October Pieces Of My Mind #1

New stretch of tram line lets me ride from Sickla all the way to Solna shopping centre without changes.
  • Medieval account books were so common in Germany and considered to be so worthless, that into the early 19th century they were used as fuel to heat certain archives.
  • Got nominated to the municipal council. Not likely to be high on the list, but still, feels good to be considered useful.
  • I was shocked to learn that people who get elected onto the municipal council sometimes just flake out and never show up again after the first few meetings. Somebody pointed out that many people don’t live my kind of predictable, regimented life. But accepting and then flaking out from public office suggests to me that the person doesn’t even realise beforehand that they are not super dependable. Or that they don’t consider public office to be a big deal. Or that a reputation for dependability is unimportant to them. I’d be too ashamed to show my face in public for years if I did that. Which of course says something about the standard to which I hold others as well.
  • Wonder if Gygax & Arneson intended the similarity between a multi-level dungeon and Dante’s circles of Hell.
  • Fleetwood Mac were named for the members of the band’s rhythm section.
  • Ekonomistyrningsverket, the Swedish National Financial Management Authority, has operated for 19 years. I learned about it yesterday.
  • The CD of Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever has a short spoken interlude in the middle in fairness to vinyl listeners who must flip their LP.
  • A magnet tells the Kindle to turn its screen on when the flap opens. I like this feature!
  • I wonder if Lowrance the GPS makers have an office in Saudi. Lowrance of Arabia.
  • The first I heard about the Japanese American internment camps during WW2 was when I watched The Karate Kid.
  • Intricate planning of middle-age napping and caffeine intake in order to be maximally alert when I drive home tonight from a speaking gig in rural Östergötland. The sequence will have to be: first go without caffeine so I get sleepy after lunch, then nap, then caffeinate two or three times over the afternoon and evening.
  • I love apricot marmalade on toast!
  • Which Dire Straits song about Asian food do you guys like the best? For me it’s “Wok of Life”.
  • I fail to see the greatness of Goodfellas.
  • The scalp distancer came off my hair trimmer. I now have a unique hair style.
  • I just learned that the University of Lund has a radiocarbon lab. This is odd because it opened in 1965 and I have worked in Swedish archaeology since 1992. They don’t seem to have much of a marketing budget. But come to think of it, I believe I’ve seen analysis ID codes starting with “Lu-” in the literature now and then. Good to know what it means!
  • A sad thing about the enormous wealth of GPS tagged metal detector finds coming out of Scandinavian plough layers these days is that there is absolutely no funding for anyone to study them. They go straight into storage oblivion.

Author: Martin R

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

99 thoughts on “October Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. While I’m making notes, the Australian cricketer Uzzie (Usman) Khawaja, like a lot of people of Pakistani origin, is actually pretty pale skinned. Whereas I once recruited a Tamil engineer from Sri Lanka (he was actually working in Sabah at the time – I flew down there to interview him) – very tall, powerfully built and as dark skinned as the darkest African. Skin tones in the Indian sub-continent vary hugely.

    Interview questions for the Tamil engineer went something like this:
    Me: “Do you play cricket? You look like you would make a pretty good fast bowler.”
    Interviewee: “No, no – I play tennis.”
    Me: “Oh OK, that will do.”


  2. “In 1990 east Asia (mainly China) had the world’s biggest share of people in extreme poverty. Today it has one of the lowest.” (By region.) Not good enough for Mr Xi, though – he is exhorting his countrymen to eliminate extreme poverty in those rural areas where it still exists, as the country’s highest priority.


  3. No. He’s no Mao (thank goodness).

    But I do think it will need more demographic transition (i.e. people moving from rural areas to large cities, which means them having to uproot themselves from their traditional village communities, so not an easy thing for them).


  4. The poorest rural areas are that way because they are in areas which are very marginal in terms of agricultural production, and it’s not a solution building white elephant factories way out there which just won’t work economically.

    That means demographic transition, education and training. But China has an excellent record of lifting people out of abject poverty over the past 25 years – more so than any other country. It’s not easy on the people concerned, though, it’s a hard thing for them. Plus the rapid industrialisation of China has had very detrimental, even disastrous, environmental impacts.

    But then, that’s another one of his high priorities, along with rooting out high level corruption. He has an impressive shopping list, it’s a question of whether he can pull it off. And whether he can stay in power long enough, as well. Rooting out high level corruption makes enemies in positions of power.


  5. “An old friend for dinner … why we’re not scared of Hannibal Lecter any more” https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/13/an-old-friend-for-dinner-why-were-not-scared-of-hannibal-lecter-any-more
    -Personally, I find vile and incompetent political leaders more frightening than Dr. Lecter. I mean, just how many can he eat in a year?
    Incompetent leadership means more people die in disasters, irresponsible economics means there is not enough money for crucial health care and crucial infrastructure repairs, meaning lots of people die in hospitals and on collapsing structures.
    If Dr. Lecter was willing to take over in London or Washington, I think a lot of people would be willing to overlook the odd premature death. Sort of like having Sideshow Bob in charge.


  6. John@50: I have a stack of LinkedIn connection requests I have been ignoring because I have never met the people in question.
    One is a name I recognize from other contexts, so he would be a legitimate connection if I had ever met him. Most are affiliated with universities in countries I have never visited, and the only reason I have ever seen their names is because they requested a connection.

    One guy claims to have known my brother in high school. I knew neither him nor the sister he says was my classmate. Dude, that’s what Facebook is for, and if I wanted to bring myself to the attention of people like you, I’d be on Facebook.


  7. John@47: There are good historical reasons why ethnic Chinese in the US consider themselves persons of color, and Donald Trump is not helping matters. True, most of his rhetoric is directed at Mexicans and blacks rather than Asians, but it would not take much of a shift for the rhetoric to apply to Asians as well, and in many cases the implementation has affected Asians as strongly as Americans. For instance, many of the people who have been covered under DACA crossed the Pacific Ocean rather than the Rio Grande.

    As you are aware, at one time many US states had “one drop” laws, meaning that anybody with provable black ancestry, no matter how small the fraction, was legally considered black. And as you have observed among white people in Hong Kong, most Americans not of Asian ancestry consider people who are half-European, half-Asian to be Asian. It’s true that the distinctive Asian features are blended out two or three generations in–I know at least two people where the only clue that they have Chinese ancestry is that they have Chinese surnames. And it’s true that the coloring can be quite subtle: without looking at the face or the hair, I can’t always distinguish between a northeast Asian and a European with a suntan.

    If Lucy Liu considers herself a person of color, I have no problem with that. She’s using the term in a manner consistent with its typical usage in the country where she lives and works.


  8. Eric@61 – No, Lucy Liu is not one of the Chinese American actresses I have seen referring to herself as a POC. I have only seen her refer to herself as an American. Usually the term POC is self-applied by actresses when they are complaining that they are under-represented in movie and TV roles. Lucy Liu doesn’t seem to have had that problem in her acting career. IOW, I think the actresses concerned are seeking to trade on the term out of financial self-interest. These are not disadvantaged people; typically, they have already had some movie and TV career, so already have a lot more money than I will ever see. Given that traditionally Chinese people have looked down on anyone more dark skinned than themselves, I have a hard time sympathising with the actresses concerned.

    Many northeast Asians (Koreans, particularly) are as pale skinned or even more pale skinned than northern Europeans – and that’s without a sun tan.

    No, I meant white people in Australia. White expatriates who have lived in HK for any length of time are usually pretty good at picking someone who is mixed 50/50. Historically, such people have played an important role in HK as go-betweens, and some of them got very rich from it. That role no longer exists. Macau is full of Macanese, who have been a distinct sub-population of mixed Chinese/Portuguese for so long that they traditionally operate the civil service there and have their own distinctive cuisine (which include some African-derived dishes, because Macau had African slavery), and white expatriates generally have no difficulty identifying those people as such.

    Racial/ethnic/cultural discrimination goes in all directions.


  9. If you are interested in the history of Macau (which was obviously colonised much earlier than HK, and for different reasons) you can check this out – it’s notable because a lot of the fighting on the side of Portugal against the attempted invasion and capture of Macau by the Dutch was done by African slaves (plus Jesuit priests and Dominican monks), some of whom were freed afterwards as reward for their efforts:


    So, it’s a fair bet that the Macanese have some measure of African admixture. I have never seen any study on the genetics of the Macanese, but it would be interesting to see.

    If you ever have the opportunity of going to a Macanese restaurant, I caution against ordering the African Chicken – it is so spicy hot that it will give you third degree burns to the mouth. My family and I had dinner at one such restaurant with a Hindu family we were friendly with; the adult male fancied his ability to eat very hot food, so he ordered the African Chicken – it caused him very considerable physical discomfort.


  10. I can’t claim to have had Macau cuisine. I have never been to Macau, and obviously it was not a major point of origin for Chinese who immigrated to the US. Of course, in most of the US (including where I live) finding a restaurant with authentic Chinese cuisine (of any kind–most Americans do not realize that Chinese food consists of 8-10 regional cuisines rather than a single national cuisine) is between difficult and impossible, especially if you don’t speak or read the language. Even worse, many restaurants, at least in this part of the US, attempt to do both Chinese and Japanese cuisine, and almost always do neither one well.

    There are a couple of times that I have painfully exceeded my tolerance for spicy food. One was when I bit into a Sichuan red pepper. The other was when I ordered chicken vindaloo at a restaurant I had never visited before, one that served their spicy dishes at native Indian levels of spice (most US restaurants automatically tone down the level of spice; some will ask how spicy you want it).

    Compared to other Americans I seem to have a higher-than-average tolerance for spicy food, but I suspect the African Chicken you describe would be beyond my limits.


  11. Yes, Sichuan food will do it to you. I have very poor tolerance for anything spicy and generally avoid Sichuan restaurants, in favour of more bland cuisines like Cantonese or Chiuchow (Teochow, Chaozhou, whatever). My daughter is very well calibrated on my pathetic ability to tolerate anything ‘hot’ and acts as my taste-tester – she will tell me if a dish is OK for me to eat or not, i.e. if she can just barely detect some heat, she will judge it to be OK for me; anything more than that is not OK. She herself can tolerate really spicy stuff, but would steer clear of African Chicken. But she generally prefers delicate flavours, so doesn’t usually seek out very spicy food by choice.

    I’m curious to know what Sichuan regional cuisine was like before the Columbian Exchange – probably a lot of pepper (Piper negrum). But then, a lot changed in Chinese regional cuisines after 1492, e.g. the Hakka were able to proliferate while occupying marginal agricultural land in mountainous areas due to the import of the sweet potato, which grows well in poor soils that won’t support other crops.


  12. On the other hand, I absolutely love garlic, which I prefer raw, crushed and spread liberally over everything, and much prefer my Chinese green vegetables stir fried with garlic than without.

    That was one of the reasons one of my Chinese uncles by marriage declared me to be a “good Shandong boy” – my love of garlic on everything, which is typical of Shandong people. Everyone except him laughed – he meant it. Southern Chinese generally have a pretty low tolerance for garlic, but it is ubiquitous and heavy in northern Chinese food. When you step off a plane at Beijing Airport, the collective smell of garlic just about knocks you over; even more so in Seoul, South Korea.

    That uncle is still going strong, and is one of my favourite people. He was a HK police officer, and commandeered a white Mercedes Benz from somewhere to drive me and my parents to my wedding. On the way to the church we ran into a traffic jam; total gridlock. Unfazed, Uncle pulled up, got out of the car, walked to the middle of the intersection and directed traffic until he had cleared the traffic jam, then got back into the car again and drove on to the church. After the wedding, when I needed to go to the bank to deposit all of the money we had been given by people attending the wedding, he accompanied me – he’d had the foresight to carry his police service revolver with him, in anticipation of acting as my armed guard while I walked through the streets carrying a large amount of cash.

    I used to play ma jong regularly with one of my Shandong ‘grandfathers’ (not really grandfather, just an older relative who was too old to be an ‘uncle’) who, the whole time he was playing, would munch raw cloves of garlic, which he would wash down with tumblers full of neat blended Scotch whisky. In between munching the cloves of garlic, he would chain-smoke cigarettes. An obvious candidate for an early grave, he lived to an astonishingly old age. Throat cancer finally took him out when he was well into his 90s. If not for his ‘lifestyle factors’ he would probably have made 100, easy. My wife’s grandmother lived until she was 99, an amazing achievement given what she’d had to endure during her life. I put it down to the garlic.


  13. Erik: Yeah, early medieval luxury textiles are very multicultural. It was pretty common for a Sogdian copy of a Chinese textile to end up on an Italian bishop’s robe or a Swedish Jarl’s best tunic. In fact, into the 18th century European weavers were copying patterns from Indian cottons, because the customers were used to them and they could not design anything so pretty themselves. Low-tech craftsmen were often trained to be really good at imitating, but not so much at being creative.


  14. Eric@61 – If the rate of exogamy continues to increase in the USA, it is all going to become meaningless in the not too distant future. With a plethora of hybrids breeding with disparate hybrids, the number of boxes needed on the census form is going to become impossibly complex and ridiculous. People are already simplifying their ancestry in order to fit into one box or another. (Which box does Rosario Dawson tick? Tiger Woods?) You could end up with a binary system – ‘black’ and ‘other’. But then, Zoe Saldaña, who is a ‘mutt’ (I don’t mean that unkindly – just shorthand) but fairly dark skinned identifies as ‘black’, but has said “There’s no one way to be black. I’m black the way I know how to be.” So, she seems to be implying at least that there is no one single ‘black’ identity.

    I read that fully 50% of female Hispanics ‘marry out’ – so that demographic is going to change in a big way and fast.

    Eric@58 – MakeUseOf (started out good around 2009-2010 but has deteriorated pretty badly) has just offered me a free e-book: “LinkedIn for Dummies.” They’re wasting their time – all of the dummies, including me, are already in LinkedIn. And wondering why we are.


  15. The Guardian has a few articles you might find interesting; “How The Oligarchy Wins” about USA, a horror story about the Canadian couple held in Afghanistan by the Taliban, an article about conflicting perspectives on Xi, and the lethal, abnormal forest fires in California.
    (I cannot include more than one link per message so I leave the search to you and Google)


  16. The only thing abnormal about the wildfires in California is the proximity to built-up areas. California (and the western US generally) always has fires this time of year, because almost all of the state’s precipitation falls in the winter (November to March), so in October things are pretty dry. There is more vegetation available to burn than usual because the past winter was wetter than normal.

    It’s normal to have fires like this out in the countryside. What’s different this year, aside from the scope of the fires, is where the fires are. Santa Rosa is a sizable city, so you don’t expect to see wildfires there, but they have had neighborhoods burned out.

    If you like wine, expect to pay more for it for the next couple of years, because the area hit is the heart of California’s wine country (Napa and Sonoma counties). Several wineries have been burned out, or unable to get their crop to the crushers.


  17. John@71: Yes, if trends continue, whites will no longer be a majority of US citizens by about mid-century.

    That’s a large part of what the white freakout that elected Trump is about. Being white in the US has always conferred privilege, and the day is coming when that will no longer necessarily be the case. I’m fine with that, but there are many people in this country who aren’t. They are a minority, but they are a loud minority, and thanks to gerrymandering they have more power than they deserve.

    IIRC, these days the census form question for race is a “check all that apply” category. If so, that problem is solved.


  18. Eric@75 – That was always going to be the outcome, given the way that the racial categories are tilted (i.e. the offspring of a white and a POC are, by definition, POC), unless white-white unions outbreed POCs, and that’s not happening – quite the reverse, aided by exogamy, which continues to accelerate.

    Yeah, likewise – like I care.

    It’s salient in Australia, which is still large majority white, with ingrained racism (and importing more of it via white flight from the UK and South Africa), but my daughter would only consider parachuting back into Oz to work in fairly dire circumstances anyway (or if e.g. she ended up marrying someone who is ordinarily resident there, which is a possible outcome which can’t be discounted). It’s something we think about and discuss, but I have multiple strong reasons for not wanting to go back and it would take something big to make me change my mind.


  19. Further to my @72 – By implication, that paper also clarifies the peopling of Meso- and South America. They are careful not to make that claim in the paper, and it was not principally what they were trying to unravel, but it is an obvious deduction from what they have said.

    That explains ancient remains found in North America that are not ancestral to some other more recent North Americans, but are ancestral to South Americans. So, another mystery solved.

    This all basically nails down the peopling of the Americas for good. The full story is now known.

    And there’s a noticeable total absence of Solutreans, just in case the previous stakes driven into the heart of that bit of pseudo-science did not ensure that it would remain dead forever.


  20. Birger@77 – Trump is getting really very worrying. He always was, but as he is failing so badly politically, he is becoming increasingly irrational and given to fits of anger. And as his voter support base leaks away through disenchantment, it can only get worse.

    The question has been raised, if he had his finger on the nuclear button, would people around him be willing to tackle him to stop him. It’s far from clear.


  21. Trump doing hos own version of “Der Untergang” is a troubling prospect.
    — — — — — — — — — —
    “Worms reveal secrets of aging: Researchers discover a conserved pathway that controls aging” https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-10-worms-reveal-secrets-aging-pathway.html -a family of proteins called Kruppel-like transcription factors (KLF)
    Also “KLF proteins work by controlling autophagy” and “sustained levels of KLFs can prevent the age-associated loss of blood vessel function”
    (since my mother suffered from vascular dementia her last 12 years, I find the research intriguing).


  22. Birger@77: The US Republican Party has long been divided into (at least) two factions. The culture war faction, which includes the theocrats, want to return to America as it was in the fifties–whether they mean the 1950s or the 1850s depends on whom you ask. That faction provides the votes. The other major faction consists of the monied interests, who so far have been willing to give lip service to the culture war faction to get their agenda enacted. That faction provides funding for campaigns. The money faction has so far been able to persuade the culture war faction that the primary beneficiaries of government programs are Those People, i.e., people who don’t look like the culture warriors. The problem is that it isn’t even remotely true: rural white people get more benefit out of most government programs than urban dwellers or minorities.

    It’s a short-term strategy, not a long-term one. The hope is that by the time the culture warriors fade into a minority, the system the monied interests want will be so entrenched that it can’t be undone. It’s a risky bet, but so far the bet seems to be paying off.


  23. Birger@82: One of the few coherent themes of Trump’s presidency is the desire to eliminate Obama’s influence on history. Whether it’s gutting the signature health care plan, or tearing up international agreements such as the one with Iran, Trump wants to erase Obama’s influence.

    There has bee a faction of Republicans who have been eager to go to war with Iran for quite some time. This faction includes many who otherwise appear moderate, such as John “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran[1]” McCain. It’s no surprise that this group has Trump’s ear.

    That Iran would be a much more difficult opponent than Iraq under Saddam Hussein (Iran’s army is much bigger, has some training, and has reasons to defend against invading Yankees) never occurs to this faction. People I follow who know anything about US national security issues don’t see how the US would win such a war by conventional means.

    [1]Sung to the tune of “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys.


  24. “Fleetwood Mac were named for the members of the band’s rhythm section.”

    Did you just learn this, or just think that it would be cool to post it? 🙂

    Peter Green came up with the name in order to lure them away from John Mayall. John McVie has been in two bands: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Fleetwood Mac.

    Mayall is still performing. He’ll be 84 next month. Probably the oldest “rock” musician ever. Yes, “Papa” John Creach was born in 1917, but only in his 50s when playing with Jefferson Airplane in the 70s.


  25. “Let’s hope he isn’t advocating the Mao Zedong method of poverty eradication, where you systematically starve the rural poor to death.”

    I was on holiday last week and read about half of Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature. Mao probably killed more people than anyone else, though he might get some points since a few tens of millions died not out of pure malice but just because of negligence and Mao’s stupidity.


  26. Phillip@87: Coincidentally, I read a piece on BBC about a documentary about Fleetwood Mac, which Mick Fleetwood is involved in producing. Part 1 of the documentary covers the pre-Buckingham period; presumably Part 2 would cover the band after Buckingham and Nicks joined.

    According to Fleetwood, Green seemed to think even as the band was forming that Green would eventually leave it (which he did, due to drug-fueled mental health issues). Fleetwood also claimed not to be a particularly good drummer: he has always found it difficult to reproduce his rhythms exactly from one performance to the next, something you expect a drummer to be able to do. Fleetwood got most of his early drumming gigs because he had both a drum kit and a taxi in which to transport it; this combination apparently was a huge advantage in 1960s London. Fortunately, John McVie was always able to adjust to whatever rhythms Fleetwood was drumming in any given performance.


  27. Anyone remember this? They were only around for 4 years, but they were prolific and very influential at that time.
    P.P. Arnold was an American who went to England and worked as a backing singer, until Mick Jagger persuaded her that she was good enough to pursue a solo career, which she did. She did sort of moderately OK for a while, but to my mind she was nowhere close to the best black female singers around.


    1. Not yet born, were you?
      I just flagged them up because you appear to have a liking for psychedelia, which they were into in a big way (not that you can tell that from that song).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In a strange way, that was true for me – I remember them vividly because I wasn’t there.
        I wasn’t born until I was 28.


    1. I think that was “the Faces”, after Steve Marriott left, and Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood joined the remnants of “the Small Faces”. But there are grounds for confusion, because the Faces’ first album was labelled as “Small Faces” in America.

      This is Marriott, unusually singing in his natural London East End accent:


  28. http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/693899

    “Until very recently the emergence of modern humans in East Asia was considered a local evolutionary process taking place at around 50 – 40 kyr BP.” Considered to be that by hyper-nationalistic Chinese palaeoanthropologists, that is – they had nationalistic reasons for adhering to the multi-regional hypothesis of human evolution, after everyone else had scrapped it in favour of an ‘out of Africa with modifications’ model (i.e. anatomically modern humans all derived from a population that migrated out of Africa, but which subsequently interbred to a limited extent with archaic humans outside of subSaharan Africa). So, what Prof. Wang Youping is actually saying is that is no longer the concensus among Chinese palaeoanthropoligists, and that they now accept that anatomically modern humans migrated into what is now China during what he calls the Late Late Pleistocene, which seems about right.

    Geneticists estimate that the split in modern humans who had migrated out of Africa into what became West Eurasians and what became East Eurasians occurred some time between 40,000 and 80,000 years BP (the error margin is large because making such estimates from DNA data require an assumption about mutation rates and the lengths of generations, which cannot be determined very closely over such a large time span). So that fits.

    It also fits with the genome of the remains of the modern human individual which were found in the Tianyuan Cave near Beijing, which have been dated to between 39,000 and 42,000 years BP. From Wikipedia: ‘DNA tests published in 2013 revealed that Tianyuan man is related “to many present-day Asians and Native Americans”. He had also clearly diverged genetically from the ancestors of modern Europeans.’ So that fits too.

    What Prof. Wang is also saying is that it is not yet known what route anatomically modern humans took to migrate into China. It looks plausible that two different groups migrated in, via a southerly and a northerly route respectively. That would fit with what is now known about modern population genetic substructure within China.


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