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Ay-Kherel: The Music Of Tuva

My interest in Mongolian Throat-singing is only increasing. My father gave me some music with a group called Ay-Kherel: Music of Tuva, which sports unforgettable memories like the fast-paced Kozhamyktar, and the still, serene Kadarchynyn Yry.

Kadarchynyn Yry (Shepherds' Song) contains musical elements set against the vast plains of Mongolia. Lilya Soyan, the female vocalist in the track, is accompanied by the chanzy, igil, kengirge, limbi and the occasional bleating of sheep, in a wonderful song along this particular pretext:
"I watch my herd from the top of the hill. There are beautiful goats, sheeps and cows grazing. My mother teaches me to love them, because they give us everything: fur, meat and milk."
Makes you want to own your very own goat, doesn't it? Baah!

West Coast Memories

When I was a kid, I spent about one week every summer on the west coast in Sweden, in a little town called Strömstad; a quaint, little town that lives up tremendously every summer when hordes of tourists arrive. My grandparents used to rent a little cottage there, in a little community a few miles from the city, just by the ocean; for two weeks each year. One week out of those two every summer, we packed all our stuff into the little yellow Fiat we had, and drove down.

I have fond memories of that place. For some reason it seems like we always had sunshine. The salt sea, the crying of seagulls, little rocky islands in the glittering sea... We went on trips to Halden in Norway, and my sister and I watched cartoons every morning on cable television. There was always tons of fresh fish, lobsters, and all the seafood you could ever wish for, although I'm not sure I was crazy about seafood back then. It does bring a memory or two, though.

About the only sad part of that was the grueling drive down from Skövde to Strömstad: It took four hours of driving - about 240 long, tedious kilometers. To manage it all, we divided the trip up into four 60-kilometer legs, and stopped for fika out in the countryside in between each leg. That way it was manageable to us. In retrospect it must have been so much like a typical Swedish, idyllic pastoral.

Twenty years later, headquarters for my company is now located in Stenungsund, an industrial port not a far ways off from Strömstad. And about once every two weeks, I get on the train at 6.53 in the morning (grunt), and head down for meetings, meetings and meetings (occasionally we have more meetings on top of that). Sometimes I drive - mostly in the summer - and it's funny how what used to take my dad four hours, now takes about three*. Of course I return the same evening. :)

The attached photo is from the bus drive from Gothenburg to Stenungsund, the final leg of my 2h30m commute this morning. It's on the "final approach" into Stenungsund, with one of the hotels I sometimes stay at in the distance. There's supposed to be a few large bridges out there too, but they didn't end up in the picture.

This kind of travel feels more and more like a commute like any other to me. Four hours of driving - down there and back again - is a piece of cake. My best guess is, the 3600 miles of travel I spent with Dan and George across ten different U.S. states must have broke me in. :)

Things sure do change, don't they?

*) Projected distance to Strömstad instead of Stenungsund.

Poem For An Innovation Department

I accidentally wrote this while taking the train home from Stenungsund today:
Pete, Pat, Joe and Matt
Worked on some Delphi code
On a TreeView branch they sat
But couldn't find a node.

Up spoke Matt and Joe
Explained, Items must be nil
Pete and Pat said "No,
It's allocated still."

Pete and Pat then found
A pointer that was weak
Joe and Matt, they looked around
Fixed a major memory leak.

Pete, Pat, Joe and Matt
Worked on some Delphi code
On a TreeView branch they sat
And Items[0] was a TTreeNode.

A Trinity Of Particles

People sometimes wonder why I'm interested in quantum physics. The question is easy to answer, but to grasp the full understanding of why is a bit more difficult. For me, quantum physics is a way to understand the universe, answering the ultimate question of How It All Works, but even more so, because in unraveling these mysteries we jump from one outrageous conclusion to the next: The universe it not always what we expected it to be.

Greek philosophers long ago thought this way: If I take a grain of sand, and split that it two, I end up with something smaller. Take this smaller piece, and split that in two again, and keep doing that, then I must ultimately arrive at some form of particle that can no longer be split. It is undividable, atomic. They called this atomos, "that which cannot be cut into smaller particles".

The atoms we know today as hydrogen, oxygen, sulphur and so forth, turned out to be dividable after all: naming them "atoms" proved to be premature in our understanding. The atoms themselves could be divided into their shell of electrons, as well as their nucleus core, consisting of protons and neutrons. And even protons and neutrons turned out to be dividable; they consist of "up" and "down" quarks.

In the end, it turns out that there exists only four particles responsible for matter (fermions), with three different generations of each: up/down quarks, electrons, and neutrinos. The grand theory of the day, called the Standard Model, predicts all of these particles, with their high-energy 2nd and 3rd generation cousins, and researchers have experimentally found all of them by now. (Among the bosons, elementary particles responsible for forces, only the Higgs particle remains elusive.)

But the Standard Model cannot answer all our questions. The magazine Scientific American notes one particular question:
"The Standard Model has three 'generations' of particles. The everyday world is made up entirely of first-generation particles, and that generation appears to form a consistent theory on its own. The Standard Model describes all three generations, but it cannot explain why more than one exists." (Scientific American, vol 15, no 3, pp 10)
While reading this article, I started thinking about the number three. Why are there three generations of fermions? Each identical, but with different properties of mass and energy.

I have long held the belief that science and religion, at some point, would merge. Science is the searching for Truth, whereas God is Truth. Given that these two axioms are indeed correct, and that the bible is in fact divinely inspired, science should, at some point, line up with biblical truth.
"For by [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible [...]; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Col 1:16-17, New International Version)
The goal of physics research as it stands now is to produce a grand, unified Theory Of Everything, describing the one single force that holds everything in the Universe together.

...and for a brief moment, I thought I saw a connection: The foundation of matter and our universe - three families of fermions, all identical... The triune Godhead, three in one... Just exactly what is it that I'm looking at here?

Well, who knows? According to faith, God created the entire universe. Of course, I could be dead wrong about any inherent connection in these matters. But I can't shake the feeling that somehow, things are beginning to line up.

In the end, I wonder if some day our search for understanding the foundations of the Universe may well drive us right into the arms of God himself. And you wonder why I find this exciting. :-)

Nordic Light - Death Grip On Finland

(September 25th, 1992) The Russian advance has taken a death grip on Finland. Lahti has been overrun, Kotka has fallen, Hanko invaded by airborne and seaborne troops, and Helsinki is isolated and surrounded. The defenses in Helsinki have fortified their positions as far as possible, but without substantial reinforcements, Finland may be lost.

Northern Finland is still holding off the advance with heroic efforts, although Kuusamo and Kemijärvi has fallen into Russian hands. Swedish reinforcements have been called in to aid in the defense. It is only a matter of time before the enemy breaks through and advances towards the current likely objectives of Rovaniemi and Oulo - and beyond that, Haparanda and Boden.

Most of the Swedish heartland is now in Russian hands. Stockholm, Uppsala, Örebro, Karlstad, Jönköping, Växjö... West Sweden and Skåne is still being defended, although hope for Göteborg is grim. Airbases have been relocated to Skåne to prevent being overrun. Gävle River is still the end of the Russian advance in the north, although strong armor and mechanized forces are pushing on north around Avesta and Gävle.

NATO is still mobilizing, but so far, Denmark and Norway is staying out of the war and although several U.S. Airborne brigades have been deployed to bases in Norway, they watch and wait for now. Soon it will be too late.

Bold Directions For Cleaner Energy

I just had to quote this from President Bush's State of the Union speech:
America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources -- and we are on the threshold of incredible advances.

So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative -- a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research -- at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants, revolutionary solar and wind technologies, and clean, safe nuclear energy.

We must also change how we power our automobiles. We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We'll also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks, or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years.

Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.


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