Letter of Intent, A Philosophical Story, and Those Crazy Hobbits

Hi all,

I have all-but finished the letter of intent. I will be hand delivering it, along with a 25-page writing sample, late tomorrow morning. Hopefully, as long as the last letter of recommendation makes it in, I should make the funding deadline.

I was originally going to post the completed letter here, but after some discussions with other folks, I am wondering if that is such a good idea. I do not think someone would steal the ideas themselves; I would be surprised to find anyone else who wants to take on this immense task. However, the paper itself could be plagiarized. What I mean is that if someone needed a paper for a particular social science class, they may take the letter and hand it in for credit. It would be kind of like those pay-for-paper website, just as a free-bee.

Infact, I have seen that very thing happen before when a colleague was TA-ing for a Philosophy class. The Professor had assigned the class a paper on a particular subject. Right now I forget what that subject was, but lets call it Modern American Philosophy. One student in the TA's section handed in a paper where the body was composed of Ancient Greek Philosophy (and was extremely well-written), and only the introduction and conclusion mentioned the assigned topic (and the spelling and grammar were atrocious). When I was shown the paper I immediately saw what the student had done. They found paper on Philosophy and simply added a brief paragraph on the Modern American Philosophy at the beginning and at the end, thereby trying to pass it off. How was I able to prove this had occurred? Well, it took me about 15 seconds of searching on the web. Using a search engine, I typed in the first sentence of the second paragraph and BAMM found the original paper written by a Ph.D. holding Professor at another university. Somehow, I do not think a person who already has a doctorate in Philosophy is going to take an undergraduate introductory class in that same subject. Of course, you may wonder why someone would risk their college career? Most schools have a zero tolerance policy on plagiarism (you either fail the class, or are completely kicked out of the university). In this case it was simple, there was no interest in pursuing the student, despite the obvious guilt. To me this sends a clear message, it is okay to steal others ideas and writings without credit. While I think knowledge itself should be freely distributed, the attribution of credit is crucial. I do wonder what this lax attitude will do to the academic world?

The upshot is that I will not post the whole letter of intent. However, I may post some excerpts, may the wrap-up from the last paragraph.

On a different note, I found an article on the BBC News website, which also has some interesting, if negative, insights into the research world. And, you will notice that I have given full recognition as to the original source of this material, it is amazing how easy it actually is to give credit.

Hobbit cave digs set to restart

The Archaeologists who found the remains of human "Hobbits" have permission to restart excavations at the cave where the specimens were found.

Click on the Above Text for the Original Article or Read More Right HereCollapse )

Letter of Intent, Kid’s Museum Exhibit, Darwin Day Update

Greeting all,

I am close to finishing the revision of the third version of the Letter of Intent. I am relatively happy with this current rendering. I have had a lot of input from other folks (which is appreciated) and I think I have been able to fix some minor (but nagging) issues. Once I complete this, I will probably post it here.

I spent most of the rest of today working on the exhibits for the Children’s Museum. I am pleased with how they have turned out, considering the limited time and budget. I will post some pictures when I have time (and when I have actually taken said photos). However, I can tell you that in total I have mounted a megalodon tooth replica, a manatee rib replica, three manatee rib fossil fragments, a partial mammoth tooth, a juvenile mastodon tooth, and an atl-atl (that is in addition to the material already delivered to the Kids Museum). These items are all on primary color backgrounds, ensuring that they do not blend into the scenery. The associated signage is almost ready too (and that will be posted here at some point). While this exhibit is under the umbrella of the PBMNH, it has been more a personal project to actually discover by doing. All in all, I am quite thrilled and I believe I have learned something too.

Finally, early this morning I responded to an email from the organizer of this year’s Darwin Day event. They want me to do something on the ‘physical evidence,’ which must be related to the fact that I have studied physical anthropology (and probably not because I used to enjoy some of the games in physical education back in school). While I have yet to really work on the lecture I will be giving, I had some general ideas that I laid out in this excerpt from the email:

I have not had a chance to finalize and write down details yet, but I should be able to do a few good things with the 'physical evidence.' What comes immediately to mind is a general introduction to Selection, with a brief mention of the need for Variation, along with Artificial and Sexual Selection. Once everyone is up to speed, it would be followed by in-depth examples of Natural Selection drawn from several areas (Darwin's finches, Neanderthals, etc). I would also like to include one genetic-level example (Cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell disease, etc), because I think it is important to show how well Darwin’s work melds with modern Genetics. The conclusion must end on Universal Common Decent, because I have always found the interconnection of all life to be a powerful concept (which might dovetail well into the later talk on the ‘tree of life’).

Indeed, probably about half of this material will be adapted from my extant Neanderthal lecture, and a further portion from other general Evolution talks I have previously given. Despite these already prepared elements, I do plan to do some intensive reading over the weekend. You never know what new information might be out there.

GCAS Cookout: Photos

Hello all,

Here are the photos from our recent GCAS cookout in the park.


We arrived at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in the later morning to start setting up. As you can see we brought coolers, instant grills, atl-atls, spears, and a cricket set.

The instant grills worked fantastically. We had hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken all grilled to perfection.

Almost the instant we put the food on the grill, we had a visitor. Unfortunately, this raccoon was too accustomed to human presence, and we guessed others must have fed him in the past.

After we ate we decided it was time for some fun and games. First, we tried out the atl-atl (spear-thrower). It took a little bit of practice, but some of us were getting both decent distance and accuracy.

We did have one small disaster involving a spear. The atl-atl was able to throw this spear with enough force to cause it to snap in half when it hit the ground.

We all took turns at cricket; although, we used a tennis ball because we didn’t want out-of-control cricket balls injuring anyone.

All in all, it was a great day out.

Children’s Museum Delivery 1: Photos

Hello all,

As promised, here are some shots of the first lot of material we took over to the Kid’s Museum in preparation for the upcoming exhibit. You can also see the packages of bulk fossils that we are going to offer for sale to the kids. I also took some pictures of where we are putting in this little installation. Although, there will be another case put in before we are finished, and both of these cases will be fronted with plexi-glass. Still, I think it is a good corner.



Letter Update and European Hominins

Hello one and all,

I am still working on that letter thing. As this point I realize that I have been calling it a variety of different names, including a Letter of Intent, a Statement of Purpose, a Statement of Intent, and a Letter of Purpose. At least it seems I am more settled on what I actually want to say vs. what it is called. I wrote a first draft that got to about 40% complete before I pulled the plug. It was just not flowing properly, so I took the basic structure and one or two complete sentences and started again. The good news is that as of right now I am at about 80% on the second draft. I hope to have a complete draft done tonight or early tomorrow morning. At that point I am going to send it out to a few people for review.

On a different note, I found an interesting article on the BBC News website.

European skull's evolving story

The earliest modern humans in Europe were short of being the complete article, according to a study of a fossilised skull from Romania. The 35,000-year-old cranium discovered in Pestera cu Oase in the west of the country shows an interesting mix of features, say scientists. Whilst undeniably a Homo sapiens specimen, it has some traits normally associated with more ancient species.

Click on the Above Text for the Original Article or Read More Right HereCollapse )

Email: Article Submission Follow-Up

Hello all,

I am still hard at work on my Statement of Purpose for the Ph.D. program. It is taking a while to collect my thoughts and truly capture them in the written word. However, I do have some good news. Do you all remember the article I submitted to The Florida Anthropologist a few months back? Well, today I got a status update via email, and I thought I would share it with you (notwithstanding the necessary edits for privacy).

(first paragraph deleted for discretion)

The status of your article:

I DID receive it and have turned it over for comments to ONE reviewer. I have requested reviews from two other folks and hope to hear from them soon. In addition to my own comments, I am looking for at least two sets of peer reviews for each submitted article before I send comments back to the authors.

So your article is still pending, but progress is being made. Additionally, I've read through the article and I am looking forward to having it published. I think it is a nice contribution and I would like to include it...(small section deleted for confidentiality)...for a March publication date.

All in all, that seems quite positive to me.

A Busy Time: Images, Cookout, Ph.D.


Y'all are very lucky, because you will be getting two large image gallery posts sometime in the future: 1) the already mentioned first delivery of artifacts for the Children's Museum of Boca Raton exhibit, and 2) photos from the first Gold Coast Anthropological Society cookout in the park. The park we went to was Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, which is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. We had a great time there, and we did some ‘cultural’ activities including how to use an atl-atl, how to play English cricket, and how to make fire (aka how to light those pesky charcoal brickets). And, there is even more to come, because there is a Video-Blog of the cookout on its way.

Just do not expect any of the above that quickly. Why? Because, right now I am busy writing a statement of intent for my application to the Comparative Studies Ph.D. program at FAU. I already have 2 of the 3 letter of recommendation, the writing sample, I meet and/or exceed the minimum GRE/GPA, and I have had several productive meetings with professors in the program; so I am cautiously positive. I will probably post a copy of (at least parts of) the statement of intent, because I plan to outline my envisioned course of research into the pre-contact Floridians. As to if that is part of a doctoral program, or via some other means, that remains to be seen.

Children's Museum Exhibit: First Delivery

Hello all,

I took some pieces over to the Children's Museum today. It is probably about 1/3 of the total amount of material that will be going on display. I have more photos to share, but for now this one will have to do. This is the staging area, but I have some shots of the exhibit area too. I just need the time to edit and upload them.


Children's Museum Publicity

Hello all,

Earlier I stated that I intended to edit and upload a large series of photos concerning the new material. Interestingly, the following photos include shots of some of that new material, but these are not the photos I promised you. These images and associated blurbs are the result of an email contact from the Children's Museum requesting material for publicity of the upcoming exhibit: The Prehistory of South Florida. The other larger image gallery of the new material will follow once I have some spare time.


The large curving piece is a replica rib from a modern Florida manatee,
whereas the small fragments are fossilized ribs demonstrating the deep history of these animals in our state's waters.

This replica shark's tooth is from the extinct Megalodon.
At over 7 inches long, that is almost an inch bigger than the greatest Great White Shark.

One section of the coming exhibit will focus on the animals eaten by the original Floridians.
These meals included fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, birds, and even shellfish like these clams.

Both the Mammoth and the Mastodon were hunted by the earliest Native Floridians.
This fossil fragment represents about a half of the total size of a single tooth from a Mammoth.

Archaeologists can date a site by the time marker artifacts that are present.
For example, the discovery of these Glades Tooled pottery sherds would demonstrate a calendar date circa A.D. 1400-1700.

Quick Replicas Update and Ph.D.

Hello all,

I have two quick things that I want to share with you. 1) The replica material from Bone Clones made it today. I have taken a lot of photos, and I plan to edit and upload them when I have a chance. 2) I had a meeting with Dr. Susan L. Brown, who is the Director of the Comparative Studies Ph.D. over at FAU. The application process is long and involved, so it is not like I got a definitive yes today, but the good news is that I did not get a no. I have to meet with several other folks in the program, and send in a large slew of documents (application, GRE scores, letter of recommendation, transcripts, etc), but at least everything is going in the right direction.