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Miscellaneous Items from 2013:
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A virus within a virus
Whats in a name
Did Neanderthals talk?
Dilbert Counting magpies Bachelor
Buttons Glowing in the dark Modern Times Where I can go in my Twizy Saskatoon berries Go Riders Sniatyn-a home town Yavoriv-another home town Unselfishness evolved
within a virus
"So nat'ralists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller fleas to bite 'em.
And so proceeds Ad infinitum."
Of course, fleas have parasites, but we would think that by the time
you get to the size of a virus, it does not have a smaller unwanted
guest. No so!
A French woman had an eye infection from wrongly cleaned contact
lenses. An amoeba cause the problem. When the amoeba was studied, it
was found to be infected by a giant virus. And when the giant virus was
looked at, it was infected by a small virus. The small virus was
infected by DNA loop parasites called transpovirons.
So here is the Russian doll: women, amoeba (Acanthamoeba polyphaga),
giant virus (Lenille virus), virophage (Sputnik 2), transpovirons. This
is not the only such nesting that has been found. It might not even be
rare but most labs are not equipped to find them.
What is in a name
I have been amused by the North
American attempt to have unique names: foreign names, ancient names,
surnames as first names, ordinary words as names, completely made up
names, misspelling of conventional names and even names including
punctuation marks. This is not how things were when I was born. When
someone asked a friend what my mother had named me, the answer was “I
can't remember but it is definitely not a Barmby or a Wight name. I
don't know where they got the name”. This was said with some
disapproval. Obviously, some people at that time did not believe that
parents had a free choice of any old name. My name was conventional
and it was in the family even through the lady did not know that.
In genealogy, there are patterns of
naming that can be relied on. They are different in different
cultures but breaking them would have caused the village gossips to
go on and on about what hidden secret caused the rift in the pattern.
Each language in Christendom had its list of 'Christian names':
biblical names, saint's names, martyr's names and a few others
important to that culture's history that are honourary members of
list. Baptisms used only those names. When we lived in Austria, a
neighbour's daughter was in a dispute with the local priest because
he would not use the name she had chosen in the baptism of her baby –
not a proper Christian name to be used in a baptism. Yes, there were
a lot of duplicate names in any family or village. This problem was
solved by shortenings, nicknames and alternative informal names for
each formal name or by added adjectives. And in France where
birthdays are celebrated on someone's saint's day, many people use a
name pair which cuts down the confusion (there only being so many
Christianity has been losing its
control of names but there were still the conventions and in some
places the state took over with a legal registry of possible names.
Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Japan, China, New Zealand are
among the countries that have various name restrictions. There is a
general disapproval of using surnames for personal names, of names
used for the wrong gender, misspelling normal names and for Japan
and China, names that cannot be properly written and scanned in their
characters. Iceland's name list is the subject of a current dispute.
There must be a happy medium between a
hilarious free for all and ridiculous laws. It is a truth that you
cannot control what other people call you, and others cannot control
what you will answer to. Give your kid the wrong name and they will
spend the whole rest of the lives endlessly correcting its spelling
or pronunciation, being called by another name not of their choice or
being teased about it. Some kids will love this and others will find
it a burden. Some will change their names to give them more
uniqueness or less.
Did Neanderthals talk?
Well probably, yes, they did talk. Here
are some of the reasons to think so:
None of these arguments alone is strong
enough to prove Neanderthal language but all together they indicate
that it is very likely. I wonder what they sounded like?
- The shape of the human vocal tract is adapted to speech.
The larynx is lowered, at substantial risk of accidental death in order
to give vowel variations and more distinct sounds. Other primates do
not have a lowered larynx. This change is seen in the hyoid bone and
all the Neanderthal hyoids found are within the range of variation of
modern humans. Neandethals had a vocal tract adapted the same as the
human one for speech.
- There is a change in human ear ossicles (the tiny bones
between the eardrum and the inner ear) and this change improves
perception of sounds in the speech range. This is not found in other
primates but is found in Neanderthals as early as 400,000 years ago.
Neanderthals had ears adapted the same way as humans, for hearing
- The canals carrying nerves to the thorax, used for
breathing control, are wide in modern humans and Neanderthals but not
other apes or an early Homo, Homo ergaster. Both humans and
Neanderthals adapted to attain better breathing control .5 – 1.5
million years ago.
- Both humans and Neanderthals share a broadening of the
frontal brain area, Broca's area, going back about 2 million years.
Broca's area is important for producing and understanding speech. This
is not strong support as the evidence in the skull is small.
- Handedness in humans appears to be much more pronounced
then in other primates. Some core aspects of language (grammar,
phonology, semantics) are strongly left-lateralized in humans and this
is believed to be the reason for the pronounced handedness. There is
evidence of preferred use of the right hand in Neanderthals with a
similar ratio to humans as far as .5-1 million years ago.
- The FOXP2 gene is found in animals that have vocal skills
(humans, song birds, bats, whales). The different animals have
different versions of the gene. Neanderthal and humans share the same
version. In humans, damage or loss of this gene has a severe effect on
language. This version arose about 1 million years ago, before
Neanderthals split from humans about 400,000 years ago.
- There was some interbreeding between humans and
Neanderthals between about 80,000 and 50,000 years ago. Not a lot but
some interbreeding, leaving a few Neanderthal genes in modern man. This
was too recent to account for the similarities noted above. What it
does mean is that the two 'species' were closely related enough to
produce fertile offspring. This used to be a definition of being the
same species. There is a good chance that their common ancestor is
already on the path to language when they were geographically
- Humans and Neanderthals interbreed and this would be less
likely if they did not see similarities in each other. Speech would
have been an important similarity but not absolutely necessary.
- Some have believed that language is only possible with a
certain level of cognitive ability that it happened suddenly in the
region of 50,000 years ago – 'the great leap'. In this way of looking
at language, there is no long build up of proto-language slowly growing
into language. And language would not be found before symbolic objects.
This idea has been attacked from all sides for some time. There is no
reason to think that language could not have been in the making for
hundreds of thousands of years. There is proof of symbolic objects much
older than 50,000 years for both humans and Neanderthal. And there are
human populations with language that leave no permanent symbolic
We have magpies in our yard. First one
and now two. These are not like the magpies in Saskatchewan, all
iridescent blue, green, purple and black. These are black and white
but with just as long a tail. In the back of my mind was something
about the number being an omen. So I googled. (what did we do before
google?) There are many versions but here is one.
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.
One for sorrow
And many, many more songs from different places. It is not just about
magpies but in some places it is about crows and other
it only makes sense about magpies because their number indicates the
spring. If it is a cold spring only the male bird brings food but if it
is a good spring both birds are visible. They are known for stealing
shiny objects - a feature of the plots of many stories.
This may account for the silver and gold.
Two for mirth
Three for a funeral
Four for a birth
Five for heaven
Six for hell
Seven's the Devil his own self
Magpies are hated as much in Europe as
in North America, probably because they are so smart. Some say they are
the smartest birds. They are the only birds that have passed the mirror
test for self-recognition. They have what/where/when memories for their
stashes that are among the best. They are very social, curious and
devious. They chatter a lot.
They even seem to have a 'theory-of-mind' about other magpies. The
photo is of a magpie funeral – they appear to grieve for dead
friends and bring things to the corpse according to David Derbyshire.
I saw flowers on our lot that looked familiar – reminded me of the
bachelor buttons that my mother planted in her garden for cut flowers
in the house. When I looked them up, they were indeed bachelor buttons.
But I learned something else. They have a few other names including
I have never looked closely at cornflowers growing wild in fields –
never walked into the field to see them. They were just blue flowers. I
certainly did not associate wild cornflowers with bachelor buttons
growing in a neat garden row. But there is not doubt about it the wild
flowers in my grass are cornflowers/ bachelor buttons/ bluebottles/
boutonniere flowers/ hurtsickles.
how do they get their name. Cornflower has to do with them growing in
grain fields. Like poppies, they thrive in cultivated ground. Bachelor
button has to do with an old folk custom in parts of Europe – bachelor
buttons were worn by young men in love; if the flower faded too
quickly, it was taken as a sign that the man's love was not returned or
in some places that his love was fading or false. It may also be
associated with celibacy in some cultures. A flower to wear in a button
hole gives boutonniere flower. It was used as a medical herb for
various conditions especially irritations of the eye which may account
for hurtsickle. It is famous for the intense blue color of protocyanin
(although it can come in a range from pink to purple and from pastel to
saturated), so bluebottle is an appropriate name. I have found about 12
other names but decided enough was enough.
The flowers are modern symbols. They are the national flower of a few
countries (and regions): France, Germany and before that of Prussia,
Estonia, the Swedish province of Ostergotland. It is a political symbol
too. In Scandinavia and the Baltic area it is a symbol for social
liberalism but in Austria it stands for rightist ideas. It has been
used to signify royalty and also romantic art. Its most important
symbol today in Europe is for the remembrance of veterans around
November 11. It is used like the poppy is in the UK and North America.
Now that I have come to know cornflowers in fields as the same as the
garden bachelor button, I find that it may be that the cornflower is
endangered in the fields by modern herbicides. Still there are still
fields with cornflower and poppy in them where we live.
Glowing in the dark
Harry was sitting outside in the dark with the dog (as is his way of
cooling down after the hot days we were having) and he saw a little
green diode light shining in the dirt/grass. He went and got a light so
that he could get whatever tool he had left on the ground. He shone
the light on the green spot but there was nothing there, just pebbles,
dirt and a little vegetation. He told me about it in the morning and to
be honest I thought he had misinterpreted some reflection. He insisted
that it was way too strong a light to be some reflection. The next
night when he and the dog went out, he saw it again and so he insisted
that I get out of bed and look at it.
After digging around with a small stick, I discovered a little animal
with a luminescent hind end. It was a glow worm. Although I had seen
fireflies a number of times, neither of us had ever seen a glow worm.
It was not there the next night but was there another two nights. It
(I guess I should say she) was not in exactly the same place but very
near to previous locations.
It was a beetle, Lampyris Noctiluca, and the female who can't fly uses
the light to attract flying males. She dies after laying her eggs. The
hot weather has meant a little population explosions in glow worms.
They are related to fire flies but they are a particular non-flying,
non-blinking one with very green coloured glow that is not found in North
It makes the light using one of the luciferins – some of these
chemicals are used in labs to indicate specific reactions. I never
used them myself. And, we did not see any fairies dancing and singing
by the light of the glow worm.
The world changed sometime around 13000
to 12000 years ago. The climate changed, many of the animals got
rarer or more numerous, other homo species disappeared and left
humans alone, settled living started, and agriculture started. Before
this 'revolution' we were nomadic stone aged hunters and gatherers
and had been for millions of years. After this 'revolution' we had
villages and agriculture, more over we were on the way to
civilization. What is the story? What happened first?
The last ice age ended about 13000
years ago. Its final years were warm and wet over much of the world,
although there was ice at high latitudes. Then about 12900 there was
an abrupt change (Younger Dryas period) to dry and cooler climate.
This change was probably due to an asteroid hitting somewhere in
Quebec (scientists are looking for the crater). Large animals became
more scarce and the flora changed to more small annual plants and
less trees. Woolly mammoths for example disappeared. It was thought
that settlement and agriculture was the product of the drier weather.
But it seems not that simple.
The paths used by apes can sometimes be
traced by the plants that grow along them. Long ages of moving along
the paths meant that seeds from the fruits that the apes ate were
litter progressively along the paths. The more 'good' trees were
along a path, the less likely the apes were to change their route.
This was probably true of early man. In particular, there are traces
of nomadic movement in the Amazon where a group would move around a
cycle of locations. Each location became a kind of 'garden' where the
wild plants were selectively promoted or discouraged at each visit.
Forest gardens (without domestication of plants) was probably fairly
common for the human hunter-gatherers. There are traces of that
tradition around the world. The idea of plants being encouraged where
they were convenient to harvest melds into deliberate seeding/caring
for plots of plants and that leads into domestication by selecting
particular seed. At a point where climate or other factors forced
human to take up agriculture, they were prepared with many of the
It was thought that agriculture forced
humans to settle in villages but it may have been the other way
around. During the brief warm wet period as the ice age ended, it may
have been possible to settle and still live by hunting and gathering.
This could have allowed man to realize some of the advantages of
'urban' life. Permanent housing that was more protective and allowed the accumulation of useful objects. Trades and skills could
be developed. Pottery is an example of something that would be
unlikely to develop in a purely nomadic life style. You would not
want to carry much pottery with you and would not want to build kilns
over and over in different places. As people settled they became more
dependent on resources being close at hand and so when the weather
changed or the wild animals became scare, they turned to agriculture.
The first permanent settlement we know
of is the Ohalo site in Israel from 20000 BC and it was
pre-agricultural. They harvested wild grains. Grains and pulses could
be stored and were. There are other early sites of settlement before
agriculture such as Gobekli Tepe in Turkey. But around 12000 years
ago we see a number of plants being domesticated. By 11500 years ago
the list of domesticated plants include: figs, rye, emmer wheat,
einkorn wheat, barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chick peas and
flax. About the same time hunting was supplemented by the
domestication of animals: cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. Over the
next few thousand years domestication happened in other places around
the world. More food could be produced than the producers required
and so other professions could flourish in an urban environment.
Villages start to have little industries.
Agriculture allowed settled living to
continue and with it the development of civilizations. The population
grew, societies became complex, cities grew and so on into recorded
history. Ever since the first cities formed, they have been a magnet
for people. Even today the cities are still growing at the expense of
the country. We are too numerous to return to our original life style
and few of us would want to.
But there were disadvantages to
agriculture: the average daily number of work hours increased,
nutrition deteriorated, infectious disease and body wear increased,
and lifespan shortened. General equality gave way to stratification
of the population and the status of women suffered. Children
laboured. Famines, wars and plagues happened. Urban life also has
disadvantages to offset its advantages.
After millions of years of small groups
moving around hunting and gathering with stone and wood tools, we
have in just 13000 years built an entirely new way of living, with
ever faster change and ever larger populations.
We have come to the point where we have
changed the planet and we may have a geological age of our own
making. Here is the report from the Geographical Society of London,
Working Groups Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy, Working
Group on the 'Anthropocene': What
is the 'Anthropocene'? - current definition and status
- The 'Anthropocene'
is a term widely used since its coining by Paul Crutzen and Eugene
Stoermer in 2000 to denote the present time interval, in which many
geologically significant conditions and processes are profoundly
altered by human activities. These include changes in: erosion and
sediment transport associated with a variety of anthropogenic
processes, including colonisation, agriculture, urbanisation and
global warming - the chemical composition of the atmosphere, oceans
and soils, with significant anthropogenic perturbations of the
cycles of elements such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and various
metals - environmental conditions generated by these perturbations;
these include global warming, ocean acidification and spreading
oceanic 'dead zones' - the biosphere both on land and in the sea, as
a result of habitat loss, predation, species invasions and the
physical and chemical changes noted above.
is not a formally defined geological unit within the Geological Time
Scale. A proposal to formalise the 'Anthropocene'
is being developed by the 'Anthropocene'
Working Group for consideration by the International Commission on
Stratigraphy, with a current target date of 2016. Care should be
taken to distinguish the concept of an 'Anthropocene'
from the previously used term Anthropogene.
is currently being considered by the Working Group as a potential
geological epoch, i.e. at the same hierarchical level as the
Pleistocene and Holocene epochs, with the implication that it is
within the Quaternary Period, but that the Holocene has terminated.
It might, alternatively, also be considered at a lower (Age)
hierarchical level; that would imply it is a subdivision of the
ongoing Holocene Epoch.
to be accepted as a formal term the 'Anthropocene'
needs to be (a) scientifically justified (i.e. the 'geological
signal' currently being produced in strata now forming must be
sufficiently large, clear and distinctive) and (b) useful as a
formal term to the scientific community. In terms of (b), the
currently informal term 'Anthropocene'
has already proven to be very useful to the global change research
community and thus will continue to be used, but it remains to be
determined whether formalisation within the Geological Time Scale
would make it more useful or broaden its usefulness to other
scientific communities, such as the geological community.
beginning of the 'Anthropocene'
is most generally considered to be at c. 1800 CE,
around the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Europe
(Crutzen's original suggestion); other potential
candidates for time boundaries have been suggested, at both earlier
dates (within or even before the Holocene) or later (e.g. at the
start of the nuclear age). A formal 'Anthropocene'
might be defined either with reference to a particular point within
a stratal section, that is, a Global Stratigraphic Section and Point
(GSSP), colloquially known as a 'golden spike; or, by a designated
time boundary (a Global Standard Stratigraphic Age).
Changes to previous levels, trends and
cycles (markers of the age):
has emerged as a popular scientific term used by scientists, the
scientifically engaged public and the media to designate the
period of Earth's history during which humans have a decisive
influence on the state, dynamics and future of the Earth system. It
is widely agreed that the Earth is currently in this state.
Biodiverstiy - Most
experts agree that human beings have accelerated the rate of species
extinction, although the exact rate is controversial, perhaps 100 to
1000 times the normal background rate of extinction. If this
continues than whole ecosystems may disappear.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide - During
the cycles of the past million years, natural processes have varied
CO2 by approximately 100 (from 180 ppm to 280 ppm). As of 2012,
anthropogenic net emissions of CO2 have increased its atmospheric
concentration by a comparable amount from 280 ppm to approximately
395 ppm. This increase is due to the burning of fossil fuels, cement
production and deforestation. This CO2 increase is increasing the
earth's average temperature through greenhouse effects.
Trace elements - There are distinct
signatures left by modern industrial societies and nuclear testing.
Soil – Affects on soil formation
include land levelling, trenching and embankment building for various
purposes, organic matter enrichment from additions of manure or other
waste, organic matter impoverishment due to continued cultivation,
compaction from overgrazing or, indirectly, by drift of eroded
materials or pollutants, repeated ploughing, the addition of
fertilizers, contamination, sealing, or enrichment with artefacts.
In an ironic mood, we could rewrite
Genesis so that when humans planted the first fig tree, we were
doomed to end up in toil and trouble. After all, the fig is the only
tree named as being in the Garden of Eden. It was one of the first
plants to be cultivated at the very start of agriculture. Adam and
Eve left the garden with fig leaf aprons.
Where can I go with my Twizy?
As you may know, I do not have a driving licence. I have had many
learners permits and have learned to drive, but I do not feel that my
very poor motor reflexes are suitable for most driving and so I have
never taken a test (in case I passed). For years in the UK I had a L
plate on a scooter. This was perfect. It was slow and traffic went
around me. I could not cause death or maiming with such a small, light,
slow vehicle and I could not take a passenger, yet I had independent
transport - perfect. Now I finally have a solution here. I have a speed
restricted, single person, light little electric car for which I do not
need a driving licence. It is called a Twizy - my 'red sporty snail'.
Sporty because it has KERS just like an F1 racing car.
The battery is
supposed to take me 100 km but they say to not count on more than
about 60 km. I think this lower figure is for hilly country and fast
speeds. But my Twizy is restricted to 45 km/hr because I am driving
without licence. Therefore I assume that it can do over 60.
Here is where I
West: Bourges is
the city we use for city shopping and services. On the way is:
Avord where we do ordinary shopping and see our doctor; Savigny where
the Renault garage is. Baugy is also a place where we get some
things. To Bourges is 29 km so there and back with some driving
around in the city would be about 70 km.
East: Nerondes is
another place where we shop and see the vet; Saincaize is a train
junction. A return trip to Saincaize would be 66 km.
South: We have
friends at Ourouer-les-Bourdelins and sometimes need to do business
in Dun. A return trip to Dun would be 70 km.
occasionally have reason to go to Sancergues and La Charite. A return
trip is 68 km.
So that range is
the safe driving range for the Twizy on a charged battery – that is the Twizy
universe. You would not want to go further at 45 km/hr anyway.
People who come from Saskatchewan
usually have a deep love of saskatoon berries. I had not tasted
anything like them outside of the prairies. Blueberries are great,
but a disappointing second. Then Harry bought some myrtle berry jam.
The berries look at lot like small saskatoons and have a similar
taste. They are like pale imitations of saskatoons: smaller, less
strongly tasting, and with a similar deep purple colour (but that
doesn't stain the tongue). So I looked up myrtle to see if it was a
sister species to saskatoon. The answer is no.
alnifolia is the official name
for the saskatoon but there are 20 or so other Amelanchier
species. They are service trees.
I vaguely remember that years ago the EU rejected some sort of
special category, label or something for importing saskatoons because
they were just service berries and Europe had lots of service
berries. I have never found service berries for sale anywhere so I
take it they are not grown commercially. The trees are sold as
ornamental garden shrubs. If they were as good as saskatoons I would
think the berries would be for sale. (Of course, it may be that
saskatoons are so special only to people who grew up with them.)
is the myrtle and it only grows
in the hot climate of the Med and North Africa. It is unrelated to
service trees. But it is associated with the gods, has a liquor made
from the berries, and is used in rituals of various kinds. So it is a
In looking up berries I found one of those weird translation
merry-go-rounds. Moose and elk for example or turnip and swede or
some of the edible fish are very confusing. Berries have a lot of
names that mean different plants in different places.
I remember when I was young that my
Uncle Walter listened to the Roughrider games on the radio. The house
was a hush and the radio at a good volume. Every play was a little
suspense as it unfolded. For those of you that have not seen Canadian
Football, it is a much more entertaining game than the American one.
Three downs rather than four, many more passes and with more skill in
the throwing and receiving. Its an open, fast and spectacular sort of
There were golden years and bad periods
for the Saskatchwan team, but even in the bad periods the Roughriders
never lost their fan base. It was 'next year country' for many years.
Still the team was usually innovative and had a little habit of
making scores in the every last minutes of a game. Well, things
change and things remain the same. The team is now financially healthy
and winning lots of games – they still have their loyal fans.
So here is some odd things about the
Roughriders. They have the smallest population base of any
professional sports team in Canada and the second smallest in North
American – the Green Bay Packers have a tinsy bit smaller base –
both are just over a million people. And these two teams are publicly
owned rather than having an 'owner'. The Roughrider shares pay no
dividend (period), they cannot be resold (no profit there either),
and there is a limit of 20 shares per person. These are voting shares
and so the one perk is that a shareholder has a say in who/how
manages the team. Enough people buy season tickets that almost all
home games are sold out. They used to be poor but now the Roughriders
are a very rich team due to their merchandizing. They make about $10
million a year on selling stuff. That is more than twice what the
rest of the league combined makes in their sales. So an always full,
medium sized stadium, many sponsorship deals, and a big marketing
machine means the team can hire good talent.
One of the oddest aspects of the
Roughrider fans is that they are all over the country. (Saskatchewan
has a low population and that is partly because people leave and the
rest of the country has many former Saskatchewanites.) Everywhere the
Roughriders play there will be a substantial section of the stands
that are all decked out in green and cheering for the Riders –
people traveling in from Saskatchewan and join the local fans. This
has a name – the collective of fans in and out of Saskatchewan is
called the 'Rider nation'. Other team managements like having the
Riders to their stadium because ticket sales go up compared to other
This has been a good year for the
Roughriders. They started the season with a winning streak, then lost
a few but made it to the play-offs in second place, they then won
both play-off games which put them in the Grey Cup game. Having one
of the play-off games at home made them some extra money. But they
have the Grey Cup game too this year (nothing to do with being in it
– location of GC games is decided years ahead). The Grey Cup game
is also a money maker especially if the home team is playing in it.
So for a week leading up to Nov 24, Grey Cup Week, Regina is all in
green with events, parties, parades etc. There are people from all
over the country at Cup games, not just the fans of the two teams.
The whole town gets to make money out of Grey Cup Week, and also
spend a lot of their advertisement budget on Cup related events.
Now there are Grey Cups and there are
Grey Cups. The game is always in late November and so can be played
in a warm roofed stadium with no wind or in an open stadium in one of
the prairie cities in a howling bluzzard. It was very cold in the
days leading up to the big game. Our Ciara was to play in one of the
bands in the parade, but alas, it was too cold to be playing
instruments that Sat, -26 C with windchill -38 C. (That is about -39
F for you Fahrenheit people). Some opposition players got frostbite
during practice a couple of days before the game. In a passing game
like the Canadian game wind can be important and Saskatchewan is a
windy place. The ground is frozen solid. Well, it warmed up a bit for
the Sun. game. Here is the Environment
Canada has updated their special weather statement with all its puns
on CFL team names (I have underlined them). “The weather has held
Regina in its icy grip for much of grey cup week. This morning the
temperatures sit at minus 27 Celsius with a wind chill of minus 37.
With cold conditions like this in rider nation, its been quick to
freeze the paws of tiger
cats and lions
and turn watermelons into rocks. Though Sunday will be mild by
comparison, it will not trick the alouette
out in spring song. The stampede
of milder air for grey cup Sunday is still looking promising with
clear skies and no sign of precipitation. There may however be a bit
of a wind chill factor. Mosaic stadium is known to funnel the winds
and with game time temperatures around minus 3 or 4 Celsius, wind
chill values will be near minus 10. For those who argo’ing
to the game Sunday, appropriate dress would be advised. Don that
jacket so as not to turn true blue, or pack that eskimo
parka to keep toasty. The day time forecast high for Sunday is minus
2 Celsius. With sunset near kickoff, the temperature will likely fall
slowly as the game progresses. By the 4th quarter, temperatures will
be closer to minus 6 Celsius and the wind chill closer to minus 13.”
Here is a picture that I took from
Facebook of my friend Jade celebrating. 47,000 green people cheered in the
stands, the Riders won in a big way, the fans filled the Regina
streets, the CFL god is in his heaven and all is right with the
Sniatyn, a home town
I usually limit my
historic-come-genealogical digging to my own family or places where I
have been resident or at least visited. But I'm breaking this habit
because Harry is about as uninterested in history and in genealogy as
a naturally inquisitive person, like he is, could possibly be. The
other day he was discussing on the phone with his sister how
big/important was the 'village/town' of Sniatyn. This was Harry's
father's hometown. Neither of them really knew. When he got off the
phone he did not go to 'Google' the place and had no intention to. So
I did because I was curious. Currently Sniatyn has a little over
10,500 people. It is in Galicia in the west of the Ukraine on the
left bank of the river Prut and is the administrative center of the
Sniatynsky Raion region of Ivano-Frankivsk. It is not a village but a
large town/small city. Some say it is the prettiest and most
comfortable in the western Ukraine. Before the last war it was an
area of rich multicultural history – a mixture of Ottoman,
Austrian, Polish and Ukrainian cultures. In the first half of the
20th century the population was 2/5 Ukrainian, 1/3+ Jewish, 1/5
Polish with sizable groups of Germans, Armenians and Czechs and
several minorities. The ploto is from around the turn of the century (click to enlarge).
A short history
of Galicia: The Huns – then the Goths – then the Bulgars –
then the Khazars (around 800 AD they became Jewish) - then the Kievan
Rus. In the 1000s Kievan Rus was the largest state in Europe and
called Ruthenia but non-Rus. It covered the White Rus, the Black Rus,
the Red Rus (Ukranians and western Slavs) plus a number of non-Slavic
people. Kiev began to weaken and break up in the 1100s. One of the
stronger pieces was the Rus principality of Halych and Volynia
(western Ukraine). It was in this period that Sniatyn appears. The
town was founded about 1156 and named after Kostiantyn Syroslavych,
the local voivode (duke, warlord, govenor) under the Halychyna
(Ukrainian) ruler Prince Yaroslav Osmomysl. During this time there
was migration into the area from the south of Germans and Armenians.
Then the Mongols arrived! By 1240 all principalities of present-day
Ukraine acknowledged dependence upon the Mongols. The Mongols sacked
Kiev, and many people fled to other countries. For a time the
Ukrainian Princes (now Kings) expanded their holdings but always
under the control of the Mongols. Eventually Poland and Lithuania
defeated the Horde and Galicia came under Polish rule in 1387. During
the early period of Polish rule many Poles, Lithuanians, Germans, and
Jews settled in Galicia. After the formation of the Polish-Lithuanian
Commonwealth in 1569 there was a huge revitalisation in colonizing
Galicia and a number of new cities were founded. Renaissance ideas
spread. Great numbers of Polish peasants arrived. The Ukranian
nobility became polonized and converted to Roman Catholicism. The
Ruthenian-speaking peasants remained Eastern Orthodox. There was
tension. Peasants who fled attempts to make them serfs became known
as Cossacks. They made up military units that fought for the Poles,
Russians and others. But in 1648 the Ukrainian Cossacks started a war
of independence and formed the Cossack Hetmanate (viewed as the
precursor of the Ukraine). It fought the Ottoman Turks and Tatars in
the south, Poland and Lithuania in the north, and Russia to the East.
By 1667 the Ukraine was divided between Russia and Poland. Galicia
was in the Polish part. In the 1790s there was a partition of Poland
and the extreme west of Ukraine became Austrian. (Between 1214 and
1221, 7 years, Hungary held Galicia and the words 'rex Galiciae et
Lodomeriae' were added to the Hungarian Crown and never removed; that
crown passed to the Hapsburgs in Austria; in the partition Empress
Maria Theresa of Austria & Queen of Hungary used this wording to
claim Galicia – ironic.) About this time there was a movement
started, Ukrainophilism, to revive the Ukrainian language and
cultural traditions and re-establish a united nation-state. Galicia,
under the Austrian Empire, was under an Austrian or Polish elite.
Ruthenians were almost exclusively kept in the peasantry. This caused
a certain Russian sympathy and led to the round up of all those
supporting Russia at the beginning of WW1 and their massacre. The population was called
Ruthenian and Ukrainian but also Rusyn (very confusing).
in Sniatyn: That is the
background and during these times Sniatyn was almost permanently a
border town. At it's creation in 1156 it was on the border between
Pokuttia and Bukovyna. Pokuttia was conquered by Poland in 1387 so
Sniatyn stood on Polish southern border. Sniatyn obtained the
Magdeburg Right in 1448 and the status of a frontier city. (Magdeburg
Right was the law that applied to a hundred or so medieval cities
through north and eastern Europe and grew out of the rule of cities
in the Hanseatic League – think cities' Royal Charters in England
and the autonomy they gave.) The city grew during this period as an
important customs-and-trade center. Being on the border, it was
repeatedly destroyed: Moldovans, Turks, Tatars, Cossacks raided it.
Sniatyn has no really old buildings. During the first Polish period,
it was the springboard for the raids of the Polish gentry on
Moldavia. In Sniatyn the Poles met Alexander, master of the
neighboring Moldavia more than once. Here he would pledge allegence
to Jagello as a vassal. While staying in Sniatyn the King had talks
with the envoys of the Greek Emperor Paleologis and the Patriarch of
Constantinople who were pleading for bread help to Constantinople
which had been struck by famine. It was from Sniatyn via the Black
Sea Port of Khadzhibey (now Odessa) that the grain was sent to
Constantinople. Stephen the Great, ruler of Moldavia, having been
beaten by the Turks in 1476 asked the Polish King for help. In
Sniatyn he gathered his troops together and on receiving relief from
the Polish King set out on his campaign against the Turks. Such
crafts as cooperage, sewing, shoemaking and furriery were flourishing
in Sniatyn. The fairs were held anually and the artisans, as well as
yeomen tillers used to sell their products there. Things were like
this at the time of peace. In the year 1456 some of the inhabitants
of Sniatyn participated in the peasants' revolt against the landlords
in Northern Moldavia which was led by Lev. It was here that one of
the first insurrections of the serfs against the landlords in Ukraine
burst out in the year 1490. The rebels were instigated by Ivan Mukha.
In the year 1524 over 500 Turkish janizaries crossed the Dniester and
went on the rampage in Pokuttya. They looted both Sniatyn and other
settlements. In 1532 the town was burnt to the ground by the troops
of the then Moldovan ruler. In the years 1590-1648 the Tatars
perpetrated twenty-nine raids on Snyatyn. During that period the town
was set on fire five times. In the course of Bohdan Khmel'nytskyi's
campaign against the Polish gentry in 1648 the area around Sniatyn
witnessed the activities of the rebels' detachments. In 1656 the
rebels overpowered the local garrison and captured the Sniatyn
fortress. They razed the newly built castle to the ground. The 1848
Revolution in Europe brought about the abolishment of serfdom. A new
historical period in the development of economy and the spiritual
revival of Sniatyn starts. People erected crosses and mounds to
commemorate the end of serfdom. Every year on that day they worked
only till the afternoon. Issues like education and language were
often raised at rallies. A gathering held in Sniatyn on 27 February
1892 brought together over 2,000 participants. The speakers voiced
their opinion to the effect that the destitute people should
primarily be granted political rights as a basic remedy for the
improvement of the situation. As everybody was paying taxes equally,
it was only fair that any person upon reaching the age of twenty be
granted equal election rights. The participants of the meeting
demanded an improvement of the educational system, lower prices for
salt, abolishment of the duty to repair roads, introduction of the
Ukrainian language into the work of the village authorities. In July
1875 Mykhaylo Kropyvnytskyi came to Snyatyn with the cast of the West
Ukrainian theater "Rus'ka Besida" to stay there for three
months. The people of Sniatyn could see the father of the Ukrainian
theater in the plays by Kvitka-Osnovyanenko, Taras Shevchenko and
other Ukrainian authors. In 1881 a Ukrainian Reading Hall was set up
in Snyatun. In 1903 Mykola Lyssenko, founder of the Ukrainian musical
culture, arrived. After WW1 it reverted to being part of Poland and
was the rail crossing point between Poland and Romania. In 1939
Sniatyn was the temporary seat of American embassy in Poland, as the
diplomatic personnel abandoned Warsaw after the first Nazi bombings.
Nearly the entire Jewish population (3500) of Sniatyn was murdered
(shot in the forest, starved in the ghetto and sent to concentration
camps) during the Holocaust. 17 Jews were left in the city because
they were qualified artisans needed by the occupiers. Russia gained
the area after WW2 and the Ukraine became independent in 1991.
An aside: It has to do with
jokes about Harry's father being Hutsul: an area in the vicinity of
Sniatyn was called Hutsulschyna, Land of the Hutsul. “The Hutsuls
are a micro-ethnic Ukrainian group that has preserved a distinct
self-identity for hundreds of years. They moved into the Carpathian
highlands between the 14th and 18th centuries. Because of their
isolation in the mountains they carried on their way of life, based
on cattle, sheep and craftsmanship. They fell under the rule of many
governments but they managed to avoid change – even the Soviets let
them be. In many times they achieved a noticeably higher standard of
living than other people in the region. Their contact with the
Galician population was in and around Sniatyn. They have a bagpipe
(duda) which Harry insists is proof of being hillbillies. There are
two Hutsul museums in Kolomyia. Traditional Hutsul sounds and moves
were effectively used by the Ukrainian winner of the 2004 Eurovision
Current interest: So we have a
frontier town with a rich history, a rich culture and strong economy.
In fact in is so rich in multicultural history that it was the
center of a “Memoria” program on a frontier city. “The project
was realized by the Centre for Urban History within the framework of
the program “Memoria”, which was initiated by the foundation
“Memory, responsibility and future” and the Stefan Batory
Foundation. The goal of the program is to inspire young people to
look for traces of shared culture and history in the border
territory. The geographical focus of the program is Central and
Eastern Europe, where for centuries people from different cultures,
religions and languages co-existed. The Second World War and the
Holocaust, deportations and changing borders after 1945 almost
completely destroyed the diversity of these territories. That is why,
within the framework of the “Memoria” program, events are
organized with the participation of young volunteers from Germany,
Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Russia, Belorus and Ukraine, which
are aimed at the preservation of historical monuments, acquaintance
with different aspects of border area history and culture and
formation of contacts with the inhabitants of these populated points,
where the camps take place.” Harry thought it would be a good
multicultural place for a spy to come from but, alas, Alfred Redl
didn't come from Sniatyn; he came from Lviv which is the area Harry's
mother came from – irony.
Yavoriv – another home town
It is all Olga's fault. First she asked how big Sniatyn was and then
she told Harry not to tell me that their mother came from Yavoriv. That
was like a dare. There is a panarama of the center and a map with a red dot for Yavoriv (click to enlarge).
I am not going to go through Galician history again – it is pretty much
the same for Sniatyn and Yavoriv. And both were border towns. Whereas
Sniatyn is on the southern border of Galicia, Yavoriv is on the
Yavoriv is a city of about 13,000, the regional center of Yavorivskyi
Raion in Lviv Province of the Ukraine on the Shklo river. It was first
mentioned in documents in 1376 when it belonged to a Polish duke. It is
recorded in 1408 when a bootmaker's workshop was established. It
received Magdeburg rights in 1569 (probably because it was a border
town). In 1632 a Basilian monastery was founded there. In 1670 the
Nativity of Our Lady church and bell tower were built and it is now the
oldest wooden building in the area. John III Sobieski, famous for the
defeat of the Turks at Vienna 1683, liked to live in Yavoriv. Not far
from it is the watering-place of Shklo with sulphur springs. When it
was Polish it was called Jaworow and was an important trading center on
the main route from Jaroslaw to Lviv. It became Austrian in 1772 and
was granted the status of free royal city, for which the townsfolk had
to pay over 15 years. For over 40 years Ukrainian ethnographer,
linguist and publicist Yosyp Lozynsky (1807-1889) lived in this town;
he pioneered using the folk Ukrainian language in literature and wrote
the textbook, The Grammar of Ruthenian Language, published in Przemysl
in 1846. Yavoriv remained Austrian until WW1. Just before the war
the population in this part of Galicia was 55% Poles, 42% Ruthenians,
3% German (this stat appears to not include the Jews). In the aftermath
of the war, the area around Yavoriv was involved in the
Polish-Ukrainian War. It was part of the Polish Republic until the 1939
invasion of Poland. Yavoriv was infamous during World War II for its
ghetto. Around 5,000 Jews were killed either in the local ghetto or in
concentration camps. There were some who escaped and established a
partisan resistance unit, but they were found and also killed.
Thousands of Jews and Soviet POW shot by the Nazis in 1941-1944 are
buried under the Pischana Hora near Yavoriv in Lviv Oblast. According
to locals, in 1944 Germans escorted about a thousand Jews from Yavoriv,
Nemyriv and Zhovkva as well as Soviet POWs. They made the captives dig
the graves with their bare hands, burying many of them alive. Locals
could hear moans and the earth was shifting for the whole night.
Today there seems to be a large army establishment in the area around Yavoriv.
Harry's mother was born here and lived here until she became an orphan.
Her father was a Ukrainian business man and her mother was his second
Aside - The village Yavoriv
There is also a Yavoriv Village, population 919, founded in 1659 and
quite a separate place. It is on the Rubnytsa river with waterfall and
rapids in the mountains. The name of the village came from the name of
the maple trees that abundantly grew in the village (I have not found
this connection anywhere else and have not found that yavoriv has a
meaning). It now attracts tourists for its forests and the rare plants
found there. The inhabitants were cattle breeders. They were famous for
flat carving in the Hutsulshchyna style. This place has probably
nothing to do with Harry's mother.
German settlements around Yavoriv
Harry's father used to tease his mother about her Germanness. She had a
German mother and after she was orphaned, she was raised by her German
grandmother in a small German settlement called Munchenthal (today
called Muzhylovyci in Ukrainian). The Polish name was Muzylowice. Under
Austrian rule there was a policy of promoting the modernization of
Galicia and this included the settlement of German-language immigrants,
the founding of the University of Lemberg (Lviv), the introduction of
basic education, and guaranteed religious tolerance. The German
settlements were meant to encourage good agricultural practices in the
whole peasantry. (Map show German settlements and towns where German
tradesmen could live. Munchenthal is red. Yavoriv is spelt Jaworow.) Harry's mother told me
that the settlement was quite
regimented – they had to have the right type and number of apple trees,
a very good bull was brought to the village yearly to service the cows
(and any mares if he could catch them according to Stephania) so the
cattle breed was improved. The Austrian government wanted these to be
'model' villages. In 1774, Empress Maria Theresa issued the first
settlement patent which gave immigrants permission to settle in the
cities and towns. In 1781, Emperor Joseph II. issued the second patent;
it allowed foreign settlers also to settle in the country and provided
for religious tolerance of Protestants. As a consequence, thousands of
families, mostly from the Palatinate, Swabia (Baden-Wurttemberg), and
Bohemia, immigrated to Galicia and settled in newly founded
German-speaking communities in the country or were craftsmen in the
cities. No extensive areas for a new agricultural colonization existed
here and so the government had only crown lands taken over from the
Polish kings, Jesuit lands (the order was dissolved in 1772) and
monastery lands confiscated by Joseph II in 1782. Galicia became one of
the densest populated places in Europe. Many of the settlements failed
and people starved. There was chaos. (It was said to be as bad as the
Irish potato famine) The settlers that failed went on to Bukovina in
large numbers where the Austrians did have empty land for them, or were
scattered around Europe.
But other settlements thrived. It seems that Munchenthal was a
fortunate village. It is first recorded when the village of Muzyłowice
was bestowed upon the brothers Herbert and Frydrysz Fullenstein in
1386. Muzyłowice remained in the hands of this family until the late
16th century. In 1604, it was bequeathed to a Jesuit collegiate in Lviv. Muzyłowice became an
important economic, administrative, and religious centre of the Jesuit
Society. The Jesuit chapel in Muzyłowice existed from at least 1649.
The Jesuit collegiate in Lviv was officially closed by the Austrian
Crown in 1773, and with it the Jesuit estate of Muzyłowice. The land
become Austrian crown land. The first group of German colonists to
Muzyłowice included families from Mähren (Moravia) who settled along a
road called “Mährisch Seite.” This name is still used by the Ukrainians
in the village today, over 60 years after the last German family left.
Austrian Emperor Josef II officially established a colony of German
Roman Catholic settlers in 1783-1784 on the land of the former Jesuit
estate. The new colony was officially called Muzyłowice Kolonia, but
was always known as Munchenthal to the colonists. Including the
original 10 families, it now totalled 40 families who were given land
of about 20 acres per family. In the first few years, a school and a
Roman Catholic Church were erected with a German teacher and pastor.
The neighbouring German settlements were also Catholic. They helped and
supported one another apparently; they socialized and intermarried. In
principle Austrian authorities aimed to create settlements of colonists
of the same religious denomination. About 90 out of 163 German villages
in the area were of exclusively Protestant faith, about 50 Roman
Catholic, only the rest were of mixed religious denomination. Before WW
2, there were three German newspapers in Galicia, 95 schools in which
German was the language of instruction and 27 Polish schools in which
it was taught as a foreign language. In 1939, there were about 70,000
Germans in Galicia. After the war there were very few. With very short
notice, most of the German colonists left Munchenthal in January 1940
when the area came under Russian control and were repatriated to
central Poland. Those remaining left during the next few years. Later,
many went on to Germany and some to the US and Canada where they had
relatives who had come previously. In 1944, a small band of Ukrainian
Insurgent Army (UPA) operated in the area.
Harry's mother lived in Munchenthal for a few years and then was moved
back to Yavoriv by her sister and fostered by an inn/restaurant keeper
(Malnowska) in the town. She was then back in the Ukranian culture
until she left for Canada.
I mentioned Harry's family in some other places and here are links: Sniatyn – a home town, Koloyyma, Stephania's visit, Harry's little trick, Melancholy Slavs
For many years there has been an idea that cooperation is not really
going to work – never has and never will – against selfishness. The
idea comes from several sources: natural selection, selfish gene
(Dawkins), and the Prisoner's Dilemma of game theory (Nash). And it was
a paradox because clearly, before our eyes, evolution has produced
cooperative organism from slightly cooperative to completely so. It
cannot be impossible or even improbable if it is found in nature from
microbes to humans. There are genes that further cooperation. And
crooks do not 'rat' that often in real life. You can think you prove
that cooperation can't work but you must be wrong if you can see that
it works well.
The Prisoner's Dilemma is a game for two players where they are being
separately interrogated. If they both admit to their joint crime
(defect) they will both spend 3 months in jail. If they both deny the
crime (cooperate) they will both spend 1 month in jail. But if one
defects and the other cooperates then the informer goes free and the
non-informer gets 6 months. It is clear, as Nash showed, that in this
simple game, a player is better off the defect. To defect gets (0+3)/2
or one and a half months on average. To cooperate gets (1+6)/2 or three
and a half months on average. What this game lacks is communication
between the players before the game, repeats of the game, a population
of players greater than 2, players remembering other players behavior,
players who refusing to play with certain other players, revenge play
The selfish gene theory argued that genes evolve to survive. But in
order to survive, a gene must be in an organism that survives and
reproduces. But individuals in cooperative groups are better at
surviving (and they are), then it is an advantage for a gene to be
inhabiting the individuals in a cooperative group. Therefore it is an
advantage for individual genes to further or to not disrupt cooperative
group living. Selfish genes does not mean selfish individuals.
We can see how much of an advantage cooperative groups have over lone
individuals or even large numbers of lone individuals who find it
impossible to cooperate amongst themselves. Cooperation survives. In
humans it seems to be made of three components: empathy/trust and
enjoying company; communication that makes cooperation easier and
selfishness harder to hide; and a nasty streak of revenge, punishment
and isolation of people who take too much advantage of trusting people.
The three go together and make for very powerful groups that can build
civilizations and fend off (in the long term) non-cooperators taking
advantage of them.