DIARY 2005















Thu, Jun 30

<15:41 EDT> Today my supervisor left BNL, and I too had to move out from the apartment that had been booked for our research group. I'm back in the dormitory, this time Cavendish house -- possibly named after the department where I did my undergrad studies :) Anyway, I now have a few days for basically slacking off, and I planned to spend tomorrow somewhere else in Long Island. Now, I think, is also the time for some more.. em.. interesting observations of the American culture.

The disposables! I've lost count of the cups I used for hot drinks during the seminar, and they are not even paper, but styrofoam! (They naturally have warning labels for hot contents :) I got so pissed off that I started to carry a real mug with me, inconvenient though it may be on some occasions. At the cafeteria, almost everything is made of disposable styrofoam, even the plates.

Speaking of which, the vegetarian/vegan catering level is abominable compared to Britain, for example. There seems to be meat in many foods that are not carnivorous 'by nature', for example lentil soup. I've ended up eating a little meat on a couple of occasions, since I've had not much choice -- Brookhaven being in the back of beyond this Empire State. This, by the way, is not intended as a complaint towards the BNL cafeteria, but an observation about the American culture in general. Or as general as my very limited experience tells, but at least I've not met another vegetarian so far. Thus I believe it's a question of culture and demand.

Wed, Jun 29

<21:07 EDT> Whoa, it's been a week since the last post \(^-^)/ Guess I've been busy after all. Since the seminar finished on Friday, with a few garden parties, I've been working on some math and code. It's been massive fun to hack on Bessel functions, contour integrals and C++ after a couple of years' break. We're developing a model for dealing with particle physics measurements, and it reminds me a lot of the image processing stuff I've done previously in industrial settings. But this time the difference is that the people around me know a lot more about it than me :)

Tue, Jun 21

<21:16 EDT> Starting on Monday, my life here at BNL has stabilized a lot, with a more proper apartment (shared with a couple of colleagues) and work/studies to do. This week I'm attending a RHIC seminar. This all means I won't be noding out of boredom for a while, but rather out of the urge to share some new experiences. For example, I just had a meal at the bar (on the premises), and I was positively surprised by the beer selection -- it's not all Bud and related water-pee. I had a pint of Blue Point oatmeal stout, which at least to me is something that you can only dream of even in most British pubs.

On my way back to the lodgings, I ran into some fascinating wildlife. I'd already seen a gopher marmot and a baby deer, both here at BNL, which was pretty amazing to me. But tonight I was rather tripped out by legions of fireflies in the dark forest surrounding me. I'd seen glowworms before in Finland, but the number and flashiness of these guys was something way more interesting.

<22:05 EDT> My trip seems to be full of synchronicities, starting from some eerie stuff in the Eco novel that relates to current events despite its 20+ years of age. However, Monday makes for an interesting isolated event. I woke up from a dream where I was slaughtering a huge fish (a pike, to be exact) and being grossed out by its muscle twitches long after decapitation. It's something I've done in real life, but in the dream there was a particular accent on the muscle texture. The fish was about a meter long, and I could feel its pale flesh flapping against my skin.

In the evening I ended up eating sushi, as my colleagues were going, and I had nothing better in mind. It was my first proper sushi, and I loved it, despite the weird textures of raw fish. One guy who was more experienced with sushi, mentioned we should try sea urchin, as it was a kind of extreme, either really good or disgusting depending on how well it's prepared. Unfortunately, it was not available there at the time. They call it "uni" in Japanese. I guess that wraps it up back to the Finnish 'dream'.

Mon, Jun 20

<00:11 EDT> Back at Compton House, room 2N14 -- doesn't that sound like a transistor model?-) It's been an odd day of waiting, and in retrospect it doesn't feel particularly long or boring, being in a new environment and reading Foucault's Pendulum. A conspiracy book feels quite natural reading here in an American government base :) It has even given me some new inspiration for the Manhattan trip, given that you should find its namesake device there. Over here, things are finally starting to work out as I've just received my luggage and found my supervisor :)

Sun, Jun 19

<19:16 EDT> Just realized it might be sensible to note the timezone here as well :)

<19:17 EDT> Great, it works :) With that out of the way, back to Brookhaven Lab, Long Island, NY, where I arrived last night. I had a nice initial tour of the island as I got here from the JFK airport with a shuttle. It's like a shared taxi, a neat idea that I don't recall seeing in Finland. I was one of four people onboard, and the trip of over two hours took me through an endless suburb of New York. After the typical middle-class neighbourhoods near the airport, things turned quite Gatsbyesque. I even saw a poster of invitation to a Gatsby lawn party :) I had a weird sense of being on the way to a Finnish summer cottage, with us driving in quaint little roads in thick woods.

Overall, this weird feeling I have about Long Island is because it's so European in almost all ways, but the nature is a little different. After all, it's another continent. You can see a lot of British style here, adapted to a lot more available space. It feels strange because it's so familiar and so different at the same time. It's a lot easier, in a way, to face a foreign culture when it so different you don't expect much of a similarity.

I find myself hypothesizing that perhaps some of the major problems/quirks in the American society are due to the sheer youth of the nation, compared to the old European ones. Finland may sound like a bad example of comparison, with less than 90 years of independence as a country, but as a nation/culture we're pretty established, and well connected with the nature for thousands of years. Contrast this with the European settlers who came here only a couple of centuries ago. I wonder if this depth-of-roots argument actually means anything. I especially wonder how I've come to think of it, since I think of myself as a relatively mobile and 'globalized' person.

<21:06 EDT> Funny that the first time I'm using my laptop on a WLAN is here away from home. The US seems rather advanced with its use of the Net after all, no matter what the Finnish information society proponents would like us to believe. The access points here at BNL are open, no encryption needed, just the way it should be. On the other hand, this is a government facility with restricted access, but nevertheless the openness is striking. (The traffic is probably being sniffed, I better be careful with words like porn and terrorism, in case they crack my SSH connection ;)

But why the flood of half-empty noding suddenly? It turned out I'm still waiting for my supervisor, who is/was supposed to pick me up today, but I'm beginning to feel I have to wait until tomorrow in the male dormitory called Compton house. It's quite nice actually, no worse than the CERN hostel, though I find the gender-segregated dorm arrangement hilarious. (There's a Curie house for women, for example.)

Sat, Jun 18

<03:09> I'm in the middle of the wonderful feeling that you can only have on a light summer night. I come from Saara and Enni's housewarming party where I've had the best time since the Fandango! festivities. I had to leave early, unfortunately, because, to paraphrase Jack from the movie Titanic, I'm going to America!!!11eleven

My physics supervisor had asked me to come to Brookhaven to see how the heavy ion collision experiments are going, and now was the time. It was only a week ago that my travel dates were fixed, and I went through quite mixed feelings in that time. You might guess that I'm not a particular lover of the American culture, whether that's an oxymoron or not. On the other hand, I felt sort of neutral about the country, since I'm going to a somewhat international research facility, perhaps not much unlike CERN. Overall I've felt a great sense of freedom, as I have no obligations keeping me stuck in Jyväskylä, and I like to travel in general.

Of course, while I'm going to be in the state of New York, I decided to stay a few days longer to experience Manhattan. I'm actually looking forward to it, even though it's not a place I'd be keen to visit just by itself. But when you're on a business trip in the neighbourhood, it's something worth taking advantage of :D I'm also interested in finding out if a certain tea-like beverage is served properly in that not-so-small island where BNL is located :-P

So, anyway, this is something like a bye-bye message to everyone, as I'm not sure when I'll be available again. Definitely not by GSM until the scheduled return date of July 8. Be seeing you!

Tue, Jun 14

<22:51> Since viewing Sith, I've watched the old trilogy of episodes 4/5/6 again, and my overall impression is something like "Not bad!". The prequels manage to bring a lot of depth into the story, without ruining too much. After all, it's not like the whole story hinges on the few mysteries it contains, for example the identities of Luke's father and sister. Looking back at the whole series, I don't really feel any more or any less impressed than before. It's an enjoyable and entertaining saga, but not mindblowingly meaningful by any means.

Mon, Jun 6

<23:49> Wish I could say more about the series Revelations. While the premises were intriguing, in the end it was just another religious mystery drama. There was a lot of stuff to cover, touching upon Illuminated and synchronistic topics as well :) but it was too sleek and dumbed down to be really interesting or disturbing. I must admit it was well executed and polished, and quite entertaining as such.

Sun, Jun 5

<01:13> Seems I completely missed writing about the end of Fandango! that took place last Sunday. Looking at the overall quality curve, it feels like there was a dip in tension and involvement after the premiere, but they were regained after a few shows, and the last one was again very intense. Afterwards we had a nice, intimate party with the crew, and we played a little rough now and then, which my bruises and sore muscles could testify on the subsequent days :) Now I feel more than a little empty, but I look forward to the next academic year which should come with further theatrical productions.

<12:40> Yesterday I finished school along with many of my students, and my leaving Voionmaa was nicely executed. I hate big farewell ceremonies, as I'd rather leave in the quiet and stealthy manner I had arrived. Though I do understand it can be a reason to celebrate ;) I received little presents from the school and the fellow science teachers without too much fuss. It probably helped that there were similar events going on everywhere at the corridors, classrooms and the teachers' lounge, and mine didn't draw too much attention.

For the rest of the day I felt great levels of peace and freedom. I'm not at all anxious to begin new work, and I frankly don't know how exactly to get started. So far I've been watching the series Revelations (more on that when it's finished, it's 6 episodes in total) and played around with music software. The new wave editor I'm trying is Rezound, which is less mature than Audacity, but has some ingenuine user interface features that help me work faster in some cases.

Last night I went to see a movie I'd been planning to watch, with rather mixed expectations. From a number of reviews and a friend's experience, I was prepared for the Sith to really hit the fandom. On the other hand it was just the perfect evening for relaxing with a movie I wouldn't have to focus too much on, and I proceeded with an open mind.

It turned out a very emotional experience. I was taken by the story and was hardly bothered by the slight kinks in dialogue, maturity and logic. It was a film I may want to see again not because of detailed analysis, but to re-live the experience. Definitely something I didn't expect.

Usually these kinds of movie that evoke strong feelings are not prone to analysis, and don't leave much food for subsequent thought. But with RotS I'm definitely left pondering the basic ethical dilemma of the prequel trilogy:

Why should emotion and passion lead to the dark side?

It's an idea that I've wondered every now and then, mainly because you find it at the core of many religions. I find it quite contradictory, actually, which is why I don't subscribe to it. For example, one might say that good and evil are matters of emotion, as they are not physical absolutes. Therefore, a person with no emotion (if we may postulate one) should not care about good any more than about evil. For a more elaborate analysis, take a look at my experiences of the movie Equilibrium.

Talking about good and evil, I think one of the highest merits of SW3 was the questioning of good and evil, and their treatment as relative points of view rather than absolutes. It's a pretty wild idea when you think about the rest of the Star Wars world view.

Sat, Jun 4

<00:48> The end is drawing near for my post at Voionmaa School. Unlike last year, this time it's pretty final, with my successor chosen and all that. Not to mention the new challenges awaiting me at the physics department :) It's great to be moving on after these two years, although it's been heck of a fun.

This week's special events at school have included Toukofest, where I mostly focused on watching the band competition. I was very impressed by the quality of the music, mostly on the heavy/punk side, and couldn't help wondering how far I might have gone with the guitar, had I started as early as those students :-/ Nevertheless, I was happy with the last rehearsals of Aave-Cadillac on Thursday, particularly as I managed to incorporate bits of Fangando! melodies into blues guitar solos :D

Risto A. Paju