March Pieces Of My Mind #2

In the foreground, a characteristic Swedish archaeological site of the 20th century: the abandoned municipal ski slope. Its construction, use and abandonment all post-date the still-in-use 1913 building in the background.
In the foreground, a characteristic Swedish archaeological site of the 20th century: the abandoned municipal ski slope. Its construction, use and abandonment all post-date the still-in-use 1913 building in the background.
  • “Qualitative research” seems largely to mean “anecdotal material with no statistical representativity”.
  • I’m starting a support group for people who think the novel American Gods is not great, not bad, not particularly memorable.
  • Woah-ho, dude. Lucid dreaming is when you train yourself to a) know that you’re dreaming, b) direct events in the dream. This researcher has learned to use a brain-computer interface to move a graphic block on his computer screen. Now he’s falling asleep with the headband on and moving that block from inside lucid dreams.
  • The YWCA is named Kay-Fuck in Swedish. The YMCA is named Kay-Fum.
  • I knew that democratic countries never declare war on each other. Now I learn that democracies also never suffer severe famine. It’s not a normative statement. It’s an historical fact.
  • Listened to a podcast where a colleague probably tried to say that he avoids any reductive treatment of Native Americans, but actually consistently said “reductionist”.
  • This detectorist I’ve been corresponding with has had a hard time convincing his local museum that what he’s found is pretty damn important. I’m proud to say that I realised immediately what he had turned up. And now the guy has made further finds on the site that will make him impossible to ignore…
  • To the chagrin of certain teenagers, a broad coalition of local parents have negotiated a unified bid for when tonight’s exciting party is ending: at midnight.
  • There’s a huge recent amateurish mural in this auditorium. Wonder if it will one day be rediscovered behind plasterboard and treated as a valuable piece of cultural heritage. Dear great grandchildren, let me tell you that the generation that commissioned it thinks that it’s embarrassing junk.
  • Movie: Sicario. Policewoman becomes spectator / viewpoint character in the CIA’s obscure war against Mexican drug cartels. Grade: OK.
  • Movie: The Salesman. Marriage crisis and compromised masculine integrity after a married young woman is assaulted in her home. Grade: OK-but-why-did-this-get-an-Oscar.

Author: Martin R

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

76 thoughts on “March Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. Ed Yong was in Perth when we were living there in 2010. He went there, of all things, to take some photographs in Perth Zoo. Maybe you just don’t like zoos, and I have some reservations about them myself, but as zoos go, Perth Zoo is a particularly good one. (Singapore also has an excellent zoo. And an excellent and very scary night safari – picture walking through a jungle setting at night set out in a very large area, very dark, with very few other people around, and suddenly coming upon a pride of very awake lions at close quarters, or a pack of hyenas, or a leopard skulking around, and not being able to see in the dark the ditch that is the only thing between you and them – it gets the pulse rate up and the adrenalin pumping, I can tell you. My daughter pokes fun at me about it, but as I pointed out to her, having a fear of big predators is a natural and prudent thing to have.) Ed was only planning a quick trip to Perth, but while he was there, the volcano in Iceland erupted, disrupting air travel, and he was stuck there for much longer than he wanted.

    He described Perth as a nice place (which, superficially, the city is, as cities go, but it’s a thin veneer with a lot of ugliness beneath), but complained about the price of a cup of coffee. Well, what was he expecting? 2010 was the peak of the now-defunct mining boom, and prices were sky high – one of many reasons we decided not to remain living there; we just couldn’t afford to. We got out just in time: the boom is well and truly over, population growth has plummeted, unemployment and under-employment are rising, real estate is on an inevitable downward spiral that will continue indefinitely, and a lot of people are in financial distress and getting very depressed. Basically, financially, the state of Western Australia is now pretty much f*cked. We saw the writing on the wall, and were among the first of the rats to leave a ship that was not yet sinking but was predictably going to.

    Anyway, I only found out Ed had been stuck there after he had left, so I told the silly bugger off for not letting on that he was there while he was still there – I would very happily have bought him a coffee or a nice meal, just for the privilege of meeting and chatting to him. Didn’t happen. Life is full of missed opportunities – mine, not his.


  2. “Thousands evacuated as cyclone bears down on Australia”
    I tend to forget that the seasons are reversed down under. Hopefully this will be one of the last cyclones.

    Sw. “Orkan” around Anglo-saxon North Atlantic: Hurricane.
    In parts of east Asia: Typhoon /Taifun
    In Australia: Cyclone.
    — — —
    Interesting people passing through:
    All kinds of people pass through Umeå and I only find out after they have left.
    We even had Susan Faludi here. Swoosh, she is gone.


  3. Scarlett Johansson (“Under the Skin”, Lost In Translation”), charismatic queen of science fiction (now in ” Ghost in the Shell”)
    (two different anime versions are available, their success paved the way for this “real” film)

    John, I assume local mainstream burial practices are the same as before Buddhism arrived. In Tibet, the emphasis would be on cremation, but there is no wood. So they have something called “sky funerals” where vultures play a central role. To allow the vultures fast access to the flesh before it degrades to the point where there is a risk for disease transmission, the funeral “manager” has do to some work with an axe… (u-ullp).


  4. Not only are the seasons reversed down there, the cyclones are reversed too 🙂

    Could be a bad one, hitting around Cairns/Townsville. Jonathon Nott at James Cook University says the world’s highest recorded storm surge occurred in northern Australia in March 1899, when surge+tide+wave height equalled 13 metres. To reach that would have required atmospheric pressure near the centre of the cyclone to be as low as 880hPa. I think that at an air pressure that low, I would be blacking out.

    I once decided that, based solely on climate, if I had to live in Australia, I should choose Cairns. It would have been a bad choice for other reasons (rural Queensland is Pauline Hanson country – ya know Pauline, the one who says that Australia is being flooded by Asians and that Islam is an ‘illness’? – the one my deeply conservative right wing friend (whose endless tasteless jokes I try steadfastly to ignore) refers to as ‘that red haired Nazi bitch’? – yeah, that one).


  5. Um, well, In Hong Kong, shortage of land available for cemeteries now dictates that cremation is pretty much the only option unless your family is extremely wealthy, regardless of religion. Chinese are notably elastic about religion anyway.

    We buried my mother in law whole, but dug up her remains after 14 years (by which time she was nothing more than a skeleton with some sticky black soil-like material adhering to the bones), cremated the bones and put them in a box in a wall in a Buddhist temple dedicated to that purpose (despite her being a nominal Catholic who’d had a Taoist funeral – elastic, see?). I wanted to know why we just didn’t cremate her in the first place, to save all the mucking around digging her up again, but no one could give me a rational explanation.

    Oh well – at least I can say I have seen my mother in law’s skull. That’s a claim not everyone can make. She had good strong bones too – they build them like that in Shandong Province.



    Not just a Hollywood A-lister – Scarlett is now the world’s highest grossing actress. I don’t care, I just love her nose. When she dies, they should put her nose in a bottle and keep it in a museum.

    Apparently there was a bit of blow-back about a Danish-Jewish woman playing the part of an Asian in Ghost In The Shell, but not much.


  7. -They are concerned about the ethnicity of an AI in a robot?
    — —
    Swedish rural areas sometimes have substantial lands classed as “impediment” -almost barren land, unsuitable for agriculture and barely suitable for pasture.
    Are there no over-grazed hills in the nearby countryside the authorities may consider expendable? The lands have undergone entropy anyway, so it would be consistent to use them as graveyards.


  8. I keep meaning to point out, when talking about the San, that Nelson Mandela was part San (i.e. Bushman, but they don’t like being called that), I don’t know offhand what %, but to a sufficient extent that he had some visibly evident San physical traits. It could have been old admixture, i.e. far back in his ancestry.


  9. Not to bore everyone who already knows about the Bantu expansion (postulated to have occurred after the Bantu adopted agriculture and their population exploded out of north western Africa, prompting outward expansion):

    “The hypothesized Bantu expansion pushed out or assimilated the hunter-forager proto-Khoisan, who formerly inhabited Southern Africa.” Unadmixed San foragers now only occupy marginal land that is generally unsuitable for agriculture. But other groups of San have become cattle herders, and yet others have become sedentary agriculturalists, to add to the confusion – they all regard each other as ‘different’, not ‘same’.

    So, it seems that the Xosa could be an ancient admixed population with a non-trivial Khoisan (i.e. San – different name, same people) component. Or alternatively, Nelson Mandela might have been Xosa (Bantu) but with some more recent San admixture.

    I don’t know which. But people with ‘click’ languages (Xosa, Hadze and Sandawe) have all been postulated to have ancient San admixture.

    But we run up against the usual dilemma – the San or Khoisan are a genetically distinct group, whereas the Bantu, Hadze and Sandawe all refer to language groups, rather than people grouped genetically. Hadze are foragers. I don’t know much at all about the Sandawe speakers.

    Genetic diversity and past population movements within Africa are far more complex than anywhere else, and so far, far too little work has been done to elucidate all of this.


  10. Sw. “Orkan” around Anglo-saxon North Atlantic: Hurricane.

    The English word “hurricane” comes from the Spanish huracán, which in turn probably derives from one of the indigenous languages of the Caribbean region. The Spanish, of course, would have been the first Europeans to encounter such storms in the North Atlantic.

    They are also called hurricanes in the eastern and central North Pacific. Typhoons occur in the western North Pacific. They are called cyclones in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. The one such storm known to have occurred in the South Atlantic is also known as a hurricane.


  11. Late 11th – early 12th Century: a young, apparently quite well to do young man, 18 to 25 years old and about 160cm tall, suffering from leprosy and afflicted by numerous soft tissue lesions as a result, sets off on a long pilgrimage to Winchester in England, seeking a miraculous cure for his affliction. It seems that on the way he also makes a pilgrimage to the shrine of St James in Santiago de Compostela, in Spain. Evidence suggests an unusual level of muscular and skeletal wear, possibly resulting from carrying a heavy weight on his back for a long distance, and while bending and twisting; maybe his personal effects. He dies some time after his arrival, while still young.

    Unsurprisingly, cranial morphology is of no use in identifying his origin, except that it suggests he was not from northern Europe.

    What have I missed?


  12. New safety technology enables teamwork
    If this can be adapted to building sites, it could drastically improve safety. Imagine the human workers staying in place on a girder, safely anchored to a lifeline while the machinery fetches tools and building materials.
    I am also thinking of those huge qu a r ri es in Australia where monster trucks fetches ore in an Environment that must be risky.


  13. The Unbearable Whiteness of Scarlett Johannson. Sounds good.

    As usual, that whining American Actress Constance Wu, born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, is talking out of her arse. Major, the part played by Johannson in this film, is a cyborg – a robotic body fitted with a human brain. She, or it, has no genes outside of the brain, and therefore she cannot be Japanese, or East Asian, or East Eurasian, or any other ‘race’ or ‘person of colour’ that Wu wants to artificially socially construct. She is just a machine with a functioning human brain, which retains only scraps of remnants of memory of her life as a human.

    We are all the product of a complex interaction of our genes and environment: physically, mentally (if you can separate those two things, and I am learning progressively that you can’t) (it is swallowing huge amounts of my time, but I am gradually working my way through an excellent series of lectures by the brilliant Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson – look him up on Youtube, it’s worth it), culturally and in every other way. You cannot separate them.

    In acting the part of a Chinese migrant to the USA, it was Wu who was fraudulent. In acting in Shakespearian plays, she has been fraudulent. In playing the parts of Japanese women in films, she has been fraudulent. By her metric, she is fraudulent in every single part she plays unless it is the part of someone of Chinese genes who has spent her whole life growing up and living in America (and you could probably sensibly narrow that down to certain parts of America.) She needs to shut up and quit whining.


  14. Aspidistra,
    i prefer octagonal wheels. The bumpy, miserable ride is a perfect match for the rest of life.


  15. i prefer octagonal wheels

    A literal reading of a certain biblical passage requires hexagonal wheels. The passage describes a cylindrical object as having a diameter of 10 cubits and a circumference of 30 cubits, therefore π = 3. It turns out that the perimeter of a regular hexagon is three times the distance between opposite points.


  16. And let us not forget that insects apparently used to have four legs back in biblical times (leviticus).

    Doctor Who apparently brought some camels to an old-testament site centuries before they were domesticated, which was very civic-minded of him. But how did he get them through the small doorway into the Tardis?

    Some bad guy ( *Souhtek?) sold off hoplite armour to Goliath, giving him an unfair advantage against late-bronnze-age warriors.

    *The Pyramids of Mars


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