November Pieces Of My Mind #2

Sergels torg
  • I’ve lost count of how many graves I’ve emptied.
  • Funny how gear brings us together. For years I’ve mainly kept in touch with my dear old thesis supervisor thanks to his computer troubles. And now my former driving pupil wants to meet up for his first tyre switch on his first own car, because I know how to do this and my dad has power tools.
  • Running around the block really helps when I get sleepy on the afternoon of a caffeine day. On a non-caffeine day, only a nap helps.
  • Jrette’s buddy invites 70 kids to Halloween party, tells them to bring all their friends. On social media. When Jrette arrives, there are hundreds of kids in front of the house, whose inhabitants have barricaded themselves and are shouting from a window for everyone to please leave! 😀
  • Movie: Bohemian Rhapsody. Bio pic plus band movie. Grade: excellent!
  • Autumn comes along, days get a little shorter, and it becomes painfully clear that I am simply biology, neurochemistry, matter: instant vague feelings of failure and loss.
  • The new Clark Ashton Smith documentary is interesting but appallingly lacking in female interviewees.
  • I’m getting really tired of the coverage of that silly academic. I have no idea why anyone pays him any attention and I’m making a point of not finding out. He’s a typical fad intellectual.
  • leaves
    • Despite my cleaning efforts, a little bird (Parus major) is eating the remains of the egg thrown by Hallowe’en hooligans at my study window.
    • The French word for fencing, escrime, is cognate with Eng. skirmish, scrimmage, scrum; Ge. schirmen “to protect”; Sw. skärm “screen”.
    • Colleague brings his 16-month son to work, an extremely outgoing and cheerful little person who toddles around the office speaking wordlessly to everyone and sitting on everyone’s lap.
    • I send someone’s paper manuscript to Joe Bloggs for peer review. When the author receives the anonymous reviewer comments, he responds “If this reviewer is not Joe Bloggs, then it’s a member of the Joe Bloggs Fan Club”.
    Found my gaming group depicted on an antique brass tray.


    Author: Martin R

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

    106 thoughts on “November Pieces Of My Mind #2”

    1. If Lee Child was to write a Salander novel, I would read it.
      Gaaaaah! It is twenty-four years since Maria Carey’s All I Want For Christmas!
      I will surely die of old age tomorrow.


    2. Joe Bloggs is a canonical generic name in England, or at least it used to be. In the US, it would be Joe Blow, as in just some random guy on the street. Could that be part of the joke?


      1. I interpreted the name as a stand-in for the actual reviewer (who of course Martin wants to keep anonymous). I have no idea what the standard UK usage is in this scenario. In US English he would typically be called John (or Jane, if female) Doe.


        1. Ha! You might just have solved a mystery for me. I know a guy from London whose surname is Gurka. I always wondered about the derivation of his name.


      1. Maybe unleaded petrol had something to do with it as well. Not quite as spectacular as NY, but murders are down by a lot in LA, down somewhat but not so much in Chicago, which have spiked recently. So Chicago is now more risky than both NY and LA. I was in LA around 1990 and people were too scared to walk in the street – after arrival I went out for a long walk in daylight, middle of the day, to try to counter the jet lag from the long cross-Pacific flight, and the streets were deserted. Plenty of cars, zero pedestrians in the middle of a week day. After walking quite a few city blocks and sighting not one single person on foot, I started to feel kind of exposed and think that maybe I shouldn’t be out there.


        1. Various theories have been floated on the subject, but the phasing out of lead in fuel is the explanation that best fits the facts. Crime rates in nearly all US cities began dropping in the mid-1990s, by which time the cohort that tends to commit the most violent crimes, teenage and young adult males, had lived all of their lives without breathing lead-contaminated automobile exhaust. Similar drops have been observed in other countries that have phased out lead antiknock compounds, and the timing in those countries is also consistent with this explanation.

          Los Angeles has long been (in)famous for taking car culture to its logical extreme. Local governments eventually came to the realization that it is simply not possible to move all of the inhabitants of a city that size in private automobiles, as attempting to build enough motorways with enough lanes would not leave places ordinary people would want to live. The last time I was there (circa 2004), you could find pedestrians about in the area where I was (Westwood Village)–admittedly this area is not representative of the city, as it includes the UCLA campus. But at least it had become socially acceptable for students to not drive to or around campus.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I may have told this anecdote repeatedly, but my colleague who taught at the University of Mississippi was seen as a crazy person because they cycled to work.


        3. The southeastern US has prolonged hot and humid summers, and most areas do not have any infrastructure to support bicycle commuting. Even in the big cities of the region (Atlanta, New Orleans, Nashville, Miami) it is rare, and the state of Mississippi does not have any cities big enough to have a viable commuter cycling club. For half or more of the year, a bicycle commuter would have to shower upon arriving at the workplace, and dodge fast-moving cars along the way.

          A co-worker who grew up around here spent a few years at a university in Tennessee (not in Nashville) acquiring an advanced degree. He was regarded locally as an odd duck because he would go jogging around town. That part of the US does not have much jogging infrastructure outside of the big cities. More often, people will drive to the gym in order to exercise there. Yes, that’s as silly as it sounds.

          California has a much more favorable climate for bicycling and jogging. It can get quite hot in inland areas, but close to the coast the temperature rarely exceeds 35 C and is usually much cooler (places close enough to the beach have historically been able to make do without air conditioning), plus the humidity is usually very low (this creates other problems, specifically wildfires), so evaporative cooling actually works. And during the summer months, if the humidity is not low it is because there is a marine layer, which keeps temperatures at the immediate coast quite cool (I have seen temperatures go from 13 C at the immediate coast to 32 C less than 10 km inland, and this is not an extreme gradient by coastal California standards).


        4. Before we bought Jrette her first vehicle (an electric moped) a few months ago, we made an agreement with her that she would go to the gym weekly.


        5. “people will drive to the gym in order to exercise there. Yes, that’s as silly as it sounds.”

          That’s what I do. I alternate – every second day I do aerobic exercise, and every other day I lift weights. You don’t want to do aerobic exercise and weight training in the same session, because when you do aerobic exercise your body is in a catabolic state, and when you do weight training you want it to be in an anabolic state, so doing both in the same session is self-defeating.

          In summer it is too hot and humid to run outdoors; the humidity is so high that evaporative cooling doesn’t work at all. When I play tennis, I need to change my T-shirt every 30 minutes. And in winter, the outdoor air quality is too bad to exercise outdoors – in a good building with properly maintained central air conditioning, the indoor air quality is much better. Plus modern treadmills have reached a very high level in terms of design – the track you run on is cushioned so you don’t risk impact injuries (I know people who have suffered stress fractures in their feet from running on concrete, and by the time they reach their 40s and 50s, most people who play a lot of tennis on hard courts have knees that are shot – I still have good knees because I didn’t take up playing tennis until I was 50, so I haven’t wrecked mine yet). The treadmills have a wide range of adjustable speeds and angles, so you can simulate running uphill at various inclinations, which is far more demanding than running on the flat; they have a lot of different programs that you can choose from, including high intensity interval running, which is the fastest way to get much fitter; and they are equipped so you can monitor various things including your heart rate, which enables you to adjust your training so that you are exercising within your desired range of elevated heart rate, which is the scientific way to exercise. The downside of a treadmill is that the track obligingly moves backwards for you as you run on it, so running on a treadmill is less difficult than running on stationary ground, everything else being equal, so you need to allow for that. But they, and other aerobic exercise machines like stationary bikes, stair climbing machines and elliptical trainers, which are especially good for people prone to joint injuries, are the scientific way to train.

          And dumbells and weight training machines don’t grow outdoors.

          My advice to J’rette: she wants to train at least twice/week, an aerobic session and a weight training session. (Ideally more often than that, but availability of time is a consideration – but if you are training scientifically, an aerobic session of 30 minutes is enough, and most people can find 30 minutes in a day if they really try.) And when she does weight training, she shouldn’t do what most women do, which is just wave tiny little weights around that do absolutely nothing; once her body gets used to the exercises, she should be using the heaviest weights she can handle and still get 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions on each exercise. No, this will not give her big bulky muscles – normal women don’t produce enough testosterone for that to happen.

          When you start weight training, the first thing that happens is that your muscle tissues densify – they actually get smaller in size, more dense, much firmer, and a much nicer shape, which is exactly what women want. There’s a reason that gym rats are called ‘hard bodies’ – their bodies literally get hard, not soft and pudgy. For normal men, they pass through the muscle densifying stage and then their muscles start to grow in size, very slowly – you can’t gain more than about 5kg of muscle mass per year no matter what you do, unless you use illegal growth promoting drugs which you really don’t want to do. For most normal women, they never get past the first stage of muscle densifying, so they become stronger, and their bodies become much firmer and a nicer shape, but they don’t grow a lot of muscle mass; they can’t. It won’t happen.


        6. In support of what I’m saying about women and weight training, check the physical training that Brie Larson and Gal Gadot have put in for their film roles, lifting really heavy weights for women, and then take a look at their bodies – very slender, firm, shaped and strong, nothing remotely like bulky. To me, Gadot has a perfect feminine physique. Athletic, strong and healthy is attractive – that makes complete sense in an evolutionary sense.

          And why would any woman not want to be stronger? We use muscles to do every single thing we do; having healthy strong muscles improves quality of life, and that continues all the way through into old age. Researchers have found that even women in the 80s who have never done any kind of strength training before, have experienced improved health outcomes from doing weight training.

          A small % of women who have abnormally high natural levels of testosterone can develop large muscle mass without artificial means, but they are a real rarity – vanishingly small, and in at least some of those cases I am somewhat suspicious that they have been injecting something. The muscled up women who train for female body building events are all injecting themselves with testosterone and who knows what else – in effect, hormonally they have turned their bodies into pseudo-male bodies, and it shows.


        7. This is turning into a lecture series, but it’s something I know something about. So, apology for that.

          As for aerobic (cardio-vascular) fitness, multiple studies have proven that to improve aerobic fitness, you only need to engage in an aerobic activity that elevates your heart rate enough and keeps it there continuously for 20 minutes to improve aerobic fitness, and keep improving it. So, if you add 10 minutes at the start to get your heart rate up to where you want it, it means that 30 minutes of an aerobic activity per session is enough. You don’t need a ‘cool down’ period at the end, that’s bullshit; your heart rate will just return to normal resting rate in its own good time without any problem in my experience. Brisk walking and running are preferable to cycling and swimming, because they are ‘load bearing’, which helps to maintain bone density, which is particularly important for women to avoid osteoporosis in later life.

          How high should you elevate your heart rate? Ideally, to about 80% of your Theoretical Maximum Heart Rate, which you can calculate from a simple equation. The most widely cited formula is HRmax = 220 – age. So for a 20 year old, the TMHR is 200 beats per minute. If that is too demanding, then people can aim for a target heart rate of 60% of TMHR initially, and then work on getting it higher as they get fitter. I have done two stress ECGs where I managed to get my heart rate up above my theoretic maximum, and I didn’t die (which really irritated my doctor, because both times I performed better than he did), so it’s just a guide, but it’s a pretty good one. Another one is that you should aim to exercise at an intensity at which you are breathing hard but can still talk; if you are exercising so intensely that you are gasping for air and can’t speak, you want to dial it down a bit.

          The quickest way to improve aerobic fitness has been shown to be High Intensity Interval Training, and 15 minutes of that in one session is enough to get a significant improvement in fitness, but that is very demanding and I think should only be attempted by people who are already very aerobically fit. Or it can be worked in as a variation, to stave off boredom, but high intensity really does mean high intensity, so it’s best tackled after someone has been training for a good while.

          One of the big advantages of using a treadmill, elliptical trainer or stair climber is that a lot of them have screens, so you can plug your ear buds into them and watch something that interests you on the screen while you are doing it, to prevent the exercise becoming repetitive and boring.

          You can’t do that with weight training, where you need to focus your attention on the muscle group that you are exercising. But then, weight training doesn’t become boring in the way that aerobic training can become – for one thing, it really gets you sucking oxygen if you are lifting enough weight, and you keep doing different exercises, working on all of the main muscle groups of the body: back, chest, legs, shoulders, biceps and triceps. The biggest muscles are in the upper legs and back, so those exercises are the most demanding and get you sucking the most oxygen. With weight training, you really need someone who knows what they are doing to demonstrate the movements for you, because strict ‘form’ is very important, although there are plenty of sources of videos on the Internet demonstrating how to do the exercises correctly, but working through all of those videos and memorising them is time consuming – it’s better having an experienced weight trainer to watch over you and check your form until you get it right. I have always found experienced people in gyms to be very willing to be helpful in that regard, so you can just ask someone. The logical thing to do is pick to most jacked person in the gym, because that person is most likely to be the best person to ask.

          For weight training, the thing that matters most is ‘volume’, where volume = weight lifted x number of repetitions. Within reason, you can lift a lighter weight a lot of times, or a heavier weight fewer times, and it doesn’t matter, as long as you are getting your muscles to near-refusal at the end of the exercise. I’ve seen a lot of people who have studied the science behind weight training who say it’s good to mix up sessions where you lift lighter with lots of reps with sessions where you lift heavier with fewer reps. But very important – when someone first starts weight training, they need to take it really very easy for the first few times until their muscles become accustomed to the exercises; otherwise the delayed onset soreness that happens after training, and typically peaks 48 hours after, can be so painful that it can put people right off doing it. Ideally, you want to start off doing 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions of each exercise, but everyone is different, and it takes some experimentation to find what is your optimum – I find I respond best to high repetitions, and for legs you can go up to 20 reps per set, no problem.

          The worst thing for boredom that I have ever done was lap swimming in a swimming pool, when I was swimming a mile of freestyle every night after work – I needed to wear goggles to prevent my eyes being irritated by the chlorinated water, after a while I started to get issues with water being trapped in my ears so started to need to use ear plugs, after a while the mucous membranes in my nose started to get very irritated by the chlorinated water, and my arm pits used to suffer a lot a chafing, so I started having to spread Vaseline on my armpits to prevent that. So I ended up swimming huge numbers of laps while sensorily deprived, and ended up swimming in my own little isolated bubble, and my mind would just shut down – I would be swimming and suddenly realise that I had no recollection of how long I had been swimming or how many laps I had swum, so I had to start using a stop watch – I got to know how long it would take me to swim that many laps, so I would just go by the stop watch. When this first started happening, my conscious mind shutting down, I worried that I might drown, but that doesn’t happen – your subconscious mind is taking care of that and has you operating on automatic pilot. Lap swimming uses a lot of energy and is good for fat burning, but it has its drawbacks, and boredom is probably the biggest of those.

          The other thing I could probably usefully add is something about fat loss – I found that, if I just concentrated on fitness and forgot about fat loss, and managed my nutrition sensibly, the fat loss took care of itself. It’s not something you need to address directly, the important thing is physical fitness + healthy nutrition + adequate sleep, and the fat loss just happens. The energy you use during exercise is not really either here or there, in terms of fat loss, unless you are running marathons or doing long distance swimming like I was. The important thing is that exercising will elevate your metabolic rate for 24 hours afterwards, so you use more fat for energy for that whole 24 hour period. So if you can exercise every day, that will keep your metabolic rate permanently elevated, and that’s when you can really drop a lot of excess fat. Doesn’t matter what the exercise is: aerobic, anaerobic (as in weight training), some activity like sport or kick-boxing, it all gets your heart rate up and gets you sucking oxygen, and that will do the trick.

          ‘Experts’ say you should aim for 4 kinds of exercise: aerobic, weight training, stretching to maintain flexibility, and playing some kind of game or practising some kind of martial art to maintain balance and motor skills, but doing all of that is very demanding on time, and probably not manageable for students and people in jobs where they have to work long hours and with long commutes. People doing a lot of heavy weight training really do need to incorporate some stretching to avoid muscle shortening, but most people are not going to be doing enough to really need it.


    3. …Scandinavians are careful to rake every inch of forest floor. That -and the round-the-year rainfall is why we have no truly cataclysmic forest fires.


      1. Yeah. Extreme heat + dryness, prolonged dry periods + eucalyptus oil content of Australian native trees – add a spark (man made or lightning strike), and the trees literally explode, then hot dry winds including the winds generated by the fires themselves and you have a raging fire that races through forest, with sparks flying ahead of the fire front and causing trees in the path of the fire to explode into flames. I have driven through bushfires (not recommended practice) and have seen fires literally jump roads ahead of me while driving – fire breaks won’t stop them.) Those conditions don’t apply in Scandinavia and Finland. Something like those conditions apply in parts of the USA, particularly after prolonged drought. Eric can no doubt weigh in on that.

        (I’m not including Finland in Scandinavia because I have seen lots of geneticists saying that Finns should not be put in the same box as Scandinavians. Same applies to Russians, they say that Russians should not be classed as Europeans. I stand to be corrected if that’s wrong – I don’t mind being corrected. Anyone who cares only about the Truth should not mind being corrected by people who know better.)


        1. Eucalyptus trees are exotic in the US–some were imported into parts of California, but they don’t grow natively here. Otherwise, large parts of the US show similar fire behaviors to most of Australia. It’s especially a big deal in California, where occasional wet winters provide lots of underbrush to help fuel fires during the summer, when most parts of California normally get zero rainfall.

          Global climate change is making this problem worse, at least in North America. Formerly, most California wildfires occurred in September and October, at the end of the dry season, and a time of year when Santa Ana winds are especially likely. This year has seen major fires in July and November, and last year parts of the hills above Los Angeles burned in December (one does not simply drive into Mordor during rush hour). Needless to say, hillsides that have recently burned are especially prone to landslides during the next rainy season as there is no vegetation to hold the soil in place.

          The warming climate has also meant that bark beetles no longer get frozen out in the winter, so there is that much more fuel available from dead or dying trees.

          It also doesn’t help that a dry period has opened up in the spring between snowmelt and greenup. That was a major contributing factor in the fires near Fort MacMurray a couple of years ago.

          The part of the US where I live normally gets year-round rainfall, so major forest fires are rare here, but they do happen on occasion. The last major wildfire in northern New England was, IIRC, in 1947.


    4. Trump: I Answered Mueller’s Questions. You Hear Me? I Did It. All Alone. Me.
      Comment by Zetopan : “The entire reason for written questions and answers is that Trump’s lawyers are *very* aware that Trump cannot be trusted to orally answer any question without lying. Hence the lawyers need to be in the middle of the questions and answers to prevent Donaldcide.*
      *Does not involve a duck. “


      1. Title is misleading – should be cultural evolution. Nationalist Chinese anthropologists would probably be keen to represent this as evolution of modern Chinese within China, but the genetic evidence does not support that. There is not even any evidence that the people who developed that tool technology were anatomically modern humans or contributed to the modern gene pool. Any suggestion that they were ‘early Chinese’ would be not even wrong – the modern Han ethnicity probably only came into being a few thousand years ago, and then hybridised with other distinct groups (Austro-Asiatics and Austronesians) as they expanded southwards.

        Evidence is mounting for multiple modern human migrations out of Africa. The other thing that is becoming clear is that there was already a lot of population structure within Africa by the time that modern humans migrated out, and possibly members of only one sub-group migrated out – so in that sense, humans outside of Africa were already genetically distinct from other sub-groups in Africa before they migrated out.


      1. What the dispute was originally is far from clear, and probably can’t now be reliably established – there is some suggestion it was about a dispute over land ownership, and the ‘defiling the cup by drinking from it’ incident was trumped up to cover an attempt by people to get their hands on her family’s land holding. The nature of the original dispute is not really the issue. Also, that article is wrong – she was originally imprisoned in 2009, and it was only after a judge found that she had been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned and ordered her to be freed from prison that mobs started calling for her to receive the death penalty for blasphemy – they escalated variously into mobs calling for the killing of the judge, and members of Aasia bibi’s family.


    5. ResearchGate needs to catch up with the times.

      I haven’t looked at their site frequently because I have yet to figure out their business model. The idea is to provide links to published papers and associate them with authors. But the first probably runs afoul of copyright law in many countries, and they do a poor job of the second. Not to mention that I have no idea how they pay for their server space.

      I peeked this afternoon, and found that they had more than a dozen papers they thought were mine, none of which actually were. They also suggested co-authors who were not actually co-authors.

      There is a solution to this problem: the ORCID. Each researcher gets a unique ID, which is handy for finding all of the papers authored by a particular researcher, and only those papers. For instance, while getting 0.03% credit for discovering the Higgs boson would look good on my CV, I am not the E. Lund who belongs to the ATLAS collaboration, and having an ORCID solves the problem of people who are looking for my work getting those papers as false positives. ResearchGate seems to depend on self-reporting rather than ORCIDs to figure out who is who. Most of the papers they were trying to associate with me are not even physics papers.


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