DIARY 2003















Sun, Aug 31

<20:56> Life without net access and other modern junk is not too bad in a place like Jyväskylä. Yesterday during a shopping trip (I finally bought the paper lamp as planned) I stopped to listen to a xylophone quartet in the promenade. This was the second time I saw and heard them. They played a movement from Vivaldi's Four Seasons, the name escapes me but it's the one with fast, repetitive, almost percussive melodies (update 7/9/2003: it is Winter, Allegro non molto). Usually performed by a string orchestra, it was utterly beautiful on the xylophones. There are probably not too many pieces which can be ported this way. On my way back from the store, they were playing The Entertainer which obviously caught my attention. It was the fullest version I know of, and it too worked splendidly.

Later that day I went clubbing with Tuomo. NuNu still has the problem of alternating between hiphop and more danceable music, so it was only proper clubbing time for about half of the evening. Tuomo's request for an accordion trance piece was fulfilled, and it was mighty cool.

Today I watched a silent movie classic, Fritz Lang's Metropolis from Germany of 1927. To Σ it up, it's probably fair to consider it the Matrix of its era, well ahead of its time. It's such an intense crossbreed of mystical and technical ideas, as well as interesting cinematic effects.

Fri, Aug 29

<21:08> Been an intensive week with downs and ups. I won't give much detail on the problems I'm having with the 8th grade (dammit, I'm a scientist, not a kindergartner ;-) but on the other hand I'm having a wonderful time with the 9th grade. I even have 2/3 of my current teaching with them. Today there was lots of idle chatter in their project class, and as usual I don't bother about it on those classes. After playing around with masking tape as a human silencer, one girl came up with the idea of a silence competition. After a few attemps, the idea caught on, it was both a fun thing for them and great for the schoolwork. Of course I don't generally allow silly games in classes, but this was just utterly appropriate and cool.

For another kewlitude, tonight I played the drums with a classic rock band at a school event. The band consists of staff members. It's probably fun for the students to see teachers do something completely delta fnord. Interestingly enough, in our first rehearsal on Wednesday I played the keyboard. I'd been told that it was an unplugged set, but as the others turned to electric guitars and bass, I suggested the percussion. The set of three pieces went well enough that I think we might continue playing together. I may switch back to the keyboard if the regular percussionist shows up.

Sun, Aug 24

<23:38> I had started reading Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix before the call to job interview. It's a story of a thoroughly delta kind of guy who is forced to move between radically different societies and lives. In addition, a grand classic of SF that defies the boundaries between subgenres like space opera and cyberpunk. Naturally, after I got the job, I got distracted by travel, apartment hunting, and getting started at work, but this week I resumed reading and now I'm finished.

It's not that I treat every nice coincidence as deeply meaningful, but this event does have its overtones. I bought the paperback sometime last autumn, as it seemed just the story for me, but didn't get into reading it until now. For some odd reason.

Previously I've only read a couple of short stories by Sterling, and it seemed his grandeur was too much to fit into those. In the novel it worked much better, ascending into quite Clarkean spheres. The ending is strangely unaccented, which is partly due to the 'neverending story' structure (as opposed to a goal-oriented plot, though there is one here as well :), but it also reflects the fact that AFAIK the book is a loose part of a series. Beginning is rather similarly formed, which makes this a relatively hard read for the first few pages. But getting into the setting is definitely worth it.

There's one passage near the end that wonderfully sums up my fascination for the book. Here's just my backport from the Finnish translation, but you get the idea:

He grieved over mankind, and the blind people who believed the Universe had rules and limitations to protect them from their own freedom. There was no protection. There were no ultimate goals. Vanity and freedom were the absolutes.

Sun, Aug 17

<19:54> As I had partly expected, Tuomo's pre-birthday party (i.e. his last Saturday night before turning 25) was full of science and roleplaying geeks, meaning some pretty interesting conversation. Not just on the use of Bernoulli numbers in numerical integration (this was one guy's Master's thesis topic) but more humane issues too. Unfortunately the party started to fade a bit too soon, as people would gradually find their ways into either the city center or their homes.

In place of a birthday cake, Tuomo had prepared a watermelon soaked in vodka. Yummy stuff. It had probably not settled for long enough (one day instead of the intended two) because the booze was quite concentrated on the center, near the opening where it had been poured in. Still it worked quite well for an intoxicating snack. Definitely something I'll try to do again some time, perhaps with some additional flavourings.

<20:14> I've been amusing myself with the little fact that the abbrevation DSL gets interesting when inverted. Particularly because both of these can be rather intoxicating; though DSL is probably more addictive. Now, people in telecom and computer stores like to talk about ADSL which is the particular kind of DSL used here, and also the most widespread in general. I preferred to say DSL more generally, especially because the one I've ordered is 512/512 kbps so where's the Asymmetry? I know it's a technology that allows asymmetric links, and I just happen to get it symmetrically capped, but it's still amusing because many people don't seem to realize the connection between DSL and ADSL.

The inverse of the abbreviation gets even better this way. The abbrev has LSDA as its inverse, which describes the infamous chemical better: LysergSäure DiethylAmide. But what's really funny is that ADSL uses a technology called DMT to modulate the data. Knowing this my expectations on the network connection are, to paraphrase a Beatles song, growing so incredibly high. ;-)

Fri, Aug 15

<21:26> My first working week @voimax is finished, and I must restate the nice feelings I've had so far. The social aspect of the work has turned out to work quite well for me, despite my initial preconceptions. Delta force rules. But now that I can tell I enjoy the work, I'm starting to worry about the quality of my teaching, which obviously isn't particularly high. Of course it helps a lot that I know my shit better than the teachers I had back in the day, and it contributes to my enjoyment a lot. One way of putting the problem is that I now have a very complex responsibility. In previous jobs I've had responsibilities of getting something to work, but it's way harder to measure how my students get it (besides exams, which are never enough to assess true understanding).

Today's been nice in other respects too. There was the 'mopotus' event at school which means the rookies' (7th class) initiation party, intended to reduce the bullying associated with informal initiations. I only heard of this a few minutes before start, as it was in the place of one physics class of mine. I thought it would be nice to see it from a social point of view, as I didn't have anything urgent to prepare.

It turned out there was similar mopotus-initiation for new teachers as well! We had to go on the stage to dance Macarena and Las Ketchup. Fun it was, got some nice comments afterwards from my physics students, and of course I turned the discussion into the physics of Macarena (i.e. how the energy changes between different forms during a jump up and down =).

Right now Lauri and Lotta are on their way back from their afternoon visit of Jyväskylä. This was a nice surprise which was possible as they'd been in a summer cottage somewhere near Tampere, having borrowed a car. As we'd only seen each other over a year ago, there was potentially lots to discuss, but of course we'd been emailing now and then. Nothing spectacular today except some Chinese food, outdoor pubbing and a brief trip in the nature reserve near my place.

Now I should prepare for Tuomo's Saturday night party and do some shopping. My flat is still fairly incomplete for living, though it does exude minimalism :-).

Tue, Aug 12

<21:02> Life is feeling quite cyclical these days, with so many current constituents of my life pointing back to my heyday of the IB in Kuopio. There was the last time I've done this kind of teaching, though of course now it's much more serious, but it feels quite the same.

Strangely enough I've enjoyed the work so far, even if the challenges I'm facing are not intellectual enough to my tastes. For instance, my kind of fun is doing Laplace transforms for a fuzzy control system, such as I did back at Metso in Varkaus. On the other hand, the biggest challenges here are mostly organizational and social. The work is fun almost in the same sense as clubbing or watching a movie; not something I want to do for the rest of my life. In other words, great gap year material. Not to mention how much I value this sort of work ethically, compared to some R&D for a greedy company.

More Kuopio pointers: I'm living practically in the city center with no 'net connection. Reminds me of my pre-IB year without a phone, having to walk a few blocks to a payphone. This concrete building harks back to my IB1 home, where I enjoyed living even without an audio system or Internet. I guess it was good for my studies and social life. The 10base-T I had in Cambridge spoiled me forever. I felt like a serious addict yesterday when I ordered an ADSL connection. It'll take about a month to start working (oh this promised land of information society called gNokia/Linux ;-). Wonder if I can manage to rediscover the simple pleasures of life during that period.

Sat, Aug 9

<18:25> Back in Varkaus to collect more things for my JKL apartment. It's been easy to notice what I need only after spending some time there. Interesting how frustrating and hard it can be to move in to a new place, despite having done it many times before. Though of course it's a little easier every time.

This time I'm also facing a completely new working environment, which adds to the pressure. Particularly because it's a fairly social kind of work, and I'm used to doing things in greater solitude. Interestingly, there was a Slashdot discussion on introversion with a related article on the same day. I'm definitely more introverted than extroverted, which I again noticed after the first day at work yesterday, but I believe people are not as hardwired as these dichotomies sometimes make it sound. It's all about change, after all... go Delta!

There was another, more irritating back-fire from work as it turned out my Cambridge Master's degree is not considered equal to a Finnish Master's, which means I get paid less. In general this is a huge amount of suction (imagine a Microsoft vacuum cleaner in a black hole), but here it's particularly funny because I was chosen for the position because of my combined knowledge of English and science. I've already sent a complaint email to a number of people and look forward to replies and remedies. PRKL!

Fri, Aug 8

<00:30> /home/teknohog ->

This probably won't be online on time, but what the hack. Moving is always a big hassle and currently one problem is the lack of inter-networking. I'm trying to find out if there's cable TV in the building, if not then there's always DSL. In fact I'd prefer DSL, but I might be able to transfer my current cable connection from Varkaus with less hassle. I guess if I need an exit, fast I can count on them to call my cellphone and give the nearest location ;-).

Work begins tomorrow, though classes only start next Tuesday. I'm still trying to figure out what the heck I'm doing there. At least the vice principal (who seems to be my closest superior thus far) agrees that I'm not a real teacher and this autumn is considered something of an apprenticeship for me. Even if it's a position with a fair amount of responsibility.

Sun, Aug 3

<17:59> This week I spent a few days in Tampere, hanging out with Milja and Jussi with no particular activities. On Monday I got a call from a high school in Jyväskylä concerning a job interview, which was a nice coincidence as I was about to go there on Wednesday.

Monday night we rented a DVD of K-PAX which was already on my list of things to see. It was surprisingly good SF despite the rather mixed style that included the naivete fit for the typical Hollywood movie. Ending was sufficiently open, but didn't leave too much room for different subjective conclusions. The movie does make a good 'introduction to SF' for a mainstream audience, where Kevin Spacey's leading performance is not a bad thing at all.

Wednesday morning I was on my way to Jyväskylä, and the hot weather persisted, leaving me sweating like a hog when I arrived at the school at 10 am. I was interviewed for a temporary position of a math and science teacher, and immediately offered the job. It seemed sufficiently interesting, with the school being fairly 1337 (for a Finnish junior high) and half of my teaching being in English. In fact it seemed that my fluency with English in math and science was my key asset here. The position starts next Friday and ends in December.

After Wednesday morning I've basically been looking for a decent flat in JKL. The school is fairly close to the city center, where I'd like to live anyway, but that has an unfortunate effect on the availability and prices. In any case, after I have an apartment, there might be further opportunities in the city as I already have some contacts at the Physics department.

Risto A. Paju