October Pieces Of My Mind #3

svensk framsida lores
Look what the Östergötland County Administration has got in the works! Publication hopefully in February.
  • Bibimbap means “mixed rice” in Korean.
  • There are about 120 museums in greater Stockholm. In the past seven years I’ve visited a bit more than 1/3 of them. It’s one of my long-term projects to see them all.
  • Karl Bartos of Kraftwerk completed training as a phone exchange technician before going on to the Robert Schumann Conservatory to study classical percussion.
  • Roger Waters was 28 or 29 when he wrote the lyrics to “Time”, where he meditates on everything being too late: “No-one told you when to run – you missed the starting gun”.
  • Movie: Incredibles 2. The superhero family joins a pair of tech billionaire siblings in an attempt to make the use of super powers legal again. Grade: neat and fun!
  • Chris Fern suggests that the Staffordshire hoard is King Penda’s CV.
  • For anyone who wonders what the prog-rock generation’s grandchildren are doing in the way of ostentatiously ornate pop compositions, let me pass on Jrette’s tip here and introduce you to Jacob Collier, b. 1994.
  • Kraftwerk’s Wolfgang Flür is depicted on the covers of Computer World (1981) and Electric Café (1986) but doesn’t play on these records. Then he left the band.
  • I have something big to be Vaguebooking about and I can’t talk about it until December. Gnnnnh!
  • Fridge cleanout for lunch: a chicken drumstick, an avocado, a potato, fried cabbage, boiled bulgur.
  • So annoying when a scholar publishes a conjecture or a provocative reinterpretation and the media are like “What everyone thought was wrong! Scholarship has now determined that” etc.
  • Here’s one for you biologists. The payroll administrator at this night school that I’ve lectured at occasionally has a name and a handwriting that makes her signature look like “Lotta Annelid”.

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 “October Pieces Of My Mind #3”

  1. Waters appears to have spent the years post-The Wall hanging on in quiet desperation, which he claimed was the English way. I don’t recall hearing any of his music from after that, although he did one more Pink Floyd album and at least one solo album.

    I suspect his former bandmates eventually had enough of him to at least the extent that he had enough of them. I find it hard to interpret “Poles Apart”, from The Division Bell (1994), as anything other than a “f*** you” from David Gilmour to Waters.

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  2. In Sweden, the “progg rock” scene in the seventies had maybe two good bands, several mediocre ones and a lot that sucked. The experience has made me cautious about anything Swedish labelled “progg”.

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    1. The Swedish word for prog rock is “symfonirock”. The Swedish musical genre “progg” is more similar to what Americans call “folk”. And a lot of it was indeed quite bad.

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      1. I recently watched a documentary about ABBA and how they were initially considered decidedly un-hip and even antagonized in Sweden for releasing glossy, apolitical pop music. In Germany, we also had folksy, lefty “Liedermacher” (song-makers), some of them quite well-known and successful, but for the most part incompatible with mainstream television entertainment, which was, until c.1980 anyway, dominated by syrupy Schlager singers.

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      2. Not sure “folk” is close, either. Progg has an (or, at least for me it has) enduring connection to lefty politics. And possibly also biting social commentary. As evidence, I would like to introduce the entire back catalog of Nationalteatern.

        But, yes, the enduring place it has in my heart is not for the quality of the music, but for memories.

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  3. The Lionel Richie original was beautiful, inclusive and joyous, rhythmically excellent, still stands up perfectly well, and didn’t need to be messed with. The remake totally misses all of that, ridiculously inflated and over produced, and Collier is just creepy. Musical devolution. Ask not when the Idiocracy will happen – we’re in it.

    https://bit.ly/36lZaVR

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  4. Vaguebooking: “…highly personal and emotional. Designed to elicit concerned responses from friends and family, it’s often looked down upon as a desperate call for attention or need for validation.”

    Does.not.sound.good.

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      1. Producing hydrogen from electrolysis of water requires large amounts of energy, so at first glance it doesn’t seem to make much sense. But it does – you can use energy from less convenient sources like solar or wind, to produce hydrogen that you can use to fuel vehicles. Plus you produce oxygen as well, which is useful. And when you burn the hydrogen in the vehicles to make them go, you get back pure water that you can drink, or use to water animals or grow plants. So you can use seawater, or brackish water that is undrinkable (Australia has vast artesian aquifers containing water that is too brackish to use) to produce hydrogen (clean fuel in a convenient form) and oxygen (useful), and get back pure water. And Australia has vast areas of land that are not useful for anything (too dry and hot even for much in the way of native wildlife), abundant wind and enough solar radiation to roast a goat, so there is no shortage of space to install wind farms or large banks of solar cells to generate the energy needed to produce hydrogen. And if you produce enough hydrogen, you can sell it to countries like Japan and South Korea who are desperate for clean fuels.

        It’s bloody perfect – a win-win-win-win.

        So is that what Australia is planning to do? No. Australia also has vast reserves of brown coal, and the way things are going it looks like they might not be able to sell them to anyone, because it’s a filthy fuel source and no one wants it any more. So the plan is to mine and burn brown coal to produce hydrogen. But burning brown coal produces lots of CO2 (not to mention lots of other chemical nasties), so you have to capture and sequester all of the CO2; otherwise there is no bloody point in using dirty fuel like brown coal to produce clean fuel like hydrogen. And capturing and sequestering CO2 is not yet fully developed as a technology. Well, why the hell would you want to go to the trouble of doing it just to enrich a bunch of fatcat mining executives and shareholders, when you don’t need to because you can use solar or wind energy instead?

        Why? Because then mining companies couldn’t make big profits from mining brown coal (which past performance shows do not flow on to the benefit of the population – not at all, or minimally in the form of a few jobs in mining). And besides which, the mining could create 2,000 jobs. Seriously? Is that an incentive – the creation of 2,000 jobs in a country with a population of 25 million people?

        It’s so stupid and irresponsible it’s enough to make me want to claw my eyes out. Australia has the potential for the perfect energy solution, but it’s going to go with mining and burning brown coal.

        Greta, sorry you poor little love – no time for school yet, it’s time to get on the sailing boat again and head down under, to try to slap some sense into an incredibly stupid and irresponsible bunch of highly educated adults who really should know better.

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    1. I had never heard of Vaguebooking before, so Googled it, and that’s what came up. It sounded worrying, hence my expression of concern.

      Relieved that in your case it doesn’t signify anything bad.

      But looking down on someone’s desperate call for attention or need for validation doesn’t sound like a good thing – just reinforces my conviction that social media are not good for anything much.

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      1. No, it’s an interaction of both. Malcolm Gladwell was wrong, and I think he probably knew it, but he sold a hell of a lot of books to people who wanted to believe his fraudulent nonsense.

        What I’m interested in is what makes these particular young Russian women special genetically.

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      2. “What I’m interested in is what makes these particular young Russian women special genetically.”

        What makes you think that they are special genetically?

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      3. America, in fact the whole world, has only ever produced one Simone Biles. She can do things that no other gymnast has ever been able to do. No one ever. They have named them after her, because she is the only person in history who has been able to do them. You could try to argue that maybe she has just worked harder at it than any other gymnast in history, but that would not be true. Read about how hard Nadia Comăneci was made to work. Read about how hard all of those gymnasts work – just as hard as Biles.

        Malcolm Gladwell is the guy who sold the world the lie that you can be whatever you want to be, as long as you practise it for at least 10,000 hours. So I could have been an NBA star player if I had just practised basketball for 10,000 hours. No I couldn’t, not least because I’m not 7 feet tall. I’m not even 6’6″, or even 6’3″. I don’t have the natural athleticism. I have very fast reactions and reflexes (without spending years playing computer games, because I didn’t), but my hand-eye coordination is not good enough to play at that level.

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      4. But Simone Biles isn’t Russian.

        Certainly, “good genes” can play a role in successful people, but this is a far cry from the idea that “Russian women” (who, of course, do have some common genetic characteristics) are somehow genetically prepared to be gymnasts.

        A small-population country like Sweden has produced many world-class tennis players. Why are some sports popular in some countries and not others? Probably not genetics in most cases.

        Of course, “it’s all in the genes” and “you can be whatever you want” are not the only two choices.

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      5. “But Simone Biles isn’t Russian.”

        This is the point at which I decide that this is not a useful discussion, and stop.

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      6. Claims Russian women are different genetically.

        Asked for evidence, mentions a woman from a different continent with no Russian ancestry, but with no claim that her group is somehow genetically predisposed to become gymnasts (and, indeed, there are few successful Black American gymnasts).

        Asked about the relevance, says discussion is not meaningful.

        I don’t get it.

        And I’m accused of being a troll.

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    1. I’ll just note that you replied to:

      “…highly personal and emotional. Designed to elicit concerned responses from friends and family, it’s often looked down upon as a desperate call for attention or need for validation.”

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  5. Roger Waters was 28 or 29 when he wrote the lyrics to “Time”, where he meditates on everything being too late: “No-one told you when to run – you missed the starting gun”.

    The entire lyrics to “Time”, and The Dark Side of the Moon, and indeed most of Waters’s stuff, at least up until he left the band, are quite good. I think that only Ian Anderson and Neil Peart, in the rock world, come close as poets.

    Other songs lamenting the passing of time written by young men: “In My Life” (the Beatles), “We Used to Know” (Jethro Tull), “Old Friends” (Simon and Garfunkel), “Leaves that are Green” (Simon and Garfunkel).

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    1. Ms Adkins also miraculously picked up a pseudo-American rhotic accent between her 2nd and 3rd albums. All management or A&R decisions, no doubt. But by now she does have at least one failed marriage to write and sing about, so there.

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      1. Especially on Talk Like a Pirate Day, when everyone tries to sound they’re from Cornwall or Devon.

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      1. Some of the early rock-and-roll stuff, either covers or influenced by the likes of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, etc, was probably, intentionally or not, more American.

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      2. Paul McCartney’s version of Long Tall Sally was not particularly American accented.

        I don’t know if he realised at the time that he was singing about a transvestite, though.

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      3. Extract from the in-depth analysis linked to above:

        So there are some American features, but it’s nowhere near as extensive as the list of British features. Why do so many people seem to think that the Beatles “sound” American? As shown in the “Liverpoolness” section, there were some substantiated instances of Americans thinking that the Beatles did not sound English.

        There are two things at play here. Firstly, the Beatles do not speak Received Pronunciation or London English. These are the two varieties of “English English” that most Americans are familiar with. If you are not exposed to different dialects frequently, it can be difficult to distinguish them later on since you do not have “practice” with telling them apart. Prior to the Beatles becoming famous, most Americans had no exposure to Scouse accents at all. Scouse lacks some features that are associated with Received Pronunciation, such as the BATH-TRAP split, so if you were an American listening for that, you would simply never find it. Moreover, the features that are distinctive of Scouse English, such as the prosodic patterns, lack of NG-coalescence, and NURSE-SQUARE merger, are not features that Americans normally “listen” for. Americans don’t know that these features are socially meaningful in England. Finally, some features, like lack of AE-tensing before nasals and non-rhoticity, can actually be found in some American dialects, such as New York City English, which complicates the matter.

        This means that there are very few “diagnostic” features Americans can listen for and recognize. Perhaps the most salient one of all is intonation. Scouse English has a very particular Irish-influenced prosody. But intonation is only recognizable in speech. Most people’s exposure to the Beatles was probably not through interviews or even through the movies, but through their music, and in singing any distinguishable intonation pattern disappears. It is thus true that singing has some effect in diminishing the appearance of accents, but singing does not make accents disappear entirely. The list of features above show that you can still have recognizably regional features of an accent in song.

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  6. Just realised – when I’m in the autumn/winter version of my gym gear, I look like Willie Garvin. Sort of.

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  7. A pretty much unplaceable mid-Atlantic accent is very commonly used in English-language popular music outside the US, and this is what Adele more or less did for her first two albums – after which she inexplicably learned to love post-vocalic r. I am told that privately she uses a thick working class version of London English. Anyway, books could be, and probably have been written about how native speakers switch accents for prestige or effect when singing. I am reminded of Sir Elton’s “horny black tawd”, Nashville’s de rigueur use of twangy Appalachian vowels and Randy Newman’s New Orleans voice among many other things. For us mainland Europeans my conjecture is that a focus on British English at school makes many of us somewhat uncomfortable with undiluted GenAm speech. And then there is 45 of course who is about as pleasant to listen to as Gollum.

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    1. I remember reading in a biography of Mick Jagger that he has 11 or whatever different accents on record (pun intended); he’s a notorious code-switcher, though mostly known for his Mockney.

      I like impressions, but somehow famous people imitating other famous people is even better:

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  8. Forgive me if you know what I am about to say. Many people already know it, but a surprising number of people don’t seem to, or don’t seem to want to. That’s possible – people refuse to recognise facts for ideological reasons; it happens all the time.

    Most things (not all, but most) are a consequence of a complex interaction of genes and environment or, in the terminology of the 1950s (I think), nature and nurture. The question of whether something is due to nature or to nurture is in the category of “not even wrong” – it is the wrong question. Few things are due solely to one or the other.

    Most human traits have turned out to be highly polygenic, but they are also influenced by environmental factors. Something as simple as physical stature, height, is a consequence of thousands of genetic variants, but it is also a consequence of nutrition during critical stages of growth during childhood and adolescence. At the age of 16, Greta Thunberg is less than 5′ tall. If she was Vietnamese, that would not be particularly unusual, but she is Swedish, and modern Scandinavians are among the tallest people in the world. When Greta was 11 years old (a critical growth and development stage for females), she stopped eating completely, lost 10kg, and it stunted her growth. She cannot now achieve her genetic potential in terms of height – she has gone past the critical growth and development stage. When she started eating again, she became vegan, which means she has probably continued to get inadequate nutrition – not certainly, but likely. (Most vegans only last a few years before giving up, because getting adequate nutrition on a vegan diet is so difficult.) By starving herself, she also probably adversely impacted her own intelligence, but as she was probably intelligent to begin with and might only have lost a few IQ points, it might not be noticeable. It is likely that she has adversely impacted her health in other ways which have not yet been manifested. But in any photograph, she looks like an undeveloped 11 year old child, not a 16 year old close to adult womanhood, and she is likely to stay that way.

    The moral panic that broke out in the USA several years ago, that Chinese geneticists were researching the genetic basis for intelligence with the intention of breeding a race of super-intelligent people with which to conquer the world, is laughable, and has since disappeared because it became evident that it was ridiculous. Intelligence is even far more polygenic than height – so far geneticists have identified thousands of genetic variants that account for only a few percent of intelligence. It should also be noted that intelligence is only about 60% heritable; environmental factors likely account for the rest. Poor nutrition and childhood diseases adversely impact intelligence, while other factors, not yet well understood, positively impact intelligence – one that is now known for certain is education, which boosts intelligence, to the extent of a few IQ points per year.

    Cultural Marxists (for want of a better term – maybe better to call them Foucaultians or something) have accused geneticists of ‘genetic determinism’ and ‘social Darwinism’, a claim that has never been true, given the highly polygenic nature of most human traits and the influence of environmental factors (and the hardest part to untangle, the complex interaction between many thousands of genetic variants and environmental factors). People have subscribed to the Confucian concept that anyone can achieve anything, as long as they work hard enough at it for long enough, popularised by Malcolm Gladwell’s now widely discredited (and self-evidently ridiculous) assertion that anyone can become (fill in the blank) by practising at it for 10,000 hours (the magic number). Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate should have told people that Gladwell is a fraud, but people choose to believe what they want to believe.

    Some things are not. There are some truly awful diseases and conditions caused solely by genetic or chromosomal disorders. These conditions are prime targets for gene editing, because they involve only one or very few genetic variants and are independent of environmental factors. Most of these conditions, if not all, are now already known, as are the candidate genetic variants.

    When it comes to sports and athletic endeavours generally, it should be blindingly obvious to even the most casual observer with a functioning brain that high achieving athletes are ‘naturally gifted’, but also have to work exceedingly hard at becoming the best. Even Blind Freddie can see that all of the world’s fastest sprinters have some West African ancestry, that people from the Ethiopian and Kenyan Highlands dominate middle and long distance running (now that they have access to modern training methods), and that the top ‘strength’ athletes (hammer throwers, shot putters, etc.) come from northern and eastern Europe. It’s really not a surprise that the guy who recently astonished the world by climbing the world’s seven highest mountains in the space of months rather than years is Nepalese.

    This is a statement of facts, not an invitation to engage in some kind of spurious debate based on sophistry, misquoting, misinterpreting (deliberately or otherwise), setting up strawmen and generally being stupid. Trolls will be ignored.

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  9. Related note: rhythmic gymnastics and gymnastics are two really very different disciplines, requiring very different physiques and skills. A person physiologically suited to one will almost certainly not be physiologically suited to the other.

    It’s a simple point, but apparently one too difficult for some people to grasp.

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  10. Further note: Simone Biles is a gymnast, not a rhythmic gymnast, and some say the greatest female gymnast ever. She is 4’8″ tall, remarkably short for an African American woman, has notably short legs in relation to her body, and is very muscular – ideally suited to gymnastics, and the seemingly impossible number of mid-air body flips and rotations that she executes. She is clearly genetically gifted for gymnastics, but would be hopeless for rhythmic gymnastics. On the other hand, long legged women would be unable to do what she does – the body geometry is all wrong.

    The couple of young Russian women I have posted are typical of rhythmic gymnasts – tall, with very long legs in proportion to their bodies – ideally suited to rhythmic gymnastics. But their seemingly impossible abilities suggest that they are particularly genetically suited to rhythmic gymnastics, more so that most, hence their huge following on social media. My initial inquiry was what it was that made *those particular women* particularly suited genetically to what they do – they have a degree of flexibility in their hips that very few women (and no men) have, no matter how hard and long they train. (My initial question: “What is it with Russian women” was intended to be humorous, and that should have been obvious to all but the most cognitively challenged – I obviously know that the vast majority of Russian women can’t stretch one leg back up over their shoulders and never will, not matter how long they try to train themselves to do it.)

    I sought to draw a distinction between Simoe Biles and those two young Russian women to illustrate the point I was trying to get at. But that flew straight over the top of people’s heads. I seem to have a flaw – I continually credit people with more intelligence, knowledge and insight than they have. Well, I’m not going to dumb things down to primary school level for the cognitively disadvantaged. So if people lack the insight to understand what I am getting at, they should stay out of it, or at least asked politely phrased questions but, you know, the Dunning-Kruger effect and all that.

    The above caveats apply.

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  11. Trouble in (or rather with) paradise.

    Scientists Say New Research Tracing the Origin of Modern Humans to Botswana Is Deeply Flawed.
    https://gizmodo.com/scientists-say-new-research-tracing-the-origin-of-moder-1839498847

    I earlier posted a link to Razib Khan’s critique of the paper that claims that modern humans originated in Botswana. There are many, many problems with the paper, which numerous geneticists, paleoanthropologists and archaeologists are now getting very indignant and condemnatory about, even citing ethical concerns. But the lead author is unrepentant, and doubling down, rather than giving the objections serious and full consideration. The paper has already been published in Nature, having passed peer review (with many people questioning how that could have happened), so it’s almost like she doesn’t care. She’s got what she wanted, and seems to have the arrogance to think that all of those people are wrong and she’s right (although she has hedged around somewhat in some of her responses).

    This is certainly not the last that will be heard about this – too many people are cheesed off about it, and concerned that it could have the effect of setting the science back a long way. Nature is a high profile journal, so inevitably people will cite it. Plus it plays into simplistic lay conceptions that modern humans must have emerged in a single location – the reality that they didn’t is possibly too complex for them to get their heads around.

    I wouldn’t mind betting that a large number of people in the concerned disciplines might get together, and either demand a retraction, or at least write a thorough refutation of the paper and demand that Nature publish it.

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  12. Rhyming lovely Rita with meter, though, is definitely not American.

    I can tell that you’re not from around heah.

    It is no longer typical for Bostonians to say, “I pahked the cah in Hahvahd Yahd.” But that is mainly because they do not allow cahs in the Yahd anymoah.

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  13. This is a really cool paper – it’s the sort of thing I have been hoping to see for a long time, and hope to see a lot more of. When it comes to the huge continent of Africa, it will be essential to an understanding of what has happened over the past 300,000 years and more, all the more because of the paucity of ancient genomic data, and all humans alive today have a stake in that enterprise. Actually, all humans who have ever lived did.

    A geostatistical approach to modelling human Holocene migrations in Europe using ancient DNA.
    https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/826149v1#disqus_thread

    This is not just yet another European ancient genomes/ancestry/migrations paper, it is far more. It integrates ancient genomic data with archaeological finds and dating, paleo-vegetation data and paleo-climate data.

    Not long after I graduated, I was thrilled to experience the synergy that can result from different disciplines working cooperatively together, resulting in a whole that is far more than the sum of its parts, and have been an ardent advocate for it ever since. In my own field, it is now recognised by most practitioners as essential. The crunch is, though, that you need overlaps in understanding between the disciplines for it to work, not gaps that create silos. Everyone working in ancient genomics will need to have some reasonable grasp of archaeology, palynology and climatology, and vice versa, enough to clearly understand what collaborators are telling them and for the group to be able to synthesize the disparate data sets. As one wise old professor of mechanical engineering from Texas told me 10 years ago: “The future is on the boundaries.” He was talking specifically about biomedical engineering (his daughter needed degrees in both medicine and engineering to be able to practice, which I think is too demanding and probably unnecessary), but the specific holds for the generality.

    The authors could have made the figures a bit more reader friendly, but that’s a fairly minor quibble. This is a great start on what I hope will become the gold standard in the unified field of reconstructing the human past.

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  14. Melissa Etheridge’s cover of Tom Petty’s Refugee is very creditable. It’s not better, a superior model of the original – the two stand as two excellent and very different versions of the same song; Etheridge’s with crisp diction and clean instrumentals that contrast sharply with the much more muddy, atmospheric and sinister sounding Petty version. When it comes to the instrumental backing, the Etheridge version is unquestionably better.

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  15. Funny (or not) headline on RT: ‘Blade Runner’ showed us a depersonalized dystopia in 2019 – instead of a warning, we used it as an instruction manual.

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    1. Blade Runner got a lot of its predictions for 2019 pretty badly wrong (no flying cars yet), and quite a few it got right, two of the most obvious being giant electronic advertising billboards and the consequences of climate change.

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  16. Associations of autozygosity with a broad range of human phenotypes.
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12283-6

    Think first cousin marriage and inbreeding depression. Data from a sample of >1.4 milion. Such massive sample sizes are now possible and becoming routine.

    Something was brought to my attention that I hadn’t thought about too much: “One of the consequences of the Protestant Reformation is that the Roman Catholic Church’s strict enforcement of consanguinity rules were dropped, and cousin marriage became much more common among elites (such as the Darwin-Wedgewood family).”

    When I was <20, I found myself rather attracted to one of my first cousins, but she always detested the sight of me, even though I never did anything to offend her and was always just casually, even gently, friendly in the face of her inexplicable hostility towards me. It occurs to me now that her reaction could well have been physiological – her biology was screaming at her: "Stay away from that male!" The slightly humorous thing was that she and I both ended up marrying Chinese – no consanguinity here, Your Honour, as you can plainly see; at her wedding, my wife was given the job of simultaneously interpreting the speech made by the groom's father, who spoke no English.

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  17. Newsweek used to be a great company to work for. The HK office staff outings were legendary. They extended over full weekends and staff were encouraged to take their spouses along, and kids too if they had some, so I used to go (but not daughter – she wasn’t born then). We had a lot of fun times, and were all made to feel part of the company ‘family’ – the whole thing was very supportive and upbeat. I was always made to feel very welcome and a kind of ‘extension’ of the company via my wife; I was on very good terms with everyone, from the boss down to the office boy. They all knew I worked for the government, but not one of them ever tried to pump me for ‘inside’ information.

    I ended up such good friends with one of the American male staff that we became gym buddies and regularly used to work out together. He was gay and I wasn’t, and he obviously knew I wasn’t because he was on good terms with my wife, but we didn’t let it bother us. He knew I knew he was gay, but never mentioned it, and I had no reason to. He was a tough customer and we put each other through some grueling routines, throwing heavy medicine balls at each other and such like; shouting at each other if one of us started slacking off. Then when we had finished torturing each other in the gym, I would head home and he would head off out to the gay bars.

    My wife has such fond memories of her time working there that I hesitated to show her that article, but she’s a big girl and has a right to know what has happened to what was a really good company, but which just became an anachronism because the world moved on.

    It is obviously now unrecognizable from when it was one of the Big Three – their main competitor was Time Magazine. Time was who they would constantly strive to beat, but it was a hard ask, because Time was a class weekly. I had a high opinion of American companies in that era because the whole atmosphere around Newsweek was so positive and brought out the best in all of their staff. No longer.

    Sad to see what it has become.

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  18. The now customary Saturday night riots are raging, but this made me laugh.

    “In Johnston Road, a pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung uses a megaphone to ask riot police to calm down.
    Also with an amplified voice, a female officer responds, warning protesters and reporters “to be careful with their mobile phones, since Hui is around and he might steal your phone”.
    She is referencing an assault conviction Hui has for snatching a phone from a civil servant.”

    Policewoman 1 Ted Hui 0

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  19. Birger – South Africa have thrashed England 32-12 to win the Rugby World Cup final. Makazole Mapimpi starred on the wing, and Siya Kolisi became the first black South African captain to win the cup.

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  20. German 18 year old Sophia Flörsch is returning this month to drive in the Macau Grand Prix (Formula 3) again.

    A year ago, her car became airborne at 276 kph and her spine was fractured (several vertebrae) when the car landed in a photographers’ booth (fortunately not hitting anyone).

    If I was her, I think I’d quit while I could still walk.

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  21. In stateside news: Donald Trump has abandoned his New York residency in order to become Florida Man.

    There are actual reasons for doing this. One of them is that Florida has no limit to the value of a primary residence that is exempt from seizure in bankruptcy. Another is that Florida has no state income tax–that doesn’t mean Trump would pay no income taxes to New York, but rather that he would only pay state taxes in New York on income derived from his business activities in New York.

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  22. So, not to bang on about it (much), but people are definitely not happy with the peer reviewed publication of this paper in Nature:
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1714-1

    What has got people worked up is, in effect, the statement: “…we propose a southern African origin of anatomically modern humans”, specifically in a paleo-wetland area of Botswana ~200 kya.

    I draw your attention to Exhibit A:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jebel_Irhoud

    There is now a very broad consensus that the remains of five individuals found at this site are of ‘archaic Homo sapiens’, i.e. early anatomically modern humans, dated to ~300 kya. Not exactly like us, but close; much closer than Neanderthals.

    Jebel Irhoud is in Morocco, in northern Africa – north of the Sahara. This does *not* suggest that northern Africa was the ‘birth place’ of anatomically modern humans.

    Quote: “This suggests that, rather than arising in East Africa around 200,000 years ago, modern humans may already have been present across the length of Africa 100,000 years earlier. According to study author Jean-Jacques Hublin, “The idea is that early Homo sapiens dispersed around the continent and elements of human modernity appeared in different places, and so different parts of Africa contributed to the emergence of what we call modern humans today.” Early humans may have comprised a large, interbreeding population dispersed across Africa whose spread was facilitated by a wetter climate that created a “green Sahara”, around 330,000 to 300,000 years ago. The rise of modern humans may thus have taken place on a continental scale rather than being confined to a particular corner of Africa.”

    That is also now the consensus – in shorthand “multiregional evolution within Africa”, long before one or more small sub-groups of modern humans migrated out of Africa.

    What astonishes me, and critics of the Nature article generally, is that the authors, and the reviewers, have totally ignored the evidence of Exhibit A, among other things. The article is paywalled, but I gather from comments made by numerous people is that the authors have not dismissed the evidence from Jebel Irhoud, they just haven’t mentioned it.

    The lead author is not a paleoanthropologist, she is an Australian medical geneticist who has been studying prostate cancer. Prudence at least would have dictated that she talk to some of the leading people in the field of paleoanthropology before publishing something that she obviously now feels compelled to defend against mounting criticism and evidence. “OK, we were wrong” is just too difficult to say, so she will probably die trying to defend the indefensible.

    Like

  23. https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/fashion-beauty/article/3035921/mens-yoga-shorts-extra-support-private-parts-tackle-very

    Bad news for guys who like to hang out at their yoga classes -the brand Brutal Buddha has come out with yoga shorts with a built in package protector that keeps everything in. I was entertained by:
    “Canada-based yoga apparel retailer Lululemon, for example, launched the ABC (anti-ball crushing) pant in 2015.” Trust the Canadians to be ruthlessly linguistically specific, eh?

    Like

  24. I’ve just discovered that I’m a nemophilist.

    I mean, I have always known that I am, but I just learned the word for it.

    Like

  25. I was just in the lift with a bunch of Chinese people. The lift stopped at a floor, the doors opened, but there was no one there. Me (out loud): “It’s OK, it’s just a ghost that wants to get in. Oh no, that can’t be right – I’m already here.”

    No one laughed.

    Liked by 1 person

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