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Open Thread For November

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433 thoughts on “Open Thread For November

  1. Winter has arrived with a vengeance at my location. About 20 cm of snow overnight Sunday into Monday, with an additional 20 cm or so last night and snow still falling this morning. It is a good thing I live in a place where almost everything I need is within walking distance, because my driveway is currently plowed in, so driving is not an option today.

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    • And trudging through half a metre of snow to go to work or buy some milk *is* an option? I think I would be searching online for the best price on a snowmobile – a hydrogen powered one with an enclosed heated cab, naturally.

      Or maybe trying to design and build one in my garage. That could be a really interesting hobby project. I’m a bit surprised no one is offering kits for home assembly. I assume snowmobiles are illegal on the roads, if you can see where the roads are, but off-roading would not seem to be an insurmountable problem and could be a lot of fun.

      We are having a December that is an almost identical rerun of last December – currently a run of cold days with temperatures well below the long term December means, predicted to be followed by the temperatures zooming up again for a while to levels well above the long term means. In my recollection, this is a very weird weather pattern – I guess it is a ‘new normal’ that I need to get used to, at least until we get a ‘new new normal’.

      Last winter was especially weird in that regard because, after that sudden early cold period in December, I thought we were going to be in for a particularly long, cold winter. But after that first blast, it never really got that cold for that long again. So I’m hoping that this winter continues to be a repeat of last winter, or better (where ‘better’ = ‘bad’ in climate change terms).

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      • The town does a decent job of clearing sidewalks, and even when they don’t do that I can put on snow shoes.

        They also try to keep the streets and roads open, and that is where the problem lies. The snow that gets pushed off the street has to go somewhere, and that somewhere tends to be blocking any driveways along the street. The process also compactifies the snow: freshly fallen snow is typically about 90% air (this number can vary depending how cold it is; colder temperatures usually mean a higher air content), but the air content of what the snowplows leave behind is much lower. So in this case I had to deal with a meter-high wall between my driveway and the street. This is one reason why it is not unusual in the US to hear of people suffering heart attacks while shoveling snow.

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      • I guessed that’s what you meant by your driveway being “plowed in”, as opposed to being “snowed in”. Took me a minute or two to figure it out, though.

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  2. Daughter has been head-hunted for a job back in HK for higher pay, but has turned it down on the grounds that it would be unethical for her to break her current employment contract. Besides which, she is currently better off out of HK. I’m proud of her for being such an ethical person, and just hope her employers are always equally ethical (which one or two have not been).

    Aside from the risks of unwittingly getting caught up in the violent protests which can suddenly erupt out of nowhere, people are beginning to become concerned about the possible health implications of 12,000 tear gas shells fired so far, plus tens of thousands of Molotov cocktails (containing a variety of different flammable liquids) and the combustion products from multiple business premises and street barricades (which frequently include piled up plastic chairs and such) being set on fire. Plastic + fire = dioxin, which is highly toxic in minute quantities. A lot of this stuff has been happening in residential and school districts, and schools have been employing professional cleaners to remove any residues from their campuses. People have to keep the windows of their flats closed tight to keep tear gas from wafting into their living quarters, and people with babies and small children are understandably very concerned and not happy about that.

    Where we live we have been well away from any of that, but I would have a concern if we lived in some of the dense urban areas where a lot of the pitched battles between radicals and police have been happening.

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      • I’ve been instructed by Daughter not to give out any of her personal information, which is fair enough – it’s her call.

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      • Genetics has revealed that in modern human history (broad sense – I don’t mean documented history), population turnovers have been a feature, not a bug. The demographic explosion that occurred in the Neolithic with the advent of farming covered over a lot of very deep population structure, when deeply diverged groups occupied territories close to one another but didn’t mix.

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  3. Two students aged 15 and 17 convicted of wilfully damaging railway installations have been sentenced to spend time in a correctional training facility (which is actually not too bad – a better environment than the adult prisons, and they get some useful training in something), plus they are required to pay HK$285,000 to cover the costs of repairing the damage they caused. Ouch.

    That’s interesting, because I doubt any of the radicals who have been smashing up railway and other public facilities and private businesses have given thought to the fact that, after being arrested, they may be required to pay for the cost of the damage. Damage to railways installations alone runs into hundreds of millions of HK$. They may evince false bravado about having to serve a term in prison, but being hit with a big financial bill which would take them a very long time to pay off would be something different, so this sentencing and some others in the pipeline might have a cooling effect on the rampant vandalism.

    In another case, a 26 year old guy has pleaded guilty to carrying a dagger, an axe, a machete, and a military knife in public during an anti-government protest. In mitigation he said he was just carrying them for a friend. Yeah, right. He has yet to be sentenced, but that could be interesting.

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  4. Big deal of 2019: ancient DNA confirms the link between Y-haplogroup N and Uralic expansions.
    https://eurogenes.blogspot.com/2019/12/big-deal-of-2019-ancient-dna.html

    Sámi speak Finno-Ugric, which is a subset of Uralic.

    So, I have another question. (And let me first emphasise that I an *not* picking on the Sámi – they have clearly been given a very bad time historically, going way back.)

    First, I think I am right in saying that the Sámi are the only people recognised as ‘aboriginal’ or indigenous to Europe. Someone please correct me if I have got that wrong.

    Now, let’s say you are a Swede, just picking at random for the sake of discussion – a common or garden Swede, the sort you might find lying around by the side of the road in Stockholm. Say you were born in Sweden, and all of your ancestors were born in Sweden, or entered Sweden as part of ancient migrations. So, first, Pleistocene hunter-gatherers, and then mixing with Neolithic farmers some time after they migrated into Sweden, and then mixing with Yamnaya pastoralists after they migrated into Sweden. So, the most recent of your ancestors who migrated into Sweden was a pastoralist during the late Neolithic.

    How does that make you less ‘aboriginal’ or ‘indigenous’ to Scandinavia than Uralic speaking people who migrated into Finno-Scandia well *after* the late Neolithic?

    I suspect the answer is that, in Europe, the definition of ‘aboriginal’ or ‘indigenous’ has been framed in terms of culture and language, rather than genes, and that definition was applied before the era of modern genetics – but then surely archaeology would also have told at least a large part of the same story.

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    • The term “indigenous people” implies “indigenous *minority group*”. I am a member of the indigenous post-glacial population of agricultural Scandinavia, but since we are the majority we don’t need the protections afforded by an indigenous people status.

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    • OK. But even in China, ethnic minorities have had concessions (like a blanket exemption from the one child rule, and representation in the National People’s Congress) without distinguishing whether they are any more or less indigenous than the Han majority. As long as they are good little ethnics and don’t do bad stuff, they get protected.

      If you were descended from the indigenous pre-glacial population (assuming the Cro Magnons ever got that far), you wouldn’t exist.

      Declaring that they are the *only* indigenous people of Europe when it is now clear they weren’t seems rather odd to me. I’m not sure how it materially advances their interests anyway.

      Futile to discuss, though – obviously, no one is going to take it away from them at this point.

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      • It has recently been shown that the Sámi combine South Scandinavian and Finnish ancestry. As to whether they are the only indigenous people in Europe, that is simply a question of what formal status they have and where Europe’s borders are. Explains Wikipedia:

        “In Europe, the majority of ethnic groups are indigenous to the region in the sense of having occupied it for several centuries or millennia. Present-day indigenous populations as recognized by the UN definition, however, are relatively few, and mainly confined to its north and far east. Notable minority Indigenous populations in Europe which are recognized include the Sami people of northern Fennoscandia, the Nenets, Samoyedic and Komi peoples of northern Russia, and the Circassians of southern Russia and the North Caucasus.”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_peoples#Europe

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      • That makes their uniparental DNA difficult to explain. But this aspect has been noted in other populations, i.e. where the uniparental DNA differs from the autosomal DNA, as some geneticists were discussing elsewhere. I can’t explain the logic arrived at in the discussion, it’s beyond me. The other observation is that to characterise a particular population, geneticists have found that they need really very big samples, because mixing is a common human behaviour that has always been happening.

        Many people seem to agree that Russia is not part of Europe. If it is, then not all of it is.

        The UN seems to have just about tied itself in knots trying to frame a definition of indigenous that fits all situations globally. The definition adopted in 1982, basically as ‘pre-colonial peoples’, is obviously problematic in many parts of the world. Things get really complicated in Africa, and I don’t know why they bother – just declare certain minority populations as deserving of protection and leave it at that; otherwise sooner or later they are going to be embarrassed or undone by science.

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      • Ethnic oddities – traditional dress for female Circassians includes a lamb leather bra. Men have long ornamental tubes on their chests, each of which used to hold a charge of gunpowder for recharging a musket; they still wear the tubes, although presumably now do without the gunpowder filling.

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    • In fact, it would be very hard in China – really very little is known about deep East Asian paleogenetics.

      The indigenous groups on Hainan Island are recognised as such, but that’s a clear case where they were and the Han were invasive. But even in Taiwan, the groups identified as aboriginal were invasive to some pre-existing people about whom very little is known. So it seems at least possible that the indigenous groups on Hainan were intrusive to some pre-existing population about whom nothing is known.

      It’s obvious that some groups were driven out of southern China as the Han invaded southwards, and some remnants of some of those groups remain as ethnic minorities in China.

      But these are academic questions.

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  5. P.S. Martin tells me, and I have no reason to doubt it that Sámi are not phenotypically distinguishable from other Swedes (and I assume similar in Norway and Finland), and photos on the Internet very largely confirm that. But genetically, they can be distinguished fairly well. mtDNA Haplogroup U5 is at a frequency of 50% among the Sámi, while being fairly rare among other Europeans (about 1 in 275), and likewise Y Haplogroup N.

    U5 is an mtDNA Haplogroup that dates in Europe to the Mesolithic. So this is where things get complicated and confusing. But then Mesolithic hunter-gatherers were highly mobile people; they moved around a lot, and some at least over long distances.

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  6. I think that the explanation concerning U5 is that the sub-group of U5 that distinguishes the Sámi is different from the sub-group of U5 that appeared in Europe during the Mesolithic, including in Finno-Scandia.

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  7. The 7 Best New Board Games Released in 2019.
    https://whatnerd.com/best-new-board-games-2019/?utm_campaign=MakeUseOf+Newsletter&utm_content=7+BEST+Board+Games+of+2019+–+Is+It+STILL+Worth+Buying+DVDs%3F+–+How+to+Be+Someone+People+LOVE+Hanging+Out+With&utm_medium=email&utm_source=makeuseof

    As mentioned previously, I know zero about board games. I’m just passing this along in case it is of interest to board gaming enthusiasts. It does seem like people coming up with new board games are getting very creative, and that they are making some crazy complex and time consuming games.

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  8. Internet weirdness – just lately, my Internet connection keeps randomly dropping out; not totally randomly, it seems to happen mostly but not wholly in the early evening. This has never happened before – my connection has always been very fast and dependable since I switched to my current ISP. It’s really bugging me because it is happening for a while every day, and now seems to be getting more random throughout the day.

    It is not just me – I can see the home wifi networks of my near neighbours, and they are suffering the same thing (I can from the strength of the signals when their home networks start to drop out), and obviously we are not all using the same ISP. Like me, they all have their networks secured by passwords. Their drop-outs do not all coincide with mine, maybe reflecting the different ISPs they are using.

    I am idly pondering whether this is the latest way for the radicals to ‘surprise’ HK people – some kind of cyber-attacks on ISPs. I would have thought they would have been better served by mounting concerted attacks on the government networks and Mainland affiliated companies, and maybe they have been trying, but nothing has been reported.

    The rads have been trying to paralyse all of the other infrastructure, in addition to calling for indefinite total strikes in work places and schools (largely but not totally unsuccessfully), so it seems a strong possibility that they would do something like this.

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  9. What did people do before vaccines, antibiotics and pasteurization?

    They died. A lot of people died.

    Serious news report: Samoa is having a severe measles epidemic. Only 1/3 of the population had been immunised. The anti-vaxxers have been very active there.

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  10. I looked at Wikipedia.
    English has 5.9 million articles, I was surprised to see that Swedish wikipedia with 3.7 million is ahead of German and French (possibly because of good English skills, making it easy to access English sources).
    Both Japanese and Chinese is just over the 1 million mark, the same level as Portugese (of course, there are 200 million Brazilians, but still….those two asian countries have their own goddamn space programs).

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    • One reason for China lagging in Wikipedia pages would be the Golden Shield Project, a. k. a. the Great Firewall of China. It is quite difficult for ordinary mainland Chinese to view non-Chinese sources, even without the language barrier.

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      • All people have to do is use a VPN. That is illegal in China, but like many laws it is more marked by its breach than its observance, and very many people do use VPNs, so the Great Firewall is no barrier at all to them. Of course, no one will admit to using one.

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  11. Jason X (2001) -What the hell is Jason Vorhees doing in an Alien movie???
    Quote from comments:”This film was shown in actual theaters. People paid money to see it”.
    -I read some recent article about the self-domestication of humans, but it is half past one in the morning and I cannot recall the details.

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  12. The GenomeAsia 100K Project enables genetic discoveries across Asia.
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1793-z

    People are speculating that geneticists in China now have a bank of a lot of ancient genomic data, but are keeping the lid on it. Q. Fu has been suspiciously very quiet now for a long time. One reason is she had a baby, which is very unsuspicious, but also maybe because she is part of keeping all of these data under wraps. Likewise Pontus Skoglund, who was prolific when with the Reich lab, but has gone strangely quiet since he moved to the UK.

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  13. LMAO! Local news clipping from 1979: “Government predicted that Hong Kong’s population could reach 10 million by 1991 if legal and illegal immigrants from China continued unabated. And by 2001, it could be as high as a staggering 14.3 million.” Slightly off there – currently barely scraping 7.5 million, and people are worried about rapidly ageing population.

    I’m worried too – I’m ageing far too rapidly.

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  14. About bloody time – I have been waiting for this since Ironman 2. They should have done it a lot sooner, while she was still young and fit enough to be credible.

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