5/30/17

ThIS to shall pass

As we add yet another city to the list of places where terrorist-attacks, supposedly carried out by the Islamic State, have caused anger and grief; it is easy to think our world is less safe than before. Some even think we are doomed to live in a world of continuous and unpredictable terror.



Of course IS, or Daesh, wants us to think so. They may even believe that we will live under their terror several years from now. We know better.

We know that thIS too shall pass, because we see the reactions after the attacks. The kindness, the generosity, the feeling of unity.

Don´t let the fearmongers get to you, do not participate in the spreading of fear.  Let the world know what the people in Paris, London, Stockholm, Manchester and many other places have already shown:
  We are not afraid. We are in this together.

As I wrote in Stand by Paris - feel no fear, terrorist organizations come and go. When I was a kid we heard about ETA, IRA and Bader-Meinhoff. Today they are bad, but faint memories.

By the time my kids are adults; IS, ISIS or Daesh will be like these organizations. Bad, vague memories of an organization consisting of desperate persons who have lost their ways.

Each attack makes me angry at first, then sad, then determined.  Determined and certain that thIS too shall pass. Terrorists want us to hate, but their horrible actions cannot turn us into haters. Nothing can turn us into haters because we know hate comes from fear and we are not afraid.

ThIS too shall pass.

5/24/17

Wisdom and knowledge

She watched her husband as he took off his uniform. His hanging head and slumping shoulders showed the tiredness his smile tried to disguise.
"Good evening my love", he said as he kicked off his shoes. "How has your day been?"
She rolled towards him in her wheelchair, returning his smile.
  "Better than yours from the look of it."
"Oh", he lifted his shoulders half-heartedly. "It hasn't been that bad. Just a normal working day for an old policeman."
He was in his forties. Not particularly old. He had started calling himself old when he teamed up with a new partner. A women in her late twenties.

Rose rolled to the kitchen table, she had set it before he came.
"Maybe you can bring the stew, it's on the stove."
He turned off the stove, brought the stew over and sat down. Reached out and touched her arm. She put her hand over his.
"You say it was a normal day, but you seem more tired than usual."
He pulled back his hand, put some stew on her plate and then on his own.
"Today I arrested two young boys. I kind of know them, or at least I know their parents; we say hello when we meet. One of the boys is stupid as hell, but he thinks he knows it all. He was able to convince the other guy, who actually has some brains, to join him in a robbery. It was meant to be easy, no-one was supposed to be there and all that stuff. It annoys me that the guy who has some brains lets himself get fooled by the guy who knows nothing. Just because the airhead is cocky and more confident than a horny rooster."
She put a spoonful of the stew in her mouth. It tasted exactly right. The way she liked it. She knew Rob liked this seasoning as well, but he was too pre-occupied to notice.
"It is the Dunning-Kruger effect", she said, stopping herself mid-sentence to swallow before continuing. "You know, the most ignorant have a great self-confidence since they do not understand how little they know."
Rob grunted, his mouth filled with stew.
"This is really good", he pointed at the plate with this fork.
 She smiled; he had noticed. Then he continued:
"That is a good description of my new partner. Incompetent and confident at the same time."
"I thought you said you would give her a chance?"
"How can I, when she is such an idiot?"
"She is not an idiot. The two of you just do not see things the same way all the time."
"That is because she is wrong and I am right!"
Rose put down her fork and knife.
"You have had an argument with your new partner for weeks now. Maybe it is time to let it go? Would you rather prove her wrong than get along with her?"
He filled his mouth to the brim and chewed long before answering.
"I want both. And she is an ignorant prick."
"Rob!"
"Sorry. But she is."
"I fail to see how a woman can be a prick but I guess that is not the point. Sometimes you are just so hard-headed you don't even listen to other people's opinions. You decide that they are wrong even before they open their mouths."
"No I don't."
"Yes you do."
He sat back, his stomach filled. Cleaned his chin with a napkin.
"So you think my ignorant partner is right and I am wrong?"
"Sometimes she is right, sometimes you are. Sometimes neither one of you is. Anyway, it does not matter who is right. And ignorance is not even the problem. The illusion of knowledge is."
She dropped her napkin. He picked it up from the floor, remembered too late that she did not want to be treated like 'a handicapped person´. He couldn't drop it again just to let her pick it up herself so he gave it to her, avoiding eye contact.
"So you think I believe I know things but I don't?"
"You know a lot of things my love. And so does your partner. If you would work together instead of bickering like an old couple, you would both be a lot better off."
He leaned over, gave her a kiss on the cheek.
"I don't bicker with her. I bicker with you."
He showed off his teeth in a big smile.  When he did, he looked just as boyish as when they met more than twenty years ago.
She rolled her wheelchair backwards, turned it around with ease and moved into the living room. While he cleaned up in the kitchen she came back, a book in her lap.


"You are very street smart", she said, "but to become wise, you should learn a thing or two from Sokrates. Check out the quote on page 28, in the middle of the page."

He finished stacking the dish washer and dried his hands on a towel before picking up the book.

I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing. 
Sokrates 


Rob put the book on the table, put his hands on the armrests of the wheelchair as he bent down to kiss his wife.

"It is not completely true, you know. I do know one thing. I know I love you."


5/17/17

The Beauty of Art - Part 9: the answers

Just like in The Beauty of Art - part 7, I chose a less known painting by a well-known artist.



Yes, this is by Carl Larsson, one of Sweden´s most known and most loved artists. Another, more known painting, is Frukost i det gröna (Breakfast outdoors):




One interesting thing about Carl Larsson is that he, like so many artists, painted a lot of paintings before finding the style that he became known for. Here is an example of a painting by Carl Larsson while he was still in art school: Sten Sture d.ä befriar den danska drottningen Kristina ur fångenskap i Vadstena Kloster.


Unlike Vincent van Gogh who only became famous after his death, Carl Larsson became a popular artist during his life time. He grew up in poverty but when he became an adult he had a great family life, so often depicted in his paintings.

The answers to the questions for this Beauty of Art are the following:

Who is the painter?
Carl Larsson
What is the painting called?
Bron (the Bridge)
What type of art is this?
Nationalromantik (National romantic style)
How does this painting make you feel?
I chose it since the little black cat makes me think of our lovely Kleintje who left us too early (see Only life knows its length) and because I like the yellow and orange colors in it. You have stated you like it too, but that you like other Carl Larsson´s paintings even more.

Thanks for your participation!

5/10/17

The Beauty of Art - Part 9

The painting I showed in the Beauty of Art part 8 was unknown to you. The painter of the below painting is most likely known to many of you.



Who is the painter?
What is the painting called?
What type of art is this?
How does this painting make you feel?

The answers will come in the next blog post!

5/3/17

Designing with the most complex part of the system in mind

In Swedish there is an expression called Den mänskliga faktorn.  A direct translation is "the human factor" but this expression is rarely used the same way in English.

In Swedish we often refer to den mänskliga faktorn if a user of a system messes up and causes an accident, even when the system is working as intended. For instance a pilot causing a crash, a nurse using medical equipment wrongly or a bus driver causing an accident.

When reading about such events, it is easy for an engineer to think:
 "Ah, stupid user. The system worked as intended and then this clumsy human screws up."

The designers of the system will most likely feel relief when the human factor is mentioned.

 "Thank god, it was not our design. It was the user." 

It is easy to blaim a person for something going wrong. And of course people make mistakes once in a while, especially when they are in stressful situations. This we all know. Engineers know this too. This is why we should design with that in mind.

Many years ago, in 1991, there was a plane crash in Gottröra in Sweden. Already shortly after take-off, two engines stopped working. The pilots tried to recover the situation but were hindered by an automatic system they had never used before. There were warning lamps lit all over the place. Not one or two, but almost all.

The pilots, with the help of a pilot who was a passenger, did the best they could given the situation. They ignored the system, ignored the rules and safely crash landed on a field. All passengers survived.

At times, the human factor saves the day.

SCANPIX/Leif R Jansson


As engineers, as designers, we should design with the most complex factor of the system; the human, in mind and make the best possible use of him/her, instead of using them as a scape goat when things go wrong.