September Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • The former school / functions venue in my housing area has been converted into housing for single male asylum seekers. I'm putting a note on their front door, offering to teach them some boardgames.
  • Wonder if the weight-loss advertisers realise that the pics of amply built women they intend to frighten female customers with are actually attractive to a bunch of dudes. They're basically providing free soft porn to a market segment who will never buy their product.
  • If I had to be a war vet, then I'd prefer to be one whose son wrote Alice in Chains's "Rooster" about him.
  • When I was a teen in the 80s, the only people I knew who listened to metal were stupid bullies who did poorly in school. I drew the erroneous conclusion that metal must be stupid, unstructured music by and for morons.
  • The white stones placed in our bird bath as lifesavers for bugs annoy the magpies. They keep chucking the smaller one out.
  • Listen to the confused gurgling near the end of Pond's psychedelic paean to downers, "Xanman"!
  • Daikon radish has no place in kimchi.
  • Oh, screw the violin, Bellman!
  • I'm not very interested in issues of surveillance and privacy. I consider myself so unimportant that I would pretty much be flattered to find the government paying attention to me.
  • The Swedish word for vacuum cleaner is "damn sucker".
  • Listening to the always interesting Planet Money podcast about drop shipping, where people will sell stuff expensively on e.g. eBay that they then order for the customer more cheaply on Amazon. Surprised that people aren't using price comparison bots like Pricerunner more.
  • Such a beautiful moon tonight, peeking out through tears in a swiftly moving cloud cover.

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They’re basically providing free soft porn to a market segment who will never buy their product.

It's as if they've never heard of Rule 34.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 Sep 2016 #permalink

Red Dwarf is coming back after 28 years!

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 20 Sep 2016 #permalink

Watched the 2015 Irish, British, Greek, French and Dutch film The Lobster, mostly because it has Léa Seydoux in it.

I really liked it. I think I liked the hotel maid's (played by Ariane Labed) utterly manic, bizarre dancing the most. It would almost be worth watching the film again, just to see that again.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 Sep 2016 #permalink

The Ancient Egyptians were into mass production of cat mummies in a big way. They bred millions of cats to kill and mummify them to sell to customers who wanted cat mummies. It's really quite funny, in a macabre sort of way.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 Sep 2016 #permalink

In the begining of the week, Örnsköldsvik in northern Sweden had +22. Weird.

Welcome to the new normal.

Fall foliage season is starting in my neck of the woods. This is a bit earlier than average, but not because of cold weather--the coldest it has been so far is about +8, and we are expecting summer-like weather for the next three days (daily maxima in the +27 to +30 range, and dewpoints above +15). Rather, it has been very dry this year, and the trees are stressed.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 Sep 2016 #permalink

Kimchi has no place in me.

By John Massey (not verified) on 21 Sep 2016 #permalink

John@8: I have had kimchi a few times, starting in my undergraduate days when my circle of friends included some Korean immigrants. I'll stipulate that it's an acquired taste. I don't have it very often, because there are no Korean restaurants in the area where I live, but I think I could buy it in the Asian grocery store about 20 km down the road.

I even tried to make kimchi once, from a recipe in a cookbook of hot and spicy foods. I wasn't satisfied with the results, and never tried again.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 21 Sep 2016 #permalink

Eric, kimchi and I just don't mix. Not at all. It's not just that we're not friends - we don't even recognise each other as biological entities sharing the same universe.

I have always been very good friends with my daughter, such that she suffers no embarrassment at all when sharing personal biological information with me - it often causes me acute embarrassment, but not her.

A couple of nights ago, she had kimchi and seafood stew for dinner, an adventurous bit of gourmandising on her part which she subsequently had substantial cause to regret, and which she shared with me in agonising biological detail. I won't go into it, but safe to say she won't be doing that again. Unlike me, she usually has no problem with eating hot/spicy and exotic stuff, but that was too much for her. Explosively so.

By John Massey (not verified) on 21 Sep 2016 #permalink

Long standing mystery solved.

The earliest definite archæological evidence for humans in Australia is 47,000 years old. Since then, there is no evidence of the entry of any other humans to the continent. Stone tool technology remained the same Pleistocene technology that the original group of settlers arrived with.

Then in the Holocene, within the past 5,000 years, three things happened: 1) the Pama-Nyungan language group spread throughout most of Australia, with the exception of the far north of Western Australia, in what is called the Kimberley region, and in Arnhem land, which is also in the far north. 2) Stone tool technology changed. 3) The dingo, a semi-domesticate descended from the Asian red wolf, appeared for the first time about 3,600 years ago, possibly causing the Mainland extinction of the Thylacine. People saw these three events as coincidental evidence of the arrival of some new people. But there is no genetic evidence for the arrival of new people - the dingo's appearance in Australia might signify simply a trading event. It is known from other evidence that traders from south east Asia did make trade visits to the north coast of Australia. But if they were the source of the new language family, why do these languages appear all over Australia *except* in the pockets of other languages, which occur around parts of the north coast?

In the past, Aboriginal people have been very resistant to DNA testing. However, this has changed recently - Aboriginal people have accepted DNA testing as being able to inform them on their ancient history and now want to know about their origins, and Eske Willerslev's group have sampled 83 Aboriginal people from all over Australia, and the mystery has been solved.

About 5,000 years ago, for whatever reason, a small group of Aboriginal people from the Cape York peninsula in the far north east migrated out of there, and spread proto-Pama-Nyngan language and new stone tool technology, which then spread by cultural transmission over almost the whole of the rest of Australia. Someone has to develop technology some time - it is not always 'imported' by some invading group of outsiders.

The arrival of the dingo some time after that was just a red herring. It was an unrelated event. What the genetic evidence does show is that Aboriginal people went on evolving in Australia, obviously, and because groups were semi-isolated from one another, with brief infrequent contacts over long distances, this has resulted in considerable genetic diversity including, interestingly enough, the evolution of adaptations to living in desert environments. Maintaining trading contacts over very long distances, literally thousands of miles, involved wife exchange and was enough to prevent inbreeding.

Unfortunately, this paper is behind a paywall, but the abstract is interesting enough:…

Mystery solved, at least in broad outline. Although there is no doubt a lot more to learn with more work. Watch this space - now that Aboriginal Australians can see what they can learn about themselves and their origins, I predict that the flood gates will open and they will willingly embrace modern genomics, because it is demonstrating clearly that they were the first settlers of Australia, and remained the first people of Australia for close to 50,000 years - one of the oldest living cultures in the world, if not the oldest.

By John Massey (not verified) on 22 Sep 2016 #permalink

In another great mystery I managed to solve myself - if my friend Kumi Adachi's guitar playing doesn't do it for you, try blues guitarist Maki Shizusawa.

It took me a very long time to track Maki down on Youtube. To find her Youtube clips, you need to do a search for her name in Japanese: 静沢真紀

I kept putting that through Google Translate, and it kept translating her family name as 'swamp'. Apparently that's how Shizusawa translates into English - swamp. It took me seemingly forever to track down that her romanised family name is Shizusawa; sometimes written as Shisusawa.

It doesn't help that Maki is 1) shy and retiring, unlike Kumi, who is gregarious, and 2) she is a bit of a chameleon - in short, she likes to play dress-ups and change her appearance.

I found one very rare clip of Kumi and Maki playing together, but generally they don't. Different genres. Kumi is rock and funk, Maki is blues.

I told Kumi I was trying to learn Flamenco, and she just answered "Wow. That's very difficult." She's not kidding.

It turns out that Japan has a very strong rock and blues tradition, in which female guitarists are really quite prominent.

By John Massey (not verified) on 22 Sep 2016 #permalink

I wish I could find a whole clip of Maki playing this, because I love it, what there is of it:

Her shyness doesn't translate into the classic Japanese xenophobia, though - she often performs with Western musicians and clearly enjoys it. Same with Kumi - she has no real interest in touring outside of Japan, but she is very friendly to 'foreigners' and has performed with Orianthi Panagaris in Japan several times.

By John Massey (not verified) on 22 Sep 2016 #permalink

Dingoes were brought to northern Australia by men from Macassar, who came for trepang (holothurians) and maybe for pearl-shell. They carried dogs in their boats partly for company, as emergency food supplies, and because a dog could be thrown overboard to distract a shark if a diver was under attack. Dingoes look exactly like 'unimproved' South-east Asian dogs and they are genetically identical. I have read of a traditional dance/ceremony in Northern Australia which tells of the arrival of the Dingo in Macassar men's boats.

By Anthea Fleming (not verified) on 22 Sep 2016 #permalink

How is the weather in Melbourne, Anthea? My daughter is there at the moment.

The Macassar traders were after trepang (bêche de mer, sea cucumbers, sea slugs - all refer to the same thing), pearl shell and sandal wood, which is a scented wood that retains its scent for a long time, and which Chinese people made clothes chests out of, because the scent was (1) nice smelling, and (2) it deterred moths. All of those items were highly prized and sought after by the Chinese. Chinese people still use camphor wood chests to store their winter clothes in, to make them smell nice and keep the moths away - sandal wood and camphor wood both smell much better than artificial chemical moth balls, which smell terrible.

Macassar is in Indonesia - so the Macassar traders were obtaining these items from the northern Australian coastal Aboriginal communities, and then trading them to the Chinese to their north. I think there is little doubt that they brought the dingo to Australia. Pure dingoes (not hybridised with domestic dogs) show very low genetic diversity, so the founding population of dingoes might not have been more than perhaps one pregnant female.

But the important issue is that there appears there was no interbreeding between these south east Asian traders and Aboriginal people - there is no evidence in modern Australian Aboriginal genomes of any introgression from those people into Aboriginal people. So modern Aboriginal people appear to be purely descended from the first arrivals in Australia c. 50,000 years ago, although of course they continued to evolve within Australia, such that quite a lot of genetic structure is evident in modern Aboriginal populations.

So the Pama-Nyungan languages and the introduction of new stone tool technology (small, multi-purpose blades that enabled nomads to survive in desert environments - sort of the stone tool equivalent of a Swiss Army knife) came from the Aboriginal people themselves - initially from a population expansion out of the Cape York Penisula. No one knows what caused that population expansion, but further work will solve that puzzle.

Here is a news report on the Willerslev study for anyone who is interested to get more detail:…

I hope the videos will work in your 'geography' *sigh*. The second video, with Eske Willerslev talking, is the more important one. He talks funny, but he knows his stuff. Svante Pääbo talks funny too, but it is a different funny - he says 'yenome' for 'genome'.

By John Massey (not verified) on 23 Sep 2016 #permalink

Interesting study by the Estonian Biocentre Human Genome Diversity Panel suggests there were two dispersals of humans out of Africa - one 120,000 years ago, which appears as 2% of Papuan genomes and seemingly nowhere else, and a second dispersal about 70,000 years ago, which is the one everyone knows about.

If this is correct, it could explain what are thought to be very old modern human remains (c.100,000 years old?) in southern China which predate the second dispersal out of Africa by a long way.

By John Massey (not verified) on 23 Sep 2016 #permalink

When I visited the museum in Darwin, they noted that there were cultural similarities between the local Australians and the Torres islanders. For example, they both used tube burials. The notes at the museum indicated that the theory was that there was regular trade and cultural diffusion, but that there was no long distance trade or diffusion. Everything that came in and left went through many hands.

I have no idea if this is true or even if it is still the accepted theory.

Kaleberg@23 - The Torres Strait Islanders had agriculture and the bow and arrow. Neither technology was transferred to Mainland Australia. Whereas there is clear evidence of long distance trade with south east Asians, and across very long distances within Australia through some of the most hostile environments in the world. It's a puzzle.

Meanwhile, the prize for the world's biggest carbon footprints goes to:…

Why? Think - the biggest houses in the world, bigger than American houses; houses with open plan interior design and big windows, so large interior spaces which are impossible to heat effectively in winter and cool effectively in summer, huge suburban sprawl with very low population density in every city, so people making long commutes to work, driving big gas-guzzling SUVs, one person per vehicle, and public transport systems which are a joke. Nothing is now manufactured in Australia, or that will shortly be the case when Ford, General Motors and Toyota all close their Australian factories, so big transport costs for everything.

But people pride themselves and feel morally superior because they 'buy local' and recycle plastic bottles. Yep, that will definitely make a big difference.

By John Massey (not verified) on 24 Sep 2016 #permalink

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson’s Idiot Quotient goes through the roof!…
Gary Johnson is willing to admit that we have a climate change problem, but he thinks it is too expensive to do anything about it, so he wants to do nothing. Except emigrating to space.
-- -- -- --
I love this comment:
“Gary Johnson once saw a movie that had something called a “Genesis Device” in that could terraform an uninhabitable world into a habitable world in just a few hours. Since the profit margin on turning an uninhabitable world into a habitable world is so astoundingly high it is intuitively obvious that an unfettered free market will not only produce a ‘Genesis Device’, it will also turn that device into an iPhone app so that everyone can have their own habitable world – or even more than one! Such is the miracle of the Free Market! There are no limits to the unfettered imagination! (Or is that ‘unmoored imagination’? Gary Johnson has such trouble remembering which is which.)”

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 26 Sep 2016 #permalink

One for J'rette.

That is almost wholly benign - white supremacists are mentioned only fairly briefly near to the beginning, and thereafter they are systematically demolished.

By John Massey (not verified) on 26 Sep 2016 #permalink

I have some issues with what is written underneath it, though. What is the "science of pure race"? I thought that was called Nazism; it's certainly not any kind of rational science.

And what is provocative about suggesting that there are biological advantages to outbreeding? Provocative because it challenges some people's idiotic notions about racial 'purity'? The avoidance of long runs of homozygosity by avoidance of inbreeding is just basic Biology.

By John Massey (not verified) on 26 Sep 2016 #permalink

Somehow people seem not to like the suggestion that certain groups in society are genetically superior to others. :-D

Gary Johnson once saw a movie that had something called a “Genesis Device” in that could terraform an uninhabitable world into a habitable world in just a few hours.

That would be one of the Star Trek movies that featured the original cast of the original series. I, too, saw that movie once. Spoiler alert: The terraforming that the Genesis Device creates turns out to be unstable.

As noted philosopher Bugs Bunny would say: What a maroon.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 26 Sep 2016 #permalink

Somehow people seem not to like the suggestion that certain groups in society are genetically superior to otherstheir group.


Part of what is driving Trumpism in the US is that uneducated whites, who because of their skin color used to be able to assume that they were better than certain others who are more melanin endowed, are finding that this is no longer the case. Certain of them are reacting badly to this notion. Those are Trump's voters.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 26 Sep 2016 #permalink

Re @ 26.
i just realised; Governor Johnson wants to imitate the bad guys in ”Out Of The Silent Planet”!**
Use up a world, move on to the next.
Rather like the baddies in "Independence day".
(**an unreadible early science fiction novel by C S Lewis)

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 26 Sep 2016 #permalink

*John Hodges¨ on the upcoming goddamn TV debate:

”James Fallows in his article in this months Atlantic magazine, quotes someone saying "the best way to predict the 'winner' of the debate is to watch it with the sound off." He quotes Jane Goodall as saying (something to the effect of) this is not intellectual combat, this is a chimpanzee dominance display. Hillary will come prepared with facts, logic, history, context, and program proposals. Trump will (metaphorically) wave his prick at her, and the crowd will cheer. Trump will win.”
*From the blog "Dispatches From the Culture wars"

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 26 Sep 2016 #permalink

One almost unbelievable factoid quoted on that video - Brazilians, who are tri-hybrids (Portuguese, African and Amerindian) and just about every shade of skin colour imaginable, have more than 130 different colloquial expressions for different shades of skin colour.

You would think that a large population that is so variable in skin colour would ignore it as a variable. No, they are more sensitive to small differences in skin colour than people in other populations.


By John Massey (not verified) on 26 Sep 2016 #permalink

Meanwhile, as unaccustomed as I am to talking about politics, and although it fills me with loathing and disrespect, this: "Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump are spoiling for an extraordinary clash over race and gender that could come as early as Monday’s debate, with both presidential candidates increasingly staking their fortunes on the cultural issues that are convulsing the nation."

Of all of the major issues besetting both America and the world, they're going to have a debate about race and gender. Wonderful. America is self-destructing.

Me, I'm going to have blueberry pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast tomorrow, and no bastard is going to stop me.

By John Massey (not verified) on 26 Sep 2016 #permalink

John@35: If that headline came from a US-based source, you can safely disregard it. Even the BBC has fallen for that narrative.

Today's reading is from the Gospel According to Saint Neil Peart:

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

Mass media in the English speaking world generally, and the US in particular, have a tendency to avoid choosing sides in political debates, even when facts indicate that one side is correct and the other is not. Many who work for major media outlets (including the so-called public editor for the New York Times) think this mode of operation is appropriate for a news outlet. There is a ha-ha-only-serious saying here that if a Republican politician were to claim that the Earth is flat, the story would bear the headline "Opinions Differ Regarding Shape of Earth". The problem with this approach is that when a politician--let's call him Donald Trump--is making obviously false statements, and a media outlet avoids saying that these are false statements, said media outlet is implicitly taking the side of the liar. I have noticed that, on average, politicians from one of the US's two major political parties lie more often than politicians from the other major political party.

Like it or not, John, racial and gender issues are important in this election. The US has never properly dealt with the racial issues it has had since the founding of Britain's North American colonies, and those chickens are coming home to roost. At least once before (1860), these issues came close to blowing up the US. I don't expect things to get that bad this time around, but I have to worry about the rhetoric I am hearing. I live in a university town--places like this will break if Trump is allowed to fully implement his policies.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 26 Sep 2016 #permalink

All politicians are liars, Eric. This election will be about which liar you prefer.

There is a politician in Australia called Pauline Hanson who, 20 years ago, claimed that Australia was being "swamped by Asians." She didn't define who she meant by "Asians", which encompasses a very large number of populations and ethnic groups, so one is left to conclude that she meant "all people who derive from Asia." At that time, the total Asian population of Australia made up 2%. Now, 20 years later, it makes up 4%.

I think even Hanson has to recognise that an increase of 2% does not fit any definition of "swamping". It's pretty hard to be swamped by 4% of the total population, even if they are highly energetic and constantly running around vigorously in circles.

So now, 20 years later, her claim is that Australia is being "swamped by Muslims." In public polls, the average Australian thought that 18% of the total population is Muslim. 18%. Nope, not quite - in the most recent census, just held, it was revealed that the Muslim population of Australia is 2.2%. That doesn't quite qualify as "swamping" either.

"Ah" I hear them say "but Islam is the fastest growing religion in Australia."

No, wrong again. The fastest growing religion in Australia (admittedly starting from a small number) is...wait for it...Hinduism.

I'm waiting for the day when Hanson makes a public speech in which she announces that "We are being swamped by Hindus." Should be a lot of fun. Or Buddhism - that would be a good one, because the number of Muslims in Australia is exceeded by the number of Buddhists. But "We are being swamped by Buddhists" doesn't have the same threatening sounding appeal, somehow. It's hard to be scared of Buddhists because they don't do anything much.

The hard reality is that the very large majority of Australians are Anglos, and the biggest religious group by far are Christians, by a very long way. The largest migrant group is still from the UK/Ireland.

But the dreadful truth that Pauline Hanson just can't bear to bring to the attention of the Australian public is that Australia is actually being swamped by people exactly like her. Now that really would be intolerable.

By John Massey (not verified) on 26 Sep 2016 #permalink

Trump will probably win because Johnson and that Green woman will siphon off votes, almost all from Clinton. They don't understand the concept "lesser of two evils", don't know how their own undemocratic system works, or want to "make a statement" without regard for the consequences. Fools, one and all.

The only situation in which one should vote for one of the "third-party" candidates, assuming one agrees with their policies more than with the major candidates, of course, is (again due to the non-linear undemocratic system) in a state where there is already a clear winner: with a few less votes, your less-evil candidate still gets all the electoral votes, but a significant showing for a third-party candidate might make some sort of valid statement. (Though with Johnson a raging libertarian who says that global warming is the future since the Sun will become a red giant and we can move to other planets and with Stein being an anti-vaxxer, Clinton is probably the least of 4 evils.)

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 27 Sep 2016 #permalink

Birger@38 - Nope.

I was in the Meckering earthquake in 1968. That was fun.,_Western_Australia

Then there was the Cadoux earthquake in 1979.,_Western_Australia

They were both due to an active fault.

Then there was the Newcastle earthquake in 1989.

All intraplate earthquakes.

Phillip@39 - The one who will not start the next war is the least of 4 evils. And I think Clinton is the most likely to, not the least.

By John Massey (not verified) on 27 Sep 2016 #permalink

Intraplate earthquakes are an occasional thing in North America.

I felt an earthquake in Boston in the late 1980s. I don't remember all of the details, and Wikipedia's list is incomplete, but the Saguenay earthquake in 1988 matches most of the details I remember: that the epicenter was a few hundred km north of Quebec City, that I was actually in Boston at the time, and even the time of day (I remember it being shortly before 7:00 PM local time, consistent with the 23:46 UTC listed on Wikipedia). There are no plate boundaries within thousands of kilometers of the epicenter.

The most powerful earthquake to have hit North America since written records have been available was the New Madrid earthquake series in 1811-12. The New Madrid Seismic Zone remains active to this day.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 27 Sep 2016 #permalink

Aliens - The Resurrection is definitely worth watching.

Aliens 3 was a flop.

By John Massey (not verified) on 28 Sep 2016 #permalink

There is a shortage of major archaeological news right new, unless you count those 19th century ships in the Canadian Arctic.
And I am skeptic about those claims of water plumes off Europa; they would require too much mass to be observable, even by the Hubble telescope.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --- -- -- -- --
Clinton is possessed by Zuul!
Who do you call???…

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 28 Sep 2016 #permalink

But nuances must be hard to translate for even the best neural network. For instance, when do you use "schmuck", schlemiel" or "putz"?

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 29 Sep 2016 #permalink

Birger@46: You'll have to ask a Yiddish speaker that question, as all three words were borrowed from Yiddish into English. I suspect that "schlemiel" is the most insulting of the three, because it is derived in part from the German root schlimm (Yiddish is a sort of amalgamation of German and Hebrew, with possibly a bit of Russian thrown in, and historically written using the Hebrew alphabet). The other two are ordinary insults, but the third sounds like potential fighting words to me.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 29 Sep 2016 #permalink