Donkey Shot

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I’m reading Steven L. Kent’s engrossing 2001 book The Ultimate History of Video Games, and of course it reminds me of a lot of games I played as a kid. My first real video games were played on the Atari VCS/2600. (The book is in my home because my 10-y-o son is both a video gamer and a bookworm, and took it out from the library.)

A memory. It’s 1982 or ’83. The Nintendo Donkey Kong Game & Watch is the hottest game around. My classmate Pär comes up to me in the hallway in school and asks me if I “saw Donkey Shot”. Confused I reply that of course I’ve seen Donkey Kong, everybody has one. “No, stupid”, says Pär. “Did you see Donkey Shot on TV last night?” I have to admit that I didn’t, and Pär tells me it was great.

One morning the following week, scanning the TV section of the paper, I realise that what Pär had seen was a cartoon version of Don Quixote.

(Did you know that “Donkey Kong” is the fruit of a Japanese attempt to say “stubborn gorilla”?)

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New Swedish Fantasy Novel

i-085e636542e9cb3bb021a723f7cae59b-Tungelblodet.gifMy erudite friend Florence Vilén (historian of religion, haiku poet, aficionado of gems and classical music) has published her first novel in Swedish. Tungelblodet (“Blood of the Moon”) is high fantasy set in a northern archipelago where wind-witches help fishermen to make good catches. Florence cites Tolkien, LeGuin and Ende as her favourite fantasists (and I concur).

The book can be had from Litenupplaga.se (SEK 173) and Adlibris (SEK 177). Order your copy today! I just ordered mine.

Chatbot Conversation

I was contacted on Yahoo Messenger today by a chatbot named Alexandra Buford. She greeted me in a foreign language, so I thought it polite to reply likewise.

Alexandra: yhneb martinrund

Martin: yhneb

Alexandra: Hi martinrund. it’s Alexandra.

Martin: yhneb

Alexandra: u dont know me Kelly — gave me your info, 🙂

Martin: yhneb

Alexandra: I just moved here from outta town cuz my boyfriend just dumped me (loser!)

Martin: yhneb

Alexandra: I’m lookin to have some fun this weekend, wanna join me? ;);)

Martin: yhneb

Alexandra: I have a new profile up tell me what u think

Martin: YHNEB

Alexandra: So… U think ur up for some fun with me 😉

Martin: YYYYHHHNNNEEEBBB

Alexandra: I’ve got my web cam up too if u wanna get a lil preview ;)!!

Martin: Y. H. N. E. B.

After this last message of mine, Alexandra ran out of pre-programmed lines to spout. Thus ended our brief relationship. I miss the way she used to say “yhneb” to me.

Notice Board Screed

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For decades, Stockholm has been the turf of photocopy artist Renate Bauer. She paints too, but her main mode of expression is hand-written prose-poetic screeds covering every square centimeter of the paper. These she photocopies and fixes with sticky tape to notice boards, bus stops and other convenient surfaces all around the Swedish capital, as a kind of analog local blog. I pocketed an entry dated Friday near the NW corner of the Humlegården park yesterday. Here are two excerpts, translated by yours truly.

“26/9 ’08. You can really tell that the Minister of Culture in Sweden is a talent-challenged untalented person, a Narnia witch incompetent blind in the head genetically congenital unschooled insensitive. Yes, you know she ran around in galleries with her old man Ulf Adelssohn has run around like that been in like that places and probably also abroad at museums and certainly at the Munch museum in Oslo the bitch the freak judging from senses gene-doubled talented over-talented well-made in the head DNA unit of measurement measuring-rod viewed.”

“I hate the ill-defined not getting things into order and be grumpy puzzled about what the fuck that was. About myself and irritated that I said artist for real. About if somebody who isn’t really an artist but just a fence painter theatre-scenery painter for real. I got into order clarity what I had done and why and how. When Ingvar V.M. talks to me. At the place of a mutual acquaintance a hair dresser Marie L.A. in a hair salon my sister and I. Ingvar was the DNA I had seen and his name is Ingvar V.M. and not Jan H. Then I realised all of what I had seen and done. How and why I always say to mention artists by name for real and the pigs, so that others in their turn can go and check it out and see the DNA and make it out puzzle pieces biology machinery machine to make out nuances a bit like in a car computer hi-tech so and avoid getting fooled by the freaks witches trolls Jew Judas and avoid fooling themselves.”

Another Career Whine

Here’s another whine about academic employment in Scandy archaeology.

Yesterday my PhD diploma turned five years old. This means that I have now, at age 36, ascended to heights where I am automatically considered over-qualified (or simply failed) for a forskarassistent entry-level assistant professor’s position at Swedish universities. Having done research full-time for the past 14 years and published about 120 pieces of archaeological work, I allow myself to believe that I am not an entirely failed scholar. It’s an over-populated labour market.

In the past five years I have applied for almost every entry-level and lecturer job advertised in academic Scandy archaeology. In sixteen cases I know the age of the person who got the job. The median is 42 years. The first and third quartiles are at 40.5 and 43.75 years. In everyday terms, this means that to get one of these jobs, you have to be 40-44 years old and you must have completed your PhD recently.

In practice, it’s probably also wise to not piss a whole generation of older colleagues off by telling them in print that a) their humanities/sociology-based perspective on the discipline is a load of pretentious verbiage, b) the MA-level teaching of archaeology at universities should be severely curtailed as it sends graduates into unemployment. (Free advice, kids!)

So, careerwise I’ve painted myself into a reasonably well-funded gentleman-scholar corner. I’m like Charles Darwin without the ancestral money and The Origin of Species. My wife is the only person in the world who cares whether I get out of bed in the mornings. Small grants from private research foundations and a one-day-a-week gig as a journal editor pay my bills and my costs of research. I don’t want to go into contract archaeology because of the Field-Archaeological Paradox. I don’t want to be a museum administrator. I can’t hope to get into academic archaeology before age 40 (that is, 2012). And I can’t give up before age 44.

I enjoy what I do and I have inexpensive habits, so I have no real incentive to leave the discipline for greener pastures (translation work, language teaching, science journalism, the computer gaming industry). But I have high enough an opinion of myself that it really irks me to find the road to positions where I could do some good work barred.

But I guess that the really sad thing is that compared to my contemporaries in Scandy archaeology, mine is a success story.

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Notability Discussion on Wikipedia

There is a discussion going on at Wikipedia regarding certain facets of the on-line encyclopedia’s controversial notability policy. At heart, it’s about where the line should be drawn between notable subjects (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and non-notable ones (Shitty Arnie, my wife’s cat), articles about which should be deleted.

There are two main issues with WP:Notability that need clarification by the community.

  1. Does every article need reliable third-party sources to prove it is notable, or can notability be inherited from another article?
  2. To what extent can the General Notability Guideline be overridden by specific notability guidelines such as WP:Notability (music) and WP:Notability (people)?</ol

My utilitarian perspective on Wikipedia makes me an inclusionist: I don’t think notability should be a central concern for Wikipedia. There is no harm in having articles about topics that few readers are interested in: they take up very little storage space each. As for Wikipedia’s “image”, the encyclopedia is far too established to have to worry about that sort of thing.

Dear Reader, if you’re a Wikipedia contributor, why not check out the discussion and make your opinion known?

Fighter Plane Ammo

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Ammunition is extremely easy to find with a metal detector. Cartridges are large chunks of brass, which would make them obtrusive even if they were just spheres. But they are in fact sheet-metal cylinders closed at one end, which means that whatever orientation they have in the ground, there is usually two metal planes reflecting the detector’s signal. They shrill like mad.

Above is a pic of two cartridges I picked up at Sättuna today. The left-hand one is the most common type in Swedish farmland, used mainly to hunt large mammals, but also I believe in standard-issue army rifles of the 20th century. The right-hand one is something more unusual. I have only come across it at Sättuna. Look at the size! The two cartridges measure 55 by 12 and 99 by 20 millimetres respectively.

Sättuna is not far from the military airfields and SAAB fighter airplane factory of Linköping. When working at the site, we have constantly been overflown by various military aircraft. The larger cartridges are traces of a fighter pilot’s shooting practice one day decades ago.

Is there perhaps a gun nut around who can give us the type codes for the two ammo types?

(Kai, guess what I’m gonna give you as a housewarming present.)

Update 26 September: Explains Felix, the larger cartridge is likely a .50 BMG whose production began in the late 1910s. It was used in fighter planes especially during the Second World War.

Update 27 September: And N.N. adds that the smaller one is likely a 6.5×55 mm Swedish Mauser cartridge, developed in 1891 and popular among hunters to this day.

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Sättuna Fieldwork Summary

We finished digging today. Tomorrow I’ll take a few more charcoal samples and return the tools to the units that lent them to me. The dig closes eight days earlier than planned.

A week and a half of digging has identified the following phases on site, none of which were known to us beforehand:

  • Scattered lithics, knapped and then abraded by wave action on a beach. Mainly quartz, some hälleflinta/leptite, a little flint, one chip off a ground greenstone axe. Also a complete greenstone adze that permits us to date the assemblage to the Middle Neolithic about 3000 cal BC, but more likely the Late Mesolithic about 4500 cal BC, say the experts.
  • Many functionally anonymous pits, many hearths and a few postholes, all probably dating from the centuries around AD 1. Radiocarbon will tell. The only identifiable structure among them is a line of six apparent fence posts. No datable artefacts.
  • Some 19th and 20th century refuse pits.

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Anthro Blog Carnival

The fiftieth Four Stone Hearth blog carnival is on-line at Yann Klimentidis’ Weblog. Archaeology and anthropology, and all about Belqas, a town in the north-western corner of the Dakahlia Governorate, Egypt.

Belqas comprises in its jurisdictions the well known resort of Gamasa. Belqas is also known for its natural gas fields in the region of Abu Mady. Belqas remains a mainly agricultural region, although it supports some industrial activities such as sugar, rice and plastic factories. Belqas has a very old secondary school which is known to graduate good highly qualified students. This school is T-shaped in honour of Taha Hussein who opened it.

Submissions for the next carnival will be sent to me, not to the old submissions address. The next open hosting slot is on 19 November. All bloggers with an interest in the subject are welcome to volunteer to me for hosting. No need to be an anthro pro. But you must have had an Egyptian school building designed as your initials, like me and Taha Hussein.

And check out the new Skeptics’ Circle!