February Pieces Of My Mind #2

The 1844 bridal chest that my great granddad donated to the Nordic Museum in 1940.
The 1844 bridal chest that my great granddad donated to the Nordic Museum in 1940.
  • I’ve decided that although immigration and refugees are important political issues, I’ve been reading too much about them lately. Redistribution of wealth and flattening the pyramid is even more important. Because wealth equals power.
  • I don’t give a damn about the US primaries.
  • A brother of Queen Euphemia of Norway was Bishop of Cammin, whose cathedral is famous for a Danish casket from about AD 1000, decorated with Mammen style animal art.
  • The surname Garfunkel means “carbuncle, garnet” and is thus comparable to Edelstein, Rosenstein etc.
  • I’m sending 18 copies of my 2011 book on late-1st millennium elite sites for free to a UK network of PhD students. Did I mention that my dad was in marketing before he retired and became a carpenter?
  • Everybody outside Africa has a single-digit percentage of Neanderthal and/or Denisovan DNA. Doesn’t this mean that only sub-Saharan Africans are fully H. sapiens sapiens? Odd species definition that leaves out the majority of the population. But then I suppose those guys don’t count as separate species. They’re extinct regional populations within H.sap. Which still makes e.g. Carolus Linnaeus not fully H.sap.sap.
  • Tin foil hats are Aluhüte in German!
  • Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better for my career if I had just shut up from day one. It’s hard to gauge what’s the better strategy, being a polarising figure in your field or a complete unknown. But then I remind myself that there’s more outcome measures than one: I wouldn’t have enjoyed my first quarter-century in archaeology half as much if I had spent it shutting up. There are lots of tenured archaeologists who are basically unheard of outside their own campuses, and where’s the glory in that? Also I can’t concede defeat until some time in 2019, when I enter the fourth quartile for age at tenure in my field.
  • 29-y-o woman found dead in the woods outside Stockholm three months after going missing. And six months after the police started investigating a report of aggravated harassment against her. So fucking sad, every fucking time this happens. )-:
  • Saw this beggar in the street whose method was to kneel silently with bowed head and clasped hands. And I thought, hey, that’s one of those statue posers only without the grey paint.
  • The seminal stoner rock band Kyuss was named for a creature in the Fiend Folio for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Iron Age and Medieval archaeology is a completely different game now thanks to Danish metal detectorists and the Internet. If I start collecting data on, say, a class of brooches, they will find new specimens and publish them on-line faster than I can register them. It’s a fire hose. Find categories that showed up once a decade now occur once a week!
  • New record for me: the book I published last spring has been reviewed in four journals so far. Two favourable, one negative and one review that I’ve only read the first page of so far. And Germans keep ordering the book!
  • The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary documentation service that allows UK finders to submit information about archaeological objects without losing ownership of them. One day some of these finds will rattle around the antiques market, decontextualised. And then it will be possible to send a picture to the PAS and ask future software to check if the object is in their database, by image comparison.
  • Have you lived much in any place whose name contains the letter sequence LTSJÖB?
  • Holy shit, I just remembered. I was TWENTY-ONE when I was admitted to the PhD programme. Many of the freshmen I teach are older than that.
  • The Chronicle of Erik is named for Duke Erik who died in the dungeon after the Banquet of Nyköping in 1318. The Songs of Euphemia are named for his mother-in-law. Together they form the first longer narrative texts in Swedish.
  • It doesn’t surprise me when modern French spelling preserves Medieval pronunciation. But I find it highly odd how often Medieval French spelling corresponds with modern pronunciation. What happened to their orthography?!
  • In order to assert myself in my role as familial tyrant, I shall now hang some laundry to dry.
  • Jrette asked me to help her study for a test on the Abrahamite faiths. Soon asked to be excused because of info overload. Turns out she just wanted brief definitions of terms. OK, sorry…
  • Turned the page in the S.J. Gould collection I’m reading and came across an essay titled “Justice Scalia’s Misunderstanding”. What Scalia misunderstood in this particular case was that he thought evolution describes how life originated, when in fact it describes how life diversified into species. As in ”Origin of Species”.
  • Sun’s up before me! We’re back on the right side of the year again!
  • I know that it’s a biased sample. But the metal detectorists I follow on-line just love to show each other pictures of their finds, even many years after they’ve handed them in to a museum. It’s the opposite of nighthawking. These guys are competing over who gets to go to Copenhagen for the annual Detectorist Oscars. Dayhawking!
  • My maternal grandma’s dad brought this chest from Scania when he moved to Stockholm.
  • Ten years ago I was at this sink cleaning Pre-Roman pottery and burnt daub from Howard’s and my own dig at Skamby. Now I’m cleaning High Medieval pottery from Stensö Castle in the adjoining parish.
  • Amazing that there’s only one shot in The Hateful Eight where Kurt Russell fiddles with his facial hair.
  • This old lady is visiting the office and has sprayed the coat room down with her perfume. It’s heavy and floral and, to me, it signifies great grannie. Strange to think that those perfumes must once have been typical of young nubile hotties.
  • I’m weaving between feeling like I already have a steady uni job and feeling like I’ll never have a steady uni job.
  • Kobb’s tea is labeled “Non-EU agriculture”. When is the state of Assam joining the Union?
  • Status: photographing and classifying Medieval pottery while listening to loud trippy music.
  • When I was in 1st grade and got ahead of the class my teacher let me play this educational game with cardboard tiles. It was called Palin.
  • Learned something yesterday at Tösse’s cake shop. A pinch of salt in your hot chocolate makes it so much better!
  • How about if we had these public mournings for a writer / musician / filmmaker once they haven’t released anything new in ten years? Memorialising Harper Lee in 2016 is ridiculous.
  • Haruspex Murakami.
Early Red Ware from Stensö Castle, c. 1250-1350.
Early Red Ware from Stensö Castle, c. 1250-1350.

Author: Martin R

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

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

  1. So the roots of bereaved go back further? I suppose it makes sense, considering iron-age societies.
    — — —
    How a Rotherham gang with history of criminality abused vulnerable girls http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/25/how-a-rotherham-gang-with-history-of-criminality-abused-vulnerable-girls
    — — —

    I do not question that most Chinese (or everyone else) can live good lives without problems with authorities.
    Power differentials matter for the small percentage of the population that do get into a serious conflict.

    To avoid “triggers” I will use an example from Russia. A professor recently got sentenced to 15 years for discussing defence-related things that were already public knowledge with a foreigner.
    Most Russians do not get sentenced to prison for anything, but for those who get singled out for arbitrary treatment the absence of an independent judiciary makes a *lot* of difference.

    But the Russian media (owned by Putin’s political allies) do not cover such cases, meaning Russians must read about it on foreign web sites that often get trashed by “denial of service” bot attacks engineered by Putin allies.

    Americans can live their whole lives without getting into trouble with the authorities. But if they get confused with someone else and get on the “no flying” list it can take years, and a fortune in lawyer costs, to get off. But the Americans are convinced America is the bestest of countries right up to the moment it happens to *them*.
    And while nominally a nation ruled by law, the power differential between ordinary people and national security agencies is so big that lives get ruined all the time.

    When Bush got re-elected I got scolded by an American acquaintance for criticising US politics. My claim American media was biased was not received well. It would take two failed wars and Edward Snowden for US Television* to start discussing stuff we read about daily in Scandy/ British/ German news media.

    Governments -all governments- are not devoid of abuse. And media do not cover more than they have to, to keep the owners happy. And I am not specifically anti-Xi anymore than I am anti-Obama**, although both should be scrutinised on account of the power they wield. (BTW America gets so much coverage every day that I get “US fatigue syndrome” keeping up with events)

    *Not including Fox news. It is the “Der Sturmer” of TV.
    **But I am definitely anti-Murdoch. On account of his record of perfect evil.


  2. Just to be certain, the Rotheram gang were South Asians, not East Asians.

    In America and Australia, ‘Asians’ means East Asians. In the UK it means South Asians.

    I took a leadership course once in which the guy said “All leaders have a limited life, beyond which they become affected by power. And they will cling to power and do anything to resist losing it. They always have to be removed, sometimes forcibly.” The examples he gave were that Margaret Thatcher had to be forced from office by her own party, and Gandhi had to be assassinated.

    Both Obama and Xi have legally limited terms. Obama got more time than Xi. I’m betting in the big scheme of things, Xi winds up doing more real good.

    Small percentages are outliers. Small percentages of people fall under buses. I’m not willing for the good of the vast majority to be sacrificed for the sake of the unlucky few.

    And before anyone gets all boo-hoo about Gandhi, learn some of the real truth about him, including his racism.


  3. Western media work for Rupert Murdoch.

    Technically, the US media have various corporate owners: The American ABC is a subsidiary of Disney (how can you be a self-respecting journalist when your boss is a fictional rodent?). CBS and NBC are subsidiaries of other corporations. CNN sold out to Time Warner. True, Murdoch owns Fox News and the Wall Street Journal (in the latter case, he breached the once-solid firewall between the news and editorial/opinion parts of the paper). The end result is a national media with no interest in reporting news that is uncomfortable to the owners. There is a running joke about US media that if certain politicians were to claim that the earth was flat, the headline would be “Opinions Differ Regarding Shape of Earth”.

    I understand that things are a bit better in the UK (the Guardian and BBC help keep Murdoch’s news bureaus from getting too dishonest) but worse in Australia (where Murdoch’s properties have a dominant market share). I don’t know about the rest of the world.


  4. Australia has two government funded broadcasters/online newscasters: ABC and SBS. They have the second, SBS, because it is multi-lingual. In printed news Murdoch is dominant.

    ABC and SBS both have a left liberal bias in reporting news, so – fine, if you know that, you know how to interpret the news to your own preference. Editorially they are run by idiots. One thing they do which I really like (and which the politicians hate) is that they do fact checks on statements made by politicians and publish the results online. The politicians are sometimes caught out making public statements which are totally made-up bullshit – no factual basis at all. That happens less now because they know someone is likely to be fact-checking them.

    Some of the editorial stuff on ABC is just drivel. SBS is slightly better, in that it tends to steer clear of editorialising too much – broadcasting in multiple languages, it doesn’t really have the time or budget to do too much opinionating of its own.

    The ‘lifestyle’ type ‘fun’ stuff on ABC is nuts. They had one vet write an article that sleeping with animals is good for you. So I challenged her in writing online on Toxoplasma gondii – I think she didn’t know what it was, because it took her a while to respond, then she came back with some lame response about how the dangers of Toxo had been exaggerated. So then another reader came back at her, challenging her with known adverse effects of Toxo, and she never responded.

    There has been other stuff like that – like the Indian lady in Sydney who shaves her head and says we should all be vegans because we are related to gorillas and they only eat vegetation, and therefore our bodies are not evolved for a meat diet.

    The ABC don’t choose the people they have writing that stuff carefully enough. The SBS is a bit more careful, and sticks to serious stuff like education policy.

    I totally ignore the Murdoch news organisation. If people prefer his crap to the government-funded organs, more fool them.


  5. The stupidity of the ABC in publishing that vet’s article on how it is healthy for humans to sleep with their pets is, of course, that she is an animal doctor. They should have got a human doctor, or the opinions of several, to write about it.

    Likewise the ‘lifestyle’ piece by the stupid Indian lady – they got no counterbalancing opinion from people who could have told them that the ancestors of modern humans split from a common ancestor with gorillas something like 10 million years ago, and that we have evolved somewhat since then.

    They should not be publishing worthless garbage like that – not on my tax dollar.


  6. BTW just to avoid misunderstandings my reference to Rotherham was about showing how a vulnerable minority can suffer without the majority noticing, not about the perpetrators being of asian descent (I am not an UKIP follower)
    — — — — —

    Surprising mathematical law tested on Project Gutenberg texts http://phys.org/news/2016-02-mathematical-law-gutenberg-texts.html

    Is this one of the techniques hat can be used to spot when a text has “evolved” at the hands of multiple authors as it is passed down time? The Iliad, the odyssey et cetera.

    — — — —
    And John Hawks seems to be one of the rare writers that makes an effort to make the text a pleasure to read, instead of cramming facts into a lump that requires multiple readings.


  7. Yes, reading John Hawks is always a pleasure.

    The Rotherham racket was run by organised Pakistani gangs, and the reason it was never properly investigated was the desire not to give offence.

    Gypsies – sorry, Roma, that much maligned and mistreated bunch: http://www.unz.com/ldinh/gypsies/


  8. I have noticed that the sales on quadcopters have made them quite affordable. If one is big enough to lift a high-quality video camera, it should be possible to get useful images of subtle terrain features at sunrise and sunset, as the shadows reinforce them.
    I am surely not the first to get this idea, but I suspect the camera would be the expensive component, preventing the use of quadcopters for surveys of regions with signs of ancient settlements.
    And you would want to have specialised algorithms to “stitch” the images together.


  9. “Could Cthulhu trump the other Super Tuesday contenders?”

    A former graduate student (now Ph.D.) had the following bumper sticker on his car:

    Why vote for the lesser of two evils?


  10. More than $1bn was deposited into Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak’s bank accounts from 2011 to 2013, far more than the $681m earlier identified.
    The 681 m was reorted as a “gift” from the Saudi royal family.
    Last year, a Saudi blogger who was under threat by prosecusion for criticising the theocracy fled to Malaysia, where he was promptly arrested and sent back to Saudi Arabia without a hearing in Malaysia (coughmoney changing handscough).
    This reminds me of the two Swedish party leaders who harshly criticised the Swedish government for criticising the Saudi record of human rights violations. Also fifty Swedish business executives wrote an open letter saying we should not criticise Saudi Arabia.
    It seems they are correct in assuming it pays to keep on the good side of the Saudi royal family. I wonder if any Swede has received any “gifts”…?


  11. Birger@70: For that matter, even the US politicians who are the most eager to start wars in Muslim countries, ostensibly to fight terrorists, have not suggested fighting such a war against Saudi Arabia, despite the tacit support of the royal family (at minimum; there is some evidence that some in the House of Saud are active supporters) for groups like Daesh. That includes Donald Trump, of whom I have heard said that the main difference between him and Vizzini is that Vizzini understands how foolish it would be to start a land war in Asia.


  12. Also, the Saudi intelligence forces are said to sometimes help out doing the Dirty work the American intelligence agencies do not want to do themselves. This is apparenltly even more important to the American allies than the value of the Saudi oil.
    — — —

    There will be a Heavy Metal festival in Umeå this weekend.
    — — —

    The detective story/thriller “Available Dark” by Elisabeth Hand is about art photography but peripherally touches the past Black Metal scene in Norway.
    Killer stages his killings to represent the Jolesveiner in Iceland; Gluggagegir, Hordaskellir, Dvörusleikir, Lampaskuggi Ketrókur ert cetera.


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