Sunday, September 30, 2007

The little traps of Barcelona

When it has rained or when the streets have been washed, water ca accumulate under some of the sidewalk stones. This particular spot on my way to work is the most dangerous. When walking on the stones yucky muddy water splashes up on ones feet. Even when biking over the stones the splash can reach ones feet.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Translation From PR-Speak to English of Selected Portions of the "Announcing PRISM" press release

Since a large number of people I know are in science and therefore may have encountered the recent press release from a coalition of reactionary scientific publishers - I have decided to supply a translation to plain english of the press release very close in style to the quite famous "Macrovision translation"
(see BoingBoing for context)


New York, NY, August 23, 2007: The formation of a coalition of scholarly societies and publishers was announced today in an effort to safeguard the scientific and medical peer-review process and educate the public about the risks of proposed government interference with the scholarly communication process.
  • "New York, NY, August 23, 2007: We, closed access publishers, sense that the profit from our current business model is in danger."

The Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine is a coalition launched with developmental support from the Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) to alert Congress to the unintended consequences of government interference in scientific and scholarly publishing.

The group has launched a website at, where it articulates the PRISM Principles, an affirmation of publishers' contribution to science, research, and peer review, and an expression of support for continued private sector efforts to expand access to scientific information. (

"We are enthusiastic about this initiative and the potential of our new website to educate policy makers and citizens about our efforts to increase access to information, to alert them to the very real threat to peer review that ill-considered government interference represents, and to explore the ways in which we can safeguard peer review as a critical component of scientific integrity," said Patricia Schroeder, president and CEO of AAP.
  • "Only by associating our current business model with the method of peer review can we hope to effectively lie to policy makers and citizens about our efforts to keep access to information closed"

Mrs. Schroeder stressed that government interference in scientific publishing would force journals to give away their intellectual property and weaken the copyright protections that motivate journal publishers to make the enormous investments in content and infrastructure needed to ensure widespread access to journal articles.
  • "If peope are not publishing in our closed access journals that is like the same as...uhmm...stealing from us...yeah!

"The free market of scholarly publishing is responsive to the needs of scholars and scientists and balances the interests of all stakeholders."
  • "We sure smoke a lot of crack"

Critics argue that peer reviewed articles resulting from government funded research should be available at no cost. However, the expenses of peer review, promotion, distribution and archiving of articles are paid for by private sector publishers, and not with tax dollars.
  • "We dont actually pay the scientists who do peer review, but let's for the sake of argument pretend we do."

Mrs. Schroeder pointed out that these expenses amount to hundreds of millions of dollars each year for non-profit and commercial publishers. "Why would a federal agency want to duplicate such expenses instead of putting the money into more research funding?" she said.
  • "Why should anyone do be allowed to do something we do if they do it better and cheaper?"

The PRISM website includes factual information and reasoned commentary designed to educate citizens and policy makers, to dispel inaccuracies and counter the rhetorical excesses indulged in by some advocates of open access, who believe that no one should have to pay for information that is peer reviewed at the expense of non-profit and commercial publishers.
  • "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength."

Featured on the PRISM website are backgrounders on peer review, dissemination and access, preservation of the scholarly record and new approaches publishers are taking along with discussion about the risks of government intervention to the sustainability of peer review, copyright infringement, the possibility of selective bias in the record of science, federal budget uncertainties and inefficient allocation of government funding that duplicates private sector investments. Importantly, the site has information to assist the public in making their concerns known to Congress.
  • "We wish you, the public, to lie for us - and we have supplied you with the means to do so."

"We want to share as much scientific and medical information as possible with the entire world. That's why we got into this business in the first place," Mrs. Schroeder said.
  • "We want to continue to profit from restricting the access to scientific and medical information. That's why we got into this business in the first place"

Anyone who wishes to sign on to the PRISM Principles may do so on the site.
  • "Gullible fools are welcome to sign"

Editors: For more information, visit the PRISM website at

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Barcelona has very recently gotten system of "citybikes" like the "Bycykler" we know in Copenhagen. The system is different from the old system in Copenhagen in several ways however. Most of them enabled by new technology. The system is called Bicing (and here is a small comment on how it relates to similar system in other cities)

The homepage has a nice view of the bikestations (as an overlay of google maps).

The procedure for using Bicing is that one orders a plastic card from the internet or from the centrally located office. The plastic card is used to free a bike at the bikestands. The card itself costs 24 Euros and the registration requires submission of a valid credit card number. While rides shorter than 30 minutes are free, longer rides cost a small fee. And if one fails to return a bike 300Euros are withdrawn from the credit card (!).

Mostly the system works ok. In the beginning I expirienced a little paranoia and insecurity when returning bikes because of possible fines. No recipt is given when the bikes are returned.

While the system seems to work well overall, some small problems can be observed. Hopefully just starting trouble. The first installations of the system started in January 2007. For example it is a bit confidence sapping when one sees a stand like this:

And the system then says "Sorry no bikes available". Another day many stands were not working because of "Connection problems". Probably it was just start-up problems. I've used the system for almost 2 months now, and it seems to have fewer and fewer problems.

The net of roads with bike-paths is by no means complete, but it is adequate for my current use. Here is a map of current and planned bike-paths.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Zapatero at the lab

Today our building had a prestigious visit. Jose Luis Rodrigues Zapatero came to see it. People assembled on the balcony to see - great idea. Then Zapatero can see an entire building of non-working scientists. Maybe to compensate two group leaders who would present their labs wore labcoats (just for the visit of course).

The visit was slightly delayed so I got bored and went inside. When he came Zapatero actually went unexpectedly to our side of the building first. So while everyone were outside I was in the office which he passed. So I smiled and nodded to the prime minister. Cool. Maybe I should join the PSOE while I am here? Hmm. Maybe I should learn Spanish and Catalan first.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I just spent a week in Elche. I was there to learn about some of the earlier work on SH3 domains. Work which my thesis hopefully will expand. The learning was good. I now see much more of the big picture of my work. And I also got to work with Estefania, a post-doc, who will also expand on the same earlier work as me (but for another protein domain). This is nice. Hopefully we can share a lot of the debugging and improvements to earlier techniques that we will both need.

5 long days of learning is tough though. Fortunately we left a little earlier wednesday to do a sightseeing of Elche. Elche seems to grow a lot. The part western part of Elche where my hotel was seems to be all new (all the buildings seem new). The center looks more like a real city, with a mix of old and new houses.

5 random observations:

1) Elche is famous for its palms. And there really is a lot of palms, and nice palm gardens. And all of the public parks seem to have palms.

Palms in front of the hotel where I stayed. I should have taken more photos of palms.

2) Whereas Barcelona has Bicing and quite extensive possiblity for biking, this is not the case in Elche. There are no bike-paths. And Estephania has a car, her boyfriend too. Anybody who wants to go somewhere has a car. What is this? Texas?

3) The trafic in roundabouts ( is more interesting (and fast!) than what I am used to. Maybe this is a result of spanish driving mentality. However, the roundabouts are also built with curved entries that enable high speed, almost "tangential" entry to the trafic of the roundabout (as opposed to the danish version which is with entry that is orthogonal to the tangent and forces a slower, sharper right turn to enter the traffic).

4) In the summer the university of Elche allows kindergartens to use some of the university facilities. And to eat in the canteen. Wow, 50-80 kindergarten children make a lot of noise!

5) Close to the new part of Elche, where I stayed, is an old industrial zone. Many of the old factory halls have no been converted into night clubs.

Heres a nightclub with a pirate theme, yay! (maybe a Columbus theme, hmm)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Lises visit

Last weekend Lise came to visit for the first time. Yay! She met me at the lab friday at around 15. The rest of the day we mostly spent shopping. In the evening we had dinner at the excellent organic restaurant mentioned below, and we discovered another organic restaurant close by.
Saturday we did more shopping. I actually need some new clothes, and Lise didn't mind the shopping. However, we did find some time for girls-clothes-shops also.

We also visited the lab:

Saturday evening was night of ... So the trams ran all night and everyone seemed to converge on the beach with fireworks. This sort of conflicted with our plans for a nice quiet dinner in Barceloneta. We did have the dinner, but with the background sounds of a warzone (the fireworks).

Sunday shops are closed, so we decided to go for a relaxing walk. We stated to stroll down Avinguida Diagonal. On our way we noticed a pretty street crossing Diagonal - the Rambla del Poblenou. So we went down the Rambla del Poblenou - which turned out to be a very nice street all the way. Poblenou is a nice part of Barcelona with many modernized buildings. The Rambla del Poblenou also leads straight to the beach, so we sat down and enjoyed the beach for a while.

All in all it was great. One can really enjoy just a weekend together. A long weekend is better of course, but just a weekend is surprisingly nice. I still look forward to a full week of vacation with Lise though. Just 2 weeks to go.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


As readers of my blog may know, I strongly prefer organic food products to industrially produced, chemically polluted products. I was a little worried that I would have to live with industry/chemistry foods here in Barcelona. On our scouting mission to Barcelona in January, Lise and I found one very small organic foods shop, and one very nice organic, vegetarian restaurant (I just googled, and it also got nice reviews on this random site).

The nearest supermarket to the apartment is a very large "Carrefour". So the first times I shopped there I scoured it for organics. I found few (but important ;o) products: Milk, Musli, chocolate (dark), tea, pasta and tomato sauce. Ok, I can live off that.

Things seem to start to move down here, however. A few weeks into the stay, I saw this stand outside the Carrefour.

In which they handed out leaflets about "how and why" organics. Inside the Carrefour there was a pretty girl handing out the leaflets. And now Carrefour has made a (very small) special section, in which they've collected most of their organic products, so they are easy to find. Great.

Later when I was walking to the central Placa Catalunya, I passed this shop:

The sign says "organic". I didn't go in, but I'm hoping for something like Egefeld (which is a fantastic shop, by the way). All in all I'm mildly optimistic for the organic aspects of my stay :o)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The PRBB building (and One-year party)

The building where I work, PRBB, is a research park, very similar in concept to the one in Copenhagen.

Here's the building (the round one)

It houses the private research institution CRG (somewhat similar to BRIC) and it also houses labs for a nearby research hospital, and other labs. And the building is also very new. Soon after I arrived there was actually a one-year party for the building.

With some strange entertainment

and quite a lot of people

Fewer people as it got late

As it is a new building, the labs and offices are nice and new. However, not all of CRG has actually moved in yet, and this means (apparently) that some servers are on the other side of Barcelona. This should also explain the extremely slow internet connection from the labs (almost too slow to talk on Skype).

Monday, June 18, 2007

The apartment

Since I arrived, I've stayed in an apartment that the lab rents to accomodate visiting researchers (great idea!). The new people like Cedrik and me are then allowed to live there for a couple of months until we find something ourselves. This is extremely nice, as it allows me to be able to be down here and actually visit the apartments/rooms that I might rent. And it removed a lot of stress from the whole idea of coming here, that I didn't have to try to rent rooms over the internet, maybe in Spanish.

The apartment itself is nice. It is a three room apartment with a nice kitchen.

My room on the right.

My room

Most of the furniture is from IKEA, so I feel immediately at home :o). There is even the same chair that I had in my room in Værløse

Sunday, June 10, 2007

UPF - Pompeu Fabra

While walking around (looking for wifi, I think) found the main campus of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

The new prestige university in Barcelona. And the university into which I will be enrolled, I think. Unfortunately they don't seem to be famous for science (yet! just see in 3 years).

Well on the campus there was a large banner advertising an exibition on Pompeu Fabra, which was open only two days more. And since I did not know who he was - I decided that now was a good time to find out.

So I went in and discovered that Mr. Fabra was a linguist and the scholar who, among other things, established the modern orthography of the Catalan language. Of course I could probably have found out the same by looking him up in Wikipedia, but this was a little more fun.

You can see the electronic edition of the exposition here.

Internet cafe

As I left Denmark on the 29th and actually worked at IBM until the 31st of May, I brought my IBM laptop to be able to work from Barcelona. However I quickly found out that the IBM Virtual Private Network client (the "AT&T Client") was somehow blocked by the firewall in the lab. Drat! I spent the good part of a day looking for an internet-cafe or some wireless. I looked in the part of town I had been before, and where I thought there should be a good chance of finding some. However, I looked with no success. The Starbucks I knew did not have wifi, and maybe the ubiquity of wifi and net in hotels and hostels has killed the good old internet cafes. I didn't find them. And I decided not to go "war-walking".

At the end of the day, or maybe it was the next day, I walked around the UPF main campus, and I found a small internet cafe a couple of streets away. But they did not have wifi - or wired access for my laptop. The lady in the cafe knew where I could find a cafe with wifi, though. And she managed to explain it to me in Spanish. And I found it!

Great - not only did they have nice fast wifi, but the price was excellent too. "Buy a beer and get free wifi"!

I have returned several times - gotta check the IBM mail....ehrm, or something.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


When I walked to the police station in Barceloneta, during my paperwork treasurehunt, I passed by this house

It looks like a smaller Barcelona edition of Ungdomshuset på Jagtvej. Later I learned that there are several other houses like this in Barcelona. Supposedly there is a rule which makes it legal to occupy houses which have been unused for some time.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Paperwork treasurehunt

On Thursday I did the paperwork treasurehunt. To be able to complete my contract and get a bank account I was told I should get my N.I.E number. I guessed that with the EU common labor market this should be easy. And it was, sort of. I had been warned by Cedrik that I should get up early to wait in line at the office. However, on wednesday I walked by the office just to check. The lady looked at me and asked if I had a ticket - when I said no she rolled her eyes and told me to come back early the next day. Ok. Cedrik was right.

So I got up early and was at the office about 7:40. The office opens at 9:00 but quite a long queue had already formed. Good thing I brought a book. When the office opened the queue was processed at reasonable speed but the "processing" was actually just that people got a number to wait on like in a bank or a post office. After about an hour more of waiting my number was up. The lady who processed my NIE application spoke english, so the paperwork was smooth. She also instructed me that the next steps in my application were

1) Go to a bank and pay 6,70Euro to get a stamp.
2) Take the stamp and go to the police station to have my actual certificate printed.

These last two steps went well. No lines, great.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Tuesday I left Denmark. I had packed 16,4kg of stuff - almost all of it clothes. As carry-on I had 2 laptops though. It seems sensible to pack lightly as I will move apartment at least once pretty soon after I arrive. The lab has rented an apartment to be able to accommodate guest-researchers. And it offered that I could stay in that apartment until I find an apartment (or room) myself. Very nice.

The flight was uneventful - but notice the plentiful leg-room. Ahh, the joy of checking in on-line.

Actually I almost forgot Lise's nice goodbye present in the plane. Yikes.

I arrived in Barcelona Tuesday evening. The weather was perfect - warmer than in Denmark, as I made my way to the lab to meet Cedrik, my lab-apartment roommate. He was there and I even arrived before he expected. I arrived at around 19:15, but the secretary had said that I would be there around 19:30. Nice, but had she gone online to see that the plane was late? I had told her that I would be at the lab around 19.

Cedrik showed me the way to the apartment. The T4 tram-line seems to be the optimal transportation as we don't have bikes yet. The apartment is nice, more on that later.

Friday, May 18, 2007


I've applied for and received a 3-year ph.d. at the Center for Genomic Research in the Systems biology group under Luis Serrano. And now, I am actually getting used to the idea.

I believe that I have a place to stay (for the first couple of months), and I've pretty much settled on which day to leave. So May 28 is my last day in Denmark (except for visits), for quite a while.

I hope to blog more from Barcelona - instead of sending mails.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

"Either you're with us, or you're with the liquid!"

...I'm not sure that is what President Bush said exactly, but judging from the from the annoyance of bringing your toothpaste or shampoo onto a plane, it must be what he meant.

And since the exact number of complaints seem to matter to the current government, I wrote a letter to the minister of justice, Lene Espersen. Please write something similar to her to stop the "war on moisture". Airport security right now is completely idiotic, and not based on any real assesment of danger.

Kære Lene Espersen,

Vil du ikke nok være flink at stoppe vanviddet med vilkårlige
begrænsninger på hvor megen tandpasta, og shampoo man kan tage med i
sin håndbaggage på flyveture.

Reglerne er helt åbenlyst vilkårlige, og ubegrundede[1] og jeg vil
vove at påstå at fokus på vilkårlige og ubegrundede regler om
tandpasta og shampoo svækker alles tillid til kompetencen i
sikkerhedskontrollerne. Samtidig vil denne fokus medvirke til at
distrahere sikkerhedsfolk fra virkelige trusler [2]

Hvis du har tid, så skriv endelig tilbage ang. hvordan du vil få
stoppet de idiotiske regler, og forhindre at lignende regler kommer
til verden.

Venlig hilsen
Anders Nørgaard, flyrejsende



Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Busy at work

So...I've been out of student life for almost 3 months now, and it is OK. I don't feel i have more time now than I did before. Even though I have evenings and weekends free now, without the flexibility of student hours, one has to squeeze all shopping and errands into the few hours that are available.
Fortunately my job at IBM is still interesting so I won't complain too much. Being at IBM it is fortunately ok to have a moderately geeky humor. So here's a video I find funny. My dad does too. :o)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Prisons and parking tickets

Today I read a story about privatized prisons around the world in the Economist. It reminded me about a conversation I had with a colleague yesterday about parking tickets in Copenhagen. My colleague mentioned some instances of parking tickets that he had been given, but that he did not find fair.

One example was a ticket for parking slightly outside the demarcation and thereby intruding upon a path made to serve Copenhagen tour-boats. However at the time of parking (winter) no tour boats are active.

Another was given for parking closer than the requisite 10m away from intersections (maybe 8 or 9) meters away.

My colleague wondered that rigid mechanical enforcement of the rules was applied instead of a more balance and sensibility based approach (no need for the boat-path in winter, 9 m is sufficient for traffic safety).

The reason for this is, to me, clear. The enforcement of parking rules has been sold to a private company, and as private companies maximize profits, they have no interest in ever doing sensible interpretations of rules if this interpretation is not in their economic favor.

How does this relate to prisons. Well, are we able to formulate contracts that can protect prisoners against always being underprioritized relative to economic gain of prison-companies? Is it ethical for parking ticket-companies to lobby for more restrictive parking regulations, that will lead to more parking tickets? Is it ethical for prison-companies to lobby for longer prison sentences?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ineffective C++

I'm currently porting my protein simulation program from Java to C++. At the same time I have started reading the classic book by Scott Meyers "Effective C++" (which, incredibly, does not have a wikipedia-page).

Item 19 in the book is a list of things to consider when designing a new class. It strikes me that the considerations are a strict superset of the things to consider when designing a new class in Java.
  1. How should objects of your new type be created and destroyed?
  2. How should object initialization differ from object assignment?
  3. What does it mean for objects of your new type to be passed by value?
  4. What are the restrictions on legal values for your new type?
  5. Does your new type fit into an inheritance graph?
  6. What kind of type conversions are allowed for your new type?
  7. What operators and functions make sense for the new type?
  8. What standard functions should be disallowed?
  9. Who should have access to the members of you new type?
  10. What is the undeclared interface of the new type?
  11. How general is your new type?
The corresponding book for Java "Effective Java" doesn't have a similar item, but I'd say that 1,2,3,6 clearly don't apply to Java. 8 only applies in a very limited sense. Almost half the points to worry about, to create a class in Java, compared to C++. Hmmm....