August Pieces Of My Mind #2


  • Nils Mattsson Kiöping reports that people in Sri Lanka say the island’s monkeys could talk if they wanted to. They’re just afraid to have to work.
  • So, how long since you all re-watched Hawk the Slayer?
  • Took my breakfast into the yard. 10-15 wasps appeared, sat quietly on the table keeping me company, then flew off after a few minutes. Maybe they were drying their wings after the rain.
  • Full page review of my new book in Sweden’s main pop-archaeology mag. Overall quite positive, with the main point of criticism being that the reviewer is uncertain about who the intended target audience is. “Why write it in English and then not include a map early in the book to show where Östergötland is?” (The cover’s inside has a big fat map of Östergötland itself.) Well, dear renowned Boomer colleague, imagine a world where everyone who cares about Medieval castles in Scandinavia has a smartphone or a desktop computer where they can reach a web site called Google…
  • Movie: Worlds of Ursula K. LeGuin (2018). Excellent documentary with a super strong cast of interviewees. Grade: Great!
  • I’ve got the riff from Hawkwind’s “Master of the Universe” stuck in my head. Which, since this song consists of nothing but that damn riff again and again, means that I’ve got Hawkwind’s “Master of the Universe” stuck in my head.
  • Car made it through its 21st annual government checkup just fine. I guess that’s another year then when we won’t be switching to the electric car pool.
  • Movie: 2001, a Space Odyssey (1968). An ancient beacon is found on the moon and sends a signal to Jupiter. People follow, have some IT trouble on the way, then have an alien acid trip. Last quarter makes no sense, so read Clarke’s novel as well. Grade: Good!
  • Earthless’s guitarist plays like Hendrix. Tonight I learned that he also sings like Dio!
  • I understand why the pot smokers leave baggies, candy wrappers and soda cans on the hillside behind my neighbour’s house. But why these skeins and balls of greenish clingfilm?
  • I really don’t like the expression “He is correct”. He may be right, if what he says is correct, but he can’t be correct because he is no statement.
  • Talked to a polyamorous Wikipedian today. I commented that his lifestyle seems quite common among scifi fans. He replied that in Finland, people associate polyamory with being a LARPer or a Sámi!
  • I don’t much like Burton’s translation of the 1001 Nights, finding its archaism laboured. But the notes are great!
  • Do spoilers bother you? There’s an easy cure. Quit watching / reading what everybody’s currently talking about.
  • Having been randomly selected, I just signed on to a big clinical study of prostate cancer screening.

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 “August Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. Finally, the long-overdue review of “2001”!
    Re ‘I really don’t like the expression “He is correct”.’ – natural language is naturally fuzzy and gets shaped through usage in funny ways.
    BTW, In Ger. to say “Er ist korrekt.” means “He is honest/fair/does not take shortcuts in his work”.
    “He is correct” translates as “Er hat Recht.” ( Roughly: He owns the truth).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The same distinction exists in English. You can say: “He is very correct (in behaviour, manner or whatever)”, but this usage seems to be disappearing as the language gets progressively dumbed down, which probably explains why it bothers Martin. (You can tell I’m an old bastard from me saying that.) This usage also now sounds stilted, stiff upper lippish and moribund upper classish. I still use it that way, though because um I’m an old bastard.


      1. Maybe US English is more dumbed down but to me using “he is correct” in the German or Swedish sense sounds Victorian to me and I’m an old bastard who has recently grown a dewlap.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, Victorian is not too over the top. It’s definitely an older usage which is now largely defunct in Anglo cultures, I think probably because the behavioural concept is outmoded. If I say to my wife or her older brother that someone is “correct” in his behaviour (the concept also exists in Chinese language and culture – it maybe started with Confucius and his “rectification of names”, I don’t know), they instantly understand what I mean, and my daughter also gets it because mentally she dwells largely in the 19th Century and is also a student of Confucius, but if I say that to most young people, they either don’t get it or think it’s just stiff necked and stupid, not “woke” or part of the oppression by the patriarchy or something.

        I think the British retain it more than other Anglo cultures. My daughter gets on really well with Brits, whereas Americans and Australians generally think she’s weird, with some notable exceptions who got the point that she’s a “person of principle”.

        Older Brother nearly got himself into trouble with some ‘black shirts’ (violent radicals) recently when he confronted them (alone) and told them that their behaviour was “not appropriate”. I admire his guts, but he narrowly escaped being beaten up by a mob.


      3. I often add a friendly compliment to a public greeting on Facebook on female friends’ birthdays, translatable as “Happy birthday, pretty!”. They usually thank me happily. But one colleague replied sternly that this was incorrect between colleagues. Oh well.


  2. What the heck is the B-whatever Skirmish? How can a skirmish be worthy of a tricentennial? I tried Google and got nothing in English.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the info. I didn’t know Sweden was still involved in international conflict at that time. I thought y’all had learned your lesson after the 20 years war.


  3. 1) “He is correct” has the same problem as “He is wrong”. It’s the usual actor-action trope. People often say things like “he hit the target” when they mean that the bullet he fired hit the target. Usually one can figure it out in context.

    2) At least you had a map in your book. Still, thematic maps can make it much easier to follow the narrative. I read a fascinating account of the Northern Crusade, but I had to spend an awful lot of time figuring out which river valley was which and their relation to each other. There are a lot of rivers debouching between Denmark and Russia. I had a similar problem with a book on European DNA history.The technical genetic notations – e.g. R1a1b1a1b – was bad enough, but the paucity of maps made it hard to figure out which genetic group moved where and when. More maps and unified timelines would have made both books much easier to follow.

    3) I don’t think people were meant to understand 2001. I definitely enjoyed some of it, but like a lot of philosophy, it seemed to be intentionally obscure.


  4. Maps are good.

    From an inspection of my precious copy of Martin’s book, I can confirm that inside the front cover is a thumping great map showing the locations of all of the strongholds and Medieval towns in Östergötland. This is 2019 – if the reader doesn’t know where Östergötland is, s/he can find out in 2 seconds flat. It’s a trivial quibble.

    But who the book is aimed at is actually an interesting question. It is primarily an archaeological text, of course, but as I commented to Martin at the time, it serves very well as a history book and a collection of very informative observations about the every day lives of people in Medieval times deduced from material finds. History texts are generally sadly lacking in such details. As such, the target audience could easily be very broad indeed, if people only knew about the book’s existence and what the content is like. If it were marketed as such, it could be quite a hot seller.

    It prompts me to think that Martin might do worse than write another book, based on the same material but organised differently into a more narrative style, spiced up a bit and firmly targeted at a general audience, and flogged through an international commercial publisher.

    As it is, I have read the book multiple times and never get sick of it, and I’m no archaeologist or historian. I dropped history like a hot brick at secondary school because it was so dry, and told me nothing about how real people lived in different regions during different periods in the past. This book absolutely does that, and it, or its content cast in some other form, deserves a very wide airing. Plus the author’s personal and gently humorous touch does no harm at all.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you, John! My academic writing style is heavily influenced by blogging. I aim to write in such a way that the content is scientifically solid but the style as accessible as possible.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Having been randomly selected, I just signed on to a big clinical study of prostate cancer screening.

    Is the aim to compare survival rates between those without screening and those with screening who then have the necessary therapy?

    Note that a U.S. study which claimed no benefit from screening was flawed: many in the control group secretly had screening and therapy.

    Take it from me: while most prostate cancer needs no treatment ever, but if it does need treatment and you wait too long, you will have lifelong uncomfortable side effects. (I am someone who didn’t wait too long and I hear the cries of woe of others in the self-help group.)

    Most criticism of screening is unfounded. Will there be some false positives? Yes, but the alternative is no information. Most false positives go away if the test is repeated a few weeks later. Those that don’t can be cleared up with a biopsy. No one in their right mind would ever recommend any sort of treatment without a positive biopsy first. Biopsies are mostly harmless.

    Be careful about concluding that two treatments are equally effective if the survival rate is the same; the quality of life is at least as important.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The team has already established that their test STHLM3 is better than PSA for identifying the cases that may need treatment. By means of STHLM3, 6 out of 7 patients can immediately be told not to worry. The study I have signed onto aims to evaluate a new combination of MRI scans and biopsies to further constrain the group that may need to worry. Whether I will go through that depends on the result of the blood test.


      1. Interesting. I disagree with this, though: ” There is no scientific evidence that it is of any benefit to find prostate cancer in men above 75 years old.”

        Suppose that you’re 75 but otherwise healthy and aggressive prostate cancer is found. Untreated, you will die quickly, probably within a couple of years and either in pain or heavily medicated. (Even though only a small fraction need treatment, because almost all men eventually get prostate cancer, many men die of it. It is the third most common (after lung and colon) cancer-related death in men. Frank Zappa and Lemmy both died of prostate cancer.) Treat it and you live a few more decades. Sounds like a benefit to me. It is certainly not the case that all prostate cancer detected in men over 75 is harmless.

        I also think that there is too much talk of “painful biopsies”. Yes, they can be painful if no anesthesia is applied (which apparently does happen in some cases). I had mine under full anesthesia. Yes, there was a bit of pain, but, especially considering the potential benefit, it was mild. No-one should avoid a biopsy for fear of pain.

        What the new test can do is reduce the number of people who need biopsies, which is good. However, if cancer is detected, a biopsy is still needed to determine the aggressivity and the location, both which might play a role in the choice of treatment.


      2. “By means of STHLM3, 6 out of 7 patients can immediately be told not to worry.”

        My guess is that this must be 6 out of 7 who would worry based only on a PSA test, not 6 out of 7 people taking the test, because the latter would imply that more would worry based only on a PSA test (otherwise the 6 out of 7 would be no benefit), but the fraction of men with low PSA levels is much higher than 6/7.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Speaking of MRI, it is definitely a good idea to have an MIR first then a biopsy, for two reasons. First, if the tumor is seen on the MRI, one can take a few more samples there. Second, the MRI (good resolution, but slow) can be combined in real time with ultrasound (worse resolution, but quick) in certain treatments, particularly HIFU, which allow one to destroy the tumor but otherwise keep the prostate and surroundings mostly intact. I can’t recommend HIFU highly enough if you fulfill the criteria (PSA 10 or less, Gleason score 6 or less, one small tumor). I tried it, even though I had two tumors (one on each side). In my case (for this reason) it didn’t work, but it was worth a try. The good thing is that it doesn’t rule out any further treatments.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. “Talked to a polyamorous Wikipedian today. I commented that his lifestyle seems quite common among scifi fans. He replied that in Finland, people associate polyamory with being a LARPer or a Sámi!”

    Or maybe he meant something different by role-playing. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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: