November Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • Thanks to metal detecting, the 7th century material has exploded with duckbill brooches / næbfibler in Denmark and conical brooches in Norway. The making of every one of those brooches resulted in a pile of durable, easily identified mould fragments. Where are those? Ground up into grog / chamotte for new moulds?
  • Distinguished older Slavic construction worker on commuter train is annoyed on cellphone, says kurva at least once in every sentence.
  • I need to stop reading US news. It’s sheer self-harm since I’m powerless to help.
  • Tea leaves flavoured with berries and cream. What is the substance that confers the aroma of cream? I hope they don’t pour cream onto the leaves. Anyway, I’ve never tried it.
  • Playing the boardgame Detective & Co. Gameplay was somewhat confused. In this game you only know which colour belongs to you, and two players believed that they played orange.
  • Odd expression in Planetary Report: “four times closer”. I conceptualise this as “one fourth of the distance”.
  • I posted an annoyed note recently about people getting context numbers confused during excavations. Somebody commented “Oh how boring”. This somehow stuck with me. I’m tempted to reply “Well, I guess not all of us are mentally geared towards scientific exactitude”. But I won’t. Because it would be mean. And worse, most likely completely ineffective as an insult. Comparable to “I guess not all of us have a complete collection of the Swedish Ant Farm Association’s newsletter”.
  • About the Mick Rock movie Shot. “I was lucky to shoot Bowie and Reed before they were really a big deal.” Maybe that should be “If I hadn’t shot Bowie and Reed at that time they would never have become such a big deal.”
  • Kebab places are extremely reluctant to serve small helpings. They prefer to give me three times the food I want and a take-away box.
  • Klavs Randsborg, dynamic Danish archaeology professor, died Saturday 12 November.
  • WTF. Sponge cake as the basal layer of a cheesecake?!
  • Some Roma beggars display religious effigies. I wonder if that really works in Sweden. To me they might as well heft a daikon radish.
  • So weird when Adele Adkins (26) sings lyrics written from the perspective of a 50-y-o multiple divorcee.
  • Just had to explain to a young scholar that when you submit a manuscript file to a journal, questions of font and type size are irrelevant. “You can submit in 35 p green Comic Sans if you like, it still only takes me 5 sec to change it to something I like better.”
  • Heading for Kavalla and two weeks of reading & writing at the Swedish Institute. Screw you, Swedish November!
  • Rode two Embraer 195s Stockholm – Vienna – Thessaloniki.
  • The Kavallans are wearing sensible November clothes. Sensible that is if you’re in Stockholm. I’m walking around in just a shirt above my belt.
  • Lunch: sardines cooked with onions, mustard and parsley. And a dish of oil-simmered horta greens. Only the absence of garum dates this meal after AD 400.
  • I’m not a great tourist ambassador. I mainly take pictures of buildings in severe disrepair.
  • The some-time live music bar was almost empty. Instead I found a recently opened boardgame café full of people. I had a cup of hazelnut cocoa, but I couldn’t find the courage to ask a bunch of young Greeks to play Saboteur with me. Next time I’ll be braver.
  • I’m hiking the Water Trail north from Kavalla into the hills, on the conduit that fed the town’s aqueduct.
  • I like the bedrock here. It’s gneiss like I’m used to, not some weird-ass recent sedimentary.
  • Unripe olives taste really bad.
  • The water conduit and aqueduct remained functional until WW2.
  • Under Ottoman rule, the Christians of Kavalla were exempt from taxes in return for funding and organising upkeep of the water conduit. This involved a lot of chalk powder, linseed oil and cotton wool.
Kavalla's Water Trail.

Kavalla’s Water Trail.

Comments

  1. #1 cat
    "United" Kingdom
    November 21, 2016

    Mr. Rundkvist, I do so enjoy your blog (arrived via “NewsNow Science”).
    I do not understand what “kurva” means, but my guess is probably right, and yes, the news about the US’ suicide is best avoided, as is “Brexit” – another suicide.
    How I’d love to be in Kavalla eating sardines & greens, SoD off, November!

  2. #2 Martin R
    November 21, 2016

    Thank you for your kind words, Kat! Hope to see you around. We never call each other kurva around here. (-;

  3. #3 Eric Lund
    November 21, 2016

    SoD off, November!

    I’d like to extend that thought to 2016 in general.

    As a USA person who understood that electing Trump would be a Bad Idea (it turns out I underestimated just how bad of an idea it was) and voted for candidates from the other side, I’m finding US news hard to take. I have been avoiding the cable news channels–they are actually disinformative, and even worse they are trying to pretend that this is normal and not FUBAR–but the reports from BBC are bad enough. I also have been reading Talking Points Memo, an online news source which has been opposed to most Republican positions since it was founded in 2000 during the Bush-Gore recount fiasco. At some point I am going to need to take a news break.

  4. #4 Art
    November 21, 2016

    “I need to stop reading US news. It’s sheer self-harm since I’m powerless to help.”

    When I was young I read a story, I’m operating entirely from memory here, where a crew of men saw a ship break up on rocks. The men were far up on a cliff and unable to help.

    There was a debate over what was to be done. Some of them wanted to turn away and save themselves the trauma of having to watch the destruction and death. In the end they decided that the right thing to do was to stand and observe, as accurately and with as much detail as humanly possible, the tragedy. Their intention was to use this loss to build a lighthouse on the spot so that other ships wouldn’t suffer a similar fate.

    I don’t remember if the story was factor fiction. Either way, it suggests the most constructive thing to do is to witness and document the atrocities so that our ancestors and other nations might avoid any similar tragedy.

  5. #5 cat
    "United" Kingdom
    November 21, 2016

    Need to qualify my remark on November.
    An hour ago, a bright tangerine-pink sunset glow behind the closed curtains caught my attention.
    Outside, the wind was gusting but mild; low-level clouds in colours from dark grey to lavender, pink and white, raced furiously above. Through the gaps in these clouds – a rainbow, set against a higher level of pale grey cloud, how could that happen? All around, was a salmon-pink radiance which seemed to fill the air and come from nowhere. A birch tree looked like a giant flame against a patch of pink cloud.
    On the wind was a sweet fragrance of “daphne viburnum bodnantense”, two buzzards tangoed and mewed overhead, and the fieldfares in noisy gangs arrived for the winter.
    It was all a bit strange and other-worldly, maybe I had a Revelation of divine Gaia? haha – November’s the first of the congnac-months, but only after 9pm, no substances were involved!

  6. #6 Martin R
    November 21, 2016

    What a lovely description! Whereabouts in the UK are you, Cat?

  7. #7 cat
    UK
    November 21, 2016

    Art: #4 Good tale. Opens the debate on whether we can learn from history, and act accordingly. Right now, it seems to me that the history of Europe, which led to the conflict of my parents’ generation, is repeating, but on a global scale, and more fire to play with. Economic stagnation and discontent (+ dwindling natural resources) = eruption of iliberalism and intolerance. No lighthouse on the cliffs and the rocks look lethal. It would have been helpful if the future POTUS had found a different way to stroke his ego and line his pockets, but “cometh the hour, cometh the man”.

  8. #8 cat
    The County where they used to "Du Different"
    November 21, 2016

    #6 – Noel Coward said that some women should be beaten regularly, “like gongs”, and that this county is “very flat”. The county hasn’t changed much since then. I can’t comment about the women.

  9. #9 Martin R
    November 21, 2016

    Some women in your flat county?

  10. #10 cat
    UK
    November 21, 2016

    #5 – “Congnac”, durrhhh, well it is a con, really.

  11. #11 Eric Lund
    November 21, 2016

    Sounds like the UK’s version of Kansas. It has been established that Kansas is flatter than a pancake.

    Though it turns out that Kansas is only the seventh flattest US state. The following states are flatter: Florida, Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Delaware.

  12. #12 BirgerJohansson
    November 22, 2016

    Sir Richard Branson funding new campaign group to fight Brexit
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/21/sir-richard-branson-funding-new-campaign-group-fighting-brexit
    An endangered species: Rich people with a social conscience! (technically, it is “self-preservation” since the ideas of the political wing nuts hurt all of us when transformed into reality)

  13. #13 BirgerJohansson
    November 22, 2016

    Nothing to do with archaeology or China, but we *need* good news!
    Researchers solve key problems involving gene drive technology to stop spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes http://phys.org/news/2016-11-key-problems-involving-gene-technology.html

  14. #14 BirgerJohansson
    November 22, 2016

    Also,
    CRISPR-Cas9 technique exploits pancreatic cancer cells’ vulnerabilities to develop new treatments http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-11-crispr-cas9-technique-exploits-pancreatic-cancer.html The receptor Frizzled-5 is essential for the growth of mutant pancreatic cancer cells.

  15. #15 BirgerJohansson
    November 22, 2016

    Economist’s research reveals poverty should be measured by more than income http://phys.org/print398674409.html Multi-dimensional deprivation index.
    — — — — — — —
    For First Nations people, effects of European contact are recorded in the genome http://phys.org/news/2016-11-nations-people-effects-european-contact.html A “reduction in effective population size of 57 percent”.
    The death toll by European-carried disease may of course have been much greater than that.

  16. #16 Anders Myrin
    Sweden
    November 22, 2016

    I’ve stopped taking in all manner of speculation about what the Trump administration will do and of whom it will eventually consist. I’m also not interested in any more analysis of why the election went the way it went. This way, I’m saving my energy for taking in news of what they actually do, when it happens. So far this approach keeps me on an even keel, and also frees up a lot of time.

  17. #17 Martin R
    November 22, 2016

    At least the US should see an uptick in their lousy voter turnout four years from now.

  18. #18 Eric Lund
    November 22, 2016

    The death toll by European-carried disease may of course have been much greater than that.

    Contemporary accounts from New England in the early 17th century state that among some tribes the death rate was as high as 90%.

    The success settlement at Plimoth Plantation was aided by two significant pieces of luck. One, they stumbled upon the site of a native village that had been recently abandoned due to the population being decimated by an unknown disease of presumably European origin. Two, they were recruited by a neighboring tribe as allies in a fight against another tribe.

  19. #19 Eric Lund
    November 22, 2016

    Martin@17: I’m hoping for an uptick in voter turnout two years from now, when the House of Representatives is up for re-election. The President’s party usually loses seats in that election. Unfortunately, the set of Senate seats up for re-election in 2018 is particularly favorable to Republicans: there are ten seats (of 24 total) Democrats are defending in states that voted for Trump, but only one seat (of nine) Republicans are defending in a state that voted for Clinton (Nevada).

  20. #20 BirgerJohansson
    November 22, 2016

    OUCH!!! Trigger warning. Trump-and Nazi-related. http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2016/11/21/nazis-nazis-nazis-nazis/
    Video of an alt-right conference in Washington, D.C., where Trump’s victory was met with cheers and Nazi salutes
    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/richard-spencer-speech-npi/508379/
    “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”
    That’s how Richard B. Spencer saluted more than 200 attendees on Saturday. Spencer has popularized the term “alt-right” to describe the movement he leads.
    Spencer also advocates a “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”
    And here is Trump’s utterly lame response: https://twitter.com/PeterAlexander/status/800836160142635009

  21. #21 Eric Lund
    November 22, 2016

    Trump’s victory was met with cheers and Nazi salutes

    I hate Illinois Nazis.

  22. #22 John Massey
    November 23, 2016

    Eric@18 – I recommend reading Charles Mann’s book 1491, if you have not yet read it. Also his sequel, 1493, which I think is not quite as interesting as 1491, or perhaps just more confusing, given the veritable global explosion of the Columbian Exchange, but still an excellent read. Mann is ‘just’ a journalist, but he is an excellent researcher and puts many anthropologists and historians to shame. Most, even.

    Mann’s exposition on the Jamestown settlement is also excellent. I found that for nothing on the Internet somewhere.

  23. #23 John Massey
    November 23, 2016

    Birger@20 – Spencer is self-evidently an idiot and a hypocrite. He’s making the most of his 15 minutes of fame, but I don’t expect to see him around for long. Ditto for many of the so-called ‘alt. right’.

  24. #24 John Massey
    November 23, 2016

    BTW, just for the record, for anyone who sees/reads otherwise, Razib Khan flatly rejects that he is alt.right and says his name and picture have been used in relation to the alt.right without permission, which he has strongly objected to.

    He also classifies Richard Spencer as a ‘nut’ and “not the huge player he makes out to be”.

    I have been reading Razib’s blogs continuously since 2002. I would class him as a very moderate conservative with liberal leanings – certainly a social liberal. But he commendably keeps politics out of his genetics blog. I would say that politically he is about as benign as it gets. He did not vote for Trump.

  25. #26 Eric Lund
    November 23, 2016

    John@25: Neither is this: Trump To Gut NASA’s Climate Research Over Claims It’s Been ‘Politicized’. The data that NASA collects is not currently available from any other source, US or otherwise. But Trump claimed on the campaign trail that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese. (He’s wrong: the idea dates back to Svante Arrhenius in the late 19th century. I’ve read Arrhenius’s paper on the subject.)

  26. #27 John Massey
    November 24, 2016

    Eric@26: It’s no wonder the Chinese were quietly pleased when Trump was elected (which no doubt seemed counterintuitive to a lot of people, given what Trump has said he will do to China).

    First, he intends to scrap the TPP, from which China was excluded and was intended to give control of trade in the ‘western Pacific’ (i.e. East Asia) to America. TPP and the ‘pivot’ are now almost certainly dead, leaving China to assume leadership on trade in what they obviously regard as their region. (Trump also misses the point that, far from looking to America, the Chinese have turned their attention westwards – the ‘one belt, one road’ initiative, so they couldn’t care less about America, as long as America does not keep trying to provoke them into a military conflict, which Trump seems less likely to do than Clinton.)

    Second, according to the ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ logic, China and Russia have become more friendly and agreeable towards each other, which China no doubt sees as a positive.

    Third, only a deranged conspiracy theorist or person of sub-normal intelligence (aka Trump supporter) would believe that climate change is a Chinese hoax, so he has handed the high moral ground to China. So now, instead of China having to suffer endless lecturing and hectoring from the Americans, Xi Jinping is in the position where he can lecture to America, which he has already started to do with a satisfied little smile on his face. And China still intends to go full speed ahead on climate change initiatives, so they will retain the high moral ground.

    Fourth, enter the wild card of Rodrigo Duterte.

    IOW, America will shortly be run by an idiot, and the Chinese know how to deal with idiots. And they have a brand new buddy in the Philippines who wants American troops out of there and has no intention of letting them back in, and is cosying up to Xi and Putin.

    If I was Xi JInping, I would be smiling too.

  27. #28 John Massey
    Hong Kong
    November 26, 2016

    Nice interview with the head coach of Hong Kong’s top (male) soccer team:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9axPfyUbqGo

    (In English – Hong Kong English.)

  28. #29 Björn
    Sverige
    November 26, 2016

    Hi! Is there somewhere I can read more about that aqueduct and the history of the maintenance of it? Recently found your blog and I really like what I’ve read so far. Hälsningar från västkusten

  29. #30 Martin R
    November 26, 2016

    Glad you like the blog!

    Check dis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kavala_aqueduct

  30. #31 John Massey
    Hong Kong
    November 26, 2016

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%CE%9A%CE%B1%CE%BC%CE%AC%CF%81%CE%B5%CF%822.jpg

    That absurd kink in the aqueduct is enough to tell that no Roman engineer built it.

  31. #33 John Massey
    November 28, 2016

    You won’t see the Australian Prime Minister arm in arm with a topless woman in public very often.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-28/no-more-campaign-canberra-linked-arms/8063688

  32. #34 BirgerJohansson
    November 28, 2016

    Darn, I mistakenly posted on an older thread.
    — — — — —
    “The prime minister has so far refused to reveal her vision for Brexit ”
    I would go with the classics, like a reproduction of Hieronymus Bosch.

  33. #35 BirgerJohansson
    November 28, 2016
  34. #36 BirgerJohansson
    November 28, 2016

    Swedish-language article: The origin of the Sami https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samernas_ursprung
    (beware that wikipedia articles are not peer-reviewed)

  35. #37 John Massey
    November 28, 2016

    Birger@36: They surely get the best peer review possible – they are reviewed by everyone.

    That is one of the advantages people often quote in favour of open access publishing.

    For Wikipedia that means that sometimes some pretty wonky stuff gets inserted, but that usually gets edited out again when saner heads prevail.

    I occasionally check some of the stuff on things I actually know something about, and I have never seen anything egregious. If I ever did, I think I would feel moved to have it corrected, providing reliable sources to back me up, but I have never felt the need.

    Very occasionally I see something really whack on a subject I don’t know much about, but have to leave that to people better equipped than me to deal with.

  36. #38 BirgerJohansson
    November 28, 2016
  37. #40 birgerjohansson
    November 29, 2016
  38. #41 John Massey
    Hong Kong
    November 29, 2016

    One is never in doubt when the Hungry Ghost Festival is upon us – people are out in the streets everywhere, burning paper offerings and incense. In our neighbourhood, the authorities have wisely provided special metal containers in public open spaces precisely for this purpose. It stirs odd communal feelings to see and smell everyone spontaneously out doing exactly the same thing; adults, women, mostly. This is definitely a serious ritual for adults to perform, not a game for the kids.

  39. #42 John Massey
    November 29, 2016

    On reflection, it’s odd that it is referred to in English as a Festival. There is nothing remotely festive about it. It’s not a jolly celebration, it’s a solemn, serious business.

  40. #43 John Massey
    November 29, 2016

    [Redacted /MR] They’re welcome to get rid of that noxious vermin Andrew Bolt while they are at it:
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-29/pauline-hanson's-comment-sparks-defineaboriginal-racism-stories/8075468

    She’s an elected Federal Senator, for crying out loud, and she doesn’t know that there is a definition of “Aboriginal” enshrined in Australian federal law.

    It is not a particularly helpful one, as it happens, because it does not identify the subset of Aboriginal people who suffer health problems because of their Aboriginal ancestry (i.e. people who are ‘mostly’ or ‘all’ Aboriginal are prone to health conditions that people who are ‘a little bit’ Aboriginal are not. It’s not rocket science, it’s basic genetics. It might be helpful to have a separate medical definition, but that would no doubt be contentious, and society rejected the old ‘full blood, half cast, quarter cast’ type system a long time ago, about the same time that they rejected the public policy of easing Aboriginal people into non-existence by arranging to breed them out of existence – genocide by genetic swamping, in effect, which has surely happened in the distant past in many places, but which has no place in any decent modern society.)

    But a legal definition there is. And society should be completely intolerant of anyone engaging in public debate on the subject who does not know that. It’s not a matter of freedom of speech, it’s a matter of facts, and of either deliberately falsifying them or being too illiterate to be aware of them.

    If the CIA were so (apparently ineptly) active in trying to get rid of Fidel Castro, surely they would be willing to do Australia a favour, in the interests of maintaining good American-Australian relations. In his favour, Castro gave people excellent health care, an excellent education system and adequate basic housing. Hanson has done nothing but promulgate race hate.

  41. #44 BirgerJohansson
    November 29, 2016

    I recall that even the tyrant Trujillo (to take another Caribbean Island as an example) at least had a good forestry policy, unlike other tropical countries that let the forests be destroyed, letting soil erosion run wild.

    But some assholes (coughHansoncough) are not ambiguous at all.

  42. #45 John Massey
    November 29, 2016

    I could scarce suppress a wry chuckle over this, though:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/the-white-flight-of-derek-black/2016/10/15/ed5f906a-8f3b-11e6-a6a3-d50061aa9fae_story.html

    I am reliably informed that the same Derek Black is now a ‘hip-hop artist’, has his hair styled into dreadlocks, and lives with a black girlfriend. Has the boy no concept of moderation?

  43. #46 Eric Lund
    November 29, 2016

    John@43: Speaking of elected ingoramuses discussing subjects about which they know nothing, Donald Trump (via Twitter, of course) seems to think that people who burn the American flag should be imprisoned and stripped of citizenship. One, the issue came before the Supreme Court twice during the George HW Bush administration, and both times the Court held anti-flag burning statutes to be unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. Two, there are circumstances under which the United States Flag Code states that you are expected to burn a flag:

    When a flag is so tattered that it no longer fits to serve as a symbol of the United States, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning.

  44. #47 Eric Lund
    November 29, 2016

    The thought of Donald Trump as POTUS had me thinking today about a trailer I had seen last year for a German movie, Er is wieder da (He Is Back) (video is in German with English subtitles). The premise of the movie is that Adolf Hitler shows up in modern Germany.

  45. #48 Eric Lund
    November 29, 2016

    In the US this would be unconstitutional on the grounds of being cruel and unusual punishment: Canada police to punish drink-drivers with Nickelback

  46. #49 John Massey
    November 30, 2016

    http://phys.org/news/2016-11-scans-historic-secret-room-walls.html

    It’s a bit weird calling terrestrial laser scanning a new technology – it’s been around for decades.

  47. #50 John Massey
    November 30, 2016

    I might add that laser scanning has been used in Hong Kong for decades to scan ‘heritage’ buildings, so even this application of it is far from new.

    Eric – might be of interest.
    http://phys.org/news/2016-11-nations-people-effects-european-contact.html

  48. #51 John Massey
    November 30, 2016

    Eric@46 – Maybe Trump is getting confused with China. It is actually illegal to even possess a Hong Kong or Chinese flag without formal permission being granted. And burning or otherwise abusing the flag of China is liable to land a person in prison.

    Of course, people like ‘Long Hair’ Leung make a point of doing it regularly, as an act of provocation, daring the police to arrest him. And every time, the police turn a blind eye, to show him that they will not be provoked. They know what happens when they arrest him – he gets violent with them, they have to restrain him, so then he screams “Police brutality” to the assembled journalists, who all happily write it down.

    This geezer ‘Long Hair’ is a real case. He’s a self-avowed Marxist-Anarchist who periodically attacks mixed couples minding their own business on the street or in restaurants, shouting at the Chinese husband or wife, depending on which, that he or she should “stick to your own kind.” But he disguises himself as a ‘Democrat’ (he’s about as democratic as the Baader-Meinhof Gang) and suckers everyone so, to cock a snook at the government, people keep electing him to the Legislature, where he conducts his version of ‘Democracy’ by shouting abuse and throwing things. He has already served one prison term for violent behaviour, and there are more charges waiting to be laid to put him back into prison, once they work through the legal system.

    Of course, what do they do when they get him in prison? Yep – they cut all his hair off. They love to do that. They are just itching to get their hands on him so they can shave his head again, because they know it really bugs him – retribution for all the provocation they have to swallow.

  49. #52 John Massey
    November 30, 2016

    Meanwhile, I see that Australia now lags Kazakhstan in Mathematics and Science.

    *sigh* It used to be a first world country, once. Now it’s just a giant mine + farm, a lot of it under foreign ownership.

    Well, my daughter is doing her bit for the Motherland, pursuing a career in Science and Mathematics. Does she get any credit or encouragement for it? Nah.

  50. #53 John Massey
    November 30, 2016

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-30/education-report-theres-more-to-kazakhstan-than-borat/8078246

    “Government officials were particularly put off after the fake Borat national anthem played when the national shooting team won gold in Kuwait in 2012.” LMAO!!! Oops.

  51. #54 BirgerJohansson
    November 30, 2016

    China’s ‘missing girls’ theory likely far overblown, study shows http://phys.org/news/2016-11-china-girls-theory-overblown.html

  52. #55 BirgerJohansson
    November 30, 2016

    Those crazy Australian animals!

    “Platypus venom could hold key to diabetes treatment2 http://phys.org/news/2016-11-platypus-venom-key-diabetes-treatment.html
    Stable GLP-1= Good!

  53. #56 BirgerJohansson
    November 30, 2016

    Borats’ image of Kazakstan is actually more positive that the dictatorial reality.
    — — — —
    Captain Cook’s detailed 1778 records confirm global warming today in the Arctic http://phys.org/news/2016-11-captain-cook-global-today-arctic.html
    (predicted Trump response: “We should not trust some journals left by a Brit pervo wearing a powdered whig”)

  54. #57 BirgerJohansson
    November 30, 2016

    Trump Names Tea Party Congressman to Head HHS http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2016/11/30/trump-names-tea-party-congressman-head-hhs/

    OK, this guy is utterly ignorant about health care and medicine. I am looking forward to his endorsement of leeches as a cheaper option to surgery.

  55. #58 John Massey
    November 30, 2016

    Birger@55 – Well, there you go. I never knew that echidnas produce venom. The strange thing is that they don’t seem to use it for anything. If they did, I suppose I would have known about it.

    But then it wasn’t all that long ago (2005) that it was discovered that Perenties are venomous.

  56. #59 John Massey
    November 30, 2016

    http://phys.org/news/2016-11-prehistoric-humans-survival-strategies.html

    For a while now I have been a bit worried about the declining standards of writing at this site. Case in point:
    “…this also holds true for our ancestors, the extinct Neanderthals.”

    Neanderthals were not ancestral to anatomically modern humans. Neanderthals and modern humans diverged from a common ancestor.

  57. #60 John Massey
    November 30, 2016

    Anyway, good news about the Chinese girls.

    A lot of those infanticide and forced abortion stories always seemed to me to be a fabrication of the Western media, and it looks like that might be true, at least in part – exaggeration, if not outright fabrication.

    Meanwhile, you never seem to read much about female infanticide in northern India, where it really is a major problem.

  58. #61 John Massey
    November 30, 2016

    In support of Homo neandertalensis being a different species of humans from Homo sapiens – even though Neanderthals were obviously ‘sapient’.
    http://www.unz.com/gnxp/the-species-barriers-between-neanderthals-and-anatomically-modern-humans/

  59. #62 Martin R
    November 30, 2016

    John, #59: Regardless of whether Neanderthals were a separate species or not, they are in fact ancestors of everyone outside Africa.

  60. #63 John Massey
    November 30, 2016

    #62 – OK, so we’ll just ignore the billion people in Africa, then. Exclude them from “our”.

    My meaning was that anatomically modern humans did not evolve from Neanderthals – both evolved from a common ancestor. Some subsequent interbreeding between anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals outside of sub-Saharan Africa resulted in introgression of some Neanderthal alleles into modern humans outside of sSA, although much Neanderthal ancestry was fairly rapidly purged from the modern human genome, presumably because it was deleterious and selected against.

    Good enough?

  61. #64 Martin R
    November 30, 2016

    Yes. I honestly have no doubt that you know this stuff way better than I do.

  62. #65 John Massey
    November 30, 2016

    There is a line of thinking, although I don’t remotely imagine that you engage in it, that somehow having some Neanderthal ancestry made people outside of Africa in some way superior to Africans. It was first suggested by Gregory Cochran that interbreeding with Neanderthals might have led to the modern human ‘cultural explosion’ about 50,000 years ago by making ‘us’ more intelligent (‘us’ meaning non-Africans, obviously).

    Greg Cochran has since himself publicly disavowed this theory, because there is absolutely no evidence to support it. He does this sort of stuff all the time – tosses out ideas for discussion, and then scraps them when they don’t work out – it’s just a form of thinking aloud. But unfortunately there are people of a ‘certain persuasion’, shall we say, who seized upon it and continue to peddle it and pursue it like a terrier after a rat as if it is an obvious truth, when it is nothing of the sort.

    It is something I get pretty touchy about. I really don’t like that line of thinking, particularly as there is absolutely no evidence for it.

    In any case, I don’t believe there is evidence to support anything like the 50,000 year cultural explosion that a lot of people still seem to believe in. If people want to point to evidence of innovation in material culture, there are plenty of examples predating 50,000 years ago, including some in southern Africa dating to 100,000 years ago.

    So, sorry if I came off a bit touchy-sounding. It’s because, on that point, I am. It’s a by-product of hanging around on a couple of blogs which in themselves are perfectly OK, or more or less OK, but which by their subject matter unfortunately tend to attract people of that ‘certain persuasion’ as commenters. The more egregiously racist comments get filtered out by the bloggers before anyone else sees them, but some of the more sly digs occasionally slip through.

  63. #66 Eric Lund
    November 30, 2016

    John@59: The site in question is basically a compendium of press releases. To the extent that their writing standards are declining (if they are), it is a reflection of the state of education in the developed world.

    The prognosis on that is not good. The woman Trump has chosen for Secretary of Education is a big player in the charter school movement, which seeks to replace accountable public schools with mostly unaccountable privately run but publicly funded schools.

  64. #67 John Massey
    November 30, 2016

    Eric@66 – Don’t get me started on that subject either. I have a very strong view that privately run schools should be entirely self-funding and should not receive any public financial support at all. If the rich want ‘exclusive’ schools for their disgusting offspring, they can bloody well pay for them.

    I say that having suffered through 5 years of secondary schooling at a privately run school myself, by dint of having enough wit to win a scholarship. I would like to report that I enjoyed the experience, but I most certainly did not.

  65. #68 Eric Lund
    November 30, 2016

    The type of school I mentioned tends to be associated with people looking for avenues for grift and corruption. (There are a few well-meaning exceptions, but they are exceptions.)

    One of the few safe predictions for what will happen during a Trump administration is that we will see corruption on a level not seen in a US Presidential administration since Warren Harding was President. It’s turtles–I mean grifters–all the way down.

    If we’re lucky, Trump will merely be a Berlusconi. But Mussolini or Putin are more likely outcomes, and I can’t rule out something worse than those two.

  66. #69 Birgerjohansson
    November 30, 2016

    (I brought this, so you will not slash your wrists after reading too many Trump stories in a row)
    In pictures: “Stockholm’s new myth-busting Viking museum” http://www.thelocal.se/20161130/myth-busting-viking-museum-to-open-in-stockholm

  67. #70 John Massey
    December 2, 2016

    It’s no secret that the USA spends more on ‘defence’ per capita than any other country.

    Quiz question: Which country comes second?

    Answer: http://www.scmp.com/infographics/article/2050764/long-stopover

  68. #71 BirgerJohansson
    December 2, 2016

    I see the Singaporese also have some Swedish bandvagn vehicles. I grew up seeing an earlier generation of those moving through thick snow. (It was felt that adding offensive weapons on personnel carriers like the Soviet BMP would have made them too heavy to cope with Swedish conditions).
    — — —
    “Travelling salesman” problem, anyone?
    “Researchers create a new type of computer that can solve problems that are a challenge for traditional computers ” http://phys.org/news/2016-10-problems-traditional.html

  69. #72 BirgerJohansson
    December 2, 2016

    Clinton Lead Tops 2.5 Million as Trump Popular Vote Lie Spreads http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/12/01/clinton_lead_tops_2_5_million_as_trump_popular_vote_lie_spreads.html
    If you repeat “the Jews stabbed Imperial Germany in the back during the war” often enough, it becomes the accepted truth.

  70. #73 John Massey
    December 2, 2016

    It’s astonishing how many armoured vehicles Singapore has. It has a land area of only 700 square kilometres. If you laid their armoured vehicles end to end on made roads, you’d have trouble finding enough road to accommodate them all.

  71. #74 BirgerJohansson
    December 2, 2016
  72. #75 Eric Lund
    December 2, 2016

    Birger@72: Yesterday I saw a link to an American “news” video (which I refuse to watch) in which apparently a leading Trump surrogate said something like, “There’s no such thing as facts.” OK, since you claim that gravitational attraction is not a fact, I invite you to test this notion by stepping off the roof of the tallest building you can find. Much as Alan Sokal invited anyone who thinks that the laws of physics are mere social conventions to transgress those conventions from his apartment window (at the time, he lived on the twenty-first floor).

  73. #76 Mark Danielson
    Bellingham, Washington, USA
    December 5, 2016

    Help me. I’m an American.

    I must apologize to the two boatmen I met at Rättvik last summer. They were mortified at the prospect of Trump becoming president, and I naively assured him that Americans would never elect someone like him.

  74. #77 Martin R
    December 5, 2016

    I’m afraid the best help we can offer is to suggest that you emigrate to Sweden. It’s a place where Bernie is mainstream and Obama is about as right-wing as you can get and still be politically viable. Everybody speaks English.

  75. #78 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    December 6, 2016

    “The Kavallans are wearing sensible November clothes. Sensible that is if you’re in Stockholm. I’m walking around in just a shirt above my belt.”

    A belt, a shirt, nothing else. I’m picturing it now. 🙂

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