July Pieces Of My Mind #1


Gift from the sea.

  • I just refrained from making an obvious lewd pun about a co-worker’s significant other. (An old buddy commented on Fb, “Who are you and what have you done with the real Martin?”)
  • Movie: Stardust (2007). Rom-com in fairytale land, aimed squarely at fans of The Princess Bride. Grade: Good fun!
  • In her 1976 poetry chapbook Walking in Cornwall, Ursula LeGuin mistakes a 1798 park folly for an oddly small Medieval castle. (Present from Birger!)
  • The music producer Mark “Flood” Ellis, who re-mixed lots of Depeche Mode songs in the 80s, got his nickname as a young studio assistant because he always made lots of tea fast for his boss. The other studio assistant was called Drought.
  • The Italian word for development, which shares the etymology of the English word, is sviluppo. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
  • As an archaeologist I don’t think in terms of art or treasure. In fact it causes my discipline major problems that other people do, because it tends to destroy archaeological context.
  • Playing soccer against people from a country with no horizontal ground just isn’t fair.
  • I keep and use found cutlery.
  • Got into an exchange about Indiana Jones and such. Several seriously worded post-colonialist comments. Realised that it’s not that I don’t agree with them, it’s that as a Swedish archaeologist working in agricultural non-Saami Sweden I just don’t give a damn.
  • Evening quiet broken by loud incessant whooshing noise. Turns out to be the cars on the nearby 60 kph road. Lots of people still driving at 22:40. *sigh*
  • I’ll remember 2018 as a varied professional year. I’ve made maps for a historical corpus project, I’ve taught high school languages, I’m currently coordinating vote canvassing, and now I’ve been offered a job in heritage management for the final months of the year. While I’ve been doing all this I’ve also been the managing editor of an academic journal. Not a one-trick pony!
  • Swedish pizza cooks are almost all male.
  • Executive producer: Philip Capice.
  • Taught wife & daughter to set fire to shit using a magnifying glass. Literally: a bird dropping full of sunflower seeds.
  • Got a comment here on the blog from someone with good self-confidence. “You have an interesting blog as I will stay connected.”
  • According to Junior, the Japanese voice in the No Such Thing As A Fish podcast jingle says “自動でお風呂を沸かします”, “Jidō de ofuro o wakashimasu”, “Heating the bath automatically”.
  • The Medieval Swedish word for the first light breach-loading artillery pieces was føglare. This was a loan from Low German and originally meant “fucker” — slang, the etymology being “birder, birding, to bird”.

Anybody played this boardgame? Is it fun?


Canoeing with the Rundkvist ladies.


June Pieces Of My Mind #3


My dad’s mailbox and English dogwood.

  • Funny how “illegible” and “unreadable” mean different things.
  • A drawer full of Jrette’s old crayons, markers, sticker albums and plastic beads has been sitting untouched for years as she’s put away childish things and approached womanhood. The other day I went through it all and collected the good kids’ stuff in a bag. This morning I cycled by a day care centre on my way to work and handed in the bag. Much appreciated!
  • A friend complains about last night’s date. “Dammit, I thought I was going to be a gynaecologist and instead I spent the evening as a psychologist.”
  • I have come to view paperback books as an irresponsible waste of trees.
  • Visibility was bad yesterday. Anticipating today’s improved weather, the County Tourist Administration has delivered several snow- covered mountains overnight for us to enjoy.
  • Confusing sweater. To either side is an inside pocket and an outside pocket layered one on the other. The outside one is accessed from the inside of the sweater, and vice versa.
  • My Mid-summer mountain hiking pics here.
  • Junior gave me a glass of his home-made elderflower cordial.
  • Found a 2013 issue of The Economist in the half-way hut between the Sylarna and Storeriksvollen hikers’ lodges.
  • Messy and confusing when a bunch of organisations send you money, all with the word “Salary” as the only identifier.
  • The Last Jedi is a silly film, but the bits that the conservative fanbois hate count among its strengths. Every scifi movie is improved by a Kelly Marie Tran. And I like Rogue One!
  • My excellent driving pupil Obaida passed his driving test, theory & practice!
  • Yesterday we had a look at Swedish plural imperative inclusive with mökom, “Let’s all fart!”. Now we move on to plural imperative exclusive with möken, “Y’all fart now!”.
  • Stockholm University explicitly moves funding from Elsevier subscriptions to Open Access!
  • Looking at Junior’s flowing mane, I’m sorry that I didn’t understand back in ~1990 how cool long hair is.

Excavation Report from Skällvik Castle 2016


Skällvik Castle, drone photo from the north-east with our trenches A-G indicated. By team member Jan Ainali.

Two years ago myself and Ethan Aines headed the first professional excavation at Skällvik Castle, a 14th century stronghold. It’s near Söderköping, across the water from Stegeborg Castle, and may be seen as a fossil of an itinerant castle that sat on Stegeborg’s islet before and after the period 1330-1360. Skällvik Castle was at various times owned by the See of Linköping and the Swedish Crown, and was at least used by the provincial Lawspeaker as well.

Some of our main results were these.

  • The written sources document activity at the castle in 1330-50. The coins we found extend that use period at least four more years to 1354. In 1356 there was a civil war and the nearby vicarage is known to have been attacked. This is a likely end date for the castle.
  • We identified the castle guards’ day room, warmed by the bakery oven, where finds show that the guards spent their off-time fletching crossbow bolts and gambling with dice for money.
  • We found a noblewoman’s seal matrix, dropped into the sea off the castle’s dock. Her full name and identity are unknown, but historians have helped us identify two men known from the written record who may be her father and her husband. There was still sealing wax stuck to the matrix under the verdigris.

Get the report from Archive.org!

June Pieces Of My Mind #2


Ackee, rice, salt fish are nice. I’m skipping the rum though. (Ackee is a fruit whose flesh resembles omelet.)

  • Dammit. Starting to miss archaeology pretty bad. Almost as bad as I miss my toddlers.
  • Who are you today? I’m LARPing a middle-aged pillar of the community.
  • A young Roma woman waiting with me for the bus pointed to my paperback, then to the sky, and said “Jesus? Good!”. I replied, friendly, “No, it’s Ursula LeGuin”. She nodded, asked me for a handout, then had a loud staccato screaming argument with her nearby friend.
  • Started working as an archaeologist 26 years ago today. I went on to other things in February and now I’m only doing archaeology at 25% of full time.
  • Pakistani dads in beige kurta-kameez bringing their toddlers to leisurely cricket practice on the municipal sports field.
  • To all students of meta-archaeology and current attitudes to ancient monuments, I would like to offer the International Festival of Fisksätra, which took place today. It attracted several hundred people for many hours and took place immediately next to the Fisksätra Viking cemetery. Two or three of the participants were aware of the cemetery. It is unknown and meaningless to almost all modern inhabitants of Fisksätra. I believe that this is a typical attitude to ancient monuments, and I feel that this argues strongly against studies of meta-archaeology and current attitudes to ancient monuments.
  • I brought a bag of bones from Iron Age graves to one of the first dinners with my Chinese future parents-in-law. Their daughter told me strictly not to mention any graves, just “studying ancient cultures”.
  • Swedish stores and cafés increasingly refuse cash payments. Digital currency. I like it.
  • Though I agree in principle, I have trouble understanding the emotional resonance of the debate over who should be addressed as “Dr.”. Because in Sweden no man or woman is ever referred to with that honorific except as a joke.


Weekend Fun – Fantastika 2018 – International Festival

20180616_162032 (1)

One of the least archaeologically visible events at Fisksätra’s Viking Period cemetery was Saturday’s visit by a fine Jamaican food truck.

It’s been a fun and intense weekend!

On Friday the Fantastika 2018 scifi con opened, conveniently located half an hour’s bike ride from my home, and I moderated a panel on Ursula LeGuin with my old friend Florence Vilén, Saara Henriksson and Markku Soikkeli. My wife came home from China, and two friendly con-goers that I know from my years teaching in Umeå stayed in our guest room.

On Saturday morning I fed my Umeå friends breakfast and then we went to the con where I gave a talk about Medieval castles. Thence back to Fisksätra for the annual International Festival, where I spent the day manning the Labour Party’s tent and canvassing for votes. Then back to the con and sit on a panel about empires in scifi and fantasy with the charming Linda Carey and my old friend Anders Blixt, moderated by my friend Hans Persson, had dinner with my old friend Erik Andersson and gave him an interview for the Fandompodden podcast. And back home to water the garden.

On Sunday morning I fed my Umeå friends, cycled back to the con, attended Hans’s geocaching meetup in front of the venue, bought some used paperbacks (Ryman’s Air, Roberts’s Salt, Reynolds’s Revelation Space) and listened to an interview with Mike Carey, a lovely man whose fine novels about Felix Castor the exorcist I enjoy (Aard regular Birger Johansson gave me those). Then I cycled back home, went skinny dipping in our nearby lake with my wife, napped for almost two hours, and drove the Labour tent & sundries back to my workplace. After dinner my Latvian Viking reenactor friend Artis Aboltins, who is visiting Stockholm for work, came by for coffee and sandwiches and to pick up a table he’d ordered for his sailing boat.

Oh, and Junior texted me that he’d namedropped me when talking to archaeologists at Slussen’s Open Day on his way to the Scifi Book Store, and my excellent Syrian driving pupil Obaida passed his driving test. ❤

All very good stuff! Dear Reader, what did you do?

Excavation Report from Birgittas udde 2016

Birgittas udde

Birgittas udde with our 2016 trenches. Plan by Ethan Aines.

Two years ago myself and Ethan Aines headed the first professional excavation at Birgittas udde, a small Medieval stronghold. It’s on a promontory into Lake Boren near the town of Motala, on land belonging to Ulvåsa manor. One of Ulvåsa’s first known inhabitants was a young strong-willed 14th century noblewoman who would one day become Saint Bridget of Sweden.

Our main results were these.

  • The stronghold was built c. 1250-75, long before Bridget’s day.
  • It was never used much, being kept in shape as a refuge but rarely inhabited.
  • It sits on a Mesolithic settlement site coeval with the famous Motala sites nearby.

Get the report from Archive.org!

June Pieces Of My Mind #1


Found an enigmatic fragment of an artefact from a bygone age.

  • Dad bragging: my kids are both fully fluent in Swedish and English. Jr speaks serviceable Japanese and Jrette speaks Mandarin. Both also have a smattering of French. Dudes, marry smart ladies!
  • When you have a really bad cold, your nasal mucus membranes are open wounds. And you keep blowing the scabs out of your nose to be able to breathe. You’d never do this to your knee.
  • There’s a housing area nearby named Talliden. Probably named for the thallid fungal creatures in Magic the Gathering.
  • Each Kindle has an email address. You can send PDF and EPUB files to it and have them show up on the device. Convenient! But if you buy an ebook for someone at Amazon, do not use this address. Use the person’s address or it won’t work.
  • Received a used washing machine. Gave it a trial run in the yard. Realised that the transmission belt had jumped. It turned out to be too short to put back on the wheels. I had an idea and put it in hot water, then dried it off, and it slid into place just fine. But then I found that the hub was damaged and immobilised.
  • A memory. In the Swedish Outdoor Association’s youth group, we were often told to bring a stick of wood from home so collectively we would have enough firewood without having to collect it in the forest.
  • Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” was a B side and he was surprised when it became a hit.
  • It’s obvious, but still I’m surprised. In 2002 Sweden’s current Minister of Culture (Greens) published an interview book about the country’s crown princess.
  • Planning a night out for our 19th anniversary. Thanks to Sweden’s recently much more intense contact with Afghanistan, I was able to buy tickets for an Afghan trio playing traditional music in the venerable Finnish Church as part of the Early Music Festival, and then dinner at Little Kabul.
  • YES!!! I got funding to design & print my Medieval castles book, and to cover the last finds conservation bill!
  • OK ladies, I know you wonder where all the sexy alpha males are tonight. Let me tell you, they are playing boardgames at my place. And they are gorgeous. Mmm-hmm.
  • Why does “Japanese Boy” by Aneka suddenly and unpromptedly start playing in my head over a quarter-century later?
  • Love boating on lakes and rivers whose shores I’m familiar with only from dry land.
  • Yay summer, a walk in the woods and immediately a tick on my Balzac.

May Pieces Of My Mind #3


First race of the year. Sunshine and a high wind!

  • I want a hoodie with the word HODIE across the back.
  • Cycling home last night at 11 I interrupted two young roebucks fighting in a suburban parking lot. Long, wickedly sharp antlers. They weren’t particularly afraid of me, but watched me with interest, then went back to trying to gore the shit out of each other. Scraping the ground with a front hoof.
  • Started my new job today. I’m coordinating the Labour / Social Democrat Party’s vote canvassing efforts in Nacka in the lead-up to the September 9 election. Nacka is an affluent and populous municipality adjacent to urban Stockholm where Labour hasn’t held power in almost half a century. Let’s see what we can do!
  • For two decades academia kept telling me that my presence didn’t matter and my opinions were of no account. An important motivation for me getting involved in politics is that here people say “We can really use someone like you, and we’d like you to take part in shaping policy”.
  • Cremated remains of Clyde Tombaugh who discovered Pluto are on the New Horizons probe that mapped the planet.
  • Love a scifi con at cycling distance! I’m doing a talk on Medieval castles and a panel on fictional empires. Also moderating a panel on Ursula LeGuin.
  • Florence (of The Machine) writes “So I like to keep my issues strong / But it’s always darkest before the dawn”. I’ve fixed the rhyme for her: “But it’s always darkest before the dong”.
  • The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson is shelved under “War and Conflict” at Sickla public library in suburban Stockholm. In English and Swedish.
  • This summer I want to: ride a steam train and study the engine, and go kayaking, hiking and skinnydipping.
  • Sent my 7th book off to the graphic designer! Do you want all the gritty details about life at Swedish Medieval strongholds? Then I’m your Huckleberry.
  • Given the popularity of cheese burgers, I suggest that Hamburg’s inhabitants rename their city Käseburg.
  • Ishmael and Samuel have the same etymology, “hear” + “god”.
  • Why is the list of languages in LibreOffice’s spellchecker so damn long? Has the software suite even got dictionaries for Teke-Eboo and Nganasanic?
  • Sabbat’s 1987 single “Blood for the Blood God” mentions 10 million orc & goblin feet, that is, only 5 million orcs & goblins. So relax everyone.
  • The Latin word for nightingale, luscinia, is applied as a species surname to the thrush nightingale common in Linnaeus’s native Sweden. Not to the common nightingale that the Romans knew.
  • Why is wifi disconnection on a cell phone such a slow process?
  • The 8th century is known as the time of the Blue Ladies, because the Scandinavian bead market was dominated by blue and a few green bead types. Now the Danes are excavating yet another one of the workshops in Ribe that created these beautiful wares.
  • My grandparents were born in the 1910s. Cling film must have been completely futuristic to them.
  • Listened to a Coldplay song just to check if I still liked it. I did not. Then it got stuck in my head.
  • Reached the point in a really bad cold when you suddenly realise, hey, it’s been quite a while since I had to blow my nose!
  • My Chinese wife instructed me to make chlodnik, a cold Polish soup based on beetroot and kefir that was previously unknown to me. Yet I do not feel culturally threatened. What is wrong with me?!


May Pieces Of My Mind #2


The boats came with the summer. Goodbye, Stocksund!

  • Summer thunder woke me this morning. Deliciously unfamiliar.
  • Two herons flew past our house last night as I came home from Linköping, both headed towards the lake.
  • I love this time of year and I strongly oppose all other times!
  • The Sabbathy metal band Black Label Society have released an album named Grimmest Hits.
  • Whenever I meet Stockholm’s talkative, businessminded, frank and outgoing hijabi ladies, I think to myself that the people who read the hijab as a sign of patriarchal repression simply cannot know any of these women.
  • I think it was in 2001 that I made the acquaintance of a Swedish antiques smuggler who often travelled to China to buy looted finds. He was quite open about this and told me about his trade the first time I met him, despite knowing that I’m an archaeologist. We had a falling-out after I gave his contact info to a scholar who studies illicit trade in antiquities. The guy then broke up with his partner, with whom I’m still friendly, and I haven’t heard of him since. Until I received a link today to this blog entry from November 2016. Though he was apparently a respected expert by that time, he got convicted of fraud for faking a provenance to make a looted piece sellable. I get the impression that he may also have dealt in modern fakes.
  • Love being able to get all the old episodes of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast straight into my podcatcher now! Going to start listening back before I came on board.
  • If “Incels” think sex is a common resource that should be shared equitably, shouldn’t they all be ready to comfort lonely gay men?
  • Desirée means “the wanted one”, “the wanted child”. A loving name to give your kid.
  • Finished my high school teaching gig today, neatly tying up all loose administrative ends. It’s been fun! Next week I’m starting a new interesting job in a sector where I’ve never been paid to work before.
  • Waved at some guy from my car in the parking lot. Thought he was a neighbour. Dude walks up, opens passenger door, takes a seat. Smiles uncertainly at me. “Are you the guy?” “Nope, sorry!” We laugh, I slap his shoulder, he leaves.
  • Observant Swedish Muslims are in for a rough Ramadan. Extremely long daylight this time of year. No food from 01:30 am to 09:30 pm.
  • Things have been pretty precarious for me since my adjunct teaching gig in Umeå ended in January 2016. It’s been a time of financial shakiness and repeated kicks in the groin from academia. It would have been really bad if I hadn’t had my wife and kids to hold on to, not to mention if my health hadn’t been so strong. I still feel like a steel ball bouncing around in a pinball machine, and I don’t know where I’m going to settle, eventually. But my money situation is finally solid again, and I’ve secured jobs in three separate extramural sectors in less than seven months. So I’m optimistic.
  • Went to bed early, got up at 03:30. Watching the sunrise, enjoying the quiet.

LinCon 2018 Gaming Convention

steampunk rallyAs has become my habit, I spent two days at LinCon, a big four-day gaming event in Linköping. This is two hours’ drive from my home, and my nearest big gaming con. For some reason Sweden’s capital where I live has nothing on a similar scale. I played eight games, seven of which are favourites of mine that I actually own but didn’t bring. There are several free lending libraries of games at the con.

  • Gaia Project (2017). A re-skinned Terra Mystica, i.e. another highly replayable and varied Euro cube-pusher.
  • RoboRally (1994). Program a robot using a random set of instruction cards and then see your plans unravel as another player’s robot bumps you off track and laser-zaps your rear.
  • Tigris & Euphrates (1997). Tactics and resource management in Bronze Age Mesopotamia.
  • No Thanks (2004). Short abstract push-your-luck.
  • Steampunk Rally (2015). Build and drive your own brass-encrusted early 1900s scifi vehicle along a bumpy race track. Hadn’t heard of this one before, but I’d be happy to play it again.
  • Qwirkle (2006). Abstract: illiterate Scrabble.
  • Innovation (2010). Intricate card game about advancing civilization.
  • Stone Age (2008). Worker placement game centred on a Neolithic village with surrounding natural resources.

At the con auction I bought Hanabi and Sid Meier’s Civilization – the good 2010 game, not the crappy 2002 one that I bought by mistake at last year’s con. I sold Death Angel, Hand of the King, Codenames Deep Undercover and Castles of Mad King Ludwig.

2018 was my sixth LinCon. Here are my impressions of last year’s con.

mr på lincon

LinCon, a gaming convention famous for its free tea, finally has an official tea mug!