Open Thread For July

runestone
Gunnar and Björn and Torgrim erected this stone after their brother Torsten. He died in the East with Ingvar. And made this bridge.

Author: Martin R

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

630 thoughts on “Open Thread For July”

  1. “Forget the Chinavirus. It will go away. These things always go away. I have taken action to protect our Nation. I have signed an executive order prohibiting US residents from doing any business with TikTok.” Yep, that will get him re-elected, for sure.

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  2. I’ll tell you something that does go away. I have worn out my right thumb print. It’s been there all my life, but now it’s gone.

    A very nice young lady from the HK Immigration Department explained to me that, as you get older, you gradually wear out your finger prints. And my right thumb print has gone completely.

    I don’t miss it.

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  3. A guy is driving around the back woods of Montana and he sees a sign in front of a broken down shanty-style house: ‘Talking Dog For Sale.’

    He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard.

    The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador Retriever sitting there.

    “You talk?” he asks.

    “Yep” the Lab replies.

    After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says, “So, what’s your story?”

    The Lab looks up and says, “Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA. In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping, I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running… but the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn’t getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals. I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I’m just retired.”

    The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.“Ten dollars” the guy says.

    “Ten dollars? This dog is amazing! Why on Earth are you selling him so cheap?”

    “Because he’s a liar. He’s never been out of the yard.”

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  4. 3D reconstruction of Raphael’s face matches portraits, solving doubt about identity of skeleton in time for 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death.

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  5. A team of Swedish, UK, US and Polish archaeologists have excavated an 6600 year old crmetary in Oslonki, Poland.
    The grave goods and the isotopes in the 30 excavated skeletons indicate the existence of strong class differences in the community. The ones buried with intricate grave goods were also the ones that had consumed plenty of beef during their lives.
    .
    -I assume this would be a neolithic community, I do not know anything about central European cultures of the era. This would be after agriculture arrived, so if they analyze DNA there will probably be lots of hunter-gatherer DNA with a sprinkling of middle Eastern heritage.

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    1. “there will probably be lots of hunter-gatherer DNA with a sprinkling of middle Eastern heritage” – No, 6,600ya, so lots from Anatolia, and little HG, or possibly even none at all. And talking about “middle Eastern heritage” in a population derived from people then living in Anatolia makes no sense, because (1) Anatolia (Turkey) is Near East, not Middle East, plus (2) population turnover in Anatolia. Turks (Uyghurs = Turkic people) are much more recent arrivals.

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      1. Aargh… I keep forgetting about ‘Anatolia’ even though their neolithic town (with a name I cannot learn to spell if my life depended on it) is the second oldest known neolithic town/village in the world.

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      2. Do you mean Göbekli Tepe? That wasn’t a town or village. Seems to have been some kind of temple or religious gathering place.

        Or do you mean somewhere else you can’t spell?

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    2. The oldest evidence for cheese making in Europe is from 8,000ya in Poland, so they were already agro-pastoralists by then, with HGs either killed off or pushed to the margins (there is no evidence of long peaceful coexistence as appears to have happened in Scandinavia). There is no evidence of early interbreeding between HGs and agro-pastoralists; that came later, when HGs made something of a comeback, and then there was some, but limited – nothing like panmixia.

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      1. Catal Höyuk (with umlaut over ‘u’). Not the other place that I cannot spell.
        .
        Third place I cannot spell: any place with a script system that is not *quite* analogous to the latin-style alphabet (which covers a lot of ground).
        And this is why the star names we borrowed from the arabs are so botched that they make zero sense to actual arabs.

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  6. Valda Vinson pens a summary about ‘sites of vulnerability of Sars-cov-2’ in the latest issue of ‘Science’ , for those who are interested.
    Also, summer has really returned to Sweden…..just in time for people returning from vacation 😦
    .
    Silver lining: No new virus deaths recorded today. Instead the number got adjusted downwards- to my knowledge, this is a first. 🙂

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  7. I would prefer one or two, but experience suggests option three.
    .
    BTW Fox talking head (and possibly alien shape shifter) Tucker Carlsson titled his new book
    ‘Vivamus vel libero perit Americae’ which is supposed to mean ‘ live free or America dies’. Unfortunately he used Google translate to arrive to latin gibberish. Mano Singham posted a link to the relevant scene in ‘Life of Brian’.
    Singham also has a post about the Spanish Flu and its aftermath.

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  8. A test program of 1000 people in elder care facilities showed 23% had antibodies for sars-cov-2. Nearly half of them never had any symptoms. But, as we have seen, the virus can do damage even without symptoms. I will post more about the survey if I find more details.

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  9. The oldest respiratory enzyme- the Rnf enzyme- has been isolated . It is still around in some archaea.

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  10. Brandon’s Cult Movie Reviews: ‘Without Warning’ has a bunch of well known actirs;
    Jack Palance, Martin Landau and the guy from CSI Miami.
    Palance looks a bit worse for wear, he was in a Star Wars knockoff the film before this was done. A Boy Scout leader gets attacked by alien parasites in the forest before he can molest anyone. These parasites are like small blood-sucking discs and can be thrown like weaponised frisbees by the Big Baddie that we don’t get to see until later and boy is that a cheap rubber suit.
    There are attractive looking teenagers around, so they get killed off early.
    Martin Landau is supposed to hunt aliens but freaks out and oops, now the sheriff is dead. These guys are actually a bigger threat than the alien humanivore.

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  11. …as Brandon has said in his reviews, an actor like Jack Palance, Klaus Kinski or Dennis Hopper can make even a crappy film enjoyable.
    But I cannot really recommend this one when old X-file episodes generally make this kind of stuff better.
    .
    A very long base line array (VLBA) of radio telescopes has been used to track the path of a star with great precision , leading to the indirect discovery of a Saturn-sized planet from the perturbations the planet causes to the movement of the star. Such discoveries are usually done with optical telescopes, I assume this star gives off enough radio emission to stand out (stars generally give off radio emissions from temporary phenomena ).
    .
    Simon Fraser University has produced an article about ‘de novo synthesis of nucleoside analogs ‘ that are said to fast-track treatments for virus and cancer.

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  12. Jim Butcher has finally written an additional book in the Dresden Files series. Unfortunately most of the elderly fans perished in the pandemic while waiting.
    -And if you are waiting for Laurell K. Hamilton to write a book about Anita Blake, vampire hunter that is *not* a lot of bad porn, you are…. actually in luck. Book 27 may still not be a full return to form; there is after all a limit to the number of original ideas in the genre.
    .
    James Herbert (I think it is the son of Frank) one wrote a decent horror novel called ‘Rats’ about…. rats. It was made into a genuinely bad film. Hint: if you write a book named ‘rats’ you don’t get zombie Frederico Fellini to direct it.

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  13. …And zombie Kubrick will not show up for movies named ‘Star Crash’, ‘Creature’ or [insert space/horror – related name]. Especially not for a shoestring budget.
    ‘Alien’ only got made through a very rare chance alignment of good funding, a good script and a genuinely good director. Plus Giger.

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    1. Everything aligned perfectly for Alien, including inspired casting and the choice of name (both a noun and an adjective, but with no hint at what the film was about); it was originally going to be called Star Beast (which I hypothesise would have caused the film to bomb at the box office). And the promotional slogan: “In space no one can hear you scream.” Most of the stellar cast were under-utilised, their characters being killed off (or parasitised) pretty early in the film after a few lines of dialogue, after which it became all about Sigourney Weaver, who was at her absolute peak and perfect for the heroic Ripley (and not to forget the ship’s cat, which had a key role).

      They found the guy who played the part of the Alien in a pub in London, chosen for his height of 6’10” and his extraordinarily long legs. He took tai chi and mime classes to learn how to move slowly. It was his only film role – in the sequels they changed from using a guy in a rubber suit, and he died of sickle cell anaemia in Nigeria at the age of 39.

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  14. In the realm of the truly bizarre, this morning I got an email from a nurse who works for a doctor that I used to go to, reminding me that it is time I had a check-up. I had to do a careful double-take to make sure it was genuine – I have not been to see that doctor since 2008!

    My daughter’s conclusion – he is running out of patients, and it was a ‘cold call’ to try to generate some business, trawling back through the old medical records to find former patients to try to reconnect with. Well, he’s out of luck – I found someone better, cheaper and closer to home 10 years ago.

    I think it is the pandemic. It has caused people to put off indefinitely other medical things and made them very wary of going to medical clinics, and consequently he has had no work to do for a prolonged period. Well, that’s his problem, not mine. What, it took him 12 years to remind me to have a check-up that I need to have every 2 years? And I am supposed to believe he did that out of concern for my well-being, rather than for his bank balance?

    I sent back a polite rebuttal.

    I think there will be an absolute shitload of medical things that have been neglected/put on indefinite hold due to the pandemic, which will result in a lot of collateral damage further down the road.

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  15. LOL – While Trump is busily freezing Chinese people’s American assets, Beijing’s top representative in HK has publicly offered to send US$100 to the USA for Trump to freeze.

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  16. Jacinda Ardern has called the date of New Zealand’s next election, and has kicked off her re-election campaign. With her popularity rating, I’d say all she needs to do it just turn up. She is the leader Daughter and I both wish we had.

    Now if she could only learn how to pronounce vowels correctly.

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    1. Pretty amazing – she was virtually unheard of when the Labour Party was struggling in 2017 and she was shoved into the top job just before the election. And she has turned out to be the world’s best national leader, through a succession of national and international crises.

      Admittedly NZ has a population of only 5 million, but still – Jacinda’s talents are scalable, although her personal touch would necessarily be diluted.

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  17. I might have heard ‘Game of Love’ om the radio when I was your years old but as I don’t recall it I never had a personal relation with The Mindbenders and the lead singer.
    Still, it is sad that he has passed away.

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    1. …I forgot, he was named Wayne Fontana. He took the name after a member of Presley’s band.

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  18. The Hater (2020) – I have watched a couple of Polish films recently and found them disappointing, but this one is in a whole different league, and frighteningly close to real-world-right-now. It is dubbed, which I always think is a mistake, but in this case the voice-overs are well done and it is not a major weakness. Definitely worth watching, for its educational value as much as anything, and for a chilling portrait of a psychopath operating on the Internet – there are a lot of them out there.

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  19. 1980;s Garey Busey: ‘ They tell you you cannot smoke wild turkey like it’s crack but they are wrong’.

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  20. Our old friend the Black Death has put in some new appearances – there is an outbreak in Inner Mongolia, and also…wait for it…New Mexico. For the geographically challenged, New Mexico is one of the United States of America.

    If Americans think SARS-CoV-2 is bad, wait until they have a raging plague epidemic to go with it.

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  21. I meant to mention, if anyone has not watched Beasts of No Nation (2015), I encourage them to – it’s a brilliant film. Not technically perfect, maybe, but brilliant. And it was filmed in Ghana, so the scenery is really very interesting.

    I put off watching it for a long time because I thought it would be crap, but it definitely wasn’t.

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  22. VERY. BAD. NEWS.
    Ed Brayton, who has the blog ‘Dispatches from the culture wars’ and is -among other things- engaged against religious discrimination in the US military- is going to a hospice.
    His blog has for many years been the first non-Swedish blog I have logged in to everyday, both for the discussions and the olympic-grade sarcasm to be found there.
    It is like losing a relative. And the Americans -who really need constructive criticism of the system more than ever- are losing a stellar voice.

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    1. During the years I was a Justice of the Peace, I was requested to make a JP visit to a palliative care hospital. (Don’t ask me why JPs were doing hospital visits, aside from psychiatric hospitals which are places of detention; – I still don’t know; I think it was just a ‘voluntary-make-work’ exercise – too many JPs and not enough for us to do. I even asked some of the head doctors why I was visiting their hospitals, and they replied that they didn’t have any idea, but that I was very welcome anyway – and then we would all laugh, and then they would give me guided tours – very interesting, for sure, but for no practical purpose whatever.)

      Anyway, I went to this palliative care hospital – normally JP visits are done in pairs, but on this particular day my fellow JP couldn’t make it, so I went alone. In the knowledge that none of the patients in this hospital was going to come out alive, I expected it might be a rather sombre and sad place, and with some patients suffering pain of varying intensity. But it wasn’t – of all of the institutions I visited in my 13 years as a JP (and there were a lot), it was the loveliest and most uplifting by a very long way.

      I won’t try to describe how I felt after visiting maximum security prisons (some of the inmates of which will also not come out alive, because a life sentence in HK means you are in there for life), aside from the inadequate ‘awful’, but I came away from that hospital feeling uplifted – that’s the only way I can describe it. The place, the nursing staff, the doctors – everyone was just lovely. Some of the nurses even half-embraced me when shaking hands, like they wanted to greet me with a hug but restrained themselves. No one was in any pain – I saw not one patient who showed any evidence of being in physical discomfort; or emotional distress for that matter. The palliative care doctors were clearly on top of their game.

      I hope Ed Brayton goes to a place like that.

      Hell, when it’s time for me to go, I sort of hope that I go to a place like that. If I was a believer, I would describe it as a training placement to prepare people for what Heaven would be like.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. More bad news. The extreme heat wave in central and western Europe has pushed big crowds to the beaches where they no longer care about distancing.
    I can understand the heat makes people go nuts, but this is bad. Hopefully the virus is somewhat vulnerable to heat and humidity but the odds are we will see ‘super-spreader’ events.

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  24. If you want to cheer up, Nicholas Moran aka The Chieftain has now released ‘The worst tank you have never heard of.’ The excerpts of the trial results were …. interesting. I mean, the WWI tanks were awful, but they were useful in between breakages.
    This 1940s turkey was designed and put in production after more than twenty years of cumulative technological progress (and it was made by an American company with a history of making vehicles for the army). The Australians simply picked out the engines for other use and let the rest of the hulks rust.
    .
    Also, Moran’s hypnotic reading voice is a pleasure ( at one occasion there is background noise from his wife participating in a virtual gender reveal party).

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    1. The video was entertaining enough, but I had to look up what a ‘gender reveal party’ is. Apparently trans activists are vehemently opposed to them because, as everyone obviously knows, gender is not biologically determined and binary (for them). So it’s not OK for *anyone* to tell their mates what the biological sex of their unborn baby is.

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  25. A new Star Trek project is reported to have been paused.
    .
    Actors that pop up in entertainingly weird B-films : Doug McLure and Michael Sopkiw.
    Also, David Carradine and Michael Palance often added to their paychecks by slumming in B films, some of which became unintentionally entertaining.
    Turkish knockoffs of American superhero films tend to have this bald guy playing…Lex Luthor ? Ming ? But the name of this heroic actor remains unknown.
    Max von Sydow pops up in some B films and in the rather odd ‘Dune’.

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  26. Suggestion for americans opposing face masks, pollution management or greenhouse gas reduction: Form the Asteroid Impact Party, advocating diverting a rock from the asteroid belt ‘to own the liberals’.

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    1. Their attitude is incomprehensible to me. Perhaps they think all health related and environmental concerns are just anti-capitalist lies.

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      1. I think a part of it is push-back against some of the extremist activist groups, which really go much too far. But I’m not making any excuse for them – that is only a part of it. I have seen the truly ugly, mendacious,vicious side of some of the green groups, the ‘eco-warrior’ types, but the correct response is, or should be, to answer with ethical, scientifically sound research, and to keep doing it, and to make very sure that everything you do as an Engineer is environmentally sound, based on thorough, properly conducted studies. And those studies are directed as much towards the environmental denialists as they are to the activists, forcing them to behave in an ethical manner.

        I can’t speak for the health related stuff. I’m a strong advocate for universal affordable health care of a very high standard. Along with education, I see that and environmental protection as two of any society’s highest priorities.

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  27. This is earth shattering stuff. It is going to revolutionise the understanding of the beginnings of Chinese civilisation.

    Mysterious carvings and evidence of human sacrifice uncovered in ancient city.
    Discoveries at the sprawling site have archaeologists rethinking the roots of Chinese civilisation.
    https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/history-and-civilisation/2020/08/mysterious-carvings-and-evidence-of-human-sacrifice-uncovered-in/amp?__twitter_impression=true

    The human sacrifice came as no suprise to me; I’m aware of the almost industrial scale of human sacrifice practised during the much later Shang Dynasty. What has me gob-smacked is that the sacrificial victims all seemed to have been young girls. Why? I can think of one possibility – that they were war captives, and killing them prevented the enemy from reproducing and proliferating. But I imagine there was some symbolic and religious element to it.

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    1. If they are old enough to reproduce, a more efficient use would be to marry them off to your noblemen and top soldiers, so that they would contribute to the proliferation of your population rather than your enemy’s. But if they are too young, and you are having difficulty supporting your own population, then it may not be feasible to keep them around until they are old enough.

      The Aztecs took the more practical approach of sacrificing captive enemy soldiers. Dead soldiers can’t reproduce, and you get to take their women for your own people’s use.

      But the Shang were not alone in sacrificing young girls. At least one Andean culture also did this–archeologists found the preserved body of one such victim on a mountain in Peru a decade or so ago (the combination of high altitude and dry climate helped preserve the body).

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      1. On reflection, it has to come down to a religious explanation. It always does.

        The Aztecs could have completely destroyed their enemies, but chose not to, because they needed a continuing supply of sacrificial victims to feed to the gods.

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  28. Interestingly, the late Shang rulers descended into depravity, thereby losing the Mandate of Heaven, and repugnance for the practise of human sacrifice was one of the things that prompted the Zhou to overthrow the Shang.

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  29. I wish I could provide more positive news.
    Scania will still have subtropical heat, pushing people out to the beaches. Maybe the resumption of higher education this week, and the end of vacation will keep the crowding mamageable. But I anticipate many young adults will go to crowded places in the evening.

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  30. Ouch. 19 new virus fatalites recorded in Australia. This is within the expected frame of local clusters popping up, but if they miss tracing it the previous Australian success may be undone. At least they have some moderately competent leaders.
    Of course, by Brazilian or American standards, 19 dead would be too trivial to mention.
    Here in Sweden we are going to see *a lot* of people dying of cancer. Delayed diagnosis, delayed surgery. And the backlog of less lethal pathologies could require five years before the waiting list is down to ‘normal’ values.

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    1. Australia can be divided into the state of Victoria (which is a disaster zone, due to the abject incompetence of the state government) and the rest (which are currently not doing too badly, although New South Wales is teetering on the brink, being adjacent to Victoria and having a long common land border which is difficult to seal effectively).

      Western Australia has the luxury of being cut off from the rest by a bloody big desert, with very few trafficable roads crossing the border (one, approximately, until you get to the top end, and there the border is shared with the Northern Territory, which is going pretty well).

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  31. Fish are eating plastic faster than expected.

    That reminded me of the film I watched on Netflix last night, which was so bad that this morning I couldn’t remember what it was.

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  32. “Why practising good hygiene won’t weaken your immune system.” Do people really need to have this explained to them?

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  33. Soo….supportive homes are supportive? You mean, if we make sure kids do not have to share a room with four siblings, start working at 16 or if society and family values education ( aka ‘that ungodly cotton-pickin’ bookly learning the pinko libruls favor’) higher, they will go out and do well at school?
    .
    OT:’Suspicions grow over Irish pubs agreeing to remain closed a little too readily’. http://www.newsbiscuit.com/2020/08/08/suspicions-grow-over-irish-pubs-agreeing-to-remain-closed-a-little-too-readily/

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    1. I think more things like a home full of books, discipline if you don’t do your homework, and a parent who is knowledgeable about how to go about getting into tertiary education.

      My Dad made it clear that he was not able to finance my university tuition fees (and very considerable costs of text books and paraphernalia needed to study engineering, like a drawing board with T-square and set of drawing instruments, now obviously totally redundant but not then), but then he was extremely helpful to me in researching how to go about applying for scholarships and cadetships, and helping me with writing my applications. I wouldn’t have known where to start with that. He was also very supportive and helpful to me (and knowledgeable) in applying for entry to university. He carefully researched all of that while I was busy studying for my school leaving/university entrance examinations, so I didn’t have to take time out from studying to do it.

      If I had a father who basically didn’t care and was too busy drinking beer to give me any assistance, it’s entirely possible I would not have been able to find my own way. In that regard, career councillors were useless to me. Actually, in all respects, career councillors were useless to me. But I had the good fortune to have a father who worked through it all logically with me, which was very helpful.

      Not all 16 year olds are that lucky. In many other respects he was an absentee father, and he beat the shit out of me on a regular basis for not eating my vegetables (until the glorious day I discovered I could outrun him, if I could just make it out of the back door before he got to me), but I don’t blame him for any of that stuff. It didn’t scar me for life or anything like that. And he was really up to the job when it came to helping me with the big important things.

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  34. Music producer Martin Birch has died at 71. He has worked with Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Whitesnake and Raimbow.

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  35. A creepy part of history: after WWII the Soviet Union was full of handicapped veterans that could not support themselves, many of them were reduced to begging in the streets.
    Then, in May 1946 the handicapped beggars disappeared from the streets.
    No one knows what happened to them, but in Stalins system and with Beria as head of KGB there was no shortage of malign theories.
    One Gulag prisoner at a river in Siberia witnessed boats full of handicapped people passing northwards towards the Okhotsk Sea, but no one coming back in the other direction. This sounds very plausible considering the millions of other people who became ‘unpersons’ during Stalin’s reign.

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  36. “Understanding and use of twisted fibres implies the use of complex multi-component technology as well as a mathematical understanding of pairs, sets, and numbers.” Any day now I expect someone claiming to find evidence that Neanderthals knew how to do algebra and trigonometry.

    Direct evidence of Neanderthal fibre technology and its cognitive and behavioral implications.
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-61839-w

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