August Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • I don’t get it, safe deposit boxes, Sw. bankfack. Are they a disappearing bank service? Do I know anyone under the age of 50 who has one? What do you guys keep there?
  • Do you wonder if I’ve got my shit together? I’ll tell you. I have street maps of Helsinki from visits in 2002 and 2009 instantly retrievable from the bookshelf next to my desk. That’s how together I’ve got my shit, OK?
  • Sonja Virta: in the 1966 edition, Tolkien added to The Hobbit that Gollum is small and slimy. Illustrators had been drawing him too big.
  • New adjective: beshatten = very dirty. “Honey, can you find clean pants for Jr? His old ones are completely beshatten.”
  • WorldCon 75 restaurant guide: “Pasila is what the architects and city planners of the 1970s thought the future should look like.”
  • I hardly know any Finnish grammar, but it turns out I have this passive vocab that surprises me. A homeless man shuffled up to me and said “Something something kello“, and I actually understood immediately that he was asking for the time, not for a handout. It was 12:30. He thanked me politely and shuffled off.
  • Jrette saw seals, Perseid meteors and a big red August moon at camp.
  • “I hope you find your peas / Falling on your niece / Praying” Kesha
  • I pick up a spoon and a candy wrapper from the floor of Jrette’s room. “Are you QUESTIONING my INTERIOR DECORATION?!?!?”
  • The Federmesser is this Late Palaeolithic archaeological culture in Northern Europe. The word means “feather knife”. I’ve never studied its remains since they’re extremely rare in Sweden (Ice Age, 3 km thick ice, OK?). But I’ve assumed that the name is literally descriptive of a characteristic artefact type. Now I learn that a better translation is “quill knife”. Or as most people would put it, “penknife”. The Federmesser culture is the Penknife People!
  • Here’s an unexpected turn. Atheists are joining the dwindling Swedish Church in order to vote in the church elections and keep the Swedish Hate Party out of its governing boards. I consider myself a political opponent of both organisations, though I’m of course far, far more friendly to S. Church than to S. Hate.
  • Tomorrow I’m driving Junior and his furniture 330 km to Jönköping and engineering school. “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
  • The 45th presidency is like when your toddler messes with your laptop. Suddenly you have a Croatian keyboard map, a mouse cursor shaped like a banana and the screen is rotated 90 degrees. And you’re like “I had no idea you could do this! Now, how do you undo it?”
  • Local paper warns that rising sea level may obliterate thousands of islands in the Stockholm Archipelago. Neglects to mention that this would also recreate thousands of islands that have recently become part of larger land masses through post-glacial uplift.
  • Such a good day together with Junior. Now he’s in his new solo home. I bought him a toaster.

Author: Martin R

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

113 thoughts on “August Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. Typo. BTW is not Bayerische Motor Werke.

    I am just reading Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch. It has many LGBT characters, but you hardly notice because the magic- related weirdness means you have to navigate around some more unique characters, not all of them human. You know, the odd river god, housekeepers with pointed teeth, unseelie fairies etc.
    If you like police procedurals with an unusual angle I can recommend Aaronovitch.


  2. Eric@97 – Yes, the same problem exists everywhere; the length of rainfall record is always a lot shorter than the ‘design storm’, so extrapolation is necessary, and is very sensitive to the frequency distribution assumed. It is an outdated concept and not a satisfactory approach, except for urban road drainage design, which is usually only designed for a 1 in 1 year storm – which I also think is unsatisfactory. Why would it be considered OK to design for roads to flood once every year? It never made sense to me, except that to design for longer return period rainfalls means that you end up with massive drainage systems for roads. But that’s what it takes.

    PMP is the only acceptable way to address the whole problem, and even then, we have had to recalculate and increase the PMP with time, as HK has been on a trend of increasing rainfall due to climate change for decades.


  3. Soon last comment of August? To start off the fall, I see we will get a proper rain September 1st -appropriate for 78th anniversary of WWII.
    — — —

    “Australians love to swear, especially when it comes to what you can and can’t call Tony Abbott”
    ‘Tony Abbot got drunk at work and passed out instead of attending important votes. Later he lied about it by saying everybody else was lying. When the truth finally came out, he said “no one ever accused me of being a knockabout Aussie”.
    In case media censors proper swear words, instead of ‘fuque’ and ‘can’t*’ I would choose “jävla idiotjävel!”


  4. urban road drainage design, which is usually only designed for a 1 in 1 year storm – which I also think is unsatisfactory

    I agree that a road that floods on average once a year is unsatisfactory. Even when we have enough of a historical record to assign such a frequency, that’s an average: some years the road will flood multiple times, other years it doesn’t flood at all.

    The roads around where I live do better than that, but that’s a byproduct of a design consideration that tropical locales like HK usually don’t have: drainage has to be sufficient to prevent water from freezing in the road bed, which causes frost heaves. That’s enough to prevent roads from flooding annually. We’ve also learned not to build roads too close to rivers. But we also haven’t paved over secondary water courses to the extent that many cities have, so at least we don’t have to replicate the no-longer-existing natural drainage.


  5. Birger@103 – As an Australian colleague of mine once remarked: “People are wrong about Tony Abbott. A can’t* is something nice and useful. That stupid prick is neither.”


  6. Later he lied about it by saying everybody else was lying.

    It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup, as Richard Nixon learned the hard way.


  7. Eric@106 – My experience with dealing with the media, and with watching the mistakes made by others in dealing with the media (and with politicians) led me to very quickly conclude never to (1) lie, or (2) conceal anything. If you do, it is the ‘cover up’ that rapidly becomes the story. Actually, those are good rules, not just for dealing with journalists and politicians, but for life.

    You need to protect yourself against psychos and others who will seek to exploit you, but beyond a sensible level of self-defence against human predators, the way to live a worthwhile life is always to tell what you believe to be the truth, and always to behave in a way that will not make you ashamed of your behaviour afterwards.


  8. Also, urban or rural matters, but that correlates pretty closely with income level – people living in rural environments tend to be low income earners. So it’s not clear that it is the living environment that makes a difference. And income correlates pretty well with Intelligence + conscientiousness, as does educational achievement.

    So what you are left with is that the people opposed to same-sex marriage are stereotypically older and dumber people, and religious people (and there is some inverse correlation between intelligence and religious belief, so smarter people tend to be less religious). And people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

    The context for language of country of origin is that the proportion of people in Australia who come from non-European countries is too small to matter. Chinese, although notably majority not religious, are notably conservative when it comes to ‘family values’, for example, but there are not enough of them in Australia to make a difference in how the whole country will vote on this issue. The same applies to religious groups like Muslims and Hindus – likely to be opposed, but too few of them to matter.


  9. There is one African woman from Kenya who migrated to Australia, became an Australian citizen, and has assimilated so well that she has been elected to the Federal Senate – which is no mean feat in Australia, because she is about as dark skinned as people can be, and speaks English still with a fairly strong accent, and is not someone that white Australians would normally want to put trust in and vote for when electing a person to a position of political responsibility. Well, bravo for her, she has overcome all sorts of discrimination and has succeeded.

    But she belongs to a political party called the Family First Party, which is a notably deeply conservative and deeply religious (Christian) party, and she is strongly opposed to same sex marriage, and notably vocal about it.

    What are her arguments against same sex marriage? It turns out that her main argument is that society in Australia has been as successful as it has been, based on a traditional family model, and you don’t want to do anything at all to change that, because that is opening a Pandora’s Box of all kinds of possibilities that might be very harmful to the things that make Australian society successful, and you have no way of knowing where that might go. So, change absolutely nothing, because you don’t know what that might result in.

    Well, good luck with that. One of the reasons that she can even be elected to the Senate, as a woman, is because of fundamental societal changes in Australia towards a more gender-equal society. The early suffragettes won the vote for women very early in the 20th Century, but after that, any movement toward more gender equality basically stalled, and it didn’t really start to build up a head of steam again until it started with the early feminists in the 1960s. And then Germaine Greer published “The Female Eunuch” in 1970, which I read as soon as it was published. That book was very widely read in Australia (Greer being an Australian) and was profoundly shocking to a lot of people at the time, but it really provoked a fundamental change in people’s thinking.

    And since then, there has been a lot of societal change in Australia in the direction of gender equality. You can argue that it still has a long way to go, and in a lot of ways that is true, but there is no question that in terms of gender equality, in Australia in 2017 society has undergone a very fundamental change from the way it was in the 1960s.

    And this former Kenyan lady has directly benefitted from the groundwork put in by people like Germaine Greer, in being able to pursue a public career as a national politician. But if we followed her advice, and changed nothing about the ‘successful family formula’ in Australia, and were still back in 1960s mode, she would be at home being a ‘housewife’, rather than sitting in the nation’s upper house of parliament and exercising very considerable political influence.

    I could go further and say that in the 1960s, Australia was still operating de facto the ‘White Australia Policy’ and she probably would have no chance of even migrating to the country, here we are in 2017 where someone like her can be elected to a position of political influence and power.

    And despite all of that fundamental change in society, *the roof hasn’t fallen in*. Society as we knew it has not collapsed. Very largely, Australian society still runs on the nuclear family model that it ran on in the 1960s, but it is OK now for women to pursue careers after marriage, including in fields that were traditionally closed to females.

    So, in advocating her “change nothing, because you don’t know what might happen” manifesto, she might just want to look behind her and appreciate all of the change that has already occurred and show a bit of appreciation for the mad old bats like Germaine Greer who made it happen; and a bit of recognition of the fact that, rather being a result of social construction, differences between men and women are largely biological, and passing a law that would give equal legal rights to a very small non-normative minority of the population will change absolutely nothing, except to give those people their rights.


  10. Also, urban or rural matters, but that correlates pretty closely with income level – people living in rural environments tend to be low income earners. So it’s not clear that it is the living environment that makes a difference. And income correlates pretty well with Intelligence + conscientiousness, as does educational achievement.

    I know you are talking about Australia rather than the US, so there will be some differences between your experience and mine, but there is a lot there that is contrary to my experience.

    I live in a small town. It happens to have a university, so it’s not a typical small town, but much of the small town dynamic still applies. It is hard to be anonymous in a small town. People will know who you are, and if you deviate significantly from the majority–whether in religious practice, sexual preference, or many other ways–it can be hard to find a group that you are comfortable with. These people tend to leave for the cities, which are more likely to have a compatible subculture. So in an urban environment you are more likely to know people who are gay/lesbian, or have different religious beliefs from you, or so on. It can be hard to disentangle this from socioeconomic status, because people in cities do tend to be richer than rural folk. But urban poverty exists as well, and at least in the US it is more visible than rural poverty.

    And at least in the US, income and intelligence + conscientiousness are poorly correlated. It’s not just Donald Trump; you see a lot of it on Wall Street as well. And many of those people attended top-ranked universities, often not because they were particularly smart but because their fathers and/or grandfathers attended the same university. Case in point: George W. Bush, who got into Yale because his father graduated from Yale and his grandfather was at the time on the Yale board of trustees. It is possible to get a job on Wall Street without a degree from one of a handful of top US universities, but it is much harder.


  11. John@109: I had a longer response that fell into the bit bucket, but at least in the US, the people who attend top universities are not necessarily the most intelligent. Via Atrios I found the following tweet from the Harvard Crimson, the student paper at the university of the same name:

    We made a mistake: 30.3% of surveyed Harvard freshmen are legacies, not 41.8%.

    Here “legacy” means a student who has at least one close relative, usually a parent but sometimes a sibling, uncle/aunt, or grandparent, who graduated from the same university. For instance, George W. Bush went to Yale. So did his father and grandfather; the latter was on the Board of Trustees at the time. And as my example implies, many legacies are not the best and brightest.

    Most private US universities, especially the well-regarded ones, give preference in admissions to children of alumni. (MIT is an exception.) It effectively amounts to affirmative action for the people who need it least. I have no argument with admitting people who qualify in their own right but who happen to be children of alumni. But because of things like regression to the mean, I would expect such cases to be a much smaller fraction of the freshman class than the 30% observed at Harvard. It should be closer to the overall admit rate: maybe a little higher because intelligence does have some inheritability, but not that much higher.

    So why go to Harvard or Yale when the students are not always the best? And when the teaching is not the best (one of the dirty secrets of American academia is that you don’t get a significantly better undergraduate education at Harvard than you would at Flagship State University)? Simple: by enrolling at Harvard you become a member of the Harvard Alumni Association, which is a great way to find jobs, particularly in places like Wall Street.


  12. John@109: I don’t agree with everything in your first paragraph, based on my experience in the US (Australia may well be different). I’ve had a couple of longer responses disappear into the bit bucket, so I will leave it at that and see if this response posts.


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