Word of the week: opulation

The ostentatiously rich citizens: the opulation.


Discriminated against, again!

I decided I need an electronic ID. Can I get one? Sure, it doesn't cost anything, except…I have to run Windows, and I have to run Internet Exploder.

I feel very much like kicking someone.


There and back again

As foreshadowed earlier, Honeybuns and I have been on a cruise to Helsinki. We don't need any particular excuse to spend time holding hands and looking at each other, but it was nice to be able to go away, not have to cook dinner and get up early to make breakfast.

As we arrived in Helsinki the weather wasn't the most welcoming, just enough above freezing that there was a thin sleet and we had to jump over slushy puddles as we walked towards the city centre with trams trundling past us, their sound indicating an immense weight not to be hit by. There was still lights in the trees along the Esplanade, but the Christmas market was long gone.

Finland still considers Sunday to be a day of rest, so we had few opportunities for shopping, though we visited the SOKOS S-Market where I was fascinated and embarrassed by this food store managing to (presumably) turn a profit with manual service and a much larger assortment than similarly sized shops around Stockholm.

A 1/10 model of a class Hrl steam engineNaturally, I had to pay my respects to the Ukko-Pekka model at the railway station. Sadly, you can no longer put in a coin to make the wheels spin (achieved by rollers hidden in the tracks, I now found).

Lamps in the form of fliesWe trudged up Mannerheimintie, peering through shop windows at cleverly designed lamps and furniture.

The Opera House was closed, the Finlandia House likewise. But the National Museum was welcoming as always, with a brand-new exhibition on the War of 1808–1809 and the loss of Finland. It wasn't flawless, but it absorbed us completely until we had to head back to the boat. (Later, I realised that the corresponding exhibition at the Army Museum in Stockholm had just closed.) On the way back we passed through the celebration of the Chinese New Year at the Glass Palace.

On the way home the sea was as calm as a glass floor.


A puzzling event

During our long Christmas holiday Honeybuns and I spent some time doing jigsaw puzzles. It seems that puzzle makers too are feeling the pressure from all other possible time-wasters, so while Ravensburger persist with the classical alp landscapes, Jumbo have lots of various gimmick puzzles. What caught our fancy was their line of „Wasgij?“ puzzles. In spite of the Dutch name, the subjects are very British. The gimmick is that the cover image on the box does not match the image on the puzzle, rather you get the view from behind the upset people on the box image.

Here is the “Home makeover” puzzle:

Another effect of the apparently decreasing sales of jigsaw puzzles is that the assortment available in shops is quite limited, the best range I've found so far is at Akademibokhandeln in Stockholm and even that isn't very impressive.


Veckans ord: köpepök

Den Enfödde Dottern noterade: Ett palindrom för prostitution: köpepök!


Veckans ord: pumpar

I Klippiga Bergen finns inte bara ensamma getter utan också pumpar.


A lesson in interface design

I got a promotional ticket for a free cruise to Helsinki on Silja Line and thought it would be an excellent use of a weekend. So I brought up the Silja web site, clicked on “Cruise” and started filling out the cruise booking form. This was divided into multiple pages, requiring input of lots of things and only on the last page did I get the chance to input a discount code. This made no difference to the price. Maybe the code was wrong. Instead I tried the serial number of the ticket. This was also accepted by the form, but didn't cause any change in the price either. Weird.

The next day I called the online booking helpdesk and explained my problem. The helpdesk person explained, in a tone suggesting he did this for nine out of ten calls, that I had to do an “online booking”
Well yes, that's what I did?
Push the button on the right marked “Online booking”.
On the right? Oh, that's a button?
Clicking the marked region brought up a form similar to the earlier one but with the difference that it had an extra field for entering a discount code at the bottom (visible by scrolling).

I leave it as an exercise for the readers to enumerate the ways in which this interface design can be improved.


Veckans ord: kungöra

En gång besökte kungen institutionen, men han var så omgiven av livvakter, professorer och andra högdjur att jag bara såg ett kungöra.


My toaster is toast

My toaster, a Philips Toastissimo, has lately shown some reluctance at ejecting the toast when it is done, preferring to keep heating it until I notice the smell, or, once I became aware of the problem, watch the toasting process closely and give the handle a little push at the right moment. Now, a likely hypothesis is that there is a spring inside that has lost some of its spring. This should be easily fixable by either replacing the spring or adjusting its attachment, so I attacked the toaster with a screwdriver (after having disconnected it from the socket).
On the far end of the toaster the screws were normal Philips screws and the end plastic was easily removed, but there was nothing to adjust there. OK, so the business end then, but there the screwdriver just slipped on the screws and after I had peered at the heads for a while I realised that they had one-way heads that screw but don't unscrew. No user-serviceable parts inside, and we've made sure you won't even attempt to service them. So, much annoyed I have to toss the toaster in the electrical equipment recycling bin and then go out to find a new toaster—one which is user-serviceable, if I can find one.


MySpace proves its worth

Hansson de Wolfe United has a MySpace page!


Veckans ord: lösvikt

Om man förvarar täcken alltför hårt vikta går de med tiden sönder i vecken. Därför ska ett täcke i garderoben alltid vara lösvikt.


Happy at the New Year

After Christmas celebrations Honeybuns returned to more southern and less snowy climes and there was much rejoicing.

We went to see the gingerbread houses at the Museum of Architecure but eventually ended up in the exhibition on architecture in Barcelona. We noted that just as for modern art, fashionable architects can't just present a neat idea, but have to surround it with grandiose and pompous verbiage. (Possibly they think computer scientists insist on presenting simple ideas with lots of impenetrable jargon, but that's a completely different matter.)

The sub-exhibition on Antoni Gaudí and his work on Sagrada Familia was much centred around his geometrical inventions, both enabling simpler construction methods (so why has it taken so long to build the place then?) and allowing a lighter structure, both in terms of mass and photons.

This would have been an excellent opportunity for some interactive exhibits, letting the audience play around with generatrices and see for themselves how they form various surfaces as they are moved along given paths. I strongly suspect the general audience probably isn't conversant with terms like “hyperbolic paraboloid”. The exhibition catalogue did contain a bit more explanation, but then again, should you have to shell out another 250 SEK just to get the labels under the exhibits explained? So, a good math teaching opportunity wasted.

On New Years' Eve we dressed up in our finest and prepared a candle-lit dinner for two (garlic mushrooms on toast, saffron fusilli with herb-and-lemon sauce and wild strawberry cider), Honeybuns musingly noting that the pleasantness of a festive evening apparently is unrelated to its alcohol content.

Honeybuns and I
Long shutter time and short self-timer makes for fuzzy pictures.

After dinner we changed out of our finery and bundled up in ski pants, scarves and thumb gloves to brave the elements at Skansen where Jan Malmsjö read Nyårsklockan as tradition requires. The fireworks were very beautiful and not too loud from where we were standing.

The huge crowd then moved back into the city, and we had to zigzag to avoid drunk revellers, smashed champagne bottles and thrown firecrackers. SL was running all available busses and trams to move people and even the underground trains out to the suburbs were running at rush-hour frequency to my great relief, especially considering the puke pools on the platform.

We were home again around 02:00 and finished off the night with saffron buns and aurora glögg. The latter was a pleasant surprise, the spices were just a subtle addition to a smooth blackcurrant flavour with a hint of bilberry.

When we woke up again, the sun shone in through the bedroom window.