We have now seen Avatar. I can but agree with former reviews, the story is utterly trite (the protagonist starts with smaller challenges and keeps practicing until he’s ready to meet the Level 20 Boss) but computer generated actors have definitely come of age. I was shaking all over when the film ended.

Some random things that came to mind:
  • Jacking into the avatar is visualised with a fly-through of a winding tunnel of lights. This was clearly the effect they spent the least effort on, did they use someone’s screensaver for that?
  • But for the rest: The textures, the textures! And the shaders! Amazing levels of detail!
  • A veteran marine comes up with the brilliant idea of a cavalry charge against heavy machine guns? They should have brought in some Ewoks to give them tactics training.
  • Or logistics. If you are bringing together several thousand warriors with their steeds into a small area, how are you handling the supplies issue? What did the latrine trenches look like?
  • While noble, the Na‘vi were savages, so of course they have to hunch over and lean forward to gingerly touch anything exceptional. And bare their teeth and hiss in anger.
  • So while they live in harmony with Life, the Universe and Everything, they still have a (male) warrior class. (Chief’s Daughters are always tomboys, so they get to fly and fight too.)
  • Sacred music sounds Western European all over the universe.
  • Did anyone else feel the Hometree was reminiscent of The Holt in ElfQuest? (And of Lothlórien, and of Endor, and of Athshe. Hmm, a trope, it seems.)
  • Jake Sully’s wasted legs were very convincing, were they also computer-generated?
  • Michelle Rodriguez is hot.
  • I was devastated to find that Sigourney Weaver smokes.
  • No longer can a standard single column be used for credits, the full screen width has to be used to fit in all the names.


Veckans ord: påtårta

Vännen J tog backning på efterrätten: påtårta.


False memories?

Continuing the Uruguayan theme, this is «Stefanie» by Alfredo Zitarrosa. For some reason I associate this piece with Lasse Berghagen. Has he actually made a version of this at some point or am I just imagining things?


“Little bundle of wire”!?

Pepe Guerra’s song «Verde Esperanza» as rendered by Google Translate:

From here I go, I'm
I love you and sos
With your cold winters
And summer heat.

Your joy is my joy
Your pain is my pain
For I have given what I have
And I owe what I am.

For everything you gave me
I love you like how are you
Little bundle of wire
Popular wit.

Tremendous and with little knot
In the countryside or the city
Stitch of hope
Nudité to wait.

I stand among my
Until I voice
Singing to the lower
Where is my heart.

Where the cravings come together
For a better country
For this land of all
I'm staying and I will not.

In the glass of my eyes
Green grisea your color
The licks of your countrymen
The labor and sweat.

And the green hope
Your green heart
Continues to serve my song
My guitar and my song.

For the dream that left
Those who died Voice
For everything you gave me
For me what I am.

For everything you gave me
I love you just as you
Little bundle of wire
Popular wit.

Little bundle of wire
Popular wit
Small green hope
Fields alone.

Little bundle ...
For everything you gave me
I love you just as you are.

Little bundle ...
Stitch of hope
Nudité to wait.

I stand and sing
Until I voice
Till death wish
Or until I say no.


Hippo happy

250 K and the already strained public transport breaks down completely.

On the crowded train a teeny child is unhappy—hot, bored and with the sniffles. It cries dejectedly. Its mother thinks for a while, then pulls out her mobile and puts this on repeat. The child immediately stops crying and stares at the funny animals with a beatific smile for at least the twenty minutes I was with them on the train.

I'm pleased that at least someone got something good out of the day; myself I am thawing frostbite for the second time today.


Veckans ord: OS-teolog

Diskussioner om vilket operativsystem som är att föredra brukar liknas vid religiösa krig. Som OS-teolog ställer jag mig helhjärtat bakom Unix, OS X-sekten.



Upgrade tradeoffs

Palm Tungsten CThe Palm Zire I bought as a dissertation present for myself has been getting on a bit in years, so as a late Christmas present my friend J gave me a Palm Tungsten C that he’d had lying about without ever using.

Now I have transferred the data from the old machine to the new and am suffering from mixed feelings. The new machine is a lot faster, has a colour screen and lots more memory, but the old one is still working, weighs a lot less, and, in particular, has been riding in my pocket for almost six years. (It’s had several predecessors back to the first Palm I got in 1997, but this is the individual I’ve had the longest.) It feels a bit like taking an old and well-beloved dog out behind the shed. For the nonce, I have topped up its batteries and let it rest on the desk. (Where in another drawer lies the Sharp PC-1401 I bought in 1984.)



It’s been two years since Honeybuns and I talked the night away at the anniversary celebrations of the Swedish Cooperative Centre.
A Valentine’s dinner at Gondolen seemed the right way to celebrate our anniversary. To our surprise they aren’t open on Sundays, so we went a day early.
Gondolen fulfilled all expectations: as soon as we arrived we were escorted to our table right in the gondola part itself. Despite the snowfall earlier in the day, we had a fabulous view of Saltsjön—though it was mostly wasted on us.
Service was efficient and intelligent, being able to adapt the menu to my food intolerances at a moment’s notice. And when it arrived, the food was absolutely fantastic.
We were very much satisfied.


Veckans ord: amfibieteater

Naumachia i Colosseum
Via den Enfödde Dottern:
Colosseum kunde fyllas med vatten för sjöstrider, det var alltså en amfibieteater.


How to handle dead animals

Darren Naish at Tetrapod Zoology is currently taking a break from blogging, but there’s plenty of old stuff to read through. Among other projects Naish has spent considerable time figuring out the best way to make skeletons in your home.


A threat?

Poltava 1709, Berlin 1945
Found by T-Gamla Stan this summer.



Just came home from the concert with Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt at Cirkus. A seemingly simple setup, the two men with their guitars on stage, but they played for almost two and a half hours, taking turns and and chatting between numbers, mostly about John Hiatt’s troubled life—Lovett kept carefully mum about any personal details. Low-key sit-down comedy, if you will. I wasn't entirely happy with the audio balance, both guitars tended to drown the singing. I was also rather annoyed with the incontinent audience that kept running out to the loos (or something) all through the show.

Then, about two-thirds in, Lovett performed a perfectly transparent version of North Dakota and as I slooshied, I knew such lovely pictures.

After the obligatory encore, the show was over and the crowd was ejected into the winter night to try to get back to the city centre, we finally got on the third bus to stop.

Update: Nils Hansson’s review.

More hails

A much more recent pattern matching language is Perl, so for the sake of comparison, here is the Hailstone program in Perl:

for ($i = @ARGV[0];
print("$i\n"), $i > 1;
$i = $i % 2 ? $i * 3 + 1 : $i / 2) { };

(This is really a one-liner, but I've broken it over three lines to fit the text width.)



We’ve had a very cultural Sunday. We started by seeing the current exhibition at Galleri Hagström and commissioning some paintings. (It sounds very grand, eh? In other words we asked our friend Pia to paint some more goldfish just for us.)

We continued to the recently re-opened Museum of Medieval Stockholm, where we spent a couple of hours. It felt as if it perhaps was not quite finished yet, as there was a large number of display cases with various objects without any explanation whatsoever of what they were or where they had been found. On the other hand, the exhibits showing how archaeologists work in combining various scraps of information into a story were very well thought out. On one wall was displayed a large computer animation of the Old Town, as seen from the north, some time in the late Middle Ages, but I thought it was rather cheaply made and could have been much more impressive with just a bit more effort put into textures and bump mapping, so that the buildings wouldn’t look quite as cardboardy.

We strolled off for dinner at Pong buffé, which was much satisfactory—buffet tends to be a sloppy story, but they managed to keep the food looking fresh and appetizing and it also was very good, even though somewhat lacking in the vegetarian area, we will probably go for the à la carte next time.

After dinner, obviously a film. We went for the 3D version of Cloudy with a chance of meatballs. It turned out to be much impressive, suddenly circularly polarised stereographic goggles are cheap enough to hand out to cinema goers, as well as good quality enough that there is no visible ghosting in the images. In addition to this, the film was perfectly enjoyable and would have been so even without the 3D. And of course, it extolled the importance of nerds. The end credits felt at some remote inspired by Yellow Submarine.


Spirit Level

ABF had invited Richard Wilkinson, co-author of The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone to give a presentation in Stockholm and Honeybuns and I thought it would be an excellent outing. As always, we (I) got caught up in things so we arrived at the ABF house just five minutes before the lecture was to start. There was a long queue snaking outside the Z hall and when we got in, we got two of the remaining half-dozen seats, people coming after us having to line the walls.

Carl Tham introduced professor Wilkinson, who then made his presentation. The thesis of Spirit Level is that the larger the income inequalities in a country or region, the larger the problems with crime, bad health, lack of trust, academic performance, etc in that region, at least when measured for relatively affluent countries (as those are the ones who can produce the required statistics to begin with). At one end of the spectrum is the USA, with high disparity in income between the richest and poorest parts of the population, as well as high incidence of crime, teenage pregnancy, etc, and at the other end Japan and the Nordic countries, with a relatively low income spread and relatively low rates of societal problems.

At about this point I realised the young people sitting in the row in front of me were US students—who knows what had brought them there, a class assignment perhaps—and at least the woman whose notebook I could read over her shoulder was not amused by the “kissing of Sweden’s ass”. Most of the rest of the audience seemed to be appreciative of the presentation though.

There was a Q&A session after the presentation, the questions ranging from quite incisive ones to some that were that were completely out of the blue. Professor Wilkinson handled most of them well, even though I thought his argument for actual causation, rather than mere correlation between the cited factors was a bit on the hand-wavy side. The FAQ on the Equality Trust web site is slightly more strict, but I would like to go through their actual peer-reviewed papers to see what can be properly argued and what not.

The American students suddenly realised they probably should go on the attack and started urgently waving their hands, but Tham the moderator decreed the break was well overdue and finished the Q&A session.

We found the Swedish translation of Spirit Level, Jämlikhetsanden, being sold outside the lecture hall. We asked for the English original, but the guy hawking them said that they only had the Swedish version and the English one was “pretty hard to read”. We felt a bit insulted by the presumption of lacking language skills, but still bought the book as it was there and then got it signed. A panel discussion in Swedish had been announced for after the break, but we had an appointment at Chutney so had to leave.

Well there, I browsed the book, which certainly was not, at least in its Swedish guise, particularly hard fare, but rather a very popular, not to say polemical, and definitely political, presentation of the research of Wilkinson & Picket, as well as others they quited in turn. The literature references were, however, extensive, so should serve as a starting point for further exploration.


Veckans ord: piskfinnar

SM-Fetisistiryhmä, en klubb för piskfinnar.