January Pieces Of My Mind #1

First picture of a spacecraft over another planet: Tianwen-1 in orbit around Mars, photographed from a jettisoned micro-spacecraft that talks to the mother probe over wifi.
  • Suddenly remember the high schoolers I taught who asked if there was a movie they could watch instead of reading the book. *facepalm*
  • The 6th most cited of my publications is the journal version of my third term paper. Apparently for a combination of reasons: useful contents, highly visible online, has had 27 years to gather citations. Also take a moment to consider what it says about a 22-y-o when he thinks his third term paper should be in a journal…
  • Reading Magnus Västerbro ‘s excellent book about the Swedish plague outbreak of 1710. Learned something nasty: fleas leave dead bodies. So when everyone’s died in a building, the infected fleas move to the rats there, who take quite a long time to die from the plague. And when the rats are all dead… by that time some new people may have moved in.
  • Achoo is apsik in Polish.
  • Booster shot is Auffrischungsimpfung in German.
  • In Medieval and Early Modern churches, rich and important people were often buried indoors under the floor. More exactly, the coffin would be placed in a masonry burial vault — not in fact buried. This meant that for months after a funeral, churchgoers in pews near the grave would smell the slow microbial decomposition of someone they might have known during every church service.
  • A bit more than a year ago Sweden’s foremost pseudo-geology proponent N-A. Mörner died. A few weeks ago Sweden’s internationally most well-known Biblical pseudo-archaeology proponent Lennart Möller died.
  • Movie: Disney’s Fantasia (1940). Amazing psychedelic imagery set to amazing orchestral music. Grade: amazing!
  • Leopold Stokowski’s treatments of Bach in Disney’s Fantasia are the least Baroque versions I’ve ever heard of Baroque music, barring 70s rock bands.
  • Yesterday 1) I made friends with a small dog. 2) She growled and snapped at me because I tried to pet her when she was on her favourite couch. 3) We were friends again. 4) She growled and bit my hand hard because I sat on her favourite couch. 5) She begged me for some food. 6) She fell asleep on my foot.
  • Movie: Gimme Danger (2016). Jim Jarmusch’s documentary about the Stooges and Iggy. Grade: great!
  • Been cat-sitting for three weeks. The little dude just got it into his head that the rubberized anti-slip cloth under one of our rugs was a prey animal.
  • Through the years I’ve taken more shots against the flu and tick-borne encephalitis than I can count. But this is the first time that I take three shots against the same disease in eight months. Happy that the vaccine is available!
  • Pondered popular distrust of the government and establishment. Realised that my lack of such is hardly surprising since I consider myself part of the government and establishment. Not because of my party membership, which gives me almost no influence. I trusted the last Conservative government too.
  • Reading Edith Nesbit’s super funny 1899 book The Treasure Seekers. Strange to reach back past most of the children’s literature I’ve ever read to something J.R.R. Tolkien loved as a child. He called Nesbit “an author I delight in”.
  • As a child I was taught this bizarre piece of folk anatomy. To whit: the ring finger is connected differently to your hand than the other fingers, and it is particularly prone to injury. Once there was a famous pianist who over-trained his ring fingers, and it killed him!!! (Apparently this was a really distorted version of Robert Schumann’s fate, with some additional material from ancient ideas about the vena amoris.)

Author: Martin R

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

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

  1. When I was a kid, the thing to read were the Classics Comics that had surprisingly faithful graphic novel versions of the kind of books one had to read in high school. Before then, you had to, as my father put it, “get a pony”. That’s what they called those books with plot summaries, discussions and what not for such literature. Movies can add to the reading experience, but movies have limited time so they cut a lot and the script writer and director often have their own ideas.

    We have an outtake cel from Fantasia. They dropped a whole sequence with dancing ichthyosaurs. I wonder if they ever transferred the whole sequence to film and someone has a copy in a garage somewhere. Back in elementary school, my class visited Stokowski at Carnegie Hall. A friend of mine’s mother was the second violinist, so she arranged for us to visit during a rehearsal.

    Before one of my trips to the back of beyond, I took the preventive rabies series of three shots in a row on days 0, 7 and 28. I was warned that if I was possibly exposed to rabies, I should get to a medical center and get a proper series of shots but the the preventive series would buy me time. The preventive series gave me about a year of protection, so the whole thing was good preparation for COVID vaccinations.

    I remember those underfloor burials from when I visited Westminster Abbey. Even as a kid I assumed they dump the body in a sarcophagus until the flesh and organs rotted away and then buried what was left. Isn’t a sarcophagus something that eats the dead? I hadn’t considered they might just cram them under the floor boards.

    Since I went to a high school where some of the kids did serious research and published papers on the side, I’d figure that you were just another bright kid aiming for a research career. Some of those guys, it was an all boys’ school back then, were interesting to talk to. I had never even heard of cytology or cone space before. One recently retired from a research career. One of the others committed suicide in college ages ago.

    I’ve never warmed to Nesbit. I’m not sure of why.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There are above-floor and below-floor sarcophagi. Early Modern elite burial in Sweden was largely in large elaborate coffins stacked on the floor of an under-floor vault. As for reburial elsewhere of the excarnated bones, that was never the original plan but a very common eventual outcome. If people can see a grave, they will sooner or later go into it and mess with the remains for a wide range of reasons including archaeology.


    2. Bocaccio in the 14th century CE tells a story about a bishop’s funeral being scheduled and some thieves planning to break in to the vault that night and remove the rings and clothes. People with low and suspicious minds suspect that the same happened in Bronze Age Egypt.

      Liked by 2 people

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