February Pieces Of My Mind #1

 

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February morning. I’m glad there’s daylight already at seven thirty now.

  • For two or three years, two neighbours have made constant appearances outside our kitchen window. One is the ginger rabbit. The other is the girl on the swing set. She sits there swinging vigorously at all times of the day and evening, always wearing head phones. Just now I got up at 8 am on a Saturday and there she was already. I speculate that she may be from the assisted youth housing unit next to the playground (LSS). I have never seen her face.
  • Nope, turns out pu-er tea is still nasty barnyard shit.
  • Found two more distant ancestors in the nobility, way back in generations 9-10. These families, Ehrenmarck and von der Wettering, were actually introduced into Stockholm’s House of Nobility, but they pretty promptly failed to produce male heirs and died out.
  • The Manchu did not topple the Ming Dynasty by force. The Ming were toppled by their own rebellious peasants. Then a small well-organised group of Manchu who already styled themselves the Qing (Mini-) Dynasty were invited to get things back into order.
  • A blast from the past. I applied for a lectureship in Bergen in May 2014. They asked me to submit a fat stack of publications and interviewed me over Skype in January 2015. It was a friendly interview and I felt good about it, even though the job was eventually given to someone local. His general qualifications were pretty OK and his specific knowledge of West Norwegian archaeology was miles ahead of mine. Today that fat stack came back after ~4½ years. I haven’t applied for any more academic jobs in the past 1½ year.
  • Feeling smug because, though I am an atheist, I never invested in any of the Four Horsemen.
  • I’d like for more little girls to be named Sofonisba and receive training in advanced painting techniques.
  • I wonder what the Mesolithic archaeology on the seabed around Rockall Island is like. And what people at the time thought about this dramatic rock pillar.
  • It’s a little scary to think that Alfa Antikvariat, the used book store, is closing down. Because it’s way bigger than most municipal libraries. And the books are on average way older and more rare.
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5 thoughts on “February Pieces Of My Mind #1

  1. Apparently there isn’t an amazon.se yet–I just tried that web address; it redirects to amazon.de–but my first thought about your used bookstore closing is that online sellers have claimed a large share of the profits in the bookselling business. In the US, Borders is no longer in business. We still have Barnes and Noble, but they have been struggling. You can still find independent booksellers here and there in the US–there are a couple about 20 km away, both specializing in used books, as well as the the one affiliated with the local university and specializing in university textbooks. But Amazon has eaten up much of the US market for physical books as well as electronic versions thereof.

    Amazon has gotten pretty good at making recommendations for you based on your previous purchases. But it’s not quite the same as discovering something by chance on the shelves of your local bookstore. About a quarter-century ago I happened to find a copy of this vintage Pogo collection at the small bookstore in the town I worked in at the time. I was aware that Pogo existed and that its creator, Walt Kelley, was (and is) widely regarded as one of the best comic strip artists of all time. So I bought that book, which holds up remarkably well considering that much of it is near-real-time political commentary on events that took place in the 1950s, particularly the career of Sen. Joe McCarthy.

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  2. Happy Darwin Day, everyone.

    I am told some women have tetrachromatic vision due to gene duplication. It would make it easier to appreciate nuances in nature, but harder to paint art as potential customers would be literally blind to much of the detail.

    Doggerland was so flat, if the mesolithic hunter-gatherers had built a big cairn a hundred miles East of the current coast, it would be a tiny island today.

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  3. A very large (actually huge) Taiwanese-parented bookstore opened in HK a few years ago. It stays open 24/7, and houses some food and beverage outlets, plus sanitary facilities, obviously. Some people go in there to browse the books, and stay for days. A lot of other people go there just to sit in the cafes and drink coffee and talk airily and pseudo-knowledgeably about Chinese literature, in order to be seen as part of the arty farty booky crowd.

    No idea if the central government has spies planted there searching for subversive books or listening for people saying subversive things. Even the thought that they would is too humorous for words. It’s nothing like that, just a huge place heaving with book lovers and people posing as book lovers.

    HK is served (I use the term lightly) by Amazon America, and they don’t seem to have made many inroads, if any, into Chinese books. So HK necessarily still has some bookshops, although all are modest compared to the giant Taiwanese place.

    Thailand and Malaysia both have very large and very good tri-lingual bookshops. But a tip – don’t bother going into bookshops in Singapore. The collections are obviously heavily censored, and pathetic.

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    • I don’t think China is currently anywhere close to using Fahrenheit 451 as an instruction manual, although they have been through such a period within living memory (the Cultural Revolution), and there are certainly other aspects of Chinese society that many Westerners would find dystopian.

      I don’t think the Chinese government has the resources to track every bibliophile in the country for subversive tendencies. The signal-to-noise ratio would be too low if they were to attempt it; the relevant English expression is “searching for a needle in a haystack”. I don’t doubt that they could track specific individuals if they chose to do so, because in that case they would have already identified the needle.

      So yes, I doubt that they are putting significantly more effort into looking for subversives in bookstores than looking in society as a whole. Some people just like old literature.

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    • If Edward Snowden is to be believed, the NSA is busily engaged in searching haystacks. He doesn’t say what they are searching for, because he doesn’t know and that isn’t his point, he just very eloquently describes how the Constitution is being breached by the processes. Or was, when he was engaged in it, which is going back a while now.

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