Open Thread For April

… I, for the succour and diversion of such of them as love (for others may find sufficient solace in the needle and the spindle and the reel), do intend to recount one hundred Novels or Fables or Parables or Stories, as we may please to call them, which were recounted in ten days by an honourable company of seven ladies and three young men in the time of the late mortal pestilence, as also some canzonets sung by the said ladies for their delectation. Decameron, Preamble

March Pieces Of My Mind #3

This 1999 boardgame is named “Bus”.
  • I know I’m supposed to isolate myself, but still I’ve been to the little local shopping centre three days in a row. Had to buy food for my mom, my ex and my family, and today I bought take-away lunches to help our local café-diner survive.
  • Through 24 years of archaeological fieldwork at more sites than I remember I have met with a great number of landowners and farming tenants. Everybody’s been at least polite and accommodating, many have been super nice and many have been interested in our work too. But there was this one farmer who got really angry with me once when I sent a team of metal detectorists onto his half-wasted early-April canola field without his permission. The land partition was complicated there and I had simply missed one of the many owners when I prepared for the fieldwork. I’m preparing for renewed fieldwork at that site now. I called one of the landowners, he was friendly, I got his permission. And then it turned out it was the same guy. “Oh, I certainly remember that!”, I said. “Good, good, I’m glad my message came through OK.”
  • Research by Caroline Ahlström Arcini has documented modified front teeth in Scandinavian men from the Viking Period: horizontal grooves cut into the enamel, which when filled with pitch would give you a highly characteristic striped smile. These guys played some central role in early Visby on Gotland, as seen by the prevalence of the custom at the Kopparsvik cemetery. But I recently learned something fascinating. Men who were murdered during burial rituals and deposited as grave furnishings in the Lake Mälaren area (both the Elk Man burial at Birka and one of the victims in the Bollstanäs burial) also have these modified teeth!
  • Heading out for the perfect socially distanced pastime: geocaching in the woods.
  • I was thinking this morning of everyone in Sweden who loses a parent or grandparent to the epidemic. Imagine knowing that this person’s life was cut short by a combination of Chinese cuisine / health superstitions and middle class skiing holidays. The world is silly and random.
  • My grandparents died when I was in my 20s. I’ve had this vague bad conscience for not keeping in touch with them after leaving home. Suddenly it struck me: they made no attempts either. I want to have tea & cake once a month with my grandkids.
  • A memory: in the mid-90s some guy who had worked briefly on a National Heritage Board contract excavation set up a web site for the Board on his private ISP account, and for ages that was the first hit on all search engines. Dude refused to take it down!
  • Polish spelling is really just cheating when miesiąc (month) is pronounced “myeshaNS”, not the expected “myeshaTS”.
  • So how about if we organise our societies a little more tightly instead of basing everything on “the economy” and treating it as something as inevitable as the weather?
  • You know why Christianity teaches that you go to heaven after death? Because in the Hebrew brand of West Semitic polytheism, Jahweh was the storm god. He lived at cloud level. When your soul went to Jahweh it literally went a kilometre vertically. Then they threw out the rest of their pantheon, leaving only one place to go.
  • I believe the US would be much better off if “the right to bear arms” was amended to “the right to bear guisarmes”.
  • Today is no long-johns day where I live!
  • Happened upon the first book I bought online, in June 1997, almost 23 years ago. It’s Lovecraft’s Miscellaneous Writings. Sadly they’re not as interesting as his fiction or letters.
  • Robbin Ask of the Swedish Metal Detectorist’s Association sent me a sweet 3D-printed replica of a flanged axe from the Pile find, some of the earliest locally made metalwork in Scandinavia! Probably 1800s BC.
  • 28 March marks one month since the first Swedish coronavirus case. Me and my family have been lucky so far. (There was a single case two months ago, then nothing until 28 February.)
  • I’ve trimmed back all the tiny ground shoots from the lilac bushes. Looking forward to pruning the roses and buying two new bushes. Choosing by fragrance!
  • Let’s all stop using the word desperado in favour of the Polish word for bedsheet, prześcieradło.

My Cancelled or Postponed Events

A dynamically updated list of cancelled or postponed events where I was planning on participating.

  • Nacka district court’s layman judge association, annual business meeting & lecture.
  • Fantastika scifi convention. I was on two panels and was giving a talk about NMK.
  • Game night.
  • Royal Armoury’s appointment-only library, research visit.
  • Nacka Social Democrats, annual business meeting.
  • Wikimedia Sweden, annual business meeting and seminar.
  • Östergötland County Museum’s friends association, me speaking about my Viking Halls project.
  • Continued training for layman judges.
  • Local school administration and education board politicians, seminar.
  • Kai’s 54th birthday party. With alleged waffles.
  • Municipal school board’s monthly meeting.
  • LinCon 2020 gaming convention. I was supposed to give a talk on NMK.

March Pieces Of My Mind #2

Alvastra Abbey
  • Drove Jrette’s moped to the repair shop and realised that driving a moped means sitting still outdoors in a strong wind. Taking me hours to get warm again.
    Polish friends swearing up and down that DZ is always pronounced DZ and never ever J. And then it turns out that DZI is pronounced JI and that’s totally not relevant to the issue. /-:
  • Grieving over the end of my dad years.
  • Woah, was thinking about the students me and Howard excavated the Skamby boat grave with in 2005, realised that they’re pushing 40 now.
  • We aren’t hoarding food. Instead I’m excited about possibly getting the family to eat all the weird old food that fills our cupboards. How about some tofu sponge with tinned green peas?
  • It’s starting to annoy me how intensely distracting my smartphone and laptop are. Several times a day I decide to to something on them, then immediately get distracted by some popup icon or dialogue box, and finally half an hour later I realise that I never did the thing I intended to do.
  • I don’t get the toilet paper hoarding thing. Even if you’re actually going to spend weeks locked up in your home, as seems highly doubtful right now, can’t you just wash after you’ve gone?
  • The Reformation was above all a reorganisation of the public sector.
  • Farewell to Alvastra! None of the hoped-for Viking Period material, only six pieces of modest High / Late Medieval metalwork, but a weekend of great camaraderie.
  • Took a walk in the sun, had some uncharitable thoughts involving Judge Dredd and the summary execution of people who litter.
  • I demand that the cheerleading team of Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai in Romania be named The Babes Of Bolyai!
  • I like the pieces of a device that nobody ever uses. Like an obscure plug socket on a handheld GPS receiver or the SysRq key on a keyboard. Stuff that could have been omitted and made the object more affordable, but has been incorporated into the thing for historical reasons or because someone misjudged what would become standard.
  • Towards a social anthropology of groceries hoarding: shoppers have cleaned out the big mainstream grocery store in Fisksätra of pasta, sugar, flour and toilet paper. But they have barely made a dent in the stocks of these products in the immigrant store next door.
  • Lots of Jewish surnames are variations of “son of Levi” — Lewisohn, Levison etc. But I was surprised to learn that there are people named Leviathan.
  • I’m just kind of vaguely concerned about my Boomer parents. But I just realised that being a dad I would be absolutely falling apart if this virus killed young adults, same percentage.
  • The Polish word for party, impreza, originally meant “undertaking, venture”.
  • I jump-started my research activities on the New Year after two years and a month of doing other things. In only eleven weeks, thanks to a lot of skilled volunteer work, my project has already made a major advance at Alvastra Abbey in the field of Viking Period elite settlement. Our result is negative, but it clears up a really important issue. Thank you Ebba Knabe, Michael Lander, Kenth Lärk, Annica Ramström, Erik Rosenklint, Patrik Svantesson, Olle Södergren, Anna-Lena Tibell and Magnus Österblad!
  • Tasmania is quarantining visitors from the mainland. Is Gotland next?
  • Somebody asked me if there’s actually any archaeology at all in that field in front of Alvastra Abbey. There certainly is: two parallel foundation ditches with carbonised wood that have given radiocarbon dates in the 11th century. One of them is accompanied by a line of small postholes. Both show up clearly in the geophys. What our fieldwork the past few weeks has shown is that the features in that field are not likely to represent a house.
Morning commute, Nacka strand – Blockhusudden


March Pieces Of My Mind #1 – Polish Edition

Łódź’s street grid was superimposed 200 years ago on farmland and woods that were already subdivided into plots on completely different orientations. And these plots survive inside many of the city blocks!
  • Pleased to see that the city of my new workplace, Łódź, is not zoned on the Atlas of Hate. The closest municipality to receive a motion on the issue is rural Ksawerów, and they decided to not even accept it onto their meeting agenda.
  • Duolingo just asked me what my wife is like. Probably wants to know if she’s a goer, a sport.
  • Strange coincidence: the ancients name a moving star God the Father, and thousands of years later it turns out to be the biggest planet in our solar system.
  • Friendly whippet poked its head repeatedly around the subway seat to sniff my hand and get a good head scratch. ❤
  • My castles book from last year has so far been reviewed in five journals and four languages. Two of the reviewers make the same odd comment. ”This stuff about castles in one Swedish province is mainly interesting to Swedes, so why is the book in English?” 1. I am bilingual in Swedish and English. 2. Swedish is a small language. 3. All Swedish academics read English. 4. Duh.
  • Polish cash machines have a cool feature that Swedish ones lack. You just need your bank’s app to withdraw cash, no plastic card. You ask the app for a six-digit temporary code and punch it into the cash machine, then you confirm the withdrawal in the app.
  • Ice cream with poppy seeds, raisins and candied orange peel. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!
  • Lovely name for a publication series: Acta Terrae Septemcastrensis. Can you figure out which German place name (not in Germany) this refers to?
  • Act of quiet resistance: when Moscow declared that all Polish cities had to rename their main streets Stalin Street, the mayor of Łódź did not rename Piotrkowska, the obvious main street of the city. He renamed a less important street that happened to be named Main Street at the time.
  • To me there’s an important difference between lying and making a claim despite not knowing anything. To 45, this distinction doesn’t seem to exist.
  • Amazing how Google Maps allows you to use public transport in strange cities optimally and at a moment’s notice.
  • The student dorm where I rent a room when working in Łódź is named for St. Balbina.
  • I was recently made moderator of a closed Fb group where every posting has to be OK’d. I’m using my power to delete every single “Thanks for letting me in” posting.
  • In the interest of gender equality, a Danish university is removing words that they feel are typically masculine from their job ads. Such as excellent, competent and analytical. *slow clap*
  • The forest in Robert Holdstock’s 1984 fantasy novel Mythago Wood measures only a bit more than 3 km across in the mundane world.
  • How much carrion baggage is allowed on Finnair flights?
  • In Mythago Wood, sections 1 and 2 have numbered chapters. Then in section 3 the chapters have names instead.
  • Instead of rice (imported), potatoes (don’t keep well) or pasta (bland), I eat a lot of boiled whole wheat, Sw. matvete. And mixed in with the wheat grains I usually find a few intrusive seeds from another plant. They’re very hard, nutty brown, 2-3 mm, almost spherical, with one small depression. My paleobotanist friend tells me they’re from cleavers, Galium aparine.
  • Do you want to know how on top of my shit I am? When other people have trouble filing their tax returns because they’re doing it too late, I have trouble filing mine because the IRS WEBSITE HASN’T OPENED YET FOR THIS YEAR! On top. Of my shit.
  • The Sumlen restaurant in the National Library’s basement is named for Johannes Bureus’s enormous work notebook. The word means “The Collection”, cf. Sw. samla. Bureus was the first really notable runologist and developed over his lifetime into an increasingly crazed and megalomanic occult mystic.
  • One of the main ways of apologising is to say that you apologise. I wish that would work for vacuum cleaning as well.
  • Rock journalist Fredrik Strage wrote in 2004 about the band Monster Magnet that while many grunge bands sang pained songs about being sexually abused by their parents, “Dave Wyndorf preferred to write party tunes about being sexually abused by intergalactic demons”.
  • Movie: For Sama. Autobiographical documentary about raising your first child at an improvised hospital in besieged rebel Aleppo while Assad bombs you. Grade: Amazing, grips you by the throat, makes you want to punch Nazis.
  • Antibacterial silver compounds mess up sewage treatment plants.
  • Drove Jrette’s moped to the repair shop and realised that driving a moped is like sitting still outdoors in a strong wind. Taking me hours to get warm again.

February Pieces Of My Mind #3

Five days in Åre, Jämtland, with the Rundkvist ladies!
  • Indian food is just utterly Pradesh!
  • Snowmobile boots. In 1979 they were the absolutely coolest footwear a 7-y-o boy could have in my Stockholm suburb. But nobody there owned a snowmobile. How did that happen?
  • I think it’s reasonable to expect that sleep will end a headache.
  • Norway’s Østlandet, the East Land, is part of the country’s west end.
  • In the first Dirk Gently book, Douglas Adams credits a Mac word processor called Laser Author. It seems to have sunk without a trace.
  • It would be fun to tell teenage me “You will reread this Dirk Gently book at age 47, on a handheld dedicated computer that downloads books wirelessly from the Internet, and you will pay for it with your salary from a Polish university. Meanwhile, a pretty Chinese psychologist will try to take your book computer to read Jane Austen on it.”