Open Thread For March

But there’s one thing that makes spring complete for me
And makes every Sunday a treat for me
All the world seems in tune on a spring afternoon
when we’re poisoning pigeons in the park

Author: Martin R

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

414 thoughts on “Open Thread For March”

  1. Some PCAs. Bell Beaker cluster with Corded Wear in this sample, but not everywhere – Bell Beaker culture started in Iberia before Steppe people had reached there, and they adopted the culture once they got there.

    https://imgur.com/a/1P4cuCu

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  2. Yorkshire is trying to get in on the canal blocking business.
    https://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news/section/21/228779/Dispute-over-brands-to-fizzle-out-soon

    I continue to be entertained by videos coming out of Xinjiang showing rows of giant laser guided mechanical cotton harvesting machines at work. 84% of the cotton produced in China is grown in Xinjiang, and it is big business and very mechanised.

    People who spread stories about Uyghur forced labour being used to pick cotton probably have some kind of mental image like the old American South during the slave era, with African men, women and children in the cotton fields picking it by hand. No, Xinjiang is nothing like that. I suppose the Uyghurs driving the big mechanical harvesters could have been forced to do it – if so, it’s a pretty cushy job to be forced into. Those machines basically drive themselves.

    I think the Chinese government should take the UN Secretary General for a ride in one of those big machines, then point a video camera at him and say: “So, Mr Secretary General – you were saying?”

    But it seems like all of the luxury brands are getting the message anyway and quietly dropping the boycott, which was just taking income away from the Uyghur farmers.

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  3. We are approaching the 70th anniversary of “The Birds”.
    Have you spotted some springtime avian activity?

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    1. These bastards have been driving me nuts, waking me up in the middle of the night, as usual – three of them:

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  4. But the sparrows who habitually build nests in the air conditioning duct in the wall of my work room and drive me mad with their non-stop diurnal twittering are now snookered – when the guys came to replace my very ageing air-conditioner recently, Wife got them to fix a steel mesh screen on the outer edge of the duct, so the sparrows can’t get in to build their nests any more.

    It’s OK, they have still got everyone else’s ducts to nest in. Just not mine.

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  5. I’m tickled pink because Eileen Gu has chosen to represent China at the 2022 Winter Olympics, to be held in erm China.

    I don’t give a damn about the Winter Olympics, and I don’t give a damn about skiing, and especially about people doing insanely dangerous things on skis. But 17 year old Eileen Gu is the best in the world at doing what she does, she speaks flawless Beijing Mandarin, the Chinese are delighted to have her on Team China and…she’s MIXED!!! Half-Chinese, half-white American (but never mentions her father, who seems to be perpetually absent – she was raised by her mother and grandmother). But wait, here is the best part – Miss Gu is reported to be on the shortlist of athletes being considered to carry the Chinese flag in front of the Chinese delegation at the opening ceremony. The thought that a MIXED young woman could be leading out the Chinese athletes and carrying the flag is making me very happy.

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  6. Sylvester Stallone will be playing a man-eating shark in the new “Suicide Squad”.

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    1. A man-eating shark, or a man eating shark? He wants to watch his mercury levels.

      I watched Stallone’s early movies, while he was still trying to be a serious actor, and he could speak perfectly normally. Now he is virtually unintelligible.

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      1. So am I, but I am clearly losing the battle. There is a difference between going senile and being absolutely barking mad, though – I am the former, not the latter.

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  7. Genetic origins, singularity, and heterogeneity of Basques.
    https://www.cell.com/current-biology/pdfExtended/S0960-9822(21)00349-3

    I’m getting a bit sick of Basques, to be honest. Yes, I know the mystery of them speaking a non-Indo-European language has been an enduring puzzle endlessly argued over (I think now solved), but they are one small group. There are much bigger questions to be tackled, outside of Europe.

    Basques were very prominent in the exploration and invasion of the Americas. I used to work with a big Basque guy from San Sebastián who was a very nice bloke and we got on very well, but he had the quirk that he was singularly cruel towards animals; and I think could have been equally cruel towards humans if they really got on his wrong side. He was not easily offended, though – his size and strength gave him the self confidence to just laugh at people when they tried to insult him. Unlike many of my countrymen I don’t deliberately insult people about their origins, less than perfect English, strange customs, etc. and never have, so that was never going to be a problem.

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  8. The “Starship” prototype SN11 failed 5 minutes 49 seconds after the launch, while descending from the maximum altitude it reached today.
    .
    The number of daily new Sars-cov-2 cases in Sweden is still rising nationwide. In my region Västerbotten it is decreasing, reaching half the infection rate at maximum and now even dipping below the national average.
    The restrictions in Sweden will probably be extended to May, as the influx of vaccines remains slow.
    Mercifully, most in Phase One and the oldest in Phase Two have received at least one shot, a total of 1,1 million having received one or two shots at this date.
    The daily death rate right now appears to be between 10 and 15 victims. I have deja vu from late spring/early summer.

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  9. An anti-inflammatory drug protects against lethal inflammation from COVID 19 in animal models, even if not taken immediately after infection.
    Mount Sinai researchers have found that a widely available and inexpensive drug, topotecan (TPT), targeting inflammatory genes has reduced mortality in mice.
    It targets more than one inflammatory inhibitor.

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  10. In what must be one of the most stupid jokes of all time, last Monday the CEO of Volkswagen of America issued an announcement that Volkswagen would change its name to Voltswagen, to stress its commitment to producing electric vehicles. Unfortunately, his stupidity was exceeded only by the media, who thought he was serious and reported it as a serious story, and by investors – VW’s share price shot up by 5% in response.

    He then had to admit the following day that it was meant to be an April Fool’s Day type joke. To keep compounding the stupidity, some commentators said the Securities and Exchange Commission should take action to deal with such misinformation, which can distort stock prices. Fortunately they don’t look like doing that.

    A voice of sanity, Erik Gordon, a business and law professor at the University of Michigan said: “It is incredibly stupid, but if being stupid were illegal, a third of the CEOs in the U.S. would be in jail.”

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  11. The colonists of Australia and NZ did some pretty weird things, including introducing some elks to NZ for ‘sport hunting’, and it seems a small number of them have managed to survive.

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  12. 399.
    Wild falcons live about 13 years. So all falcons in the wild were born this side the year 2000.
    They are millennial falcons.

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    1. Heh.

      HK has peregrine falcons, which are beautiful things, and they reach tremendous speed when diving: >320 kph, which makes it the fastest bird in the world, and therefore the fastest animal. The fastest recorded was 389 kph.

      When we did the rehabilitation of one of our worked-out quarries, we left a bare rock cliff as an attractive feature, and we had some insets blasted into the face to provide nesting sites for the peregrine falcons (who suffer from loss of habitat and suitable nesting sites).

      Happy to say that those nesting sites are now in active use as intended.

      We also included a water feature -a natural looking flowing stream course, so there is everything there that the peregrines need.

      Most of our rehabilitated quarries have morphed into wildlife sanctuaries because no one has built anything in them (due to lack of imagination rather than anything else), which makes me very happy.

      Only one large one (which is actually two quarry sites side by side) has been turned into a large housing estate. Which, given HK’s critical housing shortage, is also good.

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  13. Going ahead with the Tokyo Summer Olympics is a form of mass collective insanity. They will have no quarantine or vaccination requirements, relying on a set of ‘playbooks’ that dictate how the participants can move around and socialise. Do they seriously think they can get together several thousand very fit young men and women, and control how they socialise (euphemism) with each other? In a normal year, the number of condoms supplied and used at the Olympics is enormous. And for fit young people in a state of elevated excitement, getting an infection which would make most of them only mildly ill or asymptomatic is going to be the last concern on their minds. Getting around the rules in the playbooks will just be a fun challenge.

    As one writer put it, it will be become a cauldron of novel variants gathered from around the world, which the participants will then carry back to their home countries, fuelling a global super-spreading event.

    I am banking on HK and Mainland China requiring their athletes to quarantine for 3 weeks and test negative several times on their return. We have autocracy and can impose such ‘draconian’ measures. I doubt that all countries will do likewise.

    Unless most countries are well advanced with vaccination, and using vaccines that are resistant to multiple variants, Autumn 2021 is going to be a real horror show. That’s my prediction. And I don’t see how they can, especially the poorer countries which can’t even get any vaccines.

    Once again, capitalism and financial concerns trump everything, and the world will pay a heavy price for that.

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  14. https://createdigital.org.au/how-salvage-engineers-helped-move-ever-given/?utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EDM-20210401

    I’m hoping they will find it was caused by pilot error, because if it was just wind force on the containers, that means you have huge ships at sea that are basically uncontrollable in high winds.

    They need to *stop* building ever larger ships, just for the sake of increased profits for ship owners and shareholders, and maybe cheaper consumer goods. People already have too much cheap junk they really don’t need.

    And the Scots should be filleting their fish in Aberdeen.

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  15. A man in Congo who got Ebola despite being vaccinated initially recovered but had a relapse six months later and died, triggeribg 91 new cases.
    This shows the Ebola virus can lurk in tissues without being discovered by the immune systems.
    .
    Raptors. Small birds that are of no interest to big raptors like eagels sometimes build their nests close by the nest of the raptor.
    .
    The race for shaving costs off big ships has made the world’s merchant fleets use a flag of convenience, creating a race to the bottom for crew conditions.
    Many oil disasters have happened because the companies have micromanaged the operation of oil tankers, making captains take unnecessary risks and work without leave for much too long.

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  16. I watched ” Why are modern Chinese movies so bad; video essay”
    .
    I have not watched a great many Chinese films, but apparently they were pretty good in the nineties.
    Then, with the economic boom, the new film executives wanted to be just like Hollywood. Aaand…I can see the problem with that. Not even Hollywood should be like Hollywood.
    Canada also had a crisis with their films when they tried to be like Hollywood. Every country has a lot of film makers that want to be like Hollywood. And while Hollywood films often suck , they can compensate a bit with high production values. Unless the plot is impossible to save…which is a big problem even in Hollywood.

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    1. I find it amazing that it is possible to get such astronomical funding for a movie, but that this money cannot reliably buy a really good script, and that nobody on the production team is usually able to identify a really good script. This is true even if you use box office profit as a proxy for script quality.

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      1. A decade or two ago, somebody did the experiment of shopping the script for Casablanca, under the title Everybody’s Coming to Rick’s, to a bunch of Hollywood studios. He got no takers, and none of the replies indicated that the decision maker recognized what it was.

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  17. I notice very successful big-budget films have been a labour of love for those making it, taking a lot of time to get it just right: LOTR, Inception, the latest Mad Max.
    People who only are in it for the money have little patience for that. They want the payoff, right now.

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  18. As mortality data play catch up, I see we are still at 20 covid victims per day. The tail end pr the diagram is thicker than at spring/summer.
    This is because the mortality rate is mostly determined by vaccinations, and there are still many elderly waiting for a shot.
    .
    General rate of people contracting COVID19 daily : in Stockholm it is about 700 per 100,000 inhabitants.
    Scania is better off, around 500.
    My region is slightly better.

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