Monthly Archives: September 2010

On hedging your bets

In finance, hedging means that you split your investments so that if you lose on one of them, you’re likely to win on another.  If one investment wins when the weather is sunny, and another when it rains, then you don’t lose much either way. It’s a way of managing risk, so that there’s a limit to how far down misfortune can drag you.

I find that I’ve ordered my life by this principle as well.  Everything that is important to me, I’ve hedged in some way, so that I don’t lose, almost no matter what.

A lot of it has to do with how I choose to look at things.  I choose to see a win where others may choose not to.  For instance: I spend about two hours every day commuting by bus, and I use that time to read or listen to audiobooks and podcasts.  The hedge is that if traffic is good one day, I get home earlier.  If it’s bad, I get to spend more time reading a good book.

That may sound facetious, as if you can solve all problems by putting a smileyface on them.  But it really isn’t: The hedge genuinely makes me happy with either outcome.  It’s a real hedge.

Not everything can be hedged.  If I drove to work by car, bad traffic would have no upside at all for me. So I don’t do that.  It’s simple: I choose to see a hedge, or choose to create one – whenever possible.  And it’s often possible.

Sym-Bionic Titan

Year: 2010

Creator: Genndy Tartakovsky

Type: Mecha

Subtype: Alien teenagers try to combine a normal life on Earth with their outrageous mecha lifestyle.

Primary audience: People who have been hoping for anime esthetics to be imported into Western cartoons for a couple of decades now.

Worth watching: Oh yes.

Big monsters, big robots, big battles, (ir)regular teenagers, blah blah blah.  So anyway, let me talk about Genndy Tartakovsky, who is one of the few Western cartoonists who understands anime, and has been copying all its best tricks for years, but always adding something uniquely his own to the mix.  An secret ingredient X, if you like.  Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, The Clone Wars (the earlier one).

Sym-Bionic Titan makes all of those seem like trial runs, and just like the mecha in the series combine to form super-mega-mecha for their super-mega-battles, (as such things are inclined to do, and if you find yourself wondering how they do it, remind yourself it’s just a show, and you should really just relax), all his previous cartoons combine to form this one.  It’s a bit messy, and it’s really all style, but what a style it is.  Enough talk, I’ll show you: The clip above, about an uneventful trip on the bus.  Real anime is too stuck in its own clichés to do something like that.  But this isn’t anime, it’s Genndy Tartakovsky.

40′s movies marathon – part 124

Stray Dog (1949, Kurosawa) - Toshirô Mifune

Stray Dog (1949, Japan, Kurosawa)

The same theft turns two war veterans in two different directions: One towards becoming a cop, the other to become a criminal.  But they’re both in a sense similar, stray dogs burning up with anger and despair.  Watched it all.  In post-war Japanese movies you never see any sign of the American occupation forces, because of censorship.  But in movies like this you do see how society was changing under their impact.

Fängelse / The Devil’s Wanton (1949, Sweden, Bergman)

If you were to make a parody of an Ingmar Bergman movie, it would probably be about a movie director who has long, philosophical discussions with his bohemian friends about life, the nature of evil, and the atom bomb.  The parody wouldn’t be funny at all, and that would be the great joke.  Watched: 16 minutes.

Mighty Joe Young (1949, USA, Schoedsack)

It pays off to pay attention to the credits.  This one has Ray Harryhausen working on the special effects.  Watched: 3 minutes, then fast-forwarded to see Harryhausen’s stop motion scenes, which are amazing.  It looks like they were having fun thinking up creative ways for the stop motion gorilla (who has the face of a Wallace & Gromit character) to interact with the live action characters.

Døden er et kjærtegn (1949, Norway, Carlmar)

A car mechanic who talks like an old-timey radio announcer gets picked up by a married woman who also talks like an old-timey radio announcer.  Their shared speech impediment becomes the basis for a dangerous romance.  Watched: 28 minutes.

Hey look – I bought a Microsoft product

I bought a Microsoft product.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually bought a Microsoft product before.  It’s not because I don’t use Microsoft products.  I’ve been using their OS’es for close to two decades.  At work I write my code with Microsoft developer tools, for use in close integration with the Microsoft Office platform.

But, apart from some games, I’ve never personally bought a piece of Microsoft software.  It came with the PC, or my employer paid for it.

The product is OneNote 2010, which is sort of a scratchpad solution, a “note pad” if you will.  I bought it because I use it a lot at work, and I found myself missing it when I was writing at home.

OneNote is a fantastic product.  Actually the whole Office platform is.  I don’t think people quite appreciate what a leap in user-friendliness the Office suite has been through in the 2007 and 2010 versions.  It’s almost so I wish Apple would hire Microsoft’s Office team to rewrite iTunes.  You know, to make using it not remind you of a Kafka novel.  Maybe I’ll e-mail Jobs.  See what he thinks.

But OneNote is the only Office product I would ever use at home.  Word is for Documents, something I sometimes must produce at work.  Nobody outside a business environment ever asked for a Document.  Same with PowerPoint and Excel.

But OneNote: A giant blank piece of paper that is just sitting there, waiting for you to scribble a note or paste some info or start an essay.  Beautiful.

Om å ikke føle seg hjemme på bokfestival

Det var bokfestival i Oslo i helgen, og utifra programmet å dømme handlet det for det meste om at den norske bokbransjen hyllet seg selv og sine.  Slik er det ofte med kultur i Norge.  Du har mektige bransjeaktører, med tette bånd til stat og medier, og et høytidelig selvbilde.  Disse folka driver ikke med hvasomhelst, de leverer Kultur.

Som fanatisk bokelsker er dette for meg litt som å komme inn i en fremmed verden.  En verden hvor man riktignok snakker om bøker, og skriver bøker, og opphever Boken til det høyeste i vårt samfunn, men hvor jeg får følelsen av at man mener noe annet med “bok” enn jeg gjør.  At det er noe som ikke stemmer.

For jeg tror ikke norsk litteratur er god nok til å fortjene dette selvbildet.  Jeg sier ikke at alt er dårlig, men at det er noe galt med selve bransjen, noe uærlig med måten den driver på, med sine tette bånd til kulturpolitikere og kulturelite.  Man leverer kvantitet, ikke kvalitet, og tror man dermed bygger en kulturnasjon.

Det som plager meg er dette: Hvis det virkelig finnes noen store talenter blant unge norske forfattere, hvorfor gjør de ikke opprør mot bransjen og kulturdepartementet?  Ser de ikke selvmotsigelsen i å være en snill og lydig statsfinansiert forfatter?

Dvs., jeg forstår jo hvorfor: Det er der alle pengene er.  Man vil jo leve av dette.  Og slik videreføres sykdommen til neste generasjon.

Consider the care with which salmon are harvested in the best aquaculture operations

There are several common ways of harvesting fish from the wild, none of them ideal. In the most controlled and least efficient method, a few fishermen catch a few fish, ice them immediately, and deliver them to shore within hours. This method can produce very fresh and high-quality fish – if they are caught quickly with minimal struggle, expertly killed and cleaned, quickly and thoroughly iced, and promptly delivered to market. But if the fish are exhausted, processing is less than ideal, or cold storage is interrupted, qualify will suffer.


By contrast to the logistical challenges posed by fishing, consider the care with which salmon are harvested in the best aquaculture operations. First, the fish are starved for seven to ten days to reduce the levels of bacteria and digestive enzymes in the gut that may otherwise accelerate spoilage. The fish are anesthetized in chilled water saturated with carbon dioxide, then killed either with a blow to the head or by bleeding with a cut through the blood vessels of the gill and tail.  Because the blood contains both enzymes and reactive hemoglobin iron, bleeding improves the fish’s flavor, texture, color and market life. Workers then clean the fish while it’s still cold, and may wrap it in plastic to protect it from direct contact with ice or air.

- Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking

Trying to be ignorant about different things than everyone else

Head stuck in sand

I think we need more diversity in our ignorance.  It seems that, outside what we work with, we all know and don’t know pretty much the same things.  Some know more than others, but they know more of the same things.  We’re creating huge blind spots that almost nobody pays attention to.

This is something I think a lot about.  I’m obsessed with what is happening or has happened that we’re not paying attention to, simply because it’s not part of what everyone thinks is relevant right now, is not on the Unofficial List of Relevant Things.

Part of the problem is that once something enters that list, anyone who wants to be knowledgeable feels obligated to pay attention to it.  And there’s so much on the list that you don’t have time for anything else.  So the more we try to become “knowledgeable”, the more homogenous we become.

There’s a Sherlock Holmes story where we learn that Holmes doesn’t know that the Earth revolves around the Sun, because that’s not the kind of fact he wants to fill his head with.  His psychology is unsound, because the brain doesn’t really run out of storage space, but he’s basically correct, because we do run out of the time it takes us to learn these facts.

So I’m rebelling against those shared blind spots.  And I can only do it by deliberately being ignorant about different things than everyone else, things many believe that everyone should know.  There’s no other path to true diversity.


Year: 2007

Type: Fantasy

Subtype: Half-demon girl warriors protect humanity from regular demons and former half-demons turned super-demons.  (Basically what I mean is there’s lots and lots of demons.)

Primary audience: Fight-scene aficionados, and people who miss Buffy but can do without the cheerful banter.

Tics: None worth mentioning.

Worth watching: Yes.

The secret organization that fuses traumatized demon victims with demon flesh to create an army of demon-fighting super warriors, Claymores, is actually a bit evil.  Such organizations usually are.  The demons are eviller, though, and the super-demons, former Claymores who have turned to the dark side, are the evillest of them all.  This creates for us a nice progression of baddies to introduce gradually throughout the series.  Claymore is a game of “how many times can we up the ante and still keep the fight scenes spectacularly entertaining?”  The answer is: Every time.  Every single time.

The story falls dead along the way, but the fight scenes inflate like the 1920’s Deutschmark, and I mean that in a good way.  There’s really nothing to do but gape at the wheelbarrows.  The violence here is a thing of beauty. It’s like every episode is a season finale of Buffy.  And that’s all I ask from any (mindless revenge-themed demon-fighting) series.