Monday, 30 September 2013

VS (versus)





This clip shows two dance groups fighting each other with dance, but it could just as well be two academics fighting each other with published articles. In the movie above, a dancer breaks a wall by accident and has to either pay for it or to compensate for it by integrating breakdance and hip hop with ballet in an upcoming show, which turns out really well. For academic people, this idea is not as easy: one tends to talk about each other, but not with each other, which is a PITY.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

On Education, Programming and Computers - or about problem solving

"It is of course not possible to be against knowledge", the Swedish professor Erik Ringmar wrote in Dagens Nyheter in July 2013. "The more one learns, the better. But unfortunately, one can not learn everything <...> and one should not have unrealistic expectations on the usefulness of what one learns." *

While this professor was making a point about that Swedish schools should put an effort on teaching the English language better instead of encouraging schools to teach the Chinese language, his point remains valid for another subject: programming.

I have a friend who was so upset about the ongoing talks in UN about that teaching programming at schools should be just as as crucial as the process of learning how to read and write, that we sat down on the spot and he poured his heart out and defended his profession. He is a programmer, and programming is about breaking down problems - which he has not seen been taken seriously and thought of in this context.

A famous Steve Jobs quote is: "Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer...because it teaches you how to think." Programming is indeed about how to think, but in this video, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, says that Facebook's policy is basically to hire as many talented engineers as they can find. Note: engineers, not people that can copy and paste code they learned from a google search or people that took a crash course in programming and claim that they can program - because there are a lot of them, and many people believe them, my friend says angrily. My friend - and many others - compare programming with knowing how to read and write. Can everybody who learned to read and write automatically write a good novel? No, such a thing takes time, requires effort and is a skill. Neither is it necessary in everyday life. Meaning: not everybody can write code, not everybody who can write code does it well and everybody has to be able to do it. Hence, we should appreciate engineers who have been at the university for years and respect their profession more than we do today. It is true that not enough people have the skills today to keep up with the development that programming brings us, but the approach should not be that everybody should know how to program unless it is a serious approach. "When people talk about programming they more often than not actually think of 'knowing how to use a program', or even 'how to use a computer'", my friend says, "and there is a big difference. Many people also mistakingly think of some markup languages as a programming language, while they are not - html is not a programming language, for example. Another common misunderstanding is what takes time and what does not. Making a search engine is hard and engineers have been trying to make voice-steered functions to work since the 1950's - back then they thought it would take only two years to figure out. On the other hand, on the contrary of popular belief, sending secret copys of an email takes seconds to fix for a programmer."

My friend's suggestion is, shortly put, to have more classes about problem solving at schools to start with. Problem solving could be introduced by having more mathematics on the schedule and special-focused mathematics classes as well, and it could be combined with a separate subject in how to think outside of the famous box. I have myself met a teacher from Scotland in United Kingdom that teaches kids in creativity, for example, so some schools already have introduced such a subject. Myself, I also believe that our children and our children's children will be getting in touch with programming much earlier than this generation does, but it is a long haul to claim that it is a necessity to make everybody learn how to program well.

Now, there is one major fault in this text: I have no source for ongoing United Nations talks about programming being as crucial as is claimed above. My friend has read this somewhere and does not remember where, all he can recall is that he got really upset about that the discussion about introducing programming at schools sounded like a suggestion that was not well thought through. That is a major point in general, though: thinking suggestions and decisions through and respecting academic domains is important, at all times - combined with a sound judgement from all parties involved. (Studies show in fact that the bigger a project politicians take on, the less background information is provided and looked at, as seen in the ongoing talks about building new roads in Göteborg in southern Sweden, where the intention is to make transportation by car better from certain points in the city.)

And, programming actually is a domain that many people are still not adequately familiar with.

*My translation.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Quiz!

What is this? I shall answer with a video, guesses are welcome in the interim!

The Onion Story

It is about time to tell you the onion story.
My Greek neighbour, Nick, needed an onion for cooking, so I gave him one under the presumtion that he would give me an onion back later. Some time passed, and there was no sight of an onion - until one day, when Nick had been all the way to Södermalm - southern Stockholm - and got me a fresh, crisp beautiful onion of the perfect size. He handed me the onion and started talking. About his childhood, where his parents grew up, what he wanted to do in the future. Nick was not a talkative young man, but after he had handed me the onion it was as if a veil of magic had swept through the room.
A few months passed and I had a dinner party with friends that, all by themselves, brought many onions. C. used an onion to massage my back with great result, and the next day, there was an onion left on the windowsill. A safe sign that shows: how do you know that Jana threw a dinner party last night? There is an onion left.
When M.S., who is of Polish ancestry, left the student corridor, he put an onion in my cupboard.

When a new girl moved in, my brother suggested I should give her an onion, just like people welcome neighbours with pies and cakes and porrridge and flowers. I also got the suggestion from L. that I could put up onions with glitter on them as Christmas decorations.

Then, a friend suggested I should use an onion as a secret message. There is a guy at our university that, as some of his fellow students disovered, matches the colour of his shirt with the colour of his socks. As an answer to his classmates' question about if this was true or a mere coincidence, he pulled up his perfectly matching underwear, so how great would it not to hand him a perfectly matching onion?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Best of Facebook

Puzzle made in Paint! Oh, you could already tell? :P As for the Swedish stuff below to the right, it is outright funny. Of course it is.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Autumn warderobe, from hot to cold

While collecting representative fashion photos (the top on the left is lovely orange, the other is red!), fall has come and it is almost freezing cold at night - hence you see the weather shift expressed in clothes. The stockings on the last picture are of wool, for example. Bonus information: the blue top was sold as a dress (!).

Monday, 23 September 2013

STHLM Tapas

We, a company of four, went to this tapas restaurant and ordered three different small dishes each that we passed around, plus a wine which was picked in the most delicate of ways by me: I closed my eyes and pointed on the menu, which turned out to be a very lucky guess (I do not even drink, but the sip I had was very nice and set a new benchmark: the more expensive beverage, the better). One has to sort of tick boxes on the menu to make the order, and among the dishes we ordered, there are some winners that just melted in the mouth - which technically should be physically imposible - so we were very happy. We disagreed on whether the creme brulée tasted liquorice or coffee, though.
Photo courtesy of me.
Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Politics under the surface

One has to love political meetings under water, in particular - as in this case - when used to draw attention to the global warming. The government of the Maldives had this get together in October 2009. By 2100, this country might be so flooded that it will cease to exist. 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

South of South of Stockholm: Skogskyrkogården

The graveyard Skogskyrkogården is quite a popular tourist attraction and has been on UNESCO's list of world heritage for almost twenty years.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Great party from recently 2




A forest on the inner ceiling and origami birds was a great setting that comprised three parties at the same time and was easy to remember... because madeleine cakes were served! :D

Great party from recently 1

C. wanted snow for this party, so I got her some (it is a secret how), and it was great fun to make a snowman sitting on the sofa :-) 

Friday, 20 September 2013

"Sometimes I want to study to become a priest"

My friend A. and I were discussing whether universities are fabrics molding students that can perform work or not. We both find that it is a disturbing problem when some students only have chosen their education to earn money and do neither really care nor realise what they can do with the education they get, often interrupting the eager teacher that is teaching with questions such as: "Will there be a question about this on the exam?" or "Should we write this down?" (My answer to high school students when I teach is always: "Yes, unless you have a photographic memory.")

Had all universities had educations based solely on the most popular programs or courses in Sweden, there would be a law school, a school of economics, a department for engineers, doctors, psychiatrists, political scientist and a few more. The rest would be omitted and there would be no future teachers (!) (a profession that many people choose because of the long summer vacation that come with it (!)), no mathematics (because obviously it is soooo hard and too abstract to understand) and other subjects that one would think are necessarily to be found at least at a university - the institution of knowledge.

A university per definition, as many phiolosphers have agreed upon, should not care about such "temporarities" as popular educations, or educations resulting in well-payed jobs. Universities should take care about knowledge and make sure that once available, it shall never be forgotten, and, the moment anybody will need it one day, make it be there, ready to be read and discovered. Some interpret the university as an institution that shows you how to think, not really questioning or pointing out what is right and what is wrong.

To be continued. As for the topic, it is quite wide and is a thought A. had. Becoming a priest is hardly a money-driven wish, but opens up the world of values that many laws are based upon.

Nature's dummy. Or my prototype.

The challenge is to captivate the transparent, fragile droplets (pearls, of course) and to choose an appropriate material to reconstruct the leaves. I was thinking of threads put together tightly enough to be distinguishable but also loose enough to have a change in the structure, let me get back on that.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Food and Harmony

When at school, I eat as if I am an athlete, as if my brain was all my body's muscles combined together. Digesting litterature has its price in kalories, and I do not seem to lose weight. Can knowledge be measured in kilograms, perhaps?

90-60-90

Luckily, all women do not look the same. Some have a 90 cm waist, size 60 in shoes and a 90 cm tongue (inside counts, pun intended). Sorry, were you thinking about some other ideal applied to womens' bodies?I hope not, because if you did, I would ask you for your ideal man's numbers. I have myself not calculated what my ideal man would look like - it seems ridiculous. And if I have not done that to him, I expect my ideal man to act the same, because what goes on in his brain is the primary sorting criteria. Would I stand him if I closed my eyes and listened? Would he stand me with his eyes closed? Technically, my ideal man is any smart man that truly cares about what happens around him, which in theory should be any minister or teacher, for example. Such a man would make a nice friend. Kids these days are so fixed on looks these days, gosh!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Massproduced quality

This is one of my favourie bling-bling shoes that in a way is very interesting: while the shoe is falling apart, the glitter pearls on the top seem to be harder than diamonds. Being environmentally friendly, I devise the grand plan of removing and gluing them to some other footwear. This requires tools and patience, and while waiting for the patience to emerge, I am going to a workshop for doing-this-on-my-free-time enthusiasts: a so-called makespace, which I think is going to be really fun.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Believing in...

A teacher at Uppsala university started her lecture by saying: YOU ARE THE FUTURE SITTING IN FRONT OF ME. That made me take a breath and strenghten my posture a bit: she believed in us, and therefore we had a responsibility.

"Responsibility" can mean many things depending on the context, but foremost it means  making life better in a non-selfish way. This can be translated into me doing something to improve the life of people who did not have the same chances as I did in terms of education, social welfare and a relatively safe everyday life. It could mean a struggle for leaving the biodiversity as intact, if not better, before I got access to it. In other words, it is about doing as little harm as possible and being aware of that.

I seem to be optimistic about making the world a better place because I already live in a place that gives me hope, and I get reminded of this by people that believe - believe in the system, in the students, in the possibilities' possibility. So what reasons do I have to be lazy, not passing on the optimism and ignore the possibilities being served as a result of other people's struggles?

Thank you, teacher. I will pass this on.

Monday, 16 September 2013

How to start

Writing the first chapter of a book, and then rewriting it, is among the most amusing things one can do. I guess I now have about a dozen "chapter one", so when C. and I started to write together, we conviniently named the first chapter "Chapter five".

When I looked through all the papers I have collected over the years, I found something that perhaps is a good way of getting started, too: I had filled an entire page with critics' praise of my own book which I had not yet written, and I intended to publish this praise  at the back of the book as an inseparable part from the content.  Not surprisingly, did I also find photographies for the book's cover. There was only one part missing...

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Best game so far: The great language game

Link to the great language game. I scored 650 points so far, a friend claims he scored 1050...

Commuting made cute

It can not be left uncommented that the commuter trains in the Stockholm area now have company from happy cartoons shaped as beans clouds:

...going as far as reciting poetry is the best, successful diplomatic message - at least it works on me. In fact, the art you pass by in Stockholm - taking the subway though - can be found out more about if you join a guided tour, next one coming up on Thursday.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Museum Mission: Carl Eldhs ateljémuseum

Up a hill at the outskirts of the most crowded parts of Stockholm and surrounded by noisy cars on one hand and a park and a lake on the other, is Carl Eldhs ateljémuseum.
Carl Eldh (1873-1954) made several statues of August Strindberg, a famous Swedish author. The two became good friends despite a quite big age difference grace to their great interest in art. After Strindberg's death, Eldh made several prototypes of Strindberg with inspiration from the Greek mythology and the one he finally settled for, "The Titan", first travelled around in Stockholm as a dummy. People could vote for which place was the most accurate one for the future statue, which ended up being Tegnérlunden (next to my old high school, actually!).
The studio was built in 1919 for Carl Eldh in particular, partly financed by himself. The buildings seen on one's way to the studio are younger, dating from the 18th century.
The windows are strategically directed towards the north, which gives the studio most light.
As you may guess, photographies of the studio from the inside are not allowed BUT HERE IS A FASHION PHOTOSHOOT FROM INSIDE!
This museum reminds me a teeny tiny bit - regarding the content - of Millesgården. If you wish to come here, have in mind that depending on the time of the year, it might be necessary to make a booking.

Friday, 13 September 2013

At somebody else's lab

This was soooo much fun! I loooove labs. This is, kind of, a vaporisation chamber which is used for research on how to make new fuel sources more efficient. I tried to return the favour and show my university, but my friend was not as keen to see modern glass design, cannons and paintings (though beautiful and of course with a great historical value) with men, horses and various swords.
Instead of protecting gloves, I wore...

Muscles coming alive

Photos courtesy of Lucas, who also made a video where I scream and seem to lose.
A friend has been doing gymnastics on a professional level, so when I saw some impressive poledance-inspired exercising videos online, I of course asked her what to start with to be that good. She answered I should start with getting some black clothes, so here we are!..

Today I did tribalyoga (it involves a flow of movements, a bit like dancing but in a stretching-and-sticking-to-a-mat mode) for the first time, or actually yoga for the first time. The sports hall at Stockholm university, Frescatihallen, offers various exercising class for free this week - a perfect way of trying out something new and fun!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Musseum Mission: Hallwylska Museet

Hallwylska museet/The Hallwyl Museum consists of 40 rooms and takes up 2,000 square meters - but has only one bathroom, with the intention to make guests go home early. It was finished in 1898 and was the first house in Stockholm that had electricity, if I remember it right. Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, the lady of the house, decided early to make the house a museum and cataloged all belongings, which ended up filling 78 books (!). Conviently, the museum now also is among the first ones in Sweden to participate in Google's Art Project.

Since there is a lot to explore, I am happy that the webpage is very well done and I recommend you to go for a digital visit.