February Pieces Of My Mind #3

This late-11th century runic carving in Uppland is on a sloping rock outcrop instead of the usual standing stone (U 86 Skylsta). ”Sven had the runes carved after his brother Torbjörn”. On a skiing trip, Andreas Forsgren carefully removed the snow in such a way as to emphasise the carving, then took the photo.

  • Today my students hinted that it would be quite sad if they got bad grades seeing as they know where my Wikipedia article is.
  • Surprised to find myself as Mr. Humanities at the high school where I teach. I’ve been the nat-sci literate archaeologist for so long.
  • Does it count as martyrdom if you’re killed for your faith by a member of a sect whose tenets are extremely similar to yours?
  • A buddy of mine works as a property manager for a wealthy old organisation. He recently had a big Call of Cthulhu moment at work. He found a bill in his inbox for upkeep of a grave. None of the names on the headstone are familiar to him. None of his co-workers recognise them. But looking back through old binders, he found that his predecessors have been paying that bill every few years as far back as he had time to follow the records…
  • Aspie friends — you can take it as mad props or as a nasty insult, but it seems that Sweden’s genius warrior king Carolus XII was an Aspie too.
  • Everybody, stop using “ecosystem” in that vague new non-biological sense. It’s silly.
  • In Swedish, plattåk means cross-country skiing. Plåttak means tin roof.

Spent four happy days skiing, reading and gaming in Bjursås, southern Dalecarlia.

Advertisements

76 thoughts on “February Pieces Of My Mind #3

  1. Old pal who likes the cold and ran a ski lodge in Australian snow country for a while had to point out to me that, even on a still day with no wind chill, when you ski fast enough downhill you get wind chill. I hadn’t thought of that. Despite now being at quite an advanced age and in a perilous state of health, he keeps going on skiing holidays, and keeps trying to ski downhill faster and faster. My personal theory is that he is trying to die with his boots on, out where he likes it, rather than lying in a bed in some awful hospital. Maybe he could try doing a Sonny Bono, but I guess that could work out badly, like just quadriplegia or something.

    Like

  2. The following is a syntactically valid English sentence: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I got Sunderland which is completely wrong. Brought up in Oxford, lived in the West Midlands for ten years, Sheffield (South Yorkshire) for twenty years and have lived in Stockport (Greater Manchester) for eight years.

      Like

      • And Mr Jazz also got Sunderland, he was brought up in Manchester with frequent visits to Suffolk, including a term of so in school, and also spent a decade in the West Midlands.

        Like

  3. Hell just froze over and pigs have started to fly. Donald Trump have turned on the NRA.
    – – –
    John, Slate and The Guardian provide little data when they publish archaeology news items. Phys. org is better, but their journalists have been known to misunderstand issues.
    – – –
    The swedish conservatives are trying to position themselves between immigration-positive and the outright xenophobia of SD.
    I have not yet seen enough to judge if the move is sincere or cosmetic: refugees and immigration is a far more complex issue than what you can cover in a few press releases

    Like

    • That’s why I get references and read full papers if they are open access, or abstracts if they are not. Journalists do what they do, and Phys.org is just crappy journalism thinly disguised as science writing. It’s tiresomely formulaic.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Should be “has turned on the NRA”
    We see an unexpected benefit of having a nut that is totally unpredictible.

    Like

      • That he gets little done is a good thing. I don’t want to live in a US governed by somebody who is like Trump, but competent.

        Unfortunately, he isn’t getting little enough done. He seems determined to start a trade war with the rest of the world, and I don’t trust him to not start a shooting war with North Korea.

        Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee is accusing Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee of leaking private texts sent by a member of the former in the course of his official duties to a Russian individual. I need to stock up on popcorn before shortages and/or tariffs make it unaffordable.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. “…recently had a big Call of Cthulhu moment…” So presumably if they stop paying the bills, whatever unholy thing lurks in that grave will arise to wreak bloody vengeance upon them. Probably a good reason to keep paying…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Re. Karl XII, and other people with unusual minds. It would be a cop-out to attribute Trump’s behaviour to neuro stuff. Most likely, he is just a privileged asshole, and not a very smart one.

    Like

  7. Grace Jones will be 70 this year. I don’t keep up with Paul McCartney or The Rolling Stones ages, they must be in Monty Burns’ territory now.

    Like

  8. Mick Jagger was born in 1943, so he will turn 75. IIRC Sir Paul is about a year older than Sir Mick.

    An early story line in the American comic strip Bloom County has the Rolling Stones visit that fictional rural US county. The strips from this story line were included in the collection Loose Tails, published in 1983, so the strips would have run a year or two before that. In the first strip from that story line, ten-year-old Milo Bloom hands his teacher Bobbi Harlow a promo pic of the band, one of three (all new to Milo) that have offered to play for the school dance. She says, “I can’t believe this!” Milo’s reply: “My feelings exactly…these shmoes look almost 40 years old.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have figured it out: Trump is an avatar of Loki.
    It certainly makes more sense than the film “Abraham Lincoln, vampire hunter”.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. David Ogden Stiers aka Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on “MASH has died at 75.
    Vasaloppet in Sweden with15000 skiing participants is won by Norwegian.
    The German social democrats approve of a coalition with CDU.
    Italy has an election today.
    Trump praises Xi.

    Like

    • It’s difficult to imagine an immigration system worse than what we have here in the US. Multiple people have told me that one of the biggest perks of having a US passport is never having to deal with the US immigration authorities.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. So I hear that last night Richard Spencer, the American neo-Nazi, gave a speech at Michigan State University. Somebody in the administration was clever enough to choose as his venue the Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education. Which is appropriate both for the acronym and the old Tom Lehrer line, “He majored in animal husbandry until they … caught him at it one day.”

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Mueller: (music)
    “His subpoenas bring all the witnesses to the yard

    He could show you how,
    but he would have to charge (you)”

    Like

  13. Trade wars? Africa has been a victim of them for years https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/07/trade-wars-africa-donald-trump
    — — — — — — — —
    I could not yet find new archaeology stories, so here is some news items from The Daily Mash:
    “Women only multi-task because no other bugger does anything”
    “Being a bit chunky is all we’ve got left, says Britain
    “Banjo-Wielding Matt Damon Makes Last-Minute Bid For Best Original Song”
    “Guillermo Del Toro: ‘In Today’s Society, The True Monsters Are The Horrifying, Flesh-Eating Gargoyles’
    “Red Carpet Organizers Regret Only Renting One Porta Potty”

    Like

  14. Lean pickings. But I did enjoy reading this:
    View story at Medium.com

    “5. Send a care package. We waited a couple of weeks, but then sent things from home she couldn’t find there. For example, the Venice grocery stores she frequented didn’t carry American basics such as Ranch dressing or pancake syrup.” Daughter was ‘experiencing Venice’ – such a valuable opportunity to immerse herself in another (obviously alien) culture, but couldn’t go 3 months without pouring ranch dressing and pancake syrup on everything.

    “8. Pray. I relied on this daily. It was a great comfort to know that He would protect and care for her continually.” Yes, must have been very comforting, given that He doesn’t have time to prevent children from being abused, dying from cancer, etc. It’s the daily prayers that make all the difference.

    This is not meant to be satire. Even more worrying, she is a teacher.

    “Athena talks” followed that literary gem with a piece titled “My daughter and the Venetian peeping tom.” So, turns out that He didn’t do such a good job after all. “Although this was incredibly scary for me to hear about back in Missouri…” Also makes for entertaining reading.

    Like

    • Prayer is mostly harmless. But I agree that sending that care package, especially so soon, is a parenting fail. It’s understandable for somebody who is away from home for the first time to miss some of the familiar things of home, such as food the way her mother prepares it. But the daughter needs to understand that outside the US, American style food should be a rare treat. I have never been anywhere that didn’t have American style restaurants. But grocery stores must cater to the locals, who don’t define salad as a serving of lettuce with ranch dressing on top, and when they have something resembling pancakes for breakfast, may not pour syrup on top.

      People from the central US seem to be particularly bad about this. An engineer I used to work with, who grew up in Indiana, had certain peculiarities when it came to food and traveling. Some of it may have been legitimate sensitivities to food additives–this is the non-Jew who always ordered the kosher meal on flights in order to avoid such additives. He usually did OK with restaurant food in the parts of Europe I traveled with him (France, Switzerland, and Germany). But he absolutely had to have his Mountain Dew fix, and went to some trouble to bring a supply with him because he quickly learned that European grocery stores generally do not carry Mountain Dew, an American brand of soda known for its particularly high caffeine content. In at least one case, the air cargo company noticed the Mountain Dew stashed in one of the shipment cases and opted not to put that case on the plane.

      Like

    • “Prayer is mostly harmless.” I wasn’t accusing the woman of witchcraft.

      After reading her blog piece on the *suspected* peeping tom, I did a quick fact check on crime rates in Missouri. That was informative, as was reading about Missouri’s laws relating to alcohol.

      Italian grocery stores are veritable wonderlands of discovery. They are full of all manner of Italian made edible things that you very rarely or even never see outside of Italy. It’s somewhat telling that the woman was prompted to send a ‘care package’ after her daughter had been in Venice a full 2 weeks. As an aside, I note that ‘Italian’ salad dressing (not used in Italy) was the most popular in America before someone came up with ranch dressing, but that would have predated when her daughter was weaned onto ranch dressing as one of the main food groups.

      Like

  15. The prayers must be accompanied by a human sacrifice to attract the notice of most gods.
    — — — — — —
    If Yahwe/El is omniscient, the whole “prayer” business is unnecessary, just like the telephatic supervillain/hero can read your thoughts. But Kal-El the Kryptonian makes do without the omniscience thing, so he gets an A for effort.
    — — — — — — — — — — — — —
    Systems biology: Biological engineers discover why a promising drug failed in clinical trials https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-03-biological-drug-clinical-trials.html

    Like

    • Biological sysems are complicated. This is a good demonstration of why people from other fields who come along with miracle cures are so often wrong, they are completely out of their depth when it comes to biological systems as the systems they are used to working with are so much simpler.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. -Mapping the genome jungle: Unique animal traits could offer insight into human disease https://phys.org/news/2018-03-genomes-unusual-animals-reveal-human.html “We identified candidate mechanisms *beyond* p53 in the elephant genome for evading cancer”
    — — — —
    Why elephants rarely get cancer https://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-10-elephants-rarely-cancer-potential-mechanism.html BTW -naked mole rats and bowhead whales have evolved different approaches to the problem.

    Like

  17. Demonstration of the complexity of biological systems:

    Foraging theory and the propensity to be obese: an alternative to thrift.
    https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/03/07/278077

    Punctures the ‘thrifty gene’ hypothesis to explain obesity. (Fatties who say it’s just in their genes, so can’t help it, will be disappointed.) Posits instead that food foraging is offset against risks associated with foraging, plus reaction to risk releases chemicals in the body which do stuff that counteracts obesity. Plus it also meanders off into what happened when humans turned to agriculture instead (different risks, and then various social norms/behaviours).

    Cue jokes about addressing the obesity epidemic by deploying prides of lions around fast food outlets, etc. Or going to sales of Nutella with big discounts -> attendant mob scenes with people fighting each other to get at the cheap goodies.

    But that’s a bit unworthy – it is an interesting paper which prompts interesting suggestions about what could be done if the hypothesis is correct – i.e. not just exercising to ‘burn calories’, which everyone who tries flogging themselves on a treadmill to try to ‘burn fat’ knows really doesn’t work that well, but playing particular sports or engaging in risky physical activities which induce the risk response, etc. might work a lot better. Or even just more exposure to the elements; anything to induce the response.

    Worth ploughing through for those who have difficulty managing weight or who have loved ones/friends/whatever who do. Don’t need to bother with the mathematics to get the key points (mathematics always seem to turn a lot of readers off, but grokking the algebra in this paper is not that difficult, and in any case is not essential to getting the points being made).

    Liked by 1 person

  18. As I browse Youtube to get bakgrund to the NRA/ gun enthusiast phenomenon, Youtube has started to suggest all kinds of gunsmoke-related content.
    Some of it is interesting from an engineeting viewpoint, other things are bizarre.
    One of the good things is the “inside the chieftain’s hatch series, where a former tankie walks around/ climbs inside historical tanks, explaining things as he goes along.
    One of the things I learned is how little the designers cared about crew comfort, or even safety.
    The iconic T-34 was quite hard to get out of in a hurry, which is bad if the tank is hit and burning merrily. You especially want to get out before the ammunition goes off. Diesel burns as fast as petrol if you use an artillery shell for ignition. And hydraulic oil is BAD.
    – – –
    The US ministry of war decided early on that the Sherman could only carry an itsy bitsy gun.

    Admitting it might take the big 3 inch gun would have meant losing prestige, so Sherman crews had to wait to winter 1944 for a version with the new 76 mm gun.
    Quite a lot of crewmen got fried by Panthers and Tigers before then.
    The British authorities chose to issue specifications for tanks that were outgunned or too slow or both. It is as if the top brass considered it unsportsmanlike to give their own side good equipment.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Once they got geared up, Russians had tanks and tank crews to burn. The problem with the Tiger was that it was very heavy, slow, used way too much fuel, and was difficult and complicated to repair. And slow and difficult to manufacture. The German factories couldn’t replace losses. And when the supply lines got too long, they couldn’t refuel their big heavy fuel guzzling monsters. The T34 was light, fast, very reliable engine and low fuel consumption, and the Russian factories churned out huge numbers of them. One on one, a Tiger would pulverise a T34 every time. But the Russians could deploy 10 or more T34s against every Tiger, no shortage of tank crews as cannon fodder, and they could quickly replace losses. In any war of attrition, which is what Germany vs Russia became, the Russians were always going to win, unless they just suffered mass defections of front line troops, and they had ways of preventing those – retreat even one step and you get shot.

    When I was playing at being a soldier, we were told by experienced regulars that in any fire fight, the last place you would want to be was inside a tank. Things have changed hugely since then, though. In the latest generation of Russian main battle tank, there are no personnel sitting up in the turret at all. Tank crews have ceased to be expendable.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Season 2 of Jessica Jones is up on Netflix. Yes, a series about a highly disagreeable and belligerent female private investigator who is a chronic alcoholic with superhuman strength is obviously ridiculous, but I do find it so much fun to watch. Happy days.

    Like

  21. International women’s day. Swedish-language article:
    Students in Turkey get back at teachers and others who harass women, by putting up photos of miscreants, and if the authorities still do not do anything they confromt them in person. They refer to themselves tongue-in-cheek as “witches”.
    Apt. Neither Granny Weatherwax nor Nanny Ogg would take sh*t from anyone.
    ”Häxorna” tar lagen i egna händer när kvinnor motarbetas https://www.dn.se/nyheter/varlden/haxorna-tar-lagen-i-egna-hander-nar-kvinnor-motarbetas/

    Liked by 1 person

  22. ‘Sinclar Broadcast Group, a conservative news network run by a GOP megadonor that may soon own 72 percent of the American media market, has enacted a new set of talking points targeting “fake news.” (requiring the news anchors to read prepared speeches with far-right claims)
    …aand that is why laws against concentrated media ownership are so important. ‘Gollum* Murdoch is replaced by the alien Xenomorph.

    Like

  23. False story says archaeologists unearth Exodus evidence https://phys.org/news/2018-03-false-story-archaeologists-unearth-exodus.html
    New rule. Never share a story until you have checked that it is NOT a fucking satire site.
    So if someone claims to have found the hot dog stand* serving the crowd watching the crucifixion -complete with an inscription attributing the stand to “Cutting-My-Own-Throat-Dibbs”- you should NOT forward it.
    *nominally kosher, but with CMOTD you can not trust the content.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Martin, I stand corrected.
    — —
    Not much archaeology news today…
    John, in regard to infantry / tankies loss ratios, here is a link where they discuss the statistics.
    -To avoid a huge window popping up in the thread, I have inserted a gap in the web address.
    Just insert it in your web browser and delete the gap.
    .
    The Brits and Americans made an effort to make the escape hatches user-friendly, with probably contributed to keeping losses low. It also helped to have air supremacy that kept the enemy confined to nighttime operations.
    But when the infantry saw the Matildas and Churchhills absorb so much enemy fire, they assumed tankies were short-lived. In reality, you could be in a worse place than a steel box, unless you ran into one of the few ‘88’ guns.
    .
    “Lindybeige and The Chieftain ramble over a Churchill tank (with added Sherman)”
    https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=yc78EZqHA3U

    Like

  25. The regular infantry guys who told us that were demonstrating one of their new highly mobile vehicle-mounted anti-tank guns to us, and telling us what would happen to the crew of a tank hit by one of those things. No doubt a bit of hubris involved with enchantment with their new toy. But they didn’t need to paint us a picture – shredded while trapped inside a claustrophobic sardine can. But tank armour has evolved a lot since then. I still wouldn’t want to be tank crew though – suffer from claustrophobia too much.

    There’s one giant modern high-end shopping mall in HK which meets my definition of hell on earth – labyrinthine, plus despite being built right on the harbour, in a city where harbour views are highly valued, the genius architects designed it with minimal and hard to find exits, and zero external windows. Of course they did that to maximise rentable commercial space and keep the punters circulating around the shops. The effect on me is that I start feeling panicky as soon as go in there, and that feeling keeps growing until I can find my way out of it again. Outcome – I just refuse ever to go in there ever again. It’s a disaster in the making – if ever there is a serious fire in there, it’s going to be awful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It has long been standard practice to design department stores and shopping malls that way, although it does sound like a waste of waterfront real estate to put such a building in that location. But most US shopping malls are single-story buildings, so egress is not an issue: in an emergency, you can usually exit through the back of whatever store you are in to their loading dock. A multi-story building, which you are more likely to have when real estate is at a premium, will be more of an issue.

      I have been in what I think are similar buildings in Beijing (Silk Street) and San Francisco (Westfield Center). The former caters to foreign visitors like me as well as well-heeled locals. In the latter case, I was looking for something specific and didn’t find it as it was the wrong time of year. I am like you in that I try not to visit such places unless I have a specific reason to do so.

      Like

    • The ‘music’ they play in such places, the air conditioning, the smells and the lighting combine to put me in a slightly disassociated state which makes decision making impossible, so there isn’t any point in me going to shopping centres as I can’t summon the energy to make a decision to purchase anything. If the only way I can obtain something is to go to one I will check where the shop is, use the entrance nearest to it then get in and making my decision as quickly as possible before the ambience overwhelms my ability to decide to purchase. I presume that for most people the ambience induces a buying state or the operators would change it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s my preferred approach. But there’s a catch in HK – the eye-watering commercial rentals + practice of landlords to jack up the rental to an unsustainable level when the lease is up for renewal often means that shops you have been going to for a lot of years will just suddenly vanish. So you mount a commando raid only to find the place you were planning to raid has disappeared, replaced by something irrelevant and useless. It’s very disorienting.

        For as long as I can remember, I have been getting my underwear and socks at Marks & Spencer in HK, which until recently had a good sized shop in the shopping mall closest to where we live. But then, after being there for a very long time, it shut down – outbid on lease renewal by an Apple shop that no one needed, which also put out of business the shop in the same mall where I got all of my tech stuff and where I got excellent service because all of the staff knew me. So, two shops I had come to rely on shut down by one big shiny place that is useful for nothing – no one buys anything in there; it just attracts big crowds of Mainland tourists endlessly fiddling with the display devices. The one time my daughter needed tech assistance with her Apple laptop, we had to queue in that Apple shop for ages, and the ‘assistance’ proved to be useless. She ended up having to scrap the laptop. That happened during one of her university vacations when her time was limited and she had to have a reliable laptop to take back with her, so she couldn’t afford the time to keep messing around trying to get the old one working properly.

        And now, M&S have sold all of the HK business to another company. So next time I need new socks and underwear, I have no idea where to go. And in winter I need warm long underwear, and no one else in HK apart from M&S has been stocking stuff like that. China Resources used to and was also a go-to place for cheap, practical, warm clothing, hardware and all sorts of other stuff, but that was a Mainland state owned enterprise that has all been shut down, so that has all gone. No retailer like that in HK can remain in business trying to pay commercial rent in competition with companies that sell high priced luxury goods to cashed-up Mainland shoppers awash with money they want to dispose of. So all of the useful shops have been replaced by outlets that sell useless, very expensive junk. Those outlets are now struggling due to Mr Xi making conspicuous consumption of luxury goods dangerous and going out of business themselves, but it’s too late – the useful companies have gone out of business. I needed Mr Xi sooner.

        Currently my options for next winter look like: (1) just give up and die, or (2) migrate to Hainan Island from December to May. The second option is not looking too hopeful though – cashed up Mainlanders in massive numbers have invaded all of the previously affordable warmer destinations.

        They’re a plague, I tell you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I meant China Products, not China Resources – two different state owned enterprises, both now essentially defunct. In China Products you could get amazing stuff, including your own full set of surgical instruments if you wanted to be equipped to perform your own appendectomy or whatever; or experiment with trying to play the pipa. No longer.

        Also meant to say I totally get what Jazzlet has said – by observing how big glitzy malls are designed, it’s all about that, getting people into that mind state and trying to induce impulse-buying, including how the walking patterns of shoppers are controlled, which includes where the escalators are located and which direction they go in. In the course of work I occasionally talk to people who are in the business of development of commercial buildings, and the thing they constantly talk about is “footfall” – how to control the walking patterns of consumers to get maximum exposure, and get them into that mind state. Quick in-and-out commando raids by people who know what they need to buy, how much to pay for it, where to buy it and who just want to get in, get that and only that, and get out again fast, is exactly what they do not want. I have a genuine deep dislike of those people, but that’s the business they are in. Try to talk to them about things that are in the “public interest” and they just can’t think in those terms at all.

        The huge shut-in mall I mentioned that I will never go to again is an extreme case of that.

        Australian shoppers are well awake to this now. They do all of their browsing for stuff and price points online at home, decide what they want and how much they want to pay for it, and then just identify where they need to go to get it.

        But this has not worked in HK – retailers no longer target locals anyway; that went out the window a long time ago, now. The point in time when that happened was when the Mainland started issuing tourist exit visas to individual Chinese citizens instead of only group visas. I understood that when I went to a large electronic goods outlet to get a small remote device to trigger the shutter on my digital SLR camera, so I could put my camera on a tripod and then trip the shutter without shaking the camera – so I just wanted one very small, low cost piece of equipment, and I got stuck behind a big crowd of Mainland women who were all jostling each other, and pointing along the rows of digital cameras and shouting at the shop assistants: “Give me one of those, and one of those, and one of those…” and just buying a whole bloody row of expensive digital cameras of all different makes. And that was long enough ago that people weren’t just using their phones to take photos.

        Liked by 1 person

      • John, I can sympathize with the trouble you are having finding things you used to be able to get. I have a similar issue with shoes: feet vary in width as well as length, but many shoe manufacturers ignore that fact, especially for people like me who have narrow feet. Several years ago I had to start buying my shoes online because I could not find shoes that fit me in bricks-and-mortar stores. Lately it seems that companies that used to make narrow shoes have been discontinuing the narrow widths. A few years ago I changed brands from New Balance to Rockport because I could no longer get narrow shoes from New Balance, and now it looks like Rockport may be phasing out their narrow shoes as well.

        As for alternatives to long underwear (I can understand why that would be hard to find in Hong Kong, as the climate there is not cold enough for most people to want it), I can suggest hats, gloves, and wool socks. Keep the extremities warm and dry. The rest is commentary.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s