Friday, May 11, 2001

In a speech today, Lars Sponheim of Venstre attacked Gerd Liv Valla, leader of LO, our largest union. Roughly translated: "Newly elected LO-leader Gerd Liv Valla should be ashamed for consequently refusing to face her past as an active supporter of Stalin. In 1980, Gerd Liv Valla was a grown woman of 32, and she still supported Stalin - one of the worst mass murderers in history." He also called Valla, and the Socialist Left representative who has nominated Castro for Nobels Peace Prize, a disgrace.

Valla has with stubborn arrogance refused to apologize for, or even try to explain her past in one of the more extreme communist sects of the 70's, and I hope the larger parties are brave enough to follow Sponheim here.

I'm not calling for an interdict on ex-stalinists of course, (among other reasons, we'd lose half our journalists and politicians - which isn't such a bad idea, but for now let's pretend it is). Everyone is allowed to be stupid. But as a former supporter of a person and ideology that is pretty much close to pure evil, the only adult, the only responsible thing to do is to show some humility and regret.

It is also hypocritical to completely ignore the stalinist past of one of our major politicians, while at the same time persecuting anyone who is even remotely connected with nazism. Can you imagine a former nazi as our next minister of justice? Of course not, and yet neo-nazism and western stalinism are closely related movements.

Both worship men who directly and indirectly killed tens of millions of human beings. Both direct simplistic hatred or distrust against a minority responsible for the problems of their country, (jews and immigrants / capitalists), and neither are actually motivated by evil, promising a better world for the majority through some radical ideology.

And both are mind-boggingly stupid.

There are of course many reasons to dislike Gerd Liv Valla, but this one is particularly disgraceful.

That photograph is from the liberation of Norway in 1945, and shows a german major transfer command of Akershus Fortress in Oslo to the local resistance. Look at it, isn't it great?

I'm not much of a patriot, and I'm too young to have any emotional attachments to the War, (glad the good guys won, though), but if I ever find a large print of that photo, it's going right up on the wall next to the Enterprise, John Wayne, and the map of Serpent Isle. (Apparently I'm not the first norwegian to have that idea, but I've never seen it before - must have gone out of fashion.)

The Geek's Guide to Working Out, by Jeff Vogel, shareware game programmer and founder of the Scorched Earth Party.

Thursday, May 10, 2001

Yay! Brett Todd, for a long time the only reason I kept reading GamesDomain Review, has finally revived his GDRant column.

From a recent column, criticizing the gaming industry for not milking successful games enough:

So many people--including yours truly--moan and bitch about the poor state of computer game sales relative to their console cousins, when perhaps we should really be directing our frustrations at the bizarre logic that prevents retail success from occurring. The computer gaming industry is the only one I've ever witnessed actively denying consumers the products that they want to spend their money on.

Wednesday, May 09, 2001

The man who no longer expects miraculous changes either from a revolution or from an economic plan, is not obliged to resign himself to the unjustifiable. It is because he likes individual human beings, participates in living communities, and respects the truth, that he refuses to surrender his soul to an abstract ideal of humanity, a tyrannical party, and an absurd scholasticism.

Raymond Aron, a political philosopher I haven't heard about, quoted and discussed in an article at New Criterion, (which I haven't heard about either - and no I'm not just trying to feign humility to look good after my last blog entry, which btw I've already forgotten.) [From Arts & Letters.]

Also from the Arts & Letters blog, a brilliant essay on good writing by George Orwell, arguing that clarity of thought leads to clarity in language. Apparently, nobody listened to him, because his examples of bad writing in academia and politics are still relevant 50 years later.

Unskilled and Unaware of It, a study on the failure of incompetent people to recognize their own incompetence.

Scary stuff, which I've already archived in the back of my mind under Ignore, with Classified and Do Not Open stamped all over it. The authors reveal the same self-conscious fear in the conclusion:

Although we feel we have done a competent job in making a strong case for this analysis, studying it empirically, and drawing out relevant implications, our thesis leaves us with one haunting worry that we cannot vanquish. That worry is that this article may contain faulty logic, methodological errors, or poor communication. Let us assure our readers that to the extent this article is imperfect, it is not a sin we have committed knowingly.

Mike Myers as Inspector Closeau? Say it ain't so! What's next, Alec Baldwin as Marlon Brando? Jennifer Love Hewitt as Audrey Hepburn? Harrison Ford as .. Harrison Ford? Adam Sandler as Groucho Marx?

Okay, that's a bit unfair to Myers, but Peter Sellers he certainly ain't.

Tuesday, May 08, 2001

Les Parapluies de Cherbourgh (1964), NRK2 earlier this evening, is becoming one of my favourite movies.

I could write for hours about its harmonic use of colors and music, about metaphors and deeper messages, but that would only give the impression that it is something it isn't: some kind of high-brow, important movie. It's not, it's pure sentimentality. But like another 60's favourite, Dr. Zhivago, it's good sentimentality, which is pretty difficult to achieve, (unless you're lucky enough to have an audience with defective tear canals.)

If anyone can watch this with ironic or cynical distance, I don't think it's the movie that has a problem.

Feed writes about Andy O'Meara, the creator of two of the many beautiful psychedelic plugins for Winamp. His G-Force in particular is highly recommendable, and can be downloaded here.

Personally I prefer Geiss, and there are many others available, (most of which are tame imitations, though). posts a classified EU report on some financial irregularities in the swedish EU Commission office. It's all pretty dull and possibly harmless, and the real story here is the EU Commission's attempt to keep it secret.

Stockholms tingsr�tt har beg�rt att EU ska l�mna ut Olafs rapport. Men EU-kommissionen har kommit p� ett s�tt att f�rhala och vinna tid. Kommissionens advokat skrev till tingsr�tten att kommissionen "vill understryka att tingsr�tten har att beakta �Community law�", EU-lag som �r �verst�lld svensk lag. Kommissionen kr�vde att tingsr�tten skulle v�nda sig till EG-domstolen f�r ett avg�rande om det �r m�jligt f�r Stockholms tingsr�tt att tvinga kommissionen att l�mna ut rapporten.

S� ett besked fr�n EG-domstolen ska nu inh�mtas. Det enda man kan vara s�ker p� vad g�ller EG-domstolen �r att det s�kert tar ett �r innan n�got besked kommer d�rifr�n.

This is just one of many many cases where secluded bureaucracies withhold information for their own mysterious reasons. It's not really an EU problem as such, but the willingness to abuse power and the ability to get away with it tends to increase with geopgrahical and hierarchical distance, and the EU is about as far up and away officials can climb in Europe, (without joining the Illuminati of course.)

The norwegian right shouldn't stare itself blind at the free-market opportunities of the union, because you don't need a powerful centralized government to sign a trade agreement. Officially EU is not intended as a replacement for national european governments - none of the many proud european nations would accept that, but does anyone really doubt that it will become one within this century?

Buying a mouse used to be easy, an afterthought after you've spent all your money on megahurtz, and for most people it still is. But when a medic is trying to bunnyhop past me through the 2fort lobby in Half-Life TFC, my rocket launcher needs all the accuracy it can get, and a tired 4 year old 2-button mouse on a torn-up mouse mat is not good enough. (If the last sentence made absolutely no sense to you, congratulations, you can still be saved!)

Hard-core gamers, and I mean the really obsessive ones, swear to the Boomslang 1000 and 2000, but at 800 NOK and apparently questionable longevity I think I'll wait.

The low-price gaming mouse of choice appears to be A4tech 4D+ at 200 NOK.

And the safe choice, the one I'm propably going for, medium-price, high quality and no durability issues, is the Microsoft Intellimouse Optical at 500 NOK. Optical means it doesn't have a ball, which is one less source of erratic behavior, (and one less source of silly freudian hardware puns.)

Waste of money? Perhaps, but it's a bit late to start being sensible now. At some point long ago I made a choice between wasting my money on nicotine and motorized vehicles, or high-tech nerd gadgets - and that's a choice I'll just have to live with.

Sunday, May 06, 2001


I haven't written about this before, and I rarely talk about it either, because it's not something that is easy to describe in words. But in the off chance that anyone actually take my narcissistic know-it-all ramblings here seriously, let me just say this once that it is something I strongly recommend.

I've been meditating for about 6 years, thanks to a suggestion on long-dead Arcades BBS from Magnus Itland, who's also written a decent introduction to it. In the end, nothing you'll ever read can teach you to meditate, but it can point out the direction and give a few helpful hints on the way.

If I have to describe what it's like, I would say that meditation creates a place in me that is timeless and resilient, like a rubber ball or the bamboo tree that bends in the wind. I've learned to put my mind in a meditative mode at will, which feels a bit like relaxing a muscle you didn't know you were flexing. It would be a lie to claim that meditation is always relaxing or pleasant, but that place is always there, growing slowly in strength, even when my meditation is horribly unfocused, (and it often is).

You might call it the opposite of information processing. Sitting still with only yourself as company may sound boring, but actually, overcoming boredom and sleep was the easy part. Meditation is often frustrating, but I've never been bored after the first couple of weeks. Since that I've learned, slowly, a few tricks on how to navigate in my own mind. About once or twice every year I've had some sort of crisis, where I've reached a dead end, beaten my head against the wall for a few weeks, then ended up on a better path. I recently changed my style of meditation as a result of a crisis like that, from counting my breath to using a mantra - and when I say recently it's propably one or two years ago, I'm not sure. As I said, time moves differently.

Why do I meditate, and why should you? I don't know. I do know the medical benefits are pretty well-documented, but that doesn't explain it. I know that from time to time, I've been able to apply some of these tricks to other areas of life. There's no way to be specific about this, but you might say that while doing things completely unrelated to meditation I've suddenly found myself walking down a mental path meditation has previously opened for me. But that doesn't explain it either.

I suppose it comes down to this: A day without meditation is like a morning without coffee, and I would feel a lesser version of me if I stopped.

Again, nothing I've written here says anything important about meditation, most of which takes place where words cannot go. And I do apologize if I've given the impression that there's something metaphysically exciting about it, that it's some sort of psychedelic journey to another universe, because there's really nothing there but you yourself. You're the path, you're the wanderer, and you're the enemy. But give it a shot, and I don't think you'll regret it.