Fun Stuff Ahead

I have four pleasant things on my desk at the moment:

  • Finally my first uni job! Humble but very important to me. I’ve been asked to teach Swedish landscape archaeology to exchange students in English for about 100 hours during the autumn term. Start 4 Sept.

  • A commission for an encyclopedia article on Viking gaming. Deadline 30 Sept.
  • A speaking slot at a conference in a Crimean coastal resort during the off-season, to talk about Swedish contacts with that area in the 4th and 5th centuries. Deadline 3 Oct.
  • A growing book ms. on Bronze Age sacrificial sites. Deadline 31 Dec. 2013.

What about you, Dear Reader? Any fun stuff coming up?

Comments

  1. #1 Steven Blowney
    The Land of the Cheesesteak
    July 11, 2012

    Well, since you asked, I’m finally reading your Meadhall book, but I will have to read it again before commenting. The most recent fiction book I’ve read is “Redshirts”–a nice chunk of fluffy sci-fi brain candy. Your 2nd project sounds interesting. Congrats on the job.

  2. #2 Martin R
    July 11, 2012

    Thanks! Redshirts is John Scalzi. I used to read his blog back around when Old Man’s War had just come out.

  3. #3 Steven Blowney
    Cell No. 42 of the Oz Municipal Asylum for the absurd.
    July 11, 2012

    Yup. “Redshirts” is fun. It was a good break from other, heavier stuff.

  4. #4 Birger Johansson
    July 12, 2012

    Fellow Scalzi fans!!! Yayyy.

    I am looking forward to several book titles being published in the next few weeks. Jasper Fforde’s “The Woman Who Died a Lot”, the next Neal Asher, et cetera.
    Just got a copy of “Rich Democracies”, a thick book listing differences between Japan, USA, Scandinavian countries and other successful economies.
    It provides ample proof that no single, simplistic ideology is the magical solution of how to create an affluent society.

  5. #5 Birger Johansson
    July 12, 2012

    Fun stuff: The next Laundry novel by Stross is due the 19th.
    Convention in Minneapolis October for those who think Prometheus was a documentary : “The Paradigm Symposium: Re-visioning our place in the universe”
    They actually have Erich von Däniken among the speakers!

  6. #6 John Massey
    Hong Kong
    July 12, 2012

    Yep – relocating a large sewage treatment plant into an underground man-made rock cavern, to release the surface land for low-cost housing for young people – after suitable site clean-up, obviously. The surface land is beautiful, on the bank of a tidal inlet. The sewage treatment plant was built many years ago, when this was a ‘remote’ location no one wanted. Time to move it, and the best place is underground.

    This is one engineering project every person living in this district absolutely loves – they can’t wait for us to start.

    Congratulations on the university job. From little acorns, mighty oak trees grow.

  7. #7 John Massey
    Hong Kong
    July 12, 2012

    Just in case anyone is interested – 10 years ago, the river feeding into this tidal inlet was dead. Black water, no life. The reason was effluents feeding into the river – largely, manure from pig farms in the stream catchments. The benthic layer in the river became a layer of decomposing pig manure which deoxygenated the river water. The smell from the river and tidal inlet was highly unpleasant and overpowering. Living near the river was a nightmare.

    The pig farms have now all gone – once it became illegal for the farmers just to shovel the waste into the nearest stream course, it became uneconomic, and the pigs railed in from across the border in Mainland China were cheaper and better quality meat.

    Once the pig farms were gone and all of the effluent discharge into the stream courses was stopped, the engineers moved in and dredged out the contaminated benthic layer. A healthy new benthic layer re-established itself, and the river is now alive again, full of fish, and the water is no longer black, and it no longer smells, aside from a faint healthy organic smell at night which is certainly not unpleasant.

    Several species of egrets and herons now nest near the river and inlet, and spend all day cruising up and down, hunting. There are also night herons which skulk around in the darkness, squawking to one another. One night heron appears to have suffered some disruption to its circadian rhythm, because it skulks around surreptitiously in the middle of the afternoon, apparently not realising that its plumage, which provides excellent night camouflage, makes it stick out like a sore thumb in the bright sub-tropical sunshine. It needn’t worry, it can safely be as eccentric as it wishes.

    No powered water craft are permitted in the river and inlet, apart from the occasional specially permitted work boat – it is preserved for non-powered water sports – rowing, kayaking and dragon boat races. Both shores have been converted to parkland, cycleways and footpaths. The river and inlet have become a major recreational resource for people in the district, and the resident wildlife has become an amateur photographer’s paradise.

    No fishing is permitted in the river and inlet, but there is some guy sneaking out there every morning at 3.00 am in a little rowing boat with a net. He thinks he is invisible in the dark, but I watch him – I now live next to the inlet. If you told me 10 years ago that I would be living here, I would have said “Impossible.” Now, I would choose to live nowhere else.

    I am just not sure what to do about the guy in the rowing boat. I guess if he keeps eating the fish, the problem could become self-correcting – the river is undoubtedly much cleaner than it was, but…

  8. #8 Martin R
    July 12, 2012

    Good stuff John! And thanks!

  9. #9 John Massey
    July 15, 2012

    Jumping the gun, I am off to the HK Museum of History next weekend for an exhibition on the terra cotta warriors, with my little girl and her buddy/’adoptive’ big brother, who has just completed his medical training and is now delivering babies while ranting about Roman and Chinese history to Mainland women in labour, who are probably not too interested at that critical juncture.

    I have memorised your argument about potatoes and chocolate, but I don’t see a clear distinction in the minds of these kids, my daughter engrossed in biochemistry and human genetics but so thrilled and absorbed by performances of ancient operas that tears run down her face, and excited to be going to the museum exhibition.

    I am still head-scratching about how to put a value on the enrichment of people’s lives when they become enlivened to the context of human existence, which plays back into their daily work in a really kind of unexpected way, almost like they are simultaneously highly competent young people working in the here and now, while joyfully contemplating the past in the present as if there is no unconformity. They don’t seem to see a separation, their conversation flows almost seamlessly from modern medical science to ancient history and back again as if this is all normal and very much alive to them. It’s almost like they feel more alive, and can make more sense of their existence and what they are doing because they can visualise the past. Hard to express. It’s not silly role playing or anything like that, these are hard-headed science types, it’s very much a discussion of the past as the past, but interwoven with the immediate present. Well, if enriching and enlivening is chocolate, let’s have more of it, but they seem to see their formal studies and work in the same kind of way – like it’s all chocolate.

    I got your argument, for sure. But I’m still…head-scratching. To these kids, it seems archaeology has some tangible value, to the extent that they don’t separate it from anything else.

    I’m not expressing this well at all.

  10. #10 Martin R
    July 16, 2012

    Let’s hope people like them will decide what sort of funding our fun but not very useful subjects get.

  11. #11 John Massey
    July 16, 2012

    The thing that does worry me is that when I try to discuss interesting stuff on Facebook, people respond by posting endless pictures of domestic cats. I even tried to discuss the evidence for a thriving industry breeding cats for ritual sacrifice and mummification in Ancient Egypt, like so far the finding of some hundreds of thousands of cat mummies, and got back a whole lot of pictures of cats. Not cat mummies, live cats with anthropomorphic interpretations.

    If my daughter and her friend are ever in the position to allocate funding, I’d say you can count on them – my concern is they appear to be abnormal, and I don’t know how to engage the majority. Tried numerous times and failed completely. The young doctor reads every word with obvious enjoyment, but it is not him I am worried about.

  12. #12 Martin R
    July 17, 2012

    Every word of what?

  13. #13 John Massey
    July 17, 2012

    …every word of science blog posts I reference on Facebook and comments/short discussions I post there. My daughter told me one of her university classmates, an Australian girl who got befriended via my daughter because she said she found my comments to my daughter to be interesting, does also. I am not worried about her either, she is an air force cadet who flies jet training aircraft in her spare time – she will end up either as a research scientist or a fighter pilot. Either way, she will be pretty scary. Is already, actually.

    It bothers me that all of the others seem to have no interest in anything except funny cat pictures. I post some pretty riveting stuff that I glean from a good collection of science blogs, plus interesting facets that crop up in my own professional practice. I have even pinched some of Birger’s references. No one cares except my daughter, the doctor and the trainee fighter pilot.

    I tried posting a photo of a cat once as an experiment, a very unremarkable one, just some domestic cat not doing anything except being a cat. They loved it – not the 3 mentioned above, they ignored it as a momentary bizarre aberration on my part, I mean most of the others.

    Kumi is a busy rock guitarist/composer/band leader and English is obviously more difficult for her than Japanese, but even she shows more interest than the rest.

    Sorry, Martin, I’m grizzling. But it worries me. How do you wake people up?

  14. #14 John Massey
    July 17, 2012

    Now I have mentioned Kumi again, I guess I better give another example of her work. Lovely funny person. She and the band have just been up to Fukushima to help to cheer the folks up.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbKpIfLnNjU