April Pieces Of My Mind #3

  • Happy archaeo-dad pastime: Jrette helped me enter the humongous tables of stats on rock art from Mats Malmer's 1981 book into a computer spreadsheet, and we checked his sums, finding them all to be correct.
  • Funny how common it is even for educated people to believe that the Vikings would send their dead out to sea in a (sometimes burning) boat. Have they never considered what would happen two hours later when the boat landed on the other side of the fjord?
  • I'm measuring stuff on my computer screen with a ruler to get the relative scales right on two shots of an ard tip.
  • Trying to convince myself that major funding for meta-archaeology shouldn't annoy me any more than does the existence of film studies departments. Archaeology will never get all the funding in the humanities. Just ignore them. But then film studies never make any pretentious claims to a privileged perspective on knowledge production in archaeology. So they're easier to live with.
  • "Tonight you're a star. And I'm the Big Dipper." /Prince
  • I thought editing one of your country's few major journals in your discipline was a pretty good academic qualification. Instead it means that everything you've published in that journal counts for less. *sigh*
  • Anybody know how Göran's dwarf warrior Bornuld Dolvad Duauild is doing these days? I lost touch with him in 1986 when he fell through a trap door into an underground stream and was washed away. Can't find him on Facebook.
  • Danish guy just posted a picture of a standing stone and said "Not everyone has a menhir up their entryway, but I do!" Bless his innocent heart.
  • You need a really strong reason to eat at a restaurant next to an Indian one.
  • How could anybody who heard "This Charming Man" wonder whether Morrissey was gay?
  • Almost all runestones are Christian memorials with crosses and prayers. Have nothing to do with paganism.
  • I sang Tom Lehrer's "Irish Ballad" and Ivor Biggun's "I Have A Dog" at the trad session.
  • OMG Salt n Pepa's "Let's Talk About Sex" is 26 years old.
  • Very authoritarian dad. Have told daughter she may only marry someone smart, funny, tender and kind.
  • I know an old lady who stalks the lovers of her youth on LinkedIn.
  • Just applied for my 75th academic job in 13 years. Got 3 of them. Friends don't let friends do PhDs in the Humanities!
  • All trad Swedish "cuisine" including lutfisk is just food preservation methods. Lutfisk is mummified, keeps well.
  • Viking Period society kept slaves and mixed enthusiastically with them in the hay. We're all descended from princes and foreign slaves.
  • Ordered 10 socks online. Take that, shop-strewn pre-Internet cityscape! Take that, suburban mall! Take that, recreational shopping!
  • Swedes generally see US Democrats as hardline Conservatives and US Republicans as batshit crazy extremists / theocrats.
  • Swedish folk music will get you resoundingly laid among young folkies.
  • Västerbotten is the country's single best cheese.
  • Should have read Canticle for Leibowitz as an 80s teen when we still feared the Bomb and played a post-apocalyptic role-playing game, Mutant.
  • I foresee epic non-stop D&D campaigns at old-folks' homes in the 2050s.
  • Both my kids are now in that useless short phase when they won't come along to gaming conventions.
  • I wonder what adaptive trait fortuitously caused men to also grow hair inside their ears after 35.
  • Awesome. My LeGuin book recommendation was just endorsed by the official Twtter account of a bicycle-based weed delivery service in Seattle.
  • Played games with this really nice guy at TableTopDay. Think he's the first married younger gay dude I make friends with.
  • "Sleep, baby darling, do not cry / Or I will sing a lullaby" /Beatles
  • Jrette out on the burb with her buddies on Walpurgis, no parents, for the 1st time. Competent kid. We have raised her well.
  • The annual toad orgy at Lake Knipträsk hasn't started yet.
  • Kibo, who once parsed the entire UseNet and responded to mentions of him, sadly does not do Twitter.
  • I agree with C.G. Bernadotte only on the subject of La Camilla.
  • Could we please discontinue the Eurovision and all spectator sports?
  • Americans think nudity and the organs we pee with equal sex.
  • I don't care who uses the same restroom as me as long as they don't spray pee all over the place.
  • I understand the paper presentations at a Danish conference but not the bar conversion afterwards.
  • Hehe, after a week of me, Conservative Swedes on Twitter are complaining about uneven political representation!
  • Midsummer's Eve, Fri 24 June. People will be unavailable. And drunk. And make out with their in-laws.
  • "Bog roll" means toilet paper roll in UK English. Bogreol means bookshelf in Danish. Maybe not lend them your books.
  • Earl Grey means "Beer Object" in Swedish.
  • The Swedish language has a word meaning "so insane that the person must be tied up": bindgalen.
  • My week as Sweden's official voice on Twitter concludes. It's been fun! Lots of curious and friendly people. And Twitter RULES when it comes to trolls. I tweet stuff to peeps who have chosen to follow me. There is no way that a troll can even become visible to them unless I comment or re-tweet the troll. And of course I just block the racist fucker on the first offence.
  • I just joined the Wartburg Society for Research into Strongholds and Castles.
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"Jrette out on the burb with her buddies on Walpurgis, no parents, for the 1st time. Competent kid. We have raised her well.

The annual toad orgy at Lake Knipträsk hasn’t started yet."

Like the juxtaposition. :-)

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 03 May 2016 #permalink

"The Swedish language has a word meaning “so insane that the person must be tied up”: bindgalen."

Came across a wonderful Norwegian word today: "bergtatt". (Extra points if you can guess where.)

And Norwegian has the world's best word for "USB stick": minnepinne.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 03 May 2016 #permalink

Swedes generally see US Democrats as hardline Conservatives and US Republicans as batshit crazy extremists / theocrats.

Norwegians would agree with that statement. I've been informed by a proud member of Norway's Conservative Party that Bernie Sanders would be a mainstream Conservative in Norway.

I find the US Presidential election campaign too long. See your doctor if you have an election that lasts more than four months.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 03 May 2016 #permalink

"Competent kid. We have raised her well." - No, you both gave her good genes. Behaviour is highly heritable. Read Judith Rich Harris. Everyone hates her, but read her anyway. No one has ever been able to prove she is wrong. Many have tried.

"Is it dangerous to claim that parents have no power at all (other than genetic) to shape their child's personality, intelligence, or the way he or she behaves outside the family home? ... A confession: When I first made this proposal ten years ago, I didn't fully believe it myself. I took an extreme position, the null hypothesis of zero parental influence, for the sake of scientific clarity. ... The establishment's failure to shoot me down has been nothing short of astonishing."

Judith Rich Harris, 2006

"Swedes generally see US Democrats as hardline Conservatives and US Republicans as batshit crazy extremists / theocrats." Same in Australia. Obama would fall some considerable way to the right of the current conservative Prime Minister in Oz. Hillary Clinton is a Neo-Con - a very hawkish one.

By John Massey (not verified) on 03 May 2016 #permalink

"Funny how common it is even for educated people to believe that the Vikings would send their dead out to sea in a (sometimes burning) boat. Have they never considered what would happen two hours later when the boat landed on the other side of the fjord?"

That's obviously what starts the family feuds that end with people getting stabbed through a roof with a spear-axe.

"I’m measuring stuff on my computer screen with a ruler to get the relative scales right on two shots of an ard tip."

I was in a hard data-driven science field and I did that all the time. Fortunately, these days there are actual research apps that will automatically measure your screenshots of graphs or samples for you and output the data in a nice tabular form. I'm not kidding. It is either a triumph of adaptive ubiquitous computing, or a complete and utter failure of the same. I can't decide.

"Västerbotten is the country’s single best cheese."

And they don't export it at all. I bring a couple of kilos (at a non-trivial expense) each time I come back from Sweden. Problem is, you can't really store it for more than six months or so.

"Swedes generally see US Democrats as hardline Conservatives and US Republicans as batshit crazy extremists / theocrats."
Swedes are generally correct in this view..
I came to the US as a moderate social democrat in 1990, but found myself way out on the left fringe, with only Bernie Sanders for company.. Secretary Clinton is basically a hawkish Republican, except for gender issues.

love the summer house - gorgeous.

Funny how common it is even for educated people to believe that the Vikings would send their dead out to sea in a (sometimes burning) boat.

I don't know how common this is in Europe, but many Americans (even educated ones) seem to think that before Columbus the prevailing view was that the world is flat. The ancient Greeks knew that the world was round, and Eratosthenes managed to measure its circumference to an accuracy of about 1% with the technology available ca. 200 BC. Columbus had trouble getting financing for his expedition because most people believed (correctly) that he was lowballing his estimate of the circumference of the Earth. He was lucky that there turned out to be a hitherto unknown continent about the same distance west of Europe as he thought eastern Asia would be.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 03 May 2016 #permalink

I want someone to film a movie clip of Birger running for the bus.

By John Massey (not verified) on 03 May 2016 #permalink

Judith Rich Harris has a good case for the % of intelligence and personality that are heritable in kids in a modern first world country, so that e.g. poor nutrition or lack of adequate shelter are not environmental factors - it's about 50 to 70%.

What she does not have a good case for is what environmental factors influence the non-heritable component. She has shown that it is not parents (unless it is something negative - beating and abusing kids will definitely have an impact on their behaviour, but as long as they have a safe warm home environment and adequate nutrition, parents are not a factor). But she guessed that in that case the environmental factor that mattered was peer group, and she does not have a good case for that.

In fact, no one knows what environmental factors account for the non-heritable part of personality and behaviour. It's the 'dark matter' of psychology. It could just be stochastic. Each kid is unique, to the extent that some portion of their personality and behaviour can't be explained by reference to some form of external influence on them. It's not parents, and it's not peers. It seems to be unknowable.

By John Massey (not verified) on 04 May 2016 #permalink

My guess is that Judith Rich Harris is the person praised by Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate, but I'll have to check. Sounds familiar. Pinker makes a strong case for more nature in the nature-vs.-nurture debate than most left-leaning people (of whom Pinker is one) would like to believe, not just in relation to Harris (or whomever) but in general, and not just in regard to genetic variation but in regard to male-female differences in behaviour.

It would certainly be wrong, though, to say that parents have essentially no influence. First, if the peer group is important (and I believe it is, but I'm not sure to what extent), then parents can influence the peer group. Second, there is a correlation between parents' attitudes and that of their children with regard to politics, sexuality, religion, etc. Sure, there are rebels, but it is not completely random.

In the case of Jrette, her behaviour in situations like that which Martin mentioned is almost certainly due to environment and not to genetic factors.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 04 May 2016 #permalink

Yes, that's her (she has her own Wikipedia entry; it doesn't mention Pinker, but confirms my suspicion). Pinker points out that those who didn't agree with her branded her "a grandmother from New Jersey". Having recently written a blog comment about Ed Witten (one of the, if not the, world's leading physicist(s)), it occurred to me that he is a grandfather from New Jersey, but no-one calls him that when discussing his work. Interestingly, both Harris and Witten started out at Brandeis University. (Though Witten's first degree is in history with a minor in linguistics, after switching to economics and dropping out, then to maths, and then to physics, he became a full professor at Princeton at the age of 28 and not long after won the Fields medal (which is awarded every 4 years, for mathematics).)

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 04 May 2016 #permalink

Phillip, you are confident that parents influence childrens' behaviour outside of the home and not under their supervision, and you believe that the peer group is important, without having any evidence to support what you believe.

Yes, of course Pinker referenced Harris - her work was ground breaking and earth shattering, and many people still choose not to believe her, without evidence for doing so.

But I don't see much point in having discussions with people who choose to believe things based on blind faith and contrary to evidence.

By John Massey (not verified) on 04 May 2016 #permalink

Birger - as referenced by Razib, as usual, the real meat of the paper is in the supplements, which as usual are behind a pay wall, so his analysis is a genuine value-add. It would be anyway, but often I have to rely on his reading and analysis of pay-walled papers.

David's blog also has helpful commentary/analysis here:

http://eurogenes.blogspot.hk/2016/05/the-genetic-history-of-ice-age-eur…

And here:

http://eurogenes.blogspot.hk/2016/05/for-typical-west-eurasian-pca.html

One take home message that seems clear from the paper: "Whereas there is no evidence of the earliest modern humans in Europe contributing to the genetic composition of present-day Europeans, all individuals between ~37,000 and ~14,000 years ago descended from a single founder population which forms part of the ancestry of present-day Europeans."

By John Massey (not verified) on 04 May 2016 #permalink

Bugger - two references, so stuck in the spam filter again! When will I learn?

By John Massey (not verified) on 04 May 2016 #permalink

"
Phillip, you are confident that parents influence childrens’ behaviour outside of the home and not under their supervision, and you believe that the peer group is important, without having any evidence to support what you believe.

But I don’t see much point in having discussions with people who choose to believe things based on blind faith and contrary to evidence."

???

First, I didn't say "outside the home", but, yes, parents are one of the influences on children's behaviour outside the home.

Yes, the peer group is important.

Genetics also play a role. Conditions during pregnancy. General environment. Exposure to toxins. Medical care. Nutrition. War.

What else is new?

Why do you, without any evidence whatsoever(!), claim that I have no evidence?

It sounds to me like you believe that behaviour is influenced by genes and nothing else, which is certainly not true.

What is your position and, based on what I have written here (and not on any guesses on your part), how does it differ from mine?

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 04 May 2016 #permalink

The extinction or near-extinction of regional populations remind me of the DNA results from indian populations -the current indians are not descendants of all groups that existed before columbus. The Europeans introduced diseases that made many groups wholly extinct.

Across the much larger time spans (and the climate variations) of early Europe it should not be surprising that many groups disappeared completely.
Contingency rules, and survival is never certain, not even for humans..

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 04 May 2016 #permalink

#17 - I have cited the work of Judith Rich Harris, who based her conclusions on a wealth of adoption and twin studies. If you haven't read any of that stuff then we're not even on the same page, because you haven't seen what her arguments are or the hard data she bases them on, and you really should not be opining so strongly when you have not read some of the most important literature on the subject.

She provides much less convincing evidence for the influence of peers. Going by my own personal experience growing up, and observing my daughter growing up, no - peers had no influence, that is not lasting into adulthood. Actually, in both my case and my daughter's case, they had no influence when we were teenagers, but maybe some teens are more susceptible to being influenced - but that says nothing about how they turn out as adults. As for my parents, I complied with their wishes when I lived at home, but once I became an independent adult, I was totally uninfluenced by their opinions, and I frequently found myself totally disagreeing with them. My daughter is the same, and more power to her.

Of course parents can have a negative impact. People who deny vaccination to their children do. It is now well known that childhood diseases impact adversely on adult intelligence, as do parasites and malnutrition during childhood. Never mind things like foetal alcohol syndrome. Exposure to toxins - it could be that eliminating lead from petrol has had a big effect in eliminating an environmental toxin that had a big effect on adult intelligence. The Flynn Effect has now stopped in developed countries, and it could be that is due to the progressive elimination of all of the major factors that were causing depression of intelligence previously, so people in developed countries now achieve their full genetic potential.

No, you did not read what I said - adult behaviour, personality and intelligence are all determined by genes plus something else - but no one knows what that something else is. It's not parental influence while growing up (unless there were negative impacts), and it's not peers while growing up. I gave you numbers, for goodness sake - I said in modern developed countries, genes account for probably 50 to 70%. In under-developed countries genes account for somewhat less than that, because of all of the adverse environmental factors.

I see no point in continuing this discussion when you didn't bother to read what I said to begin with, and because your convictions appear to be nothing more than opinionating and wishful thinking, stated in bold print, which I assume is you losing your temper and shouting at me. So count me out - I'm not getting anything useful from anything you have said, and oh gee, there's some guy on the Internet somewhere who disagrees with what I say. Like I care. There are blogs where people who really know a lot in this field hang out, and they would tear you to pieces. I'm just going to ignore you.

#18 - It's not difficult. Not everyone successfully reproduces, so there is no trace of them in descendants. It is likely that as much as 90% of the Native American population of North America was wiped out by European diseases long before most of them ever set eyes on a European person. The same thing happened in Australia, and Tasmania, and all across the Pacific.

If you think about zoonotic diseases, and what happened when some people domesticated animals and became animal herders, once they themselves had undergone selection for resistance to those diseases, they carried a big secret weapon with them when they invaded the territory of farmers who had never had domesticated animals, other than maybe the occasional dog or cat.

#19 - If you read Darwin today, some of what he wrote comes across now as racism. He was a man of his time. You just have to factor it out. Hell, I'm still living in a world of rampant racial prejudice - I just have to treat it as background noise and filter it out.

By John Massey (not verified) on 04 May 2016 #permalink

Comment by Andrew Ohwilleke that might be of interest to we West Eurasians who have reunited with East Eurasians: "The chart of mtDNA and Y-DNA haplogroups makes clear that the clear West Eurasian-East Eurasian divide of modern uniparental population genetics in these haplogroups did not emerge until after the LGM."

So my wife and I are separated by no more than about 25,000 years.

By John Massey (not verified) on 04 May 2016 #permalink

Anatomically modern humans continue to eliminate Neanderthal alleles, assuming the trend continues, which must mean that they were at least mildly deleterious:

http://dienekes.blogspot.hk/2016/05/neandertal-ancestry-going-going-gon…

All of the white supremacists who were *absolutely certain* that they *must* have derived their superior intellect from Neanderthal introgression have suddenly gone very quiet on the subject, as well they might.

By John Massey (not verified) on 05 May 2016 #permalink

Following on from #23:

Razib: "there is a fair amount of evidence of selection against the neander/denisovan variant(s) of FOXP2, including in the siberian neanderthal with modern human admixture…. so they might have had weird linguistic faculties (or substandard)."

That could do it. So could reduced male fertility, but I'm guessing.

By John Massey (not verified) on 05 May 2016 #permalink

"It’s not parental influence while growing up (unless there were negative impacts), and it’s not peers while growing up. I gave you numbers, for goodness sake – I said in modern developed countries, genes account for probably 50 to 70%."

The boldface was supposed to apply only to the question marks; typos can't be corrected by the commentator here.

Maybe in your case, peers and positive parents had no influence, but in my experience (four children, 2 wives, 2 fathers---figure it out) they do. I also know many other families where positive parental influence and/or peer influence carried over into adulthood.

It's strange that you accuse me of having no evidence, when you have no evidence that I have no evidence.

Numbers? I can find references for 100 per cent nature, 100 per cent nurture, and everything in-between.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 06 May 2016 #permalink

OK. I give up. It's not interesting enough to keep talking about it.

I will leave you with this humorous note: when my daughter graduated with honours, she made a small speech of thanks to me - she said "Thank you for financing my education, and for not being such a bad influence that you have had any adverse effect on me."

By John Massey (not verified) on 06 May 2016 #permalink

New interpretation of the Rok runestone inscription changes view of Viking Age (May 2, by Thomas Melin) http://phys.org/news/2016-05-rok-runestone-inscription-view-viking.html
Yeah,I know, you have probably read this elsewhere by now.
-- -- -- --
BTW, I have read claims that study of a fortified ancient town in Palestine/Israel supposedly would lend support to an early date for the putative king David's rule. I am very suspicious of such claims, they smell "Biblical archaeology" aka pseudoscience.
I have been unable to find other references to the claim so far.
-- -- -- --
I have finished jumping through legal hoops after my mother's death and the rest of the paperwork is now in the hands of lawyers. I can finally have some time to grieve.

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 07 May 2016 #permalink

That paper about Rök has been oversold by the university's PR department.

Hang on in there, Birger!

Regarding stories containing Lovecraft, see "Fatale, Vol.3 : West of Hell" by Brubaker. (at Amazon.co.uk )

"The Case of Alfred Ravenscroft', who we shall call `HP' for convenience (cough, cough) is set in 1936, and Josephine goes looking for the pulp horror writer whose stories appear to be describing the nightmares that she is experiencing. "

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 07 May 2016 #permalink

I sympathise, Birger.

I hate to think how long the process takes when someone dies intestate, or leaves a will that is contested.

By John Massey (not verified) on 07 May 2016 #permalink

John@33: In the case of my neighbor across the street, at least a year and a half (and I don't know if it's completely settled yet). He was not married and had no kids. His sister, who has been handling the estate, lives some distance away. Among other things, they had to allow any half-siblings a chance to come forward and claim a share of the estate.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 08 May 2016 #permalink

I will leave you with this humorous note: when my daughter graduated with honours, she made a small speech of thanks to me – she said “Thank you for financing my education, and for not being such a bad influence that you have had any adverse effect on me.”

I wonder where she got that idea. :-)

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 09 May 2016 #permalink

#35 - She majored in Genetics and Biochemistry. She is and has always been very Science minded and is rightly contemptuous of the endless stream of unreproducible assertions flowing from Psychology. She is also contemptuous of modern pop culture, and has her own eclectic tastes. When she was a young teenager, a well-meaning friend of mine bought her a Backstreet Boys CD as a present - she took one look at it and threw it straight into the rubbish bin.

She does not share at all my infatuation with New Flamenco (if I am playing it in the car when she gets in, she immediately switches it off), and is currently obsessed by this, which was recorded 20 years before she was born, and which surprises me - it is not what I would have expected. But then she has a talent for the unexpected - she is very much her own person, and highly unpredictable.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InOjdeQqQFA

She is also the product of two people whose ancestors separated 25,500 years ago and whose very different cultures developed independently from one another, so in her case it is easier to see what she has inherited from where. She is fully biliterate in mutually unintelligible scripts, so can access the literature in the two different cultures.

She often seeks my opinions on important questions, but weighs what I say carefully rather than taking my word for anything. If I quote from anything, she goes to the original source and reads it herself, rather than relying on my interpretation. She knows she is more intelligent than both of her parents - she has known that for a long time, i.e. she did not 'regress to the mean' on IQ, possibly because she was spared some of the environmental insults her mother and I both suffered as children and during our formative years, or possibly because she is just an outlier.

She is also a prodigious reader who forms her own independent, very strong opinions which she often keeps to herself or shares only with me or her mother because she knows how dangerous in can be to say something politically incorrect in public.

To assume she just gets ideas from me would be a big mistake.

Despite all of that, she openly admires what she regards as my good qualities, and we are good friends. She knows I can take a 'topical' joke, although sometimes her humour sails over the top of my head. She is very protective of both of her parents, and is quick to anger when she thinks either of us has been treated unfairly. When she was 12 she said "My father is my hero", and in many ways she still feels that way, although she knows my weaknesses better than anyone else - she knows what I have achieved in my career in humanitarian terms, and the active support I have given to women in engineering, and is very respectful and vicariously proud of it, and of me.

By John Massey (not verified) on 10 May 2016 #permalink

Addendum: she is also a qualified piano teacher, but rejects any notion of actually doing that as a source of income.

If you are still wondering where she gets her ideas, I can try to fill in more of the blanks for you.

By John Massey (not verified) on 10 May 2016 #permalink

Musical skills often go hand in hand with other forms of creativity (although the old left brain-right brain meme is a gross oversimplification).
-- -- -- --
According to TV, the "fimbulwinter" aspect of old norse expectations for the end of the world was derived from a century of extreme cold, starting 536, with a big volcanic eruption that injected sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere. The starvation paved the way for the Justinian plague as the immune system of starving people was diminished.
The chill and plague killed at least half the population of the Scandinavian region.

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 10 May 2016 #permalink

#38 - They do.

Steve Hsu has established good broad correlation between IQ, musical ability and other measures of cognitive ability. That's not to say all highly intelligent people are very musical or the other way round, but as correlations in Social Science go there is a clear broad trend.

By John Massey (not verified) on 10 May 2016 #permalink

Japanese vagina kayak artist found guilty of obscenity http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/09/japanese-vagina-kayak-arti…
... because the one million gazillion phallic sculptures out there are totally different and non-obscene.

Or maybe the Japanese authorities just hate eskimos?
-- -- -- -- --

A Swedish newspaper had an article about a cadaver dog that can find human bones... 1500 years after people died! It is used to find remains at a massacre site on Öland.

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 10 May 2016 #permalink

My dingo would have been an abject failure at that - she used to bury bones from the left-over joints of meat that she was given to eat, but could never remember where she had buried them, and used to bury them so deep she could never find them by scent. Her solution of searching for them by random hole digging that developed into quite extensive networks of tunnels was rarely successful, and often made walking in the garden hazardous - you never knew when the ground might suddenly collapse beneath your feet. My sister fell into one of these tunnels just after we had experienced a big earthquake and had got ourselves outside in case our house collapsed, and screamed blue murder because she thought the ground was swallowing her up - no, just another dingo tunnel collapsing.

The new Chief Scientist of Australia is an Engineer. That's just wrong. Engineers are not Scientists. So we can expect this to usher in an era where the emphasis on Science funding is on Applied Science - in essence, on Technology start-ups to lift the national economy out of the doldrums after the collapse of the mining boom occasioned by the plummet in demand for commodities, with a feedback from this into education. Science education in Oz is already in deep enough trouble without bending it away from Science and towards Technology. Not that it's harmful to have a national policy to encourage technological innovation, it's not, but that should not come at the expense of investment in the Sciences and addressing the major problem of Science teaching in schools. I say that as an Engineer who does not pretend to be some glorified Scientist. I'm not. I dig Science, I support Science, but a Scientist I ain't.

I watched the 2015 film The Revenant. Still not sure what to make of it, but I found it dissatisfying. It is based on a book about a real person, the fur trapper/frontiersman Hugh Glass who died aged 50 in an attack by Arikara Native Americans in 1823, but the book was thought to contain wild exaggerations/embellishments well before the film was made. Despite that, it further exaggerates and alters one allegedly 'true' story about Glass. I don't mind fantasy in cinema as long as it is not portrayed as historical reality, and enjoy an Avengers movie as much as anyone, but where a film purports to be portraying a part of history, but then takes major liberties with the truth, it urks me something dreadful.

The film is also extremely 'dark', built around a heavy motif of revenge - not just by Glass himself, but by several others. I can't say more than that without plot-spoiling, but a whole film built on the theme of revenge is pretty heavy and not uplifting at all.

The director went to quite extreme lengths to make the film in the lighting and climatic conditions that he wanted, and I'm not sure it was all worth it - if he wanted that extent of realism, I would have preferred if he had been equally demanding of reality in the film script.

By John Massey (not verified) on 10 May 2016 #permalink

Thanks for that, Birger. It's entertaining.

By John Massey (not verified) on 13 May 2016 #permalink