First, wow has it been a crazy couple weeks. I was awarded a small contract to do a literature search two weeks ago. I told the client it could be done in under five days. Well, once I sunk my teeth into it I found that it was going to take way more work than first anticipated.
The project area covers 129 miles of back country Nevada roads over three counties and twelve USGS 7.5-minute quadrangles. Needless to say the project was a monster. The actuall literature search itself took several days of driving down to the BLM office. Then, since the project area was so massive, I decided to split the inventory and previous sites tables up by quad map. That also meant that I needed to includ quad map segments in the quad map section. Also, there were three historical maps that came into play.
I ended up with 22 tables and 50 figures for a Class I report! I just don’t see how it could have been done more efficiently. The size and complexity of the project area demanded it. I would have finished the project quicker if it weren’t for two things: my knowledge of QGIS and an added bonus by the BLM.
First, QGIS is great for a free GIS program. I’ve just never been all that familiar with GIS programs because I don’t end up using them very much. Well, since I’m the GIS department now I had to learn real fast. I was able to make some really sharp looking maps for the report. However, one of the limitations is that you can’t save a QGIS version of the map. At least, I couldn’t figure out how. So, if I needed to change one thing (like when I had to go back and add figure numbers like an idiot) I had to load up my map template (at least there was that) find the right spot, change the text, make sure the legend was right, and move on from there. It was a real pain in the ass. I have several GIS consultants that I can contact for larger projects (that I haven’t had to use yet) but I thought I’d be able to handle this one myself. Now I wish I’d had someone else do it!
Second, the BLM decided to tell me that they wanted a prehistoric and historic synthesis added to the report! For a normal-sized project area that would be no problem. For this one, however, it was a huge problem. When you get to the later prehistoric stuff, and all of the historic stuff, the history can change just by going from one valley to the next. So, I had to pour over many resources just to find the right information for all of the areas. A broad overview just wasn’t going to cut it.
To pile on the stress even more, the day after finishing the literature search my wife and I went on a long-planned vacation to Yellowstone National Park. I was able to get quite a bit of work done there since you can’t be going all day. However, when I needed internet, or hell, even cellular service, I had to go to either one of two areas of the park or outside the park in a couple places. Usually it was a welcome break but the park is so massive that a round trip distance from our campground to the nearest signal could be 100 miles or more!
You might be thinking what a pain in the ass, right? Well, how about this...I finished 80% of that report either sitting by a campfire or in the amazing Old Faithful Inn. Most employers won’t let you work remotely. I got to do it one time when there was a death in the family and I had to take extended leave but that was it. For some reason they don’t think you’ll get anything done. Now, it’s true that if I were putting in eight hours a day on the report it would have been done quicker, however, the deadline was not in jeopardy so I didn’t worry about it too much.
Now, I’m spending a little time relaxing before the next task comes along. I made enough money on that one little report to live on for a couple months since I have no overhead. It’s not a bad way to operate. I don’t need to be rich. I just need enough money so I can pay the bills, take my wife and I on great vacations, and write up blog posts for you fine archaeologists. Living job to job can be somewhat stressful but the trade off is working 60+ hours a week and having no time to enjoy the life that is speeding by.
Speaking of taking time to enjoy life...I picked up a book at the Grand Teton Visitor Center at Moose called, “The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America” by James Wilson. It looks like an account of history as told from the Native American perspective, similar to Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”. The reviews on Amazon are favorable and it seems like it’s historically accurate.
Instead of reading this by myself I thought maybe I’d see if there was interest in a summer reading group. I’m not going to bother picking a day democratically since it’s just too complicated. I’m just going to decide on a day and time and if you can make it, great! Actually, let’s do that right now.
If you want to join in the fun, purchase the book via the link on this page or at your local book store and read through chapter 4 (that is, including chapter 4) by July 2. At 7:30pm Pacific Time I’ll start the hangout. My Google+ name is “captainwebby”. Add me and leave a comment on this blog post (not LinkedIn, Facebook, or wherever you saw this).
If you like the idea of a book club but want to read another book, let me know. If you don’t want to set it up, I will. OK, I’m out! Gotta get to reading. I’m in a couple other book clubs right now already! My wife is going to kill me…
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!