The Trough

There's a handicrafts fair once a year in our little village in Sweden. People from the area sell the stuff they make during the long winter evenings. Most of it is kind of kitschy, but I usually buy honey and jam. It's really the best honey in the world. A few years ago I bought a round cement trough from a little girl who apparently made cement things with her dad. She had some nice blue tiles on it, so I thought I would put it on my little terrace garden.

I did, and it looks nice when I clean it up and fill it with clean water, but just a day or so later it is filled with leaves, so I've just been ignoring it. It is kind of grown over anyway.

The past few days have been marvelous summer weather here, so I've been eating breakfast outside. But since I am alone, I am rather quiet. And I have been getting company. There is a squirrel (actually, I saw two of them together today) that apparently owns the place. I watch them climbing up the trees and across the telephone pole wires and across the lawn.

One is suddenly on my terrace, looking around for danger. I don't move, but he senses me. So instead of going straight for the water, he sneaks around a large bush in the corner. He checks that I haven't moved, then runs to the trough and takes a long drink. He checks again that the coast is clear, and then makes a mad dash to the closest tree, looking back to see if I am following.

So I'm glad I bought the trough, I've seen a frog enjoying it, too. And I now have my camera at the table. Maybe I'll get a chance to take a closeup.

Update: Here he is!

Good thing he left the berry for me!


Death by Proxy

I spoke with an American guy after church who is now working in Sweden. He used to be in the Navy as a career officer, and was deployed to Iraq. He left the military, he said, because he began to realize that he was so far removed from what was actually happening. He was not commanding his group, but the targets had been programmed in advance. The crew was just pushing a few buttons. They were not out in combat, but were safely in their offices on deck and were, it seemed, playing computer games. Except when they pressed a button, a missile was actually fired. It hit actual targets. It killed real people, but they didn't see their missiles impact. They had to wait until the next day until intelligence translated the newspapers to see what they did hit.

And he began to have qualms about the targets they were hitting - military buildings, but at night when there was probably only the cleaning crew there, not some military higher-ups; markets filled with civilians; even hospitals. And it was not his decision to bomb this target or that, it was a decision made at a desk far removed from what was happening. He didn't like it, and got out.

This is something that I find very troubling - the military moving towards death by proxy, using things such as drones to attack and kill people from afar, controlled by a kid who grew up playing computer games. Except there, when you restart the game, everyone is "alive" again. These games are lethal. I wouldn't mind them just battling each other with games, as long as they aren't killing real people. But I'm afraid this won't be feasible.

Why aren't we protesting louder about this kind of war?


And now - Retina

I've just finished migrating to a MacBook Pro with a retina screen. I had ordered it over 4 weeks before heading out on vacation, but it didn't arrive. I was beginning to think Apple was starting to sell vaporware...

A friend coming up to visit brought it up, and I let it sit a few days before taking a deep breath and starting the migration. The first day I had to give up - all applications have to be closed in order to use the migration assistant. So I waited until getting ready for bed, and then started in.

Of course, I had made the usual mistake and set the new one up with my normal account name. I did that by mistake with the last one, and had to re-install the operating system from the disk in order to set up an admin account in a crazy name, and then set up my regular name for me. This computer doesn't have a disk, though, so I suppose I'll have to live with it and rename all the paths in configuration files... groan.

It announced that it would need 5 hours to transfer the 250 GB clogging my old machine (and yes, it ended up taking 5 GB of temp crap with it). After brushing my teeth it was 5.5 hours, after reading a mystery novel for 2 hours it was down to 3:58. Anyway, it was done in the morning.

I got to work after breakfast, and we had some more gotchas:

  • TrueCrypt would not work. Panic. I ended up having to install beta version 1.7a before I could decrypt my data.
  • Fugu hollered at me that this Mac would not execute PowerPC stuff, full stop. Had to download the pre-release candidate 1.2.1pre1 in order to access the off-machine stuff not on Dropbox.
  • Lion felt a pressing need to deal with some updates. It wanted to update all sorts of stuff I never really use, so I unchecked all that. Didn't have the Internet set up yet, just using the old box as a router. Oops: 
    This will take all week...
    No way I'm going to wait that long! I figured it was the stupid modem, so I restarted to old box. Sure enough, now we only needed about an hour for it all to download. Installed it, restarted the system, check. 
  • Then we had a classic Catch-22: I tried to access the Huawei-Internet modem directly and not through the old box. No dice - I needed a Java Runtime Environment. WTF? I had one on my old system! Why is this not a standard part of the OS? And to download the runtime environment I need what? Right! Internet! So I put the stick back on the old box and fiddled around until I found something that offered to install Java for me. Took another half an hour to get it downloaded and installed.
  • Surprise! All of the network definition information was not transferred!. I only have like 25 or 30 different networks I work in that all have bizarre problems that I sort out with my network definitions. Luckily, the old computer was still working (although it is making strange noises). 
  • We have Internet! And Adium works, as does YoruFukurou. 
  • How about Thunderbird? That tends to be a bitch. And indeed, I am greeted by pristine email boxes, not the 2000+ emails that should be there. And a missing archive. Okay, this will be a path problem, as I couldn't us my normal name. I'll just have to set that up again for each email account. Except that there is no /User/me/Library/... directory anymore. Gulp! Luckily, we have internet, so I mouse around and find the super secret magic trick: cmd + shift + G and blindly enter in the directory you want to visit, and it will be shown to you. And it works, and there was my email. WTF? Is Apple trying to save me from fussing with the OS or what? I looked for the box to tick to show me "hidden" files, nothing to be found. But I did find Tinker Tool while digging around and that had lots of cool boxes to tick to make the Mac work again. Thanks for saving my day!
  • I do not like the way the touchpad/mouse scrolls, so I switched the direction on that.
  • I started reading my emails, and opened up an attachment. Or rather, tried to start Word. Please enter my product activation key! Excuse me? I figure it out from the old machine, except that that one is a 20 digit number and now it wants 25 digits. Panic email to the engineer as school asking if he has any idea. Nope, we have a school license for as many copies on school computers as we need. I click on the 30 day free trial, enter my email address, and it now defaults back to my normal view and the 20 digit number. Okay, either it now works, or I panic in 30 days. Or start using Open Office in earnest.
Okay, my editing tool works, no more excuses. The calendar and the address book now have a fancy cutesy skin that I can't seem to find a way to shut off. And screenshots keep getting dumped back on the desktop instead of the directory I managed to get the old machine to use instead. Why couldn't it take all of my settings over? I'll probably have to set up the gazillion printers I know and love - yup, they didn't make it over, either. Yuck. 

The screen is very crisp - but I have an eyeache right now. I hope it is just staying up late reading last night. So it cost me a day. Not very user friendly. Oh, and I set up the Save As... to do Export...... I wonder if this is going to be my last Mac? It is getting far too Windows like....

Update: Wanted to fix my web page and called up Dreamweaver CS3. I know, CS6 is the current version, but why pay Adobe all that money for stuff I don't need? Photoshop works. Indesign works. But all I get is this:

Um, right. OK. 
No idea what's up. I did find a thread at Adobe though, and the solution is to copy the configuration directory (mine was 95 MB large?!) from the old machine to the new one. I renamed the directory on the new machine to crap, just in case I needed it again. I didn't. Works like a charm

The Vanished Man

I love Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series, as I may have mentioned before (here - and here - and here - and here). I picked up "The Vanished Man" at the second hand shop for 5 SEK (about 60 Euro cents), and dug in. "The expert magician seeks to deceive the mind, rather than the eye." And oh my, what a lot of magic and deception and just a general good story. Was up until 3 am in order to finish it off, and it is full of surprises, up to the very end!

Now if I could just sort out how to be a quick-change artist, I could shave lots of time off my getting ready for work in the morning! This guy can change AND put on makeup in 10 seconds? Boah. And I don't even need make up.



Mural at one entrance
I've visited Copenhagen many times over the past 35+ years, it is one of my favorite cities. But I have never visited the Freetown of Christiania, which is actually quite close to downtown Copenhagen. Although I have spent most of my adult life in close contact with all sorts of alternative projects, I should really have been to see it. But it rather intimidated me with its size and the jumble of streets and, I admit, a bit of fear of Pusher Street.

But we have gotten to know a woman who lived there for 16 years and is now working in the administration there while living outside. She offered to give us a tour the next time we were in Copenhagen, and so this past weekend was finally time to have a look around. We met at the metro station at Christianshavn and walked across the island to one of the entrances, which has this lovely mural on a house wall beside it.

The Freetown, sitting on a former military area, was occupied in the early Seventies, and they have had a very liberal drug policy with drugs being sold openly on the street until about 2004. What I didn't realize, was that in 1979 the inhabitants got mad at the pushers of hard drugs and evicted them from the area. The only drugs tolerated in the freetown are alcohol, tobacco, coffee and hashish.

This poster plastered all over the entrance areas makes it clear: You are welcome in Christiania, but not with hard drugs, weapons, violence, or threatening people.

Hash seems to still be available, just not in specific stands, because I saw a number of people smoking it. There are many large signs insisting that Pusher Street is a no-picture-taking-area. And our friend said: they mean it. People get nasty when pictures are taken in this area.

Christiania is also a car-free city, although they do have people trying to drive up to go shopping, and some of the residents have cars that they then have to park outside of the freetown. There are many, many bikes, of course, and the special kind of three-wheel bicycle that was developed here (but is now manufactured on Bornholm) for transporting children and/or goods is all over the place. Most of the bikes are driving at a leisurely pace, even the teenagers are quite polite as they ride past.

There are about 620 adults and around 200 children living permanently in the freetown. They make decisions by consensus, which means that there are many, many meetings needed to decide something. The freetown is organized into 14 areas that are rather self-governing, sending representatives to central meetings. Or not, if they don't feel like it.

They currently pay rent by the number of adults living there, this will soon be changing to the number of adults AND the square meters of the housing area. This can be anything from an old construction site wagon to fascinating houses that sometimes seem to defy gravity. They are sometimes called "architecture without architects"
On a tiny base
This is a house built with a pentagon outline to the main house with bits and pieces tacked on here and there
A piece here, a wall there, a bit sticking out the top. 
We walked and walked and walked, and I felt so strangely at home with these self-made living areas, the people just enjoying life in the streets, talking or singing together while someone plays the guitar, working on something or just hanging out. Of course, there were a good handful of drunks around, but they were not belligerent. They were just there, sort of belonged to the community.

A thistle
The community organizes their own trash sorting (and has to pay the city for garbage removal, gas, electricity, water, and such), has a building materials supply house, shops and a bakery, theaters and parks, a children's area, a movie theater, restaurants, a large communal bath house with a wood-fired sauna, and flowers all over the place. Some of the gardens are just a riot of color! The only thing missing seems to be a school. But there are so many good schools around, our friend said, that it is not necessary for them to have their own school.

There is lots of waterfront property, as the military area included a moat. Much of the waterfront is publicly accessible, people sit and talk, have a grill going, throw a stick for their dog to catch (there are lots of dogs here).

The freetown is currently buying the land from the city of Copenhagen in order to keep its independence. They need a lot of money for this, money that many of the inhabitants don't have. They have come up with the idea of selling "stock" in the town. You purchase shares, but don't own any property. But you get invited to a party once a year in the freetown! They need 76 million Danish crowns to buy off the property, and each inhabitant is paying a bit of this every month, as well as selling the stock in 100 DKK pieces. They have already collected 9 million DKK. There are some nice videos on the page - do have a look!

We finished off the evening at Spiseloppen, one of the popular restaurants in the freetown. You walk up the stairs in a hallway that is completely filled with graffiti. Even the graffitis have graffiti on them. You open the door - and are in a charming long hall filled with candles and two kinds of tables. There are communal tables for people who live there. They can get the evening's meal for a fixed price. Then there are tables set for guests, who can chose from a menu (at higher prices, of course). We had fantastic food, I had the vegetarian collection (the Danes put bacon on EVERYTHING, so I have to eat as a vegetarian in Denmark in order to avoid pork). There was a cabbage leaf filled with rice, peas, and mushrooms; cucumbers marinated in tsaziki in a phyllo nest; puff pastry filled with cheese; a vegetable patty; a great sauce and a piece of pineapple, accompanied by a bean salad with coriander. It was delicious!

I was exhausted from walking, but I really liked Christiania - I'll be back!