A couple of weeks ago, I travelled to the USA for SxSW, or South By Southwest, to meet my new coworkers at Automattic as well as help out with the WordPress booth. After a week of SxSW, The Wife joined me as we travelled to San Francisco, to experience California. Here’s a brief travelog.
I’ve done some consulting for Automattic in the previous months (most recently with regards to Stats), but the offer to join the company full-time came out of the blue. I wasn’t actually looking for fulltime employment, but the possibility of working with these supremely talented people on improving my favourite platform, while staying in Denmark which is near my favourite country (Sweden), was a combination offer that was simply too good to pass up.
I don’t have any more specifics at the moment, but feel free to question me up in the comments and I’ll try and answer if I can.
In a visit that would turn out to be much more appreciated than was expected, the Girlfriend and I flew to Thailand a few weeks ago. As it turns out, there’s a lot more to that country than meets the eye, certainly enough to merit a travelog.
The stay was just under two weeks at a quite luxurious resort called Evason. Time was spent mostly examining poolscapes, beachscapes and umbrella-drink-scapes. While this certainly makes for delicious if not expensive living, it’s not the part of Thailand I’ll be chronicling. More interesting to me was the profuse friendliness and politeness I was met with mostly everywhere. Having met a plethora of ego elsewhere in the world, this baffled me enough to inquire about. The response was: “this is a good job, I like it”. Smarter than me, this cookie was. A relief to hear also, as it made me feel less like an evil european colonial lord and more like simply another well-treated customer who eventually had a bill to take care of.
The trip from Bangkok airport to the resort was a full three hours in an air-conditioned cab; a trip which kindled more anecdotes than are worth writing about. And here they are. In a city as polluted as Bangkok and a country as warm and moist as Thailand in the rainy season, I suspect an AC set to 18 degrees Celsius is as much an expression of luxury as it is cold inducing. It also helps me explode my CO2 footprint, which I’m sure has been tenfold its usual during the just spent fortnight.
Speaking of C02, I noticed a surprising amount of very large cars. 75% of everyone drove pickup trucks, mostly the Toyota Hilux brand. Another 75% drove SUVs so large they needed an extra rearview mirror. The remaining 50% drove silver sedans that looked just alike. The whole 200% amounted to double the amount of cars I’m used to see. Now you’d think the treehugger in me would bitch at the Thai people for driving gas guzzlers, but in fairness I have no doubt the CO2 footprint of every thai is a mere fraction that of westerners; this was often exemplified by the small crowds gathered on the bed of the pickups.
Interestingly, the assortment of cars also spoke to me of infrastructure, taxation law and the lack of railways. But enough about that. A more interesting observation is the complete absence of well-tasting milk and male baldness. I wonder if there’s a connection there.
At one point we visited Koh Talu, an island modelled after the collective consciousness minds-eye image of paradise. It looks like this:
We went snorkling here. Saw fish of most colors and shapes. Not in this cave, but just outside it:
The food was without exception, exceptional. So with no surprises, I’m here to confirm your suspicions that Thai food in Thailand is as good as you’d assume it was. The culinary highlight of the whole trip was a Tom Ka soup which is now my favourite dish in the world. It’s an explosion of foody happiness which everyone in their right minds should try several times in this life or the next. The Pad Thai is not bad either.
Good food, friendly people, lots of sun and beaches. You’d think I’d never want to leave. On the contrary, as good and as welcome as this vacation was, it surprised even me that by the end of it, I longed back for Denmark. After a while, the food starts to taste a bit too boullion, the sun starts to become a bit too scorching and the near-swamp-humidity a bit too taxing. As cold and grey the sky looked as I strode out of the return-plane, I have to admit I twirled my metaphorical cane in happiness. I believe I’m built for the cold, lonely icescapes of the north. And so, I decided I was a scandinavian after all.
I call this image “Scandinavian Tristesse”, or “I’m really not as sad as I look”.
Last week was spent traveling Italy's football, or as the locals call it, Sicily. The girlfriend and I traveled from Copenhagen to Rome to Catania, the eastern part of Sicily, where we logged into a hotel. A taxi trip from the airport and to our hotel turned out to be not as cheap as we'd hoped. 50€ will buy you just about anything these days, including a Fiat Punto for a whole day. So that's what we did for the remainder of the trip.
As it turns out, Italians are passionate and their driving skills are insane. Combine the two and you have an intra-city traffic ballet the likes of which will either propel your driving skills to eleven, or (statistically almost as likely) kill you. As of this writing, I have not yet been killed in Italian traffic. Barely.
As seen from above it might seem beautifully orchestrated; cars switching lanes without signaling as such, merging impossibly and never, ever stopping to enjoy the view that is a red light. Three times I tried stopping at the red lights, three times angry sounds of car horns urged me to ignore it. Apparently both red and green means "Go" in Italian.
Remember Lando Calrissians narrow trip through the Death Star in Jedi? That's what Italians do in cars. Every day. (Through cities, not Death Stars).
Even so, driving up the side of Etna, all alone, was worth it.
Aside from being really lousy (or great?) drivers, I can confirm the rumour that Italians make excellent pizzas. We found a really great simple pizzeria at the side of the road towards the hotel and their Diavola, also known as pepperoni pizza, is out of this world excellent. From this day forth I shall only eat that type of pizza.
They also make great ice-cream.
Overall the trip left us satiated with Italy. Which is a good thing. Visiting off-season, I'm sure, made for a very different experience; there were far less tourists than I imagine visit Catania during the summer. Two recommendations for those of you who ponder a trip to Sicily: get a great hotel and rent a car from day one—pick up and deliver at the airport.
One day I woke up and felt like shedding my old clothes (( By the way, I’ve gathered a little wardrobe of discarded clothes, you can see all the previous no-designs there )). Since I make my living doing websites, cleverer people than me might have advised that I do that years ago. I’d tell them that redesigns are essentially bad, and should only be done if you have really good reasons to do so. Fortunately, I’ve had plenty of reason for quite a while.
At one point I had a love-affair with liquid-width designs—you know, designs where if you scale your browser window, the contents stretch to fit? As it turns out, we were starcrossed lovers. This, in part due to James apt observations that the appearance of fullpage zoom spells the death of said mistress. I happen to agree.
Fullpage zoom is only available in modern browsers—nearly all browsers built after the year 2001, or in humanspeak: not IE6. That means users of said browser aren’t welcome here any more. That includes potential clients for my webdesign business; yep, I’m that serious. I won’t build your crap anymore! Shoo! Go back to your Ford T and speak of how the old days were better. All those are met with an unwelcome message.
I’m a fan of both simple, changing and not changing designs. Those are three core values that are fairly hard to wed. My attempt at doing so spells square shapes, no cut corners, a single column (another bandwagon I’m late to join) and changing backgrounds. Right now I’m really satisfied with the current Apophysis generated fractal flame gracing the underbelly of this vehicle of text, but it’ll change. From time to time. That and colors.
In fact, at one point I wanted every color to be so customizable that I tried to concoct deadly mechanisms to achieve my goals. The idea was to upload vectorized SVG icons, and colorize and convert them to PNGs on the fly, serving iconography fitted to the time of day, my mood, heck, even your mood. No such luck, this time around.
I also ditched the tabs;
Today, well, even back when I added the tabs in the first place, tabs indicate instant effect. This being an HTML powered website (the best type of powered website), the effects were never instant. So no more tabs, except on the frontpage, where the effect is instant. I knew this all along, but I told myself that I wanted to unite the various sections and bring focus to other content than just this journal. I have no such illusions any more, now I just want you to look once at my contact page, because I think it looks really nice.
Sure, Star Trek-style teleportation seems like the next big thing. Sure we could go on vacation in July just by stepping on to a transporter pad and be instantly moved from A to B; B probably being Acapulco or somewhere really nice. Off the bat we would love it, but have you ever pondered the moral and ethical implications of teleportation?
The basic form of teleportation involves you being disintegrated, your particle pattern stored in a buffer, transmitted and then reassembled elsewhere. Does that come with your soul? As the godforsaken semi-determinist I happen to be, sure, I can believe that the—for lack of a better word—the soul is simply a momentary configuration of molecules. What you are, right now, your hopes, your hurting shoulder, your innermost secrets and your latest monument to human achievement; all of that is simply a pattern of particles. So when you teleport, Trek-style, all that veltschmerz is teleported right along with your flesh.
Except, for the briefest of moments, you reside in a pattern buffer; a computer so powerful that it can not only hold your entire chemical configuration, but it can even run Photoshop CS3. Given that, what’s there to stop you (or the prop-like teleporter chief) from making a copy of you?
Therein lies the ethical considerations. The duplication that happens in teleportation is way beyond that of human cloning. Dolly can hop and dance happily unknowing that she is a clone of what her mom was when she was born. At least she’s not a replica so exact that even memory, history and everything is carbon copied.
Could it be done any differently? Could your actual particles be transferred instead of duplicated? Probably, but it would still mean moving matter across distances. Duplication style teleportation, on the other hand, would only transmit matter-less information, and as we all know: Einsteinian law dictates that as the speed approaches that of light, weight approaches infinity. So in order to travel at the speed of love, that which travels must have no weight. It’s a conundrum. Either we teleport comfortably, implicitly trusting our transporter chief, or we don’t teleport at all. Maybe now Acapulco doesn’t sound so interesting after all.
On a closing note, there is a subtext to the above. It says: I’m going on vacation and I’ll see you again in July. Or August. Whichever comes first.
Once in a while, I invite a few friends up to our family house in Sweden for a weekend. We enjoy the fire in the garden, good usually cholesterol-laden food and alcoholic beverages. Sometimes, even music. Most recently, my dear sister whom is also a proprietor of our fine house, has purchased a phonograph. Convinced that such a device is all it takes to mount a successful expedition to said location, I have not only acquired a fine selection of gramophone records, but I have produced a poster to celebrate the occasion. The poster will also function as an invite-to-be-sent. Eventually.
Feel free to bask in my awesome taste in music.
The process is relatively simple and painless. Twirl stuff in Illustrator, paint and compose in Photoshop and then pile on layers upon layers of dirt.
I cycle to work every day. More often than not, I see more bicycles than I see cars on my way. Probably this is due to the fact that the time I ride to work, is after the initial morning rush hour. Even so, it’s still pretty good for a capital.
Mostly there are only benefits to this Copenhagen cycling culture, the most important of all being that Mother Nature really enjoys the lack of fumes.
On the other hand, it’s not a very clever or intelligent culture. In fact, most people riding bicycles in Copenhagen act like mindless drones.
On the off chance that you, the reader, are a bicyclist in Copenhagen / Denmark, please keep the following in mind for your next ride.
Five Pieces of Advice for Riding Bicycles
- Obey the most basic of laws
- Slow bicyclists, know your place
- Don’t smoke while cycling
- Scooters, you’re not all powerful
- Look for the cyclist green light
Red light means “stay put”. Green light means “go”. The light is there for a reason. If you think you can get where you need to be faster by crossing the red light, you’re probably wrong. Street lights are usually synchronized, so all light posts in the same direction are green at the same time. Crossing the red light will most likely just get you to another red light.
There are few things that annoy me more than slow bicyclists that mindlessly stay in the fast lane. I’m not allowed to pass you by on the inner lane, so you’re effectively blocking the way for that growing column behind you. Pull in, for the love of god, pull in!
I generally don’t mind people smoking. But I do mind it if they’re smoking while riding their bikes. Especially if they’re blocking your way like #2. First, there’s the why: Why not wait till you’re where you need to be? Are the cravings really that bad? Surely the enjoyment must be better at point B? Then there’s the how: How can you breathe smoke, while riding a bike? Some air must be needed in those busy lungs somewhere?
Some scooters drive on the same part of the sidewalk that is reserved for us cyclists. Most of them think “hey, I’m on a scooter, I’m faster than all of these morons”, and expect the fast lane to be their property. I shouldn’t have to overtake them from the inner lane, just to demonstrate their weak ratio of acceleration. If you must use the cycle lane, atleast follow the same rules we do. That means #1 and #2.
In Copenhagen, most larger crossroads have special light posts just for cyclists. They’re just like the normal red/green light posts, except they’re smaller. They commonly turn green in advance of the large light posts, yet cyclists that have problems with #1 usually don’t know this. That means an unnecessary wait for those of us who do.
Did I miss anything?
Pictures from a pretty place in Sweden.
This is my 2 years anniversary! Meaning that this month, May, is the first month of Noscope year 3.
I am immensely proud to have gone this far, especially considering all the coincidences that led to what Noscope is today.
The story is this. Back in 2000, in the wake of my turtleshell website, I wanted to do something completely different. So I started sketching and pondering. I wanted a simple concept, which was easy to update. Some of the early concepts I came up with were "foamscapes", "foam" being some sort of intangible mass. Phew.
While in business practice at NeoIdeo, I suddenly thought of the name "noscope". I didn't really think i'd use it, but just for the heck of it, I bought the domain name.
I think I had a bubbletree as the only thing on the website. Ack… When I think of the cheesy stuff i've made… If you want a taste of it, look through my noscope archives for June 2001.
However, things started taking shape, and a friend of mine told me about May 1st Reboot. It was a massive collective website redesign event. I didn't even have a site to redesign, but I figured i'd partake anyway. And for some strange twist of fate, my site was selected to be among the best of the reboot sites. Take a look in the archives for May 2001 to see what artwork I submitted.
Some months passed, and Kate contacted me regarding music. I was unable to turn down her offer. She made music, I made the graphics.
Today, 2 years later, I've made more than 120 illustrations, and Kate has made 15 full-length music tracks, some of them exclusively for noscope, some with vocals, some featured on her new album. They are all freely downloadable.
During the course of these two years, there have been ups and downs, both in my life and in the world. I've had countless discussions with all sorts of interesting people from all over the world. The comments page have been locale to several verbal battles on right or wrong, or just common chatter. I am truly proud to have been part of this—thank you all for making it so great.