Joss Stone on piracy: ”I don’t care how you hear it, as long as you hear it.”

More artists should keep an open mind when it comes to piracy. Do what many others have before you – try to release an album for free online as well as a regular release, and see if you get as much or more than you would have. It’s free advertisement that have worked many times before you.


Some people are just perfect for their job. Such as Sainsbury’s customer manager Chris King.

Click for bigger picture.

This scan-in of a letter sent from 3-year-old Lily Robinson to the Sainsbury’s support, and their response, is circulating the web. I found it on the Facebook page of Parker Lim, but I haven’t found who was first to upload it.

Chinese idiom of the day: 不翼而飞 – to fly without wings

The idiom 不翼而飞 (búyì érfēi) is interesting not only in that the sign 翼 is extremely cool looking, but also in that it’s literal meaning is almost identical to an English idiom with a completely different meaning. The translation is ”to fly without wings” (or even more literal with the proper word order, ”without wings but flying”), which in an English-speaking context would equal to a derogatory comment to someone who gets ahead of himself – similar to ”learn to run before you can walk”.

The Asian dragons manage to fly in spite of having no wings in many myths and traditions, but I don't think there's much of a connection to the idiom.

The Chinese meaning is quite different, however just as logical. The Chinese quite literally refer to something without wings that flies away, in other words something that vanishes very suddenly, for example a fad. It could refer to news or trends that appear and disappear very quickly, or something more permanent such as losing a possession or an unexpected death.

An aside: through a quick Google search I found a Westlife song called ”Flying Without Wings”, that seems to represent something in between the Chinese idiom and the English idiom I am acquainted with. The boy band instead use the phrase to express extreme happiness, in other words metaphorically flying from happiness, even though you haven’t got any wings:

”You’ll find it in the deepest friendship
The kind you cherish all your life
And when you know how much it means
You’ve found that special thing
You’re flying without wings“

This is part five of my series on Chinese idioms, read more here or check out all previous idioms here.
If you enjoy the idioms and want to read more, please go buy Pan Weigui’s book, it’s fairly cheap and definitely worth it.

Chinese police brutality, cartoon style – 黑猫警长 review

I recently got the first season of the Chinese children’s cartoon show 黑猫警长 (Black Cat Detective), and just minutes into the first episode I was horrified by its violence.

Screenshot from s01e01. 警长 tracks down and kills the kidnapping rats.

The series basically features a black cat police detective (duh) who is biking around on his motorcycle solving crimes, primarily through shooting rats (who are evil, duh). In this first episode the Detective (警长) found the rats invading a house and kidnapping the mother of ten possums (?). Upon seeing the rats escape, the Detective does the only noble thing – points a gun at the moving car, kills one rat with a shot straight through the chest. The immediately still body of the rat is thrown of the car by his fellow rats, upon which the Detective shoots another shot at him before giving up the chase.

Later in the episode, the Detective and his cat police team hunt the rat gang down as they are messing with the kidnapped mother possum. The Detective immediately starts shooting, killing off the rats one by one.

Apparently the series has been widely critisised for its violence in the past. I still recommend it for learning Chinese (it has simple dialogue and all is subtitled in simplified Chinese), but don’t go around kidnapping possums or shooting rats.

Carl Sagan: ”The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark”

Carl Sagan’s 1997 ”The Demon-Haunted World” is a celebrated book deserving its celebration, one of the absolute best – if not the best – introductory books to scientific philosophy and skepticism for both the lay person and the academic. Throughout the 400 pages Sagan varies between discussing why certain paranormal concepts (especially ufology) is wrong, and discussing why we don’t need them in the first place – the beauty of science should be enough. Sagan postulates that science is not just a nice thing to have around for the practical technology it creates, but it is absolutely vital for our continuing survival as a species, a candle in the dark, flickering and trembling before the darkness of superstition.

Sagan puts this forth to excite the reader and make her think, while at the same time bringing both comic relief, grave seriousness and spirituality, in the agnostic way Sagan defines it. Sagan both plays with the ideas of extraterrestrial visits to Earth, and only pages later writes of the mixed emotions when facing his father’s death in a naturalistic world view.

Sagan’s final book before his 1997 death is not only a book for debunking pseudo-scientific claims (if that’s your goal, there are much better books and web sites). Much like his TV series Cosmos, ”The Demon-Haunted World” is a testament both to critical thinking and to the human species and the cosmos. Sagan doesn’t look down upon the human brain for its creation of  superstition and religion. He celebrates it, and he hopes it to continue its journey with science.

”I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudo-science and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us-then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls. The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”

– Carl Sagan: ”The Demon-Haunted World”

The tortoise and Achilles discusses pirate parties throughout the world

Tortoise: ”But this Pirate Party thing is just a phase by naïve Swedish teens! This will pass shortly.”

Achilles: ”Oh yeah? Pirate parties are currently officially registered in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, the United States of America and Uruguay.”

Tortoise: ”That few?”

Achilles: ”Active but not registered parties also exist in Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, Cyprus, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Uruguay. Oh, and there are discussions of forming a group in China, Colombia, Norway, Peru, South Korea and Venezuela.”

Tortoise: ”Yeah, but… it still is just a bunch of teen jerks. It’s not like they cold enter parliament or have an effect on society or something!”

Achilles: (Looks down shamefully.) ”Yeah, I guess you’re right. The only group having an effect, really, is the Hungarian one, which is a group within the LMP party, which has 16 MP’s in parliament.”

Tortoise: ”Yeah, sure, like that’s gonna have an effect.” (Expresses a derogatory smile)

Achilles: ”Well, then again ofcourse there are some parties that could be considered as having at least a minor effect.”

Tortoise: (Laughs.) ”Whatever do you mean?”

Achilles: ”Well, apparantly the Czech Republic has three municipal councilors from their Pirate Party, and the Spanish has two. The Swedish party made 9 % in the last EU election and has two MEPs, while Switzerland has a city council seat.”

Tortoise: (Befuddled.) ”Is that all then?”

Achilles: ”Well ofcourse the German party did a success year 2011.”

Tortoise: (Even more befuddled than before.) ”Really?”

Achilles: ”Well ofcourse. 195 municipal council seats and 15 state parliament seats in Berlin.”

Tortoise: (Is quiet for a moment as he ponders the implications of what Achilles has told him.)

Achilles: ”Happy?”

Tortoise: ”What is it you stand for again?”

Picture is CC  BY-NC Alexander Montuschi.

Evolution for dummies (eller för de som helt enkelt inte tänkt så mycket på det)

Väldigt ofta stöter jag på dem som inte riktigt litar eller känner sig säkra på evolutionsteori, inte för att de egentligen är emot den eller så utan för att de helt enkelt aldrig tänkt så mycket på det, eller för att de hört att det är något skumt med den.

Faktum är att evolutionsteorin är allmänt accepterad av näst intill alla vetenskapsmän i världen, och den utgör grunden för nästan all modern biologi. Evolution används vid forskning om virus, vaccinering, genmanipulering, och hundratals andra stora områden. Det är en av de mest säkerställda idéerna inom modern historia, som blivit allt säkrare konstant under nästan tvåhundra år. Samtidigt har den ständigt överlevt alla försök att motbevisa den.

Trots detta är det många som har dålig koll på vad den faktiskt går ut på, och utöver de religiösa motståndarna så finns det en stor procent av befolkningen som inte tycker att de kan lita på biologerna i frågan. Det är helt okej – man ska inte blint följa auktoritetsfigurer. Vad man däremot ska göra är att själv analysera fakta, och se om det stämmer eller inte. Läs på. Det finns en del fantastiska böcker på området som tar upp, steg för steg, hur vi vet att evolution har skett under miljarder år och fortsätter att se. Mitt guldexempel på detta är Richard Dawkins ”Så gick det till” (originaltitel ”The Greatest Show on Earth”), vilken med vackra bilder och tydligt diskussion tar upp bevisen för evolution, samt tar upp specifika argument mot evolution och berättar varför de inte håller.

Och som jag sade – följ inte blint auktoritetsfigurer. När du läser en bok om evolution – oavsett om den är skriven av någon för (exempelvis Dawkins) eller någon mot (exempelvis Michael Behe) – kolla upp det du inte litar på. Dawkins har fullt med källor i sina böcker, så kolla upp dem eller gör en googlesökning. Kolla runt, finn sanningen. Det är det bästa du kan göra.

Idag upptäckte jag genom Skepchick en bra filmserie på YouTube, där evolution tas upp på ett lättsamt sätt för den som har dålig koll. Kolla!

Det här handlar trots allt om något så grundläggande som var allt liv på jorden, inklusive du och jag, kom ifrån. Det förtjänar tio minuter av din tid.