Saturday, 31 August 2019

Linguistics matters

You see from the Headline that, imo, Science Matters. But the Arts Block matters too, because Science is just A way-of-knowing not the only one. Science has little useful to say, for example, about compassion, fury or injustice. In my work at The Institute, I spend a lot of my billable hours reading "English" as written by students, many of which didn't do very well in school. If they'd done better in school, they'd have gotten bigger points on their Leaving Certificate and gone to TCD or Oxford. I edit student's work with a light hand, because I want to nurture their passion for science rather than getting all their apostrophes in a row: ' ' ' ' ' ' '. I've written before about the sad sack Apo'strophe Nazis, who are picky about such matter's with barely literate young adult's. Reminds me of Emerson's old saw "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds".  Nevertheless, it's better if our students use correct spelling and grammar in, say, job-applications because it's self destructive to rile up your future boss if s/he is old school about apostrophes. But other attributes are actually more valuable in the workplace: punctuality, honesty, attention to detail, ability to get along with co-workers, commitment, loyalty, reasonably clean undies . . .

For normal people grammar and spelinge are important insofar as they help rather than hinder communication. Lawyers and legislators, writers of safety instructions, authors of technical manuals have work harder than the rest of us to ensure that there is no ambiguity. One of the axes with linguists describe their field is prescriptive vs descriptive. This short video explains the difference . . . and also deals with prescriptive [please do this] vs proscriptive [do not do this] which wasn't clear to me the one time I used it before. I suppose that students of linguistics talk about "them dirty descriptivists" and "those doctrinaire know-it-all prescriptivists". You may gather that I'm on the descriptive side of the fence because I know that shifty words change their meaning as we evolve and develop. Dapper means 'brave' in Dutch but merely "fastidious" in English. Slim is 'cunning' in Dutch but 'unfat' in English.  Just sticking with English; nice evolved from meaning  ignorant or boorish to excessively luxurious to refined to vaguely positive.

Noah Webster, the definitive American dictionarist claimed to be a descriptivist: A lexicographer's business is solely to collect, arrange, and define the words that usage presents to his hands. He has no right to proscribe words; he is to present them as they are. But he was deluded in himself because he was the central figure in giving Americans a not-British set of spelling conventions: labour licencsing organiszes travelling catalogues

I was given a late bday present of Linguistics, why it matters by Geoffrey Pullum, which is refreshingly descriptivist in tone, pulling up The Man for condemning people what don't talk proper.  He cites a case where the evidence of a key witness in a murder [of Trayvon Martin, R] trial [exec summ] was dismissed because it was given in AAVE AfroAmerican Vernacular English. That dialect was briefly termed Ebonics until it's use was caught up in a political frenzy of correct usage 20+ years ago.

Pullum was compelled by Polity Press the publisher to limit his gab to 25,000 words, which he found quite constraining because his erudition and love of language encourage him to rabbit on a bit. But Polity reckoned they could only shift a profitable number of books (on Linguistics FFS!) if it didn't weigh too heavy on the mental and attentional capacity of potential readers.  Perhaps because of their editorial strait-jacket, it reads a bit disjointed with some chapters
Chapter 1: What Makes Us Human
Chapter 2: How Sentences Work
Chapter 3: Words, Meaning and Thought
Chapter 4: Language and Social Life
Chapter 5: Machines That Understand Us
more accessible / enjoyable-to-me than others.

If you read it you'll be empowered: you can start a sentence with "And" or "However" because numerous fine authors have used that construction. And there are perfectly legitimate sentences that end with a preposition. Pedants who tell you there are a rule against this had been hobgoblinned.

Pullum's name rang a tinkly bell but I couldn't place it until he started in Chapter 3 about Fifty Eskimo Words For Snow which I wrote about in February.  I have also been guilty of a false dichotomy between Arts and Science. When Pullum writes "How likely is that grammar rule R is correct, given that we find E evidence of how people speak and write?" . . . "How likely is it that evidence would look like E if grammar had rule R?". That what we do all the time in science, make observations to try to make sense of some aspect of the universe we live in in which we live.

Friday, 30 August 2019

10,000 hours is bollix

Hey, let's all
  1. not beat up on ourselves 
  2. realise that we can't [cross]check everything 
    • some things we can take on trust
    • because they come from an authoritative source
    • or because it's been a long day
    • and because the sky won't fall if we're wrong
I read Malcom Gladwell's book Outliers when it came out. Actually, I was given a copy by a palomino who thought it was the best thing he'd ever read and bought six copies off Amazon for distribution. Lots of people have a better crap-detector than me. I'm a credulous sort of bloke: things sound great if they are argued with confidence and fluency. Gladwell had been a journalist for more than 20 years when he wrote Outliers. You don't last that long in the Fourth Estate unless you have confidence and fluency; and Outliers is readable, compelling even. It sold very well: top of the NYT best-seller lists for 3 months. The key idea of Outliers is that, in any and every profession, you can only get to the very top if you engage in a helluva lot of deliberate practice - 10,000 hours is the baseline requirement. Other things help: native talent, genetic endowment, supportive family, money for lessons, inspiring teachers, ambition, and luck; but without the 10,000 hours you are likely to be at nothing.

At the very birth of The Blob in 2013, I used this idea, citing Gladwell as if that was an authoritative source, about Charles Darwin and his sojourn with barnacles. Immersing himself in the details of data for 20 years was an essential prerequisite for his ground-breaking later insights. That idea may be true in some cases, but the evidence for it being generally true is so thin that I should have been able to see straight through it. Part of the problem is ascertainment bias: you find a few elite players who have done their 10,000 but (consciously or not) ignore others who have sailed to the top without particular effort.

This-all has surfaced recently [Vox; ScienceAlert] because Brooke Macnamara [smiling R] and Megha Maitra [both of Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland OH] have replicated the original 1993 study [Ericsson, Krampe & Tesch-Römer 1993 Psychol. Rev.100, 363–406] that provided the scientific credence to Gladwell's hypothesis. The sample-size in both studies was woefully small: N=30 in 1993 and N = 13 + 13 + 13 = 39 in 2019 and dealt only with young violinists. That is 13 elite; 13 good and 13 meh players as rated by their teachers. And that's really not an objective assessment of the quality because some kids are just annoying to some teachers. But BM & MM have made more effort to incorporate double blind assessments in their study, and are definitely more aware of their bias. Seems that elite and good players practiced the same amount. They conclude that 26% of the variation in ability comes form the amount of practice-makes-perfick; that says that 74% of how good you are is attributable to luck, money and a loving Mum. That is a much more nuanced, less black white , answer than the Belgian study from 1993.

Ther problem is in the translation from science to popular discourse. Journalists in general and Gladwell in particular [he's generated more loot out of this than everyone else together] don't do nuance because they think it does make a good story . . . too complicated for their readers who are as stupid as a box of hair. And yes there is a downside because it puts labels on plain folk: not elite? it's because you didn't work hard enough . . . loser. The reality is that there are a rattle of people who are really good at [insert weird talent / skill here], who are effectively indistinguishable as to talent but that a handful of that cohort go on to get all the fame, fortune and groupies because of accidents of timing, luck or network. Like Harry Potter going viral and sucking in all the sales like a black hole.  [multiple previous blogoslags] And given how unreproducible the violin studies are, nobody should extrapolate to footballers, lawyers or bloggers. But don't ask me, I've only been bloggin' for 6,000 hours so I must know nothing.

That problem with the 10,000 hours and the Protestant work ethic trope (apart from having little evidence to support it) is it puts lots of people in a crap-hole feeling like the reason they aren't rock-stars is because their efforts were not enough. I am happy to report that my ambition genes were shot off in the war: since I was a nipper I 've been bumbling along in the second-rate bin [not 3rd, 4th, 5th rate, I know my merits too]. If we didn't tolerate a really unequal winner-takes-all 'meritocracy' where the 0.001% get a wholly disproportionate share of the pie, then everyone could relax about the glittering prizes and just have fun doing what they love. I really believe this.

Malcolm Gladwell will be donating all the profits for Outliers to I-SAD the Institute for Skeptical Assessment of Data . . . not!

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Haptic Phatic Part 1

People of my age will have had Reader's Digest in their orbit, even if they didn't read it. One of the regular features in the monthly pot pourri was It Pays To Increase Your Word-power - a lit of words and their definitions which the editor estimated might be an inch or two beyond the vocabulary of the readers. Recently, two words surfaced which were new to me, that happened to be anagrams.

Haptic is 'tactile' for knobs. Tactile is from Latin but the other work comes from Greek ἁπτικός (haptikós, “able to come in contact with”. Knobs here are not door-knobs but people who desire to impress with the erudition. For people like that Greek trumps Latin. Haptic has acquired legs, or rather fingers, recently with the growth of haptic technology where robots are being developed to carry out tasks previously needing the human hand,  1000 years ago, everything needed the human hand: sewing, hammering, flipping pancakes, driving screws, playing ping-pong. All these can now be carried out by robots. The very earliest technological advances were to replace human brute force with mechanical substitutes. Fulling mills for pounding cloth; steam hammers for flattening iron billets to make axes; these machines could definitely be caled up in a way that biceps could not.

The delicate handiwork like sewing and marquetry held out for much longer but eventually fell to Isaac Merritt Singer and his mid19thC contemporaries. It's hard to imagine that nails were hand-made in medieval times and so valuable that old houses were burned to the ground so that the nails could be recovered for re-use. When you pick up an egg, the feed-back of your proprioceptic sensors allows your thumb and fore-finger to exert just enough pressure for the task. [R source] It took a while and a lot of scrambled egg for a robot to do as well as a 4 year old child. Robot Fail!

Micro-surgery works a lot better if the surgeon can get haptic as well as visual feedback: prod prod is less likely to become prod gush with both modalities engaged. If you can fit a surgeon with a haptic glove, that can scale up and out in amazing ways: then there is no need for the neurosurgeon to be in the same hospital or even the same country as the patient.
This haptic gig was launched by a techno-piece on the BBC about reading sign-language into text using an AI interface. Reading signs is a doddle for deaf-people and for deaf-allies like Dau.I who now has a formal qualification in Irish Sign Language ISL after enrolling in a teaching / conversation class paid for by Dublin City Libraries. That CPD [continual personal development] can pay off if you play your cards right. Human ISL readers have no problem reading the rapid waggling fingers in all orientations and distances. You can ear-wig on someone else's personal conversation on the other side of a railway carriage. The human mind can integrate fuzzy information: heck, they can read human faces to pick up evasions and insincerities.The problem with the translating ISL robots is that they need hard[ish] data to process. The lads at Google reduced the variability of human hands to 21 points representing the tips and joints of the 5 digits anchored to the wrist. Knowing that all hands are built this way makes it easier to read a 'real' hand from a variety of angles and from there it's relatively straightforward to translate the hesture to a letter.
I think that's enough: Phatic Haptic Part II to follow.

In the pursuit of completeness, and to ameliorate your immediate disappointment <wot, no phatic?> I found other elements in this word family.
Pathic n. the male passive partner in anal intercourse. from Latin pathicus ultimately from Gk πάθος páthos something endured.
AHPTIC a video company

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Fat City

If you haven't read Philip Pullman's magical [young adult] books, you really should order up the first book in His Dark Materials trilogy from your library. Here on The Blob, I used to cite books with a link to Amazon, especially if they were available for €$£0.01. We're boycotting Amazon at the mo, because of the air miles, the hunting of their employees and because I don't want such monolithic monopolies. Libraries are the future! One of the destinations in Northern Lights is Svalbard, an archipelago in the far North, where panserbjørne armoured bears do battle with the forces of evil. All good stuff; ripping yarn. Me and my pal Rene were getting fat on a cup of tea and sour-cream cake the other day racking our [shit-for-]brains to retrieve the old name Dutch name for Svalbard. Но́вая Земля́ [NL: Nova Zembla] was floated but we both knew that was further East. Ans: Spitsbergen! Rene made a pile of money working at sea in the fisheries when he was young and has a restless and skeptical curiosity about the natural and historical world especially concerning they that go down to the sea in ships. He mentioned the existence of the 1619 Dutch foundation of Smeerenburg on the NW corner of Spitsbergen. Less than a week later, I see a link to Smeerenburg on the bloggoburg, which I abstract for you here.

1619 is a long time ago - 400 years indeed. Boston was founded the following year. 600,000 people live in Boston now [just the city; if you include the 'burbs it's nearer 4,000,000] but the population of Smeerenburg is zero. Pretty much everyone [total is a tad over 2,000 souls] in Svalbard now lives further South in Longyearbyen. Dutch whalers had been coming North since Willem Barentsz had passed by looking for a North-East passage to Cathay and untold wealth in 1596. His reports of sleepy lardy bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus waiting to be de-oiled caused a bit of a gold-rush to the North. In 1614 a consortium of Dutch cities formed the Noordsche Compagnie and started to send ships to SpitsbergenThe hard chaws arrived as soon as the ice broke up in the Spring and stayed all Summer killing, flensing and trying down the white gold. The technology of the time required that the rendering [=trying] was carried out on land, and so the flensing process naturally followed ashore.  The Effectives lived ashore in tents. The dead whales were hauled in to the beach. Each year the whalers had to travel further and profits started to fall. In 1619, the shareholders in their comfy offices in Hoorn and Enkhuizen decided to build permanent housing in Smeerenburg, so that the work could commence three weeks earlier and finish three weeks later.

Because so few literate people went up there, the size of Smeerenburg and its facilities grew in the telling until folks back home were claiming that ~15,000 people were living and working in Blubbertown. Boston didn't grow to that size for 160 years. Subsequent writers tended to extrapolate from the very few contemporary reports, so that village became town; solitary wankers became a gaudy brothel; and reek of rancid fats competed with the smell of fresh bread from numerous bakeries. Recent archaeology indicates that at its height, Smeerenburg mustered only 19 dwelling! A permanent village turned out to be only a stop-gap. The whole enterprise closed down about 45 years after the foundations were laid. Whalers found it was more economical to process the dead whales close to the killing grounds. Readers of Moby Dick will remember the massive try-pots on the deck fed with fresh strips of blubber and fuelled by the crispers that remained when most of the fat had been boiled out of the tissue. Nothing went to waste in a massive jolt to the carbon footprint of the Western world.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Not ptomaine poisoning

My Dad was born in 1917 and raised by Victorians. None of them had scientific information at their finger-tips but acquired a set of rules and values from reading the newspapers and listening to the wireless. As well as being super-regular about the timing of meals [lunch 1300hrs ± 2 mins], The Da propagated several food health-and-safety precepts suitable for raising children in a pre-antibiotic age. I've had difficulty shaking them in the years since.

  • Captain Bob's food rules for a long life: 
    • Never buy ice-cream of a brand that you didn't recognise
    • peel apples before eating
    • If living in Malta wash all the fresh fruit and veg in dilute potassium permanganate to kill the coliforms
    • always finish the jar of Shippam's paste at one sitting
      • it would go 'off' quickly after opening without a fridge
    • green potatoes are a source of ptomaine poisoning. 

Ptomaine is a grab-bag term for amine chemicals produced by certain bacteria as they work on dead things. Putrescine and cadavarine are two members of the family and you may guess where these compounds were first isolated. For years these products of pathogenic bacteria was seen as the cause of poisoning from eating old meat, furry vegetables and green potatoes rather than rampant bacterial growth in the gut and the reactions <flush flush> of the immune system.
He was wrong wrong almost right, because his vigilance protected us from green potatoes and ptomaine solanine poisoning. Solanine [first isolated not from Solanum tuberosum but from another member of the family Solanaceae Atropa belladonna deadly nightshade; from which we also get atropine prev] and chaconine are natural products of many members of the family which have evolved to kill or sicken animals which try to eat the plants. Potatoes turn green in the presence of light because the tubers are fooled by the blast of photons into producing chlorophyll to capture the energy of the sun. The same stimulus triggers the up-regulation and increased production of the steroidal glycoalkaloids whose structure is shown above.
*- "steroidal" because they incorporate the four rings of sterol found also in cholesterol, plant stannol esters and our mammalian sex hormones.
*- "glyco" from the three hexagonal ring structures clagged on to the right-hand end of the sterol chunk. Note this end is where the two molecules differ.  I'll leave you to find a 10 y.o. to play spot the difference between them.
*- "alkaloid" is a class of nitrogenous organic compounds of plant origin which have detectable physiological actions on humans. They are a subset of 'plant secondary compounds' which have supplied Pharma and shaman with many useful products. None of these compounds evolved because they provided drugs, medical and recreational, for people but because they messed over potential grazers in many weird and wonderful ways.

Solanine is quite stable and only marginally affected by boiling or frying; so it will still be active after cooking. And, although we do this, I don't think cutting out the obviously green bits is a good solution. The green chlorophyll is not the problem; it is only an indicator that the potato is more hopped up than it was when brown-and-white, The Solanine is quite likely to have bled into adjacent white-and-brown tissue.
What to expect if you eat enough: vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, paralysis of the central nervous system.
How much is enough? 40mg /100g of potato = 400ppm. That's a lot less lethal than Sarin but can still make your feel crook for  while and has been fatal in some cases. Read all about it in Smithsonian.

Why R I on a solanine jag? Because the family descended on us over the weekend [from W: Cork, E: Bath and N: Dublin] and someone bought a large bag of Tayto Bistro Crushed sea salt and aged vinegar potato crisps which soon disappeared - there were 8 adults and 2 children present -  except that everyone left the green chips [R] on the side of their plate. It's a case of paraphrasing Lady Bracknell "To get one green crisp, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to get a dozen looks like carelessness".  I shall write to Mr Tayto to point out this QC failure. Of course, we could just suck it up but I get riled by nonsense labelling like "Gluten Free" on the front of these crisps as if potatoes would ever have any gluten in them. Like Fat Free Porridge Oats - about which I fulminated a few years ago. Never mind the gluten, Mr Tayto, can you assure us that there are no neurotoxins in your product? Imagine if we'd been eating these crisps while watching a movie - we might have consumed the green ones [and the solanine] as we blindly transported them from bag to gob without scrutiny.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Zippo = zero

My PhD thesis was essentially a Genetic-Geographic map of New England and the Canadian Maritimes.  I taught myself Fortran, on a room-size mainframe computer, in order to calculate Kidd and Cavalli-Sforza's Genetic Distance between each pair of populations. It turned out that there was a [positive but feeble] correlation between genetic and geographic distance; so that was a deliverable. I wanted to plot my gene frequency data on a series of  maps. People more techie than me were starting to develop digital mapping technology, but the cost was beyond our [zero] budget. I ended up xeroxing a number of blank outline maps of the region and typing in the gene frequencies for each location in approximately the right place. We did speculate about making an ascii-art map by writing a program to print a block of blank lines some of which would have a [gene frequency] number embedded. I knew the Lat&longitude of my sample locations and could scale that information to the blank text block, but I couldn't easily print a wiggly line of dots to represent the coastline, rivers or state/provincial boundaries. I thought about that for a good bit, but eventually submission deadlines loomed and I went for the inefficient won't-scale-up manual-typewriter solution.  That was in 1982.

By 1986, we had moved to England, rented for three years, renewed my 3 year contract and bought a house in Heaton, a slightly down-market suburb of Newcastle upon Tyne. That house was in a terrace large late Victorian red-brick homes NE6 5HR. At about the same time our mate Will got a programming job in London processing the demographic information associated with post-codes. He hacked into the company database to tell us that the housing stock on our street was one third each of owner-occupiers - council tenants - private rentals. From out own lived experience that had the ring of truth. Even back then, before Google [Larry Page and Sergei Brin were in primary school] and Amazon [Bezos had just graduated from Princeton], that data was valuable to commerce. NE6 5HR wouldn't have been the best target for a direct-mail-shot about Jacuzzis, even the double-glazing sales-people had an uphill struggle.

I've ranted about Ireland's EirCode debacle where each house has been assigned a unique ID which has been deliberately designed so that it cannot be grouped or consolidated geospatially. What is fantastically annoying is the EirCode, the company which secured the contract, is really slow in assigning Eircodes to newly built houses. For months Solas Bhride had to piggy back on the EirCode of the neighboring equestrian centre.

The British post-codes quite a bit better in this regard
NE = Newcastle upon Tyne and region
NE6 = One suburb, slightly downmarket from NE2 to the West
NE6 5 = one sector of that suburb
NE6 5HR = HR is a 'walk' assigned to an individual postman with his mailbag.
Our demographics [median income; single parent households; number of pensioners] on NE6 5HR were predictably similar to NE6 5HL immediately to the West. We need these data properly mapped to plan for schools, nursing homes, creches, supermarkets and pubs . . . as well as mail-shots.

I've had a look at US ZIP-codes as well; not very critically. On this thread in MeFi, a load of Geospatial Wizards agreed that ZIP codes were kinda useless for any purpose beyond delivering mail, despite the coding incorporating a hierarchical granularity similar to the Brits. It's worth reading for examples where average [arithmetic mean] income was a poor predictor of the people living in that code: the average income of Sergei Brin's neighbours is really high but they still can't afford a second car.
FilthyLightThief is on my page with this comment: Does it make sense to say "15.327 people will travel from this block to that new shopping center per day when it is completed, resulting in 12.732 additional vehicles on this road every day"? Particularly when you're using aggregated data and not even a travel survey. Even if the software spits that out, the humans reporting it should then say "approximately 15 people are expected to travel from A to B, resulting in approximately 12 additional vehicles traveling on this road every day," The original essay damning ZIP codes for geospatial studies shows a map [above R] of ZIP codes near Flint MI. The city boundary in green is the effective limit of lead-pollution in the drinking water; but only half of ZIP code 48504 is in the city. If you wanted to plan for brain-damaged children, the ZIP code would be a poor predictor.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Next Week

Last August compendium
  • Fud
  • Cod
  • Fun
  • Mun
  • Bom
    • Lady with Alzheimer's dies. Son donates body to Alz charity for research. Chairity sells "most of" the body to the US military for experiments on the effects of IED blasts on the human body. [story] via. Bloboprev on uninformed consent use of [baby] cadavers.
  • Bak
    • Statement: When girls go out wearing tiny tight skimpy outfits I mean they have the choice to wear something else. some thing less provocative, so really girls are asking for it.
    • Counter: If you're out in public and I see you're not wearing protective headgear, does that give me the right to smash in your skull with a hammer? I mean you're asking for it because you're not wearing something to protect your head. source  via
    • Moral: Your rights end where my nose begins.
  • Puz
  • Art

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Not drowning but waving

This may save your life.
tl;dr? Drownproofing!
In my researches about the 1966 Heron Bridge disaster, I came across this "just how dopey can young chaps be?" video. Young Ugg looks barely into his teens, knocking away at a roof-supporting pillar with his hands and palaeolithic rocks, until it collapses almost on his heels. He'll probably live to a venerable old age if he can make it through the thoughtless death-wish years from 15-25. In my Heron Road piece I called myself a wannabe engineer but actually, aged 11 or 12, I wanted to be an architect but my family and teachers 'helpfully' pointed out that my handwriting was so crabby that my blueprints would be illegible and I should choose a different vocation. I believed them and, although I taught myself a fine cursive hand a couple of years later, it was too late for me to go head to head with Gehry, Pei, van der Rohe, Rogers, Safdie and Saarinen.

Actually, through much of my childhood, people would say "You can't do that you're too little / stupid / clumsy / illegible" and I would meekly accept their verdict. Somebody had to be the family nebbish, and, for an easy life, that role suited me. As a sub-teen in the Drake Baths in Plymouth, I achieved a minimum Bronze level of proficiency in the water, while my brother and sister sailed through to Silver and Gold medals. I would have liked to match them, but had been critically sapped of determination and was happy enough to swim a length underwater, or two length on the surface and then cease-and-desist. Maybe related to my weakness in the wind [similar]. So I can swim, but I'm not sure how far I'd get if I had to swim to save my life; although I did once save someone else from drowning. Last week, beachcombing alone at Garrarus strand [prev with buoy] on the Waterford Coast, I threw off my clothes and plunged into the sea for the craic, like, but didn't stay in long enough to get fit . . . or even warm.

These damp musings primed me for reading a MeFi blue on Fred Lanoue, a swimming coach at Georgia Tech whose book Drownproofing, A New Technique for Water Safety (Prentice-Hall, 1963) really didn't make waves when it was published 50+ years ago. You can pick up a 2nd-hand copy for about $40. Who can afford that?  But you can get the key information on this single longish Drownproofing page. Lanoue's method works because he counter-intuitively advises survivors to rest with their face in the water and entrain a gentle rhythm of exhaling every 10-12 seconds and bringing your mouth up for an in-breath and returning to rest position. Calmness is key. You can't do anything about hypothermia and sharks, but conserving energy is going to keep you alive for longer. They say drownproofing is similar to dead man's float - but the top video of that technique show a chap who takes no inbreath at all this one neither. US Navy Seals do it sustainably.

One interesting sideline is that Lenoue wrote that 30% of young black males had negative buoyancy and Mike Kearney the Drownproofing page editor quotes that uncritically. Very few white males have negative buoyancy except those that are really obsessed with having a sculptured six-pack. It's the body-fat, lads! A crap-detecting commenter on Mefi called ArbitraryAndCapricious pointed out that, when Lenoue was writing, many young black men were on the edge of starving and that made all the difference to their buoyancy.

Who can not afford to get acquainted with drownproofing? Bearing in mind the RNLI's chilling note that "Half the people who drowned last year didn't intend to get wet", and that about as many people drown each year in Ireland as get oblivioned on Irish roads.  We can finish by quoting in full Stevie Smith's enigmatic existential poem:
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said. 

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Friday, 23 August 2019

MORE trees are needed

If we want trees to be a solution to our collective carbon footprint, we have to plant 'em, prune 'em and then leave 'em alone for at least 300 years. Planting thousands of hectares with a Sitka spruce Picea sitchensis desert with the intention of harvesting in 30 years is just a money-making scheme; worse in many ways than doing nothing-at-all. We've done our bit, planting up 0.4 ha of our 6.5 ha holding with a mixed woodland: that's about 1,500 trees each for The Beloved and me: or 500 each if we share our smug glow with the people who helped do the planting. We didn't do that in a day! We started in 2007 and spent money and time on the project over the next two winters. Mixed woodland is the best: we planted 10 different species of native Irish trees (mostly
Scot's pine; Pinus sylvestris
Larch; Larix europaeus
Ash; Fraxinus excelsior
Oak: Quercus robur
and there will be other blow-ins on the inventory if we did a careful audit.

That's sort of pathetic, isn't it? If we wanted to make a difference we'd have Wenceslased in the footsteps of our pal Bill Liao who founded a global tree-hugging charity called We Forest. His enterprise has leveraged the planting of 19 million trees up to the end of 2018 = 2.4million in that year. They have a rather useful FAQ for the science/math of tree-planting to offset our carbon feet. The trees cost between €0.60 and €3.00, and we're looking at an income / throughput of about €2,800,000 on 2018; of which 22% goes on 'livelihoods' which I'm guessing the rest of us would call salaries = a wage bill of €600,000 spread across 43 'heads' who are livelihooding for WeForest. That's less than €15K/yr each which seems very low if you're living near head-office in Brussels and a king's ransom for those nearer the coal-face in Ethiopia and Zambia.

As the contributions of individuals are pathetic compared to NGOs, so NGOs pale into the background compared to Governments, even comparatively poor 3rd world governments like Ethopia's. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed [sleeves rolled up for work, but tie still round his neck to symbolise the other important responsibilities of the Head of State] has launched a plan [Exec Summ Grauniad] #GreenLegacy for his country to plant 4 billion trees in 2019 - that's about 40 each for the plain people of Ethiopia. Anyway #GreenLegacy was off to a flying start on 29th July when they co-ordinated the planting of +350 million trees on a single day. That beat India's Guinness Book of Record - a mere 50m/day in 2016 - into a cocked hat. Go Ethiops!

On the basis that some plant and some lean on the shovel watching the planting [PM Ahmed is below average "And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands" 1Sam Ch18v7.] We have data to see who has been punching above their weight on the Ethiopian Tree Planting Stakes. I've snagged populations for each of Ethiopia's provinces from Wikipedia and the tree planting stats from #GreenLegacy, to generate the following table:
Addis Ababa (አዲስ አበባ)
Afar (ዓፋር)
Amhara (አማራ)
Dire Dawa (ድሬዳዋ)
Gambela (ጋምቤላ)
Harari (ሐረሪ)
Oromia (ኦሮምያ)
Somali (ሶማሌ)
SNPPR (ደቡብ ብ/ብ/ሕ)
Tigray (ትግራይ)

And the winner is . . . the Plain People of Oromia [6 trees each] which is the largest and most populous administrative region in the country and which includes suburban Addis Ababa. Nevertheless, the diligent Oromians planted more than double the number per head as the lazy-arses in Amhara [3.3 trees each] and Tigray (Project Desa'a and Seret) [1.8 trees each] where WeForest are devoting their main energies. There's not enough evidence to suggest that WeForest is putting a damper on local initiatives. Obviously other factors are at play than available Effectives to plant the trees. The lowest number of trees are in Afar and Somali, which have really low population density, probably because the climate is too brutal for normal Teff agriculture: trees don't grow in deserts. Or it could be that the locals recognise that it would be impossible to protect the baby trees from rapacious goats and donkeys.

Here's a piece-to-mic from the CEO of WeForest about the Ethiopian initiative.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Where Is Chongqing?

I was recently beating my breast " yew . . 'orrible . . ignorant . . little  . . man" because of  the tiny amount  I knew about Chinese geography. As one person in every six is Chinese, it might be a good idea to beef up our knowledge about that part of the World? Last week, I had a moderate amount of amusement [see 1st link] with 22 youngsters from Southwest University (SWU 西南大学) in Chongqing . . . I have the t-shirt to prove it. We used to call it Chongqing. At the end of their Summer Course, which has cost someone a king's ransom x22, we took them out to dinner at the place where they play traditional Irish music in the evenings. In case conversation flagged, I brought along an outline map of the PRC to see how well the kids knew the internal geography of their country. There's a bit of a meme on youtube and about people from, like, Miami FL who cannot point to Florida on an outline map of the USA. let alone countries where them comm-mune-iss live. Irish know-nothings exist too.

Well I didn't use the map for that purpose because a much better idea presented itself. I asked the young chap, who was scoffing sirloin beside me, why he chose Chongqing, of all the places in the world, for college . . . and where did he come from? His explanation was hard to follow, so I whipped out the map and asked him to put a dot for his home place. The young woman opposite (from Yunnan right on the border with Vietnam) did likewise and then I sent the map round the table for data. This came back:
The rules of Central Tendency suggest that the cluster of red dots more or less in the centre of the scatter is the most likely location of the Alma Mater and that turned out to be true. Chongqing City is in the middle of one of 4 "Municipalities" (the others are Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai) which has an area equal (within 2%) of the island of Ireland; but with 30+million people on board: about 5x more than Ireland N+S. That sounds stuffed but the population density is about the same as Belgium's and much less than England's, so there must be plenty of green space, farms, and parks. Knowing where your students come from can be useful in designing recruitment drives.

The Chongqing 22 came with one of their professors who launched into the map to explain which provinces were where. She was spectacularly wrong in pretty much every attempt: locating Tibet where Xinjiang is and mixing Hainan and Formosa/Taiwan the two largest off-shore islands claimed by the PRC. While we're down South, I've indicated where Hong Kong HK is located at the mouth of the Pearl River. My asserted that the city of Canton was just up river from Hong Kong and Macau was met with incredulity. But I was right, although everyone calls it Guangzhou 广州 nowadays. The province of which Guangzhou is the capital is Guangdong [Canton geddit?] and they speak Cantonese. Cantonese vs Mandarin is about the same as German vs English or Spanish vs Portuguese. The amazing thing is that they write with the same characters, so the characters are pronounced differently but read the same. That has been a major unifying force in the region, even when the area presently called PRC was a patchwork of warlorderies and corrupt governments.

And the fact that Chongqing, clearly one of the smaller territorial divisions of the Republic is the same size as Ireland gives you some sense of just how Big China is. The scale-bar on the map should help also. It's about 2x bigger than the whole EU, and about the same as the USA.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Bobbie goes to Hollywood

Optional soundtrack - FG2H The Power of Love
We are signed up to Blackstairs Farming Futures BFF, and I have undertaken to log all the evidence of human impact on the environment that will be here in 200 years time. "the environment" here being the 200 hectares which we own in common with 18-20 other neighbours. It's fun because I get to name the artifacts which I find. The more obvious artifacts like the Sitka spruce Picea sitchensis plantation, or the sheep-proof fence that separates it from the commonage; or the sheep themselves? None of them are likely, let alone guaranteed to be there, then. But the stones, split by judicious and musical hammers and wedges? The rocks remain [Horslips] [Maxwell]. I show [L] the most obvious example [it's the parallel lines of wedge-holes, silly] of a project to craft a lintel or doorstep from a granite boulder. For whatever reason the mason stopped his own gallop one minute and cried "Feck it! this is going nowhere" and started work on a more promising rock. It is a snap-shot in heritage time quite as vibrant and informative about human activity as Stonehenge or the pyramids if a trifle more humble.

BFF is a pilot study to help imagine and then create a more productive future for Ireland's upland habitats: there's got to be more to it than burning the heather, running some sheep and planting out more spruce deserts. Can we, with a deft twist of a limiting factor in the environment [Iron; Foxes Vulpes vulpes; Pasteurella haemolytica; blocked drains; impenetrable forests of gorse Ulex europaeus] change the whole landscape like The Man Who Planted Trees? Yesterday, eleven of our commoners rented a minibus and directed it to a Teagasc showcase in Hollywood, County Wicklow. We The Eleven sat in the Hollywood Community Hall for an hour being talked at by ecologists and agrifunctionaries. |Then we were bussed up towards the hills to a commonage called Granamore [view below] to see how ten farmers with mountain rights can get round a table and then round a trough of sheep dip and talk out a sustainable future for their lives and livelihoods . . . and give access to hikers and orienteerers and kite-flyers. They told us a little about the practicalities of road-mending; river-fording; draining; controlled burning and a bit of tree-planting.

One qualified statement got me thinking. They showed a poster of sustainable stocking rates (in ewe-equivalents / hectare) for
upland grassland 1.5-5 ee/ha;
dry heath 1-1.5 ee/ha;
wet heath 0.75-1.0 ee/ha;
blanket-bog <0.75 ee/ha.
Those rates are different for the different habitats but all those habitats are represented on Granamore Common . . . and here are no fences. How to keep most of the sheep out of the blanket bog and more on the few patches of good, palatable, nutritious grassland? One cunning plan that has had some success is to lug a 20kg bucket of mineral lick [essentially candy for cows and sheep] to the areas covered in deergrass Trichophorum cespitosum or matgrass Nardus stricta as a honeypot. While there the sheep will eat some matgrass [though it's a bit bleh to normal sheep], trample some deergrass and give better grass elsewhere a chance to grow after, say, a controlled conflagration. All that is predicated on the fact that farming hill sheep is a really unproductive way to earn cash for children's shoes and cornflakes. Farmers will be better off spending time taking sheep to the mart; working in the mart; shearing, ploughing, mowing and baling for their neighbours; working for Teagasc or as a teacher.

Chris "Drummer" Stewart [Driving Over Lemons is wonderful] retired young to Andalucia to potter and write. He earned an honest crust as a sheep-shearer and got to know his neighbours. Several of them were shepherds who were active on the hills more or less all the time. I always thought that the shepherd and his mastiff's primary task with sheep was to prevent predation; and to stop them wandering into the next village for vino tinto y tapas. Wrong! especially now that we have decimated all the top predators. The shepherd can, by her presence, gently shift the flock wholesale from areas-to-be-protected to areas-where-they-are-a-grazing-asset. Even a chap can serve this purpose: load up his smartphone with credit and let him off up there being useful.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Is the mouse a good model?

A few years ago I was embarrassed to admit that I'd never heard of the 4th biggest city in China. [Ans: Tianjin 天津市 - it is near Beijing in the NE of the People's  Republic]. The 3rd biggest city in PRC, after Shanghai and Beijing is Chongqing 重庆市. Now I had heard of Chungking because it was the Capital in Exile in WWII after the Japanese sacked Nanking and occupied Beijing and much of the N of the country. Note the last character 市 is the same for both cities: it means city! Our ignorance of China is immense: the population of Chongqing alone exceeds that of the island of Ireland: could we take the trouble to find out more?

That opportunity was provided last week at the end of a 3 week Summer Programme at The Institute for students of Southwest University (SWU 西南大学) in Chongqing. I was 'volunteered' for 6 contact hours to play some computational-biology games.  They paid me, but not enough to create a whole new course, so I modified part of a comparative immunology module I developed a few years ago. The question I put to the students was
"Is the mouse a good model organism for developing 
a novel therapeutic against such-a-disease".  

One pharmaceutical research avenue which has been fruitful is the development of monoclonal antibodies specific for key molecules in immunological / inflammatrory response pathways. Monoclonal antibodies MABs are amazingly specific in seeking out rogue actors which get over-excited in  a particular disease. What I know about normal human physiology, after teaching it for 7 years, is that the whole system is a set of checks and balances; disease is when this delicate, multiply redundant, complex of interactions goes AWOL. MABs are given dork-dopey names , mostly ending in -mab so that Google-savvy patients don't be bothering their doctors to try the latest me-too drug they read about in Hello magazine.

The standard protocol for a new drug prospect is to build on our increasing knowldge about the molecular fundamentals of a disease and ask . . . if we could put a damper on MAPK then it wouldn't be able to gee-up STAT3 and the whole over-heated system would cool off. MegaPharm is only interested in drugs that will make them a load of money, but they have to ensure that a) they do indeed work in the way intended and b) they are safe to use: that their side-effects are not too damaging. The usual thing is to try out the prototype drugs on a couple of hundred lab mice Mus musculus, and then do some statistics to see whether the idea might be a runner.  If none of the mice get the screaming abdabs [technical term] and enough of them get better, then it's time for the first human trial.

In 2014, I wrote about the most famous case where that next step went horribly wrong with a test of TGN1412 which seemed in mice to counteract the effects of CD28. It was a salutary reminder that mice and men are similar, yes, but also different. Nobody died in that first human trial but several of the human guinea-pigs were badly roughed over and won't ever properly recover.

That gave me the bones of a hypothesis to test with the boys and girls from Chongqing. Let them compare a list of drug targets to see how similar those molecules were in Mus musculus and Homo sapiens. TGN1412 was to be a treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis. My correspondent G who is pain-wracked by RA has been taken off Infliximab because her condition is no longer responsive to having her TNFα tricked about; so she would welcome a novel therapy to help her get out of bed in the morning. But TGN1412 and multiple organ failure is a bridge too far even for her.

The kids from Chongqing were invited to choose one molecule from a list that had been used as a target for a named monoclonal antibody. Starting with Infliximab and ending with TGN1412:
They were then requested-and-required to use the Blast server at NCBI to find the homologous [equivalent] gene in mouse and see just how similar they were. I show above the target-list and, in the last column, the answer for the class. The specific hypothesis under test was that CD28, the TGN1412 target, would be noticably more different mouse-vs-human. And the answer is . . . No!  I emphasised that nothing like this analysis had ever been carried out before since science began in the 17thC: the kids from Chongqing were pushing the Frontier of Science.
Here's some more detail on IL13 one of the crappier comparisons. At 59% identical, you might think that IL13 is missing in mouse and P20109 is something else entirely. But a reciprocal best hit analysis shows that the two sequences are indeed orthologous and probably have the same structure and function in both species.
IL13 Mouse P20109 Query vs Human P35225 Sbjct
Expect 2e-40 Identities 76/130(59%) Positives 93/130(71%) Gaps 8/130(6%)

           +C AL+SL N+S C+AI +TQR+L G C  K +    SSL   DTKIEVA F+  LL +

Query 122 TKQLFRHGPF 131
           K+LFR G F
Sbjct 136 LKKLFREGRF 145
The fundamental problem is more complex than 22 undergraduates from China can solve in 90 minutes; but we probably knew that. I still think it's an empowering exercise.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Might have been

<Guest Blog Alert> [never done this before]
I wrote recently about my exercise-induced arse-ma; which put the kibosh on my prospects with the loneliness of the long-distance runner. It struck a nerve with my correspondent [recent] G who wrote about her own lack of wind so eloquently that I'm posting it here (with her permission):

Exercise-induced asthma - the bane of my life and only recently diagnosed by an occupational therapist of all people. When I was 15 and gasping for air after a couple of minutes on the trampoline double and triple somersaulting, my PE teacher used to make cracks about me giving up the cigarettes (a few years before I took them up). This made a huge impression on me in terms of unfairness and amazingly one of these incidents was memorialised in a poem by a schoolfriend forty years later. 

When playing hockey, if a game was very defensive and as a left back I had to be on the move continuously then I'd see things like the far corner of the hockey pitch lift up and roll itself towards me. Charles Bonnet Syndrome [prev] or purely oxygen deprivation? When I told the PE teacher, she suggested for the first time that I give up smoking - at 12, in a convent - FFS! She had to be on drugs to think that! 100 yards sprint was no bother to me, the fastest in the school, till I'd finished it... but the three rounds of the hockey pitch after dinner every day, that the couchiest potatoes in school found easy, never happened for me. I could never finish one round... a long and short side and I'd hit my wall with no running through it. Courtney Dauwalter is a better woman than me.

Five years ago, before the chance discussion with the OT, I was determined to take a crack at running in the dark instead of standing on sidelines and started running, using a Couch to 5K app. By the time I'd repeated six weeks of Week 1 without any visible difference in my fitness, I muttered curses and let the weather get the better of me and ceased my running endeavours. It has been a constant wonderment to me how one of my friends can get out there and do 5K cold from the couch without wanting to die during or after it. 

How did a woman fresh out of a four year PE teacher training course in Thomond College which presumably contained both sports physiology and psychology modules fail to see that the most active sporty girl in the entire school wasn't a smoker but had a real health problem? She never put together that, while I excelled at all sports, that basketball, netball, tennis: any sport requiring stamina were washouts for me after very promising oxygen-loaded starts. 

What could have been! Such tiny things to mould a character and change a life. The Blob sometimes hits a nerve [ouch].
G's nearly on her pension now but, in her youth, people who knew the field talked up her potential as an Olympic gymnast. But that dream would have required getting many ducks in a row, and for network and exteernal support, G hadn't even a feather, let alone one full duck.
“Strange friend,” I said, “here is no cause to mourn.” 
 “None,” said that other, “save the undone years, 
 The hopelessness . . . Strange Meeting Wilfred Owen

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Catchup ketchup 18Aug19

As The Blob gradually fills out the last remote corners of my universe, new stuff is likely to recall a bloboprev.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Legless in Gaza

My correspondent / source G ordered me to watch No Limits a documentary by John Zaritsky about Thalidomiders. I've had a peek at Thalidomide before, largely to give tribs to Frances Kelsey who, as the newest hire at the FDA, stalled drug company Richardson-Merrell from marketing the devil's spit-balls in the USA. The few [N = 17] US cases of Thalidomide-induced damage seem to have come from freebies given out in handfuls by Merrell as pre-sale promotion for the new wonder-drug. Merrell was interested in the distribution rights because Thalidomide had been so profitable for Grünenthal, the German parent company that held all the intellectual property.

Although I knew the story, there were numerous details which had escaped my notice (or slipped my memory since, as likely).

The Nazi connexion. Otto Ambros was appointed Chairman of the Grünenthal Board. We've met him before as one of the developers of the nerve gas Sarin, when he worked for IG "slave-labour" Farben in WWII. Dr. Heinrich Mückter was Grünenthal's Head of Research and claimed a tidy royalty for each packet of Thalidomide sold. During the war Herr Dr. Mückter had worked im Osten, doing experiments, without informed consent, to develop a typhus vaccine on Polish civilians and the inhabitants of the Krakow ghetto.

The off-switch statistics. There was a very high rate of perinatal mortality among victims of Thalidomide-induced dysmelia. It is true that there was were a number of still-births associated with the drug; and presumably a, hard to guesstimate, number of spontaneous abortions and miscarriages. But it is alleged that many full-term babies, without the full complement of limbs, were left in the delivery room by their mothers and taken care of by doctors and nurses who couldn't imagine that a limbless child could live longer than a few days or weeks, let alone a full and active life as an emergency physician; a motivational speaker; or a film director.

The film No Limits is about what it says on the tin No Limits and so has a black [those Nazis, callous doctors and unimaginative midwives, corrupt officials, company lawyers] and  white  [Kelsey, survivors-who-have-done-well, Widikund Lenz, William McBride] view of the people involved. Those who have been bullied; who haven't found love; who have a crap self image; whose general health is getting worse with age; whose life has not been a bowl of cherries; they have no parts - not even walk-on parts - in the film. Nevertheless, hats off to the following people, who survived the drug induced insult to normal development and went on to live their best life: with a little help from parents, foster parents, teachers, spouses, their own kids . . . and indomitable spirit, of course:
Jan Schulte-Hillen
Moni Eisenberg
Louise Mason
Lynette Rowe
Niko von Glasow
Paul Murphy
Eileen Cronin
Alvin Law
But don't accept my take on it, watch the film yourself, it's only 80 minutes long.
. . . Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver!
Ask for this great Deliverer now, and find him
Eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke.
Samson Agonistes, John Milton

Friday, 16 August 2019

Q. How do you address your father?

A. Sir!
I've looked with a jaundiced eye at Douglas Hofstadter and all his Gödels works. But an essay of his, on how language embeds sexism and inequality, triggered some interesting discussion on MeFi. Sometimes you have to move the goalposts to make people actually look at themselves and their certainties. I was sitting in her garden a couple of weeks ago with The Girl Who Invented Herself TGWIH. Of almost everyone I know, she gets the most cross when she encounters discrimination and unfairness. She doesn't live in Ireland at the moment but is VP AsiaPac for a multinational in Singapore. I forget the details but she was getting indignant at how the government (largely representing the people of Ireland) keeps migrants and asylum-seekers in disempowering and punitive conditions for years while their cases dither and shuffle through the legalities. She seemed to be saying that she'd be delighted to have a Syrian gynaecologist or a Yazidi metal-worker living next door, if not exactly renting the spare room in her Irish home. I confessed that, knowing nothing-at-all about the community engagement of the average Yazidi, I'd be suspicious if not quite hostile if the one vacant council house in our townland was given to a family of Travellers. And I invited TGWIH to agree that she's feel the same, if push came to shove.  That grain of doubt didn't develop into a pearl of wisdom but I thought it was valuable to look closely at our true, uncovered reactions to The Other.

What Hofstadter did in his cited essay was transpose our view of oppressed women with oppressed blacks and see how smug the standard liberal-leaning  PC reader was then:
Quote: Most of the clamor, as you certainly know by now, revolves around the age-old usage of the noun "white" and words built from it, such as chairwhite, mailwhite, repairwhite, clergywhite, middlewhite, Frenchwhite, forewhite, whitepower, whiteslaughter, oneupuwhiteship, straw white, whitehandle, and so on.UnQuote  The MeFi commentary went round the houses and down the street as readers teased out some of the threads in the original essay and struck a few sparks off each other: quoting Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex etc etc.

Reflecting on how language enforces the trappings of power, Sideshow, a youngish patriarch, moaned gently "My 8 year old daughter even threw a "Hey bruh..." at me (her 38 year old father) the other day. I'm a pretty casual dad, but I had to draw the line there. "  Not me, I answer to pretty much anything if I can hear it properly [increasingly doubtful] and intention is clear: Sir, Pops, Bob, Shonks, have all worked in the recent past.

Lollusc reacted to that with far more enthusiasm than anyone else:  OMG that is so exciting (to me, and probably only to me and like five other people in the world who research kinship systems). There's a phenomenon in some languages of the world called "Crow skewing" (named after the Crow language, for which it was first described). It's where people call their cousin by the same term as they call their father or mother, i.e. they would call their cousin "dad" or their dad "cuz". The principle is basically (terminologically) treating people in your own generation and people in the generation above you the same. It's pretty cool and NO ONE REALLY KNOWS HOW IT ORIGINATES. There's quite a bit of speculation. But calling your dad "bruh" is absolutely how this kind of thing could start. "Bruh" being a term of general friendly affection, but ultimately derived from "bro" < "brother". And then it loses its association with one's actual brother, and gradually loses the "same approx age" requirement, and voila! 

Later on ReclusiveNovelistThomasPynchon added 2c worth: the thing i love about sideshow's daughter's use of bruh is the egalitarian, or at least anti-hierarchical, sentiment it seems to embody. sort of like, "yeah sure bruh, you're a generation up from me, don't make such a deal of it." i believe it's the egalitarian aspect of it that sideshow objects to so strongly. i'm so glad that it's apparently a semi-common linguistic phenomenon. parents get hung up on weird things.

I love it: Crow skewing is so random and outré, that Lollusc is going to have very few places where s/he can share this deep knowledge of the human condition. With so many different ways of communicating with each other with truth and respect, it seems a pity that we too often trash talk instead. Here's a test. From the language and expressed sentiments, what sex do you reckon Lollusc is?