I hate Flash

Ugly, but useful – that’s how I like my web sites. These last couple of days I’ve across some examples of the opposite: My girlfriend was in Rome this weekend, so of course I tried to find a good grappa for her to bring back home. My office mate led me to this Flash monster: Nonino. Not only is everything on the page subject to my Flash-block, and the usual problem of not being able to link directly to any of the individual pages on the site[1] is there, but every time you look at a product, the meny on the left side retreats, and you have to repeat the whole process every single time. I hope the grappa’s good, at least.

Another, more ridiculous example: Voss water. Forgetting for a while that the product itself is idiotic (designer bottled water?!), the web site is horrible. Fine, I get to choose my own background for my personal surfing experience, whoop-de-doo, but there is no information on the page what so ever. That’s of course not entirely true: We do get a long background story about friendship and “vision”. But let’s say want to buy the water, for some reason. What happens? “Please visit vosswaterstore.com for more information[…]”, demonstrating that the first page serves no function at all. Oh, and the receding-menu syndrome has struck again.

No, give me Useit.com, one extremely ugly page about web design. No graphics, ugly colors and very, very useful. Be sure to check out the Alertbox columns, presented to you in all its html glory. See what I did there? Linked to a page within the site! Unheard of!

In other news, those wacky pirates who made the documentary Steal This Film have released a spectrial edition of the movie with the advent of the Pirate Bay trial. Very, very pro-pirate, yet still interesting. Download it as a torrent (legally, of course), here.

PS: Don’t be upset, Flash. I don’t really hate you. You’re great for cute little games and YouTube. But why do you do this to yourself?

[1] Instead, if I want to direct you to one of their products, I have to say: Go to nonino.it, click “enter english version”, click “Click here to directly enter the site”, click the little triangle on the left border, click “Products”, click the product. Rinse and repeat or just give up.

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Right back at ya

In an earlier post, I tried to come to grips with the problem of how to review a paper that in its current form is close to useless, and even when written out to something more than a work in progress will have serious shortcomings. I recommended the paper be included in the panel, if only for the possibility of it creating good discussions, but with the “major corrections needed” box ticked off.

The other day, we got our own paper back from review. Since Fate enjoys giving you the shaft, it of course had a major corrections tick attached to it. The reviewer pair had done a pretty thorough job, so even if I don’t agree with all of the comments, some of them will be incorporated into the final draft. That’s what you get, I guess. I wonder if they had the same qualms as we did, and whether we stood any chance of being rejected. We did turn in a paper that was far longer and more worked out than the one we reviewed, but our reviewers still said it felt like very much a work in progress.

Oh well, what’s a little more work?

PS: As after most posts, here’s a little something: Today I bring you some very, very dirty little letters that James Joyce wrote to his lover in 1909. No Victorian shame there…

Pirates!

I’m following the trial against the Swedish torrent site The Pirate Bay with interest. It started in the Swedish court system today, and promises to be interesting, long, hard-fought and policy-defining. There’s no easy way to sum up the trial without making this my longest post so far by a factor of ten, but in SMS form, here is the case of the State of Sweden vs. The Pirate Bay: Site hosting links to partly illegal material charged for assisting crime, but law unclear. Precedent to be set. Also issue: piles of money. It’s likely to go on for at least five years, with guaranteed appeals all the way up to the supreme court from both parties.

What’s interesting is the form of the trial. The Swedish state have seized some of TPB’s servers and are trying to demonstrate that they are the source of the copyright infringements being made. TPB claims they don’t host any of the material, and that the information on their site can be just as easy to find through a simple google search[1]. So far today the prosecution has consisted of the prosecutor searching for a wealth of material and showing how easy it is to download material, with a video made by Swedish police on how to set up torrent downloading from scratch in five minutes. TPB are treating the whole trial as a media spectacle on the part of the Swedish state in order to clam down multinational corporations who want to crack down on filesharing, and have responded by hosting press conferences as well as brass bands playing outside the court room and driving around in their own pirate bus. They call the whole thing a spectrial. So is it a sham, a theatre for the rich and powerful, or a real trial against a dangerous development?

The case has multiple layers and stories: Big Money vs. Robin Hood, information freedom vs. copyright, a sustainable business model vs. consumer greed, unstoppable development vs. putting the brakes on something out of control and more. All of the above? None? For me, the whole issue is difficult. Piracy has clear problems connected to it. It might cause a serious change in how content is produced and funded, if not a total collapse of the culture industry. This may or may not be a good thing. Is the rise of the remix or free content culture worth the loss of big (and often very good) productions? At the same time, I’m guilty of downloading pirated material all the time. Do I know if I had paid for the stuff anyway? No idea, and it’s almost impossible to know for any of the cases.

It’s easy to follow the (spec)trial. Mainstream media have reported on it, the pirates have their own web sites for it, and several people are twittering live from the trial. The wealth of sources and perspectives on the process also marks this as something out of the ordinary. And much more interesting than, say, O.J. Simpson or any other overblown court circuses (circi?).

In other news, real life pirates are being attacked by armed forces off the coast of Somalia. I guess it’s good that they stop this kind of thing, but one (very tiny) part of me thinks there is some cosmic justice in the fact that people who have been ravaged by internal strife and abandoned by the international community take their destiny into their own hands by using the wealth being transported right outside their poor country to improve infrastructure and bring much needed funds to the people living there. Hell, if they weren’t also killing innocent crew members and using most of the money to build palace like homes while giving scraps to the local communities, I might even support them.

[1] Case in point, here’s where you can find the remake of Friday the 13th, out this Friday (of course), on 8 different torrent sites on the first page. There, now I can be sued too…

Note to self:

For the future (i.e. tomorrow), refrain from working on three different texts simultaneously. I now have all three Word windows up, and am unable to produce more than half a sentence at a time. Which I then promptly delete. In fact, this blog post is now (almost) longer than my whole body of produced text since lunch…

Eurovision Coin Contest

I love it when unintended consequences come together with surprising findings. After the new Euro coins were introduced in 2002, social scientists were able to see some interesting trends based on their dispersion throughout the Euro zone: The Euro invasion of France. Since all the Euro coins are valid in the whole zone but still show the country where it was minted, they were able to find out how money travels by asking people if they could look at their pocket change. Here is a map showing the difference between June and September 2002 (pardon my French):

The dispersion of German, Belgian and Spanish Euro coins in France

The dispersion of German, Belgian and Spanish Euro coins in France

Interestingly, this can also tell us something about how diseases spread through a population. Presumably this is because money is rather dirty from being in contact with so many hands. There is also a site where you can track the history of individual notes: Eurobilltracker.com. The internet is strange[1]. Speaking of diseases, another example of how data is used for other than its original purposes is how spikes in google searches on flu information correlates with the spread of the flu itself.

[1] The prosecution would like to present the following evidence:
– Hackers hack road signs to warn about zombies and raptor attacks (which, by the way, is getting old really fast).
– Someone made a composite video of every single swear word used in every single episode of every single season of Sopranos. It runs for half an hour, and anyone who claims that swearing makes the language more varied will be drowned by the gross over-representation of “Fuck” here (I did not watch the entire thing, though). Also, who takes the time to do this? The prosecution rests its case.

Interview with a…

My partner in crime Åsne and I are going to be conducting some interviews for our project this semester. We have three targets in mind: focus group interviews to get some information on how ordinary consumers relate to energy consumption and conservation, some individual interviews with economists who were active in the construction of Norway’s new Energy Act in 1990, and ditto for politicians and bureaucrats from the same period. This entails creating three different interview guides, and boy is this harder than it seems. The process is like an endless loop:

1: Figure out we want to figure out
2: Break this down to smaller chunks
3: Try to formulate questions that will cast light on these chunks
4: Take a long, hard look on the questions from 3) and see if 2) has to be applied again, or the questions reformulated
5: Test the questions on ourselves
6: Repeat 4
7: Test the questions on other test subjects
8: Repeat 6
9: Conduct interview
10: Realize in hindsight that much was lacking in interviews
11: Repeat from top

But somewhere, the line has to be drawn, and the data must be considered to be of sufficient depth and quality. Åsne has so far done a great job in the first 6 steps, and on Tuesday we will be trying out the focus group guides on the method course students here at the institute. Point number 7, check. It will be good training for all involved. I have never conducted group interviews, so this constitutes a first for me. Now, all we have to do is find some people to interview… Oh, and I have just learned how to book rooms here on campus. I learn a little every day.

The title of the post comes from the vampire book and movie Interview with a Vampire, which came to mind because I’m watching the HBO series True Blood these days. It’s about a modern day world where vampires have just become legal, and the series is set in the swamps of Louisiana. I like the Southerny feel to the series, and vampires are always cool[1], but the characters are slightly too much over-the-top for this to be a really good series.

[1] Well, except for this abomination:

Seriously? At least they could have called it a zombire

Seriously? At least they could have called it a zombire

Tweety nerd

Inspired by my own last post, I joined Twitter. My user name is @henrikkarlstrom (I think you don’t need the @, but that it’s a naming convention for this application. See, I do my research), if you for some strange reason want to join me. We can bandy witty comments about. Now I need to find out what you actually do there. Since I don’t want to constantly tell people what I’m doing (boring as hell), I figure I’ll use it to write down whatever interesting or amusing one-liners I get. Since no-one will be following me, it’ll be like my own private off-the-top-of-my-head formulation bank. Estimate of time I’ll keep doing this: 8 days.

Also, for future reference, here are the rules of squash[1]. It was actually quite fun, but now I’ve spent about twenty minutes watching crappy youtube videos of squash games. Enough.

[1] Also, skvåsj is a valid way of spelling the name of the game in Norwegian. Oh, Språkrådet, you will ruin our beautiful language.