May Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Unpleasant discovery. I’ve known for a long time that looking at the age of people who get lectureships in Scandy archaeology, the third quartile is at 46. In other words, 75% of all the jobs are given to people aged 46 or less. But now I’ve looked at the contents of the fourth quartile. And it consists almost entirely of the value 46. In fact, I know of only one case where someone older than 46 got a job, and that was a short part-time temp job. Well, at least this gives me a definite date for when I can finally quit reading the damn job ads.
  • Senior archaeologist calls lo-tech traditional cultures “nature peoples” in the latest issue of Skalk. *slow clapping*
  • Jrette nervous because today her class will learn which way they are getting split and recombined for 7th grade. I’ve told her she can still be with her old buddies either way. I haven’t told her that 5 years from now she will no longer remember any of them much.
  • Art insight: framed paintings are just portable murals or a cheap alternative to tapestries.
  • Movie: l’Odeur de la Mandarine. Couple gets married on rural estate during WW1. Have protracted not very interesting bedroom problems and ride a lot of symbolic horses encountering a strangely docile and even more symbolic stag. Grade: Pass.
  • Trying yaupon holly, the only caffeine-producing plant that might be grown in Sweden.
  • Wonder if mammals without fingers have a functional clitoris.
  • The cherry-tree sapling we received from a Chinese acquaintance last year is doing well and blooming. Its fragrance is sweet, intricate and has an unmistakeable note of Asian grocery store.
  • Did a vanity search in the Archaeology Department’s library catalogue in Cambridge. They had three of my books before I gave them the latest one.
  • This is a fun week. Monday guest lecture in Cambridge. Tuesday Dr. Dee exhibition and Tower of London. Wednesday through Friday look at Medieval castle finds in Stockholm museum stores. Saturday lecture to metal detectorist gathering in Småland.
  • The Martin Tower at the Tower of London, formerly the Jewel Tower, is named for Old Martin the Bear that was once kept there as part of the Royal Menagerie.
  • Alt-J’s song “Every Other Freckle” is in a style that’s completely new to me.
  • Jrette & friends have written compact feminist manifestos. Hers reads like something written by a woman twice her age.

Author: Martin R

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

63 thoughts on “May Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. “I did express incredulity, if you cared to notice. I was looking for someone to tell me whether this unbelievable story had any kind of basis in fact or was pure fabrication. I see all kinds of weirdness emanating from Europe, and have no yardstick to judge it by.”

    OK, but this is in the “Elvis lives together with Marilyn Monroe in my grandpa’s backyard” kind of unbelievable. 🙂

    “I see all kinds of weirdness emanating from Europe, and have no yardstick to judge it by.”

    I’m pretty sure that there is nothing which is real and as bizarre as this. Can you provide some examples (even if you suspect that they might not be real)?

    “Maybe he was being satirical. Or fabricating a gross exaggeration to make a point.”

    The context provides no indication of this. Sure, I can imagine some comedian saying this or something, but then only if exaggerating something real. In this case, there doesn’t seem to be anything to exaggerate.

    I don’t think that everything he writes is wrong. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and he presented none, even though part of Merkel’s alleged statement is presented as a direct quotation.

    If someone said that Hitler had been discovered living in some mountains outside of Berlin, would you believe it? Would you even ask if it were true? Something this sensational, these days, should spread over the internet like wildfire. Same for comfort women.


  2. That’s why I suspect he was being provocative and making it up to make a point. He probably meant “Given what Merkel has done to the young women of Germany by letting in all these young single male refugees, she might as well…” You need to use your imagination, if you have one. Or just pass it off as the ravings of an old drunk Vietnamese conspiracy theorist – I don’t care, he’s no friend of mine. I just like some of the stuff he writes.

    The UNZ review is populated by a fair number of crackpots, but a few of them are definitely not. It’s listed as a Conservative site, but you won’t catch herpes by going there.

    Razib Khan *is* a friend of mine and is certainly not a crackpot. I have been reading his writing ever since he started blogging more than 13 years ago, and have read every blog post he has ever written on his Gene Expression blog (he has others elsewhere that I don’t read). He leaves politics out of it.

    Peter Lee is also not a crackpot, at least when he comments on matters relating to China. He provides very insightful analysis – about the most informed and insightful of any ‘China watcher’ I have ever read.


  3. Reading it again, maybe it is intended to be satire. On the other hand, at least initially, you thought that it was real. If something this bizarre could fool you, then one must have sympathy with the birthers and other conspiracy theorists. 😐


  4. Don’t get upset. Life is too short for that. For instance, I just learned Mount St Helens erupted…precisely *thirty-six years ago*! There must be something wrong with the calendar, I thought it was the year before the last one… or maybe five years ago.
    — — —
    Here is a creepy one:
    “On Oktar’s A9 channel, a group of women in tight-fitting designer clothes and dyed blond hair help him promote Islam and attack evolution, all the while calling him “master.”

    I learned about him from this news item: “Ohio Students Taught Muslim Creationism in Biology Class”
    (With a name like Oktar, the culprit should be wearing a mask and costume, and hang out in Gotham City. With a hunchback assistant going “yeth, masther”.)


  5. Adnan Oktar is the Turkish creationist cult leader who published a really lavish pseudo-biological book a few years ago and had it sent to scientists all over the world. It’s famous not least because one picture intended to show a fish actually depicts a fishing lure.


  6. That’s how evolution works – you throw a fishing lure into the water, and it comes back as a fish.


  7. By the numbers, you are not living in Utopia.

    Australia and Sweden are marginally worse than Thailand and quite a bit worse than the Philippines, which should be worrying, because both Thailand and the Philippines are pretty wild. Australia is pretty seriously under-policed, but better than China.

    India, which is only marginally better than Russia, is also seriously under-policed – worse than China. If anyone wants to know why rape is such a problem in India, they only need to look at the police to population ratio – there is no visible police presence in the communities. As the New York Police Department discovered, the best deterrent to crime is to have a visible police presence on the streets to discourage people from committing crimes, rather than trying to solve crimes after they occur and sending people to prison. Both India and China fail badly on that score, and Australia is not much better.

    Germany is quite a bit better, but a bit worse than China and Azerbaijan – again, no room for complacency. I don’t know about Azerbaijan, but China is seriously under-policed and has significant crime and law and order problems.

    Denmark is doing well – no surprise there. Denmark is a very homogeneous country in terms of culture/ethnicity.

    Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea are all doing miles better than everyone else. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea are all very culturally/ethnically homogeneous. I am one of a small ethnic minority in Hong Kong, which overall as a region is 94% ethnic Han Chinese and notably well policed. The town I live in is 97% Han Chinese, and crime is just not an issue, with the exception of bicycle theft, which is easily preventable if people just follow some basic sensible rules. The bike theft is probably mostly out-of-towners who come to our town for easy pickings because the community is too trusting in relation to bicycle theft.

    Singapore is much more multi-cultural, but also much more oppressive and a much less free society than Hong Kong. They have democracy in name only, and are hosting a million foreign contract workers, which is an uncomfortable situation and one which many Singaporeans are very unhappy about.


  8. I once attended a very good course given by some professors from the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University. These people were experts in their particular subject areas, no question.

    One of the interesting case histories they gave us was of the New York Police Department, and how they had achieved a dramatic lowering of crime rates in NY by realising that their strategy of waiting until crimes were committed and then trying to solve them was getting them nowhere in terms of controlling crime, and adopting the alternate strategy of putting a lot more uniformed police officers out on the streets, as a visible police presence among the community to deter people from committing crimes in the first place.

    But to do that, you need to have an adequate number of police officers in relation to the size of the community. How spread out that community is, is also a factor, in terms of the amount of ground the police have to cover. You can’t have police officers walking the beat in Australian cities, except for the innermost city areas, because there is just too much ground to cover – they have to patrol in cars, which is more costly and less effective than having uniformed officers patrolling on foot.

    The global statistics on number of police officers per unit of population are interesting (well, interesting to anyone like me who is interested in demographics and real numbers instead of ideology and endless political theorising), and they go a long way to explaining crime rates in different jurisdictions. They don’t explain everything, party because of the factor I’ve already mentioned, and also partly due to the strategy for policing that the cops adopt in a particular jurisdiction. Plus no doubt there are many other socio-economic factors. One notable one seems to have been the banning of consumption of leaded petrol in motor vehicles, thereby removing a lot of lead from the environment which was adversely affecting brain development in children. Another one is undoubtedly the level of entrenched corruption – the lesson learned in Hong Kong is that if you want a corruption free police force, you need to pay them enough to live on, so they don’t need to augment their income by taking bribes in order to be able to feed their families. But the numbers do have quite high explanatory power, if you compare the number of cops to the gross crime rates in any particular jurisdiction.

    And I think this more broadly validates the case history of the NYPD, and how they succeeded in getting crime rates down in New York.


  9. You can’t have police officers walking the beat in Australian cities, except for the innermost city areas, because there is just too much ground to cover – they have to patrol in cars, which is more costly and less effective than having uniformed officers patrolling on foot.

    The same is true in the United States, which falls between Ghana and Ukraine on the crime index list. New York City is compact enough for foot patrols. So are Boston and San Francisco, but most other US cities are not. US police forces also have a tendency to develop adversarial relationships with the populace, especially but not limited to ethnic minorities. Too many US police are in that line of work to indulge their authoritarian tendencies–that should be disqualifying in a competently run police force, but there are too few of those in the US.

    For a while many Americans tried to escape crime by moving to the suburbs. It worked for a while, probably because there was less danger of lead poisoning. But eventually crime rates caught up in a lot of places. Moving to the sticks won’t help either: drug abuse has become a major issue in towns with no visible means of support. There are municipalities in Maine and northern New Hampshire where I feel less safe than in downtown Boston.


  10. – for entertainment, if it will play in your region. It’s hard to get bored or lonely in Hong Kong.

    Factors contributing to Hong Kong’s low crime rates: high population density in the urban areas make them compact enough for foot patrols; large police force for the size of population; the HK Police have always had a policy of maintaining a visible police presence on the streets; the HKPF have programs to build bridges with youth groups and their numbers are bolstered by the Auxiliary Police (people in other jobs who also work as part-time police officers) which also helps to build a positive relationship with the community; young Chinese males have lower mean testosterone levels than other racial groups, making them less prone to random aggression and violence; mean adult IQ is 106, and is inversely correlated with crime; homogeneous society correlates with high levels of trust and lack of interracial and intercultural conflict; alcohol consumption is low – many Chinese lack the enzyme required to break down alcohol, so drinking just makes them sick; drugs are around but less prevalent than in Australian cities – the high visible police presence makes life difficult for drug peddlers; Chinese tend to be accommodating towards ethnic minorities – they expect ‘foreigners’ to be ‘different’ – not wholly, but any racism is passive and not confronting – indeed, Europeans might notice inverse racism, i.e. they get special treatment because they are ‘white’, not ‘yellow’, ‘brown’ or ‘black’; when attacked, Chinese females are generally predisposed to fight back. There are other factors – most people live in high rise buildings which are relatively easy to make secure; housing estates have owners’ committees who arrange for security installations and 24 hour security guards.

    On the one occasion when I got a speeding ticket in HK, the police officer apologised to me when he handed it to me – he didn’t need to, he caught me fair and square and I deserved the penalty, but he did it anyway.

    In my home state of Western Australia, methamphetamine (‘ice’) usage is estimated at 3.8% of the population. During the commodities boom, people had a lot of disposable income from mining, and Chinese organised crime responded by flooding the state with ice manufactured in China; it is cheap and easy to manufacture, but risky – ice labs have a tendency to blow up. Local motorcycle gangs are in the business of distributing the drugs. Ice induces violent mood swings and random violence. The drug peddlers are all through the sprawling suburbs, operating around the schools and shopping centres, and very geographically dispersed through a large low population density area. The WA Premier (equivalent to state governor in America) recently announced that the government had lost the fight against ice – it was not the kind of public announcement that will get a politician re-elected, but he said it anyway, which is a measure of the seriousness of the problem. Alcohol consumption is high. The WA Police Commissioner has stated publicly that alcohol consumption is also a major societal problem. His own estranged son was injured when the ice lab that he was running in his own house blew up.

    Other Australian states are certainly not immune – for the whole of Australia, ice usage is estimated at 2% of the whole population. The inner city area of Melbourne, Australia’s ‘cultural capital’, the streets are full of ice addicts and street sleepers and people are afraid to travel on trains for fear of crazy people on the trains.

    Australian communities are very low density and very difficult to police effectively. Breaking and entering of households is a major problem. Prisons are just schools where younger prisoners are taught how to commit crimes by older criminals. Recidivism is high. Imprisoning people doesn’t work as a deterrent, sentences tend to be light, and it just takes them out of circulation for a while. The mean adult IQ of white Australians is 98.

    Australia prides itself on being a ‘successful multi-cultural society’ and on being non-racist. It is a lie. Australia is still a heavily white dominated country; the majority of migrants to Australia still come from the UK; racial minorities are expected to assimilate rapidly and there is low tolerance of people who do not speak Australian English well enough. Visible racial minorities are subjected to overt racism, which is a major problem. Racism often manifests in public as aggressive and confronting. Although Australia has no official language, people talking in public in a language other than English are likely to be subjected to aggressive confrontation – this even happened to a group of white French tourists who were happily singing French songs on public transport; they were subjected to violent confrontation. The Chinese population of Western Australia was higher in 1926 than it is now. Most Australian cities have racial gangs, and gang violence is an issue, particularly in Sydney. Racial minorities and refugees cluster in suburban enclaves. The White Australia Policy was only formally abolished in 1973 – before then, the despised minorities were Greeks, Italians and migrants from the former Yugoslavia, who were regarded as ‘non-white’.

    Australian Aboriginal people were only inducted into the national census when I was a university student – the only ‘activist’ rally I have ever taken part in, when I was a 17 year old student, was in support of inclusion of Aboriginal Australians in the national census as equal Australian citizens. The current public debate is whether the Australian constitution should be amended to recognise Aboriginal people as the ‘first people’ of Australia – you might think that’s a slam dunk as simply a statement of an obvious truth, but it’s not, the majority of white Australians appear to be opposed even to holding a referendum on the question of whether such a statement should be included in the constitution, which would require a 2/3 majority in favour to pass.

    I like numbers in preference to subjective impressions, so I keep notes on easily measurable indicators. I am also an inveterate door opener – I open doors for people, rather than barging through first. It’s a lifelong habit and I can’t change it. I have been keeping count on the proportion of people who say ‘thank you’ when I do it. In Hong Kong, when I open doors for women and children, 90% of them look me in the eye, smile and say ‘thank you’. The proportion is just as high among Mainland Chinese tourists as it is among local Chinese. They may say thank you in Cantonese, Mandarin or fractured English, but 90% of all of them do it. About 20% show some surprise, but they still say thank you. In Australia the % is zero. None. People just sail through without looking at me or speaking to me. This is not what I remember when I was a kid, but it is now the case. It’s a simple crude indicator and easy to keep score on, but I think it says something.

    I think that’s probably rant over, for the moment.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s