Swiss precision

When I was a kid, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo was rebroadcast in an edited version on Swedish Television and I watched it religiously. I have been fond of bagpipes ever since. Now, I haven’t seen it for many years, but then this YouTube clip turned up. No bagpipes, but good enough. Watch it to the end!


A certain amount of vacuum

The School of Computer Science and Engineering has produced some extremely well-done spexes, but it’s been almost a decade since last. So I was quite happy to see that they’d now joined forces with the School of Media Technology and produced an all-new spex. Clearly I had to go see it.

So, this Friday I found myself in one of the off-S:t Eriksplan cellar theatres with an excited crowd of what apparently was mainly friends and parents. The audience was very pleased with the show, but, alas, I must say this must have been the same kind of pleasure proud parents feel at Lucia shows at day care.

The actors certainly knew their lines, but they completely lacked in timing on stage. Then again, the dialogue was wooden enough that it really didn’t make much of a difference. With delicious irony, the finale was a version of “With a little help from my friends” and the actors certainly could have needed a bit of help trying not to sing out of key.

That said, it was not all bad. Actually, I’d say that the choreography made up for much of the other deficits and there was a “One office and five drummers” that was quite excellent. There were a few clever restarts as well, one involving doing “bullet time” dodging—live on stage.

Still, I found myself thinking back to the glory days of D spexes. I hope a new generation of witty and creative script writers will soon be born.


A matter of perspective

Anders J Thor recently passed away. I found out from an obituary written by members of the home-owners’ association to which he belonged. They mentioned in passing that he had worked at KTH as well as ISO, but clearly the main part of his life had been spent tirelessly working for the home-owners’ association. I struggle to draw a moral from this.

Muslims love their children too

“Russians” is my favourite example of Sting’s ability to put cerebral lyrics to music. The Cold War may be over, but the message “we are all humans” remains as important to remember as ever.



In preparation for the sale of my flat, a photographer has been booked to take selling pictures of it. Home photographers are infamous, but hopefully this won’t turn my home into a Catalog Living horror.

H/t Charger.


We band of brothers

Some ambitious fellows had arranged for a modelling weekend at the Swedish Military Vehicle Museum. I haven't built an armour model for surely 35 years, but a weekend devoted to modelling is to be cherished.

I carefully packed my kit on Friday evening, so that I wouldn’t have to panic-pack in the morning. I decided to take along Italeri’s Sd.Kfz. 234/2 Puma, Airfix’ R.A.F. Refuelling set, and Tamiya’s Porsche 911 GT2. (The latter aren’t exactly armour, but at least surface vehicles.)

I got to the train just in time and as the early Saturday tour was quite uncrowded I managed to get a nice seat on the top floor. With Svealandsbanan, the trip to Strängnäs doesn’t even take an hour, but I’d have to wait about as long again for the bus to take me the last bit to the museum. At least it was sunny. I had but sat down at the bus stop as I heard an ”Oi!” from behind. There was Olle in his car. “I thought I’d find you here, let’s go.” An anonymous sign pointed at the “VEHICLE MUSEUM”, a functional-looking barn. We were greeted by the guys who’d arrived the day before and had already laid out the tables, lights, compressors and such on the mezzanine floor, with an excellent view of the exhibits.

The museum had a very special smell of oil and metal, many of the exhibits are kept in running shape, so now and then the public are given the full experience of 50 Mg chunks of roaring, clanking, smoking (though not firing) metal rolling about on the meadow outside the museum.

More modellers arrived from all corners of Sweden, until we were some 20+, laying out our models and gear on the tables. Ordinary museum visitors also turned up, some curiously asking us about our esoteric activities, and receiving enthusiastic explanations.

I started on the Puma, though didn’t get that far before it was seminar time.

Later in the afternoon we were invited to a private showing of the museum exhibits. After a while the curator got a bit concerned we wouldn’t get through them all before nightfall, what with the constant barrage of questions and comments from both people with deep knowledge about the subject and the rest of us, while not very knowledgeable, still intensely interested. We weren’t in any hurry, though and the curator indulged us. I have discussed the authenticity of preserved aircraft before, and the curator was happy to point out that many of the exhibits were not in original shape, having been modified, and then possibly unmodified again, repainted in whatever paints had been around at various points in their history, and that some simply were one-shot test examples that were unrepresentive of their type. “Photographs show what things looked like at one point, but there’s no telling what happened ten minutes before, or ten minutes after.”

When we had gone through the exhibition, now long after closing time, a question was timidly put forward: “Could I sit in the Trabant, just for a bit?” “Uh well, OK, but don’t hurt yourself.” The dams broke: People scattered like dropped marbles and were soon crawling all over the vehicles, cameras clicking away; everywhere was happy laughter and smiling heads poking out of hatches, guns were traversed and every bolt, pin, and attachment point scrutinised and documented. Most congregated around the celebrities: T-34, Marder, Sherman, but some connoiseurs preferred to explore Soviet amphibians or, as noted, East German bucket cars. (You will notice that I haven’t made any mention of Swedish vehicles so far—they tend to be fairly uncharismatic, possibly with the exception of the ”S” tank, and were accordingly mostly ignored.) The curator watched the proceedings with a beatific smile, most pleased with visitors who really appreciated the museum.

A view from the mezzanine onto early WWII Swedish armour.

Some armour of my own.

Down the hatch!

The driver’s seat in a Universal Carrier. A particularly nice touch is the bolt in the middle of the steering wheel—just made for crushing your sternum. Note also the footprint on the shelf where I stepped to get into the vehicle.

Finally I felt that I, too, had to try something and clambered into the driver’s seat of a Universal Carrier. I found it utterly lacking in any comfort or human factors thinking. The steering wheel was mere centimetres from my sternum, the brake pedal was located where it was quite convenient for the passenger to reach, I found a set of instruments on a panel by my right shoulder where my aging eyes couldn’t even focus on them and the front armour extended just to my eyebrows. I presume any road accident would have lead to instant death or major injury.

Eventually people felt that it started to get late and we profusely thanked the museum staff for their forebearance. Then a car convoy took off for Strängnäs and the pizza place that had been recommended as the most priceworthy by the locals. The quiet Saturday evening was suddenly shattered by laughing, talking, and hungry modellers. After dinner we continued to the youth hostel where some of us were staying the night. Others decided to keep us company for a while before they returned to their sleeping places. I realised I was but an amateur as everybody else pulled out modelling gear and started working in the kitchen. For my part I loaded a documentary on strategic bombing in my laptop. So the evening proceeded in happy intercourse. I decided to withdraw to bed before midnight and feel contentedly asleep to the sound of peals of laughter in the kitchen.

Next morning. An early rise and quick ablutions before we returned to the museum from where a new convoy took off and soon turned onto a small gravel road, at the end of which was the former mobilisation stores where the museum now kept the items they did not have on current display. ”Some 3–400 vehicles, depending on how you count.” Obviously we could not study them all, but we got extensive samples. The sheds were packed with armour, trucks, engines, guns, bicycles, but also more unexpectedly cradles, looms, sleds and a mysterious object that looked like a huge champagne cork in fabric. As densely as they were stored, it was soon obvious that the easiest way of moving about was to mount a tank and then proceed stepping from one to the next. The air was filled with joyous laughter as discoveries were made and people tried to seat themselves in the vehicles. My attempts confirmed that tanks evidently are made for short, very short, and thin people, and even they should expect to have their craniums banged about by various corners and edges. I dare not imagine the noise from shooting with large-calibre guns in those enclosed spaces.

A nondescript façade.
More camouflagey things to crawl about on.

The thing with amphibious vehicles is that you can only get in at the top and for some reason they never have ladders.

A very realistically weathered lorry.

Eventually we returned to the museum for more seminars, or should I say, intensely interactive discussions between skilled modellers. Towards the end of the day I set up for painting some Porsche parts. The Humbrol metallic colours are pretty temperamental when airbrushed and have a tendency to clog the nozzle. High pressure is indicated. This was really my only opportunity for aggravation during the entire weekend.

Cleaning up was quickly done with all hands on deck and then we all went our separate ways with happy smiles, new friendships having been forged and promises of future events exchanged.


Entourage on tour

We had decided early on to repeat last year’s trip; to the Helsinki Model-Expo. Honeybuns couldn’t come along because she had to go on a job trip—to Helsinki. Still, an expectant band gathered up by the harbour and off we went.

We had booked the cheapest cabins. What really should not have been a surprise was that they were also preferred by youngsters, saving them money they could spend on booze. While not being exactly rowdy, a couple dozen kids spent the night talking quite loudly in the corridor. Round 05:30 our neighbour snapped and rushed out of his cabin to give them several pieces of his mind, which however they just ignored so eventually a call to ship security was required to put the young to bed.

Still, a fresh new day awaited us. We bundled into our rented car and drove out to the Exhibition centre. The modelling exhibition was in the all-new hall, sharing it with the crafts exhibition (not very far-fetched a combination). The competitors lined up their entries and then we dispersed in the halls to see what we could find.

When introducing a new R/C plane kit, of course you need to bring it to the flight area accompanied by mood(y) music, soap bubbles and uniformed men looking very emo.

An utterly delightful kajak vignette.

Horror models: a tiny organ.

Over at the pet fair: little kitties sleeping despite the surrounding din.

We had vaguely thought about riding out to Suomenlinna, but the exhibits proved plentiful enough that we realised we wouldn’t have time for that. Still, eyes bleeding and brain full I eventually decided I’d had enough for the day and headed back into town on my own. As I got to Pasila station, the train pulled in, I ran for it and got on just in time. There were big signs in every car giving the ticket prices and carefully noting the fines for failing to buy a ticket. Yet I could nowhere find any instructions on the actual mechanics of purchase and found myself at Helsinki Central before realising I could simply have asked a fellow passenger. (Talking to commuters, what a bizarre idea! I probably could have gotten thrown off the train for that, too.)

The weather was sunny, though rather too windy to be warm, so I was quite impressed by the boys I saw playing icehockey in their shirtsleeves as I strolled out to Hietaniemi to tend to the family grave.

Back in the city centre I found myself in the middle of a little open-air rock concert, the final set just starting with The Death of Gagarin. The stage was quite small, but the band did their best to look as if they were playing at Woodstock. The lead guitar jumped around and kicked at the loudspeaker stack, but as they weren’t exactly the heaviest Marshall speakers, they rocked (too) in danger of falling over. For a fraction of a second the guitarist looked as if to reflexively put out a hand to steady the stack, but immediately realising that that wouldn’t look ultracool, so he just stared fixedly at the stack until it was steady again. A couple of minutes later his toddler child crawled up on stage:

“Not now, sweetie, Daddy’s supposed to be playing a solo.”

Finally the rest of the gang returned from a full day at the fair and we set out to find something to eat. “There’s a pretty good Spanish restaurant just around the corner here. Oh, looks like they’ve closed.” ”But the one we were to last year, the one with the knockout waitress? That was…over there somewhere?” [zig, zag] ”Look, there it is!” “Sorry, we are fully booked. Sorry, no, we won’t toss out the little ladies over there even if they look harmless. May we recommend the restaurant around the block?” [trudge] “Table for six…? Uh, yes, there’s a company just leaving, give us a minute to clean up.” It was Asparagus Week, but we didn’t have to eat the slimy asparagus (except for those who wanted to) and were quite satisfied as we walked back to our hotel.

The next morning we headed out to the aviation museum. This was a classic aviation museum in the style of “We have x m² hangar space, let’s pile in as many aircraft as we can.” Nothing wrong with that.

A bit of a jumble… Visible are a Caudron C.60, a Sääski, a Tuisku, a Viima, an I-16, a Safir, two Vampires, a Draken, a Hansa, an Utu, a Kanttikolmonen, an SG 38 and so on…

I did a careful photographic walk-around of the Mi-1 for an upcoming modelling project. Here are the rotor blades: note that they are canvas over a steel and wood structure, just like any WWI aircraft.

This really knocked my socks off: 40 hand-carved wooden 1:100 models of world speed record holders. Here the Macchi M.C.72.

From the collection of all Finnish air force aircraft types in 1:72: the SPAD VII. Compare this with my rendition.

Having had our fill of the museum, we headed back to the expo, picked up our prizes, did some (additional) last minute shopping (good SEK/EUR rates) and then headed to our ship home. No drunk kids on this trip and when we returned, it was spring in Stockholm.


Word of the week: pronounciation

“Verbing weirds language”, as famously noted by Calvin and indeed there’s every year a new proliferation of new nouns to be verbed. However, other word classes tend to be quite hide-bound. Now there’s been a small amount of pronounciation going on in the creation of genderless pronouns, such as “E” and “Xe”. In Swedish the suggestion of ”hen” as a gender-neutral third person singular pronoun has created some amount of debate and indeed ridicule. It has however been pointed out that the gendered third person plural pronouns were dropped already in mediæval Swedish, so that the depronounciation process started a long time ago.


Wait for me!

I just got a congratulatory message from eBay for having been a customer for twelve years. Wait, what? Twelve years? Didn’t they come up with this cool World Wide Web thing just recently?