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BLS and My Neighbor’s Laws

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan told of overhearing his housekeeper on the phone, “Sure, he’s a doctor, but not the kind that does a body any good.”  There are more doctors that can do “a body any good” than Ph.D. sociologists like Moynihan. There is a practicing physician (whether DO or MD) for somewhere on the close order of every 530 US residents.  On the other hand, when I worked it out, there was somewhere on the order of one practicing Ph.D. sociologist for every 30,000 people.  Run my specialty – demography – out, and it is indeed humbling how irrelevant my work has been to most of society. 

Occupational Outlook shows a total of 45,500 logging jobs in the US – basically one logger for every 7,250 US residents.  Still, BLS showed only 40 employed loggers in May of 2020 in west Montana.  Somehow, I get the feeling that gypo loggers aren’t reported all that accurately.

As I recall, there’s one plumber for every 1,200 US residents, roughly.  Anyone who has needed a plumber knows that there is a profession that does a body some good.   About one percent of the population is teaching at either elementary, middle or high schools. A bit over 13% of Americans 25 and over hold graduate degrees.  Less than 10% didn’t complete a high school diploma.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides this information on “The largest occupations in West Montana non-metropolitan area, May 2020” – basically how our neighbors are employed. 

OccupationEmployment
Retail Salespersons2,580
Fast Food and Counter Workers2,370
Cashiers2,040
Office Clerks, General1,960
Waiters and Waitresses1,910
Home Health and Personal Care Aides1,530
Registered Nurses1,500
Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks1,360
Carpenters1,310
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education1,080
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Explaining Communication

I ran across this post from Bruce Charlton the other day – he does a nice job of describing the information we read – or watch -or hear.  Charlton is a retired psychiatrist, whose work was in evolutionary psychiatry.  He edited a journal that was not peer reviewed, and was somewhat controversial. 

His article begins:

“When you hear a politician speak, read a press release or a media headline; you are not dealing with an attempt to communicate the truth about reality; you are dealing with language as calculated manipulation (‘language’ here including visual, symbolic, audio and other media).

Manipulation is language intended to shape attitudes, thought-processes and actions.

Such language could also be termed propaganda – that is, language intended to have a particular effect on others; albeit the usage of ‘propaganda’ tends to be rather narrower than what I intend here by ‘manipulation’. 

This is why the Establishment are liars. They are not even trying to communicate information – let alone accurate information; They are always trying to affect our behavior.

Their purpose is to get us to do what They want. All ‘communication’ is just a means to that end.”

His book The Genius Famine: why we need geniuses, why they’re dying out, and why we must rescue them is online. It is an interesting read, stressing personality theory. 

Charlton, about halfway through chapter 1 explains “We will argue, indeed, that we have a Genius Famine. Genius has now all-but disappeared from public view; partly because intelligence (which is strongly genetic) is in decline in the West, partly because social institutions no longer recognize or nurture genius, and partly because the modern West is actively hostile to genius.”  Later, in chapter 2, he describes the conditions that made intelligence evolutionary:

“The message seems to be that in pre-industrial Europe (before about 1800-1850) natural selection on humans operated mostly via mortality rates – especially child mortality rates. An average of more than half of children would die before adulthood, but this consisted of near total mortality rates among the children of the poor, and ill, and of low intelligence or ‘feckless’ personality; whereas among the skilled middle classes (clerks, merchants, lawyers, doctors etc.) the mortality rates were lower and fertility (number of births) was high. Therefore in each generation most of the children came from the most intelligent group in the population, and over several generations almost all the population would have been children whose ancestors were the most intelligent (also conscientious, and relatively peaceful) sector of the population.

(This is why anyone English who has ever traced their family tree will find that by the sixteenth century – when records begin – their ancestors are, at the very least, wealthy though non-aristocratic farmers (‘yeomen’ or richer ‘husbandmen’).[25] And this is why every English person alive is descended from King Edward III – 1312-1377.).[26]

Clark argues that this harsh natural selection resulted in an increase of average intelligence with every generation, and ultimately culminated in the intellectual and social breakthroughs of the Industrial Revolution. It meant that there was a large percentage of the society whose intelligence was so high that the necessary breakthroughs could be made, and that the society as a whole was sufficiently intelligent such that it could maintain and even develop these breakthroughs.”

I have a feeling that his book may be no more politically correct than Murray’s The Bell Curve.  Charlton’s explanation

“Probably the most significant impact of the Industrial Revolution was in reducing child mortality rates from more than half to (eventually) just about one per cent. For the first time in history, almost all the population, including the poorest classes and those with the heaviest mutation loads, were leaving behind more than two surviving children. Over a few generations, the mutational load must have accumulated – fitness must have declined – and average intelligence must have reduced due to the effects of deleterious mutations on brain development and functioning.

Since intelligence is correlated with genetic quality, this inferred population level mutation accumulation implies that average intelligence should have declined since the Industrial Revolution.” 

His concepts seem congruent with demographic transition theory, and I’m going to have to finish the read and think about it.  This evolutionary psychology seems to be an interesting take.  The links are worth following – my mind is not made up.  If his thoughts of a genius famine are correct, it is definitely a social change issue.

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Dating a Winchester 67

I decided that I really like the Winchester 67 when an older cousin wanted to borrow a 22 rifle to shoot gophers.  Since he knew more about firearms than I did (and this after I had been teaching at TSJC and exposed to a lot of gunsmiths) he returned the 67 with a scathing comment about it not working.  Despite his firearms expertise, I don’t believe he had ever encountered one of the old bolt single shot rifles that wasn’t self-cocking.  Still, there is little point in arguing with gun experts, so I put the rifle away, overriding the impulse to stick a cartridge in, cock the bolt, squeeze the trigger, and say “Works for me.” 

The Winchester 67 was an economy model 22, made from 1934 to 1963 – and lacking serial numbers.  Despite the lack of numbers, I wanted to know when mine was made – and despite the fact that Winchester made between 383,597 and 652,538 of these numberless little rifles, there are clues to ferret out when it was made.

The takedown screw head didn’t stick out from the stock until after 1937 – this means the rifle was made between 1934 and 37.  The finger grooves in the stock were eliminated late in 1935.  Between those two features, I know the old rifle was made in 1934 or 35 and had a suggested retail price of $5.50.  The knurling on the takedown screw – so that it can be taken down without using a penny as a screwdriver, is supposed to indicate that it was built in 1934 – but that may be stretching things a bit . . . the first model 67 left the factory in May of 1934. 

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Back to the Boom Town

I’ve started cleaning up and doing a few repairs on the old service station.  It’s more a social activity than I had realized.  Some stop who knew my parents – there are fewer of those, but frequently strangers to me.  Others stop and ask what my business goal is – and I don’t really have an answer.  Right now the task is to clean up, add structural walls to reinforce the roof trusses, replace the roofing, and then figure out what to do.  Another group stops and asks about the history of these old buildings. 

I’ve never felt like a part of history.  As I look for answers to these questions, I realize that I was alongside when many of these small local histories were being made.  I suppose writing the history of the construction boom will help tell the story.

The history actually applies to four buildings in the SE corner of section 18.  The old service station has board and batten siding, and the tanks and pumps have been taken away.  It’s not the first building on the corner – Wylie Osler told of a tie hack who stacked his ties on the spot years earlier, overwintered there in the cabin of stacked cross ties, then sold them in the Spring and moved on.

The service station isn’t the oldest building there now.  The northernmost building – 8’ wide – is the old bunkhouse that was moved from logging camp to logging camp.  The southernmost building – 10’ wide – is its companion cookshack, also moved from camp to camp.  I don’t know what sort of a deal Don Boslaugh made with Dad for the two logging camp buildings to change careers from logging camps to trailer court support buildings at Westwood Acres – but now they flank the service station.  The heavy timbers that allowed them to be loaded on trucks and moved to logging camps now sit on the ground – and I don’t know the condition now, or what will be done. 

Visitors have looked at the log building and commented on its age – but it was actually built in the mid-eighties, and is the newest building on site.  It was an instant old building – the log walls were originally cedar poles that supported the telegraph line that ran alongside the rails in the Kootenai valley.  They were unmarketable and abandoned by the guy with the salvage contract as the reservoir filled.  Milled on three sides by Pat Eustace, they became an instant “old building.”  I’ve repaired the back wall in the log building – one of the base logs had shifted and the wall needed reinforcement.  The front overhang will be the next repair, then the doors.

The service station was built by Kenny Gwynn – who owned the sawmill in Eureka (now Gwynn Lumber and Reload) and a fuel distribution operation.  Kenny leased the building to Howard Mee – with the shop in the north half and the sales floor in the south, and the name Trego Service.  The southeast corner housed a barber shop, run by Chet Apeland.  It was built in the mid-sixties, set to serve the boom that came with the tunnel and railroad relocation.

The mid-sixties saw four trailer parks built in Trego and a new school was to serve the increased population.  I’ve been associated with two of them.  I’m guessing that somewhere over 180 trailers moved in to Trego housing workers for the construction projects that accompanied Libby Dam.  While we have better equipment available today, I doubt if the construction could be repeated with the need to go through the county planning board and sanitarian’s office.  Compared to 1965, today’s county government is . . . well, somewhat distant from libertarian principles.

The service station, after 55 years, will be getting the structural wall back in where the barber shop was, plus structural wall extensions to strengthen the trusses over the old service station, leaving the rooms Dad built in place.  After the structural walls are back in, and a new roof is in place, we’ll start some remodeling.  Business plans may be nice – but my task is just to get things back in shape.

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This Science was Settled

ACS offers a researched article titled “Evolution of Medieval Gunpowder: Thermodynamic and Combustion Analysis” here.  If you read it, one of the first things you will notice is that it lacks practical use.  Nobody is going to go out and start formulating gunpowder as it was made in 1350.  The article pretty much states that the evidence shows that 75:10:15, by volume, mixes into the most effective formula for black powder.

Last September, Hogdon announced “Effective immediately, Hodgdon Powder Company, Inc. has made the decision to cease manufacturing operations at the company’s Camp Minden, Louisiana site while evaluating strategic options for the black powder business.”  So far as I know, their Goex brand has been the only American-made black powder available for years.  I guess the science may be settled, but the research is still timely.

I went through my black powder time in my early twenties.  After the Gun Control Act of 1968, I didn’t expect to see a nation where second amendment protections increased over my lifetime.  I didn’t see the reproductions of the 1858 Remington Revolver as all that inferior to a modern 38 – they’re a little more problematic in loading and cleaning, but generally that isn’t a problem. 

Abandoning black powder is more a problem to the flintlock guys than folks who use percussion caps – the refined black powder ignites at a lower temperature than the substitutes like Pyrodex – and that’s a benefit when the ignition relies on sparks from flint and steel.  Percussion caps are a bit inferior to modern primers – but still provide more than enough heat to ignite the substitutes.

I was intrigued to see that adding camphor and/or ammonium chloride was first done in the middle ages, then lost until 1917:

“Camphor in all recipes tested was used in conjunction with another additive. The first recipe evaluated used camphor and ammonium chloride (NH4Cl). Like varnish, camphor was a common ingredient for incendiary mixtures; unlike varnish, camphor appeared in multiple recipes and was continued to be used into the 15th century and even the 16th century. One 15th century text notes that it strengthens all powders when it is added.(17) Indeed, as late as 1917, John Buxbaum filed a U.S. patent for mixing black gunpowder with spirits of camphor, presumably unaware that he was reinventing a medieval technique.(18) In a gunner’s handbook from the turn of the 15th century, ammonium chloride is praised as a preservative: “it is good in powder that will be stored for a long time”.(15)”

To me, one of the great benefits of civilization has been the ability to purchase explosives of known quality and reliable sources – not having to do my own chemistry.  I like having all my thumbs and fingers.  Still, there are already black powder hobbyists who make their own powder (youtube has videos showing how to do it, and even stress safe handling). 

Obviously, the topic has been well researched – but science is always open to more research.

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A Little Language

Cancer interfered with my opportunity to learn Sranan – taki – a language spoken in Suriname.  I had the opportunity to spend a Fullbright faculty gig in Paramaribo, but the surgery, radiation, and chemo pretty well removed the opportunity.  I think I repressed thinking about it – the topic just came back to mind last week.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is the idea that the structure of a language limits the way that we view and understand the world.  Suriname is the world’s smallest, most diverse nation – and I suspect the language affects their comfort with racial, cultural and religious diversity.  Sranan is a small language – spoken in one small country.  It’s an English-based creole – but based on English as it was spoken by English and Scots colonists between 1640 and 1657 (when the Dutch took Suriname and the English took Manhattan).  Then it had another 300 years of modification by Dutch speakers, and African influences (I think these really show up in the words for different types of snakes).

I do get messages in Taki on occasion – and the expansion of the internet has added greatly to the ability to hear it spoken again.  Suriname is a single nation, ostensibly Dutch speaking, but mixing people from Africa, Europe, Java, China and India. The many original languages of Suriname’s slave population made development of a local language necessary – and the economic structure (most of the Dutch were company employees, often on fixed term contracts) made keeping the English-based Creole a natural thing.  After all, the Scots and English didn’t leave every five or ten years.

This video offers spoken Sranan with English subtitles – and gives an idea how the language flows and the subtitles makes it easier to connect with the older English and Scots words.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is the linguistic theory that the semantic structure of a language shapes or limits the ways in which a speaker forms conceptions of the world.  I probably should write more about it – but for now, I tend to believe that Sranan, in its semantic structure, helps build an accepting, tolerant, diverse society.  A society where Muslims and Christians join in celebrating holi fatwa, a Hindu holiday.  The structure presents words that while defined, include a certain ambiguity – if I look at our language, just examining the phrase “liberal” provides differing and antithetical definitions.  I think a different language for discussing religion and politics might help – at the least it would shut us up until we learned to use it.  An online definition is “In the areas of Democracy and Citizenship, Classical Liberalism has the following meaning: A political philosophy that places high value on individual freedom based on a belief in natural rights that exist independent of government. “  After Woodrow Wilson and crew managed to move the definition of progressive into something most Americans didn’t accept, Progressives seized the term liberal – and today Wiki describes it “According to the Encyclopædia Britannica: “In the United States, liberalism is associated with the welfare-state policies of the New Deal programme of the Democratic administration of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Now, if we change definitions, it gets hard to argue or discuss things.  I’m not certain that, as a nation, we might not get along better if it were mandated that we had to carry on all political discussions, arguments and advertisements in Sranan.  At least we’d get a few months peaceful discourse while the partisans learned a new language.

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Bear Attack Statistics

Flathead Bear Aware posted “In fact, more people are killed by black bears.”  The statement  brings the opportunity for statistics – and there are a couple of sources easily available for checking the statement. 

From a statistical perspective, fatalities are a more solid measure than attacks.  Five years ago, I listened to a man telling of an aggressive black bear that he had shot – yet I had encountered the same bear possibly an hour earlier, and not seen any threatening behavior.  Did the bear’s behavior change?  Was it just that there is a difference in the observer?  I don’t have a solid answer, but my suspicion is that some folks tend to see aggressive behavior where it isn’t.  Bodies however, whether the killer is a bear or a human, aren’t subject to interpreting behavior.  Dead is dead. 

My first source of data on bear fatalities is at blog.batchgeo.com/bear-attack-statistics/

It includes polar bears, as well as brown and black bears.  I’m making the assumption that geography ties in with bear attacks – my demography influenced guess is that there are very few people who live in polar bear range, more people who live in brown bear range, and that most of the United States population live in black bear range.  The map suggests the same idea – and the brown bear attacks it shows in California probably did not occur in recent memory.

The blog shows 11 fatal polar bear attacks, 82 fatal black bear attacks, and 90 fatal brown bear attacks.  This data probably doesn’t negate the Flathead Bear Aware claim – a glance at the map shows six or seven grizzly attacks in California – and one of the things that can make statistics unreliable is covering different time spans.

So my next data source is wikipedia.org

Wikipedia isn’t a perfect source – but in this case it does seem to be more up-to-date than more official sources might be. 

Wiki shows 6 fatal black bear attacks and 6 fatal brown bear attacks since January 1, 2020.  Apparently, David Lertzman was killed twice while jogging in Alberta on May 4 of this year, once by a black bear and once by “a bear, determined to be a female brown bear, while out jogging. The bear is suspected to have attacked Lertzman from behind, sending him off a 300m embankment.”  Well, knocking someone off a thousand foot cliff isn’t a typical bear attack, and I suppose a jogger might match a grizzly’s definition of fast food.  So the 2020’s count is 5 black bear fatal attacks to six browns.

2010 through 2019 show 11 fatal black bear attacks and 17 fatal brown bear attacks along with two fatal polar bear attacks (both at Nunavit).  One of the black bear fatalities was listed as a “captive” bear. 

2000 through 2009 lists 16 fatal black bear attacks and 12 fatal brown bear attacks.  It is probably worth noting that Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend are included in the dozen brown bear attacks.  Wiki’s listings go back to 1784 and confirm that the most recent California fatality was in 1875.

Bear Attack Statistics of North America includes a chart showing fatal attacks by month:

January3
February1
March1
April4
May17
June22
July28
August32
September28
October28
November12
December4  

Their conclusion: “The summer months are chock full of fatal bear attacks, though it does make sense that most attacks occur when both bears and humans are spending an increased amount of time outdoors. It’s also logical that attacks slow down in November as it nears the time for hibernation. 

We learned brown bears cause the most fatalities, particularly those near Glacier National Park or Yellowstone that are out and about in August. And we saw those trends clearly when we looked at a map.”  Personally, I get a bit more nervous around grizzlies than black bears.

The websites are worth visiting if the topic of bear attacks interests you.

A Science for Everyone

Thoughts on Banning Theories

I’m a sociologist.  I use theory to explain human behavior.  As a profession, we recognize our basic paradigms – Structural Functionalism, Conflict theory, and Symbolic Interaction.  In my use of these, Conflict theory is essentially the back of Structural Functionalism – one shows how societies work, function and their structure, while the other looks at the spots and time when conflict takes over.  Symbolic interaction deals with the fact that socially, we communicate with symbols.

I am more comfortable with conflict theory and symbolic interaction – but that doesn’t mean I can afford to ignore the Structural Functionalism paradigm.  It does explain some portion of our social world.  It’s basic Durkheim – and his thoughts are basic to my discipline.  He looked at how society worked.  Karl Marx, with conflict theory, looked at the spots where society did not work.  Karl, who wrote the four volume Das Kapital, essentially spent a lifetime studying capitalism and it’s flaws, it’s weaknesses.  He seems better recognized for the 50 pages of the Communist Manifesto – yet it does seem a little unfair that his major work is less recognized.

Still, it was conflict theorists who developed Critical Theory – Adorno, Foucault, etc.  Critical Theory differs from the paradigms I prefer in that it looks at critiquing and changingCritical theory society. My perspective is that my discipline should focus on understanding or explaining society.  No matter how good I am, I prefer not to make the decisions on how people should live.

That doesn’t mean there is no place in my world for Critical Theory.  Adorno’s work on the authoritative personality has a place to meld in with the basic social conflict paradigm.  Critical Race Theory operates from the assumption that a society based on values and beliefs that grew in Europe needs drastic change to improve society, based on race.  To my way of thinking, its origins with the legal profession move into a system of analysis that is scientifically weak – the idea of the “reasonable man” that is basic to legal understanding is not the same as scientific method. 

While it may be correct – but I want to examine the premise with a value-neutral approach and dig out as many statistics as I can.  My disagreement is not that the theoretical approach is useless – instead, my disagreement is that the methodology lacks scientific rigor.

I have the same problem with Creation Science – the folks who provide the answers tend to have arguments that are, at best, weakly supported.  That doesn’t mean I want to eliminate the theory – someone in the future may do a better job with it.  Likewise, I may see a better scholar working with Critical Race Theory.  To move away, into physics, Maxwell’s demon did provide an explanation that violated the second law of thermodynamics.  The fact that the little demon didn’t have face validity hasn’t stopped physicists from refuting the explanation for a century and a half.  We don’t need to ban theories – we need to test them responsibly.

A lot of people have attempted to use the concepts in Marx’ Communist Manifesto – so many that we can use the data we can harvest as if it were quasi-experimental.  I’ve watched communism work on Hutterite colonies – but it has several unique attributes that aren’t present in the Soviet system, or Cuba, etc.  While most Hutterite Colonies are successful, they include a religious commitment toward communal ownership, and I haven’t seen any colonies with walls to keep people from leaving. 

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An Article and an Absent Friend

Psychology Today has an article titled “The Unexpected Relationship Between Ideology and Anxiety.”  It’s online and available at :  https://www.psychologytoday.com/

Makes me feel like Max Weber, who was frequently accused of arguing with the ghost of Karl Marx.  My friend, the Reverend Doctor Dave Olson fought his battle with esophageal cancer to a tie, and I can’t forward the link, with a smiley face, to him.  Dave loved studies that pointed out how folks on the political left were brighter and more mentally stable than those on the right – and this one, which shows the opposite, would have really got him into analyzing the methodology.  We really need studies that don’t confirm our confirmation bias.

The synopsis is brief: “People with left-wing economic views are more prone to more anxiety disorders.”   The article starts with “A long-running theory in social psychology, “motivated social cognition,” holds that conservative political beliefs are motivated by sensitivity to threat. For example, it has been claimed that high levels of death anxiety, system threat, and perceptions of a dangerous world each contribute to conservatism specifically, whereas people who are low in these attributes tend to have more liberal views (Jost et al., 2007).”  I recall Dave sharing the Jost article with me.  He loved it. 

This article is a bit different.  It lists the key points as:

  • Claims that conservatives are higher in threat sensitivity are challenged by findings from a large long-term survey in Britain.
  • People with left-wing economic political views had higher rates of anxiety disorder symptoms.
  • People with liberal economic views tend to be higher in neuroticism and lower in conscientiousness than their conservative counterparts.
  • The relationship between threat sensitivity and political ideology may be more complex than previously thought.

I’d suggest reading the whole article, and looking at the methodology – whether it agrees with your confirmation bias or disagrees, it’s a decent read.  And I wish I could share it with Dave and listen to him cut the methodology apart.

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Tolerance

In Suriname, I encountered a mosque next to a synagogue.  Both had been there for years – the synagogue first built by Portuguese Jews around 1723, then the building in the photograph replacing it in 1843.  The first mosque was built next door in 1929, with this new one built in 1984.

Suriname was a great place for me to visit – and this photo, of mosque and synagogue, shows part of the reason.  The population is a racial blend – the culture likewise a blend.  On the Flathead Reservation, the name MacDonald demonstrates how, over ten generations, a family of Scots became American Indians.  Suriname’s UN ambassador told me of his welcome by Scots MacDonalds – the name showed his family connection, not the skin color.

Way back in history, the Brits fought a war with the Dutch.  The Brits captured New Amsterdam, the Dutch captured Suriname.  At the war’s end, the Dutch kept Suriname (thinking it more valuable) and the Brits renamed New Amsterdam – New York we call it now. In Paramaribo, I met Cynthis McLeod, author of The Cost of Sugar and learned of the human cost of the early years of the sugar economy in a place where European companies, with transient managers from Holland, owned the people who worked the sugar plantations.  This site shows the number of slaves imported by country

The Dutch, 2,000 voyages and 500,000 people.  Suriname is a small country, even if we add the other Dutch colonies at the time.  All British North America, basically what became the US, had 1,500 voyages and 300,000 people.  The Confederacy, during the war between the states, had an estimated population of 5 ½ million whites and 3 ½ million slaves.  In 1863 with the abolition of slavery in Suriname, 33,000 slaves were freed.  The estimates are that Suriname’s slave population never was higher than 60,000.  

The numbers make their own arguments about how rough slavery was in the sugar industry – 500,000 from Africa to Suriname and the population never exceeded 60,000, versus British North America where 300,000 grew to 3,500,000 over the same time period. 

The finest cucumber I ever ate was in Suriname.