January Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • Me & Jrette just sat in deck chairs and took turns watching comet Lovejoy through hand binoculars. The nucleus is like a big pale fuzzy blob among the stars. Start from the Pleiades, which are gorgeous in simple binoculars, and move about 10 Pleiades diameters in the 4 o’clock direction to find the comet. Last time I saw a comet was in 1996, Hyakutake.
  • Movie: Birdman. Possibly psychotic former action movie star puts on Broadway play. Grade: pass.
  • My ex’s winter swimming buddy lost her gold chain on the beach yesterday. It was a recent gift from her hubbie and she hadn’t told him. I lent her my metal detector (since I can’t risk using it without a permit) and taught her a few basics about how it works. She found the chain swiftly and came back happy.
  • Victory! Jrette and I tried another dojo, this one with kung fu, and she loved it. “So, I’m a martial arts girl now.”
  • You know you’re pretty hot shit in archaeology when you get international spam phone calls from radiocarbon labs.
  • I’m thinking of writing this retro-futuristic techno thriller where the US manages to put people on the Moon using only 1960s technology, former Nazi rocket scientists etc.
  • Somebody thinks Shelob is in The Hobbit. It’s either Pat Cadigan or this character in her 2014 story “Report Concerning” etc.
  • The designer sent me mockups of my Bronze Age book today. Looking great!
  • Writing grant application, surfing a big warm wave of delusions of grandeur.
  • Chinese novel: a guy with a speech impediment. In alphabetical writing, this can easily be shown in the spelling. “Ah don’ know ha’ menne ca’s of bea’s dere a’ in de cubba'” But in Chinese, you have to swap out characters to portray his speech, which is the equivalent of swapping out entire words or half-words. Incomprehensible.
  • The historians and archaeologists who are currently at the age and seniority level where they can command major research funding were formed in their thinking by the post-modernism of the 90s. And so we get a huge EU research programme on meta-studies: “Uses of the Past”. *facepalm*
  • I like this sweet oat muesli cereal known as “crunchy muesli” in Swedish grocery stores. I call it “cookie crumbs”, because I’ve long suspected that that’s pretty much what it is. I just checked the kcal figures. Crunchy muesli is 460 kcal/100 g. Oat biscuits, meant to be eaten like two at a time with a cup of coffee, are 520.
  • Jrette just used the expression “lingonberry week” about one of her buddies. Picked it up from a young woman’s vlog on YouTube, apparently.
  • Ordered a new safety valve for my childhood model steam engine. It’s been quiet for too long, since Jrette was tiny.
  • I heard Johann Hari on Little Atoms. He gave an interesting explanation for why Mexican drug cartels commit such insane acts of torture and murder. It’s not because they are all psychotic serial killers. It’s all fairly rational. The only way to stay in business without getting attacked and taken down by other cartels is to scare the others and show that you’re capable of anything. This leads to an arms race where you periodically have to come up with something even sicker than the sickest thing one of your competitors has recently done.
  • Thanks to an educated public and a small financial incentive, organic food waste separation and collection for microbial methane production is booming in my area.
  • *teacher bragging* I kind of expected last year’s freshmen to want to join my dig this summer. But the previous year is also volunteering, the ones I dug with last summer. In fact, every single one of those is volunteering.
  • Liszt’s “Liebestraum” was published as “Wet Dream” in the US.
  • Why does Yoko Ono keep moaning “Datt-uh, datt-uh” on that orgasm song?
  • I need somebody to hack Google Docs’ spreadsheet app for me and change the menu headline “add-ons” to “strap-ons”.
  • My smartphone is a bad alarm clock. At midnight it goes GABLOINGGG to tell me that I have stuff scheduled for the new day that technically starts then. My previous one also went MÖÖÖP when the battery got fully charged during the night.
  • Swapped two card games I’d tired of for Saboteur (2004) and Province (2014).
  • The Swedish Research Council’s newsletter is headed “Do you dare to express your opinions in academia?”. Yes. Yes I do.
  • Before submitting my habilitation application, I’m going to run it though the Skolt Saami spell checker and accept all suggestions for corrections.
  • Turns out there’s a direct bus from the astrophysics thesis presentation to the tea-scones-lecture on prostitution in Early Modern Stockholm at the Vasa warship museum. Living the dream.
  • Record attendance at the public tea talk about Stockholm’s prostitutes of the past. Almost entirely women. And me.
  • *bleagh* Someone’s cleaned my phone charger cable with denatured alcohol, I realised when I needed to free a hand and put the cable between my teeth.

Author: Martin R

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

20 thoughts on “January Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. I’d like to go out and look for comets and such, but the weather has not been cooperating. The snow that should be falling on the Sierra Nevada has been falling here instead: we got about a meter of new snow last week (including about 70 cm from the big blizzard, which lived up to the hype here even if it didn’t in New York City), and another 20-30 cm forecast for today. With even more coming later in the week. And blowing snow has been an issue between storms. So even when skies are clear, you don’t want to linger outdoors at night.

    Saturday I got out the roof rake. It’s difficult to use, as it consists of several tube sections totaling about 7 m in length with a rectangular metal piece (the thing that pulls snow off the roof) at the far end. It works OK on the roof above the garage, because there is no story above the garage, but it barely reaches roof sections above a second level. And because of the slope of the lot, I have roof sections in back which are three levels above ground.

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  2. Hyakutake was a teensy-weensy little comet. Did you manage to miss Hale-Bopp?
    Meteor “rains” always coincide with overcast skies in Umeå, without exception. We have a weird connection between the heavens and weather. Astroprecipitationology?
    — — — —
    “three levels above ground” -leave the snow the hell alone until spring, or you may fall and break your neck.
    —- —
    Shelob’s kids are living in Mirkwood but not mommy
    — — — —
    “retro-futuristic techno thriller” -sounds like several graphic novels. The first such I recall was Daniel Torres´ “The Whisperer Mystery”(out of print, but recommended). A more recent example is “Top Ten”.

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  3. At midnight it goes GABLOINGGG to tell me that I have stuff scheduled for the new day that technically starts then.

    Repeat after me: Computers do what you tell them to do, not what you want them to do.

    I’m sure there is a way to make that alarm go of at 0600, or whatever time you prefer to wake up. If the people who wrote that software were halfway intelligent (yes, I know, assumes facts not in evidence), there should be some way to make that the default. If all else fails, there is brute force to schedule “all day” events to start at the desired wake-up time. Though I’m sure you prefer a more elegant solution. So do I.

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  4. I’m thinking of writing this retro-futuristic techno thriller where the US manages to put people on the Moon using only 1960s technology, former Nazi rocket scientists etc.

    LOL
    BTW it was possible to watch comet Lovejoy #5(?) with binoculars (60×8) from central districts of Berlin. Right now, it’s too cloudy.

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  5. I’m not even remotely curious what is meant by the term ‘cultural logic’, let alone the possibility that more than one might exist. Give me a shovel; I want to dig up a castle.

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  6. Factoid about the danger of jumping to conclusions: it was believed that the nebulae seen around the Pleiades was formed along with the star cluster. Now it is considered to be a separate object that is in line of sight by accident.
    -More retro-futurism:“Top 10, The Forty-Niners” by Alan Moore and “Planetary” by Warren Ellis.

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  7. #9 – “I have no idea whether any of this disparate motley collection of absolute garbage about China bears any relation to the truth, but I will reproduce it here anyway, just because it’s fun to endlessly peddle spurious ridiculous bad stuff about China.”

    I still have you under an ethics watch, Birger, and you are still failing badly. You probably did more damage to Sweden than China by posting that load of silly schoolboy crap.

    One word to the wise – traditional birds’ nest soup has been found by Chinese food safety researchers to be carcinogenic, and the health advice is not to drink it.

    Now I’m off to dream up 20 bits of totally concocted drivel about Sweden to see if I can get some anti-Swedish Chinese to punt them all over the Internet for the enjoyment of the mouth-breathing classes.

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  8. One ring to rule them all!
    “Nine-year old boy suspended from school in Texas for “the one ring” from Lord of the Rings. Tolkien lore led a Texas boy to suspension after bringing his “one ring” to school.
    Kermit Elementary School officials called it a threat when the 9-year-old boy, Aiden, in a playful act of make-believe, told a classmate he could make him disappear with a ring forged in fictional Middle Earth’s Mount Doom.
    it looks like he’s been suspended twice before in six months. One was for referring to a student as black and once for bringing The Big Book of Knowledge to school. Hint: The book mentions pregnancy.”
    — — — — — — —
    Kudos to James Randi
    —- — — — — — —
    Statistics in college http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3629#comic
    — — — — — — —
    John
    This is the internet. Links with several entries (or just one entry) often contain silly stuff. Also, water is wet.

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  9. I looked at the first five items on the listicle Birger posted @9. One of those claims was a verifiable fact: that China has the world’s largest economy, provided you measure it in purchasing power parity. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but at least there are statistics that could show whether that statement is accurate. The rest are things that might be true–indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were–but not readily verifiable. I’ve heard the body double rumor before. I don’t know how generous you have to be about language skills to find more English speakers in China than the US; I’m sure more Chinese than Americans are students of the language, but foreign languages can be difficult to learn, especially for adults, and many never succeed at the attempt. I am aware of a Chinese delicacy called birds nest soup, but I don’t know the actual contents (and there are times when, as a Westerner in China, you don’t want to know). And while China has become infamous in the last decade for its pollution problems, I don’t know how you determine that 29% of San Francisco’s pollution is of Chinese origin–I don’t doubt that some of it is, but there are other possible non-local sources (Japan, Korea, the Russian Far East, not to mention elsewhere in California and the US west coast). You might be able to estimate the Japanese fraction based on radioactive isotopes coming from Fukushima (or at least, you could have made that measurement in spring 2011), but I am aware of no comparable signature from other nonlocal sources.

    When somebody is presenting information about an area where you don’t live or have local contacts, you have to be alert to the possibility that they are only telling you what they want you to know. That isn’t limited to China, but IME that’s one of the countries for which it’s most likely to arise.

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  10. Eric, yes, China has indeed passed USA in overall economical strength. As for the movement of air masses, it takes a lot of computing power to backtrack an air sample, but it can be done.
    And thank you for your comment, but flaming is driven by emotions rather than facts. For instance this joke about college degrees could either result in “how nice someone recognises the 8th century poet Po Chu –I” or “how dare you quote him in such a base context?” http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3620#comic The response is determined by wether or not commenter B has a beef with commenter A.
    — — — — —
    “NY attorney general targets popular herbal supplements after finding they are bogus”. But….aren’t “natural” medicines always better? (sarcasm)

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  11. Good news for greenhouse gases.
    “China’s coal use falls for first time this century, analysis suggests” http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/22/chinas-coal-use-falls-for-first-time-this-century-analysis-suggests?CMP=twt_gu (excerpt) “The cause of the reduced coal-burning was reduced demand, with China’s statistical agency noting that economic growth was increasingly coming from the service sector instead of heavy industry, as well as new renewable energy such as hydropower and wind power.”

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  12. “The historians and archaeologists who are currently at the age and seniority level where they can command major research funding were formed in their thinking by the post-modernism of the 90s. And so ..”

    O UnGod, tell me about it.
    e.g. “any given neolithic timber post circle thingummybob in northern Europe could never have been a roofed building. Open to the sky, blah blah ritual ..
    They didn’t need houses, which is why we can’t find them. They lived in tents or something. With their cows and pigs and dogs. And firewood, and fodder, and grain, beer, bacon, fruit, cheese, bean and cabbage stores. All winter”.
    Don’t we all, darling?
    .
    It’s undeniably true, because people in mediaeval Madagascar liked to dance about naked&painted among random arrangements of unsupported posts and pointy rocks. (Even tho’ they were actually in Borneo and Africa, at the relevant time).

    Why is anyone surprised that (tax-paying) people think archaeologists are wankers?

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