May Pieces Of My Mind #1

Distanced Walpurgis mini-bonfire. Singing with my wife in our yard!
  • I use the free Calibre e-book management software a lot. Just discovered that the author is named Kovid. Poor fellow!
  • Movie: National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978). Campus war between the preppy fraternity and the scruffy party fraternity. Grade: OK.
  • Bought myself a present for next spring when I turn 50: a ticket to a three-day stoner rock festival in Camden Town, London.
  • Stood around looking at the five rose bushes I have annexed over by my neighbour’s fence. Another neighbour who hasn’t lived here for very long asked me severely what I was doing there. He thought I might be a burglar. When I pointed at our house and explained that I’ve lived here for over twelve years he apologised and said that he is good at telling dogs apart but not people.
  • Fucking roe deer’s mutilated another sprouting rosebush.
  • Wonder what the pandemic has done to sick leave figures. There’s a lot of desk work you can still do when not quite well enough to commute to an office.
  • The identification of the magic cauldron of Celtic pagan myth with the cup used at the Last Supper is one of the more bizarre transformations in legendary history.
  • Movie: Palm Springs (2020). Groundhog Day, but there’s more than one person looping and it’s a romantic comedy. Grade: OK.
  • Humming Beck’s old song “Nitemare Hippie Girl”, I realise that though my wife is neither nightmarish nor a hippie, she does in fact have tofu the size of Texas.
  • In some boardgames, your missiles hit, in others your Hittites miss.
  • ”Europe’s view of the United States: 18th century – embarrassing rural gun nuts. 19th century – embarrassing rural gun nuts. 20th century – world war-winning sophisticated movie stars and astronauts with great clothes and a cool attitude. 21st century – embarrassing rural gun nuts.” /David Nessle
  • Magpie collecting twigs for the nest in Fisksätra!

April Pieces Of My Mind #3

Copper alloy finds from AD 500 to 1100 made at Husby in Glanshammar
  • Just learned that Arabic dirham is a loan from Greek drachm. D-r-ch-m. Where the vowels go is kind of negotiable in Semitic languages.
  • Anglo-Saxon paganism: a brief interlude in eastern England, preceded, neighboured and succeeded by Romano-Celtic polytheism and/or Christianity.
  • Note to past self: you will own an extremely good wholly automatic hi-res digital camera which will be really really difficult to hold on to when taking a photograph because of its silly shape.
  • Sudden worrying rash of threats to de-fund humanities departments in the UK and Germany: Chester, Tübingen, Göttingen and more. Why now?
  • Still so cold, garden developing too slowly, I’m impatient.
  • In his amazing 1969 novel Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut gives a death toll for the Dresden bombings that historians believe is an order of magnitude too large. And he quotes it from future Holocaust denier David Irving!
  • As I’ve bragged before, my daughter is the chairperson of her school’s student union. She’s Swedish + Chinese. Yesterday she talked to her equivalent at another preppy Stockholm high school. He’s all Chinese. Yay East Asian academic traditions! There’s in fact a considerable amount of positive prejudice towards kids with East Asian looks. People expect them to be smarter than most.
  • You know how cult leaders will predict the end of the world, the coming of the aliens etc. for a certain date? And then afterwards, when nothing happened, they’ll say that the world did end or the aliens did come in spirit, just not visibly? I’ve come up with a good routine for anyone who wants to be an innovative cult leader. Don’t predict anything. Just announce afterwards that the world ended or the aliens arrived last Tuesday in spirit. It’ll make a huge splash!
  • “Being made redundant” is such a strange euphemism. Maybe you are redundant to your employer and therefore you get fired. But making you redundant in order to then fire you is just nonsense.
  • New Bronze Age hoard with about 50 objects found under a boulder near Alingsås. Montelius Per. VI, before 520 cal BC. Wendelringe, other hooked torcs, disc pins, belt hooks with spiral discs similar to the Hyndevad find, a big heavy clamp anklet, two odd ringed pins, one socketed axe.
  • Stockholm County is past the third wave crest in ICU admissions now.

April Pieces Of My Mind #2

10th (or 6th?) century finger ring found during recent fieldwork at Husby in Glanshammar
The coleus in Jr.’s and Cousin E’s old room, Sw. palettblad, is blooming.
  • In this Richard Russo novel an Upstate New York labourer is often found at the “OTB”. Wikipedia tells me it’s either a gambling establishment or a South African missile test range.
  • Wikipedians keep bringing up that archaeological excavation reports are not peer-reviewed publications. In fact, they never are, but that’s where all the data are. It’s like demanding that a biochemist’s lab notebook be peer reviewed. A peer-reviewed journal paper is not very useful to a scholar who seeks complete data.
  • Heard a horrific story about a fiction editor who, when doing reprints, took out all the empty-lines-with-centred-asterisk that divided a narrative into scenes.
  • Movie: Big Trouble in Little China (1986). Action comedy set in a baroque parody version of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Sorcery and endless clumsy fight scenes. Grade: OK.
  • There was a John J. Lloyd who designed the sets for Big Trouble in Little China, and a John R. Lloyd who did the sets for Clue. Neither was identical with the John Lloyd who wrote The Meaning of Liff with Douglas Adams.
  • Funny how a lot of 60s music sounds skilful and contemporary while almost no 60s or 70s or 80s movies look skilful or contemporary.
  • Me: “about AD 1300”. Everyone outside the historical and archaeological profession: “Martin says it’s from the 1300s.” *facepalm*
  • Yay! Relief! My dad and his wife have had their first shot!
  • Opened the window a crack to hear the blackbird at sunset. ❤
  • Jrette has reached the stage in her high school science studies where her parents are not very useful for homework any more. For one thing, we’ve forgotten most of what we used to know. And for another, science has progressed since we graduated.
  • We’ve got seven rose bushes around the house that I check on almost daily. It’s not enough. So today I called our disabled neighbours and asked if I could take care of the rose bushes outside their fence. They said yes! I have annexed four big climbing roses and one smaller rose-like thing! I spent two happy hours before dinner pruning, re-training, fertilizing, watering, then removing a big pile of pruned branches.
  • Movie: The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Young federal agent in training converses with an imprisoned hyper-violent criminal mastermind to extract clues to an active serial killer. Grade: great!
  • Good morning! The most vulnerable 20% of Swedish adults have now had their first shot!
  • Some young people celebrate their 18th birthday by drinking themselves silly in bars. Jrette’s boyfriend celebrated his by buying a bottle of non-alcohol cider at the supermarket. All cider varieties have an 18-y-o lower age limit in Sweden,* and he did have to show ID. (* I’m guessing this is to avoid lengthy bickering in supermarket checkout lines)
  • Someone is nostalgically enthusiastic about a 1980s series of fantasy books translated into Swedish. A personal victory: I refrained from asking who the hell reads English books in translation.
  • You could walk from India to Sri Lanka until a cyclone cut off the land bridge in 1480.
  • Yay! The Mars helicopter worked! It’s flown!
  • The FedEx shooter was a Bronie and left a suicide message about his favourite My Little Pony. Online forums for Furries and Bronies have a major problem with Neo-Nazis. I’m not joking.
  • Movie: Orlando (1992). Androgynous Tudor noble stays young for over 400 years. Visually amazing but plotless. Grade: OK.

My New Scifi RPG Scenario

I played a lot of role-playing games in the 80s and 90s, and published a few scenarios. Then I quit almost entirely until last fall when I took up Ashen Stars in a big way with friends. Now I’ve published a scenario for this gritty space opera game.

In The Disappearing Sensei, the crew is tasked with tracking down a long-forgotten cyborg deserter and data thief. Neither her motivations nor what she stole from the Combine navy turn out to be quite what the crew might have expected.

The cover art is a portrait by Jorge Don de Rayoja (VanCoralArt) of the German actress Anna Maria Mühe in a Weimar Republic style. Fritz Lang taught us in Metropolis that there were robots in 1920s Germany, and apparently there were cyborgs too!

Go ahead and have a look at the scenario!

April Pieces Of My Mind #1


Next time you hear about a site that has been looted with metal detectors, and there were 100 little pits there – remember this photo.
  • Seen two ridiculous password behaviours recently. One Polish bank tells you to enter part of your password, about a third of the characters, which ones is randomised each time. One Swedish newspaper generates a password for you, then tells you to enter that password backwards, which is another way of saying ”Here’s your password backwards!”.
  • Idea for a sketch: a group conversation at a party that works like a Facebook thread. Most participants ignore each other and only reply to what the first person said, often making identical responses. Two hours after everyone has moved on to new subjects, a new guest arrives and replies to the old thread, repeating something that’s already been said twice.
  • Anyone who thinks there should be more AC/DC hits should listen to Airbourne, “Ready to Rock”.
  • Movie: Clue (1985). This over-the-top whodunnit parody brings together a group of strangers with secrets in a Gothic manor full of potential murder weapons. Grade: good, silly comedy!
  • I’m writing a Motörhead tribute song about the importance of taking condoms along on space shuttle missions in the 80s. “The Space of Aids”.
  • Poor David Gahan. After two years, Vince Clarke leaves the band and he’s like “Finally I can stop singing about gay men!” And Martin Gore just “You will now spend decades singing about BDSM”.
  • In Starship Troopers ch. 2, Heinlein calls a genetically enhanced dog a “stable genius”.
  • The OCR on this free ebook of Starship Troopers is so bad that everyone’s in the Anny.
  • While Verhoeven’s movie Starship Troopers parodies fascism, Heinlein’s novel does not. I just read a long didactic passage where he argues for corporeal and capital punishment.
  • Asked a white-haired gaffer if he was born in the 40s (like my parents). He is 13 years older than me.

How To Metal Detect Legally In Sweden In 2021

Swedish metal detector regulations are uniquely restrictive. They have never been good from the perspective of knowledge advancement, artefact rescue or public participation in cultural heritage. And in recent years they have become worse. But with this blog entry I don’t aim to tell you what I think of the current rules or why. I’m just summing up what the rules are. Thanks to Olle Södergren and Ny Björn Gustafsson for insightful comments and corrections on a draft of this entry!

The first thing to understand is that the Swedish system makes it effectively impossible to metal detect on a whim while vacationing (unless you’re a nighthawk). Long waits are always part of the process.

I’ll explain the pertinent laws, then I’ll give some instructions.

  • Metal detecting is illegal in Sweden without a permit from the County Archaeologist, Länsantikvarien. Metal detecting is never legal for amateurs on the islands of Gotland and Öland in the Baltic.
  • Sweden has no trespassing laws: as long as you don’t interfere with crops or livestock, or bother someone at home, you can go wherever you want.
  • When members of the public find an object older than 1850 on or next to a registered site, it is public property and must be handed in to the County Archaeologist, regardless of what material it is made of.
  • When members of the public find objects older than 1850 somewhere else, they (not the landowner) have ownership of them except in the following cases, where finders are obliged to offer the finds to the State before possibly gaining ownership:
    • Objects that consist at least in part of gold, silver or copper / bronze / brass.
    • Objects irrespective of material that are found together in some kind of cluster.
  • This means that if you find a single iron object somewhere distant from registered sites, it is legal to keep it, but you are concealing potentially valuable archaeological data. If you find a flint chip and a potsherd together in one spot, then you are obliged to offer them to the State. And if the State decides to keep any of your finds, you are entitled to remuneration.
  • The find spot of an archaeological object becomes a known archaeological site the moment you show your finds to an archaeologist. This means that if you find something really interesting and follow the rules, chances are you will not get continued permission to metal detect in that spot, as most County Archaeologists do not let detectorists anywhere near known archaeological sites.
  • Private individuals can receive a permit to metal-detect a certain spot for a certain time, provided there is no known archaeology there and the person expresses no interest in archaeology.

With all this in mind, to enjoy metal detecting legally and constructively in Sweden as a private individual, follow these steps.

  1. Identify a likely field/beach/park far from the nearest registered ancient monument (runic Rs on the map, also check the on-line register).
  2. Check with the landowner & tenant that it wouldn’t cause them trouble to have you walking and digging little pits on the land in such and such a season.
  3. Screenshot a map and circle the area you want to metal detect with drawing software. A field or two is realistic: a parish is not.
  4. Fill out an on-line application form on Länsstyrelsen’s web site (i.e. the County Council). Append the map. Emphasise that you already have the landowner’s & tenant’s permission and you will show any pre-1850 finds to the County Archaeologist. Do not mention archaeology. The permit is typically good for one year.
  5. Pay a 870 kronor fee for them to process your application (€85, £72, $100). This does not guarantee that you will get a permit.
  6. Wait two weeks and then start nagging the County Archaeologist politely by phone.
  7. When metal detecting, bring your permit, a GPS navigator and zipper baggies. Bag all finds that you believe are pre-1850. Write coordinates in the SWEREF 99 TM grid on the bags.
  8. If you find something you believe is pre-1850, e-mail pictures of the object and its GPS coordinates to the County Archaeologist as soon as possible.

The above procedure is designed to keep private individuals away from archaeological finds as far as possible. There is however a way for a person to take part in targeted archaeological fieldwork in their spare time. This is by joining the Swedish Metal Detector Association and waiting for one of the collaborative efforts they organise with a few friendly organisations, notably Örebro County Museum. I work part-time at this museum, and organising big detector investigations is one of my tasks.

Now, what have I forgotten? And is anything unclear? Tell me!

This is an updated version of an entry from 2009.

March Pieces Of My Mind #3


Örebro County Museum keeps this beautiful mid-10th century sword chape in the Jelling Style. It was found in Lake Österhammarssjön, Fellingsbro parish. Photo Per Torgén, coloration by myself.
  • A few weeks back we saw two fighter planes training at very low height near Leksand. They looked completely unrealistic, like CGI.
  • Movie: The Lighthouse (2019). Two lighthouse keepers go insane from hard liquor in extremely pretty black-and-white. Grade: OK.
  • It’s such a relief to not have to bother about American domestic politics anymore! I’m unfollowing people left and right on Twitter. Phew!
  • My home suburb’s prog rock band, Trettioåriga Kriget, celebrates 51 years with a new album!
  • If you should discover that you have a long, thick piece of flexible tubing attached to the top of your head, then you may be a beast designed in the Jelling style of the 10th century.
  • No freezing temperatures in the 10-day forecast!
  • Cycled to Erstavik at nine in the evening under a gibbous moon. Stood still in the woods for ten minutes, heard the lapwings (Sw. tofsvipa) make a huge racket out in the field, but no owl. Then on my way back to the bike I heard a few calls from a tawny owl (Sw. kattuggla). Trying at Nyckelviken next time, there are old oaks there.
  • Wife & daughter photographed and interviewed on different subjects in the local weekly. Turning to the even more local weekly, I’ve got a column in it. Rundkvist local media hegemony!
  • Steve McQueen died at 50 from pleural mesothelioma, a cancer caused most likely by exposure to asbestos while he served in the Marines 1947-50.
  • Most Swedish archaeology museums have a few finds trays labelled Sw. Sump = corf / fish basket. They contain finds of uncertain provenance that have lost (usually temporarily) their links to the written record. Often a wild mix of stuff, always worth a peek.
  • Is Shoto Todoroki and Mikis Theodorakis the same person?
  • 12% of adult Swedes have had at least one shot. Swedes have almost stopped dying from covid19.
  • Stanisław Lem was born in 1921. Poland’s parliament has declared 2021 the Year of Stanisław Lem. He would have been skeptical.
  • Excuse me – just what is it that you are inseminating?!
  • Three days, 28 test pits screened, one archaeological hypothesis solidly tested. Thank you everyone in the Historiana Association, and all who worked so hard and so cheerfully in the rain!
  • Ask me to review a journal paper that devotes more space to explaining archaeological theory than to using that theory, and I will recommend that you turn the paper down. In the natural sciences, theoreticians aim at producing better theory. In the humanities, they aim at producing more, and more fashionable, theory.
  • 14 years ago the “Microsoft Genuine Advantage” program annoyed me so much that I abandoned Windows for Linux. Still a happy Linux user!
  • 28 December was Sweden’s worst day for COVID-19, with 121 deaths. Thanks to vaccination, that number has been 6 or less for the past week.
  • Drinking two cups of tea daily for three days and then drinking none causes me persistent headache on the fourth and fifth days. /-:
  • One great thing about the word processor in Google Docs is that you can change the file name from inside the document without even using the menus.
  • Wonder if there are usability experts studying the bizarre states people get software into by pressing odd key combinations by mistake.
  • Did you buy those ribbons in a cyber hearse affair?
  • Orodruin: if you liked it then you should have put a ring in it.
  • Suddenly remember choosing vinyl LPs when I was a teen in the 80s and didn’t have much money. Depeche Mode or Alphaville? The Cure or Love & Rockets? And the disparaging comments my friend made when I had bought something old and unhip. All those albums are in my phone now.

The Duvnäs platform. Is this the foundation of Olof Svart’s manor house from the 1520s?

March Pieces Of My Mind #2

7th century brooch from Västergötland
  • A nasty thing about Twitter is how random people will attack you out of the blue, often with incomprehensible logic. Can you US folks explain to me if this makes any sense in your cultural and political context? Scientist on Twitter: ”I wonder how common it is for women to discover very late in their pregnancies that they are pregnant.” Me: ”Probably depends on whether you are in an area with comprehensive sex ed.” Random Twitter person: ”That’s classist!”
  • Annoying: when you click on an interesting headline and it leads to a fucking film clip, not text.
  • Some guy in Gothenburg is advertising Beowulf tourism in Västergötland to the readers of British Archaeology. His only publication is an applied physics dissertation from 1997. He’s a member of the main regional-patriotic association. He might be a good guide, what do I know?
  • “The name Excalibur ultimately derives from the Welsh Caledfwlch (and Breton Kaledvoulc’h, Middle Cornish Calesvol), which is a compound of caled “hard” and bwlch ‘breach, cleft’.” (Wikipedia)
  • Someone I know reports that if you turn off your mike during a Zoom meeting and give a big fart, the software helpfully alerts you that your mike is not on.
  • Congratulations Jrette, just now elected to chair the student council’s executive board at Nacka High with 2,500 students! ❤
  • I’ve been using my Garmin GPSMap 60CS a lot for the past 15½ years: for archaeology, for geocaching and for hiking. But it’s started to turn itself off unpredictably, it hasn’t got the current Swedish survey coordinate system, and I can’t re-flash its software. So today I got its descendant model 65, in good time before this year’s fieldwork season starts.
  • Prince’s “When Doves Cry” really has a unique sound. Always amazed when I listen to it.
  • The scilla is ready for spring, and so am I!
  • Swedish advertising copy writers often express themselves in English because they believe the customers think this sounds cool. Is there anywhere in the English-speaking world where you would find the words BIG SIZE WHITE SYSTEM on a toothpaste tube?
  • Love this. I went from Somerset Maugham to his secret agent character Ashenden to Virendranath Chattopadhyaya to the German Friends of India to Dr. Inanendra Das Gupta who developed the first Swedish plastics. Then I created an article about Das Gupta on German Wikipedia.
  • Arthur C. Clarke’s 1949 story “The Lion of Comarre” has people who spend all their time in immersive virtual reality porn.
  • Imagine collecting meteorites on the ice of Europa.
  • I write this piece about Viking Period harbour sites for a small regional journal, and they want to cut all the scholarly bits out to make it more accessible. So I withdraw the piece and submit it to a bigger national journal, and they turn it down because there’s not enough scholarly bits in it. *sigh*
  • Today’s the anniversary of when I started my coronavirus quarantine. Cycling instead of riding trains & buses, avoiding shops etc. I already worked from home before.
  • Scandinavian animal art (AD 375-1125) is extremely nerdy and intricate. At first you understand nothing, and it’s an extremely deep rabbit hole to fall into. One good way to understand this stuff is to colour it in. This rectangular brooch (above) from the period 670-700 shows a common motif with a big beast turning its head over its shoulder and biting across its own body. But then there’s some other stuff interlaced with it. Annelie Nitenberg, finder Andreas Blomqvist and I wondered if it might be a second beast. So I coloured it in and found that no, in this case the big beast simply has four legs, which is unusual. The extra legs are khaki. They aren’t attached at the hip or shoulder, but instead form extensions of the spiral spurs on the two standard feet.
  • The most vulnerable 10% of Sweden’s adult population have now received one shot. 4% have also received a second shot.
  • Me and my nerdy buddies spent most recesses during middle school in the library. We liked to read Reader’s Digest’s Amazing Stories, Amazing Facts (1975), whose trashy Fortean contents were not very factual, but certainly amazing. Then when we graduated I was one of the kids who were ceremoniously given a book for our good grades. You may wonder with what kind of solidly academic or agelessly classical reading matter did Saltsjöbadens Samskola send me out into the world? Reader’s Digest’s Amazing Stories, Amazing Facts!
  • Universal Basic Income is fiscally conservative. But it goes against the idea of helping the “deserving” poor only. So it’s not morally conservative.
  • Lake Mien near Tingsryd in Sweden is an impact crater.
  • Överby was a hamlet near Erstavik manor, 20 mins by bike from my home. The name means “upper settlement”. It is likely to have been established in the 9th or 10th centuries judging from the prehistoric grave monuments strewn around the edges of its land. Written mentions of Erstavik from 1356 onward probably refer to Överby, because the Early Modern site of the manor is too low over the sea level to have been habitable at that early date. It is very visibly the lower settlement. The two sites are only 1.7 km apart, little more than a mile. The last building standing at Överby served as the rural area school and was torn down around WW1. Its greystone foundation and the collapsed remains of its brick chimney are clearly visible. The Sites and Monuments Register has 13 certain grave monuments around Överby. My excellent colleague Tove Stjerna (who made the neat maps for my 2015 Bronze Age book) recently found three more. I went out to have a look and take GPS coordinates & pictures.
Solitary grave monument due north of Överby hamlet’s site, recently discovered by Tove Stjärna