Boardgaming Retreat 2018


It was really good to come back to the annual boardgaming retreat after a year off. 48 hours at an off-season golf & country club near Trosa with fellow gamers.

I played thirteen sessions of twelve different games. To give you an idea of how popular each game is, I’ve included its current BGG rank in the list below. For instance, Container’s 586 means that right now there are 585 boardgames that the largely US-based users of rate more highly. But they have rated tens of thousands of games!

  • 7 Wonders Duel (2015). Ranked 13. Neat two-player version of the excellent civilisation-building card game.
  • Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra (2018). Ranked 2104. Abstract tile game: a somewhat more intricate take on the basic ideas of last year’s hit Azul. Either is fun, either is enough.
  • Century Spice Road (2017). Ranked 210. This cards & cubes game’s illustrations are nice, but there’s hardly any player interaction. Don’t know why it’s so popular.
  • Chosön (2014). Ranked 3465. Card game with fun illustrations and some unusual mechanics. I’d like to play this again.
  • Container (2007). Ranked 586. Container shipping & trade. We played a recent edition with massive plastic ships that would serve well as close-combat weapons. I didn’t understand the strategy at all, but I’d like to learn.
  • Gaia Project (2017). Ranked 7. Civilisation expansion & development. Scifi re-skin of the 2012 fantasy hit Terra Mystica. Not great, not bad, huge replayability.
  • Heaven and Ale (2017). Ranked 348. Euro game ostensibly about monks making beer, where the theme has little to do with the mechanics and player interaction is scanty.
  • Koba Yakawa (2013). Ranked 2295. Minimalist card game with almost as few components as Love Letter and far simpler rules. Fun for what it is!
  • Secrets (2017). Ranked 2094. Hidden roles game about CIA and KGB agents. I soon became completely confused.
  • T.I.M.E. Stories (2015). Ranked 58. Beautifully illustrated co-op story game, like a shared choose-your-own adventure. The box contains the basic rules and hardware plus one fine scenario. It has roughly the same re-playability as a short novel has re-readability, though. Many additional scenarios are available, each costing 54% of the basic box’s price. Compare this to normal boardgames where you buy the basic box and happily play 25 times without having to buy anything more.
  • Tichu (1991). Ranked 127. Interesting variation on the popular Chinese card game Zheng Fen, which combines trick-taking and hand-shedding. You can easily play Tichu with a normal Western card deck provided you can find four jokers or other extra cards with the same backs plus a felt-tip pen.
  • Twilight Struggle (2005). Ranked 5. Long two-player cards-chits-board game about the Cold War. Fun for modern history buffs.

I’ve blogged before about the retreats in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016.




Stockholm Film Festival 2018



I discovered film festivals in 2014, but I didn’t go to one last year because I like my evenings at home and I was working full time at the National Archives then. This year I’ve been able to go to the Stockholm International Film Festival thanks to the telecommuting nature of my current job. But I do spend two days a week in Linköping, and the upcoming final weekend of the festival will coincide with a boardgaming retreat, so I only managed to see 7½ films this year.

My festival M.O. is to first decide when I can see some films, and then watch whatever is on at that time and seems reasonably interesting. Hardly ever do I watch more than two movies on one day, or it becomes a chore. This way I caught three really good ones:

  • Cold War / Zimna Wojna. Stormy intermittent love affair between two Polish musicians at home and in exile 1949-64. Pretty monochrome photography.
  • Prospect. Low-budget scifi about bio-mineral prospecting on a lawless jungle planet. Strong female teen lead. Way better than most big budget scifi. Would be even better if 15 mins of slack were cut. Take your lower teen kids to this one!
  • The Man Who Feels No Pain / Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota. Indian action comedy about a boy who grows up sheltered because of an innate inability to sense pain – and is educated by his grandfather by means of 80s martial arts movies. Smart and funny!

And some OK ones:

  • Ex-shaman / Ex-pajé. Slow, largely wordless, beautifully shot semi-documentary about a former village shaman in the Amazon who is now a Pentecostal church warden.
  • Girls of the Sun / Les filles du soleil. Traumatised French journalist follows a unit of Kurdish former sex slaves into urban skirmishes against the Daesh. Violent and beautiful. Golshifteh Farahani, oh man…
  • EXT. Night. A young film director, a vivacious prostitute and an old cab driver spend a confused night on the town together in Cairo. Engaging characters, vapid dialogue, not much by way of plot.
  • The Trouble With You / En liberté!. French romantic comedy about a mentally scarred ex-con and the widow of the crooked cop who put him in jail on false charges.

And one that I left, bored and sleepy, after half an hour:

  • Manta Ray / Kraben rahu. Supposedly about a Thai fisherman and Rohingya refugees, though it was hard to tell. Slow, pretty, no dialogue, no action…

Here’s what I saw at festivals in 2014, 2015 SIFF, 2015 MIF and 2016.

November Pieces Of My Mind #2


Sergels torg

  • I’ve lost count of how many graves I’ve emptied.
  • Funny how gear brings us together. For years I’ve mainly kept in touch with my dear old thesis supervisor thanks to his computer troubles. And now my former driving pupil wants to meet up for his first tyre switch on his first own car, because I know how to do this and my dad has power tools.
  • Running around the block really helps when I get sleepy on the afternoon of a caffeine day. On a non-caffeine day, only a nap helps.
  • Jrette’s buddy invites 70 kids to Halloween party, tells them to bring all their friends. On social media. When Jrette arrives, there are hundreds of kids in front of the house, whose inhabitants have barricaded themselves and are shouting from a window for everyone to please leave! 😀
  • Movie: Bohemian Rhapsody. Bio pic plus band movie. Grade: excellent!
  • Autumn comes along, days get a little shorter, and it becomes painfully clear that I am simply biology, neurochemistry, matter: instant vague feelings of failure and loss.
  • The new Clark Ashton Smith documentary is interesting but appallingly lacking in female interviewees.
  • I’m getting really tired of the coverage of that silly academic. I have no idea why anyone pays him any attention and I’m making a point of not finding out. He’s a typical fad intellectual.
  • leaves


    • Despite my cleaning efforts, a little bird (Parus major) is eating the remains of the egg thrown by Hallowe’en hooligans at my study window.
    • The French word for fencing, escrime, is cognate with Eng. skirmish, scrimmage, scrum; Ge. schirmen “to protect”; Sw. skärm “screen”.
    • Colleague brings his 16-month son to work, an extremely outgoing and cheerful little person who toddles around the office speaking wordlessly to everyone and sitting on everyone’s lap.
    • I send someone’s paper manuscript to Joe Bloggs for peer review. When the author receives the anonymous reviewer comments, he responds “If this reviewer is not Joe Bloggs, then it’s a member of the Joe Bloggs Fan Club”.


    Found my gaming group depicted on an antique brass tray.


    The Early James Bond Novels


    A 1937 Cord.

    In the past decade I’ve been reading Ian Fleming’s novels about James Bond. I recently finished the fourth one, Diamonds Are Forever. The first four novels were published, one each year, from 1953 to 1956. Thus they pre-date the movie franchise, which began only in 1962: here Bond is still exclusively a 1950s spy novel hero.

    Fleming writes beautifully, with part of what makes the novels so good being the loving descriptions of consumer goods: clothing, cars, weaponry. Bond wears a fedora, and in Diamonds, he sleeps in long pantsless silk night shirts. In Live And Let Die, he appreciatively rides a late-1930s Cord that would look roughly like the car pictured above. In Diamonds, he has lunch at a rural American highway diner where he thinks the jukebox looks like something out of science fiction. Not, obviously, like quaint 1950s design.

    Bond must be in pretty bad shape from substance abuse: he drinks hard liquor constantly and smokes three packets a day. In Live he asks HQ for diving gear. They send it over and helpfully add a box of amphetamine pills. After a week of physical exercise, Bond prepares for a dangerous underwater mission by swallowing speed down with whiskey.

    I was surprised to find that Bond hardly performs any independent action in Diamonds. He just goes where people tell him to go and follows orders. The secret agent is no more than a convenient observer of various milieux that Fleming wants to describe: diamond smuggling, horse racing, a Las Vegas casino (reminiscent of Casino Royale), a Western ghost town. Indeed, the year after the novel appeared, Fleming published a non-fiction book on diamond smuggling.

    In Diamonds, when the first piece of violent action happens (51% of the way through the book), Bond is immobilised in a medicinal mud bath coffin and is barely able to even be a spectator, let alone do anything. 63% into the book, Bond himself comments angrily on his own passivity! And when a few pages later he finally does something, it’s barely a blip: Bond plays some high-stakes roulette against orders. Then he goes back to being a passive victim of his circumstances until the last few pages of the novel when he saves his love interest from the villains – a reaction more than an action.

    There’s a recurring masochistic fantasy in these novels, where Bond is immobilised and tortured in ways that would never happen to Sean Connery’s Bond. We’ve already noted the mud bath coffin, where Bond is made to witness torture. In Casino, the villain ties Bond to a chair and whacks his balls with a carpet beater until the agent passes out! And in Diamonds, two villains don football boots and kick the helpless Bond systematically until, again, he loses consciousness. When he wakes up he can barely crawl across the floor.

    Fleming came of age in the 1920s. The novels pre-date the Swinging Sixties and the Sexual Revolution: Bond is not a particularly active or promiscuous lover here. Weeks pass where we have no hint that he is going to bed with anyone. He ogles (and Fleming lovingly describes) women here and there, but when he finally does get intimate with a woman he likes to spend months with her and contemplates marriage even before they go to bed the first time (Casino, Diamonds).

    Novel Bond is very different from movie Bond.

    October Pieces Of My Mind #3


    15th century angel in Vadstena Abbey church. Originally brightly painted.

    • Movie: Cloud Atlas. Intercutting between several tenuously interlinked stories, all with the same small cast in the main roles. Grade: interesting, fun, demanding!
    • In the 70s, as Richard Feynman put it, a lot of social scientists were engaging in cargo-cult science: aping the superficial trappings of hard science without actually being able to deliver its content. This is what we see now with psychology’s excellent & commendable reproducibility crisis, for instance. When I arrived in archaeology 15 years later, our fad theoreticians were no longer even aping hard science: they were openly hostile to the idea of any science being hard. And here am I, who would like both the cargo-cult science and the science-hostile knowledge relativism kicked off campus.
    • Talked to a couple of pro-Orbán (that is, normal) Hungarians. They explained quite frankly that an important reason for their anti-Muslim sentiment is that their countrymen all learn in school about the Ottoman Empire’s brutal treatment of Hungarians centuries ago.
    • Sudden realisation. IIRC, I’ve contributed to only one academic Festschrift, my thesis supervisor’s. This is pretty indicative of my relationship with powerful older colleagues through my quarter century as an archaeologist. I haven’t cultivated the patron-client relationships that determine academic careers. Another way to put it is that very few powerful older colleagues have impressed me, and that sentiment has been mutual.
    • Strange loud bassy noises outside. Can’t tell if it’s machinery or a rave party.
    • James Bond sleeps in long pantsless silk night shirts in Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel Diamonds Are Forever.
    • Part of what makes Ian Fleming’s novels so good is the loving descriptions of consumer goods: clothing, cars, weaponry.
    • Dear Jim Morrison, I don’t understand why this girl gotta love her man, nor in what way the world depends on her, nor how this will lead to immortality kthxbai
    • For the next 100 years, US political science scholars will be analysing episodes of The Apprentice, with The Shark Tank as comparative & contextualising source material.
    • My kid made me tea and told me about his linguistics & Japanese studies. ❤
    • In the novel Diamonds Are Forever, James Bond has lunch at a rural American highway diner. He thinks the juke box looks like something out of science fiction. Not like quaint 1950s design.


    Breakfast in the great ground-floor hall of the Bjälbo kings in Vadstena. Subsequently used by nuns, war invalids, syphilis patients, mental patients…


    I wonder what this 1793 stone mason thought about orthoceratites. He probably didn’t read Hutton. (Örberga church)

    October Pieces Of My Mind #2


    Closing up the summer house for winter.

    • The Soviets were good at heavy lift missiles, because they were bad at miniaturising nuclear bombs. They were also good at bathyspheres because of their oceanography. To shoot Gagarin into space, they basically welded a bathysphere onto a missile.
    • All the datable Medieval finds we make at this site have to do with textiles. Lead seals from imported bolts of cloth. Small spindle whorls for spinning thread rather than yarn.
    • More than half of US citizens think the GOP is appalling. Well, I’m Swedish: to me the Democrats are a really nasty right-wing party. I can barely even accept that the GOP is real. So far beyond the most basic human decency.
    • Gah. Lady who is not used to reading and has a poor general knowledge base is nevertheless reading trivia questions to her friends on the train. Heard about the “Minoitians” of ancient Crete?
    • When clothing manufacturers started printing stuff on the right-hand shoulder blade area of shirts and jackets, everybody started looking like they were wearing these garments backwards. That shit used to be above the left-hand shirt pocket.
    • Argh. “Zombie Love” by Bohnes. Another song lyricist who thinks that when you want to write “God-given” and need an extra syllable for scansion, “God-forsaken” is a useful synonym. People just shouldn’t be allowed to write. Or sing. Or speak.
    • Taken my annual flu shot.
    • We’re play-testing Crusader Kings. I’m pious, cruel, chaste and dim-witted.


    Decadence: DIY Reese’s Pieces!

    October Pieces Of My Mind #1


    The Svindersvik forest fire this past June awoke a lot of dormant post-burn biology.

    • Just about the first thing my childhood dachshund did when we got her was to eat greasy aluminium foil and end up in surgery. She also suffered from roe deer hallucinations where she would run away to hunt imaginary game.
    • Getting damn cold outside now. I just gave some money to a homeless shelter in town.
    • Waiting for Azathoth, blind idiot Godot at the centre of the Universe
    • A Swedish-speaking survey worker has recorded that one tourist in Vadstena had heard of the town “through squabbling”. I wonder which Swedish word has been mistranslated here. Maybe skvaller, gossip.
    • The Rocky Horror Show in SWEDISH opens 2 February at Linköping’s town theatre.
    • A Syrian buddy of mine: “Lots of people are afraid that Muslims will change Sweden radically and make it a theocracy. But look at us. It’s the other way around for most of us. We’re changing. Sweden allowed me to come out as an atheist.”
    • Apparently, playing the didgeridoo strengthens certain muscles and cures snoring. But ladies, this raises the question: would you rather live with someone who snores or someone who plays the didgeridoo all the time?
    • Sinckers is a super popular chocolate bar with peanuts and toffee. I’m going to profit on this with a fragrant brown delicacy named Floaters.
    • Hehe. The makers of these vegetarian schnitzels clearly know that some of their customers have a superstitious fear of gluten, so they write “wheat protein” in the contents listing.
    • Maybe the anthropocene is not a geological epoch. Maybe it’s just a barely measurable film of strange chemistry between the holocene and the post-human strata.
    • The horns section on “If You Want Me To Stay” by Sly & the Family Stone is absurdly quietly mixed. You basically hear vocals, bass, drums and something reminiscent of horns leakage from the next studio.
    • I’m a member of the fine Facebook group “Traumschlösser – die schönsten Schlösser und Burgen Deutschlands”. And now I’m thinking, maybe I should change my name to Traumschlösser – die schönsten Schlösser und Burgen Deutschlands.


    Got this back from conservation. We found it in a late-13th century basement at Landsjö Castle in 2015. It consists of five small pieces of wrought iron, and I think it’s probably from a skiing pole or hiking stick.

    September Pieces Of My Mind #3

    Control panel of a 1949 Lidingö tram (SSLidJ A24B 17)

    • Half asleep last night, I found a memory floating up from 1980s sediment in my mind. When you bought a record as a present, you would ask the sales clerk to seal the inner paper sleeve with a sticker. This would allow the recipient to change it in if they wanted another record. The sticker often identified the store.
    • Movie: Paddington I (2014). The beloved children’s book ably filmed with new subtext about immigration and homelessness. Grade: Excellent in its genre.
    • My old laptop crapped out 7½ months ago. I have been eking out a sad digital existence on my various employers’ Windows laptops since. But now I’ve bought an ultralight of my own and installed glorious Ubuntu Linux on it!
    • I look back with deep regret at the ramen noodles of my youth, where I would simply cook the noodles with water and stock powder. Those were dark, dark days, before I became learnèd in the ways of ancient Chinese wisdom.
    • When I see pictures of sand and gravel on Mars or an asteroid, I can’t help but think “That’s soon going to get covered in weeds, like a spoil dump on an excavation”.
    • It feels a bit odd to read Magnus Västerbro’s new book about the 1867-69 famine in northern Sweden while eating.
    • Tell your mother that you walked all night on velvet green
    • The code name for the final massacres of Jews in part of occupied Poland in November 1943 was Aktion Erntefest, “Operation Harvest Festival”. You just can’t make this shit up. )-:
    • County admin building is looong and narrow with the entrance lobby at the middle. My desk is near one end. There’s an exit here too, but it’s only used for fire safety. For security reasons, we have to use the main entrance, a looong unnecessary corridor walk in the wrong direction. /-:
    • The vanity options on cost $99 a year. Nope nope nope.
    • Reading about Shang dynasty mass human sacrifice, thinking about the murdered slaves we excavate in Viking Period graves, and of the Holocaust, and of the Aztecs. )-:
    • Mushrooms are pretty useless from a nutritional perspective. They’re 3% carbs, 3% protein and the rest is almost entirely water. Compare to the blueberries growing next to the mushrooms: 9% carbs, 1% protein. Or potatoes: 16% carbs, 2% protein. Swedish farmers’ traditional lack of interest in these fungi, many of which are poisonous, was well motivated.
    • The bit in “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” where you can’t hear the words is supposed to be “Back to the howling old owl in the woods / Hunting the horny-back toad”. Because the poet is leaving his rich socialite partner and going back to his rural roots. (I just can’t understand why Taupin broke the scansion with the unnecessary words “in the woods”.)
    • Cool detail in Magnus Västerbro’s new book. Swedish-speaking settlers in the woods of northern Sweden survived a bad 1860s famine by bartering with the Sami for reindeer products and traditional gathered and preserved plant foods. Just like New England colonists surviving their first winters thanks to food contributed by local native tribes.
    • I love finds conservation. It’s expensive, but it always gets you new information, particularly for rusty iron objects. Thanks to the good people at Acta Konservering, I was just able to insert a third site with resin-taper holders into the section on indoor lighting in the final proofs of my Medieval castles book.

    I rode a 1949 Lidingö tram (SSLidJ A24B 17)

    Carl Milles 1916, “Venus on a shell”, Gåshaga, Lidingö