December Pieces Of My Mind #2

The buds have survived days of sub-zero temperatures.
  • I’d love to work as a Finds Liaison Officer. But there are none in Sweden.
  • The expression “Why can’t you do X” for “Why don’t you do X” really throws a spanner into my speech parsing engine.
  • Four years since the Chinese lander Chang’e 3 and the Yutu rover landed on the Moon!
  • Wondered why my phone’s screen was suddenly all greasy. Realised that it was because I’d been using the phone for an unfamiliar purpose: talking on it. With Junior.
  • Inadvertent CapsLock just caused me to say “Gnarp” as an expletive.
  • Took out the food waste bag but forgot to bring in toilet paper from the shed. Used “Robertsfors” as an expletive.
  • “Oh, Twin Peaks is just an excuse for David Lynch to trip out completely” /Mrs. Rundkvist
  • Meritocracy means occasionally having to hire someone you really don’t like.
  • “Whole Lotta Love” opens with a lewd little snigger.
  • Fish species can spread through roe getting stuck to birds. Fishes fly from lake to lake!
  • Movie: The Last Jedi. Plot stacks way too many improbable crises and resolutions in way too narrow a time frame. Dialogue is ridiculous. Actors are good. Grade: Fail.
  • “Pakistan” means “Land of the Pure” in Urdu and Persian.
  • Wonder what Earth’s biochemistry and our technology would be like if tantalum was as abundant as copper is now and vice versa. Copper is about 35 times as abundant as tantalum.
  • Heard a talk on the Rohingya situation in Burma. Learned that many Burmese human rights campaigners believe what they learned in school, that those people really don’t belong in Burma.
  • Hang on in there, everybody. Friday night will be shorter than Thursday night. There will be another spring!

Author: Martin R

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

40 thoughts on “December Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. …and everyone “knows” jews aren’ t ” real” Germans.
    Which reminds me, Pakistan has been big on persecuting minorities ever since independence.
    First it was mainly etnical, now it is about religion.
    Corruption has been the constant factor.


  2. I doubt biochemistry really would change much with such a switch. There is a correlation between how common an element is and how important it is for biological systems, but I doubt it would matter that much for only a factor of 35. It’s probably far more important how accessible the element is for biological reactions. As far as I know aluminium is not important for biology, for example, even though it is fairly abundant in the earths crust. It’s all bound up in bauxite, and mostly inaccessible.


  3. Cats can fly from continent to continent, using their bipedal hosts.
    One biologically very important element is phosporous. And there are probably many trace elements that also are necessary, in small amounts. Their abundance is not *quite* so important, as long as it is greater than zero.

    Calendar facts


  4. Led Zeppelin is one of those groups that gets rave reviews from a lot of people but doesn’t tickle my fancy. I eventually figured out why: although Robert Plant is a decent singer when he stays in his natural baritone range, too much of Led Zeppelin’s catalog calls for his falsetto range, which to me is like what they used to call “fingernails on a chalkboard” (back in the days when we still had chalkboards). In “Stairway to Heaven” and “Going to California”, the two LZ songs I actually like, Plant mainly stays in his baritone range. And I like both of the instrumental covers of “Kashmir” that I have in my music collection.

    Nirvana is another such group. I prefer my music to have more complexity than the same two bars repeated over and over again, as happens in the chorus of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. I also prefer to be able to understand lyrics that are supposedly in English.

    I have yet to figure out why W. A. Mozart and the Rolling Stones are in this category. Both put out some music where I can see hints of why Mozart and Jagger are considered brilliant. But most of the songs in their catalogs just don’t tickle the part of my brain that decides whether or not I like a given piece of music.


  5. Frogs, toads and newts can also hitch rides on birds as eggs along with lots of smaller creatures. Though newts in particular can also roam for miles, amazing distances considering their size.

    Eric you might find Plant’s work post Led Zeppelin more to your taste, especially the more recent stuff. I do like Led Zep, and Plant as a singer, one of the best concerts I’ve been to in recent years was Plant and the Spaceshifters at Wolverhampton City Hall, basically his hometown. Great music in a relatively small venue (for someone of his stature) with an enthusastic home crowd. During the gig Plant announced that he was seting up his own management company to be called Yam Yam, which resulted in a huge cheer; ‘yam’ is Black Country dialect meaning roughly ‘are you’ as in ‘yam going up pub?’. I lived in Wolverhampton forseen years so understood even though I’m not a local.


  6. David Anthony: “Language is what makes humans human.” Agree?

    I don’t. The oldest species assigned to the genus Homo is H. habilis, and I have never seen anyone suggest that they were capable of complex speech; they most likely didn’t have the necessary physical adaptations for it, aside from anything else. It also seems unlikely that H. erectus was capable of complex speech, although it is clear they had controlled use of fire and used it to cook food at some locations and over at least the latter part of their time line, certainly by 0.5 million years ago – cooking food looks like a pretty ‘human’ behaviour to me. I don’t know of any animal that does it. Even with Neanderthals, although they had the physical adaptations necessary for complex speech (but loud, high pitched voices, so they would have been sort of screaming at each other) and in some cases appear to have engaged in symbolism (primitive forms of art, burial of the dead), and undoubtedly cooked food and made simple clothing (though they appear not to have had needles, so not stitched clothing), the jury is still out on whether they did actually have complex speech, and I don’t know how that could be resolved. But they are all classified as ‘human’ – to classify them as anything else, when at least Neanderthals, Denisovans (and possibly H. erectus or some other unkown archaic human in Africa) clearly interbred with modern humans on multiple occasions, would be truly bizarre.

    The female gorilla Koko lacks the physical adaptations for speech, but she has learned to understand about 2,000 spoken human words, and can communicate back to her human handlers using sign language for over 1,000 words, and has actually created some new ones herself, e.g. she combined the signs for ‘finger’ and ‘bracelet’ to come up with her own sign combination to mean ‘ring’. So, she has practical use of modern human language, is capable of coming up with novel new expressions, and has used it to communicate remembered events, and about objects not physically present. And gorillas a far more removed from modern humans than extinct species grouped under the genus Homo.

    Just what it is that separates humans from other animals has become increasingly tricky to define simply (e.g. chimpanzees make and use tools in the wild, so that’s out as a defining criterion); it is more like a combination of traits and adaptations that set humans apart. Speech? Nope, don’t think so.

    I’m really surprised that someone like Anthony would make such a statement.


  7. The human mind likes binary choices. A continuum of primates with gradually more human- like abilities messes with this thinking.


  8. …and it just occurred to me, those struggle with this aspect of evolution would also struggle with understanding concepts like HBTQ issues. Hm, do I know people who fit this description? (sarcasm, looks at magazine with ‘merican big cheese on cover)


  9. Fun factoid. OK Cupid made a poll. The number of people who would be urinated on during sex outnumber those who would date a Trump voter by three to one.
    — — — —
    Lovely, clear weather. When watching birds feed I can actually get into the whole “christmas holiday” thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Shanghai has set an upper limit to its size at 25 million.
    And the prototype for the world’s largest in- production amphibious aircraft has been flown.
    Less cheerful; Chinese authorities choose to sentence a human- rights activist to eight years in prison on Christmas day, to minimize media exposure abroad.


  11. African giant pouched rats have many talents. They are already used for finding land mines and biological samples of patients with tuberculosis.
    Now they are also used against the smuggling of pangolins, and of hardwood.


  12. African giant pouched rats have many talents. They are already used for finding land mines and biological samples of patients with tuberculosis.
    Now they are also used against the smuggling of pangolins, and of hardwood.
    I wonder if they can also be used to find smuggled ivory and rhinoceros horns.


  13. WTF? I thougt the system did not allow duplicate comments.
    Anyway have a good Kwanzaa/ Hannuka/Chtulhu-mas or whatever.


  14. The Creep Sheet
    “The Creep Sheet is an encyclopedia of public figures accused of sexual assault and harassment. We list accusations that have been published in credible, mainstream publications. Please note that in most cases, the allegations listed here have not been proved or disproved in court proceedings.”


  15. “An ancient mastodon ignited a debate over humans’ arrival in North America”
    Hmmm…while something like Homo naledi might have entered North America 100 000 years ago, and processed a mastodon carcass, we should really have found one or two skeletons of those by now. Even if the population was small. We found “hobbits” even though their range was limited to Flores.
    Yes, I know that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” but if a viable population spread out across a continent, and lived there for 80 000 years before displaced modern humans (with the rich ecology extinction seems unlikely) the skeletons would add up. Caves are not ideal lagerstatten as water may flow through them, but even so we know some fossils manage to survive, so why no pre-modern human fossils? I think the skeptics have the odds on their side.


  16. Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey has been brought into the current era with a version by Val Mc Dermid.
    The reviews are positive.
    Myself I remain skeptic. I prefer the familiar thrillers (and, BTW, the latest Jack Reacher is out now).


  17. Happy new year, John!
    You just entered 2018 while the rest of us laggards hang around in the past. The time zones turn us into reactionaries.

    2017 – New York got lower crime rates, after the cops ended the “stop and frisk” (of black men).
    And USA had fewer cops getting killed, despite Twitter Guy saying Black Lives Matter is out to get policemen killed.


  18. Saw The Last Jedi on Christmas Eve with my mother. Same theater in which we saw The Force Awakens.

    Yes, the plot gets to be contrived sometimes. But so did the old serials which were part of the inspiration: you had to have a cliffhanger once per reel. Continuity both within the film and with the previous installments was actually pretty good, unlike Rogue One (where the Death Star was shown to be capable of doing less than turning a planet into an asteroid field, and the Empire’s techniques for trying to keep the Death Star secret were gratuitously wasteful). In particular, the confrontation between Luke and Kylo Ren did a good job of calling back both to events earlier in the movie and its immediate prequel, and to the battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader in Episode IV. That was one of the most effective scenes in the movie.

    I’m not sure what they are going to do about the Leia character in Episode IX, because they didn’t take the chance to kill off her character on-screen and Carrie Fisher is no longer available to play the role (supposedly Episodes VII and VIII were filmed back-to-back, so they had all of her scenes before Fisher died).


    1. That headline, sadly, has moved into the same category as Bear Defecates in Woods, or Generalissimo Francisco Franco Still Dead.


  19. A Chinese university is part of a collaboration to predict the result of a 2-degree global warming.

    Up to a quarter of Earth’s surface may experience increased aridity.
    But if warming can be kept to 1,5 degrees, most of the negative effects can be avoided.


  20. More DNA.
    The journal Nature has an article about a relic population related to the very first north americans,
    called “ancient Beringians”.


  21. I made it through the Blizzard of 2018 without incident. No electricity outage (not even a glitch), and total snow accumulation of about 30 cm–substantial, but I’ve been through worse. I had no difficulty digging out and making it to my 0845 doctor’s appointment this morning.

    The bad news is that I seem to have inherited my paternal grandfather’s disposition toward high blood pressure. So I have to start taking meds for that.


    1. Zhaoguo Xue (If I got the spelling right) has managed to create elastic silicon nanowires.
      Important for electronic applications, but a bit beyond my understanding.


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