You cheat!

I've spent the day playing with Denephew. I've never understood the principle of letting a weaker opponent win, so at one point he yelled: “You have to run slower, that's what adults do when they play with children!” Bah, he fits in narrower spaces than me*, so no mercy!

*) Here's another tip: If you play hide-and-seek and you know where the kid has hidden, you don't have to immediately retrieve them if you need a breather.


Word of the week: abs tract

My PE teacher considered a nice-looking sixpack to be all-important and had written an abs tract proclaiming the necessity of training one's abdomen.


Veckans ord: hagalen

Ute på landet kan man gå ner i hagen och betrakta hagalen.

Alen i Fräkentorp


Best mashup ever!

That the run on the Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope is heavily based on the climactic bomb run in The Dambusters is well known, but never so well demonstrated as in this clip made by HenryvKeiper:


Analysis of Evolutionary Analysis

Biology is a hot subject. There's already a fourth edition out of Freeman and Herron's Evolutionary Analysis, but such is life that I tend to get books faster than I read them, so I only recently got around to reading the book I bought a couple of years ago.

We know that currently existing organisms, plants, bacteria, fungi, animals, etc, are descendants of earlier, different, organisms. This book gives an introduction to how we know this to be the case. This ranges from what features are naturally selected in plants of the same species growing in different environments, to the “deep homologies” that tie together bacteria and kangaroos in the same tangled tree of life.

So how do we know? Sometimes you observe, which may imply that you sit in a hideout from sunrise to sundown for weeks and watch a flock of birds nesting to check if any of them nip out of the nest for a bit of nookie with the neighbour and then work the statistics on the results of those liaisons, to see if reality matches your theory of mate selection.

Or you do experiments, formulate a hypothesis of how a certain feature benefits the organism and then try to manipulate that feature for a group of individuals to see what happens. Superglue turns out to be useful in many of these experiments. (My unhappy experiences with superglue make me even more impressed with scientists who can use it properly.)

Other work involves searching through gene databases and using various mathematical means to determine at some level of probability how genes have been duplicated, modified, deleted (and how we can tell that that is what has happened) over time to result in organisms greatly different from their ancestors.

The book lays this out in an easily accessible manner, not without humour—merely reading the first chapter using the case of HIV to explain evolutionary thinking and put it in context managed to clarify a number of things to me. The exercises and suggestions for further reading in each chapter show ways in which to go beyond the material that has been presented in the chapter proper. One reason it took me so long to read the book was that I tried to work through at least some of the exercises. Often I felt handicapped by my high school biology crash course not having gone into detail on exactly how DNA is copied during mitosis, why crossover takes place and how transcription proceeds in detail. Surely I'm not so old it wouldn't have been known at the time?

An important thing which struck me was the way in which the scientific method was presented, many of the exercises were concerned with the proper way of phrasing a research hypothesis, how to design an experiment to test that hypothesis, and how to analyse the results of the experiment. This is an undergraduate text book. When I was an engineering undergrad the idea of hypothesis generation and testing was quite alien, rather the sentiment tended to be: “if it works, you're home”. When I went into graduate studies and teaching I tried to amend this as best I could, given my own barely adequate studies in the subject. I remember one time giving an exam question: “Explain how to design a formal experiment to test X.” and a (fourth-year!) student looking confused and asking “How can an experiment be formal, experimenting means just trying random stuff, right?”.

I do not know to what extent things have improved since then.


The stage is all a world

The Only-begotten Daughter's theatre class had developed a play of their own again, yet again touching on the theme of struggling for a better world while people are as they are.

The setting was of a house scheduled for demolition being squatted by a disparate gang of youths, ostensibly to turn it into a house of youth culture, but the high-flying plans coming to nothing. A dizzying ambiguity underlay everything, not allowing any easy taking of any given position, putting every interpretation into question. Their soliloquies on how life could be more beautiful or their own pain were just enough over the top to possibly be taken as ironic subversions of themselves, yet perhaps not. In the end the police storm the building and the group stand together, lighting up the dark with their little cigarette lighter sparks of hope, singing “Imagine”, yet defecting into the dark one by one.

Certainty? Nowhere.


Don't mess with me or my baby will kick yer arse!

My bent hammer on the rusty grillAs foreshadowed earlier, the balcony is the next renovation project after the bathroom. Honeybuns expressed great delight at the opportunity to smash something up, so I gave her free hands with the ugly home-made furniture made of rough planks slathered in a particularly unpleasant shade of bright blue. Not only did she make short work of them, but she bent my hammer in the process.


A full day

The midday sun found Honeybuns and me having lunch on the verandah of a restaurant by the water in Södertälje, a Salvation Army band playing old standards nearby. We could have stayed there the rest of the day, contentedly basking in the sunlight like well-fed snakes, but we had other goals with the day and soon walked past election campaigners on the shopping street to Tom Tits.

The most noticeable additions since I had been there last were some fairground rides out in the yard and considerably higher ticket prices. The latter however included a thickish booklet briefly explaining each of the 600+ available “experiments”, but we it put in a locker with our jackets, so as to be less encumbered while exploring. Then off to play!

We started with the outdoor activities. The helium balloon was inflated, but not available for rides yet, but lots of water was available for diversion. No trout in the salmon ladder, but the camera obscura was perfect for hugging in (yeah well, but it's more fun to do it on the sly). Honeybuns, as always fascinated by wild rides, explained how cool the freefall ride was but was put off by all the children queueing for it, so I talked her into going for the ride. Unfortunately, as I belatedly realised, this meant that I, too, would be repeatedly dropped from a great height, but I held on to the safety harness with all my might and was at no point smashed into the concrete below.

Nearby was another threatening device, The Rotor, which once, when it was standing at Gröna Lund, turned my face green, which my sister upon witnessing noted she had always thought was just an exaggerated saying. However it was not active at the moment, so I bravely walked around it and made faces at it without fear of retribution.

Crawling through the old sewer pipe below the yard was on the whole a calmer experience and pleasantly cool.

In the Earthquake house stood a young man, licking an ice lolly, repeatedly pressing all the buttons that would shake the structure in various directions while looking very bored. Apparently a mere earthquake was nothing to the jaded ten-year-old.

Then we ascended to the top floor and the Human exhibition. On one wall I found Lajos Zilahy's short story „Mikor halt meg Kovács János?”, which must have been in some high school literature reader, since so many other people of my age relate to it.

Illusions, optical and otherwise, and then a lecture hall with the seats placed according to the periodic system.

The final thing we had time for was “Recollections”, a VIDEOPLACE lookalike. Honeybuns danced for me.

Then Tom Tits closed and we went home to smash some furniture.


Word of the week: lecturd

Sometimes teaching feels like crap and I deliver a lecturd.


Covering all the bases

Calamities of Nature, another web comic playing with words.


Internationally renowned

It was a bit of a surprise to me to find that the Polish Wikipedia entries on the Stockholm underground network are more extensive than the Swedish ones—I'd thought the Slavic conversations I hear on the trains were in Russian.


Veckans ord: kokostopp

Det finns för många puckon, vi behöver ett kokostopp!


Creative process

To add to the earlier post on pre-canon versions of Paul Simon songs, here is a clip showing no less than two of his songs being developed and explored.


The cherry trees in Kungsträdgården are blossoming.


We must tend our garden

Honeybuns was formally introduced to my mother and they (as I had surmised) immediately started discussing gardening. Before long we were on our way to Zetas market garden. I've been flower shopping with Honeybuns before but not quite gotten the point, but this was a place that was a delight to all senses—the place itself was a huge garden with the rows and rows of plants for sale nestled among rooted trees and rock gardens. There was even a shaded “Green room” with all-green plants without visible flowers which was hedged off from the rest of the garden so that it became a contemplative resting spot. The detailed labels for each type of plant gave the impression that the staff knew what they were doing. There was also a selection of various…objects that you could decorate your garden with, of which I found most fairly tasteful. Ooh, shiny! The polished steel balls I will have to get no matter what.

In the end we left with three clematises for my balcony, me feeling very cross-referential in getting a “Blue Angel” and a “General Sikorsky”. More stuff (including a shiny ball) will be be procured as the balcony renovation project proceeds.


The middle-class intellectual calculating his gut reaction

We were for a change shopping dinner at Coop Forum Rotebro and marvelled at the huge range of foods. We found a shelf with halal meats and I thought: “Cool, they even have halal bacon now!” before I did the double take. Apparently someone had just decided to offload an unwanted packet of bacon on the shelf. Funny place to leave it, though. But then there was a packet of bacon in the halal freezer as well, which was too many coincidences. Probably someone was deliberately attempting to offend the presumed buyers of halal meats. I attempted to determine my appropriate reaction to this. There are right-wing extremists in the area, as evidenced by posters and graffiti, and that makes it more than a mere prank, but I couldn't quite gauge how offensive it would be perceived to be—probably completely subject to personal predilections. Afterwards I realised I should have resolved the issue by simply buying the bacon, thus earning myself breakfast while removing any perceived offence.


Veckans ord: ohållbart

Lokalen var dubbelbokad, så mötet var ohållbart.