March Pieces Of My Mind 1


The Stockholm archipelago in winter, rarely seen by tourists. (Bullandö seen across Simpströmmen.)

  • Empty email inbox! Nothing I need to attend to now. I love the postpone function in Google Inbox.
  • Hehe. Old dude writes about shoreline displacement and what the level was around Stockholm in 1250 compared to today. For “today”, he cites a book from 1982. When the vertical displacement is about 5 cm per decade.
  • Listening to smoke-drenched stoner rock and cooking elk lasagna.
  • Starting a movement. We believe that people who are afraid of fluoridation are crazy. But that the iodine in table salt is mind-control.
  • Movie: The Shape of Water. Merman locked into military research facility forms bond with lonely cleaning lady. Grade: Great!
  • Love the new study in Antiquity of the Kanaljorden bones by Sara Gummesson, Fredrik Hallgren and Anna Kjellström! “We have recognised a sexrelated, non-random, trauma pattern, where non-lethal forces were directed to the back of the head of women and to the top of the head of men. The fact that the majority of the individuals show healed injuries seems to be more than a coincidence and implies that they were specifically chosen for inclusion in the deposition.”
  • Power tip: the Google Translate app for Android does OCR of text in photos. You can easily get the original photographed text in editable form, not just the translation.
  • Tenacious D’s “Tribute” has the same central conceit as Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”. “This is not the best song in the world: it’s just a tribute”.
  • I tweeted a link to a scifi story by Arthur C. Clarke. Three pornbots have retweeted it so far. These bots are more than just a pretty face!
  • The Scotsman headline: ”Bodies may have to be exhumed to make way for Edinburgh trams”. Or in archaeologist lingo, “Edinburgh trams offer possible opportunity to excavate burial site”.
  • Celtic scholars, how can I tell the Goidelic from the psychedelic? Signed, “Dasedd ac Confulledd”
  • Zork alumni, take note: I played through Buster Hudson’s award-winning 2017 text adventure game The Wizard Sniffer, and enjoyed it a lot! It runs in your browser. Apparently lots of good interactive fiction is still published every year. I must look into this further.

Perks of teaching: got some marking to do and the tearooms to do it in.


February Pieces Of My Mind #3

This late-11th century runic carving in Uppland is on a sloping rock outcrop instead of the usual standing stone (U 86 Skylsta). ”Sven had the runes carved after his brother Torbjörn”. On a skiing trip, Andreas Forsgren carefully removed the snow in such a way as to emphasise the carving, then took the photo.

  • Today my students hinted that it would be quite sad if they got bad grades seeing as they know where my Wikipedia article is.
  • Surprised to find myself as Mr. Humanities at the high school where I teach. I’ve been the nat-sci literate archaeologist for so long.
  • Does it count as martyrdom if you’re killed for your faith by a member of a sect whose tenets are extremely similar to yours?
  • A buddy of mine works as a property manager for a wealthy old organisation. He recently had a big Call of Cthulhu moment at work. He found a bill in his inbox for upkeep of a grave. None of the names on the headstone are familiar to him. None of his co-workers recognise them. But looking back through old binders, he found that his predecessors have been paying that bill every few years as far back as he had time to follow the records…
  • Aspie friends — you can take it as mad props or as a nasty insult, but it seems that Sweden’s genius warrior king Carolus XII was an Aspie too.
  • Everybody, stop using “ecosystem” in that vague new non-biological sense. It’s silly.
  • In Swedish, plattåk means cross-country skiing. Plåttak means tin roof.

Spent four happy days skiing, reading and gaming in Bjursås, southern Dalecarlia.

February Pieces Of My Mind #2


These milestones helped prevent arguments with farmer taxi drivers.

  • Please let me remind you that the Pixies have a song about a bird sleeping in a tree and dreaming about a mountain on Mars. This makes me happy.
  • Re-reading the Akallabêth after 30 years.
  • Death Angel is a cooperative boardgame about killing aliens. I just realised why it’s so hard to get it to the table. The people who like co-ops are not the same people who like to kill aliens.
  • Making my own Silmarillion edit which only covers events on land that remains above sea level in the Third Age.
  • I have my students do read-alongs of classics straight from with me providing running pronunciation aid and explanations, and they just don’t want to stop. Or miss a cue!
  • I knew that it’s fun to teach university archaeology. After a week in Stocksund I can now report that it’s also fun to teach high school languages.
  • Microsoft Outlook knows that users like to separate addresses in group mail with commas. It recognises when you try to do this. But rather than accept this and act, it has an error message where it instructs you to change the commas to semicolons. *facepalm*

This historical newspaper may need the attention of a document conservator.


February Pieces Of My Mind #1


18th century ship’s figurehead in the Stockholm Maritime Museum.

  • I used to be this kid who spoke like an old book. Now I’m becoming this old guy who speaks like an even older book.
  • Checked the time before I took a nap today and it was 1337. Figures.
  • Climb in the back with your head in the clouds and you’re gone
  • TV series: Twin Peaks S3 (2017). Makes very little sense and is largely super slow, but some of the weirdness is worth watching. Grade: OK.
  • Learned something today. The fuel cost for travelling a given distance by motorboat is about 5 times the fuel cost of travelling the same distance by car on asphalt. And the motorboat is typically much slower, which I knew already.
  • I just finished seven days on unemployment benefits. Thanks for helping me out, fellow AEA members!
  • This is my third new short-gig workplace in five months. Gathering no moss!
  • Received two lists of “top 100” novels to use when teaching classics. One is almost entirely “realist” fiction by Dead White Men. The other is an eclectic mix of geekery topped by several titles by Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard. Kids, we need to talk about these lists…
  • My Mandaean student likes Kafka.

Teaching High School

barge window

My office is on a barge.

I just started a new job, teaching high school Swedish and English. These are two of my favourite subjects!

In order to teach my favourite subject of all, Scandinavian Prehistory, I had to do a PhD and travel to campuses hundreds of kilometres from my home. In 14 years of trying, I never got a longer gig than six months at 55%.

Now I’m going to teach high school at 80% for an open-ended number of months or years. It took me less than two weeks to get this gig. The commute is one hour. And converting all to full time, the salary is nearly the same as what they paid me at those universities.

January Pieces of My Mind #3


Elk mince patties with built in bacon and chopped fried onions

  • Deputy Police Chief Hawk in Twin Peaks must have been getting those incomprehensible phone calls from the Log Lady for decades, poor bastard.
  • My pecs are sore from this winter’s first cross-country skiing.
  • Ancient monument surveyor on the verge of a nervous breakdown: “When inspected in 1979, the area is so overgrown with rosehip and cherry bushes that detailed study is impossible without the aid of a flame thrower.”
  • So the voters are afraid of rising crime. Politicians can react by affirming this and hiring more police. Or by explaining gently that the 5-year statistics show the opposite. Sadly voters don’t like getting educated.
  • Belated realisation: Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” is about overconfident driving under the influence of amphetamine.
  • Identified my first genealogical link to a DNA relative. Our latest shared ancestors are seven generations back and were born about 1700 in Borrby parish, Scania. It’s a little disappointing to realise that a year after I got my DNA done, my closest DNA relatives are still such distant ones. Family Tree DNA’s calculation indicated that in this case the link would be five generations back or less.
  • “They had heard he was an antiquarian, but even the most hopeless antiquarians do not make daily use of obsolete phraseology and gestures.” H.P. Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
  • Our Social Democrat head guy on the Nacka municipal council likes to read Jules Verne. In Persian.
  • Big Dutch authority on Bronze Age depositional landscapes recommends my 2015 book on Same book that’s gotten major shout-outs in print from two of the UK’s biggest authorities in that field. I’ve left academia, but I didn’t leave without a trace.

Opportunity Mars Rover Still Working After Fourteen Years


Perseverance Valley, Mars, June 2017. Probable fossil water erosion gully right.

The Opportunity rover landed on Mars fourteen Earth calendar years ago today, and it still works fine after driving over 45 km! This is the farthest any off-planet vehicle has gone so far. Oppy’s mate Spirit was mobile on the Red Planet for over five years and then functioned as a stationary science platform for another year before getting killed off by a Martian winter it couldn’t avoid. Amazing engineering that keeps working year after year without a technician so much as touching it.

At the moment Oppy continues to explore the western rim of Endeavour crater, where it’s spent several years. It recently got the dust blown off its solar panels by a Mars winter storm. Check out the project’s web site and the Red Planet Report for news!

January Pieces Of My Mind #2

Rålambshov, Stockholm

  • I love how fast the staff of the National Archives go through boxes of tea bags in the break room.
  • The 1920s New York that H.P. Lovecraft detested was the same 1920s New York that Damon Runyon loved.
  • I’ve said in talks that Thor Heyerdahl was no Nazi: for one thing he was friends with the UN’s Secretary General Kurt Waldheim. Who, I now realise, was a Nazi party member and army officer. /-:
  • Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold.
  • I’m releasing a two-hour recording of random noise and FM radio dialling as a previously unknown rock opera by The Who, and calling it Apophenia.
  • Story germ. Heritage manager c. 1900 re-erects the fallen or leaning orthostats at a prehistoric cemetery. Makes the whole thing come back online and summons a local godling.
  • “Hypnosis, yoga. These mystics can be very convincing. They can even hypnotise themselves.” Horror Express, 1972
  • The Horror Express has more carriages when seen from the inside than when seen from the outside.
  • The real name of Vampira in Plan 9 From Outer Space was Maila Elizabeth Syrjäniemi. She was a skilled linoleum floor layer and carpenter.
  • I had dinner at three Levantine restaurants this past weekend: Folkets kebab on Hornsgatan in Stockholm (their buffet), Samboosak in Jönköping and Al Shami in Skärholmen. All highly recommended.

December And January Pieces Of My Mind

Life Plaza, HZ

Hangzhou’s Life Plaza

  • Everyone needs a champagne whisk made from a Finnish bear’s penis bone.
  • I just got a (1) job application turned down. Spent some time believing that this means that I am unemployable and everyone thinks I’m a nutcase. (I currently have two employers, but never mind.)
  • I’ve been editing a couple of quarterly journals for years and years. Let’s just say that I have issues.
  • This is big! Golden rice, genetically modified to include vitamin A, can prevent 3rd World blindness. And now it’s finally been approved to sell as food in Australia and New Zealand.
  • OMG my kid has a beard
  • The Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays feud is unknown in Sweden. Because we all say “Good Yule”. And because we’re mostly secular.
  • I’d like to see humanities scholars accept the unknowable and non-interpretable to a greater degree. Please write “This means nothing to me” in your next few papers. (Ah, Vienna.)
  • A memory. Junior is like five and his buddy comes over to play, proudly brandishing a huge realistic gun replica. I disarm him at the door and put the gun on top of a very tall closet next to the hat rack. We all promptly forget about it. Weeks or months later I find the gun and quietly throw it away.
  • Movie: In the Heat of the Night. Urban black Philadelphia homicide detective reluctantly takes part in murder investigation in rural 1967 Mississippi. Grade: Pass With Distinction.
  • When writing about Swedes in English, I tend to forget the genitive apostrophe on their names.
  • The Chinese government blocks access to the Internet Movie Database. But not to Goodreads.
  • Erik Nylén, a towering figure in post-WW2 Gotland archaeology, has died aged 99.
  • Idiotic new fee for daylight metal detecting in Sweden. This only punishes the good guys. In other news, it will also cost €70 to buy a lottery ticket to perhaps be allowed to visit Birka, Glimmingehus or Drottningholm.
  • The Manson Family’s murder spree is often described as evil. I think it’s more aptly described as confused, crazy and kind of daft. The motive was to spark a racial war, hide in a cave and come out afterwards to assume a position of power. The whole thing was ridiculous.
  • My current study debt: $2100 = €1700. Not too steep for a PhD.
  • There are eight places named Turbo in Sweden.
  • Movie: Moonrise Kingdom. Unmistakable Wes Anderson tightly stylised mescaline-tinged hyperreality. Grade: Pass With Distinction.

The Aard Regulars Gallery

We’ve all been talking here on the blog for so many years now, but I don’t know what most of you look like. The other day I emailed the most active commenters of the past two months and asked them for photographs to post in a portrait gallery. So far seven regulars have sent me pics, and Sean has offered to find a pic for me soonish.

Now please keep the pix coming! This gallery will remain a work in progress for some time. I’d be very happy to receive pictures of long-term lurkers as well. You don’t have to have a beard, but if you do, nobody is likely to make fun of you for it.