October 30, 2006

Papa Twister

If you read the comments through the last couple of weeks you will see that Papa T (aka Travis Bickle) has raised a number of great issues. My summary:

1. Why Blog?
2. Religion vs Science-- is there a difference?
3. Is it dangerous or perhaps worse, not in the spirit of multiculturalism, to read the Genesis creation story to second graders?
4. Is the Bible cultural junk DNA no better or worse than say the Epic of Gilgamesh?
5. Is it time for me to have a MLC?
6. Could Paul Westerberg be the next Randy Newman?
(Duly noted that both Papa T and beedubs think I should start a band!?)

1. Blogging is self-inflicted spam. Or is it?
2. You're darn tootin' there's a difference. Just as there are different kinds of infinity, there are different kinds of truths. Science deals in rational truths, religion in emotional truths. There is a third kind of truth that exist in a kind of grey zone, as discussed by literary critic Stanley Fish: Baseball umpire Bill Klem once waited a long time to call a particular pitch. The player asked him, impatiently, "Well, is it a ball or strike?" Klem's reply: "Sonny, it ain't nothing 'til I call it." What Fish is saying is, balls and strikes are not undeniable truths; rather, they "come into being only on the call of an umpire."
I'd like to see a nuclear physicist try that: 'Its not a photon until I say its a photon!'
3 to 5, punt.
6. When Hell freezes over!

October 27, 2006

Here's today's weather report. Wind at 20 meters per second is a steady 45 mph. A big storm, as large as Sweden, from the North Sea passed by during the night and earlier today-- they had hurricane strength winds in Skagen, the northern part of the Danish penninsula, but not where we are. We'll have another storm over the weekend and then early next week another big one from the North Sea, as bad as the first, including high winds, freezing rain and snow. It makes you feel alive to ride your bike to work this time of year. Thank heavens for a good raincoat, gloves, rainpants and a taurpaulin cloth shoulder bag.

Let's do the time warp again

Here's a picture BC sent of a certain someone in a play in Jr. High School. He asks if my beard has filled out since those days, yes thanks, it has. That Amish fisherman-type beard is a timeless classic. That was my favorite plaid flannel shirt and the hat was a gift from my brother-in-law. That guitar strap is the only one I've ever had-- still using it. My Dad probably has the guitar (with the same heavy steel strings) sitting under his bed?


We're remodeling a bathroom in our house, the old room was thoroughly worn. The picture on the left shows some mold (luckily only on the outside of the vapor barrier and not in the wall) we found after ripping out damaged drywall, behind the bathtub fixture. Last weekend I took the window off and sanded and repainted it. It was the most fun I have had sanding anything since my Dad gave me permission to sand and varnish the benches in the family's rowboat when I was a dozen years old. I just don't have the passion for sanding that I used to have, but the little sanding gadget shown on the right was a real pleasure to use-- it even sucks up the sawdust and collects it in a little reservoir in the back.

October 25, 2006

Tales from two cities.

My wife reminded me about an interesting pair of stories. The first happened during a trip to Tokyo for a meeting a few years ago. I went out for a walk one evening and found a cool kind of a Godzilla rock dragon toy to bring home for F. I paid and left as the store was closing and wandered onto a side street. A Japanese girl walked up to me and started talking, smiling, I thought maybe she was a high school student. I tried to understand what she was saying. She was holding her fingers up and talking about 60 something or other. '60, yes' I said, helpfully. I seemed to be doing just fine. Then a 60 Watt bulb lit up above my head as I realized what she was trying to negotiate. I said 'no', smiling, still trying to be friendly, and she wasn't getting it so I said it again without the smile, and she slugged me in the arm below the shoulder, a pretty good one. I decided it was time to walk back to the main street.

Another time I was riding my bike home from the train station in Lund. The bike rack is on the side of a little park with trimmed mulberry trees and a fountain, and everyone rides through the park, across the path to the road, even though there's a little sign saying that's not allowed. In all these years I've never seen anyone walk their bike there. In Lund if you're on two wheels you do as you please-- the students lead by example. The path is pretty wide and there was an old lady with a cane on one side of the path. I slowed way down so I wouldn't startle her, and rode on the far side of the path. I was going so slow that there was nothing I could do when she carefully raised her cane and hit me with it, like a Sioux warrior counting coup. She was saying something too that I couldn't make out. It must have made her day.

Picture of Clemens Square in Lund where I park my bike.

October 19, 2006

Anders and Maans

These guys Anders and Maans on Swedish TV crack me up. (They sat near me on the train one day and they look like this in real life.) Their new show is called, 'Ask Anders and Maans.' People have sent in over 12,000 questions.

Interviewer: Are there any special subjects that interest the Swedish people?
Maans: Yes, we have gotten a lot of questions about the body, animals and retired people. Things that you can't ask about anywhere else. For example there were many more questions about noses than sex.

Interviewer: What are the nuttiest questions you have gotten?
Maans: 'Do milkshakes turn into pee or poop?' and 'Can you take amputated body parts home with you from the hospital?'

Brave New World

Sometimes, as an American living in Scandinavia, I feel right at home, and sometimes I don't. Like I just didn't know what to make of this article that appeared in the paper a few days ago.

Translation of article from 14 October 2006 Sydsvenskan, Southern Sweden Daily Newspaper

Girl's Party Not For Boys

It was not wrong to turn away a man who tried to enter a party for bi and homosexual women called Miss Gay 2006 that was held during the Pride Festival in Stockholm this past summer.

The man who was turned away felt that he had been the victim of sexual discrimination and reported the incident to the Swedish Equal Opportunity Ombudsman (Jämo), but he was not given any support. Claes Borgstrom of Jämo referred to Swedish law and an EU directive in a ruling that says that it is justified to create zones of peace for women as compensation for the negative effect of the gender power order and the sexualization of public space.

The decision was applauded by the Swedish National Organization for Sexual Equality (RFSL) who say that 'Jämo has understood the law and its implications.'

October 17, 2006

The Swedish Piece

A friend told me that in Iceland they call the last cookie on the plate The Swedish Piece because in Sweden everyone is so nice so they won't take the last piece. You should leave it for someone else. I told my wife about my new linguistic discovery and she said that she used to work with a guy who was famous for always taking the last piece.

October 13, 2006


Dave Ploeg laments that he might not be around long enough to see the world run out of resources. I beg to differ Dave, you are the right man in the right place at the right time. According to the U. S. government predictions of oil production from 2004, we are at the top of the peak. Oil production in the US peaked in 1971, and discovery of new oil reserves worldwide peaked in 1962. Add to this rising sea surface temperatures, drought and flooding and the theories of a thousand fevered minds, and its TEOTWAWKI. I predict no shortage of news between now and the end of your visit.


I went to see An Inconvenient Truth yesterday. A group at the University bought a showing at a local theater. The movie was excellent and something that everyone needs to see.

Even more amazing than watching Al Gore inspect tobacco sheds on his family's spread: I biked to the theater straight from the train and arrived a little early. I sat outside and was writing and watched as a flock of moms with baby carriages arrived. A student explained to me that they were there for babybio (baby movies). Each carriage was parked neatly on a patio with a number attached to the handle-- 25 numbered carriages in a row with sleeping babies in perfect silence.!?

From their website:

If your baby/babies are sleeping you will be given two slips of paper with a number. One should be attached to the carriage and the other taken with you into the theater. Carriages with sleeping babies can be placed in the lounge or on our terrace so our personnel can keep watch and hear them. During Babybio we keep a constant watch on the sleeping babies.

Empty carriages may be placed outside.

In case a baby wakes we will come into the theater and call out the number. The little one may then come into the theater to watch the end of the film.

You are also welcome to take the babies into the theater already from the beginning of the presentation.

A changing table has been set up in the bathroom and we have a microwave oven available to warm bottles.

October 10, 2006

Twitchy McElbow

Damn you Tim McGuire!
There I was at a meeting at my son's school last night. Dressed nicely, listening to the 3d grade math teacher tell about the latest pedagogical tricks which actually make a lot of sense. And then out of nowhere I can't stop thinking about beaning Twitchy McElbow in the forehead with an apple. Suppress a grin. Clear my throat. Eyes watering. I had to laugh, there was no other way out of it. Trying to make my cheeks stop smiling only made the giggles worse. I confirmed everything that the doctor's wife from Stockholm thinks about me.
Notes from the meeting: The school hired a translator for the veiled mother who doesn't speak Swedish. I complained that they give the same portion of food to every child-- first grade girls and fifth grade boys. Last year in the second grade they learned the creation story from Genesis and about the big bang, and the formation of the solar system and planet, volcanos, dinosaurs. This year they will go through the ice, stone, bronze and iron ages, including the vikings.

October 07, 2006

For you Joe

So one time back in the day Joe Mamer convinced me to join the Sea Scouts. We were charter members! (I think I was the token protestant in the group.) I found this picture while taking a look at those boxes my Mom asked me to deal with. That's Joe watching the water come in over the gunwhale. Aaron Canny is hiking out and that must be Barth at the rudder?

October 05, 2006


I will be turning 40 in a couple of months. I am desperately looking for signs that will tell me what form my mid-life crisis is going to take. Motorcycle? Sports car? Boat? Trophy wife? Loud clothes? Gourmet olive oil and single cask whiskey? What I have is two bikes, an old car, no boat, a durable wardrobe and my wife is my own business thank you and I love her very much. No change planned in that department.

(I want to make it clear that I am a cycling enthusiast with an aversion to gear. I like riding my bikes and I want them to be reliable, that's it. No doo-dads, newfangled wheels, fancy transmissions or stealthy nanomaterials for me. I have anti-puncture tires, a split saddle, a package holder with bungee cord, fenders, three-speeds and a coaster brake.)

My better half knows that I have dreamed of building a cedar strip canoe for too long. She bought me a magazine about wooden boats yesterday. Beautiful pictures. There is a whole new language in this magazine that I desire. There's a great article about an Irishman who rebuilt a wooden fishing boat into a sailing yacht in a warehouse in Chicago. Larch decks, oak stem and ribs, galley and bunks for 10. The magazine included plans for building your own skiff from plywood-- it can be rowed, sailed or motored, looks kind of fun.

But I'm not convinced yet that my MLC will take the form of a power sander, epoxy resin and spar varnish.

There is an old saw that a man is supposed to plant a tree, build a house, father a son and write a book (thanks to Eldon). Check, pretty much check, double check and working on it. (I haven't built a house but I did build a playhouse, and have rebuilt most of the house we are living in.)

October 04, 2006


Here is a sneak peak of the book I am working on. The subject is environmental chemistry. This table shows how much energy we get from different sources, how much there is, how fast we are using it, and how many more years we can keep using it. For example, at the current rate of use, we have 42.6 years of oil, 155 years of coal and 65.1 years of natural gas. Over the last 10 years, energy use has increased by about 2.3% a year, so the actual lifetimes may be shorter. Also consider that these lifetimes are based on proven reserves. Who knows, new reserves might be hiding somewhere they haven't looked yet. We do know that the rate of discovery of new reserves is declining rapidly. A lot of the information comes from a great report put together by British Petroleum, the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Ranks right up there with the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia. I wish I knew of a good source of information concerning known uranium reserves. Can you help?

October 02, 2006

Ozone hole 2006

19 years ago the nations of the world agreed to stop using freons, however the ozone hole in 2006 is larger than ever. During September the southern hemisphere/Antarctic ozone hole covered 28 million square kilometers. According to NASA the first measurable improvement will not occur until 2025, and the hole will not disappear until 2070. The graph is based on data from NASA's Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer.

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