Useful knowledge alert!

Revere blogs about a couple of recent articles that suggest new procedures for cardio-pulmonary resuscitation: if a person has collapsed with circulation failure (because they have had a heart attack, been electrocuted or drowned) it seems more important for survival to keep up circulation than inflating the lungs. So, if you are alone, don't bother with mouth-to-mouth, just keep compressing that chest.
If you don't know how to perform chest compression, get in contact with your nearest Red Cross centre, they regularly give courses in first aid. (CPR is visible and dramatic, but I think the most important thing taught in these courses is the habit to go up to people lying on the ground and check on them instead of just stepping over them.)



Kibitzing with the Only-begotten Daughter:
“Hold these papers for me while I put on my hat.”
“OK. Hey, hey, I didn't say yes to mittens as well!”
I am altering the deal, pray I don't alter it again!
“It's actually ‘alter it any further’”


Tindra med ögonen, ungjävel!

A sad dummy dressed like a Christmas tree
The window dressing at Åhléns has been rather uninspired this Christmas and I fully understand the pain of having to look like a Christmas tree all through December…


Veckans ord: vårtrött

BenetintDet förefaller åter ha blivit modernt att bättra på rosigheten på sina liljekullar, alltså står kosmetikfabrikanterna beredda och tillverkar vårtrött åt damerna.


God Jul!

I'm so grateful to have you all as friends, it's greatful!


Lunch conversation

The family was disposing of some Gnocchi al salmone and reading various things, as is its wont. I found Jens Littorin's article on Stilton cheese in today's Dagens Nyheter:

“There are six official criteria on a real Stilton, and one of them is that it has to taste like a Stilton. But, if it is a Stilton, doesn't it by definition taste like a Stilton?”
“Well, adher to a previously defined Stilton taste.”
“Hmm, so there'd be an official Reference Stilton in Nottingham Castle? But how do you make sure its taste doesn't change? Even the International Prototype Kilogramme has lost weight.”
“It'd be difficult to make a Stilton standard based on constants of nature.”


Veckans ord: verklighetstorget

Postmodernismen som filosofisk idé skulle kunna tänkas utgå från den tämligen rimliga observationen att verkligheten är så pass komplex att varje given beskrivning av den inte täcker viktiga delar; olika i sig ”korrekta” verklighetsbeskrivningar kan till och med vara motstridiga i delar som blivit förenklade på olika sätt. Olika beskrivningar är bra till olika syften.

Att därifrån komma till att man inte bara kan välja mellan ett antal beskrivningar inom givna restriktioner, utan att man fritt kan välja en verklighetsbeskrivning vilken som helst kräver en i mitt tycke fullständig losskoppling mellan den verklighet man lever i (där saker faktiskt händer, vare sig man anser dem politiskt korrekta eller inte) och den man väljer att beskriva i sina artiklar och böcker.

Man talar ofta om en ”åsikternas marknad” där man kan välja bland olika idéer. Det är nog gott och väl för politik där våra kunskaper om verkligheten är så pass ofullständiga att även väldigt olika (men inte hur olika som helst!) beskrivningar inte nödvändigtvis kan visas vara falska.

Men jag vill inte riktigt acceptera idén om verklighetstorget, där man kan strosa runt och välja sin egen verklighet efter vad som verkar behagligast. Verkligheten synes vara en och oböjlig, även när våra beskrivningar är ofullständiga.


More statistics

With the addition of a Barry Manilow Christmas record, my iTunes collection is now one solid week of music.


In the top 6%

With the Intel Mac I've gone over to marking only every 10000 points, otherwise every second posting would be a new certificate.



Today at IKEA I saw a girl stepping around in high-heel basketball shoes. Obviously fashion has its own logic, unfettered by the actual utility of the clothes.


Veckans ord: destonation

En Tomahawk-robot når sin destonation.
A BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile explodes.


Rock on!

Somebody had decorated Mr and Mrs Noah the other night.



There are things and places that have special smells, but I find it difficult to identify the components of smells and have no names for most of them, but some important things with characteristic smells are:
Airfix catalogues
Märklin catalogues
hospital wards
dental surgeries
public pools
Finland ferries
airport aprons
unheated porches in Ostrobothnian winter
Sunlight soap


Another bridge

Paul Simon often reworks his music quite considerably. I was unaware of this early version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with different lyrics.


Veckans ord: ingengör

Jag är både tekniskt och vetenskapligt högutbildad men alltför många dagar funkar ingenting och jag får inget klart och då känner jag mig som en enkel ingengör.



Unto Mononen's tango ”Satumaa” is sometimes referred to as the second national anthem of Finland. So in honour of the 90th anniversary of Finnish independence, here is Reijo Taipale's classic version.

(Apologies for the sound quality.)


By popular request

P-38 Lightning partially covered in sandEarlier this summer, the well-preserved remains of what is believed to be Lockheed P-38F Lightning serial number 42-7677 were found on a beach in Wales by Cardigan Bay, where they had been covered and protected by sand since the plane was abandoned there after a forced landing in 1942. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery is on the case and has already named the aircraft “The Maid of Harlech” after nearby Harlech Castle.

This has caused considerable excitement as surviving P-38s in any shape are relatively few and there are even fewer individuals of the P-38F, in fact the other P-38Fs are “Frankenstein aircraft”, composed of parts from multiple individuals. Accordingly the plane will be excavated in the coming spring and after preservation placed in some suitable museum.

P-38F Lightning in the airWhile the find in itself is quite fantastic I am also pleased that a “new” Lightning has come to light, as it is an interesting and beautiful aircraft. (I have modelled the P-38M nightfighter once.) It was very advanced for its time and in fact many of the problems that beset the aircraft during its service life were due to its high performance, as the then-current state of aerodynamics did not fully understand the phenomenon of compressibility, which led to the death of many a pilot who exceeded the maximum allowable dive speed. Another factor which caused problems was that the first prototype was lost by an inexperienced pilot during an ill-advised speed record attempt, considerably delaying the test programme so that the aircraft had to be rushed into service while still suffering from teething troubles and fixes had to be applied in the field.

A good popular overview of the Lightning is Martin Caidin's Fork-Tailed Devil: The P-38, with the caveat that Caidin is aviation history's answer to Herman Lindqvist—a good story is always more important than uncertain and tentative history…

A Swedish literary connection is Bertil Cleve's Fantomen – Pojkarnas Flygbok 1940, in which two Swedish volunteers participate in the Finnish Winter War with a privately procured Lightning with a tail-gunner! In the spirit of the times the Swedes are handsome, upright and brave, the Finns are taciturn, tough and enormously brave, whereas the Russians are subhuman cowards. Sometimes I pretend people no longer think like that.

Thanks to Dr Whom for grammar control.


Myopic review

A non-aviation-interested friend was very amused by a review I wrote on The Aviator without ever touching on the human actors. I'll do that trick again…

Christopher Priest's book The Separation [Priest, 2002] is an alternate history with multiple layers. Alternate histories typically build on the premise that one single, but important, thing has been changed relative to “our” universe and the author then attempts to draw out the consequences of that. But, as noted by Christie [1944], everything that happens is the consequence of lots of other things that happened before that so rarely can you just posit that a single thing changed, but other things will have changed as well.

In this review I will, in the spirit of Carter [1985], pick up a throwaway line from the book and speculate over what other changes in the alternate universe had to have taken place in addition to the explicitly stated changes. The passage in question is the following:
Kurt Hofmann was a civilian test pilot working for the Messerschmitt company at a small airfield in eastern Germany. On May 10, 1941, under conditions of immense secrecy, Hofmann piloted the maiden flight of a revolutionary new type of aircraft. It was an experimental fighter powered by as jet turbine engine. The prototype Messerschmitt Me-163 flew at 995 kph (621 mph) before landing safely. This aircraft was widely used on the Russian Front from late in 1943 until the end of hostilities, becoming the standard ground-attack fighter-bomber, It was found to be superior not only to early marques of the Russian MiG-15 jet fighter, but also to the North American Sabre that was entering serviced with the USAAF at the same time.

Now, to work out the differences to our version of the universe, let us just enumerate the superficial differences and then think about the possible reasons for these.

In our universe the Me 163 was a rocket-powered interceptor. It was first flown under rocket power at the large testing site in Peenemünde by well-known test pilot Heini Dittmar; in July 1941 according to Green [1971], on August 13 according to Anderton [1975].

The F-86 Sabre was first flown in October 1947 and the MiG-15 in December the same year [Anderton, 1975], by which time the United States Army Air Forces had become the independent United States Air Force.

Me 163 dioramaSo, to start with the Me 163. Clearly what is described is a completely different aircraft. “Our” Me 163 was a diminutive aircraft with a rocket engine with very limited endurance, able to reach great altitude in very short time. Merely redesigning it to use a jet engine would change the design quite considerably, at the very least requiring air intakes and ducts for the engine—or more likely, for two engines. To turn it into a (successful) ground attack aircraft would require a larger aircraft, carrying more fuel, ordinance and, not least, armour. In fact, we would probably end up with something similar to the Me 262, which aircraft is not mentioned in the passage above, though it was considerably more successful in our timeline.

Me 262 in museumPerhaps the explanation is that in the Separation universe the Me 163 is in fact identical to our Me 262 and the rocket interceptor was never built.

This in turn requires some other things to change. Our Me 262 was not ready to fly under jet power until July 1942 after a protracted design process [Morgan and Weal, 1995]. A jet fighter had flown already in April 1941, the Heinkel 280, but neither it nor the Messerschmitt design got the necessary support from the Reichsluftfahrtministerium [Green, 1970]. The Heinkel design was killed outright and the Me 262 was not a priority project until 1944 or so. Apparently, in the Separation universe, key persons at RLM were more visionary. This would imply, in my mind, that Ernst Udet never became Generalluftzeugmeister or resigned from the post fairly soon. The question is who would replace him. It would have to be a person who would both have the organisational skills to run the technical office of RLM as well as the political skills to stand up to Göring. People such as these would be few and far between in the immediate pre-war Germany. Perhaps Ernst Heinkel could have been one of these, but what would he have been offered to take up this job, instead of his own industry? And would he have been impartial enough to award design contracts to Messerschmitt, one of his hardest competitors? Maybe this could have been achieved if the RLM had been organised more along the principles of the British Ministry of Aircraft Production, more focused on working together for a common cause than backstabbing each other, but this seems to have been utterly antithetical to the very soul of Nazi Germany. But, maybe things will work just by luck and accident, so that Germany has a technically skilled and visionary Generalluftzeugmeister who prioritises the development of a next generation of combat aircraft and that Germany manages to import the metals needed for the exotic alloys necessary for efficient jet engines. They would have to come via neutral countries, perhaps Sweden will increase its trade with Germany and in exchange receive more German military material. There could have been Bf 109s flying in the Swedish air force!

P-63 and P-59 in the airSo, with some probability we could imagine German jet fighters actually in service by 1943. Now, what about the MiG-15 and the Sabre? In our time-line they are both second-generation jet aircraft, based on aerodynamics data collected in Germany after the war by the Allies. However, as noted above, we do not have to assume that the planes in the Separation universe match the aircraft with the same names in our timeline, so they could in fact correspond to early Soviet and US jet aircraft designs, such as the Lavochkin La-15 and the Bell P-59 Airacomet, both of which would have been outperformed by almost any German jet aircraft design.

Anderton, David. 1975. Jet Fighters, Phoebus Publishing, Ltd.
Carter, Paul. 1985. “The Constitutional Origins of Westly v. Simmons”. Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact (CV)10, October 1985, pp 86–96.
Christie, Agatha. 1944. Towards Zero, Collins.
Green, William. 1970. Warplanes of the Third Reich, Doubleday & Company, Inc.
Green, William. 1971. Rocket Fighter, Random House, Inc.
Morgan, Hugh and Weal, John. 1995. German Jet Aces of World War 2, Osprey Publishing, Ltd.
Priest, Christopher. 2002. The Separation, Scribner.


Veckans ord: gemfört

Som förutvarande statsanställd antogs jag egentligen diarieföra all post jag fick, men det kan ju nån med mer tid över ägna sig åt. Om jag överhuvudtaget behöll brevet kunde jag sätta ihop det med ett gem och lägga i en tidskriftssamlare, så blev brevet i alla fall gemfört.


Things of beauty

As I went to work this morning a huge gibbous moon hung in the clear sky over Solna. A SAS MD-80 southwards from Arlanda flew low enough that it passed underneath the moon, then banked sharply in a π rad turn north again. I stood long and looked after it.


The original

Everybody who grew up in Sweden in the 1970s is familiar with ”Hey baberiba!”. My children only know it as ”Smurf baberiba” and asked about its origins. I realised it probably was not original with Rockfolket either and did a bit of googling and found that it is in fact an old Lionel Hampton piece: “Hey-Ba-Ba-Re-Bop”. It swung even then.


Buy Nothing Day

Yeah, we got through Buy Nothing Day and concocted some interesting dishes out of weird stuff we found at the back of the larder, the Thai potato-and-parsnips soup was surprisingly good. But, tomorrow will require a major raid to the food store…


Veckans ord: ployetylen

Eten eller etylen är ett enkelt kolväte som förekommer i många sammanhang. Bland annat avges den av växter, framförallt av mognande frukter och blommor. På människor har gasen en euforisk effekt. Ökar man eten-halten i luften torde euforin stiga men samtidigt börjar man drabbas av syrebrist vilket kan leda till döden. Man ska nog därför inte försöka överraska sina kamrater med ployetylen på gastub utan nöja sig med att försiktigt lukta på blommor.


Buzzword of the year

I don't know if it is due to the onmarch of New Atheism, but suddenly “agnostic” is the word to use, though with regards to technology rather than the supernatural. What last year would have been “format-independent” is now presented as “format-agnostic”. I don't see that we thereby have gained in clarity.

To further confuse the issue, in many cases even “format-independent” would be a bit of marketing lies, as what in most cases is intended is “supports several different formats” where the magnitude of “several” is subject to the subjective opinion of the writer. A system could of course be format-independent in the sense that it is easily extended with user-supplied code to handle any new formats, very neat from a programming perspective, but usually not what someone buying a computer system expects.


My new goal in life!

Randall Munroe (of xkcd fame) is one of my heroes. Now he has divulged yet another reason to worship him: instead of a sofa, he has gotten himself a ball pit. I am so getting one for my next home!

Awesome speed

Yep, I hardly have time to look away from the screen…


Gym gymnastics

OK, I'm sure these guys are famous without me knowing, but I'm just so utterly impressed with their choreography:

Thanks to Skane for the tip!


Veckans ord: allienerad

Om man känner sig utanför kan man kanske hitta andra som också känner sig utanför och så kan man slå sig ihop och ihop slå på andra. Man är allienerad.


In the top 7%

The new dual-core Intel Mac just blasts through work units, I even missed the 35000-mark while turning my back.


Belgium, man, Belgium!

Stockholm C, Monday morning 08:20. Sleet. Cold outside, cold in my head, cold in my heart. I crave solitude but the X2000 to Malmö is all but full.

Östergötland and Småland have a snow cover. Listlessly I try to read documents in preparation for my meeting.

Malmö C, 12:50. The sun shines over the chilly city. I grab a Whopper Meal (sorry, we're out of orange juice) and try to make phone calls. No reply.

København H, 14:40. The main hall feels even colder than outside. I wander around aimlessly rather than freeze on a bench. The benches are anyway taken over by addicts, some joyously high, most silently sunken in on themselves. Finally, the IC3 train to Hamburg. A happy baby gurgling and giggling somewhere behind me, a pair of German girls in front of me, reading thrillers and eating fruit they've brought with them in sensible plastic containers. The sun has set and Zeeland is dark. I have electricity but no Internet, so I can't reach the file server. I return the laptop to my backpack.

Ferry from Rødby to Puttgarden. I refrain from going up on deck, curl up and read about homogeneous transform matrices, erratic bits staying in my mind.

Hamburg Hbf, 20:30. Cold and dark, I have two and a half hours to spend. I am disoriented at first but find the food court after a bit of spinning around. Three slices pan pizza later I am less hungry and cold, but still tired. The book store beckons. Motorbuch Verlag offers thick volumes in German, but I don't want to lug any more luggage and anyway I already have enough reading material.

Fretting, I loaf around the station, watching various shops clean up and close down. The train arrives. Classic sleeper car, no need to fold out the beds. For a couple of seconds I think I will have the compartment to myself, but I am soon joined by a polite elderly gentleman. His accent gives him away as a Swede. The train judders away into the night, I sleep fitfully and when the wake-up alarm by my head goes off I am grateful for the official end of the night.

On my return from the shower a very upset man harangues the car attendant, who tries to pass me my breakfast. I cannot follow all the rapid German, but gather that somebody has attempted to enter the man's compartment pretending to be a train employee. While I gulp my morning tea and croissant, two burly men in DB uniforms come through the corridor. The train stands outside Brussels for a long time, but I do not know how the story ends.

Bruxelles Midi, 06:30. Rain, cold. Not fancying a walk through the city I find my way into the Métro system. The PA system plays pop classics, but the sound quality is awful, the music fading in and out as from a bad AM station.

At the hotel I have plenty of time before my meeting. I try to write postcards, struggling to find the right non-committal but vaguely cheerful phrases.

In meeting, I try to make incisive points and intelligent comments but I notice myself nodding off every time I blink.

When the meeting is over, I still have seven hours before my train back home leaves. I take over a sofa in the hotel lobby and sit and read.

Bruxelles Midi, 23:10. When ennui gives way to annoyance. It's easy to find my train on the info board, it burns in bright red with the comment supprimé/afgeschaft. What? The station is mostly empty, so it is easy to find the queue of upset travellers besieging the lone Belgian railways employee to find out what has happened and how to continue on their respective journeys. The SNCB person has his opinion clear, this is all our own fault, since the railway strike in France has been publicly announced. (That I just arrived in the country the same morning and don't expect strikes in France to affect a train from Belgium to Germany doesn't matter.) However, out of the goodness of his heart he writes out and stamps a form that in essence amounts to a Note from Mum: “This person has missed a train due to circumstances outside his control, please let him have a seat on your train.” and adds an itinerary to Stockholm for me for the next morning. Right, and where am I supposed to sleep tonight? Not his problem, but out of the kindness of the heart of the Eurostar management we are allowed to sleep on the lobby floor of the Eurostar hotel. Sheesh, I'm too old for this kind of shit! A likewise annoyed Brit and I strike out along Rue de l'Angleterre to find a hotel with free rooms.

Hotel Continental, 00:10. I have stayed in seedier places, but not by a wide margin and not for the price of 150 EUR a night. On the other hand, by virtue of having gotten the last room in the hotel my dominion for the night is a giant room-and-a-half with no less than seven beds to choose from. They are all uncomfortable. The room is rather cold, which turns out to be due to the French windows not closing properly. On the other hand it means that the room is well aired out. And then there is the railway right outside. I prop a chair in front of the rickety door and then I fall asleep.

Bruxelles Midi, 08:00. Brilliant sunshine over chilly Brussels. I try to argue a bit more with the SNCB staff to at least get reservations for the trains I have to take—in particular I'd like a sleeping car reservation for the night train from Malmö—but their computer system does not see bookings and, anyway, it's not their problem.

Bruxelles Midi, 08:30. The electronic information boards stop working.

Bruxelles Midi, 10:22. Against all expectation the THALYS train to Cologne leaves on time. To my surprise the Note from Mum is accepted without comment by the conductor. The Ardennes are as beautiful as ever.

Köln Hbf, 13:20. The train to Hamburg is late. I am anxious, I don't have much time for train change in Hamburg.

Hamburg Hbf, 17:26. The train driver has managed to regain lost time and I dash to the next platform to catch the Copenhagen train. I end up across a young Finnish couple (young enough that I have to keep myself from asking them why they aren't in school) who have been Interrailing around Germany and the Netherlands for the last month and now finally are on their way home to Tampere. We play cards and chat for the rest of the journey.

København H, 22:23. They must be practicing to turn the station into a skating rink. I catch the train to Malmö.

Malmö C, 23:08. Out of the goodness of his heart the conductor allows me aboard the train, but no sleeping place for tramps. I find that they do not dim the lights in the cars just because it is night and everybody would like to sleep. I must have slept though, because I wake up around Linköping.

Stockholm C, 05:45. Fuzzily, muzzily I stumble home, soak myself in the tub and then in bed.


Veckans ord: semiarier

När jag fortfarande arbetade på institutionen kunde man ibland se lappar som påannonserade semiarier. Jag kom fram till att det måste handla om mig, visserligen (tämligen) blond och blåögd, men inte alls tillhörande den indoeuropeiska språkgruppen.


Veckans ord: yrka bilfall

Under Franska revolutionen, eller snarare, under det senare Skräckväldet, högg man som bekant huvudena av folk som limpskivor. En drivande orsak till detta var Maximilien Robespierre som i Välfärdsutskottet ständigt yrkade bilfall som lösningen på alla problem.

Finished model 2007-IV

Sopwith Camel B7270 from 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Clairmarais, France, April 1918, flown by Captain Roy Brown. Model from Revell, scale 1/28, commissioned work.

The decals were so awful I thought I could do better just painting the national insignia, but it turns out to be surprisingly difficult to mask concentric circles. In retrospect I should have made new decals instead. On the other hand I'm quite proud of the wood grain I managed to produce on the propeller and other wooden details.


Increasing decrepitude

Today at lunch time I got my first pair of glasses ever. Not very strong ones, but they will supposedly make it easier for me to read. I had been promised them within 5–10 working days from prescription, but in fact they arrived in less than three.

What confuses me a bit is that the optics themselves seem not to cost anything, in spite of the necessity for grinding, surface treatment etc—the expensive bit is the frames, which basically are mass-produced pieces of plastic and/or metal. And of course, as such things go, frames that don't make you look like an idiot are expensive. I'm sure there is something strange and unwholesome behind this, but I'm not quite sure what yet.


So much talent out there

One of the things with web comics is that they often are drawn by geeky people with the same concerns as oneself and thus tend to speak very directly to one. I just spent several hours reading Something Positive, grabbed by whatever it was in the stories of friends and enemies, sometimes outrageously exaggerated in their behaviour, sometimes so very everyday, but with the underlying certainty that It Won't Work Out In The End.


Knowledge is power!

British educational television has always impressed me greatly, both in that it is well done and in that it is sent on prime time as a matter of course. So it's only perfectly fitting that BBC should produce excellent educational television parodies as well, to wit: Look Around You

Start with the first episode, on Maths:


Veckans ord: kommunaktionsteknik

Med jämna mellanrum är det en kommunalstyrelse som bestämmer sig för att lägga ner ett dagis, bygga köpcentrum i ett grönområde eller vidta andra impopulära åtgärder. Då brukar snart uppstå en proteströrelse som går till aktion i kommunen. Dock kan man ju inte villa runt hur som helst om man vill uppnå resultat, man bör därför lära sig effektiv kommunaktionsteknik.


Veckans ord: handeldning

I min barndom läste jag historien om Gaius Mucius Scaevola, den romerske yngling som skulle döda den etruskiske kungen Lars Porsenna men blev fast och därför skulle torteras till döds. För att visa sin likgiltighet inför detta öde körde han då sin högra hand i kungens fyrfat och lät handen förtäras av elden utan att röra en min. Jag blev mycket imponerad av denna handeldning.


XH558 back in the air!

Avro Vulcan XH558 has returned to the air! I saw (and heard!) it do high-speed taxis at Bruntingthorpe in 1995 when it seemed it would never fly again. It is now absolutely mandatory to go to England during next summer's airshow season.


Civil war in America

Paul Harris writes about guns in USA in the Observer. The money quote:
Since the killing of John F Kennedy in 1963, more Americans have died by American gunfire than perished on foreign battlefields in the whole of the 20th century.

I don't really need to say anything about the war on terror, or anything, do I?


Mutating Genre Meme

A blogging and scientific experiment.

There are a set of questions below that are all of the form, “The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is …”.

Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:
  • You can leave them exactly as is.
  • You can delete any one question.
  • You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question. For instance, you could change “The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is…” to “The best time travel novel in Westerns is…”, or “The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is…”, or “The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is…”.
  • You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form “The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is…”.
  • You must have at least one question in your set, or you've gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you're not viable.

Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the “parent” blog you got them from, e.g. Aardvarcheology, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions.

Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.

The best epic novel in SF/Fantasy is: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
The best sexy song in R&B/Soul is: "Come With Me" by Rare Earth.
The best cult novel in fantasy is: Small Gods by Terry Pratchett.
The best supersonic transport in history is: BAC/SA Concorde.

My ancestor 1 is Pharyngula.
My ancestor 2 is Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.
My ancestor 3 is The Flying Trilobite.
My ancestor 4 is Life Before Death.
My ancestor 5 is Aardvarchaeology.

I tag
Another CyborgManifesto
Trauma Queen
Occasional Kvetch

Veckans ord: intresseveckande

Ibland rynkar man pannan inför något så förbryllande och fascinerande att det är intresseveckande.



How could I resist a band called Flight of the Conchords?


Veckans ord: skarpsinnlig

En njutningsfylld upplevelse som är så precis att den är som ett rakblad genom hjärnan: skarpsinnlig.



Veckans ord: missdåre

Efter att en mentalt instabil person begått ett brutalt missdåd halkade en journalist med fingrarna och skrev om denne missdåre, vilket väl på det hela taget måste anses ett välfunnet uttryck.


Cute overload of today

Becky Taylor was quite unknown to me before but even as a ten-year-old she could sing “My heart will go on” without lisping.


Probably hand-wash only

Haute couture is really not my bag—I dress in whatever happens to be at the top of the clothes drawer, but Ny Teknik brought the fashion guru Hussein Chalayan to my attention. His Spring/Summer collection for 2007 contained several sets of animated dresses, i e they are equipped with motors, batteries and effectors so they can reshape themselves. Just watch:

Now, once you get more power in the system, so the transformations can be done faster and you add a bit of intelligence to the system so that it can react to the environment, then we're gonna be going places!

Also, looking at the entire event, who on Earth created that soundtrack? The models certainly don't look too happy either. The Clockwork Orange music in the background suggests the Ludovico treatment in action…


Rings on the water

So I've given up flying and I just found out the Only Begotten Daughter has convinced her boyfriend to give up flying as well, much to the consternation of his family. It might still not save Bangladesh, but we do what we can…


Veckans ord: ytterliggare

Det kan inte vara roligt att vara uteliggare och är man ännu värre ute blir man ytterliggare. Då får man inte ens sova i mitten på klungan där det är varmast utan får ligga utanför och frysa.


In the top 8%

…but I don't think I'll get above 7% unless I get a much bigger computing cluster.


Tinned porridge

When you've seen enough promotional videos for various software, you notice that there are certain recurring patterns (tropes). Freeloveforum sends them all up in this hilarious promo for MS Paint.


Veckans ord: angorafobi

Johnny Depp är som Gérard Depardieu: ingen film med honom kan vara en komplett förlust att se, oavsett hur den är i övrigt. Men, Ed Wood är en alldeles utmärkt film om den komplett inkompetente men ständigt entusiastiske filmproducenten Ed Wood, med Johnny Depp i huvudrollen.

Ed Wood var transvestit, vilket är förutsättningen för min favoritscen i filmen:
Inspelningen av Plan 9 from Outer Space går knackigt och representanterna för den baptistkyrka som Wood lyckats övertala att finansiera inspelningen börjar få kalla fötter. Deppad och bekymrad drar sig Wood tillbaka till sin loge för att fundera över livet. När som han sitter där får han syn på sina damkläder, toppat med hans älskade angorakofta. I nästa ögonblick ångar han ut ur sin loge i full kvinnoklädsel med ett uttryck av ”Nu jävlar ska här göras film!” Baptistpredikanterna å andra sidan drabbas av svår angorafobi och kräver till Woods stora förvåning ett slut på spektaklet.


Veckans ord: hastighetsen

Ladislaus Horatius gjorde sig känd för vid pass tio år sedan genom att nödbromsa ett X2000 för att protestera mot hastighetsen. Passagerarna, inte bara i detta tåg, utan även de andra som drabbades av följdförseningar, var dock förmodligen mer intresserade av att komma hem till sina familjer än av att delta i en filosofisk aktion mot Paul Virilio, men lite svinn bland civilisterna får man ta när man ska förbättra världen.

Jag undersökte en gång en arabisk skrivmaskin och frågade dess ägare hur tangenterna var placerade, om man använde någon sorts arabisk motsvarighet till Dvorak. Han undrade vad det var och jag förklarade att det var en optimerad placering av tangenterna så att man kunde skriva fortare. Det tyckte han var alldeles onödigt, för varför ska man ha bråttom? Jag försökte förklara att ju mindre tid jag behövde ägna åt att överföra mina tankar till text, desto lättare var det för mig att behålla tanketråden och därmed få fram det jag egentligen var ute efter, snarare än att trycka på tangenter. (Sen att det finns en möjlighet att risken för karpaltunnelsyndrom minskar gör ju inte saken sämre.)

Däremot, om min chef skulle få för sig att jag bör kunna öka min produktivitet med 5% bara för att jag kan skriva fortare är det mindre bra. Det är inte farten som bryter, krossar och knäcker – det är att människor hamnar i vägen.


My beliefs

Of course I believe in the Truth.


Muppet wiki

A Wiki for Muppets, Fraggles, Doozers and other things Hensonian!


Pushing my buttons

Aircraft carriers and women in uniform, if they'd only had a few close-ups of landing gear as well…


Veckans ord: eldsäl

Egentligen är ju sälar rovdjur, men icke desto mindre har de en grundmurad image av små gulliga djur som tar det lugnt och ligger och trynar gemytligt på kobbar och plirar på omvärlden med små svarta ögon. (Utom bland yrkesfiskare, men de hatar ju å andra sidan alla djur.)

Sen lever ju sälar i vatten, så på det hela taget är det knepigt att föreställa sig vad en eldsäl kan vara för något.

… och två dagar senare har jag insett att ens om man kan föreställa sig det, så går det inte att åstadkomma i Photoshop om man inte gått kursen, gk, fk och ak. Alltså, en eldsäl som inte är ett dugg lik den som jag trodde jag skulle kunna åstadkomma:

Räkna med att en Photoshop-bok kommer att hamna i bokspalten till höger med tiden…


Das Ding an sich

In one of those interesting coincidences Åsa writes about the issue of repatriation, returning items from museums to the countries, regions or peoples they come from, while PZ writes about his mixed feelings about Lucy going on tour in the USA. Both touch on the matter that unique objects by definition only come in a single copy which is fragile and can only be in one place at a time, yet at the same time we are for seemingly less than rational reasons fascinated by the Real Thing and will not be at all as impressed with a replica, be it ever so faithful to the original.

From my personal perspective, I associate to the still ongoing debate about whether one should fly warbirds. The arguments are mainly along the two lines that warbirds are too rare and valuable to subject to the risk of smashing them up versus how aeroplanes belong in the air and how they attract a greater audience than static aircraft, thus bringing in more resources for restoration and preservation. And here is of course an important point that the issue of what is an “original” is greatly blurred for both flying and static museum aircraft. In very few cases is a museum aircraft stored in the shape it was when it was active, and in to an even lesser extent is this true for flying aircraft.

While there are veritable “Frankenstein's aircraft” composed of parts from many individuals (though note that many, in particular military, aircraft are quite heavily patched up with parts from other, cannibalised, aircraft during their active life) many are an identifiable individual with a known history, but then they are restored—repaired, refurbished, repainted. (And of course, painting has to be done to prevent corrosion and other degradation.) Only in later times has there been a concern with doing this restoration in such a manner that the final results correspond to what the aircraft would have looked like “in life” and now it often requires painstaking work to figure out what has been hidden underneath layers of locally procured paints, applied in some, sometimes completely imaginary, interpretation of what it originally might have looked like. (If you have seen the painting instructions for the original Revell Fw 190 model from 1963 and their complete lack of relation to reality, you'll know what I mean.)

Quite often a particular aircraft is painted to “represent” another, more famous individual, sometimes with no consideration to the actual subtype. (It is as if Bockstensmannen was displayed in heavy makeup to be lifelike, dressed up as Gustav Eriksson (Vasa), as a tribute to the latter.) Too often is a Hispano Buchón presented as a Bf 109, in fake German markings, which I think belittles the certainly worthy service history of the Buchón. (And makes people believe the 109 had that godawful chin!).

So show some respect for the aircraft and show them as they looked during some part of their own career.


Non-verbal communication

A recent article in Current Biology“Orangutans Modify Their Gestural Signaling According to Their Audience's Comprehension” by Cartmill and Byrne describes how orangutans adapt their gestures to whether they consider themselves to have been understood or not. To be more precise, the orangutans were offered fruit and vegetables and would make signs to indicate that they wanted the tasty bananas rather than the icky leeks. Now, if they just got half a banana they would make more emphatic gestures of the same kind to clarify that they wanted all of it, but if they got leeks, they would try different gestures to indicate that they wanted the banana. This then indicates that they have a concept of different modes of misunderstanding and that they have different strategies for alleviating different misunderstandings, which then in turn has consequences for hypotheses of the evolution of communication in apes.

This reminded me of another non-speaking primate, namely the Only-begotten Son when he was younger. At one point we had happened to buy a big bag of ice lollies which he took to, sweet, cold and brightly-coloured as they were, so he would gladly have eaten nothing but them. His parents however thought that even two a day were quite a lot, especially considering the Technicolor results they left in his diapers. So, one day the little tyke comes and takes me by the hand and pulls me to the kitchen where he eagerly points towards the freezer. I decide to play stupid and claim I do not understand what he wants. The little one immediately zips off and returns moments later with a used lolly stick in his hand, holds it up to me and points at the freezer with the other hand. I could but capitulate and give him his prize…

Do you trust the police?

I and the Only-begotten Daughter were walking by the Police house this morning and she reflected that there probably was lots of secret tunnels and stuff under it. I conceded that this was the case, pointing out the ventilation shafts rising from the ground and she gleefully exclaimed “They undermine our city and they don't obey our laws!”


The pride of my children

Last Sunday I was completely knocked out—nauseous and dizzy. As I had been airbrushing an unusually big model the day before I was worried that I suffered from solvent poisoning. (Yeah, I still use Humbrol enamels, I know how they work and I have a couple of hundred tins.)

As the dizziness subsided, but did not completely disappear, I went to see a physician for a second opinion. He explained that I had a textbook example of Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo which would sort itself out with time. So what causes BPPV? Aging. Thanks a lot!

I told the children of this diagnosis and the Only-begotten Daughter was very disappointed as she had already told all her friends that I had almost died from thinner sniffing. Ah well, gotta keep my reputation up, I guess…


Cutting your losses would mean slashing your wrists

Tim Kreider is one of my favourite cartoonists, who, while being ground down by despair yet refuses to become personally cynical. His latest two installments of The Pain—When Will It End? contain some of the most poignant writing I've read on the inevitable losses that life subjects us to and the realisation that Things probably won't work out. And yet, we go on, not because conscience makes cowards of us all but as heroes, gritting our teeth, doing what has to be done because others depend on us.


Veckans ord: ytnyttja

Jorden är begränsad, så det gäller att ytnyttja den effektivt. Det kan man göra genom att stapla på höjden, så går det inte åt lika mycket yta. Så har man gjort i New York.

Men det finns ju också andra värden som man kan behöva ta hänsyn till. Akademiska Hus har i uppdrag att dra in pengar från de universitet och högskolor som utnyttjar deras lokaler. Akademiska Hus struntar i vad universiteten använder lokalerna till, det är inte deras problem. Labbsalar och verkstäder tar mycket yta men används bara ibland och inte av så många personer åt gången. De blir relativt sett dyrare än t ex kontorslokaler som det sitter många personer i hela dagarna. Alltså bestämmer sig institutionen när den gör sin budget för att man nog kanske kan klara sig utan en labbbsal i alla fall och göra laborationer på dator i stället, så kan man lämna ifrån sig utrymmet till Akademiska Hus som kan göra kontor av dem och hyra ut till t ex nåt företag som behöver lokaler. Då har man ytnyttjat effektivt, och alla är glada. Men studenterna får se allt mindre av verkligheten och sitta alltmer vid simuleringar istället.


Going nowhere

This morning the bus driver regaled us passengers by playing bhangra music very loudly. It however failed to transport me anywhere else but Vasastan.


Poker face? I don't even have a poker mouth

Kal notes that he has a poker face in front of patients, which threw my memory back to when I was in high school, training to become a medical engineer. Part of this was a two-week internship at the Department of Medical Physics at Huddinge Hospital.

One day I and my partner got to make a study visit to see the gamma camera unit and follow an examination. The patient was an elderly gentleman with prior history of cancer who was there for a follow-up. The technician showed us how the camera was operated, the pictures were taken and then we went a bit further down the corridor for developing (long before digital equipment, this was). Slowly the big image came out of the machine and the technician put it on the light table for a check. As soon as I see the ghostly silhouette, peppered all over with dense black spots, I blurt out:
“All those are metastases!?”
“HUSH!” hiss both my partner and the technician. The former gives me a “You idiot!” glare and the latter glances furtively towards the patient, who is obliviously standing further down the corridor. Luckily it seems he hasn't heard me, or he has a better poker face than I.

The technician shoves the pictures into an envelope and seals it with half a dozen staples and then immediately sends the patient down for X-rays. To us he says:
“It's his doctor's job to explain”, and then mumbles “They get really good results with chemotherapy these days…”


Vinnande bidrag i kategorin ”Snårigaste inledning”,
Mycket skrik för lite ull,
Finns det nån tanke bakom alls?

För länge sen, när jag pluggade på Teknis, fanns på Flygsektionen en teknolog som hette Einar. Einar var något av en legend, inte bara på Flyg utan även på övriga KTH, som på den tiden var tillräckligt litet för att man skulle kunna ha någorlunda koll på varandra. Det förefaller mig också ibland att trots den mindre mängden personer så fanns det fler original. Kanske kunde de sticka ut mer på den tiden.

Einar var ett kårvrak, en av dessa som lägger ner mängder av tid på att anordna fester, driva studentfackliga ärenden och hjälpa andra teknologer, kort sagt en av dessa eldsjälar utan vilken ingen förening överlever. En följd härav är att studierna lätt blir lidande och när Einar med tiden gick hädan för egen hand hade han varit inskriven i femton år eller så, vilket naturligtvis gav förutsättningar för mängden historier om honom och inte minst den ärliga saknad och sorg bland många över hela KTH som uttrycktes i den vackra dödsruna som sektionskamraterna skrev. (Jag var doktorand ungefär lika länge och när jag hörde en yngre kollega beskriva mig som en ”institution på institutionen” började jag på allvar anstränga mig för att ta mig därifrån – dock i mitt fall genom att ta examen.)

Men, under mitt första år som teknolog levde han fortfarande och jag läste i Flygs sektionstidning en anekdot om honom som gick ungefär så här:
Einar skulle upp på tentan i Mek. Mek-tentorna bestod huvudsakligen av typtal och hade man plugggat fem extentor fick man garanterat godkänt. Einar var ambitiös och pluggade tio extentor. Tyvärr hade detta bara gett honom tid att memorera svaren.

På tentan kommer mycket riktigt ett av typtalen och Einar skriver raskt ner svaret medan han fortfarande kommer ihåg det. Sen börjar han arbeta med lösningen men fastnar halvvägs. Han utgår då från svaret och börjar jobba sig bakåt men kommer inte riktigt ända fram till den punkt där han fastnat tidigare. Vad göra? Einar inför överraskningskoefficienten stora Ö och sätter likhetstecken. Einar klarar tentan.

Denna historia återberättade jag något senare för ett par sektionskamrater. En av dem, en ärans träbock som till min stora lättnad hoppade av studierna inte alltför långt senare, gned sig på hakan och invände:
– Men inte kan väl tentarättaren ha godkänt det?*
– Förbannade historieförstörare! skrek jag.
Orubbad fortsatte träbocken att gnida sig på hakan och konstaterade fundersamt:
– Ja, man kanske inte ska analysera historier på det sättet…

Vilket för mig till det som egentligen var det jag tänkte skriva om, nämligen att analysera sönder en billig vits, jag kanske är gammal nog att kunna tillåta mig att vara en träbock.

Christina vrålar i vrede och frustration över (bl a?) det mansdominerade samhället och jag drar mig till minnes en historia jag läst någonstans för länge sen:
En gumma kommer in på apoteket och får syn på en flaska med en dödskalle och texten ”GIFT”. Hon konstataterar:
– Ja, se karlar kan se ut hur som helst, de blir gifta i alla fall.

Nu skulle man kunna tänka sig att den som ursprungligen totade ihop denna historia helt enkelt utgick från de dubbla betydelserna i ordet ”gift” och sen försökte baka ihop en historia runt det, men man behöver inte vara Freud för att reflektera över den bitterhet som lyser fram. Bara att gumman utgår från att dödskallen är en man (om hon nu inte förstås var (f d) osteolog och kunde identifiera könet på ögonhålornas form, men ikoniska framställningar är nog i allmänhet inte tillräckligt detaljerade för att detta ska vara möjligt), kopplat till det förmodat åtråvärda tillståndet att vara gift. (Man kan till och med fundera över om det är så att äktenskapet ska uppfattas som åtråvärt för mannen enbart.) Frågan är också om det finns en antydan av tvång, samhälleligt eller annorledes, som garanterar äktenskap åt männen, oberoende av deras yttre företräden. Det är dock oklart om gumman anser karlar vara kräk även i sina inre egenskaper, det skulle kunna tänkas vara givet förstås. Inramningen av historien antyder att den utspelar sig kanske inte direkt i nutiden, där det sällan står flaskor framme på apotekshyllorna på det sättet och framförallt inte heller med sådana etiketter. Kanske är giftermål inte lika viktigt idag heller, även om tvåförhållanden fortfarande tycks vara normen.

Om nu dessa funderingar hade nån sorts slutsats skulle den här bloggen inte heta som den gör…

* Jo, nog kunde tentarättaren det. Några år senare hamnade jag i i stort sett samma situation på en Diff & Trans-tenta där Greens formel fallit mig ur minnet, men jag jobbade mig mot mitten av problemet från bägge hållen och satte likhetstecken i mitten. Jag blev också godkänd på tentan.


Why Germany lost the war, reason #427

So I have a case of serious cognitive dissonance with relation to the military business, but I'll admit to occasionally enjoying march music—especially with bag pipes—and will always sing along to Kgl Södermanlands Regementes marsch (”Här i Bayern skall ölet flöda fritt”).

Now, one would perhaps expect Nazi Germany to have been particularly good in the march area, it certainly sounds so in films, but having discovered a stash of original WWII music (children under the age of 18 are kindly requested to stay away) I must say that Nazi marches all sound like dirges, even those written in the beginning of the war. Prescient.


Veckans ord: idelologisk

Ideologier kan man ha på olika nivåer. Förmodligen har väl alla nånstans i botten nån sorts känsla för vad man vill med världen och hur man bör behandla sin omgivning. Med lite tankemöda kan man försöka organisera sina känslor så att de inte är alltför motstridiga och då kan man börja kalla det för en ideologi. Nu är det ju inte alla som gör sig besväret med att fundera över sin världsbild och om den är logiskt sammanhängande. Man kan istället överta en ideologi som nån annan formulerat och kanske har man till fullo har förstått den, kanske har man bara tagit till sig fraser och formuleringar.

Om man nu bara tagit till sig utanverket utan att ha förstått skillnaden på mål och situationsberoende medel, kan man inte desto mindre vara politiskt aktiv och hårt argumentera för den ena och andra problemlösningen som man tror är en viktig del av ens ideologi, men eftersom man inte förstått grundaxiomen blir argumentationen idelologisk.


Giant churches ≠ megachurches

In my childhood my family spent the summer holidays in Finland, staying at various rental cottages until we converged on a nice place right in the geographical centre of Finland where we children found friends our own age and spent the summers swimming, fishing, and playing in the local sand-pit. (For example dodging tractor tyres rolled down the hill—it's a wonder none of us was injured.)

However, my father tended to get impatient after a few days and had us bundle into the car and drive away to look at some “tourist attraction” or other. Now, this was truly in the middle of nowhere; I understand the artificial insemination facility is still on the local tourist board's top-five list of sight-seeing spots… So, one of these more or less remarkable things we went to see was Pirunkirkko, the Devil's Church.

Of course—a recurrent event whenever we went on these trips—we got lost and spent seemingly hours carefully navigating narrow forest roads that tended to suddenly end in nothing, but thanks to a local yeoman on one of these roads, we eventually got to the right spot as marked by a hand-painted wooden sign pointing into the forest. Walking a bit further we finally got to the spot marked X, and it was good that it was or we would have missed it completely. Apparently the rocks at that point were slightly larger than the surrounding rocks and placed slightly more resembling a rectangular shape than not, but for the rest they were just as moss-covered and granitic as all the other rocks in the forest. One would have thought that we would have been hardened by then, yet we were disappointed and Father's exhortations to use our imaginations to locate the pulpit and altar really didn't help.

I was reminded of this event when I read this article on “Giant churches” in Ostrobothnia in Hufvudstadsbladet. The accompanying photograph does not give any hint of what they actually look like, but they are assumed to be stone-age constructions though not houses. Their purpose and function has not been known and they have not been excavated to any great extent, but now a careful excavation of a giant church in Alaveteli has been started.

Shout-out to Åsa and Martin, what are your expert comments on giant churches?



“Trope” is not a word in my active vocabulary, but it may end up there now. In the literary sense it is about recurrent motifs within genres, design patterns if you will, or in other words, why too many fantasy books feel all alike.

TV Tropes is a wiki about tropes not only in television series but in increasingly more tenuously connected areas and as in all good dictionaries, you can browse for much too long, learning the use of the The Worf Effect in X-Men, how Phlebotinum can save the day and why everything happens in New York.


Instant anthology

One attempt to get past spam filters is to hide the sales pitch as a picture in a thicket of random phrases. This recent spam seemed to use sentences culled from fiction stories and several of them seemed as if they could be interesting. So, if you, like me, really should be doing more important things, here is the Spam Anthology, with every sentence linked to the webpage from which it apparently was lifted:

A wad of silkpaper followed the powder down the barrel.
By the end of the 1980s, medical MRI scanning had become a major enterprise, and Damadian had won the National Medal of Technology, along with many other honors.
By the time it managed to stabilize itself and line up a shot, I had pumped a total of fifteen rockets.
The stream of oil was moving at a speed of no more than one metre per second.
By the door of her son's room the mother knelt upon the floor and listened for some sound from within.
I have bespoke supper to-morrow night in Eastcheap.
Unfortunately, its development seems to have been abandoned.
By the time his soft warm kisses reached her thighs, she was panting with suddenly and unexpectedly awakened desire.
But if it tickles, I won't be able to stand it.
Plantagenet shall speak first.
His small, bright eyes studied Deke without malice.
By studying this code, you can learn about all the details associated with the SCC and discover how to extend or otherwise modify the Standard Library routines.
By that time all the bells were ringing in Dale and the warriors were arming.
By the late nineteenth century the recurrence of this pattern had become obvious to many observers.
By the way, I like ecc but if (as the comments say) it can't deal with loss of block sync, I'm tempted to throw some time at adding that capability.
The user types the two numbers to be added, then clicks a button, which in turn sends the two numbers to the Web server.
By shifting his camp and taking circuitous routes, he prevents the enemy from anticipating his purpose.
C'est vrai, elle est en train d'accoucher.
By the time you're forty, you've done everything you possibly could with our present, 'natural' sexual system.
Ay, go your ways, go your ways.
By the time they are found out they have already taken what they want from your system and have compromised several others.
By the way, what were you doing when you were summoned to headquarters.
By the time the cruise missile impacted against the wing wall, I'd rolled on the other side of it, protected.
Let the arm of the Lord of the Dawn shelter us from the Dark, and the great sword of justice defend us.

Interestingly, many of these seem to link to various repositories of scanned literature on Russian servers—a sinister connection between stock tip spammers and copyright breakers, clearly the organised crime on the Internet I've heard so much about.


Veckans ord

Ibland hittar jag ord som är felstavade som om det varit en tanke bakom och då skriver jag upp dem i min Palm för att de inte ska förfaras. Men det är ju klart att jag måste dela med mig av dem, så jag tänkte försöka skriva om ett sånt ord varje fredag ett tag framöver.

Veckans ord är alternaiv.

Jag tycker det är väldigt väl beskriver en viss sorts människotyp som okritiskt hoppar på allt som är mot Etablissemanget. Man brukar kunna hitta alternaiva personer på yogakurser, miljöpartiets stämmor eller ute i Järna…



The company will outsource its IT support and interviewed a small consulting company. Among their references was a fairly big multinational.
“How do you manage handle all their support with so little staff?”
“We've uninstalled Internet Explorer, cuts down the support cases to nothing.”


Broken English

I stumbled upon the Speech Accent Archive, a collection of several hundred persons reading the same English paragraph. Each person has a speech recording with phonetic transcription and notes on their pronounciation differences from standard US English.

My reaction to hearing the recordings was that the speakers in general spoke quite understandable English. My experiences with non-native English speakers from around the world suggests that the recorded speakers may not be entirely representative of their region. Of course, one can presume that the speakers are not quite randomly selected, but that there might be some degree of self-selection for people speaking relatively good English involved. Then of course, the speakers were presumably aided by the given text in that they didn't have to spend effort on generating grammatically correct sentences in addition to pronouncing the words correctly. On the other hand, sometimes it is clear that the speakers are struggling with just reading the text, being in a foreign alphabet and all, and this of course affects the speech rhythm in a specific way. Otherwise it would be interesting to note the differences in prosody in addition to the differences in pronounciation.


Why I'll never be a comedian

Arkland has a hilarious take on the recent debate about archaeological pseudoscience.

I just have to admit that I could never have written anything similarly funny, I would have got too caught up in actually computing the correct path of Uranus in 4321 BCE.



I'm a first world traveller, apparently.

create your own visited countries map


Further evidence

I told you Mike Slackenerny is really me and now we find he does slashed zeroes too:


CA is fantastic!

Cyanoacrylate glue is a miracle substance: it will quickly form permanent bonds between any two surfaces—except the ones you wanted attached…


Edible science

While I personally always have considered it rather disgusting, Kalles Kaviar is an important breakfast component for many Swedes. As it comes in a tube, inquisitive minds want to know how many standard pieces of crispbread you can cover with a tube. And what is a standard piece of crispbread anyway? Peter and Alex do a very carefully controlled study.


Life is pain

Cyanide and Happiness meets the futility of existence head on (or possibly off). Their Depressing comics week goes all the way with comics that are no fun at all in any way.


Extremely sensitive

I just bought the soundtrack to Wonderland from iTunes. All pieces came marked with the soothing label “Clean lyrics”. Ehm, these are instrumental pieces. I think we have a case of people who get annoyed at those who whistle lewd songs…

The music is soft Michael Nyman piano and string music fitting my current mood.


World Population Day

It is World Population Day today. The population of the world has doubled within my lifetime. This is not unconnected to global warming, environmental degradation and species extinction.
Unfortunately, all too many governments, even those that pay lipservice to environmental issues, seem bent on further increasing their populations. I see a faint glimmer of hope in the report by the Optimum Population Trust that exhorts the UK government to encourage a voluntary two-child limit in the country and cites evidence that even voluntary efforts actually lead to good results. I have written to my MP and asked that this idea be promoted in Sweden too. You can do so too, addresses to all MPs can be found here.


As if the candirú wasn't enough

Recently I ran into the word “cockchafer”. That sounded unpleasant; it turned out to be a beetle when I looked it up. So what is it called in Swedish? Ollonborre! Definitely I'll be wearing padded trousers when they are around.


Sculptural, cultural

The exhibition Skulptur 2007 opened yesterday at Konstnärshuset and I was invited. Here are some pieces that caught my eye:

The exhibition is open to the public: go see!


Övers anm

Huruvida man ska översätta namn på litterära personer är en grannlaga fråga som inte har något enkelt svar. De förefaller dock som om översättare tidigare varit mer benägna att översätta namn, men att man idag oftast väljer att behålla originalnamnen. Kanske är detta en följd av att de potentiella läsarna idag antas vara mer bekanta med utländska (läs ”engelska”) namn. Knepigt blir det när namnen är ordvitsar som kan ha betydelse för handlingen, eller, i värsta fall, visar sig ha betydelse för handlingen flera böcker senare i en serie. Nånting som händer inte helt sällan är att översättaren gissar sig till vilka namn som ska anses vara betydelsebärande och översätter dessa men lämnar resten orörda.

Tintin är ett av dessa fall, där t ex « Tryphon Tournesol » på mer eller mindre goda grunder blivit ”Karl Kalkyl” i den svenska översättningen. En person som däremot inte fått sitt namn översatt är Piotr Szut, den estniske piloten och legosoldaten. Detta är lite märkligt med tanke på att en enda poängen med namnet är det lite enkla skämtet att det låter som « zut », vilket ger en anledning för kapten Haddock att bli upprörd när Szut presenterar sig. Estniskt är det i alla fall inte. (Och det är inte heller den kosackdans Szut uppvisar vid ett tillfälle.)

Här kunde man tänkt sig att förvandla honom till, säg, en holländare vid namn „Peter van Heller” så hade man behållit skämtet, men det kanske inte hade passerat obemärkt förbi väktarna av barndomens oskuld.


This is all about me

Catching the “eight facts about yourself” meme from Martin R.:
  1. I am very susceptible to motion sickness.
  2. I have every issue of MACH.
  3. I have seven streets to choose from for the shortest route to work.
  4. I skipped a grade in primary school.
  5. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 is the subject I've built the most models of.
  6. I have a membership card in the Planet Patrol, giving me the right to land on every planet in the Solar system without requesting permission.
  7. My hat size is 61.
  8. On two occasions I've had a bike stolen the same day I bought it.


It's not all about you

Before French roundabouts you can find this sign:

It's like a Memento mori.


On account of the passing of Povel Ramel

As everybody knows by now, Povel Ramel has passed away. I looked at YouTube for suitable videos and found this half-decent recording of ”Underbart är kort”, although not with Ramel himself (his version comes last on this video):

I have made a singable translation of the lyrics, it feels a bit flat, but it's an honest attempt:

Only a single rose on an endless creeper
such is our life, boring goes deeper.
But wonderful is short, always is too short.
Destiny takes you through long and narrow alleys
sunshine comes last to the valleys,
'cause wonderful is short, always is too short.

Ev'ry summer meadow holds a lone lucky clover—just for you,
and only once in life you'll find a friend who'll win you over, so do come through—
don't wait or she will be gone, wonderful is short, always is too short.

Maybe it's not too far off

You are Smalltalk.  You like to treat everyone the same way, but this lack of individuality makes everyone feel like objects.
Which Programming Language are You?


Unexpected hitches

So, it was time to go south again. I boarded the usual 12:20 X2000 from Stockholm towards Malmö and sat down with a stack of papers to read while up to three unhappy babies protested having to travel. I was distracted, not by annoyance, but by the fatherly reflex to rush up and comfort the crying children, but their parents already did their best.

I nabbed Ud & Se on the train to Copenhagen and started on the Danish crossword puzzle, somewhat trickier this time.

The usual boring stopover in Copenhagen, where it seemed some people were recording a music video in the main hall, singing harmonies somewhat out of key, I wonder if they will use studio recordings for the music.

Very heterogeneous rolling stock; some parts will stop in Dortmund, others continue to Munich and others further to Basel.
The night train arrived, I had a berth in the usual double-decker sleeper car. Very satisfied with myself I solved the word puzzle in mobil, the DB onboard magazine. Eventually I prepared the bed, as it seemed that I had the compartment to myself. Not quite though, by midnight a young gentleman got on in Neumünster and needed the top bunk, but I could live with that.

Change to the Thalys in Cologne early the next morning. Now I was less happy as I had to share the car with a German school class going to France for exchange studies. Their conversation tended to be loud and consist to a large part of „Arschloch!”… Well, we got to Brussels without me having actually killed any of the noisy youngsters.

I can't begin to imagine what that object with the lamps is for.
Brussels on the other hand seemed to suffer from some kind of traffic problem, the Thalys had to wait for a while before we could enter Bruxelles Midi and then there was considerable confusion about which platform the TGV to Nice would arrive at. Someone who apparently did not appreciate this was a fellow looking very annoyed in a black dress composed almost entirely of pockets. I first took him to be a security guard but he didn't seem to have the other associated paraphernalia and when he started retrieving lots of weird luggage from somewhere, said luggage including a racing bicycle with live cyclist, I began to suspect he was rather a street artist of some kind. Then he started hauling his luggage onboard the train. This caused an argument with the conductor, the contents of which I couldn't catch from where I was sitting, but it was clearly very heated and attracted more railway staff. When two burly guards arrived and started unloading his luggage for him, the man in black had to give up and content himself with angrily kicking his bags as the train left without him.

This TGV is not a double-decker, on the other hand it seems to be double-long. The journey from Brussels to Antibes is slightly over five hours, half of that time is spent on the distance from Marseilles–no specially prepared straight tracks here, so the TGV has to move at milk train speeds.

The usual lack of taxis at the train station in Antibes, but I finally get one up to Hotel Le Relais. Everything is much the same as when I was there in January, the next morning the breakfast lady recognises me even though I have a different hair colour than last time. I walk up the hill to ETSI and the seminar I came for. Three very intense days follow, covering the operations and organisation of ETSI and 3GPP in careful detail. The complex weighted voting process and its application in different situations is a surprise. The general rule is to avoid voting situations as much as possible. I note with some glee that even the moderator, who presumably uses it every day, has difficulty getting around the amazingly non-user-centred-designed ETSI portal.

Fort Carré d'Antibes
The days are not particularly warm and the nights seem to be rainy, so even though I had planned for it, I don't feel like using the hotel pool. Then of course on the Friday, when I'm leaving, the full Mediterranean blast furnace turns on. I enjoy myself by riding the bus down into town. I fail to find luggage boxes at the train station, so I'm forced to drag my cabin bag with me around town. Unaware of the totally unsuited terrain I even drag the bag out to Fort Carré. Stupid, it's not exactly paved streets there. I leave and get back into the city centre, thinking that maybe I can sit in a park and read. Unfortunately I can't find a park, so I go and sit in the railway station instead. A young man there apparently thinks he is performing a public service by blasting out French rap music from his mobile. I'm quite impressed by the performance of the phone, in spite of its diminutive size it manages to be clearly audible in the entire station.

I am rescued by the TGV taking me away. This one is a double-decker and I get to ride on top. It really does make a difference to the view to get up that little extra bit. At Gare de Lyon the ticket machines in the Métro are on the blink, so there are long queues by the two that still work. I get my ticket in time to hop on the RER to Gare du Nord.

I get a snack, not at the slow-service sandwich place where the scammers prowl, and then try to find my train to Hamburg. It's a very long train, taking up the entire platform length and my car is the one furthest away. It's not a double-decker sleeper and after a while I decide I actually like this model better, as it is slightly roomier and I do get the compartment to myself this time. I awake very early in the morning and on the way to the bathroom run into the car attendant who advises me to go back to sleep, we are several hours late due to a fatal accident (not involving our train). OK, so my connection to Copenhagen is shot, but I'll just catch a later train then, I think. The conductor is kind enough to continuously give us information in several languages–he even attempts passable Scandinavian, though breaks down and continues in English for the more complicated bits.

However, when we finally arrive in Hamburg, two and a half hours late, and I make my way to the information desk (called „Service Point” in German, as the conductor points out) it turns out that I will not be able to reach Stockholm at all that day, but will have to stay the night in Hamburg and then take the early morning train to Copenhagen–on Deutsche Bahn's bill, to be sure. The service staff do sort tickets and reservations out in the end, but while they have pre-prepared forms at hand, they work as if they had just seen the forms for the first time, somewhat surprising to me, since, as I've claimed before, DB trains do tend to run late (and this certainly didn't improve the statistics), so the staff should be used to handling delay consequences.

A fellow traveller, who not only will be late to Stockholm but miss the ferry to Helsinki, is quite upset, but I can allow myself to be more sanguine. I check in at Europäischer Hof, which is just outside the railway station. It is a four-star hotel, but I get a very little room. This has happened to me before, that very fancy hotels also have some really small and relatively cheap single rooms. Well, I don't need much space; of more concern is that the room doesn't have air-conditioning and by now the outside temperature is quite high.

Now, what can one do on a Saturday in Hamburg? A little bell jingles in the back of my mind and I call my friend Harald: Isn't there a giant model railroad somewhere about here? Sure there is and I get instructions on how to get there. Cool, my hotel check-in ticket is also a public transport pass! However, finding the correct U-bahn entry turns out to be non-trivial, it seems every line has its own entrance and even though they all pass by the Hauptbahnhof, they are not connected to each other. I end up circling the entire station area before I find the right entrance. As it turns out, I only have to go two stops and I probably could have walked to my destination in the time it took me to find the U-bahn.

If people are queueing a long time, why not sell food to them in the meantime?
Miniatur Wunderland! This is a huge H0 scale model railroad landscape, initiated by two brothers who have decided to live out their childhood dream to the fullest and clearly they see their visitors as sharing that dream. Visitors are enjoined to register for the Wunderland newsletter and are invited on special back-stage tours. Wunderland constantly update expected queueing times both at the entrance and their web site, so that visitors can plan their most suitable arrival time. The staff do the IKEA trick and hand out ice cream to the children and soda to their parents–twice I have my back turned when the drinks tray passes, so I don't get anything.

Typical nice touch: rechargers for every conceivable type of mobile phone, digital camera and camcorder, so that visitors will not be kept from photographing just because their batteries run flat.
Finally I get in and the experience is overwhelming: The actual railroads all but disappear in the huge landscape which is covered in houses, forests, mountains and people, details and gimmicks everywhere: seven dwarfs walking through the mountains, a Bigfoot in the forest, a monk…eh, blessing? a naked woman and literally thousands of such little things. I find I can't really take in the entire scene as I keep looking for and at all the little details. Many of them can't even be properly seen by the visitors as the scenes are so wide–one would actually need opera glasses or something. I understand that one will have to return, over and over again, to fully appreciate the exhibition. I stagger out three hours later, my brain all full.

This is not the entire model railroad, this is one corner of one of four rooms…

I walk back to the hotel and as it still is hot, I locate the hotel spa and paddle around in the pool a while. Suitably refreshed I go out and buy some underwear and a shirt in a very non-masculine shade of powder blue. Dinner at Ristorante Massimo and they can consider themselves to be ON NOTICE: Having paid, I politely ask for a receipt. The waiter breezily replies: “I lost it.” but digs in his shirt pocket and digs out a random receipt: “Here, you can have this!” Stunned, I accept it, but you have now been warned. (And yes, the receipt was for a lower amount than I had paid…)

It is warm all night, so I sleep very fitfully and am rather groggy when I get up the next morning, gather up my belongings and make for departure. At the breakfast table I find the guy from the day before, who clearly has not gotten to Helsinki yet. The breakfast buffet is excellent and the cooks beam back at my happy smile. Unfortunately I don't have the opportunity to eat as much as I'd like, as we soon have to leave for the train. My travelling companion and I turn out to have many common interests and we have an animated discussion while gliding through Schleswig-Holstein. We get the ferry tour from Puttgarden to Rødby, which is nice, if a bit early-morning chilly. Copenhagen is warmer, but the X2000 soon arrives. DB has upgraded us to 1st Class, managing to apologise for doing so on account of 2nd Class being full. We don't mind the upgrade a bit. Now this train too manages to get delayed, but not more than twenty minutes or so and I am soon home again.