August Pieces Of My Mind #3

  • Today is the big book-selling festival on Drottninggatan in Stockholm, "the world's longest book table", which is probably true since the term "book table" is almost unknown outside Sweden. I'm bringing a backpack and the names Bengtsson, Bujold, LeGuin, Maugham, Paasilinna and Piraten.
  • Several book sellers at the festival have told me "He's great but nobody reads him any more" or "She's great so I'm certainly not selling those" when I've asked about my favourites.
  • I'm really interested in new ideas and methods in my discipline. But it annoys the hell out of me that what we mainly get is new buzzwords. And people pick them up in the most inane and transparent way.
  • Lyric themes that put me off a song #1: whatever goes on on the dance floor.
  • This piece of abyssal plain really isn't very good. In fact, it's quite abysmal.
  • I thought Edward Sharpe was singing the words "undead audio" on his song "Brother", so I checked the lyrics. And it turns out that he actually does.
  • So funny with group pictures where people are leaning into image centre and the photographer leaves this huge empty space around them.
  • Cousin E reports that his Chinese middle school English vocabulary does not include the word "pear", but it does include "cannibal".
  • I just realised that I logged my 900th geocache during that rock festival in Dalecarlia, on the 11th! Took me over 11 years to get there.
  • I've taught Cousin E seven boardgames since he arrived. Not only were they new games to him: several represented completely unfamiliar game mechanics. With four of these games, Cousin E won on his first try against seasoned grownups, some of whom really know these games.
  • Apparently there's a fad among Western geek kids to learn Japanese. The Stockholm Scifi Book Store has study materials dead centre in its display window, between Erik Granstrom's new fantasy novel and Tintin's rocket.
  • Dreamed that my wife had vandalised all our brass candlesticks, hidden some of them and thrown the rest openly in the trash. Recalls the broken-off handles for candlesticks that I've seen in Fb's metal detectorist groups lately.
  • Eng. howitzer and Sw. haubits both go back to 15th century Czech houfnice, "crowd cannon", "formation breaker".
  • A strange recurring trait of the Japanese short stories I've been reading lately in English translations is this childish guilelessness: an absence of irony, an apparent ignorance of Western literary clichés. "That Ainella is one tough customer, Yutaka thought."
  • Haven't played Vector Race in over a quarter century. We all drove straight off the track in the first curve.
  • If you find a dock when excavating in the Old Town of Stockholm, then it's really hard to relate it to shoreline displacement. Because many docks were built on high-organic landfill that has been dramatically deflated by dehydration and microbial activity over the centuries. This means that your dock is currently at an unspecified much lower level than when it was built.
  • That night the Baron dreamt of nary a woe / And none of his warrior-guests were at all be-nightmared
  • Hunting laws regarding wolverines mean that they run a much greater risk of getting shot in Norway than in Sweden. They are however not smart enough to avoid Norway. On the contrary, they see Norway as a nicely empty area where it's easy to find territory. So the net migration goes west.
  • I like to refer to my inner Celt as "latent La Tène".
  • Two ticks bit my bottom when I went geocaching last Saturday. Bastards.
  • Leftovers lunch: * A soggy vegetarian Vietnamese spring roll. * Rice with curry sauce that once contained chicken. * 1/3 kipper including roe.
  • King Valdemar IV of Denmark in 1360: "Spy, bring me clandestine drawings of Visby's defences! I will have that town!" Spy accidentally falls through a time warp and returns to the King with a copy of Emil Ekhoff's 1922 volume documenting in detail the state of Visby's ruinous town wall.
  • "Manic Depression" would have been so much better if Hendrix had sung "your can of beans" instead of "your kind of scene".
  • I enjoy cleaning the sieve at the bottom of the dishwasher. I do it pretty much after every time the machine's been run.
Vector Race Vector Race

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I think that Japanese fad is on its tenth year or more,already. Just like the Japanese fad for all Scandinavian design. The old used tableware I used as a student in Lund is worth thousands here nowadays.

“He’s great but nobody reads him any more”

They may be channeling their inner Yogi Berra. Among his famous quotes: "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 31 Aug 2016 #permalink

Makes me wonder whether those haikus really have deeper layers of meaning. Maybe the guy just saw some geese fly by.

I once discovered that my Chinese coworker (who had lived in the US for ~25 years) did not know the word "prostitute" or any of its synonyms (that we were willing to say at the lunch table). Eventually a discussion in Mandarin ensued, and then he pronounced with great intensity "You mean 'sex worker'!"

(It came up because a prostitution ring had been busted right up the street.)

Of all the words to have never learned, that seemed an odd one.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 31 Aug 2016 #permalink

China does not admit that prostitution exists, so there is no need to learn a word for it. Meanwhile, Hong Kong repatriates 500 of them per week back to the Mainland. They come on tourist visas. Prostitution is not illegal in Hong Kong, but the cops pick them up for working here without a work permit.

They serve a 3 month mandatory sentence in detention here, before being trucked back across the border. When they get to the other side, most of them turn straight around and come back again.

So a lot of the time, the cops are just endlessly recycling the same women.

By John Massey (not verified) on 31 Aug 2016 #permalink

Of course, not all of the prostitutes are Mainland Chinese. Some are Thai, Sri Lankan, Indian...they need to provide for a varied clientele. They make up a minority, though.

By John Massey (not verified) on 31 Aug 2016 #permalink

Of course, the Immigration Officers know very well why they are coming, but they can't refuse them entry because they hold a valid tourist visa. If they ever try to interrogate one, like asking her how she will support herself financially while she is here, where she will live, etc., she just screams that her rights are being abused and she is being wrongly accused and insulted, etc. and Hong Kong's veritable army of social workers and human rights lawyers come rushing to her defence.

So Immigration have just learned from experience to let them in and let the cops pick them up. Then the cops deliver them back to the Immigration Officers when it is time to repatriate them. It's almost like a game of "pass the prostitute".

I shouldn't joke. Some are distressingly young.

By John Massey (not verified) on 31 Aug 2016 #permalink

Very, very old.
Scientists find 3.7 billion-year-old fossil, oldest yet ][Stromatolites??]…
This only shows life formed early, not that most planets can *maintain* life for 3.7 billion years.

Iceland forced to unearth enchanted 'lady stone' rock to appease angry elves…

Trial drug shows 'impressive' Alzheimer's action: study…

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 01 Sep 2016 #permalink

John@7: Does Hong Kong not have penalties for visa fraud? In many countries including the US, entering the country on a tourist visa with the intention of working in the country would qualify as visa fraud, because the applicant intentionally misrepresented her plans on the visa application form. One of the penalties the US imposes in such cases is declaring such a person ineligible for any US visa for a period of at least ten years.

Of course in the US, the most common method of becoming an illegal immigrant is to enter on a valid visa (or under a visa waiver program if said immigrant's home country is on the list) and then remain in the US beyond the period that the visa is valid. Several of the 9/11 plotters used this method. As long as one keeps a sufficiently low profile to avoid the attention of the police or la migra, it generally works.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 02 Sep 2016 #permalink

Eric@10 - the only penalty is for breaching the terms of the visa, by working while on a tourist visa, for which there is a mandatory 3 months in detention, then repatriation. That might sound light, but 3 months in prison is no fun.

Yes, of course, we get plenty of people who come on a tourist visa and then just disappear into the crowd, i.e. overstay.

But Hong Kong has two things going for it on that score: 1. It has a large (in proportion to the population) and highly visible police presence on the streets, and they have the right to randomly stop people and ask to see their identification. 2. Every person 11 years and older in Hong Kong is required to carry identification at all times, and it is an offence not to do so. In the case of a permanent resident like me, I am issued with and required to carry a Hong Kong Identity Card (this sounds like an imposition, but it's not, it's useful for all sorts of stuff); in the case of a temporary entrant, they are required to carry their passport.

You see the police stop people on the street all the time and ask to see their identity cards. Most people don't mind this; it's no big deal, and everyone understands that Hong Kong has had a big problem with illegal immigration in the past (and still does to some extent, but now the illegal immigrants tend to be from African countries or the Indian subcontinent, more than from the Mainland).

Having said that, I have never once been stopped and asked to show my identity card. I guess I must just look like a Hong Kong person :)

By John Massey (not verified) on 02 Sep 2016 #permalink

Eric - Bear in mind that there is a world of difference between tracking down an illegal immigrant in Hong Kong, which has a total land area of only 1,100 square kilometres, >60% of which is thickly vegetated and very inhospitable natural terrain, with very contained and compact urban areas crawling with uniformed police officers patrolling the streets, and trying to track illegal immigrants in a country the size and population of America.

And even Mainland Chinese people tend to stick out like a sore thumb in Hong Kong, although that is becoming less pronounced as China modernises and the Pearl River Delta region becomes more integrated, as it sensibly needs to. But even so, someone only needs to open his mouth to talk, and you can nail where he is from by his speech - even if he is speaking Cantonese, the Cantonese they speak in Guangdong Province is different enough from the colloquial Cantonese spoken in Hong Kong that it is immediately obvious.

By John Massey (not verified) on 02 Sep 2016 #permalink

The other factor is that Hong Kong is in no sense 'multicultural' - the population is 93.6% Han Chinese, and we (notice the 'we') have no difficulty immediately seeing the difference between Chinese, Filipinos and Thais. Koreans and Japanese might be a bit more difficult, but they differ in behavioural traits, and obviously language. Even Han Chinese from the Mainland differ in some fairly visible behavioural and cultural traits. So spotting a newcomer is really not that difficult.

By John Massey (not verified) on 02 Sep 2016 #permalink

I missed this one a while back:…

So, Australian Aboriginal Y DNA shows deep divergence going back 50,000 years, with no evidence of more recent admixture.

I also happen to know that Australian Aboriginal mtDNA similarly shows very deep divergence.

So that makes it a slam dunk - Australian Aboriginal people remained genetically isolated for close on 50,000 years.

Not completely physically isolated, they engaged in north coastal trading with visiting South East Asians who were keen to obtain sandalwood and sea slugs, for which the Chinese to the north had an inexhaustible appetite - the tangible evidence is dingoes, a semi-domesticate turned feral that could not possibly swim to Australia, and which arrived in Australia only about 3,600 years ago.

But after arriving in Australia around 47,000 years ago, they interbred with no one, until the arrival of European settlers in the late 18th Century. Quite remarkable.

That makes them unique - the longest surviving 'pure' race. The Sentinelese are nowhere near that old.

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

Abyssal plains:
I think I have worked out the position of R'Lyeh. Most sea floor never gets older than 200 million years due to plate tectonics folding them up under a continent. But a piece of the old Tethys sea remains in the eastern Mediterranean, between Crete, Cyprus and Egypt. The seafloor is between 315 and 360 million years old, in fact, around the time those pesky vertebrates colonised terra firma and made life annoying for the Shoggoth.

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

Re 16:
"Donald? Is that you? Put down the iphone and back away."

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

#15 - I could be wrong about that. Evidence suggests that the San and Pygmies diverged from other modern humans in Africa very early and remained geographically isolated for a very long time.

Climate in much of Africa was horrible around the LGM.

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

While researching mercury contamination, I came across the curious and very sad case of Karen Wetterhahn, Professor of Chemistry at Dartmouth College, and a specialist in toxic metal exposure.

While experimenting, she spilled "one or two drops" of dimethylmercury from the tip of a pipette onto her hand, which was protected by a latex glove. Unaware that the dimethylmercury could rapidly (within 15 seconds) penetrate the latex glove and be absorbed through her skin, instead of immediately removing the glove, she went on working to clean up the spill of dimethylmercury.

About 3 months later she began experiencing symptoms of toxicity. She died of mercury poisoning within a year, at the age of 48.

Organic compounds of mercury such as methylmercury (the cause of Minamata Disease in Japan) and dimethyl mercury, and breathing mercury vapour, are particularly hazardous to humans. Metallic mercury is a liquid at ambient temperature and atmospheric pressure, but readily vaporises unless kept under a covering of water to prevent vaporisation.

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

People who don't understand modern genetics and keep coming out with the trope "Race is a social construct" (1. That should be 'construction', not 'construct', and 2. It is and it isn't - 'race' as commonly used by lay people is largely a social construction, together with its replacement euphemisms 'ethnicity' and 'heritage'; used in its true biological meaning, it has scientific validity and some important practical application, e.g. in medicine, and in studying and shedding light on the origins of modern human populations - but I accept that it is a term which has deeply hurtful connotations to some people, so I usually try to avoid using it, which usually means using some painful expression like 'ancestral geographic population', since I dislike pandering by using euphemistic words like 'heritage') should read this paper:

I liked this quote from the paper, which is interesting to contemplate: "If one assumes humans across the globe are a single randomly mating population, it would result in only a
5-15% average error when predicting the proportion of observed heterozygotes at a locus. This closeness to an idealized randomly mating population is one vestige of how little evolutionary time has passed since the common origin of all humans in Africa."

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

Is liver failure the primary cause of death in case of heavy metal poisoning? Or do several vital organs fail together? I am thinking of the possibility of organ transplants.

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 05 Sep 2016 #permalink

It varies. Methyl mercury attacks the central nervous system, and there is no way to treat it. Symptoms can start to emerge as late as 5 months after ingestion, so by the time they start to emerge, the damage is already done, and they progress rapidly from that point.

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

People who view my LinkedIn profile fall into four categories. None of them includes people who want to offer me a job.

1. People who are just snooping on me, not realising that I can find out who they are. Well, snoop away. I know who you are.

2. Former colleagues who genuinely want to know what I'm doing now and don't have another way to contact me. That's fine.

3. People who want my help to get them a job. When a guy I was never very friendly with contacts me out of the blue with a super-friendly message, enquiring after my health, etc., it's obvious that he wants something, which usually turns out to be that he wants me to help him get a job with the company I work for. This never works. Not ever.

4. Random people I have never heard of (bankers, head hunters, strange women in Korea, etc.) who want to link to me. No. Go away.

Message to Category 3 people: I am employed in a Technical (that is, not an Executive) capacity. I do 100% technical work and zero management. That's it and, after previously spending a lot of my time in my last job in management, staff recruitment, etc., that's exactly the way I want it. I have no authority to hire or fire people. Don't waste your time.

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

Well, not exactly, but I can suggest Arianne Lim, who is a manager at IR KUDOS.

IR KUDOS Institute offers investor relations research services (whatever the hell they are). It was founded in 2008 and is based in Seoul, South Korea, allegedly. ('Investor relations' sounds slightly dodgy to me, but maybe I just have a bad imagination.)

Not much use for finding a job or banking, but she does seem keen to acquire random new contacts, and you are about as random as I can think of, Martin. I haven't the foggiest idea why she wants to link to me, but it's not going to happen.

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

Then there's Eleanor Griffith, who is a Certified Genetic Counselor - could come in handy if you simply can't stand the emotional shock of finding that strange unexpected Tierra del Fuegan among your otherwise wholly predictable ancestors, or that you are really a woman dressed in male drag.

Or Mary French who is an account director at Laundry Service. Seriously, do laundry services really have account directors, or is she just making a joke?

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

What really annoys me with LinkedIn is how they tell me they've found lots of job opportunities for me, and of course they turn out to be completely irrelevant to my qualifications.

The reason I refuse to link to headhunters is because none of them has the foggiest idea about what I do and what I am good at.

The guy who headhunted me for my current job was someone I had known personally as a friend and professional colleague for 35 years, and he knew exactly why he wanted me working within the company he works for. I now sit in an office right next to his (on the rare occasion that I bother to actually turn up at the office - most of my work can be done more efficiently at home, with the full knowledge and encouragement of my excellent Chinese boss).

As for LinkedIn, they simply don't have a clue. Their job suggestions to me have all, without exception, been just plain absurd.

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

Watched the 2016 film Forsaken, starring the Sutherlands, father and son (Donald and Kiefer). Eminently forgettable Western. Don't bother.

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

What really annoys me with LinkedIn is how they tell me they’ve found lots of job opportunities for me, and of course they turn out to be completely irrelevant to my qualifications.

I have this problem as well. Once in a while I will see a job opportunity that might make sense for me, such as a data analyst position in a nearby town. But many of these job listings are purely keyword-based. They see that I am a research scientist in what they consider to be the greater Boston area (I am actually 100 km north of Boston, but TBF the US Census Bureau considers my county to be part of the greater Boston area), and offer me research scientist positions with biomedical companies that, in some cases, are a two hour drive away (but still in the greater Boston area). It doesn't help that my specialty is plasma physics, which has nothing (other than having adopted the same Greek word) to do with the kind of plasma you have in your blood.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 06 Sep 2016 #permalink

Watched the 2016 film Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, about a female journalist who gets posted to Afghanistan. The film was billed as a comedy. Trust me, there is nothing remotely funny about this film. It's not a bad film, all the same, so if you feel like ending up depressed as hell after watching it, go for it.

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

Watched the 2016 sci-fi film Midnight Special. Worth it.

By John Massey (not verified) on 09 Sep 2016 #permalink

Watched the 2015 British film "Eye in the Sky." Educational. Definitely worth watching, but don't expect to be uplifted by it.

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

Birger, yes of course. I was already aware of the Melungeons, who are tri-hybrids. Tri-hybrids are very common in the Americas - most of the mainstream populations of Mexico and Brazil are tri-hybrids, as are Puerto Ricans.

But the Irish Travellers are genetically the same people as the sedentary Irish, albeit exhibiting "consanguinity", which is a polite way of saying they practise incest, resulting in inbreeding and increased incidence of some diseases resulting from homozygosity for autosomal genetic disorders.

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

This is impressive.

Meanwhile, I see that vulcanologists predict that Iwo Jima has a 1/3 probability of erupting this century.

By John Massey (not verified) on 11 Sep 2016 #permalink

Well, so much for alternative energy. If anything can harness wind energy effectively, big ships can. But when oil is so cheap, there is no financial incentive, so the world can just go to hell in a climate change handbasket.

While we're promoting total randomness:

John Fogerty was sued for plagiarising himself when he released this - not sure why, but there is something about being sued for copying yourself that I find funny:

By John Massey (not verified) on 11 Sep 2016 #permalink

Echoes of the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

By John Massey (not verified) on 12 Sep 2016 #permalink

John Fogerty was sued for plagiarising himself when he released this

Fogerty did not own the copyright for the songs he wrote when he was with CCR. It was relatively common in recording contracts of that era for songwriters to sign away their copyright to the material (although they generally owned the copyright to the actual recorded performance, and were generally granted the right to perform their material in live concerts). This is how Michael Jackson ended up owning most of the Beatles' catalog.

It's still an issue in academia. To get an article published in a journal, you generally have to transfer copyright to the journal publisher. (The one exception I know of is works by US government employees performing their duties--US law places such work in the public domain.) Thus I could get into trouble for self-plagiarizing.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 12 Sep 2016 #permalink

"It’s still an issue in academia. To get an article published in a journal, you generally have to transfer copyright to the journal publisher."

It probably varies from field to field. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (which these days is neither monthly nor contains the notices of the RAS), one of the top 5 or so journals in astronomy, leaves copyright with the author (but of course the journal has the exclusive right to publish it in a journal). Another, Astronomy and Astrophysics, requires transfer of copyright to the European Southern Observatory, but gives the author the right to publish it on the web, on a preprint server like, and so on. In practice, both of these models are OK.

Plagiarism is a different issue. Even if something is in the public domain, copying from it is plagiarism. It's not plagiarism to have overlap between your journal paper and the write-up of a conference talk on the same topic, no matter who owns the copyright.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 12 Sep 2016 #permalink

Fornvännen has, in its 106 volumes so far, never claimed any rights beyond a single print run and more recently Open Access publication.

Fornvännen is, like, so last century!

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 12 Sep 2016 #permalink

It’s not plagiarism to have overlap between your journal paper and the write-up of a conference talk on the same topic, no matter who owns the copyright.

This one is quite field-dependent. In my field, it would likely be flagged as plagiarism--admittedly self-plagiarism, but there is such a thing. It would still be considered OK to have a paper on the arXiv, except that my field makes relatively little use of the arXiv. It's also OK to have a version on a personal or institutional server, as long as it's not the publication version. Thus most journals in my field follow the A&A model rather than the MNRAS model, the exception being that US-based publishers (including the publisher of the two leading journals in my field) respect the US requirement that official government work remain in the public domain (although non-US Government co-authors are still expected to transfer copyright), while certain non-US publishers (Elsevier in particular) still require US Government authors to sign away copyright.

Some journals allow authors to pay an additional fee to make the papers open access (basically compensating the publisher in advance for copyright fees the publisher would be forgoing).

Record companies have a well-deserved reputation for being among the most evil publishers out there. That's why Fogerty had to sign away the copyrights to his CCR songs, and why CCR's record company had standing to sue Fogerty for re-using that melody (with different lyrics) on a solo album. Parodies, such as most of Weird Al Yankovic's work, are protected under the fair use clause, but Fogerty couldn't claim that he was doing a parody.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 12 Sep 2016 #permalink

Eric@46&50 - Just to round out the story, Fogerty won the case.

But when he released a song satirising the recording company guy who sued him, the guy sued him again, Forgerty lost, and had to pay a fine and change the song lyric. Lesson: win graciously and quit while you're ahead.

By John Massey (not verified) on 12 Sep 2016 #permalink

BTW, Eric, I think you're being kind to John Fogerty to use the word 'melody' in this case. His own song that he allegedly plagiarised, "Run through the jungle" (which everyone thinks is about the Vietnam War, but which Fogerty said was actually about proliferation of gun ownership in America) consists of precisely one chord, played over and over all the way through. "Old man down the road" is much more complex - it has three chords.

By John Massey (not verified) on 12 Sep 2016 #permalink

Meanwhile, I don't want to start on this subject because I might never stop - copyright absolutely bedevils engineering, and actively prevents dissemination of important information, and I hate it.

By John Massey (not verified) on 12 Sep 2016 #permalink

There was no copyright, and none was needed, back in the Middle Ages, when monks copied books. No-one could make a living from selling books, so books were written by rich people or people supported by reach people. Who pays the piper calls the tune, of course.

Copyright became necessary when it became easy to copy stuff.

Copyright led to the democratization of creative work, allowing one to actually make a living as a musician or writer.

I'm glad those Pirate-Party politicians are in jail.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 13 Sep 2016 #permalink

The headline of # 59 should hav been "Milky Way archaeology"

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 14 Sep 2016 #permalink

I'm trying to set a trend to go back to using diphthongs in English.

As in 'archæology'. Mediæval. It looks cool and it ticks off Americans with their dumbed down spelling. Anyway, I was taught to read/write 'mediæval' in school, by people who spoke and taught better English than the current crop of English teachers in Australia.

The teaching situation in Australia is really very worrying. There is an over-supply of teachers and they are poorly paid, but there is such a desperate shortage of qualified secondary science teachers, that there are a lot of Physical Education teachers teaching secondary science; I guess because they have some degree in Sports Science or some such thing. That's downright scary.

And of course it feeds back into itself - because there is a shortage of good science teachers at secondary school, increasingly fewer secondary school graduates are enrolling in science courses at university.

The latest shocking revelation is that about half of all Australian adults are functionally illiterate and innumerate - they can't read, write or do basic arithmetic well enough to properly manage their own lives without assistance. Good grief.

Ask not when the Idiocracy will occur - it's already here. I mean there.

By John Massey (not verified) on 14 Sep 2016 #permalink

Why is it that when my daughter talks about "the English madwoman who learnt Sichuan cookery at an official culinary institute in Chengdu" I know instantly who she is referring to, even though we have never previously discussed the state of mental health of the woman concerned?

By John Massey (not verified) on 14 Sep 2016 #permalink

"Æ, œ etc. are ligatures, not diphtongs."

Right. However, unless there is a difference in pronunciation, what's the point. It's like apostrophes in the names of aliens in science fiction: it just looks different, but serves no function. Or the heavy-metal umlaut.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 14 Sep 2016 #permalink

There is an over-supply of teachers and they are poorly paid, but there is such a desperate shortage of qualified secondary science teachers

You get what you pay for. We have a similar issue in the US, and for the same reason.

At least in the US, professors in STEM departments tend to be paid more than professors of equivalent rank in other departments. This is because Ph.D. holders in the former fields have career options other than university professor, which is not the case for, e.g., history Ph.D.'s. The non-STEM departments which are exempt from the trend are, of course, economics/business and law.

The contractor who replaced my roof several years ago has a Ph.D. in history. While in grad school he did contracting work to pay the bills. After he graduated he continued to do contracting work because it pays better than any job that would actually use his Ph.D.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 14 Sep 2016 #permalink

Phillip@64 - But that's the point - ligatures look elegant. Written language has an issue of elegance.

When I started learning Standard German in secondary school, I was thrilled to discover that Germans wrote 'ss' as 'ß'. I loved reading and writing it. I had to learn to write a new character I had never seen before. It was solely a matter of elegance.

Elegance is like authenticity - like me wanting to learn Tai Chi Sword forms if, and only if, I can use a real unsheathed Chinese sword, even though learning to use a real sword has absolutely no practical application in the world I live in. It's a matter of authenticity and elegance. Where is the authenticity and elegance in learning to dance around waving a sword-shaped lump if wood? There isn't any, so there isn't any point.

That might not be the attitude you might expect from a civil engineer who earns his living dealing with the most down-to-earth of life's practical realities, but it's the way I feel.

Why do you say you are in Tyskland, when everyone knows that's Germany, and this is a (largely) English language blog? Either you are just being pretentious, or else you regard it as a matter of elegance and/or authenticity. I suggest to you that it is probably the latter.

By John Massey (not verified) on 15 Sep 2016 #permalink

Martin@63 - I was taught in English class that they were diphthongs, but whatever.

By John Massey (not verified) on 15 Sep 2016 #permalink