September Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Google Play Music's randomiser has recently served me up with two songs about extremely talkative girlfriends. In the Spongetones' "My Girl Maryanne" the singer finds the woman's chattiness adorable. In Gap Dream's "Immediate Life Sentence" he finds it annoying and concludes the song "I don't need to get laid that bad, I'll just stay home and get high".
  • The crappy one of Sweden's two big pop-sci monthlies has been using freebie trinkets in its marketing for at least 30 years now. They sent me the alarm clock I used in high school. Now they're trying to entice me to subscribe with a little metal puzzle.
  • Heard a recent arrival get a pleasant lesson in how public-sector Sweden works: dude tried to pay for using a computer at the library, was happy when he understood that it's free.
  • My colleague who organises conferences for the Academy of Letters reports that, unusually, Piranesi scholars are not allergics or vegetarians.
  • I was prepared for this Judith Tarr novel being science fiction. I was not prepared for it dealing extensively with psionic abilities and horses.
  • Jrette just asked "What is the definition of [this one Chinese syllable]?" Not "What does it mean?" *geek dad squee*
  • Magpie pecked at my find bags in the yard and pulled out some Medieval animal bones.
  • Woah. Bigger excavation team means more finds. Last year we brought home 3.8 kg of animal bones from the castle ruins we're studying. This year it's 24.5 kg. I'm going to have to apply for dedicated osteology funding.
  • Jrette is waiting for the rice cooker to finish making porridge. I suggested that she honour her Germanic heritage and have a ham sandwich to tide her over.
  • I'm Fb buddies with this guy from the boonies. Met him several times, really nice, good dependable sort. He's clever but doesn't have much education and isn't the bookish type. And oh, the cartoons and other Fb circulatory material he posts... I don't even know where to begin. The unthinking sexism and xenophobia are just staggering. It isn't overt hate stuff. It's intended as humour, mostly. Building on an assumption of shared views of society. I wish I could show the guy that if I shared a few of his postings people would unfriend me here in the hundreds.
  • Sometimes you come across these people who don't understand common social boundaries. I put up an online ad to give away an old TV. "Email me and collect the TV." This woman finds my phone number instead, calls me and tries to a) get me to deliver the TV to her home 12 km away, b) get one of my friends to deliver the TV, c) get me to throw in a TV table as well, d) get me to lend her a trolley.
  • So annoying when scifi writers put archaeology into their stories without researching any real archaeology or its terminology. Nancy Kress calls archaeological finds "relics". Judith Tarr has excavators "sifting remnants" and looking for gold and manuscripts. *facepalm*
  • Nightmare occasioned by our recent kitchen renovation: I come home and find that my wife and my dad have agreed between themselves to remove the entire (flat) roof of our house and replace it with a high saddle roof.
  • Reading this paper in English that would be decidedly difficult to understand if I didn't know Scandy and recognised what words the author is failing to translate correctly into English.
  • "Lapland: home of the Lap Dance!"
  • Embarrassed. One of my students has a learning disability and so has been granted help with note-taking during lectures. I solved this by asking for a volunteer student who takes a lot of notes anyway for himself, and then introduced the guy with the disability to the note-taking guy. ”Just shoot his notes with your phone after each lecture.” Except. Except that I grabbed hold of the wrong student. One with the same initial as the one with the learning disability. Who is probably really confused about why I singled him out and told him to copy the other student’s notes, without a word of explanation.
  • Google Inbox allows you to preset three times o'clock to which you can snooze email. I just moved my morning back to 6:30, my afternoon to 12 and my evening to 17:30.
  • Software fail, LibreOffice spreadsheet. If you type CTRL-A and sort a sheet, the software doesn't limit the job to lines with any data in them. It doggedly sorts all sixty-four thousand whatever lines, effectively freezing up for a minute or two.
  • I sailed a Nordisk Familjebåt today (length 8.85 m) together with its friendly owner in a local competition. Strong wind, sunshine and the beautiful surroundings of Stockholm's inner archipelago, very enjoyable. And I also saw a sailing hydrofoil for the first time, which absolutely blew my mind. That shit looks like CGI! And it zipped past so fast!
  • The English habit of referring to noblemen by their titles -- "the Earl of Leicester" or even just "Leicester" -- makes it really hard to understand narratives about them. I tend to conflate them all into one faceless piece of scenery, the Title of Place Name.
  • Had to look up "withal". It's an adverb meaning besides, therewith and nevertheless.

More like this

Despite the chaos of our kitchen renovation, I have managed to build myself a little reading nest. Gotta love German. Try saying it out loud: "Die Beobachtung ferner Quasare, das holografische Prinzip und der Quantenschaum der Raumzeit". Resolutely put away my phone in order to read a book…
After some instruction I've given Jrette & buddy free range with the little row/motorboat. They're having lots of fun, learning lots and are clearly pleased with themselves. Eider males swimming around in a little posse going "woo-OOO, woo-OOO". The villain in the endless Neal Stephenson novel…
Oh fuck. I just installed the operating system update/trojan that makes this particular Samsung smartphone model slow. I wonder how classical liberalism views labour unions. On the one hand, the right to form one is clearly a civil liberty. On the other hand, it can be seen as what Smith called a "…
I've got a question for all sorts of different scientists. What kind of skills do undergrad science/technology/engineering/math majors need in order to survive and thrive? If you're a student, I've got some bad news for you. When you're not around, professors have a tendency to rant about the stuff…

The English habit of referring to noblemen by their titles — “the Earl of Leicester” or even just “Leicester” — makes it really hard to understand narratives about them. I tend to conflate them all into one faceless piece of scenery, the Title of Place Name.

I read a mystery novel some years ago where this was a significant plot point. One of the clues the detective was working from was a list of English place names. Only when a minor character refers to a nobleman by the place name in his title (not one of the places on the list) does the detective realize it's actually a list of noblemen. The minor character immediately confirms that this is the correct interpretation, and that it was well known in her social circle that these noblemen were up to something fishy.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 17 Sep 2015 #permalink

And oh, the cartoons and other Fb circulatory material he posts… I don’t even know where to begin. The unthinking sexism and xenophobia are just staggering. It isn’t overt hate stuff. It’s intended as humour, mostly. Building on an assumption of shared views of society.

When I was young, it used to be common to tell $STUPID_ETHNIC_GROUP jokes. Which probably weren't so different from what your friend has been sharing. In retrospect, the jokes did not actually depend on the value of $STUPID_ETHNIC_GROUP, only that it had an agreed-upon value.

I almost certainly have friends, and probably cousins, who are like your FB friend. I'm not on FB myself, so I don't see what they are posting there, but I hear stories from others who are on FB. And we have people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Fox News propagating a bunch of this stuff. The New York Times ("All the news that fits, we print") is only slightly better.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 17 Sep 2015 #permalink

Re: Giving away a TV
I've been trying to sell some old IKEA furniture online for cheap and it's amazing how many people want me to deliver it to their house. Uh, no, you're getting it already assembled for 10% of the starting price, pick it up yourself!

By JustaTech (not verified) on 18 Sep 2015 #permalink

Public libraries -I went down this week and copied information about the lunar eclipse early morning the 28th from Sky and Telescope.
Angry: watched Brit TV documentary Secrets of Mexico's Drug War http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4519798/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_2
obama, dubya, nixn -they are all cynical assholes.

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 20 Sep 2015 #permalink

You can watch the documentary for free the next ten days. Mostly English language.
http://www.svtplay.se/video/3715658/dokument-utifran-usa-s-hemliga-knar…
Fuck the fucking fuckers. And fuck those who have their heads so far up their asses that they still think USA is some kind of bulwark of goodness.
----
I found Bunkerboken, a book with photos of Sw. coastal fortresses of the last hundred years. They are decaying, but will outlast most other architecture of our era by centuries.

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 20 Sep 2015 #permalink

#5 - Quite so, my dear Johansson.

By John Massey (not verified) on 21 Sep 2015 #permalink

Birger@7: "Meh" is right. That is one of those "balanced" articles that don't actually give much insight. We hear the claims of the property owner, and the claims of the skeptics, but little in the way of actual evidence that would let the reader decide who was right.

The site is about an hour drive from where I live. I've never visited, because the roadside signs I've seen for it have done nothing to persuade me that it isn't a tourist trap. And if the owner is charging a $12 admission fee, that is evidence in favor of the "tourist trap" theory. In contrast, the nearby Robert Frost homesite, which is operated as a state park, is at least a site of known cultural significance.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 21 Sep 2015 #permalink

Tourist trap -it reminds me, when you drive through white power country with nothing but weird banjo music on the radio, aren't there a lot of signs like "the worlds largest [insert name of object]"? The worlds largest ball of yarn, or whatever...
With flat plains all over* it might be difficult to impress tourists with the unique qualities of *this* particular town over *that' identical-looking town. The advantage of Norway is that when you fall down a mountainside and break all your bones, it will be in a singular, impressive environment.

* The Outback makes up for the apparent sameness with the exciting reptiles and invertebrates climbing your leg.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 21 Sep 2015 #permalink

when you drive through white power country with nothing but weird banjo music on the radio, aren’t there a lot of signs like “the worlds largest [insert name of object]”? The worlds largest ball of yarn, or whatever…

Not as much as there used to be, although some of those places are still out there. The US had a couple of golden ages of motor touring, one in the 1920s (when the first national highway network came into being and substantial efforts were put into paving those highways, and the other in the 1950s-1960s (the era of post-war prosperity, before and during the construction of the bulk of the US motorway network). The motorways have consigned many of those small towns to a slow death--obviously the ones far from the motorways saw much less traffic than before, but even the ones along the motorways are dying. My father grew up in such a town: three exits off of a motorway, but the town no longer has any reason to exist since it's not a county seat and it's about 1.5 hours from a major city. Poor to nonexistent land use planning doesn't help; it was too easy for many of these towns to shift their town centers from the old location (usually along the railroad) to the motorway exit at what used to be the edge of town. The town I live in now has escaped that fate (it helps that the nearest motorway junction is in the next town over and that we have a focal point for our traditional town center), but in many neighboring towns, commercial areas built around motorway access compete heavily against the traditional town center.

These days, most Americans who are traveling to a place more than about six hours drive away fly rather than drive, even for family vacations, and the radius is that large only because TSA is such a pain in the neck.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 21 Sep 2015 #permalink

Oi prefar the clean shaven look meself, Oi does. But then Oi've been livin' these 35 year with the Heathen Chine'e, wot don't grows no whiskers.

All I can say on your volumetric displacement, Birger, is well done and long may you continue to shrink.

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

China: Facekini http://satwcomic.com/don-t-let-the-sun-catch-ya
--- ---
News from Britain:
Media rounds on Jeremy Corbyn for not having sex with pig
EU fence-making industry booming
Free school lunches scrapped as children pay price for causing recession
“BRITAIN’S infants will finally be made to pay for causing the financial crash of 2008”.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 22 Sep 2015 #permalink

I was once in discussion with a Canadian man who was Private Secretary to Pierre Trudeau when Trudeau was Prime Minister of Canada. (I am not making this up.) He was an honest, forthright and moderately intelligent guy, and very well informed on politics, as one would expect.

He told me: "The biggest problem we have in politics today is that we are unable to attract the calibre of people we need to be politicians."

I reckon he got that right.

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

The biggest problem we have in politics today is that we are unable to attract the calibre of people we need to be politicians.

As a New Hampshire resident, I get a front row seat at the quadrennial three-ring circus that is the American presidential campaign.

On second thought, I retract that as being unfair to circuses. Circuses are at least entertaining. I look at the bunch of lunatics and depraved monsters competing for the Republican nomination, and cringe to realize that one of this motley crew is going to have a realistic chance of becoming President in January 2017. (The Democrats in the campaign may not be the best either, but at least they offer some sane and non-depraved candidates.) Meanwhile, they bombard my mailbox, and my phone, and my e-mail (Chris Christie's campaign has mistaken me for a likely supporter) with their messages.

I wish we could do it the way civilized countries do it, and have the campaign period limited to a decently short interval like 6-8 weeks, as is done in most other countries I am familiar with. I'll settle for a 90 day campaign if I have to. It's going to be a long 14 months until the election.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 22 Sep 2015 #permalink

You need a system like Australia's, Eric, where we can change the Prime Minister in a single night with no prior notice or any consultation with the electorate :)

Australia has now become Italy, but without all the hand-waving.

But yeah - because America is so influential to the rest of the world, we get a blow-by-blow account of the Presidential campaigns, and it is a bloody long 14 months.

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

Blow by blow? Presidential? I thought that Bill Clinton had retired. :-)

Clinton's escapades pale compared to PigGate, of course.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 23 Sep 2015 #permalink

From the abstract, it appears that Hutchings and LaSalle assume that the alternative to having archeologists look at a site prior to its development. No, the alternative is that the site gets developed without any kind of archeological scrutiny at all. Which is what happened to the mounds of St. Louis. Today it's thought that those mounds were created by the Cahokia culture around 800 years ago. But we will never know for sure, because the mounds were destroyed for railroad fill before anyone suspected there ever was a Cahokia culture. It wasn't until plans were made to construct a motorway next to similar mounds on the Illinois side of the river that anybody thought to check.

The system we have now isn't perfect, but Hutchings and LaSalle are making the perfect the enemy of the good.

And this drivel got published in a Springer journal. Springer is supposed to be one of the more reputable academic publishers out there. Where were the referees?

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 23 Sep 2015 #permalink

Blow by blow? Presidential? I thought that Bill Clinton had retired.

Bill Clinton has retired as a political candidate, yes. But his wife is one of the top two contenders for the Democratic nomination. (The other is Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who, unusually for an American politician, is socialist and proud of it.) Needless to say, Bill supports Hilary's campaign.

Meanwhile, most of the US press has hated the Clintons since at least 1991, and they still do. Already we have seen the New York Times run dubious stories about Hilary, just as they did against Bill (there never was anything to Whitewater, as even the Wall Street Journal was eventually forced to admit).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 23 Sep 2015 #permalink

"They knew" http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/09/23/they-knew/#comments
Just as the tobacco industry knew about addiction and lung cancer, the oil industry knew what carbon dioxide released from the oil would do. As long as they die fat and rich, they don’t care what happens after them.
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Re."most of the US press"
-They are owned by the same conglomerates that are "too big to jail". A somewhat less vulgar supplement to Fox News.

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

Art critic Brian Sewell describes Heaven as ‘kitsch nightmare propped up by vulgar columns’ http://www.newsbiscuit.com/2015/09/23/brian-sewell-describes-heaven-as-…
Queen presses Prime Minister on details of ‘lewd act’
‘You’ll never take us alive’ say Volkswagens
Dying teen has “tediously predictable bucket list”.
SNP to replace daylight savings with ‘borrowed time’

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

"Bill Clinton has retired as a political candidate, yes. But his wife is one of the top two contenders for the Democratic nomination."

Right, it's just when I here "President" and "blow", I think of Bill. Should I be thinking of Hilary as well? Can I have a cigar please?

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 23 Sep 2015 #permalink

Art critic Brian Sewell describes Heaven as ‘kitsch nightmare propped up by vulgar columns’

Readers of Dutch literature will appreciate a cartoon published after Harry Mulisch died a couple of years ago. Having arrived in heaven and looking around, he says "I liked the book better".

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 23 Sep 2015 #permalink

At least Bill Clinton had the sense to go for a live pig.

"Queen presses Prime Minister on details." I'm not sure that's a good idea, Ma'am.

On VW, it's already known that BMW and Mercedes fake their diesel emissions, and that all car makers fake their fuel economy figures. OK, VW got caught red handed, but let's not pretend they're the only villains in a squeaky clean industry.

I have never thought that diesel engines are a good idea in cars. You need them in trucks for the extra torque, but passenger cars, no. You can't make them clean enough for the performance to be tolerable, and with the pricing policy on diesel fuel and the higher cost, it makes no sense financially to buy a diesel vehicle, particularly as it is now abundantly clear that they have never been as clean as any manufacturer has claimed.

And buses should be electric, not diesel. Same with taxis. HK now boasts a sizeable fleet of electric taxis, despite the lobby who wanted electric vehicles banned because they are silent and so will run over blind people who can't hear them coming and run out of the way (speaking of pretentious tossers).

Yes, Martin, that whole paper absolutely reeks of pretentious tossing and deserves to be thoroughly deconstructed, if anyone could be bothered.

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

I hear that Swedish farmers like diesel cars, because then they can use tax-deductible fuel bought on their businesses' accounts for the tractor.

...get very high mileage from their cars as well, by doing that.

But there has to be a good reason why 50% of cars in Europe are diesels, while in America only 3% are. The basic answer is the different pricing policy - why would anyone want a diesel if it is going to cost him more to run it than a car with a petrol engine? Answer - well, maybe he is very environmentally conscious and is concerned about emissions. Hence there are going to be a lot of very angry VW owners in America. And owners of Audi models that use the same engine.

Meanwhile, revelations are coming soon to Europe that explain why emission controls have not resulted in clean air, notably in cities like Paris.

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

It simply demonstrates yet again that there is *no* relationship whatever between what people believe or say they believe, and what they do. None. Zilch.

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

the lobby who wanted electric vehicles banned because they are silent and so will run over blind people who can’t hear them coming and run out of the way

My experience as a pedestrian in a university town is that, if the car is moving fast enough to do damage, there is an audible "whoosh" sound that one can learn to recognize. Hong Kong may not have that if normal traffic speeds are below 30 km/h (which I suspect is often true there), but cars moving that slow don't do nearly as much damage. Also, the driver has more time to react to such a situation and needs less room to stop.

Don't get me started on drivers who use mobile phones while driving. Any time you are operating a piece of heavy machinery, such as a car, your undivided attention should be on what you are doing.

And yes, there are different price policies for different fuels. My house, like most in this part of the US, has an oil-burning furnace. In principle, I could put diesel fuel in it, and it would work just as well as the #2 heating fuel or biofuel alternative I actually use. There is no reason to do that, however, because diesel fuel for automotive use is taxed at a noticeably higher rate than #2 fuel oil. The latter is dyed so that truckers who use the cheaper #2 oil to fuel their trucks risk getting caught--that dye is one of the things inspectors look for during roadside inspections.

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

Via BBC News, a group of transportation modelers claims that the speed of trains on London's underground network is faster than optimal. The argument is that the system creates choke points where commuters transfer from the road network to the rail network. In New York, by contrast, faster subway trains are always better.

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

Various answers to the diesel questions above:

Yes, farmers can use the subsidized tractor fuel in their car. One can also use heating oil. It is the same fuel. In many countries, heating oil (much less heavily taxed) and subsidized tractor fuel is dyed red. If you are caught with red fuel in your diesel car, it carries a heavy fine.

In many European countries, diesel is cheaper than the cheapest petrol, by 20 per cent or so. Coupled with the fact that diesel also gives better fuel economy (partially because the efficiency is higher, but mainly because the fuel contains more energy per litre), this can bring the costs down substantially. In the same countries, the yearly tax for diesels is higher, but if you drive more than 10 thousand kilometers or so a year it is cheaper overall. (Diesel cars are marginally cheaper, but also tend to last longer and need fewer repairs, so this works out about the same unless you have a new car every year.)

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 24 Sep 2015 #permalink

In many European countries, diesel is cheaper than the cheapest petrol, by 20 per cent or so.

This is not the case in the US: diesel fuel is generally 30-40% more expensive than standard-grade gasoline per unit volume. That's mostly because in the US gasoline taxes are much lower than in Europe. Even so, the higher energy content of diesel fuel is enough to cover the difference, as long as the engine is running efficiently. The problem is that there is an efficiency/emissions tradeoff, which is what VW's software obscured by putting the engine in a special mode during emissions testing.

I don't know about European drivers, but 10,000 km/year is light driving by North American standards. Part of that is due to longer distances/lower population densities, and part of that is due to lack of alternatives. I can take a train to Boston, about 100 km away, if the schedule suits me (there are only five trains daily), and I can get more convenient schedule options by taking the bus from a terminal 20 km away. But if my destination is not close to an MBTA (subway) station, I am better off driving. And I have it better than most Americans. My place of work is within walking distance of my house. So I only drive about 8000 km/year. Most Americans do more than twice that, and in some occupations it's not unusual to do ten times that.

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

"Diesel cars are marginally cheaper" - in which parallel universe?

In America, Australia and China, diesel models are more expensive.

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

"This is not the case in the US: diesel fuel is generally 30-40% more expensive than standard-grade gasoline per unit volume"

Yes, which is why there are more diesel cars in Europe.

"I don’t know about European drivers, but 10,000 km/year is light driving by North American standards."

Right. Many of those in Europe who don't have a diesel don't because the yearly tax is higher, without realizing that this is offset pretty quickly and is only an issue if you drive just a few thousand kilometers per year.

The parallel universe is Europe. :-)

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 25 Sep 2015 #permalink

Some data on a green website suggests that km/year driven by people who own a car are more or less the same in every developed country. One might think that Dutch car-owners would drive less than Australians, but they have more nearby things to drive to, and one you own a silly thing like a car you get tempted to use it.

An interesting side note is that the vehicle emissions standards in Australia are absolute crap - miles behind the rest of the world.

The reason? Australia has had a vehicle manufacturing industry - General Motors, Ford and Toyota have all been making cars there. They are not going to go on making cars there for very much longer (literally, they will all shut down within the next 2 - 3 years) because, even with heavy taxpayer subsidy, they cannot make a profit.

So it turns out the reason that the Australian emission standards are crap is because otherwise the Australian car makers would be even less competitive with the overseas manufacturers and make even bigger financial losses than they have been making.

So while people are being (rightly) condemning of VW for what they've done with their diesel engines (and we still don't know whether this will extend into their petrol engines, and indeed into other brands of cars, and indeed, withal, into other forms of fiddling the data, like the notoriously risible fuel economy figures that every manufacturer fiddles), think about a national government and state governments who acquiesced to exposing the Australian public (the people subsidising these industries with their taxes, remember) to bad air which has a calculable annual fatality rate, because to do otherwise would have shut down these industries earlier, resulting in mass unemployment, which would translate into a lost election.

This is the doing of not just one, but successive federal and state governments. Literally every Australian politician over the past 20 years or so is complicit in this, because there have been no strong dissenting voices.

And now you know why I love politicians, and why I think politics is a steaming load of horseshit.

By John Massey (not verified) on 26 Sep 2015 #permalink

If you are more than passingly interested in the VW scandal, I strongly recommend reading these two articles - they help to explain why VW staff made such a stupid and ultimately devastating decision, but also point to some possible future outcomes, which could include the end of diesel passenger vehicles in Europe. Long story short - it isn't just VW and it isn't just NOx emissions.

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21666226-volkswagens-falsificatio…

http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21667918-systematic-fraud-worlds…

By John Massey (not verified) on 26 Sep 2015 #permalink

WOW!
I have just observed the lunar eclipse. For once, we got a crystal-clear night sky. I could see even the faintest stars, and got a few bonuses. I saw two meteors, Venus was like a magnesium flare in the Eastern sky, and as I was watching the eclipse another planet rose in the east. Jupiter? Mars? Plus another faint point of light I did not recall. I must check if Saturn is anywhere nearby.
My cat wants to tap-dance on the keyboard, so I will log off and get some more sleep.
Seriously, wow!

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 27 Sep 2015 #permalink

OK, the bright "star" rising in the East before sunrise (but after the much brighter Venus) is Jupiter.
Between Venus and Jupiter are two faint points of light, close to each other. The one to the left is Mars, the one to the right is the star Regulus.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 28 Sep 2015 #permalink

No shortage, Birger. When I was a kid, brown snakes (venomous vipers) were a regular occurrence in our garden, and I once had an encounter with a huge tiger snake that was waaay too close for comfort.

By John Massey (not verified) on 28 Sep 2015 #permalink

You know, we should design a huge virtual reality set for those fuckers (taliban, hindu or whatever) so they can act out their holy wars "in silico" and build their theocracies there too. And let's encourage them to get stuck there, like the "dreamer addicts" of Inception.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 28 Sep 2015 #permalink

Nothing says “Christian civilization” like a big f*cking massacre

I know you're being sarcastic here, but there is a long history of people who call themselves Christians engaging in massacres. The Crusades. Various anti-Semitic pogroms. Witch hunts. Various episodes against the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Mountain Meadows was just one more in a long series.

Contrary to the teachings of Yeshua ben Yosef, true. But so many of the man's self-described followers pay no attention whatsoever to his actual message.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 28 Sep 2015 #permalink

Yesterday was a public holiday for Mid-Autumn Festival - it comes at the beginning of Autumn in Hong Kong, but you understand the timing if you go to northeastern China, where they are all bringing in the harvest, the roads choked with thousands of trucks piled high with corn.

It's a traditional time for moon-gazing, so although we didn't see the eclipse, we did get spectacular views of the super-moon.

Driving my daughter to work this morning.

Daughter: "It's a public holiday on Thursday."
Me: "What? Another one? What's this one for?"
Daughter: "To celebrate the Communists killing everyone."
Me: "Oh OK."

She hasn't *quite* got the Party line on Liberation, has she?

By John Massey (not verified) on 28 Sep 2015 #permalink

you understand the timing if you go to northeastern China, where they are all bringing in the harvest

I live at a similar latitude in eastern North America, so I understand this quite well. Historically, it is not unusual for us to have had our first frost by now (although with a warming climate, our first frost date is slipping into the latter half of October). One of the sellers at the farmers' market yesterday told me that a particular cold spot about 30 km north of me has had frost. Next week's market is the last of the season in my town.

As for that public holiday: Many Western countries (the US is a curious exception here) have a public holiday celebrating the execution by torture of a radical rabbi. Your daughter would probably understand what I mean, if she knows enough about that history.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 29 Sep 2015 #permalink

She had read the whole Bible (OT+NT) from beginning to end twice by the time she was 11 - not because she was deeply religious, she wasn't. She has also read the Analects of Confucius for a similar reason. If people try to snow her with bullshit, she likes to be fore-armed by having done her homework; generally very much better than they have.

This got her into considerable trouble in Bible Knowledge classes at school when she demonstrated several times that she knew more about the subject than the teacher. But she had the pragmatic common sense to continue to pretend to be a 'believer' until she left school, so she wouldn't get kicked out for being an Atheist. Outside of the religious instruction it was a good school - the Catholics do a good job on education in Hong Kong; better than the secular schools, and much better than the Buddhist schools.

By John Massey (not verified) on 29 Sep 2015 #permalink

There were no rabbis in those days, by the way. They had priests.

The best historical analysis I have read says that Yeshua was a charismatic Jewish preacher who expected the end of the world to occur within one generation after his death.

By John Massey (not verified) on 29 Sep 2015 #permalink

Outside of the religious instruction it was a good school – the Catholics do a good job on education in Hong Kong

The same is true of the Catholic schools I am familiar with in the US. Whether it's better than the publicly funded schools depends on what town you live in: if I had a kid I wouldn't hesitate to send her to this town's schools, but if I lived in some of the neighboring towns, I would have to give Catholic schools a serious look. Not that I am a believer (I am not), but because in some places it's the least bad option.

Non-Catholic private schools are a mixed bag. Some of them, like Phillips Exeter Academy and St. Paul's School, are elite schools. Many others are mediocre. The ones run by Protestant denominations are almost always the worst--I'd take the worst publicly funded school in the region over a school with the word "Christian" in its name.

In some towns, instead of funding a public high school, the town pays tuition for their students to go to one of these private schools (it can't be a religious-based school, for obvious reasons). I wouldn't want to live in such a town, because chances are they are skimping on some other aspect of critical infrastructure as well.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 29 Sep 2015 #permalink

"pay no attention whatsoever to his actual message."
It has occurred to me that good deeds are usually uncorrelated to religion (there are of course good individuals who are religiously motivated)
-But once jingoist politicians use religious memes to keep a conflict going, the conflict has a greater chance of lasting long, since the parochial issues that triggered the conflict in the first place rarely survive more than a few generations. Religions have a longer sell-by date.
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Puting & Obama: Good to get more presure on ISIS but 90% of civilian deaths are caused by Assad, the Russian ally. I pity the Syrians, all support from abroad is along partisan lines.
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Hong Kong: The elderly (who came there from manland China) probably recall the chaos in the China of their youth. The current situation is so much better that they see no problem.
The problam I see is that without representative democracy, things can regress as in Russia after Stalin took over.
It is like hoping the next king will be a good one, you have no influence. Everybody hope for a Marcus Aurelius, but may get Nero or Helogabal. And if you get Chin Shi Huang-Ti (which Mao admired) you are sh*t out of luck.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 29 Sep 2015 #permalink

Since so many religions look back at the Old Testament I will follow the suggestion by Martin Kellerman* and base a religion on Waffles**, the chef on Noah's Ark and our biggie prophet.
*Author of Sw. cartoon "Rocky"
**Waffles was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but great fun once he got drunk. A much better prophet than the grumpy ones. And his commandments got so slurred that no one can prove you are breaking against them.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 29 Sep 2015 #permalink

English speakers make things complicated by having two words for big seabirds that poop on statues; seagulls and... I dunno. Swedes sensibly call them all "mås".
-Speaking of fertilizer, here comes Republican Jesus: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2015/09/28/the-roots-of-supply-… Because Yeshua ben Josef was a big fan of ostentatious wealth :)
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"Cameron ‘passed the port to the right’
-New revelations about David Cameron’s student days claim that he ‘wantonly’ passed port in ‘an anticlockwise direction’.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 29 Sep 2015 #permalink

Hong Kong has no sea gulls. I won't say none, but they are pretty scarce.

We have Black Kites (Milvus migrans) which thrive here because they prey on rats so, despite being dark and threatening looking, they are a welcome sight. And, not that we have a plethora of statues (although we still do have a statue of Queen Victoria, somewhat amusingly), but they don't crap on them. I don't know where they crap, but not on statues or people. We also have sea eagles, and that most eagerly sought after bird of prey for bird watchers, the almost unbearably cute peregrine falcons.

We have a very large inventory of larger water birds, but they hunt in/over bodies of water, so don't crap on anyone either.

Perth has a plague of seagulls that crap on everyone and everything, and I assumed all coastal cities to be the same. When I first arrived in HK, I wondered where the plague of seagulls was. And what were those gigantic black things floating in the sky everywhere - Black Kites, and I have become very attached to them.

By John Massey (not verified) on 30 Sep 2015 #permalink

And we don't actually know what Yeshua's message was, the Gospels being written by people who had never known or seen him during his life - so they were second-hand records of oral accounts, and 'massaged' to sell to the biggest and most desirable consumer group at the time, the Romans. Or should I say, the Mark Gospel was, and the other three Gospels were more or less copied from the Mark Gospel, with suitable embellishments, which got really imaginative by the time the John Gospel got committed to writing.

One fairly safe assumption is that his messages were a lot more pro-Jewish and anti-Roman (or anti-Gentile generally) than they come across as in the Gospels. He was playing to an audience of Jews, and no one else.

By John Massey (not verified) on 30 Sep 2015 #permalink

”Here Come the China Hawks” -Virtually the entire Republican field has rediscovered the value of China-bashing.
http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/here-come-the-china-hawk…
I am reminded of the (apocryphal) story of king Canute and the sea…
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”Terrified Shell flees Arctic as quickly as possible”
OIL giant Shell has refused to discuss what it found deep below the surface of the Arctic.
“NASA faked water on Mars to help Matt Damon”
“France ends refugee crisis by bombing Syria”

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 30 Sep 2015 #permalink

The entire Republican field + Hilary Clinton, whose social media comments directed at President Xi while he is visiting the country have been downright rude, which won't go unnoticed. She has always been very hawkish toward China.

By John Massey (not verified) on 30 Sep 2015 #permalink

Meanwhile, now that I know you and Martin are rolling in money, I'm planning my trip to Sweden to sit outside your houses with my hat out, begging.

By John Massey (not verified) on 30 Sep 2015 #permalink