October Pieces Of My Mind #1

sickla

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

  1. 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.

    Peter Schickele got there first. He grew up listening to classical music on 78 RPM records, which would give you about five minutes per side, so it was common for the listener to have to turn over or change the record in the middle of a piece. The recording of P. D. Q. Bach’s The Stoned Guest includes a gag that references those times: one of the numbers is contrived to have a note-holding contest that extends across the break in the two LP sides, and at the appropriate point we get a special message: “Please turn over the record.” Of course, that gag has been lost in the CD era.

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  2. Politicians probably suffer a higher rate of divorces, cardiovascular disease and other misery.
    People understimate how time-consuming it is, just reading the background information required for making individual decisions is a heavy burden. Long meetings, saturdays and sundays also get used up for work, little appreciation.

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  3. Birger@2: I can name a few counterexamples. Bill and Hillary Clinton are still married. Barack Obama is still on his first marriage. Joe Biden’s first wife died young, but he is still married to his second wife. Jimmy Carter is still married to his first wife.

    It’s true that some politicians are divorced. In the US, they seem to be disproportionately from the party of so-called family values: Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, John McCain, and so on. Certainly an alpha male (which most male politicians are) is more likely to find willing females who are not his wife. But I have no evidence that the divorce rate is significantly different for politicians compared to the general populace. And infidelity does not invariably lead to divorce (see Clinton, Bill).

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  4. Fleetwood Mac were named for the members of the band’s rhythm section.

    Who were also only the only two people who were in all of the band’s incarnations. They recorded several (today mostly forgotten) albums with other guitarists before recruiting Lindsey Buckingham circa 1975. He brought along then-girlfriend Stevie Nicks (who turned out to be a decent singer and songwriter in her own right), yielding the lineup for which Fleetwood Mac were best known (I’m not sure when Christine McVie joined the band, but she was already in when Buckingham and Nicks joined).

    I don’t know about early Fleetwood Mac, but once Buckingham joined, the eponymous members did little of the songwriting. “The Chain” is credited to all five, but that’s the only song I can name with either Mick Fleetwood or John McVie getting songwriting credit.

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  5. Eric, I am referring to our local grass-roots politicians, middle-class people, to use the English term.
    The top politicians of USA are nearly all former trust-fund kids, millionaries connected to the networks of the top fraction of the one per cent ( just read Hillary’s emails).
    They do not get exposed to the stress of waiting months for a day care arrangement with the local town, and they have hired help to do the time consuming stuff.
    The politicians I know do not get invited to campaign functions where the guests pay a thousand bucks (USD) for
    the privilege of listening to a speech by some big cheese.

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  6. “They recorded several (today mostly forgotten) albums with other guitarists before recruiting Lindsey Buckingham circa 1975”!!!!!!!!!! They made several iconic singles with Peter Green, when they were called ‘Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’ after he recruited his rhythm section from John Mayall, the British bluesman (still performing). To people of my generation and older the ‘Rumours’ Fleetwood Mac is a diminished MOR remnant of wildly imaginative heavy blues band, in which Peter Green created songs like ‘Black Magic Woman’ (yes the one you know covered/copied by Santana), ‘Albatross’ and ‘Oh Well’, before succumbing to LSD and serious mental illness..

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  7. Before she married Fleetwood Mac bass player John McVie, Christine McVie’s real maiden name was Christine Perfect.

    She said she got a bit of a hard time at school over that. I can imagine.

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  8. Now in America, about 17% of marriages are interracial. If you don’t get what interracial means in this context, you can refer to the US Census, which puts people into ‘racial’ categories – some of these a genuinely based on genetic differentiation/phenotype, and some are more ethnic/cultural than genetic/phenotype (like Hispanic ‘whites’ who are differentiated from non-Hispanic ‘whites’), but whatever; they represent disparate racial/cultural groups who would normally not interact socially.

    Apparently this has received a boost from online dating services. Now about 30% of marriages result from online dating. To understand this, online dating puts people from disparate social groups in touch who would normally not encounter those social groups in their normal lives. And that works across US Census race boundaries, when normally people from those different race categories would not normally interact with each other socially.

    The trend in interracial marriages has been steadily rising since 1967, but then really took off around 1997, and got a big boost in 2006, and has been rising steadily ever since. The more recent accelerations can be accounted for, at least in part, by online dating.

    Why do I think that this is a big deal? Because I think that a lot more interracial marriage could just be the thing that saves America from the current race wars/ideologies that have been bubbling away like a festering sore, and are now breaking out into open between-group hostility, notably at some university campuses, with the rise of populism in politics. Neo-Nazis, white supremacist groups agitating for a ‘white homeland’, BLM and ‘antifa’ are now coming out and physically attacking one another.

    Anecdotally, I don’t see the same thing happening in Australia, but it needs to. I don’t think online dating is nearly such a big thing as it obviously is in America.

    Whether marriages resulting from online dating prove to be more resilient/long lasting than marriages resulting from acquaintances among people’s own social groups or random acquaintances that arise while attending university or whatever remains to be seen, I guess. But online dating accounting for 30% of all marriages seems like a hell of a lot, to me.

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  9. About North korean secret police activities inside China, hunting defectors.

    “North Korea may have killed priest helping defectors: report” https://www.rawstory.com/2016/05/north-korea-may-have-killed-priest-helping-defectors-report/

    “Inside Life’s hotel, a launchpad for crackdown on North Korean refugees. Defectors’ odds of success are lengthening, and not only because of the spies said to have checked in to this Chinese hotel” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/11/inside-lifes-a-launchpad-for-crackdown-on-north-korean-refugees

    I am reminded of how, after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the Soviet Union returned Polush Jews who had escaped across the border to Gestapo.
    Mao helped Kim Il Sung set up shop. Now Maos successors are helping North korea track down refugees. And in regard to the whole “breaking Chinese law” by escaping through Chinese territory, this is cynical BS on a par with the Saudis and the Burmese government. People fleeing for their lives have no legal options.

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  10. I’ve read several opinion pieces where commenters see the 45th presidency and the Republican party’s internal conflicts as the last shout of white English-speakers as the US’s dominant political group. They are simply being outbred, and also as you point out, marrying out of the group to a considerable extent. A welcome development.

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  11. You will often hear Australian politicians make the boast that Australia is the world’s “most successful multi-cultural country”.

    Aside from being obvious bullshit because Australia is a white Anglo supremacist’s paradise compared to a country like America or the UK, it bears much closer scrutiny in terms of what ‘multi-cultural’ actually means.

    Migrants to Australia are expected to ‘assimilate’ and adopt ‘Australian values’. There is no question about that; it is stated openly by politicians of all stripes, and no one questions it. No one can actually give you a list of what ‘Australian values’ are, but it’s reasonable to conclude that they refer to some collection of cultural ‘values’ or social behaviours. Maybe.

    So, if migrants are expected to assimilate to the ‘Australian way of life’ (again nowhere defined) and Australian ‘cultural values’, how does that make the country ‘multi-cultural’? It actually suggests that it aspires to be mono-cultural (which in fact is the reality).

    The clue is that ‘multi-cultural’ is a code word that doesn’t refer to ‘culture’ at all.

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  12. A rational explanation: ” Green tea extract delivers molecular punch to disrupt formation of neurotoxic species” https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-10-green-tea-molecular-disrupt-formation.html NB you must use it long before Alzheimer’s symptoms show up, it is a prevention, not a cure.

    — — — — — — — —
    Wasn’t there a UKIP wannabe party that tried to get established in Australia a decade or so ago? If racism is already internalised in the “mainstream” political establishment, it would explain why the newcomers failed.
    — —
    I often read “First Dog on the Moon” -I don’t know how accurate it is, but it is outrageous and often funny. But I need other souces to keep up to date about Australia.
    — — —
    Merkel caves to demands from CSU to create coalition.

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  13. Birger@13 – I believe you are referring to one Pauline Hanson and her adherents, who comprise the One Nation political party (meaning One White Anglo Nation, obviously). Prior to launching herself into federal politics, Ms Hanson’s peak lifetime achievement had been to run a fish and chip shop. Her power base, such as it is, is in the state of Queensland. Queenslanders are the Australian version of the population of West Virginia.

    Originally, she tried to create moral panic among voters by stating that Australia was being ‘flooded’ by ‘Asians’ (where Asians includes all East and South-East Asians, but excludes people from the Indian sub-continent – you know, the Yellow Peril). Current ‘Asian’ population of Australia amounts to 4% of total population. Some flood.

    Then she was imprisoned for a while for something to do with campaign funds. Believe it or not, we have the Mad Monk aka Tony Abbott to thank for her political demise on that occasion – he’s an awful policy maker, but a very skilled and relentlessly vindictive political wrecker, so for once he did the country a big favour and took Pauline out of the picture for a good long while.

    But never fear – Pauline is back. Having given up on attacking Asians because the predicted flood never happened, she is now trying to create moral panic by stating that Australia is being ‘flooded’ by ‘Muslims’ – she doesn’t say what brand of Muslims; they’re all the same, evidently. (Muslims of all origins currently account for about 4.2% of the total population – again, some flood.) When that wasn’t working well enough, she pulled a stunt by appearing in the Senate Chamber wearing a full head to toe Burqa rig, and then dramatically removing it to reveal herself, in order to make…erm…some point or other. Whatever her point was supposed to be, all it earned her was condemnation and ridicule by every other federal politician in the country.

    She’s still lingering, but it’s pretty predictable that she will disappear again soon enough, particularly if the Mad Monk makes it his personal objective to bury her again. Let’s hope so, because he’s no bloody use for anything else.

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  14. We have far too many Pauline Hanson types here in the US. The details differ, obviously, but the talking points are the same. Here they tend to go after Mexicans rather than Asians–the US has a long land border with Mexico and is nowhere near Asia–but fail to realize how much of the US economy depends on people of Latin American origin to do jobs that US-born whites are unwilling to do. The anti-Muslim hysteria, however, is pretty much the same, and they make no distinctions between those who might want to blow up buildings and those who just want to quietly live their lives.

    Speaking of blowing stuff up, our Pauline Hanson wannabes are remarkably silent about terrorist attacks that actually occur in the US: Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and countless others I am forgetting because they have become far too routine. These acts are typically perpetrated by non-immigrant white people with easy access to guns, and the “solution” offered, if they even go through the motions of offering one, is for more people to carry guns. I’m reminded of the definition of insanity here.

    There is some truth to the notion that white males fear losing the privileged position they once had in society. You mentioned above the increasing numbers of inter-ethnic marriages in the US. The white males who enter such marriages are for the most part not the white males who are in a rage about what the US is becoming. There is a clear inverse relationship between fearing people of different ethnic or religious backgrounds, and having occasion to interact with such people as peers. A couple of students in my immediate work group (and several others in the larger department) are Iranian, and likely (although we have no occasion to bring up the subject, so I can’t be sure) Muslim. I fear them less than I do many self-described Christians who are white. As Chris Rock put it several years ago, I don’t fear al-Qaeda as much as I do al-Cracka.

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  15. Eric, possibly relevant:
    ” Why is Mass Violence Always Men? “http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2017/10/10/mass-violence-always-men/#disqus_thread

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  16. Trump threatens to revoke NBC’s broadcasting license

    Considering that his career has depended on favorable TV news coverage, Trump knows remarkably little about how the TV business works. Yes, I am aware that any statement of the form “Trump knows remarkably little about $SUBJECT” is almost certainly true.

    Before the widespread availability of cable, the standard business model for TV networks was that the owners of local broadcast TV stations would often contract with one of the major content providers (ABC, CBS, or NBC) for programming including morning shows, national news shows, prime-time entertainment, and sports. These providers only directly owned a few stations; the rest were what we call affiliate stations. There has been some consolidation since then, but it is still the case that most of the stations that broadcast NBC News are not directly owned by NBC.

    So even if Trump could get NBC’s broadcast license revoked (I suspect that if he were to try, NBC’s lawyers would be filing for an injunction in, as they say, a New York minute, because of the obvious First Amendment issues), that would only apply to the stations directly owned by NBC. It would do nothing to prevent NBC News broadcasts from airing in markets served by NBC affiliates.

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  17. The subject of why murderous rampagers are almost always men came up during a lunch break discussion among the group I was with last week. The phenomenon of men going on murderous rampages is hardly unique to the US: there was Anders Breivik in Norway, and several others who have used knives or motor vehicles to kill people. What is different about the US is, again, the gun culture. We are fed a steady diet of movies and TV shows that show good guys with guns defeating bad guys with guns, to the extent that the exceptions are notable[1]. It’s easier to find anti-gun messages in popular songs, but there is still a strong pro-gun streak, especially in but not limited to country music. So many Americans, as well as foreigners in America (such as the guy at the University of Iowa–I know people who were in that room), absorb the message that guns can solve their problems. Not all people in the US absorb this message, but the ones who are susceptible to going on murderous rampages seem particularly likely to absorb it.

    [1]One of the few exceptions is The Dukes of Hazzard, a 1980s TV show considered problematic today mainly because the title characters’ car had a large Army of Northern Virginia flag painted on the roof. A major plot point was that the Duke brothers were on probation, and therefore not allowed to have guns. They therefore had to resolve their many run-ins with corrupt local officials (Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltraine) by non-violent means. The Dukes did use a bow and arrow on the handful of occasions that they actually needed a weapon, but that only happened a few times, and the arrow was never aimed at a person. As you might expect, the Duke brothers ultimately resolved every confrontation in their favor.

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  18. Prompted by the Helen Young interview, Razib Khan has a very long piece about fantasy fiction. As suggested in one of the comments, evidently Tolkien modeled the Dwarves in Lord of the Rings on Ashkenazim, people he admired, and basically said as much.

    But I’m definitely over this subject. I don’t care. Medieval Studies of Europe are necessarily about people who were obviously pale skinned. Humans occupying Europe were not always so pale skinned, but they certainly were long before then. It seems like a circumstantial irrelevance to me, and I don’t understand why some people make so much out of it. Chinese historians don’t get all twisted up about Han and most of the ethnic minorities being equally pale skinned.

    And Tolkien wrote fantasy, not history. I don’t understand why people seem to make so much out of the connection between history and fantasy – it’s just fictional fantasy, after all. Charles Martell defended Europe against Moorish invaders because they were invaders and also presumably because they were Muslim, not Christian, not because of the shade of their skin.

    I have been watching the latest Star Trek series on Netflix. It’s not brilliant, but entertaining and diverting enough. I don’t get overly analytical about the moral dimensions or whatever (some people are already doing that, tediously). It’s just a story.

    While watching it, I’m not that conscious that the central character is played by a young American black woman, only that she is more physically attractive than any of the other cast members. The character I find a visual shock is the very pale skinned, red haired girl who talks too much. And the hideously ugly alien guy on the star ship crew, who is just awful to look at, deliberately so – I would have preferred them to choose a less hideous appearance for that character. The fact that he is very pale just seems to make it worse, not better.

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  19. Ongeluckige Voyagie.

    https://theconversation.com/picturing-the-unimaginable-a-new-look-at-the-wreck-of-the-batavia-84269

    This is real, not fantasy. In 1629 a ship carrying treasure plus 341 passengers and crew set out from the Netherlands to sail to what is now the island of Java in Indonesia. After rounding the Cape of Good Hope, they scooted across the Indian Ocean down in the latitudes where the Roaring Forties blow hard and constantly eastwards, then when they sighted the coast of Western Australia they turned left to make their way northwards to Java. But on the northward leg, the ship was wrecked off the coast of the Australian mainland. No help was forthcoming from that direction, because the only inhabitants were a very sparse population of nomadic Aboriginal people, naked and with nothing more than basic stone tool technology (plus some pretty clever other stuff, in materials that don’t preserve well), but not the seafaring technology needed to mount any kind of rescue mission, and besides they had never seen white people before, and were probably scared shitless of them – British colonisation of Australia didn’t come until much later.

    40 people drowned in the shipwreck. The other 301 of them managed to get to a waterless island, where they were marooned; stranded.

    What subsequently ensued is a story straight out of Hell. As an illustration of what can happen when the shackles come off ‘civilised’ people, it is a horrifying and sobering account. There were some heroic characters who retained decency and acted courageously, but others who acted out the most horrific evil.

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  20. A relatively late example is a small French Island a fair bit south of Central America. Too far into the Pacific to attract ships, it was essentially forgotten after the outbreak of WWI. The few humans were left to fend for themselves for many years. The surviving women finally managed to kill the single adult remaining male, that had murdered all rivals and used the women for sexual slavery. Years after the war ended, a ship finally turned up and the people were rescued.

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  21. Birger@33: That sounds like a promising development, although my personal experience led me to raise my eyebrows at this piece of the description:

    the heating and cooling coils and the insulation are installed over the inner concrete layer

    Encasing any kind of pipe in concrete is a bad idea because of corrosion issues. My house has a pipe that originally connected the oil tank at one end of the basement with the furnace at the other. I have since had that pipe bypassed; the pipe is still there but is now disconnected at both ends. I think my furnace guy and I caught it in time, but I have no real way of knowing.

    I do not know how the thickness of ETH’s prototype compares to that of this Eero Saarinen designed building from the 1950s whose roof consists of a thin concrete spherical shell anchored at three points around the building’s perimeter. My sources do not give a thickness for the Kresge Auditorium roof, but it is claimed to be proportionately thinner than an eggshell.

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  22. Meanwhile, the BBC reports that the name Allah was embroidered on some Viking-era clothes from the 9th and 10th centuries.

    The name Ali is almost as prominent as Allah on these textiles, so there is some speculation that the influence was specifically Shia. However, the name Ali is not accompanied by the phrase “waly Allah” (friend of God), so there is also speculation that it was an incorrectly copied pattern–equating Ali and Allah is something only certain early extreme movements did, and most Muslims, even Shia, would probably consider it blasphemous today.

    The textiles in question were found in both Birka and Gamla Uppsala.

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  23. Birger@28 – The written account has been around for a long while, and has prompted a large body of literature. On the other hand, shipwrecks, marooning and mutinies were not uncommon in the days of sailing ships and early European exploration, so similar scenarios were no doubt played out numerous times, with variations. I think it most likely that William Golding was a keen observer of human behaviour, and had a lot of observations of real life in his time and historical material to draw upon.

    When I was pre-adolescent, the group and individual behaviours of boys in my neighbourhood were not particularly distant from that described in Lord of the Flies. Exploring the wild bush around where we lived was a very common activity, and kids let loose in that sort of environment revert almost instantly to a range of stereotypes, including sadistic bullies. Not confined only to boys, either – some of the bigger, older girls were capable of sadistic bullying, particularly those who had themselves been under the control of a group of notably sadistic Catholic nuns at the local convent school. I had the occasional brief accidental encounter with those women when I unwittingly strayed into their ‘territory’, and they were profoundly evil. My older sister warned me repeatedly to “stay away from those nuns” – she was under no illusions about them.

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  24. Counterpoint to the horrifying history of the shipwreck of the Dutch ship Batavia – accounts of environmental collapse, tribal warfare and cannibalism on Easter Island might have been exaggerated, or even mistaken collective memory/oral history of depradations by outsiders. Enslavement and population collapse of isolated populations after first contact are a recurring theme in history. Heyerdahl’s crackpot theories haven’t helped in the Pacific, and Jared Diamond…well, I don’t particularly want to get into deconstructing some of his more ridiculous claims. Plenty of others have already done that. (But those big stone statues never walked by themselves. Seriously.)

    https://theconversation.com/the-truth-about-easter-island-a-sustainable-society-has-been-falsely-blamed-for-its-own-demise-85563

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  25. Physical Fitness 101

    No smutty schoolboy jokes, please – this is serious, and important information.

    It turns out that the Gemellus muscles, located in the lower outer parts of the buttocks (see link below), are absolutely critical to being able to walk strongly with your feet close together. You might have noticed with a lot of elderly people who can no longer walk too well, that they tend to walk with their feet spread wide apart and swaying from side to side as they walk; they often do so with the aid of a walking stick, which makes them even more of an obstacle to get around when you are trying to walk past them. They walk like that because they have lost the use of their Gemellus muscles due to inactivity. They have completely lost the ability to walk in a strong and stable manner with their feet close together.

    I see very many elderly Chinese people doing the splayed feet swaying walk around HK – they travel further in repetitive sideways motions than in making progress in a forward direction. And they are an absolute menace to other pedestrians on crowded footpaths, when other people are trying to walk fast and get past them.

    I learned how important this muscle group is to walking only fairly recently. Now that I know, I am conscious of it, and can feel those muscles working when I walk, particularly when I am walking briskly. And they obviously come into play when you are running, also. With advancing age, it is very easy for those muscles to become weakened, so in the gym I pay particular attention to doing exercises to strengthen them, and of course do as much brisk walking as possible to keep them strong. You really need to focus on strengthening them, because like a lot of muscles that get frequent daily use, it takes a lot to make them stronger. (Calf muscles are similar in that regard – working your calves to strengthen them is a real pain.)

    Because if you don’t use ’em, you lose ’em, and once they’re gone, they’re gone, and you are condemned to the splay footed swaying side-to-side gait for the rest of what remains of your life.

    A lot of people seem to have a low opinion of weight training, because they tend to associate it with steroid-pumped bodybuilder narcissistic type muscle boys. And females almost always say they don’t want to do it because they “don’t want to get bulky” (but that won’t happen, because it’s really very difficult to add a significant amount of muscle mass, particularly when not chemically assisted). But maintaining muscle strength and function plays a big part in maintaining quality of life and mobility. After the age of about 28, you lose 10% of total muscle mass every 10 years, unless you work at maintaining it. And the only way to do that is by doing some form of resistance training, the easiest form of which is weight training.

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  26. And, believe it or not, the evidence is actually pretty convincing that physical exercise – aerobic (running, brisk walking, swimming, cycling), weight training, isometrics (another form of resistance training, but a lot less effective in my experience), and Tai Chi, are all correlated with maintaining fluid intelligence and preventing cognitive deterioration with age. The reasons for that are not well understood, but the evidence is pretty convincing.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990369/

    The data in that paper relate to individuals >60 years of age. But an important point there is that it is easier to establish exercise habits early and keep them going, than to be sedentary and then realise when you are over 60 that you need to start exercising – getting started on a new programme of exercise at that age is a lot harder than if you start younger and just keep it going through your 40s, 50s and 60s. Plus, there is a greater risk of injury if you suddenly start trying to heave sizeable lumps of steel around when you are in your 60s, if you have never done it before – because connective tissue takes a lot longer to grow stronger than muscle tissue.

    So, all the old folks who keep doing crossword puzzles under the mistaken belief that they are delaying the onset of senility are kidding themselves – they need to ditch the crosswords and start pumping some iron. And also preferably get out and go for some long walks, preferably involving walking up and down hills, but any brisk walking for 30 minutes or longer will help. Walking is preferable to cycling because it is more weight-bearing, which also helps to maintain bone strength and density, so you will be less prone to fracturing muscles if you fall. Cross country skiing is probably a good one, but I wouldn’t know – I have an aversion to snow and have spent most of my life trying to avoid gettting anywhere near the stuff.

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  27. Duh – less prone to fracturing bones, I meant.

    Bone fractures in the elderly are no joke. If a person in his/her 70s or 80s falls and fractures his/her pelvis (a not uncommon occurrence) it might never heal, and he/she might be bed-ridden for the rest of his life. It’s not what you want to happen to you.

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  28. Yes.

    I have a younger English friend/colleague who crashed his motorcycle in rather spectacular fashion, fractured his jaw badly and was bedridden for 2 weeks (fed intravenously, which is a joke – it keeps you alive, but just). He was astonished to find that when he was allowed to get out of bed and tried to walk, he couldn’t. This was at a time when he was really quite young and still a very active and competent soccer player. It shocked him.

    Being bedridden for any reason for any length of time, and you rapidly deteriorate physically in all kinds of ways to such a severe extent that it’s mind-boggling.

    Maintaining fitness and physical function is a matter of days, rather than weeks or months. I notice a deterioration in both aerobic fitness and muscle strength now if I don’t make it into the gym for more than 3 days. The good news is that, once I do get back in there, it comes back again fairly fast – about two or three times as long to recover it as it took to lose it.

    Some people just don’t like the gym environment. That’s fine, there are plenty of alternatives.

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  29. Good write up by Carl Zimmer of the recent paper on genes for skin colour that has caused so much excitement among population geneticists:

    An interesting point is that, while some populations were under selective pressure for more pale skin, some others (notably Nilo-Saharans in Africa) were under selective pressure for more dark skin (protective from excessive UV). Nilo-Saharan is a language group, but it is useful to denote some groups in Africa who share phenotypical similarities in appearance; they tend to be the darkest skinned of the African peoples. Although people tend to clump all Africans together as ‘black’ there is actually a wide variation is skin tone among African peoples.

    I suppose the other interesting point, although it was already known or at least guessed, is that the alleles for pale skin existed in the Homo lineage before the evolution of anatomically modern humans (obviously, because some but not all Neanderthals had them) – so when our ancestors lost their fur, whenever that was, we were probably pale skinned and had to develop dark skin as protection from UV. And then, for those who migrated out of Africa for more northerly latitudes, they had to become more light skinned again in order to get enough UV – but in a case of genuine parallel evolution, the allelic pathways for pale skin in modern Europeans are different from those in modern East Asians.

    I think my daughter has sampled from both sides, because she is more pale skinned than both my wife and myself, and more pale skinned than many northern Europeans.

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  30. It always confuses me when Chinese-American actresses refer to themselves as ‘people of colour’ – I finally figured out that POC doesn’t actually mean that (some of these actresses are really pale skinned, and Lucy Liu is both pale skinned and has a face full of freckles – and zero European ancestry), it’s a code for ‘not of European ancestry’. It’s a ‘race’ or ‘ethnic group’ code, not an expression for skin tone at all. So Hispanic ‘whites’ qualify as POC. How confusing is that?

    My Chinese mother-in-law had freckles, and it is absolutely clear from my wife’s genotyping that she had zero European ancestry. The alleles for freckling are not connected to the alleles for pale skin in Europeans, but they are obviously more rarely expressed in East Asians than in some European populations – more likely in Northern Han than Southern Han. Lucy Liu’s parents originated in Beijing and Shanghai respectively.

    Chinese people think Lucy Liu is hideously ugly and can’t figure out why she is so popular as an actress in America. But I watched the Netflix series Elementary, about a modern Sherlock Holmes (Englishman in New York; recovering heroin addict; Aspergic as hell), with Lucy Liu playing the part of Dr Watson (so how confusing is that?) and I thought she did a pretty good job.

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  31. Birger@45 – No no, surely you have got that wrong – Australia is “the world’s most successful multi-racial country” (cough cough).

    “Khawaja says that he now realizes that the people who behave that way are just a minority.” Either Uzzie has got that dead wrong, or he is just being his normal polite self – it’s not a minority. Ask any Aboriginal football player.

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  32. Regretting letting one Coco Yin link to me on LinkedIn:

    “Today’s Offer for Scaffolding.” Thanks Coco, but I don’t actually need any today.

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