June Pieces Of My Mind #2


  • Archive finds strike me as a weak kind of empirical discovery. OK, so you've found a piece of writing that had been forgotten. Now you're writing a paper about it. How long will it take before your paper is forgotten? When will it be found again, as an archive meta find? Or conversely: is any piece of extant writing really in a state of forgottenness? On a planet with 7 billion people, is there an important difference between no living person knowing about a piece of extant writing -- and seven specialists knowing about it?
  • As in any strong democracy, you have the right to voter confidentiality in Sweden. Oddly enough, many older Swedes act as if voter confidentiality were a duty. I don’t understand this. It’s not like most of them have lived in times when you got penalised for voting a certain way. I tend to think that I’d better let everybody know how I vote, because since I am universally admired this will lead to people voting like I do. Cf. celebrity product endorsements.
  • I've been feeling sad and semi-despondent about my academic so-called career lately. But then I looked at the evidence. Three years ago I'd never even had a temp job in higher education. And though I'm still temping, I've been doing so steadily more and more for every academic year. I guess you get spoiled quickly. And, of course, I had pretty high expectations already after completing my PhD twelve years ago, so anything short of tenure feels fairly unimpressive to me.
  • It doesn't bother me that retail is moving from high street store space to the internet. I was never a recreational shopper. And the breadth of available goods is incomparably greater these days. Business model, meet new set of selection pressures.
  • Proud and reassured upon receiving Jr's grades for junior high!
  • Sweden didn't have Burger King in the 13th century, but we did have Birger Jarl.
  • Solsidan is an area of large expensive houses near the sea, much like Baggensudden where I grew up. Thanks to a recent hit TV show its name has become synonymous with rich people. Now there's a running competition around the area. The 10 km track is named Upper Class. The 5 km track is named Middle Class. After some pondering I've decided that this is healthy self-irony.
  • Sad to learn that the Danish Racist Party got 21% of the parliamentary vote.
  • The Swedish word for tarpaulin is presenning. It is cognate with Eng. precinct. Both go back to Lat. precingere, "to encircle".
  • Recruitment to Swedish academic jobs is a mess. Two formally recognised sets of rules collide with each other and with strong informal motivations. 1. Meritocracy and optimal public spending: recruit the best-qualified person on the labour market. 2. Labour laws and union interests: rules about job security originally formulated for ball bearing factories. 3. Local and personal relationships and ambitions. "I want to recruit my buddy who shares my views and has been temping here for years and has valuable local contacts and is on my grant proposal."
  • I fed a neighbour's hamster. The place smelled just like by buddy Örjan's childhood home. Then I walked past a pile of softwood at a building site. It smelled just like the new washroom at camp where I hugged a girl.
  • Why is it suddenly news that we are causing a mass extinction? I started reading about that like 15 years ago.
  • Göran Hägg's 1983 novel Doktor Elgcrantz is intensely interesting to me, not least because it's set on campus in Umeå where I've worked for two semesters. And I found this gem on p. 24 f (I translate): “Most people have never had one original thought in their lives. In this respect there is no difference between a car repair shop, a primary school or a university. But the problem becomes acute at the latter place, particularly on the post-gradate level. As research and academic activity see landslide growth, the problem becomes insufferable. And to solve it, as years went by the academic milieu created something called 'new methods', that is, intellectual fads. Every five years a 'new movement' appears that the vigilant humanities scholar needs to sniff out and convert to as early as possible. It is all about citing 'new' authorities, which takes the place of independent thought but gives the same impression of intellectual vigor.” When I say “gem”, what I mean is of course “that thing that I always say”.
  • On the song "Návdi" on their 1997 album Hippjokk, Hedningarna have sampled a capercaillie mating call and looped it as a beat.
  • Decided not to bring bongos and have team members take turns playing them all through four weeks of fieldwork.
  • Just realised that "The Notting Hillbillies" is a pun.
  • Taught the students Saboteur two days ago. Tonight they played it without me. Happy gamer / teacher / dad / site manager.
  • Göran Hägg makes fun of "heterarchy" as a fad jargon term already in Doktor Elgcrantz.
  • The US is nearing the end of a black president's second term and just legalised gay marriage on the federal level, as a space probe arrives at Pluto. Toto, I have a feeling we're not in the 80s any more!
  • I spend way too much time and energy in fruitless and maudlin contemplation of my career prospects. I've decided to purposely ignore that subject for the rest of 2015, except for every third Monday when my calendar tells me to check the university job ads. Instead I shall steer my thoughts onto subjects I enjoy.
  • Jrette's Chinese lessons have taken on a new form. My wife is reading Ronia the Robber's Daughter and Jrette checks difficult passages against the Swedish original.

More like this

And to solve it, as years went by the academic milieu created something called ‘new methods’, that is, intellectual fads. Every five years a ‘new movement’ appears that the vigilant humanities scholar needs to sniff out and convert to as early as possible.

The problem is not as bad in physical sciences, because reality imposes strict constraints. (Physics is sometimes said to obey a totalitarian principle: whatever is not forbidden is compulsory.) But scientists are not immune to this phenomenon. About once or twice a decade some discovery takes my field by storm, and suddenly people are seeing it everywhere.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 06 Jul 2015 #permalink

“Most people have never had one original thought in their lives"
I discovered this as a teenager. I would have some insight I considered brilliant, and every time I would find some one else had the same insight 100 or 200 years ago, and expressed it in a much more elegant way than I could ever do.
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BTW someone famous was born 80 years ago. I do not expect this someone to be mentioned on Chinese TV :-)

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 06 Jul 2015 #permalink

(OT) Something the Chinese (and everyone else) need to know.
“LEAKED: How the Biggest Banks Are Conspiring to Rip Up Financial Regulations around the World”
Excerpt:“Together, the three treaties form not only a new legal order shaped for transnational corporations, but a new economic ‘grand enclosure,’ which excludes China and all other BRICS countries” declared WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange in a press statement.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 06 Jul 2015 #permalink

Tenzin Gyatso?

No, they didn't mention him.

By John Massey (not verified) on 06 Jul 2015 #permalink

Recently, I finally gave in to pressure and watched the 1960 film "The World of Suzie Wong."

On some levels, that is a very deeply disturbing film. Aside from William Holden, who did pretty well with an awful script, the acting performances were uniformly abysmal, with the sole exception of Jacqui Chan, who plays the part of the skinny bespectacled prostitute Gwennie Lee, who is forever knitting because she is too unattractive to get any customers - she shines alongside Holden as the only two actors who give credible performances.

Nancy Kwan gave an absolutely dreadful performance in the title role. Her mock-Cantonese was so bizarre that it was unintelligible (which is really odd, considering her history - she attended Maryknoll Convent School (which is still there) until she was 13, but it was as if she had never heard real Cantonese spoken in her life before), and likewise the Chinese women who played the parts of the other Wanchai prostitutes, in contrast to the few occasions in the film when William Holden spoke Cantonese, which he did creditably well.

Kwan was clearly no method actress. She portrayed Suzie Wong as some kind of robotic simpleton living in an imaginary world. I have known women who were illiterate because they were denied the chance to attend school - they behave just like normal people, they just can't read or write. They are not idiots.

But on another level, the film was shot in Hong Kong in 1960, and the teeming crowds of unpaid extras were just normal Hong Kong people going about their daily lives. It was very close to the Hong Kong I encountered when I arrived in 1978, and made me feel quite nostalgic, although I would not choose to return to those times, when Hong Kong was just starting to transition from 3rd world sweat shop to a modern first world city. I knew progress was being made towards prosperous modernity when I found jars of Vegemite and frozen Australian meat pies in the local supermarket for the first time in 1979.

On balance, it's an awful film full of awful performances, and the critical response it drew in the West when it was released says far more about the bizarrely distorted view Westerners had of Chinese than anything else. But as a travelogue of what the backdrop of Hong Kong was like in 1960s and 1970s (including the landslides/structural collapses in the illegal squatter village portrayed in the film), it is excellent.

By John Massey (not verified) on 06 Jul 2015 #permalink

I'm being a bit unfair to Sylvia Syms - her performance was faultless. But then, she was a young English woman playing the part of an ordinary, nice young English woman, so no real acting was required.

Nancy Kwan, on the other hand, was a very wealthy half-Chinese rich girl living largely a privileged life as a child and young woman living a sheltered existence who was clearly totally out of touch with ordinary Chinese life at the time, and it is painfully evident that she made no effort to study real-life Chinese prostitutes of that era who, far from being the simpleton she portrayed, were what you would expect - worldly, hard-bitten, demanding types who felt anything but affection for their prospective customers - contempt would be a closer description, from what I saw.

By John Massey (not verified) on 07 Jul 2015 #permalink

"we’re not in the 80s any more!"
Wasn't "Wall Street" an eighties film? And banks and other financial heavyweights ripping off everyone else -it just goes on, se comment # 3. The difference is, no one is going to jail today.
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"The problem is not as bad in physical sciences"
-but manageiral fads affect the politicians that hold the purses. And now and then we get people who think we should invest less resources in "blue sky" research and more into easily applied stuff.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 07 Jul 2015 #permalink

I knew progress was being made towards prosperous modernity when I found jars of Vegemite and frozen Australian meat pies in the local supermarket for the first time in 1979.

I haven't actually had Vegemite; that seems to be an Australian thing. The first I ever heard of it was from a certain early 1980s hit song. But to me the concept of Vegemite is almost as appealing as lutefisk. When lutefisk is discussed in my family, it's a sort of culinary threat.

I can get frozen foods which are alleged to be from various Asian cuisines--there is a Trader Joe's store about 20 minutes drive from me. (They charge $3.49 for "Two-Buck Chuck" in that store--I assume the difference is due to the cost of shipping the wine from California.) Alas, the food they sell is designed for the mythical average American palate, which has little or no tolerance for spicy food. Granted, native levels of Korean spicing might overwhelm me, and native levels of Thai or Indian spicing almost certainly would, but I prefer to have some capsaicin in my allegedly spicy food. And I can buy real Asian food, albeit with limited selection, at a small grocery store two blocks from that Trader Joe's, or another small grocery store in my town, which cater to the local Asian population.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 07 Jul 2015 #permalink

I can't eat any meat at all now - the thought of it makes me nauseous. What does that make me, Bhuddist?

I did try to be Bhuddist for a while, studied it for a couple of years, but I just couldn't keep a straight face over the reincarnation nonsense.

But take that out of Bhuddism, and you get philosophical Taoism, pretty much.

I asked my Hindu tennis partner how you become a Hindu - he stared into the distance for a long while then said "I think you have to be born one." So that's out.

And religious Taoism is ridiculous. So there's really only philosophical Taoism left. Which is handy, because to be one, you have to do virtually nothing, and engage in zero bizarre ritual and belief - just try to live in harmony with nature. You don't have to believe in anything. Seems pretty harmless. And no one asks you for money. Besides, there are none of them left. How can you build a major religion if you don't take money off people?

By John Massey (not verified) on 07 Jul 2015 #permalink

How can you build a major religion if you don’t take money off people?

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is trying that. It was originally a joke, created as a response to certain religious types trying to insert their religion into US public schools (which are not supposed to promote religion) by insisting on teaching "alternatives" to evolution--if Biblical Young Earth Creationism is allowed, why wouldn't Pastafarianism be allowed? But I do see people invoking the name of the FSM every now and then, and Poe's Law being what it is, I have to assume that some of them are serious about it.

Other than that, yes, it's hard to build your religion without demands for money. Some religions, most notoriously Scientology, are outright scams. Others, like the LDS church, have a charitable purpose, but it comes with strings attached.

To Birger's point: My understanding is that anything that is kosher and does not contain alcohol is also halal. But not the reverse: Hebrew dietary laws forbid many foods, while only pork and wine (the latter is generally understood to include all alcoholic beverages, but wine is what the Quran specifically forbids) are off limits to Muslims.

Something I have occasionally wondered: When Ramadan overlaps with midsummer, as it does this year, how do Muslims at high northern latitudes deal with the fasting requirement? They are supposed to abstain from all food and drink from dawn to dusk, but if you are far enough north that dusk doesn't come, this requirement becomes impractical. Depending how you define twilight, I think Stockholm is close to the latitude where this starts being an issue. I wouldn't want to be a Muslim living anywhere north of Uppsala.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 07 Jul 2015 #permalink

"The 10 km track is named Upper Class. The 5 km track is named Middle Class. "
Is there a helipad called "Oligarch Class"?

By dustbubble (not verified) on 07 Jul 2015 #permalink

"I wouldn’t want to be a Muslim living anywhere north of Uppsala."
When it became an issue to the single Muslim I met in Orkney, I think he defaulted to some sort of primitive ('80s) electronic compass-and-calculator gadget which he used to reckon head-on the-mat times (with special alarm tunes, very exotic). It was set to Mecca-time, so he was shovelling down the scran before us heathens had even necked the second pint.

By dustbubble (not verified) on 07 Jul 2015 #permalink

Now there's a linguistic revelation. The only other person I have ever known to refer to food as "scran" was my old fishing mate in Oz. He was ex-RAN.

Eric, if not for Vegemite I would never have survived childhood.


By John Massey (not verified) on 07 Jul 2015 #permalink

I worked with a Geordie who might have used "scran", but I have no idea because I never understood a single word he said.

By John Massey (not verified) on 07 Jul 2015 #permalink

It's probably contagion from Geordie, round here. There's a bunch of Romanichal slang words incorporated without anyone noticing as well (and a fewl Ghaidhlig).
It's OK, John. People 50 miles away from them can't understand older Geordies speaking among themselves. Maybe one word in ten. But it's dying out (telly).

Vegemite is substituted here by the less-salty Marmite. Both incomparably vile. Lithium grease would be preferable. Made from waste brewing yeast, after it dies of misery, I understand. But I'm sure it's very nutritious, etc.

By dustbubble (not verified) on 08 Jul 2015 #permalink

Breakfast was toast with butter and Vegemite, and a cup of sweet milky tea. Lunch was bread, butter and Vegemite, and a big glass of milk. Dinner was...sometimes unavailable. Sometimes bread and dripping.

In truth I got more nutrition from the bread, butter and milk - the Vegemite just alleviated the blandness - a few B vitamins, and enough salt to make your mouth pucker. But I still love the taste of it.

Apparently "scran" was very common usage in the Royal Navy, and evidently from my mate it somehow transferred itself to the Royal Australian Navy.

By John Massey (not verified) on 08 Jul 2015 #permalink

BTW, the "excludes China and all other BRICS countries” from the upcoming treaty seems pretty stupid. Like they can go their own way without China without consequences. Eventually as the economy becomes even more dominant, the Chinese can simply demand a revision of the rules. Or Else.

Also, the retraction of the Cinese stock market was bound to come some time. People will get nervous for some years, then the market will pick up again (yawn).

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 08 Jul 2015 #permalink

Martin lets face it, we are old.
"90s kid" http://xkcd.com/1548/
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Practical Buddhism might work in a future society like in the science fiction of Iain Banks or Neal Asher. Store the memories in a meminplant as the body ages, then download the mind in a new body cloned from the original.
No messy theology. And you can skip the prayer wheels used by some groups, the AIs will be as awesome as the average deity.

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 08 Jul 2015 #permalink

The timing (coinciding with the meltdown in the Chinese stock market) may be coincidental, but the New York Stock Exchange was closed for about four hours due to a computer glitch. Also affected by computer glitches today: United Airlines and the Wall Street Journal.

The NYSE is saying so far that there is no evidence of malicious activity against their computers causing the shutdown. Other US stock exchanges remained open (the NYSE typically represents about 30% of the volume in US stock trading). But if you were already inclined to park your investments in the Bank of Serta, this news is going to encourage that tendency.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 08 Jul 2015 #permalink

#22 - Partly thanks to Lewontin and Gould, who both subverted science for the sake of ideology. Similarly "social Darwinist", which is likewise subversion of science for the sake of ideology.

In reality people's opinions on specific political issues never plot on a simple one dimensional left-right wing plot, and left-right is not the same thing as liberal-conservative, although people readily confuse the two all the time. But then I'm contemptuous of all people driven by rigid adherence to ideology rather than facts/reality. Which might sound fine to me, but establishing the facts/reality can be really difficult.

The Chinese economy has been hit by a guy called Xi, who my daughter says is built like Winnie the Pooh (actually more like an old Australian kids' TV hero called Humphrey B. Bear), but who has come down on high level corruption like a ton of bricks. Some say he is the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao, more powerful than Deng was, and some even say more powerful than Mao. This is the economic slow-down that China had to have. Given that the Chinese have irrevocably severely damaged their environment, it could be permanent - they will never again achieve the economic growth rate that they have had.

My concern is that Mr Xi has only so many years in power (10, but he is already a few years in), and he is facing mammoth tasks in fighting corruption and environmental degradation. I wish him the best of luck.

By John Massey (not verified) on 08 Jul 2015 #permalink

We are having a typhoon (tropical cyclone) which is behaving really strangely, because it is being forced down by another one directly to its north.


As she predicted, the wind is picking up and conditions are deteriorating now.

Fortunately, HK is blessed with some excellent meteorologists, including (until he retired) the mild mannered and very friendly/likeable Peter Lee, brother of Bruce. Yes, *that* Bruce Lee. I once asked Peter how he turned out so different from his brother. He said "No big mystery. When we were growing up, Bruce was interested in martial arts and I was interested in meteorology."

By John Massey (not verified) on 08 Jul 2015 #permalink

You rarely hear about Bruce Lee's siblings. I just found out from Google that Peter has died. He can't have been that old - early 70s, maybe. I think his relative anonymity was deliberate - he rose to become Deputy Director of the Hong Kong Observatory (weather bureau, but they also monitor earthquakes, tide levels, etc), but seems to have shunned any kind of fame or public profile, and certainly not through reflected glory from his famous brother.

By John Massey (not verified) on 08 Jul 2015 #permalink

John, your mention of Peter Lee reminded me of William Bulger, who was president of the Massachusetts state senate from 1978-1996, and then president of the University of Massachusetts from 1996-2003. Outside of Massachusetts (and probably even within Massachusetts), he is undoubtedly less famous than his brother, the notorious gangster James "Whitey" Bulger.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 09 Jul 2015 #permalink

I watched the 2014 film "Unbroken", as famous for having been produced and directed by Angelina Jolie as it is for being a true story and sticking faithfully to the truth.

It's slow moving in parts, with lots of flashbacks to the lead character's childhood and early adulthood, but then it is a true story, not a Hollywood thriller with exaggerated and unbelievable action packed into every minute.

I decided in the end that, despite the slow parts , this is a film worth watching, not for any kind of escapist fun, but for the sake of what the lead character had to endure (although undoubtedly many had to endure worse) and how he responded.

There's also some interest in there for historical war plane buffs, with some good footage of B29 bombers.

On the whole, though, I have to say I found the film a bit of a drag.

By John Massey (not verified) on 09 Jul 2015 #permalink

#26 - Eric, interesting. Bruce Lee had 2 older brothers and 2 older sisters. He was the brat of the family who was always in trouble for fighting. I have also heard from someone who knew him as a teenager that he was a bully, always looking for someone to pick on and beat up. One older brother became a musician and comedian, the other one became a physicist/meteorologist, both very mild mannered. So much for heritable behavioural traits. Heritability has its limits.

By John Massey (not verified) on 10 Jul 2015 #permalink

I'm confused now. I'm sure they were calling those WWII bombers in the film "Unbroken" B29s. But I've looked up what B29s looked like, and they were nothing like these things.

If anyone else has watched the film and knows what those planes were, I'd be interested to know.

By John Massey (not verified) on 10 Jul 2015 #permalink

I don't know what kind of plane they actually used, but apparently it's common for Hollywood to skimp on that kind of detail. One of my occasional blog reads, airline pilot Patrick Smith of Ask the Pilot, complains about a similar substitution in the movie "Argo" in this post from 2013. Smith claims it's a common failing.

In this case there may be a good reason: World War II was long enough ago that they may not have been able to get B-29s in flyable condition, and decided to go for internal consistency (if there are scenes where the crew is boarding or disembarking) over CGI accuracy. But it also could have been a case of research failure, or assuming that viewers wouldn't notice.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Jul 2015 #permalink

They're B-24 Liberators.

Kevin, thanks. Yes, that's them for sure.

By John Massey (not verified) on 10 Jul 2015 #permalink

The US War Department ordered both Boeing and the makers of the B-24 Liberator to design a truly intercontinental bomber, using prototypes with both the big Wright radial engine and an in-line engine by Allison. The Liberator derivative failed to reach the performance targets so Boeing B-29 was put in production. The whole program (including the dvelopment of the bomb sights) cost more than the Manhattan program. A rather high cost for frying 100.000-200.000 civilian Japanese in incendiary attacks.
--- --- --- --- --- ---
Don't discount archive finds. If nothing else, they will offer insights in the zeitgeist of past researchers when investigated by anthropologists in AD 3000. Since we hopefully will not go extinct, generations of research students will sift through our paper trails, the papers of Darwin, Einstein and other luminaries long since being mined out.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 11 Jul 2015 #permalink

I read that the B24 was the most produced aircraft of WWII. In that sense, it was a big success. It disappointed in high altitude performance, but had what they really needed to attack Japan - long range. And incendiary bombing was far more effective at low range.

It reminds me a bit in shape of the Lancaster, which was also a very successful plane.

My mother was engaged to marry a tail gunner in a heavy bomber, but after one raid over Germany they had to scrape him out of his gun turret with a tea spoon, so I got the Dad I got.

Tail gunners had a really short life expectancy in those days.

By John Massey (not verified) on 11 Jul 2015 #permalink

Since we hopefully will not go extinct, generations of research students will sift through our paper trails

Actually, one of the things that librarians and other data curators worry about is that we won't go extinct, but our data storage technology will. This is already a worry for older NASA science missions: the data are archived on nine-track tapes, which are no longer made, and you can count the number of still-operating nine-track tape readers worldwide on the fingers of your hands. Not to mention that aging tapes are fragile and subject to loss of fidelity. It's the same phenomenon that has led to the obsolescence of music cassettes (those of you who are younger than about 40 are unlikely to remember them).

Even with all-digital hardware, file formats and connection schemes go obsolete. I have files I can't read anymore, because they are in formats specific to software that is no longer made. Optical drives for computers are on their way out: my laptop (bought in 2011) has one, but many newer computers do not. Maybe PDF will be kept around longer, but there is a risk that information will be lost. Paper, despite its disadvantages, can still be read years, or even (in ideal situations) centuries later, independent of the current state of the art.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 11 Jul 2015 #permalink

I think we should revert to cuneiform.

I once got suckered into buying a guy's 8 track cassette player and his cassette collection. By the time I'd had the thing fitted into my car, the 8 track cassette had become obsolete, so I was stuck with his taste in music until that car turned to rust - which actually didn't take that long.

Now I have a car that plays music from my phone via Bluetooth, and reminds me not to forget my phone when I turn off the engine. I swore I would not buy another car and would make do with a bicycle and public transport for the rest of my life, but as usual I have collapsed under female pressure. I collapsed on getting another car, and they collapsed on me getting a fairly fast one.

By John Massey (not verified) on 11 Jul 2015 #permalink

The 8-track tape was an extreme form of the phenomenon: high fragility and low fidelity. That's why they only lasted a few years. My parents never had an 8-track player, and I was too young at the time, but several friends and relatives had them.

I have owned my current vehicle since 1996. It has a cassette deck that still works, and I occasionally get to sample music from people who jettison their cassette collections at the swap shop in town. One thing I do with them is digitize them and add them to my collection (this is considered fair use in the US, but may be prohibited in other countries; I understand that copying your CDs into your iTunes library is illegal in the UK). I will probably never own a car with a CD player; by the time I get around to replacing this car it will all be iPod/iPhone based.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 12 Jul 2015 #permalink

"copying your CDs into your iTunes library is illegal in the UK" - Weird. I load all of my CDs into my iTunes library - the computer gives you instructions on how to do it. I will never understand the geography/copyright thing, but it drives me nuts.

My car, which is brand new, will play a CD, one at a time, which is kind of clunky and inconvenient. It will take input via Bluetooth from a phone, and can also take inputs from a USB connection, a normal pin connection, and can also accept an SD card. My daughter is planning to override my music selections by inputing by cable from her iPod.

The lat car I had had an 8 stack CD player, so playing CDs in cars is on its way out, in favour of other more convenient media.

By John Massey (not verified) on 12 Jul 2015 #permalink

My car, which is brand new, will play a CD, one at a time, which is kind of clunky and inconvenient.

For long road trips, yes, but aren't you in a place where long road trips are uncommon? Granted that China is still in an earlier phase compared with most Western countries regarding car ownership and use, but that also means they don't have the kind of road trip culture found in places like the US, Canada, and Australia. So unless you are stuck in a traffic jam, you are unlikely to be driving for more than the length of a CD. And the system is no less convenient than my tape deck, where depending on the length of the tape I have to swap it out every 40 to 90 minutes. That will get me to Boston or Portland, but not Hartford (about halfway to New York City), Cape Cod, Bangor, or Montreal.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 12 Jul 2015 #permalink

Cuneiform was actually a pretty advanced form of writing.
"I read that the B24 was the most produced aircraft of WWII."
Among the western allies. Both the Messerschmitt 109 and the Yakolev fighters were produced in ca 35-37 thousands.
The Ilyushin 2 "Shturmovik" attack aircraft was made in even greater numbers.

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 12 Jul 2015 #permalink

#41 - Yes. But with my phone, I have 10 Kate Bush albums at a couple of finger touches, plus numerous others. There's no way I want to carry that number of CDs around in the car, even if there was adequate storage space to put them.

I was just backing up your statement that you will probably never own a car with a CD player. I agree. They appear to be on their way out. I doubt I will ever use the CD player in my car.

By John Massey (not verified) on 12 Jul 2015 #permalink

Yes, sorry, my misreading - the B24 Liberator was the most produced American plane of WWII, at 19,000 units. It surprised me.

By John Massey (not verified) on 13 Jul 2015 #permalink

The unescorted bombers suffered losses of one in 25 -and the crews had to make 25 missions before getting off combat duty....
For the crews it was actually even worse, since a bomber could limp back home with several crewmen dead, and go back into service after repairs.
It might have been a better deal to just bail out, and hope for the Germans who captured you to not be too trigger-happy!

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 16 Jul 2015 #permalink

and the crews had to make 25 missions before getting off combat duty

Just out of curiosity, do you have a non-fiction source for that? I ask because it's a plot point in Catch-22, a famous novel about a World War II era American bomber squadron. In the novel, Col. Cathcart has a habit of raising the number of required missions. It started at 25, and by the end of the novel it's up to 80.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Jul 2015 #permalink

I can't name a source, but I remember seeing a ridiculously low life expectancy quoted for tail gunners in long range bombers who had to make part of the trip without fighter cover - like, something like 2 weeks.

By John Massey (not verified) on 17 Jul 2015 #permalink

Anyway, I'm secretly glad the guy my mother was engaged to got turned to mush inside his tail gun turret by some German fighter. Otherwise I wouldn't be me.

My father had the intelligence to spend the duration of WWII in Australia as part of 'coastal defence' (akin to Knut holding back the tide, if it had come to that), and carried spare supplies of cheese in his ammunition pouches (on the grounds that hunger was a real and present danger, while a Japanese invasion of Australia was not).

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