January Pieces Of My Mind #3

dirty dirty dirty
  • In addition to being a seasoned journalist, my wife YuSie just got her psychologist’s licence! ❤
  • In the 80s, Delores Pander worked 4 days a week as Jean M. Auel’s secretary and 1 day as Ursula K. LeGuin’s.
  • Only now do I realise that Roger Stone is not Oliver Stone.
  • Strange to think that there are probably people walking around town whom I don’t know but with whom I will one day share grandchildren and great grandchildren.
  • I just got my sixth three-month job since I quit research in November 2017. My finances are way stronger, I get to do unfamiliar stuff all the time, and I am evidently quite employable. But I miss archaeology and I wonder why nobody offers me a steady job. (To clarify: I’m not getting fired after three months, I sign three-month contracts.)
  • Put together some reading for a lesson on ancient literature. Akhenaten’s sun hymn, Psalm 42, a piece from Hesiod’s Work & Days, Ovidius’s treatment of Pyramus & Thisbe from the Metamorphoses. Interesting to see how the cables & computers pupils do with the hexameter.
  • Shopping for crisps with the victim of an absurd martial arts accident.
  • Man, I really don’t like the current auto-tuned so-called RnB. It’s ugly shit. For a while I thought it was me growing old, but then I realised that I’ve pretty much hated every genre of commercial mainstream pop since I was 15. (Though I did have a guilty thing for Take That.)
  • A pupil passed me in the hall, whistling “Popcorn” tunelessly. It’s 50 years old this year. I wonder where they have heard it.
  • Movie: Den Skyldige / The Guilty. Semi-suspended police inspector is put on 911 phone answering duty. When a hostage situation lands in his lap, he can’t keep from trying to direct work on the ground. But does he really understand the situation? Grade: Good!
  • Movie: Låt den rätte komma in / Let The Right One In. One of the best vampire movies not just in Swedish, but in general. As well as a beautifully shot film about adolescent fears and friendship. Grade: excellent!
  • Scraggly-bearded Swedish IT student and hijabi nursing student going steady, holding hands as class watches a scary movie. Our future. ❤
  • There are two famous musicians named Avishai Cohen.

Author: Martin R

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

55 thoughts on “January Pieces Of My Mind #3”

  1. Well done YuSie! First professional assignment will be to psychoanalyse me. On reflection, maybe better not.

    Meant to comment earlier; the trick is to maintain the spending habits ingrained when you had very low disposable income after you start to earn more. First year after graduation, I saved heaps of money and couldn’t figure out why everyone had so much debt. By the second year of working full time, I had learned how to spend most of it, with very little to show for it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As Mr. Micawber put it: Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenses nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenses twenty ought and six, result misery.

      The amounts involved have scaled up by three to four orders of magnitude since Mr. Micawber’s day, but the principle (and the principal) remains the same.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can now reveal that recently I have been on a top secret mission to discover the best oat based breakfast cereal flavoured with chocolate. Because I love oats (in any form except porridge aka oatmeal, which I detest), and I love chocolate.

    Surprise finding – the clear winner, by a long way, is “Waitrose triple chocolate crisp” – oats, wheat and rice with big lumps of chocolate, and plenty of them. Because who doesn’t love chocolate for breakfast?

    This morning I gave this stuff the Dwayne Johnson treatment and mixed in a big scoop of peanut butter, as well as drowning it all in cow juice, obviously. Tasted great, but ever since I have been feeling like I’m carrying a brick around in my guts. So, that might not become a habit. But then, the box says it holds 12 servings, and I’m more than half way through it after 3 :-/

    My consumption might worry me if I was trying to lose weight, or had heart or blood pressure problems, but I’m not and I haven’t – I’m trying (unsuccessfully) to gain weight. The oncologists get really upset and agitated when my weight drops, and I don’t like to upset them because they’re good people.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Birger, no, just routine follow-up checks, which go on for a long time after the treatment is completed and cancer eliminated, to check on whether it recurs. But any evidence to suggest it might, like weight loss since last check-up, gets them very jumpy. I guess it doesn’t help that I have had cancer 4 times now in different parts of my body, none directly related to each other, and that’s not counting the routine skin cancer things, which are just a nuisance, mostly. So, who knows where and when I might get it next? But they have it on their file now that I’m an exercise addict, unusual in my age group, so they don’t get quite so worried now. They just ask “Still going to the gym every day?” “Yep.” “OK, well nothing to worry about, then. But try to gain some weight if you can.” Yeah, I’m trying. It’s not working.

      Easy to lose body fat%, hard to gain muscle mass. Recently, helped by the very mild winter we are having which has helped me to keep going instead of just hibernating huddled over my computer for weeks on end, I have started a big push and increased the weights a lot, and visually that seems to be working, and I’m trying whatever I can to get in more protein to try to build more muscle mass, so I’ll see how it goes.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Music at Youtube:
    “Selfish” by Vargas -I like the title, but the pink fluffy lyrics does not fit my mood of the last week.

    “The Hu -Wolf Totem”
    -What the hell was that??
    “Confusion-New Order Blade soundtrack Bloodbath remix”
    Now we are getting somrwhere! I recommend that as wedding music. Load the sprinkler system with the red stuff.


  4. There is a charming religious story from Wisconsin about a seven-year old kid killed because he did not learn some bible verses.


  5. My daughter is a qualified piano teacher. When she was in secondary school, she competed in a singing contest among 70 HK secondary schools (70) – she came 1st in solo singing in English, and 2nd in solo singing in Chinese, and her choir came 1st in all categories. She can sing Cantonese Opera – I don’t like it, but I have to acknowledge that it is a very difficult thing to do, and she can do it. When she goes out with friends to sing Karaoke when holidaying in the Mainland, thousands of people crowd in to stand and listen to her for hours singing 1930s Mandarin songs; whenever she tries to stop they make her continue until she is exhausted – they can’t get enough of it. She was born with perfect pitch.

    I have recounted all of that not to boast, but just to establish that she knows something about music.

    Her opinion of auto-tuning is that it is beneath contempt, and just a way for producers to conceal the fact that they are pushing lousy substandard singers.

    I think I am correct in saying that Cher was the first person to use auto-tuning, in her 1998 hit “Believe”. She used it sparingly as something experimental. The producer said he added it as a “mischievous experiment.” Since then, it has become de rigeur for every half-rate singer to use it all the time for everything, and it’s crap.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The only person I know of whose voice is not adversely impacted by AutoTune is Stephen Hawking. That was probably because the speech synthesizer he used made him sound robotic to begin with.

      There are situations where AutoTune is a useful tool, but it has become like a hammer in that it’s the only tool that too many audio engineers know, so every problem looks like a nail.


  6. Now enjoying the second series about the Aspie Finnish police detective on Netflix. I enjoy the sound of the language, and the directness bordering on rudeness (which I assume is authentic Finnish – they make Chinese look like a bunch of smooth talking charmers), and the general quirkiness/weirdness. But is it authentic for everyone to be wearing revealing skin tight trousers, including fat, unfit middle aged people for whom that style is very, shall we say, unflattering? I don’t need to see all of the details of their anatomy. Seems counter-intuitive in a cold climate. Is this a thing generally in Scandinavia? Why?


    1. A reminder, John: Finland is not part of Scandinavia. Even though a substantial minority of Finns speak Swedish as their native language, and the country is just to the east of Sweden.

      Many people from countries that don’t border the Baltic Sea make that mistake.


  7. Things at Youtube that may cheer you up:
    “Our siamese cats at shower time” and
    ‘4 ferret play date’.
    Man, those cats are as loud as any dogs.
    Ferrets presumably are primed to play murder in silence.


  8. I’m cheerful already. Don’t need no friggin’ cat videos. I’m comfortably warm when I should be cold and miserable, and being doggedly dispirited and downhearted in this kind of weather is just unsustainable. Even Wife has been inspired to exclaim “What glorious weather!”

    First day of the Year of the Pig tomorrow.

    This year, Wife and Daughter have gone for subtlety and elegance in festive home decoration. I like it a lot. The large red sign that has festooned our front door for the past year has been replaced by a beautiful little cloth circle embroidered with gold and red coloured thread. Indoors it’s a bowl of the mandatory daffodils for Dad to sniff at every time he passes them, a pot of lovely golden yellow orchids, a small stuffed yellow pig embroidered with characters signifying good fortune, plus sundry other low key ‘lucky’ things cunningly placed around, turning the exercise into a kind of ‘spot the New Year decorations’ game.

    HK is in the grip of a ‘flu crisis according to the newspapers. No, it’s not. If it is, where are all the ‘flu sufferers? They’re easy to spot here, because when people infected with ‘flu go out, they wear surgical masks. Normally this time of year, peak winter ‘flu season, you see them everywhere. Not this year. Air temperature has a major effect on the efficiency of airborne ‘flu transmission, and also how long the viruses can survive on fomites like door knobs and hand rails, and the 25C we are currently getting instead of the more usual 12C is making a massive difference.

    So where has this spurious story come from, and why won’t it go away, despite the abundant evidence that it is a fabrication? Simple explanation – overworked doctors and nurses in public hospitals are pushing it out in a bid to put pressure on the Hospital Authority to do something about grossly inadequate staffing levels, excessive working hours and patient/staff ratios, low salary levels and consequent low staff retention, exacerbating recruitment problems. And the journalists are either just mindlessly transmitting the messages despite all of the evidence to the contrary, or else are complicit with the hospital staff in some kind of act of solidarity. My sympathy is firmly with the hospital staff, but they are playing a dangerous game this year – like the boy crying “wolf”, when even Blind Freddy can see that this year the prowling wolves are notably few.

    Admittedly there was an early start to the ‘flu season and a big uptick in cases in the first half of December, when it was unusually cold, triggering alarm levels, but since then temperatures have mostly been unusually high and the early high infection rate has not been maintained, except in a few ‘hot spot’ pre-schools where the insanitary little buggers succeeded in infecting each other by the usual mutual slobbering, sneezing and coughing in each other’s faces, etc. So the authorities ordered the early closure of all pre-schools ahead of the New Year holidays to shut down that chain of transmission, and it has all stopped.

    I’m amused – today is not a public holiday, because the first day of the New Year is not until tomorrow, but Daughter has been given the day off work. So many staff applied for leave today to fill the one working day gap between Sunday and the public holidays that the management couldn’t decide who to say no to, so they just shut the whole place down for the day. Only two more weeks there, and then she’s off to the new job – another reason for irrepressible smiles all round at our place.


  9. Pinker gets taken down.


    I was an early Steven Pinker fan after he published The Blank Slate, a book he was eminently qualified to write, but lately he has increasingly been losing me.

    The problem with being very smart in a field in which you are highly educated, is that it can seduce you into thinking you are very smart about everything. Pinker has been straying further and further away from his field of expertise, to the point that it now seems he has comprehensively shot himself in the foot. He has the resources to employ an army of research assistants and fact checkers to avoid making such major errors, but it seems like he has become too arrogant to think that he needs them. He has become a ‘public intellectual’ and he believes that applies to everything; his every utterance on any subject you can name must be solid gold.

    He is now in the dilemma that he either needs to admit that he has written a book full of bullshit because he didn’t understand what he was writing about, and ask everyone not to buy and read it, or will have to double down and insist he is right, no matter what. Guess which path he will choose.


  10. As for why the music of [insert decade speaker was in high school] is so much better than the trash that kids today listen to, I have this armchair theory that a big part of it is selective memory. We older folks have had a few decades to forget the dreck of our youth, while the younger generation has not yet had that chance.

    I remember enough of the 1970s and 1980s to be able to say there was plenty of dreck on the pop charts. “You Light Up My Life” was one of the biggest hits of the 1970s, but few people would admit after 1979 to having ever liked that song. “We Built This City” is another example: #1 in the spring of 1986, almost universally detested by the fall of 1986. And let’s not forget “MacArthur Park”, whether the original Richard Harris version (which I only recently heard for the first time) or the cover by Donna “Queen of Disco” Summer. There is a reason Dave Barry’s readers voted “MacArthur Park” the worst song of all time when he held that poll back in 1992.

    Several years ago I saw a YouTube video (I’ve long since lost the link) consisting of excerpts from every song that was #1 on the US charts at some point during the year I graduated from high school. I had no memory whatsoever of at least one of those songs. Another song I recognized but had thought it was from several years earlier.


  11. Seems like YuSie Week for the studies that are showing up in my go-to sources.

    Study supports physical activity as a preventive strategy against depression.

    Serotonin is wonderful stuff (and complicated, but when was the biochemistry of the human body not complicated?). It not only contributes to feelings of well being and happiness (and, in fact, euphoria), it is also involved in, inter alia, modulating learning, cognition, memory and numerous other processes, including digestion. It derives from the essential amino acid tryptophan; in this context ‘essential’ means that the body can’t synthesize tryptophan – it has to be derived from diet.

    Pretty famously, chocolate contains tryptophan, but it occurs in higher concentrations in lots of other foods – notably, Parmesan cheese (here we go again) is particularly rich in tryptophan. But then Cheddar is also fairly rich in it, although not as much as Parmesan. And, as it’s now the Year of the Pig, pork chops deserve a mention as well. So does Atlantic cod, if you can find some any more.

    Serotonin causes the well known ‘runner’s high’ – it’s the stuff that is released in response to both intense aerobic activity, or a prolonged period of moderate aerobic activity, and heavy weight training (light weight training does absolutely nothing – why would it?). It is what causes ‘exercise addiction’. It is why people who exercise regularly feel lousy when they go for a while without exercising. It’s a surprise to me that a study supporting the theory that physical activity helps to prevent depression makes no mention of the role that is very likely played in that by serotonin release in response to intense enough activity. Drugs used to treat depression alter serotonin levels.

    Exercise (OK, call it serious physical activity, if you don’t like the word ‘exercise’) is one of the few things found to increase cognitive ability. Jordan Peterson thinks it’s only aerobic activity that does that, but he’s wrong. Simple logic should tell him that he’s wrong. If you are engaged in an activity that causes your heart to pump like crazy and make you gasp for oxygen, then you have a short rest period until you almost but not quite recover and then go again, and again, and again, how is that different from High Intensity Interval Training? It isn’t. These are not watertight categories. Properly conducted scientific studies have shown that an intense weight training workout can increase your aerobic fitness by 10%.

    Or you could just eat more chocolate.


  12. Government announces that the ‘flu season is over. No shit.

    Director of the HK Observatory: “What happened to winter?” If he doesn’t know, how are we supposed to? We didn’t have one. Too late now.


  13. Rulers in South Arabia will not be thrilled about the news; dark-skinned people have been perceived as lesser beings, a tradition reinforced by the slave trade.


    1. Historically, people with darker skin have had more sun exposure than their lighter-skinned neighbors, and that was generally a sign that they had to work outdoors (as farmers or laborers) for a living, unlike their lighter-skinned neighbors who could afford to spend substantial amounts of time indoors. So having light-colored skin was correlated with having a higher socioeconomic status. That is certainly true of both Europeans and Chinese. Only in recent times in societies like the US, where the ability to spend time in the sun has become something of a luxury, has this trend reversed, and it has not yet reversed in mainland China, where a large fraction of the population is still rural.

      Consider this fairy tale couplet:

      Mirror, mirror, on the wall
      Who’s the fairest of them all?
      If you compare that version with the original German, you will find that the word schönste, which means “most beautiful” (and contains no explicit standards for beauty) is translated with a word that specifically means light-skinned.

      The slave trade probably doesn’t help matters, but it’s not the only factor in play here.


      1. You have omitted two of the most glaring examples: India and Brazil.

        In a rare case of certainty of the origin of a cultural trend, it was Coco Chanel who popularised sun tanning among people of European ancestry.


  14. Stolen 300-year old royal crowns recovered in Sweden.
    And some guy in (American) Georgia has found a molecule that suppresses organ rejection.
    A 91 year old folk music legend who helped Bob Dylan in 1961 has passed away, but as I was recently born I do not recall it.


  15. The spatial resolution of Iberian peninsula DNA data is surprisingly good, they can discern differences between different valleys.
    Lots of genes for hereditary diverse, rather like Västerbotten.


    1. “disease” not “diverse”, goddamn autocorrect.
      Anyway, the victims of hereditary disease are unfortunate test subjects of natural gene knock-out experiments.
      There is a new gene scissor around, casX that may be as useful as cas9.


  16. The spatial resolution of Iberian peninsula DNA data is surprisingly good, they can discern differences between different valleys.
    Lots of genes for hereditary diverse, rather like Västerbotten.


  17. Somewhat OT:
    Regarding world hijab day. Majorities have always acted like cunts to minorities.
    Muslim or ex-muslim women without hijab get harassed by muslim assholes, women in the West who wear hijab get harassed by the would-be aryans with the sloping foreheads. This is not a binary choice about whom to support (did I use whom correctly? It is ages since school).


      1. Yes, I’m highly unlikely to be around for the next one, but we’re up to our armpits in water dragons around here anyway – my loss would not be noticed among my reptilian relatives 🙂


  18. Mainland TV New Year Gala is confusingly devoid of any images or mentions of pigs, to avoid offending Chinese Muslims. HK Chinese obviously didn’t get the memo.

    The perennial joke among HK people + diaspora about the New Year Gala is that it is imperative to have it playing continuously on the TV, but no one actually watches it.


    1. There are a lot of caveats in that blog post, which really limit the map’s usefulness. If you ignore the blue areas for a moment, it appears to show that there were a number of areas where beaker use was very common, lots of surrounding areas where it was less common, and finally the blue areas where it was very uncommon. I don’t know if that information is of any use, except as an indication of trends. I think it would have to be combined with a lot more cultural and genetic data before it actually shows something useful.


      1. I’m not sure the genetic data would give you much. On the Continent, a lot of the spread of Beaker culture seems to have been by cultural transmission, rather than by population replacement (as distinct from what happened in Britain, where the migration of Beaker culture people into Britain (who seem to have migrated mostly from what is now the Netherlands), over a time span of some hundreds of years, coincided with a 90% wipeout of the pre-existing population (while being mindful of the fact that the pre-existing population seems to have been in fairly dramatic decline before this migration started anyway; no one seems to have a good theory for why, but it might have been regional climate change impacting on agriculture, or something like that)). For example, although the Steppe male haplogroup R1b is fairly highly represented among Beaker culture people (and it seems particularly highly in the Netherlands, and among the people who migrated into Britain), the Beaker culture in Spain (there’s a hotspot which you can see on the map) is associated with human remains which are very mixed genetically – Steppe ancestry is present, but doesn’t seem to be dominant. And in fact, it looks like Beaker culture got going in Spain before people with Steppe ancestry even reached Spain.

        My concern with that map is that, in large part at least, it seems that you find more Beakers in places where you look the hardest or the most. If my impression is correct, then the map becomes essentially meaningless – for a period, Europe went Beaker crazy, and you’ll find more of them in any particular area the more you look for them (with the proviso that people lived in small settlements near to bodies of water, so it’s not totally random – not much point looking somewhere where people weren’t living, dying and being buried). It’s probably not, it’s telling a bit more than zero, but it’s certainly not at all clear to me what the value is of what it is telling you – maybe not much. If that is the case, I can’t really see a point in compiling and publishing the map.

        Liked by 2 people

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