Friday, November 21, 2008

Glasgow - international Capital of Cross-Cooking

Ask anybody what they think of Scottish food and most people will not feel very hungry, or think of dishes such as haggis (which is hugely under-appreciated by the way), deep fried pizza or even the lunatic dessert deep-fried Mars bar, which you can get in some of the chip shops here. During my short visit, however, I have realised that Glasgow should, in fact, be recognised as the Capital of Cross-Cooking. Not only is this the only place in the world where you can order Haggis Pakora in Indian restaurants; When ordering an archetypically British Fish & Chips yesterday, I was asked if I wanted curry sauce with it. My Glaswegian friend Jim confirmed that this is completely normal. He also pointed out that "Scottish cooking doesn't recieve as much recognition as it deserves". I am prepared to agree, although I was not brave enough to try the fish & chips with curry sauce just yet. But I will..

Another interesting thing about Glasgow is its subway, with possibly the smallest train cars in the world. Being of average Scandinavian height, I can barely stand upright in it. The general design is simplistic and good with a circle line where trains go in both directions around. But, they don't just call the only line the "the Line" or the "Circle line". No, instead one of the directions is called the "Inner Circle" and the other the "Outer Circle". Does this make sense? Of course, one direction will always be on the inside of the other, but to me it seemed like a bad joke. At first. Just like haggis pakora. But perhaps it is, just like that dish, or like kilts, or curry sauce with fish & chips, actually quite sensible, and not so stupid after all.

Goodnight from Scotland!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Back from Australia

It's now been a week since I returned from the my three week long reunion with Queensland, so it's time to write something about it. I have uploaded bunch of nice photos from the trip on Flickr and some more are on their way.

My journey started with a stopover in Taipei on the way to Cairns, where I spent a week participating at the biennial International Society for Microbial Ecology meeting. After this meeting, which was the main reason for going really, or excuse for going at the very least, I rented a car with two workmates and travelled down the East Coast on a mission to:

1) See as many funny animals as possible, and
2) Do some extreme sports.

The results were quite satisfactory. I managed wild crocodiles, wallabies, lots of tropical fish, corals, sponges, nudibranches, snakes, spiders, platypus ("platypii" ?) and even a couple of cassowaries. As for sports, I settled with scuba diving (but quite a lot of it), surfing and a day of sailing.

It was an amazing trip.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Proposal for Bio-LOLCode package or IM IN YR GENEZ

Working in bioinformatics, you typically have to deal with people of two different categories; those with a biological background and those from an informatics background. Luckily there are also those that fit in both categories. When it comes to programming, people from the first category generally just want to get the job done as quickly and (often) impossibly hacky as possible, while many people belonging to the later category often have very strong feelings about how programming is done; what language to program in and if it is LINUX or Windows etc. I am no exception to this rule myself, preffering Java and disliking Perl and Windows strongly. This may seem pretty geeky to some of you, but, there are always degrees of geekiness.

For the most geeky of geeks, it is not enough to talk about how Windows sucks and how .NET is Satan's spawn or whetever it may be. The true übergeek instead turns to an unusual esoteric language that very few people use, thus making life harder not only for himself, but also for those around him and this, I suspect, is what he really wants. Typical languages to turn to in this case is Haskell or Darwin. Other people that want to compile the code of the übergeek then has to install the compiler, strange packages and programming libraries for it and other things that may be virtually impossible to find or manage to install. The übergeek smiles as he watches them fail. It has been said that all the Haskell programmers of the world would fit in one Boeing 747. It's also been said that if this Boeing would crash and take the lives of the poor programmers in it, nobody at all would notice.

Anyway, to get to the point, I have realised that to transgress the boundary and become a true übergeek myself, I have to find my own favourite programming language that nobody else has ever heard of and now I think I have found it! The language is called LOLCode and inspired by the pidgin English of LOLCAT pictures, using sloppy chat-style language and geeky snowclones. Its main mission is to rival XML as the Lingua Franca of computers. There's a compiler for Perl and even for .NET. A typical example of a program written in LOLCode would be :
BTW Below is an IF-statement

So, for this beautiful language to truly be useful to us bioinformaticians, we need a Bio-package. Every language with any sense of dignity has one and the time has come to LOLCode. To be a little different, I suggest we call it IM IN YR GENEZ. Time to sit down and work on a grant proposal to the Open Bioinformatics Foundation. I will let you know how it goes...


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Rock Werchter 2008

I'm a little tired and suffering of the usual post-festival trauma. Just came back from four days of bloody good concerts, not enough sleep, beer for breakfast and the other usual festival attributes. In Belgium. For a change. Actually it started with a day in Brussels, spent mostly at the local pub from 11 a.m. until 6 or so, just because torrential rain followed by us by people from the to-be festival camp dropping in and stopping us from leaving. It was a tough week, but we made it.

First of all, Werchter does not compare to my favourite; Roskilde. Ok, the beer is cheaper and the weather is supposed to be better, but who cares when it just lacks all the fancy things that make Roskilde such a cool place to just wander around aimlessly, such as cocktail bars, lounge tents, 6 stages of music you never heard of and most of all, the perfect organisation. Instead it feels quite commercial and a festival area built without much love and in a hurry. That said, Belgians really know how to go wild during concerts, in a very good way. The Aussie-Norwegian-French-Swedish-Finnish-Lebaneese-Swiss-Austrian camp we had managed to get together was also something else. And last but not least, the concerts this year were bloody good. To mention a few:

--==Neil Young==--

Clearly the biggest legend of this festival, Neil with his band basically blasted the hell out of the festival. As opposed to Radiohead, we managed to stand right in the front which made the impact even more powerful. I had not expected such energy from this man, even though he is known to have invented grunge, more or less. But he is 63 years old! During Hey Hey, My My, we were seriously afraid that he would suffer a heart attack. Over two hours and several great songs later, many with long intense guitar solos later and all of which sounded better than I ever heard them before, he was long overdue the schedule but couldn't help doing an encore. This was maybe the highlight of the concert and surely the best Beatles cover anyone is likely to ever do; a hardcore version of A Day in Life, ending with Neil trashing his guitar against the speakers. Truly awesome.

Tracklist :
Love And Only Love
Hey Hey, My My
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Spirit Road
When You Dance, I Can Really Love
Fuckin' Up
All Along the Watchtower
Oh, Lonesome Me
Mother Earth
The Needle and the Damage Done
Unknown Legend
Heart of Gold
Old Man
Get Back to the Country
No Hidden Path
A Day In The Life


One of my long-time favourites that I never got a chance to see live, this was what I looked forward to the most. And they did not disappoint. They played most of the newest In Rainbows album, quite some from Kid A and also some classics like You do it to Yourself. The last one is what really made the crowd go crazy. And almost the whole crowd seemed to know the lyrics and sing along.


Grinderman is Nick Cave and half of the Bad Seeds, in some kind of new configuration, appearently and only playing new material. Very powerful and a much better than the album.

--==Sigur Rós==--

I had already seen this amazing icelandic band on the smaller "Green Scene" of Roskilde, which was magical. This time was almost as good, but made it clear that the biggest scene of a festival is just not optimal for these guys, at all. I will try to catch them in Iceland some time. In a small village on the countryside on the Heima II tour. It's important to have dreams, at least..


He is not that charismatic on stage, but the man is a genius. Very good.

--==The Hives==--

"I solemly sweaiearrrRRRrr, to.. have NO... Other... Gods. Thaaaan... The Hives.". These guys are gods on the stage and the Swedish-American-slurry accent of “Howlin” Pelle Almqvist is actually brilliant.


Ok, these guys were not actually that great, and were quite obviously lacking material for a whole concert, but the atmosphere during this gig was amazing. It was simply a really great dancefloor and we liked it. Belgians sure can party. (Even though they should try to shut up a bit more during quiet, introvert Radiohead songs)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Motorpsycho, USF Verftet, Bergen, 28 April 2008

I had barely listened to this band at all until my friend Øystein gave me their latest album "Little Lucid Moments". And it was good. But, it was not nearly so good that it prepared me for their concert. I have to include it among my top three ever, I think. This was Motorpsycho proving once and for all that they are, without competition, the Best Norwegian Band. Ever.

For more than two and a half hours, these guys played music that varied between heavy, energetic and slow atmospheric psychedelic rock with an impressive feeling. I could compare it to some of my favourite bands such as the Doors, Radiohead and Tool. It's impressive what two guitars and a drummer can do. Apparently, they varied material from some 15 albums and they have a new drummer. That, they did it with perfection. I am blown away.

I should have brought my earplugs though, because it was damn loud. My ears are still ringing...

Here's a picture taken by Alvedust, that is a bit nicer

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Paris photos

I have finally uploaded some photos from my trip to Paris to my Flickr account.

Here's another one of pretty dodgy mobile camera quality, showing one of the metro trains in Paris that actually run on inflated rubber wheels! The engineer in me thought this was quite puzzling and hilarious at the same time. Is this really a good idea or is it plain stupid? It has to be there for a reason, one thinks. Anyway, enjoy the photos..

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Visit to Le Louvre's Egyptian collection reveals ancient roots of pop music!

On my last day in Paris, I paid a quick visit to Le Louvre and stumbled on hitherto undiscovered historical evidence of enormous implications. Just like in the "Da Vinci Code", in fact. But, as opposed to that quite poor novel, what I unveiled on that fateful Sunday was
something that actually matters. Because, let's face it, who is really surprised to hear that Jesus had a girlfriend, or how this was not put or kept in the bible? He was, after all, human, divine or not. Besides, Dan Brown's book was fiction, was it not? Anyway, what I found out was related to pop music rather than religion. You can imagine that I was surprised.

This papyrus scroll from ca 1500 BC is on open display in the Egyptian collections. There is only one possible interpretation, which is, of course that the ancient Egyptians had primitive gramophones as well as microphones. On stands.

Digging deeper into the subject, with some help from my fellow archaeological interpreters Carol and Animesh, we have concluded that this is a picture of a recording studio. The studio manager to the left announces to the singer that he has 10 more minutes, possibly due to limitations in the ancient recording media used in Egypt, of which we know very little. Not until some 3500 years later, similar studios would become popular also in the West, particularly in Memphis, Tennesee. This city named after the ancient Egyptian capital is where Elvis, Johny Cash and many others began their musical careers. This must suggest a link, but we can still not understand it fully. Why was Memphis named as it was? Could aliens be involved? Might Elvis perhaps have been secretly shipped to Egypt after his death to be mummified and buried in that magical place. Where it all started. For pop.

If you are still not convinced, this statuette, which is on display in the same museum, clearly pictures the worlds first known moonwalk. Michael Jackson, falsely accredited with having invented this dance move, looks increasingly like a mummy. Could there be a link? One can only guess.

Better quality images are available on Flickr

Monday, April 14, 2008

Last day in Paris

After spending a week in Paris for the Genomes 2008 conference, the last day of this great stay is over. It's been a long one, starting late at 11 in Animesh's friend Joshua's apartment in Pyrrénees. After some adventures including locking myself out when going out to buy the daily croissants and pane au chocolates for breakfast, I headed off to see the Père Lachaise cemetary. This locking-myself-out business got a little more interesting due to Joshua's next door neighbour interfering whilst walking back from the toilet in the hallway. (Apparently this is one of the very last houses in Paris with some apartments still having external toilets). Anyway, while unsuccessfully banging on the door she started off an aggressive monolouge in French that I could only understand parts of such as "nobody lives there", "go away" and "who are you looking for?" followed by "nobody with that name lives here" when I tried to answer. Finally she gave up, leaving behind only a strong stench of piss, that in all fairness might have come out from the toilet below, but it did not help my breakfast appetite much. Even later, Animesh heard me and let me in. Later I learnt that this particular neighbour is raving mad and had once chased Joshua out from his own house with an axe. I guess I got away very easily.

During breakfast I learned to appreciate chai, which basically is just black british tea prepared the Indian way. Normally without cinnamon and other strange Western tea additives. The trick to it is simply to boil it together with the milk for a really long time, instead of just poring in some luke warm milk into a cinnamon infused herbal tea and calling it "chai-te", which seems to be the method in most fancy Scandinavian cafés. One should pay close attention to the milk so that it does not boil over and leave a burnt, smoking and soggy mess on the stove though, which is something my friend Animesh the chai-connoisseur missed this particular time.

Père Lachaise turned out to be a fantastic place perfect for a meditative walk in the spring sun, just like I had pictured after hearing about it, especially in the beautiful documentary Forever.
The multicultural neighbourhoods I passed on my way through Belleville were also quite perfect for a walk. And for catching a fallafel for second breakfast (or any other Arabian, Jewish, Vietnameese, Indian, Japaneese or French treat).

Later that day I joined my friends to visit le Louvre and walk up Champs Elysées, thus making our Paris visit complete. In musee du Louvre's Egyptian section we found some very amazing and surprising evidence of the ancient roots of rock music. More on that may follow in a later post.... We also caught a glimpse of Mona Lisa, of course, and I learnt that Freddy Mercury is actually Indian, that the Arc de Triomphe looks just like the India Gate in Dehli and that macarons has nothing to do with macaroni, or macaroons for that matter.

It's been a very interesting visit.