August Pieces Of My Mind #3

  • Today is the big book-selling festival on Drottninggatan in Stockholm, “the world’s longest book table”, which is probably true since the term “book table” is almost unknown outside Sweden. I’m bringing a backpack and the names Bengtsson, Bujold, LeGuin, Maugham, Paasilinna and Piraten.
  • Several book sellers at the festival have told me “He’s great but nobody reads him any more” or “She’s great so I’m certainly not selling those” when I’ve asked about my favourites.
  • I’m really interested in new ideas and methods in my discipline. But it annoys the hell out of me that what we mainly get is new buzzwords. And people pick them up in the most inane and transparent way.
  • Lyric themes that put me off a song #1: whatever goes on on the dance floor.
  • This piece of abyssal plain really isn’t very good. In fact, it’s quite abysmal.
  • I thought Edward Sharpe was singing the words “undead audio” on his song “Brother”, so I checked the lyrics. And it turns out that he actually does.
  • So funny with group pictures where people are leaning into image centre and the photographer leaves this huge empty space around them.
  • Cousin E reports that his Chinese middle school English vocabulary does not include the word “pear”, but it does include “cannibal”.
  • I just realised that I logged my 900th geocache during that rock festival in Dalecarlia, on the 11th! Took me over 11 years to get there.
  • I’ve taught Cousin E seven boardgames since he arrived. Not only were they new games to him: several represented completely unfamiliar game mechanics. With four of these games, Cousin E won on his first try against seasoned grownups, some of whom really know these games.
  • Apparently there’s a fad among Western geek kids to learn Japanese. The Stockholm Scifi Book Store has study materials dead centre in its display window, between Erik Granstrom’s new fantasy novel and Tintin’s rocket.
  • Dreamed that my wife had vandalised all our brass candlesticks, hidden some of them and thrown the rest openly in the trash. Recalls the broken-off handles for candlesticks that I’ve seen in Fb’s metal detectorist groups lately.
  • Eng. howitzer and Sw. haubits both go back to 15th century Czech houfnice, “crowd cannon”, “formation breaker”.
  • A strange recurring trait of the Japanese short stories I’ve been reading lately in English translations is this childish guilelessness: an absence of irony, an apparent ignorance of Western literary clichés. “That Ainella is one tough customer, Yutaka thought.”
  • Haven’t played Vector Race in over a quarter century. We all drove straight off the track in the first curve.
  • If you find a dock when excavating in the Old Town of Stockholm, then it’s really hard to relate it to shoreline displacement. Because many docks were built on high-organic landfill that has been dramatically deflated by dehydration and microbial activity over the centuries. This means that your dock is currently at an unspecified much lower level than when it was built.
  • That night the Baron dreamt of nary a woe / And none of his warrior-guests were at all be-nightmared
  • Hunting laws regarding wolverines mean that they run a much greater risk of getting shot in Norway than in Sweden. They are however not smart enough to avoid Norway. On the contrary, they see Norway as a nicely empty area where it’s easy to find territory. So the net migration goes west.
  • I like to refer to my inner Celt as “latent La Tène”.
  • Two ticks bit my bottom when I went geocaching last Saturday. Bastards.
  • Leftovers lunch: * A soggy vegetarian Vietnamese spring roll. * Rice with curry sauce that once contained chicken. * 1/3 kipper including roe.
  • King Valdemar IV of Denmark in 1360: “Spy, bring me clandestine drawings of Visby’s defences! I will have that town!” Spy accidentally falls through a time warp and returns to the King with a copy of Emil Ekhoff’s 1922 volume documenting in detail the state of Visby’s ruinous town wall.
  • “Manic Depression” would have been so much better if Hendrix had sung “your can of beans” instead of “your kind of scene”.
  • I enjoy cleaning the sieve at the bottom of the dishwasher. I do it pretty much after every time the machine’s been run.
Vector Race
Vector Race

Author: Martin R

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

68 thoughts on “August Pieces Of My Mind #3”

  1. Eric@46&50 – Just to round out the story, Fogerty won the case.

    But when he released a song satirising the recording company guy who sued him, the guy sued him again, Forgerty lost, and had to pay a fine and change the song lyric. Lesson: win graciously and quit while you’re ahead.


  2. BTW, Eric, I think you’re being kind to John Fogerty to use the word ‘melody’ in this case. His own song that he allegedly plagiarised, “Run through the jungle” (which everyone thinks is about the Vietnam War, but which Fogerty said was actually about proliferation of gun ownership in America) consists of precisely one chord, played over and over all the way through. “Old man down the road” is much more complex – it has three chords.


  3. Meanwhile, I don’t want to start on this subject because I might never stop – copyright absolutely bedevils engineering, and actively prevents dissemination of important information, and I hate it.


  4. There was no copyright, and none was needed, back in the Middle Ages, when monks copied books. No-one could make a living from selling books, so books were written by rich people or people supported by reach people. Who pays the piper calls the tune, of course.

    Copyright became necessary when it became easy to copy stuff.

    Copyright led to the democratization of creative work, allowing one to actually make a living as a musician or writer.

    I’m glad those Pirate-Party politicians are in jail.


  5. I’m trying to set a trend to go back to using diphthongs in English.

    As in ‘archæology’. Mediæval. It looks cool and it ticks off Americans with their dumbed down spelling. Anyway, I was taught to read/write ‘mediæval’ in school, by people who spoke and taught better English than the current crop of English teachers in Australia.

    The teaching situation in Australia is really very worrying. There is an over-supply of teachers and they are poorly paid, but there is such a desperate shortage of qualified secondary science teachers, that there are a lot of Physical Education teachers teaching secondary science; I guess because they have some degree in Sports Science or some such thing. That’s downright scary.

    And of course it feeds back into itself – because there is a shortage of good science teachers at secondary school, increasingly fewer secondary school graduates are enrolling in science courses at university.

    The latest shocking revelation is that about half of all Australian adults are functionally illiterate and innumerate – they can’t read, write or do basic arithmetic well enough to properly manage their own lives without assistance. Good grief.

    Ask not when the Idiocracy will occur – it’s already here. I mean there.


  6. Why is it that when my daughter talks about “the English madwoman who learnt Sichuan cookery at an official culinary institute in Chengdu” I know instantly who she is referring to, even though we have never previously discussed the state of mental health of the woman concerned?


  7. “Æ, œ etc. are ligatures, not diphtongs.”

    Right. However, unless there is a difference in pronunciation, what’s the point. It’s like apostrophes in the names of aliens in science fiction: it just looks different, but serves no function. Or the heavy-metal umlaut.


  8. There is an over-supply of teachers and they are poorly paid, but there is such a desperate shortage of qualified secondary science teachers

    You get what you pay for. We have a similar issue in the US, and for the same reason.

    At least in the US, professors in STEM departments tend to be paid more than professors of equivalent rank in other departments. This is because Ph.D. holders in the former fields have career options other than university professor, which is not the case for, e.g., history Ph.D.’s. The non-STEM departments which are exempt from the trend are, of course, economics/business and law.

    The contractor who replaced my roof several years ago has a Ph.D. in history. While in grad school he did contracting work to pay the bills. After he graduated he continued to do contracting work because it pays better than any job that would actually use his Ph.D.


  9. Phillip@64 – But that’s the point – ligatures look elegant. Written language has an issue of elegance.

    When I started learning Standard German in secondary school, I was thrilled to discover that Germans wrote ‘ss’ as ‘ß’. I loved reading and writing it. I had to learn to write a new character I had never seen before. It was solely a matter of elegance.

    Elegance is like authenticity – like me wanting to learn Tai Chi Sword forms if, and only if, I can use a real unsheathed Chinese sword, even though learning to use a real sword has absolutely no practical application in the world I live in. It’s a matter of authenticity and elegance. Where is the authenticity and elegance in learning to dance around waving a sword-shaped lump if wood? There isn’t any, so there isn’t any point.

    That might not be the attitude you might expect from a civil engineer who earns his living dealing with the most down-to-earth of life’s practical realities, but it’s the way I feel.

    Why do you say you are in Tyskland, when everyone knows that’s Germany, and this is a (largely) English language blog? Either you are just being pretentious, or else you regard it as a matter of elegance and/or authenticity. I suggest to you that it is probably the latter.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s