Tuesday, June 30, 2009

..and now a word from Michael Jackson's trainer

Michael Jackson's trainer, one Lou Ferrigno, claims that Jackson was in fantastic shape prior to his death, according to abcnews.com. I see that the story has also been picked up by VG nett.

Lou Ferrigno...that name might sound familiar. In case you can't figure out exactly who he is, allow me to provide an approximately chronological resume for Mr. Ferrigno while you read the abcnews.com story (yes; it is relevant for the connection to Michael Jackson). His first bout with fame came through professional bodybuilding back in the mid 70's, where he was known as a true mass monster, going one-on-one with such notables as Ken Waller, Serge Nubret and some guy who went on to aquire a modicum of fame - Arnold Schwarzenegger. Notably, Ferrigno went up against Arnold in the 1975 Mr. Olympia - the Superbowl of pro bodybuilding - and got his ass handed to him. In case you're interested, this has been immortalized in the cult movie "Pumping iron", where Arnold displays the most impressive psych-out I have ever seen.

Losing to Arnold in his prime is no shame, and it just so happens that Ferrigno could've been the next big thing in pro bodybuilding. Ferrigno also tried his hand at the "World's Strongest man" competitions, but never reached the top echelons. He even had a stint in the Canadian Football League (League Futebole de Mexico Norte, or CFL for short) as a defensive lineman for some Toronto team whose name escapes me, but it didn't last very long. However, the moderate success of "Pumping Iron" lead to Hollywood giving him a call, and in perhaps the smartest move of his career, Ferrigno parlayed his physique and 15 minutes of fame into the role as "The Incredible Hulk" opposite Bill Bixby. Just to clarify; Bixby portrayed the mild-mannered scientist Dr. Bruce Banner, whereas Ferrigno took care of all the green scenes. Following the cancellation of "The Incredible Hulk", Ferrigno landed some lead roles in B-action flicks such as "Hercules" and "Cage" (plus all the sequels), where it became painfully obvious that he maxed out his acting skills by screaming and flexing with his clothes all torn up and with green paint on his body.

When in doubt, return to the well, and so Ferrigno's pro bodybuilding career was resuscitated through the short-lived World Bodybuilding Federation -a pet project of one Vincent Kennedy McMahon, evil billionaire and supreme ruler of pro wrestling. Back in his element, Ferrigno was doing really well for himself. Until Vinnie Mac and then WWF got in trouble with the FDA for *gasp* suspicions of steroid abuse in pro wrestling. Even Hulk Hogan himself was forced to admit that he'd been on gear, and all of a sudden Titan Sports (WWF's parent company) was under severe scrutiny. As a consequence, the WBF actually instituted stringent drug testing of all their athletes. At the athletes' meeting where McMahon informed the bodybuilders of this fact, Ferrigno allegedly exclaimed "F*ck this; this is bullshit", and immediately left. He didn't go very far. The rival bodybuilding federation IFBB - where he used to compete back in the 70's - welcomed him back with open arms. Seeing as how Mr. Ferrigno now was in his 40's and he was significantly bigger and better defined than he was in his 20's, some naysayers claimed he must've injected a whole semetary's worth of human growth hormone for his appearance at the 1992 (I think) Master's Olympia. Those people claiming that pro bodybuilders re on steroids are probably just jealous - unlike the WBF, IFBB didn't actually test any of their athletes, but Mr. Ferrigno has since stated that he was clean for that competition, and what possible reason would he have to lie?

Following his second pro bodybuilding run, Ferrigno stayed away from the public spotlight for quite some time. Again, some jealous haterade-drinkers might have said that this absence from the spotlight was involuntary, but I'm sure Mr. Ferrigno just needed some time to replenish his creative energy. After all, when he reappeared, he did so in a spectacular fashion worthy of his A-level celebrity status - he appeared briefly on "Dancing With The Stars". That's not to say that Mr. Ferrigno sat on his hands for the better part of a decade -far from it. In bodybuilding circles (and ironically also among sci-fi fans), he's known as Mr. $20 due to his propensity for showing up at bodybuilding shows and expos (as well as sci-fi conventions) to capitalize on his "The Incredible Hulk" status and his former bodybuilding glory. Mr. Ferrigno will charge any and all $20 for a photo - even if someone has just paid for his autographed photo, a t-shirt and a DVD. If you want your picture taken with him, fork over the $20. In fact, he's even known for walking up to people who took crowd shots at expos and demanding his $20 if he suspects that he was in the shot.

Oh well - I'll conclude this short bio of the life and times of Lou Ferrigno by mentioning that he presently has a recurring cameo in "King of Queens".

So; have you read the abcnews.com story yet or what? Jeesh - how long can it take? That's ok though - read the abcnews.com story and get back to me. I'll wait.

Alrighty then; now that we're on the same page, you might have noted some weird statements from Mr. Ferrigno in that piece. Like "He might have been a little thin because he was under a lot of stress training for the tour, but when I put him through the routine and verything, I mean, he was just fine." So; in the professional opinion of one personal trainer, Jackson, being 5'10" (~180 cm) and weighing about 50 kilo, was fine? On the topic of Jackson's strict diet, he goes on to say "I think he was a vegetarian. And he only ate once a day. But I just told him the proper supplements to take" So lemme' get this straight since it's been a while since I've PT'd: Ferrigno, his personal trainer, for whom one would assume that knowing his client's diet would be of some priority - thinks his client is a vegetarian and that he only eats once a day? Considering that Ferrigno was the one suggesting what supplements to take (where again those haterade-guzzlers mentioned above might think that a former pro bodybuilder assigned to get an aging celebrity in shape for a crucial concert tour might suggest that said supplements don't come over the counter, and that some poor assistant had to make several trips to the mexican pharmacy), this is pretty bad.

Way to be a personal trainer, Lou.

Five weeks of parenthood

It's almost hard to believe that today, it's five weeks since Viktor was born. Five weeks, one kilo and ~200 diapers, to be more precise. Already, much has happened - he seeks eye contact, he smiles a lot, he's very interested in (or bored by) his surroundings, he can lift his head, and he's started to realize that there's a difference between night and day. There's constantly something new, and every day is definitely live without a net, this being our first baby and all.

Viktor is an awesome little dude, and although we're sometimes tired and worn out, everything is forgotten when he shoots us a smile.

Green as though we may be, we've started to identify some less than absolute truths we've been told/have read and some purchases that turned out to be less than brilliant. Perhaps the first thing we noticed, was exactly how much space a stroller occupies in the car. We've got a Ford Focus station wagon, and in reality there's insufficient luggage space for us to, for example, go on extended road trips. The main problem is that the stroller is just a little bit too big to fit in line with the car, and so we have to cram it in sideways. This arrangement effectively puts the kibosh on any chance of for example stuffing additional suitcases and bags in there. Sure; there's plenty of room above the stroller, but that's not really a good idea considering that there's no physical obstruction between the trunk and the second row of seats, where Viktor sits. Just out of curiosity I've been checking out stats for supposedly bigger cars on the ol' interweb, and to my surprise very few cars (outside of VW Transporters and such) have bigger - in the sense of longer - luggage compartments. Apparently any extension of the car has been directed towards the passenger area. This is going to pose a problem next summer, when a road trip is within the realms of possibility.

Some products have shown to absolutely indispensable, like the diaper bucket and the base for the car seat. Other products have turned out to be a 100%, guaran-damn-teed, grade A fiasco, despite looking absolutely awesome on papyrus. For example; when we bought the car seat, we also purchased a mirror contraption (a mirror within a beanie animal) which is hooked onto the back of the seat (not the kiddie seat). This is meant to have the dual function of a) the child being able to amuse him/herself, and b) the parents being able to check up on the kid via the rear view mirror (dual reflections, dontcha' know). This product had tremenduous appeal, yet upon installing it became patently obvious that there is one significant design flaw; the upper part of the car seat obscures the line of sight between the two mirrors. If you are of or above normal height, that is. To be fair to the manufacturer of this product, there are two possible ways for it to function as described: 1) the passenger seats could be at a lower level than the driver's seat. I don't know of any cars with this feature, and the reciprocal solution 2) - having a booster cushion in the driver's seat. However, option 2) only works if your stature is such that people expect you to live on the Shire and keep asking about your uncle who supposedly jacked a ring from a dragon. Barring that, the mirror-thingy is completely worthless.

One step up from absolutely worthless, we find products with functionality but severe design flaws. Our diaper-changing station dresser with built-in bathtub falls squarely within this category. The diaper-changing station and the- well - drawers function just fine, and technically I guess the bathtub also functions, but not within earshot of fine. The problem, you see, is that in order to empty the built-in tub, the water has to flow out through an attached hose with diameter which heavily suggests that capillary forces rather than bulk flow properties are predominant. Put differently, it takes about 90 minutes to drain less than 15 L. You might see how this becomes annoying.
Coincidentally; if you're among the ones who claim that a) infants sleep most of the day, and/or b) if a baby is crying, a trip in the stroller is a sure-fire way to get the baby to sleep, feel free to go fuck yourself you might be surprised to learn that your advice is less than universally applicable.
My summer vacation is coming up in approximately one week, and it's going to be great to spend some more quality time with Viktor.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Flickr update plug 062909

A li'l bit o' this and a li'l bit o' that.

Web page blues some more

In May, I wrote about how every faculty member had to create his/her own professional web page by June 15th. This directive came from higher up, and it was not presented as a voluntary activity.

Like a schnuck I did what I was asked and delivered well before the deadline, just to be sure that it'd get done before our son was born.

Well; two weeks after the deadline, the results are in with regards to percentage complete at the different departments. The two departments with highest completion rate ranked at ~70%. In contrast, "my" department pimp-strolled in with a 16% rate of completion, which means that only myself and six other schnucks among the scientific and administrative staff actually bothered to follow up on the directive. And my department was not the one with the lowest completion rate either.

What's worse is that the beureaucratic instance who issued the order only had a completion rate of 42% - less than half of the staff followed through on their own directive.

It's a miracle that other faculty members haven't taken my lunch money yet. Or it could be because not a single soul actually bothers to look for or even less read these official web pages and thus nobody knows. At any rate, I sure got well doinked with my pants on.

Friday, June 26, 2009

R.I.P Michael Jackson

Despite all the "eccentricities" and other issues, there's no doubt that Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. R.I.P.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Now with proper interweb connection at home

Finally we've got proper internet access at home. When we moved here, we counted on the cable company to provide us with internet service. In theory, cable companies have the massive advantage of already having this huge cable with which to transmit signals hooked up to your - or in this case our - house. In theory, cable tv providers ought to be able to kick the phone companies' collective asses when it comes to internet access. In practice however, I now subscribe to Scott Adams' theory that cable providers are staffed with people who couldn't get jobs with phone companies. This very much mirrors our experience of having the cable provider supplying us with interweb - or not, as the case turned out. If the line was stable for more than a half our, it was a really good day. Moreover, we weren't exactly surfing the web at the speed of light. Nor were we surfing the web at the transfer rates we paid for. When the interweb really crapped out on us and we had roughly the same odds of getting on the web and stumbling across the Loch Ness monster while it collected its Lotto winnings, I called the cable provider tech support hotline, where a friendly voice informed me that I could find more information regarding my particular problem on their web page. Or in the native dialect: "Du fijnn meir ijnnformassjon på nættsijann' vårræs".

Thanks for nothin'

Phase two was to get a hold of a mobile broadband connection from netcom. We'd tested one out and came to the conclusion that it was fast enough for our purposes, and it really was. For a while. The problem was that it took forever and a day to launch the browser, but in truth this was probably due to the computer we were using, which was not exactly state-of-the-art. A little over six months later, teh mobile broadband connection slowed down for inexplicable reasons, and started to become increasingly unstable. Which is great fun when you're using the online banking services, for example. Enter phase three.

This time, we were going to get proper interweb, dammit. So we purchased a brand spankin' new, kickass laptop (in other words not Dell) and ordered ADSL through Telenor. The modem and junk was supposed to arrive within ten days. If you're guessing that it didn't arrive on time and that an unforseen problem arose, congrats. Step forward and claim your prize - a big bag of nuthin'.

Despite being among the first to be informed of our new address when we moved last April, the douchebag who took my order somehow managed to send it to our old address, which meant the original order had to be annulled and another one initiated. Which meant another ten days of waiting. This time Telenor managed to ship the package to the correct address, and we got to work on setting up the connection. After all, the first sales weasel had told me that the installation procedure was pretty much foolproof unless I had severe technology issues, so I hedged my bets on my wife and I having the necessary tech skills if we pooled our resources. As it turned out, it was pretty much plug'n'play - in theory.

In practice, the very first window we arrived at when running the installation procedure asked whether we had a home alarm system, in which case we needed a servide guy to install it, or odds were the alarm wouldn't be functional anymore. Bummer. Despite this being among the very first alternatives we encountered upon running the installation procedure, the douchemeister who took my order never bothered to ask us whether we had an alarm system. 'Cause you know; getting a service guy to show up takes time.

Next step was to call the broadband patrol ("Bredbåndspatruljen"), in the hopes of getting a time table more narrow than "Yeah; we'll be there some time between now and November". I made the first call to the broadband patrol a week ago, and I was immediately impressed by the fact that they had somehow managed to construct an automated phone service less effective than what the tax and social security offices have. As you call them up, you're greeted by a friendly voice telling you that "In order to connect you to the office closest to you, please press your zip code now." Kewl. Having done that, the same friendly voice told me the following: "You've got the following options: For the southern part of Norway, press 1. For the eastern part of Norway,press 2. ..." What the hell? And having selected the proper area I still had to go through another two options in order to reach the branch office closest to us.

Why in the blue hell would one have to go through that when the first thing you do is enter your zip code?

Oh well; one week later, after several repeat calls to the local branch office and a total number of return calls from the service guy of zero, dude just showed up today with less than a half hour notice. Nevertheless; we've got a functional interweb connection!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Opposites attract

Friday we peeped in a television feature about evolution. I missed the intro so I didn't catch the title, but after a while I realized that the old, stuffy centerpiece of the show was a certain Richard Dawkins, patron saint of the sceptics. Despite having read some of his work and even listened to a couple of interviews, I'd actually never laid my eyes on him before. Oh well.

As I got into the show, it started reasonable enough; Dawkins was being depicted interacting with some creationists who turned out to be complete whackjobs, complete with a belief that the Earth is 6000 years old, man and dinosaurs roamed the earth together - the works. Being perhaps the foremost defender of Darwinism, Dawkins was arguing his points, at first appearing to be rational and at least borderline sane. They even showed a segment where Dawkins opened his email (on a Mac) to reveal a number of threatening messages from religious nutjobs, including but not limited to "You're going to burn in Hell, sinner".

Then all of a sudden Dawkins started writing third-party checks in the name of science that are doomed to bounce. While discussing with an American evangelical something-or-other, said nutjob starts mentioning controversies within the framework of Darwinism, when Dawkins interrupts, claiming that "There is no controversy and no missing evidence within the theory of evolution".

Now; I am definitely in favor of the theory of evolution, and if the alternative is creationism, I'm even more in favor of it. However; if Dawkins' statement had been true, nobody would have cared about the discovery of Ida, for example. Then it really took a left turn.

Dawkins went on to make one horrific statement after another, displaying a boundless faith in the infallibility of current scientific understanding of physical processes that was eerily reminiscent of religious extremism - just substitute the word "science" for "God", and you're there. All of a sudden, Dawkins was more or less the leader of a cult of personality, with himself being the One to know All Truths. For example, I did not know that science has completely cracked the genetic code and that we now know exactly where all traits can be traced to and how to tailor DNA to our every whim. It got worse still.

While talking to some high school science teachers, Dawkins called the teachers cowards because they taught evolution but didn't try to dissuade the students from having religious beliefs by "convincing them through science". Later, while hanging out with another old curmudgeon, the geriatric duo were laughing about how preposterous religion was, and that based on science, the thought of an afterlife is laughable.

Here it should be mentioned neither of the two old coots in question really qualify as hard scientists. Dawkins is an ethologist and evolutionary biologist, and the other old salt was a soft science schnuck as well. Moreover, Dawkins is not known for his science so much as for being a very good polemic writer.

One of the things I find intriguing about science - hard science, not some Macintosh and goatee branch - is that there is SO MUCH about very fundamental things we don't know. There are so many discoveries still to be made, which I personally find to be exciting. I physically cringe when zealots like Dawkins extol how science can currently explain everything when I know that, for example, we can't at present come up with any universal mechanistic description of how proteins interact with interfaces. We don't know whether small drugs and peptides interact with membranes through specific ligands or by membrane fluidity. Does crystallization of metal particles occur through single crystal growth or via an aggregation mechanism? Polymer glasses - kinetic phenomenon or true second order phase transition? And could you hook a brother up with the exact solutions to wavefunctions beyond Hydrogen while you're at it?

More to the point, there's something known as interpolation and another thing called extrapolation for data sets. As (hopefully) all hard scientists and statisticians know, the accuracy of interpolation vastly exceeds extrapolation. Thus, making conclusive claims about there being no afterlife based on science is a fantastic way to demonstrate that you suck as a scientist. Unless, that is, Dawkins and a couple of his cronies have returned from the dead to report on the conditions enough times to warrant a Gaussian distribution. Personally I don't think he has. Looking like death warmed over is not conclusive evidence of having journeyed beyond the grave repeatedly.

Wildly exaggerating the limits of current scientific understanding hardly helps science. The willingness to drink the Dawkins Kool-Aid and swing from his balls without any critical thought at all is why I'm unwilling to accept the label of sceptic. To my mind, the only favorable distinction between Dawkins and religious extremists is that Dawkins and his ballswingers are less likely to commit acts of terrorism.

Flickr update plug 062209

...now including sephia

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Seat belt trouble

VG found the story of Stine Marie Bringsli and her seat belt problems after a boob-job worthy front page coverage in on their online paper. Ms. Bringsli, shown at the left, demonstrating how the seat belt would slide up and strangle her within two seconds, got a ticket from the police for not using the seat belt mandatory. Basically, she had breat implants and wearing the seat-belt the normal, mandatory way wouldn't work for her, partly because the enlarged breasts would make the belt slide up to her neck and partly because her nipple where too sore and tender after the operation (anybody but me who sees these two arguments as mutual exclusive?). So she opted for wearing the seatbelt over her tummy and under her arm. Which the police didn't like, and since she didn't have a medical statement for her problem, she was issued a ticket. Which she found unfair, due to her "medical condition".

I got three comments about this story:

1. WTF???
2. Is the news week so slow that this is worthy front page coverage?
3. I try to be open minded and not stereo-type (glamour) models as mindless bimbos. Why do they keep doing that sooooo difficult for me?

...and I'm not going into the whole cosmetic surgery debate, female rolemodel, etc, etc.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Damn near perfect song for teh weekend

Pagan's Mind with "Aegean Shores":

Have a nice weekend!

The whitest bluesman in the business...

...at least according to Keith Richard. And Taj Mahal has leaned more towards a pop-ish world music lately, but when I find old clips like this, it does remind me that he used to be a great blues and soul artists back in the 60's and 70's. A characteristic voice and a very decent songwriter (he's the man behind She Caught The Katy of Blues Brother fame),

Here are two clips for your enjoyment this rainy Friday.

Cakewalk into town.

Leavin' Trunk

Have a great weekend, y'all!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Connect the dots

The government has approved a proposal by Trondheim municipality wherein Trondheim aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% within 2018. The local rag - web edition - has stories on it here and here. To accomplish this, Trondheim has gotten governmental funding to the tune of 700 MNOK earmarked for pedestrian and bicycle lanes, as well as improvement of E6, including a new bridge at Sluppen. In doing so, public transportation, i.e. bus transport, will move more smoothly.

How will Trondheim municipality contribute with their share of the money? You guessed it - reintroduction of toll booths, local increases in fuel prices and rush hour fees. That way those who pollute the most will have to pay their fair share, dammit.

I'm not going to whine about how the reason there's rush hour to begin with is that people have to travel to and from work in Trondheim, without which there would be no revenue to be had for the municipality. Rather, I'd like to point out the following:
  • There's absolutely nothing in this proposal - supposedly the first step in the process, with none of the subsequent steps being defined in terms of number, timeline or content - about increasing the capacity or lowering the prices of public transportation. Trondheim buses aren't exactly empty at the moment.
  • With Trondheim municipality being the size it is, it's not exactly hard to drive an extra ten minutes, perhaps in conjunction with shopping at one of the malls in the Trondheim outskirts - to fill up on fuel in, say, Malvik. Besides, a lot of the commuters travel in to Trondheim from the surrounding municipalities as well, so all they have to do is buy their fuel closer to home. I'm sure the gas station owners in Trondheim are thrilled about this, seeing as there's absolutely no evidence to support that the total consumption of gas will subside. On the other hand, it's pretty safe to say that when people are willing to sit on a bus for two hours to purchase bacon at half price in Sweden, they'll drive ten more minutes to gas up outside of Trondheim.
  • Last I checked, people still need to get to work, and walking isn't a realistic option for most. With no expansion and/or price reduction for public transportation, there's no alternative to the current mode of transportation mode, in which case everything's the same, only more expensive, meaning more revenue for the municipality. Oh, and those of us who commute by car also get the added bonus of being labelled as big-time polluters despite the lack of an alternative.
  • A few years back, Trondheim municipality sold its power plant with a hyooge profit. Rather than save the money for a rainy day or invest in local business or infrastructure, everything was invested in the stock market. With the current financial crisis, Trondheim is pretty much broke, which on the scale of things brings us close to the same level as the Terra municipalities.

Now; I'm sure Trondheim's need for cash inflow doesn't have anything to do with the plans for increasing taxes and cost of living without providing anything in return.......right?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Off-campus project meetings are hard work

Damn straight they are. Yesterday's project meeting at the University of Oslo - including the travel - was a cool 14 hours in total. All things considered, this wasn't bad at all - it needed to happen and good things came out of it. The travel part is what sucks, but I'll go to great lengths in order to be able to sleep at home rather than doing the dinner + hotel song and dance or worse - the lunch-to-lunch (including dinner) thing.

Despite all kinds of technological advances, face time is irreplaceable for project meetings - and that's not including the social/networking aspects. All of the available alternatives are hampered by severe drawbacks. Email and e-room type of exchanges are notoriously prone to misunderstandings. Moreover, some people have a tendency to up the aggro when communicating online, which does nothing for the working climate. Besides, everyone must be on the same page technology-wise - including preferred software - when doing the e-room thing. I've never witnessed or participated in a phone conference with more than three participants that wasn't a gigantic clusterf*ck. especially if there are some language issues. Video conferences are hampered by much of the same, in addition to file transfer issues depending on the transmission quality in some countries.

The airport thing gets really old really fast though. Yesterday, the Gods of Travel were angry. It started quite promising, my TRD-OSL flight boarded on time and the Captain informed us that the eta was expected to be well in advance of schedule due to excellent flight conditions. This turned out to be somewhat optimistic. A while after take-off, the very same Captain informed us that they had a warning light on. Not good. This particular warning light indicated that a hatch was not properly closed. Definitely not good - especially with the Air France thing still fresh in memory. Thus we had to return to TRD - at low altitude and airspeed - to get the matter resolved or to board a different aircraft. The kicker: Five more minutes of flight time and it'd be quicker to continue to OSL.


Don't get me wrong - I'm definitely happy that they care about the aerodynamic state of the aircraft. I'm all about that. I was somewhat less thrilled that once on the ground, they decided to refuel, rotate the tires, stock the fridge and get dead last in line on the runway. Oh well.

Once in flight yet again, the crew informed us that those with connecting flights should contact the ground crew at OSL, who'd be happy to help. Yeah; if it's anything Gardermoen is known for, it's the service and positive atmosphere that just oozes from that place. No bonus points for guessing that my return flight was canceled. However, it wasn't canceled before they pulled ye olde bait'n'switch operation of changing gate number and not announce the delay until it was time to board.

Still, the meeting went really well, and we've got some absolutely awesome results that we'll pitch to a really high-impact journal.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Flickr update plug 061409

There's even one in sephia, Anders*

*Assuming that any ol' brownish hue can be referred to as sephia

Artists against file-sharing

So, the Norwegian Association for Composers and Lyricists (NOPA) has gone public and encouraged people not to vote Venstre, Rødt or SV, due to the said parties program of legalizing file-sharing. And, as we have discussed on this blog earlier, the main concern from the artist, is that none of the parties have a good plan for securing the income to the artist if file sharing is legalized. At least that's how I read it.

Personally, I think the worst part is Venstre's deputy chairman, Trine Skei Grande, who accuses the artist of being the record industry's puppets. Yeah, great respond to somebody who's concerned about their ability to make a living out of music...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Congrats on your chosen profession, Sherlock

Socialist Party (SV) politician Haitham El-Noush refuses to greet or shake hands with anyone from the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet). His epic reasoning: He doesn't respect Fremskrittspartiet's attitude towards minorities, and this is his way of demonstrating his contempt.

Congrats on your chosen profession, then. 'Cause politics ain't about diplomacy and compromises at all - just look at how much of your own party's program has dominated the coalition government's politics since y'all took office.

Odds are that El-Noush wouldn't have made much of a Secretary of State. If he doesn't want to greet a fellow Norwegian politician - from the second largest party no less - then he may not be the guy you want to depend on to uphold diplomatic relations.

Friday, June 12, 2009

TGIF: Chaos theory illustrated

Brutal cell phone camera flickr update

For whatever reason, most of my cell phone pics have crappy resolution, with some higher quality ones interspersed. Considering that I have not done anything to alter the settings and that I used the same procedure to transfer the pics, this is somewhat puzzling. As a result, all pics I've taken at various concerts (Firewind, Kamelot, A7F, Maiden) look more like Rohrshach blots than live shots, despite us being quite close to the stage for some of these.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Jumping on the photo bandwagon...

...so Wilhelm won't feel so alone with his photos. LOL
I do believe the Willster does have an edge on me when it comes to photo, but I still thought I should post some snaps here. First off, Bergen. Not too happy with the techical details here; the sky is too blurry. I know this is a common problem, so any tips are most welcome.

Then some snaps from my May trip to Warsaw. First of all, I was surprised by the many old, really well kept buildings, like this one:

Warsaw had some of the most modern skyskrapers I've seen:
A detail from the roof of a shopping mall. Not quite the effect I was hoping for, but a fun exercise regardless.

And, the salad I made last weekend, snapped with my new mobile phone. I do need to work a bit on my presentation, the salad looked so much better when it only contained ham and rocket salat. :-D

Flickr update plug 060709

...relentless self-promoter that I am

Norwegian White Trash

Unfortunately, white trash is distributed all across the land. They're quite easy to distinguish; they like motor sports (probably also actively participate, as illustrated above), their front yards are cluttered with broken-down cars (preferably American), power jacks, old bicycles and junk, and books (without pictures that fold out) are like Kryptonite to them. In short; Norwegian White Trash try as hard as they can to emulate American white trash, and for that reason, American White Trash >>> Norwegian White Trash.

Man; how I hope they don't vote.

Friday, June 5, 2009

TGI funny stuff (with a theme)

Seeing how it's time to consider family shots for some of us in here, here are some ideas. Thank me later.

Christmas is a great time for those cosy family shots. Somehow I missed the part of the Christmas tradition dealing with bunnies...

Reindeers on the other hand...

What about Bob?
For when “Robert” just isn’t enough to distinguish you.

And last, but not least, you can't go wrong with Vinnie The Pooh. This father was so relieved when he found out he was gonna be Eeyore.
Have a nice weekend, y'all!

Norwegian craftmanship

When we bought a stroller, we went with the Norwegian brand Simo after much deliberation. The reasons being that it has a reputation for being sturdy (plus four wheels for better winter handling), and it is Norwegian which holds the dual benefit of us supporting domestic industry and also that spare parts, if needed, will be close in proximity and thus quick to get a hold of.

So much for our reasoning; approximately two weeks ago we discovered a design flaw in the chassis and had to get a new one, and today the release-mechanism on the bag started falling apart.

Annoying. All the way annoying. Maybe they should've stuck with carving out trolls for tourists or knitting traditional Norwegian sweaters rather than manufacturing stuff that's supposed to have longevity.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Updated concert wish list

Although it's gonna be a while until we get to go to concerts, I've updated my previous concert wish list, based on a) reality (i.e. Ozzy with Randy Rhoads is out), b) recent concert experiences and c) live DVDs. Option c) isn't as ridiculous as it might seem; you get a pretty good feel for how much of a stage presence the band has, even though the actual sound is probably doctored like all getout (unless it's Kamelot, Yngwie or Maiden, in which case they can pull it off effortlessly). As a result of c), I've sadly deep-sixed any desire I once had to see the mighty Dream Evil live in concert - it's not a good sign when they're unable to muster any form of enthusiasm on their own live DVD. Anyhoo; here goes:
  • Yngwie J. Malmsteen I still haven't seen THE primary influence on my guitar playing live - this absolutely needs to be remedied.
  • Last Tribe Guitarist/songwriter extraordinaire Magnus Karlsson is presently gigging in Primal Fear and keeping up his various solo projects, but if the 'Tribe gets back together, I'm there.
  • Steve Vai Solo or in a G3 setting - the guitar nerd in me does not care.
  • Joe Satriani Same dealie as with Vai.
  • Kamelot Did any of y'all take my advice and check out their show two weeks ago? You should've, that's for sure. Even with Khan losing his voice, they were the best live act I've ever seen, and we're probably gonna catch them again next Spring in Oslo.
  • Angra The numero uno Brazilian melodic metal band is back together again, so there is hope.
  • Edguy Just got their live DVD, and Tobi Sammet is one of the best metal frontmen in the bidness. Old, Helloween-esque or new material, it doesn't matter to me.
  • Avantasia Tobi Sammet's side project is now on it's third album and is actually touring.
  • Symphony X NJ power/prog metal act. I'd love to see Mike Romeo's tapping sequences up close.
  • Firewind Seen them twice, in 2006 and 2008, and they improved massively between those gigs. I'm a big fan of their version of "true power metal".
  • Gamma Ray Their live DVD is absolutely awesome, and their albums keep getting better and better.
  • Extreme Yes; the band with "More Than Words". They've also got a truckload of a-material and one of the most underrated guitarists in metal. And they're back together.
  • Poison Might catch static for this choice, but I'm a total mark for their three-chord pop metal.
  • Iron Maiden Caught their "Somewhere back on tour" at Lerkendal last summer, and I'd love to see them again.
  • Pagan's Mind Norwegian prog/power metal. You might have heard their song "Aegean Shores"? No? Your loss, then.
  • Breed Norwegian thrash band, the closest thing to Pantera you'll ever see without Dimebag Darrel.
  • Billy Joel The Urban Springsteen is still going strong.
  • Roxette I really hope Marie Fredriksson is well enough to tour again in a year or two.
  • George Michael If he ever does the touring thing again.
  • The Kids Dag Ingebrigtsen and Torstein Flakne is a kick-ass combo.
  • deLillos Probably not going to be difficult to catch this Oslo west act, as they're perennial Fall semester openers at Samfundet.
  • Running Wild Unfortunately, Rolf Kasparek is calling it quits this summer at Wacken, but the odds of him reforming a version of the band some years down the road are favorable.
  • Gary Moore Provided he gets back to the hard rock genre.
  • W.A.S.P. Preferably with Chris Holmes on geetar.
  • Wig Wam What? Trond Holter is a monster guitar player and songwriter, I'll have you know.
  • Ole Evenrud Because Trond Holter was his guitar player and main songwriter. Songs like "Desperado" and "X-Ray Specs" are absolute classics, I tells ya.
  • Dream Police Another one of Trond Holter's old bands which has resurfaced
  • Dionysus Swedish/German neoclassic power metal band that called it quits after three albums, but there's hope that they might reunite down the road.
  • Mr. Big Yes; the hair metal band with "To Be With You" and "Daddy Brother Lover Little Boy". You see, they've got Paul Gilbert on guitar, which brings me to:
  • Paul Gilbert Dude is fast, dude is weird and dude plays ultraclean. Gilbert totally turned me on to strict alternate picking as opposed to the sweep/economy picking I've previously been peddling.
  • Brad Paisley Hands down the best country guitar player out there right now. And a fantastic front man to boot (pun intended)
  • Hammerfall These Swedes have grown on me lately.
  • Freedom Call Ultrahappy power metal.
  • Petter Sweden's best rapper by a country mile.
  • ZZ Top It'd be worth it if they play "Just Got Back From Baby's", "I Need You Tonight" and "Fool For Your Stockings"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Science and mass media

Last week I caught the Norwegian popular science TV show "Undring og Mangfald", featuring Professor Gro Vang Amdam. She was talking about adaptive behavior in bees (among other things), and I thought she was doing a really good job. She had obviously prepared herself well, and the host was on hand to ask for a clarification every time she used a complicated word or a term that the general population might be unfamiliar with.

In short, I thought it was an excellent general-interest show about a scientific topic, made in such a way as to appeal to the interested layperson.

Which probably means it's not at all well-suited to raise public interest in science, as getting my approval is akin to preaching to the choir. Besides, I'd get more out of reading her articles anyways.

So my question is; does a show like "Undring og Magnfald" put more asses in the seats (to add some crossover-appeal by using pro wrestling vernacular), or is it simply an outlet for the already converted? Like selling WoW tees at a loser convention? At the end of the day you need to make the decision to tune in to an educational type of show, which adds a significant bias. Unless this is something you're interested in watching, you're not likely to keep your digits off the 'mote. Which isn't a knock on the show at all, merely an observation.

Contrast this to sports, which are shoved down your throat in pretty much all media outlets. During the news, they talk about sports happenings (no matter how minute the event, like Marit Bjørgen threatening to retire following yet another loss) during the "general news" segment, and then again during the "sports" segment. If somewhere on the planet there's a soccer game involving some Norwegian scrubs, then BOOM: a slew of other shows are cancelled due not only to the schnoozefest, 0-0 on overtime extravaganza that is sure to follow, but also the pre-show game detailing the importance of scoring goals, and the experts' predictions, an intermission special with analysis of how while nothing has happened in the game so far, the teams are eager to score, and a post-game analysis detailing how the experts were right despite having failed at all their predictions, how the team that scored the most goals won, and that in soccer everything can happen (except for anything action-oriented). In newspapers, it's pretty much the same thing. Sports - especially soccer - rears its ugly head both in the general news and sports sections - there's no escape. And that's not counting the multitude of sports shows and -channels one would think saturated the market.

Maybe some reality show based on various research groups, where some contestants are voted out each week. The winners get temporary diplomatic immunity and half an hour alone in a room with Sudbø.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Epic soft science: Kindergarten edition

In this Saturday's edition of Dagbladet, there was a feature on how the different political parties viewed the government's role in child care, including kindergarten. This has become a much higher priority for me as of late, so I scoped it out. Beside the usual "If the Progress Party becomes part of a government coalition we will all have to live in cardboard boxes under bridges and highway overpasses while our children sew Persian carpets and soccer balls" partisan hyperbole*, the results and main conclusions of a recent Norwegian study on children in day care were presented. The study concluded that children who went to kindergarten were better socially adapted than children who didn't. According to the study, this could be attributed to the adaptive learning environment the kindergartens have to offer. On the same page, there was a small fact box stating among other things that 97% of Norwegian children presently attend kindergarten.

Now I'm not an expert in social sciences, but from the two pieces of information listed above I could tell you that they can't possibly draw this conclusion with any kind of certainty whatsoever. And by the way - I'm not deriding kindergartens when I say that; they're pretty much the only realistic alternative today. What I am saying, however, is that this is very much akin to concluding that almost all registered purchases of wine and liquor in Norway by private citizens happen at Vinmonopolet (the ABC store) because of the knowledgeable and service-minded staff.

Of course children get more social training in kindergarten when that's where 97% of children are. If your kid ain't in kindergarten, there are no other children around to play with and thus hard to socialize.

While I am not on a crusade against soft sciences, this is pretty damn descriptive of how soft science studies - at least the ones that make it to mainstream media - deal with analyzing statistical data. Perhaps not surprising, considering that those who embark on humanities studies avoid math and hard sciences like the plague - both from personal choice and because the high school system hardly facilitates overlap between the two.

*Note that this in no way, shape or form should be taken to mean that the Progress Party is likely to get my vote this upcoming Fall.

Flickr update plug 060109

Time to pimp some more photos at flickr.

..and yes; the update includes pictures of trees and flowers I don't know the names of.