April 29, 2013

Bones - Season 8, Episode 24 (Review)

The Secret in the Siege
Episode Summary
Pelant and his nasty, mangled face is back!  And he's hiding out in some sort of Batman-evil-supervillain computer lair, watching the Jeffersonian and FBI gang on various surveillance cameras around the city.  Meanwhile, chez Booth & Brennan (which is always "the B&B" in my notes), Brennan doesn't want to buy Booth jerky, and Booth whines about not being married when a gift comes from his honeymooning mother.  He then gets a call about a dead body, and they head out to investigate.

A nature trail that's been closed for two months has turned up a partially scavenged body that's been dead for only about five days based on blowfly larvae.  Based on the gonial angle, dental wear, and shape of the palate, Brennan assesses the deceased as a Caucasian male in his mid-50s.  The bullet wound to the base of the occipital likely killed him, and yet there are additional gunshot wounds.  Booth suspects a hit man or some other trained killer who lured the unsuspecting man to the picnic area.  Sweets begins to suspect Pelant, and then realizes that Pelant is using Sweets' old papers from grad school as a how-to guide.

At the Jeffersonian, Brennan notices several remodelled gunshot wounds to the man's body, dating to about 8 to 10 years ago.  Overall, he seems to have been shot 12 times with a USP 9mm.  Angela's facial reconstruction gets a hit: Alan Friedlander, a retired FBI agent who was Booth's partner years ago.  Further analysis of Friedlander's body reveals puncture wounds on the tibia and humerus.  Brennan suggests these date to about 10 years ago as well (based on Harris lines, which aren't what she thinks they are -- more below).  There is no record of Friedlander's having been shot or bitten in the FBI's file on him, though.

Booth gets a call that agent Jeff Stone has been shot dead in public (in broad daylight in a nice part of D.C), with a gunshot wound to the base of the occipital and multiple shots to the rest of the body.  A witness, who is clearly the killer, leads them to suspect a man with a dagger tattoo, and Pelant calls Booth to gloat.  The Jeffersonian team finds similar injuries to Stone's body, also made with a 9mm USP.  Further, remodeled injuries to the right tibia are puncture wounds from a dog around 10 years ago (again with the incorrect use of the term Harris lines), but there are no records of these injuries in Stone's FBI files.

Cut to Booth at the FBI, talking about a massacre at a compound called Crystal Creek (which I suppose is like Waco or Jonestown).  Agents were attacked by guard dogs, and some were killed by being shot in the back -- likely by the cult members, but there was some disagreement that it could have been friendly fire.  Booth was also involved with the Crystal Creek incident.  Since Sweets thinks that Pelant is working through a surrogate, rather than killing people himself, he enlists the help of Angela and her google-fu to find Zane Reynolds, the child of one of the cult members whose parents were killed but who was unharmed in the incident, as he has a dagger tattoo. Booth waylays Reynolds and manages to prevent him from offing himself; at the FBI, he says he didn't kill those agents but wishes he had. Following all this drama, Brennan realizes she wants to marry Booth and proposes and gives him a big bag of jerky.  But Pelant witnesses the proposal and gets upset because he is no longer center stage.

Brennan and Saroyan look over the remains of Friedlander and Stone again.  Brennan realizes that both were shot 11 times; it seemed like Friedlander was shot 12 times, but the copper-jacketed bullet separated in his body and created two wounds instead of one.  Sweets then thinks that perhaps the surrogate is the child of an agent who died at Crystal Creek.  Sure enough, Harris Samuels was shot 11 times, including once to the back of the head, and his daughter Anna is an expert shot with complex grief disorder.  She also happens to be the "witness" to the Stone murder.  Anna, meanwhile, has been getting video messages from Pelant, who has virtually disguised himself as Samuels, and she has been carrying out instructions to kill various people.  She is instructed to call Booth and arrange a meeting.

Booth shows up to meet with Anna, but she doesn't show.  Cell phone coverage in the area is out, so Booth can't reach anyone.  Brennan gets the information on Anna over to the FBI, who immediately recognize her as the fake witness to the shooting.  Booth finds a pay phone and calls to get this information.  The FBI meanwhile is searching Anna's apartment and gets Angela access to her computer.  Angela decodes some mysterious message and realizes that Booth is not the target; Sweets is.  Pelant has orchestrated a massive traffic jam so that Anna can kill him.  Fortunately, Angela has car-recognition software too, so she finds Sweets' car instantly.  Booth heads over there, as does Brennan, and he gets there in the nick of time: he wounds Anna, preventing her from killing Sweets.

Brennan and Booth are happy as newly affianced people, but Pelant calls Booth back.  He threatens to kill five innocent people if Booth doesn't break off the engagement.  Booth complies, upsetting Brennan.  Season 8 cliffhanger, dun dun dunnnnn!

  • Forensic
    • Hoo boy.  Well, as usual, Brennan's identification of Friedlander relied on really variable skeletal indicators of sex (gonial angle), age (dental wear), and ancestry (palate shape).  I mean, generally I argue that the writers are simply trying to mix things up, but I just complained about the issues with dental wear and palate shape in the last two episodes...
    • As usual, Friedlander's ID was never confirmed with dental records, fingerprints, DNA, etc.
    • But the weirdest thing of all was Brennan's reference -- not once, but twice -- to using Harris lines to figure out when an injury happened.  Now, Harris lines are radiopaque lines that indicate growth arrest.  Or, in layman's terms, on xray you can sometimes tell if a person was malnourished or sick while a child, since the growth of the bone stops for a while (similar to enamel hypoplasias on teeth).  So using Harris lines to figure out the chronology of an injury is possible... but only if the person is young and injuries happened when the bones were still growing.  Both FBI agents were in their 50s, which means Harris lines can't tell Brennan when they were bitten by dogs.  Brennan also diagnoses Harris lines on Stone's body from a cursory glance at the tibia, which is impossible.
  • Plot
    • Generally, the Pelant plot lines don't make a whole lot of sense (but are dramatic and interesting), but this was definitely the worst of all of them.  I gather that Pelant convinced Anna to kill the FBI agents by telling her (in the guise of her dead father) that there was a conspiracy and the FBI actually killed her dad.  So it would make sense that he'd send her after Booth, but Pelant actually wanted Sweets.  Why did he want Sweets dead?  (Because he understood him too well?)  How did he convince Anna to kill Sweets, who was clearly not part of the Crystal Creek task force?  If he didn't decide until after the B&B proposal that he wanted to target Sweets, what was he planning on doing before then?  Alright, head hurts.
    • Angela's microfiche-looking google thingymabob is pretty impressive.  It takes a few search terms from Sweets and finds the tattooed dude who didn't kill anyone.
    • Pelant can knock out cell service for a giant section of metro D.C.?  Angela can find Sweets' car on grainy security video in a few seconds' time?  This is pretty spiffy technology.
  • Dialogue
    • "When I thought about living with Booth for the rest of my life, my phenylethylamine and grealine(?) levels were elevated..." - Brennan
    • "I thought you'd want some weird tribal wedding and I'd have to pay for you with giraffes." - Booth
    • "The archaic Catholic wedding ritual is important to you. Even as an atheist, I see the beauty in it. Besides, I speak Latin. Tu fueres asciationibus, Christine?"  First, Catholicism isn't exactly archaic; I mean, the entire religion is historical.  And second, I also know Latin, and Deschanel's pronunciation was horrific.  Just butchery.  I honestly cannot figure out what she's trying to say.  Regardless, sounds like classical Latin rather than ecclesiastical.  I'll save judgment on the grammar until I can figure out what the hell she was trying to pronounce.

Forensic Mystery - C+.  Victims ID'ed pretty quickly, as were their injuries (nothing too complicated).

Forensic Solution - F.  Seriously, that's not what Harris lines are.  This is a giant, glaring error (I mean, a quick check of wikipedia would have told the writers that), hence the grade.  (Yes, it's finals week.)

Drama - C-.  Boo.  I was so looking forward to a Pelant season finale.  And that was a giant let-down.  I guess I was worried about Sweets for all of about a minute, but that was it.  And the B&B marriage drama was a snooze, honestly.

At any rate, thanks for joining me for the eighth season of Bones!  Hope you've enjoyed these reviews.  Every year, I wonder aloud if I should continue to do these in the coming season, and every year I whine that it takes too much time and just makes me cranky about the show.  Then again, I'd be watching this show anyway and yelling at the TV anyway, so I might as well write it all down...

So what do you think will happen in season 9?  A resolution to the Pelant drama?

April 24, 2013

Presenting Anthropology - Weeks 13&14 (Avant-Garde Projects)

Last week in class, we attempted to define what precisely avant-garde is, and we got into the mood by watching some old Project Runway clips from an avant-garde challenge.  The most discussion-worthy topics included Amber Case's idea of cyborgs and cyborg anthropology -- are we already cyborgs due to our reliance on technology?  Do we suffer from split personality issues because of the various statuses and personae we maintain and project?  From there, we talked about the potentials of and the drawbacks to technology -- are we constructing ourselves for us, for others? Are others helping to construct who we are through feedback and other channels?  And we talked a bit about the field of anthropology in general in light of Dawdy's "clockpunk" anthropology -- should we collapse the historic/prehistoric, us/them, and indigenous/industrialized dichotomies?  Should we collapse the Boasian four fields of anthropology?  If we did, would we seem less scatterbrained than we often do to the public ("Oh, I'm an anthropologist.  I study all of humanity, across time and space, and everything we've thought or have done or have said.  Sure, that's a field of study.")?  Mostly, we raised a lot of questions we couldn't hope to answer and looked at some projects on the web that we felt were particularly avant-garde.

This week's projects, then, ran the gamut, and I had no idea what to expect going in to class (which was kinda fun).  Projects included: mixed drinks inspired by a student's thesis; an episode of Drunk Archaeology (on analogy with Drunk History); a genealogy of all the anthropologists in the UWF anthro department; a sensory anthropology exercise; brochure for an anthropological travel agency; high school archaeo class curriculum; human stratigraphy (performance art on campus!); a collectible pin series integrating with a FourSquare social media project and FPAN; a department t-shirt; anthropology flyer bombing around the Florida Gulf Coast; slideshow of "real" archaeology; and a prototype sculpture of an anthropology monument (to go on the Mall in D.C., of course).  All of our scores this week were quite high (we rate each project based on aesthetics, quality of the topic, and ability to communicate anthropology), but the winners are below.

Second Runner-Up: Tristan Harrenstein's idea to create a collectible, commemorative set of pins integrated with his FourSquare project, with the blessing of the Florida Public Archaeology Network.  The idea is to give out one of five pins to people who participate in FPAN events.  Each pin displays a representation of a local monument or historic site (Arcadia Mill, Fort Pickens, Pensacola Lighthouse, Old Christ Church, and the T.T. Wentworth Museum), and each pin will be available for a particular amount of time.  Participants who collect all five pins over the course of a few months' time may then be eligible for an additional prize, such as an FPAN lanyard.  We all thought this was a neat and different way to present our local archaeological resources to the public, as well as to get the public involved on a regular basis and engaged in history.

* First Runner-Up: Becca Booker decided to create four mixed drinks inspired by her thesis topic, which revolves around a partially submerged archaeological site in the Escambia River.  Her drinks, then, include the Escambia River (which is very muddy), the Floating Bunkhouse, the Cypress Swamp Logging, and the Alligator Gar.  Becca brought in giant nalgene bottles full of these drinks and kicked off the seminar by passing out drinks and encouraging everyone to try more than one. (What a way to cap the semester!)  Only a couple people attempted all four; I unfortunately couldn't try any since I'm pregnant, which made the project hard to grade, but my taster-by-proxy Nelma proclaimed the Escambia River the best, followed by the Floating Bunkhouse, and others really liked the citrusy Cypress Swamp Logging.  For my part, I learned that alligator gar is a type of fish---a really freaking terrifying type of fish that needs to be highlighted by Ze Frank or WTF Evolution.  Here's Becca's drink list, in case you want to make your own:

* And the Winners of the Avant-Garde Challenge... Linda Hoang and Stella Simpsiridis created a "sensory anthropology" activity to counteract the over-reliance we tend to have as anthropologists on visual stimuli.  Their project is actually based on the sensory stimulation exercises used by the Alzheimer's Society of Manitoba, using as many of the five senses as possible to trigger thoughts, emotions, memories, and ideas, and they explained to us that not all cultures divide the senses in the way that we in the U.S. do -- ESP, altered states of consciousness, and other sensory experiences may be more a part of other cultures' understandings of sense than they are in our own.  So Linda and Stella got Nelma and Zach to volunteer -- they were blindfolded and handed a number of different objects: pottery, bone, woven blanket.  They were encouraged to touch the objects, smell them, and even taste them, then talk about what the objects meant to them.  Ground coffee, dirt, and bug spray were passed to the volunteers as well.  And they were treated to an audio compilation of sounds, both natural and cultural.  It was a neat exercise, and Nelma and Zach were excellent participants, often spinning tales about the memories that the object, scent, or sound triggered for them.  Below is the flyer/info sheet Linda and Stella made for their project (click to embiggen):

That actually wraps up this semester's Presenting Anthropology (ANG6002) course here at the University of West Florida!  It was interesting and helpful as the instructor to blog about this each week, and I am glad that I got to highlight some of the students' awesome projects to #ShareAnthro with a wider audience.  Hopefully once the semester ends, I'll have a chance to reflect on the course as a whole in a separate blog post, so be on the look-out for that.  And if you ever end up using any of these ideas, please come back and drop me a line to tell me how it's going for you!  This is a seminar I hope to run again in the future, so any input from students, instructors, and the public at large would be appreciated.

April 23, 2013

Bones - Season 8, Episode 23 (Review)

The Pathos in the Pathogens
Episode Summary
The Jeffersonian takes on a case at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  A body was found mingled with veterinary waste.  An infection such as necrotizing fasciitis was first suspected, but the changes to the remains and the state of decomp suggest an unknown pathogen that is highly virulent and is replicating quickly.  Dr. Ivan Jacobs of the CDC can't figure out what the disease is, so the remains are brought to the Jeffersonian so they can identify the victim and hopefully lead the CDC and FBI to the source and the cure.

Based on the (small size of the protuberance on the) occipital bone and the shape of the pelvic outlet, Vaziri concludes the victim was female.  Brennan estimates based on mandibular dental wear that she was 25 to 35 years old when she was killed.  The lesions on her long bones and ribs developed within the last 24 hours, and her soft tissue is turning to soup.  Jacobs thinks they are dealing with a single-strain RNA virus, and Saroyan attempts to isolate white blood cells from the heart.  Hodgins studies the larvae on the victim's clothing, which puts her in the Coral Hills, MD, area near time of death.  Still, ID is proving difficult because they can't get fingerprints, her mandible and maxilla were smashed, precluding dental identification, and Angela's facial reconstruction scanner is getting multiple hits in the missing persons database.  Brennan pores through the likely candidates on Angela's screen, and based on the prominent zygomatics, identifies Mia Garrett.

Booth questions Mia's boyfriend, Ben Carr, who reveals Mia was a blogger who focused on stories about big pharma, medical research, and doping in humans and animals.  He is also a blogger, writing about travel. Angela tries to get through Mia's computer files, but her steganographic encryption is cumbersome.  Of course Angela gets around it, and finds that Mia last spoke with Dr. Tessa Burke about mutations of SARS, Lassa, and yellow fever.  Booth questions Burke, but she didn't know Mia was dead and was highly interested in working with her to expose illegal and unethical issues with labs.

The Jeffersonian team is still trying to figure out the pathogen.  Blood results suggest it is not aerosolized, and the bone damage is similar to multiple myeloma, a fast moving type of cancer.  The lack of response to antibiotics further suggests that the disease is viral.  Brennan takes a bone marrow sample, and she, Jacobs, and Vaziri get ready to move the remains.  Vaziri, however, gets stabbed by a small needle embedded in the victim's humerus, potentially exposing him to the disease.  The bone marrow sample, however, tells Brennan, Saroyan, and Jacobs that the virus is similar to chikungunya (or CHIKV), owing to the look of the fibroblasts and the monocyte-derived macrophages.  The strain, however, cannot be positively ID'ed, which means there is no immediate cure for Vaziri, and the team has to figure out how the pathogen was mutated and by whom.

Booth questions Byron Fuller, who worked at a lab making performance-enhancing drugs for horses and who was sleeping with Mia.  Nothing infectious is found at his lab, though.  Then Ben the boyfriend gets questioned again, since he was writing about travel in the Indian rain forest when he found out about Mia's affair with Fuller.  Ben has access to syringes because he's a diabetic, but they end up being a different gauge.  Booth checks into Burke again, as Mia had been zeroing in on Biosafety-Level 4 labs capable of mutating pathogens; Burke worked for SimaTech BioLabs two years ago, but had been fired.  This time, he approaches Burke's former boss, Dr. Leonard Thorne, who accuses Burke of having stolen cultures of CHIKV from the lab.

Meanwhile, Vaziri is not doing well.  His fever spikes, he seizes, and his joints start to deteriorate.  The serum the CDC has for CHIKV doesn't help, but Brennan and Hodgins concoct an herbal folk remedy that gives Vaziri some more time by slowing the progression of the disease, and Saroyan and Jacobs induce hypothermia.  

Brennan re-scans Mia's bones and notes an active pathogen still in her body.  One of the long bones is bowing outward, and the site of injection at the humerus has developed a pocket in the trabecular bone.  Something had been added to the CHIKV.  Saroyan notes the presence of prokaryotes, and Hodgins identifies a strain of botulism toxin, one that's lab grade and therefore strictly monitored by the CDC.  The nearest lab turns out to be SimaTech, but they were only given clearance for it in the last year, meaning Burke could not have mutated the CHIKV or killed Mia.  Burke fingers Thorne, whose unethical practices she tried to shut down two years ago and that got her fired, as he was close to losing a large NIH grant and had been scrutinized by Mia.  Booth arrests Thorne at his office, but Thorne refuses to admit guilt or to provide the antidote, so he hauls him to the Jeffersonian to look at Mia's remains and to see what the virus is doing to Vaziri.  Even after an impassioned plea from Saroyan to save the man she loves, Thorne remains unswayed, so Brennan lies to him, telling him they have isolated the mutated CHIKV and injecting him with a syringe.  All is well, though, as this convinces Thorne to produce the antidote, which saves Vaziri's life.

  • Forensic
    • Victim's ID was never confirmed.  I don't buy at all that dental records would have been useless.  It's not like the teeth were missing, damaged, or filed down.  They were present; only her jaw had been damaged.
    • Sex estimate based on the robusticity of the skull and the shape of the pelvis are alright, I suppose.  Age estimate based on dental wear was not; this is a poor, imprecise method of aging a skeleton.  Considering they had the pubic symphyses, which give the most accurate age and sex estimates, it's always weird to hear them base their conclusions on other skeletal indicators. (Yes, I know it's for variety's sake. It's just not realistic.)
    • Glad to know that Brennan can ID a victim based on a photo more easily than a computer.  Because this doesn't in any way call into question the reliability of Angela's facial recognition software.
  • Plot
    • Sounds like some of the House writers dropped in to the Bones writing room this week.  Wasn't there a similar plot on House where Foreman contracts an unknown disease from a patient and is near death?  And I'm sure there was an episode in which House brutalizes someone in order to save a life.  That's not particularly in keeping with Brennan's character, though.
    • It's sad that investigative blogger is more plausible than investigative journalist.
    • Why didn't the CDC initially send more people?  Mackenzie Astin and his weird ear aren't cutting it.
    • The part about the "fibroblasts and monocyte-derived macrophages" is straight out of Wikipedia.  Tell me I'm wrong.
    • Yes, Saroyan's a doctor, and I guess the Jeffersonian is on lockdown, but... they really need another doctor to treat Vaziri.  Why does Cam always get to flout modern medical ethics and practices?
    • Is Brennan really allowed to brutalize someone under arrest and not get penalized at all?  Again, I'd buy this from House, but Brennan's married to the FBI.  Then again, Booth brutalized a suspect a couple episodes ago...
    • Uhm, so, CHIKV is pretty nasty, with the joint effects lingering for years, even after the disease has cleared.  Vaziri won't die, but it sounds like he'll have some very nasty, very painful arthritis for the foreseeable future.
  • Dialogue
    • "You're a lucky man, Agent Booth." -- Dr. Jacobs, being kinda misogynistic and definitely unprofessional.  What the what?

Forensic Mystery - C. Victim was ID'ed pretty quickly.  Not too much of a mystery there.

Forensic Solution - D. The sex estimate was good; the age estimate based on dental wear was not. Facial reconstruction was unrealistic.  ID was never confirmed.  Buh.

Drama - B-. A bit of tension with Vaziri.  I didn't think they'd kill him off, but then again, they offed Nigel-Murray, so I wasn't going to put it past the writers.  I do hope Pej Vahdat's career takes off soon, though, so maybe there will be a Vaziri-offing at some point.

April 15, 2013

Bones - Season 8, Episode 22 (Review)

The Party in the Pants
Episode Summary
A newbie attempting to work a backhoe at a building demolition site scoops up a decomposing human corpse and accidentally drops it on the forewoman.  She gets it off, but somewhere off-camera, the remaining load falls on the corpse, crushing the skull.  Brennan thinks that the individual was male, based on the crushed skull I guess, and Caucasian based on the parabolic dental arcade.  A uniform that the victim was wearing makes him appear to be a firefighter, but it is quickly revealed that the pants are tear-away and he was wearing a thong -- so he was more likely a stripper.  Flesh tone and ambient temperature put time-of-death at about four days prior.

Back at the Jeffersonian, Wendell notes that based on the epiphyseal union of the sternoclavicle, the victim was in his mid 20s.  This makes sense, Brennan avers, as those are the prime years for a man to strip.  Saroyan concludes, based on the lack of plaster and dust in the posterior pharynx, that the victim was dead before he was put in the building.  Wendell finds a calf implant, which carries a serial number and ID's him as Jack Spindler, an investment broker at Duncorp Investments.  Jack's boss, Seth Erikson, reported him missing, as Jack was one of their biggest earners, bringing in over $5 million in client investments as a rookie.  

Angela gets to work attempting to find where Jack worked as a stripper, hoping to find some colleagues or a place he could have been killed.  Wendell finds another clue in the bones: the left proximal tibia was cut and realigned, indicative of a tibial osteotomy, but it is an old, well-healed injury.  Brennan suggests that Jack had Blount's disease, common in severely overweight children.  Saroyan starts working on the vaginal fluid found in Jack's underwear, and Angela notices some of the cash Jack was carrying had been rolled up, leading Saroyan to think they might get nasal epithelial cells if it had been used to snort cocaine.

Sweets and Booth head to Jack's apartment, where they find evidence that he had been an overweight kid and also a voice message from his girlfriend, Kristi.  Booth questions Kristi at the FBI, but she insists that they always fought.  She does mention that her father invested over $1 million in Jack's company, and we later find out that she lost over $200,000 of that.  She fingers Jack's friend Storm, as Jack kept stealing Storm's stripping clients, about which they got into a fight at the gym.  Booth tracks down Storm at a bachelorette party and brings him back to the FBI for questioning.  Jack's right distal fourth metacarpal is fractured at the neck, suggesting he landed a punch shortly before his death.

Meanwhile, at the Jeffersonian, Wendell finds a v-shaped cut at a near 90-degree angle to the posterior aspect of the third cervical vertebra, which would have caused a severe contusion to the spinal cord.  Trace evidence wedged in the wound includes synthetic fiber and bedbugs.  Epithelial cells are found on the rolled up cash, and they match Cynthia White, a bachelorette who had Jack strip at her party.  The partial DNA evidence from the vaginal fluid matches her as well.  Her fiance, Jason, found out about the affair, but only post-hoc.  He pushed Cynthia, but he never saw Jack.  Angela traces records and emails on Jack's computer and notices he was engaging in a felony: buying up stock cheap, artificially inflating its price, and then selling it to clients before it crashed.  Seth Erikson is looking more guilty, but he has an alibi in Vegas for the night of Jack's death.

Additional fractures that Wendell notes to the cranium and ossicles finally give the team cause of death.  Displaced fractures to the incus and stapes suggest Jack was pistol-whipped with the butt of a gun.  Hodgins also finds evidence (oxidized malachite) in the wound that the victim may have been killed at the seedy Kingford Hotel.  Brennan thinks that Jack was beaten with a fake gun, the kind a stripper such as Storm would carry.  Storm had invested $5,000, all his savings, in Jack's fake stock and was devastated when he lost it all.  While in his hotel room, Storm got angry at Jack.  Meaning to give him a good beating, Storm pistol-whipped him, but Jack fell, knocking his neck on the edge of the bed.  Storm didn't want Jack dead, but he isn't sad that he is.

Oh, also, Booth's long-lost mother comes back, to tell him she's getting remarried to a long-term partner.  Booth is happy to see her at first, then pissed that she started a life without him (and his brother... what's his name? Jared? Isn't he in jail or something?), then forgives her and wishes her well by giving her away at her wedding.  Brennan, predictably, catches the bouquet.

  • Forensic
    • Apparently now Brennan can just look at a crushed skull and tell it's male without reference to any bony landmarks.  Handy!  Caucasian based on dental arcade alone is sketchy (as all humans have a parabolic arcade in comparison to, say, australopithecines).  I do buy the age-at-death, though, which was a nice vague range ("mid-20s") and also appropriately estimated based on epiphyseal closure of the medial clavicle.
    • Kind of pointless to throw in the stuff about the tibial osteotomy and childhood obesity.  Not really relevant to anything in the plot.
    • Saroyan sure can work magic with epithelial cells.  And Hodgins has that magic machine that identifies all sorts of bizarre particulates.
    • Is it just me, or was the neck injury never fully explained?  I assumed in the summary that Jack fell while he was being beaten by Storm and hit his head and neck on the bed.
    • I still find it annoying that every single fracture in the prop bones looks the same -- all jagged and strangely discolored -- even on the teeny tiny incus and stapes.
  • Plot
    • Inconsistency: In the first scene, the body is whole when it drops on the forewoman.  And then after the intro music, suddenly the head has been crushed.
    • Booth's mother has a longstanding injury to her left greater trochanter and femoral head, caused by being pushed down a flight of stairs by Booth's father.
    • Why does the 20-something victim have a land line?  Seriously, who under the age of 30 has one of those anymore?  (How I Met Your Mother hilariously mocked this TV plot contrivance in a recent episode...)
    • Most boring Bones-themed drinking game ever: Take a drink every time the show mentions Parker, Jared, or Russ.
  • Dialogue
    • "Based on your robust frame, muscular build, and symmetrical features, you could make a good income as an exotic dancer." -- Brennan to Wendell (actually, isn't Wendell a bit too old?)
    • "You have an alluring personality and a wonderful physique." -- Brennan to Booth
    • "I did [strip]. For my paper. I wouldn't be much of a scientist if I didn't." -- Brennan, getting really into anthropological participant-observation. 
    • "The Jesus myth is all about forgiveness, isn't it? ...  Water to wine, raising the dead, walking on water... these defy the basic laws of physics. But forgiveness... that's its value. That's why the myth has endured." -- Brennan going all anthropological on religion.  (Still galls me, though, that she named her daughter after Jesus, yet this hypocrisy never comes up...)

Forensic Mystery - C.  Eh.  Calf implant ID'ed the victim quickly. Not a lot of mystery, except perhaps in cause-of-death, and that was annoying because the team should thoroughly document all injuries at once, not look for them as a plot device at the end.

Forensic Solution - B.  The way they ID'ed him, though, was entirely reasonable, if boring.

Drama - D+.  If there had been some lead-up to the return of Booth's mother, I might have been interested in it.  There was a bunch of drama surrounding the reveal of Max as Brennan's father a few seasons ago.  But I honestly don't remember the story of Booth's mom abandoning him and his brother, so I wasn't invested in this storyline that took up a good chunk of the show tonight.

April 11, 2013

Presenting Anthropology - Weeks 13&14 (Readings)

Avant-Garde Challenge
& Best Practices

My inspiration for this course was actually Project Runway.  I don't particularly care for reality shows, since they largely highlight interpersonal relationships I couldn't care less about, but for me, the draw of Project Runway is that the contestants are actually very talented.  On a weekly basis, I get to see people who are really good at their job employ their skills and engage in a creative process, creating things in a matter of hours that I could never accomplish.  I was hoping that some of this same energy and creativity could be found within the graduate students here at UWF, and so far I have not been disappointed.

Augmented reality Loris at the London Zoo
The best PR challenge, though, is always the avant-garde one, where contestants come up with an outfit that is so outlandish and bizarre that it's actually compelling and chic.  Sometimes they use strange materials, sometimes they use unnatural shapes, and sometimes their designs are complete and utter crap.  But the point is always that they tried to do something totally innovative.  

So, just as every season of Project Runway needs a high-fashion or avant-garde challenge, this class does as well. Over the course of the semester, we have explored traditional media with an attempt to use those media in non-traditional ways. In these two weeks, we will explore the more outlandish and outré ways that academics and scholars are presenting information. We will discuss which audience(s) these methods are reaching, and we will brainstorm ways that we can present anthropology that are innovative and different while still conveying important information.
  • Assignment 1: Find at least one example of what you would consider avant-garde presentation style and bring to class.
  • Assignment 2: Alone or in a group, create something awesome that has never or rarely been seen before in anthropology - ideas include Dance Your PhD, augmented reality, 3D printing or scanning or modeling, writing a Choose Your Own Adventure story, creating a hands-on lab activity, etc. Anything goes... well, just please don't turn in a pasta mosaic of Boas doing a Kwakiutl dance.
Be sure to follow our conversation live on Twitter on Mondays at 1pm central time by following the hashtag #shareanthro!

April 9, 2013

Presenting Anthropology - Weeks 11&12 (Kids Projects)

Last week in class, we discussed how best to present anthropological concepts to kids, from preschoolers to high schoolers.  Unsurprisingly, there isn't one book or activity that is appropriate for this vast age range.  Several students in the class have had experience doing outreach, mainly archaeological, with kids through the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), but the consensus was that teaching even basic concepts in archaeological methods was best done at the 3rd grade level and above.  This makes a lot of sense in terms of childhood development, as by 3rd grade, the vast majority of children can read on their own, can use a computer, and can self-educate -- that is, they can follow up on information they're interested in, through the library, internet, summer camps, etc.

One very useful resource that I didn't know about is FPAN's Beyond Artifacts guide.  This large PDF guide provides great information for Florida K-12 teachers about the archaeology of the state and activities to do with the students.  Each activity sheet even includes the "Sunshine State Standards" -- that is, which specific public educational standards the activity meets, which I imagine is enormously helpful for teachers interested in bringing archaeology into the classroom.  Gregg Harding then led the class in the first activity in the booklet -- Cookie Excavation!  Yum.

But we also brainstormed ways to interest the younger kids (preschool-2nd grade) in anthropology.  Some of the suggestions included books on cultural differences (e.g., Children Just Like Me), Dig, an archaeology magazine for kids, and coloring books with bits of information that parents can read to their children.

With all of this in mind, the students came up with their projects.  Here are the winning entries this week:

* Second Runner-Up: Andy Derlikowski, last week's video challenge winner, created a cute little book called Allison Wants to Be an Underwater Archaeologist.  Andy realized that there is a lack of good information about maritime archaeology for the public, especially for kids.  Most of what is out there is unfortunately geared towards pirates and treasure hunting.  The story is good, the language is spot-on for preschool-young elementary kids, and the illustrations (by his wife, Connie) are adorable.  Here's a sample page from the book:

* First Runner-Up: Nelma Bell made a felt board to teach kids about famous biological anthropologists and the kind of work they do.  I'd never heard of a felt board (apparently I had a deprived childhood!), but hers was a lot of fun.  I particularly liked the Mary Leakey diorama, as you can "excavate" the Proconsul skeleton from the felt-rocks!  Nelma included information about each famous bioanthropologist from their online bios, but she pointed out that the fun of a felt board is to create your own story as you go.  The overall reaction in the class to this project was, "Shut up and take my money."  If you are crafty, you can follow Nelma's instructions in her blog post here and make your own!  If you want to buy one or more, you can find Nelma's listings for Bill Bass, Mary Leakey, and Jane Goodall on Etsy.

* And the Winner of the Kids Challenge... Stella Simpsiridis made a 4-minute video for her 4-year-old nephew, explaining the basics about each of the four subfields of anthropology.  Here it is:

Thanks for checking out the students' kids challenge projects this week!  Join us over the next two weeks for the final challenge of the semester: the Avant-Garde Challenge!

April 1, 2013

Bones - Season 8, Episode 21 (Review)

The Maiden in the Mushrooms
Episode Summary
A couple on a scavenger hunt finds a body covered in mushrooms in the dirt floor of an abandoned building.The Jeffersonian team and the FBI are called to the scene.  Hodgins identifies the variety of mushrooms as ganoderma, enokitake, bunapi-shimeji, and hypholoma.  The frontal eminence and orbital margins tell Brennan the skeleton is from a Caucasian female.  Cranial sutures suggest she was in her mid-20s at death.  Based on the size of the mushrooms, Hodgins estimates time since death at 20-30 days, and then based on larvae he examines at the lab, 20-23 days.  The victim has expensive shoes, a good manicure, and nice teeth, suggesting she took good care of herself.  Sweets thinks that it was important for the woman to look good, that she was living beyond her means, and also suggests that her burial face-down indicates her assailant knew her and didn't want to face her.

At the Jeffersonian, Brennan finds hairline fractures to the occipital, indicating a blunt injury, but not one that would have killed her. Multiple fractures to her distal and medial hand phalanges and her metatarsals suggest she put up a struggle. Epithelial cells under her nails eventually come back as being her own DNA, but there are also purple nylon fibers. Angela gets a match back from the missing persons database -- Rebecca Pearce, who worked as a producer on the Judge Trudy reality courtroom show. The possible suspects in the case are therefore Judge Trudy Morris herself, the bailiff Griff (who was in a four-year-long relationship with Rebecca and shared custody of their dog, Isis, after their breakup), Jill Roberts (the interim producer), and a disgruntled guest on the show, Pabla Sepulveda.  

Brennan and Abernathy reexamine Rebecca's skeleton and note a zygomatic fracture that occurred about three months prior to her death.  Booth questions Gordie Rand, a man that Rebecca met on an online dating site who was stalking her and against whom she had a restraining order.  Although Gordie is creepy, sending her tortured Barbie dolls, he doesn't seem to have killed Rebecca.  They find out via tape from the show that the zygomatic fracture actually came from Judge Trudy, who came to work drunk and either accidentally or purposefully hit Rebecca in the face with her gavel.  Rebecca then outlawed liquor from the set, but Jill started sneaking it in for Trudy.  

Another reexamination of the perimortem fractures to Rebecca's skeleton shows that she jumped or dropped down onto a hard surface, causing damage to her talus, calcaneus, and distal fibula.  Previously unmentioned hairline fracturing to the hyoid noticed by Abernathy could have resulted from strangulation, which was the likely cause of death.  Because Rebecca was young, the hyoid wouldn't necessarily break when she was strangled.  Abernathy and Angela try to reconstruct the pattern of injuries but are having a difficult time matching them.  Brennan comes in for the a-ha moment: Rebecca was strangled, and then dropped, causing the fracturing to the hyoid first and then to the legs.  Three small nicks on the anteroinferior mandible seem to be the result of spikes, as on a dog collar.  Booth gets a warrant to search Griff's home and finds Isis' dog collar, which has a purple lining and studs.  Griff owns up to killing Rebecca -- he loved that dog, but they had joint custody.  Rebecca had left Isis on the porch, on a leash, and Isis seems to have jumped off, effectively hanging herself.  Griff was upset that Rebecca would get away with neglecting his dog, so he killed her in the same way.

  • Forensic
    • Not sure how the frontal eminence and orbital margins gave Brennan Caucasian.  But female, sure.  Also, cranial sutures are terrible for age estimation, especially when they have the pelvis there.  I know the writers like to change things up, but seriously, the pelvis is always where we go first for age and sex, not the skull.
    • The "hairline fractures" are always terribly portrayed on the show.  The prop people make these massive, dark lines that look like comminuted or crush fractures.  Hairline fractures are just that -- the width of a hair, often hard to see without magnification.
    • Also annoyed with how the information about these sets of "hairline" fractures was doled out over the course of the show.  Brennan and Abernathy's job is to find all the evidence while looking at the skeleton, not to think, "Oh, hey, let's go look at the mandible now, at the end of the show, to see if there might be possible injuries suggesting cause of death."  Irritating.
    • Ugh, why are the innominates always upside down now?  Did they get a new prop person who doesn't feel like bothering looking up how to lay out a skeleton in anatomical position?
    • The hyoid doesn't always break in strangulation cases.  This is a well known forensic fact; it doesn't have to be predicated on the victim's young age.
  • Plot
    • Booth wasn't being very professional, sneaking onto a TV set and then finally flashing his badge.  Shouldn't he have gotten permission from the producer before intruding?
    • The Christine-biting subplot was lame.  Especially because Brennan doesn't seem to think her kid's not-fully-erupted tooth could cause a bite mark.  Because she's the worst forensic anthropologist in the world.
    • The Abernathy hot sauce subplot was even lamer.  Is this supposed to make Hodgins' fortune back or something?  By exploiting Abernathy's dead grandma?
  • Dialogue
    • "Emma C.  Figures.  She cries when they sing Itsy Bitsy Spider." - Brennan

Forensic Mystery - C.  I guess there was a mystery about how Rebecca died.  But the only reason they didn't figure it out earlier was because the anthropologists weren't doing their job properly.

Forensic Solution - C+.  They did figure out who the victim was and how she died... based on spurious hairline fractures, though.

Drama - D.  This episode was all over the place.  When the tag at the end of the episode is more than one quick scene, there wasn't enough forensic stuff going on.

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival XXVII

New Finds
Colchester ringfenced burials (credit)

  • 8 March - Remarkable Ringfenced Burials from Roman Colchester (CurrentArchaeology). Wooden ditches and fences dating to the 2nd-3rd centuries AD appear to mark inhumation burials in Colchester.  These clusters are unusual in terms of burial practices in this time and place.
  • 9 March - Domus Aurea: Skeletons of Unknown Burial (Il Messagero).  This Italian news piece reports on a 5th century AD graveyard lying atop Nero's palace.  I haven't seen any further news on the skeletons themselves.
One of the skeletons found at the Domus Aurea (credit)

Articles and Media Coverage

  • 1 March - Most Ancient Romans Ate Like Animals (LiveScience).  This science news outlet covers my latest publication on Roman diet (namely, the possible status difference in millet consumption).  I also talked to the Canadian national radio program Quirks & Quarks about it (9 March), and Krystal D'Costa at Anthropology in Practice (SciAm Blog Network) covered it too (25 March).
Millet-eating Roman
  • 21 March - Roman Ruins Yield Clues About Earthquake Risk in Ancient Times, Today (Huffington Post via LiveScience).  In a recent article, seismologists examined a Roman mausoleum in Turkey and reconstructed the seismological events that would have to have happened for the structure to be in the condition it is today.


  • 6 March - For some reason, the Poggio Civitate bone fragments are back in the news, with Anthony Tuck having issued a press release through U Mass Amherst, which was picked up by PhysOrg.com and possibly other aggregators.  I'll link again to my post, Baby Bones Were Trash to Romans (8 January), dismantling Tuck's sloppy and weak argument.
  • 31 March - Boudicca, the Burger Queen of Brum (Birmingham Mail). And further in famous-dead-people news, archaeologists think they may know where the body of Boudicca (queen of the Iceni, who led a revolt against the Romans in the 1st century AD) lies... underneath a McDonald's in Birmingham, England.

Museum Exhibits and Historical Information
Under the Vatican
in the 1950s (credit)

  • 6 March - The Museum of London blog discuss the "Curious Case of the Dog in Display Case."  It was found in 1984 in a Roman villa, but the mystery of the dog's death and the other zooarchaeological evidence are fascinating.
  • 8 March - Toilet Issue: Anthropologists Uncover All the Ways We've Wiped (Scientific American). This article certainly doesn't cover all the ways that humans have wiped over the millennia (information that anthropologists do have a lot about), but it presents some of the interesting, historical, Western ones, including information on the Romans.


  • 30 March - Cumbrian Chef Recreates Hadrian's Wall Dishes (News and Star).  The recipes re-created by chef John Crouch will be featured on select days at the cafe at Hadrian's Wall (which, as I recall, already has a variety of tasty local- and Roman-themed dishes available).

Presenting Anthropology - Weeks 11&12 (Readings)

Kids Challenge

When did you first learn what anthropology was? My favorite quotation from Kurt Vonnegut goes:
"I didn't learn until I was in college about all the other cultures, and I should have learned that in the first grade. A first grader should understand that his or her culture isn't a rational invention; that there are thousands of other cultures and they all work pretty well; that all cultures function on faith rather than truth; that there are lots of alternatives to our own society. Cultural relativity is defensible and attractive. It's also a source of hope. It means we don't have to continue this way if we don't like it.
From today's class:
Cookie Excavation!
Unlike other social sciences, namely psychology and sociology, anthropology is almost never taught at the high school level, and only rarely seen in the lower grades' social studies classes. This lack of anthropology in K-12 education is problematic from many standpoints: first, it means that children do not get educated on the diversity of humans until college, and then only if they choose to take anthropology; second, it means that there are fewer anthropology majors (and consequently anthropologists) than biology majors; and third, it means that there are no opportunities for anthropologists to teach in the K-12 sector, limiting our job options after graduate school. Over the next two weeks, we will discuss the benefits to bringing anthropology into the K-12 classrooms and will generate ideas for presenting anthropology at different grade levels.
  • Assignment 1: Find at least one kids' book on anthropology (broadly conceived) at the library, bookstore, etc., and bring in to class.
  • Assignment 2: Alone or in a group, create something to teach kids about anthropology (either specific research or anthropology in general) - ideas include an interactive web game, a children's book, an in-class activity, a pop-up book, or an app. Be prepared to present it, justify your design and audience, and take criticisms and critiques. (Feel free to beta-test this with any kids you know first!)
(I forgot to post this prior to class this week, but you can check in on our excellent discussion today with the hashtag #shareanthro.)

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