May Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Learned a joke from a German on Twitter. It works in English as well. Q: What do you call a Nazi sitting on a high voltage cable? A: National resistance.
  • Played “Hoochie Coochie Man” to Jrette to explain where the anonymous piano riff she uses as a ring tone comes from. And mightily did she groove to it.
  • My wife asks me how come I’m familiar with a certain sociologist she’s reading for her second degree. “Because I have annoying colleagues who cite sociologists needlessly all the time.”
  • When I copy or move information from one document to another, I usually put the goal document to the right on my screen.
  • Guro Koksvik Lund in her MA thesis about my gaming group, no, sorry, about finds of boardgaming gear from Medieval Bergen: “Playing the games was an expression of leisure but perhaps also a way of expressing social and mental affiliation, and a way of distinguishing oneself in relation to others, and thus an indicator of social identity.”
  • I complain a lot about not seeing a red career carpet rolled out in front of me. But really, I’m very pleased / grateful about how varied my work is. Right now I’m preparing a talk on how to analyse Late Iron Age burial data, while putting final touches to my Bronze Age book, and prepping for fieldwork on High Medieval castle ruins. Meanwhile, informs me that my most-downloaded paper there right now is the big one about 8th century jewellery.
  • Staropramen means “the old spring” in Czech. I had to look it up on Wikipedia. My wife said, “Yeah, read the label, man”.
  • I’m a pacifist without any particular interest in military history. But Dan Carlin has me listening to hour upon hour of lectures about the First World War.
  • I wonder if anyone’s using the 80287 co-processor for anything these days.
  • You can call me Quimby. You know, like Beyoncé.
  • The latest few iterations of Mac OS interacts really, really poorly with DAV servers.
  • I’m home and my shoes are still damp from Estonian rain. Air travel is strange.
  • I’d like my camera to crank up the contrast for me. In the rare case where I wouldn’t want that, I could always crank it down afterwards.
  • Turns out that Estonian õ, o with a tilde, is pronounced roughly like Turkish ı, i with no dot.
  • I can get my sideburns symmetrical in relation to my facial hair OR in relation to the shape of my chin. Not both. I’m a freak.
  • Oxenstierna is one of Sweden’s oldest and most illustrious noble families. The name originally meant “forehead of ox” and described their coat of arms. Now it strikes me that this is the same name as that of one of the bad guys in Scott’s “Ivanhoe”: Reginald Front de Boeuf.
  • Woah. In an effort to combat the Japanese, Chiang Kai-shek had a river dam blown up, drowning half a million Chinese — more civilians than the Japanese murdered at Nanjing.
  • Another crappy offer from a publishing company. They want a series editor for a line of Scandy archaeology books. The salary is €250 per published volume. I did some calculations starting from the OK but not exceptional salary I receive as editor of Fornvännen. It turns out that in order for this publishing company to pay me a similar rate for my time, I would be able to spend less than 11 hours on each book — including all the time spent on book projects that never make it into print. And as a friend pointed out, I shouldn’t even be comparing this to a salary. It’s a consultancy fee, where €250 is more like two hours. *sigh*
  • Why can’t I solidify skin care products when Elizabeth Ardens Eight Hour Cream?
  • Oh, those gay MLM spammers and their poncy schemes.
  • The sexological definition of a paedophile is that they’re mainly and preferentially turned on by prepubescent kids. I was intrigued to learn from Little Atoms that most child molestors do not actually turn out to be paedophiles when investigated. They’re “opportunistic offenders”, men with drug habits or innately poor impulse control who’ll just grab and rape any easily subdued biped.
  • So yeah, Tom Shippey quoted my latest book in The London Review of Books a few weeks ago.


  1. #1 John Massey
    May 16, 2014

    Try Juniorette with a bit of the Wolf.

    Chiang Kai Shek is regarded as…well, he’s no hero in the Mainland. Chinese civilians were just expendable collateral damage, as far as he was concerned.

  2. #2 John Massey
    May 16, 2014

    This one is not bad either.

  3. #3 John Massey
    May 16, 2014

    To use my iMac to download geospatial data from the government’s website, I have to turn on things that Apple tell me not to turn on.

    Same with doing my tax return. I guess I could mail them a letter saying : “Sorry, I can’t do my tax return, I’m an Apple user.” Probably wouldn’t work, though, especially if they spot that I’m also running a laptop PC loaded with Windows 7.

  4. #4 John Massey
    May 16, 2014

    I was quite flattered when an academic friend asked me to give a 45 hour course in advanced soil mechanics to his masters students. It sounded sort of good for the CV but poorly paid – and then I figured out how long it would take me to prepare the lecture material, and realised I would earn more per hour as a street sweeper or toilet cleaner.

  5. #5 John Massey
    May 16, 2014

    Adult women in the Mainland want purple teddy bears. My 2 year old Chinese great-niece just wants to shoot down enemy aeroplanes on my iPad mini.

  6. #6 John Massey
    May 16, 2014

    My daughter says if Juniorette detests that awful Howlin’ Wolf stuff as much as she does, she can really rock to this:

    How did I get a daughter who was born 1,300 years old and regards Anne Brontë as avant garde?

  7. #7 Jane
    May 16, 2014

    @John #4 – I feel your pain. I get offered this kind of thing all the time in the translation world. But you do also have to take into account whether it will really look good on your CV. I mean if it’s going to immediately get you a much better job as a result then the investment of a few hours spent slaving for cleaner’s wages is worth it!

  8. #8 John Massey
    May 16, 2014

    @Jane#7 – Well, I was flattered he asked; he is a good friend and was apologetic about the rate, which is the standard honorarium they pay for external lecturers. But it just wasn’t worth it. If I had the lecture material prepared, I might have done it, but I didn’t, and 45 hours is a lot of lectures. I’m not Peter Wroth. I knew Peter Wroth, and greatly admired and liked him, but I’m not his bootlace. Peter didn’t need lecture notes, he just used to stand at the board and do it all out of his head, and it came out clear as crystal, filling the board with mathematics, and at the end of an hour, you’d be like “Oh, is it over so soon?” Brilliant man, tragedy he died so young.

  9. #9 Anna
    May 16, 2014

    Before you call yourself Quimby, you should read “The meaning of Liff” by Douglas Adams! (Just saying…)

  10. #10 Martin R
    May 16, 2014

    My edition of Liff only has Quenby. Is Quimby in The Deeper Meaning of Liff?

  11. #11 Kevin
    May 17, 2014

    An Estonian friend of mine tells me that Swedes who have lived on the coastal islands for hundreds of years still pronounce moose (elg to you) as pöder instead of põder so it’s easy to tell them apart. Truly a modern shibboleth.

  12. #12 Martin R
    May 17, 2014

    Yes, my colleague Marge told me the Estonian islanders in general don’t differentiate well between Ö and Õ.

  13. #13 Birger Johansson
    May 18, 2014

    “Woah. In an effort to combat the Japanese, Chiang Kai-shek had a river dam blown up, drowning half a million Chinese — more civilians than the Japanese murdered at Nanjing.”
    Chinese dictators do not have much concerns about the lives of the “little people”. Fuck the Liberators sideways with a dead porcupine..
    — — — — —
    “Medieval Bergen” Norwegians made the very first rhunic stones. Which reminds me, this week an 81-year old local from Västerbotten erected a bona fide rhunesone in memory of his dead wife. he had help from local historians and archaeologists to get the details right.
    — — — — — — —
    Mayor Quimby from Springfield. Downtown from the Simpsons.

  14. #14 Birger Johansson
    May 18, 2014

    More on Beyonce:
    Religious Right talk show host Kevin Swanson:”Beyonce is Possessed by Demons”
    -You know , our Swedish conservatives are occasionally commonsense fellows -I don’t buy their ideology, but I can talk with them without having to bang my head into the table in exasperation.
    The American conservatives are something else. Help me out with the right term here. They are able to clothe and feed themselves, so they have an at least average IQ, yet they seem delusinal to the point of needing minders.

  15. #15 Birger Johansson
    May 18, 2014

    Tpyos, god of speling erors strikes again. Should be “delusional”.

  16. #16 Birger Johansson
    May 18, 2014

    You can actually buy old processors at next to nothin , and build a parallel-computing devcie from them if you need serious number-crunching capacity for simulations. But the 80287 processors may have rusted out in storage.
    — — —
    Pope Fluffy
    I suppose it is pointless to tell him the Devil was just a minor bogeyman until around the 8-9th centuries , when he was reinvented as God’s powerful rival? But I would have enjoyed listening in at that meeting. “Demonic lesbian chocolate throwers” will be the name of my band.

  17. #17 Birger Johansson
    May 18, 2014

    Lisa Miskovsky – Coming On Strong
    She is from nearby Holmsund and Vännfors. And makes the average contestants in the Eurovision Crap look bad.

  18. #18 John Massey
    May 19, 2014

    Still a long way to go to match this lady – well, I don’t think anyone ever will.!

  19. #19 John Massey
    May 20, 2014

    Breast feeding flash mob.

    Those people in Australia who complain to the management about women breastfeeding their babies in restaurants (? because it’s supposed to be insanitary, or a mortal danger to people’s God-fearing morality or what? strange notion) and have mother + baby ejected from the restaurant, would just absolutely hate this.

  20. #20 John Massey
    May 20, 2014

    How to keep those creeps away from you on a crowded train – automatically inflating urban armour:

    Erm…I think it could do with a bit of further development.

  21. #21 Birger Johansson
    May 20, 2014

    (OT) 1: Austrians map Roman town with radar
    2: Egyptian military present bogus cure for HIV and Hepatite C, promise to make cure available *after* elections…
    (sorry could not yet find English-language links)

  22. #23 Martin R
    May 20, 2014

    Woah! Call the guy who painted Vädersolstavlan!

  23. #24 Eric Lund
    May 20, 2014

    I figured out how long it would take me to prepare the lecture material, and realised I would earn more per hour as a street sweeper or toilet cleaner.

    It happens in the US, too. A guy who has worked on my house has a Ph.D. in history, which he obtained in the course of pursuing his hobby in early American music. He continued to do construction work (he is CEO and chief bottle washer for his construction company) during his grad school studies to pay the bills. He ended up staying in the construction business because that pays him better than any job for which his Ph.D. is a qualification.

    I wasn’t aware that Õ was a character in Estonian. I only know of that character in Portuguese, where the tilde apparently implies a missing N: São approximately rhymes with the English word drown, and the capital of Portugal is Lisbõa (cf. Latin Lisbona, whence English Lisbon).

  24. #25 Birger Johansson
    May 21, 2014

    Might *this* be your dream job?

  25. #26 Birger Johansson
    May 21, 2014

    (OT) For our American readers:
    “Major meteor shower could delight N. America May 23-24” Alas, in Europe the sun has already risen at the time of the expected maximum.

  26. #27 Birger Johansson
    May 21, 2014
  27. #28 birger johansson
    May 23, 2014

    New palaeolithic artifacts discovered from loess deposits of Lantian, Central China

  28. #29 birger johansson
    May 23, 2014

    When communities want to re-bury contested skeletons, this method might prove or disprove wether they really are descended from the population of the dead.
    — — — —
    Microbes from 1,500-year-old feces support archeological theories

  29. #30 Birger Johansson
    May 26, 2014

    (OT) ‘Swedes see children as equals not as monsters’: French au pair
    -But what if you adopt Hellboy?

  30. #31 John Massey
    May 27, 2014

    Equals – what absolute nonsense. My daughter has known perfectly well that her job is to supervise me and keep me out of trouble ever since she was 8 years old.

    This is totally off-off-topic, but my supervisor is busy watching the French Open tennis, so I’m misbehaving while she’s distracted:

  31. #32 Birger Johansson
    May 27, 2014

    John, I rely on my nephews nieces and my younger neighbours to help me out with consumer electronics.
    (OT) Ohio Replaces Lethal Injection With Humane New Head-Ripping-Off Machine,36077/

  32. #33 John Massey
    May 27, 2014

    I was talking that serilously until I saw it was the Oinion.

  33. #34 Eric Lund
    May 27, 2014

    @John: That’s the problem with satire: sometimes it’s hard to distinguish from the real thing. Thus, Poe’s law. I used to be a regular reader of the Onion, but I got tired of double checking whether I was reading their site or a supposedly mainstream news site.

  34. #35 John Massey
    May 28, 2014

    ‘Talking serilously’ – I get to a point where I realise I should really give up and go to bed, but usually about an hour after I should have.

    @Eric – yeah, same. I get to the point where I’m not sure which is reality.

    My supervisor is enthusing about Garbiñe Muguruza wiping Serena Williams off the court at Roland Garros. Not that she’s anti-Williams, she took big sister Venus as a role model when she was 9 (sort of slightly odd thing to do, but if you need a role model, it might as well be Venus Williams) and has been a huge Venus fan ever since (me too), but seeing someone beating Serena with just sheer fire-power is pretty awesome.

    Sorry, I realise not everyone is as enthusiastic about women’s tennis as my supervisor and me. It’s only a game, just more important than life and death, that’s all.

  35. #36 John Massey
    May 28, 2014

    Not sure about this:

    What does the writer mean by ‘unnecessary gold objects’?

  36. #37 John Massey
    May 28, 2014

    Speaking of Poe’s law, when I was 16 I became very enamoured of theatre of the absurd, and I have loved it ever since. Don’t see it much now.

  37. #38 Martin R
    May 28, 2014

    At what are you being supervised?

  38. #39 Eric Lund
    May 28, 2014

    John @36: That bride, as a movie I saw long ago put it, OG’ed, i.e., overdosed on gold bling. She (or perhaps her husband) is going to excessive lengths to point out how rich her (or his) family is. I don’t know Guangdong province at all, but the city they’re in isn’t Guangzhou or Shenzhen, where I would expect to find the richest people in Guangdong province. I understand that such excessive displays of wealth were taboo in mainland China during the lifetimes of many Chinese, much as they would be (or have been, when I was younger) considered gauche in many parts of the US, especially those that aren’t New York or Los Angeles.

    Martin @38: I think John means his daughter when he speaks of his supervisor.

  39. #40 John Massey
    May 29, 2014

    Eric@39 – They are in Zhongshan, which is to the north of Macau, so it is to Macau what Shenzhen is to Hong Kong – the adjacent hinterland, as it were, which has become highly developed. Zhongshan is now allegedly rated the best city to live in China. It certainly appears to be becoming the shiniest.

    Martin@38 Eric is right.

  40. #41 John Massey
    May 29, 2014

    Meanwhile, an example of archaeology and palaeogenetics working together.

    “Archeology suggests that during the Bronze Age the Balkans were invaded from the east by nomads associated with the Yamnaya culture of the Pontic-Caspian Steppe. These invaders, possibly of early Indo-European stock, liked to build Tumuli mounds for their important dead, which were essentially copies of the Kurgan mounds built by the Yamnaya and related peoples.

    Moreover, we now know that indigenous European hunter-gatherer (HG) ancestry survived best in Eastern Europe (see here), so it’s very likely that the aforementioned invaders from the steppe were significantly HG-like in terms of genetic structure.

    Therefore, the fact that K8 was buried in a richly furnished Tumulus (essentially a Kurgan), and genetically more similar to indigenous Europeans than P192-1, who was genetically more Near Eastern-like, and basically thrown into a ditch after he died, doesn’t appear to be a coincidence.

    In other words, perhaps K8 belonged to a ruling class of steppe origin, while P192-1 was largely of native Balkan stock, whose ancestors were conquered centuries earlier by the steppe nomads and forced to live as an underclass? If so, it wouldn’t be the only time in history that this sort of thing has happened, especially within Indo-European societies.”

  41. #42 John Massey
    May 29, 2014

    And for those concerned with sexism in tennis, or just buggeration in general, the news couldn’t be any funnier/better/more entertaining – Andy Murray’s new coach is going to be…wait for it…Amelie Mauresmo.

  42. #43 Birger Johansson
    May 29, 2014

    I recall Colin Renfrew’s book from ca 1980 discussing revised C-14 dating and Balkan sites, among other things. I was surprised by he early dates of neolithic settlements in the Balkans (and the great antiquity of the monumental neolithic architecture onb Malta).
    I pitied the Kurgans, that had been so totally swept off the pages of history. Now it seems the Kurgans in part live on through the steppe peoples.

  43. #44 John Massey
    May 29, 2014

    Birger, I think if we could meet all the people who live on through us, we would be very surprised, and being you and me, probably delighted. (There is one white-supremacist politician in Australia who was somewhat dismayed to discover she is part Arabic).

    My mtDNA is from a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer who was genetically very different from any modern European. The amount of my total DNA she makes up is trivial, given that we are separated by 8,000 years, but I’d still like to meet her, if that were possible (which it obviously isn’t).

    I have a few other, shall we say, ‘odd’ and somewhat ‘exotic’ ancestors I wish I knew more about, some of whose people are now effectively extinct. I imagine a lot of people do.

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