Sunday, September 30, 2007

The trouble with eye surgery

Ever since the good people at Bausch&Lomb stopped making the brand of contacts I've been using since 1995, i.e. since late last Fall, I haven't enjoyed the full use and functionality of contacts that I'm used to. First, I tried the "wear-these-lenses-24-hours-a-day-for-one-full-month" scam, which resulted in me getting extremely dry eyes and tearing a small piece of my right cornea in the process of trying to get the damn contact out. I then proceeded to try several brands, none of which fit me as well as my original lenses. After a while, I settled for a mix of mostly) one-day contacts and glasses.

However, in the process of reaching this decision, I seriously considered getting eye surgery, and consequently read up on the different versions of laser procedures. I ended up deciding against it, mostly because I was extremely sceptical about the initial step in all of the procedures - making an incision in and temporarily removing the cornea. As it happens, I know people who are very happy with the procedure, and also someone who got extremely unlucky. Still; some of the effects and risks of the procedure are hard to ignore, such as dryness and loss of detail and nightvision. The final nail in the coffin for eye surgery was for me that you find few ophthalmologists who wear contacts, and effectively none who have had lasik themselves...


...a Nick Cage flick from 2002.

Windtalkers is on teh TV today, and I'm actually inclined to agree with Tweetybird - it doth sucketh something powerful. Even though John Woo is the director, this is brutal in its boredom. Weak storyline boosted by many, many battle scenes which don't really add to the overall experience. It's like The Cage has given up...


...The Rock has come back to......

No wait....that would be the opening phrase of a Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson promo ca. 2001. Finally, we're back from Oslo would be more suitable.

Going to Oslo rules and stuff, seeing as how we've got both friends and relatives in O-town and the surrounding areas. Also, I'm born and raised a mighty stone's throw southwest from Oslo, so I'm always going to have a special relationship to our Capitol. Not to mention the multitude of awesome stores, restaurants and concert experiences the town has to offer.....

That being said, there's no way I'd want to live and work there. First of all, you'd have to make a whole lot more than in the rest of the country to accomodate the same living standards, being that the housing prices are insane. For the asking price of a crappy 60-80 square meter apartment in Driveby Avenue, Gangland, Eastern Oslo, you can get a house ten minutes drive from downtown Trondheim. Second, Karl Johan, the main street of Oslo and hence the main street of Norway, is screwed up beyond all that's reasonable. From Egertorvet and down to the railway station, it's an unholy mix of drug dealers, beggars and prostitution. From Egertorvet and up to the Castle, it's still beggars, but since they widened the street from Lille Grensen to Universitetet, it's been a haven for every loser with a motorcycle, for some reason. So now, it's a line-up-of-losers sporting black leather jackets, invisible suitcases and camo pants, who stroll around admiring each other's bikes and trying their very best to look hard-ass. Why in the blue hell would anyone think that this is the way to portray our main street?

Third, getting FROM Oslo by airplane is quite an ordeal, being that Oslo airport Gardermoen is possibly the worst airport I've had the misfortune of using on a regular basis. People tell me that the Paris airport(s?) suck, but I haven't been there. I do know that the Heathrow and Gatwick dual disaster is worse than Gardermoen, but there you've got the added misfortune of occasionally arriving at Heathrow and leaving from Gatwick, which ain't no picnic. Zero information, zero service, and zero signs. London airports blow.

But I digress - back to Gardermoen. The two major reasons for Gardermoen's suction are 1) design and 2) security. Unlike almost any other major airport constructed since the sixties, Gardermoen isn't constructed with all the gates organized around a central hub, so as to minimize distance traversed inside the complex, but is an outstretched construction, with international and domestic flights in opposite sides of the building. So; if you've got a connecting flight abroad, get ready to walk for a while. O'Hare airport in Chi-town - the biggest airport in the world (at least as of 2001), requires far less walking than Gardermoen, which should tell you something about the synaptic function and overall qualifications of the douchebags in charge of design and construction of Oslo airport.

And then we have the issue of the Gardermoen airport security, which is WAY blown out of proportion. When you enter the realm of the Overlords of Security, you first have to pass through a maze the dimensions of which I haven't seen outside of Dulles before you get to the Violation Stations. Invariably, only two of the 10-15 metal detectors will be open during rush hour, so as to piss off more people. Before you get to pass the metal detectors, you've got to take off your jacket, belt, shoes etc. and put it in small containers, walk on command and ship your belongings, walk through the metal detector, hope you don't get pulled out of the line for "random inspection", and watch helplessly while all your stuff is being thrown off the conveyor belt and onto the floor of the transfer area, 'cause there's no room to put your shit back on at the other end of the security area. All the while you're being watched by some epic weekend-educated, former convict, high-school-dropout, leopard-patterned sex-shop handcuff-toting, Maglite-wielding Rent-A-Cops. I massively disapprove.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Daddy needs a new pair of shoes

I'm in Oslo for the weekend, and it's kind of become tradition in our household that we hoard shoes whenever we're here. No exception this time, as we found out while working our way down Bogstadveien this afternoon........great shopping district for shoes!

Apparently, I've got some sort of shopping genes going on up in heah. At this point,we need another bag to haul our loot back to T-town come Sunday, and odds are we'll shop some more tomorrow. Curse the large selection of goods not available in our home town...........

Still; I've given my first talk at the University of Oslo, so I've done something professional too.

Iron Maiden cover.. it could have been done in france (since this blog now is french territory).

on est chez nous !!!

Wilhelm's not there so for now on, the blog is french

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Operation Raw Deal the title of the largest US steroid crackdown ever. The conclusion was that the average American is as likely as bodybuilders to purchase stereoids. In other news, professional wrestling is scripted, the Earth revolves around the sun, and in a surprising turn of events, Earth might not be flat after all.

In fact; show me a gym - SATS, Elixia, whatever, and I'll find at least one epic weekend warrior who's on gear. Probably not the biggest person in the room either, and not necessarily a man. Check out my list of usual gym suspects in an earlier post for clues to spot some of the usual suspects......

Plural for blood-sucking insects

Recently, Arbeiderparti (Labour) politician Yousuf Gilani essentially got caught red-handed for trying to buy votes in the local election in Drammen, or rather - one of his henchmen got caught trying to buy votes off of amongst others drug addicts in exchange for the princely reward of 50 NOK. Following what I can only hope was a serious investigation, the City Council of Drammen in their infinite wisdom ruled that the tampering did not affect the electoral outcome. Hence, there is no need for declaring the election null and void and repeating the process.

Maybe I missed something here.............unless they know EXACTLY how many votes we're talking about, and that this number is smaller than the uncertainty associated with the ballot counting process, which in a city the size of Drammen ought to be plus or minus one, then they have no earthly idea about whether or not the outcome was significantly affected. Methinks they assume too much. Also, I think it's a travesty that they don't throw Gilani's ass in jail or at the very least blackball him from ever entering the political arena ever again. This does nothing to reduce the massive contempt for politician which is steadily decreasing voter turnout. In this local election, there were a number of districts where turnout was way under 50%, and this ain't helping.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Symphony Of Self-Destruction paraphrase Dave Mustaine's biggest hit.

Mike Tyson, at one time possibly the greatest boxer ever, pleads guilty to drug posession and DUI. Again. How much of an idiot is it possible to be. Considering that dude's a repeat felon, he is screwed if caught with anything illegal. And considering his track record, he's gonna get pulled over a lot by da police, even disregarding the fact that he's a black dude with facial tattoos driving very expensive cars. So getting caught with cocaine and "drug paraphernalia" while driving high is just....beyond stupid. Especially when you think of the fact that he could have stayed home or at some homie's crib and gotten as high as he ever wanted without any risk whatsoever. Of course I'm not condoning drug use here - just stating the fairly obvious. Essentially, Mike Tyson is facing up to four years and three months in prison for being stupid.

Tyson needs to have one last fight, MMA style against Fedor or Cro Cop. He'd get slaughtered, but a) he's talked up a storm about how he'd kick their asses, and b) he'd limp home with one hell of a payday.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Epic double standards

Has anyone seen the new commercials/TV spots for the furniture chain Bohus? This new set consists of four TV spot and two radio spots, all having the slogan "Ladies first". The basic premise is that you've got a couple, where the female keeps up to date, is well dressed and properly made up, and she feels that her strong desire to renew the furniture in their house/apartment/what have you is held back by the male. And how is the male portrayed, you ask? Of course he's a knuckle-dragging, unwashed slob who prefers eating in his boxers over the sink to having a nicely set table, and who'd been still living in a cave but for the grace of the goddess who has taken him on as a charity project. She is committed to improving their common living situation, he'd rather spend the money on himself. Of course, the soundtrack for the TV and radio spots is "Lady Marmalade" from "Moulin Rouge".

If this doesn't sound utterly sexist to you, imagine the roles turned in a similar set of commercials targeting female stereotypes. Imagine the same couple, now with the guy properly dressed. Let's roll out the 1950's gender roles and ask the guy: "Aren't you tired of having to carry the majority of the financial burden while your wife is mostly occupied with shopping and watching soaps?" Or "Are you tired of having to do all the thinking in your household because your wife is a dimwit who went to hairdressing school?" In the background, Manowar songs like "Pleasure Slave" are playing.

Roll out those commercials and watch how quickly they get taken off the air, followed by big televised debates and the companies being ostracized by the serious market. You know; outside of the segment of losers who buy magazines designed to target the "male population". As if that's one, homogeneous market, merely interested in cars, tits and guns. That's quite the insult, and so is the assumption that you can make a magazine or a TV channel suitable for the vast majority of female viewers, which is what "FEM" is all about.

Make no mistake about it; Bohus is really going for the lowest common denominator here, and I for one sure hope they'll lose big on their exploitation of the double standards that seem to prevail for the use of gender stereotypes.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Worst movies I've seen on transatlantic flights

When you're trapped in a flying tin can with tons and tons of combustible fluids just outside for seven hours plus, you'd think that the in-flight movies would be quality affairs designed to relieve the passengers of anxiety and just inspire them to take a load off. This assumption does not fit very well with our experiences. If anything, the in-flight movies inspire me to read more books, and even give that crappy science fiction fiction book filled with minute details of equipment used during colonization of Planet X another chance, after previously discarding it as run-of-the-mill "Foundation" rip-offs. I've even read a book by Michael Moore during a transatlantic flight. Still the three worst movies I've watched while crossing the Atlantic ocean are:

The Fast And The Furious (2001)
I'm willing to bet top dollar that this piece of crap wasn't based on a book. As a matter of fact, I'd defy anyone to provide a coherent storyline for this movie with more than 50 words in it. The fact that someone made this movie doesn't surprise me as much as the fact that they made two more (haven't seen them but I imagine they must suck even more, as Vin Diesel didn't want to be associated with them, according to And the most amazing fact of all concerning this movie is that some people actually like it. Dude; buy one copy of Muscle&Fitness or FHM - depending on how you roll - one copy of "Hyooge Muscle Cars And Guns And Ammo" and play some crappy techno or rap-metal, and you've got yourself a pretty good substitute. Damn how this one sucks.

xXx (2002)
Vin Diesel as "extreme sports athlete" Xander Cage, i.e. The Fast And The Furious with a parachute. To make matters worse, good ol' SLJ contaminates both picture and sound with his presence. I imagine that the good people handling this flick in the theaters used full-on Area 51 suits to avoid lethal exposure to the toxic piece of monkey crap that is xXx.

Blue Crush (2002)
Tagline: If you want to feel the rush you have to take the risk. Plot outline according to imdb: As a hard-core surfer girl prepares for a big competition, she finds herself falling for a football player. Need I say more. One of the mexican chicks in Blue Crush also plays in The Fast And The Furious....


.....ain't that the truth.

Ever since we got back after our vacation, we've gone from complete rest to full-on work-related onslaught without as much as a day of transition or gearing up. It's been brutal. Capital B, capital R, UTAL! And truth be told, things ain't gonna return to "normal hectic" levels until after the first of October, so it's still more than a week to go, but at least we can foresee the work pace returning to normal levels.

So; what new can put on my list of accomplishments since mid-August?
  • Made continuation exam. In general, ~50% of students who are registered for continuation exams don't show up, which is a constant source of frustration, extra work and extra cost for our University. Why they elect not to show up beats the hell out of me, seeing as how they have to physically show up at the originally scheduled exam, register and turn in a blank test, OR provide the registrar with a note from a physician in order to qualify for the continuation exam. If a particular course only has one candidate registered for continuation exam, the percentile can be converted into the odds of said person actually showing up being 50-50. Guess which fifty percent I ended up with.
  • Organized and attended two-day MSc and PhD level course given by Big Name Professor. Found out after the course that I essentially have to give as many lectures myself on same topic later this Fall.
  • Being administrator for a PhD defense, with all the various tasks that entails. Arrange for opponents to give department seminars the day before the defense.
  • Attend post-defense party, having speech on hand as part of commitee.
  • Another all-day off-campus pedagogic training, and still three more to go......
  • A whole bunch of "free" lunches and dinners.
  • One full day of travel + meetings + giving presentation
  • One full week of evaluating/treating data and making coherent PowerPoint presentation for said presentation.
  • Meetings + hands-on lab tutorial for MSc student (luckily, I've got a post doc helping a brutha' out)
  • Submitting two research papers to journals (again - thank God for post docs)
  • Working like a mofo to revise another manuscript following six pages of reviewer comments (five full pages from one of teh reviewers). Ending up with a 17-page revision letter in addition to changes done to manuscript. Submitting revised version today.
  • Progress report to Research Council of Norway. Still a lot to do on that one.......... Why they want a "popular science" version of results for a progress report and not just on the final one is beyond me.
  • Starting to make two more presentations to be given in Oslo next week.

Damn - it doesn't look like much considering the time and effort put into it. TGIF!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


On popular request (well; it was one question from Anders, not really worded as a request, and it certainly wasn't popular), here is a post at least related to soccer. Seeing as how I know jack about soccer and care even less, I'll come at the subject from an angle.

Last night I caught half an apisode of Hooligans on Discovery Channel. The concept of the series is that one dude travels around the world to meet soccer hooligans and hear their stories/povs. Quite interesting and very disturbing. British 'ooligans were the subject last night, and what fascinated me about these specimens was that in contrast to other career criminals - many of the portrayed subjects lived off of welfare and had been in and out of prison many times for hooliganism - was that there is no financial motive whatsoever. Drug dealers make money. Burglars make money. Armed robbers make money. Carjackers make money, etc. Hooligans are on welfare. Neither is there a clear-cut religious or ideological motive. As far as I know, there is no promise of an afterlife filled with 37 virgins (other than perhaps their "mates") for hooligans, and these people probably couldn't define "ideology" if their lives depended on it, so you can't really label them terrorists in the traditional sense of the word. So what about the old stand-by "disease"? Absolutely not - unless you can point to a gene or chemical unbalance that causes people to beat up other people because other people root for a different soccer team, ye olde medical get-out-of-jail free card is pretty much useless. So is the "temporarily insane" defense attorney copout, because these people are repeat offenders. That's a hell of a temporal occurrence if you get "insane" by freak accident each and every time you go to a soccer game or meet supporters from another team over a period of X years. Spontaneous levitation AND combustion have better odds than that.

So; if pressed, would you be able to find a synonym for "hooligan"? This word would have to be able to describe a bottom of the gene pool, low rung on the social totem pole inhabiting, little to no education having, 100%, grade A, money back guaran-damn-teed serial loser of both genders and all nationalities and races whose primary interest is strongly tied to the soccer scene. You can't put a racial epithet on hooliganism, as it thrives on all continents. Maybe beer plays a role in this too, as I have a hard time imagining some geezers loading up on merlot before they throw down with other soccer fans. Any suggestions?

Even though this series mainly deals with hooligans in Britain, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Poland and Holland, it's not like you won't find hooligans in Norway. In the above synonym for "hooligan", I suspect one would also have to factor in intelligence, either as IQ or in some other quantifiable form. Imagine for a second that in three consecutive events, Brann Stadion in Bergen, Lerkendal Stadion in Trondheim and Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo were beamed out in space while the venues were packed on game night. Being beamed out in space is an occurrence from which you're not likely to return, so it's a good bet that the occupants of these three venues won't contribute to traffic jams any more. Another consequence I'd be willing to put down good money on, is that following these three events, the average IQ in Bergen, Trondheim and Oslo would increase significantly.

Despite soccer being the world's largest sport (I think), there are some bush-league tendencies in the way the franchises are run. For example; you have major league soccer clubs/franchises being bought up by some former Soviet billionaire like Abramovich or whatever his name is. If you believe that anyone can come out of the fall of a communist dictatorship and become a multibillionaire in a few years while 99.99% of the inhabitants came out even poorer without being a straight up crook, I've got some oceanfront property in Nebraska to sell you. You don't expect something like this to happen in legitimate businesses - Vinnie the Switchblade from New Jersey doesn't all of a sudden acquire the stock majority of IBM. In Norway, it's also fairly transparent that the official supporter clubs for many of the major league teams silently condone hooliganism. Every time there is a major coincidence, the leader of e.g. Klanen (Vålerenga's supporters) comes out and condemns "the very small number of 'Enga supporters who behave violently" while official songs have lines like "Vi ska' ut å banke bønda" (we're gonna go out and beat up the hicks) and their most famous crowd chant/motto is "Øl, vold og skamslåtte bønder" (beer, violence and battered hicks). As long as soccer violence is a reality, those aren't just words. If you can't market it properly towards the family market segment, the franchises are also losing tons of money.

Plus I guess I just don't understand why in the blue hell someone would start a fistfight with someone else because they support another soccer team. What I understand even less is why the police doesn't go Israeli on their asses as soon as there is a soccer-related riot. This type of behaviour doesn't fall in the same category as a political demonstration, for example, as it has no basis in any belief or political system and has nothing to do with race or nationality. All it does is get soccer fans hurt, and also hold the very real risk of hurting police personnel, police horses and police dogs. I say break out the night sticks, water cannons, tazers and rubber bullets.

More Brad...

...or rather B-Rad, the Malibu rapper...

This is from the hidden camera show, Jamie Kennedy Experiment, which is really a crap show. But this one is a stroke of geniuse. In this one, the girl is a fan of B-Rad and tries to convince her father (the victim) to let B-Rad stay at their house...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blast from the past


Never goes out of style. NEVER!

How to dance at a rave

Crash course in how to rock da hizzouse at a rave. Totalee awesome.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mo' Brad Paisley

I'm really starting to enjoy this dude, despite him being a tad more country that what you'll typically find in our CD collection. B to da P is an exception, though. Good songwriters are good songwriters regardless of genre. Doesn't hurt that the man is a monster guitar player either.

Mo' funny stuff

10 minutes, but it's worth it...

Monday, September 17, 2007

More movies, yo

La Vie En Rose (2007)
Teh movie about the life of Edith Piaf. More specifically, teh french movie about Edith Piaf. Even worse, I had great expectations for the movie. Should'a known better, like Jim Diamond says. The actors are good, and the music is what it is (i.e. dependent on whether or not you like the voice and style of Edith Piaf). For all I know, Miou-Miou has a role in this flick. The scary thing is that among all the french characters portrayed in the movie, the only even closely resembling sympathetic is one of the hookers Edith grew up with - Titine. Bunch of french people, and not one for whom I'd even brake if he or she crossed the street. Amazing. I sincerely hope that this movie does not portray Edith Piaf as she actually was, 'cause I'd hate to think she was the path-of-least-resistance taking loser addict shown here. I could write a novel about how all the french people in this movie start to cry bloody murder every time something doesn't go their way, but I'll just say that the phrase "Hissy-fit" originated in france, and leave it at that. Or Le Fit de la Hissy, as they call it there.

Flyboys (2006)
In the name of everything sacred - I really thought this'd be cool. It's about WWI fighter pilots, or rather, American pilots who travel to france in order to get training as fighter pilots and help out during the war effort prior to America's official entering the war. The planes (bi- and triplanes) are awesome, the fighting scenes are excellent, Jean Reno is cool, and there's even a Zeppelin. Yet they manage to screw everything up by adding a half-assed romance with James Franco and some unknown french chick that carries on for more than 45 minutes. The result: A cool 90 minute flick turns into a 2 hours and 20 minutes snoozefest. Oh, and Pigeon - Monsiour Le Rain Man Director - it's made by the dude who directed "Independence Day" and "Godzilla", according to

Next (2007)
N to da C in an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel. I'm starting to lose hope in Nick Cage, even though I'm a big fan. Still, I choose to blame this load of crap on the presence of Julianne Moore. Apart from The Fugitive, everything in which she appears has turned to crap - she's the inverse King Midas. If she got a job in Disneyworld, I bet it would turn belly-up in less than two months. They say that Microsoft is pretty much a fail-safe company at this point, but if they hired Julianne Moore as a spokesperson, Bill Gates would be sleeping in a cardboard box or jump off a 30-story building in less than half a year.

Some movies seen this week end

A life less ordinary: No very recent but still an excellent friday night movie
Not a big fan of Cameron Diaz but she does a great job in that one and E. Mc Gregor is great as usual. The soundtrack is also really impressive.

Little Children: This one is definitely not a good friday night movie. This is a very good one but really depressing. Speciaøl mention to Jackie Earle Haley as a former pedophile. Kate winslet was oscar nominated for that one, I really don't know why. She's good but... nothing special

Knocked up: From the director of the 40 years old virgin whatever. This time a gorgeous blond chick sleeps with a real loser and gets pregnant. Of course she wants to keep the baby and fall in love with the loser who becomes the perfect husband at the end of the movie. Except one or two good gags, this "movie" is worse than a bad episode of two and half men.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Norwegian Idol and the Battle of the Delusional

Watched the Idol tryouts from Trondheim and Bergen, and I've got to admit that watching the first couple of shows gives plenty of entertainment. One would be hard pressed to find any larger congregation of delusional people and shattered parental expectations outside of beauty pageants and congress. Also, the vast majority of these people must have the worst friends ever, since they haven't intervened and told them that "Yo; you's kewl and all dawg, but check it; yo' ass can't sing worth a DAMN. I've heard cats f**k with more rhytm and harmony than that, you know wha' I'm sayin'".

This year, peeps were allowed to bring instruments, but quite frankly, based on what little I've seen so far, the presence of the instruments only serves to demonstrate that the vast majority of guitar strummers have no idea how to tune up, and I can't say that the accompaniment helped out significantly. Those who could sing and perform well were allowed to continue, and those who couldn't sing were invariably the ones who couldn't play either. So it turns out to be a correlation between musicality and singing/playing capability. Who'd have thunk it, eh?

I must say that of all the Norwegian Idol judges so far, nobody's been as qualified to evaluate vocal qualities than Benedicte Adrian, so kudos on that. Of the other mooks in the current panel, you've got Jan Fredrik Carlsen - arguably merited by past experience and the fact that he's a reasonably successful manager, that overhyped chick from Surferosa, and Asbjørn Slettemark, a "music journalist" whose only qualifications appear to be epic bitterness and having memorized a slew of demeaning Dangerfield-esque one-liners. Also, he has the beginnings of a brutal ponytail so as to hide his emerging Hulk Hogan ca 1985 hair density. Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, Brother.

Which brings me to the eternal question of what qualifications you need to have in order to be a music journalist. Obviously, you don't need to know anything about music theory, and you don't need to have perfect pitch, as painfully evident by grunge bands being praised in the mid 90's. One should probably be a bitter bastard with a background either from a failed garage band who never made it to open mic night at Garage or some bedroom strummer who broke down in the transition from open to barré chords. With this failure comes an onset of cognitive dissonance, in which you're the best judge of musicality and talent despite being a massive failure. Other qualifications probably include a large record collection and a Rain Man like mind for who was the engineer on every Dylan record ever made. Essentially, you're Comic Book Guy from Simpsons with slightly different interests. And being a music journalist is a great way to become one of the Idol judges.

Still; despite the quality of some of the judges being somewhat dubious, the contestants who are summarily dismissed by the entire panel and cry about how cruel the judges are, obviously have nothing to do in show business. Also, they should check out the feedback given to contestants in American Idol.....

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bunch o' books

Review of some books I've read recently:

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
I read this every summer, and I absolutely love it. One of the best opening paragraphs ever: "Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted." Next stop Goosebumpville! For some proper musical background, listen to Running Wild, particularly with the song based on the book - Treasure Island (Duh). This book has it all - high adventure, suspense, rum and awesome pirates.

Papillon - Henri Charrière
Memoir of Charrière's incarceration and escapes from penal colonies on french Guiana. Right off the bat, I'd never have thought that this book would appeal to me - memoirs of a french guy who calls himself butterfly, and his life and times in prison. More "The Crying Game" or "Memoirs Of A Geisha" than Jack London, from teh looks of it. Still, it's a surprisingly cool story, even though it's painfully obvious that Papillon either had the rosiest recollection in recorded history, or he flat out lies his tiny french self off. Even through the rose-tinted glasses of retrospect and self-aggrandation, dude makes some mighty boneheaded decisions throughout the saga. Still a worthwhile read.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea - Jules Verne
Superclassic about Professor Aronnax, his servant Conseil and Canadian harpooner Ned Land who set out to hunt what they believe to be a mysterious creature larger and faster than a whale, but which turns out to be a giant submarine - Nautilus - constructed and piloted by Captain Nemo. Considering that it was written in 1869, there's some absolutely stunning descriptions of chemical reactions, etc. in here. This is the first time I've read the "proper" version - I read the children's version way back when I was seven or something.

Sexus - Henry Miller
I've read this way back in high school, and stumbled across it again this summer. Gave it a second try, if you will. Nope - still the same trite crap. The problem is that Miller has read Hunger by Hamsun, and tried to transplant this to New York, but it doesn't work. Dude really tries, and it's a blatant Hamsun rip-off, but there is one thing Miller overlooked - Hamsun was a spectacularly talented writer, whereas Miller was a hack. Still - some of the descriptions of people and places are worth reading.

The Picture Of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
Wilde's only novel, first published in 1890. Awesome twist on the Faust storyline, wherein Dorian Gray trades his soul for eternal youth, with a portrait aging in his place. Not your run-of-the-mill crossroads saga, but an excellent and provocative story. Warmly recommended.

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
Actually two books, "The Adventures of" Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, respectively. The latter has been dubbed the "great American Novel", and is certainly the better of the two. Still; maybe I'm letting the fact that I've read, heard and seen Tom Sawyer and his shenanigans in so many dubious children's versions since before I started school cloud my view of this novel. 'Cause Tom Sawyer is a great book, but H to da F totally rules. Both books have almost been banned from use in schools across America on account of their less than politically correct descriptions of race. Y'all know what the books are about, so I'll skip the play-by-play. Read the books instead - especially Huckleberry Finn.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Douse that light...

I just had to post the El Willy's playlist today, just to keep it up here for ever:

Can anybody spot the great track on the list? The man starts to show some taste!

The problem with statistics in science that a disturbingly large fraction of researchers not specifically educated within statistics or so-called "hard" physical sciences is less than brilliant when it comes to evaluating data. Case in point - the main story in the September issue of Gemini (Norwegian only, I'm afraid) is an article about how young men (18-year olds) evaluate politicians largely based on whether or not they're men. The title is "Young men elect men", and that is also the conclusion of the piece. But wait; despite the boys fitting very well into a stereotype, there is also good news: Girls evaluate the politician based on content rather than appearances. "The good news is that girls are more mature, but it's sad that the young men aren't", the researcher says. Paraphrased, but still. Apparently young men resort to stereotypical behavior due to their lack of experience, whatever that means.

So who's the genious behind this study and how did the researchers manage to collect the data set and extract the conclusions? The study was conducted by Associate Professor of Political Science and Media Sociology Toril Aalberg, from the Department of Sociology and Political Science at NTNU. The method: One female and one male actor were given 5 fake political identities (i.e. names and party affiliations). Each gave five political speeches (from transcripts of actual speeches given by real-life politicians), which were videotaped, leaving ten videos - five pairs of identical speeches. Ya follow?

These were then shown to ~400 high school students in the Trondheim area, so that one class got to see one of the taped speeches. Each student was then given a questionnaire about how they perceived the politician with respect to the person giving the speech, the content, the party supposedly affiliated with the speaker, etc. Answers to each question were given on a sliding 1-10 scale, so that 1 corresponds to "strongly disagree" and 10 corresponds to "strongly agree". Or vice versa - doesn't really matter. The results: Independent of party affiliation, the young men evaluated the male politician to do the better job. Students who watched a speech given by the male actor found him to be more knowledgeable, convincing, trustworthy and inspiring than the students who watched the female "politician". This despite the fact that there were five identical speeches.

OK; that was the data set, methodology and conclusion. Let's work with round numbers and assume that there are 20 students per class. That means the statistical material corresponds to 20 classes, i.e. each video was shown twice. There were two actors - one female and one male. N = 2 shows up a lot in this dataset, and they don't report any use of control sets. Also; there is no information about what the gender distribution was in the classes, or what types of high schools were selected for the study. In other words, not only was each video shown a measly two times, but one of those could've been shown to an all-male mechanic class, while the other one could've been shown to an all-female audience of nursing students. Or vice versa.

Are you freakin' kidding me? And one of the lead-ins is even that people "hear what they want to hear". Pot, meet kettle. Aalberg finally mentions that her female colleagues accept her findings immediately and without question, while her male colleagues "have to look at the results carefully before being convinced". Again; are you frickin' kidding me?

I don't have any particular opinion about whether or not men elect men, but I do have a problem with people who draw pretty strong conclusions based on a less than optimal data set, to put it mildly. One of the main problems with this dataset (where N = 1 and thus effectively irrelevant) is so blatantly obvious that I'm not even gonna bother pointing it out. Anyone?

d-1 before the bourne ultimatum

I can't wait anymore for the movie so, just for you, the almost real trailer

actor or real carzy dude ?

I mean it !!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Awesome guitar video spoof

Herman Li and Sam Totman of Dragonforce:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My Top 50 movies right now

Since Tweetybird got a lot of crap for his favorite movies of all time - mostly from me - I thought I'd give him the chance to crap all over my list, an opportunity I'm sure he'll relish and use for all it's worth. The following list is valid today and today only - tomorrow I might think of some movie I'd absolutely would like to include, and wonder why I included one of the others. Also, parallel to this list, I really should make a Top 50 Hong Kong movie list, but that's a separate genre in itself, so for now I'll stick to a "general movies" list. So here it is - my Top 50 in no particular order:

  • Immortal Beloved (1994). Ludwig Van Beethoven, the greatest composer EVER, left all his belongings to his "immortal beloved". This movie is a journey both through the life of the great composer, and to find this mysterious person. Fantastic job by Gary Oldman.
  • Shine (1996). Brilliant portrayal of the pianist David Helfgott, who is driven over the edge trying to master the piano concerto No. 3 in D minor, Opus 30, by Sergei Rachmaninoff.
  • Clerks (1994). The first of the Kevin Smith New Jersey "trilogy". The birth of Jay and Silent Bob. Number 37 will have a whole new meaning after seeing this.
  • Mallrats (1995). The second of the New Jersey "trilogy". Quatation marks are due to the fact that there are - what - seven movies in this trilogy at present. Ben Affleck's best performance to date.
  • This Is Spinal Tap (1984). First mockumentary ever. Brilliant portrayal of the life and times of a slightly over-the-hill rock band. Supposedly Steven Tyler started crying when he saw it, because it was exactly like Aerosmith. If not for this movie, Michael Moore would've worked at some gas station in Columbine. Come to think of it, maybe this movie should've stayed as an idea.....
  • It Could Happen To You (1994). Romantic comedy with Nick Cage and Bridget Fonda. Absolutely awesome.
  • City Of Angels (1998). You've seen this one, I'm sure. Nick Cage and Meg Ryan in a great romantic drama. And these are so much harder to make than a run-of-the-mill action movie, where the ingredients are explosions, car chase, revenge and a generous serving of guns.
  • Sleepless In Seattle (1993). Another romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
  • Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai (1999). Weird, but absolutely fascinating movie with Forest Whitaker, who portrays an inner city hit man who adopts Bushido.
  • The Adventures Of Ford Fairlane (1990). Kojak. Columbo. Dirty Harry. Wimps. Andrew Dice Clay is da man in this flick, and no diggity.
  • The Godfather (1972). Like I could make a best of list without this one.
  • The Godfather Part II (1974). And that goes double for this.
  • Pumping Iron (1977). Semi-documentary about the 1975 Mr. Olympia, where Arnold Schwarzenegger smoked the competition and showed the beginnings of the entity he has grown into. Respect.
  • You've Got Mail (1998). Yet another romantic comedy with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. This is murder on my bad-ass credentials, isn't it....
  • Rounders (1998). Poker movie with Edward Norton, Matt Damon and John Malkovich. What's not to like.
  • There's Something About Mary (1998). Ben Affleck and Matt Dillon rock this comedy in spite of Cameron Diaz.
  • Shichinin No Samurai (The Seven Samurai, 1954). Akira Kurosawa CLASSIC.
  • The Killer (1989). Violent epic by John Woo, starring the inimitable Chow Yun Fat. Powerful movie.
  • Casablanca (1942). Bogart classic numero uno.
  • The Big Sleep (1946). Bogart again, this time portraying Raymond Chandler's Hollywood detective prototype, Phillip Marlowe. The cast from which Ford Fairlane was molded, and the inspiration behind the Dire Straits song "Private Investigations".
  • Music And Lyrics (2006). Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore - reviewed in an earlier post.
  • The Wedding Singer (1998). Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler in a romantic comedy that really works for me. Also to my knowledge the only good movie starring Adam Sandler to date and ever, if past performance is a good indicator to go by.
  • Notting Hill (1999). Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. I've got great memories from and around this flick.
  • Rocky (1976). THE undercard story, and proof positive that Stallone is capable of acting and screenwriting.
  • Rocky III (1982). What? Hulk Hogan AND Mister T. Shuttie!
  • 8 Mile (2002). Partly based on and starring Marshall Bruce Mathers (III) aka Eminem. Love him or hate him; he does a great job here, and I've got a tremenduous respect for him as a songwriter/rapper.
  • Rock Star (2001). Marky Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston in the story of a wannabe who got to be (yeah; I ripped that one off of the tagline). Reminds me of gigging.
  • Die Hard (1988). First time the antihero storyline worked for me. Yippikayeee, know the rest
  • Zong Heng Si Hai (Once A Thief, 1991). Not to be confused with the Hollywood version from 1997 - dis here be da real deal with Chow Yun Fat and Leslie Cheung, directed by John Woo. Accept no substitutes.
  • Ying Hung Boon Sik (A Better Tomorrow, 1986). The movie that marked the start of the John Woo violent epic.
  • Only The Lonely (1991). Romantic comedy with the late, great John Candy and Ally Sheedy. Awesome!!
  • Uncle Buck (1989). Another comedy showcasing the incredible talent of John Candy.
  • Planes, Trains And Automobiles (1987). John Hughes saga with Steve Martin as the straight man versus the goofball version of John Candy. Teh good stuff.
  • The Omen (1976). One of the truly scary movies, and an excellent example of how to use Carmina Burana properly as a soundtrack. Makes the Exorcist look like Caddyshack.
  • Phantasm (1979). Another great horror movie, and a cool concept. Dio used something very reminiscent of this in his "Last In Line" video. If this one doesn't scare you, you're already dead. Monster tagline.
  • Army Of Darkness (1992). Bruce Campbell. Sam Raimi. Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas. Awesome.
  • Twins (1988). Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in a comedy I seem to be the only one to actually like. In a genetic experiment, the perfect human is made (Arnold), but a twin brother composed of the leftover genetic material (DeVito) also emerges. Probably does not have enough monkeys for some, but I likes it.
  • Commando (1985). Only Arnold could have made a box office hit out of this. Much respect.
  • Leap Of Faith (1992). Steve Martin as a snake oil salesman posing as a charismatic faith healer.
  • Parenthood (1989). So I've got a soft spot for Steve Martin.
  • Ronin (1998). Awesome action thriller (whatever that means) starring De Niro, Jean Reno, Sean Bean and Stellan Skarsgård.
  • Face/Off (1997). Nick Cage. Travolta. John Woo. Yessssssss!
  • So I Married An Axe Murderer (1993). If you're only gonna see one Mike Myers Movie, pick this one. Heed! Pants. Now!
  • Wayne's World (1992). The second Mike Myers movie you should see.
  • Bloodsport (1988). I know I'm gonna catch hell for this, but I really enjoy this movie.
  • The Score (2001). De Niro and Ed Norton. Tweetybird hates this one for reasons unknown. I suspect it's 'cause it ain't based on a french movie or made by some sufficiently "artistic" director, or because they used a subpar gaffer.
  • The Big Hit (1998). Mark Wahlberg and Lou Diamond Phillips in the greatest wigger movie ever. Check it out, yo. Dat $hit is off da HOOK!
  • Menace II Society (1993). Crash course in street lingo. Also very, very unintentionally funny in places.
  • Top Gun (1986). Guilty pleasure, but can you honestly tell me you didn't get even a slight rush when you saw it the first time?
  • The Illusionist (2006). Can you believe that Ed Norton has taken on the role as Bruce Banner for the upcoming Hulk movie?

There it is. Let the games begin.

a cool link

Because you deserve it
Jack Black and Sarah Michelle Gellar in a cool parody of LOTR

Reflections in Am

So; this is post number 125, and I thought it would be a good idea to see where we're at. When I started m-factor, I thought of it as a place to write about non-scientific material and dump some random thoughts. Let's use the awesome powers of statistics to see what topics we deal with the most.

As you can see on the right, there are 21 categories, of which 2 can easily be lumped together ("guitar" and "guitars", "Nonsense" and "Utterly nonsense"), which leaves 19. A pie chart depicting the relative occurrence of topics would then look like:

It would appear that General and Nonsense topics prevail, which was kind of predictable, I guess. The high percentage of posts dealing with politics I assume emanates from this being an election year, and all stats being from just before and immediately after the election. Cleaning up the data set further, we can eliminate "General" as a separate category, seeing as how this is a co-label for many of the posts (i.e. these is a strong cross-correlation between this label and other labels, and as such it is not an independent variable, just to be "That Guy"). That gives the following picture:

Suggesting that the content on this page is about 38% nonsense, 12% movies, 10% guitars, 10% politics, and 6% music, with some other topics strewn in for good measure. Does this sound right to y'all?

Hint: There's another statistical no-no in here......

Best movies ever (according to me myself and I)

Since We totally disagreed with Wilhelm about Die Hard 4 (I would not recommand that to my worse enemy), He asked me to give my list of my 10 favorite movies of all time
I can't give a ranking (I can't give only 10 neither) so here's a list of some o my favorites movies

2001 a space odissey (Kubrick, no it's not boring, it's just perfect)
Barry Lindon (Kubrick again)
Paths of glory (Yes I like Kubrick very much)
Breaking the waves (Lars Von Trier, Danish cinema but not boring)
The dear Hunter (Cimino)
The Godfather 1 and 2 (Coppola)
North and Northwest (The Hitch, the best adventure movie ever)
Silence of the lambs (Demme, Hopkins and foster are amazing in that one)
Fight club (Fincher, damn a movie with a political message is not that often)
Paris Texas (Wnders, and no it's not boring just beautiful)
Heat (Mann)
12 Monkeys (Gilliam, yes it's a great science fiction movie)
Pulp Fiction (Tarantino)
Requiem for a dream ( Aronofski)
The big Lebowski (Coen Brothers, the funniest movie ever)
Lost in translation (S. Coppola, Bill Muray...)
Groundhog day (Ramis, Amazing Bill Muray)
Mulholland Drive (Lynch at his best)
Donnie Darko
Old boy
NY 97 and The thing (Carpenter)
Eternal Sunshine of a spotless mind (Gondry, a really smart movie)
and to conclude 2 french movies that every should see:
The Beat That My Heart Skipped and Read My Lips (Audiard)

I forget many movies like almost all the Scorceses, Sergio Leones...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Quote of the century

Since I am waiting for the final ballots to be counted in Trondheim to find out just how screwed I am, I've had some time on my hands. Some of this time I've used to check out Scott Adam's blog. One of his recent posts, concerning the new Bin Laden video - Osama Placebo, contains what has to be the quote of the year, or even the century. I always knew Scott Adams was Da Man, but still...

Regarding Islamic suicide bombers: "Remember, there’s no such thing as a story too ridiculous when you’re talking about people who believe suicide is a good way to get laid"

Absolutely awesome..

Election - play-by-play

Well; I've got to say that it's looking grim here in Trondheim. The only consolation is that the "socialist" party has lost almost 50% of the votes compared to the last local election. Arbeiderpartiet (Labour) appears to be the clear winner in Trondheim, which was not entirely surprising. Every poll has shown that they've got the confidence of a large faction of voters. Also, truth be told, compared to some other party, who shall forever remain nameless unless they actually get someone with charisma in local and national positions of power, Arbeiderpartiet has put in a lot of legwork. Stands at malls, pamphlets in the mail, representatives who actually try to engage passerbys in conversation and debate, etc.

Guess I better prepare for the rice fields......

Those were teh days

Awesome, I tells ya. You don't see advertisements such as this anymore.

Can you imagine what'd happen if cartoons like this were used in campaigning here in Norway?

Let the games begin

Now that I've done my part to rid my community of the existing ruling body - i.e. voted, I'm excited to follow the results as they develop throughout the evening and night. I don't have any realistic expectations for "my team", but I've done all I can do. Including telling the mayoral candidate that he and his team have done a crappy job here in Trondheim and that I'll vote for them out of a complete lack of viable alternatives rather than in recognition of a job well done. Told it to his face, that is, while he was standing outside his hopped-up lemonade stand last Thursday, seemingly reluctant to engange in contact with potential voters. He was almost apologetically handing out those flyers, and avoided eye contact. To top it off, as I took the flyer and stopped up - an opportunity even the most inept of sales people use to rattle off their pitch, dude just stood there, looked down and seemingly shrunk away. Even though I took the flyer AND stopped up, I had to engage him in conversation.

After walking off from this somewhat one-sided affair, I looked at the flyers and discovered that the guy I'd been talking to was the primary mayoral candidate for this party. Now; if I can intimidate the hell out of him in broad daylight while he knew that I'd still vote for them, I seriously wonder how he appears in public debates with people who fundamentally and vehemently disagree with him.

This is the closest I get to the feeling sports fans get when they root for their home team - that I actually care what the outcome is. So I'll watch everything I can find on the election tonight, and I'll probably be pissed off tomorrow, seeing as how the present regime has overwhelmingly good odds based on every poll done since the previous local election.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tres Movies

Shooter (2007)
Shoot'em up flick starring Mark Wahlberg and Danny "I'm too old for this $hit" Glover. Marky Mark plays the part of a retired sniper who's framed for an assasination attempt on El Presidente himself. Of course, there is narrow escapes and marches for revenge and whatnot. But I have to admit - this was a pretty cool movie. Ok plot, and great ending. Actors worked well too, and as always, Wahlberg does a good job. Guy is very believable as an action star.

Perfect Stranger (2007)
Absolute snoozefest spearheaded by Bruce Willis and Halle Berry. Other major players include "hipster-looking guy wannabe in white labcoat from CSI Las Vegas". The plot involves a journalist - Halle Berry - workin' undercover as a temp at a big ad agency headed by Bruce Willis. Generally, it's not a good thing when you're rootin' for the bad guy to off the heroine - unrealistically played by Berry. Perhaps it's from the fact that I believe in Halle Berry the Oscar-winning actress as much as I believe in the existence of unicorns and decent "authentic" Italian food. Halle Berry sucks, plain and simple. And I'm not just talking about credible theories as to how she got into acting in the first place - her suction manages to pull down the entire movie, which might have had potential. It picks up at the end, but still

The Deal (2006)
Booooriiiingggg. El crappo.

Campin' with Jesus

Saw this really scary documentary on NRK1 today - "På Leir Med Jesus" (Campin' with Jesus). It deals with some evangelical church societies in USA, and how they ship their kids off to a church camp called "Kids On Fire" in Devil's Lake, North Dakota. Fitting name, by the way. At this brain wash camp, the kids are greeted and "educated" by Reverend Becky Fisher, who specializes in preaching to kids, because "if you manage to get to kids at the age of 7 or earlier, they're not gonna stray". Pretty freakin' scary right there.

Over the bulk of the documentary, we follow three exceptionally brain-washed and revolting kids before and after they roll into the "Kids On Fire". Some of the stuff they show from the camp, I couldn't have made up if I tried. At one point, some douchebag rolls in, work the kids up into a patriotic frenzy, and asks them "So who's ready to lay down their lives for Christ". The camp councellors keep referring to the kids as "Soldiers of Christ". Kids keep telling that whenever they meet someone "non-christian" on the street or wherever, it just doesn't feel right. And get this; when asked about how her tactics closely resemble those of third-world countries recruiting child soldiers and putting AK-47's in their hands, her reply was "Well; the other religions do it". Swell.

It's amazing how islamic extremists and nutjob Christian sects are exactly the same.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Some weekend funny stuff...

First of all, we have to sue these guys from stealing the name of our beloved blog. If we max out all our credit cards, I think our financial muscles will scare to settle out of court. They only have small clients like Coca Cola and Heinz. How much money could the possible have at their disposal?

So, Who want's to be a millionair-classic. Even sub-titled for our foregin friends...

And finally, some "great" music. They say sex sells, but even if this girl starts out with minimal clothes and remove them before the lyrics starts, I somehow can't see this go multi platinum...
It's Norwegian "glamour" model Linni Meister going pop star. (seriously, I couldn't make my self hear more then 35 seconds of this one. Anyboyd made it the whole way through?)

Have a nice weekend.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Practice What You Preach

Not just the first song on the 1989 Testament album of the same name.

Yesterday, I sat through yet another all-day, off-campus seminar otherwise known as my one year mandatory pedagogic training for new faculty members. As always for mandatory programs, the level of motivation is suboptimal among the participants. Still, many of us come to the seminars in the somewhat naïve belief that we'll learn something useful. Me - I still carry a small flicker of hope of learning something I'll be able to use in a teaching situation before the course is over, but as the end is nearing, I feel that I'm getting beyond the point where optimism can be justified. The following are some of the frustrations we went through on yesterday's seminar. Not just that, but these are points we confronted the "teachers" with in the form of constructive criticism, so it's not just something we talk about behind their backs - we confront/provide them with ample feedback after each session. So here we go:

  • The theme for the day was teaching small groups, group building, group dynamics, and the usual sermon about trying out alternatives to traditional blackboard or powerpoint lectures. How was this carried out, you might ask? While we were split up into groups of six on small tables throughout the entire day, all the teaching was done by the teachers reciting the text from black text bullet points on plain white background slides, in 45-90 minutes uninterrupted sessions. So much for alternative ways of communicating information, and never mind their pet theories of mixing it up every 15 minutes or so. When asked if it wouldn't be a better idea to actually put one of the methods - such as problem-based learning - into practice, they got real defensive and said that it wasn't easy to make a course like this for participants from all walks of academia. Epic dealing with criticism.
  • One teacher enthusiastically condones personality tests, and describes how people who have taken personality tests can be split into two categories - those who recognize themselves from the resulting profile, and those who don't. The former category typically consists of people who have taken self-development courses, at least according to teach'. The second category consists of people who lack insight into their own personality. I personally did a double take when I heard this, because it's the equivalent of saying that if you don't agree with the results of a personality test - which is a statistical model with inherent assumptions and limitations - then you're clueless, 'cause the model can't be wrong. I'd hate to be on a road trip with this guy. If he practices what he preaches, then he'd break out a shovel every time the terrain doesn't match the map.
  • When discussing an evaluation of the pedagogical program based on feedback from last year's class, approximately 60% answered that certain objectives were not clearly communicated, and that some parts did not provide any useful information. The teacher presenting this said that she realized that we couldn't be held responsible for this, and that she certainly hoped WE'D do better than the other class. Wow - just....WOW. So if more than half of the students don't feel that they've been given an adequate description of the objectives, and that they don't feel that they learned anything from some sections of the course, the students are to blaim. That's 100%, grade A, moneyback guaran-damn-teed male bovine feces. I'd like to see what'd happen if I tried this explanation for bad student evaluations. Also, I should try this as response to bad peer-review. "Dear Editor. We would like to point out that the primary reason for which reviewer #666 states that our manuscript is 'insubstantiated and premature speculative work compiled into a poorly written manuscript' is that said reviewer is a moron without the mental faculties to comprehend and drink fully of the elegant argument and divine dataset contained in our present work."
  • Two of the participants - who happened to be seated at the same table as me - teach group dynamics and formation mechanisms at and above MSc level. Whenever they would speak up and question some of the topics presented within their areas of expertise, their input was summarily dismissed or ignored.

The funny thing is that I'm still optimistic about the last elective module, and I hope to get some useful info from it.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Say whuut?

In a "what type of politician are you" test at, you are given a choice between six answers for a set of 10 questions. The objective of this test is to find out which leader of the major parties profile best matches your response set. So far so good - I've taken the test several times in moments of severe boredom. What's quite interesting - or disturbing, depending on how you look at it - is the list of alternatives you're given in question seven (you can only choose one):

What does it take for you to change your opinion in cases or issues that are important to you?
  1. If I'm subjected to massive pressure
  2. If I realize that I've been wrong
  3. If changing my opinion is the only way to achieve power
  4. I do not change my opinion in important cases
  5. If I can benefit from it
  6. If the premises change

Now I don't know how y'all feel, but I strongly feel that if you choose anything but option 2, I sincerely hope you never get in a position of power anywhere, in perpetuity, throughout the universe. If you're saying that realizing that you've been wrong doesn't make you change your opinion, then please don't consider a career in science. And while you're at it, please don't procreate - one of you is one too many.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Here's one for ya

Yesterday - or rather early today - as I was walking from a "free dinner", I walked past the campaigning stands from all the different political parties at Trondheim Torg. In doing so, I noticed something very interesting:

Stands for conservative parties (primarily Høyre and Fremskrittspartiet) had been at least partially defaced with wonderfully imaginative slogans or flyers like "Capitalist pigs" and "Capitalism sucks" (in Norwegian, but still). Two stands were noticeable for the complete lack of vandalism - the one from the Norwegian Communist Party (NKP), and the one for the "Socialist" party (SV), despite the former stand (NKP) having large, white areas perfectly suited for some punk with his Li'l Bastard Tagging Kit".

I'd be very interested in hearing your analysis of this, especially with respect to what, if any, conclusions can be drawn about the political preference of people who are very much into vandalism and very opposed to freedom of speech. Bonus points if you can deduce something about their degree of education and whether or not their moms left their cribs way too close to the microwave oven/dropped them on the head. Monster bonus points if y'all can hypothesize over the probability that their parents were close relatives.

What we can learn from televised political debates

.....nothing, according to a study done by two researchers from NTNU. By asking interviewees a series of questions immediately following a televised debate - including fact-oriented questions and placing type questions where the interviewee was asked to place a party to the left or right based on statements made during the debate, they concluded that the viewer gets no useful new information whatsoever. Why? Because the politicians rely too much on emotion-based rhetoric and because they rely on having short sound bytes in which to present their arguments and provide a rebuttal, thus essentially reducing the debate to a spewing of slogans.

And less than one week away from the election date, all campaigning/slogan chanting is still done by national politicians about national issues in a local election. Where are your local representatives? Not even in the local newspapers, unless they cheat on their taxes or screw up in other ways. They're standing in the town square handing out pamphlets in their hopped up lemonade stands.

No free dinners and lunches - corollary

Pigeon eloquently pointed out in a previous post that there ain't such a thing as a free dinner. This being my third consecutive week with way too many work-related "free" lunches and dinners, I'd like to expand on this point.

First of all; this only applies to lunches and dinners in which there is an obligation involved outside the realms of friendship. Even though one might be a cantankerous bastard and make the point that dinner with friends still ain't free because you either go to a restaurant or it's expected that you in turn make dinner at a later occasion, what you gain is more than what you have to put in (unless your friends suck, in which case you have more problems than the pecuniary to worry about). These dinners and lunches take place in your free time, but you have them 'cause you choose to, not out of a sense of obligation.

Now; to the other "free" dinners. Just to be all pedantic guy on y'all, I'd like to summon my vast skills in statistics and remind you that all events reside in a probability space between the asymptotic values of 0 and 1. Thus, to paraphrase Captain Jack Sparrow, a free dinner is unlikely, rather than impossible. How unlikely, you ask.

Imagine the Abominable Snowman milking the Loch Ness Monster to get milk for his pet Unicorn. I reckon' I'll see this about five times while driving to work before I experience a free lunch or dinner.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Gulliver's Travels - Journey to the Locker Room

Just like you'll come across a great selection of stereotypes and misfits in the weight room, the locker room holds a wide selection of freaks along with the - at least on the surface - normal population. For obvious reasons, this blurb only deals with the weirdos that are prevalent in men's locker rooms. The ones you just can't help noticing.

The Rod Stewart
The dude who walks around and eyes himself in the mirror, and is convinced that everyone enjoys the sight of him as much as he does. Practically prances around to the tune of "If ya want my body, aaand ya think I'm seeexy" playing inside his mind.

Indoor soccer or squash posse
Douchebags who roll at least deuce deep. Enjoy having conversations across the locker room about how they didn't suck at the squash game today, what they're gonna do on Saturday, how some chick eyeballed them while they played, etc. Totally oblivious of other people who have to put up with their inane chatter and annoying presence.

Grumpy old guy
Makes good and damned sure to sit where everybody have to pass by him so as to give him an excuse to grumble about constantly having to move out of the way.

Loitering old guy
The creepy old dude who sits or walks around in his boxers when you arrive to change into gym clothes, eyes wandering. Still sits in his boxers and checks out the scene when you come back after training.

Asian Ladyboy
For some unknown reason, there is a subset of male Asian gymgoers who insist on dressing in tight tanktops and spending a whole lot of time donning bling, applying hair gel - spiking the 'do just right - and putting on eye shadow before going from the locker room to the weight room. Where they proceed to do bench presses and bicep curls, but that's another story. Often roll at least deuce deep.

Never showered in his life guy
Pretty self-explanatory. If you can smell their presence from right across the room, personal hygiene ain't at the top of their lists, you know what I'm sayin'.

Naked shaving guy
Freak show who stands stark, raving naked and shaves in the locker room mirror each and every damn time I enter the locker room.

Really creepy naked old guy
Supercreepy 50+ dude who hangs around completely naked and likes to talk to people while putting one foot up on the bench. Apparently prefers to talk to seated people.

You might think that I'm going to a weird gym, but unfortunately, these are stereotypes I've had the considerable misfortune of coming across in several gyms on two continents. I'm just lucky, I guess..

10 things I miss the most from France

Here it is .

1-that's obvious and not very original: family and friends. Even if we come back from time to time it's really difficult to meet everybody. I've lost many contacts since I'm gone and no es bueno.

2-French TV. Seems stupid but there were lots of program that I really liked to watch. Especially the french news channel. It's definitely not the same to watch CNN or the BBC.

3-French supermarkets. Why the Norvegian grossery stores are so small ? and even when they are big you find exactly the same things than in the small ones. Choice is a word that norvegians definitely don't know.

4-Almost the same: Big malls. Norvegian malls suck !!! "Let's go to this mall" "Oh but the shops are exactly the same than in the previous one !" "yes but you had to drive to go to this one !"

5-Grass football fields- I guess it's a matter of climate but playing football in an artificial field is definitely not the same !!! (and don't talk about gravel fields)

6-Cheap beers-Damn alcohol is expensive in Norway!!! (and the roads are bad) And I really like beer !!! ( Football and beer fan, I should learn Norvegian to be able to read Pondus)

7-Warm summer- It's cold in Norway isnt'it ?? It's really cool to hang out in Paris in july and august when everybody's gone (except the tourists of course).

8-The subscription card for the cinema- You can say whatever you want but 15 euros per month to see as many movies as you want, that's really cool. The bad things : Most of the time the movies are doubled in french.

9-Pizzas: They are so much better in France (Italian way)

10- Versailles: This city is so beautiful. I have so many great memories there. It's always a great pleasure to go back. I just like the atmosphere.

To conclude the things that I definetely don't miss

1-the job market: really bad for 20 years now and even if you're lucky enough to find a job, you will be underpaid

2-security: It's strange how you easily forget that feeling of unsafety when you're in Norway.

Seems familiar?

I've come across this person (different names, often different gender, slightly different settings) at too many social gatherings in- and outside of work. Here represented by the great Kristen Wiig.

300 movies

Or rather, 300, the movie.

So I was in the mood for an action flick this weekend, and ended up with 300, the movie about King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan warriors that was up against one million (or so) Persians. Well, it's a good tradition in old history writing to exaggerate the numbers, but at least this movie is based on a true historical event. The Spartans defended Greece against the Persian invasion, by blocking of a narrow mountain passage, called Thermopylae (The Hot Gates), where "there numbers count for nothing" (you'll hear that a lot in the movie).

But, the movie isn't made to be historical accurate. It's made to tell the story about this battle as told in Frank Millers cartoon (or graphic novel, if you're fancy-smancy) by the same name. And now we are at the base of what I really love about this movie. Yes, it is a brutal movie, but they have really kept the cartoon aspect of it. Both the way the Spartans are dressed (who goes out in battle wearing leather briefs? How 'bout some armour?), the way their cape is falling and the colours and use of slow motion (especially) during the battles. The battle scenes in this movie are some of the best I've seen in a long time. The way the Spartans fight, both with their phalanx (all as one unit) and the man-to-man combat which has an almost ballet kind of elegance to them are amazing. And this simple story of honour, glory and commitment.

So, if you want a historical accurate movie about this epic battle or a realistic representation of Spartan war tactics or an intricate plot, this movie won't give you that.
But is does give life to a cartoon (and I'm a sucker for cartoons made into movies) and some of the most amazing fighting scenes on the big screen this year, 300 delivers all the way.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Obsession by Calvin Klein

"Based on the bestselling book ..." ain't always a recipe for movie success. Case in point; today we watched

Perfume - The Story Of A Murderer (2006)
In the words of Jim Diamond - "I should'a known better". The movie is an adaptation of the book by Patrick Süskind, which has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. I haven't read the book yet, but we have it, my wife has read it and thought it was good, and I knew that the main character is a french dude by the name of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille whose only distinguishable features emanate from his extraordinary olfactory sense and the fact that he looks like the photographs of newly released prisoners from Soviet and German concentration camps.

The beginning of the movie is downright Dickensian, and could have been lifted right off of Oliver Twist, except the orphan ain't particularly sympathetic. After having worked at a tannery for a while and "accidentally" killed a girl, he runs across an over the hill perfumer, aptly played by Dustin Hoffman. Might I take this opportunity to congratulate the casting director on the choice of the Italian perfumer Baldini, because if ever there was an actor befitting of the term "over the hill", it's Hoffman.

Anyways; Jean-Baptiste, or JB, learns all the tricks that Baldini has to teach him, and goes to Grasses to educate himself on more sophisticated means of scent extraction. Now; this movie is supposed to be a thriller, and in this respect it fails spectacularly. Even when JB starts on his killing spree to extract the notes, or essential scents, of beautiful women and making it into a perfume, there is nada excitement, thrills or suspense. None whatsoever, even with a decent surround package and a perpetrator panting and breathing behind the victim. That sucks something powerful, but at least there is a coherent storyline so far.

However, as the movie goes into its last 30 minutes, the logic goes south. As JB gets caught for his heinous crimes and is about to be executed in a manner which is befitting of the french stalker that he is, he unveils the magic perfume he has made from the extracts of all the women he has murdered. Despite him being arrested, stripped naked, beaten and tortured, he still has this decently sized glass vial intact in his hands as they are about to bring him forth to the executioner. The crowd is of course enthusiastically awaiting the execution, but after JB has put on two drops of this enchanted perfume, some strange things happen. 1) the guards suddenly think he's innocent. 2) He goes from being dirty and in rags to being dressed in a garment fit for a king. 3) He goes unaccompanied to the executioner. 4) The executioner and crowd suddenly believe him to be innocent of all charges. 5) The bishop in attendance proclaims him to be not a man, but an angel. 6) The crowd starts to worship JB. 7) After throwing out a handkerchief with a drop of the perfume, the crowd undresses and puts on an impromptu orgy. 8) The father of the last girl he killed now believes JB to be his son. The ending of this movie is even more of a testament to cognitive dissonance, and I'm not even gonna try to describe it.


Saturday, September 1, 2007

Academic jury duty

And so I have experienced being on a PhD commitee - the academic equivalent of jury duty. This is the first time I've played that part, even though it was just the glorified secretary role of administrator/third opponent. The ratio of paper work to glory sucks compared to what you have as either first or second opponent, and there is no extra pay, but the job needs to be done.

Also, the magic is fast disappearing from the entire concept of a PhD defense, as it is abundantly clear that if the dissertation has been approved and it was written by the candidate (i.e. no plagiarism involved), then the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of said candidate passing, barring screwups of cataclysmic proportions. That being said, the actual defense might not be a cakewalk, depending on the skill level of the candidate and whether or not Carmina Burana can be heard in the background whenever the opponents are present. Note: If you have no idea what Carmina Burana is, or have never heard about Carl Orff, then consider yourself musically ignorant, and substitute "Carmina Burana" with the "Darth Vader Theme" so as to make the above example work.

So; what does the PhD comittee administrator actually do, you ask. It boils down to the following:
  • Fill out a bunch of forms, including confirmations from the opponents, applying for the candidate to defend his or her dissertation, recommendation for trial lecture subject, recommendation of defense date, and some forms after the defense is complete with the final recommendation of the commitee.
  • Be the communicator between opponents and candidate
  • Hassle the candidate and constantly asking "Are ya done yet? How about now? Still nothing? Clock's ticking, you know.." until said candidate has completed the dissertation and sent it to the faculty and commitee. Or has a nervous breakdown, whichever comes first.
  • Read a whole lot of soul-draining official documents hoping to find the cipher with which to unlock the potentially useful information I need in order to understand what the hell I'm supposed to do and when so as to fulfil my duty.
  • Inform the opponents of the relevant procedures and timelines for this university, faculty and department.
  • Answering a whole lot of questions from candidate, advisor and opponents........
  • Reading and distributing the dissertation.
  • Trying to get a short summary of the dissertation and a statement about the quality of the work from each of the opponents, then compiling it into one coherent document and getting it signed and submitted by the deadline set by the faculty. Some places, this task also falls on the administrator, so that the opponents only sign an already written document....
  • Book hotel rooms for opponents.
  • Bully opponents into giving a seminar the day before the defense
  • Organize and announce seminars and defense (booking venues, lunches, dinners, etc.)
  • Meet&greet with opponents and advisor. Attend and chair seminars, organize lunch and probably dinner.
  • Sit as "guy in suit number three" through the trial lecture. Make a short summary of content and quality with respect to background, scope and pedagogical level. Decide with opponents whether or not the candidate passed this portion of the defense.
  • Have lunch with entire commitee, advisor, candidate and department head. Keep conversation rollin' throughout the meal, and make sure that the candidate is allowed to leave so as to gather his or her nerves prior to the actual defense.
  • Be "guy in suit number three" for the actual defense, and make notes about content and quality as described above. Be prepared to ask questions to the candidate should the opponents finish their questioning way ahead of schedule or if you find some fatal flaw in the work.
  • Shake hands with the candidate
  • Compile your own notes with those of the opponents on the trial lecture and defense and compile it into a big honkin' document to be signed immediately after thesis.
  • Go to PhD defense dinner. Meet&greet with family and friends of candidate. Tell candidate's parents how proud they should be of their son or daughter, and yes, it's difficult to follow the defense as a layperson, but I'm sure that if it had been THEIR chosen profession, they'd have no problem doing it either. Have nonsensical conversations with people you'd rather see on the back of a milk carton, and use most of your conversational standbys. Be prepared to give a short speech congratulating the candidate for his or her splendid work. Mingle some more, talk to people you either know or don't mind talking to (if you're lucky). Stumble home completely exhausted.
  • Fill out some more forms and communicate between department secretary and opponents.

Pigeon is right; there is no such thing as a free lunch or dinner. Still; it's a useful experience, it's expected of faculty members, and it will take up a line on my resume.