October Pieces Of My Mind #3

15th century angel in Vadstena Abbey church. Originally brightly painted.
  • Movie: Cloud Atlas. Intercutting between several tenuously interlinked stories, all with the same small cast in the main roles. Grade: interesting, fun, demanding!
  • In the 70s, as Richard Feynman put it, a lot of social scientists were engaging in cargo-cult science: aping the superficial trappings of hard science without actually being able to deliver its content. This is what we see now with psychology’s excellent & commendable reproducibility crisis, for instance. When I arrived in archaeology 15 years later, our fad theoreticians were no longer even aping hard science: they were openly hostile to the idea of any science being hard. And here am I, who would like both the cargo-cult science and the science-hostile knowledge relativism kicked off campus.
  • Talked to a couple of pro-Orbán (that is, normal) Hungarians. They explained quite frankly that an important reason for their anti-Muslim sentiment is that their countrymen all learn in school about the Ottoman Empire’s brutal treatment of Hungarians centuries ago.
  • Sudden realisation. IIRC, I’ve contributed to only one academic Festschrift, my thesis supervisor’s. This is pretty indicative of my relationship with powerful older colleagues through my quarter century as an archaeologist. I haven’t cultivated the patron-client relationships that determine academic careers. Another way to put it is that very few powerful older colleagues have impressed me, and that sentiment has been mutual.
  • Strange loud bassy noises outside. Can’t tell if it’s machinery or a rave party.
  • James Bond sleeps in long pantsless silk night shirts in Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel Diamonds Are Forever.
  • Part of what makes Ian Fleming’s novels so good is the loving descriptions of consumer goods: clothing, cars, weaponry.
  • Dear Jim Morrison, I don’t understand why this girl gotta love her man, nor in what way the world depends on her, nor how this will lead to immortality kthxbai
  • For the next 100 years, US political science scholars will be analysing episodes of The Apprentice, with The Shark Tank as comparative & contextualising source material.
  • My kid made me tea and told me about his linguistics & Japanese studies. ❤
  • In the novel Diamonds Are Forever, James Bond has lunch at a rural American highway diner. He thinks the juke box looks like something out of science fiction. Not like quaint 1950s design.
Breakfast in the great ground-floor hall of the Bjälbo kings in Vadstena. Subsequently used by nuns, war invalids, syphilis patients, mental patients…
I wonder what this 1793 stone mason thought about orthoceratites. He probably didn’t read Hutton. (Örberga church)

Author: Martin R

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

18 thoughts on “October Pieces Of My Mind #3”

  1. If you were referring to “Riders on the Storm” up there, yeah, that verse is a complete non sequitur.

    Lots of Jim Morrison’s lyrics don’t make sense. I suspect one of the reasons he is as well liked today as he is is that he is a member of the 27 Club (along with Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain). So we did not get to see a long deterioration in his skills or creativity, as happened to, e.g., Charlie Daniels.


  2. I’m outraged! You Swedes have got a nerve!

    OK, admittedly eating witchetty grubs is pretty disgusting, but if you were a hunter-gatherer in Australia with a diet poor in fat, you’d eat them. But musk sticks are delicious (at least they were when I was a kid). And if not for Vegemite, I would not have survived to adulthood. Seriously. Vegemite, cheap fatty sheep meat and cheap milk. So, far from my childhood diet being poor in fat, it had a dangerous over-abundance of it. When I asked my Chinese gastroenterologist in HK, after I was diagnosed with colon cancer, with no family history: “Why me?” he answered “Poor diet in early life” without knowing anything at all about my background.

    On topic, the thing that happened to archaeology also happened to anthropology, only a lot worse, and it schismed. The so called cultural anthropologists became so hostile to science that they declared that anthropology was in no way part of science. It all erupted in America with the Napoleon Chagnon thing.

    I recall enjoying Cloud Atlas, but so long since I watched it that it will take a while for my memory of specifics to float to the surface.


  3. Looks like we have dodged a bullet with the latest Super Typhoon. It was heading straight for us, but is forecast to slow down rapidly, swerve sharply to the north and then north east, and degenerate into a tropical depression by 4 Nov. Sea surface temperature is now too low for it to maintain intensity. It is now close enoug for us to be currently getting the outer winds, conflicting with a strong NE monsoon, so the local wind conditions are pretty chaotic, but nothing serious, and if the track forecast is right, we won’t get anything worse than a couple of days of showers from the outer rain bands. That’s fine, I could do with a bit of humidity right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I need to have a colonoscopy every couple of years – it’s a tedious, unpleasant process, but life is full of tedious unpleasant processes for everyone, so… So far, no further malignancies have manifested. But I will need to go on having them until I am just so old that there is no point because something else will be likely to take me out first, and I’m well short of that yet.

      Yes, anthropology in the US split into the cultural anthropologists (the ‘mainstream’), who identify themselves as being in the arts stream and eschew science like it’s a dirty word, and the minority of scientific anthropologists who consider that what they do is science.


    2. Meant to add that the colonoscopy procedure itself is not risk free – if they accidentally rupture the bowel you are a goner. The contents of your bowel, which include lots of nasty bacteria obviously, spill into your abdominal cavity and you die in agony from a massive internal infection that no cocktail of antibiotics has any hope of controlling, while they stand there helplessly and watch you.

      As my current gastro guy so succinctly puts it: “Chance of death 5%.” But lots of medical procedural stuff is like that – balancing risks.


  4. A guy at Fox News is warning against the disease-infested group of migrants coming to the Southern border.
    How disease.infested? They are so diseasy, they are spontaneously regenerating a disease that was *exterminated* in 1980!
    “…..they’re coming in with diseases such as *small pox* and leprosy and TB that are going to infect our people in the United States.”

    So…very sick people are walking 300 km through the desert to USA???
    They must be….Super Migrants! (ominous background music).
    Interestingly, the percentage og Americans inoculated against measles is lower than in the central american countries. So the migrants should be afraid of the americans. It is their Kryptonite.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PTSD is not fear, it is stress overload, or as my attending doctor called it: “inhuman levels of stress” that went on unrelentingly 24 hrs/day for a full month, before they hospitalized me and cut me off from it.

      But it’s the same thing, really – fear and stress overload both induce the same “fight, flight or freeze” response, during which your system starts squirting out cortisol like crazy. It is the hormone that will save you when you are suddenly confronted by a hungry tiger. But if it keeps pumping out non-stop long term, it will literally kill you. It came close to killing me, until they got me into a secluded place and shut it off. It can also trigger cancer.

      But if they have located the region of the brain that shuts down the reaction, that’s good news.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I could fill a book with what I now know about stress. For one thing, it is cumulative; at least, the adverse effects of excessive stress are. You know that saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” It’s rubbish. What doesn’t kill you just weakens you for the next time.

      I also know what the best stress relievers are.

      Quick fix: Nothing is better or faster than physical exercise, although some ‘experts’ beg to differ. Putting your body under physical stress is not remotely the same thing as being subjected to stressors that trigger the fight, flight or freeze response. That’s ridiculous. Rather, the physical exercise burns off the cortisol and adrenalin, and triggers the production of serotonin, which is nature’s sedative, so when you are working out you get a natural ‘high’ that becomes addictive – you keep exercising to keep getting that effect. One doctor accused me of “being addicted to exercise”, to which I responded “Yes, I am, but I can think of worse things to be addicted to, can’t you?” He didn’t like my answer.

      Longer term fixes: Meditation, and yoga (which is really like a form of moving meditation, plus you get the natural relaxation from pleasant stretching, which is also good for you, so long as you don’t push it too much), but they take diligent daily practice for quite a long time (with meditation I ‘got’ it in 3 weeks, but a lot of people take a lot longer, and some people never manage to get it) before they have a beneficial effect. Other effects I got from meditation that I was totally not expecting were improved memory, and much improved ability to concentrate – I found I could concentrate effortlessly for 3 or more hours during boring meetings without ever losing concentration, and come out feeling fresh as a daisy, and with total recall of everything that had been said. Frankly, that shocked me, I really wasn’t expecting that.

      But everyone is different – what I got from meditation is not necessarily what other people will get. It has been known in rare cases to result in serious mental illness. Some people have claimed that it cured them of cancer – well, I’m sceptical about that, but I don’t know everything.

      When all else fails and you are at risk of dying: There are pills. “Better living with chemistry.” Doctor’s prescription only, though, obviously.

      What definitely does *not* relieve stress: alcohol. People think it relaxes them. It doesn’t do anything of the sort. It is a major depressant that actually increases stress. What they are feeling is not relaxation, it’s partial paralysis from the ethyl alcohol, which is a potent toxin, and the acetaldehyde, which is what the liver converts the ethyl alcohol into and is also a toxin.

      Check out cortisol and all the nasty stuff it can do to you – then next time someone tries to tell you that being put under stress is ‘good for you’, tell them to go and fuck themselves:

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Strictly speaking, they’re among the stuff he packs for a trip to the US. Halfway through the book he has ogled several women but had no intimate congress for at least two weeks.


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