Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Who keeps the metric system down?"

So, it is not only the Simpsons that keep it down (and the United States) it is The Container Store that contains the inches, pounds, quarts, feet, miles and various other measurements that make no sense to someone that was brought up with the logical SI system smartly based on 10, and micro, milli, deci, kilo, mega, tera, etc. I love meters, grams, and liters!

(OK, running and ducking for cover now, because here comes the comments from the Americans about the superiority of 3/8 inches, pints, and square feet...)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Reason not to go into politics

At the grad "exercises"(their term) last night it was suggested one pursuit was to go into politics.
I submit this picture of Sen D. Stabenow of Michigan as one very good reason to avoid it.
Do you really want your picture, looking like this, to be on the internet or anywhere else?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

End of high school - yeah! Congratulations AREA!

So, this is it.

No more high school rules about
- how you can dress (= no spaghetti straps, but of course nobody enforced it),
- how to make up gym class (= hand in a media article on health, doesn't matter if you read it),
- no more crazy snow days (they rarely exist in college, you are simply supposed to be in class)
- strict grading (in college the teachers themselves set the policy, ok, it can be even more crazy...)
- no more hall passes or nurse passes (= go to college class unless you are throwing up)
- no more football games or senior prank days (time for more sophistication or real sports...)

This is it.  End of kid years.  Now it is the real thing.  18 and with a driver's license, no money, but a summer job!  Shape your life, get in the wheel barrow (if you like), and do what you think is important, not what some senior speech girl or guy that goes to Princeton think is important.  It is up to you now (with some help from us).  We think you are amazing.

I think you will struggle with keeping things organized, but that is OK.   I think you will make wonderful things that touch people deeply.  I think you will do great, important things that make the world a better place, and I am not talking about money, creating a new Facebook, or being a new Steve Jobs.  Whatever you do, follow the path that keeps you interested and happy with you.  I love that you care about others, especially in this world.  More teenagers should be like you.

Congratulations, 12 years of regular school is over, and now you get to do what you love (well, mostly...).  Actual, unprotected life is scary, amazing, fun, worrisome, and just how life is.  You can handle it, I know it! Du ar underbar.  Love, Mom/Mamma

Monday, June 18, 2012

Banana Peel Trucker Hat (For Bananas)

I just had to share this with you! Isn't it great!?
Photo by Laser Bread (Brock Davis) on Flickr (and copyrighted so don't steal it).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Congratulations LA!

Guess who got into a competitive astrophysics summer program today!?

Here is the Cat's Eye Nebula for you!  (Image from NASA)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Art by Ai Wei Wei

When we were in Stockholm in April we went to see the art exhibit by Chinese artist and government critic Ai Wei Wei.  I knew very little about him before I went, only that he had been imprisoned by the Chinese authorities and thereby disappeared for months.  The art installation was held in a former harbor magazine, a gallery named appropriately Magasin 3, and it was a suitable place right in the harbor, a place for international trade and global influxes and outfluxes over centuries.

Here is a selection of some works that I found particularly interesting.

Ai Wei Wei - Stockholm, Sweden, 2012
The exhibit showed many of his pieces, which are often everyday objects remade by local artisans with special techniques and painstaking, time-consuming efforts.  When you walk into the exhibit you see 96 large, white Chinese porcelain vases standing on the floor.  When you walk around them, you realize that they have Chinese art on them on the other side, increasingly broader and broader patterns.

Ai Wei Wei - Stockholm, Sweden, 2012
The vase design is a copy of the most expensive Chinese object ever sold, an ancient vase with the design called "Ghost Gu Coming Down the Mountain", which is also the name of this installation from 2005. Fascinating! It just makes you stop and think about design, partiality, copying of value and how you can take something unique and make a pattern out of it.  I loved it.

Ai Wei Wei - Stockholm, Sweden, 2012
Similarly, was a giant heap, maybe 1.5 m tall (5 feet) of handpainted porcelain sunflower seeds.  From a distance it looks like plain gravel, but when you get really close you see the ceramic pieces up close, each individual, each different, but from a distance they all looked the same.  Just like when you look at people or countries from a distance - everybody looks the same, but up close we are all different. It is a matter of scale and distance.

Ai Wei Wei - Stockholm, Sweden, 2012
A World Map made out of cotton fabric, stacked high and cut out with precision into each continent...  I never imagined that it would be so different to see the continents stack high, instead of seeing them just marked on a piece of paper.  Another fantastic thing is that you could walk around and see the world from the North, the East, the West, and sometimes below or at the crustal level if you crouched a bit.  Such a simple piece of art and so thoughtful and thought-making. I love it!

Ai Wei Wei - Stockholm, Sweden, 2012
The Norwegian coastline from the North, as seen through Ai Wei Wei's cut fabric in his World Map.

Friday, June 15, 2012


I forgot to add these firered stinkbug-relatives into the red memory post from Sweden. These were part of a large colony mating and crawling around at the base of a tree along a sidewalk. They didn't care it had snowed the day before, they were very busy and ready for spring.

When they are mating they are attached and the stronger one walks forward and the other just has to follow, backwards...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

As new leader has been chosen...

For a long time, the blog post on this blog about the BIONICLE Mask of Life was the most popular post. 

But, a new top choice has been selected by the people that read this blog.  THIS is now the most visited post.  Who knew that fish evolution could be so interesting!? 

The Bionicle post is now second place, and in third place is Chinese Zodiak Animals.

I really don't get why these are so popular... maybe they have very popular words in them.  The internet and the Google is unpredictable sometimes :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Here is another 0-8-0.
Technically it is a 0-8-0 T, for "tank" because it carries the water and coal on the engine itself not behind in a tender.

I love this engine.

red Stockholm memories

In April AREA and I visited Stockholm with OK during a few gloomy and sometimes sunny or snowy-rainy days, and had a wonderful time.  Here are some quick snapshots of memorable things we saw.  (click on the photos for larger versions)

the ketchup shelves are larger in Sweden than in USA
Swedish kids love ketchup.  It goes on everything, mashed potatoes, meatballs, hot dogs, burgers, macaroni, spaghetti, etc.

red umbrella street art
Another red thing to inspire in gray April.  I don't know who made this red umbrella art installation, but it was great to see. Reminded me of Christo's work. (There are more photos of this on Flickr)

Keep calm and have a juice?!
Unfortunately the great World War II poster from England has now just become a commercial marketing gimmick.

western and eastern medicine meets
East meets West.  In the same office as the regular Swedish healthcare clinic (Vardcentralen) is the Traditional Chinese Medicine office.

Big bag construction recycling deposit
Construction debris is recycled along the streets in giant orange bags that are lifted up and emptied in special trucks.

typical Stockholm apartment building
A very typical building with apartments in Stockholm.  Maybe built around 1930-40, maybe earlier?

For PP - 8 years!

0-8-0 Illinois Central Railroad #30, originally uploaded by rods pix. (Flickr)
Illustrated with a 0-8-0 steam locomotive of course.
How come this engine doesn't tip over front or backwise?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A bunch of books...

Do books come in bunches?  Or are they in piles?  Groups?  Heaps?  Anyway, here is a couple of short reviews of books I have read in the last couple of months, from the great to the not so great.  So, the best first.

Tracy Chevalier: Remarkable Creatures.  What a great novel!  It is in the early half of the 1800s and a poor girl gets her living from discovering and selling fossils from the beach by her home village along England's southern coast.  An unmarried woman and her sisters move to town, mostly because it is a cheaper place to live than London, and she befriends the girl and learns about and collects fossil.

They discovered the most amazing fossils of the time, fossils that were bought and transported to natural history museums in London, Paris, Oxford, and so on.  These fossils were fodder for a lot of discussion in this pre-Darwin era, and fueled scientific thinking.  Plesiosaurs, ichtyosaurs...  However, the women didn't get proper credit, since they were women and fossil collecting and science were unwomanly activities. A few of the contemporary paleontologists gave them proper respect and credit, but the divide was enourmous, especially for Mary who started out illiterate and extremely poor.  For example, women were not allowed even into the meetings of the British Geological Society.

The young woman's name was Mary Anning, and her older friend was Elizabeth Philpot, who specialized in fish fossils.  This book tells the story from their viewpoint.  The general story is true, but it is a novel so gaps have been filled in with possible scenarios.  It is a great book that not only describes natural history and its discoveries in historical context, but also highlights and make the inequality come to life. And that inequality is not just between genders but also between classes and religious groups. I highly recommend this book. So, 5 stars.
Sandra Newman: The Western Lit Survival Kit.  This book is fantastic! Well, near fantastic, because sometimes she goes overboard. I read the whole thing straight through, laughed, smiled and took note on which classics that I wanted to read and which ones I never need to open. Actually, I don't feel the need to read any of the classics after reading this book, I have too many books already here at home waiting to be opened.  Probably around a 100 unread books... and only a few of them are classics.  Like Marco Polo... I want to read that one, but I digress. 

Her style is out of this world funny and knowledgeable. Ah, we need to let high school students have a look in this book! The book is exactly what the subtitle says "An irreverent guide to the classics, from Homer to Faulkner". Each classic book is graded on Importance, Difficulty, and Fun, and she of course admits that that is a very subjective scale she has graded these on. She is not always trying to be dead serious, which is what I like, but some other bibliophiles that have reviewed this book have a problem with that. 4 stars.

Jill Ker Conway has written three memoirs about her life as a child in Australia, student, emigrant to the US to study history at Harvard, her scholarly work on women in history, her years as a Dean at a Canadian university, and then as the President of the small all-female Smith College in Massachusetts.  I reviewed the two first books here on this blog, and they are fantastic and refreshing. 

The writing is exquisite, intellectually so rewarding, and she makes you think.  There was much more anti-woman stuff going on in academia going on back then, but some things are still the same.  And many things that we struggle with today have not changed at all, and they are not based on gender.  People unwilling to change, people that want too much change, the will to look beyond what you have learned in the class, the willingness to discuss without arguing, and so on.

I read her third book recently, A Woman's Education, which is smaller and less strictly a memoir in a way.  It describes her years at Smith College, and goes in depth into how it was to administer a small independent school.  It wasn't all easy, not at all.  What infuses the book is her caring about students and their education, on a very deep, serious level. 

I admire her, she has been a big inspiration in my recent work.  She tries to change the view of some older professors, make reformations in educational thinking, and is seen as a rebellion, but it is how things have to be done.  The world changes and so do we and so do how we do things.  This book I am keeping! 5 stars.

Last book in the pile.... Daniel Beard's The Field and Forest Handy Book. This is a reprint of a 1912 book about camping, scouting, outdoor recreation, hiking, etc., and includes great illustrations, which I think were made by the author as well. Daniel Beard was a co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America, and boy, is this a boyish book.  Girls do not exist.  At least not outside any house.  The book is really a time capsule of how things were back then.

There are many useful skills described in here, how to make a raised platform for a place to sleep in a swamp, how to make a logomaran so you can drift down a river (never ever use fresh wood, or you might sink), how to make fire without matches, how to make a play house, what to eat in camp, and that you should bring a flour sack to make into a pillow case.  He even have instructions on how to build a fire engine. Oh, and even how to make a herbarium is in here.

This book is not really about true survival based on old traditional knowledge like the book Wildwood Wisdom (reviewed on this blog), but about fun wild stuff boys can do outside.  Some certainly has survival tones to it, but some is more silly, like How to Play Pirate and How to Make an Aquarium.  Under Novel Food Used in Camp, he writes: "...Wolf meat is said to be sticky and disagreeable.".  Times were different back then.

Grade?  I am not sure.  Maybe 2-3 stars, but it has certainly historic interest and I would have loved this book when I was 12-14 years old. I learned a lot of useful information that I probably won't have much use for in my life, but that is OK. One day it might come in very handy.

OK, that is it for this batch.  If you read all the way to down here, good for you!  Now you know more than before :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The land of the crocodiles

In Costa Rica is a muddy river that empties out in the ocean, and on the long low bridge that crosses the river you can stand and look straight down at these prehistoric, scaled and spread-toed angle-hipped beasts.  They lay and lap up the sun, don't care about the muddy water, and seem to love their life.  At a distance they are fascinating, up close they are too close.

The River of the Crocodiles is called Tárcoles River and is on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, in the province of Puntarenas.  Quite a lot of tourists stop here, but the experience is pleasantly low-key.  No entrance tickets, just a regular road and some crocodiles.  The animals can probably be up to 5 m long I think, it is hard to judge from a distance. Big enough to hurt for sure.  Here are some photos from my trip to Costa Rica in March.

American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) Cocodrilo

American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) Cocodrilo

American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) Cocodrilo

While we were looking at the crocodiles we suddenly saw two scarlet macaws flying over.  Here is the photo of them taking with a small simple point-and-shoot camera. These red parrots are gorgeous but make horrible noises.

scarlet macaws flying by

Venus is a tiny planet...

...when you see it in front of the sun.

Image from NASA taken today during the Venus transit from the International Space Station. Click on the image to read more about this amazing event.

I like this image too, also from NASA. 

SDO's Ultra-high Definition View of 2012 Venus Transit - 304 Angstrom