There were shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
Aardvarchaeology – by Dr. Martin Rundkvist
Scandinavian archaeology, history, skepticism, books and music
There were shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
337 thoughts on “Open Thread For November”
I will dig up the article I read, it is at the library so I won’t get it done until tomorrow.
The former Swedish state epidemiologist Johan Giesecke does not think the current rate of vaccinations – 82% – will be enough nor does he think compulsory vaccine shots is the road to go.
But at least the political turbulence about support for the government has calmed down.
(opens newspaper) “FUUUUCK!!”
Probably need at least 90.
What is wrong with compulsory vaccinations?
Sweden tried compulsory vaccination for a disease in the early 20th century and the experience was apparently not positive – I am not familiar with the details.
As close to 100 as possible.
“What is wrong with compulsory vaccinations?” – Major problems with implementation/enforcement in most jurisdictions, with claims of breach of human rights blah blah blah. Plus politicians are notoriously risk averse – if one person dies from an adverse reaction to a vaccine, they are afraid they will be blamed.
The mainstream media in HK were publishing big sensationalist stories every time someone died after having been vaccinated (in all cases the deaths had nothing to do with having been vaccinated – old sick people die, it happens all the time), until the tide of majority public opinion turned against them and they were told to stop doing it. Occasionally they still lapse back into doing it, though. The scare stories still circulate like crazy on social media.
To me, this is very weird, because in the past, HK has not been anti-vaxx at all. For example, when the first HPV vaccine became available here, 100% of parents couldn’t wait to get their daughters to a doctor to be vaccinated. But then, HK’s most famous and hugely popular Cantopop singer Anita Mui died of cervical cancer at age 40, her older sister having previously died of the same thing also aged 40, so the community were hyper-aware.
Many jurisdictions have mandatory vaccination for people in certain occupations. Some opt to quit rather than being vaccinated. There are already public protests, with violence breaking out, against vaccination, lockdowns and mask mandates in some countries.
In HK, school teachers are given the choice between vaccination or being tested three times per week at their own expense. HK has a surplus of teachers due to shrinking student numbers and school closures, so I wouldn’t give them a choice.
In the Mainland, 100% of people (other than a small % who get medical exemption) are told they will be vaccinated and what with (i.e. no choice of vaccines), and where and when they are required to report to be injected (some while complaining privately that they don’t like it, but don’t have a choice – that’s just anecdotal, so I can’t even begin to know what % of the population privately object to mandatory vaccination).
I personally prefer the Mainland rules, but I’m a notorious hard-liner. The Austrians are doing the right thing.
I think in HK a huge opportunity has been missed. If the mainstream media and medical workers at large had got behind a big government push to get everyone vaxxed, particularly the elderly, and it was sold to the community as the socially responsible thing to do by the media, we could have had everyone done by last July and started administering boosters in October, by which time it was already clear that boosters would be needed. As it is, the government has been limp wristed about it, and the media chose to amplify scare stories rather than being socially responsible themselves.
As it is, HK is now precariously vulnerable – we have had zero local transmissions for many months now, but we only need one big outbreak of Delta and we’re fucked. We dare not open the borders or consider relaxing the mask mandate and other control measures – we’d be screwed very quickly.
If Anita was still alive, she’d be telling everyone to grow up and go to get jabbed. Sadly, she’s not.
If you want to know what that song is about, it’s meant to be a young inexperienced woman demanding to know why men keep making repeated unwanted advances to her and keep putting their hands on her in inappropriate places, while she keeps trying to push them off her. From memory, that song came out in 1986, so she was fairly advanced with the #MeToo thing.
She was not inexperienced, though, she was a tough character. She started performing as a singer in the streets at age 4 to help support her single mother and family. Hers was a real rags-to-riches story, and she did it all by herself.
“For example, when the first HPV vaccine became available here, 100% of parents couldn’t wait to get their daughters to a doctor to be vaccinated.”
It’s definitely a good idea to get sons vaccinated as well.
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Evidently so, but I don’t have one.
Junior was keen get his HPV shots once I explained that it would not only save older ladies in the future from cancer, but would also immediately protect him from genital warts.
I am not in the mood to describe the latest Swedish political quarrel.
Good news; unemployment is falling (and so is the snow).
Congratulations to Sweden on having its first female prime minister for a few hours.
I didn’t mean to mock, BTW. She obviously did the right thing, and hopefully she will make a comeback.
To me as a person of the far left, it seems to me that Swedish politics are heading in a very worrying direction. But then it is now a global trend, increasingly towards the right, so Sweden is not alone in this, not by a long shot. It just comes as a shock to me happening in Sweden, which I have always thought of as a reliably socialist country.
The question is why that is happening, in Sweden in particular and in general, if the latter is true.
Is there a general trend towards the right? I don’t know.
For Sweden, I think that the book Fishing in Utopia, which I’ve mentioned here before, might have some clues.
It looks like the new government in Germany might be the best ever. My only qualm is that it would have been nice if the social democrats could have done it alone. Fortunately, the extreme positions of the Greens and the FDP (libertarian party) more or less cancelled out in the negotiations, leaving a sensible social-democratic platform.
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It is evidently not happening in Germany (although I have heard that white supremacist groups are on the rise there, but you would know much better than me), but yes, there is a clear global trend away from left liberal democracy and towards more right wing authoritarian government in multiple countries.
I can’t give you a list, and this is not something I am wishing for (for me, right wing = no. 1 enemy), but it is happening. I could mention a couple of countries offhand – Poland and Hungary (and Austria?). I am no expert in European politics, particularly given my lack of interest in politics generally.
It is accompanied by a rise in activity by white supremacist groups, which are getting very active in the USA, UK and elsewhere. In Australia they are now assessed as the most dangerous terrorist threat, i.e. domestic terrorism, and quite likely lone wolf actors, which makes it very hard to counter them, because racial profiling doesn’t work when you are trying to find white baddies in a predominantly white country.
Most European parties in countries with PR have about six major parties: social democrats, conservatives, libertarians, greens, communists, and far right. The exception is Germany, which, until not that long ago, had no far-right party in the national parliament. That’s not to say that all is hunky dory, but white supremacism is not really a thing (of course it was 80 years ago, but then again almost all killed by the Nazis were white, so even then it was different from typical white supremacism). There are, as everywhere, various anti-immigrant sentiments, some justified perhaps, some not, but it is mostly a cultural and not a racial issue. Of course, the media tend to give more courage to some random bloke in Germany who has any sort of Nazi connection whatever than to serious dangers in other places.
Andersson resigned because of a technicality, and will almost certainly be back within a week. Briefly, a) the Greens left her newly formed government because parliament adopted a budget co-sponsored by Hate the Foreigners and Subsidise Gasoline, and b) there is an informal rule of thumb that when a party leaves a coalition government, that government should be re-formed from scratch to ensure parliamentary legitimacy.
Yep, I managed to get that much. So I understand now the plan is to form a minority government by the Social Democrats with her as prime minister, and with the support of the Greens to enable them to govern. Hope that happens.
Regarding Iran, I recalled some things right but some digits wrong.
I read a summary in an article in New Scientist 23 October, quoting Mahan Ghafari at the University of Oxford.
He used data from Iran’s NOCR .
“The analysis showed that the total infected population was probably very high in many provinces. Eleven of them had rates over 100% as of 17 September. The highest rates were seen in Sistan and Baluchestan province, which had an estimated attack rate of 259 per cent (medRxiv, doi.org/g2sn ). If accurate, that would mean most people have had the virus twice and some for a third time”
Marc Loeb at McMaster University of Canada finds the study’s conclusions plausible.
Thanks for taking the trouble to do that, Birger.
Most have had it twice – yes, that is plausible. And some a third time – I’m wondering about that; some people get infected, recover, test negative, get released from hospital, and then a while later they test positive again. But this is not a new infection, it is re-emergence of the infection they have already had. No one is sure why – the prevailing theory is that the test is just picking up bits of dead virus. So maybe the ‘third time’ is that. Or maybe those provinces got the virus in epidemic proportions early enough for people to have had time to be infected three times over.
Iran was one of the first countries to report significant outbreaks of Covid, presumably due to their contacts with visitors from China. China is on friendly and cooperative terms with Iran, so they have a lot of dealings with them. China has not and will not honour the crippling US-led sanctions imposed on Iran. Not that I imagine the Chinese government is highly approving of the Iranian government, but they have a policy of non-intervention in the affairs of other countries, plus it’s a bit of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, sort of thing.
Major announcement of public interest. (Who am I kidding?)
As of an hour ago, I have now been boosted. Boostered. I now have super powers. Look upon my thrice punctured deltoid muscle, ye mighty, and despair. Actually quadruple punctured, because we went to get our annual influenza vaccine a couple of weeks ago.
So I’m vaxxed for ‘flu and triple vaxxed for Covid-19 – I should be set for winter.
I like the folks who run the vaccination centre we go to – they are all very friendly. The lady who vaccinated me was a real old sweetie.
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Congrats! (or conga rats, as people have started writing).
Dagens Nyheter writes that as of recently, new covid patients in intensive care are mostly vaccinated! That shows how the effects of vaccines are fading with time.
There is now a big rush for the vaccine boosters, and the authorities have problems getting back into high gear quickly.
I read that Germany is running short of vaccines, which is insane if true. They make the bloody things.
HK just bought another 1 million doses of BioNTech from Germany – they are ordered through the Mainland pharmaceutical company Fosun, which bought the distribution rights for Greater China, but flown direct to HK from Germany, and landed here about a week ago.
So I don’t know how that worked, because that 1 million doses was on top of the 7.5 million doses that HK originally ordered, to make sure that they have enough stock to give everyone boosters.
There doesn’t seem to be a shortage here. 🙂 I have a booster appointment six months to the day after my last shot. My wife does as well (but it will be a bit more than six months after her second shot).
Oh, and meant to say – a lot of the patients ending up in ICUs now are younger patients, reportedly. I think that’s Delta – it seems to affect younger people more severely than the other strains.
I don’t bother at all with social media, but Wife monitors it and tells me anything of significance that the Chattering Idiots are talking about.
So – get a load of this.
Wife tells me that the Chattering Idiots are telling people not to get vaccinated because the vaccination will “affect your immune system.”
*sigh* Of course the fucking vaccination will fucking affect your fucking immune system. That is the whole fucking point of having the fucking vaccination. If the fucking vaccination did not affect your fucking immune system, there would be no fucking point in having the fucking vaccination, now would there?
Oh, and it will give you cancer, apparently. There is absolutely zero evidence to support this and no reason why any of the vaccines should do that, but that is what the Chattering Idiots are apparently convinced of.
Sometimes I want to claw out their eyes and rip their throats out. They are too deranged and dangerous to be allowed to continue living.
If you want to have a laugh – and have an hour to spare- check out “GAM059: Vaxxed”
In this podcast, the stand-up gang of God Awful Movies dissect a ‘documentary’ that says you should let your children die of preventable diseases because vaccines cause autism.
The episode is seasoned with a beautiful string of curses and swearing. I myself could not do better.
The above ‘documentary’ came out long before covid. Since then, the anti-vaxxers have produced more films targeted at a low-information audience, but I am not touching those.
BTW there are many claims what the vaccines contain. Are there just the usual microchips* or are there tentacled small critters? (not making this up) And there is the American lady who talked about demon sperm.
*It is not clear if the microchips are of Alien origin, or if they were commissioned by George (that Jewish guy) Soros.
In the news recently is that automobile manufacturers have had to cut back on production because of lack of microchips. Someone seriously suggested that the dearth of chips is because they have all been injected.
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Naturally, vaccines cause cancer. That is why doctors have inflicted vaccines on people for 200 years.
The only thing more dangerous than vaccines is demonic possession.
Latest weekly covid press conference just now. There is 26% free capacity in the intense care units across Sweden. All healthcare regions are coping well.
Spain and Sweden still have a low incidence, no one dares state the reasons as the virus is so unpredictible.
The number of covid patients in hospital have increased by 20% in one week.
Spain has a high fraction vaccinated. Sweden is sparsely populated.
Your next assignment: compare France and Germany and explain the differences.
I’m not trying to be a smart-arse. I’m definitely confused. I don’t understand it.
You can no longer be a smart ass because you laughed it off. 🙂
Germany has a substantially larger (but not double) population than France. France has somewhat more cases and somewhat more deaths. The differences aren’t all that large. Much might depend on how the number of cases is determined. But in general no surprise; my guess is that in Germany more people respect the restrictions.
The main problem in Germany are the anti-vaxxers. A minority, but one large enough to be dangerous. But obligatory vaccinations are looking more and more likely.
That table would benefit from having the numbers per capita.
My favourite from Florence + the Machine. There’s English choral mixed with RnB mixed with jazz – jazz drumming, anyway. I hear something new in it every time I listen to it.
Suggested articles to Google if you have time and interest:
“Covid-19: The coronavirus’s tangled strands of RNA could offer new ways to treat people who get infected.”
Ha! “Study shows people who believe in astrology tend to be less intelligent and more narcissistic”
A hot “super-Mercury” and a “cold Jupiter” have been found orbiting a sun-like star (mid-G spectrum, those stars are not common) when the data from the Kepler telescope was subjected to deeper scrutiny.
“Benefits of covid-19 vaccination: Almost half a million lives save in WHO European Region since end of 2020.”
“First robotaxis enter service in Beijing”
“Iceland’s journey to the centre of the earth”
Tom Hank’s film “Finch” is partly accurate and partly wrong.
When the solar magnetic field near a sunspot “reconnects”, it releases a lot of energy in a short time, like a rubber band snapping.
These causes two distinct phenomena.
1. A solar flare (photons) -high energy photons like X-rays and extreme UV rays.
2. A coronal mass ejection (particles). Charged particles like protons and electrons, but also some heavier ions are flung off with a high velocity, arriving to the distance of the Earth in a day or so (but the blob of particles is fortunately rarely moving in our direction).
Usually these two come together, but you CAN get one without the other.
A very intense blast of high-energy photons can deplete the ozon layer, and it can take days for the atmosphere to replenish it. This is a dynamical process, and the CFCs that were released until the 1980s severely threatened it. But a big blast from a flare would not have very long-lasting effects on ozone (A nuclear war would be another matter, the chemicals released by that would fuck up the ozone layer badly).
A big coronal mass ejection – like the Carrington Event of 1859 – would lead to a geomagnetic storm once the charged particles hit the magnetic field of Earth. It would trigger a kind of EMP that threatens to fry unprotected electric equipment.
There would also be bright auroras reaching all the way to the equator.
But the aurorae would go back to the polar regions after 3-4 days. The lasting effects would be the fried electronics.
So, in conclusion, fried electronics, maybe you were exposed to dangerous levels of UV light the first week. That means you would have to watch out for cancer later. But you will not fry like a vampire if you go out in sunlight.
The crop of that year would suffer, as vegetation can be damaged by UV light.
So, maybe a famine, some forests may need replantation, electronics and unprotected power grids scrapped, a big rise of skin cancer a few years down the line.
Very bad, but if you get the goddamn power lines working you can start refurbishing your electric infrastructure. The Amish- and most of the third world subsistence farmers – will probably sail right through.
Jeff Bezos and other billionaires will get fucked over, but they will have enough squrreled away to pay black market prizes for food if there is a famine.
I have bored you with references to God Awful Movies a gazillion times, but I need to share this anecdote about David A R White and the hidden ecosystem of American evangelical films.
He is a rich nut that has bankrolled a lot of Christian B films, and he fancies himself an actor so he has featured in a lot of them (he has also created Pure Flix, that streams Christian films that are as boring as they sound.
Noah and Eli bring two British colleagues to a GAM podcast and try to explain the weird phenomenon. “I feel like we have brought them to a Furry convention, except furries are much friendlier than A R White”
A guest: “I have this fascination with really deep lore, we are living our lives on the surface and meanwhile there is this guy that has done hundreds of films. I got a Lovecraftian glimpse of this eldritch horror that is A R White”.
Eli “If you follow us to the town in the film we can show you David A R White as he rises out of the water”.
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You had to do that, didn’t you? I looked him up in Wikipedia. Once seen, he can’t be unseen.
This year’s score of dead hikers: 10 up to October, and we’re just heading into peak hiking season. 500 injuries. 810 rescues – the Fire Services Department’s mountain rescue team are getting a bit sick of it, because most people who need to be rescued have gone off the hiking trails and find themselves in remote locations which are difficult and time consuming to reach, even if the rescue team can get an accurate fix on where those requiring to be rescued are. Someone pointed out the obvious, that some of the fatalities were people who won Darwin Awards by posing precariously for selfies to post online on the edges of cliffs, etc. and…well, the expected happened. Last photo alive looking like Wile E. Coyote in a Roadrunner cartoon when he realises he has just stepped out into thin air and before he plummets downwards – that’s probably just my evil imagination.
Typical – Thursday I got a booster vaccination and was feeling somewhat relieved that I had done everything I could to avoid getting seriously sick from Covid-19, influenza or both, and by Friday (yesterday) morning the news had emerged of the scary new variant that was first detected in Botswana that has 32 mutations on the spike protein, making it look nothing like the coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan in December 2019 and which all of the current vaccines are designed to combat.
And yes, we have already had our first cases of it in HK – 36 yo male flying into HK from South Africa, and who managed to infect the person in the room opposite to his in the quarantine hotel by continually emerging from his room either wearing a mask with an outlet valve (which does not filter the air breathed out), or just no mask at all – all strictly against the rules. They are both obviously now in isolation in hospital. Assuming the 36 yo survives, once he has recovered, he can expect to be charged with one or more offences. They won’t be letting him out of isolation in a hurry, though.
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All 12 of the other people who were in quarantine on the same floor as the afore-mentioned 36 yo male have now been moved to the much less comfortable quarantine camp (but which is purpose-designed, unlike the hotels being used to house arrivals by air from other countries), where they will have spend an extra 14 days.
If he is not already feeling thoroughly unpopular, he will be, soon enough.
Living under a cruel, uncaring autocracy where our rights are not respected and we are treated like shit – unlike multiple European democracies + UK, which have just stopped all inward flights from South Africa + the neighbouring countries, the HK government is still permitting returning HK residents coming from there to land, they just have to do 21 days quarantine.
Finally our Glorious Leader has got something exactly right: “Opening up to the Mainland is far, far more important than bringing in overseas businesspeople.”
10/10. Lots of families that have been separated for well over a year (including mine), lots of kids who live in the Mainland but (used to) attend schools in HK, lots of HK people trying to run businesses in the Mainland, and Mainland people trying to run businesses in HK. Free movement between HK and the Mainland is far more important to the HK economy than opening up to the outside world. The border closure is an artificial separation, when HK is now closely integrated with the Mainland on all sorts of levels.
People are bitching about how they can’t go on overseas holidays. Yeah they can, they just have to quarantine when they come back. They can go hiking in HK instead and fall off cliffs – that will stop them whining.
With respect to my old pal Nury Vittachi and his writers, announcing that HK has conquered the very worrying new Omicron variant might be just a tiiiiiny bit premature. The guy who flew in from South Africa already infected by it tested negative on arrival at the airport, but then tested positive while in quarantine, by which time he had already infected someone else in quarantine.
I suppose what we can be somewhat proud of is that HK was the first to sequence the variant and post it online.
Gaah! I keep ‘liking’ my own comments when I was scrolling. My bad.
Seriously, HK needs to introduce “urban leopards” to the hiking places to make people avoid them. Are “urban rattlesnakes” a thing? Really pugnacious badgers?
There are snakes lurking in the surface drains all along where I go for my evening walks, and in the warm weather they are still very active after dark. I suspect they are just non-venomous Rat Snakes hunting for rats and frogs in the drains, but I am not going to depend on that identification because there is another local snake species that is venomous and looks almost identical.
We have ample Cobras and other venomous snake species, including around the urban areas, but they hardly ever bite anyone because they get out of people’s way when they sense them coming. Pushing through thick undergrowth is not recommended, though. Some guys working at the container port got a bit of a nasty surprise recently when they opened a container full of timber from whichever SE Asian country it came from, and a 4 metre long King Cobra slid out. Reportedly it is quite a common occurrence for various forms of wildlife to crawl out of the containers, but this huge snake was a first. They are also endemic in the rural areas and Country Parks, but they are not common. The smaller Chinese Cobras are a lot more common.
HK never had leopards. I am getting increasingly enthusiastic about the idea of reintroducing some South China Tigers into the Country Parks, to keep the hikers on their toes and to keep down the wild boars and feral dog packs.
I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A lot of tennis players have it, but I had it before I took up tennis. (So it becomes a question of cause and effect – is there something about playing tennis that makes people OCD, or are OCD people attracted to playing tennis for some obscure reason? Rafael Nadal’s OCD rituals are so elaborate that he repeatedly gets warned and penalised by the umpires for time violations, and he tells off the ball kids if they move his drink bottles away from exactly the right places with their labels pointing in exactly the right direction. And he has been getting worse with time – every now and then he adds another little quirk to the rituals. Off a tennis court, he is perfectly sane and normal. I think.)
One of my obsessions is that I have to check under the bed for leopards every night before I get into bed. I know there can’t be any there, but I still have to check for them anyway. They’re sneaky bastards, you know. The first time my daughter observed me doing this, when she was about 6 yo or so, she said: “What are ya looking’ for?” Me: “Leopards.” Daughter, looking a bit nervous: “Are there leopards around here?” Me: “No.” Daughter: “Then why do ya look?” Me: “You never know.” Daughter with puzzled expression. I think that was when it first dawned on her that her father is not completely right in the head. Fortunately she has not inherited my OCD tendencies.
The hikers here just need to be sensible. A lot of them don’t realise how hazardous it can be out in the wild areas, because they are so accustomed to living in the concrete jungle areas where, if you get thirsty, there is a convenience store everywhere you look. They assume the Country Parks must be ‘safe’. They very aren’t safe. And that’s the way I like them. Just as long as no leopards follow me home and hide under the bed.
HK’s Siobhan Haughey has just swum the second fastest time ever in the 200 m freestyle in a race in the Netherlands, then said after the race that she has been feeling a bit sick (‘flu maybe, or menstruation – it happens to female athletes and affects their performance, although it is rarely mentioned).
She is confident she will be fully recovered by next week and is going to have a go at getting the world record.
Hands off, Ireland, she’s ours, and she’s going to stay ours.
3 days ago: Tina Turner turned 82.
2 days ago: Christina Applegate* turned 50
*played the daughter of the horrible Bundy family in Married With Children.
It’s still early days, but the word from South Africa is that the large majority of patients infected with Omicron have been mild. What they can’t gauge yet is how effective vaccines will be in preventing mild infections.
Too early to call, but at least someone is sounding a cautiously positive note, for once.
Actually, he wasn’t being cautiously optimistic, he was sounding very confident. Read the whole thing. I’m fervently hoping he’s right, and at the moment he has seen far more cases than anyone else in the world.
I’ll try to be an even more starry eyed optimist – if it is more infectious but less virulent than Delta, it could displace Delta as the most prevalent variant but cause at worst mild infection. How’s that for optimism?
A Swedish muslim is launching the party Nyans (nuance) .
I do not begrudge him hus democratic rights, but since he wants to burn down a huge wooden sculpture made by the late Lars Vilks I am not sure he ‘gets’ it.
This is a feeling shared by many muslims that have joined established parties.
FYI , I would not be enthusiastic if Christians like Savonarola or Cotton Mather were resurrected and started their own political parties. People that go ‘burn, baby, burn’ generally do not make a sympathic impression. Regardless of religion & ideology.
And I would welcome any muslims who were willing to do what Xians and Jews did long ago; accept “scriptural criticism” about the origin and development of their scriptures. And accept that some things the final prophet did were not very nice (according to their own books, goddamn it).
My own favv religion: worshiping Yog-Sototh. As The Opener Of Ways, he is useful if the lock to your car has frozen solid.
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It’s no wonder that Flo kind of wore herself out – leapt off the stage in 2015 and broke her foot. I was looking at the two women on the right side of the stage, thinking they must be the backing singers, until they picked up their instruments and I realised they were the brass section. The backing singers were stage left. Forgive me if this is all very old – I have only really just discovered this stuff.
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She has some super good songs!
So I’m discovering.
Damn I’m good.
The reason I can’t retire is that I’m just too damned good to retire.
A fair few of my colleagues are going to hate my guts when they get to work tomorrow morning and read their emails. But then, I built a career out of making other engineers hate my guts. Hey, if they can’t take a bit of well deserved criticism, they should read self help books or something; I don’t give a fuck. As long as I get paid for being a bastard, I’m good.
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The Podcast Millennium 7 has an episode about the Chinese air force, mainly its missiles.
Take any claim about capabilities with a grain of salt, some may have an interest in belittling it, others to exaggerate it. I recall the bloated Reagan-era claims about the Soviet airforce.
The Swedish term for this Sunday is 1st advent.
I noticed a big Christmas tree at the town square, and lots of shoppers out to hunt discounts.
If gods got power from their followers in the manner of Pratchett’s Discworld, Mammon would be in a bigger league than Yahweh and Allah. Maybe India has a god of shopping? Vishnu keeps reincarnating as a specialist god whenever something needs fixing.
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Hindu mythology is founded on pure filth. Spot the detail. No, not that one, the other one.
Get up, check my work emails, get an idiotic automated message: “Hi, Hope you had time to recharge.” Actually no, I spent the whole weekend working feverishly. Why do modern companies bother with this rubbish?
Who knows what an ouroboros is? My daughter leads me down some arcane paths.
A disputed anecdote. I choose to believe it is true. As an undergrad in Organic Chemistry lab I breathed a lot more benzene than was good for me because the idiots on the next bench poured their benzene down the drain, strictly against lab safety instructions. Cold comfort is that they didn’t graduate.
Funny part: “… the lady would have died long before she’d drunk enough alcohol to make her flammable.”
True thing: “Pure invention is the fruit of recognition rather than deduction.” That’s the way it happens – you conceive of something intuitively or however else you dream it up, then construct the logic afterwards to support why it should be that way.
Alchemical rabbit holes.
‘According to the Zhenyuan miaodao yaolüe, “Some have heated together sulfur, realgar and saltpetre with honey; smoke and flames result, so that their hands and faces have been burnt, and even the whole house where they were working burned down.” ‘ It seems clear that the ‘invention’ of gunpowder by Taoist alchemists, one of the “four great Chinese inventions” was entirely accidental. They were trying to create an elixir for eternal life and succeeded only in barbecuing themselves and burning the house down.
I’m reminded of one of my school contemporaries, Mad Charlie, who was in the habit of breaking into the school labs, stealing chemicals and equipment, and performing unwise experiments in a back room of his mother’s house. At various times, explosions of varying magnitude were reported occurring at the property. The police raided the house and found all of this stockpiled stuff, including a missing vacuum pump that he would have had to wheel on its trolley all the way home from the school, a feat he presumably pulled off in the dead of night.
[I was myself in the habit of prowling around the school grounds at 2.00 am on nights when I couldn’t sleep, but all I ever did was gain entry, by means I will not reveal, to the securely locked school library and borrow books, which I would duly return to their correct places during subsequent nocturnal visits. Maybe I had the librarian head-scratching about so many books disappearing and reappearing again as if by magic, with no evidence of break-ins, I don’t know.]
One day Charlie launched a sizeable home made metal rocket from his Mum’s back yard, which returned to earth through the roof of a neighbour’s house, narrowly missing the occupants, who were unamused, as were the constabulary. They were pretty sick of Charlie by that point, but they were going to get sicker.
When the Pope visited Perth (not the current one, the antepenultimate one, whatever his made up name was – the Polish one, was he?), Mad Charlie was spotted in the crowd wearing a bright red Devil costume, trying to sneak up to get to the Pontiff and being restrained by security personnel. I guess he could have consoled himself with the knowledge that multiple TV cameras were trained on him while everyone watching at home was falling off the chair laughing – he wanted to create a public spectacle and succeeded, although not quite in the way he had hoped. He was a widely recognisable public nuisance by that stage, hence the collective hysterical laughter at him being hauled away by the cops.
He ended up ‘working’ as a mineral exploration geologist, who are a dime a dozen in Western Australia, most of them unemployed most of the time. Think archaeology is a poor career choice? Mineral exploration geologist in WA would beat it.
I just tracked down the much older version of him on the Internet, and wish I hadn’t. I know where he is. He’s not exploring for minerals anywhere now, he’s hiding in the South Island of New Zealand, obviously not very successfully, given that it took me less than a minute to find him. I don’t know what the poor Kiwis did so wrong to deserve to inherit Mad Charlie, but they’ve obviously got him. Perhaps he will do them a favour some time and blow himself up.
I need to remind myself that some people really should stay forgotten.
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Makes for a great story! What was young Mad Charlie’s agenda, beyond fun with explosives? What is his agenda now?
He’s a sociopath.
I don’t know. I think he was trying to demonstrate to the world that he was an unappreciated genius, and have fun blowing shit up in the process. In reality he was not very bright and lacked application, but according to him he kept failing his exams because the education system was all wrong, when the truth according to him was that he was brilliant and much smarter than everyone else.
His agenda now? To single handedly bring about regime change in China, the USA and any other country you care to name from his secret HQ in Christchurch, but he obviously strongly approves of Brexit.
Christchurch is the city that suffers big earthquakes every so often (got wrecked in 2011/2012), and had the mass shooting of Muslims by an Australian white supremacist a while back. You would need to be unhinged to want to live there, but by the same token it’s as good a place as any to hide, plus accommodation is cheap for self-evident reasons. What is he hiding from? I doubt he is on the run from the law, although with Charlie anything seems possible. He seems to be terrified of the pandemic and thought he would be safe from it there. As it turns out, he isn’t.
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Vaccination rate of the 16 years and older here in my county has reached 89%…. but some of those will have declining immunity. There is a strong pressure on the organisation providing booster shots.
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‘Excentric’ people can be driven by such a long list of possible diagnoses that it usually takes quite a process to find out what is really going on.
Today, ADHD is just one of the many “abbreviation” conditions that make some people have trouble from childhood and onwards.
Once diagnosed, their situations can be vastly improved
People with an undiagnosed brain injury can get problems with impulse control, like the petty criminal that was suspected of killing PM Olof Palme.
Other, non-neurological issues can usually be adressed with a combination of meds and therapy- the problem being the many who lack “sjukdomsinsikt” (self-awareness of pathology).
These days, it is fortunately not so easy to section a patient but the disadvantage is some do not get proper care until they have lost work and home.
Deep-brain stimulation might become a blessing for those who would otherwise only respond to lithium (with nasty side effects), or not respond to anything at all.
And finally we have assholes that not technically have a medical ‘condition’ but fall on a spectrum for narcissism, sociopathy and psychopathy. While not technically sick, they can do enormous damage. I read that 0.5-1 % of men in Britain may qualify for some degree of psychopathy. Depending on their social skills, some might get all the way to no.10 Downing Street.
We like to think evil motherfuckers must be sick, but most of them are not.
I rarely check the stock market, but I just looked at the graph for the last three years.
It is fakkin unbelievable, the dip when covid hit has been reduced to a tiny dip in an upwards slope that just goes on.
Meanwhile-although the unemployment is relatively low – there is genuine poverty for certain groups. And parts of the health care system is understaffed. Don’t get me started on the schools. And this is in a very affluent welfare state, far from the dumpster fire USA has become.
So – as we have discussed before – the stock market is of very limited value as a proxy for how a nation is doing.
Silver lining; I have a fair bit of $ invested so I can afford to donate to causes, but individual action drowns in an ocean of needs.
Right now I am off to buy big sacks of food for wild birds, this is an activity where you immediately see positive results.
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It still seems too early to me to call, but what do I know?
The top experts in South Africa are saying that Omicron appears to be the most infectious variant yet, but causes only mild to moderate illness in the great majority of cases. But it will still cause the hospitals to overflow because of the surge in infections – the moderately ill still need to be isolated and treated, even if it is just to supply them with oxygen until their lungs can cope again. They say the existing vaccines will still be as effective in preventing severe illness, but Omicron could evade them to cause mild illness – that is because the antibodies derived from vaccination will probably not recognise the Omicron molecules, but people will still be protected by the T cells. It’s all Greek to me, I just hope they are right.
South Africa now has sufficient vaccine supplies, but has still only succeeded in vaccinating ~35% of its eligible population because people are resistant to being vaccinated.
The Chinese government will continue the current ‘zero Covid’ policy and keep the country closed off, rather than a ‘live with Covid’ policy and open the country to the outside. That is the correct call for China, given its inadequate health care system, especially outside of the biggest cities, but it will continue to weigh on the economy. That means it also continues to be the essential policy for HK. How long they and we can continue with ‘0-Covid’, who knows? It worked for quite a while for the Ming Dynasty, until those bloody Manchus invaded.
Over the past year or so, about 70,000 HKers have fled to the UK under a deal cooked up by Boris + cronies because they could not tolerate their human rights being crushed in HK (or the prospect of being progressively tracked down and locked up for those among them who had engaged in violence and destruction of property during the 2019 riots). Most are currently living in London, where they are heavily outnumbered by Mainland Chinese living there – Mainland Chinese who are ‘pro-Beijing’, and who now largely control London’s Chinatown, as the HKers were discomforted to discover after their arrival.
After the initial departure of the 70,000, the flow of HKers moving to the UK has now slowed to a small trickle, whether because word has got back that life there is not as rosy as expected, or whether it is just because no one else wants to leave HK or has any pressing need to. Some of the violent types are still lurking in HK, they have just gone underground, from where periodically some of them give themselves away by using social media to tell people how to make bombs and encourage them to attack the police, etc. and duly get hauled away by the cops.
So, what happened yesterday was that the London Chinatown folks were holding a peaceful approved rally to protest against anti-Chinese violence in London. The Anglos are not happy about the pandemic, we understand that, but going out and kicking a Chinaman is not going to make it go away.
A group of the recently arrived HKers showed up at this rally bearing placards to try to hijack the rally and shout “Shame!” etc. at the pro-Beijing crowd. The pro-Beijingers duly told them to go and fuck their old mothers in the time-honoured Chinese tradition, and it degenerated into a very violent street brawl, which had to be broken up by police.
In other words, HK has successfully exported a bunch of violent political agitators to London, where they are continuing to be violent political agitators. And some of the anti-Chinese violence that the Chinatown folks are protesting about is now being inflicted on them by ex-HK Chinese. They are outnumbered and doomed to fail there, just like they were and did in HK, they will just cause mayhem in the process.
So in attempting to attract HK’s best, brightest and richest to go to live in the UK, Boris has just succeeded in importing a bunch of violent crooks. He was much better off with the Poles – at least they could drive trucks.
The irony is almost too much to bear.
I’m currently watching an Icelandic series called Trapped (i.e. by the weather). Early days, but it’s good so far -I’m enjoying the language, the cultural vibe, the intimidating Iceland topography (with the terrifying volcanic interior, which they manage to ignore most of the time), the way the actors effortlessly morph into excellent English when they need to speak to foreigners, the way they obviously hate the Danes and slander them at every available opportunity, and watching people flounder around in weather conditions that make Canada look like a tropical paradise.
I can’t imagine what possessed people to go and settle in Iceland. Yeah, I know, a shortage of available farmland, but I can only think that they must have arrived there in the middle of summer and shouted “Hey, this place is all green and lovely! And there’s no one here!” Suckers. OK, it was largely settled during the Medieval Warm Period, and yes, I know they’re all financially comfortable and cared for. I don’t care, I’m not going to move there ever.
I just discovered the existence of Ásatrúarfélagið. No way I could type that, I had to cut and paste it – looks like it should be some special kind of oral sex, but it’s Icelandic heathenry (which possibly involves some special kind of oral sex, I don’t know), membership 5221- they’re unlikely to overtake Islam any time soon.
They have one hell of a snow plough. What a beast. It’s huge.
London is currently upgrading its sewer system. Construction started on the existing system in the 1860s – then it catered for a population of two million, and was planned to cater for a population of four million. It was largely responsible for the elimination of cholera from London.
London’s population now is rapidly approaching nine million, and the existing system can no longer cope.
The existing system was largely created by covering over rivers and discharging sewage into the covered rivers – the so -called ‘lost rivers of London.’ They’re not lost in the sense that no one knows where they are, they are lost in the sense that they are no longer rivers, they are underground sewers. Because the stormwater run-off discharges into what were those rivers, the system carries a lot more liquid than just the sewage when it rains. They need to separate the flows of stormwater and sewage in the new system.
What do you think those former rivers discharge into? Every year between 30 and 50 million metric tonnes of raw sewage discharge into the River Thames. Untreated sewage. Must be nice. And the Thames discharges into…? I can’t find any mention anywhere of any intention to treat the sewage when the new sewer system is completed, so I guess it will just continue to discharge untreated human shit into the Channel. Lucky French, Belgians and Dutch will continue to be recipients of all of that fine British shit – I bet Brexit made no mention of that. And ‘migrants’ attempting to cross the Channel in unseaworthy small boats will continue to end up going overboard and, not so much trying to swim, as going through the motions.
I thought HK was backward in getting to grips with treating all of our sewage, originally discharging most of it untreated into the inner harbour, where it was flushed out by strong currents but where it gave HK harbour its distinctive smell in the bad old days – whenever we landed at the old airport and were assailed by that smell, everyone on the plane would laugh and say: “Yes, we’re definitely home!” But we do treat all of it now. The pathogens in the sewage are all killed by the treatment processes, which make use of the latest technology. Sewage treatment technology has come a long way since I learned about it at university. They vent off the odours though high towers to be carried away by prevailing winds, so that they won’t bother the citizenry. The treated solids are dried and sent to landfills, and the treated liquids are harmlessly discharged to the open ocean through a long sewer outfall.
Hong Kong people need to continue to believe in Hong Kong – we are a lot better than some people think we are.
Ray Davies grew up in north London and knew what he was writing about.
Dirty old river, must you keep rolling,
Flowing into the night?
74 characters. I’m glad I don’t have to edit reports in Khmer.
The guy who built the Victorian sewage system of London is not as famous as that Isambard bloke, but his heritage has lasted because he consistently picked the best materials, regardless of cost. He set out to create a system that would last at least a century, but lasted even longer.
He should be an inspiration för all engineers, and his works were a great deal more useful than the pyramids built by Imhotep.
OTOH, I’m appalled by how he did it, turning rivers into subterranean sewers.
But then, tunnelling in those days was a very slow, difficult and dangerous endeavour, and tunnelling though the chalk using only hand tools or blasting with gunpowder would have been very difficult indeed.
It is a common enough thing, though – many rivers in many countries have been used as sewers, often without covering them over. At least he recognised the need to physically separate humans from rivers bobbing with faeces from 2 million arseholes to stop the cholera afflicting London (and I imagine they shoved all of the horse shit into them as well, unless they regarded it as useful fertiliser – it is great for growing roses, but then how many rose bushes do you need?).
When my wife and I went to Bali for a holiday, we decided one day to do the long walk from our hotel into Denpasar, the capital city (I use the word city loosely). We were appalled to find ourselves walking right beside a large open surface channel brimming with what was very obviously raw sewage and trying very hard not to lose our balance and fall in. And Denpasar was really not worth getting to once we got there. The Hindu temples definitely were worth getting to, and were totally devoid of other tourists when we were there, I presume because the temples were not selling cheap Bintang beer.
An ex-friend once cracked the joke that you can die from a sore toe in Bali. He was not too far from the truth. There are reasons why normally fairly innocuous ailments can be far more serious in Bali, and why I suffered constantly from dysentery for the whole three weeks we were there aside from the first few days (to which my wife obviously had immunity, because she got nothing, aside from being engaged in conversation by a very inebriated Ringo Starr (who didn’t actually qualify as a health hazard, apart from to himself)).
Bali is a shit hole – literally. And the natives can get very nasty indeed if you won’t buy their tourist junk, and that’s just the women. My wife had to fight a bunch of them off me because they were physically assaulting me for not buying anything from them and I wouldn’t fight back because I won’t hit women.
Sunset 14.02, day length 5 hours 9 minuters.
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Sunset at 2.00 pm? Just…no, couldn’t cope with that.
I don’t know what I would find more difficult, very short days in winter or very long days in summer.
Blood groups of Neandertals and Denisova decrypted.
Amazing that they can do this. I love the format of that journal, with the contents list down the left hand side so that you can jump straight to the discussion section (if you don’t want to wade through the alphabet soup of the methods), which has some very interesting stuff about Neanderthals.
Wife keeps saving links to exercise videos. She must have hundreds of them by now. Me: “Why do you keep doing that?” Wife: “I watch them and then pretend I have done the exercises.”
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Effects of Hypopigmentation Alleles and Ancestry on Skin Color in a Caribbean Native American Population.
Click to access 2021.11.24.469305v1.full.pdf
Gee, could they really spare them all of that territory? 3,700 acres, about the size of a small to average family run wheat and sheep farm in Western Australia.
Were known as the Caribs, the allegedly fierce cannibals who used to launch raids against the natives on Hispaniola that Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ and enslaved.
Strange paper – it reads a bit like some of the old anthropological or ethnographic stuff.
No photos of the folks (presumably for ethical reasons – they had to build a relationship with their council for 15 years before they would even agree to getting volunteers to participate in the study (mind numbing)), but you can get a look at them by doing a search for Kalingo in Google Images. They are not really that dark skinned at all – sort of medium to light brownish, except the albinos, of course.
You can look them up under “Kalinago” in Wikipedia. Their existence is threatened. Well, of course it is – if a Kalingo woman marries an outsider, she has to leave the reservation, so they are progressively draining off their women. If a Kalingo man marries a woman from the outside, she is permitted to live on reservation, so they are progressively replacing Kalingo women with women from the outside. My personal theory is that women are the keepers of a lot of culture (the hand that rocks the cradle, etc.). So, they live in a tiny territory, if they were isolated by some form of Apartheid they would become inbred and die out anyway, so inevitably they are culturally and genetically doomed to disappear some time – bred out of existence. Very many human groups must have existed in the past which became extinct without general knowledge of their existence.
But note in the paper, the odd occurrence of Oceanian ancestry. You know what Oceanian means – Australian, Papuan and Melanesian. This has also been found in some but not all South American groups. It has caused a lot of head scratching. Well, it is now accepted that some Polynesians got to South America, and Polynesians have varying amounts of Melanesian (or Papuan) ancestry, or it comes from something ancestral in SE Asia which contributed to more northerly groups who in turn contributed to Native American ancestry, and which also contributed to Oceanians on their way migrating to PNG/Australia. It’s all mostly theories, except the certainty that some Polynesians made it to South America. And back again.
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Damn, I didn’t actually mean to post the whole paper.
FFS. Discussion of forming land to provide enough housing supply, and some people want to build HK’s first motor racing track.
Hello? The very last thing HK needs is a motor racing track.
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The Japanese cities do this all the time, and they have to take in account how the ground sinks as the earth and rock used to fill out the sea inevitably gets compacted.
The north Swedish coast and the western Canadian coast do not need “filler” to rise from the sea.
BTW Otto von Bismarck had Germany buy the company that built the London sewers and let them repeat the achievement for Berlin.
There is no big river or sea nearby.
The waste was pumped away and recycled as fertilizer… which makes me wonder about the working conditions.
The Finns allied to the Germans in order to recover Finnish territory lost as a consequence of the Winter War, but then stopped and refused to comply with German orders to further advance.
You are telling a geotechnical engineer from Hong Kong about the engineering problems of reclaiming land from the sea? Ummm…
Taiwan also has an emergent coastline, but that is due to tectonic movements, not deglaciation.
Japanese rice is widely regarded as the best rice, but it is the most expensive. Japanese rice farmers are heavily subsidised by the Japanese government. Japanese rice farmers use human excrement as fertiliser for the rice crops, which are grown by wet farming, so they are wading around in human shit when planting, but they wear protective clothing – rubber boots and latex gloves.
Problem – human excrement is full of contaminants including heavy metals. Rice is excellent at uptake of whatever minerals, chemical elements and compounds it is grown in. American rice should be avoided because it is high in arsenic, because it is grown in fields that were previously used to grow cotton, which received heavy applications of pesticides to try to combat boll weevils and other insects that used to attack the cotton.
But no one warns about contaminants in Japanese rice. Or any other rice. Everyone just seems to assume that rice is a ‘clean’ crop. My suggestion – if you find live weevils crawling around in your bag of rice, it is probably a good sign. The weevils die when the rice is steamed, without contaminating the rice, the dark coloured corpses are highly visible among the white rice grains, and you can just pick them out with your chopsticks if you have an aversion to accidental insect consumption (which you are getting when you eat other grains anyway).
My much loved late Chinese mother-in-law always said it was good luck to find weevils in your rice, and I think she was right.
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Click to access 2021.11.29.470407v1.full.pdf
Birger, have you watched Anaconda (1997) ‘starring’ Jennifer Lopez? It’s a classic.
Best line in the film: “Last time I was in water like this, I was up all night picking leeches off my scrotum.”
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