Monday, December 21, 2009
More interesting, the first comment when I check was titled "Er vi utsatt for fluor?" ("Are vi exposed for Fluorine?") by Erik Nissen. For some reason, he manage to link this article to tooth paste, and explains how Pottasium Fluoride (he really means Calcium Fluoride, more on that later) is the good, healthy Fluoride that was intended for dental products and that Sodium Flouride is bad, and explains how the aluminum industry has used tooth paste to get rid of their toxic waste, Sodium Fluoride. First of all, a person would even the most basic chemistry knowledge would understand that if there was a different in health effect between KF and NaF, the most likely culprit is the Sodium, since the Flouride is the same in both.
But wait! Unlike most others, mr. Nissen provides links to highly prestigious journals to back up his claims. More spesifically, the Wise Up Journal. You can't argue with that name, even if you're not a scientist, you just know this is top notch material! And btw, it's in this journal the highly skilled chemist and physican Dr. Nissen translates Calcium into kalium (Pottasium). The article is written by a Johnnie Aysgarth. I couldn't find a single publication on web of science from this guy, but he's in the Wise Up Journal, for crying out loud! Who needs more than that?
I must admit, I'm still surprised with all the little things that people can make conspiracy theories from and, even more important, actually believe. How come it's so hard to believe scientific research, but even the most nut-case theory presented by somebody how has added a couple of random google searches into a theory, that must be the end all truth in the matter at hand? Even if it would take just a couple of minutes to check the most basic facts in those theories and find them completely false? Personally, I blame it on the subconscious messages embedded in the Disney cartoons and the mind controlling nano-bots in the vaccines (Hey, who made me write that?).
Oh, and the Norwegian Institute of public Health is a private owned company, in the hands of the Rockefeller family. But we all knew that.
Remember, just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you...
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
With how the mexican flu vaccine fiesta has played out in Norway, I'm on board with Jefferson's statement. 'Cause so far, the story has played out something like this:
- Flu strand is discovered and identified as potential pandemic, being that it's essentially the mutated bird flu version 2.0. Lots of "We're all gonna die of the mexican flu" headlines and general uproar.
- The mexican flu is identified as mostly resulting in mild influenza symtoms. According to media, we're still all gonna die from this pandemic.
- The Norwegian government buys vaccines to the tune of more than two inoculations per citizen. All of a sudden the media outlets are filled with angry citizens decrying the government for spending money on vaccines against what's essentially a mild flu anyways. Surely we could use the tax money better, like lowering prices on gasoline and alcohol or improving the roads. And won't somebody please think of the CHILDREN. To the surprise on noone, a veritable line-up of losers gets free media time by claiming that a) vaccines in general are dangerous and will kill you and b) this vaccine in particular will kill you like you won't believe it. Citizens are enraged.
- The first mexican flu casualties start to occur in Norway. Death tolls are all over the media. Mob mood shifts. All of a sudden, it's "When can we get the vaccine"?
- Vaccines start to arrive, and the high-risk population starts to get inoculations. Death count now reaches into the double digits. Citizens are absolutely in a frenzy - we have a right to be vaccinated, don't you realize that this is a pandemic? The government has a responsibility to secure its population from dangerous disease, and won't SOMEBODY think of the children.
- The manufacturer screws up an entire batch meant for Norway, and vaccination of the general population is delayed. Citizens start to threat their GPs physically and stating that "If I don't get the vaccine and I die from the mexican flu - you and the government is to blame". Media is still completely saturated with mexican flu stories.
- Mass vaccination is initiated. In our municipality, only a handful of people bothered to show up. The media picture is supersaturated with "OHMIGAWD; Obama is gonna be in Norway for two and a half hours next week."
To end with another Jefferson quote: "The best argument against democracy is spending five minutes with the average voter"
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
I came across this new type of chart by way of the PST blog. It's a survey taken in connection with the upcoming climate meeting in Copenhagen:
The chart is square divided into 10x10 smaller squares, each representing 1%. I can't understand how this really adds anything to the data, since I count the points to see which area is the largest. It would be way easier just to read the numbers from a table. And to make things worse, they arrange three of these charts into three faces of a cube. And the whole survey is presented as three (none aligned) cubes. In my opinion, a total mess that in best case just adds noise.
In his blog, Jon Peltier suggests another chart. The solution is pretty good, the only improvement I can suggest is formating the questions better (to make them stand out more) and aligning the question with the start of the columns.
But looking into the questions and options, it's not only percentage there. The last question is "How high a priority (0-100) do you think the goverment should place on addressing climate change". First of all, you can't measure that in %.(how do you calculate those who haven't answered or have no opinion?). Second, have a scale from 0-100 is just forcing it into a formate that would fit this particular graph. A scale more with more then 10 steps are too finely divided to have make sense.
Also, I keep thinking of whether the questions could have been planned better. For instance, wouldn't it be better to have a similar scale on each question, for instant a scale from 1-5? To avoid confusion and make the process of answering the survey faster.
At least I WISH I'd had intro music. 'Cause the lame reality of it all - and if you've ever been to a conference, symposium or workshop you'll recognize this - is that the appointed chair of the session says something along the lines of "Our next speaker is (your name here), with a talk titled (title of your talk here)".
What possible purpose does this serve? The sequence of speakers is given in the program, so simply reading aloud the name of the speaker and the title of your talk holds little magic. Moreover, as some poor PhD student who "volunteered" to do the technical assistance for the conference (i.e., making sure the presentations appear on screen and running around in the audience with a microphone for the Q&A sessions) already has out the title slide of your talk on the screen, this serves no purpose whatsoever. Unless you assume that your audience can't read, which would be odd, considering that you ask the audience to submit abstracts for posters and oral presentations. If playing some entrance music plus accompanying video ever becomes an option, I'm first in line.
Especially if the chair of your session manages to introduce you first by mispronouncing your name and then screw up the definition of the award that landed you the coveted spot as invited speaker. Which coincidentally was what happened to me. Luckily, I was well enough prepared not to be affected by this, and I started my talk. I linked my story to presentations given before me whenever possible, I connected with the audience and made sure to make eye contact (to the extent this is possible throughout the venue with 150+ participants) and get nods, I was enthusiastic and I thoroughly enjoyed presenting my work. When I was done, I waited for any questions, but none came. At this point, I stated that this could be a good thing...or not, which elicited some laughter, and then the session broke off.
As we went to lunch, I wondered whether I'd bombed worse than a post-Y2K Van Damme movie. Then people started approaching me and asking me how they could use my methods on their systems and I got all sorts of collaboration offers, at which point I figures out that the reason I got no questions was because they'd not only understood what I presented, but also that I'd managed to get the audience to see that this was something they could use in their research.
I can't deny that this was a pretty good feeling. This also marks the second time I use Presentation Zen to prepare a talk, and I'm getting better at it. Not to blindly plug Garr Reynolds and his book, but it really helps to free up slide real estate and focus the attention where it should be - on the speaker.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Which is not to say that the presentation skills have any real bearing on their qualities as scientists, but rather reflect the time and effort they spend planning and making presentations. Some people I know to be very good scientists gave absolutely mind-numbingly boring presentations, often due to (i) lack of apparent storyline and (ii) way excess detail being put on display. Add to that poorly designed slides (including obvious Frankensteining), no time-management (hence skipping of slides to get to the conclusions..), inability to read audience reactions and brutal lack of enthusiasm/charisma, and you've got a pretty good list of the reasons why I detest conferences. Which is not to say that there weren't good speakers - far from it - but the fact of the matter is that a lot of talks are made and given as an afterthought, which makes for a long couple of days for conferencegoers. When I could sit and listen to a talk - well within my field of expertise - and not understand what they had done and why, it speaks volumes. Assuming that I don't absolutely suck at what I do, what they did was take an entire journal article worth of experimental data and conditions, slam-dunk it down sequentially on PowerPoint slides and present it in all its detail within a 30-minute talk. Worse still, the presenter spent the first five minutes of the talk thanking the organizers and showing slides depicting the university he was from, complete with demographics and maps.
And his was the first talk of the session, with two more to go before we got a coffee break..absolutely ricockulous.
After the talks for the day were over and done with, it was time for poster session with refreshments, which was kind of cool. There were lots of posters - many of which I found interesting - and so I got to bother a lot of PhD students and researchers about their work. Lots of talented people out there, that's for sure.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Wednesday morning (to the extent 4 AM qualifies as "morning") I had to giddyup and have some old salt in a taxi haul me to the airport. Just before 8 AM I was in Copenhagen and found myself purchasing train tickets. 40 minutes later I was in Malmö, trying to convince the stupid vending machine to sell me tickets the final stretch to Lund. Clever as I am, I brought with me a stash of Euros, Sweden being a part of the EU and all. That turned out to be more useless than a "Rock the vote" campaign/membership drive for Venstre launched two days AFTER the general election. But not, as it turned out, more useless than a station clerk in Malmö.
After massively failing to purchase a ticket using Euros (what kind of lame attempt is it to cling to what used to be your national currency after you've joined the EU?) or credit card, I tried to solicit the help of a station clerk, who told me that she didn't know how to use the machine. This short conversation happened first in what passes for Swedish in Malmö, and when it became abundantly clear that she might as well have spoken some African language with clicking noises and all. Or Danish. Switching to English improved the communication greatly, but didn't help me much by way of getting tickets.
One semi-meltdown and one visit to the ticket office later, I had missed the express train and was stuck with a local route that stopped at every station at least once. Unlike the swank and roomy express train, the local train was packed, and I got the last available seat.
On the twin seats facing me was a lesbian couple who made out like it was their livelihood and Spring Break was held during Mardi Gras. This lasted the entire 25 or so minutes the trip took. I'm not exactly shy or prude, but I definitely felt like I was invading something private - which in and of itself is bullshit considering that the couple obviously didn't opt to work blue in a crowded train due to a lack of exhibitionism. On the other hand, leaving my seat would send another kind of signal that didn't appeal to me either, so I was stuck.
Once in Lund, I started walking towards the campus and hotel. I'd asked someone in the organizing committee about the distance from the train station to the hotel, and upon being told that it was only one kilometer, there was no way I'd take a cab. After having walked for about an hour in increasingly crappy weather with my bags, I started second-guessing my decision, not to mention the accuracy of the one-kilometer estimate. I was equipped with what can only be described as a roughdraft of a map, where most of the roads were omitted, which didn't help my navigation one bit.
What also didn't help matters was that I was looking for a hotel on campus that shared a name with every other building within several blocks, in a region with absolutely no signs. Still; I made it to the hotel with about one hour to go before the conference started.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
Who are these "high-level politicians", one might ask. Why, it's the Patron Saint of Mediocrity, Trine Skei Grande (Venstre), and the Crown Princess of Unsubstantiated Media Hype, Hadia Tajik (Arbeiderpartiet). Skei Grande is of course the second-in-command and presumed leader-elect of Venstre, which in and of itself should give some pause for Venstre-voters, considering that Skei Grande couldn't win a debate if she was the only participant, and that in the same contest, the lectern would be voted "Most Charismatic Participant". Talk about contrast in leadership change if she takes over after Lars Sponheim. Hadia Tajik is a political advisor rumored to be behind such wildly successful proposals as hijab in the Norwegian police force, and she was also one of the most visible proponents of the epitome of lameness campaign slogan in "Jens vi kæn", not at all a weak attempt to piggyback on a very successful slogan recently employed in international politics.. Both of these "high-level politicians" decry the campaign and their register, and offer instead their own solutions to the very real problem of bullying. Both are also very visible in media - in the case of Tajik, she's been very adept at getting face time in media ever since she got into national politics, whereas Skei Grande obviously has started to take the advice of a media consultant.
Skei Grande vehemently states that bullying cannot be stopped by blacklisting schools where bullying is a disproportionate problem compared to the mean. Rather, she wants to allocate resources towards reinstating the respect for teachers in the classroom. On the vagueness scale, this ranks right up there with her brilliant file-sharing proposal, where she suggests that somebody somehow should find alterantive revenue streams for musicians etc. to make money without limiting filesharing.
Brilliant. I'm sure the red-headed kid with the freckles and daily trips face-first into the toilet takes great comfort in this.
Tajik states that the bully-register has no constructive effect, and that concrete proposals and strategies are missing. According to her, bullying can be stopped by other means entirely. For example, the government will present a new, holistic approach to learning environment before Christmas. They also want to strengthen the victimization-sensitivity training among teachers and principals. But wait - there's more: The coalition government also want to allocate more funds to attitude campaigns in the schools.
Again, I'm sure that li'l Per is better able to hold on to his moral while on the receiving end of wedgies and beatings when he knows that the government is thinking about putting down a committee to investigate the problem and possibly allocate funds towards a future campaign no doubt featuring children of all colors rapping about how bullying is whack, yo.
These lame-ass attempts to make political hay of a very real (to the children involved) problem by launching some vague, non-committal nonsense that they never have to be held to is very low - even for beta politicians like Skei Grande and Tajik.
As far as I can tell, the register in question only lists schools where the bullying has been so severe as to necessitate students to change schools despite attempts from parents to enter a constructive dialogue with the school in question. Seeing as how the register doesn't even begin to list the majority of schools, we're talking about schools where bullying is a much greater problem than the norm. Isn't this information valuable in and of itself? Unless you're gonna claim that the students at these schools are more evil or more prone to bullying than other students, there is a need to realize that the problems are disproportionally present in some schools. And thus a general solution encompassing all schools nationwide probably won't do much. While I don't think the teachers and principals at these schools should be put in the pillory of constant media attention, I also don't think that they deserve a medal for either not being aware of the situation or not doing enough to fix the problem. Ducking responsibility is a poor trait in educators.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
As the vaccines are becoming available for the general population, there's still a lot of debate within the population about whether or not to actually get vaccinated. A pro and con list meant to guide you to a decision can be found at VG.no.
Below said list you can also read what a fine selection of the populus feels about the vaccine. A staggering number of people argue against vaccination due to the possibility of side-effects, e.g. from the mercury-species it contains. Sure - all the other vaccines we take also contain the same species, but that's somewhat overlooked.
The irony is that among the naysayers who whine about possible side-effects you'll find - statistically speaking - a significant number of smokers, as well as people who regularly drink moonshine or have tried recreational drugs like X, both of which have at best sketchy quality assurance protocols.
So; if you don't want to take the vaccine due to the possibility of unknown side-effects yet smoke regularly or have tried moonshine or home-made recreational drugs at some point in your life: know your role, shut your mouth and get your ass to the back of the bus.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The presentation went well and I was able to connect with the audience, which in an ideal world would've had a few more asses in the seats. I also got a bunch of questions pertaining to extrapolations of the presented data, which was a good sign, as opposed to questions which can be answered by restating material that's already presented, which might indicate that I didn't do a very good job of explaining the data set. A lot of the questions came from a researcher orginally hailing from California. Although she spoke Swedish just fine, I shamelessly used her as an alibi to give the presentation in English "so as to avoid any kind of ambiguity". The Scandinavian languages are exactly different enough as to be the cause of confusion when presenting scientific data based on terminology which is translated from English to begin with.
Said Californian also provided a conversation partner during lunch, where we could do the patented "what kinds of food from the US do you miss in Scandinavia" bit. After rattling off Taco Bell and Johns, Christy mentioned that she missed this quaint Southern restaurant chain called the Cracker Barrel that she always stopped by when she drove cross-country. It's very unlikely that someone not familiar with the southern US is familiar with this chain, and so one of the Swedish people at the table asked what Cracker Barrel was.
This represented an opportunity for a pun too good to pass up, so I turned to the guy and said something like "In Norway, we call it 'Utendørs badestamp' (Outdoor hot tub)."
Tumbleweeds flew by. Quizzical faces were turned in my direction. Epic joke fail.
Turns out that Christy wasn't familiar enough with Swedish/Norwegian to get the joke, and the Swedes weren't familiar enough with American slang to connect the dots. Oh well.
Come on; it's pure comedy gold - Cracker barrel = outdoor hot tub, 'cause the only ones insane enough to buy these things in Norway and think it's a good idea to sit in a tub of water while it snows are whiter than Caspar the friendly ghost washing down a piece of white bread with a big glass of milk whilst wearing a knitted sweater featuring a moose.
That's Demetri Martin funny right there.
The only thing I would've done differently has to do with the fact that the PowerPoint slides were made before I read Presentation Zen, and there was absolutely no way I could justify spending a lot of time making a new one from scratch. I was actually quite happy with this talk back when I made it, but looking at it post Presentation Zen, it could've been SO much better. It didn't look amateur-like, but I never would've used that many bullet point slides now, despite the fact that this made the job of presenting a lot easier, with less to remember. This presentation, compared to the talk I gave in Oslo a couple of weeks back, also served as an example of why you lose a lot of flexibility and slide real-estate by using a company - or in my case laboratory - template.
I REALLY recommend the book Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Two minutes after I entered the lecture hall is when I started sensing that something was wrong. First of all, I was the only academic staff member from the department present. The Department Head, although present in the very same building, was nowhere to be seen. When the lecture started, I really sensed some serious suctual overtones happening. The physiotherapist in charge started by stating that she was very happy to have the opportunity to give this lecture in English, seeing as how she really needed the practice.
No freakin' kiddin'
She then went on to say that this course was really supposed to have happened earlier, but she was on sick leave due to - you guessed it - back problems and repetitive stress injuries to her shoulders and wrist. Despite her claim of having 20 years of experience as a physiotherapist, she also needed a cheat sheet to give the definition of physiotherapy. So right off the bat this was like taking "how to win friends and influence people" lessons from the two douchebags currently incarcerated in Kongo. Or taking ethics lessons from Sudbø.
In what appeared to be four months but which turned out to be only 95 minutes we then were equipped with shocking new revelations such as "Adjust your chair to a position that's right for you", "take frequent breaks to avoid repetitive strain", "don't have reflections from lighting coming off of your computer screen" and so on.
The maximum sucktitude was saved for last, however, when the physiotherapist had all the participants partake in an impromptu (for us at least) aerobic exercise session to the elevator and supermarket classic "Vem Vet" by the introspective Swedish diary-reciter Lisa Ekdahl. Following this, the instructor even had the nerve to plug her upcoming set of recommended exercises accompanied by a CD comprised of her own selection of what she referred to as "modern music".
That's a cool 95 minutes of my life I'll never get back.
Douse that light, enjoy and have a nice weekend!
(Sorry, Wilhelm, I was planing on Just Got Back From Baby's, but couldn't find any clips of it.)
It's only in the tenth position, but I'm still at number 10:
So this is a list over the most frequent used names of daily managers in companies that has gone bankrupt. It has to be at least 1000 companies registered with that name of the daily manager to be considered for the list.
I'm deeply honoured, and will do my best to climb further up on the list!
Sources: e24.no and forvalt.no
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The above is a letter from Governor Schwarzenegger to a local Democrat explaining why he refuses to sign a bill into law.
Hint: Read the first letter of every line in the two major paragraphs. You'll find that two words are spelled out.
I have no idea what the bill was all about and thus whether the Governator made a prudent decision, but damn was that ever funny.
First of all, it suffers from of number of graphical flaws of more or less importance:
- Vertically aligned text (the years)
- The use of color (too much)
- The grey back ground and the ultrabold lines around the legende.
- The wrong chart type used.
I didn't relised this before I started plotting my own version of this chart. But the stacked bar chart is to represent part to whole ratio. The way it's supposed to be used in this case, is that the whole bar shows the total number of days. The strong color is emergency(ØH) and the lighter color is the planned days (Elektive). I thought it was strange that the emergency days were so much more then the planned days, and when I check the numbers, I found out it wasn't so. The planned days is actually the whole bar, i.e. the sum of the dark and light colored areas. Totally wrong representation of the data.
Also, I do believe that the point of the chart is to show trends over time. That is something a line chart does much better then a bar chart. My version represented the data truely in a line plot, and I also adjusted the colors to look more professional:
I chose to start the y-axis at 2500 rather then 0 (which you can do in a line chart, but not in a bar chart) to expand the data as much as possible in the y-direction to show the variation as clearly as possible. Didn't gain much, so it's better to start at 0 if the relationship between planned and emergency days are important. I also added light grey lines to show the quarters, as these kind of data usually is collected every third month.
If the total numbers of days are important, I would represent this in a three panel chart. Every chart has the same range on the y-axis, but different starting point:
Edit: I did notice that my source for the numbers was wrong. So the actual numbers may be wrong, but the design of my charts are still valid.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
- Megadeth - Risk. Big fan of Dave, but he totally rolled the dice and lost on this one. He even admits as much himself, in that he uncharacteristically caved in to pressure from record label and band members to change the musical direction to something that would move more product in the brief period of time when "alternative" music was hot.
- Iron Maiden - Virtual XI. Just...NO. Good job that Bruce Dickinson returned.
- Poison - Native Tongue. On paper, replacing C.C. DeVille with a technically superior guitar player - Richie Kotzen - looked like it could work. Upon closer inspection, DeVille wrote most of the music and Kotzen didn't want to play anything but inferior, white boi blues. Thus, the album sucked and still sucks, with the possible exception of "Until You Suffer Some More".
- Running Wild - Rogues En Vogue. OK, this was the final Running Wild album before Kasparek decided to call it a day, but this release is still very much disappointing.
- W.A.S.P. - Still Not Black Enough. One would have thought that Blackie Lawless got all of the introspective rebel in search of acceptance, identity and love out on the spectacular "Crimson Idol" concept album. If so, one would be very much mistaken. Not the same quality in songs as on "Idol" either.
- Joe Satriani - Crystal Planet. Guitar deity Joe Satriani on a synthesizer and techno trip. Ugly. Very ugly. Two thumbs way down.
- Yngwie Malmsteen - Unleash The Fury. By normal standards, this album reeks of awesomeness. Compared to Yngwie's usual gold standard, it just reeks.
- Rhapsody - Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret. Following up the wonderful "Power Of The Dragonflame" with a name change (Rhapsody Of Fire,due to some copyright issues) and recycled, lameness is just that - lame. Coincidentally, right before this release, the band solicited the management services of one Joey DeMaio from Manowar - the Overlords of All Things Bad about Metal. Subsequent albums have sucked hard. Quite the coincidence...thanks a lot Joey, ya greasy guido POS.
- Luca Turilli - The Infinite Wonders Of Creation. The guitarist from Rhapsody also hosted a successful side project with similar but more hard-core guitar-oriented music. His first two solo albums, featuring the vocal stylings of Olaf Hayer, totally rule. His third album, with the dubious title featured in bold type, features Nightwish-like vocals, tons of synth and an overall goth vibe. From king of the world to chumpstain in three albums or less, by Luca Turilli.
- Last Tribe - The Uncrowned. Strong contender for the title of my absolute favorite band not featuring Yngwie Malmsteen. Their debut album "The Ritual" is in my opinion one of the best albums EVER, and the follow-up is also kick-ass. Their third and final album thus suffers from not being able to live up to the phenomenal standard set by Magnus Karlsson and his former bandmates.
- Eminem - Encore. The low point in Eminem's solo career, as he even admits to himself. Just not his usual standard. Very few strong tracks....
- Sonata Arctica - Reckoning Night. "Silence" was a phenomenal power metal album by any standard. "Reckoning Night" is a weak attempt at moving away from power metal and into harder material. Fail.
- Helloween - Pink Bubbles Go Ape. Right off the bat it's a major downer with a title like that. Coming off of two fantastic albums like "Keeper ..." I and II it's pretty hard to keep the trend going, but that's not really an excuse for this reekazoid product.
- Gary Moore - Blues For Greeny. I much prefer the hard rock version of Gary Moore to the blues version, but all things considered, I really like "Still Got The Blues" and "After Hours". With "Blues For Greeny", however, the Moore-train really goes off the tracks as far as my musical preferences are concerned.
- Extreme - Waiting For The Punchline. Still waiting...
- ...many more I'm sure...
Like 'Cube says, it was a good day. Got a good nights sleep, got to work early, got started on preparing new course in applied nanotech. A paper is gonna get submitted to a very good journal today.
Then some kind of clusterf*ck happened.
We're probably not gonna get a new kitchen installed until over New Year's. I was supposed to have a phoner with a prospective grad student, but I never got anything but his voice mail. And the crowning achievement of the day - the Department Head sent me an email informing me that he'd volunteered me as the department's ombud for equal status/equal rights representative at the faculty.
I am now the Crown Prince of Political Correctness and Grand Wizard of Soul-Draining Meetings.
I sense some serious sucktual overtones happening here.
To quote Linda Eide in the last episode of Norske Attraksjoner - "Negative tankar"
If this sucks even half as much as I think it does, I'm going to seriously contemplate my chosen profession.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
This week, Ry Cooder - Down In Mississippi. Some deep delta blues and soul in there. And check out the mean vocal there, courtesy of Bobby King, Terry Evans, Arnold McCuller and Willie Green Jr. Mr. Cooder sure knows how to pick his musical collaborators.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Eminem - We Made You
Just AWESOME...Mr. Mathers proves once and again that he's not your formulaic rapper with videos consisting of Big-screen TVs, rims, hos, jacuzzis and a black leather couch, topped off with Cristal and a bunch of mean-mugging homies pointing at the camera from low angles.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
However, it turns out that I was in the minority among the invited speakers in that I actually submitted an abstract within the deadline, and so I recently got an email stating that the new, absolutely final deadline for submission of an abstract for my talk would be October 25th.
This leaves me with two options. I can either roll with my previously submitted story, or I can use this opportunity to perhaps craft a completely new story partially based on experimental findings obtained since the previous deadline.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Being able to speak English really well and without a strong accent is pretty much like having a superpower. English is the predominant language in conferences, seminars and workshops, and if your English is burdened with a very strong national accent, you've got to have spectacular charisma and some groundbreaking science to gain back what you lost during the first impression. You've only got one shot at giving a good first impression, and if you sound like the Swedish Chef from Muppet Show, that's the first and probably lasting impression of you, way before you've got a chance to show off your science. Is it fair? Probably not, but if you think said Swedish Cook or someone sounding like the bad Soviet guy from an 80's action flick isn't gonna come off as weak following up someone with a neutral North American accent, all else being equal, then I've got some swamp land in the Everglades that I'll sell to you for a song.
Don't ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER have a lot of slides in the middle of your presentation that you simply skip ("Oh, let's skip this one....and that one..."). You're really sending out the signal that you've either a) simply frankenstein'd together the talk at the last minute without any specific tailoring to the audience, b) don't know what's on your slides, or c) think what's on the skipped slides is too advanced for the audience. Either way, you're SO not looking good doing it.
Don't put up detailed figures and whatnot on the slide unless you actually plan to talk about them. The extra time required by the audience to sweep across and absorb the new material on the slide is time they won't be paying attention to you. When you introduce a new slide, the movement on the screen is going to attract the eyes of the audience. The more stuff is there to sweep across, the more time before the audience is ready to focus on you again.
So how'd it go?
One thing's for sure - the Presentation Zen approach requires total control over the slide content and sequence, as there are hardly any visual clues beyond what's absolutely necessary to provide a backdrop for your narrative. All meta-content must be thought through well before your name is announced. There is still opportunity to tune the detail bandwidth for each slide or section, but unless you're absolutely familiar with every slide you're screwed. This actually suits me well, because the slides kind of help me stand out, rather than there being any conflict whatsoever with regard to the focus of attention. MUCH more work, though. Next time I'll see if I can get away with even less detail on my slides.
As for my actual presentation skills, I feel I was at about 85%, as I had a few things working against me:
- I had a cold, and my voice kept coming and going during the morning, so I was somewhat unsure as to how that was gonna pan out. Luckily it held up during my talk and subsequent Q&A.
- My freakin' remote control/laser pointer totally went south the day before, and I was not familiar enough with the new one. Different positioning of functions and altered response time pretty much meant that I needed to look at the remote almost every time I introduced some animation.
- Not enough space between the front rows and the lectern/screen meant I had less room to move around than what's my preference.
- I was last in a sequence of speakers and the guy before me ran more than 10 minutes over. Rather than extend the session too much, I shortened my talk by ~5 minutes. In retrospect, I could've done a better job selecting which ornamental details to skip, although I hardly think the audience noticed.
- As I was introduced and the chair mentioned the lab I work at, some guy in the audience snickered and shook his head. As he apparently scanned the full author list on the intro slide, he repeated this behavior. I have to admit that this puzzled me greatly - I'm not used to being heckled within the realms of academia - not like this anyways. Having been in a cover band there was always some drunk dude who wanted us to play something different, but this was a strange experience. The same guy also tried to "get" me during the Q&A session, but failed both at provoking me and at asking "difficult" questions. I'm pretty well prepared when I present my work, and I'm actually quite good at what I do, so the combination of heckling and failed attempts at asking "hard" questions only made him look bad. For sure I'd have looked like a loser if I lost my cool, which is apparently all the rage among the more chardonnay- and Absinthe-inclined part of the population.
I later found out who the guy was, and everything became clear to me. Although I've never met the guy in my life, he has strong heat not only with the head of the division where I work, but also with one of my co-authors.
Outside of this, things went very well, and I got plenty positive, unsolicited feedback. I'm going to continue using the Presentation Zen approach, but get better at it.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Case in point, we bought some "Farmer's Fairtrade Orange Juice" recently. The Fairtrade" label was prominently featured on the carton, together with the slogan "The Fairtrade logo - your best guarantee for a good deal".
Now I grant you - getting good orange juice isn't that easy in Norway. Save for fresh squeezed or the Tropicana label, it's mostly bitter, watered-down concentrates. However, I've never tasted an orange juice nearly as vile as the crap which supposedly offers me the best possible deal, both with respect to me as a customer and the percentage given to the farmers.
Orange juice is just that, so how is it possible to make such a crap product? There are basically three possibilities: 1) The farmers associated with Fairtrade absolutely suck at their profession and as such don't deserve a larger piece of the pie than given by major labels. 2) Knowing that some people are gullible enough to purchase a product on the premise of a better deal for farmers in some third-world country, some very cynical distributors take second- or third-rate raw material - in this case oranges - and makes a clearly inferior product. 3) The production plants asociated with Fairtrade are staffed with bottom-of-the-barrel staff that couldn't get a job elsewhere, likely for lower wages.
Either way, there's absolutely no excuse for peddling inferior products under the Fairtrade label. Don't even get me started on the battery acid and antifreeze mixture sold under the label "Ubuntu Cola".
A modern classic, expanding the blues genre in I way that I love, one of my all time favorite artists and guitarists: Rainer Ptacek - Don't Know Why. A rare, previously unreleased music video (I've never seen an official music videos of Rainer, so I guess any video is previously unreleased), but I sure feel that they've manage do make a decent video on a very low budget. And this is a great version of the tune, which I don't think have been released on audio.
Enjoy, mi amigos!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Brilliant, says I. There is only one singular explanation for this proposal that doesn't bring into play a linear combination of zero eco-cred among the government parties, epic broken promises during the election campaign and several people in key positions not taking their medication. Namely that the pesky problem with CO2 emissions and that whole man-made climate changes-dealie has been called off.
Otherwise, how in the blue hell do they plan to motivate people to purchase more eco-friendly cars when they refuse to lower the taxes for hybrid cars significantly and the fuel for the more expensive cars they're supposed to buy is at least as expensive?
So; now that the red-green coalition has eliminated climate changes, what's on the agenda for next week? End world hunger? Rename Mondays?
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Opening track from the Hendrix "Blues" collection CD: Hear My Train A'Comin'. Sure, Hendrix was known as a rock icon, but he could play some mean blues as well. And I could have picked some more famous blues tunes by Hendrix (Red House anyone?), but the acoustic take of Hear My Train A'Comin' is one of my alltime favorite Hendrix tunes.
Enjoy, and have a nice weekend!
If potential and media hype was all that was required, how do you explain Marit Bjørgen?
If it is reasonable to assume that what a politician promises during the election campaign will come true once he or she is elected, how do you think SV voters are feeling about Soria Moria II?
Then again, at least they didn't award the Nobel Peace Prize to someone for cutting down on their genocide agenda.
Friday, October 9, 2009
I'm amazed by the Committee; are they influenced by all the Obama fan-bois out there and the positive media coverage? If they wanted to use the price in an active way to promote peace work, there are some many other candidates they could have choosen.
So, what do the rest of the poeple here at the A-factor blog thinks?
Thursday, October 8, 2009
This means that some of the songs on this list is also present at Wilhelm's September list.
Poison; Every rose has it's thorn (also on Wilhelm's list)
Damn Yankees; High enough (also on Wilhelm's list)
Nazareth: Love hurts
Ozzy Osbourne: Killer of giants
Whitesnake; Is this love
Tigertailz;Living without you
(warning: Absolutely worst of glam!)
TNT: Kings of seven seas
Metallica; Nothing else matters
Frehley's comet: Into the night
Skid Row; 18 and life
Kiss; I still love you
Stage Dolls; Ammunition
Gorky Park; Fortress
Dio; All the fools sailed away
Queen; The show must go on
MSG; But I want more
Yngwie; Hold on
Extreme; song for love (also on Wilhelm's list)
Helloween; A tale that wasn't right
(also on Wilhelm's list)
Alice Cooper; Hell is living without you
Twisted Sister; The price
Guns n' Roses; Sweet child o' mine
(Also on Wilhelm's list)
Cinderella; Nobody's fool
White Lion; 'Till death do us part
Def Leppard; Love bites
(also on Wilhelm's list)
Bon Jovi; Santa Fe
1) Stryper; First love
cyclist, because "she didn't get out of the way quick enough". The dude even hit the side of the baby stroller.
There are so many things wrong with this, here are some of the thoughts that I reacted on:
- You never hit a stroller with a baby in.
- You never attack a pregnant lady. No matter what's done.
- On the photo, you can clearly see that this was on the sidewalk. According to Norwegian traffic regulations, cyclist have a duty to give way to pedestrian on sidewalk.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
So what's wrong with this? First off all, pie charts are depending on us camparing areas to each other, and we can't do that very well when there are some many. So this is the wrong type of chart. To make it even worse, the gradient, shading and 3D-effect makes it even harder to compare the ares. The alignment of the numbers can also have an effect to make the perceived area larger or smaller (though there aren't any really good examples on this chart). They should at least have ordered the slices in decreasing or increasing size. Also, the legend on the right makes your eye go back and fourth to match the browser with the corresponding slice of the pie.
A simple table would have made these data much more available and faster to explore for the reader.
But since I'm in a mood for exploring the possibilities and limitations of Excel and improve my presentation/ charting skills, I've suggested a better graph:
I made this just with Excel, no editing. The numbers next to the where made using a "fake" second series with value 0% and named after the value of each browser share, and I use series name as data label, aglined to the left. I would have loved if Excel could do that automatically, and to be able to formate each of the labels individually. For example, I would prefer to have the "%"-sign a couple of points smaller then the number. Also, I think the point of the author was that IE6 is now used of less then 10% of the users. To emphasise that, I could have given the IE6 bar a red color. But, when it comes to colors, I prefer the following rule:
So, I made a version in black and white. Slightly less fancy, but it does get the point across:
Yes, I could have worked a bit more with selecting the greys, but this is the default grey's in Excel 2003.
Next up was a line plot showing the trends over time:
Line plots greatest strength is to show trends over time, so in that case, they've choosen the correct type of chart. But there are some bad graphing here as well: The background gradient takes too much attention, the alignment of the titles of the axis are wrong (they should be horisontal), your eyes again has to go back and fourth between the legende and the plot, etc. But my main concern is the numbers on the lines. First of all, they don't add up to 100% (just sum the numbers on the right end) and especially from sept. '08 march '09 it's really hard to read the values on the smallest browseres. I even had to "guesstimate" the values there when I made my own version. Line plots does not do a good job of presenting individual values, bar charts are much better at that. Or a table. So my suggestion for improving this graph, is a combination of a line plot and a table, to get the best of two worlds:
Again I could have spent more time on the colors, but I used the standard palette in Excel 2003. What I really would want to be able to do here, is to formate the table better, so make the legende and headers stand out from the data. But here I'm falling short, I don't even know how to "cheat" in Excel to make that happen. Any suggestions? Still, I do feel my suggestion is clearer and better then the default ones from FINN.no.
I can't believe the nerve. And this is in collaboration with the Hendrix estate? I've should have filed this under "nonsense"... No es bueno.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
This is one of my absolute favorite songs irrespective of genre, and the first YJM song I learned how to play back in '92 or so. The first electric guitar solo is the epitome of emotional playing, and it still brings a tear to my eyes when I hear it - even to this day, and even when I'm playing it myself. Believe it or not, but what first drew me to Yngwie's playing was actually the emotional content and not the sheer speed.
That's it for Power Ballad September - hope you've enjoyed it.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Great song, with machine-gunning and all, absolutely horrible video. Wasn't sure which Norwegian song to include - found a video of "Forever In My Heart" by Da Vinci, but the lip-syncing was beyond gruesome. Stage Dolls made a comeback some seven or eight years ago, so finding live clips from their "golden age" is kinda' hard. Another option would be Return, but alas I couldn't find a video for their best power ballad "Straight Across My Heart".
Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Side2 just published a list over metal's 10 worst songs. Follow the link for the videos, I'll just repeat the list here:1. Dangerous Toys - Sport'n a woody
2. Kiss - Forever
3. Grim Reaper - Suck it And See
4. Ozzy Osbourne - Working Class Hero
5. AC/DC - Fly on the Wall
AC/DC is metal? Oh well, this songs sounds like any other AC/DC tune to me...
6. White Lion - Wait
As Side2 points out: This band was called "Shite Lion" on British radio... LOL!
7. Nargaroth - Black metal ist Krieg
8. Guns 'n Roses - Look At Your Game, Girl
9. Metallica - Invisible Kid
10. Accept - Generation Clash
Nearly half of the bands are unknown to me, and for the bands I know, the songs doesn't sound that much worse then then ones I know. Anybody how's missing from the list?
Bon Jovi - Never Say Goodbye
Everyone's heard "Wanted Dead Or Alive", "Bed Of Roses", "I'll Be There For You" and "Always" at least a gajillion times, but this one might be a little bit off the beaten track.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
One of my old heros here, Hound Dog Tayler, doing Taylor's Rock, in all his six-fingered glory (more is more, as some people claim...). Mr. Taylor was the artist that made Bruce Iglauer start Alligator records, since the boss at the record company he worked on wouldn't record Hound Dog and the House Rockers. Or so the story goes. Anyway, Hound Dog Taylor is known for his six fingers, fierce slide playing, a cheap ass japanese guitar with too many switches and knobs and bad jokes.
Again, there was a slew of more obvious choices - like "Wild World", "To Be With You" and "Just Take My Heart". However, I've got a soft spot for this song, with the tapped intro which is somewhat reminiscent of a certain G'N'R tune. Mr. Big actually reformed recently and is currently touring. You should check them out - how often do you have teh opportunity to see talents like Paul Gilbert and Billy Sheehan in a melody-oriented band?
Friday, September 25, 2009
I know - the obvious and more commercially successful choice would've been "More Than Words", but this one - also from "Pornografitti" - is less known yet much more interesting guitar-wise. The various guitar parts from this era Nuno Bettencourt almost never repeat themselves, and the solo is outstanding. Enjoy!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Absolutely great riff/main theme, very much standard G-C-D progression for the verse and chorus, and then they go and spoil it all by adding something stupid like the extended "where do we go now" and "harder" section. It also doesn't help that the solo hardly does the song justice.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Beautiful guitar work on this one, as can be expected from Mr. Moore. Not sure what the deal is with the video on this one either, and all I can hope is that neither Mr. Moore nor his contemporaries had to part with much money to the "video directors".
'Cause let's face it - most music videos absolutely suck, and the formulaic approach hasn't changed that much.