January Pieces Of My Mind #1


  • From now on I’m not appending my CV with job applications any more. I’ll send a list of my LinkedIn endorsements instead.
  • We’ve seen a series of arson attempts on Swedish mosques, almost certainly motivated by xenophobia and racism. A lot of good people are showing their solidarity with the country’s Muslims by sticky-taping paper hearts and letters of support to the doors and walls of mosques. I’m conflicted. I condemn arson, xenophobia and racism. But I also oppose collectively organised religion. I don’t want the country’s mosques or churches burned down. I want them converted to secular uses. I’d rather sticky-tape my paper heart to an immigrant than endorse a religious organisation.
  • Wife shocked to find me putting sweet mustard into my bacon & pea soup. I be like “Behold the Swede in all his ethnic glory”.
  • Last night Jrette beat two seasoned male gamers who shall not be named at RoboRally. *proud*
  • Movie: Love Is Strange. Old gay couple is forced to sell their apartment, stays separately with various family for weeks. Tensions but also intimacy ensue. Grade: pass.
  • It was a milestone when Jr started babysitting Jrette. Tonight we’ve passed an even bigger one: Jrette simply stayed at home with the iPad and a helping of Dad’s mince patties when her parents went for a movie and meal. We’re a post-babysitter couple now.
  • You win, Autocorrect. From now on Gilmorton does mean “gomorron” to me, that is, “good morning”.
  • Aaah, it’s great not knowing anything about iPhones and iPads. No user support on those when family members run into trouble!
  • Jrette is wise beyond her years: “Whatever words you google, you always get a picture of a half-neckid girl”.
  • Yay! Wife is joining me for moonlight skating on the lake! We’re bringing ice spikes and a rope. I only wish Jr would come too.
  • “… why in the name of the Lord should anyone so to speak perform charitable acts as a reader of books? No moral law tells us to. On the contrary, any moral law on the subject would say ”Read good books and ignore the bad ones as completely as possible”. Frans G. Bengtsson, letter to Sigfrid Lindström, 30 april 1928. FGB is one of my favourite authors and I recently learned that my old thesis supervisor met the man once as a child.
  • My study debt is down to $6200 or SEK 49,000.
  • Home now from my last trip to Umeå this semester. Will be commuting to Kalmar instead from late February on.
  • I find Harlan Ellison’s celebrated 1967 story “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream” to be pointless and forgettable.
  • Took me more than 12 years before I noticed that the Swedish edition of Mad Magazine had been discontinued.
  • Story germ: protagonist realises that his friend is contemplating suicide because his book queue on Goodreads is dwindling.
  • I’m re-recording Jefferson Airplane’s seminal 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow under the title Atavistic Pillow. It’s all bestial grunts and howls to an accompaniment of rustling leaves, cicadas and stones being bashed rhythmically against the skulls of large herbivores.
  • The German equivalent of “We’re fucked” means “We’re fucked in the knee”.
  • It’s almost as if the Boko Haram were a bunch of drugged-out and crazed former child soldiers. Oh, right.
  • I’ve heard lots of Jamaican and Cuban music, but I don’t know anything about Hispaniolan music. Are they too poor there to support a class of musical innovators? Or is it just a question of distribution networks?
  • Bronze Age book has an ISBN and is in the hands of the designer!
  • Instead of appending my CV to job applications, from now on I’ll just send a link to the Wikipedia article about me.
  • Wife mumbles to herself over her psych textbook: “Tourette’s syndrome…”. I immediately yell “Willie!”. She pays me no attention.
  • Kinda tired of getting followed on Twitter by authors who put the name of their new book in their profile. Guys, that means “spam account”.
  • For decades, legendary Swedish archaeology professor Stig Welinder has been co-publishing papers and books with students and local historians, and insisting that all authors be credited in alphabetical order. This means that he’s always last, even though it’s pretty clear that he’s done most of the writing. His co-authors rarely show up elsewhere as independent authors. Here’s what we should do: we should all add Stig Welinder as lead author of everything we publish.

Author: Martin R

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

22 thoughts on “January Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. In mathematics, authors are almost always listed alphabetically.

    This happens in other fields too, including high-energy particle physics, where it’s common for an experimental paper to have about 3000 co-authors[1], and computer science. But other areas of physics, and other sciences generally, to list the primary author first. Depending on subfield, the authority figure is often intentionally listed last (perhaps Prof. Welinder is taking advantage of that tradition), although that’s not true in my subfield.

    I can understand the impulse behind alphabetical ordering of co-authors, but I find it problematic for the following reason. Suppose there is a research group consisting of Prof. Jack Horner and two grad students, Little Miss Muffet and Peter Pumpkineater. If they are in a field that lists authors alphabetically, all of their papers will have as authors J. Horner, L. M. Muffet, and P. Pumpkineater, in that order, no matter who did the work. People who are familiar with J. Horner’s lab will know which papers are Muffet’s and which are Pumpkineater’s. But someone who is not familiar with the group, and is told that these papers are P. Pumpkineater’s, will be unable to distinguish the following two scenarios: (1) P. Pumpkineater is being properly credited with the work, or (2) an old boys’ network is attributing to Pumpkineater work that was actually done by L. M. Muffet. If the main author is listed first, outsiders will know who did the work by checking whether P. Pumpkineater or L. M. Muffet is the first author.

    [1]One of my current professional headaches is the fact that in (at least) one of the leading abstract databases for physical sciences, my name matches one of the ~3000 members of the ATLAS collaboration (one of the leading collaborations in the search for the Higgs boson). You’ll find other false positives as well, but ATLAS is the one that drowns out my research. There are ways to exclude these papers from the search, but not without also excluding some of mine.


  2. I will tell my Austrian and Italian friends that they have been failing to educate me in cuss-words.

    Ancient historians so rarely co-publish that there is not really a convention for how to order the names. I am not sure what Mediterranean archaeologists and orientalists do.


  3. I’ve heard lots of Jamaican and Cuban music, but I don’t know anything about Hispaniolan music. Are they too poor there to support a class of musical innovators? Or is it just a question of distribution networks?

    Try looking up Haitian and Dominican (as in Dominican Republic) music separately. You have two countries with different primary languages (French Creole and Spanish, respectively) sharing an island. Haitian music may be difficult to find–it’s the poorest country by far in the Western Hemisphere, so distributing their music is understandably not a priority. There is definitely a Dominican music tradition; merengue is the best known style of Dominican music. The music styles share some similarities, mainly due to African influence, but Dominican music tends to make more extensive use of Western instruments (accordion, guitar, etc.).

    As Wikipedia reminds me, there is a famous 1996 song, “El avión”, by Dominican singer Kinito Mendez. The song mentions flight AA587, which was a daily flight between New York-JFK and Santo Domingo. I say “was” because on 12 November 2001 flight AA587 crashed on takeoff, the first US airline crash after 9/11. American Airlines ended the JFK-SDO route in 2013.


  4. The issue of racist attacks on mosques and islamist attacks on perceived religious enemies form a hard-to-untangle mess, as religion and race so easily gets conflated.
    -Racists make no difference between radical islam and people of middle east origin, and thus try to use terrorism as an excuse for their own attacks.
    By and large, I think the French have handled the Charlie Hebdo issue well, and refused to invite Le Pen to the big demonstration after the attacks on the magazine.
    And while Swedes ruthlessly mock religion, they have no sympathy for assholes who torch mosques with people inside.
    — — — — —
    BTW, a good presentation of Charlie Hebdo cartoons, with translations and cultural background provided:
    — — — — —
    Another issue with cartoons -apart from keeping “nationality” separate from “religion”- is the difference between “striking upwards” and “striking downwards”.
    Making fun of swarthy, marginalised people= striking downwards (recall the cartoons of jews in newspapers a century ago) .
    Making fun of mullahs with swollen heads =striking upwards.
    — — —
    (And if you make fun of the royal family*, I will not get very upset, even if I question the taste. They can take it)
    *a taboo with almost religious aspects.


  5. Having visited the Dominican Republic a few years ago, I have personal experience about merengue. It is everywhere. It’s fast. When other Caribbean styles run at the speed of your heartbeat, merengue runs as fast as you can flick your hips.

    BTW, the island is usually called Haiti, even in DR. The name comes from the pre-columbian Taíno language, and means “high”. The highest peak of the Caribbean, Pico Duarte (3,098 m), is in DR. Curiously, the lowest place in the Caribbean, Lago Enriquillo ( -45 m), is only a hundred km away.

    And then there is the island called Dominica, but it is in the Lesser Antilles, and has nothing to do with the Dominican Republic.


  6. Isn’t Hispaniola also Haiti?
    I think the island name Hispaniola became an un-name with colonial powers after the slaves in the west succeded with their slave rebellion, but maybe Spanish speakers in DR use it.
    BTW eastern Hispaniola (DR) gets most of the rainfall, leaving Haiti with poor farming condition.
    Also, USA occupied Haiti 1915, imposing unfair trading conditions that cemented the poverty of the country.
    DR is the hottest place of the Caribbean, which is why German tourists go there in large numbers.
    — — — — —
    Xenonut news coverage: Paris is taken over by jihadists! …not http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=28b_1421201170


  7. #9 – So, there’s clear evidence that the mosque burners were arseholes, not Swedes – evidently foreign arseholes who snuck into Sweden undetected, torched some mosques, and snuck out again undetected. What’s your intuition about where these foreign mosque-burning arseholes came from? China’s a bit far. Russian arseholes, perhaps?

    BTW, it’s pretty impressive that you have been given the authority to speak on behalf of nearly 10 million Swedes. I trust you never just opinionate sitting in your armchair based on your own subjective anecdotal observations, so that must be the case. Impressive.

    Extending the topic slightly then, who are the Death Metal arseholes who burn churches? Would they be foreign Death Metal arseholes who are equally adept at sneeking in and out of the country without being detected? If so, it sounds like Sweden has a bit of a boundary security problem.


  8. Nobody’s saying that the arsonists are foreigners. My guess is that they’re working-class ethnic Swedes, from whom the Racist Party recruits most of its voters.


  9. BTW eastern Hispaniola (DR) gets most of the rainfall, leaving Haiti with poor farming condition.

    It’s true that the DR, being on the upwind side of the island (prevailing winds in the tropics blow from east to west, the opposite of the temperate zones), but there is more to it than that. Specifically, Haiti has lost more than 98% of its original forest cover, leaving the topsoil vulnerable to erosion. The DR still has trees, thanks to an environmentally enlightened (by the standards of the day) despot named Balaguer, so they have less of an erosion problem. Thus the DR can afford to grow sugar cane for export, while Haiti cannot.

    The DR has also had its share of misrule and Yankee interference. Where Haiti had the Duvaliers, the DR had Trujillo (who was sufficiently egotistical that during his rule Santo Domingo was called Ciudad Trujillo). The US Marine Corps went into the DR in 1965; Balaguer’s ascension to power was one result of that invasion (and despite his environmental achievements, Balaguer is not well regarded among Dominicans).


  10. John, I find it curious that you interpret the reference to house-burning attackers to be meaning “foreigners”.
    Sweden is quite capable of producing violent far-left and far-right extremists on its own…. a national achievement people rarely brag about..
    — — — —
    -X-rays unlock secrets of ancient scrolls buried by volcano http://phys.org/news/2015-01-x-rays-secrets-ancient-scrolls-volcano.html -Normally readable scrolls are only preserved in desert conditions.


  11. #15, #17 – “And while Swedes ruthlessly mock religion, they have no sympathy for assholes who torch mosques with people inside.”

    So what you really meant to say is that some proportion of Swedes fall in this category, while some fall in various arsehole categories.


  12. #15 – Unfortunately, I think this rule of thumb does not work well for acts of terrorism. Low intelligence, violent and criminally inclined people might tend to predominate in the Racist Party, but the ‘clever’ thing about terrorism is that you don’t need a big bunch of violent thugs, you just need a few psychopaths and ideologically driven extremists who can be quite intelligent. Such people can easily be smart, funny and charming enough to disguise themselves anywhere.

    In fact, there is now a quite credible theory backed by some data that all successful politicians, of all stripes, need to be psychopaths. One reason I loathe all politicians is that, to my eyes, they all exhibit some psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies – they are all charming liars lacking conscience. Party politics cannot work at all if all members of the party are people who adhere to their own honest beliefs and are unwilling to compromise what they believe is right in order to conform to the party platform on all issues.

    Eric made this case pretty well when he was describing the party political system in America. It is true of party political systems everywhere. To be a good ‘party man’, you have to be prepared to be a liar and a hypocrite, at least some of the time.

    And to be a successful terrorist, you don’t need to be a stupid violent thug; you are more likely to succeed if you are a smart psychopath – at least smart enough to make dupes of stupid violent thugs to do the dirty work for you, or to recruit the ideologically driven people who will be useful to you. It is no secret that in the Middle East, the extremist groups do a lot of recruiting in the engineering schools of the universities, and you need to be smarter than the average bear to graduate in engineering.

    It is not paranoid to observe that it is estimated that about 10% of all populations everywhere are psychopaths. The reasons we don’t encounter them in daily life more than we do are that (1) a lot of them are in prison, and (2) those who are not are often very charming, successful people who are good at concealing the fact that they are psychos.

    This is something I know a bit about, although you might not expect it from my main profession – as voluntary unpaid work in my spare time, I have been inside every place of detention in Hong Kong (prisons, psychiatric hospitals, immigration detention centres, ‘special’ schools for naughty boys and girls, juvenile detention centres, remand centres, etc.), sometimes several times in each place, and I have had more opportunity than most people get in normal life to observe captive populations with high percentages of psychopaths, and to talk to behavioural psychologists who work in prisons.


  13. To quote a commentator on another blog: “Blind allegiance to any ideology, in conflict with facts, makes people stupid. Marxism isn’t that special.”

    That particular discussion was about Lysenkoism, and the fact that Richard Lewontin, a self-avowed Marxist who has wilfully done his level best to mislead the scientific community for many years by spreading pseudo-science for ideological reasons, is about to be awarded some prize, for a piece of his early work that actually was OK and was a significant contribution – but does that outweigh the huge amount of damage he has done since, spreading stuff that he wishes were the case because of his ideology, rather than accepting that the data all overwhelmingly show it is not the case and therefore screw his ideology?

    The commentor was just noting that not only is blindly following Marxism an affliction; blindly following any ideology, or choosing to interpret any data through a prism of that ideology to make it fit, is an affliction.

    I’m not just pointing fingers at scientists. Engineering has more than its fair share of sacred cows who “can’t be criticised or disagreed with.” Well, fuck that. If I have data that show they are wrong, then they are wrong and I’ll say so. I’m an engineer, not someone’s fan boy – my first duty is to serve the community to the best of my ability, not drool over some dead geezer. If that means “disrespecting their memory”, I couldn’t care less. They’re dead, and my allegiance is to whichever community I’m employed and paid to serve.


  14. Movie: The old sniper film “Jarhead” is more interesting than “American Sniper”. And Jarhead is free from self-aggrandizing claims while the latter is based on a book by an author caught out making stuff up (which is why Jesse Ventura won a huge settlement).
    — — — — —
    Scandy people who use vilolence and intimidation for political use range from neo-Nazis who vandalse Jewish cemetaries to riflemen with laser sights to suicide bombers, and a nasty piece of work named Breivik. I could call them “people with violence issues” but that lacks a bit of Oomph.
    I find the Americanism “assholes” brief and apt. If Breivik et. al. take offence I am sure they have lawyers that can sue me.


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