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Amateur of Amateurs

Everyone once in a while, I play amateur paleontologist or archaeologists. It's fun. It's sorta the equivalent of playing whiffle-ball and pretending that you've just hit a home run. But let's be honest, I know that I'm not playing baseball, and I know that I'm hitting the ball somewhere between the neighbor's pool and the yard with the dog in it.

I really do stand in admiration of the pro-paleontologists. It's not because of WHO they are, but the high quality of WORK that they continue producing. I can't even pretend to keep up with the field (and I do try), and I would never think about using some of these tools and techniques that they use. This is really cool stuff. Somehow, they have taken my favorite creatures and have made them even cooler than they were before.

Keeping up with the paleontology field is hard. I'm too far away in the ecosystem to understand the arguments, tensions, and debates going on within the field. For example, I generally know something about dinosaurs, but get outside of that, and my knowledge of ancient creatures and lineages just collapses. Dinosaurs are sort of the "Babe Ruths" of paleontology. They're the bad boys that everybody knows, yet they are only a slice of the myriad of life that lived upon this planet. I don't hang out with the other natural history experts. I don't go to conferences. I don't read the professional journals. I'm not being coached by a pro to play the pro-level game.

To make it more complicated, the modern paleontologist has also been comparing ancient creatures against modern creatures, not only in anatomy, but in behavior. The wandering behemoths of my childhood are long gone, replaced with living and breathing creatures who interact with their environments. So not only do I need a good grasp of yesterday's creatures, I need an excellent grasp of today's creatures as well.

I could try to keep up, I suppose, but I'm busy enough keeping up with my own computer field, keeping up with the family, learning the book writing and publishing field, and writing books. I could put more time into the dino field, but I'm sure that something would need to be scarified. At the moment, the dino field is my sacrifice, so I must accept it as a "fun" hobby and accept that I will always be out of the academic loop.

And all that leaves me here, still playing wiffle-ball, because, you know, there's nothing wrong with playing wiffle-ball.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 8th, 2013 09:42 pm (UTC)
Are you on Facebook? Tom's always on there with the giant community of paleo-people, and they post all kinds of things.
Nov. 8th, 2013 09:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, I am there, and I do see all those posts go by. I try to keep up as I can, but so much of it I don't understand. That's partly where the big RESPECT comes from. (By "don't understand", I mean that that vast trove of specialized nomenclature from physiology to stratigraphy. There's just so much to know. There's nothing like cracking open the books on the next level of difficulty to realize how much you don't know.
Nov. 11th, 2013 02:52 am (UTC)
I've since given up trying to follow the archaeology literature, and now I just gather as much of it about me as I can to archive.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )