January Pieces Of My Mind #1

The National Museum in Stockholm has re-opened after a long period of renovations. Endless treasures! Here’s a detail of the background on a 16th century Madonna & Child.
  • Woah. Checking my calendar. I have nothing planned from mid-summer until retirement. Except monthly meetings with the municipal education board.
  • Havande is an old Swedish cognate of having. It means “pregnant”.
  • If you’re the kind of voter who falls for fascist strong & stupid men, what’s the next step if one disappoints you? Abandon strong & stupid men or transfer faith to a new one?
  • Snow dusting in yellow sunshine on the grey gneiss scarp at Stubbsund made it look like limestone. Foreign.
  • You should always consider carefully before building an unstable interdimensional transfer portal. Because as the poet reminds us, “See how the void gates that held back the Chaos foe / Shudder and shatter, an entropy overload”
  • Wonder if the resin caulking rings found as remains of bark boxes in Early Iron Age graves also contain lots of human DNA from a chewing process, as has recently been shown for Mesolithic pitch lumps with tooth marks.
  • Some people think NASA should not call anything Ultima Thule because the Nazis used that name. That’s like refusing to listen to the Beatles’ White Album because the Manson cult did. Ultima Thule was first mentioned by Pytheas in the 4th century BC.
  • Movie: Annihilation. Lovecraft’s “Colour Out Of Space” + Tarkovsky’s Stalker + Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Grade: OK.
  • Wife horrified & scandalised to learn of my perverted hedonistic pleasure: I put some peanut butter and salt in my hot chocolate.
  • Yay! The County Archaeologist in Linköping has agreed to publish my forthcoming book on the Medieval castles of Östergötland!
  • 2019 will be my last year of paying back my study loan. I currently owe SEK 9,600 = USD 1,070 = € 940.
  • Free Swedish lesson! Unlike German, Scandy languages hardly ever pronounce an S as SH. Neither skål nor smörgåsbord has a SH. Repeat after me please: SSSSSCORL. SSSSSMER-GORSE-BOOED. SSSSSS.
  • I once tried sailing my space ship in 80s Elite straight away from the star. After a long while the star simply flipped from being behind me on the scanner to being in front of me. The same star.
  • How to identify a female Medieval scribe’s burial: lapis lazuli powder in her dental calculus.

Author: Martin R

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

137 thoughts on “January Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. Yep, this is as ‘exciting’ as golf gets, confirm fans
    Royal car intermezzo: The Duke of Edinburgh’s impulsive attempt to bag a ‘bloody cheeky’ grouse with his Land Rover was successful, he has confirmed.


  2. -“Civilised ‘conscious uncoupling’ is now out of control” (actually, this seems like a nice idea)https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jan/18/celebrity-conscious-uncoupling-anna-faris
    “Trump told Michael Cohen to lie about Trump Tower Moscow: Report”
    Of course he, did, but without a tape recording, Mitch McConnel will never back impeachment. Scratch that, he would dispute the recording as “unfair”.
    “John Bolton insists Iran likely harboring dangerous terrorist Osama Bin Laden”
    The last one was satire.


  3. Too funny for words.

    “Interestingly, in a 2015 US poll of 532 Republicans, 30 per cent said they would support bombing Agrabah. There is, it seems, also a two-way influence between fiction and the real world.”

    ‘Agrabah’ was the name given to the fictional city that was the setting for the Disney cartoon ‘Aladdin’, Baghdad being deemed to be too touchy to use because the first Gulf war was in progress at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did the poll takers ask about regulations on dihydrogen monoxide? Some parts of the US do not have enough, and others have severe ground contamination from it, leading to serious structural damage to people’s houses.

      As usual with polls, the result would probably depend on phrasing. Many Republicans are reflexively opposed to environmental regulations, so would be in favor of businesses being allowed to dump as much DHMO in the environment as they wanted.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. If I was a tedious person who won’t let go of an argument, I would use this as an example of why adherence to facts in films that purport to be historical is important – because most people learn their ‘history’ from movies, not from reading history.

      But I’m obviously not a tedious bore, so I won’t mention it.


      1. Meh. Everyone knows John Wayne personally beat the Germans in Normandy. And WWI only took place at the west front.


      2. I recently watched a film about the Battle of Passchendaele, being fought by obviously very heroic and noble Americans, with mounting disgust.

        That battle was actually fought by British, Australians, Canadians, French and New Zealanders (and Germans, obviously) – a dreadful thing with very high casualties. No Americans.

        I long ago lost count of the number of films I had seen that purported to show historic events, where Americans were substituted for the actual nationalities involved.

        If you watch a lot of American movies about WWI and II, you could be forgiven for thinking that no African Americans were involved, but I know for a certainty that there were some.

        But then, if you watch any Australian war movies, you could be forgiven for not knowing that there were Aboriginal soldiers fighting in WWI and II, and I know for a certainty that there were lots of them – but they only permitted ‘half-castes’ to enlist, not ‘full bloods’. A lot of those guys enlisted because they thought that, if they survived, when they returned to Oz they would be treated the same as white Australian citizens for fighting for their country. They were wrong.

        My late father had an old Aboriginal mate who distinguished himself as a Sergeant in the Korean War, but you need to search diligently and know where to look to find that out. This guy subsequently went to the UK with a group of his Aboriginal mates to demand that the mummified (smoked) head of an Aboriginal warrior be returned by a British museum (don’t recall now which one), which they did with very bad grace. They took the head back to Oz and buried it. You have to wonder what value the museum people saw in a smoked head. It’s not like there are no living Aboriginal people, if folks want to know what they look like – no beheading and mummification required.


      3. One of the campaign slogans in the successful re-election bid of then President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 was, “He kept us out of war.” Which was true at the time–the US did not officially enter the war until April 1917 (because the Zimmerman telegram gave the US a casus belli against Germany), and of course it took at least 2-3 months for American troops to be trained and shipped across the Atlantic, as the US did not then maintain a large peacetime army.

        Schoolbook history tends to be a bit distorted in most countries, but in no non-authoritarian country does it approach the levels seen in the US. The school of academic thought that tends to emphasize the achievements of African and indigenous American peoples is mostly an (over)reaction to this phenomenon.


  4. The US government shutdown is starting to have serious effects in my world. NASA, NSF, and NOAA are all in the part of the government that is shut down. That means that research involving people from those agencies is not happening, and grant awards/renewals are not being processed. Manuscript reviews are also being delayed because people who work at these agencies may be editors or reviewers.

    NASA has started to announce postponements in proposal due dates. My field is not yet affected by that, but it’s a matter of time.

    The part about grant awards and renewals not being processed is the part that is already affecting me. I have to worry about where my paycheck will be coming from starting around April.


    1. Difficult and worrying times, Eric.

      I’ll be honest. I don’t like Nancy Pelosi, from when she was posted to HK as a US trade representative. Compromise and negotiation are two words that don’t exist in her lexicon, and her manner when here was strident, demanding, ugly and bullying, insisting on total capitulation to US global hegemony. And it was spectacularly unsuccessful with the Chinese. She didn’t last here long, and was replaced by people who were a bit more conciliatory and willing to negotiate. IOW, she was an abject failure in that role.

      But I have to conclude that, in the current situation, she is the best weapon to use against Trump, and her refusal to consider any form of compromise or seek to negotiate a solution will ultimately prove to be the right position to take. But it will necessarily prolong the current situation, so shorter term there is going to be a lot more pain and ‘collateral damage’.


  5. George Bush had a plan to get his infamy to outlast all rivals; he allowed Cheney to talk him into disbanding the Iraqi police, with well-known consequences for the museum for the birthplace of mesopotamian civilisation.
    Just as the Parthenon bears a lastning scar of the wars between Turkey and western powers, so the gap in museum collections will bear testimony of the Dubya war a thousand years from now.
    Yes, I know that *some * items have been returned. Too bad about the base that bulldozed parts of the Babylon site to get more space. And a million other horrors.


  6. Swedish rap singer Imenella wants to make the pejorative west african word “chagga” gender-neutral, resulting in a hit song where she applies it to male assholes.
    I realised this as I was watching the TV music award show “P3 Guld”.
    It only takes a year for me to catch up with what the cool kids are doing.


  7. Netflix apparently has a series called Dark Mirror or Black Mirror, which has earned praise, a kind of more intelligent Twilight Zone .
    I have also seen a teaser for the film Cold Skin.
    I knew there was something creepy about White House adviser Stephen Miller, and suspected he was descended from Innsmouth, New England.
    In this film, the sea around the lighthouse is practically boiling with Stephen Miller clones.


  8. David Reich responds to the shitty ‘hit’ piece on him in the NYT:

    Pontus Skoglund is being polite about it because he always is, but he is evidently deeply pissed by the NYT piece, having previously worked with Reich, and he was the lead author of one of the papers targeted in the piece. He’s a young untenured scientist just trying to build a career doing what he loves doing and which he’s very good at, he’s notably very careful about any claims made in papers he co-authors, and he absolutely did not deserve to be besmirched in the way that he was, in effect, in the spurious NYT piece.

    I don’t have a dog in the fight wrt my real life and profession, but I admire and am grateful for the work done by Reich, Willerslev, Skoglund, Fu and others in the palaeogenomics field, together with their archaeological, linguistic and anthropological collaborators, who have shed a huge amount of light on the past and in the process have helped to settle some long standing arguments, and I detest journalists who set out to write heavily biased ‘hit’ pieces against them which, in this case, is so flowery, badly written and convoluted that a lot of people couldn’t figure out exactly what it was that Gideon Lewis-Kraus was trying to say.

    And the ultimate irony, of course, is that Reich himself works in the Harvard Medical School and devotes most of his research effort to medical genetics; palaeogenomics is really just a side interest, although a pretty strong one.


    1. You’ll only find it in old writings including the second-to last Bible translation of the country’s erstwhile state church. Around Christmas you’ll often come across it in readings from the Gospel of St. Luke.


  9. “Some people think NASA should not call anything Ultima Thule because the Nazis used that name. That’s like refusing to listen to the Beatles’ White Album because the Manson cult did. Ultima Thule was first mentioned by Pytheas in the 4th century BC.”

    Indeed. Hitler was a vegetarian (for moral reasons, not for feed-more-people or health reasons). Draw your own conclusions.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “Free Swedish lesson! Unlike German, Scandy languages hardly ever pronounce an S as SH. Neither skål nor smörgåsbord has a SH. Repeat after me please: SSSSSCORL. SSSSSMER-GORSE-BOOED. SSSSSS.”

    Yes. Dinner for One (look it up if you’re not familiar with it) makes this mistake (though perhaps it is supposed to be a mistake of the character, Admiral von Schneider (a pseudo-noble German name, since after “von” is usually a place, though relatively recently it was sometimes added as an honorific, as in the name of the Nobelist Max von Laue.)

    But what is up with the bogus Rs in the phonetic examples? I am SO tired of people talking about Johann Wolfgang von GeRthe.

    Of course, many dialects of Norwegian turn S to SH after R, and some do so before L, as in Oshlo.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Right. This is the reason for the bogus R in Goethe. The oe or ö sound does sound something like the unstressed English “er” BUT WITHOUT THE R! People who think that they know more than they do often show off and try to impress people because they think they know how Goethe should be pronounced, making fools of themselves.


  11. https://theconversation.com/100-years-later-why-dont-we-commemorate-the-victims-and-heroes-of-spanish-flu-109885

    Quite a few years ago, I couldn’t find any numbers on Aboriginal people (not surprising, given that they weren’t even counted in the national census until I was a first year undergrad), but I found the numbers on Maori people in New Zealand, and found that they were much more heavily impacted by the Spanish Flu than whites in terms of fatalities.


  12. San Antonio is Minas Thirith!
    The Donald has claimed the city is proof walls improve security, saying it went from one of the unsafest places to one safest, because of the wall.
    Problem: San Antonio has no wall. San Antonio has never had a wall.
    San Antonio is not even on the border.
    During the long-ago battle of Alamo, a small defunct missionary site, the defenders tried using the five-foot wall for defence. It did not end well.


    1. This is the first time I have heard anybody claim that San Antonio was ever significantly less safe than other US cities of its size. I can believe that San Antonio is trending safer, but so are most other US cities, and there is good reason to believe that that was the result of eliminating lead from our gasoline/petrol.

      The nearest border crossing to San Antonio is Laredo, about 260 km by motorway to the south. Granted, things are dangerous on the Mexican side of the border (Nuevo Laredo is in Tamaulipas, one of the five Mexican states that are off limits to US government employees), but even after you cross the border it will take you at least two hours (if traffic is light and you do not encounter an immigration roadblock along the way) to reach San Antonio.


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