2011-12-30

Veckans ord: uttrycksförmåga

När jag var på examensresa i USA bodde vi i Boston i studentrum som var tomma över sommaren. Studenthemmet var ombyggda gamla patricierhus, där jag, den Enfödde Sonen och hans mor fick ett rum som uppenbarligen en gång varit stora salongen. Följdaktligen hade det en rejäl öppen spis och säkert fyra meter i takhöjd. Vi fick veta att rummet tidigare bebotts av “a bunch of really wild girls”. Som spår efter dem hittade vi rejäla staplar med spritflaskor i spisen. Vi kunde också se mystiska vita kluttar i taket. Vi funderade över vad de kunde vara tills vi insåg att flickorna tävlat i vem som kunde trycka ut tandkräm ur tuben så kraftfullt att det sprutade upp i taket och fastnade där. Vi var mycket imponerade av deras uttrycksförmåga.

2011-12-25

Knowledge online

A well-thumbed copy of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has long stood in a prominent place on my book shelf. Now it seems it will also have a prominent place in my web bookmarks: it’s going online.

H/t Ny Teknik.

2011-12-24

Little kids and Christmas go together, especially with an apple in their mouths

I’m ridiculously fond of this little ditty and it being Christmas and all.

2011-12-23

Word of the week: meltimudia

Some YouTube clips are based on badly transferred analog videos, with bad contrast and blurred colours making everything flow together: meltimudia.

2011-12-22

Liv på Mars

A quite interesting cover I was unaware of, but what’s with the soft-porn album cover?

2011-12-20

Туполев Ту-144

Before the arthritis got too bad my mother constantly knitted and usually asked me to design the patterns for my own sweaters. For one of these I copied a picture of the Tupolev Tu-144, with the appropriate Cyrillic caption. It caused some consternation at school when they couldn’t read the text.

Since then I’ve been to and in the Concordes at Duxford and Yeovilton, but have not had the opportunity to see the Tu-144 IRL. However, I just found they have one at Sinsheim. I consider a pilgrimage there, but I’m somewhat put off by the realisation that even the Tu-144 uses the mandatory hideous Soviet cockpit turqoise. I don’t understand why the designer of that particular shade wasn’t executed as a Western saboteur or something.

2011-12-19

Evil twin

Separated at birth: Haldir and Lucius Malfoy.

2011-12-18

Seriously geeky comics

You really have to know your maths to get the jokes over at Spiked math, but you can always get hints in the comments section.

2011-12-17

The Male Gaze

[I don’t know if this is an example of male self-pity or of how gender inequality hurts all. Maybe it’s a generational issue. Judge as you will.]

The prevalence of the male gaze in media has the corollary that men are seldom depicted as desirable. Is then a longterm consequence of that that men in general come to see themselves as fundamentally non-desirable? What does that mean for female-male relations, when one is desirable, the other not? It would then suggest that hetero-sexual relations are unbalanced; as women clearly cannot desire (sex with) men, they must be bribed with something they do desire, such as security, offspring, or glittery gifts. Alternatively, sex must be taken by force or duplicity.

Maybe there might eventually come something good from teenage werewolves running around without their shirts.

2011-12-12

So much unspoken

Even when I had access to TV, I apparently didn’t watch it all that much—there are several programmes I must only have seen bits and pieces of. One of these is Brideshead Revisited, but Martin R kindly donated the DVD box to us so Honeybuns and I have been watching it.

It’s something like 11 hours in total, so there is room for many themes to be touched on.

An occupational hazard, but I reacted to the video quality—there was a constant fuzz in the image. Presumably this was the quality you would get on video in the late 1970s and nobody thought about it then, but today, used to the razor-sharp images of professional digital video cameras, it felt odd.

The actors have been well-deservedly lauded for their performances, but since many of the actors were in their 30s, even as their characters were much younger, they seemed all the more immature. Cordelia Flyte, I eventually realised, should have been around ten years old or so in the first episodes, but played by an adult actress she came across as a half-wit.

The beginning of the story is the love affair between Charles and Sebastian. Neither of them speak of it in those terms, and the Flyte family do not allude to it either—except for Rex Mottram, who in passing mentions the Swiss doctor who is good at “sexual problems”, the character of which is not further discussed. At the time, their relation would have been illegal, so one imagines that nobody was very interested in raising the subject. It hurt to see a unhappy Sebastian weep forlornly, Charles unable to comfort him. I wanted to yell: “Hold him, you dolt!” Later on, safely in a heterosexual relation, Charles speaks disparagingly of “pansies”—so at least outwards he does not self-identify as homo-/bisexual. Interestingly enough, the narrative itself adds to the ambiguity—the most open display of affection Charles and Sebastian show is a sideways hug a few times, whereas the beginning of Charles and Julia’s relation is shown in a sex scene giving us ample view of Diana Quick’s nipples. It is as if the camera itself shies back from peeking into the closet.

I wonder whether the Oxford barbers who are so fond of Sebastian and the university porter who proudly declares he has no wife are implied to be homosexual. I’ve gotten the impression that at least in university settings homosexuality was accepted—as long as it was not explicitly mentioned, and apparently that’s why the openly gay Antoine Blanche is “sent down” (expelled). It is unclear to what extent Sebastian’s discomfort with his family is due to repression of his sexuality, rather than the general oppression by the Catholic Church so important to the family. He describes the dangerous charm of his mother, but she mostly comes across as fairly stiff and repressed—a pivotal castigation of Charles is done in measured and unemotional tones even though she would have been furious.

Charles also has family issues, while these are not made as much of. His father seems not to care much for him and treats him as mostly a nuisance when he turns up in the Ryder home. In adulthood Charles continues the family tradition in his complete neglect of his own children and I had absolutely no sympathy for him when he after his divorce whinges about having lost the right the see his son grow up.

As Sebastian sinks deeper into alcoholism, Charles is a very active enabler, keeping him with booze. At first I thought that perhaps he thought his love would reform Sebastian, but eventually I came to the conclusion that he just couldn‘t say no to Sebastian. At the same time, the rest of the company seem unable to cope with the situation, alcohol apparently so important to all of them that they just can’t imagine how to do without. (On top of that, all chain-smoke like chimneys, but that is not seen as a problem at all.)

Another theme, which is just presented and not discussed at all, is that of class warfare. For some reason the blurb on the Swedish DVD implies Charles is a Man of The People, but it is obvious that he is in fact quite well-off and only in comparison to Lord Sebastian Flyte could he be considered slightly further down the social ladder. If anything, Charles comes across as rather more snobbish than Sebastian and seems to agree with Lord Marchmain that the most disgusting thing one can be, is middle-class. The upwardly-mobile Rex Mottram is one of these despicable beings, being described as an incomplete person. What this incompleteness consists in is unclear, since the person we see is ambitious and competent and goes considerably out of his way to help the Flytes.

The working class is not considered at all, the numerous servants are just names to be thanked when they bring yet another drink on a tray. (In general it is a source of amazement to me that Britain doesn’t more regularly erupt in bloody popular uprisings.) When workers demand fair pay Charles joins a gang of truncheon-equipped and helmeted upper-class strike breakers to beat down the strikers.

Then the issue of religion. Waugh converted to Roman Catholicism and the book is intended to describe Charles Ryder’s path from agnosticism to the One True Faith, yet the religion is not really described as anything positive, and it destroys the lives of basically all the protagonists. This is somehow A Good Thing.
There is some excellent, yet possibly unintentional, comedy when religion is discussed. When Charles first meets Lady Marchmain, she immediately sets out to convert him. Teasingly he then asks her how she can expect to get to Heaven, as it is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter Paradise. She serenely replies that God works miracles. How terribly convenient for her… Rex Mottram’s earnest attempts to figure out Catholic dogma is wonderful satire.

Finally, when the long-ago converted, then lapsed, Lord Marchmain is dying, the family pulls out all the stops in order to have the last rites performed. Charles opposes this on the grounds that it would be disrespectful of the Lord’s wishes and tries to find out what the exact purpose of the rites is. Nobody is actually able to answer him, but all are very adamant that they Have To Be Done. At this point Honeybuns got quite annoyed with Charles’ interference, why did he have to be such a dick about it? Then when the sacrament was administered and both Julia and Charles immediately become born again and decided to forswear happiness for the rest of their lives in order to please God her face fell. And then the series ended with Charles contentedly understanding that God’s purpose with the Second World War was that the briefly shut Roman Catholic chapel at Brideshead could be reopened, which was of course an all-important Good Thing.

Honeybuns was horribly down-cast after this and demanded that we immediately watch a more up-lifting film. I glanced at the shelf: six Shakespeare tragedies, a documentary on strategic bombing, more aviation-themed features, etc, but nothing in the way of comedy. “What kind of a person are you!? You watch sad films, you listen to sad music and you read sad books! You…you!” Well yes, that’s me.

2011-12-02

Wort der Woche: dementsprechend

Wegen seines Alzheimer-Krankheit war seine Rede verwirrt, er war dementsprechend.

2011-11-25

Veckans ord: hobby

Det är ju klart, jobbet med filmkulisser kan lätt bli en hobby:

2011-11-18

Veckans ord: nykturist

På diverse gruppresor jag deltagit i har en vanlig höjdpunkt varit en utflykt till whiskydestilleri, vingård, el dyl, där avsmakning ingår. Eftersom jag är en nykturist har jag fått tillräcklig avsmak redan vid tanken och brukar istället gå på en egen promenad runt stadens olika hobbybutiker – inte för att shoppa egentligen, men för att man ofta hamnar på intressanta bakgator.

2011-11-17

Memorial Flight

In spite of the name, Memorial Flight is a French organisation dedicated to the preservation of World War I aircraft, and in spite of that they have beautifully restored a Dassault Flamant.

2011-11-11

Veckans ord: snuskrukor

Man undrar ju om det finns nåt snuskigare än snuskrukor.

2011-11-10

More favourite 80s stuff



(Amélie Morin also did the French voice for Little My.)

2011-11-04

Veckans ord: mährisk

Den Enfödde Sonen och jag har som hobby att titta på östeuropeisk film. Kvalitén varierar naturligvis, så när vi ser på tjeckisk film tar vi alltid en mährisk.

2011-10-31

Horror story

Geek! Gawk:
Meek talk,
weak walk.
Sneak, stalk.
Shriek! Squawk…

2011-10-28

Veckans ord: övergrepp

En kollega famlar efter något:
– Jag vill ha en övergripande beskrivning av systemet, jag behöver få ett övergrepp.

2011-10-24

2011-10-23

Dumped

By the closed-down railway track, among all the empty beer cans and spray paint cans, lay a doll who’d seen better days. Only now, when I looked closer at the picture, did I realise she had not just been abandoned, but strangled first. What evil lurks in the hearts of men…

2011-10-22

Scared

Various things have coincided and one evening Honeybuns and I said to each other: “Maybe we should, after all, move in together.” And then we, within minutes of looking through housing pages, found the perfect flat out in Huddinge. It was not yet built, but we took the bus out to the construction site and it was a perfectly delightful neighbourhood, near the train station, near the still remaining forests in a nice and quiet area, so I was soon on the phone with the estate agent. Yes, when enough people had signed up for the flats, construction would start, so by end of next year we should be able to move in. All right then.

As soon as I put the phone down, doubts hit us. Would we really manage this? Will we be able to live together with all our foibles, diverging requirements, and other baggage? And can we afford it?

I see my flat even as I am elsewhere: My first own home, the one I’ve furnished to fit my needs, my aerie where the morning sun wakes me in the summer and the afternoon sun fills the sitting-room with a warm golden glow, where I come home to silence and peace after a long day, where my bookshelves offer me knowledge and solace. Honeybuns expresses similar emotions for her home. Still, sharing a home, officially being a co-habiting couple, sleeping in each others arms every night, and not lugging stuff from one end of Stockholm to the other every other day beckons.

So yesterday we arrived, slightly out of breath, at the agent’s office to sign the papers. He informed us that with the great interest in the homes, we would likely be able to move in already by summer. He was perhaps a bit taken aback as both our faces fell. A year had seemed ample time to get used to the idea, but already by summer? That is no time at all. We steeled ourselves and signed the papers.

Now there is no return.

2011-10-21

Veckans ord: Alaska

Av någon anledning har alternativmedicinarna fastnat för björkaska som undermedicin. Alaska är det däremot ingen som bryr sig om att ta vara på.

2011-10-14

Word of the week: temporarely

Infrequent bursts of speed happen temporarely.

2011-10-09

Revealing mistake

The shutter time is 1/1250th of a second. In that time the CCD is scanned sequentially, therefore it seems the propeller is bent out of shape.

2011-10-08

Double-checking

When it became obvious that my father was going senile, my sister and I went out looking for good dementia homes. We visited one which looked promising (though Father eventually ended up elsewhere) and the head nurse showed us around. As it happened one of the patients came by and sat down by a piano and started playing. The nurse expressed her amazement at how speech and memory might be lost but the ability to perform music still remained. I noted to myself that the old lady actually did not play any specific piece, but rather stuck together disjointed phrases, executing ingrained motor programmes. I did get to see a lot of that over the following years, how for example greetings and thank-yous remained and were automatically executed at the right cues.

Another common “truth” I’ve heard a lot is that old people get worse short-term memory but have no problem remembering things that happened long ago. It struck me: Has anybody checked whether these long-term memories actually correspond to true events, or might they just as well be constructed there and then?

2011-10-05

2011-09-19

Quickie holiday

I felt a bit guilty about leaving the office in the middle of the afternoon, but I had a train to catch. Luftwaffenmuseum Gatow were hosting an exhibition by IPMS Deutschland and that was a reason as good as any for a weekend holiday for Honeybuns and me, so we eagerly tagged along our friend Ulf.

We had some time in Malmö before boarding the sleeper train to Berlin, so raided the local Pressbyrån for food. Lots of pasta salads of various kinds, the only edible thing I found was rather dry sushi in a plastic box. Well, it sufficed to keep body and soul together.

We had berths in a couchette. Now, while SJ complains that the X 2000 trains are getting long in the tooth, the rest of the rolling stock are completely ignored: The car was clearly older than I was, even still festooned with the classic admonishing Ströyer cartoons and the toilet paper had a distinct East state character. We shared the compartment with a talky young couple and a non-talky buff woman with major tattoos. We soon arrived in Trelleborg where we after quite a bit of shunting were rolled into a ferry bound for Sassnitz. The rest went up to have a look-see of the ferry, but I tried to make myself comfortable in bed, and the rest soon returned, having found nothing interesting. As often, I slept fitfully and definitely awoke as the German border police loudly inspected the passports of the travellers in the next compartment. They did however not seem care about us, possibly the people next doors were not intra-EU travellers, of some suspicious skin colour, or whatever other juridical complication.


A sight for sore eyes.
Finally we rolled in at Berlin Hauptbahnhof (tief) at 06:01, rather bleary and worse for wear. No shower for cheap couchette travellers. We stumbled out in the steel-and-glass building, like something out of a Tati movie. While we wouldn’t be able to check in at our hotel until after 15:00, maybe we could at least dump our bags there, so we set out to find Motel One Berlin-Hauptbahnhof. No problem, it was visible as soon as we exited the station. We got to the checkin desk and declared that we had bookings and within minutes we found ourselves clutching keycards to our rooms. Yet another two minutes later we were having glorious showers!


Berlin at dawn.
The healing and restoring magic of hot water from above soon had us bright and bushy-tailed again and we set out to find breakfast. Admittedly there was a breakfast buffet downstairs, but the vegetarians did not find the carefully aligned rows upon rows of sausage, ham, sausage, ham, sausage, and sausage to be that appetizing, so we went out on the city to see what food we could find. Nothing on a Saturday morning at 06:30, it turned out. But, surely there must be something at the station? We returned there and found a little shop offering salads, smoothies, fruit juices and other delicacies. I peered at a good-looking salad. It looked pasta-free, but you can never be sure, so I asked the lady behind the counter. Some minutes of confusion ensued until she realised that I really was asking whether there was any pasta in the salad. Of course not, who’s ever heard of a salad with pasta!?

Now, both washed and fed we located the tourist office, got maps, postcards and stuff and then tried to figure out how to get to Gatow. The guy at the travel information had no idea at first, but looked up something and printed us an itinerary that looked rather complicated. We decided to go for a taxi instead.


A long line of Soviet air power.
The taxi drove away for quite some distance, but finally ended up at the General Steinhoff-Kaserne. Well, the general idea was correct, so to speak, but it didn’t look very museumy. The taxi driver inquired at the gate, got further instructions and we drove on for a few more minutes until we got to the museum gate. Ooooh! Lots of aircraft out, but first things first: We located the hangar where the exhibition was being set up, in the space between exhibited aircraft.

Now, it has to be admitted that many of the models weren’t exactly Spitzenqualität with regards to the quality of finish, but the underlying ideas were often excellent. As this was an exhibition, rather than a competition, there were many themed exhibits, such as “Captured German aircraft in Soviet markings”, “All versions of the Fw 190”, “Pioneer aircraft up to 1914”, “Early jets”, “RAF aircraft stationed in West Germany”, and so on. (There were of course also exhibits of surface-bound vehicles, but I’m just not as interested in/knowledgeable about such.) The spirit was one of ”models are for building”, and I heartily agree with that.

My favourite, a burned-out Wellington, very impressive.

I wasn’t even aware it had been issued as a model: The EWR VJ101.

A quite unusual subject, an Etrich Taube. The original could be seen two hangars over.

A gaggle of figure builders were also present, happily painting away.

However, after a while the hangar felt quite chilly in the still early morning, and while Ulf exercised his German with the exhibitors, Honeybuns and I struck out to see what we could find. Now was when I realised the camera battery was running flat, so I had to switch to using my mobile. The picture quality dropped, but it managed some 200+ pictures before its battery went empty the next day. (Later on, more experienced hands have recommended carrying multiple batteries and changing as needed. Seems there’s going to be a lot of follow-up purchases to this camera…)

Airfields are big and there were lots of hangars located along the perimeter. Walking around a copse of trees we came upon a pair of hangars and started investigating the one furthest away. Боже мой! It was full of…stuff. A staff-looking person was sitting outside having a smoko, I looked at him and he nodded imperceptibly, apparently it was OK to go in. This was apparently the museum storage hangar, we found shelf upon shelf of rocket launchers, jet engines, stacks of rusty bombs (disarmed, we hoped), landing gear legs, a balloon gondola, and … cash registers, shop scales, tabulating machines, cutlery, and other non-aviatic items. At one end was a basically complete Heinkel He 111 in the company of other bits and pieces of aircraft in bad shape.


I think this probably is a Siebel Si 204 fuselage. The one at Arlanda is not in quite as bad shape, but it’s just a question of time.

It looks like a Bf 109 wing, but missing a bit at the root.

I think this is a Goblin, but I have no idea why it’s radioactive.

Presumably even the air force needs to sew things every now and then.

The next hangar was much more orderly, a very fresh and clean exhibition of the West German air force within NATO. Side rooms exhibited the different generations of fighter aircraft and the training courses German pilots had been to in the US and the UK.

As we returned we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a bicycle race circling around the airport. With time we realised that today was also Tag der Reservisten, with lots of other activities apart from model exhibitions. We walked along long lines of Soviet-manufactured aircraft, most of East German provenance. Many were in rather sad shape as a consequence of being stored outdoors.


It took me a while before I realised what I was looking at: A HFB-320. Cool!

We continued with museum exhibits. Yet another hangar with aircraft. This was probably the original start of the museum, not quite as carefully laid out as the NATO hall, but interesting stuff nonetheless. We meditated a bit on how few German aircraft from the world wars remain in Germany itself, what was not destroyed having been shipped away by the Allies to their museums.

Eventually we decided we needed food. There were food tents aplenty, but to the dismay of the vegetarians they served wurst, wurst, wurst, wurst, and steak. And beer. I got me a steak and a Fanta, Honeybuns choked on a glass of Sekt. Eventually Ulf and she found some strawberry cake to fill their stomachs with.

The control tower building had a chronological display of the development of German air power from the beginning of the 20th Century onwards, the postwar period being indicated with a blue and red stripe on the floor separating West from East, with corresponding exhibits facing each other. The story of how two opposing air forces were merged into one must be a truly fascinating one.

Finally we were satisfied with museum watching and even skipped the exhibition on RAF Station Gatow and walked off to find a bus stop. We suspected that the travel directions we got at the Hauptbahnhof probably were not the most efficient ones and indeed we were recommended to take the bus to Spandau and the S-bahn from there into the city centre. The S-bahn was a strange experience—it would go a couple of stops, then stop to drop off all passengers and return, while a new train would turn up from ahead and take us a couple of more stops. I’m sure there is a reason for the ratchet drive.

After a detour to the hotel we went in search of Alexanderplatz. Well, it’s not much of a search—the Fernsehturm is easily visible everywhere since Berlin is very flat. („Es gibt keine Birge in Berlin“, Ulf proclaimed.) There may be some connection to the weird pipes that rise above many street corners. On a previous visit it was explained to me that they were there to pump away ground water that otherwise would waterlog the city. There are also major plot holes, given over to grass and weeds. I couldn’t tell if they were remnants of the war, of the Berlin wall, or just areas for redevelopment that had stalled. Honeybuns directed us to Bio Company, where we marvelled at an entire shop full of ecologically grown food and picked up some nice items. Then dinner at Thai inside—though we ate outside in the still warm evening air. Then the few steps to Alexanderplatz, where we browsed the sale at a bookstore. The waiting time to get up into the Fernsehturm was however prohibitive and we simply walked back to our hotel through a now dark Berlin, where brightly lit ships glid on the Spree.

The next morning Honeybuns and I got up early, bought breakfast at the Hauptbahnhof and boarded the train to Hamburg, leaving Ulf to his studies. Berlin to Hamburg is just a two-hour journey by day—night trains being a completely different story. The plan in Hamburg was to visit Miniatur Wunderland. I had tried to purchase advance tickets on their website, but for some reason failed, so we’d have to buy them on site. As we got to the ticket counter we found that the first available times for entry were several hours later and I realised the reason I hadn’t been able to buy online tickets was that they’d been sold out for weeks… Anyway, we weren’t going to let go now that we’d travelled all the way to Hamburg (well, actually we had to go that way anyway on the way home, which was what gave rise to the idea of a visit in the first place) so we bought tickets and then went out into the Speicherstadt to see what to spend our time on. Crossing a bridge we ran into Cap’n Jack Tar, who was selling tickets for boat tours of the harbour. Well, why not? We bought two tickets and looked around in the Binnenhafen while waiting for the boat to leave. Eventually the boat filled up with tourists and a colleague of the ticket-seller turned up to actually steer the boat. He cast off and started talking on the PA and didn’t even stop to draw a breath until we returned an hour later. He had a very distinct way of phrasing, which caused frequent smiles for the listeners. In general everything we passed was „größter in der Welt“ and/or „wunderschööön“. The Speicherstadt used to be the Docklands of Hamburg, but now the tall houses seem to be turned over to oriental carpet sellers (I dare not imagine the amount of carpets they can hold) and trendy marketing companies. Some of them had indeed been turned into blocks of flats, which must be very interesting places. But soon we steered out of the canals and into the harbour, where we passed next to huge container ships. At one point we went through a lock, but we never passed one on the way back, so I’m still not sure what the deal was there.


„Die wunderschöne Speicherstaaaadt!“

In the middle of the harbour is a golden calf on a pylon. I have no explanation.

M/S Lorraine. When she is fully loaded the red area is submerged.
Blohm & Voss are still in business, I didn’t know.

As we arrived back in the Binnenhafen, we jogged off to Miniatur Wunderland and got in. Jehosaphat, but it was crowded! Honeybuns mostly just saw the backs of people, but managed to peek between enough people that she had some idea of the glory of the place.


Archaeology in the North Sea.

The new “Switzerland” segment requiring two floors.

A Swiss station from above.

The new airport segment.

We decided to spend at least a week in Germany next time. Then we rushed back to the station and boarded the train to Copenhagen. We had a perfectly nice dinner on the Puttgarden-Rødby ferry. At København H we had to rush a bit back and forth while they kept changing the track of the Malmö train, but did get there. Finally we could board our sleeper train in Malmö, a proper sleeper compartment this time, a three-berth one, as is the SJ tradition, but I had booked the entire compartment for ourselves. By now we were completely knackered and slept all through Sweden and woke up as we rolled in to Stockholm at 06:04. We eschewed the shower on the train, instead making use of the one in Honeybuns’ nearby office, from which I continued straight on to my own, for a change being the first one in.

2011-09-12

Special people

There was a modelling weekend at the Maritime Museum again. The Saturday was a beautiful day as we sat in a tent with the wall furled, so we could bask in the late-summer sun. Suddenly Ture, who I hadn’t seen for a quarter century or so, turned up and joined us for a bit of modelling of his own, as he brought out a flotilla of 1:1200 ship models to work on. Then Honeybuns came by for a late lunch.

At the end of the day we stored our stuff inside and walked towards the city. As we got closer to Karlaplan we noted that we hadn’t been to Eskader since they moved. The shop would be closed of course, but it would be good to check the exact location, the opening hours, and mature stuff like that… We found it quickly and we of course had to peer in through the shop windows and check out all the cool stuff in there. A small child was a bit annoyed at the old men blocking his view, but so it goes. After a couple of minutes one of the proprietors turned up and opened the door: “Come in boys, we have to work on the book-keeping for a while anyway, so you can poke around in the meanwhile.” So we did, and filed away many interesting ideas. Then we finally went home.

On the Sunday I was sitting alone and it was very windy, so I spent most of the day chasing small parts being blown across the lot. And I swear every non-stop talker in Stockholm was there to harangue me, so I couldn’t get a word in sidewise!

2011-09-11

Things that work

A colleague had installed some software on his Mac: “…and it worked, just out of the box. And the most disgusting part is that I was totally unprepared for that!”

Honeybuns and I had long discussed upgrading to a proper system camera. So, being an aware consumer I went to the Råd & Rön website and looked up their test of system cameras. Now, this is one of the tests behind the paywall, so I was requested to send a text message containing a code to a given number. I did so, and within seconds the browser magically updated and brought me to the test spreadsheet. The best-performing camera was easy to pick out: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2. Clicking on it I was brought to Pricerunner, where I got a list of suppliers and the prices they charged. Amazon UK turned out to be the cheapest by a wide margin, so I clicked on that link, was brought to the Amazon page for the camera, added it to the basket and checked it out. A couple of days later I had a package to retrieve at the nearest Coop and there was the new camera. I noted that it had been cheaper than the compact camera I bought seven years ago.

First obstacle: the battery charger was supplied with a British-style plug, but the charger itself had a standard two-pole connector, so half a minute of rummaging in my cable drawer brought out the right kind of cable.
Second obstacle: the camera was delivered without any memory card at all. That I thought was pretty stupid. So I had to buy a separate card. A life of experience strongly suggested one should always buy as much memory as can be fit into the device—it will soon be used up. So, a 64 GiB card should be the thing. Back to Amazon. After a bit of back and forth I came to the conclusion that no supplier will deliver 64 GiB cards to Sweden. Weird. So, let’s try a 32 GiB card then. Here I found a supplier, but as I am checking it out the price is suddenly doubled. What? Hm, they’ve slapped on 99 quid in postage & packing! OK, no sale for them. Finally I found a supplier who sells cheap, delivers to Sweden, and doesn’t charge ridiculous amounts for the postage and then I had a new package a couple of days later. Camera complete!

2011-08-05

In the middle of everything

S:ta Clara is as central a church can get, almost on top of T-Centralen. It is one of the places where the ragged people go, and there is a distinctive smell of pee about the churchyard. A church volunteer is handing out bread to bag people in varying degrees of intoxication. Next to them a different crowd, relatives of Honeybuns’, but from a branch I haven’t met before.

Suddenly a great commotion, cheers and whistles. A wedding party erupts from the church doors. The newlyweds are traditionally dressed, but their piercings and tattoos hint that this may not be their usual garb and this is underscored by their friends in leather coats, mohawks and brightly dyed dreadlocks.

We have to wait a while as their flowers are carried out of the church and ours are brought in. Finally we troop in and seat ourselves, relatives on the right, friends on left, dead centre the coffin. I try to form a picture of Honeybuns’ step-sister, whom I’ve never met, from the vicar’s eulogy. As she was torn from the midst of life, the people who did know her form a crowd even in the spatious church. Friends sing and recite poetry. Many weep.

After the service we walk to a restaurant in the Old Town for dinner. I am first a bit taken aback by the blaring disco music, but eventually learn that it is a careful selection of the most favourite pieces of the deceased. A sad gay friend makes a speech, reminiscing over her joyful life and proclaims: ‘Tonight there will be a PARTY IN HEAVEN!” and that is as good an epitaph as any.

2011-07-31

Om kriget som aldrig kom

Som jag nämnt tidigare, så gjordes stora ansträngningar under Kalla Kriget att skydda befolkningen inför och under sovjetisk invasion. Bergrum.se är ett försök att samla och systematisera information om dessa ansträngningar – ett inte helt lätt arbete eftersom man, just med tanke på en eventuell invasion, dokumenterade mycket lite, utan lät det mesta sitta i huvudet på berörda personer. (Och det man hade dokumenterat, skickade Wennerström och Bergling vidare till just Sovjet.)

Och när jag ändå letade runt, hittade jag Anders Jallais blogg där han gör sitt bästa för att dokumentera Sveriges dåtida, och enligt hans mening, fortgående underrättelsesamarbete med NATO.

2011-07-30

More Amazon shenanigans

I thought that Amazon Marketplace just made space available for sellers, but it seems the mechanism also contains a bit of what in computing is known as “intelligence”, i e there’s a programming interface and depending on the intelligence and foresight of the programmer things may happen for good and bad. Michael Eisen relates how the price of a book balloons to several million dollars when the scripts of two competing sellers attempt to optimise their pricing in order to appeal to different market segments and maximise profit. The comments even suggest that there might not be two separate sellers, but a single seller attempting to cover the market all alone. Perhaps nothing is what it seems.

2011-07-29

Veckans ord: surrealism

Mats Lundegård, Ingvar Hirdwall och Lars Molin, griniga gubbar som förkroppsligar svensk surrealism.

2011-07-27

Invisible Man

We went to Fotografiska Museet. As usual, there were several parallel exhibitions of varying degrees of interest: Robert Mapplethorpe leaves me cold—all his pictures are somehow just the same, regardless of the subject: same lighting, same æsthetics. But we’d really come to see the “Invisible Man”, excerpts from Liu Bolin’s series Hiding in the City—photographs of himself, bodypainted to meld in with the background at various places in Beijing. Looking at the pictures I realised there must be at least another invisible man: I can’t quite see how Liu could have managed to create the body paintings on himself by himself, matching them up with the environment behind him. There must have been at least another, quite skillful, person helping him with the paintings and adjusting them to the background. I find this a problem with art in general: there is this Romantic idea of the lone genius that the teamwork necessary for almost any piece of art is completely suppressed. Well, except for film, where it’s pretty obvious that the producer did not do it all alone and where the skills of all other participants have identifiable effects on the end result, so these days everybody in any way involved with the production is listed in the final credits and I can pay hommage to them by watching the credits to the end.

A slightly different example was Eleanor Coppola’s Circle of Memory, a memorial to her dead son in the form of an Irish passage grave recreated with hay bales, clearly not manually stacked by herself. However, this was more explictly a cooperatively created art piece, as the public were invited to write their thoughts on pieces of paper and attach them to the hay, so that others could read them. Honeybuns noted that it’s hard to express strong emotions without becoming banal. Indeed, quite a few of the writings had been directly cribbed from the quotable quotes at the bottom of calendar pages. So, kudos to the young woman who unpredictably but truthfully noted: “Don’t do a runner twice from the same taxi, you’ll feel so guilty.”

2011-07-26

Historical excursion

It transpired that on no occasion Honeybuns has been in Mariefred has she had time to visit Gripsholm castle. This obviously won’t do, so a castle trip was necessary. To have the maximum time available we took the train to Läggesta. We hesitated for a second whether to take the bus or the steam train to Mariefred, but clearly a steamtrain trumps busses. However, it turns out ÖSlJ does not take credit cards, but they were kind enough to let us come along anyway, get cash in a (the?) ATM in Mariefred and buy the tickets afterwards. Customer service!

In Mariefred we got ourselves something to drink in the station café (Note: In spite of a menu footnote to this effect, they don’t actually carry gluten-free sandwiches.) and had a quick look in the museum. When we got out to go the castle it had started raining, so we proceeded with some haste.

Gripsholm, with its almost 500-year history (600 since Bo Jonsson Grip’s original fortress), is a melange of all ages, being rebuilt about once every century to adapt it to current needs of each age, while honouring the past. It’s current guise is a sort of 1890s idea of what it should have looked like during the renaissance and I suspect that in quite a few instances the reconstructions may have gone beyond what was originally there.


A model of what the castle would have looked like ca 1600.

This corner is the tower on the far right above, extended by a new wing. The brick on the wing (on the left) is real, on the tower it is a pattern painted on plaster.

The bartizan is an 1890s recreation of one which was presumed to have existed here.

Honeybuns was very fascinated and pleased with the window flannings that all had nice benches to sit on. One wonders to what extent they existed originally—to be sure most windows would have been smaller at the time that the castle was actually used as a fortress in the turbulent times of popular uprisings and dynastic struggles. I wonder what issues the builders in the past would have had with knocking new holes in the massive old walls to increase window sizes and attaching new wings to the castle—would there at any point have been problems with the structural integrity of the walls?

On my earlier visits I had clearly not been very attentive to the portraits in the collection, but now I realised that many of the standard depictions of people in Swedish history are paintings displayed at Gripsholm. I read the famous names, and indeed every now and then found ancestors of people whose history in the limelight went so far back. Honeybuns noted that the portraits up to the 19th Century were cast very much in the same mold and were all but indistinguishable from each other, mostly concentrating on the jewellery and exclusive clothing while rendering skin and faces as smooth, characterless surfaces, but from the 20th Century there was suddenly a great many portrait styles.

Photography was not allowed at all inside the castle—presumably to avoid the hassle of explaining to people with automatic flashes that flash photography is not allowed—so no interior pictures for you.

We finished the tour somewhat before the castle closed and returned to the town to see how to best return and perhaps to find something to eat. We found S/S Mariefred waiting by the bridge and decided to take the boat back to Stockholm.

2011-07-24

Hi-ho

From Upplands Väsby is just a short train ride to Uppsala and from Uppsala you can take the bus to Sala, so Honeybuns had a hankering to go see the famous silver mine at Sala. The mine is no longer in use, but there is a mining museum and you can go on guided tours in the mine. We signed up for the “Minors [sic] Path”, a tour outside the most easily accessible parts of the mine: Bring wellies and warm clothes.

From Sala station it’s a pleasant walk along a little creek running through a residential area to the entrance of the mine area. This turned out to be quite big and with a generous helping of tourist traps in the form of cafés and curio shops. We had a light lunch at the restaurant, looked through the mine museum and then assembled at the reception to await the guide, boots and borrowed hard hat on. The guide turned out to be a slip of a girl in 17th Century mining clothes, in complete command of the situation. She took us to a little brick house outside where we first got an introduction on how the mine had developed over time and were shown a map of its layout: There are four main shafts from which horizontal drifts follow the ore veins, opening into larger chambers at richer spots. The ore body goes at a slant, so in the middle ages the silver could be extracted directly at the surface, but as time went on, they had to dig deeper and deeper in a northerly direction. The deepest shaft, the Charles XI shaft, goes down to 318 m below ground level, but the deepest levels have filled with water, pumps keeping the mine passable only down to 155 m. Divers can go into the water-filled parts of the mine, but while exciting, it’s also very dangerous, so only a select few are allowed to do so.

Having explained all this, the guide opened a nondescript door behind which a staircase led down into the bowels of the Earth.


Into the darkness.

We started our descent. On entering the mine we were reminded that whistling and swearing was not allowed, so as not to anger the Mine Lady. Strangely enough nothing was said about how the Mine Lady does not allow any other women in the mine either.

It was, indeed, quite cold in the mine and my jumper did not quite keep the cold at bay. As we descended, every now and then we come to a level space where we could peer into adjoining large chambers, some with royal signatures from various kings who have inspected this, the foremost treasure of the realm. At one point the passage opened on the Queen Christina Shaft, the centre of the mine. I looked into the bottomless pit fading into black. A fine mist was constantly falling through the shaft.


Life will find a way. Mosses eke out a precarious living in the eternal artificial light.

At a depth of 55 m below ground we ended up in a large chamber with exits in all directions. It had been used as a concert hall, so had bleachers along the sides, but nowadays a chamber at 155 m was used instead. Here the easily accessible part with stairwells ended. We were handed torches and then struck out into a side passage. The wellies soon came in handy, the bottom of the passage was a muddy slurry with loose stones hidden, so we had to watch our steps.


A sludgy mixture of rust and bacteria occurring here and there.

After a while we had arrived at the deepest shaft. A fence kept us from going near it, but the guide suggested we throw a stone into it. I tossed a stone into the pit and we stood for what felt like a minute, listening to it bouncing off the walls—possibly it knocked other stones loose, because certainly it couldn’t have taken that long to fall even a hundred metres. We couldn’t hear it reach the bottom, the sound just faded out.


Presumably one will not get lost as long as one follows the tracks.

From here went a Decauville track further into the mine. The ceiling also became markedly lower, so throughout this section there was a constant syncopated rhythm of boots splashing through water and hard hats knocking into the ceiling.

We ended up in a passage where the floor was covered with pond of unknown depth. As none had walked in it the water was perfectly transparent. Someone asked if the water was drinkable. According to the guide it might be, but it was uncertain how much lead had leached into it.

And then we retraced our steps back to the large chamber where we had a little snack and then returned to the surface with a lift through the Knight Shaft. Honeybuns was very pleased with the experience and decreed that we would return, stay at the hostel and explore Sala in detail, so expect further reports.

2011-07-22

Breaking eggs

So this guy had told himself that in order to achieve certain desirable goals, regrettably a large number of children had to be slaughtered as brutally as possibly. A sure sign of psychopathology one would think, but this kind of calculation is common among those who go as statesmen and strategists: “To hasten the end of the war, we are forced to bomb these civilians.” Unless we want to consider well-known heroes as psychopaths, we have to assume that the ends in fact do justify the means. The question then devolves to what ends justify the killing of people who don’t necessarily feel that their deaths would improve the world and who gets to define those ends. Is it OK if it is our elected representatives, presumably acting on our wishes?

So is it that the psychopath is the one who bears to actually meet the victims, while we normal ones are allowed the same kind of thinking as long as we do not personally create the corpses?

2011-07-17

Utö and Ålö


The Mill House is a short walk through the woods from the main building.
Back to Utö again. The morning doesn’t start off very well—the weather isn’t the best, the place is too crowded, the usual staff is on vacation, and a million other little things annoy us. However, we get a very cosy room in the Mill House and we go for what seems to have become our favourite activity here: Collapse in bed and wake up in time for dinner. A five-course meal later we feel a lot better.

The next morning we have breakfast outdoors and then make use of the bike tour we won last Christmas. We get a couple of sturdy bikes with balloon tires, buy us lunch in the local shop and then strike out to explore the map with secret bathing places we have been supplied with.


The sea is never far away.
In no time at all we are in a landscape which maskes me feel as if we were in a Swedish 1940s film, perforce the bike even wants to go on the left side of the road. We travel on wheel-track roads past green meadows with cows and sheep, the sun is warm without being hot (though I’ve taken the precaution of slathering myself with the usual SPF 50+) and it feels as if all the road is downhill. (We did start at sea level, but since we are moving southwards this must obviously be due to the curvature of the Earth…)


A TGB m/42 SKPD
We move into the firing range at southern Utö, open to the public during the summer. The landscape is as lush as before, but every few metres are placards with dire warnings about not touching unexploded ordnance. We arrive at a military compund with a couple of armoured vehicles on exhibit outside. We crawl around a bit on them and then continue on our way.

Eventually we cross a little bridge to Ålö, separated from Utö by the narrowest of sounds. Here is our first stop, we sit on a rock, looking on the sea and eating our lunch and then we just sit there and enjoy the day.


A Södermanland forest at its most beautiful.
Then to find the next bridge back to Utö. Next to it is a little hut like a ticket window, but its actual purpose is opaque. We end up on what goes for the main road around the south of the island. It brings us to a beach, perfect for amphibious assault exercises, but now occupied by a smattering of families with children. It turns out to be mostly impossible to bike through the loose sand, we have to push the bikes along until we get up on solid ground again. We continue, soon stopping to eat wild strawberries and chat with a baby squirrel sitting by the road.

Soon we find ourselves by the centre piece of the firing range, a long rail track on which I surmise targets are pulled during exercises. A seriously shot-up skip stands by the track.


Faithfully guarding the ramparts.
We aim for our final target, a cave by the shore. We have to leave the bikes by the road and follow a foot path through the forest for a bit. To Honeybuns’ disappointment, the caves are in fact little more than deep crevices, but the cliff landscape is fantastic and I suddenly find a dilapidated bunker hidden in a ravine. We jump around on the cliffs for a while, but now, how should we get back to the bikes? Probably best to just cut straight throught the forest. Of course, since this is a military area, the forest has never been logged and does not take lightly to our efforts to pass. Finally we sight the road and stumble up on it. Time for tick inspection. No nasty critters seem to have attached themselves to us. Honeybuns is relieved. I am even more relieved that we didn’t accidentally step on an old landmine or something, belatedly having realised what a stupid idea it was to go off-road.

Now it is time to return to the harbour and get home. Rather tired by now, we pedal along sedately when I see something brownish moving out of the corner of my eye. Another squirrel, no, a dog, no, AN ELK! The elk jumps up on the road behind me and I, flustered, pedal away as fast as I can, wishing I had a ten-speed. Luckily the elk drops the chase after just a few steps and returns in among the trees without showing much interest in Honeybuns, so she soon rejoins me. We return along the side of the shooting range and while we have seen very few people all day, now returning bikers appear on all tributary roads, heading for the harbour. Soon we are a convoy, heading north.

Luckily the Earth has revolved enough that it’s still mostly downhill, because by now we are really tired. We return the bikes and sit down for a breather. We have dinner in the restaurant on the main street and then get on the boat.

2011-07-16

Two films to end them all

As the first installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows had proved to be good, the second part had to be seen as well. This time in 3D. The OBD had already been to the opening night, accompanied by appropriately costumed friends, and reported of very emotional scenes. When we went, a couple of days later, the trufans seemed to have petered off—when the curtains lifted the opening music was all but drowned by the sound of popcorn munching.

But, the film then? Yes, it worked, it covered the events and did it well, mostly without falling into mere action gimmicks. Much had had to be cut, so for instance leaving Aberforth Dumbledore’s angry accusations hanging in the air with no further explanation, and the battle for Hogwarts felt so compressed in time, I hardly had time to react to the carnage. Nether did the hectic pace allow the protagonists to play against each other as well as in the first part. Still, having read the book I knew what was supposed to be going on and could follow along.

The 3D didn’t add a lot, and in fact I often experienced cross-talk between the stereo channels and there were occasional issues with focus in the image. Thinking back on it, it may be that these were most pronounced in scenes with natural backgrounds rather than mostly-CGI scenes, but I’d have to rewatch it to make sure.

When the huge credit list had rolled by and the lights turned on, we looked out over the aftermath of a major food fight in the cinema: popcorn and paper cups everywhere; I myself had taken a half-eaten submarine right in the chest.

2011-07-15

Veckans ord: kökaos

– De ä förskräcklit va de loktar i ditt kök. Va ä de för kökaos?

2011-07-09

Not my idea

Ed Brayton quotes a student-teacher exchange:
When I informed this student that I suspected her paper was plagiarized, she said to me, “I got my paper from one of the students who was in your class last semester. How was I to know that she had plagiarized?”
Back when I was an undergraduate, copying was treated fairly cavalierly—it was of course wrong, but students will be students and all that, so if caught out, typically you would just be asked to redo the exercise. Over time the attitude has become much stricter and these days I understand students can be suspended for up to six months for cheating. I don’t know if this is a reaction to increased cheating or just a sign of harsher times. Certainly there is increased pressure on students to graduate on time.

Anyway, once upon a time, long enough ago that I believe it has been statute-barred, we had a mandatory course in business administration which was considered to be neither well taught nor very interesting. During this course we were to do a group project, working out the economics of some process of a fictitious company. The parameters were different for each group, but we figured out that they were reused from year to year. It was decided in my group that we would ask the students from the previous year to give us their report, retype it and present it as ours. The seniors kindly handed over their report and I ended up with the task of retyping it. Now, already then I had proofreader’s eyes and while I was copying the text I realised that the calculations were off: our predecessors had made a sizable arithmetic error. Still, they had passed, so apparently the grader had not read through the report very carefully. (The problem admitted many different solutions, depending on what assumptions and prioritisations you made.)

I mulled this over for a minute or two, but decided there was only one thing to do: Start over and do the calculations right. And so I did. Our group passed too.

2011-07-08

Veckans ord: handlinskraft

Tio gångers förstoring är en rätt normal handlinskraft.

2011-07-07

Auto-correction

The information we get from our environment is pretty noisy, and we constantly apply an error correction which seems to align our perceptions to some kind of Platonic ideal. Consider for example a spoken dialogue with someone: the words are often slurred, affected by surrounding words and sometimes just plain misspoken, yet we adjust to them almost effortlessly and hardly ever think about what was actually said, rather than what was meant. Or what we think was meant—sometimes we over-correct something, a new word that is similar to one we’ve already heard.

It was years before I realised our next-door neighbours actually were called Sällström. My parents pronounced the name quite correctly, but compensating for the Finnish accent I assumed they meant to say Kjellström.

A quite proper lady of limited computer literacy consistently referred to the “dildo” character on the keyboard (~). I never dared ask her what she thought the word meant.

Now I found a grad student referring to a “defector standard”. What would that be—an Anthony Blunt a year?

2011-07-06

Presumed healthy until further notice

I went to see the oral surgeon for my diagnosis. He was somewhat frustrated: in spite of me having visible lesions in the oral mucous membranes I felt no pain, was not even itching and to boot the biopsies showed nothing but normal tissue, so he grudgingly had to admit there was nothing he could do for (with?) me but ask my normal dentist to keep her eyes peeled for any changes and let me go.

OK, I guess?

2011-07-02

Life goes on

It had been raining for two days but the rain had held up for an hour or so when the guests started to arrive. The urn stood outside on a small white table, surrounded by meadow flowers.

Her mother made a brief speech; Honeybuns carried the urn to the boat and soon her uncle’s ashes were dispersing over the lake he had loved so much.

The messuage had already been sold to a distant relative, but the moveables would be auctioned off. Honeybuns picked through her childhood memories and set aside the few items she could fit into her home. She returned several times to say a final goodbye to the houses.

2011-06-28

Barred from the hold

Flying with the cats is always complicated, especially as rules and procedures seem to change randomly between each time we go, so Honeybuns is quite anxious to have everything sorted out well beforehand. Accordingly I had been on the phone with SAS several weeks before our flight and made sure we could take the cats along and eventually received confirmation as both SMS and email. Somewhat later, as I was sorting my email, I noted that the email version was rather longer than the SMS and among several other restrictions stated that each animal had to be kept in a separate cage. This was inconvenient, not least since experience suggests the cats feel safer when they are together. New phone calls. No, that rule is only relevant for animals in the cabin, not in the hold. Oh.

So we trundle into the airport, check in, drop off our bags and are directed to Special Baggage to drop off the cats. As we are getting the cats out so the cat cage can be X-rayed, a uniformed fellow turns up and stops the proceedings. The rules have been changed that same morning and the sturdy wicker cage Honeybuns has used for the last 14 years is no longer accepted on board. Sorry. We are pretty incensed at the non-existent notice. The official is sympathetic but explains they have received an injunction and absolutely can’t make any exceptions. On the other hand, they’ll do their best to get us and cats to our destination. Negotiations with various instances ensues, trying to arrange something workable. In the end we are rebooked for a later flight while Honeybuns jumps into a taxi for the nearest zoo shop.

While she is away I hang around Special Baggage, which I realise also is the entrance to the restricted parts of the airport. There are apparently repairs underway as groups of craftsmen go in and out. Each craftsman is carefully patted down before they are let in. Exactly what the security person is looking for is unclear, as each craftsman is carrying in his overalls at least two big knives, a hammer, a dozen screwdrivers and sundry other tools and the sturdy knee pads probably could be made of Semtex. Possibly security just likes feeling up well-built men.

Honeybuns eventually returns with a huge cage, certified for air transport. The cats are very suspicious, but in they go, only to be taken out again a minute later for the mandatory X-ray of the cage. Finally they are carted away and we can pass through security control with our new boarding passes. We profusely thank the airport staff, who in turn promise to improve the information about the rules.

We arrive in Umeå two hours later than planned, and to our relief manage to fit the big cage into the Honeymother’s car.

2011-06-27

Scales


Thnidu found this nifty animation showing the relative sizes of various celestial bodies and I wanted to put it into relation with something familiar to me, such as the Sweden Solar System. At a scale of 1:20×106 VY Canis Majoris would have a diameter of 153 175 m, i e, if superimposed on the Earth, the surface would be in the mesosphere, i e, around the highest X-15 flights, and the scaled distance would be about as far from Stockholm as Mars is from the Sun. Not that these measures are really graspable either.