February Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Boomer neighbour calls me and tells me his water meter reads "420". "You're such a stoner" is what I avoid replying.
  • Every year my employers each send me a piece of paper telling me how much they've told the tax man that I've earned. A few months later, the tax man sends me a piece of paper telling me how much my employers have told me that I've earned. In a quarter century of managing my own money, I've never had any use whatsoever for the first piece of paper. In recent years I've begun sticking it straight into the recycling bin.
  • When the kids in the Minecraft videos that Jrette watches describe a really tall structure they call it "higher than Snoop Dogg".
  • Swedish problems: the municipality delivers brown paper recycling bags to our doorstep faster than we can use them.
  • The German word for catfish, Wels, is cognate with "whale". And it's been borrowed into English, where the species native to Northern Europe is called "wels catfish".
  • I want to go to the Abrolhos Islands and drink atholl brose.
  • If you plant an apple seed you will get a tree whose fruit looks very little like the original apple. This is because the seed shares only half of its DNA with the tree on which the apple grew.
  • I particularly love Wikipedia as a translation tool. It would be so hard to find translations for specialised terminology without it.
  • I just taught a small bird that if you peck angrily at the Rundkvist family's kitchen window ledge, then hemp seed appears in the bird feeder.
  • Hey archaeologists who have pondered the term "ceremonial site" -- the Woodland Cemetery south of Stockholm has one that's labelled as such on the plan. Wonder no more!
  • Recruitment of Swedish university faculty is a complicated process at the best of times. Now it's stalled entirely in this one case. An application reviewer has gone incommunicado. I figure this is a good thing. The competition isn't racking up qualifications faster than me, and as time passes the chance increases that they will accept other positions.
  • One day in 1513 Stockholm brass founder Henrik was speaking with town councillor Olof and his wife outside their home while trade goods were being winched up to their storage attic. A large packet of dried fish (pike, as it happens) fell from the crane and killed Henrik.
  • Sad because I just learned that funny Twitter regular Hanna Fange, the self-described "Truck Dyke", died two weeks ago.
  • There's currently no way to purge yourself of the potentially mind-altering cat/rat parasite Toxoplasma gondii. But I'd like to know if I've got it -- half of humanity has. And I wonder if there's already a way to push the infection load down, like with HIV.
  • Imagine a Christian writer who, out of religious humility, denies himself the right to comment on the central tenets of faith in the Bible. Instead he devotes his life to finding the most mundane, quotidian verses and ascribing spiritual significance to them.
  • Cantonese is more similar to the Yellow River origins of Chinese than is Mandarin. It hasn't undergone the same changes introduced by invaders from the north. Cantonese is the Icelandic of China.
  • Brits, Americans, seriously. If you'd just keep a population registry like civilised countries, you could get rid of the whole "register to vote" procedure. As a Swedish citizen with a known address, I just go to the polling station and say hello.
  • Kind of funny how the black and white face paint favoured by extreme metal bands goes back to the 70s bands that gave us "I Was Made For Loving You Baby", "I Wanna Rock And Roll All Night" and "No More Mister Nice Guy".
  • "I tried to be a homosexual. But it was only half in Ernest." /Ivor Biggun
  • Summing up his philosophy towards the end of his autobiography, Somerset Maugham reveals himself as really an extremely acute thinker. He shares my opinions on almost everything.
  • Early versions of MS-DOS had a BASIC interpreter called GW-BASIC. Wikipedia offers several interpretations of the G and the W: Greg Whitten, Gee-Whiz, Graphics Windows, Gates William, Gates-Whitten.
  • The International Space Station's trash is customarily sent to burn up from friction heat upon re-entry into the atmosphere. This time a camera will document what it looks like from inside the vehicle.
  • Through what is widely known as the most absurd coincidence in all of linguistics, the Maya city Chichen Itza's name actually does mean "chicken pizza".
  • I knew that one American rocketry pioneer was an occultist: Jack Parsons. Now Ken & Robin tell me that Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in Russia was also an occultist.
  • Mindblowing. A legal expert serving the Swedish Racist Party in Brussels has been unmasked posting hateful entries full of anti-Semitic and misogynistic slurs on a public on-line forum up until just a few months ago. And now he explains that he was still "rather immature" at the time!
  • Made a wry remark in my diary because my annual 1 January taking-stock there is so repetitive. Then, looking for something in an old diary file, I found that I'd already made that wry remark at least once years ago.
  • The jukebox in my head keeps getting this slow Mars Volta song mixed up with effing "La Isla Bonita".
  • Moved my music library onto Google Music. Am now reeling from the effect of listening to 2500 tunes on randomise.
  • The Internet made my kid give me Snickers bars for 14 February.
  • There's a two-part b/w Russian TV version of Solaris from 1968, pre-dating Tarkovsky's movie by four years.
  • The Copenhagen synagogue that was attacked by the terrorist is in ... wait for it ... Crystal Street.

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* Paper bags: recycle them. Ouroboros!

* The face paint thing originally comes from Japanese Kabuki. Especially the plays where the bad guy turns into a demon at the end (this was not high-brow entertainment at the time).

Re: tax forms, in the US we don't get the second piece of paper. We have to use the first one to calculate our taxes. And it matters whether that piece of paper is called a W-2 or a 1099-MISC. If it's the latter, we also have to pay payroll taxes on that income (generally about 15%) in addition to regular income tax.

As for voter registry, you assume that the people in charge would welcome a larger voter turnout. In parts of the US, that is not true, because the people who would find it easier to vote tend to vote for the opposition party. Some states are particularly hard on women who take their husband's name on marriage, as is traditional in most of the West. They are required to document every name change, which can be a problem for those who have been through multiple divorces and marriages. It's a strong argument for adopting the custom, common in China and Korea among other countries, of the wife keeping her family name.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 18 Feb 2015 #permalink

Progressive Americans are protesting the fact that it's hard to register to vote. They should be protesting the fact that you have to register at all.

You're misinformed. Britons don't do what Americans do, they do what you do in Sweden.

Boomer neighbour calls me and tells me his water meter reads “420”. “You’re such a stoner” is what I avoid replying.

I enjoy your blog. Need explanation for the above comment please. Re: voter registration, yes, we're messed up.

Thank you Grandma! See Wikipedia's article "420 (cannabis culture)".

Is Australia's system unique, in which you receive a heavy fine if you do not vote? Voting is mandatory, and there is no form of 'conscience vote' - if you invalidate your voting paper in some way and the electoral authority find out, you are in big trouble.

Likewise, the onus is on the Australian resident to ensure his name is on the electoral role, and if he does not, there are penalties (naturally). It becomes tedious. Trust me, it becomes tedious. The bureaucracy in Australia needs to be experienced to be believed, and it has a population of only 23 million.

#4 - What, have sex? I have been assured that is not the case.

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Feb 2015 #permalink

Every year my HK employer sends me a return on how much they have paid me for the year. The same information is forwarded to the taxation authority. Some time later, the taxation authority send me a notice to complete and submit my tax return, but they have already completed the return for me, and have advised me on how I can minimise my salaries tax liability - all I have to do is check it against my employer's return to make sure that the taxation authority have not made any mistakes (they never do), or omitted any source of salaries tax of which they are unaware (there never is), sign and submit the return, and pay the tax I am due to pay. The whole process takes 5 minutes. The more tax I have to pay, the happier I am, because HK salaries tax rates are minimal, and it means my salaries earnings have increased.

Don't get me started on the Australia taxation system. It explains why I no longer have any savings, assets or investments in Australia. In fact, it is one of the major reasons (not the only one - there are plenty of others, like violent crime rates and ubiquitous overt racism) I choose no longer to live in the country of my birth.

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Feb 2015 #permalink

The more tax I have to pay, the happier I am, because HK salaries tax rates are minimal, and it means my salaries earnings have increased.

The same is generally true in the US, and should hold for any reasonably constructed tax system (as it does for some unreasonably constructed tax systems, such as the US). The US has different tax rates that apply to various slices of income, from 10% at the lowest levels to (IIRC) 39.6% of salary income over a certain threshold. Those are marginal rates: if your taxable income is $1 more than the threshold above which the top rate applies, you pay the top rate only on that dollar. So if you are paying the tax man more this year, it means you had more income. I'd like to have a $1M tax bill, because it would mean that I had an income in the $2.5-3M range. Details will vary depending on country, but I expect that most income tax systems work in the same general fashion.

There have been higher top tax rates in the past, even in English-speaking countries. In the 1950s, an era to which many US politicians claim they would like to return, the top marginal rate was 90%. The UK in the 1960s had a top rate of 95%, according to noted economic historian George Harrison ("There's one for you, nineteen for me").

Of course, there are plenty of demagogues and willful idiots, at least in the US, who don't understand how tax brackets work. And the US tax system really is a mess. I have started to do my taxes, but can't finish them yet, because one of the critical forms (this one involves investment income) hasn't been sent yet. And then there are deductions based on things like charitable contributions and taxes paid to other jurisdictions--you can take a standard amount, or you can save the paperwork to justify a larger deduction. In my case, property tax alone (I pay more than $8k on a $300k house) justifies itemizing my deductions. There is also the anomaly that Social Security tax only applies up to a certain level, then drops to 0 above that level, so there is a point at which your marginal tax rate actually drops.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 18 Feb 2015 #permalink

#9 Eric, I was careful to say "salaries tax" in relation to Hong Kong. There is no investment tax here. If I buy some gold, and then sell it again a while later, and make a profit, that is my good luck, I will not be taxed on it. If I sold it at a loss, the government would not compensate me for the loss, so this seems fair. The same applies to any other form of investment.

This is why in Australia, if you want to buy some gold, you have to buy it from the government - so they can track how much you buy and sell, and how much profit you make on it. In Hong Kong, you can go and buy as much as you want from the nearest gold dealer, and it ain't nobody's bizness but yours. Every Chinese girl who gets married in HK does so bedecked with pure gold jewelry, which she keeps - that is her insurance policy. If the government tried to tax it, there would be a mass riot.

In Australia, "income tax" includes everything, even savings bank interest. A lot of Hongkies are totally gob-smacked when they discover this, because it seems barbaric to them that the government should tax people just for keeping money in a savings bank. That is because it is barbaric - it is a massive incentive to people not to save. In fact, it makes most sense in Australia to be deeply in debt, which is a hell of a way to run an economy.

And that is just federal income tax. If I add the state and municipal taxes and charges, the total % of your money taken away from you is frightening. This is just for lower middle class - a working mum and dad with say a couple of kids - they are leaching at least 70-80% out of your pocket. There is no working class in Australia - below lower middle comes the bludging class - the ones who live on money taken away from the working mums and dads with their two kids, and while away their time on booze and 420, while resenting the 'establishment' people (the working mums and dads and...you get the picture).

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Feb 2015 #permalink

#2 Eric - "the custom, common in China and Korea among other countries, of the wife keeping her family name."

I am delighted that you know this. A lot of people in the West are astonished bordering on disbelief that old fashioned, traditional Chinese women continue to use their own family names after marriage, and that this practice continues to the current generations. My wife continues to use her maiden name in HK and Mainland China, which causes us endless problems in Australia (think passports, joint bank accounts, etc.)

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Feb 2015 #permalink

Anyway, so, getting back to archaeology and related matters, the BIG PAPER from the genomics people has been out for over a week, and I assume by now everyone has read it, or at least has looked at the pictures (in which case the time series of maps on page 32 is not a bad place to start and immediately grasp what the paper is about).


This is a call to arms to archaeologists. The number of human remains available to the genomicists is obviously limited, so further advances in knowledge will now necessarily be incremental, but you guys have more material to work with, so you need to take the ball now and run with it. Forget the linguists, they seem to think it is unethical to work with anyone in a different discipline in any kind of cooperative way, so it is up to the archaeologists.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Feb 2015 #permalink

Martin, in Canada the problem with a central voting register is that it is available to people outside the government (i think that this may have originally been a democratic measure, like requiring updates to the Criminal Code to be available in certain places). In the days when it was on paper, stalkers and advertisers and cranks would go and copy it by hand or photocopy it; today they just download it. So if you want to keep your home address private, it is prudent to register every election. When I worked as an elections official we were told to err on the side of letting people vote rather than sticking to the letter of the law about ID and registration.

M - Do you have any cats?

If the answer is "No, vile creatures, and I don't want any" then you can probably safely assume you are not infested with Toxo.

If the answer is "Awww da lovely widdle puddy tats I love dem so much da cute furry fluffy widdle puddies", then I have bad news for you.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Feb 2015 #permalink

I have always been suspicious of the claim the Indo-Europeans -or *most* Indo-Europeans- arrived 2500 BC.
It seems unlikely they would have poured across Europe, from the Ukrainan steppes to Biscay and on to Britain in just a few centuries.
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Martin, if you want Jrette to get a good antidote to “Fifty Shades o Gray” I can recommend the Swedish-language graphic novel “Eva: Asbesthjärta” by Tinet Elmgren http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinet_Elmgren
The hard-as-nails protagonist is a young woman living in a fantasy city that is part Shanghai, part Berlin and seems influenced by “Sin City” and Hong Kong action films.
(It is not for timid readers)

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 19 Feb 2015 #permalink

...and there are weirder things than Minecraft: "Anime": http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3640#comic
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Of course Tsiolkovsky was an occultist. He was part of the early Russian analogy to the British "Laundry". The rocket research was part of a long-term plan to achieve parity with any unwelcome visitors from the dark.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 19 Feb 2015 #permalink

#15 - Well, it's more than just a claim now, so you can read the paper objectively with an unbiased mind and no prior convictions, and be fully satisfied on the point one way or another, can't you? To dismiss it like that when you can't possibly have had time to read and understand the whole paper and its extensive references is a pretty dismal indication of lack of scientific objectivity in my view, but I wouldn't want to give offence to such an incisive mind.

Highly mobile nomadic people who had domesticated the horse, and were lactose tolerant, invading a population of sedentary farmers? I don't find that hard to believe at all, particularly as the hard evidence shows that the effective population size in Europe dropped to one third during the period concerned.

But no doubt you prefer the version where everyone sat around a camp fire hugging each other, singing "Kumbaya" and swapping great ideas on how to decorate their pots.

M - I understand there is one test which is reliable - if you do not find the smell of cat's piss to be offensive, then you are probably infested. People who are not infested find the smell to be highly offensive.

Other indications are excessive neuroticism and slow reaction times.

In defence of women, you don't need to be female to be a cat lover. I know a fair number of male cat lovers, and live with two females who don't want them anywhere near them.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Feb 2015 #permalink

M - I don't think that just living in a household with one cat has put you or J'rette at any particular risk, though. There are routes to infection that are a lot riskier - consuming under-cooked meat or fruit and vegetables that have not been thoroughly washed, not taking adequate precautions to clean hands after cleaning out kitty litter boxes or whatever, taking in stray cats or worse, clusters of stray kittens which crap everywhere. Eating raw meat is a particularly bad idea, but that is a bad idea for other reasons as well.

And I think there is treatment that will, if not totally eradicate the parasites, at least reduce them to a low and manageable level. I don't see it as a dooms-day scenario just because your wives came feline-equipped.

The precautions are common-sense normal sanitary precautions, which I would imagine would be operating in the Rundkvist household. It's not like you married a succession of crazy cat women - such people do indeed exist, I have one in the Australian side of my family, a real one, who I do not doubt is infested, but she is in the habit of collecting all of the strays she can find. I doubt we are talking about that kind of scenario.

You can get tested if it is really bothering you, but it is not thought to be an acute health risk except to pregnant females and the immune-compromised. You might usefully remind J'rette of the hand, fruit and vegetable washing routines, if you haven't already done so, but those are strongly recommended practices for other reasons as well. And Mrs Rundkvist-Chou being Chinese, I imagine she already has those practices culturally ingrained already.

I think I am right in thinking that the most infested national population is in Brazil, but there, the most suspect route for infestation is via underdone red meat eating habits. I would expect the French might be similarly afflicted.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Feb 2015 #permalink

(OT) Engineers develop new air filter that could help Beijing residents breathe easily http://phys.org/news/2015-02-air-filter-beijing-residents-easily.html
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Kabuki: So the Japanese independently invented theater. Or is it building on earlier Chinese practises?
Factoid: The arabs -when translating greek manuscripts- did not really get the references to theater as they had no analog practise.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 19 Feb 2015 #permalink

@John: I suppose HK residents would be especially surprised by New Hampshire's state income tax. Yes, we do have one. It applies only to interest and dividend income. The first $2400 ($4800 for married couples filing joint returns) is exempt, so it misses the small-time saver, and it doesn't cover capital gains, so it misses the rich investor, but it hits the middle class. One reason I invest in US Treasury notes is that interest on direct US Federal debt obligations is by law not subject to state income tax. I could also avoid it by investing in New Hampshire municipal bonds (which are also exempt from US federal income tax), but those are scarce (only one municipality in the state has a AAA rating).

The US tax code does give favorable treatment to long-term capital gains (stuff you hold for one year or longer), but interest and dividends, as well as short-term cap gains, are taxed at standard rates. The logic here is to distinguish investing from speculating. I'm not sure how effective it is, because one year is still pretty short for a long term time horizon, and management at US companies is typically rewarded for short term results at the expense of long term profits.

I've spent most of my adult life in and around US research universities, so I have become acquainted with quite a few Chinese (mostly mainlanders, but some from HK or Taiwan, and some US-born) and some Koreans. The women usually don't take their husband's name unless they are marrying an American. Of course, once you start publishing papers there is a strong disincentive to changing your name (if you do, you have to somehow establish that F. M. Marriedname and F. M. Maidenname are the same person), so I know quite a few Western couples where the woman kept her family name. And in the internet era, I really don't see any advantage for a woman to take her husband's name--people who know her by her family name will find it hard to find her if she changes her name.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Feb 2015 #permalink

The irrefutable news is out. Kennewick Man was Native American. Or maybe more correctly, he descended directly from the first group of humans who crossed the Beringian land bridge to colonise the Americas and become the first Native Americans.


The evidence is now unequivocal. The proponents of a whole elaborate, and spurious, theory, the Solutrean theory, must now be prepared to change their fundamental priors based on a flawed assumption, or be consigned to a group who, in the face of overwhelming fact, continue to insist their version of 'reality' is the correct one, as if it is a form of religion - it is so because they continue to wish that it is so.

Strong new evidence requires fundamental re-examination of priors, as painful as that may be. If you don't, the main stream of the science don't care, they just roll on over you and you are forgotten as some kind of fringe crank.

There is some suggestion that Kabuki may have been derived from earlier forms of Chinese theatre, which were disreputable in their extreme - all performers were required to be male, and they were a vehicle for a particularly sordid form of male homosexuality. That is not the case to today - Chinese Opera has elevated itself to respectable and even venerable heights, and females play the part of females.

My daughter is already embarked on a career trajectory that will require that she starts publishing in her maiden name, and so the pressure to continue using her maiden name after she is married will be compelling. I fancy she would insist on doing this anyway. Which raises the slightly wobbly idea that, when she publishes in Chinese, she will be using my Chinese name, a name I was given for the sake of convenience when I arrived in HK to take up employment 37 years ago. Which is kind of amusing, but the slightly endearing thing is that no one cares - she went through all of kindergarten, primary and secondary school using my adopted Chinese family name as hers, it is now fixed and immutable on her HK Identity Card, and therefore on her Chinese re-entry permit as a Chinese citizen. And as long as we are faithful to the script, no one cares or sees anything wrong with this, and respects the idea.

I once was introduced to a senior guy from Shandong Province (my wife's ancestral province) who has the same family name as my adopted family name. He greeted me with a big smile and joked "I understand we are closely related." It's all actually rather fun.

I think it is yet one more small symptom of the fact that the Chinese civilisation has an inexhaustible ability to absorb foreign barbarians, to swallow them without trace and accept them as their own. I seriously don't mind. There are worse fates than being swallowed by a benign, accepting community, such that my girl will be recognised as a daughter of both Shandong and Australian; both, as she should.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Feb 2015 #permalink

Not ill-informed. In the UK we have a census every ten years, the results of which are confidential for 100 years. We have a separate Electoral Roll which is maintained by the local authority. You have to opt in to that. Registration is by household. There have been allegations that in some communities this has been manipulated by "community leaders" to register and guide members of their "community" how to vote, and also leaves many people without a vote. We've just had National Voter Registration Day as now each voter has to register.

By Neil Howlett (not verified) on 19 Feb 2015 #permalink

Charles Stross described cats as "furry velociraptors".
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Sceptic alert: Televangelist Pat Robertson: ‘Witches’ are ‘Cursing’ Babies Through Facebook Pictures of the ultrasound images http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2015/02/18/robertson-witches-are…
Meh. Witches’ spells rarely have an effect beyond 2 km. You have to make a human sacrifice to get some serious reach.
Suggestion: If you want to make $$$ without really working, set up a church and rent time on the satellite TV channels for your sermons.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 20 Feb 2015 #permalink

@Birger: Phil Collins and Genesis had Robertson's number back in 1991. (As well as Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, ….)

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 Feb 2015 #permalink

Christians... The Pope has just said trans people are bad, because they change the natural order.
.-Actually, the natural order is for people to be eaten by leopards. To compensate for the existence of trans people we could process Christians through the Colosseum in the traditional way.
Also, if shape-changers are bad, where does that leave lycans? And isn't Jesus the greatest shape-changer of all, performing transsubstitution in millions of churches?

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 20 Feb 2015 #permalink

If you don't mind, I have an obsessive fear of big cats - which I think is natural and healthy. Those people who go to that Buddhist monastery in Thailand to pose for photos sitting next to gigantic tigers are nuts. They're not big cute pussycats, they're apex predators, and their courage in sitting next to them would turn to instant diarrhea if one suddenly reverted to natural behaviour one day - which is bound to happen sooner or later.

Once I was swimming, actually snorkelling, in the ocean near where I lived, and two wild bottle nose dolphins decided to zoom up to have a close look at me. When they come at you, they come fast. I was looking at these huge dark creatures cutting through the water towards me lightning speed, and my brain was saying "Relax, the dorsal finds are rounded, they're dolphins, not sharks, so they're probably not going to kill you or mangle you horribly", while my central nervous system was screaming "Arms and legs, get me out of here", while acknowledging the obvious that by the time I got moving, they would already be on me.

It was OK. Dolphin attacks on humans are not unknown, but very rare, and in this case they both just shot right past me, evidently decided I was boring and rocketed off out to deeper water. My legs were still shaking when I made the beach. The risk had been absolutely minimal, but that didn't change the fact that I had just had a very close encounter with two very large wild alien creatures in their environment, where they could easily have killed me if they had felt hostile for any reason.

I mention that because I just heard a cetacean in the river tonight - I think it must have been a finless porpoise, hunting. I fancy I see one or two of them lurking in there, hunting fish now and again, but they are shy, secretive creatures which are hard to spot and identify conclusively.

I don't get why the Pope is getting his knickers in a twist - the main thing about trans people is that there are not that many of them, they are no threat to anyone or anything, and they suffer. If deserving of any significant attention, it should be out of compassion, not judgement. They don't change the order of anything at all - they don't have the numbers and never will - the frequency is not increasing. It can't.

By John Massey (not verified) on 22 Feb 2015 #permalink

Martin (and other parents): A journalist mother finds nothing available in the shops but fairy and princess themed junk for her young daughter, so she decides to do something about it. http://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/the-anti-princess-club-writer-m…
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A white supremacist heard about Kennewick man and wrote a "novel" titled "White Apocalypse" about the matter.. I am not linking to it because it is vomit-inducing. If you have a strong stomach you might enjoy it the way people today use "Plan Nine From Outer Space" as a comedy film.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 23 Feb 2015 #permalink

More news on the Toxoplasma gondii front from my daughter:

"A study of 191 young women in 1999 reported higher intelligence and lower guilt proneness in Toxoplasma-positive subjects."

She's wondering (jokingly, obviously) if she might be better off becoming infested.

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Nah, I've had enough from the nauseating white supremacists over Kennewick Man; it's now done and dusted, and it's time to bury them, sad people that they are.

By John Massey (not verified) on 23 Feb 2015 #permalink

The penny drops - hence the association between marriageable age women and cats - they're doing it on purpose.

You get that joke if you picked up that the neurobiological effects on men appear to be opposite to the effects on women - so deliberately getting a prospective husband infested would make him dumber and more guilt-ridden.

By John Massey (not verified) on 23 Feb 2015 #permalink

Science recently had an article about diseases that have no symptoms. Birds can have malaria and yet seemingly have no ill effects. Now it is found that chronic malaria infection shortens the telomeres, and birds with malaria have fewer offspring.
The question is, do other chronic, asymptomic infections also have similar subtle effects? What about herpes? Toxoplasma gondii? The discovery is certain to spur a lot of new research.
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I had a weird dream: A centre for refugees had set up shop next door to SD (the xenophobe party) headquarters. Lots of shouting in the street (fortunately, in real life the migrant authority is not that clueless).

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 24 Feb 2015 #permalink

Yeah. Toxoplasmosis has already been found to cause miscarriage in pregnant women, and is suspected to trigger schizophrenia, and you can bet for a certainty that with more research, more subtle effects will be found.

People should quit worrying about having their kids vaccinated, and prevent them from playing with cats instead. Would someone please tell that Kennedy guy? He keeps publishing stupid books.

By John Massey (not verified) on 24 Feb 2015 #permalink

My daughter didn't need any anti-princessification lessons.

But I'd say that, if Dr McAlpine thinks giving kids dolls to play with teaches them empathy, she's a drooling idiot. How does someone like that get a university job to peddle crank rubbish? How did she get a PhD? In what - doll-playing?

By John Massey (not verified) on 24 Feb 2015 #permalink

This guy will NOT be popular within the church hierarchy.
"Catholic priest dies for 48 minutes, comes back to life, and claims God Is female "
…but if this is “just” a near-death experience, does that mean other near-death experiences were hallucinations, too? (fake concern :) )
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Vikings were pioneers of craft and international trade, not just pillaging http://phys.org/news/2015-02-vikings-craft-international-pillaging.html

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 24 Feb 2015 #permalink

Here's a nice bed time story for the kiddies. Leprosy comes as a bit of a shock the first time you meet it face to face in the modern world.

In Australia I worked with a friend who kept a genuine Aboriginal didgeridoo in his office. Whenever anyone new went to his office, they would set sight on this impressive looking Aboriginal artefact and ask if they could have a blow on it, to see if they could play it. "Sure, give it a try" he would say, chuckling. So they would put their mouths on it and hufff and puff for a while.

Then he would tell them that the old Aboriginal guy who had made it was a leper (true, he was - he was the gardner working outside the office, and they could observe him out the window, with his missing fingers and toes and other bits), and watch them frantically grab things to scrub their mouths with. It was one of his favourite tricks - he had several.

It's actually the Year of the Goat, but it's a trap for the unwary, because in Chinese they just use the name for the genus, which is the same for sheep and goats.

By John Massey (not verified) on 24 Feb 2015 #permalink

On reading the Pepe Escobar article Birger linked, I'd say that worries about a real estate bubble in China are valid. I won't venture a prediction of when the bubble will pop--remember the relative abilities of markets to remain irrational and you to remain solvent. But reading between the lines, I see signs that the Greater Fool Theory has adherents among Chinese real estate wheeler-dealers. The flaw in the Greater Fool Theory, of course, is that there is only a finite number of greater fools. Chinese are just as human as Westerners, and subject to many of the same faults, so I find their claims of "This time is different because…" unpersuasive.

I've also hear this year referred to as the Year of the Ram. Again, same character in Chinese as sheep and goat. But "goat" is probably the best translation, since sheep are not native to that part of Asia.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 24 Feb 2015 #permalink

Eric, yes, I wouldn't be buying into Mainland real estate at this point. I have heard the "This time is different because..." story before.

Mind you, bubbles can float along for a long time, as it is doing in Australia. You figure sooner or later it has to deflate; it's a matter of when. In stead of popping, it could just quietly deflate slowly over a long time period.

But I wouldn't be buying.

Hong Kong is different - totally different market. I am expecting rampant inflation to break out some time, due to all of the ongoing money-printing, in which case it seems sensible to have most of one's savings in hard assets rather than cash. But as with all markets, it's a matter of the timing.

By John Massey (not verified) on 24 Feb 2015 #permalink

Cohen the Barbarian (the Discworld guy) was born in the Century of the Fruitbat.
In Discworld , the number "8" is considered unlucky, because of Bel-Shamharoth (see the first novel in the series), also known as "the sender of eight".
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Norway's Muslims form protective human ring around synagogue http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/norwegian-muslims-to-form-human-rin…

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 24 Feb 2015 #permalink

Just read that giant gerbils living along the silk road may have contributed more than rats to the black death epidemic.
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(Relevant when calculating how much soot from Eastern Asia contributes to the melting ice cover)
"A new way to quantify and track soot from its source to destination" http://phys.org/news/2015-02-quantify-track-soot-source-destination.html

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 24 Feb 2015 #permalink

I am expecting rampant inflation to break out some time, due to all of the ongoing money-printing, in which case it seems sensible to have most of one’s savings in hard assets rather than cash.

I've been hearing claims of imminent rampant inflation since before the US real estate bubble popped in 2008. It hasn't happened yet. That doesn't mean it can't happen, but so far demand for safe investments such as US Treasury bills/notes/bonds has kept rates low in the US. If I am remembering correctly that the USD/HKD exchange rate is fixed, I'm not sure where your short-term inflation expectations are coming from. Euro-land is in even worse shape: central bankers in Germany and other countries so fear a repeat of Weimar-type hyperinflation that in the short run deflation is more of a worry than inflation in countries that use the Euro (countries such as Greece get the worst of both worlds: all the drawbacks of hard currency since they can't devalue, and all the drawbacks of fiat currency since in principle somebody else can).

I also hear persistent rumors that many wealthy Chinese are buying property in certain North American markets (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and New York being the most common choices). Part of it is practical: it helps them (or their children) obtain green cards or Canadian landed immigrant status, which has advantages for foreigners doing business in North America. But some also apparently fear what might happen if the current Chinese government were to fail (as has happened several times in history; for the current government I would say the chances are small but not zero) and want to have a place they can run to. Of course this would be a major black swan event, so if it happened anybody who hadn't made arrangements would lose most or all of their wealth, or worse.

Among Chinese student immigrants I have known, many more have settled permanently in the US than returned to China.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 24 Feb 2015 #permalink

If you want to know what's happening in China, don't read the Grauniad, or any of the other manipulated Western trash media. I'm not doing to respond to every ridiculous piece of garbage about China published by the Western Press, but think:

What happened in Russia after the collapse of Communism? A massive resurgence of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

There is an ethnic vacuum in China, and New Confucianism is helping to fill part of it. Yes, of course, New Confucianism has always been around in China.

My daughter is absolutely furious with Apple. She installed Yosemite, and now is frantically trying to uninstall it again. She says it's rubbish. If anyone knows how she can get rid of it again, we would be grateful for some advice.

By John Massey (not verified) on 25 Feb 2015 #permalink

I'd love to know that person's Mt or Y DNA, but I guess that's going to take a while.

By John Massey (not verified) on 25 Feb 2015 #permalink

My daughter is absolutely furious with Apple. She installed Yosemite, and now is frantically trying to uninstall it again. She says it’s rubbish. If anyone knows how she can get rid of it again, we would be grateful for some advice.

Does she have a Time Machine backup? If so, then she can go back to a point in time before she installed Yosemite (but she may have to be careful about handling documents she has modified since then). If not, why not? External hard drives are about US$50-60 per terabyte, at least in the US, and Time Machine has saved my bacon more than once. I also, every now and then, do a manual backup to a different hard drive (it's easy to do from the Terminal with a sudo command; I assume you know enough Unix to figure out the rest).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 25 Feb 2015 #permalink

It does't work - when you install Yosemite, it asks you whether to save you Time Machine back-ups in Mavericks, or not, and she didn't.

So she can't revert to an early time when she had Mavericks operating.

So it seems there's no way to uninstall it, and she says that Yosemite is so bad that her iMac is now virtually useless to her.

By John Massey (not verified) on 25 Feb 2015 #permalink

I might add I'm not finding Yosemite to such a bad experience, but I use my iMac for different things than she uses hers. Plus she is particularly discerning/sensitive to a whole lot of stuff, like blurriness of images, which she says she is getting.

By John Massey (not verified) on 25 Feb 2015 #permalink

Panic over - she has managed to restore Mavericks from Time Machine, it just took some doing to figure out how to do it.

She thinks the release of Yosemite was done to suit retine screens, which she chose not to get, so she is now investigating Microsoft and Linux, on the grounds that support for Mavericks will not last forever, and after being an Apple used for many yeas, she is losing faith in them and thinking she might change horses.

Pity - Apple have been so good for so long, but they now seem to be going off, somewhat.

By John Massey (not verified) on 25 Feb 2015 #permalink

retine - retina

By John Massey (not verified) on 25 Feb 2015 #permalink

Skeptic alert! "200-Year-Old Mummified Monk Not Dead, Just Meditating, Buddhism Expert Claims" http://www.odditycentral.com/news/200-year-old-mummified-monk-not-dead-…
..like that Bad Santa they dug up in “Rare Exports”?
Other fun stuff: Republicans think altering damaged mtDNA of an embryo means the fetus gets three parents, which is a big no-no. One state senator said that "natural" chimeras are OK but not synthetic ones, and went on to talk about centaurs (I am not making this stuff up).
-John, if you get a quantum computer, you might get to use "closed timelike curves" (Nature Communications, Vol.5, article 4145) -a qubit can interact with an older version of itself.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 26 Feb 2015 #permalink

Birger @52: Do the authors of that paper explain why their closed timelike curves do not violate the rules of relativity? We may not have a theory of quantum gravity yet, but quantum mechanics and special relativity are compatible: they have been combined in quantum electrodynamics. You can have phase fronts moving faster than light, but phase fronts don't contain information. Anything that does contain information must move at speeds less than or equal to c.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 26 Feb 2015 #permalink