March Pieces Of My Mind #2

Alvastra Abbey
  • Drove Jrette’s moped to the repair shop and realised that driving a moped means sitting still outdoors in a strong wind. Taking me hours to get warm again.
  • Polish friends swearing up and down that DZ is always pronounced DZ and never ever J. And then it turns out that DZI is pronounced JI and that’s totally not relevant to the issue. /-:
  • Grieving over the end of my dad years.
  • Woah, was thinking about the students me and Howard excavated the Skamby boat grave with in 2005, realised that they’re pushing 40 now.
  • We aren’t hoarding food. Instead I’m excited about possibly getting the family to eat all the weird old food that fills our cupboards. How about some tofu sponge with tinned green peas?
  • It’s starting to annoy me how intensely distracting my smartphone and laptop are. Several times a day I decide to to something on them, then immediately get distracted by some popup icon or dialogue box, and finally half an hour later I realise that I never did the thing I intended to do.
  • I don’t get the toilet paper hoarding thing. Even if you’re actually going to spend weeks locked up in your home, as seems highly doubtful right now, can’t you just wash after you’ve gone?
  • The Reformation was above all a reorganisation of the public sector.
  • Farewell to Alvastra! None of the hoped-for Viking Period material, only six pieces of modest High / Late Medieval metalwork, but a weekend of great camaraderie.
  • Took a walk in the sun, had some uncharitable thoughts involving Judge Dredd and the summary execution of people who litter.
  • I demand that the cheerleading team of Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai in Romania be named The Babes Of Bolyai!
  • I like the pieces of a device that nobody ever uses. Like an obscure plug socket on a handheld GPS receiver or the SysRq key on a keyboard. Stuff that could have been omitted and made the object more affordable, but has been incorporated into the thing for historical reasons or because someone misjudged what would become standard.
  • Towards a social anthropology of groceries hoarding: shoppers have cleaned out the big mainstream grocery store in Fisksätra of pasta, sugar, flour and toilet paper. But they have barely made a dent in the stocks of these products in the immigrant store next door.
  • Lots of Jewish surnames are variations of “son of Levi” — Lewisohn, Levison etc. But I was surprised to learn that there are people named Leviathan.
  • I’m just kind of vaguely concerned about my Boomer parents. But I just realised that being a dad I would be absolutely falling apart if this virus killed young adults, same percentage.
  • The Polish word for party, impreza, originally meant “undertaking, venture”.
  • I jump-started my research activities on the New Year after two years and a month of doing other things. In only eleven weeks, thanks to a lot of skilled volunteer work, my project has already made a major advance at Alvastra Abbey in the field of Viking Period elite settlement. Our result is negative, but it clears up a really important issue. Thank you Ebba Knabe, Michael Lander, Kenth Lärk, Annica Ramström, Erik Rosenklint, Patrik Svantesson, Olle Södergren, Anna-Lena Tibell and Magnus Österblad!
  • Tasmania is quarantining visitors from the mainland. Is Gotland next?
  • Somebody asked me if there’s actually any archaeology at all in that field in front of Alvastra Abbey. There certainly is: two parallel foundation ditches with carbonised wood that have given radiocarbon dates in the 11th century. One of them is accompanied by a line of small postholes. Both show up clearly in the geophys. What our fieldwork the past few weeks has shown is that the features in that field are not likely to represent a house.
Morning commute, Nacka strand – Blockhusudden


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 “March Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. Impreza happens to be the name of the car model I own. It’s made by Subaru, who at the time I bought the car were the only manufacturer to offer all-wheel drive (a significant plus for those of us who live in snow country) in a non-SUV. And yes, I have had some adventures in that car. Including a drive along Sandwich Notch Road in the rain. The link reports that the road has gotten even rougher in the meantime (it was about 20 years ago that I did that drive), so I’m not sure I could still do the trip–and I certainly would not attempt it at this time of year, locally known as mud season.

    Subaru, incidentally, is the Japanese name for the star cluster known in the West as the Pleiades. That’s why there is a Subaru telescope–the telescope has nothing to do with the car manufacturer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, that explains the Subaru badge.

      I bought a Subaru Forester in Oz – reason: small SUV with all wheel drive, good acceleration and, most importantly to me, it had the highest underside clearance of any car on the market. It was absolutely great for driving on rough roads, dirt roads, kerb jumping, even driving off road, which I did occasionally (which very few SUV drivers actually do).

      But it was the biggest mistake I ever made in buying a car, because driving it at 110kph on a freeway in a cross-wind, which there always was, was as scary as shit. Plus it swayed around so much that it made my daughter car sick – too high off the ground + too narrow, because it was small.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We haven’t bothered hoarding toilet paper. We have washlet bidets. I tend to use toilet paper as bookmarks for my offline bathroom reading. It’s really convenient to have a bookmark roll right where I need it.

    I think a lot of westerners have internalized the idea that all physical objects are made in China. They see China going through an epidemic and assume that they will be deprived of just about everything for the duration. There was an article on toilet paper hoarding in Vancouver, BC. They interviewed people at a supermarket, and no one realized that they were almost in the shadow of a huge toilet paper factory supplied with wood from local forests.

    We’ve definitely cut back on socializing, but we get out a fair bit. We’re right next to a national park, so there’s plenty of room for social distance, even on the more crowded trails.

    The farmers’ market is closed for the duration, so we’ve been visiting local farms for eggs and vegetables. One of the farmers is taking orders online and has arranged a drop off of vegetables and meat in the local library parking lot. Our friends who sell meat from their farm open are doing sales by appointment only. The local dairy seems to be open, but it is unpasteurized milk only. I’m not that keen playing games with listeria when the hospital might be getting crowded.

    I know this is a golden opportunity to binge watch something, but we watched The Cobra Woman instead. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie where a trained chimpanzee plays the smartest character on screen.

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  3. Those mysterious bolts and connectors often have active communities of people who consider them a matter of grave importance. For example, they don’t consider a camera without a “hot foot” for driving a flash as capable of recording images. I might never use the HDMI output on my camera, but I had a friend who used his camera and an old flat screen monitor to access the internet.

    Have you considered the situation as an archeologist? How many artifacts have design features that seem inexplicable? Until recently, when more women are in the field, loom weights were classified as decorative. There’s the famed story of an old northern artifact consisting of a pole with a small loop attached to each end. A religious artifact? Nope, some guy still in country living explained it was a harpoon straightener.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have not had a chance to check Onay the big Turkish chain in Austria, some of the family shops I would visit are closed or too far to be comfortable visiting in the circumstances.


  5. Polish friends swearing up and down that DZ is always pronounced DZ and never ever J. And then it turns out that DZI is pronounced JI and that’s totally not relevant to the issue. /-:”

    What about sk (before front vowels), sj, skj, stj, etc. in Swedish? Many spellings for one sound.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even stranger is the academic debate about what that sound actually is and how it varies from dialect to dialect.


      1. I no longer consider Polish spelling to be particularly strange, when Swedish has words like stjärt and the spirant can be pronounced pretty much any way at all.


      2. How do you pronounce it? Many Swedish-learning books for English speakers suggest the “sh” sound as in “she”. While I’m sure that this is used in some dialects, more common seems to be a sound like the “ch” in Bach. This sound exists in many languages, but in some, like German, only after a vowel, not before. (The initial “g” among northern speakers of Dutch is essentially the same but voiced.) I’ve even heard Swedish people pronounce “Shell”, as in the petrol station, with this sound.

        What about “tj” as in “tjej”?


  6. In Swedish, the spirants in Ge. ich and Schimmel are important to distinguish between words. This is confusing to English-speakers, because in that language they are fully interchangeable and take each other’s places in various dialects. In Swedish both of these sounds have many different versions in various dialects and sociolects, and even overlap in the Swedish spoken by ethnic Finns.

    As for were the ach-laut comes into this, some Swedes pronounce their ich-laut sort of like an ach-laut plus an English W. In Stockholm, this is a working-class trait.

    TJ in Sw. tjej is one of our many spellings for the ich-laut. The spelling of Swedish spirants preserves a lot of language history. It is quite inconvenient.


    1. Neither the ich-laut nor the ach-laut exist in standard English, whether RP or standard American. There may be regional dialects that still have the ich-laut, but none that I am familiar with. The soft CH sound in English is the sound that in German is spelled TSCH, while the SH sound is the one Germans spell SCH. English also has a hard CH sound, which is pronounced like a K.

      Standard English spelling is a many-to-many mapping which is difficult even for native speakers to deal with. It is common in the internet era for people to write “loose” when they mean “lose”, because the OO in the former and the O in the latter have the same value, while the S represents an S sound in the former and a Z sound in the latter. An extreme example: “fish” could plausibly spelled “ghoti”, with the GH in “laugh”, the O in “women”, and the TI in “nation”. It’s a stark contrast to Pinyin, where the spelling (including tone markers) uniquely specifies the pronunciation and vice versa.


      1. I have always, from the first German class I took, heard the ich-laute” as distinct from the SH sound. The latter is what I use in the examples you describe. But there could be dialectical differences, and this could also be a case akin to L/R in Chinese and Korean, which consider those two sounds to be the same phoneme. It is also possible that my German teachers were from a region where the ich-laute is more guttural than in other parts of Germany.

        English is more heavily influenced by Romance languages, especially French and Latin, than any other Germanic language. The Romance languages lost their guttural phonemes centuries ago (although Castilian Spanish appears to have re-acquired it from Arabic). Since the descendants of the Norman conquerors ruled England for several centuries after coming over from France, their lack of gutturals ultimately became the “standard” English.


      2. The ich-laut is not the English sh sound anywhere except in some Rhineland dialects (it is typical of Kölsch, the Cologne dialect). (In Berlin, at least in “ich”, it is pronounced like “k”.)

        Many languages have sounds which most speakers are not aware of. For example, English has aspirated and unaspirated p and t, depending on whether s or something similar comes first. Similarly, then n sound in ng is different than regular n.

        But also the German ich-laut (also used in many dialects of German at the beginning of a syllable like in China and Chemie) exists in at least some dialects of English, as in the name of the largest city in Texas, Houston. Some dialects have Yewston, some, like in the UK, Whoston. (Husten, pronounced the same way, is German for coughing, hence the corona joke “Husten, we have a problem”.)


  7. I have a buddy from a part of China where people don’t just consider L and R interchangeable, but N as well. His Swedish can be a little odd now and then, when he pours himself a glass of mink etc.


  8. Cantonese speakers never confuse R and L, but regard N and L as fully interchangeable. The tongue position is really pretty similar.

    My Hakka sister-in-law, of whom I am very fond, although trilingual in Cantonese, Hakka dialect (which sounds very funny – very musical) and not bad English, can’t pronounce L at all. When her son was born, she asked me to suggest a ‘propitious’ English name for him; something a bit different, not too common. I said: “Well, there was my Great Uncle Leonard. Ran away to sea aged 15 to escape from his tyrannical father [who after his death turned out to be a bigamist who had managed the trick of secretly maintaining two families simultaneously in different parts of the country, but that’s another story]. Smoked hand-rolled cigarettes all of his life. Lovely, gentle little guy; everyone loved him, and I never heard him say a single bad word about anyone. He was always the peace-maker in the family. Outlived his first wife and married a second one. He was still climbing up his almond tree to pick the almonds when he was in his 90s, and finally died when he was 98.” “Yes, good!” So the kid got named Leonard. Unfortunately, Hakka sister-in-law can only call him Nennard. Plus she doesn’t aspirate the final consonant, which is common to Chinese languages and dialects, so it comes out as Nenna. Oh well, we tried our best.

    Liked by 1 person

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