Squirrel Imprint

There were pine trees outside the house were I grew up in Mölnlycke and occasionally you could see red squirrels playing in them. Later the trees were cut down to make way for a new house next doors and a better road. I really missed those squirrels.

Maybe that's why I'm still so fond of squirrels. I know it's true what I said back in 2007: "Everyday I see a squirrel is a happy day!" Since that was written after a trip to Brookfield outside Atlanta, I suspect that what I really referred to were chipmunks (in Swedish "jordekorre" which translates into "earth squirrel" and I know that they are not squirrels).

However, it could have been the Eastern Gray Squirrel, although I have seen more of them in the UK than in the US. I remember seeing them in Regent's Park on one of my frequent visits to London. According to research, the spread throughout the UK is still very much the result of human intervention.
From London Spring 2008
During a trip to Kingston in Canada in 2006, I came across a black squirrel for the first time. I didn't have a decent camera at that time (although I used my at that time advanced mobile phone to get some snaps of the city), why I have to rely on memory.

Squirrels are often associated with hoarding or in a more positive way, making sure you have enough when/if bad times hit you. I recently told my uncle that I'm the squirrel when it comes to saving things from the family past, hoping that sometime my now young relatives will become interested in them and have the space to harbour them.

In Swedish we sometimes talk about being stuck in an "ekorrhjul" (squirrel wheel=treadmill). I try not to think in that way, although lately it has been a challenge and I've felt more like U2's "Stuck in a Moment".

The squirrel Ratatoskr played a role in Norse mythology as a messenger between the eagle at the top of the world tree Yggdrasil and the dragon dwelling at the roots. Apparently it was more into gossip and saying nasty things. Not a good role model!

I still like them though, and I put up a special feeder to provide nuts during the winter. For Christmas I bought a coaster with a squirrel and a "tomte" at the Christmas Fair at Tjolöholm Castle. The painter Jan Bergerlind is a master at capturing the right "old times" feeling!


Dirty, Dull, and Dangerous

No, it's not me I try to describe (come to thing of it, it can be a proper description when I kill slugs). Apparently, this is the job description for robots. At a recent Swedish conference on robotics professor Danica Kragic Jensfelt talked about the drivers behind the development in different countries. She also made us rest assured that washing up after dinner by hand is a job we never need to be afraid of loosing out on to robots...

There is no surprise that the US is driving the development of robots for military applications. Japan seems to focus more on developing help to manage the aging population there. In Europe robotic support in industrial processes by robots has been a topic for a while.

I can't help but thinking that maybe what is considered dirty, dull and dangerous also varies among people from different cultures. It's probably a gender issue as well. Interestingly, friends of mine named their automower Bo-Astrid, probably reflecting that both of them, man and wife, used to do the mowing before. There is some research on this too. According to a study made in 2008, people tend to want robots to do work that require memorization, keen perceptual abilities, and service-orientation. At the same time, they prefer people in occupations that require artistry, evaluation, judgment and diplomacy.

I'm not sure if that's because they think people are better at theses tasks or if they are afraid of loosing the relatively fun jobs. No wonder that they also felt more positively toward robots doing jobs with people rather than in place of people. However, the list of quite interesting, not so dirty nor dangerous jobs that are predicted to be accomplished by robots in the near future is unnervingly long.

Long before robots were plentiful, the concept "dirty, dangerous and demeaning" was coined to describe certain kinds of jobs some of which are taken over by robots. I wonder when a job will be too demeaning for a robot?

Drones are often hailed as the solution to many dirty, dull and dangerous jobs. However, it seems that they are now facing another kind of danger: people (like me) wanting to shoot them down when they are hovering around taking pictures without your permission. I'm looking forward to when cheap versions of the DroneDefender from Battelle hit the market.

Robots can be cute as well. Wall-E is one of my favourite films all times. When accompanying my nephew to the Science Fiction Bookstore in Gothenburg, I found this amazing book on how to make crochet robots: Crobots. My ambition is to make at least one! Mum, please help me!


What's Cooking?

Just around the corner from where my aunt lived in Chelsea was one of Gordon Ramsay's own restaurants. We somehow didn't get around booking a table there before she moved to Worthing.

Although there's a lot of shouting and swearing coming from Ramsay, I think of him as very much oriented towards strength-based development and sustainability. This is especially prominent in the shows where he tries to help hotel and restaurant owners. He is very committed to making a sustainable business where everyone is in position to do his or her best, although this sometimes means for some people to swap roles or step back. He tries to compose a manageable and profitable meny, often made from local food. He is dedicated to keeping the kitchen clean and not let things go to waste. He looks at how to make the most out of the building and tries to win the hearts of the local customers, providing a nice and relaxed atmosphere. No wonder he got an OBE for helping to develop the service profession (his charity work probably helped too).
From UK May 2013
There's an awfully lot of metaphors related to cooking. One of the most well known is of course "the boiling frogparable.  However, it's not true that frogs stay in hot water and boil to death because (sadly) some scientists set out to test it.

Other examples are "you're toast", "the idea is only half-baked", "boil down to", "a recipe for disaster", "key ingredient", "too many cooks", "icing on the cake", "full plate", "sizzling with anticipation", and "food for thought". Many cooking-oriented metaphors are for some reason used in politics: "grill the candidates", "whip up a new policy", and "stir up trouble".

According to Tien Wong, differences between entrepreneurs can be compared to those between chefs. He claims that there are three kinds of chefs (using another set of metaphors): the scientist who in detail follows a very complicated recipe, the magician who finds inspiration in going to the market and then conjuring up a creation when coming back to the kitchen, and the artist who dosen’t work off an exact recipe, but instead relies on instinct and creativity to work within his themes.
From Höstmarknad sep 2014
He then moves on to giving examples of entrepreneurs who follows these three chef stereotypes. I agree with the analysis that the "artist entrepreneur" is probably most likely to succeed although it is the magicians such as Twitter, Google and Facebook that get most attention.

I wonder how to characterise Ramsay as an entrepreneur. I think he's mostly an artist, both as a chef and as an entrepreneur. At least he gets it right most of the time. In 2015, Forbes listed his earnings at $60 million for the previous 12 months, and ranked him the 21st highest earning celebrity in the world. Let's just hope in time he'll get a little more understanding towards vegetarians.


Feminist Code

In 1982 Suzette Haden Elgin decided to test the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, by constructing a feminist language called Láadan and included it in her science fiction Native Tongue series.

To some extent Láadan is traditional in the sense that it includes markers for both speech-acts (such as particles indicating a statement, a request, a promise, a warning, or a question) and grammatical tense (such as particles for present, past, or future). But it also contains features that to me feel a bit more associated with a feminist perspective such as that the command particle is not often used, unless you are talking to small children. I also very much like the evidence particle that indicates to what extent a statement should be considered trustworthy. Here you can choose among the following:
  • Known to speaker because perceived by speaker, externally or internally

  • Known to speaker because self-evident

  • Perceived by speaker in a dream

  • Assumed true by speaker because speaker trusts source

  • Assumed false by speaker because speaker distrusts source

  • Assumed false by speaker because speaker distrusts source who is assumed having evil intent 
  • Imagined or invented by speaker, hypothetical

  • Used to indicate that the speaker states a total lack of knowledge as to the validity of the matter
Another interesting feature is the sheer number of specific words for being alone:
  • alone at last after tiresome experience or people
  • alone "in the bosom of your family"
  • alone in a crowd of people
  • alone and glad of it
  • to be alone
  • alone with terror
  • alone with grief
From Oberammergau 2007
I'm a bit surprised to not find "being alone in a relationship" among them though.

I must admit that I'm a fan of the weak version of the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis since I do believe that language to some extent has an influence on the way we think. That is why I think it's good for you to learn several languages. Similar to the underlying cognitive metaphors we use without thinking, we also sometimes have a gender perspective built into our language.

This can sometimes be very confusing. For example, in Hebrew all nouns have grammatical gender. However, this does not indicate that the object is of a specific gender. For example, a book is masculine and an animal is feminine. This, of course, calls into question to what extent "God" should be considered a "he" just because the word has the male grammatical gender. This might be especially interesting for people in Jönköping to consider, since they speak a Swedish dialect prone to add grammatical gender (in direct violation of "proper" Swedish) and where many belong to a Christian community.
From Celtic Christmas 2015
It would be interesting to develop a feminist programming language. This could be similar to the Volvo YCC project, which had the stated goal of meeting the particular needs of female drivers but ended up with many innovations appreciated by both men and women.

This idea has of course already been proposed and made fun of. In 2013, Arielle Schlesinger posted an article on feminism and programming languages (please note the very interesting and respectful comments!). Not long after, the C+= (C-plus-Equality, or See Equality) programming language for feminists was published. Although the authors claim that it was designed as a playful joke in the hacker spirit and tradition, I agree with computer science student Molly White. In a world with very few women working with ICT and a lot of harassment for those few who dare to enter this field, the last thing needed is a text full negative stereotypes against feminists, mockery of various groups of people, and transphobia even if it was meant as a joke. If you don't believe me, check out some of the responses to Ari's article such as this one (including the comments).

I wish Ari Schlesinger all the best and good luck with your PhD thesis. I look forward to learn more about your work!