2008-12-26

Veckans ord: peglegsam

Jag tackar YouTube-användaren peglegsam för att ha påmint oss om detta fina gamla skånska okvädingsord. Ex: ”Där gaur du å e peglegsam, din klydderöv!”

Helt klart bör peglegsam användas oftare för att inte helt falla i glömska, låt oss alla nyttja det minst en gång i veckan!

2008-12-22

Call out the Ents!

Without warning, the little copse of trees across the street is suddenly gone. This morning I saw a human moving on the plot, looking as if he might know what was going on. Ah, a parking lot for the planned new house up the hill… It's not as if they could have added another floor to the parking house just next to it (or simply filled it to capacity, it's usually half-empty), or let people park on the empty parking lot next to the shop, or let people use the excellent public communications and manage without a car at all. No, no, the Tree Killers have been at it again. I am very upset, there certainly aren't too many trees in this city, not even here at the outskirts.

If trees could scream and struggle a bit, maybe it wouldn't be so easy to just saw them down without a second thought.

2008-12-21

Let it snow!

After a rainy week today is a bright and sunny day in Stockholm. The Only-begotten Daughter grumbles that it's not very Christmas-like, but such is the climate in southern Sweden. Honeybuns has travelled north, where things are otherwise:

2008-12-20

Technology is beautiful

I got this Christmas card from my friends at the Center for Parallel Computers.

Network cables coming out of a computing cluster.

2008-12-19

Word of the week: ad verb

I got to thinking about what verbs might be likely to turn up in advertisements, so I went through 60 non-classified ads in today's Dagens Nyheter and counted the ad verbs.
It turned out that 15% made do without any verbs at all, and in a fairly large proportion of the rest there would only be verbs in the fine print.
The most common verbs were vara (be) with 27 occurences, and ha (have) with 20, obviously to a large part due to them being auxiliary verbs.
The third most common (17) was finnas (exist), typically explaining varieties of items.
The next two (14 each) are gälla (be valid for) and (get)—here we are looking at the fine print.
These are then followed (at 9 and 8) by ge (give) and köpa (buy), not surprising around Christmas.
A group with 6 instances each is göra (do), komma (come), kunna (be able to), and sälja (sell).
5 instances each for bli (become) and läsa (read)—the latter in exhortations to find out more on the companies' websites.
Then it sort of peters out into verbs with at most few instances each.

2008-12-05

Veckans ord: julkrubba

Nu är det julbord överallt, och därmed ett otal tillfällen att få julkrubba.

2008-12-04

Conservation efforts

Jean Piaget developed a model for children's intellectual development. One of the milestones is the understanding that a liquid doesn't change its volume when it's poured from one container to another of different shape. This is known as conservation. However, sometimes it's painfully obvious that this is an understanding on a more superficial and intellectual level, as when a friend poured the contents of a can into a glass with seemingly larger diameter yet the water level ending up much higher in the glass. We could figure out that the thickness of the walls of the glass was larger than those of the can, yet the effect was eerie.
A glass of Ramlösa

2008-12-03

Christmas season

Honeybuns and I had a most enjoyable last weekend. The Saturday we spent at the Butterfly House. There weren't very many butterflies about though, maybe even the tropical lepidopterans have decided to hibernate through the winter. The museum restaurant was a delightful surprise, the food was actually quite good and not too expensive, an unusual combination in most museum restaurants.

On Sunday we went to Skansen for the Christmas Market. To our joy we found that Skansen has made an excellent effort this year, the main entrance met us with light cascades down the hillside and a choir singing traditional Christmas songs, i e not the ones you'll hear every day in every supermarket, but old and yet less worn-out ones.

Lights at Skansen

As we wandered around the city quarter and looked into shops and workshops we found that they all used period lighting, in other words it was quite dark in most places. It brought home very strongly what wintertime must have meant just a few generations away, Christmas being when you would celebrate and use the half a dozen of tallow candles made at the autumn slaughter. The high point was when we entered Älvrosgården and listened to three violinists playing folk music in almost complete darkness.

The market itself contained more booths than I remember ever having seen there before, selling waffles, sausages, slippers, knives, fish, and whatever other folkloristic Christmas items, all very pleasant in the winter night (i e early afternoon). When the market closed at around 16:00, we haggled ourselves to a bag of discount saffron buns and then stood by Solliden and looked out over the city, glittering in the darkness. I noted how experiences are intensified by sharing them, not least so when shared with my beloved Honeybuns.

We passed through the Skansen shop for some aurora-flavour glögg (I will let you know what aurora tastes like) and then proceeded to Gröna Lund and watched brave people riding roller-coasters in the chilly air while others skated beneath them. The Christmas market was tiny and not very exciting, so soon we caught the tram and continued to Kungsträdgården, which also had a Christmas market. We bought doughnuts and munched on them as we walked towards the Old Town, to see the Christmas market there. I consider it to have lost much of its charm since they discontinued the paper trumpets for children (on account of the complaining residents), but we still found some more stuff for the Christmas table. I would have sung ”Jul i Gamla Stan”, but I don't know the words and besides I think it's a bit tacky.

Tired and satisfied with our day, we went home and made rice pudding for dinner in order to continue with the Christmas theme.

2008-12-02

Having a gay old time

Honeybuns and I recently visited the National Museum of Natural History, a favourite of both of ours. We started with an astronomy show in the Omnimax theatre, Cosmic Collisions. Rather sensationalistic, but some quite nice computer animations.

Our main target was the exhibition “Rainbow Animals” (yup, that's the original, “Swedish”, name of the exhibition) on homosexuality in non-human animals. They had a couple of (plastic) dolphin pairs in quite explicit positions, but generally the exhibits were just random stuffed animals and we had to contend ourselves with reading about their lascivious natures. They did not show any whelks, but I was much amused to find there is a “Red-faced lovebird”, they must constantly get interrupted at inopportune moments. All in all the exhibition was quite small, but all exhibits were carefully cross-referenced to the relevant peer-reviewed literature, so there is plenty of further reading, should one feel like delving deeper into the subject.

Gay dolphins

We continued to see the other exhibitions. I've often complained that modern museums are too loud, but now found a very elegant solution to the problem, sound hoods that keep sounds restricted to the listeners standing right beneath them.

Sound hood

In the mineralogy department we found another clever invention: the mineral samples were placed in shelves that could be pulled out, lamps inside lighting up when the shelves were pulled out, very space-efficient and an excellent way to display the rocks.

Minerals in lit cabinet

The museum restaurant on the other hand had gone from indifferent to bad with the latest change of ownership, snagging a chorizo from the hot dog stand outside seems a viable option—for the non-vegetarians at least.

Then, just before we had to leave, we found a most delightful little exhibition on biological diversity, well hidden in the corridor leading to the whale exhibition. Do not miss!

2008-12-01

Death in the age of Facebook

The mobile on my nightstand played its chirpy little tune. Picking it up I automatically noted the time: 01:27. My older half-brother S had—unexpectedly and prematurely—died a few hours earlier, please forward the message to Sis and Mom. I decided I could probably wait till morning to call them. While I returned to sleep the search for the members of a scattered family in infrequent contact continued, using Eniro, Hitta and whatever other sites allowed suitable searches for incomplete ID information. S's partner M was travelling abroad and had to be reached. A friend of hers in another city was located who managed to get hold of M on Skype in the early morning.

In the morning I left voice mail messages to call me on my mother's and sister's numbers. As I came in to work I saw S still logged in to his Skype account, where he'd left it going for his final exercise round. More subdued phone calls during the day, there would be a viewing at the hospital the next day. I was unfamiliar with the term, but googling confirmed that it was an opportunity to see the body. When had this procedure been (re-)introduced?

The next morning grim-faced siblings and half-siblings met at the hospital chapel with S's children and M. Raw unconstrained grief from M, we others struggling to keep outward emotions in check in the prescribed Nordic manner, this sometimes necessitating rapid exits to the bathroom, outdoors or just fixed staring away, breathing deeply. (I turned on my clinical mind and observed.) A hospital-issue welfare officer hovered nearby, but soon withdrew as she felt her presence unnecessary.

Eventually we had to leave, making space for others to meet their dead, and all went to S and M's house to find solace in each other and to manage the situation by planning practical details. Work, always a sure way to keep oneself from thinking. Where should the ceremony be, how should it designed? Buddhist or Orthodox ritual? “But none of that God stuff.” Those who had their laptops with them brought up iPhoto and shared their pictures of S.

The next few days we made points of friending each other on Facebook, adding each other to our Skype contact lists, updating our telephone numbers and email addresses to better stay in touch.

Eventually came the funeral, on the time when it had been possible to book a chapel and officiants. A completely secular occasion in a chapel in a silent forest burial ground, restrained and sad; token memories offered by grieving friends and colleagues. For practical reasons the actual interment took place at a different burial ground, now with an Orthodox priest blessing the dead, rapidly reeling off the necessary many words in the cold air, comforting perhaps not so much through any presumed presence of God, but by the familiar ritual, ingrained since childhood, the bedrock of generations behind. We others, brought up in Western Lutheranism, may not have understood what was being said, but still recognised the fundamentals of ritual and the support it gave.

And perhaps it is a modern kind of votive candle that S still is logged in to Skype.

2008-11-28

Veckans ord: skumplast

Winston Churchill lär ha föredragit sin champagne kall, torr och gratis, men även när han fick betala för sin skumpa förbrukade han ansenliga mängder per dag, eftersom han hade en svår skumplast.

2008-11-14

Veckans ord: tågluffare

När de Enfödda Barnen var små var de väldigt förtjusta i att gnaga på sina fötter, riktiga tågluffare var de.

2008-11-06

Word of the week: warplanes

Clearly a hyperspace bypass must consist of warplanes.

2008-11-02

The benevolent pusher

The club was the main attraction at the Hobby Fair this year again with our traditional introduction to modelling for children. The kids get a model for cheap on the condition they sit with their parents and build it there, which they happily do. Many come back year after year to do build models at the fair. It's not clear if we are bringing them into the hobby—they certainly don't turn up at our meetings, but at least they have been exposed to the joy for a while. And we get to feel like drug-pushers. Sort of.

2008-10-31

Veckans ord: penision

Män har i snitt högre lön än kvinnor. Som följd därav har de också högre inkomster när de slutat arbeta: penision.

2008-10-30

Political meme

Via Thnidu:
Copy this sentence into your blog if you're in a non-same-sex marriage, and you don't want it "protected" by the bigots who think that gay marriage hurts it somehow.

Strictly speaking I'm not married, but even if I were, I wouldn't feel threatened anyway. Even further I don't think the state has any reason to legislate about my relations with other consenting adults. Abolish all marriage laws!

2008-10-28

Uh-oh

This isn't all that recent and other bloggers have already commented and drawn the same conclusions, but I'm still so shocked I have to add my own entry.

Die Dolchstoßlegende lebt immer.
I've felt it to be a bit over the top when USAians accuse Republicans of being fascists, but finding a cartoon like this in a mainstream conservative newspaper, executed without the slightest hint of irony or sarcasm, drives the point home, so to speak. I feel like going over, picking up all my friends and bringing them to safety. Now, before it's too late.

2008-10-27

Blind to the consequences

As I was walking through the city, I realised that a building I've passed quite often contains the head office of that pearl of Swedish social politics, the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. I had missed it before, as the sign on the building is fairly small and unostentatious and in fact what now had drawn my eye was something that literally shouldn't have—the line of Braille below the printed text.
Försäkringskassan, sign
Contemplating this I thought of many things. One thing was that probably the Braille was not intended to actually be read—after all, how many walk around stroking walls to find signs on the off chance that there is a bit of Braille there? Nonetheless, the symbolism is clear: “We're here for everyone.” (that can read Swedish at least).

The other thing was the Braille itself. Now, as I said, the sign itself is pretty inconspicuous, but it could well have been larger. The text is written in a simple sans-serif typeface, indicating simplicity, seriousness, matter-of-factness. For Braille, as far as I know, there aren't really different typefaces, and there is not all that much room for variation in size—each character should fit under a fingertip. I guess it would technically be possible to indicate style, corresponding to italic, boldface, etc, by having the bumps have different profiles—not just hemispheres, but pyramids and hemicubes. I'm not sure how finely graded differences are actually distinguishable, but then again, most sighted readers aren't consciously aware of the distinctions between Times New Roman and Bookman either. There are dynamic Braille displays that can vibrate the needles, presumably the rhythm could be varied for a different feel. Then again, I'm sure the Braille community have come with their own ways of indicating style and character, I wonder how Discworlds novels are rendered in Braille. The audiobooks read by Steven Briggs are of course excellent.

2008-10-26

Spitless

The F11 Museum by what now is Skavsta airport had geared up for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the arrival of the first Spitfires in Sweden. A visit by a Spitfire was promised, though it would be a Mk XVI whereas the Swedish S31 was the Mk XIX. This could of course not be missed, so we, a few friends, bundled into a car and rolled through a rainy Södermanland towards Nyköping.

As we arrived we found the cozy little museum and a sizable crowd of people. An Airbus from MyTravel was just coming in to land, but had to abort with a mighty engine roar, possibly because they failed to brake on the slippery runway. It was thus not a very great surprise that the promised Spitfire visit was cancelled on account of the weather.

Planespotters watching a Beech King Air getting ready for take-off

A spot of rain does not disturb a planespotter.


Still, the well-filled museum hangar housed an S29C, an S32C, an S35E, and the front part of an SF37 and various other bits and pieces. I have always liked reconnaissance aircraft for all the odd bumps and lumps they end up with in order to fit the cameras, electronic equipment and additional fuel tanks. (The S31 however was a very clean aircraft for flying high and fast.) I spent considerable time crawling around underneath the aircraft photographing their landing gear, my special fetish.

Honeybuns in cockpit

Honeybuns tries out the Draken cockpit.


Other parts of the museum housed exhibits of uniforms, equipment and various bric-a-brac and several nicely made model aircraft. There was also a couple of trailers demonstrating the work place of an intelligence platoon, all 1970s vintage, but apparently the same equipment is still in use. The HP7221A plotters were a fond reunion—I first learned computer graphics on one.

Eventually we felt that we had seen enough for the day and returned to Stockholm, on the whole satisfied with the day. Spitfires, next summer!

S31 propeller

As close as we got to a Spitfire, an S31 propeller.

2008-10-25

I hate fags!

You see them everywhere on the streets, brazenly spreading their vile diseases. I don't ever want to see them yet I had to spend all morning today picking up butts.

In other news, the Christian Democrats will not manage to block the new gender-neutral marriage law, hooray!

2008-10-24

Word of the week: graydient

From 0 to 255 in monochrome: a graydient.

2008-10-23

Turning off the lights is a bright idea

Just got my electrickity bill. On actual measurement I had consumed much less than the electricity company had projected—and billed me for, so most of the cost was credited to me. Ha! Let's see if I can repeat the trick over the winter.

2008-10-17

Veckans ord: tvivelaktiv

En skeptiker sitter inte bara och misstror i största allmänhet utan är tvivelaktiv och undersöker saken.

2008-10-12

And then there were 28…

When I left elementary school, I lost contact with my class mates, mostly without any regrets.

I was invited to a class reunion several years ago, but I couldn't attend, as I would be talking at a conference abroad at the same time. Still, I called the organiser and sent my greetings and I also asked whether a certain girl would be attending. (She never was my girlfriend, I didn't even think of it as an option at the time.)
“Err, she…she is no more.” Oh. Without asking for the cause of death I still wasn't very surprised.

Yesterday, the morning paper carried the death notice of a then-friend of mine (who was her boyfriend), torn from wife and children at an early age.

The countdown has begun.

2008-10-11

Veckans ord: bykyrka

Bristen på rena underkläder fick dottern att eftertryckligt bykyrka.

2008-10-08

Button, button

August Strindberg coined the term knappologi (“buttonology”) for the purportedly scientific systematisation of trivial matters. Now, there really are people who are intensely interested in buttons, as I realised when I came across Neville Poulson's seven-volume work Buttons of the Indian army.

Looking a bit further brought up the web page of the British Button Society. I don't often agree with Strindberg and here, too, I am feeling very pleased to have found the buttonologists and that they are doing fine.

Films

Last week I managed to go the cinema twice in different constellations.

Porco Rosso could have been scripted by Richard Bach in its pæan to the joy and beauty of flying. The delicate drawing style of the Miyasaki studio is perfectly suited for the clean and elegant 1920s seaplanes and the characters' equally light and slim summer clothes, all set against the eternally sunlit blues of the Adriatic Sea and the Mediterranean sky. Yes, in a world like this even pigs have to fly. And I have to build more Macchi seaplanes.

Then WALL·E. Even though the rightful star was robbed of his role it is truly what I call a “holding-hands movie”—in several senses. We even find that by holding hands you can restore from backups you hadn't made. It is also a very Mac-friendly movie, EVE is clearly an iRobot (not the same as I, Robot) and apparently WALL·E runs some latter-day version of MacOS. That there are major plot inconsistencies is less of a problem. And of course the computer graphics are absolutely stunning, in particular when you don't even notice them unless you're knowledgeable enough to realise that every frame is the result of some really complex programming and extremely heavy computation.

2008-10-06

Mission accomplished


With patient scouring of Tradera I have finally completed my collection of all issues of Pilot from 1974 to 1980—the top years of the magazine.

Leafing through the magazines, I reflect that they probably have done quite a lot to shape my character (causation unclear, but certainly strengthening any pre-existing MÖPish tendencies). At the time I thought Pilot was among the coolest reading you could find; now I have a somewhat more nuanced attitude towards the magazines, but they have nostalgic value and indeed still serve as inspiration for many modelling projects.

So what can we find in them? Well, for one thing, aviation is presented as almost exclusively military aviation, and indeed, even the proportion of stories about infantry soldiers is many times the proportion of stories about civilian pilots. Natacha would have been completely out of place. To be further specific, when we say “military”, we are talking about World War II, with a smattering of World War I. There might have been one or two stories from the Korean War, but absolutely none about the Vietnam War. With time this was leavened with such characters as Dan Cooper, a contemporary pilot in the Canadian Air Force, and the occasional serialisation of Buck Danny adventures. It was notable how much higher the quality of the latter was both with regards to the drawing of aircraft and in the plot construction than in the more mass-produced Battler Britton adventures that were the mainstay. Now, with 30 more years of studies behind me, I tend to cringe at the depiction of the aircraft in many of the comics as the artists often seemed to have worked from pictures with no understanding of the system behind markings, camouflage or combat tactics.

The comics often revolved around several common themes: Sacrificing yourself for your buddies, redemption of past transgressions (often through death), honouring one's opponents, curing of temporary cowardice, not judging people too hastily and in particular not underestimating the nerdy-looking guy. I guess there could be worse morals.

During the period covered by my collection the magazine also contained quite a bit of aviation history and modelling-related material. Relatively superficial as forced by the limited space, but still data, profiles and often even three-view plans that encouraged further exploration. For some years Pilot even ran an inofficial Swedish championship in modelling based on photographs readers sent in of their models. There did not seem to be any cooperation between Pilot and IPMS, possibly their target groups were not considered to overlap, IPMS being for adults rather than the mainly tween audience of Pilot.

And then of course, regular competitions in which I won stuff every now and then, my Fritz von Flaxen keyring still dangles from the lamp on my modelling table…

Well, there they are, and at the top of my “unbuilt” stack waits a major conversion project inspired by plans in issue 13/1977, expect further reports.

2008-10-05

Ohne Titel

There was you and I
and the fishes.
We learned their names
in five languages.
And all their names were beautiful,
because there was
you and I.

2008-10-04

Day of thunder, hour of power

Recently it was Perks time at work and we took off in the Friday afternoon to an undisclosed location that turned out to be an indoor gocart track where we were dressed in sweaty overalls and rather icky helmets and then took off around the track with the goal to complete as many laps as possible in one hour. It's rather sweaty stuff, this race driving, so we worked as tag teams, trading places every ten minutes.

My team ended up last, with the fewest laps. We were last already when I first got to drive and me pushing the pedal to the metal to make up for lost time just won me sojourns off-track, covered in the tyres that made up the crash barrier.

But anyway, here I am, doing the Steve McQueen thing:

2008-10-03

Veckans ord: paternostervärk

När man bett radbandet runt hundra gånger med reumatiska fingrar torde man ha en avsevärd paternostervärk.

2008-09-28

Oh, what a party!

With the celebration of my new bath room as pretext, I invited friends over yesterday. Some decided a safe distance would be Långban, Marstrand, Lisbon, or Cape Town, but rest assured, they will eventually be partied as well, resistance is futile.

For those that came, there was the usual miscellany of experimental food (Danish chicken sandwiches, Norwegian prince cake) and newly discovered fruit juices, teas and even a spot of Néscafe (I'm not a coffee drinker, OK?), yet I found stuff in the fridge this morning that I had forgotten to put on the table, but I hope nobody had to leave hungry. As usual, there was a certain coming and going so we didn't run out of chairs even at maximum occupancy when everybody decided to cram into the kitchen to paste various glops onto bread and munch away by the table. (My home-made shrimp margarine was a hit—it was gone long before I'd had a chance to taste it&hellip) A certain tension was discovered between those who wanted to discuss wireless networks and those who were more occupied with the upcoming Hobby Fair.

And I gots presents, from the scientifically excavated gun cartridges to colour matched towels.

As the day went on, only the most hardcore revellers remained, carefully going through my bookshelf and my stack of unbuilt models. (“What? I'm quite sure the Airfix Wellington was much larger when I was a kid!”)


Stellan, Ulf, Caela, and Haba ignoring meMy friends are bums.


In the end only the Only-begotten Son remained for some quality time and I tried to rack my brain for what I remembered of Maclaurin expansion—calculus is a bit hazy for me 25 years later… Eventually he returned to his studies and I could have a quick electronic exchange with Honeybuns, who hadn't been able to attend.

And then, to bed.

2008-09-26

Veckans ord: övervikt

Häromdagen satt jag med ett kuvert jag inte trodde jag skulle behöva och vek förstrött ihop det i lager på lager. Så visade det sig att jag visst skulle använda det och fick veckla ut det igen. Det var svårt att få in papperet i kuvertet som blivit alldeles övervikt.

2008-09-19

Word of the week: nose whee

The book I'm currently reading makes reference to a nose whee, certainly that is the exhilarating feeling I get stepping out on the apron and feeling the smell of jet fuel.

2008-09-14

The mauve bathroom is no more

Quite apart from the colour scheme, my bathroom has been in urgent need of renovation. In fact I have been rather concerned with the possibility of water damages. So now I had saved up enough money to afford the work and sent out queries on Bello. About half a dozen contractors responded and I asked them in to make cost estimates. These ranged from 25 kSEK to over a 100. Bello lets the customers give quality assessments of the contractors, so I could with good conscience drop the lowest bidders, as they seemed to perform at lowest quality as well. The highest bidder also had top marks for all criteria, but I just couldn't afford them, so the guy in the middle it was.

They did a decent enough job, though they left cement dust over absolutely everywhere. I'll be dusting it off the furniture from here to Christmas I fear. My downstairs neighbours were also rather upset when the contractors managed to smash through their ceiling, but they sorted things out without me having to take further part in the proceedings.

A bit to my surprise I found I have no pictures of the bathroom from before the renovation started, but here are a few shots from during the process itself.

Tools, tiles and grout all over the hallway.The walls torn out, the floor drain relocated.Junk to be taken away.
Nice new shower doors.Blinding white porcelain.Ivar FTW in the bathroom too.

Douglas Adams meme

“He would put on the record of bagpipe music.”

Put a Douglas Adams quote in your blog.

2008-09-13

With determined steps towards the chasm

I have not been very productive at work lately. This is how it has gone:
It has been a fairly hot summer at times and the fans in my laptop got to sound squeakier and squeakier—worn out presumably. I got a repair ticket prepared at the company that does our hardware service and thought I'd drop off the laptop as I went on holidays. The last two weeks before this date the laptop in addition became very very slow, showing a beachball per keypress on average. Well, presumably this would be fixed during service.

So, I went on hols and dropped off the laptop at service. I also specifically requested they'd do a backup of the contents (separately priced option).

When I came back from holidays, the laptop had not been fixed. Call and remind them. A couple of days later I got a call that it was done. I went and picked it up. Yes, the fans were now smooth and silent. However, it was still very slow. Call service guys: “Thanks for the fans, but the laptop is running very slowly, didn't you notice that when you tested it?” “No, we just tested the fans.” “You could hardly have turned it on without noticing…” “You probably just need to reinstall the system.”

Hmm, that would be a major operation. Well, but why might it be running so slowly to begin with? Poke around console logs and error messages. Hmm, here's a weird message being emitted every ten seconds, but what does it mean? Google for relevant bits and find discussion on blogs: “The disk has been overheated, get a new one.” Oh, I can still read from the disk, but apparently it's going to get worse. OK, so I need a new disk. I'd better call the service guys again: “Hi, it seems I need to replace the hard disk, lucky that you have a fresh backup for me!” “Uhmm, eh, actually, no, we don't.” “What? But I asked for a backup and you said you keep them around for two to three weeks.” “Uh, eh, well, no, we wiped it, uh, yesterday. Probably we were running out of disk space.”

Effing brill! OK, now what? I'll have to do a backup of my own. Procure disk. Yeah, this has an earlier backup of mine on it, but I'll have to throw it away to fit in the new backup. (Simplification of the real reasons, but the result is the same.) Done. Now, to start the backup. *grind* *grind* *grind* Eventually it is clear that at this rate of performance it will take approximately two weeks to back up my hard disk, unless it breaks down finally first. Well, what to do? Grin and bear it. I wonder how the service guys managed to make a backup in less than a day. Yet another call gives only vague and clearly unworkable answers.

A consequence of the backup is that I can't lock up the laptop in the safe for the night, as the two-week estimate is based on uninterrupted transfer. Well, what to do? So this goes on for a week and a half, and then when I get in one morning I meet a grinning colleague: “Guess whose laptop got stolen in the burglary last night?” Of course… And while the burglars had been as cock-snookingly polite as to leave the external hard disk on the table, the interrupted backup had been corrupted and was unreadable.

*sigh* Now what? “Maybe you can take the little white one?” OK. Hmm, it seems hung somehow. “Yeah, it's a bit dodgy, you have to do a remote install on it to get it running.” Install. Install. Incompatibility. Re-install. When I finally am on the way to get things up and running, the dreaded lurgy strikes and I'm bedridden. Now I'm on my second week of coughing, missing deadlines left and right.

Life, don't talk to me about Life!

2008-09-12

Veckans ord: Krigslida

Förr behövde man bara hålla sig undan för stridspittarna och deras lumparhistorier, men med kvinnornas intåg i Försvarsmakten kan man nu också hitta en och annan Krigslida i terrängen.

2008-09-11

Machtübernahme von hinter die Regalen

Martin R anar konspirationer i vassen:
– Samhällets mest rasrena härskarstam är bibliotekarierna.
Jag:
– De är ju dock i allmänhet alltför otränade för att klara att ta makten med våld, men den dagen de går ihop med gymnazisterna får vi se upp.
– En dag kommer all deras storhet att bara vara gamla papper som tas om hand av de veka och degenererade arkivarierna.
– Fast om de påbörjar en avelskampanj med seminarier?

2008-08-29

Veckans ord: bågsekund

En bågsekund är den sträcka man hinner på en sekund med en motorcykel. I innerstaden är den betydligt längre än en bilsekund.

2008-08-28

Kul med språket: Obfuskera Svenskans recension av De Välvilliga och utge den för att vara från Expressens sportsidor

Anders Myrin lever i en parallell värld:
Och hur skulle det kunna vara ­– annorlunda? Varken de hårdföra sidorna hos Lagerbäck (de disciplinära och rationella bevekelsegrunderna), eller hans själsligt ”förmildrande omständigheter” (i synnerhet hans bokstavligen livsfarliga hemlighet: homosexualiteten), som psykologiskt skulle kunna klarlägga hans beteende, kan längre rädda honom från det Kainsmärke han i någon gudomlig mening tvingas bära. Och det i tid och evighet, hur många välvilliga eumenider som än korsar hans väg mot den egna triviala döden.

2008-08-24

Love in the Old Town

Juliet beneath St George and the DragonI just got back from the Old Town where I've seen a promenade performance of Romeo and Juliet. The young actors made skilful use of the geography and chronology, starting with the prologue in the evening sunshine on Stortorget, the play meandering through alleys, squares and passages while the sun set and the final tragic deaths took place in dark night behind the cathedral. The musical accompaniment ranged from ”Mamma är lik sin mamma” to Gregorian Dies iræ.

The Old Town takes on a special kind of magic late at night when the tourists have returned to their hotels and cruise ships, when the noise dies down and the cobble-stoned alleys are lit by street lamps and light filtering down from house windows. (And there is no cause for nostalgia, because the streets were never so clean nor well-lit, nor the people so healthy and wealthy, in the days of either Birger Jarl, Gustaf Vasa, Bellman, August Blanche, or Nils Ferlin.)

There are still a few performances left this coming week. Do not put it off, run and go see!

2008-08-23

Friends in high places

I visited friends living on the top floor of a Lidingö high-rise with an astounding view of Stockholm. My camera has a night scene setting, but even resting the camera on a surface it's difficult to hold it still long enough to get a good picture, but oh what a beautiful city this is!
Night view of Stockholm

Veckans ord: cellofan

Somliga dagar, när ingenting stämmer och vädret är vidrigt, är cellon extra tung på väg hem från fiolläraren och då är man rätt trött på cellofan.

2008-08-17

Sittin' on the dock of the bay

A friend, dearly beloved not only by me but many others, turned forty yesterday and the circle of friends was quietly convened for a surprise party in the archipelago. Like champagne-toting ninjas all converged on the island cottage where the unsuspecting target was spending the day and suddenly burst into the living room, waving glasses and handing over presents. Food and drink was prepared and consumed.

A group like this, composed almost exclusively of programmers and system administrators, has its own special way of talking, not only in its choice of subjects, where the mere mention of a software version number causes meaning nods, but in the way humour is applied, in rapid slap-downs of Stupidity, egregious examples of incompetence, shortsightedness, and inefficiency displayed for the others for comment and mocking, Technical Solutions to Social Problems proposed and elaborated. With few words, tips and suggestions were traded and arcane knowledge was passed on, keeping the networks running smoothly yet a while, holding chaos at bay. I silently marvelled at this concentration of intimidatingly skilled and bright people, invisibly doing their part to keep civilization intact.

A contingent left with the last boat to the mainland, the rest continued talking yet a while, but well after midnight withdrew to berths on their boats. A final group of hardy and close friends stayed up talking and singing. My last memories are of ”Balladen om briggen Blue Bird av Hull” being sung some time around three in the morning as I lay in my sleeping bag in the loft.

A few hours later it was time for me to groggily get up and catch the first morning boat. All alone in the fresh dawn I walked the short distance through the fir copses down to the jetty, raised the semaphor to flag down the boat and sat down on the jetty to wait, squinting in the near-horizontal sunlight.

I reflected that I was on the north side of the island where the glacial ice sheets once had come and scoured the rocks smooth, on the south side the rocks would be more broken up as the ice had left the island there. So you should be able to tell compass directions by looking at how smooth the rocks are, much in the same manner as locating ant hills or where the boughs are densest on the trees.

Then came the boat that took me to the bus that took me into town.

Let them eat cake

On my first trip to the United States we were in San Francisco when the US Fathers' Day coincided with the birthday of the Only-begotten children's mother, and she decided we should get a cake to celebrate the joint event. So we went out for a walk to locate a cakery. We noted that US cakes were considerably more imaginative than the usual Swedish choices of Black Forest Cake and Princess cake, often making up entire stages with dinosaurs in primeval forests, Dorothy with friends on the Yellow Brick Road and so on. We still settled for a fairly simple chocolate cake. I, having just withdrawn cash, took out a fifty-dollar note to pay with at which the guy behind the counter hissed:
Put that down! Do you want to get killed!?”
Oh, apparently I hadn't gotten the current USD/life rate right.
I found smaller denominations to pay with and then we repaired to our hotel room.

I had a little bit of cake and found it very rich. The OBCM, considering herself a major league cake-eater, had a larger bit but had obvious difficulty finishing it all.
“It's (oof) rather rich…”
We looked at the cake, its full caloric content now apparent to us, realising we wouldn't ever be able to finish it. Accordingly we invited all our travelling companions. They eagerly took a piece of cake each and their widening eyes showed they also found it quite rich. After some forty male engineering students in the prime of their lives had had a piece of cake each we still had half the cake left. We decided it would probably do as a tip for the cleaning staff.

Since then, I consider American cake as a weapon of waist destruction. There is a blog dedicated to other kinds of cake-related disasters: Cake Wrecks.

2008-08-14

Still un(der)determined

An earlier test indicated I was gender neutral. Now I did Mike On Ads' gender test based on web browser history and got the result:
Likelihood of you being FEMALE is 50%
Likelihood of you being MALE is 50%


Interestingly enough in this case the result seems to be due to the sites I normally visit not being in the statistics database used, so again I'm simply a different kind of weirdo.

2008-08-13

I am easily amused

From Scale Aviation Modeller International:
The tailplane is a butt fit…

2008-08-12

“Nature”

“Nature” is one of those words I suspect doesn't actually have any meaning. When the Only-begotten son was little I came along with his class on an excursion in a nearby forest. Everyone was to pick up something that could be found “in the nature” and then tell a bit about it. I picked up a plastic bag I found along the way. The children in the class were very dubious. (The teachers were probably dubious too, but they were too polite to contradict me.) “Plastic bags don't exist in nature!” I found it in the forest, isn't the forest nature? “But they're not made from natural things!” They're made of oil, and oil exists in nature. “But you have to do things to the oil.” That squirrel-gnawed pine cone has also been done things to. “But…”

The converse is things that are “unnatural” or “against nature”. These actually seem to have a definition, they are “phenomena that the speaker personally dislikes”. But in reality, things that are unnatural simply cannot exist. The laws of nature are strict*, but you will never be punished for breaking them. Nobody will ever drag you to court for having exceeded the speed of light in vacuum. You will never get sued for having destroyed energy. You will simply just never do it. Accordingly, if you suspect something is against nature, your understanding is incorrect, go study some more.



* So our understanding of the laws may be incomplete, but that's a different matter. (Or energy.)

2008-08-11

Empty in one sense

I open a tin of Grebbestads anchovies. I pour off the liquid and find there's nothing left in the tin. Oh well, I don't really like anchovies all that much anyway…

2008-08-10

Notes from the underground

I sit across from a grumpy old man on the tube. Suddenly he looks up and realises he's missed his station. He laughs at himself and his own obliviousness and as he smiles his entire face unfolds like an origami puzzle and I realise he is much younger than I had assumed and indeed an open and friendly person. Where did he come from?

2008-08-05

Clouds

Stuff like this never looks as good on screen as in reality. Tendrilly clouds, anyway.

Clouds

Even more impressive

Björn and Benny have lately made themselves known as rationalists and this old ABBA song (that I completely had missed) proves that this is not a recent idea of theirs.

Stormy weather

I finally got to meet Martin R's delightful family. I considered for a moment taking it over, but relented.

As I rode the bus out to Martin's summer house in the archipelago, the sun was shining brightly but during the day clouds rolled in with increasing winds and as night fell a full storm developed. I lay awake a long while, watching the wind blowing wild waves across the bay and bending the trees on the isle.

In the morning the wind had abated somewhat but sheets and veils of rain still ran across the sea. As we packed and decamped I got rather wet but now at home with my fluffy bathrobe around me and sweet peppermint tea inside me I am feeling very pleased with having braved the elements.

2008-08-04

Feeding frenzy

Killer slugs, caught on a sidewalk on Lidingö. It seems they are feasting on one of their own. Their eating action looked quite interesting, so I tried to make a video as well, but my camera doesn't have sufficient video quality.

Killer slugs eating

2008-08-03

There and back again

Yesterday my friend Stellan showed me that it's possible to go on a day trip abroad for all of 60 SEK. To be more precise, we went to Åland with M/S Eckerö. The ridiculously low price, including bus travel Stockholm ↔ Grisslehamn, is clearly intended to be compensated by you buying lots of taxfree booze. They made a loss on us.

On Eckerö you end up basically in the middle of nowhere, which was just what we needed—we walked down the coast, found a nice rock cleft and then sat there the rest of the day watching the waves and a flock of eiders catching fish. (Well, I took the opportunity to send off a few messages around the world, but mostly I did nothing too.)

Still, a bit strange to travel several hundred kilometres just for the pleasure to do nothing.

2008-08-02

Cover me, I'm going in!

I have been on holidays before, but it's been for family trips or other travel. Now I have two mostly unscheduled weeks before me and feel a bit trepidated.

If I start blogging about my navel lint or sound otherwise delirious, come and pull me out!

2008-08-01

Word of the Week: streptease

Someone who just gives you a quick kiss that still causes a sore throat is obviously a streptease.

2008-07-26

A cultural thing

Not being an alcohol drinker is one of those things that set you apart, others requiring you to explain yourself. (Eh, you purposely ingest an organic solvent that cripples mental and physical performance and you want me to explain myself?)

In many situations you don't even get to explain yourself, your alcohol consumption is just taken for granted. Air transport is one of those situations. In spite of it being common knowledge that alcohol consumption under low air pressure and high mental pressure increases its effects, not to mention makes Molotov cocktails easily accessible, alcohol is considered the solution to all problems:
“In honour of the National Day, we serve champagne to all passengers today.”
“We regret the six-hour delay at departure and in compensation offer free brandy to all passengers.”
“I'm terribly sorry about all the hassle with your seating, here, have a jynnantonix on the house.”
And when I decline the booze, am I then instead offered banana juice, Swiss chocolate or a tour of the cockpit? No, the offer is free alcohol and that alone and if I don't want that then I could just as well not exist. Suzanne Reuter's stewardess in Yrrol is taken directly from reality.

One would imagine that flight crews, who have to contend with air rage, which I dare to predict hardly ever is perpetrated by sober passengers, would want to do something about the serving of alcohol both on the ground and in the planes, but presumably they are just as culturally blind to even see its presence, people just magically get drunk and abusive.

2008-07-25

A loss

Randy Pausch died today.

I had the great privilege of meeting him in person as he was giving a series of seminars at the HITLab in 1991. My notes from that meeting will have to serve as my tribute (note that this was written before the creation of the World Wide Web):

Today Randy Pausch from the University of Virginia is here and has spoken on his SIGCHI presentation “Virtual Reality on Five Dollars A Day”. He brought his equipment with two Private Eyes and a baseball cap for mounting, but unfortunately the equipment wouldn't sync so that we could get stereo images. […] Randy's claim is that rapid feedback is much more important than cool graphics and that one today doesn't have particularly good graphics in the Eyephones anyway—the cool pictures one sees are usually taken from the external video screen rather than the LCD screens that the user sees. […]

Since the Private Eye is monochrome so they only can draw wireframes, they have seen to that all objects are animated so that one can keep track of what lines go together. As a side effect the worlds become more interesting that way, there's always something going on. […]

After this he spoke about another, related, project—SUIT (Simple User Interface Technology). They have made a platform-independent interface builder—they have versions running under X, Mac and PC. NeXT was however not an option—“they are so consciously incompatible with everything else that it isn't worth it, in addition the NeXT InterfaceBuilder is superior there”. This interface builder they used in undergraduate education with completely incredible results—it took first-year students less than two hours to learn to use the system!

[— — —]
Since my last report Randy Pausch gave another seminar, this on Tailor, bespoke user interfaces. It turns out that Randy doesn't really work with virtual worlds, but with computer-supported speech generation for children with CP and he has had very encouraging results so far. (Though his opinion was that the money put into it would be put to better use in prenatal care instead of prosthesis research and I realised that maternal and child health centres are not a matter of course for everybody in this country.)

We also had a longer discussion about the utility of and possible spread of VR technology. Randy has a liberating distance to the subject and dares to express his doubts. Conversely he was very interested in MUDs as examples of already existing virtual worlds and Johan [Andersson], who is an expert on them had a lot to say. I realised that the problems with virtual worlds, and hypertexts, which in some sense are abstract virtual worlds, are that they have to be large to be really meaningful, but a lone programmer/author can never add enough to them to make them interesting. MUDs have that in common with Usenet that there are lots of people involved who, more or less independently of each other, extend the system, add all kinds of things that make it meaningful, useful and interesting in other ways. That's why the Net is so important, visualisation and holograms and such may be good, but it's really a lot of people that should be moving over it. […]

Randy is an excellent and entertaining lecturer with sound ideas about pedagogics, so I asked him to come to KTH and lecture at some suitable point. “I can be bought”, he said and gave me his business card.


We never got around to inviting him, and now it's too late, but over the years I've frequently had reason to read papers and reports by him. Indeed, less than three years ago I had reason to suggest the use of SUIT for a project at work. Eventually we decided on a different solution, but I wrote to Pausch and asked if I could have the source code to SUIT and he sent it to me a few hours later and I demoed it to my colleagues shortly thereafter.

Veckans ord: partaja

Jag är inte själv intresserad, men har vänner som gärna partajar.

2008-07-23

Song Meme II

The earlier song meme has gone around the circle and returned to me. The rules are:
  1. Reply to this post and I'll assign you a letter.
  2. List 5 songs you like that start with that letter.
  3. Post them to your journal with these instructions.

This time I am to do songs starting with L. There are indeed a great many good songs beginning with L, especially in French and Spanish, but I fear I will succumb to some amount of Anglosaxon cultural imperialism in my choices.



Lost in Her Lips
Grimwood/Idlet

Lost in her lips, I'm getting lost in her lips,
And losing track of conversation.
If Lewis and Clark had just discovered these lips,
The expedition would have ended up in Mexico, no!

Lost in her lips, downtown New York in her lips,
I try to lift my eyes with no success.
I got on with a transfer, and now I missed my stop;
The bus driver is waving, pointing me out to a cop.
What am I saying? It doesn't matter;
What is she saying? Why should I care?
What could be more interesting than staring at these lips,
Failing to communicate?

Lost in her lips, I'm taking breakfast with her lips,
Scrambling my sentences and all.
Sitting at my table, there's coffee in my drink,
It's difficult to concentrate, impossible to think.
I ask them questions, to watch them answer;
Could you repeat that, so I might watch again?
What could be more interesting than staring at these lips,
Failing to communicate, failing to communicate?

Lost in her lips, I'm getting lost in her lips,
And losing track of conversation.
If Lewis and Clark had just discovered these lips,
The expedition would have ended up in Mexico, no!

Lost in her lips, taking a bath with her lips,
In a porcelain tub, reading a book,
It's two o'clock in the afternoon, and
there's music in the living room,
I've got nothing left to do but stare at these lips.
I ask them questions, to watch them answer;
Could you repeat that, so I might watch again?
What could be more interesting than staring at these lips,
What could be more wonderful than staring at these lips,
Failing to communicate, failing to communicate, hey!



Love Is All Around
Presley

I feel it in my fingers
I feel it in my toes
Love is all around me
And so the feeling grows.

It's written on the wind
It's everywhere I go, oh yes it is.
So if you really love me
Come on and let it show.

You know I love you, I always will
My mind's made up by the
Way that I feel
There's no beginning,
There'll be no end
cause on my love you can depend.

I see your face before me
As I lay on my bed
I kinda get to thinking
Of all the things you said, oh yes I did
You gave your promise to me and I
Gave mine to you

I need someone beside me
In everything I do, oh yes I do
You know I love you, I always will,
My mind's made up by the
Way that I feel
There's no beginning,
There'll be no end
cause on my love you can depend.

Got to keep it moving
Oh it's written in the wind
Oh everywhere I go, yeah, oh well
So if you really love me, love me, love me
Come on and let it show
Come on and let it show
Come on and let it
Come on and let it (come and let it show, baby)
Come on, come on, come on let it show baby
Come on and let it show
Come on and let it show, baby
Come on and let it show

OK, so the lyrics aren't exactly Shakespeare, but with a good boy band they do the trick anyway. And, yeah, I prefer the version by Wet Wet Wet to The Troggs' original, but I couldn't quite say why.



Long, Long Day
Simon

It's been a long, long day
I got some run-down shoes
Ain't got no place to stay
But any old place will be okay
Its been a long, long day

I sure been on this road
Done nearly fourteen years
Can't say my name's well known
You don't see my face in Rolling Stone
But I sure been on this road

Slow motion
Half a dollar bill
Jukebox in the corner
Shooting to kill
And its been a…

It's been a long, long day
I sure could use a friend
Don't know what else to say
I hate to abuse an old cliché
But it's been a long, long day
It's been a long, long day

I first thought I shouldn't add a Paul Simon song, as I had one last time, but seriously, there can't be a list of my favourite songs without a Paul Simon song.



Les feuilles mortes
Prévert/Kosma

Oh ! je voudrais tant que tu te souviennes
Des jours heureux où nous étions amis
En ce temps-là la vie était plus belle,
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu'aujourd'hui
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié...
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi
Et le vent du nord les emporte
Dans la nuit froide de l'oubli.
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié
La chanson que tu me chantais.

REFRAIN:
C'est une chanson qui nous ressemble
Toi, tu m'aimais et je t'aimais
Et nous vivions tous deux ensemble
Toi qui m'aimais, moi qui t'aimais
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s'aiment
Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit
Et la mer efface sur le sable
Les pas des amants désunis.

Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi
Mais mon amour silencieux et fidèle
Sourit toujours et remercie la vie
Je t'aimais tant, tu étais si jolie,
Comment veux-tu que je t'oublie?
En ce temps-là, la vie était plus belle
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu'aujourd'hui
Tu étais ma plus douce amie
Mais je n'ai que faire des regrets
Et la chanson que tu chantais
Toujours, toujours je l'entendrai !

REFRAIN

In English this song is known as “Autumn Leaves” and I have a recording with Cannonball Adderley and others where the theme is considerably expanded. Impressively, Eino Leino's poem ”Lapin Kesä” can be sung to the same melody and has been performed by Vesa-Matti Loiri.



Les bicyclettes de Belsize
Reed/Mason

Tourne retourne dans mes pensées le regret d'un amour
C'était à Londres un matin de mai à Belsize un beau jour un beau jour
Les bicyclettes de Belsize nous ont porté tous deux et nous roulions amoureux main dans la main
Seul le ciel tendre et bleu se mirait dans nos yeux nos yeux d'enfants heureux
Souvent je rêve encore aux bicyclettes de Belsize

Tourne retourne dans mon cœur trop lourd le bonheur de ma vie
Mais l'amour joue souvent de ces tours un jour tout es fini bien fini
Les bicyclettes de Belsize nous ont porté tous deux et nous roulions amoureux main dans la main
Seul le ciel tendre et bleu se mirait dans nos yeux nos yeux d'enfants heureux
Souvent je rêve encore aux bicyclettes de Belsize.

In the film Engelbert Humperdinck sang the theme, but for me the song is for ever associated with Mireille Mathieu, so therefore the lyrics in French.

2008-07-20

Busy doing nothing

I have spent a relaxing weekend at a friend's summer house in the archipelago with no network connectivity and barely functioning electricity. For some reason there were almost no mosquitos about, those that I've had to fight with all earlier summers. On the other hand I saw some fascinating reptiles. On the path up from the cove I heard a rustle and turned in time to see an all-black snake, probably an adder, glide through the bilberry sprigs.

Today, going to the boat jetty we found a beautiful slow-worm lying very still across the path. Not even my camera flash perturbed it, it patiently waited for us to leave. I was very excited as I hadn't seen a slow-worm in nature since I was a small child. Imagine then my surprise when I got home and found another slow-worm crawling across the path just across from my house. This one had apparently been harassed by someone (maybe Ivar) as its tail had been lost.

Anguis fragilis

2008-07-18

Veckans ord: haklapp

Av min flickvän fick jag den klapp jag ville ha, en haklapp.

2008-07-17

Under the weather

It's raining so hard, even the bronze birds hunker down.

2008-07-16

Whiplashed

Signspotting is having an exhibition in Kungsträdgården right now, showing whacky street signs from around the world. I thought I'd make copies of this and hang around the necks of my bosses.

Changed Priorities Ahead

2008-07-15

Finns det grönt te på kräftskivan?

As I am partaking of the lunch buffet at Asia City, in comes an entire busload of Chinese tourists and I try to decide if I'm snobbish to think it's silly to travel half around the world to eat the same kind of food as at home, but on the other hand: I like Chinese food, so why shouldn't they get to eat it too?

2008-07-14

I love the sound of my own voice

How many?
Humany
too many
humans
no man is
island
No money
my land
Mailand
Milan
milling men
willing then
silly men
silent men
island men
Iceland men
nice land
why is land?
Wry this man
Diss this man
hiss at this man
piss at this man

Found in my Palm, no memory of when and where I wrote it.

2008-07-13

Necklace in the sky

Many years ago:
I'm lying on the carpeted floor of a hotel room in Los Angeles. It is night and I have just realised that I am in middle of the flight path to LAX. Navigational lights stretch in three parallel streaks. The lights curve in from the right, at equal distances, one minute apart, and pass on both sides of my vantage point, all through the night, like an infinite necklace of blinking pearls.

2008-07-12

Incredible

My ignorant music teacher, Jim Fiore's likewise weird teachers and Martin R's analysis of secret messages in rock music reminded me of the anti-drugs lecture we got in 9th grade. It was delivered by a very angry policeman, and as this was in the early 1980s in Sweden, an important part of the message was rock music = drugs. Apparently the message to take home was that we should a) not do drugs, b) not listen to rock music, and not necessarily in that order. Let us say that this compromised the credibility of the message from the start.

In order to underscore the perfidity of rock stars, the policeman explained the secret drug messages in a number of popular songs, from “Yellow Submarine” onwards. That made even less sense to me: if there were secret messages that encouraged drug use, didn't explaining them undermine the idea of having us not do drugs?

And the final blow to credibility came when he finished by apologising for his excitability, explaining that he due to illness was on prescription painkillers at the time. Well then!

2008-07-11

Word of the Week: shampoo

A necessary staple in every joke shop: the shampoo.

2008-07-08

I wasn't even seventeen then

An utterly lovable video of one of my favourite synth pop songs with images from Stockholm in 1979.

2008-07-07

Igno-rant

The recent trip to Drottningholm reminded me of my 9th grade music teacher, who, in a completely misguided attempt to be pedagogical, explained to us that the strange word ”silleri” in Fredmans Epistel 48 that we ignorant youngsters might take to mean celery in fact referred to herring (”sill”). That herring, being a salt-water fish, would most likely not have been on a vegetable transport from Lovön in Lake Mälaren towards the Baltic, apparently passed her completely by.

As soon as I got hold of a etymological dictionary I double-checked and of course ”silleri” was just an 18th Century alternate spelling of ”selleri”. And what exactly would a ”sill-eri” really have been anyway—a herring preparation establishment?

Every so often I wish I could go back and yell “Bloody idiot!” at some of my teachers.

2008-07-06

On notice!

I got seriously disappointed in the usually excellent establishment Bamboo Palace today. With as few patrons as they had, it should not have required 35 minutes to prepare stir-fried vegetables, especially not when I'd ordered Salmon Szechuan.

Approved by the Stockholm Visitors Board

Today I am lobster red, the usual result of taking me outdooors. Yesterday my sister and I arranged a belated birthday celebration for our mother and took her on a day trip to Drottningholm Palace. Of course we went by steam boat: S/S Drottningholm.

Steamboats outside Stockholm City Hall

The much-praised Stockholm Archipelago is really the continuation of the islands, isles and islets in Lake Mälaren and I've always been very fond of travelling lakeside where the shores creep near the boat. It is also fascinating to know that what looks as dense pine forests in fact are just thin barriers in front of the most densely populated areas of Sweden. Shore protection laws are cool.

Denephew wasn't quite as appreciative of the beauty of water travel.
Denephew snoozes for all of 2.5 seconds.

Drottningholm Palace
Soon however we arrived at Drottningholm and found ourselves a spot on a lawn where we picknicked. The sister had bought a Kubb set and soon we had a closely fought game going. Denephew insisted on being on my team, which much flattered me, and he didn't do at all badly, but eventually we (or at least I, he wouldn't hear of it) had to concede defeat.

Then Denephew and I went to explore the Labyrinths. I found to my surprise that the hedges all had little passages just the size for five-year-olds to run through and leave any adults behind. I don't know if they have been created on purpose by the gardeners or if millions of visiting children over the years have excavated them. I tried to explain the principle “If you get lost, stay where you are!” to Denephew, but it didn't stick as the imperative to joyously run as fast as his little legs would carry him overruled all concerns about ever getting home again. Fortunately his high-contrast clothes allowed me to glimpse him every now and then through the hedges and thus retrieve him. When I tired of the run-and-seek I scooped up the little lad and carried him back to his parents who by then had collected our belongings in preparation for a tour of the palace itself.

As has been noted by others, children strongly prefer ice cream to ancient art so while I was very fascinated by the huge battle paintings with careful legends, I did not get much of a chance to study them. I was very bemused by the room full of Klöcker Ehrenstrahl portraits of Charles XI's generals, all looking exactly the same, followed by the room full of von Kraft portraits of Charles XII's generals, all looking exactly the same. (Sorry, no photography allowed indoors.) I will have to return at some point to study all these closer.

Denephew then got his Nazi ice cream and we boarded the boat for the trip home. On the way, Denephew and his father played guessing games:
“What's round and brown, you roll it and you can fry it?”
“An egg!”
I think the boy should have gotten full points for that, one must be precise.

2008-07-04

Veckans ord: urringning

På mitt nattygsbord har jag ett väckarur. Varje morgon väcker det mig med sin urringning.

2008-07-02

Fire and ice

I am trying out Lejonet & Björnen's chilli-and-chocolate ice cream. Zounds! They are not kidding around with the chilli dose! It is an interesting combination, but on the whole I prefer my chocolate ice cream without hot spices.

2008-07-01

Internationella igelkotten Ivar

There's a hedgehog that lives under the balcony outside the laundry room and yesterday evening I caught it on its way home from a walkie. It curled up so I wouldn't eat it and waited there until I had left.

Ivar the hedgehog, Ivar l'herisson

2008-06-30

Jag vill vara din Margareta

Vännen Martin R bidrar igen:

En del av nöjet med att lyssna på pop är att luska ut texternas dolda innebörder. Vi behöver bara titta snabbt på Beatles för att hitta exempel: “Please Please Me” tjatar om fellatio, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” prisar LSD och “Sexy Sadie” klandrar Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Min fru påpekade nyligen att en av svenskarnas mest älskade dansbandslåtar är en oförblommerad skildring av transvestitism och homosexuell åtrå: Sten & Stanleys ”Margareta” från 1976, med text av J.E. Karlzon. Se bara: vartenda ord har en annan syftning än den man först tror.
Ingen vet det jag vet, en hemlighet.
Någon som jag tycker om har gjort mig het.
Kan inte hjälpa att jag känner det så här.

Åh, den blick som jag fick sa mig att,
Om jag vill kan jag få tusenfalt.
Och nu börjar jag förstå att jag är kär…

Jag vill vara din ska du veta,
Bara vara din Margareta
Står här vid din dörr, kär som aldrig förr,
men vågar inte ringa.

Pulsarna dom bränner så heta.
Känner du som jag, Margareta? [Jfr ”Jag, Claudius”]
Blickarna du gav, var dom till ett svar
eller ej?

Och jag går hem igen med min bukett [och handväska].
Det jag vill säga dig är inte lätt.
Kan inte hjälpa att jag känner det så här…

Ingen annan vet om min hemlighet mer än jag.
Queertolkningar av dansbandstexter är utan tvivel en litteraturanalytisk guldgruva.

2008-06-29

Passing on

My setting up a home of my own unexpectedly brought me back in contact with my childhood best friend J, whom I hadn't seen in a long time. (There seems to be a strong instinct in single men to look after each other.)

J's father passed away some time ago, so he had inherited the family manor—big, decrepit and filled with the accretions of generations of packrats. As a child I had spent almost as much time there as in my own home.

With sorrow J had accepted he had to get rid of the house and its contents and now finally he had found buyers well-heeled enough to afford to (hopefully tastefully) renovate the building and the grounds (now just small strips around the building itself rather than the large and unkempt orchard my child-I used to run through to reach the house—the orchard in turn just a corner of the lands that the family had commanded in their heyday at the turn of the previous century).

This weekend was the last that J would have with the house and he invited me to share it with him. I biked over, pedalling on roads so familiar, yet in many places lined with houses that had been crammed in between the ones I remembered. The gravel path up to the house seemed not to have been filled in since I helped shovel gravel into the deepest potholes ages ago. Externally the manor looked just as I remembered it, the same horseshoe doorknocker on the door. I didn't need to use it, J had been expecting me and opened the door as soon as I had locked the bike. (It was imperative to lock the bike when I was 10 too, but I have to have a much sturdier lock these days.)

We went through the house room by room. There was enough of the original furniture still unremoved that it was easy to fill in the missing pieces—very little had been changed in the last 25 years. I peeked into the closet in J's old boys room and was immediately transported back to my tweens: the stacks of Svenska MAD, Märklin catalogues, audio cassettes, and Matchbox armoured cars were still there, overlaid with a slightly later sprinkling of 3.5" flopppies.

Stepping out of the serving passage I felt the smell of sun-warmed wood and remembered how we played ”Den försvunna diamanten” in summers so long ago.

In the end I had to leave, carrying some mementoes J kindly gave me, for a few hours having been back to other days; perhaps happier such.

2008-06-27

Word of the Week: Christmas

Last week I lamented the very few words that could be created from the letters in “Funny Boy”. Well, some years ago I chanced upon a little booklet with fun games and puzzles for the tots to play so as to let their parents sleep in on Christmas Day. One of these was to make as many words as possible from the letters in “Christmas”. Of course I couldn't resist trying it and my goodness what fertile wordland that was:
a, aim, aims, air, airs, am, arm, arms, art, arts, as, ass, at, cam, cams, car, cars, cart, carts, cash, cast, casts, cat, cats, chair, chairs, char, charm, charms, chars, chart, charts, chasm, chasms, chat, chats, chit, chits, christ, cram, crams, crash, hair, hairs, ham, hams, harm, harms, hart, harts, hat, hats, him, his, hiss, hit, hits, I, is, it, mac, macs, mar, march, mars, marsh, mart, marts, mash, mass, mast, mat, match, math, maths, mats, mirth, miss, mist, mists, racist, racists, ram, rams, rash, rat, rats, rich, rim, rims, sari, saris, scam, scams, scar, scars, scat, scram, scrams, sham, shams, shat, shim, shims, shirt, shirts, shit, shits, sir, sirs, sit, sits, smart, smarts, smash, smirch, smith, smiths, stair, stairs, star, starch, stars, stash, stir, stirs, tar, tars, this, tic, tics, tram, trams, trash, trim, trims.
(And we can add some proper names: Amir, Chris, Christa, Cris, Irma, Ma, Mach, Marc, Mia, Rita, Sam, Tim.)

I think the next step would be to write a story about Christmas using all those words.

2008-06-22

Why indeed?

For some reason the comp.text.tex news group gets regular attacks from people of precarious mental health who wish to tell the world of the secret monitors the lizard people have installed in their TV sets. Occasionally perverse curiosity makes me read a screed—it is painful in several senses so I gingerly let my eye skim over the sentences as if trying not to inhale the fumes. However, in a recent word salad, the following shone out:
why is their hair growing out of my ears?

It might be a simple typo, but taken with the rest of the rant it might just as well be intended as written. It does make you wonder, doesn't it?