Friday, January 21, 2022

LInks 21 January 2022


The garden on the Egyptian scribe Nebamun, from the wall of his tomb, c. 1350 BC

The archaeological record of the Faroe Islands begins around 850 AD, with the arrival of the Vikings. But study of lake sediments reveals that sheep arrived around 500 AD, and presumably somebody must have brought them.

Lovely photographs of the Faroes by Lazar Gintchin.

Polar bears took over an abandoned settlement in the Russian arctic, and Dmitry Kokh has amazing pictures.

Investigation of red light cameras in Chicago finds that they give out many more tickets in black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Racism? Something to do with the geometry of poor neighborhoods? Or just a difference in behavior? One complaint I think is legitimate is that the fines ($100 or so) are trivial for well-off people but onerous for the poor. But I think the solution often suggested, making them a percentage of your income, turns what it supposed to be a simple, cheap safety measure into complicated bureaucratic problem.

In an interesting essay at Harper's, Meghan O’Gieblyn ponders the role of routine in her life, and ours.

The news from 9th-century Peru: during the Wari Empire, people at a settlement now called Quilcapampa held communal feasts at which they drink a lot of chicha, a beer-like liquid made from the molle tree, laced with the hallucinogen vilca seeds. The excavators say the ruling elite provided these feasts as a means of maintaining control, but I'm not sure getting everyone roaring drunk is always a good way to keep them under control.

Broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum), a grain crop from East Asia, was grown in Iraq by 1100 BC. The archaeologists who published this make it out to be a surprise, but it seems to me one thing we know about early farmers is that they were always on the lookout for new plants and shared them widely. Think how quickly potatoes were taken up in Europe, and hot peppers around the world. 

The underground town of Nushabad, Iran; to me the most impressive thing is that it was somehow completely forgotten for centuries.

New study argues that multiple sclerosis is triggered by viral infection, in particular by the Epstein-Barr virus.

DNA analysis reveals that the animals that pulled Ancient Mesopotamian war wagons, called kunga in our sources, were infertile crosses between domesticated donkeys and wild Syrian asses.

Looking around for something on the political fight over wolf and bear hunting in Montana and Idaho, I found this NY Times piece, which says "predators are part of the culture wars," and this ungated piece at Vox. Some people just hate wild predators and like to blame them for things, possibly because shooting them restores a sense of control. As a rancher you can't do much about Federal range rules or beef prices or the weather, but you can get your gun and defend your land. But there is no evidence that the 1,200 wolves in Montana are having any impact on either ranchers' profits or elk and deer populations.

More "specimen cabinets" by Steffen Dam.

The mysterious habit of concealing shoes in buildings – in foundations, behind walls, under floors, in attics – which goes back at least to the Middle Ages and continued well into the 20th century. Thousands of cases are known.

A list of contemporary "heresies."

Rasmussen poll finds large numbers of Democrats favor harsh penalties for people who refuse to get vaccinated or question the efficacy of Covid vaccines on social media. I suspect most respondents were venting their anger rather than really advocating prison for the unvaccinated, but they're not displaying much tolerance.

The Biden administration calls for an extra $650 million a year to be spent on controlled burns and forest thinning in the west to better control forest fires. (NY Times)

Lots of chatter these days about huge batteries to help out utility grids, but the best way to store a lot of energy is still pumping water uphill: one project being built in Australia will have more storage capacity (350,000 megawatt hours) than all the utility-scale batteries in existence.

Brown Windsor Soup, allegedly a famous lowlight of English cooking, never really existed until after it became a widespread joke.

Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner argue that while the Left in America is bad, the Right is worse and much more dangerous. (New York Times)

Defense vlogger Binkov has a 20-minute video up on how drones will change warfare. He thinks they will only further advantage the richer, better-armed side and will not help weaker forces (terrorists, insurgents) overcome stronger governments.

CIA report says they have no evidence linking "Havana Syndrome", the mysterious ailments suffered by some US diplomats, to "state actor involvement." Sick people used to blame demons or witches, but now they blame microwave attacks.

Politics as a health threat: "the findings from the survey suggest that somewhere between a fifth and a third of adults—roughly 50 to 85 million people—blame politics for causing fatigue, lost sleep, feelings of anger, loss of temper, as well as triggering compulsive behaviors."

The University of Michigan has fired its president for an entirely consensual affair with a subordinate. Ok, he was the president, and it was against the rules, so maybe we should expect him to abide by the rules he is in charge of enforcing. But this bugs me: "Schlissel’s conduct was 'particularly egregious' because he had taken a public position against sexual harassment, the board said." (New York Times) Why can't you be against sexual harassment and for consensual relationships between adults? Why is love, which this appears to be, an offense against the smooth running of institutions so offensive it must be stamped out, the perpetrators dismissed? 

7 comments:

G. Verloren said...

The archaeological record of the Faroe Islands begins around 850 AD, with the arrival of the Vikings. But study of lake sediments reveals that sheep arrived around 500 AD, and presumably somebody must have brought them.

There need not be any contradiction between these two fact.

I know that in later centuries, it was common practice for sailors to "seed" islands with pigs, sheep, etc, with the intent of letting a population build up as a future food source to exploited when they returned later on. It would make sense for the practice to have existed in some form or another long before then, even. I could see the ancient Greeks populating uninhabited Mediterranean islands in this manner, for example.

There is also the prospect of a failed colonization, or even a shipwreck, leading to the introduction of sheep but not humans.

And, of course, it's also possible that the archeological record extends back further than we've yet discovered...

G. Verloren said...

One complaint I think is legitimate is that the fines ($100 or so) are trivial for well-off people but onerous for the poor. But I think the solution often suggested, making them a percentage of your income, turns what it supposed to be a simple, cheap safety measure into complicated bureaucratic problem.

Justice is rarely simple and cheap.

It would be much simpler and cheaper to not have jury trials. It would be much simpler and cheaper to do away with minimum and maximum sentencing and simply apply the same punishment to everyone regardless of severity or circumstances of a crime. It would be much simpler and cheaper to just presume the accused are guilty until proven innocent.

...and yet, no one seriously suggests making said changes, despite the "complicated bureaucratic problem" that is our court system.

G. Verloren said...

I suspect most respondents were venting their anger rather than really advocating prison for the unvaccinated, but they're not displaying much tolerance.

Tolerance? Nearly 900,000 innocent Americans are dead, and you want people to be tolerant of the people who are ensuring those numbers keep climbing?

In two years, we've lost three times the number of Americans as were killed in the four years of World War II. This pandemic has killed Americans six times faster than the worst war in American history, and you expect people to be tolerant of the selfish bastards who are prolonging the fight?

We incinerated entire cities on the pretext of saving American lives - not just with nuclear fire at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but with conventional flames as well in countless other cities we intentionally waged a horrific firebombing campaign against.

The lengths we were willing to go to in order to spare American lives were staggering. We butchered and burned our way through untold innocent civilians to end a war that was claiming a fraction of the American lives this pandemic claims every single day. Where was our tolerance then?

The Japanese government was at war with us, openly working to kill our soldiers, and that was enough to "justify" our monstrous misdeeds at the time. Nearly eight decades later, we still officially maintain that our actions were just and necessary.

Now the anti-vaxxers are at war with us, openly working to kill our civilians, but we lack the spine to impose comparatively minor sanctions against them, such as restricting their access to public spaces? We used to jail people for rejecting the draft and refusing to kill - but now we blanch at the thought of jailing people for refusing to help prevent needless deaths?

We have laws against criminal negligence in this country! If you endanger someone else or allow them to die through your own selfish inaction, you go to jail!

...except, apparently, when the method of endangerment or death is a pandemic disease? What absolutely disgusting hypocrisy. What utter moral feculence. What miserable, sniveling cowardice.

Tolerance? You spit on the graves of innocents condemned to death by the selfish few when you talk of tolerance for their killers. You should be ashamed of yourself.

G. Verloren said...

Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner argue that while the Left in America is bad, the Right is worse and much more dangerous.

In other news, studies show that water is wet.

John said...

@G- I don't think your seeing the unvaccinated correctly. The vaccination rate is lower among blacks than whites; how many poor black people are you going to send to prison for refusing to be vaccinated? The lowest rates of all are found on Indian reservation; how many Indians would you jail for refusing the white man's medicine?

G. Verloren said...

@John

How many people would I jail? As many as are proven guilty of breaking the law, recklessly and senselessly endangering the lives of their innocent fellow citizens.

If a plague ship sailed into NYC harbour, you wouldn't allow the passengers to disembark just because they were all minorities, and you were afraid that some theoretical person might argue in bad faith that to do so would be some form of racist repression. You would keep them on the boat (or otherwise quarantined) by any means necessary, so as not to endanger their fellow citizens - just the same as you would do for any passenger of any race.

It really feels like you arguing in blatant bad faith. You are trying to take a matter that applies to everyone universally, and reframe it as some sort of racial injustice, when that is flatly not the case.

To demonstrate the absurdity of your position, let's simply switch out the offense in question - "How many poor black people are you going to send to prison for murder?" The only sane answer, of course, is - "As many as are proven guilty of breaking the law".

And we're not talking about disparities in sentencing severity for the convicted based on race; we're not talking about systemic racism in the courts, the police, et cetera; we're not talking about jury bias and people being convicted on flimsy evidence because of racist influence; et cetera. We're talking about open and shut cases, fully provable and factually proven, wherein there is zero question that the person in question has committed a murder.

No sane person would argue that laws outlawing murder are somehow racist. The enforcement of said laws may often be racist, but not the law itself.

Likewise with laws requiring people to be vaccinated. Your race is irrelevant, and there's not even any room for racist enforcement - you either are vaccinated, or you are not. It's the simplest thing in the world to prove, and even if you somehow (for ostensible racist systemic reasons) couldn't demonstrate convincingly that you had actually already been vaccinated, all you would need to do is revaccinate (for free, in minutes) and be issued your proof of vaccination, in lieu of going to prison.

The mental gymnastics required to somehow seriously think that requiring universal vaccination would be racist are frankly staggering.

~~~

Oh, also? Your information on vaccination rates (while wholly irrelevant) is seriously flawed, at least in part.

Native Americans on reservations, despite deep (and wholly justified) mistrust of the US government, despite the frequent hardships of life in crushing poverty, despite living in isolated reservations where the nearest medical facilities can be shockingly far away, actually have one of the best vaccination rates in our country - and they also embraced vaccines more quickly than most, hitting higher vaccinations rates more quickly than other ethnicities as soon as vaccines were made available to them.

szopen said...

It seems from UK experience that vaccination is not stopping the spread of the plague - it however helps A LOT in terms of preventing deaths and serious complications for people who got sick and are vaccinated.

"Although vaccination still lowers the risk of infection, similar viral loads in vaccinated and unvaccinated persons who are infected with the delta variant call into question the degree to which vaccination prevents transmission."

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2116597

There are also minor questions of people like my sister who could NOT be vaccinated because of health reasons (she is allergic). Or who have already had CV19 (which is more or less equivalent of being vaccinated).

I just got the third shot, BTW.