September Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Google Play Music’s randomiser has recently served me up with two songs about extremely talkative girlfriends. In the Spongetones’ “My Girl Maryanne” the singer finds the woman’s chattiness adorable. In Gap Dream’s “Immediate Life Sentence” he finds it annoying and concludes the song “I don’t need to get laid that bad, I’ll just stay home and get high”.
  • The crappy one of Sweden’s two big pop-sci monthlies has been using freebie trinkets in its marketing for at least 30 years now. They sent me the alarm clock I used in high school. Now they’re trying to entice me to subscribe with a little metal puzzle.
  • Heard a recent arrival get a pleasant lesson in how public-sector Sweden works: dude tried to pay for using a computer at the library, was happy when he understood that it’s free.
  • My colleague who organises conferences for the Academy of Letters reports that, unusually, Piranesi scholars are not allergics or vegetarians.
  • I was prepared for this Judith Tarr novel being science fiction. I was not prepared for it dealing extensively with psionic abilities and horses.
  • Jrette just asked “What is the definition of [this one Chinese syllable]?” Not “What does it mean?” *geek dad squee*
  • Magpie pecked at my find bags in the yard and pulled out some Medieval animal bones.
  • Woah. Bigger excavation team means more finds. Last year we brought home 3.8 kg of animal bones from the castle ruins we’re studying. This year it’s 24.5 kg. I’m going to have to apply for dedicated osteology funding.
  • Jrette is waiting for the rice cooker to finish making porridge. I suggested that she honour her Germanic heritage and have a ham sandwich to tide her over.
  • I’m Fb buddies with this guy from the boonies. Met him several times, really nice, good dependable sort. He’s clever but doesn’t have much education and isn’t the bookish type. And oh, the cartoons and other Fb circulatory material he posts… I don’t even know where to begin. The unthinking sexism and xenophobia are just staggering. It isn’t overt hate stuff. It’s intended as humour, mostly. Building on an assumption of shared views of society. I wish I could show the guy that if I shared a few of his postings people would unfriend me here in the hundreds.
  • Sometimes you come across these people who don’t understand common social boundaries. I put up an online ad to give away an old TV. “Email me and collect the TV.” This woman finds my phone number instead, calls me and tries to a) get me to deliver the TV to her home 12 km away, b) get one of my friends to deliver the TV, c) get me to throw in a TV table as well, d) get me to lend her a trolley.
  • So annoying when scifi writers put archaeology into their stories without researching any real archaeology or its terminology. Nancy Kress calls archaeological finds “relics”. Judith Tarr has excavators “sifting remnants” and looking for gold and manuscripts. *facepalm*
  • Nightmare occasioned by our recent kitchen renovation: I come home and find that my wife and my dad have agreed between themselves to remove the entire (flat) roof of our house and replace it with a high saddle roof.
  • Reading this paper in English that would be decidedly difficult to understand if I didn’t know Scandy and recognised what words the author is failing to translate correctly into English.
  • “Lapland: home of the Lap Dance!”
  • Embarrassed. One of my students has a learning disability and so has been granted help with note-taking during lectures. I solved this by asking for a volunteer student who takes a lot of notes anyway for himself, and then introduced the guy with the disability to the note-taking guy. ”Just shoot his notes with your phone after each lecture.” Except. Except that I grabbed hold of the wrong student. One with the same initial as the one with the learning disability. Who is probably really confused about why I singled him out and told him to copy the other student’s notes, without a word of explanation.
  • Google Inbox allows you to preset three times o’clock to which you can snooze email. I just moved my morning back to 6:30, my afternoon to 12 and my evening to 17:30.
  • Software fail, LibreOffice spreadsheet. If you type CTRL-A and sort a sheet, the software doesn’t limit the job to lines with any data in them. It doggedly sorts all sixty-four thousand whatever lines, effectively freezing up for a minute or two.
  • I sailed a Nordisk Familjebåt today (length 8.85 m) together with its friendly owner in a local competition. Strong wind, sunshine and the beautiful surroundings of Stockholm’s inner archipelago, very enjoyable. And I also saw a sailing hydrofoil for the first time, which absolutely blew my mind. That shit looks like CGI! And it zipped past so fast!
  • The English habit of referring to noblemen by their titles — “the Earl of Leicester” or even just “Leicester” — makes it really hard to understand narratives about them. I tend to conflate them all into one faceless piece of scenery, the Title of Place Name.
  • Had to look up “withal”. It’s an adverb meaning besides, therewith and nevertheless.

Author: Martin R

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

71 thoughts on “September Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. You know, we should design a huge virtual reality set for those fuckers (taliban, hindu or whatever) so they can act out their holy wars “in silico” and build their theocracies there too. And let’s encourage them to get stuck there, like the “dreamer addicts” of Inception.


  2. Nothing says “Christian civilization” like a big f*cking massacre

    I know you’re being sarcastic here, but there is a long history of people who call themselves Christians engaging in massacres. The Crusades. Various anti-Semitic pogroms. Witch hunts. Various episodes against the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Mountain Meadows was just one more in a long series.

    Contrary to the teachings of Yeshua ben Yosef, true. But so many of the man’s self-described followers pay no attention whatsoever to his actual message.


  3. Yesterday was a public holiday for Mid-Autumn Festival – it comes at the beginning of Autumn in Hong Kong, but you understand the timing if you go to northeastern China, where they are all bringing in the harvest, the roads choked with thousands of trucks piled high with corn.

    It’s a traditional time for moon-gazing, so although we didn’t see the eclipse, we did get spectacular views of the super-moon.

    Driving my daughter to work this morning.

    Daughter: “It’s a public holiday on Thursday.”
    Me: “What? Another one? What’s this one for?”
    Daughter: “To celebrate the Communists killing everyone.”
    Me: “Oh OK.”

    She hasn’t *quite* got the Party line on Liberation, has she?


  4. you understand the timing if you go to northeastern China, where they are all bringing in the harvest

    I live at a similar latitude in eastern North America, so I understand this quite well. Historically, it is not unusual for us to have had our first frost by now (although with a warming climate, our first frost date is slipping into the latter half of October). One of the sellers at the farmers’ market yesterday told me that a particular cold spot about 30 km north of me has had frost. Next week’s market is the last of the season in my town.

    As for that public holiday: Many Western countries (the US is a curious exception here) have a public holiday celebrating the execution by torture of a radical rabbi. Your daughter would probably understand what I mean, if she knows enough about that history.


  5. She had read the whole Bible (OT+NT) from beginning to end twice by the time she was 11 – not because she was deeply religious, she wasn’t. She has also read the Analects of Confucius for a similar reason. If people try to snow her with bullshit, she likes to be fore-armed by having done her homework; generally very much better than they have.

    This got her into considerable trouble in Bible Knowledge classes at school when she demonstrated several times that she knew more about the subject than the teacher. But she had the pragmatic common sense to continue to pretend to be a ‘believer’ until she left school, so she wouldn’t get kicked out for being an Atheist. Outside of the religious instruction it was a good school – the Catholics do a good job on education in Hong Kong; better than the secular schools, and much better than the Buddhist schools.


  6. There were no rabbis in those days, by the way. They had priests.

    The best historical analysis I have read says that Yeshua was a charismatic Jewish preacher who expected the end of the world to occur within one generation after his death.


  7. Outside of the religious instruction it was a good school – the Catholics do a good job on education in Hong Kong

    The same is true of the Catholic schools I am familiar with in the US. Whether it’s better than the publicly funded schools depends on what town you live in: if I had a kid I wouldn’t hesitate to send her to this town’s schools, but if I lived in some of the neighboring towns, I would have to give Catholic schools a serious look. Not that I am a believer (I am not), but because in some places it’s the least bad option.

    Non-Catholic private schools are a mixed bag. Some of them, like Phillips Exeter Academy and St. Paul’s School, are elite schools. Many others are mediocre. The ones run by Protestant denominations are almost always the worst–I’d take the worst publicly funded school in the region over a school with the word “Christian” in its name.

    In some towns, instead of funding a public high school, the town pays tuition for their students to go to one of these private schools (it can’t be a religious-based school, for obvious reasons). I wouldn’t want to live in such a town, because chances are they are skimping on some other aspect of critical infrastructure as well.


  8. “pay no attention whatsoever to his actual message.”
    It has occurred to me that good deeds are usually uncorrelated to religion (there are of course good individuals who are religiously motivated)
    -But once jingoist politicians use religious memes to keep a conflict going, the conflict has a greater chance of lasting long, since the parochial issues that triggered the conflict in the first place rarely survive more than a few generations. Religions have a longer sell-by date.
    — — —
    Puting & Obama: Good to get more presure on ISIS but 90% of civilian deaths are caused by Assad, the Russian ally. I pity the Syrians, all support from abroad is along partisan lines.
    — — —
    Hong Kong: The elderly (who came there from manland China) probably recall the chaos in the China of their youth. The current situation is so much better that they see no problem.
    The problam I see is that without representative democracy, things can regress as in Russia after Stalin took over.
    It is like hoping the next king will be a good one, you have no influence. Everybody hope for a Marcus Aurelius, but may get Nero or Helogabal. And if you get Chin Shi Huang-Ti (which Mao admired) you are sh*t out of luck.


  9. Since so many religions look back at the Old Testament I will follow the suggestion by Martin Kellerman* and base a religion on Waffles**, the chef on Noah’s Ark and our biggie prophet.
    *Author of Sw. cartoon “Rocky”
    **Waffles was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but great fun once he got drunk. A much better prophet than the grumpy ones. And his commandments got so slurred that no one can prove you are breaking against them.


  10. English speakers make things complicated by having two words for big seabirds that poop on statues; seagulls and… I dunno. Swedes sensibly call them all “mås”.
    -Speaking of fertilizer, here comes Republican Jesus: Because Yeshua ben Josef was a big fan of ostentatious wealth 🙂
    — — —
    “Cameron ‘passed the port to the right’
    -New revelations about David Cameron’s student days claim that he ‘wantonly’ passed port in ‘an anticlockwise direction’.


  11. Hong Kong has no sea gulls. I won’t say none, but they are pretty scarce.

    We have Black Kites (Milvus migrans) which thrive here because they prey on rats so, despite being dark and threatening looking, they are a welcome sight. And, not that we have a plethora of statues (although we still do have a statue of Queen Victoria, somewhat amusingly), but they don’t crap on them. I don’t know where they crap, but not on statues or people. We also have sea eagles, and that most eagerly sought after bird of prey for bird watchers, the almost unbearably cute peregrine falcons.

    We have a very large inventory of larger water birds, but they hunt in/over bodies of water, so don’t crap on anyone either.

    Perth has a plague of seagulls that crap on everyone and everything, and I assumed all coastal cities to be the same. When I first arrived in HK, I wondered where the plague of seagulls was. And what were those gigantic black things floating in the sky everywhere – Black Kites, and I have become very attached to them.


  12. And we don’t actually know what Yeshua’s message was, the Gospels being written by people who had never known or seen him during his life – so they were second-hand records of oral accounts, and ‘massaged’ to sell to the biggest and most desirable consumer group at the time, the Romans. Or should I say, the Mark Gospel was, and the other three Gospels were more or less copied from the Mark Gospel, with suitable embellishments, which got really imaginative by the time the John Gospel got committed to writing.

    One fairly safe assumption is that his messages were a lot more pro-Jewish and anti-Roman (or anti-Gentile generally) than they come across as in the Gospels. He was playing to an audience of Jews, and no one else.


  13. ”Here Come the China Hawks” -Virtually the entire Republican field has rediscovered the value of China-bashing.
    I am reminded of the (apocryphal) story of king Canute and the sea…
    — — — — —
    ”Terrified Shell flees Arctic as quickly as possible”
    OIL giant Shell has refused to discuss what it found deep below the surface of the Arctic.
    “NASA faked water on Mars to help Matt Damon”
    “France ends refugee crisis by bombing Syria”


  14. The entire Republican field + Hilary Clinton, whose social media comments directed at President Xi while he is visiting the country have been downright rude, which won’t go unnoticed. She has always been very hawkish toward China.


  15. Meanwhile, now that I know you and Martin are rolling in money, I’m planning my trip to Sweden to sit outside your houses with my hat out, begging.


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