October Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • The Relentless Babblings of the Darkmire Soothsayer: "And then there shall come a day when things will be lost and people won't know where things really are and brothers will run away for absolutely no reason at all and fathers won't know where other fathers are or where they once were. And friends will walk about with strange things wrapped around themselves and things will happen on distant hills and parents will look for things and won't find them because of what their children had done the night before. And the sky will do strange and wonderful things that no one knows of and people will marvel at friends who have new names and birds will be different and carpenters will lose other carpenters' things." (From the 1987 adventure game Shadowgate, and clearly inspired by Life of Brian)
  • Jrette delighted to hear Boney M's 1976 "Ma Baker" with the "muh-muh-muh-muuuh" bit that Lady Gaga sampled in "Pokerface".
  • Picea are spruce and Abies are firs. But Picea abies is the spruce species that covers most of Sweden. Gah.
  • In an assignment, this student offers a particularly good definition of a term and dutifully refers to where he found it: on Wikipedia. In an article written by me.
  • The 50-page test let's me abandon boring books swiftly. But it's not quite the thing for short-story anthologies with many authors. I've decided that they deserve a 100-page test.
  • Moral conundrum. We hired a cleaning lady via a local firm, all above board, no money under the table. She does a good job and, since she speaks no Western language, I imagine that she's happy to have work. BUT. She has a really bad back and is clearly in considerable pain. At the moment, at least, she should not be cleaning even her own house. I don't know if her condition is chronic. I don't know if her employer knows about it, nor how they would react. Now I don't quite know what my responsibility is.
  • Just got back from a walk. I'm one of those men you'll see wandering about on a work day holding a beer can. Only I hold mine upside down or sideways.
  • The reason that the Apples in Stereo haven't released an album since 2010 seems to be that Robert Schneider is doing a PhD in maths.
  • Windows 8 preserves the old bug where a locally deleted desktop icon sometimes gets globally deleted, even if the user deleting it isn't admin.
  • In Diplomacy, it's equally easy to conquer Saint Petersburg from the White Sea as from the Gulf of Finland.
  • I'm mixing flour, water, yeast and dill. I really knead a dill dough tonight.
  • Pork mince is "Flesh Farce" in Swedish.
  • Poor website coding: when you have to enter your Swedish ID number with a dash.
  • Remembering some of the weird scifi and fantasy I read before age 10, I realise that I've never really had a normal worldview.
  • Mike Carey, quit telling me that your protagonist almost but not quite remembers or recognises something important. It's getting really old.
  • I was wondering why I was walking so fast and purposefully, and just generally being so full of energy at a time of the day when I can often barely stay awake. Then I realised: I had a fourth cup of tea today, which hardly ever happens. I'm jumpin' on uppers.
  • Heard a Duran Duran song, thought "that's the freak comeback hit they had quite recently, long after their heyday", checked, found that it's from 1993.
  • Mark Knopfler wrote "Private Dancer".
  • If you leave an induction stove on, as long as there's no ferrous metal pan or skillet on it, you run no fire risk.
  • Mariah Carey's 1994 hit "Without you" is a cover of a Badfinger song from 1970.
  • My wife thinks my empty email inbox and my clean desk are creepy.
  • Played my first game of Diplomacy. Got annihilated.
  • Danish colleague recommends cheese: Old Werner. "If it was named for a real person, then that man really needed a long hot bath." A countrywoman follows with another recommendation: "In Ingerslev Square in Aarhus they sell a cheese called Evil Arnie".
  • Everything happens for a reason. And that reason is causality.
  • Had an exquisitely psychedelic experience involving a belly-dancing neighbour and a camcorder in the playground next to my house.
  • The Indian guru/charlatan Sai Baba constantly took sexual advantage of his followers and their kids. He should have been known as Swami Salami.
  • Advertising fail: Telenor rents corner of Bromma departures hall, removes the only comfy chairs, replaces them with ugly uncomfy metal ones. I now hate Telenor.
  • After calculus removal: unfamiliar rough surfaces on bases of lower incisors.
  • The protagonist of this Bujold novel is summarising the first 3/4 of the story to a character who hasn't taken part in it. Bujold-as-narrator comments: "His story was growing hopelessly tangled." Perceptive, Bujold, perceptive indeed.
  • One of my favourite songs encapsulates tech history. In 1998's "Ice Hockey Hair", the Super Furry Animals sing "Phone me, page me, fax me 'til I'm silly".
  • The salmon and beavers in central Stockholm are accompanied by seals, reports a friend. Some environmental changes are going the right way!
  • Yay! Optical fibre up and running in our house!
  • I realised something that reminded me of what a remarkable woman my wife is. She's on the third year of her second university degree. But I haven't had to support her with a single krona. Then again, I guess she has a pretty realistic idea of just how little financial support I could actually offer if push came to shove.

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Bravo! As for the woman with the bad back, start by finding a way to show her that you care.

In Diplomacy, it’s equally easy to conquer Saint Petersburg from the White Sea as from the Gulf of Finland.

You can also support your naval attack on Spain's Mediterranean coast with a fleet off of Spain's north coast, or vice versa. There is a similar issue with Bulgaria, though that one isn't quite as ridiculous because the distance between the two coasts isn't that large. But yes, the ability to capture St. Petersburg from the north--attacking with a fleet, no less!--is absurd.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 17 Oct 2014 #permalink

Ooh, which Bujold novel? I love her stuff.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 17 Oct 2014 #permalink

Yeah, I like Bujold too, though the Curse of Chalion that I was reading has kind of a contrived plot. She even comments on that in the book, making the contrivances signs of meddling gods.

Causality = things happen because things happen that make things happen. With a bit of tweaking, you could make a religion out of that...

By Jim Sweeney (not verified) on 18 Oct 2014 #permalink

Jim, I think Ron Hubbard and, wossname, Smith beat you to it. And a gazillion others whose names are lost in time (which is what makes them respectable religions).
"My wife thinks my empty email inbox and my clean desk are creepy." She obviously associates cleanliness with Dexter Morgan. No bloodstains to be found by prying cops.
The British agent Reilly tried to overthrow Lenin with a British intervention from Murmansk and Archangelsk (on opposite sides of the White Sea). Unfortunately, the idiots in the British government only sent 500 men, which is why the Soviet Union had to endure 30 million dead under communism (20 million more, if you include the losses during WWII).

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 18 Oct 2014 #permalink

"she speaks no Western language" Is there any friend at the university that might volunteer to be an interpreter? That way you can probe the situation, *but* make it clear to her the answers will not have an impact on her ability to make money by cleaning your place, or she might just say everything is fine.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 18 Oct 2014 #permalink

That nagging old Cree woman wrote "Up where we belong". Considering what has happened to her people, it must be one of the most open-hearted conciliatory songs ever.


Time goes by,
No time to cry,
Life is you and I,
Here today.

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Oct 2014 #permalink

Fir is a subset of pines (hence "Fura" being the same as "tall")
A spruce is a gran. A goose flies above granar. A Spruce Goose is a very big aircraft. Some say it was designed by Howard Hughes, some say it was designed by Montgomery Burns. The truth is, Hughes built the original Spruce Goose for the USAF. Burns built his aircraft for Hitler, which soured his relationship with Roosevelt and led to him being drafted to the same unit as Grandpa Simpson during WWII.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 20 Oct 2014 #permalink

Re @12, I saw this on television (the Simpsons), so it has to be true!
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
(Skeptic alert) Hooray! There is a cure for Ebola. The secret according to this article: urine!
"if it had some ur-ine,
I’d drink it in the morning,
I’d drink it in the eve-ning,
All over this land.
I’d drink out di-sease.
I’d drink out E-bo-la.
I’d drink out love between,
My urine and me,
All over this land."

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 21 Oct 2014 #permalink

John, as usual the name Matthias Meyer (or Svante Pääbo) turns up among authors.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 23 Oct 2014 #permalink


Or David Reich? Or Pontus Skoglund?

Meyer works at Max Planck - why shouldn't his name turn up?

Your point is?

Or is this some deep, terribly funny, inscrutable Scandinavian joke, where the joke is oh so much more amusing than the deep scientific implications of this fantastic piece of work?

By John Massey (not verified) on 23 Oct 2014 #permalink

No joke, as usual the group around Pääbo and Meyer is creating immensely interesting work, nailing down the time table of migration during the latter half of the ice age. I am hoping we will see finds mapping the spread of modern humans in Asia as well. I am amazed that a relatively small group centered at Max Planck has been churning out so much information of the distant past, once the immense hurdles of DNA contamination were (mostly*) solved.
* it is still a major problem, but can occasionally be overcome.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 24 Oct 2014 #permalink

John @21: The big news in that piece is the evidence of pre-Columbian contact between Polynesians and indigenous South Americans. Easter Island is pretty much in the middle of nowhere--it's about 3000 km west of mainland Chile, and the nearest neighboring land, Pitcairn Island, is about 2000 km away. The rest--including the fact that they somehow reached Madagascar--I knew about.

One unanswered question: how did they manage to skip Australia? It's not that far from Indonesia to Australia, and not a whole lot of land in the Indian Ocean before you get to Madagascar.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 29 Oct 2014 #permalink

No, some bloke covered in tattoos drove up in a ute (a pick-up truck) with a big sign stuck on the back that said "Fuck off, we're full." I'm not being remotely satirical with this; such signs are a frequent sight around the major cities.

But back before Whitey arrrived, when the civilised people were still in charge, they did trade - the Austronesians had an inexhaustible demand for sandal wood and bêche de mer (fancy name for utterly revolting sea slugs which have neither flavour nor texture to recommend them) for trade with the Chinese, and apparently had stuff that the Aboriginal people wanted - seems like decorative shells, mostly.

It is pretty well documented now that Austronesian fishermen/traders infected Aboriginal people with small pox. Not that it makes much difference; small pox was just the first round of many more lethal epidemics to come. Measles was a killer for Abos, as was whooping cough, and many of the other 'common' childhood diseases to which we Northern Euros have reasonably stout immunity.

And most of Australia, and I mean most, is hot desert, and not the sort of place that would be likely to entice you to settle down. The Abos, of course, arrived during a different climate and vegetation regime when it was likely to be considerably more attractive (if you discount Megalania, Thylcoleo carnifex, etc - I've been given various pompous dismissals for why those animals would not have posed a threat to the original Aborignal arrivals, and I'm sorry, but I just don't buy it - a 6 metre long monitor lizard with toxic venom that hunts as an ambush hunter is what it is. A presudo-felid with a bite stronger than a modern african lion that was also an ambush hunter from cover in trees is also what it is. No threat to humans? OK, let's set up an experiment - stick a bunch of people armed with pointy sticks, fire and nothing else on an island crawling with leopards and Komodo dragons and leave them there for several months, and see how well they do.)

And yeah, probably quite a few stepped ashore, said "hi" and got speared. It's not a lot worse than what happens now.

By John Feudal-Overlord (not verified) on 29 Oct 2014 #permalink

Serious answer, Eric - by the recent Neolithic, aside from a few narrow northern coastal pockets which were already heavily populated (and which are crawling with huge and very aggressive salt water crocodiles), the Australian environment was definitely not an attractive place to set up a permanent home.

Most of the places colonised by the Austronesian expansion were previousy uninhabited, and in those places that were inhabited, like PNG, they made very little penetration beyond the coastal strip. In other places like Fiji, they interbred with the resident Melanesians - how willingly is open to imagination, but I can picture big canoes coming ashore, or being met while still at sea by Fijian war canoes, being overwhelmed by Fijian warriors who then killed all the men on board and took the women.

By John Feudal-Overlord (not verified) on 29 Oct 2014 #permalink

John -- thank you for the info! I did know that on our first foray out of Africa, our species did what all sensible species usually do and follow the habitat they are well adapted to. That is, stay in their climate zone, move east, colonise Australia. But I wasn't aware that Australia looked a lot different back then in terms of its natural environment.