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Vacation Update

The first real day of vacation was today (the first work day). And I'm already detecting little tiny tell-tale symptoms of wanting to go back to work.

I think it's mostly just residual stress built up during the year which is now "dissipating" out. If last year's experience is anything to go after, then I'm going to experience one week of wanting to work, another week of being incredibly lazy, and then I really start wanting to go back to work.

Vacation should be the time of the year when you get to do anything you want at work. Research new, interesting components; building new, advanced, ultra-cool software; all those things you want to do but never quite have time for inside your 8-17 work day. That particular time of the year when all managers are in Mallorca or Mexico and the guys in development can do anything they want. :-)


Midsummer Coming Up

I just found out Midsummer's on Friday and that we're off from work.

Darn it. Nobody tells me anything.

Then again, I don't keep too much check on holidays. I once booked 24th, 25th and 26th of December in my project plan.


My New Favorite Scientist

By the powers bestowed upon me, I have during the past few days decided to wave my magic wand, sprinkle some magic dust and pronounce Dr. Michio Kaku my new favorite scientist.

Dr. Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist at the City University of New York, has a way of explaining things so that it immediately becomes crystal clear to the reader. His light and entertaining articles cause his readers to jump around, twirl in the air and exclaim "I can see! I can see!"

For instance, just check out his article Hyperspace And A Theory Of Everything.


Oh, The Fun We Have At Railway Stations

So I spend more time sitting at railway stations than I used to. Which isn't necessarily bad; it's a good time to sit down with a cup of tea and do idle things, like reading books, watching people (and checking out possible hot chicks), and reflecting upon life.

The central train station in Gothenburg has a café (one among many) where you can buy an Italian-inspired sandwich and sit down and eat. There are usually some birds flying around in there, jumping between tables and feasting on the breadcrumbs on the floor.

So as I sat there, I began to ponder doves. What does a dove think? What intellectual capacities does it have? What emotional factors does it carry? I sat there watching them jump seemingly randomly from table to table, looking for things to eat; and as I did, I grew increasingly fascinated by them. And lo, before long I began sketching on a systematic simulation model of a dove.

It seemed to me that there was a sort of Evaluation Program (EP) at the core of the dove's mind, that would weigh different impulses - neurons - and decide on a corresponding course of action. Impulses would be things like hunger, thirst, fear etc. Pretty basic stuff. To prevent the course of action from changing and locking up indefinitely (continually and rapidly switching between two different actions), the EP would only run when one of the impulse states changed. This would cause a reevaluation of the scenario, and possibly adjust the action. The impulses would be back-fed with simulation results to optimize the EP process in different situations. Of course, the same model could be applied for different AI entities; like, for instance, computer-simulated enemy soldiers in a war game.

I got quite far before I had to leave for my train.

Another time, I got stuck and nearly missed my bus, trying to formulate a redesign of cell phone user interfaces to dramatically increase the usability for elderly. But that's a different story.


I Love Norway

I'm sure we are all well aware of the friendly competition going on between Sweden and Norway. We tell our jokes about the Norwegians, and they tell their jokes about us.

But, deeper down, I have - and I'm sure many with me - a respect for the Norwegians. I like their country; they seem to have done better than us in some of their political choices of recently; and, basically, I think they're fair (but sometimes a little strange), level-headed blokes. I also like the language very much - and they have pretty girls, too. :)

Anyhow, Norwegian TV2 compiled a little list of things Norway should thank Sweden for. It's a funny list, for those who understand Norwegian, but I really like this little quote on place #17:
17. IKEA - de har klart det tyskerne aldri fikk til: Å invadere norske hjem uten protester.
I guess it's my kind of humor.


Ich Hab' Zwei Russische Panzerwagen Zerstört

Sometimes I wish I was back in high school. With the things I know now, and the person I am now, I would have had so much more fun.

I keep imagining the scenario of German class, when everybody is back from vacation, and in a light-hearted introduction to the new year, the teacher asks around "Und was hast du auf Ferien gemacht?".

Our German teacher was a somewhat elderly lady, with gray hair and high heels on her shoes that would sound "clack clack, clack clack" as she walked over the stone floor through the hallway. Despite her lack of height, she still had a somewhat commanding presence. It might have been because her favorite was to drill us on irregular verbs, which we always feared. She would pick some innocent student and question him relentlessly on irregular verbs, until he cracked. We still carry emotional scars from that time, causing us to infrequently blurt out phrases like "Würden Sie bitte das Anmeldeformular ausfüllen" and "Ich möchte vor Freude in die Luft springen".

I don't know her stance on World War II and Germany's involvement. I don't remember us talking too much about that, although we studied a bit on Hitler's road to power and that part of German history.

But I so would like to be back there, and suddenly having the question put to me: "Was hast du auf Ferien gemacht". I would like to suddenly shine up and respond "Ich hab' zwei Russische Panzerwagen zerstört!"

Maybe it's better that that part of my life is now way behind me.


Stumble

There's this great plugin to Mozilla Firefox called StumbleUpon. It's a very dangerous tool, one which can lock you into sitting in front of the web browser for hours upon hours. With a single mouse click, you're whisked away to a completely random, but interesting, site on the internet on any possible topic.

It works by people submitting links they think are cool. From these submissions, a huge network of links is built, and anyone who clicks "Stumble" performs a random lookup into this network, and redirects to the link found.

The interesting thing about Stumble is that it perfectly illustrates a computational problem.

The problem: Build an enormous directory of interesting links on the Internet. Find at least 90% of all possible links. -- How do you do this? By hand? Takes too long. Computationally? Sure, but also takes a long time and it's difficult to specify what is interesting.

The solution: Deploy a million different tiny "bots" on the Internet, allow them to be programmed with a fundamental sense of what is "interesting", and let them spread randomly all over the Internet. Like a huge community of ants, they swarm all over the place, searching randomly for "interesting" sites; and when one is found, they add a link to the site in the global directory so others can find their way there.

The users of StumbleUpon are just like this huge ant stack. We swarm all over the internet, and when we come upon something interesting, we submit it. Very little central processing is performed, the search method is completely random, and it relies on hordes of totally nitwit, ignorant users to build it. It illustrates perfectly how a lot of tiny bots programmed to do very simple tasks can effectively accomplish goals with an arbitrary level of success -- a method which has been used by Nature for a long time: ants and bees are the famous examples.

I just don't know how I feel about being reduced to a randomly distributed bot.


 

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