October Pieces Of My Mind #1

Satanic Men At Work in Umeå. (Actually, there's condensation on the other side of the sign, and the sun is boiling it off.)

Satanic Men At Work in Umeå. (Actually, there’s condensation on the other side of the sign, and the sun is boiling it off.)

  • Me: “subject”. Autocorrect: “Sibbertoft”.
  • Hey everyone who names your daughters “Chatarina”! I just want you to know that you’re stamping your kid with this big label that says “From A Home With No Language Skills”. It’s like naming her brother “Piliph”.
  • Huh? There’s an online service named Plurk. I have no idea what it does but it sounds extremely funny in Swedish. Plurk plurk!
  • Whenever I see a schnauzer dog I wish I could give its face a buzz cut.
  • Android. The bottom left button used to call up the options menu. Never used that. Then it did nothing. Now it calls up the task manager and is finally useful!
  • “Foxey Lady” is really oddly recorded and mixed. The instruments are fuzzy and centred. The vocals are super loud, super crisp and placed way out left and right. Sounds like two different recording sessions decades apart.
  • “The girl from Ipanema goes walking / And when she’s walking each one who sees her says / GNYAAAAARGLAAAAGH!”
  • Childhood buddy, last seen about 1985, resurfaces as columnist in Umeå entertainment paper.
  • Teaching helps make up for the fact that my kids are growing up strong & independent and don’t need me much anymore.
  • I took a look at the hit boardgame The Voyages of Marco Polo and felt instant revulsion. I think I’ve had enough of German-style cube-pusher games. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, their solution to the problem of unhappiness is based on the exchange of little coloured wooden cubes according to complicated rules, when arguably it isn’t the little cubes that are unhappy.
  • It struck me the other day that many of the more radical differences in ladies’ attire compared to men’s attire are intended not just to accommodate breasts, but to display them. And I am the last to complain.
  • When Swedish archaeologists who made an international impression on the discipline are discussed, among the first names mentioned you’ll find Oscar Montelius and Mats P Malmer. Both wrote mainly in Swedish and German, and so aren’t very accessible to today’s monolingual Anglophones. But now I’ve received a pretty sweet editorial commission: to put the finishing touches on a Greatest Hits volume of Malmer’s work, translated into English with commentary by the likewise legendary Stig Welinder!
  • When it came out that I own a small grater used exclusively for nutmeg, everyone realised that I can’t be straight. This impression was sealed decisively today when I bought a bar of lavender soap in a health food store of my own accord.
  • I wish you could get rid of academic job application referees on the grounds “That guy and I have a complete disdain for each other’s work and academic priorities”.
  • Manioc Maniax will be the next big thing in tuber-themed video games. Remember, you read it here first.
Tree house ruin on Neglingehöjden hill

Tree house ruin on Neglingehöjden hill


  1. #1 Phillip Helbig
    October 15, 2015

    “It struck me the other day that many of the more radical differences in ladies’ attire compared to men’s attire are intended not just to accommodate breasts, but to display them. And I am the last to complain”

    Of course, at least in many places. There was a time when there was a similar wardrobe functionality for men. Need I say codpiece? Cue mid-1970s Ian Anderson with Jethro Tull, Bruegel and Bosch, and the airport scene in This is Spinal Tap. Oh, yes, Zappa and band on the cover of Zoot Allures and about any live photo of Robert Plant in the 1970s.

  2. #2 Eric Lund
    October 15, 2015

    Hey everyone who names your daughters “Chatarina”! I just want you to know that you’re stamping your kid with this big label that says “From A Home With No Language Skills”.

    There has been quite a bit of this in the US for decades. It’s a reliable indicator of the family’s socioeconomic status: urban ghetto or trailer trash. Freakanomics has a chapter on the subject. They mention a few egregious cases of naming: a teenage girl named Temptress who was apparently living up to her name; a boy named Amcher, after the place he was born (Albany Medical Center Hospital Emergency Room), and so on.

    At least in the US, there are fads and fashions in naming children (girls more so than boys). Names become popular among middle and upper class families, and spread down the socioeconomic ladder. Britney Spears (again, a variant spelling, derived from Brittany) was part of a wave of girls with her name, not the cause of it. In addition, some names evolve from being boys’ names to being girls’ names. Hilary and Tracy are two examples of the latter.

    I understand that many European countries, unlike the US, have varying degrees of restriction on what names can be given to children. So it makes sense that Sweden would be lagging the US here–it would be much more common for a name already popular in the English-speaking world to be adopted into Swedish than the other way around.

  3. #3 Martin R
    October 15, 2015

    I once read about a Swedish fellow who had his name-change application turned down by the authorities. He wanted the surname Ljussfär, “Light sphere”, because it would have been an important step in his personal development.

  4. #4 Birger Johansson
    October 16, 2015

    A new-fangled prince in the Swedish royal family was named “Niklas” which is the same name (local spelling rules aside) as the final Czar. Bad vibes. Maybe they should rename him Hindenburg? At least airships are cool.
    — — —
    Dancing tampon song on children’s television to teach kids about periods http://www.thelocal.se/20151014/dancing-tampon-rap-to-teach-kids-about-periods
    — —
    I would like to have the same name as that Babylonian king who was named “luminous/radiating” (see the Old Testament). The Romans translated it as “Lucifer” in latin, and thought it referred to a quite different character.

  5. #5 Birger Johansson
    October 16, 2015

    Didn’t Tim Burton make a film about this?
    “Trio stole corpse to sell as bride, say Chinese media” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/16/trio-stole-corpse-to-sell-as-bride-says-chinese-media “Body taken from tomb for ritual ‘ghost wedding’ in which single people who have died are joined for a marriage in the afterlife”. Meh. The Roman emperor Helogabal had actual gods marry each other.

  6. #6 Birger Johansson
    October 16, 2015

    Woman convicted of witchcraft to get retrial 300 years on http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/16/woman-convicted-witchcraft-retrial-300-years-on-italy
    Sweden used to have a lot of witch trials. The current secular society in part emerged as a reaction to the very strong grip of the church on everyday life. Also, along with poverty, it contributed to a million Swedes seeking a new life in America.
    — — —
    Weremosquitos http://www.gocomics.com/getfuzzy/2015/10/11 I think I can handle that kind of supernatural monsters.

  7. #7 Birger Johansson
    October 16, 2015

    Umeå has a heavy metal band named Moloken. They ought to make a version of The Girl From Ipanema where they growl the text whle playing very loud.
    — — — —
    Department of WTF: “The Real Cause of Mass Shootings in USA: Zombies, Witches, Vampires” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2015/10/15/the-real-cause-of-mass-shootings-zombies-witches-vampires/
    -American TV is much more powerful than Swedish TV, because we see the same programs but our brains fail to get brainwashed…maybe we are not sophisticated enough for mass hypnosis?

  8. #8 Birger Johansson
    October 16, 2015

    Happy birthday, DNA : -2600 People Form A Chain To Celebrate The Anniversary Of DNA
    — — — —
    Scandy national relationships: Adult kindergarten fight! http://satwcomic.com/adult-kindergarteners

  9. #9 Eric Lund
    October 16, 2015

    I would like to have the same name as that Babylonian king who was named “luminous/radiating” (see the Old Testament). The Romans translated it as “Lucifer” in latin, and thought it referred to a quite different character.

    I remind you that “divine” and “devil” come from the same root. They apply, respectively, to the obviously real god my people worship, and the obviously false god those people over there worship.

    The current secular society in part emerged as a reaction to the very strong grip of the church on everyday life.

    I suspect the same thing happened in New England, which is much less religious than any other part of the US. Massachusetts was originally a theocracy. There was also this unpleasant business about alleged witches in 1692 in Salem Village (present-day Danvers, but present-day Salem takes all the publicity). Several provisions of the US constitution were written with an eye to preventing recurrences of that.

  10. #10 Eric Lund
    October 16, 2015

    They ought to make a version of The Girl From Ipanema where they growl the text whle playing very loud.

    That might be interesting to listen to once. The reputation of that song is such that there is a TV Tropes page named after it: The Elevator from Ipanema.

  11. #11 John Massey
    October 16, 2015

    You realise Astrud Gilberto sang every note of that song flat. That takes some doing.

    Yay, we’re getting some missiles! About time, too. HK has never had any air defence.


  12. #12 birgerjohansson
    October 16, 2015

    Yet another Swedish contribution to the world: The virus from Hell! (Ljungan is a Swedish river)
    Scientists solve structure of virus linked to diabetes, infant death, and neurological conditionshttp://phys.org/news/2015-10-scientists-virus-linked-diabetes-infant.html

  13. #13 Eric Lund
    October 17, 2015

    There is a town called Hell in Norway. It became famous 21 years ago when the Southern Baptist Church of Alabama won the Ig Nobel Prize in Mathematics for their county-by-county estimate of how many Alabamans were going to Hell. Accepting the award was the honorary consul for Norway in Boston, who said (i’m paraphrasing, as my Google-fu isn’t finding the transcript of his acceptance speech), “We are pleased to learn that so many residents of the great state of Alabama are going to Hell. There is a place in Hell for all of you.” Supposedly, it’s a nice place to visit, except in winter, when Hell freezes over.

  14. #14 John Massey
    October 17, 2015


  15. #15 Martin R
    October 17, 2015

    Ah Hell, a classic. It means “flat rock outcrop”. And at their railway station is a prominent sign, “Hell Gods-Expedition”, where gods means rolling freight.


  16. #16 BirgerJohansson
    October 17, 2015

    Back in my home village Norrfors, there is a riverside hell with hällristningar (rock carvings).
    “We are Raif: UK campaign for human rights in Saudi Arabia launched” http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2015/10/16/raif-2/
    — — — — — —
    Attack of the Low Budget! Run for your lives!
    “The Fantastic Four (1994 unreleased) Roger Corman” https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2fx3g5_the-fantastic-four-1994-unreleased-roger-corman_fun

  17. #17 John Massey
    October 19, 2015

    I’m designing an underground cycle track 1.2 km long. The people I am designing it for have evidently never ridden bicycles and don’t realize this concept it totally unattractive because it will involve a trip time of about 3 minutes – and there is no continuing cycle track connecting to either end. They are also unaware that the thing will instantly get clogged with kiddies on their trainer wheels accompanied by Mum and Dad on foot, turning the whole thing into an instant underground shemozzle.

    At 2.00 am, the speed girls on their roller blades will be down there, no worries, but then they will be kvetching at me to provide a much longer track.

    It’s on days like this that you need to speak Yiddish.

  18. #18 Martin R
    October 19, 2015

    Lots of fire escapes?

  19. #19 BirgerJohansson
    October 19, 2015

    Maybe the people you work for think they can retrofit the track with a teleportation device that will whisk the cyclists back to the starting point?
    I borked the link to the virus from hell (or a Swedish river valley)

  20. #20 John Massey
    October 19, 2015

    # – One every 36m, with no two more than 48m part.


  21. #21 Phillip Helbig
    October 19, 2015

    “There is a town called Hell in Norway.”

    That’s nothing compared to the town of—drum roll, please…Fucking in Austria, with the sign “Welcome to Fucking Austria”. Speakers of German will appreciate an auxiliary sign advising motorists to slow down: Bitte nicht so schnell!


    The web page above mentions the Mayor of Fucking. Now, that’s a title to aspire to! (Or perhaps to perspire to?)

  22. #22 Eric Lund
    October 19, 2015

    Philip @20: I’ve heard of that town. Among other things, they are known for an eponymous beer, Fucking Hell. (Hell is German for light-colored.)

  23. #23 Birger Johansson
    October 19, 2015

    John, if they install a really powerful fan, the cyclists can experience that Tour De France feeling.
    If the wind is strong enough, they can strap wings to their backs and ride upside down on the ceiling, like Men in Black. And when they reach the end, they make a half loop and come down cycling in the opposite direction.
    — — — — — — —
    More dumbassery in the American political debates, but it would be no challenge mocking the crap.

  24. #24 Birger Johansson
    October 19, 2015

    Does “fucking” mean “bump” (in the road)? It would be consistent with the original plattdeutsch/Dutch usage.

  25. #25 Birger Johansson
    October 19, 2015

    Seeing creationists act like insufferable comic book fanboys http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/10/18/how-to-interpret-the-bible-literally/
    Complaint # 10: ”Ark looks like a bathtub with happy animals sticking out of it”
    (but as others have mentioned “ark” simply means“box/crate”)
    BTW, an accurate Jewish Ark should have adverts for vacations in the Catskills.
    And I think the muslim Ark should look sinister, like something assembled in Mordor. The Proper Christian Ark should of course ban pooping for all animals and humans*.
    *except on the appropriate deck. This is why to this day, one deck is named the “poop deck”.

  26. #26 Phillip Helbig
    October 19, 2015

    “Does “fucking” mean “bump” (in the road)? It would be consistent with the original plattdeutsch/Dutch usage.”

    It appears to derive from the name of the founder, one Focko.
    Austria is a long way away from plattdüütsche areas.

  27. #27 Eric Lund
    October 19, 2015

    There also used to be a Dutch airplane manufacturer named Fokker. They went bankrupt 20-ish years ago following the F-100 project. The F-100 was a DC-9 clone that became notorious for its mechanical unreliability–jaded travelers would sometimes joke that their flight was delayed because the Fokker was Fokked up again. I don’t know which (if any) European airlines had that model. On this side of the pond, American Airlines and US Airways had it in their fleets, though I believe the model has been retired in the US.

  28. #28 Phillip Helbig
    October 20, 2015

    Those who understand Dutch will appreciate the unlikely story of a Dutchman with bad English explaining his line of work to an Englishman:

    Englishman: And what do you do?

    Dutchman: I fuck horses.

    Englishman: Pardon?!

    Dutchman: Ja, paarden! Spreekt u ook Nederlands?

    Explanation: Dutch “fokken” means “to breed”, e.g. horses. “I breed” is thus “ik fok”. Dutch “paarden” means “horses”.

  29. #29 Birger Johansson
    October 20, 2015

    BTW Swedish racists have stareted torching buildings planned for receiving refugees.
    — — — — — — —
    In naval swedish, fock is a sail (or part thereof?) I believe the root may be “to beat” which is appropriate for a wind-affected component. In English, another meaning was derived. Maybe related to how the dutch word meaning was derived.

  30. #30 Birger Johansson
    October 20, 2015

    Teenage Me was an asshole http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=3899
    — — — —
    Ljussfär, “Light sphere”.
    He should have gone for Supernova. Or maybe Gurb (as in GRB)

  31. #31 Birger Johansson
    October 20, 2015

    Stampede At Hajj In Saudi Arabia Reportedly Killed At Least 2,177 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hajj-stampede-death-toll_5625d226e4b0bce347020aa1
    FUCK!!!!! This is as many dead as in hurricane Katrina. And two-thirds of 9/11.
    I think the WWII bombing of Coventry killed just about as many, but it took all of Luftwaffe.

  32. #32 Phillip Helbig
    October 21, 2015

    “BTW Swedish racists have stareted torching buildings planned for receiving refugees.”

    Perhaps not necessarily racists. Sure, many of them are racists as well, but the sentiment here is anti-refugee. One can be anti-refugee without being racist; often, refugees are from the same race. A couple of days in Germany at an anti-refugee demonstration the statement “unfortunately the concentration camps are closed” (too strong even for most of those at the demonstration) was actually uttered by a Turkish writer (his publishers terminated their contracts. He was very definitely anti-refugee, but not a conventional racist: most German neonazis don’t like Turks.

    The city of Tübingen in Germany actually has a mayor from the Green Party. He recently stated that the situation cannot continue, in contrast to his party and Merkl (who don’t usually agree on policies). Definitely anti-refugee in some sense, but certainly not a racist in any sense (and not violent nor inciting to violence).

    Even among the people one disagrees with, there are different types, and it is not helpful to paint everything in good/bad. Not because there is necessarily something in-between (though there might be), but because there can be different kinds of bad.

  33. #33 Martin R
    October 21, 2015

    I prefer the terms Sw. främlingsfientlig, Eng. xenophobic.

  34. #34 Phillip Helbig
    October 21, 2015

    These words, with essentially the same meaning, apply to fear of foreigners. It is usually interpreted to mean irrational fear of foreigners based on lack of knowledge. For example, one wouldn’t call those active in the Resistance in France in WWII xenophobic, though their actions were directed against foreigners in France.

    Of course—and that is part of the problem—anyone can go to a demonstration, and people go for different reasons. I don’t think the majority are xenophobic in the conventional sense. At least there is a significant minority who are not. Traditionally, the least xenophobic party in Germany is the Green Party, so one can be quite sure that in this case xenophobia was not the reason for his statement (which some interpret as such) that Germany cannot continue to take in 300,000 refugees a month for an arbitrary length of time and at the same time maintain a functioning society.

    One can agree or disagree, but this is not xenophobia as it is usually understood.

  35. #35 Phillip Helbig
    October 21, 2015

    Etymologically, xenophobia is just the fear, without any action. Of course, words are not always used in an etymologically pure sense.

  36. #36 Eric Lund
    October 22, 2015

    John: I’m not sure if you’ve seen this story: China golf: Communist Party bans club membership (from Auntie Beeb)

    The new rule on golf states that members are banned from “obtaining, holding or using membership cards for gyms, clubs, golf clubs, or various other types of consumer cards, or entering private clubs”.

    Extravagant dining and drinking is also banned, as is abuse of power. (It says something that they felt the need to state the last explicitly.)

    BBC gives the breaking-news-water-is-wet explanation that “such clubs are often seen by the Chinese public as places where officials have cut shady deals.” Talking business deals is something that often happens on private golf courses, at least in the US, and I’m sure also in other countries where golf is popular.

    It’s part of Xi’s anti-corruption drive. He sees official corruption as being a potential Mandate of Heaven issue, so he wants to reduce it as much as he can.

  37. #37 John Massey
    October 23, 2015

    #36: Banning being a member of a gym is a bit over the top. It would also extend to tennis clubs.

    Golf I can understand – it is as if the game was invented for the purpose of people with ill-gotten gains to do shady deals with each other. It is also very much the fashionable game for the nouveau riche (which by definition means via corruption in China and much of the rest of E/SE Asia) – it is a game of conspicuous and ostentatious consumption, requiring use of a huge piece of manicured countryside and a whacking great bag full of shiny sticks, plus other costly accessories.

    It’s somewhat more difficult to engage in discrete discussion of shady deals when the guy is standing at the other end of a tennis court and you are both hating each other’s guts. In the past, tennis was seen as a rich people’s sport, but the Williams sisters have pretty much shot holes through that notion.

  38. #38 Eric Lund
    October 23, 2015

    There is a reason tennis has been viewed as a rich man’s sport: the space that you would have to devote to the court could otherwise be a more general purpose leisure space, or it could be devoted to a decently productive vegetable garden. So urban poor and middle class can’t afford the land, full stop, and rural poor have to devote that land to agriculture. Also don’t forget maintenance costs, especially if you use a grass surface as at Wimbledon. Clay is probably cheaper, but not by much if you want to maintain a playing-grade surface. You could use concrete, but that gets painful when you fall on it.

    In the US and Australia, land is plentiful, so that’s not such a big issue. You can build tennis courts in public parks, and the equipment is not so expensive, so people like the Williams sisters can try the sport. But in Europe, and even more so in south and east Asia, it is an issue. There, chances are tennis courts are owned either by clubs or by very wealthy private individuals. And the shady dealing doesn’t have to happen on the tennis court; it can happen in the locker room before or after the match.

    So for people of Xi’s generation, tennis playing still has optics issues. I know from experience that attempted solutions to this kind of optics problem often don’t make sense. Projection may be involved: if the bean counters would be tempted to spend their travel budget on hookers and blow, they’ll assume that everyone else who might want to travel would be, too, and they will insist that would-be travelers prove that they aren’t. (That’s an actual issue for some of my colleagues who are on US Government contracts.) It may also depend on what facilities are available as perks of the job: if there is an on-site gym (which some US government facilities and many US universities have), they may prefer that you use that gym rather than some private gym frequented by the people you are ostensibly regulating.

  39. #39 Phillip Helbig
    October 23, 2015

    Good points. This also explains why Golf (even more than tennis) is seen as a rich-man’s sport (yes, man; few women play) in many areas, but also why it is more common among the less rich in Sweden, where land is relatively plentiful and hence cheap, compared to places where it is more expensive. This might explain the lack of popularity of baseball (which doesn’t have an elite connotation in the States at all) in Europe to some extent. (It doesn’t need that much more room than football, but one can play an approximation of football on a smaller pitch, or even indoors, essentially anywhere, which is not the case with baseball.)

  40. #40 Birger Johansson
    October 23, 2015

    Who was Sweden’s school sword killer? http://www.thelocal.se/20151023/who-was-swedens-far-right-school-killer-in-trollhattan
    Swedish police shared details on Friday about a 21-year-old Hitler admirer with far-right sympathies who killed a teacher and teenager at an immigrant-heavy Trollhättan school.

  41. #41 Birger Johansson
    October 23, 2015

    BTW, thanks to Murderous Asshole, the Swedish police now urges people to not use fake swords for their Halloween outfits, as that might trigger panic.

  42. #42 Martin R
    October 23, 2015

    In the US, it would have been an assault rifle.

  43. #43 Eric Lund
    October 24, 2015

    [Golf] is more common among the less rich in Sweden, where land is relatively plentiful and hence cheap

    There is also the side benefit, for those of us who live in snow country, that in winter golf courses can be repurposed as cross-country ski areas. I learned to cross-country ski on a golf course. As with the summertime game played on the course, it is considered polite to replace your divots.

    Northern Europe and eastern North America also have reasonably wet climates, so there isn’t anywhere near as much an issue with water usage as in California or Australia or China, where water is a much more severely constrained resource. Which is yet another reason why golf is seen as conspicuous consumption in many places.

    Nevertheless, there are enough golf addicts out there that one finds golf courses in the oddest of places. Some years ago I passed through Bangkok on a trip–this was the old Don Muang airport; they hadn’t started building the present BKK (Suvarnabhumi). I was astounded to see a nine-hole golf course between the runways. Thailand doesn’t exactly have a squeaky-clean reputation when it comes to corruption, but it isn’t nearly as bad as some of the surrounding countries, including China.

  44. #44 John Massey
    October 24, 2015

    #38 – In France, tennis is the second most popularly played sport, after football (soccer).

    #39 – “Few women play” – You must be kidding.

  45. #45 John Massey
    October 24, 2015

    It’s hilarious – there are already newspaper headlines like “The ancient Minoans were Caucasian.”

    There are going to be a lot of very confused people when someone finally explains it all to them in words simple enough for them to understand.

  46. #46 birger johansson
    October 24, 2015

    I just wanted to add some unambigously good news:

    New general-purpose optimization algorithm promises order-of-magnitude speedups on some problems http://phys.org/news/2015-10-general-purpose-optimization-algorithm-order-of-magnitude-speedups.html
    Sensing small molecules may revolutionize drug design http://phys.org/news/2015-10-small-molecules-revolutionize-drug.html

  47. #47 Martin R
    October 24, 2015

    Keep ’em coming! But be advised that any comment with more than two URLs in it won’t appear until manually okayed by me.

  48. #48 John Massey
    October 25, 2015

    It has been blindingly obvious (to me at least) for quite a while now that the ancient Minoans were genetically most likely to be closest to modern mountain Sardinians. Hell, they even left us walls full of paintings of themselves to show us what they looked like. (I have seen a lot of doubters about athletic young women doing bull jumping – I even saw one guy who was promoting the theory that these were young males in drag, although why anyone would bother is totally beyond both me and Occam’s razor – but in the modern era I have seen many young women performing amazing athletic feats that would be harder and more dangerous than jumping over the horns of a charging bull, and I don’t know why anyone should assume that young women were any less athletic, courageous or stupid during the Bronze Age than they are now).

    I had thought that it was now generally known that modern mountain Sardinians are genetically unlike any other modern Europeans, and that they are the closest proxy we have today to the farming people that migrated into Europe from Anatolia during the Bronze Age. And now, DNA sequencing has shown that the ancient Minoans were indeed genetically closest to modern mountain Sardinians.

    One piece of the jigsaw that people seem to miss is that those Middle Eastern people were unlike the people living in the Middle East today, without any excuse for making that assumption. So I thought it somewhat inept of the researchers to look for genetic similarities between the ancient Minoans and modern Egyptians, Turks, Syrians, etc. Of course they were not genetically close to those people – the people living in Anatolia during the Bronze Age were not either.

    I’m not sure how this genetic finding confirms that Minoan culture was home-grown, although influenced by a very active trade between Crete, Egypt, etc. during the Bronze Age. I would have thought archaeologists could have concluded that a long time ago, just by comparison of cultural artefacts, plus the fact that they had their own still-undeciphered script.

    What the genetic testing does *not* mean, is that ancient Minoans were genetically similar to modern Europeans (who some people apparently still give the quaint label of ‘Caucasians’), because, with the exception of mountain Sardinians, they weren’t.

    The reason for that is that, subsequently, the then-European population was largely replaced by invading herders from the Steppe – whether assisted by bloodshed on a large scale or by the interesting new possibility that the invaders brought Yersinia pestis with them, or a combination of the two, and the only people to escape this large scale population replacement were the people living in the mountains of Sardinia.

    That’s no doubt over-simplifying it, but I can’t think of a simpler way to explain why the “Ancient Minoans were Europeans” meme is so nonsensical.



  49. #49 John Massey
    October 25, 2015

    Minor correction, Martin – it’s any comment with more than one URL in it that will await your moderation.

  50. #50 John Massey
    October 25, 2015

    PLeeease release me, let me gooooo,
    And I will not spam you any more…
    To live a lie would be a sin,
    So release me, and chuck it in the bin.

  51. #51 Birger Johansson
    October 25, 2015

    I found an unexpected side benefit of quantum computing technology emerging on the specialist market (see New Scientist)
    -ultra-sensitive gravity dtetectors that will be able to pick out sewage pipes and similar objects remotely. What is good for the construction industry is good for archaeologists.
    A big cavity? A big object denser than the suroundings? No need to dig a humungous trench to find it.

  52. #52 Birger Johansson
    October 25, 2015

    Ancient Minoans were cool. Too bad they, too, kept slaves (as revealed from Linear B).
    And too bad the sardinians were invaded by the Chartagians/ Phoenicians before their iron age culture could mature to a level where they could form polities able to fend off colonizers.

  53. #53 Birger Johansson
    October 25, 2015

    Re : Golf. It involves so many joints and limbs being coordinated perfectly that a hole-in-one is a bigger miracle than the one about bumblebees being able to fly (we know the answer to that, BTW. It involves vortices).

  54. #54 John Massey
    October 26, 2015

    The Phoenicians and Carthaginians only did what the Romans would have done sooner or later anyway. And the Romans wouldn’t have given up if initially repelled – that was the thing about the Romans: they never gave up.

  55. #55 John Massey
    October 26, 2015

    And please don’t insult bumblebees by comparing them to golfers. Bumblebees are useful. Golfers are a plague.

  56. #56 Martin R
    October 26, 2015

    Though not a golfer myself, I agree with Eric that the skiing bit is good about golf courses. And though our local golf course replaced a big bog, valuable biohab, many Swedish ones are on land that would otherwise be used for intensive spruce wood farming. That is neither nice to look at nor very useful to ecology.

  57. #57 John Massey
    October 26, 2015

    But spruce is essential for making flamenco guitars! It is used to make the front face of the guitar. Other woods are unsuitable.

    Golf courses consume huge amounts of fresh water (perhaps not a concern in Sweden, but very many places have limitations on fresh water supply) and huge amounts of inorganic fertilizers, which wash into the waterways, resulting in algal growth, which has very adverse ecological effects.

    Golf courses also occupy huge areas of land. Maybe that is also not a problem in Sweden, but in Hong Kong large areas of land needed for housing for working class people are reserved as playgrounds for super-rich people. And as noted, they are an aide to cronyism so that the rich can make themselves even more rich at the expense of the poor.

    A tennis hard court consumes nothing much at all – no water or fertilizer. Almost everyone can afford to rent a public court for an hour or two, and they will get some real exercise while doing it. And you could fit 50 tennis courts into one small part of a golf course. They can also be made as multi-courts, so the net can be taken down to play basketball or whatever.

    I have seen snow precisely twice in my life and have no desire to see it again, so I am unable to comment on the value of skiing.

  58. #58 Eric Lund
    October 26, 2015

    Golf courses also occupy huge areas of land. Maybe that is also not a problem in Sweden, but in Hong Kong large areas of land needed for housing for working class people are reserved as playgrounds for super-rich people

    This happens in parts of the US as well. It’s not unusual for a mountain resort to have a golf course or two to attract people in the summer, when skiing is not available. Of course, in mountainous terrain, land suitable for building is at a premium. So, for instance, the Aspen-Snowmass area in Colorado has several golf courses, while the workforce has to live in Carbondale (about 40 km away) because almost nobody who isn’t filthy rich can afford housing in Aspen (even worse, almost all of the housing in that area is holiday homes–very few people live in Aspen year-round).

    On an earlier thread John and I discussed the idiotic but all-too-common (in English-speaking countries) practice of maintaining well-manicured lawns as house gardens. Golf courses take this idiocy up to eleven. All so that a few people can spoil a good walk. Martin and I live in places where land and water are plentiful enough that this isn’t a completely dumb idea. In the US the most likely alternative would be yet another shopping center with an oversized car park (as if we didn’t have too much of that already), and I’m not sure that’s ecologically better than a golf course. Car parks are another major source of water pollution due to runoff, they enhance flooding risk (at least a golf course will absorb rain; most kinds of asphalt don’t), and in snow country they have to be plowed and either salt or sand applied.

  59. #59 Birger Johansson
    October 26, 2015

    Human Subjects http://xkcd.com/1594/
    Play-by-play http://xkcd.com/1593/

    Golf courses are extreme monocultures. I wish a mole invasion on every one of them.

  60. #60 John Massey
    October 27, 2015

    Birger, if you haven’t seen it, you would enjoy the hilarious film “Caddyshack”, in which the clearly cognitively challenged groundsman Bill Murray wages war on the gophers which are damaging the golf course in plague proportions.

    It’s an all time classic.

  61. #61 John Massey
    October 29, 2015

    Not before time.

    The irony is that, with the demographic transition, it was probably unnecessary anyway.


  62. #62 Birger Johansson
    October 30, 2015

    Swedish-language article about belief in conspiracy theories
    “SD-väljare tror att vi får besök av utomjordingar” http://www.dn.se/nyheter/vetenskap/m-valjare-tror-pa-chemtrails-sd-anhangare-tror-pa-utomjordingar/

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