February Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • I thought my pet was a meerkat, but it was in fact a mere cat.
  • Movie: Wild Tales. A collection of unconnected short wry films about revenge. Grade: pass.
  • Eagle-eyed Roger Wikell found something that looked like a duplicate entry in my database. A flanged axe found at Vappeby hamlet by someone named Winberg, and a flat axe found at Väppeby hamlet by someone named Vinberg. Turns out they are different axes found by different people, one at Vappeby in Torstuna parish and one at Väppeby in Kalmar parish. Phew!
  • Reading Stanislaw Lem’s 1959 novel Eden. His big point is that aliens, their structures and their tech are incomprehensible. Sadly Lem makes it pretty clear that he doesn’t know either what all the weird shit he describes is or does. Endless descriptions of stuff that might as well be abstract sculpture. Yawn.
  • My social anthropology thesis will deal with gendered behaviour among staff and customers at building supply stores.
  • Jrette faces a history test. Mom & Dad help her study. Both aced high school history. They’re friends with both authors of Jrette’s textbook. The celeb historian in the teaching videos shown to the class is a work acquaintance of Dad’s. Class society perpetuated.
  • I have attended to the Rundkvist family’s main outstanding administrative task. I went to the Sibyl’s coffee/tea shop and consolidated our customer loyalty stamps. We now only have one stamp card instead of five. Peace.
  • Dear Anglophone scientists, stop prefacing your replies to interview questions with “so”. It makes no sense.
  • Realised: the Russians’ 1719 torching of the Swedish East Coast was politically analogous to the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • Preparing to dredge sediments full of industrial contaminants from the bottom of the Valdemarsvik inlet, divers found a train car that had gone off the rails at the silo on the dock.
  • Watched a 5-y-o girl with Williams syndrome lovebomb strangers on the train. Very sweet. “Oh! I like YOU! Eeeeeeek! Your hair! Eeeeep!”
  • Poofreading: literary analysis from a queer perspective.
  • Laul & Valk’s 2007 book Siksälä : a community at the frontiers : Iron age and medieval has a chapter on craniology and ethnic attribution. Errr…
  • Having broken a mirror, Reginald popped wood to counter bad luck.
  • Autocorrect informs me that the English equivalent of Sw. morgonrock, “dressing gown”, is Mytholmroyd.
  • Loving your country is a 19th century notion. Love the world and humanity!
  • I sometimes wonder if I’m the father that gets briefly described at the start of a celebrity biography.
  • I want an edition of the writings on the paper stuffed inside the mummified monk.
  • Reading an article in the local paper about egg dishes I was impressed by the wording and factual accuracy regarding Chinese Thousand Year Eggs. In fact, the passage sounded strangely familiar. Turns out I wrote it on Wikipedia and the journalist copied it.
  • Jrette has picked up from the net that nail varnish dries faster if you dip your nails into cold water. Her wording: “It solidifies faster”. This strikes me as a misunderstanding of how nail varnish dries. It’s simply a question of the solvent evaporating, not of temperature. Add solvent a day later and the varnish becomes liquid again. The water shouldn’t do anything at all. Or does the solvent diffuse into the water faster than it evaporates into the air?
  • “Kokomo” from 1988 had no input from Brian Wilson and is widely seen as the Beach Boys’ least edgy, least innovative, least respected hit. Still it’s the only one I can think of whose lyrics references drugs.
  • I like Google Inbox’s new single-click “make this email invisible until after office hours” button.
  • Magpie making fluting lovey noises and messing around with an old nest.
  • Some website said that Melvyn Bragg would be discussing the history of Unix on In Our Time. Turns out it’s actually eunuchs.
  • The Danish village name Møgeltønder doesn’t mean “Mouldy Barrels” as it looks to a Swede. It means Mickle (i.e. big) Tønder, and refers to a nearby town that was once smaller. And Tønder is originally a common pan-Scandy stream name cognate with Eng. tinder and Sw. tindra, meaning “sparkling, glinting”.
  • Movie: The Imitation Game. Alan Turing biopic. Grade: pass.

Author: Martin R

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

62 thoughts on “February Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. I can sort of see why Islamic fundies would want to destroy pictures of people. But why would anyone put resources into bulldozing ruins? Ridiculous.

    This is going to produce endless tiresome meta-archaeological writings about people’s attitudes to ancient monuments. I can just hear the pantings of colleagues who call themselves archaeologists but are mainly interested in the present.


  2. But why would anyone put resources into bulldozing ruins?

    Because some of those ruins are presumably temples to gods other than Allah, and might tempt people to turn away from the True Faith. It would be a ridiculous thing to do if ISIS were secure in their faith. But in my experience with American Christianists, a fundamentalist’s faith is often quite fragile, so they might not grok the notion that these gods, worshipped by people who lived several millennia before Mohammed, would not be worshipped today.

    There are American Christianists who advocate murdering doctors who provide abortions (and a few who have done more than advocate), because under their interpretation of the Bible, abortion is an abomination. The difference between such people and ISIS is one of degree, not of kind.


  3. Luckily, though the US armed forces are heavily pro-religion, they aren’t controlled by batshit fundies like the ones in Syria and northern Iraq.


  4. The pro-religion of US armed forces is more a form of social conformity. I think the same explains the big resurgence of Orthodox religion in Russia. Neither is the batshittery of real religious loonies.

    When I was a kid, people attended church in Australia as a form of social conformity/networking/social cohesion, and there was a real divide between Catholicism on one side, and the Anglicans and Protestants on the other. Now that has all gone, and Australia is essentially a non-religious country aside from certain new migrant groups. The Prime MInister is a religious nutbag, but even his own party want him gone.

    On the subject of dodgy craniometry, further evidence to support the contention that after people occupied the Americas, cranial and facial shapes changed due to external environmental factors/geography (this is not artificially induced skull shape changes as practised by some people like the Maya):



  5. BTW, although in ruins, Nimrud was still full of depictions of people and supernatural beings like half-human half-animal type folks, so a massive affront to any true believer and ripe for bulldozing.

    There is plenty more to come.

    I enjoyed the way the UN declared it a war crime. How useful of them. Do they mean kidnapping and beheading people on TV is not? Just more evidence to convince me that the UN is a sham and a massive and totally useless bureaucracy.


  6. Martin, I think that the answer is to be found in strategy not theology. All the textbooks for terrorists tell them to commit spectacular outrages. In theory, this will bring them attention, make them look strong, and provoke the authorities into ineffective repression which will bring the terrorists more supporters and make the authorities look weaker. To the two-legged beasts in charge of an organization like that, prisoners, children, and archaeological sites are just resources to be used to get attention, money, or create the Perfect State under God’s Law. As a möchtiger Assyriologist this makes me very angry, but I do not know what outsiders can do other than refusing to give this organization what it wants. As in other cases, its likely that some people are helping Iraqi scholars smuggle things out of the occupied areas or bury them, so that they can present the two-legged beasts with unshaved beards with a prized collection of mediocre pots and shiny forgeries to destroy. That can’t protect fixed sites like Nimrud, but my only consolation is that there are so many sites in Syria and Iraq that even the most enthusiastic vandals and looters can’t destroy them all.


  7. Yes, although they do seem to encourage looting at unexcavated sites so they can sell the things they find. The Assyriological community may have some advice, but unfortunately limiting the damage is mostly up to Iraqis and Syrians now.


  8. ”Luckily, though the US armed forces are heavily pro-religion, they aren’t controlled by batshit fundies like the ones in Syria and northern Iraq”

    …although the fundies are trying hard, and have been partially successful in infiltrating the US military. This has triggered a backlash, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (founded by Michael Weinstein) is fighting back:
    The vast majority of their clients are practicing Catholics and Protestants of mainline denominations who claim to be targeted by proselytizing evangelical superiors.
    Weinstein’s friend Ed Brayton routinely publisher the crudest of the (usually anti-semitic) hate mail Weinstein gets on the blog Dispatches From The Culture Wars, a site I highly recommend. The hate mail is unintentionally hilarious.

    Also by Ed Brayton:”The Department of Justice has hired a Muslim imam who called for Ayaan Hirsi Ali* to be put to death a few years ago. Fouad El Bayly, the leader of the Islamic Center of Johnston, Pennsylvania, was hired to teach prison inmates about Islam. Because that’s what we want is a bunch of ex-cons trained in reactionary Islam.”
    (*Somali-born activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali dared criticize Islam)


  9. After WWII the French kept German POWs for years, having them repairing the infrastructure Wehrmacht had destroyed.
    I can see a similar use for the ISIS POWs once their militia collapses (since they have deliberately pissed off all the major powers, this is only a matter of time. Unfortunately they will cause maximum destruction during that time)


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