A cultural thing

Not being an alcohol drinker is one of those things that set you apart, others requiring you to explain yourself. (Eh, you purposely ingest an organic solvent that cripples mental and physical performance and you want me to explain myself?)

In many situations you don't even get to explain yourself, your alcohol consumption is just taken for granted. Air transport is one of those situations. In spite of it being common knowledge that alcohol consumption under low air pressure and high mental pressure increases its effects, not to mention makes Molotov cocktails easily accessible, alcohol is considered the solution to all problems:
“In honour of the National Day, we serve champagne to all passengers today.”
“We regret the six-hour delay at departure and in compensation offer free brandy to all passengers.”
“I'm terribly sorry about all the hassle with your seating, here, have a jynnantonix on the house.”
And when I decline the booze, am I then instead offered banana juice, Swiss chocolate or a tour of the cockpit? No, the offer is free alcohol and that alone and if I don't want that then I could just as well not exist. Suzanne Reuter's stewardess in Yrrol is taken directly from reality.

One would imagine that flight crews, who have to contend with air rage, which I dare to predict hardly ever is perpetrated by sober passengers, would want to do something about the serving of alcohol both on the ground and in the planes, but presumably they are just as culturally blind to even see its presence, people just magically get drunk and abusive.


A loss

Randy Pausch died today.

I had the great privilege of meeting him in person as he was giving a series of seminars at the HITLab in 1991. My notes from that meeting will have to serve as my tribute (note that this was written before the creation of the World Wide Web):

Today Randy Pausch from the University of Virginia is here and has spoken on his SIGCHI presentation “Virtual Reality on Five Dollars A Day”. He brought his equipment with two Private Eyes and a baseball cap for mounting, but unfortunately the equipment wouldn't sync so that we could get stereo images. […] Randy's claim is that rapid feedback is much more important than cool graphics and that one today doesn't have particularly good graphics in the Eyephones anyway—the cool pictures one sees are usually taken from the external video screen rather than the LCD screens that the user sees. […]

Since the Private Eye is monochrome so they only can draw wireframes, they have seen to that all objects are animated so that one can keep track of what lines go together. As a side effect the worlds become more interesting that way, there's always something going on. […]

After this he spoke about another, related, project—SUIT (Simple User Interface Technology). They have made a platform-independent interface builder—they have versions running under X, Mac and PC. NeXT was however not an option—“they are so consciously incompatible with everything else that it isn't worth it, in addition the NeXT InterfaceBuilder is superior there”. This interface builder they used in undergraduate education with completely incredible results—it took first-year students less than two hours to learn to use the system!

[— — —]
Since my last report Randy Pausch gave another seminar, this on Tailor, bespoke user interfaces. It turns out that Randy doesn't really work with virtual worlds, but with computer-supported speech generation for children with CP and he has had very encouraging results so far. (Though his opinion was that the money put into it would be put to better use in prenatal care instead of prosthesis research and I realised that maternal and child health centres are not a matter of course for everybody in this country.)

We also had a longer discussion about the utility of and possible spread of VR technology. Randy has a liberating distance to the subject and dares to express his doubts. Conversely he was very interested in MUDs as examples of already existing virtual worlds and Johan [Andersson], who is an expert on them had a lot to say. I realised that the problems with virtual worlds, and hypertexts, which in some sense are abstract virtual worlds, are that they have to be large to be really meaningful, but a lone programmer/author can never add enough to them to make them interesting. MUDs have that in common with Usenet that there are lots of people involved who, more or less independently of each other, extend the system, add all kinds of things that make it meaningful, useful and interesting in other ways. That's why the Net is so important, visualisation and holograms and such may be good, but it's really a lot of people that should be moving over it. […]

Randy is an excellent and entertaining lecturer with sound ideas about pedagogics, so I asked him to come to KTH and lecture at some suitable point. “I can be bought”, he said and gave me his business card.

We never got around to inviting him, and now it's too late, but over the years I've frequently had reason to read papers and reports by him. Indeed, less than three years ago I had reason to suggest the use of SUIT for a project at work. Eventually we decided on a different solution, but I wrote to Pausch and asked if I could have the source code to SUIT and he sent it to me a few hours later and I demoed it to my colleagues shortly thereafter.

Veckans ord: partaja

Jag är inte själv intresserad, men har vänner som gärna partajar.


Song Meme II

The earlier song meme has gone around the circle and returned to me. The rules are:
  1. Reply to this post and I'll assign you a letter.
  2. List 5 songs you like that start with that letter.
  3. Post them to your journal with these instructions.

This time I am to do songs starting with L. There are indeed a great many good songs beginning with L, especially in French and Spanish, but I fear I will succumb to some amount of Anglosaxon cultural imperialism in my choices.

Lost in Her Lips

Lost in her lips, I'm getting lost in her lips,
And losing track of conversation.
If Lewis and Clark had just discovered these lips,
The expedition would have ended up in Mexico, no!

Lost in her lips, downtown New York in her lips,
I try to lift my eyes with no success.
I got on with a transfer, and now I missed my stop;
The bus driver is waving, pointing me out to a cop.
What am I saying? It doesn't matter;
What is she saying? Why should I care?
What could be more interesting than staring at these lips,
Failing to communicate?

Lost in her lips, I'm taking breakfast with her lips,
Scrambling my sentences and all.
Sitting at my table, there's coffee in my drink,
It's difficult to concentrate, impossible to think.
I ask them questions, to watch them answer;
Could you repeat that, so I might watch again?
What could be more interesting than staring at these lips,
Failing to communicate, failing to communicate?

Lost in her lips, I'm getting lost in her lips,
And losing track of conversation.
If Lewis and Clark had just discovered these lips,
The expedition would have ended up in Mexico, no!

Lost in her lips, taking a bath with her lips,
In a porcelain tub, reading a book,
It's two o'clock in the afternoon, and
there's music in the living room,
I've got nothing left to do but stare at these lips.
I ask them questions, to watch them answer;
Could you repeat that, so I might watch again?
What could be more interesting than staring at these lips,
What could be more wonderful than staring at these lips,
Failing to communicate, failing to communicate, hey!

Love Is All Around

I feel it in my fingers
I feel it in my toes
Love is all around me
And so the feeling grows.

It's written on the wind
It's everywhere I go, oh yes it is.
So if you really love me
Come on and let it show.

You know I love you, I always will
My mind's made up by the
Way that I feel
There's no beginning,
There'll be no end
cause on my love you can depend.

I see your face before me
As I lay on my bed
I kinda get to thinking
Of all the things you said, oh yes I did
You gave your promise to me and I
Gave mine to you

I need someone beside me
In everything I do, oh yes I do
You know I love you, I always will,
My mind's made up by the
Way that I feel
There's no beginning,
There'll be no end
cause on my love you can depend.

Got to keep it moving
Oh it's written in the wind
Oh everywhere I go, yeah, oh well
So if you really love me, love me, love me
Come on and let it show
Come on and let it show
Come on and let it
Come on and let it (come and let it show, baby)
Come on, come on, come on let it show baby
Come on and let it show
Come on and let it show, baby
Come on and let it show

OK, so the lyrics aren't exactly Shakespeare, but with a good boy band they do the trick anyway. And, yeah, I prefer the version by Wet Wet Wet to The Troggs' original, but I couldn't quite say why.

Long, Long Day

It's been a long, long day
I got some run-down shoes
Ain't got no place to stay
But any old place will be okay
Its been a long, long day

I sure been on this road
Done nearly fourteen years
Can't say my name's well known
You don't see my face in Rolling Stone
But I sure been on this road

Slow motion
Half a dollar bill
Jukebox in the corner
Shooting to kill
And its been a…

It's been a long, long day
I sure could use a friend
Don't know what else to say
I hate to abuse an old cliché
But it's been a long, long day
It's been a long, long day

I first thought I shouldn't add a Paul Simon song, as I had one last time, but seriously, there can't be a list of my favourite songs without a Paul Simon song.

Les feuilles mortes

Oh ! je voudrais tant que tu te souviennes
Des jours heureux où nous étions amis
En ce temps-là la vie était plus belle,
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu'aujourd'hui
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié...
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi
Et le vent du nord les emporte
Dans la nuit froide de l'oubli.
Tu vois, je n'ai pas oublié
La chanson que tu me chantais.

C'est une chanson qui nous ressemble
Toi, tu m'aimais et je t'aimais
Et nous vivions tous deux ensemble
Toi qui m'aimais, moi qui t'aimais
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s'aiment
Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit
Et la mer efface sur le sable
Les pas des amants désunis.

Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi
Mais mon amour silencieux et fidèle
Sourit toujours et remercie la vie
Je t'aimais tant, tu étais si jolie,
Comment veux-tu que je t'oublie?
En ce temps-là, la vie était plus belle
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu'aujourd'hui
Tu étais ma plus douce amie
Mais je n'ai que faire des regrets
Et la chanson que tu chantais
Toujours, toujours je l'entendrai !


In English this song is known as “Autumn Leaves” and I have a recording with Cannonball Adderley and others where the theme is considerably expanded. Impressively, Eino Leino's poem ”Lapin Kesä” can be sung to the same melody and has been performed by Vesa-Matti Loiri.

Les bicyclettes de Belsize

Tourne retourne dans mes pensées le regret d'un amour
C'était à Londres un matin de mai à Belsize un beau jour un beau jour
Les bicyclettes de Belsize nous ont porté tous deux et nous roulions amoureux main dans la main
Seul le ciel tendre et bleu se mirait dans nos yeux nos yeux d'enfants heureux
Souvent je rêve encore aux bicyclettes de Belsize

Tourne retourne dans mon cœur trop lourd le bonheur de ma vie
Mais l'amour joue souvent de ces tours un jour tout es fini bien fini
Les bicyclettes de Belsize nous ont porté tous deux et nous roulions amoureux main dans la main
Seul le ciel tendre et bleu se mirait dans nos yeux nos yeux d'enfants heureux
Souvent je rêve encore aux bicyclettes de Belsize.

In the film Engelbert Humperdinck sang the theme, but for me the song is for ever associated with Mireille Mathieu, so therefore the lyrics in French.


Busy doing nothing

I have spent a relaxing weekend at a friend's summer house in the archipelago with no network connectivity and barely functioning electricity. For some reason there were almost no mosquitos about, those that I've had to fight with all earlier summers. On the other hand I saw some fascinating reptiles. On the path up from the cove I heard a rustle and turned in time to see an all-black snake, probably an adder, glide through the bilberry sprigs.

Today, going to the boat jetty we found a beautiful slow-worm lying very still across the path. Not even my camera flash perturbed it, it patiently waited for us to leave. I was very excited as I hadn't seen a slow-worm in nature since I was a small child. Imagine then my surprise when I got home and found another slow-worm crawling across the path just across from my house. This one had apparently been harassed by someone (maybe Ivar) as its tail had been lost.

Anguis fragilis


Veckans ord: haklapp

Av min flickvän fick jag den klapp jag ville ha, en haklapp.


Under the weather

It's raining so hard, even the bronze birds hunker down.



Signspotting is having an exhibition in Kungsträdgården right now, showing whacky street signs from around the world. I thought I'd make copies of this and hang around the necks of my bosses.

Changed Priorities Ahead


Finns det grönt te på kräftskivan?

As I am partaking of the lunch buffet at Asia City, in comes an entire busload of Chinese tourists and I try to decide if I'm snobbish to think it's silly to travel half around the world to eat the same kind of food as at home, but on the other hand: I like Chinese food, so why shouldn't they get to eat it too?


I love the sound of my own voice

How many?
too many
no man is
No money
my land
milling men
willing then
silly men
silent men
island men
Iceland men
nice land
why is land?
Wry this man
Diss this man
hiss at this man
piss at this man

Found in my Palm, no memory of when and where I wrote it.


Necklace in the sky

Many years ago:
I'm lying on the carpeted floor of a hotel room in Los Angeles. It is night and I have just realised that I am in middle of the flight path to LAX. Navigational lights stretch in three parallel streaks. The lights curve in from the right, at equal distances, one minute apart, and pass on both sides of my vantage point, all through the night, like an infinite necklace of blinking pearls.



My ignorant music teacher, Jim Fiore's likewise weird teachers and Martin R's analysis of secret messages in rock music reminded me of the anti-drugs lecture we got in 9th grade. It was delivered by a very angry policeman, and as this was in the early 1980s in Sweden, an important part of the message was rock music = drugs. Apparently the message to take home was that we should a) not do drugs, b) not listen to rock music, and not necessarily in that order. Let us say that this compromised the credibility of the message from the start.

In order to underscore the perfidity of rock stars, the policeman explained the secret drug messages in a number of popular songs, from “Yellow Submarine” onwards. That made even less sense to me: if there were secret messages that encouraged drug use, didn't explaining them undermine the idea of having us not do drugs?

And the final blow to credibility came when he finished by apologising for his excitability, explaining that he due to illness was on prescription painkillers at the time. Well then!


Word of the Week: shampoo

A necessary staple in every joke shop: the shampoo.


I wasn't even seventeen then

An utterly lovable video of one of my favourite synth pop songs with images from Stockholm in 1979.



The recent trip to Drottningholm reminded me of my 9th grade music teacher, who, in a completely misguided attempt to be pedagogical, explained to us that the strange word ”silleri” in Fredmans Epistel 48 that we ignorant youngsters might take to mean celery in fact referred to herring (”sill”). That herring, being a salt-water fish, would most likely not have been on a vegetable transport from Lovön in Lake Mälaren towards the Baltic, apparently passed her completely by.

As soon as I got hold of a etymological dictionary I double-checked and of course ”silleri” was just an 18th Century alternate spelling of ”selleri”. And what exactly would a ”sill-eri” really have been anyway—a herring preparation establishment?

Every so often I wish I could go back and yell “Bloody idiot!” at some of my teachers.


On notice!

I got seriously disappointed in the usually excellent establishment Bamboo Palace today. With as few patrons as they had, it should not have required 35 minutes to prepare stir-fried vegetables, especially not when I'd ordered Salmon Szechuan.

Approved by the Stockholm Visitors Board

Today I am lobster red, the usual result of taking me outdooors. Yesterday my sister and I arranged a belated birthday celebration for our mother and took her on a day trip to Drottningholm Palace. Of course we went by steam boat: S/S Drottningholm.

Steamboats outside Stockholm City Hall

The much-praised Stockholm Archipelago is really the continuation of the islands, isles and islets in Lake Mälaren and I've always been very fond of travelling lakeside where the shores creep near the boat. It is also fascinating to know that what looks as dense pine forests in fact are just thin barriers in front of the most densely populated areas of Sweden. Shore protection laws are cool.

Denephew wasn't quite as appreciative of the beauty of water travel.
Denephew snoozes for all of 2.5 seconds.

Drottningholm Palace
Soon however we arrived at Drottningholm and found ourselves a spot on a lawn where we picknicked. The sister had bought a Kubb set and soon we had a closely fought game going. Denephew insisted on being on my team, which much flattered me, and he didn't do at all badly, but eventually we (or at least I, he wouldn't hear of it) had to concede defeat.

Then Denephew and I went to explore the Labyrinths. I found to my surprise that the hedges all had little passages just the size for five-year-olds to run through and leave any adults behind. I don't know if they have been created on purpose by the gardeners or if millions of visiting children over the years have excavated them. I tried to explain the principle “If you get lost, stay where you are!” to Denephew, but it didn't stick as the imperative to joyously run as fast as his little legs would carry him overruled all concerns about ever getting home again. Fortunately his high-contrast clothes allowed me to glimpse him every now and then through the hedges and thus retrieve him. When I tired of the run-and-seek I scooped up the little lad and carried him back to his parents who by then had collected our belongings in preparation for a tour of the palace itself.

As has been noted by others, children strongly prefer ice cream to ancient art so while I was very fascinated by the huge battle paintings with careful legends, I did not get much of a chance to study them. I was very bemused by the room full of Klöcker Ehrenstrahl portraits of Charles XI's generals, all looking exactly the same, followed by the room full of von Kraft portraits of Charles XII's generals, all looking exactly the same. (Sorry, no photography allowed indoors.) I will have to return at some point to study all these closer.

Denephew then got his Nazi ice cream and we boarded the boat for the trip home. On the way, Denephew and his father played guessing games:
“What's round and brown, you roll it and you can fry it?”
“An egg!”
I think the boy should have gotten full points for that, one must be precise.


Veckans ord: urringning

På mitt nattygsbord har jag ett väckarur. Varje morgon väcker det mig med sin urringning.


Fire and ice

I am trying out Lejonet & Björnen's chilli-and-chocolate ice cream. Zounds! They are not kidding around with the chilli dose! It is an interesting combination, but on the whole I prefer my chocolate ice cream without hot spices.


Internationella igelkotten Ivar

There's a hedgehog that lives under the balcony outside the laundry room and yesterday evening I caught it on its way home from a walkie. It curled up so I wouldn't eat it and waited there until I had left.

Ivar the hedgehog, Ivar l'herisson