Friday, July 31, 2009

The guitar hero saga continues...

You just gotta read this. Some 17-year old guitar hero player is opening a double headliner of Aerosmith and ZZ Top. What's wrong with the world today?

Triple book review...

Since I've been on holiday, I've had the time to read some books. Some geeky stuff this time, not much fine litterature here. Sort of a red thread with regards to the topic of these books. Anyway, here we go.

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery
by Garr Reynolds

I've been following mr. Reynolds fine blog with the same name for three years now, and have probably read about 90-100% of his posts. My first impression is how much of this book Garr has given away for free on his blog. That's not important for people who hasn't read his blog, but people like me might feel cheated for paying for something we've already have gotten. Not me, I think it's great have all this collected in a book, and presented in a complete manner.

This book explains Garr Reynolds idea of presentation, where simplicity in design and delivery is sentral. This is not a "Powerpoint primer" or similar, in fact, it hardly mentions how things is done in Powerpoint, Keynote or similar. It focus on the content and style, rather then the technical details. And mr. Reynolds have compiled a pretty good argument for his style. It's backed up with a lot of real life and fixtional examples that showcases his points. And as he closes the book with, this is not a final conclusion about presentation, but a first step on a long way of making better presentations.

As for me, I really have learned a lot about slide layout and design in general from this book, and I really like it. However, I do feel that the approch does not really apply to my needs. It's more suitable for buisness and sharing ideas and visions (but not exclusivly that). In a lecture situation, you can't cut your presentation down to the three most important points. You gotta cover the curricilum. And sometimes, you need to put in formulas and complex data (which mr. Reynolds at least partially aknowledge). At the end, there are sample slides of some other people using the presentation zen approch, among them a University lecture on aromatic chemisty. I really would love to see that lecture, because I still believe that you can't apply this approch "unmodified" to such a complex topic. But I sure like to be convinced, cause this is a book everybody who present or lecure could learn from. Recommended.

The back of the napkin
by Dan Roam

This book is about visual thinking using simple (hand-drawn) pictures to stimulate creative thinking in problem solving and present and sell ideas. I'm a sucker for icons, and I've browsed through mr. Roam's blog a couple of times, and I liked the icon-like quality of some of his drawings and his simple and effective way of picture different things (I even think I made a post about it before the US election last year). Loved the examples I found on the blog.

The book? Well, first of all, it's really buisness oriented. And I've heard mr. Roam state that buisness people us pictures and graphs far less then, say, science people. I don't know about that, but what struck me when I start reading the book, is that I actually use pictures to communicate, solve problems and illustrate a point. Many of those hand drawn, but I can't remember the last time I went into a meeting with a hand-drawn picuture or graph. Then I have them electronically in Excel/ powerpoint or similar. I also think that people with basic knowledge in statistics or chemometrics have a lot of powerful, and sometimes better, charts we can make. That's especially true for the elaborated multi-variable charts.

Apart from the point above, I did enjoy reading this book even though it is really a buisness book; a world pretty unknown to me. I did enjoy his ture stories of how he has used his pictures and graphs in selling ideas and solving problems as a buisness consultant. Some of the tools where you stimulate both the "right and left side" of the brain is also interesting and something I might consider trying out. But what I really found inspiring about this book, is the way to focus an idea and deliever it in a way that people can follow quickly. Even though the examples are buisness, it's something everybody can learn from. Another recommandation from me.

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
by Edward Tufte

Now this is something different. Edward Tufte is an American statistician and Professor of statistics and whatnot, and this book is in a different league then the two above. While they emphasize simplicity and crystalizing out the essential message to present or sell, Tufte with his background is a strong defender of the other use of charts: To plot a lot of data to make data-dence charts that allows researcher and normal people to explore data, rather then just being sold an idea. In fact, Tufte argues that simple data/ small data sets are better represented in a table. Though I do see the use of both kinds, I am geeky enough to really enjoy Tuftes' argument and examples, going all the way back to Leonard and the first pie and bar charts ever made, up to current issues of newspapers and scientific journals. The only drawback is that this book is a reprint from 1980 or so, and a few of his arguments are obsolete. For example, one of his charts he states that he had reduced the number of lines needed to draw the chart from 80 to 10, thus saving the scientist time that should be spent better doing research. In this time of Excel and computers, I don't know of any scientist that still makes charts by hand. Furthermore, some of the changes, that improves the chart, does take longer to make then just pulling up the standard Excel-graph. And sometimes that is enough.

But his data-ink ratio (how much of the ink on a graph is used to represent data, and how much is "chart junk") and data density are really interesting. And he makes a compelling argument that the newspapers use advanced language, but simple charts. I wonder how the situation is today. This is a great book that everybody that draws charts or deal with large data sets should read. Even if it is old. Highly recommended, I will buy more of his books.

Flickr update plug 073109

TGIF - Some funny stuff

I'm nerdy enough to find this funny (there, I said it), and had to post it here. Enjoy! ;-)

MC Hammer Vader Busts a Move - Watch more Funny Videos

Monday, July 27, 2009

Limits to Reese's Principle

Surely you know of the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Principle? In the case of Reese's wildly popular Peanut Butter Cup chocolate bars, mixing (duh) chocolate and peanut butter made for one spectacular candy bar - adding two delish ingredients makes for an even more delish product. Logic, no?

Overlooking obvious "exceptions" to this rule, such as mixing beer (or girly beer in my case) and chocolate milk, we sure found out that this principle is less than generally applicable - the HARD way.

In our bathroom, we've got a free-standing dresser-dealie with three shelves exclusively dedicated to perfumes, aftershaves, cologne - various men's and women's fragrances. For whatever reason I like to have a truckload of different fragrances, and my wife isn't opposed to the idea of fragrance variety either.

Suppose that someone were to knock over these shelves, sending all the perfume bottles and such crashing to the floor, leaving a lot of shattered bottles and more than 0.5 L of various Chanel, Dior, Armani, Carolina Herrera, DKNY, Sergio Tacchini, Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, CK, Givenchy and other products spread nicely onto a heated bathroom floor.

Now; if Reese's principle were to hold true, the resulting fragrance would absolutely rule, and become an asset - albeit a strong one - to the air quality of the bathroom.

In three words - not so much. The first evening, the smell was such that it stung on the tip of your tongue if you stayed there for just a couple of minutes. Now, the smell is only confined to the bathroom (more or less), some five days after the incident. As an added bonus, we're STILL finding shards of glass on the bathroom floor, despite having washed and vacuumed the floor a bunch of times.

Just grreat!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

..from Addræssa part 2

Adresseavisen from Wednesday July 22nd is just chock full of gems. Staying within the same theme as the previous post, the page 2 story deals yet again with the increased number of students at NTNU, and how this is perceived among theoretically qualified people. The header reads "Billige studenter finansierer dyre studier" ("Cheap students finance expensive studies"). In this piece, representatives for student organizations lament the fact that the increase occurs mostly within subjects like humaniora and social sciences, where the demand for expensive equipment is low or non-existent. By allowing more students into these disciplines, the increased cash flow is not used to improve conditions for these students, but rather funneled into more expensive subjects like engineering. According to the student representatives, this is not fair.

Welcome to the real world and the social democracy that is Norway. First, this is how pretty much everything works. Regardless of how much you pay in taxes, for example, you have absolutely no guarantee that your tax money is being spent on something that will benefit you directly. Your social security deductions are not being saved for when YOU retire, and so on. Moreover, the budget increase from the Department of Education was to be implemented immediately, and so it would be impossible to obtain the necessary facilities for, say, more students within natural sciences, where more lab space would be needed, etc. Compunding this is that the increased budget is not sufficient to be used for so-called "expensive" subjects.

This piece also contains a statement which betrays a complete lack of founding in reality among the student representatives: By accepting more students, the students are given false hope that they're gonna get a job following graduation.

Let's get one thing straight; the increased number of students is largely due to the fact that there is a financial crisis going on and concomitantly very difficult to get a job. Thus more people opt to go back to school. The extra budget is a direct consequence of the financial crisis. Am I to believe that the new, "extra" students are so howl-at-the-moon stupid that they believe that the government has also intervened to proportionally increase the number of jobs when they graduate?That the students fail to see the trend of more people going to school when jobs are scarce and thus that the very same students will have more competition for more or less the same number of jobs upon graduation?

Also; anyone who claims that entering a specific study guarantees a job five years down the road is blatantly lying to you. If that were true, there would hardly be a financial crisis now, would it? Nobody can predict what the job market looks like three to five years down the road. What CAN be stated, is that the most qualified students within a graduating class are likely to find a job.

...from Addræssa Part 1

We don't subscribe to the main newspaper in Trondheim - Adresseavisen - for several reasons. One such reason is experience from having tried a weekend subscription and found the distribution to published issue ratio not to be in our favor. As a matter of fact, we kept complaining and getting the subscription extended due to nondelivery enough times that I think we could've had a lifetime weekend subscription had we not actively cancelled the deal.

Another reason is that Adresseavisen sucks more than the combined efforts of a White House intern festival during the Clinton administration.

Still, we get a copy for free every now and again, like yesterday. Among other things, Addræssa has a "comments from raging lunatics at" section. One such gem follows here (regarding a more than 10% increase in student numbers at NTNU):

"Vil i denne omgangen heller foreslå at en sikrer kvaliteten på de tilbudene som finnes og gir de studentene som har fått plass det beste som kan fremskaffes av undervisning,veiledning og studiemiljø. (I'd like to propose that NTNU should prioritize securing the quality of the existing studies and make sure that the existing students have access to the best possible teaching, guidance and student environment.)" Signed Ce.

One problem with your suggestion there"Ce"; following the "Quality reform", the funding structure was altered so that themoney now follows the students, or rather the number of completed study points/credit hours at the various departments. Thus, your brilliant suggestion of putting a cap on the student number that's lower than full capacity would net NTNU a grand total of 0 NOK with which to improve the existing studies beyond their current budget status.

Siv Jensen lacks leadership qualities?

According to Høyre leader Erna Solberg, leader of Fremskrittspartiet Siv Jensen lacks leadership qualities. If there is a person anywhere in the political realms of Norway that should know her role and shut her mouth about who's got alpha characteristics, it's Erna Solberg. Her brilliant strategy of first relegating the post of Prime Minister to a smaller party in a hypothetical coalition four years ago and then completely letting FrP take over Høyre's sedimented spot as the number two political entity in Norway firmly cements Solberg's position as beta or gamma politician.

Moreover, while she herself took the party leader position after one of themost anonymous politicians in the history of the universe, in a party where strong female candidates have been present for quite some time, Siv Jensen rose to power in the most male-dominated party in the parliament, and she did so following perhaps THE most charismatic politician in Norwegian history, Carl Ivar Hagen. Much can be said - and for sure has been - about the political views of Mr. Hagen, noone can deny that he was (and is) a brilliant politician and strategist who managed to take a fringe party to the number two status in Norway. Siv Jensen has actually managed to build the party further.

Cliff notes: Erna Solberg: STFU and step down so that someone competent can take Høyre back to its rightful position.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Jan-Aage Torp, Professional darkener of doorsteps

Pastor Jan-Aage Torp has entered the realms of national politics in a most spectacular manner. Hoping to get enough votes to get a seat on the Norwegian Parliament for his party, "Kristent Samlingsparti" (Coalition of bible-thumping extremist whackjobs), he has emptied a bunch of collection plates and financed an election video. What's the theme of this video, you ask?

Well; Pastor Torp being a literal-translation pentecostal zealot, really only has two possible themes: 1) Gay-bashing, and 2) Right-to-life preaching. He chose the latter. You might call him a great number of things, but at least you can count on his being predictable.

The contents of the video? Body parts, dead fetuses in trach cans, just about every shade of gruesome. Congrats to the Pastor - he's just spent a lot of money to get absolutely no votes outside of the die-hard zealots he already had swinging from his balls.

If the theory is correct that Heaven will be populated by the likes of this character, I strongly suspect that someone made a sign error or screwed up the labels somehow.

Friday, July 17, 2009



..thank God it's vacation!

And some miscellaneous stuff to round off the week.

First off, with all due respect to Dr. Dawkins, I do enjoy Mads Eriksen's take on religion and atheism way better:

And now, for something completely different:

And since Micheal Jackson been all over the news lately, here's a little cover by José Feliciano:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

42" long

How difficult is it to find a new suit?

Very, as it turns out. Especially if you actually care about how it looks and more importantly; how you look wearing it. From my perspective, off-the-rack suits come in three varieties; hobbit, stick-figure douche and Michael Moore.

Sadly (or not really), I don't fit in either category. For some reason, suit manufacturers assume that if you are bigger than average, then your body shape must be a solid A on top of two toothpicks.

The search continues....


Just discovered this little app you could add to your iPhone, which turns it into a guitar simulator of some sort (and giving Line6 a run for the money... ;-D ). Check it out:

I really don't know what I think of this. I have to admit, there's some pretty good thinking behing adapting a guitar to a small screen. Of course it is very limited compared to a guitar, but you can do slides, single string picking, wah-wah, string-bending, etc, etc. And compared to GuitarHero, you actually have to know some guitar/ music to make this thing work. And it's not sounding half-bad on my PC speakers either. As for the entertainment value, I don't know. You won't see me running to the store for a iPhone just for this app. But the nerd in me likes some of the solutions in the app...

So, what do you guys think?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Progress Party and the Culture Council

The Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) has gotten in some hot water with various novelists and artists due to their culture politics and their recent accusations that the Minister of Culture Trond Giske has appointed nobody outside his circle of friends to the Culture Council (Kulturrådet). An upcoming Anti-Fremskrittspartiet political movement, spearheaded by various culture personalities is accusing Fremskrittspartiet of not playing fair in their election propaganda (duh - as if any party propaganda in the history of the universe was ever neutral and fact-based). Ironically, the latest incident in the culture backlash against Fremskrittspartiet saw author Erik Fosnes Hansen melt down during a radio debate with Fremskrittspartiet's Per Arne Olsen and actually throw pieces of crumpled paper at him. Refusing to apologize, Fosnes Hansen offered the following rationale for his stepping outside the accepted debating practices and resort to tactics favored by elementary school bullies: He deserved it.

So much for Fosnes Hansen being a master debater and wielding the power of language and argumentation. Disregarding for a moment that this political movement is little more than a special interest lobbyist effort (and I do not write this lightly, considering that Fremskrittspartiet's culture politics appears to favor little outside of dansband and soccer), do they really deny that a certain degree of nepotism has occurred in the appointments to the Culture Council? Considering the shallowness of the pool of qualified candidates and the frequent public socialization between Giske and the appointed members, I'd keep my mouth closed. Whether it's deliberate is another question, but sheer statistics suggest that in a small country such as this, it's not possible to avoid.

What's perhaps even more interesting is that this culture mafia is directing their outrage over these accusations exclusively at Fremskrittspartiet. Considering that Venstre's second-in-command Trine Skei Grande has made the same accusations and been even more outspoken by it, that is...

Send them to Africa, dammit

Unless you've lived in a cave, or you don't understand Norwegian or live abroad, you've no doubt been exposed to the Progress Party's (Fremskrittspartiet's) suggestion of shipping all refugees to Africa. Or more specifically; outsourcing all refugee camp services to Africa, where the costs are lower and the Norwegian public doesn't have to look at destitute people from different cultures.

No; it's not a joke - they actually made this very suggestion. Some of the underlying reasoning also comprises the fact that the African nations in question receive lots of foreign aid from Norway.

I can almost picture how the Conservatives' (Høyre's) party leader Erna Solberg reacted when she learned of this suggestion from a party she depends on to support her in a possible government coalition: F*ck!

No doubt she was even more pleased when the Fremskrittspartiet's second-in-command, Per Sandberg, actually took it upon himself to back this proposal in every available media outlet. Letting Sandberg speak in public is a bad idea from the get-go; the combination of his mismatched wardrobe, his propensity for being inappropriate (like suggesting that the highways and interstates should be safe enough that you can DUI without any risk whatsoever) and the fact that he sounds like a bad local revue act (or the "Public Service announcement" leding up to the first track on a DDE record) would make him an unlikely candidate for a spokesperson. Not in Fremskrittspartiet, however.

Considering that many of the refugees come from African countries and that they've thrown away their IDs, this suggestion might spur some "issues" in the unlikely event that it ever comes to fruition. Like the refugees being shipped back to the country they came from, to be held behind bars by the very same people they were being persecuted by. Only this time, their imprisonment would be sponsored by the Norwegian state. Or some of the refugees might work part-time as personnel in their home town, working in their home town, being paid by the Norwegian government to make sure their family members don't leave town.

I think this is a brilliant suggestion - our own version of one of USA's most successful builders of international relations and unbridled PR success; Gitmo.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stood up like the president of the chess club.... the high school prom.

Last week some door-to-door people came and asked whether we were interested in a chatregarding how we could save energy in our home by means of inter alia an air-to-air heat pump. We set up a meeting for today - first at 6 PM, and then we immediately rescheduled it for noon so as to better suit Viktor's schedule.

The energy consultants in question are energirådgiverne, a daughter company of Eneas Energy AS.

At noon today, nobody showed. At about 12:30, I was plenty pissed, but we figured that there might be the possibility of the airhead who wrote down the schedule having forgotten to make a note of the schedule change from 6 PM to noon.

6 PM came and went, and nobody showed up. Not even a phone call.

Considering that these asshats came to ask us to take time out of our day to meet with them, and that they're actually peddling products, this is pretty shoddy salesmanship.

We're probably gonna buy a heat pump, but I'll go out of my way to make good and damned sure that we don't make the purchase via energirådgiverne or any company affiliated with them.

...and the hump-backed gargoyle they rode in on.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Best financial advice ever

I was reading a thread on a message board yesterday where some guy was lamenting his financial situation, claiming that he didn't have the cash flow to justify protein supplements and high quality, clean food in the amounts required for serious weight training. He was also complaining about his (soft science) degree being absolutely useless in the current job market. How could he best supplement his income, etc. One guy gave the following advice:

Become a ninja.....whoever heard of a broke ninja? You never see them at the bus stop or in line at the food stamp place

Truer words have never been spoken

Monday, July 6, 2009

Amplifier issue

I've got a problem with my Line6 Spider 210. Specifically, the amp is in the original state from when it was purchased in NC, meaning I've run it through a 110 to 230V power adapter ever since we moved here.

The adapter had the recurring problem of getting REALLY hot during use, and now the plugs are shot, leaving me high and dry (not the Def Leppard album) and currently unable to run my amp. What I want to do - or rather get done - is replace the transformer in the amp so as to enable use with 230V and Norwegian sockets. Seeing as how people import amps all the time, this should be a straightforward operation, right?

So; can I just haul the amp to the guitar shop and have them work their magic? And what would be a realistic estimate for how much that's gonna set me back?

Anders Boogie

Haven't listened to this blatant rip-off of ZZ Top's La Grange and Satriani's Satch Boogie boogie song written on the occasion of Anders' bachelor party in quite some time.

I think I'm gonna try to re-record it with the PreSonus + Cubase setup this summer and add some more solos and schtuff (like bass and perhaps a drum beat beyond the epic click track featured here). What say you Anders - do you want to add some bars of solos as well?

Well thanks a bunch

The infallible oracles over at have issued a list of "acceptable hairdos" for men and women this summer.

If this is the way hairdos are supposed to look like this summer, consider me good and screwed.


Friday, July 3, 2009

TGIF: Dilbert

Aah. Good ol' Dilbert. There's always a Dilbert comic reflecting my work situation. TGIF.

TGIF Re: Dawkins

Then again, I'm sure that Dawkins and his nuthuggers have the answers ready for the above fundamental questions....right?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

About time...

This is probably the most iconic LP out there, maybe only rivaled by the Peter Green/ Gary Moore LP. It's about time Gibson reissued it.

The visual representation of quantitative data

...which sounds way better as a heading then "I found a pie chart that was crap". Anyway, I stumbled across this article, which is published under "research". Basically, it's a survey looking into the use of camera on cellphones. A lot can be said about the data (which is old, from 2006) and conclusions, but I'll let that rest for now. What struck me was the complete incompetence in presenting the data. More specifically, this pie chart:

First of all, this isn't very good data to use pie charts for. There are too many categories for people to visually compare them quickly. The orange 11% looks more or less the same size as the yellow 12%, same with the blue 17% and green 20%. Secondly, the labels on the right side is faulty. You spend too much time looking back and fourth on the figure to match the color with the category.

In this case, a simple table with the data would have been much easier.

The only categories discussed in the article, are the two largest ones,"A few times a week" and "A few times a month". If those are the only two important categories, and you wanted to make a chart of it, something like this would be better:
But the main point was that people didn't use the camera function very often. Most used it only a few times per month. To state that more clearly, I would at least combine some of the categories. Maybe something like this:

Of course, the main conclusion in the article was that people used their cell phone cameras the same way they used digital cameras. Wouldn't that be infinitly better explained if they actually included data from used of regular digital cameras?

Part 2: Now with pie charts
Edit: Torbjørn said in the comments section that he didn't like pie chart. So I decided to try to present the data above with pie charts. Here is as good as it gets from me: