July Pieces Of My Mind #3

  • Excavation finished, team scattered. Now for three weeks’ vacation!
  • This Walter Jon Williams story has two Andean pan pipe bands and a Californian figure swimming troupe that all operate as secret intelligence agents.
  • Interesting jetsam around the shores of the island today. The flip-flop was pretty good. But the rifled camera bag was exceptional. It contained only a wallet, a little fabric case and a blister pack for hypertension medication, all empty. But the case is branded for a camera dealer in Busan, South Korea.
  • I like cormorants. In fact, I think it’s more important that cormorants do well in the Baltic than that professional fishermen do. The latter can re-train and do something else. Cormorants can’t. They’re pretty stupid. But I like them.
  • Junior went to Japan yesterday and I’m reading a Japanese spec-fic crime anthology.
  • As of today, I’m the father of two teenagers. Happy birthday, Jrette!
  • I’ve seen the beavers and seals repopulate my area. Now it seems the foxes are coming back too!
  • Junior attains majority today! He’s taken time off from his summer coding job and gone to Japan with his buddy from his mom’s late-90s maternity group. Love you, man!
  • Haha, Junior’s school just kicked me out of the online call-in-sick and check-for-homework system!
  • Awoke with bad toddler withdrawal.
  • I’m not 24 hour party people. I’m half an hour party people.
The Stockholm Lock is finally being re-done!
The Stockholm Lock is finally being re-done!

Author: Martin R

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

41 thoughts on “July Pieces Of My Mind #3”

  1. Did the wallet have any means of identifying the owner?
    — — — — — —
    Suggestion: “biohack” bacteria so they can feed off the stuff in cormorant guano that is toxic to trees.
    — — — — — — — – —
    We cannot buy assault rifles at Wal-Mart, so when we go berserk with rage we have to use whatever is available.
    (grabs dead badger) “THUD!”
    Angry Swede walks into McDonald’s carrying a deceased badger http://www.thelocal.se/20160801/a-swede-walks-into-mcdonalds-with-a-dead-badger


  2. Birger@1: Remember, dead badgers don’t kill people, people do.

    Personally, I think it would be better to arm bears than to bear arms.


  3. Martin, I believe I misled you when I said that steppe herders migrated into Europe in the late Bronze Age. I get very confused about when the Bronze Age happened where. The migration actually happened starting in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age (not early Bronze Age in Scandinavia), with the migration of the Yamnaya Culture, over the period from about 4,800 BP to about 3,000 BP, which became the Corded Ware Culture and Bell Beaker Culture in Europe.

    One interesting thing, which I think is a really recent discovery which I had not appreciated before, is that those steppe people who migrated into Europe carried with them Yersinia pestis, which was previously unknown in Europe. So it looks possible the population replacement that occurred with this migration may have resulted, or was assisted, at least in part by epidemic disease. But they also had the wheel and domesticated horses, so it seems possible that population replacement could have occurred as a combination of epidemic disease and military superiority, basically everywhere in Europe except in Sardinia and to a lesser extent in Sicily.

    This short lecture gives a very good potted explanation of the waves of migration into Europe that led to the genetic make-up of modern Europeans, and incidentally, although it is not covered in the lecture, the prevalence of Indo-European languages:

    Also, congratulations to Jrette on surviving for 13 years.


  4. I have not yet watched the whole lecture series (which I intend to do soon as time permits), but it looks like a very good source for people looking to get up to speed on ancient human origins:

    Unfortunately, there is nothing there on East Asians, which is not surprising, because genetic work on the origin of East Asians has lagged badly behind other parts of the world. However, I believe this deficiency will start to be made up soon.


  5. Those steppe migrants about 3000 cal BC may have brought the domesticated horse. But the wheel was already known in Scandinavia. And what you really need for military superiority is organisation in large social units and specialised labour division, i.e. trained soldiers. These traits where probably not present yet.


  6. The dominant Y haplogroups in Europe come from the Yamnaya. R1a is dominant in northern Europe including Scandinavia. R1b is dominant in western Europe. That tells a story. Those star-like phylogenies follow a pattern everywhere they occur – in central Asia and in east Asia, as well as Europe.

    My Y DNA is R1b, and yet my mtDNA is from a European hunter-gatherer, but which now occurs rarely in most of Europe, at a frequency of only about 5%.


  7. The brilliant British satirical TV series “In the Red” is finally available on DVD! One of the best drama/comedy series ever.


  8. Birger@9: I sometimes listen to, and have in the past performed, 20th century classical music. I’ll admit that for Westerners it is an acquired taste, since it makes far heavier use of dissonance than earlier classical music or most Western popular music. But it’s possible to acclimate oneself to these dissonances, and even to find some of them pleasing. So the conclusion of this paper I find to be in the “water is wet” category.


  9. There is a fair amount of dissonance in Flamenco guitar music, or I should say in some of the traditional forms of Flamenco, which seem naturally regarded as an essential element of the forms. Some of the chords that I learn in Flamenco pieces would never appear in mainstream popular of folk European music because they sound too dissonant/discordant to European ears. I am guessing that these were inherited from either the Gypsy or the Arabic roots which contributed to modern Flamenco (noting that the ‘Gypsies’ originated in northern India). With long enough exposure, I have found that they have ceased to sound dissonant and have become pleasurable, to the point that I seek them out to add ‘spice’ to the music.


  10. So, what it means to be in my Netflix ‘geography’ is to be drowned in Bollywood movies, and to be starved of the British movies and TV series that I love.

    I guess that to Netflix, Asia is Asia, and the biggest audience in Asia is…yep. And they just raised my subscription fees, which they charge me in Euros. Huh?


  11. A Swedish-British documentary about recent viking research showed the remarkable results you can get by using commercially available satellite imagery in the near infra-red:
    Resolution ten inches, spotting stony foundations and even peat foundations hidden under ordinary soil.


  12. John@15: It’s true that a lot of Americans are geographically clueless when it comes to the rest of the world. In my area there are hardly any purely Chinese restaurants left: many restaurants try to cover both Japanese and Chinese cuisine, and usually end up doing neither one well because those cuisines are quite different. Yes, both make heavy use of rice and are eaten with chopsticks, but the similarities end there. And that’s even before you recognize that China doesn’t have a single national cuisine, but rather 8-10 different regional cuisines (some of which use wheat rather than rice).

    But a company like Netflix should know better. Offering you lots of movie choices in Mandarin or Cantonese would be an understandable mistake, since you are in Hong Kong and those languages are widely spoken there. But those languages aren’t even distantly related to any of the major languages of India, which are Indo-European (in the north) or Dravidian (in the south).

    I found that Japan resembles western Europe more than it does China or Vietnam. There is a definite Asian flavor, yes, but public transit works very well there, and most of the major train systems are signed in romaji. The extent of Western influence is not nearly as highly visible in Beijing (I’ve never been to Hong Kong, which is probably much more British than mainland China is), and less visible still in Vietnam.


  13. Birger@20 – the history of the Chinese civilization has just been shortened by 200-300 years, which will not necessarily please them, although confirmation as fact of what some regarded as a mythical event that occurred before the start of written records will be taken as heartening. There is no written evidence for the existence of the Xia Dynasty, which is regarded as apocryphal by some, although there is ample written and other material evidence of the Shang Dynasty (although no one knows what sort of people the Shang ruling class were).

    Eric@19 – I have figured out why I get billed by Netflix in Euros – I subscribed to Netflix via a VPN before it was available in Hong Kong, so only have myself to blame. Subsequently, after Netflix became available in Hong Kong, they began detecting users who were using VPNs and routinely cutting them off from content not available within our ‘geography’, so I had no choice but to unsubscribe from the VPN I was using and give up on it.

    As for Netflix catering for Indian sub-continent tastes in programming available in my region, I see that as a purely commercial decision on their part – the could offer programming in Mandarin and Cantonese (and have done to a very limited extent), but clearly realise that the real money lies in India. Either way, people who want English language programme choices are going to tend to lose out, although there are substantial numbers of potential subscribers in both India and Greater China who would want a reasonable choice of English language programming.

    By the way, the series “Vikings” is crap – I recommend you don’t watch it. I watched the whole thing, and it did have a few historical things right, but the historical inaccuracies accumulated throughout the series to the point where I began to find them seriously irritating.

    The one the finally really got to me was that they had a Saxon army using horse-mounted cavalry against an army of Vikings invading Wessex. The Saxons never used cavalry. They may have used horses to get to the battle field, but then dismounted to fight, very much like the Australian Light Horse during the Boer War and Great War, who were mounted infantry, not cavalry (one of the last successful cavalry charges in history, before the machine gun turned them into an act of mass suicide, was the cavalry charge by the Australian Light Horse to capture the wells at Beersheba from the German-led Turks, but it was something they were not supposed to do, and they were not armed with cavalry weapons, so had to use their bayonettes to substitute for cavalry sabres or lances – which must have looked frankly ridiculous). In fact, one of the great historical ironies is that, before the Norman invasion of England, the Normans had tried to teach the Saxons about the use of cavalry in battle, but the Saxons were just not interested. The Battle of Hastings was a close-run affair, and it seems likely that the thing that tipped it in favour of the Normans was the use of cavalry tactics to disrupt and diminish the Saxon shield wall.


  14. Chatty and conversational, but therefore easily accessible and worth a read:
    I don’t know if the author knew when he wrote that, that the Yamnaya carried the Plague with them, which conceivably could have helped to empty out some of the space in Europe that they were expanding into. It’s a familiar pattern in more recent history – Europeans invading the Americas, Pacific Islands and Australia, with subsequent very high fatality rates among the indigenous peoples they invaded due to imported diseases to which they had no immunity.


  15. And in another world first for China, Chinese swimmer pisses purple.

    Meanwhile, I was entertained to discover that my two favourite female runners, Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba (who holds the 1500m outdoor world record, as well as a bunch of indoor world records) and American Allyson Felix (arguably the greatest female 200m runner of all time) talk to each other on Twitter.

    Well, it doesn’t take much to keep me entertained these days.


  16. This is Genzebe breaking the outdoor 1500m world record in July which, as she commented after the race, had existed since before she was born, having been set by one of the infamous “Ma’s Army” of Chinese distance runners. She didn’t just break the record, she smashed it by more than 4 seconds.


  17. And in another world first for America, Matt Damon saves China from ‘monsters’ north of the Great Wall.

    Constance Wu needs to get a grip – Chinese don’t count as ‘people of colour’ (POC) – skin reflectance measurements show that Chinese are just as ‘white’ as Europeans (they just have slightly less pink in the skin reflectance spectrum, giving rise to the ridiculous mass delusion that East Asians are ‘yellow’), and generally look down on POCs as inferior, so she can expect little solidarity with Chinese from real POCs.

    Zhang Yimou tells the truth – Damon is a plant in the film to make it appeal to American audiences, as a way to get American audiences more interested in Chinese films. Judging from the official trailer, it is more likely to appeal to leather freaks.


  18. Meanwhile, at work, I have been asked to write a case study on Minamata Disease. I don’t know any more than the next person about human afflictions, but I do know a bit about anthropogenic contamination of marine sediments.

    I would just about prefer to cut off my right arm than to write this piece. I feel like calling it “Japanese behaving badly”. If you read up on the dreadful history of the contamination of Minamata Bay and its consequences for the victims of methylmercury poisoning, you might understand why.

    Meanwhile, the WHO recommend not eating seafood more than twice per week. The contaminant of concern in seafood is not metallic mercury, it is methylmercury, which is an organometallic cation of mercury, highly bio-available in the marine environment, and a cumulative toxin which results in truly awful symptoms, including death. It is transmitted to unborn children, so pregnant women should be especially wary of eating too much seafood.

    A while back, I encountered a pregnant woman who thought she was doing the right thing for her baby by eating a diet high in canned tuna – like, every day. I needed to warn her off it, but I don’t know if she listened or not.


  19. “Mum horrified by internet hoax from 2008”
    More from The Daily Mash: “F**king Teletubbies earning more than you”
    “Controlling psycho bitch has problem with boyfriend getting wasted every night”, “Women’s beach volleyball not actually sexy unless you are weird”,
    “Viruses having awesome summer at festivals”.
    “DNC Speech: ‘I Am Proud To Say I Walked In On Bill And Hillary Having Sex’


  20. Worse than Trump: “Philippines leader calls US ambassador ‘gay son of a whore’ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/10/philippines-leader-calls-us-ambassador-gay-son-of-a-whore-prompting-summons
    “Kissinger hindered US effort to end mass killings in Argentina, according to files”! https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/09/henry-kissinger-mass-killings-argentina-declassified-files (this is Hillary’s old friend, BTW)
    “Israeli MP floats law to protect Netanyahu from criminal inquiries” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/10/israel-law-protect-benjamin-netanyahu-criminal-inquiries-david-amsalem


  21. Constance Wu needs to get a grip – Chinese don’t count as ‘people of colour’ (POC) – skin reflectance measurements show that Chinese are just as ‘white’ as Europeans (they just have slightly less pink in the skin reflectance spectrum, giving rise to the ridiculous mass delusion that East Asians are ‘yellow’), and generally look down on POCs as inferior, so she can expect little solidarity with Chinese from real POCs.

    I don’t doubt that it works this way in China. But Ms. Wu usually works in the US, and that’s not how it works over here. The discrimination against ethnic East Asians is not as blatant as what black and Hispanic people have to deal with, but it’s definitely there. The Chinese are the only nationality to have been specifically banned by law from immigrating to the US (the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 19th century). Several US states saw pogroms against Chinese communities in the 19th century. Americans of Japanese ancestry were forced into internment camps during World War II. Americans of Asian descent hear Donald Trump and other Republican politicians make racist statements about Mexicans and understand that these politicians are talking about them, too.


  22. Eric@35 – That doesn’t make them People of Colour, or give them any common cause with African Americans. Constance Wu is trying to use the label to push some agenda. OK, maybe she resents the European powers dominating and ‘humiliating’ China in the 19th Century, but it’s over, and she needs to get over it.

    For what it’s worth, East Asians in the USA earn higher mean income than whites. Equating themselves with Hispanics would be fatuous, and trying to equate themselves with African Americans even more so.


  23. I suspect her beef is that she resents a white guy being chosen to play a lead role in a Chinese-American film production because she thinks that there are not enough roles for East Asian women in American films. Well, she chooses to work there, presumably for a reason.

    She might not have noticed that in the all-Chinese film production “Mulan” (which is well worth watching if you ever get a chance) there was a white guy – a Russian that no one ever heard of. I don’t recall any Chinese people bitching about that, but then I doubt the film was watched much in America.


  24. I just checked out Constance Wu’s photos online, and think I know why she works in America. She would be considered very unattractive by Chinese people, just like Lucy Liu is. She’s trying to push the ‘POC solidarity’ line to give her career a boost, and that sucks.

    I know it might seem like it in the USA right now, but not everything is about Trump all the time.


  25. Serial posting (it’s an affliction) – aside from the restrictive quotas placed on East Asians gaining entry to prestigious universities like Harvard (a form of reverse ‘affirmative action’), in fact East Asians seem to be doing rather well in America relative to whites, and I don’t see that they have too much to whine about. Obviously, some feel that the ‘lack of diversity’ in American cinema is an issue, but on an individual level that could just come down to the actor not being a good enough actor or attractive enough to get roles. Certain notable male African American actors seem to pop up in American movies repeatedly. Black women are noticeably less well represented. Halle Berry was doing OK for a while, but blew it with Catwoman, which has to be one of the worst American films ever made.

    Curiously, black women seem to do a lot better in UK productions than they do in America. A lot of the Netflix English productions set in London (e.g. Sherlock, Luther) feature black actresses pretty prominently.

    Other than that, I don’t see that East Asians in America have too much to whine about; illegal migration of East Asians does not appear to be a common public concern. I don’t see any commonalities between East Asians and the issues for Mexicans in America, although Constance Wu is obviously trying hard to construct some; again, I can’t help feeling this is self-interest on her part, and therefore not worth paying attention to. IOW, I think she is trying to jump on the anti-Trump band wagon for her own benefit. I doubt many Mexicans see her as ‘just like them’, and I’m damned sure African Americans don’t, unless it happens to fit some political agenda.

    OT, and speaking of the worst films ever made, my award for the worst film ever goes to the Japanese film Schoolgirl Apocalypse. It’s worth watching just to see how truly bad a film can be.


  26. John, the point of a dogwhistle is that the intended audience can hear it, but other people can’t. You have not, to my knowledge, actually lived in the US. I am a white American and therefore part of the intended audience, even though I strongly disagree with the message.

    In this case “Mexicans” refer to foreigners generally, especially those of non-European ancestry. Not all of the foreigners entering the US from Mexico, legally or otherwise, are Mexicans: many come from points further south, and perhaps some come from across the Pacific. Many Americans don’t realize that a large fraction of illegal immigrants in the US are people who entered legally and then overstayed their visas.

    This is about prejudice, so rationality has no role in it. Many Americans want to go back to an imagined past where white people were in charge and people of non-European ancestry, if present knew their place. The tell is the different attitudes toward European immigrants, such as Donald Trump’s first wife Ivana (from what was then Czechoslovakia) and current wife Melania (from Slovenia).

    There are still people alive who remember the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu in the original Star Trek series, was one of them (he was a child at the time). He recently made a video, in fluent Spanish with English subtitles, addressing his Spanish-speaking fans, about what he went through and the danger that it might happen again if Trump is elected.

    We also know from history that once the government starts “othering” certain groups of people based on their ancestry, it doesn’t stop with the first group(s). Indians only had it slightly better than blacks in apartheid South Africa. During World War II Germans went after Slavs with the same gusto they went after Jews (the difference in outcomes was largely because there were many more of the former). Here in the US, Jim Crow laws and “sundown towns” are within living memory. Until 1967 it was just as illegal in many states for someone of Asian ancestry to marry someone without Asian ancestry as for black people to marry white people. The sentiments behind those laws never entirely went away, and Donald Trump is bringing them back to the surface.


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