Saturday, March 31, 2007

Drygolin weather

Originally uploaded by BjørnS.
There has been a commercial going on in Norway for the paint product "Drygolin": "In Drygolin weather, only Drygolin will stick".

Therefore, I found it funny to see this "ad" for Drygolin - it seems the weather was more than the paint could take anyway...

Bjørn's Amazon store

I've created an Amazon store, featuring my favorite books and movies, as well as other books. It feels a bit cute to have my own bookstore - even though Amazon takes care of everything (I just collect a few cents after each sale... :-)

Feel free to have a look!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Christopher Atkins

I have to admit something. Since 1984, I have made a note every time I see a movie. I know it may seem a bit autistic, but now I'm happy I did. A week ago, I bought a licence for " Movie collector", a program where I can enter the titles, and which collects all details from Internet Movie Database and such places. So soon, I'll have a fully functioning database of (practically) all movies I've seen. And in the process of punching in all the titles, I am reminded of all the great movies I've seen through the years. And some not as great. Christopher Atkins' "Blue Lagoon" was perhaps not a masterwork - but it was nice to watch anyway...
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Funny stuff #5

For some reason, there is one football situation from my childhood that has stuck: I was maybe 10 years old, I was playing football with my classmates in a school break, and one of my classmates did "the mother of all mistakes", letting a simple shot pass through his hands and between his feet and into the goal. Maybe the moment stuck because it was a moment in which I was not the biggest fool on the field...

It's been two days since the football match between Turkey and Norway now, wherein Thomas Myhre's two incredible mistakes meant that Norway is, for all practical purposes, out of the 2008 European championship. Of course, we still have a theoretical chance of qualifying, but when we don't beat a Bosnia when all their football players are on strike, and don't catch the ball when the Turkish team passes it in our direction, things seem pretty hopeless.

There's a fine line between hopelessness and humour. But even if it's possible for Norwegians to laugh at Myhre's mistakes now that two days have passed, I have an idea that the Turkish probably find it even easier to laugh. Hopelessness may be fun - especially when it's other people that are hopeless.

Tromsø olympics 2018?

Tromsø is the Norwegian candidate for the olympics in 2018, according to VG.

Sadly, this is a poor choice. Tromsø will face huge problems concerning daylight, infrastructure (there are no train lines to Tromsø, therefore no environmentally friendly means of transportation to the games) and people. Moreover, the population in Tromsø is not large enough to fill the stadions with activity after the olympics.

Needless to say, I was hoping for Oslo, which is a small city by international standards, but with a population of half a million. But now I will instead hope that some other country will take the bill for hosting the olympics.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Jade cabbage damaged

I just noticed the news that the famous jade cabbage - one of the highlights of Chinese art - is confirmed to be damaged.

I must admit, though, that I've seen the jade cabbage twice (on both of my visits to Taiwan), and have been impressed by the jade cabbage both times, not noticing the flaw...

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TAIPEI, March 28, 2007— Taiwan's National Palace Museum, renowned for its collection of ancient Chinese treasures, on Wednesday confirmed reports that its most popular artifact had been damaged—but no one knows when.

A museum spokesperson said one antenna of the two grasshoppers on a jade cabbage, which was selected the most popular item in the museum in a 2002 vote, was snapped off in a long-forgotten mishap.

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Amber Blindfold and Rapid Chess Tournament over

Magnus didn't do too badly in the Amber tournament. In the final standings (available from the official pages), he is sharing number 9 (with Leko) with 4 out of 11 points in the blindfold competition - which is not too good. But in the rapid competition, he is sharing 2nd, with Ivanchuk, Kramnik and Leko, with 6.5 out of 11 points.

Overall, he shares 8th (with Leko, obviously), with 10.5 out of 22 points.

Again, this is a very good result against some of the best chess players in the world. The only thing that can keep him from staying in the world elite must be if he is to lose his motivation. Let's hope he doesn't.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Nude jump

(Try this link if the frame above does not work.)


From time to time I get the impression that showing off the body is more important than showing off the clothes in ads for clothes...
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Movie: Week End

There are a few funny situations in this film, including some surrealistic ones. There is also a feeling that the director tries to say something. This pretty much sums up what I'm left with after seeing this movie.

Week End (1967)
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard


Friday, March 23, 2007

Funny stuff #4

I'd love to be a newspaper editor. I guess there's nothing original about that, but I'm really desperate for that position. There are so many things I would like to change if I was.

Some time ago, a Norwegian woman tried to transfer NOK 500,000 to her daughter. (That's about US$60,000 for you foreigners...) She happened to write the wrong number of the bank account, and transferred the money to a guy who spent them immediately. Bad luck.

Guess what? The newspapers spent several days complaining about THE BANK! If I was an editor, the only thing I would write about that in the newspaper was: "Woman gives NOK 500,000 to the wrong person". My journalists would be instructed to ask her "didn't you consider checking the account number before transferring such a sum of money?" and "if your daughter asks to borrow your car, don't you check that it's her before throwing the car keys at her?"

My newspaper would perhaps be less commercial, but I would save a fortune on not sending journalists to disaster areas to ask how the community feels. I would only print the news about how the community feels after a big disaster, if the unanimous answer was that everybody was happy and was planning to have a party tonight.

I would also take a long, hard look at which deaths deserve mention in the newspaper. This may seem cynical, but there are car accidents every day, so I don't quite know why a car accident deserves to be called "news", while ten deaths of cancer get no mention. News that happen every day are not news.

It would also be interesting to have a look at what is considered worthy of being reviewed. Why will a boring biography of a mediocre politician merit a review, while a textbook that tens of thousands of kids will try to learn something from, does not? My newspaper would review the important books.

My newspaper would, moreover, go bankrupt quite soon. To sell, the newspapers have to trigger their consumers' fellings. They have to get people angry (at the bank who didn't understand that the woman didn't want them to do what she said she wanted them to do), to get people emotional (by stating the obvious about the horror of the disaster), to get them afraid (by making them believe that sudden deaths are common) and to get them to laugh (by mocking the mediocre politician's book).

My newspaper would do neither. It would be a disaster. After which I would go back to writing a blog about what could have been...

Thursday, March 22, 2007


In the series of new features on my blog: I just included AutoRoll, a blogroll that will, theoretically, include links to blogs that the readers of this blog view.

Cute idea, although I'm a bit sceptical. Anyway - it's far down in the sidebar...

Another test of clipmark

How does clipping a photo work? Here's a photo from Ewoud Broeksma...
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As I updated Firefox, I also added the "clipmarks" feature - apparently meaning that I can choose whatever part I want of a website, and then include that exact part in my blog, for instance. Seems cool. To try how it works, I marked a tiny part of the clipmarks website. Maybe it will work fine and I will use it a lot in future?
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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Funny stuff #3

Norway is starting to look like a parody of a real country. The main story of all the newspapers the last previous months has been about the leader of Norway's largest union, Gerd-Liv Valla, who had to step down because she had been mistreating her subordinates. Not necessarily the person you want to lead the fight for workers' rights...

The story of this week has been that the bishop of Oslo has "fired" a gay priest who had been hired for a short period. He's not fired for being gay, but for being in a registered partnership with his boyfriend. The fun part is that the bishop has no say on the PERMANENT priests - he is only allowed to do something about the temporary ones. So the official stance of the Norwegian church, as practiced in Oslo, seems to be this:
1. It is NOT sinful to be gay
2. It is, however, a sin to be in a monogamous relationship
3. This sin is so bad that if you commit it, you cannot be a priest for two months
4. You can, however, be a priest for years - that's no problem

The church has so big problems over this that it's strange that they don't try to tackle some easier issues instead, such as hunger or the destruction of "God's creation" (which the rest of us call climate change).

The third big issue this week is that a fairly untalented artist in need of publicity have claimed to be the victim of an attempted rape by two rather more talented artists (a singer and a director) FOURTEEN years ago. This revelation came after she had been posing in the nude in ads for her art exhibition (consisting of paintings of clowns) without this leading to the expected publicity. This was unpleasant for the two men, of course, but not nearly as unpleasant as it would have been had the woman in question had any credibility.

Moreover, I've come to the third week in my attempt to write a weekly funny column. Instead of giving up completely, I just relaxed the rule saying that the funny column should be "funny". Hope that's allowed...

Movie: Paper dolls

The people in this movie are fascinating. They have left the Philippines to earn their living in Israel. They work as care-givers during the day, to more or less tolerant, elderly Israelis, and perform as the transvestite show group "Paper dolls" in the evenings.

It is the people that make this movie worth seeing - the documentary in itself is quite conventional. I also have a fear that it portrays Israelis a bit less positively than they deserve. But the "Paper dolls" make the film worth seeing.

Bubot Niyar (2006)
Directed by Tomer Heymann


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Amber Blindfold and Rapid Chess Tournament

Magnus Carlsen started the first day of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Chess Tournament with two draws against Boris Gelfand - a draw with black in blind chess and a draw with white in rapid chess.

Live coverage.

The tournament continues tomorrow.

Art: National Gallery: Art 3

"Art 3" is the new "permanent" exhibition in Oslo's National Gallery, showing important works from the gallery's collections from 1814-1950. It replaces the highly controversial "Art 1", which contrasted old and modern art and was partly thematical rather than chronological.

I understand conservatism. From the moment I entered the new semi-permantent exhitibion, I noticed that I missed some of the paintings I'm used to seeing. I also felt a sense of loss since modern paintings no longer enriched the experience of older ones.

Moreover, the new exhibition is far worse than the previous one in that there exists no catalogue for the new one. I hope that is only a temporary situation.

Putting my longing for the previous exhibition aside, there are obvious advantages to a more chronological arrangement - not the least that you can find your favorite period and spend time enjoying and comparing the works there. This means that I can walk quickly through the rooms of Norwegian cubism-style paintings (a genre I think Norwegians never excelled in), while I can spend more time in the area of Sohlberg etc.

All in all, I consider this new exhibition a regrettable step back by the National Gallery - but it's still an important museum to visit for an overview of Norwegian arts, alongside the Munch Museum and Bergen Museum. (Munch still has his own room in the National Gallery as well, by the way.)

Some artworks I liked this time:
Ingebrigt Vik: The Youth (Ynglingen), 1913
Thorvald Erichsen: Male Nude and Two Women (Naken mann og to kvinner), 1903
Theodor Kittelsen: Langt, langt borte saa han noget lyse og glitre, 1900

Harriet Backer: The Holy Communion Celebrated in Stange Church (Altergang i Stange kirke), 1903
El Greco: St. Peter Repentant (Den angrende Peter)
Harald Sohlberg: Summer Night (Sommernatt), 1899

Monday, March 12, 2007

At conference

Originally uploaded by BjørnS.
Here's a photo of me (which I received today) from a conference I attended last week. I tend not to mention my work in my blog, but I thought this could be an exception... :-)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Carlsen finished 2nd in Morelia-Linares

Even with the loss today, Magnus did an exceptionally good tournament, and ended in second place. Given his age (16) and that he came into this tournament with the least good rating of all 8 players and with a bad Corus tournament as his last major performance, this is nothing less than impressive - and his break-through in the very elite of chess.

The table ended like this:
1. Anand 8.5
2-3. Carlsen, Morozevich 7.5
4-5. Aronian, Svidler 7
6. Ivanchuk 6.5
7-8. Leko, Topalov 6

Moreover, according to several sites, for instance The Chess Mind, the results here also mean that Anand is the new world #1 in the next world ranking. I haven't seen anything about Magnus' rating, but he will certainly get a new personal best...

One of the next big things for Magnus is facing Aronian to try to grab a spot in the World Championship tournament in Mexico late this year.

From Anand's press conference: "What Magnus has done here is among the super-elite. There is no tournament stronger than Linares." (From The Daily Dirt Chess Blog.)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Morelia-Linares standings before last round

Today, the only match that didn't draw was Morozevich-Topalov, which ended with a win for the Russian. Topalov resigned after white's 80th move, at which point Morozevich had two queens against Topalov's one. It's strange that Topalov didn't resign a bit earlier...

The standings before the last round is:
1. Anand 8.0
2. Carlsen 7.5
3. Svidler 7.0
4. Aronian, Morozevich 6.5
6. Ivanchuk 6.0
7. Topalov 5.5
8. Leko 5.0

Funny stuff #2

Twenty years ago, speaking to yourself was considered strange. People would laugh if people were having long conversations with themselves on the bus, for instance. Today, this is totally accepted, as people suspect there must be a cell phone somewhere. Not only that, it is also accepted, and considered "modern" and "cool" to have long conversations with yourself in writing. This is called blogging, and the difference is that the number of people who could theoretically hear what you're saying, but doesn't care, is in the billions.

Counters are fascinating things. I can read from my counter that I've had more than 140,000 "hits" on my blog so far. I worry that the word "hit" is misleading, though - I fear that the word "miss" would be more accurate. When I delve deeper into the data, I see that the search phrase that lead most people to my blog is "nude russ". I have a feeling that the people who search for that, does not say "Yes, I finally found a place where nudity of the russ is discussed!" but rather "Shit, why are there (almost) no photos?"

The 140,000 hits has also led to economic gain for me, of course. With Google's AdSense-banners on my site, every time one of the people looking for naked 18-year olds click on the ad "Chess ratings", I get maybe 8 cents. I'm contractually barred from discussing the exact amount of money this leads to, but the last time I checked my bank account, I ended up deciding to keep my day job.

Thank you for your attention. I'll give you a bit of advice on the way out of my blog: if you use Google's Image Search instead, you'll probably find more images.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Topalov-Carlsen 1/2-1/2

Magnus managed a draw with black against world no. 1 Topalov, and is still no. 2 in Morelia-Linares.

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 b6 3. g3 c5 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. O-O e6
6. Nc3 Be7 7. Re1 d5 8. d4 dxc4 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Qa4+ Nbd7
11. Qxc4 O-O 12. Rd1 Rc8 13. Qh4 Be7 14. Qh3 Qe8 15. Nd4 Bxg2
16. Qxg2 Ne5 17. Qb7 Bc5 18. Bg5 Nfg4 19. h3 Nc6 20. hxg4 Bxd4
21. Nb5 Rb8 22. Qc7 Rc8 23. Qb7 Rb8 24. Qc7 Rc8 25. Qb7 1/2-1/2

The score now:
1. Anand 7.5
2. Carlsen 7.0
3. Svidler 6.5
4. Aronian 6.0
5. Topalov, Ivanchuk, Morozevich 5.5
8. Leko 4.5

This means that even if Magnus loses the two remaining matches, he will still have a 50% score against these world-class players with ratings above his own. Does this mean that the candidate match against Aronian will be exiting?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Carlsen - Ivanchuk 1-0

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3
6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8. Ne2 Nc6 9. Be3 O-O 10. O-O Na5
11. Bd3 b6 12. Rc1 cxd4 13. cxd4 e6 14. Qd2 Bb7 15. h4 Qe7
16. h5 Rfc8 17. e5 Rxc1 18. Rxc1 Rc8 19. Rxc8+ Bxc8 20. Bg5 Qc7
21. Bf6 Nc6 22. Qg5 h6 23. Qc1 g5 24. Bb5 Bd7 25. d5 exd5
26. Nd4 Bxf6 27. exf6 Qd6 28. Bxc6 Qxf6 29. Bxd7 Qxd4 30. g3 Qc5
31. Qxc5 bxc5 32. Bc6 d4 33. Bb5 Kf8 34. f4 gxf4 35. gxf4 1-0

Another great win for Magnus, at a point when we thought that he might be falling from his great position. (And again, Carlsen played in the only game that was not a draw.) After today's win, this is the score:

1. Anand 7.0
2. Carlsen 6.5
3. Ivanchuk, Svidler, Aronian 5.5
6. Topalov 5.0
7. Morozevich, Leko 4.5

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Carlsen loses to Anand in Morelia-Linares

Magnus had no chance, actually, in the match with black against Anand. Still, Magnus is in second place, unless Ivanchuk wins today's match against Svidler.

Here's the board after 26 moves.

Anand chose 27. Ne6, which doesn't really seem to be a very good idea, but which was (to quote Susan Polgar) "psychologically devastating". Then followed 27. ... Kh7 28. f4 Qa7+?, and it went downhill from there. Apparently, 28. ... fxe6 would have been better, although not without its problems. Magnus gave up after Anand's 38th move.

Today, I followed the games on ICC, and I must say live audio commentary plus live updates with a chess engine to analyze everything as the moves came along, was a good experience. I'm at the one week free trial now, but must consider shelling out the necessary money to keep updated...

Update: The score after today's matches is:
1. Anand 6.5
2. Carlsen, Ivanchuk 5.5
4. Svidler, Aronian 5
6. Topalov 4.5
7. Leko, Morozevich 4

With four matches still to be played, nothing is decided.

By the way: of the first 40 games, only 12 have been decisive - 28 have been draws. Magnus has been involved in five of these. Here's the full "table":
Svidler: 10 draws
Aronian, Leko: 8
Topalov, Ivanchuk: 7
Morozevich: 6
Carlsen, Anand: 5

Life List

DreamScaper has been inspired by John Goddard into writing a "life list" - a list of things he wants to achieve in his lifetime.

This is a fascinating idea. I think it is essential for happiness to sit down once in a while to decide which direction you want your life to take. For me, this has been very important at important junctions, for instance when deciding on whether to stay in Alta (in northern Norway) or move back south to Oslo. The importance lies not in what decision you make, but in the knowledge that the decision is yours to make. When, in 2001, I decided to stay in Alta for two more years, I knew that it would involve being far away from my family and enduring long, cold winters and springs. So every time I was down because my family was far away and the winter was cold, I could say to myself: this is your choice.

On the other hand, I see that my list would be very different from DreamScaper and Goddard's lists. That goes without saying, perhaps, because obviously the whole point is to decide on MY life, not to mimick anyone else's life. I'm not too interested in places, for instance. I love travelling, but I wouldn't in any way consider my life a failure even if I never got to South America, for instance.

Maybe I should give it a try anyway? I'll need some time to decide on things, of course, but at least: If I look back at my life at age 70 or 80, I would like to be able to say:
- that when I met love, I did my very best to keep it
- that I've always been a tolerably good son, brother, uncle and friend
- that I've made a difference to my students and to mathematics teaching in general
- that I've given of my wealth to help develop poorer parts of the world

Hm - this is not turning into anything like the "life list" of the two other guys. Does anyone have any idea of how I could specify this list?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Maths problem at Verizon Wireless

This is an absolutely absurd conversation, in which representatives of Verizon Wireless are making fools of themselves.

The problem is this: The caller has been quoted a rate of 0.002 cents/kb for internet traffic in Canada (and this is readily accepted by Verizon Wireless), but when he gets the bill, he is charged 0.002 dollars/kb. The really amazing part of the conversation is when Verizon Wireless makes this calculation:
0.002 c/k * 35,893 k = 71.79 dollars
without understanding that the caller has a problem with the sudden change from cents to dollars...

Would you buy shares in a company that don't know the difference between cents and dollars?

I must add that the tape may be a hoax, as it seems incredible that Verizon Wireless could be this stupid. On the other hand, I haven't heard any claims that it is a hoax.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Principles of economics explained

Berto: philosophy monkey has posted a thing from YouTube, where the 10 basic principles of economics are explained in a very funny way. Well worth a look!

(Thanks to Freakonomics for pointing to this site.)

A sad day for Ålesund

I'm glad that the city government of Norway's capital Oslo has made a
plan on how to fight discrimination against gays. Areas such as
education and health care are of course covered.

Not all parts of Norway are as enlightened. NRK refers to a discussion in the city council in one of Norway's cities, Ålesund,
where one politician said: "According to my christian faith, being gay
is not a natural state - it is something that one can get away from. I
do not see it as ideal that people should be helped to be gay or that
things should be arranged so that it is easy to be gay. This is my
clear point of view, and people may condemn me if they wish." Granted,
the politician (JohanGrytten ), is from the extremist party "Christian
People's Party", and on the national stage they only have the far-right
party "Progress Party" on their side in this issue. It is depressing,
though, that the city council in Ålesund decided to postpone the vote.

Which only goes to show that the fight for equal rights are not won, even though the situation may seem very good when viewed from a particularly good spot in Oslo...

Linares round 8

The 8th round in Morelia-Linares (the first one in the Linares part) ended with four draws. And as usual, Magnus Carlsen is not one of the players who could be critizised for not trying hard enough...

Lots of problems with the servers today, but the Russian site ChessPro worked well, and with a little help from BabelFish, it was even possible to understand some of their analysis.

The standings after round 8 are:
1-2. Anand, Carlsen 5
3. Ivanchuk 4,5
4-5. Aronian, Svidler 4
6-7. Leko, Topalov 3,5
8. Morozevich 2,5

This is still amazing from Magnus! Even if Morozevich is not doing to well in this tournament, he's still a bit better than Magnus if we look at the rating, so it's great to get a draw with black.

Funny stuff #1

To make my blog better, I've decided to write a weekly funny column. I think I should do that, because I'm generally considered funny. At least by myself (and others laugh at me, as well). It seems safe to stay close to my area of expertise, so I decided to write this first column on probabilities. (I'm teaching mathematics, so that should be a safe bet.)

What's the chance that this new weekly column will actually be weekly? To go about this scientifically, we may have a look at some empirical data: I am, generally, VERY good at making decisions and to stick to them. For a while. One of the first thing I did when I started teaching in August, 1998, was to decide to create a database with mathematics exercises online. What's the URL, you may ask? Well, I don't really remember - I don't think anyone's seen it since 1998. I also started to write a diary, by the way, to be able to learn from my experiences. I tried to look up in my diary to find out what happened to the database, but sadly, the diary ended in September 1998, at which point the database was still expected to revolutionize mathematics teaching. Worldwide.

Which reminds me that I started swimming once a week at age 10 or something. My mother even bought an extra gift that I would get if I went swimming every week until Christmas. As I promised I would keep going every week, I got my gift immediately instead of waiting for Christmas. I have no comment on what happened after that. In fact, I would like to make use of the fifth amendment.

Well, of course we don't have US-style amendments here in Norway. Instead, the Parliament (Stortinget) just changes the constitution as it sees fit, within certain rules. One problem is that the constitution was written in 1814, and in 1905, politicians gave up trying to modernize the language anymore. This means that every time the constitution is changed, it has to be done in 1905 language - and as the politicians have no clue whatsoever what language was like in 1905 (they hardly are able to say anything intelligible in 2007), they invariably include grammatical errors in the constitution. Luckily, almost noone notices, as even Norwegians have better things to do than checking if there are any new errors in the constitution. Only one man notices, and he gets lots of press while trying to get the parliament to correct the errors...

Well, I'm very happy to be able to say that I've now finished the first of the weekly funny columns. I have asked whether it will really be weekly, but perhaps I should rather have asked if it will really be funny. Well, you can't have it all.


The official site of the Linares part of the tournament seems not to be working, but at least Nettavisen is doing a live broadcast (in Norwegian) on Magnus Carlsen's game.

After 17 moves, there is no decision in sight.