Electric Mini

OK, here's a bit of bit of prejudice for you. I believe most guys have a particular car which they long for to have. I know I do anyway, despite my rather low interest in things-with-motors. And it's the Mini (note the cool url).

I just read an article about a modified Mini, called the
Treehugger: Electric Mini. The novel thing with this car is that it has the engines in its weels and is driven mostly by electricity. Though strictly speaking it's a hybrid car. The advantages with this approach are interesting: it's both more environment friendly and it gives the car more power. Though I bet it costs alot more.

Before the Electric Mini there were only four custom made Mini's that were electric. Those for were made for the 2003 remake of the movie The Italian Job. The thing was, they wanted to drive the cars around in the subway, but weren't allowed to bring any combustion vehicle down there. So they called BMW and had four cars custom made with electric engines only.

So I'm 30 years old

It happened a few weeks back.



The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation

I just happened to trip upon what is "one of the sharpest pieces of satire to appear on the web". It is The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation by Peter Norvig(head of Google research). The reason he made it was to show just how bad PowerPoint presentation get the message across. His initial intent was to spend a lot of time finding bad colors and fonts but he found that the Autocontent Wizard did all that work for him. Hilarious.



Today I discovered a rather unexpected piece of trivia about two actors. I was watching the end of the movie Addams Family Values and I noticed to my delight that Peter MacNicol was in the movie. He seems to be a very funny guy, all the characters I've seen him portray have been very special.

When the movie was over and the end titles flashed by I thought I recognized one name. The name was David Krumholtz. And no wonder I recognized him. He's the leading actor in Numb3rs playing the young mathematics professor who helps FBI solve crimes. But when he did Adams Family Values he was only 15 years old. So I don't blame myself for not recognizing him in the movie.

And now for the fun part. Both Peter MacNicol and David Krumholtz had roles in the Adams Family Values. As it turns out they would reunite 12 years later in Numb3rs. Peter MacNicol plays the somewhat eccentric physicist who is the best fried of the mathematics professor portrayed by Krumholtz.

You don't think it's funny? I know it's kind of random. But it's just that I like Numb3rs and discovering that MacNicol and Krumholtz was in the same movie way back was a bit like being struck by lightning. Or something like that.


IntroComp 2006

I spent a couple of hours last week playing text adventure games. Text based games are a relic from the 70's and 80's but they still enjoy a small and devoted community. And people are writing a lot of new games still.

The games I played were all submissions to the contest IntroComp 2006. This contest has a rather interesting setup. Each participant is invited to submit a game which isn't finished. Only the introduction in the game needs to be done. The submissions are rated based on how much the voters want to see the whole game finished. There are some real money involved when winning but there is a caveat. You only get the money after you've finished your game. And the higher your ranking, the more money you get when you finish your game. It's a pretty nice setup to increase the incentive for writers to actually finish their games. Of course, games which are just slapped together to get the money will not receive any.

So I had some fun playing the games in this competition and I participated as a voter. This was the very first time I participated in any way in such a contest and I'm quite likely to do it again. One of the most amusing things with this contest was the announcement of the results. This happen in the IfMUD. A MUD, in case you don't know, is like an online text adventure game. The interface is completely text based and you can walk around in the world and meet other people a solve puzzles. The IfMUD works more like a chat than an ordinary MUD though. The announcements of the IntroComp contest was made in a particular room inside the MUD. I really liked the experience, there was a lot of funny people there and the general atmosphere was very inviting. I'll probably spend some time in the IfMUD in days to come.

Lastly, here are some reviews of the games in the competition.


Three Sins of Authors in Computer Science and Math

I stumbled upon some nice piece of advice for writing articles today. It's called Three Sins of Authors in Computer Science and Math. And I know I'm guilty on all three accounts. But I just got a paper accepted which needs to be finished pretty soon so I'll have a good opportunity to use the advice right away.


Brought up to mental illness

One thing that's been on my mind a lot lately is the mental health of youngsters in our country. A recent article in our local newspaper reports that 1/4 of all 16-year-olds have hurt themselves in one way or another. This is a really scary figure. A lot of young people are feeling bad today and even has to go to such lengths as hurting themselves to get some relief from their mental suffering.

I've always assumed that the fundamental reason for this is that parents doesn't care enough about their children. Sweden has a very self centered culture and that can make children be less important that the parent itself. So my suggestion to solve the problem has been to spend more time with and care for the children.

But today I read a very interesting article in Psychology Today called "A Nation of Wimps". This article suggest rather the opposite of my assumption. The problem is that parents micromanage their children, keep them away from anything that might hurt them or make them sad and they do just about anything to make sure that their children get high grades so that they can attend prestigious colleges.
It this way children have no chance to develop the right cognitive tools to make it through life.

True, the article from Psychology Today concerns the US. But it might be relevant to Sweden as well. The International Herald Tribune has a very nice article about Swedes as 'safety junkies' and 'curling parents', a swedish expression for overprotecting parents. It might be that swedish parents are just as bad when it come to overprotecting their children.

It seems that we have somehow forgotten what good parenting is. And commercial interests have invaded the whole parenting area and profits from anxious parents.

The political party Kristdemokraterna (roughly Christian Democrats) is the party which profile itself towards families. Their suggestions for the upcoming election is to put the parents in charge of their children's upbringing and kindergarten and give parents more time with their children. I've always thought that this sounds like a really good idea and a good way towards making young adults feel better. But the above articles suggest that this line, while not bad, won't help this particular problem.

So what can we do about it? I don't know. Parenting courses? But who's to give them? But clearly we need a solution soon. There's a lot of young people who are not feeling well right now.

The Weakest Link in Security

A while ago I attended a workshop drawing together most of Sweden's PhD students working in one way or the other with security. As you might expect the program was pretty diverse ranging from very hard core technical stuff to very fluffy stuff bordering on politics and human computer interaction.

There was one talk that I'd like to comment on. It was titled "Are Humans The Weakest Link In Security?" or something like that. The speakers intention with the title was to be a bit provocative. Many of my fellow PhD students which lean more to the technical side smiled at this title: "Of course humans are the weakest link!" They seemed to think that the question was rather silly.

I have a different opinion. My answer to the question is rather "Humans SHOULD be the weakest link". Otherwise technology has failed. Technology is here to help us. Sure, some of us like technology just for the fun of it. But the adoption of technology can only be motivated if it helps us in some way. This is especially true when it comes to security. If technology is a weaker link than its users what good is it then.

I don't think the question posed by the speaker was silly. I think it is good to ask such questions and ponder upon the answer. It might not be as straightforward as you might think.

Learning Haskell

John Meacham has his own way of explaining how it is to learn Haskell:

It is best to think of haskell primitives as something completely new, they reuse some naming conventions from OO programming, but that doesn't mean they suffer from the same limitations. It took me a few trys to wrap my brain around it. I liken learning haskell to tipping over a vending machine. you can't just push it, you gotta rock it back and forth a few times building up momentum until bam! suddenly the flash of insight hits and it all makes sense.

From the Haskell-Cafe mailling list.