MLK Day in Chapel Hill

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Above is a candid pic by Nathan L. Walls, showing yours truly at Saturday’s hum & soc sci session. The teeshirt is from the Swedish Skeptics and reads “I am skeptical” in an obscure North-European language.

Yesterday’s highlights were

  • An informal brunch with congressman Brad Miller, who came across as low-key, thoughtful and friendly, with a serious interest in science policy and gender equality issues. Few US politicians ever come across as half as trustworthy in the media. I wonder if I’ve ever actually talked to a Swedish congressman?
  • A sunlit 7 km walk into Chapel Hill along a six-lane highway.
  • Dinner, geocaching and general sightseeing in near-deserted Chapel Hill.
  • A moonlit 7 km walk back to the Holiday Inn.

I’m calling a taxi before I leave the motel to head for the Morehead Planetarium. Chapel Hill hasn’t got many museums, and furthermore most are closed today because of it being Monday and/or MLK Day. The latter seems like a strange reason to me, because people are more likely to visit a museum when they don’t work, right?

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Sunny Winter Morning in RTP

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A good thing about jet lag is that it gets you up in the morning. I awoke at five, played around with the computer, showered, breakfasted and was outside at half past seven.

It’s a brisk, cold sunny morning with snowy lawns and smoking breath. I took a short walk over to the nearest geocache (by Research Triangle Park’s little memorial plaza) and took a few pix on my way back.

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I’ve Been Blog Conned and It Was A Blast

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Whew, what a day! I’ve been to the Second NC Science Blogging Conference, and I’ve had a blast.

The best part was actually to meet loads and loads of blogging friends whom I’d only seen in pictures. Amazing to actually meet them, hug or shake hands, talk and laugh. I even listened in as Bora chatted in Serbian with a compatriot. These are the eighteen nineteen SciBlings I managed to bag (I’ll put all those links in later, too tired & jet lagged now):

  • Tara of Aetiology
  • Evil Monkey of Neurotopia
  • Shelley of Retrospectacle
  • James of Island of Doubt
  • Sheril & Chris of The Intersection
  • Bora of A blog Around the Clock
  • Jennifer of Shifting Baselines
  • Ginny the dominatrix
  • Zuska of Thus Spake Zuska
  • Dave of Cognitive Daily
  • Janet of Adventures in Ethics & Science
  • Brian of Laelaps
  • ScienceWoman Sr & Jr
  • Josh of Thoughts [No Longer] From Kansas
  • Peter of Deep Sea News
  • Karen of Science to Life
  • Abel of Terra Sigillata
  • Kevin of Deep Sea News (He speaks Swedish!)

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And of course, any number of other charming bloggers, scholars, students and media people.

In the morning I caught a session about open science chaired by the excellent Hemai Parthasarathy. Before lunch, I chaired a session on blogging the humanities and social sciences (as documented by Ginnay). Before it began, I was afraid I’d be the only person in that room while everybody was somewhere else talking about natural sciences. But in the event, there was hardly one free chair in the room, and discussion was lively. Thanks, everyone who took part!

After lunch I caught Tara’s and Becky Oskin’s sesh on blogging public health and medicine issues. Then a huge common session about framing science and the Science Debate 2008 initiative with Jennifer, Sheril and Chris forming a panel. And finally some personal remarks about science blogging and science writing by Jennifer Ouelette. All in all a great conference with great Southern food – I’ve had grits and pulled pork and corn puppies and Locopops and lemonade and more!

Many, many thanks to Bora, Anton and all the volunteers for making it all happen!

Evening in the Research Triangle

I’m back in the US for the first time since 2002. Before that, the last time was in 1978, when I had lived in Greenwich, Connecticut and gone to Kindergarten for two years. Everybody’s way fatter than I remember them. But very cheerful and friendly.

My first time in North Carolina: I’m at the Radisson Hotel (in Swedish I always call these things Hotell Rädisan, “Radish Hotel”) in Research Triangle Park after having travelled for about 20 hours. Lost my itinerary printout, ran around Newark airport like a headless chicken, was then put on a standby list despite checking in an hour an a half before my el-cheapo flight would take off, but did get on the flight, and here I am now. The receptionist has christened me “M. Rumdkisd”.

Bedtime: tomorrow’s the big Science Blogging Conference day! I look forward to having breakfast with Sciblings, people I’ve known for a year and will now encounter IRL for the first time.

Any Readers in Chapel Hill / Durham, NC?

Anybody in the Chapel Hill / Durham area want to meet up some time 20-22 January? I’d like to befriend some natives!

I’m attending the NC Science Blogging conference in Research Triangle Park on Saturday 19 January. After that, I’m staying on in Chapel Hill until Wednesday morning 23 Jan. I’m going to be a tourist during Sunday, Monday and most of Tuesday, and then I’m giving a talk about my research at UNC on Tuesday afternoon.

Jenny-Rita Næss Honoured On-Line

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Around the time when a senior academic retires, she will, if she’s lucky, receive a Festschrift. The word is German and means “celebration publication”: typically, it’s an anthology put together by her colleagues and students. The contents of a Festschrift often vary wildly in quality and level of ambition: solid research papers occur alongside humorous reminiscences of travels and travails endured while the august old professor was still a lanky undergrad.

Now, here’s something unusual from Norway: archaeologist Jenny-Rita Næss’s Festschrift is being published as a web site. So far, seven of twenty-eight papers in the table of contents are available on-line. Lots of really heavy names in Norwegian archaeology, including several friends of mine such as the charming opponent at my 2003 viva. I look forward to reading the remaining twenty-one contributions.

Thanks to Jan-Peder Lamm for the tip-off.

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Main Swedish 30s Archaeo-Nazi Named “O”, not “SL”

Here’s breaking news.

Many European archaeologists feel bad about Nazi archaeology in the past. In my opinion, this is usually way overstated: a few of our pre-War colleagues were Nazis, which was opportune at the time, but archaeology had (and has) nothing like the kind of political oomph necessary to take any significant part in actually giving the Nazis power. Archaeologists are political opportunists by necessity because we’re so poorly funded, which is one reason that everybody in the field today is a humanistic liberal like myself. We are now in general neither more nor less good-hearted than were our colleagues of 70 years ago. Anyway, there has been a lot of Nazi-hunting in Swedish archaeology in later decades, and fingers have been pointed mainly in the direction of Sune Lindqvist, Andreas Oldeberg and Eric Oxenstierna.

Now, reports Åsa at Ting och Tankar, Magnus Alkarp in Uppsala is preparing his doctoral thesis for publication. And he has made some archive finds that shed radically new light on the issue of pre-War Swedish archaeo-Nazis. In a recent talk and UNT newspaper essay, Magnus explained that the evidence paints Lindqvist as a Swedish nationalist conservative who became increasingly hostile to Nazism as it grew in power. He helped Jews escape Germany, hid political refugees, herded his students away from Nazi recruiters and cooperated with the Swedish state security agency against German infiltration.

However, one of Lindqvist’s students, with a surname beginning in “O”, eagerly went to Berlin, offered his services and told Lindqvist in 1940 about excavations he planned to perform with concentration-camp labour! Alkarp’s thesis discloses the identity of this character and full details of his relationship with Nazism. The book is going to be very much talked about, and Magnus is marketing it in a very smart way, as this blog entry shows.

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Battle Damage Found on Djurhamn Sword

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Conservation of the early-16th century sword I found back in August continues apace at Studio Västsvensk Konservering. Its preservation is exquisite, and as usual with conservation of metal objects, a lot of new discoveries are made in the lab. Check out Vivian Smits’ photographs!

This is clearly a battle-worn weapon that has been lost during combat. The edges have several fresh parry nicks that would have made the sword hard to sheathe, damage that would have been seen to after the fighting’s end. But the sword was most likely dropped into the sea.

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Update 16 January: Vivian Smits adds, in response to comments here (and I translate):

… the blade has major damage near the point, where some material is missing [this is where it was wedged between the hazel’s roots]. … The point is slightly bent and one end of one cross-bar is deformed.

The blade bears traces of at least three “fresh” sword blows which suggests that the sword was lost during combat. All three are on the same side. The damage to the cross bar (which is on the opposite side from the nicks in the blade) may thus also be battle damage. The nicks are at 16, 28 and 39 cm from the point of the blade, which is all in all c. 70 cm long. [The total length is 92 cm.]

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