Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Some Good News from my Advisor

I stopped by my advisor's office today to discuss classes for the Fall semester, and received some unexpected good news: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has changed the requirements for the Bachelor of Arts degree. The good part of this is that they have replaced the prescribed general studies courses with a simple "whatever your department says is ok" rule. As a result, I'm several hours closer to my second Bachelor's degree!

Now, I only need to take my three remaining Anthro courses, a related elective, and one "L" class (the "L" stands for "Literacy"). Oh... I do still need to demonstrate foreign language proficiency... but I'm planning to take Spanish at the community college.

Even better, it is possible to find an "L" class that also fulfills my "related elective" requirement, meaning I have only four courses plus Spanish remaining.

Now I have to figure out how to get into grad school earlier...

Friday, March 24, 2006

Reuters is reporting on the recent discovery of a hominid cranium in Ethiopia estimated to be between 200,000 and 500,000 years old.

The skull appeared "to be intermediate between the earlier Homo erectus and the later Homo sapiens," Sileshi Semaw, an Ethiopian research scientist at the Stone Age Institute at Indiana University.

There's not much meat to the story yet-- most of the report reflects on past significant discoveries in the Afar region.

The Stone Age Institute has posted a press release at their website which provide a bit more info. It says that the cranium, which consists of a complete braincase, upper face and upper jaw, was found in a sandy layer between two volcanic ash layers which allows for bracketed dating of the specimen. Also found in the same stratum were late Acheulean tools, and the fossils of several animals (pigs, zebras, elephants, antelope, cats, and rodents).

An Easy Semester... but what's next?

This semester I'm only taking one course: Quantitative Methods for Anthropological Research.

It's not really an Anthropology course (in spite of its name)-- it is a Statistics course. Dr. David Abbott, an experienced archaeologist and more recently a professor at ASU, has put together a course that wastes no time on theory. Instead, he is presenting us with increasingly complex and useful tools to solve practical problems encountered in the real world.

The textbook, Statistics for the Social Sciences, is rife with errors. In spite of the fact that it is a newly-issued third edition, there are more errors in the problems sets/answers than I can count.

Fortunately, I've been able to get through the material presented by Dr. Abbott quite well without paying too much attention to the text.

What's Next?

I've been struggling with the direction I should take, and now my time of decision is upon me (pre-registration opened yesterday). Should I continue on toward the B.A. (which means taking 4 semesters of Spanish, and about 12 additional hours of Liberal Arts coursework), or simply take all the undergraduate Anthro requirements and start applying to Graduate School?

If I stay the course for the B.A., it forces me to take courses that are expedient, rather than the ones I really want to take (e.g. I'm likely to take Disease and Human Evolution instead of Fossil Hominids for one of my Physical Anthropology courses because the Liberal Arts College says I need a "Bridge" course).

If I instead change my focus and work toward Grad School acceptance, it would free me to take courses I'm passionate about, and put more energy into finding good undergraduate research opportunities. This option has some problems, of course.

I'm still committed to remaining in the Phoenix area until June 2009, so my only option for graduate school is Arizona State. Sure, I'm getting to know the professors, and letters of recommendation mean a lot, but if I apply and I'm not accepted, I'm out of options (other than continuing to plod through the B.A. program).

Back to the present...

The Fall 2006 Schedule just came out, and there are NO Anthropology classes that fit well into my schedule. My two best options are ASB 337, Prehispanic Civilizations of Middle America, and ASM 341, Human Osteology Lab. Both of them will cause me to leave work in the middle of the day multiple times each week, and I'll need to make up the hours.

Things would certainly get better if I could just hit the lottery...