Stepping out in deeper water

A few examples of the Thai shirts that we intend to sell. All cotton, top quality.

When we were living in Thailand, it was fairly common for people to come up and ask “Where did you buy that wonderful shirt?!”. Consequently, we started talking about becoming a reseller of the shirts. Simple way of making a bit of extra cash. Unfortunately, with a full time job as a teacher, we never felt like we had the time to go for it.

Now that we have arrived in Sweden, we did a budget and saw that we should be able to easily make it work as a side business. I wrote up a business plan, and I have made an appointment to talk to some consultants about the best way to get this off the ground. If it turns out to be a great success, great! If not, we could always keep it as a side business to get some extra vacation money. We really have nothing to lose, and right now we do have the time to do it.

I already started adding a webshop to my home page. We don’t have any products added, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to get something up and running. It will take a while to get products sent over from Thailand though… We need to see about that.

Planets

I started trying to calculate the movements inside our solar system, but it is a lot more complicated than I ever thought it would be.

First of all, you have the Earth rotation. The easiest way to describe the Earth rotation is to do it relative to the sun. The rotation in a day is not 360 degrees. Earth is orbiting around the sun, so since the position of the Earth is different the angle to the sun changes over the course of a day. One day is of course the time it takes for the sun to appear in exactly the same position as before, for example zenith. If you look at the time of zenith and the rotation of the Earth between two such times, there is 360 degrees rotation of the Earth plus the orbit movement so that the Earth has to rotate a little bit more before the sun is back at zenith again. This turns out to be 360.9856 degrees.

Earth’s orbit is what we call a year. It takes 365.2422 days (Earth rotations) for one year (orbit) to complete. The orbit is actually an ellipse, it is not a circle. The amount of “ovality” that an ellipse has is called eccentricity. Earth’s orbit does not have a constant eccentricity, it changes over time from 0.000055 to 0.0679. When the orbit is more eccentric, there are larger differences in the amount of sunlight during summer/winter on the northern/southern hemispheres because the sun is not in the center of the orbit. It takes 413’000 years for the orbit eccentricity to complete one cycle. The current eccentricity is 0.017 and we are going towards a more circular orbit. Jupiter and Saturn are the influences that cause the eccentricity to change, because they pull the Earth away from the sun during part of their orbits. As the eccentricity changes, the speed of orbit also changes, so that the time of one year is always the same. Earth has a slower orbit when it is close to the sun and a faster orbit when it is far away from the sun. When the eccentricity of orbit is close to zero then the changes in orbital velocity is also close to zero. The eccentricity itself is also circulating, so that the point of the egg-shape is rotating around the sun. This is called apsidal precession. Apsidal precession takes 112’000 years to complete a full cycle. Finally, there is some wobble to the orbit, like if you spin a plate before it lies flat on a table there is a wobble, but the orbital inclination has a rather small effect with a 100’000 year cycle.

We also have something called axial precession. The rotation of the Earth has a center from the north pole to the south pole that we call the axis. This is where the rotation speed is slowest. Compared to Earth’s orbit, the axis is tilting. This makes the northern hemisphere be closer to the sun for part of the year and farther from the sun for another part of the year. It also means that if we look up on the stars in the night, one star will appear to stand still whereas the others move in circles due to the Earth’s rotation. Axial precession means that the axis is moving in a circle, so that the star that appears to be standing still constantly changes. Right now, the star Polaris in the Ursa minor constellation is our northern star, but eventually the north star will be in the constellation Draco instead. The axial precession has a cycle of 25’771.5 years. Additionally, the angle of the axle against the orbit changes over time. Right now, the axial tilt is 23.44 degrees, but it changes between 22.1 degrees to 24.5 degrees. The next minimum occurs in 11’800 CE.

That’s it for Earth. The sun is fairly simple, it has a rotation time around 25 days that doesn’t really impact much at all. The moon has an orbit around 29.5 days and a rotation that keeps it facing the Earth with the same side despite the orbit.

When you get into other planets, it gets a whole lot more complicated. Mercury, Venus, and Mars don’t have moons so they are not too complicated by themselves, but for Saturn and Jupiter there are lots of moons to consider. All large objects will modify gravity wells and the movement of heavenly bodies. Making an accurate model of the whole solar system is just way more complicated than I ever imagined. Not sure if I will ever finish this project.

Seasons

When I was a kid we had monthly calendars where the name of the month was surrounded by flowers in the summer, yellow leaves in the autumn (or rain), snow in the winter, etc. Every month has a clear association with it. Old viking names for the months were related to harvest in the late summer, then butchering in the autumn, the Yule feast, then the marrow sucker where you didn’t have much to eat, etc. So the seasons are associated with food and weather, and of course light or darkness.

Living in Thailand, I feel weird. All the time, I find myself humming Christmas tunes, because my mind keeps waiting for that season to arrive and it should have been here 2 years ago. Every day is the same. Thai tradition say that they have three seasons: winter (or dry season), summer (season of fruits), and rainy season (autumn). To be honest, I never saw any difference. Every day is fucking hot. Every day has a bit of rain, except for a few weeks around spring months. Floods from excessive raining can happy any time anywhere. The sun rises the same time of day every day, and sets the same time of day every day. The food is the same every day all year round. Pad thai, pad siew yew, kao pad gai, kao pad goong… Always the same selection at the restaurants, and the stores don’t really sell food for cooking because very few people cook at home. I tried growing some vegetables and spices on our balcony; they all die from the sweltering heat.

All my life I thought that the cold is so annoying, and I was dreaming about living in a warm climate. But with the cold, you can put on clothes and you are fine. With the heat in Thailand, you just never stop sweating. We are running the air condition on max cold, and I am still sweating. Walk outside, the shirt is drenched in sweat in a few minutes. There is no point in taking a shower, because when you come out of the shower you just keep getting wet from all the sweat. There is no escaping the heat. Cold is easy to avoid. Just stay inside where it is warm or put on clothes when you go outside. Easy peasy.

All my life I thought that the darkness of the winter is so annoying, and I have been using special lights to simulate the sun. First few weeks in Thailand, I was amazed at how well my biorythm worked with the constant sunlight hours. But after a year or so, my daily pattern is the same here as back home. I am equally tired when I get up in the morning, if not more because the heat makes you tired too. Despite years of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) with the winter darkness giving me depression, I miss the changing of the seasons. Winter depression is bad, but the extra boost of energy you get in the summer light compensates for it. With no seasons, there is just the same routine every day, time disappears and I feel like I never accomplish anything. Nothing in my life is moving forward, but time is flying without me hardly noticing.

There are many things that I used to think of as negative with living in Sweden. Cold, darkness, distanced people, incompetent politicians and leaders… But in light of living in Thailand, Sweden looks like paradise to me.

Ethics and Morals

When Friedrich Nietzsche published the collection “The Joyful Pursuit of Knowledge and Understanding” he presented arguments against books that are published and popular even in this day. Dawkins’s books about the universe as a clockwork and a marvellously intelligently designed machine is something Nietzsche says we should guard ourselves against more than a hundred years before that book was written. In the same section, he is saying we should be careful not to accept the Gaia theory. What Nietzsche saw was that the Universe just exists. There is no master plan. Humans love to ascribe properties to the Universe and imagine gods and goddesses as rulers of it all, but those things are all in our head. Anthropomorphisms. He then goes into metaphysics and explain that even matter itself does not exist, which physicists are struggling to explain even to this day. Even the fundaments of modern science, which Karl Popper is famous for elaborating, where it is said that we cannot know truth – we only know what is false, this too is a matter of Nietzsche’s text 70 years before Popper. It really is an amazing thinker that is able to produce content like this so far ahead of his peers.

“The Gay Science”, as the text has also been translated as (before “gay” got the meaning of “homosexual” rather than “joyful”) also is the first mention from Nietzsche of his term “God is Dead”. First, he talks about how Buddha died and how people kept worshipping his shadow after he was gone. Then, he presents a madman who approaches atheists but they don’t understand him and then he goes to churches but they don’t understand him either. It seems clear that the madman is Nietzsche himself. “God is Dead” doesn’t mean that god is actually dead, because Nietzsche believes there never was a god. What he is talking about is the death of religious morals and ethics. Yet, the atheists don’t understand how terrible it is to have killed the foundations of society, so they make fun of him. He says churches are the tombstones of god, reminding everyone that what we used to base our laws on has been proven to be a prehistoric fantasy. With the death of religious morals, we need a new system for how to decide what is right and what is wrong. Humans need to think about morals and ethics, not because a god said we have to, but because we need to figure out how to make society work without a god in it. God is dead, I am god!

Nihilism is the absence of morals. This is not what Nietzsche would prefer, even though many ignorant students have associated him with this line of thought. In the joyful science he says that there is a danger for society to end up in a situation where nihilism appears to be the only way forward, but he is not suggesting that it is. In fact, Nietzsche thinks that after realising that god is dead, our future is more bright than ever, because philosophers are free to devise a functional morality with fewer flaws. He does not propose what the solution is, at least not in this book, but he is thinking of the future as bright and exciting, not dark with a lack of meaning as would be associated with nihilism.

Pondering about what a good set of morals would comprise is a fun exercise. It is also a great challenge. Every time you put down a “you should” there arises a situation where “you shouldn’t” for the same reasons. But it is a challenge we should take upon ourselves, if not of necessity for the fun of it all.

Visent

Visent is the germanic name for the european bison. Bison is the greko-roman name that was predominantly associated with the american bison. The two variants look alike, but the american subspecies is plains-dwelling while the european subspecies is forest-dwelling. There used to be a mountain-dwelling subspecies too, but that has been exterminated by human hunting.

Googling for visent is autocorrected to the first name Vincent. This is really annoying, because it makes it more difficult to find information about the european subspecies. Visents were exterminated in the wild, but have been repopulated from 12 visents that were kept in zoos around the world. Today there are around 3000 visents, with about half of them living wild in Poland.

We used to have visents in Sweden, in Götaland and to a lesser extent in Svealand, but we have killed them all off. The largest Swedish population of visents are in Blekinge in a park where they have around 50 animals. The wild boar was similarly locally exterminated, but has been reintroduced. Wild boars cause big problems when they get into rural areas because they plow up gardens while looking for food in the soil. There have been numerous protests where people want the wild boars gone, but the ones that would remove them would be the hunters, and the hunters want to keep them for sustainable hunting. That is why the wild boar population in Sweden is growing today.

I think it would be really nice if the visent could be reintroduced in the same way that the wild boar was reintroduced. With big game, it is a bigger problem. Moose are already scarce in the south of Sweden because of too high hunting pressure. Visents would probably also be killed off if they were roaming wild. Nevertheless, the reintroduction of wild boar shows that it is possible to do something like this, if the hunting community agrees to let the species reproduce until a sustainable harvest is possible.

The biggest threat a visent could cause is in traffic, where – just like with moose – a collision might lead to death for the people in the car. Other than that, moose are a lot more dangerous than a visent and we allow them to roam freely so why not visents?

Welcome to Japan

I always loved Japan. Great food, interesting culture, great achievements in science and technology. They are rather racist and being a foreigner in Japan can be difficult, but you might also argue that they have reason to think that they are better than everyone else.

What held me back from going to Japan is the constant threat of earth quakes and tsunamis. It is such a random way to get killed, you don’t have a single chance to defend yourself. We have gone anyway, and enjoyed it greatly. There are positive sides to active volcanoes, like hot springs (onsen bath). But it is a bit nervous, especially after Fukushima when you start thinking about what happens when a nuclear plant is affected by an earth quake.

Now North Korea enters the stage. Nuclear weapons and hydrogen bombs. They direct most of their ill will towards USA, but it’s not like South Korea and Japan are safe.

Then we have Russia who are in an active conflict with Japan about those islands, and they are invading countries left and right these days. I wouldn’t put it past Russia to invade Japan.

Meanwhile, China is building their armies and economy. Several countries in Asia are starting to recognize China as the world #1 superpower in place of USA. Who knows what they are up to, in the end. China and Japan are not exactly best of friends.

Then we have global warming and rising sea levels. Most of the Japanese live along the coast, and depend on fishing and aquaculture. Even if we ignore rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans and other effects will impact the aquaculture. What happens when the Japanese will have difficulties feeding their population, since the farm lands are not enough to sustain everyone?

I am really starting to feel like a visit to Japan is kind of “now or never”. The longer you wait, the higher the risk will be for going there. It is not looking too good for the Japanese.

Coat of Arms

So I had some fun with designing a coat of arms for our family. Historically, the coat of arms was the symbol you coated your shield with so that everyone on the battlefield could take one quick look at you and they would know if you are friend or enemy. After a war, your family would have some land under your protection, where protection means the kind of protection that the mafia offers. So it became common for sons and their families to merge the coat of arms of the lands they were holding into one. If there is another war and you lose some lands, then you can later show that you have a strong claim to those lands because the symbol is in your coat of arms.

In terms of battle, the coat of arms should be as simple as possible. A blue field with a gold cross, would be a Swedish coat of arms. However, there are only so many combinations you can make with fields and lines and circles and such, so with the large population of Earth there has been an increased complexity of coat of arms designs.

In terms of inheritance, you should own some land in order to claim the coat of arms of that region. Every city typically has their own coat of arms, but no one today can be said to own or rule a city. We are no longer a feudal society. There are still some families with coat of arms that includes that of a city or other region, but then it shows more of a historic attachment to that land.

I focused on the ancestry of myself and Angsana. Her father stems from Japan, so I used the Japanese war flag. My father stems from Helsinki, Finland, so I used the boat in the coat of arms from that region. Incidentally, the boat looks a bit like a smile from a far, and Angsana’s mother’s family has a surname that means something like “the smiling ones”. Then I put the Jämtland coat of arms from my mother’s side of the family and a Sing Buri lion holding an axe and rice for Angsana’s mother’s side.

Lindberg family coat of arms

I asked some people what they thought about this, and there were no end to the number of comments of dislike. Some said it’s too complicated and messy, so it should be much simpler. Some said that the Japanese war sun is similar to the Nazi swastika (which is used as a symbol for the sun all over Asia) in that it holds very negative value. Others said that I should not use symbols from a region unless I actually hold land in those regions. And so on and so forth.

Using some of the comments I tried my hand at something much more simple.

Alternative simple coat of arms for Lindberg only.

The Linden tree has heart shaped leaves, so that wasn’t too hard to find a representation of. Swedish colors are typically blue and gold, but white is also frequently occurring. I like the way it looks like the roots are dipping into the water. But this is only Lindberg, it has nothing to do with Angsana. So it’s actually only half of our family.

Including the Keeratijarut family is a lot more difficult than I would want it to be. I could just include the Japanese sun, but that is only a quarter of Angsana’s heritage. It wouldn’t look too bad though:

Another attempt at a simple combination.

There should be more of a Thai influence on this shield. So I went back to playing around with the arms from the beginning and ended up with a new combination.

King of Swedish forests and the king of the beasts, with axes reprsenting both Bang Rachan and Vikings.

Even with this simplification, there are a lot of small details in the horns of the elk, the tail and mane of the lion, etc. I wasn’t too happy about the simplification of the lion either, because kind of the point of the Sing Buri lion is that it has spirals on the body. The spirals represent power. But then I thought maybe I can use that to play around with as the Thai part of the coat of arms.

Why so serious?

In some ways, I really like this weapon. There is the boat on the water and the spirals can signify the winds blowing. The axes are a great symbol both for Bang Rachan when they were fighting off the invasion from Myanmar and also for the Vikings of Sweden. The way the axes are leaning on eachother makes it look like a mountain, which brings your mind to Lindberg (berg = mountain). The colors are both in the Swedish and in the Thai flag. However, it looks ridiculous, it’s like a bad joke of a coat of arms. It looks like a crazy and smiling person with a huge nose.

No matter how I try, I fail. So I am giving up. For now. Maybe I will come back to this project later.

Ubuntu 17.10

From 2005 to 2008 I was using Ubuntu quite a lot, and participated frequently on www.ubuntuforums.org with help and advice. As such, I was one part of the movement that made Ubuntu grow to the most popular Linux distribution.

What made me leave Ubuntu was my love for computer games, and the lacklustre office suite. So I moved back to Windows, specifically Windows 7. Then Windows 8 came out and it was total crap. A small jump to Windows 10 and it was beyond crap, it was an invasion of privacy where every user it treated as a point for data collection without any regard for personal integrity. CIA announced that they can easily connect to the webcam and microphone of any computer, which was immediately fixed in Linux and soon fixed in MacOS while Microsoft just said “we’re looking into this issue”. M$ probably put in that backdoor intentionally, would be my assumption. Not that Apple is doing any less data gathering and spying on their customers.

Linux is becoming the last bastion of freedom in the information society. Being open source is a crucial part of maintaining this freedom, since anyone can see what the operating system is doing (if you have the skill to read and understand code). However, many Linux distributions are delivering pre-built binary packages, so while it is open source in principle, most users have no idea what is in those packages.

The big Linux distributions are also taking many steps to make Linux more like Windows, which in my book is making Linux a lot worse by design. Systemd is the first problem in this, where lots of functionality is bundled together in this huge blob that you cannot modify easily, and then Gnome and other software packages start to require that huge blob. In Ubuntu 17.10 they will stop using a partition for swap and instead use a swap file, like Windows has been doing for ages. There is some reasoning behind this; the end user is too stupid to know what to do, so design something to prevent stupidity from causing too much harm. But the effect is really that you introduce something stupid to combat stupidity.

For the past year or so, I have been using the Funtoo distribution almost exclusively. I’m making quick dips over to Windows in order to print something on our network printer at work, but otherwise I’m 100 % Funtoo Linux. The thing I love about Funtoo is the package manager from Gentoo (portage / emerge) which builds everything from source and also lets the user define if there is anything they don’t want to use. OpenRC is used instead of systemd so there is complete modularity in the init system. Everything can be controlled in detail by the user so you can set your system up just the way you want it. And since you get your system just the way you want it, there is nothing to complain about or be frustrated about.

Except, there are some frustrations in Funtoo too. For example, the Funtoo community is very friendly, but it is also a very small community. It takes a while to get packages into the system. I wanted to install the Unity3D game editor, which has a client available as source code to build, but it just isn’t available. I wanted to use SageMath, but that was not an easy thing to do. Well, SageMath is moving toward some web interface instead of installing on individual computers so maybe that is fine anyway. I wanted to install an IDE for Python, but even though both Ninja IDE and Spyder are in the package manager, neither of them worked after installation and I’m not sure what I need to change to make it work. It is not uncommon for packages to have missing dependencies, so you have to find out yourself what is needed to make it work. Once you have a functional system with everything you need, Funtoo is by far the most excellent distribution you will come across, but I feel like the road to get a fully functional system is a bit long sometimes.

Ubuntu, meanwhile, are starting to offer Snaps or whatever it’s called. One package delivered with all the dependencies to ensure full functionality. More to download, but less issues when installing. The Ubuntu community is also huge, I’d say about 60 % or more of the entire Linux community is on Ubuntu, and with all the derivatives like Elementary OS and Linux Mint, it is probably even more than 60 %. A lot of this comes from the fact that Ubuntu is the default Linux distribution to come pre-installed when you buy a computer. Because the community is so big, there are lots of people working on hardware compatibility, enabling software packages, etc. This means that the road to a fully functional workstation is a lot shorter on Ubuntu.

What I don’t like about Ubuntu is that they don’t have a rolling release model. Because of this, every 6 months or so you have to re-install the entire system. Sometimes a dist-upgrade will work fine, but almost always you are better off to just re-install everything. With Funtoo and other distributions that have a rolling release model you just upgrade periodically package by package and deal with some minor issues with specific packages along the way. Rolling release is just so much better in the long term.

I have been going back and forth about this in my mind. Use Funtoo, because while it takes a while to set up it is so much better in the end. Or use Ubuntu, because it is so much easier to get fully functional that you can live with a few imperfections in the end result. In the end, there are some things that I don’t know if they will ever be available on Funtoo, like the Unity 3D Editor or the Unreal 4 Editor. Because of this, I am leaning towards leaving my perfect distribution and embracing the imperfect one, because of the availability of software.

It really sucks to leave Funtoo. I wish I had the time and resources to make sure that all the software I use is available there. If I had those resources, I would stick with Funtoo for sure. But in the end, what matters is being able to do the work I want to do. That work is possible to do on Ubuntu, but not always on Funtoo. So I will go for Ubuntu. Back to my roots. I’ve only been away for a decade.

Facebook

I’ve been on Facebook for about 10 years now. Past few years, it’s been on the phone. Yesterday, I removed the app from my phone.

It wasn’t so much because I hate Facebook. I mean, I post on there once or twice per month maybe. Mostly I just use the chat to keep up with my family. But then there is Skype and Line and many other alternatives available, so I just don’t see much of a reason to keep it around.

They say that people who use Facebook a lot get depressed. Honestly, I would rather think it’s the other way around; if you’re depressed you’re filled with apathy and instead of actually doing anything you end up browsing Facebook all day.

I’ve had my share of depression in my life, but I never associated it with Facebook or those social apps. When I’m feeling down I escape into computer games. Poof, suddenly the weekend is over and you didn’t even notice it.

My laptop still has a tab of Facebook open in Firefox, of course. I’m not completely cut off from the world. But I’m not really that interested in checking it out. Usually I just go there to click Like on something Angsana posted to show her support.

Hot or cold

Is it better to be too hot, or too cold?

All my life I said that I don’t like the cold. I always said that being too hot is better than being too cold, because when you’re too hot you’re just sweating but when you’re too cold you just die (or at least you get numb and pain at the same time and move slow etc).

Now I have lived for two years in Thailand, where temperatures often rise above 37 degrees. It is impossible to cool off by sweating. If you go outside, you will get hotter, and hotter, and hotter, until you collapse. I don’t understand how Thai people do it, because they don’t even seem to break a sweat despite being overheated. I’m telling you, I spend every moment I can indoors where there is air conditioning. As a tourist to Thailand, I said AC is retarded just use a fan if you’re hot. That may work for a short time, or near the coast where the sea and winds keep things cooler. But inland, where it is like a desert only it rains more often, I could not survive without AC. Even with AC I have heat rashes and various skin infections on a regular basis. The human body is not built for this, at least mine is not.

So give me cold any day. Even -40 degrees, where the air is so cold you can feel the ice crystals forming in your mouth and throat if you breathe too fast, it’s better than 40 degrees warm. In cold weather, all you need to do is put on some more clothes and it’s OK to be outside. In warm weather, what do you do? You just sit indoors like a prison.

Sweden has part of the year around 20-30 degrees warm. It’s not too warm, you can still cool off easily. Some small part of the year is disgustingly cold. Even if that cold would be worse than the heat, which it isn’t, then at least it’s not all year round.

The only way to live near the tropics is if you live near the sea, or if you have the option of a pool where you can dip in to cool off. Neither of which are true for most of Thailand.