August Pieces Of My Mind #1

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

Pablo Picasso, Pigeons, 1957, detail

Pablo Picasso, Pigeons, 1957, detail


July Pieces Of My Mind #3

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

July Pieces Of My Mind #2

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

July Pieces Of My Mind #1

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

My wife is getting good at Catan!

June Pieces Of My Mind #3

  • It would be quite nice if writers feared for their lives over the difference between publishing city and printing city in bibliographies. Then they would be more motivated to get it right.
  • My parents are great. They’ve got so much hiking gear, at 74 they still know exactly where they keep it, and they’re happy to lend it to me. All I’ve had to buy for four days’ mountain hiking is boots and a pair of sufficiently long waterproof pants.
  • 24 applicants for Stockholm U archaeology lectureship, several with exceptional qualifications. Looking at the list I realise that you could staff two new departments from scratch simply by picking people from that list.
  • Another reflection upon that list of 24 applicants. The average qualification level on that list is distinctly higher than among people who already have steady lectureships in archaeology at Swedish universities. Because recruitment isn’t generally very meritocratic. And once you have a lectureship you have neither opportunity nor motivation to continue improving your qualifications.
  • Miguel Coimbra has illustrated a crazy number of boardgames. And his art is always great!
  • I’ve been contracted to direct a gay erotic naval war movie set in Classical Greece. The title is Battle of the Salamis.
  • 19th century manuscripts in the ATA archives taught me to create a straight margin by folding the edge of the paper.
  • Donated blood, was taken care of by a med student who looked Jr’s age. So weird to me that I have become an affable avuncular presence. I do in fact feel less gawky, gangly and awkward than a quarter century ago though.
  • I just sealed an agreement with the Dept of Historical Studies at Gothenburg University to head their field archaeology course in September. If the County Archaeologist gives their approval, then me and the students will join the long distinguished line of excavators at Kungahälla, with Kristina Bengtsson as our main advisor.
  • Oh man. Does “steatite ashlar” mean anything to you? Täljstenskvadrar in Swedish. *breathes heavily*
  • A colleague just told me that the EU’s water directive means that enormous numbers of old mill dams in disrepair will have to be machined away in the near future. And that my 2015 book on Bronze Age deposition offers almost the only well-founded overview of what this may mean in terms of contract archaeology.

June Pieces Of My Mind #2

On a whim I searched for my surname in the Sites & Monuments Register and was awarded with a distribution map of fieldwork I have directed

  • Boiled cauliflower is bland and boring. But try slicing it and baking it at a high temperature in the oven with oil and salt. Good stuff!
  • Archaeoscience friends! The other day when I was feeling happy I had the idea that you guys should develop a method to measure lifetime happiness in human bone. Preferably including variability over the life span.
  • Proponents of market capitalism tend to confuse a description of how the market works with a prescription for how we should organise society. It’s basically “Don’t bring an umbrella, it’s supposed to rain!”
  • I got a letter with some apparently irrelevant genealogical info from a DNA relative. She comments, apologetically, “I am 86 years old and I suffer somewhat from dementia.”
  • I had no idea bird baths are such fun. Never get tired of watching our feathered neighbours at their ablutions.
  • Got my WorldCon scheduling today. I’m giving one talk for grown-ups, two for kids and I’m on one panel.
  • Cousin E taught me a piece of Chinese innuendo: “romantic action movie”.
  • I was pleased and surprised to find an uncredited summary of one of my papers in the local history annual on the back label of a beer bottle from the Fisksätra micro brewery.
  • Wednesday evening sailboat mini race. Sunshine, birdsong and barely any wind.
  • I want to live in constant summer.
  • Today’s my 25th anniversary as a professional archaeologist. With the exception of a few months on the dole in 1993 and 2001, I’ve supported myself and two kids exclusively with archaeological work and spent most of that quarter century at research.
  • I’m doing something utterly Lovecraftian today: sending a strangely heavy, black stone (found in the overgrown ruins of an abandoned Medieval castle on an island) to a university professor to learn his professional opinion about it.
  • Copy editing Timo Salminen’s paper for Fornvännen’s October issue, I learned something fun. As late as 1878, Oscar Montelius wasn’t aware of the Pre-Roman Iron Age in agricultural Scandinavia, which is 530 years long. He thought that the Bronze Age ended about AD 1 and was immediately succeeded by the Roman Imperial Period! My guess is that this was because of the PRIA’s notoriously scanty grave furnishings.
  • I just gave some wealthy sponsors of my research a guided tour of the multinational council housing estate where I live. They happily went along and were quite interested.
  • Begonias are named for Michel Bégon (1638-1710), a French official and plant collector.
  • First swim of the year in Lake Lundsjön!
  • 24 applicants for Stockholm U archaeology lectureship, several with exceptional qualifications.

June Pieces Of My Mind #1

Poppies along our fence

  • My wife receives her second university degree today. In addition to her 15 years in journalism, she is now also a trained psychologist. Go YuSie!!!
  • I assume 45’s lawyers cleared the covfefe tweet?
  • Small but very satisfying discovery. In 1902 a Medieval coin is found at Skällvik Castle. The finder makes a detailed drawing of the coin and sends coin & drawing to the authorities, who promptly lose track of the coin. Gone. In 1954 a list is drawn up of twelve Medieval coins found at nearby Stegeborg Castle. In 1983 the list is published — and suddenly there are thirteen coins on it. And the additional coin has a completely unexpected date, for Stegeborg, which was ruinous at the time. And the coin looks identical to the one that went missing in 1902…
  • Chinese prime minister offers voice of reason on climate, unlike POTUS. Yay, Republicans. Go you. /-:
  • Jrette comes home from first pop gig without parents. Describes ace female guitarist+bassist.
  • Whew, a final close call. The Johan & Jakob Söderberg Foundation comes through and saves my bacon for the last seven months that I plan to subsist on grants. Ample time to finish my castles book. Ask for me a year from now, and you shall most likely find me a contract archaeology man.
  • 18th anniversary with YuSie! And tea, and sunshine!
  • The HPV vaccine is already putting a big dent in the cancer statistics! And remember: here’s something young men can do to improve the health of future grandmothers. And to keep their penises wart-free.
  • In Jrette’s opinion, I’m pretty frenetic.
  • Almost bought Turkish bulgur. Then I remembered Erdogan and his rural power base. “Too bad, politically deluded durum wheat farmers”, said I, and bought wheat from Västergötland instead.
  • I like novellas, 120-150 pp. Very few multihundredpage novels are worth the time.
  • Cousin E beat me big at Patchwork again. Seems that with the summer approaching, the threat of having to sleep in the yard is no longer very effective.
  • I think it’s pretty neat that the designer of a game is often not a particularly strong player of that game. Inventing something with emergent properties that others discover.
  • The Wow Signal: it was a comet that hadn’t been discovered at the time.
  • “Squamous” means “scaly”.
  • “Rugose” means “has a folded/wrinkled surface” and is cognate with “corrugated”.
  • “Gibbous” describes the moon when it’s between half and full, and descends from the Latin word for hump.
  • Sorry to see the Tories get ahead of Labour in the UK elections. Right now it’s 47 to 40%. Some consolation though that UKIP has been wiped out entirely.
  • Someone plz explain how the UK election result represents any diminished Tory ability to get stuff through Parliament! *confused*
  • Haha, now I get it. Brits are super confused to have what us Swedes call “a normal coalition government”.
  • Before coming into a song, a bass player will often do this little slide along a string, “bwoing”, to announce her presence. What’s that called?
  • Here’s a piece of good news. During the past three summers’ fieldwork at Medieval castles, we dry-screened the dirt through 4 mm mesh. We also collected soil samples, a selection of which palaeobotanist Jennie Andersson has checked for carbonised plant remains. Jennie also found lots of tiny bones in the soil samples. Now osteologist Lena Nilsson has analysed the bones that Jennie found. And good news, as I said: no new animal species. If we had wet-screened the dirt through sub-4-mm mesh, we would certainly have found a greater number of bone fragments. But it would have been enormously costly in terms of money and labour. And it seems likely that we would not have identified additional animal species.
  • I found my hair! It’s currently on my chest, below my navel and in an amazing profusion on the small of my back. Really been wondering where it had gone to.
  • Listening attentively to the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” for the first time. What a strange & interesting production! It’s so dense and distant, kind of indistinct with no air in it. Like you’re underwater. Or nodding off on heroin, I imagine.

May Pieces Of My Mind #3

In the time of the lilacs, in the month of laburnum

  • I didn’t like any of this year’s Hugo-nominated novels, so I’ll be voting ”No award” there. But the short-story category really has me confused. The novels aren’t great, but most of them are certainly science fiction. Only one of the six shorts though is scifi as opposed to fantasy. Is there no longer a difference between the genre remits of the Nebulas and the Hugos? I thought the Hugos were strictly sf.
  • Today a number of contract archaeologists and metal detectorists have treated me like someone with valuable skills and knowledge. I really need that. Thank you guys!
  • I’ve realised that I’m not into games of the type “let’s all play our own game of solitaire and occasionally glance at each other”, so I’m selling off Race for the Galaxy and Glass Road.
  • Spoke to a physicist at the gaming convention. “I like mathematicians a lot. Won’t hear one bad word about them. I think everyone should own one!”
  • Gekkoes in Ullared
  • The summer weather and three days at cons have severed me from the everyday. I’m confused about going back to work.
  • Junior has received his final high school grades. They’re better than mine were. He’s set to move out from his mom and start studying computer science at Jönköping University come September.
  • Once 45 is ousted, hope his voters will realise they aren’t really equipped to make political choices. Better abstain for the common good.

May Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • I don’t know what “the winter of 1473” means. January and February? November and December?
  • Just got home from a sunny bike ride that was also incidentally my least successful geocaching expedition ever. I was in Hammarby Sjöstad, a recently built and densely populated urban area. The only way a geocache survives in such an environment is by extreme stealth. And GPS navigators do really poorly between tall buildings. I simply couldn’t find the little fuckers.
  • Cousin E has taught us the popular old Maoist card game “Fight the Landowner”.
  • Translationale Magnetresonanztomographie. Betriebswirtschaftslehre. Unternehmensbesteuerung.
  • I’m hoping that voters around Europe are paying attention to US news and learning a thing or two about what happens when you elect poorly educated and inexperienced anti-establishment candidates to high office.
  • The Wallenberg/SEB banking family founded Saltsjöbaden in 1892. Now they’re closing their branch office at the little local mall, est. 1969. I haven’t been to a bank office in years.
  • Saw an ad for equity release. I assume that it means mutual orgasm. I’m strongly pro.
  • Almost every one of the 40 participants at the Social Democrat intro course I attended today was either the child of an immigrant, the spouse of an immigrant or an immigrant. A lot of well educated and articulate people. Encouraging both for the party and for society at large.
  • I hate pre-installed apps that can’t be uninstalled.
  • I judge books by their first 50 pages, whether to continue reading. Now I looked at The Lord of the Rings in this way. In its first 50 pp you learn what the Ring really is. Oh yeah.

May Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Contraceptives really changed society radically. Prior to them literature is full of references to people being too poor to get married. Because getting married was the same thing as having children.
  • I’m disappointed with streaming movie services. I thought they were like music services, where it’s a rare exception if some older band’s catalogue isn’t available in full. On Netflix and Viaplay it’s in fact the other way around: you’re super lucky if an older movie is available, and you often have to pay extra.
  • Snoop Dogg’s autobiography: The Chronicle.
  • Poetry tip: don’t put the word “the” in a stressed position unless you really want to emphasise it.
  • Just applied for an academic job. Viewed dispassionately I think I’m a really good fit for the position. But I still feel a bit queasy about it. You see, in Scandinavian academe, when you’re turned down for a job you don’t just get a “Thanks for your interest” letter. You get a document where three highly qualified colleagues explain at length why they think you’re crap compared to applicant A and should only be considered if all alternatives are killed by falling grand pianos.
  • A metal detectorist just posted a picture of a recent find on Fb: a 1970s pendant with the Phantom’s protective symbol, the four sabres…
  • Confession: when I saw the May The 4th Be With You tweets I thought to myself “But I don’t care about Trek”.
  • Wonder if we still have access to apex steam locomotive technology. Or if important parts of it died with that generation of engineers.
  • Historical archaeology: I’m not quite sure to what extent I need to cite primary sources and academic discussion among historians. It’s fun but it takes time and is not really my job. I assume that there is room for archaeological research into the material record that uses historians’ results without taking the step itself fully into historical research.
  • The Chronicle of Duke Erik gets even better if you read “dude” for “duke” in it.
  • I haven’t got a Georgian landscape park with follies and a part-time hermit, but I can at least make syllabub.
  • Movie summaries are a huge genre of short films on Chinese YouTube. There are lots of celebrity summarisers. Cousin E thinks there may be several reasons: movies with sexual or political content are forbidden in China, people don’t have much free time, people may think some movies are too scary to actually watch.
  • I haven’t found the Philosopher’s stone. But I’ve synthesised its stereo isomere.
  • It hasn’t made me rich and employers aren’t fighting over me, but I gotta say, I’ve probably had more fun as a scholar than most of my contemporaries. Eight years ago I was finishing a book about Late Iron Age elite settlement. Three years ago, a book about Bronze Age ritual deposition. And now, a book about lifestyles at High Medieval strongholds.
  • Forget about Transylvania. In Myresjö parish, Småland, is a hamlet named Drakulla. On its land is an island in Lake Grumlan with the remains of a modest Medieval manor house. The written sources aren’t strong enough by far for us to exclude the possibility that Vlad Tepesz stayed there.
  • Sunset makes me happy-sad.
  • Our current situation, with only one hominin species on the planet, is recent and unusual.
Baggensfjärden, windy May

Baggensfjärden, windy May