August Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Another good Swedish word: försoffad, literally “becouched”, of people who have grown lazy and passive.
  • Do the Syndics of Cambridge syn with their dics?
  • I’ve started writing an essay collection based on the routines I’ve developed for party conversations about archaeology with laypeople.
  • It sometimes makes me nervous to see all the things we design to work only as long as gravity is switched on. Teacups. Doors. Cars. Trains. They’re all pretty shoddy engineering.
  • I woke once in my teens from a tremendous crash and just had the time to see sparks showering from the wall socket next to my desk. I thought we’d been nuked. It was a lightning strike. Not only did it destroy my modem and the power supply of my PC. It hit a pine tree 100 m from my house, trashing it, throwing bits across the street at projectile speed. One piece hit a wire fence, deforming that particular section into a horizontal cone.
  • Awesome to see 11-y-o not-a-tom-boy Jrette negotiate femininity. While preparing a major expedition to a mall in town with her friends, she lampooned duck face, cat-walk strutting and “bitch-facing” someone.
  • A seminal bukkake performance.
  • Richard Thompson is amazing. Sounds like he’s got six hands and three guitars.
  • When not singing, the two scantily clad women in Fela Kuti’s old band turn on their heels and shake their asses furiously at the audience. For like ten minutes continuously. I’m embarrassed.
  • I was at a work party near my home but with a narrow sea inlet in the way. So I brought some plastic bags for my phone and stuff, walked to the narrowest bit and swam across.
  • Wife: Would you be interested in watching “Under The Skin”? Me: Would I be interested? Honey, look here on the cover. On the front it says “Scarlett Johansson”. On the back it says “Contains infrequent strong sex, frequent nudity”. Wife: Yes? So?
  • Reading this novel by a guy my age about people our age. But he wrote it in 1998/9, so it’s about people who are much younger than we are today. The characters are just having their first kids and starting to get somewhere in their careers. Weird.
  • Darjeeling tea growers! You need to stop producing that nasty sour greenish stuff. Grow Assam instead. Thank you.
  • There’s a chemical compound called ubiquitin. Must be the opposite of unobtainium.
  • The biomolecular oracle communicated exclusively in genomic utterances.
  • Denmark has Scandyland’s best archaeological record and best archaeologists. And just to make sure I don’t forget it, the Jutland Archaeological Society just sent Fornvännen 20 kilos of fat new monographs on insanely rich Iron Age sites. Can’t argue with that. Cannot. Argue. With. That.
  • Inadvertently lewd and unsavoury: while talking to a female student about career prospects I suddenly heard myself say “Don’t worry, you’ve still got all your openings/orifices open”. In Swedish, we use the same word for career opportunity and bodily orifice.
  • I like games about female members of cybernetic hive minds. Boardgames about Borg dames.

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

19 thoughts on “August Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. Sounds like he’s got six hands and three guitars.

    This is quite easy to do, if he’s layering three different guitar tracks in the recording. Which is hardly a new technology: Alan Parsons used it to good effect on Dark Side of the Moon. (Yes, that would be the Alan Parsons who later formed a studio prog-rock band that released ten albums between 1976 and 1987. They never played live gigs because it wasn’t possible at the time to recreate the studio sound on stage.)


  2. “There’s a chemical compound called ubiquitin. Must be the opposite of unobtainium. ”

    Assuming that defines a scalar of rarity, where along that line would texmexium be?

    Taking a clue from Alfred Hitchcock relating to MacGuffins, in this case of the elemental kind, might there not a Macguffin table of the elements?

    Possibly an entire Macguffin universe made of Macguffin elements and operating according to the laws of Macguffin physics?


  3. On tea: You do know that Darjeeling and Assam are geographical regions in India? If you grew Assam tea in Darjeeling, it would still be Darjeeling tea. It’s like Chianti wine: you can only call it Chianti if it comes from that part of Italy. If it was grown anywhere else (including a part of Italy outside the defined region), you have to call it Sangiovese, which is the variety of grape used.

    Wikipedia tells me that Darjeeling tea comes as white, green, oolong, and black. Most of it is marketed as black even if it isn’t fully oxidized (and therefore would be considered oolong). The altitude has a strong impact: Darjeeling is in the mountains, just east of the eastern border of Nepal.


  4. To be horribly pedantic, I think Assam is a botanically distinct variety of Camellia sinensis from the variety used for Darjeeling. I like them both. Prepared right, Darjeeling isn’t the least bit sour to my taste. Dry, certainly, like a fino sherry or madeira with a similar cask-aged woodsy flavor while Assam is almost hoppy like a beer. I assume you get your tea at Ikea so there’s your problem right there.

    Försoffad is a label I’d proudly own. But what about its opposite? My folks’ neighbors are always out toiling in the vacant lot next door every weekend while I’m out smoking on the deck. When they’re away my dad waters their plants and in return he can pick some berries. When they come back, they can tell he’s picked some and will say something like “I see you’ve been picking some berries” to let him know. One Christmas, in return for my dad’s watering and mowing their lawn all summer when they were away, they gave him ten perfectly ruled squares of Hardanger lefse. I’ve been looking for a word to describe that sort of close-fisted Protestant work ethic that fills me with disgust but nothing describing industry and diligence is sufficiently pejorative.


  5. Did Richard Thompson play his wonderful version of Britney Spears’s ‘Oops! … I Did It Again’ – I don’t think that needed more than the usual number of hands but it did require big cojones to break down the musical barrier.


  6. Re.“becouched”
    Other literal Swedish terms/words (Courtesy of The Local.) :
    Gums: tandkött (tooth-meat)
    Weed: ogräs (un-grass)
    Tjuvlyssna/eavesdrop (thief listen)
    Hospital: sjukhus. Sick house.
    Vegetables: grönsaker. Green things.
    Straw: sugrör (suck pipe /suck tube)
    Nipple: breast wart.
    Bruise. Blåmärke. Blue mark.
    Vacuum-cleaner: dammsugare. Dust sucker.


  7. Birger @13: How many of those are specific to Swedish, and how many are loan translations?

    The German word for hospital is Krankenhaus. Literally, “sick house.” So that one may be indigenous. But the German word for hydrogen is Wasserstoff (literally “water stuff”), which is a loose translation of “hydrogen” from Greek to German.

    I’ve seen examples in Chinese as well. Their word for telephone, dianhua, literally means “electronic speech”. And their word for traffic light, honglu, combines the words for “red” and “green”.


  8. I’m not so sure about the word for weed (“un-grass”). Although wheat, rye, barley, etc. are technically grasses, I’m sure people grow other crops, and at least in English-speaking countries we have come to associate “grass” with a landscaping feature that rich people in the 18th century developed to impress other rich people (“Let’s use perfectly good agricultural land to raise an utterly useless, high maintenance crop!”). So maybe that concept was borrowed from English. Then again, the concept of “weed” existed in Elizabethan England (one of John Dowland’s songs, which Sting recorded on his lute album, includes the word).


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