August Pieces Of My Mind #2

Registering the bones from this summer's fieldwork at Landsjö.
Registering the bones from this summer’s fieldwork at Landsjö.
  • Getting rid of excess stuff. Azerbaijani dude with a huge beautiful beard showed up on his wife’s orders and collected both bike baby seats, the rolling baby stool, the dinner table lamp and the microwave oven. *happy*
  • My wife’s workout app is giving her orders. It sounds like a very, very strange satnav.
  • User interface fail: our new microwave oven has not only start/stop buttons, but also on/off buttons that control whether the start/stop buttons are responsive or not.
  • Oh great, LinkedIn. You tried to find a job for me and emailed me the results. Ten jobs in fact. All of which had in common that they are in my home town and have nothing whatsoever to do with what I’m skilled at.
  • It always saddens me to see a librarian with shelf-inflicted wounds.
  • I idly comment in an Facebook thread on the issue of how old the cult of the Aesir is likely to be, reporting what I’ve understood of my reading of current academic literature on the history of religion. Dude tells me I’ve lost the argument because I’m just arguing from authority.
  • Is there a quick rule of thumb to tell a stylist from a stylite?
  • The Swedish Geological Survey has quietly doubled the chronological resolution of their shoreline maps! You can get them for every 500 years now instead of every 1000!
  • Cherry Twister sound exactly like Teenage Fanclub.
  • An anonymous German university wants my Bronze Age book. That’s nice and I would be happy to donate a copy. But instead of writing me, they’ve put in an order with a bookseller, who’s written me. Annoyingly inefficient.
  • When I get turned down for teaching jobs, I console myself with the thought that the scholars who influence their fields strongly, and get studied by historians of science afterwards, aren’t the ones who teach full time for years and years. As an archaeology teacher, you mainly get to influence the thinking of future archivists and bus drivers. So if you want me to STFU, just hire me and keep me busy.
  • Should I put in the fieldwork report that while registering the bone bags I was semi-nude, outdoors and listening to extremely druggy music?
  • Would you like me to Roger your Bacon?
  • The Chinese just outweirded me again. They’ve got something called “the Hundred Surnames”, which are exceptionally common. Among these are several true homophones, I just learned. So there’s the Zhang family and the Zhang family: same pinyin transcription, same tone, different characters.
  • Feta cheese in a vacuum pack keeps way way past its use-by date. Nom nom nom.
  • Looking inland from Kalundborg’s West Castle, you see a big fat Bronze Age barrow. This, the locals explained, was probably hard to avoid given how common these barrows are in the area.
  • Mulberries are amazingly good. And amazingly messy.
  • I often get the voice parsing input started by mistake on my phone. Now when I want to try it out I can’t turn it on.
  • Dear colleague. I am truly grateful to you for giving your paper in English. I sadly don’t know your native language. But frankly you are boring us all to tears by reading a manuscript out instead of improvising.
  • I learned on this trip that you can easily see across the Great Belt and Öresund. Medieval Denmark was pretty integrated.
  • Colleague demonstrates his grasp of Schwiizerdütsch with a series of vaguely Danish-sounding gurgles. Claims they mean “Have you already had your Ovomaltine cocoa this morning?”.
  • “Redemption” is such a strange word and concept. In US English you can barely read a movie review without coming across it. Yet in Swedish we hardly ever use its equivalents outside a religious context. And since few Swedes are religious, we rarely use the concept at all. I feel no need for or possibility of redemption.
  • Apollo is “Apollon” in Swedish, which means “monkey’s bell end”.
  • Eight young women in head scarves and Pakistani clothes are playing soccer in the field next to our house.
  • Incredible contrast between the 17th century’s oil paintings and Scandy sculpture. Like two completely separate traditions, the latter grotesque and abstract, divorced from the Classical heritage.
  • Hey, I’d vote for Jeremy Corbyn!
  • Been handy today: bought a doormat, long screws (no) with plugs, an electric plug and a window holder ajarer; used them to mat a door, fix a Pilaster book shelf to a newly painted wall, reenable my reading lamp after my dad installed earthed sockets, and hold a window ajar.
  • Updating my freshman presentations. Since last year, the oldest known stone tools have moved from 2.6 to 3.4 mya, and from Homo habilis to some Australopithecine. The bulk date of the great clearance-cairn areas of Småland has moved from the Early Iron Age to the High Middle Ages.
  • Reading this paper by a Scandy scholar whose English is shaky. They describe the defenders of a besieged castle using “guns, piles and stones”. Ow, me bum…
  • Hawkwind’s most beloved song, “Master of the Universe”, has huge information redundancy. It’s just one riff played in unison by bass and rhythm guitar all the way through, plus aimless quiet noodling on the lead guitar and swishy noises from the keyboards.
  • Movie: Dheepan. War-traumatised Tamil man-woman-child form a fake family to enter France, settle in ghetto shaken by drug gang fighting. Grade: pass with distinction.
  • Oh sure, LinkedIn. I’m definitely the right man to head a pharma research team working on immuno oncology. Thanks for telling me about the job!

Author: Martin R

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

126 thoughts on “August Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. Re. Corbyn; more Brit news (courtesy of the Daily Mash)
    “Corbyn insane not to invade Iraq”, says Blair
    -Rest of week written off!
    Funky CV makes applicant stand out as tiresome little shit
    Farage pledges traditionally xenophobic EU campaign
    Poor people prefer shit things, explains Cameron
    “Lying bastard phone said it had 12 percent battery left”
    — — — —
    Queen Elizabeth the Last


  2. At least LinkedIn is showing you jobs in the place where you live. They keep on encouraging me to apply for jobs in locations that are, in ideal conditions, an hour or more away by car (and most of that on motorways). Under realistic commuter conditions, the drive time is more like 90-120 minutes, if it isn’t snowing. And those jobs aren’t in my field, either. I’m a physicist, not a biologist, so I’m just as qualified as you to lead that pharma research team.

    I’m familiar with the Chinese surname problem, because I have been collecting references over the years. Just in my (relatively small) field, I have identified at least 19 different authors with the surname Zhang, two of which have identical Pinyin transliterations of their given name (I’m told the characters are different for both surname and given name, but I have no way of verifying this), and a third only identified by that same initial plus the surname. It could be worse: there are at least 24 people named Wang in my field. Last December I found at least five different Wang et al. papers in one issue of one journal, the first authors being five different people. And it doesn’t help that when I download articles from this publisher, the file name has the format Lastname-et-al-Journalname-Year.pdf . Lee is another nasty one: it’s common among Chinese from outside the mainland (in Pinyin it’s spelled Li), it’s one of the most common surnames in Korea (which seems to have even fewer surnames than China), and it’s moderately common in English as well.


  3. Öresund has never been a barrier like it is today. Between Helsingborg and Helsingör the water border is lika a Swedish lake.


  4. Speaking of getting rid of excess stuff, Xi Jingping just announced that he is going to downsize the PLA by getting rid of 300,000 military personnel.

    He is going to sack an army that is about double the size of Australia’s total defence forces. Maybe Australia could rent some of them cheaply.

    The old answer to the gender imbalance problem was “Put the excess young males who can’t find wives into the military and find a war to fight.” In future, that is not going to work.

    All I can say is if Mr Xi wants to stay on the right side of me, he had better keep the Beautiful Pink Army. If I ever get invaded, I want the invaders to be wearing pink uniforms and all be young Chinese women 178 cm tall.


  5. Well, no Pink Army in this morning’s big parade.

    Mr Xi is going to be hearing from me about this. It’s going to impact severely on morale – mine, mostly.

    But the female honour guard were out there doing their stuff, so hopefully some entertaining videos of them will surface some time soon, even if they were wearing boringly sensible uniforms.


  6. John@4: That’s about 7% of the PLA, as I recall. Depending on turnover, they may be able to pull that off by attrition. I don’t know if China has mandatory national service, as some countries do–the ones that do normally get the bulk of their soldiers that way.

    Of course, it also depends on finding jobs for the soon-to-be former soldiers. What happened in Iraq after the US occupation force disbanded the Iraqi Army is a cautionary tale. Not that I would expect anything that bad to happen in China if Mr. Xi repeated that mistake, but Xi strikes me as the kind of person who learns from other people’s mistakes.


  7. Eric@6: I saw a graphic that showed the down-sizing plan, which they say is to be achieved by 2017. It seems they will be culling from all three of the military wings, and creating a new 4th group under central command. That suggests they are not just cutting by attrition, they are undertaking a fundamental restructuring and creating a leaner, better equipped, more mobile structure better able to project force beyond China’s borders. Which I imagine should be worrying for America.

    China already has big law and order problems arising from unemployed workers migrating from rural areas to the cities – another 300,000 on top of the existing millions probably won’t make a big difference, at least qualitatively.


  8. #7 – Birger: But she’s not bright yellow. More a sort of pale beige, I guess.

    And that psychologist is wrong, as psychologists so often are – there are no such things as emotional intelligence and social intelligence.

    IQ correlates well with something that could be called g for general intelligence. There is a strong correlation between g and how well people turn out doing in life, except maybe in the extreme upper tail of the distribution, where you get individuals who may come across as pretty weird and have difficulty getting along with other people. But that girl looks like she wouldn’t have any real ‘people’ problems – she’s not weird looking and just looks like a bright, cheerful 12 year old.

    I have a general rule of thumb now – if a psychologist makes some public utterance, I make the automatic assumption that what he/she has said is wrong, unless subsequent hard facts/data are produced to confirm otherwise.

    The sobering fact is that to get into a psychology programme at major American universities, you need an IQ of about 95 – i.e. below average adult IQ. I’d say it’s the same in Australia, with the sad addendum that students who are too dumb even for psychology end up doing anthropology. I think that helps to explain why there is such a damning lack of good quality research on Australian Aboriginal people; some of the early stuff was OK, but it was sparse – people were more intent on either breeding them out of existence or just outright killing them than studying them – and the early stuff tends to be locked away now because it tends to contain some pretty ‘uncomfortable’ stuff; and the more recent work is almost all just meaningless trash and made-up stuff.


  9. There is some good research in psychology being done, John, but yes, there is a great deal of dreck as well. To be fair, it can be a hard subject to research–most experiments involve human subjects, so you have to worry about protocols, and you have to worry about whether the things your subjects tell you are false (intentionally or otherwise). But that doesn’t excuse poor experimental design, or statistics abuse, which are rampant. There is a reason for the old joke that 43% of statistics are made up on the spot.

    Opinion polling is an extreme form. You can get 20% swings of opinion on some questions (margin of error typically being a few percent) depending on the exact phrasing. That’s an effect that even particle physicists (who tend to insist on five-sigma significance–one, because they can, and two, because they have been burned by alleged phenomena with lower significance levels not holding up under scrutiny) would agree is significant.

    Speaking of significance, another contributing factor to the low signal-to-noise ratio in psychology research is the somewhat arbitrary 95% confidence level (about two sigma). It’s hard in psychology (or many other fields) to get enough statistics to insist on higher confidence levels. There is also a publication bias in favor of positive results, so often a reported effect will be due to a statistical anomaly, but the proof that it was a statistical anomaly is never reported in the literature.


  10. Eric@6 – Here’s an interesting statistic: of the 300,000 Xi plans to axe from China’s armed forces, 170,000 will be officers ranking from lieutenants to senior colonels.


  11. One for Birger:

    This September’s supermoon will also coincide with a lunar eclipse, making it a supermoon lunar eclipse – an event which has happened just five times since 1910. The last time the two events converged was in 1982 and the next time will be 2033.

    And it will happen during the Mid-Autumn Festival, the traditional time for moon gazing. But sadly the eclipse won’t be visible to HK.


  12. The lunar eclipse will be visible from Europe the early hours of the 28th,visible from America lathe evening the 27th local time.
    Factoid: the Danish language has 17 vowels or half-vowels. Even Danish kids find it hard to understand, it tales Danish infants longer to learn to speak than kids in other language regions.
    On the other hand, Danes have the lowest rate of galatophobia* in Europe -Britain has the highest.
    *fear of being laughed at.


  13. Birger@14: Link?

    English has lots of vowel sounds as well. Long and short versions of A E I O U, as well as OO. Plus OI, and for semivowels there are W and Y. That’s at least 15, and depending on dialect there can be more (e.g., the A in “father” may not be identical to the A in “farther”). However, some dialects merge some of those sounds, so the exact number will depend on which version you are working with. English is also notorious for the number of consonants it has–unlike most European languages, English has retained the two TH sounds, as well as most of the other Indo-European phonemes (the most prominent exception being that English has no equivalent to the German CH or the Greek chi). That’s one of the reasons English is particularly hard to learn as an adult.

    Then there are the tonal languages, including various languages of China and most of Southeast Asia’s national languages. I don’t know if the different tones count as different vowels, but there are differences to the sound–I can detect the four distinct tones of Mandarin Chinese, if the speaker is speaking slowly enough. My background in classical music was actually useful here.

    Denmark, being a small country without mountains, probably doesn’t have that many regional dialects. There are probably differences between Copenhagen and Jutland, with Faroese and Greenland Danish as outliers, but beyond that I’d be surprised if there is much in the way of further localization. That’s fewer than the US, which is notorious for having so few dialects despite the large area and population. OTOH, the Danish/Swedish/Norwegian language split is relatively recent, such that somebody who is fluent in one of those languages can often understand what a speaker of one of the other two is saying. That’s not true of Cantonese and Mandarin, which are sometimes called dialects but are not mutually intelligible–what they have is a common writing system.


  14. Basques are also the only Spaniards with no Moorish ancestry. They must have got a lot of late Bronze Age admixture though, unlike the Sardinians, just going on phenotype. Sardinians definitely look ‘different’ – rather attractive, I think.


  15. Birger@18: That’s potentially interesting, but as commenters at your link note, it may be a nothingburger. The 95% confidence interval includes all of Mohamed’s life span, so there is no proof that it predates Mohammed. Indeed, they only tested the parchment, not the ink, which could plausibly have been made some years later. (At least there is no evidence that the document is a palimpsest.)

    It’s also well known that the Quran drew on other sources. There are recognizable versions of Old Testament stories in the Quran. Islamic traditions hold that the first complete Quran was assembled in about 653 from various documents, so it’s possible that Mohammed himself (or one of his associates) may have written this document, which then was one of the source documents for the Quran. For obvious reasons, the Quran has gone through much less textual analysis than many secular documents of much lesser importance.


  16. “Should I put in the fieldwork report that while registering the bone bags I was semi-nude, outdoors and listening to extremely druggy music?”

    Definitely not. Don’t embarrass yourself by admitting that you weren’t fully nude.


  17. I have been on a diet since august. “Nothingburger” sounds delicious!
    A TV program this evening showed the Swedish archaeology dog Fabel quickly locate 1000-year-old human remains by smell (to test the dog, the skeleton had been located by georadar first).
    “For obvious reasons, the Quran has gone through much less textual analysis than many secular documents of much lesser importance.” -Hard to do textual criticism when dodging assassins! Maybe we should recruit Shaolin monks for the job?


  18. I may have read too much about current atrocities. The empathy fatigue makes me surprisingly indifferent about the recent photos of drowned refugees. There is only so much you can take in, I suppose this is a kind of safety feature of the brain.


  19. Hmmm…now that I come to compare lots of photos of Basques and Sardinians, I can’t say I could pick a consistent major difference in general appearance. On average, Sardinians might be a bit darker, I guess, but it’s not really distinctive.

    Here’s Razib on Moorish ancestry of non-Basque Spaniards:

    I can’t help but laugh when I read the way Razib addresses some of his commenters – some guy writes a long pseudo-scholarly sounding comment positing this and that and Razib responds: “hey dipshit, did you read the fucking post?” I’m sorry, I can’t help it, it makes me laugh. A lot.

    I came fairly close to doing that at work yesterday. I guess one really shouldn’t address one’s professional colleagues as a “bunch of muppets”, should one?


  20. The Uppsala researchers also noted: “The difference between Basques and other Iberian groups is these latter ones show distinct features of admixture from the east and from north Africa.” So it’s clear.

    I have some small amount of Iberian ancestry, which inclines me now to think this is where my even smaller amount of North African ancestry comes from – from the Moorish occupation of Spain.


  21. I guess one really shouldn’t address one’s professional colleagues as a “bunch of muppets”, should one?

    Not to their faces, at least. But I hear that in the financial industry there is a tradition of bankers calling their customers similar names in e-mails to other bankers.


  22. I’m currently listening to Legends of Gypsy Flamenco. My car has an excellent sound system. Whenever my daughter gets into the car, she makes a frantic dive for the MUTE button – she just can’t stand Gypsy singing. Well, they’re not the most likeable of people, and it’s not the most tuneful singing. If she could have her own way, we would have a never-ending programme of Kun Qu and Cantonese Opera, but she knows that’s never going to happen, not in my car. She was bemoaning the fact that in the Mainland there is one 24-hour free to air TV channel that has nothing but Chinese opera, but we can’t get that channel in Hong Kong (thank goodness, otherwise she’d have it on non-stop).

    To my mind the greatest flamenco guitarist of all time (that I know of – there are numerous no doubt very good flamenco guitarists who never made a recording) was Paco de Lucía (otherwise known as Frank Sánchez)(j/k). I don’t think he was a Gypsy – he certainly didn’t live or behave like one; au contraire, he behaved in a very refined manner and was commercially very successful for someone trying to make a living out of music other than pop/rock. Although it could explain his rather dark complexion, but I saw him perform live pretty close up and he was not that dark – more likely some Moorish ancestry, given he was born in Cádiz, about as far south in Spain as you can get.

    Paco dropped dead from a heart attack two years ago on a beach in Mexico while he was playing with his grand children. It must have given the kiddies a bit of a shock, but there must be few better ways to go than that – it would beat the hell out of lying in some palliative care facility stuffed full of tubes., with some fat woman in glasses telling you that you don’t need drugs to control the pain and to put your faith in Jesus.

    Anyway, I now think the mystery of my North African ancestry has been cleared up nicely. I have a larger chunk of Iberian ancestry, and all modern Spaniards who are not Basques have some Moorish ancestry – all of them – so I think that explains my bit of exotic ancestry also. One of my bits of exotic ancestry. I have others.

    Do yourself a favour some time and listen to Paco Lucia. You can skip the raucous singing, and just listen to him playing ‘new flamenco’ or flamenco-jazz fusion, which he pioneered.


  23. Paco de Lucía – he took his mother’s personal name as his stage name: Paco (son) of Lucía . I don’t know if that’s a Gypsy thing. Or maybe just an Andalusian thing. Or maybe he just didn’t think Francisco Sánchez Gomes sounded arty-farty- enough.

    I thought about changing my name to Juan de Maria, but my days playing on stage are over.


  24. Hi Martin. I did, until carpal tunnel surgery on both hands put an end to my playing days.

    I started out being trained as a classical guitarist when I was a kid, so I can read music very well. I dabbled quite a bit in jazz (I had one guitar teacher who was my home town’s premier jazz guitarist, and he taught me a lot), and in Flamenco, which I taught to myself with instruction books and by listening very carefully to a lot of recordings of the old Flamenco masters.

    In my mid-20s, while working at my day job as an engineer, I drifted into a folk club one night for some entertainment, and there was a bunch of mad Irishmen on stage playing traditional Irish dance music. People tried to get me dancing, but I’m a white boy who can’t dance and it seemed safer to be up on the stage with the mad Irishmen, who turned out to be very serious musicians, so I asked the guys in the band if I could join in with them, and they said sure, jump up here with us. And that was it – once I started playing with them, they kept wanting me to keep doing it and become a permanent band member.

    So I ended up playing with those guys for 3 years as a semi-professional musician, working as an engineer during the day and moonlighting as a musician every night, and suffering from major sleep deprivation. I learned a great deal about traditional Irish folk music, and had a wonderful time in the process with a great bunch of guys.

    We were very successful and played some pretty big gigs, including opening for The Chieftains at the Perth Concert Hall – my biggest claim to fame as a musician. At the end of 3 years, the other guys said “Right, that’s it, lads, we’re leaving our day jobs and turning full professional.” At that point I had to say “Best of luck, boys – it’s been a wonderful trip, but I can’t come with you.” They understood – they were mostly in lousy poorly paid trade jobs, but I would have been mad to give up a promising professional career as an engineer for the life of a starving itinerant musician. I mean, we were popular, and we were good, but we weren’t great, not best-in-the-world great, and in music, if you’re not great and you are in a genre that is outside of the mainstream, you are going to have a life of poverty.

    Then not long after that I moved to Hong Kong to take up a job offer doing something I really wanted to do, and my whole life changed dramatically at that point.

    So that was it for my career as a musician. But I kept on playing classical music and Flamenco to entertain friends right up to a few years ago, when my hands went on me and I had to have the surgery, and once they cut those tendons in your hands, you are done for – you lose the touch and fine motor control. These days I am doing well if I can hold a pen and write legibly. It’s not something I cry about – I was pretty good, and I loved playing, most of all with that bunch of wild Irishmen, but I was never truly great. I had 3 great years and have some wonderful memories from that time, and I’m grateful for that.


  25. Good story, though I’m sorry about your hands! One of my best buddies plays Irish folk (mainly the pipes and tin whistle) and chairs a monthly session at a pub in the Old Town. Always a good time.


  26. I can still grip a tennis racquet well enough, so my hands are not a total disaster 🙂

    I’m not the guy you want as your brain surgeon, though.


  27. “Eight young women in head scarves and Pakistani clothes are playing soccer in the field next to our house.”

    I had a teacher once who would sometimes add, after a comment he had made, “Just an observation, not a judgement”. Which, if either, is your sentence above?


  28. The subtext of that observation is “Maybe head scarves aren’t always or mostly a sign of female subjugation, at least in Sweden”.

    Norm Sherman of the Drabblecast podcast uses the expression “And that’s a statement, not a fact.”


  29. I think the answer is “that depends”. Maybe they are free to play football but not free to choose not to wear the headscarf; not free to choose whom, if anyone, they want to marry; not free to choose whom, if anyone, they want to have sex with, perhaps before marriage, and, if so, a) the sex of the partner and b) what type of sex.

    Iran has a higher percentage of female graduates in STEM subjects than many western countries, but one can’t use this as evidence that they are not subjugated in other areas.

    Or maybe it is the (mistaken) belief that playing football keeps their minds off of sex. 😐

    Also, of course, a headscarf is not always just a headscarf, but sometimes it is. I recall a striking image of Agnetha Fältskog in a headscarf not long before she was elected “rear of the year” in England. 🙂


  30. He has a point, but I disagree somewhat. One often hears the idea that men like women’s breasts (more than women like men’s breasts) because they have been “sexualized” to do so by “society”. I’m pretty sure that it is due mainly to biological reasons, sexual selection, and so on. (Of course, the behaviour associated with liking breasts, particularly those of women one doesn’t know personally, can and should be conditioned by society.)

    If one wants to play the discrimination card, unfairness is women forced to cover their head hair and men not, or women forced to cover their breasts and men not forced to cover their beards.

    But women forced to cover their breasts and men not is not discrimination. Discrimination would be one of the above examples, or men forced to cover their feet and women not (though, looking at, say, Hollywood red carpets, many men voluntarily cover their feet (and backs, etc) more than women).

    I think many play the discrimination or freedom card in such debates because there are, for good reason, strong laws against discrimination and for personal freedom. (Of course, even if one doesn’t believe that forcing women not to be topless is due to discrimination, one can still be in favour of allowing toplessness, or full nudity, for that matter, where it currently is not, but for the right reasons.) The next time there is a demonstration for the right to wear headscarves, or burqas, in the name of personal freedom, volunteer to take part if you can be nude (or, in your case, semi-nude, whatever that means) and see if the organizers are really interested in personal freedom and, if so, if that is only for themselves and not for others.


  31. ‘He’ is Martin in an earlier incarnation.

    There is very little evidence for anything that has evolved in humans due to sexual selection. Lots of supposition, and it’s often the default that people go to when they can’t think of anything else, but no evidence.


  32. If you haven’t been keeping track of the Rising Star Expedition, it’s time to get clued up about it, because it seems that things are about to get *very* exciting, paleoanthropologically speaking.


  33. “There is very little evidence for anything that has evolved in humans due to sexual selection.”

    How do you explain permanent breasts in humans but not in most (all?) other mammals?

    Although there are other explanations, based on sperm competition related to mating habits etc (the sizes of penises (penes?) and testes are closely related to these), perhaps sexual selection might play some part in the fact that the human penis is by far the largest primate penis, not just relatively but absolutely. And what about men’s beards and deep voices?


  34. I don’t have to explain anything – if I did, I would be just opinionating, and my opinion on this subject is worthless, just like yours is.

    I am asking for *evidence* of sexual selection, and as far as I know, there is any for anything in humans. No one knows why men have beards and deep voices. There is no evidence for sperm selection among humans. Chimpanzees yes, but chimpanzees behave very differently from humans.


  35. Here he is – my guitar hero Paco de Lucía, the man who could genuinely have claimed a number of things, including having invented a new musical genre, and having saved Flamenco music, because until Paco reached out to musicians of other nationalities in other genres, Flamenco was dying. But he was far too modest a man to make any such claims, and I loved him all the more for it. It was a tragedy when he died at the age that I am at now, when he still had so much left in him.

    If it really irritates you that, whenever a classical or Flamenco guitarist walks out of stage, the first thing he does is tune his guitar, the reason is that as soon as those hot stage lights hit your guitar, it goes out of tune. And keeps going out of tune at regular intervals. I used to tune religiously between sets, every time, together with the fiddle player, because they have the same problem.


  36. I meant sperm competition in humans, of course – there is absolutely no evidence for this. There is no evidence for sexual selection of anything.

    A Canadian anthropologist named Peter Frost claims that Europeans, and Europeans alone, evolved varied colours in hair and eyes due to sexual selection (he’s wrong about that, because blue eyes occur among Indians), and he has theory about how this happened, but it is all purely speculation on his part. He has absolutely no evidence for it.

    Wereas the evidence for selection for lactose tolerance among societies that took up dairy culture is overwhelming, and the genetic mutations that took place to cause lactose tolerance to be driven to fixity in northern Europeans have been identified. No question.


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