Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Springtime in Zhengzhou

Spring was a little later this year than last year, but the cold weather is finally behind us.

Nothing says "spring is here" like a helicopter ride among the blossoms.

The strange plastic igloos at the local mall have disappeared.

Some people do miss the cold. Believe it or not, winter has real fans here.

Yes, he is sliding down a dirt hill on a sheet of plastic.

Winter is over, kid. Let it go.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Counting down to another deflationary impulse

First the bad news.

That pop-up I talked about last month in the phase space portrait of gold x USDX has gone the same way as last year's. Back into the increasingly significant area of Lyapunov stability near the centre of the above plot.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The plot of USDX index vs gold price over the past decade has shown extreme variability in the specific relationship between gold price and the US dollar index. Conventionally, one might assume that gold and the US dollar strength are inversely related. If so, on the graph below, the plot would trace out a single hyperbola. Instead, we see that while there is a general inverse relationship between the two variables most of the time, the relationship is not simple. Furthermore, there are intervals when both rise together.

This impossible trend represents the increasing demand/value of real money, and is interpreted as an indicator of deflation. From September '09 until June '10 and from October '14 to late January '15, we saw a deflationary reaction in USDX vs gold. Interestingly one such trend began at the endpoint of the previous reaction.

Of course, it helped that major bond purchases by the Fed supposedly ended in October 2014.

For the last year, USDX vs gold has been confined to a relatively small area of phase space, with most of the action showing an inverse relationship between the two variables. In the last four months, however, the state of the plot has shifted from the upper left to the upper right of the following plot, bringing us very close to the endpoint of the last deflationary impulse.

Presently, with other deflationary indicators perking up (Au/Cu), we see the system evolving to the end of the last deflationary impulse. In conjunction with the breaking of the world, buckle up for another deflationary move. We just need a policy trigger. End to NIRP, anybody?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Minority report

Although China is dominated by Han Chinese, there are 55 recognized minority groups. Yunnan province alone is home to 51 of them, and they represent a significant portion of the total population. Guangxi province, which I visited last month, also has numerous minority groups. Why do these provinces have so many?

Portrait of a Miao woman

Yao woman talking to Julie

Yunnan Province, which borders Burma and Viet Nam, is the main province for minority groups. Guangxi Province, which is right next door, also has its share of minority groups.

From Guilin, there are several different types of villages, which are normally visited by tour groups. Yangshuo, south of Guilin is another such area. The large terraced hills north of Guilin are home to several different groups. And many others are known on the basis of rock paintings and distinctive architecture along major rivers.

Huashan rock painting mockup (Museum of Nationalities)

At one time, what is now China was inhabited by several groups of people, but over time the Han became dominant. In southwestern China, people of the Nam Viet were gradually driven off the plains by the Han, and retreated into the mountains, where they survived by farming huge terrace complexes.

Longji terraces, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

This method of survival was effective in the southern parts of China, where one could at least eke out a living. Surviving ethnic minorities in northern China adapted different strategies. But there is a price to be paid. Watering all those terraces is brutally hard work. Additionally, a major reason that the plains of China were so fertile is the interaction between the rising Himalayan mountains, as they are eroded by monsoon rains, the fresh minerals carried in raging rivers that cross China and episodically flood. The minerals in the soil of the plains is thus replenished on an ongoing basis.

The soils on the mountains--not so much. Notice how small the woman talking to Julie was? All the Yao people we saw were really tiny, even by Chinese standards.

Yao woman with infant

Look at these terraces again.

Longji terraces, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

This is how you get to water them.

I would hesitate to call this a pump. You stick one end in the water and pump like hell, and the fins draw water up to the next terrace. Basically, just by splashing. I would think that adequate nourishment was historically a problem.

Longji terraces, in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

As the Han held the plains, the other people of the region only survived in isolated holdfasts in the mountains. They could survive in the mountains, and the Han probably didn't feel the price worth paying to completely eliminate them, although there were numerous wars in recent centuries.

Although ethnically related, without the ability to maintain communications, eventually the groups began to diverge culturally, until we reached the present situation with many relatively small populations of diverse cultures--islands in sea of Han.

Miao instruments in the Museum of Nationalities.

Consider the Miao. Despite being a relatively small group, there is a lot of cultural variation among groups living in different parts of China. So much so, that with my untrained eye, I would not recognize them all as part of one ethnic group.

Miao Pavilion in the Nationalities Court, Nanning

The Miao like frogs

Miao costume

The Zhuang are much better represented in Guangxi. They have their own room in the Museum of Nationalities.

Zhuang artifacts in the Museum of Nationalities, Nanning

Zhuang fabrics

Zhuang slippers (top) and flower slippers (below).

As for the Yao, we have already seen them working on their terraces. At one time they were allied with the Miao in rebellion against the Chinese, but were driven south into mountain holdings. Culturally, they share some properties with the Dong people--their propensity for extremely long hair, for instance.

Elaborate embroidery is another thing the Yao have in common with most of the southern minority groups. 

Yao farm implements, Longji terraces.

It isn't all about pumping water up one terrace at a time. They also gather honey.

Despite some cultural similarities with the Dong, their architecture is significantly different.

Yao village, Longji terraces

Dong pavilion, Nationalities Court, Nanning

Dong architecture, Museum of Nationalities

Girls playing catch in front of the Museum of Nationalities.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Yesterday's men

I think I was in high school in Toronto during a revival of "Man of La Mancha". My recollection of the adverts that ran in the paper for it at the time were of an abstract shadow of a man, not at all like the image in this article.

What made me think of Don Quixote? A pretty decent pizza restaurant in Zhengzhou. In this restaurant was (it is gone now) the following image.

When I first saw this image, somehow my mind flashed back to this ancient recollection of the Man of La Mancha ad. I recognized the S on his chest somewhat belatedly. All right, so it's a portrait of Superman. But somehow the two characters have become juxtaposed in my mind, and I have to say I like it.

Superman as Don Quixote.

You'd have to feel sorry for him. When he first appeared back in the '30s, everything was a lot easier. The notion of "truth, justice, and the American Way" didn't elicit the same sort of reaction as it would now. Back then (at least, the way it looks from here), things seemed simpler than they are now. It looked like you could be certain whether or not you were doing good and fighting evil.

What is the poor guy up to now? Just like for Don Quixote, the World has moved on and left him behind. There he goes, the big blue boy scout, running around the world trying to do good, only to be horrified at the results. Free Iraqis from Saddam! Who could argue with that one? Well, . . .

Freedom for Libya? Smash Qadaffi's forces. Except . . .

All right, but we can all agree that Bashar al-Assad must go. Darn, this isn't working out either.

Yes, bailing out the banks has caused a lot of misery. But is it really more than if the banks hadn't been bailed out? Hmmm . . .

Okay, but I'm pretty sure I'm right helping the Ukrainians overthrow their government . . .

Nothing works any more. Somehow all the problems of the world have gotten just a little more complex and nuanced than they used to be. What's a hero to do?

Keep tilting at windmills and dream the impossible dream.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gold and silver in the Nanyue Kingdom

. . . also known as the Nam Viet kingdom, from which modern-day Viet Nam gets its name. The gold in this post comes from the tomb of the second Nanyue king, an at is about 2000 years old--much older than the one shown here. It was discovered during a construction project a little over 20 years ago, and, luckily, avoided being bulldozed.

A big part of the proof of the autonomy of the place is the number of seals buried along with the king: seals of the king, the crown prince, and assorted other people. Their importance can be assessed from the material of the seal. That of the king, the seal he used as the crown prince, and that of the right concubine are solid gold. The others are gilded bronze.

Enlarged model of the king's seal.

The king's seal. Crappy angle because there are multiple planes of 
glass with different orientations protecting the thing.

Seals of the crown prince (above) and the right concubine are also gold. They were also interested in turtles.

Traditional imperial seals of the time were made of jade--that the king's was gold, and larger than usual, demonstrates that the local administrator overstepped his boundaries and declared himself king of a new kingom.

Gilded seals of lesser concubines.

They say when a king dies, he has a lot of company. Fifteen sacrificial victims were found in this tomb, including concubines, cooks, guards, and at least one musician. Retirement planning was simpler in the old days.

The king was dressed in a suit of jade plates, sewn together by silk thread, and bore jewellery.

The jewellery is mostly jade, but had a few gold beads.

At this time, and throughout much of China's history, it was jade that was truly the kingly material. Consequently, there are many significant jade pieces in this (and other) tomb(s). But jade isn't really on our menu at the World Complex, so . . .

Jade dragon with a gold hook.

Jade phoenix plaque with gold fittings. The gold replaces the original (broken) links.

Gold foils were stitched to the silk cloth over the king's face.

Gold and silver garment hooks.

Gold ornaments on chessboard

Silver wash basin

Silver box