November Pieces Of My Mind #3

Boberg
Bobergs Storgård, Fornåsa parish, Östergötland
  • After a friendly meeting and lunch with my successor Peter Carelli, I just handed in my keys to Fornvännen’s editorial office. 80 issues! Wonder where I’ll be working a year from now.
  • Charlottenborg’s manor house near Motala lost its third floor when an owner installed a fish farm up there which leaked and caused severe rot.
  • Oh, the excruciating feeling when you help a not very computer savvy person and you realise that they’re double-clicking when they shouldn’t.
  • Theobromine isn’t psychoactive. If it were, then pushers would be selling it in the street. In fact, the compound is useless as a drug. People just eat chocolate for the fat and sugar.
  • I wonder what it would cost to get Annie Lennox to record a new vocal track for “The City Never Sleeps” where she sings “You know it feels like ancient sushi” instead of “You know it feels like distant thunder”.
  • Dreamed that my buddy had bought completely ineffective insulation strips for an extremely draughty window at their desk.
  • DNA genealogists are now analysing samples of the stamp glue on letters from long-dead relatives.
  • Studying post-war popular music styles with Jrette. Music-nerd-dad heaven. ❤
  • I’ve been an Amazon customer since 1997.
lars
Church, cathedral, moon, sunrise. (S:t Lawrence’s, Linköping)
chapman
Af Chapman, built in 1888 in Whitehaven, Cumbria. Behind the ship, Skeppsholmen with the Admiralty Church and Admiralty House.

 

Author: Martin R

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

64 thoughts on “November Pieces Of My Mind #3”

  1. People who have quit smoking, or who have attempted to quit smoking, might disagree with your logic about theobromine. Apparently nicotine is even more addictive than cocaine.

    Furthermore, theobromine is poisonous to dogs. If you want to rid yourself of a neighbor’s annoying dog, feeding it chocolate is one way to do it. Not that I am advocating the intentional feeding of chocolate (or any other foodlike substance) to other people’s dogs.

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  2. I think it is poisonous to horses, too. Primates are quite different from other mammals in some ways.
    . . .
    On second thoughts, I am cancelling my Australia vacation. Non-refundable tickets be damned
    https://bit.ly/2Q5Xkng

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    1. Very wise decision.

      Australia is kind of infamous for its impressive array of venomous and dangerous beasties. But the creatures that kill more people in Oz every year than any others are…horses and cows. Horses are bloody lethal, and cows are not much better – difference is, people tend not to want to go out riding on cows.

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  3. Mean life expectancy in northern Sweden is lower than southern Sweden – probly from freezing to death, I suppose. Still pretty high, though. Scotland, Wales and northern Ireland are lower than England and real Ireland, which are on a par with much of western Europe.

    USA is a bit of a shocker. SE USA is as low as eastern Europe. Nowhere in USA is as high as western Europe, except Minnesota, for reasons that totally escape me – I seem to recall they have very lax alcohol laws. That’s the conundrum – you tend to get a lot less alcohol abuse in places where it’s a lot easier to buy and consume the stuff (although correlation does not imply causation – could be that places that have looser laws are that way because they don’t need more strict laws. But conversely, maybe there’s a message there about drug control that people keep not seeing.)

    Huge moral panic about opiate addictions, and it does look like they are a very big problem, but I have been fed truckloads of opiates, both orally and intravenously, and have never had even a hint of an addiction problem with any of them – in fact, I have always taken myself off them as soon as possible, sometimes against doctors’ advice, because I don’t like what they do to me (torture grade constipation, for one thing; wasting away to a skeleton for another). Last time I was hospitalised, the brilliant little lady doctor who was looking after me sent me home with a bloody big bottle of oral morphine, with the advice that if the prescribed dose was not working well enough, to just increase the dose to, oh, whatever I wanted. I found that pretty shocking, although her trust in me not to be an idiot was kind of touching. There was enough morphine in that bottle to kill me painlessly several times over. I kept it untouched at home for a while, then poured the whole lot down the toilet.

    I was pretty shocked first time I came to HK and discovered that you could get alcohol in any and every supermarket, convenience store or coffee shop, 24/7. Plus in those days the duty on alcohol was zero, so it was really cheap. Want to get stoned out of your brain on Cognac at 4.00 am on a Sunday morning? No problem, just nip out to your local convenience store in your pyjamas and slippers, and they will sell you as many full sized bottles as you can carry of whichever up-market brand you want; or handy pocket sized bottles so you can get legless anywhere you want. Number of people you see drunk in public in HK? Zero.

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    1. Observationally, you have an unusually high degree of self-discipline. It is quite easy to get addicted to opioids–certainly easier than the manufacturer of a certain brand (which I will not name for fear of triggering the spam filter, a known issue with WordPress) claimed when said brand was introduced in the 1990s.

      My European colleagues universally agree that the way the US handles age restrictions on alcohol consumption is maximally stupid. Giving it the allure of the forbidden will tempt certain rebellious teens to try it, and because it is difficult for them to obtain it, those that partake tend to do so to excess. Among Chinese it’s frequently the opposite: the people who do indulge tend to be middle-age and old men, so it is seen as uncool.

      My impression is that alcohol and drug abuse tend to be worse in rural areas than in major cities. A likely reason is that there is often little else to do, particularly in a region with no visible means of economic support. In Sweden and the British Isles this results in a gradient in life expectancy with latitude. The US additionally has issues with excessive food consumption, and these issues are also concentrated in the rural South and de-industrializing Midwest. Minneapolis is known for having one of the healthiest lifestyles among US cities, even though it has the coldest climate of any major US city.

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  4. Heh. There’s a thing called a Taiwan Compatriot Permit for entering and leaving HK without needing a passport or visa. I assume it also works for Macau and the Mainland. I didn’t know. I presume that those Taiwanese who demand formal independence refuse to accept such a thing and insist on using a passport and getting a visa. (No, I’m willing to bet they don’t.)

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  5. Film review: Alpha (2017).

    I differ strongly with the critics. In a word, it’s a stinker. I disliked almost everything about it. OK, maybe it’s a cute story for the kiddies about a boy and his lovely furry wolfy/doggy pal, but almost nothing in the film is credible. I don’t believe in telling lies to children; that’s the sort of stuff that gets kids killed. I won’t go through the tedium of deconstructing all of the things in the film that are, on serious consideration, ludicrous; they are far too numerous. But there is one thing that irks me so much that I will highlight it – the whole thing is a massive whitewash.

    There are few viable DNA samples of that vintage (20,000 years ago in Europe), so we only have a few data points to go by, but those that we do have clearly indicate that those humans were dark skinned. The humans in this film are all as see-through pale skinned as modern native Scots. OK, if they had cast dark skinned people for all of the human roles, the film would probably have bombed at the box office, and the drooling classes would simply not comprehend, but as it stands, as far as is known to science at this point, it is a massive misrepresentation.

    Grade: I hated it.

    10,000BC was so bad that it was funny. The Quest for Fire was, considering its vintage, remarkably good (including that the modern humans were dark skinned). This is just plain bad.

    The more of this kind of trash that I see, the more I think that The Quest for Fire was a really remarkable piece of work.

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    1. The Quest for Fire was a remarkably prescient 1911 Belgian novel written under a pseudonym (an unlikely source, one might think) – I say prescient because its depictions of Neanderthals, other ancient hominins and anatomically modern humans were remarkably close to the mark, given what is known now but was not known to science then.

      It was made into a 1981 film starring, inter alia, a very young and beautiful Rae Dawn Chong wearing nothing but body paint; she was only 20 at the time, tiny and really very slender/gracile. She is an intriguing mix of Chinese, Scottish-Irish, Native American and African ancestry. She won an award for best actress for her performance in that film, and it was well deserved. In the story, she actually turns out to be the hero, which was also something ahead of its time.

      Apart from the rather humorous looking sabre toothed lions, which were just tame modern African lions with stuck-on sabre teeth (no CGI then), and a few fake stuffed mammoths, it is a really excellent film that bears multiple viewings to get all of the nuances. I strongly recommend it, if you can find it.

      I wish I had it in my collection, but alas.

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  6. Oh shit, Hannity at Fox”news” thinks Trump can use military tribunals to investigate people at the justice department.
    Fortunately, reality will stop him, but both Hannity and Dump are bona fide fascists. I did not use that word before, but now I am convinced.
    Swedish government …not yet formed. Löfven the S chairman is still trying to get support in the parliament, but it will require compromises that many S members see as a sellout.

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  7. As Christmas approaches, we are now in the season where we are subjected to Christmas music, of which some is good but most is mediocre or worse. Fred Clark of Slactivist has a list of rules and guidelines for finding the good stuff. He admits that the list is incomplete, and I don’t agree with all of it, but it does make a good starting point.

    Case in point: at least in the US, “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” has been done to death. I find the original Gene Autry version and the cover by Willie Nelson acceptable. But this song has a particularly high number of bad versions. And the underlying story is saccharine: a reindeer with a deformity (in this case a red nose) is shunned by other reindeer until a situation arises where that deformity turns into an asset. Then, and only then, does the title character become a hero. The message the songwriter was trying to send is muddled: was he actually saying that it is OK to ridicule the funny looking kid, because he will still come to your rescue when he and only he can bail you out?

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  8. Opera singer Jussi Björling made a nice english version of “O Helga Natt” but I have forgotten the english title at Youtube.

    A Swedish psalm about the star over Betlehem is also quite nice, but today I am distracted by the knowledge the star was borrowed from Virgil’s Aeneid, and does not represent any real astronomical phenomenon.

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    1. If my assumptions about Swedish-German cognates are correct, that would be “O Holy Night”. (German: “O heilige Nacht”.) Which is one of the more difficult Christmas songs to do well: you need a full-voiced singer with just the right vocal range. The Piano Guys, for example, chose poorly when they brought in a guest vocalist to do this one.

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    2. It’s also a bit of a bummer when you find out from solid work by competent historians using science based approaches that Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem, he wasn’t born when it was claimed he was born, and that he was most likely born in a cave used to shelter livestock. That’s by historians who believe he was a historical person and not just someone who was invented later, who appear to be in the majority.

      OTOH there is no historical evidence that Mohammed ever existed; none at all. Something just came out of the desert after his alleged death; stories, and a holy war to unite Arabs.

      Early Islam is as open to deconstruction as early Christianity or even more so.

      At least with Buddhism, when the narrative says that Gautama died from eating spoiled pork that someone had given to him, it has a kind of down to earth ring of truth to it.

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  9. Goddamit, I swear he sang *something* in english, but apparently not that song. False memory alert. I will “recall” being abducted by aliens next.

    Many news stories about cancer research, but they are all too technical for me to digest so I cannot judge if something is hype.

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  10. I just watched a discussion on Youtube between the Apostate Prophet (a skeptic and former muslim) and imam Tawhidi, a progressive muslim about the possibility of reforming islam.
    Tawhidi’ s advice to non-muslims was simple; “if you see us doing good, support us. If you see us doing the wrong thing, oppose us”.

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    1. The esteemed Skoglund is very upbeat about this paper. His comment: “Clearly authentic with typical Mesolithic hunter-gatherer-type ancestry.” That’s a peer review worth having.

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  11. The “methylonome” of cancer DNA has great promise as an indicator, and cancer cells undergoing necrosis spills DNA into the blood and other fluids all the time.
    So we might just be able to spot cancer using blood samples in a not-too-distant future.

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  12. The defunct Dragon Gate complex in Sweden will be re-opened next year to host the Scandinavia Electronic Festival. No, I don’t know what that is.

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  13. I got burned by forwarding hyped science news, so I will pick some satire for now:
    .
    Five great ways to obstruct people in public
    Brexit debate is absolutely none of your business, MPs tell voters
    Wolf that blows down pigs’ homes gets Channel 5 documentary
    -I would pay to see this;
    “You haven’t even seen the episode where she kills Thatcher yet, say Doctor Who producers” https://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/arts-entertainment/you-havent-even-seen-the-episode-where-she-kills-thatcher-yet-say-doctor-who-producers-20181203180149

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    1. Indeed, the Bible has plenty of explicit sex and gratuitous violence, and in some places borders on pornography.

      For instance, it is quite clear that Onan abused his brother’s widow for his own personal pleasure, and that is why he was killed. The terms used in the King James version are “he went unto her” and “he spilled it on the floor”. Masturbation had nothing to do with it.

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  14. Aaaargh, that is gross.
    OT and the quran+hadith are full of XXX.
    NT (and presumably the buddhist stuff), not so much.

    Some criminal schmuck shot up an empty car belonging to another criminal a couple of hundred yards from where I live.
    Since we have a police academy in town there are plenty of rookie cops here assisting the ordinary ones, and making a headline-grabbing crime in a small, police-saturated town is the kind of dumb thing you can trust criminals to do.
    I am reminded of the Wurlitzer brothers in “Ernie” busting inte the police station during office hours.

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    1. NT was a whitewash assembled by a committee hundreds of years after the event – basically a PR job intended to appeal to Romans (who, despite noted behaviours, were a pretty puritanical crowd in terms of core Patrician beliefs), who were *the* people you would want to get onside in that era.

      Pali Canon also written down hundreds of years after the event, but yes, very puritanical. The ‘middle way’ is actually very strict and austere. Things about Buddhism though:
      1. There is no such thing as a human soul or even an individual self. So, how does reincarnation work? What is it that is reincarnated? Fundamental contradiction because reincarnation was inherited from Hinduism – Siddhartha Gautama lived and died a Hindu, just like Jesus lived and died a Jew, just that they were (at least as recorded) both at odds with certain stuff peddled by their respective priestly classes (e.g. Gautama opposed castes, and Jesus was also egalitarian, hence lots of Hindu Dalits convert to either Buddhism or Christianity).
      2. Buddhist canon is atheistic, but that is not how people practise Buddhism (e.g. they pray to Buddha and various Buddhist ‘saints’, actually Bodhisattvas – Chinese Goddess of Mercy Guanyin was a male Indian Bodhisattva who became female when adopted into Chinese Buddhism).

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    2. My favourite Chinese tea is Tieguanyin, which is usually and incorrectly translated as Iron Buddha. No, Guanyin is the name of a Chinese woman who, as the story goes, became a Buddhist nun after she was widowed, achieved enlightenment, but chose to ‘remain in the world’ (i.e. not cease to exist) for as long as there is suffering in the world; hence ‘Goddess of Mercy’ or ‘Goddess of Compassion’. She was supposed to be a reincarnation of the male Indian Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara or…um…whatever. Guanyin was adopted into religious Taoism and Chinese folk religions, also into Japanese Buddhism as someone named Kanon, and into various other East Asian religions. It’s complicated.

      So the correct translation of the name of the tea should be Iron Guanyin (in Mandarin), or Iron Kwun Yam (in Cantonese) – the reference is to an iron statue of Guanyin, allegedly, depending on which legend you choose to believe. But if you call it that in English, no one will know what you are talking about.

      Need to be careful of fakes with that tea variety, though, because the higher grades of it are hugely expensive, so it’s a target for counterfeiters. Also, the black teas are the easiest to fake. You’d need to be pretty dumb to be fooled, though – Tieguanyin has a very distinctive flavour.

      My wife always orders a red tea called Sau Mei in Canto (don’t know the Mandarin name) because it’s hard to fake, but I don’t like it, and I can pick genuine Tieguanyin easily. She still insists on ordering the red stuff. Did I mention that she’s stubborn? Did I mention that I am too? The only time she relents is when we go to a Chiuchow (Teochow) restaurant, because Tieguanyin is a traditional favourite of the Chiuchows and they won’t give you fake stuff as a matter of pride/reputation/whatever. Did I mention that Chiuchows are stubborn?

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      1. My wife also likes the Iron Buddha, in addition to her home city’s Longjing / Dragon Spring. IB is an oolong, i.e. a blue-green tea. But the Chinese also make some decent black ones. I’ve currently got some Yunnan in the cupboard.

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      2. One tea I try to avoid is Pu’er (the Yunnan you refer to? probably): 1. Traditionally regarded in Canto tea houses in HK as the favourite of old men, and I’m not nearly old enough to drink it yet, and 2. Fakes abound (in HK; probably doesn’t apply to your source, plus it could be that the rumours of fakes are actually fake rumours).

        Not that I’m all that clear on why people get anxiety attacks about ‘fake’ teas – it’s all tea, and if it tastes good, and it’s not contaminated with something nasty, I’m not sure I see a problem. The teas they routinely serve in tea houses are not the very expensive ones anyway. I can only see a point in someone faking something very expensive, not something that the tea houses give you free of charge (which is the standard thing in tea houses in HK – they serve you unlimited tea and don’t charge you anything for it).

        Highest priced Tieguanyin allegedly sells for US$3,000/kg, but I’m not sure I can see a point in that either. My brother in law (the one I don’t like – his one saving grace is his generosity, which errs on the side of embarrassingly excessive, in an effort to persuade everyone he’s actually a nice guy, but it doesn’t work) once bought me some very expensive Tieguanyin and, to be honest, it was insipid – I prefer the cheaper stuff I get in tea houses. OK, I’m a Philistine, but I know what I like, and I like the fuller bodied flavour hit that I get from the tea house stuff, and especially the very strong Tieguanyin that they serve you in tiny hemispherical cups in Chiuchow restaurants – could probably use it as drain cleaner or paint stripper (slight exaggeration, but they do like their Tieguanyin extra strong, those Chiuchows).

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      3. Pu’er smells like a barn and the Chinese used to see it as extremely low grade. Then 15 years ago somebody started marketing it as magic health tea and lots of people got fooled.

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      4. Well, if it’s exotic Oriental stuff from the mystical, magical East, some people will be sucked in by just about anything. I know Australians who swear by Feng Shui, but actually don’t have much of a clue about what they are doing with it, and it doesn’t do anything even when done by an ‘expert’. People swear by acupuncture, and it doesn’t do a bloody thing except stick you full of pin holes. Sometimes, placebos really do work.

        We have one Australian friend in Melbourne who is really a big fan of Feng Shui, and she and her husband renovated their kitchen, so she emailed me to ask my wife what she needed to do to improve the Feng Shui in the new house, because things hadn’t been going well for them.

        Wife duly obliged: “Ummm – what the hell would I know, I don’t believe in that rubbish. I know, tell her to put a potted bamboo plant in the kitchen. Well, it can’t hurt. Looks nice.” So I did that, and some time later got a rapturous email back from our friend thanking my wife for her wonderful advice, because everything had been going well for them ever since.

        Amazing what one little bamboo plant in the right place can do – it can turn your whole life around in the space of a few weeks 🙂 I toyed briefly with the idea of Wife going into business as a Feng Shui advisor to gullible Australians, but nah, Wife is not up for that kind of exploitative practice.

        But green teas do evidently do you some good health-wise, according to Western medical researchers – heart health or something. But pu’er ain’t green. Any old green tea will do – some Japanese green teas are pretty nice. Jap restaurants here also give you free green tea, and they even give you green tea flavoured icecream for desert, so you get a double health kick 🙂

        One of the more weird Japanese things I have had is green tea flavoured Kit Kats, those chocolate covered wafer things invented by Rowntree and now owned by Nestlé. They’re actually not bad. The obsessive Japanese have turned the humble Kit Kat into an art form, and keep coming out with new exotic flavours for them every year. There are now literally hundreds of different flavoured Kit Kats that you can get in Japan – not because they confer any magical health benefits, they are just being their usual obsessive fad-loving selves with a humble confectionary item with close to zero food value, aside from fat and sugar.

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      5. Somebody recently gave me a sampler box of Chinese teas, and as it happens the one I am currently working on is labeled “Pu-erh Xiao Yeh Tea”. Yeah, it’s nothing special. There are a dozen tins in the box, and of the ones I have tried so far, I like the Magnolia Oolong the best. I also have a bag of Chun Mee (I suspect that’s the Cantonese name; it’s imported by an American company so I have no idea what it is called in Mandarin) that I have been using for breakfast tea.

        Among Japanese teas, I find that I like the flavor and aroma of Genmaicha. Hojicha has a smoky taste to it which I do not particularly care for.

        I rarely do black teas; most of them (at least the ones i have tried) do not suit my palate. Darjeeling is a good black tea. I also like the house blend served at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC.

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      6. Bit of a surprise – 4,900 year old Swedish farmers already had the Y. pestis pathogen. That’s before Steppe migrants got there, so far as anyone knows.

        But the record in the Americas and Australia shows that epidemics of infectious diseases travel ahead of main migration waves – explorers, advance scouts, and contacted peoples carrying the pathogens back into their own communities and communicating them through contacts with other native groups, so by the time the main migration arrives, the pre-existing population has already been badly hit, sometimes quite long before.

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      7. Well, that didn’t go where it was meant to.

        I get totally confused by tea colours. What the English call black tea, the Chinese don’t.

        But yeah, Pu’er (which I know in Canto as Bo Lei) is pretty damned ordinary. Pu’er and Jasmine are the default options in Canto tea houses in HK – failing requests to the contrary, the default assumption by serving staff is that HK Chinese will drink Pu’er and *all* foreigners want to drink Jasmine. All of them – everyone just knows for an absolute fact that all foreigners like sweet and sour pork and Jasmine tea. I dislike Pu’er and detest Jasmine. And I detest sweet and sour pork, or sweet and sour anything for that matter.

        So when I go into a Canto restaurant and the server asks “Drink what tea?” and I respond “Tit Kwun Yam (Tieguanyin) please”, she always rocks back on her heals and gives me an appraising look, like she’s thinking “Huh. Here’s one foreign devil who appears to be somewhat less barbaric than all other foreign devils.”

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      8. If you want black tea in China, ask for red tea. If you want red tea in an English-speaking country, ask for black tea.

        Something similar happens with wine in some countries. The most common white wine in Portugal is vinho verde (literally, “green wine”). And there is an Austrian white, which I happen to like, called Grüner Veltliner (again, “grün” means green).

        I’m not sure that I have had jasmine tea, but I probably have, and if so it was unremarkable in either direction.

        I am with you on sweet and sour $MYSTERY_MEAT. It’s commonly found in Chinese restaurants in the US, at least the ones that cater to Westerners. The Chinese restaurants in San Francisco that I have been to, and that cater to Chinese people, don’t offer it. I find the real thing to be better tasting than Americanized Chinese food. Unfortunately, since I don’t read Chinese, I can’t order from the authentic menu at my local Chinese restaurant.

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  15. I watched a video at Youtube,
    “Talking with Dan Gibson # 3 : Quranic Geography”.
    Interesting background about the three preceding powerful polities that had dominated much of Arabia.

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  16. Steve Bannon was to headline a conference* on sex with robots.
    You can’t make this stuff up.
    *Cancelled .

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  17. Ancient DNAs and the Neolithic Chinese super-grandfather Y haplotypes.
    https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/12/05/487918

    “These results are remarkably consistent with archaeological and written records.” Chinese have been obsessive compulsive record keepers since forever. Ancestor worship requires lengthy genealogical records + centralised government since Qin (hence 2,000 years of excellent earthquake records, census for taxation purposes, famines, floods, etc.).

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    1. So reading between the lines, it looks like the Han ethnicity coalesced around about the Neolithic/Bronze Age transition in China.

      Which is reasonable – it’s around about the Neolithic/Bronze Age transition when the modern European phenotype coalesced.

      Thing is, the Neolithic/Bronze Age transition covered a fairly wide time period in both regions – it wasn’t some sharp definitive boundary that applied everywhere at the same time.

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  18. Non-paternity rates in most human populations are actually very low, and the same historically going back at least hundreds of years (so modern birth control not actually a factor). Seems like a lot of people want to believe the worst about female infidelity or at least fantasize about it, bolstered by some very dodgy and unreproducible past psychology publications. The reality is very different and a lot more boring (to them).

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  19. Expensive teas. .. there is a kind of coffee that is very expensive because it has passed theough the intestinal tract of a specific animal.
    .
    Unfortunately, tea is less surviveable than coffee beans. Maybe we could encapsule tea in pellets and feed it to herbivores?
    The resulting substance can then be sold at Gwyneth Paltrow’s site for $$$, as a super-healthy tea.

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    1. We need a suitably exotic sounding animal, though. Maybe Rottnest Island quokkas, if we could smuggle some out of there. Risky enterprise, though. (No, I’m definitely not serious.)

      Kopi Luwak has turned into a massive racket. Originally, people were picking up the droppings of wild palm civets, and the theory was that the civets were really picky eaters and only ate the ripest, best coffee cherries. So, in effect, the civets were the quality controllers. And there was a necessarily limited supply of the stuff, so people paid ridiculous prices for the beans. (Plus allegedly some magical biological process altered the coffee cherries while they were in the digestive tracts of the civets, which has to be pure fabricated nonsense – the cherries get digested, leaving only the beans, and I don’t see a reason why they should be biologically altered in any way – plus I would have major qualms about consuming them if they were.)

      But Indonesian farmers were not slow to spot an opportunity, so now they keep loads of captive civets in cages, and force feed them on any old crappy coffee cherries. Plus the civets are kept in appalling conditions and have a high mortality rate. But the suckers still pay the same high prices for the beans. Sounds like the sort of thing that would be right up Gwyneth Paltrow’s jade egg strengthened alley.

      I was watching a Youtube vid of Joe Rogan talking to some fairly hard-faced woman wearing way too much bright red lipstick, and he was ranting about how much he hates Gwyneth Paltrow for the rubbish she sells at high prices to suckers. But then he said he supposed the, what he called “pussy rocks”, would have some strengthening effect. And the woman shot back: “Hell, all you need to do is do some kegels around a dick.” It takes a lot to shut Joe Rogan up, but he was struck dumb by that response. Speechless.

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  20. My first ever attempted word joke in Cantonese was to refer deprecatingly to Gwu Lo Yuk (sweet and sour pork, which ‘all foreigners love’ in local folklore but which I detest) as Gwaai Lo Yuk (lit. foreign devil meat). My father in law laughed a lot at that, and referred to it as Gwaai Lo Yuk ever afterwards.

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    1. Good one.

      The closest I have come to that involves a mishearing in the bridge of the song “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads. David Byrne sings the bridge in French, and it includes the words “ce soir la” (meaning roughly “this evening”). But I don’t speak French, so I heard those words as “c’est suan la” (“it is hot and sour”), referring to a kind of soup often found at Chinese restaurants, at least in the West. I only learned the correct version from seeing somebody else’s wrong version of that line.

      It doesn’t help that one of Talking Heads’s albums was titled “More Songs About Buildings and Food”.

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  21. That plague paper is big; actually huge. It explains a lot of things, e.g. 1. collapse of Cucuteni-Trypillia culture, and 2. the ‘comeback’ of hunter-gatherers in Europe towards the end of the Neolithic.

    The emerging pattern looks like this: good harvests during favourable climate -> population increases to Malthusian limit -> climate deteriorates and crop yields fall -> malnutrition -> people weakened by malnutrition become susceptible to infection by plague carried along trade routes -> fewer hands to tend to crops -> malnutrition gets worse -> plague epidemic and high mortality in farming settlements -> hunter-gatherers can make a comeback because they exist in small groups with much less contact with disease-carrying outsiders, and despite deterioration in climate there are still mammals, birds and fish to hunt and wild plants to gather; maybe even more mammals and birds because they can feed on abandoned crops plus maybe a lot of lost wildlife habitat regenerates, so hunter-gatherers who have been pushed into the margins can expand their ranges again.

    The late Neolithic decline obviously wasn’t anything like a total wipeout, because all modern Europeans are partly descended from those people, some more than others. But a substantial decline in the farming population would have left them vulnerable to invasion by the large scale Steppe migrations which followed; people who were agro-pastoralists whose food production was more diversified and so less vulnerable to the vagaries of the climate. Plus they had better tech., plus they also carried different, newer strains of Y. pestis.

    It is probably telling that the Steppe invaders did better in northern Europe than southern Europe, where farmers might have been more resilient because they were less badly affected by climate change.

    This pattern of climate change, malnutrition and epidemic disease could prove to have been played out in a lot of ‘collapses’, e.g. Uruk, and maybe also a factor in the decline of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Now known for a certainty that various strains of Y. pestis were around then.

    Liked by 1 person

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