October Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • The New Dawn rose I’ve been pampering has almost outgrown its trellis.
  • Movie: Kubo and the Two Strings. Oddly titled Japanese fantasy story with beautiful imagery and sappy moral. Grade: Pass.
  • The UK imports roughly the same amount of tea annually as the rest of Europe combined.
  • About the Trump campaign’s response to the “just grab her” clip: me and my nerdy buddies never had those misogynistic locker-room conversations even during our lower teens. Ridiculous of him to claim “all men”.
  • In 1980 a lot of penpal ads in my kids’ mag listed Jimi Hendrix as an idol. Mom and Dad’s music…
  • When I was young I wanted to be free of obligations. In middle age and after 18 years of fatherhood, I now instead wish there were more people who need me.
  • A debate in Swedish media about whether state museums should propagate government-approved ideology reminds me that I am an Alan Sokal Leftie. If you want to be able to change society you have to have an independent method to find out what society is actually like before and after your attempts at changes. This method is called science. And museums, unless they’re art museums, should deal in solid scientific knowledge, not in Left or Right propaganda.
  • Having lived almost all my life outside Stockholm, I’m very familiar with evergreen woods, brackish inlets and ice-smoothened gneiss outcrops. I know very little of rivers, mountains and tides.
  • Selfie pro tip: when you take a picture of yourself in the mirror with your smartphone, look at the phone’s camera in the mirror. Not at your image on the phone. Why do I even have to explain this?
  • I would have an opinion on Bob Dylan’s latest prize if I thought the Swedish Academy’s taste in literary matters was a big deal. And if I cared one way or the other about Bob Dylan.
  • They’re releasing a boardgame named “Don’t Mess With Cthulhu”. This is so wrong. They’re going to get the Obvious Understatement Of The Year award.
  • Spent most of the day copy-editing an interesting paper submitted to Fornvännen. Finished off by googling a saga character that the author mentions, and found that the whole thing has already been published before in another journal. *sigh*
  • Cousin E is convinced that I will make him sleep in the yard if he doesn’t click “like” on all my Fb updates.
  • Me and Cousin E sent four adventurers into Dragon Castle. They all died.
  • I really prefer the FSM to FGM.
  • I once heard that recruiters look at where you sit down on an empty couch, as an indicator of your self-confidence. Since then I’ve been man-spreading dead centre on couches, faking it.
  • My 19 October talk about archaeology and religion in Jönköping is on YouTube (in Swedish).
  • Arlanda airport: a 1980s OKI Microline 182 dot matrix printer is still in use in gate 36.
  • I am on an ATR 72-600 aircraft.
  • Neither in Kirkwall nor Visby does the local curry place serve regional lamb. /-:

Author: Martin R

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

85 thoughts on “October Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. I attended an all male secondary school where I thought (at the time, and still now) many of the pupils had a really bad attitude towards females, but never, not once, did I hear locker-room talk of the kind Trump says all males engage in. Clearly, we don’t.

    But my daughter got really deeply pissed off with the culture of rape jokes that was prevalent at the first university she graduated from, even among those male students she had previously regarded as somewhat more enlightened in their attitudes and behaviour. Rape isn’t funny. Ever. No, my schoolmates never told any of those either, nor did my fellow male students at university, so I’m assuming this is something that has crept into modern popular culture, possibly by way of hip-hop.


  2. A lot of hip-hop lyrics are maximally incomprehensible to white middle-class men like myself, because we’re taught that overt bragging, particularly about your material possessions and your sexual conquests, marks you as an utter idiot.


  3. I tried to watch your 19 October talk, but it was hopeless – it was like you were speaking in a foreign language.

    It is too much to hope, and too much to ask, that you might deliver this talk in English some time. But if you ever do, I am a certainty to watch it.

    I do have to admire, though, the way that you can hold an audience for that length of time without the use of ‘visual aids’, and speaking freely with only occasional reference to notes. That is impressive.


  4. Speaking of aircraft, I have had a lifelong love affair with the de Havilland Mosquito – two massive piston engines with a little wooden plane attached. Has anyone ever had another such ridiculous idea that was so fabulously successful?


  5. I note some in the Swedish Academy are miffed that Bob Dylan has not responded in any way to his award. Well, what were they expecting? He clearly doesn’t care – he never has, and he has always angrily rejected the notion that he was the ‘voice of a generation’ or ‘conscience of a generation’ or some kind of ‘great poet’. He has maintained a career-long consistent position, from which he has never wavered, that he is just an entertainer – as he put it on one occasion “a song and dance man.” He’s also clearly barking mad.


  6. Second after the Mosquito, I would have to name the Bristol Beaufighter, I think, which the Australian air force used with such devastating effect in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea to inflict devastating losses on the Japanese (with a bit of American help, it must be acknowledged).


  7. In the ‘no shit, Sherlock’ category:


    One day I really want to see a headline quoting ‘researchers’ saying “Well, actually, it’s all a lot simpler than previously thought. We humans really have a way of complicating things with our dumb theories that are actually pretty simple.”

    The other headline I doubt I will ever see is “This is fully understood. No more research is needed.”


  8. Regarding the typhoon, on occasions like that, it might be useful to have a second home in that place in Southern Australia where they mine opals. Precipitation 120 mm/year, making the the ground consist of “silcrete” so people can live in bona fide man-made caves (dugouts).
    — — — —
    It should not surprise anyone that the Air Ministry initially showed no interest in the Mosquito. they even tried to get De Havilland to add a gun turret, wich would have ruined the performance.
    But the Mosquito was not easy to fly. And hard to bail out of. Still, infinitely safer than those lumbering unescorted bombers whose wrecks supplied Luftwaffe with aluminium for fighter production.
    — — — — —
    The Beaufighter used the wings of the older Beaufort torpedo bomber. The thick wing profile cut down the maximum speed quite a bit, but the Aircraft was versatile.


  9. Post-glacial uplift will keep coastal Swedish towns safe when all the luxury beachfrot homes in California and Florida are engulfed. Serves them right for supporting climate denialists. Too bad about the people in the Sundarbans and other coastal third-world regions.
    — — — —
    By the way, it was a British upper-class twit that supplied the Japanese with the intelligence they needed for their aircrft deveopment program. Churchill later protected him from legal consequences, since it would have been bad if people lost faith in their betters.


  10. Marin, calm rivers (as the ones in the south) are nice. rapids, less so. As I grew up, one of the friends of my sister drowned a few hundred yards from our house .The river near Umeå takes lives because the turbulent, fast flowing current is stonger than any swimmer


  11. Birger@10 – You refer to Coober Pedy, a curious name that ceases to seem so strange when you know the Aboriginal name that it derived from.

    I could never live there – just too perishingly hot and dry. And too much of a gender imbalance – but then, I grew up in Western Australia, which has a similarly undesirable gender imbalance. On reflection, I showed uncharacteristic good sense in getting out of the place, although I subsequently made two abortive attempts to return there to live. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why, now.

    Besides, opals are bad luck. Never let anyone give you one. They’re also overrated in their decorative appeal, in my opinion.


  12. British upper class twits have a lot to answer for. Edward VIII was clearly a Nazi sympathiser. His younger brother proved to be of sterner stuff, once he had overcome his speech impediment (if you ever get the chance to watch it, The King’s Speech is an outstandingly good film, and historically very accurate).


  13. The other headline I doubt I will ever see is “This is fully understood. No more research is needed.”

    In the 1890s people who were considering going into physics research were told that basic physics was completely understood, there were only a few details to be wrapped up. One of the students who was supposedly told this was Max Planck. One of the handful of details that still needed to be worked out was the radiation of black bodies. Planck solved that problem in 1901 by postulating that light came in discrete units he called quanta.

    Planck’s solution was mostly ignored until Albert Einstein pointed out in 1905 that Planck’s quanta could also explain the photoelectric effect: metals will emit electrons when illuminated if and only if the wavelength of the light is less than or equal to a critical value which depends on the metal. That was the work the Nobel Committee cited in awarding Einstein the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.


  14. Birger@15: The Senate was established as a compromise 200 years ago to ensure that smaller states would have a voice. Pretty much the whole country was agrarian back then.

    The bigger issue for now is the US House. Current consensus is that Clinton would have to win the popular vote by at least 8 percentage points for the Democrats to take over the House; if she wins by only 6 points, the Republicans would likely retain control of the House despite fewer votes. Your link describes how that is done: you pack as many of your political opponents as you can into as few districts as you can while giving your party majorities in as many districts as you can. This also happens on the state legislature level. Some states, such as North Carolina, are particularly egregious: it is possible for Republicans to retain a veto-proof majority in the state legislature with a minority of the vote.

    The prototypical gerrymander is this state senate district created in Essex County, Massachusetts, in 1812. The term combines the name of the then Governor, Elbridge Gerry, with salamander, an animal that some commentators compared the district with. The cartoon depicts municipal boundaries as they were at the time (some townships have since been split); it was then standard practice (and still is in New Hampshire) to draw political district boundaries along municipal boundaries.

    Rotten boroughs as such do not currently exist in the US, although there were some in places like Florida in the 1950s. Some states were slow to adjust district boundaries to reflect changes in population distribution; at one point 18% of Florida’s population could elect majorities in both houses of the state legislature, because the allocation of districts did not take into account the influx of population to the Miami area after World War II.

    I also suspect that rotten boroughs continued to exist in the UK into the late 19th century; the character in HMS Pinafore who is in charge of Her Majesty’s Navy brags of having been sent into Parliament by a “pocket borough”, a district in which one person effectively decided who the MP was. A couple of years ago some businessmen in Missouri accidentally created a pocket borough by creating a special taxing district that they thought had no voters, when in fact there was exactly one voter in the district. Missouri law requires the voters, if there are any, to approve increases in local sales taxes–the merchants wanted a higher sales tax for some unspecified reason.


  15. Serves them right for supporting climate denialists.

    That might be a fair comment about the Florida state government, but California has been out in front of the rest of the US on this issue. Not that California doesn’t have climate denialists, but those voters tend to live in counties that don’t border the ocean.

    At some point in the next hundred years I will likely have oceanfront property. I’ll probably be dead by the time it happens, but that won’t be good news for the heirs/purchasers of my house. My county also does not border the ocean, though we do have an inland bay.


  16. “Having lived almost all my life outside Stockholm, I’m very familiar with evergreen woods, brackish inlets and ice-smoothened gneiss outcrops. I know very little of rivers, mountains and tides.”

    So, clearly, you would be familiar with rivers, mountains, and tides if you had lived inside Stockholm all your life. 🙂


  17. Eric@16 – I was definitely not thinking of Physics when I wrote that. To paraphrase something Stephen Hawking said “When we know everything, we will be God.”

    I was taking a potshot at psychologists and ‘social scientists’, who keep churning out papers containing results that are unrepeatable. Something like 80% of their papers are subsequently shown to be just plain wrong or their results cannot be repeated by researchers repeating the same experiments; and they inevitable summarise by concluding that “more research is needed.”

    I read somewhere in some Australian publication the other day that “one in four people are mentally ill.” What utter crap. Talk about crap-talkers trying to create a paid niche for themselves. I have spent enough time inside psychiatric hospitals to know the ways in which genuinely mentally ill people behave. Those folks are crazy. The large majority of people are not mentally ill, at least not seriously disturbed enough to be classified as mentally ill; nowhere close. Being a bit neurotic or suffering from depression now and again don’t qualify as being crazy; those conditions fall within the spectrum of the normal human condition.

    If psychologists and social scientists are wrong and useless, which most of them are, why should they be paid for being wrong and useless?


  18. New report finds substantial racial, linguistic segregation among preschoolers http://phys.org/news/2016-10-substantial-racial-linguistic-segregation-preschoolers.html

    Many black americans speak a bona fde pidgin language dating back to the slave years. There was a big debate some decade ago by cultural conservatives who wanted to sweep the issue under the carpet, but denial of this fact makes integration at school harder.
    For instance, immigrant children from, say Finland will need tutoring in Swedish Before they can take full dvantage of a Swedish-language school, likewise people who have grown up with a pidgin variant will require extra tutoring in English.


  19. Birger@23 – A lot of Aboriginal children in remote communities in northern Australia do not speak English. Brilliant idea! – it’s OK, we’ll teach them in their native language, and teach them English as a language subject.

    Educational outcome – dismal failure, despite a lot of very well intentioned and motivated people trying very hard to make this work.

    It’s nonsense. Before she began attending kndergarten, my daughter spoke only English, because my wife insisted that she wanted our daughter to speak English with ‘mother tongue’ fluency. So then when she was 3.5 years old, we enrolled her in an otherwise 100% Chinese, Cantonese-speaking only kindergarten, and my wife then started speaking to her in Cantonese – in retrospect, it was a cruel thing to do to a small child, because her initial lack of understanding of Cantonese singled her out, and made her a target for racism *by the kindergarten teacher* (note – not by the other kids; not until the kindergarten teacher had taught the other kids that my daugher was different and ‘not Chinese’ – even then, her best pal outside of kindergarten refused to discriminate against her). But within 6 months she was speaking fluent Cantonese, and never mixed Cantonese with English, i.e. she never confused the two languages: when she spoke Cantonese, she spoke good Cantonese with no accent; when she spoke English she spoke good English with no accent.

    OK, sample of one, but the exception disproves the rule. It’s crap – language is not holding black children back from integrating at school if they start young enough.

    What you will find, if you dig into it, is that a lot of racism is perpetrated against kids in kindergarten and primary school, and it is perpetrated *by the teachers*. It happens, a lot. I compared notes with Razib Khan, who confirmed to me that he faced discrimination in his early educational years for having brown skin, and it was perpetrated *by the teachers* – the other kids didn’t discriminate until they learned to *from the teachers*.

    It happens. It happens a lot.

    At the age of 3 or 4, kids are little sponges – they soak up language like you wouldn’t believe. They don’t need extra tutoring, except maybe to ease their way in a bit easier than my daughter had to do. But what they really need are *teachers who do not treat them differently on the grounds of race*.

    When I was a kid, I had a neighbour who was a Swedish guy married to an Australian woman. They had two young daughters, who spoke only English. At a certain point, they decided they were going to go and live in Sweden. Within two years, they were back, basically because the wife couldn’t get to first base with learning Swedish and was suffering. But both of the kids came back to Australia speaking fluent Swedish, having never been tutored in the language.

    If you think I feel strongly about this issue, you would be dead right. You need to be *very* careful about who it is who is teaching your kids when they are very young – very often, by the nature of the job, these teachers are not too bright, and they inflict their racist attitudes on the kids.


  20. The reason why I am concerned is, in USA the authorities have typical paternalistic attitudes towards pople of colour, and would prefer to wipe out any distinguishing cultural im tems. In Sweden, children of Finn-speaking parents in the region near the Finn border were forbidden to speak their own language in school, even on recess, on pain of corporal punishment.


  21. Exoplanets: A rare opportunity for planet hunting in Alpha Centauri A predicted for 2028 http://phys.org/news/2016-10-rare-opportunity-planet-alpha-centauri.html
    12 years is a short time when planning and launching space missions. I hope they launch space telescopes and send them out of the plane of the ecliptic so they can get the maximum information from the gravity microlensing as the line of sight sweeps through the solar system.
    To get many “pixels” you need a line of telescopes situated orthogonal to the movement of the microlensing focus.


  22. World’s oldest giant panda in captivity dies in Hong 😦

    Drug target for triple-negative breast cancer found in new study 🙂

    Earth-sized planets with abundant water statistically likely around red dwarfs (alas, “bottomless” oceans mean there is no dry land) http://phys.org/news/2016-10-earth-sized-planets-abundant-statistically-red.html Hmmm…..set up a giant impact to splatter away the water, the way the material forming the moon was the ejected outer layer of the Earth?


  23. Birger@25 – There are reasons. Black male culture is anti-education. They speak Ebonics, which does not date back to the days of slavery, it is a recent invention as a deliberate part of creating their own black sub-culture – it did not exist in the 1950s, even in the areas where there was segregation. There is no problem with them wanting their own sub-culture as such, or at least I don’t see one, but when it is underpinned by rejection of education and deliberate ‘dumbing down’ as part of being ‘manly’, it obviously becomes problematic, including being very problematic for themselves later in life.

    Black women in America are substantially outperforming black men in terms of academic achievement, at least in part because of this self-destructive male sub-culture. As a consequence they are also outperforming the men in employment and many other ways.

    I don’t see any parallel here with Finns in Sweden. None at all. There are any number of African Americans with slave ancestors who speak General American as well as anyone. The ‘pidgin’ story is simply not credible. And this story is not about trying to ban school students from speaking to each other in Ebonics, it is about integration into the education system.

    No one in America that I know of objects to Hispanic kids in school speaking to each other in Spanish in the playground.

    This is yet another creation of social scientists/education ‘experts’. Black male kids are perfectly capable of learning to speak General American English if they want to, but they don’t want to. They choose to set themselves apart. The black female kids don’t have a problem.


  24. Birger@33 – Well, it *was* the world’s oldest. It had to die some time. It had stopped eating, and was clearly suffering. Letting animals suffer is not a good thing.


  25. When William the Conqueror died, he was so fat that they couldn’t fit him into his coffin. When they tried to force his body in, it split.

    He must have eaten more than his fair share of cake after Hastings, then. Because at Hastings he was a capable fighter and leader who led from the front and had no less than three horses killed from under him.


  26. Black male kids are perfectly capable of learning to speak General American English if they want to, but they don’t want to. They choose to set themselves apart. The black female kids don’t have a problem.

    This is, of course, an oversimplification. It’s true that some black male kids do learn to speak standard American English, and these kids often go on to do well in school and in careers. But they still face prejudice from white society. “Driving while black” is an issue in much of the US.

    But more importantly, anti-education attitudes are not restricted to black males. You also see attitudes like that among rural whites: men more than women, although both genders are affected. The traps of poverty and drug addiction are affecting these people as badly, if not worse than, inner city predominantly black neighborhoods. There are de-industrialized mill towns in northern New England where I would be more afraid to walk alone at night than I would in most neighborhoods of Boston or Manhattan. And the drug of choice in rural New England is heroin, not meth, which is prevalent in many parts of the southern and western US and can be a great deal worse.

    This divide is reflected in US politics. The split between Republicans and Democrats is mostly (there are a few prominent exceptions like Vermont) rural versus urban. Even within states that tend to be one way or the other, you see this divide: Washington State tends to vote for Democrats in statewide elections because the Puget Sound region, where most of the people live, tend to vote for Democrats, while the rest of the state, especially east of the Cascades, is moderately to strongly Republican. Meanwhile, Kentucky’s big cities (Louisville and Lexington) aren’t big enough to offset the rural vote, so the Democrats of the cities tend to lose statewide to rural Republicans. Most of the rural folks seem to want things to stay this way. The ones who don’t end up moving to the cities.


  27. Birger, think about what it is you are saying – that since the abolition of slavery, African Americans have not had enough intelligence to learn to speak American English. That idea would not only be outrageously racist, it simply isn’t true. Even if they were, in effect, learning it as a second language, it would not be true.

    It is true that on average that African American males continue to lag white American males somewhat on academic achievement, but not to a degree that would suggest they are idiots. Nowhere anywhere near that. And how come this ‘pidgin’ problem does not afflict African American females?


  28. Maybe his horses died from being overloaded, I dunno.

    There is a story told of President William Taft, who weighed in at about 160 kg. One of his ambassadors sent a cable inquiring about Taft’s health. He replied that he was fine, and had been out horse riding. The ambassador responded: “How is the horse?”


  29. Eric@39 – Of course they face prejudice from white society. My daughter faces prejudice from white society.

    She also tends to face prejudice from Chinese society, until she opens her mouth – once fluent Chinese language comes out, they forget what she looks like, and Chinese culture takes over, so the prejudice evaporates.

    She speaks English a damn sight better than most Australian whites, but that doesn’t make them any less prejudiced against her – if anything, it makes them more prejudiced. She speaks English like Queen Elizabeth II, and with a much better working vocabulary than they have, and they really resent her for it. Upstart Chink – who does she think she is?


  30. She speaks English like Queen Elizabeth II, and with a much better working vocabulary than they have, and they really resent her for it. Upstart Chink – who does she think she is?

    Change a couple of details, and this would describe a big chunk of the political opposition to Barack Obama. There was a conspiracy theory, which should have been fringe but was kept prominent by certain media types, that Obama was born in Kenya. Obama was actually born in Hawaii, though his father was Kenyan. You can hear the Midwestern US accent in his speech–he got that from his mother, who grew up in Kansas. And he has a far better command of English than most Americans, even some who are highly educated. Needles to say, they call him uppity.


  31. Many of the regulars here publish papers in journals, so this Tumblr might be of interest: Sh!t My Reviewers Say

    A sampler:

    The manuscript is too long for what the authors have to say. However, additional text is required as outlined below


  32. #44 – There are even times when she speaks English like Queen Elizabeth I, but she tries to suppress those (not always successfully). I double up with laughter whenever she starts talking like someone from the 19th Century – blame the Brontë sisters for that.

    She is the only person I know who has read the whole of the Analects of Confucius, in Chinese obviously, just so she can call bullshit on Chinese people who try to pretend to know more than they do about what they claim as their cultural heritage, while asserting that she can’t possibly know as much as them because she is not ‘real Chinese’. She also throws people by quoting verbatim from Chinese classical literature.

    She had read the whole Bible (OT+NT) from beginning to end by the time she was 11, then managed to get herself in very deep shit in Religious Education class. Teacher: “Noah was a very good man.” Daughter pipes up: “Noah’s daughters got him drunk and then had sex with him. I don’t think that’s very good, do you?” Oops. Needless to say, she did not win praise from the teacher for Bible knowledge for that effort. No, she got punished for knowing too much. Making a display in front of the whole class that you know more than the teacher does is never really a good strategy.

    Now she’s learning French, German and Russian in her ‘spare time’, while engaged in very full and arduous post-grad programme. (Her logic was that she wanted to include one Romance language, one Germanic language and one Slavic language – seems reasonable.) So now I’m getting emails from her in Russian. Her recent reference to something being ‘Potemkin’ had me head-scratching, until I found out what ‘Potemkin villages’ were. Basically ‘false fronts only for show’. It’s a useful concept, once you know it.


  33. You might get the impression from this that she is into Literature. No, she’s definitely STEM – did a double major in Biochemistry and Genetics. Now she has fallen in love with Mathematics, which is definitely not a bad thing.


  34. “not had enough intelligence to learn to speak American English”

    NO!!! I am referring to the local, spoken language in “pockets” mostly inhabited by african-americans, where you find elewments from the old slave pidgin. They obviously speak “ordinary” English with the outside world, just as the “Amish” speak English -instead of plattdeutsh- with the outside world.

    This variant also has elements borrowed from Northern England, because the earliest slaves worked side by side with “transported” English convicts (I forget the English world for temporarily unfree labor that must work off a debt).

    The language remain because culture is resilient, just like many cajun who still speak french among themselves!
    — — — — — — — — —

    In an unsurprising development, a highly placed member of a particular church in Australia is under suspicion of being a sexual predator.

    Iran rocked by abuse allegations against top Qur’an reciter https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/26/iran-abuse-allegations-quran-reciter-saeed-toosi


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