November Pieces Of My Mind #1

Treehouse ruin near the old chapel cemetery on Skogsö. Tree-house ruin near the old chapel cemetery on Skogsö.
  • Fear me! I make bad puns in really, really bad Mandarin!
  • One Celsius and sleet. I have to drive for four hours today, so I'm switching tyres first.
  • Skänninge is dying. So many empty shop premises and housing properties. Facades flaking. Railway has cut off the eastern approaches to the town square. Last wave of investment in construction seems to have coincided with the mexibrick fad around 1970.
  • Incomprehensible: the re... play I guess? Of Toto's "Africa" with a few hip-hop passages inserted. Why oh why?
  • Why doesn't the Linköping City Library have an entrance towards the town centre? Enormous fucking building and you always have to walk around it.
    These popular lectures are really making my autumn!
  • Listen up, archaeokids. Lets say you first excavate context A, writing "A" on all the find baggies. Then you kind of think that you've gone into a new context, so you start calling it context B and writing "B" on the baggies. Then you decide that B is actually not different enough from A to be treated usefully as a separate entity. This is completely OK. Just put in the field notes that A=B. What is NOT OK is to re-use the label "B" for the completely different shit that is sitting under context A/B! NEVER RE-USE A CONTEXT IDENTIFIER FOR SOME OTHER SHIT!!! /Signed, the guy who is writing up the report and organising the finds.
  • Why do atheists consider Ray Comfort worthy of a response? He appears daft. Does he have a loud public voice?
  • Movie: Grand Budapest Hotel. Ruritanian comedy in a stylised Old Europe. Many big-name cameos. Grade: Pass With Distinction.
  • It struck me the other day that I got married twice during my 20s.
  • Love sleeping with socks on during the cold season!
  • If I were to watch the movies about Captain America, Doctor Strange and Superhero Thor, then that would be my first experience of these characters.
  • Took Cousin E on a long bike ride to the cake shop. First it taketh away, then it giveth.
  • When suggesting who's in my pictures, Facebook seems to assume that I am likely to meet countrymen with whom I interact a lot on Fb. When in fact I tend to interact either live or on Fb.
  • Dreamed that I met a childhood friend. Knew I was dreaming. Told him "Wow, you haven't changed much! But I guess that's because I don't have any recent information about what you look like."
  • "Korkeakoulupedagogiikan apulaisprofessori!" Finnish has the best curse words.
  • Poor beat-up Anthony in "Fistful of Love". )-:
  • Neatly dressed lady in her 50s, looks like a district attorney to me, reading Heinlein's Starship Troopers on the tube.
  • Taken my flu shot!
  • Hey, what's this sudden feeling of being a failure, with little to show for my past and nothing in particular to look forward to? Oh, hello November. It's you again.
  • Shoveled snow for the first time this winter.
  • Remember when we used to think that Dubya was amazingly incompetent?
  • Reading local paper. Good letter to the editor about the municipality's ability to house refugees. I feel great frustration at inability to click "like".
  • Jrette was sad and frightened when she told me the bad news.
  • I just joined the Social Democrat Party. Let's see what we can do.
  • I asked a professor about a UK lectureship. Can Swedish prehistorians be considered? Yes certainly, if they're willing to teach British Prehistory. Replied I, my willingness is boundless but my ability rather limited.
  • Stockholm's bus services are suspended due to unseasonably heavy snow. I walked 4.5 km from Slussen to Sickla, where I'm giving a talk to the local historical society.
  • Get crazy with the Cheez Whiz
  • Missed the day's first movie because of snow still messing public transport up.
  • Wonder if you're a member of the elite? Handy tip: if you think individuals can be "elites", then you ain't.

More like this

For the first time since 2011 I haven't got any teaching this autumn semester, which is really bad both for my finances and for my troop morale. (I feel like my colleagues would celebrate or not even notice if I got eaten by a grue tomorrow.) To boost both I'm instead seeking paid extramural…
tags: Africa, Toto, Perpetuum Jazzile, music, streaming video This video is a live recording of Toto's "Africa" (I love that song!) performed by Perpetuum Jazzile at Vokal Xtravaganzza 2008 (October 2008). This vocal group uses only their bodies to create these remarkable sounds, ranging from rain…
My blog has so far landed me one paid writing assignment, and today I got a copy of the mag where it was published. Sort of. Vice Magazine is a wannabe-controversial fashion mag. Its June issue has a glue-huffing teen boy on the cover and there are web-cam boob pics inside. You get the picture.…
I'm a closeted boardgamer. Is the gents' loo in the new Stonehenge visitors' centre fitted with Aubrey holes? Heh. Here's a nice piece of home-made Scandy English: "the people living in the castles would spend their days doing chores, quarrelling, sleeping and eating". The author probably means…

Incomprehensible: the re… play I guess? Of Toto’s “Africa” with a few hip-hop passages inserted. Why oh why?

Similar things have been done before (in the 1990s), and I didn't like the results either time. Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner", an a capella piece with pauses thrown in for dramatic effect, was converted into a dance tune, which of course cannot accommodate dramatic pauses. Then somebody did a dance cover of "Total Eclipse of the Heart"; the original recording, by Bonnie Tyler, is a classic example of a pure power ballad, and the cover drained the song of all of its power.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Nov 2016 #permalink

But this isn't even a cover. It's some guy playing the Toto record. And pausing it a few times to rap a line or two.

Remember when we used to think that Dubya was amazingly incompetent?

George W. Bush is rightly considered to be at or near the bottom of the rankings for US presidents. (There are valid arguments that Pierce and/or Buchanan might have been worse, but I don't agree with those arguments). Trump looks likely to limbo under that bar.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Nov 2016 #permalink

Martin @2: That's slightly better than what was done with "Tom's Diner": some street kids in Los Angeles basically mixed a drum track over Ms. Vega's singing.

A more direct parallel would be what Wyclef Jean did with Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust": bits of Freddy Mercury's vocals interspersed with rapping (Mr. Jean at least gives Mr. Mercury co-rapping credit in this recording; trouble is, the song was actually written by John Deacon). Again, I vastly prefer the original, and suspect I would if I ever heard the recording you are describing.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Nov 2016 #permalink

Yeah, sorry about Ray Comfort, he's our fault. I remember when he was just a streetcorner looney standing on a stepladder in the Square in Christchurch, ranting about the end times.

But at least we exported the bugger.

By Zane Bruce (not verified) on 10 Nov 2016 #permalink

I read Captain America comics when I was a kid. I can recommend the first Captain America movie, it's set mostly during WWII and is gloriously steam punkish. Thor is just an embarrassment.

Eric@60 on the previous thread - a point of detail, but maybe an important one. Trump did not win the election, in fact he did worse than all of the past three Republican candidates, win or lose. He did worse than McCain when McCain was running with that total airhead Sarah Palin, for goodness sake. The numbers show clearly that Trump did not win the election, Clinton lost it. If the Democrats had fronted up any credible candidate who could get the voters out, they would have beaten Trump by a mile. What it looks like is that a lot of voters just chose not to vote, and by default, America has ended up with a president-elect that it doesn't want.

2016 Clinton 59,582,654 Trump 59,343,508
2012 Obama 65,915,795 Romney 60,933,504
2008 Obama 69,498,516 McCain 59,948,323
2004 Kerry 59,028,444 Bush 62,040,610

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

17.5 Celsius and high cloud. I'm sitting in my study huddled in front of the heater and not going anywhere.

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

I like Suzanne Vega, but she has released some really scary stuff.

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

What some liberal white Americans think about black Americans, and what some black Americans think about what those white Americans think about them. Bit of an eye-opener. It underlines something I have read quite a bit - that a lot of white people form opinions about black people without actually knowing any black people personally.

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

Quote: "it’s more likely the swing was due to Democratic base turnout collapsing than any major realignment." Seems about right.

I'm serial posting, which is bad, but there's lots to talk about.

By John Massey (not verified) on 10 Nov 2016 #permalink…
It seems to me that these skull comparisons don't have much explanatory power. What they should do is compare skulls from a similar time period, and put a Cro-Magnon skull next to a Neanderthal skull. Cro-Magnons had even bigger cranial capacities than Neanderthals; they had big heads. The endo-crania were different in shape, but the range of face shapes were within the range of human facial shapes. To humans, faces are really important; endo-crania not so much. One face famously launched 1,000 ships.

The question is, if you were a Cro-Magnon and saw a Neanderthal, would you see the Neanderthal as a con-specific or not? Evidently enough modern humans did to interbreed on numerous occasions.

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

OK, the temperature is now over 20. That's just about warm enough to go out and do something, although there's still a wind chill factor. But the wind is dropping.

The temperature will now stay at this level overnight and into tomorrow, so today's maximum will be tomorrow's minimum, if you can get your head around that. Bit weird, but stuff like that happens quite a lot in Hong Kong. What it means is that the cold NE wind will stop blowing, and the warmer SW wind will start to come in again. So the temperature will stay the same from now (2.30 pm) overnight and then start to go up later tomorrow.

I was just reminded of that weird 2011 movie Sucker Punch. Anyone see that? Almost everyone hated it, including me and my daughter. But with hindsight, I wouldn't mind watching it again, now that I think I kind of understand it. At the time, it just hugely confused and revolted me.

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

Leonard Cohen is now dead, by the way.

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

RE: clueless kids who can't think of anything original sampling Queen and calling the bad rap an original piece of art? Remember Vanilla Ice?

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 11 Nov 2016 #permalink

Name one good rap.

I can name one, that I genuinely enjoy, but I think that is because Will Smith played it for laughs - it's at least semi-satirical:

But full disclosure - I'm a big Will Smith fan. I love his films. So he can't really do any wrong, AFAIAC.

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

So, gold did go up, markets crashed and the US dollar sank.

But as soon as people recovered from the shock, markets zoomed up again, the US dollar has soared, and gold has dropped like a rock. It seems that traders are welcoming a Republican President, lower house and upper house as 'favourable to trade'. Except that Trump is not favourable to trade, he's Fortress America protectionist. But people are apparently banking on him finding he is unable to implement all the things he said pre-election. I agree to the extent that a lot of it will simply be physically impossible, or there will be various legal and other blocks on implementation, and on trade the downside might hopefully sink in and he will have to think again (or think for the first time, having previously shot from the hip with minimal thought). That is clearly what the Chinese analysts think.

So much for predictions.

It remains to be seen what happens after the honeymoon period, when reality bites.

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

a lot of white people form opinions about black people without actually knowing any black people personally

That seems to be true generally of any two distinct groups X and Y: lots of X form their opinions about Y without actually knowing any Y.

That's part of the reason you tend to see big city and university town voters going for Democrats while exurban and rural voters tend to vote for Republicans. (Not universally true, but good to a first approximation.) It's hard to live in a big city or university town and not encounter people who are different from you. But rural areas have a greater tendency toward being ethnically homogeneous (especially in the Midwest and Great Plains), and these people are often afraid of people who aren't like them. As Jim said in Blazing Saddles:

What did you expect? "Welcome, sonny"? "Make yourself at home"? "Marry my daughter"? You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 13 Nov 2016 #permalink

Eric@21 - Nope. Most whites in big cities and university towns do not socialise with black people or have them as their friends - at least, not if polls have any credibility left. It was clear that the white folks on that clip were in Berkeley, on the university campus, and they clearly had no clue. The black folks were in East Harlem in New York, which I gather is not exactly a wealthy neighbourhood, and they all considered that the comments by the white folks were way off the mark and 'ignorant'. In my view, they were condescending and insulting. They were parroting a stereotype of black people that is normally reserved for white supremacists.

Like the rather tough looking black guy said at the end of the clip, paraphrased: "It's a bit racist. But it's mostly stupid and ignorant. They should not put people in categories." I agree with him completely.

OK, it's likely the interviewer cherry-picked the responses he wanted to get the conclusion he wanted. But even so, he has demonstrated a point - those white people interviewed sounded like they had never even spoken to a black person. They were just wittering on with the 'received wisdom' they have picked up from other white people about black people. The image they have is patently false.

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

The other subliminal message that interviewer was sending was that a bunch of black folks in East Harlem came across as *more intelligent*, more grounded, pragmatic and balanced than a group of privileged white airheads parroting some brainless ideology on a Californian university campus. In effect, he set up a reverse stereotype. Which was not a bad thing to do.

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

Guess What? Trump Lied About Locking Out Lobbyists…
He’s now reportedly considering Goldman Sachs’ Jamie Dimon, the ultimate Wall Street insider, as treasury secretary.
Trump is filling his transition team with some of the very sort of people who he has complained have too much clout in Washington: corporate consultants and lobbyists.
Jeffrey Eisenach, a consultant who has worked for years on behalf of Verizon and other telecommunications clients, is the head of the team that is helping to pick staff members at the Federal Communications Commission.
Michael Catanzaro, a lobbyist whose clients include Devon Energy and Encana Oil and Gas, holds the “energy independence” portfolio.
Michael Torrey, a lobbyist who runs a firm that has earned millions of dollars helping food industry players such as the American Beverage Association and the dairy giant Dean Foods, is helping set up the new team at the Department of Agriculture.
He is basically ”draining the swamp” by pumping the mess into the White House.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 14 Nov 2016 #permalink

Birger@20 - I'm certainly not an expert, but I am informed that (1) the electoral college system is baked into the Constitution, and that (2) it is there as a safeguard against a few large population centres dominating, to the detriment of smaller cities and people who live in rural areas.

One commentator I read said that people should not expect the electoral college system to be wiped away any time soon because constitutionally it will be too difficult to do that.

I don't think you should just shoot from the hip and pronounce the whole of the USA as a 'rotten borough' if you don't understand these things. Clinton is not the first presidential candidate to (marginally) win the popular vote because she has strong support in America's three largest cities, but lose the election because of the electoral college system; there have been four previous candidates.

The reality is she had the opportunity to win this election, if she had paid attention to the poor rural less well educated white people in the big swing states, instead of alienating them. She ran a lousy campaign. You can't afford to ignore a large part of the electorate that is signalling very strongly that life for them has become worse over the past eight years, and still expect to win. From what I've read, Bill Clinton kept stridently calling for this segment of the electorate not to be ignored, but the campaign team just paid no notice to what he was saying.

By all means shoot Hayek - I detest everything he stood for. You don't need to shoot Hitler, he did it himself.

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

Ruritanian, thanks for this word, +1.

By Wesley Dodson (not verified) on 14 Nov 2016 #permalink

John Massey, check out Illmatic by Nas. Or maybe A Tribe Called Quest?

By Wesley Dodson (not verified) on 14 Nov 2016 #permalink

" You don’t need to shoot Hitler, he did it himsel"
-I am thinking of Vienna 1913. I might get both Hitler and Stalin in the same day.
-- -- --
Changes of the transitional climate zone in East Asia
If climate change alters the eastern edge further east and further south, it will affect hundreds of millions.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 14 Nov 2016 #permalink

John@21: Whether or not people socialize with people from different backgrounds, it's still the case that you are more likely to encounter people of different backgrounds in cities and university towns. Maybe they are fellow students in one of your classes. Maybe they are shopkeepers or clerks in places you visit regularly. Maybe they are just people you see in passing while on the street or the subway or the bus. It's much harder to get these interactions in rural areas.

That doesn't mean you won't find clueless airheads on university campuses. Many of the houses with Greek letters on them serve the purpose of gathering such airheads into like-minded groups. And invariably some people will try their best not to leave their bubble. I have heard from several different people of various non-US origin that certain university students will complain about instructors who speak perfectly good English with a non-US accent. There are also certain universities that cater to students whose parents want them to remain in such a bubble; Liberty University is one of the more notorious examples (though even there, many of the students correctly noted that Trump does not share what most people would consider Christian values).

I'm not surprised that the average black person would know more about the average white person than vice versa. When you are an ethnic minority to begin with, you are more likely to encounter people with other ethnic backgrounds, such as the majority group.

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

Woke up in the early hours of the morning, and there framed perfectly in the bedroom window was the biggest full moon that I have ever seen in my lifetime.

No, it was the same moon, just closer than it has ever been in my lifetime.

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

Birger@34 - Let's see - he converted a nail gun (a construction tool) to turn it into a weapon, and then he planned a premeditated murder for two years before committing it in cold blood.

As I think I have made clear before, I do *not* support the death penalty for any reason. In my view it is nothing short of judicial murder. I do not agree with any execution in either China or America. And evidently in this case the condemned man had some provocation. It would seem from what has been reported (and I note here that we do not have a full, clear account of events leading up to the murder being committed) that the court could have taken that as mitigation, and given him a suspended death sentence, i.e. commuted it to a prison sentence.

But the fact remains that he committed a very serious crime, mitigation notwithstanding. People need to respect the rule of law, and not take the law into their own hands.

If people do not respect the rule of law, it is impossible to maintain a viable society. I know you have argued to the contrary on previous occasions, but in my opinion you are wrong.

If we were living in Nazi Germany, a clearly evil regime, then I would agree with you that disobedience of the law is justified, to the point of revolution. But that is not the case in this case; not even close.

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

Birger@34 - As for spermidine, I note that a full 70% of medical association studies are subsequently shown to be wrong. But hell, I'm willing to believe any study that says eating matured cheese is good for me. I just wish they had called the stuff something else.

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

I would not condone any murder either, it is the backstory that is interesting. Yes , I am aware corruption exists everywhere, including the western democracies.
-- -- --
Speaking of western democracies, the Swedish former prime minister and conservative leader, Carl Bildt, had a piece in Washington Post yesterday where he was very concerned that the election of Trump could signal a major upheaval in the relationship between western europe and USA, for instance leaving the former exposed to the fickle policies of Putin's Russia.
I could not find a link.
But here are some Swedes that like Trump: Swedish Nazi group hails Trump in largest demo yet…
And with an anti-semite (Steve Bannon) as senior Trump advisor, it is no wonder they approve.

By Birg erJohansson (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

Birger@38 - If you think that is bad, wait until you get a load of Trump's advisor on climate change. Whereas I think he will find a lot of impediments when reality strikes to what he said pre-election that he would do, pulling the plug on climate accord is something that he *can* impact on immediately - there is no physical or legal impediment to him unilaterally pulling the US out of all of that.

Working as I do for a large American-parented multinational corporation, I am already getting 'messages' about how US businesses can 'reposition' themselves to profit from a major policy change in this area. In other words, to hell with climate change, the thing that matters is short term profit, and people are seeing a likely major policy change on climate change as a way to 'reposition' themselves to cash in on it.

Just when Elon Musk had shown the world how to run a fully solar powered house and car, in a financially viable way as of right now, with proven technology, albeit with somewhat of a cost penalty up front but ultimate financial benefit over the longer term, It looks like a whole lot of small, medium and large US enterprises are about to 'reposition' themselves to torpedo the whole thing.

I have a sick feeling in the stomach knowing that something I have longed to see ever since I was a 17 year old undergraduate, and knew must be practically achievable, is about to be shoved aside by some idiot, just because he can.

By John Massey (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

Meanwhile, in the large part of the world that is not America, this:…

Australians are actually panicking because China's coal consumption peaked in 2013, and is likely to move radically downward from now on. Plus Europe.

So while most of the developed world is now moving quickly away from fossil fuels, America and Australia will revert to a policy of not caring about climate change. But the big catch for Australia is that no one will be left to buy their massive exports of coal and natural gas.

Australia always did speak with forked tongue on climate change, paying lip service while continuing to try to maximise coal exports. That is now to be exposed in a way that clearly exposes the inherent hypocrisy.

By John Massey (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

New hip expression for 'old white males' - SPMs: Stale Pale Males.

By John Massey (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

Myron Ebell - that's the guy. He's Trump's go-to man on climate change, and on the EPA generally.

If he gets the job leading Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team, which looks probable, watch out.

By John Massey (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

I need to start drinking. And I don't even like alcohol.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

John@40: A big part of that is because coal is no longer cost competitive. It's expensive to mine and expensive to transport. There is a reason Pittsburgh became known for its steel production: it's close to the coal mines, so the expense of transporting coal there was lower than elsewhere.

A big part of Trump's pitch in Appalachian states--especially West Virginia, but also parts of adjacent states--was that he would bring back coal. Coal was a large part of the economy in these areas, and since the mines have closed the economy has collapsed. Some West Virginia counties have seen population drops of 80% or more. Of course, those jobs aren't coming back, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, part of which is in the Appalachian coal belt) admitted post-election.

Pop culture reference: The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore. The link goes to the Johnny Cash version from 1979; other artists have covered it as well (the version in my iTunes library is by Michelle Shocked).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Nov 2016 #permalink

I need to start drinking. And I don’t even like alcohol.

In the immortal words of Steve McCroskey: "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue."

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 17 Nov 2016 #permalink

Moar on The Donald:
Kitschy art and politics…
No librul elitisty "subtility" here!
-- -- --
The painting further down, One nation under god, refers to a phrase that was invented sixty years ago, during McCarthyism. (Many teabaggers thinks the phrase actually goes back to the independence, 240 years ago)

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 18 Nov 2016 #permalink

John, a bit of *good* news, at last
"Engineering a more efficient system for harnessing carbon dioxide
-- -- --
Jeez, I need good news. Since October, two co-workers in my corridor have separately been diagnosed with second-stage cancer and admitted to hospital. The Leonard Cohen dies. And USA votes for Truxit.
And Bob Dylan will not come here.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 18 Nov 2016 #permalink

Well, if you want more, apparently there is a new method of mining, called Block Caving. The idea is that you tunnel in underneath an ore body, then you blast out the rock underneath the ore body, so that the support to the ore is removed and the ore falls into the tunnel by gravity, and 'ideally' keeps flowing down into the tunnel as you remove the ore that has already dropped.

That's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard of. Mine safety is never brilliant, but I would be hard put to it to think of a riskier way to operate a mine.

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Nov 2016 #permalink

Birger@50: See Wikipedia's page on the Pledge of Allegiance. The words "under God" were indeed added in 1954. The idea of those words goes back somewhat further; supporters of the change claimed that Abraham Lincoln used those words in the Gettysburg address, though not all versions of the latter text include the phrase (Lincoln may have deviated from his prepared remarks there).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 18 Nov 2016 #permalink

Speaking of the Gettysburg Address (the anniversary of which is tomorrow), here is a classic: the Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation. Be sure to click through for the rendering of the opening line, "Four score and seven years ago our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation," as an Excel bar chart.

John and I are old enough to remember the days before PowerPoint became ubiquitous. It's a useful tool, but one of its major downsides is that PowerPoint makes it easier than ever to give a bad talk. When I used the predecessor technology, transparent sheets displayed on an overhead projector, it was my practice to make a list of what would be on each slide before I made the first slide, because those acetate sheets were a finite resource (especially evenings and weekends, when the people with keys to the supply cabinet were not around but the grad students were getting work done). Today the marginal cost of adding one more slide is effectively zero, so one of the most common failure modes in talks is to have too many slides for the time allotted.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 18 Nov 2016 #permalink

Eric@55 - Hell, yes. But then I'm old enough to remember the days before personal computers, when I had to travel to international conferences clutching my precious box of photographic slides, to be projected onto a screen using an old fashioned slide projector - you needed to compose those buggers really carefully. When I think of some of the agonising stuff we had to do as undergraduates, like using 7 figure logarithmic and trigonometric tables in land surveying classes; endless calculations using a slide rule, and those ridiculous hand calculating machines I had to learn how to use in mathematics, which were like museum artefacts (and in fact now are museum artefacts) - and the day I graduated, the first really affordable pocket electronic calculator became available, which meant that I could put all that junk in a drawer because it was all instantly redundant.

Automation just can't come quickly enough for me.

Speaking of old shit: under the heading of research I genuinely never want to be involved with:

I would happily have settled for the pork and rye bread, myself.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Nov 2016 #permalink

my precious box of photographic slides

When I was a grad student, a few old-timers were still using that technology. Among them was Carl Sagan--I attended what was probably his last scientific talk, at an American Geophysical Union meeting in the mid-1990s.

There is a classic how-to guide for scientific talks, "Guidelines for Giving a Truly Terrible Talk" (PDF). The original title of the document apparently was "35 mm Slides: A Manual for Technical Presentations", attributed to Dan Pratt and Lev Ropes, and published by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. There is also a companion piece for poster presenters, "How to Prepare a Perfectly Putrid Poster".

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

Hey, who are you calling an old timer?

When you are talking about the crucial boundary area between geotechnical engineering and geology, you need to illustrate with good crisp photographs of ground conditions. In the days before digital photography and Powerpoint (which was not *that* long ago), that meant using 35mm slides.

Things are hugely better/easier now. I was an early adopter of digital photography, which I did with great pleasure because I was sick of having to use lousy film developing shops and wanted full personal control over the whole process of making a good photograph. That was a continuation of something that started when I was 16 years old, developing and printing my own black and white photos in a dark room.

I got my first personal computer in 1992. No Internet then. I remember when it was, because you had to buy software on floppy disks (remember those ridiculous things?). I bought some software called "Reader Rabbit", sat my 2 year old daughter on my knee and tried to use it to teach her to read. She was entertained by the cartoon pictures of the rabbit for about, oh, 30 seconds. By the time she was 3, all she needed me for was to switch on the computer and act as a comfortable chair booster for her to sit on while she operated the program, so the software purchase was not a total waste.

By the time she was 8 I got sick of her hogging my PC when I needed to use it, so she got her own laptop. By the time she was 9, I got sick of her hogging my PC to use the Internet, so she got her own Internet connection. I gave her a good, short, clear written piece to read on how kids should keep themselves safe on the Internet, and then plugged her in and left her to it. Unlike other parents I knew, I never secretly checked on the content she was viewing. Basically, if you don't know your own kid by age 9, you never will. Giving her her own Internet connection was one of the best things I ever did - by the time she was 10 her general knowledge and awareness of current events was amazing.

When she was 12, Hong Kong was plunged into the SARS epidemic, and all of the schools were closed for 6 weeks, and the kids were effectively put into isolation at home to keep them safe. At my daughter's school, the teachers fed the lessons and homework to the kids by Internet, so that they would not fall behind the curriculum during the lockdown. For the very few kids who did not have home access to a PC and an Internet connection, the other kids printed out the stuff and the mothers formed an informal network to get the material to those kids. It all worked like a well oiled machine - Kid + Mum Power in action.

And that was it, basically. Since then, I have had to surrender two Macbook Air laptops that I had bought for myself (because I needed them) after owning each of them for only about 3 weeks because my daughter decided she needed them for her university studies (my kid's education trumps my own personal needs every time), so she now has a desktop, 3 laptops, a smart phone and the latest iPod. I have given up buying laptops because I just can't hold on to one for more than a few weeks before she decides she needs it. And she would probably have taken over my desktop as well if I had not bought her an identical one.

Someone told me the secret a long time ago, and I probably should have listened - if you want to stop your kid from taking over your computer, buy her one that is better than yours :)

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

"Barley dormancy mutation suggests beer motivated early farmers"…
In retrospect it seems so obvious;- of course they would exert themselves to get more booze. The resource base for population growth -and ultimately civilization- was a spinoff ! Homer Simpson as symbol for the neolithic revolution?

(I do not know which crops they used for alcohol production in Eastern Asia. And what about mesoamerica, is it possible to get alcohol from maize?)

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 21 Nov 2016 #permalink

BTW, my comments @ 60 are mostly in jest, but never underestimate the power of vice to motivate people.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 21 Nov 2016 #permalink

Birger@60: Rice wine exists in some East Asian cultures. Sake is an example. And of course in the 19th and 20th centuries they adapted Western alcoholic beverages: most of those countries now have locally produced beer, some of which I even find drinkable.

I don't know if maize is routinely used as an alcohol base, but lots of other plants are used. Tequila comes from a plant called agave which is native to Mexico. The Japanese have plum wine as an alternative to sake. Apple cider is common in both England and the US. And lots of fruits get turned into wine--I have even had jalapeño pepper wine (made in Amherst, NH of all places).

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

Written records from the Shang Dynasty suggest they were prodigious rice wine drinkers. The elite were in the habit of drinking the stuff from very oddly shaped bronze drinking vessels. (The Shang were also prodigious makers of large bronze funerary objects and, from the number of these objects still in existence, they seem to have been into mass production of them - prompting the jocular comment from my daughter during one museum visit in Taiwan, when I suggested that there were more bronze objects which we had not yet seen: "Ar, ya see one ancient Chinese bronze object, you've seen 'em all.") The Shang produced a particularly fine form of bronze which was, unfortunately, due to its high lead content. Some researchers experimented with putting rice wine into bronze drinking vessels of the same composition, and determined that, within a fairly short space of time, 30 minutes or so, the wine would take up enough lead from the vessel to actually kill someone.

So there is now a theory that the famous female courtesan, priestess and military general Fu Hao might have died at such a young age due to the effects of accumulated lead poisoning. (She died c. 1200 BC at the age of about 30.)

In NE China they brew an alcoholic drink from sorghum. You have to drink it by throwing the whole glass of the stuff down your throat in one gulp. If you sip it, it just makes your lips turn numb so that you can't talk. You can drink this stuff for about an hour and feel perfectly OK...until you try to stand up, whereupon you find that your legs are completely paralysed.

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

Some Swedish marine archaeologists have found numerous well-preserved wrecks in the Black Sea, 2000 m down, using remotely controlled vehicles. This evening Swedish TV will have a documentary about it. There is no vertical mixing of the deep water, so the lack of oxygen protects wood from most organisms.
There shold be plenty of Roman and Greek vessels, and the odd Viking ship, too.
I wonder if the sedimentation rate is low enough to allow ancient sunken driftwood to stick up above the bottom. In that case, once the growth sites are identified from isotope content, you get a dendrocronology goldmine for the entire Black Sea catchment area.
But what I really hope will be found is the odd bronze-age ship with preserved items that would normally be destroyed.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 28 Nov 2016 #permalink

Fidel was not the only one to die this weekend.
A colleague of mine with an office in the same corridor passed away yersterday, from cancer. He was sixty-three.
And yet another working in my corridor corridor has been hospitalised for cancer within the same month.
(Trump, of course, will live into his nineties, just like the Ayatollah or that useless generalissiomo in Taiwan.)

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 28 Nov 2016 #permalink

Ok, here is some more up-beat stuff:
The Daily Mash: "Scientists believe reality is a dream in racist nan’s mind "… Excerpt: “OUR reality is just a dream in the mind of a nan who doesn’t like foreigners, it has been claimed.Researchers at the Institute for Studies were trying to find a rational explanation for why everything is going insane when they hit upon the ‘Nan-Mind’ theory."
Also: Woman phones in sick with ‘post-truth’ excuse
BBC newsreaders perform ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ for Children In Need
Black Friday was in Dante’s Inferno

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 28 Nov 2016 #permalink

Birger@66: Huh, a likely story. In the UK just after the war, they had food rationing. Australians were parcelling up stuff like butter, steak, even lard for frying their fish and chips, and posting it off to them. Were the bastards gratful? Like hell they were - they repaid us by invading our country, making it even more Anglo than it already was. 'Reffos' from southern and eastern Europe were regarded as 'not white' in those 'good old days'.

No thanks.

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