Just a quick catch-up.
Brothers Grimm seems to be Terry Gilliam's attempt to show Hollywood he can straighten up and fly right after the disastrous abandoning of Don Quixote. More conventional storyline than usual, with the usual imagination-is-better-than-boring-reality stuff put in. Pretty entertaining. Doesn't have much to do with the real Brothers.
Superman Returns. Quite liked this: more action than some of the reviews suggested. Wasn't offended by the romantic sub-plot that was bolted on. As Nick Lowe keeps pointing out in his Mutant Popcorn film reviews in Interzone, Hollywood now tends to use father-son relationships as more important than love stories, which tend to be relegated to the rom-com ghetto; and pre-teen characters tend to be shoehorned in to cover the demographic bases. I think he used War of the Worlds as his example: the 1950s version had an obligatory love story stuck in; the recent Spielberg version didn't bother with that, but stuck in an obligatory father-son dynamic and a kiddie heroine to fit modern conventions.
Superman does something similar, though it leaves most of the father-son stuff for the presumedly-planned sequels. Still, all done fairly effectively, and seems somewhat laboriously faithful to the Christopher Reeve movies. Liked the way it kept their design of the Fortress of Solitude. Pretty entertaining again.
Hard Boiled is a classic John Woo movie. Not much more needs to be said.
Didn't really get into Underworld: Evolution, even on a dumb action movie level. Seems a bit ponderous when compared to the first version: takes itself a bit too seriously with the angst. Not too unpleasant to sit through though.
Operation Don't Get Fatter
Failing: put on two pounds over my holiday. Need to cut down to OBLF levels again.
Caterpillars overwhelm Sweden
So, this study by "evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa" has been all over the news, claiming that beautiful people are more likely to have daughters. This just smells so much of bullshit to me, but despite Metafilter skepticism there doesn't seem to be a comprehensive rebuttal out there.
Some things I don't like about it:
- Can't remember if it was Dawkins or Gould, but one of them mentioned the elephant seal paradox. Elephant seals are highly polygamous, with one male servicing a large harem of females. So, you might expect the sex ratio of new-born elephant seals to be skewed. In fact, it's almost exactly even. The reason: every individual has exactly one male parent and exactly one female parent. Whatever the mating odds, there is a very powerful evolutionary pressure to keep the sex ratio even. How come this weak-looking beauty pressure can overcome that?
- Kin selection. Human beings don't congregate at random: they tend to live in tribes or villages where a large proportion of people have some kind of family relation to them. If you have these genes for producing mostly-male or mostly-female children floating around, that's going to be a problem for their owners: you're going to be surrounded by people of your own sex.
- The mechanisms to allow this seem complicated and detectable.
Since the overall sex ratio is almost even, if there are produce-daughters
genes there must also be produce-sons genes. Produce-sons will be most
often found in men, produce-daughters in women. Therefore either the sperm
or the ovum/womb must be able to influence sex ratios.
According to this, sperm are either X or Y sperm, that will produce male or female embryos. So if Kanazawa is correct and ugly men, or scientists and engineer are more likely to have boys, it should be pretty easy to detect experimentally. Take sperm samples, and see if there are more Y-sperm in there. Similarly, if a female can reject a certain kind of sperm, or selectively reject male fetuses, there ought to be some detectable mechanism for it.
More experimental data and less statistical handwaving, please
Ireland Day 3
Leaving Dublin today. Not much available around here at breakfast time, all the other tourists are in bed, so ended up having a Mega Breakfast sub at Subway. Nicely private, though not much of a view.
Worrying: charged the phone all night, or thought I did with the Universal charger, but it seems to be nearly drained this morning. No phone, no camera, no notes. It's supposed to need 5 volts, but the charger only has settings for 6 and 4.5: need to up it.
Arrived in Carlingford early afternoon. Journey was fine, both buses on time. Long distance bus from Dublin was air-conditioned and nearly empty.
Drogheda didn't seem too bad, considering the guidebooks seem to describe it as hell on earth: fairly small, lots of none-chain shops, pretty clean
Got a strange mix of vibes from Carlingford. Beautiful setting where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea. [Later note: my brother in law tells me these aren't actually the Mountains of Mourne, but not sure he's right.] Seemed at first a great place to stay for a day or two: sit reading on the beach or the grass facing the sea, eat in the open air in the glorious weather
On second glance though, the town doesn't really face the sea so much as huddle away from it, doubtlessly entirely practical in normal weather. A couple of the bistros have daringly put benches out in the narrow streets, but they're certainly not letting one sunny spell turn them into the Mediterranean. Presumably they couldn't have big sweeping picture windows anywhere without destroying the traditional it's-bollock-freezing-cold-and-there's-a-howling-gale-so-let's-have-really-thick-walls-and-really-tiny-windows architectural look
Also seems to be a lack of public space: a couple of tiny, stony beaches and a few patches of grass. Ireland is supposed to be even more car-centric than USia and I can see what they mean: no pavement on the roads, and it seems to be assumed you can drive everywhere. Hoped I'd be able to rent a bicycle in town, but asked at the tourist office and apparently the nearest place is in Newry, an hour's bus plus waiting away.
Guesthouse is pretty good though: disconcertingly effusive host (I thought these Louth types were supposed to be dour and glowering), spacious and immaculate room (desk and table and chairs, lots of storage, bath and shower)
Went to a fairly tourist-dodgy looking pub for supper but had a surprisingly delicious meal, hake baked in herbs on a bed of mash. Staff: had a brand-new Irish waitress: her efficient East European colleagues seem to be bailing her out quite a bit. Also had two guinness and a chocolate fudge cake for dessert. Snacks: apple, Pringles
Knackered again. Ought to do some kind of trip tomorrow: considering a long walk up the mountain, but not sure I could make it. Bought a Tain walk map, and it claims it can be done without difficulty any walker providing the weather doesn't turn bad. Might be better to just take a walk along the coast, or even a bus if I'm feeling really lazy.
Ireland day 4
Big walk through the mountains today. Had a good full Irish breakfast at the B&B, then took off on a long walk aiming for Carlingford Mountain or Slieve Foye.
As usual, my navigational-challenged-ness gave me some problems: vaguely intended to follow this route starting along the Tain (pron. Toyne} Way, but missed the fact and the sign that the route goes West-South not North-South, so ended up going South instead of West. Seemed like a pleasant walk, along metalled roads but quiet, running parallel to the main coast road, so kept going.
Eventually came to a rather less pleasant main road, and had to follow that West for a while, before turning North down another quiet road. Was quite surprised when it eventually crossed the correct branch of the Tain Way, further West along its length. Followed that for a while, which was a superb walk through the broad sunlit uplands. Eventually crossed the saddle between Carlingford Mountain and the peak further South, and stood with a wild surmise looking at the sea stretching before and behind me along the Cooley peninsula
Cameraphone doesn't really capture it. Tried stitching a couple of photos together
(Slightly bigger version here).
Couldn't see the way the tourist-office guide map said was to the peak of Carlingford Mountain, but there seemed to be a fairly worn track leading off that way, so I followed that until it disappeared: as I found they seem to have a way of doing that.
Still, managed to scramble up to the marker at the peak with only a moderate amount of paranoia. That morning the peak had been wreathed in cloud, and the guide is full of dark warnings of what happens when the Cloud Comes Down
Still, got there OK and rested for a while, before a bunch of teenagers wandered up along an obviously much easier route from the South-East
Still relying on the guide, followed its instructions and followed the ridge to the North-North-West. Was supposed to turn right into a broad slope of heather: did so into what I thought was a broad slope, but turned out to be a treacherous, slippery, precipice which I cursed and slid my way down. Eventually got to the forest which the guide claimed contained a car park: painfully followed a barbed-wire fence around it the wrong way before retracing my steps and eventually stumbling, covered in sweat and scratches, out in front of some bemused motorists
Actually recovered my composure pretty quickly, and followed a nice, broad, flat forest path back to Carlingford and the hotel
Snacks along the way: one apple, Cadbury's Fruit and Nut, 2 litres of water including half from a mountain stream temporarily standpiped. Asked a lady if it was drinkable: she seemed doubtful, but told me she drank water straight from the stream herself, so risked it
Came back, had a bath which left a tide-ring of gunk around the bath (which I rinsed off, mostly out of embarrassment). Went out for supper: had another nice meal: pan-fried Brill on mashed potato, followed by Sticky Toffee pudding, which I also enjoyed, though it was probably from the O'Brake Brothers.
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