July Pieces Of My Mind #1


Gift from the sea.

  • I just refrained from making an obvious lewd pun about a co-worker’s significant other. (An old buddy commented on Fb, “Who are you and what have you done with the real Martin?”)
  • Movie: Stardust (2007). Rom-com in fairytale land, aimed squarely at fans of The Princess Bride. Grade: Good fun!
  • In her 1976 poetry chapbook Walking in Cornwall, Ursula LeGuin mistakes a 1798 park folly for an oddly small Medieval castle. (Present from Birger!)
  • The music producer Mark “Flood” Ellis, who re-mixed lots of Depeche Mode songs in the 80s, got his nickname as a young studio assistant because he always made lots of tea fast for his boss. The other studio assistant was called Drought.
  • The Italian word for development, which shares the etymology of the English word, is sviluppo. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
  • As an archaeologist I don’t think in terms of art or treasure. In fact it causes my discipline major problems that other people do, because it tends to destroy archaeological context.
  • Playing soccer against people from a country with no horizontal ground just isn’t fair.
  • I keep and use found cutlery.
  • Got into an exchange about Indiana Jones and such. Several seriously worded post-colonialist comments. Realised that it’s not that I don’t agree with them, it’s that as a Swedish archaeologist working in agricultural non-Saami Sweden I just don’t give a damn.
  • Evening quiet broken by loud incessant whooshing noise. Turns out to be the cars on the nearby 60 kph road. Lots of people still driving at 22:40. *sigh*
  • I’ll remember 2018 as a varied professional year. I’ve made maps for a historical corpus project, I’ve taught high school languages, I’m currently coordinating vote canvassing, and now I’ve been offered a job in heritage management for the final months of the year. While I’ve been doing all this I’ve also been the managing editor of an academic journal. Not a one-trick pony!
  • Swedish pizza cooks are almost all male.
  • Executive producer: Philip Capice.
  • Taught wife & daughter to set fire to shit using a magnifying glass. Literally: a bird dropping full of sunflower seeds.
  • Got a comment here on the blog from someone with good self-confidence. “You have an interesting blog as I will stay connected.”
  • According to Junior, the Japanese voice in the No Such Thing As A Fish podcast jingle says “自動でお風呂を沸かします”, “Jidō de ofuro o wakashimasu”, “Heating the bath automatically”.
  • The Medieval Swedish word for the first light breach-loading artillery pieces was føglare. This was a loan from Low German and originally meant “fucker” — slang, the etymology being “birder, birding, to bird”.

Anybody played this boardgame? Is it fun?


Canoeing with the Rundkvist ladies.


169 thoughts on “July Pieces Of My Mind #1

  1. The university of North Texas has made an alloy of cobalt, manganese, iron and silicon that is claimed to be four times stronger than stainless steel.
    I assume this is one of the high-entropy alloys that have been making materials scientists enthusiastic. A problem is the high cost of cobalt -a thousand times that of iron- but vehicles such as aircraft and tanks are already so expensive I doubt the materials cost will be a big problem.
    And they are looking for cheaper substitutes to cobalt.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The university of North Texas has made an alloy of cobalt, manganese, iron and silicon that is claimed to be four times stronger than stainless steel.
    I assume this is one of the high-entropy alloys that have been making materials scientists enthusiastic. A problem is the high cost of cobalt -a thousand times that of iron- but vehicles such as aircraft and tanks are already so expensive I doubt the materials cost will be a big problem.
    And they are looking for cheaper substitutes to cobalt.


  3. Kobolds. Yes, it is difficult to keep track of all local supernatural critters.
    – – –
    A random idea: if these exotic metals reach the same strength to weight ratio as carbon fiber and other high strength synthetic materials, you could make space shuttles, supersonic airliners and suchlike without the brittleness or temperature sensitivity of those other materials.
    If steel submarines reach a depth of 400 meters, you could quadruple that without the manufacturing problems of titanium hulls.
    If a high-entropy alloy could avoid brittle failure at low temperatures, you could make lightweight liquid hydrogen tanks and finally build a single-stage-to-orbit rocket (not practical with just aluminium, or steel).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like the idea of these exotic alloys, but they invariably need exotic methods of shaping and machining, and making large quantities containing rare metals can be super expensive. I suspect they’ll be used in electronics, engines and space vehicles, where the relatively small amount used lowers the price. I doubt we’ll see them used in tanks and submarines.


  4. Found at Youtube:
    ‘Asian eyes’ are more common than you think.

    And a nice, brief summary of genetics.
    – – –
    I learned “the Rock” is half Samoan!


  5. “‘Asian eyes’ are more common than you think.”

    Oh no they’re not.

    Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson also suffers from chronic depression, despite his huge public popularity, success in multiple fields and being the world’s highest paid movie star in 2016. I’m a goldmine of useless information. He does a pretty good job on comedy – I don’t generally find Americans funny, especially not slapstick comedians, but he’s capable of making me laugh. The two often seem to go together – comedic ability in chronically depressed people.

    I have a replica of George Washington’s favourite flintlock pistol. I’m just saying. Not sure why I’ve got it – one of those impulse purchases that seemed like a brilliant idea at the time.


    • If the Predator drops by, you can befriend him by giving him that flintlock pistol (film reference; the end of P 2).

      Jeez, if a mere +31 C is this insufferable, how do people closer to the equator get things done?
      And California is as hot as the middle east right now.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Um, it’s not actually a functional flintlock pistol. Me having that would be illegal in HK. Even possessing some gun powder to use to load it would be illegal.

      How do people closer to the equator get things done? We’re not wimps, that’s how.


      • The human body is adaptable, and it can get used to certain temperatures. I was once accustomed to the climate of Miami, which as I have previously noted is similar to that of Hong Kong: summer (meaning April through October) temperatures of 32 to 37 C in the afternoon, nighttime temperatures of 24 to 28 degrees. Today I am much more accustomed to a climate that resembles southern Sweden: occasionally as hot as 35 degrees, but not very often, and in the winter temperatures drop to the -15 to -20 degree range (I am close to the ocean; it gets even colder further inland). People who can’t deal with the climate where they live will move if they can, or use artificial climate control to make indoor temperatures more to their liking.

        John could as easily ask Birger how people deal with long periods of subfreezing temperatures as Birger just asked John how people deal with temperatures above 30 degrees. It’s all a matter of what you are used to. As I have mentioned before, there are strategies that can help you cope with hot weather in the absence of air conditioning, and I would expect Birger to already have one of the key components (thick curtains, which you need to block sunlight if you want to get a good night’s sleep at that latitude in the summer).


  6. Btw, Birger, that ‘Asian Eyes’ Youtube video is not only offensive, it’s stupid and ignorant about ancestral origins (e.g. all Polynesians have at least 20% Papuan ancestry, and some as much as 90%). When would someone describing eyes with single eyelids and epicanthic folds as ‘squinty eyes’ not be offensive? Descriptors like ‘smaller’ (not necessarily) and ‘slanted’ (just no) are also pretty offensive.


  7. Dang! Long comment got eaten by phone.
    I agree that if someone goes to the trouble of making a Youtube clip, they should also go the extra distance and learn the clinical terms of the subject to avoid offence.

    Some anglophones maybe think racism only is a matter of skin colour or nose shape while eye shape can be described in the same terms their grandparents used?


  8. I realised, the Chinese population in London got pretty much thrown out during WWI.
    So most British have not had opportunities learning cross-community manners and common sense the way they have with the numerous Jamaicans and Africans.


    • So, you think describing someone with epicanthic folds and single eyelids as having “squinty eyes” is like, what, a compliment?

      Two of the racial epithets used by US servicemen in Vietnam to refer to Vietnamese people, along with “gook”, were “slant” and “slope” (a reference to the idea that East Asian eyes are slanted, which they aren’t; it’s an old anti-Asian racial caricature).

      Your most recent opportunity to discover that East Asian people are offended by this sort of stuff was when Mexican football fans posed making “slitty eyes” to thank the Korean team for keeping Mexico in the world cup competition by winning a match that was a dead rubber for Korea, and the very unamused response from large numbers of Koreans.

      I don’t think you can pin this only on anglophones, and I’ve never noticed British people making this sort of faux pas – Brits are certainly not the most ignorant of people when it comes to people of different population groups, not by a long shot, and I don’t see what WWII has to do with it – there are plenty of Chinese in London now, and in other British cities. A few Americans have. I seem to recall Miley Cyrus got herself in some very hot water for doing the “slitty eye” thing publicly.


    • I am going to agree in part and dissent in part from John’s reply. John is certainly correct that people in greater London and a few other places in the UK are accustomed to seeing East Asians, and most of the people who live in those areas know to avoid offensive racial stereotypes. The same goes with most of the first-tier international cities in the world: people who live in those cities are exposed to people of different ethnic origins and learn to live with those others without being too offensive to their face.

      Outside the first tier cities, things can be very different. In my experience, you are more likely to find racist sentiments expressed aloud in the countryside, where people rarely encounter people of different backgrounds. That’s certainly the case in the US (you are more likely to encounter a Trump voter in small towns and rural areas), and there is evidence that it is also true in the UK: rural parts of England and Wales tended to support Brexit much more than cities and university towns (note that in the case of Brexit the rural populace’s fears were stoked over east Europeans, especially Poles–a population which Brexit backers correctly noted could be substantially reduced by the UK leaving the EU).

      In the case of Mexicans viewing Koreans, I suspect that very few Koreans ever visit Mexico. South Korea has only recently become a rich country, while Mexico has become increasingly dangerous–the US State Department’s current travel advisory for Mexico places five Mexican states (Colima, which includes Manzanillo; Guerrero, which includes Acapulco; Michoacán, which includes Morelia and Lázaro Cárdenas; Sinaloa, which includes Mazatlán; and Tamaulipas, which includes all US border crossings from Nuevo Laredo eastward) in the “Do Not Travel” category. There are many other countries in Latin America that are safer to visit. So I am not surprised that many Mexicans have stereotypical views of Koreans.


      • One of the very few meagre ‘pleasures’ of the whole Brexit mess is watching the rural populations that voted for Brexit realise that they are not likely to get a replacement for all of the existing European monies their communities recieve. Another is their realisation that certain agricultural sectors are completely f^cked without seasonal pickers. Mean pleasures, but at the moment if you don’t take those there is nothing.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Via BBC, a Nature Ecology and Evolution article: Ecological consequences of post-Columbian indigenous depopulation in the Andean–Amazonian corridor.

    Visitors to Ecuador’s cloud forest ca. 1850 described what they thought was a pristine forest environment. In reality, the area had been extensively farmed prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the area. The alterations to the local environment were greater than that of cattle ranchers who operated in the area in the latter half of the twentieth century. That intensive use ended abruptly around 1588 along with a massive decline in the local population. Loughlin et al. report that in less than 250 years, pollen deposits in a lake in the region went from grass-dominated to dominated by the same species of trees that were common in the area around 40 ka, before humans arrived in the area.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nice song.
    But since Brexit and Amxit I am more a punk-rock burn-it-all-down guy.
    – – –
    I realise I behave the same way I accuse American Republicans of doing: voting for the same party as when I was young despite the screw-ups.
    My defence is, the other parties have made their own share of blunders of at least equal size.
    But if I start wearing a MAGA cap in a non-ironic way, there is no excuse.


      • Sandy Lam went to the same school as my daughter (but much earlier, obviously), as did another one of the ‘Hong Kong divas’, Priscilla Chan, who my daughter insists is a better singer. Yeah, she is, but she’s lacking in the dreamy eye department.

        Hong Kong is a village. I once walked into a huge room at a convention centre for the annual dinner of the local qualifying body for engineers, with 1,000 people in attendance, and was mildly shocked to realize that I knew every single person in the room on a personal basis.

        Dunbar’s number doesn’t work in my case.


      • It’s a competently done pop song that, apart from the language, would not be out of place on the playlists of “adult contemporary” radio stations in the US (admittedly, not my preferred genre). Since my knowledge of the Hong Kong pop scene is just about nil, I can’t really compare her to anybody else in that world, but she definitely has a look that will sell some downloads and concert tickets.

        I noticed that the video was subtitled. That makes sense given how many homophones there are in Chinese, as well as that she is probably marketing herself to a mainland audience as well as Hong Kong. I can imagine that it’s easy to get mondegreens in Chinese.


      • In that case she was singing in Mandarin, so those subtitles were for her Cantonese fans who don’t speak Mandarin. She records in Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and English, and has a big following in Taiwan (and her parents migrated to HK from Shanghai, so it’s a fair bet she also speaks Shanghainese). So for English songs, she has two sets of subtitles (obviously both aimed at non-English speaking audiences – her enunciation in English is pretty good, so they’re hardly necessary for English speakers). I don’t know what she does for the Japanese market, if indeed she has one, although she lived there for some years, so I guess she must have. I found one clip of her from Hunan TV, from a singing competition in 2017 which she went on to win, in which she was, seemingly perversely, singing in Cantonese, but it seemed to be well received by the audience, who wouldn’t have had a clue what she was singing about without running subtitles.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Love “The Rose”. Sandy’s version is good – except the crappy camera work – but I also love Leann Rimes and Bette Midler’s versions.


      • Strictly, it was supposed to be a duet with Chyi Yu, the other woman who appears in the video (but yes, the camera work sucked) who is a Manchu who lives in Taiwan, but that is probably more trivia than you needed.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Btw, I checked a couple of other videos posted by that Bento Kento guy – he’s peddling his own pet theories, which are pseudo-science. They’re junk. I could easily shoot big gaping holes through all of them if I had to, but why bother when just ignoring him is easier?


      • (southern accent) “Shee-it!”
        Usually, I look for references to Fox News memes as red flags.
        And a surprising number of kooks helpfully put warning singns up front in the text describing their Youtube clips. like “proof the planes did not cause the destruction of the World Trade Center”


    • Sounds promising.

      One of the side effects I get from opioid use is torture grade constipation, so they’re OK for me for short time use for treatment of acute pain, and I never have any addiction problems with them, but I just won’t use them for chronic pain because of the horrible constipation they cause. I don’t know if they have that effect on everyone, but a number of people online have confirmed to me that they get the same side effect from them. That’s where I got the expression ‘torture grade constipation’ – from an American guy who was agreeing with me, and he wasn’t exaggerating.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is why anyone on opiods long term should also take a stool softener. It surprises me that doctors putting a patient on even a short course of opiods don’t automatically add a stool softener as constipation is such a common side effect and can be very frightening – feeling as if your head is about to split open is not fun! If you have never had constipation that bad consider yourself lucky 🙂 The only problem you get if you take a stool softener is balancing the dose if you are taking the opiod/s as needed, too much and you have the opposite problem, which in my case means no pain, but is obviously not a good way of achieving that. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    • That is really interesting, I very much hope that it pans out. Even with the long testing and trials time it would be of enormous benefit to people like me if it does prove clinically sucessful. I attend a group of ‘graduates’ of a course in ways of handling the mental side effects of chronic pain and it would benefit most of my fellow graduates, all of us have life expectancies shorter than the time it would take to develop. Here’s hoping.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I knew before clicking that link that the publisher in question would be Elsevier. They have a reputation for aggressive sales practices.

      My subfield, which happens to have a strong contingent in Sweden, can probably get by without access to Elsevier articles. They only have two or three titles in my field, and those are decidedly second-tier journals. Most of the important stuff gets published in the society journals.

      Other fields might have a problem here. I know that Elsevier publish a large number of medical journals, but I don’t know how important they are compared to other journals in those fields. And there is a lot more money sloshing around in medical research than in my little corner of the research universe.


  11. Ed Brayton’s blog has a perfect explanation for the concept of “originalism” in American laws and the American constitution::
    “…Ugh. You all sound like typical liberals! No, “originalism” means that all the stuff I support was also originally intended to be supported in the same way I support, and all the stuff I do not like is judicial activism and legislating from the bench, and was vehemently opposed by the Founding Fathers as I understand and define them. It is really quite simple.”


  12. New York Post, the rag owned by the Moonie cult (not to be confused with NY Times) has an attack of pseudo. They seem to have misunderstood a bottleneck in Y chromosome evolution as “men close to cause human extinction”. I did not check deeper as I want to retain my sanity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heh.

      Nope, it coincided with the onset of the Bronze Age in Europe about 5,000 years ago and happened as a consequence of the rise of powerful male patriarchal lineages, with powerful males having multiple wives, so there was a bottleneck in Y DNA caused by that (i.e. a great narrowing of the number of different male lineages that were propagated compared to the number extant during the Neolithic), whereas no corresponding bottleneck occurred in mitochondrial DNA for self-evident reasons.

      A similar dynamic did *not* play out in China, interestingly enough.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, not in northern China anyway. When Han farmers started migrating south of the Yangtze River (in their millions), mixing happened with the various Austroasiatic, Austronesion and Dai people living in southern China to some extent, but also those groups in large numbers got pushed out of southern China into Vietnam and other parts of SE Asia, so while there was the usual male mediated mixing to some extent, there was not the same wipeout of the displaced Y lineages – they just moved.

        It *did* happen in the Indian subcontinent to a fair extent though, when males with steppe ancestry crashed into NW India, so the Y haplogroup R1a (same as Corded Ware in Europe) is at high frequency in India now.


  13. The substance lestaurtinib may block a kinase that helps cancer resist the cancer drug cisplatin.
    – –
    There is also news about what drives aggressive prostate cancer, but it was too technical for me.


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