March Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • A great thing about a cross-country skiing holiday is that you don’t feel any obligation to make good use of the ski-lift money you’ve paid. Because you haven’t.
  • Gene drives. Amazing, potentially scary piece of science news. Insert code to actively edit the next generation’s genome into the current genome.
  • In order to comment on an article on Norwegian Broadcasting’s web site, you first have to pass a test proving your comprehension of its contents.
  • Been listening to this excellent country tune, pondering the lyrics. The guy is hitch-hiking, standing at the roadside, praying to God that a car will come by soon. What kind of theology, what kind of world-model does a person have who imagines that praying would help in that situation? Is he expecting Jahweh to rejigger the world state and ret-con somebody with a car into the narrative because he wants a lift? Maybe create a person from scratch?
  • Years of research have demonstrated that in a dorm-style fieldwork situation, Swedish students and metal detectorists will go through enormous amounts of sliced bread. My ongoing experiment with a population of Chinese high schoolers and journalists/psychologists (n=2) indicate a radical departure from the previous results.
  • Aren’t racist rape fantasies kind of obvious? Time and time again you see these exchanges. Man A: “I’m afraid the dirty foreigners will rape our women.” Woman B: “Shut up, you racist.” Man A: “I hope foreigners will rape you in the BUTT with their THERMOS-FLASK SIZED PENISES!!1!!!1 That’ll TEACH YOU!!!”
  • There’s an enormous glut of fine wooden craft objects from the 1980s in Dalecarlia. They’re everywhere, sitting around as abandoned ethnic props. We even found some in the dingy meal room at the public skiing tracks. No second-hand market for them.
  • I love tea and toast.
  • I enjoy writing this book about castles, but I’m impatient to finish it so I can start applying for jobs outside academia. Tired of working alone and never having any money.
  • Listened attentively for the first time to Clapton’s 1977 hit “Wonderful Tonight”, realised that the production details are exactly like on the era’s more polished reggae tunes. Produced by Glyn Johns who never did any reggae records.
  • Marita Ulvskog this morning: “The joke here at the EU Parliament is that for meetings, the Swedes will show up first, then the tech staff, and finally all the other attendees.”

Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée. Amazing Horta-designed building full of comics originals!
Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée. Amazing Horta-designed building full of comics originals!

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. Virgo inter virgines, 1475-1500.
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. Virgo inter virgines, 1475-1500.

Author: Martin R

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

40 thoughts on “March Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. The kooks have rape threat tourette’s.

    Maybe we could use gene drivers to trigger the p53 gene in *all* cells of the body of people who use the word “kike” or “slut” or “n*gger”. The trigger would start in the part of the brain that process speech.
    — — — — — — — —
    Klingenschmitt: Expose Atheists to 10 Commandments to Purge Demons
    -Maybe it would work better if they used the right font?


  2. “Is he expecting Jahweh to rejigger the world state and ret-con somebody with a car into the narrative because he wants a lift? Maybe create a person from scratch?”

    That is why the angels have to study 3D printing before getting their wings.


  3. Man A: “I’m afraid the dirty foreigners will rape our women.”

    This is almost always projection: Mr. A would rape foreign women if he had the chance and thought he could get away with it. He’d probably do likewise with Ms. B, but he knows he’s less likely to get away with it.

    Been listening to this excellent country tune, pondering the lyrics.

    The country music world has been known to be a bit insular at times.


  4. I love tea and toast.

    A related mondegreen from my childhood: Thanks to The Sound of Music, specifically the song “Do Re Mi”, I learned that jammon bread was a special kind of bread that you ate with tea:

    Ti, a drink with jammon bread

    That was all I knew about it, because we didn’t drink tea at the time–the only kind of tea that was widely available in the US in those days was Lipton, a substance almost but not quite entirely unlike tea (h/t Douglas Adams).

    The correct lyric, of course, is “jam and bread”.


  5. Stevie Nicks actually admitted that on the song she recorded with Tom Petty, towards the end she did actually sing “Stop draggin’ my cart around.”


  6. Here it is. You can hear it, towards the end of the song. I thought I was imagining it until she came out and admitted it.


  7. I think that Eric Cline lectures really well on the ‘Bronze Age collapse’ and find him interesting, enjoyable and very informative to listen to – but what would I know? Maybe this is all old news to many, but I have an appalling yawning gap in historical knowledge. I also think that there is a real lesson to be learned from this piece of history about ‘system collapse’ – not to say that Trump et al are right, I would sooner eat worms than ever think that, but I do think there are systemic risks to a global trade system.


  8. I don’t know much about the Bronze Age in the Mediterranean. Scandinavia saw no collapse at the time. The big change here comes in the 520s BC when domestically produced iron suddenly becomes the main material for tools and replaces imported bronze.


  9. Yes, it seems that the Bronze Age collapse only occurred in the city states surrounding/within the Mediterranean. Unlike the other Mediterranean centres, which were destroyed, Egypt survived and defeated the second invasion of the Sea Peoples, but was weakened and never as powerful again as it was.

    Elsewhere, Europe does not seem to have suffered anything like the Mediterranean collapse.

    That Eric Cline lecture (or another very much like it that I watched) was definitely worth an hour or so of my time to gain insight into the series of events that culminated in the collapse, which Cline says (with good supporting evidence) was ultimately a ‘system collapse’.


  10. Eric@12: I don’t think it is unkind to say that Stevie Nicks is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she certainly has wit enough to parody herself, which she does more subtly and amusingly than the tiresome Yankovic.


  11. Reminds me of a work of fiction I read as a kid, in which the rabbits were transformed into voracious predators the size of German Shepherd dogs. For the life of me, I can’t remember what it was called.

    Today 1,837 years ago, Marcus Aurelius died. (By today I mean March 17.)


  12. Wrong-wrong-wrong: that paper that came out a while back, purportedly showing that steppe migration into Europe was male-mediated, was wrong. Erroneous. Incorrect.

    Iosef Lazaridis and David Reich, those two stalwarts of modern genomics, have attempted to replicate that finding, and have found that it was just an error:

    So, reset – when the steppe herders rumbled into Europe in their horse-drawn wagons, they had Mum and the kids on board.

    Mind you, there were multiple steppe migrations into Europe, spanning a period of 5,000 years (or so I’ve read, but then I read a lot of rubbish), so generalising one finding as one thing or the other is likely to be pretty risky in the generality.


  13. …And what came after Marcus Aurelius has been (erroneously) depicted in at least two Hollywood blockbusters.
    — — —
    At the beginning of written history, the Germanic tribes had surprisingly similar dialects*, indicating there had been a lot of migrations inside their common domain (probably to escape neighbours who were prone to raiding them for cattle etc).

    So the genetic heritage in the region may turn out to be even more homogenous than what one could expect.
    * the Goth language was an outlier.


  14. Birger@17 – But there have been so many erroneous Hollywood blockbusters, from which so many people learn their ‘history’. That is my main objection to them – I don’t mind a bit of fantasy, as long as it is clear that it is fantasy, but fantasy represented as historic truth gets me irritated.

    Let me think: one of those Hollywood films you are referring to would undoubtedly be “Gladiator”, in which an unbelievably righteous and selfless New Zealander turned Australian kills Commodus, the evil, spineless son of Marcus Aurelius (patently untrue – Commodus was undoubtedly a prick, but that’s not how he died), before instantly dropping dead himself.

    What is the other one you are thinking of?


  15. Yeah, Germanic tribes seem to have undertaken really a lot of ‘folk migrations’ (there is even a proper German word for it, which I have conveniently forgotten).


  16. “Völkerwanderung is an earlier generic German word for migration. Just like mainframe computer was Grossrechner.”

    Actually, both are still used. Instead of Großrechner, one might say “Mainframe” even in German, but Völkerwanderung is Völkerwanderung. I’m not aware of any other expression. The foreign word Migration (which always reminds me of birds) is used almost exclusively for modern times. Folkvandring in Swedish?


  17. Yes, folkvandring is the term used traditionally for the movements of the Goths, Gepids, Huns et al. across the Continent during the 4-6th centuries.


  18. Thank you. Völkerwanderung is the word I was thinking of.

    I don’t think I ever saw that film, but just about anything about the end of the Western Roman Empire is bound to be badly wrong, almost by definition. But the end of Commodus came long before the end of the Western Empire.

    Re. Star Carr: “Although these people would have been physically like us…” – depends what she means, I suppose; anatomically modern humans, yes, obviously, but like the modern inhabitants of Britain in physical appearance? No, not hardly.

    Ummm – no expert, but I’d say no, a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer settlement, even an apparently sedentary one like that, would be stretching the meaning normally intended by ‘civilisation’.


  19. But then, I’ve been wasting my time watching stuff on Youtube that makes me believe that a fair number of British archaeologists are stark raving mad, or at least seriously deluded.


  20. “We hypothesize that Europeans may be in the process of adapting to a diet rich in fatty acids derived from plant sources, but relatively poor in fatty acids derived from fish or mammals” – I think that is a fair statement. “In the process of adapting” is right.


  21. Assuming that the Cheddar Man remains have been correctly dated to 9,000 years ago, all that his mtDNA showing up in a nearby modern village demonstrates is that Cheddar Man’s mother also had a daughter, who managed to survive long enough to have a daughter, who…etc. And that maternal lineage managed to survive and show up in some of the local villagers. It doesn’t even demonstrate that maternal lineage stayed in the area – it could have gone somewhere else and then come back again. Or could have come from a different line of women who had mtDNA from the same haplogroup.

    It is a huge and unwarranted leap for anyone to claim it shows continuity between the local population 9,000 years ago, and the local population in the same area now. I am willing to bet that if they sample Cheddar Man’s autosomal DNA, it does *not* demonstrate population continuity in the area; at least, not in any ‘pure’ sense or anything remotely like it.

    That’s the problem with just using mtDNA to try to track a population through time. It doesn’t work. Before it became reasonably affordable to type whole genomes, just using mtDNA to try to track population movements produced all kinds of conclusions that are now known to be erroneous.


  22. Reminds me of the early aDNA investigation where they characterised a dead guy genetically and compared him to some locals in the nearby English village. Big news: of 20 locals, the school teacher was the most similar to the dead guy!!! Because, like, they weren’t all equally similar to him, see.


  23. With apologies to those suffering from reader’s stress or whatever it is – this won’t lighten the load at all.

    Self-described university student Awale Ismail (who grew up in the UAE, for those who feel nosy) deconstructs racial classifications:

    I think he does a pretty fair job of debunking classifications and explaining drift + admixture as the drivers of human diversity. I think I’ll follow him for a while to see where he goes. You can follow him on Google+ if you have a mind to. He’s not really prolific in terms of posting frequency (gets interrupted by exams, university projects, etc.), so it’s not a bad idea.

    And being evidently Arabic himself, he shows more even-handed interest in genetic diversity in Africa and Asia than a lot of Eurocentric bloggers do, which is a bit of a relief – not that there’s anything wrong with Eurogenes, but all Europeans all the time can become tiresome when you also have an interest in human origins and diversity in other parts of the world.


  24. I might add, considering Awale Ismail got interested in human origins/genomics as a ‘hobby’, he has got commendably deep into the science.


  25. Chuck Berry 1926-2017

    He achieved two remarkable things: he put his stamp on early rock n’ roll, and he lived to 90 despite a horrible lifestyle. His vital organs must have been made of steel.


  26. ‘No one is safe’: Ex-North Carolina police chief rips customs agents for detaining him because of his name

    Actually, this is old news. SInce September 2001, it is open season on people who enter USA, never mind that current terrorists are nearly always home-grown. And the officials can get away with being ignorant of US law because they do not get challenged


  27. Birger@37: The thuggishness of ICE/CBP is indeed old news. In the last two months there has been the confirmed detention of a Norwegian ex-PM, traveling on a diplomatic passport, for having visited Iran, and I have heard an unconfirmed report of a current Australian official, also traveling on a diplomatic passport, being detained while entering the US.

    Actually, it’s even worse than that. Existing court precedent gives CBP authority to operate checkpoints at any location within 100 miles (160 km) of a land or water border. Which would include all locations in at least 11 states (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NJ, DE, FL, MI, and HI). US citizens are not required to carry their passports except when engaged in international travel (in fact, most US citizens do not have passports), so most of them would be hard pressed to prove their legal status if they were stopped at such a checkpoint–driver licenses, which are state-issued, do not qualify as proof of status.


  28. Eric@38 – In all of the many times that I have re-entered Australia using my Australian passport, never once have I ever been greeted by immigration with a smile and “Welcome home”. On the contrary, it has almost invariably been a very unpleasant encounter, during which I was asked questions such as “So what have you been up to?” How do you answer that? In Australian parlance, being ‘up to’ something implies some measure of impropriety, or even criminality – it’s a bit like asking “So when was the last time you beat your wife?” or “So when was the last time you stole something?” Of course, I made the cardinal mistake of saying “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question” (meaning I didn’t understand the point of the question – I was an Australian citizen permanently resident overseas who was returning because his father was dying of cancer and asking to see his only son before he died), which just succeeded in making the guy even more aggressive and unpleasant. I ended up exploding and ranting at the guy that I was returning to see my Dad, who was likely to die at any minute before I could see him, that the longer he detained me without good reason, the greater the chance that would happen, in which case I would hold him personally responsible. At that point, he let me through, with extremely bad grace.

    It is a bit of a relief that Australia now has electronic passports, so you don’t need to interact with another human (I use the term loosely) to enter the country. Of course, that just creates other difficulties with other authorities down the line, because you now have no proof of when you exited and entered the country, and data privacy laws prevent different authorities from sharing information – so you are reduced to holding onto your airline seat allocations as evidence of when you entered and left – which is frankly bizarre.

    Only ever once have I been greeted that warmly by immigration, and ironically, that was in Hong Kong. After having been absent from HK for a period of 16 months, I arrived back, fronted up to the ethnically Chinese immigration officer and presented my HK Permanent Identity Card (I don’t need a passport to enter or leave HK, just my Identity Card) – he tapped into his computer, looked up at me as he handed me back my card, gave me a big grin and said “Welcome home.” I felt like hugging him. It was all the evidence I needed that I was indeed ‘home’ again.

    But I can’t get that warm welcome anymore – HK has automated, so now I just slip my Identity Card into a slot machine, a gate opens to let me through, and my card gets spewed back to me out of the machine again. It’s very fast, efficient and impersonal, but I would trade that in a second if I could be welcomed back with a smile and a warm greeting every time.

    The ‘proof of status’ thing in Australia is a total pain in the arse. In HK, no problem – every permanent resident 11 years or older is required to carry their Identity Card at all times, and it’s a universal panacea for that. Australians, when asked in a referendum, massively voted against having a thing such as a national identity card (I think mistakenly), alleging it would result in all kinds of infringements of personal privacy (it doesn’t), so every time you need to make a bank transaction in person or deal with any government authority (of which Australia has three levels – federal, state and municipal) you have to present at least two items to prove that you are who you say you are, one of which must bear your ‘likeness’. So, OK, passport is one (but a pain in the arse to lug around in your pocket), and people end up having to proffer credit cards, etc. as additional proof. I have never understood why just a passport is not sufficient proof of identity. Because they can be too easily faked, I suppose – but then so can credit cards; or stolen; or just obtained legally without any difficulty at all.

    So, evidently, things have deteriorated rapidly in the USA under Trump, but in my experience they have always been that bad in Australia. Always.


  29. People plotting to kill off Homo habilis. Pretty pointless just at the present time.
    View at

    Birger@35 – I’m not clear – what was ‘horrible’ about Chuck Berry’s lifestyle, apart from his own self-admission that he managed to screw up once every 15 years? He reportedly didn’t drink, didn’t take hard drugs; he did smoke tobacco when young, but quit, evidently early enough so it didn’t do his health too much damage. For most of his life he seems to have managed to keep himself clean, lean and mean. And very active and motivated, which is very important with ageing.

    I think you’ve also understated his achievements, but I won’t launch into an essay about that. Gracefully spanning the black-white gap and appealing hugely to white audiences, starting during the era of segregation in the American south, while remaining true to his black roots, was something few achieved as massively as he did. Plus, can you think of one Chuck Berry song where you can’t clearly understand every single word he sings, even when he made up words like “motor-vating” (which on reflection seems like a pretty good word, as well as a good pun)? I can’t think of a single one. He was much vaunted as a guitarist (possibly overly so), but he was also a good singer with excellent diction, and fun to watch as well, with lashings of risqué good humour thrown in.


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