Rearranging the universe

After eight years, I stepped down from my board position at KfS today, thinking it best not to be a limpet. To my surprise everybody expressed their regret and several even asked me to reconsider when I announced my plans. I always get so confused by praise and suspect that people are just trying to be polite, but I think I'll just bask in the kind words for now. Time enough to be depressed tomorrow again.


Unpaid advertising

The Daughter found 107.1 Vinyl on the radio. It seems to be the least sucky of the commercial radio channels, they have more than twenty tracks in their collection and it's educational for the children to hear the 1960s music I grew up with. But, good old public service P2 is still unbeaten for breadth and variety.


Finished a model!

A DUX-built SPAD VII from the Aviation Batallion in Santahamina, ca 1920. Model from Plastiques Dermatt, scale 1/81 [sic!]. The brown colour has been recommended as typical for DUX-built aircraft, but by this time the aircraft had been repainted at least once and could just as well have been green.

The EU attracts flies

I have always been annoyed by the People's Republic of China failing to accept the Republic of China as an independent nation, especially when they wave armed threats around intended to bring the little buggers in line. One should think that there would be a little warning sign flashing "Maybe there's a reason they don't want to be a part of our glorius nation" in the collective brains of the PRoC government. Well, possibly they are entirely clear over the situation, and just don't care, independent little buggers have to be brought into line, because otherwise, how would things go? Loss of control and face and all that.

Still, if I was a diplomat (ha!) I would occasionally take the opportunity to point out that there is a long queue of nations* begging to join the EU. One can be quite suspicious of the union and yet, it must be doing something right, because all these people want to get in. (Well, some think they just want a piece of the Common Agricultural Policy, but it seriously seems to go beyond that.) So, dear People's Republic of Vinegar, what have you done lately to attract Taiwan?

*My anal-retentive nature insists that only the part of Turkey west of the Bosphorus should be allowed to join the European Union, but I don't think anyone cares about my opinion…

Good guys praised

The Research Center for Radiation Therapy at the Karolinska Institute have received top marks in a Vinnova-evaluation of medical technology research along with the Center for Medical Image Science and Visualization in Linköping. Couldn't happen to more deserving groups, in addition to doing exciting research they're nice as persons as well.


This is the kind of stuff I can watch for hours

For this site it looks fairly simple, but try for example feeding in http://www.dn.se—it is amazingly complex. Note that the source code given isn't exactly Java, it's Processing, which is slightly different and has its own runtime environment.


I'd eat Leia

Nerd cakes.

From Verdun to Rhymin' Simon

As I was lacing my shoes this morning I thought about Edmund Blackadder. I really loved the first Black Adder series with prince Edmund the utter prat, scheming beyond his ability, and with lots of Shakespeare jokes. Apparently this didn't get the desired ratings and in the following series Blackadder went down in class but up in cunning. I did not like these programmes and watched them only occasionally. But my friend Adrian lent me his copy of Blackadder—The Whole Damn Dynasty and I found to my surprise that the scripts were actually really good and witty but had been destroyed for me by Rowan Atkinson's overacting. In particular "Goodbyeee", the final episode of Blackadder goes forth, is a poignant and really rather sad piece on the senselessness of war, but while I did see the episode, I didn't notice its message until I could read the words. Blackadder has realised that an offensive is in the works and does his best to get out of the army, but to no avail. In the end, they all go over the top and only poppies remain…

Now Blackadder is a thorough cad with few scruples and yet he does not desert. Why would he voluntarily go into certain death? It has been pointed out that soldiers do not in general fight for freedom, home country or other lofty ideals, but simply and concretely for the other guys in the platoon. You Do Not Drop Your Mates In The Cacky. So, peer pressure is more important than life for most people.

Abraham Maslow is one of those authors everybody quotes but very few actually have read. Reading Motivation and Personality it is clear that he is considerably more nuanced than he is usually given credit for, and while he certainly discusses belonging as a motivating force, I think he has not realised its full strength. Indeed he sees as a property of the most self-actualised persons that they do not need the approval of others. (I was going to mention the Nietzschean overtones of this, but as I have not actually read Nietzsche, I should be careful.) But again, to most of us, belonging is important, sometimes I think perhaps the most important human motivation. Soldiers ignore their safety needs in order to belong. Some explanations of anorexia nervosa claim that the victims are ignoring their physiological needs for food in order to belong. Yes, of course we would jump off bridges if everyone else was doing it, because we want to belong.

Some people never say the words
"I love you"
But like a child
They're longing to be told
Paul Simon


Family values

I'm not sure what "values" are upheld by discouraging parents from living with their children...

Nerd Pride

At Daily Kos is a scary story about a Christian Youth revival meeting in the US with severe Nuremberg rally overtones but what really struck me was this girl:

In the context one has to assume that she actually does not like Satan and that she thinks calling him a "nerd" is a real good put-down. Obviously the T-shirt is a mass-produced item, so it is not a case of one confused person having had a brainwave thinking she came up with the most witty slogan imaginable... Well, it probably is, but apparently enough other people have thought it was witty enough to make it worth the effort to produce the T-shirt. (Assuming for the moment it is not a person with great talent for irony who has been putting on these youngsters.)
As a nerd I don't know whether to feel insulted or proud, but I am reminded of Linda Branagan's experience with her BSD daemon T-shirt while in Texas.

So, anti-intellectualism. I could brush it off with it being typical of specifically Protestant Christians or USAmericans, but I remember standing watching* a May Day demonstration some years back when my eye was caught by an obviously home-made banner saying UT MED AKADEMIKERNA ("Expel the academics"), carried by some venerable older men. I had a child in a buggy with me at the time, so I didn't rush up to them to angrily point out that I had a university degree and where exactly did they intend to deport me? The back of their banner indicated that they would initially be content with the government being purged of its university-educated members. Not that there were that many of them at the time... As I never spoke to these gentlemen I can only guess at their arguments, but I think I have heard them elsewhere:
  • Academics are not working-class and are too well-paid to understand the needs of Real People. Well, with computer science degrees being in vogue I have to my surprise now ended up above the nation-average salary, but both my parents worked on the line when they first got to Sweden, so I'll claim my working-class heritage, thank you very much. Furthermore, if two-thirds of the Swedish population are not working class, don't they deserve representation as well?
  • Professional politicians are bad, since they have lost connection with the Real World. Even Tage Danielsson, whom I otherwise hold in high regard, indicated as much in his song Ge mig hellre en glad amatör ("I'd rather have a happy amateur"). This extends beyond politicians, for some reason there is a common idea that an ignorant person magically will do better than a well-educated person in the latter's area of education. Thus the reason for sites such as Quackwatch, Bad Science, Bad Astronomy and many others, who fight an uneven battle against those who gull people out of their money and lives by being able to claim they are "counter-establishment", "don't know what's impossible" and so on. Strangely enough, the one area where this idea does not hold is in sports. I have heard nobody say "Well, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is just a part of the football establishment and has a vested interest in the requirement that the ball has to be kicked with the feet, I think he should be replaced with my cousin whose spirit guide has told him one should touch the ball as little as possible in order to win." Strange, isn't it?

*Occasionally I've attempted to take part in May Day demonstrations, but once there I don't feel good about marching and chanting with the crowd. I probably see too many sides of every issue to function well in politics. I should have the motto: "I doubt, I think", whatever that works out to in Latin—Dubito, cogito?


Finally found the bug

So, I spent the last two days trying to figure out why a set of PHP scripts that worked well on my PowerBook spectacularly failed on the company web server. Had to work through the scripts almost character by character and finally found the bug was due to the glob() function with the GLOB_BRACE option set on a PHP version 4.3.4 server not finding a file match and therefore crashing. As J. Gordon Letwin is reported to have said about bugs: “One in a million is next Tuesday.”