July Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Swedish 1960s translation of the Game of Life. I just found a uranium mine. According to Boardgame Geek, there are 13,879 better boardgames than this.
  • I bought a Kindle and I like it. Better than reading on my phone. No screen glare. Weeks between recharges. Bigger page.
  • As a boy I was shocked to learn that most people have to pay a monthly fee to keep a roof over their heads. I found this to be a horrifically unstable arrangement, similar to staying at a hotel. My parents had never spoken to me about their mortgage loan. I felt that the only monthly expenses anyone should by rights have to reckon with were food and utilities.
  • Reading Neal Stephenson's 90s WIRED essays about stuff that was cutting edge 20 years ago. Very strange.
  • Me and Cousin E stumbled into our first Magic the Gathering tournament & got crushed. Found out it was elite level. National champion took part.
  • There's a German brand of athletic braces etc that's named Bauerfeind, "Farmer's Foe".
  • Gossamer: "Middle English: apparently from goose + summer, perhaps from the time of year around St Martin's summer, i.e. early November, when geese were eaten (gossamer being common then)."
  • I've sung "Rock And Roll All Nite" twice to Cousin E, and he really liked it! Showed his appreciation by turning over and pulling the duvet over his head. Didn't know the kid was into Kiss!
  • Young folks will soon see me as an arrogant and elitist greybeard. Funny how they will have no idea that I was once an arrogant and elitist 15-year-old.
My wife is getting good at Catan!

More like this

Neal Stephenson's 90s science fiction novels Snow Crash and The Diamond Age are unforgettable, but his 2003-2004 suite of historical novels failed to pull me in. So when I learned that his 2008 effort Anathem is a science fiction story, I was very happy. This is a 900-page brick of a book, told in…
Movie: Little Big Man. Tragicomedy about the Old West and the fate of the Native Americans. Grade: OK. Submitted my tax returns. Always super easy, which is one of the benefits of having a low income and few assets. I've researched my ancestry fully four generations back and found no madman,…
After some instruction I've given Jrette & buddy free range with the little row/motorboat. They're having lots of fun, learning lots and are clearly pleased with themselves. Eider males swimming around in a little posse going "woo-OOO, woo-OOO". The villain in the endless Neal Stephenson novel…
Update 10 April: It pays to report problems like the one described below to Google's customer support. Seven weeks ago I discovered the problem. One week ago I reported it. Today the problem was suddenly gone, probably because Google updated the two ebooks involved and pushed new versions of the…

My parents had never spoken to me about their mortgage loan.

My first thought was, didn't you play Monopoly as a child? But then I remembered that mortgages in Monopoly do not work the way they do in the real world.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 12 Jul 2017 #permalink

"I bought a Kindle and I like it. Better than reading on my phone. No screen glare. Weeks between recharges. Bigger page."

I also read eBooks now when possible. In addition to the advantages above: saves space at home, can immediately look up or translate words, can take notes while reading without pen and paper, can quickly search the book, etc.

The disadvantage of Kindle is that it is Amazon only. This means that legally you don't own the books but lease them, that Amazon can (and has!) deleted and/or changed books after "purchase". Also, it reads only Kindle-format stuff, right? So no ePub and so on.

Standards are usually good. ePub is a good standard. Project Gutenberg has many ePub of non-copyrighted books. A great resource.

FWIW, my non-Kindle reader can also display .TXT and .PDF files.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 13 Jul 2017 #permalink

The Kindle displays PDF files natively. And with the free software Calibre you can easily convert your epub files to the Kindle's MOBI format.

A particularly cool feature IMO is that I can email files to my Kindle via its Amazon address.

Precipitation extremes in dry regions of China found closely related to SST https://phys.org/news/2017-07-precipitation-extremes-regions-china-sst…
-- -- -- -- -- -- --
Universal basic income could work in Southeast Asia—but only if it goes to women
”To prevent abuse of a program intended to empower women and support families, the cash transfers must be either non-transferrable or transferrable only to another female family member, and only women will be able to spend the money (in approved shops).
Evidence from other countries suggests that, in some cases, men waste this "free pay" on alcohol, gambling and other non-essentials.
Programs must also be designed to be cognisant that, when women in traditional societies are empowered, violence against them may increase, as men see women with money as a threat to their role in family and society.
Finally, women must be able to "graduate" from a UBI scheme. The idea is to empower participants, giving women a leg up to become active members of society – not to incapacitate them.”

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 14 Jul 2017 #permalink

Phillip Helbig @2: I can put library eBooks on my kindle (in kindle format) but also books I have bought directly from the publisher (Baen). I do think I used Calibre, but it was easy.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 14 Jul 2017 #permalink

In the "It's about bloody time" department, geneticists have done full genome sequencing for 11,670 Han women from all over China, so now finally we can start to get the big picture of Han genetic substructure. And surprise, surprise - no, it's not zero, like some Han nationalists like to delude themselves, it's a lot, with some intriguing North European-related admixture (a few %) in NW China that is not recent, and could conceivably have accompanied the introduction of chariots to the Shang Dynasty during the reign of Wu Ding - the timing depends on what is assumed about generation lengths and mutation rates, but it could just about fit. There's one prominent historian (Christopher I. Beckwith) who even believes that West Eurasians migrating into NW China from the Eurasian steppe might have founded the Shang Dynasty. Could have been Scythians, who had horses and chariots, and are credited with inventing trousers (!!! seriously).

But this surprise West Eurasian admixture is not found anywhere else in China among any of the Han women sampled outside of the NW provinces.

It has been known for quite a while now that there is clear N-S genetic substructure among the Han; but inevitably, now with a lot more data, the whole-country substructure is a lot more complex, including clear E-W substructure.

Mrs Rundkvist might be interested - her mob have been sampled among all the rest. The full paper is available open-access, with a full country PCA plot.

One thing that is uniform across all of the Han women sampled is Neanderthal admixture - so the Neanderthal introgression to the ancestors of Han people must have happened before they dispersed. That makes sense - it had to happen within the range of geography occupied by Neanderthals, not further east.

Lots more will now come out of this - let the fun and games begin.


OT, I've been getting blocked from accessing the blog a lot lately, apparently as a suspected Google crawler, whatever that is. Well, yes, I frequently crawl all over Google, but I didn't realise it was a capital offence.

By John Massey (not verified) on 17 Jul 2017 #permalink

Continuing...a quote from one commenter on another blog: "The chariot first appeared in China around 1200 BC, during the reign of Wu Ding. There is little doubt that the chariot entered China through the Central Asia and the Northern Steppe, possibly indicating some form of contact with the Indo-Europeans. Recent archaeological finds have shown that the late Shang used horses, chariots, bows and practiced horse burials that are similar to the steppe peoples to the west. Christopher I. Beckwith speculates that Indo-Europeans may even have been responsible for the foundation of the Shang Dynasty".

That's not a completely coherent and consistent picture - the Shang started using horses and chariots during the late Shang, which suggests technology transfer through cultural contacts part way through the Shang, and that is inconsistent with the claim that West Eurasians might have founded the whole Dynasty. It might help if someone like Davidski can identify which people the West Eurasian introgression came from - if anyone can do it, he can.

Davidski doesn't (yet) have access to the 11,670 genomes, but he notes that "the Tu people from NW China show Steppe MLBA type of admix, which is very close to modern N/E European." But that's the Tu, not Han. MLBA = middle to late Bronze Age.

It's clear from the archaeological record that the Shang traded extensively with a West European group which migrated to the Tarim Basin and mined jade - the Shang greatly prized jade, and the undisturbed/unrobbed Shang tombs which have been discovered and excavated (e.g. Fu Hao, simplified 妇好, traditional 婦好, died c.1200BC, whose tomb was richly provisioned with decorative objects, weapons, and the remains of other people including some children, apparently funeral sacrifices - it seems possible the children might even have been her own children; it is known that she had some, before dying young at around 30 years of age, reportedly in battle, but possibly while suffering the sub-lethal effects of lead poisoning from drinking rice wine from bronze drinking vessels which had a high lead content) have yielded large numbers of priceless jade objects.

By John Massey (not verified) on 17 Jul 2017 #permalink

And in other news, we are having an unusual summer influenza epidemic. Doctors are theorising that it could be due to the effects of the annual 'flu inoculation, which is administered in November, starting to wear off. I have another theory to add to that - the persistent heavy rain we have been having has been keeping temperatures abnormally low, around 24C, instead of the 33-35C we should normally be experiencing this time of year, and 'flu viruses survive in air much longer at lower temperatures, which facilitates person to person transmission much more readily, both as airborne droplets (coughing, sneezing) and fomites.

Whatever the reason, public hospital emergency departments have been overwhelmed by thousands of people suffering severe 'flu symptoms, and so far 156 people have died from it (the usual suspects: elderly, small children and people with pre-existing health problems). But hey, it's no big deal, it's just the 'flu, right? If 156 people had suddenly died from anything else, there would be a public outcry, but no, it's just the harmless old 'flu, so no problem. Most sufferers are still dutifully wearing their surgical masks in public, though, which HK people have been notably good about ever since the SARS crisis in 2003.

In any case, the weather is predicted to improve later in the week, which should get the temperatures up more towards where they should be, and that should help a lot to slow down the spread of the virus, if not arrest it completely.

By John Massey (not verified) on 17 Jul 2017 #permalink

The Shang influx of European genetic material makes me want to see some genomes on Tocharian mummies.

The intermittent problems with commenting and other site access is, I'm happy to report, due to work being done on the site. Not to abandonment and dereliction.

Surgical masks: I thought East Asians wore them for self-preservation. Interesting that some may wear them out of consideration for others.

John, I found a fellow Australian: "First Dog on the Moon"
Never mind the flu:
"Hilariously, the world is going to end much sooner than we thought" https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/13/hilariously-the-w…
Other news: "“BBC decides Britain 'not ready' for Glaswegian Dalek”
"Desperate Tories taking copious notes during Game of Thrones”

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 18 Jul 2017 #permalink

Thanks, Martin. That's a relief.

Birger@15 - What on earth would possess you to think that the Australian political system should operate under exactly the same rules as the American political system? Manifestly, it doesn't. Does Sweden?

The fact that you might regard Waters as some kind of social hero is really beside the point. She's hardly the only person in Australia to stand for the things she has been standing for. She chose to retain her Canadian nationality, presumably because it suited her to. Shit happens.

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Jul 2017 #permalink

Martin@14 - Yes, I had the same thought. Tocharians, eastern Scythians, or even some Turkic people could be among the possibilities.

On surgical masks, Japanese wear them in public to prevent themselves from being infected by other people who might be carrying viruses. That is absolutely true - it's purely self-preservation.

In Hong Kong, and it has only been happening since the SARS epidemic in 2003, which had a deeply profound effect on HK people and woke them up to the inherent dangers of such epidemics, it's exactly the opposite - people who have been infected with a virus wear them when they go out in public to try to avoid infecting other people.

Who would have guessed - it turns out that HK people are the socially responsible ones in this respect.

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Jul 2017 #permalink

Martin@14 - The other thought I had is that Anyang is a bloody long way from the Tarim Basin.

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Jul 2017 #permalink

Martin@20 - And in lots of other parts of the Mainland. The problem with that is that the airborne respirable particulates are so fine that they will just pass straight through most types of masks. An ordinary surgical mask won't do it - nowhere close.

But the Mainlanders have woken up to that now, and now people there are designing and selling masks that will actually filter out even the finest of the airborne particles.

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Jul 2017 #permalink

And there's no evidence of West Eurasian admixture anywhere near Anyang. It's confined to the few NW Provinces, and found nowhere else in China. Not ancient admixture like that.

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Jul 2017 #permalink

Davidski said the Tu people (the so-called 'White Mongols') have it for sure, but at a higher level, around 5%. The % found in NW Han women is somewhat lower, maybe 2-3%. It's not huge, but it's enough to be real and not just some error.

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Jul 2017 #permalink

According to the Twitter thread, a BBC journalist heard it too, during an unmuted conference call. It may have been an ad. So who is checking this kind of online ads during WH business conference calls?

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 18 Jul 2017 #permalink

Birger@29: Likely (s)he is displeased with the amount of attention you have been devoting to him/her.

Remember: Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 18 Jul 2017 #permalink

John @22: Masks that don't stop 2.5 smog particles don't actually stop viruses either, but they do stop aerosols and they keep you from touching your face as much, which is why they provide some protection in normal circumstances. They will not protect you if you are providing care to someone with an active viral respiratory infection (like SARS).

By JustaTech (not verified) on 18 Jul 2017 #permalink

However, do not miss the supplementary material, which includes a huge amount of information + interesting piccies to look at, including some facial reconstructions of a putative Scandinavian Hunter-Gatherer (female): http://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/suppl/2017/07/17/164400.DC1/1644…

A couple of key quotes from the almost-always reliable Davidski:

"Scandinavia was a more happening place than most of the rest of Europe during the Mesolithic, because at the time it was the meeting place between two relatively divergent forager groups, West European hunter-gatherers (WHG) and East European hunter-gatherers (EHG), that entered the peninsula from different directions, the southwest and northeast, respectively, and mixed to form Scandinavian hunter-gatherers (SHG)."

"SHG is inferred to have had fair skin and varied blue to light-brown eye color, which makes sense considering that it was a mixture of apparently fair-skinned/brown-eyed EHG and dark-skinned/blue-eyed WHG, except that the frequencies of blue-eyed variants and one fair-skinned variant in SHG are much higher than expected from its EHG/WHG mixture ratios, again pointing to strong selective pressures specific to northern latitudes in Europe acting upon certain gene-variants."

Interestingly, blue eyes seem to be pretty ancient, possibly to 42,000 yBP.

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Jul 2017 #permalink

Taiwan's 'vibrant' democracy:

HK's most violent remaining elected legislator, 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, enamoured of wearing Che Guevara T-shirts (do people who idolise Guevara realise what a callous murderous monster that man was? I'm pretty sure that Leung, a self-avowed Marxist-Anarchist, does) and hurling abuse and physical objects in the Legislative Chamber, has been kicked out of the legislature by a High Court ruling for abusing the Oath of Office when he was sworn in. That means he will have to pay back his salary+expenses dating back to last September. He'll appeal of course - with luck, including legal expenses, he will bankrupt himself. In the meantime, he is out of there, which can only be a Good Thing, although he keeps turning up and violently trying to gain admission. But if he keeps that up, pretty soon he will find himself back in prison again, with his precious locks shorn off again.

By John Massey (not verified) on 18 Jul 2017 #permalink

Birger - All of these Australian Federal politicians were born overseas - 25 in total. Every single one of them, except for two, renounced their foreign citizenship before standing for election, or else knowingly forfeited their foreign citizenship when they became Australian citizens.

For the two who didn't do it, no sympathy. The rules are crystal clear.


By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Jul 2017 #permalink

During the G. W. Bush presidency there were t-shirts that parodied Guevara: they showed the likeness of the then Vice-President sporting a bandana, and the letters "NEY" were placed in smaller type underneath the "CHE".

I have read "Motorcycle Diaries" in the original Spanish. That was the road trip that put Guevara on the path to being a revolutionary rather than becoming a doctor--he and his friend Alberto, who went with him, were medical students at the time. The motorcycle didn't even make it to Santiago; it was wrecked in a crash as they were descending the Andes in Chile. The rest of the trip was by some combination of bus, hitchhiking, and river boat (on the upper Amazon in Peru, locally known as the Ucayali). It was also during that trip that Guevara acquired the nickname Che, which refers to his Argentine origins; his given name was Ernesto.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Jul 2017 #permalink

It has long been obvious that there are at least two distinct groups in Scandinavia, from the fact that Finnish is a Uralic language, not Indo-European. According to the book I read on the subject years ago, there must have been a third group present as well (we don't know if they also spoke a Uralic language, or something completely unrelated), because the term Finn is neither Indo-European nor anything resembling what the Finns call themselves.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Jul 2017 #permalink

Martin, studies of possible effects by climate change indicate the range of aardvarks will be much reduced.

John, there is no such thing as "domesticated" cats. there are only hairy velociraptors that have found an easy symbiotic relationship with bipedal suckers.

-In regard to citizenship, my knowledge was out of date. I only knew the prohibitive citizenship tests that were introduced to keep non-anglo-saxons (chinese workers) from getting Australian citizenship, long ago.

Eric, I hope Pääbo et al will identify the DNA of that (and possibly more) group(s).
More: "May shed tear that burned through three floors and an intern'
'Washington swamp-draining firm threatened with liquidation'

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 19 Jul 2017 #permalink

The US has no restrictions against dual nationals holding elective office. They do have to be US citizens, and the Constitution specifies that the President and Vice-President must have acquired their citizenship via the circumstances of their birth, but there are no rules against having a second nationality--indeed, many immigrants have held political office in the US.

However, the US does have restrictions on its citizens serving as officials in non-US governments. Accepting such a position may be interpreted as an intent to relinquish US citizenship. So even if Australia were fine with an Australia-US dual national holding elected office, such a person would have to relinquish the US citizenship because the US is not OK with it.

In the years I have lived in my present house my neighbors have usually had outdoor cats. This is the main reason why I have never installed a backyard bird feeder: I do not want my property to be a kitty restaurant. Cats are the leading cause of death among North American songbirds.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Jul 2017 #permalink

The intriguing question is why there should have been strong selective pressures for blue eyes at high latitudes, independent of whether there was selection for more pale skin (which kind of makes sense for Vitamin D synthesis, as one possible reason).

Now there's this: the earliest human occupation date for Australia just went back to at least 60,000yBP:

Chinese have now overtaken British as the single largest migrant group to Australia, but not by much. The fastest growing religion in Australia is Hinduism, admittedly from a low starting base.

Sorry, but the rules in other countries, including the USA, are totally irrelevant. Australia is a sovereign country and has the right to adopt whatever rules its citizens consider appropriate by due democratic process.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Jul 2017 #permalink

Imagine living in a dementia village:

We had a Jewish friend in Perth whose wife had dementia. She was really our friend too, but the problem was that every time we went out to meet them somewhere for dinner, we had to be formally introduced to her as if we had never met her before.

Don't get me going on the subject of cats and their impact on native wildlife - it's guaranteed to get me ranting uncontrollably. A good reason to maintain a healthy dingo population in an area is that the dingoes keep the feral cat population down by killing them. You just need to take care that the dingo packs don't kill any human kiddies. They're not nice doggies, even though they might look it.

By John Massey (not verified) on 19 Jul 2017 #permalink

A bit earlier than "archaeology" stuff but still cool (pun intended):
More than 252 million years ago, mammal ancestors became warm-blooded to survive mass extinction https://phys.org/news/2017-07-million-years-mammal-ancestors-warm-blood…

Worse than it seems: A report on sexual harassment by faculty. “A Systematic Look at a Serial Problem: Sexual Harassment of Students by University Faculty

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 20 Jul 2017 #permalink