November Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • No, Kim Stanley Robinson, when two groups of characters meet and tell each other what they’ve gone through recently under the reader’s watchful eye, you shouldn’t write that dialogue. Because the reader already knows.
  • Back when my father-in-law the engineer had just come to Sweden from China and worked as a waiter, he used to have a few hours off in the afternoon. One day he decided to relax with a movie, despite understanding neither the English dialogue nor the Swedish subtitles. He was confused and horrified by what he happened to see: Alien.
  • Feeling flush after my intense September bout of teaching, I bought us an easy chair for 10110 kronor. Sadly the price was not expressed in binary.
  • I’m letting the freshmen suggest questions for the exam on the Iron Age module. Publicly, at a seminar.
  • I just bought my first mp3 album rather than forking out for a CD I would only play in the car at long intervals.
  • Tried to read Charles L.H. Coulson’s Castles in Medieval Society. It deals with interesting matters and seems to have interesting things to say, but Coulson’s prose style is so convoluted, ponderous and allusive that I just gave up. The book should have been copy-edited by Ernest Hemingway.
  • “Gastropub” is such an unappetising word. I associate it not with gastronomy, but with gastroscopy, gastric acid and gastritis.
  • It’s official: I’m middle-aged. They played a hit song from my early twenties on the radio, then the jingle “We play the music you remember”…
  • Swedish culture is contagious: when taking her dad to see an old Chinese lady, YuSie received a bag of home-made cinnamon buns.
  • The journalists’ union’s membership paper has long been filled with stories of layoffs and downsizing. I empathise fully with everybody who loses their jobs. But there’s this naïve recurring criticism, that employers are firing people because “they only think about the money”. Look, the main reason that you got that job 25 years ago was that at the time, you made money for the shareholders. That is no longer true because of free news on the net. Your employer has been thinking only about the money all the time.
  • Only one letter separates Sinead and Sinbad. Just sayin’.
  • Comfy chair corner has been reinstated! Die, Telenor!
  • Cleaned out my mixed computer hardware box to make room. Stuff out: weird graphics cable, 25-pin printer cables, mice with PS/2 plugs and no scroll wheels, 25-pin and 9-pin serial cables, firewire cable, ethernet expansion card for desktop PC, sundry low-capacity memory chip arrays, sundry USB cables with odd plugs at the other end, hermaphroditic phone plugs, VGA cable, USB-to-25-pin printer cable, joystick with the weird sound-card plug. Stuff in: wifi router, IP cables, TV antenna cable, coax TV cable.
  • No, Norwegian job application referee, I am not “somewhat theoretically unreflected”. I am greatly theoretically hostile. And dismissive.
  • Resisting the temptation to make the 1st Millenium freshman module entirely about the finer details of Vendel Period animal art styles.

Author: Martin R

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

21 thoughts on “November Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. Depending on the quality of that chair, that might still be a good price if you bought it new. You can get chairs for less than that in the US, but if it’s an “easy chair” it’s presumably upholstered, and those aren’t cheap. Still, I would rather pay $3 than $130 for a chair, all things being equal.

    On Sinead vs. Sinbad: In the early 1990s Saturday Night Live ran a skit which parodied a “news” panel show (in reality more of a shout-fest) by assembling a bunch of cast members playing musical performing artists. “Frank Sinatra” was the chair of the panel. “Sinead O’Connor” was one of the panelists, and in one of the discussions Frank (who could never get her name right) actually called her Sinbad. Another actor was playing the lead rapper from 2 Live Crew, who had recently been arrested in Fort Lauderdale for performing songs with raunchy lyrics; of course Frank could never understand a word the rapper was saying.


  2. I buy mp3 albums, then make CDs – because my car like me is old and only has a CD player, no mp3 or phone inputs. Sometimes the CD is cheaper than the mp3 album, which seems odd. In that case I do it the other way round 😉 being a skinflint.

    in the car my sons listen to a radio station which is aggressively young. They played a couple of songs I really enjoyed, then the announcer came on, “with more in our vintage hour”.. vintage sounds better than old I guess.


  3. my car like me is old and only has a CD player, no mp3 or phone inputs

    My car is so old it doesn’t even have a CD player–it has a cassette deck. Cassettes persisted in car stereos long after they became obsolete in home stereos, because a car CD player needs extra damping on vibrations to prevent the laser from skipping whenever you run over a pothole or bridge expansion joint at speed.

    I sometimes acquire cassettes at my town’s swap shop, and digitize the music via GarageBand to AIFF, which is the native format for music CDs. (In the US this is considered “fair use”; it may be illegal in some other countries.) I also buy CDs every now and then (I picked up a few last week, in fact). I prefer having a hard copy backup, so if I acquire music by download or digitizing a cassette, I usually burn a CD of it.

    The local classic rock station sometimes plays music from my high school years, and occasionally from my undergraduate years (e.g., Guns ‘n’ Roses). I don’t think they play anything more recent than the late 1980s, unless it’s a live version of an older song, but I am an infrequent enough listener that they may now think that Nirvana is classic rock (I hope not–judging from what little I have heard of their catalog, I find them highly overrated) and I just haven’t heard it yet. I also tend to avoid them in the fall, because they carry New England Patriots games live (plus pregame and postgame shows), and American football is not what I want to listen to.


  4. Did you really spend SEK 10110 to restore the lounge area at Bromma Airport? Kudos!

    Joke aside, I also bought my first digital album recently, although I opted to pay a bit extra in order to get the uncompressed sound files. Fell for the old “New exciting band which I doubt will ever appear on Spotify but then less than a week after my purchase they do” ruse, I did.


  5. I would pay 10101 kr for this toaster:

    A toaster that is posessed by Satan, but makes great toast. Cause and effect? The toaster appears at 4.02
    PS I have met many computer-related gadgets that were clearly posesses by something sinister.


  6. So that is why I woke up with this cable and connector sticking out of my mouth. I thought it was just a case of wild partying.
    — — — —
    “Because the reader already knows.”
    Some SF and Fantasy tropes are so common that the writers could make shortcuts and not bog down the stories with explaining the minutiae.


  7. Some SF and Fantasy tropes are so common that the writers could make shortcuts and not bog down the stories with explaining the minutiae.

    And others have so many variations that the authors really do need to explain which version is in play. Naturally, there is a website devoted to this kind of thing: Warning: that site is an addictive time sink.


  8. True. But it helps to have a basic understanding, in case someone tries to give you the Voight-Kampff test.
    — — —
    (OT) Tombs with mythical carvings found in Chinese city that was once along the Silk Road Alas, the tombs were looted and re-used several times.
    — — — — —
    (OT) A quote from twitter about sanctimonous comments over the Ferguson riots:
    “In these potentially violent times in Ferguson, I think it is important to look at the example Martin Luther King set. His quiet dignity. His restraint. How he was able to show compassion even under duress. How he got shot in the fucking face anyway.”


  9. (Way OT) Here’s a factoid I didn’t know – of the world’s top 100 tallest buildings, more than 50 are in Hong Kong. That’s truly inspirational. Another factoid that a lot of people don’t seem to be aware of is that more than 60% of the land area of Hong Kong is declared Country Park, and therefore legally not permitted to be developed in any way at all; it’s mostly just wild, uncontrolled, and it harbours a surprising variety of wildlife, including leopard cats, barking deer, Chinese pangolins and monkeys (as well as the inevitable feral dog packs, which can be dangerous – we need some Swiss farmers to come and eat them). So you have this almost unique combination of high rise concrete jungle and completely wild natural terrain, in almost intimate contact. The natural terrain is almost all at an angle of 35 degrees to the horizontal – it’s all very steep hills and deeply incised valleys. Mostly, the Country Parks exist now because in the past they were too steep to access and build on, and they have now become sacred, a precious resource guarded jealously by the community. So we have the strange combination of a critical shortage of affordable housing, next to large expanses of completely wild and undeveloped land – but no one accepts that the solution to the housing problem is to build in the Country Parks, because once you start eroding that resource, it never stops.

    From my place, if I walk across the street (not difficult) and walk a few metres up the hill, I am in thick, almost impenetrable natural jungle. I keep getting comments from people in my ex-home town about how they don’t know how I can stand to live in a high-rise building (in a place that lacks the essential Western definition of democracy, bad stuff, blah blah blah) – but for them to get to the nearest approximation to natural bushland, they might have to drive through many kilometres of seemingly never-ending, bland suburbs, indistinguishable from one another and unrelieved by any real green belt. I just walk across the street.

    I live right on the bank of a river, overlooking the water. In my ex-home town, such a position would cost an unaffordable fortune. Today the river is teeming with fish – private angling is uncontrolled, but commercial fishing is strictly banned. Directly across the river is a nesting colony of a variety of large water birds – egrets, herons and the occasional lone big blue stork. So I wake up every morning looking at these huge birds floating in the air above the river, hunting for whatever it is they hunt – fish, shellfish, snails, etc. – they seem not to abide by the text book on what their feeding habits are supposed to be.

    The ‘town’ I live in (if you can call an inter-twining of high rise concrete and real jungle a ‘town’) has dedicated cycle-ways, physically separate from the roads for powered vehicles and the footpaths for pedestrians, and the whole of the town is accessible by bicycle, which is the fastest way to get around. A minor criticism is that, in order to achieve this, they have created some ramps which are difficult to negotiate by bike; hence my recent unfortunate crash-landing history when I got a bit too cocky and opted for speed over safety. But it is a minor criticism – the result of this is that the town has a huge bicycle ownership, and many people use bikes as a form of transport, not just for recreation or fun, and conflicts between bicycles and cars are completely avoidable. I live at the junction of two major arterial cycleways, one which runs along the bank of the river – downstream all the way to the sea and along the coast, and upstream as far as a major cultural museum and the town ‘centre’ – the offices of the local council, and a complex of useful malls housing shops, banks and businesses. I can cycle to work in 20 minutes – I normally don’t, because the time consuming and difficult part is washing and changing clothes once I get to the office; getting there is the easy part. (The washing part is essential during the long tropical summer if offence to colleagues is to be avoided.) Most of my colleagues live in other parts of Hong Kong and need to commute by public transport, car or motor cycle, so the office is really not geared up to cater for a work force that gets to work by bicycle, which is a pity, because the town is designed for it.

    Recently, there was a pedestrian traffic jam outside one of the malls, with everyone stopping and rubber-necking at some big trees next to the mall – the local monkey troupe had decided to come to town for a visit, and they were camped in the trees, with everyone forgetting where they were going and just stopping to watch them. To hell with work/shopping/whatever, look at the monkeys.

    So, people ask me how I can stand to live in Hong Kong. Well, how could I stand not to?

    Sorry, that was a major self-indulgent divergence – back to the transgenic cats.


  10. Allegedly, 3% of Swiss farmers (no idea how many that is) eat both dogs and cats. They make sausages out of dogs, and also render down dog fat for various uses (like the Roma), and they cook young cats the same way they cook rabbits, which they say taste similar. When it was suggested to one farmer that he should get the dogs and cats on his farm sterilised to avoid too many of them breeding, he said no, because he enjoys eating the surplus.

    I’m astonished.

    I doubt as many as 3% of southern Chinese eat dogs, and I have never heard of a real case of southern Chinese actually eating cats, despite all the stories I was told as a kid. Northern Chinese are much less adventurous in their eating habits than southerners, and are condemning of the southern Chinese for their ‘filthy habits’. Where you define south vs north is open to interpretation.

    But it seems that the southern Chinese might have been somewhat maligned, in comparison to some minority proportion of Swiss farmers, although we are talking about a lot more Chinese in absolute numbers rather than %.

    I don’t know what % of Koreans eat dogs, but I get the impression that it is more common in South Korea than in China, and that they have a lot more dog restaurants. Dog eating in southern China seems more like an ‘informal’ activity rather than an established trade.


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