14 months of no teaching gigs and several bad professional disappointments have brought me down a bit. So I checked my calendar for things to look forward to in the coming months.

Dear Reader, what are you looking forward to?


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Don't forget to do your kitana research before going to the exhibition at the Royal Armoury. It's not a simple subject. The Wikipedia entry on them is pretty informative.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 24 Mar 2017 #permalink

*tsk, sp.* Katana.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 24 Mar 2017 #permalink

Spring gardening. Some of my plants didn't make it, and I will need to fill in those holes. It will also be good, once the snow melts and the ground thaws, to get the winter debris off the lawn. It's been a particularly windy winter here.

I have been invited to another university, about two hours drive away, to give a seminar in May.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 24 Mar 2017 #permalink

Experimental Archaeology Conference in Leiden in April

I have a professional colleague who lives in Alberta. He has to replant his whole garden every Spring. I think that would really get me down. I spent a week in Edmonton in the middle of what they laughingly refer to as their 'moment of summer' once - I nearly froze to death. I was walking around outside wearing every piece of clothing I had taken with me, feeling desperately cold, and met a South African colleague coming from the opposite direction, similarly attired - we stopped to greet each other and bitched in unison about the cold. Plus trying to get to sleep when it was still broad daylight at 10.00 pm.

No way. I read recently that being cold is good for you - increases the brown fat stores at the expense of the bad stuff, or whatever, so makes you less prone to Type 2 Diabetes. I don't care; I'm not a candidate for Diabetes anyway. I like it warm, humid, and dark when it is supposed to get dark, by about 7.00 pm, and surrounded by riotous vegetation which keeps threatening to overgrow all feeble attempts by humans to keep Nature under control, and when keeping the vegetation under control is much more challenging than getting things to grow.

Every now and then, my wife gets a small decorative sprig of bamboo and puts it in a vase of water in my study. She replaces it when the bamboo hits the ceiling. I love bamboo. I love bamboo forests. Wonderful plants, in all their endless variety. Scaffolding workers in Hong Kong still use bamboo scaffolding in preference to steel to erect or renovate high rise buildings, because it's lighter and stronger than steel scaffolding.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 25 Mar 2017 #permalink

@Aspidistra: If you are doing a vegetable garden, you expect to replant every year. Otherwise, as long as you choose plants that are suitable for your climate, there shouldn't be a need for wide-scale replanting. And even in the tropics, plants have a finite lifespan, so you have to replace stuff every now and then anyway.

Related to your anecdote, there is a joke they tell in northern Maine: "I wanted to go fishing last summer, but I had to work that day."

Edmonton's late sunsets are a product of three factors: (1) latitude (well into the 50s, which is comparable to Denmark or northern England), (2) being west of center in their time zone, and (3) the practice, prevalent in North America and Europe, of advancing clocks by an hour during the summer, on the theory that most people would prefer that hour of daylight in the evening than in the early morning. Australia and parts of South America do likewise during austral summer. I for one am much more likely to be awake at 8 PM than at 5 AM, so the system suits me well.

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

Eric, Australia has made the biggest mess of daylight saving that you could imagine. It already had 3 time zones: Western Australia (WA); South Australia (SA) and the Northern Territory (NT); and the states that make up the eastern seaboard: Queensland (Qld), New South Wales (NSW), the Australian Capital Territory (ACT - where Canberra, the capital city of Australia is located), Victoria (Vic) and the island of Tasmania (Tas). So time is different in WA from SA and NT, which are in turn different from the rest. But people were accustomed to accommodating the time differences.

So, when it came to adopting daylight saving, it would make sense if they all adopted it, and they all started and ended it on the same days every year, so the time differences would remain constant, right? No - WA decided not to have it at all. And the other states who did adopt it, start and end it on different days of the year from one another, because they could not agree among themselves which days to start and end it on. You can imagine the endless confusion.

This is typical of the Australian states - they all hate each other. Australia started as a group of British colonies, which formed a union when granted independence. But they couldn't agree on whether the capital of the new country should be Sydney or Melbourne (the two biggest cities by far at that time) - so they built the new city of Canberra half way in between.

My father grew up in WA and my mother variously in SA and Vic, until she married my father and went to live in WA; so when I was a little kid, periodically my mother, sister and I would catch a train from Perth on the west coast to SA and Vic, where all of my mother's relatives lived (except for the ones who had gone to live in NSW). We would get on the train in Perth - then when we got to the SA border, we would have to get off that train, walk across the state border and get on a different train (because SA used a different rail gauge from WA). Then when that train got to the border with Vic, we would have to get off and change trains again because Vic used a different rail gauge from SA.

To be eligible to hold a WA driver's licence, you are required to actually be permanently resident in WA. If you move to a different state in the same bloody country, you can drive using your WA licence for 3 months, after which it becomes invalid and you have to apply for a new licence in whichever state you are in. Then if you move back to WA again...Of course, if you practise civil engineering in Australia, you typically spend at least one third of your life travelling between states, depending on where the projects are that you are working on, so when it comes to driver's licences, it becomes a total mess. If you work for a multi-national company like I do, and have to travel in and out of the country to work, it gets worse. And that's just for driving licences - I won't get onto the subject of state and federal taxation, and how the laws apply depending on where they decide you are 'ordinarily resident'.

My daughter got her first degree from a university in WA. Of course she needed a bank account, so she opened an account in Perth with Australia's biggest bank. Then she moved to Melbourne in Vic to do post-grad. Could she use her bank account there? No, of course not, they made her open a different account in Melbourne with the same bloody bank, in the same bloody country. And of course, Australian banks charge you fees to operate an account - so now she's paying two sets of fees to operate two different accounts with the same bank, neither of which she currently has any use for because she is now not residing in Australia. To close the accounts, she would have to fly to two different cities on opposite sides of the country, and of course banks hate you closing an account, so they would put every imaginable obstacle in her path to try to stop her from closing them. And she can't close them from overseas - they insist that you must be there in person to do it.

I could go on and on, but I had better not. If they can create such a mess in a country with so few states, I can only imagine what it must be like in the USA, which has so many.

We now live in a global world, but someone forgot to tell the states in Australia, who all still behave as if it is the 19th Century.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 25 Mar 2017 #permalink

The situation with respect to different states isn't quite so bad in the US as in Australia. AFAIK there is no issue with banking across state lines, and there is one standard rail gauge throughout the country. Arizona and Hawaii do not observe daylight savings time, but the states that do start and end it on the same days. You are generally allowed to keep your driver's license from your home state if you attend university in another state, and most states allow you to keep your car, if you have one, registered in your home state.

However, time zone boundaries frequently do not coincide with state boundaries. Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska have more than one time zone. Indiana used to have a further issue that most of the state did not observe daylight savings time but the portion in the Central time zone and the three counties nearest Cincinnati (Eastern time) did; they have since adopted Daylight Savings Time statewide. Alaska has also simplified things a bit: they once had four time zones, but have consolidated it to two. These time zone boundaries are not always in convenient locations, either. In South Dakota the boundary between the Central and Mountain time zones follows the Missouri River, so that the ranch my cousin operates, in Stanley County on the west side of the river, is technically in the Mountain time zone, but because their market town, Pierre, is east of the river (Central time zone) they run their clocks on Central time.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 26 Mar 2017 #permalink

Eric - as my friend in Seattle put it, when you fly from the USA to Australia, you advance one day and go backwards by 30 years. I'm not sure the time analogy is correct, though - Australia is becoming worse and more bureaucratically f*cked up with time. Don't ask when the Idiocracy will be reached - it is already there.

Performance of Australian school students in mathematics and science has been steadily declining year on year since 2006. In mathematics, school students now are a year behind where they were in 2006. Nothing has changed in the education system in that time to cause that, and there is nothing wrong with the education system. It appears that the Flynn Effect has played out in full, and dysgenics is kicking in, big time.

If it is to be blamed on immigration (which is a possible, given the high rate of immigration), it can only be due principally to migration of low SES whites from the UK, who are engaging in national 'white flight', based on the proportions of country of origin of the migrants.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 26 Mar 2017 #permalink

Don’t ask when the Idiocracy will be reached – it is already there.

I think I'd rather have that than a Trump presidency. Many Americans have compared the rise of Trump to the movie Idiocracy, but I think the comparison is unfair to the fictional President Camacho. Camacho at least understood that he was facing a problem that was beyond his skill to solve, so he sought out the smartest person he could find and listened to that person. You will find Trump's picture in the dictionary next to the definition of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 27 Mar 2017 #permalink

Looks like I will have to wait a bit longer for my spring gardening, as March looks like it will go out like a lion hereabouts. We have a Winter Storm Watch in effect. The official forecast calls for 15 to 25 cm of snow starting Friday and continuing into Saturday. Weather Underground is suggesting 25 to 40 cm in my town. Just when I was starting to see parts of my back yard;

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 30 Mar 2017 #permalink

Snap! I've been enjoying several days of relative comfort with temperatures in the low 20s Celsius, which means I can go out hiking in just a T-shirt and track pants, and walking briskly can work up a bit of a sweat doing it if I keep doing it for long enough in the sunshine, which is always a good feeling.

But this morning we had a cold front pass through, accompanied by pretty heavy rain, and associated drop in temperature, and I won't get comfortable temperatures again now for several days. That is typical of March/April here - alternating warmer and cooler periods, very damp, until it gets warm and stays that way by about mid-May.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 31 Mar 2017 #permalink

Well, the snow was very wet so did not accumulate that much. Still, not the best weather for the traditional dinner of freshly harvested spaghetti.

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

I keep being surprised by what some people don't know. So here's some of what I know that other people might or might not know.

1. The amount of time you spend sitting down is inversely correlated with age at death. Sitting around will kill you, literally. You need to get up and walk around, frequently.

2. Recently, the question was asked "Will exercising for, say, one hour per day compensate for the adverse effects of sitting down for the rest of the day?" The answer is "No", apparently. You shouldn't sit still for longer than about 30 minutes at a time, without getting up and moving around. That could wreak havoc in movie theatres.

3. As you age, you lose bone density, unless you exercise to maintain bone density. The exercise needs to be "load bearing", i.e. like walking or running. Cycling or swimming won't do it. Weight training is even better. When bones lose density, you get osteoporosis, and bones get brittle, which is why old people often break bones when they fall, and particularly bones which are normally hard to break, like the pelvis. If you fracture your pelvis when you are old, recovery can be so slow that you might never be able to get out of bed again, so it's best not to do it.

4. Swallowing rocks (as in taking calcium supplements) won't maintain bone density. You need to exercise. If you don't like the word "exercise" you could just substitute the idea of moving around physically. Gravity is your friend. This is a problem for astronauts - swallowing rocks doesn't do it for them either.

5. Physical exercise (both weight training and aerobic exercise) helps to maintain fluid intelligence past the age of 25, probably by increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain, which consumes a very high proportion of the total oxygen you take in when you breathe. Doing crosswords when you get old won't do shit for your brain, it just helps to pass the time while you are waiting to die.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 01 Apr 2017 #permalink

I'm not sure how to classify cycling. Swimming is clearly not 'load bearing', in that the weight of your body is supported by the water. Cycling is less clear - you are sitting a lot of the time, yes, but part of your weight is also supported on your hands and feet. So I have no idea how much it counts towards 'load bearing exercise' - less than walking but more than swimming, i suppose.

Swimming is excellent exercise, I used to swim a mile of freestyle every night after work and I was as fit aerobically as I have ever been (not to mention exhausted - I fell asleep on the sofa every night straight after dinner, and my wife would have to wake me up to tell me to go to bed) but evidently it doesn't do much for retention of bone density. I assume.

By Aspidistra (not verified) on 02 Apr 2017 #permalink

Martin, on the subject of parsimonous budgets for institutions...
"NY Times Finds $13 Million in O’Reilly Sexual Harassment Payouts"…

Fox would have saved money if they had just given Bill the Groper a card with unlimited credit and told him to use it for call girls, or rentboys or whatever.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 03 Apr 2017 #permalink

...but Bill O'Reilly and Roger Ailes probably got off on using their power to coerce sex from women in dependent positions.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 03 Apr 2017 #permalink

Birger@18: But Billo is worth a lot more than $13M to Fox News. That's why he stays. If he ever became too toxic for Fox News (which would be quite an accomplishment, but Roger Ailes managed to achieve that), he'd be out by the end of the week.

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

Aspidistra@15: Doing crosswords will make you better at doing crosswords.

That being said, crosswords did help my dad to get his vocabulary back after a slight cerebral haemorrhage.