DIARY 2002















Fri, Mar 29

<20:43> Last night's movie was something of a classic, Veturimiehet Heiluttaa which featured the Finnish actors Samuli Edelmann and Santeri Kinnunen as two 'brothers in blood' in the 1980s. Made in 1992, I imagine it may have been fairly controversial and touching in its time. Now it seemed like a relic of the past, and I didn't really find a deep message behind it. Dramatic and even tragic, its value for me remains as pure entertainment. There was a nice structure, first progressing from the boys' youth, and ending with another childhood scene which revealed a hidden meaning. Still it begs the question, why spend time and resources on going through people's everyday experiences when there are more important problems out there.

Wed, Mar 27

<23:58> Tonight's movie Sling Blade was honest and simple so I can write right away. Therefore it has the downside that you understand everything at the first watching, but that need not be a problem. Otherwise I doubt how realistic the director Billy Bob Thornton meant it to be, because there was a feeling of caricature in most things and people. In short it was nice, but perhaps no great masterpiece.

Previously today I restarted my brewery after a long pause. As I spent last summer in CERN I had to take a break from my annual ale-making. This time I've done some more experimenting. Of course I'm only doing this because I'm pretty sure I'll spend this summer @fi.

Yesterday trip to Jyväskylä. Most of the time got spent with Tuomo and there was a lot to talk about, not forgetting our CERN experiences. We also met one of our mutual acquaintances from CERN at the IT side of things. The sciences side of the lake (accessible via Bridge of Sighs) looks amazing and in my unbiased opinion it's the most beautiful part of the university. There was also the half-hour reason for my visit, a meeting with prof. Törmä on the prospects of research in quantum information. Time will tell what comes out of that.

While in the train, read most of the book Jo-ku by Hannu Simpura. A distracting and thoughtful fractal of a novel. The stories center on the effect of language. There was the fascinating idea that language is part of the conditioning we've created ourselves that limits our possibilities in life. It is also full of absurd death and loss. Good thing is that I can't describe it adequately.

Sun, Mar 24

<16:52> Back @fi, waiting for the flight to Varkaus. Got a taste of Finland in the form of a pint of Karjala.

The film of the weekend was Dune which I watched last night (staying awake for the early departure :-). David Lynch directing Kyle McLachlan and others, based on a SF classic, of course it rocks. But I felt the same problem as with LotR: I really want to read the book to figure out what exactly happened. At over two hours, the film appears overly packed with action, with only minor sequences of Lynchian mystique that back up the important infrastructural plot. So, overall it was pretty cool, but I was really lost for the first half or so, not having read the book.

Sat, Mar 23

<02:01> pack(); in 27*hour depart(); In practice that means I've got nothing to do tomorrow because for once I've done things in advance :-). And I'm pissed off because of my Great Timing™: RMS of GNU will give a talk here @cam on Monday just when I'm back @fi. Of course that's sheer coincidence as I only heard of the talk yesterday and the tickets were booked weeks before. It also happened that NEL attended a debate which included messieurs Enqvist and Valtaoja. But considering my personal track record of celebrity talks @cam I can't complain :-).

Yesterday I also ran across this mighty queer game called SED Sokoban. Yup, the old puzzle implemented in SED. Never played Sokoban before, I had to try this for its sheer hack value. Got addicted. Finished levels up to 10 now. It's not particularly difficult, but takes a lot of patience. The worst thing is that it's painfully slow, considering its absolutely minimalist look. But that just adds up to the patience exercise.

Well another thing of yesterday, another fortunate incidence in cooking. Finally found coconut milk, but this time I didn't have any recipe in mind. So I decided to cook some pasta, and make a sauce of the CMilk, mixed beans, and crushed tomatoes (probably my favourite ingredient). This means that after cooking for a couple of minutes I replaced the boiling water with the stuff, and let it simmer for some time. (Pasta sauces usually work much better if the whole process is unified with cooking pasta.) The end result was quite damp and a bowl seemed more appropriate than a plate. The CMilk does add an interesting, rather sweet overtone. Enjoyed this product while watching an episode of Enterprise (off the IRC :-). Yet another Star Trek series isn't too convincing, it's the usual ST ideas and quality but I failed to see any signifying improvements (like what's between B5 and ST). The food-stuff was surprisingly good even today, but it was coagulated into a compact entity. Reminded me of pasta casserole experiments back in Kuopio. The CMilk seems like a good candidate for veggie coagulants. Oh by the way, the combination of beans, CMilk and CTomatoes I'd met before at the Buddhist community (with rice, which seems a more natural companion) which is probably what sparked my experiment.

Thu, Mar 21

<01:10> Several episodes of Futurama off the IRC. S4, E8 (Godfellows) is particularly cool with more than hints of Real SF. That was justified after finishing off the gauge theoretical exercises. Thought I might admit I still don't understand the gauge theory of gravity completely. But that was just one section in the geometric algebra course, and we're not expected to grok it all that deeply. Soon it's time to prepare for my last holiday in Finland from here.

Wed, Mar 20

<01:49> Finished reading MMOB in the afternoon. It's really worth reading from the beginning, otherwise it will make even less sense :-). Interesting to note the progress in drawing quality and style, particularly the tendency towards Manga. There are some true pearls to see, and the storyline gets quite deep at times.

I started ploughing through MMOB last night after getting stuck with a problem in the gauge theory of gravitation (in geometric algebra). It turned out my premises were wrong.. it's now so obvious that observable vectors transform differently from spinors, which makes for a rather different form of the covariant derivative. (If you didn't understand half of that, I'm glad for you because you might actually have a life.)

Went to gym after a long break, more than a week. Really got the endorphins flowing. This was partly due to the nice background music someone else was playing; I usually hate the early 90s dance stuff but this time the volume and atmosphere made up a perfect companion for the physical feeling. I still can't explain why, but it's not the first such thing around.

Tue, Mar 19

<02:31> Another Productivity Exercise™ here. In fact I found this site last summer - the artist is a friend of Tuomo who I met at CERN. The cartoon is now finished (at least temporarily) so it is a good time to start reading from the init. It's a geek cartoon full of UF-style computing inside jokes, but focuses more on the social worries of geek life.

It was windy today (Monday) and raining. My fancy 'windproof' umbrella was broken. It was a particularly compact and lightweight construction with one-year warranty, recently void. A glass fibre shaft had been broken near a joint, and after 20 minutes of hacking it was fixed, albeit 1 cm shorter, resulting in a minor crease in the fabric. But at least I don't have to spend another fortune on a hi-tech rainscreen (yup, it's 'Regenschirm' in German).

Sun, Mar 17

<18:17> After watching three films and losing a few pounds, it's time to summarize a weekend of rather experimental nature. Started at the Sauna at 6 pm on Friday as usual. Or so we had planned. As there were no Finns besides myself, and the Sauna was overall very quiet, images of a parallel world shift conspiracy theory came to mind. Or perhaps it was my strange physical feeling. It was six weeks after my last proper sauna, and I could not take the heat very long. Nevertheless, the cold-water bucket system which some loud, drunken Britons described as "It takes your breath away" seemed more tame than ever. I could hardly feel the cold and found a way to prolong the exposure to those 'tears of a virgin'.

Fortunately Lauri and Lotta were coming to Standard Tandoori. By that time I felt I could do anything and decided to tackle the Phall. It's five times more spicy than Vindaloo. Now that could well take one's breath away, I'd been told by Jaakko who had conquered that culinary fireworks last summer. I finished it, and the overall experience wasn't much harder than my first Vindaloo a few weeks before, but I could see that one might enjoy the food more, with a little less spicyness. I still maintain that limit somewhere around Jalfrezi, by the standards of Standard :-).

Finished eating around 9 pm which marked the start of an experiment for Lauri and me. No solid food for 36 hours, the only acceptable nutrient being beer. Half jokingly we had come up with the idea of 72-h beerathlon in the May Week and this was the time for initial practice.

Later that night we watched Lost in Space, a very entertaining piece of SF which was evidently from the George Lucas crew. A nice cocktail of thriller, some deep SF ideas and well-natured comedy. A particular distraction was Matt LeBlanc of 'Friends' as the fighter pilot who could have done a more serious job, but the general casting seemed to have been chosen on the basis of looks and fun, not for making a Real SF story. So it worked out a nice package, enjoyable to watch and a fast two hours.

Saturday dawned as a warm, sunny day which the three of us went on to enjoy in Grantchester. A healthy breakfast of Hobbit's Quest ale and apple pie followed, for those of us on an off the liquid diet respectively. We kept the pace low because walking already felt more tiring than usually. On the way back we had a few rounds of pool at Owlstone, and the slight loss of coordination was apparent :-).

Around 6 pm we were back to town for more videos to watch. For some reason Spinal Tap wasn's as funny as it should. Granted, there were those few moments which go to eleven, but perhaps the 'rockumentary' form suffered a bit form the general lack of attention in our beer-rinsed brains.

The other film I enjoyed a lot more. Shrek it was, and despite the poor technical quality (probably videoshot at a theatre) the plot evolved into a nice parody of medieval romantic fairy tales. I'm feeling the parodies of other films (like the mid-air panning of The Matrix) are starting to wear out a bit, but considering the general lack of seriousness they were a good match to this piece of animation.

<21:54> Aftermath at Eraina, famous for its rich, fulfilling quasi-pizzas. Both Lauri and I agreed that the 72-hour plan is not a good idea; the meaning of life is to enjoy it, and this experiment was less than satisfactory in bringing about positive feelings. Fasting as such is a nice idea, in fact neither of us felt particularly hungry at any point. The problem must have been the beer. We had chosen to have Murphy's because of its high nutrient value (and we happened to get them dirt cheap) but the overall feeling might have been better without. Otherwise the weekend has been nice and it would no doubt be nicer to repeat it with some solid food.

Thu, Mar 14

<00:43> Pi day's plumbing exercise feels like a nice hack. I'm downloading a movie from a friend in Finland, it's a real snail and I've had to continue it in several chunks. This is partly due to his server side problems, but a substantial glitch was introduced probably when Willow crashed (it's happened a few times with 2.4.18-rc4 and Opera). There was an EOF near the beginning and I couldn't play it beyond that.

Of course I could download it again, but instead I've only reloaded the first 67 MB or so, which just covers the glitch. Using dd and cat I've managed to replace the corrupted beginning by this patch. I didn't exactly optimize the plumbing, but managed to avoid huge duplications. In fact the ending is still on its way but I've tested the current stuff and it works. So I have a new slogan: dd and cat are real men's cut and paste. I mean this: why not try and cut-copy-paste exactly 67 MB of ascii in a fancy GUI editor. Another proof that command line rocks ass.

OK, got the complete file and hacked it all together. The MD5 checksum matches the original so I call this success :-).

<01:52> A strange feeling with several things electromagnetic coming together: Catt's letter and book, current exercises in geometric algebra, my project - and the time last year when my IB physics teacher visited me @cam: he talked about the surface charge theory of electric conductors. The fifth corner in the pyramid is my long-term interest in electronics.

Catt's book gives, in a sense, the impression of the biggest conspiracy story since The Illuminatus. Might make a great background for a SF novel some day. If only the readers of that time would appreciate the truth being stranger than fiction.

<14:08> SNAFU

Wed, Mar 13

<15:54> End of lectures looks like an interesting day so far. Sold the old CPU. Chatted with some foreign students, friends of Apostolo. Got a brief letter from Dr. Catt, along with his book :-). He had found my online writings on his talk. A similar thing happened to me with an RPM maintainer. They must have their reasons for grepping the net for stuff related to their projects.

Mon, Mar 11

<23:26> Monday has happened again, perhaps stronger than usual.

Technically it was Monday as I went to bed but for reasons could not get to sleep(). At some point in the early hours I heard a strange plumbing-related activity. Sounded like someone was repeatedly filling and flushing the sink as quickly as possible. Of particular attention were the numerous turns of the water tap when closing it, indicating the desire for maximal instantaneous flux. Evil conspiracy theories about washing up evidence came to mind.

So eventually I got up reluctantly and thought, what evils shall this day bring forth. Cycling to Cavendish was a feat of classical physics: Taking a steep turn at high speed, at the wooden 'bridge' from the path, it was slippery. Not enough static friction to maintain the necessary radius of curvature (probably < 1 m). But I neither fell nor stopped. Two things came to rescue: apparently the tyres slid far enough to hit the edge - and my knee hit the surface! Imagine The Angle. That must have looked cool, remember I went on riding with my feet on the pedals, without stopping or falling. Nevertheless my knee still hurts. I guess it's good to have something like happen this once in a while, for the reminder of being alive.

Lectures on rotating black holes and the gauge theory of gravity were fascinating as always. Returning /home I had received an offer for Willow's old CPU, which is good. In fact there's another offer but the first one probably gets the chip.

From the lunch, went on towards Grafton Centre in search of cool clothes, but stumbled on the futility of finding anything sub-zero in this town, which I should have already known. Gotta make a final trip to London some time before summer.

I had made some hot veggie Jalfrezi on Sunday, for both lunch and dinner, and there was some left for today's dinner as well. It was still not bad, but my digestive system is rebelling against the lack of variety. After that rushed onto and off from meditation, as there was a talk on espionage by Prof. Christopher Andrew at Queens'. Interesting anecdotes on recruiting Cambridge undergrads to the secret service followed. More notable was his comparison of Al Qaeda (of 11.9.2001 fame) to the Nazis and the Crusades. Suddenly my interest in conspiracy theories is revived - however Prof. Andrew pointed out that so far, no conspiracy theorist has ever recovered from their condition :-/.

On the way back I chatted with James (of the same year at Queens') and it seems we might be sharing some this present gloom. Won't say anything more now until I know better. On the main door of Owlstone there was a broken bottle of red wine, hopefully not an evil omen.

Fri, Mar 8

<17:19> Joined Rudi for some celebrative drinks last night: he was secured a big, fat City job. I managed to keep all the snide remarks of 'selling one's soul' to myself :-). He had planned to see the film Le Pacte des Loups (Brotherhood of the Wolf) afterwards, which was the real reason I went there, as the movie was already on my list.

The film has a lot going on; generically, it has elements of fantasy, costume drama, conspiracy, alternative history, steampunk, horror and martial arts. It's good that it escapes the narrow definitions you might expect from first sights. But then again, real life has all the possible elements and we accept it; the film is set in a completely realistic 18th century Southwestern France, the fantasy bit mainly coming from the actual beast tales common in that area.

The French do it in style. The story might have turned out a horrible mingle of cliches in the hands of Americans. The balance between the different genres is awesomely careful. The physical appearances of the beast are used very sparingly for a good old-fashioned horror atmosphere. There are many interesting and novel special effects, although the day scenes of the beast are below par. Of the actors could be mentioned Mark Dacascos who plays almost the same character as in 'Crow', but it works perfectly here.

The plot is very credible, and even simple in the light of the apparent complexity of the film. It's hard to focus on the underlying thread of things, perhaps because there isn't one. Therefore the film doesn't easily compare with others. In a narrowed down story you can feel a deeper understanding and connection, which might give you the feeling of a better film experience. I can't say more but to encourage you to see this film, and judge for yourself why it is so hard to judge it in any way.

<21:55> Nothing like running to the gym to ex[eo]rcise away a general feeling of apathy and blocked nose. Tightening up the flesh is a mere side effect, though not unwanted.

Tue, Mar 5

<23:06> End of 'coffee break': woke up from a bad dream with a throbbing headache. Thought 'If I was a coffee drinker I would desperately need one now'. Went to college for lunch, as much for the walk as for the variety of food. The little DJ kept playing house inside my head. Bought the replacement glass for my cafetiere. Back at home, the coffee was delicious, but didn't give the desired effect. Interestingly enough, I felt like meditating and it helped eventually. Focusing on the third eye seemed to draw the extra energy out of the painful area of the left lobe (it's where I usually have headaches, where the concussion took place years ago).

Finished reading LotR. I'm myself feeling like a huge journey is coming to and end, which is roughly true. Time to 'settle down' for a while back in Finland. That's four months away though.

Sun, Mar 3

<23:28> At the risk of seeming lifeless when writing such mundane things.. here goes. I'm positively surprised of my cooking! Of course I've made some pretty good stuff before, but those times I knew what I was doing. Tonight, trying to use up what I had and save some money, I beefed up some Uncle Ben's "Mexican Chicken" sauce with 'taters and lentils instead of some innocent animal. The veggies were boiled slightly beforehand, and the sauce also needed some extra water. The end result definitely has some overlap with curry. At the first tasting I thought something must be wrong because such things I've only enjoyed before at Indian restaurants. From a scientific point of view, it was interesting to observe the change in texture due to the loose starch from the veggies. Perhaps that is one of the keys to proper curry.

Sat, Mar 2

<18:13> My god, it's full of last year's monoliths on a mission eight years from now. Another piece of Real Sci Fi in 2010. Having enjoyed the book a lot, this film captured the Clarke magic in a way which was sufficiently advanced. Though the basic plot can be followed without knowing the book, there are many subtle threads that were muffled out to give way to the visual adventure (much like in LotR). The whole works out well nevertheless, and cinematically the result is very impressive for a 1984 production.

Fixed my bike. The back tyre had two similar, adjacent, parallel, neat slashes. It's probably not a vampire, but I'm suspecting a conspiracy against cyclists passing through Robinson college grounds :-)

Fri, Mar 1

<17:20> Last night's movie experience cannot be reviewed in my usual way. There are two important reasons.

F.W. Murnau's Dracula adaptation Nosferatu (Germany 1922) abides in the dark realm of classic masterpieces, of horror and perhaps film itself, thus being immune to the ratings and critique of mortal men.

The visual half of the mute film was completed by live music, mostly on piano and partly with synth strings. This was rather convincing in bringing the audience back to the golden age of cinema, but more importantly creating a perfect background for the gloomy passage of events.

The end result being thought-provoking, absorbing and impressive simply works. That is all I can say.

<22:22> What a day and I can't imagine it could get any better. Woke up finally around 12:00 too late for the QInfo lecture as my bike had broken down yesterday. Feeling equally flu-ous as yesterday, at least not any worse. Had an apple and some green tea for breakfast which was not a nice combination. Felt nauseous for a moment. Went into kitchen for some of the vege soup I'd made yesterday. It was almost solid, added a little water, I'll probably eat the same thing for several days. And it had only cost like 2 EUR. Spent the afternoon narrowing down a bug in mplayer so that I could write a decent bugreport. Involved downloading and compiling old versions so I could determine when the bug was introduced. Now the listbot complains by bugpost is too long but hey, they asked for all the info, and some moderator will parse through it anyway.

Yes, the Nosferatu thing was on my mind when waking up but I only did it as the last thing before going to sauna. The damn place was still not finished! An utterance of 'Perkele' was appropriate. The actual sauna cabin was under repair, nevertheless Jaakko and Antti had gone in and I followed. After longish sessions at the steamroom and jacuzzi I fainted. I'm not surprised but I don't feel safe either. Last time I felt like that were getting hit by a golf ball on the forehead, and a traffic accident where I got a real concussion. Perhaps it's OK to get a reminder of the futility of human existence now and then.

Lauri joined us at the sauna and afterwards we went to Standard Tandoori. I'd already decided to have Vindaloo. I took it in a rather calm state. I might compare it to my first time of Jalfrezi, although Vindaloo should be a lot stronger, but of course my tolerance had gone up. I only spent half of my large Lassi drink for that, but of course things would have gone different ways had I chosen only half the drink :-). At least I did sweat and get my nose running. There's one thing at the restaurant which is stronger and I'll try it some time, it will be the culinary bungee jump which one must do once.

No pardey in horizon for tonight and I would have skipped one anyway in this condition. It's either some reading or a film. And lots of mild green tea.

Risto A. Paju