Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Tao of Grad School part 1

Since I'm gearing up to hire at least one Ph.D. student, I've started to reflect quite a lot about how to best get through grad school and get that Diploma at the end of the rainbow based on my experiences as a grad student and as an advisor. Whenever applicable, I'll also mix in experiences and considerations brought to my attention from others who have wandered the same path. I'm mostly doing this for my own benefit, as writing this down will hopefully succeed in one of the many areas where the mandatory pedagogics course failed spectacularly; improve my ability to advise Ph.D. students. Being as how this is a retrospective analysis of my own experiences, it might also be of interest for Ph.D. students or those thinking about getting into grad school.

How pretentious did that sound?

Since I'm based in Norway, the main focus will be on obtaining a Ph.D. in "hard/natural sciences" within the Norwegian system as it pertains to mandatory activities and timelines. Hence, what I write here might be utterly useless to a student planning to go into grad school at some liberal arts department. The plan is to write this up in approximate chronological order, but we'll see how long that lasts until the wheels come off. If anyone reading this has any experience from other systems/countries, feel welcome to share.

Part 1: Is grad school for me?
The reasons for going to grad school probably vary a lot between individuals, and while I don't necessarily think that there is one correct answer, I believe that there are some boxes you need to tick off for grad school to be the right place for you:

Do you have the necessary motivation?
Unless you're sincerely interested in pursuing further studies, you might want to think at least twice before you enroll in something as time-consuming and work-demanding as grad school. By this I don't mean that you should rule out getting a Ph.D. unless your earliest memory is a burning desire to one day stand in front of a committee and a less than captivated audience explaining why you went for the Rader FFT algorithm rather than the standard Cooley-Tukey algorithm. It's perfectly possible to succeed in things one stumbles into. However, you shouldn't contemplate grad school solely because there's nothing good on TV or because Mickey Dee ain't hiring at the moment.

In Norway, you're not getting accepted into a Ph.D. program unless you've got a Master's degree. Upon completing the M.Sc., it's very common to feel burnt out and in general the prospect of taking more exams and writing more term papers does not feel too tempting. Be aware that if you feel close to burned out following completion of your M.Sc., taking a Ph.D. requires a lot more effort. Something to take into consideration, as you don't really want to be exhausted before you even embark on the Ph.D. program. The Norwegian Ph.D. programs take between three and four years to complete following a "normal" progression, and unless you're dead set on following through, you should probably consider other career paths. At this point I should probably mention that I swore up and down that I never was going to take another exam following my M.Sc. examination.......

Do you have what it takes?
I'm not of the school of thought that grades are the be-all end-all student competence standard. Still, you've got to have above average grades to be accepted into a Ph.D. program, and if the grades are less than stellar, odds are that your friendly neighborhood faculty committee on graduate studies is going to assign a number of "qualification subjects" in addition to the required course work. Seeing as how there are 24 hours in a day and this adds to the work load, it won't make your journey towards graduation any easier. Thus, if your grades are less than stellar, you better be certain that your GPA is a result of lacking interest in subjects outside of your area of specialization rather than the courses being too hard. Otherwise you're in for a rough ride.

In the US, graduate students are generally accepted into the department on a bi-annual basis, and if your university is any good, there are a lot of "casualties" falling by the wayside during the first year or so. While this does not apply directly to the Norwegian system, I got a fantastic piece of advice back in NC: Pay close attention to your classmates. If you can't spot the weakest link within two weeks, you're it. While this is not directly applicable, you do NOT want to be the weakest link. Compare yourself to your classmates at your level, and make an honest evaluation. If you're among the best, all lights are go. Otherwise, you've either got to make up for this with extra hours and determination, or you're in trouble. Regardless of which alternative you end up with, make a realistic assessment.

Let's face it; grad school is a 3-4 year commitment with lots and lots of work. Do you have the work ethic required to follow through? Also, whether you're embarking on experimental or theoretical research, you've got to be aware that you're going to spend a lot of time doing things that turn out not to work. Even if things work, you've got to take the time to reproduce the experiments to verify the previously observed trends. If you know for a fact that you're prone to taking shortcuts, please don't even consider doing a Ph.D.. Precision, rigor and honesty are absolute essentials. Also, make sure that you can handle constructive criticism.

How does having a Ph.D. fit into your long-term plans?
Because if you don't plan on working with something where a Ph.D. is required or at least very useful, then you've got to ask yourself whether taking the Ph.D. is worth it. Especially if you're tempted to work within a different field than what the Ph.D. would be in.

...more to follow

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

GQ5: Jumping the Shark - Round 1

Since I've recorded enough songs for a new quiz, we might as well get started up in heah'. It should be mentioned that this is an excellent opportunity for anyone who might like to join. There will be many genres and eras represented, so I don't think there's any particular bias going on - unless you're exclusively listening to jazz or classical, in which case you're thoroughly screwed.

Submit your answers to mfactorquiz (at) by the end of Monday120108. Each song holds the potential of two points - one point for artist and one point for the song. Answers will be posted on Tuesday 120208.

Song number 221:

Song number 222:

Song number 223:

Song number 224:

Song number 225:

Results GQ4: Deguello - Rounds 7 and 8

It was kind of close for a while there, and wasn't. The songs were:

Round 7:

  • Song 211: Stratovarius - Kiss Of Judas. Remove the double bass drums, improve the vocals and put Yngwie on guitar, and this song magically becomes "Judas", which was on Yngwie's "Eclipse" album, released some 8 years before "Visions" which boasted "Kiss Of Judas". Excellent song, but then again they ripped off Yngwie, so why wouldn't it be.

  • Song 212: Edguy - Vain Glory Opera.Fantastic anthem "modeled" after the greatest hit of a certain Swedish hard rock band named after a continent, as can be clearly seen here:

There are better live versions of this song available, but none which illustrate the similarity as well... At least Tobi Sammet doesn't take himself that seriously

  • Song 213: Labyrinth - Moonlight. The album this track is from - "Return To Heaven Denied" - is often cited as one of the top five power metal albums of all time, and rightly so, I think.

  • Song 214: Helloween - Future World. From the first "Keeper.." album, this song is trademark Kai Hansen, later of Gamma Ray. The only song in Round 7 I have ever performed live, mostly because the other songs in round 7 were released after my gigging days were over.

  • Song 215: Dragonforce - Fury Of The Storm. I thought I'd record this one instead of "Through The Fire And The Flames", seeing as how TTFATF would perhaps have been too simple. In retrospect, I should've stuck with the 'Force tune known from "Guitar Hero"

Round 8:

  • Song 216: The Monkees - I'm A Believer. Nothing much to say about this really, except that it's not exactly an obscure tune...

  • Song 217: Yngwie J. Malmsteen - I'll See The Light Tonight. One of the first Yngwie tunes I learned how to play, and one of his better known songs. This actually kills live. Sadly, none of y'all got this one. Not cool - no es frigido.

  • Song 218: KISS - Lick It Up.'s a KISS song, and it sounds exactly like all the other KISS songs ever written...what more do you want from me...
  • Song 219: Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way. ..the man owes money to Hendrix that should've been his like they switched wallets.
  • Song 220: Michael Jackson - Beat It.

In the final two rounds of GQ4, y'all got the following score:

  1. Sondre (10 points)
  2. Marius (8 points)
  3. Torbjørn a.k.a. T-bombz ((6 points)
  4. Cathy (5 points)
  5. Anders/Pigeon (4 points)

The Total Score after 8 rounds and thus the Final Standing looks like this:

  1. Sondre (44 points)
  2. T-bombz (39 points)
  3. Pigeon (34 points)
  4. Cathy (33 points)
  5. Anders (29 points)
  6. Marius (26 points)

Congrats to Sondre, King of the Guitar Quiz!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ric Flair - To Be The Man

To Be The Man by Ric Flair with Keith Elliot Greenberg is the autobiography of - you guessed it - Nature Boy Ric Flair, who became a pro wrestler in the early 70's and retired in March this year. Dude has been a pro wrestler for longer than I've been alive, which is a testament to his staying power and ability to avoid and work around injuries.

This autobiography - to the extent an autobiography can be written by someone other than the subject - is supposedly brutally honest regarding Naitch's alcohol abuse and womanizing, and to a certain extent I guess it is. He somehow tries to pawn his excessive lifestyle off as the follies of youth, despite him continuing this lifestyle up until he was approximately fifty years old, at which point he can hardly claim to pull off any form of bambi-esque naïvete of youth.

I have to admit that I never really was a fan of Flair. That being said, it was obvious even way back when that he was an excellent worker and heel, who always managed to put his opponents over and draw heat on himself. Which is cool. However, his schtick always looked like it was damn close to a 70's Liberace act mixed in with some good ol' redneckin'. Frankly, his "Four Horsemen" storyline, of which he is immensely proud, comes off as some kind of Billy Jack trailer park saga. Predictably, Flair compares himself to Hogan and comes off smelling like roses AND the better wrestler, and of course thinks it's completely unfair that Hogan is so much richer than him. What Flair sort of neglects to mention, is that while Naitch was famous for spending more money than he made on limousines, chartering jetplanes, gold Rolex watches and tailor made clothes (mostly outfits that would have made Liberace cringe), Hogan saved and invested the money he made. That might have something to do with Hogan being better off now, in addition to Hogan being the bigger draw throughout his career.....

To illustrate how out of touch Flair is with his drawing power compared to that of Hogan during the 80's, here's how he describes the difference between himself and the Hulkster:

Here's the fundamental difference between Hulk Hogan and myself: Hogan told his fans, "Train, say your prayers and take your vitamins." My motto was "Drink, party all night and love all the ladies."

The thing is though; what really made Vinnie Mac rule the world of sports entertainment in the 80's was that he transformed wrestling matches into family entertainment. The logic was quite simple; instead of catering to some curmudgeonly kooks and rednecks who cared about the "autenticity" of wrestling and maybe bought one beer during the house shows, Vinnie Mac could replace this dude by a family - which means moving t-shirts, action figures and what have you in adddition to food and drink, if wrestling was made out to be family-friendly. This entailed that the faces (good guys) had to be role models the kids could look up to without too many red flags being obvious to the parents, hence the red-and-yellow Hulkster, Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, etc. If the good guys always won at the end of the day, and the good guys appeared to be decent, it was safe to bring the family to the shows. Flair's image of hard drinking and womanizing didn't really fit. Simple as that. In the 90's the overall climate favored the bad-ass anti-hero, and so the companies changed to accomodate that. Even Hogan turned heel (bad guy) in the 90's, and remained a bigger draw than once-a-heel-always-a-heel Naitch. So much for the rose-rinted vista of hindsight, Ric.

One thing which really is consistent in all the wrestling autobiographies I've read (admittedly not that many), is that everybody hated Eric Bischoff. Pro Hogan, anti-Hogan - everybody hates Bischoff. To add fuel to the flames, this book also reveals that Eric Bischoff was heavily involved in the "Girls Gone Wild" videos and PPVs, which consisted of taping college girls who were on Spring Break or Mardi Gras and were drunk or stupid enough to flash their tits (and more) for the camera. That's the kind of guy Bischoff is.

Ok book - get it if you were into WCW story lines and characters.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Death of WCW

The Death of WCW by R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez is the story of the rise and fall of the wrestling promotion (or franchise if you will) known in it's latter years as World Championship Wrestling (WCW). During WCW's heyday, this was THE wrestling promotion, and with complete backing from media mogul Ted Turner, they had almost unlimited access to prime time TV spots and a budget for poaching talent from other promotions, like Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation (now WWE). WCW had everything going for it, and for a period of time following the hiring of maverick Eric Bischoff as the booker (dude who decides storylines and which characters are to be involved), WCW rose from relative obscurity to completely outclass Vinny Mac's outfit.

And then everything went south, by which I don't mean that WCW returned to it's south-of-Mason-Dixie line roots, but rather that the company began it's steady decline until Vince McMahon himself was able to buy WCW complete with talent and storylines for a song (or at least insanely cheap).

If you've followed any pro wrestling from the 90's or so, including Sting, Goldberg, the Steiner Brothers, the heel turn of Hollywood Hulk Hogan and NWO, then you'll probably enjoy this book just for the anecdotes which are strewn liberally throughout the 300+ pages. What makes the book even more enjoyable is the sometimes very detailed descriptions (with color commentary, as befits an account of pro wrestling) of the (many) bad decisions that eventually led to the demise of WCW - past the point where even uncle Ted Turner was able to save the promotion. Examples include:
  • A year or so before WCW went under, they figured out a brilliant cost-cutting strategy for reducing their immense travel budget. Instead of flying the entire roster (~160 wrestlers) to each and every house show, they only flew in the talent scheduled to actually make an appearance in the house shows (approximately a tenth of the roster). No kiddin'
  • Poaching high-profile talent from other wrestling promotions, giving the newly acquired talent long-time contracts and ridiculously high salaries, only to use them in minor storylines, never giving them any push at all.
  • Hiring bookers (such as Dusty Rhodes and Kevin Nash) who insisted on being headliners themselves, and booking all the story lines so that either themselves or their old pals won the titles, thus holding back new talent.
  • Including a "creative control" clause in the contracts of major stars like Hogan who - surprise, surprise - didn't really want to lose and thus made it hard to follow through with long-term storylines involving title changes
In summary, it's a fun read. Epic ending of a book review.

Enough is enough

We totally caved in today. For a couple of weeks now, we've had an increasingly hard time of traversing the ~1.5 slippery and icy kilometers from the main road to our house. There are three major 90+ degree turns and one speed bump to traverse - all while climbing pretty steeply - before we get to the final plain and turn down to our place. Ever since we moved to Trondheim, we've rolled with regular snow tires, but today we had a hard time getting up our own driveway, so we loaded up the car with our summer tires (which were due for replacement come Spring anyway) and left for getting proper snow tires. With spikes this time - the biggest and most pointy we could find.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Geek ?

48% Geek

Created by OnePlusYou - Free Online Dating

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A fool and his/her money are soon parted

Who'd have thunk it - there are definitely people who fall for the Nigerian email scams. Even worse, there are people who not only fall for it, but later flag their stupidity by making news out of it.

Woman out $400K to 'Nigerian scam' con artists
SWEET HOME, Ore. – Janella Spears doesn’t think she’s a sucker or an easy mark.

Besides her work as a registered nurse, Spears – no relation to the well-known pop star – also teaches CPR and is a reverend who has married many couples. She also communicates with lightning-fast sign language with her hearing-impaired husband.

So how did this otherwise lucid, intelligent woman end up sending nearly half a million dollars to a bunch of con artists running what has to be one of the best-known Internet scams in the world?

Spears fell victim to the "Nigerian scam," which is familiar to almost anyone who has ever had an e-mail account.

The e-mail pitch is familiar to most people by now: a long-lost relative or desperate government official in a war-torn country needs to shuffle some funds around, say $10 million or $20 million, and if you could just help them out for a bit, you get to keep 10 (or 20 or 30) percent for your trouble.

All you need to do is send X-amount of dollars to pay some fees and all that cash will suddenly land in your checking account, putting you on Easy Street. By the way, please send the funds though an untraceable wire service.

By this time, not many people will fall for such an outrageous pitch, and the scam is very well-known. But it persists, and for a reason: every now and then, it works.

For Spears, it started, as it almost always does, with an e-mail. It promised $20 million and in this case, the money was supposedly left behind by her grandfather (J.B. Spears), with whom the family had lost contact over the years.

"So that's what got me to believe it," she said.

Spears didn't know how the sender knew J.B. Spears' name and her relation to him, but her curiosity was piqued.

It turned out to be a lot of money up front, but it started with just $100.

The scammers ran Spears through the whole program. They said President Bush and FBI Director "Robert Muller" (their spelling) were in on the deal and needed her help.

They sent official-looking documents and certificates from the Bank of Nigeria and even from the United Nations. Her payment was "guaranteed."

Then the amount she would get jumped up to $26.6 million – if she would just send $8,300. Spears sent the money.

More promises and teases of multi-millions followed, with each one dependent on her sending yet more money. Most of the missives were rife with misspellings.

When Spears began to doubt the scam, she got letters from the President of Nigeria, FBI Director Mueller, and President Bush. Terrorists could get the money if she did not help, Bush’s letter said. Spears continued to send funds. All the letters were fake, of course.

She wiped out her husband’s retirement account, mortgaged the house and took a lien out on the family car. Both were already paid for.

For more than two years, Spears sent tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Everyone she knew, including law enforcement officials, her family and bank officials, told her to stop, that it was all a scam. She persisted.

Spears said she kept sending money because the scammers kept telling her that the next payment would be the last one, that the big money was inbound. Spears said she became obsessed with getting paid.

An undercover investigator who worked on the case said greed helped blind Spears to the reality of the situation, which he called the worst example of the scam he’s ever seen.

He also said he has seen people become obsessed with the scam before. They are so desperate to recoup their losses with the big payout, they descend into a vicious cycle of sending money in hopes the false promises will turn out to be real.

Now, Spears has gone public with her story as a warning to others not to fall victim.

She hopes her story will warn others to listen to reason and avoid going down the dark tunnel of obsession that ended up costing her so much.

Spears said it would take her at least three to four years to dig out of the debt she ran up in pursuit of the non-existent pot of Nigerian gold.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Trivium - Anthem (We Are The Fire)

This is one of those total crowd pleaser anthems like "Raise Your Fist". The video even works for this tune. As a matter of fact, if your band is able to pull this tune off with confidence and skill and the crowd doesn't get behind it, the crowd completely sucks. Either that, or you got booked as the opening act at a Donna Summer or "Whiny-singer-songwriter-with-acoustic-guitar-reading-her-diary-over-a-minor-chord-progression" festival.

Damn - why didn't I write this tune? Turn your backs on your enemies and let the motherfuckers rot in their jealousy!

Edguy - Tinnitus Sanctus

Finally got my hands on the latest release from German power metallers Edguy. Quite frankly I was surprised that they had managed to eke out a new studio effort considering that singer and songwriter extraordinaire Tobias Sammet released a new studio album with his solo project Avantasia this Spring, followed by extensive touring. A quick look in the booklet made me even more impressed, seeing as how Tobi has written every single song on Tinnitus Sanctus unassisted. Dude is productive, and frankly, the songs on previous releases that were co-written by other band members tended to be of somewhat lower quality.

After the first round of listening, I was somewhat disappointed, as Tinnitus Sanctus doesn't flaunt instant classics such as some of the songs on Rocket Ride such as "Return To The Tribe", "Out Of Vogue", "Superheroes", "Save Me", "Trinidad" or the hilarious bonus track "Fu*king with Fire (Hair Force One)". Moreover, there are fewer by-the-numbers German power metal tunes than what can be found on Edguy classics such as Vain Glory Opera (the title song from which is very "influenced" by a certain Europe song. So much so, that Tobi often introduces this as Vain Glory Countdown during live performances). Having listened to the album two more times while doing data analysis, I'm completely turned around. Tinnitus Sanctus really has grown on me, and the songs are consisteltly very good, with the trademark Edguy hooks and anthemic chorus sections. Tobi is one of my favorite metal singers, with his wide vibrato and Michael-Kiske-at-a-lower-pitch vocals. Dude's a really good songwriter as well. The only weak link in Edguy is the lead guitar player.

At this stage, my pick for the best songs on Tinnitus Sanctus would include "Sex Fire Religion", "The Pride Of Creation", "Thorn Without A Rose" and the fantastic "Speedhoven".

Screw the "No major chord progressions in metal" douche crew with their tribal arm band tattoos, trucker tans, beer bellies and Slayer tees - Edguy rocks!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

GQ4: Deguello - Rounds 7 and 8

Deguello - the final two rounds all in one, no bonus point. The reason for this is the sneaking suspicion that the thematic content of round 7 (songs 211-215) would result in meager results. The theme of round 7, you see, is European Power Metal. Meaning that all of the bands are European or at least based in Europe. Consider round 7 to be a possibility to obtain ten possible bonus points in addition to the final, very standard round 8.

Submit your answers to mfactorquiz (at) by the end of Monday 112408. Each song holds the potential of two points - one point for artist and one point for the song. Answers will be posted on Tuesday 112508.
Song number 211:

Song number 212:

Song number 213:

Song number 214:

Song number 215:

Deguello - Eighth round.

Song number 216:

Song number 217:

Song number 218:

Song number 219:

Song number 220:

Results GQ4: Deguello - Round 6

This round had a somewhat lower average score than what I anticipated. The songs were:
  • Song 206: Michael Sembella - Maniac. She's a maniac, maaaaaaaniac on the dance floor...and she's dancing like she's never danced before.......from the otherwise crappy movie Flashdance, of course. The main lick here isn't exactly made for guitar, so I had to tap that sumbitch. Seeing as how the fantastic Greek true/power metal band Firewind has made a cover of this tune, I added the somewhat heavier backing track. The note-per-second expanded lick towards the end I added because I felt like it. So there.
  • Song 207: Rainbow - I Surrender. The solo from "I Surrender", to be more precise. None of y'all were even close here. Ritchie Blackmore can't get no love from youse people?
  • Song 208: Scorpions - Winds Of Change. Most of y'all managed to follow the Moskva down to Gorkij Park, listenin' to the winds of change. In the mid 90's, I was beyond tired of playing this tune. Still am, as I discovered when I recorded this.
  • Song 209: ZZ Top - I Need You Tonight. Awesome tune, and hellishly difficult to nail the rhytm guitar sound without getting too much frequency overlap with the lead. Didn't quite manage, as Anders can testify to.
  • Song 210: Santana featuring Rob Thomas - Smooth. Megahit from the time when latino pop/rock and Creed reigned supreme.
It's reckoning time, and the Round 6 scores are to be doled out:
  1. Torbjørn a.k.a. T-bombz (6 points)
  2. Pigeon (5 points)
  3. Anders (4 points)
  4. Cathy (3 points)
  5. Sondre (2 points)
  6. Marius (0 points)
The total score
after round 6 looks like this:
  1. Sondre (34 points)
  2. Torbjørn a.k.a. T-bombz (33 points)
  3. Pigeon (30 points)
  4. Cathy (28 points)
  5. Anders (25 points)
  6. Marius (18 points)
Congrats to T-bombz
and good luck with rounds 7 and 8!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mötley Crüe - Dr. Feelgood

This 1989 album is considered by most - including the band members themselves - to be the best Mötley Crüe record so far, and probably ever. personally, I think it's the only Crüe record worth a damn, which might go a long way to explain the complete absence of Crüe records in our collection up until this purchase.

This record came out approximately at the same time as I started listening to heavy metal, after a very good friend gradually introduced me to heavier side of music. He started with Doro (the former singer of German HM band Warlock), progressed via Lita Ford, Alice Cooper and Poison to Mötley Crüe, softening me up before exposing me to Iron Maiden, Dio, Running Wild and W.A.S.P. After that, there was no turning back.

The actual purchase of this record - as opposed to borrowing it from any of the many friends who already owned this album - occurred after I'd read "The Dirt", "Tommyland" and "Heroin Diaries", and so the backdrop for the songs was much clearer than it was when I last listened to this album in the mid-to-late nineties. This is THE album where they were clean, and when they at least semi-functioned as a unit. Never was much of a Crüe fan, but I used to like this album a lot.

Listening to it now, I still like it - especially the production - but there are some glaringly obvious flaws I really wasn't aware of back when I first heard it. First of all, Crüe by and large suck on their respective instruments. Well; Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee do minimalist work on bass and drums, respectively, so they're not really trying. Hardly groundbreaking. Vince Neil has overdubbed his vocals so much that it sounds full and on average within the target pitch, although with a wide spread. Mick Mars is an old-school bluesy minimalist who covers himself up by using gobs of distortion and Def Leppard-esque numbers of overdubbed layers. Dude plays slide on several tunes, and it's pretty obvious that he's more at home doing stock blues and chordal licks. The solos ain't much to write home about - Mars does attempt some basic tapping in order to speed things up on some occasions, like the solos to the title song and "Slice Of Your Pie". Have to admire the producing skillz of one Bob Rock, who introduced pitch and layering to Crüe and bass to Metallica. Still; where Nikki Sixx gets off dissing other bands like Poison for their musical performance is beyond me. Crystalline courage perhaps?

The style of music ain't hardly original either, despite Sixx's claims to the contrary. As a matter of fact, if it wasn't for the amounts of distortion and processing, this would've been difficult to distinguish from classic/old school rock bands such as The Sweet, Slade, Status Quo or Nazareth. Blues-based, 4/4 and stock all the way. Some tunes, like "Don't Go Away Mad" even sound like a hybrid between Eagles and Smokie. Most of these songs are excellent for swing, which sorta' tells you they're not griundbreaking from a stylistic point of view. And it doesn't take a musical genious to figure out that "Kickstart My Heart" - an excellent party tune in it's own right - is a blatant rip-off of The Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz". Oh well.

So the musicians haven't contributed anything new to the scene, and the songs are indistinguishable from older acts but for the amount of fuzz. So what's left is the lyrical content, right - the area in which Nikki Sixx swears he's top-notch? Weeelllll....let's just say that the more frequently you fill entire lines with "Oh baaayyybeeeeee", "No no no" and even worse; "No no yeah" (as in "SOS"), the less likely you are to be named in the same breath as lyricists like Springsteen and Billy Joel. Not to mention that artists typically known for their song-writing abilities don't usually write songs like "Slice Of Your Pie", "Sticky Sweet", "Same Ol' Situation", "She Goes Down" and "Get It For Free" and put them all on the same album. If anything, I personally think that bands like Poison, White Lion and Warrant write far superior lyrics to what Nikki Sixx has rattled off. On the song-writing spectrum of heavy metal, Sixx is way more likely to have Joey DeMaio of Manowar on speed dial than he is to have frequent talks with Dave Mustaine or Blackie Lawless.

At the end of the day, Dr. Feelgood is a great party album, but nothing more. Then again; not every album has to be about something or possess world-class musicianship.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sudbø's sister in crime?

So, it seems there is a new research scandal rollin' up in the Norwegian scientific community. This time around, it's "diet doctor" Grethe Støa Birketvedt, a MD with a Phd from Tromsø University, which according to an article in VG has promoted her honorary professorship from Albert Schweitzer University in Genèva on several occasions. The Albert Schweitzer University (ASU from now) is a purly fixtional university that sells "academic" degrees and diplomas, without any legal right to do so. All of ASU's activity is from a small office in Madrid (read: a cubicle with a computer and color printer), and is not registered at all in Genèva.I n her defense "dr" Birketvedt says that ASU might have mislead her, since she only got the diploma sent to her by postal mail, and if ASU is purly fixtional, there are several other people around the world who also have been mislead. Yeah righty. How many serious universities demands that people pay for their honorary professorship? And then sends you a diploma in the mail? With a PhD, you would assume "dr" Birketvedt had enough brain power to figure this out.

But wait, there is more. Birketvedt's resume is full of awards that it's impossible to verify (i.e. fixtional), and VGshows some example:

1999: International Woman of the Year. She first claimed to have gotten
this from "American Biography Association", but later "corrected" this to "The
International Biographical Centre of Cambridge i England"

1999-2000: Intellectuals of the Year. Later corrected to "Intellectuals of
the World".

1999-2000: Outstanding People of the 20th Century. Given to her by The
International Biographical Centre of Cambridge.

2000: Gold Medal in Science and Peace, Albert Schweitzer International
University. She later change the name of the medal to "Conmemorative Medal", but
still from the "prestigous" ASU...

She was featured as a diet expert in VG's "", and due to her suspicous resume, VG ended their co-operation with "dr" Briketvedt.

And there is even more. Her PhD is real enough, it's from 1995 in Tromsø. But one article, published in British Medical Journal, the editor was really suspicous about the content. However, acording to an interview with Dagbladet he couldn't prove that the data was fictitious, so he had to publish it. Nobody has later been able to reproduce the results from the article, and the conclusions have been deemed faulty.

I will follow this case and see what comes out of it.

VG has done a follow up.
Check out the home page of the Albert Schweitzer International University for some fun reading. It even has links to more fake institutions!

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The physical volume to space filling discrepancy

In optics, an object like a particle has an actual physical diameter and corresponding volume, and an optical diameter which may be vastly different from the actual physical dimensions. The optical diameter of a particle is decided mainly by the particle's absorption and scattering cross sections, meaning that a dense, electron rich particle will be filling up more space when viewed by optical means than what it's physical dimensions would otherwise dictate. Basically, this is one of the properties which make plasmonics cool.

Interestingly, there are some similarities with how much space a person apparently occupies in a crowded room. Essentially, the amount of space a minute motherfu*ker can take up can often vastly exceed the physical dimensions of said skinny twerp. What we're talking about here is an alternative explanation of the well-known small dude syndrome (SDS), wherein the ratio of apparent space filling and physical volume is primarily decided by the cross-section, or density, of the sum of ego and sociopathic tendencies. Think of it as 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag. When the SDS-afflicted hobbit is silent - something which rarely occurs - physical symptoms may include ILS (Invisible Lat Syndrome, or the carrying of invisible suitcases) for the gym-going version of this small fraction of a person. Upon speaking, symptoms of SDS often manifest themselves as breaking into other people's conversations via bypassing of common courtesy in order to ask any trivial and/or inane question the small, but dense douchebag may have worked out for the occasion. During meetings or presentations, SDS can manifest itself by asking questions which have little to do with the presented material only to ignore the answer and go off on a tangent of arrogance and ignorance in equal measures. I conclude my post with the following visual aid:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Insight for the Ignorant: Applying for a job

Writing an application for a job such as a post doc position isn't always straightforward, and there are many potential pitfalls. One has to try and stand out while at the same time trying to conform to expressed and hidden agendas. However, there are certain things one can do which both helps with the organization of the application and aids in making one's application look serious. One thing to keep in mind is to READ THE F*KING ANNOUNCEMENT at least well enough to notice a large section in bold-face giving a detailed list of which attachments to include and then make good and damned sure you conform to this list. Failing to provide the documents clearly and specifically listed in the announcement tells the hiring committee at least one in five things about the applicant, none of them good:
  1. Applicant can't provide said documentation and is thus not qualified
  2. Applicant doesn't bother to read the announcement carefully and thus isn't what you can hope for in a potential hire
  3. Applicant is not skilled enough in the language of the announcement to understand what's required - which in most cases means that applicant lacks skills in Norwegian AND English. Consequently, the applicant isn't qualified to work in an international work environment with minimal English skills being required.
  4. Applicant is too stupid to understand the announcement...
  5. Applicant is unable to control his or her ego even at this stage, and thus ignores the rules in favor of how the applicant would prefer to organize the application. DEFINITELY not one to hire.

I got roped into being on one of them committees - does it show?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Three movies for a fever weekend

My ass got thoroughly kicked by fever this weekend, so what better to do than to watch some movies? Starting with:

Monster's Ball
Halle Berry raked in an Oscar for her performance in this 2001 movie, and I remember it was all the rage back then. We bought this movie for 39 NOK, and I doubt we'll ever watch it again. The movie was bizarre, to say the least. Imagine "Deliverance" merged with a PBS after school special about interracial and intercultural understanding in the deep South, mixed in with gratuitous sex scenes often involving the village prostitute, neither of which seem to have anything to do with the plot. There's also some "deep thoughts" about capital punishment which definitely don't resonate with me, a suicide and a hit&run resulting in vehicular manslaughter of a kid. The only way I can understand why this thing won an Oscar would be if there were fewer movies made than there were Oscar statues available that year, but I think we know that's not true. By the way; Heath Ledger should've at least ditched his Australian accent when portraying an inbred Georgia prison guard. Oh freakin' well.

Must Love Dogs
Romantic comedy from 2005 starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. A divorced, 40-something pre-school teacher (Lane) is introduced to internet dating after her sister puts her profile on a dating site. Through this ad, she has to sift through numerous losers before she finds "The One", via several complications, natch. Pretty good rom com, and an overall feelgood movie. If ya liked "Sleepless In Seattle", "You've Got M@il" and "It Could Happen To You", then you'll like this one.

The 1978 classic with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as Danny Zuko and Sandra Olsson, respectively. I'm not sure if I've ever seen the entire movie before, and I know that I've mixed up several scenes with "Footloose" in the past, but now I've seen the original high-school musical, and I have to admit it was really good. The music - composed by Barry Gibb - really fits, and one can really see where many more recent high school movies have based their main set on Rydell High. Checketh it out if ya haven't seen it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

GQ4: Deguello - Round 6

Deguello - Sixth round, no bonus point.

Submit your answers to mfactorquiz (at) by the end of Friday 111408. Each song holds the potential of two points - one point for artist and one point for the song. Answers will be posted on Saturday 111508.

Song number 206:

Song number 207:

Song number 208:

Song number 209:

Song number 210:

Results GQ4: Deguello - Round 5

..the answer to the bonus question was "Classic Rock" or simply "Rock'n'Roll". With that in mind, the songs were:
  • Song 201: ZZ Top - Rough Boy. Perhaps one of the powerballads with the least powerballad-y lyrics out there. Love the pinched harmonics though.
  • Song 202: Aerosmith - Dream On. Although I also accepted Eminem with Sing For The Moment, seeing as how nothing about the recording could distinguish between the two, and since Aerosmith re-recorded the song for Mr. Mathers. One of y'all answered that the artist here was the Yngwie Malmsteen/Dio collaboration on the Aerosmith tribute album. If wishing made it so, this recording would indeed have sounded like Yngwie.
  • Song 203: The Beatles - I Saw Her Standing There. You're right Pigeon - all the Beatles songs from this era sound exactly the same.
  • Song 204: Chuck Berry - Johnny B. Goode. If you've had the pleasure(?) of giving guitar lessons and organizing band rehearsal for junior high school kids in exchange for the school giving you free access to the rehearsal space, you're very familiar with this one.
  • Song 205: Creedence Clearwater Revival - Proud Mary. Actually, I think this version is closer to Ike/Tina Turner, and I certainly accepted both answers.
Nevertheless, the Round 5 scores look like this:
  1. Sondre (10 points)
  2. Cathy (9 points)
  3. Torbjørn a.k.a. T-bombz (8 points)
  4. Anders (7 points)
  5. Pigeon (5 points)
  6. Marius (4 points)
The Total Score
after the fifth round is:
  1. Sondre (32 points)
  2. Torbjørn (27 points)
  3. Cathy/Pigeon (tied at 25 points)
  4. ...
  5. Anders (21 points)
  6. Marius (18 points)
Congrats to Sondre
and good luck with round 6!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


For those of you not versed in Japanese, karoshi basically means death from overwork. In Japan this type of death occurs frequently enough so as to warrant it's own category in statistics. The reason I bring it up now, is that for the last two days, we've had a visit from a Japanese colleague (Associate Professor) who plans on spending his sabbatical working in our lab. In talking to him and learning about how the life of a tenured faculty member proceeds in Japan, I couldn't help but remember an old post about a teacher who was whining and complaining about how underappreciated, underpaid and overworked she was. To quote the dumbass in question, she uttered that "Eg har venar i alle yrke, og ingen arbeider meir og tener mindre enn meg" ("I've got friends in all professions, and nobody works more and earns less than me").

For the benefit of said dumbass, here's a brief overview of the average week of my Japanese colleague.
  • Get up at 6:30-7 AM. Hope to see wife and four year old daughter before it's off to work.
  • Just before 8 AM: Get to train station for the 1 hour commute to university
  • 9 AM to 6 PM: Teach undergraduate and graduate classes, including laboratory.
  • 6 PM to 10:30 PM: Advise students and do own research.
  • 10:30 PM: Mosey on down to the train station for 1 hour commute home.
  • ~11:30 PM: Get home way after daughter has gone to sleep
  • Repeat
The pay ain't much to brag about either, and let me assure you that considering the years of education involved and the relative costs of living in Japan and Norway, the dumbass teacher is making way more than my honorable Japanese colleague.

Differently put; I seriously doubt that karoshi occurs among Norwegian teachers.

Palin the genius


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The US election

At this point the results are clear in almost every state. As I implied in an earlier post, Obama's victory didn't come as a surprise to me. But I did not see the margin he is winning with: It seems that Obama gets more then double the electoral college votes. It did not see that coming, and I'm really impressed. Congrats are in order here.

On a side note: It's weird following the votes, since in the US, the Democrats are "blue" and the Republicans are "red". In the rest(?) of the world, it's normal to call the political left side "red" and the right side "blue". Og well...

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Congrats President-elect Obama

It's a really good thing that the President-elect of the US is intelligent. The alternative involved the very real possibility of having this as POTUS within the first term of a McCain presidency:

You just KNOW that a candidate is whack when not only the candidate herself is a blithering idiot, but even the staffers preparing her notes and speeches.

Congrats, President-elect Obama. Now make with the changes.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Phase one complete

Today I finished running the series of experiments needed for an upcoming "methods" article. It's all been done and reproduced in seven days' worth of lab work, including the initial fumbling by me, a switcheroo of our model system, and some troglodyte bumping into the equipment. Not bad for a week's work - not bad at all.

What's even better is that the results more than confirm our initial hypothesis, further improving the odds of getting the future article into the journal we're aiming for. Two things remain; (i) working up the data properly and (ii) writing the actual article. Of the two, the data work-up is sure to be the most tedious and time-consuming. Still, it's not purely wishful thinking to aim for a December submission to the journal in question.

Hellz yezz!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

GQ4: Deguello - Round 5

Deguello - Fifth round, with a possible bonus point. What genre do all the songs in this round belong to?

Submit your answers to mfactorquiz (at) by the end of Friday 110708. Each song holds the potential of two points - one point for artist and one point for the song. Answers will be posted on Saturday 110808.

Song number 201:

Song number 202:

Song number 203:

Song number 204:

Song number 205:

Results GQ4: Deguello - Round 4

Really now.....the songs were:
  • Song 196: Iron Maiden - Phantom Of The Opera. When playing dual guitar lines it's important that both guitar tracks are completely in sync. Otherwise it might sound like the ascending tremolo run here.......
  • Song 197: Van Halen - 316. Very famous instrumental by Van Halen, named after the birthday of Eddie VH's son Wolfgang.
  • Song 198: Gary Moore - Out In The Fields. Awesome song by Gary Moore, from the time when he was a rock guitar monster. The version where Phil Lynott sits in on vocal and bass is just astonishing.
  • Song 199: Metallica- Sad But True. The best version of this song is called "American Badass" and was recorded by Kid Rock. Also Sad But True. Man did we have to play this snoozefest (from a guitar player's standpoint) of a song often back in teh 90's...
  • Song 200: Iron Maiden - The Prisoner. From "The Number Of The Beast"- great tune, and it really hauls ass at about 195 bpm.
One of y'all really came through in this round, leaving everyone else in the dust, as can be seen from the Round 4 scores:
  1. Torbjørn (6 points)
  2. Marius/Pigeon (tied at 4 points)
  3. ...
  4. Cathy/Sondre (tied at 2 points)
  5. ...
  6. Anders (who scored a big, fat zero in this round)
The Total Score
now looks like this:
  1. Sondre (22 points)
  2. Pigeon (20 points)
  3. Torbjørn (19 points)
  4. Cathy (16 points)
  5. Anders/Marius (tied at 14 points)
Congrats to Torbjørn
and good luck with round 5!