April Pieces Of My Mind #1

funster

Ice gone. Soon there will be boats.

  • Movie: Visages, villages. Artist travelogue and buddy movie strongly reminiscent of cheap Swedish 1980s kids’ TV. Grade: fail.
  • Bought myself two presents. 1) Expensive boardgame: Gaia Project. 2) Genealogical DNA analysis of my mom’s cousin to help sort my DNA relatives into tribes.
  • The human character in the hit scifi boardgame Gaia Project is an androgynous brown person with corn rows.
  • Birthday: Drink lots of tea. Log four geocaches. Lunch with wife. Art exhibition including lots of brother-in-law’s work with wife and her buddy. Cake. Pakistani dinner with wife, Jrette and Cousin E. Blackbird song. Reading.
  • At one time I listened to albums I didn’t like much simply because I had them as mp3s on my early iPod. No broadband connection. Ripping CDs was slow.
  • Made up the semanticore, a monster that’s friends with the thesaurus. Found that the word already had 2,430 google hits. /-:
  • The new Dungen album is mainly instrumental groove pieces without much melody. /-:
  • Movie: Ready Player One. A race to find the ultimate Easter egg in the ultimate MMORPG. Grade: OK.
  • Bought frozen Polish dumplings. Don’t know the language. Can’t read the fine print anymore. Found out that they’re dessert dumplings with strawberry filling.
tussi

First coltsfoot!

 

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February Pieces Of My Mind #3

This late-11th century runic carving in Uppland is on a sloping rock outcrop instead of the usual standing stone (U 86 Skylsta). ”Sven had the runes carved after his brother Torbjörn”. On a skiing trip, Andreas Forsgren carefully removed the snow in such a way as to emphasise the carving, then took the photo.

  • Today my students hinted that it would be quite sad if they got bad grades seeing as they know where my Wikipedia article is.
  • Surprised to find myself as Mr. Humanities at the high school where I teach. I’ve been the nat-sci literate archaeologist for so long.
  • Does it count as martyrdom if you’re killed for your faith by a member of a sect whose tenets are extremely similar to yours?
  • A buddy of mine works as a property manager for a wealthy old organisation. He recently had a big Call of Cthulhu moment at work. He found a bill in his inbox for upkeep of a grave. None of the names on the headstone are familiar to him. None of his co-workers recognise them. But looking back through old binders, he found that his predecessors have been paying that bill every few years as far back as he had time to follow the records…
  • Aspie friends — you can take it as mad props or as a nasty insult, but it seems that Sweden’s genius warrior king Carolus XII was an Aspie too.
  • Everybody, stop using “ecosystem” in that vague new non-biological sense. It’s silly.
  • In Swedish, plattåk means cross-country skiing. Plåttak means tin roof.

Spent four happy days skiing, reading and gaming in Bjursås, southern Dalecarlia.

February Pieces Of My Mind #2

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These milestones helped prevent arguments with farmer taxi drivers.

  • Please let me remind you that the Pixies have a song about a bird sleeping in a tree and dreaming about a mountain on Mars. This makes me happy.
  • Re-reading the Akallabêth after 30 years.
  • Death Angel is a cooperative boardgame about killing aliens. I just realised why it’s so hard to get it to the table. The people who like co-ops are not the same people who like to kill aliens.
  • Making my own Silmarillion edit which only covers events on land that remains above sea level in the Third Age.
  • I have my students do read-alongs of classics straight from Gutenberg.org with me providing running pronunciation aid and explanations, and they just don’t want to stop. Or miss a cue!
  • I knew that it’s fun to teach university archaeology. After a week in Stocksund I can now report that it’s also fun to teach high school languages.
  • Microsoft Outlook knows that users like to separate addresses in group mail with commas. It recognises when you try to do this. But rather than accept this and act, it has an error message where it instructs you to change the commas to semicolons. *facepalm*
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This historical newspaper may need the attention of a document conservator.

 

February Pieces Of My Mind #1

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18th century ship’s figurehead in the Stockholm Maritime Museum.

  • I used to be this kid who spoke like an old book. Now I’m becoming this old guy who speaks like an even older book.
  • Checked the time before I took a nap today and it was 1337. Figures.
  • Climb in the back with your head in the clouds and you’re gone
  • TV series: Twin Peaks S3 (2017). Makes very little sense and is largely super slow, but some of the weirdness is worth watching. Grade: OK.
  • Learned something today. The fuel cost for travelling a given distance by motorboat is about 5 times the fuel cost of travelling the same distance by car on asphalt. And the motorboat is typically much slower, which I knew already.
  • I just finished seven days on unemployment benefits. Thanks for helping me out, fellow AEA members!
  • This is my third new short-gig workplace in five months. Gathering no moss!
  • Received two lists of “top 100” novels to use when teaching classics. One is almost entirely “realist” fiction by Dead White Men. The other is an eclectic mix of geekery topped by several titles by Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard. Kids, we need to talk about these lists…
  • My Mandaean student likes Kafka.

January Pieces of My Mind #3

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Elk mince patties with built in bacon and chopped fried onions

  • Deputy Police Chief Hawk in Twin Peaks must have been getting those incomprehensible phone calls from the Log Lady for decades, poor bastard.
  • My pecs are sore from this winter’s first cross-country skiing.
  • Ancient monument surveyor on the verge of a nervous breakdown: “When inspected in 1979, the area is so overgrown with rosehip and cherry bushes that detailed study is impossible without the aid of a flame thrower.”
  • So the voters are afraid of rising crime. Politicians can react by affirming this and hiring more police. Or by explaining gently that the 5-year statistics show the opposite. Sadly voters don’t like getting educated.
  • Belated realisation: Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” is about overconfident driving under the influence of amphetamine.
  • Identified my first genealogical link to a DNA relative. Our latest shared ancestors are seven generations back and were born about 1700 in Borrby parish, Scania. It’s a little disappointing to realise that a year after I got my DNA done, my closest DNA relatives are still such distant ones. Family Tree DNA’s calculation indicated that in this case the link would be five generations back or less.
  • “They had heard he was an antiquarian, but even the most hopeless antiquarians do not make daily use of obsolete phraseology and gestures.” H.P. Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
  • Our Social Democrat head guy on the Nacka municipal council likes to read Jules Verne. In Persian.
  • Big Dutch authority on Bronze Age depositional landscapes recommends my 2015 book on Academia.edu. Same book that’s gotten major shout-outs in print from two of the UK’s biggest authorities in that field. I’ve left academia, but I didn’t leave without a trace.

January Pieces Of My Mind #2

Rålambshov, Stockholm

  • I love how fast the staff of the National Archives go through boxes of tea bags in the break room.
  • The 1920s New York that H.P. Lovecraft detested was the same 1920s New York that Damon Runyon loved.
  • I’ve said in talks that Thor Heyerdahl was no Nazi: for one thing he was friends with the UN’s Secretary General Kurt Waldheim. Who, I now realise, was a Nazi party member and army officer. /-:
  • Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold.
  • I’m releasing a two-hour recording of random noise and FM radio dialling as a previously unknown rock opera by The Who, and calling it Apophenia.
  • Story germ. Heritage manager c. 1900 re-erects the fallen or leaning orthostats at a prehistoric cemetery. Makes the whole thing come back online and summons a local godling.
  • “Hypnosis, yoga. These mystics can be very convincing. They can even hypnotise themselves.” Horror Express, 1972
  • The Horror Express has more carriages when seen from the inside than when seen from the outside.
  • The real name of Vampira in Plan 9 From Outer Space was Maila Elizabeth Syrjäniemi. She was a skilled linoleum floor layer and carpenter.
  • I had dinner at three Levantine restaurants this past weekend: Folkets kebab on Hornsgatan in Stockholm (their buffet), Samboosak in Jönköping and Al Shami in Skärholmen. All highly recommended.

December And January Pieces Of My Mind

Life Plaza, HZ

Hangzhou’s Life Plaza

  • Everyone needs a champagne whisk made from a Finnish bear’s penis bone.
  • I just got a (1) job application turned down. Spent some time believing that this means that I am unemployable and everyone thinks I’m a nutcase. (I currently have two employers, but never mind.)
  • I’ve been editing a couple of quarterly journals for years and years. Let’s just say that I have issues.
  • This is big! Golden rice, genetically modified to include vitamin A, can prevent 3rd World blindness. And now it’s finally been approved to sell as food in Australia and New Zealand.
  • OMG my kid has a beard
  • The Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays feud is unknown in Sweden. Because we all say “Good Yule”. And because we’re mostly secular.
  • I’d like to see humanities scholars accept the unknowable and non-interpretable to a greater degree. Please write “This means nothing to me” in your next few papers. (Ah, Vienna.)
  • A memory. Junior is like five and his buddy comes over to play, proudly brandishing a huge realistic gun replica. I disarm him at the door and put the gun on top of a very tall closet next to the hat rack. We all promptly forget about it. Weeks or months later I find the gun and quietly throw it away.
  • Movie: In the Heat of the Night. Urban black Philadelphia homicide detective reluctantly takes part in murder investigation in rural 1967 Mississippi. Grade: Pass With Distinction.
  • When writing about Swedes in English, I tend to forget the genitive apostrophe on their names.
  • The Chinese government blocks access to the Internet Movie Database. But not to Goodreads.
  • Erik Nylén, a towering figure in post-WW2 Gotland archaeology, has died aged 99.
  • Idiotic new fee for daylight metal detecting in Sweden. This only punishes the good guys. In other news, it will also cost €70 to buy a lottery ticket to perhaps be allowed to visit Birka, Glimmingehus or Drottningholm.
  • The Manson Family’s murder spree is often described as evil. I think it’s more aptly described as confused, crazy and kind of daft. The motive was to spark a racial war, hide in a cave and come out afterwards to assume a position of power. The whole thing was ridiculous.
  • My current study debt: $2100 = €1700. Not too steep for a PhD.
  • There are eight places named Turbo in Sweden.
  • Movie: Moonrise Kingdom. Unmistakable Wes Anderson tightly stylised mescaline-tinged hyperreality. Grade: Pass With Distinction.

December Pieces Of My Mind #2

buds

The buds have survived days of sub-zero temperatures.

  • I’d love to work as a Finds Liaison Officer. But there are none in Sweden.
  • The expression “Why can’t you do X” for “Why don’t you do X” really throws a spanner into my speech parsing engine.
  • Four years since the Chinese lander Chang’e 3 and the Yutu rover landed on the Moon!
  • Wondered why my phone’s screen was suddenly all greasy. Realised that it was because I’d been using the phone for an unfamiliar purpose: talking on it. With Junior.
  • Inadvertent CapsLock just caused me to say “Gnarp” as an expletive.
  • Took out the food waste bag but forgot to bring in toilet paper from the shed. Used “Robertsfors” as an expletive.
  • “Oh, Twin Peaks is just an excuse for David Lynch to trip out completely” /Mrs. Rundkvist
  • Meritocracy means occasionally having to hire someone you really don’t like.
  • “Whole Lotta Love” opens with a lewd little snigger.
  • Fish species can spread through roe getting stuck to birds. Fishes fly from lake to lake!
  • Movie: The Last Jedi. Plot stacks way too many improbable crises and resolutions in way too narrow a time frame. Dialogue is ridiculous. Actors are good. Grade: Fail.
  • “Pakistan” means “Land of the Pure” in Urdu and Persian.
  • Wonder what Earth’s biochemistry and our technology would be like if tantalum was as abundant as copper is now and vice versa. Copper is about 35 times as abundant as tantalum.
  • Heard a talk on the Rohingya situation in Burma. Learned that many Burmese human rights campaigners believe what they learned in school, that those people really don’t belong in Burma.
  • Hang on in there, everybody. Friday night will be shorter than Thursday night. There will be another spring!

December Pieces Of My Mind #1

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Middle Byzantine tomb portal slab in Thessaloniki’s Museum of Byzantine Culture.

  • Cube sats are so tough that if their launch rocket blows up after lift-off and they fall to the ground, they usually still work.
  • Cancelled flight leads to unscheduled layover, which knocks me so far out of my habits that I take a bath instead of a shower. Must be almost 20 years since the last time.
  • Hotel rooms used to be so lonely. No more thanks to wifi and social media.
  • One of the Viking town Kaupang’s cemeteries is named Bikkjeholberget, “Bitch Hole Hill”.
  • I just found a Swedish example of the uncertainty of when to use “the” in English. Making the title of a much-read book by an archaeology professor read like something said by a Russian movie villain. Sorry, I mean, “Making title of mach-read book by archaeology prafessor read like something said by Rrraaassian movie villain.” In Saviet Rrrassia, you do not use word “the”. Word uses you!
  • Even when they look amazing inside, Byzantine churches look awful from outside. Naked crumbling brickwork, usually sitting in a pit.
  • Remember when a PC used to crash if you disconnected the keyboard?
  • LibreOffice’s word processor has a tool button to set the colour of text. Its default colour isn’t black. It’s dried blood, caput mortuum.
  • The question shouldn’t be “Is AI consciousness possible”, but “Are humans actually conscious or is it just what our brains think?”.
  • Reading Taylor’s scifi novel We Are Legion and enjoying it immensely. But then there’s this Paleolithic culture on another planet. And the first person described is a woman who’s busy butchering an animal. That a male brought her, explains Taylor. Using a flint knife made by her son. And suddenly this future Stone Age looks quite Victorian.
  • Another nibble! This one asked “Oh BTW, have you got a driver’s licence”?
  • The Sites & Monuments Register inadvertently documents the decline of grazing in Södermanland province. Loads of ancient cemeteries are described in detail during the 60s, and then in the 80s the re-surveyors just comment “Overgrown, couldn’t see shit”.
  • I have annoying Scanian ancestors. They use super few given names, so every time I think I’ve managed to link my genealogical tree up with somebody else’s it turns out to be different people with the same names. /-:
  • A month working at this archive has led me to the realisation that I don’t own enough cardigans.
  • When they cleared the ruin of Ärja parish’s Medieval church, they dumped the rubble on a Late Bronze Age cemetery nearby. :-0
  • Reached the point where my kid does the baking for the school bake sale without me having to do anything, even find a recipe.
  • The passing of a fad: you currently get two fidget spinners for the price of one on the Helsinki-Stockholm ferry.
  • A new book tells the story of the British 80s magazine The Face, calling it a “style magazine”. I am relieved to finally understand why I found the mag completely pointless.
  • This is a weird one. An Early Iron Age cemetery with the usual big flat round stone pavements — but one of them is built around a wellspring!
  • There’s a 4 km corridor of international water between the Swedish islands of Öland and Gotland.
  • The combination of darkness, a crowd and loud techno music really makes for a hellish environment.
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Thessaloniki’s waterfront. Not a monochrome shot.

 

November Pieces Of My Mind #3

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Morning view from my room at the Swedish Institute’s writers’ retreat in Kavala, Greece.

  • Made a list of the people who have worked in the field with me on my Medieval castles project of the past 3½ years. 50 names! I am such a lucky guy.
  • The ancient supercontinent Gondwanaland is simply named for the part of India where many Gonds live: bits of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
  • Andy Weir’s excellent new novel Artemis has been sloppily copy-edited. Early in the book he describes the general qualities of his moon base in the present tense while telling the story that plays out there in the past tense. (“France has many good restaurants. I went to Paris in 1897.”) Then this distinction breaks down and almost everything is past tense. (“France had many good restaurants. I went to Paris in 1897.”)
  • Oh, how I love my morning cup of tea!
  • Ocarina means “little goose” in Italian. The Swedish word, lergök, means “clay cuckoo”.
  • There’s this tune that I kind of like except that I can’t get over the phrase “When you have someone that loves you”. Hey guys, there was a reason that musically gifted pop and rock musicians used to employ professional lyricists.
  • I just finished writing my 7th book.
  • Made up an elevator pitch for my forthcoming book. “Lifestyles at Östergötland’s Medieval strongholds. Slavery, skinned cats, boiled dogs and extramarital affairs!”
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Kavala’s Old Town from the east. Note the aqueduct, right, and the snow-capped Mount Pangaion in the rear. “Mount All-Earth”!