Thursday, January 31, 2013

Expectations - Go to Hell

Many of you know that music influences me in many ways. It is an outlet for me when I'm upset or angry and it inspires me when I write. The title of today's blog post is actually lyrics from a Three Days Grace song that I found  myself belting out today as I drove to work (and by drive of course I mean inch along a 5 miles and hour). I realized that I was singing how I felt. All people's expectations of me CAN go to hell. I want to live my life the way I want.

So what if I technically don't use my anthropology degree. So what if I "sold out" and got a corporate job. So what if my cynicism is waning and I flipped flopped on the whole idea of marriage. So what if I'm self publishing my works rather than going the traditional route. And finally so what if the expectations of my caliber of my proposal writing skills by my boss were way higher than I measured up to. The fact is: I'm happy. I love my job, my schooling, my fiance, and my writing. I also still LOVE Anthropology so that is why I will continue to write this anthropologically driven blog even though I'm not "technically" an anthropologist.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Trash TV, Terrible Addictions, and Terrifying Realizations

Yeah, yeah I know I'm obsessed with alliterations; one might even say I'm addicted to them which leads me into the topic for today: terrible addictions. On the way to work today I was listening to my usual DC 101, Elliot in the Morning and they were talking about the show on TLC "My Strange Addiction." For any of you that haven't seen or even heard about the show (picture to the left) it's exactly what it sounds like. It's a show that follows around people that have strange addictions. So yes, it's trash tv at its finest; a show the exploits people's addictions for the entertainment value. That in itself I have a problem with but I can address that at a later time.

Today they were talking about an episode where a woman is addicted to eating cat hair. Yes you read correctly: EATING CAT HAIR. Talk about vomit inducing. I won't get into the particulars because I might start gagging but basically this woman de-stresses by chewing on and eating her cat's hair. The thought of this makes my skin crawl but then I remembered about a problem that I had when I was younger: chewing on my hair.

I wasn't addicted to it but when I was nervous I would twirl my hair around in my fingers and also chew on it. This went on from the age of 12 until about the age of 15. It wasn't an every day occurrence, it was just a nervous problem I had that was actually extremely bad for my health. My mom would yell at me all the time to stop doing it so I did, around her anyways. I continued to do it at school and when I thought she wasn't looking. So you're probably wondering what broke me of this habit and I have an answer which leads us to the last part of the title: terrifying realizations.

Junior year of high school I took an anatomy class and it was by far one of my favorite classes in high school (next to Mythology and Law of course). We spent the entire class dissecting these cats for each part of the body that we learned about. We also learned a lot about bones and our final exam was to put a skeleton back together (hence where my love for forensic anthropology started). Those parts of the class were great but the part that sticks out in my head the most is our trip to the Walter Reed Medical Museum.

Now I know you're wondering what the hell this has to do with chewing my hair, but be patient we're almost there. See this museum had some awesome medical exhibits. They had organs that were plasticized that we could play with, giant models of the heart and lungs that we could walk through, and exhibits on medical mysteries. All of that was great but the exhibit that was the most intriguing was the "Weird Medical Conditions" exhibit. It was an entire exhibit on strange body part inflicted with elephantiasis, people with extra limbs, and then there was the thing that cured me of my hair chewing: a giant hairball in the shape of a stomach.

Turns out there was a woman about 30 years ago who suddenly died of unexplained causes. Upon her autopsy they opened her up to find that her stomach was completely stuffed with hair which ultimately lead to her demise. Needless to say after seeing that I NEVER chewed on my hair again.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What's in a Name? Pt. 2: Surnames

Back in July of 2011 I wrote a blog post about names and what they mean. I talked about the meaning behind names and even explained my name:

"My name Samantha actually has two meanings. The first part “Sam” is derived from the Hebrew male name of Samuel and it means “God heard.” The second part “antha” is derived from Greek which means “flower.” So apparently I’m a flower that God hears. My middle name, Eileen, is Gaelic meaning “light.” My mom gave me these names because she had always wanted a very girly girl who was full of light and flowery I guess. Funny though how I know go by Sam and am pretty much the opposite of how she thought I would turn out. This shows that every intention is not always the result. But regardless she put thought into naming me because she wanted it to reflect who I was (or rather who she thought I would be). Also she wanted her maiden name of “Sampson” to live on through the generation so my name is homage to the Sampson clan."
Now one thing I failed to mention was the origins of my last name which at the time I didn't feel as important since that wasn't given to me. So now I want to explore my last name of "Curtin" and what it means.

Curtin is Gaelic just like my middle name is. Before it was translated into English it was actually Mac Cuirtin derived from the personal name Cuirtin which in Gaelic means "hunchbacked." There are many variations of this name including Curtain, Curtin (which is the name my family uses), McCurtin (the Mc means "son of"), O'Curtin, McCurtain, and so on. I always found it ironic that my last name meant hunchbacked when I actually have a slight curve in my spine. When we were younger and my brother found out what our last name meant he actually started to endearingly call me Hunchy (I mean that's what little brothers are for right?)

The reason I wanted to write this post today is that now the engagement has sunk in I realize that my name is going to change. Instead of Samantha Eileen Curtin, I will now be Samantha Eileen Dambach (and later after I get my PhD I will be Dr. Samantha Dambach). Huh, that kind of has a ring to it doesn't it?

So the origins of Dambach? Well I don't know too much about it so I decided to do a little research. I knew it was German but beyond that I had no clue. Upon researching on and similiar sites it appears that the running meaning is that it's a German "habitational name from any of the numerous places" (

Due to the meaning, we can assume it was a place so I did a little research on Dambach, Germany. Turns out that Dambach is an Ortsgemeinde, a kind of collective municipality, in the Birkenfeld district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It belongs to the Verbandsgemeinde of Birkenfeld. Dambach was settled 3,000 years ago and a great number of archaeological find were made at barrow. The majority of these were from the Iron Age, and can be found at the Birkenfeld State Museum. Later in the 1st century BC, the municipality was actually conquered by the Romans. Dambach remained under their hegemony for roughly 400 years and it is apparent that the Roman culture has left its mark to this day (,_Germany).

Even though I love my last name of Curtin I'm loving the story behind the origins of Dambach as well. We have no Germans at all in  my family (all Irish and Norwegian) so I'm excited to become part of another family with rich history like mine. I will however be keeping Curtin as my pen name for my writing.So now it's your turn. What does your last name mean?

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Music is a tool that is used in every culture to bring people together as well as to tell stories of that culture. Personally it is something that inspires me with my writing and pulls me into the world of the songs. Last night was no exception of this. I had the pleasure of attending a House Concert in Baltimore featuring a husband and wife duo that played Celtic Music.

Not only does Castlebay play the music but Fred makes the instruments. That harp to the left he actually built for Julia. Not only do they play the music and build their instruments but they give you the history behind the music and the whole culture of what they're singing out. You all know how much I love history so I was in heaven last night. For example I learned more about the harp. Did you know that the body of the harp used to be carved out of one piece of wood and then the curved parts were branches? Also in the old days of Ireland next to the king the harp players held the most power. This was due to the power to bring people together with their songs. At one point the officials ordered harp players banished or even killed off do to their power.

This is amazing history that I knew nothing about and of course had to share with all my readers. Not only did we get the history of the harp but every song they sung was prefaced with the story behind it. The one that struck me the most was the story of a group of women that came over from Ireland to Boston. The women and children came separate from their husbands and the ship that held their husbands was lost at sea. These women were then stuck in this new place with no one to support them, but they survived. Julia couldn't find a song that was a tribute to them so what did she do? She wrote one herself!

There were other more upbeat songs (Julia referred to the last one I spoke about a a stereotypical gloomy Celtic song) such as a couple songs about lighthouses or taverns. Each song once again came with either Fred or Julia explaining why either they had written it or why someone else had written it. They even sang a song about Imbolc (which Brighid being my go to goddess is one of my favorite holidays) which was perfect since it's coming up in about three weeks. I purchased their Imbloc CD and am listening to it right now as I type this post.

So if you love Celtic music, poetry, stories of the "old country" as well as stories from their home of Maine then you have to visit their website and check Castlebay out:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

All Teched Out

Most of you know that I have a degree in Anthropology which is a Bachelor's of Arts. I've always hated that it was simply a Bachelor's of Arts. Liberal Arts degrees tend to get a very bad rep; people like us are looked down upon since we didn't have to take all the heavy science and maths that the Engineers, Chemists, Business, etc had to take. I decided though that I wanted to prove that you CAN go somewhere with a Liberal Arts degree that doesn't require you to eat Ramen noodles and live out of your car.

I went the corporate route; I work for a Government Contracting firm that focuses on IT, IT Security, and GIS. I write contract proposals, and do recruiting for them while going to Grad School for Geospatial Information Science (GIS) which is in fact a technical degree. I'm still in the realm of anthropology and archeology sort of. Even if I don't technically use my degree in my job, having that background was the best thing I could've done for myself. My perspective on the world is much different than someone who simply took a lot of science and math. Don't get me wrong those are good as well, which is why at Penn State you're required to take a handful of everything to make you well rounded.

My Masters that I'm working on now is HEAVY technical stuff. Currently I'm in a Programming and Scripting class that I have to say is quite tough. I have an A in the class right now but it's a struggle. A lot of time is spent looking up coding and researching concepts (since unfortunately my prof isn't that great of a teacher, very smart but can't explain things very well). The skills that I will take away from this class though will be extremely helpful.

The next class I will take will be Spatial Databases which is once again a very tech heavy class. It focuses on creating the databases behind those maps that I love. It will incorporate a lot of different tools that I used in the first two classes and I'm excited to get started with it.

Basically I'm extremely happy with the route I'm taking. I'm not sure if I'll actually move on to a position where I'll solely be working on Geospatial work or if I'll stay in the writing field. Either way the knowledge gained from starting with an Arts degree and then moving onto a Tech degree is infinitely useful. After I'm done with my Masters though I still have to decide what I want to get my PhD in. Currently I'm leaning towards something in writing but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Proposal Story

It was a crisp, dry night in the Baltimore Inner Harbor as we all celebrated the coming new year. Loud music played next to us from the speaker as we jumped around with the rest of the crowd that included some of our friends. The test fire of the confetti cascaded around us like colorful snowflakes. The minute countdown to midnight started and everyone started to cheer even more. I turned to Grant and he pulled me close to him and kissed me hard on the mouth. He let go and looked me straight in the eyes and smiled. He said something to me that I didn't hear so I leaned in closer.

As I leaned in he pulled something out of his pocket and I looked down to see the ring. My heart began to pound hard in my chest as I looked at the sparkling ring staring up at me. There wasn't much room around us as the crowd started to chant the countdown, so he half crouched and uttered the words: "Will you marry me?"

My hand went to my mouth as tears collected in my eyes. He smiled at me and asked: "So is that a yes?" I nodded frantically, my hand still over my mouth and he slipped the ring on my finger. He stood back up as I hugged and cried into him as the clock stuck midnight.

The crowd erupted in cheers and embraced and kissed each other in celebration. The confetti fell all around us and caught in my hair and in Grant's coat. I kissed Grant again as I stared up at him with watery eyes. I knew that this was the person that I had been waiting all my life for.