October Pieces Of My Mind #1

sickla

New stretch of tram line lets me ride from Sickla all the way to Solna shopping centre without changes.

  • Medieval account books were so common in Germany and considered to be so worthless, that into the early 19th century they were used as fuel to heat certain archives.
  • Got nominated to the municipal council. Not likely to be high on the list, but still, feels good to be considered useful.
  • I was shocked to learn that people who get elected onto the municipal council sometimes just flake out and never show up again after the first few meetings. Somebody pointed out that many people don’t live my kind of predictable, regimented life. But accepting and then flaking out from public office suggests to me that the person doesn’t even realise beforehand that they are not super dependable. Or that they don’t consider public office to be a big deal. Or that a reputation for dependability is unimportant to them. I’d be too ashamed to show my face in public for years if I did that. Which of course says something about the standard to which I hold others as well.
  • Wonder if Gygax & Arneson intended the similarity between a multi-level dungeon and Dante’s circles of Hell.
  • Fleetwood Mac were named for the members of the band’s rhythm section.
  • Ekonomistyrningsverket, the Swedish National Financial Management Authority, has operated for 19 years. I learned about it yesterday.
  • The CD of Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever has a short spoken interlude in the middle in fairness to vinyl listeners who must flip their LP.
  • A magnet tells the Kindle to turn its screen on when the flap opens. I like this feature!
  • I wonder if Lowrance the GPS makers have an office in Saudi. Lowrance of Arabia.
  • The first I heard about the Japanese American internment camps during WW2 was when I watched The Karate Kid.
  • Intricate planning of middle-age napping and caffeine intake in order to be maximally alert when I drive home tonight from a speaking gig in rural Östergötland. The sequence will have to be: first go without caffeine so I get sleepy after lunch, then nap, then caffeinate two or three times over the afternoon and evening.
  • I love apricot marmalade on toast!
  • Which Dire Straits song about Asian food do you guys like the best? For me it’s “Wok of Life”.
  • I fail to see the greatness of Goodfellas.
  • The scalp distancer came off my hair trimmer. I now have a unique hair style.
  • I just learned that the University of Lund has a radiocarbon lab. This is odd because it opened in 1965 and I have worked in Swedish archaeology since 1992. They don’t seem to have much of a marketing budget. But come to think of it, I believe I’ve seen analysis ID codes starting with “Lu-” in the literature now and then. Good to know what it means!
  • A sad thing about the enormous wealth of GPS tagged metal detector finds coming out of Scandinavian plough layers these days is that there is absolutely no funding for anyone to study them. They go straight into storage oblivion.
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September Pieces Of My Mind #3

  • Ben Aaronovitch = Benjamin Aaronson wrote The Rivers of London. I wonder if it’s a pen name for my grandpa’s grandpa Aaron Benjaminson, who was a farmer in Tanum.
  • Two students are trying to play verbal chess while digging. The board is in their heads.
  • “Well, I’m not the world’s most physical guy / But when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine / Oh my Lola” /Ray Davies
  • Sudden thought: Christianity is a 2000-year extension of a state of spiritual emergency that Jesus thought would last a year or two.
  • Sweden has recently reformed its coinage. Convenient for me and the students: when it was time to seed trenches B and C with fresh coins before backfilling, for once we had lots of recent issues.
  • Talked about books with a dinner party dominated by Swedish non-geek journalists. Almost no overlap of references. Someone read the country’s biggest newspaper’s recommended books list out. Nothing rang a bell with me. I pay no attention to Swedish-language publishing, particularly not as regards mainstream fiction.
  • I’m kind of surprised that nobody’s tried to buy my loyalty. People have demanded it on the flimsiest of grounds, but nobody’s willing to pay. The stupidest case was the asshole Norwegian professor who told me to shut up online because I was hurting the workplace environment at his department. The one he was keeping me from employment at.
  • Just taught 7 Wonders to nine Dutch and Spanish students. Phew!
  • Threw out some hooks, and lo & behold, I got a nibble right away!
  • Public transport apps really make your movements across town incredibly efficient. I could never have come up with these combos back in the days of paper time tables.
  • At the Museum of World Culture: benumbed and queasy from a context-less global kaleidoscope of dissociated fragments.
  • The charcoal from the hearth the students excavated earlier this week is alder, Alnus sp. This is good news because alders don’t live for very long, and so the risk of a high intrinsic age is low when we get a radiocarbon date. (The centre of an oak trunk is hundreds of radiocarbon years older than this year’s fresh growth.)
  • I just deleted the automatic reminder in my calendar that has had me checking the academic job ads every third Monday for 14 years. *bliss*
  • Fun idea for a Rechthaber with a lot of spare time. Apply for all academic jobs in some field and systematically & immediately publish all applications and evaluations online to invite public scrutiny. In Sweden the authorities can’t refuse to divulge any paperwork having to do with public-sector hiring.
  • My new buddy the Palestinian engineer from Homs tells me his brother is at university and doing super, super poorly. On purpose. To avoid graduating and getting conscripted into Assad’s army.
  • This is very weird. I no longer have any reason to improve my archaeological qualifications. If anything, I may one day have to re-train completely to become a licensed librarian or teacher. But I no longer have to publish or perish. It’s been one of my main drivers since I was 22.
  • I’ve seen a dramatic improvement in Norwegian’s time-table accuracy from Gothenburg to Stockholm in the past three weeks. First week the flight was 6 hours late. Second week, 3 hours. And yesterday only ½ hour!!!

It looks a little tyred (Garden Society of Gothenburg)

September Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • Planting a gingko and listening to early Black Sabbath.
  • Sailboat owners around Älgö have a lot of trouble with their wind indicators. The local crows use them as merry-go-rounds, which messes them up.
  • Me: “I am daft today.” Autocorrect: “I am Daddy Toast.”
  • Friendly local fellow gladly gave us permission to stash our excavation gear overnight behind his garden shed.
  • Heavy downpour making loud whoosh noise on the roof.
  • Rented a van, collected excavation gear and two students, deposited gear at site, bought extra gear, had lunch, returned van, am now in no hurry to airport. Everything went as planned. (But then a storm hit and my flight was delayed for almost six hours.)
  • Went out of the house at 05:15 heading for Gothenburg, was greeted by a beautiful conjunction of Venus and the crescent moon in the south-east.
  • Opening three trenches today in Kungahälla’s Viking Period predecessor. Weights & spindlewhorls tell of trade & textile crafts.
  • Mars Society’s scifi writer debate panel on humankind’s future in space consists of four white men aged 62 and over. Ouch.
  • Have a feeling that a lot of web sites keep re-asking me if I’ll accept their goddamn cookies.
  • How can you figure out the average volume of a hole in Blackburn, Lancashire simply by counting them? I mean, you don’t know their total volume to begin with. Makes no sense. Lennon was clearly tripping.
  • The damn fire alarm in my hotel room has a bright green blinking LED that keeps me from sleeping. Last night I put a sticky plaster on it, but tonight I decided to take it down. Wearing headphones with loud riff rock in them. So I couldn’t hear the angry beeping from the alarm box in the hallway. So security had to come visit. *sigh*

September Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Five years since my first teaching gig. Still temping today, still enjoying it, still think I should have a steady job.
  • LinkedIn suggests that I might apply for a job as home language teacher of Kannada, a Dravidian language spoken in southern India. 15% of full time.
  • Did Timothy Leary use TripAdvisor?
  • Richard Bradley discusses my 2015 book at length in his new book A Geography of Offerings. *happy*
  • I want to text my lower-teen self that I just favourited Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart”. He would be absolutely disgusted.
  • Breakfast: bread that I baked, mushrooms that I picked, crayfish claws that my wife left.
  • Our first real Viking warrior burial that has been genetically identified as female! This paper will prove a milestone. Here’s the burial itself. It doesn’t get more warriory than this.
  • Satisfying little discovery today: one of the most honoured guests at the wedding in July of 1359 at Stensö Castle, the uncle of the bride, was the owner of Landsjö Castle, whatever was left of it at the time.
  • Placed 7th out of 12 boats in the mini race.
  • The new Ride song “Charm Assault” has the expression “your lies begin to unfurl”. Think you meant “unravel” there, mate.

August Pieces Of My Mind #3

  • I’m confused. For years and years this boy lived with me. Now instead there’s a tall young man studying engineering in Jönköping. I somehow helped make this happen. It’s strange to me.
  • The most common surnames among my DNA relatives are Johansson, Nilsson and Persson. All three are among the ten most common surnames in Sweden.
  • Miley Cyrus & the Flaming Lips have covered “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” & “A Day In The Life” together. Both are amazingly good!
  • Hehe. NYT writer spells “help reign in spending”. Maybe using a reigndeer?
  • “She’s a peach” was not coined by Prince in the 90s. Somerset Maugham uses the expression in his 1921 story “The Pool”.
  • This high-end Yunnan smells of fudge.
  • A sycophantic psychopomp lures the souls of the rich and vain to the Land of the Dead with flattery.
  • Checked my bank balance and was astonished to find lots of unexpected money. Upon investigation it turned out to be my monthly salary. I haven’t had a full-time one since 2001.
  • Enjoyable and uncommon experiences today: received a salary and had lunch with colleagues. Glad I’ve decided to leave my scholar’s lifestyle behind soon, one way or another. Research is fun but it’s lonely, it’s poorly and erratically paid and it doesn’t help you get a job. The academic labour market in my field is a social patronage system rather than a meritocracy.
  • Post-rock is a thing of the past.
  • The leafy walking path to Marksburg Castle doubles back on itself eleven times between the foot of the hill and the car park. Then the steep stairs begin.
  • In her Hugo-winning collection of essays from recent years, Words Are My Matter, Ursula LeGuin states that the big media corporations are trying to get rid of copyright, and that “soma” in Huxley’s Brave New World refers to the Greek word for “body”. Her editor has been nodding off.
  • Redemption is a ubiquitous concept in US literary criticism. The various Swedish translations, prominently försoning, are all archaic and rarely used. As I understand Swedes, we see neither a need for nor a possibility of redemption.
  • I have become quite unwilling to invest in a scifi/f author’s worldbuilding if it is delivered in a confusing, allusive, demanding way. My reaction these days tends to be “If you’re not willing to guide me into the world you’ve made up, then I’m not reading your stuff. I’ve visited too many worlds and yours isn’t immediately important to me.”
  • German das heisst is such a cool expression. “It is named” for “that is”.
  • AfD, the German Hate Party, hasn’t got a lot of posters out this election season. But the one you do see is openly anti-Islamic while also strangely flirting with feminism: it has three women drinking wine and the slogan, “We won’t wear burkas, we’ll drink wine”.
  • Castle Eltz, shown around by the 33rd count, who is also the former treasurer of the German Castle Studies Association. Mind blown.
  • Saw a slightly sinister election poster from the parody party PARTEI. It was at the top of a lamppost. “A Nazi could hang here.”
  • LeGuin really likes Tove Jansson’s 1982 novel The True Deceiver / Den ärliga bedragaren. Maybe I should re-read it.
  • Fun and unexpected radiocarbon result. The wooden poles that we found stuck into the bottom of Lake Landsjön between the shore and the castle islet: they date from the 11th century, 200 years before the castle was built. I’m glad I decided to date them.
  • Why aren’t t-shirts with the logos of popular boardgames sold in game stores?
  • Bloody-minded means deliberately uncooperative in British English. LeGuin, writing in the Guardian, thinks it means literally having violent thoughts.

August Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • I don’t get it, safe deposit boxes, Sw. bankfack. Are they a disappearing bank service? Do I know anyone under the age of 50 who has one? What do you guys keep there?
  • Do you wonder if I’ve got my shit together? I’ll tell you. I have street maps of Helsinki from visits in 2002 and 2009 instantly retrievable from the bookshelf next to my desk. That’s how together I’ve got my shit, OK?
  • Sonja Virta: in the 1966 edition, Tolkien added to The Hobbit that Gollum is small and slimy. Illustrators had been drawing him too big.
  • New adjective: beshatten = very dirty. “Honey, can you find clean pants for Jr? His old ones are completely beshatten.”
  • WorldCon 75 restaurant guide: “Pasila is what the architects and city planners of the 1970s thought the future should look like.”
  • I hardly know any Finnish grammar, but it turns out I have this passive vocab that surprises me. A homeless man shuffled up to me and said “Something something kello“, and I actually understood immediately that he was asking for the time, not for a handout. It was 12:30. He thanked me politely and shuffled off.
  • Jrette saw seals, Perseid meteors and a big red August moon at camp.
  • “I hope you find your peas / Falling on your niece / Praying” Kesha
  • I pick up a spoon and a candy wrapper from the floor of Jrette’s room. “Are you QUESTIONING my INTERIOR DECORATION?!?!?”
  • The Federmesser is this Late Palaeolithic archaeological culture in Northern Europe. The word means “feather knife”. I’ve never studied its remains since they’re extremely rare in Sweden (Ice Age, 3 km thick ice, OK?). But I’ve assumed that the name is literally descriptive of a characteristic artefact type. Now I learn that a better translation is “quill knife”. Or as most people would put it, “penknife”. The Federmesser culture is the Penknife People!
  • Here’s an unexpected turn. Atheists are joining the dwindling Swedish Church in order to vote in the church elections and keep the Swedish Hate Party out of its governing boards. I consider myself a political opponent of both organisations, though I’m of course far, far more friendly to S. Church than to S. Hate.
  • Tomorrow I’m driving Junior and his furniture 330 km to Jönköping and engineering school. “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
  • The 45th presidency is like when your toddler messes with your laptop. Suddenly you have a Croatian keyboard map, a mouse cursor shaped like a banana and the screen is rotated 90 degrees. And you’re like “I had no idea you could do this! Now, how do you undo it?”
  • Local paper warns that rising sea level may obliterate thousands of islands in the Stockholm Archipelago. Neglects to mention that this would also recreate thousands of islands that have recently become part of larger land masses through post-glacial uplift.
  • Such a good day together with Junior. Now he’s in his new solo home. I bought him a toaster.

August Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Reading Matt Ruff’s new novel about black Americans in the 50s. Annoyed to find that nothing in the dialogue would sound out of place if spoken by a white American sci-fi fan in 2017.
  • Feared 45 would be the sort who gets the trains running on time and starts wars. Actually can’t get trains running at all, wars with TV hosts.
  • Etymological misunderstanding in this novel. Ruff parses the name Braithwaite as Braith-white, when it is actually Brae-thwaite.
  • There’s this book about edible wild plants in Sweden named “Can you eat these things?” A more important question is “What population density could Sweden support if we reverted to hunting-fishing-gathering?”.
  • I saw a seal between Bullandö and Djurönäset.
  • Apron is furkle in Stockholm Swedish.
  • Wonder how old our current run of seven-day weeks is. It’s survived several calendar reforms and at least one re-naming of the days.
  • I’ve worked a lot with gender symbolism and gender transgression during the Late Iron Age. I’m an LGBTQ friendly scholar. But I’m sad to see the Swedish History Museum spread erroneous statements and wishful speculations on this theme in the country’s biggest newspaper because of Stockholm Pride.
  • In theory of science, you usually reckon with two possible states of debate over a given issue. Either the scientific community is undecided, or it has reached a (provisional) consensus. In poorly funded and staffed subjects such as mine, there’s a common third state: apathy. This is when the scientific community doesn’t care enough about the issue to comment on it. Someone voices an opinion, and then it’s 40 years before someone else replies, and nobody pays any attention to either of the scholars.
  • The post-apocalyptic pictures of the Statue of Liberty or the Capitol sticking up out of water / ice / desert sand reveal a poor understanding of how deserted buildings collapse.
  • The head of a humanities think tank in Sweden has published an argument that strikes me as remarkably silly: “When simple jobs are lost to automation, the market value of humanities skills will rise.” So as the taxi drivers become jobless, a PhD in modern Latvian poetry will grow more valuable. Huh.
  • Too often these standard 350-pp books barely keep me reading along, while part of me just wants them to end. Now I’m reading a feckin’ 1000-page P.F. Hamilton novel and the pages simply keep on turning.
  • According to the POTUS, relations with Russia are “at an all-time and very dangerous low.” Cuban missile crisis, anyone?
  • I gotta say, it’s pretty amazing that I can read daily tweets from William cranial-jacking Gibson himself. Respect!
  • The 20th century: the time of smoking cigarettes while driving combustion-engine cars.
  • Much of English Wikipedia’s article about soy sauce has been written by someone who doesn’t quite know when to use the word “the”, and prefers to skip it. This suggests to me that the information in the article is probably quite accurate.
  • Decryption and decoding are the same. Doesn’t matter if it’s encrypted English or plaintext Swahili. I won’t understand either.
  • Had a strange taste of retirement this past weekend: teenage kids off doing stuff, just me and my wife at my mom’s summer house. Though my wife looks about 40 years from retirement.
  • Holy fuck. Junior has been teaching himself Japanese for the past year and a half. Today I learned that he has picked up 500 kanji characters along the way and reads Chinese food packaging quite easily. :-0
  • A friendly soul at this publishing house apparently knows my daughter’s name. Their envelope of otherwise generic advertising material contained an old tea spoon with “Signe” engraved on it.
  • This Picasso “Pigeons” print hung in our house when I grew up, and I’ve been wondering for decades what the spotted triangular thing in the lower left-hand corner is. A lamp shade? Took me 5 mins on WWW to find that it’s a stylised building that is seen outside the window in early treatments of the motif.

Pablo Picasso, Pigeons, 1957, detail


Pablo Picasso, Pigeons, 1957, detail

July Pieces Of My Mind #3

  • “Ways of knowing” = alternative facts.
  • I am on a WorldCon panel about the Medieval mind and fantasy literature. I just had the (unoriginal) idea to say that the High and Late Medieval aristocracy lived largely in an Arthurian fantasy world of their own creation.
  • Last night a skinny cat came miaowing at our door. Turned out to have left his home 200 m from us a week ago. With no sense of direction. And no hunting skills. He’s back with his kind owners now.
  • I’ve bought a lot of ebooks from Google. I would happily continue to do so even though now I’ve got a Kindle, because Google has much better prices. But I can’t get them onto the machine. This is not because Amazon locks them out. It’s because Google has DRM in their files. And so they lose a customer.
  • Was going to write about weaponry from Ringstadaholm. But found that I needed to check in the museum inventory if one object on the list is a weapon frag. But found a reference there for an imported glass shard that I need to comment on. But found that the reference is doubled in the library catalogue, so I had to write to the librarians and ask them to correct it. Now, where was I?
  • Listened to “Girl From The North Country”, was astonished to learn that Bob Dylan can hit actual notes!!!
  • French has an absurd word for grapefruit that should not be allowed: pamplemousse. Turns out it’s a Dutch loan word incorporating a Portuguese loan word: pompel + limões, “swollen lemon”. Shame on you, French people!
  • Geezer Butler finished with his woman ’cause she couldn’t help him with his mind. I think that’s kind of harsh. In over 18 years together my wife hasn’t made the least attempt to help me with mine, but I’m OK with that. I think it would be an unrealistic demand.
  • Rediscovered the joy of shooting peas.
  • LinkedIn is amazing. It just suggested that I apply for a job teaching textile crafts to ten-year-olds.
  • Tried re-watching Breakfast Club after 32 years. Lost interest fast.
  • Stockholm has a Chinese vegetable underground where people grow unusual crops on suburban allotments and deliver produce to restaurants. Yum!
  • Vacation reading: P.F. Hamilton, Pandora’s Star. U.K. LeGuin, Words Are My Matter. M. Ruff, Lovecraft Country (thank you, Birger!).
  • My kids have turned 19 and 14!
  • Here’s a pretty neat cover. The lyrics to the Cocteau Twins’ song “Blue Bell Knoll” from 1988 are just a string of meaningless syllables. The woman in the cover duo is not simply singing lyrics she doesn’t understand. She’s singing lyrics that nobody understands.
  • NASA is sending a ground-penetrating radar rig to Mars.
  • Jack Palance’s 80s work is pretty varied. He has big roles both in Hawk the Slayer and Out of Rosenheim / Bagdad Café.

July Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • Los Alamos means “the poplars”.
  • A friend lent me J.P. Hogan’s 1980 novel Thrice Upon A Time. It’s set in 2010 but has pre-PC “mini” computers the size of fridges, with text terminals and command-line interfaces. Four years before Neuromancer
  • 1970s computer designers: “What? You folks run your screens in graphics mode all the time? But why? It’s so inefficient compared to text mode! Must be unbearably slow!”
  • Had some skin moles lasered. The smell of burning hair is strong immediately inside the clinic’s front door. The lasering makes a noise like quietly frying bacon.
  • Pluto’s orbit is outside Neptune’s. But the planet that Pluto gets closest to is Uranus. Because it is locked in orbital resonance with Neptune which means it is not overtaken by that planet at the point where their orbits are closest.
  • I don’t understand the business model of running / walking / cycling for charity. I donate regularly to several charities, but I am not influenced in this by anyone running.
  • Chinese snacks and gift items are horrendously over-packaged. More packaging than content.
  • Wife puts stones in the bird bath as life-saving platforms for bugs. But OCD magpies find them incredibly annoying and keep throwing them out.
  • Kindle gets my advertising demographic wrong: “Are you looking for a clean saga that will capture your heart?” Nope nope nope. Maybe you should ask the folks browsing in the Christian Romance section. You know, over there at the opposite end of the enormous book store from where you found me.
  • Just signed a contract to temp for two months at Gothenburg Uni. It means I’ll have temped at most of Sweden’s seven archaeology depts. Uppsala, Lund and Södertörn remain.
  • Funny how red become the Republican Party’s colour. In the 80s its voters used to say “Better dead than red”.
  • You read sometimes about scholars whose careers were cut short because they didn’t have the informal support necessary to secure a steady job. It’s been the other way around with me. I would never have been able to write all these books and papers if I’d had steady teaching duties. People who don’t like my kind of archaeology have certainly made sure that my income’s been slight. But thereby they’ve also made me an exceptionally loud and prolific participant in various fields of research. Historians of scholarship may one day wonder how the hell Rundkvist managed to put out all this stuff. An important part of the answer is that he didn’t have the informal support necessary to secure a steady job.
  • I want to see a major scientific inquiry into what frozen-up computers are doing.
  • Removing the ads from your Kindle takes only a minute on the customer service chat line.
  • I watched Hawk the Slayer at my first con in 1986. All I remember is the cheesy cut & repeat effect when the elf shoots his bow super fast.

July Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Swedish 1960s translation of the Game of Life. I just found a uranium mine. According to Boardgame Geek, there are 13,879 better boardgames than this.
  • I bought a Kindle and I like it. Better than reading on my phone. No screen glare. Weeks between recharges. Bigger page.
  • As a boy I was shocked to learn that most people have to pay a monthly fee to keep a roof over their heads. I found this to be a horrifically unstable arrangement, similar to staying at a hotel. My parents had never spoken to me about their mortgage loan. I felt that the only monthly expenses anyone should by rights have to reckon with were food and utilities.
  • Reading Neal Stephenson’s 90s WIRED essays about stuff that was cutting edge 20 years ago. Very strange.
  • Me and Cousin E stumbled into our first Magic the Gathering tournament & got crushed. Found out it was elite level. National champion took part.
  • There’s a German brand of athletic braces etc that’s named Bauerfeind, “Farmer’s Foe”.
  • Gossamer: “Middle English: apparently from goose + summer, perhaps from the time of year around St Martin’s summer, i.e. early November, when geese were eaten (gossamer being common then).”
  • I’ve sung “Rock And Roll All Nite” twice to Cousin E, and he really liked it! Showed his appreciation by turning over and pulling the duvet over his head. Didn’t know the kid was into Kiss!
  • Young folks will soon see me as an arrogant and elitist greybeard. Funny how they will have no idea that I was once an arrogant and elitist 15-year-old.

My wife is getting good at Catan!