Thursday, February 28, 2008

I have a title

"Hodags, Happy Chefs, and Hiawathas: Practical Applications of Materials Science along America's By-ways" The proposal has been submitted, along with a cover letter emphasizing the presentation will be highly visual (always a plus with the Commercial Archeology folks), so if all goes well this fall I'll have an excuse to be in Albuquerque.
Despite the fact that all three examples mentioned in the title are fiberglass, the presentation will discuss other materials (concrete, metal, wood) used for humongous fish, dinosaurs, and other oddities and how one tells the difference if/when they're painted and construction materials aren't obvious. It'll also get into differences between mass produced (Happy Chefs in various sizes) and custom (this green dude with the impressive canine teeth and claws).
This hodag is fiberglass, he sits outside the Rhinelander information center on the west side of town, and he is not a product of F.A.S.T., the Sparta, Wisconsin, company usually associated with oversized fiberglass statuary. The photo was taken on a rainy day in late September 2007.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thinking about fiberglass

I've been sitting at my desk this afternoon thinking about fiberglass when I should be thinking about my job and editing epidemiology articles. Somehow fiberglass fish are pushing biostatistical jargon to the cliched backburner. Not to mention fiberglass Indians. Fiberglass muffler men. Fiberglass buffalo. Fiberglass Happy Chefs. Fiberglass, big and small and in all sorts of strange configurations.

And why am I thinking about fiberglass? Because I want an excuse to attend the Society for Commercial Archeology meeting scheduled for October in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That means submitting a paper proposal -- and so I'm thinking about fiberglass and a follow-up to the paper I gave in Seattle on Rocket Science and Muffler Men. I've got the graphics -- now all I need are the words. I've got the start of a catchy and alliterative title -- "Hodags, Happy Chefs, and Hiawatha: something semi-profound" -- so maybe by the end of the day I'll have the rest of it.

The Happy Chef pictured is located on the outskirts of Mankato, Minnesota, on US-169 north of US-14.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hello world

After dropping in on other people's blogs for many months, I've finally decided to make the leap into the blogosphere myself. I'm not sure why. Blogs are an exercise in ego -- and I'd like to believe I don't have that much of one. Blogs are also a form of exhibitionism -- and I've never been real keen on that either. Some of my favorite bloggers indulge in a fair amount of TMI; I'm hoping I don't go down that road. I feel vaguely uneasy if I notice one of our cats in the bedroom; I have no inclination to allow the whole world in.

Instead I think I'll use this space to think out loud, figuratively speaking, about a variety of topics that interest me -- historic preservation, funerary art, roadside weirdness like muffler men and giant fiberglas fish -- and maybe do an occasional rant about the mindless federal bureaucracy in which I am currently embedded, political stupidities that catch my attention, the Healthy at Every Size (HAES) movement, and life in general. I'm involved with both the Society for Commerical Archeology and the Society for Industrial Archeology so odds are I'll be posting a fair number of graphics related to either roadside attractions or decaying industrial landscapes. And cemeteries and roadside memorials. I used to have a job (the best job I've ever had, incidentally) with the National Park Service that required me to document cemeteries located on property owned or managed by NPS. That got me sucked into thanatology, funerary art, and cast concrete vernacular grave markers. The job is now history, but the interest in dead people lingers on.
Granted, the example I've chosen to insert here, Pvt Sam Yurkovich, is neither vernacular nor concrete (he's cast metal that's been painted), but he is from one of my favorite historic cemeteries, the Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois.
For anyone who's the least bit curious about me, I'm a female boomer with academic training in Science & Technology Studies with a focus on Gilded Age/Progressive Era civil engineering and the environment -- I used to claim to be a dam historian -- and am currently employed as a technical writer-editor at a large federal agency that I will never be foolish enough to actually name in this blog. I may bitch about them occasionally but that doesn't mean I want them to stop issuing the paychecks. The day you see the name of the agency written out in a way that links me directly to them is the day, dear readers (assuming any of you exist), you will know I've turned in the retirement paperwork.

I'm also not as technologically adept as I generally claim to be so it'll probably take me awhile to do all the things a person is supposed to do to get a blog up to normal cruising speed -- blog roll, more complete bio, nifty aphorisms, and various other bells and whistles.