Forests and Humans: From the Midwest to Madagascar with #uwmoocs

I am currently doing the Forests and Humans: From the Midwest to Madagascar online course, given by the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and provided through

The course give a good idea about the different types of forests and biomes that exist on the planet, the climate they can be found in, biodiversity and the relationship between forests and humans. The course id well designed and is not too much work. Dr. Catherine Woodward is the professor and she has arranged the curriculum neatly in four weeks. Much of the course material is given through videos but some reading is also required. There are discussion forums where you can meet fellow students and participate in ongoing conversations. For the first week we had to post a picture of a tree in a forest near our location, and put it on a siftr map. This was really fin and everybody got to see other peoples environments, plus some of the strange trees that people live near. I would really recommend this course to anybody interesting in learning about forests or just the natural world and it’s relationship with humans in this day and age. #uwmoocs

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Posted by on October 7, 2015 in Uncategorized


Recent killings in Israel/palestine = medival mentality

I want to take a break from the usual light hearted subjects of this blog in order to voice my opinion on the terrible things recently happening between Jews and Palestinians. In short: recently 3 jewish youths were murdered by unknowns, thought to be palestinian terrorists. shortly after the body of a palestinian youth was found in the Jerusalem forest. This has given rise to anger, riots, finger pointing, violence and a general hot pot of racial, social, political and military near chaos. As a Jew who had lived in Israel on the Palestinian border for many years I understand the complex situation quite well. On of the worst aspects is the misinformation, accusations and fractured opinions on both sides. This is nothing new though, it is just another chapter in a seemingly ever lasting struggle on both sides.

I want to voice my opinion: In this emotional turmoil, bloodshed and anger, too many people (the majority on both sides it would seem) forget that beyond teritorry, religion, race or social standing, people are people. All people have the need and the basic right to live in dignity and try to be happy. The fight continues for the sake of the winning it for whatever side people have chosen to support. The bottom line is that killing in the name of (nearly) anything should be avoided and condemned. Clashing is not going to slove any problems, for anyone. People have to wake up and see that we are all humans, and as humans we have to work togeather to bridge the gaps and live togeather, or separately. Live and let live, at any cost to territory, religion or race. Protect our children, and let others protect theirs, but removing the posibility of violence. People who wish for the death of others are monsters and not sane. They are comparable to 11th century fanatics ruled by fear and hatred that stems from ignorance. As useless as shis might be I still feel the need to call out as an individual for this lunacy to stop. It´s time to see that we are losing a fight between being humans or animals.

I hope with all by being that the rise in violence at least puts the instigators of agression to shame and acts as a heads up to ment this festering wound between two nations.

mid eats unrest

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Posted by on July 4, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Ball de Diables de Calafell – Devil Dance, Calafell

A local tradition in Catalunya where once a year during the town festivities, a group called Els Diables create havoc in the streets using fireworks. The public is encouraged to jump in the frey and dance around with the devils. I decided I would not participate but somehow I got drawn into it, lots of fun! I took this video last night.

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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Uncategorized


Panoramic vistas from Catalunya

Here comes another rare post and this is a special one because it has been a very long time since my last entry.

This series of photos were taken with my mobile phone; a Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro. It sports a software that will let you pan while taking a picture. It will then produce a panoramic picture with the following results. Although not fantastic, I would say the result is quite acceptable for such a small phone.

Foix national park, Catalunya

Trabucador beach, Delta Del Ebro, Catalunya

El Penedés

This one was taken in the heart of the Alt Penedés region in Catalunya. This area has lots of wineries that focus on the production of Cava which is a local type of champagne .

Cubelles beach

A bit of the beach at Cubelles, Catalunya


The Greek/Roman excavation site at Empuries, Catalunya

Cadaques bay view

Taken from the winding road leading down to the town of Cadaques. The artist Dali has a house near here.


One of the inlets of Cadaques, Catalunya

Cadaques magic

Look it’s magic!

Cadaques inlet 2

Another view of the inlet at Cadaques, Catalunya

Cadaques inlet 3

Yet another view of the inlet at Cadaques

Cadaques inlet 3

Notice the bridge on the left leading to the small island. Cadaques, Catalunya

City of Girona

An offshoot of the river Ter flows through the old city of Girona, notice how some of the building facades are suspended over it.

Girona cathedral

One of the many cathedrals in the city of Girona. I was there during the annual flower festival. Notice the huge flower arrangement on the stairs. Girona, Catalunya

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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


A voyage to the Ukraine

Last November I was sent on a business trip to the Ukraine.
The company I work for has offices there and I have been working closely with a team there for the last year plus.
The goal was to get to the city of Kharkov in eastern Ukraine where our offices are located. Flights were purchased with Ukranian International Airlines and everything was ready until just a week before the trip when the airline announced my Kiev-Kharkov-Kiev flights were cancelled. Apperantely, the Ukraine is co-hosting the Euro 2012 football championships and as a result the local authorities are frantically trying to get everything in shape, including the small and outdated airport in Kharkov which they decided to totally close for refirbishement. This was unconveniantly planned around my flight dates and not announced until tickets were already bought.

Alternatives were investigated and a night train was decided upon over a bus ride of some 8 hours.

The date of the voyage had arrived and I was half dreading, half anticipating the flight with Ukranian International; My brother had told me stories of other east european airlines such as the Polish LOT wich inherit all their planes from run down decomissioned soviet military aircraft.

UIA Aircraft

A Ukranian Internationa Airlunes Boing 737

It turned out however that that UIA is a quite modern airline, most of thier vessles being Boing 737s. The service was much better than most western airlines and they were not stingy about food and beverages.
So the flight was good and the view was spectacular, flying over the french coast and then following the Alps east into the other side of Europe.

A seat with a view

The view from the aircraft flying over Europe, I think these were the Italian Alps

Upon exiting the aircraft I was greeted by my first taste of the frosty local weather, a gust of icey wind hitting my face. The passengers had to exit the plane and get on a bus which stood forever in the cold, only to drive us literally 50 meters to the terminal. I had heard bad stories about the Ukranian customs but I had no trouble sneaking in my 3 kilos or so worth of Spanish coldcuts. A pretty girl on towering heels was holding a sign with my name on it when I got out, she was to escort me to the train station by bus. She provided me with tickets and watched over me at the Kiev central train station until it was time to continue on my journey.The Kiev central station is a mix of tzarish and soviet architecture. Rows of seedy looking fellows, down and out drunks and weary travellers occupied the rows of seats or stood leaning on the walls. But my guide took me to the nicest spot in the old part of the station. A self service cafe with wooden tables and chairs sprawled out under an ornate cieling with huge shandaliers. This part of the station was more upscale and people were working on their laptops or talking business while downing a last glass of local liquor before their trip. Here at the cafe I had my first taste of local food and it was good; fried fish and rice with vegetables accompanied by fresh rye bread. I was already looking forward to more.

Kiev central station

A pre-soviet looking part of the central station in Kiev

Modern Ukranian train

This train was said to be the flagtrain of the fleet!

When it was time to board, we walked along the endless line of coaches. My guide assured me that I was getting the best train the fleet had to offer. It looked like something from the late 80’s at best.

I was showen to my cabin where I met it’s other 3 inhabitants. My guide left and I was left to fend for myslef. Luckily one of my fellow passengers spoke some English, the son of a nuclear power plant architect. He showd me my bunkbed and handed me the sheets and bedroll for it. We spoke for a while in the hall outside the cabin, and later retreated into the small room for the long night.
Between loud snoring, the train stopping at several towns only to then jerk back into motion again, and the extreme heat inside the small space, I didn’t manage to get much sleep, but some is better than none.

In the morning I was greeted at Kharkov station by one of my work buddies and we took a taxi to the apartment I was to stay in for the rest of my visit. My first impression once out of the station, was that this part of the world still very much belonged to the Soviet Union. I suppose that to people who had lived through soviet times, the situation today is a far cry from what it was. But for a foreighner, all the soviet architecture, badly kept roads and ancient russian cars, is really something that speaks of a different era.

The apartment building where I was staying was also a crumbling hulk of hundreds of small flats.

Soviet housing

This brings to mind the game franchise Space Hulk

The stairwell looked like the inside of an outdated submarine. The contrast between the inside of the apartment and the exterior, was served as an analogy to the state of the country as a whole.


The stairwell of the building I was staying in

 The interior was a sleek job of rennovation and over the top kitch taste, all new and clean. Like a pocket of progress in this giant delapidated concrete block. In the Ukraine there is a hard mixture of the old and the new; while fancy european luxury cars overtake antique Ladas on roads that look like black swiss cheese.I later found out that the apartment I was to spend the week in, was one of those places that are usually rented by the day or hour. Nontheless it was comfy and probably better than a hotel at the same price. It was located on Gagarin avenue, commemorating the first man to ever venture outside earth’s boundries.

Local water vendor

Every day people congregate around these trucks to buy drinking water

The local company offices was akin to any thing you might expect in a western country. Located in a modern if odd looking building on the outskirts of central Kharkov. I was treated very well by my co-workers who managed to pack an amazing amount of activity into my already tight schedule.

Office building

This building was sort of all in one because it had  our offices, a restaurant, a disco, a car dealership and only the Kremlin knows what else!

I was taken to have some traditional Ukranian food, with Borsch soup, lard and Kiev cotlet. I was taken to a local brewery/restaurant where beer is served with no additives and must be drank within 20 minutes of serving. Between an assortment of other bars clubs and restaurants, I also participated in a visit to a Russian bath: togeather with several friends, you rent a bath house comprised of a dressing room, bedroom, diningroom, indor cold pool and russian coal heated sauna. The idea is to eat and drink as much as possible while alternating between the hot sauna and cold pool. Another peculiar activity in the sauna is the branch beating portion; while inside the sauna, you are beaten on the back with an Oak branch which is dipped in water and then heated on the steaming rocks. The process feels somewhat like torture but I must say it felt ver exhilirating and rejuvinating.The longer my stay, the more obvious it became that there is a wide rift existing between rich and poor, corrupt and honest. It’s not hard to see the misuse of power in the Ukrain. New buildings are being placed randomly inside and around the crumbling city, it is a senseless effort becuase millions are spent in making these new ugly constructions in places they really make no impact on the overall situation. Contractors are pocketing immense sums of money to make useless pieces of ugly architecture instead of fixing the broken sidewalks and old buildings. But not all is so grim. There is a good number of old historic buildings in good shape. And the center is quite decent in some areas.


One of the many cathedrals in Kharkov

There are also plenty of fancy cafes discos and restaurants, designed in good taste. One moment you are in a street with pot holes the size of a bathtub, the other you are in an elegant bar with stylish music and finely dressed customers, including barmen that will shake up your preferred mixed drink.

The underlying tone of this whole experience was that there is a new generation fighting to break through the crust of old world customs and rulership left over from the previous era. Kharkov is the university capital of the Ukraine and attracts many foreign companies looking to create a second base in a town full of fresh graduates. There are many IT companies in the area that offers lower salaries and enjoy cheaper rent than in the capital of Kiev, thus making it a prime target for foreign development. But as young local professionals and foreign investors struggle to improve the situation, it is clear that there continues to be a ruling class in the city and the country in general, that is content in taking all they can get. Like in few other countries, if you lose your house to a ukranian bank, you will still owe the entire mortgage.

My week there was coming to an end, and as before I was scheduled for the night train. This time a real soviet era machine with generally the same layout as the last one, but much much older, and with a toilet you flush by pouring a bucket of water down it.

Old train

This train was much the same as the other but probably 40 years older at best

This time we were only tow passengers in the cabin until midnight came, at some god forsaken station in rural Ukraine, an elderly couple climed aboard and sliding open the cabin door proceeded to fumble for the light. After having no sucess I helped by turning on my bed light until they could find thier way though I could not help when the wide eyed lady asked me something in her thick Russian.

Train cabin

My top bunk in the train cabin on the way back to Kiev

This train had a final destination several hours west of Kiev, meanin I had to get up sometime before dawn and make ready to climb off the creaking rig. Getting dressed in the jolting darkness I then climbed off my bunk to find that there was no waiting line yet to the dirty bathroom. After washing up I was all ready to go and even had time to return the bedsheets to the stuardess and order a cup of tea in preparation for the cold awaiting outside.

Pre-dawn tea

5am tea in the train. Notice the eastern design of the cup. In western Europe it would have been foam at best.

Pulling into Kiev it was clear that this was a larger more prosperous and corporate city. Towering business building with luminescent advertisements towered in the darkness. I eventually found my way from the train station to the bus that would take me to the airport. I have no doubt that the bus takes the best route, using the newly paved roads leading to Borispol. However even than there are remnants of poverty and abandon along the way. It was especially eerie to see a pack of feral dogs guarding a spot beside a newly paved road, beneath a row of huge office buildings, at five in the morning. This was another thing I had noticed; the large amount of stray dogs in this country. Animals that live on the fringe of humanity, holding on to life by the scraps of food and  pockets of warmth they can find in the frigid environment. In Kharkov, during one night, our taxi was attacked by a pack of these canine freelancers when we drove by the abandoned dwelling they were inhabiting. I had read about feral dogs in India, and seen some in Gambia, but never expected to see such a quantity of self sufficient independent animals, living within the human concrete kingdom. Later I heard thousands o these dogs were exterminated in preparation for the Euro 2012 championship, as an attempt to make the streets more presentable.

During the ride, the bus driver pulled off to the side of the half finished freeway for a few seconds, only to continue on his way once more. I didnt understand what this was all about until a police control point stopped the car in front of us. Everyone kept telling me how dangerous and corrupt the police here were, if you had any trouble the last place you wanted to go was to the police station, that was just a way to find yet more problems. Our driver was wise, and let other cars act as bait for the police he knew were lying in wait up ahead.

Old Ukranian police car

Even the police still use run down Ladas fice decades old

Omnious forests of thin trees lined the road on both sides, my only real view of the countryside. At last pulling in to the airport, I could see a new terminal under construction but still far from completion. Another hint of how badly planned and rushed the preparations for Euro 2012 were. My last hours were spent in the terminal waiting to board the aircraft. I did have a great and interesting time both as a travel experience and professional one (which I am not sharing here). But the time had come to leave and I was glad to be going home, perhaps more so than the usual.

Even Lenin was wishing me bon voyage, until next time Ukraine…


The Lenin sculpture still survives in Liberty Square in Kharkov, which also happens to be the third largest plaza in the world.

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Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Uncategorized


Game of the moment – Neptune’s Pride

EDIT: I have been playing Neptune’s Pride 2, also called Triton, for the last few months. It is a very improved version of the first Neptunes Pride, built in HTML5 and workes well with nearly any mobile device. the game mechanics have been tweaked to make it more balanced and tight, removing the game breaking Speed technology of the origianl. there ar eloads of new features, forums, game modes and optionals. I cant stress how much I have been enjoying the game.

You can find it here, please come and join the fun!


Because I am a gamer I will periodically use this blog to express my thoughts about a specific game I have been involved with lately.
This might be interesting to some while boring to other readers. Yet I feel that a subjective opinionated account of my experiences with a certain game may be more enjoyable to read then a more technical review a lot of gamers are accustomed to reading on the main gaming press sites.

Now that I have got that introductory part out of the way I’ll jump right in: I have lately been playing an online multiplayer game (usually called MMO which stands for Massively Multiplayer Online). It’s called Neptune’s Pride and is set in a science fiction ambience. You play the game as a ruler of an interstellar empire and the object of the game is to win by capturing stars and reaching a predetermined number of them before any of the other players do. The other players of course have their own empires and try to do the same.

This is a game of war and diplomacy where you need to build a strong alliance with some players while waging war against others in order to get their stars.

In the free mode of the game you may participate in small 8 player games which usually last two or three weeks until someone gets to the target 90 or so stars and the game ends.
If you are a premium user you can create custom games and invite other players to join. This means that matches can have more players with larger star maps and tweaked values. The values in the game refer to speed, weapons power, scan range and science capacity. Building economy gets you more cash every day and industry will boost the production of ships. Basically you send ships to other stars and you can watch them move across the map as they slowly go towards their destination. Travel time is slow and can take many hours. If a fleet reaches a star with opposing ships a battle will take place and the results are based on the number of ships on each side and the weapons level of each player (this is obtained by researching weapons tech using your science points).

Now I’m sure that if you have not played the game before this will all sound very complicated and maybe you have only managed to create a very vague idea of what the game might be like. Though the creators of the game have made a very good job of streamlining all the information into a clear and easy design; tooltips pop up when you move the mouse over different buttons and options, and there is a good short tutorial to get you started.

To begin building industry and sending out ships is really easy, but you will not start to see the results until a couple of days later. About a week into the game you might start to clash with the enemy and thats when it really start’s getting cool and tactical. Now, I say a week, but although it takes a while for things to happen in the game, you can really only spend a very limited amount of time playing the game every day. You can spend five minutes quickly giving orders every day or you can take longer thinking about your moves while checking the map several times a day to see if the enemy has made his move.

Neptune’s Pride is a Flash game, so you need to have the latest flash plug-in installed in order to play it on your browser. While it worked well on my PC laptop, it was jerky and a bit unresponsive on my old Mac. This is because of Adobe dropping support for PPC Macs which is a shame because I am sure there are many players still using their old Macs for surfing the net. I would have liked to see NP use different technology that remains fully accessible to all minorities.
A feature that the game lacks is a dedicated forum. This would help the community thrive because at the moment, other than inside a premium game, I saw no traces of a living breathing online community, and even then, only because some players knew each others nicknames from previous matches. Other than the in-game chat and messaging system, there is nowhere to interact, look for advice, create guides or make announcements. This is a shame because it is an important part of many MMO’s, and NP could benefit greatly from this simple feature.
Another feature I would add is a player account with stats that other players can access and see. Right now NP has a very limited profile system viewable only by the player himself, and only shows how many total games have been completed, and how many podium spots have been attained. The game needs a more extensive global points system so that players have a sense of progress and competition with other users. Medals, awards and other achievements can be granted, and putting together an active forum with user profiles that can be viewed by all members, will create an all around more lively and absorbing experience around a game that although well designed and fun, is still very much bare bones.

I could go on with more suggestions but it almost seems as if Iron Helmet Games have dropped development for the game. There is a notice on the main menu saying that you will soon be able to choose your avatar picture, which I think is nice, but ultimately adds nothing to game play or to the sense of community Neptune’s Pride needs so dearly.

As a closing comment I would like to recommend the game to anyone interested in strategy games, especially of the risk variety and to those who have little time to play games. It would be nice to see more games like this one coming from other developers, in an industry that’s being taken over by games that are either too hardcore and long, demanding constant attention, and games that are too social and infantile for mature gamers, and require you to spend money all the time if you are hoping to make any real progression.
Two thumbs up for Neptune’s Pride.


Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Uncategorized


Countdownt to extinction

Apart from being the name of a great song and album by the mythical heavy metal band Megadeth, the phrase countdown to extinction accurately depicts the state of affairs of Macintosh computers which use the PowerPC generation of processors. PowerPC Macs used the G3, G4 and G5 processors in the era before Apple started using Intel processors in their computers. The PowerPC Macs were great workstations and Esthetic pieces of design, and still hold their value as reliable workstations today. However, both Apple and other major third party developers such as Adobe and Mozilla, have decided so stop supporting releases for the PPC platform. the result is having to use old software and dealing with incompatibility problems, especially on web content such as Flash. As development of new web content continues for newer systems, requirements change. This means that unsupported platforms such as the PowerPC will not have updates and eventually will not be able to show new content. Already some Flash sites require version 11 which is no longer available for PPC users. Hence the countdown to extinction is already well under way for the Mackintosh PowerPC.

Despite this piece of bad news for PPC owners, some open source development continues for the platform. TenFourFox is a modern browser port of Firefox for the PPC. You could also choose to install Linux on your PPC. And here is a great site for information about older Mac computers and the options still available for their systems: Low End Mac.

In spite of all the above, I had decided to give the two PowrPC Macs we own a second lease on life. One is a first generation MacMini g4 at 1.25Ghz with 1GB RAM, the other is a first gen g5 1.8Ghz 17″ iMac with 1GB RAM. Both were running OSX Tiger 10.4.11.

My iMac g5 was pretty much forgotten a few years ago when I got a Windows laptop. The amount of dust accumulated on it really did not do justice to the years of great service it gave me all through university. And while the MacMini was still getting daily use, the system was bogged down and slow and really needed a fresh install of the OS.

First thing I decided to do was to max out the RAM on the iMac going from 1GB to 2GB, and although by todays standards it might seem menial, doubling the RAM is more then noticed especially when using some programs such as video editing, 3D or gaming. The MacMini was already maxed out at 1GB RAM. Then I upgraded both OS’ to Leopard 10.5.8 which was the last Mac OSX to support PPC machines.

Although I am aware of the PPC limitations in today’s computing environment, I can still see many ways to get lasting value out of my old Macs. They are great machines and look awesome on a desk, they have served well for years and can continue to do so for at least a few more.

Even though the countdown to the extinction of this species has already begun, I am firm in my decision to bid for it’s survival for yet a while longer.

  • I would also like to thanks Crucial for their great customer support and for still providing DDR RAM so that people like me can continue to upgrade their old systems. This is not intended as an advertisement, it´s just so hard to get good customer support sometimes, and reasonable prices for hardware that is usually way overpriced.

Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Uncategorized