Woody, official 'utlh and all-round good bastard (ubykhlives) wrote,
Woody, official 'utlh and all-round good bastard

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Interpretation, poker and birthdays and such

I’m sitting here wondering about the interpretative approach to archæology. I’m making good progress with my research question – at least with the first part – but I’ve hit a wall when it comes to the second part of my thesis, and it has to do with the theory I have to use, which deals with the idea of interpretation in the archæological record. You see, current interpretative theory holds that interpretation should be a “dialogue” between the present and the past; a hermeneutic approach that moves from present thought to past thought and back until coherence is achieved.

My problem is that, being a hard-core processualist at heart (a relic of my science background, I’m sure), I have no idea how to actively construct such an interpretative dialogue. Obviously one has to analogise when one does archæology; the assumption of the predictability of human behaviour given a certain set of circumstances is at the very core of what makes our discipline possible, and is partially dependent upon observation of people in the present. But “interpretative archæology” seems to want to go further than that: its thesis is that the past does not truly exist, but is in a sense “created” by the researcher working in the present, and that what laymen think of as the “past” is, in truth, a sort of hybrid of the past and the present. I have real problems forcing myself to think in such a way, primarily because of my processualist, gnostic background. I tend to believe that the past yields hard data that is universally true, and that anything derived from those data universally tends to be true. I can't handle relativism. I suppose my archæological mentality is a bit weird. In a sense, I don’t see how doing archæology is any different to doing, say, sociology or psychology. Naturally, archæology is a bit different because of the limited set of data that we have available to interrogate, but analogy from existing modern cultures and from first principles should be sufficient to generate, using my mental framework, (a) a prime-computation hypothesis drawn from concrete data that could, in theory at least, have been tested in the real world during the relevant time-span, which is (b) the most parsimonious and therefore most likely hypothesis given the restrictions of the data. Of course, the fact that I also think of explanation in probabilistic rather than concrete terms (what is likely to have happened, rather than outright saying what has happened) naturally limits the scope of the hypothesis, and of course, second-approximation and upwards computations become less and less likely as they build on higher and higher towers of most-likely-hypotheses. If interpretative archæology simply means integrating ethnoarchæology and data and knowledge from people in the present with archæological data to extrapolate hypotheses and generate interpretations, I’m all for it. But I believe the past should be treated on its own terms. Archæologists have to interpret past data for the present, true, but I can’t understand how the present should have bearing upon the meaning extracted from past data. Causality doesn’t work that way.

Anyway. Enough of that rant. As soon as I get a handle on the theory, then I'll be ready to write my research question!

Anyway, the Easter weekend (I just mis-typed it as Eatser, which pretty much sums it up anyway) was a welcome break. Kyle turned 18 on Sunday, so we took him out for dinner to a Turkish restaurant not far from where we live. The meal was great – I’ve never eaten Turkish before, and the food was excellent. Done over some sort of barbeque plate or something – it tasted like it’d been cooked on a fire, which I love. We had lamb, chicken and prawn güveç, followed by a tray of various meats; the whole thing was great, and finished up with a glass of rakı and a cup of Turkish coffee. (A recommendation: Turkish coffee is great, but leave the last quarter-inch in your cup.) I think Kyle had a good time – I certainly hope he did.

Also, I won my first online tournament at the end of last week. What makes it simultaneously interesting, satisfying and frustrating was that before the final table, I looked at only two of my hands, and both of those were when there was an all-in move against me. When I was down in Melbourne in January, one of the things that was being discussed at breakfast one morning was the young Norwegian player Annette Obrestad. She’s the world’s youngest WSOP bracelet winner (she won the European WSOP main event at the age of just 18), and apparently is considered by many top poker players to be not only one of the rising stars of poker, but to be perhaps the best active female player in the world at the moment. Anyway, we were discussing her online play, and Jeff Lisandro (I think) mentioned that she’d recently won a 180-player $5 tournament by looking at her cards just once in the whole tournament. On every other hand, she played not according to the hand she had, but according to betting patterns and position. Jeff said that it’d be a very useful exercise for any poker player, so I thought I’d try it in this 90-player sit’n’go, which was just for play chips. Frighteningly, I won. As I said, before the final table, I’d looked at only two hands: once I looked on the river against an all-in bet for 6,000 (I had Jacks and sixes; I called the all-in bettor, who had Aces, and I won), and once I looked pre-flop against an all-in for 13,000 (I had ♣A ♣J; I called the all-in bettor, who it turned out was trying to steal the blinds with 6 ♠7, and I won). Two hands before the final table, I had 40,000 in chips; the next highest chip stack was just 13,000! I relinquished my chip lead briefly on the final table, but ultimately wound up heads-up with me on 122,000 and my opponent on 13,000, and eventually I took him out.

Interesting, as I said before, naturally because of this idea that it’s possible to do well in a hold’em tournament without having the slightest clue what your cards might be; satisfying, because it’s nice to finally win an online tournament, even if it was only for play chips; and frustrating, because there’s always the temptation to look down at your cards to see what you have, but also because of the paradox that I’ve done better without having a clue about my cards than I’ve ever done when I look. So now I owe both Jeff Lisandro and Annette Obrestad a drink when I go down to the Millions next year!

Also used the pool at the physio this afternoon. I enjoy that a lot more than the exercises I have to do every night; I'm not yet swimming, just walking in the water and raising myself up on tiptoes (my calf muscles aren't strong enough yet for me to be able to handle too much of that out of the water) and so on and so forth, but it's definitely working, and I'm progressing very well. My back still gets tired and achy very easily, but I have a feeling that'll be part of life from now on, and I think I can just about deal with that.

And as usual, have a meme:

kassie_opia gave me the letter T. Here are 10 things I like beginning with that letter.
Comment to this entry, and if you want to, I will give you a letter so you can do the same in your journal.

1. Twister. No matter that the film's meteorologically inaccurate and the plot's not particularly strong; it's one of my favourite movies to just put on in the background while doing work, and it's also a great movie to use to test a new surround sound system.
2. Terry Goodkind. I've only recently discovered Terry Goodkind's fantasy novels, and have been well and truly sucked in by them. Wizard's First Rule was particularly good.
3. Texas hold'em. If you don't know that already, what are you doing here?
4. Tubular Bells. A weird piece of music, but I quite enjoy it - the changes between the movements are very impressive.
5. Textbooks. My favourite reading material; although I like reading fiction, for some reason I have a non-fiction fetish.
6. Turkish food. I've just discovered this. And Turkish drink; rakı is a very, very good way to round off a meal.
7. ... the letter T is harder than I thought it would be!
8. Tennis. I coached it for several years to get through uni, and enjoyed getting out and having a game when I could as well. Now that my back's had it's conniption I don't know how long it'll be before I'm playing again, but I'm very much looking forward to doing so. And watching tennis live is just as much fun, as I discovered when I was down in Melbourne!
9. Tim Tams. You poor people in the U.S. and Europe, you have no idea what you're missing out on. They are the Best Biscuits Ever. Especially the dark chocolate ones with chili that they're no longer making. :(
10. Travelling. I never thought I'd enjoy travelling away from home all that much, and I do still get a bit nervous when I do (just in case I get stuck in some place like Melbourne and I've forgotten to pack underpants or something), but I had an absolute ball both times I went to Melbourne. I'm looking forward to doing more travelling in the next couple of years!
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