July Pieces Of My Mind #2

Kvarnsjön in Grödinge, Sörmlandsleden part 61
  • An insect collided with my ear, just a very brief contact. Now it stings like nettleburn. Bumblebee?
  • An important reason for the odd American practice of non-religious circumcision was a long-abandoned 19th century theory of the cause of disease. Nobody remembers the theory, they just continue the practice blindly.
  • My current contract ends on August 31. If you have work of an archaeological, editorial, teachy, writy, translaty character, please give me a shout! Maybe hand my CV to your boss?
  • Dreamed last night that my wife was somehow in my boyhood room and testing out firearms. She shot out a window.
  • ”Artefact biography” was one of archaeology’s countless fad perspectives. It held that the artefact itself was not as important as its individual history and the (possibly fictitious) memories it nudged when you handled it. Against this, I have always replied ”Well this is usually completely opaque to posterity and thus useless to discuss”. But just now, shaking an old blanket, I also realised this. Most people have no idea of the artefact biographies of most of their belongings.
  • So difficult to remember to charge my toothbrush. Because my tooth brushing routine contains no contingency code for what to do when the power runs out. I just think “Gotta charge this” then forget about it.
  • English has a famously rich lexicon. Yet it has lost its equivalents of Ge. heissen & wohnen, Sw. heta & bo. They were hight and abide.
  • Second Life is still up and running and populated. And I still haven’t tried it.
  • The Swedish social healthcare system has gone on-line, and it’s awesome.
  • Suspecting one of the usual summer bouts of Lyme disease that hikers and geocachers have to contend with at this latitude, I got a video chat appointment in less than 40 minutes. Brief interaction with a friendly doctor, and now there’s an electronic prescription for antibiotics available to me at every pharmacy in the country. I really don’t know why I would use one of the privately run alternatives.
  • Old North African bus driver listening to AC/DC.
  • “Do you remember when you were young? You shone like the sun” Barrett was 29 when the song was recorded.
  • Cool motif in scifi: revisit a site or building that is old today, show what it’s like 700 years into our future.
  • Sunny summer Saturday. Had breakfast, went for a quick soak in the mirror-surfaced lake, collected trash along the shoreline. Plans: read scifi, nap, cycle into town, dinner with old friends.
  • I enjoy burning used teabags.
  • AD 1 followed 1 BC with no year zero. Because the AD chronology was established in the 6th century, before mathematical zero was known in Europe.
  • Etymology: effectless –> feckless
Stora Träsket, Sörmlandsleden part 60. I slept well in an open-walled hut here.


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 “July Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. >> English has … lost its equivalents of Ge. heissen & wohnen, Sw. heta & bo. They were hight and abide.
    I think ‘(a)bide’ is still a viable word, albeit a quaint one mostly heard in old hymns and songs (think Danny Boy). In OE, it was ‘bídan’. As far as I can tell, the OE cognate of ‘bo’/’wohnen’ was in fact ‘buan’, which has in fact disappeared. I am not sure if the two are related at a deeper level.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Re: circumcision – it was very common in Australia into the early 1950s, as a means of making it easier to keep the area around the glans clean. By the mid to late 1950s it was already on the way out, although I’m not sure why. Nowadays it would appear to be very uncommon, although a couple of years ago it was noted that circumcised men were less likely to transmit HPV to their (female) partners. Of course, vaccination has now rendered even that excuse a non-starter. As far as religious reasons go, to me any religion that requires you to lop bits off your kids is a religion to stay away from.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “That is not an equivalent of wohnen and bo”
    It’s not? If wohnen = “dwell” or “live” that can be equivalent to bide = “remain” or “stay”, or abide = “dwell”.
    And if bo = “stay”, “live” or “reside”, that can also be equivalent to bide.
    I don’t see that there is a great difference.


      1. In any case, this was really about ancient Germanic word stems that are not found in Modern English. Meanings shift over time, that is a different matter. Ger. Knecht is cognate to En. knight, but the meaning is quite different. Similarly, “I can’t abide him” is not the same as “The Dude abides”. As the Led Zep song goes, sometimes words have two meanings.
        I believe Martin just confused abide with buan (or a later cognate form) in the original post, an easy error to make.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. That thing about keeping the area around the glans clean was always bullshit, AD. It derived (I think) from Australian soldiers in the trenches during WWI, when personal hygiene was obviously difficult and it just seemed like a good idea. (Plus, hey, it’s just a bit of skin, so what’s the problem? Well, it turns out that bit of skin is there for reasons, but I won’t get into that whole thing because I’ll end up writing a book.) We weren’t living in trenches in Oz in the 1950s, were we? But doctors just kept doing it as a matter of course to new born boys, often without consulting the parents, because it was a ‘standard practice’ + the same old ‘hygiene’ bullshit. But fathers approved anyway, because they wanted their sons to look the same as them ‘down there’ + ‘what was good enough for me is good enough for my son’ sort of thinking, so fathers tended to keep the practice going long after there was any rational reason for it (if indeed there ever was).

    The same thing goes for FGM. A lot of people don’t actually realize that it is the women who have it done to their daughters, based on the same kind of thinking – ‘what was good enough for me is good enough for my daughter’. It tends to get blamed on the males, but it’s the women who keep perpetuating it, not the men. That might evoke howls of objection from certain quarters, but I have reasons for knowing that.

    Zero was discovered in India, but I presume you know that. I mention it because a lot of people wrongly attribute the discovery to the Arabs. But in any case, I have trouble imagining people back then saying “OK, we’ll designate the first year after the birth of Jesus as year zero.” After one year, he would have been one year old, so that was year 1. (Except of course, rather embarrassingly, they calculated wrong – he was actually born in 4BC, which means he was born 4 years before he was erm born.)

    Speaking of years, as of today I can no longer die young. I’m not sure whether to be pleased about that or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “but it’s the women who keep perpetuating it, not the men.” Quite right. And I suspect for the same reason that male circumcision lasted so long – tradition.
      Speaking of rational reasons, a few years back I read an article where the practitioners explained their reasoning. Apparently the foreskin was regarded as a “feminine” trait because it resembled the labia, and the clitoris was regarded as a “masculine” trait because it resembled a penis. At puberty the only way to make sure that a child was “all man” or “all woman” was to excise the offending bits. Which goes to show that people can make well thought out, rational decisions that are total bullshit.
      Which is why we need science.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Ha! No. Mean HK male life expectancy is well over 80. I’m not quite that old yet. I was basing my statement on a Biblical reference.

      I actually pinched it from my adopted Jewish uncle. He said it when he reached the same milestone, which made me laugh at the time because he looked so sad when he said it, as if dying young had been something he had been hoping for. So you can gather from that it’s an OT reference.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You’ve turned threescore and ten? Congratulations, John, and welcome to the old farts club 🙂
        If only the good die young we must both be baddies 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Correctly surmised, confirming my suspicion that you are not just a pretty face. Thank you.

        I really have tried quite hard to die young(er) on numerous occasions, but failed every time. I can’t seem to get anything right. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

    3. I agree. Circumcision should be banned. As should any other non-reversible change to the body before some appropriate age of consent.

      The article Martin linked to is out of date with respect to the following passage (as is the link which it includes):

      In Germany, a district judge ruled in 2012 that ritual circumcision of juveniles is a crime that violates “the fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity.”

      Yes, that was the decision. Extremely quickly, a new law was enacted which explicitly allows it. While the boy in question was Muslim, it is extremely clear that the law was enacted to avoid offending Jewish sensitivities. There are countries where the law of God is above the law of the land. Germany should not be one of them.

      I don’t think that any country has actually banned ritual circumcision of male children, though I think that Iceland was considering it.

      Some people wanted to keep the tradition of FGM but make it less dangerous, so invented a practice intentionally less invasive than male circumcison. It is banned everywhere FGM is banned. Hypocrites.


      1. Foot binding in China was perpetrated by the fathers, though, allegedly against objections by a lot of mothers. When a girl was 6 years old, her father would take her outside and smash the bones in her feet with a rock, then double her feet over and bind them tightly, and they would be kept bound tightly until she stopped growing. The pain must have been indescribable. My wife’s grandmother had bound feet. She was crippled for life by it – whenever we went out walking, she would hold onto my arm because I was the biggest and strongest, so by her logic I made the safest and most reliable support to hold onto, and I was willing to walk slowly to accommodate her. I didn’t mind, we always got on well together.

        It’s a perennial point of pride with the Hakka that they alone among all of the Han groups in China never adopted the practice. If ever anyone gives my Hakka sister-in-law any lip about being Hakka, which happens, it’s her standard response – that the Hakka were never barbaric enough to adopt such a cruel and loathsome practice.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. That reminds me – the latest charming bit of news to convince me this place is heading downhill fast is that one of the local labs making and selling HPV vaccine has been faking it. So a lot of girls who think they have been vaccinated against HPV haven’t been, and I doubt whether they have a way of tracing who got the fake vaccine.

    No idea how long this has been going on, but I think my daughter should be OK, because we had her vaccinated when the vaccine first became available in HK, and back then it was all imported, not made locally.

    This should be causing huge outrage, but people are so shell-shocked by what has been happening since early June, and the current situation is so obviously dodgy, that it doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it deserves.


    1. The mainland has been having occasional issues with fake vaccines (and not just HPV) for years. Whatever mainland authorities have been doing about it has not been enough. Not good if that is spreading to Hong Kong.

      Presumably there is a way to test for antibodies, but as I am not a medical expert I would not know details of what is involved in that, or whether it works for all vaccine-preventable diseases.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “not just a pretty face. ” According to my mirror, not even that…
    Sometimes I wonder how it is that some of us survive to old age. I mean, it may be dumb luck, but you can see how superstitions and religions start.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. On a somewhat unrelated note, I found some Youtube videos showing the making and sailing of the beautiful dragon ship Harald Hårfagre. Built by a Norwegian owner a few years ago to relive the adventures and celebrate the achievements of Norwegian seafarers, it was apparently mostly supported by Swedes because the Norwegians weren’t interested. Strange.

    Liked by 1 person

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