Monday, September 25, 2006

Viking sports

Last weekend the Young Scandinavians Club arranged the annual Viking sports weekend at their cabin near Clear Lake, a few hours drive north of San Francisco.

The weather was great, the water fairly warm, and we could sleep on the lawn under the stars. There was an interesting mix of people. The party organizing old time YSCers, a bunch of au pairs from Sweden and Denmark, a Danish electronics engineer who had just moved here from Copenhagen, an orthopedics PhD from the east coast who had done his post graduate studies in Lund and was fluent in Swedish.


YSC Cabin, Clear Lake

The weekend was passed sunbathing, swimming in the lake, drinking beer and competing in the "Viking sports". We competed in: waterskiing, wakeboarding, diving, beer chugging, giant twister and Irish Christmas.

I regretted not having contacts since not easy to water-ski with glasses, but I entered the chugging, twister and Irish Christmas instead. It went quite well. I placed third in the beer chugging. Just missing second place because of spilling slightly too much in the last round. Interesting to note that despite there were 16 contestants, only a few of them Danish, both first and second place went to Denmark.

We also went "tubing". An activity where you tug an inflated donut shaped rubber tube after a speedboat. It was cool to see that falling of that thing at around 50 knots could cause a person to actually bounce on the water before falling in. I was less inclined to go after that. Johan, one of the Bergman’s found out later in the week that he had broken a bone in his wrist while riding on the tube. Ouch!

The Clear Lake event was a great opportunity to meet some more random people outside of work. I think there are too few of those times, so I collected peoples e-mail addresses and started "the Palo Alto Scandinavian Outpost" party mailing list. This weekend we hosted a BBQ at the Bergmansion, inviting all of the YSC people from last week. It was a good party which I am currently relaxing after :) And there are more upcoming parties in the planning.

Other then that work is progressing nicely. I am content, my boss is happy with my work and I am in the processes of extending my Visa.

About the elections in Sweden, I might say that I was also glad to see that we are having a change of government. It’s nice to know that I had part in it since me and the Bergmans went voting a couple of weeks ago at the Swedish consulate. It will be interesting to see what comes out of all that.

Take care, all of you back home.

Robert


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Liberation day 9/17

Me and Arvid are closely watching and rejoicing at the ongoing ballot counts. Exit counts show 49.7% to the right-wing alliance versus 45.6% to the sitting social democrats and allies.

I had loose plans to write down a few political comments which have surfaced the last couple of days here, in the meantime I'll settle for two illustrative pictures:

Fig 1: Chairman Persson

Fig 2: The Freedom Fighters

... and a confused quote:

Arvid: "I think... people should have less opinions... things would be more fair then."
K-O: "Can I quote you on that?"
Arvid: "Sure... we live in a free country, regrettably."

And another one, regarding that alliance voters would prefer to be without the Christian Democrats:

Arvid: "You can't just ditch someone from the team, just because they limp and... don't play ball. Though the fat guy one can always place in the goal."



Ok, so here comes a few comments on swedish politics, as supplied by yours truly.

1. If exposed, low-salary workers in particular in the public sector and within the care sector traditionally vote emotionally with the social democrats, since they are the ones always promising to expand the public sector...

... it is then curious to note that the social democrats in the sitting regime (somewhere you have to draw the line between a government and regime, they crossed it sometime in the eighties) are the ones solely responsible for the salary levels in the public sector. If government would allocate more money to public care, chances are those money would be used to employ more people, rather than raise salaries. Regardless of how how much money is allocated to the public care system, the social democrats are the ones forcefully defending a situation of only one employer, little competition for improvement, no measurements of quality and nowhere to go for discontented employees. It is my impression that the social democrats cement low salaries and poor conditions in the public sector, that is what matter more than how much money is actually poured into it and thus they are quite contrary to their image the worst enemy of those people.

Now it seems the race is not quite over yet, let's cross fingers and hope we won't have to wait for the final result until wednesday. Again as Arvid said: "It's a well-known fact guys can't spend more than 24 hours in the same room without inevitably wanting sex"

2. I would be interested to see, if there exist a checklist for "great ways to argue yourself out of tight situation". If so, I'm sure at the bottom of that list would be "skew facts" on par with "redefine concepts". Should you have to resort to either of those, it probably mean to the very least that you're in deep shit.

You're definitely in deep shit if you:
  • have to redefine what torture is (US politics, but anyway...)
  • argue your government's achievements with data statisticians say is "inconclusive or negative" by referring to the "gini-coefficient"
  • claim that in "your own" polls you achieve 15-30% of the votes when everything else point toward 1%
  • think statistical errors will bring you from devastating loss to anything successful

Oh yeah, oh yeah, OH YEAH! The nail is officially in the coffin, Persson has announced he both resign his government, and from leading the social democrats.

3. An Alliance government no doubt will have both a period of adjustment (after all, it was a while since they posessed executive power), great challenges and probably scandals as well. Nevertheless, they have a huge account of abuse capital before any reasonable person should want to drop the pants for the social democrats again. It will be very very interesting to see what will happen with Sweden the next couple of years, if the agenda and rhetorics might shift, but interesting to notice is that this time around the left-cartel lost power in a period of reasonable economic strength. In earlier years swedish economic analysis has always been subject to extremely dense revisionism.

For the record, I made a bet with Arvid that the Pirate Party would get more than 2%. There seem to be little room for me to win that now. Also for the record, Arvid made very essential observations that Persson seem to have attracted electionloss-hemmorhoids and "I hope Anitra get's a divorce now!". Also, Maud Olofsson is definitely one hot mama.

4. To speculate some in the history of Sweden, bias and the so-called "right-wing ghost", an Alliance victory mean more than a Left-cartel victory would, since in Sweden so many of the passive voters side with the left. This mean a 50/50 result would actually imply the Alliance have a slightly stronger and more approved policy than the left, and this victory... it truly feels like a victory.

Logically, few politically conservative, ignorant or idealistic would ever vote to the right. They vote for the left, the social democratic or the environmentalists (you deduce yourselves what this imply about the right-wing voters). I think it is deeply ironic that the social democrats and their welfare system still has such a good ring to it - even if swedes in general now distrust the politicians of the left, they still approve of, cling to and want to keep trying to improve the welfare system.

It's been said that the swedish social democrats were formed to fend off a communist revolution, to give the workers a compromise so they would not demand the entire cake. Indeed affairs such as the one about the swedish secret intelligence agency is indicative of that agenda and has had the result that communism never had a deep impact on Sweden, never was crushed nor deeply hated. We had our cozy "communism light" which was reasonably successful and even if a different policy could have been even more successful, fair or free, the welfare state and the left is still strongly associated with goodness, security and justice for all in Sweden, quite regardless of its actual performance. In Sweden it is even relatively accepted to joke about being "stalinistic" (meaning being extremely disciplined and harsh) while the fascists are the demons here. It would be curious to see whether the Baltic states in an analog fashion avoid demonizing the lesser evil and how they view nazi influence in history since they certainly don't appreciate the memory of the Soviet "liberation".

Monday, September 11, 2006

Huge leaps forward in the thesis project!


Today has been a pretty fantastic day at work. I both had time to aid the others with some C programming (seriously, what can be so hard about a pointer and realizing when to use sprintf vs. memcpy or strncpy?) and, probably as I am beginning to realize how urgent things are becoming, I pushed myself and managed to make huge leaps forward in the project!

The picture above represent one of those leaps – it is a screenshot of our web interface being developed. The peak you see in the graph is the level of relative humidity over time as I put my hand around a moisture sensor connected to a wireless zigbee node. The layman might not realize how cool this is, but it represent a major step toward completing my thesis project, in which the primary goal is to build wireless sensor networks and to present their data through a web page. That is exactly what I have managed today – sure enough with a bit of manual fiddling helping the bits along and keeping things together with duct tape so to say, but nevertheless, "Nu är det nedförsbacke!" ("It's downhill from here on!", as uttered by Goofy after Mickey's and Donald's neckbraking ride along the mountain in their caravan on Disney's christmas...). Also I managed to hack together a control program in our microcontroller, complete with a circular string buffer to keep readings if the node lose connection with the rest of the network!

When I first saw the idea for my thesis project I never thought it could be done, or that I could do it, in just 20 weeks. Indeed it has been, with quite some effort and with the helping hands by five other people in the company and I can't tell you how happy I am about it! My project might also very well compete to be one of the most advanced and things closest to market done with Zigbee so far, at least definitely in Sweden. Keep your eyes open for my two pages in NyTeknik :-) [Note: This has not happened yet, it just might though].

What made today particularly hectic was that Jakob decided today was the day to book my presentations. If I am to be employed during October I need to have my inhouse presentation in September. They don't demand for me to have the essay ready though, and Chalmers want the essay ready but can settle for October with the presentation. So now it's set, inhouse the 29th of September 3 PM and at Chalmers the 19th of October. Anyone interested is of course welcome on both occasions, though the latter date is when I will be celebrating and everything, so you might want to wait until then.

Still not done with the whitepaper I am to do for CoolSecurity, of course I have to be true to myself and write for the blog rather than finish that [Note: Ok, it's done now, just ask me to read it if you're interested].

On another note, dude, the PT Cruisers are so perverted in the design, I've wanted to own one ever since high school!

Soundtrack of today: Jerusalem - Prophet

I'm all lost in the supermarket

Haven't written that much in a while. Work becomes a routine quickly and has its way with most of my time and energy right now. So far I am content with that. I guess that is the way it should be. I am also saving some good stuff until I have time and want to put it down properly.

I rented a Pt Cruiser today to do some shopping at the mall and get more familiar with the area.
Since I am under 25 I had to pay almost twice the usual amount per day. Almost all rental companies have a similar policy. It made me think twice but I decided to go with it anyway, mostly by thinking to myself that "Hey what the hell. Let's do it." I am amazed how easily I managed to convince myself this time :)
Never the less I wish some people would god damn lern how to drive so I don't have to pay for their mistakes. I've heard a few things about American cars and was surprised with how well it handled. I would describe the feeling of driving it as 'mellow'. Kinda like ham or soft cheese. I invite you to try and imagine that.

I had to have some music of course, but I didn't have time to get much of my music collection copied to my laptop before I left, lyckily there are some good radio stations in the area.

"I'm all lost in the supermarket" with The Clash was playing as I drove around trying to find a parking spot in the garage next to Stanford Mall.
Stanford mall is a shopping center just outside of Stanford campus, and quite an expensive place.
It's all about big brands like Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Levi's, neatly piled folded and piles clothes, fruit arranged item by item in neat little pyramids. Designer watches, perfumes, suits, furniture, and well pretty much anything that you might want to part with a few extra bucks to brand yourself with.

I walk in to one of the big gallerias and head for the Home & Beds section. Suddenly my vocabulary feels inadequate. I've only had this feeling twice since I came here. Now, and when I was discussing foreign policies with my Indian colleague Anmol. What a giveaway :) The store person was helpful though.
I explain my 'situation' and she gives me a tour of what sizes of beds are common, how they are usually made here, and most importantly, what the words for different things are. I leave content and a couple of hundred bucks poorer.

Tonight we are having the customary barbeque at home in the 'Bergmansion'. I'll invite you all anytime you would happen to drop by Palo Alto :)

Take care.

Robert


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Surreal dreams from a foreign country

You know, I was thinking of whether it is hard for pilots to handle their checklists and learn them by heart. Pilots hardly can bring them out to have a look the hundredth time they're doing a start or landing, they would be ridiculed?

If pilots indeed learn those complex sequences by heart, it must be a heck of a frustration if you change country, company or plane type, to have to re-learn the routines, perhaps even in another language!

So say for example a pair of russian pilots enlist on an american submarine, and the captain order them to bring him a fish sandwich. They would be terribly confused, perhaps think of the pancake-making-machine (incidentally looking like a DJ's booth with two turntables where the pancakes are fried) they have stowed away in a dark corner of the sub. Of course they wouldn't dare to clear up this language confusion right away, but waited an entire week before they dragged the machine out to the captain. That isn't even close to a fish sandwich and by then, gosh they're in trouble!

Last night I dreamt I was hiding somewhere in the grass behind the old sewing facory on the road to CoolSecurity and was caught in a shotgun fight. Of course it was way too much of a distance for hitting anything with a shotgun, and my experience with that heavy weaponry is rather limited... so they caught up with me, disarmed and mugged me. Nightmares usually doesn't disturb me all that much, but you know sometime the feeling of a nightmare just persist, and I felt like the chock and humiliation of being mugged really clung to my thought this morning...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Taking risks

Hey guys. Its good to hear that you are enjoying yourselves back home. I've heard from many friends this week, and it makes me glad to know that I am missed.
I have a lot on my mind right now, work mostly, that keeps my thoughs from going off in all directions. But another month here and I may have had a chance to catch up with myself.
Right now in any case, I like it a lot. Some moments it feels like I've always been here, like I would have felt two months ago in my apartment in Gothenburg. It is interesting how the mind works. How creative flow creates itself when you have allowed the mind to relax for a while. How somethimes it's so good to take a break just to think the thoughts saved for later, to bring your feel for things up to speed with recent events.

I had some thoughts about taking risks recently, and I wanted to share them with you all.
I have always trusted myself when it comes to deciding when to go for something or not. That I have not always been right is of course more easily learned from the cases when I have chosen to go for something that turned out to be a disappointment.
I can, however, not recall a single occation were I regret the choice I have made, since all of them have given me life experience impossible to put a price tag on, made me rethink some of choices, and selected some new ones that turned out to be great.
My conclusion is simply that I should take more risks, because as long as it is I who want to take them, as long as I have no one else to blame for influencing me, they will always eventually turn out to be the right choice.

And I am fine without nicotine. I don't need the snus, it's just nice to have one every once in a while. Considering that I may order it untaxed from Sweden, making it cheaper here, I still don't know if I am going to quit or not. I don't think it's that much of a big deal right now. That's not were my kicks come from.

And K.O, about the job, I most definitly think you should go with your gut.

Robert