A Danish yes to more EU

Denmark has been part of the EU since the EU was created out of the EC, but it has never been a full-blown member. Rather, Denmark has held some opt-outs since joining the EU. This was because the Danish citizens rejected joining the EU in full in 1992, but accepted a watered down membership in 1993 (interestingly enough, the last election I couldn’t vote at, and the first I could vote at, respectively). Ever since then, there have been attempts at getting rid of the opts-outs, but every time the Danes rejected this  – that is, until yesterday, where there was a national referendum on the Danish opt-out on defense, where the Danes voted yes.

This will allow Denmark to participate in EU missions and to use the resources of the EU. This is a historical development, as it is the first time since joining, that Denmark moves closer to the EU.

The abolishment of the defense opt-out was endorse by most major parties in the Danish parliament, with two far-right and one far-left parties being against. But even among the far-left party’s voters, there was some support for the idea.

Unsurprisingly, those of us that supports stronger ties to the EU are very happy with the results.


Unrelated, yet somewhat related, I just want to mention that while I was at a referendum-day party with the political party I am active in, we had some rather prominent gate-crashers, as five ministers from the government, including the Danish Prime Minister, dropped by for a short period to celebrate a together with us. This was pretty interesting, since my political party, is not the government party. This was a good gesture, showing that the fight for overturning the opt-out was a common cause among the parties.

Also, it is great to live in a country where it is actually possible for the PM and 4 of her minister, to drop by a party more or less unannounced (I am sure some people heard about it before it happened). There was not security screening of people beforehand, and while there obviously were security along, it was not particularly noticeable. And even before the PM and her crowd showed up, there were several members of parliament (members of my political party) at the event.

Knowing your limits

Yesterday, I feel down a hole of watching clips from past episodes of Masterchef Canada. I like the Canadian version of the show, because the people in it are truly skilled, and the judges are not assholes (unlike the US version). While watching those clips, I came across this clip

The setting is that contestants are split into two teams, who have to make the food for the customers at one of the judge’s restaurants.

The video is focused on the eventual winner of that season of Masterchef Canada, Beccy Stables, but I wanted to share the clip not because of her performance, which was outstanding, but because of the great example of the team captain, Kaegan Donnelly. He realized that he was out of his dept, and instead of trying to cling on to this position, he stepped aside, and let Beccy Stables take over the role, allowing their team to win.

I have worked with many great people over the years, and this is one of the rare skills that set them aside – the ability to look beyond their ego, realize what is needed while knowing their limits, and then step aside, and let other do the job.

Gorillaz 20 year anniversary mini series

I guess most people have some kind of weird hobby, and I am no exception – I collect vinyl mini figures. Not funko pops, but a lot of different others.

Recently, I received a package from the US that I was quite happy to get. It contained this:

Boxes of Gorillaz figures

Two boxes of Gorillaz vinyl figures

Those two boxes are display boxes with 12 blind boxes of figures from the Superplastic X Gorillaz Mini Series. As a Gorillaz fan, and as a collector of vinyl figures, this was something I could not pass on getting.

Mystery boxes of Gorillaz figures

Mystery boxes of Gorillaz figures

Close-up of figure

The collection of figures were pretty cool. Very few duplicates, and some chase versions (different color variations) of different figures.

Lisa showing her moves

For anyone who follows Blackpink, it is no secret that Lisa is an incredible dancer. She frequently demonstrates her skills during solo dance acts at concerts, and through releasing small dance clips on her own YouTube channel. Two days ago, she released her newest dance clip, this time in the form of a mini movie. Like her other clips, it is choreographed by Cheshir Ha, who really knows how to show case Lisa’s skills.

Cheshir Ha is one of the backup dancers in the clip, but all four of them are choreographers as well as dancers, which probably explains the amazing quality.

Over at her Instagram, Cheshir Ha explains the reasons for the choice of music

I chose this song “Tomboy” because the meaning behind it really spoke to me. Through dance I wanted to express that girls can do what boys can in the 1st half, similarly to general meaning of the word “Tomboy”. Then switch it up for the 2nd half by doing heels to show we can do both. Regardless of gender however, you should feel free to dance and express yourself however you want.

Oh, and if you wonder what impact it would have for a fairly unknown artist to get her song picked for a dance clip like this, then it is massive, if the dancer is Lisa

Judging from Destiny Rogers’ twitter stream, she wasn’t aware that her song was going to be used, so this must have been a mind-blowing experience.

Justin Timberlake facing backlash, apologizes

I am not a particular big fan of Justin Timberlake, to put it mildly. His music is frequently misogynist, and his career has to some degree been at the cost of career of women, such as Janet Jackson.

Now, the documentary Framing Britney Spears has led to a backlash against him, and he has come out and apologized for some of his past behavior.

Justin Timberlake Apologizes to Britney Spears, Janet Jackson: ‘I Know I Failed’

The apology has been long in coming, and seems to be mostly caused by him actually getting some push-back, rather than him reaching the need for apologizing on his own. Having said that, his apology is quite good:

“I’ve seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond. I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right,” Timberlake wrote in his Instagram statement. “I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism.”

Unlike many non-pologies, this is actually a clear admission of guilt – both for actions and inaction. A lot people could learn from this. Still, even the apology is pretty good, the timing shows that it was forced out by the reaction to the documentary about Britney Spears which obviously makes it seem less genuine.

Reading challenge

Goodreads allows you to set a reading goal for the year. I have done so since 2011, with varying degrees of success.

Of course, I am going to do it this year as well. For now, I have set my goal at 26 books, which is one every two weeks. It is definitely on the low side, and if I manage to take a long vacation, I will upgrade my challenge to reflect that I have more time.

Me taking a long vacation obviously depends on when it is possible to get a vaccination and when the borders open up again, allowing traveling.

I have a huge to-read pile, but I am always up for book suggestions related to science, skepticism, science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, and history.

Restless in the time of COVID-19

I am sorry that I have been quiet, but I have somewhat overburdened with work. Denmark has gone into lock-down again, which means that there are a lot of companies that are entitled to compensation, as soon as the politicians hammer out the details (often while going through an approval process in the EU, ensuring that no countries sneak in illegal subsidies disguised as Corona relief. The involvement of politicians and the EU makes developing and supporting the compensation systems a bit of a moving target.

But enough about my work.

Or rather, instead of talking about my work, let me make clear how privileged I have been, having had work through both the lock-down starting in March, and now this current lock-down. What’s more, due to the extreme time pressure and ever-changing nature of the demands, I have had to go to work every day, meeting up with a core group of people, working on clearing the path for the developers of the systems (most of developers work from home).

This is probably what has kept me stable.

I am an extrovert, probably even an extreme extrovert. Social contact means a lot to me. If I hadn’t had regular contact with other people, I would almost certainly have sunk into something akin to depression, or at least have gotten stressed.

Going to work, instead of working from home, means that I have to be more careful about social contact outside work, than I would have been if I worked from home. Now, I am not only risking my health, but also the health of everyone working together with me.

As not only an extrovert, but quite a social person, it obviously pains me to not be able to see my friends. This is however a price I have to pay, and one that I think everyone in a position similar to mine (working with other people, living with at-risk people etc) should be willing to pay. The stop of the spread of Corona starts “at home”, and we all have to do our part.

This also means getting tested if we have been at risk at being exposed. In Denmark there is a track-and-trace app based on Bluetooth, which tells you if you have been close to someone who afterwards reported that they had gotten infected. This app is quite sensitive, and since Bluetooth can’t control for all the other factors for whether you have been at risk for exposure. Nevertheless, I have taken any warning I have gotten from it quite seriously, and Friday I went and had my 9th COVID-19 test, after having been told by the app that I had been exposed to a risk of infection. I am still waiting for the results, but given that I have no symptoms and I haven’t heard that anyone, that I have actually spent time, is infected, I am expecting the test to be negative as were all the tests before it.

In usual times, I spend a fairly large part of my spare time socializing and traveling, both things which I can’t really do at the moment. I have been to short trips to Vienna, Austria and Rome, Italy this year, but this is nothing like what I had planned, or what I normally travel in a year.

The lack of socializing and traveling makes me restless, and makes me miss the social aspects of the internet 20 years ago, where I used to hang out on chat boards, discussion forums, and blog comment sections. These communities don’t seem to exist the same ways as they used to. Now, there are Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Discord, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with these things, I am not part of any communities there, like I used to be in e.g, the Mercedes Lackey Mailing List, Salon’s Table Talk, The Doonesbury Town Halls, Readerville, the comments at the blogs over at ScienceBlogs etc. Even places I used for social purposes a decade ago, e.g. Twitter, has become much less so now, as the medium has grown, and becomes such a hose of information.

I know this sounds like an old man complaining about change, but I quite understand that a lot of things are pretty similar to back then, I am just the one who hasn’t followed along. Until earlier this year, I hadn’t even looked at Discord, even though it is a major networking/community tool for a lot of people. I just miss the comfort of the past, obviously ignoring all the bad parts from back then.

Even after apparently becoming a bit of a Luddite on the internet, I have still managed to keep some contact with friends and family around the world, even making some new friends along the way.

This is part of what makes it possible to keep my restlessness in bay. Knowing that it is still possible to socialize and make friends around the world. It also gives me something to look forward to: being able to meet my friends (new and old) when we can travel again.

Because we will be able to traveling again. And socialize.

We just have to be patient for a little longer – the vaccines are here, but they need to be produced and distributed in large enough numbers. As someone said, it is not the vaccines that stop the pandemic, but the vaccinations. And that’s the stage where we are now. Vaccinations have begun, with the most vulnerable and exposed people getting them first, as is entirely proper.

Later the rest of us will get the chance. When enough have, we can normalize things. Things will probably not go entirely back to normal – I can easily see a situation where proof of vaccination/negative test is required for traveling and for participating in sporting events, festivals and other places where a lot of people are gathered.

When it is possible to socialize again, I will be throwing a party, inviting all my friends, and then start planning my travels.

Until this happens, I will stay restless, getting tested occasionally, and spending all too much time on work.

42

Tomorrow it is the International Women’s Day, and I have a couple of posts planned for that, but I also want to note that according to The Economist tomorrow is the 42th birthday of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

EVERY YEAR the world celebrates the anniversaries of masterworks and maestros. In 2020 there will be a host of events and publications commemorating the lives of Ludwig van Beethoven, Raphael, Charles Dickens, Anne Brontë and William Wordsworth. Such milestones usually come in neat multiples of 50. The 42nd anniversary of anything is rarely observed.

Yet on March 8th fans of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (“HHGTTG”) will pay tribute to the comedy science-fiction series, which had its radio premiere on that day in 1978 and was subsequently adapted into novels, TV series, video games and a film. To mark the occasion, Pan Macmillan has reprinted the scripts and novels in colourful new editions (“HHGTTG” was the first book published under their “Pan Original” imprint to sell more than 1m copies). The British Library will host a day of “celebrations, conversation and performance”. BBC Radio 4 has aired the original episodes; Radio 4 Extra will put on a “five-hour Hitchhiker’s spectacular” including archival material and specially commissioned programmes. Such is the enduring interest in Douglas Adams’s story that it is due to be adapted into a new television series by Hulu, a streaming service.

I first read Hitchhiker’s Guide in the Danish edition when I was a teen (it was published in Danish as Håndbog for vakse galakse-blaffere in 1985), a couple of years later in the English edition, and I have re-read it multiple times since then. It is at least 5 years since I last read it, so it is probably time to dust it off, and re-read it again (together with the sequels).

As most of you probably know, the Hitchhiker’s Guide didn’t start out as a book, but rather as a radio comedy, and has been turned into a TV series, several other radio shows, a movie, stage plays, vinyls, comics, and of course, a book (with sequels). I think the book is the best medium, but no matter what you medium you prefer, take a moment to appreciate the fact that Douglas Adams created this fantastic work 42 years ago.

 

The 100 best books of the 21st century

The Guardian has created a list of the books they consider the 100 best of the 21st century (so far). The list and the description of each book can be found here.

As always with such lists, people are looking at it, and trying to figure out how many they have read, and as a bibliophile, I am no exception. So, I have recreated the list below in order for me to share.

If a title is bold, it means I own the book. If I have struck through a title, I have read the book. If a title is in italics, the book is on my to-read list.

  • I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron (2006)
  • Broken Glass by Alain Mabanckou (2005), translated by Helen Stevenson (2009)
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (2005), translated by Steven T Murray (2008)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (2000)
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)
  • Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan (2004)
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
  • Darkmans by Nicola Barker (2007)
  • The Siege by Helen Dunmore (2001)
  • Light by M John Harrison (2002)
  • Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck (2008), translated by Susan Bernofsky (2010)
  • Bad Blood by Lorna Sage (2000)
  • Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman (2001)
  • Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood (2017)
  • Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis (2017)
  • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (2006)
  • The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy (2018)
  • Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli (2016), translated by Luiselli with Lizzie Davis (2017)
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2002)
  • Harvest by Jim Crace (2013)
  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (2002)
  • The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (2009)
  • The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (2015)
  • Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera (2009), translated by Lisa Dillman (2015)
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011)
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (2009), translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (2018)
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (2016)
  • Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick (2009)
  • The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff (2019)
  • Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware (2000)
  • Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller (2003)
  • The Infatuations by Javier Marías (2011), translated by Margaret Jull Costa (2013)
  • The Constant Gardener by John le Carré (2001)
  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (2018)
  • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli (2014)
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)
  • On Writing by Stephen King (2000)
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2010)
  • Mother’s Milk by Edward St Aubyn (2006)
  • This House of Grief by Helen Garner (2014)
  • Dart by Alice Oswald (2002)
  • The Beauty of the Husbandby Anne Carson (2002)
  • Postwar by Tony Judt (2005)
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (2000)
  • Underland by Robert Macfarlane (2019)
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (2006)
  • Women & Power by Mary Beard (2017)
  • True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (2000)
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004)
  • Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín (2009)
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (2003)
  • Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (2011)
  • Night Watch by Terry Pratchett (2002)
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2000-2003), translated by Mattias Ripa (2003-2004)
  • Human Chain by Seamus Heaney (2010)
  • Levels of Life by Julian Barnes (2013)
  • Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit (2004)
  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (2014)
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis (2010)
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan (2001)
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005)
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith (2000)
  • The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
  • The Green Road by Anne Enright (2015)
  • Experience by Martin Amis (2000)
  • The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal (2010)
  • Outline by Rachel Cusk (2014)
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (2006)
  • The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (2010)
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (2015)
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)
  • A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard (2009), translated by Don Bartlett (2012)
  • Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy (2005)
  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro (2001)
  • Capital in the Twenty First Century by Thomas Piketty (2013), translated by Arthur Goldhammer (2014)
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney (2018)
  • A Visit from The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011)
  • The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon (2001)
  • Tenth of December by George Saunders (2013)
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (2011), translated by Harari with John Purcell and Haim Watzman (2014)
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (2013)
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night‑Time by Mark Haddon (2003)
  • The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein (2007)
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006)
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (2001)
  • The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (2014)
  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (2002)
  • Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
  • The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (2004)
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (2011), translated by Ann Goldstein (2012)
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)
  • Cloud Atlas David Mitchell (2004)
  • Autumn by Ali Smith (2016)
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
  • The Amber Spyglasse by Philip Pullman (2000)
  • Austerlitz by WG Sebald (2001), translated by Anthea Bell (2001)
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)
  • Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich (2013), translated by Bela Shayevich (2016)
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (2004)
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009)

All in all, I have read 10 books on the list, and want to read 32 more of them. I have already bought some of those books.

We have had some site issues

As happens all too frequently, this blog has been quiet for some time – this time, however, it wasn’t (just) due to my inactivity. Last week we had some issues with the blogging network, making it hard for us bloggers to blog. It should be fixed now, so I guess I have to find a new excuse for not blogging enough.