December Pieces Of My Mind #1

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Middle Byzantine tomb portal slab in Thessaloniki’s Museum of Byzantine Culture.

  • Cube sats are so tough that if their launch rocket blows up after lift-off and they fall to the ground, they usually still work.
  • Cancelled flight leads to unscheduled layover, which knocks me so far out of my habits that I take a bath instead of a shower. Must be almost 20 years since the last time.
  • Hotel rooms used to be so lonely. No more thanks to wifi and social media.
  • One of the Viking town Kaupang’s cemeteries is named Bikkjeholberget, “Bitch Hole Hill”.
  • I just found a Swedish example of the uncertainty of when to use “the” in English. Making the title of a much-read book by an archaeology professor read like something said by a Russian movie villain. Sorry, I mean, “Making title of mach-read book by archaeology prafessor read like something said by Rrraaassian movie villain.” In Saviet Rrrassia, you do not use word “the”. Word uses you!
  • Even when they look amazing inside, Byzantine churches look awful from outside. Naked crumbling brickwork, usually sitting in a pit.
  • Remember when a PC used to crash if you disconnected the keyboard?
  • LibreOffice’s word processor has a tool button to set the colour of text. Its default colour isn’t black. It’s dried blood, caput mortuum.
  • The question shouldn’t be “Is AI consciousness possible”, but “Are humans actually conscious or is it just what our brains think?”.
  • Reading Taylor’s scifi novel We Are Legion and enjoying it immensely. But then there’s this Paleolithic culture on another planet. And the first person described is a woman who’s busy butchering an animal. That a male brought her, explains Taylor. Using a flint knife made by her son. And suddenly this future Stone Age looks quite Victorian.
  • Another nibble! This one asked “Oh BTW, have you got a driver’s licence”?
  • The Sites & Monuments Register inadvertently documents the decline of grazing in Södermanland province. Loads of ancient cemeteries are described in detail during the 60s, and then in the 80s the re-surveyors just comment “Overgrown, couldn’t see shit”.
  • I have annoying Scanian ancestors. They use super few given names, so every time I think I’ve managed to link my genealogical tree up with somebody else’s it turns out to be different people with the same names. /-:
  • A month working at this archive has led me to the realisation that I don’t own enough cardigans.
  • When they cleared the ruin of Ärja parish’s Medieval church, they dumped the rubble on a Late Bronze Age cemetery nearby. :-0
  • Reached the point where my kid does the baking for the school bake sale without me having to do anything, even find a recipe.
  • The passing of a fad: you currently get two fidget spinners for the price of one on the Helsinki-Stockholm ferry.
  • A new book tells the story of the British 80s magazine The Face, calling it a “style magazine”. I am relieved to finally understand why I found the mag completely pointless.
  • This is a weird one. An Early Iron Age cemetery with the usual big flat round stone pavements — but one of them is built around a wellspring!
  • There’s a 4 km corridor of international water between the Swedish islands of Öland and Gotland.
  • The combination of darkness, a crowd and loud techno music really makes for a hellish environment.
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Thessaloniki’s waterfront. Not a monochrome shot.

 

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42 thoughts on “December Pieces Of My Mind #1

    • I think it’s a domesticated (I don’t think that is the right word, but I can’t think of the correct one) griffin, having a chicken head rather than the more usual raptor.

      The same shit doesn’t surprise me, though I’m glad to see it getting attention. It’s the sort of thing I was talking about when I said in a previous thread that this needed to come right down to everyday work places.

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      • A domesticated griffin – I could do with one of those. I wonder what they taste like. That’s what my mother in law said when shown pictures of koalas: “They look very cute. Can you eat them?” Answer: reportedly, no – they live on eucalyptus leaves and apparently their meat absolutely reeks of eucalyptus oil. It can pay to be inedible.

        Yes, everyday work places, very much so (construction industry is traditionally very female-hostile), and academia, including off-campus student activities and field work. Much has happened in relation to this on US campuses, with suitably punitive actions taken against offending male students, including suspensions and expulsions (certainly not disagreeing with that) but it clearly hasn’t filtered through to senior academic staff and the field work situation, going by various pieces John Hawks has written about it over the years. And Oz campuses lag the US very badly, and off-campus student activities are typically very hazardous for female students. My daughter adopted a policy of just not engaging in off-campus activities, unless they were all-Mainland-Chinese gatherings, which she infiltrated by subterfuge (pretending to be a Uygur and fooling them all). If she had to venture out on campus after dark, she would enlist a couple of male Singaporean Chinese students from her student residence as bodyguards, physically fit ‘Sports Science’ guys (need to be useful for something, I guess) who had done their mandatory military training in Singapore and who were happy to help out a half-Chinese female in a hostile, predatory environment. HK and Singapore traditionally dislike each other as competitors, but not in that setting – strength in numbers; all of the students from E, SE, S Asia and even PNG and Africa, banded together as a self-protective cluster. Security guards with attack dogs would patrol the student residence grounds at night, and you can bet that was not just overkill; attack dogs cost money (I know, I employed 3 German Shepherd attack dogs for work for some years – in daylight, constantly monitored security cameras are OK; at night, nothing beats dogs, or maybe domesticated attack-griffins). While she was still living there, one female Indian student was stabbed in the back by some random male while walking alone in the street during daylight hours – the cops never caught whoever did it.

        In HK, my daughter regularly decides to go out alone for a brisk walk for an hour or so at 10.00pm or later to clear her mind before going to bed, along the river which is largely deserted by then. No way she would ever do that in Oz, even in daylight.

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  1. In Saviet Rrrassia, you do not use word “the”.

    Simple: like most Slavic languages (Bulgarian and Macedonian are exceptions), Russian has no definite articles. Interestingly, Macedonian has three, depending on position, and they are postponed—rather like Swedish.

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    • That message was later changed. Too many people were bailing out of installation processes because they could not find the “any” key.

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  2. Byzantine churches are descended from the Roman basilica, a quite utilitarian concept that -unlike Greek-style temples- can be scaled up without beams undergoing catastrophic failure. Once this form became the default architecture in Bysans, tradition presumably became too strong for innovation.
    In the small, relatively primitive polities in the west there was room for innovation. The exteriors received more attention, with details like gargoyles added to break up the monotony of earlier styles.

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  3. Roy Moore defeated in a supposedly super-safe GOP electorate.

    In cold weather, raw garlic is your friend. Culinary tip: If you have a bowl of wheat noodles in broth (typical Northern Chinese home-cooked food – so these are quite thick noodles made from wheat flour, often home made, not the really thin rice noodles, and floating in broth, not fried) containing some Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis (so called Napa cabbage; also called Chinese cabbage, but there are lots of those) with maybe some Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis (so called Bok Choy* or Pak Choy) and maybe a few thin slices of lean pork, it’s a very bland, unappetising meal. But here’s the tip: put a small quantity of water into a small bowl, put in some raw cloves of garlic and crush them with a blunt instrument, so the juice from the garlic mixes with the water and the pieces of crushed garlic are left floating in the mixture. Then add a dash of soy sauce. Then spoon the mixture over the noodles, and try to drop some of the pieces of the crushed garlic onto the vegetables. It transforms a bland dish into something very tasty, and the garlic really brings out and enhances the flavour of the vegetables. And if you are feeling a bit cold, the garlic will warm you up, and the effect lasts for a surprisingly long time. Don’t worry about what you will smell like – not your problem. If other people are not smart enough to eat garlic and find the smell of your breath offensive, that’s their problem – one of my old English colonial bosses told me that, when I aired my concern to him that some people might find my garlic breath offensive: “Not your problem. If they eat garlic themselves, they can’t smell it, and if they don’t, it’s their problem.” And if anyone is trying to give you a hard time, just talk back close to his face, and he will back off very quickly. I’ve tried that and it works really well. Maybe women who get harassed in the work place should try it as a defence mechanism – float around surrounded by Aura of Raw Garlic.

    I wondered for a long time why Northern Chinese (and Koreans) eat so much raw garlic. (Southern Chinese seem to find the taste of the raw stuff offensive, although they sometimes stir fry vegetables with a few cloves of garlic – but just use it to enhance the flavour of the vegetables, they don’t actually eat the cooked cloves of garlic.) I think I finally figured out why – aside from its alleged properties in warding off colds/flu and protecting against other diseases (which I originally thought was the reason, but I have never been able to establish any really convincing personal evidence for this, either for or against), eating it warms you up.

    * Anyone actually calling this vegetable Bok Choy will be instantly sacrificed to the Cabbage God. It’s supposed to derive from Cantonese, but Cantonese don’t say anything like that, they call it Baak (like bark but without sounding the ‘r’) Choy. So where the hell the romanization Bok Choy came from I have no idea, but no Chinese-speaking person calls it that, although (s)he might write it that way on a sign/label if he is clued up about what Americans/Australians call it and is trying to sell the vegetable to them – it’s a barbarian abomination. Apparently British call it Pak Choy, which is still an abomination, but not quite so bad – maybe warranting prolonged torture, but not actual death.

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  4. Obviously, Northern Chinese have suffered selection pressure from vampire predation.
    Take this with a grain of salt: “Upper body strength key factor in men’s bodily attractiveness” https://phys.org/news/2017-12-upper-body-strength-key-factor.html
    Evopsych champions should always be challenged unless they have very, very strong arguments.
    — — — — — — — — —
    -Roy Moore: in a rational society, the Republicans would start an ideological overhaul, challenging old luggage that is keeping them back. Since the only priority is to get campaign donations from the super-rich (Koch et cetera) this will not happen. They are actually planning to remove 400 billion (until 2025) from Medicare, which is much used by elderly, sick Republican voters. If you are prepared to *kill off* your voter base, you are no longer rational.

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  5. The Geminid meteor swarm will peak Wednesday night.
    Those with clear skies may want to drive out into the countryside in search of proper darkness.

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  6. Some of the blog titles in the sidebar of freethoughtblogs made me laugh; like the unconsciously funny “Heteronormative patriarchy…” – well, what else could there be? Turns out to be some geezer pontificating pointlessly about stuff like falling rates of male university enrollments vs female enrollments. Who cares?

    “Genetic landscapes reveal how human genetic diversity aligns with geography.”
    https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/12/13/233486
    Impressive work – suggest looking at the whole paper; the maps showing barriers to gene flow are worth contemplating.
    Something I picked up from a past comment by David at Eurogenes, which I thought was quite good: If someone says that human races do not exist, that is a reasonable position. If someone says that genetic substructure does not exist in humans, that is not a reasonable position.

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  7. Another one that amused me: “I have forgiven Jesus.” Really. So, this apocalyptic Jewish preacher who despised Gentiles and believed the world would end within one generation of his death accidentally triggered the start of a new religion (that he almost certainly would not have approved of) that grew to dominate Western civilization, and some guy in America has forgiven him for it. Stop the printing presses, this is…I guess I’m easily amused these days.

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  8. https://phys.org/news/2017-12-ancient-feces-reveal-parasites-earliest.html
    American science news site reporting on English research, so feces/faeces is spelt two different ways in the same piece.
    When my sister and I were kids, we periodically got infested with pinworm and had to be de-wormed on a fairly regular basis – that’s what comes from running around bare footed and accidentally treading in fresh dog shit all the time, I guess. Then as a young adult I got infested with roundworm – no idea where I got that, eating insufficiently selectively in SE Asia probably, but they looked worryingly large, although obviously not in the same league as tapeworms, which are huge. But one dose of treatment got rid of them.

    People vomiting up worms doesn’t sound too attractive – must have been a bigger problem in the ancient world, when treatments were much more dodgy.

    English people in HK regularly let their kids run around bare footed on grass, not realizing that in tropical and sub-tropical climates the soil can harbour much more nasty parasites (e.g. hookworm, esp. where people have used faeces as fertilizer) that can do a lot of real damage to internal organs and seriously affect health than the relatively benign species that occur in temperate regions, and give you timely warnings (unbearably itchy arse; worms visible when you go for a crap) so that you can seek treatment to quickly rid yourself of them. My old GP in Oz knew my preference for not wearing footwear and warned me about going bare footed in tropical regions, and I never forgot it, so my daughter never suffered from the parasite infestations I had as a kid, nor any of the more nasty tropical variants. (I’m assuming none of us have Toxo, which I think is a pretty safe assumption in our case.)

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  9. Pinworm is a perennial complaint in Swedish pre-schools and schools too. Toddler Jrette reacted to it with anguished screaming at bedtime, which was scary the first time it happened.

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    • Poor lass and poor parents!

      When the parisitology course i did got to human parasites there was a perceptible difference in our (the students) reactions aong with a lot of wriggling and scratching – even though you knew you didnt have any of them parasites you itched. Though it did mean that when a friend got scabies she was able to tell the doctor, who had never seen it, that that was what she had.

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      • My marine biologist buddy in Seattle loves seafood, but refuses to eat sushi – says he knows too much about marine parasites. Sushi chefs are supposed to be trained to spot and avoid them, but is it worth trusting one of those people?

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  10. It can definitely be frightening for a little kid – not a nice thing to be told that you need to take medicine because you have parasitic worms inside you, and being able to feel them making you itch unbearably. I still remember being worried by it the first time, and I was older than toddler.

    Now I’ve seen everything – the Dalai Lama has a free iOS app out.

    Well, not quite everything; this is a new one on me as well – Daughter’s new female Chinese boss walks into staff meetings carrying a cheese board bearing 7 different varieties of cheese for everyone to nibble on during the meeting. Ticked a very big box with Daughter right there. Our local supermarket doesn’t even stock anything worthy of being called cheese, just tasteless processed soap-like stuff that older Chinese females can munch unhappily to get their calcium intake up. We have to go much further afield where, happily, we have access to an excellent selection.

    https://www.wired.com/story/mirai-botnet-minecraft-scam-brought-down-the-internet/

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  11. Looking at the numbers objectively (didn’t post here because just reading the enquiry findings made me feel physically ill), those ‘key recommendations’ are stupid and totally miss the point. For once the Catholic Church has got it right – implementing the recommendations will not solve the problem. It’s not about celibacy of priests or the confessional (not that I think those things are great, but they are not the problem). Four major religions were all equally implicated: Salvation Army, Anglican Church, Orthodox Jews and Catholic Church, and three of those don’t have celibate priests or nuns (in the case of Catholics, 90% of accused abusers were male and 10% female; in the case of Anglicans 94% and 6%), and as many lay people serving as church or synagogue functionaries were accused as were priests, nuns and rabbis. All four institutions were guilty of covering up allegations and moving those accused to different locations, where they could carry on their activities, instead of reporting them to the police and letting the law deal with them, in order to “protect the reputation of the (fill in the blank)” and, in the process, protect themselves from lawsuits and claims for financial compensation.

    Fingering celibacy of priests and the confessional is just finding excuses for the behaviour of a minority of people in the case of the Catholic Church, when they obviously don’t apply to lay office holders, and don’t apply to the other three religious institutions. The problem is that, when adults are placed in a position of power (and trust) over children, a minority are going to abuse that power, especially when the children are effectively held captive (like in orphanages) and have no one they can appeal to and take safe refuge with. This should not be surprising; the surprise is that people collectively ever thought this was a good idea in the first place.

    I have been in the unfortunate position of having to sit and listen to some of these lay people, deeply religious types, with demented looks on their faces and wild staring eyes, endlessly haranguing and hectoring captive audiences about their “love of Jesus” (or whoever). You don’t need to be a genius in human psychology to see that such people are badly mentally unbalanced, and not the sort of people you want to put in positions of trust and power over defenceless children.

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    • deeply religious types, with demented looks on their faces and wild staring eyes, endlessly haranguing and hectoring captive audiences about their “love of Jesus”

      As you say, these people are not to be trusted. Even my late uncle, who could hardly be considered politically enlightened (he tended to be somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan), observed that these people who seemed to know all of the little rules for getting into heaven were the least likely to go there.

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    • Considering the explosive evolution of video, I wonder how long it will take for these expensive units to become functionally obsolete.
      I look forward to buying one at a discount in ten years 🙂

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  12. Disney bombs – always good to hear.
    http://www.scmp.com/culture/film-tv/article/2124480/dismal-disney-first-big-china-live-action-co-production-bombs-box
    My daughter, taken by the original Chinese poem about Hua Mulan, did some deep research on the subject in Chinese sources. Her conclusion: Mulan was probably mythical (unlike Fu Hao, who was real, but you are unlikely to appeal to a lot of movie fans with a “culturally accurate” depiction of a concubine presiding over human sacrifices, although I would watch it, for sure), but if she was real, she almost certainly was not Han, but belonged to one of the northern barbarian nomadic tribes. Try making a “culturally accurate” film about that and see how it goes in the Chinese box office. Yes, like a lead balloon.

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    • The rather bland and formulaic Hollywood blockbusters work surprisingly well in different countries, but once they stray from what they know well each film is to be regarded as an experiment.
      It is no doubt possible to make a good compromise….if the director is an experienced Chinese filmmaker. But then the film may bomb in some countries outside China.
      BTW have you read about Salma Hayek and the interference from Weinstein during the filming of Frida Kahlo?

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  13. This is fun. When my wife-to-be was instructing me in The Rules, prior to marriage (as in, this is how it is going to be – if you don’t like it, get lost now and don’t come back), one of The Rules was “Outside of the house, you are the boss; inside the house, I am the boss.” I didn’t realize at the time that she might have been quoting from the ancient I Ching (Book of Changes): “among family members, women’s proper place is inside and man’s proper place is outside.”

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  14. This comment does not have the gravitas to be# 1 so I let it be the last of this thread.
    I am told the Star Wars film is derivative but otherwise OK.
    If you like David Tennant I recommend the latest episode of Have I Got News For You, with a dose of political news.

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    • Thanks for the reminder, we havent watched it yet, though I watch for Paul and Ian and the interplay between them and the various guests, especially ones they don’t like.

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  15. I learned why the weapons of the storm troopers are so ineffective; the procurement process is even more corrupt than in USA, with the arnament industri delivering any crap without accountability.
    The Empire is not Nazi Germany, it is Mussolini’s Italy, with garbage tanks and garbage aircraft.

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    • The TV Tropes page on the subject claims that during World War II, the average soldier needed to fire about 200 rounds for every hit on an enemy. It doesn’t help that the Empire takes the cheap approach to training and weapon maintenance.

      A joke told on that page: An Imperial Stormtrooper and a Red Shirt get into a firefight. The Stormtrooper misses every shot. The Red Shirt dies anyway.

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  16. YES!
    Jacob Zuma resigns.
    Looking forward to Putin & Trump going the same way.
    Not-so-good news:
    Australian prime minister decides to enter a coalition with far-right weirdos because it is working soo well in Britain.

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  17. Another nail in the coffin for the crackpot Out of India Theory for a Pleistocene origin of Y haplogroup R1.
    http://eurogenes.blogspot.hk/2017/12/watch-red-arrows-naysayers.html
    Long awaited paper on ancient Indian DNA seems to be taking forever to come out.. David’s theory for why it is taking so long: “the reason the South Asian paper is taking so long is because some Indian scientists were expecting ancient DNA from South Asia to reflect OIT, but it reflects AIT, so they keep asking for more data because they can’t believe what they’re seeing.” I say just publish it open access and let those Indian scientists demolish it if they can, which I don’t believe they can do.

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