November Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • This chocolate praline contains something that looks and smells like shampoo. Apparently it’s flavoured with elderflower extract.
  • Jrette prints out song lyrics and fixes them to the outside of the shower cubicle as aids to singing in the shower.
  • I’m kind of OK with most subcultural dress codes. But I really gotta say: young men wearing oversize baseball caps or stocking caps indoors look like they’re in Kindergarten.
  • I’m confused by the feminism that on one hand condemns the wearing of Hawaii shirts with beach babe cartoons, on the other hand organises proud plus-size burlesque shows. Would the shirt have been OK on a female Rosetta project member? What am I missing?
  • Bought Jrette two warm cotton nightgowns from Polarn & Pyret.
  • Manuscript reviewer: “Rundkvist criticises knowledge relativism, but still he proposes several weakly founded interpretations. He’s inconsistent!” Um… Do you even know what knowledge relativism means?
  • Drives me nuts when students pad their exam answers with tangentially relevant info that I have to wade through to see if they’ve actually responded to the fucking questions.
  • It’s snowing but the flakes melt before they reach the ground. I hate November here.
  • The Linnaeus University has two campuses located an hour and a half apart. One thing its web site is not well equipped to tell you is on which of these sites a given employee’s desk and mailbox are.
  • So weird reconnecting on Fb with an old school buddy after 25-30 years. I remember him as an adolescent. I have no idea what he looked like in his 20s and 30s. He now has a grey beard.
  • The Romanian Gypsies who have taken to begging in Swedish towns in recent years have characteristic looks and style of dress. Sometimes I come across them just walking about town or riding the subway, and I think to myself, “There’s a beggar who isn’t at work right now”.
  • Movie: Interstellar. Confused space drama with bad science, severe pacing issues and sappy emotionalism. Grade: Fail.
  • The expression “a member in good standing” is almost too easy to make a joke of.
  • Halfway through the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “Dance of Maya” they break into a weird off-kilter blues jam that seems to be in 5/4 time. Love it!
  • People sell a lot of vegetables around Tunisia. I saw a man holding a gourd today. I really wanted to throw stones at him until he dropped the gourd and ran away. Then I could have shouted after him, “Look at you man! You’re a disgrace! It’s barely lunchtime and already you’re stoned right out of your fucking gourd!”

Author: Martin R

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

46 thoughts on “November Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. LOL

    My friend Kumi.

    If you watch this all the way through, close to the end, in what must be one of the world’s most unbearably sensuous moments, Kumi flashes her belly button.

    I mentioned that to her once, and she was so embarrassed she was, for once, speechless. Tickled pink but speechless.


  2. Very good SF: “Echopraxia” by Peter Watts.
    Crammed with nobel-laurate quality good ideas, and very well written. Plus posthuman vampires. You cannot go wrong with vampires.
    — — — —
    Use superglue to fix a “bergsprängare” outside shower, Now jrette can do karaoke (preferably with Rammstein music).


  3. Check out Orianthi Panagaris’ nose – it has to be one of the world’s truly great hooters.

    It’s the usual story: largely ignored in the country of her birth (Australia), adored everywhere else, and absolutely huge in Japan. God I hate Australians.

    Orianthi has done all the wrong things – she’s a successful female, she’s half ‘foreign’ and she has been very successful outside of Australia. That’s the ‘perfect storm’ recipe for Australians to detest her, ignore her, or not even know who she is.


  4. Some better views of that truly great nose, and to prove that she is in fact Australian, although most Australians I know have never heard of her. Believe it or not. If she was Swedish, you would know about her, right? Hate her or love her, you would know about her and acknowledge her as a Swede. Go on, you would.

    I don’t know what they know about her or how they feel about her in Greece. That seems like an almost irrelevant question.


  5. It’s snowing but the flakes melt before they reach the ground. I hate November here.

    Be careful what you wish for.

    Last week we had a routine snowstorm which caused about a third of the state to lose power. On a major US holiday (Thanksgiving) centered around family gatherings and home cooked meals. It’s the one day of the year Chinese restaurants are closed (they are open on Christmas Day because they need to have the kitchen staff preparing for New Year’s Day). The outages were mostly due to trees and branches falling onto above-ground power lines. You might think that the electricity company would put the lines underground and save the expense of bringing line crews in from out of state, especially since there have been four other incidents of similar or greater magnitude in the last six years. If you do, then you are obviously not an executive at a US corporation: by the time your company have avoided enough power outages to cover the cost of burying the lines, you and your fellow executives will have long since moved to other jobs.


  6. My former English boss told me the English live with the belief that it never snows in England, so whenever it does, the whole country grinds to a halt, because nothing there is built to function in snow – the railways stop working, the roads become completely treacherous and unusable, etc.

    Australia has above ground power lines, so blackouts are a frequent event, often due to bushfires, thunderstorms, strong winds, dust building up on the insulators causing short circuits, vehicles running into power poles and knocking them down, etc. In Perth they are progressively undergrounding the powerlines in new suburbs, but they still put the hubs in above-ground boxes at road intersection roundabouts (totally unnecessary, and just asking for trouble), right where speeding drivers will run into them and knock them out, blacking out the whole area. There are line crews, but they have huge areas of surburban sprawl to cover and there are never enough of them when they are needed. The power companies never learn, and the consumers put up with it because they have come to expect it as normal – besides, they don’t have any real choice. Western style democracy is a sham. Power company executives are employed to make short term profit for the company; in this case, they are not even Australian owned companies, but even if they were, the shareholders want profit – like they care that ordinary people suffer power blackouts.

    Hong Kong has all power lines underground due to the occurrence of typhoons, and all the time I have lived here, I have never experienced a single power outage. The power companies are public companies, but they are under the control of the government – on paper, definitely evil; in practice, a much better arrangement for the power consumers, and the companies are still making good profits, and hence the shareholders also, so everyone wins. It’s not a perfect system, but in relative terms, it works a lot better than in Australia.


  7. the consumers put up with it because they have come to expect it as normal

    We have a lot of this around here, too. It is increasingly common in this area for homeowners to install backup generators. Some homeowners even have good reasons for doing so; e.g., if you have problems with basement flooding (which is common in my area), you have to keep that sump pump running. Or somebody in the house has a medical need for a device that runs on electricity. I am even sympathetic to people who get their water from private wells: for them, no electricity means no running water. But I am on municipal water service, my basement stays dry even in flooding rains, and nobody with a serious medical condition lives here. I shouldn’t need a generator. And wouldn’t, if we had a competently run and regulated electric utility company.

    New suburban developments often do have their utilities put underground in this country. Texas, which is backward in many other ways, is actually quite good about this–people there know what tornadoes can do to above-ground utilities, and they take steps to prevent that from happening. But I’m in a part of the country where such developments have been rare over the last thirty years. We tend to see infill development instead: the newest house in my neighborhood (mostly developed between 1945 and 1975) was built earlier this year on a subdivided lot (there is still one undeveloped lot in the neighborhood). In such cases, the utility companies will just use the existing above-ground infrastructure. Which gets clobbered when heavy wet snow (or freezing rain, or a tropical storm or severe thunderstorm) causes pine tree branches (and sometimes entire trees) to break off and fall onto the lines.



    Just a note on this – human cranial capacity as been decreasing sine the Neolithic, so we can’t afford to be too arrogant about our intellectual superiority to others. This may have been the result of the introduction of agriculture, but no one knows.

    And it’s nice to think that for most of prehistory of anatomically modern humans, there were more of our cousins the Khoisan than everyone else put together:


  9. “Maya” is one of those words that have different meanings to New World indians and Old World indians.


  10. Interstellar: It would be a million zillion times easier to terraform Mars. Actually, despite the ecological damage, it would be even more easy to terraform Earth!
    — — —
    Random factoid: there is no mention of the three wise men going to a manger. They came to a “house” to see Jesus.


  11. “Dance of Maya” -since a buddhist mental factor cannot dance, I am assuming this refers to Buddha’s mother. Blues jam; Lady Sings the Blues?


  12. Lady Plays Junk.

    Recommendation – listen to that on stereo headphones, nice and loud. At certain points it’s like the sound is passing through your head, from one ear to the other and back again.


  13. “H. erectus…doodler” So began the road to Michelangelo.
    Re. human origins; Martin comented earlier on “Prometheus”. The film had two big flaws. 1: While you can breed another species to resemble you, no amount of genetic tinkering will make two separate evolutionary lineages match their DNA (Ursula K Le Guin made the same mistake)
    2: The crew randomly spots the base…on an Earth-size world! A clever teenager could have come up with something more plausiable, like tracking neutrinos emitted by the power source of the alien base.
    The film makes despise their audience. (And you don’t get mountains that high in Earth-level gravity)


  14. If it’s wankers you’re looking for, Birger, check out the guy trying to defend this load of satanic-level nastiness:

    What was one of his first election promises? To shut down Guantanamo Bay. Hell, he got a Nobel Peace Prize for all of the great stuff he was going to do. What has he done? Nothing, except try to defend torture.

    But of course that pales in comparison compared to trying to preserve Chinese culture.


  15. John, it is even worse.
    “Verschärfte Vernehmung” (enhanced interrogation)
    So Bush/Cheney instigated -and Obama tries to cover up- methods that after WWII resulted in torturers being sentenced to death.
    As for the Chinese rulers, I doubt the instigators of the Cultural Revolution gives a damn about culture. Repressive regimes always like to justify censorship with “protecting tradition/culture/purity” [insert term].


  16. (OT) “Planned giant Eye of Sauron installation in Moscow condemned by Orthodox Church”: Yes. Sauron is totally in the same story cycle as Jehowah.
    — — — —
    also, The Guardian has a story “JRR Tolkien’s wartime gun goes on display in Manchester”.
    It is interesting because it was the horrible experiences during WWI that got Tolkien into writing,


  17. The instigators of the Cultural Revolution are dead. It ended in 1976.

    Not that I’m defending what I see as a bit of state sponsored stupidity. But it’s a minor bit, in relative terms. And it obviously won’t work. No one will ever stop Chinese people playing word games – monosyllabic tonal languages are just built for jokes within jokes within jokes.

    The French pass laws on their national language to try to outlaw abominations like “le sandwich”; so do the Indonesians. In terms of relative wankerism, I don’t see why you should single out the Chinese, when the French and Indonesians set such a towering standard.


  18. As for ‘repressive regime’, it is very obvious that you have never actually been to modern China. It’s not some giant gulag or tightly controlled police state – it’s the opposite, a seriously under-policed crazy free-for-all. I actually liked it better in the early 1980s – at least then you could breathe the air, and people behaved as if there were laws to be observed for the sake of an orderly society. Now it’s chaos, and the air is so thick you can taste it.

    I defend your right to constantly harp on China because I believe in freedom of speech, but for goodness sake, at least find out a little bit about the country you evidently have undying hatred for.


  19. I do NOT hate China [the Party is another matter).
    China has been more successful than India in making the transition from third-world country to a modern nation (a process that is obviously ongoing)
    Also, China has a much larger science budget than India, and enjoys a sustained economic growth with few parallels in the world..
    The rulers are clever enough to provide relative freedom to those who do not protest too loudly about corruption etc.
    (The corruption is probably lower in China than in Russia and other former communist nations)
    But without institutional checks and balances you never know when you might fall afoul of an official.
    And the tolerance will evaporate whenever the Party feels threatened. If the liberalisation of Chinese society continues the country *might* make a smoot transition to democracy, but judging by other countries, old bosses will not see their power restricted without putting up a fight.
    So I view Chinese politicians like I would regard some big bear; maybe it has not mauled someone yet but you don’t know what will happen next.


  20. I can see where Birger gets the idea that Chinese officials frequently act like cartoon villains. The Emperor is distant, the mountains are high, and many officials there do act like cartoon villains–these, of course, are the ones we hear about in the West. To be fair, in many cases we hear about the cartoon villain officials because they have gotten so far out of line that higher-ups have been forced to notice.

    I have been to China once, spending most of that time in Beijing (which is where the conferences I attended were held). Beijing drivers are among the most aggressive motorists I have encountered; Boston drivers, who are considered the most obnoxiously aggressive American motorists, are tame by comparison. My impression was that while Beijing drivers are aware of the concept of rules of the road, they treat said rules as obstacles to be worked around. In two weeks I saw four accident scenes where the police had not yet arrived (in one of those cases I saw the illegal move that precipitated the accident). Traffic enforcement existed (one of my taxi drivers got a ticket while I was in the car, for proceeding straight ahead at an intersection marked “right turn only”), but as John says, there wasn’t nearly enough of it. Beijing’s air was, at the time (2006), comparable in quality to what I had heard about Los Angeles circa 1970. I understand it has become much worse since then, and many cities besides Beijing are affected.

    Chinese authorities do frequently try to censor material for fear of social unrest. Nothing they have tried to date has worked permanently, because in a country with hundreds of millions of internet users, somebody will find a workaround. With increasing numbers of Chinese nationals living or traveling abroad, controls like that will be harder to maintain, as people will hear things from friends and relatives outside China, where Chinese censors cannot operate.


  21. I have spoken before about my fears about corruption in China. But Xi is giving me cause for hope.

    Birger, by ‘democracy’ you of course mean Western style democracy. Well, we have just seen the leader of the ‘free world’ first seek to conceal torture on a massive scale by agents of his own country, then when it was revealed anyway, he sought to excuse it and exhorted everyone to ‘move on’ (meaning no retribution for those who perpetrated it), while he continues to fire drones into Pakistan.

    Meanwhile, I have lost count of how many unarmed people have been shot by police in America while not doing anything.

    And I wonder what checks and balances you believe actually exist in America.

    I don’t mind, because you are clearly a supercilious didact and easily ignorable. I just don’t understand why you don’t see what a flaming hypocrite you are.


  22. When the news about the deportation of an Egyptian hit the news in Sweden, the shit hit the fan. The Swedish government foolishly beiieved reassurances from USA and Egypt that the human rights would be respected, yet at the pick-up at the Swedish airport masked CIA agents abused the prisoner and the news quickly leaked, prompting a stop for further renditions. The Egyptian later got tortured by Egyptian security agents -also a matter given much publicity and the Swedish government rightly got a lot of criticism.
    — — —
    As for didact, I do know about the fate of the harmless but annoying cult that got wiped out by authorities a few years back. This is only one data point but it is significant because once the system has tagged you as an enemy, there are no independent courts that can bail you out.
    I read an article in Science evaluating the motivations behind the Chinese internet censorship. The criteria appeared to be, as long as criticism does not threaten to snowball, you will be OK.
    Of the more than a billion Chinese, very few seem to turn up on the radar of the authorities but for those who do, things can get as ugly as those who were renditioned from Sweden.
    Feel free to ignore me, but be aware there are ugly nuances in every society. Amnesty International can attest to that.


  23. “for those who do, things can get as ugly as those who were renditioned from Sweden” – so you’re claiming that these people get tortured? Really? What possible evidence do you have to claim that?

    Martin, I am opposed to the death penalty for any reason, and I am not an apologist for it in China, any more than I would be willing to be an apologist for the American states that still practice it – but at least it’s difficult to botch a bullet in the back of the head. It happens occasionally, but it’s pretty difficult.


  24. Anyway, it’s Martin’s blog, and if he wants to harbour an anti-Chinese troll who simply can’t stop himself with the Chinese-hate stuff, it’s obviously his choice, just like it’s mine to stop reading it.

    So I’ll just say thanks and bye to Martin, Eric and the few other civilised persons I have spotted around here, and leave you with my own favourite Christmas song:


  25. John Massey, I would not want you to leave any blog on my account. I have personally enjoyed many of your postings, but if forwarding stuff from well-established internet sites is trolling we see very different on some issues. Chinese are OK Chinese culture is great.
    But authorities who exercise power arbitraily can and should be called out, wether Swedish, Chinese or bloody Martian.
    — — — —
    Since my judgement has been called in question, I refer you to
    Or the Wikipedia entry for Falun Gong. .
    I especially recommend you read the fourth section.
    -But why should anyone care? It is not as we are members of Falun Gong. Or maybe we should read the wikipedia entry to Ursula K. Le Guin’s story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”


  26. Unlike you, Birger, I have almost daily contact, albeit very unwilling, with members of Falun Gong, and I don’t need some spurious Wikipedia entry to tell me about something I know much more about from real first hand experience.

    Falun Gong is a racist pseudo-religious cult that is forcing recognition of its existence on people by means which are clearly illegal, aggressive and very anti-social. They are definitely not benign. End. Of. Story.

    If you posted as many derisive posts about Indians, or any other ethnic group, I might just about be able to convince myself that you are just forwarding stuff that strikes you as interesting for some reason. But any quick analysis of your comments over the years is very clearly revealing. I remember one recent post about Russians that was pretty derogatory, but that is the only comment I have ever seen from you about Russians.

    So no, the evidence is clear – you are an anti-Chinese /^%=$#@, and from the nature of many of the things you post, your dislike is not just confined to what you refer to (grossly ignorantly) as an authority which exercises power arbitrarily.

    It’s Martin’s choice, which I respect, but it’s foot-down time for me – it’s sad, because I like Martin and enjoy a lot of stuff that he posts, but I am not going to continue to patronise a blog that chooses to continue to harbour a &$%€¥÷#, which is what you are. There is too much other good stuff out there to have to bother to continue to try to avoid your bizarre extremism and attempted insults.


  27. You might want to clear those two papers I posted the references to on the Aska Barrow post that are sitting in the SPAM filter – they’re relevant if, like me, you believe that the intersection of archaeology and genetics is going to be very fruitful from now on. I think linguists should be in on it too, but most of them seem to be stuffed shirts who refuse to recognise that any of it has any relevance to them, even A.J. West, who seems on the of the more intelligent and insightful of them. I may switch to reading Westie on a regular basis in an attempt to convert him, because he seems worth the effort – he is not yet effete.

    I came here originally to try to learn something about Scandinavian archaeology. I have no interest in politics, and I’ve had more than a gut full of ignorant Europeans treating people like my wife and daughter in a racist manner, to the point now that I have zero tolerance of anyone who even tries. They don’t remotely deserve it. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but ‘nice’ is rarely one of them, and it’s definitely not going to apply to anyone who persistently attempts to insult and ridicule my wife’s people.

    So, I’m sorry, Martin, but that’s it for me. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised at you censoring comments, but that’s up to you, it just diminishes you in my eyes – I thought you had a bit more backbone and principle than that. What I choose to read is up to me, and your blog has now just lost a fairly long time regular reader because of the persistent needling and condescending, patronising attitude of one person – the negative has outweighed the positive to the point where it’s just not worth taking the time to read any more – not wanting to be harsh, but it has turned into a trash column with the occasional piece of interest – too occasional to be worth it any longer. Who you choose as your friends is obviously up to you; who I choose as enemies is up to me, and Birger Johannson has alienated me to that point.

    You have my email address if you want me to try to edit anything for you.


  28. Your take on FG is pretty right – they are also virulently racist and homophobic as a matter of policy, and they have made false claim to and perverted Qigong, which has deeply pissed off a lot of genuine Qigong masters and practitioners – I’ll bet 99.9% of Americans think Falun Gong and Qigong are synonymous, to the point that they think, if someone says he practises Qigong, he must be a member of Falun Gong, which could not be further from the truth. What Falun Gong do is a pathetic perversion of Qigong practices dreamed up by a total crackpot who is virulently racist and homophobic, among numerous other things.

    People are free to think that Qigong is a load of woo, but it is part of traditional Chinese culture, at worst harmless exercise, and absolutely nothing to do with the Falun Gong sect, just as Chinese Buddhism and Taoism have nothing to do with them. They are bogus, destructive, and highly aggressive.


  29. Note vicious dictator – sorry, just couldn’t help pointing out that this vicious dictator happens to be the world’s most popular leader – by Harvard University.

    You might want to consider recalibrating, ignoring the propaganda you are fed in the controlled Western media, and getting in touch with the truth.

    And ignore the troll. You know the one I mean.


  30. Do you mean that in Sweden, people actually get to vote directly for who their national leader will be?

    I am very surprised – that is not the case in either America or Australia.


  31. Xi would probably not be very popular in Sweden or the US where people have had the vote for almost a century, don’t you think?

    Xi’s popularity (or his hypothetical Western counterpart’s lack thereof) need not be linked to whether the people can vote for their leaders. People tend to be very tolerant of leaders who are perceived as solving their country’s problems, no matter what method is used for determining who the leader is. That’s why leaders as diverse as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Josef Stalin, and Benito Mussolini were so popular with their people. When those leaders are seen as not trying to solve their country’s problems, the people are likely to turn on them. That’s what happened to Ceausescu, to Louis XVI, and to several Chinese emperors who lost the Mandate of Heaven.

    There may be cultural reasons why Xi’s style is popular with Chinese people but would be unpopular in Sweden or the US. And perhaps Xi would not be so popular if he were trying to rule the China of a century ago or a century hence. That’s not directly related to whether the country in question has a democratic form of government.

    John is quite right that even in most democratic countries, most people do not directly elect the leader. In a parliamentary system, people vote for parties, and the leader of the winning party usually becomes prime minister. But unless you live in the constituency of one of the major party leaders, you are not directly voting for the leader (this is true of first-past-the-post systems such as in the English speaking world; under proportional representation there would be slight differences, but you are probably still not voting directly for a prime minister). The US has a unique system of electors who actually vote for the president, and it sometimes happens (most recently in 2000) that the actual winner is not the candidate who receives the most votes.


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