Books of May 2012

These are the books read in May. Hasn’t gotten much read due to a lot of school and work.

  • Mignon Fogarty: “The Grammar Devotional” (2009)
    • Filled with some great tips on using proper grammar, some already known and some new. I’m not a big fan of the day-to-day structure (read a tip a day), but it works. I felt the quizzes took up a little too much space, but the tips and the background info was all useful.
  • Stephen King: “The Wind Through the Keyhole: a Dark Tower Novel” (2012)
    • I’ve been waiting a long time for this midquel of King’s Dark Tower series (which finished with the seventh book in 2004). This book takes place in between the fourth (“Wizard and Glass”) and fifth (“Wolves of the Calla”) books of the series, and features Roland retelling two stories from his youth, one from his teen years and one a fairy tale his mother used to tell him when he was a sma’ one. The book basically fulfills everything I hoped for – it’s not an epic exciting story liked the original Dark Tower series, but rather a softer storybook. It’s nice to return to these old characters again, and it’s hard to part with them towards the end, knowing what shall come. I hope King considers producing any future such material, like more stories from Roland’s youth.

My RSS feeds


Having gone off from traditional newspapers and TV reports more and more in the last few years, I’m now getting almost all of my news from RSS feeds (what is RSS?), anything from private blogs such as mine, to larger science blogs, news outlets and organisations such as NASA, and – let’s face it – a bunch of other stuff just for fun. I decided to make this post to go through all English language feeds I follow. Count all these feeds as recommended. In no specific order.

  • xkcd: One of the best web series out there, with good nerd and science humour.
  • Morito Ergo Sum: A promising, up and coming doom metal band.
  • Richard Wiseman: A British psychologist, with lots of great visual illusions (like the one to the right), puzzles and interesting thoughts.
  • SMBC Comics: Funny, skeptical comics from the SMBC team, which I’ve linked to several times in the past.
  • To Posterity – and Beyond!: The blog of Cori Samuels, an audio book recorder I totally fell in love with after hearing her LibriVox rendition of William Morris’ ”The Wood Beyond the World” (which I reviewed here). Her blog is extremely slow on updates, but still of interest.
  • TorrentFreak: The best news source I’ve found concerning internet piracy and filesharing. Although extremely subjective (pro-piracy), they report a great deal on the recent news concerning police busts, laws, new technology, interviews and studies.
  • Wuffmorgenthaler: Another web series, of much lower quality than SMBC and xkcd, but still fun sometimes.
  • Dinosaur Comics: Yet another web series, much wordier than the other, but (most of the time) a lot of fun. Plus, it has dinosaurs.
  • Just Bento: Cool pictures of and recipes for Japanese box lunches (like the one to the right).
  • The Big Picture: With the tagline ”News stories in photographs”, this is a news source which sort of focuses on the tragic events (such as the Japanese nuclear incident last March), and has a lot of excellent, provocative pictures to go along with them.
  • WebUrbanist: Cool architecture. Sort of.
  • Anton Nordenfur: My own blog. Just to see if the RSS feed is working properly.
  • Ars Technica: The latest news in computer technology – computers, operative systems, smart phones, smart TV, tablets, et cetera.
  • Astro-photo.nl: The astronomy blog of André van der Hoeven, the dude who took the Moon picture that I wrote about yesterday. Lots of cool space photos.
  • Brainstorm Headquarters: The blog of Fredrik Bränström, rarely updated but excellent when it is.
  • Discover Blogs: This feed includes multiple blogs under Discover Magazine, including the awesome Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy. A great way to keep up with science news from many different fields, some interesting and some less interesting.
  • Explore. Dream. Discover. (and bring a parrot): The rarely updated blog of the fantastic Kaylee, a skeptic parrot owner. Sometimes in Swedish, sometimes in English.
  • Hacking Chinese: A blog by Olle Linge on learning Chinese, which I’ve referenced a couple of times before.
  • LROC News: News released from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, which produced the Apollo 11 photo I wrote about a couple days ago.
  • NASA Breaking News: Constant updates about the work of the American Air and Space Administration.
  • Neurologica: The blog of Dr. Steven Novella, probably most famous as the host of the podcast The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, which I follow avidly since a year past or so. A practicing neuroscientist giving a ”daily fix of neuroscience, skepticism, and critical thinking”.
  • Olle Linge: The personal blog of Olle Linge behind Hacking Chinese. Sometimes in Swedish, sometimes in English.
  • Science-Based Medicine: A blog on scientific medicine, combating nonscientific medicine, basically. With editors and contributors like Steve Novella (who also runs Neurologica), Mark Krislip, David Gorsky and others.
  • Skepchick: The skeptic women organisation Skepchick’s blog, with multiple contributors headed by Rebecca Watson (also of the Skeptic’s Guide, by the way).
  • Universe Today: The best outlet for astronomy news, which is also the reason I’ve referenced them several times in the past. Headed by Fraser Cain of the podcast Astronomy Cast.
  • VODO: VODO is a great source for films and TV series released online under a Creative Commons license. The feed gives a constant update on new projects.
  • Pioneer One: The source for news about the VODO TV series Pioneer One.
  • Quantum Diaries: News updates on particle physics and quantum theory.
  • Astroblog: Astronomy news from Australian Ian Musgrave.
  • Tom’s Astronomy Blog: Astronomy news from… well, Tom.
  • Astronomy Blog: Another astronomy blog, this time British – okay, I consume a lot of astronomy news, so sue me. Following many different sources make evaluating and making sure not to miss anything much easier.
  • Quantum blog: The personal blog of Jev Kuznetsov, a physicist and Matlab programmer.
  • China Space News: News on the Chinese space programme, which is sadly rarely reported on on other astronomy news sources such as Universe Today, in spite of it being one of the most interesting programmes out there, definitely competing with NASA and the ESA.
  • Reuters’ Top News: A good feed for staying up to date with the most important headlines out there. I also have a separate feed for Reuters’ science news, but couldn’t find a link.

I also follow a bunch of Swedish language blogs, mostly on Swedish politics. Yay.

Congratulations Wikipedia on 11th birthday

I almost missed it last year, and I almost missed it this year too – congratulations Wikipedia on your 11th birthday! Wikipedia is gradually becoming a big girl, with over 20 000 000 articles in total, and close to 4 000 000 articles on the English version alone.[1]

Take this time of year to remember that Wikipedia is one of the world’s largest websites, and it is run entirely thanks to the kindness of its users through donations. To celebrate all Wikipedia is constantly doing to humanity, send them a buck or two. Never force Wikipedia to start using advertisement, actively corrupting its purpose.

Oh, and you can actually Flattr Wikipedia too. While Wikipedia has no Flattr account themselves (as part of their no-advertisement-policy), there’s a Flattr account owned by Flattr, that collects flattrs each month and actively donates it all to Wikipedia – the end result being the exact same that would come from Wikipedia having their own account.

Elysium

New computer purchased. A poor fellow, weak and slow, but it manages StarCraft II (with poor effects), and it was extremely cheap. Plus, I needed a home computer. Following my tradition of computer naming since 2009’s Kinslayer, I have named the computer after another musical piece, this time Elysium by power metal band Stratovarius.

Following up with my old list:

  1. Zudde ( – 2008)
  2. Moonlighten (2008 – 2009)
  3. Kinslayer / Edenbeast (2009 – )
  4. Elysium (2011 – )

Kinslayer and Edenbeast are the same computer under different names – Edenbeast was the new name taken when updating some hardware and updating it to Ubuntu 10.10 last autumn.

New Nightwish song out (sort of)

A song from Nightwish’ upcoming album Imaginarium has been remixed into a one and a half minute track by DJ Orkidea (who also made a remix of Bye Bye Beautiful in 2007), and is being used as the intro song for the Finnish sports team Kiteen Pallo. After the song has been released in poor versions on YouTube, Nightwish has released the high quality version themselves through their website, and it can be found here.

I for one can barely wait for the actual album, this sound awesome.

Futurama 6ACV19 ”Ghost in the Machines” tonight

The third episode of this broadcast season of Futurama is airing tonight in the US at 10. For all the rest of us, it will be up around half an hour later on wherever. If you still haven’t seen the previous episodes of this season, view them now, ”Neutopia” and ”Benderama”. For those of you who haven’t seen it at all, shame on you. Get the first season here or here.

Song of the day: Baba Brinkman – Darwin’s Acid

Baba Brinkman – Darwin’s Acid

In 1859 Darwin spilled the first splashes
Of his universal acid, and the effects were like magic
Burning human arrogance into ashes
In exactly the same way that Copernican math did
No, the stars don’t shine just to improve the view from earth
No, we’re not the centre of the universe
No, we weren’t created in the image of Jupiter
No, we’re not so special, and yes, the truth hurts
But that’s how evolution works – once it’s been applied
The acid burns into the superstitious side
Of the human mind, and fills it with light
It even dissolves the original sin of pride
The pride that says: “I’m a special creation
And my creator has given me dominion over nature
And he has the power to replenish his creatures
So if species go extinct, he can recreate them later
And if he doesn’t, well that’s just part of his plan”
Ah, but Darwin’s acid is hard to withstand
It plucks the arrogance deep from within the hearts of man
And teaches us never to build our houses on sand
But instead to try to understand why we’re here
One species among millions in this biosphere
Each with millions of ancestors, whose fighting spirits
Combined to give us this great survival gear
These minds, these limbs, these incredible tools
Perfected by millennia of competitive use
And yes, these attention-seeking genitals too
Without them, these living forms could never improve
It’s such an elegant view, full of breadth and grandeur
And yet, some people react with depression and anger
Like: “It’s so unsympathetic, so viciously random!
What’s the point of compassion, or ethical standards?
If this is just a game that organisms are trapped in
Genetically adapting to environmental factors
Then there’s no responsibility for individual actions!
Where’s the governing dynamic?!?”
Well, once again Darwin gives us some answers
He says yes, everything from violence to violets to viruses
Consists of organisms adapting to environments
If you’re alive, it’s because your ancestors were the best survivalists
They were the finalists in the genetic Olympic Games
Every one of your ancestors lived to reproductive age
And they were all better than their competitors at getting laid
Otherwise, you wouldn’t be sitting here today
There’s something inspirational in this vision of Darwin’s
And it goes like this: organisms – like us – are not isolated
Organisms are part of an environmental mix
So your decisions affect evolution – it isn’t directionless
Now, before you dismiss me as a mad environmentalist
Just try to imagine how natural selection applies
To countries that have industrialized
Companies live and companies die
And when customers buy based on a company’s green plan
That affects the economy, just ask Alan Greenspan
Cultural evolution is ours to reinvent
Wait, can we affect current events? Yes We Can
And when we choose who to sleep with and reproduce
Our sexual choices affect the gene pool
So it’s simple, all we need to do is refuse
To sleep with mean people, and things will improve
Especially women – on you the pressure is greater
‘Cause men will always do what it takes to get into your favour
That’s just in our nature, so if selfish behaviour
Was a sexual graveyard, the effects would be major!
In each of these cases, our intentional efforts
Can play the part of environmental pressures
I can say: “This is a space where a peaceful existence
Will never be threatened by needless aggression”
I can say: “This is an ecosystem where people listen
Where justice increases over egotism
This is a space where religions achieve co-existence
And racism decreases with each coalition”
This is my vision of Darwinism, and how we all factor in
Each of us is a part of the environment; we pass through it
And change it, and affect the way that others adapt to it
And after we get to look back and see how we impacted it
And maybe have a laugh if our sense of humour is still alive
And what did Charles Darwin do? Darwin threw some light
On the origin of mankind, and he left us with skewered pride
But he taught us that, yes, there’s grandeur in this view of life

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one, and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful, and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
Charles Darwin, Origin of Species

End of school

Yesterday marked the day of my final hand-in of a pre-university school work. I officially finish secondary school (gymnasium) on June 10, but I have no work left and I have already gotten all my grades except for one, and they are rather good ones. Hopefully enough to bring me to study physics at Linköping University.

And so I will spend the upcoming summer, for the first time not with a summer break, but officially out of work.

Battlestar Galactica

I have started watching the 2003 reimagining of Battlestar Galactica. Ten episodes into it (and beyond the two-part pilot mini-series), I really enjoy it. The feeling is much alike that of when I first discovered Firefly.

The series is set in a distant solar system, decades after a war between humans and robot Cylons. When all seems fine and dandy again, the robots suddenly attack the twelve human colonies, almost destroying the human civilisation and forcing the 50 000 humans left to flee the solar system into deep space. The Cylons continue to seek the remains of humanity, and someone speaks of the legendary 13th colony, planet Earth, a possible sanctuary from the Cylons.

Now, is the 1978 original version worth watching as well?