February Pieces Of My Mind #3

  • Couldn't quite catch a word in an old Blur song. Turned out to be "jumbojet" with the stress placed on the wrong syllable. JumBOjet. Grötrimslyriker, as we say in Swedish.
  • The Swedish Anti-Theft Association offers tags for keyrings. You put the tag on your keyring and pay an annual fee, and then if someone finds your keyring they can just drop it in a mailbox and the SATA will send it to you. But I've been wondering what happens if you don't pay the fee. So I asked. Turns out that the SATA periodically deletes the addresses of those who don't pay the fee. If they receive a keyring that belongs to a non-payer whose adress they haven't deleted yet, then they remove the tag and send the keyring to its owner. But if you quit paying the fee and leave the tag on your keyring for a long time, then you run the risk of your keys ending up in the SATA's office without any way to get the keys sent to you. Though I'm pretty sure the SATA keeps database backups like everybody else...
  • Oh, for fuck's sake, ResearchGate. You're emailing published academics and telling them "You have a new achievement". Are you actually Pokémon Go?
  • New research behaviour of mine: photographing journal papers and archive documents with my phone and reading them later at home.
  • I remember Eudora, Pegasus Mail and Thunderbird. Been many years since I used a local email client.
  • Big milestone in my book project: finalised the table of contents. This means that I've told myself what to write and now I just have to follow orders.
  • Raoul is from Old Norse Raðulfr. Reuel is from the Old Testament.
  • Love going past the morning traffic jam into town on a bus or commuter train.
  • I just got my Y-chromosome haplotype from Family Tree DNA. They tell me I'm an R1b / R-M269, the dominant haplogroup in Western Europe. It's common in Sweden too, though here R1b is only the second most common one after I1. R1 probably came into Europe with the Corded Ware about 2900 cal BC. All my closest matches are Englishmen. Looks like there's an immigrant not far back on the paternal line... Waiting for my mitocondrial typing to arrive as well.
  • Made a neat little discovery that goes into my book. "Note also another interesting case of 16th century re-use of epigraphy at Stegeborg. A runestone from the 11th century has been found built into the north-east corner of the western gate house, in masonry dated to Johan III's building campaign of 1572–90. The runes faced outward and would have been visible to all. It is not known whether the runestone was brought to the castle islet by King Johan's architect, or by Medieval builders, or if indeed it was originally erected at Stegeborg. The islet is high enough that its apex was above sea level already in the time of the runestones. There is an apparently original combination of a sea barrage like the one at Stegeborg and a runestone at Baggensstäket east of Stockholm."
  • Another little discovery: it seems super common for Swedish families to cultivate a baseless Walloon origin myth, like my own has done. And 100 years ago, Swedish eugenics scholars taught the Swedish public that all dark-haired people are kind of crap except the 17th century Walloon immigrant ironworkers...
  • My buddy at the National Archives just told me about the first Rundkvist! He's not far back: my grandpa's grandpa Johan Jansson (1853-1925) broke the patronymic tradition and took the family name. He was from Östra Ämtervik parish in Värmland. Nobody in the family has remembered his name, probably because his son Sven was divorced by his wife for his alcoholism and died aged only 48. And then his son, my grandpa Kurt, died aged only 40 in a car crash that luckily spared my grandma. So the links back to Värmland were cut early.
  • Found this super stationary branch of the family tree. From at least the late 1600s and for 200 years on, they live in three neighbouring hamlets near Sunne in Värmland. And they keep repeating the same few names for their sons.
  • 35 years later it hits me. Rick O'Shay, the Western comic strip hero, is named "ricochet".

More like this

Inspired by Karin Bojs's and Peter Sjölund's recent book Svenskarna och deras fäder, I've looked into my ancestry by means both genetic and genealogical. Here's a few highlights. Like most Stockholmers, I'm of mixed rural Swedish stock. My great grandpa's generation contains 16 people born mainly…
This is a very simple, lucid video of Spencer Wells talking about his work on the Genographic Project, the effort to accumulate lots of individual genetic data to map out where we all came from. I've also submitted a test tube full of cheek epithelial cells to this project, and Lynn Fellman is…
The famous royal castle of Stegeborg sits on its island like a cork in the bottleneck of the Slätbaken inlet (see map here). This waterway leads straight to Söderköping, a major Medieval town, and to the mouth of River Storån which would allow an invader to penetrate far into Östergötland Province'…
My excavations this summer will target the ruins of two Medieval castles near Norrköping. Christian Lovén and I have selected these two because unusually, both have curtain walls (Sw. ringmur) but do not seem to have belonged to the Crown. The High Middle Ages in Sweden are poorly documented in…

The name Dyson apparently comes from a twelfth-century woman named Dy.
--- --- ---
"super stationary branch" -In Västerbotten county we can trace hereditary disease back several centuries, dating the original mutation.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
'In that moment I loathed America' -Children's books author Mem Fox on her treatment being detained by US immigration during her 117th visit to USA :https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/28/in-that-moment-i-…
You don't need to be an orc or morlock to work in the TSA, but it helps.

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

So really, you are just a boy from the steppe. Well, aren't we all?

The more that is learned, the more it becomes apparent that the Eurasian steppe was the super highway of the ancient world. Europe was just a cul-de-sac at one end of it.

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

You don’t need to be an orc or morlock to work in the TSA, but it helps.

Not that TSA employees are saints (the acronym is sometimes said to stand for Thousands Standing Around), but they almost look like saints compared to the Customs and Border Patrol people, who are responsible for (among other things) inspecting passengers arriving in the US. In the past five weeks, they have refused entry to numerous people holding valid visas (including green card holders), detained a former Norwegian PM traveling on a diplomatic passport, detained multiple US citizens with valid passports (including a JPL engineer, whose confidential government-issued phone they broke into, and Muhammed Ali Jr.), and in at least one case demanded that passengers on a flight arriving at JFK from SFO (a domestic flight, last I checked) show their papers before being allowed to deplane. And that's just at airports. They have also been conducting immigration sweeps that have picked up multiple people with work permits.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 01 Mar 2017 #permalink

Re: ResearchGate: Yes, they send me e-mail notifications that somebody has read my paper. Which is better than not being read, I suppose, but wake me when somebody cites my paper.

They also have a habit of insisting people who happen to work at the same university but I don't actually know.

They also, every now and then, ask me if so-and-so was a co-author on some paper of mine. The answer is usually but not always no. This isn't entirely ResearchGate's fault: duplicate names are inevitable when you are drawing from a large enough pool. That's why the ORCID was developed: to uniquely identify authors.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 01 Mar 2017 #permalink

I remember Eudora

I never used it myself. But when I first heard of it, my immediate thought was that it was a reference to American author Eudora Welty. I was correct: it was specifically a reference to her short story, "Why I Live at the P. O.", which I read for a high school class. Welty herself was reportedly "pleased and amused" by the tribute.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 01 Mar 2017 #permalink


I did a Google search on that word and got seven hits: this post and six others that quote this post. I can deduce that part of the word means "lyrics", but I have no idea what the first half of the compound word means. Some kind of lyrical mangling, presumably, but what kind? Presumably it's distinct from mondegreens (e.g., turning the Hendrix line "'Scuse me while I kiss the sky" into "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy"), but what exactly?

Lots of popular song lyrics can be difficult to parse, even when sung by a native speaker of the language.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 01 Mar 2017 #permalink

Some R1b weirdness:

Anyone who has practised archery with a long bow knows that two strips of leather fastened together to give sufficient stiffness makes for a perfectly functional bracer (the thing worn on the inside of the lower forearm/wrist of the non-dominant hand to protect it from the bow string) but which is still sufficiently flexible that it is comfortable and fits the contours of the forearm. There is absolutely no need for it to be made of stone.

So what were these things for?

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

You can get quite inexpensive tags for keyrings now that you can locate with your phone. I don't know what the effective range is, though.

I keep meaning to research them more carefully, with the idea that I might get a batch of 5 and attach them to all of my wife's stuff - except that her phone is the thing that she most keeps not being able to find. I guess I could glue one to her phone so I could locate it with my phone, so then when...

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

No vehicles in HK come fitted with GPS - you can't even pay to have it fitted as an optional extra. Reasons I have been given to explain this don't sound credible. So most people just use their phones with Google Maps.

I have glued a thin steel plate to the back of my phone, and use a little gizmo containing a strong magnet, so I can mount my phone at the same height as the instrument cluster, so I can glance at it safely while driving. I use it in voice-guided mode - that way I don't need to look at the map at all. All I had to do was teach myself to understand the American voice lady's truly weird attempts at pronouncing romanised Cantonese street names - they send my daughter into shrieks of laughter. I could switch it to another voice, I guess, but that American lady is too much fun to change, now I know what the hell she is trying to say.

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

Although at relatively high frequency, blondes have still always been a minority of the Swedish population, so far as I know. So I'm a bit bemused that people needed an origin myth to explain why dark headed Swedes were still OK people.

Like red headed people in Scotland - at relatively high frequency, but still not a majority of the population.

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

These are the object tracking things I was thinking of:

They work using bluetooth, so the effective range can't be that great, but if someone else using one of the same tags is within range of your lost object, you can use the network to locate your item. So the more people who use them, the more useful it becomes.

Question: If you use it to locate the person who stole your stuff, do you track down and confront the person, or...?

By Asparagus (not verified) on 02 Mar 2017 #permalink

Basic facts about human evolution that you think all well educated people should already be aware of but, perhaps surprisingly, might not be, because the revolution in understanding derived from the explosion in modern genetics since the 1990s just never got onto their reading list, and maybe now starting to read into the subject might seem too daunting for them to try - or alternatively, maybe a lot of people just don't see it as relevant to anything, or think that even thinking about human population differences is somehow 'racist'; when the reality is that through modern genetics we are discovering how related all humans are.

One of them, that I think is one of those that is most likely to be surprising to people, is not listed as one of the 10, but Razib gives it in the opening discussion: "...the vast majority of human populations are relatively recent admixtures between highly diverged lineages."

That one seems to me to be one of the most likely not to be intuitive to the way that most people think, when they think about differences between human populations, maybe together with No. 3 on the list - many of the phenotypical traits that we think of when we think of human populations, like the very pale skin of Northern Europeans, or the coarse straight hair of East Asians, are really very recently evolved in comparison to the time when modern humans first evolved.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 02 Mar 2017 #permalink

Eric: gröt is porridge. Rim is rhyme. Grötrim is improvised doggerel about porridge, traditionally composed as a parlour game while eating such on Christmas Eve.

Another piece by Razib that I really like is this one:

There was no 'human cultural explosion' 50,000 years ago. People need to forget it. That would mean that sub-Saharan Africans are not 'culturally modern', which is self-evidently ridiculous.

Aboriginal Australians were already in Australia by 50,000 years ago, or very close to it (the oldest reliably dated evidence of human occupation in Australia that I can find reference to is dated at 48,000 years BP, but that's close enough), and by then they were obviously culturally 'modern', with fully articulated speech and relatively sophisticated technology and art.

Neanderthals had human culture, for goodness sake.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 02 Mar 2017 #permalink

Wrist guards: they're one of the period's Rolex watches. Archers looong before and after have done fine without them.

"...the vast majority of human populations are relatively recent admixtures between highly diverged lineages." Yes! So much for the ancient pure races!

why is this happening

"I remember Eudora, Pegasus Mail and Thunderbird. Been many years since I used a local email client."

I'm still using a local email server. Client as well, of course.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 02 Mar 2017 #permalink

As far as I can make out, the most ancient clearly identifiable separate lineages would be the Mbuti and the San (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Namibian_Bushmen_Girls.JPG).

Those two lineages diverged from other humans a really long time ago, like possibly more than 100,000 years ago or even longer, and were separated geographically from other human lineages for a very long time because the climate in most of Africa over that period was really awful (so they survived as isolated lineages in 'islands' of survivable countryside surrounded by unsurvivable desert). But since then, certainly since the Bantu expansion, they have both come back into contact with other humans again, and don't qualify as 'pure' because they have both since mixed to some extent with other humans.

You only need one interbreeding pair per generation to prevent two lineages drifting further apart genetically, and both of those lineages have certainly interbred with other people to a greater extent than that since coming into contact again, so they are both still genetically distinguishable, but are not becoming any more so, and are well on their way to becoming less so.

The Mbuti are pretty easily distinguishable because they are really small, and also don't have very long lifespans, and they are classed as 'pygmies' based on very small stature (but those things disappear if they 'breed out', to the extent that some people worry that they will effectively cease to exist as an identifiable separate lineage - whether that should be a valid concern is a debatable point, given what would be required to try to keep them 'pure').

In the case of the San, I doubt it would occur to most people that they are really that different, or that they don't look pretty much like 'normal' humans, except that they are more light skinned than most other Africans (some people describe them as 'yellow' rather than 'black, but I can't see it myself, they just look to me like a rather pleasing sort of intermediate brown shade), but genetically they are still clearly distinguishable from all other human lineages.

Aside from those two, about the only people I can think of who could be thought of as a 'pure' lineage would be some of the Nicobarese, who remain isolated on one of the Nicobar Islands from all outsiders and choose to remain so, aggressively repelling any attempted approaches, but they became isolated very much more recently than the Mbuti and the San.

Australians effectively became isolated from New Guinea about 35,000 years ago, but that obviously all ended (badly for the Australians) with European settlement, and previously people along the northern coast of Australia had periodic contacts with traders from South East Asia, although it is not evident that any interbreeding occurred with the traders.

Native Americans - ditto, but earlier than Australians, obviously (and equally devastatingly for them).

Aside from those few - nope. We who derive mostly from the Eurasian land mass are as common as muck, despite some external appearances, and as much as some people might like to think otherwise. It's the nature of genes, being discrete not blending, that fools people. The idea that if everyone on earth interbred with everyone else, i.e. global panmixia, we would all come out some identical milk coffee colour would not actually happen. Red heads and blondes would not become extinct - in fact, both are not becoming more rare, despite some people thinking that they are.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 02 Mar 2017 #permalink

35 years later it hits me. Rick O’Shay, the Western comic strip hero, is named “ricochet”.

At the end of each weekly radio show, Tom Magliozzi of Car Talk would read a selection of punny names as staff credits. For example, Art Critic Phyllis Steen (philistine) or Automotive Medical Researcher Dr. Denton Fender. One of the credits on that list is for a parking attendant named Rick O'Shea. A few names on the list are puns on the names of famous or formerly famous people, e.g., Drug Trials Specialist Placebo Domingo (opera star Placido Domingo).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 02 Mar 2017 #permalink

No vehicles in HK come fitted with GPS – you can’t even pay to have it fitted as an optional extra. Reasons I have been given to explain this don’t sound credible.

GPS certainly does have its limitations. There have been cases in the US where people have followed GPS instructions to do things like drive through Oregon's Coast Range via US Forestry Service maintained roads in December, when such roads are not maintained for winter use. And it used to be a common thing here in New Hampshire for hikers with a GPS but not a map to have to be rescued because they knew exactly where they were but not how to get back to where their cars were.

Rural road maintenance in winter is not an issue in Hong Kong, and today's mobile phones have solved whatever issues they may have had with the latter problem. So unless there is some kind of state-level security issue (which is plausible for mainland China but much less so for Hong Kong), I don't see what the problem would be. There are safety issues with using GPS while driving, such as distracted driving, but nothing that would not be at least as bad with the workaround of using your mobile phone.

There is, however, precedent for governments not wanting the public to know the full extent of the street/road network. I heard that back in the 1980s, if you had a friend in Moscow who had a car, one of the best gifts you could give him was a CIA street map of Moscow.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 02 Mar 2017 #permalink

A classic film about the Cold War, which I highly recommend watching if you have not already done so, is Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Learned To Quit Worrying and Love the Bomb). Several of the characters in that movie have Meaningful Names. The general who instigates World War III is Jack D. Ripper. The battalion that takes the Air Force base from Gen. Ripper is led by a Col. Bat Guano. Another general with a prominent role, whom we first see entertaining a mistress, is named Buck Turgidson. The bomber crew is led by a Maj. King Kong (played by Slim Pickens). All we see of the Soviet Premier is the US President's side of a telephone conversation, but the Premier's name is Dmitri Kissov. Even the title character (one of three roles played by Peter Sellers in the film) has a significant name: it was translated from the original German Fremdliebe, and the character is at least partly a parody of Wernher von Braun. The significance of the name becomes apparent near the end of the movie when he suggests how the US should "recover" from the war.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 02 Mar 2017 #permalink

Eric @5: Customs and Border Patrol people meet my personal definition of "little tin gods". They hold a huge amount of power in a (generally) very specific place, and everyone has to bow to their whims. (Though the ones I've interacted with on the Canadian border have been fine to nice.)

Key ring tags: the grocery store club tag on my keychain asks anyone who finds it to turn it into the nearest [brand] grocery store and they will find me. Which is both nice and creepy.

Musn't forget the best of Car Talk's staff names: their law firms, Dewey Cheatum and Howe. (Do we cheat 'em and how!)

By JustaTech (not verified) on 02 Mar 2017 #permalink

I should probably have added to 22 for completeness, that after a group of anatomically modern humans left sub-Saharan Africa about 70,000 years ago (and it is now looking more like 70,000 than 50,000) and spread out to populate the rest of the world, there was very substantial back-migration from Eurasia back into sub-Saharan Africa during pre-historic times. So it is not even possible to state that sub-Saharan Africans were isolated from the rest of humanity during pre-historic time after humans exited Africa. People outside of Africa interbred with archaic humans, but people within Africa also interbred with archaic humans - plus Africans got archaic admixture from Eurasians who migrated back into Africa.

The idea of distinct separate different lines of descent is wholly incorrect - human development over the past 200,000 years has been much more like a braided stream, crossing and re-crossing, with quite long periods of isolation for some groups in some cases, but then those groups coming back into contact with others again.

And the seemingly most salient visible phenotypic traits that we see among people today that 'group' people all emerged only very recently, like within the past 5,000 years.

To give example, one mutation on one gene, the EDAR gene, has quickly gone to fixity in East Asians (so, very strongly selected), and that one genetic mutation is what has resulted in Chinese, Koreans, Japanese and Mongolians having thick straight hair, on average smaller breasts in adult females, different mother's milk composition, different arrangement of milk ducts, different arrangement of sweat glands, and a relative lack of body hair. Those are all pleitropic effects of this one strongly selected mutation, which first arose randomly in one ancestral person. But no one knows what else this mutation has done, to make it so strongly selected - no idea. But it is recent, on the time scale of modern human evolution. Maybe something to do with disease resistance in the East Asian environment, but that's just guessing - no one knows.

So no, there are no 'pure ancient races'. There never have been.

There is also evidence that a group of humans exited Africa earlier, around 100,000 years ago. No one knows (yet) what happened to those people. Maybe they just hit a dead end and went extinct, maybe they got swamped genetically by archaic humans, or maybe they even made it as far as modern day China. No one yet knows, but science will figure it out sooner or later, as long as ideology does not get in the way, i.e. the correct progression, being rational, should be to establish the facts first, and then add the commentary after the facts have been established; not to construct an ideology first and then try to make the facts fit what you might want them to fit - that is 'magical thinking' akin to religion and all other kinds of human imaginings and myth making.

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

Here endeth the...erm...whatever.

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

Eric@25 - No, there are no government cover-ups in HK. Every bit of HK can be seen clearly on Google Earth, designated as what it is, even the military land which is occupied by the People's Liberation Army and closed to the public, and clearly sign-posted as such.

There are some 'closed roads' for valid reasons, e.g. a road might exist solely to provide access to a water supply/treatment facility. To drive legally on those roads, you need to be issued with a permit. But they are all clearly sign-posted as closed roads, and Google Maps knows all about them, and displays them as such, so it is not going to try to persuade you to drive on any of them.

There is a closed area along the border between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the adjacent Shenzhen Special Economic Zone for reasons of migration control - you can't just drive a vehicle across the border without the necessary licensing, etc. (which is a good thing, because in HK we drive on the left, but in the Mainland they drive on the right), but that is all open public knowledge and all clearly demarcated. You can't just accidentally drive across the border.

One reason I was told (for what that's worth) was that the car dealers in HK do not want to pay for the GPS licence. Given the number of people who use their phones for navigating, at least occasionally, and what people are willing to pay for luxury motor vehicles and car registration here, I find that a bit hard to swallow - the additional cost of having GPS would be a trivial add-on to what a lot of people are willing to pay to buy and register a car.

One maybe plausible reason is that, in the more densely developed urban areas, you can be so surrounded by high buildings that you can't get line of sight to enough satellites to get an accurate enough fix on where you are. More than 50 of the world's 100 tallest buildings are in HK, in a total land area of only 1,100 square kilometres, and more than 60% of that total land area is completely wild, undeveloped park land. So there are a lot of tall buildings squeezed into a small area. So that seems like a possible reason - occasionally my phone using Google Maps tries to tell me that I am standing in the middle of a river or something equally weird, but that is much less of a problem now than it was even a few years ago. Plus no one really needs satellite navigation in the most densely developed areas, even if they are mad enough to want to drive their cars into those areas, because those are the oldest developed areas, and all of the streets are very familiar to everyone.

Roads are never closed for weather reasons, except for the longest, highest bridge between the part of HK which is on the mainland and one of the islands, which is closed when typhoon winds get too strong, but you don't want to be out driving anywhere in weather like that anyway, if you can possibly help it.

Where I most need GPS is while driving on the spaghetti highway system, where I definitely need to know I'm in the right lane to get to where I want to go to, or else I could end up somewhere a long way from where I want to be, and there are no line of sight problems on the highways, and therefore no corresponding problems with accuracy of location, and Google Maps with voice guidance will tell me which lane to get into, or which exit to choose, which is definitely a real help. Even some taxi drivers will use phones and satellite navigation for that sometimes.

I don't know. It's a mystery. It's not a hugely vexing one, because I have a large screen phone which does the job just as well, but I'm just curious to know.

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

Since I feel depressed by the stream of news, I will inject a few tidbits from satire sites below:
-- -- -- -- --
"95-year-old Greek-born German ‘Duke’ may have to leave post-Brexit Britain " http://www.newsbiscuit.com/2017/03/01/95-year-old-greek-born-german-duk… “An eccentric but harmless 95-year-old German-Greek man who has been married to his 90-year-old British wife* and resident here for seventy years may have to leave Britain after Brexit.”
(*Queen Elizabeth II)
Acoustic-guitar wielding-Trump tells Congress ‘This here’s the story of America’
‘May gives up eating live mice for Lent’ -Prime minster Theresa May is observing Lent by giving up her daily snack of six live mice.
Addiction warnings on heroin packaging ‘the nanny state gone mad’
‘Farage says Carswell has 'never really let the hate flow
through him'
One policeman could adequately cover the whole UK if they put their back into it, the home secretary has said.
‘Dog can’t wait for owners to come home and see what he’s done with the place’

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

Acoustic-guitar wielding-Trump tells Congress ‘This here’s the story of America’

No way Trump would last against The Folk Song Army. Tom Lehrer's 88-string guitar is a much more powerful weapon.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 03 Mar 2017 #permalink

Eric @33: I actually laughed out loud at that.

The world needs more Tom Lehrer!

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

The fancy academic name for naming your eldest son after his paternal grandfather is paponymy. It was =tres chic= in ancient Persia! Not sure what they did when they lost a son ... re-name the oldest survivor?

Of course this meant that a whole male line could be "A, son of B" or "B, son of A" but that was for the nerds in Babylon to worry about.

1) Does anyone else remember when hotel keys had to be left at the front desk when you went out and asked for when one wanted to return to one's room? They almost always had tags with a return address a note to the postmaster that if they were dropped in any mailbox, the hotel would pay the return postage. I even stayed a hotel in NYC with that kind of key back in the mid-1980s. They also had elevators with elevator operators if you can believe that.

2) The Hong Kong thing may just be that most folks now have cell phone and don't want to rent a car GPS, so they stopped offering them. An awful lot of people have cell phones these days, even in Hong Kong.

1. Yes. It used to really bug me having to drop the key and ask for it every time I wanted to go to my room.

2. Internet penetration and mobile phone usage are really high in Hong Kong. But I doubt that is the reason. A possible reason that does occur to me is that the Transport Department would be in most people's top ten list (or top one, even) of the most backward, bureaucratic, intransigent and stupid of government departments. It would not surprise me if they have banned sat nav and that their reasoning was that (1) HK is small in geographical area, so no one needs sat nav (not true), (2) sat nav does not work well enough in Hong Kong because of its 'unique' characteristics (not true - but the 'uniqueness' of Hong Kong is a part of the magical thinking of a lot of civil servants here), and (3) sat nav is 'dangerous'. Well, yes, it can be risky, if people stare at the screen instead of looking at the road, or if people just blindly follow the instructions unthinkingly. But that has not stopped sat nav becoming a standard fitting in most cars in Australia (which also has high mobile phone penetration).

I don't know that, I'm just guessing - the Transport Department here are a bunch of morons. They have made it illegal to ride a battery powered bicycle in Hong Kong - blanket ban. It is not illegal to import or sell them, just to ride them. Anywhere - on the roads, on the cycleways, anywhere. Most battery powered bikes are low powered things - the battery is charged when you are pedalling downhill, then you can switch on the electric motor to give you some assistance to get up steep hills - it would be really helpful for elderly or disabled people who want to use bicycles to get around. But no. Banned. Any bicycle with any electric motor assist is classified as a 'motor vehicle' and if you try to register it as such, you will be refused registration for it. If you ride it unregistered, you are committing an offence.

You can get more high powered battery powered bicycles - they are really more like very light motorcycles. They are not illegal in the Mainland, and people who have never had a driving lesson ride them around on the roads there and keep getting themselves killed. But that is not what I am talking about - obviously, something like that should be registered, and you should require a licence to ride it on public roads. I'm talking about low powered battery-assist bikes that just give you a bit of a boost when going up particularly steep hills.

Someone asked a question in Question Time in the Legislative Council recently: How many battery powered bicycles are there in Hong Kong, or how many have been imported? Answer from the Transport Department: "No data. Riding any battery powered bicycle in Hong Kong is illegal, so there is no need to keep data on the number imported."

So people can scoot around the cycleways on those battery powered one-wheeled things that catch fire all the time and over which the rider has inadequate braking control, and even stupid little battery powered scooters, with total impunity - but if you ride a battery assisted bicycle, you are committing an offence.

Sorry, but that is one of the (few) government departments that really make me angry with their stupidity. Rant over, probably.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 05 Mar 2017 #permalink

Continuation of #30, to provide some evidence that what I say is true.

First, launch Google Earth (if you have not downloaded Google Earth Professional, I encourage you to do so, because it is free of charge, and useful for all kinds of stuff, as well as being fun to play with.

Next, do a search for Stonecutter's Island, Hong Kong, by typing that into the search box at the upper left and clicking on the little magnifying glass thingie or whatever it is, to activate the search.

You will, or should (I do), get a clear image of a square shaped boat harbour. Moored in that harbour you will see a number of grey coloured boats of varying sizes. Those are military craft (mostly local patrol boats, but with one or two larger craft) that belong to the naval arm of the People's Liberation Army, who are charged with the external defence of Hong Kong (just as elements of the British military were posted to Hong Kong prior to HK reverting to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, and who were charged with exactly the same mission - the external defence of Hong Kong against any would-be external aggressors).

There are even some links that you can click to photos taken when overflying the naval basin, at least two of which show some of the naval vessels. And if you blow the Google Earth image up enough, you can see that some of the vessels have armaments mounted on their decks.

Similarly, all of the 'military estate' (land and installations that were handed over by the British military to the PLA in 1997) are clearly visible on Google Earth.

So, military or government secrecy is clearly not a reason why you cannot get PGS fitted to your car in HK.

In fact, every year the PLA have 'public open days' when they invite interested members of the public into their installations, give them guided tours, performances by the PLA choir, etc.

So, any kind of government secrecy is definitely not the reason why vehicle mounted GPS is unprocurable in HK. Bumbling government bureaucracy/wrong-headedness could be a reason, but not secrecy. (But note: I do not know that, I am just guessing - but it's not a totally uneducated guess.)

GPS is used by people like land surveyors in HK for all kinds of clever stuff, and obviously anyone with a phone who has downloaded Google Maps can use it to find his/her way around, and I often see pedestrians using it to locate things or find their way if they are in an unfamiliar part of HK.

If you are a tourist to HK, and you want to find your way up to, say, the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery (I get stopped in the street by tourists all the time who ask me how to get to it, when they can't find the right path that will lead them to it), then I think GPS is a must. There is a whole lot of interesting stuff in HK that you will simply not find without GPS (or a tour guide, but finding stuff yourself is more of an adventure). Whatever you do, don't stop me on the footpath outside my office (my company's office, not my home office) and ask me, because I am fed up with explaining to people that yes, to get to the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery, they really do need to climb up that bloody great steep hill, and no, there is no easier way to get there. I mean, it wasn't built as a tourist attraction, it was built as a monastery for Buddhist monks and nuns - it is by its nature intended to be remote from daily secular life and difficult to get to.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 05 Mar 2017 #permalink

"The fancy academic name for naming your eldest son after his paternal grandfather is paponymy. It was =tres chic= in ancient Persia! Not sure what they did when they lost a son … re-name the oldest survivor?"

A common practice in many places, some still within living memory. Also not uncommon in individual cases even if it is not a custom. Both of my brothers' middle names are from their (and my) paternal grandfather.

"Of course this meant that a whole male line could be “A, son of B” or “B, son of A” but that was for the nerds in Babylon to worry about."

Or the Danish court. :-)

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 06 Mar 2017 #permalink

A possible reason that does occur to me is that the Transport Department would be in most people’s top ten list (or top one, even) of the most backward, bureaucratic, intransigent and stupid of government departments.

Many Americans have similar views of the equivalent agencies in their states. The Department of Motor Vehicles, which issues driver licenses, is a standard metaphor for bureaucratic inefficiency. And certain state transportation departments (most notoriously Texas but not limited to there) have earned a reputation for building expensive motorways that do not pay for themselves even when high tolls are imposed (which is not generally the case; most US motorways are freeways). Meanwhile, maintenance of existing roads suffers, because repaving an existing highway is not as exciting as building a new one.

sat nav does not work well enough in Hong Kong because of its ‘unique’ characteristics (not true – but the ‘uniqueness’ of Hong Kong is a part of the magical thinking of a lot of civil servants here)

It's true that being in an area with many tall buildings is likely to cause problems for satnav systems, but that's hardly unique to Hong Kong. The same issues arise in large parts of Manhattan, and to a lesser extent in the financial districts of cities like Boston and San Francisco. (Probably Tokyo as well, but I have never been there.) Which is one of many reasons you shouldn't rely exclusively on your GPS. Mobile phones actually do better here, because the phone company or companies will often put repeaters on the sides of tall buildings in order to ensure coverage for their customers, and those repeaters can supplement GPS for geolocation.

I don't have a GPS installed in my car because I learned to drive in the days before consumer grade systems were widely available, and I use my mobile phone mainly as a backup in case I have missed my turn (I pull over to find out where the hell I am). If I'm going somewhere I've never been before, I'll pull up directions on Google Maps or some similar site.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 06 Mar 2017 #permalink

Eric@#42 - I suspect that is the reason that GPS on my phone has improved a lot in accuracy over the past few years: a lot more repeaters to improve mobile phone coverage.

Yes, the same issues would occur in Tokyo.

A problem in Hong Kong is finding somewhere you can pull over safely. The emergency stopping lanes on highways are definitely not places you want to pull over if you can avoid it - potentially lethal. Plus a lot of the highways just don't have emergency stopping lanes. Even just slowing down on a highway with a speed limit of 90 kph can be high risk.

That was my previous strategy - route checking before driving. But that doesn't help with locating yourself in the correct lane when the highway system is a plate of spaghetti with different lanes leading in all different directions, and overhead directional signs that don't become visible or legible until it is too late (they are a HK classic - I have one friend who says that the only purpose of the directional signs here is to confirm you have taken the correct route once you have already taken it).

A good thing about GPS with voice guidance is that if you do take the wrong lane or miss a turn, the system will try to find you a route to get you back on track again to get you to your desired destination - except now and again it will ask you to do something you can't do legally or safely. The classic one is "Make a U-turn as soon as possible."

By Asparagus (not verified) on 06 Mar 2017 #permalink

But that doesn’t help with locating yourself in the correct lane when the highway system is a plate of spaghetti with different lanes leading in all different directions, and overhead directional signs that don’t become visible or legible until it is too late

Metro Boston used to have a fair amount of that, though they have gotten better in recent years.

A favorite trick in much of New England is to assume that drivers know which main road they are on (or approaching from a side road). Which is a reasonable assumption if you are following a state highway with a publicly posted number (we also have "secret" state highways, which may have an official number which is not posted on the road). But if you are on some local road and are not familiar with the area, good luck. In one egregious case near Rangeley Lake in Maine, the name of the side road is only visible to westbound motorists--apparently if you are eastbound and want to take that turnoff you are assumed to be so familiar with the area that you know this is your turnoff.

The US has some fairly strong requirements when it comes to motorway signage, so if you find yourself in the wrong lane, it's probably either heavy traffic preventing you from getting into the correct lane, or temporary signage in a construction zone with closed lanes, or both.

The emergency stopping lanes on highways are definitely not places you want to pull over if you can avoid it – potentially lethal.

Also true of metro Boston. In most of the US the portion of the pavement to the right of the solid right line is called the shoulder. On Massachusetts motorways it's called the breakdown lane, and motorists are known to use this like any normal lane in heavy traffic. There are at least three motorways in metro Boston where this is explicitly allowed during peak commuting times.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 06 Mar 2017 #permalink

One thing I will say in favour of HK drivers - in heavy traffic, most will let you change lanes. Certainly not all, but a high %; much higher than in Australia.

It was not always this way, but several years ago, some genius had the idea of pointing out to drivers that traffic overall flows faster and more smoothly if they let other drivers merge or change lanes when they need to. And, like magic, it worked. And, also magically, the manic lane switching back and forth to try to 'get ahead' of other drivers pretty much stopped at the same time.

I have even had truck drivers stop and wave to me to change lanes in front of them. Considering those guys are typically (1) stuck in their vehicle cabs for long hours every day, and (2) usually on a pretty tight timetable, that's very cool.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 07 Mar 2017 #permalink

But then, contrary to common belief, HK people tend to be relatively community minded. They have not always been this way, but they are now. Mostly.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 07 Mar 2017 #permalink

I have wondered how much of the traffic culture in a major city that is "local" and how much is "national".
-- -- -- -- --
Mandatory miltary service coming back https://satwcomic.com/suit-up-with-guns
Jeez, that ISIS feller loks weird...

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 07 Mar 2017 #permalink

In Australia, the most impatient, aggressive and intolerant drivers by far are in Melbourne. They make Sydney drivers look like saints, even though the traffic congestion is probably worse in Sydney.

In Hong Kong, it's kind of self-evident - pretty much all of the drivers are 'local', and they are nothing like drivers in the Mainland, who are all incompetent and stark raving mad. Of course, Hong Kong has had fairly high private car ownership for very much longer than anywhere in the Mainland. When I first went to Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing for the first time in 1982, there were no private cars. None. Zero. And there were mules pulling carts on the roads around Beijing. And millions of bicycles everywhere.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 07 Mar 2017 #permalink

I received a letter from Jim (James) Lovelock (aka the Gaia guy) in response to some questions.
He asked me in turn about papers from an event; he published some papers at a Nobel symposium 1976 (NS 38) where papers on the Nitrogen cycle were presented.

“After the symposium those of us who presented papers were asked to give a summary before your king and parliament. –Do you know if these were ever published? I am especially interested in the summary given by the late Barry Commoner”

Question: Where do I start to search for such a summary? Google is not a help at all.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 07 Mar 2017 #permalink

drivers in the Mainland, who are all incompetent and stark raving mad

I'll grant that drivers in mainland China are incompetent, but I'm not sure "stark raving mad" is the right term to use when all of them act that way. Sure, you would be crazy to drive like that in the US, Canada, or the parts of Europe I have been to. But in Beijing everybody drives like that.

During one of my taxi rides the driver actually managed to get a ticket. He went straight at an intersection that was clearly marked "right turn only", and a cop on a motorcycle saw him do it. This was in light traffic, north of the city center, IIRC between the Second and Third Ring Roads. But I also saw four accident scenes in the two weeks I was there; in one of those cases I actually saw the illegal move that precipitated the accident.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 07 Mar 2017 #permalink

That Giorgio seems like a smart bloke http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/3617.html
-- -- -- --
Didn't most people on the Mainland use bicycles all the way into the 1980s?
People in HK have had more time to undergo "Darwinian selection" or at least understand "maybe I should try avoid getting pasted all over the road like that other guy".
Also, in the Mainland there is presumably still an urban influx of car-naive migrants from more impoverished rural places.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 07 Mar 2017 #permalink

Birger@52: Bicycle use was still common in Beijing as recently as 2006 (when I visited), although it was declining relative to automobiles by then, and air pollution (already at Los Angeles circa 1970 levels; it has gotten even worse since) adds to the hazard. It may still be the preferred method of transportation in the countryside. But I don't think today's migrants to the cities are completely innocent of automobiles; even in rural areas the rich and well-connected have them.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 07 Mar 2017 #permalink

I have wondered how much of the traffic culture in a major city that is “local” and how much is “national”.

You see a wide range of traffic cultures in the United States, so here, at least, it is local. There may well be other countries where it is national.

Drivers in coastal cities tend to be much more aggressive than those who live well inland. Boston drivers have the worst reputation, in part because unlike most US cities Boston does not have a large-scale street grid--it's laid out like a European city, so if you are familiar with places like London, Stockholm, or Munich you will find it much easier than people from elsewhere in the US do. But in my experience New Yorkers, Washingtonians, Angelenos, and San Francisco area drivers tend to be just as aggressive. Drivers in the inland US tend to be much more laid back. In Florida, with its concentration of retirees, watch out for little old ladies driving well below the posted speed limit in the left lane.

Which brings up a particular challenge for northern Europeans driving in the US: in many places lane discipline does not exist. Many European countries strictly prohibit overtaking on the right (left in the UK). Such laws, where they exist in the US (my state does not have one), are rarely enforced here. It's generally not an issue on motorways with two lanes each direction, but add a third lane and observe how few motorists will use that lane unless traffic is heavy enough to require it.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 07 Mar 2017 #permalink

My driving experience outside the US is limited to parts of two Canadian provinces, Quebec (metro Montreal and the Eastern Townships region) and British Columbia (coastal areas including metro Vancouver). Quebecois drivers are much more aggressive than BC drivers, at least among the ones I have seen, and I have seen billboards in Quebec warning motorists that (loosely translated from the French) the motorways are not race tracks.

Among Canadians who bring their cars to this side of the US border, Quebecois drivers are about as aggressive as those from the US eastern seaboard, Ontario drivers not quite as aggressive, and drivers from the rest of Canada are about as laid back as those in the southern and midwestern US.

Ontario and Quebec have their own provincial police forces. In the rest of Canada, the RCMP (yes, the Mounties) do highway patrol, in addition to being the rough equivalent of the FBI.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 07 Mar 2017 #permalink

Birger@52 - In the bad old days, people in HK got a driver's licence by bribing the Transport Department. You went for your road test, then the accepted method of paying the bribe was that you paid for the issue of your first driver's licence with a large bank note, and forgot to pick up your change. Well, anyone can be forgetful.

With the stamping out of bribery, those drivers who got their licence that way have progressively disappeared from the roads through age, and driving standards in HK have consequently improved a lot. Getting a licence in HK is very difficult - the test is extremely tough. Plus private car ownership has built up gradually over a long period of time, so each new driver is introduced into a system that is full of experienced drivers who know what they are doing.

In the Mainland, after the lingering effects of the Cultural Revolution died down, a whole lot of people suddenly transitioned from using bicycles to owning private cars. So a whole lot of inexperienced drivers were unleashed onto the roads over a very short, compressed period of time. When change happens in China, it tends to happen very quickly. In the early 80s, there were no private cars at all on the roads. By the 90s, everyone was getting a car, and it was becoming increasingly dangerous to ride a bicycle on the roads. That is a rapid transition from bicycles to motor vehicles as the prevailing form of private transport. When there is no prevailing experienced driving culture for newbies to observe and copy, people just kind of make up their own rules, and in the Mainland you had everyone doing that over a very compressed time frame - consequence: chaos. Plus it is reasonable to assume that bribery might often have been involved in getting a driver's licence.

HK is well policed, including traffic cops - there are plenty of them around; they are well trained, experienced and really know what they are doing. If you do something wrong, like crossing a double white line, even if there is no traffic cop around, other experienced drivers, including people like taxi drivers, will let you know in no uncertain fashion that you have just done something that is potentially dangerous - not through any kind of 'road rage', but they will toot their horns at you, or hang their heads out of an open car window and give you an earful. In a sense, HK drivers have become somewhat self-policing in relation to dangerous driving behaviour, as collective consciousness of the need for road safety has developed. The Mainland is seriously under-policed, you don't often see that many traffic cops, and a lot that you do see don't seem to have a really good idea of the rules or what they are doing. Watching some of them is almost comical.

I think those reasons collectively explain the difference in driving standards between HK and the Mainland.

Road deaths per capita in HK are pretty low. In the Mainland, they are really frighteningly high - awful.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 07 Mar 2017 #permalink

As to when the change in the Mainland occurred, in keeping with the principle that the mountains are high and the Emperor is far away, people transitioned from bicycles to cars first in the south, and then progressively northwards through Shanghai, with Beijing being one of the last areas to transition.

The same thing happened with dress standards. In 1982, women in Guangzhou were already wearing modern, brightly coloured clothing, but in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou most were still wearing the old drab blue or green Chairman Mao style jackets and hats, with just a few adventurous souls sporting a pink cardigan or something else colourful, or children wearing more colourful clothing, while in Beijing, no one dared to wear anything non-standard.

Deng Xiaoping basically signalled that the spirit of the Cultural Revolution was very definitely dead, and it was OK for everyone to embrace the modern outside world, when he made his "To get rich is glorious" public speech, at the same time that he opened China to foreign investment and global markets. So, during the 80s, China went through another revolution of sorts - an economic revolution, and opening up to the outside world. Deng wore the old style drab clothing, but after Deng, you saw Chinese leaders wearing Western business suits and ties for the first time.

It was Deng who opened the flood gates, but there was definitely a south to north cline in the pace at which the change happened, with Beijing being the most conservative and slow to change.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 08 Mar 2017 #permalink


Population history of early European farmers. It's open access.

The difficulty of modelling population change in Europe, or population change anywhere for that matter, is that you need to describe it continuously in 4 dimensional space. Nothing happened everywhere at the same time.

I was reading the Rational Wiki entry on "miscegenation" just recently, and thinking how ignorant and moronic it is. Someone who is informed on the current state of knowledge on ancient genomics really needs to get into that and fix it, or just write the whole thing off as a waste of time. The alt.right and white supremacists put out some really moronic propaganda, but Rational Wiki seems to be the corresponding opposite end of the spectrum, while being equally moronic.

When hunter gatherers reinhabited Europe after the end of the Last Glacial Maximum, those people had dark hair, dark skin and blue eyes - that's known. Startling combination, maybe, but you can get that from founder effects among a small population. Europeans didn't really become pale skinned until some time within the past 5,000 years, and at least in the UK, people have continued to become more pale skinned and blonde haired over the past 2,000 years - that's 'native' people, obviously, depending on where you set the timeline for being 'native'. I might set it in 1066, but I'm biased.

Pale skin in modern Europeans arises from a known small set of loss of function mutations, the loss of function being the expression of melanin in the skin. To a large extent the same mutations have resulted in people in the Middle East being a lot more pale that subSaharan Africans, but not as pale as Europeans. The paleness of Europeans resulted from the mixing of populations who were genetically distant from one another.

So, to demonstrate that "miscegenation" is 'natural' among modern humans, it is not necessary to invoke the mixing of anatomically modern humans with archaic humans, which didn't happen that often. It happened on such a scale in Europe and the Middle East within the past 5,000 years on such a scale that it was a process of genetically distant populations, who would have *looked* very different from one another, so thoroughly that it resulted in homogenisation, such that all modern Europeans are now genetically very close, when viewed on a global scale, although you can focus down with greater granularity and just about place someone from his genes to the town in Italy that he was born in.

Nina Jablonski correlated pale skin with latitude to try to explain why it occurred, and it kind of works, but really not very well. That is partly because once the small number of alleles involved have acquired the mutation that causes loss of function in the expression of melanin in the skin, they can't lose it again (so, paleo-Americans did not become more dark skinned again when they got to southern Mexico and central America), but *also* notably because her very simple model does not take account of all that has been learned since about human migrations and population mixing events.

So, Rational Wiki does not need to evoke some incidence of ancient interbreeding between anatomically modern and archaic humans to try to show that "miscegenation" is 'natural' (and they don't even get that right) - they could note that there have been instances of male humans mating with dogs and sheep (and one guy I read about who tried it with a cow, but the process killed him), but that doesn't demonstrate that it is natural or normative; in fact, most people everywhere would clearly regard that as deviant behaviour.

All they need to do is point to what has happened in Europe within the recent past on the scale of the whole of the then population; by recent meaning within the past 5,000 years.

Similarly, they could point to the genetic variation in China, where succeeding waves of Northern Han invaded southwards, and interbred with the then 'native' Austronesians, resulting in complete mixing in the south between two genetically distant groups into a relatively homogeneous whole, and a cline of genetic variation from north to south in China. That was also within recent time.

Or they could point to a population like the Uygurs who are an old intermixed population between East Eurasians and West Eurasians, about 50%-50%, which happened within about the past 2,000 years.



The examples of whole populations interbreeding are everywhere in recent human time. Most Mexicans are tri-hybrids, as are Puerto Ricans and Brazilians, and that all happened within the second millenium AD. And what Rational Wiki has got written about how white supremacy can't happen *again* in Brazil is really stupid - they clearly don't know that more pale skinned Brazilians discriminate against more dark skinned Brazilians (even within single nuclear families), and instead of America's black-white dichotomy (so, people of 80% European ancestry get classed as 'black', which in itself is very dumb), Brazilians have a whole load of different expressions for people of differing shades of darkness and lightness, with the most pale skinned Brazilians evincing 'white' supremacy over all of the rest of the spectrum in the population.

Rational Wiki really is ignorant and stupid; at least those parts that I have sampled. So, Phillip Helbig, please don't go quoting it to me again. It's just different flavoured garbage from the alt.right garbage and the Neocon garbage, but it's still garbage.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 08 Mar 2017 #permalink

WikiLeaks releases blockbuster ‘Vault 7’ documents on CIA spying

“WikiLeaks has issued a blockbuster press release [ https://wikileaks.org/ciav7p1/ ] today [Monday seventh) along with a tranche of documents that were leaked to it that describe the CIA’s efforts to infiltrate people’s communications systems. The documents reveal that the CIA targeted smartphones and computers and turned so-called Smart TVs into eavesdropping devices. The documents allege that the CIA then *lost control of this spying arsenal* which means that others may now possess these same capabilities, which would constitute a massive breach in its security systems.”

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 08 Mar 2017 #permalink

Older people are just as good at judging music as younger adults https://www.newscientist.com/article/2123650-older-people-are-just-as-g…
-- -- --
Christian Scientists Debunk Young Earth Creationist Film http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2017/03/03/christian-scientists…
-- -- --
Patrick Stewart Is Applying for U.S. Citizenship in Order to Best Fight Donald Trump http://www.vulture.com/2017/03/patrick-stewart-applying-for-u-s-citizen…

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 08 Mar 2017 #permalink

Birger@59: <voice="Captain Renault">I am shocked--shocked!--to find gambling going on here!</voice>

It's the CIA's job to search the secrets of the world for items of interest to the US government. The successor agency to the KGB (of which Vladimir Putin was once head) plays the same role for Russia. Every country in the world that can afford to have such an agency has one. The only news here is the specific tools they are using.

I am agnostic as to whether the Wikileaks people are Russian agents or merely useful idiots, but over the past two years they seem to have been acting for Russia's benefit. I notice a complete lack of disclosures from them about what Russian, Saudi, Chinese, etc., governments are doing.

The plan seems to be to float a conspiracy theory that the CIA hacked the Democratic National Party servers and made it look like the Russians did it. Of course this theory does not pass the laugh test: why would the CIA want Trump to be elected, then turn around and try to oust him? Not to mention that contacts between Trump's people and Russian diplomats and agents before Trump's inauguration--what were those contacts about?

Yes, the US has the Russian ambassador's communication lines bugged. So does every other country who plausibly views Russia as a potential threat. I have little doubt that the US ambassador in Moscow is similarly monitored, and for the same reasons. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 08 Mar 2017 #permalink

Birger@60: The Onion and the Daily Mash can pack it in now. There is no way either of them can keep up with what's happening in the so-called real world.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 08 Mar 2017 #permalink

"Yes, the US has the Russian ambassador’s communication lines bugged. So does every other country who plausibly views Russia as a potential threat."

Which explains why they bugged Angela Merkel's phone.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 08 Mar 2017 #permalink

"This bullshit is reaching North Korean levels
The orange entity from Zeta Reticuli has evidently picked the name for the new American healthcare plan himself."


Not the Republican health-care bill. Please fact-check first (Snopes is usually enough), otherwise you will be accused of spreading fake news.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

I found a movie on Netflix that I really like - rare in my experience, but then this is a movie that a lot of people would probably not choose to watch, and not one that would do well at all at the box office in the Anglosphere; in fact it would so obviously bomb/disappear without trace that no one would be mad enough to screen it.

It's a 2015 Brazilian film called Operações Especiais, in Portuguese with excellent English subtitles that capture the nuances of the dialog. Superficially it's just another cops and robbers type film, but it's a great movie on several levels:
1. It showcases the sardonic Brazilian sense of humour very well.
2. It portrays Rio de Janeiro and environs very accurately, based on my experience of going there - my advice is never go there. Don't even think about it, unless you enjoy being shot at, mugged or infected with amœbic dysentery. My best Brazilian buddy, one of life's truly good people, was shot in the head and killed because he happened to be in a bank that was robbed, leaving a young wife and child penniless.
3. The basic story is about a young woman who decides to join the Police, not for any idealistic reason, but just because the pay is much better than her current job. She has to put up with all of the misogynist crap that you would expect for a woman joining an all-male police squad, plus the initial terror of coming into direct contact with the really sharp, nasty side of life in Brazil.
4. The black male cop ruminates mildly but dismissively about what life would be like if a black man could aspire to become President (which he obviously can't because of the strong skin colour prejudice in Brazil).
5. It shows how difficult it is to try to fight corruption when it is endemic in every level of society.

It's not a very long film - definitely worth it. I could happily have sat through it if it was an extra hour longer.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

"Rational Wiki really is ignorant and stupid; at least those parts that I have sampled. So, Phillip Helbig, please don’t go quoting it to me again. It’s just different flavoured garbage from the alt.right garbage and the Neocon garbage, but it’s still garbage."

When did I quote Rational Wiki to you?

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink


I posted a comment which "is in moderation", probably because it contains two URLs (one which I quoted and another one). I'm assuming that Martin checks his blog regularly, so please make sure that it gets posted, rather than languishing in some moderation doldrums.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

Somewhere, the italics tag got lost. Correct:

Not the Republican health-care bill.

Yes, it exists. No, it is not the one backed by most Republicans. It has no chance of success. There are many absurd bills. Some "news" services even credit Trump with this silly name. People, Trump is crazy enough by himself; no need to attribute stuff to him which other people dreamed up!

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

Phillip@68 - Quite a while back. I have an excellent memory.

Two URLs in a comment will automatically get the comment caught in the spam filter. I know, I tend to be a serial URL quoter. Martin is usually pretty prompt in clearing them out and posting them.

Unless it's a URL to a site that he doesn't want to post for some reason - I got caught by that only once, but took the hint and never posted any reference to that site again. These days I am most unlikely to try anyway, it's turned into an obvious alt.right site, and I am most definitely not a supporter. I probably should have twigged earlier, but there was someone who was posting good, solid, useful science there - but no longer; he saw the light too and left; probably a little too late also, but then I'd say he's somewhat unworldly/Aspergic, like me. It's genetic, you know.

@66 - You might want to ease off on Birger; I'm pretty sure he knew that was a joke, and posted it as such.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

Re @61: OK this is not THE Republican bill, just a bill by another Republican.

-- -- --
(stolen from Ed Braytons blog)
•Congress: Mr. President, as part of our Tapgate investigation, please deliver the evidence.
Trump: Hands over copy of Breitbart article
Congress: This isn't evidence. It's a copy of an article from a conservative conspiracy quote unquote news site on the Internet.
Trump: It is evidence.
Congress: No, it's not.
Trump: You're fired!
Congress: Um, you can't fire us. On the other hand, do you know what "impeach" means?
• Learned tremendous new word, impeach. Means the president can fire Congress. Future looks great! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2017

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

In fact, looking at the Snopes ref., I'd say that Sessions intended the title of his version to be a joke, sort of. Even Texas Republicans have a sense of humour, sort of. I know, I've known a few on a personal basis.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

In fact, looking at the Snopes ref., I’d say that Sessions intended the title of his version to be a joke, sort of.

Poe's Law is strictly enforced.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

"I’m pretty sure he knew that was a joke, and posted it as such."

"Poe’s Law is strictly enforced."

If so, then this is a reverse Poe: someone mistook something real for satire, not vice versa. :-)

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

"Phillip@68 – Quite a while back. I have an excellent memory."

Where? Here? What topic?

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

I think The Local gets it wrong. My guess is that they "swear" just as much, if not more, in Swedish. The difference is that saying fuck or knulla in Sweden doesn't have the taboo it has in English. I remember one case where a teacher at a religious summer camp said "naked woman". She wasn't nude herself (probably never has been), didn't show any pictures of nude people, just uttered the words "naked woman". Then she caught herself and asked everyone to please not tell anyone that she uttered these words, for fear of what they might think of her. (She was talking about an example of someone who had descended into the hell of sex (maybe drugs) and rock 'n' roll, indicated by the fact that he had a poster of a NAKED WOMAN on his wall.)

Another case I remember: an exchange student from the USA who had spent a year in Denmark, visiting in Germany. He could understand some German. A 55-year-old woman said "Scheiße" when complaining about a late train, and this bloke's jaw nearly hit the floor.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

I can't speak for Swedish people specifically, but it sometimes happens that taboos that apply in your native language are not extended to words of foreign origin.

For instance, in English we use words such as urine, feces, vagina, and sexual intercourse, all of which are of Latin origin, in polite society. These four terms have Anglo-Saxon equivalents which are on George Carlin's list of Seven Words You Must Never Use on Television.

I have heard that there is a similar phenomenon in Japan: certain body parts are referred to by their English names because the Japanese names for these body parts are considered obscene in Japan.

I would not take Phillip's example of the teacher at the religious summer camp as representative, because while I don't know about religious people in Sweden, religious people in English-speaking countries tend to be much more prudish than average about language. I don't see how most American religious nuts would object to a mention of somebody having a picture of a naked woman as long as it was made clear that this is a Bad Thing (which appears to have been this woman's intent).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 09 Mar 2017 #permalink

Just to be clear: the teacher at the religious summer camp was in the States. And, yes, even the description of the Bad Thing was too bad to be mentioned.

"For instance, in English we use words such as urine, feces, vagina, and sexual intercourse, all of which are of Latin origin, in polite society. These four terms have Anglo-Saxon equivalents which are on George Carlin’s list of Seven Words You Must Never Use on Television."

I think that the problem in English is that there are only two alternatives: technical Latin-based medical terms, and "swear" words. Nothing in between. In German, for instance, one can say "Vagina" (though practically no-one does), there is "Fotze" ("cunt"), which is considered rude, and "Muschi" ("pussy") which is child-speak (though used by adults as well). However, there is "Scheide", which is a neutral German word and used more or less as "vagina" in English. Thus, I don't think that it is the fact that the native words are considered vulgar in English as much as the fact that English has no non-vulgar native words. The other words follow the same pattern as in this example.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 10 Mar 2017 #permalink


(English) Latin vulgar normal children
urine Urin Pisse Harn Pipi
feces Feces Scheiße Kot Kaka
vagina Vagina Fotze Scheide Muschi
sexual Coitus ficken Geschlechtsverkehr

Would skit, fitta, and knulla be in the vulgar or normal column?

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 10 Mar 2017 #permalink

OK, you can tell where I have been learning my Swedish! :-)

Do non-vulgar but also non-Latin/medicinal/technical terms exist?

Assuming Wikipedia is correct, then slida/sköte, avföring, samlag corresponding to German Scheide, Kot, Geschlechtsverkehr (literally "sex traffic")?

As far as I know, English doesn't have such native but non-technical terms.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 10 Mar 2017 #permalink

I have quit trying to contribute ideas and informative stuff on blogs and discussion fora. There doesn't seem to be a point. If the idea is to get feedback to advance my own understanding, then I get virtually nothing back, so the idea doesn't work. So why would I continue trying to contribute? I might as well just strive to advance my own understanding, and keep it to myself. Trying to discuss it is pointless.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 10 Mar 2017 #permalink


The latest research findings on genetic substructure among unadmixed Aboriginal Australians in different regions of the continent, despite the fact that they were all descended from a single small founding population 50,000 years ago and existed in effective isolation thereafter until European settlement less than 300 years ago, are an excellent example of why there can never be any such thing as a "pure race".

Succinct enough?

By Asparagus (not verified) on 10 Mar 2017 #permalink

Great. The researchers were very surprised by this finding. Big new surprising finding! I have known about it since I was a teenager. But then, I have magic eyes. I even tried to tell some geneticists about it, years ago, but they didn't listen, because they don't know about my magic. Lesson - keep your magic to yourself, and never try to explain.

By Asparagus (not verified) on 10 Mar 2017 #permalink

As far as I know, English doesn’t have such native but non-technical terms.

It does, but most of them are primarily used by or around children. The exception is "sleeping with" for sex, but that's more of a euphemism.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 10 Mar 2017 #permalink