (and therefore taste) changes throughout her menstrual cycle so they are considered not as reliable tasters as men. Many women I know couldn't walk down the soap or seafood aisle at a grocery store when they were pregnant because their sense of smell was just too sensitive.

It makes me wonder what this means for women who have been on the pill from the time they were teenagers until they decide to have their first kid. Obviously this doesn't mean that every woman who meets her mate on the pill will dump him as soon as she's off (I've been with my guy for five terrific years), but the implications of this are fascinating.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Innate victory pose

Researchers compared congenitally blind athletes to seeing athletes and found both groups “puff up” or open themselves up when they win (outstretched arms and shoulders, big smile facing up and out), and cower and close inward when they lose, implying the behavior is an innate tendency of humans.
This study made me really curious about my husband's "bellowing," which he is actually known for internationally: when he accomplishes a large physical feat like scaling a wall or landing a jump, he cries a mighty bass-toned yawp... okay, it's more of a war bellow, like he has defeated an elk in hand to hoof combat. But this study has made me wonder if his mighty yawp is the same primal instinct as the "warrior pose." Jumping up and down and squealing, "I win, I win" isn't going to scare away many other predators or challengers: roaring like a grizzly bear on the other hand and making yourself big is going to make a lot of critters think twice about coming after you, including the grizzly bear.
This also leads me to wonder if dominant males (of any primate species) celebrate their victories more often or louder than less dominant males. Obviously behavior is going to be curtailed by social expectations (Japanese and Scottish Highland cultures very much discourage individualism and show-offiness, for example), but it seems plausible that a dominant male would (a) win hand to hoof combats more often and so have more opportunity for bellowing, and (b) be more vocal and more physical in his reaction to that victory. This in turn would intimidate a lot of non-dominant folks and would discourage any challengers. *feminist note*: I'm wondering mostly about dominant males and their victor display because females don't typically puff up or roar to show their dominance over others. They will yell, and are violent, but at least the wolf, chimp, and human studies I've seen point to quicker, more subtle expressions of dominance from females.

Friday, August 8, 2008

In honor of the Olympics

1900 year old chariot found in Bulgaria.

That's pretty much it. There's a lot of primate action going on, including the discovery of something like 125,000 lowland gorillas previously uncounted (Yippee!), but not much else has gotten me inspired to post.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bombardment of Anthro News

July has been busy and I've been storing them up, so here goes:

In 2007, thai police officers had to start wearing Hello Kitty armbands if they were caught doing something against the law. I want to know if they're still forced to do that (my suspicion is no). Anyone with the answer to that gets a brownie (point)!

Mexican mummies were stressed out too; ulcer bacteria found in mummy tummies.

90% of people can sing, really, according to this study.

If there are more male lemurs than female lemurs in a troop, female lemurs have a better chance of being the dominant leader of the whole group.

An interesting study of normal, middle-class people who live frugally, including by dumpster diving.

Archaeologists in Jerusalem and Korea have both found sites that have the tuberculosis bacterium and hope to use this ancient specimen (thousands of years old, we're talking) to help fight modern TB.

And finally, just for kicks, a study has found that guys' fertility drops off at a certain age, not just in women, so men too could be susceptible to a biological clock.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dancing Matt videos: a positive critique

I honestly had never heard of this guy until a few months ago (apparently he’s been a viral internet celebrity for almost two years now), but watching this interview of Matt made some really good points. Having been trained as an anthropologist, I find the connection of people from completely different cultures through the Internet and through (silly) dance fascinating and wonderful. There are many reasons, such as:

1. There are definitely downsides to globalization, but when I see things like this it reminds me that there are some good parts to it too. People are connected in very different ways than they used to be, and community is no longer determined exclusively by geography.

2. The fact that dance is being used so successfully to bring everyone out is great, and it shows just how universal dancing really is.

3. There is also the point that the dance is silly, and lots of people (granted mostly young adults and kids) are willing to go on film, and all over the world, dancing and being silly and playing. Play is something that has been totally disregarded as important in the last 60 years my humble opinion (or IMHO for those of you who knew about this guy before now), when in fact play and creativity have been shown to be so important for brain development and just coming up with new solutions to problems. It is time that “play” returned to everyone’s positive vernacular, and just as everyone knows they need to brush their teeth and exercise, they also need to play. And watching Dancing Matt doesn’t count; dancing like Dancing Matt does.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Noisy Caves

Man, I am on an archaeological roll! Again, also posted in my other blog:

Another article today that discusses Upper Paleolithic peoples’ understanding of acoustics, and how cave art is often placed at the exact locations where acoustics are best in a cave. Archaeologists have also found flutes in the caves and are trying to determine if the flutes were connected to the cave paintings and their placement in any way.
Iegor Reznikoff, a specialist in ancient music at the University of Paris X in Nanterre featured in the article, also points out the sound-painting connection at certain sites in Finland and France near lakes and other outdoor locations. There has also been correlation shown between Native American pictographs in California deserts and seismic fault lines (I’ll add a link as soon as I can find it again).

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

George Washington's boyhood home found

I didn't even know it was missing, but apparently they found it ("they" being a collection of archaeologists and historians). The biggest let down: no cherry tree. They were also [for some bizarre reason] surprised that the house wasn't more rustic; from what they can deduce, it had up to 8 rooms including separate bed/storage rooms upstairs, rather quite nice for that time's standards and much more appropriate for a gentryman [again, duh!].

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Archaeology News

This was also posted in my other blog, The Art of Science:

First news item: the cave paintings at Lascaux (France) are currently being threatened by mold. One of the possible causes: bright lights. The caves have a history of threats, all directly or indirectly caused by humans. This case exemplifies the hard challenges faced with old artifacts - or just limited natural resources in general - and weighing the benefits of preservation/isolation, scientific intervention and study, and public access to knowledge and such resources.

Next up: The re-creation of musical instruments from Central America. The story discusses Roberto Velazquez, a musical historian/archaeologist/mechanical engineer who studies ancient musical instruments found in archaeological sites all over Central America and recreates them and experiments with their sounds. What is not mentioned but inferred is the spectral analysis done on these instruments in order to determine what they are made out of - clay mostly, but also feathers, reeds, frog bones? - and how to recreate them. Velazquez will also experiment with making sounds with the flutes and whistles, and some of them are really eery; there is a sound clip with samples of all the different sounds, and I was not prepared for the first sounds that they played. It was from the appropriately-named Whistle of Death, and it is creepy to put it mildly.

*Edit*: exclusive only to Complex Interplay and MSNBC: Archaeologists have determined when Odysseus finally made it home.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Apes acting more like humans than humans

Macaques have figured out how to fish. Studies have also shown that chimps have the ability to plan ahead. It has also been found that chimps need hugs and kisses or other forms of affection.

And the latest landmark of humans? The Japanese have developed a robot girlfriend.

I'm planning to go cuddle and enjoy a nice fish dinner.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kenyan study shows possible benefits of ADHD

A study of nomads in Kenya found that nomadic Kenyans with the 7R allele associated with ADHD are overall healthier than their non-ADHD peers. It was also found that men from the same tribe but who are now living sedentary lives are not as healthy as their non-ADHD peers who were sedentary.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Brazil releases photos of "uncontacted" groups to try and discourage contact

This quarter at school has been really full and I haven't been as diligent a reporter as I'd like to be. But, this one was staring me in the face and I couldn't say no.

The Brazilian government has released photos of a few of the estimated 68 "uncontacted" tribes -- although the term should be "bad idea to contact" tribes because they try to kill us if we come too close -- in hopes of making their plight well-known and encourage people to keep their distance.

My first thought was: if you're trying to be respectful and keep them isolated, then what are you doing flying over taking pictures!?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Yelling's not going to change anything (well, maybe)

This article discusses a study that finds oldest siblings really are disciplined the most sternly. Being an older sister, in some ways that makes me feel better, but not entirely.

This article is about a linguist at my university who has found close connections between indigenous languages here in the Pacific Northwest and indigenous languages in Asia. Language is awesome!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

NY mom lets kid ride subway, gets socially whipped

I did not know about this until the article in Newsweek came out, but apparently a woman let her 4th grader ride the subway alone to go home early from a shopping trip. I say good for her. Kids today are too protected, coddled, and not trusted to be responsible human beings. She even created her own blog, Free Range Kids. I hope this trend continues, with books like A Nation of Wimps and most modern psychologists promoting independence in children rather than protecting, it's time that America regained its independent, rugged streak and grew up a little bit!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Traveling far away from home is bad

Well, I didn't make it to Victoria, BC, for a number of reasons, the final clincher being that I couldn't find my passport or two other kinds of government-issued ID. I'm sure it was boring anyway; just a bunch of archaeologists talking about cool stuff they found, not to mention historical studies of cultural land use. :(
Since I couldn't get my academic fix this weekend, I'll try to get one here: I'm surprising myself about the whole Texas polygamist raid and the issues that are stemming from it. Usually I am dead set against any form of domestic or child abuse, and treating women unfairly, and am all for taking kids and women out of bad situations. However, I think taking over 400 kids away from their mothers and the only society they've ever known and first locking them up in a sports arena and then separating them into different foster homes borders on child abuse itself, and certainly negligence at the bare minimum. It was really irresponsible of the Feds to handle the situation the way they did, and while there are no easy answers in a situation like this, there had to be a better one than the one they chose. Maybe arrest and remove the men who are dominating these women and children? Argh!
Anyway, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

NWAC 2008

I will be presenting at the 2008 Northwest Anthropological Conference held in (so I've been told) beautiful Victoria, B.C.
My presentation will be on the cultural change of land use in Skagit County over the past 60 years, using photos to analyze what people were up to, as well as what was important to people. For example, in the 1950s only one picture of the cat and because the kid was playing with it; in the 1980s lots of pictures of dogs all by themselves, they are the featured player in the article.
I'm only going for a day, so I don't know how much I'll be able to see, but I hope to get a little bit out of the whole deal.
I'll write an synopsis when I get back.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Filing a complaint

I'm having the worst time getting things through bureaucratic tape and getting my complaints heard, so while these stories are a little dated, I figured I'd post these two about people making blatant statements about a particular culture with their complaints.

The first one is the story about how a 5th grader noticed something wrong on an exhibit at the Smithsonian. The sad thing is people working within the Smithsonian had noticed it too, but it took someone from outside the system to make them fix it. Hooray for bureaucracy!

This story is about two women who are divorcing the same man. They are working within their culture's limitations to assert their rights. Since it technically has to be the man who initiates the divorce, they figured if they teamed up and asked for a divorce it'd be near impossible for him to turn them down. Strength in numbers!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Worshiping what's wrong with us

A baby girl was born in India with two faces, and is not only surprisingly healthy, but is being worshiped as a Hindu deity.
Another little girl from India who had been born with multiple limbs is doing well after surgery to remove the extra limbs and repair internal organs.
And then just because my Professor Joan Stevenson has resparked my interest in this subject, I wanted to post a couple of articles about having a "disorder"
The benefits of ADD
Some good characteristics associated with dyslexia
Martin Luther King Jr.'s struggle with depression

Monday, April 7, 2008


Seattle, the closest big city to me, is one of ten cities that is part of the Solar City plan.
This is anthropological only in the sense of the "How are we supposed to keep ourselves alive for the next 100 years" question.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The homo antecessor in Spain falls mainly on the plain

Doesn't have quite the same ring to it as the song.

Anyway, really, really old bones, the oldest known humanoid fossil found yet. In Spain! Odd, to say the least.

Documented and Democratized

This article in Newsweek really got me started thinking about this idea of the "Millenial" generation (post 1982, so I JUST missed the cut) as being over-documented, over-exposed, lack of privacy, democratization of information, lack of understanding of copyright and ownership laws, and how technologies like the Internet and cell phones have existed for as long as they've been aware enough to notice (although I still remember my mom being really excited about getting the Internet and me being disappointed because I couldn't find any games).
I know everyone says "this" generation is new and like nothing they've seen before, but "this" generation really IS like nothing we've seen before. It's like the first generation of colonists born in the American Colonies way back when. Sure their parents gave them this new land and brought them up in these new frontiers, but these kids were immersed in it from the moment they set foot outside, and all the while trying to adapt their parents' cultures and customs to this new reality.
I am fascinated to see what this generation, who has no fear or apprehension of technology, who is used to reality TV and learning physical discipline like parkour off the internet, and texting people while hanging out with other people, will come up with on their own, how they adapt their grandparents belief systems to this new way of living. This generation is also a lot more international, and yet not necessarily internationally aware, than previous generations. What exactly will go down? Stay tuned!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Interesting phenomenon, would love feedback

Carol Barron of Dublin City University told me this story at The Association for the Study of Play annual conference a few weeks ago:

When she was a nurse working in a middle eastern country a few years ago, she was married and yet had no children. The first wives would bring their children in to be examined, and bring the third or fourth wife along to. They would ask her if she was married, then if she had children, and when she said no they would be sad and cluck their tongues and say "oh, so sad, no children, no children."
The Muslim women were not allowed to take birth control, yet birth control pills was still sold in their country for the non-Muslims. And when the first wives would wander off, the third or fourth wife would pull birth control pills from under their berqua and whisper "no children, children" with a smile.
The fact that these women were able to subvert their culture like this first without getting caught and second without any real concern of getting caught fascinated me. I'd love to hear more from other people who have heard or seen similar experiences of subversion of oppressive culture in this way.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Guys are clueless, and we're cool with that.

This study done by Indiana University's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences says that guys are clueless when it comes to women's visual cues when trying to determine whether the woman is being friendly, sexual, sad, or rejecting.
Traditionally the argument has been that guys interpret every cue from women as a sexual advance. The researchers say that guys misinterpreted both friendly and sexual cues, so therefore they're just clueless or less able to communicate all around.
I'm still not convinced. I still think there's a biological advantage for men who misinterpret cues as sexual, whether the cues are or not. Maybe these college age kids weren't as sexually aggressive as others. Maybe men are intimidated by women in this new age of political correctness. I also imagine it has to do with the context. If a woman flashes a man a small at the bar versus the library, what is he going to think?

In another study, researchers found that people who are socially awkward make the best long-term mates (score one for the nerds!).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hot people unite!

This study is nothing new, but the article discusses the phenomenon of how people of equal levels of attractiveness will typically pair off as mates. There are some interesting observations tucked within the article.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Review: The Association for the Study of Play Conference

I am currently sitting in the airport on my way home from the 34th annual conference for The Association for the Study of Play (TASP), held in sunny Tempe, AZ.
I gave a presentation about how parkour is a form of grown-up freeform play, as opposed to soccer or working out at the gym. Freeform or "unstructured" play is something you see kids do all the time, but grown-ups generally stop doing it all together. Parkour does not, and instead encourages grown-ups to keep that kid spirit of finding play in every aspect of your environment, and seeing play as important as work or leisure.
But enough about me, onto the conference. Most of the conference was dominated by early childhood development researchers (0-5 years old), and how play is beneficial to them. Which is great, I'm all for it. However, that sort of meant that left the rest of us anthropologists, sociologists, pirmatologists, psychologists, older kid play specialists, and other researchers out on our own. We were heard, for sure, but the conference was truly dominated by them; there were only seven sessions out of 21 that didn't feature early childhood studies (this count includes workshops and panels).
But all moaning aside, it was a great conference, for one thing because you didn't have to explain why you were studying play, or why it was important/beneficial/worth studying/etc. I reluctantly stayed through Saturday for the session on the use of digital photography in play studies, and it was the best session of the whole event. Two of the women were doing exactly what I'd like to do as a study and research focus (namely giving people (kids) cameras as learning and research tools and see what they come up with). Unfortunately, neither of them good answer exactly what they were going to do with their research once it was done. Dr. Laurelle Phillips had expanded the use of cameras at her school to other classrooms, but the school was located on her university so they could afford to buy three cameras per classroom. Doctoral candidate Carol Borran wasn't sure what she was going to do with her work other than get her thesis. I spent the majority of Saturday talking with her and Dr. Pat Broadhead, and they were wonderful, both encouraging me to take time off from my research studies but also pursue a doctoral degree in my area of study. Dr. Broadhead said I could be Professor of Playful Spaces, which I must admit does sound cool. Usually the whole reason to go to conferences is to network, and while I regret I really didn't get into it until the very last day, I got to see some amazing research and speaking with those two women was wonderful; just to hear their attitude about things, to get an outsider's view of American attitudes to policy and pushing back against "the man."
There was a paper I wished I'd seen but was canceled, which was a study of portrayal of masculinity through MMA fighting.
I got some good sun, good experience presenting (I think this was the first time ever I wasn't really nervous going up and presenting in front of a group. I almost wondered what was wrong with me), and some good brain stimulation. So all in all good stuff.
For now I will leave you with a meditative question from the chair of the conference, Dr. David Kuschner: "If there is a toy in the woods and there is no one to play with it, is it really a toy?"

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Power of communication: "In My Language"

This video, which I found on the blog neuroanthropology, was created by a woman who is severely autistic. The first three minutes show the woman interacting with her environment, and then the woman, through typing on the computer, provides a translation of what she describes as her native language. She is severely critical of people who do not understand and appreciate how she views the world and who call her non-communicative.

This video is fascinating to me on so many levels (warning: possible spoilers). Watching her behavior from a psychologists' standpoint is interesting with observing her self-stimulating behavior and how her mind is processing all this. But it also from a visual anthropology perspective. She chose to include these specific examples of her language in the movie, and even though she explicitly says they do not symbolize anything in particular, I wonder why these were chosen. Why did she choose to use a visual format to explain herself? Was this video made originally for Youtube, or some other audience? There is obvious editing, and not so much a storyline but definite parts to the movie. How did she decide on this structure, and who helped her, if anyone? Did anyone else film her (from what I can tell I don't think so). How was she aided in this project? She gives credits at the end of her film, but they're all thanks as opposed to assigned jobs.

From a communication studies and linguistics perspective, she's challenging the definition of language. She argues that she has a discourse (several, actually) with her environment, with the objects in her house; they even get a credit at the end of the film. She also uses the "dominant language," as she describes it, to explain herself and language and berate those who do not appreciate hers for what it is.

She also points out that most of us would probably not look at her on the street, or deliberately look away, which is absolutely correct, which makes a great statement about humans' fear of the different, "disabled," and unknown.
(end spoilers)

So a really interesting video on many levels, and I'm sorry my visual anthropology class is essentially over this quarter because I think it'd be great to show to the class and have them discuss it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

More remote sensing

A new collection of Mayan ruins has been discovered deep in the Guatemalan jungles thanks to satellite imaging.

And you were using it to watch T.V.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Technology: old and new

Where does the time go? Not into sleeping, I'll tell you that much. Here are a few of the lovely tidbits I've picked up in the past month, all with a technology/innovation theme:

First pair of ice skates discovered.

A 2300-year-old shipwreck carrying wine cargo was also discovered.

The Lemelson center for the study of innovation and invention. Makes the argument that science, technology, innovation, invention, and play are all connected (we've established this already, but for all the slow-learning, non-innovators out there, there is this). I actually found a whole bunch of groups that were working on this same idea -
a collection of sci tech museums, conferences, and several academic groups. There is definitely a trend to combine computer science studies with creativity.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Time to Get Opinionated

Nothing worth doing an entire blog about, but just some stuff I needed to get off my chest:

Discourse analysis and semiotic analysis for that matter are much, much, much too broad and loosey goosey to be of much use. If you believe Foucault that EVERYTHING can be a discourse, then you'll spend your entire life trying to determine if every thought you share or action you take is your own creation or just another discourse that has been ingrained into you. Semiotics is a different story in that you can say anything symbolizes anything, but you end up in the same pickle.

Power DOES exist, thank you very much.

There needs to be a word that describes the study of Family Structure in Archaeology. Maybe I just coined it, I'll have to look it up.

Graduate school is very time consuming, and while I love it, I wish I could afford to be a starving college student so I had more time to work on my schoolwork (I say this while writing in my blog instead of doing my reading), because they expect you read (ahem *skim*) so freakin' much! And fit in research papers and thesis work at the same time.

Anthropology needs to be a more holistic approach. There, I said it. Maybe I'm taking too much of a "four fields" approach, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about, maybe I'm oversimplifying, whatever, but I say that the study of human beings needs to be an integrated study, looking at all aspects of being human, bones to brains, and separation of biological from cultural from physical from linguistic anthropology is going about things all wrong. We need integration of the disciplines, we're supposed to be studying human beings as a whole, not looking at bits and pieces and then arguing about how these bits and pieces are the one truth, or how they obviously don't fit together, so the other bits and pieces must be wrong. ACK!

The U.S. Government is making it harder and harder to leave, visit, work, or even share ideas with the U.S. So much for freedom and liberty and international ambassador-ness and all that.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Man single-handedly building replica of Stonehenge

This guy in Michigan is successfully experimenting with ways of moving several ton blocks into a Stonehenge-like formation.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Some links to get your brain churning in the new year

First is an interesting blog I stumbled upon, and it may become part of my list:

Next is an article that by itself isn't so wow-zowy, but the fact that they are addressing the issue of just how important movement is to children's development is wonderful.

Finally, I stumbled upon this program whose soul purpose is to get teachers to use puppets more in their teaching arsenal. Too cool!