August Pieces Of My Mind #1

Fisksätra torg
  • I know you all have a general deep respect for my thoughts. But note that additionally, these are in fact august pieces of my mind.
  • DNA identifies a previously unknown second cousin to my grandpa. The guy was born out of wedlock so despite a pretty intense and sustained genealogical interest in the family, we haven’t known about him.
  • GameInformer dot com interviews my son Samuel about his high-profile Nintendo video game archaeology project. Very proud geek dad!
  • One of my tasks today is to visit a Somali mosque to talk about the importance of voting. My main line of argument is that there is one demographic category that politicians are really, really interested in catering to, and that’s people who vote.
  • Apparently water skiing on a single ski is one of those things you only need to learn once.
  • Weather suddenly and temporarily switches from drought and heat to thunder, pouring rain and centimetre hail!

Author: Martin R

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

94 thoughts on “August Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. It seems that President Scheisskopf’s parade has been canceled. He, of course, is blaming city officials, who would have to come up with the money to repair streets damaged by having tanks drive on them (a cost likely not included in the parade budget). But that’s par for the course: with him, the buck stops elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Re. President Scheisskopf, in Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire, we learn about a Byzantine emperor called “Kopronymos” by his severely tested subjects. “His passions were strong, his understanding feeble”.
    But he had better health than Trump; if Donald tried to strangle two rivals in the same day, as his Byzantine predecessor did, he would have a stroke.


    1. If the slight twang in her voice was American I’d have said she had a transAtlantic accent, I’m not sure what you call the equivilent mix of British and Australian. But a with a transAtlantic accent it’s always difficult to be sure which country a person originates from, as it is with Amy Dickson.


    2. I think you did well to pick up the slight twang. She’s from Sydney, which is a subtly different accent from other cities.

      When I meet an English person for the first time, almost invariably they listen closely to my accent and then say “Erm…which part of England are you from?” They can’t tell that what they are hearing is something like the British/Australian equivalent of the trans-Atlantic accent. But my Australian accent was never very strong to begin with, as Australian accents go, and after I came to HK I deliberately tried to lose it as a self-defence measure, and modeled my speech (more or less successfully) on that of my English boss – he came from a working class family but elevated his status with academic achievement, and deliberately lost his regional accent and cultivated ‘received pronunciation’.


    3. I would certainly pick her for having spent time in Australia. Maybe she went to one of the snootier Grammar Schools, where they try to teach girls to become young ladies, or maybe she comes by her accent honestly, by having lived in England for a long time. Younger people adopt the accents of their companions more readily than us oldies – a good example being my niece, who married a Belgian some years ago, and now in her thirties speaks with a distinct Belgian accent.


    4. I get what she said about holding the embouchure constantly for 25 minutes. That must take a lot of muscle development and fitness to even be able to do that. I see Youtube videos with saxophone players saying how playing a lot makes their jaw muscles ache, like a hard gym workout. Plus the breath control to play non-stop for 25 minutes; that’s just insane. I can do circular breathing to play a didgeridoo for a few minutes, but I’m damned if I could keep it up for anything like that long.

      Tangent – reminds me of one guy I worked with in Oz who used to keep a didgeridoo in his office. And of course everyone who went into his office would see this thing and want to have a go at blowing on it. So he would let them do that for a while, and then tell them that the didgeridoo was made by an Aboriginal guy he knew who was a leper. 🙂

      (Which happened to be true.) And then he would roll around laughing while they scrubbed at their lips and then rushed to the bathroom to wash their mouths.


  3. Not much happening lately. Most of the genetics papers coming out are too abstruse for general readership, and no new biggies on palaeogenomics – likely the calm before the next storm.

    Genetic diversity in populations across Latin America: implications for population and medical genetic studies.

    Hispanics ain’t just Hispanics – lumping them together as a ‘race’ is bizarre and ridiculous. But then most ‘racial’ categories are pretty ridiculous. Lumping people of Korean ancestry in with People of Colour is ridiculous. There’s all kinds of ridiculous when it comes to identity politics, tribalism and ‘intersectionalism’. I’m getting so sick of this shit, you can’t believe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to follow SMBC comics regularly, but got sick and tired of the constantly angry or grumpy characters and depressing story lines. I prefer something that will entertain and amuse me, rather than that relentlessly downbeat style.


      1. I hear you.

        I feel the same way about the constant obsessive stream of stuff emanating from and about President Shithead. It’s just all Shithead all the time, and the total absence of any discernible logic or rationality about any of it just makes me shut it all out and ignore it. I can’t change it, I can’t make any sense out of it, it’s all deeply unedifying and disheartening, it ceased to be even remotely funny a long time ago, and if I don’t just shut it out, it will do my head in.


  4. Today is the 50th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czhecoslovakia. Note that Putin-era russian propaganda is repeating the Brezhnev-era claim that the invasion was a response to western attempts to take over the country.
    – – –
    Today I learned about the Taiping uprising in the mid-19th century and the total war and partial genocide that followed.
    Even the lower estimates of the total death toll exceeds the whole WWI death toll. It might even rival the WWII death toll.


    1. You should learn basic Chinese history. Everyone should. It’s not that hard, because the Chinese were obsessive documenters of everything from a very long time ago, really starting in the Zhou, which recorded a lot of stuff about the Shang, which might or might not have been accurate. There are lots of inscriptions and oracle bones from the Shang from which historical stuff can be reconstructed, but no attempt to document everything consistently.

      Everything recorded about before the Shang tends to be regarded as mythical, but the Shang was regarded as mythical right up until it was proven by archaeology that it wasn’t. So the Dynasties preceding the Shang might not be as mythical as supposed – there’s a good chance they weren’t. There were definitely centres of civilization before the Shang, also known from archaeology.


      1. The basic Chinese history in school is -at best- a list of dynasties and a list of inventions that came from China. The current chinese history did not cover Mao’s misdeeds very well, maybe a misguided sense of “let’s not be judgemental of the foreigner”. Or maybe they were afraid of being accused of bias.
        I do not know if current textbooks cover the Chinese
        naval expeditions.


      2. School history texts inevitably suck. There are some good, accessible books on Chinese history which are a lot better than the level of school texts. If I dug around I could probably name a few.


      3. As for the Taiping Rebellion, that was a full-on total civil war that drew in civilian populations into the fighting, engulfed the whole country and lasted for 15 years, so the total death toll is not really that surprising, with many of the deaths attributed to disease epidemics and famine, with butchering of civilian populations of a large number of towns by both sides and the destruction of agricultural resources, which was followed, after the collapse of the Taipings, with wholesale reprisal killings of ethnic groups like the Hakka, Cantonese and Zhuang (I’m using the term ethnic in the cultural sense mostly here, although also the Zhuang are not genetically Han).

        Wanting the throw off the yoke of the Qing, which was intolerable to the Han, was understandable enough, but the really weird thing about the Taipings was that their leader was a Christian convert who believed he was Jesus Christ’s brother, and their objectives included converting the whole population of China to their version of Christianity, combined with a total transformation of Chinese society. That is seriously truly weird.

        But then, rational, intelligent and educated Chinese even today can be capable of quite extreme weirdness and mental aberration when judged from a Western perspective. There could even conceivably be neurological differences, although this has not been researched in any systematic manner that I know of – engaging in such research in a country like the USA would immediately be branded as racism and shut down, and it would obviously be a non-starter in China.

        If this seems far-fetched, 50% of all South Koreans are now Christians, and many of them are pretty extreme about it.

        The highest ranking political and administrative leaders in Hong Kong make a point of professing themselves to be devout Catholics, as if that is some badge of honour to be proclaimed publicly, as a demonstration that they couldn’t possibly do anything misguided, wrong or corrupt; the upper ranks of the civil service are full of them. My concern is not that they are cosying up too much to the Chinese Communist Party; it is that they give every appearance of considering that being a devout Catholic is one of the essential attributes of government leadership in HK, and apparently see no problem with not divorcing church from state. This really is a weird situation; a high proportion of HK people are functionally secular, but the government is effectively run by Catholics who proclaim themselves publicly to be devout true believers.

        The previous Chief Executive but one, Donald Tsang (currently serving time in prison for misconduct in office) went as far as trying to use his position to get a personal audience with the Pope – not on behalf of HK, on his own behalf. The Vatican had the good sense to just turn him down flat on that. I presume they knew a power-crazed megalomaniac when they saw one.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Catholic missionaries have been active in Asia for centuries (most of them Portuguese, thanks to the Treaty of Tordesillas, but some Spanish who exploited a loophole by coming from across the Pacific, and a few others). Vietnam is about equally divided between Catholics and Buddhists (there is also an indigenous religion mainly found in the south). It was Portuguese missionaries who developed the written Vietnamese language, which is based on the Latin alphabet with accent marks to indicate which of six tones to use. Protestant missionaries came later, of course, but they have been active in Asia for a long time as well.

        Most of what I know about Chinese history I have picked up on my own from various sources. I know almost nothing about what came before Qin Shihuangde unified China (the Western name of the country is derived from his name), and bits and pieces of the Han, Sung, and Tang eras. But I had heard of the naval expeditions and the Taiping Rebellion. The 19th and early 20th centuries were a difficult time to be Chinese, as foreign powers (not just the West but also Japan) were effectively able to do whatever they wanted in China.

        China has a fair bit of interesting recent history. Of the mainland’s four first tier cities, two are less than 200 years old (Shanghai dates from the 1850s; Shenzhen was still a fishing village as recently as the early 1980s). Beijing and Guangzhou are better choices to visit if you are looking for historical sites.


  5. Well, the week of camping at a castle ruin mostly went well. I had to stop a melee temporarily “because a poleax got entangled with the castle” (rule #1, don’t damage the castle). No actual class, but some 1-on-1 fencing tuition did happen.

    Liked by 3 people

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