July Pieces Of My Mind #1

A Vaisala RS92 probe has dropped onto Landsjö Castle in the past year. No mark of ownership, but it probably originates with the Swedish Weather Service in nearby Norrköping.
A Vaisala RS92 probe has dropped onto Landsjö Castle in the past year. No mark of ownership, but it probably originates with the Swedish Weather Service in nearby Norrköping.
  • I tried to call my son. No reply. I tried to call my boss. No reply. This must mean that I have no responsibilities until they call me.
  • Learned from Melvyn Bragg’s programme today that Frederick the Great of Prussia was most likely gay and his brother, the exceptionally successful general Prince Henry, was openly so.
  • Never noticed before that “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” has this really basic drum machine.
  • There’s a guitar solo towards the end of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”.
  • Would anybody except Greece’s creditors care about the country’s financial situation if it weren’t for the EU and the euro?
  • I’ve got two Wikipedia apps on my phone’s start screen. One for Swedish and one for English.
  • Why isn’t Swedish pölsa as notorious as Scottish haggis? The only important difference is that the Scots use oats and we use barley. Scottish friends, try some pickled beetroot and a fried egg with your haggis next time!
  • Joan Jett’s 1982 hit version of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” was released when she was 23. This makes the power balance of the situation described in the song kind of interesting, where she picks up a guy of “about seventeen” and takes him home. (Yes, this song has been playing constantly in my head for the past week.)
  • Listening to Little Atoms about The Utopia Experiment, a post-apocalyptic commune, and thinking about the parallels with my fieldwork project.
  • Found an extremely heavy, pitted, dark little ball of rock that doesn’t register on the metal detector. Tim suggests meteorite. I’ll check with the Museum of Nat Hist.

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

55 thoughts on “July Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. Meteor? Or heavy mineral brought from afar by glaciers?
    i certainly hope it is a meteor. i used to buy meteorites on internet and send them as gifts to others who shared my interests. Way better than the chocolate boxes that are ubiquitous gifts at christmas. i even bought a sample of the carbon-rich sediment layer at the K-T border (today it is called K-P). Cremated dinosaur dust.
    -Svante Pääbo, the neanderthal DNA guy, was surprisingly open about his private life in his book.

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  2. The Vaisala RS92 probe looks much cooler than the very basic weather/wind probes we sent up with ballooons at F 21 Wing, Luleå.

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  3. Whenever in history you hear the term kings favorite when applied to a man that appears to at least be a hint of some gay relationship.

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  4. Would anybody except Greece’s creditors care about the country’s financial situation if it weren’t for the EU and the euro?

    Greece would probably be more like Argentina: not a country you lend money to, but if you aren’t a bank you have no reason to care.

    There is something unpleasant I detect in the attitudes of many Germans (and some from other north European countries) toward Greece. It resembles the attitude you see in much of the US toward Mexicans: those people from that country to the south are supposedly lazy. Which is definitely not true of the Hispanic people I have encountered (admittedly, the lazy ones wouldn’t come this far north to find work), so I suspect this attitude towards Greeks is at best exaggerated.

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  5. I think the attitude of Greek and German is mutual dislike. The Greeks got screwed during European reconstruction due to their little civil war, eating all the American help as military assistance instead of reconstruction money. Being poor they then settled quickly on whatever cash they got from the Germans as reparations, with no chance for second helping due to their international isolation following the military coup. And the Germans see the failure to thrive as a failure of effort.

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  6. The North Sentinelese have been isolated for 60,000 years, living on an island the size of Manhattan. The highest estimate of their population is 400, the lowest is 50. By now, they must be getting very inbred.

    Contact is impossible – they try to kill anyone who approaches the island.

    They are a doomed population. If they are exposed to disease through contact with outsiders, they will die. If they do not get some genetic admixture through contact, they will die sooner or later anyway.

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  7. Before European contact, although they lived in small groups, Australian Aboriginal people avoided excessive inbreeding through strict and elaborate tribal laws and totem systems, and by maintaining very long lines of contact for trading and exchanging songs extending thousands of miles. The songs were actually maps. Some still survive.

    The North Sentinelese don’t have the luxury of maintaining such long “song lines”.

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  8. Today is Cat Steven’s 65th birthday. As a kid, he spent some time in Sweden.
    Of course, 1950s Sweden was pretty dull and religious. The place would not have proven that it is possible to have a fullfilled life while being secular.
    — — — —
    An 85-year old lady was in a narticle in Västerbottens-Kuriren. She is one of a few from Älvdalen who still speaks a local language, grammaticallly distinct from Swedish. She has postcards from her grandnma that are written with rhunes, a tradition that lived on until ca. 1900 in that site.

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  9. Martin @6: That may be true among your immediate circle of friends, but you are Swedish, not German. Or perhaps this particular dog whistle is outside the frequency range you can hear.

    My experience is that people from all over the world tend to have similar behaviors. Racism in the US is frequently more overt than elsewhere (although certain political parties in Europe are trying to change that, mostly not for the better), but it’s not unique to the US. A century ago Americans of South European ancestry (Italian, Greek, Portuguese, etc.) were considered inferior to those of North European ancestry (Scandinavian, German, etc.). That’s not the case today, because these groups have been living together and intermarrying for a few generations now, but that assimilation has not yet happened in most of Europe. It may happen there in a few generations, if the EU holds together, but there are no guarantees it will.

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  10. The press release Birger linked @12 has this to say about the ancestry of pre-Columbian Americans:

    One surprise in the genetic data is that both populations of Native Americans have a small admixture of genes from East Asians and Australo-Melanesians, including Papuans, Solomon Islanders and Southeast Asian hunter gatherers.

    So the two press releases aren’t completely contradictory, but there is still the puzzle of how the two populations interacted. The speculation is that the Aleutian Islands may have been home to a population that traded on both sides of the Pacific, which is straightforward enough for East Asians but more of a challenge to explain how Australasians were involved. Of course the Polynesians, who settled the Pacific from the Asian coast to Hawaii, New Zealand, and Easter Island (with a branch somehow ending up in Madagascar), could have continued north to Alaska or east to California and Chile, but I don’t think the timing works: they would have had at most a few hundred years, not a few thousand, to mix their genes with the locals.

    The result that some of the northern North American groups (the press release did not say whether these were the Aleuts, the Inuit, or some third group I am overlooking) are more closely related to the Quechua and Amazonian groups than to the much closer Athabascans is a puzzler as well. It would make more sense if the “southern” group covered all or nearly all of the Pacific coast, but the press release doesn’t say that.

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  11. I don’t think anyone has been able to come up with a clear explanation for what has been found.

    If it was not Reich and Skoglund, I would be suspicious, but they are very careful researchers, not given to wild sensationalism. You can bet they have checked their findings every way they can think of, and are scratching their heads too.

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  12. “pickled beetroot and a fried egg with your haggis”.
    Scandy health freaks! That’s a sneaky vegetable (spit) in there, don’t think I didn’t spot it. That’ll never keep the wind and sleet out.
    We can get an extra hearty haggis version in the Co-op store, coated in pre-fried batter and extruded to resemble a black/white pudding (i.e. blood, or suet, sir? Haggis sort of fills the horrifying but luckily entirely theoretical puddingy void in between).
    Two for a quid. Or as a small round pie (hard thin pastry, cuts the inside of your mouth if overheated in the oven. More blood. Yum yum.
    Simply top with baked beans or mashed potato. And brown sauce (generic, or Reggae-Reggae, which has pretty much filled the market gap left by HP Sauce).

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  13. @Lyle No. 3 I don’t think that’s necessarily so. I’ve seen enough examples in my short work life of “golden boys” (or girls) who earn influence by charisma or flattery without any hint of sexual intrigue to attribute most royal favorites to those factors. Favoritism is one of the prerogatives of power, and it’s exercised widely for any number of reasons. We just don’t know enough about the private lives of most old kings to say there’s anything more than jealous gossip behind the rumors.

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  14. It seems HP Sauce has lost popularity because the manufacturer has (totally needlessly) reduced the salt content.

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  15. The egg and beetroot thing is one of the perversions people down in the German Bight inflict on their lobscouse. Sausages too, but that’s understandable.
    Even within Liverpool and non-Woollyback Lancashire fierce disputes are maintained on what is, and is not proper to that excellent food.
    John is quite right about HP, I didn’t know the reason why, just that it had fairly quickly withered away as a stocked item in shops. Assumed it had something to do with the Brum factory shutting. Started out as a vaguely “oriental” and hence exotic/”Empire” condiment (anything other than mustard and horse-radish I suppose), like Pan-Yan Pickle. Anything to disguise the true smack of British “cuisine”.

    So is pölsa a sort of runny hybrid of IKEA meatballs and a thing the wurzels down in the West Country relish, the “faggot”? (often compared with haggis, but too soggy and overly indicative of its abattoir origins to my mind, especially as a dominant component of a morning-after “Dorset breakfast”).

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  16. Well done Andreas.

    Apparently that track also appeared on a concept album, but which seems to be unprocurable.

    d/b – Yeah, they reduced the salt content on 2011 for ‘health reasons’, and apparently in the process alienated their faithful consumers, who complained that it became to sour-tasting.

    For crying out loud – people who drown their grub in brown sauce to render it edible are not likely to be hand-wringing over what a touch of salt might be doing to them.

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  17. Meanwhile, in a bizarre case of brand loyalty, periodically arguments break out in my household over which brand of Worcestershire Sauce is the best. My wife, who has dipped her Shandong-style fish dumplings in Lea & Perrins all of her life insists that it is the best, while I, who drowned my lamb chops and grilled lambs’ kidneys in Holbrooks as a kid, insist otherwise. My daughter sides with my wife in pronouncing Lea & Perrins superior to Holbrooks. In Hong Kong the two brands vie for customer loyalty, with the results about even, and people use the stuff to douse comestibles that no self-respecting Englishman ever considered to be ‘food’.

    None of us has ever been to Worcestershire, and couldn’t point to it on a map if you asked us.

    I see that in America, several brands of alleged ‘Worcestershire Sauce’ lacking anchovies from the recipe are sold to vegans and vegetarians. Talk about bastardisation. Are no traditions sacred?

    And the grand irony is that Shandong style fish dumplings don’t go best in Worcester sauce at all – they taste far superior when smothered with crushed cloves of raw garlic, the way true Shandong people (such as myself) (?) eat them.

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  18. Pölsa is runny savory offal porridge.

    Yes, pickled beetroot is just the thing with lobscouse! Though we spell it lapskojs .

    I’ve never found a use for Wooster sauce of any brand.

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  19. Pölsa is a delicacy when properly prepared (burned to a crisp in the pan, drowned in grease) but a bit of an acquired taste. Like another dish using fermented fish.
    — — — — — — — — —
    I finally have an explanation to the gender imbalance in muslim heaven. Every good muslim man gets seventy-six virgins. So Allah must be making female androids with a 3-D printer.
    Too bad if they get contaminated by malware (visions of androids running amok, tearing archangels in pieces).
    But is there not a Cinese story about King Monkey leading a revolt in heaven? So a robot matriachy in heaven would not be completely against custom.

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  20. And the grand irony is that Shandong style fish dumplings don’t go best in Worcester sauce at all

    De gustibus non est disputandum, and all that. I don’t have a dog in this fight, because my exposure to Shandong style fish dumplings (or Shandong cuisine in general) is minimal at best. The pairing with Worcestershire sauce sounds like an inspired idea, and probably a Hong Kong thing. I don’t see what’s wrong with the original garlic pairing, either.

    We have Lea and Perrins in the US, but I have never encountered Holbrooks. The alternative in my grocery store is the store brand, and I’m not enough of a connoisseur to say which is better.

    I haven’t been to Worcestershire either, but IIRC it’s in the western part of England, between Bristol and Birmingham. There is a Worcester in Massachusetts, pronounced similarly to the one in England (but with the final R dropped, as is typical of the New England accent). I have driven through that Worcester a few times. It’s the second largest city in Massachusetts.

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  21. I finally have an explanation to the gender imbalance in muslim heaven.

    I have a simpler explanation. It’s a combination of All Writers Are Male and Fanservice. Heaven isn’t subject to the same rules as Earth, so the gender discrepancy can be handwaved.

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  22. Yes, it’s definitely a Hong Kong thing. HK does not have a distinctive cuisine like the Maccanese developed in Macau (which was settled as a European colony very much earlier than HK was, and where much more mixing between the Portuguese and Chinese occurred than between the British and Chinese in HK, resulting in the distinct Maccanese culture and mixed-race identity), but it still has some funny ‘local’ culinary oddities.

    One of my least favourite is chicken wings cooked in CocaCola. I don’t know which genius dreamed up this abomination, but my daughter loves them so much that my wife has to cook them for her quite often.

    In fact, Maccanese cuisine is excellent, and unlike either Cantonese or Portuguese food. The mixed race Maccanese took over running the civil service in Macau, as the only people who could speak both Cantonese and Portuguese, and remain a resilient distinct and coherent population. Macau boasts numerous outstandingly good Maccanese restaurants – a ‘must try’ if you are ever in this part of the world.

    Shandong cuisine – well, two things feature very large: garlic and sea slugs. I have eaten more sea slugs than I care to think about.

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  23. Part of the hidden history of Macau is that during the 17th Century, 5,000 African slaves were resident there, compared to only 2,000 Portuguese. An attempted Dutch invasion of Macau was beaten off largely by the slaves – one of the little oddities of history.

    It is evident when you sample Maccanese food that the Africans made more than a token contribution to the distinctiveness of the cuisine, and I fancy the distinctiveness of the Maccanese people themselves. One very famous Maccanese dish, African Chicken, is so hot it will set your mouth of fire. This level of extreme spiciness is absent from both Cantonese and Portuguese food.

    HK was invaded by the British (I can’t just use the word ‘settled’ because it was already settled by Cantonese and Hakka farmers and Hoklo fishermen) after the abolition of slavery, so there was never any slavery in HK as such. But the British imported Sikhs from British colonial India to serve as constabulary, and a lot of those people have remained in HK ever since. So HK has some excellent Indian restaurants, and a rather large and prominent Sikh temple, but no hint of anything with any African ancestry, which I think I do detect a hint of in the Maccanese people and their food.

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  24. My family and I once went to Macau for a holiday weekend with some Hindu friends (who were dutifully vegetarian while under group scrutiny in HK, but who became gleefully carnivorous ‘while on holiday’ – as someone with several Hindu buddies through the medium of playing men’s doubles in tennis, I can vouch that this is not a rare phenomenon). The guy was very proud of his ability to tolerate very spicy food (I have never really understood this capsaicin+pepper-tolerance one-upmanship, being someone who writhes in agony and pours sweat from my head for an hour if I get one tiny piece of a jalapeño in my mouth) – he had heard of this infamous African Chicken and was intent on demonstrating that he was man enough to deal with it. So we took them to one of the restaurants that was noted for the power of its African Chicken and he ordered it.

    After 3 mouthfuls, his eye glasses were steaming up, and he was frantically searching for something to ease the pain of the third degree burns in his mouth. His chilli machismo wouldn’t let him back down and so he had to soldier his way through the whole dish, but he was decidedly shaky the next day, when his innards were going through the hell that his mouth had experienced the night before.

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  25. I seem to recall an article in New Scientist that the strong spices used in tropical countries often turn out to have anti-bacterial properties, but I cannot vouch for every individual kind.
    — — — —
    “I have a simpler explanation. It’s a combination of All Writers Are Male and Fanservice. Heaven isn’t subject to the same rules as Earth, so the gender discrepancy can be handwaved.”
    .
    But my Retcon of their narrative universe will be less misogynic! In my version the new deity banished the Elder Gods, but rely on mortal champions (Xena, Hercules, Riddick) to stop them from returning.
    There shall be tentacles, and things squamous and rugose.
    Unlike the Quran, there will be a graphic novel version.

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  26. China has launched two satellites to create rival GPS system.
    — — — —
    (OT) Crossroads: Mock the Movie transcript. http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2015/07/26/ggc-2015-diyscizone-aow-mock-the-movie-overtime-crossroads-transcript-lotsa-colons-edition/#more-14377
    Dan Aykroyd in a horror C-film? “Thought we were going to see the Hollywood Sign.” “We will. We’re going to go kill a guy first. We’ll be there to bury the body.”
    Wait, that rock face. Was that where captain Kirk fought the Gorn!?

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  27. “strong spices used in tropical countries often turn out to have anti-bacterial properties” – yes. So does garlic. It doesn’t explain the chilli machismo thing, because chilli has no such property, although it might confer other benefits – I have read that colon cancer is virtually unheard of in Thailand and Mexico, where people eat chillies as part of the daily diet, to the extent that medical researchers are taking it seriously.

    And lots of tropical places don’t use strong spices at all. Obviously, prior to 1492, no one outside of the Americas used chillies at all.

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  28. My experience with African cuisine is highly limited: I ate in an Ethiopian restaurant for the first time the last time I visited the DC area, and I have sampled one or two West African dishes, courtesy of a friend of a friend (IIRC he was from Ghana, but I don’t fully trust my memory on this point). Of course there would be large variations between countries: Africa is not a small continent, and it actually has more countries than any other. I don’t remember either cuisine being particularly spicy, but perhaps they toned it down for the benefit of us Westerners.

    I have a relatively high capsaicin tolerance for a Westerner, but there are two times I have been overwhelmed. Once was when I bit into a Sichuan red pepper (I understand that most of the spicy Chinese food comes from the cuisines of inland provinces). The other was with an Indian vindaloo–I had had the dish before, but not at that restaurant, and learned the hard way that there are regional variations in the spiciness of Indian cuisines (obviously, since India has even more internal diversity than China).

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  29. Get back to us about suspect meteorite, please. If it had been USA or pa rts of China,it could have been a tektite.
    -I just realised the areas of finance, politics and media are dominated by worshippers of Priapus and Sterquilinus.

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  30. Obviously, prior to 1492, no one outside of the Americas used chillies at all.

    IIRC peppers arrived in Asia circa 1700, via Dutch traders. And yes, all species of peppers are native to the Americas. Some of the Asian varieties are spicier than what you typically find in the Americas: the jalapeño is not that strong, and even the habañero is mild compared to some of the varieties you find in Thailand, Sichuan, and parts of India.

    Mustard is another one of those things that seems to stimulate the same nerve endings as capsaicin. I have noticed that the mustard you find in (highly Americanized) Chinese restaurants is much stronger than even the spicy mustards sold in non-Asian grocery stores, let alone the utterly bland American mass-market mustards. Personally, I don’t mind Dijon-style mustard, but the brand I usually buy is Kosciusko, which is presumably of Polish origin.

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  31. Just to make things really confusing, the Sichuan pepper traditionally used in Sichuan cuisine does not belong to the chilli family, nor to the pepper family. But the Sichuanese, who delight in setting fire to people’s mouths, also use chillies abundantly. Of all of the regional Chinese cuisines, I have to be most careful of Sichuan food. My favourite Chinese regional cuisine is Teochow, who thoughtfully provide the chilli as a separate and very tasty sauce which you can add yourself to taste, so I can wave the spoon over my bowl and kid myself that I’m eating spicy food.

    I hold the Thais in high regard – they themselves cheerfully chomp chillies for breakfast, but they understand very well that not all people have their capsaicin tolerance and are very willing to make culinary adjustments. But I got torpedoed twice there by something that looked like an innocuous green bean – it wasn’t hot initially, but the heat developed with time. I got caught by it two days in a row because I was looking for chilli, and there wasn’t any. I described to a Thai friend what had happened and asked him what the hell the things were, and he said “Oh, you mean ‘time bombs’ “. He knew what I was referring to, but didn’t know what they were called, so I still don’t know what it was. It might have been a variety from the same family as the Sichuan pepper, I guess.

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  32. Sichuan pepper isn’t actually hot. It tastes lemony and causes your mouth to go a little numb. But in cooking it’s always combined with chili.

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  33. BTW, the submarine found close to the Swedish coast is probably a Russian submarine lost 1916.
    And if the crew is still inside, their next of kin never got any closure. 99 years on, dying for the Czar looks pretty meaningless.

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  34. FUCK! The Pharyngula blog at Freethoughtblogs has stopped posting an open thread for social use, since it keeps getting trolled by misogynic wankers, creationists and far-right knuckleheads.
    I am reminded of the situation with the Hugo SF awards getitng crashed by a crowd of American far-righters who think Ayn Rand is the best thing ever to happen to literature.
    it is the mentality of graffiti painters, they smear crap all over spaces that are meant for everybody.

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  35. Then your assignment, Martin, should you choose to accept it, is to track down a large pale green bean which is bland when first chewed and swallowed, but which sets fire to your mouth 5 minutes after you have eaten it, a burning which persists for at least 45 minutes afterwards, despite numerous glasses of iced water to try to wash whatever the offending organic chemical is out of your mouth.

    Could be difficult – I have never seen them outside of Thailand.

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  36. John, I think the Simpsons had an episode about the effects of that bean. If you ingest enough cool stuff happens.

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  37. The Pharyngula blog at Freethoughtblogs has stopped posting an open thread for social use, since it keeps getting trolled by misogynic wankers, creationists and far-right knuckleheads.

    I can’t say that I blame PZ for doing that. You have to have a lot of patience to run a popular blog–more than I have, certainly. And he’s in the US, so he legitimately has to worry about some armed jerk tracking him down IRL and using the gun on him.

    Science fiction has always had its share of right-wing nuts. Some of them, like Heinlein, write well enough to be entertaining in spite of their politics. But many more are not–if you are feeling masochistic, try Googling “oh john ringo no” for a particularly appalling (but sadly not that rare) example. What seems to have happened this year is that the wingnuts got organized and nominated a slate of works that they found politically agreeable. There are plenty of SF people who are not wingnuts, of course, but something about the genre seems to attract people who are permanently adolescent males, whatever their age and gender.

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  38. Driving across the Nullarbor Plain, I saw so many tektites that they became boring to me. People had collected hundreds of them.

    At that point I knew nothing about the Australasian strewnfield and hadn’t made the connection with the Homo erectus population in SE Asia at the time of impact.

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