August Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • I don’t get it, safe deposit boxes, Sw. bankfack. Are they a disappearing bank service? Do I know anyone under the age of 50 who has one? What do you guys keep there?
  • Do you wonder if I’ve got my shit together? I’ll tell you. I have street maps of Helsinki from visits in 2002 and 2009 instantly retrievable from the bookshelf next to my desk. That’s how together I’ve got my shit, OK?
  • Sonja Virta: in the 1966 edition, Tolkien added to The Hobbit that Gollum is small and slimy. Illustrators had been drawing him too big.
  • New adjective: beshatten = very dirty. “Honey, can you find clean pants for Jr? His old ones are completely beshatten.”
  • WorldCon 75 restaurant guide: “Pasila is what the architects and city planners of the 1970s thought the future should look like.”
  • I hardly know any Finnish grammar, but it turns out I have this passive vocab that surprises me. A homeless man shuffled up to me and said “Something something kello“, and I actually understood immediately that he was asking for the time, not for a handout. It was 12:30. He thanked me politely and shuffled off.
  • Jrette saw seals, Perseid meteors and a big red August moon at camp.
  • “I hope you find your peas / Falling on your niece / Praying” Kesha
  • I pick up a spoon and a candy wrapper from the floor of Jrette’s room. “Are you QUESTIONING my INTERIOR DECORATION?!?!?”
  • The Federmesser is this Late Palaeolithic archaeological culture in Northern Europe. The word means “feather knife”. I’ve never studied its remains since they’re extremely rare in Sweden (Ice Age, 3 km thick ice, OK?). But I’ve assumed that the name is literally descriptive of a characteristic artefact type. Now I learn that a better translation is “quill knife”. Or as most people would put it, “penknife”. The Federmesser culture is the Penknife People!
  • Here’s an unexpected turn. Atheists are joining the dwindling Swedish Church in order to vote in the church elections and keep the Swedish Hate Party out of its governing boards. I consider myself a political opponent of both organisations, though I’m of course far, far more friendly to S. Church than to S. Hate.
  • Tomorrow I’m driving Junior and his furniture 330 km to Jönköping and engineering school. “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
  • The 45th presidency is like when your toddler messes with your laptop. Suddenly you have a Croatian keyboard map, a mouse cursor shaped like a banana and the screen is rotated 90 degrees. And you’re like “I had no idea you could do this! Now, how do you undo it?”
  • Local paper warns that rising sea level may obliterate thousands of islands in the Stockholm Archipelago. Neglects to mention that this would also recreate thousands of islands that have recently become part of larger land masses through post-glacial uplift.
  • Such a good day together with Junior. Now he’s in his new solo home. I bought him a toaster.

Comments

  1. #1 John Massey
    August 19, 2017

    Best of luck to Junior in engineering school.

  2. #2 Janne
    Nahs
    August 19, 2017

    Safe deposit box: The deed to our home, copies of our wills and anything else that would be a major problem if a fire or earthquake obliterated our neighborhood.

  3. #3 Eric Lund
    August 19, 2017

    Echoing Janne on the use of a safety deposit box. I have one too, and for similar reasons, although earthquake risk is minimal here.

  4. #4 Eric Lund
    August 19, 2017

    I pick up a spoon and a candy wrapper from the floor of Jrette’s room. “Are you QUESTIONING my INTERIOR DECORATION?!?!?”

    Ah yes, the fine art of flung shui. I am quite the practitioner myself.

  5. #5 Jonathan Lubin
    Minnesota
    August 19, 2017

    I seem to recall that “beshitten” appears in the Canterbury Tales. And “shite” is/was a first-class verb like “write”.

  6. #6 Martin R
    August 19, 2017

    According to my Eng Lit pals, CT mentions “shitten sheep”.

  7. #7 John Massey
    August 20, 2017

    Martin, one way to look at a “safe deposit box” is that it is one of the modern forms of a “hoard”.

    I suspect most of the people who have them tend to be older, because of the time taken to accumulate sufficient wealth (in the form of a certificate of title to a piece of property) which need to be kept in a place of safety indefinitely into the future.

    And Janne reminds me of an important point – we do our kids no favours by not really getting all of our shit together while we are still young enough to have all of our marbles, and sorting all the shit out includes making a will, and keeping it in a safe place that your kids know about.

    Grief is a difficult enough process without the added burden of sorting out the mess if someone dies without having got their shit together.

  8. #8 Eric Lund
    August 20, 2017

    I don’t know how to link Twitter stuff, but this morning I saw a photo of a church sign with the following words on it:

    DEAR GOD IS IT
    TIME TO IMPEACH?
    GIVE US A SIGN
    BLOT OUT THE SUN

    To which I can only say: Amen!

    I am well north of the path of totality for tomorrow’s eclipse here. My boss is on vacation, visiting a friend in Portland, Oregon; tomorrow they plan to visit a town in eastern Oregon that is in the path of totality.

  9. #9 John Massey
    August 21, 2017

    Eric@8 – From what I have seen of the eclipse-mania going on in the US, you are well out of it. I would be interested to see stats on (1) how many traffic and other accidents result from people going eclipse-hunting, and (2) how many people cause permanent damage to their eyesight by staring at the sun with unprotected eyes. My father had that, from staring at an eclipse when he was a kid.

    Meanwhile, the influenza epidemic that was raging here during June and July, which were both very wet, which kept the temperatures well down in the low 20s (Celsius), has now pretty well evaporated, as I predicted it would – contrary to expectation, August has been almost wholly dry and sunny, with high temperatures to match, so transmission of the ‘flu by airborne droplets dropped to virtually nothing; it’s not quite all gone, but there is very little left.

    It killed more than 300 people, though, which is more than the average annual ‘flu kill. It actually killed more people than the 2003 SARS epidemic. The difference was that the fatality rate from the ‘flu was a few percent of people infected (not negligible, though) but a lot of people got it, while the fatality rate for SARS ended up being about 27%, once they got a handle on how to treat it, isolate patients, how medical staff treating them needed to protect themselves, etc. The initial fatality rate from SARS was much higher than that, including doctors and nurses who died while trying to treat SARS patients, because they didn’t understand what it was or how it was transmitted. But once they got it figured out, the fatality rate dropped accordingly.

    I guess the other difference is that SARS was killing healthy young adults, whereas this year’s summer ‘flu killed mostly old folks, little kids and people with pre-existing health conditions, just like ‘flu always does. I’m not sure how that makes it better, exactly, but just different.

  10. #10 John Massey
    August 21, 2017

    It was kind of edgy during the SARS epidemic because, for one thing, my tennis doubles partner at the time was a doctor who was treating SARS patients. Before every match I would need to remind him “Whatever you do, don’t mention to our opponents that you are currently treating SARS patients.”

    As it was, people were declining to shake hands at the end of each match. If they had known that he was treating SARS patients at the time, they would have just walked off the court and refused to play against us.

    That would have given us wins by default, I guess, but the objective was not to win by default, it was to play tennis.

  11. #11 John Massey
    August 21, 2017

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-navy-crash-idUSKCN1B100C

    It’s a bit of a worry that US destroyers keep bumping into other ships. I thought they were supposed to be good at detecting and avoiding stuff like that.

  12. #12 John Massey
    August 21, 2017

    That reminded me of the time that the Australian Navy managed to sink one of its own destroyers.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melbourne%E2%80%93Voyager_collision

  13. #13 John Massey
    August 21, 2017

    Watched the 2017 film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
    Grade: Total pants.
    One saving grace: Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey as the Mage, who manages to look adorable, scary, vulnerable and completely wasted, all at the same time. Not everyone can pull that off.

  14. #14 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    August 21, 2017

    “I don’t get it, safe deposit boxes, Sw. bankfack. Are they a disappearing bank service? Do I know anyone under the age of 50 who has one? What do you guys keep there?”

    Anything which would be a big problem if the original is lost in, say, a fire or burglary. Sometimes a certified copy is OK, sometimes it’s not. But it’s probably easier and cheaper to put all really important documents in such a vault than to get certified copies of all of them. Also, in some cases certified copies might be good only for getting a new original document. After such a fire or burglary you will have enough other problems.

    Also, things like jewels, gold bars, and so on—things which are small and valuable. Not necessarily valuable on the open market for stolen goods; heirlooms etc might be valuable only to you.

    Cash. Some countries (e.g. Sweden) are moving to a cashless society. Some countries now have negative interest, in some case even for checking and savings accounts. The combination means that your fortune dwindles unless it is in cash. If you have enough that this is a problem, you have enough that it is worth storing it securely.

  15. #15 Birger Johansson
    August 22, 2017

    Brian Aldiss 18 August 1925 – 19 August 2017
    Neil Gaiman remembers Brian Aldiss https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/aug/22/brian-aldiss-science-fiction-writer-neil-gaiman

  16. #16 Birger Johansson
    August 22, 2017

    OT
    Model reveals best approach to get people to conserve water in different areas https://phys.org/news/2017-08-reveals-approach-people-areas.html

  17. #17 Christian Conrad
    Helsingfors
    August 22, 2017

    Bankfack: For important papers, I’d always assumed.

    An incident that serves as an illustrative example and a warning against bank deposit boxes occurred in Finland recently: An elderly couple kept the wife’s _hoitotestamentti_ (De. “Patientenverfügung”, Eng. “Advance healthcare directive” — vad heter det på svenska?) in their bank deposit box. When the wife fell seriously ill and had to be taken to hospital, and the doctors asked the husband what to do and he wanted to show them the document… The bank was of the recent “open only by appointment” type, and couldn’t be bothered to make an appointment for the husband to fetch it. And no, this wasn’t on the weekend; middle of the day, on a working day. Sure, he could have tried making an appointment already on the Friday in stead of waiting over the weekend, but IMO under these circumstances it’s understandable that he was too upset to realise and get that done. Moral of the story:
    1) Always keep a (notarised?) copy at home.
    2) F*ck Nordea. (And all other banksters too.)

    Source: http://www.iltalehti.fi/kotimaa/201707192200268824_u0.shtml (Run it through Google Translate or something.)

  18. #18 Eric Lund
    August 22, 2017

    @Christian: What this incident illustrates is that you should keep two copies of such documents: one in the safe deposit box and one at home. You use the document from home if you can. The safe deposit box is a backup in case something (fire, earthquake, weather disaster, etc.) destroys the copy you have at home.

    It’s the same reason why you should ideally have both a local backup and an off-site backup of your computer, especially if you are a business. If something happens to your computer, you try to restore from the on-site backup. If the on-site backup fails (or is destroyed in the same disaster that destroys your computer), you resort to the off-site backup.

    As an example, I have two copies of the document releasing the lien on my house due to the mortgage, which I paid off several years ago. One is among my records at home. The other is in my safe deposit box. So one way or the other I can prove that I own the house free and clear.

  19. #19 Birger Johansson
    August 22, 2017

    OT
    I just watched Conan the Destroyer – cheesy, but moderately watchable for the period.
    Grace Jones is the only woman that gets an interesting role.
    We have not come far since, considering the recent reactions to women getting powerful roles in fantasy and SF.

  20. #20 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    Birger@19 – Allegedly one of the ten worst films ever made. I like it, and yes, Grace Jones was good in it.

    Has there been adverse reaction to the Black Widow in Avengers movies and to Wonder Woman? If so, I haven’t seen any. Everywhere I’ve looked, Wonder Woman has got rave reviews from everyone. And the only bad reaction I saw to Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell was from Japanese-American cry-babies about how she isn’t Japanese – not a good storyline in an otherwise well made film, but good reviews on Scarlett’s performance.

    Then there’s Jessica Jones (great self-conflicted character), and ‘Dutch’ in Killjoys – not just a powerful woman but the leading role in the whole series

    Then there’s the Greater Chinese-made cast-of-ten-thousands movie Mulan, plus Painted Skin and Painted Skin II – Resurrection. All great films in my view, although my wife and daughter think I’m nuts to like the Painted Skin films; both films feature multiple powerful women. Oh, and there’s House of Flying Daggers, with its powerful blind woman. There’s a film worth watching, but prepare to be dazzled.

    Meanwhile there’s this:
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/a-freud-contretemps-in-the-guardian/
    I looked up Susie Orbach – my advice: don’t. I can’t begin to imagine the damage that woman has been doing.

  21. #21 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    This video counts as ‘sexually suggestive’ in Japan, apparently.
    http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/2107633/japanese-state-forced-remove-sexually-suggestive-tourism-video

    I must have blinked and missed it. No wonder the birth rate in Japan has plummeted.

  22. #22 Birger Johansson
    August 23, 2017

    The plush animal is supposed to be a cow. Personally, I often scrtched cows behind the ear and rubbed them on the flank. Have the Japanese no cows of their own since they overreact?
    — —
    BTW re. Brian Aldiss. I once wrote to him for a few questions. Also, I sent him the (subtitled) Danish TV documentary “Amarillo” about a danish military unit in Afghanistan (Aldiss was very concerned about how the “war against terror” had deraliled).
    Aldiss and his friend Harry Harrison were among the oldest SF fans in Britain.

  23. #23 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    August 23, 2017

    “No wonder the birth rate in Japan has plummeted.”

    Not funny.

    The birthrate is low in Japan, but not because of lack of eroticism. Similarly, it is high in Palestine, but not because these people enjoy sex more than the Belgians. It is low in Germany, and few if any populations have healthier sex lives than the Germans.

    Birth control has divorced the birth rate from sex. That is something we should celebrate. Sex without pregnancy is the rule, and even pregnancy without sex is possible (but usually for medical reasons).

    Note that highly religious populations tend to have high birthrates, and at the same time would certainly object to erotic videos like this one.

  24. #24 Birger Johansson
    August 23, 2017

    Another Brit (Scottish): Richard Wilson (now 81)
    -Here in an episode of “Have I Got News For You” alongside Eddie Izzard. Remember when John Major was the worst anglo-saxon politician around?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=de_CEBhrCMQ&t=1603s

  25. #25 Martin R
    August 23, 2017

    Phillip, the problem seems to be genuinely different in Japan. They are not having a lot of babies. But nor are they having a lot of sex. “Nearly a third of Japanese people are entering their 30s without any sexual experience”

    http://ind.pn/2uWnw4Z

  26. #26 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    Phillip, birth rates fall when (1) girls are permitted to go to school, (2) the economy improves (which happens at the same time that women become educated, which is really interesting – correlation does not imply causation, but I have to think there is a definite link there), and (3) demographic transition occurs.

    You can plot this state by state in India – the more prosperous southern states have higher literacy rates (including among women) and lower birth rates than the northern states, and are now below replacement. Birth rates in the northern states are also dropping (no doubt helped by high rates of female infanticide there – far higher than anything that ever happened in China), but not as fast as in the southern states and are still above replacement. But overall, the Indian population is no longer exploding.

    The only continent now that is continuing to experience population explosion is Africa, where in many parts girls are still denied education. A lot of people have been working very hard to try to teach Africans about family planning, etc., but nothing works – with the sole exception of letting girls go to school, and that works like a charm. So the secret to stopping the population explosion in Africa (which is hugely problematic for African countries) is to just let the little girls go to school, and they take care of the problem.

    But Japan is different from every other country. They have been in continuous recession since the early 1980s. They have high inflation but low interest rates, so people who save money just see their savings evaporate in front of their eyes. A high proportion of teenagers say they have no desire to get married or have children, and *even say* they have no desire to get a boyfriend/girlfriend and have sex – they express no desire or interest in sex. Married couples say they choose to remain childless because the world is too terrible a place to bring children into (when the reality is that the world is a better place now than at any preceding time in history, and will continue to be unless/until climate change tips that into reverse or we get a nuclear war).

    Something very weird has happened in Japan, especially among younger Japanese, and it *does* appear to be associated with a lack of eroticism. The thing about pornography is that if people watch enough of it, it becomes boring. The birth rate there is now so low now that a linear projection of population suggests that the Japanese will become extinct some time during the 21st Century. That is unlikely to actually happen, because linear projections of population never come true. But they now have a very rapidly ageing population, and are pretty soon going to have really major problems.

    So, you might not want to assume too much about what I say before you jump in with both boots.

    Meanwhile, what do *you* see in that video that is erotic? Patting cows doesn’t do it for me, I can tell you.

  27. #27 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    You might also want to note that birthrate is inversely correlated with SES, not religiousness (although that now appears to be reversing in America to some extent). It just happens that in religious countries, dumber people tend to also be more religious. But even in secular countries, lower SES people have higher birth rates.

    That is exactly what gets some people worried about ‘dysgenics’ – intelligence being heritable, the fact that less intelligent people have more children could lead to a decline in average intelligence among a population. There is no real evidence of that happening yet since Victorian times – not by more than a few points on mean IQ, anyway.

  28. #29 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    And more:
    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/aug/20/feel-about-freud-debate-frederick-crews-susie-orbach-making-of-an-illusion

    If people like Susie Orbach have been teaching the current crop of psychoanalysts, I sure as hell don’t need any of it.

  29. #30 Martin R
    August 23, 2017

    The likely outcome in Japan, I guess, is that people with a more adaptive culture will soon show up to fill the vacant niches.

  30. #31 Birger Johansson
    August 23, 2017

    I heard there is a big typhoon passing HK.
    New Neanderthal Mitochondrial Genome Suggests Earlier Encounter With Modern Human Lineage https://www.genomeweb.com/sequencing/new-neanderthal-mitochondrial-genome-suggests-earlier-encounter-modern-human-lineage

  31. #32 Birger Johansson
    August 23, 2017

    Laws of mathematics don’t apply here, says Australian PM https://www.newscientist.com/article/2140747-laws-of-mathematics-dont-apply-here-says-australian-pm/ Weakening the encryption would be good news for organised crime syndicates targeting internet transactions. This Turnbull feller does not really impress me.

  32. #34 Birger Johansson
    August 23, 2017

    Eclipse Review https://xkcd.com/1880/

    Total eclipse of the mind: A guy in USA is doubling down on the…. fuggit, I cannot be bothered by more Trump rubbish!

  33. #35 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    Nature abhors a vacuum, so something will happen; I just can’t guess what it will be. Yeah, something like that. Japan is too beautiful as a country to just become vacant, or populated by humanoid robots.

    Interestingly, the population of Kyoto has been steadily dropping linearly ever since WWII, despite being about the most beautiful city I have ever seen, in a beautiful geographic setting. People moving to Tokyo or other centres for work, I suppose, plus the general trend of reproduction below replacement for the whole of Japan.

    Everyone got a surprise when high SES Americans suddenly started to have more children again, having reached a low point. Some socio-cultural shift happened, but no one knows what it was or what triggered it.

  34. #36 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    Birger@31 – Gone now, but yes, it was rough out there this morning. Most intense we have had since 2012. The centre made a close near miss just to the south of HK, so we got the most intense winds close to the centre. Plus torrential rain, but that has pretty well stopped now too.

    Things had quietened down enough after lunch for me to venture out to go to the gym (which was of course crowded with people because they had nowhere else to go – everything else was shut), and there are trees down everywhere, so driving was a bit of an obstacle course – some shallow rooted species just completely uprooted and hurled around; others have just snapped off at the trunk. It’s sobering to see wind do that to a fairly mature tree – just snap it like a matchstick.

    High astronomical tide this morning coincided with storm surge, so there has been some flooding in low lying areas.

    Some people killed in Macau, which got some major flooding, but no casualties in HK that I know of.

  35. #37 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    Birger@32 – The upside of Turnbull is that he is a centrist and social liberal, and was previously very concerned about climate change (so could be worse, but his conviction about climate change has noticeably weakened). The downside is he is weak and not overly bright.

    My review of Australian Prime Ministers suggests that you want absolutely the most intelligent one you can get. That was a Leftie called Gough Whitlam in the early 1970s who did a heap of good stuff in a very short time, and he was an intellectual giant, but he was hampered by being surrounded by a Cabinet of thugs, clowns and fools.

  36. #38 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    Birger@33 – I’m not ignoring your link on Neanderthal mtDNA; it’s very interesting. I just don’t have anything to say about it. It seems to have surplanted Neanderthal mtDNA, suggesting it was positively selected for after introgression. No idea why.

  37. #39 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    Birger@34 – I concluded that the only correct strategy was just to totally ignore him. His stupidity and totally random behaviour is endlessly depressing, otherwise.

  38. #40 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    It’s a sobering thought that the Americans initially planned to drop the first atomic bomb on Kyoto, but changed their minds and dropped it on Hiroshima instead.

    The whole of Kyoto is a World Heritage Site. All of that would have been reduced to scorched rubble. If I didn’t live in HK and had the option, I might well opt to live in Kyoto, but I don’t have that option. My rock guitarist friend Kumi Adachi and her husband bought a house there not so long ago, very near to a small river – just beautiful (you can find her in various places on Youtube by doing searches for Kumi Adachi, Adachi Kumi and 安達久美).

    There is a coypu that has got loose and lives in the river, but the Japanese being what they are, they prefer to have the coypu around and just repair all the damage that it does to the river.

  39. #41 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    Here’s one fairly old one:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhKcuLytCtk

    Someone on Facebook asked Kumi why she had called that “Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla”. Having some insight into how Kumi’s mind works, I took a guess and said “Because the scientific name of the Western lowland gorilla is “Gorilla gorilla gorilla”, and Kumi said “Yes, John is right.” Well, I gotta get something right occasionally.

  40. #42 Eric Lund
    August 23, 2017

    John@21: I watched the video. I don’t know the Japanese language, but from the reactions of a couple of statues I infer that some of Dan Mitsu’s lines were provocative, and there were several shots that focused on her lips. The latter is well within bounds in the relatively prudish US, let alone Japan. So my guess is that people were offended by whatever made the statues blush.

    Japan’s problem isn’t just the low birthrate; they compound it by being highly resistant to accepting immigrants. Many Western countries, especially the US and Canada but also to a lesser extent the EU, have at least partially offset low birth rates by allowing immigration. That approach allows for slow evolution in culture and genetic makeup, so that, for instance, Americans will still be recognizably American even when most of them are of non-European ancestry. The alternative is to be overwhelmed by hostile genetic invaders. It’s a matter of time before some mainland Asian population, fleeing rising sea levels or some other disaster, will figure out that Japan has available land and not enough people to defend it. That’s what happened to many of the indigenous populations of the Americas, whose numbers were sharply reduced by disease, leaving them unable to fight off the European invaders.

  41. #43 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    Eric@42: Japanese were historically not a prudish people, unlike the early English settlers in America. This is a relatively new thing. Apparently that actress is infamous for doing erotic stuff, so maybe the problem is that it is her saying some dodgy stuff. Specific reference was made to stroking the cow, though, which is, to me, more than a little weird.

    Modern Japanese are largely descended from Yayoi rice farmers from the Korean Peninsula, mixing with the pre-existing Jomon culture in Japan (who were sedentary hunter-gatherers) so you would think that would be the least painful option for them as a source of new blood, but apparently Korean people are generally hated/looked down on in Japan. That might be putting it a little too strongly, maybe, but they don’t seem to see them as a closely related population, which in fact they are.

  42. #44 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    They also don’t like to be told that they have some component of Jomon ancestry either, apparently.

    There’s just no pleasing some folks.

  43. #45 Martin R
    August 23, 2017

    Resistance to immigration is a major driver behind Japanese robotics development. “I’d rather have a robot change grandma’s diaper than let Philippine nurses come here to work!”

  44. #46 Birger Johansson
    August 23, 2017

    “Korean people are generally hated/looked down on in Japan.”

    All conquerd peoples in the Japanese empire were treaded pretty much as sub-humans. The Ainu were likewise considered second-rate citizens.
    The old Korean imperial palace was razed to the ground to extinguish any memory of pre-Japanese history. The old Imperial German governor’s mansion in German New Guinea met the same fate.
    Anything that did not fit into the Japanese official concept of patriotism was taboo.

  45. #47 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    The Ainu are thought to be descendants of the Jomon culture people, which helps to explain why a lot of modern Japanese really dislike being told they have some common ancestry.

  46. #48 Birger Johansson
    August 23, 2017

    Also, the Japanese PM wanted DNA tech to be used to identify “foreign” criminals, even though most criminals are homegrown.
    The PM and other politicians did NOT want scientists to tell them DNA is practically useless to distinguish Japanese and non-Japanese.
    Their culture is an odd mixture of foreign imports and nationalism/ downright jingoism.

    But individual Japanese are nice. The *system* is fucked up. It would be interesting to compare culture and the hierarchial thinking in Japan and Germany ca. 1930s.
    (not that Sweden had much to be proud of at the time)

  47. #49 Eric Lund
    August 23, 2017

    John@43: In US there are a couple of colloquialisms, “choking the chicken” and “spanking the monkey”, which are euphemisms for masturbation. One possibility, which I don’t know enough Japanese to verify, is that “stroking the cow/bull” has a similar connotation in Japanese. True, it goes against the Japanese history of being much less prudish than many others including American and Chinese. But it’s consistent with the blushing statues I mentioned.

  48. #50 Eric Lund
    August 23, 2017

    Birger@46: The history you mention explains why Koreans (and to a lesser extent Chinese) hate the Japanese, but it does not explain the reverse. From what I have heard, the Japanese do not allow third- or even fourth-generation ethnic Koreans in Japan to become Japanese citizens, and often Koreans in Japan are forced to take Japanese names. That’s a level of hate that goes beyond even what you see among many white Americans who fear Mexicans–I am not aware of anybody in this country who thinks Mexicans in the US should adopt English surnames.

  49. #51 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    Birger@48 – Some Japanese are nice. I have encountered a few not so nice ones.

    Eric@50 – Many Chinese still harbour a lot of hatred for Japanese. The ones who don’t tend to be born post-WWII. Chinese tend to have v-e-r-y long memories, plus the Imperial Japanese forces in China gave them plenty of reasons. I have seen old film footage from the Massacre of Nanjing – it did not make for pleasant viewing. I don’t believe I have ever seen anything more brutal.

  50. #52 John Massey
    August 23, 2017

    It was really kind of ironic for the Japanese to consider the Chinese to be sub-humans during WWII, considering how much they copied from Tang Dynasty culture – written script, pottery, bonsai trees, Zen Buddhism, gardens, etc. – it’s a long list, including many things that Westerners think of as quintessentially Japanese. You think Japanese gardens are beautiful? You ain’t seen nuthin’. You should go to Suzhou.

  51. #53 Eric Lund
    August 23, 2017

    The interactions of China and Japan with the Western powers were quite different in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Japan had kept itself isolated from the rest of the world for over a century, but when Commodore Perry showed up in 1853, the Japanese took the hint and modernized their military. Fifty-two years later they decisively defeated a major Western power, Russia.

    China, meanwhile, found itself unable to resist the Western traders, often backed by military force, that insisted on doing business on their terms. The cities of Shanghai (where foreigners were generally under the jurisdiction of their own governments rather than China) and Hong Kong (as a British territory) date from this era. Eventually the Qing dynasty was overthrown, and replaced not with an emperor but with Chiang Kai-Shek, who never had full control of China. Under the circumstances, I can see how a Japanese person might consider the Chinese to be a people whose best days were behind them.

    As for how this led to Japanese considering Chinese to be sub-human: I don’t know for sure, but at least part of it could well be Tojo and company either drinking the Kool-Aid being offered by their German allies, or developing comparable notions on their own.

  52. #54 Martin R
    August 23, 2017

    To their credit though, the Japanese ignored their German allies’ requests that they do away with the country’s Jews.

  53. #55 Eric Lund
    August 23, 2017

    Martin@54: I doubt that Jews were present in Japan in any significant numbers, and almost all of the ones who were there would have been foreigners. Conversion to Judaism is possible (see Trump, Ivanka) but rare. For the most part, you have to have a Jewish mother to be a Jew (I suspect the Nazis also considered the paternal line, but that’s not how Judaism works). And I suspect that marriages between Japanese men and Jewish women were rare, if there were any.

    I have heard a report that at one time there was a Jewish population in Sichuan (this report also claimed that the surname Ai, which means “stone”, originated with this population), but even if it existed, their descendants intermarried with the locals to a sufficient extent that they are no longer considered Jewish. A similar population in Japan would either be assimilated in a similar fashion, or forced out for not being sufficiently Japanese.

  54. #56 John Massey
    August 24, 2017
  55. #57 John Massey
    August 24, 2017
  56. #58 Birger Johansson
    August 24, 2017

    Full-sized Hobbit house! http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/the-shire

    -BTW the immigration into the UK is less than expected.
    I forgot the link, I think it was at the Guardian.

    For a delightful dose of spoken English, check out Brian Blessed at YouTube;
    at “Have I Got News For You” and especially at “Was It Something I Said?”

  57. #59 Eric Lund
    August 24, 2017

    immigration into the UK is less than expected

    The BBC have this story as well. It seems that when the majority of a country’s adults performs an overt anti-foreigner act like voting for Brexit, foreigners are less likely to come to that country. Hoocoodanode?

  58. #60 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    August 24, 2017

    “the problem seems to be genuinely different in Japan. They are not having a lot of babies. But nor are they having a lot of sex.”

    True, as are the more-detailed analyses in later comments. Still, I think the correlation-implies-causation suggestion based only on a low birthrate and being prudish is wrong. In most cases, probably including Japan, the main reason for a low birthrate is contraception, not lack of sex. Also, many populations are very prudish but have a high birthrate.

  59. #61 Eric Lund
    August 24, 2017

    many populations are very prudish but have a high birthrate

    I don’t know if this has been studied in detail, but I suspect that degree of prudishness correlates positively with birthrate. That seems to be the case in the US, where out-of-wedlock births and teen pregnancies are more prevalent in the prudish (even by American standards) southern states than in the considerably less prudish northeastern and western states. One of the consequences of prudishness is lack of awareness about contraception options, even in places like the US where contraception is readily available. In many states and school districts, schools are required to teach that abstaining from sex is the only way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. This is of course utter rubbish, and abstinence-based sex education has been shown to be ineffective, but the people who push such programs are not bothered by these trivial details. In healthy societies (which admittedly Japan is not), and even in most unhealthy societies, young people are going to want to have sex, regardless of consequences. Even, “We’d prefer that you not do it, but if you do, here’s how to protect yourself,” is better than, “You’re a slut if you are not a virgin on your wedding day, so don’t even think of doing it.”

  60. #62 John Massey
    August 25, 2017

    Phillip@60 – No, I think you still don’t get it, so let me run this by you again.

    In Japan: (1) an astonishingly high proportion of young single males say they are not interested in establishing an intimate relationship with another person or in having sex, (2) an astonishingly high proportion of young single females say they have no interest in getting married (or forming a semi-permanent pair-bonded relationship with another person) or having any children – they say they are content to live out their lives as single females living alone and just pursuing their careers, and (3) an astonishingly high % of males and females are still virgins when they hit the age of 30.

    Armies of Japanese researchers have all got confirmatory findings, which have got them totally bamboozled – they defy any rational explanation.

    All other developed countries have contraception, just like Japan, but they do not have birthrates anywhere near as low, nor do you see this phenomenon where such high % of young people show no interest in forming intimate relationships with other people. On the contrary, in other developed countries which have been ‘liberated’ from the fear of unwanted pregnancies, young people are all enthusiastically pursuing intimate relationships with other people.

    Something very weird has happened in Japan, and no one understands why. Legions of researchers have looked for explanations, but they haven’t found them.

    Choosing not to have children is one thing. Totally lacking interest in forming an intimate relationship with another person is something very different, and in this respect, the Japanese are unique – it is not happening anywhere else.

    My suspicion is that the destruction of traditional Japanese society, and the huge damage and national humiliation Japan suffered by the end of WWII, and despite the reconstruction effort and the miraculous rise again of the Japanese economy right up until it crashed disastrously in the early 1980s, have induced some kind of national nihilism like “It’s not worth the effort of finding someone to share my life with, and it’s not worth bringing children into such a terrible world, because none of this means anything. It is all worthless.” But I’m just guessing. If armies of Japanese psychologists and social scientists can’t figure it out and are totally dumbfounded by it, I doubt I can just dream up an explanation.

    But I’m bloody sure the explanation is not just “because they have birth control”. They are not using the bloody birth control, because they are not having sex.

    At the risk of repeating myself, you need to read more.

  61. #63 John Massey
    August 25, 2017

    In the office this morning, and decided to go downstairs to get a real cup of coffee – we have a ‘tea lady’, and she’s a dear old thing, but she serves nothing but brown water. No matter what you ask for, you get the same cup of brown water.

    So I’m getting my coffee, and this biggish rough, tough looking young Chinese guy came over and said in Cantonese: “Be careful, the floor is wet.” Sure enough, the cleaning lady had just mopped the floor.

    *sigh* In a Chinese community, young strangers expressing concern about your personal safety can mean only one thing – they see you as “old”.

    Not being ungrateful, but this kind of stuff can get you down after a while. I lift weights and flog myself on a treadmill every day. It’s not like I’m going to be ready for a zimmer frame any time soon.

  62. #64 Eric Lund
    August 25, 2017

    John@63: Last month I got an unsolicited membership card in the mail from the American Association of Retired Persons. I’m not retired yet, but I am old enough to be on their mailing list.

  63. #65 John Massey
    August 25, 2017

    Eric, an Australian friend of mine working in HK as a blasting engineer (he was actually working two jobs at the time, one in HK and one in Macau, so he would load his blast holes, connect up and fire the shot at his site in HK, then set out the next set of blast holes for the rock drillers to start drilling the holes, then get on the ferry, go to Macau and go and do the same thing there, then catch the ferry back to HK, just in time to go to bed, ready to get up early in the morning and do the same thing all over again) –

    anyway, he got on the public bus one day, paid the fare, and a young Chinese girl walked down the aisle of the bus to him and said “At your age, you can apply for an elderly citizen’s card, so you can get a HK$1 discount on the bus fare.” She was just trying to be kind and considerate to him and he knew it, but he was still deeply offended.

  64. #66 John Massey
    August 25, 2017

    HK$1 is worth about US$0.13.

    And he was getting paid for two jobs. Of course, he looked like hell because he was working on two construction sites. Well, one construction site and a quarry.

  65. #67 John Massey
    August 25, 2017

    Daughter (being mildly sarcastic – she’s usually much worse) in an email to me while I was at work today: “Everyone should experience the fun and discovery of dissecting an owl pellet. With our online owl pellet dissection, kids and adults alike can dissect a virtual pellet and learn many of the bones found inside a real pellet. Assemble rodent skeletons and collect other owl pellet information in a fun online game!”

    Me: “Can’t you just find an owl and hold a tin underneath it to collect a real one?”

    According to our ecologists (love those people) HK is absolutely crawling with owls of several different species. And bats, ditto. Bats everywhere. If people knew just how many bats are flying around HK at night, a lot of them would really freak out.

  66. #68 Martin R
    August 25, 2017

    About the non-boinking Japanese: I wonder if they’re cuddling their babies and toddlers. I’ve always felt that a strong early cuddling habit will lead to a continued post-adolescent craving for cuddling, which will of course swiftly lead to boinking. And then to post-coital cuddling.

  67. #69 Eric Lund
    August 25, 2017

    If people knew just how many bats are flying around HK at night, a lot of them would really freak out.

    I’ll take the bats over mosquitoes. Yes, bats do get rabies, but they don’t carry malaria, dengue fever, or lots of other nasty tropical diseases.

  68. #70 Birger Johansson
    August 25, 2017

    Re. ageing, I just realised my mirror image has started to look a lot like Steve Bannon.
    I wonder what would happen if I said ” candyman ” three times ( film reference ) .

    BTW I find it difficult to describe Neal Stephenson’s “The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. ” -SF and Fantasy both. Det

  69. #71 John Massey
    August 26, 2017

    We win!

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-24/indonesians-may-be-the-most-reluctant-walkers-in-asia-chart

    HK people also now have the longest life expectancy in the world. Coincidence, maybe.

  70. #72 John Massey
    August 26, 2017

    I counted 23 different species of bats in HK. Most unpleasant sounding – the black bearded tomb bat.

    I used to see bats all the time when playing tennis at night under lights. Moths would be attracted to the lights. I would hear a short series of high pitched squeaks as a bat targeted a moth by echo-location, and then zap! like lightning a bat would swoop into the light to snatch the moth and zip out again, really fast. Fascinating to watch them, but you need to be quick, they are very fast flyers.

    Bat species account for about 50% of all mammal species. I didn’t know that. Or maybe I did and forgot.

    We get the occasional case of dengue, usually imported (i.e. someone travels into HK having already contracted dengue elsewhere). They go into isolation wards. Cases of local infection are rare, particularly after concerted government campaigns to warn people against leaving containers of stagnant water around outside.

    We also get rare cases of Japanese encephalitis, another mosquito-borne disease. Those are also becoming more rare.

    No malaria in HK, but there used to be in the 19th Century, until the Brits filled in the malarial swamps in Happy Valley to make a horse racing ground. Previously, rice was wet-farmed there, by Chinese rice farmers who appeared to have resistance to the malaria, while it killed hundreds of British soldiers in a barracks built nearby – so many soldiers died of it that they had to abandon the barracks and avoid the area until the swampy ground was all filled in.

    Happy Valley is a cheerful sounding place name, but it was called that because that’s where the first cemetery was located.

    It’s also where my daughter was born. But not in the actual cemetery, you understand.

  71. #73 John Massey
    August 26, 2017

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2017-08-26/elen-feuerriegel-the-underground-astronaut/8825148

    The only anthropologists who have been into the Dinaledi and Lesedi chambers have been females – young, small, skinny females.

    It almost defies belief that small brained hominins repeatedly dragged their dead down into either one of two pitch dark undergound chambers that are extremely difficult and risky to access, even with the aid of artificial lighting, and which can’t be reached by large predators, as a form of funerary behaviour. But all other possible explanations have been examined carefully and ruled out. The Dinaledi chamber contained the remains of at least 15 individuals. I don’t think they have a number yet for the Lesedi chamber, which so far has been less well explored and documented. The two chambers are not interconnected – they have to be reached by separate routes from the surface.

    And forget about going down there – unless you are physically small and very slim, you have no hope of getting there.

  72. #74 John Massey
    August 26, 2017

    BTW, if anyone tells you that bat echo-location squeaks are outside of the range of human hearing, they are wrong, at least for some bat species. I can hear them. It needs to be in a pretty quiet environment, though, because they are not loud.

  73. #75 John Massey
    August 26, 2017

    Old Australian maps.
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-11/old-maps-australia-art-cartography/8314730

    Scroll down to the 5th map, the one on population. You see that big area marked “UNINHABITED”? Well, it wasn’t. It still isn’t.

  74. #76 John Massey
    August 28, 2017
  75. #77 John Massey
    August 28, 2017

    Not such bad news:
    http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/08/28/same-sex-marriage-several-conservatives-urge-yes-vote

    The video won’t work outside of Australia, so you just have to read the words.

    Explanation: Liberal and National Party supporters are political conservatives. The current Liberal (i.e. politically conservative) Prime Minister supports it. The previous Labour (i.e. politically liberal) Prime Minister, did not.

    So, those in favour/against can’t be explained by a simple political divide. Religious groups (mostly those sufficiently loony to identify themselves as being driven by ‘religious principles’), predictably enough, oppose it. Among the secular folks, who include a lot of people who identify with one religion or another more out of habit/family history more than anything else) who is likely to support or oppose is not easy to guess, just from political affiliation.

  76. #78 John Massey
    August 28, 2017

    I maybe should have added that age is a partial predictor – a higher % of young people support than older people do.

    One of the unforeseen outcomes of the decision to take this to a national snail-mail ballot of registered voters next November is that young people are now coming out of the woodwork to register as voters, just so they can send in a “yes” vote. Those young people are actually legally required to register as voters as soon as they turn 18, but obviously large numbers of them hadn’t bothered, or hadn’t got around to it – the forthcoming ballot has been enough to overcome their inertia and get them to register.

    The current Prime Minister is hoping for a “yes” landslide win. A “no” win would cause him much political humiliation – he has basically staked his political reputation on it.

  77. #79 John Massey
    August 28, 2017

    https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/08/27/the-ghosts-of-the-european-pleistocene/

    I’m posting that link because I think it is very helpful, in that he links Pleistocene population clusters with material cultures. Note that the Villabruna population cluster is a real puzzle – some had affinity with East Asians, and some didn’t. And that is really late, long after the ancestors of modern Europeans and modern East Asians separated.

    And despite the helpful clarifications, it still presents a puzzling overall picture. Complexity, not easily understood or rendered. Certainly not anything near as simple as linear descent with increasing cultural complexity.

  78. #80 Birger Johansson
    August 28, 2017

    Peru discovers in pre-Incan site tomb of 16 19th-century Chinese migrants https://phys.org/news/2017-08-peru-pre-incan-site-tomb-chinese.html

  79. #81 Birger Johansson
    August 28, 2017

    Some context to the White Supremacists:
    “The main thing about these terrorists is not that they have extremist views, but that they’re criminals who like violence.” http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2017/08/profiling_white_supremacists_won_t_prevent_domestic_terrorism.html

  80. #82 Birger Johansson
    August 28, 2017
  81. #83 Birger Johansson
    August 28, 2017

    Arthurian sword & sorcery: the “siege perilous” would be a pretty effective murder weapon. http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/3706.html

    That hurricane (whose intensity has absolutely nothing to do with climate change because Fox News sez so) is dropping really unblievable amounts of rain. Too bad the weather does not reach far into the Trump-voting regions.

  82. #84 John Massey
    August 28, 2017

    It’s a biggie, and it’s trashing Houston – shaping to be the costliest hurricane in American history.

    LOL. Academia.edu tells me that it has 230 papers with my name on them. That’s pretty funny, because I have published a total of 25 papers during my career (because I’m a practising engineer, not an academic, and I only publish something when I think I have something important that needs to be shared with the rest of my profession, and that doesn’t happen all that often), and they are not published under this name anyway.

  83. #85 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    August 28, 2017

    In the office this morning, and decided to go downstairs to get a real cup of coffee – we have a ‘tea lady’, and she’s a dear old thing, but she serves nothing but brown water. No matter what you ask for, you get the same cup of brown water.

    Allegedly, Abraham Lincoln said “If this is supposed to be coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is supposed to be tea, please bring me some coffee.

  84. #86 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    August 28, 2017

    and a young Chinese girl walked down the aisle of the bus to him and said “At your age, you can apply for an elderly citizen’s card, so you can get a HK$1 discount on the bus fare.”

    A couple of months ago, I was puzzled when a young whippersnapper in the train addressed me, and even more so—at least at first—when he asked if I would like his seat.

    Must be the grey beard.

    When fetching my youngest child from preschool, a child asked me if I was his grandfather. Of course, I could be a grandfather (and am if you count the child of my stepdaughter (eighteen-and-one-half years younger than I am). (Yes, two mothers/wives; otherwise it would just barely be possible.)

  85. #87 Birger Johansson
    August 28, 2017

    Hit-and-run posting: If you are planning to purchase books from Britain, now is the optimal time, as the Pound is not expected to drop more.
    — — —
    Evil-maximization dilemma http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/moral-dilemmas

  86. #88 Eric Lund
    August 28, 2017

    The Houston area has had some bad ones before. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison dumped more than 900 mm of rain in the city of Houston, and as much as a meter at a nearby location.

    But Harvey is dumping even higher amounts (some places may see a meter and a half of rain) over a wider area. And that area has very little topographical relief–motorway overpasses are high ground there–so there is no downhill for all that water to flow. So the results will be nasty for southeast Texas. There are likely to be knock-on effects over much of the rest of the US because a large fraction of the gasoline refining capacity is clustered around the Port of Houston.

  87. #89 Eric Lund
    August 28, 2017

    “If this is supposed to be coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is supposed to be tea, please bring me some coffee.

    There is a lovely scene in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (at least the book; I think it was dropped from the movie) in which the NutriMatic machine on the Heart of Gold serves Arthur a cup of “a substance almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea”. Which is the most apt description of Lipton I have ever encountered.

  88. #90 Birger Johansson
    August 28, 2017

    I know Texas politicians think regulations= communism (remember that fireworks factory in ☆the middle of a town☆ that blew up) but in hurricane country it would make sense have rules for higher house foundations, lifting the floor level at least 3-4 ft above ground level.
    And scools and other public buildings should be designed from the outset to function as evacuation centers.
    Also, water mains need to be designed to avoid contamination during flooding. Higher internal pressure?

  89. #91 Birger Johansson
    August 28, 2017

    And the nutro- matic device took up so much processing power that the ship became incapable to defend itself when the Vogons attacked.

  90. #92 John Massey
    August 29, 2017

    Oh, that always happens – the bloody ship always becomes incapable of defending itself, just when you most need it to.

    Texans are just figuring out what we figured out in HK quite a while ago, after a rather belligerent but insightful politician asked “How many 1 in 100 year storms do you want to have?” That was after we’d had about 5 of them in successive years, but in 5 different areas. That’s not from climate change, at least not only from climate change – rainfall patterns are so variable that a “1 in 500 year rainfall” only applies to the location where you have the rain gauge. Next year, you could get a 1 in 500 year storm somewhere else. And again the following year, in a different area again. You have to scrap that system and work things out as a % of Probable Maximum Precipitation, and design for that.

    Plus they had the city zoned according to flood return periods, and banned housing development in the 1 in 100 year flood plain areas of rivers. But they’re now having at least a 1 in 500 year flood, and it could rise to a 1 in 1,000 year flood. And in theory, that’s a sufficiently rare event not to design for it. Unfortunately, there is the above-mentioned gaping hole in the theory.

    I’m currently half way through watching the 2017 Marvel Comics film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It’s childish, silly, full of 70s music and bad jokes, the highly attractive female lead has green skin, the lead supporting actress has antennae growing out of her forehead, and I’m loving every minute of it.

  91. #93 John Massey
    August 29, 2017

    The green woman had me totally fooled. She looked very familiar to me, but I just couldn’t place her. I kept thinking it must be a white actress painted green, which is what threw me. No, it’s Zoe Saldana, who is complexly multi-racial and identifies as black. Zoe is a very attractive woman in her own dark skin colour and black hair, but in green skin with reddish hair she is an absolute knock-out, and unrecognisable until you are told it’s her.

    Plus in the film she is the mature, adult, sensible, competent, business-like one trying to maintain order out of chaos, while all the male characters are behaving like very stupid adolescent schoolboys. Much like real life. Really very enjoyable.

  92. #94 John Massey
    August 29, 2017

    And speaking of scary females, how about this shot of 6’2.5″ Maria Sharapova after she beat World No. 2 Simona Halep in the first round of the US Open?

    Sith, anyone? Female Darth Vader? Welcome back, Masha – women’s tennis needed to get its Dark Lord back.

    http://www.wtatennis.com/sites/default/files/styles/highlight_news_mobile_1_33_1_2x/public/field/image/gettyimages-840344968.jpg

  93. #95 Phillip Helbig
    Tyskland
    August 29, 2017

    “At the risk of repeating myself, you need to read more.”

    I read more than anyone I know but, alas, I can’t read everything. I’ve learned some things, including about Japan, from the comments here.

    Still: Observation is prudishness, conclusion is “no wonder the birthrate is low” is wrong on several levels, even in Japan. First, most prudishness does not correlate with lack of sex. Second, even in Japan the main reason for the low birthrate is birth control.

  94. #96 John Massey
    August 29, 2017

    I said “no wonder the birth rate is so low” as a joke. The Japanese hardly rate as prudish compared to many other cultures.

    And never mind birth control, that has been around for a long time. Before the birth control pill there were condoms which were readily available. That is just a means, not a reason.

    The real question is: why are so many young people choosing not to get married/form a long term intimate relationship with someone, and for those who do, why are so many choosing to have no children at all?

    That is where you should be able to see that there is something unusual about the current generations of Japanese. Save for some irrelevant little places like Monaco, Japan has the world’s lowest birth rate. The question is why. It’s not obvious. And with the world’s most ageing population as a consequence, it can now only get worse, barring something unpredictable.

  95. #97 Eric Lund
    August 29, 2017

    John@92: Aside from the issues you point out with the concept of 1 in 100 year, etc., rainfalls, these things are generally based on less than 100 years of rainfall records. So the frequency estimate is necessarily an extrapolation, and it will be quite sensitive to the frequency distribution model you use. If you assume a Gaussian distribution, which in many areas is seen as the default assumption, you will severely underestimate the probability of extreme events if the actual underlying distribution turns out to be a power law.

    That was a contributing factor to the 2008 financial crisis: the risk modelers used a Gaussian probability distribution of extreme events when they should have used a power law. David Viniar, then CFO of Goldman Sachs, claimed that his traders “were seeing things that were 25-standard deviation moves, several days in a row.” If your underlying distribution is Gaussian, that should happen about once every 1.3*10^135 years. That’s 125 orders of magnitude larger than the age of the Universe. If you are seeing several days in a row of that, something is wrong with your model. And Goldman Sachs wasn’t the only Wall Street firm seeing those moves.

    I don’t know if rainfall and flood event frequencies are estimated assuming a Gaussian distribution. Perhaps you do, since I think this is closer to your field than mine. But my experience with geophysical phenomena is that a power law is a better description than a Gaussian.

  96. #98 Birger Johansson
    August 29, 2017

    I see South Sweden -which suffers from low water tables- will get plenty of rain while the northern coast will be mercifully dry.
    North Korea is predictably billigerent, but I would have been more impressed If the missile had not broken apart. This is why re- entry vehicles are important.

  97. #99 Eric Lund
    August 29, 2017

    I would have been more impressed If the missile had not broken apart

    Depending what DPRK uses in their nuclear weapons, a missile that breaks up can be bad news for a much larger area than one that stays intact through reentry. Plutonium is toxic stuff. Uranium isn’t as bad, but it can still kill you if you ingest too much. In both cases it’s the heavy metal toxicity, not the radiation, that would kill you.

  98. #100 Birger Johansson
    August 29, 2017

    BMW, mischievous feline just escaped,
    but fortunately went no further than the nearest bush.

    New computer games released: artistically interesting Cuphead, always provocative South Park.
    Max Brooks has written the book Minecraft; The Island.

  99. #101 Birger Johansson
    August 29, 2017

    Typo. BTW is not Bayerische Motor Werke.

    I am just reading Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch. It has many LGBT characters, but you hardly notice because the magic- related weirdness means you have to navigate around some more unique characters, not all of them human. You know, the odd river god, housekeepers with pointed teeth, unseelie fairies etc.
    If you like police procedurals with an unusual angle I can recommend Aaronovitch.

  100. #102 John Massey
    August 30, 2017

    Eric@97 – Yes, the same problem exists everywhere; the length of rainfall record is always a lot shorter than the ‘design storm’, so extrapolation is necessary, and is very sensitive to the frequency distribution assumed. It is an outdated concept and not a satisfactory approach, except for urban road drainage design, which is usually only designed for a 1 in 1 year storm – which I also think is unsatisfactory. Why would it be considered OK to design for roads to flood once every year? It never made sense to me, except that to design for longer return period rainfalls means that you end up with massive drainage systems for roads. But that’s what it takes.

    PMP is the only acceptable way to address the whole problem, and even then, we have had to recalculate and increase the PMP with time, as HK has been on a trend of increasing rainfall due to climate change for decades.

  101. #103 Birger Johansson
    August 30, 2017

    Soon last comment of August? To start off the fall, I see we will get a proper rain September 1st -appropriate for 78th anniversary of WWII.
    — — —

    “Australians love to swear, especially when it comes to what you can and can’t call Tony Abbott” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/30/australians-love-to-swear-especially-when-it-comes-to-what-you-can-and-cant-call-tony-abbott
    ‘Tony Abbot got drunk at work and passed out instead of attending important votes. Later he lied about it by saying everybody else was lying. When the truth finally came out, he said “no one ever accused me of being a knockabout Aussie”.
    In case media censors proper swear words, instead of ‘fuque’ and ‘can’t*’ I would choose “jävla idiotjävel!”

  102. #104 Eric Lund
    August 30, 2017

    urban road drainage design, which is usually only designed for a 1 in 1 year storm – which I also think is unsatisfactory

    I agree that a road that floods on average once a year is unsatisfactory. Even when we have enough of a historical record to assign such a frequency, that’s an average: some years the road will flood multiple times, other years it doesn’t flood at all.

    The roads around where I live do better than that, but that’s a byproduct of a design consideration that tropical locales like HK usually don’t have: drainage has to be sufficient to prevent water from freezing in the road bed, which causes frost heaves. That’s enough to prevent roads from flooding annually. We’ve also learned not to build roads too close to rivers. But we also haven’t paved over secondary water courses to the extent that many cities have, so at least we don’t have to replicate the no-longer-existing natural drainage.

  103. #105 John Massey
    August 30, 2017

    Birger@103 – As an Australian colleague of mine once remarked: “People are wrong about Tony Abbott. A can’t* is something nice and useful. That stupid prick is neither.”

  104. #106 Eric Lund
    August 30, 2017

    Later he lied about it by saying everybody else was lying.

    It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup, as Richard Nixon learned the hard way.

  105. #107 John Massey
    September 1, 2017

    Eric@106 – My experience with dealing with the media, and with watching the mistakes made by others in dealing with the media (and with politicians) led me to very quickly conclude never to (1) lie, or (2) conceal anything. If you do, it is the ‘cover up’ that rapidly becomes the story. Actually, those are good rules, not just for dealing with journalists and politicians, but for life.

    You need to protect yourself against psychos and others who will seek to exploit you, but beyond a sensible level of self-defence against human predators, the way to live a worthwhile life is always to tell what you believe to be the truth, and always to behave in a way that will not make you ashamed of your behaviour afterwards.

  106. #108 John Massey
    September 1, 2017

    Meanwhile, this is revealing:
    https://theconversation.com/revealed-who-supports-marriage-equality-in-australia-and-who-doesnt-82988

    So, the people who are ‘on the wrong side of history’ are stereotypically older, lower SES, religious people from non-English speaking backgrounds. Education level doesn’t seem to make much of a difference until you get down to people who did not manage to finish secondary schooling.

  107. #109 John Massey
    September 1, 2017

    Also, urban or rural matters, but that correlates pretty closely with income level – people living in rural environments tend to be low income earners. So it’s not clear that it is the living environment that makes a difference. And income correlates pretty well with Intelligence + conscientiousness, as does educational achievement.

    So what you are left with is that the people opposed to same-sex marriage are stereotypically older and dumber people, and religious people (and there is some inverse correlation between intelligence and religious belief, so smarter people tend to be less religious). And people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

    The context for language of country of origin is that the proportion of people in Australia who come from non-European countries is too small to matter. Chinese, although notably majority not religious, are notably conservative when it comes to ‘family values’, for example, but there are not enough of them in Australia to make a difference in how the whole country will vote on this issue. The same applies to religious groups like Muslims and Hindus – likely to be opposed, but too few of them to matter.

  108. #110 John Massey
    September 1, 2017

    There is one African woman from Kenya who migrated to Australia, became an Australian citizen, and has assimilated so well that she has been elected to the Federal Senate – which is no mean feat in Australia, because she is about as dark skinned as people can be, and speaks English still with a fairly strong accent, and is not someone that white Australians would normally want to put trust in and vote for when electing a person to a position of political responsibility. Well, bravo for her, she has overcome all sorts of discrimination and has succeeded.

    But she belongs to a political party called the Family First Party, which is a notably deeply conservative and deeply religious (Christian) party, and she is strongly opposed to same sex marriage, and notably vocal about it.

    What are her arguments against same sex marriage? It turns out that her main argument is that society in Australia has been as successful as it has been, based on a traditional family model, and you don’t want to do anything at all to change that, because that is opening a Pandora’s Box of all kinds of possibilities that might be very harmful to the things that make Australian society successful, and you have no way of knowing where that might go. So, change absolutely nothing, because you don’t know what that might result in.

    Well, good luck with that. One of the reasons that she can even be elected to the Senate, as a woman, is because of fundamental societal changes in Australia towards a more gender-equal society. The early suffragettes won the vote for women very early in the 20th Century, but after that, any movement toward more gender equality basically stalled, and it didn’t really start to build up a head of steam again until it started with the early feminists in the 1960s. And then Germaine Greer published “The Female Eunuch” in 1970, which I read as soon as it was published. That book was very widely read in Australia (Greer being an Australian) and was profoundly shocking to a lot of people at the time, but it really provoked a fundamental change in people’s thinking.

    And since then, there has been a lot of societal change in Australia in the direction of gender equality. You can argue that it still has a long way to go, and in a lot of ways that is true, but there is no question that in terms of gender equality, in Australia in 2017 society has undergone a very fundamental change from the way it was in the 1960s.

    And this former Kenyan lady has directly benefitted from the groundwork put in by people like Germaine Greer, in being able to pursue a public career as a national politician. But if we followed her advice, and changed nothing about the ‘successful family formula’ in Australia, and were still back in 1960s mode, she would be at home being a ‘housewife’, rather than sitting in the nation’s upper house of parliament and exercising very considerable political influence.

    I could go further and say that in the 1960s, Australia was still operating de facto the ‘White Australia Policy’ and she probably would have no chance of even migrating to the country, here we are in 2017 where someone like her can be elected to a position of political influence and power.

    And despite all of that fundamental change in society, *the roof hasn’t fallen in*. Society as we knew it has not collapsed. Very largely, Australian society still runs on the nuclear family model that it ran on in the 1960s, but it is OK now for women to pursue careers after marriage, including in fields that were traditionally closed to females.

    So, in advocating her “change nothing, because you don’t know what might happen” manifesto, she might just want to look behind her and appreciate all of the change that has already occurred and show a bit of appreciation for the mad old bats like Germaine Greer who made it happen; and a bit of recognition of the fact that, rather being a result of social construction, differences between men and women are largely biological, and passing a law that would give equal legal rights to a very small non-normative minority of the population will change absolutely nothing, except to give those people their rights.

  109. #111 Eric Lund
    September 1, 2017

    Also, urban or rural matters, but that correlates pretty closely with income level – people living in rural environments tend to be low income earners. So it’s not clear that it is the living environment that makes a difference. And income correlates pretty well with Intelligence + conscientiousness, as does educational achievement.

    I know you are talking about Australia rather than the US, so there will be some differences between your experience and mine, but there is a lot there that is contrary to my experience.

    I live in a small town. It happens to have a university, so it’s not a typical small town, but much of the small town dynamic still applies. It is hard to be anonymous in a small town. People will know who you are, and if you deviate significantly from the majority–whether in religious practice, sexual preference, or many other ways–it can be hard to find a group that you are comfortable with. These people tend to leave for the cities, which are more likely to have a compatible subculture. So in an urban environment you are more likely to know people who are gay/lesbian, or have different religious beliefs from you, or so on. It can be hard to disentangle this from socioeconomic status, because people in cities do tend to be richer than rural folk. But urban poverty exists as well, and at least in the US it is more visible than rural poverty.

    And at least in the US, income and intelligence + conscientiousness are poorly correlated. It’s not just Donald Trump; you see a lot of it on Wall Street as well. And many of those people attended top-ranked universities, often not because they were particularly smart but because their fathers and/or grandfathers attended the same university. Case in point: George W. Bush, who got into Yale because his father graduated from Yale and his grandfather was at the time on the Yale board of trustees. It is possible to get a job on Wall Street without a degree from one of a handful of top US universities, but it is much harder.

  110. #112 Eric Lund
    September 1, 2017

    John@109: I had a longer response that fell into the bit bucket, but at least in the US, the people who attend top universities are not necessarily the most intelligent. Via Atrios I found the following tweet from the Harvard Crimson, the student paper at the university of the same name:

    We made a mistake: 30.3% of surveyed Harvard freshmen are legacies, not 41.8%.

    Here “legacy” means a student who has at least one close relative, usually a parent but sometimes a sibling, uncle/aunt, or grandparent, who graduated from the same university. For instance, George W. Bush went to Yale. So did his father and grandfather; the latter was on the Board of Trustees at the time. And as my example implies, many legacies are not the best and brightest.

    Most private US universities, especially the well-regarded ones, give preference in admissions to children of alumni. (MIT is an exception.) It effectively amounts to affirmative action for the people who need it least. I have no argument with admitting people who qualify in their own right but who happen to be children of alumni. But because of things like regression to the mean, I would expect such cases to be a much smaller fraction of the freshman class than the 30% observed at Harvard. It should be closer to the overall admit rate: maybe a little higher because intelligence does have some inheritability, but not that much higher.

    So why go to Harvard or Yale when the students are not always the best? And when the teaching is not the best (one of the dirty secrets of American academia is that you don’t get a significantly better undergraduate education at Harvard than you would at Flagship State University)? Simple: by enrolling at Harvard you become a member of the Harvard Alumni Association, which is a great way to find jobs, particularly in places like Wall Street.

  111. #113 Eric Lund
    September 1, 2017

    John@109: I don’t agree with everything in your first paragraph, based on my experience in the US (Australia may well be different). I’ve had a couple of longer responses disappear into the bit bucket, so I will leave it at that and see if this response posts.

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