Monday, June 30, 2008

Answers GQ2: The Revenge - Round 4

Quelle surprise - every contestant got the same number of points, but mostly for different songs. Specifically, the songs were:
  • Song 116: The La's - There She Goes. 80's hit which got a second wind after being on the soundtrack of one of Mike Myers' few good movies, "So I Married An Axe Murderer". Has about the same feel to it as the "Friends" theme, no? Two of you found this.
  • Song 117: Vanessa Carlton - A Thousand Miles. The vast majority - to the extent one can refer to three people this way - found this tune, which is a testament to the power of television advertising and constant MTV and radio rotation. As this song is piano-based, the intervals are very poorly suited for guitar, which means I tapped the entire thing. Worked well enough.
  • Song 118: Megadeth - Dread And The Fugitive Mind. Cathy: You found this, and mucho props for that - I'm impressed. Wouldn't you agree that this is one of Dave's best songs?
  • Song 119: Dream Theater - Another Day. One of their two songs which have been played on the radio (Pull Me Under being the other one). Sadly, none of y'all found it, which is a shame, as it's quite the excellent ballad. Brutal syncopation in my recording though...
  • Song 120: Spandau Ballet - Through The Barricades. Anders; how the hell did ya find this one? I'm impressed. Actually quite kewl song guitarwise.
So; with everyone getting the same Score for Round 4, I'll simply resort to skipping directly to The Grand Poobah, The Big Kahuna, The Total Score:
  1. Cathy/Sondre (tied at 24 points)
  2. ...
  3. Anders (22 points)
  4. Pigeon (16 points)
Congrats to Cathy and Sondre
for continuing to be the Leaders Of The Pack!

Friday, June 27, 2008

'Cause If I Had A Million Dollars..

"If I had" is an excellent song from the Slim Shady LP, but enough about Eminem. Anders' posting of the abysmal Little Wing cover perpetrated by The Corrs reminded me of a topic I've been thinking about for a while, but never bothered to outline beyond the one-liner format in various social settings. The concept is as follows: If I one day - presumably a fine day - would wake up and find that I had pretty much unlimited financial resources, I would buy a house with a hyooge elevator. Let's say that I discovered that I'd won all the lotteries in the world simultaneously or something, without buying any tickets. As anyone with a modicum of mathematical education knows, whether or not you buy a lottery ticket, or whether you buy a lottery ticket before or after the numbers are drawn, have precious little effect on your odds of winning, but I'm digressing. The bottom line is; in this scenario I'm filthy rich, and I'm in possession of a big-ass elevator.

In other words, I've got an unlimited booking budget and a venue, meaning I can book various artists and have them play in the venue for which their music is best suited, and because they're so overrated it ain't even funny (says I). Many of the biggest artists are nothing but franchises anyways, so I'm sure that their management would have them play anywhere as long as the chedda' was at the table. Besides; many of these artists have got to pay bills of the kind most of the population are unlikely to receive, like gold faucets, Cristal by the barrel and spendin' money for 75 of their closest friends. Just to make things interesting, I'm not necessarily limiting my list of artists to the,living - that's how much faith I have in research. With that taken care of, here's a preliminary list of artists that would definitely get a gig in my elevator (not necessarily in any particular order):
  • Eric Clapton
  • Robbie Williams
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Beatles
  • Led Zeppelin
  • The Corrs
  • The Doors
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Eric Clapton
  • Nightwish
  • KISS
  • Morten Abel
  • Metallica (post Black Album)
  • Tom Jones
  • Secret Garden
  • Coldplay
  • Smashing Pumpkins
  • Nirvana
  • Eric Clapton
  • R.E.M
  • Oasis
  • Blur
  • Bob Marley
  • Julio Iglesias
  • Pink Floyd
  • Whitney Houston
  • Moby
  • Rod Stewart
  • Garth Brooks
  • Backstreet Boys
  • Eric Clapton
  • The Who
  • Sting
  • Jean Michel Jarre
  • Kenny G
  • Vangelis
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Bette Midler
  • Boston
  • Cat Stevens
  • Enya
  • James Brown
  • Meat Loaf
  • Sade
  • Shakira
  • Eric Clapton
  • Turboneger
  • Madrugada
  • Dance With A Stranger
..Hmm..I might need more elevators

Little Wing cover done properly

....even three guitarists who don't really sing can do an infinitely better job than what the beer-guzzling backdrop singers performed in the post below:

This is from the G3 tour with Satriani, Vai and Yngwie - Live in Denver

Chicken jokes

It's that time again. TGIF!

How to ruin a classic

The Corrs is a band that I've never paid any attentiont to. I know they are a couple of siblings (from Irland?), and in my mind I did for some reason believe they were decent musicians and songwriters.

However, I came by this unplugged version of Little Wing. Yes, I know, it is a bit overplayed, especially after Stevie Ray Vaughan recorded his version of if, but it's still a great little song. And Hendrix was best on his more love key tunes, in my opinion. Anyway, here is the Corrs version. And what strikes me is that they've replace every signature lick and all that makes this tune great with bonafide elevator music. Kenny G could have done that any better. And, the poor dude with a Gibson made Dobro that comes in with a solo later in the song, doesn't help. Too little, too late. Gibson Dobro's aren't the best sounding out there, and to make things even worse, it's played through a pick-up, which results in a quacking tone that sounds obnoxious. Judge for yourselves:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Back In Bergen

So; after my PhD administrator bash I'm now in Bergen to git some bidness done, and to meet up with people I haven't seen in a while. As I strolled over to the rental car company to pick up my ride, I didn't expect much. After all, the web page defined the rental car classes in relations to Peugeot models, and I've had my share of rental cars of french origin, thank you very much. As a matter of fact, the two worst cars I've ever driven have been french cars with less than 10 000 km on them. Turns out I got a Toyota Prius. A red one, even, and as everybody knows, red cars are the fastest ones. The thing is ultrasilent (save for some noise from the bearings or something at low rpms), roomy, totally kewl-looking, and handles like a dream. It's got an automatic transmission which for me is a throwback to the Buick Regal we used to have stateside, only this one has more of a joystick feel to it. I'm lovin' this car, save for the fact that some sadistic freakshow set the language on the status display to - you guessed it - french. Putain!

It's even been a productive day, as me and Dr. H got to put the finishing touches on a major manuscript and submitted it to one of the better journals in my field - yay. This particular manuscript has taken almost exactly one year from the initial experiments were done to submission of what we hope is the final version, but it turned out well - I'm quite pleased with the finished product. And Dr. H made a kick-ass TOC graphic today, so that's also gonna get some exposure in the very near future. I really need to get some better graphics software than what I'm running now - that's becoming obvious. The only nasty surprise came after we started the online submission process. I'm a stickler for following the "Guidelines for authors" for a given journal, so I was pretty surprised when we found out that the online submission thingy has all kinds of extra hoops we've got to jump through, plenty of criteria not found in the "Guidelines" and some tedious double bookkeeping type crap. Why in the blue hell they changed the previous web interface is beyond me, as the new thing is very reminiscent of how another publishing house does it's online bidness. And that ain't necessarily a good thing. Oh well - the deed is done, and now we've got to wait for the wheels of peer-review to start turning.

There was even time for some TGIF with Dr. H and the A-man himself this evening - holla'

On the way back to the hotel, I stopped by Troldhaugen. It's been way too long since the last time I was there. When I lived at Fantoft during my student years, I walked out to Troldhaugen quite a lot. Something about that place is just so serene, despite the fact that you can hear the noise from the highway everywhere on the compound. Back in the day I even used to lug my guitar out to Troldhaugen on particularly nice days, and just sit down by the water and just play. Sure beat the hell out of the view from my place.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The thrill is gone

Nope - this ain't about one of BB's most famous tunes, but rather about how the concept of a PhD defense is fast losing the magic it once held for me.

Never saw that one comin' round the bend, did ya?

Today I fulfilled the actual "attending and administrating" part of my second tour of duty as Administrator, Coordinator, Third Opponent and Coffee-go-getter of a PhD defense, and already it starts to feel like the PhD defense process is becoming a routine. And by the way; that is not at all meant as a derogatory remark about any of the participants, be it candidate, opponents, Department Head, adviser or any of the other cast members. It's just the way it is, and yet another sign that it's been a while since my own defense. Four years and two days, to be specific.

Good thing the odds are good for me getting to do this gig twice more this calendar year.

La freakin' cucaracha.

GQ2: The Revenge - Round 5

...oh it's ON now:

Submit your answers to mfactorquiz (at) by the end of Friday 070408. Each song holds the potential of two points - one point for artist and one point for the song. Answers will be posted on Saturday 070508.

Song number 121:

Song number 122:

Song number 123:

Song number 124:

Song number 125:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Yet Another Piracy Kills Music Post

I know, I know - Epic Broken Record. But at least I'm not going to bore you with where I stand on the subject, as I think that's been clarified on several occasions. What triggered this particular case of unrequested fission surplus is a feature in Saturday's Dagens Næringsliv, outlining how much CD sales have gone down over the last years, how selling downloads is just now becoming a player to reckon with, etc. In other words, things we have heard a gazillion and fifteen times before - no news there. What revs me up, however, are the blatant double standards and self-justifications which are perpetuated by the most ardent file-sharing protagonists. Specifically, it's stuff like:

"The record companies exploit the artists and only pay them a tiny percentage of the sales anyway, so we're really doing the artists a favor." Now why do these people have so much against math and education in general? If the argument is that the artists are being exploited and that they make way too less, how is illegally downloading their music going to remedy that? If an artist - that is; artist + manager + crew combo - makes ten percent of the sales from the first edition and perhaps a little more of the back end, then how would it improve the financial situation for the artist if the sum those ten percent are calculated from is significantly reduced due to people jacking the mp3's instead of buying the CD's? That's right - the artist also makes less, and the argument is void like the warranty of a 1991 Hyundai Elantra the second you drive it off the lot. Ten percent of less is not as much as ten percent of more.

"The artists should just put their music on the web and allow us, the fans to download it for a price hich more closely resembles what we think the product is worth." Yup; keeping up with a budget practice for an actual business - which is what the reality is for the decreasing number of artists who can live off of their music - becomes way easier when all your income variables are unknown. Good luck trying to apply this to other areas of life. The next time I'm at a guitar shop I'm gonna grab a vintage Gibson Les paul and leave what I think it's worth.......that would go over gangbusters. This applies directly to the personal income of the artists, so who are the fans to decide when an artist has made enough money, an argument which is brought up every time Lars Ulrich criticizes downloaders. Again, this would not fly in other areas of life. For example, I think that realtors and lawyers make way too much money. If they make any money at all, they make too much in my estimation. In order to ameliorate this, I would have to break the law but unlike what's the situation with jacking music, the odds of me getting busted are high. Besides, I'm thinking that if people get the choice between a) paying for a product and b) getting it for free while being anonymous over the internet, the fraction of the oppulation belonging to category a) is not going to be in the majority.

...rant over.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Brave new world

I've been a bad, bad boy. For about two months after we moved, I didn't even unpack any of my guitars. OK - we had lots and lots of painting and sundry stuff to do, but still. Last weekend, I picked up a guitar and started playing again, and predictably, I wasn't able to do a lot of the things I could pull off without even warming up. Rather optimistically, I tuned up and launched into some Satriani tune. The result: Fail - my hands were not properly synchronized, and even though I knew exactly where on the fretboard to put my fingers, it was almost like playing while drunk.

Alrighty then - obviously I should'a warmed up first, right? So I ran through some basic chromatic warm-up licks for a while, did some chord progressions and licks until my hands felt warmed up and ready to go. Since I had warmed up quite a bit, I felt ready and skipped the Satriani stuff in order to make up for lost time. In other words, it was Malmsteen time, and I launched into Fire&Ice.

Another Fail.

Having realized that two months off = much technique to rebuild, I started going Ionian to Dorian to Phrygian to Lydian to Mixolydian to Aeolian to Locrian back to Ionian in ascending and descending patterns and only that for a bunch of hours to days straight. Teh result: I woke up Tuesday morning with slight tendinitis from just going through the modes Rain man style.

Epic Fail.

Now I'm back to practicing, albeit more modestly, and with smaller stretches, and I've discovered some things about my style of playing. I've more or less dedicated the practicing time to alternate picking, as that skill seems to be the first to go, and I've discovered that I have to force myself to follow through with alternate picking. For the longest time, I've adopted sweep picking into even scalar patterns, so that I always use downstrokes in going from lower to higher strings, and upstrokes from higher to lower strings. Here, lower and higher refer to the pitch of the strings, not to their relative position on the guitar. The result is that I totally have to focus on getting my right hand to follow the strict up-and-down motion also when crossing strings.

It's weird how you subconsciously adapt techniques to fit some target property, like notes per second in my case.

Sexisim studies

Since Wilhelm in the past has posted some critic of commercial that are sexist/ stereotyping (and some frustration over the "no double-sided printing on student hand-outs" policy), I thought I could post this sexism test. After all, I'm mr. PC on this board...

It's Firday, but there is no TGIF from me this weekend.

Big Friday shout-out

This one goes out to all the keyboard warriors who confuse copying and pasting PubMed abstracts with knowledge, and especially the e-thugs who use wikipedia to support their arguments. After all; if it's on da interweb, it's gotta be true.

Google is your Hookup! Holla' if ya hear me!

Why do I never learn?

I'm in the very final stages of putting together a what's hopefully the penultimate version of a manuscript, and now I've got to face up to the uncomfortable reality of having to conform my manuscript to the specifications of the journal template. This is precisely the type of jumping through hoops that I absolutely detest, because in doing so, I am not learning anything new, it does not add or subtract to the quality of what I've written, it does not in my opinion facilitate better communication of the results and arguments contained in the document. It is nothing but time-consuming, mind-numbing, soul-draining nonsense.

The astute reader might now wonder - why didn't I just start writing the manuscript using the template, then I wouldn't have to worry about this nonsense, and it would save time, effort and frustrations? Not a bad question at all, and I'm presently asking myself the same. As a matter of fact, during grad school my US advisors encouraged us to do just that, and I believe most of my fellow students complied.

So what kind of moron am I not to grasp this concept? The kind of moron who's tried that approach on several occasions and was left holding the bag because a) it's not exactly uncommon to start out writing the manuscript with one journal in mind, only to find a better suited journal as the document really starts to take shape, and b) some of these journals are infamous for frequently altering their templates. Both a) and b) have happened to me - scenario a) has admittedly occurred more times - and so I'm sticking to using a standard double-spaced Word document and EndNote.

However; presently, the reasoning underlying this allegedly flexible approach appears to be flawed, as I'm copying and pasting away into the new format. Damn!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ali G gives a speech at Harvard

...'ear me now!...Part 1:

Part 2:


Answers GQ2: The Revenge - Round 3

Round 3 is over, and the dust is about to settle. The songs were:
  • Song 111: Metallica - Seek And Destroy. One of the coolest Metallica songs around. Know why? 'Cause Dave Mustaine wrote it, and Dave is Da Man. Really kewl tune to do live as well, although I never really bothered to play the snoozapalooza solo that Kirk Hammett laid down on the Kill'Em All album, as it is way too amateur hour at the community center. And all of y'all got this one - color me impressed.
  • Song 112: The Knack - My Sharona. Classic, often imitated rock song. Trond "Teeny" Holter of Wig Wam totally ripped this off on their Wig Wamania album.
  • Song 113: Tears For Fears - Everybody Wants To Rule The World. Annoying 80's summer megahit in a weird time signature. Ok; not THAT weird, it's just that I hate the 12/8 time signature with a passion. Only one of you found this tune - congrats.
  • Song 114: Dire Straits - Brothers In Arms. Beautiful song, and one that always kills late in the set, as the show nears the end, people are drunk and they're deluded by alcohol, fatigue and relief to be gettin' teh hell out of there enough to think that they've totally enjoyed the show. This is my version of the intro, even though I skipped the volume swell in the penultimate phrase. I was just too damn lazy to hook up my Line6 Floorpod for that stuff, as the Ibanez S isn't as wiggling-volume-control-with-pinky friendly as the strat is. If you noticed that something was missing - mea culpa. If you didn't - carry on. It's all good though, as I added a slight pinched harmonic without going all Dimebag up in this motherf*cker.
  • Song 115: P.O.D - Satellite. Monster hit in 2002 or so. Absolutely monster. So monster, in fact that when Godzilla, King Kong, The Creature From The Black Lagoon and Dorian Yates get together over a Corona with a twist of lime or a Zima and get all sentimental and junk, all they can talk about is how monster this hit was. Problem is; it was enormous Stateside. Maybe it wasn't that big of a deal in Europe, 'cause none of y'all got it. Not even close. Perhaps Nu-Metal ain't yall's bag?

As the Score for Round 3 clearly outlines, there's a new Sheriff in town:

  1. Cathy (8 points)
  2. Pigeon/Sondre (tied at 6 points)
  3. ...
  4. Anders (4 points)

...and you better believe that this has an effect on the Total Score as well:

  1. Cathy/Sondre (tied at 20 points)
  2. ...
  3. Anders (18 points)
  4. Pigeon (12 points)

Congrats to Cathy the Usurper, and good luck in Round 4!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

GQ2: The Revenge - Round 4

...let's see if you all do any better this round:

Submit your answers to mfactorquiz (at) by the end of Sunday 062908. Each song holds the potential of two points - one point for artist and one point for the song. Answers will be posted on Monday 063008.

Song number 116:

Song number 117:

Song number 118:

Song number 119:

Song number 120:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where's my personal jetpack?

NASA sucks, plain and simple. As a matter of fact, NASA sucks so much that even former NASA administrator Michael Griffin said so back in 2005. True; he worded it differently, that NASA had lost it's way since the 70's and that the space shuttle, the International Space Station and nearly the whole of the U.S. manned space program for the past three decades were mistakes, but that's semantics.

July 20th 2009 is going to mark the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing. Following this historic event, there was lots and lots of talk about colonizing the moon, going to Mars, etc, plus the general population actually got introduced to space-age technology, like Velcro. Space exploration was cool, and totally found it's way into pop culture as well. It was like the pioneer days all over again; to boldly go where no one has gone before, and all that.

That was then. Since then, they took to mucking about with low-orbital flights in the space shuttle, which from the perspective of pioneering is a glorified tour bus. Sure it can hold more people than the Apollos, but it's a much harder sell. Once you've promised colonization of the moon, travelling to Mars and all that, it's hard to get excited about a bunch of people in orbit. It's even harder to get excited about the International Space Station; essentially it's like the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine with a flat tire, but in space. The damn thing just sits there, like a giant trash can, and personally I couldn't care less about Russians and American astronauts shaking hands in space - forget that shit.

Imagine if C Square had rolled back into the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1496 with bold new exploration plans - after "sailing 'cross the ocean blue in 1492" like one is taught in teh States at an early age, C Square now wanted to build a slightly bigger ship - Corona - and boldly head out from the Canary Islands to Madeira. Dude would have gotten his ass kicked and rightly so.

What if Roald Amundsen had sought funding for a new and bold expedition; after being the first man on the South Pole he now wanted to launch an expedition just north of Trondheim? Closer in proximity, true, but with more people....

That's more or less what NASA has been doing for decades now, and they're wondering why they are a PR fiasco. Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Atlantic Globalflyer is going to offer more in the way of space exploration as charter tourism for really rich people than NASA is presently doing with manned space crafts. How pathetic is that

The fiascos with the space telescope etc doesn't make things better. Your reputation as a scientist is truly shot when you can't figure out how to convert between units and thus screw up big time on prime time television. The space telescope gives awesome pictures, but when you're relying on that to boost your public image, you should expect that people get bored. After a while, the pics - who also start to look similar - don't do the trick, and sooner or later folks are gonna catch on to the fact that when you move the objective closer to the event, you get better pictures. Something with proximity again....

I want my personal jetpack and my flying car, dammit.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Scott Steiner versus Canada

...arguably the greatest heel in the business - The Genetic Freak himself, Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner on Canada....remind you of someone Anders?

Dude's got some great promos and a terrific gimmick.

Survival skills for scientists - review

is the title of a book I bought just last week, written by Federico Rosei and Tudor Johnston from Université de Quebéc, Canada, a.k.a. mexico North. From the blurb at World Scientific, "This book provides young scientists, from physicists through to sociologists, the counsel and tools that are needed to be their own agents and planners, to survive and succeed, hopefully even thrive in science. Making a good career based on peer-reviewed science means navigating many stressful phases from graduate school through to permanent employment. Performing artists pay agents to help them in this effort. In effect, this book is designed to allow you to act as your own agent. You are counseled to analyze yourself deeply to know clearly what you want and whether you can live with it, how to make career choices and what you should then keep in mind, when to fight and when to yield. The unwritten rules of the “science game” are explained, including how to become published and known, the pitfalls of peer review and how to evade them, papers and posters, job interviews and getting your science funded. Interspersed with this are illustrative anecdotes and a fair amount of humor."

Looked like a winner to me, as it held the potential to be both entertaining and to perhaps provide me with some guidance from scientists from not-that-distant fields who have traveled this road before me. There was humour involved alright. More specifically, the joke was on me for buying this book in the first place.

What was disappointing was the economy of content displayed in the book; there was VERY little new information presented here which was not clear to me in my first year of grad school, like how it is important to publish in journals with high impact factors so as to get a higher potential number of readers and thus increase the odds for citations, that going to conferences is more about networking than gaining knowledge, that it is important to get along with your advisor because he or she is going to write letters of reference, etc. Holy obvious, Batman.

Moreover, the book adopts what in my opinion is a fallacy, that it's all about puttin' in hours, and that the more you work, the better the odds of getting somewhere in academia. According to the book, you can overcome lots of limitations and work around scientific talent if you just put in those 60+ hour weeks all the time. I've got plenty beef with this assertion. Even though I'm not as experienced as the authors of this book, I've definitely put in the ultralong hours during my PhD and post doc, and I've gathered some experience with more moderate (but still long) hours. My conclusion is that there are some bottlenecks inherent to science which cannot be traversed more rapidly by putting in more hours. This might be true for labwork, where there is a direct correlation between the number of hours you put in and the amount of data you get in the other end, but it certainly does not hold for the more creative aspects of the job, like writing a paper, interpreting data and setting up ideas for new projects and grant proposals. If you're writing a paper and you're struggling with formulating a section, spending more time with it might not help at all - trust me: I've tried. Spending more hours writing is probably gonna get you more words in the document, but the wordcount is hardly correlated with quality when it comes to scientific articles. Neither is it necessarily of any use staring into code, reading the same lines of code over and over again in hopes of finding the reason why the damn thing doesn't compile. Ditto for poring over your graphs trying to find new physical interpretations for the new data set which doesn't follow the same trend as the previous.

Sure; you've got to put in long hours and work hard, but you've also got to remember that you're in this for the long haul if you choose academia (or vice versa). Carving a legacy in science isn't a sprint, but a marathon, and few things are sadder than the professor who has no life outside of the lab.

If I run into the first author at a conference or something, I'm gonna get my money back, and I don't accept Canadian currency.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Newspaper subscription reflections

....try to say that ten times fast - that's way worse than both "action Jackson" and "She sells seashells by the seashore". It probably leaves something to be desired in terms of it's qualities as a header as well, but I'm not even gonna pretend that I care.

While I really enjoy reading newspapers on weekends, there's just no way there's enough time or interest to justify a full-time subscription. Because of this, we've had several approaches to gettin' our newspaper fix since we moved to this region. Our first strategy was to scour the newspaper stands when we went out shopping every Saturday. That strategy offered a certain flexibility, as we were free to purchase whichever newspaper managed to catch our interest that day, but left us hanging with respect to cost and the fact that by the time we got to the register, the selection might leave something to be desired unless we shopped early, which didn't really happen a lot back then.

Strategy B went along the lines of "Hey; let's give the local newspaper a chance and get a weekend subscription to Adressa." Big mistake. At first, we had a reliable delivery guy, but after a change of personnel, we pretty much didn't get our Saturday issue at all, and there was lots of hassle with having to call and complain etc. Moreover, there's just no getting around the fact that Adresseavisen is a prime example of abysmal journalism, and I can't really think of any reason for the newspapers not self-combusting in shame that doesn't involve dousing the paper issues with some form of flame-retardant. So; paper didn't get delivered AND paper sucks lightly peppered monkey balls is a potent combo of reasons not to sink any money into that enterprise.

Our present situation is a weekend subscription to Dagens Næringsliv, which is certainly a step up. The news coverage is in my opinion very good - they can spell and string sentences together - and they come at news stories from different angles, in that they let various prominent politicians etc. from different political and economical positions write commentaries regarding various hot topics. So far so good. And when their Friday magazine is on, it's on. However; too big a fraction of the newspaper is concerned with how the stock market is doing and pure business, so that what's immediately interesting to me is in the minority. Not exactly a surprise that Dagens Næringsliv is heavy on the finance stuff, but after a while there's too much of the paper I'm just skimming through, and so it seems - for lack of a better term - wasteful. Besides, I've yet to read a single issue of Dagens Næringsliv which doesn't feature a photo of John Fredriksen, and dude is kind of hard on the eyes. In other words, it's time to move on.

Anyone have suggestions for well-written papers which offer weekend subscriptions? Aftenposten and Bergens Tidende are frontrunners as of right now.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Score one for the good guys

Our gym rolled out a "no tank tops or singlets" policy this week, and we're quite elated.

This was obviously a blow to the local guido community, but it was a long time coming in my humble opinion. This makes it more difficult for the "67 kilos soaking wet carrying a Jansport filled with all of Madonna's remix-cds" monsters who walk around carrying hyooge invisible suitcases to flex/strut their non-existent mass around and gather "you swole bro" comments from the lesser guidos. 'Cause that stuff was really gettin' out of hand at 3T, with set after set of pubescent douchebags rollin' at least deuce deep with their arms akimbo, fragile egos and raging hormones fueled by the buddy blowjobs and the distorted body image they observed in the mirror, like a freakin surface plasma polariton.

Better yet; t-shirts means less gross benches and machines, as these sub-70 kilo monsters never bring towels - that would cramp their style and make it difficult to bring enough protein shakes, water bottles and belts. Plus; when your arm is completely outstretched and you're a skinny runt, the weight of that towel is quite insurmountable. Moreover; no tank tops or singlets means a clear reduction in BO or cheap-ass cosmetic products like the infernal Axe-deodorants - nothin' but net as far as I'm concerned.

Now if they could only roll out a "no freakin' bicycle shorts" policy, I'd be close to ecstatic.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Answers GQ2: The Revenge - Round 2

The field is getting more scattered already. The songs were:

  • Song 106: The Four Tops - I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch). Real classic song, and a really cool one at that. Much like Beethoven's Frühling sonata, you can't help but being in a better mood after having heard this tune. That's where the comparison to LvB ends, though. If you like this song and want to hear some more, I suggest you check out "Build Me Up Buttercup" by The Foundations - another late 60's classic.
  • Song 107: Chris Isaak - Wicked Game. Speaking of wicked, there's one note which is SO not in the pocket in my recording.........I can't even claim that it's merely syncopated, that's how out of sync it is. Damn. Anyhoo; personally I never could stand this song, or pretty much any song which invokes the ultracreepy Twin Peaks mood......spooky.
  • Song 108: Eminem - Lose Yourself. From the 8 Mile soundtrack - great movie; you oughta' check it out if you haven't already. Em's lyrical talent mixed in with some "Eye Of The Tiger"-esque guitar riffing - it works.
  • Song 109: Europe - Rock The Night. Never really liked this Europe song, but it was a big hit and it moved crowds, so we played it every now and then. One of the weakest songs on "TFC" in my opinion.
  • Song 110: Bryan Adams - Run To You. Instantly recognizable song from the Canadian Springsteen. Playing the guitar parts on this song gets boring in a hurry though. The things one used to do in order to sneak in some original tunes between cover songs...

One contestant reigned supreme (feel free to insert a Slayer reference here if you've got the inclination) in this round, had everyone else hang on the ropes and crushed any hope they might have had of surpassing him this time around. Who it was? Check out the Score for Round 2:

  1. Anders (10 points)
  2. Cathy/Sondre (tied at 8 points)
  3. ...
  4. Pigeon (2 points)

The Grand Poobah, The Total Score Now stands as:

  1. Anders/Sondre (tied at 14 points)
  2. ...
  3. Cathy (12 points)
  4. Pigeon (6 points)

Congrats to Anders for clawing his way up in the world, and good luck with Round 3!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager

.......Life is hard when you're Darth Vader's less talented, less-charismatic little brother Chad. Watch them all - it's quite teh epic saga.

..betcha' wanna take my lunch money now, huh?

Epic useless info

Yesterday I watched the six o' clock news on NRK2 while at teh gym, and there was a short piece wherein a new report concluded with the fact that 1/5 of the child soldiers in the world are girls.

Who in the blue hell cares? Like the concept of child soldiers doesn't inherently suck in a way which transcends any set of boundaries of sucktitude associated with gender differences?

Now I'm just waiting for the knee-jerk reaction from some generic gender-difference preoccupied PC hoi pollois to publicly exclaim that "This is outrageous; at least 40% of the child soldiers should be girls by the end of 2010."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stonehenge decoded

Nigel Tufnel has done some thorough research on stonehenge, and has some great theories he shares with us. For those who is unfamiliar with sir Tufnel, he is not only a scientist, but also one of the best guitar players in the history of modern rock. Here is an interview in five short pieces, where he outlines his findings. Enjoy!

GQ2: The Revenge - Round 3

Mo' songs, mo' problems.

Submit your answers to mfactorquiz (at) by the end of Wednesday 061808. Each song holds the potential of two points - one point for artist and one point for the song. Answers will be posted on Thursday 061908.

Song number 111:

Song number 112:

Song number 113:

Song number 114:

Song number 115:

Grading exams: Some reflections

'Tis the season, and evaluating students is more or less what I do this week. Beside the PhD defense I'm administrating I've evaluated three different exam forms this semester - oral, take-home and written, and it's apparent to me that there are some recurring flaws in the way students are approaching these different exams. In addition to the ways in which different aspects of standard pedagogics favor certain exam forms, that is. Moreover, it's quite obvious that the students in Norway have a different approach to different exam forms than, US undergrads do.

Oral exams:
As part of my mandatory pedagogic training, I performed a survey among undergraduate and PhD students in my field as to their experience with and attitudes towards oral examinations compared to written exams. 70% of the undergrads preferred written exams over oral exams, while the PhD students didn't really care about which evaluation form was used. However, the majority of students (both categories) stated that oral exams provided a better vessel with which to demonstrate their skills. Not only that, but some 40% of the undergrads felt that oral exams are easier than written ones, and more than 90% (both categories) had higher grade expectations for oral exams than for a written equivalent.

So hold up; undergraduate students are of the opinion that oral exams a) allow them to better demonstrate their knowledge, b) are easier and c) yield higher grades but d) they prefer written exams? Say whuut?

Turns out it can be traced back to another set of questions in the survey, related to the level of nervousness/anxiety. Among PhD students it wasn't really an issue, but among undergrads ~70% stated that they were way more nervous before an oral exam than before a written one. How about the effect of anxiety on the performance? According to the student panel used here, less than a third thought that the pre-exam anxiety (which for some 85% grew less as the exam started and progressed) negatively affected their performance.

So the major reason students prefers written exams is because they're less nervous before the exam, despite expectations of an easier test, better grades and more efficient means to demonstrate their acquired skills. Are oral exams really that scary? Now I don't have equivalent data in survey form from my days of teaching in the US, but no way were the NC undergrads as nervous before having to present something orally. If a fear of a very limited form of public speaking is the problem, then it's apparent to me that the US tradition of show&tell starting in kindergarten isn't such a bad idea.

Not saying that oral exams can't be horrible, though. I remember that once upon a time in a place either far away or very close, a post doc or newly hired prof was conducting an oral exam and quite late in the exam, the student was asked to derive an expression from some given initial conditions. The student glibly threw down the initial and final expressions and stated that what was between was "just math". For the next hour or so, the student bitterly regretted this statement as he was forced to make good on the promise and do the actual derivation, seeing as how it was "just math".

Take-home exams:
I'm not such a big fan of these within the framework of PAMS (Physical And Mathematical Sciences), as they tend to get fuzzy. Not to say that they can't be hard - one of the hardest exams I've ever had was the final take-home exam for a PhD course in molecular spectroscopy, aka. poorly hidden quantum mechanics. What I'm saying is that the exam form introduce two factors which can be difficult to correct for; teamwork and ................... (insert your favorite toned-down synonym for plagiarism here). Teamwork can be pretty hard to spot, especially if it involves a quantification problem in which there is only one solution, although I've seen plenty of it from my student days. For more essay-like problems or assignments involving literature surveys, plagiarism can be pretty transparent. If you're reading section upon section with epic broken English followed by some sentences or paragraphs with perfect grammar and sentence structure, then odds are that some sections have been "borrowed" from other sources. How the hell do you correct for that, especially in the cases where it's not that obvious, but there is merely a suspicion of plagiarism? One is supposed to grade mostly based on the knowledge demonstrated by the student, but if it's a case of copy&paste, how much of that knowledge has been assimilated by the student? I hate take-home exams.

Written exams:
By far the most used exam form here, and it's what I'm dealing with at the moment. It's interesting to note how certain catchphrases I've used often during the semester finds their way into the exam answers - not necessarily within the right context but still. If there's a phrase I've used more than ten times during the semester, it will find its way onto the answers. Often in quotation marks.....don't know how I should feel about that.

Another thing I'd really like to know is whether there's a correlation between the the frequency with which people show up for the lectures and the grade they get. Because while it's really cool to read a good exam paper, it massively sucks to read a compilation of wild guesses and bambi-esque reasoning, 'cause I can't help but wonder if I could've done a better job of explaining the material for the student. Provided, of course, that the student showed up for the lectures and actually put in hours and hours on self-study. Problem is; unless I have data on this correlation, I can't tell if I should approach things differently or if the student is simply a lazy bastard, and without this info, any changes I do to my teaching are going to be more or less blind guesses. And the student evaluations are anonymous, as they should be, so I guess I'm screwed. Oh well.

How 'bout that; I'm reflecting on my personal teaching philosophy. My pedagogic instructors probably couldn't give a damn though, as they certainly weren't interested in any suggestions towards how to quantify the efficacy of their course......

Monday, June 9, 2008

Going to the bank is worse than...

...having your nose broken......and I can back it up with personal experience. Damn sales weasels.

Today my wife and I had to go sign some documents at our bank. That was all we had to go through, we thought, but nooooo. As soon as we rolled in the door, our bank representative started up with the same horrible sales rap we've been through a number of times now, after having been lured to the bank under some bogus "we need to go through these documents in person" pretense. Immediately after we'd sat down, our bank weasel rolled out the "analysis" sheets of what should happen if - higher powers forbid - one of us should be disabled or worse, going through in painstaking detail how things would suck financially in addition to the infinite number of other ways in which everything would be horrible. She laid out the sequential scenarios of disability or death for both of us, and for what? 'Cause she wants to sell us insurances, of course. The kicker: Both of us have that kind of insurances taken care of via another provider and she knows this, but still she insisted on going through these quite frankly disturbing scenarios. The fact that we're going to attend a funeral on Friday makes it even more depressing. But THEN we just got to sign the papers and be on our not-so-merry-anymore ways, right?

That's a big negatory. She then proceeded to try to convince us of saving via their investment funds, which - of course, was guaran-damn-teed to give us annual returns of at least 15%. And she had colored pie-charts and projections like a damn timeshare sales-weasel. "If ya save X thousand per month now, you'll have millions and millions in 20 years, 'cause this is virtually no risk, and at the very least you're looking at 15% annual revenue".

How very Terra Securities of her. Teh kicker; to get these no-risk, minimum 15% annual revenue deals one would have to sign a document stating that we accept that this is high-risk, and that we would have to accept annual losses of up to 20% as "part of the game".

Basically the thing we went there to do was a three-minute job, and the remaining 30+ minutes was listening to sales rap we absolutely did not want to hear. F*ck that bank "person" and the gargoyle she rode in on!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Answers GQ2: The Revenge - Round 1

So now that the dust has settled, here are the answers to GQ2: The Revenge - Round 1.
  • Song 101: Dire Straits - Walk Of Life: None of y'all got this one, which quite frankly surprised teh hell out of me. Ok; I didn't include the famous keyboard intro (although a guitar version of that one might not help that much), and admittedly I put a little more overdrive on the single-coil tone from my 'S than what Mr. Knopfler does, but I still thought this would be instantly recognizable. Oh well; not my favorite DS song anyhoo, despite having played it many, many times.
  • Song 102: Queen - Love Of My Life: My take on the "Live Killers" version. Awesome tune. Never got to do this live, as we never had a singer capable of pulling off any Mercury songs. So; I used the intro as a segue to "Neste Sommer" by Norwegian band DeLillos.
  • Song 103: TnT - 10,000 Lovers (In One): Only one of y'all got this one, despite my feeble attempts at adding Ronni Tekrø-style machine-gunning at the back end of the track. Great riff!
  • Song 104: Helloween - Dr. Stein: Only one of y'all got this one as well. Really kewl tune from the band that invented power metal and got MTV airplay...including for this one.
  • Song 105: Ac/Dc - Back In Black: Oh yes - all y'all found it. The song has too few damn notes in it, so I was forced to add a little tapped lick at the conclusion of the chorus.
This means that the Score after Round 1 and also Total Score looks like this:
  1. Sondre (6 points)
  2. Cathy/Anders/Pigeon (4 points)
Congrats to Sondre
and good luck with Round 2.

GQ2: The Revenge - Round 2

Here are the five new usual I've got no idea whether they're difficult or not.

Submit your answers to mfactorquiz (at) by the end of Wednesday 061108. Each song holds the potential of two points - one point for artist and one point for the song. Answers will be posted on Thursday 061208.

Song number 106:

Song number 107:

Song number 108:

Song number 109:

Song number 110:

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Swedish Minister of Agricultur.. a bit insecure. Sweden is now discussing a law that criminialize performing sex acts with animals. Norway passed a law like this without much public debate, but appearantly, the Swedish Minister of Agricultur have a problem with defining where to draw the line between what is normal behaviour and what's suppose to be illegal:

Well, Mr. Erlandsson, let me be the first(?) to tell you: That example is WAY over the line. Only a real sicko would even think of such an example in a public debate.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Now THIS is what I should be doing for a living

...Office Linebacker....yeah, Baby

Of course there is always a risiko that I might get shipped off to sensitivity training:

...I would've been awesome at this here job!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The awesome

I'm so going to watch that movie

Ben stiller rocks !!!!

Plus Downey Jr and Jack Black !!!

Grant proposal = submitted

FINALLY I got the grant proposal submitted to the Research Council, with 3 hours and 5 minutes to spare until the deadline. I wasn't sure there for a while, seeing as how various forces of administrative and bureaucratic evils conspired to screw me over something fierce the last two days, but I made it. Due to grant application writing being an extreme sport, I even had to skip the talk by none other than James Watson this Monday, which would've been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I made it.

Now all I've got to do over the next three weeks is grade 15 undergraduate exams and one phD special topic assignment, make status report in the form of PowerPoint presentation, prepare my role as administrator for PhD defense, update web page, complete and submit two research papers, grade MSc thesis, write annual report and relocate to another office.


All the geeks are not playing WoW or Conan

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

American Gladiator rejects

It's not for everyone, that much is clear:

These people are way more entertaining than the actual far...I'd watch Snake for sure.

Like I promised Cathy on Saturday

Here's my favorite Thin Lizzy song; "Still In Love With You", taken from the "Live And Dangerous" live album.

Monday, June 2, 2008


According to VG, there's been an onslaught of angry dorks voicing their complaints on the Age of Conan user forum. Apparently some of the female game characters suddenly got smaller breasts over the weekend. And many, many angry male techie dweebs put down their rolls of tissue paper for long enough to let the world and especially FunCom know that they were outraged - OUTRAGED, ya hear - that the computer game girl they've been ogling now has gotten a boob reduction job.

Still according to VG, there are now more than 500 000 registered losers, I mean users, and the game tops bestseller lists all over Europe.

So many losers ripe for the pickin' little time to take their lunch money.

Now PLEASE someone try to come to these dorks' defense and argue that being enthusiastic about WoW or Age of Conan doesn't automatically mean that the odds of one being a card-carrying member of the Loser Lounge increases exponentially....I double-dare ya.

I don't know how much these dateless wonders shell out to be able to kill monsters online and look at animated tits, but if it keeps these freaks of nature from procreating, it's all good. Procreating may pose some technical problems anyways - besides the obvious ones; I don't know what being wrung from a discarded tissue paper does to the quality of the sperm, but it can't be good.

Triple act concert review: Stage Dolls, Morten Abel and Dio

I'm back from my weekend trip to Kopervikfestivalen, where I was going to see a triple concert with Stage Dolls, Morten Abel and Dio. And I can report that I've experienced the 80's: There where a lot of big bleached hair (men), mullets (women) ripped snow-washed jeans and general 80's fashion. The 80's never left Karmøy, it seems. Yeah!

Stage Dolls
Hitting the stage an hour late due to technical problems, Stages Dolls were forced to cut their set short. They started out with Love Don't Bother me which the crowd recognized instantly. Actually, I was surprised that I recognized several of the Stage Dolls tunes. Anyway, they still haven't corrected all the technical problems, because the vocals were mixed way back. It got better two or three songs into the act, but I wasn't impressed with the song provided to Stage Dolls. The guitar tone was also a bit thin. Since the Les Paul/ Marshall stack should provide a think and classic rock tone, I blame it on the sound system. Still, Stage Dolls were a surprisingly good live act and delivered a great string of songs and got the audience going. Good job.

Morten Abel
A last minute replacement for Europe. Next time I'm bringing a shovel, 'cause this was a load of crap. I mean, the dude had everything going for him: There was a sudden boom in ticket sales when Abel was added, so obviously he had fans that came just to see him. Regardless what you think of him, he has a back catalogue of (Norwegian) hits neither of the other artists had. He was on his home turf; from way back to Mods, September When, Pelz and up to his solo-career, Morten Abel has been a dear and household name in the Stavanger/ west-coast area, especially the more rural parts. He is a professional who's been in the game most of his life and must have done thousands of live gigs. But still he sucked big time: He seemed bored and uninspired, didn't get the audience going (even if Stage Dolls did a great warm up job), both his and the female backup singers vocals were weak and off key, the band wasn't very tight and he had some canned music (horn section, sound effects, etc). Can't think of a single great thing to say about his act, it was just plain boring and it seems that almost everybody at the festival just waited for his set to finish (apart from dozen or so hardcore fans at the right side of the stage). Next!

Mr. Dio came on a bit late, and went straight into Holy Diver (and thus completed playing through my very short list of Dio songs I've heard). But the show was still great: Now the huge sound system delivered clear vocals, guitar up front, thumbing bass and great drum sound. Why couldn't they provide this to the other acts as well (wouldn't do much good for Morten Abel, but Stage Dolls deserved better). The band was tight, some good guitar solos, but I have to admit: The genre mr. Dio operates in, is not my cup of tea. He was a great performer, had a good band, but I still didn't get my mush pit going. But the audience seems to get in on it, and it was pretty obvious that Dio was the guy people came to see. He didn't disappoint them!