Age of Spawning

My dad had me (his firstborn) when he was 28. I had my first kid when I was 26. I’m a second-generation university graduate, first generation PhD.

Dear Reader, how old was your parent with the same sex as you when they had their first kid? How old were you when you had your first kid? Is the length of your education significantly different from that of the parent in question?



I’m trying out a new side-bar widget from PostRank. It’s intended to grab browsing readers and send them on from wherever they enter the blog to other posts that have recently proved popular. Whaddayathink?

Biodiversity in Artificial Wetlands

A recent press release from the University of Lund includes a confusing contradiction. Summarising Dr. Geraldine Thiere’s recent doctoral dissertation, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning in Created Agricultural Wetlands, the release claims that on one hand natural wetlands are not more biodiverse than recently dug ponds, on the other hand that biodiversity in wetlands increases with age. Both statements can’t be true.

After I had written to Dr. Thiere she kindly clarified the matter for me. It turns out that arguably neither of the two contradictory statements is true.

To begin with, Thiere hasn’t studied any natural wetlands.

“I actually compared the diversity and composition of created wetlands with old ponds in the agricultural landscape. These ponds were 50 to 100 years old and stem from clay diggings märgelhÃ¥lor; they are at least semi-natural systems. There was no difference between the diversity and composition of macroinvertebrates in created wetlands and old ponds.

It is a bit complicated to compare created wetlands to real, natural wetlands; partly because there are so few left in the agricultural landscape, partly because the wetlands created today are not neccessarily similar to the wetlands that were once lost. Created wetlands are most alike to small ponds (dammar); natural wetlands on the other hand may not have a permanent water surface (more like a mosse).”

Secondly, the increase in biodiversity over time that she has documented occurred over a period of only six years.

“Wetland age seems to ‘enhance’ macroinvertebrate diversity, i.e. older wetlands (in my case 5-6 years) hosted more macroinvertebrate species than younger wetlands (they also hosted different species combinations). … natural wetlands are present in the landscape for a long time, and the question is if created wetlands (even 6 year old ones) come even close to the natural diversity.”

Yes, that’s the question. Maybe a wetland hits maximum biodiversity already within a few years of its creation. Or maybe an artificial wetland remains relatively poor compared to natural wetlands even after a hundred years. But that’s not the question Geraldine Thiere’s research was designed to answer.

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Sorted Newsfeed in Swedish

Printed newspaper are crap. The news in them is old, you still get entire multipage sections that you don’t want, they use up trees and gasoline, they crowd your mailbox and you have to dispose of them after reading them. And they cost money! News should be read on-line, preferably with an RSS reader. (I use Google’s).

Now, here’s something for my Swedish readers. The country’s main newspapers, Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet, currently don’t offer a finely sorted selection of thematic RSS feeds. If I want the main international news headings from them, then I have to put up with a load of pointless sports stories and local murder cases as well.

However, our friends on the front side of the country, Göteborgs-Posten, have a set of sorted feeds. And that’s where my ad hits go these days.

Current Archaeology’s May Issue

i-4a868e7c104a4a1cd3abb1eded0e083b-001_COVER229final222.jpgThe May issue of Current Archaeology (#230) has an interesting piece about warfare in the British Neolithic. The UK has a lot of battle-dead inhumations. There’s even Neolithic battlefield archaeology of sorts at hillforts that have been besieged by archers and thus are full of flint arrowheads to this day. I heard a paper on this topic by Roger Mercer at an EAA conference back in ~1996, so I knew a little bit about it already.

Much of the issue is about the differentiation of Roman “villa” sites into functional categories such as shrines, tax-collecting depots and rural manors. In Scandyland we have nothing as visible as villa sites from the 1st Millennium, mainly because even the top-level elite up here used exclusively perishable building materials at the time. Our shrines and manors show up only if you metal detect them, which unfortunately isn’t being done much because of our laws.

An opinion piece by the pseudonymous writer Amicus Curiae, “Friend of the Court”, has some interesting things to say about UK’s heritage curators (minions of the County Archaeologists?). Apparently they correspond in their duties to our biträdande länsantikvarier, but their level of proficiency isn’t uniformly great if we’re to believe Amicus Curiae.

… curators without field experience have become, as Don Alhambra put it, ‘plentiful as tabby cats in point of fact, too many.’ Often they are recent graduates. The results are predictable. They perceieve archaeological potential where there isn’t any, and miss it where there is. […] If I may refer you to the [Institute for Archaeologists]’s latest survey, Profiling the Profession: ‘The university system does not prepare students for any type of professional archaeological work.’ Courses do not embrace excavation experience any more than literacy or numeracy, as employers have testified.

This calls to mind the recent findings of the National Agency for Higher Education regarding Swedish archaeology training. May the UK situation be due to a need among universities to prioritise putting asses in lecture-hall seats over teaching dull & gritty professional skills? Or is it because academe is cultivating its own ivory tower version of theoretical archaeology?

The mag also has a great big catalogue of digs in the UK that will welcome volunteer workers this summer.

Update 28 April: Dear Reader Jonathan comments,

The quote that Amicus disingenuously gives from the report (which can be downloaded as a PDF here) isn’t from any part of its conclusions, but from a sample response included as an appendix (p. 218). Thus, it’s not a finding of the report or its authors … I can’t immediately see anything in the report proper that supports the point Amicus apparently wants to make.

Amicus here seems to have taken on the anti-intellectual rôle of demeaning professionals and academics as ivory-tower dilettantes, perhaps as an editorial appeal to CA’s amateur and lay readership.

Don’t Mention Ovaries

Yesterday I inadvertently offended the Sb Overlords in an interesting way. Since I came on board 2½ years ago we’ve had a series of handlers or “community managers” who have all been competent, charming women. Punning a little, I have fondly called them my Ovarylords. To my knowledge this has not raised any hackles before. But yesterday I used the pun while criticising one of our overlords for a traffic-boosting effort that was in my opinion misguided and a little naive. Wrote I, “my Ovarylord suddenly turns into a cheerleader”. This didn’t go over well at all. But to my surprise it seemingly wasn’t the cheerleader part that offended this woman, but my referring to ovaries.

I realise now that this was seen as a case of a WASP male, me, joking about an oppressed group. I can’t tell jokes about Jews or black people or gays. It wouldn’t be funny: it would just be seen as hostile. But I don’t see the Sb Overlords as a oppressed group in relation to myself, regardless of the fact that they’re women and have ovaries. On the contrary, I perceive the Sb Overlords as my bosses.

I live in one of the most gender-equal countries in the world. This may paradoxically make me look like a misogynist to people in other countries since I am not conditioned to treat women as an oppressed group. Women still have a worse average salary here than men. But in Sweden, when a man jokes about women, it is not like a German joking about Jews or a white Texan joking about black people. An ovary is not necessarily an emblem of the oppressed.

What’s The Financial Crisis Got To Do With Me?

As a scholar working in an abstruse subject I live a life largely divorced from what concerns most people. We have no newspaper subscription. I really don’t have much of a clue. But I am aware of the poor state of the world economy. Now, how has it affected me so far?

The only effect of the financial crisis on my life that I am aware of is that the mortgage my wife and I took out in December is absurdly cheap. We currently pay less per month to live in a 114 sqm house than we did last year to live in a 80 sqm apartment.

In the long run, it seems the crisis will have both good and bad effects for me. On one hand, the foundations that fund my research are likely to have less money than usual to dole out over the following years. On the other hand, the slump will prompt the government to invest in roads and railroads, which will create archaeological job opportunities, and it will lead to unemployment in other sectors, which will prompt the government to invest in the university system to keep the kids off the streets, which will create further job opportunities for scholars in abstruse subjects.

So I’m not really bothered by the global financial crisis.

What about you, Dear Reader? How has the crisis affected your life so far? And what effects do you foresee?

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