October Pieces Of My Mind #1

The Svindersvik forest fire this past June awoke a lot of dormant post-burn biology.
  • Just about the first thing my childhood dachshund did when we got her was to eat greasy aluminium foil and end up in surgery. She also suffered from roe deer hallucinations where she would run away to hunt imaginary game.
  • Getting damn cold outside now. I just gave some money to a homeless shelter in town.
  • Waiting for Azathoth, blind idiot Godot at the centre of the Universe
  • A Swedish-speaking survey worker has recorded that one tourist in Vadstena had heard of the town “through squabbling”. I wonder which Swedish word has been mistranslated here. Maybe skvaller, gossip.
  • The Rocky Horror Show in SWEDISH opens 2 February at Linköping’s town theatre.
  • A Syrian buddy of mine: “Lots of people are afraid that Muslims will change Sweden radically and make it a theocracy. But look at us. It’s the other way around for most of us. We’re changing. Sweden allowed me to come out as an atheist.”
  • Apparently, playing the didgeridoo strengthens certain muscles and cures snoring. But ladies, this raises the question: would you rather live with someone who snores or someone who plays the didgeridoo all the time?
  • Sinckers is a super popular chocolate bar with peanuts and toffee. I’m going to profit on this with a fragrant brown delicacy named Floaters.
  • Hehe. The makers of these vegetarian schnitzels clearly know that some of their customers have a superstitious fear of gluten, so they write “wheat protein” in the contents listing.
  • Maybe the anthropocene is not a geological epoch. Maybe it’s just a barely measurable film of strange chemistry between the holocene and the post-human strata.
  • The horns section on “If You Want Me To Stay” by Sly & the Family Stone is absurdly quietly mixed. You basically hear vocals, bass, drums and something reminiscent of horns leakage from the next studio.
  • I’m a member of the fine Facebook group “Traumschlösser – die schönsten Schlösser und Burgen Deutschlands”. And now I’m thinking, maybe I should change my name to Traumschlösser – die schönsten Schlösser und Burgen Deutschlands.
Got this back from conservation. We found it in a late-13th century basement at Landsjö Castle in 2015. It consists of five small pieces of wrought iron, and I think it’s probably from a skiing pole or hiking stick.

Author: Martin R

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

23 thoughts on “October Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. Floaters reminds me of the film Caddyshack, in which the decidedly odd greens-keeper played by Bill Murray finds a knobbly brown object floating in the pool, fishes it out and proceeds to eat it – just about the throw up when you realize it’s a Polly Waffle. On reflection, it was an odd inclusion in an American film, being an Australian product. Seems unlikely to have been familiar to American viewers.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I just thought that if the spike was intended to be a permanent fixture, they would have simply drilled a hole and burned or driven it in. rather than reduce the amount of wood in the end of the pole by making wedge cuts. I assume the end on the right of the pic is the business end – the spike shows wear, and the wedges appear to have been driven from that direction.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It wasn’t a great pun, but it wouldn’t have been a pun at all if I had spelled the brand name correctly. A lot of my attempts at humour hinge on me pretending to misunderstand stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I must admit, I spent some time Googling “Sinckers”, to see if that was the name Snickers were marketed under in Sweden. That only confused me more because, while there was no Swedish connection, there really are people who spell it that way. At that point my brain mercifully shut down and I went and watched Youtube videos of Russian drivers shouting “blyat!” at each other 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wishing Facebook could do a better job of translating Swedish. So often I can read enough to get me interested, but not enough to learn anything. It’s not restricted to Swedish, of course. Any language that uses basic technical information or colloquialisms suffers from the same problems.


    1. Translation is difficult to automate. Languages often have nuances that are difficult to program a computer. And the fundamental annoying characteristic of computers is that they do what you tell them to do, not what you want them to do.

      Things are improving. Almost 20 years ago, a colleague who was preparing for a trip to Munich (and knows almost no German) was looking at the website for the Deutsches Museum, which had an exhibit called, “Die Sonne: unser nächste Stern.” The correct translation of the part after the colon is, of course, “our nearest star.” AltaVista’s BabelFish, the best online translator then available, rendered it as “our next asterisk.”

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Speaking of old music, Liza Minelli’s “Losing My Mind” (1989) has been a lot on the radio lately.
    A very good collaboration with Pet Shop Boys.


    1. What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this? Liza Minelli techno-dance track? No. Actually, Liza Minelli everything, no.

      Speaking of Judy Garland, reportedly Lady GaGa absolutely kills it in the latest remake of A Star Is Born.


  4. A Syrian buddy of mine: “Lots of people are afraid that Muslims will change Sweden radically and make it a theocracy. But look at us. It’s the other way around for most of us. We’re changing. Sweden allowed me to come out as an atheist.”

    The problem with anecdotes like this is that there are other anecdotes which paint a different picture. One needs to look at the whole picture. “Girl raped by group of young men—five Japanese arrested”. Why are there no headlines like this? Just a few days ago in Freiburg, in southwestern Germany, a young woman was drugged and raped by 8 men, 7 of them refugees from Syria, all 8 known to the police, at least 1 with an arrest warrant. One should be able to discuss this without being branded some sort of Nazi or xenophobe.

    As I’ve mentioned before, both my wife and I are immigrants from non-EU countries, our children have 3 native languages. We know what it’s like to move to a different country, and obviously don’t object to it in principle. My wife became naturalized last week (I already was). It would be in the interest of the “good” immigrants to say that any foreigner who is convicted of a crime is deported forever, whatever the consequences. Yes, there are native criminals as well, but these are the responsibility of the native country. One can’t be responsible for the world. And if someone comes to a country, gets financial aid, claims political repression or even just hunger, and doesn’t have the sense to respect the laws of the new land (whether or not he agrees with them), then he has worn out his welcome.

    Either the left recognize this and become sensible (I recall Sweden drastically tightened up on immigration a few years ago), or for many voters the right will become the lesser evil.


    1. Phillip, as someone who is also an immigrant, I obviously agree that there is an implied unwritten contract that when another country accepts you, you have an obligation to respect the laws and culture of that country. The same should apply when people travel – you should respect the local laws and culture.

      But, with respect, I think you are missing something here. Let me illustrate with an example from Australia, which has taken in a substantial number of Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees (two groups who don’t tend to get on well together, for self evident reasons). Recently, there has been a moral panic in the city of Melbourne about “African gangs” perpetrating high rates of crime, the members of these gangs being the first generation of children of these refugees born in Australia. Indeed, when my daughter was there, whenever she went to the train station, she had to keep a sharp eye out for an African gang that was preying on likely targets they identified among the public.

      Looking at the crime stats, the large majority are committed by Australians and New Zealanders, because there are many more of them (in fact, based on the data, if there is a case to exclude any class of immigrant, Australia should exclude New Zealanders). But sure enough, on a per capita basis, people of African origin are over-represented by a factor of 5 or 6. Uh huh.

      But then, if you break down the crime stats further and confine the sample to crimes committed by young males, the over-representation of Africans goes away. If you confine the sample to young males who are unemployed, it vanishes completely.

      Add to that the fact that Sudanese and South Sudanese stick out like a sore thumb in mostly white Australia because they are really very dark skinned, and people are not good at accepting or befriending them, or allowing them to assimilate. Migrants are always told to assimilate, but my own experience is that often the problem is that people will not *allow* you to assimilate, and will not accept you as a normal member of society. You probably have not experienced this because you do not look notably different from most people in your host country, so you will have to take my word for it that this happens – it is a very real thing.

      What you find if you look at the crime stats of any country you can think of, young males from post-puberty to the age of 28 are over-represented, and even more so if you confine the category to unemployed young males.

      The real issue is that if any country takes in a lot of immigrants who are predominantly young males, and who, at least initially, will have difficulty finding suitable employment, they can expect that group to be over-represented in the crime statistics. It is not a function of religion, culture or race; it is a reflection of the fact that, among any group of humans, young males are the big risk takers and law breakers. They also feature strongly in any stats on alcohol and drug abuse.

      This is so well recognized by insurance companies in Australia that they charge young males higher insurance premiums for third party motor vehicle insurance if they are going to be the drivers. Mining companies have a preference for employing 18 year old girls to drive their huge off-road ore hauling trucks, because they concentrate better, goof off less and take far fewer risks than young males do.


    2. Admittedly, there is a racial/cultural element (I include religion in culture, becaues it can’t be divorced from culture), but it’s hard to untangle from other factors.

      In the Australian crime stats broken down by ethnicity/parent nationality, Chinese are strongly under-represented, which should surprise no one (which makes hostility to Chinese all the more puzzling and difficult to untangle – it has deep roots going all the way back to the days of the 19th Century gold rushes – plus these days Chinese are perceived as wealthy (partly because immigration is targeted at wealthier Chinese with in-demand professions like medicine due to shortages of doctors, and so are resented for that – in the perceived white world order, Asians are meant to be poor – visiting nouveau riche Mainland tourists with huge amounts of discretionary income to splurge on luxury items add to this local resentment, plus there is the “spying for China” element which has now been introduced by some anti-Chinese academics). Vietnamese are a lot more highly represented in the crime stats. White Australians can’t tell the difference between Chinese and Vietnamese. Everyone should wish to have Chinese neighbours – they are quiet, don’t drink or do drugs, are very physically non-threatening and unaggressive, keep to themselves and are law abiding. They will likely try to find loopholes in the law for anything to do with money, but that is the extent of it. Vietnamese run the illegal marijuana farms and supply the motorcycle gangs, who are the main drug traffickers.

      My sister used to work as a tax auditor in Australia. Her anecdotal experience was that Chinese would always try cheating on their tax once, the first time, get caught, pay the financial penalty, learn the lesson, and never do it again. Italians and Greeks would keep doing it over and over, trying different ways of not getting caught; people from the former Yugoslavia the same. One Croatian guy threatened her with a knife when she caught him for tax evasion. Of course, she didn’t mention the local white wealthy, who have far more sophisticated means of tax evasion and routinely get away with it, which costs the national economy hugely more than a few Italian taxi drivers.

      Sydney has ethnic gangs: Lebanese, Maori and Pacific Islanders, Aboriginal, and home grown white. With the rise of the extreme right wing, the white neo-Nazi gangs are currently on the rise.

      The other thing that has to be said is that cognitive ability, IQ, intelligence plays into this – it has an inverse relationship with criminal offending: dumb people commit more crimes than smart people, particularly violent crimes. Chinese in China have mean IQ of 106, higher than mean IQ of European whites. Maori, Pasifikas, Middle Easterners and Africans have lower means than European whites. Aboriginal people (in)famously have the lowest mean IQ in the world, but there is a great deal there to be untangled. There could be all sorts of reasons for that, and again genes can’t be untangled from environmental factors, but that is the status quo. Solutions are difficult, but education holds the best hope. But getting Pasifikas to engage with education when they come from generations in Australia all living on welfare, know they are dumb and academic underachievers and don’t see a point in trying, it is very difficult.

      Also anecdotally, some Sudanese and South Sudanese have become elite level footballers and police officers, and become role models for their communities, and the African communities are acutely aware that they have a bad rep, so they are getting organized and engaging with police to work on getting offending rates among their young males down. So it’s certainly not all one-way traffic.


    3. “But then, if you break down the crime stats further and confine the sample to crimes committed by young males, the over-representation of Africans goes away. If you confine the sample to young males who are unemployed, it vanishes completely.”

      I’ve often heard this. Assuming for the sake of argument that this is true* (whether it is probably varies somewhat from country to country; there are claims that all “real” rapes (as opposed to the Assange-type bullshit) committed in Sweden in the last few years are due to immigrants), it really doesn’t change my point. A society is responsible for its own criminals, but shouldn’t be responsible for the crimes of others who have voluntarily come, seeking shelter (at least that is the claim, which is not true in all cases). The point is that if it is clear that being kicked out is the consequence of such actions, then such actions will be reduced, even if the people don’t actually change their point of view (“I thought that it was OK since she was just a girl” has actually been used as a defence in court). And, yes, word will get around quickly.

      Yes, in some cases integration might be difficult if one looks somewhat different, though this is usually not a problem if one otherwise “does as the Romans” when in Rome. Think of France, which is famous for its national pride, lack of willingness to speak anything but French (though this is exaggerated), and where most problems with immigrants are not due to language barriers (because the most immigrants in France are from former colonies and hence fluent in French). What could be more French than chansons? Yet many of the most famous chansonniers, such as Charles Aznavour, Patricia Kaas, Georges Moustaki, Serge Gainsbourg, are immigrants or children of immigrants. But no-one would deny that they are very, very French.

      Back to your claim: Is it really true everywhere? Prior to Cologne on New Year’s Eve recently, it simply wasn’t a problem for women to be out in public at such a time.

      Don’t get me wrong; it would be hard to find someone less xenophobic myself: immigrant, married to an immigrant (who looks more foreign than I do), works in a team of mostly immigrants. Just yesterday I had an enjoyable conversation with a colleague from North Africa—in French, German, and English. But it creates more problems than it solves to claim that immigrants produce no problems, or even claims such as yours (which might not be true everywhere and even if so there is a big problem increasing the number of young unemployed mailes, no matter where they come from). Not the least, the “good” immigrants would like to be distinguished from those who breaks the contract.

      * Although there are more unemployed young German males in Freiburg than young Syrian males, I can’t recall a case of 8 unemployed young German males drugging and raping anyone.


      1. “this is usually not a problem if one otherwise “does as the Romans” when in Rome”

        You are completely wrong about this. Humans are very visual animals, and appearance is the principal cue that prompts the ‘us’ or ‘the other’ reaction.

        There are Australian born Chinese whose families have been in the country for more than 100 years. They no longer speak any Chinese language and speak English with a broad Australian accent. Culturally they are 100% Australian. But they still cop it.

        But I see your mind is made up, so…I gave my best shot at laying out the logic for you, based on real data. I’m not going to waste time talking to you about it any more. I know a bigot when I encounter one.


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