Been a while since I wrote one of these. Here’s what I did for fun this past weekend.
- Attended an afternoon scifi mini-convention at the Tech Museum, organised by my dear old Tolkien Society buddy and gaming group regular Carolina Gomez LagerlÃ¶f. I heard good talks by journalist JÃ¶rgen StÃ¤dje, scifi scholar Dr. Jerry MÃ¤Ã¤ttÃ¤, and gaming giants cum fantasy novelists Erik GranstrÃ¶m and Anders Blixt. And I gave a talk of my own on the prevalence of time-travel evidence in the archaeological record.
- Played Settlers of Catan and Qwirkle. I rarely get Settlers to the table because unlike me, most hardcore gamers played it to death years ago. I played it once back in the 90s and found it too austere and unthematic, but my taste has changed. Juniorette won this time and was very pleased.
- Had tea with old friends and dim sum with wife & daughter before taking in Junior’s school’s Christmas concert in the Franz Berwald Concert Hall. The youngsters sang really well and it was a joy to see how seriously they took the event.
What about you, Dear Reader? What did you do for fun this weekend?
Three years ago when we moved into our house, the stones of our patio were newly laid and all level. Since then we have been walking across that surface, usually along the diagonal between the patio entrance + shed door and the front door of the house, sometimes around the corner to the compost container. Every step we’ve taken has caused a stone to settle infinitesimally into the substratum. Every step the kids have taken has on average made a slightly greater impact as they’ve grown. And when it rains, you can see that it all adds up. If I had a more volatile psychological constitution, this sight would probably be enough to trigger a full-blown mid-life crisis.
Here I go again, bad-mouthing Thor Heyerdahl to his countrymen. But note that I’m quoted as saying, “Norway is a country that has produced many great archaeologists. Thor Heyerdahl was not one of them.” Proud Norwegians, your country is great! And its greatness does not hinge upon the posthumous judgment of that guy with the raft.
Hear the audio clip here.
Update same day: Hehe. Some commenters on the NRK website are offended. One feels that I am just a kid with a lot of opinions, which is rather flattering to this balding father of a teen. Another thinks I’m just trying to become famous in Norway by criticising someone who really deserves fame. A third is of the opinion that Heyerdahl’s archaeological credentials are completely irrelevant, and erupts, “Has Rundkvist crossed the Pacific on a raft? … Rundkvist will die as an unknown man. Maybe with a solid scientific legacy, which will collect dust on some bookshelf somewhere.”
The Curiosity rover, a science robot the size of a car, is on its way to Mars where it will use a new landing system and hopefully spend several fruitful years trundling about. One of the coolest instruments on it is a laser gun coupled with a spectrometer: Curiosity can zap a rock from a distance and determine its chemical composition by looking at the colours of the light emitted by the heated material. I’m going to watch this mission closely.
On the rover is the above sundial cum camera calibration target, designed by Jon Lomberg (who already has three pieces of art on Mars). Note the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth (blue disc) and Mars (red disc). Around the dial are the planet’s name in various scripts and languages, including Sumerian cuneiform, Mayan glyphs, Inuktitut, Hebrew, Chinese and Hawaiian (I miss Arabic). The edges of the dial bear the following inscription, written by Jim Bell.
“For millennia, Mars has stimulated our imaginations. First we saw Mars as a wandering red star, a bringer of war from the abode of the gods. In recent centuries, the planet’s changing appearance in telescopes caused us to think that Mars had a climate like the Earth’s. Our first space age views revealed only a cratered, Moon-like world but later missions showed that Mars once had abundant liquid water. Through it all, we have wondered: Has there been life on Mars? To those taking the next steps to find out, we wish a safe journey and the joy of discovery.”
A fine piece, in my opinion! But it may contain the first copy-editing glitch on Mars. There’s a double space between “but” and “later” in the fourth sentence. A double space in space!
Sweden’s goodbye to religious faith and cult continues apace, and so does the relocation of the population from the countryside to the cities. Here’s a sign of the times. The National Heritage Board has recently re-issued its 1998 how-to guide for (rural) congregations who wish to quit heating their churches (available as a free PDF).
Sweden’s rural churches, many of which were built in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, have only been heated for the past century or so. It’s comfier for the congregants and it reduces humidity, thus improving preservation conditions for some materials. But from other preservation perspectives it’s not good at all. Looking at church organs, for instance, older ones were built for a cold and damp environment while modern ones want a warm and dry one.
Anyway, the reason that the heat is getting turned off in more and more churches isn’t preservation concerns. It’s the shrinking congregations and the price of electricity. Fewer and fewer people live in the country, and their religious ratio is dropping too.
The book’s chapters cover preservation aspects of wooden furnishings and paintwork, murals and stucco, painted wooden sculpture and canvas, textiles, books, metalwork and organs. It closes with a check list for annual inspections of unheated churches.
Antell, O. & KarlstrÃ¶m, J. 1998. Att sluta vÃ¤rma en kyrka. National Heritage Board. ISBN 91-7209-143-6. 32 pp.