March Pieces Of My Mind #2

7th century brooch from Västergötland
  • A nasty thing about Twitter is how random people will attack you out of the blue, often with incomprehensible logic. Can you US folks explain to me if this makes any sense in your cultural and political context? Scientist on Twitter: ”I wonder how common it is for women to discover very late in their pregnancies that they are pregnant.” Me: ”Probably depends on whether you are in an area with comprehensive sex ed.” Random Twitter person: ”That’s classist!”
  • Annoying: when you click on an interesting headline and it leads to a fucking film clip, not text.
  • Some guy in Gothenburg is advertising Beowulf tourism in Västergötland to the readers of British Archaeology. His only publication is an applied physics dissertation from 1997. He’s a member of the main regional-patriotic association. He might be a good guide, what do I know?
  • “The name Excalibur ultimately derives from the Welsh Caledfwlch (and Breton Kaledvoulc’h, Middle Cornish Calesvol), which is a compound of caled “hard” and bwlch ‘breach, cleft’.” (Wikipedia)
  • Someone I know reports that if you turn off your mike during a Zoom meeting and give a big fart, the software helpfully alerts you that your mike is not on.
  • Congratulations Jrette, just now elected to chair the student council’s executive board at Nacka High with 2,500 students! ❤
  • I’ve been using my Garmin GPSMap 60CS a lot for the past 15½ years: for archaeology, for geocaching and for hiking. But it’s started to turn itself off unpredictably, it hasn’t got the current Swedish survey coordinate system, and I can’t re-flash its software. So today I got its descendant model 65, in good time before this year’s fieldwork season starts.
  • Prince’s “When Doves Cry” really has a unique sound. Always amazed when I listen to it.
  • The scilla is ready for spring, and so am I!
  • Swedish advertising copy writers often express themselves in English because they believe the customers think this sounds cool. Is there anywhere in the English-speaking world where you would find the words BIG SIZE WHITE SYSTEM on a toothpaste tube?
  • Love this. I went from Somerset Maugham to his secret agent character Ashenden to Virendranath Chattopadhyaya to the German Friends of India to Dr. Inanendra Das Gupta who developed the first Swedish plastics. Then I created an article about Das Gupta on German Wikipedia.
  • Arthur C. Clarke’s 1949 story “The Lion of Comarre” has people who spend all their time in immersive virtual reality porn.
  • Imagine collecting meteorites on the ice of Europa.
  • I write this piece about Viking Period harbour sites for a small regional journal, and they want to cut all the scholarly bits out to make it more accessible. So I withdraw the piece and submit it to a bigger national journal, and they turn it down because there’s not enough scholarly bits in it. *sigh*
  • Today’s the anniversary of when I started my coronavirus quarantine. Cycling instead of riding trains & buses, avoiding shops etc. I already worked from home before.
  • Scandinavian animal art (AD 375-1125) is extremely nerdy and intricate. At first you understand nothing, and it’s an extremely deep rabbit hole to fall into. One good way to understand this stuff is to colour it in. This rectangular brooch (above) from the period 670-700 shows a common motif with a big beast turning its head over its shoulder and biting across its own body. But then there’s some other stuff interlaced with it. Annelie Nitenberg, finder Andreas Blomqvist and I wondered if it might be a second beast. So I coloured it in and found that no, in this case the big beast simply has four legs, which is unusual. The extra legs are khaki. They aren’t attached at the hip or shoulder, but instead form extensions of the spiral spurs on the two standard feet.
  • The most vulnerable 10% of Sweden’s adult population have now received one shot. 4% have also received a second shot.
  • Me and my nerdy buddies spent most recesses during middle school in the library. We liked to read Reader’s Digest’s Amazing Stories, Amazing Facts (1975), whose trashy Fortean contents were not very factual, but certainly amazing. Then when we graduated I was one of the kids who were ceremoniously given a book for our good grades. You may wonder with what kind of solidly academic or agelessly classical reading matter did Saltsjöbadens Samskola send me out into the world? Reader’s Digest’s Amazing Stories, Amazing Facts!
  • Universal Basic Income is fiscally conservative. But it goes against the idea of helping the “deserving” poor only. So it’s not morally conservative.
  • Lake Mien near Tingsryd in Sweden is an impact crater.
  • Överby was a hamlet near Erstavik manor, 20 mins by bike from my home. The name means “upper settlement”. It is likely to have been established in the 9th or 10th centuries judging from the prehistoric grave monuments strewn around the edges of its land. Written mentions of Erstavik from 1356 onward probably refer to Överby, because the Early Modern site of the manor is too low over the sea level to have been habitable at that early date. It is very visibly the lower settlement. The two sites are only 1.7 km apart, little more than a mile. The last building standing at Överby served as the rural area school and was torn down around WW1. Its greystone foundation and the collapsed remains of its brick chimney are clearly visible. The Sites and Monuments Register has 13 certain grave monuments around Överby. My excellent colleague Tove Stjerna (who made the neat maps for my 2015 Bronze Age book) recently found three more. I went out to have a look and take GPS coordinates & pictures.
Solitary grave monument due north of Överby hamlet’s site, recently discovered by Tove Stjärna

Author: Martin R

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

17 thoughts on “March Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. Your experience with Twitter is not at all unusual, and that is a major reason why Twitter has not yet passed my “the advantages of having this outweigh the annoyances of having this” threshold. (Facebook also has not passed that threshold for me, and probably never will.) From what I understand Twitter can be a source of pointers to good news stories that might be in publications not on your radar (things like regional newspapers), but political Twitter is a toxic zone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. yes, I spent a while early in the pandemic looking at birdsite and nope. Some people I am interested moved there, but I don’t have a good way to filter out the partisan nonsense and the retweeting of clickbait. And intensive birdsite use does weird things to people’s minds.


  2. “Big Size White System” sounds like Engrish or Chinglish to me. It’s not something a native speaker would say, at least not in US English. For that matter, most Swedes that I have encountered speak better English than that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Twitter is like middle school. It’s full of dumb kids mouthing off, generally ignorantly. Unlike Twitter, middle school kids have an excuse. They’re middle school kids. I still haven’t figured out why anyone, except perhaps middle school bullies who haven’t gotten over it, bothers with it.

    “Big Size White System” is wonderfully non-idiomatic. When languages collide, the grammar rules usually go first. The words remain. Children with no common language will create their own. The technical term for such a mishmash is a creole. English, which lost gender and half its grammar after 1066, is usually the example given, but that sign language creole in Nicaragua is special in that it doesn’t involve spoken language.

    Borrowing foreign words to lend cachet – for example using a French word like cachet in an English sentence – is an old practice. I always love what the Japanese do to English when they get a good grip on it and make it their own. I remember Walt Kelley, the cartoonist who created Pogo, having a character ask what language ancient Romans used for the old 24 karat bamboozle. If you’ve read your Romans, you’d know it was Greek.


  4. The sign language creole in Nicaragua was one of the few creole language news that I have managed to remember for years.
    If English remains the dominant language another century, Swedish will be all anglo-swedish creole.
    I love the photo of the old grave site. Our really old artifacts up north are far more subtle.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice thoughts there, Martin. I enjoyed reading them. There are several ongoing Universal Basic Income projects in the U.S. One, in Stockton, California, appears to be very successful in improving the random recipients that received the $500 per month over the last 2 years.
    On the Corona front, we just arrived back to Sweden after living in the U.S. for the last 35 years. I’m American, my wife is Swedish. We fall on the side of wearing masks in public and are surprised how relatively few people in Sweden have one on at the stores, etc. Do you have a strong science-based opinion on this topic? Based on what we have read we’ve convinced ourselves that the masks help protect us and others but that opinion here causes a lot of people to get very angry, very quickly. We don’t proselytize when we’re out and about but we do get dirty looks from time to time and one pizza store owner didn’t like us coming in to pick up our pizza with our masks on. Anecdotally, I’d say masks help stop and slow the spread of this virus, but, alas, I’m not a scientist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is well known that Sweden took a different path in this matter and, in terms of deaths per capital, is doing worse than most other places, despite the fact that traditionally Swedes aren’t known for tight congregations. So no surprise there.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Just a quick note that yet another Guaranteed Basic Income project is coming to California this year. I’m not from California, but Wisconsin, originally. We are newly returned to Sweden so it’s fun to connect with some people here.

      “On Tuesday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf presented the details of the Bay Area’s new guaranteed income pilot program. This plan purports to be one of the largest pilot programs of its kind, offering up $500 a month for 18 months to 600 families. One of the important distinctions of the guaranteed income pilot program is that there are no work requirements, nor any strings attached to how a family uses that money.

      Referred to as “Oakland’s Guaranteed Income Pilot,” the program looks to find effective ways to help curtail the widening wealth inequality gap that Oakland, like the rest of the world, is facing.”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Where I live, you get very dirty looks if you are not wearing a mask – it’s illegal, so you could well be stopped by a police officer and fined a pretty hefty fine.

    I don’t understand at all why people would object to others wearing masks – it’s not like it’s doing them any harm; in fact it is helping to protect them, in the event that you are infected.

    Masks help to protect both the wearer and others. They don’t stop everything, but there is no sense in making the perfect the enemy of the good. The facts are very clear that wearing masks is a lot better than not wearing them.

    This has nothing to do with personal freedom, and everything to do with trying to help to protect the health of the community.

    Personally, I don’t like wearing them – they bug me and make it more difficult to breath, and they are uncomfortable in hot weather. But I wear one. It is the socially responsible thing to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In Western movies the bank robbers typically have bandanas over their nose and mouth to conceal their faces. That’s probably one major source of opposition to wearing masks. The thing is, in the actual West of the late 19th century it was normal for people to wear bandanas over the nose and mouth. The combination of arid climate, occasional strong winds, and horse traffic could make things quite dusty in and around a town, and since N95 masks had not been invented yet, people used readily available bandanas instead. Bandanas are quite adequate to that task, and in fact I used bandanas in a similar fashion the first few weeks of the pandemic, before I was able to obtain an adequate supply of cloth masks.

      Another issue with masks is that, if they don’t fit properly, the escaping hot air can fog your glasses (not an issue for people who don’t wear glasses, but I do). It takes some care to get the fit right. When the weather is cool enough for me to wear a jacket, I can deal with that problem by temporarily taking off my glasses (I would have difficulty reading, but I can see well enough to see the street or footpath in front of me).

      But as you say, the benefits of wearing a mask (protecting yourself from others and others from you) outweigh the annoyances when there is a pandemic about.

      Liked by 1 person

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