The words I’ve read this year

Second time in a row, here are the books I’ve read this year in more or less chronological order per category. This time around I’m trying to give a short description as well! One drawback of listening to audiobooks – for purposed of reviewing anyway – is that there’s no easy way to capture quotes. I find myself walking to work, hearing something witty and thinking “oh, that was pithy, I ought to quote it somewhere” but then I’m always left scrounging Goodreads for whatever it was I found so memorable.


Rafael Alvarez, David Simon: The Wire – Truth Be Told. I and Sara rewatched all five seasons of The Wire (She hadn’t seen the last two) and it’s still a brilliant series. The book didn’t add that much and some of the essays where a bit long-winded or read like someone just wanted to get it off their chest, but the background to some actors and the making-of was interesting. I could have done without the episode recaps since they often didn’t focus on the pieces I was interested in and, well, I’d just seen the episode…

Isabel Fonseca: Begrav mig stående [Bury me standing]. I bought the book when first Sweden saw an influx of Roma beggars a couple of years ago. It’s a well written and heavily annotated story of Isabels journeys through Europe, piecing together the history of a largely ahistorical people. Full of personal observations from meetings with Gypsy families and community activists, it reads in parts as a parody of the prejudices one hears, but is at the same time a scathing story of oppression past and current.

Victor Papanek: Design for Human Scale. At less than 200 pages it’s a slim volume, but it’s a joy to read. Besides being chock full of quotable phrases – …the global village is in danger of becoming a global slum. – the takeaway is that “design” is an inherent human pattern-finding trait which shouldn’t be detached from a world of limited resources and social context. Or as he puts it: Design is to technology what ecology is to biology. I’m already looking forwards to reading this again in a few years time.

Syd Field: The definitive guide to screenwriting. Character is action, action is conflict, conflict is story – something along those lines. The book is worth reading for the insight into Hollywood movie production in particular and storytelling in general, and I’ll be sure to revisit Fields advice if I ever get to write a script again. It does leave me unfulfilled though – there’s a sense that he’s trying too hard to shoehorn his analysis of movies into his preconceived notions of form, and the book gives a disjointed sensation of repetition and contradiction.

Vibeke Holst: Som Pesten. Thriller set in the world of WHO and EU during a pandemic. Politics, skullduggery and organized crime – great read. A related read would be the The Coming Plague (Laurie Garrett) which is a bit dated by now but still a fantastic description of the cyclical nature of pandemics and how they’re managed by CDC and others.

Epub / PDF

Peter Watts: Beyond the Rift. Collection of short stories. A bit Ballardian at times, which is a good thing. One of them was read on Starship Sofa a while back if I recall – The Thing rewritten from the aliens perspective.

Patricia McKillip: Alphabet of Thorn. Low key high fantasy. Enjoyable and well written. Coming-of-age and floating magic schools.

Andrew Groen: Empires of Eve. I’ve installed Eve Online a couple of times but haven’t got past the tutorial – just reading about Eve once a year is enough for me. This book chronicles the first couple or years of Eve; the drama and politicking is fantastically rich for an MMORPG.

Daniel H. Wilson: Robocalypse. A re-read, but given that it only took three hours to breeze through it’s time well spent. Not the best writing or character building, but I have a soft spot for epistolary novels since they allow for trying out different scenarios and ideas.

Daniel H. Wilson: Robogenesis. Sequel to Robocalypse, and still entertaining but less so. It builds like a thriller/suspense story, but I never get the sense of urgency. Narrator writes as if it’s in past tense, and it’s set up for yet another sequel. Some of the robot ideas remind me of Ruckers Ware Teralogy, so it’s still worth the few hours it takes to read.

Alastair Reynolds: Slow bullets. Short sci-fi after-the-fall story with some Mcguffins. If it’d been longer I would have quit – reads like a short movie script.

Richard Morgan: Woken furies. Third in the altered carbon series, and mostly a confusing mess of technobabble. It’s a continuation of Gibson and Stephenson, post-cyber & transhumanistic, but maybe I have less patience with this kind of writing these days? Couldn’t keep the characters straight for all the jargon, and didn’t really care about any of them at the end.

Blake Snyder: Save the cat! While writing the script for my and Saras short Learning Experience I read this to get pointers on story development. Even though Snyder writes with the ambition of making it big in Hollywood – Memento is shit cause it did poorly at box office – there are suggestions for tension and storytelling which are worth knowing.

Hans Rosling: Factfulness. A reminder of how important it is to keep a clear head and always look at the larger picture instead of focussing on the misery-driven narrative. My focus tends to be on the negative, so his sentiment that “things are bad but getting better” is a useful hint for taking a step back. The largest omission from the book is the issue of anthropogenic climate change – not that his appeal for a factual world-view isn’t necessary for dealing with it – but occasionally the text read pollyannaish. This isn’t fair to the authors, but since it’s published in a climate of climate talk, it’s odd that the issue is almost omitted – as is the mass extinction of flora and fauna by human hand.


Terry Pratchett: Interesting times. Part of the Rincewind storyline – which seems written for laughs rather than plot or observation. Pratchett always had a levelheaded description of racism, but even with being conscious of that, the orientalism is a bit problematic.

Terry Pratchett: Maskerade. Witches storyline. Agnes Knit joins the opera and there’s a mishmash of phantoms and people dropping like flies from the flies, and “Miserable Les”.

Terry Pratchett: Feet of clay. City Watch storyline – a whodunnit with some class analysis and curmudgeoning. Quote: “Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees.”

Terry Pratchett: Hogfather. Death storyline. Religion, belief and the psychopaths that keep the word interesting by killing people.

Terry Pratchett: Jingo. City Watch storyline. Warmongering, racism and nationalism. A bit too punny, but still good in these times of chest-thumping patriots. Quote: “Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”

Terry Pratchett: The last continent. Rincewind saga continues with a story which is two stories, set in not-Australia, overly reliant on wordplay and funny sentences. Not sure what the point is here.

Matt Taibbi: Insane Clown President. A collection of essays from the republican campaign trail of 2016 – previously published in Rolling Stone. Entertaining to listen to, and with hindsight – now halfway into the Trump presidency — it’s a sobering read. Some interesting analysis and self-criticism, and it’s noteworthy how the tone becomes darker and more despondent as the essays progress.

Yuval Harari: Sapiens. A book which not so much bites off too much as tries to swallow humanity whole. Reminds me of Guns, germs and steel by Jared Diamond in it’s scope and ambition. It mostly succeeds – I’d love to have an updated print of the sapiens family tree hanging on the wall – and is widely entertaining, although he by necessity skims over a few things and generalizes with too much liberty at times.

Yanis Varufakis: Adults in the room. The former finance minister of Greece humblebrags himself through six months in office. Fascinating reading nonetheless since it puts names and faces to the mechanisms of austerity and structural adjustment programs IMF and gang routinely force upon societies.

Colin Ward: Anarchism – A Very Short Introduction. A three hour listen which positions anarchist history, ambitions and struggles in the contemporary world. Good overview and a reminder of that another society is possible.

Michael Pollan: Change your mind. After hearing an interview with Pollan on Quirks and Quarks I gave his book a listen. It’s an overview of psychedelics and how they have been used and the resurgence of their study within psychiatry. The descriptions of depression and the hypothesis for how psychedelic experiences can alleviate it rang true with me, so if I wasn’t on an SSRI I’d give it a try.

Terry Pratchett: Carpe Jugulum. On vampires, choice and religious conviction. A well paced story in the witches series. Not sure why he included a phoenix except for bringing the character Hodgesaargh into the story.

Naomi Alderman: The Power Women gain the power to generate electricity and the gender power balance starts to shift. Told 5000 years into the future by a historian, it’s a “through the looking glass” story which has some good world building, although not the most believable characters. A mix of “No men beyond this point” and “Left behind”. Worth a read though!

Emily Croy Barker: The thinking woman’s guide to real magic. A through the magic wardrobe story of Nora who is transported to a parallel world of færie and magic. Barker builds a convincing world, but the stilted characters distract from the already too drawn out story. Mostly written from Noras perspective, and it’s an interesting effect when the author occasionally jumps into the head of one of the other characters – it’s jolting, and I can’t decide on whether I like it or not.

Eric Schlosser: Command and control. A chronological history of nuclear weapons, particularly in the United States, with recurring jumps to an account of the Titan II missile explosion in Damascus. Fascinating stuff, especially all the near misses I’ve never heard about, which might have caused WW3. The chapter on MAD and other cold war strategies is sobering. (followed up by watching The Day After)

Lev Grossman: Codex. Edward the banker gets an odd assignment sorting an aristocratic family’s book collection, ostensibly to find “The Codex.” that’s about as exiting as it gets, and no amount of twists improves on a story where the characters care for stuff without having any reasons to. Even for a book dated to 2004 the computer game described makes little sense, and reads mostly as an attempt to create mystery where there is none. A librarians “DaVincis code”.

Terry Pratchett: The Fifth Elephant. Watch series – about the choices we make and the mechanics of realpolitik. Well paced and some genuine complicated emotions.

Terry Pratchett: The Truth. Getting into “banged corn” territory – there are too many analogues technologies and ideas being thrown in for a laugh. The story of how movable type brings on the news-age to Ankh-Morpork isn’t terribly exciting and whatever points it’s trying to make about the value of Truth clashing with privilege get lost in the hubbub. Some nice characters and commander Sam Vimes is always on point, but the story is a portent of what’s to come in the series.

Terry Pratchett: Thief of Time. Death & Susan series. Even thought the Auditors aren’t the most interesting villains, the gallery of anthropomorphic personifications musing on life is fun enough.

Jon Ronson: The Psychopath Test Audiobook. Ronson gives a rambling account of his search for psychopaths. He weaves scientology, DSM IV and anecdotes together into an image of “sanity” as a permutable state and not a stable characteristic of anyone. He reads the book himself, and his neurotic reading and self-referencing is one of the joys of the audiobook.

Books I’ve given up on, as well as the page I gave up on it and the reasons.

Don Delillo: Underground. [Page 19] I can see that it’s high litterature – it’s well written and has a rich language. It’s just no my kind of language. It’s as if Tom Waits and Warren Ellis had a lovechild – very Americana and wordy. How much space can you afford a hotdog? Burma Shave.

Kim Stanley Robinson: Aurora. [Audiobook – 2 hours in] A coming-of-age story following the sixth generation in a generational ship heading towards Tau Ceti – an interesting setting but there’s only so much exposition I can handle without a having a story to hang it on. Again, a book looking to be a movie, or rather a Netflix series.

Constantin stanislavski: An actor prepares. [p19] I look forward to when I know enough about acting to appreciate this book. It’s well written but goes over my head.

Mike Goodridge: Directing. [p75] A series of interviews with directors – not frightfully interesting, although they should have plenty to tell.

Mark Manson: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. [Audiobook – 45 min in] It’s bro-mindfulness and might have something important and/or useful to say but it’s so poorly written — sexism, humblebrag, broisms — that I just gave up. Even listening at 1.5 times normal speed there wasn’t enough content to merit pushing through.

Magazines subscribed to (and occasionally read)

Fria Tidningen (bought up by ETC and now defunct In fall they reappeared under new ownership)
ETC Magasin
Guardian Weekly
DN Fredag-Söndag

Watching movies #1

I have a backlog of movies I’ve “been meaning to watch” and I’m going to use my newfound filmmaking ambitions to consciously watch as many of them as possible. In that vein, let’s list a few:

In pursuit of silence, by Patrick Shen, is a documentary which tries to nail down the idea of silence and its place in our modern lives. The first half starts out building a mood – showing land and cityscapes, getting some quotes from people who’ve though about the topic – and the second half delves more into the science of it. John Cages 4’33 features prominently, but it’s the long pauses and silences which make the film.

All interviewees are presented with their own voiceover over footage when they’re not speaking, which gives a nice effect of inner thought. Sometimes what is said are platitudes, and the parts which deal with the science (health effects of noise pollution, for example) feel a bit tacked on – as if Shen didn’t want the film to become too abstract and added a rep from Virgin Airlines to speak about jet noise in order to ground the topic more – but all in all it’s a strong movie which caused me to still my breathing and speak quieter.

It brought home something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, which is how I totally suck at being by myself or unoccupied (to the point of causing me anxiety) and probably would benefit from taking up meditation or walks in the forrest.

Tura the teenager has gotten into horror movies – mostly fast paced zombie flicks – so we’re subjecting ourselves to the highs and lows of the genre. We put The Mist on (by Frank Darabont) but bailed after fifteen minutes – what a hot mess. Characters who change mood on a dime, poor dialogue, campy acting. I’d mistaken the movie for the 2017 series which apparently is better – and even though it’s supposed to end with a dramatic twist, no twist is worth sitting through this thing. Perhaps it was well received because it served the American audience an allegory for 9/11?

We switched to Monsters (by Gareth Edwards), and although the mood and world building is nice the setup is inexplicable – there are planes flying in the world, so why can’t Samantha just take a flight home to the States? And how come Andrew the photographer “has been waiting for this three years” just to “get a shot” when there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of footage of the monsters on the evening news? Towards the end it gets a bit too on the nose, but it’s well acted and worth a gander.

I read 30 days of night (by Steve Niles) not long after it came out, and now we watched the movie. Tura approved although it “wasn’t that scary” – plenty of gore, but as usual in horror plenty of stupid moves and last-stands which we could do without. I have a weak spot for movies which don’t mind killing pets or kids – bonus if a protagonist does it – so the movie has that going for it. Carter was well played, and the makeup and special effects were nice.

We finished the evening with The Shining (Stanley Kubrick / Diane Johnson) which Sara realized she hadn’t seen yet. It’s a brilliant movie still, and has lost none of it’s impact since I first saw it. Halloranns death is still senseless, and with the buildup of his arrival taking so long it’s the closest to comedy it comes. As I’m writing this Tura is going to bed and is complaining that the movie was too scary. Well, she shouldn’t have complained about the timidity of the previous scary movies I guess. Now let’s hope that she manages to fall asleep…

Hey its Mayday!

I don’t know how many years I’ve been walking in the May day parade – and nothing else but that parade – but today it was time again. We braced the cold and rain and walked for an hour or so with the Gothenburg LS (Syndicalist) demo. All was uneventful except at the beginning, where four nazis heckled us and promptly got beaten up – one of them so badly that he ended up at the hospital.

Despite the quick dispatch, it’s a depressing state of affairs: Five years ago nazis wouldn’t have dared to show their faces at a leftist demo, let alone provoke the SAC May day, but these times are different and now they’re bold enough to show up even here. Bloody depressing.

As usual we ended up at a rally point downtown, and as usual there was a mixed group of speakers, more or less prepared and audible in the park. Tura got an icecream and we went for food afterward. Good demo, good turnout, shitty weather.

Let’s enjoy being lettered!

Some friends and relatives visited the city over the weekend and we got together for discussions and beers. We came to discuss the definition of the word “trustworthiness” as it applies to journalistic practice – especially since today people who are journalists one day might freelance as PR flacks or marketers the next. Ten years ago this was, if not unthinkable, discouraged and might brand you a hack. There were always exceptions, but it required a major talent or brand recognition for you to be able to switch roles without losing face.

I’m a bit torn here – maybe because I’m not a professional journalist who has to face the realities of that profession – but in our discussion I came down on the side of “let the work speak for itself and be judged on its merits”. Thus, I didn’t think that a journalist being an agitator, activist or marketer was a question of trustworthiness, but rather a branding issue for the publication. In practice, I’m not sure if I’m holding myself to such a high standard as a reader – if I read an article by a known right-wing sympathiser, I will cast more doubt over his/her reporting than I would otherwise, and I’m my knowledge of their alliegence taints my interpretation of what they’re presenting. I acknowledge that even a nazi can write a level-headed article on gardening, but don’t give as much benefit of a doubt when they’re writing on immigration.

If a publication wants to be respected for doing good journalism, there have to be objective standards to which it holds it’s writers and editors, and these standards and practices have to be applied uniformly and be transparent for all. Shouldn’t this be promoted as the “journalistic value” rather than a journalists background?

The general problem with journalists is still that they’re often a self-selected and self-reaffirming group of people, representing in their makeup a small part of Swedish society, and anyone too extreme is usually weeded out (Chomsky has written plenty on journalism which is worth reading). It’s similar to a bureaucracy in that regard, and as long as there are ways to publish outside of the mainstream it’s a manageable problem. But this still means that we ought to know what rules they are playing by. And here’s the crux of the whole “trustworthiness” thing for me: Considering how the Internet in general and social media in particular is used, and the fact that the net never forgets anything, anything you’ve ever done can be used to cast doubt on your credibility. If you’ve posted a photo of yourself eating strawberry cream cake, your credibility to write “balanced journalism” regarding the dairy industry or animal rights can be tarnished. I’m not saying that it should be, but allow fifty people to band together online, disparaging your eating habits, and suddenly the ombudsman at your paper might feel the need to defend your trustworthiness as a journalist covering these things.

Basically, although a desk editor might question your journalistic practices if you come from a tainted background, framing the scrutiny as a principled stand based on how your readership might perceive the conflict of interest is a race to the bottom – because there’s no end to what your readership will be offended by. There’s a quote from Cardinal Richelieu which goes “Give me six lines written by the most honorable of men, and I will find an excuse in them to hang him.” [the quote is contested according to Wikipedia] and social media allow us to not only find those six lines, but also conscript a mob delighted to fashion a noose. If those six lines were a bit embellished, well, at least someone got to hang as a warning example even though not for an actual crime.

I’m reading Jon Ronsons book “So you’ve been publicly shamed” at the moment, and even though it’s tangential to the issues of credibility we discussed over the weekend, the functions of online justice is well outlined. With the onslaught described in the book I understand why editors and publisher are concerned with credibility – even though an editor might not agree with my understanding of the issue at all – but on principle I don’t see that there’s a long term viability in stopping their journalists from jumping between roles. In practice this will further narrow the pool of people you are offering jobs since only those who can afford to be “untainted” will be considered, and those who have not been public members of a political party, union, association or NGO will be more palatable than their counterparts – which will narrow your recruiting pool even further. This doesn’t necessarily increase your trustworthiness as a publication, but it makes your job to manage your brand as “trustworthy” easier. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, and I don’t see an end to it.

In an attempt to counteract the effects of our echo chambers, The Guardian has a weekly feature called Burst your bubble which highlights five US conservative articles or publications. It’s on my reading list these days and I highly recommend it.

However inadvertently, the U.S. military lit the fire that burned down the old order. As it turned out, no matter the efforts of the globe’s greatest military, no easy foreign solution existed when it came to Iraq. It rarely does.
Unfortunately, few in Washington were willing to accept such realities. Think of that as the 21st century American Achilles’ heel, unwarranted optimism about the efficacy of U.S. power.

→ War is boring, Danny Sjursen: America Has Misused Its Military Power in the Middle East

Over at Metafilter, a post showed up about the virtual photography of Second Life. I have a personal interest in the subject since my BA essay from when I studied photography was concerned with virtual photography – link to work on homepage. There are some interesting links there, and this is one:

Photography is the art of seeing, selecting, framing, and timing an image occurring in things that (usually) the photographer has not helped make or design. Of course there can be exceptions, just as in Second Life a person can build things and then photograph them, but the thing that’s unique about photography as an art is that it is all about receiving.

→ The winged girl blog, Kate Amdahl: Is Second Life Photography Real Photography?

A drop of this, a drop of that

I went to Stockholm over a weekend to participate in two workshops which Stockholm Makerspace gave in their biolab. Saturday we covered the basics of pipetting — which really benefitted from a hands-on workshop — and Sunday we poured agar plates and smeared germs all over the place. Fun was had by all!

A repeated mantra for the tutors was “biology is messy and not a precise science” which was encouraging. Comparing to the nitpicky measuring I faced last summer when trying to learn some chemistry, what with moles and so on, it was liberating that what seemed most important was to be consistent rather than precise. Oh, and sterile. You want to be sterile.


The difference between looking at videos and reading books, and actually getting to measure 20µg of a stock solution, is the same as when I was interviewing people about picking locks and getting to try it out myself. Perhaps not the same level of empowerment as being able to pick locks, but still a new skill and a better understanding of the amount of work required to do this kind of stuff. The workshops in combination with the Biohack crash course for artists video feels like a first step towards actually doing something, which is always a nice feeling.

As a side note, I did a month of Piracetam and saw an increase in recall and attention, as well as very vivid dreaming. 8/10 would recommend. As there’s tolerance involved I’ve abstained for a couple of weeks but will get back on those soon. Once you take performance enhancing drugs, the incentive to keep at it is quite high — barring side effects. There are a bunch of other *racetams with related effects, and once I’ve gone through the Piracetam I might give those a try. I got mine from Nootropicsdepot which has a good reputation and delivered promptly.

Biohack conference 4th april, 2016

Bionyfiken put together Swedens first biomaker conference in Stockholm this spring, and of course I went. There was a mix of speakers and topics, and most of them were overviews of organisations rather than actual projects or knowledge-sharing. Overall the mood was more of a meet-n-greet for folks involved in related areas. The title of the conference was “biomaker” rather than “biohacker” which might be more inclusive; even though “hacking” has a better reputation today than ten years ago there’s still a stigma associated with it.

One can’t have everything one would like, but I missed more speculative ideas of what the movement is about – we speak of a “maker movement” and this has over time crystalized into an understaning of what fablabs are and what hacklabs are, and I guess it will get easier with time to see what people are actually doing and use that as a basis for defining the movement. But apart from a brief introduction by one of the hosts, there was very little overlap between the different presenters, outside of the fact that they’re all working with “biological systems” in one way or another.

For me, who’s not coming from a technical background, I would have appreciated a “state of biohacking” presentation. Legislation, economics, ambitions, open source or not, culture, etc – are all issues which could have been covered – and I hope they show up more on the next conference.


a few of the participants deal with quantified self – something which overlaps with the selling of pills or books about regiments – and although I don’t have the self discipline to participate in that part of the movement I appreciate that people are doing it, and it will likely provide a trove of data for later scientific analysis provided that there are control studies, that people are rigorous in their logging and that there are protocols which allow for accurate tracking.

Nevertheless, and intersting overlap with quantified self is the grinder community, and it’s overlapping mostly because it’s about modifying ones own body. In the presentation by Jowan Österlund from BioHax International he talked mostly about the technology of today and specifically NFC implants for managing access – but he envisioned that implantables will become more sofisticated and possibly have computing power and be able to interface with our bodies, and not only work as sensors. This would then overlap with the QS group in that they would have to come up with what they’d like these implants to do – at this point we will be more of the cyborgs as we’ve envisioned them in popular fiction, and we’ll have a more direct way of manipulating our bodies; not only through nootropics and other supplements working through the digestive or blood system, but perhaps stimulate a particular set of neurons directly.

Today though, I don’t really see the point of NFC implants beyond the apparent convenience of having your buss pass with you at all times. It ties into the Internet of Things movement, and considering how positive most people – even hacktivists who ought to know better – are to IoT, it’s not an empowering technology but rather one which turns you into a node, a Thing on Internet. Which I can’t for the life of me see as something positive as a whole, considering how the internet works and the obvious risks of exploits and nefarious uses, but also because of the unavoidable feature of being data mined by commercial and state enteties – or even just your neighbour. But that’s a different diatribe.

iGEM was represented by Gustav Edman from Gothenburg who gave the most technical presentation of the conference – unfortunately an overly technical presentation in parts – but that’s what you get from a mixed crowd and different expectations.


I’ve been thinking about possible future scenarios a bit, and since no-one covered those topics in the first session I asked to put up a sign at the unconference after lunch, soliciting peoples’ ideas for “the unintended concequences of biohacking”. I had some interesting conversations, but I didn’t get a single submission. Not very surprising seeing as I was competing with people who had actual information and knowledge to share, and not just a questioneer soliciting speculation. Regardless, I’ll try to follow up if for no other reason than that such a collection of speculations would be an interesting document ten or twenty years down the line, when we could match our predictions with what actually happen. Part of the whole “unintended consequences” thing is that what is unintended is also exceedingly difficult to predict. Also, because I hadn’t prepared any material I was just assuming that poeple understood the question in the same way as I did: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Another thing: Because the DIY movement is relatively new within biology, there’s little talk of drawbacks or negative consequences (not that “unintended” has to be “bad” mind you) and there’s also of course a defensive posture of people who are working hard on their projects. I guess asking “so, how will your project fuck shit up?” isn’t the best conversation starter. People are more likely to start talking about the obstacles to their success, or what the prerequisites are, rather than what might go wrong – which they haven’t even predicted yet.

The Swedish memory champion – apparently memory sport is a thing? – did a presentation, but I can’t really recall what it was about. I thought it was cute that the company that he was working with (if I recall correctly) were selling over-the-counter nootropics, and proudly diplayed “No GMO’s” on the label. I don’t know if that raised any discussions at the conference, but I guess it ought to. A Pakistani researcher I spoke with was upset that the whole GMO/anti-GMO debate was so polarised in the EU, and that we have Monsanto on one side and enviromentalists on the other, with not enough in common to actually carry on a discussion.


Probably the most rewarding discussion was with Danielle Wilde who is running a university sponsored course in DIY bio in Kolding, Denmark. She teaches students how to set up a wetlab, about protocols, educating citizen scientists and engaging the city of Kolding. Hers was an interesting presentation and I’d love to be able to participate in something like that. Most of the course material is based on the Waag society curriculum for creating a biolab, and either of those places would be awesome to visit and study at.

There were people presenting trans cranial direct current stimulation – but no hands on presentation that I could find – and others doing simulated electronic body control; letting one person with electrodes on her arm control the arm of a test subject. That one had a live demo but the queue was more than I thought worth it. You can see a demo of it at TED, and it seems to be a straight-forward experiment.

One thing I was hoping to achieve with the conference was to get inspiration enough to continue exploring biohacking in Gothenburg, perchance even to meet someone to cooperate with. The latter didn’t pan out, but the conference was inspiring enought that I’m going to keep at it. At the moment, I’m starting up Laborator: Gothenburgs first biohacklab. Right now it’s just a Mailchimp list and a homepage, but we’ve had a few meetings and I’m setting aside a couple of hours each week to getting it up and running. Bionyfiken took three years from inception to first lab, and I’m hoping that by learning from their experience we can get going faster.

Before getting to that, this

It’s an illustration of how naïvety sneaks up on me, but when I was a teenager I was certain that religion was on it’s way out. It was an outmoded allegory of our place in the universe, being weighted down by it’s own hierarchical power structures which in a secular world no longer could be justified. Spirituality still had its place, but organised religion not so much.

As alluring as that prediction was, it really hasn’t proved itself; Under capitalist hegemony, religion offers an alternative worldview in lieu of socialism or other political visions, and there’s no end to fundamentalist religious nutters who use it as a political and moral lever to advance themselves. Which is utterly fucking depressing.

Another thing which I completely underestimated was the emergence of racist political parties – and how much support they’d receive – not least in Sweden where there was a strong resistance against those tendencies after they flared up during the 90’s. Boy was I every wrong about that being on the vane, seeing as just yesterday the not-officially-nazi-but-yes-nazi Svenskarnas Parti were having a public rally downtown in the run-up to elections. Their fifteen or so supporters were met by me and 2000+ others booing them, but it’s a sign of shitty times when the racist Swedish Democrat party has moved the goalposts of acceptable discourse so far that nazis feel encouraged enough to show their mugs in public like this.

For the past couple of years, I thought that the next issue on a civilised discussion agenda would be addressing women’s rights and gender inequality; I mean, it’s about bloody time that that boil on our collective butt be lanced and properly cleaned out, no? But here we are, once again having to spend time battling racists. It feels like such a waste of time; if all the racist assholes became MRM assholes at least we could move on to that issue and make progress, instead of revisiting this reactionary bullshit.

Class inequality, global justice and the unbridled internationalisation of capital is still an issue, we’re seemingly heading towards a less democratic future, and global warming and peak everything is going to fuck us over regardless our gender identification, but the past couple of years have seen a great momentum building in women’s rights organisations and in the related public discourse, and it would seem a waste to have all that potential energy peter out or be appropriated into another, older, stupider, struggle.

Then again, since I started this out by disqualifying my powers of divination, I shouldn’t make too bold statements about what is and isn’t important today. Racists have to be beat over the head with something reasonable, and religion is combatted by projects offering alternativ frameworks of support and meaning, and so I guess one just has to reconcile oneself to tackling those issues. Again. In 2014. Imaginary baby Jesus wept.

On shopping and eating futures

When life gives you lemons, you pump lemonade options and dump them on someone else.

At least that’s my takeaway from some of the “investment tips” I’m reading right now. I’m having a conflicted time reading about personal finances, pension plans, insurance and stock investments: Despite myself it seems like an interesting challenge, sort of like an IRL ARG with clear goals but flexible routes. At the same time I’m reading books like “Collapse — Life at the end of civilisation” by David Jonstad (In Swedish: Kollaps — Livet vid civilisationens slut) and think of buying pasteurised foods and gold instead.

The book does a good job of setting up a comparison between our civilisation and older ones, as well as the (most probable) conditions under which it collapsed. David is certainly not the first one to do this comparison, and there are millenarians and doomsayers in every age, but since he’s not pulling mayan calendars out of his ass but is actually looking at what is upholding our culture (“cheap energy”) and how this is threatened (“peak everything, climate change, political incentive to keep status quo”) it’s a fascinating read. It’s as if it takes some of the arguments from Jared Diamonds “Guns, germs and steel” and speculates where they will lead us.

With one eye I’m looking to do mid-term investments with what little savings I have, and with the other I’m looking to learn how to live of the grid and boobytrap my supply of potable water and cans of beans. And with a more tranquil third eye — perhaps the denial eye — I’m finding the below consumerist video hilarious: Sara had put in a late night auction offer online and is freaking out because she really doesn’t want to win the credenza.

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Farming hearts and minds.

Over at Changesurfer Radio, J. Hughes interviews Erik Olin Wright about the definition of “class” and how that concept has changed the past hundred years. It’s very basic stuff, but seeing as much of the debate and polemics of the day assume so much — especially on the topic of post-industrial or post-class society — that it’s good to be reminded of what a useful tool class analysis can be, and that it’s still highly relevant. I recommend that you follow the link below.

→ Changesurfer Radio, J.Hughes: Class Analysis: Interview with Erik Olin Wright

I rejected the offer to work with Abramovic and MOCA — to participate in perpetuating unethical, exploitative and discriminatory labor practices — with my community in mind. It has moved me to work towards the establishment of ethical standards, labor rights and equal pay for artists, especially dancers, who tend to be some of the lowest paid artists.

→ Artinfo, Sara Wookey: Letter From a Dancer Who Refused to Participate in Abramovic’s MOCA Performance

Paid posting is a well-managed activity involving thousands of individuals and tens of thousands of different online IDs. The posters are usually given a task to register on a website and then to start generating content in the form of posts, articles, links to websites and videos, even carrying out Q&A sessions.

→ Technology review, KFC: Undercover Researchers Expose Chinese Internet Water Army

After I asked her scary things like what’s her reason for wanting to become a celebrity while enduring such difficulties at a young age, and hasn’t she heard of idols whose youth and talent were exploited after they signed so-called ‘unfair contracts,’ she answered me. ‘Reporter Onni, be honest. If a person like me, without money or connections, and whose grades are so-so, somehow goes to university, what is there after that? Even though it’s a little difficult now, you know that if I just get an agency, that is a real opportunity to me.

→ The Grand Narrative, Kang In-kyu: What did Depraved Oppas Do to Girls’ Generation?

Biking while black and white

Svart Katt is an Alleycat in Gothenburg, and yesterday was the third time it was organized in as many years. As soon as I’d heard about the first one, I wanted to take part. Who wouldn’t like to wear corpse paint and bike furiously across the city, scouting out dark places in search of clues and whatnots? Apparently most people are uninterested in this, Tobbe calling it “hipster orienteering,” so I ended up not going. This year though, I thought that I’d give it a chance, alone or otherwise. And it was awesome.

There were plenty of solo riders there, but I got to chatting with John, a friendly Irish fellow, and we teamed up — he needed someone reading Swedish, I needed motivation to go through with it — and it worked out well. With a delayed start at twenty past nine we set out to find answers to all the questions on our map. It was stuff like “how many cherubs are there on the lamp-posts in Vasaparken” and “when did the youngest unwed daughter of this family die,” questions which quite often had us running about cemeteries with flashlights.

All were in costume, and it was grand to see groups swish by on bikes, navigating drunk kids near Trädgården or slippery leafs and taxicabs. The theme of the night was “bad mood” — dålig stämning — which later would serve to explain why some stuff was marked out wrong on the map, annoying the shit out of us. The theme was successful, as it were. At half twelve we came in for a checkpoint and received a new map with new missions, and had one hour until deadline.

In hindsight, we should have paid more attention to the instructions. We thought we were still looking for answers to questions, but twenty minutes in we realise that we’re probably looking for a physical object — most likely the chains I had overheard mentioned at the stop. So goddamn fuckbucket, now with a drizzle and headwind we head toward Majorna in hope of scoring one of the chains furthest from city center. We found bike traces but no chains, and the clues were obtuse and hilariously annoying. Theme succeeded once again.

So with no chains found, we head back to the finish just in time to not be disqualified, and John gets some beers which I’m looking forward to repaying at some point. It’s too cold outside the bike club, and stifling inside, so we alternate until it’s time for the prize announcements. The winner had only two chains, so it’s a comfort knowing it wasn’t just us being stupid. John came in seventh, but not I, which was a surprise because we had filled in the same answers to everything. I assumed that I’d forgotten to fill something out and ask to check it out, and was told that the final score is adjusted by some dice you got to throw at the half-way stop; I rolled “white” which deduced some points, while John rolled “black” which gave him some. Once again, annoying as hell in it’s arbitrariness, and a success for the theme.

All in all, it was great fun, made even more so when I had someone to bike with. Until next time I’ll have to fix my brakes. And perhaps some gears, a headlamp, something waterproof to wear, not to mention my wheezing, coughing and general unfittiness. I got to see new places and pedal furiously, eat vegan space sausage in a dark cemetery, and met some friendly people. Good time and I’m looking forward to the video of it all. Below is the video from the first year.

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