Twelve Years Of Blogging

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Today is my twelfth birthday as a blogger. 12 / 45.5 ~ 0.26 – I’ve been doing this for more than a quarter of my life! I love writing and being able to publish my stuff without any wait or editorial meddling.

Following the demise of ScienceBlogs.com, I’m now on my third URL in twelve years here. The move to WordPress caused only a 26% drop in my traffic from October to November. Sadly I lost most of the images in older entries.

Blogging is one thing I’m not changing about my lifestyle. But professionally, I’m in transition: from a solitary scholar’s life where for 23 years I’ve subsisted mainly on small grants and (more recently) short adjunct lecturer gigs, to something else. As long-term readers will know, there are several reasons for this.

  • I want co-workers and a steady salary.
  • I’ll be 46 next year, and ¾ of all advertised lectureships in Scandy archaeology are given to people who are below 47.
  • I’ve lost all faith in academic meritocracy and no longer believe in the reward I was deferring.
  • My finances have gotten really badly messed up by a combination of a) almost no adjunct work since 2015, b) expensive home renovations and c) the cost of conserving the small iron finds that are so common on the Medieval castle sites I’ve been excavating in recent years.

So, Dear Reader, I hope you’ll stick around the blog! Expect the usual three monthly entries with Pieces Of My Mind, and also some chronicling of my ups and downs on the archaeological job market beyond the garden wall of Academe’s grove. Because though laurels do grow there, a man can’t live on bay leaves only.

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38 thoughts on “Twelve Years Of Blogging

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I find them interesting even when I don’t comment. I hope you find financial rewards and good colleagues jolly soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. People have been known to die from accidentally swallowing a bay leaf – they remain stiff and can cause intestinal perforations which can be fatal. Better off not trying to live on them. And what Jazzlet said.

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  3. Here’s to 12 more years!

    And speaking of anniversaries, have you heard anything about the Sandby Borg project? They were only going to finish excavating one house, and three years should be enough to write it up and at least submit it to a publisher. Their website is blank unless you enable Javascript, and the Antiquity article in 2016 was vague about timelines …

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  4. Look at the bright side- you are not required to come up with euphemisms for forbidden words.

    Some professionals are no longer allowed to write dirty words like “fetus” or “Vulnerable”.

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  5. Home renovations can indeed be very expensive. I have spent more than 2/3 the purchase price of my house on renovations, the two biggest projects being replacing the windows and siding (2007) and updating the kitchen (2004). I would be able to recover that money if I sold the house, but that’s mainly because I was extremely lucky in my timing: within five years of buying the house, the value had gone up so much that I would not have been able to afford the house. And I easily could have spent more on the kitchen: in 2004 I expected granite countertops to be a passing fad, so I went with Corian, which was much less expensive, especially as it had just come off patent.

    IIRC your house was built in the mid 1970s, so it is approximately the same age mine (built in 1963) was when I did the bulk of the renovations on it. Of course construction standards are and were different, as are labor costs (high in this part of the US, but probably not as high as in metro Stockholm).

    In the US it is said that, apart from measures to keep the house habitable, the renovations that provide the best return on investment are the kitchen and the bathrooms. But then the US has had a common practice of trading up when it comes to real estate, as well as a relatively high rate of relocation within the country. At the time I bought my house I did not expect to still be here nearly two decades later (but now that I have paid off the mortgage, it would take a fairly sweet job offer to get me to relocate). If you expect to continue living in your present house as long as you remain physically able to keep it up (which is likely to be a few decades for someone your age), resale value is less of a consideration, and Sweden probably does not have the sort of mentality about real estate that would lead to lots of gratuitous trading.

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    • We ripped out two of the little kitchen’s walls, joined it with the dining room and put in two plate-glass doors. And we redid Jrette’s room, giving it too one of those doors.

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  6. Are we doing this here now? It’s a 12+ continuation of blog enthusiasm, and long may it last.

    Funniest tweet I have seen in a while, in the ongoing Taylor Swift meme: “Taylor Swift’s silence on String Theory suggests that she supports Loop Quantum Gravity.”

    And apparently “disintermediate” is now a verb, as in old style media types like Murdoch being ‘disintermediated’ by the new wave of Google, Facebook, etc. I like the idea of Murdoch being disintermediated. OTOH he has just pulled off the deal of the century so far by selling his media interests to Disney for huge $$$ – can’t help but feel that Disney have been suckered and sold a lemon. Like I care.

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  7. Well, it’s a start: “Whole-genome sequencing for an enhanced understanding of genetic variation among South Africans.”
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-00663-9
    So, Bantu ain’t just Bantu, after all – they show population structure due to isolation, having arrived in the south during the Bantu expansion via two different routes. And Zulus seem to be a stand-out as well, but they had only one Zulu sample, and that was a bad choice.
    I still admire my own inexplicable mental clarity and foresight 15 years ago when I told (yeah, me, who knew nothing) Joe Pickrell and Razib Khan that just dividing people into 3, 5 or 7 ‘main racial types’ (think 19th Century European anthropology; you know the drill: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid, Australoid, Amerindian…putting people into non-existent water-tight racial categories) was not going to be enough for medical and pharmaceutical applications of genetics. Unsurprisingly, now, it very obviously isn’t. Not nearly enough. And (amazingly) I went on to tell them that whole individual genomes would be necessary (which was unthinkable at the time due to the enormous cost – now, it’s not). Not entirely ignorant; even then, I knew that African-Americans are on average 20% Modern European/80% West African (mostly but not wholly, as in Barack Obama), but with big individual differences. And I knew that my own daughter was not ‘classifiable’ (and that whole populations of a lot of countries with large populations like Mexico and Brazil are ‘biracial’ or ‘triracial’ – and that’s just stuff that happened within recent historical time).
    Still see moronic/poorly educated types (like police and gov’t census in various countries) referring to ‘Caucasian’ as a phenotype. Try ‘Europid’ – it still sucks, but it’s not as bad as ‘Caucasian’. West Eurasian is better, but doesn’t tell people too much about the phenotype of crooks the cops are searching for.

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    • I suspect that the most likely widespread use of genetics in relation to pharmaceuticals will be to start working out who will respond best to the different variations of types of drugs eg PPI’s or SSRI’s so patients don’t have to try the cheapest and work their way up until they get to the one that works for them all the while suffering symptoms. And associated work on who can safely take drugs like Vioxx that have been taken off the market because they are dangerous to some even though for others they are both safe and effective, that could be a big win for the companies that developed them – my MIL did very well on Vioxx and was very frustrated when it came off the market as nothing else she could take worked as well for her. But I could well be wrong.

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  8. *happily* It looks like the Adani giant coal mine planned for Queensland is dead in the water. They can’t get any of the Chinese banks interested in providing the financing (despite previously announcing confidently that they had Chinese backers, but then Adani are now infamous for being bare faced liars and ridiculous, grossly unrealistic optimists), and now giant mining/engineering contractor Downer have pulled out. If Downer won’t touch it with a barge pole, no one else can or will. And the Aboriginal land rights issues are still far from resolved. Plus the Queensland Government, desperate to be re-elected and pressured by voters, did a massive U-turn and vetoed Adani’s bid for a A$1 Billion loan from the Australian Federal Government (which raises the question of why the Feds were willing to lend a Billion of taxpayers’ money to help to finance a huge dirty coal mine that the people of Australia clearly think is a really bad idea).
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-18/adani-parts-way-mining-services-company-down-carmichael-mine-qld/9267778
    The longer this process goes on, the more dead the project will be. People Power. Democracy is clearly corrupt, so The People have stepped in to stop it. Good to see.

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  9. John 15-16 years ago, Freeman Dyson made some uncannily accurate predictions, one of them was that the cost of whole-genome sequencing would drop as dramatically as the cost for computational electronics, and that it would be a revolution for science.

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  10. I’m lucky that way! Maybe the US haters think that as a Swede I’m politically and culturally irrelevant. And the Swedish haters don’t feel confident hating me in English. Darwin knows our Hate Partyers have a hard time writing correct Swedish to begin with.

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  11. Whole genome sequencing hasn’t quite been the scientific revolution in medicine that was predicted. In some areas it has, where a few genes of large effect have been identified, like the BCRA mutation that puts women at very high risk of breast cancer. But for most diseases, including most cancers, many rare mutations are implicated but which frequently don’t result in cancer, and lifestyle factors have been shown to be much more salient than previously thought. And viruses in some cases, something that Martin pointed out to me a long time back. I shouldn’t downplay it too much, in a lot of cases genes obviously do matter, including in how individual patients will respond to drug treatments, but they are not the whole story – genetic and environmental (in the broad sense, to include lifesyle factors) interaction are obviously very complex, but often also the answer.

    I would argue that where whole genome sequencing, including from ancient remains, has had far more impact in resolving human origins, with hopefully a lot more yet to come – so, chocolate, not potatoes, but chocolate matters too. Man does not live by bread (or spuds) alone, (s)he needs some interest and inspiration in life; stuff that makes life more interesting beyond the purely mundane.

    Totally random deviation – I recall as a child being absolutely incensed reading an encyclopedia piece on dietary staples in various countries, and it said that in Australia, the dietary staple was potatoes. So, in a country that is and has long been a massive wheat producer, eclipsing every other crop by a million miles, and where most people consume loads of wheat bread every day, commonly for three or more meals per day (and for the non-gluten mob, real or imagined, gluten-free bread substitutes are consumed), no, it’s not wheat that’s the staple, it’s potatoes. What utter rubbish – it was when I was infuriated by it as a kid, and it still is. Ireland? Maybe, although whether it is still true today is probably debatable. Australia? Nowhere close. Thank goodness we are no longer reliant on paper encyclopedias full of poorly researched nonsense.

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  12. Heat-proof kitchen bench tops are definitely worth having. Don’t need to be marble, there are man-made substitutes that serve just as well, look pretty in a great variety of colours, and much more cheaply (and don’t emit radon, which marble does, or can do).

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  13. Re: hate mail, maybe Bob Lind hasn’t discovered the Internet yet.

    A salient factor in the USA is the law relating to absolute freedom of speech there – people can get away with hate speech that they wouldn’t get away with in other countries. And Sweden doesn’t matter in the US just like anywhere else that is not the US doesn’t matter in the US. Although I see that the White House is now making inroads into freedom of speech by banning unacceptable words/terms like ‘science based’ and ‘evidence based.’

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  14. Bob knows about the internet, all right. He’s got a web site, and he’s emailed me at least twice. Once he wanted to set up a public debate with me, and on another occasion he informed me that he had reported me to the police. They never got in touch though, so I still don’t know what I had done wrong.

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  15. Reported you to the police LOL! He’s barmy. No doubt like the HK police, the Swedish police are accustomed to receiving any number of loony complaints which they file in the waste paper basket.

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  16. Re. houses built in the early seventies, I recall that some of the new synthetic materials did not work out as the risk of “sick house syndrome” with allergies is greater with those buildings.
    Nonglamourus 1950s-early 1960s houses made of bricks seem to have few such problems.
    Neo-brutalist concrete boxes of the same period tend to need total renovations (I work in one of those).
    I sound like a some reactionary, but with structures intended to last at least half a century, you want stuff that is well-tested and structures that permit easy repair.
    The good thing about new houses is, they have paid more attention to the needs of disabled and elderly that cannot use stairs. Plenty of ramps and elevators, with bathrooms and kitchens a 90-year-old can use.
    External environmrnt: Not so good. Our muncipality regards any green space as a waste.
    (Umeå is run by Social democrats with occasional support by conservatives. Nuff said.)
    Now I am off to see if there are any cool new DNA articles.

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    • “Sick house syndrome”, at least in the US, tends to be associated with houses built in the 1980s or later. Such houses are supposed to include moisture barriers, but if those barriers are not installed properly they can trap moisture within the walls, leading to mold growth in either the structural parts of the house or the drywall.

      The main reason brick has fallen out of favor as a building material in the US is because it is a particularly poor choice in places where earthquakes are a significant risk, such as California, which has long been a major trendsetting state. Unreinforced masonry has a tendency to collapse in hard shaking.

      Thread music: Little Boxes. The song was originally written by Malvina Reynolds, but Pete Seeger (at the link) made the song famous. It’s appropriate because the description of suburban single-family housing development in many English-speaking countries was and remains accurate:

      And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
      And they all look just the same

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    • In US politics, the phrase “law and order” is code for “keep Those People in their place”. And “personal responsibility” means “personal responsibility for thee but not for me”.

      But assuming that he is found guilty, nobody will be able to say when he later runs for office that Track Palin is a candidate without convictions.

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  17. http://www.scmp.com/magazines/style/travel-food/article/2119648/wearing-rolex-when-you-travel-can-actually-make-you
    Yeah. It could also get your hand chopped off. I had a nasty moment in a back street in Bangkok once, when a group of dodgy, tough looking guys baled me up and asked to take a close look at my watch. But it turned out all they wanted to do was look at a genuine Rolex and feel its quality – they had only ever seen fakes up close before. They showed appreciation for the fine machining of the stainless steel case, noted that they could tell the difference between a real Rolex and even the best fakes, thanked me for letting them feel it, and handed it back to me, polite and friendly; but I never took my eyes off it after I handed it to them, in case they tried to switch it on me, which they didn’t. Well, that’s Thais – show them respect, politeness and friendliness and they are likely to respond in kind. Wearing a watch like that in the street in Rio de Janeiro could get your hand chopped off with a machete, and wearing it in Port Moresby could get you killed.

    I’m far too attached to my 23 year old Rolex Explorer II to ever part with it (invaluable when you spend days at a time underground in caves and lose track of whether it is day or night on the surface, which I have never done and will never do, but hey, you never know!) (I have instructed my daughter to remove it from my wrist when I am dead and sell it – old Rolexes go for high prices to collectors, and mine is a discontinued model – they changed the design a couple of years after I bought it, and the Rolex appreciation crowd agree that the new design sucks, whereas the old design is a classic), but there are places where I would never wear it, or even carry it in my pocket.

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  18. I assume we need many more skeletons with good DNA to sove the issue?
    The CWC people would then show substantial intermixing with original western Europeans while strong similarities with Yamnaya remained.
    — — — — —
    Rodem robotic chair takes wheelchair concept to higher level https://techxplore.com/news/2017-12-rodem-robotic-chair-wheelchair-concept.html
    It looks like the wheels of Dr. Davros.
    Add big robotic arms and sockets for all kinds of augmentaition and I will buy one.

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  19. …but of course the CWC people might have incorporated genes from people in their path in western Russia, peoples that had been displaced/died out by later times, so it would be hard to reconstruct the origin/migrations of CWC.people.

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  20. David has already answered your questions in the post, as follows: “But hey, Anthony might be right, and I might be way off. Indeed, perhaps Anthony based his theory, to an extent, on soon to be published Yamnaya samples from the Carpathian Basin? If such genomes have been sequenced, and at least one belongs to R1a-M417, then it’s game over as far as the origin of the Corded Ware people is concerned, and I’ll welcome the surprise.” Y Haplogroup (i.e. male line of descent) R1a-M417 was very strongly represented in CWC people (and on down into a lot of modern E/NE Europeans). So, what he is saying is that even if only one Yamnaya culture person from the Carpathian Basin is found to have the same Y Haplogroup, it demonstrates that CWC people descended directly from Yamanaya culture people, rather than just being closely related to. (And by ‘I’ll welcome the surprise’ he means that he won’t mind being proven wrong about this.)

    I guess, to an extent for a lot of people, it might seem like a detail. Proto-CWC people migrated into N Europe from the Pontic-Caspian steppe, or at least the male line did (male/female proportion of steppe ‘invaders’ was something like 13:1, so these steppe migrations were strongly male-mediated), which makes the steppe a very strong candidate for the origin of Proto-Indo-European language. I guess if you are an archaeologist, then knowing who/what exactly gave rise to the CWC is a big deal, and if you are a linguist, then knowing for sure where the PIE ‘homeland’ was is a big deal – it’s looking like a slam dunk as far as the region of origin of Indo-European languages is concerned (and that includes the sub-family of Indo-Aryan languages, incl. Sanskrit, which clearly developed in the Indian sub-continent, but from IE roots), but there are still those clinging on to the theory that the PIE homeland was in Anatolia. And those in India clinging on to the theory that R1a originated in India during the Pleistocene, but it will take ancient DNA from the Indian sub-continent to convince those folks, and even then they’ll probably keep trying ad nauseum to argue against it, because theirs is an ideological/nationalistic/racial motivation, and they are utterly repelled by the idea of steppe people invading the sub-continent from the NW as the source of R1a in India and of the roots of Sanskrit. Well, one can sympathize with them to some extent for being a bit touchy about ‘European-like’ invaders of now-India/Pakistan being part-ancestral to modern day Indians and Pakistanis, given the much more recent colonial past, but the past was what it was, not what people would like to believe it was. At some point, people need to realize that what happened in the past is done, it’s over, and let it go.

    Personally, as an R1b (so, Bell Beaker Culture), I don’t care at all that my male line is now known for certain to have descended from the Yamnaya. It’s just very cool even being able to know that, and that’s enough.

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  21. LOL! Sorry, Birger – in direct response to your second point, I think we can safely conclude that the CWC people ‘incorporated genes’ from just about everyone they met that they didn’t kill either with disease or a bloody big battle axe.

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  22. I am hoping we may some day track the paths of CWC and Yamnaya, but if they mixed with ” ghost” groups not (yet) represented by skeletal finds it is just down to educated guesses.
    – – –
    Are those Indian guys pushing an old theory or did it appear alongside the current rise of Hindu nationalism? If they have political backers facts will not slow them down…

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    • My experience with such “thinkers” is that they are rarely original in their thinking. So while I can’t give you a definite answer, my guess is that the “out-of-India” theory had long been on the lunatic fringe, and acquired a veneer of respectability when the Modi government was elected.

      That’s the pattern I have seen with, for instance, anti-vaccine types. See Respectful Insolence for details. The anti-vaccine crowd will only occasionally come up with new ideas, and continue to hold onto old ideas long after they have been disproven. For instance, anti-vaccine types continue to assert that thimerosal, which contains mercury and has been used as a preservative in vaccines, causes autism. The problem with this hypothesis is that thimerosal was removed from child vaccines in the US by 2001, but the prevalence of autism has not decreased. This little detail doesn’t seem to bother the anti-vaccine crowd one bit.

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  23. Origins of modern inhabitants of the Indian sub-continent have long been hotly contested on the strength of archaeology, linguistics, culture, religion, history of the caste system, etc. since way before the genomics revolution. The science of modern genetics has just been fed into the same mix and twisted to suit ideology. The Hindutva (‘Hinduness’) thing emerged in the early part of the 20th Century, and was adopted as the official ideology of the BJP in 1989, so yes, it is strongly embraced by Hindu extremists, and now has strong political backing, with the BJP in power. It forms the foundation of Hindu nationalism, which embraces the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, while excluding the ‘foreign imported’ religions of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. It is a form of ‘ethnic nationalism’. Best advice – don’t even go there, and certainly don’t bother to try to debate it all with Hindutva devotees. David does at the Eurogenes blog on the strength of the genetic evidence, but then it is his blog and he can ban them whenever he gets sick of their irrational ranting. Of course, they keep disguising themselves and coming back at him, but he can keep on banning them as they re-emerge.

    It’s not a unique thing – the previous prevailing theory was that modern European ethnicities derived in situ from the first anatomically modern humans who migrated into Europe around 45,000 years ago, and that agriculture was progressively introduced to Europe by a process of cultural transmission, and likewise material culture like Corded Ware and Bell Beaker. That has now been strongly disproven – Europe was obviously depopulated during the Last Glacial Maximum, and only progressively repopulated again by hunter-gatherers migrating out from southern refuges as the ice sheets receded (so e.g. my maternal DNA derives from European hunter-gatherer but dates back only to about 8,000 years ago), followed by waves of migration into Europe, first by Middle Eastern farmers, and then by steppe herders. The evidence for that is now so overwhelming that no one even tries to argue against it any more (well, no one completely sane and rational, that is). So, I’m relatively rare among people of mostly European ancestry; only about 5% of modern Europeans have a maternal line derived from European hunter-gatherers (but amongst the Sami the frequency is 50%). That tells you something about relative population sizes (farmers being much more numerous than hunter-gatherers) and displacement of pre-existing populations (such as in the case of the Sami, who got pushed into marginal territory climatically unsuitable for farming – same thing happened to the San people when the Bantu expansion reached southern Africa; they either got killed, swamped genetically by inter-breeding or pushed into the Kalahari, and then European colonization just further reinforced those processes).

    You can kind of track CWC and Yamnaya from uniparental DNA. See for example here: http://eurogenes.blogspot.hk/2017/09/the-beast-among-y-haplogroups.html The frustrating thing about tracking population movements from uniparental DNA has been that, often, you find things like males migrating in one direction, while females migrated in the opposite direction, which takes some head scratching and explaining. The movements of steppe people into Europe are relatively straightforward, though, in that they were heavily male mediated, and the main Y DNA lineages can be associated with material culture; so, R1a with Corded Ware, R1b with Bell Beaker. In modern Europeans, R1b is most highly represented in Western Europe, whereas you can see from David’s map at the above link where R1a is most highly represented. But that’s also a bit tricky, because R1b and Bell Beaker culture became very dominant in Iberia, and from there migrated up the Atlantic coast and into Britain and Ireland with strong ‘displacement’ of pre-existing populations (in Britain and Ireland this was in excess of 90%, which is huge – it’s hard to achieve wiping out more than 90% of a population even with prolonged all-out warfare, so it looks like introduced disease could have been a big factor, as it was in the Americas and Australia), but in Central Europe, Bell Beaker culture seems to have been introduced more by cultural transmission than by invasion and displacement of people, or disease (obviously); so, just tracking Y DNA in this case is a sort of OK but certainly not perfect mechanism for explaining things that archaeologists find and where they find them. There are other well represented Y Haplogroups, of course, like I (capital i) in Scandinavia, but R1a and to a lesser extent R1b tend to be the ‘beasts’ (in soccer terminology).

    But when it comes to beasts, fully 1 in every 200 men alive in the world today carries a male line descended from Genghis Khan and his male offspring. Those guys were real beasts – they were all over the pitch, and their work rate and scoring were phenomenal.

    But now I’m running out of time, and I need to try to give a close reading to Martin’s new book.

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