Monday, January 31, 2011



So, your research project is on a tight deadline. You're scrambling to put together a paper and push it out to some journal in time for a looming project review. You're hunting references, writing and rewriting your arguments and doing a desperate last-ditch data analysis round in the hope this will be enough to find favour with the journal reviewers. Meanwhile the clock is ticking... tick. tock.

Let's face reality here - you're out of time and out of luck. Your paper looks like what it is, an unfinished cut-and-paste job from your earlier publications, with some obvious editing to make it look vaguely coherent. This really has no chance to be accepted; you'll get a "revise and resubmit" if you're lucky, and an outright "reject" if not. Either way, you'll be spending a month or so rewriting it from scratch.

So why not go a little easy on yourself? Stop panicking and stop wasting precious time you can't afford. Just take whatever you have and submit the unfinished, unreadable mess to Journal of Universal Rejection.

Skip the last-minute editing, the tedious formatting, the Byzantine submission guidelines and the wait in the endless submission queue of other journals, and go directly to the inevitable rejection. The same end result, but weeks - maybe months - faster! Think of all the time you'll save! You'll have your revised, rewritten manuscript ready for submission to a good journal before your colleagues have even received their rejection notifications!
Remember: "Journal of Universal Rejection - when 'submitted' is what matters."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Picture Post: Tokyo

Way back then I promised to post images from our Tokyo trip. Life and work intervened and I never got around to it. Better late than never, here's a few impressions.

Tokyo - Night

Big cities are really best at dusk. Dingy, messy streets in daylight turn into golden rivers of light as the sun sets.

Akasaka Prince Room

We stayed at the Akasaka Prince hotel. It's a pretty cool hotel with a fairly well-done 1970's style interior - yes, it can be tasteful and comfortable, believe it or not. Unfortunately the construction methods also seem to be typical for the 1970's, so renovating the place is too expensive and it will be torn down beginning this April.

It's Full Of Stars

Best thing about Tokyo is the subways. Lots of separate companies, and lots of restrictions on how you can run tunnels (no tunnelling under the imperial palace, for instance) so lines criss-cross the city in delightfully surprising ways. And with so many different actors, station design can vary a lot. Akasaka station has this blacklight (UV) enabled zodiac in one of the access tunnels, visible at night.


Blue scarf, Tokyo subway.

We went to Kanda in Jimbocho, just north of Akasaka, where hundreds of used book stores crowd the area. I try to go there every time I'm in Tokyo, and as always I stopped by Meirinkan that specializes in used science and technology books. I finally bought first three volumes of The Art of Computer Programming by Donald Knuth; a true classic in computer science and one I've wanted for many years. They were used, but in perfect condition - I suspect the original owner never actually opened them. As it happens, Knuth has just published part one of the fourth volume.

Another stop was the temple in Asakusa. It's a major tourist attraction of course, and usually crowded. There was a winter market going on selling traditional crafts as wall as the usual touristy stuff. Fun place, but really a bit too commercial to evoke any seasonal feelings.


Asakusa Pagoda.


Asakusa is famous for the huge straw sandals they have hanging on a gate wall.

Ginza is the traditional high-end shopping street in Tokyo. There's other high-end shopping areas now of course, but Ginza apparently still holds a special place in the mind of many Japanese. Every now and then the street is shut off for traffic and becomes a promenade for the day.


Take a news break. Perhaps he was waiting for his wife, just as I was waiting for Ritsuko when I took this.


An entrepreneurial shop owner (I think) placed a group of cats on the sign here, and immediately attracted a sizeable crowd. A crowd that, to a man, proceeded to saturate the area with cellphone cams, compact point-and-shoots and large SLR cameras.


The best kind of place to enjoy food and drink in Tokyo is in a low-end izakaya, the kind that caters to salarymen on their way home. Service is prompt, the food usually good and plentiful, and the atmosphere is pleasantly relaxed. I try to make a point of going to places like this whenever I'm here.

Practice makes Perfect

The last day we went to Yokohama. The weather was not good, but there were still plenty of people using the harbour walk to practice skateboard, rollerblades or, like here, bicycle.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


My wayward brother and his girlfriend announced the birth of my niece Ella yesterday. Everybody seems to be fine and my brother seems almost silly happy from the emails I've got. Big congratulations everyone!

Friday, January 14, 2011


I spent a couple of days this week in Rusutsu, Hokkaido, for the Brain and Mind workshop, and came back only yesterday. The workshop itself was good, just like last year, with some fun presentations and several interesting posters.

Rusutsu is a ski resort with excellent slopes and lots of snow, and many people attend in part for the opportunity to ski during off hours. I didn't ski at all last year but I was determined not to miss out this time. Now, I did a lot of skiing as a child, but I haven't actually stood on a pair of skis for twenty years. Some caution was clearly in order.

So I decided to try snowboarding, for the first time in my life.


Rusutsu snowboarders. Note: Picture from last year - I have a backlog of pictures to develop and scan, and I wanted to get this post out while fresh.

I rented equipment - board, boots, clothes, the whole kit - and signed up for a two-hour lesson. Lessons are in groups of 1-8 people, and I was lucky to be the only student in my early-afternoon time slot.

First, snowboarding is easier than it looks. I had never even touched a snowboard before; the lesson began with how to wear the boots properly. But by the end of the first hour I'd already been up the chair lift twice and could ski down an easy slope all by myself. It helps that I have skiing experience of course, but it was mostly thanks to a very good teacher. Taking lessons really is much, much better than trying to learn things all on your own. Had I tried to learn by myself I'd have gotten nowhere (except, possibly, a hospital).

The hardest part, surprisingly, was to move about on flat ground or at the top of the hill with one foot free. I kept tripping over my feet, had the board catch in the snow, flailed about and generally made a fool of myself. Finding my balance and learning to turn down the slope was actually easier.

Also, snowboarding hurts. At least, beginning snowboarding hurts. I've used muscles I've forgotten I had, and while the deep, fluffy snow in Rusutsu is soft, my backside still took a beating with the frequent falls. It was worst right at first, before I'd gotten used to the board, and I spent a lot of energy fighting against it. Once I began to understand the basics I could relax a bit. But my legs were completely exhausted by the end of the lesson (we cut it a bit short, actually, as I could barely stand up anymore) and my entire body was hurting yesterday - the next day. Sitting down for the morning seminars was painful, and getting up for the coffee break was even worse. When going to work this morning my arms and hands hurt whenever I tried to lift my bag.

But it was fun. It was, in fact, amazingly fun. More fun than I remember skiing to be and more fun than any other sport I've tried. If I hadn't been hobbling around like a rheumatic pensioner the next day I might have skipped a presentation or two and gone back to the slopes again. There's a a small ski slope in Rokko mountain north of Kobe; I'll have to see if we could go there someday. This is way too much fun not to do again.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


It's waayy too early in the morning and I'm on my way to Hokkaido for a workshop. To avoid falling asleep on the subway, let me tell you about my main problem with Japanese: similar-sounding words.

Not homonyms; I have no issues with words that sound the same. Context makes it easy to figure out if "hashi" refers to a bridge, chopsticks or the tip of something, just like Swedish "vad" can mean "what", "river ford", "bet" and "lower leg muscle" without anybody becoming confused.

No, my issue is with confusingly <i>similar</i> words. "hibiki", "nikibi", "chikubi", "nihiki" and "bikini" mean echo, pimple, nipple, two animals and bikini, respectively, and mixing them up is potentially embarrassing as well as confusing for everybody.

Or "motomeru", "matomeru" and "mitomeru" - to seek or request; to bring together or collate; and to admit or reqognize. I first learned these three words more than five years ago but I still mix them up (yes, I had to look them up just now). It doesn't help that all three are abstract verbs dealing with the mental state of somebody.

I'm pretty well resigned to go through life confusing myself and everybody around me with this.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Joy of Stats

Here's a treat for you: An hour-long television program on statistics.

Wait! Don't run away! First, it's a BBC production: excellent production values, good pacing, great footage. Also, the host, Hans Rosling, is exceedingly energetic, engaging and entertaining as he euphorically enthuses about how statistics can describe our world. This is easily worth one hour of your time. I've never liked statistics as a student, and I watched this straight through.

For a quick taste to see what you're in for, take a look at Rosling when he describes 200 years of the world in four minutes.

Update: changed the first link; now it hopefully works for everyone.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Pictures Of 2010

My favourite images of the past year. I use mostly film nowadays, and that takes me a while to process, so images may well have been taken earlier than this; I count them when I upload them.


Saturday, Slow Day

Warm January, and a slow month. A man practices the accordion on the front of his home near Nishitanabe.


Lined Up

The yearly Ebisu parade with Geisha in attendance.


The Wait

A fellow commuter stands waiting at Sakaisuji Honmachi station.



Cherry blossom season. Nagai Park.


Cabin Boy

We go to Toba in Mie prefecture for Golden Week holiday. A cabin boy at a crane ship in Toba.


Night Shift

Nighttime street work just around the corner from home.



Emergency daytrip to Tokyo for a new passport. A woman at Meguro subway station.



Sakaisuji Honmachi station at dusk.


Early Morning

Paris, Quartier Latin early on a summer morning.


NEURO 2010

NEURO2010, large conference. Poster room before opening.


Faithful Companion

Life as a dog. Kobe.



Ginza, Tokyo.