Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I had to post this one since it included a reference to one of my favorite cartoons: Peanuts. (It's today's M, if anybody wants to know).

Edit: Added some Peanuts to explain the reference. Good ones!

Movies for Halloween

Grand theft originality, but still; list your favorite horror/scary movies for Halloween here. For me, it's

Omen (1976) - Pretty obvious choice, and a great movie overall

Phantasm (1979) - Flying spheres, demonic, shape-shifting undertakers, this one has it all

The Exorcist (1973) - ...'cause it just belongs on the list, I guess

Friday the 13th (1980) - Camp Crystal lake...the beginning of Teh Saga

Friday the 13th part III (1982) - 'cause this is where Jason starts wearing the hockey mask

Friday the 13th part 5 - A New Beginning (1985) - New uses for gardening equipment

Friday the 13th part 10 - Jason X (2001) - Jason in space

Silent Night Deadly Night (1984) - I'm probably one of two people to see this movie.

Army Of Darkness (1992) - Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas. Awesome!

Demon Knight (1995) - Billy Zane is the coolest demon you'll ever see - The Collector

Alien (1979) - Scared teh everloving crap out of me first time I watched it

Jaws (1975) - Double S should'a quit while he was ahead

Evil Dead 2 (1987) - A weekend in a cabin isn't necessarily relaxing

Maniac Cop (1988) - You have the right to remain silent. Forever.

The Midnight Hour (1985) - High school kids raise the dead on Halloween....

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The dangers of blogging....

...well, I need a bit og humor after todays effort at "work". Somehow it's scary how accurate the strip below describe my work situation..

When do we start to feel old ?

A friend of mine sent me a message with all the things that are supposed to make you feel old. Indeed he started by saying that the students that enter the university now (10 years ago for me) are born in 1989 and so he wants to prove that we can now be considered as "old" (I just want to precise that my friend is really old since he's born in 1976). For instance those young people have only known M. Jackson as white, phones without wire, Pierce Brownan as James bond...

I will try to translate some facts for you !!

So basically, you can considerate yourself old when ....

- Making love in a car does not seem as a good idea.
- There's more food in your fridge than alcohol
- 6 am is the time when you ged up (not the time when you go to bed)
- You can hear your favorite music in an elevator
- You have an umbrella in your car and you check the forecast before going out
- Your friends are getting married (some even divorce)
- Jeans and T shirts are not considered anymore as everyday clothes
- Falling asleep in the couch hurts a lot
- You don't have this small nap (until 6pm) anymore
- You have now 25 days of holidays per year (instead of 130)
- When you go to the pharamacy, it's for aspirin and not for condoms anymore
- You have your breakfast at regular breakfast time
- You don't stay awake all night anymore because it's too tiring.

So you're saying 80's music sucks........

Being that I still like a lot of the 80's music, particularly heavy metal, I find that I often have to defend some of my favorite music against onslaughts from people who try to make their own preferences look good by jumping on the "80's music sucks" bandwagon that's been a'rollin ever since Kurt Cobain decided to rip off "Wild Thing", mumble some incoherent lyrics over it and pass it off as his own work. Some people may call this plagiarism, but Kurt Cobain preferred to call it "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Even though I like plenty music from other genres and decades, the 80's music is what I get called out on.

Since the criticism revolves around minor variations on the same issues, I thought I'd list the beef here as well as my rebuttals. My arguments aren't based on the 80's music necessarily being perfect (every decade has good and bad music), but rather on it being very straightforward to point to similar flaws in music from other decades and genres. Here goes:

Singers of the 80's had ridiculous hairstyles
It's easy to find examples of over-the-top hair on bands like Flock Of Seagulls. Also, the fact that rock musicians of the 80's often had spent a lot of time on their hair is pretty evident from photos. But if you're implying that strange hairdos was an 80's phenomenon, I suggest you check out this phenomenon called "punk" that started in the mid 70's. Or maybe you don't think of mohawks as over-the-top? Also, I suppose Marily Manson and other proponents of shock rock and nu-metal don't spend a lot of time getting their hair done? Dreads maintain themselves, do they? And surely you're not implying that Beyonce and Britney use less hair spray than - say - Madonna? But at least the rockers of the 60's and 70's didn't have long hair? Oh, wait....

The clothes were ridiculous in the 80's
Considering that the bell-bottoms not only were ultrafashionable in the 70's, but also made a comeback, I'm not sure what the point is. Especially when also considering the disco suits of the 70's, balloon pants and all flannel + orange/earthy colors of the 90's + the very fact that capri pants have been ok for men to wear. You're telling me that Van Halen and Billy Joel looked stupid, in stark contrast to KISS, Donna Summer, Limp Bizkit and Korn?

Overly long "look at me" guitar solos
The guitar solos you heard on the radio in the 80's were typically 12-24 bar solos. 30 seconds or so. You've ever heard a guitar-based song from the 60's or 70's? The late 60's and early 70's were nothing but a tribute to 30-minute, impromptu drug-fuelled guitar jams. Next time you hear songs like "Free Bird", "Hotel California", "Stairway To Heaven" or "Don't fear The Reaper" - you know, radio hits of the 70's - then do me a favor and break out your li'l Matrix-themed wristwatch and time the solos. Do the same with 90's stuff like "Don't Look back In Anger" and "Killing In The Name". Compare that to 80's guitar solo hits like "Jump", "Wanted Dead Or Alive", "Round And Round", "We're Not Gonna Take It" or even "The Final Countdown". What was your point again?

The rock and pop stars of the 80's were so wasted on drugs and alcohol
I can't believe people actually use this argument. Amy Winehouse. Eminem. Britney Spears. Red Hot Chili Peppers. Hilary Duff. Robbie Williams. The Darkness. Oasis. That's a very short list of public drug breakdowns from after the 80's. You think a list from the flower power era and the later 70's would look better?

Sexist lyrics and music videos
That's rich. There's this new thing now called rap music, and a newfangled music channel called MTV. Check it out, then tell me that the music of the 80's was more sexist.

High-pitched vocals on rock songs
'Cause the Bee Gees never used that in the 70's, and fortunately, neither do morons like Mika do that now, right?. Ditto for The Darkness, which by the way model their music after 70's rock, not 80's.

Overly macho rock stars
Again, I'd like to point you to that new thang called rap music, particularly gangsta rap. Check it out and get back to me.

Power ballads suck
That is your opinion, and many of them probably do. Name one other type of song construct where you don't have a mix of good and bad music and performances. Nothing? Thought so...

To round it off, here's some fantastic criticism of grunge I found somewhere. I liked it enough to copy the text, but I forgot to add the url. I didn't write this, but I wish I had:

Do you know why so many twenty- and thirty-somethings nowadays yearn for the era when grunge ruled America? It's because back then it was fashionable to be a loser. You could roll out of bed in yesterday's clothes, tell your dad to go fuck himself, and head to the coffee joint to peer at your stubbly reflection in some thrillingly disheveled girl's glasses. It was like being a hippie, except you didn't have to care about anything (except maybe AIDS or abortion, and even then, only when it was pragmatically necessary to care). It was like being a punk, but you didn't have to worry about being uncool, because everybody was a loser. The music was specially engineered to sound good when listened to from big green bong water-stained couches with ripped upholstery. You didn't have to worry too much when your hero died of a heroin overdose, because the Pacific Northwest was a bottomless reservoir of untapped indie talent, and somebody even more rugged would step up to fill your hero's army boots.

Carl Hiaasen...

..has been dubbed "America's finest satirical novelist" by the London Observer. The New York Times has compared him to Woody Allen and Preston Sturges. The back cover blurb described him and the novel like a modern day Raymond Chandler. Also, my flight was delayed, and I needed some more reading material.

What I'm trying to do here is justify my purchase of the book "Strip Tease" by Carl Hiaasen one Tuesday in the last weeks of September. It looked cool - it honestly did. Today I Googled the author after finishing the book, and found out that the movie "Strip Tease" starring Demi Moore and Burt Reynolds was based on this book. In retrospect, I should have guessed that. This is a politically correct fiesta of Oprahisms like "All Men Suck", and I'm thinking that if you liked the movie, you're a big fan of shows like "Desperate Housewives" or "Sex & The City" and you've got more than one t-shirt with the slogan "Girrl Power" on it, you'll like this book. I'm not denying that the book is very well written and good at times, particularly when it involves Shad the Bouncer (inexplicably played by Ving Rhames in the movie).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sarko tete de veau

when 60 minutes try to portray the french president, here is the result.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fargo Rock City

Dis here be my review o' da book "Fargo Rock City - A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural Nörth Daköta" (2001) by Chuck Klosterman. Bought it last week, on a 90% sale at the campus bookstore.

I've read one of Klosterman's books before - "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs", which I bought at Stockholm airport Arlanda in January 2005, and despite the back cover blurb's promises of tie-ins to 80's rock music and musicians, the book turned out to be mostly about how Klosterman can only deal with eating cocoa puffs the day after a severe bout of drinking, his drug habits, and most of all, endless tales of how this and that girl dumped his red-haired ass. So; a lot of cocoa puffs, and a little drugs. The book promises rock stars, and ends up describing a red-haired rock journalist nerd and the continuing saga of his being dumped and/or kept on a leash. Which by the way ain't what I signed up for, so I was only willing to buy this book due to it being sold at a severely reduced price.

This book tells the story of Klosterman growing up in Nowhere, North Dakota, and also tells the legendary tales of the heavy metal hits and artists he adored during his adolescence. Most of the book I really enjoyed, due to it's sheer nostalgia factor. I listened and listen to many of the same bands, and I'm a sucker for any book containing trivia on Ratt, Skid Row, Poison, etc. So far, so good.

However, the book suffers from a number of shortcomings, to paraphrase what I frequently write in my referee comments. First of all, it should be mentioned that Chuck Klosterman is a rock journalist/rock critic. And it shows. The first sign of this one encounters in the book, is his obvious subscription to "Word A Day" calenders and annoying penchant for inserting rather pretentious phrases and big words liberally throughout the manuscript. Mostly out of context. The second sign is that he takes himself very seriously, and everytime he makes a joke out of something involving him, he uses the plural "we", to drag down either his buddies or age segment with him. The third and final sign is that he uses his status as rock critic/journalist to legitimize his personal taste without having any music credentials at all. Even according to his own admission, he is not trained as a musician, doesn't play any instruments, and hasn't taken any steps to learn more about his trade. What especially bothered me was that he attacks several of the so-called "shred" guitarist, especially Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. What he accuses them of is to use technique to mask a complete lack of musicality and songwriting skills.

Now; this is just about the biggest red flag you can possibly wave in front of me when it comes from somebody who wouldn't know the difference between a scale and a mode if it jumped up in front of him and hit him over the head with a two-by-four.

What Klosterman does here is the typical rock journalist/critic douchebag move of faking knowledge to back up his own musical preferences. Given the subjective nature of their trade, you can't really say that "The Rolling Stones is the best band of all time", because you'd have to specify some objective criteria where TRS shine, AND everybody else would have to agree with those criteria for this statement to have any basis in reality. Obviously, it's impossible to design and carry through such criteria, so a listing of "The Best Song Ever" is just a ranking of one's own personal preferences, which is completely ok. The problem comes when some douchebag tries to fake actual knowledge in order to legitimize his or her preferences, but that kind of comes with the trade. It is kind of expected that a rock journalist is going to have something to say beyond "I sho' nuff did like dis heah record. As a matter o' fact, dis heah be my favorite CD in all of da unaverse of dis heah yeah, yo. Did I mention in dis column dat I once talked to Elvis Costello?" At the very least, they're supposed to back up criticism with something stock like "this is a blatant rip-off of New York Dolls", or something pointing to a similar band of the not-so-distant past so as to feign whatever which can transcend the aforementioned fanboi personal preference. I guess this makes sense too, because if it was generally acknowledged that a music critic had no other credentials than liking one certain form of music, I sincerely doubt that anyone would listen to their recommendations.

What Klosterman does in this book, and I suspect he also does in his other writings, is quite reprehensible, and a clear indication of douchebaggery. Let me illustrate this by providing some examples of how he uses faked knowledge to try and inject an objective argument for his personal preferences. The following list is in no way exhaustive.
  • Quite early in the book, Klosterman mentions Eddie Van Halen as a guitar hero, and how "Greatest guitarist ever" polls invariably rank EVH and Hendrix as either number one or number two. As these polls are conducted by fan surveys, they reflect popularity rather than any objective criteria, but this does not faze Klosterman at all. Non-guitarist Klosterman is fully capable of stating that without a shadow of a doubt - and without a trace of humor, Hendrix was by far the better guitarist of the two. Right. I've never heard anyone else even trying to argue that Hendrix was anywhere close to the technical level Van Halen is at - usually the factors of "composing abilities" and "legacy" are injected into these polls, which makes it more vague, but nobody who's ever listened to Van Halen and Hendrix records should doubt for a second that in terms of sheer technique, EVH far surpasses good ol' Jimmy James. Unless he played sloppy on purpose, that is, which is probably what Klosterman would argue...
  • Klosterman describes in great detail how annoyed he gets at journalists who mislabel Motley Crue as "rock'n'roll" when it's clearly heavy metal, and he doesn't understand how a journalist can be so ignorant of the topic that he or she would mislabel a band in such a way. This doesn't stop Klosterman from labelling Helloween as a glam metal band (Helloween initiated the subcategory of "power metal" back in 1988 due to the extremely fast yet melodic sound), and he also refers to Megadeth and Slayer as "speed metal". Whatever, Chuck - Megadeth and Slayer are two of the big four of thrash metal, which is a different category altogether. The other two being Anthrax and Metallica......
  • Chucky boy points to Iron Maiden guitarists Adrian Smith and Dave Murray as prime examples of classically trained guitar players who infused classical music into heavy metal, the influence of which can be found in songs such as "The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" and "Run To The Hills". Two things Archie; One: both of these guitarists are self-taught. Moreover, they are prime examples - especially Murray - of players who have mode-shifted stock blues licks and made that their signature. Two: None of the songs you mention are penned by either Smith or Murray. They are written by bass player Steve Harris, who by the way is also self-taught.
  • According to the author, Iron Maiden songs are so complex that nobody can sing along to them, with the possible exception of "Can I Play With Madness". Guess he's never been to or seen an Iron Maiden concert, then. Nor can he have listened to many of their songs.
  • A lot of the criticism directed towards shred guitarists in general and Yngwie in particular is difficult to answer for me without coming off as being overly subjective, but let me just comment on this: Klosterman accuses Yngwie of using the technique acquired from his classical training to mask his inability to either play or compose, and his music is not recognizeable as heavy metal. Again, Klosterman has done no attempts to research, as Yngwie is another example of a self-taught guitarist, whose music is referred to as "neoclassical heavy metal", and while it's possible to launch arguments to the effect or berating his songwriting, stating that what he does cannot be recognized as heavy metal is an argument I've never heard before. And trust me; I've stood up for YJM on many an occasion...
  • Klosterman makes the blanket statement that people who listen to opera, or even worse - go to see operas - are doing so for the sole reason of appearing high-brow, as nobody actually likes the music. Classic "I Am The World" delusions from a Carrot-top looking douchebag.

The most disturbing part of the book deals with how Klosterman describes how he during his tenure as a music columnist for his college newspaper felt that he had to appear drunk in public in order to live up to the persona to which the fans had been accustomed. Dude; you're at best a guy who writes about what other people do - you don't in any way, shape or form participate in the stories you report. Which I guess is the definition of something which in its plural form rhymes with Unix.......

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Spider-Man 3

Pigeon didn't like this one, but he's french, and the staggering number of villains (3) apparently overwhelmed him. Oh well.

I really thought this movie was on par with the other two, and it was really well-made. Also, it was awesome to see a version of Spider-Man with a pair, which he apparently achieved through the "symbiotic suit". For a little while there - excluding the dancing and frolicking in the streets Broadway Style - he was Da Man. Sadly, when he got rid of the symbiote, his newfound testicular fortitude followed suit (pun intended).

Actually - I think I liked this better than the second installment of Spidey.

The Grudge

...saw about 30 minutes of this 2004 movie on TV yesterday. Sarah Michelle Gellar does not necessarily ensure quality, and neither do any of the other actors, like Bill Pullman. 30 minutes was plenty.

This is supposed to be a scary movie, and in this respect it fails miserably. That freakin' kid with the cat-like meaow-noise that appears every now and then is more annoying than scary, and if you consider the long stretches of "dialogue" that precedes each new "scary" incident, this is snoozapalooza. Not to mention the sheer level of low-budget crappiness that seeps through every scene. If this movie scares you, then you should know that combining LSD and speed is really bad for you. Like 'Cube says, "Check yo'self before you wreck yo'self."

If I had more than two hands, I would add to the "Two thumbs down" I can give the movie at present.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Have mercy!

In shock and disbelief I read this article in Dagbladet about the awful "pop" band Auqa has been reuntied. How what horror. Can we deal with another "Barbie Girl" without severly mental problem in the population?

There can be only one !!!

Because all the other movies and the TV series massively suck, there can be only one.
The ultimate director's cut extended version including deleted nude scenes of the prequel of the sequel of the first version is out next week !!!

Christophe Lambert est le meilleur !!!

Science at its best when at its worst

Brought to you by way of my friend Eric from NC, here's a wonderful story from the NY Times. I also gaffled the title of this post from him. Hey - I might not be original with this post, but at least I give credit where credit is due.

Essentially, the story is about a retired chemistry professor, Homer Jacobson, who discovered that a paper he published in 1955 has ben much cited by creationists to discredit Darwinism. D'OH!! The paper, " Information, Reproduction and the Origin of Life" was published in American Scientist, and deals with speculations on the chemical qualities of earth in Hadean time, billions of years ago when the planet was beginning to cool down to the point where, as Dr. Jacobson put it, “one could imagine a few hardy compounds could survive.” Apparently, nobody cared about the paper then, but when Prof. Jacobson Googled his own name, he discovered to his great dismay that in addition to links to his work on polymers and information theory, there were many entries for and links to creationist sites that have taken up his 1955 paper as scientific support for their views., for example, says Dr. Jacobson’s paper “undermines the scenario that life could have come about by accident.” Another creationist site,, says his findings mean that “within a few minutes, all the various parts of the living organism had to make themselves out of sloshing water,” an impossible feat without a supernatural hand.

“Ouch,” Dr. Jacobson said. “It was hideous.”

So as he re-read his paper, he found some errors (after all, it was 1955, and it would have been downright miraculous if a state-of-the-art hypothesis presented then wouldn't have been at least upgraded more than 50 years later), following which the good Professor went right ahead and retracted it. In response to the context in which his work has been cited, Dr. Jacobson writes in his retraction letter “I am deeply embarrassed to have been the originator of such misstatements.”

That is old-school.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Found this piece in Dagbladet, on biological differences between heterosexual and homosexual individuals. Even though some of the studies were conducted by researchers from Berkeley, there's no way I'll label this post under "science".

The main findings were that statistically, gay men and lesbian women are more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous. Also, for heterosexual men, the ring finger is supposedly longer than the index finger, whereas the opposite has a higher statistical occurence for gay men. Also, in 80% of the cases, people were able to identify gay people by their voice, because, well, "they sounded gay". I wonder who the PI for these studies were - Al Bundy and the current Grand Dragon of KKK?

One thing is certain - these scientists, and I'm using the word in it's broadest possible context, better not make fun of anything related to phrenology. The craniometry and physiognomical studies appear quite sophisticated compared to the "Moron + Questionnaire + Excel + Barely passing grade in elementary statistics course" combo presented here.

Mythbusters is an established and widely popular television program on the Discovery channel. These people are like the Mythbuster-busters. Guess what you'd call someone trying to debunk their work..........

It all lies in the assumptions, doesn't it. If you can just remove layer after layer of complexity, then everything is solveable. Like here, they've clearly taken a firm stand in the genetics versus environment debate. One kind of has to admire the testicular fortitude of these people.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Just gotta post this...

There's one born every minute

To quote the good man P.T. Barnum on the topics of suckers.

Today, Pigeon told me about a 90% off sale at the university bookstore. He was going to check it out, and I figured I'd tag along, browse for a sec, and then mosey on back to the office since there probably wasn't anything interesting left at this point. Yeah; right. Like I'm physically capable of making a walk-through in a bookstore without a heap of literature. They sure saw me coming from a mile away. As a matter of fact, I suspect that even if I sprinted through a bookstore, I'd still have a book in my hands when I emerged at the other entrance.*

*Adapted from Norwegian stand-up comedian Dagfinn Lyngbø, ca. 2000.

What I got was the following:
  • The Inside Story - DNA to RNA to protein: readings from Trends in Biochemical Sciences (Edited by Jan Witkowski). Lots of autobiographical articles by the scientists that changed the field. I'll read this and get inspired.
  • The Art of Adaptation: Turning Fact and Fiction into Film (by Linda Seger). 'Cause you never know.....
  • Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota (by Chuck Klosterman). I've read one of his other books - Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs - and it failed massively in impressing me. Way too whiney and self-important. Still; at a price of 20 NOK, a book related to heavy metal is probably worth it. I think. We'll see...
  • A Writer's Reference - Fifth Edition (by Diana Hacker). I've been on the brink of buying this before, so when the opportunity arose.....
  • Scientific Integrity - Text and Cases in Responsible Conduct of Research (by Francis L. Macrina). Looked very, very interesting. If this is cool, I might even turn it into a combination course for PhD students on the interrelated subjects of scientific conduct + scientific writing. I'll find a real classy name too, like "How ta insert buzzwords and appear edumacated while kickin' it old-school without screwing $hit up". It's still a working title.
  • Biomaterials, artificial organs and tissue engineering (Edited by Larry L. Hench and Julian R. Jones). 'Cause it's a relevant topic for me...
  • Introduction To The Principles Of Drug Design And Action, Fourth Edition (Edited by H. John Smith). Another relevant book. No prizes for figuring out some of my professional areas of interest.
  • Exploratory Data Analysis With MATLAB (by Wendy L- Martinez and Angel R. Martinez). I've been looking for a reference book like this at a reasonable price, and this is it. A real page-turner, no doubt.

Telethon rant

Yesterday, the annual rotating charity telethon took place, with donations reaching an all-time high of 210 MNOK. This year, UNICEF and HIV-infected children got the donations, which is cool indeed.

What's not so cool, however, is the degree of PC-thuggery going into the "knockin' on your door and demanding cash" part of the telethon. Maybe it's just here in Trondheim, but it's very difficult to experience any joy of giving whatsoever when what meets you when you open the door is some impatient individual who not only expects you to give a donation, but also has definite expectations as to the minimum "acceptable" amount. It sure doesn't feel like giving to charity when you're met with that attitude. Rather, it feels like a personally collected tax. Especially when the people showing up act like they're collecting a debt way after the deadline. When you roll up to someone's door and ask for money, at least have the decency to know your role.

This year we missed the PC thugs because - ironically - we were out withdrawing cash to have on hand when they showed up, since we forgot to do that on Saturday. Weird - giving money to this telethon is so worked into the Norwegian behavioral pattern that I actually felt the need to explain our absence. Anyways - we probably just missed them, but when we came back, there was a curt and snide note on our door basically stating that since we had been absent when they came to collect, we should phone a provided phone number, thereby donating 175 NOK. Not even the slightest hint of "Please donate" or "We really appreciate your donation". Just - since you weren't here, call this number and donate 175 NOK. So apparently is donating mandatory, but you don't get a choice in determining the amount.

I do not react well to being bullied - or rather, when attempts are made to bully me. This is simply holier-than-thou, PC thuggery by people who probably don't contribute much to society on a regular basis, being that they feel the need to elevate themselves to the guardians of humanity.

I sincerely hope this is just a local phenomenon rather than an indication of how this is being conducted nationally.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


.....spy thriller from 2007 describing the events leading up to the arrest of real-life spy and FBI agent Robert Hanssen in 2001.

Cool flick with some good performances, and it shines where similar movies like "Zodiac" fail miserably - it tells the story and upholds suspense in an hour and a half, rather than add 75% filler to make the movie clock in at two hours and 45 minutes.

If you're stuck with the decision of either renting this one or Zodiac, rent "Breach". Even if you don't like it, you've shaved an hour of misery compared to the alternative...

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Moron Paradox

Ever notice how it's possible to start out with the best of intentions or to project a view that agrees with your own weltanschauung and then balls it up because the presentation or the underlying reasoning is whack? The end result: the message gets lost and you might even end up strongly disliking the messenger. There are people out there with the ability to talk about issues you care deeply about, and even conveying a corelated view, but all you can think of is how you'd rather see that person on the back of a milk carton than talking to you. It's possible to be that much of a moron.

How did I start thinking about this? I saw a douchebag with a T-shirt displaying two images, and a short description above each image. The description above the two images was "Good Bush" and "Bad Bush", respectively.

The image below the "Bad Bush" text was a picture of President George W. Bush. The image below the "Good Bush" text was not. Neither was it an illustration of garden variety shrubbery.

Way too few people spontaneously combust due to activation by pressure differences between the in- and outside of their skulls.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Brand building Swedish style...

So I took this snap shot on my way home the other day:

Am I the only one that sees the irony in this?

Credit where credit is due

Today, the reigning government announced that they're gonna deep-six three ministers from their line-up-o'-losers. The Prime Minister might have phrased it differently - like the ministers "decided to resign" - but it's zero doubt that at least two of these ministers have gotten a lot of flack both from the general population and from their own party. In particular, the Minister of Knowledge - Øystein Djupedal - would have to be considered a weak link in any political line-up I can think of. I'd like to challenge anyone to pinpoint one competent thing Djupedal has done during his reign of incompetence.

This wasn't the part where I give credit to the government, though. In case y'all wondered.

The good thing they did - and which is worthy of some praise - was to split the position of "Minister of Knowledge" into two positions: One dealing with education from kindergarten up to and including high school, and one dealing exclusively dealing with higher education and research. I think this is a great idea, and I applaud the government for recognizing the fact that there is a vast gap between high school and colleges/universities.

Of course, there's been an outcry against this from the get-go - I imagine that the time lag was exactly as long as it took certain parties to break out their cell phone after hearing the announcement. Surprisingly, Per Kristian Foss from the Conservatives (Høyre) is one of them. And also, I'm sure that the joy I'm gettin' from this separation of levels will soon be overshadowed by frustration, but for now: Kudos.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Corollary to Al Gore and Environmental stupidity

In an attempt to bring the tangents and comments from the Environmental stupidity post into an independent thread, here cometh the corollary.

The point of contention between Anders and myself appears to be how much previous actions contrary to present behavior should be weighted, and also whether or not the reason for the change in behavior or philosophy is important. In geek terms, whether or not this is a state function.

Going even further off tangent, but on the topic of Al Gore, there has been much buzz now over the possibility that Gore might use his newly found momentum to launch himself as a Presidential candicate for the Democratic Party in next year's elections. This was one of the first things the Norwegian Broadcasting Company (NRK) asked him when they got an interview. In a roundabout and obfuscating way, Gore declined that he was going to run, while still leaving a cloud of confusion - the man is a politician after all, and I imagine that for him, even going to a drive-through and having to answer "Would you like fries with that" is a 45-minute ordeal. Politicians are infamous for their inability to say the words "Yes" or "No" and stop at that, i.e. not adding 25 seconds of sound-byte adapted drivel and buzzwords.

But I digress - back to Al Gore and whether or not he'll try to run for President in a Nobel Peace Prize-fuelled, Phoenix-like ascent from being a third-tier Democrat. Of course he's not. Even to me it's obvious that he'd never be dumb enough to try that, and I'm a Norwegian academic in the "natural sciences". Hell; watching two episodes of "The West Wing" (or one - depending on the episode) plus channel-surfing past CNN every now and then would provide you with more than enough background to see that one coming from light years away. Common sense would get you even further. When Al Gore actually channeled his Vice Presidency into running for office in 2000 - which is just about the most momentum you can have, he was owned more times than a 1986 Honda Civic. Not only was he cursed with being a less-than-charismatic sidekick to a very charismatic President (which Clinton admittedly was), but the only thing he really had going for him was the fact that he had not been impeached for lying to the American public about extramarital affairs. Unfortunately for him, he was not the only guy in the electoral race who hadn't been impeached, so he lost. Bob Dole is just about the only Vice President I can think of with less charisma.

But let's say that Al Gore throws caution to the wind and decides to have another go, and uses the Nobel Peace Prize to launch and propel his candidacy. Would this award help or hurt his chances of becoming the most powerful leader in the free world?

If you think "Yeah; that Gore guy might have been owned worse than President George W. Bush at a spelling bee the last time he ran, but since he got the Peace prize, he might have a chance", then you seriously need to put down the pipe. Crack Kills. Hopefully, your friends will stage an intervention and get you on rehab now and meth later. That's Methadone and not Crystal Meth, ya speed-freak tweaker.

Does receiving the Nobel Peace prize help with getting more jobs for Americans, fixing public schools, social security or the economy, not to mention the all-important strong military presence to protect the US of A from terrorists and having other nations "pimp-strollin' in and taking our $hit". Mother Teresa was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and I doubt you'd be able to find a more worthy laureate this side of Gandhi. She was a wonderful person, no doubt, but would you trust her to keep your country safe in wartime? To keep the troops in iraq out of harms way as much as possible? To uphold a firm American presence in the face of hostile nations?

Didn't think so. Three words you'd never hear the end of for the fifteen minutes Gore's candidacy would last: "bleeding heart liberal".

Dealing some more with telemarketers

Monday, October 15, 2007

Dealing with telemarketers

We got Scooped... so much ice cream. And it sucketh something fierce.

I wish I could say it's the first time it's happened, but no. Still annoying as hell, because it means a lot of time and effort has been put forth for naught. Friday I found out that a major manuscript got accepted, and today I find that a recently submitted manuscript for all intents and purposes got published in the latest issue of the very same journal we submitted our work to. Ironic. And some day, I'm sure I'll find it amusing, but not today. Tomorrow's not looking good either.

What happened, one might ask. From looking at the "received" and "accepted" dates of the "other" manuscript, I'd say it's a simple, open-and-shut case of us not firing on all cylinders. We spent way too damn long before actually submitting the manuscript, seeing as how the dataset was complete, worked up AND written up way before their work was submitted. Not to mention that we presented the work at a conference like a year prior to submitting the research article. Our bad entirely.

While we haven't gotten teh axe from the journal yet, the odds of getting it through in its present form are less than promising. We have done some additional stuff and math'ed it up a li'l bit, but they have used an additional characterization technique, etc.

Same system. Same primary characterization technique. Same freakin' journal. What are the odds.......

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The simple joys of getting your stuff published

I just got an article accepted into one of the major/primary journals of my field, and I'm really excited about it. Writing articles happens to be one of the things I enjoy the most about my profession, and the unbridled joy of having gotten one of my manuscripts past the gatekeepers of science, aka the reviewers, is something I hope I never grow too blasé or whatever to cherish. Consequently, I always get excited when my work gets accepted, but getting this article through the system was especially satisfying. This ain't the most prestigious journal I've gotten things accepted into, and it's not the most extensive dataset, but this article is special.

It doesn't matter what the topic of the article is, or which journal was gained access to. What matters is that it's by far the article I've put the most time into. I started data collection for this one back in December 2005, and the final data points were collected early last month for the revised version by my excellent collaborator and friend Ø to da H. The first written version emerged late 2006, and we submitted the first "final" version to the journal in June 2007. We got the "revision" letter in August 2007, submitted the revised manuscript after lots of work and cursing on September 21st, and got the "accepted" verdict on October 12th. Almost two years in the making. You bet I'm excited!

Environmental stupidity

Every now and again, one loses faith in humanity. THE single, hottest issue lately has been the battle against global warming, which even culminated in Al Gore getting the Nobel Peace Prize. Even overlooking how ridiculous it is that a former vice president of the single most polluting country in the world gets the peace prize for making a movie about how global warming sucks and might be connected to pollution, it sort of confirms the immediacy and importance of the subject. Of course, the fact that Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize on this basis further underscores how this prize is losing credibility. Not that long ago (1994), the peace prize was given to Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, which can only be rationalized in the context that if you regularly kill thousands of people, you could be rewarded with the peace prize if you stop doing that and start preaching peace. Following the same logic, a couple of people from about sixty years ago would've been obvious candidates for the same prize. In the case of Al Gore, he was co-responsible for wreaking havoc on the environment for a number of years, and now he gets the peace prize for being an environmentalist. Fantastic reasoning.

One of the hottest issues in the local elections here in Trondheim was whether or not the city should institute a so-called rush hour fee, in which you'd have to pay through the nose if you drove your car to or from work during rush hour. Pay to teh tune of 80 NOK per day, no less. The reasoning was of course to reduce the number of cars commuting to and from the central areas of Trondheim. Never mind that it was massively flawed due to the politicians modelling this approach on the so-called Stockholm model and that they wanted to introduce this fee before they improved public transportation - it made sense from an environmental point of view. Fast forward to today, and the brilliant suggestion from Trondheim's biggest provider of public transportation - Team Trafikk - introduction of a rush hour fee on bus tickets. Exactly how moronic is it possible to be? Luckily, there's been a barrage of protests against what could possibly be the stupidest suggestion of the year.....

Friday, October 12, 2007

Travelling FROM Belgium

Yesterday, 'twas time to go home, having deep-6'ed our Brussels trip.

Joe Le Taxi - or rather, his local Flemish English-speaking and curteous equivalent - rolled up just past 6 AM. The train left Brugge station at 6:35 AM - precisely on schedule, and we arrived at Brussels South approximately one hour later. So far so good, but here is where $hit started to hit - or 'it, considering what they speaketh in Bruxelles - teh fan. We located the platform, and awaited the 07:57 AM train to Brussels airport. Less than five minutes before our train was supposed to depart, we heard some L'Oreal talk over the speaker, and recognized enough to figure out that it concerned our train. So; we vamoosed down and figured out that the baguette-eating bastards had done a last-minute (less than five minutes) platform change. Which led to a lot of running. As we got off the escalator and onto the platform, the doors were closing. My wife got in just before me, and as I started to enter, the doors were closing, and really made an effort in doing so. After wrestling myself and a suitcase aboard the train, the conductor rolled in and gave me a talking to - I could've been trapped between the door and the platform as the train pulled out. Right - the pneumatic motors driving the train doors would've overpowered me.

After having arrived at Brussels airport, we were faced with our plane being delayed with about an hour and a half. Bummer. The hour and a half turned into well over two hours. "We regret to inform you that the flight to Oslo has been delayed due to the incoming aircraft being late." Male Bovine Feces - the incoming aircraft was late because it was delayed in taking off, not of some force majeure, ya back-peddling douchebags.

We flew with SAS, a company whose new slogan is "We reintroduce service". So far, the only changes in policy I've been able to observe is that they occasionally serve coffee or tea on a fraction of their flights. Not on the Brussels-Oslo flight, though - instead, they took great pains in communicating that "On this flight, passengers travelling on first class will be served their choice of drinks and a hot meal with wine, followed by cafe avec. Our Economy Plus passengers will enjoy a drink and a sandwich. Passengers travelling Economy will have the opportunity to buy food, drinks or goods from a selection." They might as well have said "First class passengers will now be fed peeled grapes whilst sipping on a red wine served by Rockefeller himself. Our middleclass passengers will get the crumbs from the table of teh wealthy. The rest of y'all can go f*ck yourself". It's quite amazing how they take great pains to communicate a sense that "If you would just apply yourself more, maybe you'd be able to fly first class too". Honestly, it makes sense that if you pay three to four times more for the same flight, you get some privileges, but I fail to see the importance of announcing this fact to the passengers crammed into seats last inhabited by Frodo, Sam and their hobbit relatives.

As we arrived in Oslo, we actually got our bags, which was positively surprising. Not surprising or positive was however the fact that our flight was delayed. After having waded through the baggage claims, the booking counter and the security station, we sat and waited at the gate - again. We had gotten information about the delay while checking in, but no morsel of this fact had reached the passengers waiting at the gate. At 15:30, there still was no information, and the plane was nowhere to be seen - which by the way shoud've tipped off some of the more astute travellers in line. Right after the plane was supposed to have taken off, a 25 minute delay was announced - again due to "the incoming plane being late". 50 minutes after this announcement, we started boarding, after an additional 35 minutes, the plane took off. 25 minute delay due to the incoming aircraft being late - don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining. It ended up being a 80 minute delay, camouflaged in small increments so as to appear less offensive. I really wish the douchebags at SAS would've spent more resources being on time and less resources obfuscating and renaming f*ck-ups.

When we finally came home, it had taken 13 hours, and it had snowed in Trondheim. It was kind of strange to consider that we had eaten in the outside section of our restaurant the night before. It's cold in Norway, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Big Hit

....excellent movie from 1998. We watched it again this past weekend on occasion of Anders visiting, and I had forgotten how truly great and awe-inspiring it is. It's about a hitman - Melvin Smiley, played by Mark Wahlberg who works for a crime organization run by Paris (Avery Brooks). Melvin is in money trouble, as he is trying to live up to all expectations, and takes on a kidnapping job on the DL with some of his fellow hitmen. The kidnapping goes seriously south when the moonlighting job turns out to be a kidnapping of Paris' Japanese god-daughter, and the leader of the DL gang - Cisco (brillantly portrayed by Loe Diamond Phillips) is called into Paris' office and ordered to find and eliminate whomever would be stupid enough to kidnap the god-daughter of the head of the largest crime syndicate on the West Coast. Cisco, not being willing to "bus' some caps" into his own ass, frames Melvin Smiley, and the hunt is on.

The movie is directed by John Woo, and has most of the characteristics of a Hong Kong era John Woo production. The character Melvin Smiley - nice, kinda slow but able to kick ass - is a role that could've been played by Jackie Chan if "Police Story", any of the "Little Star" movies or "Dragons Forever" had been directed by John Woo.

Other memorable characters include Crunch (Bokeem Woodbine) who insists on making the other crew-members see the error of their ways: "Y'all need to make the SWITCH...for STRAIGHT JACKET", Vince the cross-dressing hitman (Antonio Sabato Jr), a snotty video store kid and Gump (Robin Dunne), who always f*cks up his gangsta rap and forgets key words or phrases, like in this little piece of dialogue:

Cisco: I don't want no f*ck-ups on this kidnapping, boy.
Gump: Oh, come on, yo. I ain't like that no more, kid. You know I gots my shits - ugh - ugh...
Cisco: Together! "Ya got your shit together," ya non-word-rememberin' motherf*cker!

The Big Hit is also a rare opportunity to see Lou Diamond Phillips in another setting than what he's usually typecast as - Chief Running Wolf, the reservation police or Native American number four from the left. Check out TBH if ya like Mark Wahlberg, John Woo or if you'd like to see some awe-inspiring technology like the Tracebuster, the Tracebuster-buster, or the Tracebuster-buster-buster.

Travelling to Belgium part 4

Day 3

At this point, I've pretty much seen most of Brugge twice, so I don't feel like I've missed out on that much when we head home tomorrow, at an ungodly hour. We're gonna catch a train at 06:35, so we're getting our breakfast at Brussels airport.

We've tried the Belgian waffles soaked in Belgian chocolate, and we've grown somewhat tired of chips/french fries being the only version of potatoes available. Twice now I've ordered baked potatoes, and ended up with what looked suspiciously like french fries only in a slightly different shape and with a sprinkle of parsley on top. They know how to make a proper steak here, though.

I've also located a person in Brugge who didn't manage to communicate in English - a sales clerk in his late teens/early 20's at Free Record Shop. I totally found a DVD of Wrestlemania III (1987, Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant as the main card) in - check this out - their WWE section. Yeah yeah yeah - wrestling is lowbrow, fake and scripted etc.......if you plan on giving me beef for occasionally enjoying classic wrestling, just make good and damned sure that you're not a fan of something I can tear apart and totally own you over, like soccer, porned-up soaps like Sex & The City or pretty much anything involving musicians whose technical abilities are less than stellar.

I've sort of given up my lofty plans for possibly buying a sports jacket or a suit while in Brugge. The latter was deemed hopeless after I figured out that we don't have time for getting one modified, and the latter was abandoned after finding out that invariably, the cool ones were not available in my size.

Hekta (Hooked)

Just finished the biography about Ronni Le Tekrø that just came out - Hekta (Hooked) by Stein Østbø. For those of you that don't know Tekrø (or Rolf Ågrim Tekrø, as his real name is), he is the guitar player of TNT, Norway's most internationally famous hard rock/metal band, with hits like 10 000 Lovers (In One), Intuition, End Of The Line and Downhill Racer. Dude's also been involved with more standard rock acts like Vagabond and Bad Habitz - the latter being a tribute to Thin Lizzy, and some jazz/fusion in collaboration with Terje Rypdal. Tekrø is also famous for being a shred monster, primarily because of his "machine gun" technique, as can be seen demonstrated here on YouTube by a fan. While I don't necessarily agree that Ronni is the best or fastest guitar player to ever come out of Norway (Tore Østby of Conception and later ARK or Jørn-Viggo Lofstad of Pagan's Mind should have massive beef with such a statement), he is certainly a great player, and definitely the most famous. These days, he's also the host/teacher for a reality show based on the movie "School Of Rock" starring Jack Black, where he tries to convert a bunch of overprivileged, snotty kids who are trained in classical music into a functioning rock band. If you've seen any episodes of this, you know exactly how arrogant and snotty these kids are.......

The book is quite cool, and paints a picture of Ronni from the time he was a kid and until TNT parted ways with Tony Harnell and actually brought in a new singer. Mind you; this doesn't mean that they won't pull an Iron Maiden or a Black Sabbath down the road, but I must say that the problems between Harnell and the rest of the band look pretty daunting from what's written in the book. Ronni is also a very interesting person with some left-field views, so Hekta is very entertaining. Plus - I like TNT, so I was not difficult to convince. However, the book suffers from some shortcomings, some of which have been summarized below (just to do this peer-review style):
  • Seeing as how it's highly unlikely that there will ever be a Ronni Tekrø biography again (unless he pulls off an autobiography) - isn't this premature? TNT is still rockin' and rollin', his other projects are putting asses in the seats, his studio just recently started making money, and now he's a TV host in addition to other stuff. It's not like the dude is going to put down the guitar and fade from the spotlight any time soon..
  • One thing that's totally noteworthy is the level of kompissuging (buddy blowjobs - not really a good translation, but you get da gist of it) that goes on. Nothing even remotely critical about Ronni at all, despite him having condoned Hell's Angels both directly - and through drummer Diesel Dahl - indirectly. For example. Too much fanboi brown-nosing.
  • Many, many hints at stories which would've been interesting, only to be cut short. Quotes like "If you ever run into Bernie Marsden, ask him about that time with Clapton, Paul McCartney and the four inflatable donkeys, Ronni says, grinning" Stupid quotes and hints that never materialize. Note - the above example is not from the book, but it's eerily similar to many of them.
  • Typos. You'd be hard pressed to find two consecutive pages without tons of typos...... That's amateur hour.

All in all it's a cool book, though. Awesome to have on flights.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Someone's got beef with Petrucci in Guitar wizard and boring guy extraordinaire from Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment. Check it out, yo.

This is of course maximum funny if you know about Petrucci and has his "Rock Discipline" DVD, but I think Anders can appreciate this anyways, as can anyone who's ever watched an instructional guitar video..........Plus; teh Eiffel Tower goes up in flames

Travelling to Belgium part 3

Day 1-2

I've now walked a lot in Brugge (why do the french-speaking population insist on calling it Brüges? That is pronounced exactly like Douche, so I can understand why the people who actually live there prefer the more Germanic "Bruche"), and I've taken a ton of photos, some of which will probably turn out to be cool when I take a second, more critical look later. Being here is very relaxing, and sitting outside in a snack bar/cafe/brasserie close to the Markt and cathedral is an almost meditative experience. Our hotel rules, the food is good, etc. I even tried Belgian beer - proper beer, not what I usually drink - and came right back to the conclusion that I really don't like beer. I like Corona, Bud Light and Miller. Of proper beers, the Weissbiers I've tasted in Austria are closest to my actual liking, plus maybe Hansa.

It's unbelievable how many chocolate shops it's possible to cram into one city, by the way. Also, there are way too many tourist shops for tourism not to be one of the revenue sources for Brugge - no diggity. It's totally awesome to walk down the narrow streets and look at the (very green) canals, and sit in the shade of a chestnut tree, of which there is an abundance. Later this afternoon, there will be some shopping.

There is a strange duality in Belgium. Here in Brugge, I've got no problems making myself understood - and understanding the answers I get - in English. Even at the local grocery store, English works fine. People here can communicate in English. However, in Brussels, which is the capitol of the European Union, it's a different situation altogether. Which is pretty much the reverse of what I expected, until I realized that Brussels is in the french-speaking part of Belgium. How come I can ask almost any person in Brugge (100% so far) and have English work, but when I call a hotel in Brussels, it's Inspector Closeau time? And it's not Jean-Claude's Rent-By-The Hour Can-Can Hotel either, it's the five-star Le Meridien, for crying out loud.

I've called them twice - one time to cancel our reservation, and one more time to confirm the cancellation, because of a technical snafu. Both times, I've started out talking to some receptionist, who immediately transferred me as soon as he or she heard that I spoke English. Then I first heard some "Le Voulez-vous, parce que je le vaux bien", followed by a snoring sound or someone clearing their throat, which I assume is Flemish, and then "If you want to 'peak to an Anglais-'peaking 'ersun, press 3". And from there, it's downhill. "You want to cancel reservation from 'otel? Can I 'ave numbér, please? You 'ave resérved 'otel room yes?" English, motherf*cker - Do you speak it? If anything, this has strongly reinforced the view that cutting out the Brussels stay was a very wise decision, seeing as how I don't speak french. I know that Pigeon dreams of dumping me on teh french countryside, and if anything, I am absolutely sure that I'll never, ever, ever, go to france on vacation or otherwise, unless I've got someone who can translate for me - preferably someone who doesn't want to dump me in the sticks. I absolutely do not care if it looks like Paradise with a face-lift - if I can't even get something to eat due to communication problems, my ass is SO not going there.

Why is it so difficult to understand that in a day and age where globalization is a key phrase, we need to have one standard language that everybody learns well enough to use if there is an outside chance they'll have to communicate with international customers through their job? Otherwise, someone planning to do international business would have to learn one language for each country he or she visited, which is less than practical. Back in da day when the four major European languages were English, Spanish , french and German, a decision was made that English should be the international language. Was that necessarily the best choice? Hell if I know, and Hell if I care. The point is that today, the international common language is English, and especially in the capitol of the European Union, every motherf*cker who might come in contact with people through his or her job should be able to speak it.

If I travel to some Vietnamese village, I don't expect them to speak English. I didn't even necesarily expect every shop keeper in Wien to be able to speak English, so I used what little I remembered of my legendary high school German, and it worked fine. However, in Brussels there is no freakin' excuse.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Travelling to Belgium part 2

....finally our suitcase arrived.

Moreover, we cancelled our "vacation" from Thursday to Sunday in Brussels, and re-booked our flight to Thursday. Fan-f*ckin'-tastic. Can't wait.

I must say, though, that after having spent a day in Brugge, it's a really nice city. No Wien wow-factor, but awesome nonetheless. Also, people are very friendly and helpful, plus they can speaka da English. Lots of pictures to be taken, and after checking out some of the shops - potentially a sports jacket or suit to be bought

Travelling to Belgium part 1

Or should I say Day 0-1. We left yesterday (Sunday) for Brugge (not Bruge) via Copenhagen and Brussels. The plane was supposed to leave 5:20 PM from Trondheim, and our connecting flight was supposed to take off at 8 PM from Copenhagen. Things started to fall apart even before we got to board the Widerøe flight to Denmark, as we were 25 minutes delayed right off the bat. Plus, the - what's the politically correct term these days - air mattresses kept stalling it for at least another ten minutes once we were aboard the plane, on account of them trying to tally the passengers and check whether one stand-by ticket could materialize into a seat. Air-headed, seven layers of laquer and lipstick-wearing, cheap Tax-Free Kahlua-drinking, glorified waitresses. We asked if the head air mattress (feel free to insert your own pun here) could check our connecting flight to see if we had any chance at all of making it - if they could hold the plane for ten minutes or whatever. But nooo.......such information was beyond her powers. When we landed at Castrup - 25 minutes before our next flight was scheduled to leave - we were loaded onto a bus, which basically meant that we had to wait for all the passengers to disembark before we had any chance of moving towards the gate. People sure take their sweet time getting off, I'll tell you that. Moreover, in their infinite wisdom, they elected to disembark only through the front entrance, whereas they loaded us on using both the front and rear doors. We were LATE.

After we finally got into the building, we had to run all the way across Castrup to our terminal (just a short walk, the air mattress assured us.........more than 15 minutes of brisk walking/running is more like it). But we caught a break, as the flight to Brussels was 15 minutes delayed. Yay.

Once we landed in Brussels, just before 10 PM, we strolled for what seemed like an eternity to the baggage claim. Nice airport, but it must've been designed by the same masterminds that begat Gardermoen, since we had to walk for WAAY longer than we do at Dulles, Detroit or even O'Hare, all of which are much bigger airports. As the conveyor belt unloaded its cargo and people left with their shit and got on their merry way, it dawned on us that SAS/Widerøe had screwed us like common air mattresses and lost our bag. At this point, I had very little patience left, as we still had to take two trains to get to our destination. Fuming, we waited in line at the baggage claims, where some puny, local waffle-eating douche bag was taking his sweet time processing the four or so people in line before us. There was even a freakin' low-life Volvo-driving, meat-ball eating, bolibompa-watching, bottom-rung-on-the-corporate-ladder-inhabiting Swede who cut in line two places in front of us, because he was late for a taxi his loser buddies had ordered. The lady in front of us was nice and English-speaking, though. She had lost some bags AND gotten one hard-shell Samsonite suitcase broken in the transport process. Anyone who owns one of these can attest to the fact that they're pretty much unbreakable, but somehow, the bag handlers had managed to demolish this 28 kg unit on the way from Tel Aviv to Brussels. And people wonder why I never want to send my guitars as "special luggage". Yeah; right.

The nice lady in front of us commented, as the local teenage mutant waffle freakshow was wielding the magic of modern technology and bar code tracking, how impressive it was that they could tell exactly where the baggage was. I massively disagree. I can pinpoint to within 35 square meters of interest where the lost bags are - they're not fuc*in' here, and that's all that matters. I absolutely don't care if the jerkwad behind the counter can tell me that "Yeah; this is your problem right here - the bags were loaded onto the flight to Anchorage instead of to Brussels, so right now they're en route to terminal 3 in Alaska". It'd be infinitely more impressive if they could've actually sent the baggage where it was supposed to go when it was supposed to be sent. Not f*cking up is always more impressive than some elaborate post-occurrence analysis of exactly how the f*ck they f*cked up.

Anyway; after the baggage claim meltdown, we had to find the trains - first to Brussels Noord and then to Brugge. Even more so as the clog-wearing, chocolate-eating, acne cream commercial before-picture behind the counter had warned us that since it was now almost 11 PM, we'd better hurry if we wanted to catch the last train to Brugge. As we bought tickets, the friendly, but in retrospect not so well-informed - conductor told us that we could buy tickets all the way to Brugge from him, and that we could board the Brugge-train from either Brussels Noord or Brussels Mid. We got on board, and disembarked at Brussels Noord, as was the original plan. Following some frantic searching for an open information desk at 11.25 PM or at least some billboard, we spectacularly failed in locating any Brugge-headed trains. We asked a friendly local, who took some time out of his schedule to guide us back to the bulletin board and confirm that there were no more trains to Brugge until the following morning. So that was some 26 Euro well spent. In the words of Shakespeare, we were f*cked!

As the conference started 8 AM Monday morning, spending the night in Brussels was not an alternative, so we waded through a bunch of homeless people and addicts who reside just inside the Brussels Noord train station, and found a taxi. Brussels is in the french-speaking part of Belgium, and we found a taxi driver who - while being very helpful - didn't know all that much English, and who had only been to Brugge once before. Yet he knew very well that the ride from Brussels Noord to Brugge would set us back at least 200 Euro, but we didn't have much choice, so we set off. It was now approximately 25 minutes to midnight, and we hadn't eaten since two thirty, so we were hungry, tired, and had very little patience left. With our luck, the taxi driver didn't have a GPS, and asked us if we had a map of exactly where we were going. Dude was very helpful and nice, and tried to stir up a conversation - first asking if we could speak french, and then proceeded to practice his English, which was a cool thing to do, all things considered. In our state, though, we were not very interested in conversations which went like "What you do? I drive taxi. What you do?" - and that's not dissing the guy at all - he really did his best and was a good guy. Having said that, there were several times during the 100 km or so that I doubted we'd make it to Brugge at all. It was heavy fog, yet dude was rollin' at a cruising speed of 150 km/h, zig-zagging through lines of trucks and trailers.

When we finally made it to Brugge, our driver had to stop and ask some local kids where our hotel was. Since he couldn't speak flemish, he had to get directions in English, also a second time from a policeman, but at last we arrived at Hotel Navarra. 250 Euros was what the taxi ride ended up costing. At the hotel, the very nice - and English-speaking - night clerk could inform us that it was too late to get any food from the hotel restaurant, but there were open snack bars and such closer to the market. So we unloaded our stuff, and went food-shopping at half past midnight. 200 meters or so away from the hotel, we located an all-night diner, and got some local deli from a very nice older gentleman. Then it was light out!

The original plan was to stay in Brugge until Thursday and then take the rest of the week off on vacation in Brussels, but after this there's no way we're gonna spend more time in Belgium than we absolutely have to. It's now coming up on 4:30 PM on Monday, and we still don't have our baggage. This afternoon, we're gonna see if we can book a flight back on Thursday instead of Sunday. It's gonna cost us, but it's worth it. If I ever hear about Brussels again, it'll be too soon.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Best Clapton performance ever

Best performance I've seen by Clappo. He's probably not even plugged in, which further enhances the experience. Not to mention that he doesn't "sing".

It's a beautiful thing

Eric Clapton...

Watch this clip where Eric Clapton tears it up!

Yes, Willy boy, I know you're not a fan of Clapton, but you've got to admit that this is some of his best work...

Sales language...

Car sales men do have a bad rap when it comes to sales pitches, but sometimes I'm pretty amused about the description on eBay... Like this old lady from the 'bay:

"Small scratches and abrasions thru out. Slight surface rust..."
"Slight surface rust?" Where? I can't see any? (No Wilhelm, they weren't made like this)
And the seller goes on:

"..fret board has color variation and well worn, small chips on base of the neck, no visible damage on neck."

Are you kidding me? Not only is the neck beyond repair, it's not even the original. It does not even have the right scale length; this is a 14 fret not a 12 fret neck like it should be. Imagine the intonation on this one..
I really don't know if this one is more funny or more sad...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sunshine Of Your Zodiac

Dos movies:

Zodiac (2007)
Based on the real serial killer who terrorized San Francisco in the 1960's and 70's. Great performances by Robert Downey Jr (no surprise there), Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards ("Goose" from Top Gun - remember him?). Very dark and tense mood throughout the movie. The dramatization of one Zodiac murder by stabbing is nothing short of spectacular. One thing that really detracts from my perception of the overall quality is that it drags on for way too long. Two and a half hours of semi-documentary is brutal! Also, it ends rather abruptly, so don't expect any form of closure whatsoever.

Sunshine (2007)
50 years or so into the future, the sun is dying, which by definition sort of crips on da set for life on earth as well. I guess that's one way of dealing with global warming. But have no fear; there are no problems in the known universe that can't be fixed with enormous nuclear weapons, be it potential asteroid collisions or in this case re-ignition of the sun. "Creating a star within a star", as they so aptly put it in "Sunshine". The brilliant plan is to send a manned space craft to dump a nuclear payload the size of Manhattan into the sun from only a few hundred kilometers above it's surface. In order to deflect that pesky heat and radiation emanating from the sun, the space craft is equipped with an umbrella-like shield which successfully protects the ship and its inhabitants. Astonishingly, they have also developed an EVA suit that can withstand radiation from the sun to within a few hundred kilometers away, but this suit has the distinct disadvantage that it gets very hot inside. Whether this side-effect is caused by some idiot lining the suit with wool or if it has something to do with the user being some hundred kilometers away from an active star is left to the imagination of the viewer. Apparently, the current generation of scientists is a bunch of slackers, because the new discoveries and technologies emerging within the next 50 years is nothing short of astonishing. In addition to the already mentioned reflective and heat-insensitive materials, we also manage to fabricate engines for space crafts capable of escaping the gravitational pull of our sun. We also know how to create artificial gravity without the need for rotation about an axis, and superconductors which function at slightly below room temperature. I'd better hurry up.

In a not-so-surprising twist, the Icarus we observe is the second of its kind, with the first ship having mysteriously disappeared a few years earlier. Predictably, something goes wrong with Icarus 2 just after they locate the first Icarus with the crew diseased. They even pick up an unknown passenger after they leave the hull of the first Icarus, and one by one, the crew of Icarus 2 are getting killed.

You really feel like seeing this movie now, dontcha'?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Nicholas Cage SLJ Factor

Since Teh Cage has been involved in a number of dubious projects to which I've recently been exposed, I thought I'd update his SLJ factor according to me. I've now seen a total of 20 Cage movies, chronologically listed below:
  • Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) - Trite high school comedy with a storyline largely involving scantily clad teenage girls.
  • Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) - Absolute crap movie, but Teh Cage does a fantastic job as scumbag. Awesome acting on his part.
  • Raising Arizona (1987) - I'm ambivalent about this comedy, as it has it's moments. And John Goodman.
  • Amos & Andrew (1993) - Potentially a decent comedy, if not for the fact that it's got Samuel El Jackson pulling it down with all his considerable dead weight.
  • Guarding Tess (1994) - Passable comedy.
  • It Could Happen To You (1994) - One of my favorite romantic comedies and movies ever.
  • Trapped In Paradise (1994) - Decent heist comedy flick
  • The Rock (1996) - Really like this movie, with Sean Connery as a curmudgeonly but competent sidekick (or vice versa)
  • Con Air (1997) - I know tweetybird hates this movie for reasons unknown. I likes it, and Cage pulls off that SC accent very well.
  • Face/Off (1997) - Cage. John Travolta. John Woo. Awesome. NOT a remake of a french movie either, vulture boi.
  • City Of Angels (1998) - Another one of my absolute favorite movies.
  • Snake Eyes (1998) - Cage at perhaps his cockiest since Face/Off. Really cool movie.
  • 8 MM (1999) - Hated this movie. Don't care for it at all, but that might have more to do with it being disturbing well beyond what Blue Velvet has to offer in that department.
  • Gone In Sixty Seconds (2000) - What the hell...the best thing about this movie was the car Eleanor. The unholy presence of Angelina Jolie didn't help matters either.
  • Windtalkers (2002) - Snoozefest
  • National Treasure (2004) - Disney movie. I really like this movie, to the point that we actually bought it on DVD. Don't think tweetybird liked this either....
  • World Trade Center (2006) - Definitely not a feel-good movie, but I guess that wasn't the intention either.. Well-made and all, but sort of monotonous.
  • The Wicker Man (2006) - Totally decent flick, but nothing spectacular
  • Ghost Rider (2007) - .....passable if watched from the perspective of low expectations
  • Next (2007) - Not so good...........kind of crap, actually

Still, with 20 movies watched, Teh Cage gets an SLJ of ~0.6, even taking the overall decline into consideration.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The importance of formal titles...

So, I had to show off this official letter sent to my work place:
Ok, I admit that this might not be my official work title, and that I might have entered this title somewhere myself, but I'm glad that it's finally seems to have been accepted as an official title...