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Shaka, When the Walls Fell

Shaka, When the Walls Fell

Ian Bogost writes about a famous Star Trek TNG episode:

On stardate 45047.2, Jean-Luc Picard leads the crew of the Enterprise in pursuit of a transmission beacon from the El-Adrel system, where a Tamarian vessel has been broadcasting a mathematical signal for weeks. The aliens, also known as the Children of Tama, are an apparently peaceable and technologically advanced race with which the Federation nevertheless has failed to forge diplomatic relations. The obstacle, as Commander Data puts it: “communication was not possible.”

The funniest thing about this particular episode is how polarized opinions about it are. “Darmok” is by far the most controversial of all TNG episodes. While (as Bogost points out) the episode touches upon the very essence of Star Trek and Gene Rodenberry’s vision of utopian human future, most controversy that surrounds it concerns how… unserious it is. I think this might be the only TNG episode that I felt slightly uncomfortable watching, because of how silly it felt. Read More

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Last bike ride in Norway

Last weekend, me and Karolina went on a bike ride from Laksevåg in Bergen, through Nesttun and Lysekloster to Fanafjellet and then back to town. It was a lovely, sunny day, and we had a pleasant ~50km ride, but what I didn’t realize that day is that it was our last bike ride in Norway, at least for the foreseeable future. The bike on the picture above, Kona Jake, has just been sold, because Karolina is moving to Munich this Thursday, and I will follow her in about two-three weeks. My contract at Bergen University College is over since mid-July, and my PhD education at the University of Bergen is almost finished (I will hand in my thesis within the next two weeks). We’re moving out, starting a new chapter of our lives in Germany.

There’s many, many things that I will miss once I move, but I think the absolutely fantastic nature of Bergen and its surroundings will be chief among them. If you like cycling and/or mountains, and you can afford it, you should definitely visit Western Norway. I’ve been to a lot of places around the world but in my opinion nothing comes even close to the beauty of this land.

You will be missed, Norway.

Spotify, Pandora and how streaming music kills jazz and classical

Spotify, Pandora and how streaming music kills jazz and classical

“All of my colleagues — composers and arrangers — are seeing huge cuts in their earnings,” says Paul Chihara, a veteran composer who until recently headed UCLA’s film-music program. “In effect, we’re not getting royalties. It’s almost amusing some of the royalty checks I get.” One of the last checks he got was for $29. “And it bounced.”

Scott Timberg writes about how the recent rise of streaming services like Spotify, Rdio or Pandora affects royalties in the world of niche music. It’s sad, but not unexpected. However, at least in Europe a jazz/classical music enthusiast observes a growing number of websites that sell uncompressed audio files from small labels. There’s the German Highresaudio and the Norwegian Gubemusic, and both these services have a pretty big catalogue (at least compared to the American HDTracks).1 They are also both targeting the narrow group of listeners, and their catalogues contain mostly jazz and classical music. Which brings us to the second quote from the article:

Here’s a good place to start: Say you’re looking for a bedrock recording, the Beethoven Piano Concertos, with titan Maurizio Pollini on piano. Who is the “artist” for this one? Is it the Berlin Philharmonic, or Claudio Abbado, who conducts them? Is it Pollini? Or is it Beethoven himself? If you can see the entire record jacket, you can see who the recording includes. Otherwise, you could find yourself guessing.

My question is: why hasn’t anyone figured this out yet? It’s an at-least-decent business idea, and there’s a consumer group that can be easily targeted. Jazz fans complain about Spotify’s lack of content all the time. They also tend to be affluent (or pose as such, or are willing to spend more money on music), so you can charge them more. And they’re often suffering from audiophiliac illness.

Create an elite, expensive streaming service for jazz and classical lovers. Take our money!


  1. Yes, I know high-res downloads make no sense. I don’t care. I only care that it’s lossless and that they have albums others don’t. 

Moto G 4G and Android from an iPhone 4 user’s perspective

Some time ago I realized that my 2010 iPhone 4 is no longer usable, at least not in any pleasant manner. While initially I thought iOS 7 is to blame, I quickly discovered that the OS itself wasn’t the problem, but the bigger memory footprint of many apps that wanted to take advantage of what iOS 7 offered was.1 Daily use of a 4-year-old iPhone became too frustrating, so I started considering options. Also, the screen was cracked and I’ve no idea how, where or when I cracked it.

First, of course, was the 5s, Apple’s latest and greatest. It is, according to some, the best smartphone you can buy today, and from what I saw in the stores, it’s a remarkable piece of engineering indeed. Still, the basic, 16GB 5s costs 5790 NOK here in Norway, so I figured perhaps it’d be wise to consider other options.2 There was the 5c, which is basically iPhone 5′s hardware for 4490 NOK, and there was the 4s for a ridiculous 3290 NOK, both of which I dismissed as too expensive as well. So then there was Android.

The Internet says one should buy Nexus. It’s pure Android, straight from Google, it’s fast and it’s relatively cheap (2689 NOK – cheaper than the iPhone 4s!), but it’s also quite big. I held it in my hand and it felt uncomfortably large (what’s with all these huge smartphones?). So then the next great thing was, the Internet said, Moto G and Moto E, Google’s cheap phones. Both models run close-to-stock Android, and both are kept up-to-date with latest version of the OS.3

At first I was tempted by Moto E. Since an Android phone was supposed to be just an experiment, I could simply buy the cheapest option. But then again Moto G was not significantly more expensive, and reviews claimed it had superior display and camera, so I went for the updated G, with 8 GB of internal memory (microSD expandable) and 4G antenna. Here are my impressions of the handset and Android. Read More

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German bikes

Since me and Karolina are moving to Germany soon, I’m doing bike-research, and so far I am positively surprised. The photo above comes from a Berlin-based company called Schindelhauer, and there’s many more awesome manufacturers: Diamant, Fokus, Mika Amaro, Nicolai, Bergamont, Crema, Tout Terrain, and more. And most importantly, many German bike manufacturers equip their city/trekking bikes with belt drive and internal gear hubs (sometimes even the most exotic ones), which I’m getting slightly crazy about. It all looks very good. Germany might not be all that bad after all.

Jazz icon Charlie Haden dies at 76

Jazz icon Charlie Haden dies at 76

I am very sad to read that Charlie Haden died last Friday.1 He was one of the first jazz musicians I ever heard about, when my dad bought the now legendary “Beyond the Missouri Sky” (Verve 1997) record, and I immediately fell in love with his great bass lines and compositions. Then I learned about Charlie Haden’s history with Ornette, and I also realized he played with Keith Jarrett’s quartet in the 70s. A versatile, curious musician who always enriched any jazz album he appeared on with his lyrical bass lines. His death is a terrible loss. Seems sadly prophetic that his latest duo album with Jarrett is titled “Last Dance” (ECM 2014).

Below are a couple of my favorite tracks by Charlie Haden or with him as a sideman. Listen and admire.

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“speed” and “aerodynamics”

I used to laugh at people paying $7k for bicycles with handmade steel frames and all the hype that surrounded the whole NAHBS community. After some months of reading PinP aka The Radavist, however, I’ve changed my mind completely.

Modern competitive cycling is, to me, completely uninteresting sport. I don’t watch the big races, I don’t care about the pros.1 Doping is so prevalent that following these events makes no sense to me, and in the same way I don’t give a shit about carbon frames designed in wind tunnels. What John Watson’s community represents is the opposite: yes, it’s nice to crush KOMs2 and go as fast as you can, but that’s not why we ride. We ride, because riding a bike is rad, because the experience of being outdoors in beautiful mountains is fantastic, and because riding a bike is part of our lifestyle – we love bikes. And yes, if I’m to choose between a Taiwan-made carbon frame wind-tunnel-developed bike from one of the major manufacturers versus a steel frame bicycle US/UK-made by guys who love the work, I’m gonna pay those guys, and I’m gonna pay them more than I should. And I’m still gonna be faster uphill than the 50+ overweight fellas on their Pinarello Dogma bikes.


  1. Except for Maja. Maja is awesome. 
  2. Though even Strava says that riding is not only about KOMs
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Make LaTeX produce only selected pages of the output file

Ok, #protip LaTeX tip for today: if you have a long paper with tons of technical stuff and just want to print a particular page (for example because you have a lazy busy supervisor and you don’t want to intimidate him with a PDF that has more than two pages), you can simply use the pagesel package, like this:

\usepackage[4-6]{pagesel}
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Wayne Shorter Quartet at USF Verftet (NattJazz 2014)

I first heard about Wayne Shorter when my dad bought the brilliant “1+1″ (Verve 1997) album he recorded with Herbie Hancock. I listened to it and was blown away – the soprano saxophone in the hands of Wayne Shorter sounded like nothing I heard before. I had a “jazz band” in my music school at the time,1 and I told the guys “Look, Shorter and Hancock play without drums and bass, so we can do it too!”, but obviously we couldn’t, and we all quickly understood that we know nothing about improvisation.

I haven’t bought any Wayne Shorter records for a couple of years. Some time ago I bought two of his classic albums – “Juju” (Blue Note 1964) and “Speak No Evil” (Blue Note 1965) – and enjoyed them, but of course this was the old post- hard-bop sound of late 60s, significantly different to Shorter’s current music which I didn’t know. That is, until last year’s release of his new2 quartet’s “Without a Net” (Blue Note 2013). Read More

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Strava’s Cycling App Is Helping Cities Build Better Bike Lanes

Wired:

Current methods of counting cyclists take a ton of time or a ton of money. The DOT can videotape traffic and have someone sit at a monitor and count cyclists, or it can send someone to sit on the sidewalk and watch them go by in real time. Neither method is terribly efficient.

You’d think that the problem of building cycling lanes is a simple one, right? Well, it’s not. Apparently most cities struggle with obtaining data; no one really knows where and how many cyclists ride, and the only method available until now was installing bike counters, but these are expensive and measure bicycle traffic only at fixed points. So now, apparently, you can buy data from Strava, and this is brilliant.1 Read More

The 22 most important things Apple announced today | The Verge

The 22 most important things Apple announced today:

Today’s news for developers was surprisingly compelling, thanks to a brand-new programming language, a move into the smart home, and new tools for letting apps interact with one another on iOS.

— The Verge.

Exactly. Everyone was expecting new versions of OS X and iOS, and we got them, but the iOS SDK and the new programming language are the real big thing. iOS apps can finally talk to each other, and they don’t have to be written in Objective-C anymore. Finally.

Hit & Run

Last Sunday night I was walking home and I got hit by a car on a zebra crossing.1 It was pretty late (around 11:30pm) and there was very little traffic. I was on a green light and while I was in the middle of the road, a black car came from behind me (he was making a left turn). I stopped, turned right, and as I was facing the car it hit me on my left leg knocking me down, and then just drove off. Before we get any further, I am happy to assure everyone that I’m perfectly fine, and that I did not sustain any serious injuries. But here are some of my thoughts about the accident.

I remember very vividly how I felt immediately after the accident – I was mad. The guy didn’t stop. In Norway. The best country on earth. I mean, seriously. If this happened in my lovely homeland or anywhere else in the world, I would still be outraged, but perhaps less surprised. But it happened in Norway – someone2 just hit me with a car on a zebra crossing, and then ran away. So yes, my very first feeling when I was lying there in the middle of the street was outrage mixed with bewilderment. This feeling didn’t really pass when another car stopped and called the ambulance – “Call the goddamn cops!” – I yelled – “I don’t need a doctor, I’m fine, just get that guy who nearly ran me over!” Luckily the person who rescued me was a little more lucid and called the ambulance first – “You got blood all over your head man, you need an ambulance.” Read More

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No Smartphone for Lent

No Smartphone for Lent | Matt Mullenweg.

Matt Mullenweg is trying to give up using his smartphone during Lent, and I’m starting to think it’s a good idea. I notice that I’m dependent on a number of apps on my phone to a great degree – especially Calendar, Reminders, Evernote, Mail, Tweetbot and Google Maps – and I’m starting to think that I delegate too much of my own memory to my phone. I don’t exactly manage a company, and if I forget something then (1) probably nothing tragic will happen, and (2) perhaps it’ll teach me to remember things better, hell, maybe even to write things down on a piece of paper. And I really don’t need to check my email all the time, same way I don’t need to know what’s on twitter right now.

So the plan is to switch to, as Matt puts it, makes-phone-calls-only phone and see how much I can manage with that. My bet is I won’t make it to the end of Lent, but I’m gonna try anyway.

Слава Україні!

The Economist:

Once you have gained a taste for adrenaline-flavoured simplicity, it can become addictive. Ukraine needs a decade of hard work on reform to recover the chances squandered in the past 25 years, building the institutions, habits and attitudes needed for honest, lawful government. That will require patience and expertise, not courage and barricades.

I love Ukraine and Ukrainians, and I’m so glad that the violence stopped, but at the same time I’m worried about Ukraine’s future. The amount of bad journalism that you can find on the topic online is staggering, but the blog entry on “Eastern Approaches” by The Economist is luckily rather good (as usual), providing a thorough and non-emotional analysis of the whole situation.

A conversation with a stranger on bybanen

Stranger-on-bybanen: So how come you still don’t speak Norwegian? How long have you been living here? Two weeks?
me: Four years…
S-o-b: Four years?! Well what is it that you do?
me: I work at the university.
S-o-b: Oh. Well what do you do at the university?
me: Well I’m a researcher at the computer science department.
S-o-b: Aha. So you’re a nerd. And you don’t think there’s any point in talking to people.
me: Well… yes.

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Put.io – a discussion about piracy on Hacker News

Put.io – a discussion about piracy on Hacker News

put.io is a service that lets you download and seed torrents, and also watch the downloaded movie files, in the cloud. An obvious question that such a business model raises is a matter of illegal downloads, and that spawned an interesting discussion on HN.

Whenever I read discussions about illegal torrent downloads, I immediately think of three issues.

The first one is convenience – as a Netflix and HBO Nordic customer I miss the comfort of watching great quality mp4 files so much that I… became an IPredator customer, and I download the movies/shows I already payed for simply to be able to watch them without my laptop fan spinning like crazy.1

The second is the whole issue of what’s right, and how human beings aren’t necessarily entitled to watch the latest episode of “Mad Men” whenever and however they want. I used to support this claim and I still think that the argument of “I can’t get it in any other way so I’m gonna download it illegally using bittorrent” is weak, but I find it very unpragmatic to simply forbid downloading. I’m also starting to believe that contemporary TV shows and movies are becoming a significant part of modern culture to a degree that it’s just not right to deny access to that part to people who don’t have Netflix in their countries, or can’t afford going to the cinema very often. Read More