January Pieces of My Mind #3

Elk mince patties with built in bacon and chopped fried onions
  • Deputy Police Chief Hawk in Twin Peaks must have been getting those incomprehensible phone calls from the Log Lady for decades, poor bastard.
  • My pecs are sore from this winter’s first cross-country skiing.
  • Ancient monument surveyor on the verge of a nervous breakdown: “When inspected in 1979, the area is so overgrown with rosehip and cherry bushes that detailed study is impossible without the aid of a flame thrower.”
  • So the voters are afraid of rising crime. Politicians can react by affirming this and hiring more police. Or by explaining gently that the 5-year statistics show the opposite. Sadly voters don’t like getting educated.
  • Belated realisation: Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” is about overconfident driving under the influence of amphetamine.
  • Identified my first genealogical link to a DNA relative. Our latest shared ancestors are seven generations back and were born about 1700 in Borrby parish, Scania. It’s a little disappointing to realise that a year after I got my DNA done, my closest DNA relatives are still such distant ones. Family Tree DNA’s calculation indicated that in this case the link would be five generations back or less.
  • “They had heard he was an antiquarian, but even the most hopeless antiquarians do not make daily use of obsolete phraseology and gestures.” H.P. Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
  • Our Social Democrat head guy on the Nacka municipal council likes to read Jules Verne. In Persian.
  • Big Dutch authority on Bronze Age depositional landscapes recommends my 2015 book on Academia.edu. Same book that’s gotten major shout-outs in print from two of the UK’s biggest authorities in that field. I’ve left academia, but I didn’t leave without a trace.

Author: Martin R

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

91 thoughts on “January Pieces of My Mind #3”

  1. I’m not sure whether you are referring to crime rates in Sweden (about which I know little or nothing) or crime rates in the US. I do know that in the US the national trend is toward decreasing crime rates, but that trend is not uniform throughout the country. Big cities in the US are much safer than they were 30 years ago–you still need to take standard precautions, as you would in major European cities, but Boston, for one, doesn’t have the no-go zones it had 30 years ago. But methamphetamine and opioid addiction has led to an increase in crime in some rural areas which is swamped by the nationwide (city-dominated) decrease. I can say that there are now parts of the rural US where I no longer feel safe. American gun culture, which can be especially strong in some rural areas, doesn’t help. And there does seem to be a correlation in the US between percentage of the population addicted to meth and/or opioids, and propensity to vote for Trump.


    1. Shame it’s in the Daily Fail, I will not give them even the fraction of a penny they get for one click. But if as the link title suggests it is saying that 60% of the average Brits’s DNA is European I’m surprised it’s that low.


    2. Jazzlet: The writer doesn’t seem to realize that Anglo-Saxons were from Europe (hence the surprisingly low 60%). I wonder if she knows how much after the Anglo-Saxons the ‘Vikings’ arrived. Apparently the Normans and ‘Vikings’ were European but the Anglo-Saxons weren’t. Conflates the whole thing with Brexit, or tries. It’s all just too funny for words.

      Cecile Borkhataria has a real future in front of her if she ever decides to ditch journalism and go in for writing Terry Pratchett style novels, except she wouldn’t realize she was doing that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, well they aren’t known for their accuracy in reporting, why should science be any exception?


    3. Nugget of revelation from the afore-mentioned Ms Borkhataria: “The average Britons (sic) genetic make-up is 36.6% Anglo-Saxon, the majority of the remaining DNA is European.”

      “Irish” seem to get classified as “European”, as opposed to “Great British”. Quote: “A new study by AncestryDNA reveals that Britons, on average, glean 60 per cent of their ancestry from Europe (including Ireland).” The added real shocker for her there is that the Irish are not 100% “Celtic”.

      And Brythonic people just don’t get a look-in anywhere, despite the fact that they didn’t just vanish off the face of the earth genetically after the Anglo-Saxon migration period. But that’s not her fault.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anglo.Saxon.migration.5th.cen.jpg She couldn’t have failed to notice the big dark arrows pointing at England, could she? And the corresponding patches of colour? Unless of course she just didn’t take the 5 seconds it takes to look.

        To regard Danish or Norman ancestry in England as European (and anti-Brexit!!!), but regard Anglo-Saxon as ‘indigenous’ is just hilarious.

        And the outcome that gives for Scotland, that it is even more ‘European’ than England because it has less ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is even more hilarious.

        As for the poor old Brythonic/Celtic people (Britons, anyone?) who occupied England before and during Roman rule, they just never get mentioned. The previous popular theory, that they had all been either genocided by the Anglo-Saxons or set sail for Brittany, is simply not true. But they get mentioned in Ireland, but too much – there, they are the default assumption!!!


  2. New Scientist (subscription required for full article) claims advanced stone tools dated at 172,000 years ago have been found in India.


    1. “For some reason around 73,000 or 74,000 years ago, the site was completely abandoned,” Professor Pappu said.

      Ummm…Mt. Toba eruption?

      This might strengthen John Hawks’ idea that India could have been a likely region for occupation by Denisovans. By “advanced stone tools” they are referring to the use of the Levallois technique, which both Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans are known to have had by then. But some academic from the University of Queensland has volunteered the gem of an idea that the tools might have been made by H. heidelbergensis. Duh. He’s got a bit of catching up to do.


  3. I won’t have “Highway Star” on in the car if I’m driving, I end up diving faster and faster without noticing, I’m much too easily influenced!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can see how it could do that.

      One guest on QI claimed that Deep Purple were, at the time, the loudest live band ever, and that became the ‘gold standard’ that other live rock bands tried to equal or exceed. He claimed that after one Deep Purple concert, they found two young guys unconscious.

      Sound is a pressure wave through the air, obviously. A high enough amplitude could knock someone unconscious, sure enough. Hell, a high enough amplitude can kill someone by causing their lungs to collapse.

      That’s why we control the amplitude of the pressure wave emitted by blasting. The pressure wave from blasting is one short pulse, unlike rock music, obviously. We try to keep it at or below an amplitude of 120 dBL at the nearest ‘sensitive receiver’ (means people, and/or domestic animals – don’t want to distress the doggies, seriously; we’re kind hearted folks, and besides, their owners complain). Much higher than that can really alarm people (rattle windows and such) and animals like dogs, and even be painful for them. When you need to blast regularly every day for months or even years to construct a tunnel or cavern, it’s not helpful to upset people to the point that they have grounds to make major and repeated complaints, to the point where you have to stop, and certainly not helpful if you actually injure or kill someone. No one wants to risk doing that.

      130 dBL (decibel linear scale – for measuring noise audible to humans, the decibel A scale is normally used, but in blasting, the range of frequencies extends beyond the range audible to humans (mostly lower) but can still be damaging) is a high enough amplitude of pressure wave to permanently damage the hearing of children. Don’t want to risk going anywhere near that, so we set the upper limit at 120. The decibel scales are logarithmic, so 120 is a lot lower than 130. Deep Purple would have exceeded that, easily, if that QI guest panelist is to be believed (he was a member of a rock band who he said topped out at 107 dB in their live concerts, but claimed they were nothing compared to Deep Purple – he seemed to know what he was talking about). Depends on where it is measured, though, obviously, because the pressure wave is attenuated with distance – but measured among the audience, yes, easily.

      There’s a reason why Eric Clapton is going deaf, and suffers from permanent tinnitus – no plans to stop, though. And why Brian Johnson, former lead singer of AC/DC, has gone permanently deaf in one ear, and going that way in the other, which is why he is now the former, not current, singer. And why Pete Townsend has permanent hearing damage.

      I could never see the point of attending a concert where the sound amplitude would be high enough to be physically painful to me. I did experience that once or twice. I attended a Tegan and Sara concert, the diminutive Canadian monozygotic twins, not people you would expect to be really pumping out the decibels, but when I walked right up to the edge of the stage to get a good look at them, it hurt like hell. I didn’t stay there, obviously. Hate to think what they are doing to their own hearing.

      I have walked close past Chinese lion dancers, and the sound vibrations from the drumming have made my chest cavity vibrate – not a comfortable or ‘nice’ feeling. And that’s not amplified drumming, just acoustic. I was remembering that with Daughter. She said: “Sometimes they use girls, now.” Me (mock horrified): “What, instead of drums?” Daughter: “No! As drummers!” Stupid Dad joke.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. There might have been some justification in the old days when all the sound came from the front, so if it was loud enough at the back it would be too loud at the front. But that is no longer the case.

        The first (and, to date, only, though I have a ticket for a concert this summer) time I saw Deep Purple, the re-formed Mark II lineup, I was expecting it to be loud, but removed my earplugs after the first few bars. And I was directly in front of the stage.

        I have seem Ritchie Blackmore recently several times with Blackmore’s Night, and once with the re-formed Rainbow. He has just a small combo amp on stage. At least with Blackmore’s Night, the PA isn’t too loud either.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I thought it was the Who that were the loudest rock band eve, but whichever it was a stuid thing to be going for. On the other hand I did rather enjoy feeling the bass in my chest, but luckily survived such experiences without obvoius hearing damage – I could hear bats well into my thirties. Of course I wasn’t subjecting myself to it every night for weeks at a time either!


      3. Jazzlet, you are right, in that The Who were evidently substantially louder than Deep Purple. But apparently the all time record goes to a Swedish band:

        But Phillip has put his finger on an important point here – noise measurements can be problematic, in that sound is usually pretty strongly attenuated with distance (but odd things happen – weather conditions can result in unexpected phenomena, like sound waves being reflected back down by dense low cloud, plus reflection/refraction effects from topography and buildings, and in the rock band context, the acoustic properties of performance venues), and in the days when bands had only stage amplification, sound close to the stage would be much greater amplitude than some distance further back, so it would matter really a lot where the sound measurements were made. When I went to that Tegan and Sara performance in 2010, they had only stage amplification (probably because they were still Indie then, and cost and logistics would have been a major consideration, so standing right next to the stage was physically really painful, but only 20-30m back was perfectly comfortable.


      4. I can still hear bats very clearly when they are fairly close to me in more quiet locations in HK and they are zeroing in on airborne insects to eat, despite all of the years I have been working in the construction industry, plus my years of playing in a band (but we were an all acoustic folk band – I had to play my classical nylon-stringed guitar into a microphone, and we were never loud) so I assume my hearing is mostly unimpaired. Daughter’s hearing is more sensitive than mine, though – she seems abnormally sensitive. She has an acute dislike of wearing headphones or earphones.

        I have always had a major problem with being able to hear what someone is saying to me in noisy surroundings like parties, even when I was very young, which helps to explain my lifelong dislike for going to parties – I can’t talk to anyone when I do because I just can’t understand anything people say to me, and endlessly asking them to repeat is just embarrassing, and they get visibly irritated by it. Happens to me even in big restaurants when the background noise from people talking is particularly loud, and depending on the acoustic properties of the physical restaurant setting – the acoustics in one restaurant not far from where we live are awful, the walls are curved and the whole place acts like a sound reflector; the noise level is really disturbing. Daughter grew up accustomed to my problem, and automatically sits next to me and talks to me with her mouth very close to my ear when she wants to say things to me – that way she can talk to me without shouting. But that seems to be more a brain problem, unable to unscramble the different sound signals, than one of hearing acuity.


  4. https://thewest.com.au/politics/federal-politics/kevin-rudd-launches-legal-action-against-abc-over-publication-of-secret-cabinet-documents-ng-b88731047z

    Sequence of events: someone in some part of the Australian federal government sold some old locked filing cabinets as second hand office furniture, without first unlocking the cabinets to see what was in them, and so not realizing they were full of still-security-classified files. Some enterprising journalists from the ABC (funded by the same federal government) snap up the filing cabinets, lever them open, and publish the files online (failing to realize that by doing so they are leaving themselves open to conviction and possible 20 year prison sentences for breaching national security legislation). And in the process think they have got the scoop of the year, so publish a piece accusing former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of ‘ignoring warnings about risks’ and then stating he was unaware of them (in the process totally failing to understand what a risk analysis is). Kevin Rudd sues the ABC for defamation.

    Australian national spy agency (ASIO) bursts in, takes possession of the files and locks them up in a safe place – after they have been published online.

    Popcorn futures have just shot through the roof again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sounds like several people need to lose their jobs here. Start with whoever approved surplusing those filing cabinets without verifying that they were empty. The ABC could have handled it a lot more discreetly, too: maybe published a list of the files that were in there, rather than the files themselves (although depending on the circumstances even the list might be classified info), especially as Australia does not have the explicit press protections that the US does. Furthermore, either Rudd ignored the warnings about risks or was unaware of them; choose only one (strictly speaking, both statements might be false, but they cannot both be true). And then ASIO locks the barn door after the horse has been stolen.

      Meanwhile, in the US, a train carrying several Republican members of Congress on their way to a retreat collided with a trash truck. The jokes write themselves here.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Everything has associated risks – it’s a question of what the hazards are, and whether the assessed levels of risk are tolerable or unacceptable. If politicians holding public office are bound only to do those things which have no associated risks, they would never do anything – but then, there are risks associated with doing nothing too.


    3. I can try to explain (hopefully as briefly as possible).

      In the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, the then Labor (so liberal) federal government headed by Kevin Rudd moved swiftly to do whatever useful things it could think of to shore up the Australian economy and in the process provide jobs for a lot of unemployed, unskilled young people. One of their ideas was to use public funds so subsidize private home owners to have insulation (in the form of fibreglass ‘batts’, like small mattresses made of fibreglass, readily available commercially for this purpose) installed in the roof cavities of their houses to help to heat-insulate them (and also to save on heating during cold weather). Good idea – every house in Australia should have this insulation installed in the air cavity between the exterior roof and interior ceiling; it works – it helps to keep the house cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Before launching this scheme, they had a risk analysis done. The risk analysis identified some financial and administrative risks, but concluded that the risks were tolerable. It did not consider risks to life – the analysis was done by economists, after all, not…yeah.

      So the scheme was launched, and enterprising contractors rushed to take advantage, employing thousands of inexperienced, unskilled and unemployed young guys to do the installation work – that was part of the whole point, after all. The expectation was that experienced contractors would suitably instruct and supervise inexperienced young workers – a few of them did not do that. In the subsequent process, unfortunately four young guys died – variously by accidentally coming into contact with electrical wiring and being electrocuted or just dying from excessive heat stress – it’s hot work in summer. Four out of several thousands, involving many hundreds of thousands of hours of work. Public scandal (never mind that people expose themselves to much higher levels of risk just driving to and from work every day for one calendar year – the general public just don’t get the idea of relativity of risk, especially when there is some perceived political capital to be made out of something or other, and journalists, of course, who don’t get the idea either, merrily pump up all of this stuff relentlessly to keep the ‘story’ running as long as possible in order to sell ‘news’).

      The succeeding Liberal/National Coalition (so conservative) government headed by the ruthlessly vindictive Mad Monk Tony Abbott launched a Royal Commission to look into the matter (no doubt hoping it would pin something egregious on his political opponents). The detailed proceedings of the Royal Commission were kept confidential, as they always are, but the Royal Commission concluded that the Rudd government and Rudd himself were blameless, and their findings were announced publicly. Rudd had accepted the advice that the financial and administrative risks were tolerable, and was simply not made aware that there could be risks to human life involved. You could argue that a bit of common sense and a few minutes of contemplation could have concluded that the risks to life would not be zero, but then just about anything people do has associated risks to life, notably including trades people involved in the construction and housing industries. Even if he had been made aware that there could be risks to life, it’s at least possible the magnitudes of those risks could have been judged to be tolerably low.

      Now, the ABC has shot itself massively in the foot by getting all of this hopelessly wrong, and publishing a story accusing Rudd of ‘ignoring the warnings that there were risks’ and ‘claiming he was unaware of the risks (to life)’ (which were in fact never evaluated). Rudd, incensed at being so publicly accused (not unreasonably), has now taken legal action against the ABC. The ABC has failed to understand the difference between financial risks, administrative risks (whatever they are), legal risks, and risks to human life.

      You could argue, somewhat harshly I think, that common sense should have told him that there were risks to life involved, but managing those was primarily the job of the contractors concerned, and besides, Rudd was the Prime Minister of a whole country at the time and in major crisis mode, battling frantically to do quickly whatever he could to try to protect the national economy from the impacts of a massive global financial meltdown. He couldn’t reasonably be expected to micro-manage every single thing down to that level.

      As it was, Rudd and his Treasurer Wayne Swan took very swift action to do some very important and commendable things, but public memory is short, and there is no political capital to be made out of things that are done swiftly and admirably well to avert financial disaster. One of the most impressive things they did was move very quickly to guarantee everyone’s savings bank deposits, to prevent a run on the banks. That was because people were starting to panic and withdraw all of their savings from the banks, on rumours that the banks would go bankrupt, carting big piles of cash out of the banks and stashing them somewhere (no idea where). Rudd and Swann were less concerned about keeping the banks solvent than they were about preventing huge numbers of people from losing their lifes’ savings. It worked instantly, the bank runs stopped in their tracks, the banks remained solvent, people’s savings were protected, and it didn’t cost the public purse a single penny. But of course everyone has long forgotten that.

      In the event, it was largely the Chinese demand for commodities that saved the Australian economy overall, particularly in the aftermath of the GFC, during which China became Australia’s largest trading partner, but Rudd and Swann were commendably swift and decisive in taking immediate actions to support and protect ‘little people’ from a lot of the possible impacts. They got no thanks or recognition for all of the things they did, almost all of which were undoubtedly very helpful at the time.

      Now, people can read the detailed proceedings of that Royal Commission into the Great Roof Insulation Scandal (massive waste of taxpayers’ money), if any of them can be bothered wading through thousands of pages of detailed scrutiny of every conceivable aspect, which most of them obviously won’t do; but if they do, I predict they will not find anything to hold Rudd and Swann negligent or blameworthy for. And Rudd’s legal action against the ABC will of course succeed – he has got them dead to rights, and he knows it. The Royal Commission’s findings have already pre-empted the whole thing, as long ago as 2014. If Tony Abbott could have made anything at all out of it at the time for political gain, people can be certain he would have. He didn’t.

      What then unfolds will keep a lot of people happily munching popcorn for quite a while.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely right. As a source of money, the Government was acting as the customer, not the employer. It was always the job of the employers to make sure that insulation installers were aware of the hazards. I’ve installed fibreglass batts myself for a living – it’s hot, dusty, nasty work. But it would have been just plain stupid for me to blame the customer for any problems I may have had. The whole thing was a beat-up to try and discredit a very creditable program which did help the economy.


  5. “It’s a little disappointing to realise that a year after I got my DNA done, my closest DNA relatives are still such distant ones.”

    Martin, I think your experience is the same as most people’s, including those who have had their DNA done by multiple different companies. Of my thousands of “relations” in 23andMe, almost all are probable 5th cousins (so shared DNA of the order of about 0.3%) resident in the USA or Canada. Contributary reason: the very large majority of people who use 23andMe are Americans and Canadians. There is one mysterious probable second or third cousin (location unknown) who I did try to contact, but no response – fair enough, their prerogative.

    Aside from that one mystery person, there is another one who shares an astounding 50% of my DNA, who was happy to share her genetic data with me – my daughter.

    Another far more distantly related person (as of >40,000 years ago, mostly) has also shared her genetic data with me – my wife.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “I’ve left academia, but I didn’t leave without a trace.”
    And you’re not done yet – some of the best yet to be inserted into the record 🙂

    Not kidding about Daughter – one of the fun things you can do is get your kid to spit into a test tube, and see which bits of your DNA are expressed in him/her. But they need to understand first that the direct to consumer genomics companies sell your data to big pharmaceutical companies and others, hopefully anonymously now, and hopefully anonymously ever into the future. That’s not something that can be infinitely guaranteed – Daughter has some regrets about 23andMe, who openly do this. But at least they admit openly that they do it, and ‘guarantee’ to their customers that they only do it anonymously – but who knows what will happen in the future? What happens if they are bought out by some less scrupulous business? One possible concern is, if medical insurance companies get hold of your data and can identify it with you, what will they do with it?

    Upside is you are making some contribution to medical/drug research. Possible future downside – who knows?

    I think that concern is something that puts a lot of people off getting themselves genotyped now – loss of control over their own DNA data. Which doesn’t raise hopes that your data will become more useful later for genealogical purposes.


    1. No, I’m informed that more people (at least in America) are now enthused about it than ever. When Daughter and I did it, 23andMe were the only direct to consumer service providers available. Now there are lots. Problem arises that they all tell you different things. There are reasons for that, but it confuses people.


  7. It’s popcorn time again.

    Lots of Australian wine-guzzling vegans appear to have only just discovered that wine producers use ‘organic’ ‘fining’ agents to remove undesirable stuff from wine, plunging the vegans into abject horror. Fining agents used include egg whites, casein from milk (used to ‘fine’ wine since ancient Roman times), gelatin, isinglass from fish swim bladders, and (the one that really amused me) diatomaceous earth (so, logically, by their reasoning, this should mean that vegans can’t even safely consume rocks without prior advice from a competent and suitably licensed geologist).

    Vegans are now accusing wine producers of concealing the fact that they use animal products to produce wine (wine producers say nonsense, this practice has long been widely known going back to ancient times and is open knowledge) and demanding that these products be included as contents on the wine labels, so vegans can avoid them. (Wine producers say nonsense, the fining agents are removed from the wine before bottling, so they are not part of the contents of the wine).

    Likely outcome – wine guzzling vegans will be forced to go to fringe specialist wine producers who produce only grossly inferior crappy wine full of sediment and chemical nasties to cater to their exacting requirements. Expect several more rounds of escalating suboptimal behaviour before that point is reached though. The option that vegans could avoid the whole problem by just swearing off the booze is extremely unlikely to prove acceptable to them.

    * Note to readers: In Australia and New Zealand, wine producers who use fining agents that could be allergenic are legally required to declare that on the label, even though no trace of the allergens is left in the wine after it is bottled.

    **Further note to readers: No diatoms have been subjected to cruelty in the production of this comment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t tell the vegans, but if they are eating organic vegetables (which I am sure most do to the extent possible), they are consuming a product that was made with the aid of animal byproducts, most commonly manure. There are limits to how pure you can get.

      Terms like “vegan” and “vegetarian” can mean different things to different people. For example, the last time I was in France I went to dinner one evening with a group that included an American vegetarian. Hilarity ensued, because the French do not consider seafood to be meat (it was the usual method of dodging the former Catholic requirement to avoid eating meat on Fridays). It took some effort, but we did find one item on the menu that he could eat: a goat cheese salad (fortunately, he was a lacto-vegetarian, not a vegan).


      1. I don’t know if it would happen now, but I encountered Americans back in the 80s and 90s who genuinely thought vegetarians ate chicken, their definition of a vegetarian being ‘someone who doesn’t eat red meat’

        Liked by 1 person

    2. A few facts about vegans:
      Most vegans only stay that way for max. a few years. Doesn’t apply to vegetarians who just don’t eat meat but consume other animal products.
      Most vegans cheat – they privately consume animal products at least occasionally.
      Some vegans put their mostly carnivorous domestic pets, cats and dogs, on vegan diets and claim the animals are perfectly happy with it and suffer no adverse health effects – ignores simple biological facts about the animals’ digestive systems. Interestingly, domestic dogs have evolved some ability to digest processed grain products, they carry the enzymes for it, but a totally vegetable diet is pushing it. When my mother would give my pet dingo a plate of left-over beef or mutton stew for dinner, she would carefully consume the meat and lick all of the gravy from the vegetables, so we would end up with her dish containing all of the pieces of potato and carrot, licked perfectly clean of gravy.

      One current prominent militant Anglo-Australian vegan with a large online following is a former criminal gang member who carried an illegal hand gun, peddled drugs, engaged in violent and intimidatory stand-over tactics against people to force them to do various stuff, and spent time in prison in Australia. He is now distinguishing himself by engaging in criminal activities of a different sort in various places including HK, breaking into and trespassing on private property, etc. If he keeps it up, sooner or later he will become acquainted with one or more of HK’s prisons, which are not places you want to spend much time in. They do cater for vegetarians, though, because a lot of Mainland and Hindu criminals are unaccustomed to meat diets, for different reasons, and can’t cope digestively.

      Reminds me of the Indian guru-type lady in Sydney who insists that people should consume only raw vegetables because “we are descended from gorillas, and look how big and strong they are.” Aside from that being factually incorrect, she seems unaware of the very major and obvious differences in the digestive systems of gorillas and humans, plus the fact that humans have been omnivorous for at least millions of years. Plus gorillas also eat insects, when they can catch some.


      1. Vegans have to take care not to end up deficient in vitamin B12 in particular as well as vitamin D, omega3 fatty acids, calcium, iron and zinc. The vitamin B12 deficiency can take some time (years) to show symptoms.

        You can feed many dogs a vegetarian diet, although how well the dog will do does depend to an extent on where the dogs ancestors come from. If ithe ancestors come from an area here the humans had starch-rich diets the dog will have more duplicates for the gene that produces amylase than if they come from an area that depended on starch poor diets. The full article is in Nature, but there is a report on it here http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2013/01/diet-shaped-dog-domestication. Cats on the other hand are obligate carnivores.

        Our first dog would do the eating round things she didn’t think were food, like cabbage, even cut up into pieces so small you wouldn’t have thought the effort to avoid them was worth it, but she was a German Shepherd and they are generally very suspicious of new foods. Each new food, even treats, will be carefully inspected, sniffed from every angle, turned over and sniffed some more, then a nibble taken for further assesment before either being accepted and eaten or rejected as ‘not food’ accompanied by a reproachful ‘why are you trying to poison me?’ look. The contrast with a springer spaniel we were given was amusing, she would eat any food except celery, and many things that weren’t food, which resulted on one occcasion in her having to have an operation to remove a soft toy she had eaten.


      2. In Australia, it is illegal for parents to put their children on a vegan diet, and is regarded as a form of child abuse. That is completely founded on children’s nutritional needs.

        To be clear, I don’t knock anyone about genuinely held beliefs, or putting themselves onto various diets because they feel better that way, and I have my own concerns about animal cruelty – I worked in farming for a while and was routinely appalled by the callous attitude that Australian farmers had towards animals. What I object to is people trying to force their beliefs onto others, including by ‘virtue signalling’ and social shaming, when those beliefs might not be genuinely held and/or are based on ridiculous pseudo-science. Or ridiculous extremes – objecting to the use of diatomaceous earth for ‘fining’ wine is truly bizarre, and trying to project objections to such ridiculous extremes onto everyone else is definitely not OK.

        My pet dingo was definitely in the category of licking around even tiny pieces of cabbage while carefully not consuming any of them, and individual peas (but then I went to extreme lengths to avoid eating them too), but she was like lightning when identifying things that were ‘food’ vs ‘non-food’. Rice and potatoes were very definitely ‘non-food’ to her – but it’s not hard to see why a dingo would not have evolved to be able to digest such things.


  8. Spencer Wells, Razib Khan and Joe Pickrell try to demystify and explain people’s ancestry results.

    One thing I would say is that, if people get themselves genotyped, no matter which company they choose, they should download their own raw data file, which is just factual scientific data about you. Once you have your own raw data, you can run it through different algorithms used by different companies and see what interpretations you get.

    Joe Pickrell’s company let me do this for no cost, so I did that with my raw data, and got different interpretations from those that I got from 23andMe *up to a point*. That is because Joe’s company does not try to break down Western/Central European into the various modern countries, because the genetic distances are small, and lots of mixing has gone on, whereas 23andMe does, but gives you 3 different interpretations with 3 different confidence levels in the predictions of ancestry broken down by modern national boundaries/reference populations. Even so, 23andMe does not attempt to separate French and German because they are too similar, with lots of overlapping, and also do not attempt to separate British and Irish. So, they might tell you that you are X% French/German and Y% British/Irish – which is not what some customers want, obviously, and they can get pretty worked up about it, but the truth is that the genetic distances between those respective modern populations are really small.

    But obviously for my daughter, any company will very easily differentiate her mixed ancestry because the genetic distance between her mostly European ancestry and mostly Chinese ancestry is much larger and very obvious. She didn’t tell 23andMe anything about her genealogy or ancestry, she just waited to see what interpretation came out, but that just popped straight out. Also, we didn’t tell them we were father and daughter, but that just popped straight out, and likewise when my wife finally agreed that she wanted to do it, and she just popped straight out as my daughter’s mother. Getting just about all 5th cousin matches with one or two rare exceptions can be pretty disappointing if you are hoping for family genealogical information though, like I did, because that is getting really distant, in terms of geneaological family trees.

    You won’t get genealogical matching that way, just by having your own raw data and running it through different algorithms, though, because you don’t have other people’s individual data to compare to; the algorithms just do whatever matching they do to the population samples that the different companies are using to assign ancestry. But your own raw data will not change, and who knows what you will be able to do with your data in the future, so you should definitely download it (assuming the company you used lets you do that – 23andMe do, it’s no problem, they let you do that for no extra cost and it’s simple and pretty fast to do) and keep it somewhere safe where you won’t lose it. If Spencer, Razib and Joe are right about where this is all going, within a few years the number of people who have had themselves genotyped will hit 100 million, and that’s big.


  9. There is considerable news coverage on the excavations of a Mayan city. The region was more densly inhabited than thougt.
    – – –
    I sometimes try fake meat ( soy and suchlike) since the stuff often have less calories.
    It emulates the real thing about as well as the “tea” provided by the nutr-o-matic robot on Zaphod Breeblebox’ spaceship.


  10. More too funny for words stuff – Yonden Lhatoo, the ethnically Burmese Chief Editor of the South China Morning Post rails against what he calls “the Scandinavian brand of cultural imperialism”. The what???


  11. Birger, one of the many enjoyable culinary experiences in HK is to go to one of the many really good vegetarian restaurants. These are not a new thing. Buddhism generally does not require its adherents to be vegetarian, but Chinese Buddhism does, so Chinese Buddhist vegetarian cuisine has a very long tradition, and they do the ‘fake meat’ thing really well – the ‘fake meat’ varieties are collectively called “jai” in Cantonese and are all truly delicious, so much so that I periodically get a craving for them. Plus they incorporate a very wide range of edible fungi, and a commendably wide and adventurous variety of vegetable products. This is, in reality, vegan cuisine, because they exclude eggs, and Chinese traditionally don’t consume milk products anyway.

    I read one ‘travel’ piece by a Western vegetarian woman who was bitching about how she couldn’t find vegetarian food while traveling in China. All I can say is that she can’t have looked very hard, or was too culturally disinterested and unprepared by not having done a bit of simple online research before going there. It was meant to be a kind of ‘warning’ to her fellow vegies considering visiting China. All I can say is that, if people know where to look, which is really easy, HK can literally be a vegan’s paradise, and has been for a very long time, much longer than the current wave of fashionable ‘virtue signalling’ style veganism. Of course, the whole idea of Chinese Buddhists needing to be vegetarian is precisely because of the philisophocal/religious belief that people should not subject other living creatures to any form of suffering.


  12. Once, a prominent professor of civil engineering and his wife, both Canadian Ashkenazi Jews who had migrated to Israel, were coming to HK, and had contacted my old English boss (long time friends) to say they were coming and could they meet up. Problem – my boss was away from HK on leave. So I volunteered myself + wife to sub for my boss, show them some hospitality and take them out for an authentic HK Cantonese meal at a large fairly up-market restaurant. But a problem immediately presented itself to me – I knew all about Jewish food rules because I had a close lifelong relationship with an ‘adopted’ Polish Jewish uncle who had been friends with my father in the Australian army even before Dad was married, so I had literally known him all of my life. He was much closer to me than any of my real uncles.

    So, I talked this through with Wife. We made a booking at this restaurant, then Wife engaged the staff in a discussion about, not only the availability of meat dishes that excluded pork, but also not cooking anything in pork fat. Plus the shellfish/crustacean thing. The restaurant staff were commendably knowledgeable and accommodating about this – yes, we get it; no problem, we’ll see to it that everything is OK. Menu was arranged, and kitchen staff were instructed.

    So, we meet the Jewish couple, get on very well, warm friendly rapport, get to restaurant, sit down, and I say to them “It’s OK, there will be no problem with food rules here”, to which they immediately reply “Oh, personally, we don’t have any food rules. We eat anything.”

    Wife and self instantly face-palm.


    1. True, many Jews do not observe the dietary laws, especially at times of year other than Passover. For instance, one engineer I worked with, who is Jewish, never followed the dietary laws. But a different (non-Jewish) engineer in our group always requested kosher meals on airplane flights, because he had quite a few food sensitivities and knew that he was sure to avoid these things if he ordered the kosher meal. I hear that sometimes Muslims will request kosher meals, even though their dietary laws are much less strict, because basically anything that is kosher and not made with alcohol is also halal.

      On the whole, probably better that you and your wife made the effort to avoid any unpleasant surprises. It can be tricky to keep kosher or halal in China–not impossible, but you have to know what to watch out for.


      1. The only alternative to us playing safe would have been to mail them and ask them straight out, but that seemed intrusive and insensitive, on the probabilities, so I made an assumption based on what seemed most likely. They weren’t bothered by it, though, they took it all in very good humour and seemed to appreciate that we had taken the trouble, and the meal was fine anyway. They were really a delightful, friendly old couple, and very easy to socialize with.

        My adopted Jewish uncle was a humorous and harmlessly quirky person, which added to my affection for him. He absolutely loved bacon and ham, but would only eat them if we called them “veal”. If we called them what they were, he couldn’t eat them. He happily celebrated Christmas Day with us every year, tucking into Christmas “veal”, which we could only afford once every year, along with chicken, before the days of battery farmed chickens. He never missed going to the Synagogue every week, though. I was 17 years old before I ever tasted turkey.

        Very many Chinese restaurants cook in pork fat, so even if people are very selective from the menu, they might well not be ‘safe’.

        HK has a sizeable Muslim population, though, so Halal is definitely a thing in supermarkets, and some restaurants that cater to minorities. They also have the option of going to the Chinese Buddhist vegetarian restaurants, who cook with vegetable oils.

        The Mainland has the Hui people, most of whom are now genetically indistinguishable from Han (not to be confused with various Muslim ethnic minorities). At the village level they coexist peacefully with Han and farm shared fields, on which Han graze their pigs – doesn’t seem to be a problem. Famous Chinese admiral Zheng he, regarded as a hero in China, including by the CCP, was a Muslim and a eunuch.


  13. Some pretty funny stuff:

    Notably not-very-bright of Shanghai-based Bright Foods to buy a majority stake in the British breakfast cereal Weetabix. Unless I’m much mistaken, Weetabix are normally eaten with milk, and Chinese are famous for being 100% lactose intolerant. After 5 years of spectacular lack of success they sold out to an American company.

    My wife used to use underarm deodorant (despite me repeatedly asking “Why???), until she figured out she had absolutely no need to and was just wasting money buying it for no reason – just suckered into it by advertising.

    Some blog comment discussion about this has been remarkably stupid. One commenter: “Personal hygiene is still not the strong side of Chinese.” Either that’s based on a piece of research that must have been truly staggering in scale and geographic extent (but missed most of the Chinese people I know personally, which is really a lot), or the person who made the comment is so dumb he/she must have trouble figuring out how to get out of bed in the morning.


    1. I have heard that many mainland Chinese stop putting diapers on their kids significantly earlier than Westerners typically do, and of course there is the issue in the countryside of farmers living close to their farm animals. I don’t know many Chinese people from rural areas. The urban Chinese I know, at least by the time they are old enough to start grade school, do have reasonably good personal hygiene habits, whether they are ABCs, immigrants, temporary residents in the West, or live in China, and that’s true whether they are from Taiwan, Hong Kong, or the mainland. So I would say that blog commenter is probably racist.


      1. It’s easy to run afoul of language/cultural differences when marketing a product to people from a different country. The classic (but apocryphal) example was GM’s efforts to sell the Chevrolet Nova in Latin America (“no va” is Spanish for “it doesn’t go”, but that turns out not to have been the actual reason for that marketing fail).

        It works both ways. When I was in Brazil I was amused to see an ad from Varig, then the country’s largest airline, touting their “voos notturnos” in the northern part of the country. On one level I can understand it: thunderstorms tend to be less of an issue late at night than during the afternoon and early evening. (As I was leaving Manaus I noticed that there were no flights scheduled to depart between 15:00 and 21:00.) But the expression “fly by night” has an unsavory connotation in American English, one which evidently does not apply in Brazilian Portuguese.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Pig farmers don’t sleep with their pigs – they know the pigs would eat them, given half a chance. Ducks, not so much. But Guangdong Province duck farmers’ grasp of microbiology is a bit lacking.

      Ethiopian highlanders keep goats in pens inside their huts at night – it helps to prevent them (the people) from dying of cold. I’m waiting for some American commentator to write “Personal hygiene is still not the strong side of Ethiopians.” Probably won’t happen.

      There was a traditional practice by *some* Chinese in parts of China (recognizing that I’m talking about a vast country covering a huge range of climate, levels of education, living standards, and all kinds of other metrics) of dressing their small kids in pants with a trapdoor in the back – or just no back at all, so the kids would be walkin’ around with their bare arses hangin’ out. I haven’t seen this anywhere lately. Some Mainland tourists letting their little kids piss on the floor in trains in HK was a contributing factor to the hatred that developed among HK Chinese for Mainland Chinese tourists, despite this being a fairly rare occurrence.

      Given the vastness of China, its huge population + the extent of the Chinese diaspora, any stereotype should be self-evidently ridiculous.

      I could make the generalization that public toilets in China are generally thoroughly disgusting, in my experience. I was amused to find one public toilet on Hainan Island which bore an official looking sign which announced that it was a “three star toilet” – and sure enough, it was pretty damned good. Hainan is tropical, so washing daily even in cold water is both very comfortable and obviously desirable. I didn’t find any people on Hainan failing the sniff test, including Hainanese aboriginal people – a notably squeaky clean total population.

      But hey, at least they have public toilets. 50% of households in India still don’t have an indoor toilet, which makes a very major contribution to high child mortality (contrast with Bangladesh, where a concerted government drive to discourage people from shitting in public has resulted in a big drop in child mortality). Want to talk about India, or is saying “Personal hygiene is still not the strong side of Indians” not OK?

      What is clearly happening in Mainland China is that, as people are lifted out of poverty, standards of personal hygiene are rocketing past people in the West. Same thing happened in Japan and Korea, where people generally are now obsessively clean compared to a lot of Westerners.

      Overseas Chinese, those that I have experience of, have long since made this transition. So making any generalization about “Chinese” should be self-evidently stupid.


  14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weet-Bix

    Australian knock-off of Weetabix. Used to be given it to eat for breakfast as a kid – solved it’s low sugar lack of palatability by drowning it in honey (cheap where we lived; even cheaper (zero cost) during the period my somewhat eccentric father kept bee hives in our front yard (illegal in the suburbs, but the local cops obligingly turned a blind eye until someone complained that she was “almost stung by a bee”)) before then drowning the whole mess in milk.

    When Nic Naitanui, one of the best Australian footballers of all time in my opinion; certainly the most spectacular to watch (so, playing the Australian football code that no one else in the world plays) was voted best player of the year, his prize for winning was 40 boxes of Weet-Bix, a remarkable piece of tone-deafness by the sponsors. He gave them straight back again – he is 100% Fijian ancestry and so lactose intolerant, so doesn’t eat Weet-bix (virtually inedible dry).


    1. Sheep fat comprised a fair bit of my diet when I was a kid. Disgusting just didn’t come into it.

      Now that I am a bit less impoverished, to the extent that I can be choosy about which sort of cheese to eat, my favourite is roquefort. So I am back on the sheep fat again.


  15. Pretty good explainer on the problem direct to consumer genomics companies have in assigning ancestry to Northern Europeans:

    People have strong notions which generally align with modern national boundaries and most have some entrenched and often repeated oral family narrative about family genealogy, and they can get pretty upset if that is not what they see confirmed in their ancestry results. (23andMe try to spell this out to people as gently as they can by saying that their assignment of ancestry accords with the way the world was 500 years ago – what they don’t spell out is that they simply can’t determine between, say, French and Germans, who typically have strong views about not being the same people as each other, unsurprisingly).

    Maybe not quite as bad as finding out your father is not your real father, but that happens a lot less than some people claim it does.


  16. Donald J. Trump, 25 Feb 2015: “If the Dow Joans ever falls more than 1000 “points” in a Single Day the sitting president should be “loaded” into a very big cannon and Shot into the sun at TREMENDOUS SPEED! No excuses!”

    News this morning: “The Dow Jones Industrial Average has tumbled by 1,175 points at the closing bell — its largest drop in points for a single day.”

    Waiting expectantly.

    As advised by QI, it’s impossible to shoot anything into the sun, but giving it a good old American try would make a lot more sense that Elon Musk trying to put one of his Tesla cars into orbit around Mars.


    1. Having a party led by a lunatic Dunning-Kruger sufferer and a bunch of nihilists who can barely keep the lights on running your government turns out to be bad for business. Hoocoodanode?


  17. Today’s featured article on Wikipedia is the Guadalcanal campaign. Few survivors will have happpy memories.


    1. The collective courage of American servicemen during the Pacific War was remarkable. Same for the Japanese, but they were absolute fanatics. Americans weren’t, just really courageous in the face of a fanatical enemy. Halsey was incompetent, or quickly reached his level of incompetence, but many of the other American naval commanders were real stand-outs.

      Some of my favourite films: Malick’s 1998 film The Thin Red Line, and Clint Eastwood’s 2006 pairing of Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, about the Battle of Iwo Jima told from the American and Japanese perspectives respectively.


    1. Reported findings are consistent with other Mesolithic hunter-gatherers in western/central Europe, collectively termed Western Hunter Gatherers, distinct from Eastern Hunter Gatherers from the same period, who had more pale skin but brown eyes. This complicates the explanation for skin tones as latitude+diet – this is a ‘just so’ explanation, whereas the broader picture suggests that genetic ‘loss of function’ mutations that led to more pale skin and blue eyes (‘loss of function’ meaning reduced expression of melanin in upper skin layers and irises of the eyes) might have evolved for more complex reasons that are not well understood, in which higher latitudes and change to agricultural diet might not have been the only reasons for selection (but could have been factors – there is a very broad brush pattern with latitude, but there are notable inconsistencies). Another ‘just so’ explanation that people leap to is sexual selection, but that seems unlikely; there doesn’t seem to have been sexual selection for anything particular among humans. Social discrimination on the basis of skin colour is a very recent thing – it appears not to have existed e.g. in the western Roman Empire.

      So these findings should not be surprising. It confirms what you would expect – continuity between people in Britain and western Europe during that period.

      The reason why WHGs and EHGs are thought to be different in these respects is that, after the Last Glacial Maximum, Europe was repopulated by people migrating out of cold climate refugia in different areas and/or via different routes.

      One cool thing is that there was genetic continuity from these people in Britain to some modern Brits. So, in that sense ‘first modern Britons’ is right. Not only were they darker skinned, they were bloody migrants from Europe!!! Would love to know what the lady at the Daily Mail would make of this. Or maybe not.

      A bit off topic, one of my old English boss’s perennial favourite jokes was the old headline in some British newspaper: “Fog over Channel – Europe isolated.”


    2. Further comment – WHGs were very genetically homogeneous, from the remains that have been successfully genotyped, indicating that they derived from a small founding population that survived the LGM in some cold climate refuge. So Cheddar Man’s affinities with other WHGs are exactly what population geneticists would expect. From such small founding populations, ‘founder effects’ (i.e. the traits of a small number of people in the founding group) can strongly influence the traits of descendant populations unless/until there is mixing with other populations.

      The characteristic eye shape that people associate with East Asians (‘single eyelids’ (no crease in the upper eyelid) and epicanthic folds), which people try to invent all kinds of weird selection pressures to explain, probably have derived just from founder effects. Such eye features can be readily observed among the Khoisan, so it can be inferred that these features existed as part of natural variation among ancient modern humans at the time the Khoisan separated from everyone else >200,000 years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. When I was a middling teenager, once my family (parents + sister) and I went on an excursion to New Norcia, which at the time was no more than a Benedictine monastery established in 1847 by Spanish monks, a church, and two orphanages and two schools operated for Aboriginal kids (for girls and boys respectively). I have a vague recollection of a couple of nuns sinisterly lurking about the girls’ school. The hotel was already there, some way out from the main settlement, with little else by way of buildings.

    We had on board an old neighbour of ours, who was Spanish, and his ‘housekeeper’ (actually common law wife, as we discovered subsequently – should have been blindingly obvious, but they kept up the pretence) who was Welsh – probably decided to go to New Norcia because he expressed an interest in seeing it, so my father’s car was illegally overloaded with people, on what was an uncomfortably hot day. There were no other people around. We were poking around outside the monastery, investigating the small cemetery and outside walls, when the main exterior door opened, and an old Spanish monk emerged. Our neighbour engaged him in Spanish, which seemed to go down well with the monk. He enquired in English whether we would like him to show us over the monastery. We said “Yes please”, so he did. He led us into one basement where, to our total astonishment, he uncovered what he claimed was a genuine Titian for us to have a look at. We expressed surprise that they took no special security measures for this priceless masterpiece. He just shrugged – the monks were always there, and getting into the monastery was no easy task. It did, to my inexpert but not totally uneducated eyes, look remarkably like a Titian, but what would I know?

    After our free (and I assume privileged) guided tour, we were standing outside talking to him. He turned to me and asked me if I was learning any other languages at school. I said yes, French and German. He shook his head and said: “You should learn to speak Spanish.” Me: “Why?” Old monk: “French is a woman’s language. Italian is a man’s language. German is the Devil’s language. English is a pig’s language. But Spanish, my son, Spanish is God’s language.”

    So there you go – if you were wondering, God speaks Spanish. I have that on the very best authority.


    1. Yeah but Lah (al-Lah) * spoke to Muhammed in the local dialect of the language then spoken in the Arab peninsula, making it the official godly language of islam.
      * strictly speaking, it was an angel. Unlike Yahweh, Lah does not like to talk with commoners.

      It makes me think, old Lah was fortunate there were a group of people around who happened to speak a language that was exactly like the one used by angels.
      It is like those people on other planets who fortunately speak english.


  19. Garbage from airheads like Kay Tse just never ends. What makes her think she is equipped to understand this stuff better than people who are professionals in the field? Would she decide she is competent to design her own high rise building, after reading some ‘materials’, because structural engineers have been lying to everyone? Maybe I’m off track – maybe the fault lies with people who believe her, rather than the health authorities, who have been pleading with people to get vaccinated.

    Meanwhile, I’m deeply shocked that some private clinics appear to have been gouging people HK$1900 for getting vaccinated – that should be legally actionable. Yes, HK has been judged to have the most free economy in the world, but there have to be limits in the public interest. I, wife and daughter have never paid more than $190 for a vaccination from a private doctor – more than well worth it.



    1. Far too many celebrities espouse such positions or even worse acively sell woo alog with their anti-vax, wee someone like Gwyneth Paltrow. Very occasionally you wil get a story that encourages good health, like when Jade Goody (UK Big Brther contestant) was diagnosed with late stage cervical cancer and spent most of her remaining life encouraging women to get screened which caused a significant rise in early detection and treatment with associated decrease in loss of life. Mostly you just get the ‘I cured my cancer with good vibrations’ crap, with a complete lack of information on the fact that this was after a successful excision of a very early stage non-metastatic tumour.


  20. Nerdy nit-picking; The Falcon Heavy can send 63 tons to low Earth orbit (LEO).
    Saturn V could send 128 tons.
    The Soviet Energiya (used twice) could launch ca 100 tons.
    Korolev’s moon rocket N 1 (abandoned 1972) could launch 70 tons.
    — — —
    The really impressive part of Falcon Heavy was the boosters returning, and making a perfect double landning.


  21. I only dip into US news sporadically now, the sewers are overflowing. The stand-up comedians and late TV show hosts hardly need to get up before noon, they just check the newsfeed and let the jokes write themselves.
    – – – – –
    A bad cold has drained all energy, I cannot bear watching athletes doing their thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Birger, I prescribe zinc, raw garlic and ginger, and lots of rest. Well, it can’t hurt.

    I’m still confused about how people can tell they have a common cold, rather than influenza, short of lab testing. I think I used to get colds when I was a kid, trudging to primary school in the middle of winter in my short pants and bare feet, sploshing through rain puddles – just respiratory symptoms but no fever. Don’t think I have had one since, but it’s hard to tell. They just don’t seem to happen in HK, as opposed to ‘flu viruses, which obviously do. We are currently at ‘peak ‘flu’ of a worse than average winter ‘flu season. It’s a worse than usual type B strain. But a type A strain is also starting to manifest, so we could be in for a ‘double peaker’. So, still worth people getting vaccinated now, and random moronic ‘celebrities’ spreading concocted bullshit at the worst possible time deserve public condemnation.

    But so far so good – Self, Wife and Daughter have all been vaccinated, as usual, and have so far not been infected with either ‘flu strain. Instead, Daughter has come down with a gastro virus, for which there is no vaccination – her symptoms are fever, tiredness and bi-lateral pains in the guts. No respiratory symptoms at all.

    I have been routinely getting vaccinated for as long as I can remember now, and I can’t remember the last time I was infected with ‘flu. Daughter quickly followed my example and is a strong advocate, being well educated in Human Biology; Wife took a bit longer, but became convinced after she kept getting infected while Self and Daughter did not. So much for ‘flu vaccines being ‘ineffective’ – not in our collective experience, which is that they have been spectacularly effective.

    We have just endured a prolonged ‘cold snap’ which has been truly diabolical, so that helped to elevate the spread of ‘flu in the comunity. The government has now taken the very sensible step of closing kindergartens and primary schools four days early in advance of the Chinese New Year Holiday – school kids are a clear vector for spread of viral infections; they get infected at school, and then go home and infect all of their immediate family members, so keeping them out of school is a good way to break the chain of infection to limit the spread. A better way would be to make ‘flu vaccination of all kids mandatory. Some of the more enlightened schools arranged for medical staff to come to the schools to vaccinate the kids. That is a really good idea. This winter, the company I work for arranged for the same thing at our office, and offered free vaccination to employees. Staff were queuing up to be jabbed. My last trip into the office revealed zero infected employees at work wearing surgical masks, really unusual for this time of year. Not even one. So, well done, company – I had previously been blowing into my boss’s ear of the merit of herd immunity by getting everyone vaccinated. I don’t know if I had an influence, but he has a good track record of listening to me; but whatever, clearly the management have been listening sensibly to someone who knows, and see the benefit of reducing staff down-time due to illness.

    And we are now gradually emerging from this ‘cold snap’ (which would probably be regarded as ‘barmy’ in the mid-latitudes in Sweden, but has been diabolical in the HK built environment, and particularly out our way; +4C is just unbearable here). I can’t wait for Chinese New Year, when we are promised comfortable temperatures. And the HK Observatory’s longer term forecast (beta version in testing) indicates temperatures will continue to rise gradually thereafter, so I am hoping we are past the worst of it. Sure, this long range forecasting has high associated error bars, but the trend is consistently upwards, which makes me happy.

    At the end of every winter, I think to myself “I don’t think I can survive another winter.” Sooner or later, I am likely to be right.


  23. HK air will be saturated with water vapor, so 0° will feel like -15 C or worse, north Swedish winter w. no wind.
    – – –
    AI makes it possible to crunch impossible huge data sets. It makes it possible to see how proteins fold, search libraries of molecules for possible use as prototype drugs, seek patient records for correlations, and just about everything.
    Even us on the wrong side of 50 will experience an explosion of new treatments.
    – – –
    But unless they can simulate ice crystal formation “in silico” and proteins inhibiting it, we will NOT see whole-body cryopreservation breakthroughs in our lifetime 😦


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