June Pieces Of My Mind #2


  • Archive finds strike me as a weak kind of empirical discovery. OK, so you’ve found a piece of writing that had been forgotten. Now you’re writing a paper about it. How long will it take before your paper is forgotten? When will it be found again, as an archive meta find? Or conversely: is any piece of extant writing really in a state of forgottenness? On a planet with 7 billion people, is there an important difference between no living person knowing about a piece of extant writing — and seven specialists knowing about it?
  • As in any strong democracy, you have the right to voter confidentiality in Sweden. Oddly enough, many older Swedes act as if voter confidentiality were a duty. I don’t understand this. It’s not like most of them have lived in times when you got penalised for voting a certain way. I tend to think that I’d better let everybody know how I vote, because since I am universally admired this will lead to people voting like I do. Cf. celebrity product endorsements.
  • I’ve been feeling sad and semi-despondent about my academic so-called career lately. But then I looked at the evidence. Three years ago I’d never even had a temp job in higher education. And though I’m still temping, I’ve been doing so steadily more and more for every academic year. I guess you get spoiled quickly. And, of course, I had pretty high expectations already after completing my PhD twelve years ago, so anything short of tenure feels fairly unimpressive to me.
  • It doesn’t bother me that retail is moving from high street store space to the internet. I was never a recreational shopper. And the breadth of available goods is incomparably greater these days. Business model, meet new set of selection pressures.
  • Proud and reassured upon receiving Jr’s grades for junior high!
  • Sweden didn’t have Burger King in the 13th century, but we did have Birger Jarl.
  • Solsidan is an area of large expensive houses near the sea, much like Baggensudden where I grew up. Thanks to a recent hit TV show its name has become synonymous with rich people. Now there’s a running competition around the area. The 10 km track is named Upper Class. The 5 km track is named Middle Class. After some pondering I’ve decided that this is healthy self-irony.
  • Sad to learn that the Danish Racist Party got 21% of the parliamentary vote.
  • The Swedish word for tarpaulin is presenning. It is cognate with Eng. precinct. Both go back to Lat. precingere, “to encircle”.
  • Recruitment to Swedish academic jobs is a mess. Two formally recognised sets of rules collide with each other and with strong informal motivations. 1. Meritocracy and optimal public spending: recruit the best-qualified person on the labour market. 2. Labour laws and union interests: rules about job security originally formulated for ball bearing factories. 3. Local and personal relationships and ambitions. “I want to recruit my buddy who shares my views and has been temping here for years and has valuable local contacts and is on my grant proposal.”
  • I fed a neighbour’s hamster. The place smelled just like by buddy Örjan’s childhood home. Then I walked past a pile of softwood at a building site. It smelled just like the new washroom at camp where I hugged a girl.
  • Why is it suddenly news that we are causing a mass extinction? I started reading about that like 15 years ago.
  • Göran Hägg’s 1983 novel Doktor Elgcrantz is intensely interesting to me, not least because it’s set on campus in Umeå where I’ve worked for two semesters. And I found this gem on p. 24 f (I translate): “Most people have never had one original thought in their lives. In this respect there is no difference between a car repair shop, a primary school or a university. But the problem becomes acute at the latter place, particularly on the post-gradate level. As research and academic activity see landslide growth, the problem becomes insufferable. And to solve it, as years went by the academic milieu created something called ‘new methods’, that is, intellectual fads. Every five years a ‘new movement’ appears that the vigilant humanities scholar needs to sniff out and convert to as early as possible. It is all about citing ‘new’ authorities, which takes the place of independent thought but gives the same impression of intellectual vigor.” When I say “gem”, what I mean is of course “that thing that I always say”.
  • On the song “Návdi” on their 1997 album Hippjokk, Hedningarna have sampled a capercaillie mating call and looped it as a beat.
  • Decided not to bring bongos and have team members take turns playing them all through four weeks of fieldwork.
  • Just realised that “The Notting Hillbillies” is a pun.
  • Taught the students Saboteur two days ago. Tonight they played it without me. Happy gamer / teacher / dad / site manager.
  • Göran Hägg makes fun of “heterarchy” as a fad jargon term already in Doktor Elgcrantz.
  • The US is nearing the end of a black president’s second term and just legalised gay marriage on the federal level, as a space probe arrives at Pluto. Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in the 80s any more!
  • I spend way too much time and energy in fruitless and maudlin contemplation of my career prospects. I’ve decided to purposely ignore that subject for the rest of 2015, except for every third Monday when my calendar tells me to check the university job ads. Instead I shall steer my thoughts onto subjects I enjoy.
  • Jrette’s Chinese lessons have taken on a new form. My wife is reading Ronia the Robber’s Daughter and Jrette checks difficult passages against the Swedish original.

Author: Martin R

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

53 thoughts on “June Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. Anyway, I’m secretly glad the guy my mother was engaged to got turned to mush inside his tail gun turret by some German fighter. Otherwise I wouldn’t be me.

    My father had the intelligence to spend the duration of WWII in Australia as part of ‘coastal defence’ (akin to Knut holding back the tide, if it had come to that), and carried spare supplies of cheese in his ammunition pouches (on the grounds that hunger was a real and present danger, while a Japanese invasion of Australia was not).


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