Veckans ord: höjdarbeten

Allehanda spionorganisationer har med varierande framgång använt sig av vackra kvinnor som höjdarbeten i hopp om att locka eller pressa hemligheter ur höjdarna. Ibland har det gått alldeles väldigt bra, som för Betty Pack, som lär ska ha skrämt franska ambassadens säkerhetsvakt på flykten genom att sexa på golvet med dennes överordnade och när kusten var klar lagt beslag på flottans chifferböcker.



They don't do them like that anymore

When I was a kid, ”Mamma är lik sin mamma”, sung by Siw Malmkvist, was a big hit in Sweden and the Finnish version, ”Äiti kuin äidinäiti”, sung by Katri Helena, in Finland. The song is a bitter complaint about how women cannot look forward to anything but drudgery in the home. Certainly my mother used to hum it quite often at the time.

Recently I had reason to quote from the song and decided to research its origins a bit. (Oh, Google, how seductive thou art!) To my surprise I found that the Swedish lyrics had been written by Stikkan Anderson, not necessarily the first name that comes to mind as a feminist advocate, but perhaps unfairly so. However, the music was not by Stikkan and a bit more searching revealed that it originally had been a hit in Australia, sung by a young heart throb by name of John Farnham and with the title “Sadie, the cleaning lady”, with approximately the same sentiments as in the Nordic versions, though restricted to a single woman, the eponymous Sadie. I note that even though the Finnish lyrics are a fairly straight-forward translation of Anderson's Swedish version, a reference to ”saamaton haisunäätä”—no-good stinker—hints that lyricist Lasse Liemola knew the English original lyrics.

Then of course, it is available at YouTube and my goodness! they don't do choreography like that any more…


Veckans ord: riskexponering

När jag nu flyttat så hittar jag inte riktigt i den nya matbutiken, så hur skulle jag få tag på de riskex som jag uppskattar så? Ponera att de sorteras som knäckebröd, då borde de finnas i den hyllan. Min riskexponering visade sig vara fullt korrekt och jag hittade mina kex.


Veckans ord: paradontologi

Ett ämne som är sorgligt försummat på Försvarshögskolan är paradontologi. Finns parader, och i så fall varför? Vaktavlösningen vid kungliga slottet gör sitt bästa men når inte riktigt upp till de mest sublima höjderna av militär fjollighet.

Indiska och pakistanska soldater gör sitt bästa för att överglänsa varandra vid gränsposteringen.

Tack till Martin R för uppslaget.


Telepresent flying

A head-mounted display, a swivelling video camera and a radio-controlled aircraft—fly away with both feet firmly on the ground.



It must be all the fish they eat

Mafalda once noted that you hardly ever hear about Norway in world news as dried fish isn't as newsworthy as wars. Now the Global Peace Index has shown that, indeed, Norway is the most peaceful country on Earth. (And Iraq is the least peaceful, surprise, surprise.)

Well, having strolled around in Oslo, even late at night, I can well believe that and certainly the Norwegians deserve the distinction, but I can't help but think a bit more about how the measurement has been made. It is scientific in the sense that the scoring is presented and the motivations for the choices of parameters given. The authors note that there is a certain level of arbitrariness in assigning scores.

I'd like to pick on a few of these arbitrarities.

Neither the Vatican, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Monaco nor Andorra have been included, nor are Niau, Tuvalu, Cocos Islands or Surinam. Maybe they were considered to be too small to count, but if so, that does say something about reasons for peacefulness. (And Afghanistan, Belarus, and Eritrea have not been included either.)

Much of the ranking depends on the nations' scores on various 5-level scales. Having a discretised scale introduces various quantification errors. Ideally I should now have done a perturbation analysis to see if changing a score by a single unit would change the ordering between, say, Norway and New Zealand (the current number two on the peacefulness list), but I have not been able to find the exact weighting formula that has been used. (Possibly it is given somewhere on the site, but not sufficiently obviously to me.) The methodology section indicates that various numbers have been “banded” into these discretised scores. It's not obvious why one would want to do that, as retaining continuous data would give higher data quality, in that we would not be throwing information away. Furthermore, if any of these variables are assessments, rather than quantised continuous data, then we are abusing the numbers.

To wit: Using the numbers, say, 1–5 to grade something introduces an ordinal scale: we can say that “1” is better than “2”, but we cannot really tell if the difference between “1” and “2” is equal to the difference between “3” and “4”. That's why computing grade point averages really is bogus, it's not a well-defined operation. For that you would need at least an interval scale, where we are guaranteed the each step is the same size as any other step.

So the moral is: if Flight of the Conchords are more peaceful than KLM then you may not have been qualified for university.


Rude, sexist and sophomoric, what more could you ask for?

The British medical duo Amateur Transplants play and sing, mostly on key, the most hilarious lyrics to well-known tunes. If you don't want to shell out for their CD or DVD, many of their numbers are up on YouTube:
You're a pædophile
Lion King

(There's more…)

H/t Of Two Minds


Actually, I think we will end up in the future regardless of what I do

You scored as Scientific Atheist, These guys rule. They know the rules of debate, the Laws of Thermodynamics, and can explain evolution in fifty words or less. More concerned with how things ARE than how they should be, these are the people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist


Spiritual Atheist


Apathetic Atheist


Militant Atheist




Angry Atheist




What kind of atheist are you?
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Outside eyes

It is an interesting phenomenon that while Martin R and I both blog in English, we seem to be at heart Swedish patriots, convinced that only in Sweden are things as they ought to be—or at least that Swedes know how things ought to be, even if we have not gotten around to fixing everything just right yet.

So, it is good to be reminded every now and then, that others see Sweden, that is, the world, somewhat differently. Probably the readers of this blog already read Paddy K, so today I wanted to highlight How to learn Swedish in 1000 difficult lessons. (And what is it with these Americans that never get around to learning Swedish properly, hmm?)


Speculative fiction

The term “speculative fiction” was introduced some time in the 1960s by younger authors that considered “science fiction” to be too restrictive. Fair enough, the genre is certainly fuzzy enough around the edges. However, it never really caught on; possibly it sounded a bit too academically precise. A web magazine that still carries the banner of speculative fiction is Strange Horizons. Fiction, to be sure, but also columns, analyses, art and poetry and with sometimes rather oblique connections to speculative fiction per se, i e it is rather eclectic. So am I, so I certainly don't mind. Go read!


Veckans ord: kooperation

Här är en grupp veterinärer som utför en kooperation.


Traffic sign spotting

The good news are that no matter what your hobby, there will always be someone with an even pottier obsession. Today we'll have a look at the people who collect, categorise and analyse traffic signs. Did you know that the number of stones on “Beware of falling rocks” signs varies from 2 to 45 depending on the country of origin?

Hat tip to Haba.



Squeee! I'm a hoppity-happy IKEA customer! I found Dioder LED strips—four 250 mm segments with nine white LEDs in each, with the included connectors they can be connected in series or in parallel, straight or at various angles, screwed or glued to any flat surface. They seem to be a bit of an experiment, you have to ask a shop assistant to bring them out from their secret store. (And they are a bit expensive at 400 SEK. On the other hand I suspect they will never burn out.)

The Only-begotten Son and I played around with them in various configurations but finally ended up with a quite straight-forward linear strip in the ceiling lighting up the bookcases. Wooh, they are so cool!


Good show

So I went to the hominid exhibition and on the whole I was quite pleased with it. I was a bit annoyed by all the early hominids being depicted with half-open mouths—it made them look like halfwits (and maybe that was the intention, but still) but they were all nicely done. (The Neandertal woman looked very sweet, reminding me of a friend of mine. :-) The people who had done these reconstructions are obviously very skilled (as a modeller I can attest that making life-like humans is non-trivial) and frankly, the locally produced reconstructions of other animals, such as the Diatryma, rather paled in comparison.

But, what really pleased me was that the texts surrounding the exhibits were very clear and managed to present a lot of information in a very compact space on what had driven the evolution of the different species of hominids and really present the branching bush with multiple, co-existing species. Furthermore, noise-producing exhibits were kept down to a minimum, which however didn't make so much of a difference as it seemed every toddler parent in Stockholm had brought along their kids for me to stumble over. (I've lost my reflexes as my own kids these days are taller than me.) Most kids seemed very happy and excited by all these strange-looking people that now were dead. (“Why did they die, Mommy?” “I don't know, maybe they got sick or something.” This is of course true for the individuals, if not for the species as such, one had better keep track of what is meant—these reconstructions being both based on individuals, but also being representatives of all their contemporaries.)