January Pieces Of My Mind #1


The National Museum in Stockholm has re-opened after a long period of renovations. Endless treasures! Here’s a detail of the background on a 16th century Madonna & Child.

  • Woah. Checking my calendar. I have nothing planned from mid-summer until retirement. Except monthly meetings with the municipal education board.
  • Havande is an old Swedish cognate of having. It means “pregnant”.
  • If you’re the kind of voter who falls for fascist strong & stupid men, what’s the next step if one disappoints you? Abandon strong & stupid men or transfer faith to a new one?
  • Snow dusting in yellow sunshine on the grey gneiss scarp at Stubbsund made it look like limestone. Foreign.
  • You should always consider carefully before building an unstable interdimensional transfer portal. Because as the poet reminds us, “See how the void gates that held back the Chaos foe / Shudder and shatter, an entropy overload”
  • Wonder if the resin caulking rings found as remains of bark boxes in Early Iron Age graves also contain lots of human DNA from a chewing process, as has recently been shown for Mesolithic pitch lumps with tooth marks.
  • Some people think NASA should not call anything Ultima Thule because the Nazis used that name. That’s like refusing to listen to the Beatles’ White Album because the Manson cult did. Ultima Thule was first mentioned by Pytheas in the 4th century BC.
  • Movie: Annihilation. Lovecraft’s “Colour Out Of Space” + Tarkovsky’s Stalker + Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Grade: OK.
  • Wife horrified & scandalised to learn of my perverted hedonistic pleasure: I put some peanut butter and salt in my hot chocolate.
  • Yay! The County Archaeologist in Linköping has agreed to publish my forthcoming book on the Medieval castles of Östergötland!
  • 2019 will be my last year of paying back my study loan. I currently owe SEK 9,600 = USD 1,070 = € 940.
  • Free Swedish lesson! Unlike German, Scandy languages hardly ever pronounce an S as SH. Neither skål nor smörgåsbord has a SH. Repeat after me please: SSSSSCORL. SSSSSMER-GORSE-BOOED. SSSSSS.
  • I once tried sailing my space ship in 80s Elite straight away from the star. After a long while the star simply flipped from being behind me on the scanner to being in front of me. The same star.
  • How to identify a female Medieval scribe’s burial: lapis lazuli powder in her dental calculus.

December Pieces Of My Mind #2


Walked around Lakes Lundsjön-Dammsjön. The colours are quiet this time of year.

  • In this fantasy novel by Naomi Novik, a Lord of Faerie invests money in a woman’s money-lending and goods trading business. Capitalist.
  • Handled some replica muskets. Learned that they are too heavy to aim without a support, and that the trigger has no spring. It’s just a lever: if you pull the trigger slowly, there is no spark from the flint.
  • Pharrell Williams: “Clap your hands if you feel like a room without a roof, that is / Clap your hands if you feel like an untenanted ruin / Because I’m happeeeeeee”
  • The Franciscan monastery of Lapis Albus – Visovac, on an island in River Krka, has an anti-Serbian memorial room reminding visitors of anti-Catholic acts committed during the 1990s war. The Church (es) does not seem to be a force for peace or reconciliation here.
  • I just bought the e-book version of a fat scifi novel I’m already reading on paper. Because I need the search function to make sense of a few things.
  • Saw some Geminids.
  • I’ve never paid much attention to Lady Gaga, but her singing on the tune “Shallow” is pretty damn impressive!
  • Oh great. The wifi driver on a semi-old Samsung laptop running Windows 8 is not part of the operating system. It’s a separately installed program called Qualcomm something. The kind that you clean out as a matter of course when you find a lot of small useless programs cluttering up the machine. Fortunately wasn’t super complicated to fix using another machine that was still online and a USB stick. The Samsung laptop itself has no IP jack.
  • German-Swedish archaeology professor Jörn Staecker has died aged 57. )-:

December Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • Copenhagen has a major laughing gas habit. Little metal ampoules littering the streets. They’re sold for whipped cream siphons. Saw them all over town this past summer.
  • Um. I calculated how many issues of Fornvännen and Folkvett I’ve co-edited. 128 issues.
  • I’ve got mixed feelings about having left academic teaching. On one hand I enjoy it and I always get a really good response from the students. On the other hand, given the extremely poor career prospects in archaeology, I am convinced that in most cases a) students are better off long-term without these courses, and b) they serve no societally useful purpose.
  • Nacka’s Social Democrats just elected me to serve on the municipal Education Board. We have over 100,000 inhabitants and some of the country’s best high schools.
  • I recently learned that Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land is from 1961. It wasn’t a response to hippie weirdness. It inspired hippie weirdness.
  • Me: the Geminids. Autocorrect: the feminists.
  • I wonder how Serbian and Croatian atheists get along.
  • Wise words from Birger Johansson: “Re-incarnation without the transfer of memories is pointless. Memories are what distinguish you from your clone [or twin]. Deleting the memories equals the death of the individual.”
  • Once talked to a guy who made inane political arguments based on folk etymology, or rather, on random word similarities. “Democracy is just THEM-ocracy”, that sort of thing. He didn’t say these things to illustrate his points, he thought he was somehow in contact with the essence of things. Not surprised to learn now that this is a characteristic of Rastafarian preaching.
  • Keep seeing Americans use “inhale” as if it meant eat or drink.
  • On our way to the restaurant there was a tiny drizzle. During our meal there was a huge hailstorm with closely spaced flashes of lightning. Then when I went back to the hotel through the thick drifts of melting hail, there was a tiny drizzle again.
  • New story collection by the amazing Ted Chiang on 7 May! This is a very big deal, given how rare and wonderful his efforts are.

November Pieces Of My Mind #3


Bobergs Storgård, Fornåsa parish, Östergötland

  • After a friendly meeting and lunch with my successor Peter Carelli, I just handed in my keys to Fornvännen’s editorial office. 80 issues! Wonder where I’ll be working a year from now.
  • Charlottenborg’s manor house near Motala lost its third floor when an owner installed a fish farm up there which leaked and caused severe rot.
  • Oh, the excruciating feeling when you help a not very computer savvy person and you realise that they’re double-clicking when they shouldn’t.
  • Theobromine isn’t psychoactive. If it were, then pushers would be selling it in the street. In fact, the compound is useless as a drug. People just eat chocolate for the fat and sugar.
  • I wonder what it would cost to get Annie Lennox to record a new vocal track for “The City Never Sleeps” where she sings “You know it feels like ancient sushi” instead of “You know it feels like distant thunder”.
  • Dreamed that my buddy had bought completely ineffective insulation strips for an extremely draughty window at their desk.
  • DNA genealogists are now analysing samples of the stamp glue on letters from long-dead relatives.
  • Studying post-war popular music styles with Jrette. Music-nerd-dad heaven. ❤
  • I’ve been an Amazon customer since 1997.

Church, cathedral, moon, sunrise. (S:t Lawrence’s, Linköping)


Af Chapman, built in 1888 in Whitehaven, Cumbria. Behind the ship, Skeppsholmen with the Admiralty Church and Admiralty House.


November Pieces Of My Mind #2

Sculpture panel by Stig Blomberg in Skandia, a sumptuously decorated 1923 movie theatre in central Stockholm. Those women don’t seem to be big bagpipes fans.
  • I enjoyed Heinlein’s Door Into Summer. But it must have been weird in 1957 too for a grown man to groom an 11-y-o girl, then go into cryo sleep until she’s 21, and marry her.
  • Archaeology studies the lives of people thousands of years ago. Most of us today don’t even know anything about the people who lived in our homes 20 years ago.
  • The European Space Agency was founded in 1975. Australia founded its space agency last year. That’s a country of 25 million largely well educated people. They’re going to do some cool stuff!
  • Black Sabbath’s song “Paranoid” is about depression, not paranoia. The Pixies’ song “Ana” has an acrostic in the lyrics (SURFER), not an anagram.
  • I shared the bench in court with a pregnant judge today. She was an impressive lawyer.
  • My new art film project is Hardcore Hugs, a 10-minute compilation of expressions of tenderness or affection from porn movies.

November Pieces Of My Mind #2


Sergels torg

  • I’ve lost count of how many graves I’ve emptied.
  • Funny how gear brings us together. For years I’ve mainly kept in touch with my dear old thesis supervisor thanks to his computer troubles. And now my former driving pupil wants to meet up for his first tyre switch on his first own car, because I know how to do this and my dad has power tools.
  • Running around the block really helps when I get sleepy on the afternoon of a caffeine day. On a non-caffeine day, only a nap helps.
  • Jrette’s buddy invites 70 kids to Halloween party, tells them to bring all their friends. On social media. When Jrette arrives, there are hundreds of kids in front of the house, whose inhabitants have barricaded themselves and are shouting from a window for everyone to please leave! 😀
  • Movie: Bohemian Rhapsody. Bio pic plus band movie. Grade: excellent!
  • Autumn comes along, days get a little shorter, and it becomes painfully clear that I am simply biology, neurochemistry, matter: instant vague feelings of failure and loss.
  • The new Clark Ashton Smith documentary is interesting but appallingly lacking in female interviewees.
  • I’m getting really tired of the coverage of that silly academic. I have no idea why anyone pays him any attention and I’m making a point of not finding out. He’s a typical fad intellectual.
  • leaves


    • Despite my cleaning efforts, a little bird (Parus major) is eating the remains of the egg thrown by Hallowe’en hooligans at my study window.
    • The French word for fencing, escrime, is cognate with Eng. skirmish, scrimmage, scrum; Ge. schirmen “to protect”; Sw. skärm “screen”.
    • Colleague brings his 16-month son to work, an extremely outgoing and cheerful little person who toddles around the office speaking wordlessly to everyone and sitting on everyone’s lap.
    • I send someone’s paper manuscript to Joe Bloggs for peer review. When the author receives the anonymous reviewer comments, he responds “If this reviewer is not Joe Bloggs, then it’s a member of the Joe Bloggs Fan Club”.


    Found my gaming group depicted on an antique brass tray.


    October Pieces Of My Mind #3


    15th century angel in Vadstena Abbey church. Originally brightly painted.

    • Movie: Cloud Atlas. Intercutting between several tenuously interlinked stories, all with the same small cast in the main roles. Grade: interesting, fun, demanding!
    • In the 70s, as Richard Feynman put it, a lot of social scientists were engaging in cargo-cult science: aping the superficial trappings of hard science without actually being able to deliver its content. This is what we see now with psychology’s excellent & commendable reproducibility crisis, for instance. When I arrived in archaeology 15 years later, our fad theoreticians were no longer even aping hard science: they were openly hostile to the idea of any science being hard. And here am I, who would like both the cargo-cult science and the science-hostile knowledge relativism kicked off campus.
    • Talked to a couple of pro-Orbán (that is, normal) Hungarians. They explained quite frankly that an important reason for their anti-Muslim sentiment is that their countrymen all learn in school about the Ottoman Empire’s brutal treatment of Hungarians centuries ago.
    • Sudden realisation. IIRC, I’ve contributed to only one academic Festschrift, my thesis supervisor’s. This is pretty indicative of my relationship with powerful older colleagues through my quarter century as an archaeologist. I haven’t cultivated the patron-client relationships that determine academic careers. Another way to put it is that very few powerful older colleagues have impressed me, and that sentiment has been mutual.
    • Strange loud bassy noises outside. Can’t tell if it’s machinery or a rave party.
    • James Bond sleeps in long pantsless silk night shirts in Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel Diamonds Are Forever.
    • Part of what makes Ian Fleming’s novels so good is the loving descriptions of consumer goods: clothing, cars, weaponry.
    • Dear Jim Morrison, I don’t understand why this girl gotta love her man, nor in what way the world depends on her, nor how this will lead to immortality kthxbai
    • For the next 100 years, US political science scholars will be analysing episodes of The Apprentice, with The Shark Tank as comparative & contextualising source material.
    • My kid made me tea and told me about his linguistics & Japanese studies. ❤
    • In the novel Diamonds Are Forever, James Bond has lunch at a rural American highway diner. He thinks the juke box looks like something out of science fiction. Not like quaint 1950s design.


    Breakfast in the great ground-floor hall of the Bjälbo kings in Vadstena. Subsequently used by nuns, war invalids, syphilis patients, mental patients…


    I wonder what this 1793 stone mason thought about orthoceratites. He probably didn’t read Hutton. (Örberga church)

    October Pieces Of My Mind #2


    Closing up the summer house for winter.

    • The Soviets were good at heavy lift missiles, because they were bad at miniaturising nuclear bombs. They were also good at bathyspheres because of their oceanography. To shoot Gagarin into space, they basically welded a bathysphere onto a missile.
    • All the datable Medieval finds we make at this site have to do with textiles. Lead seals from imported bolts of cloth. Small spindle whorls for spinning thread rather than yarn.
    • More than half of US citizens think the GOP is appalling. Well, I’m Swedish: to me the Democrats are a really nasty right-wing party. I can barely even accept that the GOP is real. So far beyond the most basic human decency.
    • Gah. Lady who is not used to reading and has a poor general knowledge base is nevertheless reading trivia questions to her friends on the train. Heard about the “Minoitians” of ancient Crete?
    • When clothing manufacturers started printing stuff on the right-hand shoulder blade area of shirts and jackets, everybody started looking like they were wearing these garments backwards. That shit used to be above the left-hand shirt pocket.
    • Argh. “Zombie Love” by Bohnes. Another song lyricist who thinks that when you want to write “God-given” and need an extra syllable for scansion, “God-forsaken” is a useful synonym. People just shouldn’t be allowed to write. Or sing. Or speak.
    • Taken my annual flu shot.
    • We’re play-testing Crusader Kings. I’m pious, cruel, chaste and dim-witted.


    Decadence: DIY Reese’s Pieces!

    October Pieces Of My Mind #1


    The Svindersvik forest fire this past June awoke a lot of dormant post-burn biology.

    • Just about the first thing my childhood dachshund did when we got her was to eat greasy aluminium foil and end up in surgery. She also suffered from roe deer hallucinations where she would run away to hunt imaginary game.
    • Getting damn cold outside now. I just gave some money to a homeless shelter in town.
    • Waiting for Azathoth, blind idiot Godot at the centre of the Universe
    • A Swedish-speaking survey worker has recorded that one tourist in Vadstena had heard of the town “through squabbling”. I wonder which Swedish word has been mistranslated here. Maybe skvaller, gossip.
    • The Rocky Horror Show in SWEDISH opens 2 February at Linköping’s town theatre.
    • A Syrian buddy of mine: “Lots of people are afraid that Muslims will change Sweden radically and make it a theocracy. But look at us. It’s the other way around for most of us. We’re changing. Sweden allowed me to come out as an atheist.”
    • Apparently, playing the didgeridoo strengthens certain muscles and cures snoring. But ladies, this raises the question: would you rather live with someone who snores or someone who plays the didgeridoo all the time?
    • Sinckers is a super popular chocolate bar with peanuts and toffee. I’m going to profit on this with a fragrant brown delicacy named Floaters.
    • Hehe. The makers of these vegetarian schnitzels clearly know that some of their customers have a superstitious fear of gluten, so they write “wheat protein” in the contents listing.
    • Maybe the anthropocene is not a geological epoch. Maybe it’s just a barely measurable film of strange chemistry between the holocene and the post-human strata.
    • The horns section on “If You Want Me To Stay” by Sly & the Family Stone is absurdly quietly mixed. You basically hear vocals, bass, drums and something reminiscent of horns leakage from the next studio.
    • I’m a member of the fine Facebook group “Traumschlösser – die schönsten Schlösser und Burgen Deutschlands”. And now I’m thinking, maybe I should change my name to Traumschlösser – die schönsten Schlösser und Burgen Deutschlands.


    Got this back from conservation. We found it in a late-13th century basement at Landsjö Castle in 2015. It consists of five small pieces of wrought iron, and I think it’s probably from a skiing pole or hiking stick.

    September Pieces Of My Mind #3

    Control panel of a 1949 Lidingö tram (SSLidJ A24B 17)

    • Half asleep last night, I found a memory floating up from 1980s sediment in my mind. When you bought a record as a present, you would ask the sales clerk to seal the inner paper sleeve with a sticker. This would allow the recipient to change it in if they wanted another record. The sticker often identified the store.
    • Movie: Paddington I (2014). The beloved children’s book ably filmed with new subtext about immigration and homelessness. Grade: Excellent in its genre.
    • My old laptop crapped out 7½ months ago. I have been eking out a sad digital existence on my various employers’ Windows laptops since. But now I’ve bought an ultralight of my own and installed glorious Ubuntu Linux on it!
    • I look back with deep regret at the ramen noodles of my youth, where I would simply cook the noodles with water and stock powder. Those were dark, dark days, before I became learnèd in the ways of ancient Chinese wisdom.
    • When I see pictures of sand and gravel on Mars or an asteroid, I can’t help but think “That’s soon going to get covered in weeds, like a spoil dump on an excavation”.
    • It feels a bit odd to read Magnus Västerbro’s new book about the 1867-69 famine in northern Sweden while eating.
    • Tell your mother that you walked all night on velvet green
    • The code name for the final massacres of Jews in part of occupied Poland in November 1943 was Aktion Erntefest, “Operation Harvest Festival”. You just can’t make this shit up. )-:
    • County admin building is looong and narrow with the entrance lobby at the middle. My desk is near one end. There’s an exit here too, but it’s only used for fire safety. For security reasons, we have to use the main entrance, a looong unnecessary corridor walk in the wrong direction. /-:
    • The vanity options on Academia.edu cost $99 a year. Nope nope nope.
    • Reading about Shang dynasty mass human sacrifice, thinking about the murdered slaves we excavate in Viking Period graves, and of the Holocaust, and of the Aztecs. )-:
    • Mushrooms are pretty useless from a nutritional perspective. They’re 3% carbs, 3% protein and the rest is almost entirely water. Compare to the blueberries growing next to the mushrooms: 9% carbs, 1% protein. Or potatoes: 16% carbs, 2% protein. Swedish farmers’ traditional lack of interest in these fungi, many of which are poisonous, was well motivated.
    • The bit in “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” where you can’t hear the words is supposed to be “Back to the howling old owl in the woods / Hunting the horny-back toad”. Because the poet is leaving his rich socialite partner and going back to his rural roots. (I just can’t understand why Taupin broke the scansion with the unnecessary words “in the woods”.)
    • Cool detail in Magnus Västerbro’s new book. Swedish-speaking settlers in the woods of northern Sweden survived a bad 1860s famine by bartering with the Sami for reindeer products and traditional gathered and preserved plant foods. Just like New England colonists surviving their first winters thanks to food contributed by local native tribes.
    • I love finds conservation. It’s expensive, but it always gets you new information, particularly for rusty iron objects. Thanks to the good people at Acta Konservering, I was just able to insert a third site with resin-taper holders into the section on indoor lighting in the final proofs of my Medieval castles book.

    I rode a 1949 Lidingö tram (SSLidJ A24B 17)

    Carl Milles 1916, “Venus on a shell”, Gåshaga, Lidingö