Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bare Werner, by Thor-Egil Danielsen

Norwegian singer and entertainer Jan Werner Danielsen passed away in September 2006. This biography, written by his father, gives a parent's point of view on the childhood, life and career of an extremely talented singer.

Alrighty then - I bought this book on a 60% sale, but odds are I would've bought it anyways. When we moved here from good ol' Wake County, NC, US of A, I became somewhat fascinated every time I heard him on the radio or saw him on television. At first, I just thought "the songs totally blow, but damn can he sing". This immediately transitioned into "That dude would be the perfect power metal singer. He'd be my first choice as a singer in a power metal band, seeing as how Roy Khan is sorta' busy with Kamelot". Of course, even if I had the time and inclination to get a power metal band going and had given him a call back in, say, 2005, there's no way he'd even have answered my call. In the unlikely event that he'd taken my call, he'd probably have dismissed the idea immediately, and on the infinitesimal chance that he'd accepted, I seriously doubt that any record label would've picked up an unknown metal band fronted by a musical/gospel/Eurovision/pop singer whose most famous works include covers of Celine Dion and Chess songs. Oh well. The idea of Jan Werner the power metal singer ain't that far fetched though; checketh him out doing "Holy Diver" by Dio:

Back to the biography. The part of the book dedicated to Jan Werner's childhood is perhaps a little bit too colored by parental pride, and so some of the stories appear to have grown for each time they're told, the end result being somewhat hard to believe at times. However, this turns into what appears to be brutal honesty regarding Jan Werner's adult life and career, like how he squandered his money, struggled with depression, low self-esteem and alcoholism. It's a good read.

Metallica - Death Magnetic

Got this as a present from C&C -way kewl.

This album represents a return to a Metallica which fits stylistically somewhere between "..And Justice For All" and the "Black Album", with Jimbo Hetfield's vocals being more melodic and "clean" than on the aforementioned albums, but (almost) free of the insufferable "Heey-Ey" whining of the "Load" and "Reload" era. However, I should just come clean and admit that with Metallica, I don't listen to the vocals or lyrics at all, so take any comment on the vocal performance of Jimbo H with a grain of salt - the only times I notice his vocals are if dude sings out of tune. Otherwise, it's just white noise to me, unlike bands or artists with proficient singers and/or where they can actually write awesome lyrics, beyond the cliché "Dark Desire - Funeral Pyre" style heavy metal thesaurus rhymes.

Guitars, on the other hand, I notice. "Death Magnetic" is full of awesome riffs and harmonized themes, and the ease with which Hetfield transitions between tempos and riff structures is something to be admired. Truth be told, I didn't notice that "Suicide & Redemption" was an instrumental until the second time I listened to it, which tells you that a) Metallica vocals really are white noise to me, b) that the instrumental is really well constructed, and c) I'd actually prefer it if Metallica had put a countermelody or harmonized riff in the place of the vocals. The only exceptions to the "vocals = white noise" for me on this album are "The Day That Never Comes" and "All Nightmare Long". Riff-wise, it's obvious that Hetfield has returned to the thrash formula that made them famous in the first place, and sometimes the rifs lean heavily towards something Dave Mustaine might have done on "So Far So Good...So What", except when Hetfield picks fast, it comes out more like tremolo picking than the machine-gun precision of Mustaine. Still, this album is riff fiesta.

Also on the plus side, the guitar solos are back. The bad news is that the lead guitarist still is Kirk Hammett. Which means that the guitar solos consist of either (i) sloppy fast runs with wah-wah thrown in for nauseating effect, and (ii) stock blues licks drenched in wah-wah. Dude plays way too fast for his skill level, and his note choices are very limited. Bottom line; Hammett ain't that good of a player.

While this is a way cool thrash throwback from Metallica, the problem is that instead of being trailblazers, they step back into their own history to face the myriad of bands which are heavily influenced by this era of Metallica, but are way better. Especially with respect to lead guitar and drums, but you'll also find many bands within the same genre with better vocals. Then again, would it be Metallica without Ulrich on drums and Hetfield's vocals?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Am The Anger

During the final experiment yesterday, something went wrong. Large amounts of liquid (50+ mL) had leaked from the sample compartment of the instrument I was working with during the course of the final hour or so of my experiment. Beside the obvious sucktitude of time and sample having been spent in vain, we had some concern as to what caused this. Moreover, the reduction in fluid volume pretty much meant that there was real danger of uncontrolled scattering into free space from the laser which makes up part of the instrument. Our immediate concern was whether there was a leak in the trough, which would suck major-league. After having cleaned up the mess (and turned off the laser), we filled the sample compartment with fluid and monitored the liquid level. Half an hour in, there was no discernible leak, which is strange, considering the large spill from an experiment which lasted one hour. Plus, the trough is made of a teflon derivative, so any leak should be pretty damn obvious.

This morning, all the liquid was still in the trough, which pretty much leaves one possible conclusion: Some motherfucker mosied on into that lab and bumped into the instrument, before shuffling off without so much as an attempt to notify anyone or to clean up the mess. Considering the fact that this particular instrument is placed on a vibration-free desk really serves to illustrate the force with which said oxygen thief must've bumped into the instrument.

Needless to say, I really want to catch the miscreant who caused this. In an ideal world, I'd do so with diplomatic immunity and a baseball bat, but I'd gladly settle for whatever pain and misery I can exact in the unlikely event that I figure out the identity of the perpetrator.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Back to the lab again, yo

Hellz yezz! Finally I've got the opportunity to go back to the lab and do some honest experimental work rather than just write about it. I've got most of this week available to do just that, and if stuff goes approximately as planned, the week's worth of experiments will land enough data to warrant a manuscript to be submitted to a rather cool journal in my field. We got one manuscript back from another cool journal a little while ago where the reviewers dissed our work and (big giveaway as to who the reviewers might be) told us to look up two papers by D. Ouchebag et al. wherein the authors used the same technique yielding different results. Which would've been perfectly cool if it wasn't for the fact that the way D. Ouchebag et al. used the technique and analyzed the results is flat out wrong with respect to the conclusions they draw, and we've got the data to prove it. Moreover, many of the papers out there describe their systems based on a Bambi-esque naïvetee with respect to the inner workings of that pesky subject known as thermodynamics. Only we need MORE data to really drive the point home and submit an article to a "methods" type journal. That way, we can reference this procedure in later manuscripts, by which time this will hopefully be accepted and thus be accepted as truth.

The levels of frustration evident in the preceding paragraph may have distorted the fact that we've got a really kewl methodology going using this type of technique, which actually provides the data others have claimed to observe for a long time now using an approach which objectively speaking can be described as "lacking".

There; how's that?

In an effort to get to this point however, I've gotta pitch in and do labwork with my very own hands - something I don't mind in the least. Having hands-on experience with something also aids in other aspects of the job, like advising students and setting deadlines. There is something to be said for the person setting deadlines having recent experience with actual labwork, rather than just remembering how kick-ass one used to be as a grad student a bunch of years ago, and then shortening an already underestimated time frame by assuming that "computers are so much faster today that doing the experiments must be five times quicker." Having a realistic idea of time consumption for a particular kind of research helps in assigning realistic time frames for lab work.

Kinda' started off on the wrong foot today though. The very first thing I wanted to do was to turn my old labcoat to the cleaner and get a new one. In theory, this ain't no big thang, except that the biggest size of the replacement labcoats the department stockroom carries misses my size by a lot. Put differently; unless them labcoats were made of spandex, there's no way I'd be able to get one on. Second, after spending some time gettin' back into the swing of things, we discovered that the system we had chosen as a "standard" displayed some markedly non-standard behavior. Third, there was some kind of software-fluke which screwed me out of half the collected data set for one run.

I'm kinda' tryin' to make all the rookie mistakes on the first day, so as to ensure smooth sailing in the days to come...I hope...

amazing, no comment !!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kevin Smith - My Boring-Ass Life

Or rather My Boring-Ass Life - The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith.

I've got mixed emotions about this book. On one hand, it's very well written, Kevin Smith is - in my opinion - incredibly funny, and there's some really good stuff and anecdotes in here. Some of it's really touching even, like the sections on the aftermath of his dad's death and the story of how Jason Mewes (that's "Jay") kicked his heroin habit. These two stories alone make the book worth reading.

On the other hand, the book is pretty much a hardcopy of his "Silent Bob Speaks" blog, where it's like dude just pressed "Print entries from 200X to 200Y". Moreover, a lot of this is covered verbatim in his Q&A DVDs. So it almost looks like Smith is rivaling Gene Simmons himself when it comes to hawking products in as many versions as possible. Still, considering that his wife appears to contribute little other than organizing the odd event at their Malibu home, I can't begrudge Kevin Smith his desire to make some coin. Bi-weekly manicures and pedicures don't come free, and it totally looks like the former USA Today Lifestyle section "journalist" has found her meal ticket.

Absolutely worthwhile read if ya like "Clerks", "Mallrats" and other Smith creations.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

GQ4: Deguello - Round 4

Deguello - Fourth Round.

Submit your answers to mfactorquiz (at) by the end of Friday 103108. Each song holds the potential of two points - one point for artist and one point for the song. Answers will be posted on Saturday 110108.

Song number 196:

Song number 197:

Song number 198:

Song number 199:

Song number 200:

KJ - the continious saga

As mentioned in past blogposts, Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard has been under criticism by his colleagues. I've been reading through some of the comments and articles published on the net, and I found one really good one on

- just thought I'd share this -

Results GQ4: Deguello - Round 3 nuthin' clever to say here, so I'll hook y'all up with the songs:
  • Song 191: Poison - Unskinny Bop. Plus some whammy shenanigans to start the track off right. Off of their "Flesh&Blood" album, this is one of their biggest hits. Incidentally, "Flesh&Blood" was the last album with the original line-up before they kicked out CC Deville and hired first Ritchie Kotzen (most known from his work with Billy Idol), resulting in the "Native Tongue" album, following which they fired Kotzen and brought in über-overrated guitar "prodigy" Blues Saraceno. Whatever - "Unskinny Bop" is a kick-ass party tune.
  • Song 192: Guns'N'Roses - One In A Million. The song off of "Lies" wherein Axl all but pledges his allegiance to the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. One definition of "ironic" might be the mother of all freeloaders, who was yet to contribute ANYTHING to society as of the writing of this song, going off about how black people, immigrants, police and the gay community do nothing but tax the country's limited resources. A suitable definition for "coward" might also be found in the fact that Slash did little by way of complaining about the attitude towards black people that his bandmate Axl inserted into the lyrics and made Slash support by playing each and every night mid-gig.
  • Song 193: Aerosmith - Walk This Way. Run DMC/Aerosmith would also be an acceptable answer, seeing as how this version was possibly an even bigger hit.
  • Song 194: Roxette - The Look. I thought that this would be one of the easiest songs to find within the realm of this quiz, but y'all sure proved me wrong there...
  • Song 195: Metallica - Nothing Else Matters. The guitar solo and nothing else. In my opinion, this is one of Metallica's best solos, and ironically, it's not played by Kirk "Overrated" Hammet, but by Jimbo Hetfield.
The Score for Round 3 goes a li'l bit like this:
  1. Sondre (8 points)
  2. Cathy (6 points)
  3. Anders/Marius/Pigeon (4 points)
  4. ...
  5. ...
  6. Torbjørn (2 points)
The Total Score
now looks like this:
  1. Sondre (20 points)
  2. Pigeon (16 points)
  3. Anders/Cathy (14 points)
  4. ...
  5. Torbjørn (13 points)
  6. Marius (10 points)
Congrats to Sondre
who kicked ass and took names this time around, and good luck with Round 4!

Some music for the weekend

Since it's weekend, I thought I post some cool music clips for y'alls enjoyment.

First of, a charming version of You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC:

Second, on for Wilhelm, since I know he really likes Joe Satriani and he needs to relax a bit after this weeks IT-related challanges:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

As per Pigeon's request's John Cena in a rap battle with Big Show:

If this is the kind of thing you like, then this is the thing for you

KJ strikes back

Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard - a.k.a. KJ - refuses to go down for the count, and launched into counterstrike mode today during an interview with Radio P4. Even after a slew of criticism by colleagues, something I've blogged about here and here, not to mention Anders' contribution, KJ is able to muster the spunk necessary to strike back at his detractors. Just when you thought his betters had him over a barrel, KJ strikes. 'Cause that's how KJ rolls. Again, a big shout-out to T-bombz for bringing the radio interview to my attention.

In the interview, KJ layeth the smacketh downeth, stating that rather than condemning others, the time of his critical colleagues would be better spent getting the public interested in research. He then goes on to describe how he is a victim of his own good intentions, and that people who try to communicate science in mass media are being demonized by bitter, crusty academics who may know what they're talking about, but whom have never gotten tabloid headlines for having a mental breakdown following being a guest at a "high-school reunion" type of TV show. As I read the quotes, I could swear that I could hear the shuffling of his feet and the mumbling of the Romans as KJ was lugging his cross up Golgotha, and I remember thinking: "This is what it sounds like when doves cry".

..ok, so perhaps I'm paraphrasing a bit here, but dude was pulling the martyr card far more than what one would expect from a person who's gotten caught in the act of perpetrating factual errors. There are of course several sides to this story, and I would agree that envy might play a role in it, as does laziness from reporters who don't want to google new names when they need a go-to geek. Academics have to shoulder their share of the burden as well, seeing as how astronomy is a topic which can be sold due to access to fancy images , vast forces and doomsday scenarios.

KJ then went on to attack his colleagues, by stating that "When it comes to general astronomy, I reckon I've got more knowledge than the majority at the Department of Theoretical Astrophysics" ("Når det gjelder generell astronomi har nok jeg bedre kunnskap enn de fleste der oppe på Institutt for teoretisk astrofysikk"). This is a bonehead move if I ever saw one, as a) it places the burden of evidence squarely on the barely existing shoulders of KJ and b) considering how little knowledge of said department and the research which goes on there KJ has, as demonstrated by Prof. Aksnes, this statement is very likely to be wrong.

I've got tremenduous respect for the enthusiasm and willingness to share his knowledge with the public shown by KJ. However, it'd be a good thing if the information he communicated via mass media was somewhat accurate, which is what the objective criticism from e.g. Prof. Aksnes deals with. Oh; and if you google the name of Prof. Kaare Aksnes, it'll become pretty obvious that KJ has picked a fight with the wrong guy here...

IT Helpdesk failure....

So, against my will and after numerous requests not to, Windows had updated itself on an instrument computer when I came into work yesterday. Which is in theory not a bad thing, but it's crap because after the update, it restarts itself. And that is not a good thing to do for a computer that collects data and controls a running instrument.

This made me slightly pissed, so I logged into the IT helpdesk page to get the phone number so I could personally tell them not to do this again. And open the IT helpdesk page, this is what I got:

Seems like I'm not the only one having problem with automatic updates in Windows....

By Lucifer's beard!!

My main computer went and died on me yesterday. What at first appeared to be something the bi-mon sci-fi con crew at the IT department could fix by reinstalling the computer turned out to be more serious, and it's a chance that the hard drive's gone bye-bye. Which means I'm relegated to using my "lecturing laptop", and hope to Beelzebub that I can access the server where I cleverly remembered to back up most of my files. At least all the really essential files, except the updated lectures in two separate courses and new problem sets I was working on yesterday. And that totally sucks, as it probably means that I'll have to cancel the classes this week, unless the dateless wonders at the IT department can stay away from arguing over which Star Wars prequel sucks more for long enough to f*ckin' fix my PC.

Incidentally, this ain't the first time my computer has crashed. This institution has an exclusive deal with DELL, and I'm getting a sneaking suspicion that the reason DELL is cheaper has a lot to do with them bastards skipping any form of quality control. The first computer I got here at this institution crashed seriously once, because of an error with that particular batch of hard drives. The laptop I'm currently using had a battery which was recalled because it basically melted down, inducing all kinds of problems. The desktop currently in the ER wing of Nerd Hope has suffered from a number of meltdowns, including but not limited to yet another DELL batch problem - this time with the power supply.

Simply put, DELL sucks.

The dude working on my computer assured me that there really was no problem even if the hard drive was shot to hell - I had backup, right? And besides, this would be a warranty dealie, and all they had to do was order a new hard drive. Shouldn't take more than a week, tops......

Yeah; that's f*ckin' phenomenal.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Inside to outside

A while ago I made the decision to improve my alternate picking technique. Aided by instructional DVD's from Paul Gilbert and John Petrucci (although mostly the former), I set out to basically change the way I have played guitar since 1992. I've always used alternate picking, but I've always incorporated sweep picking and economy picking when crossing strings, to get a more fluid, legato-like sound. Problem is; it has kind of worked all too well, in that when I pick fast, you can't hear the "attack" as well as you would if I was playing with strict alternate picking, meaning that I sound semi-legato even when applying muting techniques - but only when I play across two or more strings. Players like Frank Gambale also do this exclusively, but guess what; their playing also sounds legato-like almost no matter what amount of muting they apply.

I spent a lot of time with a metronome getting my technique to where it is (or was) at, and in a not so surprising turn of events it's hellishly hard to change how I pick. Basically, I've changed from inside picking (which allows me to "sweep" across two or more strings using one down- or upstroke) to outside picking, where I religiously alternate up- and downstrokes (unless I'm doing sweeped arpeggios, in which case it's business as usual). The result: my technique sucks now, and I'm relegated to playing runs and phrases at less than half the speed I'm accustomed to. Even worse; when I play pieces I've done for years, muscle memory is working against me, and I revert to my "old" picking patterns, only to catch myself mid-run.

At the end of the rainbow there's hopefully a more crisp tone, but at the moment it kinda' just sucks, because while I have no idea how long it'll take to build up my new technique, I'm not practicing technique the old way.

More trials and tribulations for KJ

A while ago I wrote about "celebrity astronomer" Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard getting dissed by colleagues for hogging the media spotlight and making statements about matters he knows little about (according to his detractors in the piece, that is).

Now, KJ is getting spanked in the media again, this time by Professor Emeritus Kaare Aksnes from the Department of Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Oslo. You can read the original hatchet job here, and a follow-up here (Norwegian only). Thanks to Torbjørn for bringing this to my attention. Basically, Prof. Aksnes is opening up a fresh can of whoop-ass on KJ - not for hogging the media spotlight (which could be jealous whining and not legitimate criticism), but for a) making erroneous statements, and b) not being interested in input from - you know - actual scientists before making statements in the media. Prof. Aksnes makes the point that Ødegaard only has a M.Sc. and an unfinished Ph.D. by way of actual knowledge, and that he relies on internet studies for factual content.

KJ strikes back, saying that he feels he has done much more for astronomy than Prof. Aksnes ever has. Moreover, he feels that the fact that Prof. Aksnes only points to a few bones of contention while he (KJ) has had several thousand articles published in media over the last 8-10 years points to him (KJ that is) being quite precis with his statements. I find flaw with that argument. First of all; I have no idea whether or not KJ is full of it when he speaks in the media, but if left with the choice between trusting statements on facts relating to astronomy made by Prof. Aksnes and M.Sc. Ødegaard, that's a no-brainer. There's no doubt whatsoever that the professional credibility and credentials round goes to Prof. Aksnes, by a margin akin to what you'd expect in a prize fight between Mike Tyson and KJ. KJ's second point, that he must be accurate in his statements because he has gotten so widely publicized is where he goes off the deep end. When Prof. Aksnes pointed to a few factual discrepancies, it doesn't necessarily mean that those are the sum total of actual errors. Not to mention that a good bit of the pieces on KJ deal with "This is how KJ lives", "This is how KJ spends his Christmas", "KJ - the difficult years", etc. To top it off, KJ is usually in the media because reporters use him as an expert. Thus, what he says is probably being printed without much scutiny.

Going back to KJ's statement that he's done much more for astronomy than Prof. Aksnes has: That's a statement with some underlying assumptions. I'm not an astronomy guy, so I've never even heard of Prof. Aksnes, and so I'm not familiar with his body of work. Thus, KJ assumes that Prof. Aksnes really hasn't done all that much. Second of all, KJ then assumes that Prof. Aksnes is wrong in the assessment that KJ gets things wrong. Because if Prof. Aksnes is right regarding factual content, KJ does a great disservice to astronomy by spreading false info, and so KJ's defense strategy is null and void.

Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard gets in the shorts again...

As Wilhelm previously pointed out, some of the astro physics are critical to KJRØ media handling. This time from professor Kaare Aksnes at the University Of Oslo, who has written a contribution to Dagbladet, (which also made into an article), where he basically makes three claims:
- KJRØ scares people (unecessary) with his sensationalism
- KJRØ doesn't give correct information about astronomy
- KJRØ gets his information from the internet (my personal favorite)

Coming from an academic, that's really harsh critic.

Me? I'm starting to love reading about the academics getting p*ssed off and KJRØ refusing to take any kind of self-criticism and still playing the "jealousy"-card. Love to see the follow-up on this one.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

GQ4: Deguello - Round 3

Deguello - Third Round. And it's still not too late to join in if anyone's interested - the field is wide open.

Submit your answers to mfactorquiz (at) by the end of Friday 102408. Each song holds the potential of two points - one point for artist and one point for the song. Answers will be posted on Saturday 102508.

Song number 191:

Song number 192:

Song number 193:

Song number 194:

Song number 195:

Results GQ4: Deguello - Round 2

Man how things can turn around point-wise between rounds. The songs were:
  • Song 186: Ac/Dc - Highway To Hell. Y'all got this one, and I would've been major-league surprised if ya didn't. Still a classic tune that'll boost the repertoire of any cover band.
  • Song 187: Queen - I Want It All. The rhythm guitar track, without the initial lead which would've surely have given it away immediately. One of the Queen tunes one can include in the set list without having the need for a grand piano, an orchestra, a 16-piece choir and Freddie Mercury.
  • Song 188: O-zone - Dragostea Din Tei. Otherwise known as "The Song that Sondre Didn't Find", a fact I imagine he'll lord over y'all for some time to come. Don't have much more to say about this song, as I have no clue what it's about, despite having been told at least once. Numa numa yay.
  • Song 189: W.A.S.P. - Animal (F*ck Like A Beast). W.A.S.P. is what Mötley Crüe were trying oh so hard to be back before they self-destructed even their careers post-Feelgood. Nikki Sixx was even in a band constellation with Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. before he got Crüe going - a band project named "Sister" for all y'all 80's Sunset Strip music buffs. Unlike Crüe, W.A.S.P. has always possessed above the norm musicianship, and when he wants to, Blackie can write excellent lyrics, even. "Animal" is not one of those times, although it's a killer riff. For a lesson in what Crüe wants to be all about, peep in "Live...In The Raw" from '87.
  • Song 190: Cream - Sunshine Of Your Love. ........I feel like taking a shower; not only did I record Clapton material, I also reward people for recognizing the most overrated guitar player this side of Jimmy Page and Kirk Hammet.
Quite enough of that; the Round 2 Score Board looks like this:
  1. Pigeon (10 points)
  2. Sondre (8 points)
  3. Anders/Torbjørn (tied at 6 points)
  4. ...
  5. Cathy/Marius (tied at 4 points)
The Total Score
now stands as:
  1. Pigeon/Sondre (tied at 12 points)
  2. ...
  3. Torbjørn (11 points)
  4. Anders (10 points)
  5. Cathy (8 points)
  6. Marius (6 points)
Congrats to Pigeon
and good luck with Round 3!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Leading the horse to water

The new course in nanotechnology I was talking about a while ago is now really starting to take form. We've decided on the split between the departments, which entails who gets the bulk of the cash flow, and we've finalized who's going to be the subject teachers. Based on feedback from students, we wanted to have as few subject teachers as possible, so as to avoid situations with communication breakdown between lecturers, which always results in utter chaos and a poor learning environment for the students. 'Cause after all, we're trying to optimize the course for the students.

We're doing it for the kids, man.

My colleague and collaborator (from the same department) ended up as the course coordinator, which suits me fine, as it takes a lot of the administrative nonsense off my desk. Besides, we opted for positioning the course in the Spring semester, which means that my busiest semester teaching-wise just became a lot busier. Moreover, the topics covered in this course probably appeals to the students which are likely to choose my other course, so it might be that I'm losing students from my main course to the new one.

Of the three subject teachers, I'm the one who gets ownership of all things related to bio and medicine, which suits me just fine. I'll still be able to whack the students over the head with triple integrals via plasmonics if I want to, and besides I kinda' get my fill of being Equation Guy in the other course I'm teaching in the Spring semester. Not to mention that the majority of my research entails bionanotechnology, so I can pimp my work and show current research, hopefully landing me some potential M.Sc. and Ph.D. candidates.

What potentially sucks is that it's really hard to find a suitable textbook. As of right now, we've found exactly zero textbooks we can get away with using without putting some major time into writing a comprehensive compendium. I'm not sure how I feel about that, because I think I'd enjoy writing a full-blown textbook at some point, and a compendium feels more like a necessary evil than a viable alternative. However, at this point it'd be a pretty stupid idea to even suggest that we write a full-blown textbook, despite the fact that I'd probably enjoy doing just that. First of all, I'm probably too fresh off the academic turnip truck to have any kind of pull with a publisher to land such a deal. Second, spending a LOT of my time writing a textbook would absolutely wreak havoc on the current progression in my h-factor. And that would be downright moronic. 'Cause while both the government and the universities like to pretend that they reward effort put into teaching, that just ain't true. No "Teacher of the Year" award is going to mean jack $hit when you apply for funding, so that means the Knowledge Department and the Research Council could care less. And as long as you're - well - teaching something to some students and you've passed the phantasmogorgical time-sink otherwise known as the mandatory pedagogic course, being a good teacher doesn't even factor into the criteria listed as being necessary for getting promoted to full Professor. So contrary to what's constantly being fronted to the public, there's approximately zero incentive to be a good teacher beyond your own conscience and whether or not you're passionate about teaching.

They ain't kiddin' about the "Publish or Perish" thing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kevin Smith owning a heckler

Dude ain't lost for words, I'll tell ya that

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dos Movies

..although one might say that the two movies cancel each other out..

Varg Veum - Begravde Hunder (Varg Veum - Buried Dogs)
The movies based on Gunnar Staalesen's books keepeth on impressing. This is the sixth installment, and it's still way cool. As a matter of fact, the low point so far was the half hour or so that Pia Tjelta contaminated the concept.

Iron Man
Really now; how can a movie starring Robert Downey Jr. be this bad? This was just wall-to-wall macho clichés interspersed with CGI and bad dialogue. Not to mention that 25% of the movie was very reminiscent of some kind of Discovery Special featuring "Hyooge Machines and How They Make Them" or something like that. I know that one shouldn't expect much from a movie based on a comic book - pardon me; graphic novel - but compared to the Spiderman and X-Men movies that Marvel has churned out, this is just flat out meaningless drivel. However, if you're into the same quality of story, acting and dialogue as featured in "Daredevil", "Fantastic 4" and the first Hulk movie, then giddyup.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tribute to Guitar Hero...

...and with an added bonus of that southern charm.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Because it's been a while

GQ4: Deguello - Round 2

Deguello - Second Round. And it's still not too late to join in if anyone's interested - the field is wide open.

Submit your answers to mfactorquiz (at) by the end of Friday 101708. Each song holds the potential of two points - one point for artist and one point for the song. Answers will be posted on Saturday 101188.

Song number 186:

Song number 187:

Song number 188:

Song number 189:

Song number 190:

Results GQ4: Deguello - Round 1

Well color me surprised. The inaugural round appeared to have been much more difficult than anticipated. The songs were:
  • Song 181: Salt'n'Pepa - Push It. What an atrocity this song and this group is/was. They combined early rap efforts (which makes Vanilla Ice look like Ice Cube) with that late 80's early 90's dance moves which looked suspiciously like steps from an aerobic session rotated 45 degrees.
  • Song 182: Green Jelly - Three Little Pigs. One-hit wonder from the 90's, but man was this song everywhere. Downtuned theft job off of Smoke On The Water. I take it none of y'all are 90's buffs? I know this song all too well; we used to do it live, sometimes back to back with the aforementioned Smoke On The Water.
  • Song 183: Dokken - Dream Warriors. If any of y'all had been fans of "A Nightmare On Elm Street", you'd have found this even without any musical preference towards LA hair metal.
  • Song 184: Guns'N'Roses - Paradise City. Y'all found this one. When I recorded it, I discovered that I was STILL sick and tired of playing this song.
  • Song 185: Iron Maiden - Stranger In A Strange Land. If this song doesn't sound like your typical Maiden tune, it's because it's penned by Adrian Smith. Moreover, I'll take a lot of the blame for y'all not recognizing this, as the guitar and bass frequencies on this recording overlap way too much. Bad mixing, plain and simple.
This means that after the first round - and thus also overall - we've got a winner:
  1. Torbjørn (5 points)
  2. Anders/Cathy/Sondre (tied at 4 points)
  3. ...
  4. ...
  5. Marius/Pigeon (tied at 2 points)
Congrats to T-bombz
and good luck with round 2.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Puff Daddy can't act

We all know that Puff Daddy can't dance

So we have the proof that he can't act neither

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard gets no respect.. respect at all, I tells ya.

Obvious Rodney Dangerfield references aside, there's a piece in VG online about Ødegaard being criticised by his colleagues for getting too much media exposure. During a recent panel debate, there was much outrage upon the very mention of Ødegaard's name, and a general consensus that he was stealing the spotlight away from his colleagues, overextending himself within his field, and even commenting on matters outside the boundaries of his competence profile. A more detailed list of grievances found in the piece looks a bit like this:

  • KJRØ does not know the limits of his own knowledge and is thus prone to giving answers and comments which aren't necessarily in sync with neither conventional nor cutting edge wisdom.
  • KJRØ does not defer to other scientists when approached by media, and thus commits the dual sin of (i) hogging the spotlight and (ii) giving a comment in an "expert" role independent of whether he actually has any knowledge on the subject.
  • KJRØ gets all the attention from media also when other scientists/experts are present, thus effectively blocking other scientists from appearing/commenting in media.

In an extremely unsurprising turn of events, KJRØ responds that the root cause of this criticism is sheer jealousy. Media also gets it's share of criticism for not bothering to contact other experts - ones that might even have actual knowledge of the field in question. From the fact that KJRØ was in media talking about the LHC and being billed as an expert on the subject, one might envision that journalists use the following approach when trying to enlist expert commentators:

* Yeello; this is Aaron A. Aaronson.
* How ya' doin' this fine evenin'; my name is Jimmy Olsen and I'm a reporter with the Weekly World News of the Day. Your name came up in a search of the phone book, and I'd like to ask you this: Are you by any chance an expert on matters related to climate changes, nanotechnology, comets, black holes, large hadron whatchamacallits and other nerdy doodads?
* Weeelll....I graduated twenty-third of my class from the Department of Auto Sales, School of Hard Knocks. And I subscribe to "National Geographic", 'cause sometimes they've got pictures of topless chicks, you see, and the subscription came free with my "Guns'N'Ammo", "Soldier Of Fortune" and "Monster Trucks and Topless Chicks" triple treat package, so...
* Why; you're practically an expert at everything, Mr. Aaronson. Would you mind terribly if we use you as our expert on pretty much any matter we see fit?
* Sure; why not.

On the other hand, I hardly see how other scientists can be upset at KJRØ because the media calls on him. That's got "Old man shaking his fist at the moon" written all over it. A relevant question aimed at those who bemoan KJRØ taking their spotlight would be: "What have YOU done to popularize your research lately? When was the last time YOU went out of the way to make yourself accesible to the media?" 'Cause one thing is for sure; KJRØ really tries to bring the message of space and black holes and eclipses and other nerdy cosmos things to the general public - not even his worst enemy can deny that.

On the flip side, I doubt that even his best friend would be able to deny that KJRØ absolutely perpetuates the image of the scientist as a total and absolute geek. Add to this the fact that as far as I understand it, KJRØ never got his PhD, and you're left with a pretty sad visage. I am not taking anything away from KJRØ's obvious enthusiasm and genuine interest when I say that I'd rather crawl naked on my belly over broken glass than have him represent me and my field of research. A year or two back, KJRØ was a guest on a "Class Reunion" type of show on Norwegian television wherein two famous or semi-famous people are reaquainted with their classmates and compete to win a party or whatever. Never have Hollywood B- and further down the alphabet-movies been closer to an accurate portrayal of people interested in science than what KJRØ put forth on this show. Stereotype fiesta. And the kicker; a week or so after he appeared on this show, he was on the front page of at least one newspaper complaining about how traumatic it was to meet his former classmates again, as they used to bully him and generally beat teh everloving crap out of him. Mind you; he volunteered for the show....

What can and should be put squarely at KJRØ's door is whether he refuses to refer to people better equipped to answer questions than him, and especially if he does answer well beyond his field of expertise. As for the rest of the complaints in this VG piece, with all the quality and nuance that entails, there's a good solution. See; what you have to do is put KJRØ in a barrel and throw his bespectacled ass into the river or another significant body of water. If the nerd-filled barrel floats, it's evidence for him being a witch. If it sinks and he drowns, KJRØ is innocent.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Final Results GQ3: Mexican Standoff

Teh results are in, and we have a winner. By most accounts, the final round of GQ3 was less difficult than many of the preceding ones. Anyhoo; the songs were:
  • Song 176: Nik Kershaw - The Riddle. I always thought Kershaw was a lightweight 80's prettyboi with big hair until I saw him perform his other hit, "Wouldn't It Be Good" on some Norwegian television show a ways back. Dude was really taking command of the stage, sang his ass off and was totally laying down some killer guitar. It's way cool when people exceed your expectations.
  • Song 177: Chicago - If You Leave Me Now. Not my favorite Chicago song, but it's a classic AOR hit. Come to think of it, I prefer the solo work of Peter Cetera to Chicago anyways.
  • Song 178: Celine Dion - My Heart Will Go On. Near, Far, Wherever You Are, I believe that my Ibanez S will forever be tainted from playing this. *Shudder*
  • Song 179: Tevye/Gwen Stefani/Any other recorded performance from Fiddler On The Roof - If I Were A Rich Man. Or "If I Was A Rich Girl" in the case of Gwen Stefani's rip-off hit. Meh.
  • Song 180: ABBA - The Winner Takes It All. Cool song, and a most relevant title for the final song on the final round of GQ3.

The Bonus point could be harnessed by figuring out that all the five recordings are of the vocal melody of each song. With that in mind, here's how y'all did in Round 8:

  1. Cathy/Sondre/Torbjørn (tied at 11 points)
  2. ...
  3. ...
  4. Marius (10 points)
  5. Anders (8 points)
  6. Pigeon (4 points)

The TOTAL SCORE after 8 rounds then stands as:

  1. Sondre (53 points)
  2. Cathy (52 points)
  3. Anders/Torbjørn (tied at 40 points)
  4. ...
  5. Pigeon (35 points)
  6. Marius (29 points)

Congrats to Sondre who managed to edge out the competition to win The m-factor Guitarquiz 3: mexican Standoff! Long may he reign, etc.

Monday, October 6, 2008

GQ4: Deguello - Round 1

In the spirit of hittin' the ground running, here's the first round off of the next quiz, aptly named Deguello, the meaning of which I'm sure Anders could lecture y'all on until the cows come home.

Submit your answers to mfactorquiz (at) by the end of Friday 101008. Yep; that's right - I done changed the day of the deadline, so have your answers in by the end of FRIDAY 101008. Each song holds the potential of two points - one point for artist and one point for the song. Answers will be posted on Saturday 101108.

Song number 181:

Song number 182:

Song number 183:

Song number 184:

Song number 185:

Friday, October 3, 2008


...I sure can relate to this. Did anybody say Action Jackson?

Have a nice weekend, y'all!

Palin vs. Biden - is anyone surprised?

I've read a number of pieces regarding how the Vice presidential candidates performed in the debate yesterday, and there are a lot of conflicting opinions as to which candidate "won" the debate. For anyone who didn't watch the debate, it can be summarized very briefly as follows: Senator Joe Biden looked and sounded like the boring, middle-aged + white guy he is. Gov. Sarah Palin went for populism and kept referring to "soccer moms" "Joe Sixpack", "hockey moms" and "regular folk" throughout. I wouldn't have been surprised if she had started a crowd chant of "U-S-A, U-S-A". Neither candidate really answered the questions they were asked, and in my opinion, neither the populistic, low-road approach of Palin or the boring, monotonous, Rainman-esque recitation of facts by a old white guy with no passion and no charisma cuts the mustard. Frankly, I thought they both sucked. However, one thing most media reports agree on - and finding evidence of such is so easy that I won't bother to provide any links - Sarah Palin exceeded expectations.

Is anyone surprised? Considering the semi-meltdowns and utter PR fiascos Gov. Palin has committed in the media over the last two weeks, wherein she has failed to answer questions, been caught outright lying and demonstrating an ignorance you'd think was way beyond a candidate in a mayoral election, the expectations were low. Add to that the many "leaked" stories on how debate prep was not going well, and it's fairly obvious that all Gov. Palin would have to do in order to exceed expectations was not to break down in tears or announce that she ran for the position of Vice President of The United States of Al-Quaida.

Senator Biden, on the other hand, went into the debate with overwhelming expectations of thoroughly beating an inexperienced opponent, and thus it's a lot harder to impress the viewers. This was pretty much a worst-case scenario for Biden, because the debate was billed as quite the uneven battle.

This is not exactly a battle of giants to begin with. In one corner, we have a noob who thinks that Earth was created 6000 years ago and that man coexisted with the dinosaurs, which tells me everything I need to know about Sarah Palin. In the other corner, we have a non-descript old white guy with so little charisma and presence that he doesn't get through the automatic doors of his local Harris Teeter on his own.

Dumbing down...

I can't believe I still read "newspapers" these days. From time to time I come by a news article that not only makes me loose faith in mankind in general and Norwegian newspapers in particular, but also me feel really stupid for even reading such publication. Today, I came bay an article in Dagbladet, about a girl which going to change her name and marry a random man at her 18th birthday, as a political protest(?). Foolish enough I wondered why changing her name could be a political protest, I read the article (that's one minute of my life I never get back), And to prevent any of this superb blogs intelligient readers* to dumb themself down by reading the piece in Dagbladet, I will go through her main arguments here:

18 years old shouldn't be allowed to change their name
No 18 years old are mature enough to make such an important decision. And the choise of name fell on "Bunny Føkk" for this important political protest.

18 years old shouldn't be allowed to marry
No 18 years old are mature enough to make such an important decision. It makes this Norway a target for forced marriges.

18 years old should be allowed to buy alcohol
Because this is the time in their life when young people move out of their parents house, and they also "love to have a party".

People below 18 years should be allowed to vote
Because no matter how old you are, your opinion counts. Does she mean that infants should have the right to vote? I don't know, but surely that can't be any worse then knowing this girl would vote next year...

Fantastic logic she applies here.

Oh, and guess which party she was a member of earlier? I'll drop a hint:

*Note that there is a difference between "reader" and "poster"...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Heroin Diaries

Just finished reading The Heroin Diaries - A Year In The Life Of A Shattered Rock Star by Nikki Sixx.

This book is supposedly more or less a transcript of Nikki's diary from 1987, supplemented with commentaries by Nikki himself as well as other participants and/or bystanders. I use the modifier "supposedly" because it looks quite edited for a raw transcript of a diary. Also, there's something inherently iffy about a diary with a co-author, but whatever.

Whether or not the book is a legitimate diary, it's entertaining most of the time, and provides a peek into the mind of a seriously messed up individual throughout the entire work. Heroin is one helluva drug, and Sixx has a black belt with matching shoes in addiction. Moreover, all signs point to him being a bona fide, 100% grade A, guaran-damn-teed scumbag when intoxicated.

I would recommend that you read "The Dirt" before you read this, but "Heroin Diaries" is well worth the money. If you thought the debauchery was at top levels in "The Dirt", you ain't seen nuthin' yet.

Another thing which is quite obvious from this book, is that the hatred and contempt the Mötley boys and Guins'N Roses direct towards bands like Bon Jovi and Poison is completely ridiculous. Nikki Sixx accuses Poison of just being another hair band with make-up but no skills, while touting Crüe as a legendary band with kick-ass songs and musicians. I beg to differ. While I haven't heard anyone argue that Poison is made up of virtuosos, the same can definitely be said of Mötley Crüe. Breaking it down member by member and starting with Mr. Sixx, even Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick, one of Nikki's heroes, states that Sixx has a lot in common with Gene Simmons as a bass player. It sounds better when he doesn't play. Not that Crüe bass lines are particularly complicated in the first place. Vince Neil is, or at least was, a blond prettyboy who pouted for the camera whilst fighting a losing battle to stay within a city block from the correct pitch. Dude ain't a particularly good singer, but he does have a distinct style. As for guitarist Mick Mars, I have never, ever read or heard about any guitarist in the known universe who has cited him as an influence. I read an interview in "Guitar World" once where the interviewee claimed that on one occasion he had perhaps overdone the intake of liquid courage prior to taking the stage, and thus sucked something fierce. As the band entered the dressing room post gig, his band members accused him of "sounding like Mick f*cking Mars, man". By far the best musician in Mötley Crüe is the drummer Tommy Lee, and that's saying something. But the lyrics, man.....Sixx really prides himself with being a great lyricist, unlike the aforementioned Bon Jovi and Poison. Would you hook a brother up - if you've listened to any Crüe songs you'd know how ridiculous this claim is. With profound lyrics like those found in "Girls, Girls, Girls", "She Goes Down", "Looks That Kill", "Sticky Sweet" and "Slice Of Your Pie", I'm surprised Nikki's name isn't mentioned in the same breath and context as Lord Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats. Epic delusionite.

More epic "journalism" on nanotechnology

I just spotted a piece on the chemical clean room at the NTNU Nanolab in Dagbladet's Magasinet. The occasion was high school students touring the campus on "Researcher's Night". High school students get shuffled around and tour selected labs. "Oooh; shiny. And ohmigawd; lasers". The title carefully chosen for the piece: "Ikke promp her" ("Don't fart here"). The subtitle was "Dette er et av landets reneste rom" ("This is one of the country's cleanest rooms"). Sheer poetry, and an awesome lead-in for a piece on nanotechnology.

Compared to this one, the feature article on nanotech I found in Magasinet reads like a PNAS paper. Was this the only title the "journalist" considered? It kind of tells you what target groups Dagbladet caters to.

Epic self-owning on my part, come to think of it, seeing as how I actually browsed Dagbladet online.

Anyhoo; the piece is full of gems and reinforces my initial conclusion of Trond Erling Pettersen only being a journalist if you broaden the definition to those who can spell. For example: "Mikroskopet kalles Atomic Force Microscope, og brukes til å måle partikkelstørrelser ned til noen få nanometer. ("The microscope is called Atomic Force Microscope and is used to measure particle sizes down to a few nanometers")

Forskerne kan se på atomstrukturer og danne et overflatebilde av noe som er så smått at det rett og slett er vanskelig å se det for seg. ("The researchers can look at atomic structures and form a surface image of something which is so small that it's hard to imagine")."

Hold the phone, chief - I can look at atomic structures using AFM? And wouldn't at least a part of the reason for having an atomic force microscope in teh first place - or even an optical microscope for that matter - be that it enables one to look at structures not visible to the naked eye? Add to this some pie-in-the-sky drivel about how in the future, when we all have personal jetpacks strapped to our silver jumpsuits, nanotech can solve everything from disease to global warming to providing unlimited energy sources.

On the plus side, I now have a pretty good idea who used to write "For a good time call ..." in bathroom stalls, and I have to admit that Trond Erling Pettersen has gotten a hell of a promotion.

Freestyle Rap Battle Translated

Must see! It's almost on level with the fabled "My New haircut":

For sakes of comparison and in case you're interested, here's the "raw" and unedited freestyle rap battle:

If you build it, they will come

For approximately six months, two departments have been kicking around an idea of designing a new course about formation and application of nanomaterials, to be given to nanotech students as well as to students at the two departments. I am supposed to teach approximately 30% of the course load, and from the memos and general correspondence I've been getting lately, it's all becoming very real. The process of defining the course is in it's final stages, and by November it will have become an entry in the course catalogue, which is as close to reality as it gets.

One of the things we're going back and forth about now is whether the course is to be given during the Fall or Spring semester, with a clear tendency being towards the latter. In one respect that sucks for me, seeing as how I'm teaching my biggest course during Spring. On the other hand, I'd have to make all my material for the course this Spring if it's to be given from the Fall of 2009. We're also looking for a decent textbook, but considering the range of topics we're looking to cover, I foresee the possibility of having to write a compendium.

I've got big hopes for this course, seeing as how I know one of the other two subject teachers well and know him to be an excellent teacher/lecturer. I'm not really familiar with the remaining subject teacher, but from what little contact I've had with her from our meetings, I'm pretty sure she's more than competent.

The course (4th year) will also be available for inclusion in PhD study plans, so if anyone knows a PhD student in dire need for the skinny on what nano is, how it's made and a selection of applications, just let me know.