April Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • There is no year zero in the common era. 1 BC is followed by AD 1. This is because Dionysius Exiguus worked around AD 500, long before the Indian concept of mathematical zero reached European scholars via the Arabs.
  • I don’t quite understand why the guy in Springsteen’s “The River” is so super sad. It’s not in the lyrics.
  • I love Turkish fast food and “Here Comes The Rain Again”.
  • Thorn-stabbed left eye acting up again nine months after that brush-clearing session at Skällvik Castle. Right-hand one showing its sympathy by clouding up too, leaving me unable to read or write much. Annoying. But eye specialist is not worried, so nor am I.
  • I want music discovery algorithms to distinguish between songs I dislike and songs I love but don’t want to hear all the time.
  • Movie: Your Name. Anime feature with beautiful scenery, conventional humans and a confused supernatural time-travel body-exchange motif. Grade: OK.
  • Today’s my 18th anniversary of editing Fornvännen.
  • -thwaite in English place names is cognate with Sw. Tveta, originally having to do with the wood chips produced when felling trees to clear land.
  • DNA has identified a bunch of strangers as my 3rd or 4th cousins. I’ve contacted them and started to work with the interested ones to identify our link. In one case we know which Bohuslän hamlet the couple lived in. In another case we know in which two Värmland parishes they lived. Fun puzzle-solving exercise.
  • Reading Becky Chambers’s Hugo Award finalist novel A Closed And Common Orbit with two parallel narratives. One is about a whiny adolescent android who does nothing much, and it does not interest me. The other is about a 10-y-o Robinson Crusoe scavenging in a huge tech dump. That keeps me reading.
  • It’s kind of hard to play games with secret traitors when Cousin E is involved. He thinks it’s super fun to be allowed to betray the team, so he does it as fast as he can regardless of whether he’s a traitor or not, all while giggling hysterically. This tends to make life easy for the actual traitors.
  • Xlnt weird, dark, druggy song: Timber Timbre’s “Black Water”. Turn up the bass!
  • ResearchGate and LinkedIn do a spectacularly bad job of identifying academic jobs I’m qualified for.
  • Movie: Topsy Turvy. Gilbert & Sullivan and the original production of The Mikado. Grade: Great!
  • Danish encouragement: “Men du er jo selvskrevet til jobbet!! SØG DET, DU VIL VÆRE ET KÆMPE FJOLS HVIS IKKE DU GØR DET!!” Honestly, who wants to be a kæmpe fjols?
  • Saturn’s ocean moon Enceladus has recently been discovered to have environments that would be habitable to Earth’s methanogenic bacteria. If it turns out that there is not in fact indigenous life there, then I think we should seed the place!
  • Dear UK: get a permanent citizen registry and scrap the notion of “registering to vote”. In Sweden I just bring my ID to the polling station.
  • The concepts of “man cold” and “man flu” suggest a traditional masculinity where men shouldn’t show weakness. Very 1950s.
  • Woo-hoo! I lost my cherry on this day in 1987! 30 years a lover!
  • Advice for you ladies: take nerds to bed. As someone so wisely put it — nerds read up, and unlike the jocks they always do their best since they can barely believe that they’re actually getting laid. Nerds like to figure out how stuff works and optimise.
  • Frustrating. In live debates, people often show signs of not listening to what I say, but to their expectations about what someone with my demeanour would say. It’s not that I make long speeches or use unfamiliar words or aggressive ones. I always make an effort to speak briefly, simply, to the point. But time and time again I realise that people I agree with believe that I don’t. I have a vague perception that they may see me as too bossy and confident to really be on their side.
  • The buzz word “digitisation” is used commonly and extremely vaguely in Swedish politics. It seems to mean “Internet and automatisation and scifi stuff”. It is at the same time something good and modern, and something scary that deletes jobs. It is at the same time inevitable and something that deserves political support to happen.

Comments

  1. #1 birgerjohansson
    April 20, 2017

    A Farewell To Bill O’Reilly From Stephen Colbert And ‘Stephen Colbert’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbYpi_WbfkI
    Groperman has quit! (Dances and sigs)

  2. #2 birgerjohansson
    April 20, 2017

    Tpyo strikes again

  3. #3 Eric Lund
    April 20, 2017

    Voter registration is a major issue in the US as well. In many jurisdictions it’s easier to change your address than to change your voter registration to the new address. And we don’t have a national ID card, because the Usual Suspects will moan about the Mark of the Beast. Driver licenses are state issued, and some states make these licenses difficult to obtain.

    Politicians who support these restrictive measures claim that it is intended to prevent fraud, but they define fraud as “the wrong kind of people are voting”. Here in New Hampshire, that means university students, many of whom are from out of state (but are legally considered by the Federal government to live here, since they are here for a majority of the year). In most other US states, they mean people of recent non-European ancestry.

    There are people alive in the US who do not have birth certificates, because it was not required at the time of their birth, and some jurisdictions were less than rigorous about registering everybody’s birth. It can be difficult for these people to obtain identity documents, since often a birth certificate is required.

  4. #4 Martin R
    April 20, 2017

    I often recall this Onion article: “Populations currently being considered to fill the leadership void until the American people can be rehabilitated and returned to self-governance include those of Switzerland, Sweden and Canada.”

    http://www.theonion.com/article/american-people-ruled-unfit-to-govern-748

  5. #5 Jazzlet
    April 20, 2017

    I always thought the man in “The River” was sad because the intense love he and Mary had had when they were younger, his wonder at her very existence, has been replaced by … not exactly indifference, but lack of communiction at the least:
    “Now all them things that seemed so important
    Well mister they vanished right into the air
    Now I just act like I don’t remember
    Mary acts like she don’t care”

    Hope your eyes both stop acting up, I’ve been missing your posts.

  6. #6 Martin R
    April 20, 2017

    Americans on Facebook tell me that the song is about Rust Belt unemployment and hopelessness.

    Eyes almost well again, thank you!

  7. #7 Eric Lund
    April 20, 2017

    Americans on Facebook tell me that the song is about Rust Belt unemployment and hopelessness.

    That is a frequent theme in Bruce Springsteen’s music. See also “Born in the USA” and “Your Hometown”.

    It is observationally true, at least in the US, that people who marry young are more likely to divorce than people who wait until they are older to marry for the first time. The narrator of “The River” and Mary may well be on that path. Recall that they got married because he got Mary pregnant, and that they were both teenagers at the time (it is not clear whether Mary had graduated from high school).

  8. #8 Martin R
    April 20, 2017

    I married Junior’s mom when I was 20 and we split up six years later.

  9. #9 Sean M
    April 20, 2017

    Was little Dio interested in anything before his saviour? I am told that astronomers just took the first year of their Babylonian data as year 1 for the same kind of reason.

    In Canada the issue with voter registration is that the rolls used to be available to the public. Being able to look up the home address of anyone who wants to vote sounds good to all kinds of scary people (remember that Rick Perlstein article about the grifter who paid people who copy down the name and address of everyone who donated to certain politicians?), so changes were made to keep the data safe but require a bit more book-keeping.

  10. #10 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    April 20, 2017

    “I don’t quite understand why the guy in Springsteen’s “The River” is so super sad. It’s not in the lyrics.”

    Really? They’re really sad: a love which once was has gone, the memory more painful because the (formerly) loved one is still there.

    I’m not a Springsteen fan and don’t know much of his stuff, but I think that this is a great song, both lyrics and music.

    The “river” is also a metaphor, of course. Pretty obvious, but still a good choice here.

  11. #11 JustaTech
    April 20, 2017

    The way I’ve seen a “man cold” presented is that it is one that a woman would shrug off and continue with work, but a man lies pathetically on the couch as though he is dying. Ie men are bad patients/ actually wimpy.

    I don’t think this is true, but that’s the way I’ve seen it used.

  12. #12 Eric Lund
    April 20, 2017

    Was little Dio interested in anything before his saviour? I am told that astronomers just took the first year of their Babylonian data as year 1 for the same kind of reason.

    The Hebrew calendar counts years from the estimated date of creation as told in Genesis. The current year (2 October 2016 to 20 September 2017, sundown to sundown) by that calendar is 5777. Which implies a creation date more than two centuries later than Archbishop Ussher’s estimate of 4004 BC. That’s one reason why I consider the latter estimate an excellent illustration of the difference between precision and accuracy.

  13. #13 Doug K
    Denver
    April 21, 2017

    cloudy eyes – can sympathize, have vitreous detachments in both eyes, and there are days when it is very difficult to read. No fun. On the other hand my re-watch of LOTR extended edition is moving along much faster than usual.. ha.

    The River song is based on Springsteen’s sister and her husband – married young with no prospects and no jobs, a miserable existence for some time. His biography is worth reading.

    Nerd sex – from Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
    Betty Childs: [blissfully] Oh, you were wonderful.
    [gasps in ecstacy]
    Betty Childs: Are all nerds as good as you?
    Lewis: Yes.
    Betty Childs: How come?
    Lewis: ‘Cause all jocks ever think about is sports, all we ever think about is sex.

  14. #14 Axolotl
    April 21, 2017

    Bruce Springsteen said he always wears his father’s clothes on stage. Apparently he always has. It has to do with some issue that he has needed to work through with his father; that his father never approved of him pursuing a musical career instead of getting a ‘real job’ suitable for a man. You’d think by now his old man would be persuaded that Bruce made the right choice.

    The song “Born in the USA” was written by Springsteen when it was planned that he would star in a movie on the same subject as the song (the film of the same name was made subsequently, but starring Tom Cruise in place of Springsteen) and both the song and the film very specifically address the harmful effects of the Vietnam War on Americans and the treatment of Vietnam veterans upon their return home. It is an ironic retort to the indifference and hostility with which Vietnam veterans were met.

    This was a real thing – Australian servicemen returning from Vietnam suffered the same treatment. Well, firstly they all returned mentally badly screwed up because of the things that they saw and did in Vietnam, and then they found that, rather than being greeted as returning heroes like soldiers did after all previous wars, they returned to a population which was very highly disapproving of Australia’s (and America’s) involvements and actions in the war – so instead of being treated as heroes, they were treated as pariahs. This really happened. I saw it happen. And most of them never recovered from it.

    “I had a brother at Khe Sanh
    Fighting off the Viet Cong
    They’re still there; he’s all gone”

    ‘Man flu’ is a real thing, apparently. A while back, a group of medical researchers got a group of men and a group of women, both infected with the same strain of influenza, and made observations on the severity of each person’s symptoms. What they found was that, on average, the men suffered more severe symptoms than the women. The symptoms of influenza are simply the body’s immune system’s reaction to the virus, and apparently, on the mean, men’s immune system reacts more severely than women’s immune system does.

    Add to that the fact that men are big sooks when they get sick and act like wimps, whereas women are more inclined to just suffer through it, and I think that provides a full explanation for what is apparently a very real phenomenon.

    Springsteen explains “The River” in this clip – he wrote it for his brother-in-law and sister: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAs_Wr7kJ1Y

  15. #15 Axolotl
    April 21, 2017

    I’m wrong, of course – the title of the Tom Cruise film was “Born on the Fourth of July.” Same subject.

  16. #16 Axolotl
    April 21, 2017

    Meanwhile, it turns out that people do not dislike inequality; what they dislike is unfairness. Seems about right.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0082

  17. #17 Eric Lund
    April 21, 2017

    whereas women are more inclined to just suffer through it

    How much of it is inclination, and how much is necessity? In the 1950s, at least in the Anglophone world, women were expected to run the household, so they had no choice but to try to shrug it off and carry on, unless the illness was so severe that they couldn’t ignore it. In literature, upper class women seem to get the contemporary equivalent of “man flu”, because they don’t have to run the household themselves–they have a staff to take care of such things.

    These days there is less overt sexism than in the 1950s, at least in the West, but those attitudes have not vanished entirely. During the US Presidential campaign, Hilary Clinton felt she had to keep working through her illness, to the point that she collapsed in public due to pneumonia. And there are definite, often but not always unspoken, expectations about different gender roles.

  18. #18 birgerjohansson
    April 21, 2017

    Australia’s science agency ‘more confident’ it knows MH370 crash location https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/21/australias-science-agency-more-confident-it-knows-mh370-crash-location

    — — —
    Fake news… http://www.gocomics.com/doonesbury/2017/04/17

  19. #19 birgerjohansson
    April 21, 2017

    Oops! That Doonesbury strip was not the one about bespoke fake news, it was the one about juggling family problems!

  20. #20 birgerjohansson
    April 21, 2017

    Origins of Indonesian hobbits finally revealed https://phys.org/news/2017-04-indonesian-hobbits-revealed.html
    Naked mole-rats turn into “plants” when oxygen is low https://phys.org/news/2017-04-naked-mole-rats-oxygen.html

  21. #21 birgerjohansson
    April 21, 2017

    Steve has been discovered! “Swarm explores a new feature of the northern lights” https://phys.org/news/2017-04-swarm-explores-feature-northern.html

  22. #22 birgerjohansson
    April 21, 2017

    “Danes in general are much more tolerant of crying babies than in other countries” https://satwcomic.com/turn-it-up-to-11

  23. #23 Eric Lund
    April 21, 2017

    Birger@21: That’s getting close to what I do for a living, and I know Prof. Donovan IRL. I suspect “Steve” is an acronym, but the article neither confirms nor denies this, and I am not coming up with anything off the top of my head. This is a field that likes to have Fun with Acronyms; e.g., one project I worked with was called FAST (a recursive acronym, as the F stood for “Fast”), and at one time NASA used a proposal system that was actually called SYS-EYFUS (if you know the story of Sisyphus from Greek mythology and are familiar with the lifestyle of the soft money scientist you will recognize the similarity).

  24. #24 birgerjohansson
    April 21, 2017

    BTW, if you have not seen the miniseries, Rowan Atkinson has made a great performance as inspector Maigret, on a par with John Thaw as Morse or Roy Marsden as Dalgleish.

  25. #25 JustaTech
    April 21, 2017

    Eric @17: Yes, that’s it exactly. “Inclined” wasn’t the right word; I think “likely” would have been better.

    There was a terrible ad a few years ago for the flu medicine (the prescription stuff) that showed a filthy house and a dad feeding two kids ice cream and sending them to school in summer clothes in the snow, while poor mom lies in bed covered in tissues. The tagline was “can you really afford to be down with the flu?”
    So, so obnoxious and sexist (mom is a job you can’t ever take a day off, dads are totally incompetent at basic life skills).

  26. #26 Axalotl
    April 22, 2017

    “incline” = “to tend to do something”. I don’t need lessons in English, thanks.

  27. #27 Axolotl
    April 22, 2017

    Birger@20 – Great piece of work by the good folks at ANU, which is a good university, and their finding makes absolute sense – much more so than the previous theory.

    It does raise some interesting questions, though; e.g. how did a habilis-like creature manage to get to Flores, which is east of the Wallace Line; how did they manage to defend themselves against all those Komodo Dragons (which are now known to have a toxic bite) – which are admittedly somewhat (but not hugely) slow moving, but are very sneaky ambush hunters?

    It suggests that this habilis-like creature might have inhabited a much larger area, but with remains being found only on Flores because of the generally poor preservational environment.

    It also suggests that they managed to survive in the area until anatomically modern humans passed through, at which point the modern humans might have triggered their extinction. Given that they are thought to have persisted until c.54,000 years ago, it seems almost too coincidental with the time that the ancestors of Papuans and Aboriginal Australians would have reached the area on their way through to Sahul.

    I’m very excited by this work by the ANU crew – it ticked a lot of boxes for me that have been sitting empty for a long time. I’m just waiting to see what John Hawks and other palaeoanthropologists make of it. One hopes they have better sense than to try to disagree with a lady named Dr Argue.

  28. #28 Axolotl
    April 22, 2017

    Birger@22 – the comment at the bottom smacks of ignorant and patronising racism. The current generations of East Asian women go back to work, and leave their babies in the care of contract-employed foreign domestic helpers or older female relatives.

    There is some well established research that showed that Navajo babies also cry a lot less than modern European babies. Navajo babies get strapped to a board and are carried around like that on their mothers’ backs, but they just seem to put up with it, whereas European babies would be screaming their heads off.

    The behavioural differences, between African, East Asian and Navajo babies on the one hand and European babies on the other, have not been satisfactorily explained (unless one is inclined to accept the patronising hand-waving and opinionating from people who think they know what happens in East Asia, when they haven’t a clue), but it seems like heritable behaviour – i.e. it has a lot more to do with natural behavioural differences in the babies themselves, and nothing to do with how they are treated.

  29. #29 Axalotl
    April 22, 2017

    Birger@18 – That, on the other hand, has got me hopping mad. Despite funding cuts, the CSIRO is a good organisation, and they are now saying they have a good fix on the area the plane went down in. To me, that is reason enough to reopen the search effort and go and search in the area the CSIRO are indicating. But no, the Australian government is just sitting on its hands and saying it’s up to Malaysia, and the Malaysian government sure as hell isn’t going to do anything about it.

    People need closure, the CSIRO has done a brilliant job of showing them where to look, which is an area not previously properly searched, but they won’t do it. Damn them to hell.

    The truth is, too much time has passed, and no one gives a damn any more except the people who lost family members on that plane – and no one is listening to them any more, because they just plain don’t care.

  30. #30 Axolotl
    April 22, 2017

    My daughter thinks I have a sick mind because I went into hoots of laughter over the description of a 2012 French film, the female lead of which plays the part of “a double amputee Orca trainer.”

    Hey lady! The big thing with the teeth is trying to give you a hint that it wants to be left alone – how many more body parts do you want to lose before you figure it’s time for a career change?

  31. #31 Axalotl
    April 22, 2017

    This would be a really interesting map if it was (i) up to date, and (ii) easier to read. Unfortunately it’s neither. Still gives a bit of a feel, though.
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C98qQ1YXgAA9Fsq.jpg

  32. #32 Martin R
    April 22, 2017

    Annoying to see so little hydroelectric power in the Himalayan foothills.

  33. #33 Axolotl
    April 22, 2017

    Very annoying.

    Meanwhile, an Indian company is seeking to open the world’s largest coal mine in Australia. They need to be stopped.

    When it comes to climate change, governments and big corporations talk a big game, but they are all contemptible liars.

    That’s why I admire a guy like Elon Musk – at least he is trying to do the right things.

  34. #34 Eric Lund
    April 22, 2017

    a 2012 French film, the female lead of which plays the part of “a double amputee Orca trainer.”

    Part of me hopes this isn’t a documentary, but another part of me fails to see how it could be anything but. Fiction has to be plausible. This isn’t. And it isn’t even being Played for Laughs, the way that the Black Knight of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is.

  35. #35 Axolotl
    April 22, 2017

    If it was a documentary, I would not have found it amusing.

  36. #36 birgerjohansson
    April 22, 2017

    Class systems in role-playing games
    http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/dungeon-classes

    A lady named Dr Argue
    Nominatve determinism,

  37. #37 Kaleberg
    April 23, 2017

    That male/strong, female/weak thing shows up in all sorts of places. In Australia they have a she-oak tree. The tree doesn’t look anything like an oak tree and isn’t related, but the wood looks a bit like oak except it is much weaker as lumber.

    That ‘The River’ song isn’t just about lost love, but also about lost expectations. Springsteen is sort of the poet of America’s industrial collapse. The midwest used to be full of industrial cities, each noted for its manufactures. They peaked during WW2, when the demand for war materiel took off and every plant ran flat out. They remained viable after the war, but by the 1960s the physical plant was obsolete.

    The plants were closed and replaced by more modern ones that needed fewer workers. By 1980 most of the cities of the midwest were hollowing out, and the good union jobs vanishing. I remember meeting a guy from Akron in 1980, so I asked him about tires. Akron was once noted for cranking out bias ply tires. He told me that the entire center of town was full of abandoned tire factories. Everyone was using radial tires, and they were made elsewhere. The factory workers were left behind.

    The singer once had a future. He had a great love and a possible future. He saw them as eternal, like a river. That’s a common metaphor for English speakers – old man river, flowing on forever, even though rivers can be pretty janky in real life. Things didn’t work out as he and she had hoped. The river had dried up. He could no longer find work. Neither of them still loved, though he still missed doing so.

  38. #38 Axalotl
    April 23, 2017

    Hence three of the alternative common names for the Sheoak – the Ironwood, the Bull-oak and the Beefwood. (I need a sarcasm font.)

    Hot on the heels of the news that Hobbitses weren’t really just shrunken erectines with more primitive wrist morphology and pinheads, comes the claim that the shape of the brain of Homo naledi is suggestive of it having the capacity for language.

    No, they don’t have a naledi brain, they have a cast taken from inside the brain case which shows what its brain was shaped like, and they say it looks like it might have had the mental capacity for speech.

    Aside from the facts that naledi has never (so far) been successfully dated, so they have no idea how old it was, and no one has come up with a credible theory for how 15 of them ended up in a remote, almost inaccessible underground cavity, come on people – it was the size of a small bodied human but had an endocranial volume similar to Australopithecus.

    Yeah, my grandfather had a cockatoo that could talk, too – it just had no idea what it was saying.

    Sometimes apparently intelligent people can say some really dumb things. Having the capacity to use a limited range of vocalisations to mean different things – well, that wouldn’t be nearly so far-fetched; there are modern monkeys that do that. No one calls it ‘speech’ though, because it isn’t.

  39. #39 Eric Lund
    April 23, 2017

    A lady named Dr Argue
    Nominatve determinism

    Several years ago I learned of an American of Korean ancestry by the name of Sue Yu. Needless to say, she became a lawyer.

  40. #40 birgerjohansson
    April 24, 2017

    “Egg freezing offered as perk to female employees” http://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/egg-freezing-offered-as-perk-to-female-employees/ar-BBAcPpv?li=AAmiR2Z&ocid=spartandhp

    BTW First stage of French election is over.

  41. #41 birgerjohansson
    April 24, 2017

    Independent Macron is ahead of Le Pen.

    Quote from American blog;
    “There are actually sound right-wing arguments for acknowledging the reality of anthropogenic climate change and doing something about it. Principally the economic argument that the effects of it are going to cause untold billions of pounds of damage and developing measures to prevent it will make economies more stable and productive. It’s not right-wing politics per se that clashes with this acknowledgment – it’s the most short-termist, lazy, slash-and-burn economic philosophy that values immediate profits from existing industries over long-term stability and growth. Sadly the American right seems to have drunk deep from that particular poisoned well.!”

  42. #42 birgerjohansson
    April 24, 2017

    “Hundreds join kippah walk in northern Sweden to protest against Nazi threats” https://www.thelocal.se/20170424/hundreds-join-kippah-walk-in-northern-sweden-umea-to-protest-against-nazi-threats Alas, I pretty much slept through the weekend and missed out on this.
    BTW the Moderate party (conservatives) hardly ever take part in demonstrations but this time made an exception
    — — —
    -Yeah, but unlike the platypus, the males have no venom!
    “Totally bizarre facts about the star-nosed mole” https://phys.org/news/2017-04-totally-bizarre-facts-star-nosed-mole.html

  43. #43 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    April 24, 2017

    “Several years ago I learned of an American of Korean ancestry by the name of Sue Yu. Needless to say, she became a lawyer.”

    Saw a poster advertising a concert by a singer called Sing Min Song.

    I recently gave my wife an entire book of real and funny names.

  44. #44 Eric Lund
    April 24, 2017

    Independent Macron is ahead of Le Pen.

    Of course it’s too early to open the champagne bottle, but this is good news. John Oliver had a comment along the following lines: The French have long prided themselves as being superior to the English and the Americans; now they have a chance to prove it.

    Other good news: It looks like Donald Trump’s endorsement of Le Pen worked against her. There seems to have been a similar effect in the Netherlands, where Trump’s endorsement of Geert Wilders may have contributed to the underperformance of Wilders’ party in the recent NL parliamentary elections. And current polling in Germany suggests that Angela Merkel is benefitting from her stance in opposition to Trump.

  45. #45 Eric Lund
    April 24, 2017

    Saw a poster advertising a concert by a singer called Sing Min Song.

    There is a famous paper among physicists and astronomers in which Prof. George Gamow, helping his then student Ralph Alpher prepare a paper on some of the latter’s thesis work, persuaded Prof. Hans Bethe to join as a co-author, so that the resulting paper would have the author list Alpher, Bethe, and Gamow. As in alpha-beta-gamma (the paper is sometimes referred to as the αβγ paper).