DIARY 2005















Thu, Mar 31

<02:34> Been rather busy for the past days. Spent about two days of the Easter holiday in Varkaus, but in the back of my mind I was working on a song I needed to record for the play I'm involved in. Thus I worked pretty heavily for most of Sunday and Monday. In addition to the song I had revision sheets and exams to write, but it was nice to be able to alternate between different jobs. It's in a way the biggest piece I've recorded alone, comprising eight tracks. As a chemist might say, my little big band reached the satisfactory state of an octet :)

Watched Star Wars 2, Attack of the Clones, and it seemed a lot better than Episode I. It's getting more apparent that the real story is very dark and dismal, thus the happy-happy-joy-joy execution of the 'first' movie was very much out of place. Here there's also the tragic love story that can only add to the murky atmosphere. I'm actually looking forward to Episode III in some ways, though I'm a long way from being a Star Wars fan.

There's a rather useful addition on my laptop page concerning power management. I studied through some ACPI scripts and wrote a working piece that automatically suspends the machine to disk, when the battery level is low. Previously, as I haven't had an ACPI script, the machine has suspended itself to RAM, but has been unable to resume properly. This solution works much better, and it shows the merits of ACPI over APM quite nicely: the system can respond to power-management events in any way you like, for example by playing a warning song :)

Fri, Mar 25

<15:32> Sprinkled with platitudes. Disney-like childishness to the point of irritation. Old-fashioned in an uncool way. A decent story that kept me watching till the end, ruined by nonsensical execution. This is what I feel after seeing Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace.

I'll probably continue watching episodes 2 and 3, as I'm somewhat intrigued by the story of Anakin Skywalker and the whole Jedi thing which is pretty close to my ideas of spirituality. But I'm grossly disappointed by the unnecessary naïvete. It makes me wonder who the films are meant for, and whether George Lucas is getting overly nostalgic with age. This is definitely not science fiction.

A clearly more interesting video I saw recently was a BBC interview of the late Richard Feynman, named The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. I was familiar with every idea, almost word to word, having read it before in some of the Feynman books, but it was a nice lively reminder. Here are a few nice points he made:

Sun, Mar 20

<23:34> This weekend has been quite literally full of art. Starting on Friday night with Mozart Requiem in the city church, performed by choirs Fiori and Karusointi and a dectet conducted by Juha Venäläinen. You'd expect a full-blown orchestra would be needed for something like a Requiem, but fortunately Mozart's is the kind that can work well even with something smaller.

This Requiem was one of my first interests in classical music, though now superseded by others. I was particularly looking forward for Tuba Mirum, which begins with the bass lead and works its way upwards in a stairlike fashion. My only major disappointment was the lack of brass instruments; from the very beginning I was wondering how they would replace the start of this section, and I did not like the sound of the piano there. The piano seemed to be used as a generic replacement for all the missing instruments, and it was a less creative solution than what I think could have been done. For example, the cello would have had the necessary power and depth. In any case, it was an enjoyable experience overall, followed by good discussions with one of my colleagues.

It may sound a little wrong that the most beautiful music I heard this weekend was not until Saturday night in Bar 68. Cleaning Women played a set of pretty much everything from Aelita, finishing with the titular piece. From the midst of the heavy industrial sounds, the string lead was magically mellow and clean, almost bringing me to tears.

The warm-up band was Mjortvye Grushi from Ukraine, with songs that brought to mind Primus. The bassist had very impressive fret-tapping techniques, and the set finished quite interestingly with a jazzy medley of alternating and overlapping bass and drum solos.

In between enjoying these gigs, I've also done quite a bit of contribution to art myself, working with Rigorist on his upcoming play "Fandango!."

Thu, Mar 17

<23:52> Love the smell of fresh electronics in the morning! This new laptop I got on Wednesday is replacing Willow, the machine with which I cut my Linux teeth back in 1999.

Tuesday night something happened that made me feel extremely stupid. Rigorist and I were watching Strange Days, which is supposedly a neat piece of cyberpunk, but it was so awful we gave up halfway into it. We pondered for some time on the factors of suction, landing on the main problem that was a feeling of a TV series. This movie felt like a sitcom where you're supposed to know the characters well, and nothing interesting happens besides the dialogue. There was a vague SF premise backing the story though, but I think the same idea was much better executed elsewhere; Brainstorm comes to mind (no pun intended).

The week has been a little empty after Monday, when a binge of creativity took place. I recorded a cover of Monty Python's Universe Song with Rigorist playing the guitar. We did vocals and the guitar simultaneously with two sound cards using Ecasound, and I later added bass, synth and effects tracks. Monday's synchronicity was that it was exactly two years after I released the instrumental piece Guitar Forms. That's in addition to the usual Pi Day and Einstein references :)

Thu, Mar 10

<21:51> Selected some of the holiday pictures for my public gallery.

The general view I got from the Dutch seems a little too cozy, knowing about events like the murders of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh. A good picture of the problem is painted in this New Yorker column.

However, imagine the hysteria had this happened in the USA or the UK. It might put the issues in a better perspective. In a way, I think there is a good sign hidden in these tragedies: the Dutch are not afraid to talk about difficult issues.

There's a movie I watched before the holiday and left unnoded, Das Experiment. It was quite an intense viewing that initially left me feeling very sad and hopeless. I kept wondering why normal, good citizens can turn into such hideous monsters.

Afterwards I found a number of metaphors within the film. The main idea, I think, was to describe the universal quest for freedom. The catch is that people long for freedom only when they realize they are prisoners (cue in the Matrix references :). In the movie it worked on two levels, which was a little surprising; the guards were also prisoners of a kind.

It's probably only fitting that the next film I saw was the 1984 version of 1984. I loved the movie, as it was one of the most accurate adaptations I've ever seen. It had exactly the same atmosphere as I imagined when reading the book a few years back. The style was very minimal, almost like Kaurismäki at times. This may be a serious drawback, in fact, because it could be hard to follow if you don't know the book.

What's particularly interesting/disturbing about the style is the way you can see this film's influence on later stories like Equilibrium and The Matrix. There are certain scenes that are eerily well reproduced in these works. Which shows that this 1984 is quite timeless, with only perhaps a hint of 1980s esthetics.

<23:11> I've felt a positive pain in my legs today, after a cosy morning walk around Tuomiojärvi. It was part of the sports day at school, the main purpose of which was to get kids out of school while some listening tests of matriculation exams were underway. I don't usually node things like this, but I've just enjoyed some good stretching, and I like to remind myself and others of the non-geeky side of things every now and then :)

Tue, Mar 8



The reality of work strikes again. My week in Amsterdam was a remarkably good holiday, as I managed to forget about school completely. It was very gezellig and certainly not gedogen — I stayed utterly sober for the entire trip (pun intended).

There were two pretty major setbacks to my holiday, both of which somehow turned to at least a partial advantage. To begin with my flight itinerary:

Yet I only write of the Amsterdam trip now. What happen? Better go in chronology I guess.

The Sunday journey to Amsterdam was incredibly smooth. For a number of reasons, I had not been much in the mood for travel, and I was somewhat dumbstruck to find myself landed so effortlessly in the beautifully historical capital. I didn't even feel much of hunger.

Late in the night, going to sleep at my friend Maija's place, I felt ill with fever. On Monday morning the feeling had formed into a nausea, and I was unable to finish my breakfast. At the same time, I was trying to realize myself in the surrounding world, which was not some magical kingdom, but a real city where people live and work. Hence I am still unsure whether the feverish nausea was of psychological origin.

Nevertheless, I was slowed down radically, which was probably a good thing. Around 3 pm that Monday I finally dragged myself to the city centre — about half an hour of walking. I had the vague plan of looking for subzero shops and other places of interest that I could delve into later, and it actually worked to some extent, as I'll later testify. My friend came from work a few hours later, and we went to a canal cruise. It was a nice introduction into the city, with the requisite touristy overtones. The only problem at this point was that I still felt nauseous, an effect not quite diminished by the boat trip :-/

Tuesday morning was a little better, but not by much. It still took until afternoon for me to get going, this time heading for Rijksmuseum. It was a refreshing change from a typical huge art museum, as it was partly arranged by historical eras instead of individual artists, thus giving an impressive overview of the Dutch nation. After that I had just enough time for my next meeting that I merely rushed through the city centre, continuing my survey. The evening was quiet not unlike the previous, but I succeeded in eating a full meal of falafel.

Wednesday was Maija's day off from work, and our first destination was a luncheon concert at Concertgebouw. It was a relaxed event with even the musicians dressed very casually. The concerto sounded eerily familiar until the final part, which was something I've listened to many times... but I still wasn't sure of the composer. Soon it dawned upon us that, of all the composers, it had to be Sibelius :) with his Violin Concerto op. 47.

Spending the afternoon in the main shopping streets, it was snowing quite heavily. It went to the point that we longed to get somewhere indoors; the weather was not quite freezing, and streets had become mushy ditches of sleet. It was time for pizza then, and I was glad being able to enjoy the taste of good food again.

Thursday came by with my ticket to London. Long story short, the flight was cancelled due to bad weather, and I ended up wasting much of the day at the airport. Easyjet was not able to get me to London on time — I was going to leave London no later than Saturday. I began thinking about alternatives like a ferry or the train. It looked a little too complicated. The thought of getting stranded somewhere like Rotterdam or Brussels after I'd missed the last boat/train felt more than slightly intimidating. I'd much rather be stuck a little longer in Amsterdam where I had a friendly place to stay. In a quick decision, I started to look for a web access point, which turned out way too hard considering how useful it would be on an airport. I booked a Blue1 flight to Helsinki for the next day.

It was another nice and quiet night then, with some more pizza, this time from a local place affectionately known as Slaughterfest. My flight would leave late on Friday night. Though I'd wasted so much of Thursday (and not just the time, also the money spent on the new flight and the unused London-Tampere flight) I was now expecting a full day to spend in Amsterdam.

The random walks paid off substantially. I found my way to the local Cyberdog outlet, having missed Camden, and with some additional shopping I totalled four shirts, a woolly hat, and some gedogen consumables. Other highlights were a visit to the Torture Museum and an Indonesian dinner.

That night, flights were still being late and even cancelled due to the snow, but to a lesser extent than before. Mine was about an hour and a half late, which was not too bad after all the setbacks I'd gone through. At 9 am on Saturday I got home where everything now feels cold and boring in comparison.

<19:46> The Dutch way of living deserves a little more attention. After my visit I'm not much more informed, as I spent my time with foreigners, but some of the ideas oozed through from the surroundings.

The words gezellig and gedogen pretty much cover the idea. The latter means things that are not illegal, but not quite legal either. The Dutch seem like people who shamelessly enjoy life and its pleasures, not worrying so much about the details of what's lawful and accepted, as long as nobody gets hurt. Consequently, things like prostitution and the sale of cannabis are legal, but that's merely the tip of the iceberg.

I think the Finnish are quite opposite in a sense. We seem to be keen on following every last bit of law, especially when it is to our benefit. The laws here could be seen as a way to enforce that your neighbour is not better off than you are.

So, after seeing how gezellig everything works in the Netherlands, combined with the usual knowledge of legal cannabis, gay marriages etc., I thought it must be a really advanced, flexible and intelligent society.

That was until I saw the hoisting hooks.

Real estate in Amsterdam being traditionally scarce, houses are generally built with inhumanly narrow staircases. At that point the constructors must have thought something like, oops, we need to do something to enable people move their furniture. Moving is done through windows by hoisting stuff up or down with rope. Hence the hooks near the top ends of houses.

I can somehow understand this when it comes to ancient canalside houses, but even modern buildings have these. Such tradition lock-in seems to go against the general progressive ideals the Dutch have. On the other hand, some level of tradition is probably essential to things gezellig.

Another strangeness about staircases there is that there can be lots of staircases in one building, like one per each apartment. Perhaps space could be saved by sharing these functions, and the resulting staircase might be big enough to carry couches and shelves through.

Risto A. Paju