Open Thread for October

This month you get extra likes for mentioning orchids, bismuth and Queen Hatshepsut.

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176 thoughts on “Open Thread for October

  1. Very bad news coming in about the future of climate change.
    John, I will give Xi credit for one thing: He is a million times more likely to take effective action than the drooling wreck in Washington, or the fascist about to be elected in Brazil.

    TV documentary about the centennial of the Spanish flu outbreak.
    And AI using brain vawes to warn for coming epileptic attacks.

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    • Let me attempt to correct an apparent misconception – I am not the president of the Xi Jinping fan club. On the international stage, he is saying all of the right things, in an environment where this is becoming increasingly rare. What he says to Chinese citizens is somewhat different. One thing that bothers me a lot is that in these internal addresses he draws no distinction between Chinese nationality and Chinese race. There is no ‘Chinese race’. It bothers me because it seems to bear certain similarities to Nazi beliefs in a fabricated Aryan master race, and Japanese imperialist beliefs in the Japanese as a superior master race in Asia. Maybe this is just my imagination, but I don’t like the sound of what I hear. [It is true that the Han are the largest ethnic group in the world. But if Xi Jinping thinks that they are any kind of pure race, he is either unaware of or choosing to ignore the genetic data that scientists in China have now started to publish internationally. The most recent paper included genetic data on a sample of 140,000, Han + Chinese ethnic minorities. That was mind boggling enough, but the authors of that paper have stated that was just a ‘pilot study’ and that next they plan to publish data on a sample of 3.8 million people. Try getting your head around that. Calling modern Chinese a race is equivalent to calling modern Europeans a race. Both of those are manifestly untrue, as the data now available show.]

      I would also be happier with him if he was taking any kind of action on environmental degradation in China or giving it any prominence in his domestic policies, aside from making very concrete efforts to address climate change, which he is doing, while strongly encouraging the leaders of other countries to do the same – something I applaud him for. But as hard as it is for me to fathom, he simply seems to be unaware that the air in all major Chinese cities is now literally unbreathable and needs urgent action. I might be wrong about that, but I have seen no evidence that he is addressing this as any kind of priority.

      Having said all that, I take issue with people who pop up every time another senior government person in China is put on trial for corruption, and claim that maybe this is Mr Xi eliminating his personal or political enemies, when they have absolutely zero evidence on which to base such claims. It is pure speculation with no basis in fact.

      Two facts:

      1. China has had, and continues to have, a massive problem with high level corruption (actually at all levels – in Xi-speak, tigers and flies). It is one of the most important issues facing the country, together with appalling environmental degradation and equally appallingly bad air quality.

      2. Xi Jinping has a well documented record of detesting corruption and fighting against it going all the way back to 1986, which is about when he had achieved a sufficient level of seniority in the Chinese Communist Party to actually start to do something about it (considering he was forced to work as a manual farm labourer in a rural area, living in a cave and sleeping on the ground from when he was 15 until he was 27, getting going on fighting corruption only 15 years later aged 42, including within the Chinese Communist Party itself, is a pretty commendable record, particularly as he served a period in the Chinese military in the interim). To ignore his long and consistent track record of fighting corruption (something that must have put him at very considerable personal risk) (or more likely, to be ignorant of it, because people don’t bother to do their homework before opinionating on subjects they know nothing about) and put his ongoing campaign of going after senior figures which began in 2013 when he assumed power as him just using it as a way of eliminating his opponents is fabricated crap. The Western media keep doing this, when if it happened in any Western democracy they would label it as a smear campaign.

      Commentary that I have been reading in the Western media, that the Chinese government should not have forced Meng Hongwei to resign from the presidency of Interpol, when they had already arrested him and charged him with accepting bribes, and are in the process of investigating him for other, as yet unspecified, crimes, is just mind-boggling to me. What were they supposed to do – turn a blind eye and just leave him there, as arguably the most powerful cop in the world? Would that have been the action of a responsible government? They are all too well aware of how this will play internationally and the damage that it will do to China’s international image. They clearly considered that the alternative was far worse. I agree with them.

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      • Thus far I have made the following two assumptions about Xi Jinping:
        1. He knows enough about Chinese history to be familiar with the concept of the Mandate of Heaven. (I know only a little about Chinese history, and I am aware of that concept.)
        2. He wants his government to maintain the Mandate of Heaven.
        Obviously the second assumption is false if the first is false, but I find that unlikely. The only evidence that Xi might not be familiar with the Mandate of Heaven is that he is of the generation that was caught up in the Cultural Revolution, so he may not have learned as much Chinese history in school as would be expected of earlier or later generations. But he has had ample opportunity within the Party to learn the relevant parts of that history since then.

        Government corruption, climate change, and environmental degradation (I include air quality in the last) are three issues that have the potential, if unchecked, to threaten his government’s Mandate of Heaven. So based on my second assumption I would predict, correctly, that Xi would take action against corruption and climate change. His actions may not be enough: China still has problems with fake food and medicine scandals (enabled by corruption), and fighting climate change is going to be difficult without the cooperation of certain Western governments whose countries have large per capita carbon footprints (including the US and Australia; at least Canada seems to be on board). But at least the world, and more importantly the Chinese public, see that he is doing something about these issues.

        The puzzler for me is the environmental degradation issue. Since I don’t live in China, I have no idea whether Xi has taken any steps intended to mitigate the issue. What is obvious from the outside is that any steps he has taken to combat environmental degradation have been entirely ineffective. Air quality continues to deteriorate, and soil contamination remains a serious issue. He needs to put more effort here than he has so far.

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      • He knows about the Mandate of Heaven. When he was working as a manual farm labourer for all those years, he reportedly spent all of his spare time with his head buried in books. It is no accident that the Confucius Institutes are called that. The Red Guards would never have approved. I intuit that rejuvenating the party, steering it back onto the straight and narrow and purging it of corrupt elements is about the party not losing the Mandate of Heaven. Because if it does, China has nothing to replace it with.

        I agree. So far as I have seen, he has not mentioned anything about environmental degradation. It seems to me like a very strange omission.

        On climate change, China is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases by a long way. So even if they were to go it alone (and they have reason enough to want to do that, in their own interests) it will be a substantial improvement. I might add that they have a lot to do; a hell of a lot.

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  2. Now that the Saudis have been caught with their pants down, I will write a letter to the editor of the local paper, cheerfully trashing the previous conservative leader. Her subservience to the Saudis, and the Swedish companies with business interests there reached a shamelessness you would normally associate with Republicans.

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  3. I assume with population genomics, it is easier to chop up the task and delegate parts to collaborators, which is what makes it possible to handle the enormous amounts of data required. But with things that are strongly “interconnected” having all research under one roof may be necessary.
    – –
    ” It’s lucky women can’t vote, says Trump” https://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/international/its-lucky-women-cant-vote-says-trump-20181008178113
    Cat wakes up on car roof after another massive drinking session
    Public urged to let Bert and Ernie come out in their own time

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    • Yep. But Australia, or more specifically its genius politicians, have permitted the country’s power supplies and the security of those supplies, to get into a parlous and very vulnerable state, and power costs to consumers (i.e. every man, woman and child in Australia) keep rising steeply, all the while with people in some areas facing blackouts during critical periods. So, the arguments between politicians on how to rectify this problem are endless, and trying to agree on a National Energy Policy has become a never-ending and very divisive issue.

      But meanwhile, Australia has very large coal reserves which it has not yet sold to anyone, although it is trying (unlike its very large natural gas reserves, which are now sold more cheaply overseas than they are to Australians because they are in the hands of commercial companies who are intent on maximising profits and couldn’t give a shit about the people of Australia). So, a lot of the politicians want to build that into the mix and build new coal fired power stations, instead of phasing out the existing coal fired power stations and replacing them with renewables, in order to try to appease the voters, who are understandably very pissed off that their power bills keep rising steeply, while in some cases also being unreliable.

      Australians have among the biggest carbon footprints in the world (which you would understand if you lived there – it gets very hot, it gets cold, people have very large houses that are costly to cool and heat, and you have to travel long distances by private motor vehicle to get to anywhere), but it is a country with a small population – so its total contribution to greenhouse gases is small, even negligible, compared to countries like China, India and the USA. So a lot of voters are thinking why should they take a further big hit on costs and reliability of power when, compared to a country like China, it is not significant on a global scale? Other voters are more concerned about climate change and want a more ‘responsible’ policy on energy, but currently they appear to be in the minority – it’s hard to tell unless or until this becomes a major election issue. But even then, the competing parties need to come up with a workable plan that will appeal to voters, and their options are limited because of the parlous state that their predecessors have permitted the country’s power supply systems to get into. With Australia’s abundant resources of coal, natural gas, solar radiation, wind, waves and even tidal movements in some areas, it should have some of the cheapest and most reliable power supplies in the world, and it hasn’t. It’s a f*ck up of massive proportions.

      So politicians, being the animals that they are, say things that they think will play well to the majority of voters and try to discredit scientific reports that say things like how coal fired stations need to be phased out as a matter of urgency. Plus they are stupid, because no one with any intelligence would want to go into politics because it is such a dirty rat race, so they are incapable of understanding the scientific reports anyway.

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    • Well that was a waste of time. The author has serious verbal diarrhoea, is addicted to saying “as you’ll see” and then not delivering, and after you’ve finally ploughed through his interminable waffling you find out that it’s just an excerpt. Yeesh.

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  4. By 2030, the world’s five largest megacities will be, in order: Jakarta, Tokyo, Karachi, Manila and Cairo.

    Tokyo is currently the world’s largest, but its population is predicted to drop by a couple of million by 2030 due to ageing. By then, the world’s oldest megacity will be Osaka, with 31% of its population aged over 65.

    Who would have guessed Karachi and Cairo? Not me.

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    • Karachi and Cairo are where people who are displaced from the countryside in Pakistan and Egypt, respectively, are likely to end up. Definitely Cairo as there are no other major cities in Egypt. Pakistanis could migrate to Lahore instead of Karachi, but Lahore is inland and may not have the water resources to handle the growth.

      I am more surprised to see Jakarta at the top of the list. There are other major coastal cities in Indonesia, so people don’t have to move to Jakarta.

      Also notable is that the current #2 and #3 cities, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, drop out of the list. Both cities are inland, so have water issues, and both are in countries with other major cities (Mexicans can move to Guadalajara or Puebla; Brazil has about a dozen other cities with populations over one million). Both cities also have major crime problems, but so does Manila, and so do most of the other Mexican and Brazilian cities people might move to–in many cases those alternative cities are worse.

      It is also noteworthy that no Chinese cities make the list. Possibly that is because there are so many megacities in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, and that’s just off the top of my head) that none become dominant populationwise. Similarly, nothing in India makes the top five, but India does have a bunch of megacities (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore).

      Some of this is artificial. Tokyo’s population numbers often include Yokohama, which makes sense because those cities are so close together. But Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong seem to be counted as three separate cities despite the first being within 100 km of the other two, which are directly next to each other.

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      • Different jurisdictions. Shenzhen is a Special Economic Zone, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region. Guangzhou is just an ordinary city, not anything special (and believe me, it’s really not anything special). There is a guarded border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, and then another guarded border between Shenzhen and the rest of Guangdong Province.

        You can drive from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, but you need a vehicle registered in both the Mainland and Hong Kong, so two separate pairs of registration plates, and you need a permit to pass through the border into Shenzhen, and then another permit to pass through the border into Hong Kong. And then you need to remember to change from driving on the right to driving on the left. I think I am right in saying that only right hand drive vehicles from Hong Kong can have dual registration, not vice versa. I never see any left hand drive vehicles on the roads here. Even the PLA staff cars which I see here very occasionally are right hand drive, so bought specially for use in Hong Kong, I presume.

        I was very amused to find out yesterday that in 2013 it was discovered that all vehicles in Hong Kong that had dual registration plates had ‘recording’ devices planted in them, without the owners’ knowledge, obviously. I didn’t pick up on that at the time. I can only assume the devices were some sort of GPS tracking device plus something to transmit the vehicle’s location in real time. Pretty funny.

        Slightly less amusing is that there are separate international airports in Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Gives the air traffic controllers nightmares.

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  5. Tokyo is currently the world’s largest, but its population is predicted to drop by a couple of million by 2030 due to ageing.

    One might add, “… and fierce political opposition to immigration.”

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      • In Judge Dredd, everyone is crammed into super-mega-cities, patrolled by fascist “judges”.
        It might be better to have some robocops instead.

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    • Things that happen… A couple of days ago I went for a drive to Nambucca Heads, a seaside town about half an hour’s drive from my place. The road is very good, and I was tootling along at 110km/h when there was a loud whack and something orange ricocheted off my rear view mirror and into the car. I glanced down and noticed that a large wasp was now staggering around on my car seat, in alarmingly close proximity to my groin.
      After a couple of tries I managed to flick it onto the floor without crashing the car, and kept going to Nambucca, where I managed to sweep it out onto the ground of the carpark.
      The whole episode would be even less important than it seems, except that I took a couple of quick photos and looked it up on Google when I got home. The insect turned out to be a female Orchid Dupe Wasp.
      Apparently there are about five or so Australian orchids that specialise in producing flowers which mimic the appearance of the female wasp. When spring comes and the orchids are in bloom, many of the males spend their time frantically and fruitlessly copulating with these flowers, incidentally picking up the orchids’ pollen, which they then unload on the next object of their affection.
      Fortunately, enough males find enough real females to perpetuate the species, so the cycle continues.

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  6. Awww. Taylor Swift Done Made the Nazis Mad. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2018/10/09/awww-taylor-swift-done-made-the-nazis-mad/#disqus_thread
    For some reason, Nazis had idolized Taylor Swift. Now that she is criticizing Donald Dump, they are displeased.
    My favv schadenfreude comments from Ed Brayton’s blog:
    “I’d like to congratulate the liberal brainwashing team for another job well done. Hats off to you all!”
    “People underestimate how difficult it is to get beautiful, successful women from joining the tiki torch brigade. Those nazis are just so darn handsome, intelligent, dreamy, and totally not entitled brats whose only accomplishment in life was being born to white parents that we have to work overtime to keep women from begging them to have their Aryan babies. It’s about time someone recognizes how much effort it took from all of us to keep Taylor Swift from marrying Eric Trump and declaring the US an Aryan monarchy under their rule (and yes, some of them seriously believed there was a secret scheme among the Trump family and Swift to do exactly that).
    It was made even more difficult by the fact that none of us have met, spoken to, tweeted at, or in any other way communicated with Taylor Swift. Do you know how hard it is to brainwash someone without actually any direct (or indirect) contact with them? But we pulled it off. Way to go, team!”

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      • Not just the Roman Catholic Church, either. I regularly read Fred Clark’s blog Slacktivist (which is over on Patheos). Clark, who grew up in the evangelical tradition and knows his stuff, has been pointing out that American evangelicals have sold their soul as well. Rape and child abuse are major problems in evangelical churches as well as the Catholic Church.

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  7. Watching an excellent documentary series on Netfllix about the Vietnam War. It’s really very good, but I think I need to stop watching it – it’s doing my head in.

    I came perilously close to being sent to fight in that war. If I had gone, I would have been one of the last contingent of Australian troops sent to fight there before my political idol Gough Whitlam became Prime Minister and withdrew Australian forces from the war.

    The guys I knew who did go were all mental cases when they came back.

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    • I was fortunate, because my number never came up in the conscription lottery. I only know a couple of people who went and returned. One came back with a much more mature and responsible attitude plus a rather nasty Sexually Transmitted Disease. I don’t know how he went in the long run. The other came back with PTSD, which worsened when his house burned down in a major bushfire years later. He’s been fighting PTSD all his adult life, and I think he’s only survived this far with medication and his family around him.

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    • Conscription was by lottery, as you said, with a 1 in 7 chance of being called up. Right?

      When I graduated in civil engineering, there were a total of 10 of us who graduated. 9 out of the 10 were called up. The 10th person was female, so not subject to conscription.

      What is the statistical probability of that happening?

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      • The problem is that the basis for the statistics was provided by the same mongrels who were calling up kids to fight in an unwanted war. I have no way of checking their truth or otherwise – in my apprenticeship year I only know of two who were called up, but that was just in conversation, c.1969. There were certainly others I never knew about. The whole damn Vietnam thing was basically a war of lies and unnecessary suffering.

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      • The rumour going around was that the army engineers were short of numbers, so they were (secretly, obviously – if it was known that they were rigging the ballot, it would have caused an absolute political shitstorm) calling up all of the male civil engineering graduates.

        Civil engineering graduates were inducted as sappers into the army engineers. Sapper is the basic rank, equivalent to private in the infantry.

        No idea if the rumour was true, and no way to find out, but the % of civil engineering students (we were called up at age 20 when we were in our third year of study, but induction was postponed if we passed third year until we had completed our four year degree course – those who failed third year were inducted immediately as soon as their examination results were released) who were conscripted was so high that it was a lot more than just suspicious – the probability of that % resulting from random selection of 1 in 7 by birth date was so small as to make it impossible in real terms. You would have as much chance of winning Lotto. My gloomy observation at the time was that it was the only bloody lottery I had ever won or would ever win in my lifetime.

        Not just engineers – by that relatively late stage of the war there was ample evidence to strongly suggest that they were rigging the ballot to target various groups. But when Gough Whitlam swept to victory in the next election and immediately withdrew the Australian troops from the war, against strong American objections, it became irrelevant, so no one did any digging to reveal what they had actually been doing, at least not that I ever knew about.

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    • Actually, I enjoyed the comments. They were agreeably silly. TBH, I’ve given up trying to understand the real world. I don’t like the way it’s going, and I have a lurking suspicion that if I ever did understand it I’d feel even worse about it. Viva Fantasia!

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    • I’ll turn the microphone over to the late great Douglas Adams:

      There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

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  8. So, there is going to be a Black Panther sequel after all. Confused about how they are going to pull that off, given that he clearly disintegrated at the end of the last Avengers film, along with 50% of everyone – that was Thanos’ plan to ‘save the universe’ after all; to solve over population by wiping out 50% of everyone. But it did seem like an odd choice by the script writers, given how much of a money spinner the first Black Panther film has been. Does that mean that they will find a way to resurrect all of the disintegrated superheroes, or will they just completely suspend any semblance of adhering to a broader narrative and carry on regardless? Do I care?

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    • I have thought for a long time that movie companies don’t really know what they’re doing – they just make it up as they go along. I enjoyed the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but then Disney execs found something they didn’t like while snooping in the archives of the director’s Twitter account and fired him – upsetting the cast, the crew and the fans, and putting the third movie and possible sequels in jeopardy. It’s not really about entertainment, just money and power juggling by ignorant suits.

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      • As William Golding said about Hollywood, “Nobody knows nothing about nothing.” Golding had some firsthand experience in this regard, as the author of the 1973 novel The Princess Bride. It took Hollywood 15 years to greenlight that movie, by which time the actor Golding had envisioned for the role of Fezzik, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was too famous to be cast in that role (Andre the Giant, a famous pro wrestler at the time, played that part instead). The movie went on to be something of a cult classic, famous for its quotable lines, including the following:
        1. “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.”
        2. “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”
        3. “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

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  9. Trump Won’t Pull Weapons Sales from Saudi Arabia
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2018/10/12/trump-wont-pull-weapons-sales-from-saudi-arabia/
    And by the way, there is no $110 billion in weapons purchases going on. There’s only about $4 billion. The rest is just, as the Washington Post noted, a “wish list” of purchases they’d like to make. As always, Trump is wildly exaggerating things for his own benefit.
    (Maybe we should adopt this as a tool for judging Trump’s economic statements: When he says a number, the true number will be 4% of what he claims)

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    • Whatever Trump says is what he believes, at the time he makes the statement, to be in his best interest. He might say something completely different fifteen minutes later if in the meantime somebody persuades him that his interests are not what he thought they were.

      As Harry Frankfurter pointed out, at least a liar has some respect for the truth. Donald Trump does not. It is theoretically possible that Trump might say something true (I will stipulate that I have not seen any instances of this), but only because it suits his perceived interest, not because it’s actually true. Contrast with George W. Bush, who did make at least one documented true statement (if by accident): “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking of new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”

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  10. I am trying to educate myself about the islamic scriptures (and not the diluted de facto practices of ordinary muslims).
    I am getting the impression Mr. M had serious issues about zee joos.
    Signs the end times are coming:
    Music will be widespread (a bad thing)
    Men will wear silk
    The Romans (Byzantines?) will be attacking!
    India will be conquered (yeah, good luck messing with a billion hindus).
    I should stop reading, but it is like eating peanuts.

    Cristians: The fourth gospel (retroactively attributed to a disciple that would have died 50-100 years before it was written) is so different from the previous ones that it is amazing people were taken in.

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    • Chronologically, the Epistles of Paul are Christianity’s founding documents. And neither he nor the evangelists who came after ever met that delusional carpenter.

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      • Paul was one removed – he knew Peter, and others who knew the artisan first hand. Not clear from etymology of the Greek word whether Jesus was a carpenter; it was a generic term. He might have been a stone mason, or so I have read.

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  11. Razib Khan explains PCA plots. They are the quickest way to get a very fast understanding of population structure, and they map very well to geography. This blog is at the company he works for, so there’s a bit of commercial stuff at the bottom, but just ignore it, unless you are interested in getting some of their apps, or buying one of Razib’s T-shirts. I have toyed with the idea of getting one of his R1b T’s, except I doubt anyone I know where I live and work, except for my wife and daughter, would have any idea at all what it meant – my male line Haplogroup, with a map showing it exiting Africa and moving into western Europe – Bell Beaker country.

    https://blog.insito.me/why-pca-and-genetics-are-a-match-made-in-heaven-6042ea027cf0

    23andMe used to provide a PCA plot for all of its customers, but they discontinued this feature, which I think was a big mistake. But I guess they did it because most of their customers were not interested in it – if you are of European ancestry, and just plot with a whole lot of other Europeans, it might not be very informative, although it would place you in Europe pretty accurately geographically, depending on your particular mix of European ancestry.

    But for anyone mixed, it is more interesting. I grabbed screen shots of the plots for my family before they took them down. I plot smack on the eastern coast of England – right on the coast. My wife plots smack in the Yellow River region of northern China, so no surprise there.

    My daughter plots almost exactly midway in between – she plots with Uyghurs and Hazara (which she was not amused about, as she obviously does not identify in any way with either).

    But in the past she has passed herself off successfully as a Uyghur (you’ve no doubt heard of ‘passing as white’; well, she can ‘pass as Uyghur’ if she has a reason to want to), and if she ever goes to Xinjiang she will be mistaken for a Uyghur for sure. And when she was doing post-grad, a lot of Turkish migrants took her to be Turkish. Central Asians like Uyghurs and Hazaras are Turkic people who are of ancient mixed East and West Eurasian ancestry, so no mystery about why my daughter plots with them. And Turkic people migrated into what is modern day Turkey. So no mystery about why Turkish people should mistake my daughter for Turkish.

    Back to Razib’s plot, I am interested to see that his company Insitome has so many East Asian and African (obviously African American) customers – seems like, proportionally, a lot more than the biggest direct-to-consumer genomics companies in America.

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    • During voter canvassing this past summer I learned that there are several Uyghur families in my multi-ethnic housing area. If Jrette (Han + Swede) takes up with one of their boys, I will have grandchildren with a confusing genetic profile.

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  12. Buckingham sues.
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-13/guitarist-sues-fleetwood-mac-after-being-axed/10373536

    What I read is that they dropped him because he was refusing to tour with them towards the end of this year, which is when all of the others wanted to tour, playing a collection of their old hits. He wanted to postpone it, record a new album first and then tour some time next year. And they had reached a total impasse, so the others felt they had no choice but to drop him. So now he’s gone for the lawyers and it’s all going to get nasty.

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  13. Too funny for words.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-13/villagers-using-calvin-klein-obsession-for-men-to-lure-tiger/10373418

    People who say the South China tiger is extinct are wrong. There is a Chinese woman who has been breeding them in captivity and releasing them into the wild. In South China. Where I live. Every so often, villagers around our way report seeing large pug marks, and occasionally someone reports a sighting. The authorities pass it off as them seeing a leopard cat (which do exist in HK) and mistaking it for a tiger – well, leopard cats have spots, not stripes, they are about the size of a domestic cat, they are strictly nocturnal, and very shy and secretive. One of them is not going to be just standing there in broad daylight staring at people. That won’t happen. Our environmental scientists have to map them in any particular area from their droppings and tracks, because they have no chance of seeing one.

    So Calvin Klein’s stink water for men could be the most wonderful stuff in the world, and could induce crowds of beautiful women to flock around you driven into a sexual frenzy by the smell (highly unlikely in my opinion), but I won’t be spraying any of it on myself.

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  14. Weird factoids: At 7000+, Galadriel was the oldest character in Lord of the Rings, even beating Gandalf. Tom Bombadil is probably older, but as a kind of nature spirit, he is in a different league.
    The elves were into warfare, so they must have the ability to heal from very significant injurues or their low fecundity would have doomed them.

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  15. Gaah! Sunday, nearly all of Sweden (including places to the north of me ) experienced what Americans call an “indian summer” of+20° or more.
    the exception was, of course, the place where I live, with strong winds pumping cool air from the bothnic sea straight into my neighbourhood.

    Question: will the British put up with the Brexit qagmire forever?

    I vented a bit by writing a letter to the editor (local small-town newspaper) about Swedish servility to the Saudis. It will make no difference but may help me avoid killing the next bloke who says we need keep sucking up to them to get export orders.

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  16. Leviticus 26:27-30 would make a great text for a Death Metal song (I got the idea from Youtube).
    After the performance, setting the guitars on fire is optional.

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  17. Roman emissaries to China?

    https://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/First-Roman-Embassy.pdf

    I’m agnostic about it. There is some archaeological evidence – Roman coins and glassware found in China dating to those periods, but there are other ways those things could have got there. But if Romans did actually make it to China then, by sea to India and then overland via present day Vietnam would have been a quicker and easier route than the Silk Road, which was notoriously difficult and high risk, and it is known that the Romans were active in the Indian Ocean around the coasts of Africa and India. I don’t see that it matters much – a few visits by a few people in the space of 100 years or so doesn’t seem like a big deal in terms of cultural or technological exchange. “Here, have a gift of some of our fancy glassware.” Pretty underwhelming.

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  18. Finally finished watching the Netflix documentary series on the Vietnam War. It is a grueling marathon – 10 episodes of 1 hr 50 mins each. Worth it though – it filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge of what happened when and why. Minor complaint – it makes no mention of the involvement of Australian and New Zealand military in the war and the casualties they suffered, which I thought was a bit shabby, while briefly mentioning that 30,000 Canadians volunteered (but then making no mention of Canadian casualties either).

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    • Of course, I had to compound my agony by then watching Apocalypse Now again. I watched it when it came out in 1979 – surprising how much of it that I had completely forgotten, like the stage performance by the Playboy Bunnies, and how much I had remembered precisely.

      Robert Duvall got most of the best lines in that film, including “Charlie don’t surf” and “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”, as well as Harrison Ford with “Terminate with extreme prejudice”.

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  19. Today’s big political news in the USA – Elizabeth Warren has called Trump’s bluff, taken a DNA test, and she does indeed have a small amount of Native American ancestry. As anyone would expect, Trump is now frantically back-pedaling. Gutless bastard – if someone calls your bluff, and you are an honourable person, you accept it with humility and say “OK, I was wrong.”

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/elizabeth-warren-dna-test-results_us_5bc4648ce4b040bb4e840fd6

    Razib Khan, who identifies as politically conservative (but disavows Trump) has confirmed that he considers the result to be genuine. So now he has become a troll-magnet. Speak the truth, and people will hate you for it.

    On the strength of this, it seems now possible that Warren will run for Democratic nominee for the Presidency in 2020. On the face of it, deciding to run for President because your great great great grandmother was half Cherokee or whatever seems like a non sequitur, but Trump has repeatedly used her claim to publicly ridicule her, referring to her as Pocahontas. He has made it an issue, not her, and now it has backfired on him.

    She’s not young – in 2020 she will be 71, but she’s younger than Trump, and looks in much better shape physically. In terms of intellect, she makes him look like a drooling idiot. Which is of course what he is.

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    • The DNA test is not going to convince anybody in the Trump faction. They have invested too much in calling Sen. Warren “Fauxcahontas” to back down. That especially goes for the Mumbai-born idiot who is running against her for Senate on the slogan, “Only a real Indian can stop a fake Indian.” Yes, I have seen that slogan on a sign, on a storefront in the Boston suburb of Revere (it may even have been his campaign office). Yes, it is offensive on multiple levels, but we all know that the ability to be gratuitously and obnoxiously racist is not limited to people of European ancestry.

      Warren grew up in Oklahoma, which is the part of the US many indigenous groups were exiled to as settlers of European ancestry expanded their range in the 19th century. Then the settlers ran out of other places to expand, and started settling in Oklahoma. It was not unusual for some of those settlers to marry some of their First Peoples neighbors. Warren had heard family legends that she had some Cherokee ancestry, and the DNA test appears to confirm it.

      Warren got into politics because she was Obama’s initial choice to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Senate Republicans managed to block her confirmation. Her strength is on economic issues, particularly how Wall Street, big banks, and big corporations have been sticking it to the little guy. I had heard talk of her being a Presidential candidate in 2020 prior to the DNA test, so that is not new.

      As for age, that is less important than how mentally sharp and in tune with issues that affect younger voters a candidate is. Donald Trump is a low bar to clear on both points, but Warren resonates better with young voters than *cough* Paul Ryan or *cough cough* Ted Cruz, who are of my generation.

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    • The arguments in the USA are getting very stupid and nasty from one side. Elizabeth Warren’s data were analysed by Carlos Bustamente, who is as good at this as it gets. Razib, who has no particular political reason to back Warren and is obsessive about facts and evidence, confirms that it is 99% certain that she has Native American DNA, maybe as much as 1/64, possibly even a bit higher.

      Can’t tell from the DNA if it is Cherokee, because Native Americans in the USA won’t do DNA testing, but given her family background and where she was born/grew up, plus verbal evidence from old family historians, it is very likely that’s what it is. Her Native American DNA plots in between Canadian groups like the Cree and Ojibwa, and Mexican groups.

      That should be the end of it, but it won’t be. The Sleazebag in Chief is doubling down, and getting it all wrong as usual.

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  20. The olorgesailie basin, Kenya, has a 320000 year-old site where people imported red ochre from at least 55 miles away.
    This implies they had a preference for “the right stuff” over locally available substitutes, and there was some rudimentary trading network in place.
    No dumb savages, those ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. An old lady helping big predators?
    That is actually the background plot to the first Chrystal Lake film.

    Turkic authorities have just announced they have evidence the Saudi journalist *was* murdered.
    Next: Saudi government will claim he “accidently” died while meeting a 15-member brute squad equipped with a bone saw.

    A less gruesome story. A Swedish satire TV program -with the kind of tongue-in-cheek mega-vulgar approach you find in “Little Britain” or “Family Guy”- got on the wrong side of the Chinese embassy after a joke about China (ALL the jokes in the program are in bad taste, so China was not singled out)
    Now even a tiny magazine with very limited circulation has been contacted by the embassy about some letter to the editor. Hmm. Obviously the Chinese foreign office regards Sweden as a potential trouble spot, and now the embassy is reacting to *anything* they perceive as disrespectful.
    They have not heard of the Streisand effect.

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  22. MJ Akbar, deputy foreign minister in India has been accused of sexual harassment by 14 women.
    Question: would Trump defend a *brown-skinned* alleaged sleazebag, or is his concern about bogus accusations a white thing?

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    • Is that a rhetorical question?

      If you are familiar with Trump’s history regarding the Central Park Five (who were proven to have been wrongly convicted), you know what his attitude toward falsely accused brown-skinned people would be.

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      • Yes, it was mostly rhetoric. …unless he has business interests in India. In which case we can look forwards to him attacking the accusers in his usual, stylish way.

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  23. And in other world shattering news headlines, Pippa Middleton has given birth. Who? It would be funny if it weren’t so cringe inducing that the Australian media are obsessed with British royalty watching, extended to the likes of Ms Middleton, while the British media mostly just ignore it all. The respective media are of course just giving their customers what they want. Maybe the British royal family and their myriad hangers-on should all migrate to the colonies.

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    • I assume the Brit name Pippa comes from the translation of Pippi Långstrump to Pippa Longstocking.
      The Swedish “pippa”(vulg,. ) is seventies slang for what Trump does with women he is not married to.

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      • Britain is. …the far west? And Timor is closer than New Zealand. I see the Rupert has most of his business interests at the antipodes (USA) these days.

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      • The fictional heroine in question is known to American audiences as Pippi Longstocking. I have no reason to think UK translators would render it otherwise unless Pippa was an already existing name or nickname in the UK.

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  24. I live in a surreal world. Our Mandarin speaking security guard says good morning to me in English (evidently something she has been practising for my benefit) and I reflexively respond to her in Cantonese, a language she can’t speak (together with English).

    Almost as silly as a Filipina and I having a brief conversation in the lift recently in Cantonese, when both of us are better at English. It’s just conditioned reflex.

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      • It’s hard to judge age with any accuracy from appearance alone. Ms. Li is definitely not a young woman–I would be more surprised from that photo to find that she was 35 than 65–but she does not appear to be elderly. OTOH, some women that age do appear elderly.

        My mother may be an extreme example. She looks perhaps a decade older than Ms. Li. She will turn 80 in January.

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