1995: Sol, stå stille

I got this book in 1995.  It’s another of my grandfather’s books.

It’s about Israel, and was written in Denmark in 1950, so it’s written while things were still going on in Israel.  On the other hand, when weren’t they?

Poul Borchsenius doesn’t make much of an effort to tell a balanced tale, but he retells the history of the young state in an easy-to-read manner.  Calling the book a zionist propaganda effort is probably not entirely fair, but probably not entirely inaccurate, too.

And there’s fun illustrations, too:

“Haj Amin el Husseini in good company”

That’s more snarky than the text is in general.  It’s a very enthusiastic text.  With a not entirely reliable narrator.

I have to admit I started skipping around in the book after a while.  Not my primary area of interest, really.

Rating: Zioniffic

Home Renovations

The balcony floor has been flaking ever since I bought this apartment. This week, Oslo has finally seen some slightly summerish weather, so I decided to do something about it.

The normal thing (for me) to do would be to call somebody competent, but I thought that surely this was something to do myself.  And I kinda wanted to take a day off work to futz around in the sun.  Ideal!

So I started scraping.  And scraped and scraped.  There’s like four layers of things to scrape at on the balcony.  This was what I ended up with:

It ended up more, er, pitted than I had anticipated.  I considered calling somebody professional, but instead I just painted it with epoxy paint.  I though it was going to be thick and gloopy, so it would kind of fill in the cracks.

It didn’t.

So I had to get some filler and more paint.  At this point, the paint shop had run out of the epoxy paint in “Sky gray” (yes), so I bought some “Warm gray” paint.  The epoxy paint only comes in five different pre-set colours.


“Warm gray” is a code word for “beige”!  I hate beige!  (Ok, it doesn’t look that beige in that picture, but it is in real life.)

Back to a different paint shop to buy some more “Sky grey”, and put down another “first coat”.  This being the third coat.

Then I noticed that the paint is really slippery.  The old paint was more textured, so I went back to Ye Oldee Paintee Shoppee and got “Anti-Slip Pearls”.  Which looks like plastic sand or something.

On with the second coat of “Sky grey”.  The “pearls” seem to do the trick with the slipperyness, but another coat of paint is required.

So that’s five coats in total, and there has to be more than 12 hours between each coat.  It’s taken me more than five days!  The rose bushes I had to take in from the balcony  have all bloomed in pure confusions!  They’re probably gonna die from shock when I put them back out again, I think.

The balcony looks OK now, though.  But the groundwork is probably not good enough, and it’ll start flaking again.

I’ve learned lot.  Like: Call somebody who knows what they’re doing.


1995: Both Right and Left Handed

I bought this book by Bouthaina Shaaban in 1995.  More because I had a tendency to buy all books I happened upon published by The Woman’s Press (they have a very neat logo) than because I wanted to read a book subtitled “Arab Women Talk About Their Lives”.

I know. I know.

Anyway. Shaaban writes with a quite bracing sense of quiet fury about what had happened to herself, and what’s happening to women in Arab countries.  This book was published in 1988, and is mainly a series of interviews with women, where they, er, talk about their lives.

So we get stories about forced marriages at the age of 12; fathers who kill their daughters who have disobeyed them; brothers who sneak into houses where their sisters have sought refuge (after “shaming” the family in some way) and stabbing their sisters to death; husbands who beat and rape their 13-year old wives.  And so on.

But also stories from women who have participated in revolutions and fighting.  Who have gone to universities and gotten PhDs, and who have made some progress.  At least they feel they have.  The author frequently becomes rather exasperated with the women she interviews, but she mainly presents what they have to say without arguing against them explicitly.

Instead she allows the stories themselves to carry out all the eye-rolling she was probably doing while doing the interviews.  For instance, when she interviews this older woman who complains bitterly about her husband, and how awful he was, and how she was forced to marry him.  Then she interviews the daughter of this mother, who says that she herself was forced by her mother to marry at 12.  And that her father was the nice one.

It’s a recurring theme in the book.  As awful as the Arab men are (and they are very awful indeed in this book), the Arab women are complicit, and can wait to take up the veil.  As one tiresome woman puts it: “For another thing, men no longer follow me in the streets uttering obscene words and dirty jokes.  All Arab men respects women who wear Al Shari.  This is why I feel this dress strengthens my characters and confirms my independence.”  You can hear Shabaan gnashing her teeth.

So it’s an interesting book, but I’m not quite sure about the fact checking.  For instance:

Er, what?  Ok, in 1988 Wikipedia didn’t exist, but 1) the bits about Sweden and Japan are kinda absurd, and the bit where she compares laws in one country to the statistical reality in another are kinda risible.

This genre has to include one uplifting section, so in the final section she visits the southern bits of Algeria, where she interviews people from the Al Tawariqu tribes.  Apparently in this matrilinial society, men wear the veils, rape and violence upon women are unheard of, and both men and women marry and divorce as they see fit.  It’s a kind of paradise:

See?  It’s great.  But it’s failing, because it’s coming into further contact with the northern, patriarchal parts of Algeria.

So it’s an interesting book, but it has its problems.  And all the women she interviews speak in exactly the same voice.  I had started to suspect that she had recreated these interviews from notes, but then she mentions that she has a tape recorder (“After talking in a monologue for a long time he pretended to have just noticed my tape recorder and asked me to switch it off because he was not well prepared.  ‘I’ve already done that, I’m sorry to say,’ I answered.  ‘Because my books is devoted to what women think; it is not about what men think of women.'”), so I don’t know why she has edited all these voices into sameyness.  But it doesn’t make the text particularly vibrant.

At the time this book was written, the Muslim Brotherhood were rattling their swords, but most of the women interviewed in this book seem to regard them as a pretty minor nuisance, and the book ends on a hopeful note:

Yes, that would have been nice.

Rating: Muslimacious

Useful Consumer Review

I’ve got a computer in the kitchen (as one does), but it’s very difficult to get Ethernet

cabling to where it’s at.  So I’ve been using a Devolo dLAN Highspeed Ethernet II home plug network-via-powerline plug.

And it totally sucks.  Sure, it’s slow, but worse is the latency and unreliability.  I’m using it for NFS stuff, and it’s just too crappy for words.

The throughput is pitiful, but it’s acceptable.

[larsi@stories ~]$ scp 07112011002.mp4 sparky:/tmp
07112011002.mp4                               100%  105MB 535.1KB/s   03:21

But the  latency is crappy:

[larsi@stories ~]$ ping sparky
PING sparky.gnus.org ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from sparky.gnus.org ( icmp_req=1 ttl=64 time=29.0 ms
64 bytes from sparky.gnus.org ( icmp_req=14 ttl=64 time=3.24 ms
64 bytes from sparky.gnus.org ( icmp_req=15 ttl=64 time=4.59 ms
— sparky.gnus.org ping statistics —
15 packets transmitted, 15 received, 0% packet loss, time 14020ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 2.524/8.827/29.004/8.068 ms
So before I went all drill-ey with the Ethernet cabling, I thought I’d try a different poweline model — the Netgear Powerline 200 Mbps Nano Adapter (XAVB2101 (phew)).

And look:

[larsi@stories ~]$ scp 07112011002.mp4 sparky:/tmp
07112011002.mp4                               100%  105MB   3.5MB/s   00:30

It’s like a lot faster!  7x better throughput.  The latency is kinda similar, but more even:

[larsi@stories ~]$ ping sparky
PING sparky.gnus.org ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from sparky.gnus.org ( icmp_req=1 ttl=64 time=11.7 ms
64 bytes from sparky.gnus.org ( icmp_req=2 ttl=64 time=9.04 ms
64 bytes from sparky.gnus.org ( icmp_req=12 ttl=64 time=3.36 ms
— sparky.gnus.org ping statistics —
12 packets transmitted, 12 received, 0% packet loss, time 11016ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 3.353/7.262/11.787/2.470 ms
So…  it’s better, but it’s not…  good.  A max latency of 11ms, compared to the max latency of 29ms of the Devolo.

Anyway, the comparison isn’t really fair.  The Devolos are a couple years old, so they’re previous generation tech.  But it does mean that if you’ve got old powerline gear, and you want slightly less crappy performance, you may consider buying new gear.