Ascension Weekend Fun

Lake Öringesjön

Ascension Thursday is a red-letter day in Sweden, schools are closed on the Friday as well, and most adults take the Friday off, giving everyone a nice long weekend. For most of the 10s I spent two of these days at the LinCon gaming convention on the Uni Linköping campus. But because of the pandemic there hasn’t been a 20s LinCon yet. Here’s what I did for fun over the long weekend.

  • Hiked the Sörmlandsleden trail with my wife from Skogshyddan to Lake Öringesjön and back. Saw roe deer, grass snakes, great loons and lots of butterflies.
  • Listened to Depeche Mode’s Some Great Reward for the first time in ~30 years of mostly guitar psychedelia. It was the first album I bought on my own in ’84 or ’85. Not bad!
  • Played Nemesis, a semi-coop boardgame that re-creates the first two Alien movies. Kind of convoluted, probably much better when everybody knows the rules.
  • Finished reading Richard Russo’s excellent 1993 novel about small-town life in upstate New York, Nobody’s Fool.
  • Watched the movie Bone Tomahawk (2015). How to make a horror Western about saving the girl from cannibal rapists today: insert a scene where a Native American explains that the evil tribe are not his people. Grade: great!
  • Cycled to two far-off cafés for lunch.
  • Gardened with podcasts.
  • Played Chandler Groover’s tasty 2017 text adventure Eat Me.

Dear Reader, what did you do for fun?

Weekend Fun

lundsjön
Lakes Lundsjön-Dammsjön

It’s been a fun weekend and for the first time in weeks the weather’s been sunny. Much of Sweden has gone directly from meteorological autumn to meteorological spring without any intervening winter, and the country’s highest January temperature ever was measured: 12.5 C. Scary. But it’s been overcast. This was more fun.

  • Went to Linda Qviström’s thesis presentation (Medieval windows and indoor lighting, super solid work), chatted with colleagues.
  • Played boardgames: No thanks (short) and Shogun (long).
  • Went hiking with friends and their kids in the woods south of the mill ruins at Tyresö Nyfors.
  • Took a long hike or walk in the woods and fine housing area between our place and Solsidan commuter train station.
  • Had a piece of decadent chocolate-peanut cheesecake at the Kladdkakan Café in the Old Town.
  • Checked out the Jewish Museum, whose exhibition about Jewish history in Sweden firmly places its subject matter in relation to current immigration debate. I found the collection of branded wooden coat hangers from little post-war Jewish tailor businesses around Sweden quite striking.

Dear Reader, what did you do for fun this weekend?

Well-spent Summer

I’ll remember 2018 as my year of five jobs with the hottest summer I’ve seen. Here’s some of the best summer activities I devoted this frighteningly awesome season to.

  • Swimming
  • Water skiing
  • Sailing
  • Kayaking & canoeing
  • Mountain hiking
  • Geocaching
  • Topless cycling to work
  • Nocturnal cycling
  • Sight-seeing in Malmö and Copenhagen
  • Eating syllabub and raspberries off the bush
  • Sleeping outdoors
  • Dining outdoors
  • Listening to outdoor live music
  • Riding a steam boat and a steam train
  • A gaming con and a scifi con

What were your best summer activities, Dear Reader?

Weekend Fun – Fantastika 2018 – International Festival

20180616_162032 (1)
One of the least archaeologically visible events at Fisksätra’s Viking Period cemetery was Saturday’s visit by a fine Jamaican food truck.

It’s been a fun and intense weekend!

On Friday the Fantastika 2018 scifi con opened, conveniently located half an hour’s bike ride from my home, and I moderated a panel on Ursula LeGuin with my old friend Florence Vilén, Saara Henriksson and Markku Soikkeli. My wife came home from China, and two friendly con-goers that I know from my years teaching in Umeå stayed in our guest room.

On Saturday morning I fed my Umeå friends breakfast and then we went to the con where I gave a talk about Medieval castles. Thence back to Fisksätra for the annual International Festival, where I spent the day manning the Labour Party’s tent and canvassing for votes. Then back to the con and sit on a panel about empires in scifi and fantasy with the charming Linda Carey and my old friend Anders Blixt, moderated by my friend Hans Persson, had dinner with my old friend Erik Andersson and gave him an interview for the Fandompodden podcast. And back home to water the garden.

On Sunday morning I fed my Umeå friends, cycled back to the con, attended Hans’s geocaching meetup in front of the venue, bought some used paperbacks (Ryman’s Air, Roberts’s Salt, Reynolds’s Revelation Space) and listened to an interview with Mike Carey, a lovely man whose fine novels about Felix Castor the exorcist I enjoy (Aard regular Birger Johansson gave me those). Then I cycled back home, went skinny dipping in our nearby lake with my wife, napped for almost two hours, and drove the Labour tent & sundries back to my workplace. After dinner my Latvian Viking reenactor friend Artis Aboltins, who is visiting Stockholm for work, came by for coffee and sandwiches and to pick up a table he’d ordered for his sailing boat.

Oh, and Junior texted me that he’d namedropped me when talking to archaeologists at Slussen’s Open Day on his way to the Scifi Book Store, and my excellent Syrian driving pupil Obaida passed his driving test. ❤

All very good stuff! Dear Reader, what did you do?

June Pieces Of My Mind #1

artefact
Found an enigmatic fragment of an artefact from a bygone age.

  • Dad bragging: my kids are both fully fluent in Swedish and English. Jr speaks serviceable Japanese and Jrette speaks Mandarin. Both also have a smattering of French. Dudes, marry smart ladies!
  • When you have a really bad cold, your nasal mucus membranes are open wounds. And you keep blowing the scabs out of your nose to be able to breathe. You’d never do this to your knee.
  • There’s a housing area nearby named Talliden. Probably named for the thallid fungal creatures in Magic the Gathering.
  • Each Kindle has an email address. You can send PDF and EPUB files to it and have them show up on the device. Convenient! But if you buy an ebook for someone at Amazon, do not use this address. Use the person’s address or it won’t work.
  • Received a used washing machine. Gave it a trial run in the yard. Realised that the transmission belt had jumped. It turned out to be too short to put back on the wheels. I had an idea and put it in hot water, then dried it off, and it slid into place just fine. But then I found that the hub was damaged and immobilised.
  • A memory. In the Swedish Outdoor Association’s youth group, we were often told to bring a stick of wood from home so collectively we would have enough firewood without having to collect it in the forest.
  • Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” was a B side and he was surprised when it became a hit.
  • It’s obvious, but still I’m surprised. In 2002 Sweden’s current Minister of Culture (Greens) published an interview book about the country’s crown princess.
  • Planning a night out for our 19th anniversary. Thanks to Sweden’s recently much more intense contact with Afghanistan, I was able to buy tickets for an Afghan trio playing traditional music in the venerable Finnish Church as part of the Early Music Festival, and then dinner at Little Kabul.
  • YES!!! I got funding to design & print my Medieval castles book, and to cover the last finds conservation bill!
  • OK ladies, I know you wonder where all the sexy alpha males are tonight. Let me tell you, they are playing boardgames at my place. And they are gorgeous. Mmm-hmm.
  • Why does “Japanese Boy” by Aneka suddenly and unpromptedly start playing in my head over a quarter-century later?
  • Love boating on lakes and rivers whose shores I’m familiar with only from dry land.
  • Yay summer, a walk in the woods and immediately a tick on my Balzac.

WorldCon 75 in Helsinki

The 75th World Science Fiction Convention took place in Helsinki and seems to have had the second-highest attendance ever: more than 7000 people in the Messukeskus convention centre, 2000 of whom had (like myself) never attended a WorldCon before. There were 250 programme items only on the Friday between 10 am and 10 pm, so there is no way that I’ll be able to tell you everything that went on. (Check out the programme here.) Instead I’ll tell you the bits I enjoyed the most, plus some observations.

The WorldCon crowd was incredibly diverse even if you disregarded the cosplayers. Men and women and trans folks, old and young, white and brown, Western and Eastern and Sikh. Two couples that caught my eye, for instance, were a skinny Japanese guy and a well-favoured black lady who wandered about hand in hand, and a Scandy couple with their baby in a buggy where both parents wore dresses and lipstick but one appeared to shave daily. And the attendees awarded N.K. Jemisin the Hugo for best novel for the second year running. The Puppies movement of 2013–16 that wanted white masculine conservative technocratic Hugo winners, not a bunch of brown-skinned women and gay people, is well and truly an ex-parrot.

Awards that made me particularly happy (because here’s where my candidates won) were Hugos for Ursula Vernon (novelette), Ursula le Guin (related work) and Lois McMaster Bujold (book series). Also, my dear friend Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf won the prestigious Big Heart award for services to fandom, joining the august ranks of for instance Robert Bloch, Andre Norton and Jack Williamson.

The most interesting events I attended were Sonja Virta’s talk about Tove Jansson’s illustrations for The Hobbit, Karoliina Korppoo’s talk about boardgames in Finland, Kevin Roche’s talk about quantum computing and the Hugo prize ceremony.

The funniest events I attended were Lee Moyer’s presentation of weird and ugly book covers, Charles Stross’s reading from his forthcoming Laundry novel The Labyrinth Index (highly satirical – it has Nyarlathotep as main inhabitant of 10 Downing St.), the panel on mistranslations and the panel on Stockholm-Helsinki ferry culture.

My own programme items – a talk about crackpot archaeology in Scandinavia, a panel about Medieval reality vs fantasy, two Q&As about archaeology in the children’s room – all went super well, though the grown-up events could easily have filled much larger rooms than the ones we had been assigned.

I also enjoyed the short film programme, the art show and the socialising. I was lucky: my talk was one of the first events at the convention, so people learned early to recognise my face and several came up to me for a chat. Two of these conversations were particularly surprising.

1) The tall paunchy greybeard whom I didn’t recognise until minutes into the conversation, when I realised that he was an old Tolkien Society buddy that I hadn’t seen in a quarter century, and whom I remembered as a lanky beardless redhead.

2) The friendly Finn who had heard only 20 minutes of my talk before he and many other floor sitters were kicked out because of the fire safety rules, and who found the talk super interesting and wanted to hear more despite himself being a big believer in dowsing and several pretty far-out ideas about archaeological sites.

This was a super big, super rich and super well-organised convention. I found so much to do despite knowing nothing about the guests of honour and despite having no interest in several of the main strands of the programming (notably TV shows, comics, academic lit-crit and how to write fiction). Two years from now the WorldCon will be in Dublin, a city to which you can travel cheaply from Stockholm. I’ve never been to the Republic of Ireland. I’m thinking now that I’d really like to go to the con with my wife and then rent a car to spend a week at small-town B&Bs around the country.

Hiking In Abisko

Abisko national park is in the mountains of extreme northern Sweden, Sámi country, reindeer country, where half of the year is lit by constant sun and the other half is frigid darkness and aurorae.

Getting there takes 17½ hours by train from Stockholm Central. There’s a sleeper train with no changes, so if you only count time when you’re conscious, the trip takes 10 hours. You can fly to Arlanda airport and get right onto this train without making the detour into Stockholm. And the trail head is next to the platform when you get off.

Some friends and I went up hiking over the Mid-summer weekend 22–27 June, spending three nights in Abisko and two on the train. There are many huts and hostels in the area, so none of us brought a tent or a sleeping bag. Only Mårten brought a portable stove – to make espresso.

You don’t actually even need to bring a water bottle. There’s clean water in every stream. We arrived right at the start of the area’s hectic summer, with meltwater rivulets everywhere, innumerable flowers and a bewildering variety of bird calls. Very few mosquitoes bothered us. The treeline is near, so the landscape varies dramatically as your path lifts and dips. With a GPS or map and compass, of course, you needn’t even follow paths. The King’s Trail suffers from erosion, so the less people use it the better.

Check out the Swedish Tourist Association’s mountain hiking site.

Weekend Fun

Edmund de Waal at Artipelag
Edmund de Waal at Artipelag

It’s been a fun weekend! Here’s what I did.

  • Watched Jrette’s dance show, snappy and lively!
  • Inspired by Kate Feluś’s fine recent book Secret Life of the Georgian Garden, I made syllabub (whipped cream with lemon juice & rind, wine, sugar and a dash of grand marnier), and ate it while checking on the (encouraging) progress of our three tiny rose bushes.
  • Logged nine geocaches and failed to find two. One hadn’t been visited in the past nine months and contained no less than three travel bugs that had been languishing there. I brought them along and placed each in a different cache in a far more frequently visited area.
  • Watched the orange rabbit who has taken to munching for hours on the lawn outside our kitchen window, where hares sat a lot last year.
  • Visited the beautiful and beautifully sited art museum Artipelag, viewed a double-feature of Morando, who obsessively depicted pots, and de Waal, who obsessively mass-produces pots. At least Mrs. Rundkvist liked them.
  • Read Albert Sánchez Piñol’s 2012 historical novel Victus about an 18th century military engineer.
  • Played Yggdrasil (failing to prevent the Twilight of the Gods) and Plato 3000.
  • Scrubbed the carved 1970s sign with my surname on it that sits on the street end of the garden shed. It needs oiling.

What did you do, Dear Reader?

Weekend Fun

Space Wale
Space Whale

The past two weekends were a lot of fun.

  • The Royal Technical College’s orchestra and several combined student choirs from Sweden and Finland performed Giuseppe Verdi’s 1874 Requiem, an intricate and operatic farewell to fellow composer Gioachino Rossini and poet Alessandro Manzoni.

    Hallwyl House: carving in the doorway between the ladies' drawing room and the Golden Salon.
    Hallwyl House: carving in the doorway between the ladies’ drawing room and the Golden Salon.
  • Gig with King Khan and the Shrines. Imagine a tall, psychedelic, semi-nude, portly, Canadian Wilson Pickett of Indian extraction belting out soul rock with a band consisting of extremely enthusiastic Germans. First time I’ve seen a horn section playing to a microphone stuck down the front of the lead singer’s hot pants.
  • Played Elfenland and Plato 3000.
  • Watched the 1955 Brando-Simmons-Sinatra-Blaine movie version of the 1950 musical Guys and Dolls. Impressed by Brando, didn’t know he could sing. Ugly sets and boring dialogue though. The reason that we watched it was that Jrette is playing Nicely-Nicely Johnson in an upcoming school production. Made me want to read some Damon Runyon.
  • Gig organised by Undergången with three unsigned Swedish psych acts. Space Whale are four very young and very strong musicians with excellent songs. They really blew me away! Besvärjelsen are a heavier and more metal-oriented quintet that I would really like to hear studio work from. And the Magic Jove trio are basically Cream. Extremely proficient musicians!
  • Hallwyl House: Swedish logging magnate’s daughter marries Swiss count and has some of 1890s Stockholm’s best architects and artists build them a town palace, no expenses spared, which she proceeds to fill with Early Modern art and craft objects. All of this remains in place and is now a museum, large parts of which is free of charge, and which is located a short walk from the Central Station.

King Khan
King Khan

Weekend Fun

One of four grotesque male faces on a 17th century object in the Tre Kronor castle museum. The piece looks like a little baptismal font, but the label says "possibly a kitchen mortar". Neither function seems likely.
One of four grotesque male faces on a 17th century object in the Tre Kronor castle museum. The piece looks like a little baptismal font, but the label says “possibly a kitchen mortar”. Neither function seems likely.
Had some quality fun this past weekend.

  • Dinner at Tbilisis Hörna, a Georgian + Greek + Italian restaurant. Service was slow and unsynched but the food was great. The deep green tarragon soda in a bottle with almost exclusively Georgian script on the labels added to the sense of not being anywhere near Stockholm.
  • Gig at the Globe Arena’s annexe with psychedelic Australian genius Kevin Parker and his band Tame Impala.
  • Chinese banquet cooked by my wife and sis-in-law, to celebrate the end of the Year of the Wooden Goat and the beginning of the Year of the Fire Monkey. I got out my old mini steam engine and oversaw Jrette operating it with her cousins.
  • Visited the museum in the basement of the northern wing of Stockholm’s Royal Castle, to learn more about its Medieval predecessor that was torn down after a major fire in 1697. Not very informative, mainly a lot of 17th century sculpture fragments. A few Medieval coins were in a tiny, poorly lit glass-topped depression in the floor where you could barely make them out. But one wall of the basement is the castle’s 13th century perimeter and the other is 15th century building fronts, so that’s something. This level was the ground floor at the time: the closest you can get to visiting the Medieval castle.
  • First semla of 2016. Mmm…
  • Bach’s Mass in B minor at Nacka Church, the last major work he completed, played on period-style instruments by the Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble. Silver trumpets!

Dear Reader, what did you do for fun over the weekend? It’s an important issue: fun is after all the meaning of life.