November Pieces Of My Mind #3

Lilla Sickla with its boardgames gazebo
  • With three weeks left of my first stint with the Örebro County Museum, I have scored a fun assignment. I’m looking at everything from the Iron Age in the province of Närke, starting with the Swedish History Museum’s online catalogue. It’s for a survey of powerful people during the period 150-800, similar to my 2011 book about the adjacent province of Östergötland.
  • In addition to the very productive Kent Andersson and Kenneth Svensson, I’ve discovered that there is also a Kenneth Andersson in Swedish archaeology who is not a lazy man either. Now I’m confused.
  • One hundred pages into Casanova’s autobiography he is still a virgin.
  • Syphilis was endemic in Central America in 1492 and raged through Old World populations in the same way as smallpox did in the New World after contact. Sadly it appears that modern Native Americans have no particular innate protection against the STD.
  • Space-time is expanding. The universe is like a rising dough. Our planet is a grain of starch caught in the gluten filaments of gravity.
  • I’m glad I bought the scifi role-playing game Ashen Stars and got such a good, dependable group together after all these years. I enjoy the prep and the play sessions and the shared storytelling!
  • The Mars InSight lander has been active on Mars for three years today!
  • Four people who went to Narbonne High School in L.A.: Frank Black of the Pixies, Mat Kaplan of Planetary Radio, Quentin Tarantino, Bo Derek.

November Pieces Of My Mind #2

A pretty nice view on the road I cycle to town
  • Re-reading Trollkarlens hatt / Finn Family Moomintroll. As a teen I found it childish and a little silly. Now I love it again. ❤
  • OK young folks, of course you revel in health and beauty and youth. But there is more to come! You have never yet experienced the sublime fulfilment of finally tweezing an elusive bristle out of one’s ear!
  • All political parties emphasise “freedom”. The Right means freedom for rich people. The Left means freedom from rich people.
  • Santería is an African diasporic religion that developed in Cuba between the 16th and 19th centuries. It arose through a process of syncretism between the traditional Yoruba religion of West Africa and the Roman Catholic form of Christianity. All Finnish men named Santeri are members.
  • Europeans hate US elections where the Electoral College overrides the popular vote. But if the EU had a federal president chosen by popular vote, the <10 million Swedish voters would have very little influence on who was elected.
  • Impressed by Dr. Hannes Rolf’s new PhD thesis titled A Union for the Homes — collective mobilisation, tenant organising and power struggle on the rental market in Stockholm and Gothenburg 1875-1942 (main text in Swedish).
  • The Viking Period ship burial currently under excavation at Gjellestad is only 5.4 km from the Swedish border. Dammit!
  • The classic and highly inventive horror writer Arthur Machen translated Casanova’s autobiography into English.
  • Cycled home from town, took an hour, then had hot chocolate and my own toasted sourdough with Västerbotten cheese before bedtime. ❤
  • Using the ZooMS method, Sam Presslee of the University of York has identified the animal species sacrificed prior to the building of the Aska platform mound: horse, as an unnamed 1980s osteologist had already determined. Also the animal species whose bone was made into gaming pieces used in the Aska mead-hall: right whale, Eubalaena glacialis, Sw. nordkapare. This beast measures 13-16 m in length and weighs about 100 tonnes. The bone was probably collected from a hunted or beached whale on the coast of Norway and traded via Kaupang or Heimdalsjordet.
  • Should I try to get the phrase “Don’t Hassle The Hoff” into my report on the fieldwork at Hassle in Glanshammar?
  • Listening to a podcast about Japanese military & civilian mass suicides on Saipan and Guam in 1944. And I recall the Swedish Extreme Right’s “victory or death” rhetoric in the 2018 election. Oh, you little absolute shits.
  • Old guy posts a map of a nearby area dating from the 1700s where all the relatively low-lying agricultural land and bog has been cut out to represent the sea. Claims that this is what the Medieval shorelines were like. I take a deep breath, get a real shoreline map from the Geological Survey’s site (where anyone can get it) and post it with some friendly words.

November Pieces Of My Mind #1

The Ektorp pizza place burned down. )-:
  • Zoologists preserve animals in formaldehyde. I wonder if botanists preserve cucumbers likewise.
  • Little more than seven weeks to the solstice now!
  • One new thing that streaming music has brought to my listening habits is that there are now loads of bands that I only know through one or two tunes that I listen to frequently. I never listen to albums, and so I have no idea what else these people have done.
  • Stendhal and Sir R.F. Burton were both consuls in Trieste, though decades apart.
  • I’m directing a big-budget Bollywood remake of Glee. It’s titled Ghee.
  • In a landmark development, this morning I tied my first Windsor knot without referring to YouTube. And got the tie ends aligned correctly on the first try.
  • Hey everyone who’s living with a lawyer, does your love life involve a lot of jokes about your partner “getting you off on a technicality”?
  • I like the Papa Lee cake shop in Finntorp. It’s run by two Northern English brothers. Today I had a mince pie and a Lancaster Wotsit, like a mazarin with orange-peel flavour.
  • There was a Soviet Israel, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, bordering on NE China. Almost no Jews live there anymore, because it’s really the ass end of nowhere.
  • If it goes to shit, I’ll have to mute or unfollow several hundred American social media contacts in order to avoid news about their country for four years. Is there a browser plugin that swaps all US news for Uruguay news?
  • It always makes me super proud and grateful when my learned friends take the time to explain complicated issues to my children. It takes a village to raise a child. Today, Anders Blixt is giving Jrette an expert perspective on the various Afghanistan conflicts.
  • I don’t know how to get a “ę” on my Swedish keyboard. Every time I need to write “Thank you very much”, Dziękuję bardzo, I google the phrase and copy it from the Wikipedia article about New Age musician Klaus Schulze’s thirty-ninth album.
  • Amazing how little Boomer academics needed to do. I’m looking at a recently retired historian who’s had a really successful academic career, as measured in jobs. He’s got 17 publications in the main Swedish bibliographical database, including book reviews.
  • In the mid-00s I didn’t know that the two versions of the Swedish National Coordinate Grid in my GPS navigator gave slightly different coordinates. There are a few metal detector sites where I don’t know which version I used. Now I’ve tested this at one site by doing a massive 15-person re-survey and comparing the new find scatter with the old one. It’s quite clear which version of the 2006 scatter fits with the 2020 one.
  • The Danish Portable Antiquities Scheme has just registered its 100,000th find. Tillykke! Sweden, meanwhile, has no PAS at all.
  • I used to be weak and puny, but I’ve been working out and I expect to achieve complete impunity real soon.
  • The parable of the prodigal son is about how God is always happy to take you back if you repent of your sins. To me though, it’s like the father in the parable is not actually my dad. And I haven’t squandered my inheritance, I’ve just been hiking. Which kind of obviates the whole scenario.
  • Anybody know where I can buy a Quran printed in Younger Futhark runes?
  • Black Francis / Frank Black of the Pixies is trolling the outgoing president on Twitter.
  • Participating in a survey by some linguists at U Katowice. The questions suggest that there’s a big debate in Poland about making the country’s scientific output accessible to the wider world. They assume that most respondents speak good Polish and possibly no other language. My recent recruitment to U Łódź fits this pattern: no Polish, four other languages.

October Pieces Of My Mind #3

National Library, Stockholm
  • So smart rich people trick poor uneducated people into believing that it lies in their interest to vote Republican. And then the poor uneducated people take the party over and make an insane game show host its leader. Divine justice.
  • Been playing a surrealist Call of Cthulhu scenario. Had dinner with 18 copies of a person, all of whom were completely oblivious to the strangeness of this. There was also a nude feral lady climbing facades in January.
  • Swedes testing positive for COVID19 have gone up sharply in the past five weeks, but ICU admissions have not. This suggests that we’re way better at protecting risk groups now than we were in spring.
  • I’m fascinated by the nimbleness of human hands, how we can hold two largish objects in one hand and manipulate them or even a third object. [Nudge disclaimer]
  • Jrette likes to expropriate my psychedelic band T-shirts. ❤
  • These trimonthly digests of Fb entries are extremely useful as a mine for anecdotes and jokes when I’m asked to give a talk or sit on a panel.
  • We had a couple of Raymond Peynet’s romantic cartoon collections at home when I grew up. I’ve never encountered his work elsewhere.
  • So depressing that the only music mags available in Swedish stores are various versions of Rock History Quarterly. No, I do not want to read a feature on Small Faces!
  • Planned my Stockholm Film Festival early this year because of the limited seating.
  • Movie: House of Hummingbird (2018). Young Korean teen girl goes through nearly unleavened woes at a glacial pace. Grade: Fail.
  • Suddenly remember a 90s mystery novel where the author describes in great detail how the main character uses Norton Commander.
  • Whenever someone writes “it beggars the imagination”, I think it’s fair to consider that it might be a typo for “it buggers the imagination”.
  • Sir Richard Francis Burton had injera in Somaliland. He calls them ”sour grain cakes” in his 1856 book First Footsteps in East Africa.
  • Around 1960, young Swedish men saved money to be able to do the honourable thing and pay for a young woman’s trip to Poland in case of an unwanted pregnancy. Now we should offer Polish women the same support.
  • I’m curating and producing a tribute anthology album titled STEELEYE DAN / STEELY SPAN, where young jazz rock bands interpret Steeleye Span songs and young folk rock bands interpret Steely Dan songs.
  • I don’t remember much of what I read. I’m trying out the idea that maybe this doesn’t matter, that the point of reading for pleasure is just in the moment. Reading not to eventually have read a book, but to be reading right now.

October Pieces Of My Mind #2

Though we mostly had sunshine, Saturday morning at Hassle in Glanshammar was spectacularly misty.
  • At our house it’s permanently International Book Week.
  • I’ve noticed a large percentage of highly skilled amateur photographers among metal detector hobbyists.
  • The Swedish Extreme Right emphasises Nation and Shared Tradition in public, and genetics in private. It’s strange to find so many Finns in the party, like Richard Jomshof. Neither shared nation, tradition nor genetics.
  • Why isn’t White Pride OK? Frankly, because if your ancestors have not seen centuries of enslavement and systemic racism, then you’re expected to have something better than your innate skin tone to be proud of.
  • There’s a Welsh colony in Patagonia named Gaimán.
  • Got group email from my employers. My Polish is very weak but I could just barely understand it. They’re offering me an online course to learn English.
  • I desire few objects. Teapots are among them.
  • I’ve been listening to the Real Polish podcast for almost a year now. It’s gradually getting more comprehensible. Recent episodes have been about quantum computing, Nietzsche and the history of Belarus.
  • I love the feral rabbit that burrows behind our house and grazes outside the kitchen window most mornings. It’s got a good winter coat coming on now. Hope it’ll make it through its 4th winter here.
  • My working days have been quite solitary for the past year and a half. Of course the pandemic made it worse. I go to the Academy of Letters’ library a few times a week though. Not because I always need to use it — more to see a few colleagues and exchange a word or two with the librarians, see something besides home.
  • The 1897 Andrée expedition perished because they had a really bad balloon that crashed into the Arctic. I am passionately, indeed PANTINGLY, uninterested in any details of their last days that new analyses of their diary fragments might now divulge.
  • Dear Americans, let me remind you that in Sweden, AOC would be a vanilla politician. You know where to move if shit goes south. Welcome!
  • Bon Jovi was hugely influential to early Black Metal. Fight me.
  • UK shooting estates breed enormous numbers of semi-tame pheasants. “In September, just before the beginning of the shooting season, total pheasant biomass is about 1.6-1.7 times the total biomass of the British breeding bird population estimate for spring. In September, pheasant biomass is at its highest point of the year while in the spring the biomass of the UK resident breeding bird population is at its lowest”
  • Martin Edlund chose the site. I didn’t believe in it much. We invited 25 members of the Swedish Metal Detector Association. That kind of intensity is very rare in a Swedish metal detector survey. After two days’ work (more than five full-time weeks for a single person), Hassle in Glanshammar now has not only the region’s biggest Bronze Age hoard (~600 BC, found in 1936), but also the region’s richest 1st Millennium AD settlement site. The question now is whether Hassle is the source-critical glitch or if the rest of the region is. Contract archaeology will never be given the means to resolve it. Örebro County Museum is running a unique programme of cooperation, and I am proud to take part! (Sw. hassle means Hazel Grove.)
  • I’ve got a bunch of 17th century relatives named Wankif. (Insert obvious wanker joke here.) The first one is Jöns Nilsson Wankif, parson of Asarum in Blekinge 1656-64 and a direct ancestor of mine in generation 11. I’ve been wondering about this name. And now I find that it’s simply Vankiva parish near Hässleholm in Scania.
  • All the metals in a space probe come from named mines, often bearing older names for the sites. Thus a space probe consists of fragments of cultural landscape.
  • When cooking Chinese, make very sure that you’re adding weijing to your dishes, not Wade-Giles.
  • Remember how great Dudley Moore and Eddie Murphy were in the early 80s? Wouldn’t it be superb if they were in the same movie? Well they were in Best Defense (1984). And it’s awful. Moore and Murphy are never even on-screen at the same time.
  • The Netherlands, another highly civilised Western country, takes the path of open collaboration between professionals and amateurs in recording archaeological finds, thus making us Swedes look even more backward and strange in this area.
  • Oh. There’s not just a presidential election coming up in the US, where the Republican candidate is facing really bad numbers. There’s an election to the Senate as well on the same day. And those numbers are clearly being influenced by the abysmal presidential incumbent. Tee-hee.

October Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Between them, the players in my role-playing group happily spent build points on every investigative skill available to them except Flirting. Nobody wanted to be able to do that.
  • I love Eurythmics’ 1983 album Touch. But I’ve never realised how extremely odd the synth-calypso tune “Right By Your Side” is, particularly in this collection. It’s even got fake steel drums.
  • Gwen Stefani takes literary sides: ”Few times I’ve been around that track / So it’s not just gonna happen like that / ‘Cause I ain’t no Houellebecq girl / I ain’t no Houellebecq girl”
  • Lois McMaster Bujold’s novels and stories of the planet Barrayar are Ruritanian romances with space ships and disruptor guns. Don’t know why it took me so long to recognise it. Barrayar could easily be a country in the Balkans c. 1910.
  • I’ve published a little fiction and poetry in my time. The other day I was thinking to myself, why don’t I do that more? The answer, I realised, is that nobody including myself really wants it much. Real artists speak of the creative compulsion. What little I have of that is amply satisfied by my blog and other non-fic writing in and out of popular outreach. And there is no money in poetry or fiction.
  • When I post pics of finds I can’t classify online I get few answers. This annoys me because I need help. But it also pleases me because it means I kind of know my shit.
  • RPG realisation: a dungeon is the original railroad scenario. Narrative constrained by walls of stone.
  • Movie: Pirate Radio / The Boat That Rocked (2009). The government tries to shut down a 60s music radio station broadcasting from international waters. A strong cast cannot help the fact that the tone is all wrong in this cringy comedy. Grade: Fail.
  • Damn enviro friendly dishwasher tablets: completely ineffectual against avocado on cutlery.
  • When you hide an ad, Facebook asks why — multiple choice. Every time, I miss the alternative “This insults my intelligence”. I just hid an ad for camping beds where a model was reclining on one of these, contorted in such a position that you could see both her heavily made-up face and her ass.
  • One oddity in the movie Pirate Radio: it’s set in about 1967, but there are already grizzled old hippies obsessed with the Grateful Dead.
  • My most common typo in English must be “donät” for “don’t”. I should put that on the autocorrect list in LibreOffice.
  • Super proud of YuSie who works her tush off as a member of the municipal council and as one of the main drivers of her Teach Immigrant Ladies To Swim organisation. ❤
  • Re-sampled the horse bones found 3.5 m under the surface of the Aska platform mound in 1985-86 for a renewed radiocarbon analysis. Palaeobotanist Jens Heimdahl has identified charred grain from the last use phase of the building on the platform. Should make for a nice dating model.
  • I have a built-in computer clipboard. When I need to remember a number or short phrase briefly, I say it out loud and it gets copied into the part of my memory where I keep the last thing I heard someone say. Much more exact than quiet memorisation.
  • Don’t like the expression “also not”. Also implies a positive. It’s “not either”.
  • It’s a shame that the target audience for puns in Latin + Mandarin is so small. Or you could say that Pu Er tea is mainly for boys, and everybody would laugh like crazy!
  • Yay, my paper on Roman Period snake-head rings has been accepted with minor revisions by Praehistorische Zeitschrift!

September Pieces Of My Mind #3

September work-from-home lunch with home-grown tomatoes, Bellman and roses.
  • A central plot point in Mike Carey’s latest novel hinges on near-future appliances having extremely discreet power switches. This allows people who know what the switches look like to claim supernatural powers.
  • I went in, surveyed the fridge landscape, and had four leftover jars for a light dinner. Victory.
  • In the first 16 years after I got my PhD, seven journals asked me to peer-review manuscripts for them. In the past nine months after I got a steady job with Uni Łódź, four additional journals have made use of me.
  • Writing several pieces in parallel about quite different things and feeling like dammit, I really rule actually.
  • Found out that my nearest tea plantation is probably in Turkey. There’s one on the Azores as well, on Portuguese territory, but it’s not as near Stockholm.
  • Odd thing about learning Polish from Duolingo: I recognise lots of words where I’ve forgotten what they mean. That doesn’t happen when you learn by pointing at stuff and looking quizzically at a native speaker.
  • The hard core of my boardgaming group turned out to play investigative role-playing games effortlessly too. They solved and survived the intro case in Ashen Stars in two game nights, and fun was had!
  • Pruned down and replanted the poorly New Dawn rose. Hope for stronger blooms in May!
  • Trados: mild-mannered translator and insane supervillain bent on global domination!
  • Swedish Uighurs (that’s “weedjers” to you Americans) drive Mercedeses.
  • The interesting aspect of stone axes is their original context of make, use and deposition. The interesting aspect of the Middle Ages is not people’s attitudes to ancient stone axes. Let’s all forget about the past in the past.
  • Apparently you need an unheated solarium, Sw. glasveranda, to get cacti to bloom in Scandinavia.
  • Submitted this year’s fourth journal paper. They’re all about different periods. And I haven’t even started work on any papers about this summer’s excavations yet.
  • If you’re going to write spinoffs from the Iliad, Ulysses and Aeneas seem like pretty random characters to place centre-stage.
  • Who wants recorded lectures? I’d want to read the script instead.

September Pieces Of My Mind #2

Directed three days of metal detecting, with occasional rain. Photo Cheyenne Olander.
  • Reading about the insane US firearms situation, I’m glad to be living in a country where it’s illegal to even carry a knife in public unless you’re a carpenter or a hiker.
  • Heritage outreach through civil disobedience. Someone local in Aska has replaced the decades-outdated sign with a new one using information from a handout I gave them at a talk one month ago!
  • I don’t think it was very nice of Marc Bolan to tell his girlfriend that she was built like a car.
  • My metal detectorist friends did 132 hours of unpaid skilled labour for my project today. That’s over three weeks full time. Same tomorrow. Same on Sunday.
  • Ridiculous shame memories. This one really takes the cake. I’m still embarrassed about telling my friend’s mom when I was ~11 that this song changed time signatures when I meant that it upped the tempo.
  • It’s odd to constantly be reminded about that author’s feud with that identity movement when I have vaguely positive feelings about both but don’t really care much about either.
  • Movie: In Bruges (2008). Buddy movie with intentional and unintentional gang murders in the titular Flemish city. Ralph Fiennes speaks good Cockney. Grade: OK.
  • Funny how US reenactors don’t have Medieval fairs, they have Renaissance fairs instead.
  • Prepping to run my first scenario in the Ashen Stars gritty space opera RPG. I’ve only game mastered once since the 90s. Feeling good about it!
  • In scientific papers, “acidic” usually means “hallucinatory”.
  • Writing an anonymous peer review statement, referring the author to my PhD thesis (not gratuitously), correcting an error that Rundkvist 2003 made.
  • I’m directing a He-man remake set in Jamaica, where he fights Selector, an evil reggae DJ.
  • I think it was Terry Pratchett who wrote that large libraries bend and occasionally break space-time. I just found evidence of this. Ing-Marie Pettersson Jensen’s PhD thesis was published in 2012. The Royal Academy of Letters’ library is one of Northern Europe’s largest specialist research libraries for archaeology. There the book is stickered and shelved “02/1165”. That is, it entered the library ten years before it was printed.
  • Jrette asked me to drive her & her young fellow to a convenient trail head on the Sörmlandsleden hiking trail.
  • I’m so very tired of people’s political idiocy.
  • Talked to a new acquaintance at a potluck. “You’re very sociable, aren’t you? Are you perhaps a salesman?”
  • My dad gave me this classic 60s or 70s Fjällräven hiking backpack. A little grimy but fully functional. I’ve taken it apart, washed it and polished the rivets.

August Pieces Of My Mind #1

Front: Klåstad-Klosterstad church site with 11th century wooden church. Grove in middle distance: 1920 burial at Aska, the richest Viking Period grave in Östergötland. Rear: Aska village, Vendel Period platform mound, gold foil figures.
  • Looks like the Falun Gongers camping on Wikipedia are finally going to get the same treatment as the Scientologists got!
  • Woke at 05:15, head revving up with thoughts of feature lists, soil samples and level measurements. We’re backfilling the trench on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Fieldwork nearing its end. Highly informative publishable results. Big presentation to the villagers in 45 minutes. Sunny evening. A calm sense of accomplishment.
  • Feeling victorious and pleasantly tired after hours of returfing and a swim in Lake Vättern in front of Vadstena Castle.
  • Affability means potential for turning into a monkey in German.
  • I’m reading Ursula LeGuin’s last novel, Lavinia (2008). It’s a kind of historical fantasy, set in a version of Early Iron Age Italy where the Aeneid is a true story. The book’s nature as a commentary on Vergil’s epic is emphasised by him appearing as a shade from the future to speak with the main character. Though LeGuin was 79 when it appeared, the writing is still strong.
  • Saw a bunch of bats hunting in the pine woods last night at sunset. ❤

July Pieces Of My Mind #3

Vadstena Classic Car Meet
  • In late-90s Stockholm there was a subculture with only two members: bipolar skateboard Goths.
  • I fielded a crew of 19 people today. Think it’s my record.
  • I sat on my reading glasses. They didn’t break. ALL HAIL CLAS OHLSON, LORD OF STUFF!
  • Saw something funny this morning: three playful and inquisitive magpie teenagers interacting with the feral rabbit that lives next to our house. The birds were posturing and nipping at the rabbit while clearly quite afraid of it. The rabbit was pretty cool about it, rolling on its back on a sandy spot, nibbling on the lawn. The magpies were messing in a similar way with some resting wood pigeons in the same spot recently.
  • The orthoceratite casts that erode out of the local limestone look like fragmented dildoes.
  • This is my first student dig where one of the students is younger than my oldest child. I’m afraid I’m still this silly older brother kind of boss.
  • Junior’s latest essay: The Secret Origin of the Action RPG.
  • Jrette and her 16/17-y-o buddies are sailing the Stockholm archipelago in a rented 2-sail 6-bunk yacht. Currently at Sandhamn, safe & happy & damp.
  • I wish café staff would generally know the distinction between flavoured and plain tea. And know that there is a plant named “the tea bush”. I believe there’s a mechanism in play where if a person knows the things I’m asking for, their general level of knowledge is such that they can get better pay somewhere else than at a café.
Vadstena museum railway society. Tram #808 was made in Umeå in 1954.