Thursday, January 31, 2008

Somehow this seemed appropriate today


M cartoon

Yes, I admit it, I'm a nerd. But this cartoon strip of M was just too hilarious not to post. It's something about the facial expression of M in the last frame and the general feeling of the strip that is soooo familiar.

Oh, to get the point: M's computer is broken, so he has bought a new Mac.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

You're damned if you do.......

...and you're damned if you don't. Friday, there was a story in BBC News about some researchers from the University of Sunderland who have developed a helmet for treatment of Alzheimer's disease. You can also read about the story here, from blogs at the university in question. The big deal about this helmet is that is uses infrared radiation (by way of lasers, a point I hope you'll keep in mind until later), which according to the researchers might not only be able to stop the rate of decay, but also stimulate growth of brain cells - the operative term being "might" as it has only been tested on mice so far. Still, the results were promising enough to warrant tests on human subjects starting as early as this summer.

Saturday, the story broke in Norwegian media like VG. And that, I guess, is when the shit hit the fan. Yesterday, a Norwegian Professor in physiotherapy - Jan M. Bjordal from the University of Bergen got his $.02 worth in VG by criticizing not only the research, but also the researchers. The criticism the proclaimed "laser expert" Bjordal (who by the way has an h-index of 5 according to Web Of Science, which for a full professor is less than stellar) launches can be summarized as follows:
  1. This is not a controlled study, and coming out with these news before passing through the normal path of publication in a peer-reviewed journal is way premature.
  2. The public should not have any expectations, as more studies are needed, both with respect to efficacy and with respect to exactly how this supposed therapy works.
  3. There are several gaps in the knowledge that needs to be filled
  4. "According to our knowledge of the effect of infrared light and laser light, it is obvious that this treatment will not cure Alzheimer's"
  5. "I can't say that I know these researchers, but they're not among the most productive authors within this field"
  6. They have a commercial interest in the product, and stand to make money off of it should it be successful.


Now; without commenting on whether or not I think this therapy might work, or how it potentially works, one thing that should be frighteningly obvious from Professor Bjordal's statement is that he's full of it. Regardless of whether he's right or not, this is a brutal case of "Hey; look at me! I wanna say something in the media too - please; look at ME! Won't you please acknowledge my existence?" If I'd been on the receiving end of this criticism, my rebuttal would go a li'l something like this:


  • RE 1: They're not saying it's a finished product. They're saying that it is promising enough to warrant trials with human subjects, which quite frankly puts it head and shoulders above the median pharmaceutical product or therapy. The drop-off from lab tests to clinical trials are brutal. And regarding breaking the news before publishing it; that's actually something we're increasingly encouraged to do. Right, Kjerstin?
  • RE 2: Again, according to the researchers this is a promising study which will be going into tests with human subjects this summer. They're not exactly making any promises here. And regarding the comment about us not knowing the exact molecular mechanism here; are you really saying that we at present know the exact molecular mechanisms and pathways for all therapies and drugs currently being used? 'Cause if we do, that's news to me, and I'm sure that you could pick up a few Nobel prizes if you shared your information with the world.
  • RE 3: Of course there are several knowledge gaps that must be filled. That's why they move on to further studies, which by the way is no guarantee for this product ever being launched. They're saying that the product works well enough to have passed the initial stages, not that they're shipping the prototypes off to the production line tomorrow.
  • RE 4: So according to your vast knowledge this ain't gonna work is it, Mr. h-index = 5. Making a dumb statement like this actually moves the burden of evidence over to you, since you apparently possess knowledge which is crucial here, and can save lots of time and money. If only you'd be willing to share your immense knowledge with the scientific community and the world, you'd rake in a few Nobel prizes for your efforts, but apparently, you don't care that much about publishing. Or rather; it's not that you don't necessarily have any peer-reviewed publications (27 according to WOS), but rather that nobody bothers to cite your work. Which could mean that your work is too advanced for mere mortals to understand, and until Reptilians from Planet Niburu share their advanced technology with us, we can but marvel at the scientific genious that is you. Or it means that your work is not good enough or original enough to warrant citations.
  • RE 5: See rebuttal 4. Berating the scientific merits of your colleagues as being less than stellar would count for a hell of a lot more if you'd been spearheading your chosen field of study yourself. Epic case of pot meeting kettle, right Mr. h = 5? But I guess that as soon as you're done counting to infinity for the third time you'll get right on publishing those citation-worthy articles and win them Nobels, right?
  • RE 6: Oh no; they might stand to make profit off of a cure for Alzheimer's should they be successful. *Gasp* and they're connected to a company outside the realm of academia. Oh the horror. Where does this end; soon people will be wanting to be rewarded for patents, and it all goes to hell in a handbasket. And the worst part is that if that they make the product, there is no set of checks and balances to stop this from being implemented in hospitals as standard treatment for Alzheimer's despite it having no effect, because due to an inexplicable flaw in our system, there is no government body hindering the use of drugs and therapies......... But of course; if you'd found the cure for Aids and mastered cold fusion, you'd give away the rights to a nameless company for free. Unfortunately, you're too busy, what with your counting to infinity and beating up Mirko Cro Cop and making fun of Oppenheimer's work.

The kicker is that Bjordal went to the media to criticize the fact that some other researchers went to the media with their story. That's brutal logic right there. So what were the researchers supposed to do? It seems to me they'd be doomed either way, because a large portion of the scientific community is going to crap all over them for not venting their results through the process of peer review before making it public, whereas the proponents of popularization of science are thrilled to have new scientific results of general interest at this stage in the process (Right, Kjerstin?).

I truly hope that the latter fraction is jumping up and down in the defense of these scientists right now, because the researchers in question followed their advice (and also increasingly the guidelines from government funding agencies and universities) regarding communication of results.

And that's not counting the criticism these people get from self-proclaimed experts with dubious credentials, like the "watchdogs" in various scepticist organizations. Check out this nugget of a comment I found via skepsis.no/blog from an engineer who already at this stage talks about reverse-engineering the product (reverse-engineering is something you do if you a) are looking at potential viral technology, b) find an extra-terrestrial aircraft from the Planet Niburu and wish to unlock the technological secrets of the Reptilians, or c) never had an original thought in your life): "As an electronics engineer with some medical training, I can quickly read the press release and look at and reverse-engineer the Alzheimer helmet and determine that in all likelihood, it’s several groups of high-power LED arrays with fans to cool them. If I can do this, many others can too." Two things to keep in mind here: 1) Are lasers the same as LED arrays? 2) What would be the relevance of the answer to 1) if the molecular mechanism turns out to be targeting of specific transition dipoles?

I'm not going to write anything about my own opinion regarding this methodology (although some of what I do is indeed related to Alzheimer's), as it's irrelevant in this context. I will say, however, that if it were me, I'd go the slower route through peer-review in order to have extra quality-assurance barrier between myself and various ramifications. But then again, there are plenty of people who would criticize me for that, right, Kjerstin?

Answers - guitarquiz 3

Here we go with answers and all:

  • Song 11: Lenny Kravitz - American Woman
  • Song 12: Ozzy Osbourne - Crazy Train
  • Song 13: 4 Non Blondes - What's Up
  • Song 14: The Temptations - My Girl
  • Song 15: Maroon 5 - This Love

This gives the following ranking for round 3:

  1. Sondre (10/10)
  2. Anders (8/10)
  3. Cathy/Cedric (tied at 6/10)

...and the total score after round 3 is now:

  1. Cedric/Sondre (tied at 22/30)
  2. ....
  3. Cathy/Anders (tied at 20/30)

..really quite close, ain't it? Congrats to teh winners!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tuesday Ensemble

Quite the ensemble at teh gym today. Honestly, I thought for sure that when switching from a hardcore bodybuilder/powerlifter/fitness/strongman gym to a mainstream corporate gym like 3T, there'd be less freaks.

Joke's on me, I guess. Who'd have thunk it. Today, it was like a cattle call for the casting of "Guido number three" in a low-budget rip-off of a third-rate Steven Seagal movie. In addition to several of the recurring cast members, there was:
  • The Tragic Trio: Salespeople or whatever rollin' three deep. One of them being the alpha dweeb, bossing and ordering the other two around and showin' them how to lift weights properly, and especially how to use the leg press equipment. "See; THIS is how you do it" in a loud voice so as to demonstrate "his" alpha traits to whomever happened to have the misfortune of being in close proximity. Which happened to be the guy standing at the squat rack minding his own bidness, i.e. me. It goes without sayin' that the alpha dweeb did every movement in such a way that but for the ridiculously light weights, his physical therapist would have immediately picked up brochures for the latest BMW's if he'd observed the goings on. Also, the "guy" wasn't exactly the paragon of fitness, so why anyone would want to take his advice on exercise is beyond me.
  • The Douchebag Duo: Two ultraskinny late teens/early 20's with tennis arm protectors working biceps for the longest time before moving on to chins. Assisted chins, that is, as neither seemed capable of performing one rep, which is understandable after endless sets of curls. How did they spot each other on chins? The spotter stood behind the other guy and pushed his ass up for every rep. Between reps, the dude supposedly doing the exercise rested his ass on the upper chest of the spotter, all the while the spotter was shouting slogans like "All you" etc.
  • ETAT Boi: That's Epic Tribal Armband Tattoo Boi. To top it off, this invisible suitcase-wearing wunderkind had an ultratight tee with a picture of some really ugly guy with a mullet and a mustache over some name and the inscription "King Of Porn". This fourth-generation inbreed is gonna make his sister or cousin a very happy woman some day, I'm sure.....
  • Freak Lady: Prances around in spandex pants and a sports bra (or possibly a very minimal top). The kicker: The lower edge of the sports bra is lined with lots and lots of paper towels so as to avoid sweat running down. VERY hard not to notice.

Innovation and Creativity

Dammit! It appears that all of a sudden, some scientist has found the divine inspiration to start experiments in a field and with a system which is almost identical to what I do. This just happened a couple of months after this thematic research was presented in a semi-open forum. Moreover, the scientist in question has hitherto distinguished himself working with quite unrelated systems.

So much for innovation and creativity.

...it's not like it's the first time it's happened either. I guess there are two ways of looking at this, the most half-full glass version being to shrug my shoulders and take this as a sign that the research I'm doing apparently is interesting to other scientists..........

.....and then there's the less charitable way of looking at the situation.

The m-factor guitarquiz 4

Onwards through the fire and the flames.

Fourth installment. I must admit that it's pretty difficult to estimate whether a song is easily recognizable to y'all, but at least the material is quite diverse both with respect to genre and time frame, so I don't really think anyone's favored so far.

In the unlikely event that anyone should care, these five songs were all recorded using my Ibanez S270 through a Digitech Whammy into a Line 6 Guitarport/Rifftracker.

As always, submit answers to mfactorquiz (at) gmail.com by the end of Friday 020108. Answers will be posted on Saturday 020208.

Song number 16:



Song number 17:




Song number 18:




Song number 19:




Song number 20:

Monday, January 28, 2008

Who's Who in the World

La freakin' cucaracha! I am being considered to appear in the 2009 edition of Marquis' Who's Who In The World:

DEAR Wilhelm, It is my pleasure to inform you that you are being considered for inclusion in the upcoming 2009 Edition of Who's Who in the World®, which is scheduled for publication in November 2008.

Distributed globally, Marquis' Who's Who in the World is relied upon by business leaders, journalists, academics, and other professionals for its accuracy and currency of information. Additionally, it is found in the collections of many of the world's leading libraries and corporations.

As the Marquis Who's Who editors begin assembling the 2009 Edition of this historic publication, the original Who's Who in the World continues to be recognized internationally as the premier biographical data source of notable living individuals from every significant field of endeavor.

To be considered for inclusion as a biographee in this prestigious publication, you need only provide the requested information by completing the Biographical Data Form by 2/11/08. Through this link you will also find information about the edition of Who's Who in the World currently in print.

The information you provide will be evaluated according to the selection standards Marquis Who's Who has developed over 110 years as the world's premier biographical publisher. If you are selected for inclusion in the new 2009 edition, we will contact you prior to the book's publication in November.

Inclusion in Who's Who in the World offers...


* More than just a personal achievement; being honored in a Marquis Who's Who publication offers prospective business contacts an authoritative, full representation of your credentials and accomplishments.
* A historical archive of your achievements, recorded for generations to refer to time and again.
* Exclusive offers that are available only to members of the Marquis Who's Who family.

I congratulate you on the achievements that have brought your name to the attention of our editorial committee. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Robert Docherty
Director, Editorial and Selection Committee

P.S. Inclusion of your biography in Who's Who in the World, of course, carries neither cost nor obligation to you of any kind. Our goal with each new edition is to have full representation of noteworthy and accomplished men and women across all fields and industries.

Holy Mackerel - I've made it now. Big Time, Here I come!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Guitar Quiz

..or rather Guitar Wizz. I stumbled upon this device called the Guitar Wizard. This little thing comes with a DVD that "teaches" you how to play different songs, and you should be up and running within a day. And to complete it all, it comes with a "Guitar Wizard™ device", a tuner that gives you a "Wizard Worldwide™ tuning that traditional guitar tuners are not usually capable of producing"*.

As I understand it, this is a concave steel device with some rubber(?) strips on it that pushes down different strings when you wiggle the Wizard back and fourth, hence making different chords. I guess you would be able to play songs in a "Guitar Hero III" kind of way, but like the game, I don't think the wizard can help you to actually learn to play the guitar. You hand position is completely wrong to be any usefull. Ok, you might learn some right hand strumming, but that's it.

On the bright side, I know somebody that has a wife that buys guitar gear as presents. I'm sure she will be delighted when I send her the link to Guitar Wizard... ;-)

*Guitar nerd points to whomever can guess which tuning that is...

Friday, January 25, 2008

One of those days - TGIF













..damn has this week ever been brutal. Capital B, capital R UTAL. TGI-freakin'-F





Some Friday funny stuff...

In a time with focus on health, safefy and enviroment, I thought I should post these ones. Have a nice weeked, folks.







Answers - guitarquiz 2

This one was apparently more polarizing than I thought. The songs were:
  • Song 6: Michael Jackson - Billie Jean

  • Song 7: Soft Cell - Tainted Love

  • Song 8: Metallica - Unforgiven

  • Song 9: Outkast - Hey Ya

  • Song 10: Elvis Presley - Love Me Tender

Concomitantly, we've got some severe changes in teh rankings:

Quiz 3:

  1. Cedric/Cathy (both 10/10)
  2. Cedric/Cathy (both 10/10)
  3. Anders (8/10)
  4. Sondre (4/10)

And the overall ranking after round 2 is:

  1. Cedric (16/20)
  2. Cathy (14/20)
  3. Anders/Sondre (tied at 12/20)

Good luck with round 3, and CONGRATS to teh winners

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Free at last, free at last...

..and you know the rest of the MLK quote.

I received my diploma for having completed the mandatory pedagogic course today. Which is awesome.

However, there's a certain bitter aftertaste emanating from having checked out on the web portal that none of my assignments (the first of which was turned in almost exactly one year ago today) have been assessed or even downloaded by the instructors.

What a waste of one year and a perfectly usable piece of glossy cardboard

The m-factor guitarquiz 3

Allllrighty, then.

Since Quiz 2 was labeled "way easy", here's the third installment. Note that on song 14, I couldn't help laying down a solo over the original rhytm track. Whether or not the solo helps or hinders yall's quest for finding the original artist remains to be seen.

If anyone cares, these five songs were all recorded using my Ibanez S270 through a Digitech Whammy into a Line 6 Guitarport/Rifftracker.

As always, submit answers to mfactorquiz (at) gmail.com by the end of Tuesday 012908. Answers will be posted on Wednesday 013008.

Song number 11:




Song number 12:




Song number 13:




Song number 14:




Song number 15:

Reeeeal slow news week?

Is it a real slow news week? Just check out this article in Dagbladet (in Norwegian only, sorry). I'm speechless.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

....so what?

Former "glamour model" Helene Rask has received a threatening phone call.

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody's there to observe it - did it really fall? And if a "glamour model" tries to parlay some delusional psycho's phone call into getting back in teh news and resuscitating a "career" which probably dwindled about the same time she stopped flashing her boobs - does anyone care?

American Gangsta'

Went to the movies last Friday and saw American Gangster. This is basically the story of a Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington), who makes his way to the top in the crime world in Harlem after his boss dies. By going directly to the drug farmers in Vietnam and using contacts in the US army to smugle the drugs back to the US, Frank Lucas is able to sell drugs cheaper and purer then his rivals. Ritchie Roberts (Russel Crowe)is an honest cop in a police force were 3/4 are on the mobs pay role. He gets head-hunted to lead a special task force against the drug traffic in the city. This is as much of the story I can tell without spoiling the movie. It's based on a true story; Frank Lucas and Ritchie Roberts are both real persons living today.

Most gangster movies are loaded with shoot outs and car chases. This movie has some shooting and volence in it, but are much more story driven then action driven. I recommend this movie because it has a great story, great performances by Washington and Crowe (and I loved seeing Washington as a "bad guy") and Josh Brolin did a great supporting role as the crooked cop Trupo. Two thumbs up!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Redneck Real Estate

Somehow this seems relevant today...



Speakin' of New Year's Resolutionists


The m-factor guitarquiz 2

..and here's the second quiz. Update: You've got until Thursday to submit answers (submit answers to mfactorquiz@gmail.com), and then the songs are gonna be posted Friday. One point for getting the song right, and one for getting the artist right.

I really think this one's a lot easier than the previous one, with most of the songs falling square in the pop category. Like before, the recording was done with a Line 6 Guitarport/Rifftracker setup, running my Ibanez S270 or B.C. Rich Warlock through a Digitech Whammy.


Song number 6:



Song number 7:




Song number 8:




Song number 9:




Song number 10:

Answers - guitarquiz 1

Not bad at all, people. The songs are:
  1. Deep Purple - Smoke On The Water: Verse and chorus rhytm. Just about the only thing not there is the main riff.....
  2. Lenny Kravitz - Fly Away: Y'all got that one
  3. Genesis - Invisible Touch: A bit harder, apparently. Though I can see that somebody might confuse this with the keyboard line from Jump
  4. Black Sabbath - Paranoid: Although I would have accepted Ozzy Osbourne as an answer, seeing as how one of the fills here was lifted off of the Randy Rhoads Tribute album.
  5. Eminem - Marshall Mathers: Off of the Marshall Mathers LP - the only song nobody found

The scores for this round (and the cumulative scores as well, this being the inaugural quiz):

  1. Sondre (8/10)
  2. Pigeon (6/10)
  3. Cathy/Anders (tie - both 4/10)

The next one is going to be simpler, methinks.

EDIT: Scores are updated - one point for artist, and one for the song

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Now THAT's really what I wanted to hear

Experts fear that the real estate market is going to bottom out.

That's exactly what you want to hear when you're in the process of selling your house. Not to mention that the implied meaning for someone who just bought a house is that we bought at the market peak, and can now look forward to riding the real estate market plummet.

Damn - I'll be listening to Eminem and Children Of Bodom today fo' sho'.

Yeah, right

Yesterday, the front page of Adresseavisen described how an elite reseracher (toppforsker) is being forced to leave her position at NTNU due to some ludicrous bureaucracy decision. Here is a link to the local news story (in Norwegian). This sucks, and the reasons for not only throwing her out of Norway but also out of the entire Schengen region are quite frankly steaming pieces of infested monkey crap. Her department backs her up completely, however, which is a good thing, albeit the only decent action to take.

But; the "journalist" responsible for this piece describes the situation as an elite researcher being thrown out of Norway after ten years, and now she works for free.

Like I said, the situation definitely sucks, but here's my problem: She's not a researcher, she's a PhD student. Moreover, the slant in the article makes it look like she's been a researcher for ten years, and now she's working for free. Fact: She has been in Norway for ten years, but started on her PhD in 2005. Quite the big difference. Also; not taking anything away from her at all, but claiming that a PhD student is an elite researcher is just plain dumb. Unless of course it's a field in it's infancy, or the PhD student in question has 25 years of research experience in that field.

Bad journalist!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Waiting For That Day

George Michael has signed a contract to write his story! At least that's what it says in this blurb right here. Moreover, the autobiography is confirmed on George Michael's official web page, as well as on HarperCollins' site. Release is set for the Fall of 2009. I for one am really looking forward to reading this. It has the potential to be the kewlest industry bio since "The Dirt".

Anybody get the "Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1" reference?

No?

Dammit!

The m-factor guitarquiz 1

With a little help from Anders, here is the inaugural m-factor guitarquiz. Here are five tunes - anyone interested can submit answers to mfactorquiz@gmail.com from today and until Sunday 012008. I'll post the answers and the score on Monday. Again, don't post answers in the comments section (feel free to comment, however), and what I want is name of both song and artist.

In this first round, I'd say most of the songs are quite simple to figure out. In case you're interested, I used my B.C. Rich Warlock, a Digitech Whammy and a Line 6 Guitarport/Rifftracker to record these five songs.

I'm not going to post any details or hints like genre, era etc. this time, so we'll see how it goes. Good luck!


Song number 1:



Song number 2:




Song number 3:




Song number 4:




Song number 5:




EDIT: If some of the songs won't play, you just have to reload the page. Worked for me...

Master Of The Obvious

I'm totally lovin' the Digitech Whammy pedal my wife gave me for Christmas. What the Whammy does is modulate the pitch and/or splitting and harmonizing the signal. In other words, by using the foot control I can raise or lower the pitch one or two octaves, harmonize with a raised or lowered fifth, third, fourth, etc, and detune. Additionally, there's a "dive bomb" feature where I can simulate dumping the bar and flapping the strings Floyd Rose style. Of course, the latter feature isn't that kewl or novel when I've got three guitars with locking tremolos, but it's still there, and if I wanna go all Van Halen or Dimebag-y without taxing the hardware too much, it's always an option.

Originally, what attracted me to the Whammy was the guitar playing of Steve Vai and later Magnus Karlsson of Last Tribe/Starbreaker etc., and how he incorporated whammy pitch bends in solos. Later, I also figured out that Herman Li and Sam Totman of Dragonforce use this extensively, and it makes for some pretty cool lead breaks/fills. And of course; most of y'all have heard the Whammy used in the rhytm/main riff of many a Rage Against The Machine song.

Last night, as I was recording guitar sections for the upcoming quiz, I had an epiphany, or rather a flash of the blandingly obvious. You're probably way ahead of me here, but what I figured out last night was that if I can lower the pitch with as much as two octaves........



...that's right; if I can lower the pitch by one or two octaves, I can add bass lines and make it sound pretty passable. Which is teh awesome, since I've been pondering my lack of a low-frequency rhytm section. All that was needed on the Line 6 Guitarport/Rifftracker was to adjust the amp and gain settings, and this actually works. Yeah, yeah it was pretty damn obvious.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The m-factor guitarquiz

A while ago I came with a suggestion for a "blind test" category - check here for details.

I figured I might as well make this an online music quiz, where I - with some technical assistance from Grandmaster A - post some guitar sections from famous songs, and anyone who wants to can submit answers. I'll be keeping score, both per round and cumulative, and following each round I'll post the answers and a scoreboard.

The rules:
  • For each round, a time frame will be defined during which you can submit your answer
  • You submit an answer by sending an email to mfactorquiz (at) gmail.com
  • Unless otherwise noted, a complete answer consists of the name of the artist AND song. Partial credit might be granted.
  • Do NOT submit an answer via the comment section before the answers have been posted
  • For each question, I'll define how many points it's worth, as described in the above post

This'll be up and running soon - hope it'll work out and that we get some crowd participation.

A-train - I sho' be needin' yo' assistance, yo

What if bodybuilders were ....








Oldies but goodies - Musclehedz rulez!

Monday, January 14, 2008

The man has his moments

...Weird Al Yankovic, that is. The original - a cruisin' anthem fo' sho':



And now Weird Al's version:


Priceless.....pay special attention to the mad moves on the dude dancin' in the background.

Quadruple geek points for whomever can tell me what the equation in the background stands for...

Locker room freak comma yet another

In an earlier post, I described some of the stereotypes one has the misfortune of encountering in the locker room. A while back I had the dubious pleasure of discovering a hybrid betwen the Naked shaving guy and the Really creepy naked old guy. Several times I've walked by this 50+ dude who insists on using the locker room hair dryer whilst standing buck nekkid in front of the mirror. I didn't really pay much attention to it, besides mentally categorizing him as a card-carrying member of the weirdo society.

Now; this was based on the assumption that he uses the hair dryer to dry and shape his hair after showering. Sadly, this assumption - based on observing this stage of his behavior a number of times - turned out to be false. Dude stands buck nekkid with the hair dryer because dude doesn't bring a towel. And he dries everything using the locker room hair dryer.

Yes; everything. He lifts stuff up and does other unmentionable things in order to dry the entire body.

Damn - people are freaks, I tells ya!

Books about writing part II

How To Write and Publish a Scientific Paper by Robert A. Day
Currently in it's sixth edition, now co-written by Barbara Gastel. Way back in 2001 when I wrote my first paper, I bought the fifth edition of this masterpiece, and actually learned so much from it that I purchased the following edition when it came out. As a graduate student, one's writing style is heavily influenced by the style of one's advisor, but before you can get words of wisdom and input from your Overlord of Academic Progression, you've got to make a draft. Odds are that if you roll into the office of your probably overworked advisor with a blank look and a straw in the corner of your mouth asking "duuuuuuuhhhhhhh....so, I've got to write dis paper, right, and I was wonderin', like, where to start and stuff. Do I really have ta write a - whatchucallit - intramaduction?" you'll get the verbal thrashing you so richly deserve.

So; having established that you need to have a draft in order to harvest advice from your superiors, you're left with a number of choices. One of these is to reinvent the wheel, hammering out each section by yourself and probably having to reorganize the entire manuscript a number of times. Another, perhaps more popular possibility is to pick out some key publications within the same field - probably including that of your advisor - and emulate the structure and voice.

If you want to develop your own style and organization, that's where this book comes in. Based on the IMRAD (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion) organization, this primer gives you everything you need in order to write your first - or even first couple of - manuscripts using your own words and preferred organization. It specifies what content goes in which section, provides guidelines for authorship, making tables and graphics, referencing, and even the dreaded Results + Discussion vs. Results AND Discussion. There's an extensive section on how to avoid empty phrases and jargon (where possible), and even a description of the entire submission + review + editor's decision process, with each step detailed.

If you're about to write your first scientific paper, or if you've written a few and you find the entire process to be counterintuitive and a chore, buy this book.

...buy it NOW!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Listening to self-proclaimed experts in the gym..

...could be pretty detrimental. Yet, in every gym there are some self-proclaimed gurus whom, for a lack of a better term, prey on beginners and everyone willing to listen. I remember years ago that people would step up to me and provide me with unsolicited advice on how to lift, which exercises to use, how to cycle macronutritients, what supplements to take, how long to rest between sets, and what intensity and durations to use for cardio. Now, different yet identical individuals are bothering other people.

Curiously, the people who insist on pushing their training and nutrition philosophies on other people rarely look like anything special. Typically, their sum total of skillz is limited to being able to cheat-curl 40 kilos and wear every gym accessory known to mankind. The other side of the stereotype is that they provide extremely bad advice - it's a good thing that the people who accept their advice are incapable of lifting heavy weights, or they could screw up their backs, knees and shoulders something fierce. Deadlifting with hunched backs and shoulder rotations at the top of the movement, bar bouncing off the rib cage and hips lifted during bench presses, knees twisting sideways during squats - in short, doing everything they're not supposed to.

In our gym, we've got a tiny fella' who struts around like he was a local Milos Sarcev. Granted, we've also got the standard Big Brother duos, where the bigger of the two late teens/early 20's lifters coach the smaller one, but this aforementioned dude is special. Special in that he targets the teenage boys, and is very hands-on with his instructions. And also in the sense that he has "special" versions of every exercise, and that he's got protective gear on every moveable joint in his body. Does he look like he knows what he's talking about? Not really.

What surprises me is that the certified PTs at the gym, of which there is an abundance - don't intervene when they see these "experts" showing honest beginners how to transform an exercise into a tool of self-mutilation. Not to mention that they ought to intervene when some 70-kilo mass monster with hyooge invisible suitcases is discussing gear with a beginner.

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, though. A couple of days before New Years, the biggest of the PTs (whom actually seems to know what he's talkin' about when he instructs people, btw) rolled up to me while I was doin' rack deads and commented "Lookin' good, bro - you're almost in competition shape now". A couple of days after Christmas eve. Right. Obviously he's never seen someone in competition shape in person.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Where'd they go?

Every now and then I peruse the web pages of my alma mater, mostly for nostalgic reasons, but also to check out the latest goings on in Ye Olde Salt Mines. It's always kewl to see pictures from the latest departmental seminar or poster sessions featuring graduate students from my class, grads who joined while I was still there, and of course to see how things are going with the senior faculty - rejoicing over announcements regarding grants, awards, etc.

Today when I browsed the department pages, however, it dawned on me that things have changed dramatically since I attended. Obviously this has been going on for quite some time, but I have either ignored it, or it has just slipped below my radar, so to speak. Now I hardly know any of the grad students there (less than ten) - by and large my peeps ain't there no more. My class has either graduated - moved on to greener pastures - or they have fallen along the way. That last sentence sounded more like a war metafor than I intended, but the truth of the matter is that grad school ain't for everyone, and it's not exactly a 1:1 ratio between the headcounts in the incoming and graduating classes. I even know of one campus legend (whassup, Bill?) who dropped out after one and a half semester to become a used car salesman (CarMax). Even a significant fraction of the faculty members have relocated, including my former co-advisor, for cripes' sakes.

Of course, the fact that things have changed since I moved on is unequivocally a good thing, seeing as how the department would've been pretty damn stagnant otherwise. Still, my connection to this particular institution is progressively weakened as the number of familiar faces dwindles. Fact of the matter is that now I'd probably have to go searching for familiar faces if I walked through the Sacred Halls of Dabney (and not only because the group I used to belong to has relocated to another campus). But such is the transient nature of relationships rooted in graduate school, or institutions of higher learning in general.

In honor of my alma mater, here are some pics from campus.



Any self-respecting US campus (as well as a bunch of second-rate ones) have a Bell Tower. That's just the way it is in dis heah parts, ya heah.



The entrance to Cox Hall - Dabney Hall being the building on the left. Where Marye-Ann Fox, former science advisor for then-governor of Texas, now Dubs, used to reside. But screw that - it is still the professional home of a certain Professor Jerry Whitten, who provides a direct lineage to Oppenheimer himself. Much respect.



Dabney Hall, where I have spent innumerable hours, some of which spent just hanging out on the balconies of the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th floors watching the sunset with Joe and waiting for some experiment to be done.



The new Harrelson Hall, where the soda machine was located, and which provided shelter for many a thunder storm. Also the building outside which I stood when WT2 was hit on 9/11.




Riddick Laboratories, the first building on campus me and my wife got to see the inside of when we arrived stateside. Later, we both got to see a LOT more of this place.




One view of Hillsborough Street, seen from the D.H. Hill Library. Hillsborough - THE place to go to for lunch, to find faculty members hobnobbing and plotting scientific world domination, or to get some of that sweet, sweet Starbucks version of caffeinated motivation, sorely needed when two months of experiments have gone to hell in a handbasket. Just don't stray too far in the direction of downtown (left in the picture, that is) unless you're packin' some serious heat.

Hey Joe - have you heard that there's this new band out now? It's called Widowmaker, and it's fronted by Dee Snider from Twisted Sister. Rumors have it that this is the kind of band we'll be hearing about in 20 years, like Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith.

*End monster inside joke*

Thursday, January 10, 2008

TV show concept

As a general rule, I enjoy the concept of TV shows dedicated to political debates, in that if it's well-conducted, you get clarification on political parties' and individual politicians' views on various issues. However, these shows are damn near impossible to watch due to a multitude of factors, including but not limited to:
  • Topics being poorly defined in that they're either too broad, or pigeon-holed into a foregone conclusion
  • Host inserting his or her own political bias
  • So-called "experts" having no demonstrable knowledge about anything except how to get repeatedly invited to this type of shows
  • Politicians hogging air-time with soundbyte-adapted drivel
  • Politicians failing to answer direct questions
  • Politicians lying their asses off
  • Politicians going totally off on a self-aggrandizing tangent

I think the latter four points, the ones concerning politicians, can be addressed in a separate TV show, providing both entertainment as well as providing an analytical tool for the trustworthiness of politicians and parties. And if such a measure can be put in place, it would also mean that politicians would have to be less pontificating and more truthful, thus also possibly reducing the overall contempt reserved for politicians, which can only be a good thing.

How can this be accomplished? By having a separate panel reviewing their performances during debates and checking the facts against their statements. The main reason the politicians get away with blatantly lying during debates, is that the live format and time constraints do not allow for fact-checking. Because when you think about it, a lot of their lies are totally traceable, like what you'll hear about five million times per debate:

  • Pontificating Prick #1: Our party came up with this concept and proposed it in congress already back in 1746, and now the rest of y'all jump on the band wagon.
  • Pontificating Prick "2: No, no no - it was OUR party which launched this proposal in congress as early as in 1392.

In this case, the douchebags are talking about propositions which are public record and can thus easily be checked out, but obviously not during the broadcast. Equally obvious, since the two combattants are launching opposing arguments around a recorded fact, one of them is a lying, steaming pile of horse $hit. Well; they probably both are, but one can be caught red-handed in being one. Then consider this next case of blatantly lying about easily checked facts:

  • Weasel #1: I voted "Yes" on Proposition XYZ back in '92, and I have thus always been FOR whichever subject is associated with this.

Simple to find out, since this is a matter of public record, but again, they're using the constraints of the debates. Same with the next example, which was uttered by the prime minister yesterday:

  • The reform proposed and introduced by my party way back in the 90's was severely criticized because experts deemed it too academically demanding for the students.

Really? Simple to find out. Etc, etc.

All you need is a crew willing to check out these facts, and then match a trustworthy-ranking to each politician, or to each party. Obviously, the ranking would have to be normalized with respect to the number of debate appearances for each politician. Then air the show like once a month - more frequently before elections, and let people know which politicians and parties have the most credibility. Obviously, damn near any system which keeps politicians from flat out lying is good.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

...and the problem suddenly comes into focus

After seeing parts of tonight's televised debate on the sorry state of Norwegian education (Holmgang), some big problems with the system were highlighted. Recently, an international panel delivered a report berating the Norwegian educational system as costly and inefficient, and how do the politicians in charge react to the report? By giving some standard soundbytes on how they will "take this report into consideration, but that no drastic changes will be done until the results can be further evaluated". In other words: "See if we care. We sucked at school and learned the alphabet by way of dancing the letters, and so should your kids. Sure; there is no discipline in the classrooms, but if we spend tons of money on extra education for teachers, we might in the future reach a point where more than 80% of the kids can read and write after ten years of school."

That's what you get for putting certified morons and losers in charge of education.

Woo-frickety-hoo!!

I won the lottery - One Million Euro! What luck - I didn't even purchase a ticket. This is obviously my lucky day. Check this out; I got an email ("You Have Won One Million Euro") from the good folks at Schleswig-Holstein Lotto with instructions for how to claim my prize:

We are pleased to inform you of the result of the just concluded annual final draws of the Schleswig-Holstein Lotto Program.

Schleswig-Holstein Lotto draws was conducted from an exclusive list of 30,000,000 e-mail addresses of individual and corporate bodies picked by an advanced automated random computer ballot search from the internet as part of our international promotions program which we conduct every year. No tickets were sold.

After this automated computer ballot, your e-mail address attached to ticketnumber 6239771 drew the lucky numbers 5-3-14-7-5-3 which consequently emerged you as one of first fifty (50) lucky winners in this year lotto program.

You have therefore been approved for a lump sum payout of €1,000,000.00 (One Million EURO) in cash credited to file SHL/Spiel-77. This is from a total cash prize of €50 Million Euro shared amongst the first fifty (50) lucky winners in this category.

This year Lottery Program Jackpot is the largest ever for Schleswig-Holstein. The estimated €50 million jackpot would be the sixth-biggest in Europe history. The biggest was the €363 million jackpot that went to two winners in a February 2003 drawing of The Big Game Mega Millions' predecessor.

Your fund is now deposited in an offshore bank with a hardcover insurance. Note that your lucky number falls within our European booklet representative office in London . In view of this, Our London Representative Office will immediately commence the process to facilitate the release of your funds to you as soon as you make contact with them.


To claim your prize funds, you are required to come directly to our UK office for direct claim. If you have problems with coming to our office you can make a wire transfer of your funds to your private bank account. You can also employ a courier service company to deliver your prize funds to your home or office address.

For a telegraphic transfer of your funds to your private bank account, you are required to send your name and address in full, phone number, and bank information, so as to facilitate the release of your funds to your nominated account.


To begin your claim, contact the office below with information in regards to your claims option.


Mr. Stevens G. Herbert
Schleswig-Holstein Lotto
Information and Payment Bureau:
London Representative Office.

So essentially, they put all the email addys on da intanet in a hat and drew mine. And all I need to do in order to claim my million Euro is to give them my bank information. Awesome deal - there can be no possible downside to this.

I think I'll forward the email to the Northern Norway municipalities involved in the Terra scandal - they could probably use some cold hard cash right about now........

So what did I learn?

Now that the semester has officially begun, and my classrooms floweth over with students eager to absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is uniquely their own (anyone know from whom I yanked this particular definition of personal philosophy?) - more than partly because one of the lecture halls dealt to me by the Hand of Administration is on the smallish side - I can look back to my full year of mandatory pedagogic training and see what I am doing differently now compared to the Spring semester of 2007.

As usual, I am progressively going through my teaching material (slides, handouts) and updating them. Have I brought in anything of what I learned in the course? Not that I can tell.

Am I using a wider spectrum of tools? Sure; I am now using the blackboard more than I have for the last three years. Why? Because the lecture halls I've got this semester actually allows for the simultaneous use of PowerPoint and blackboard, which wasn't the case the previous three years.

What about my presentation tehchnique - anything new and improved? Possibly due to more experience, however, this was very marginally covered during the pedagogic course, and if I hadn't known of the tools presented there before i started teaching, I'd be an atrocious lecturer.

Techniques for improved crowd participation? Maybe - the jury's still out on this one.

There are some aspects of the training I haven't gotten to yet in this semester, but so far, my personal learning outcome is crap.

....I must be a horrible student.........it's like 50 says: "On the way to riches and diamond rings..."

..ahh; y'all know the rest

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Lesson In Sucking At Life

As I was checking out the video to "Through The Fire And The Flames" by the mighty Dragonforce on YouTube:


my eyes wandered to the "comments" section (probably during a keyboard moment). To my horror, I saw comments like:

"even i can play it 98% right in GH3 (easy).. no way in hell i would even try it on medium.. my fav song to play in GH3:D "

"that is so hard 2 play!! bcuz i hav gh3 and i cant play dat song! "

What the hell? They look at some amazing instrumental feats and comment on how hard that is to play on some freakin D&D computer nerd game? What about appreciating the music, or at the very least the technical level represented in the music?

At some point, a Wii or whatever game is gonna be introduced wherein the game is played and rated using a lubricated holster the size of half a pencil (wild guess based on the what I assume the test level of these "guys" to be). From that day on, there will be no lines in comic book stores, there will be a drastic decline in all of the "IRL I'm 68 kilos of 45% bodyfat hunchback loser but in WoW I'm a 120 kilo Epic Conan-like Warrior" games, and a lot of "guys" will go into their rooms and lose ten kilos the HARD way, if ya know what I'm sayin'.

Yet another "Blind Test" question

Yeah; it's me again. Some concerns regarding the new category I recently proposed have emerged. Specifically, I'm not sure whether the category is viable, and that any songs are gonna be recognized from guitar parts alone, save for the main riff of "Smoke".

In order to test this, and thus either confirm or assuage my concerns, I'd like to record and post some guitar parts and see if y'all can guess what famous songs they're from. Provided Rev'd A can hook a brutha' up with some technical assistance. In each consecutive round, I'll post some songs which only have one guitar part/riff, as well as progressively simpler parts from songs with several layers of complexity. That's "startin' with da most difficult $hit", in case y'all wondered.

That way, I can test the concept and consequently ax or implement the category.

What say ye?

Monday, January 7, 2008

WWCD?

Resuscitated from an old email and from Surlytaco.com, after having dealt with real estate agents:

In this modern world of ours, with all the crazy technology we have like cell phones, air bags and spoons, people are more likely than ever to piss you off (stupid fucking spoon-users. I can’t stand their scooping ways). The good news is, you don’t have to take it. Whenever some ass-rod shits in your porridge, just ask yourself WWCD? That’s right, What Would Conan Do?

Conan is probably the best philosopher in the history of thinking. He kicks ass over Socrates. In fact, I’ve based my entire life off of the following quote from Conan the Barbarian, the only movie featuring loincloth-clad shirtless men that I’ll ever admit in public to watching:

Some dude: “Conan, what is best in life?”Conan: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, hear the lamentations of their women.”

That’s what I’m talking about! But how do you apply that philosophy to your everyday life? It’s easy. I’d be glad to show you how to crush your enemies just like me (Disclaimer: SurlyTaco.com is not responsible for any legal action taken as a result of enemy crushing). Below you’ll find some common situations that most people have to deal with at one point or another. First, I’ll show you how a schmuck would handle the situation, and then I’ll show you how Conan would handle that same situation. Ready? Let’s go!

Situation One: You’re driving on the freeway and someone cuts you off.
A Schmuck ignores the incident, doesn’t even blow his horn, and then goes home and cries himself to sleep on his futon in the efficiency apartment he rents from a hobo.
Conan the Barbarian pursues the offending motorist to the ends of the Earth and then hacks him to death with a broadsword.

Situation Two: You find out someone at the office has been saying nasty things about you behind your back.
A Schmuck spits in that person’s coffee mug, then feels bad, washes it out, and realizes the nasty things being said are probably true.
Conan the Barbarian throws the jerk into a pit with a giant snake, laughs while the snake devours him, and then hacks the snake into tiny pieces for good measure.

Situation Three: Junior comes home with an F on his report card.
A Schmuck tells the kid it’s okay because he figures little Johnny is genetically predisposed to sucking at life.
Conan the Barbarian decapitates little Johnny with an axe and then has sex with hundreds of women in the hopes of producing an heir who’s worthy of succeeding him as King of Aquilonia.

Situation Four: The horse you bet finishes dead last.
A Schmuck goes ahead and breaks his own kneecaps so the bookie doesn’t have to do it for him and then sells his kidneys on the black market to pay back the debt.
Conan the Barbarian breaks the horse’s jaw, burns the horsetrack to the ground, and turns the bookie’s skull into a bowling ball. Then he goes bowling (and God help us all if he throws a gutterball).

Situation Five: “That’s So Raven” is a re-run.
A Schmuck watches the re-run and hopes it doesn’t violate the terms of his parole.
Conan the Barbarian doesn’t notice because he’s too busy killing everyone at the Electric Company for making those “Conan the Librarian” shorts. Note to self: never take a Cimmerian’s name in vain.

Situation Six: You get a parking ticket.
A Schmuck argues with the meter maid, gets nowhere, and then goes home and puts the barrel of a gun in his mouth just to see how it feels.
Conan the Barbarian initiates a bloody coup, proclaims himself King of the Universe, and outlaws all parking tickets. He also outlaws all cars because he thinks they’re big metal monsters.

Situation Seven: A bum asks you for money.
A Schmuck asks if the bum has change for a twenty and then hands over the whole bill when he says no.
Conan the Barbarian dumps a steaming vat of body parts on him and then bashes his skull in with a mace.

Well, there you go. I'd run through some more situations for you but I have to go make "WWCD?" bracelets. Peace out, yo.

Weird

...is what it is when you've got a "For sale" sign on your house. It's also weird to see your house in a "For sale" ad on Finn.no and in the paper. Also, it feels strange that tonight, people are gonna show up (hopefully) to check out our place and start the process of haggling over the asking price.

Flat out weird.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

One of life's many mysteries

When people decide to show up totin' six large plastic bags of recycleable soda and (mostly) beer cans in a mall during prime shopping hours on a Saturday, causing hyooge lines, what does that say about them?
  1. They're alcoholics?
  2. They're sociopaths who live for annoying people?
  3. They're award-winning slobs who don't recycle until they can't walk around in their apartments without crushing beer cans?

Commando!

You betcha'! Commando is on TV, and I is a happy camper. Sure - the vast majority of the world's population finds this movie to be utter crap, but what the hell do they know.

Commando has got it all - Arnold while he was still huge, a mexican bad guy (well; from the made-up country of Val Verde, but we all know where it REALLY was), über-cool, over-the-top dialogue ("You're a funny guy, Sully. Dat's vy I'm going to kill yo last"), people being shot left and right with little or no signs of blood, bad guys having zero marksmanship skillz despite their extensive millitary backgrounds, and did I mention it's got Arnold close to his prime?

Don't playa-hate; appreciate!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Enter the New Year's Resolution Posse

Our gym, much like most if not all other gyms, are crawling with them! For the next two or three weeks, the gym is like a wave of untapped potential. "This time I'm gonna get swole, Bro! It's gonna be bench presses, bb curls and quarter-rep squats three times a week, and always benches on Mondays, dammit! My entire posse, similarly dressed in spandex pants and too short tees and having the same haircut, are gonna roll with me and psyche me up, brother. It's gonna be a lot of "All you, bro", "One more rep, dude", "U da Man", "Light Weight!", "Ain't nuthin' to it but to do it", "Come on Diesel", "Feel the Burn", "Go for max" and "I could'a had a lot morereps, bro, but I don't wanna fry my CNS". And there will be lots of hi-fivin', grunting, menacing look-throwing and invisible suitcase-wearing while me and my legendary iron warriors of steel hoist 85 kilo benches, damn near 100 kilo deadlifts and 40 kilo cheat curls. Plus, I know a bodybuilder who hooked me up with a sweet deal on creatine. It's like a year past the expiration date, but my bro said it's nothin' to worry about - you just have ta mix it up a li'l bit more to dissolve it and not being squeamish 'bout the dosage. This behemoth also said he could hook me up with some discount vet-grade winny and some clen for rockin' and rollin' when I max out my genetic potential in about three months."

Oh brother....... I'm thinkin' these people will suddenly disappear come February. Where to? Take your pick - perhaps they will be abducted by the reptilians from the Planet Niburu because they are such immaculate specimens of the human race. Perhaps they will beam up to the mothership behind the comet. Perhaps they're at home playing Nintendo or Wii complaining to their buddies that "Yeah; I was well on my way to gettin' swole when my old knee injury started to act up - dammit - I was THIS close to considering going for Pro".

But I'll see them again in a year.......

Vitamin supplements don't work?

Lately, several stories have been published where the effect of supplements have been debunked, among them various vitamins and minerals etc. I'm not going to bother pointing out specific studies, but rather link to this story in Dagbladet to show a general trend.

Alrighty then - here's a relevant link to a better source, which is even in English.

The stereotypical study goes something like this: Two test populations are given one multivitamin/mineral (or a specific vitamin like beta-caroten) supplement a day - one being fed the actual supplement while the other is fed a placebo. In the better studies, both populations take the supplements over a number of years. Sometimes, the individuals comprise John Q. Public, other times, senior citizens are targeted. The end result is typically that no significant effect either way is achieved for the test population compared to the placebo group, and we get some story featuring a smug GP or at best MD in a white lab coat, wielding a squash racket in one hand and the key to his new Mercedes in the other (right Anders?), stating that dietary supplements don't work. Said douchebag will then proceed to state something along the lines of "One should get the necessary vitamins and minerals from a balanced diet". Holy obvious, Batman. But is the science good and are the conclusions valid?

Absolutely not.

First of all, they're called supplements for a reason, i.e. you're not supposed to rely on them for your basic needs. They're meant to - wait for it - SUPPLEMENT a balanced diet. That's why they're called supplements. If you eat crap - like most people quite frankly do - then popping a multivitamin and mineral a day isn't gonna cut it. So that's the first thing you have to take care of - your overall diet. If your diet mainly consists of frozen pizzas and Mr. Lee's noodles, odds are you're screwing your system over big time, and that your immune system is crap. Also, odds are overwhelmingly in favor of you being a student, but that's another story.

Second, you shouldn't supplement specifically unless you know what your status is. Get your bloodwork done and see if there are any deficiencies. Low on Calcium and Magnesium? Address that specifically, don't just buy some damn supplement 'cause it says on the label it's good fo' yo' health. If your problem is that your Potassium levels are too high, then don't try to remedy that by taking a multivitamin. A little bit of common sense is good for what ails ya.

Third, dosages are typically too damn low anyway. And there's a reason for that; the RDA doesn't take body mass into account, because the RDA is meant to be a simple guideline and safe for the 48 kilo woman as well as for the 120 kilo competitive bodybuilder (yeah yeah; the competitive bodybuilder has more things in his or her system than vitamins, but the principle still holds). If there was no RDA and subsequent dosage recommendations, people would apply the linear logic that "If 50 mg is good for me, then 500 mg must be ten times as good for me", and that probably pushes you over in harmful territory. because while some vitamins etc. are water-soluble, others are fat-soluble, meaning that they will not be flushed out in your urine but accumulated until they reach toxic levels, and that will suck. Consequently, educate yourself, and make good and damned sure that when you buy supplements, the total amount of fat-soluble constituents don't significantly exceed the RDA. Again, a little bit of common sense will get you far. Linear logic might land you in the emergency room or worse.

Let me ask you this: Do you think changing the brand of motor oil or gasoline is going to matter on your ca. 1990 Hyundai Elantra which hasn't had a service in five years and has 500 000 Km on the clock? What about on a formula one car?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Another "Blind test" question

...no, Anders, the title has got nothing to do with Stevie Wonder and a syringe.

Rather, it's related to the proposed category with me playing guitar parts from famous songs. Another question I guess should be added is this: How many decades is it realistic to operate with? Or rather, how far back in time is it meaningful to go? Would y'all recognize Beatles or Hendrix songs, for example? Or Presley tunes?

Inquiring minds planning which songs to learn want to know.........

Foldable guitar...

So, I saw this Swedish guitar from DeVillan guitars, which claims to be the frist foldable guitar in the world.

It even (supposedly) stays in tune after the folding process (i.e. if it's in tune before you fold it, it should be in tune when you unfold it), which sounds a bit too good to be true.

Sure, this seem to be practical for people who travels a lot, but this guitar made me think of two things:

  1. How is the sustain of this bad boy? Sure all that metal and hinges got to suck out all the sustain?
  2. I recall seeing a picture of Øystein Sunde with a foldable acoustic guitar over his shoulder, many years ago. So this couldn't be the first foldable guitar?

Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow

Seems like Ritchie Blackmore does have a sense of humor. ;-)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

El books del duo

as the bumblebee man would say.

So I bought these two books about design. Not because I got a sudden urge too design clothes or go enterior designer; these books are not about making things pretty. I relized that most of the things a do; like write stuff at work, making presentations, making web-pages and so forth, are really releated to communicate a something. A good design would help to make that message clear. And my goal of reading these books are to start to learn the basic elements of design. I figure that knowing the basic would make me able to understand what to do with a design (a memo, a presentation or whatever) and not just simple "try and fail" untill it looks OK.

Universal Principles of Design
100 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach Through Design
William Lidwell, Kritina Holden & Jill Butler

Well, the title says it all. This book covers everything form the layout of book stores and parks, to software design and airplane saftey. Built as a reference, with each principle covered in a two page layout: An explanation of the principle on the left hand page, and examples on the right had side. And when we talk about "design", it's not making thing pretty, it's making things clear, safe and understandable. For example, a door that you push to open shouldn't have a door handle and a sign that says "push". Replace the the handle with a flat bracket, and it's self explaining how to open the door. No need for the extra sign. Excellent use of white space, this books is not only informative but also a feast for the eye. Ok, man of the principles are know, but here they are organized and explained in a really effective and simple way. Good to read from start to end, but also an easy reference book.


The Elements of Graphic Design
Space, Unity, Page Architecture, and Type
Alexander W. White

This on book is more focused, and is focused on layout and print. The design of the book is also good, but very different from the one above. This book has a lot of text and little white space, but it still very readable. And this is actually something I like about this book. It gives you the general principles, but the author also gives clear examples and his opinions. For example, many books says you should use high contrast between background and font. This book says that 70% different in contrast gives optimum readability. And that white fonts on a black background may "bleed" and that a white background in a dark room will seem too bright. Good and useful info!

So, I basically love both these books. The first one because it gives a really good introduction and is really easy to use as a reference book. The last one is so much more useful, since "graphic design" is what I do (e.g. presentations, reports, summaries, the odd christmas card, blogging, etc, etc). The chances that I one day will design a plane or an iPod store is really slim.

And the last book gave a really good definition of good design (paraphrased from memory): "If two designs are equal simple, the one conveying the most information is the most elegant. And in two designs that conveys the same amout of information, the simplest one is the most elegant".

El Gitarre Del Muerto: Restoration of a mid 60's Supro Dual-Tone - Part I

So, I have this 1965ish Supro Dual Tone guitar. There is a lot I like about it, like the neck (24 3/4ish scale, medium heavy, round shap and niced, rounded sides which gives it an excellent feel and playability), the resoglass body. And a cool shape and manly black and white color scheme does not make me like it less.

However, I've never been happy with the pickups/ electronics. Those pickups are famous for being fat and loud. Mine are extremely quiet and sounds muffeled with bad separation of notes. So obviously something needs to be done. I've been through the simple steps, like adjusting pickup height and cleaning the pots, so no it's time to get a little more serious.

Problem: Comments like the the one above makes it look like I actually know what I'm doing. That couldn't be farther away from the truth. My knowledge of guitar electronics is that the pickups have a magnet in them, and the vibrating strings over a pu makes a current that somehow is turned into sound in an amp (or something similar to an amp). End of story.
Solution: I have power tools and a soldering iron, and are not afraid of using them!

But seriously, since I don't have a clue about electronics, I figure the good old trail and fail route will have to do. And as long as I don't do anything that permanently damage the guitar, I'm fine. So first thing I did was to remove the neck pickup and add a resonantor pickup (Barcus Berry Hi-Tech). And improve in sound showed me that the problem could at least partially be in the pickups. So I dug up some 60's Supro pickup from the good ol' internet.

The pickups in the Dual-Tone is just in a lot for guitars from Valco, Supro and National. Only difference is the silk screen print on the covers. To be, it wasn't important to get the "correct" look on the covers. In any case, I could easily swap the covers on the old/ new pu's to get the correct look. On the photo below, the original one is on the right.

So these guitars have a resoglass body is made up of two halfs, which are held together with 5 screws. Really easy yo take apart, the neck is only attached to the upper half, so neck alignment isn't affected at all. The photo below shows the inside of the guitar (pickups are facing down to the table).

Here is a snap midway through the process. Neck pu has been replaced, bridge pu is still the original. Notice the I've removed the bridge there. It's not attached to anything, it just slides away once the string pressure is released.


So, in with the bridge pickup, eyeballing the height of the pickups and tested. The small sound clip in the comments section on this post (#8 or something) after reassembling the guitar, clean amp setting on my Tascam DP-01FX. Below, a snap of the finished result. Looking cool, but somewhat naked without the silkscreen print on the pickup covers.


What's next?
Pots and caps
Each pickup has seperate volume and tone knobs + one master volume. None of them function very well, they are either on or off. Worst off are the ones on the neck pickup. All the pots are dated week 45 in 1965, so I guess there is a really slim chance of finding original ones. However, pots are cheap and I can experiment with new ones (as soon as I figure out which ones to order).

Pickup height
Don't know what optimum height is, but I discovered that this affects at least the distorted tones A LOT. Good thing is that you just need a screw driver to adjust the height, no need to take the guitar apart. Don't even have to slacken the strings.

But that will be a different post...

Picket Fences

Anybody remember this totally awesome TV series? It first aired in Norway in 1994, if memory serves me correct. To borrow liberally from the plot summary at imdb.com, "The town of Rome is a short distance from Green Bay, Wisconsin - close enough to hear the games on Sunday afternoons, but not close enough to keep normalcy from infiltrating the town. A lot of the usual happens in Rome, but in unusual ways. Home invasions are nothing new, but in Rome, the perpetrator leaves behind dirty bathwater, women's underwear and a rubber duck. Potatoes and household appliances become instruments of violence and death, the mayor is a bank robber sentenced to serve her term in office, the coroner likes his work a little too much and cows incubate human embryos. In the middle of all this weirdness is Sheriff Jimmy Brock ('Tom Skerritt'), wife Jill ('Kathy Baker') their children and a frequently bewildered and endearingly eccentric supporting cast that somehow manages to cope with the bizarre series of events that is day-to-day life in Rome." That pretty much sums it up, methinks.

In addition to the two characters mentioned - the country boi sheriff and his know-it-all, God complex MD wife - you've got Holly Marie Combs (from Charmed) as Kimberly the teenage daughter, prone to every strong opinion and/or orientation possible as dictated by the episode, as well as two little boys, who between them fulfill every stereotype possible for their gender and age bracket (again as dictated by the theme of each episode). Other memorable characters include Fyvush Finkel as stereotypical Jewish lawyer Douglas Wambaugh, Lauren Holly (from Ford Fairlane) as the overachieving cop Maxine "Max" Stewart, Costas Mandylor (mostly TV and straight-to-video flicks) as gun-totin' ex-Chicago hard-ass cop-cum-small-town hick deputy, and Ray Walston as the gruff Judge Henry Bone.

Been watching episodes since my wife got me the first season on DVD for my birthday. Too bad the show got canceled after a measly four seasons. Bring back Picket Fences, says I. Remembah this show, Anders?

Snakes on a train

It's been a while that I've heard of that "movie". I first thought it was a sequel of the SLJ "movie" snakes on a plane but it was actually made by an alternative studio The Asylum who made a speciality of making movies with aproximately the same subject of the big studios but with almost no money*. The film was out directly on video stores 3 days before the official one. The thing is the movie with SLJ is so bad that I can't imagine something worse even if it's for 5% of the budget.

Then I read the synopsis of the Snakes on a train movie. And surprisingly, it's seems to be worse. Check yourselves:


Under a powerful zombie curse, snakes are hatched inside a young woman, slowly devouring her from within. Her only chance of survival is a powerful shaman who lives across the border.

With only hours to live, she jumps on a train headed for Los Angeles. Unfortunately for the passengers aboard, they are now trapped, soon to be victims of these flesh eating vipers...
* they made a remake of Pirates of the Carabian with Lance henricksen instead of Johnny Depp

Beam me Up, Scotty

What the hell - the morons in charge of assigning teaching facilities have provided me with a lecture hall which holds approximately 50% of what has been the number of students the last two years. Moreover, the room has no projector, so I'll either have to use blackboard-only, or somehow conjure up a projector myself.

So; considering that the student number for each course fluctuates wildly until the registration deadline in early February - how do these geniouses assign lecture halls if they don't use the student tally from previous years?

Some days, waiting for the space ship behind a comet seems like the prudent thing to do. I've got nothing against incompetent douchebags provided they stay the hell away from me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Taking the m-factor blog into the new millenium!

Or at least the new year. Just wanted to be the first to post here in 2008,and wish you all a happy new year!