Monday, November 28, 2016


I'm still working hard!

I had been doing a good job of working out weekly, but the start of cold weather has discouraged me a bit. I'm trying to get back into it. I've been eating well -- lots of good home cooked meals with veggies or delicious comfort food. Taking vitamin C and eating broccoli has kept me safe from the perils of colds at the start of the fall students return. I've also gotten the office a supply of anti-cold defense: cough drops, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes. Working hard takes a lot of strength so I want to build that up and preserve what I already have.

I'm taking a class at Boston University. Completing the homework is hard some weeks, but I'm trying to focus on studying rather than just vegging out.

Still, it's a long process. The adjustment to working after work is hard! I didn't realize it, but I do put a lot of effort in during the day. I'm hoping that pushing myself will pay off.

Also, I'm going to try my best to work towards a promotion. I took a training on personal branding! We did an activity of coming up with 3 adjectives that would describe the unique way we tackle the tasks in our job. Mine were:

  1. Proactive
  2. Straightforward
  3. Innovative
I based these on a lot of the ideas that I bring to the table. The fact that I volunteer my ideas and ask questions is part of being proactive. My proactive skill is that I like to sit in the chair of another role, trying to understand what they need, and then actually ask a person in that role (or with insight and experience) if that idea would really be helpful. Usually I approach new tasks with a lot of background research and I bring new ideas with a specific example in mind to help both myself and others evaluate the use of my idea. 

I also thought that my place at the start of my career should be turned into a positive. I think that my youth can lead to me being straightforward. Sights seen before are new to my fresh eyes; I'm willing to suggest things that have been overlooked or dismissed but now are tenable. Sometimes I am unaware of the bureaucracy that make new ideas difficult, making me ideal for the bravery needed to bring up new ways of doing things. Once I encounter the challenge of entrenched protocols, I can be honest and straightforward about why I want to change things.

Finally, for innovation: I love to read lots and lots of things. I take a little time each week to try to combine my ideas, fluttering about based on my reading, experience, and frustrations. Maybe it's the upside of laziness, but I am always looking for ways to make my life easier. If I can streamline or automate a process - oh that is the best! By taking ideas from many places but grounding them in my experience, I'm able to come up with new ideas. Better yet, I keep up with the innovation that others in my field are pursuing. I apply my own engineering thought process to them in order to find areas of improvement and matching areas of implementation. 

Truly, I'm working hard. I am trying to downsize the junk in my life and upsize the joy. That does take work, but I feel that it pays off. Already, I'm amazed by how far I've come in just a few years. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Archaeology and Analysis

Archaeology and Analysis: Intro

The typical steps to studying organic residues are extraction, instrumentation, and interpretation. Extraction is the removal of the residue from the artifact. The removal of residues can be done through a selection of solvent, temperature and pressure. Instrumentation is the process of separating the removed residue into parts. Chromatograph was the main example used in lecture of 3.985, with gas and mass methods being used depending on the sample. Interpretation is the process of identifying and analyzing the residue’s constituent parts.

Ideal and Aged

The ideal situation would be comparable to the finger print database, where the chromatograph can be compared with a large library of known materials to create a reliable identification without much effort. This is the end goal of ARCHEM. However, ancient materials are quite different from the recently collected samples. For interpretation, there is a balance between achieving a perfect match and the reality of material’s degradation. Due to this, the fragmentation pattern is the most useful technique. Additionally, the analysis of these trace amounts is quite advanced, using isotopes and chemical ratios to date. Combined with ARCHEM, the process of extraction, instrumentation, and interpretation are the method for studying organic residues.

Example: Lipids in Pottery

Lipids that have been left in pottery can be compared against modern samples. Lipids are good for analysis because they are fairly stable since they’re C based and are insoluble in water. This means that they stick around, although there is some degrading. Archaeologists can find how domestication has affected human diet by the introduction of milk. The challenge is that fatty acids are not enough to determine the presence of milk. Also, lipids in pottery can mix; it’s not clear the order that the organic commodity was introduced to the pottery. You can read more about the methods of this example here. However lipids remain a useful material to be focused on with tools of analysis of porous materials like pottery.
 Investigations of vessels dating from the Neolithic period show that biomolecular information, i.e. the structures, distributions, and particularly compound specific d 13 C values derived from individual acyl lipids, can be used to distinguish between subcutaneous fats of the most important classes of domesticated animals exploited by ancient man.
-- New Criteria for the Identification of Animal Fats Preserved in Archaeological Pottery, by Evershed, H. R. Mottram, S.N. Dudd, S. Charters, A. W. Stott, G. J. Lawrence (1997)


The broad implication of studying organic commodities is a movement toward a holistic approach to analysis. By layering information gained through different aspects of analysis and the environment, a better understanding of ancient societies can be found.  The study of organic commodities suggests that a holistic approach would be more useful to approaching archaeological sites and their analysis. For the selection of site on to the preservation of ARCHEM samples, a range of disciplines is necessary. The analytical methods must match the goals of the investigation as informed by a historic background of the culture.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Dog Town and Skater Culture: Commentary

Arianna McQuillen
Essay 1: Documentary

Subcultures have different values than the mainstream culture, but remain connected to the larger society. Different subcultures reveal different and morphing forms of alienation from the mainstream due to the continued relationship to the larger culture. The documentary covers the development of skateboarding out of surfing in the low income town of Dog Town. Interspersed with black and white interviews and old low-fi footage of skating moves, the documentary focuses on a few key skaters who developed a distinctive style. The Zephyr team was composed of several members who inspired each other to develop more unique styles, pressuring each other to translate surfing moves to concrete. The documentary reflects some of the concepts of aesthetic, economic class, racial blindness, and resistance in a particular instance of 1970s Southern California youth subculture.

Dogtown and Z-Boys focused on the aesthetic and competitive nature of the skate and surf culture. The skater subculture relied on masculinity. Masculinity bound together these young people, mainly young white men. They gathered together in order to enact their burgeoning masculinity, proving in escalating skating feats and escaping other looming masculine forces like the police or abusive fathers. The method of setting up courses to challenge each other created a binary way to measure adherence to the ideal of prowess while the discussions of style bring a subjective narrative of artistic merit. In addition to a competitive nature, the Dogtown Boys focused on pushing individual athletic limits and promoting each other as an ideal male hero who is able to innovate alone through innate genius. Jay Adams is referred to specifically as “the youngest and most naturally gifted.” The talk of warfare, genius, and rivalry all fit into hegemonic masculinity. These narratives are in conflict. The hero of warfare needs a nation to defend but the hero cannot accept a revolt from within his ranks. The tension of these narratives is clear in the shifting social focus on the groups between collective business, individual success, and teamwork. Following: most of the skaters are men. The two adults who run the Zephyr team are men and the one female member named in the documentary, Peggy Oki, is described as “skating like a guy.” To be a member of a subculture that prided masculine competition, her activities in the culture had to be defined apart from her female-sexed body. Despite the documentary’s focus on the spread of skate culture through the United States, gender and the lack of female members is an important sociological aspect.

The Dogtown Boys come from the same city, united in low economic class status. Skaters and surfers alike protect the dry pools and abandoned theme parks that became their cultural site. Locals resist encroachment from outsiders, especially those from higher economic class status. For example, poor skaters invading the private property of expensive homes to attain access to pools is a mark of concrete warfare. The skaters further antagonize the police, admitting that they couldn’t afford the fines that their trespassing would cost them and their family. The older men harken to their shared difficulties, coming from broken homes and non-valedictorian status. Both masculinity and shared experience of poverty bound the developers of skate culture together with a focus on developing a positive sense of style and identity.

Despite taking place in the 70s, the documentary makes no mention of political changes around race. While some skaters have racial markers, such as Tony Alva, a white passing man with dreds, or the Asian American skaters such as Oki and Jeff Ho, most are blond blue-eyed white men. The single black man shown in the documentary is Marty Grimes. The documentary overlays Jimi Hendrix’s “Freedom” over imagery of Jay Adam’s natural white talent, and does so with no trace of irony over glorifying supposed inherent white talent in a song commemorating the recent ending of segregation as sung by a self-styled black man who carefully controlled the racial aspects of his public musical character. The members who have this shared identity also make claims of legitimacy apart from race. To begin with, the documentary adopts the visual language of those it depicts: black and white photos, grainy footage, contemporary musical tone. These same claims to legitimacy are untenable for black participants as evidenced by their exclusion and the commodification of black subcultures outside of their political meaning towards race. The dreadlock is not merely a styling implement nor Hendrix a singer; these are potent symbols within 1970s black subcultures within America but their meaning is obscured by the flattening of color. The claim of legitimacy is that of racial blindness, carefully eliding racial upheaval and meaning in the background of skater subcultures in order to appeal to a presumed white audience.

The documentary covers the development of a new subculture, a resistance focused on a shared experience of poverty and athleticism. A subculture based on ignoring differences in social privilege in the larger culture is doomed for failure: with economic pressure the skaters broke apart for their individual gain. Future alternative or punk subcultures must tackle concurrent issues in order to create a sustainable base. Individual accomplishment or single-issue solidarity are not enough; punk rock ethos rely on whole hearted trust.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Photographic production in Salpetriere and sanatoriums

Intro: Automaton 

There is a construction of what a mental illness is, a rationality of how to describe the illness, and a way of recognizing it in others. This construction continues to develop in the iterations of the DSMV. Generally, mental illness is a narrative of symptoms as actions as basis as a perception of flawed relationships with other originating in the patient subject. Women in mental asylums in the 19th century were described as mentally ill using automatism. Automatism was directed towards women in asylums as part of a larger social construction of both the role of mental illness in society and the roles of women in society; automatism was regulatory. The meaning of automatism allowed for normative standards of masculine observation to bring the female objects into both a descriptive codification and an ideal of self-regulating motion. The development of the medical portrait at Holloway Sanatorium in 1885, using photography to diagnose mental illness demonstrates how men utilized automatism as part of a particular epistemology and method to correct ways of knowing. The mechanical process of the imaging and image evaluation by doctors created an addition mimetic response to the imagery produced by a mimetic device for diagnosis.


This construction of mental illness limited agency; proportional reaction to abuse and resistance to institutional subjugation was described as irrational and pathological by male abusers and female handmaidens. More so, the actions taken were described as both innate and automatic. Women, trapped in the sanatorium, asylum, and hospital, were subjected to treatments that created the patterns of behavior fitting the pathologies ascribed during admission. The photos of women under duress pantomiming respectability in medical portraits mirror the noble paintings of women exemplifying a constructed hysteria for the consumption of medical elite and the public. "Un Lecon Clinique a la Salpetriere" (1887) by Andre Briouillet exemplifies an early iteration of the panopticon in action of displaying while producing the woman suffering automatism.


Some current art production pushes against this construction. Anna Scheliet's work "Bloom" existed not only temporarily as an installation of 28,000 flowers in the space of a mental institution to be demolished but also after the building as the potted plants were delivered to shelters, halfway houses, and other hospitals. Displaying the austerity of the hospital, the installation drew attention to the construction of an austere space that disconnects people. Further, the redistribution of the plants was intended to treat the malaise of separation rather than an admitting illness into the institutional framework. I'd like to find other examples of women's artistic production within mental institutions and folk art on the subject.


The mental illness is constructed as a removal of the individual from rational or discursive possibilities, a construction developed in the asylum. For this removal to be maintained but the connection to the wider society maintained, the individual must be captured in another format of description that cannot be questioned: the automaton offers a speedy and habitual route to quantified description. The epistemology of what mental illness is, how to recognize it, and how to treat it, has left behind symbols in the artistic production of the 19th century.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ivy League Zombie or Nah?

I was reading this blog and I am kind of love-hating it. I can't stand the extreme of the rhetoric, but I also agree with some of the core ideas. I feel the same way about this blog as I do about Jill Stein. I like the jist of it - y'know caring about children and the earth, but I really wish it wasn't so weirdly anti-vaccine and anti-science.
Parents today emphasize results over effort and learning. They discourage kids from participating in activities that "won't look good" on their college application. They hire tutors, email teachers and schedule meetings with the principal to insulate kids from ever failing. This means that our young adults are unable to deal with failure.
I like the idea of children being able to play outside and travel alone 4-8 blocks at an early age. But I don't like the complete disregard for those who live in crime-heavy environments or lack the environment safe for an unsupervised young child. Growing up with neglect and then interacting with Department of Family Services, I can see how quickly this could lead to an investigation or indicate serious neglect for the child. But that's just one example.
In the desire for strong language and decisive examples, the logic and reasonableness of her arguments just kind of... falls apart. Especially if you have recently been in the environment she describes.
They tell their kids that studying is what it takes to get into a good college, which is what it takes to get a "good job" -- which, for over 50% of the nation's top graduates, means one of five things: med school, law school, grad school, consulting or finance.
If you've ever met a graduate student, then you probably know that this is a young person with an extreme amount of motivation and also a casual relationship with a plethora of academic fields. Some of the women I know pursuing graduate school took time to work at a start up before beginning their academic work while others have a resume of exciting travel experiences. Still more have explored dozens of career fairs and information sessions while pursuing their degree and a minor in a related field. All of the women I know in college for undergrad and graduate have pursued their interests in addition to focusing on high grades in their core curricula. Notably grad school isn't a cohesive single career, much less a pursuit that stymies independent learning. Similarly, consulting is a very broad description of careers that can cross over several fields of study. Many students from a range of fields prepare for the consulting interviews. (BTW: The questions and guestimations of consulting interviews are super fun to do drunk.) There's a lot more in this chart than just 5 dull boxes for everyone to fit into.

Pretty notable to me is the focus and idealization of start ups. Not all start ups succeed and those that do often rely on a strong foundation of privilege and economic cushion. One of my roommates spent a long time, hours and hours, into a start up. While she enjoyed the many hats she could wear while finishing her last semester at MIT, she also recognized that she was putting in far more work than she was paid for. She felt it was worth it due to the service her start up would provide if it made it to market, but we have to recognize that not all start ups make it to market and the dangers of a repeat Dot Com bubble. 
Similarly, not all people enjoy start up culture. We can't all found our own company.
This sentiment seems like part of the "Do what you love" platitude that lots of college graduation speeches trot out.
DWYL, however, was the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. In his graduation speech to the Stanford University Class of 2005, Jobs recounted the creation of Apple and inserted this reflection:
You’ve got to find what you love.
In these four sentences, the words “you” and “your” appear eight times. This focus on the individual isn’t surprising coming from Jobs, who cultivated a very specific image of himself as a worker: inspired, casual, passionate—all states agreeable with ideal romantic love [...]
“Do what you love” disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is a privilege, a sign of socioeconomic class. Even if a self-employed graphic designer had parents who could pay for art school and co-sign a lease for a slick Brooklyn apartment, she can bestow DWYL as career advice upon those covetous of her success.
I might just have had a strange cohort, but the students I knew doing the coolest things - activist or physically active - were also the ones putting in heavy hours memorizing material and getting As.
Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.
--Ivy League are over rated
Further, those of us who were most hounded by pressure from parents in high school found college to be a welcome relief. By moving across the country, we were able to set our own priorities and determine our independence for the first time. The Ivy League setting meant that our hovering parents or instilled anxieties could be satisfied with the environment and the support system entailed. In the latter half of her examples, the author admits that many of the creatives began with a stereotypical career or academic path: the tried and true background provides a fall back for the creative risk taking. And as the original article purports: young people today are strapped with anxiety as we shuffle in the same direction. But the Ivy Leagues, while bastions of privilege and ivory towers of academia, offer a green house perfected collection of the diversity of the world. With study abroad being covered by tuition and grans and international students around every dorm hall, the Ivy Leagues are actually great for prompting curiosity and adventure. If some students graduate without experiencing those moments of exploration, it seems more likely that it reflects the students and not the institution.
On the subject of institutions, both articles mention the pressure students feel. The narrow pathway to a job. 
The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error. Once, a student at Pomona told me that she’d love to have a chance to think about the things she’s studying, only she doesn’t have the time. I asked her if she had ever considered not trying to get an A in every class. She looked at me as if I had made an indecent suggestion.
--Ivy League are over rated
What neither article mention is that these are part of larger institutional problems. Students strapped with large debt can't think of their education as an exploration, but as investment. Ivy League schools may have larger sticker prices, but they also have more funding and garner more scholarships than state schools. Jobs are scarce, especially for new graduates and the application process becomes more intense as websites scan resumes for industry key words and interviewers expect a plethora of unpaid experience. So too do the institutions that feed into the Ivy Leagues prime us towards fear: Standardized tests aren't exactly written to be fun explorations of liberal ideas. "From learning to commodify your experiences for the application, the next step has been to seek out experiences in order to have them to commodify" -- the article does capture a bit of the background that feeds into the colleges, but I find it strange that the author at once argues that students don't seek out new experiences and believe in a pre-established sense of self and that we do seek out experiences, but only so we can navel gazing-ly write about them and develop our identities around them. It's not the week long vacation that turns into an application that riddles us with anxiety. With an increasing focus on surveillance and security in high schools and a police force that has expanded outside of urban schools into the suburbs, the constant fear and self-vigilance should be expected. 
Let's turn to an example of this:
Kannokada had an engineering degree and fellowship under her belt. She had the privilege of good looks and the gut to take the risk of an acting career. But I'm sure she had the good sense to realize that very few first generation Indian women make it big in acting. So she prepared herself with a reliable and stable employment path.
We can be honest about the privileges necessary to make it at an Ivy League, but we can also be clear about the privileges built into the arguments of these critiques. Not everyone can have a Do What You Love job. Not everyone had a wonderful upbringing that makes college an easy ride or staying close to home appealing. Some parenting methods are only acceptable when enacted by a particular kind of person in a particular kind of environment.
Anyway, this article remains as conflicted as my relationship with Jill Stein. I read her speeches and find myself nodding along and irritated in equal measure. Finally, I never quite know if I'm going to write her name in or go for the standard bearing of lesser-evil. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Neon Gensis Evangelion: Lesbian Count

For one of my Women and Gender studies / Anthropology classes, I created this presentation. For the choice of topic, I wanted to focus on lesbian identity in Japanese media. Lesbian identities are often  commodified in products like yuri, comics that focus on lesbian relationships for the voyeuristic pleasure of a straight male audience. Neon Gensis Evangelion is interesting as a case study because the series is well known for the Girls - Rei and Asuka - along with the explict male relationship between Shinji and Kaworu. I wanted to refocus on the way that women related to each other, the way that lesbians could visualize their own sexualities within a hyper-popular narrative.

You can view the presentation here!

I wanted to utilized gifs to make the presentation visually exciting and dynamic rather than being a static background. I made this presentation right when Fun Home came out and won the Tony Awards. As far as the style, I also wanted to point out how much fandom and individual women's relationships with the story can expand it into something meaningful.

I am rewatching the show as I do periodically. Every time I watch the show, I find something new to get out of it. Rewatching now, I can relate more to Misato and Ritsuko. The complexities of their professional and personal live is more understood as I age.