Get involved, get informed

Sometimes things are so close you don't notice them. I just found TreeHugger, a portal for all things environmentally friendly. Obvious URL, really.


Det hör rörelser till också…

När trollmor har tatt sina elva små troll
och lindat in dem i bacon
så stoppar hon in dem i ugnen
och sätter gasen på trehundra grader.
Oh! Aj aj aj aj! PUFF!
Oh! Aj aj aj aj! PUFF!
Oh aj aj aj aj PUFF! PUFF!
Oh aj aj aj aj! PUFF!


More weird maps (weirder maps?)

It seems another thing you can do to avoid doing what you should be doing, is to look for anomalies in Google Earth. The Register has collected many of these findings.


Other views of the world

I love maps and can study them for hours. Strange Maps finds unusual maps, maps showing statistics, maps showing unexpected parts of the world, maps using unusual projections and conventions.


Damn those kids!

The only-begotten daughter's theatre class gave a play they had written themselves. I have attended these shows for many years from the first embarrassing recitals consisting mostly of muffed lines and exits in the wrong direction, but they have learned. Oh, how they have learned… Within an hour they had me fighting the tears.

The play consisted of short scenes from a theatre school—work, breaks, joy and sorrow; the students' lives off-stage and the scenes they rehearsed subtly reflecting each other. The girl who so full of hope had auditioned reciting “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day” was killed in the final scene and when her friend, holding her body, read the sonnet over her I was this close to losing it completely. Afterwards, the daughter got a bit embarrassed when she noticed how moved I was.


Spam, spam, spam, spam!

Every now and then spam letters achieve a certain level of amusement, especially when they pretend to be sent exclusively to you, yet blatantly give away their mass-mailing origin. So for example this charming effusion, sent to the company's support mailing list:

Hi to you

I can imagine that you will wonder to get today the letter from unknown, but pretty woman from such far country like Ukraine. As for me I could not yet believe that I write to foreign man whom I don't know, but whom I do want. The reason of my letter is very simple: I want to find my love, my soul mate, that is why I am here. I decided to try to find love with you. I feel with all fibres of my soul that you are descent man and your heart is kind and is able to love. You may ask me how I know. I will tell you that I have well-developed intuition and my intuition chose you among thousands. and I want you to become the One...
I ask you not to ignore my letter and not to throw it to the rubbish bin. Read it, please, as attentively as you can. I am as serious as i have never been.
I am fed up to be lonely and to feel jelous if I see loving couples.
I want to scream, I want to cry, but I doing nothing I won't change situation.
If love don't come to me, I want to invite love to come into my heart.
And that is why I need to find my soul mate.
If you agree to help me to find love, become my soul mate -write me, I will wait http://loveandonly.com/happiness

Waiting for your mail

Olya P


Going home

We had a good meeting and then took our farewells, the hotel staff located the sunglasses I had mislaid and then I walked down to Brussel Zuid. It wasn't as hot as the day before and it was a nice walk. On the way I passed a beggar who had decided to do his begging with style—he was royally seated in a large red upholstered chair and kept up a constant patter in Bruxellois at the passers-by. Not being able to make my mind up about food on the way there, I ended up with a pizza on the station.

The THALYS to Cologne was on time and so was the connecting night train. On this leg I did not get the compartment to myself but had to share it with a kindly Danish gentleman. I found that the top bunk actually was easier to sleep in as my legs could stick out over the end. The Danish gentleman solved his sleeping problems by drinking himself into a stupor. Or, at least he had a beer before he turned in.

In the middle of the night I woke up from the distinct smell of tobacco smoke, apparently someone nearby was smoking in flagrant breach of all rules, but I couldn't really do anything about it, except try to crank up the air conditioning, which didn't necessarily help. The car attendant also smelled it but couldn't pinpoint the source.

I had worried that I would be deposited in Odense as on the way down, but we did get all the way to Copenhagen. Quick transfer to the Malmö train and from there to Stockholm. For some reason I couldn't reach the wireless net on the train, so I had to make do without on the way up. I think my laptop is slowly giving up.


Hot and bothered

I get to Copenhagen in good time, snag a sort of dinner and then try to find the night train to Cologne. Nothing on the screens. Info desk tells it will arrive at track 7, just go there. There's a local train there—will my train come in just after it? But why isn't it announced on the screens? Possibly the tannoy calls may say something, but the sound reproduction qualities are such that I find it impossible to understand them even when they (presumably) are not in Danish. In addition, shouldn't there be more people milling around, waiting for the night train? I am struck by a thought and ask a nearby railway employee—apparently I am supposed to get on this train and go to Odense, where the night train will pick up its passengers. No explanation of why this is or how this was supposed to have been communicated to the passengers. I jump on at the last minute, rather miffed, I had looked forward to a quiet compartment of my own by now rather than a crowded car (seemingly) full of children in high spirits. Then comes the announcement that we will soon be arriving in Odense and passengers with Eurocity so-and-so should change here—given in Danish only. Still, even the Portuguese-speaking ladies get the message, since everybody start taking down their luggage from the overhead racks and preparing for disembarkment.

In Odense we wait uncertainly for a few minutes before the train arrives and I can finally get my quiet compartment. I feel tired and decide to retire immediately. As mentioned before, folding out the beds requires a special key that the car attendant has, but I study the construction and a couple of seconds of work with the Swiss army knife brings down the bed. Several hours later the attendant comes to fold out my bed and is surprised and embarrassed to find me in bed already.

Though not quite asleep. Advertisers like to write how night trains gently rock one to sleep so that one arrives fresh and ready for a new day at one's destination. The truth in my experience is that one is rudely shook about all night in a bunk that's really too short for comfort and then one has to get up before dawn to be deposited in a city where nothing is open yet.

At least there are showers on these trains to freshen you up, but somebody seems to have fallen asleep in the shower compartment; after watching the red light for twenty minutes I give up.

Cologne. Quick change to the Thalys for Brussels. The Ardennes are as pretty as ever, I'll have to go there some day. In Brussels the train makes a stop at Brussel Noord and we are told that those who wish can get off there. I decide it will make a change from Bruxelles Midi, so I hop off. I exit the station to find I apparently have ended up in the/a red light district—there is a shopping window with a couple of half-naked ladies half-heartedly wiggling about right in front of me. At nine in the morning? Well, it's of course good if the ladies get to keep office hours…

I instead turn right and quite unexpectedly find myself in the Botanical Gardens. I've always been fond of botanical gardens and this is a nice oasis in Brussels—or would be if there wasn't a major throughfare and several construction sites next to it supplying a deafening noise to the park.

The day soon turns quite hot as I meander through the streets, a cool museum would be just the thing. I take aim at the Musée de l'air, walking through a sweltering Parc du Cinquantenaire, but am sadly disappointed: the museum is closed on Mondays. Even worse, across the court yard I see the posters for a Franquin exhibition, that closed the day before… This is the final straw, I trudge up to my hotel and have a cool shower.

In the evening dinner with the people I'm meeting. Yeah, it's all engineers, we all withdraw to our rooms by 21. I try the TV and get a scandal story about the mismanagement of Her Majesty's Prison Rye Hill. I wonder a bit if the main problem is that it run by a private company, or that it has to be run on such a low budget that nobody could do it right.

And then the news of the shootings at Virginia Tech. There is probably a lot to be said about that, but that will have to wait until we know what actually happened…


I feel holier than him

Meteorologist Pär Holmgren has done his best to raise consciousness about global warming in Sweden, but in a recent interview in Dagens Nyheter he reveals that his environmental conscience does not stretch as far as taking the twenty hours one-way to take the train to Brussels. He flies.

I, on the other hand, sit on the X2000 southwards. I have web connectivity and prepare material for a guest lecture next week. It is indeed considerably more expensive to go by train, but an Interrail card takes a bit of the edge off the pain. The tab will be picked up by the European taxpayers anyway, so it's not that much of a personal sacrifice for me—except for the teenage girl in the seat behind me who has been continuously speaking on her mobile since Stockholm. Apparently the reception is bad, because every second word she says is “What?”. sigh

Tomorrow I'll have most of a day free in Brussels and the weather seems fair. Updates as events warrant.


Translation of the week

From the January/February issue of Avions:
“Phoney war” = « Guerre du Téléphone »


Rather disappointing

Art Garfunkel's previous album, Everything Waits To Be Noticed was interesting in many respects—Art was openly writing lyrics and music and indeed produced some touching, not to say occasionally haunting, pieces, sung together with, the perhaps somewhat anonymous, Maia Mondlock and Buddy Sharp, creating a record that definitely is among his best. (I'm not that much of a Jimmy Webb fan anyway.)

After that his latest, Some Enchanted Evening, is a letdown. It is a collection of ear candy, beautifully sung to be sure, but it blazes no new trails. Come on, you've shown that you can do better!


A Day in the Life

The only-begotten son has an essay on biological warfare due for the next morning, but the printer is acting up. We fiddle with things and as such things tend to go, we have to install new software and then I feel the need to dispense some professional advice on the formatting of literature references and of course we have to look up some interesting pathogens in the Tree of Life and… What's that smell of burning? Aaacckk! The pie! It is well on its way to briquettehood when I pull it out of the oven.

Fortunately there are enough leftovers from Easter for us to be able to improvise dinner anyway.


Truth in advertising (cont)

University applications are to be sent in this week and various institutions advertise to attract students. So does KTH:

Kan du bli nobelpristagare,
toppchef eller helt
vanlig astronaut?

Now, I wouldn't trade my degrees from KTH for anything, but to be honest, no KTH graduate has ever received a Nobel prize.

Uppsala University seems to be the place to go to if you are hankering for a Nobel Prize.



All the time we make predictions of the future, many of these never come true and we forget them (until somebody points out what an idiot we were for not signing up Astrid Lindgren or the Beatles). But if you make sufficiently many predictions, some of them will of course come true, and some of these uncannily so.

I've always been struck by how similar to Ronald Reagan president Prexy in John Brunner's The Sheep Look up was, long before Reagan's ascendancy to the presidency. But even more startlingly prophetic is The Onion's satire of George W Bush, just after the 2000 elections: Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over.

If it's printed, it must be true

When I last went to Burger King, the tray liner said: ”99,999999999999999999999999999999999999999% nötkött är inte tillräckligt”. From this we understand that allowed contamination is less than 1 part in 1039. Sooo, for a 100 g burger patty, anything not beef must weigh less than 10-40 kg. This is less than 1/10000 the mass of the electron neutrino. Conversely, we can accept the contamination by a single water molecule of non-beef origin in a hamburger the size of Kebnekaise.

I'd really like to see the cleanrooms where they make the Whoppers…


Ow, I've been infected!

Martin R has tagged me with explaining why I started to blog.

It was simply because I came up with the name. Everybody else seemed to be blogging and I thought: “If I had a blog I'd call it ‘Pointless Anecdotes’.” I mentioned this to my friend Mats Li and he immediately responded that if I wrote a blog, he'd read it. (Are you there, Mats?)

Then, I saw Martin's Salto Sobrius in its original black splendour and realised that that was how I wanted my blog to look and getting a Blogger account was rapidly done. With time both Martin and I went for a design that was easier on the eye, but I still retain a lot of elements he came up with and I thought were cool. The English was not directly inspired by Martin, but there for the same reason: I try to include my non-Swedish-speaking friends, though I reserve the right to occasionally do bits in any other languages that strike my fancy.

I will not explicitly tag anyone else, but if you feel infected and write something, leave a link in the comments.


Dysthemic, that's what I am

Almost invariably when somebody sends me something with the comment that it is “food for thought&rdquo, my reaction tends to be “it's actually crap already”.

I'm not quite sure what to think about this extract from Barbara Ehrenreich's book Dancing in the Streets, discussing how depression has become increasingly more prevalent in the Western world since the 16th Century. It is definitely in the food-for-thought category, but is it nutricious? I'm not convinced that the reason people are depressed is that they don't party enough, but the discussion about the creation of the individual and how this allows oneself to get depressed is interesting. But what says that an entire group couldn't be depressed?


Oh carp!

Cognitive Daily notes that most researchers don't understand error bars and reading through the explanation I see that apparently I haven't either, specifically my lic thesis does incorrect analyses of statistical significances at some points. Well, the results I presented were so vague anyway, so I don't think this particular gaffe makes much of a difference…