March Pieces Of My Mind #2

In the foreground, a characteristic Swedish archaeological site of the 20th century: the abandoned municipal ski slope. Its construction, use and abandonment all post-date the still-in-use 1913 building in the background.
In the foreground, a characteristic Swedish archaeological site of the 20th century: the abandoned municipal ski slope. Its construction, use and abandonment all post-date the still-in-use 1913 building in the background.
  • “Qualitative research” seems largely to mean “anecdotal material with no statistical representativity”.
  • I’m starting a support group for people who think the novel American Gods is not great, not bad, not particularly memorable.
  • Woah-ho, dude. Lucid dreaming is when you train yourself to a) know that you’re dreaming, b) direct events in the dream. This researcher has learned to use a brain-computer interface to move a graphic block on his computer screen. Now he’s falling asleep with the headband on and moving that block from inside lucid dreams.
  • The YWCA is named Kay-Fuck in Swedish. The YMCA is named Kay-Fum.
  • I knew that democratic countries never declare war on each other. Now I learn that democracies also never suffer severe famine. It’s not a normative statement. It’s an historical fact.
  • Listened to a podcast where a colleague probably tried to say that he avoids any reductive treatment of Native Americans, but actually consistently said “reductionist”.
  • This detectorist I’ve been corresponding with has had a hard time convincing his local museum that what he’s found is pretty damn important. I’m proud to say that I realised immediately what he had turned up. And now the guy has made further finds on the site that will make him impossible to ignore…
  • To the chagrin of certain teenagers, a broad coalition of local parents have negotiated a unified bid for when tonight’s exciting party is ending: at midnight.
  • There’s a huge recent amateurish mural in this auditorium. Wonder if it will one day be rediscovered behind plasterboard and treated as a valuable piece of cultural heritage. Dear great grandchildren, let me tell you that the generation that commissioned it thinks that it’s embarrassing junk.
  • Movie: Sicario. Policewoman becomes spectator / viewpoint character in the CIA’s obscure war against Mexican drug cartels. Grade: OK.
  • Movie: The Salesman. Marriage crisis and compromised masculine integrity after a married young woman is assaulted in her home. Grade: OK-but-why-did-this-get-an-Oscar.

Author: Martin R

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

76 thoughts on “March Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. Wonder if it will one day be rediscovered behind plasterboard and treated as a valuable piece of cultural heritage

    More likely it will be painted over by some other mural, and as the newer one fades with age, the older mural will become visible. At which point it will be hailed as one of the few (if not the only) surviving remnants of early 21st century Scandinavian art.


  2. In the foreground, a characteristic Swedish archaeological site of the 20th century: the abandoned municipal ski slope.

    For six years I lived in a municipality that owned a ski jump, which apparently is still operational during ski season. Appropriately, the land comprising this ski slope is adjacent to a municipal cemetery (maintained, at least while I lived there, by the same municipal department). If you are one to insist on formalities, there is a funeral home two or three blocks up the street.


  3. Haha, we were on a skiing holiday with Cousin E recently, and it was his first time. When we sighted the first ski jump outside Falun I calmly told him that this was the kind of skiing we would be doing.


  4. “a characteristic Swedish archaeological site of the 20th century: the abandoned municipal ski slope”
    Fascinating site. It obviously inspires the question – why was it abandoned? Was there an indigenous cultural shift from the Ski Culture toward the later Sauna and Coffee Culture? Or were the native skiers displaced by a massive incursion of the foreign Snowshoe Peoples? It would be worth putting in a trench at the bottom of the slope, to see what types of potsherds turn up.


  5. Interesting interview of Sarah Haider, apostate, atheist and Lefty, although she seems to be becoming increasingly uncomfortable with some Leftist positions in relation to science and (one particular – her own previous) religion.

    Key quote from Haider: “I’ve felt an increasing hostility to some fields of science coming from the political Left, particularly a denial of biological influence in human behavior and outcomes. As this tendency becomes better known, so may some scientific-minded atheists distance themselves from the politics that fuel it. Islam may be the biggest game changer of all – the Left’s refusal to acknowledge the problems within the religion have left some atheists (myself included) feeling betrayed and abandoned.”


  6. Jim, there used to be four ski slopes in the area. Only the biggest one is still in use. I guess the demise of the three may be due to the increased availability of cars and air travel, which let the inhabitants of this affluent suburb go skiing on much higher slopes with more dependable snow.


  7. I guess the demise of the three may be due to the increased availability of cars and air travel, which let the inhabitants of this affluent suburb go skiing on much higher slopes with more dependable snow.

    The same thing is happening in New England. Mom-and-pop operations, and those in more southerly/lower elevation locations, are being squeezed out. I was surprised to see that the place I linked to upthread was still operational earlier this year (I think they are now closed for the season).

    A warming climate is not going to help. Places like Vail and Aspen are high enough to survive, and Park City gets enough snow due to lake effect that they will likely be OK, But I would not be surprised if there were no ski areas left in New England in 50 years, and lots of ski areas in California and Washington State will probably have to close as well due to rising snow levels.


  8. They are expecting that some of the ski resorts in the Australian snow fields will be impacted; and some sooner rather than later. (To the surprise of some people, Australia has a greater area of permanent snow than Switzerland – at least, so far it does.)


  9. How many readers got that? Be honest! (I got it after a couple of seconds, but it would have taken longer without the notes.)


  10. I didn’t figure it out until I looked at the alt text. Always look at the alt text of an XKCD cartoon; that’s often where he puts the punch line.


  11. I saw it coming just from Birger’s hint. But then, I watched a lot of Dean Martin in my TV watching younger days. Not that he was that much fun to watch, but there was nothing else. His piece with Goldie Hawn was pretty funny, but that was because of her.

    I once gave a birthday card to a French friend. On the outside it said “Why is this birthday card like a French art museum that has been robbed?” and on the inside it said “No Monet inside.”


  12. Aha. Mystery solved. GLONASS. That explains why I have noticed that positioning accuracy on my phone has improved within the last couple of years – because all new phones use GPS plus GLONASS, which helps when the phone is shielded by being surrounded by tall buildings. I must have noticed the improvement after I bought a new phone. Apple are singularly bad at explaining how your devices work – I had to find out about GLONASS by looking at smart watches. Not that I need a smart watch; or at least, I don’t need it for much, but I could do with one for a few things, maybe enough to make it worth getting one. I’m undecided.

    Thank you, Russia. Can we now have access to the military version, please?


  13. Weird psychology:
    Poll: Scandals solidify Trump’s voter base

    Re Chuck Berry
    I was told he did time in prison so I just assumed he had ruined his life by getting adicted like so many gifted artists before him. My bad.
    BTW If he had been whitehe would likely have filed the ecological niche that intead was filled by Elvis and by some other white artists. Young Elvis was very very good but Chuck Berry was , er, Chuck Berry.


  14. Birger@16 – Well, he did do time for armed robbery. Like he said, he screwed up once every 15 years. Plus he occasionally tolerated people like Keith Richards hanging out with him (but once punched Richards in the head for touching his guitar), so the the assumption was a forgivable error. But no, reportedly he was notably successful in avoiding the evils of addiction, and didn’t even drink. For someone who spent most of his long life touring alone, that was a pretty amazing achievement.


  15. I never liked Elvis Presley, right from the very first time I saw him, even though I was only a little kid at the time. He was what the Cantonese call “yuk ma” – he made my skin crawl. I liked Little Richard the most – somehow, to my total surprise, we accumulated a collection of Little Richard’s records at home. I had no money at the time and never bought records then, so I can only assume my oddball father (who always eschewed popular music) had bought them. I used to play them endlessly, and my father never complained. I also liked Chuck Berry a lot, and Bill Haley, and then a bit later I liked Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers. But my early favourites were always black.

    And then in the era of the all-girl singing groups and female ‘soul’ singers, all of my favourite female singers were black. Even when I didn’t know they were black and assumed they were white, when I learned more about them as people, they turned out to be black. I loved Betty Everett, and Martha and the Vandellas, and a whole stream of others in the 1960s, but I didn’t realise then that they were black – the radio DJs never mentioned it. I only really found out in the Youtube era that all of my favourite singers had been black, except for Buddy Holly and the Everly Bros. I knew Aretha Franklin was black, but she made it kind of obvious.

    As my daughter said, when I was filling in her musical education by acquainting her with all of my favourites when I was a kid: “Black women are ‘cool’. White women just can’t do ‘cool’ the way that black women are just naturally.”


  16. My daughter still sometimes plays old Youtube videos of the Pointer Sisters and gurgles with laughter at their antics, even now that June Pointer has been deceased for over 10 years. June was always the funniest – we didn’t realise it at the time, but the reason June was so funny was because she was always full of cocaine.


  17. One of their funniest.

    Meanwhile, I am not sure why the authors of this paper seem to be trying to tiptoe around the subject. “Anthropophagic events” means incidence of cannibalism, as anyone can figure out in a few seconds. Maybe they fear an outraged backlash from Europeans, who refuse to believe that a few of their distant ancestors were capable of behaviour normally associated with “primitive (black or indigenous) savages”. The problem there is that the Villabruna H-Gs *were* dark skinned.

    This made me laugh (from the link to the figures): “Obviously, we can’t be sure what really happened in that Spanish cave all those millennia ago. But the explanation may be far less disturbing than we might first imagine. We could be seeing what remains of our earliest complex rituals for honoring the dead.”

    Well, yes, we could – such ritual behaviours have certainly been documented. Alternatively, the cannibals could just have been starving. Another alternative that seems a real possibility is that when small bands of hunter gatherers encountered other bands who were genetically distant (which was a real possibility in Europe 10,000 years ago), and looked it, they might have seen them as The (Sub-human) Other, and so fair prey, not being fully human. It is quite common among isolated peoples who are hunter gatherers or horticulturalists to refer to their own kind as “humans”, to distinguish themselves from The Others. Bantu have been known to kill and eat Pygmies, which they justify by regarding the Pygmies as sub-human, and therefore just another kind of ‘bushmeat’, along with gorillas and chimpanzees.

    Surely by now only the most starry eyed New Age loonies are aware that, in much more recent times, Druids in Britain practised human sacrifice, as documented in written Roman history and confirmed by archaeological finds. It’s not a huge step from human sacrifice to cannibalism, in terms of savagery.


  18. I meant: Surely by now only the most starry eyed New Age loonies are *not* aware; or choose not to be aware, maybe.


  19. A timely (in Martin’s case) burst of information from Razib, who has just had his third child (or at least his ancestrally Northern European wife has, in terms of delivery, though there’s obviously no doubt in all three cases that Razib is the father – he published his second child’s genomic data on the Internet before the child had been born, in what he and I both think was a world first).

    Consumer Genomics Part 1:


  20. I have a new method for selecting films to watch on Netflix – I choose the films that have the lowest viewer ratings.

    That resulted last night in me watching the 2015 German film My Honor Was Loyalty, which scored one star from viewers – I suspect mostly because it is in German with English subtitles; although equally it could be because the subject matter might be offensive to people who do not want to see the latter stages of WWII from the perspective of an SS soldier of the Third Reich. My rating – not bad. Worth watching, I thought. Some very nice scenery. But, as war movies go, definitely not brilliant – I would not rate it anywhere near Clint Eastwood’s paired films Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers. But then, that pair are pretty hard to beat – maybe Terence Malick’s The Thin Red Line goes close, but few others get anywhere near them.


  21. “Mein ehre heisst truhe”; Avoid movements built around slavish obedience.
    King Lear ‘s Fool may have been loyal to the end, wise people will opt out well before Berlin is encrcled. Which reminds me, the Italian people were smarter than the Germans. They were fed up after three years.


  22. Aspidistra@20: I had the opposite experience: discovering that certain musicians I had assumed were black were actually white. Not that it mattered all that much to me, but I was aware that there was a color boundary somewhere.

    I had seen Diana Ross and Lou Rawls on TV, so I knew they were black. And there were others whose pictures I had seen and knew that they were white. But in those pre-MTV days, there were many cases where it was left to my imagination. So, for instance, I incorrectly assumed that Chicago was a black group, because of the sound they had during and immediately after the Terry Kath era (I would not have made that mistake with their later work, once David Foster got hold of them and turned their work into overproduced schlock).

    I wasn’t the only American to make such mistakes. Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” was a major hit on urban (read: black) radio stations in the US before it crossed over to the mainstream. That was in part because John Deacon wrote it as an homage to Motown.


  23. Birger@28 – Without plot spoiling, the film is a reasonable examination of the consequences of slavish obedience.

    Eric@29 – A lot of people got caught out by this. The guy in the film is miming – the song was written and sung by a blonde haired white guy (Dan Hartman, a closet gay who died young of an AIDS induced brain tumour). It fooled me. I still love it, though. Even though it’s white, I mean.


  24. My wife’s DNA results are back – a bit quicker than I was expecting.

    23andMe passed the little test we set for them – from among their sample of well over a million customers, they identified our daughter as my wife’s closest relative, with 50% shared DNA, and correctly identified her as ‘daughter’. Our daughter sent in her sample 6 years ago, from a different country. Different family name.

    Not much of a test, really – 6 years ago they correctly identified our daughter as my daughter after she and I both submitted our samples.

    So, her birth wasn’t just my imagination, then 🙂


  25. No, Eric, today is more than just a day ending in Y – today was the day Trump got his arse handed to him on a plate in Congress over the repeal of Obamacare. The GOP hate him as much as the Dems. I predict he will go down as the worst lame duck President in history.

    And this is really good news and a massive step forward – if they can eliminate malaria from the world, it would be a huge achievement:

    And in other news, 23andMe say my wife and I are unrelated. Well, there’s a surprise! Bit of a relief – no inbreeding depression in our daughter, then 🙂

    Well, actually we are related – but it was more than 50,000 years ago.


  26. Me: “Your DNA results have arrived.”
    Wife: “What am I going to die of?”
    Me: “They don’t tell you. I have to download your raw data file and run it through some separate software to generate a health report. Do you want to look at your ancestry results?”
    Wife, heading to the kitchen to make tea: “Um…later.”
    Totally unfazed.
    Me to daughter: “Do you want to share results with Mum?”
    Daughter, heading to the kitchen to make tea: “Um…later.”
    No instant gratification in this family.


  27. Birger@40 – Movie looks like great fun.

    But where can I see it? Netflix in my Geography don’t make available any Swedish movies – they assume I want awful Bollywood and dreadful East Asian pot-boilers (there are some absolutely outstanding movies which are the result of cooperative efforts among the constituents of ‘Greater China’, but Netflix don’t make available the excellent movies, only the ones that no one wants (i.e. have no residual market value)).

    I was using a VPN to get around the ‘geography’ nonsense, but Netflix blocked that. My Netflix user experience plummeted as a result. I still find the occasional ‘OK’ or ‘not bad’ film, but it’s not really enough to make my continued patronage worthwhile. Question is, is there a better alternative?

    Itunes rentals are really not much better, and a lot more costly – they also peddle the ‘geography’ nonsense, so no ‘foreign’ films, and I get the Hollywood movie titles and descriptions in Chinese. Thank you, Itunes. Yes, Birger, I know you don’t think of yourself as foreign, and I don’t think of you as foreign either, but Hollywood thinks you are. And it thinks I’m Chinese.

    I’m turning into a curmudgeon. It’s the weather – a bitter 15 degrees Celsius today. Too cold to move. Wife and daughter have gone hiking in the hills/hunting for wild Chinese herbs. I don’t know how they can stand it – must be the Northern Han genes.


  28. Watched the 2012 George Clooney film The American on Netflix. Not bad. People expecting an ‘action thriller’ were evidently disappointed at the insufficiency of the ‘action’, and in a sense it is, in that the things that take place are never really explained in a broader context. The critics treated it somewhat more kindly, and deservedly so, I think – it’s a very atmospheric piece, light on dialogue. Worth watching, on balance. A very restrained performance by Clooney – not my favourite actor, but he does pretty well in this.


  29. Yeah, close.

    Part of the fun of going to the movies when I first started dating my wife was to howl with laughter at the English subtitles of the old Hong Kong Kung Fu movies. Just hilarious stuff. Of course, I would be the only person in the movie theatre actually reading the subtitles, so I would be the only person convulsed with laughter during what were meant to be poignant moments in the film – made myself unpopular.

    My worst performance was when my wife dragged me off to a theatre to watch the 1993 New Zealand film The Piano (a very dark, slow moving, ‘atmospheric’ drama), on a Friday night when I was dog tired from working all week. I’m told that I fell asleep in my chair and snored loudly throughout the film, much to the annoyance of everyone around me, and with my wife repeatedly and unsuccessfully trying to wake me up to make me shut up, then when it was finished and they were rolling the credits, I sprang to my feet and announced loudly “Well, that was a bloody boring film.” If looks could kill…


  30. Birger, I’m not stupid. It was a rhetorical question implying future opportunities – the obvious answer being that there will be none.

    On adaptive introgressions between Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans:

    The take-home messages are: “Our results imply that many introgressions between Neanderthals and modern humans were adaptive” and “Neanderthals and modern humans came in contact with each other and interbred at least twice in the past 100,000 years. Such contact and interbreeding likely led both to the transmission of viruses novel to either species and to the exchange of adaptive alleles that provided resistance against the same viruses.”


  31. Ed Yong is one of the better science writers out there, along with Carl Zimmer. This piece is pretty dated, but still worth reading.

    “The Bushmen are one of the oldest human groups on the planet and you might expect their genes to reflect humanity’s most ancestral state.” This is extremely wrong-headed. It is true that the San diverged from all other anatomically modern humans very early, and remained geographically isolated for a very long time – but that does not make their lineage any older than any other. And human evolution did not stop at any point (contrary to the claim by that ignoramus ‘naturalist’ David Attenborough, who doesn’t know what he is talking about) – it is driven mostly by random mutations, and by interbreeding (if that applies, which it did not for the San for a very long time). Random mutations have most effect among small, isolated populations. So modern San should not be expected to be, or regarded as, modern humans’ most ‘ancestral state’, any more than any other human population. They are not ‘primitive people’ in any sense of the word. Genetically distant from other human groups, yes; more primitive or ancestral, no.


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