February Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • Nalin Pekgul: “Us Muslim immigrants used to invite Jehovah’s Witnesses to practise our Swedish”.
  • Movie: Sweden, Heaven and Hell. Hilariously over the top Italian exploitation mockumentary about late-60s Sweden that manages to tell volumes about Italy instead. Narration similar to the closing voice-over in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Relentless blonde breast flaunting throughout. Grade: Recommended.
  • Movie: The Danish Girl. Transgender journey in 1920s Copenhagen and Paris. Main character’s self-absorption and sudden unwillingness to doink A. Vikander get kind of old. Grade: OK.
  • Imagine explaining to someone in 1975 that one day, you’ll be receiving regular phone calls from criminals in India who want to take your home computer hostage.
  • Your choice of headgear is unimportant to me. But I hope you’ll tell me if you’re being threatened or coerced.
  • Sojourning att Kenilworth in 1575, Elizabeth I and her secretariat processed 20 horse deliveries of paperwork every day.
  • Jrette has culled her library. I took four grocery bags of books to the public one.
  • Imagine finding a barf ball from an owl bear, containing the hair, bones and underwear of a 3rd level halfling cleric.
  • How to swear in German: Verschwörungstheorien und Online-Hass!!!
  • A friend of mine said something interesting about the Green Party’s representatives in Swedish municipalities. You get quite a lot of chemtrail-believing hippies. But almost exclusively in towns where the Green Party has never been in a majority position. Actual operative local government tends to weed them (!) out, leaving the pro-science technocratic Greens, for whom I have myself voted repeatedly.
  • Checking myself in the bathroom mirror, I discovered that I’m having a no hair day. But also a pretty good beard-stubble day.
  • I just saw something that would frighten you museum types out there pretty bad. A normal 25-y-o ziploc baggie. That has started to fall apart spontaneously because the plastic has degraded. And written on the baggie, of course, is the ID of its contents.
  • In the past decade I’ve entered three unfamiliar fields of research. I’ve used a method that may look evident to some, but still bears spelling out. It’s simply this: start with the newest publication and read up backwards.
  • Recalled this piece in my first-year German textbook. Mostly what we read there was of no interest to us other than as grammar exercises. But this one was unusually poignant in all its brevity. About a man who gets an ugly dog from a shelter. It’s an old scarred mutt. But the man likes his dog. Ich habe auch ein Paar Narben. “I also carry a few scars.”
  • I found something to write a new Wikipedia article about! A Swedish 1970s scifi publisher.
  • Movie: Louise by the Shore. Beautiful water-colour style animation about an old woman who gets left to spend the winter alone at a strangely empty summer resort in Normandy. Reminiscent of Tove Jansson. Grade: Recommended.
  • Weekly news mag Fokus offers statistics on where it’s easiest to find a spouse in Sweden. Erroneously looks at proportion of unmarried people instead of absolute number. Recommends looking in parts of the country with extremely low population density. *sigh*
  • Movie: The Odyssey. Lavishly produced, solid, pretty and conventional biopic about the J.Y. Cousteau diving movie family business. Grade: OK.
  • Studying the Swedish Social Democrat Party’s platform. Surprised to find that they/we want to establish a worldwide collective bargaining agreement between capital and workers (Sw. kollektivavtal). Not sure if this should be read as a Utopian ambition or an attainable goal.
Baggensfjärden, view from my Dad's house
Baggensfjärden, view from my Dad’s house

Author: Martin R

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

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

  1. Radar: I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that the worldwide owners of various spy satellites are sitting on enormous hoards of archaeologically relevant data, sadly classified.


  2. Birger, I am really pleased to hear that you have turned things around for yourself. Yes, very difficult.

    Alcohol is ingrained in Australian culture; not at the level that vodka-guzzling was ingrained in Russian men before that was turned around, but at a lower level, and women just as much as men, and with binge drinking ingrained in the culture of young people. I didn’t realise just how much so until I came to live among a culture who really don’t care about alcohol at all; partly because it makes many of them sick. The mild irony is that in Hong Kong you can get alcohol in any coffee shop or convenience store, or even at your local petrol station if you are in a hurry and need to pick up a bottle of decent wine to have with dinner – it is completely uncontrolled here because it doesn’t need to be.


  3. Meanwhile, I have managed to pull off a stunt to try to damage the stitched incision in my hand as much as possible, but seem to have failed to damage it much at all.

    Very early yesterday morning I leapt out of bed to race into the bathroom, which I do without turning any lights on; that way I can go to the bathroom and get back into bed again without fully waking up, and so get back to sleep again quickly. However, on this occasion I attempted to corner a little too sharply on exiting the bedroom into the hallway, my bare feet slipped from under me on the slippery wooden floor and down I went, hitting my head good and hard on the wall on the way down…..and I hand-planted on the floor to break my fall, unfortunately with the hand with the stitched incision in it, so I landed hard right on the incision. It hurt, and bled quite a bit. I was mildly concussed from hitting my head (fortunately my forehead, where the skull is nice and thick, and I had much worse head damage a few times when I was younger, from playing rugby and practising martial arts) (but nothing as bad as one guy I saw in the martial arts school who dragged himself out of one of the practice rooms one day with a katana stuck straight through his thigh – he was damned lucky it didn’t sever a main artery on its way through), so had to wait for the pain in my head to subside and my head to stop spinning before I attempted to take off the dressing to see how much damage I had done to the incision, and to clean the blood off it.

    When I finally did so, I was surprised to see that I didn’t seem to have done much damage at all – the stitches pulled a bit, which made it bleed a fair bit, but otherwise it seems to be more or less OK, so I did not bother making an emergency trip to see the doctor; I just cleaned it up and put a clean dressing on it, by which time it had stopped hurting, pretty much. I just changed the dressing again (which I have to do daily, which is a real chore, because getting a new surgical dressing onto it one-handed without messing it up is really tricky) and it is now looking very clean and seems to be healing up OK.

    I guess I’ll find out from the doctor when I go to see him next week whether my assessment of minimal damage is correct or not. In the meantime, I am reminding myself to slow down a little, and stop racing around the place in the dark like a maniac while still half asleep.

    Meanwhile I notice that some notes I had written down yesterday on some work I was doing have blood stains on them, so I must have started work before I got around to taking the dressing off and assessing the damage. I think that probably says something about my attitude to work, which is probably why I’m still doing some.


  4. Translation trouble:
    today is semmeldagen in Sweden, the day we are supposed to eat a specific sort of cream cake/bun but I don’t think this particular deliciacy has a counterpart in anglo-saxon countries.
    It is like “fika”, Swedish has several unique words related to coffe breaks (and what to ingest). I suppose this shows what we consider important in daily life.


  5. Martin, my wife made a similar request, but what she said was a lot longer and much less politely phrased. She rarely gets religious on me, and usually only when she is very concerned about my health, but she said “You do not deserve to have God looking after you.” When I went “Huh?” she rephrased it, leaving out the reference to God, but said something like how I don’t deserve to have people trying to do things to help me have a long life, when I am so careless with my own health and safety.

    Message received and understood. Whether I will ever learn is yet to be seen.


  6. Very early yesterday morning I leapt out of bed to race into the bathroom, which I do without turning any lights on; that way I can go to the bathroom and get back into bed again without fully waking up, and so get back to sleep again quickly.

    I have to agree with your wife that this is a bad idea.

    I can generally get to the bathroom without turning lights on, but I move more slowly, and sort of feel for the dresser corner that lurks along that path. (If it’s a moonlit night, I can even see that dresser corner.) That way, I don’t slam into it by mistake. I suggest you do something similar when you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.


  7. Alcohol is ingrained in Australian culture; not at the level that vodka-guzzling was ingrained in Russian men before that was turned around, but at a lower level, and women just as much as men, and with binge drinking ingrained in the culture of young people.

    Likewise in the US. Here, you cannot legally purchase alcohol until you are 21. The intent was to cut down on high school drinking, but the effect is to give alcohol the lure of the forbidden and drive underage drinking (further) underground. So lots of young people don’t know their limit, and get crazy drunk (and some even die of it) whenever they get the chance.

    Some states have exceptions wherein a child at home can be served alcohol by his parents. But the state I live in does not have such an exception. Instead, we have an “internal possession” law: if you are under 21 and drunk, you can be arrested and charged with illegal possession of alcohol. Which makes such drinkers even more reluctant to seek help when somebody has overdone it.

    My colleagues from continental Western Europe are uniformly of the opinion that American alcohol laws are counterproductive. I find myself in agreement with them.


  8. All admonitions acknowledged, gratefully or otherwise. I think Birger probably doesn’t really get the stereotypical Chinese attitude to religion, of which my wife is typical, which is anything but rational, but no matter. Chinese typically take whatever aspects of a new religion seem potentially useful and add them on to older existing religions – hence Chinese absorbed Buddhism and developed Zen Buddhism, which then migrated to Japan; so in times of stress my wife might appeal to any one of several different religions including native animism, Taoism, Buddhism and Catholicism, depending on which one she regards as most appropriate to the circumstances, while remaining functionally an atheist, or at the very least agnostic in regard to all of them. She has yet to appeal to Islam so far as I know, while certainly not showing any sign of Islamophobia (quite the contrary), but I guess there is still time.

    This looks kind of interesting, although I have not yet accessed and read the full paper:

    U5 is one of the ‘Western hunter gatherer’ mt DNA haplotypes dating to 8,000 years BP, when modern humans were repopulating Europe after the LGM. U5a1 is one of the derivative haplogroup subgroups – no idea from where (my mt DNA U5a1b is a further derivative subgroup, also no idea from where, except that it is clearly not represented in Sami today, who show the highest modern frequency of U5 at 50% of the population).

    But these folks turning up on the Mongol steppe 500 to 1,000 years BC illustrates one thing clearly – people got around back then, much further than ever previously suspected. And the Altai Mountains were clearly no barrier to gene flow, despite previous assumptions that they were.

    Plus the surprise that lots of mt DNA haplogroups found today in modern Indians (as in people from India) were represented among this group. The markers are Ancestral Southern Indian, who no longer exist in ‘pure’ unadmixed form.

    That might have some explanatory power, in relation to the fact that a later Indo-European speaking fair skinned and blonde haired ‘European’ looking group settled in the Tarim Basin in what is now Western China who were practising Buddhists. 1,000 or even 500 years BC is a bit too early for this group to have had contact with Buddhism, but 300 BC would not have been too early.

    Colour me increasingly confused.


  9. Crikey – the name of the wife of the author of that paper is (deep breath in) Udaanjargal Chuluunbaatar.

    And they named their son Enkhbilegt. I think I might have tried to avoid doing that. Depends where he ends up living, I suppose, but who wants to end up living in Mongolia? It’s one of the world’s most polluted countries, apart from anything else (climate, etc.).

    Makes me grateful for a Chinese wife whose name is 3 simple monosyllables of only 3 or 4 letters each, even if most Australians still find it endlessly confusing.


  10. Asparagus – Sorry that I did not instantaneously answer you; I have a job that sometimes takes up too much time to let me play on the internet. I suspect that there’s no real chance of having a philosophical discussion with a person who dumps a pile of namecalls and ad hominems on anyone who doesn’t hop to answer you fast enough.

    Briefly, you seemed to sneer at the idea that Plato and Aristotle were worth reading, presumably because they either make factual statements that are now known to be incorrect, or express values and opinions that in your worldview are Bad. Now first, if you do not know that you cannot always use the overt words of the main character in a Platonic dialogue as an expression of Plato’s actual opinion, as some do not, you should read the very important recent book Philosophy Between the Lines. Second, reading the works of the best philosophers from other cultures is invaluable to get a perspective on values. Consider, for example, the Greek concept of virtue and how it overlaps with your own. Neither science nor scientism has much of use to say about virtue, so you can only deal with it in two ways: by philosophizing, or by uncritically believing whatever opinions your family and culture spoonfed you. (Those who sneer at the very concept of virtue are choosing the second option.)

    Have a nice day.


  11. About the unemployment rate discussion earlier: I think there’s a confusion of concepts. The employment rate (or rather, “labor force participation rate”) is not directly related to the unemployment rate. They are two separate things. The employment rate is just the percentage of people between say 18 and 65 who are gainfully employed. A lot of people between those ages do other stuff: they’re students, stay-at-home parents, are indipendently wealthy or disabled, do free lance work and so on. These people are not counted as unemployed. The unemployment rate counts those who want to be a part of the employment market but who haven’t been able to find a job.

    An labor force participation rate of 82% is quite high. For comparison, the US rate is 63%, even though unemployment is lower in the US (at 4.9%) than in Sweden.


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