Sådan är kapitalismen…

In the August issue of VI is an article by Elke Cronenberg about lobbyists in Brussels. It doesn't go all that far, finding that the connections between lobbyists and public servants are carefully kept opaque. Yet there is a very illuminating comment by Lena Ek*, MEP, who apparently has been talked into voting for relaxing the European substance testing legislation (REACH):

What do you say to a lone manufacturer of something as harmless as artificial raspberry flavouring? That she must run all the tests that are proposed now. How could she afford that? For a raspberry flavour?

Weeell… How do we know it is harmless unless it has been tested? (And we might of course not know even then, due to limitations in the testing procedure.)

As if prompted, Effect Measure writes about “popcorn worker's lung” (followup). Something as harmless as artificial butter flavouring destroys the lungs…

*See Lena Ek's own blogging on the matter.

As nerdy as it gets

Video combining Monty Python and Star Trek Classic, wonderful!

(Via Retrospectacle.)


Making fun of people

Avigsidan has always been a reliable source of found misprints, malapropisms and mistranslations.

Now, for the spoken word, Salto Sobrius has found no less than two eavesdropping sites, Tjuvlyssnat in Swedish and Overheard in New York in US English.

From the latter, something that really should be sad, but for some reason made me laugh hysterically:

Amherst alum: So we're looking over the applications, and there are all these amazing kids. Won the Westinghouse, worked for the UN. And the questions: "Who do you most look up to?" "My parents, because they're immigrants, and they taught me to work hard." And with each of them it's like, "in". And then we get to this one, it's like, "What's a recent intellectually stimulating experience?" The answer is, "I love my dog, walking my dog." Stuff like that. On and on, really ridiculous. And then, "Who do you most look up to?" The answer: "my parents, especially my dad. He's the President of the United States." And we look at each other, and Steve is like, "in."

And just to have something aviation oriented, Airline Pilots Forum has a thread on the funniest thing heard over the radio. Somewhat lower standards with the best quote being:

A former Shorts pilot told me about flying a white painted Shorts "Skypig" with brown trim. His rock bottom day as a pilot was when ATC told traffic behind him to "follow the white Shorts with the brown streak."


Finished model IV

A Ling-Temco-Vought A-7H Corsair II from the 345th squadron of the 115th Wing at Soudha Bay, Crete, c 1988. I'm gradually getting there with the airbrushing, but obviously I could do a lot better.


Brave researchers!

I have just received and listened through Slaughterhouse by Tonesucker.

The courageous Onoma researchers have methodically gone through all the settings on the fuzz box and guitar amplifier and recorded what they sound like, so that we others don't have to.

The results, while less easy to dance to, are easy listening and the rest of the family didn't complain even once during the one-hour session.

Their website has a piece from another Tonesucker performance available for downloading.


Oh, Small Cthulhu!

Cthulhu gets trapped in an alien world in Hello Cthulhu.


State of the art in asteroid defence

Those who saw my earlier ideas about pushing asteroids may compare with how CNES want to handle it.

And BTW, isn't “Sample” an absolutely brilliant name for a science correspondent?


The Imperial Symphonic Orchestra

The Imperial March performed with impeccable Dark Side Force.

Ute och cyklar…

My degree is in “human-computer interaction”, but I've never really liked the term, as computers are present in so many items we don't normally think of as computers, so I've tended to speak about human-machine interaction instead.

Today I was out biking and, as so often happens, I followed the signs and suddenly found myself in what seemed to be a cul-de-sac with no idea how to continue to my target. (In fact there was an exit further down the street, it just wasn't very visible.)

I found myself mumbling: “Is the appropriate action visible to the user?” And so it is: Nobody has performed a cognitive walkthrough of the bike lanes in Stockholm and that's why you so often end up in the wrong direction up a one-way street, on the wrong side of the road when the bike-lane is on the other side, etc. And indeed, it also indicated a weakness of cognitive walkthroughs as evaluative method—doing it on a map quite possibly would not have indicated how difficult it was to see the continuation of the street behind trees and houses, but would have required an inspection of the actual interface in action, so to speak.

So, maybe not even “human-machine interaction” is sufficiently descriptive and I should claim to work with human-artefact interaction.


Flying under the radar

I have on occasion met Swedish Creationists and there have even been some instances of them sneaking in creationist teaching in private schools, but mostly I have assumed that they can be safely ignored as a harmless fringe phenomenon. So I was startled by Thomas Anderberg noting in a column in Dagens Nyheter that the Swedish National Agency for Education recently condoned teaching of "intelligent design" in a Christian high school. Lärarnas tidning has an article on the subject and Arbetaren also has noted this. These articles are worried if not upset. There also has been a debate on Yelah, which mostly has been sensible. The headmistress of the high school in questions defends herself in a debate article in Expressen.

I was myself sufficiently outraged to send a letter to the responsible councillor at SNAE, Ingela Gullberg, pointing out that this is yet another attempt to chip away at rational thought and that backing of "intelligent design" is a sign of such a lack of scientific understanding that it cannot be accepted in a teacher in a state-sponsored school.

You may also want to discuss the matter. The email address is firstname.lastname@skolverket.se.

I'm on a roll

A Northrop F-20 Tigershark in factory demonstrator colours, ca 1983. Model from Airfix, scale 1/144. Awful crappy model…


Repaint, the bend is nigh!

Disconcerted, I find myself on the side of Bill Gates. The bizarre US organisation Focus on the Family vow to fight against the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation because they improve healthcare in the Third World, and that just happens to involve birth control as well. FotF claim to belong to those who believe endless population increase is necessary, though one suspects the real reason is that they are opposed to all birth control everywhere because sex should hurt.

Unfortunately, one cannot donate money to the Gates Foundation, but as I've argued before, a good start would be to support the population decrease in the First World.


Another one done

A J11 (Fiat CR 42) from 2nd Squadron, 9th Wing at Säve, ca 1941. Model from Plastiques Dermatt, scale 1/101.

Nobody loves a whiner

Occasionally I write reviews at Amazon. Reviewers get graded in turn on how “useful” readers consider their reviews to be and if many consider your reviews to be useful you go up in reviewer rank. I have no idea if you get any benefits whatsoever from being a high-ranked reviewer, but of course the competitive instinct reacts on any ranking numbers.

So, suspiciously I watched reviews where I did not get good marks and thought I saw a pattern. Hmm… Quickly, drag the numbers and drop them onto the nearest statistical analysis software. Yup, there is a weak (R2 = 0.26) but still statistically significant (p < 0.01) correlation between me giving high marks in my review and the review considered useful.

So, is it me writing worse reviews about the bad items, or do people for some reason react negatively to low marks? I should write a spider to go through a suitable sample of Amazon reviews and gather more statistics.


Advanced Modeller's Syndrome

Anders Holst is disappointed:

[Bronco Models have released in 1/35 scale] German Octagonal Bolt! I've longed for this set and will probably buy ten or so. Still I feel a certain disappointment. I'd rather seen that they had been more specific and e g released Late War German Octagonal Bolt (Henschel). As it is I'll have to scratchbuild them.


Who can you trust?

The just a few years ago unlikely partners Bengt Westerberg and Kjell-Olof Feldt have written a debate article, arguing that Sweden needs more privatised health care and education.

This hot on the heels of a study published in Health Affairs, showing that non-profit health care has both better quality and is cheaper than for-profit health care.

It is of course likely that the situation is radically different between the United States and Sweden. I'd like some exploration of the differences, which would also tease out more of the factors that actually affect the quality of care and the associated cost.

”…ett enda lallande trolldegsträsk.”

The school minister is proud of immigrant students who, in spite of their disadvantages, manage to get through elementary school in only five years While I do not want to begrudge the kids their success, I think it might give one pause for thought that it is even possible to start not knowing the language, not having gone to school before, and still learn enough to manage to graduate in half the nominal time.

I fear this means the demands placed on the students are very low indeed…

Update: And just after I wrote this, the Liberal Party publish a debate article demanding raised standards in school. Please, someone in the socialist bloc, make me not have to vote for the liberals!

Anyone who wants to translate the title, feel free to do so, I gave up.


Another one passes on

As I write, the BAC Canberra flies its last flight at RAF Waddington. I am lucky to have heard and seen one in flight, many years ago at RAF Bruntingthorpe.

On the road

I have really only travelled in Sweden as an adult and then mostly for business, so while I am reasonably familiar with the university cities (many as they have become in later years), the rest of the country is unfamiliar to me.

So when the Stråhles offered a bus trip to the modelling exhibition Grevens Glue Galore in Motala, I eagerly tagged on. It took some hours to get there, but in these degenerate times, there are no longer any trains to Motala, and anyway, Mats and Lisa did their utmost to keep us passengers entertained. Well, we entertained ourselves as well - I and Lars B had a long discussion where we realised we had really no idea about the early history of Liberia. (When I later looked it up in Wikipedia, it was rather sketchily described, but I got the impression that it was as much colonisation and oppression of the indigenous peoples as what was performed by European nations.)

Anyway, once in Motala, we realised Vätternfestivalen was in full swing, with the currently noisiest activity being speed boat races in the bay, covering the harbour with the distinct smell of nitromethane. I must say, I find racing boats rather unæasthetic:
Racing boats on Vättern

I tried lunch at the Motor museum, which was not very exciting, foodwise. The museum itself was rather more interesting. It is not restricted to cars but is as much a nostalgia museum, with old film cameras, hundreds of old radio sets, chain saws and whatnot. Even I got reason to get teary-eyed at the sight of a perfectly preserved ABC 80, complete with audio cassette secondary storage:
A Luxor ABC 80 computer
Yep, once upon a time Motala was the centre of a thriving Swedish computer industry. That was in the days when you could actually fit a useful program into 16 kiB.

Then back to Folkets Hus, where close to 400 models had been exhibited, most of them cars, which tend to leave me cold. There were some very nice aircraft though, including a very stripy Cessna in 1/72:
A diorama with a Cessna 172

At the swap meet I wandered around chatting with sellers and aquaintances and somehow acquired, quite without intention, some very necessary tools and nice models.

Eventually it was time for handing out the prizes and I realised the friendly little man with the "Claes" name badge was the eponymous "Count". (He's really a baron, I think quite a few people have to die first for him to get the comital title.)

Many of the usual suspects won prizes and then it was time to carefully pack all the models for the transport back. I and Lars spent the way back discussing what British aircraft would have been used in Vietnam in an alternate reality. We decided the Buccaneer would have replaced the Skyhawk and dreaming on, went on to posit the development of a four-seat, body-widened Bucc for electronic intelligence and similar purposes, replacing the Prowler.

And then we got home.

Evil bastards

I've been getting comment spam, so I have enabled comment moderation. The management apologises for the inconvenience…