September Pieces Of My Mind #1

I am optimising game night with this lovely tea cosy from
  • Jrette just drove off to school for the first time on her new moped. We have raised her strong and independent.
  • Talked to a Conservative voter yesterday who came to Sweden from South-East Europe 40 years ago. He was worried about whether people from the Middle East and Africa can really be integrated into Swedish society. His own countrymen, he said, are obviously no problem since they are Europeans.
  • Movie: Death of Stalin. He dies and confusion breaks out. Grade: OK. This is in no way a ”triumphantly, hilariously brilliant satire” as one Fb contact claimed.
  • Maurice Sendak plays the ocarina on the Troggs’ “Wild Thing”.
  • I had to zap my old pay card, so now I can finally tell everyone that it had the ultimate three-digit security code for a Vendel Period scholar: 536.
  • I have optimised the German language. Instead of Beurteilung, let’s all say Böpp.
  • Went to the lake and had a nice afternoon swim. Last of the season?
  • The past three years have taught me a lot about people and made me even less shy of them than I was before. I drove a lot of volunteer refugee taxi in ’15-’16, and I’ve been canvassing for votes a lot in ’17-’18. I’m comfortable with talking to strangers in the street or in their doorways about politics. Two of the main things I’ve learned is that most folks are really nice, and that appearances (in terms of ethnic costume and class indicators) are enormously deceptive.
  • Co-worker describes a fist fight between two lycra-clad middle-class Tour de France wannabee cyclists on the bike path next to his kids’ school this morning.
  • It was ragged and naïve, it was Heaven
  • 21st century tech etiquette advice for Boomers: when you receive a text message you DO NOT respond with a phone call unless under extreme duress. Thank you.
  • Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” is heavily influenced by Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious”.
  • It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
  • Have you heard of wrecking rooms? Where you pay to smash stuff up? The most popular item is the printer. I’m not surprised.
  • I’ve had a really grating ringtone on my phone to make sure that I react to it on the rare occasions that somebody calls me. But now I’m a bit frazzled from vote canvassing, and people call me a lot about the election. So I had to change the ringtone to something friendlier. It was making me lose my temper immediately prior to picking up on every phone call.
  • Government minister takes part in canvassing event. Interior Security agent looks strangely familiar. Turns out to be old school pal that I used to play ninjas with.
  • Polish scholar writes me about a journal paper of mine. That appeared 22 years ago. My first academic publication is 26 years old now. My first general publication is 29.
  • Movie: Hidden Figures. Black female number crunchers earn grudging respect at early 1960s NASA. Grade: Good!
  • Talked to a voter who thought that when you have progressive taxation rates, richer people should get better services. /-:
  • I just started editorial work on my last issue of Fornvännen.
  • I’m starting a movement to remove all of AD 79 Pompeii in order to study the town in the 2nd century BC, which I will argue is more interesting.
  • Wonder how much power is wasted every day through people leaving their iPads on.
  • Met a Somali metal head with a Hammerfall tee shirt.
  • Been ringing door bells for the election all day. In 7-floor tenements. Legs starting to complain.
  • PG Tips tea was originally named “Pre-Gestee” to indicate that you would have better digestion if you drank a cup before eating.

Author: Martin R

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

39 thoughts on “September Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. Predictions of the sort that your Conservative voter friend made have been made in the US for well over a century, and so far not one of those predictions has come true. Irish were once seen in the US as being hopelessly “Other”. An extreme example is Chinese in the US: they assimilate rather quickly, so that while immigrants have some of the old culture, there is a reason why American-born Chinese are often called “bananas” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside). It may take a generation or two, but I fully expect Middle Easterners to assimilate into Sweden eventually.

    Americans of African origin are a counterexample here, but that is largely due to extreme resistance on the part of white people to their assimilation. Trump’s election was in many ways a backlash against Obama’s presidency; the Republican Party has been stoking fears for more than 50 years that white skin will no longer confer an advantage at some point in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Now that you mention it, I can kind of see how Motown, particularly some of Stevie Wonder’s work, influenced the horn arrangement on “Sledgehammer”. But I don’t think “Sledgehammer” holds up as well as “Superstition”, let alone some of the other tracks from So. “Big Time”, the other big hit from that album, also doesn’t hold up that well. For me, minor hits “Red Rain” and “In Your Eyes”, as well as the deep cut “Mercy Street”, are the songs that hold up that album.


  3. As for ringtones, I have always been of the opinion that you don’t want to use your favorite song as a ringtone, because it won’t stay your favorite song for very long. It would get on your nerves if you had any significant volume of incoming calls.

    For the record, my ringtone is the classic (US) telephone sound.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Rich people already do get better services for their tax money. It is precisely because they have more to lose from anarchy that they get a bigger benefit to having a stable society. And of course they can afford to hire lawyers, accountants, etc., to maximize their benefits.

    An obvious advantage to paying income tax is that it implies you have an income. Not to mention that the more you pay, the higher the income.

    One thing I have noticed is that, at least in the US, many people do not understand how tax brackets work. In the US, and under any properly designed income tax system, if you are in the X% tax bracket then you pay X% on the last $CURRENCY_UNIT you earned. The portion of your income that is below the threshold for the X% tax bracket is taxed at a different (usually lower) rate. By making the amount you pay a continuous (though not necessarily differentiable) function of your income, the government avoids creating perverse incentives associated with incomes near a bracket boundary. But far too many people–including some tax accountants, who should know better–incorrectly assume that you pay X% of the total amount you earned.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A lot of people in the UK also seem to have the same problem understanding tax brackets. A similar misunderstanding also applies to inheritance tax. Meanwhile on the spending side, taxes go on ‘welfare’ -ie money for layabouts (and nevermind that a huge proportion of that is state pensions, which people are generally in favour of whatever their political leaning) not apparrently on roads or schools or the NHS. Or at least people do know taxes are spent on the latter, but the welfare spending overshadows all other spending in their minds.


      1. Don’t get me started on perceptions of welfare spending.

        Many Americans (most of whom, not coincidentally, are Trump voters) assume that urban blacks are the primary beneficiaries of welfare. In reality, it’s rural whites who are most likely to be on welfare. Similarly, one of the reasons for the poor state of public transport in most of the US is the perception that it is mostly for “those people”; e.g., some people think that MARTA stands for Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta (it’s actually Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority).

        The budget component that is most likely to be overestimated in the US is foreign aid. Many people think the portion of the budget devoted to foreign aid is at least an order of magnitude higher than it actually is.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. -The Death of Stalin was originally a graphic novel, and a much darker story than the film.
    I assume the director decided the audience would not be able to handle a more dark (more realistic) version of the Stalin-era Soviet Union.
    – – –
    The Donald has described California as a “big person”. Yes. This is what he said.
    I understand he mixed up the words- I do the same if stressed or tired- but the rest of the speech was on the same level. He is 72 years old and the possibility of mild cognitive impairment is a real risk.
    – – –
    “Islam vs Art” by Apostate Prophet at Youtube has a fascinating account of how Muhammed hated pictures of living things.
    In fact, he said that on judgemement day, allah will regard the makers of pictures as the worst sinners.
    -So if your kid makes a drawing of a cat or just a stick figure, this will *literally* be worse than what nazis did!
    (Hitler was btw a crap artist, he preferred images of buildings because he could not draw living things. Thus allah will give him a passing grade, if we trust the najority of islamic scholars)


    1. There is some great Islamic art. There is some great Chinese calligraphy too. There is some truly great Islamic architecture incorporating Islamic art. My former English big boss is (still alive, I discovered – he spends summers in England and winters in HK – first wife died, so he married his former Chinese secretary, so…) a very big fan of Islamic architecture, and I fully understand why.

      Highlights of my first trip outside Australia, which included living in Kuala Lumpur for a month, were visiting the old National Mosque and the (then) new National Mosque – both exquisitely beautiful structures, in different ways.


    2. Two for Tea with Iona Italia and Helen Pluckrose (great name) has a podcast with Sarah Haider. You might care to listen to it. At least it might hopefully have the effect of elevating the intellectual level of your commentary on Islam (and saying something that everyone didn’t already know by the early years of secondary school). Currently you are sounding like a not very clever member of the alt-right.


      1. I *know* muslims created great art, literature and architecture.
        I am adressing the part that is missing.
        *The point* is -with the exception of Persia- visual art depicting humans and animals did not flourish in the islamic world.
        And since the muslims excelled in other areas, they would likely have excelled in painting too.
        -Consider a history were Holland had been dominated by clerics who banned painting!


      2. The Islamic ban on depicting people or animals is a logical extension of the Old Testament commandment against graven images. Recall that at the time YHWH was one of many gods, and that most of those gods had associated humanoid or animal forms. The idea would be that images of people or animals imply that somebody might be worshipping the god (or king) associated with that image.

        The “no graven images” ban came into play while Jesus was in Jerusalem. Somebody asked him about whether Jewish people should pay taxes to the Roman Empire. The intent was to force Jesus to choose a side, either pro-Roman (and therefore anti-Jewish) or pro-Jewish (and therefore anti-Roman). Jesus avoided the trap by noting that Roman coins bore Caesar’s likeness, which violated the Jewish prohibition on graven images–it was therefore a religious imperative that Jews pay their taxes. As Jesus supposedly put it: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.”

        The Catholic church, needless to say, has not followed this practice–religious icons depicting Jesus and/or Mary are quite common. One of the features distinguishing Protestant churches from Catholic churches is that Protestant churches show only the cross, not the cross with Jesus on it as Catholics do.


  6. It does not matter that countries spend more on the military than welfare. Every dollar spent on welfare is 2-3 times more evil than other expenses.
    Welfare is haram!
    – – –
    This is a similar thing to how each crime done by immigrants/darkies are 2-3 times worse than crimes done by proper humans (in case you wonder, this is sarcasm).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hidden Figures was a very good film, I loved it. But while I was watching it, I was feeling horrified by how NASA did their calculations back then. But then I remembered my undergraduate days, using a slide rule, and seven figure logarithmic and trigonometric tables. How quickly one forgets. The day I graduated, I bought my first pocket electronic calculator, and threw my old worn out slide rule and log tables in the rubbish bin – they were both instantly rendered totally redundant. The same day, my civil engineering uncle gave me a British Thornton slide rule as a graduation gift – a beautifully crafted thing, regarded by everyone as the prince of slide rules, that I have never once used – it’s still stiff from lack of use. I can’t bear to throw it away, because it is such a thing of beauty, but it is totally useless to me or anyone else. Maybe after the apocalypse I might finally need it when I start helping to rebuild basic infrastructure. (My imagined version of Idiocracy is that after the apocalypse, I will be the only surviving civil engineer who can rebuild clean water supply, roads, sewerage, etc.)

    My ring tone for when my wife calls me is a barking dog – she was furious when she found out, and it always causes great hilarity among my colleagues at work when it goes off and I say “Sorry, that’s my wife”, but the reason I use it is that I can always hear it over any background noise. For my daughter it is a quacking duck, because I can always hear that one too, and she likes ducks. The tone for everyone else is the weird alien ringtone, a sort of ghostly wailing sound – whenever my phone goes off in a public place, all the Chinese people around me react with horror – Chinese are very touchy about ghosts. But that’s why I use it – no one else does, so I always know it’s my phone going off, not someone else’s. Plus it’s sadistic fun to see people’s reactions when it goes off.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The Guardian; Writers pick their favourite Kate Bush lyrics.
    – – –
    The video of Sledgehammer features stop-motion “claymination”. Gabriel liked to push the limits for video art (see “Shock the Monkey” for example).
    This was before CGI made us spoiled.
    He also made a duet with Kate Bush (Don’t Give Up)
    – –
    ‘Mercun hurricane is changing course. It will now linger outside the coast, increasing the storm surge and bringing an awful lot of rainfall.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. John, if you read my comment again, what exactly is “alt-right” about critizising the religious ban on art that is depicting humans and animals?
    This repression of creativity does not hurt Europe or USA, it hurts creative muslims who would prefer this art over architecture, calligraphy or poetry.
    I doubt Steve Bannon gives a damn about the missed opportunuties, of painters that never were. And he probably thinks all artists are gay.
    BTW alt-righters share anti-intellectualism with their islamic peers.


    1. The mistake you are making is tarring all of Islam with that brush. You will get no argument from me about Wahhabism being a bad thing. But only a minority (admittedly a loud and well-funded minority) of Muslims are Wahhabis. A similar dynamic applies to American Christians: a loud and well-funded minority are promoting toxic versions of Christianity, but many Christians do not agree with the toxic versions.

      The irony is that the Wahhabis and the toxic Christians have been making each other stronger. Terrorist attacks perpetrated by Wahhabis are likely to make more Christians think of Muslims as enemies, and oppression of Muslims by toxic Christians tends to push those Muslims toward the Wahhabi point of view.


    2. A thousand years ago, if you were a scholarly type you would much rather have been in the Islamic world than in any place where Christianity was the dominant religion. They developed such things as algebra (an Arabic word) and alcohol (also an Arabic word). Most of what we know of ancient Greece was preserved by Arabic scholars. Many of the brightest stars in the sky have Arabic names. The Arabs recognized that the Hindu concept of zero was a useful thing, and developed mathematical notation accordingly.

      Circa 1000 A.D., you would have wanted to be in a place like Baghdad or Córdoba. Today, you would want to be in a place like Cambridge (either the one in England or the one in Massachusetts). A thousand years from now, who knows; it could be Beijing or São Paulo or Trivandrum.


    3. A minute’s introspection, plus tapping into the much more sophisticated discussions about Islam going on with prominent apostates in America who are serious scholars and students of history and religion, and actually very learned people, people who could well be killed for saying what they say in their countries of origin, should tell you what is wrong with it. These are people who have read the Hadith and a great deal more besides, and grew up in Muslim families, in Muslim communities. If you want to make a study of Islam, be prepared to be in it for a long haul of intensive learning. Plus (a) the obvious point that I should not have to state, that there are wide variations in observance and multiple deep schisms in Islam, plus very liberal moderates, extremists and everything in between, (b) creative Muslims have their own agency – I doubt they need you to speak up on their behalf; not to mention that you can’t change history, so there’s little point in carping about it.

      I’m not interested in getting into an argument about it. I’m trying to point out to you, *as a friend*, that your comments on Islam are uninformed, low level and dumb – Allah would give Hitler a pass? Seriously? That’s a ridiculous jibe worthy of the most anti-intellectual alt-righter.

      Eric has made some excellent points. I will just add the observation, by way of further informing, that though they wrote in Arabic and flourished in an Arab-dominated polity, most of the great Muslim intellectuals before 1,000 CE were not Arabs. There were exceptions:

      When my father was dying of cancer, his palliative care doctor was an observant Iranian Muslim who skillfully kept him alive long enough for me to get there, do the things my father needed to do for him to finalize his personal affairs, and say goodbye to him before easing him into a painless death. I’m not confident a Catholic doctor would have been as compassionate, or as willing to do what would be judged under current Australian laws, very wrong headedly in my opinion, to be murder.

      When my family and I made an ill judged attempt to return to live in Australia in 2009, the best and most helpful friends we made were a family of Kurdish Muslims from northern Iraq. Both the Iranian doctor and the Kurdish family had made, or were making, excellent efforts to integrate into Australian society; the Kurdish guy even had the wit to name his one man cleaning company Dirty Deeds, after the song by AC/DC, the bad boys of Australian rock – the next line of the song after “dirty deeds” is “done dirt cheap”, so it was a clever choice on multiple counts, and he got cleaning jobs on the strength of it. He opened up to me, not about the undoubted discrimination his wife suffered every time she went out in public wearing a black hijab and black flowing robes, nothing about that; it was about the ‘tragedy of the Kurds’ that they do not have their own country. He didn’t need to mention Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons attacks on Iraqi Kurds – he knew I wasn’t an idiot. He also didn’t need to mention the insanely courageous Kurdish Muslim women who went to war against the Islamic State on behalf, not just of Muslim women, but of all women who were being taken prisoner and enslaved by IS, notably including Yazidis. They even had joint female Kurdish and Yazidi fighting units.

      I am not going to say things intended to be insulting or hurtful to those good people. I can think of any number of non-Muslims who deserve it far more. Plus there isn’t any point – I’m not going to achieve converting anyone by doing that; at most I’m just going to incite other people to engage in bashing them. It should be self evident that is not a great idea.

      You buying a copy of the Quran and making notes in the margins was so comical that I couldn’t help but make fun of it – Noddy’s Guide to Deconstructing Islam. If you are so hell bent on trying to deconstruct and ridicule the world’s second largest religion, espoused by almost 25% of the world’s population, rather than scribbling margin notes, your time would be better spent listening to the rantings of Sam Harris and his ilk. Me, I’ve got better things to do.


  10. “Talked to a Conservative voter yesterday who came to Sweden from South-East Europe 40 years ago. He was worried about whether people from the Middle East and Africa can really be integrated into Swedish society. His own countrymen, he said, are obviously no problem since they are Europeans.”

    I see your point, but the converse is not true. The fact that some groups have integrated well in the past does not imply that all groups will indicate well in the future.



    Mangkhut has me worried. I’m not alone in that.

    I have very vivid memories of the last time a Super Typhoon made a direct hit on HK; that was Hope in 1979. I had already experienced some Typhoons in HK by then and was kind of “Meh – not as bad as a winter storm on the SW coast of Australia”, but Hope scared the hell out of me. And Mangkhut is bigger and stronger than Hope was. The poor old Filipinos are going to really cop it.

    I don’t expect much sympathy from people on the Atlantic coast of the USA about it; they have their own monster to worry about right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The main worries for people in the path of Hurricane Florence are storm surge and flooding due to intense rainfall.

    Many people in the US have a bad habit of building structures on barrier islands. Those islands are directly exposed to the storm surge, which because of the low topographical relief tends to be much worse here than in the Pacific basin.

    The area where Florence’s rains are likely to fall has had a wet summer, so soils are saturated. It doesn’t help that there is a significant amount of industrial scale hog farming on the coastal plain of North Carolina, so those flood waters are likely to have a fair amount of pig excrement in them.

    North Carolina is the state that passed a law a few years back forbidding local planning agencies from considering global warming. Unlike Canute, who knew what he was doing (he was demonstrating to his courtiers that there are limits to a king’s power), those folks are going to be surprised when those barrier islands either shift inland by a significant distance, or cease to exist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Speaking of Canute – one of the saddest things about this whole climate change debacle is that even now, any one of our world leaders would be quite happy to go down to the beach, turn their back on the water, point inland and say “Behold – I see no tide. You see no tide. There is no tide! Let’s go burn some fossil fuel.”


      1. To be fair, I think you probably need to exclude Jacinda Arden from that. Not that NZ’s plan was her idea – reportedly worked out by a bipartisan group of back-benchers. But apparently she’s willing to go with it.

        Didn’t see anything about what they plan to do about all of those burping and farting dairy cows, though. Maybe they’ve figured out how to breed burpless non-farting cows – I vaguely recall seeing something about that a while back.


  13. “It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue”
    Every couple of years the Royal Australian Air Force hosts a set of military exercises in Northern Australia, known as Exercise Pitch Black. Nobody to my knowledge has ever been eaten by a grue, but many have suffered crippling hangovers from too much Northern Territory beer 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. On Topic: “Pre-Gestee” – For a 3 year period when I was in my 30s, I worked 12 hour/7 day weeks. Breakfast was two cups of strong black coffee and a large glass of orange juice. Then I would walk to work, and get there ready to go by 7.00 am. Lunch was another cup of strong black coffee while I kept working through the lunch hour. Then I would leave work typically around 7.00 pm, walk home, swim a mile of freestyle in the pool next to where we lived, shower and then eat my one meal of the day, before falling asleep, exhausted. We didn’t have a child then, and my wife also worked long hours and 7 days/week, so it wasn’t a problem.

    At the end of 3 years, I had got through an absolute shitload of work and my bosses thought the sun shone out of my arse, my body fat % was very low (actually too low), and I was extremely fit aerobically (although my muscle mass was too low, from my body consuming its own muscle tissue in response to being in constant energy deficit). The only problem was that when I walked, whenever my foot hit the ground, the vibration from the impact caused me crippling pain in the guts. Went to see my very grumpy old English general practitioner, who sent me for a gastroscopy, which revealed that I had cultivated an impressive crop of duodenal ulcers. Testing was negative for Helicobacter pylori.

    English doctor: “For a supposedly intelligent person, you’re a bloody idiot! You’ve been pouring gallons of acid into an empty stomach for years. For God’s sake, man, put some food in your guts before you swallow all of that acid. Eat some breakfast before you drink coffee. Put some milk in your coffee. Stop drinking so much orange juice, that stuff is very acidic. Eat some lunch. Try to behave remotely like a normal anthropoid.” (In his spare time, he was a big wheel in WWF and he bred captive orang utans.)

    So I did what he told me, and the duodenal ulcers just went away – no medication required.

    I missed that guy when he retired – his manner with his patients was awful but I came to see the humorous side and enjoy it – he was so grumpy and disagreeable, and had such a talent for being insulting, that being abused by him became funny, and he was a brilliant doctor. Absolutely brilliant.

    Anyway, moral of the story – avoid drinking acidic drinks on an empty stomach. It can have nasty unforeseen consequences.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Actually, Death of Stalin was Stalin-dies, hilarity ensues. It was Russian black humor at its finest. It helps if you enjoyed The Master and Margarita. Stalin was a big fan of Bulgakov’s book. For the most part the movie was historically accurate. The Politburo was full of monsters. Despite this or perhaps because of this, we were falling out of our seats with laughter when we saw it in Seattle.
    Rich people already get more and better government services. Private property is an important government service. Just try to own something without a government with its courts, laws, army and police force to make it possible. You’d have to roll your own, and good luck keeping the head of your private army from redistributing it. Have you ever heard the school yard taunt, “You, and what army?”
    The US Atlantic littoral might be vulnerable to tides, time and hurricanes, but it is pretty country. The littoral runs from Key West to Cape Cod. I wouldn’t want to be out at Okracoke during a big storm, but we had a great vacation there with the dunes, beaches and marshes.


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 )

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

%d bloggers like this: