February Pieces Of My Mind #2

The 1844 bridal chest that my great granddad donated to the Nordic Museum in 1940. The 1844 bridal chest that my great granddad donated to the Nordic Museum in 1940.
  • I've decided that although immigration and refugees are important political issues, I've been reading too much about them lately. Redistribution of wealth and flattening the pyramid is even more important. Because wealth equals power.
  • I don't give a damn about the US primaries.
  • A brother of Queen Euphemia of Norway was Bishop of Cammin, whose cathedral is famous for a Danish casket from about AD 1000, decorated with Mammen style animal art.
  • The surname Garfunkel means "carbuncle, garnet" and is thus comparable to Edelstein, Rosenstein etc.
  • I'm sending 18 copies of my 2011 book on late-1st millennium elite sites for free to a UK network of PhD students. Did I mention that my dad was in marketing before he retired and became a carpenter?
  • Everybody outside Africa has a single-digit percentage of Neanderthal and/or Denisovan DNA. Doesn't this mean that only sub-Saharan Africans are fully H. sapiens sapiens? Odd species definition that leaves out the majority of the population. But then I suppose those guys don't count as separate species. They're extinct regional populations within H.sap. Which still makes e.g. Carolus Linnaeus not fully H.sap.sap.
  • Tin foil hats are Aluhüte in German!
  • Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better for my career if I had just shut up from day one. It’s hard to gauge what’s the better strategy, being a polarising figure in your field or a complete unknown. But then I remind myself that there’s more outcome measures than one: I wouldn’t have enjoyed my first quarter-century in archaeology half as much if I had spent it shutting up. There are lots of tenured archaeologists who are basically unheard of outside their own campuses, and where’s the glory in that? Also I can’t concede defeat until some time in 2019, when I enter the fourth quartile for age at tenure in my field.
  • 29-y-o woman found dead in the woods outside Stockholm three months after going missing. And six months after the police started investigating a report of aggravated harassment against her. So fucking sad, every fucking time this happens. )-:
  • Saw this beggar in the street whose method was to kneel silently with bowed head and clasped hands. And I thought, hey, that's one of those statue posers only without the grey paint.
  • The seminal stoner rock band Kyuss was named for a creature in the Fiend Folio for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Iron Age and Medieval archaeology is a completely different game now thanks to Danish metal detectorists and the Internet. If I start collecting data on, say, a class of brooches, they will find new specimens and publish them on-line faster than I can register them. It's a fire hose. Find categories that showed up once a decade now occur once a week!
  • New record for me: the book I published last spring has been reviewed in four journals so far. Two favourable, one negative and one review that I've only read the first page of so far. And Germans keep ordering the book!
  • The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary documentation service that allows UK finders to submit information about archaeological objects without losing ownership of them. One day some of these finds will rattle around the antiques market, decontextualised. And then it will be possible to send a picture to the PAS and ask future software to check if the object is in their database, by image comparison.
  • Have you lived much in any place whose name contains the letter sequence LTSJÖB?
  • Holy shit, I just remembered. I was TWENTY-ONE when I was admitted to the PhD programme. Many of the freshmen I teach are older than that.
  • The Chronicle of Erik is named for Duke Erik who died in the dungeon after the Banquet of Nyköping in 1318. The Songs of Euphemia are named for his mother-in-law. Together they form the first longer narrative texts in Swedish.
  • It doesn't surprise me when modern French spelling preserves Medieval pronunciation. But I find it highly odd how often Medieval French spelling corresponds with modern pronunciation. What happened to their orthography?!
  • In order to assert myself in my role as familial tyrant, I shall now hang some laundry to dry.
  • Jrette asked me to help her study for a test on the Abrahamite faiths. Soon asked to be excused because of info overload. Turns out she just wanted brief definitions of terms. OK, sorry...
  • Turned the page in the S.J. Gould collection I'm reading and came across an essay titled "Justice Scalia's Misunderstanding". What Scalia misunderstood in this particular case was that he thought evolution describes how life originated, when in fact it describes how life diversified into species. As in ”Origin of Species”.
  • Sun's up before me! We're back on the right side of the year again!
  • I know that it's a biased sample. But the metal detectorists I follow on-line just love to show each other pictures of their finds, even many years after they've handed them in to a museum. It's the opposite of nighthawking. These guys are competing over who gets to go to Copenhagen for the annual Detectorist Oscars. Dayhawking!
  • My maternal grandma's dad brought this chest from Scania when he moved to Stockholm.
  • Ten years ago I was at this sink cleaning Pre-Roman pottery and burnt daub from Howard's and my own dig at Skamby. Now I'm cleaning High Medieval pottery from Stensö Castle in the adjoining parish.
  • Amazing that there's only one shot in The Hateful Eight where Kurt Russell fiddles with his facial hair.
  • This old lady is visiting the office and has sprayed the coat room down with her perfume. It's heavy and floral and, to me, it signifies great grannie. Strange to think that those perfumes must once have been typical of young nubile hotties.
  • I'm weaving between feeling like I already have a steady uni job and feeling like I'll never have a steady uni job.
  • Kobb's tea is labeled "Non-EU agriculture". When is the state of Assam joining the Union?
  • Status: photographing and classifying Medieval pottery while listening to loud trippy music.
  • When I was in 1st grade and got ahead of the class my teacher let me play this educational game with cardboard tiles. It was called Palin.
  • Learned something yesterday at Tösse's cake shop. A pinch of salt in your hot chocolate makes it so much better!
  • How about if we had these public mournings for a writer / musician / filmmaker once they haven't released anything new in ten years? Memorialising Harper Lee in 2016 is ridiculous.
  • Haruspex Murakami.
Early Red Ware from Stensö Castle, c. 1250-1350. Early Red Ware from Stensö Castle, c. 1250-1350.

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This year's first week of fieldwork at Stensö Castle went exceptionally well, even though I drove a camper van belonging to a team member into a ditch. We're a team of thirteen, four of whom took part in last year's fieldwork at the site. All except me and co-director Ethan Aines are Umeå…

"Doesn’t this mean that only sub-Saharan Africans are fully H. sapiens sapiens?"

By definition, individuals who can mate and produce fertile children are members of the same species.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 22 Feb 2016 #permalink

I wonder how this research accounts for the fact that modern Africans are way, way more diverse than the modern inhabitants of any other part of the world.

I wonder how this research accounts for the fact that modern Africans are way, way more diverse than the modern inhabitants of any other part of the world.

Most likely, it was one or a few bands of humans that left Africa. Most stayed behind. Of course the (at the time) larger group would be the more diverse.

You see this with language groups as well. Take the Austronesian language family. Of this family's four subgroups, three are found only on Taiwan. The fourth includes languages from Malagasy to Hawaiian, and all of the Polynesian languages in between. Or consider that the non-indigenous inhabitants speak one of five languages, all Indo-European (Spanish, English, Portuguese, French, Dutch), as opposed to the indigenous languages, which are spread out over several families.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 22 Feb 2016 #permalink

#4 - Possibly by interbreeding with archaic humans in Africa.

I'm not saying I think it's right. I'm just saying we need to be careful about prior assumptions. This paper has thrown everyone into confusion. Now they don't know what to think.

There's another paper out that shows that Western Pygmies definitely did.

It's a case of the more data that becomes available, the less it can be explained by a simple model. Modern human origins are looking increasingly like a very tangled bush.

By John Massey (not verified) on 22 Feb 2016 #permalink

There's a lot of discussion here, without any resolution.


I think the basic argument is that there was a 'ghost population' in Eurasia which now no longer exists, and modern Africans are nested within Eurasians if this ghost population is included as part of Eurasian. There is also mention of s-s African diversity resulting from interbreeding of AMHs with archaics in Africa.

Really a lot of confusion, and people are not clear on what to make of it.

I think it calls for a wait and see attitude, without rigid adherence to priors.

By John Massey (not verified) on 22 Feb 2016 #permalink

#1 - It's worth pointing out at this point that the species concept is one of convenience, and there is no single universally accepted definition of what constitutes a species, a sub-species or a race.

Interspecific breeding resulting in fertile offspring happens all the time - one of the classic examples that is happening right now is hybridisation of wolves with both coyotes and domestic dogs in America. But no one argues that wolves, coyotes and domestic dogs are all one species. On the other hand, the classic example of hybridisation resulting in infertile offspring is horses with donkeys.

So the fact that humans could and obviously did interbreed with at least two (and very likely more than two) sorts of archaic humans does not automatically mean that Neanderthals and Denisovans should be considered to be the same species as anatomically modern humans. They could be, or they could be considered to be different species which had simply not diverged genetically from AMHs for long enough for offspring to be infertile (it takes at least hundreds of thousands of years of genetic isolation for speciation to occur). But it does rather look like it was marginal - male offspring from Neanderthals mating with AMHs were probably infertile, and maybe only the occasional female hybrid was fertile.

So, they could be considered different species or different sub-species; it doesn't really matter. Certainly they were at least sub-species, i.e. more different than races.

There is a tendency to think of human evolution in terms of punctuated equilibrium, but Gould was wrong about that, like he was wrong about most things. He showed that punctuated equilibrium occurred in a species of snail. But it has not occurred in most species, where evolution is much more of a gradual process.

So we have got used to the idea that "anatomically modern humans emerged about 200,000 years ago" based on one set of remains - the Omo specimen. But it almost certainly was not like that. Other remains have been found with a mix of more archaic characters.

It begins to beg the question of what characters we assign to define whether an individual was or wasn't anatomically modern. Brain size gradually enlarged up to 200,000 years ago as found in the Omo specimen, but average brain size was larger in Neanderthals. And modern human brain size has been progressively shrinking again during the Holocene. Evolution is not directional - it is not always towards greater complexity.

By John Massey (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

If Jrette wants to show off, I recommend "Memoirs of God" by M. Smith which shows how monotheism slowly evolved in Palestine/Israel. The book actually takes into consideration the order in which the passages were * written*; much different from their nominal order in the OT. Also, lots of passages have later been inserted into various OT texts, so untangling the history of the OT (and thus the birth of Abrahamic religion) seems downright heroic.
If Juniorette really wants to shine, she can read "The Ark Before Noah" about how a Sumerian myth became embedded into the Abrahamaic religions.
PS The latter book is actually quite interesting, unlike most Bible-related stuff.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

I went through a whole phase of being interested in Biblical history applied to the NT as well, which can also be interesting if it is written by objective historians deconstructing the NT and documenting how they think it was written and by whom, how the various gospels disagree with one another and historical facts (things like total solar eclipses can be dated precisely and make liars out of gospel writers .

The conclusions I came to were that: (i) Yeshu bin Joseph (usually called Jesus) was probably a real historical person, but very different from the way most alleged Christians imagine him, and (ii) whoever wrote the John gospel had to be on crack. Also (iii) John the Baptist was a real historical person, and a bigger noise in his day than Yeshu.

By John Massey (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

Yeshua bin Joseph was probably a disciple of John the Baptist, although that part got glossed over...
Regarding water.
Any prophet that had told his followers to boil the water hefore drinking it would have had a religion that outgrew the rivals, as the others fell prey to bacteria. Strange that none of them got any divine instructions to that effect.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

"Gould was wrong about that, like he was wrong about most things"

Such as?

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

#13 - Well, he did seem to drink rather a lot of wine. Maybe he really knew what he was doing.

#14 - Adaptation.

By John Massey (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

#14 - You want another one? He believed evolution was directional towards greater diversity, which is not necessarily true. Evolution is not directional, and it can and often is driven by adaptation. He rejected the notion that human races can be discerned genetically, i.e. he bought into Lewontin's Fallacy. But then he and Lewontin were both Jewish Marxists, so they were singing off the same song sheet, as it were.

Gould believed that politics and religion should not be allowed to mix. I'm with him there. But I also don't believe that politics should be allowed to colour science, and he did. I'm prepared to say that's wrong. We should espouse and strive for the truth, no matter how much it might offend our beliefs, political or religious.

By John Massey (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

It will soon be 30 years since the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme was shot.
This morning, Palme’s former chief of staff told TV that a person with a professional secrecy duty* had told him that the late Christer Pettersson** ( prosecuted but acquitted for the murder) had confessed to him/her, and since the person did not want to take the secret to the grave the info was passed on to the chief of staff.
Since the major witness for the prosecution, the widow, had photographic memory, and the witness psychologist later lamented that the court had misunderstood him and been unduly skeptic about the widow’s testimony it now looks as if the case is closed, more than a decade after Pettersson died of natural causes.
* Like a priest at confession
**Pettersson was sometimes called “The National Alcoholic” during the trial, as he was a long-time addict and jailbird. Also, a real asshole with a manslaughter conviction.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

Birger@13: There is a reason why turning water into wine was considered a miracle back in the day. Adding alcohol would also inhibit the harmful bacteria, which is why the West developed the custom of drinking beer and wine. Oddly enough, the Quran works against that by specifically forbidding the consumption of wine (which most Muslim authorities interpret to cover all alcoholic beverages), and many countries in the Middle East and North Africa have lost their winemaking traditions as a result. It may have helped that coffee was an available alternative in that part of the world--that, like tea, involves boiling water.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

Ted Cruz has brain fart, wants to deport 12 million / 4% of US population... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ted-cruz-deport-12-million-undocume…
This is fun. I can mock these jokers with a clean conscience.
Ted Cruz (wearing wellington boots);“The next sketch is about in-sur-an-ce. It is called the in-sur-an-ce sketch” (repeats 4 times) (Michael Palin pours bucket of water over him).

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

"This is fun. I can mock these jokers with a clean conscience."

Both Trump and Cruz stand a significant chance of winning. I'm sure both would keep their promises here. Those who say that it is impossible are ill-informed.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

John, you might be upset that I bring this up, but there is some recent news that cannot be ignored in a blog that -among other things- covers Chinese culture.
The Chinese president has recently issued new guidelines for media that are quite strict -in effect they may herald a return to the less happy times, the years after Tianmen.
The relative freedom of speech in mainland China has always been a privilege granted by the party, rather than a right. Now that the economy is slowing down the party may feel it is time to rein in media tp pre-emt expressions of dissatisfaction. The Chinese economy is still very strong but the wealth is not evenly distributed regionally and demographically so the government will be wary of friction. The abduction of several publishers that were staying in Thailand is probably another harbinger of reduced tolerance for dissent.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 24 Feb 2016 #permalink

Gardasil Has Already Drastically Cut HPV Infections in Young Women http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2016/02/23/gardasil_vaccine_is…
Actually, Gardasil would also be very good for young men. HPV can induce cancer and other disease in both genders. This is another reminder that medical issues should be decided without pandering to fringe groups with their minds in the 19th century.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 24 Feb 2016 #permalink

The HPV vaccine is excellent. It has already wiped out condyloma among young people in Sweden.

#24 - I'm not an apologist for the Chinese government, Birger. On balance, I like what the current government has been doing, coming down very hard on corruption at very senior level. It's what they needed to do. That's one big reason why wealth is so unevenly distributed.

You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs. There's bound to be dissent. What makes you think those publishers are on the side of the righteous?

If you're going to launch into print over every little squeak that comes out of the current crackdown on corruption, you'll have a full time job. Me, I detest corruption, always have, and I say more power to Mr Xi - he's the leader they have needed for a long time.

There's only one country on earth that has absolute freedom of speech - it's not mine, and it's not yours either, and I'm glad I don't live there.

By John Massey (not verified) on 24 Feb 2016 #permalink

...cnt'd - my concern, if I have one, is that you seem to have a model in your head of what China is like that is nothing like reality on the ground. It has its faults, no question - massive faults. I'm all in favour of well placed criticism, but you won't get an accurate picture from a lot of commentators.

Check these figures - one of the major problems the country faces is not some giant police state, it is the opposite - it is a giant free-for-all with no one enforcing the laws, and hopelessly under-policed.


Sweden is a lot more heavily policed than China.

By John Massey (not verified) on 24 Feb 2016 #permalink

Birger@24: I haven't seen any evidence that control of Chinese media by the Beijing government has gotten noticeably stricter in recent years. The Great Firewall of China has been in existence for several years now, and there have been occasional stories of innocuous search terms being blocked because they became associated with some dissident movement. Not to mention several Western sites being blocked, either intermittently (BBC News has been in that group) or permanently (sites that discuss topics about which the Beijing government is sensitive).

The Chinese government, with some justification, sees unchecked corruption as being a potential Mandate of Heaven issue, so they are taking steps intended to go after corrupt officials. (Assuming as I do that the government wishes to retain the Mandate of Heaven, it follows that they will take steps to defuse any problems that they think might reach Mandate of Heaven levels if unchecked.) As an example, new guidelines were issued last week about weddings and funerals of Party members: they should not be too lavish, lest people think that said Party member is (or was, in the case of funerals) living beyond his visible means of support. Whether these measures are actually effective, and more importantly are seen as effective and not just an excuse for settling political scores, are legitimate questions, but there is no doubt that the government wants to be seen as fighting corruption.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 24 Feb 2016 #permalink

- Have you lived much in any place whose name contains the letter sequence LTSJÖB?

Must have been a BAD place

By Jon Kåre Hellan (not verified) on 24 Feb 2016 #permalink

Discouragement of lavish spending is a parallel measure to coming down hard on high level corruption. The two logically go together. People are now afraid to display conspicuous levels of lavish consumption. The stream of Mainland tourists into Hong Kong spending obscene amounts of money on the world's most bizarrely expensive brand name merchandise has slowed from a torrent to a trickle. Short term, the HK retailers of all of this crap are screaming, but they are getting zero sympathy from the locals because HK people don't buy that stuff, and get zero benefit from it being sold here.

Meanwhile, what's with this place? I thought he said 8 years ago he was going to close it.

By John Massey (not verified) on 24 Feb 2016 #permalink

I was referring to a very recent news item, in Swedish TV wednesday. I have not had time to find comments in English-language media.
-- -- --
For certain armchair patriots who think arbitrary hard imprisonment means "effective" (remember " boot camp" imprisonment of juvenile offenders) Gitmo is a symbol of "being hard on terrorism". They think in symbols rather than formal logic., and so have blocked any attempts to close this abomination.

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 25 Feb 2016 #permalink

So Obama gets a free pass from you, despite making an election pledge to close it before he was even elected, but Xi doesn't because there are rumours going around that some seditious booksellers hiding out in Thailand were snatched by Chinese security and dragged screaming back to the Motherland - when in fact it looks quite possible that they had committed (real) crimes.

Not very even handed, is it, Birger?

And if I may be permitted to remind you, Gitmo hasn't just been a prison - it involved torture, which in most people's language would be regarded as a war crime. It says something about the American people that it still remains, and still has inmates. Not a few armchair patriots, the American people. They elected both Bush and Obama democratically, so they have to take responsibility for their actions, or inactions.

You see, I have never had an objection to fair-minded, well informed criticism of China and its government; my objection was that it was all anti-China all the time, with no attention on any other country or its government.

By John Massey (not verified) on 25 Feb 2016 #permalink

I have not written that much about American politics at this blog, since stating that American politics is corrupt, and American politics are deeply unfair is pretty much like writing "water is wet" (at least in Swedish media, I do not know the situation overseas).

So I assume everyone knows about the grotesque amount of money flowing into US politics from corporate interest groups, the use of torture (domestic and abroad), the way the Obama administration has prosecuted whistleblowers but not war criminals et cetera.
I have therefore only written about the most Godzillaesque cases of abuse/corruption/stupidity in the west. During Bush several bilion dollars in cash to the Iraqi government just evaporated without a paper trail- this was just business as usual. Picking a specific topic is like looking for a specific herring in a huge school.
And now a group of evil clowns are lining up for the presidency; -I *should* write more about them, but at some point it is like what Voltaire wrote about history of the Turkish rulers -just one barbarian succeding another. And there is plenty of coverage of the mess in Swedish and English-language media, so I often skip the depressing task of writing about it.
BTW Trump wants Gitmo to stay open (to no one's surprise)
Cruz is a theocrat. (Marc Rubio is awful but the contrast actually makes him look "good")
--- --- ---
Swedish-language article: "Xi Jinping stärker grepp om medier" http://www.dn.se/nyheter/varlden/xi-jinping-starker-grepp-om-medier/
(Feel free to find an English-language link of the topic, The Guardian is more interested in the Chinese economy...)

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 25 Feb 2016 #permalink

#36 - No need. I found I could read the Swedish headline with ease. Hanging around you guys has corrupted me linguistically.

By John Massey (not verified) on 25 Feb 2016 #permalink

Team discovers fabric collection dating back to Kings David and Solomon http://phys.org/news/2016-02-team-fabric-dating-kings-david.html
But isn’t writing about “the era of David and Solomon” a lot like “the era of Isildur and Arnor” ? “3000 years ago” works better.
-- -- -- --
Researchers conclude the universe contains fewer Earth-like planets than previously thought http://phys.org/news/2016-02-earth-unique-thought.html
-which makes it even more inexcusable for the King in Yellow to mess up the home planet of Carcosa!
Morew details: Terrestrial planets across space and time http://arxiv.org/abs/1602.00690v1

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 25 Feb 2016 #permalink

Also, David and Solomon are mythical ideal rulers à la the Yellow Emperor. The first Jewish king independently attested by sources outside the Torah is Omri, c. 880 BC.

Swedish-language article: "Xi Jinping stärker grepp om medier"
I justify posting it since this *is* a clear signal of a policy change. Hof far the party intends to take it is another matter.
This seems like bog-standard pre-Gorbachev Eastern European fare. Not particularly shocking, but not encouraging either.
(english summary) Xi visited the three largest news [redaktioner=editorial staff/workplaces] in the country and told them in no uncertain terms that they exist to serve the communist party. The party leader and president said that the purpose of all media are to speak for the communist party and protect its authority. Xi demands more political lessons for those working in government media and that recruitment should be done by political merits.
“It is the task of the media to restore the people’s confidence for the party”, especially as the economy is slowing down, is the message from China Daily.
A year ago, Xi told the artists their art should be politically inspiring.
Lately, much [is written about] all those that should serve the party. "

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 25 Feb 2016 #permalink

Tpyos happe3n when hurried I write. Irritating it is. Off to the Dagobah system I am.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 25 Feb 2016 #permalink

Chinese media work for the Party. Xi wants a more effective mouth piece as a vehicle to disseminate government policy.

Mainlanders comment on Weibo in their millions, using pseudonyms. It's uncontrolled because it's impossible to control. People say what they want to say.

Western media work for Rupert Murdoch.

Fox News, anyone?

Now Hong Kong's only serious English language newspaper is owned by Mainlander Jack Ma. Chief Editor is Burmese, Yonden Lahtoo, who seems to have some quite conservative views. Seems to be taking a more conciliatory (or balanced, depending on how you see it) view lately. Currently pay-walled, but Ma says he is going to make it free of charge.

Apple Daily, HK's biggest selling Chinese newspaper, is owned by Jimmy Lai, a Taiwanese, and publishes nothing but anti-government rhetoric.

So what? I don't see why Swedish media see it as such a big deal. Who owns them, anyway?

By John Massey (not verified) on 25 Feb 2016 #permalink

Well? Who do own the Swedish media? Or who run the blogs where these revelations are apparently made much of? It's a fair question - you should always question the sources of your information.

Not that Xi's visits and lectures to the state media outlets is any revelation - they are old news here. They got a couple of column inches on the front page for a day, which means kind of notable but not something really important. After all the state media are government owned and are expected to be the mouth piece for the government - if they haven't been sticking to the script, they need to be told to toe the line.

Quite often they might overshoot - like when an American warship sails close to the Paracels in an obvious act of provocation, the state media might publish a piece saying the Chinese military should fire on them to teach them a lesson, and they might need a word from the government to tone down the rhetoric and not be so confrontational.

You still don't know what you are talking about, Birger. I know you think you do, but you don't. Not on this subject.

By John Massey (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

In the English north, the target of the original “reavers”* (the root of the word “bereaved”) http://www.yorkshirewalks.org/diary11/diary428.html
…”Thorpe, which is known as 'The Hidden village'.The border reivers, raiding parties of Scots, used to operate as far south at this part of Wharfedale until the 1500's, stealing cattle and anything else that was easily portable. These raids tended to follow the rivers and all the towns and villages in Wharfedale suffered attacks except Thorpe. The village is up a side valley obscured from view by the conical hills and it was fortunate enough to escape the attention of the raiders.”
*Not s high-tech as the reavers in “Firefly”

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

So the roots of bereaved go back further? I suppose it makes sense, considering iron-age societies.
-- -- --
How a Rotherham gang with history of criminality abused vulnerable girls http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/25/how-a-rotherham-gang-wit…
-- -- --

I do not question that most Chinese (or everyone else) can live good lives without problems with authorities.
Power differentials matter for the small percentage of the population that do get into a serious conflict.

To avoid “triggers” I will use an example from Russia. A professor recently got sentenced to 15 years for discussing defence-related things that were already public knowledge with a foreigner.
Most Russians do not get sentenced to prison for anything, but for those who get singled out for arbitrary treatment the absence of an independent judiciary makes a *lot* of difference.

But the Russian media (owned by Putin’s political allies) do not cover such cases, meaning Russians must read about it on foreign web sites that often get trashed by “denial of service” bot attacks engineered by Putin allies.

Americans can live their whole lives without getting into trouble with the authorities. But if they get confused with someone else and get on the “no flying” list it can take years, and a fortune in lawyer costs, to get off. But the Americans are convinced America is the bestest of countries right up to the moment it happens to *them*.
And while nominally a nation ruled by law, the power differential between ordinary people and national security agencies is so big that lives get ruined all the time.

When Bush got re-elected I got scolded by an American acquaintance for criticising US politics. My claim American media was biased was not received well. It would take two failed wars and Edward Snowden for US Television* to start discussing stuff we read about daily in Scandy/ British/ German news media.

Governments -all governments- are not devoid of abuse. And media do not cover more than they have to, to keep the owners happy. And I am not specifically anti-Xi anymore than I am anti-Obama**, although both should be scrutinised on account of the power they wield. (BTW America gets so much coverage every day that I get "US fatigue syndrome" keeping up with events)

*Not including Fox news. It is the “Der Sturmer” of TV.
**But I am definitely anti-Murdoch. On account of his record of perfect evil.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

Just to be certain, the Rotheram gang were South Asians, not East Asians.

In America and Australia, 'Asians' means East Asians. In the UK it means South Asians.

I took a leadership course once in which the guy said "All leaders have a limited life, beyond which they become affected by power. And they will cling to power and do anything to resist losing it. They always have to be removed, sometimes forcibly." The examples he gave were that Margaret Thatcher had to be forced from office by her own party, and Gandhi had to be assassinated.

Both Obama and Xi have legally limited terms. Obama got more time than Xi. I'm betting in the big scheme of things, Xi winds up doing more real good.

Small percentages are outliers. Small percentages of people fall under buses. I'm not willing for the good of the vast majority to be sacrificed for the sake of the unlucky few.

And before anyone gets all boo-hoo about Gandhi, learn some of the real truth about him, including his racism.

By John Massey (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

Birger, bereaved has nothing specific to do with Scottish border reavers. One means robbed, the other means robbers.

Western media work for Rupert Murdoch.

Technically, the US media have various corporate owners: The American ABC is a subsidiary of Disney (how can you be a self-respecting journalist when your boss is a fictional rodent?). CBS and NBC are subsidiaries of other corporations. CNN sold out to Time Warner. True, Murdoch owns Fox News and the Wall Street Journal (in the latter case, he breached the once-solid firewall between the news and editorial/opinion parts of the paper). The end result is a national media with no interest in reporting news that is uncomfortable to the owners. There is a running joke about US media that if certain politicians were to claim that the earth was flat, the headline would be "Opinions Differ Regarding Shape of Earth".

I understand that things are a bit better in the UK (the Guardian and BBC help keep Murdoch's news bureaus from getting too dishonest) but worse in Australia (where Murdoch's properties have a dominant market share). I don't know about the rest of the world.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

Australia has two government funded broadcasters/online newscasters: ABC and SBS. They have the second, SBS, because it is multi-lingual. In printed news Murdoch is dominant.

ABC and SBS both have a left liberal bias in reporting news, so - fine, if you know that, you know how to interpret the news to your own preference. Editorially they are run by idiots. One thing they do which I really like (and which the politicians hate) is that they do fact checks on statements made by politicians and publish the results online. The politicians are sometimes caught out making public statements which are totally made-up bullshit - no factual basis at all. That happens less now because they know someone is likely to be fact-checking them.

Some of the editorial stuff on ABC is just drivel. SBS is slightly better, in that it tends to steer clear of editorialising too much - broadcasting in multiple languages, it doesn't really have the time or budget to do too much opinionating of its own.

The 'lifestyle' type 'fun' stuff on ABC is nuts. They had one vet write an article that sleeping with animals is good for you. So I challenged her in writing online on Toxoplasma gondii - I think she didn't know what it was, because it took her a while to respond, then she came back with some lame response about how the dangers of Toxo had been exaggerated. So then another reader came back at her, challenging her with known adverse effects of Toxo, and she never responded.

There has been other stuff like that - like the Indian lady in Sydney who shaves her head and says we should all be vegans because we are related to gorillas and they only eat vegetation, and therefore our bodies are not evolved for a meat diet.

The ABC don't choose the people they have writing that stuff carefully enough. The SBS is a bit more careful, and sticks to serious stuff like education policy.

I totally ignore the Murdoch news organisation. If people prefer his crap to the government-funded organs, more fool them.

By John Massey (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

The stupidity of the ABC in publishing that vet's article on how it is healthy for humans to sleep with their pets is, of course, that she is an animal doctor. They should have got a human doctor, or the opinions of several, to write about it.

Likewise the 'lifestyle' piece by the stupid Indian lady - they got no counterbalancing opinion from people who could have told them that the ancestors of modern humans split from a common ancestor with gorillas something like 10 million years ago, and that we have evolved somewhat since then.

They should not be publishing worthless garbage like that - not on my tax dollar.

By John Massey (not verified) on 26 Feb 2016 #permalink

BTW just to avoid misunderstandings my reference to Rotherham was about showing how a vulnerable minority can suffer without the majority noticing, not about the perpetrators being of asian descent (I am not an UKIP follower)
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Surprising mathematical law tested on Project Gutenberg texts http://phys.org/news/2016-02-mathematical-law-gutenberg-texts.html

Is this one of the techniques hat can be used to spot when a text has "evolved" at the hands of multiple authors as it is passed down time? The Iliad, the odyssey et cetera.

-- -- -- --
And John Hawks seems to be one of the rare writers that makes an effort to make the text a pleasure to read, instead of cramming facts into a lump that requires multiple readings.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 29 Feb 2016 #permalink

Yes, reading John Hawks is always a pleasure.

The Rotherham racket was run by organised Pakistani gangs, and the reason it was never properly investigated was the desire not to give offence.

Gypsies - sorry, Roma, that much maligned and mistreated bunch: http://www.unz.com/ldinh/gypsies/

By John Massey (not verified) on 29 Feb 2016 #permalink

I have noticed that the sales on quadcopters have made them quite affordable. If one is big enough to lift a high-quality video camera, it should be possible to get useful images of subtle terrain features at sunrise and sunset, as the shadows reinforce them.
I am surely not the first to get this idea, but I suspect the camera would be the expensive component, preventing the use of quadcopters for surveys of regions with signs of ancient settlements.
And you would want to have specialised algorithms to "stitch" the images together.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 29 Feb 2016 #permalink

“Could Cthulhu trump the other Super Tuesday contenders?”

A former graduate student (now Ph.D.) had the following bumper sticker on his car:

Why vote for the lesser of two evils?

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 01 Mar 2016 #permalink

More than $1bn was deposited into Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak’s bank accounts from 2011 to 2013, far more than the $681m earlier identified.
The 681 m was reorted as a “gift” from the Saudi royal family.
Last year, a Saudi blogger who was under threat by prosecusion for criticising the theocracy fled to Malaysia, where he was promptly arrested and sent back to Saudi Arabia without a hearing in Malaysia (coughmoney changing handscough).
This reminds me of the two Swedish party leaders who harshly criticised the Swedish government for criticising the Saudi record of human rights violations. Also fifty Swedish business executives wrote an open letter saying we should not criticise Saudi Arabia.
It seems they are correct in assuming it pays to keep on the good side of the Saudi royal family. I wonder if any Swede has received any “gifts”…?

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 02 Mar 2016 #permalink

Birger@70: For that matter, even the US politicians who are the most eager to start wars in Muslim countries, ostensibly to fight terrorists, have not suggested fighting such a war against Saudi Arabia, despite the tacit support of the royal family (at minimum; there is some evidence that some in the House of Saud are active supporters) for groups like Daesh. That includes Donald Trump, of whom I have heard said that the main difference between him and Vizzini is that Vizzini understands how foolish it would be to start a land war in Asia.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 02 Mar 2016 #permalink

Also, the Saudi intelligence forces are said to sometimes help out doing the Dirty work the American intelligence agencies do not want to do themselves. This is apparenltly even more important to the American allies than the value of the Saudi oil.
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There will be a Heavy Metal festival in Umeå this weekend.
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The detective story/thriller "Available Dark" by Elisabeth Hand is about art photography but peripherally touches the past Black Metal scene in Norway.
Killer stages his killings to represent the Jolesveiner in Iceland; Gluggagegir, Hordaskellir, Dvörusleikir, Lampaskuggi Ketrókur ert cetera.

By birgerjohansson (not verified) on 03 Mar 2016 #permalink