July 20th, 2011

Things Not to Google: Cheddar Man

I heard this fantastic story about migration in Europe and disputes about whether when agriculture arrived in Europe the people who brought the agriculture actually deployed the agriculture (replacing indigenous peoples) or whether the indigenous peoples adopted the new practice. The story involved a really old skeleton and DNA testing and a close relationship (I would swear "on the order of 4th cousin" came up in the conversation, but it was late and there was alcohol and I thought it involved Cheshire not Cheddar).


I got links and here they are for you:


Short form: the DNA testing was done back in the mid 1990s by Brian Sykes (deep sighs all around, please, because as a source? I do not like this as a source) _and the whole process was filmed_ (lay head down on desk and _cry_, because whatever the story is, I already don't believe it). The full sequence of mtDNA (crying escalates, because anything involving mtDNA is fantastically distant in time) has apparently never been released, leaving us with the extremely generic U5 as the only piece of information (not that it would matter -- in the intervening time, our understanding of the clades has drastically changed. Repeatedly).

Most discussion online based on the first couple pages of google results is astonishingly credulous: in the world of bloggers who take up Cheddar Man as a discussion topic, we're apparently certain that his people were cannibals (hey, maybe they were. No big deal one way or the other to me, except that the quality of evidence being rallied to this argument is kinda crappy, even by the standards of are-they-or-aren't-they-cannibals discussions. To be fair, it isn't just bloggers: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/feb/16/cheddar-cave-skull-cups. I'm not questioning whether people tooled skulls. _That_ is well-supported.).

At least a few people wrote (if the copy is to be believed, possibly even the LA Times: http://pw2.netcom.com/~duchess/old_stuff/stone.html) with a straight face that the mtDNA shows that a man was a direct descendant of Cheddar Man (cue laugh track). Some of the better posts were at places like genealogy-dna-l (which I saw archived on rootsweb) and similar fora. For example:


It's entirely possible that there is great information out there about Cheddar Man's mtDNA including enough of the sequence to be really meaningful, only it's not showing up in the top two pages of results from google for me because everyone else is just way too enchanted by this whole and he's related to a local schoolteacher! thing. Plus! Cannibals!

But I'm going to give up, at least for now.

Chaos and Mayhem in Small Town New England

I haven't found news coverage. Yet.

Last night, we took the kids out to go get fries, but rather than go through a drive through in Maynard, we went to the one in Ayer with the Play Space, where A. promptly (and completely accidentally) spilled almost an entire chocolate milk. Also, the touch screen computer wasn't working. There was a bunch of argument about juice boxes (T. didn't want them and wanted to throw them away, until we were in the van leaving, at which point he insisted on drinking one. Go figure.). Then we went to Kimball Farm to get ice cream, where A. (this is shocking) was uncooperative. Turned out she needed a diaper change.

We eventually -- frazzled -- made it home, while R. and I questioned my judgment about switching from the drive-thru + Great Brook Farm (feed farm animals!) routine on account of the heat.

Things went relatively well at home: the kids were nuts but we were clear by that point that they were exhausted and they went to bed quickly. Then the real fun started. Lots of very _very_ fast drivebys on our ordinarily utterly silent (at least at night) street and a lot of flashing lights and even some sirens. This is a town that avoids sirens, too, especially late at night (it was after 11 p.m., which counts as very late around here). This morning, we found out why, but at the time, we were much more concerned about a more disturbing sound closer to home: the downstairs A/C fan motor appears to have a failed bearing. It's still working but it is _loud_. And with the current forecast, when R. called this morning we found out we won't be able to get someone out here to fix it until Friday. Could be worse: it could be the upstairs A/C, where our bedrooms are.

R. says the ruckus a little further away is a road closure a quarter mile from us because someone's extremely bad driving cut up the mulch and took out at least two telephone poles. (<-- That's the part I'm looking for news coverage of.)

Fun night. It's not even a full moon. That was a few days ago.

ETA: B. says she was at a restaurant (after close) that lost power as a result of a single car accident, possibly two people in the car, possibly one ejected, passenger rumored to be in the hospital. I still can't find news coverage. RHI moving at 100 mph.

I'm glad to hear that no one outside the vehicle was affected beyond the power loss and general tragedy of cleanup. This kind of accident can be much, much more lethal.

ETAYA: B. found coverage! Two people went to the hospital. M., my walking partner, lost power as a result and got it back around 7 a.m.


Judging by the photos, a convertible BMW. While I absolutely sympathize with the desire to go over a hundred miles an hour in a convertible -- especially in a smooth, purring BMW that really seems to have a sweet spot above 85 mph -- NOT ON A TWO-LANE CURVING ROAD IN A SMALL TOWN. I hope they survive and then spend some time in jail.

Finnish Alcohol Consumption after Tax and Duty Changes

R. has been very persistent on this and tracked down the study that I was unable to find.


"This was the subject of a study following a significant reduction in taxes in Finland in 2004 (30% for spirits, 3% for wine).The abolition of import quotas by the EU in 2004 also made it possible to import from other member countries and this led to an increase of approximately 10% in alcohol consumption in Finland."

Engaging in a little stereotyping, the Finns have a bit of a rep for consuming lots of alcohol and that being a problem, so there was a lot of interest in what the effect of this change would be. Yes, there _was_ an increase in alcohol consumption and alcohol related mortality -- but there was also a decrease in CVD mortality (not cancer) and some others as well. The thinking is that while the people who had trouble with alcohol got into a little more trouble, the beneficial effects of an overall increase in moderate consumption of alcohol more than compensated for those additional negative effects.

Many thanks to my husband for pursuing this in the face of wild skepticism on my part. The summary is very much worth reading, and the conclusions in line with the way I think about the world (prohibition bad; regulation good; tricky to find the line, but worth making adjustments to get it right).

Update on Crash


Yes: all the expected stereotypes apply.

RHI [ETA: R. asked me what RHI stands for and this may have contributed to the negative response by the abusive commenter. RHI = Rumor has it. I was repeating what I heard from someone who was at the plaza at the time of the accident, and who talked to other people who were at the plaza at the time of the accident. I don't know the people who told her this stuff, so I labeled it "rumor", altho I now understand RHI is not obviously "rumor" to every reader. My apologies. ] he walked away from the accident and the injury to the young woman involved a broken bone. Let's hope they all learned their lesson (something involving NOT speeding down a residential street -- hey, MY street -- in the dark and missing the curve).

However, googling "jacob victor acton ma" turned this up from a couple years ago:


"Jacob Ross Victor, 17, of 10 Heather Hill Road, Acton, was arrested April 24 and charged with disorderly conduct."

So I guess I wouldn't be too optimistic.

ETA (after the abusive commenter showed up):

(1) I pulled that quote from a public source and the public source is named above it.
(2) The person in question is _not_ a child (they are now 19 years old).

ETA Yet again:

Here's what Offical Journalism Types Say About Naming a Minor:



File this under, oh, for *'s sake:


"Jacob Ross Victor, 17, of 10 Heather Hill Road, Acton, was arrested May 25 and charged with shoplifting by concealing merchandise"

I didn't pull that off google; I went to wickedlocal and typed "Jacob Victor" into the search box. I'm going to quote something else from the site:

"The following are excerpts from the Acton public safety log for period May 25 through May 31. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty. If an individual listed is found not guilty, The Beacon will print that information here at the request of the individual and upon verification with the court or police."

Word to the wise.

ETA Jul 22 3:40 p.m. EDT:


Looks like the turn-around time for him at Emerson was pretty short. "Parisi said the accident remains under investigation." The article describes booking and arraignment.