Open Thread for February

Happy Chinese New Year: the Year of the Aardvark (Earth Pig)! Thank you, Aard regular Aquadraco, for the lovely illustration!

Extra likes for mentions of zumba, Barry Manilow and Queen Claude of France.

Author: Martin R

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

124 thoughts on “Open Thread for February”

  1. Film reviews:
    First Man – not very good. I preferred the original.
    A Star Is Born – not very good, but Lady Gaga deserves an Oscar. Seriously. I got a shock – almost unrecognisable as her real self.


  2. I am watching a science program about the superpowers hibernating bears posess.

    -can anyone give a good english analogy to the Swedish saying “sila mygg och svälja kameler” ?

    I have been browsing Alzheimer research news items of the last 5-6 months. The diversity of new promising ides is remarkable.


  3. Someone warned Julius Caesar about new promising ides but he didn’t listen.

    “sila mygg och svälja kameler” = squashing a mosquito is safer than kissing your camel.

    Population dynamics and socio-spatial organization of the Aurignacian: Scalable quantitative demographic data for western and central Europe.

    Inferred AMH population sizes in Western and Central Europe during the Upper Palaeolithic are mind bogglingly small. Remember, these are the folks who are supposed to have extincted or absorbed pre-existing hominins in Europe. How?


    1. I have always hypothesized that AMH’s with their higher sociality could ally together and form much larger war parties and outnumber Neanderthal bands. Also I understand Neanderthal populations were pretty tiny too.


      1. Yes, Charles, I think you are right. Although the AMH population densities were very low, they say there is evidence they were networked over long distances, so presumably they did congregate at times, probably at particular times of the year, like maybe for hunting during animal migrations or whatever. Plains Indians like the Cheyenne and Lakota did that for sun dances and buffalo hunts, and when they congregated they had forms of social organisation that didn’t apply during times when they were living as small bands; e.g. they would form a police force to keep everyone in line at the big gatherings, which would then disband again when the big gatherings broke up. There is evidence that other foraging groups in other parts of the world did the same thing. And Neanderthal population densities are indeed thought to have been very low. So, I think you are right on the button – AMH would have had the necessary social organisation at times when they congregated.


  4. A high-resolution, chromosome-assigned Komodo dragon genome reveals adaptations in the cardiovascular, muscular, and chemosensory systems of monitor lizards.

    I have been neglecting my photography very badly, mostly because I feel unenthused subject-wise. Plus why fuck around with a Nikon + lenses as heavy as a brick when a Huawei phone now has better Leica glass in its camera(s). But I have some good pics of Komodo Dragons. Those things look like evil personified, especially when their gaze is fixed right on you. Yes, sure, you can run away from them, but they are sneaky ambush hunters. Fall asleep under a tree, and you’re lunch.

    One exception – the Nikon + externally mounted flash is very good for taking family portraits, if the buggers will just cooperate instead of being silly. I took one of my Chinese niece and her husband that they love so dearly, they got it printed A4 size and have it framed on their living room wall. I really jagged that one – technically perfect, composition perfect, subjects’ expressions perfect.


      1. Yes, quite so. (Quaint English expression – quite so = exactly right. There is a directly equivalent Cantonese form of expression, whereby if you want to say something is ‘very’ you say ‘quite’. So ‘very good’ is expressed as ‘quite good’. Saying ‘very good’ sounds like hyperbole. If you want to say ‘not very good’ you say ‘not quite good’, which makes a bit more sense. I digress, as usual.)

        Daughter’s freckles bug her because she was teased unmercifully about them at school – brattish schoolmates persisted endlessly in trying to count them (they also used to spot her strands of red hair among the black and try to pull them out, which was *really* irritating), plus after she has been in Australia under that unrelenting blast furnace strength solar radiation, they really pop out. But since she’s been back in HK’s gentler climate after finishing post-grad, they have faded a lot.


      2. Please tell your daughter about when the strongly freckled Pippi Longstocking saw a sign in a shop window: “Do you suffer from freckles? Enquire inside.” Pippi went in and told the shopkeeper, “No! I do not suffer from freckles! I enjoy them!”


  5. David gives a geography lesson to Science News.

    My favourite Davidski quote: “Take my advice and don’t read Science News whatever you do. It might rot your brain.”

    Herodotus’ map of the world, 450BC is really cool (I should really say ‘oikumene’, but that would make it sound like I know what I am talking about, when I don’t). I have the urge to print it out as large as possible and shade it lightly with coloured pencils. But that would be childish of me. Besides, I was always really crap at colouring in.

    Shameful admission: the only examination I have ever failed in my life was technical drawing, when I was a first year undergrad (partly because I was not permitted to take it as a subject at school, because only ‘dumb kids’ were allowed to do that, and partly because I’m truly shit at drawing). Not that it mattered – it wasn’t considered important enough to prevent me from progressing to second year and I didn’t even need to repeat it, and once I graduated, I never again needed to raise a pencil in anger, except for rough sketches, which I could cope with; that’s what we had an army of draughtsmen for (some of them female draughtsmen). And for a long time now, of course, it’s all been automated, so draughtsmen have all had to morph into geeks who know how to use all of that software.


  6. Vanessa Kirby (who played Princess Margaret in The Crown) (which I couldn’t be bothered finishing because it was so crap and so obviously fiction) – anyway, real person: very funny.


  7. Martin, good luck with the grassroots recruitment thing.
    I have no beef with that ,it is the top hierarchy of (S) that keeps pissing me off , I won’t go into details, the list of broken promises goes back to the 1970s and would fill several volumes.
    The new ones are the hope for improvement.


  8. Lance Wallnau has a valentines’ day special discount for CDs about excorsicing demons …
    Youtube: “When Muhammed dreams about black women”.
    And Sean Hannity wants the attorney general to investigate all enemies of Trump. Stupid Sean, you are supposed to *pretend* to believe in democracy! Leaving Mein Kampf visible on your desk ruins the impression.


    1. Hannity isn’t the only person advocating using the DOJ to investigate Trump’s enemies. I think Trump himself would order it if he could. It’s not a new impulse either; Richard Nixon infamously had an enemies list.

      It could be worse. At least Hannity is only advocating DOJ investigations. There’s a newspaper editor in Alabama who actually published an editorial advocating for the Ku Klux Klan to lynch Democrats in DC. Yes, in 2019.


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