February Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • Nalin Pekgul: "Us Muslim immigrants used to invite Jehovah's Witnesses to practise our Swedish".
  • Movie: Sweden, Heaven and Hell. Hilariously over the top Italian exploitation mockumentary about late-60s Sweden that manages to tell volumes about Italy instead. Narration similar to the closing voice-over in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Relentless blonde breast flaunting throughout. Grade: Recommended.
  • Movie: The Danish Girl. Transgender journey in 1920s Copenhagen and Paris. Main character's self-absorption and sudden unwillingness to doink A. Vikander get kind of old. Grade: OK.
  • Imagine explaining to someone in 1975 that one day, you'll be receiving regular phone calls from criminals in India who want to take your home computer hostage.
  • Your choice of headgear is unimportant to me. But I hope you'll tell me if you're being threatened or coerced.
  • Sojourning att Kenilworth in 1575, Elizabeth I and her secretariat processed 20 horse deliveries of paperwork every day.
  • Jrette has culled her library. I took four grocery bags of books to the public one.
  • Imagine finding a barf ball from an owl bear, containing the hair, bones and underwear of a 3rd level halfling cleric.
  • How to swear in German: Verschwörungstheorien und Online-Hass!!!
  • A friend of mine said something interesting about the Green Party's representatives in Swedish municipalities. You get quite a lot of chemtrail-believing hippies. But almost exclusively in towns where the Green Party has never been in a majority position. Actual operative local government tends to weed them (!) out, leaving the pro-science technocratic Greens, for whom I have myself voted repeatedly.
  • Checking myself in the bathroom mirror, I discovered that I'm having a no hair day. But also a pretty good beard-stubble day.
  • I just saw something that would frighten you museum types out there pretty bad. A normal 25-y-o ziploc baggie. That has started to fall apart spontaneously because the plastic has degraded. And written on the baggie, of course, is the ID of its contents.
  • In the past decade I've entered three unfamiliar fields of research. I've used a method that may look evident to some, but still bears spelling out. It's simply this: start with the newest publication and read up backwards.
  • Recalled this piece in my first-year German textbook. Mostly what we read there was of no interest to us other than as grammar exercises. But this one was unusually poignant in all its brevity. About a man who gets an ugly dog from a shelter. It's an old scarred mutt. But the man likes his dog. Ich habe auch ein Paar Narben. "I also carry a few scars."
  • I found something to write a new Wikipedia article about! A Swedish 1970s scifi publisher.
  • Movie: Louise by the Shore. Beautiful water-colour style animation about an old woman who gets left to spend the winter alone at a strangely empty summer resort in Normandy. Reminiscent of Tove Jansson. Grade: Recommended.
  • Weekly news mag Fokus offers statistics on where it's easiest to find a spouse in Sweden. Erroneously looks at proportion of unmarried people instead of absolute number. Recommends looking in parts of the country with extremely low population density. *sigh*
  • Movie: The Odyssey. Lavishly produced, solid, pretty and conventional biopic about the J.Y. Cousteau diving movie family business. Grade: OK.
  • Studying the Swedish Social Democrat Party's platform. Surprised to find that they/we want to establish a worldwide collective bargaining agreement between capital and workers (Sw. kollektivavtal). Not sure if this should be read as a Utopian ambition or an attainable goal.
Baggensfjärden, view from my Dad's house Baggensfjärden, view from my Dad's house

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start with the newest publication and read up backwards

This is one of the two possible approaches. The other is to read an older paper somebody recommends to you and then look for articles that cite that paper. I tend to use a combination of the two methods, and I think most people in my field do as well.

Of course, if you don't have somebody you trust to recommend an older paper, it's probably better to use your method. The median number of citations of a scholarly paper (not controlling for field) five years after publication is zero.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 21 Feb 2017 #permalink

That wouldn't be a productive strategy in my fields. Most publications aren't searchable on-line. On the other hand, the possibly relevant annual additions to literature in any tightly defined field are very few.

the possibly relevant annual additions to literature in any tightly defined field are very few

In which case keeping up with the literature is actually a possibility in your case, whereas it isn't in my case.

Even so, is there nothing equivalent to a Social Science Citation Index? When I was a student, the Science Citation Index was not available online, and a routine ritual during my Ph.D. research was to walk over to the library to look up citations of a paper I had found. Of course it's simpler now because I can do that search from my desk via any of several different databases (often the online journal article itself will have a link to a list of papers that have cited it). Perhaps you still have to visit the library to do the equivalent. But it should be possible.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 21 Feb 2017 #permalink

There is no such index that I'm aware of. Both the social sciences, and the humanities to which archaeology is counted in Europe, are splintered into innumerable regional (and chronological) fields. A Stone Age scholar in Japan has absolutely no use for a paper on French cathedrals regardless of how many citations it gets. So citation counts don't really work in our fields.

Birger@5 - Yep, that fits with everything that I have read.

When farmers from the Levant and later Anatolia migrated into Europe, they went as whole families. But the migration of pastoralists from the steppe that came afterwards was heavily male-biased. This is why most modern Europeans are a genetic mix of the two (the exception being the majority of Sardinians, who have no steppe ancestry at all, especially people from the inland highland areas, who were always very hostile and resistant to invasion - even the Romans left them alone), and why occasionally you find that European hunter gatherer mtDNA has managed to survive (in about 10% of people of mostly modern European ancestry, including me), but you can't find a trace of hunter gatherer Y DNA anywhere. General pattern repeated in history - men get killed or driven off, women get mated with. There were exceptions like the Mongol-led hordes, who just killed every living thing in lots of places - men, women, children, animals, the whole lot. But obviously not always, given the amazing proportion of people today who carry Y DNA from Genghis Khan.

There is nothing I dislike more, when reading into a new subject, than starting with the oldest papers first and reading forwards. I recall as a young teenager reading Plato and Aristotle and thinking "Why am I bothering to read this rubbish, when so much of it is so obviously wrong?" But I persisted, just because I felt I should. I didn't think that about On the Origin of Species, but then at the time I didn't know any better, and neither did many other people. And less of Darwin is now obviously wrong than Plato.

Just got discharged from hospital after carpal tunnel surgery to one hand (the other one will come after the first one has healed up - one at a time is a more expensive but much wiser option). I had to repeatedly refuse the pain killers that the doctor kept trying to prescribe for me, despite the fact that I told him several times that I was not in any pain at all.

Young Chinese trainee nurse, while changing the dressing on the incision in my hand: "How did you get carpal tunnel syndrome?" Me: "By doing too much work using a computer keyboard. Oh, no, could you please not put the bandage that high up - it restricts the use of my fingers, and I have some work I need to do on the computer when I get home." Trainee nurse looks at me, shakes her head, rolls her eyes, but complies with my request.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 22 Feb 2017 #permalink

Thanks, Martin. Should be, I'm a notoriously fast healer. All doctors who have sliced me open in various places have expressed surprise at how fast I heal.

Of course, that just brings forward the unwelcome thought of having to go back into hospital again to do the other hand. I hate being locked inside hospitals, and am a dreadfully bad hospital patient as a result - keep making jail breaks via increasingly ingenious routes, doctors and nurses get totally fed up trying to find me, etc.

The only reason I needed to stay in hospital at all was because they wanted to give me antibiotics intravenously a couple of times a day (plus monitor my 'vital signs' after the anaesthetic several times every day, but that was all unnecessary - my blood pressure is always on the low end of the normal range, same as my father). Very twitchy about antibiotic-resistant superbugs these days, they are. With good enough reason - Mainland China is full of them. A research team has been going around all the underground railway lines and sampling from the handrails, etc., and finding superbugs in their samples - but by far the highest incidence of superbugs they found were on the rail lines most heavily used by Mainland Chinese tourists coming into HK by rail.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 22 Feb 2017 #permalink

I hope you get a full recovery soon.

Re. Exaggerated claims about possibility of mammoth cloning:

"Cloners warned; 'Mammoths are for life, not just Christmas' http://www.newsbiscuit.com/2017/02/17/cloners-warned-mammoths-are-for-l… ‘We are expecting to get a lot of these over the next year,’ said the newly renamed Battersea Mammoths Home. ‘People can’t cope with these novelty breeds and they just dump them in the street. Many of our cities may soon be over-run by urban mammoths.

If Juniorette does this, you can be proud of her http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/2012-02-22

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 22 Feb 2017 #permalink

"Movie: Sweden, Heaven and Hell. Hilariously over the top Italian exploitation mockumentary about late-60s Sweden that manages to tell volumes about Italy instead. Narration similar to the closing voice-over in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Relentless blonde breast flaunting throughout. Grade: Recommended."

There is some thriller from the USA made in the 1960s or whenever when a fugitive is on the run in Sweden. He just happens to walk into a building during the annual meeting of the local nudist club (with interesting bits obscured Austin-Powers style). Yes, probably more nudists in Sweden than in the USA, perhaps even in absolute, not just relative, numbers. But the chances of a meeting like this are really small. But that has contributed to the picture of Sweden in many cases, as have 1950s encyclopedia entries claiming that the SDAP is a Marxist party. (Nudism is much more common in Germany and the Netherlands than in Sweden (as are---not really related to nudism---mixed public saunas (with obligatory nudity), but that doesn't fit in with the Hollywood cliches.)

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 22 Feb 2017 #permalink

"Ich habe auch ein Paar Narbe."

Either the book or your memory is bad; should be "Narben", plural of "Narbe".

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 22 Feb 2017 #permalink

In all likelihood just my bad grammar. I only did three years of German and have never spoken it much. Thanks for the correction.

Phillip, the movie you mention is Mark Robson's The Prize (1963) starring Paul Newman. It's famous among Swedes for its views of Stockholm, particularly Newman's completely unrealistic leap from the St. Catherine elevator into the sea. The elevator is actually way too far from the seashore in all three dimensions.

I haven't seen the movie. It's a 6.8 out of 10 on IMDB. Probably worth watching!

As it happens, I live about 10 km away from a nudist camp, but I have never visited it. Certainly not this time of year, as for obvious reasons I think it's a seasonal business.

There are actually good reasons not to walk in the woods while naked around here. Mainly mosquitoes and ticks, some of which carry some rather nasty diseases. There are insect repellants that will mitigate this problem somewhat, but I, for one, cannot put such things on my forehead, as when I start to sweat (and in my case it is most definitely when) that stuff will run down into my eyes. Likewise I wear a baseball cap if I expect to be out in the sun for a long period of time, since I would prefer not to get a sunburn (I'm OK for up to about an hour at this latitude, as long as it's not too close to midday and not too far above sea level).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 22 Feb 2017 #permalink

Ein Paar Schuhe = a matching pair of shoes
Ein paar Schuhe = some shoes, matching pairs or not
Ein Paar Narben = never used, but could be applied to those historic, almost identical, paired smallpox vaccination scars (I only have one of them).
Ein paar Narben = some scars

By wereatheist (not verified) on 22 Feb 2017 #permalink

Birger@18: We get rather too much of that on this side of the pond.

It's common over here for Republicans to make claims that reducing tax rates will actually increase tax revenue. Ronald Reagan was elected President twice based on that claim, and more recently Sam Brownback was elected Governor of Kansas twice on this claim. Of course it doesn't work that way in the real world: Reagan signed several tax increases as well as tax cuts, and things have gotten so bad in Kansas that the state legislature has enacted some tax increases.

The claim that a government can increase tax revenues by lowering tax rates is based on something called, I kid you not, the Laffer Curve. Its proponents point out that there is a tax rate at which revenue is maximized. Let's overlook the drastic simplification involved for the time being. In one sense this claim is trivially true: a basic theorem of calculus states that if a function is not constant, it must have a maximum somewhere. The catch is that this theorem tells us only that the maximum exists; it could actually be at one of the endpoints, i.e., at a marginal tax rate of 100%. (We know it isn't at 0% because by definition a jurisdiction with that rate is collecting no revenue, and governments with actual tax rates are observed to collect revenue.) In particular, there is no evidence that the US (or any other jurisdiction for that matter) has tax rates that are higher than this optimum.

The amazing thing is that, despite economic ideas like this and several others having been definitively falsified by empirical data, Republican politicians are still able to propose plans based on these ideas and not be laughed out of the room. Unfortunately, politics is not a science.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 22 Feb 2017 #permalink

When I say you can't find a trace of hunter gatherer Y DNA in Europe, I need to be careful, because R1a and R1b appear to have been the main hunter gatherer Y lineages in Eastern Europe during the Mesolithic and Neolithic, and they are the dominant Y lineages in modern Europeans - R1a in Northern Europe and R1b in Western Europe. But they had to go through an important process first. To quote David on his Eurogenes blog:

"Then, during the Eneolithic/Copper Age, foragers on the Eastern European steppe carrying R1a and R1b mixed with pastoralists from the fringes of the steppe, like the North Caucasus, and became steppe pastoralists.

These steppe pastoralists with Eastern European forager-derived R1a and R1b then expanded rapidly and moved en masse into the rest of Europe, largely replacing the farmer G2a and I2 lineages there."

So the dominant male hunter gatherer lineages in Eastern Europe had to first mix with pastoralists on the steppe, and turn themselves into the dominant male lineages among the steppe pastoralists, who then migrated back into Europe and overran almost the whole of Central, Western and Northern Europe, with the notable exception of Sardinia, as I mentioned previously.

The end point of this invasion of Europe by steppe pastoralists marked the end of the 'great homogenisation' referred to by Razib that occurred during the Holocene. That's not too helpful, because we are still in the Holocene, unless you subscribe to the idea that we are now in the Anthropocene. But it's not correct to say the great homogenisation only occurred in the Neolithic either, because it carried on into the Bronze Age, and this 'panmixia' that resulted in the homogenisation that we see in Europe today came to an end some time during the Bronze Age.

It's confusing, I know. European hunter gatherers were marginalised out of Eastern Europe by invading farmers, turned themselves in pastoralists on the steppe, became the dominant lineages there and domesticated the horse, and then made a comeback, roaring back into Europe in a series of sweeping invasions that moved across Europe really fast, replacing the dominant male farming lineages in Europe. 'Replacing' usually means killing off the men and taking over the women, in this context - so this was not a peaceful integration process, it gives every appearance of having been a very violent one, resulting in the extinction of the dominant male farming lineages.

Most modern European males are R1a or R1b. I am R1b - my ancient male ancestors came from North-Western Europe (which fits with my recent genealogy, but I won't talk much about that, because recent genealogy doesn't interest me much at all).

If I had to guess, I would guess that Martin and Birger are R1a, and Eric also, if he derived from Scandinavian recent ancestors.

To try to make this comprehensible to archaeologists, it appears that R1b were, or became, the Bell Beaker people.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 22 Feb 2017 #permalink

Birger@12 - Thanks. After the pressure on the median nerve is relieved by the surgery, it takes a while for the nerve to regenerate, so the numbness in the hand and fingers doesn't disappear immediately after the surgery; it can take a couple of weeks, or happen more slowly and gradually over a period of months, depending on how badly the median nerve had degenerated before the surgery.

In my case, I already think I can detect an improvement - the hand that was operated on already feels less numb than the hand that has not yet been operated on. But it's early days yet, and that could just be my imagination. We'll see how my hand feels after a couple more weeks or even a few more months. The surgeon said in my case the nerve was "a bit squishy" (a description I found singularly unhelpful) but not too "squishy", so I'm hopeful of fairly rapid improvement - while I continue to do what caused the problem to occur in the first place, naturally.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 22 Feb 2017 #permalink

In the meantime, I am feeling much better as a result of getting out of hospital. Yesterday, having woken me at midnight, just as i was managing to drift off to sleep, to give me the final intravenous antibiotic injection (which of course completely woke me up, so I had to get dressed, sneak out of the hospital via one of my carefully plotted devious escape routes and go for a walk before going back to change into my pyjamas and go back to bed again), the nurses woke me again at 7.30am to try to give me the pain killers that I didn't need and refused to take.

So at least last night I was able to have a peaceful, uninterrupted night's sleep, and I feel a lot better for it.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 23 Feb 2017 #permalink

Before I had the surgery, they gave me an ECG that I didn't need, and could have told them that, but it was easier just to have it than to try to argue. They also took a blood sample and sent it to the lab for determination of my blood chemistry. I have absolutely no idea why they did this, but the results caused me a certain amount of amusement. The results all came back normal, except that 1) I am too low in sodium and chloride, and (2 I am too high in potassium.

The reason this is funny is that for years, my well-meaning wife has been nagging me to use less salt and eat more bananas. Recently, she has been forcing me to eat a banana every day. If you're wondering how a 5'4" Chinese woman can force a much larger and stronger mostly European man to do anything, all I can say is you haven't met my wife. I have seen her reduce grown men almost to tears.

So now I have to try to convince my wife that what she has been telling me to do is exactly wrong, and that I need to increase my salt intake and eat fewer bananas. This is not going to be easy.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 23 Feb 2017 #permalink

Birger@27: Hahaha! I like that.

Every child born has some novel mutations, most of which are deleterious, but most of which are only trivially so. It makes the odds difficult to calculate.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 23 Feb 2017 #permalink

"And less of Darwin is now obviously wrong than Plato."

You don't read Plato for his conclusions regarding physics, or metaphysics for that matter. (And if you are reading correctly, you know that some of the overtly expressed statements on the latter are cover for less orthodox opinions.)

"Imagine finding a barf ball from an owl bear, containing the hair, bones and underwear of a 3rd level halfling cleric."

+10. If I ever get to run a campaign again I am so stealing this.

So why did I read Plato, and how was I reading 'incorrectly'?

By Asparagus (not verified) on 24 Feb 2017 #permalink

I ask out of genuinely wanting to know what you mean. Otherwise, I have to regard your comments as nothing more than a bit of useless fly-by supercilious snark/trolling, posted so you can feel and demonstrate some kind of superiority.

I read Plato and Aristotle out of genuine interest in the level of understanding at the time, but found myself questioning why I was starting at the beginning, rather than starting with Newton and Einstein (both of whom I read subsequently, and both of whom I had little difficulty in understanding, including the Theory of Relativity, which most people seem to regard as difficult to understand) and then reading backwards, which would have been a better way to go about it.

Similarly, I have found it to be an informative exercise, given what I understand now about evolution and the processes that drive evolution, to go back and read Darwin again, to understand why he made the erroneous conclusions that he made. One mistake I think he made was to generalise too much about sexual selection, which I don't think has been much of a factor in human evolution at all. There is a white supremacist anthropologist called Peter Frost who keeps trying to perpetrate his theory about how sexual selection accounted for the occurrence of variations in hair and eye colour in Europeans and nowhere else in the world, but his arguments don't stand up to scrutiny, and the more that is learned about the origins of modern Europeans, the more his arguments appear contrived, and the less persuasive his theory becomes.

So, to be blunt, either explain yourself, or I'm going to ignore you as a superficial, brainless troll.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 25 Feb 2017 #permalink

Reporting on recent Hollywood movies watched:

2016 film Morgan - sci-fi 'thriller' (calling it 'horror' is over the top; to me it doesn't qualify for the 'horror' genre, which I dislike and don't watch). This one actually had me riveted to my seat, and I thought it was pretty good, but not more than that. Moderately worth watching, but not brilliant.

2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven - Moderately entertaining, but left me feeling curiously disappointed. The excellent cast were let down by a mediocre script. They deserved better, and could have done a lot better with a better script, and some of the characters could and should have been developed a lot more. As it is, it will not go down as any kind of classic, unlike its predecessor. Probably worth watching, but I rate it only as Fair.

2016 film In a Valley of Violence - empty pile of totally unconvincing garbage. Don't bother. (I differ strongly with the critics on this one.)

2016 remake of Ben Hur - steaming pile of garbage. Very far below the Charlton Heston original; so much so that I don't know why they bothered. Seriously, it's bad - really don't bother.

2016 film Bastille Day - I thought this was pretty good, and it could have been better with better scripting. Probably worth a look.

2016 film Sully: Miracle on the Hudson. Outstanding. Having sat through the original true event as it was unfolding in January 2009, with my heart in my mouth, I think this retelling, and revelation of what the pilot Chesley Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles had to go through during the investigation of the event in the aftermath, which was not known to the public at the time, is excellent. Tom Hanks does his usual really solid job in the role of Sully. Strongly recommended.

2016 film The Accountant - I'm a bit of a sucker for 'action' films, but I really liked this one. Ben Affleck as the autistic accountant manages to go through the whole film without changing facial expression even once. Recommended if you are into 'action' movies which stray into the realms of fantasy; otherwise you probably won't like it.

That's it. Haven't been watching much because I have been too busy working and getting my hand cut open. On which point, it seems to be recovering nicely, thanks. I managed to change the dressing on it myself without f*cking it up (I have changed a much bigger dressing on an a very long incision in my abdomen that required 18 stitches, expressly against doctor's orders, and with materials I picked up myself in the local pharmacy, without f*cking it up or really knowing exactly what I was doing, but that time I could use two hands to do it, and it's not rocket science - this time I had to do it one handed, which is considerably trickier, but I had been instructed by the doctor on exactly how to do it, and his nurse had provided me with all of the materials I need, so it wasn't really too hard. As he has instructed, I have to do this now every day until the stitches either dissolve by themselves or have to be removed - he used self-dissolving stitches, but apparently some people have skin that won't dissolve the stitches, so I don't know whether they will dissolve or not. I guess I will find out over the next 10 days.)

By Asparagus (not verified) on 25 Feb 2017 #permalink

2016 film Sully: Miracle on the Hudson

I don't see many movies, but an actual airline pilot whose blog I regularly read strongly disagrees with your review. The major issue is the way the NTSB were made out to be the villains in the film. People who were closely involved with the actual investigation agree:

“The portrayal of the NTSB investigators in the new ‘Sully’ movie as prosecutors is not only wildly inaccurate but grossly unfair,” said Mark Dombroff, an aviation lawyer who represented U.S. Airways during the investigation.

Folks at the NTSB, which is about the most highly respected government agency that exists, have been no less critical. I received an email from Robert Benzon, Investigator-In-Charge of the board’s inquiry into the flight 1549 accident. “This movie will hinder the success of future NTSB investigations,” wrote Benzon, “because of its incredibly inaccurate depiction of how such investigations are conducted. The NTSB needs the cooperation of all investigation participants: aircraft and engine manufactures, airline operators, the FAA, employee unions, and very importantly flight crewmembers. ‘Sully’ was a step backward.”

So this one is definitely not on my list of movies I would see.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 25 Feb 2017 #permalink

Eric, in the film they interviewed the actual guy, Chesley Sullenberger, at the end of the film, and he defended the investigators, saying it was a process they had to go through, and that he harboured no ill feelings towards them. So it seems even he might agree that they were portrayed a bit too harshly in the movie. But the script follows accurately the process the investigation went through, according to both Sullenberger and Skiles. Clint Eastwood is a good director who insists on accuracy, and I presume he had a record of the process of the investigation.

It is still worth watching though, for the portrayal of the process that the pilot and co-pilot went through, and the subsequent water landing.

The contentious point in the investigation, at least as portrayed in the film, was that after the bird strike caused the loss of both engines, simulation showed that he had enough time to turn the plane around, gliding, and make it back to the airport. However, that would have required him to make an instant decision to do that as soon as the loss of power in the engines occurred; whereas real people needed time to process what had happened and then think through what the options were - return to the airport, or try to make it to the airport at Teterboro, and he only had seconds in which to do that - but by that time the plane was already too low to make it to either airport, so he made the decision to make a water landing on the river.

The other contentious point was the investigators stated that one of the engines remained on idle; but when in fact they recovered the engine from the river, they found that it was too badly damaged by the bird strike for it possibly to be still functioning after the impact.

This is evidently all true to the facts.

The representation of what happened in the cockpit is spot-on accurate because it followed precisely the cockpit voice recording, from take-off to water landing.

The airline were pretty unhappy with the pilot, because it meant a total loss of one of their aircraft.

I read what that pilot had to say on his blog, and I think he has been a bit too dismissive of the movie, and too harsh in his criticisms. The very reason I liked it was that Hanks did not play Sully as some great heroic character, but as a quiet, serious man who was deeply troubled by doubts after the event about whether he had done the right thing and put a lot of people's lives at risk unnecessarily. They also showed that he suffered PTSD for some time after the event, which apparently is true.

Sully himself explained why the impact of the water landing was as hard, impact-wise, as it was.

I'd still recommend watching it, and you can form your own opinion of the film. Having read that pilot's blog, and having read a lot about what happened, I am still of the opinion that it is an excellent film that stays pretty true to real events.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 26 Feb 2017 #permalink

Nah - I have now read both posts about the film on that pilot's blog, plus all of the comments, and they are not balanced and objective. The pilot and his mate are being overly critical, and there is a heavy dose of sour grapes in there.

The description "the film was highly and falsely manipulative" is just an outright falsehood.

Having said that, I think that maybe Sullenberger has been excessively lionised for what was a competent performance under very difficult conditions and with big doses of luck, and that Skiles has been rather ignored, as have the ferry captains and police who responded.

I have been through several forensic investigations, and some coronial inquests, and it is rough and personally trying. The investigators go after you and ask hard questions which can be excessively demanding. It is the way that such investigations need to go if they are to get to the truth, and I think Sullenberger says something like that at the end of the film. It doesn't make the process any easier or more enjoyable. And almost always, the hard attitudes and unfair questions of the investigators are not exposed to the light of day - this time they were, and they obviously didn't like it.

Of course the airline's lawyer is bitching - not only did the airline lose one of its planes, but Sullenberger, a staunch unionist, made a point of spelling out that towards the end of his career, his salary was cut to 40%, and his retirement plan was taken away by the airline and swapped for 'pennies'. The airline had no reason to love him for what he said.

And the NTSB are just being a bunch of cry-babies. I do not remotely believe that this film will hinder future NTSB investigations in any way at all, unless the investigators themselves allow it to affect them. That's just utter bullshit and moaning, because they were painted in a less than perfect light.

Make no mistake - a lot of this film is about human reactions to events. Sullenberger was treated like a national hero because, by sheer luck, no one died as a result of that event. If even one person had died, which could easily have happened, he would have been much less well regarded by the public. If more than one person had died, maybe a few or several, which could also easily have happened, he would probably have been publicly vilified. That is how human psychology works - I know, I have real life personal experience of how that stuff plays out - you are in a life and death situation, and you have to make a call. If you get it right, and luck is on your side, then fine. If you get it wrong, or luck is not on your side, then you will be crucified. Fortunately in my case, I always managed to make the right call, whether through plain skill, experience and good judgement, or with a heavy dose of luck, so I avoided crucifixion.

I still think the criticisms of the film are over the top and not justified. OK, so in the past plenty of other pilots have pulled off similar heroics that have not had films made about them. That is not Sullenberger's fault, or Clint Eastwood's fault.

I maintain that it is an excellent film, and part of my assessment is the realism with which the events are depicted. And I paid a lot of attention to that event at the time, including listening to the actual cockpit voice recording, which was available online. If some pissed off, jaundiced pilot somewhere thinks otherwise, that's his funeral. Sullenberger and everyone else on that plane got lucky, but that's not to say that it also needed a lot of experience, skill and real nerve to calmly pull it off, and some guy bitching about a movie made about it, which tries hard to stick to the facts, is just sour grapes.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 26 Feb 2017 #permalink

Meanwhile, veering back vaguely towards things archaeological and genomic, there's this:


You can look up the Cucetini-Trypillian culture in Wikipedia. I found this statement particularly interesting: "During the Middle Trypillia phase (c. 4000 to 3500 BC), populations belonging to the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture built the largest settlements in Neolithic Europe, some of which contained as many as 3,000 structures and were possibly inhabited by 20,000 to 46,000 people." Settlements of that size would have been capable of fielding sizeable armies.

And to be endlessly tiresome, the paper mentions mt DNA haplogroup U5, which is the same as mine, and which was European hunter-gatherer 8,000 years ago. But what is critical is the haplogroup subgroup, and mine seems to be somewhat mysterious - I can't find a solid reference to it, in terms of location or culture, anywhere. It's definitely not Sami. It could conceivably be North African by back-migration (modern Berbers have moderate amounts of U5 mtDNA), and then back-migration into Europe again, but I don't have any solid evidence to support that. Not that it matters in any practical sense at all, but I would just like to track it down and place it, out of sheer curiosity - it's in the category of nice to know, but useless knowledge. That's OK, I have been happily collecting useless knowledge all my life.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 26 Feb 2017 #permalink

"Settlements of that size would have been capable of fielding sizeable armies."

...and since they did not have writing, their societies have faded into the unknown, leaving the faulty impression that neolithic societies were uniformely primitive.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Some unexpected good news: Sweden now has the hottest labour market in the whole European Union region.
82.1 % of those apt for work are now employed, full-time or part time. We have not had a situation like this since the beginning of the 1990s, just before our bank crisis.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 27 Feb 2017 #permalink

Birger@38 - Correct.

They seem to have been a relatively peaceful culture, in contrast to the steppe culture that invaded subsequently, which seems to have been much more warlike, with warrior burials with weapons, etc., but some weapons have been found associated with the Trypillian culture; but not many. But they did have quite a lot of hunting weapons (spears, bows and arrows, etc., which could serve quite well as distance weapons if required in warfare, but apparently few up-close weapons like axes - they had some copper during the later periods.)

I was reminded of Ötzi with his copper headed axe. He had no steppe ancestry at all and lived around 3,300 BC, so slightly after the Trypillian culture vanished, but of course considerably further west.

Birger, does that mean that Sweden has 18% unemployed? That does not compare favourably at all with Australia at slightly under 6% (although the number of part time employed is increasing at the expense of full time employed, and with unaffordable housing markets, and the third highest personal debt level in the world) and just above 3% in Hong Kong (also with an unaffordable housing market).

Australians have no incentive to save - housing is now unaffordable to those who have not already bought into the market previously, and even savings bank interest is taxed, as low as it is currently, so Australians tend to live on debt, as opposed to Chinese, who have a high rate of personal savings.

Any increase in interest rates in Australia will cause a lot of mortgage stress, which could result in a lot of people living with negative equity and no way to make their mortgage repayments, so the banks will resume the houses and try to sell them, resulting in a glut in supply and a possible crash in real estate values - a crash seems less likely than a fairly large slow leak, but in the mean time a lot of people will have lost the equity that they had. And the Reserve Bank of Australia does not need to increase the interest rate to spark an interest rate increase in mortgage loans, because the big four Australian Banks borrow a lot of their finance from America, where interest rates look likely to rise, so the banks may be forced to raise interest rates anyway. It is not looking good.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 27 Feb 2017 #permalink

That sounds more like what I expected.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 27 Feb 2017 #permalink

Yeah, I'm not quite sure what "apt for work" means in this context. Anyway, the Swedish economy is super healthy.

Yes, that is the impression I have - more healthy than most national economies.

'Apt for work' = ? Birger is often a bit cryptic.

Australia is currently riding on the recurrence of the commodities boom, instead of taking the steps it needed to take to diversify its industries (which is difficult because Australians have become used to very high wage rates), and the employment situation is really not as good as it looks, with rapidly increasing part-time employment taking the place of full time employment, as automation takes an increasing grip. I am expecting Australia to fall into full-blown recession some time fairly soon. That combined with a major reversal in real estate markets could be quite catastrophic.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 27 Feb 2017 #permalink

Fit for work? Qualified for work? Suitably skilled for work? None of those would make sense in light of the actual employment rate.

Google translate just translates 'arbetsför' as 'working', which is very unhelpful.

Actually, given the percentage, it seems like it might mean % of whole population, including those retired due to age. Or including that proportion unable to work due to physical or mental disability.

Australia has a really high proportion of physically disabled people; so noticeable that when we were walking around shopping malls, my wife and daughter used to say to me "What is it about this country that does this to people?" I suspect at least part of the answer lies in Type 2 Diabetes.

You simply don't see the same frequency of physically disabled people in Hong Kong at all. Ageing population, yes, now very visibly apparent outside of the main business districts, but very few physically disabled people - and all employers including the government have a policy of employing disabled people, so most physically disabled people are able to find some kind of suitable employment. It is one of the many things that Hong Kong has a right to feel proud of.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 27 Feb 2017 #permalink

Whereas in Australia, many physically disabled people are only too happy to be regarded as unfit for work, so that they can then claim a disability pension from the government to live on.

One of the notable characteristics of Chinese people generally - they much prefer to work than live on hand-outs. It's a stereotype, but stereotypes exist because they are largely true.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 27 Feb 2017 #permalink

In Sweden, I have noticed many elderly hate being out of work after retirement, and often throw themselves into renovating a cabin, or some other time-consuming project.
"Idle" is not something they enjoy. Women often have big social networks that take up their time. Judging by post-retirement activity, a lot of people like being up to their armpits in activities. at least ones they choose for themselves.
There are of course many who just coast along their whole lives, but I do not get the impression they are that many or society would implode.
Thnere are marginalised young people who do not have complleted their education and they have a hard time getting a job (unlike Martins namesake Martin Kellerman, who simply started drawing comics when he flunked out; he defied statistics by becoming stinking rich).

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 27 Feb 2017 #permalink

"Type 2 Diabetes".
Umeå hospital has a centre for behavioral medicine that provides support for people to turn their diet and other lifestyle factors around, a surprisingly difficult feat.
After I got diabetes, they helped me "shrink" considerably until my test levels are mostly normal.

If more regions invested in lifestyle cange support I suspect they would recover the costs soon by improved health and productivity, but the savings are spread all over state, regional and municipal budgets. This makes it hard to motivate politicians to spend money from their particular budget.

In many countries I suspect lobbyists from vested interests oppose a more aggressive push for health. Note how alcohol gets a free ride from anti-drug legislation. Note how the dominating diet is still far from optimal (even though a lot has happened in the last few years).
Instead "chavs" and "white trash" get demonised for looking spectacularly unhealthy. But changes need support from above.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 27 Feb 2017 #permalink

'Dinner with the Donald': Nigel Farage joins Trump's table at Washington hotel "
The horror, the horror...

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 27 Feb 2017 #permalink

Radar: I don't know, but I'm pretty sure that the worldwide owners of various spy satellites are sitting on enormous hoards of archaeologically relevant data, sadly classified.

Birger, I am really pleased to hear that you have turned things around for yourself. Yes, very difficult.

Alcohol is ingrained in Australian culture; not at the level that vodka-guzzling was ingrained in Russian men before that was turned around, but at a lower level, and women just as much as men, and with binge drinking ingrained in the culture of young people. I didn't realise just how much so until I came to live among a culture who really don't care about alcohol at all; partly because it makes many of them sick. The mild irony is that in Hong Kong you can get alcohol in any coffee shop or convenience store, or even at your local petrol station if you are in a hurry and need to pick up a bottle of decent wine to have with dinner - it is completely uncontrolled here because it doesn't need to be.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 27 Feb 2017 #permalink

Meanwhile, I have managed to pull off a stunt to try to damage the stitched incision in my hand as much as possible, but seem to have failed to damage it much at all.

Very early yesterday morning I leapt out of bed to race into the bathroom, which I do without turning any lights on; that way I can go to the bathroom and get back into bed again without fully waking up, and so get back to sleep again quickly. However, on this occasion I attempted to corner a little too sharply on exiting the bedroom into the hallway, my bare feet slipped from under me on the slippery wooden floor and down I went, hitting my head good and hard on the wall on the way down.....and I hand-planted on the floor to break my fall, unfortunately with the hand with the stitched incision in it, so I landed hard right on the incision. It hurt, and bled quite a bit. I was mildly concussed from hitting my head (fortunately my forehead, where the skull is nice and thick, and I had much worse head damage a few times when I was younger, from playing rugby and practising martial arts) (but nothing as bad as one guy I saw in the martial arts school who dragged himself out of one of the practice rooms one day with a katana stuck straight through his thigh - he was damned lucky it didn't sever a main artery on its way through), so had to wait for the pain in my head to subside and my head to stop spinning before I attempted to take off the dressing to see how much damage I had done to the incision, and to clean the blood off it.

When I finally did so, I was surprised to see that I didn't seem to have done much damage at all - the stitches pulled a bit, which made it bleed a fair bit, but otherwise it seems to be more or less OK, so I did not bother making an emergency trip to see the doctor; I just cleaned it up and put a clean dressing on it, by which time it had stopped hurting, pretty much. I just changed the dressing again (which I have to do daily, which is a real chore, because getting a new surgical dressing onto it one-handed without messing it up is really tricky) and it is now looking very clean and seems to be healing up OK.

I guess I'll find out from the doctor when I go to see him next week whether my assessment of minimal damage is correct or not. In the meantime, I am reminding myself to slow down a little, and stop racing around the place in the dark like a maniac while still half asleep.

Meanwhile I notice that some notes I had written down yesterday on some work I was doing have blood stains on them, so I must have started work before I got around to taking the dressing off and assessing the damage. I think that probably says something about my attitude to work, which is probably why I'm still doing some.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 28 Feb 2017 #permalink

Translation trouble:
today is semmeldagen in Sweden, the day we are supposed to eat a specific sort of cream cake/bun but I don't think this particular deliciacy has a counterpart in anglo-saxon countries.
It is like "fika", Swedish has several unique words related to coffe breaks (and what to ingest). I suppose this shows what we consider important in daily life.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 28 Feb 2017 #permalink

Martin, my wife made a similar request, but what she said was a lot longer and much less politely phrased. She rarely gets religious on me, and usually only when she is very concerned about my health, but she said "You do not deserve to have God looking after you." When I went "Huh?" she rephrased it, leaving out the reference to God, but said something like how I don't deserve to have people trying to do things to help me have a long life, when I am so careless with my own health and safety.

Message received and understood. Whether I will ever learn is yet to be seen.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 28 Feb 2017 #permalink

Very early yesterday morning I leapt out of bed to race into the bathroom, which I do without turning any lights on; that way I can go to the bathroom and get back into bed again without fully waking up, and so get back to sleep again quickly.

I have to agree with your wife that this is a bad idea.

I can generally get to the bathroom without turning lights on, but I move more slowly, and sort of feel for the dresser corner that lurks along that path. (If it's a moonlit night, I can even see that dresser corner.) That way, I don't slam into it by mistake. I suggest you do something similar when you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 28 Feb 2017 #permalink

Alcohol is ingrained in Australian culture; not at the level that vodka-guzzling was ingrained in Russian men before that was turned around, but at a lower level, and women just as much as men, and with binge drinking ingrained in the culture of young people.

Likewise in the US. Here, you cannot legally purchase alcohol until you are 21. The intent was to cut down on high school drinking, but the effect is to give alcohol the lure of the forbidden and drive underage drinking (further) underground. So lots of young people don't know their limit, and get crazy drunk (and some even die of it) whenever they get the chance.

Some states have exceptions wherein a child at home can be served alcohol by his parents. But the state I live in does not have such an exception. Instead, we have an "internal possession" law: if you are under 21 and drunk, you can be arrested and charged with illegal possession of alcohol. Which makes such drinkers even more reluctant to seek help when somebody has overdone it.

My colleagues from continental Western Europe are uniformly of the opinion that American alcohol laws are counterproductive. I find myself in agreement with them.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 28 Feb 2017 #permalink

All admonitions acknowledged, gratefully or otherwise. I think Birger probably doesn't really get the stereotypical Chinese attitude to religion, of which my wife is typical, which is anything but rational, but no matter. Chinese typically take whatever aspects of a new religion seem potentially useful and add them on to older existing religions - hence Chinese absorbed Buddhism and developed Zen Buddhism, which then migrated to Japan; so in times of stress my wife might appeal to any one of several different religions including native animism, Taoism, Buddhism and Catholicism, depending on which one she regards as most appropriate to the circumstances, while remaining functionally an atheist, or at the very least agnostic in regard to all of them. She has yet to appeal to Islam so far as I know, while certainly not showing any sign of Islamophobia (quite the contrary), but I guess there is still time.

This looks kind of interesting, although I have not yet accessed and read the full paper:

U5 is one of the 'Western hunter gatherer' mt DNA haplotypes dating to 8,000 years BP, when modern humans were repopulating Europe after the LGM. U5a1 is one of the derivative haplogroup subgroups - no idea from where (my mt DNA U5a1b is a further derivative subgroup, also no idea from where, except that it is clearly not represented in Sami today, who show the highest modern frequency of U5 at 50% of the population).

But these folks turning up on the Mongol steppe 500 to 1,000 years BC illustrates one thing clearly - people got around back then, much further than ever previously suspected. And the Altai Mountains were clearly no barrier to gene flow, despite previous assumptions that they were.

Plus the surprise that lots of mt DNA haplogroups found today in modern Indians (as in people from India) were represented among this group. The markers are Ancestral Southern Indian, who no longer exist in 'pure' unadmixed form.

That might have some explanatory power, in relation to the fact that a later Indo-European speaking fair skinned and blonde haired 'European' looking group settled in the Tarim Basin in what is now Western China who were practising Buddhists. 1,000 or even 500 years BC is a bit too early for this group to have had contact with Buddhism, but 300 BC would not have been too early.

Colour me increasingly confused.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 01 Mar 2017 #permalink

Crikey - the name of the wife of the author of that paper is (deep breath in) Udaanjargal Chuluunbaatar.

And they named their son Enkhbilegt. I think I might have tried to avoid doing that. Depends where he ends up living, I suppose, but who wants to end up living in Mongolia? It's one of the world's most polluted countries, apart from anything else (climate, etc.).

Makes me grateful for a Chinese wife whose name is 3 simple monosyllables of only 3 or 4 letters each, even if most Australians still find it endlessly confusing.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 01 Mar 2017 #permalink

Asparagus - Sorry that I did not instantaneously answer you; I have a job that sometimes takes up too much time to let me play on the internet. I suspect that there's no real chance of having a philosophical discussion with a person who dumps a pile of namecalls and ad hominems on anyone who doesn't hop to answer you fast enough.

Briefly, you seemed to sneer at the idea that Plato and Aristotle were worth reading, presumably because they either make factual statements that are now known to be incorrect, or express values and opinions that in your worldview are Bad. Now first, if you do not know that you cannot always use the overt words of the main character in a Platonic dialogue as an expression of Plato's actual opinion, as some do not, you should read the very important recent book Philosophy Between the Lines. Second, reading the works of the best philosophers from other cultures is invaluable to get a perspective on values. Consider, for example, the Greek concept of virtue and how it overlaps with your own. Neither science nor scientism has much of use to say about virtue, so you can only deal with it in two ways: by philosophizing, or by uncritically believing whatever opinions your family and culture spoonfed you. (Those who sneer at the very concept of virtue are choosing the second option.)

Have a nice day.

About the unemployment rate discussion earlier: I think there's a confusion of concepts. The employment rate (or rather, "labor force participation rate") is not directly related to the unemployment rate. They are two separate things. The employment rate is just the percentage of people between say 18 and 65 who are gainfully employed. A lot of people between those ages do other stuff: they're students, stay-at-home parents, are indipendently wealthy or disabled, do free lance work and so on. These people are not counted as unemployed. The unemployment rate counts those who want to be a part of the employment market but who haven't been able to find a job.

An labor force participation rate of 82% is quite high. For comparison, the US rate is 63%, even though unemployment is lower in the US (at 4.9%) than in Sweden.

Thanks, Andreas, that's crystal clear.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 03 Mar 2017 #permalink