November Pieces Of My Mind #2

The Abdominal Snowman (drawing by Eric S. Östergren
after a ridiculous idea by Martin Rundkvist)
  • My older kid is in engineering school and my younger kid is shopping around for engineering schools. ❤
  • Does Duolingo have a course in the Neutral Good Alignment Language?
  • Sudden realisation: many of my favourite books were written by people much younger than I am now. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by 35-y-o Douglas Adams, The Dispossessed by 45-y-o Ursula LeGuin, Hyperion by 41-y-o Dan Simmons, Barrayar by 42-y-o Lois McMaster Bujold, Cat’s Cradle by 41-y-o Kurt Vonnegut…
  • In fiction people sometimes express mild surprise with an “Eh?”. I have no idea how this is pronounced and I can’t recall ever hearing anything similar. (People tell me Canadians will actually say [ei].)
  • Since growing up, I have never picked desultorily at my food.
  • Pleasantly surprising insight: I need to ask experts for advice on fieldwork near a Medieval blast furnace site, heavy proto-industrial stuff, and almost everyone I can think of is a woman.
  • Take it from me, kids. It is NOT A GOOD SIGN if, when you order jambalaya at an alleged Cajun place, the guy asks you if you want it with rice or French fries.

November Pieces Of My Mind #1

November rose
  • Movie: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). US high school comedy: friendship, love, sex, lessons, pot, jobs in fast food. Grade: OK.
  • Dreamed that I improvised a jazz tune by making trumpeting noises with my lips, and some elderly black musicians were kind of impressed.
  • Through streaming music I keep discovering artists that went through their primes in recent decades without registering with me, and now I’m like “Ariel Pink is amazing” ten years after everybody stopped caring about Ariel Pink. This is a new way of having an outdated taste in music, not identical to hanging on to artists you liked as a teen. At 50 I’m discovering artists who were cool when I was 35.
  • I worry that the refugee situation along the Belarusian-Polish border will start generating clandestine mass graves.
  • Even though Italy is twice as corrupt as the US, Berlusconi was sentenced to four years in prison. I am hopeful that lowest-of-the-low former president 45 will end up behind bars.
  • My university gives employees and departments a set amount of “points” for publishing in journals. 200 points for Antiquity, zer0 points for the local history newsletter. This is silly, and the points scale is manifestly unfair to some journals. But it suits me because it’s clearly defined. For the first time in my academic career I know the rules of the game I’m playing.
  • Smug academic: I just turned down a request for an unpaid article in a museum catalogue. Because it wouldn’t even give me any academic “points”. And at long last I feel like I don’t need to engage in brand-building activity any more.
  • Over a game of Kingdom Builder at the con I asked a guy what his job was. He kind of winced and looked really defensive, then told me he works in a big grocery store. I felt a bit helpless to meet with the unspoken expectation that I would look down on him. I just replied “Excellent, so you’re the guy who keeps us from starving.”
  • The Roman Empire was highly organised which demanded copious official correspondence and record-keeping. Imagine the vast volume of written sources that have been lost…
  • Some Boomers who believed you shouldn’t trust anyone over 30 now have grandchildren over 30.
  • Version 5.14.1 of the Kindle firmware reinstates the recently lost Back To Previous Location button, but placed bottom left.
  • Lord Dunsany is mentioned only rarely and briefly in Tolkien’s published letters and in Carpenter’s biography. But always as someone everyone is familiar with.

October Pieces Of My Mind #3

Toruń, Poland
  • What if the main purpose of your home is to produce wet and soiled toilet paper?
  • I post something soberly factual about gentrification in a Facebook group for local issues. Several people respond as if I had loudly criticised gentrification. Others, not reading my interaction with the first group, respond as if I had loudly endorsed gentrification. Before Internet access, you had to deal with your village idiot, but now you have to deal with every village’s idiot.
  • Emma Karlsson of the Östergötland County Museum has excavated the 10th century inhumation burial that Patrik Svantesson located in Aska’s ploughed-out East Cemetery a year ago!
  • Movie: Cabin In The Woods (2011). Five college students in rural isolation. A funny and smart send-up of slasher movie conventions: a horrific Truman Show. Grade: OK.
  • I study the Early Medieval elite, that organised young men in war bands to die pointlessly in battle against other war bands over very little. Young masculine violent idiocy still lives today. But young Einár no longer does. The futility, the waste.
  • Reading P.K. Dick’s 1977 A Scanner Darkly. Drug squad agent infiltrates junkie circle, takes lots of drugs, acquires split personality, forgets that the main junkie he’s reporting on is actually himself. 😃
  • Encountered a funny and sad street busker in Toruń. He had a huge sound system playing pre-recorded backing music, very professionally done with good musicians and sound engineering. But the busker himself was more like some karaoke dude who didn’t have much of a voice and didn’t know the lyrics very well. We got the impression that Mr. Big Voice Impressive Busker was having Sunday night off and his buddy had borrowed the setup.
  • 40 years later I suddenly understand a joke in ‘Allo, ‘allo. René’s mother-in-law is bedridden. Under her bed, downed English pilots are hiding with their radio transmitter. When they receive a message, the knobs on the old lady’s bedposts light up. And she shouts “I SEE FLASHING KNOBS!!!” I thought it was hilarious back then despite not understanding it. Must have been the laugh track.
  • Kvass is a really nice drink!
  • Uppsala Cathedral’s north tower has a Medieval bell looted from Toruń in Poland in 1703. According to an inscription it was cast in Chełmno. No larger Medieval bell survives in Sweden.
  • Packing For Mars is eleven years old! :-0
  • Old town churches in Poland are crowded in with houses. Small act of resistance: right across from the west main porch of one church, I saw a little rainbow flag on a balcony.
  • When a Swedish person says “an academic” while speaking English, they probably mean a uni graduate.
  • Many young Polish people don’t speak much English. A colleague of mine gave me a really illuminating perspective on this today. With regard to other languages, Poland (pop. 38 million) is like France (pop. 67 million), not like Sweden (pop. 10 million).
  • Tip: press ear to tree with woodpecker.

October Pieces Of My Mind #2

A pause in the metal detecting at Storsicke in Glanshammar
  • Here’s a new journal paper by myself and Magnus Green about a lovely yet obscure category of Regency era metalwork from Sweden and Norway. It’s my first contribution to post-1789 archaeology.
  • In the first Brother Cadfael mystery by Ellis Peters (1977), a Welsh serf describes a Norman lord as being “feudal”. Welsh inequality is idealised. Otherwise a fine depiction of the 12th century.
  • My new art project is to organise a conference on transhumance livestock rearing in the same venue and at the same time as a conference on transhumanism.
  • Looking forward to the Stockholm Film Festival. Most of all to watching Saloum: “Propulsively lurching with infectious glee from crime drama to modern-day Western to horror suffused with supernatural elements, this may turn out to be the rare African film that enters the international mainstream, or, at the very least, achieves cult movie status.”
  • Here’s my new paper about where and why certain types of gold torc and arm ring also occur in silver and bronze during the Roman Period.
  • I learned something sad about a friend who died a few years back. He was convinced that Swedish society was falling apart, and that it was the Muslims’ fault. He was so anxious about this that it kept him from sleeping. Must have been reading alt-right web sites and forums. I can report that the many Muslims in my area are in fact quite keen to keep society from falling apart.
  • Cycling shock this morning. I overtook a pedestrian, rang my bell, swerved out to leave space between us when I passed her — and she gave off a loud, shrill, horror-movie steamwhistle scream. Maybe she was wearing earbuds?
  • “To survive in this fascist police state, he thought, you gotta always be able to come up with a name, your name. At all times. That’s the first sign they look for that you’re wired, not being able to figure out who the hell you are.” P.K. Dick 1977, A Scanner Darkly, ch. 1
  • We’ve let loose 25-30 detectorists at three sites in Glanshammar parish selected for completely different archaeological reasons. All have proved to be thinly sprinkled with 9/10th century dirham coins from the Caliphate, which was not among the reasons that we chose the sites. I’m starting to wonder if all of agricultural Sweden is covered by a single cloud of thinly sprinkled dirham coins, which is only visible if you have either 25 detectorists or extreme patience.

October Pieces Of My Mind #1

Ferdinand Boberg designed this mini observatory for the Skansen open-air museum in 1910. Would you want one too?
  • All arguments that the 700s should count as part of the Viking Period can equally well be used to argue that the 800s should count as part of the Vendel Period. It’s a pointless thing to try to change.
  • Historical dictionaries: most have such a long production period that by the time the last volume appears, some of the first volume’s definitions contain words that have fallen out of use or changed their meaning.
  • I used to be hailed over the Internet for confused conversations by this woman who had a series of relationships with bus drivers and train drivers because she was into men in uniform.
  • Talked to a Vietnamese man. He told me I look like a foreigner.
  • Yay! Today’s new paper is my 190th archaeological publication! Thank you Poland for recognising and rewarding my academic work! ❤
  • A recurring mistake I made as a young Game Master was to spend way too much time writing adventures as if they would get published, instead of just making brief notes to be able to run them once. Random tables for encounters etc., overkill.
  • About the facial expressions actresses and models assume at photo shoots in order to look sexy. I think they’re super embarrassing. Real randy women don’t look like that at all.
  • Movie: Blood Simple (1984). Adultery, jealousy and a confused series of misunderstandings lead to murderous mayhem. Grade: OK.
  • Annoyed. A mandatory software update just removed the useful step-back button from my Kindle.
  • Jack Vance’s 1965 scifi coming-of-age novel Emphyrio mentions “the Star Wars” (ch. 5) in an enumeration of calamities that have befallen the city of Ambroy through the centuries.
  • The Dutch used to build cellar flooring that acted like a raft when the inevitable flooding occurred.
  • I got to push a baby stroller for an hour today! Passenger prattled and cooed happily. ❤

September Pieces Of My Mind #3

The most complete gold foil figures of 2021 from the Aska platform longhouse. Unfolded by Eddie Herlin, photographed by Björn Falkevik, edited by Cheyenne Olander.
  • Reading about Nordenskiöld’s July 1883 expedition onto the inland ice of Greenland. Sleds full of food and equipment pulled across extremely uneven ice by men, sweating from their exertions despite the cold. After 17 days they turn around because of hopeless ice. But Nordenskiöld asks two men to don skis and backpacks to go a little farther still. In one day they ski twice as far as the expedition has managed to pull the sleds in seventeen. Then they return to the waiting expedition at the same clip. These two are the Sámi expedition members Anders Rossa and Lars Tuorda.
  • The Polish term for an embossed credit card translates as “convex card”.
  • Imagine being a member of Culture Club and getting annoyed with the singer. And you’re like “He’s such a fucking primadonna, queening around and swanning about!”. And everybody’s like, “Um, yeah mate, can’t really argue with that…”
  • I really hate gratuitous plurals in academic writing. Exhibit A: “archaeologies”.
  • Melancholy Wikipedia chore: killing old bands you like. They may have released their last album and played their last gig in 2013. At some point you have to change the tense in the article’s lede from present to past.
  • Reading Chesterton’s Father Brown detective stories from 1911. Cars have handles instead of steering wheels.
  • Yay! Michael Chabon liked my tweet about Robert E. Howard!
  • Reading on about expeditions onto Greenland’s inland ice, I come across the Sámi members of Fridtjof Nansen’s 1888 expedition that made the first successful crossing of Greenland from one coast to the other. Like their compatriots on Nordenskiöld’s expedition five years previously, Samuel Balto and Ole Nielsen Ravna proved solid team members. The difference was that these men first had to get through the marine pack ice along the mini-continent’s east coast. Here too Balto and Ravna performed well. But they were convinced that they were going to die at sea, an unfamiliar element to them. During one risky camp night on an ice floe Nansen found the pair hidden away under a tarp, one reading to the other from the New Testament in Sámi.
  • On Machen and Chesterton: already in their day it must have created quite a silly effect with many readers that their big horrific reveals tend simply to consist of sin against the teachings of the Church.
  • I have long made a habit of ordering used books from the UK. Now they take ages to arrive. Well done, Brexiters. Most recently, 17 days from order placed to book received. During this time, the book travelled from Goring-on-Sea in Sussex via Austria (!) to my home in Stockholm.
  • In the 1960s the Americans dug an artificial cave in the middle of Greenland’s inland ice and put a nuclear reactor in it to avoid transporting kerosene there.
  • Here’s a magical love charm directed towards women and recorded from 1840s Sindh (Pakistan) by Sir Richard Burton. It’s called agathu chinnanu, breaking of the trouser string. You recite the charm over 7 (or 9) threads of raw cotton spun by a little girl, then roll them up and tie 7 knots on them. You then inform the woman that you are performing agathu chinnanu and she’d better just go to bed with you right away. If she refuses, you untie one of your knots, and her trousers drop by magic. If she pulls them up and refuses, you untie another knot, etc.
  • Movie: The Wicker Man (1973). Policeman goes to remote Scottish island to seek a missing child, discovers neo-Pagan sex cult. Lots of gratuitous breasts and Golden Bough references. Grade: OK.
  • One reason I didn’t think The Wicker Man was great is the big nude posing & butt shaking scene in the middle. I really don’t like having my porn and my storytelling mixed. Don’t yank my randy reflexes (not insignificantly developed) while trying to get me invested in your narrative. I lose track and I feel cheaply manipulated. (Of course, no moviegoer in 1973 had infinite amounts of internet porn available on their home and workplace desks.)

September Pieces Of My Mind #2

Go watch Villeneuve’s new Dune movie. Trust me!
  • Movie: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). Growing paranoid fear that the people around you might be alien impostors. Sketchy plotting and too long. Grade: OK.
  • So, who wants me to call them “Arne Saknussemm”?
  • Woah. If I want my upcoming paper in the Post-Medieval Archaeology journal to be Open Access, then that would cost €2,475 = $2,900 = SEK 25,000. That’s about ten times what I would have guessed.
  • The Haunting of Hill House is a pretty boring book, except inadvertently. “How weary one gets of this constant pounding”, Theodora said ridiculously.
  • Came up belatedly with a few points I should have made in my talk this past Saturday. ”I certainly don’t want to say that the study of early iron production is in any way disgusting or unnatural. It has become a fully respected part of our discipline. If people enjoy doing research into early iron production, then I think they should be allowed to and it is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just not my own personal inclination.”
  • Wonder if the Thin Lizzy “Jailbreak” pick-up line works — “Hey you, good lookin’ female, come here!” — even if you’re not Phil Lynott and it’s not 1976.
  • Movie: Dune (2021). Tragic, heroic, operatic, darkly beautiful. Will no doubt be remembered as one of this decade’s best SF movies!
  • One of the most pointless aspects of proof-reading today is that a lot of graphic design software does not reliably import italics, so the designer has to do them all by hand, and s/he always makes a mess of this to some degree.
  • There’s a Chinese food underground in Stockholm that I occasionally glimpse through my wife. People who grow vegetables no Swede has ever heard of on suburban allotments and sell them to restaurants. A WeChat group where you can order bespoke cold dishes and moon cakes for delivery to a few parking lots around town — provided that you can read and write Chinese.
  • I easily got used to having kids to mind. I’m finding it much harder to get used to not having kids to mind. Of course I’m happy that they grew up strong!
  • There’s an annoying inconsistency in the fact that Sweden’s two large Socialist parties have loads of members and voters who are also members of the Swedish Church.
  • Fredrik Strage played a Mob 47 track on his podcast. I was impressed and intrigued. Mid 80s hard-core punk music was clearly a much more important root for later extreme metal styles than mid 80s metal itself was.

September Pieces Of My Mind #1

Gold leather appliqué blanket, recreated on the basis of a museum piece, 15th century
  • “Overkill” and “The Ace of Spades” are pretty much the same song.
  • Sexologists have done big intercultural investigations of what men find attractive in women. There’s one huge factor that dominates the results, from Kamchatka to Table Bay. It’s not your age, weight, boobs or butt. It’s simply whether you act like you’d like to go to bed with the guy. Yes? You’re super attractive. No? You’re a plain Jane. Now, I just realised something. This means that the biggest built-in intercultural turn-on in us men is simply consent. Not bad!
  • Movie: John Carter (2012). Baroquely exaggerated sword & sandal in the tradition of Milius’s Conan the Barbarian. Grade: OK.
  • On Tenacious D’s 2006 track “Master Exploder”, Jack Black parodies over-the-top heavy metal singers who think they can blow your mind while actually blowing your mind with his over-the-top heavy metal singing.
  • Jarlabanke was a big landowner and an avid runestone patron in Täby near Stockholm during the 11th century. Runologist S.B.F. Jansson once quipped that he was quite saddened when a runestone was found announcing Jarlabanke’s death.
  • Love writing research! Currently a paper collecting the evidence for Aska hamlet as a possible assembly site in the period AD 1000-1350. I have the best job!
  • Unexpected feeling of familiarity and belonging in the History Museum’s Viking Period exhibition. I’ve never had a job at the museum despite a number of applications through the decades. But if knowing this period’s material entitles you to membership of the tribe, then I do belong after all.
  • Movie: Andromeda Strain (1971). A pathogen from space threatens humanity in what starts promising as a lavishly produced techno thriller. Soon it sadly bogs down into a long slow lavishly produced techno yawner. Grade: OK.
  • I napped on the ground in the woods today. I usually get extremely sleepy around half past one.
  • Imagine you’re at a conference about something you know super well. Maybe it’s been your job for decades. But nine tenths of the participants are completely ignorant of the subject. Of course you’ll find it pretty annoying to listen to all the ignorant questions asked there. But I’m guessing that what will really drive you nuts is the slew of enthusiastic and wildly inaccurate answers given to each question. That’s why I can’t stand the main Facebook group about Swedish archaeology.
  • In the mid 80s a young relative of mine was into synth pop and home computers. So he stole a Commodores album in a shop. He was disappointed.
  • Asked at the Swedish History Museum’s shop if they wanted some more copies of my Medieval castles book. “Yes please, bring us fifteen”. That’ll be the big backpack, then.
  • Hey steampunk people, I’ve got a paper coming up in the Post-Medieval Archaeology journal titled “Chivalrous Knights in the Age of Steam”.
  • The oldest, ugliest, clunkiest and flakiest web sites I use regularly are those maintained by major scientific publishing houses to handle submissions for their journals. In fact, modern submission website design could probably be used as a criterion to identify predatory fake online journals.
  • A memory from high school. It’s the last gym class of the spring semester. We’re playing brännboll outdoors. Suddenly two shirtless, deeply tanned men appear. One is carrying an axe in one hand and a gay porn magazine in the other. Our kind gym teacher Ola looks worried and goes over to speak to them. We all think “That guy is going to kill Ola with his axe”. But they leave quietly. What was that all about!?

August Pieces Of My Mind #3

My daughter’s moped helmet has started eating the bicycle helmets
  • Upload and download is hochladen und herunterladen in German.
  • Reading Grant Allen’s 1897 story collection An African Millionaire, I was surprised to find him referencing “L.s.d.” He describes a Tyrolean nobleman as being absolutely adamant about L.s.d. After some googling I realised that it meant “librae, sestertii, denarii”, or pounds, shillings, pence: simply money.
  • Movie: Streets of Fire (1984). Young love, rock ‘n’ roll and motorcycle gang violence on romanticised mean streets some time in 1954 or 1984. Grade: good!
  • Listened to a really good podcast about the Norwegian resistance during WW2. I knew very little beforehand and learned some bizarre & fascinating things. 1) The most effective resistance cells in terms of ​​committing sabotage successfully ​and avoiding capture were communists. They were considered highly problematic in the movement. 2) A small proportion of the movement was Norwegian and Swedish pre-war Nazis who considered themselves racially superior to Germans and did not want to be ruled by them. 3) Unlike the Danes, who helped all their Jews flee to Sweden before the Holocaust had even begun, the Norwegian resistance was not very interested in the Jews, and only 60% survived.
  • An odd memory surfaced. Somewhere in my childhood reading, I came across a description of the practice of newspaper masthead collecting, Sw. samla på tidningshuvuden. Apparently the idea is that you cut away the top ribbon from the front page of newspapers and collect them. Googling around in Swedish and English, I find that this must have been super obscure already in the 1980s and is even more obscure today. One of very few references I can locate is from respected Swedish author Pär Wästberg, who did this in his teens in the later 1940s. Hey everybody, let’s not collect newspaper mastheads!
  • Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys is one of my favourite musicians. Bizarrely, he’s the grandchild of a first cousin of the enormously influential logician Willard Van Orman Quine.
  • True story from a Swedish county museum. They have a number of 11th century coffins, quite a rare find category because wood rots and churchyards are extremely unsafe places to rest in where new graves are dug all the time. Now, for decades the museum has been unable to exhibit one of the best-preserved coffins. Because somehow it got stored in the boiler room. And then somehow big Bruce-Willis-in-Die-Hard ventilation ducts were installed there. And it turned out to be impossible to get the coffin past the ducts and out of the boiler room.
  • I learned long ago that noël is the Francophone ruin of an original Latin natalis. Still, I was shocked to find out just now that Etienne is a (probably severely inebriated) French attempt to say Stephanos.

August Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • As a 5-y-o Star Wars fan I was confused by the relationship between light sabres and Lifesavers hard candy.
  • Looking forward to spending a lot of time at the library of the Royal Academy of Letters again in the coming months.
  • Bought my first gig ticket since the pandemic started (Orange Goblin) and my first theatre tickets in years.
  • I wonder about those live D&D dungeons you could pay to enter in the UK in the 80s. They used to advertise in White Dwarf. In order to turn a profit they can’t have had a lot of staff. Were they incredibly lame?
  • Movie: Free Guy (2021). The Gnostic perspective of The Matrix and The Truman Show meets the expendable extras as protagonists of Redshirts. Grade: good!
  • Feeling energetic, enthusiastic, anticipatory about the autumn’s work and play.
  • Finally listened to some Watain. Not my style, but impressive musicianship.
  • I miss big solid mechanical power switches. My monitors have these ridiculously unreliable touch switches.
  • All over Scandinavia you can find trad jazz bands consisting of men in their 70s and 80s, playing Dixie music. Hardly surprising, you may say, old men playing old music. But they’re actually not old enough by far to belong to the original Dixieland audience. The bands started during a high school craze in the 50s, when kids either listened to early rock’n’roll or to Dixie revival. These old men have been playing old music since they were young.
  • Here’s a handy tip for all you fans of Asian cooking. When a recipe calls for edamame, you can always swap it out for Edamer instead. Save yourself a trip to the store!
  • You know when archaeologists find a human figurine and can’t tell who it represents? This can mean either that we don’t recognise the figurine’s iconographic attributes or that there are no particular attributes. And here’s the relief for us: in the second case, ancient people couldn’t identify the figurine either. They would rely on the maker or owner to tell them “This is supposed to be Ullr”.
  • My parents, my ex, myself, my wife, our kids and Cousin E have all been vaccinated.
  • Christian Frenchman proselytizing to guy on park bench just now: “Ze salary of sin is death”.
  • Movie: The War of the Worlds (1953). Martians invade a world where scientists are revered hunks, generals have little effeminate moustaches and non-white people live only in India. Grade: OK, but toweringly great for its time and genre.