Open Thread For March

Extra likes for mentions of Nick Cave, the Bad Seeds and Kylie Minogue.


February Pieces Of My Mind #2


  • One good consequence of self-driving cars will be way fewer drunk drivers for the justice system to deal with.
  • Drives me insane when people read out strictly metric and rhymed verse as if it were prose, obscuring the scansion and rhymes.
  • Incomprehensible rock star garments: Mick Jagger’s knee-padded beige tights. And Billy Gibbons’s little-old-lady woolen hat.
  • Saw two white-tailed eagles from the commuter train the other day, not far from my stop. They were sitting around on the sea ice with a bunch of crows. There was probably some carrion there that I didn’t see.
  • Tony Joe White likes to make unmistakable taking-a-dump grunts on his songs.
  • I’m going to coordinate the Social Democrat canvassing effort in Nacka municipality in advance of the May 26 European Parliamentary election.
  • I’m at a young companies fair with my current pupils. Met a bunch of my spring 2018 pupils. Good to see them again.
  • I’ve reached the age of reading glasses.

February Pieces Of My Mind #1



February morning. I’m glad there’s daylight already at seven thirty now.

  • For two or three years, two neighbours have made constant appearances outside our kitchen window. One is the ginger rabbit. The other is the girl on the swing set. She sits there swinging vigorously at all times of the day and evening, always wearing head phones. Just now I got up at 8 am on a Saturday and there she was already. I speculate that she may be from the assisted youth housing unit next to the playground (LSS). I have never seen her face.
  • Nope, turns out pu-er tea is still nasty barnyard shit.
  • Found two more distant ancestors in the nobility, way back in generations 9-10. These families, Ehrenmarck and von der Wettering, were actually introduced into Stockholm’s House of Nobility, but they pretty promptly failed to produce male heirs and died out.
  • The Manchu did not topple the Ming Dynasty by force. The Ming were toppled by their own rebellious peasants. Then a small well-organised group of Manchu who already styled themselves the Qing (Mini-) Dynasty were invited to get things back into order.
  • A blast from the past. I applied for a lectureship in Bergen in May 2014. They asked me to submit a fat stack of publications and interviewed me over Skype in January 2015. It was a friendly interview and I felt good about it, even though the job was eventually given to someone local. His general qualifications were pretty OK and his specific knowledge of West Norwegian archaeology was miles ahead of mine. Today that fat stack came back after ~4½ years. I haven’t applied for any more academic jobs in the past 1½ year.
  • Feeling smug because, though I am an atheist, I never invested in any of the Four Horsemen.
  • I’d like for more little girls to be named Sofonisba and receive training in advanced painting techniques.
  • I wonder what the Mesolithic archaeology on the seabed around Rockall Island is like. And what people at the time thought about this dramatic rock pillar.
  • It’s a little scary to think that Alfa Antikvariat, the used book store, is closing down. Because it’s way bigger than most municipal libraries. And the books are on average way older and more rare.

Ramel Spoofs Gothic Horror

Povel Ramel (1922-2007) was a huge presence in Swedish entertainment for half a century from his first hit song, “Johansson’s Boogie Woogie Waltz”, in 1944. Here’s a song of his from 1968, performed by the beloved comedienne Birgitta Andersson (born in 1933). As it spoofs Gothic horror, it will be interesting to see how my high school pupils react to it as part of our horror fiction course. Chances are they aren’t familiar with either Povel Ramel or Gothic horror.

The Ballad of One-Eyed Elin
[Original lyrics]

Da-di-dum in a raven-black night
Da-di-dum the sombre tower la da-di-dum
Hmm na poor Elin there
Upon her remaining eye doth swear
Da-di-dum her lover and brother

Da-di-dum proud Sir Oscar di-dum
Da-di-dum squarely in his breast
Blood oh hmm everywhere
Da-di-dum hem of her gown
Hmm na-na never to wake again

Da-di-dum little daughter Sophie
Golden chalice whoops oh no with hydrochloric acid
Na na rosy lips hmm da-di-dum as if in a trance
Raven-black night

Da-di-dum desecrating the tomb
Hmm na na white bones in a da-dum-di-dum
Da-di-da-di cranium whoopsie hey
Crawling little maggots doodie day
Hmm hmm resting in unhallowed ground

Da-di-da-di-dum… da-di humpback
Safe in his cell… da-di-dum
And eczema… And migraine

In the deepest of the vaults da-di-da
The chest na na di-da silver and gold
Guarded tralala by a slavering vampire
Raven-black night

Da-di-dum the great big axe la-di-da
Dum-di-dum oh my dismember his mother
Na-na legs and arms doobedy straight across the throat be-doo
Hmm lala a shiny black box

Suddenly pestilence spread de-da-di hmm in our little village
Leaden pustules da-di-dum…

January Pieces Of My Mind #3


dirty dirty dirty

  • In addition to being a seasoned journalist, my wife YuSie just got her psychologist’s licence! ❤
  • In the 80s, Delores Pander worked 4 days a week as Jean M. Auel’s secretary and 1 day as Ursula K. LeGuin’s.
  • Only now do I realise that Roger Stone is not Oliver Stone.
  • Strange to think that there are probably people walking around town whom I don’t know but with whom I will one day share grandchildren and great grandchildren.
  • I just got my sixth three-month job since I quit research in November 2017. My finances are way stronger, I get to do unfamiliar stuff all the time, and I am evidently quite employable. But I miss archaeology and I wonder why nobody offers me a steady job. (To clarify: I’m not getting fired after three months, I sign three-month contracts.)
  • Put together some reading for a lesson on ancient literature. Akhenaten’s sun hymn, Psalm 42, a piece from Hesiod’s Work & Days, Ovidius’s treatment of Pyramus & Thisbe from the Metamorphoses. Interesting to see how the cables & computers pupils do with the hexameter.
  • Shopping for crisps with the victim of an absurd martial arts accident.
  • Man, I really don’t like the current auto-tuned so-called RnB. It’s ugly shit. For a while I thought it was me growing old, but then I realised that I’ve pretty much hated every genre of commercial mainstream pop since I was 15. (Though I did have a guilty thing for Take That.)
  • A pupil passed me in the hall, whistling “Popcorn” tunelessly. It’s 50 years old this year. I wonder where they have heard it.
  • Movie: Den Skyldige / The Guilty. Semi-suspended police inspector is put on 911 phone answering duty. When a hostage situation lands in his lap, he can’t keep from trying to direct work on the ground. But does he really understand the situation? Grade: Good!
  • Movie: Låt den rätte komma in / Let The Right One In. One of the best vampire movies not just in Swedish, but in general. As well as a beautifully shot film about adolescent fears and friendship. Grade: excellent!
  • Scraggly-bearded Swedish IT student and hijabi nursing student going steady, holding hands as class watches a scary movie. Our future. ❤
  • There are two famous musicians named Avishai Cohen.

Opportunity Mars Rover, Please Phone Home


Oppy at Solander Point in August 2013

The Opportunity rover landed on Mars fifteen Earth calendar years ago today. It drove more than 45 km across the Red Planet’s cold desert landscape and worked fine until 10 June last year. A planetwide dust storm then covered the rover’s solar panels with dirt, cutting off its power supply, and it hasn’t been heard from since. Strong winds may one day remove that dust and allow Oppy to phone home again.

Either way, 14½ years of operation and the longest trek any off-planet vehicle has ever made are epochal achievements. Huge kudos to the Mars Exploration Rover team! And let’s not forget the Spirit rover that operated on Mars for a very respectable 6 Earth years, or the Curiosity rover that has so far been active for 6½ and is going strong, or the Mars 2020 rover whose launch is planned for July or August next year.

January Pieces Of My Mind #2


Monuments in conversation at Millesgården

  • How to identify a female Medieval scribe’s burial: lapis lazuli powder in her dental calculus. Excellent work!
  • Sudden realisation: Cardigan is an Anglicised version of Welsh Ceredigion.
  • After twelve days on the dole I’ve signed on to temp-teach high school Swedish for six weeks, full time, respectable salary, short commute. And after that I’ve got something else looking promising. Happy to be employable!
  • Sudden realisation: tomato ketchup is a type of English brown sauce, akin to HP sauce. It has nothing to do with Italian cooking.
  • If I ever come into the political media spotlight, it will be interesting to see how my opponents deal with 25 years of relentless, copious, dirty and absurd joking online.
  • I knew that Ursula LeGuin’s parents were renowned anthropologists and that she went to high school with P.K. Dick. I did not know that her best school buddy was John Steinbeck’s niece.
  • *sings* Don’t mess with my Desmond Tutu / Don’t mess with my Desmond Tutu
  • I program my home computer / Beam myself into the 90s
  • My new job at this high school is just across the highway from my first job during high school. I did IT support.
  • I spent the morning reading and writing horror fiction and poetry with a charming group of nursing students.
  • Jrette tries to do her homework on women’s suffrage, but the school’s porn filter keeps her from googling “number of female bosses”.
  • The Book of Dead Names: H.P.Lovecraft’s heart-warming and dramatic memoir of the early trans movement in 1920s Providence, RI.
  • Keep coming back to this. I have a really hard time understanding that the skills I spent a quarter century honing are worth so little on the market, while stuff I just sort of picked up along the way or did for fun or was born with is in high demand and really well paid.
  • There’s loads of accordion on the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”.
  • I’ve got to visit my old primary school this autumn on a windy day to check if leaves still dance in that corner next to the main entrance.
  • Why teenagers don’t wear caps, wear gloves or button up their jackets in winter: the pain of getting super cold is not as intense as the pain of possibly being considered not cool by other teenagers.
  • Found my first ancestor in the nobility, a woman in generation 12. That generation contains 4096 people or a bit less. My blood is not particularly blue.
  • Movie: Zoolander (2001). Spoof on the fashion industry with two extremely daft models and innumerable celebrity cameos, including an unfit future US president. Grade: OK.
  • The celebrity cameos in Zoolander made me a little queasy. Because they’re from 2001. And I kind of think of all those people from ~18 years ago as current celebrities.

Lidingö: walking from Dalénum to Millesgården


This is my most recent ready-made piece of installation art. It is titled “Academia”.


Sentenced To An Hour Of Beheading

beheadingRemembered a D&D story I heard in the 80s. One of the player characters had stupidly and overtly committed a serious crime – had he attacked the King during a formal audience? – and been sentenced to beheading. Letting this happen is never a fun way to end a character’s career, but I believe both the players and the Dungeon Master were quite young.

The day of the execution dawns, the prisoner is taken out to the chopping block in the town square, the executioner steps up with his sword… And the only way this DM knows to handle situations involving swords is the combat rules. Which don’t really offer any details on combatants lying trussed up and face down on the block. Also, the execution victim is quite a high-level character, while the executioner is a basic man-at-arms.

The executioner could barely hit the victim, and when he occasionally did, he took only a small proportion of the victim’s hit points. It took an hour in the game world and endless dice rolling in our world to behead him.