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Blue Ra. [Jun. 15th, 2014|01:44 pm]
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Yesterday, I completed my first 10km race. It wasn't just any old race. It was Met Con Blue's 10km mountain obstacle race (Full Metal Jacket), although, for the most part, the obstacles were not difficult. The course itself was very difficult, though. I've raced on Blue Mountain before. It was my very first race two years ago, and it was a 5km race (although I suspect it was closer to 7km with the rerouting done due to trail conditions). The inclines are very steep, and it was every bit as difficult a climb as the nastier parts of the Inca Trail, except without the issues of altitude sickness. Read more...Collapse )
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Belly Dance with me! [May. 22nd, 2014|01:08 pm]
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Upcoming dance classes alert!

Tuesday night classes start May 27 at Aradia Fitness at 607 King Street West, Unit 5A, Kitchener (the strip mall with the LCBO!). Classes run from 6-7 pm. Small classes with heaps of one-on-one attention for total newbies on up.

$15+HST per class, or you can get a 10-class pass for $99.99, good for one year.

Clicky clicky to register.
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Gluten-Free Irish Soda Bread [May. 2nd, 2014|11:48 am]
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Gluten-free bread is often a disappointment. Even when it's good, it's almost always mediocre in comparison to "the real thing."

This recipe is an exception. It is genuinely delicious. I'm baking a loaf right now.

However, since there is soooo much almond in it, don't pig out on it, even though it's so yummy. I'll probably eat too much, anyway. Mmm.

I based my recipe off this one: Irish Soda Bread.
  • 2 ¾ cups blanched almond flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
  • ½ tablespoon hemp hearts (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • pinch of caraway seeds


  • Combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, raisins, sesame seeds, and hemp hearts in a large bowl.
  • In a smaller bowl combine eggs, honey, and apple cider vinegar
  • Mix wet ingredients into dry.
  • Put parchment paper on a baking sheet.
  • Dump batter on a piece of parchment paper and shape into a large, flat circle that is about 8" across and 1 ½" tall
  • Sprinkle top of bread with caraway seeds
  • Bake at 350° for 20 minutes, then turn off oven and leave bread in for 10 more minutes
  • Cool bread for ½ hour then slice and serve with butter and jam.
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An Introduction to Genetic Archaeology [Apr. 22nd, 2014|12:58 pm]
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(The final assignment for my archaeology class is to come up with an outline for a unit on a topic which was not already covered in the course. Here's my offering.)

After taking courses in both genetics and archaeology, I have become quite interested in research incorporating both. Genome mapping is one of archaeology's newest tools, and the information gathered in this way is fascinating.

Lecture 1: The Genome Treasure Map: GATC Marks the Spot

Genome mapping is being used as a sort of snapshot to study disease and heredity in long-dead people. So far, it has been used to learn more about only a few individuals and groups of people, but use of this tool is rapidly becoming more popular. The elite group of people whose genomes have been mapped includes a Spanish hunter gatherer, a Greenlandic Inuit, some Neanderthals, a Denisovan, Richard III (1), and Otzi the Iceman. Databases have been constructed for the genome sequences of Neanderthals (2) and Denisovans (3). With this technology, it may possible to determine characteristics of other extinct, ancient humans, too. One such group would be Homo floresiensis, the so-called "Hobbit" people of Indonesia (4).

The lecture would include the following basic information:
- what is genome mapping?
- how is DNA gathered from human remains
- what can be learned from this technique
- what has been learned about the people studied in this way

Recommended readings include:
- 'Startling and shocking': Key figures in the search for Richard III recount their reactions to the discovery of a skeleton at Grey Friars: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/media-centre/richard-iii/old-content/features/startling-and-shocking
- Richard III DNA tests to reveal hair, eyes and diseases of the King: http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/archaeology/art467401-Richard-DNA-tests-to-reveal-hair-eyes-diseases-King

Lecture 2: The Relationship Between Hunters/Gatherers, Farmers, and Animals

As for a second lecture topic, we have other uses of genetic research in conjunction with archaeology to investigate. The genetic records of domesticated animals and crops reveals not only information about the animals of the time, but also as to the prehistory of farming and domestication. This blurred line between wild animals and domesticated ones potentially shows a blurred line between hunter/gatherers and farmers. Recent genetic studies have demonstrated that hunters/gatherers coexisted in geographic areas with farmers.

The lecture could include:
- What genetic studies of animals reveals about people's prehistorical relationship with animals
- The relationship between farmers and hunter/gatherers as determined by genetic research
- What plant genetics tell us about domestication of crops

Recommended readings include:
- The story of animal domestication retold: http://www.geneticarchaeology.com/research/The_story_of_animal_domestication_retold.asp
- How Farming Reshaped our Genomes: http://news.sciencemag.org/archaeology/2014/01/how-farming-reshaped-our-genomes


Related Exercises:

1. What other ways has genetic research been used in archaeology?
2. What ethical concerns are there with the genetic testing of human remains?

Your answer should be should be between approximately 400 and 750 words (with 750 as a maximum).


Works Cited:
1. The Discovery of Richard III. https://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/
2. The Neandertal Genome. http://neandertal.ensemblgenomes.org/index.html
3. Denisovans, an ancient human group, have genome mapped. http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/the-ancient-human-genome-project-denisovan-dna-mapped/
4. New Fossils Help Bring Hobbit Humans to Life. http://news.discovery.com/human/evolution/new-fossils-hobbit-face-13010.htm
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My Two Cents' Worth on Training Bras [Apr. 14th, 2014|02:52 pm]
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When I was in junior high, I was flat-chested. Other girls were wearing bras. Occasionally, other kids would come over to pretend they were going to snap my bra, and then they'd feign surprise that there was no bra to snap. I was mocked for my lack of a bra, and my lack of breasts.

I dreaded gym class, and getting changed. I wouldn't change in the changing area but in a bathroom stall, instead. Kids would pound on the stall doors, laughing at me. I didn't see the humour.

Eventually, my mother decided it was time I should get a bra. I was old enough. We went to a discount clothing shop somewhere and picked up a couple. One was white lace with a silly pink and green flower where my cleavage would be if I had any. The other was beige and unadorned. I was told I would need to wear these now, since I was getting grown up.

Obediently, I wore the accursed things. They were nothing but nuisances. I didn't see what purpose they served. Back in those days, I was horrified by breasts and bras. If a strap was showing at all, that was slovenly. If a blouse was sheer enough to show a hint of bra outline, that was trashy. And if a bra was textured and the texture pressed through a sweater, well, that was just gross. It was nothing more than an invitation for everyone and anyone to stare at that person's tits. And as for tailored tops which had darting for breasts? In my mind, that was obviously something only worn by harlots.

None of my shirts were sheer. I was already so ashamed of my body that I didn't wear anything like that. I had t-shirts and button-up shirts and a few thick acrylic sweaters. And now I had these horrible over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders to wear.

They didn't stay in place, of course. There was nothing to hold them in place. And so my days were spent surreptitiously hauling the elasticized torture garments out of my armpits and back down to my sternum.

The kids continued to mock me for not wearing a bra yet, and one day, one girl hauled my shirt up revealing the despicable garment. She laughed uproariously. "She's wearing a bra!" she said incredulously. She looked back at me. "Why are you wearing a bra when you don't even have tits?"

A new hell had been unleashed. On top of my regular abuse was this new one of having my shirt pulled up. The beige bra was the worst. It was given the name "pigskin" by the girls in my class.

When I finished junior high, and when I'd escaped the worst of the bullying girls, I ditched wearing bras full time. I still couldn't see the point of them. They did nothing but cause discomfort. I didn't tell Mom I wasn't wearing them, and she didn't ask. I still didn't have boobs, so they still wouldn't stay in place.

When I graduated high school, I was still as flat as a board, but I started wearing bras out of modesty. I'd taken a job as an activities counsellor at a park, and wore white t-shirts which would occasionally get soaked. I think that was the last time I wore bras on a regular basis.

I'm not exactly buxom now, but I only wear bras a couple of times a year. I still don't see the point in them, aside from making certain dressy blouses/dresses fit better. When I see articles on training bras for girls, I still can't help but wonder what exactly the training is for. Bras are not a necessary garment. Men with moobs don't wear 'em, and plenty of women around the world do without just fine (even the ones with big boobs). I don't think people should make their kids wear bras. Let it be their own choice.
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Delicious Archaeology: Baking From a 19th-Century Cookbook [Apr. 7th, 2014|04:07 pm]
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I grew up eating a lot of food traditional to my Canadian ancestors. We rarely purchased pre-made baked goods, and my mother baked almost everything from scratch. My family were gatherer/hunters, and much of our food came from our farm or from the wilds. I grew up cooking on wood stoves and over campfires with wood we gathered with our dog or pony teams, so I suspect my understanding of foods differs from that of people from urban, western upbringings. I was once used to cooking and baking in the ways my ancestors did over the past couple of hundred years. Although I now cook with modern implements I find the food tastes quite similar as long as I'm using comparable ingredients.

A while back, I picked up a copy of Dorothy Duncan's Nothing More Comforting: Canada's Heritage Food. It contains a variety of recipes similar to the ones I grew up with. I chose a recipe for honey bread because I had all of the ingredients in my larder already. This recipe was first published in 1896 in Fanny Merritt Farmer's The Boston Cooking School Cook Book. It was only about this time that honey was first listed as an ingredient in recipe books. Before that time, honey was served as an accompaniment to scones, tea, and such.

The recipe is as follows:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup strained honey
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk

Mix and sift dry ingredients. Add others. Beat thoroughly. Bake in loaf or bread stick pans in moderate oven, 350*F. Makes 1 loaf.

These would have been staple ingredients in a Canadian larder around the turn of the 20th century, available from the local grocer. The fresh ingredients such as honey, eggs, and milk, were produced on many farms, and flour was available from grain mills.

If you're familiar with baking, you may notice that a cooking time isn't listed. Neither does it say if the pan should be greased or powdered. I made the guess that I should cook it for about 45 minutes, as that's about how long it takes a gingerbread loaf to cook. I also lightly greased the loaf pan with butter.

Read more...Collapse )
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Experimental Archaeology: Making Reproduction Roman Earrings [Mar. 28th, 2014|11:44 am]
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About ten years ago, I studied metal arts at craft college. My focus was in the creation of jewellery and other small metal objects. I studied the history of jewellery as part of my curriculum, and we learned about ancient techniques. One of the techniques we studied was granulation. Granulation is a technique in which tiny, uniformly-sized beads of metal are affixed to a metal object in a pattern.

The early masters of this art were the Etruscans, back in the third century BCE. The precision work and the infinitesimal metal spheres they created are mind-boggling. Extant pieces show granules a mere 0.14 mm in diameter (1). It is unknown how such tiny, consistently-sized beads were created. It is also unknown how they were attached to metal pieces without melting them. Probable techniques have been determined, but there is no hard proof that these techniques are the ones which were actually used.

This photo shows detail on an Etruscan earring demonstrating a variety of granulation sizes and patterns, as well as a variety of other techniques including filigree (fine metal scrolling), chasing (hammering to create a concave surface design), repoussage (hammering to create a convex surface design), and dapping (hammering a flat piece of metal into a dome).

Read more...Collapse )
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Sacred Fake: The Holy Prepuce [Mar. 18th, 2014|01:51 pm]
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Long before archaeology was ever called archaeology, there were people going around searching for historical artefacts. In particular, people sought out holy relics. A holy relic is a part of a venerated person, or a piece of an artefact associated with that person. Although many of the relics are fake (it's been said there were enough splinters of the True Cross to build an armada), these fakes were still items of import. In medieval Christianity, "the physical remains of saints and holy figures were considered an essential part of the faith, offering a powerful connection with Heaven" (1). Pilgrimages to holy relics were vital, and could be used as Indulgences to cut down on time languishing in Purgatory. The most important relics of all were the ones associated with Jesus Christ. Since he was believed to have physically ascended to Heaven, the opportunities to retrieve a piece of Jesus were slim, and limited to hair, blood, fingernail clippings, or his foreskin.

At one point in history, there were a reported eighteen foreskins of Christ floating around Europe. Barring some loaves-and-fishes-style miracles, it is obvious these can't have been real. Even if the foreskin of baby Jesus had been saved, such a tiny scrap of organic matter should have rotted away while he was still an infant.

Regardless, the relic(s), called the Holy Prepuce, got around. Determining the veracity of these relics was vital, and specialists arose. The most common testing method was a taste test. "A properly trained physician chosen by the local priest would chew the shriveled leather...to determine whether it was wholly or partly human" (2). When Pope Innocent III was called upon to pass judgement on the authenticity of one Holy Prepuce, he demurred (3). I can't say I blame him.

One such Holy Prepuce was personally delivered by an angel to Austrian nun Agnes Blannbekin in the thirteenth century (4).

"Crying and with compassion, she began to think about the foreskin of Christ, where it may be located [after the Resurrection]. And behold, soon she felt with the greatest sweetness on her tongue a little piece of skin alike the skin in an egg, which she swallowed. After she had swallowed it, she again felt the little skin on her tongue with sweetness as before, and again she swallowed it. And this happened to her about a hundred times. And when she felt it so frequently, she was tempted to touch it with her finger. And when she wanted to do so, that little skin went down her throat on its own. And it was told to her that the foreskin was resurrected with the Lord on the day of resurrection. And so great was the sweetness of tasting that little skin that she felt in all [her] limbs and parts of the limbs a sweet transformation" (5).

Since people have been making dick jokes for thousands of years, much to the displeasure of the Catholic Church, the topic of the holy foreskin was a source of ribaldry. By 1900, they'd had enough of it, and it was decreed that talking about Holy Prepuce was an offense punishable by excommunication.

By the twentieth century, there was only one known holy foreskin, anyhow. It resided in Calcata, Italy. "For more than four centuries, the 'Holy Prepuce' had been the city's treasure, kept behind bronze doors over the altar in the Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. It was displayed every year on Jan. 1, the Feast of the Holy Circumcision", finally vanishing in 1983 (6).

Where did this relic end up? There are numerous speculations. Considering the fate of an earlier Holy Prepuce was transmogrification into the rings of Saturn (7), the hypothesis that it was reclaimed by the Vatican is quite reasonable (8).

[Circumcision of Christ, detail from Twelve Apostles Altar (Zwölf-Boten-Altar). Painting by Friedrich Herlin of Nördlingen, 1466. Rothenburg ob der Tauber]

Works citedCollapse )
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That's Mental: Fear of Decrepitude [Mar. 17th, 2014|10:24 am]
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I remember when I had no difficulties learning how to use devices and software. I was a quick study, and could do complex combinations after being shown them. As an example, when I was volunteering at a charity shop, I was able to do a complicated return on the glitchy, tricksy retail software months after having it demoed to me. No one else at the shop knew how to do that, but had to consult with the manual every single time.

Just a couple of years later, I was put on propranolol for my chronic migraine headaches, and my ability to comprehend multi-step procedures vanished. I could no longer do certain things I'd always taken for granted, and my abilities to comprehend continued to dwindle as my dosage increased. During the height (depth?) of this, I was working at a radio station. I hosted a weekly show, and was supposed to record each show so that it could be rebroadcasted later in the week. I was never able to figure out how to do this despite being shown how on an almost weekly basis. For years, I had been a sound technician for theatre and radio. I had once created radio commercials, teched shows, and multi-tasked like a pro. Now I couldn't operate the machinery to record my own radio show. I often couldn't even follow a simple conversation because of the mental fog in which I was mired. I was fully aware that my IQ had dropped precipitously.

I felt like I was in a Flowers For Algernon situation. This decline in my cognitive abilities distressed me. I was terrified I'd continue to descend in a dull, mental fog. It was made even worse by some of my co-workers who berated me for what they perceived as willful stupidity. I tried to explain that my migraines and the medication I was on made it impossible for me to do what I'd once been able to do quickly and efficiently, but my words fell on deaf ears. While they touted the importance of affirmative action, they made it apparent that my particular circumstances didn't count. I had become disabled, but the people around me did not recognize this because I didn't look any different than before.

In the years since, I have made a full recovery from the physical debilitations. Although the mental fog abated, I don't have mental sunshiny days. I have not regained my prior mental acumen, but this does not stop me from making the attempt to get it back. I keep my brain active. I regularly take classes on a wide variety of topics. The material in scientific and technical courses continues to confound me, but I sign up for them anyhow.

While some abilities have diminished, others have increased just as dramatically. My dexterity and hand-eye coordination continues to improve. I went to a juggling workshop on the weekend as a rank newbie, and the instructor was shocked at how quickly I picked up the rudiments of basic 3-ball juggling. Apparently, I caught on far more quickly than the average Joe. For years, I was unable to learn choreography. This inability has been leaving, although I don't think I'll be giving up improvisation any time soon. My artistic abilities continue to improve, as well, and I catch on to new techniques in new media much more adroitly than ever before. I guess my neural pathways are rerouting stuff. I may be weaker in some areas, but I'm far stronger in others.

This gives me hope.
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Guess the Archaeological Site [Mar. 14th, 2014|02:14 pm]
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My next archaeological homework assignment is a fun one. I pick an archaeological site, provide some clues, and you get to see if you can guess where it is. Here goes!

This archaeological site is a tranquil seaside location, and until it was visited, no artefacts were on site. Despite the lack of both artefacts and ecofacts, 21.5 kg of materials were brought back by explorers for further investigation. The visit itself is what established this as a unique archaeological site.

The following is an aerial view.

[Mystery]

Answer to the riddle is behind the cutCollapse )
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