Weekend Fun

  • Logged four geocaches. One helped me discover a huge vestigial highway overpass. Highway 222 was built in the early ’70s, and at one spot west of Nacka high school the road engineers thought that they might one day want to build a four-lane highway crossing the new one. They haven’t so far. I rode my bike up this little dead-end road, Birkavägen, and onto the unpaved ground under the great airy concrete vault. On the other side there were just woods with a seldom-used path.
  • Went to the movies, watched Brüno. Found it equally embarassing and almost as funny as Borat. Been thinking about it quite a bit afterwards.
  • Went to a party given by friends of a friend of my wife. Folkie trio BrittakÃ¥ren performed live in the living room and were great.
  • Lost one game of Tigris & Euphrates and two games of Race for the Galaxy to Paddy K and Swedepat.

What did you do for fun this past weekend, Dear Reader?

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Phobos-bound Tardigrades Portrayed

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Stacy L. Mason is an Aard regular and a talented artist. Check out his awesome interpretation of the Swedish tardigrades that are going to Phobos!


In other news, I have issues with the lyrics of the Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas podcast‘s theme song, a fine ska tune by 7 Seconds of Love.

I’m gonna flip out like a ninja
‘Cause that’s what ninjas do
I’m gonna flip out like a ninja
And you should flip out too

The thing that throws me here is the word “because”. When deciding on important matters such as whether or not to flip out, Dear Reader, I feel that a person should have a stronger justification than just referring to the habits of ninjas.

First Interplanetary Travellers Will Be Little Swedes

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Phobos-Grunt (“soil”) is a planned Russian sample return mission to the Martian moon Phobos. It may launch in less than two months. On board will among other things be the L.I.F.E. experiment, a small canister full of hardy micro organisms, designed by the US Planetary Society. If all goes well, those microdaddies will go to Phobos and back, and then biologists will be able to compare them to their stay-at-home buddies to learn what the environment out there in interplanetary space really does to an Earth creature. Or to a creature from another planet who might once have been thrown into space by an asteroid impact, perchance to land later on Earth.

Only one of the microbe species in the canister is a multicellular animal: tardigrades, water bears, Sw. björndjur. They have been provided by Ingemar Jönsson of Kristianstad University College, Sweden. So the first multicellular travellers from Earth in interplanetary space will be little Swedes!

Bizarrely, the canister also contains a soil sample from the Negev desert. OK, so desert critters might be unusually well suited to surviving the harsh environment out there. But is it really a coincidence that they’re sending soil from the Holy Land?

Sb Goes On-line Community

Quoth Overlord Erin,

In the next three to four weeks, we’ll be creating and unveiling a user registration program … This will allow users to sign in, create a profile, track discussions they’re interested in, customize their content, and interact with one another directly. We will also be introducing other benefits for registered users such as entry into prize drawings and possible rewards for commenting. … registration will be optional at least to start, so no need to worry about readers who don’t want to register being unable to comment.

… Some of the features we’re looking into include:

  • Registration Profiles
  • User Pics
  • Comment tracking
  • Voting/Starring system
  • Recommendation widgets
  • User to user connections
  • Following – users can follow actions of other users
  • User-created Groups
  • Sharing content
  • “Talk” blogs or forums
  • Newsletter management
  • Photo galleries
  • Polls & Quizzes

Ladies of the Barrow

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I’m writing this on the train home from Lidköping on Lake Vänern in Västergötland province. I’ve spent a pleasant day discussing an interesting fieldwork project with colleagues. Gothenburg PhD student dynamic duo Anneli Nitenberg and Anna Nyqvist Thorsson have been working for years on the island of KÃ¥llandsö, famous mainly for Läckö Castle, and now they’re doing something really audacious: they’re digging a major barrow on the island’s southern shore, diameter ~20 meters. Badgers have threatened to destroy it, and so the ladies got an excavation permit and ample funding from the local bank’s benevolent fund. The barrow has a large central cairn curiously built of quarried stone, a cremation layer peeps out from under it, several pieces of bone (intrinsic age = 0) from the layer have given radiocarbon dates in the 7th century, and there are multicolour glass sherds in it. So it’s a Vendel Period petty king’s grave.

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Swiss Auto Graveyard

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From Aard regular CCBC, a heritage management conundrum to ponder.

This is a curious situation that I heard about on metafilter.com. I have included some of the links.

Near Kaufdorf, Switzerland there is an auto junkyard that was in use from the 1930s to 1970. It has become overgrown with various forest flora and people have found it an interesting place to take photos. Recently, the Swiss government has decreed the place an environmental hazard and says that it must be cleared and paved to prevent fluids from seeping into the ground. Many people have protested on the grounds that:

  1. This is a valuable record of vehicles from their first wide use until the end of cheap oil;
  2. This is a habitat (!) for endangered species of lichens, mosses, and so on;
  3. This is a beautiful spectacle. (This seems to me the most compelling reason to just leave it alone.)

Now, it might be argued that allowing these vehicles to decay destroys their value as historic/archaeological data. On the other hand, your recent mention of burning buildings down to better understand the ruins you might unearth suggests to me that something might be learned by recording this process of a scrap yard returning to forest. In either case, I find the images compelling. And I do not accept the official rationale that the forest must be paved over to preserve it. (Especially after almost forty years!) But the vehicle carcasses will be auctioned off in September and the asphalt will be poured.

Anyway:

Myself, I love photographs from these sites, but I’m not terribly keen to visit one. I much prefer indoor auto museums where the machines are in good condition. I think the thing to do here would be to invite a bunch of painters and photographers to do projects about the site over a few months, and then clean it up. The future of the environment should trump today’s aesthetic sensibilities.

Photo by Rolf F.

Stjernsund Manor

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My part-time employers, the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, sometimes receive rather hefty donations. This is how they came to own Stjernsund manor near Askersund in the province of Närke / Nericia. (Don’t confuse it with Christopher Polhem’s early industrial centre Stjärnsund in Dalecarlia.)

Stjernsund received its säteri manorial charter in 1637. The original buildings were replaced by the current neo-Classical structures shortly after 1800. Stjernsund then belonged to members of the Bernadotte royal dynasty for several decades (one of them adding a horrendously style-clashing ornate punch-drinking veranda to one of the wings), earning it the appellation slott, “castle”. The early-19th century furnishings are still in place and beautifully preserved.

Last Wednesday I enjoyed a sunny day at Stjernsund. Like all Academy property, it is kept in impeccable shape. This is no mean feat as modern Sweden is very unlike the society that once produced manors like this. They used to be economic assets. Today they are huge liabilities. But Stjernsund is well worth a visit. It has a good restaurant, there’s lots to see, and accommodation is available in one of the garden wings.
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Swedish University Lends Creationist Credibility

The Department of Archaeology at the University of Lund is organising a panel debate about creationism on 30 August under the heading “Archaeology, the Bible and Charles Darwin — a debate about evolution, creationism and archaeological evidence”. On the panel are Neolithic scholar Kristina Jennbert, liberal ex-arch-bishop Karl. G.H. Hammar, author and polyglot philologist Ola Wikander and young-Earth creationist Mats Molén. I am not happy at all with this. The university shouldn’t lend credibility to pseudoscientists like Molén by inviting them to public debates. He is in no way commensurable as a scholar to Jennbert, Hammar or Wikander. And regardless of the venue, you certainly do not need to throw a senior archaeologist, a senior liberal theologian and a hot-shot Bible philologist at him to win the debate.

Who are they going to invite next? Bob Lind?