Monthly Archives: January 2009

A thousand less than splendid fates

A Thousand Splendid Suns.gif

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Moving story of two women and their struggles to salvage some dignity and happiness out of an extremely bleak environment. I liked this book better than The Kite Runner – it is epic in form, gives a better understanding (I think) of Afghanistan, and lacks the slight sense of disbelief I had about the villainy presented. Obligatory reading for anyone trying to understand what is going on in Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan.

View all my reviews.

Tag games again

I’ve been tagged by Kimberly to write seven things about myself (OK, I can do that) and then hit seven other people with the same curse (which I am way to shy to do, unless someone volunteers.) And I will take the opportunity to say that this is the last blogospherical tag game I will participate in. So here goes:

  1. I have once almost collided with a reindeer herd while skiing in a snowstorm just north of Finse in Jotunheimen (with my father). Quite an experience.
  2. I have fallen down in a crevasse once – and almost disappeared into another. One of the reasons my knees are bad and the rest of me is getting fatter.
  3. When young, I was sure I would never have children nor pets – now I (or, rather, we) have three of each.
  4. I really care about keyboards and have more than two for each computer (if you count the internal ones,) including übernerdy varieties.
  5. I often fall asleep in meetings, but don’t be fooled – I pay attention. At least I would want you to think so, especially if you are a student.
  6. I often predict correctly which technologies will win, but never seem to make any money from it.
  7. I used to hate gardening until I got a garden myself. Now I enjoy garden warfare – except digging.

There. Not too painful. Done for now. And forever.

Tintin and the US

image The Economist analyzes Tintin, pegging his lack of fame in the USA on the fact that he is a very European hero, written to conform to a set of cultural norms (and laws) with restrained violence, no sex, and the hero as an overgrown boy scout, constantly doing the right thing.

I think the reason Tintin never was a hit in the USA is much simpler: The setting is seldom the USA, and especially not the USA after the second world war. The only album set in the US, Tintin in America (1932), is a deeply sarcastic portrait of the US during the prohibition years, with Tommy-Gun-toting gangsters and indian reservations being replaced by instant cities 10 minutes after oil is found.

There are rumors of Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg making Tintin movies. I for one hope they maintain the irony and complicated plots of Tintins golden period from 1934 to 1956, with believable plots (well, there is Destination Moon, but that was fun, too, with Professor Calculus throwing temper tantrums) and interesting characters. Tintin is not an action hero, though he occasionally throws a few punches. The animated movies made of Tintin did not have the slickness and literacy of the books, but if Lord of the Rings is anything to go by, Spielberg and Jackson should be able to follow the books just fine.

As for the wider political analysis of Tintin as a "European hero" because he cannot change larger events – or the musings of his possible homosexuality – I think some people need to lighten up a bit. And stop reading the same albums over and over.


I am in the middle of reorganizing backups for the whole family, using Windows Live Sync, which is heartily recommended, except for the small matter of not being able to handle folders with more than 20,000 files. This has caused me to fiddle with shortcuts and splitting My Documents into two folders, not a big problem in itself, but anything that adds a layer of complexity for no benefit is an issue.

FolderShare – the precursor to Live Sync, which has saved me on at least one occasion – could do this, if you bought the Pro version. On the other hand, Live Sync has a much better interface and seems more robust. But what happened to the Live Sync trash bin – if I accidentally delete a file, does it then get deleted on the backups as well? In which case, I will need yet another backup scheme to back up the backups…

ERP analogies

Andy McAfee uses an analogy of an ERP as a factory for business processes. Here are my analogies:

  • We are born as originals and die as copies. ERP systems are the other way – they start as copies and die as originals. An ERP system, when it is installed, allows you to configure it by choosing parameters – what kind of budget process, how you define "customer", etc. etc. After having set a few thousand parameters, you can be absolutely certain that you are the only company in the world with that particular SAP or Oracle or whatever configuration. Of course, standardization was what ERP systems were all about when they were introduced in the mid-nineties: The idea that software should be simple again.
  • ERP systems are flexible the way cement is flexible. Less true now than it was – cement is ultimately flexible when you pour it, then it hardens into the shape of the hole it was poured into.
  • A more advanced version of this is the old joke that SAP (or insert your favorite ERP system) is like a new basic element. Basic elements go through three stages: Fixed, fluid and gas. SAPium (and its cousin Oraclium) start out as a fluid that runs down and fills the holes (basic business process) you want fixed. It then becomes a gas, expanding to fill the whole area (organization) until it has permeated everything, whereupon it becomes a solid that can never be changed again….

Oh well. Less true now than it was, maybe. Or maybe not.

Controlling Wall Street

Excellent article by Michael Lewis and David Einhorn on the deeper, yet not addressed issues of the financial crisis: The flawed checks, balances and incentives of Wall Street. Among the suggestions to fix: "Stop making big regulatory decisions with long-term consequences based on their short-term effect on stock prices."


(Incidentally, Lewis wrote Liar’s Poker, so his coming book on this financial crisis is going on my shortlist right now.)