August Pieces Of My Mind #1

Concert with local band Amason in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art
  • The Spanish basketball team at the 2000 paralympics consisted of two disabled players and ten who only pretended that they were intellectually disabled. 😃
  • A good political party does not modify its ideology to suit popular opinion. It exists to modify popular opinion according to its ideology. And if popular opinion refuses to follow along, then fuck those voters.
  • Watching a really well-made documentary miniseries about Swedish metal music, I realise that I don’t like a lot of Swedish metal music. It’s either too cheesy and wimpy (Europe) or too fast and aggressive (Entombed). The Swedish metal bands that I like are groovier more recent outfits in the Black Sabbath tradition.
  • The Kobo Clara and the Kindle Paperwhite are both excellent e-readers, both book stores are super comprehensive and the prices there are about the same. Buy either! *shrug*
  • For the past 300 years we’ve been making random unintended interventions into the climate. We need to develop geoengineering technology and start doing this in a planned manner.
  • One reason that so little Swedish metal interests me is that most of the vocalists are either operatic tenors, or hysterical Cookie Monster soundalikes, or unmelodic abyss growlers, or even musical theatre singers. I want straight rock voices like Chris Cornell. In fact, I think all Swedish metal would be improved by Björn Skifs replacing the singer.
  • Rarely an indecisive person, I can’t decide right now if it’s worth €48 to see Franz Ferdinand on their farewell tour. It was easier back in the day when you could ask the counter-question, would I buy one of their albums?
  • Observation after three hours the metal documentary: it’s an ethnically diverse field. Few bands have no members with foreign surnames. But they seem to be mostly 2nd generation, sons of immigrants. What music will the children of the Afghan 2015 teen immigrants create?
  • I know what futuristic music sounded like in 1992. What is today’s futuristic music?

July Pieces Of My Mind #3

Patrik’s place, Sickla
  • American: “Life’s a bitch, huh?” Pole: “Tak, ‘to be’ jest być.”
  • Had a girlfriend once who broke up with me because of my cheap binoculars. She was a Zeiss queen.
  • Remember 9/11 Truthers?
  • A considerable chunk of the European working class is voting right-wing populist. I believe the main reason is that, having poor powers of source criticism, they’ve been duped into buying Russian-sponsored conspiracy theories by alternative news sources online. We’ve got to come up with a meta-conspiracy here. What are the aims of the conspiracy that wants me to believe this? And who’s behind it? Whose agenda am I unwittingly furthering? It’s clearly not just the Left in general, they are quite open about their goals here which disqualifies them as conspirators.
  • Just gave the finger to a large, fast and extremely loud motorboat.
  • Idea for a personality: the Incel Poser. You’re not actually celibate, you just aspire to the cool subculture.
  • Movie: Pig (2021). A drama for romantic foodies about rival master chefs, lost love, dad issues and a stolen truffle pig. Grade: OK.
  • Radio astronomers are planning a telescope on the other side of the Moon to avoid interfering transmissions from the Earth. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to build a time machine and send the telescope back to AD 1800?
  • Conflicting messages from some missionaries. They were playing a country song with the chorus “God is good all the time”. Meanwhile one of them was shouting that unless we repent we will all go to hell.
  • Movie: Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown (1988). Stylised slapstick jealous confusion among three women who love a philandering actor, who himself is rarely on-screen. Grade: OK.
  • When I read about immersive virtual reality, I feel like going out into the woods and sitting on a tree stump. Or eating something greasy. Or making sweaty hairy love.
  • Reading a book whose author has the rare discipline not to write anything interesting in the endnotes. It’s all just literature references, so you can ignore them while reading. 👍
  • Funny when authors slip into home country parochialism. Here’s a British author who says that unlike the famous Mohamed al-Fayed, Lyndon LaRouche is less known. He’s forgetting that the book will probably be in read in countries where nobody knows or cares who owns Harrods.
  • I was angry recently because I learned that a New Age distance healer had caused a relative of mine to go off their blood pressure meds. Now I remembered two boyhood conversations about books with healer lady’s husband, who is a charming man and an alternative medicine practitioner too. 1) He hinted that Mika Waltari’s 1945 novel The Egyptian was so accurate about conditions in ancient Egypt that Waltari had probably been using memories from a past life. 2) He recommended Baigent et al.’s 1982 made-up historical conspiracy book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail as an excellent exposé of what was really going on.
  • Henry Lincoln, a scriptwriter on 1960s Dr. Who, also co-wrote The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.
  • Not only have I organised frequent game nights of my own for 14 years, I often also procure gamers for friends who need to fill a chair at their sessions.
  • So annoying how many Americans believe Viking Period boat burial involved burning on the water, for which there is no evidence. The pyres were on land and we have excavated hundreds under mounds.
  • The lyrics to the 1985 hit song “St. Elmo’s Fire” is a very long collection of disconnected cliché motivational phrases.
  • Thinking about anti-Semitism. As a Leftie I can totally understand hostility towards the global banking & capitalist system, including those global bankers or capitalists who happen to be Jews. But most of those bankers & capitalists are not. And most Jews are not bankers or capitalists on any scale. It’s kind of a stretch to believe that every Jewish hairdresser, archaeologist and pop musician is in on an evil global conspiracy.
  • And another teenager killed over drug turf in the municipality, most likely by a teenager, again. You stupid sad fucks. Even Hell’s Angels think your subculture is idiotic and stay away from you. Because they want to make money, not die or serve prison time for murder uselessly.
  • Weird aspect of research in the humanities: each speciality has so few participants that it is often meaningless to seek a consensus of opinion. Almost nobody takes a stand for or against most published interpretations. Compare physics, medicine etc.
  • 45 says the US is going to hell. He’s right, and it’s because of his voters.
  • Movie: Soul (2020). On the brink of his big break, a frustrated jazz musician gets mixed up in the business of unborn souls. I was astonished to learn that the music is by Trent Reznor! Grade: good!
  • Customer comes up to Jrette at the supermarket where she works, starts to ask where the noodles are, interrupts themselves, looks really embarrassed, “… if it’s OK to ask you about noodles?” Jrette laughs and replies, “You know what? I’m Chinese and I know everything about noodles.” ❤
  • The only conservative I’ll take seriously is one who’s hostile to business and wants to reinstate the hereditary privileges of the nobility.
  • Movie: Insomnia (2002). Under the shadow of an internal affairs investigation, two LA homicide detectives are sent to Alaska to help investigate the not very complicated murder of a highschooler. But things do get complicated. Grade: good!
  • Very much not impressed by the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm’s Old Town. It’s tiny. It exhibits very few original objects. About half of the little floor space is currently devoted to an exhibit on the prize banquet.
  • On my way into town I often cycle past the spot where Elisabet Ehrlin was found dead one morning in late November of 1975. Almost all the absurd damage her body had suffered from a john in the throes of an alcoholic psychosis was post-mortem. Two months later he murdered another woman. Then he went out to find a police car and made a full confession. I’m not dignifying him by mentioning his name. But I send a thought to Elisabet now and then.

July Pieces Of My Mind #2

Lynn was my nanny and helped raise me from age 4 to 7. Now she’s visiting from Connecticut! Here we are at the public beach where she used to take me and my kid brother back in ’78. ❤
  • The assassin shot Shinzo Abe because Abe supported the Moonies, to whom the assassin’s mom gave so much money that she went bankrupt 20 years ago.
  • The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper in May of 1967. In November, 20-y-o Elton John began recording sessions for his first album, Regimental Sgt. Zippo, strongly influenced by the Fab Four’s offering. It was shelved for over half a century and released on vinyl only last year, and on digital four days ago. It’s good stuff!
  • Girl, you so fine Parliament should pass a sumptuary law against you!
  • I’m a lecteur paisible et bucolique, sobre et naïf homme de bien, but I enjoy reading dark stuff anyway.
  • 41st summer at my mom’s place in the archipelago, and the fauna has changed drastically. Common in 1982, almost absent today: Great Crested Grebe / skäggdopping + Eider Duck / ejder. Absent in 1982, common today: Great Cormorant / ålkråka + Grey Heron / gråhäger + Oystercatcher / strandskata. Seals and eagles were absent in 1982, and though not exactly common now, we see them several times a year. And beavers have made brief visits! No change: gulls, terns, Merganser / storskrake, Mute Swan, White Wagtail / sädesärla.
  • I’m a 1st generation PhD. When I went to uni my surname just meant “hockey player” to my professors. No academic history. I just had a realisation that kind of shook me. The family name actually does mean something now if Junior and Jrette go into the humanities. In archaeology of course, but since my wife took my name and has a high profile in Chinese Swedish circles, in sinology too. Lecturers may raise their eyebrows when they see the name on the student roster.
  • You know those scholars who work with the same thing for years and years? Bragging time: over the past year I’ve had papers in big international journals that deal with the Roman Period, the Vendel-Viking Periods and the 19th century. (And I published a historical source edition on the 17th century.)

July Pieces Of My Mind #1

Olavinlinna Castle
  • Saw a reference to some rather odd psychological research into aggressively xenophobic internet trolls. These are men (mostly) who act disagreeable and are not open to new ideas or pieces of foreign culture. “The main findings that we see repeated in study after study is that these individuals score really low on the parameters AGREEABLENESS and OPENNESS.” Oh really? Tautology, much?
  • Drove Jrette to the bus for YMCA camp where she will be one of the sailing instructors. Her fifth summer there. ♥️
  • Like a trout returning to spawn in the river where it hatched, I’ve gone to where my parents honeymooned. I wanted to see an inland Finnish summer like the ones in Paasilinna’s novels.
  • Olavinlinna is the sister of Stegeborg that I have studied quite closely, each built in the 1470s by one of the powerful Kalmar Union magnates, the Axelsson Tott brothers. Both had the excellent taste to sign their work with heraldic devices and founder’s inscriptions.
  • Highway diner food in Sweden is often pretty grim. But in Finland it is excellent! Unlimited kalja, Finnish kvass, with your lunch! Kiitos!
  • We don’t talk enough about Guglielmo Querton Xoni, the glorious man commemorated with a statue in the 1984 text adventure game The Tracer Sanction.
  • Sudden “man, I’m dense” insight. The reason that the Finns call Sweden Ruotsi after Roslagen is this: when you sail across the Baltic from Finland Proper via the Åland Isles, you land in Roslagen.
  • Finnish donuts are are flavoured with cardamom.
  • Just learned that Westminster government ministers serve actively as MPs. All Swedish MPs are what the English call “backbenchers”.
  • The virus that causes tick-borne encephalitis can pass from a cow into its milk. This means that you can get encephalitis from eating unpasteurised cheese. Not kidding.
  • Apparently disgruntled toddlers cry differently in different languages. English-speaking ones go WAAAH. Our own Swedish-speaking ones used to go ÄÄÄÄH. This morning on the Finland ferry our breakfast was disturbed by a pair of cute little sisters who went IIIH, the vowel in green beans.
  • Movie: The Zero Theorem (2013). Harassed IT-guy loner is assigned a pet project by company management to prove that everything is pointless, makes friends with a cam girl and a script kiddie. Largely shot in a disused Bucharest church. Grade: OK.
  • Thinking about democracy, it’s struck me that though everyone says that higher education is vitally important, nobody dares say that people without higher education lack something vitally important.
  • ‘Oh frabjous day! / Cab Calloway!’ / He chortled in his joy.

June Pieces Of My Mind #3

Bonfire on St. John’s Eve, Sandvig, Bornholm
  • Hey research people, do you get requests for recommendations on popular books in your field? I genuinely have no idea about those in mine. Not my job to read them.
  • Drug turf murder in my area. Everyone involved is between 16 and 20. The killer is pleading self defence, since the victim pulled a knife. Well good luck with that, kid. The CCTV footage shows with great clarity that the reason the guy pulled a knife was that you and six other boys were beating him severely. Oh, the stupid pointlessness of it all.
  • WTF, my first Uni Umeå students are turning 30!
  • Dreamed that I was lost in a windowless complex of corridors, staircases and rooms. I was convinced that it was real and I had been there many times before. Then I realised that I was dreaming, but I still believed I had been there before, and in the dream I thought to myself, “And here I’ve been thinking for all this time that the windowless complex was real!” (I believe I was also considering the possibility that the complex was real, I had been there often, but this time I was only dreaming about it.)
  • There are some opinions that are too stupid, ignorant, outdated and just generally benighted to even be allowed into the discussion in 2022. Opposition to reproductive rights is one of them. And the American voters agree when polled.
  • As “wifi” increasingly becomes a synonym for “broadband”, it’s getting harder to do IT support for family members. The problem is often that your relative has no functioning broadband at the moment, though their wifi is just fine. Try explaining that.
  • I once talked to a writer of contemporary Swedish fiction who felt that it was everyone’s duty to buy and read contemporary Swedish fiction. I disagreed.
  • One great thing about streaming music is discovering bands from countries whose music scene I didn’t know anything about. Suddenly I’m into Greek bands!? If you like Kyuss, listen to 1000 Mods! If you like Apples in Stereo, listen to Whereswilder!
  • Was Obi-wan a coenobite?
  • Conference. An American colleague repeatedly mentions a layer of “goocha”. I put my hand up and ask what it means. Is it an Italian word, guccia? No, it’s a Swedish word, gyttja.
  • Movie: Underwater (2020). Survivors flee a breached deep-sea installation across the abyssal plain in this big-budget scifi horror movie that owes a lot to H.P. Lovecraft and Aliens. Grade: OK.
  • Idea for a fun prank: using a time machine, bring lots of second-hand synthetic fibre clothes to the 16th century and trick a paper maker into buying them as raw material.
Granite quarry, Moseløkken, Bornholm

June Pieces Of My Mind #2

Lindesberg
  • Interesting how very few religious bigots will attack me for saying that I find all religions silly, but lots of them will pounce if I call their guy or book specifically silly.
  • The woman in my area who set fire to her ground floor apartment and left without alerting any neighbours has been sentenced to something that translates as “forensic psychiatric care with special discharge examination”. There was no barbecue, as she claimed. She just poured lighter fluid on the living-room floor, dropped a lit match and left. The district court comments, “we see this all the time, people with poor impulse control who get drunk and light fires in response to life problems”.
  • Send the Marines! I found a tick on my Balzac!
  • Idea for a new fresh kind of crazy right-wing extremist in the US: you’re not paranoid and hostile to the federal government, your Bible prophecy warns about the state government!
  • This I did not know! “The phonetic values of most Linear A syllabograms were already known from B, but the language expressed in Linear A has remained a mystery.” Linear A kan be read out loud, but it’s like me reading Swahili out loud and not understanding a word.
  • At a recent academic ceremony, the Rector of Uni Łódź Elżbieta Żądzińska said i.a. “There is only one nauka [Wissenschaft / vetenskap / scholarly and scientific inquiry in the wider sense]. We are meeting at the University of Lodz to celebrate your doctoral and postdoctoral promotions, but in fact we are celebrating your entire nauka-related achievements and contribution to world nauka. Because nauka cannot be practised individually, alone.” I agree wholeheartedly, but I wonder if prof. Żądzińska (a biologist) knows how controversial the idea of unitary, cumulative, rationalist science is in some sub-cultures in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Always refreshing to me when someone from the natural sciences ignores or is genuinely unfamiliar with social constructivism.
  • Idea for a covers album: keep the lyrics of famous pop tunes, write new melodies.
  • Polish niedźwiedź, ‘bear’, goes back to a Proto-Slavic *medvědь, ‘honey eater’.
  • China was ruled by actual Communists for only 30 years. It’s been a capitalist dictatorship since Deng’s pronouncement in 1979, “To Get Rich Is Glorious”.
  • Movie: Lost City (2022). Romance writer and her hunky but inept cover model end up in improbable romance plot on jungle island. Lots of jokes about genre conventions in this star studded action comedy. Grade: good!
  • I wonder what Lempel and Ziv are doing these days. Maybe they’re buddies. Maybe they play boardgames and go hiking.

June Pieces Of My Mind #1

Siggebohyttan
  • “Collectible” is a redundant word. Everything in the universe is collectible.
  • 30 years ago I turned 20, graduated from uni, got married and got a job. I recently turned 50 and today my younger child is graduating from high school.
  • Thinking about the relationship between beer and distilled spirits, I realise that the concentration that a drug is available in is a really important parameter. Quite apart from the drug’s general properties. We wouldn’t have an opioid problem if you needed to drink six litres of the stuff to achieve one dose.
  • A completely undeserved antipathy. I have this older colleague in contract archaeology whom I can’t remember ever meeting or interacting with. He has never done anything to deserve my anger. He is a respected and productive archaeologist. We have never competed for jobs. Still I can’t read his name without a little twinge of annoyance. The thing is, his surname begins with RUN. And we have worked in some of the same fields of research. So through the decades when I have looked for myself in the bibliography of a new piece of work in one of those fields, and I haven’t found any of my own stuff, instead I have often found some of his. This has conditioned me to associate his name with disappointment.
  • Would you like to read a paper titled ”Gold foil figures and human skulls in the royal mead hall at Aska in Hagebyhöga, Östergötland, Sweden”? With my co-authors Axel Löfving, Rudolf Gustavsson, Jens Heimdahl and Andreas Viberg, I hope to submit it to a high-profile venue within a few weeks. In my own personal case, I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll ever have anything equally spectacular to offer again!
  • You know how all your life you’ve asked your parents and their friends for advice because they’re old and experienced and know how stuff works? I just realised that several of my buddies in my own generation are pushing 60.
  • A fragment for a future song lyric: My RealDoll™ passed the Turing test / But I failed it
  • Among Ola Aurell’s many amazing songs is one with an interesting wrinkle on the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. ”I’m really into you and I can see that we’re on our way to becoming a couple, but we’d really better not, because WHAT IF we’ve already been a dysfunctional couple and had atrociously bad sex and the reason that we think we’ve never met before is that we’ve repressed all the ugly memories?”
  • I will never get used to “levelling up”, a 1970s term from Dungeons & Dragons, being a UK political slogan.
  • It’s astonishingly difficult to book a low-CO2 rental car. You’d think that by now there would be a prominent tick box on the search pages, but nope.
  • Movie: Petite Maman (2021). As her parents clean out her deceased grandma’s house, a little girl finds a path through the woods to the past, where she makes friends with a childhood version of her mother. Not the same continuum as the one her actual mother lives in, since she has no memory of their meeting. Grade: OK.
  • It’s the high school graduation season when you need to buy presents for young folks who are moving out from mom & dad soon. And I have invented a new type of workout: cycling 15 km while lugging along two enamelled cast-iron stew pots.
  • A common expression in archaeology is that societies or cultures reproduce themselves. It’s become really concrete to me in recent years as my children have grown up and graduated from high school. I used to think — without any great reflection — that schools were intended to enable children to join grown-up society. Now I see that schools enable them to replace the current grownups. Without schools, society as we know it would just end with the current grownups and revert to inept subsistence agriculture.
  • Saved a guy who wanted to ride subway line 14 to the Royal Technical College but had instead gone to platform 14 at Stockholm Central and boarded the long distance train for Hallsberg.
  • Looking forward to six days of fieldwork with amateurs on Medieval and Early Modern blast furnace sites!

May Pieces Of My Mind #3

Self-portrait, 1929. Asta Holmberg (1900-82). Östergötland County Museum.
  • Most real world place names have meanings that are historically passé or only locally relevant. Birka = Birch Island. Manhattan = Gather Bow Material. But in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, almost every place name means something of relevance to the story. Nothing outside of the Shire just means Hazel Hillside or Little Bog.
  • Remember the interim scene in Exploding Fist where a cow came running in and you had to kick it in the head?
  • Borgesian game design project: start with D&D 5, pretend that you have never heard of a tactical wargame, develop one from the role-playing game’s combat rules, until you have reverse-engineered the Chainmail rules from 1971.
  • Six chickens were harmed during tonight’s Delta Green session. The players used them as bait in a camera trap and caught some extremely disturbing pix of a hungry many-limbed monster.
  • Our insect hotel is extremely popular right now with the mason bees. They occasionally even fight each other and try to steal each other’s building materials. It’s fun to see them back out of the bamboo pipe, turn around and back into it again to lay another egg.
  • It’s only become clear to me in recent years that Sweden has rather an odd setup regarding archaeology. Our systems to protect archaeological sites from destruction, and to excavate and document those that need to be destroyed for important land-development needs, are world-class. But Swedish society has no mechanism to encourage research-driven archaeological excavations. Neither legally nor through the scientific funding structure. When someone discovers an important site in Sweden, we register it and protect it and then nothing more happens. No-one in all of Swedish officialdom is tasked with making research excavations happen.
  • No new images of the embossed-foil pictorial panels on the helmets from Vendel and Valsgärde have been published since the original monographs, which in Vendel’s case appeared in 1912. Those xylographed drawings are among the most reproduced images in all of Swedish archaeology. Whoever becomes the new custodian for AD 400-1100 at the Swedish History Museum, I hope they commission a set of Reflectance Transformation images!
  • Movie: Solaris (2002). Why is the planet Solaris creating these manifestations of the space station crew’s memories? A much better adaptation than Tarkovsky’s snooze fest. Grade: OK.
  • Love how Ruth Rendell switches to the present tense when saying something that is still true at the notional point in time when she is telling a story in the past tense. So many fiction authors don’t make this distinction. You get statements analogous to “Helsinki was the capital of Finland”.
  • I am indifferent or hostile to the vast majority of the messages the media put before me, commercial and otherwise.
  • Very pleased with my new personal record: Östergötland County Museum’s recently opened permanent archaeology exhibition contains finds from three of my excavations. There’s the amber gaming pieces from Skamby in Kuddby ’05, jewellery from the East Cemetery at Aska in Hagebyhöga ’06, and the foil figure die from Sättuna in Kaga ’07. I am proud to have contributed canonical finds. I am very happy that I will leave my fields of research richer than they were when I arrived. I have not worked in vain.
  • I pass Wavrinsky Street in Linköping, look at the sign in confusion, realise that it’s Ławryński.
  • Remember IRC bars, where people would pretend to buy each other text-based beer? Man, that was ridiculous.
  • Sigh. The conservatives are running for this autumn’s municipal election on the slogan “For A Safer Nacka”, when the area is already exceptionally safe even within the parameters of safe Sweden. Because rather than tell scared people to relax and get informed, they affirm their disproportionate fears.
  • Instead of the usual flowers or a package of ground coffee, I received tulip bulbs as a present after giving a talk to a local study association last year. They were pale greenish at first but are actually starting to look pretty nice as they mature.
  • When you put a German book down with the front cover upward, the spine title is upside down. This is not true for German boardgame boxes.
  • I often find it hard to buy an entire popular opinion package. For instance: I’m a tee-totaller, I’ve never used any harder drug than caffeine, I find inebriated people boring and stupid, AND I think we should legalise drugs with low lethality and addictiveness. This means that I’m OK with beer, weed, shrooms and acid being legal, but not vodka, coke or tobacco.
  • Movie: Berberian Sound Studio (2012). Wimpy English sound engineer joins dysfunctional Italian film crew adding post-production sound to a misogynistic giallo horror movie. We barely see any of the film they’re working on. Instead we see the actors and foley artists as they watch and dub the film. Grade: OK.

May Pieces Of My Mind #2

Eagles of Death Metal
  • Reading the local newspaper, I’m reminded that people aren’t always that great. Two months ago a fire broke out in a tenement block near where we used to live. While very drunk, a tenant had lit a barbecue in her apartment. As the flames spread, she fled the building, hoping that the fire would put out itself. When questioned by the police, she explained that she alerted none of her neighbours, because “They should obviously take care of themselves”. Four floors worth of neighbours living on top of the floor with the fire. The woman denies criminal wrongdoing, commenting that “People cause mishaps and mistakes are made”. The fire brigade put out the fire before it spread beyond the apartment. The woman is now being charged with aggravated arson.
  • Depressing “feel-good” news item from Ukraine about soldiers digging trenches who found amphorae and took them to a museum. They’re trashing an archaeological site. It is not good news.
  • During the Swedish invasion of Poland after 1700, farmers would routinely bury their food stores and the Swedes would routinely torture them to get the food. Wonder if these grain storage pits are archaeologically visible.
  • I’m not used to discussing with people who don’t understand arguments. It’s bewildering when it happens in certain online groups. Instead of exchanging views about A and B — possibly in complete disagreement — you get these strange men who show up and make confused statements about C and D.
  • The first car with an internal combustion engine was in 1885 and the first Mars helicopter in 2020. I wonder what extraterrestrial helicopter probes will look like 145 years from now. That Mars helicopter will soon be seen as an extremely primitive first attempt to build a new class of machine.
  • 145 years isn’t a super long piece of space history any more. The first V-2 rocket left the atmosphere (and came down again) 78 years ago.
  • Interesting to see Russia punishing Finland by refusing to sell them the only commodity Russia can still find a buyer for.
  • Movie: The Ritual (2017). This rather formulaic English horror flick interested me because it is ostensibly set in the sublime Sarek National Park, Lappland, Sweden. The dialogue and the acting are fine, and I appreciated the Northern accents. But almost none of the action is in fact shot in Sarek. It is shot in what, to my local eyes, is clearly a 50-year-old spruce plantation at much lower altitude – in Romania. And that is not scary to me. Grade: Fail.
  • Reading about the Swedish navy in the late 1600s. Things that are really odd to a modern mind are that a) the government was often months or years late with wage payments, b) it nevertheless took ages before the employees gave up and left government projects.
  • I’m reading that Tolkien fans are up in arms over some TV production. Relax and just re-read a few of the books, folks.
  • About Sweden joining NATO. I don’t know what the practical consequences will be of joining formally after half a century of informal NATO protection. And I don’t think the people online who are cheering or protesting the decision know either. This is one of the many issues that I am happy to hand over to technocrats with specialist training. I’m saying this as a member of the Swedish Left, waaay outside the entire US political spectrum, and as someone who has for years become increasingly appalled by the US.
  • Reading about the 1676 sea battle where The Crown keeled over and exploded from mishandling of sails and rudder. Really hard to understand the after action reports until I suddenly realise: they’re jockeying against the enemy over who gets closer to the wind. These ships can’t tack against it. Also their shipbuilding was highly tentative and improvised. They would build an enormous warship only to discover that it did not respond to the rudder and had to be steered with the sails!
  • Caught a brief glimpse of the cookbook Taco Mexican Style on a shelf, read it as Tao Mexican Style. That actually sounds like a more interesting book.
  • Hope the Ukrainians win the war and that, if they join the EU, they cause less trouble than the neighbouring member states have.
  • I know the guy who keeps the church bells ringing and the tower clock showing the correct time!
  • A memory: my first wife didn’t have bad hair days. She preferred to call them bog-body hair days.
  • Movie: Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022). A Chinese American family tries to deal with their damaged relationships and their failing laundromat business in an extremely psychedelic, funny and large set of parallel worlds — while mixing English and Mandarin haphazardly. Grade: great!!!
  • Isn’t it time that pharmacology figured out what the various medically useful compounds in cannabis actually do, so the world can end the medical marijuana charade? I mean we aren’t eating foxglove for heart problems anymore.
  • Embarrassing: you need to talk to a land owner or a tenant farmer for some fieldwork, so you look their phone number up online, and it turns out that every cellphone in the family is registered on the dad. So you end up calling like their 11-y-o daughter in your attempts to reach the landowner.
  • Usually you’re willing to pay more to get more. Not true with novels. When the page count goes past 600 and continues to increase, my willingness to buy the product decreases.
  • Dea Matrona from Belfast, the rockingest young Irishwomen you’ll ever hear!
  • Confession: only very recently did I get the joke: EoDM are death metal’s equivalent of The Eagles. And they sound nothing like The Eagles or like death metal.

May Pieces Of My Mind #1

Victoria & Albert Museum, 1866 mantlepiece in the lunch room
  • As a Social Democrat, I find it interesting that labour unions are treated as dangerous enemies by Nazis, Communists and Conservatives alike.
  • Call me strange, but I don’t find sex shops sexy at all.
  • There was a young woman of Aberystwyth / Who took grain to the mill to make grystwyth / There, the miller’s son Jack / Laid her flat on her back / And united the organs they pystwyth
  • A high school memory: we’ve got this short story anthology with a story about two pious uneducated Mexican sisters who start a taco restaurant. One day a man orders and eats seven tacos. The younger sister’s mind is so blown by this that the only way she can express her awe is by going to bed with him immediately. This becomes a rule. But if a costumer even hints about prostitution, he is banned from the establishment.
  • If you wonder if my wife and I were bourgeois and middle-aged in our 20s, please refer to the mushroom-picking field guide that we bought 15 months after we first met. ♥️
  • Mars helicopter photographs its own mission’s landing backshell and parachute!
  • Unexpected: the Amazon Kindle will soon no longer recognise the company’s own .MOBI file format when you email documents to your device, but it will start to recognise .EPUB, which is what everyone wanted anyway.
  • Really enjoying Jon Ronson’s podcast series Things Fell Apart on BBC. He has a rare and admirable way of speaking with people whose convictions he doesn’t share without suggesting that he does share them.
  • Strange to be talking to my old Tolkien Society buddy about people we knew 25 years ago, and a considerable number of them are dead.
  • I’m increasingly feeling that the United States of America is a fucking awful federation that should be dissolved soonest.
  • I just learned that Filip Norman died a year ago aged 47. I loved his band Qoph. They played at my 30th birthday party. I brought Junior to one of their gigs. I didn’t know Filip well but he was super nice. If I had my way he would have lived for another 50 years.
  • I’m reading a novel from ten years ago. There’s already wifi and everyone already has a smartphone. We’re living in the future.
  • Movie: Without a Clue (1988). The brilliant detective Dr. John Watson hires a stupid, cowardly, alcoholic actor to play the role of his fictional mystery solver Sherlock Holmes, and is very annoyed when the actor gets all the glory. Grade: OK.
  • In the 1950s and 60s, war gamers couldn’t buy ten-sided or twenty-sided dice. They only had six-sided cubic ones. But they needed to roll dice against percentages. So they used tables of percentile likelihoods using six-sided dice only. “73%. If you roll this one number of d6 and subtract this other number of d6, then the chance of getting at least 34 is 73%”.
  • As we hiked along the narrow sea passage Baggensstäket yesterday afternoon, a little boat passed us blasting “Sympathy for the Devil”.
  • “God only knows what I’d be without you. Apart from that he knows nothing.” B. Wilson
  • One of the black girls who used to play on our street, when we lived in the tenement blocks and our kids were little, is now a librarian at Fisksätra Public Library. ♥️
  • Movie: High Life (2018). Slow arty story about the last two survivors of a group of criminals sent off on a one-way trip into interstellar space. Low-budget placeholder sets & props. Grade: Fail.
  • Susanna Clarke’s novel Piranesi references The Magician’s Nephew, Carcieri d’invenzione, “The Library of Babel” and The Secret History. And also has a strong flavour of Zork!
  • Woah. Chris de Burgh has released 22 albums. :-0