Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Why is Japan different?

Having been to Japan, and being at a loss to describe it, I was hoping to be enlightened by this article in Foreign Policy.

Unfortunately, the article doesn't explain any of the following.

I'd like to see this. For research purposes.

I was going to see the Robot Cabaret, but my traveling companion took ill, and we skipped it.

French-fry phone case.

The idea of spaghetti with ketchup reminds me of a friend of mine who had nothing to eat but pasta and ketchup while on an expedition to the Rwenzoris.

Harajuku fashion.

Hello Kitty becomes a teenager.


Hard times.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The US election . . ..

. . . has taken a remarkable turn. The sudden impetus of Trump has led me to a working hypothesis in which the Deep State has decided to abruptly vomit the neocons out of the political system.

Consider--the neocons supported Rubio, but they probably could have lived with just about any GOP candidate except for Donald Trump. Although Trump said a lot of alarming things, he did give the impression that he would talk to "enemies" of America, and in fact, seemed to be of the opinion that whatever deals might be made would have to benefit both sides (as they would in business). Since neocon ideology is centered on the notion that no countries other than America can have legitimate national interests that conflict with the goals of America, any reasonable agreement with Russia, or China, or Iran, etc. would be dismissed as appeasement. The neocons clearly had no future in a Trump administration. Once it became clear that Trump was likely to win the Republican nomination, noted neocons like Robert Kagan began to abandon ship and jump to the Clinton campaign.

Such is the state of politics in the US--at least to an outsider. It is so polarized that it is difficult for me to imagine that they would maintain any credibility jumping from one party to another. If Clinton does win, things will probably still work out for Kagan and crew.

But the tenor of the press seems to have changed in the last few weeks. Outside of the Washington Post, newspaper articles are starting to look at the possibility of a Trump presidency, and stories about weakness on the Clinton side are also appearing. To me it looks like Trump has come to some sort of accommodation with the Deep State, and Clinton may be on her way out. Taking the neocons with her.

This should at last finish them off. Future Democratic contenders will be far less likely to burden themselves with Kagan and company, and I wouldn't think the Republicans will take them back after their betrayal.

17 Contenders - the story of the 2016 election (stills from 14 Blades)

Our story begins as Donald Trump and sixteen other contenders vie to become the Republican presidential candidate.

No quarter is asked or given.

Trump begins to attack.

Another early favourite is Ted Cruz, whose campaign slogan "Trust Ted" seemed a little oxymoronic.

Trump dispatches most of his fellow Republicans using nothing but chicken bones and hair gel.

Jeb Bush was only slightly more trouble.

Ted Cruz finally falls before Trump's flashing blade.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is the reported front-runner for the Democratic Party. Early on, it becomes clear that her main contender is Bernie Sanders.

"I can't wait 'til this is all over and I can finally stop dressing like Jack Sparrow."

She begins destroying her competition, culminating in her defeat of Sanders.

At last we reach the main event.

Electoral college members prepare to vote.

Clinton: A girl like me is fortunate indeed to run for President against someone like you.

Trump: Most of my opponents thought they were lucky. But their luck ran out . . .

Property damage ensues.

Clinton thinks she has the upper hand. But does she?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bamboo slips in Changsha

What shows us the most about ancient civilizations?

We learn the most from mundane records. Bills of sale. Tax receipts. Water charges. Land registries. Most of these things would go unremarked in our civilization—we always imagine that people in the future will know of us through high literature, or the bible, or something. But the boring records of land taxes and the like, which are piling up in all the offices of governments everywhere, will give the most vivid picture of our society.

It may seem disappointing that one day archaeologists will be studying Hansard and interpreting the ins and outs of Canadian fuddle-duddling from the words therein. As opposed to reading Robertson Davies or Atwood, or maybe Mowat. Of course, it could be worse. Perhaps the only documents you might find would be the minutes of the meeting in which the Reform Party was founded.

One fairly recent discovery of this type is on display at the Bamboo Slips Museum in Changsha.  The bamboo slips are thins rods of bamboo, on which were written the detailed administrative records of an ancient city in China. Tax records, land transfers, sales—all recorded on more than 100,000 wooden strips, some of which are seen below.

The museum itself is a modern-looking building, festooned with bamboo trees. Unfortunately, like many Chinese museums, there is a lot of wasted space inside. 

Different forms of slips include narrow bamboo slips, and wider tiles. Don’t ask me to interpret what is on them.

Given today's preference for digital records, it is entirely possible that we will leave nothing readable behind. That is a slightly different problem than not leaving behind anything worth reading, which is another distinct possibility.

Treestump peacock sculpture (edit: actually a phoenix).