November Pieces Of My Mind #1

The Saltsjöbaden Co-Ed celebrates 100 years with an open house. I've been here only once since graduation a quarter of a century ago.
The Saltsjöbaden Co-Ed celebrates 100 years with an open house. I’ve been here only once since graduation a quarter of a century ago.
  • I just saw toilet roll draped over a tree for the first time since 1977 when I lived in Connecticut. Hallowe’en has recently been imported into Swedish culture. It’s brought the tricks with it. Is somebody going to cover my dad’s car in shaving foam again?
  • Lack of sunlight is a cause of vitamin D deficiency. It is also a cause of seasonal depression. Now I’m seeing vitamin D touted as a folk remedy against seasonal depression. This is like trying to clear frosted windows with a snow shovel. Should work, right? Both are caused by cold temperatures!
  • Oh great. Deezer has misfiled an album of cheezy new age music intended to help the listener sleep, tacking it on to the oeuvre of the seminal stoner/doom rock band Sleep.
  • Heard a biologist on Quirks & Quarks who studies animals in Chernobyl’s radioactive exclusion zone. Said the main lesson of research since 1986 is that for that ecosystem, human activities are incomparably more damaging than the fallout of the worst nuclear accident ever. Everything’s thriving.
  • A sentence of delicious unknowns (to me): “During the Caste War in Yucatan, which began in the middle of the nineteenth century, some of the Maya, the Cruzob who worshipped the Talking Cross, withdrew from all contact with outsiders.” (Crosby, Ecological Imperialism, p. 287)
  • Pet style peeve: “How did King become a company worth 50 billion kronor?”. Why are you inserting the redundant information that King is a company? We know that it isn’t a donut or an insect species. It’s always been a company. It hasn’t become a company recently.
  • Oh awesome! The Stockholm Medieval Museum is offering a singles event for Middle Ages buffs! Never heard before of a museum doing that. Take note, unwed friends!
  • When I read my own job applications, I can’t see why anyone else would be even vaguely interesting to the employers.
  • This UK uni has a list of possible ethnicities to choose from in the Equal Opportunities section of their job application web site. It’s topped by “White”, “White – Scottish” and “White – Other”.
  • The jobs section of my CV looks like I was in jail or a mental hospital from my thesis presentation in 2003 to my first temp lectureship in 2012. Actually I was on a series of small research grants. Honestly!!!
  • OK, so remember the guy whose kid teaches HTML pro bono to 11-y-os? Now let me ask you, can you guess whose kid is scheduled to start teaching his own high-school class mates programming?
  • Vonda McIntyre calls the Web “the Web” in her novel Starfarers. From 1989.
  • Student asks me for my opinion of the theories regarding ancient burial of a woman I’ve never heard of. I google her and find that Varg Vikernes is her husband.
  • What’s this sudden feeling of professional semi-failure and mild boredom? Oh, right. November again.

Author: Martin R

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

31 thoughts on “November Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. Pet style peeve: “How did King become a company worth 50 billion kronor?”. Why are you inserting the redundant information that King is a company?

    Maybe your complaint makes sense in context, but King is also a moderately common surname in American English. Somebody with that surname won a Nobel Peace Prize and has a US bank holiday named after him. (In case you are familiar with the U2 song “Pride in the Name of Love”, the last verse explicitly refers to his assassination.) Another person with that surname is a notorious boxing promoter. So unless there is some other context, they need to specify that they mean the company and not a person.

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  2. OK, that makes a little more sense, and it’s unlikely that someone in Sweden would have that name unless he were an expat. But the context needs to be there, one way or another.

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  3. “White, White-Scottish, White-Other”: At the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center in Pasadena, where they want to be able to say that they’re serving all segments of the population, they asked me whether I was, among other ethnicities, Caucasian (instead of “White”) or Armenian.

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  4. Yes, yes…the ‘race’ categories adopted in different countries for things like the census are hilarious. And every country has different boxes with different race names stuck on them.

    Someone should collect them all and make a study of it.

    Australia, being that most PC of all countries. has only two boxes – indigenous or non-indigenous.

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  5. Australian cops still use the descriptor Caucasian when they really have to, but mostly try to avoid using race descriptors, in case someone accuses them of some kind of prejudice. Someone needs to tell them that Europeans did not all spring from the Caucasus.

    If not ‘Caucasian’ they might say a suspect is ‘dark skinned’, or ‘Asian’ (which in Australia means East Asian, whereas in the UK it would mean South Asian).

    This subject never ceases to be funny.

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  6. Sorry, they don’t say ‘Asian’, they say ‘Asian looking’. Because the person might well be an Australian citizen.

    Like my daughter, who is an Australian citizen and whiter than white (having inherited the loss of function mutations from both the European side and the Chinese side) – she has been accused of being ‘Asian looking’.

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  7. The funny story about my daughter was that when at university, she became friendly with this Mainland Chinese PhD student, who was fascinated that she could speak to him in Mandarin. Both being scholars of modern human genetics, they both got the joke when she told him that on a global PCA plot, she plots with Uygurs – because Uygurs are a mixed population of Mongol and West Eurasian, which has become ‘fixed’, so they are all mixed, and my daughter is mostly half Northern European and half Northern Han. So she plots smack in the middle of Uygurs, or actually a bit closer to Hazara, but no one has ever heard of them. And she doesn’t look Hazara, who look more Mongol, she looks more like a Uygur.

    So one day, this Mainland guy told her that one Saturday all of the Mainland Chinese students were going to have an all-day party/barbecue, and why didn’t she go along? She said “I can’t, I’m not a Mainlander.” He said “No problem, just tell everyone you are a Uygur.” So that’s what she did – and they all believed her.

    So from then on, all the Mainland students at that university referred to her as “the Uygur girl” and she had to pretend to be a Uygur for the rest of the year.

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  8. At last, McDonald’s restaurants in HK are serving a useful purpose – homeless people are going to those restaurants that stay open 24 hours to sleep, and the staff don’t disturb them.

    There was one slightly unnerving incident recently when an elderly woman was found to have died, having sat huddled in a corner for a couple of days undisturbed.

    But on balance, I’m inclined not to be critical. The staff are being compassionate by leaving the homeless people alone and letting them sleep there.

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  9. America is pretty hilarious – they have a box for Hispanic – which is neither a race nor an ethnicity.

    And at the same time, it’s a drastic oversimplification. There are various countries with their various national rivalries. They don’t all speak the same language: Portuguese is the national language of Brazil[1], of course, and presumably Dutch is still spoken in their former colony, Surinam, while English is the preferred language of Guyana. Various indigenous languages are still spoken in many areas. Then there is the long-standing “dry foot” policy toward Cubans (which may have recently ended, as it was part of the longstanding feud between the US and Fidel Castro): if they managed to get to the shore, they were automatically granted asylum. Contrast that with the treatment of people crossing the Mexican border (who are not necessarily Mexicans) or floating on rafts from Haiti.

    Many Americans stereotype Hispanics as being lazy, but I don’t see that here. Maybe that’s because the nearest Mexican border crossing is almost 3000 km away, and the ones who come this far to find work are most definitely not the lazy ones.

    [1]Fun trivia fact: Brazil is the country with which France has its longest land border. That’s because French Guyana is still officially part of France. I don’t know if the residents of French Guyana are considered Hispanic.

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  10. Eric @12: I can’t imagine why people from French Guyana would be considered Hispanic: They’re colonizing group wasn’t Spanish, it was French (unless the country name deceives me). And I don’t think that Brazilian people would be categorized as Hispanic either, unless Hispanic really means “colonizer from the whole Iberian peninsula”.

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  11. @JustaTech: Nobody ever went broke by overestimating the stupidity of the American public. Most Americans don’t know the difference, and don’t care. Even I can’t tell by sight alone what nationality somebody is. Though if I know the person’s family name, that is often a clue (not always; among the German contingent at my university are people with Czech and Polish surnames, in addition to the Chinese diaspora).

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  12. The lunacy continues – the Mainland government has announced a terrorist attack in Xinjiang that has killed about 50 people.

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  13. Hi Martin,
    Good luck with your application. I imagine the White vs. White Scottish is because of the greatly increased number of people who do not self-identify as British. White other would then be Welsh or Northern Irish.

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  14. #21 – That is because you are not of British ancestry, Martin. So you qualify as ‘foreign’ rather than ‘white’.

    Seriously, in Australia in the 1950s, ‘white’ was taken to imply British or Irish ancestry. Germans were still the enemy (there was a German kid at my primary school who was subjected to ‘treatment’ by the other kids every single day, despite being born after the end of the war). French, Scandies and people from the Balkans were just labelled ‘foreign’. Southern Europeans – Greeks, Italians and people from the former Yugoslavia were regarded as ‘not really white’.

    Things have changed – Greeks and Italians are now accepted as ‘white’, and Germans are no longer persecuted just for being German. All Asians are definitely ‘Asians’ rather than ‘white’, despite some Koreans, Japanese and Chinese being whiter than the Australians of British ancestry. As that lady put it so elegantly on Facebook, ‘white’ is a social construction.

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  15. #24 – nice one, Birger. And a good clear explanation.

    I didn’t read the other links – I decided to ignore such things after the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Australia blamed the occurrence of a major earthquake on people turning their backs on God/the church/whatever. The same guy has been very active in covering up child abuse by priests.

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  16. Here is Dienekes Pontikos’ take on the ‘fourth strand’ paper, with a pretty picture to look at. I have been following him for a long time, and he did indeed make the prediction he claims – he is one of the smarter bloggers on palaeoanthropology who gives nice clear explanations for those who have not burrowed really deeply into the subject. David (Davidski – his joke, he’s Polish) at the Eurogenes blog is also good, but he is much harder to follow. Dienekes posts far less these days, but when he does it is usually about something pretty important.

    http://dienekes.blogspot.hk/2015/11/westasian-in-flesh-hunter-gatherers.html

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  17. So basically, this can be taken to confirm that the Yamnaya brought proto-Indo-European language to Europe, along with now-dominant male strands of DNA. But they also spread east and south, resulting in the Indo-Aryan language group.

    So I guess it is OK to refer to Europeans as Caucasians, as long as Iranians, Pakistanis, Indians, etc. are also included as Caucasians – but I think that is not quite what people intend who refer to ‘whites’ as ‘Caucasian’.

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  18. John@28: You’re correct that people from that part of the world are often not thought of as white. Which is ironic considering that the term “Aryan” got co-opted by white supremacists. Recall that two countries derive their names from that term: Iran and Ireland (Eirann).

    I know a couple of Iranian students in our department. One is sufficiently light-skinned that she could actually be mistaken for European–East European, admittedly. The other has a significantly darker hue; when I first met her I assumed she was Pakistani, and only learned otherwise when I connected with her on LinkedIn.

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