Five Mountain Names

  • Mount Everest: named after Colonel Sir George Everest (1790-1866), British Surveyor General of India.
  • K2: an early land-surveyor’s shorthand notation, used because nobody lived near enough to the mountain for it to have a local name.
  • Himmelbjerget: “Mount Heaven”, 147 meters above sea level. Denmark’s highest point is in fact Møllehøj, “Windmill Barrow”, at 171 m a.s.l.
  • Kebnekaise: “Kettle Peak”. Sweden’s highest mountain carries this name due to a misunderstanding between local Saami and surveyors, as the mountain with the concave peak is actually nearby Tolpagorni.
  • Mount McKinley: the highest peak in North America, named by a gold prospector in the 1890s after US president William McKinley. The president hailed from Ohio, and there is an on-going conflict between the Congressional delegations of Ohio and Alaska over attempts on the latter’s part to rename the mountain Denali, which was its local name before the area became Anglicised.
Advertisements

Bo Ohlson’s Lemon Chicken, as Remembered and Recreated 30 Years Later

Dismember a chicken and boil it in pan #1 until tender.

Boil it with onion + carrot + garlic clove, all split, and bay leaf + salt.

In pan #2, melt a few tablespoons of butter and whisk 0.4 dl of wheat flour into it.

Add 5 dl of the chicken broth from pan #1, strained, a little at a time, while whisking.

Add the shredded zest of a lemon and half of its juice.

Add salt and pepper to taste and a dash of turmeric for colour.

When the sauce has boiled for a while and thickened well, take it off the heat and whisk an egg yolk into it.

Meanwhile, cook rice and some vegetables.

The easiest way to keep the chicken warm while you get everything ready is to leave it in the surplus broth.

WARNING: do not add milk or cream to the sauce, as the citric acid will cause them to curdle.

Bo Ohlson is the father of my childhood friend Örjan. He is one of Sweden’s main authorities on pharmaceutical history.

Recent Archaeomags

i-809f519f9874dcd6e4558c605a1cffbc-CA250_Cover.jpg

I’m very pleased to have made it back onto the courtesy subscription list of Current Archaeology, which is a popular zine about UK archaeology. Not only does it offer good writing and photography, but it covers an area whose archaeology is actually relevant to what I do. Not too many millennia ago you could walk a straight dry-shod line from Gothenburg to Edinburgh.

I recently received Current Archaeology #250, whose cover story is a collection of attempts to look in a positive light at the future of UK archaeology after radical public spending cuts. These were occasioned by two unfortunate things that hit the UK at the same time: a severe economic recession and a Conservative government. To me, the most interesting voices in the ten-page story are those of my Leftie radical colleague Neil Faulkner who calls for revolutionary resistance against the cuts, and Lord Rupert Redesdale, MP for the Liberal Democrats and known for his Green opinions.

Redesdale first appeared on my radar as author of the preface to the 2009 volume Metal Detecting and Archaeology (which I reviewed), where he draws an interesting parallel: the UK’s amateur metal detectorists are a semi-rural cultural resistance movement against the central authorities of the same kind as, though less posh than, the fox-hunting crowd. Redesdale is chairman of England’s All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group, and I can only wish that Sweden had politicians who cared enough about my subject to form a similar work group.

I share a number of views with this member of the UK government, regarding archaeological hedonism and the prime importance of not losing sight of who the target audience is. Writes Redesdale,

“There is still enormous interest in archaeology, as is shown by the large numbers of students who have taken archaeology degrees over the last two decades. However, there are few jobs in archaeology and much of the archaeological work undertaken is in the realm of the developers. There has been a major failure in making local people aware of what has been learnt from the thousands of digs that have been undertaken, and how it could enrich their sense of place in the local community: the real crux of why archaeology is being hit so hard. Local people have been disenfranchised by a profession that should be based on disseminating local information. The tens of millions of pounds that has been spent on archaeology in London alone, which has generated vast reams of grey literature (which almost no one has read), is a massive failure that lies squarely with the archaeological community.

The present cuts, whilst devastating in their impact, could give the impetus for the industry to change direction. What is the purpose of archaeology, if not to excite and promote wonder at the rich and varied landscape in which we live? We cannot rely on academic theses to be the only product, if we want local communities to devote scarce resources to preserving our heritage.”

Other highlights of this CA issue are eight pages on the Gristhorpe Early Bronze Age oak-log inhumation (the academic treatment of which appeared in Antiquity shortly before the CA piece) and five pages on richly furnished Roman burials at Hungate in York.

Skalk is another pop-sci magazine with great writing, great images and coverage of an area that interests me: yndige Denmark. The December issue was yet another example of something I’ve complained about in the past: not enough archaeology. After eight pages of Late Palaeolithic arrow-shaft sanders and Medieval churches with skull niches, Skalk moves on to 20 pages of written Danish history. I read it all with some interest, but I do prefer news about the country’s stellar archaeological record. In fact, if Sweden has something cool in archaeology, Denmark always has even cooler and more plentiful examples of it. And when Sweden has something that Denmark does not have, then it’s pretty much a boring elk-trapping pit. I wish I had a job at MoesgÃ¥rd.

The summer issue for 2010 of Archaeology Southwest, published in Tucson, Arizona, recently reached subscribers. The theme of the issue is “social identity in the Northern San Juan”, an arid area full of of pueblo sites in the Four Corners region (mainly in Utah and Colorado). Interesting stuff and highly exotic to an ignorant Scandy like myself.

Archaeology Magazine’s Jan/Feb issue has a piece on an amendment to the NAGPRA federal repatriation law. I may want to write a separate entry on this as I, being a citizen of the world and a lover of science, absolutely loathe reburial, particularly on nationalistic grounds. I don’t care if you’re a Swede, a Sioux, a Jew or a gnu, you do not have greater right than anybody else to the archaeological record – even if somebody did commit atrocities against your great grandfather.

A feature piece on rock art at Djulirri in northern Australia is really interesting as the site has lots of “contact art”: aboriginal people painting various overseas ships and people that they have come into contact with over the centuries.

In other news, I was very pleased to receive a call this morning from the National Heritage Board. As reported here recently, Swedish metal-detector legislation is likely to see an overhaul soon. I have now been invited along with several well-known colleagues to speak at a hearing on the subject. I was also asked to help find a good Swedish amateur detectorist who would be willing to give a talk. Maybe I should offer the participants to write guest entries here afterwards?

[More about , , ; .]

Union Depot, Duluth

i-0a2f0338792412f9d86f92a62ac0d798-Duluth.jpg

Upon hearing that I’m going to Minnesota, my excellent detectorist buddy Kenth Lärk sent me some scans of postcards from Duluth that his emigrant uncle sent home to Sweden in the early 1910s. I particularly like this image of the 1892 Union Depot, as the architecture is similar to that of the station houses along the Saltsjöbanan commuter railway that I’ve been riding for most of my life. It was built in the early 1890s, at a time when American architecture was en vogue in Sweden — but in the US, the style is known as “French château”. New Englanders will instantly feel at home in the oldest part of Saltsjöbaden.

The Union Depot still stands. It’s on the National Register of Historic Buildings and functions as a county heritage and arts center, also letting space for private events.

i-c6e3e1ee11124bfa36b41511c44dec39-Duluthnow.JPG

Photograph by Steve Johnson.

Game Review: Cave Troll

i-a2eb40b281d059a68942472460a6963f-pic96648_md.jpg

Dungeon Crawl as Subway Punk-Gang Standoff

Everybody knows what a dungeon game is. There’s this underground complex of rooms and corridors, stocked with traps and secret doors, treasures and meanies to guard them. And you are a member (or all of the members) of a Tolkienesque band of vagabonds who descend into the underground, torch in one hand and sword in the other, in search of their fortune. Dungeons & Dragons, DungeonQuest, Descent

Cave Troll is not that kind of game. Sure, the board depicts an underground complex full of treasure, and you do play a band of adventurers. But there are several competing parties of them, and each has more members than there are meanies in the dungeon. That dungeon is like the subway at rush time. And most of the time the adventurers don’t fight the meanies, they threaten each other over the piles of gold strewn here and there. Every once in a while, someone blows a whistle, and the punks divvy up the loot according to who has more or tougher people in a given room. Treasure, for some reason, cannot be moved.

It’s actually an area control game of a kind harking back all the way to Risk, though little fighting is involved. Each player has his own stack of upside-down cardboard chits, like a deck of cards, only since they’re chits they fit in the dungeon’s rooms. Every turn you can reveal new chits and put them on the board, or move around the chits you’ve already put down, or use a magic item if you have previously been lucky enough to draw the chit that provides you with one of those. And you do your best to take possession of the rooms with the largest piles of treasure, waiting for someone to flip his “divvy-the-treasure time” chit.

You have a couple of pet meanies in your chit stack as well, and you can send them after other players, but at my place we’ve found that it’s usually not worth your time to harass the other players. Better to put more of your punks on the board instead. Time runs out once someone flips his last chit, and one successful strategy is actually to flip yours as fast as possible just to prevent other players from using theirs.

Your party consists mainly of vanilla punks. But then there’s the knight, who is held in such awe in this feudal society that nobody of lower rank dares enter a room where he’s hanging out, and the thief, who is busty and long-eared and can teleport for some reason, and the barber (errr, we call the barbarian the barber, OK?) who is big and scary. But the funniest party member is the dwarf. He’s really good at finding extra gold in those rooms. But he doesn’t give a damn about who wins the game: he happily hands over his loot to whoever is around. Stupid little punk.

As for the meanies, there’s the eponymous cave troll who is basically a nuke you drop on an offending room, the orc who kills punks and the wraith who scares them off. The latter two appear out of something that looks a lot like the dungeon’s central cesspit, which may explain their grumpy manner. But as I said, at my place the orcs and wraiths rarely get to leave the pit, poor things.

All in all, I quite like Cave Troll, giving it an 8 out of 10. It’s a good, simple, short game that offers interesting strategic decisions and little down-time. The artwork is nice to look at. It works well with 6-7-y-o kids, as the only reading you have to do is the brief manual for your magic item. And it travels extremely well: the game is light-weight and easy to pack, fitting into the volume of a trade paperback book if you leave the box at home and put the chits in baggie. The board collapses into four book-size puzzle pieces.

I have the 2002 Fantasy Flight edition of Cave Troll with multi-lingual rules. It was my first thrift-store game. Game thrifting, rescuing good games from the cold and uncaring hands of non-gamers in thrift stores, is almost a hobby in itself.

De-Lurk

It’s been almost a year since the last de-lurk. Aard has hundreds of regulars, thousands if we adopt a generous definition of “regular”, and most of you are lurkers — quiet readers who don’t say much. So, everybody, please comment away, as briefly or verbosely as you like, and do consider telling us a little about yourself! Also, questions and suggestions for blog entries are much appreciated.

And note that re-de-lurks are much encouraged! You see, I have no way of knowing if a lurker ditches Aard. So let me know you’re still around.

Wikileaks’ Non-Mountainous Non-Bunker

i-029e7e24238d506dd78c32502db88132-co-location-banner.jpg

The current issue of Vanity Fair (#606, February 2011) has an interesting piece on the collaboration between Wikileaks, the Guardian and other old media. On page 110 we’re told that Wikileaks is “partly hosted on a server in Sweden that is lodged in a former nuclear bunker drilled deep inside the White Mountains”. This confused me for a moment, since there is no mountain range of that name in Sweden. Then I realised the journalist’s error and laughed.

The server plant alluded to in the article is indeed in an area known as Vita bergen, “the white mountains”. But it’s not a mountain range. It’s a low hill in central Stockholm. And the “former nuclear bunker” is one of the old bomb shelters cum garages excavated into the side of the Vita bergen hill. The place is easy to find, just take the bus to the Church of Sophia. In fact, a photograph of the facility’s entrance on page 58 of the magazine issue tells you its name: “Pionen – White Mountains“. Anybody can rent server space there.

[More about ; .]

Fornvännen’s Summer Issue On-Line

i-c5cc7d2fc17f66f8c40f598264639789-Glosa 10.jpg

Fornvännen’s summer issue (2010:2) is now on-line and available to anyone who wants to read it. Check it out!

  • Kalle Sognnes looks in commendable detail at a rock art site in wooded central Sweden and demonstrates that contrary to previously voiced opinions, it does not much resemble Norwegian rock art in its style. He suggests that hunting bands at the time kept their holy places secret from each other, thus preventing the spread of stylistic traits.
  • Morten Axboe & Lars Lagerqvist publish a Migration Period gold bracteate found unexpectedly in a large & venerable coin collection that was recently put up for auction.
  • Claes Pettersson presents a cache of coins and small metalwork from an urban dig in 17th century Jönköping that suggests the presence of a historically undocumented group of war refugees from the area of the current Baltic states.
  • Leif Häggström discusses whether sites in poorly explored woodland regions should be evaluated using the same high standards as sites in well-known agricultural regions.
  • Henrik Thrane has an essay on the completion of the “Neue Hoops”, a multi-volume archaeological encyclopedia for Northern Europe. The piece is interesting not least because it features a picture of professor Herbert Jankuhn, one of the few Nazi archaeologists (he was in the Waffen-SS!) whose careers survived 1945, being chummy with Danish and German colleagues in 1969.
  • Magnus Källström reports from a runology conference and Staffan von Arbin from a maritime archaeology conference.
  • Bodil Pettersson reviews two big new permanent archaeology exhibitions in Copenhagen and Stockholm.

[More about ; .]

Sweden Has Antivaxers Too

Noted skeptical author and podcaster CJ Åkerberg takes a look at one of the most active and visible anti-vaccine cranks in Sweden, Sanna Ehdin, and at the history of vaccination. The entry was originally published in Swedish on the Tankebrott blog, and I asked CJ to translate it for Aard.


In Sweden we have been quite fortunate to not have the same, vociferous anti-vaccination movement as seen in the US and the UK. But this has changed in recent years. Perhaps it was the slightly chaotic handling of the A(H1N1) vaccination. Perhaps it is due to the fact that some well-regarded figures in Sweden have voiced skepticism of the A(H1N1) vaccination in particular and vaccination in general.

Be that as it may: we now have to face parents, co-workers and friends who see vaccination as a threat, not as a defence in the battle against infection. One of Sweden’s most visible antivaccinationist public figures is author Sanna Ehdin.

Antivaccinationist Sanna Ehdin

Ehdin trained as an immunologist and has made a career out of writing books promoting alternative medicine. Why mention her training, you may ask? Because it is important to underline that education is not a guarantee that what you argue is automatically right.

When it comes to vaccines Ehdin has been both categorically against and slightly more open to interpretation. For example:

“As an immunologist, I am doubtful or negative towards vaccination, [I] believe there are far better and less damaging ways to go.”

[ source ]

“Of course not – it [thimerosal] is used as a preservative [and] antibacterial [and] other compounds can be used. And one can avoid vaccination as well.”

[source ]

On her web site Ehdin mentions that she is “… not opposed to the vaccination of children”, but (there’s always a but) the question is “… when it is done and with what.” First, we note that it sounds uncomfortably like Jenny McCarthy et al.’s “Too Many Too Soon” propaganda, and we note that Ehdin’s literature reference for this statement is from the anthroposophic Vidar Clinic’s Child Health department. (Anthroposophy is a Central European cult based on the writings of Austrian mystic Rudolph Steiner, a one-time collaborator of Helena Blavatsky. Go figure.)

The Vidar Clinic advocates homeopathic remedies and other dubious treatments such as mistletoe extract to treat cancer (at Tankebrott, we have written about this in the blog entries Vidar Clinic’s further excuses and O Vidar Institute, Where Art Thou? )

Recently Ehdin has been active on the vaccination issue on several levels. First, she was way off with her article on the “rise” of miscarriages in the U.S. after vaccination (our reply on the subject). Most recently she has published a blog entry where she states that vaccinations have not had the historical impact generally claimed. Let’s look at this last posting and its central theme.

Ehdin misses the point about vaccination

“Did you know that measles, whooping cough, tuberculosis and scarlet fever were reduced thanks to a better lifestyle and not because of vaccinations? The global vaccination programs started after these epidemics almost disappeared.

Scientific research shows that the great epidemics were reduced because of better housing conditions, education about health, a more nutritious diet, and generally better living conditions from the early 1900s until the 1960s.”

[source]

First, one cannot help but ask, what scientific research? One asks this question of course, since these factors have had an effect, but what Ehdin is not mentioning is the fact that health care became more efficient, with new tools that increased the chance of survival. The introduction of such treatments as, for example, the iron lung made it possible to save patients who could not breathe by themselves because of polio.

Regarding the discussion below; the numbers relate to the prevalance of the disease, not the mortality, since this is the case for which Ehdin is arguing.

Now, let us focus on the assertion that the diseases had disappeared before vaccination began against measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever and tuberculosis.

Statistik över mässlingen i USA och England/Wales

Statistics for the prevalence of measles in the US and England + Wales, 1940 and onward

For measles, I have looked at two examples from the Western world, the US and England+Wales . Both graphs show very clearly what happens when the countries introduced vaccination against the disease.

Statistics for the prevalence of pertussis in the United States and England + Wales (click to enlarge)

For pertussis (whooping cough) one can find the figures for the US here and for England+Wales here. Vaccination against whooping cough was introduced in the US at the end of the 1940s and in England at the end of the 1950s. Note what happens to the curves at these points in time.

What may be interesting to mention specifically for whooping cough is that we have experience of what happens when immunisation rates are going down.

“Three countries – Great Britain, Sweden, and Japan – cut back the use of pertussis vaccine because of fears about the vaccine. The effect was dramatic and Immediate.

In Great Britain, a drop in pertussis vaccination in 1974 was followed by an epidemic of more than 100,000 cases of pertussis and 36 deaths by 1978. In Great Britain, a drop in pertussis vaccination in 1974 was followed by an epidemic of more than 100 000 cases of pertussis and 36 deaths by 1978.

In Japan, around the same time, a drop in vaccination rates from 70% to 20-40% led to a jump in pertussis from 393 cases and no deaths in 1974 to 13,000 cases and 41 deaths in 1979.

In Sweden, the annual incidence rate of pertussis per 100,000 children 0-6 years of age increased from 700 cases in 1981 to 3,200 in 1985.”

Statistics for TB cases in England + Wales and vaccination introduction

These are the numbers for tuberculosis in England + Wales. I graphed the numbers, the red line indicating the introduction of vaccination against the disease.

Scarlet fever was never really relevant to vaccinate against on a larger scale, even though a vaccine was developed back in 1924. General vaccination was never implemented as it was discovered that penicillin had a great effect on this bacterial disease.

Should Ehdin’s (and others with her) ideas be correct, we wouldn’t see any marked decline in these diseases after the introduction of the vaccine in the graphs above. Alternatively, we would see a sharp downturn even before the introduction of vaccines, and we don’t.

Final words

We want to direct attention to the fact that the anti-vaccination movement has gathered some high-profile names in Sweden to their roster. We also want to put our feet down and make it clear that we won’t sit idly by and wait for the first death due do insufficient vaccination levels. We won’t keep quiet when public figures lie about the effects of vaccines. We will act through activism, writing and by informing people.

[More about , , ; , , , .]