July Pieces Of My Mind #1


Gift from the sea.

  • I just refrained from making an obvious lewd pun about a co-worker’s significant other. (An old buddy commented on Fb, “Who are you and what have you done with the real Martin?”)
  • Movie: Stardust (2007). Rom-com in fairytale land, aimed squarely at fans of The Princess Bride. Grade: Good fun!
  • In her 1976 poetry chapbook Walking in Cornwall, Ursula LeGuin mistakes a 1798 park folly for an oddly small Medieval castle. (Present from Birger!)
  • The music producer Mark “Flood” Ellis, who re-mixed lots of Depeche Mode songs in the 80s, got his nickname as a young studio assistant because he always made lots of tea fast for his boss. The other studio assistant was called Drought.
  • The Italian word for development, which shares the etymology of the English word, is sviluppo. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
  • As an archaeologist I don’t think in terms of art or treasure. In fact it causes my discipline major problems that other people do, because it tends to destroy archaeological context.
  • Playing soccer against people from a country with no horizontal ground just isn’t fair.
  • I keep and use found cutlery.
  • Got into an exchange about Indiana Jones and such. Several seriously worded post-colonialist comments. Realised that it’s not that I don’t agree with them, it’s that as a Swedish archaeologist working in agricultural non-Saami Sweden I just don’t give a damn.
  • Evening quiet broken by loud incessant whooshing noise. Turns out to be the cars on the nearby 60 kph road. Lots of people still driving at 22:40. *sigh*
  • I’ll remember 2018 as a varied professional year. I’ve made maps for a historical corpus project, I’ve taught high school languages, I’m currently coordinating vote canvassing, and now I’ve been offered a job in heritage management for the final months of the year. While I’ve been doing all this I’ve also been the managing editor of an academic journal. Not a one-trick pony!
  • Swedish pizza cooks are almost all male.
  • Executive producer: Philip Capice.
  • Taught wife & daughter to set fire to shit using a magnifying glass. Literally: a bird dropping full of sunflower seeds.
  • Got a comment here on the blog from someone with good self-confidence. “You have an interesting blog as I will stay connected.”
  • According to Junior, the Japanese voice in the No Such Thing As A Fish podcast jingle says “自動でお風呂を沸かします”, “Jidō de ofuro o wakashimasu”, “Heating the bath automatically”.
  • The Medieval Swedish word for the first light breach-loading artillery pieces was føglare. This was a loan from Low German and originally meant “fucker” — slang, the etymology being “birder, birding, to bird”.

Anybody played this boardgame? Is it fun?


Canoeing with the Rundkvist ladies.


June Pieces Of My Mind #3


My dad’s mailbox and English dogwood.

  • Funny how “illegible” and “unreadable” mean different things.
  • A drawer full of Jrette’s old crayons, markers, sticker albums and plastic beads has been sitting untouched for years as she’s put away childish things and approached womanhood. The other day I went through it all and collected the good kids’ stuff in a bag. This morning I cycled by a day care centre on my way to work and handed in the bag. Much appreciated!
  • A friend complains about last night’s date. “Dammit, I thought I was going to be a gynaecologist and instead I spent the evening as a psychologist.”
  • I have come to view paperback books as an irresponsible waste of trees.
  • Visibility was bad yesterday. Anticipating today’s improved weather, the County Tourist Administration has delivered several snow- covered mountains overnight for us to enjoy.
  • Confusing sweater. To either side is an inside pocket and an outside pocket layered one on the other. The outside one is accessed from the inside of the sweater, and vice versa.
  • My Mid-summer mountain hiking pics here.
  • Junior gave me a glass of his home-made elderflower cordial.
  • Found a 2013 issue of The Economist in the half-way hut between the Sylarna and Storeriksvollen hikers’ lodges.
  • Messy and confusing when a bunch of organisations send you money, all with the word “Salary” as the only identifier.
  • The Last Jedi is a silly film, but the bits that the conservative fanbois hate count among its strengths. Every scifi movie is improved by a Kelly Marie Tran. And I like Rogue One!
  • My excellent driving pupil Obaida passed his driving test, theory & practice!
  • Yesterday we had a look at Swedish plural imperative inclusive with mökom, “Let’s all fart!”. Now we move on to plural imperative exclusive with möken, “Y’all fart now!”.
  • Stockholm University explicitly moves funding from Elsevier subscriptions to Open Access!
  • Looking at Junior’s flowing mane, I’m sorry that I didn’t understand back in ~1990 how cool long hair is.

June Pieces Of My Mind #2


Ackee, rice, salt fish are nice. I’m skipping the rum though. (Ackee is a fruit whose flesh resembles omelet.)

  • Dammit. Starting to miss archaeology pretty bad. Almost as bad as I miss my toddlers.
  • Who are you today? I’m LARPing a middle-aged pillar of the community.
  • A young Roma woman waiting with me for the bus pointed to my paperback, then to the sky, and said “Jesus? Good!”. I replied, friendly, “No, it’s Ursula LeGuin”. She nodded, asked me for a handout, then had a loud staccato screaming argument with her nearby friend.
  • Started working as an archaeologist 26 years ago today. I went on to other things in February and now I’m only doing archaeology at 25% of full time.
  • Pakistani dads in beige kurta-kameez bringing their toddlers to leisurely cricket practice on the municipal sports field.
  • To all students of meta-archaeology and current attitudes to ancient monuments, I would like to offer the International Festival of Fisksätra, which took place today. It attracted several hundred people for many hours and took place immediately next to the Fisksätra Viking cemetery. Two or three of the participants were aware of the cemetery. It is unknown and meaningless to almost all modern inhabitants of Fisksätra. I believe that this is a typical attitude to ancient monuments, and I feel that this argues strongly against studies of meta-archaeology and current attitudes to ancient monuments.
  • I brought a bag of bones from Iron Age graves to one of the first dinners with my Chinese future parents-in-law. Their daughter told me strictly not to mention any graves, just “studying ancient cultures”.
  • Swedish stores and cafés increasingly refuse cash payments. Digital currency. I like it.
  • Though I agree in principle, I have trouble understanding the emotional resonance of the debate over who should be addressed as “Dr.”. Because in Sweden no man or woman is ever referred to with that honorific except as a joke.


June Pieces Of My Mind #1


Found an enigmatic fragment of an artefact from a bygone age.

  • Dad bragging: my kids are both fully fluent in Swedish and English. Jr speaks serviceable Japanese and Jrette speaks Mandarin. Both also have a smattering of French. Dudes, marry smart ladies!
  • When you have a really bad cold, your nasal mucus membranes are open wounds. And you keep blowing the scabs out of your nose to be able to breathe. You’d never do this to your knee.
  • There’s a housing area nearby named Talliden. Probably named for the thallid fungal creatures in Magic the Gathering.
  • Each Kindle has an email address. You can send PDF and EPUB files to it and have them show up on the device. Convenient! But if you buy an ebook for someone at Amazon, do not use this address. Use the person’s address or it won’t work.
  • Received a used washing machine. Gave it a trial run in the yard. Realised that the transmission belt had jumped. It turned out to be too short to put back on the wheels. I had an idea and put it in hot water, then dried it off, and it slid into place just fine. But then I found that the hub was damaged and immobilised.
  • A memory. In the Swedish Outdoor Association’s youth group, we were often told to bring a stick of wood from home so collectively we would have enough firewood without having to collect it in the forest.
  • Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” was a B side and he was surprised when it became a hit.
  • It’s obvious, but still I’m surprised. In 2002 Sweden’s current Minister of Culture (Greens) published an interview book about the country’s crown princess.
  • Planning a night out for our 19th anniversary. Thanks to Sweden’s recently much more intense contact with Afghanistan, I was able to buy tickets for an Afghan trio playing traditional music in the venerable Finnish Church as part of the Early Music Festival, and then dinner at Little Kabul.
  • YES!!! I got funding to design & print my Medieval castles book, and to cover the last finds conservation bill!
  • OK ladies, I know you wonder where all the sexy alpha males are tonight. Let me tell you, they are playing boardgames at my place. And they are gorgeous. Mmm-hmm.
  • Why does “Japanese Boy” by Aneka suddenly and unpromptedly start playing in my head over a quarter-century later?
  • Love boating on lakes and rivers whose shores I’m familiar with only from dry land.
  • Yay summer, a walk in the woods and immediately a tick on my Balzac.

May Pieces Of My Mind #3


First race of the year. Sunshine and a high wind!

  • I want a hoodie with the word HODIE across the back.
  • Cycling home last night at 11 I interrupted two young roebucks fighting in a suburban parking lot. Long, wickedly sharp antlers. They weren’t particularly afraid of me, but watched me with interest, then went back to trying to gore the shit out of each other. Scraping the ground with a front hoof.
  • Started my new job today. I’m coordinating the Labour / Social Democrat Party’s vote canvassing efforts in Nacka in the lead-up to the September 9 election. Nacka is an affluent and populous municipality adjacent to urban Stockholm where Labour hasn’t held power in almost half a century. Let’s see what we can do!
  • For two decades academia kept telling me that my presence didn’t matter and my opinions were of no account. An important motivation for me getting involved in politics is that here people say “We can really use someone like you, and we’d like you to take part in shaping policy”.
  • Cremated remains of Clyde Tombaugh who discovered Pluto are on the New Horizons probe that mapped the planet.
  • Love a scifi con at cycling distance! I’m doing a talk on Medieval castles and a panel on fictional empires. Also moderating a panel on Ursula LeGuin.
  • Florence (of The Machine) writes “So I like to keep my issues strong / But it’s always darkest before the dawn”. I’ve fixed the rhyme for her: “But it’s always darkest before the dong”.
  • The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson is shelved under “War and Conflict” at Sickla public library in suburban Stockholm. In English and Swedish.
  • This summer I want to: ride a steam train and study the engine, and go kayaking, hiking and skinnydipping.
  • Sent my 7th book off to the graphic designer! Do you want all the gritty details about life at Swedish Medieval strongholds? Then I’m your Huckleberry.
  • Given the popularity of cheese burgers, I suggest that Hamburg’s inhabitants rename their city Käseburg.
  • Ishmael and Samuel have the same etymology, “hear” + “god”.
  • Why is the list of languages in LibreOffice’s spellchecker so damn long? Has the software suite even got dictionaries for Teke-Eboo and Nganasanic?
  • Sabbat’s 1987 single “Blood for the Blood God” mentions 10 million orc & goblin feet, that is, only 5 million orcs & goblins. So relax everyone.
  • The Latin word for nightingale, luscinia, is applied as a species surname to the thrush nightingale common in Linnaeus’s native Sweden. Not to the common nightingale that the Romans knew.
  • Why is wifi disconnection on a cell phone such a slow process?
  • The 8th century is known as the time of the Blue Ladies, because the Scandinavian bead market was dominated by blue and a few green bead types. Now the Danes are excavating yet another one of the workshops in Ribe that created these beautiful wares.
  • My grandparents were born in the 1910s. Cling film must have been completely futuristic to them.
  • Listened to a Coldplay song just to check if I still liked it. I did not. Then it got stuck in my head.
  • Reached the point in a really bad cold when you suddenly realise, hey, it’s been quite a while since I had to blow my nose!
  • My Chinese wife instructed me to make chlodnik, a cold Polish soup based on beetroot and kefir that was previously unknown to me. Yet I do not feel culturally threatened. What is wrong with me?!


May Pieces Of My Mind #1


Magnolia, Boat Hill, Fisksätra

  • Why is it so hard for Swedes to learn that there’s an S on the verb when he-she-it does stuff?
  • Now is the month of maying / When merry lads are playing / Each with his bonny lass / Upon the greeny grass
  • Wonder if Robert E. Howard would have enjoyed heavy metal.
  • Marking these national tests is like counting up the final score in Agricola or 7 Wonders. 50 times. Without getting to play the games.
  • Dad lunch: unattractive contents of four plastic boxes from fridge combined.
  • A hangover is just acetaldehyde poisoning after the ethanol has been processed. Wonder if you can get an instant hangover by drinking acetaldehyde.
  • Archaeologists, quit writing that you “recovered” stuff that you’ve found. You never saw it before, let alone owned it. You can recover your lost cell phone.
  • Refugee settlement should be distributed across the EU by GDP, not by the member countries’ population size.
  • Cure fans! Listen to Josh Rouse’s “Feeling No Pain”!
  • I seem to be employable. I keep getting employed!
  • Swedish universities are rigging their recruitment to make sure favoured internal candidates get jobs, according to Sweden’s leading university union. Over half of all job ads are published less than 21 days before the application deadline. Over a third of advertised positions meet with only a single application.
  • Over-designed rules: the national tests in English have a mechanism to dock points from students with excellent vocab and very poor spelling. Such students are extremely rare. Brings me back to reading 80s role-playing game rules.

Cherry blossom, Stocksund


April Pieces Of My Mind #3


Nanjing brocade at Millesgården Museum.


A Nanjing brocade loom, operated by two master weavers at the Millesgården Museum.

  • Wut? Raymond Chandler wrote a story named “The King in Yellow” in 1938!
  • There’s currently a major unsatisfied demand for field archaeologists in London. A friend of mine explained to me why there are so few people on this job market. She has an MA in archaeology and is working on a big contract excavation in Cambridgeshire. Her monthly salary is £1640 = $2300 = €1870 = SEK 19400. That is, after the great unsatisfied demand has already pushed the salaries up a lot.
  • In Sweden the County Archaeologist chooses which contract archaology bid a land developer has to accept. In the UK the developer chooses. No wonder UK archaeologist salaries are ridiculously low.
  • In 2017, 97,000 Swedes actively left the former state church. Most were young affluent urban men.
  • I didn’t like Crackerjack when I was 5. Haven’t tried it since.
  • Just saw spring’s first bumblebee!
  • Yay, Deezer has a new music discovery mode that plays tailored stuff but nothing you’ve heard before!
  • When a political party sends public messages, they are usually distasteful to its members. Because they are designed to draw in non-members, to flip people who support other parties.
  • A funny thing about teaching English in Swedish high school: along with gym and pretty much no other subject, spoken English is actually highly valued by the cool kids.
  • Have lost 0.45 litres of blood. Shall replace it with meal at recommended Persian restaurant.
  • You hear stories of PhDs who never manage to have a research and uni teaching career and instead end up teaching high school. I never expected to first have a voluminously productive research and uni teaching career, then end up teaching high school. For a higher salary.
  • Ceylon tea is a little weak. The trick is to use lots of leaves. And never remove them from the pot or cup. So good.
  • New Friendly Local Game Store in central Stockholm! Dragon’s Lair II, Sveavägen 118.
  • Why is the 1997 film In & Out so similar to Michael Chabon’s 1995 novel Wonder Boys, which was made into an eponymous movie in 2000? I asked this two years ago and I still don’t know.
  • Gaia Project: left the box and solo-play gear at home, went to gaming event. Discovered I’d also left the round-pass boosters & purple advanced tech tiles. Game perfectly enjoyable without them.

April Pieces Of My Mind #1


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.

First coltsfoot!


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


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*

This historical newspaper may need the attention of a document conservator.