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.
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April Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • There is no year zero in the common era. 1 BC is followed by AD 1. This is because Dionysius Exiguus worked around AD 500, long before the Indian concept of mathematical zero reached European scholars via the Arabs.
  • I don’t quite understand why the guy in Springsteen’s “The River” is so super sad. It’s not in the lyrics.
  • I love Turkish fast food and “Here Comes The Rain Again”.
  • Thorn-stabbed left eye acting up again nine months after that brush-clearing session at Skällvik Castle. Right-hand one showing its sympathy by clouding up too, leaving me unable to read or write much. Annoying. But eye specialist is not worried, so nor am I.
  • I want music discovery algorithms to distinguish between songs I dislike and songs I love but don’t want to hear all the time.
  • Movie: Your Name. Anime feature with beautiful scenery, conventional humans and a confused supernatural time-travel body-exchange motif. Grade: OK.
  • Today’s my 18th anniversary of editing Fornvännen.
  • -thwaite in English place names is cognate with Sw. Tveta, originally having to do with the wood chips produced when felling trees to clear land.
  • DNA has identified a bunch of strangers as my 3rd or 4th cousins. I’ve contacted them and started to work with the interested ones to identify our link. In one case we know which Bohuslän hamlet the couple lived in. In another case we know in which two Värmland parishes they lived. Fun puzzle-solving exercise.
  • Reading Becky Chambers’s Hugo Award finalist novel A Closed And Common Orbit with two parallel narratives. One is about a whiny adolescent android who does nothing much, and it does not interest me. The other is about a 10-y-o Robinson Crusoe scavenging in a huge tech dump. That keeps me reading.
  • It’s kind of hard to play games with secret traitors when Cousin E is involved. He thinks it’s super fun to be allowed to betray the team, so he does it as fast as he can regardless of whether he’s a traitor or not, all while giggling hysterically. This tends to make life easy for the actual traitors.
  • Xlnt weird, dark, druggy song: Timber Timbre’s “Black Water”. Turn up the bass!
  • ResearchGate and LinkedIn do a spectacularly bad job of identifying academic jobs I’m qualified for.
  • Movie: Topsy Turvy. Gilbert & Sullivan and the original production of The Mikado. Grade: Great!
  • Danish encouragement: “Men du er jo selvskrevet til jobbet!! SØG DET, DU VIL VÆRE ET KÆMPE FJOLS HVIS IKKE DU GØR DET!!” Honestly, who wants to be a kæmpe fjols?
  • Saturn’s ocean moon Enceladus has recently been discovered to have environments that would be habitable to Earth’s methanogenic bacteria. If it turns out that there is not in fact indigenous life there, then I think we should seed the place!
  • Dear UK: get a permanent citizen registry and scrap the notion of “registering to vote”. In Sweden I just bring my ID to the polling station.
  • The concepts of “man cold” and “man flu” suggest a traditional masculinity where men shouldn’t show weakness. Very 1950s.
  • Woo-hoo! I lost my cherry on this day in 1987! 30 years a lover!
  • Advice for you ladies: take nerds to bed. As someone so wisely put it — nerds read up, and unlike the jocks they always do their best since they can barely believe that they’re actually getting laid. Nerds like to figure out how stuff works and optimise.
  • Frustrating. In live debates, people often show signs of not listening to what I say, but to their expectations about what someone with my demeanour would say. It’s not that I make long speeches or use unfamiliar words or aggressive ones. I always make an effort to speak briefly, simply, to the point. But time and time again I realise that people I agree with believe that I don’t. I have a vague perception that they may see me as too bossy and confident to really be on their side.
  • The buzz word “digitisation” is used commonly and extremely vaguely in Swedish politics. It seems to mean “Internet and automatisation and scifi stuff”. It is at the same time something good and modern, and something scary that deletes jobs. It is at the same time inevitable and something that deserves political support to happen.

December Pieces Of My Mind #3

  • If you’re a bricklayer with unusually high qualifications, being unemployed is frustrating. But very few customers in the construction business make any kind of public promise to always employ the most qualified bricklayer. Now imagine that they did. Imagine that it were illegal for builders to employ anyone but the most qualified bricklayer. And imagine our bricklayer’s frustration when poorly qualified colleagues, who didn’t even quote a lower price, got the jobs anyway. Imagine that. And welcome to academia.
  • Let’s all refer to the 19th century historian C.G. Styffe as “Stiffie”.
  • Much-needed encouragement: a colleague wrote me to ask if I would please do this small job that not many people have experience of, and also give a talk about some relevant work of mine to a crowd of contract archaeologists.
  • Swedish mountains are kind of wimpy. Norway’s highest peak is almost 400 m higher than our highest one.
  • Played Jeff Buckley’s recording of “Hallelujah” to Jrette and she put her head on my shoulder.
  • Looking at the distribution of some find categories across the 14th century fortified manor Bjärkaholm. Documentation of where each individual find was made was completely ad hoc. No grid system. For find #405 for instance, a piece of Korsbetningen type lamellar armour, the find context is given as “Between the long cut. Near αα. 1914?”. *facepalm*
  • The scenic yet inconveniently located Lännersta Inlet keeps me from taking a long walk northward from my home.
  • Saw a teenage girl walking around outdoors while reading a 1980s copy of Ende’s Never-ending Story.
  • I once met a weed-smoking Dutch lawyer with only one ball.
  • My wife invited an Hazara tailor from Afghanistan and his family plus their interpreter friend over for lunch. Lovely people. Kids speak excellent Swedish. I taught them Pitch Car and Qwirkle. And I was particularly pleased to meet interpreter Ali again. He’s picked up Swedish in no time.
  • The Swedish Skeptics are the subject of a long attack feature in the current issue of the country’s biggest extreme-right hate paper. We are all very proud!
  • Dreamed that I had hair again. And that I parachuted into a city wearing only my dressing gown. When I landed I asked where I was. “Latvia”.
  • Saw this ~28ish guy in elaborate punk costume on the train. His jacket celebrated the Swedish punk band Asta Kask whose first EP appeared in 1982. Under it he wore a G.G. Allin teeshirt (obiit 1993). How does a young man become a punk antiquary?
  • Time spent doing research on tax-free funding cannot be discounted when the unemployment fund determines whether you have worked enough in the recent past to qualify for the dole. Time spent in forced treatment for drug addiction, however, is discounted.
  • When you’re doing something fiddly with one hand and realise that you’re making some spazzy random gesture with the other. Embarrassing. (Yeah, yeah, nudge nudge etc.)
  • This is really badass. I’ve never seen this before. A scientist has retracted a journal paper — not because of scientific fraud, but simply because continued research has disproven the paper’s main claim! Respect!
  • So folks didn’t like 2016. Do we expect celebrity deaths and brown-shirted politics to respect the calendar year? Of course not.
Abandoned club house, Svartkärrsberget Hill

Abandoned club house, Svartkärrsberget Hill

November Pieces Of My Mind #1

Treehouse ruin near the old chapel cemetery on Skogsö.

Tree-house ruin near the old chapel cemetery on Skogsö.

  • Fear me! I make bad puns in really, really bad Mandarin!
  • One Celsius and sleet. I have to drive for four hours today, so I’m switching tyres first.
  • Skänninge is dying. So many empty shop premises and housing properties. Facades flaking. Railway has cut off the eastern approaches to the town square. Last wave of investment in construction seems to have coincided with the mexibrick fad around 1970.
  • Incomprehensible: the re… play I guess? Of Toto’s “Africa” with a few hip-hop passages inserted. Why oh why?
  • Why doesn’t the Linköping City Library have an entrance towards the town centre? Enormous fucking building and you always have to walk around it.
    These popular lectures are really making my autumn!
  • Listen up, archaeokids. Lets say you first excavate context A, writing “A” on all the find baggies. Then you kind of think that you’ve gone into a new context, so you start calling it context B and writing “B” on the baggies. Then you decide that B is actually not different enough from A to be treated usefully as a separate entity. This is completely OK. Just put in the field notes that A=B. What is NOT OK is to re-use the label “B” for the completely different shit that is sitting under context A/B! NEVER RE-USE A CONTEXT IDENTIFIER FOR SOME OTHER SHIT!!! /Signed, the guy who is writing up the report and organising the finds.
  • Why do atheists consider Ray Comfort worthy of a response? He appears daft. Does he have a loud public voice?
  • Movie: Grand Budapest Hotel. Ruritanian comedy in a stylised Old Europe. Many big-name cameos. Grade: Pass With Distinction.
  • It struck me the other day that I got married twice during my 20s.
  • Love sleeping with socks on during the cold season!
  • If I were to watch the movies about Captain America, Doctor Strange and Superhero Thor, then that would be my first experience of these characters.
  • Took Cousin E on a long bike ride to the cake shop. First it taketh away, then it giveth.
  • When suggesting who’s in my pictures, Facebook seems to assume that I am likely to meet countrymen with whom I interact a lot on Fb. When in fact I tend to interact either live or on Fb.
  • Dreamed that I met a childhood friend. Knew I was dreaming. Told him “Wow, you haven’t changed much! But I guess that’s because I don’t have any recent information about what you look like.”
  • “Korkeakoulupedagogiikan apulaisprofessori!” Finnish has the best curse words.
  • Poor beat-up Anthony in “Fistful of Love”. )-:
  • Neatly dressed lady in her 50s, looks like a district attorney to me, reading Heinlein’s Starship Troopers on the tube.
  • Taken my flu shot!
  • Hey, what’s this sudden feeling of being a failure, with little to show for my past and nothing in particular to look forward to? Oh, hello November. It’s you again.
  • Shoveled snow for the first time this winter.
  • Remember when we used to think that Dubya was amazingly incompetent?
  • Reading local paper. Good letter to the editor about the municipality’s ability to house refugees. I feel great frustration at inability to click “like”.
  • Jrette was sad and frightened when she told me the bad news.
  • I just joined the Social Democrat Party. Let’s see what we can do.
  • I asked a professor about a UK lectureship. Can Swedish prehistorians be considered? Yes certainly, if they’re willing to teach British Prehistory. Replied I, my willingness is boundless but my ability rather limited.
  • Stockholm’s bus services are suspended due to unseasonably heavy snow. I walked 4.5 km from Slussen to Sickla, where I’m giving a talk to the local historical society.
  • Get crazy with the Cheez Whiz
  • Missed the day’s first movie because of snow still messing public transport up.
  • Wonder if you’re a member of the elite? Handy tip: if you think individuals can be “elites”, then you ain’t.

October Pieces Of My Mind #1

Satanic Men At Work in Umeå. (Actually, there's condensation on the other side of the sign, and the sun is boiling it off.)

Satanic Men At Work in Umeå. (Actually, there’s condensation on the other side of the sign, and the sun is boiling it off.)

  • Me: “subject”. Autocorrect: “Sibbertoft”.
  • Hey everyone who names your daughters “Chatarina”! I just want you to know that you’re stamping your kid with this big label that says “From A Home With No Language Skills”. It’s like naming her brother “Piliph”.
  • Huh? There’s an online service named Plurk. I have no idea what it does but it sounds extremely funny in Swedish. Plurk plurk!
  • Whenever I see a schnauzer dog I wish I could give its face a buzz cut.
  • Android. The bottom left button used to call up the options menu. Never used that. Then it did nothing. Now it calls up the task manager and is finally useful!
  • “Foxey Lady” is really oddly recorded and mixed. The instruments are fuzzy and centred. The vocals are super loud, super crisp and placed way out left and right. Sounds like two different recording sessions decades apart.
  • “The girl from Ipanema goes walking / And when she’s walking each one who sees her says / GNYAAAAARGLAAAAGH!”
  • Childhood buddy, last seen about 1985, resurfaces as columnist in Umeå entertainment paper.
  • Teaching helps make up for the fact that my kids are growing up strong & independent and don’t need me much anymore.
  • I took a look at the hit boardgame The Voyages of Marco Polo and felt instant revulsion. I think I’ve had enough of German-style cube-pusher games. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, their solution to the problem of unhappiness is based on the exchange of little coloured wooden cubes according to complicated rules, when arguably it isn’t the little cubes that are unhappy.
  • It struck me the other day that many of the more radical differences in ladies’ attire compared to men’s attire are intended not just to accommodate breasts, but to display them. And I am the last to complain.
  • When Swedish archaeologists who made an international impression on the discipline are discussed, among the first names mentioned you’ll find Oscar Montelius and Mats P Malmer. Both wrote mainly in Swedish and German, and so aren’t very accessible to today’s monolingual Anglophones. But now I’ve received a pretty sweet editorial commission: to put the finishing touches on a Greatest Hits volume of Malmer’s work, translated into English with commentary by the likewise legendary Stig Welinder!
  • When it came out that I own a small grater used exclusively for nutmeg, everyone realised that I can’t be straight. This impression was sealed decisively today when I bought a bar of lavender soap in a health food store of my own accord.
  • I wish you could get rid of academic job application referees on the grounds “That guy and I have a complete disdain for each other’s work and academic priorities”.
  • Manioc Maniax will be the next big thing in tuber-themed video games. Remember, you read it here first.
Tree house ruin on Neglingehöjden hill

Tree house ruin on Neglingehöjden hill

May Pieces Of My Mind #2

Tree house ruin, Saltsjö-Boo

Tree house ruin, Saltsjö-Boo

  • Listening to the classic rock station in the car, I turned it off in the middle of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under The Bridge”. Two days later I turn it on again and find myself in the middle of their “Scar Tissue”.
  • Heh. American podcaster talks about someone named Rothschild (pronounced “roared-shilled”), consistently pronounces it “rots-child”.
  • Norwegian reggae: Bo Mærøy and the Whalers.
  • I love Google Inbox’s snooze feature. Takes a huge load of stress off to be able to decide at what date and time I want to attend to a given letter, and then just forget about it.
  • Today Kadzic ripped out the dining-room ceiling. There must be so much anger inside him.
  • Am I the only one who has a home-made HTML file with links to my most-used sites as start page in my browser? Been updating it for 20 years.
  • I want to go to Georgia. The one in the Caucasus.
  • I’d like to reconceptualise the Eurovision song contest. The songs will be submitted as sheet music. The TV programme will consist of a jury looking at the sheets, humming to themselves and arguing amicably about whether certain lines scan and rhyme well. The winner gets a ten-song publishing deal.
  • Book Bond (unlike movie Bond) operates in the 1950s, wearing a fedora and smoking three packets a day. In “Live And Let Die”, he appreciatively rides a late-1930s Cord that would look roughly like this.
  • Bond asks HQ for diving gear. They send it over and helpfully add a box of speed pills. After a week of phys exercise, Bond prepares for his dangerous underwater mission by swallowing speed down with whiskey.
  • Medieval Saxons around the Sea of Azov!
  • Not only does Google Play Books sell ebooks. They also offer ebooks for free. Last night I was going to buy James Branch Cabell’s novel Jurgen, but instead ended up just getting his story collection Chivalry at no cost.
  • Royal Institute of Art has two display spaces in Stockholm, half an hour’s walk apart. Distributes invitation to an exhibition but does not mention any address at all. The fact that we still have artistry in the human gene pool is a really underused argument against evolution.
  • Finally! After the Destruction Phase, Kadzic the Demon Carpenter got stuck in unexpected rewiring for almost a week. But now he’s moved into his Creative Aspect.
  • This guy tries to create a ± symbol by typing + and underlining it. *groan*

Weekend Fun

  • Played the zombie movie boardgame Last Night On Earth and Airlines Europe, both very enjoyable.
  • Had a party where I couldn’t understand what anybody said since they spoke Mandarin, but I was happy being Grillmeister, waitor and dishwasher.
  • Logged five geocaches, which involved cycling around, climbing a tree and faffing about in the woods north of Älta. Saw the traces of a recent forest fire and found an abandoned camp used by homeless substance abusers (note the toothpaste and beer cans).

And you, Dear Reader?

Landscape Archaeology, Muddy Boots

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In front, a boulder upon which I found cupmarks. Behind, a Bronze Age burnt mound consisting of fire-cracked stones.

In order to study the landscape situation of something you need to know precisely where it is. This poses a problem when it comes to Bronze Age sacrificial finds, because they are almost never made by someone who can document the find spot. They used to be found by farmers and workers before anybody owned a map and before there was a national grid, and they are no longer found much at all.

Sacrificial finds, or “deposits”, are defined by two negatives: they are not in graves and not at settlements. Typically they are in a bog or river, or rarely by the side of a large boulder, or even more rarely just sitting on a dry ridge somewhere. In order to find them you need to dredge, ditch, reclaim, plough and dig enormous amounts of random earth and sediment. Do that in temperate Europe, and sooner or later you will find a Bronze Age deposit – provided you’re using a spade, not a mechanical excavator, or walking behind a horse-drawn plough, not riding a tractor in front. And archaeologists have never had the inclination or resources to dig randomly.

Nobody reclaims land in Sweden any more, no rivers are dredged for transportation purposes, nobody digs with a spade (unless they’re archaeologists) and nobody walks behind the plough. And so we don’t find these deposits any more. For most of the ones in the museum collections, we know only which hamlet in which parish produced each of them, but not which part of the hamlet’s land. And that sort of information is difficult to use on a landscape scale.

I had a great time today checking up on five finds in Södermanland where we’re lucky enough to know pretty well where they came from. Three are in the upper reaches of River NyköpingsÃ¥n between Lake LÃ¥nghalsen and Christineholm manor. Two are on ridge tops east of Lake Sillen in VÃ¥rdinge parish. I’ve walked around, looked at sites, gotten to know the lay of the land, searched in the plough soil (“fieldwalking”) and taken a lot of photographs. I found some knapped quartz, a grindstone and a piece of slate whetstone (as usual). But I left them where they were since they didn’t really tell me anything useful and I didn’t feel like contributing to the collective amassing of humdrum data today. I did make one really nice find though: checking a boulder on a known Bronze Age settlement site with burnt mounds I discovered eight cupmarks, and that was without removing any moss. Strange that the surveyor didn’t find them back in the day. Judging from the dearth of known cupmarks in VÃ¥rdinge, I guess s/he was probably not very aware of them.

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I encountered an elk, a lizard or slow worm, a flock of deer, sundry birds and a disgruntled gentleman farmer who didn’t like my walking on his sprouting wheat. I found a tree-house ruin, a satanic graffiti mural, many beaver-gnawed trees and a morel. It was a good day!

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Easter Egg Hunt and Club-House Ruin

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On Easter Saturday, many Swedish kids receive candy-filled cardboard eggs. Mine have to jump through a lot of hoops to get theirs. Often I have made paper trails around the house, “Under yellow table”, “Inside broom closet”, “In Dad’s rubber boot”. Then increasingly (as Junior grew) I have obfuscated the clues by swapping Ö for all vowels, writing them backwards or writing them in English. Sometimes I’ve prepared GPS-based outdoor egg hunts. And that’s what Juniorette faced this year, without any help from her older brother who was with his mom. She found the egg soon enough, once she had learned to look at her surroundings, not fixedly at the arrow on the GPS unit. And right beside the egg’s hiding place was a club-house ruin – or at least a poorly kept club house that was used last summer and hasn’t wintered well.

North Shore Battlefield

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Spent the day metal detecting for Thomas Englund at the battlefield of Baggensstäket, anno 1719 (as blogged about before: 1234). This was my third time there, and the first time I’ve helped on the northern half of the area across the water from where I live. Thomas found musket and pistol balls. I picked up an 18th century coat button and loads of steenkeenggg aluminium bottle tops, and saw an abandoned tree house. I’m particularly interested in the pre-battle finds that are starting to accumulate.