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What I am doing on my holidays….

Well, first I lost, or rather British Airways lost, my luggage, so I am living in the same clothes I spent 36 hours on planes in. Unpleasant.

But, Jenny and I went to the Accademia Galeria and saw enormous numbers of Medieval and Renaissance paintings. Then to the Piazza San Marco, where I saw the famous “spandrels” in the Basilica San Marco, and then into the Doge’s palace, where we saw several Bosch paintings. Wonderful stuff.

What most interested me was the extent to which the Basilica was decorated. While on their own, the pendentives do indeed look like they were decorated after the fact, and were not there in order to support pictures of the Evangelists (Mark, Matthew, Luke and John), when you look at the interior of the Basilica itself, it is clearly there for one major reason: to support the decoration in the domes, the pendentives, in the spandrels, walls and alcoves. The whole place is there for the task of supporting these extensive and costly status-declaring decorations. When I get home I will scan some of the images I acquired (you can’t take photos, or there’d be one of me pointing at the famous “spandrels”).

This is interesting, I think, in the context of Gould’s and Lewontin’s paper. It shows that claims of things being adaptive or not depend crucially on what one counts as the “task” of a structure. Since I think that everything is subjected to selection pressure at all times (sometimes not enough to overcome the noise of statistical properties), counting what is, and what isn’t, adaptive is a bit of a personal call, in the absence of access to the historical processes of particular traits. I am becoming more of an adaptationist these days.

A final note. Don’t use the waterbuses in Venice late on a Sunday. Everybody else wants to, as well. And I can strongly recommend Barababao B&B – really helpful guys in a lovely place. My luggage is supposedly on its way as I type. I hope so. It’s got my power supplies and meds.


  1. moseszd moseszd

    I feel for you. And, having had this happen to me, I now always take a carry-on with at least one change of clothes. Worst-comes-to-worst, I can rotate and do laundry every day.

    • I wish I could find a place to buy underwear in Venice, but I suspect everyone goes to the mainland…

  2. Sorry to hear about your luggage. One year I manged a 50% loss rate, but it was all eventually discovered. The worst was a trip to Hawaii where I lost the luggage both coming and going … and I was giving a talk the first day of the conference there, so I had to rush out in the morning and get something to wear for that…

    Anyway, hope the rest of the trip goes better 🙂

  3. John Monfries John Monfries

    I hope you get it back quickly.

    My worst experience was when British Airways didn’t (re)load my luggage on the London-Amsterdam leg of a New York – London- Amsterdam flight. I knew I had to stay awake and fight jetlag for the 12 hours or so it might take for the missing luggage to catch up with me. [Needless to say, the luggage did not have one hundred small legs.]

    The only possible approach was to shower, then get back into the same clothes (as you say, yuk),wander outside and look around. So I walked around like a zombie, attended a cultural show in the afternoon, and returned to my lodgings only to find the luggage had still not turned up. It finally emerged the next morning.

    I admired the effortless way in which the baggage agents in Amsterdam conveyed no impression of apology whatever, and somehow managed to suggest that the whole problem was all our fault.

  4. I would n’t be so quick to blame BA. When I flew to Tokyo a few years ago I watched the check-in person tag my bag (you should always check the tag – a few seconds checking could save you days of pain)and saw the correct flight number on the tag, but the luggage never made it. The airlines are not responsible for the luggage until it hits the aircraft hold. Faults (as in this case) are usueally caused by the airport baggage system, not the airline.

    Than being said, I’m flying BA to London in a couple of mionths so I’ll be checking the tag closely.

  5. There’s something wrong with your blog, John. It’s doing something strange

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