news, world

Princess Elizabeth’s Speech

Queen Elizabeth II has just passed. She was the world’s second longest reigning monarch.

It feels surreal. In Australia and New Zealand at least, every time someone holds money, we hold an image of her in our hands. Now suddenly a huge part of Commonwealth history has left us.

She seemed like a very sweet person. This was then-Princess Elizabeth’s first speech from 1940. She was sending a message of love and support to children across the Commonwealth, many of whom evacuated, during World War II. She was well-spoken then, and it’s strangely comforting.

Have a listen:


Rest In Peace, Your Majesty.

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fun stuff, journal

Working memory workout

This week I am confronting myself! I have a not-so-excellent working memory and I am finally doing something about it.

Working memory is different to long-term (and even short-term) memory for recall. As is described in the book Human Physiology by Lauralee Sherwood, it is like “the erasable blackboard of the mind”. It’s the ability of the brain to contextualise information as it’s coming in, and using that to execute actions immediately/near the same time.

Image credit: pexels.com

So for example, I can spout silly trivia I learnt at age 10, such as ‘The longest recorded flight for a chicken was 13 seconds.’ = long term memory 🐔

But if someone was, say, giving instructions prior to starting a complicated board game, the verbal directions do not land well. The explanations go over my head, like a record-setting flying chicken. I have to participate in one/more rounds of the game first, then we are good.

I also misplace my keys a lot.

🎲🔑❓

Thankfully, I have discovered that neuroscientists designed a game for training working memory. The game is called N-back.

Basically, there are squares that pop up in a 3×3, like a budget game of Whack a Mole. Except, instead of hitting garden creatures, you hit a button that says Position Match when a square pops up in the same place twice in a row. ❗️This is N=1. Easy.

But then the level gets harder (N=2), and you press if the squares pop up not consecutively, but only after another square pops up (eg if the third square is a repeat of the first).

N, or the number of squares back that you have to remember, becomes +1 if you get 90% right.

Then you have to throw the audio into the mix because the app shouts random letters at you like an audio alphabet soup – you hit Sound Match if it repeated itself too.

Image: pexels.com

It sounds confusing because it is.

When I first tried to Google how to play, it made no sense. I thought, great, I can’t work on my working memory because my working memory isn’t good enough to understand the instructions.

Eventually I found a good app that came with an explanation, and have been trying it for a few days. My initial sense was overwhelmingly I don’t know what I’m doing after N=2.

But today, I noticed I remembered to do things, such as send a text message when usually I might have forgotten. Yay! Whether this is a coincidence, or an upgrade of some brain software, remains to be seen.

I like this app, because it records stats, but there’s a number of them out there.

Here are some cool papers I read.

The first one I found; How it Helps to Improve Post-error Performance; Supporting article.


My study&work life has had some developments … but no conclusions, so I will tell that story when the time is right.

*

What’s your go-to piece of trivia? Do you enjoy brain training games? Are you someone who loses their keys, or well organised?

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journal

Traps and PSA (Post-Subscription Agony)

PSA: In February, I was caught by a mammoth trap.

Of course, I mean this figuratively, and not literally. I did not stumble upon and fall into a 15,000 year old pit designed for the now-extinct fuzzy elephant, †Mammuthus primigenius*. That would have been very exciting, even if leg-breaking. Some researchers did discover these whopping 25m x 1.7m holes in Mexico, as was reported in 2019. Apparently we humans used to hunt them.

🦣🦣🦣

No, in February I signed up to a 30 day free-trial to the subscription company Scribd to check out an audiobook. It appears to offer like a gym membership where you pay monthly. Instead of doing exercises and getting buff you can sit on the couch and listen to books and podcasts.

E-library: Like a library but with e. Pexels.com

Shortly after, I cancelled my subscription. Fast forward to now, I noticed that the company has continued to bill me for what I thought was a cancelled subscription.

Subscribers beware

So at first I thought it was my own dumb fault, for not cancelling properly.

But after some digging, it turns out that this is definitely intentional on the part of the company: when you hit ‘cancel’, a confirmation page comes up to let you think you have cancelled, but there are several pages you have to wade through with “Are you sure?” AT THE BOTTOM which you can only see AFTER SCROLLING, after they let you think you’ve cancelled. Which is deceitful.

This interface design for conning money from users falls under dark patterns.

Scribd’s shady practice has been going for several years. I found many comments online angrily complaining about the same thing.

Scribd has a trustpilot rating of a spectacular 1.9/5 (2238 reviews)

Here is someone else’s blog article dated 2015, with another warning four years later.

Here is one Reddit post about it.

Wish I had seen all this earlier! I’m usually alright with doing my homework after some stupid mistakes in my twenties, but fell down a hole this time. Oops! Now passing this information about the modern-day trap on to fellow readers.

Happily, the bank is taking my side – almost as soon as I clicked “dispute transaction”, I received confirmation that a refund was coming (and no pages of ‘Are You Sure!’). This happened immediately outside office hours, which means no bank-human reviewed this dispute. I wonder if Scribd is on a refund list for dodgy charging?

Another good thing is that I signed up via PayPal, so Scribd never saw any card information, and have since removed my card even on there.

Stay safe! Have you truly cancelled your unwanted subscriptions? What’re some of your tips to stay safe online?


* † If you notice this symbol, the “dagger”, next to various species and genuses in Wikipedia, it is used in biology to mean they are extinct.

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journal

Pooling some trivia

In my role, I need to know how to perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, or CPR, so I attended a session this week. The cycle is a bit funny ironic: Need to learn CPR -> hope that you never need to use CPR -> wish fulfilled -> forget CPR -> need to learn CPR.

Anyway, some learnings from the session:

• As first responders, you are expected to Send for help. The instructor told us specifically not to say, “call an ambulance” – I guess if a pack of bystanders happened to be tourists from overseas, you waste less time in case they get the number wrong. 🚑🚑🚑

• The correct thing to say is “call 000!” (Or insert locally relevant number). The other number for Australians is 112.

• Nobody has ever been successfully sued for breaking ribs while administering CPR. People have tried, though. Seems a tad ungrateful, doesn’t it?

• Currently, the estimated time it takes for an ambulance to reach a victim/patient in our state is about 40 minutes, which is absolutely terrible.

• Parents can sometimes misjudge their child’s ability to stay safe in a pool – forgetting that swimming lessons might be in warm water, whereas cold water elsewhere gives the child a shock.

A pool. Image from pexels.com

• The blue-ringed octopus is found near our waters, and despite being tiny creatures, their bite can paralyse the muscles you use for breathing.

🐙🐙🐙

No real uni-related things in the last fortnight (and none for a while).

I have recently taken up tutoring some primary school kids, and that’s been fun. Out of nowhere, one child asked me if watermelons float or sink in water. I was completely flummoxed. I told her I would find out for her and come back with an answer next week – (“Do you have a swimming pool?” “No, I meant I’ll look on the internet for you”).

Turns out that:

• Watermelons are buoyant in water.

Image: pexels.com

Hope everyone is well in blog-land.

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Australia, news

Mystery Men

Today marks the end of Missing Persons Week in Australia. This is the week when the police pour extra money into campaigns re: finding folk who went walkabout one day and never returned, and there are extra adverts around the place to raise awareness.

Coincidentally, there have recently developments regarding two big mysteries that received a lot of public attention:

Somerton Man

On December 1st 1948, a well-dressed gentleman was found dead on Somerton Beach, in Adelaide, South Australia. Nobody came forth to identify him, and piece of paper with the words ‘Tamam Shud’, which is Persian for “It is over/it is finished”, was found in his pocket.

It transpired that the paper came from a rare edition of a book of poetry, the Rubáiyát by Omar Khayyám. Get this – there appeared to be some scribbled code in the book that the page was torn from.

Conspiracy theories went rampant as these all details were appearing at the start of the Cold War, and people believed he was a murdered Russian spy. The gent was buried in a respectable but nameless grave for a while.

He was exhumed again for more forensic investigations.

Apparently as of last week, the case has finally been cracked. Other interesting elements:

• he had legs sculpted like a ballet dancer’s;

• his wife filed for divorce on grounds of desertion (instead of, y’know, actually reporting him missing);

• the lead researcher on this case married a woman who was hypothesised to be Somerton Man’s granddaughter (which he only later ruled out).

• it turned out that Somerton Man had the same occupation as the lead researcher, whose daytime job was electrical engineering.

Read about it here!

So many twists! I remember some years back going to a local Escape Room that was themed with Somerton Man’s case, which was where I first learnt about him. I would not be surprised if they made a movie out of everything that happened.

Image credits: wiki commons and borrowed from the article.

‘The Gentleman’

In July 1994, another also well-dressed gentleman was found – pulled out of the North Sea. He too, had nothing to identify him, and who he was has remained a mystery for 28 years.

The man was wearing had a wool tie, and a diverse range of fancy clothes from all over Europe: British shoes and French pants. His body showed signs of having been physically beaten, and so foul play was suspected.

Image from Murdoch University

For his nice attire, he was dubbed ‘The Gentleman’ – and for a long time, the German police were looking for clues around Europe to identify him.

Researchers from Murdoch University recently conducted isotope analysis of his bones and teeth … and determined that the man had likely been from Australia. This shed a completely new light on the case, which is still to be cracked.

Wiki page

Article on it here.


Reading all these fascinating cases has me wondering what life might for a forensic pathologist, who works out cause of death by looking at soft tissues. This is different to the forensic anthropologist, who does the same but looks at bones. I imagine the former must be a much … oozier … job than the latter.

Had you heard of Somerton Man and The Gentleman? Do the police raise awareness on missing people in your area? What are some interesting historical cases you know of?

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fun stuff, journal, news

Shining some Light

Recently, a serendipitous discovery was made at Cincinnati museum. There was a (in my opinion) fairly ordinary looking plate from the century with engravings of the Buddha’s name, that was kept in storage for the last six-ish decades.

The curator, Dr Sung, found that if light was shone and reflected off in a certain way, it depicted a meditating Buddha. Which I reckon is terribly clever on the part of the artist, who lived in the 15th-16th century and likely never looked up ways to make this happen on WikiHow.

The reflection in question:

Above images: Rob Deslongchamps from Cincinnati Art Museum

Quite cool!

I first saw this article on Good News Network, which is a network with only good news – a lot of which is relevant to historical discoveries (I’ve taken to blocking most news sites on my phone in the last few weeks because the headlines are all doom and gloom.*)

On the subject of light, there is currently an event this week/month across central city that is showcasing different light effects/art made by people, which is awesome.

Shiny!

Some fun stuff related to light:

• In ancient China, people believed that solar eclipses were happening because a giant dragon was eating the sun (talk about high on the Scoville scale 🌶🌶🌶🌶🌶)

• On Wikipedia, Nikola Tesla’s name does not come up on the list of scientists who contributed to the incandescent light bulb. (I wasn’t sure if it was one of the things he and Thomas Edison had competing bragging rights over so I checked).

• By a small degree, green light relaxes the eye muscles for focusing, more so than yellow or red light.

💡🐉🚦

I briefly did some homework about rock art while deciding on topics, but eventually decided to select the topic on looking at stone tools in Australia. This actually came down to scheduling, as it fits much better with everything else in my life. This particular topic is a short intensive that starts toward the end of the year.

Perhaps this means I will restructure this blog and/or diversify content – have to decide!

How are you? Do you peruse or avoid the news? What your tolerance level for spicy food? (Mine: mild) Has your blog changed as you changed, and how?


* I saw this quote the other day, and quite liked it:

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fun stuff, journal

Auckland Museum

I have been on a break to see fam. Here’s a smattering of random facts and photos I gleaned from a trip to Auckland Museum.

• New Zealand broke off from a supercontinent Gondwana millions of years ago.

• At one point, Gondwana formed the southern part of an even bigger supercontinent, Pangaea.

This big chicken bird, now extinct, is/was a Giant Moa. When it walked the earth it reached 3m in height. Sexual dimorphism meant that females were bigger than males.

The Moa egg had a volume of up to 4 Litres, or roughly the equivalent of 60-65 chicken eggs. That is one big breakfast…

Every bird is the cutest bird (says me), and this statement extends to the NZ national icon, the kiwi*. At school, I learnt that:

• the kiwi’s egg takes up more space inside the female’s body than any other bird.

• unlike most birds, which have their nostrils quite close to their face, the kiwi has its nostrils at the end of its beak for sniffing out insects.

🐜🦗🐜

Speaking of which, there were a lot on display.

The New Zealand weta is one of the heaviest insects in the world. It is herbivorous and presumably harmless, given circulating photos of people holding them with their bare hands, but I think I just wouldn’t.

These beetles look a lot like jewels.

There were a lot of bugs… all dead.

When I was growing up, the museum had a tank of live cockroaches, which I would stare at endlessly in horrified fascination. Sadly, it wasn’t there this time round.

🪲🪲🪲

Re: the natural world, there was a whole section on Volcanoes, as most New Zealanders basically live on top an active site.

• Volcanoes are necessary for life to form on a planet.

• The Jarkata Incident, is an aviation event which happened in June 1982. Mt Galunggung in Indonesia blew up, unbeknownst to the pilots of British Airways Flight 009, who were headed to Auckland, and the commercial plane flew right through the volcanic ash. All the engines failed, and the debris damaged the windscreen, yet the pilots managed to land the plane safely. What heroes!! Here’s the wiki page on it.

✈️✈️✈️

If you have ever wanted to experience a volcanic apocalypse, there is a simulator in the museum which shows you over 12 minutes how things might look and feel if a volcano erupted in Auckland. The simulation happens in a fake living room, with a large screen that resembles a window to Auckland harbour, and the room shakes as if in an earthquake as well.

Here is the fake living room and its aftermath, after the house had been engulfed by a fake tsunami.

🌋🌋🌋

So anyway, after the apocalypse we went to see bowls.

There was a room full of ancient art from around the world, including ceramics, I saw this humongous Japanese bowl, which was designed for bread-making, but really would have been perfect for the Moa egg.


Auckland museum has various sections dedicated to Polynesian and Māori culture and history.

Food knives. I would totally feel badass buttering my bread with something like this.
Check out these shields…

I found this little story particularly interesting:

This tea-towel was made in the 1960s, and was kindly gifted to Auckland Museum so that the woman depicted, Harimate, a respected ancestor, would be spared being treated like an ordinary dish cloth.

Would you, hypothetically, use a tea towel for drying crockery, if a family member’s face was on it? I think I wouldn’t, particularly for parents and grandparents. But if it was a sibling and I had lost a recent argument about who was doing the dishes … hmm.

🧽🧽🧽

*If you have ever wanted to see what kiwis look like when they are happy, here’s a video that was released from a sanctuary.


I received results for last semester. My grades were surprising, as I did better in the one I was worried about, and worse in the one where I thought I was kicking butt. As no one will see these grades, they may matter as much as Instagram Likes or high scores in an arcade game. But, I passed, so yay!

👾👾👾

I hope everyone is fine. Have you been to New Zealand? Have you slept through an earthquake? I have. Are you freaked out by bugs?

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fun stuff

On Blades and Boulders

This post includes some trivia and other updates:

• In 1907, the last mountain in Japan thought left unclimbed was Mt. Tsurugi. A team went up the mountain that year… and found that someone had left a sword there. Later this sword turned out to be over 1000 years old* (Wikipedia).

That sword is now enshrined in a museum, and you can read its leaflet here. A sword is a pretty badass way to leave a marker somewhere. Imagine if one had been left on the moon, instead of a flag.

🗡🗡🗡

On the topic of Japanese blades:

• Japanese chefs’ knives are some of the most expensive in the world. Making them is an art craft that has been handed down over many generations.


• I am deciding whether for Semester 2 I would prefer to take a topic on Rock Art or Stone Artefacts.

Fun fact:

• Some Indigenous cultures make markings on cave walls for gender-specific viewing – only women are meant to see some paintings, and men others. If I study rock art this coming semester, I could tell you why. 🎨🪨

• On the other hand, stone tools are the ancestors of knives, which is decidedly awesome.

• The above aside, I have not applied for further topics in Archaeology for 2022; the reason being that a clean multiple of X (ie X, 2X, 4X) number of uni topics have to be completed by December, to keep non-Archaeology options on the table for 2023. I could apply for more later, but won’t yet. Watch this space.

• I turned a year older. Encouragingly, a friend commented over one lunchtime that I was not fretting about the usual existential crises. This might be attributed to currently having partially-baked life goals, or being in a food coma that afternoon, or both.

One of my favourite cartoons. Artist unknown, but they are spot on.

Anyway, how are you? Do you like knives? If you were hypothetically forced to enter and view one of two museum exhibitions by a short and obsessed museum warden – one full of cave paintings and one full of stone tools – which room would you select?

Image credit: pexels.com

*Yes, I did read about Mt. Tsurugi in a viral social media post before recycling this here.

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Australia, fun stuff

Art Gallery of SA

If you enter the Art Gallery of South Australia, you will find many items, some of which may well have been found by archaeologists, as well as stuff by contemporary artists. I visited last week before the whole hospital/appendix* debacle and will now present some photos.



There are all kinds of fantastic, like this upside down tree…

And a framed image of someone having written pi to one million digits… (I wonder if the figure has been cross checked?)

The photo reel on my phone seems to go in for a while, so here are just a couple of favourites.

Here is a link to the directory of all the art in the galleries if you want to have a look.

A fitting thought:

What’s your favourite kind of art? Do you like art from a particular time period?


*Brief health update after the page break, for the non-squeamish and interested. TLDR; I am home and fine. Thank you for the kind wishes! 🌸

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journal, fun stuff

The archaeology of poisons and medicine

Greetings from a hospital bed in a friendly neighbourhood!

I rocked up to work on Saturday morning with what I thought was bad gas. I thought I would push through the day but it got difficult to stand and talk. Suspecting something was wrong, I left and checked myself into hospital. A few hours of worrying I would pass air in a busy waiting room, four different COVID tests and one blood test later, the doctors confirmed were extremely sure I had appendicitis.

Long story short, I had a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) and am now minus one vestigial organ, dosed up on a good number of painkillers, and feel great (for the time being, as the drugs are working).

Image credit: pexels.com

In the spirit of what’s been happening, I got to looking around about anaesthesia, then poisons and drugs, and ancient medical procedures. So here is a post on them! Warning: Skip if you are squeamish.

• The word “toxic” comes from the Greek word toxon, meaning “bow”. The association likely comes from hunting, and archaeologists think that Paleolithic humans poisoned the tips of their spears to hunt, but to prove this happened is tricky. The detection of these poisons is an area of archaeological research.

• According to this article on the history of anaesthesia, the ancient Italians would put a wooden bowl over a patient’s head and knock them until they were unconscious so they could carry on with surgery. Certainly seems a lot cheaper than hiring an anaesthetist.

Image credit: pexels.com

• Once upon a time, people tried to get around feeling the pain of doctors cutting them open with opium and alcohol.

• The first successful application of anaesthesia as we recognise it today was done by a dentist, William Morton, in 1846. What a dentist was doing knocking someone out to remove their neck tumour I am not sure, but hooray for Dr. Morton! (?)

Trepanation is the process by which folks as far back as the Neolithic period literally bore a hole in people’s skulls to get rid of something bad in the person’s head. The procedure was possibly superstitious in origin than truly medical (eg to get rid of bad spirits). Trepanation is the oldest surgical procedure discovered by archaeology.

Hieronymous Bosch’s The Extraction of the Stone of Madness, c.1488–1516

Couching is the earliest method of getting rid of cataracts. A cataract is the clouding of the crystalline lens in the eye (almost universal in humans as we age), and couching is when you literally poke them with a needle so the opaque lens falls into the eye. It was documented practice as early as 800BCE in ancient India.

Sadly, couching is still practiced in developing countries, and trepanation in … developed* … parts of the world.


How are you this week? Know any poisons/medical related trivia? Do you still have your appendix? 

*See first comment on this post by Ashley L. Peterson.

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