DIARY 2003















Wed, Oct 29

<15:24> This site tells a little more about the kilted tribesmen, in Finnish. It seems the Pedi group are a part of a bigger happening of African themes.

<23:16> Watched Matrix Reloaded last night with Antti, great fun, the magic still there. Of course we just had to go through some of the delicious scenes a few times over, like the Merovingian's silk wipe talk. It was a little blasphemous on my smallish CRT though, but better than nothing.

Today we went to a Zen meditation session. Initially it looked a little too hardcore; for starters, it took place at the Old Forge which is like a tiny stone temple. The session turned out very much like the Cambridge Buddhist ones, with two rather short Mindfulness exercises spaced by some walking meditation. There were notable differences, it was a bit more ceremonial, which is not necessarily a good thing. On the whole though, it's just what I've been missing since leaving Cambridge over a year ago. I'm already feeling some increase in mindfulness, which is in fact slightly confusing, but I recall similar effects previously and I have a good feeling about it. :-)

Mon, Oct 27

<21:13> A refreshingly fun day at work, much due to a dance and music performance that unfortunately ate one of my chemistry lessons. It was a show by what I can probably describe as Royal African Kilted Tribesmen.

These guys were from the province of Limpopo in South Africa, and they were wearing an interesting mixture of tribal and colonial garments. The men had darkish blue/red tartan kilts, white shirts, and dark purple hose with elaborate flashes. To counter the European influence they had wicked headpieces and they were playing flutes/whistles to the drums. Those kilts really flew (yes. they had underwear. now take your mind out of the gutter), and the way in which the instruments and dancers were polysynchronized is hard to give justice to in writing. It seemed each whistle could only play one fundamental frequency, but as each player had a different kind, they could weave out complex melodies and harmonies. The lady who seemed to be the lead dancer, did only sing in one piece, which was something I hoped she would have done more. There was a lot of explanation how the performance worked as a form of prayer to gods and ancestors, but I was astounded enough by the music and dance themselves.

In the remaining lesson of chemistry, we were messing around with metal powders, burning them with Bunsens and corroding them with HCl. It was all to test the relative reactivities of different metals, and the most vigorous turned out mighty effervescent. I had to go around the classroom, applying NaHCO3 where the acid had spilled on the desks, to neutralize it for further cleaning. It seemed to be a great time, and some students actually admitted that chemistry is fun.

This was a nice continuation for an intensely social weekend. It started on Friday with a gaming night with Tuomo. We played the card game of Illuminati, the New World Order, and later some Koules Deathmatch and Star Control 2. It was a great way to spend an evening with drinks only as strong as green tea (and in my place, that's not as innocent as it might sound :-).

To prepare for Saturday night, I went to the sauna in my building. The two guys that were already there were abruptly amused when I mentioned I'm a teacher. They both happened to be teachers at Lyseo. What's even weirder, one of them has given philosophy lectures to Antti.

Now the real point about that Saturday was that Sanni (a friend of Antti) was in town. It was exactly one year since I'd met her before. (Insert lame synchronicity joke.) It was going to be happy happy joy joy as I knew how mentally close she was to both of us. Our common experience of Kuopion Lyseo and Mr. Perälä probably helps. The night turned out well, with enough meandering from any possible plans. In the hours after last orders, our conversations got more and more profound and personal. Antti seemed to have a metta trip/epiphany of some level. I could tell because I'd experienced something similar before, and not just that one time.

We slept from about 8 am to 3 pm, waking up with a mild but noticeable hangover, which diffused into a nice afterglow during the afternoon. Sanni went off to watch Antti's Ten Little Niggers. Overall I was left with a nice feeling of not being mentally alone in this world after all.

Sun, Oct 19

<18:29> Shaved my head yesterday. It's Δ again. I'm still having slightly mixed feelings over it: on one hand I'm back where I started, but I'm also back where I belong. Since this is something I've had in the back of my mind (and on the top and sides :) for a while, I'm just satisfied that I finally did something about it, instead of whining and being undecided. (In fact there's never a decision, there's only doing and not doing.)

This was timed primarily due to the Pimiö party, supposedly a little more on the hardcore side of tekkno. It was also the time to try my new denim kilt I'd bought the previous week. This meant Antti could borrow my traditional kilt, and we could go there as a couple of Royal Discordian Kilted Hacksmen.

Comparing to the Illumination events, this turned out less inspiring and more expensive. While there were initially interesting DJs like Proteus, the music just didn't quite work. I'm reminded of some DnB events back in Cambridge where you could notice that bigger and faster doesn't always mean a better rave. There has to be more variation, and the change should not always be in the form of acceleration.

But in summary it was pretty good fun, dancing and collecting nice comments and looks. The denim kilt worked really well in terms of practicality (it has a built-in sporran-like front pocket) and air conditioning (being cooler than the traditional woolly garment). And while my New Rock boots are still not made for walking, they were surprisingly fine for clubbing.

On a more geeky note, I've been testing Linux-2.6.0-test8 mainly for its harddisk suspension capability. The actual suspend works fine, but resume fails, so it's not terribly useful. If working, it would certainly reduce my need for a quiet workstation, as I could just suspend it between playing sessions.

Thu, Oct 16

<01:33> Getting back to the reviews finally, as I've now seen another movie. Its name has too many references to computing (pirates, curses, perl) for something that portrays ye olden days. Moreover, it's not deeply moving in a philosophical or emotional sense. But thanks to Johnny Depp and others, it it actually very cool and enjoyable. It's probably fair that Depp's character Captain Jack Sparrow is what makes this film worth watching. Even if it means that the rest of the film is rather hollow. Overall it's pretty fun with all the necessary ingredients such as tragic romance. Films like this definitely have their place after all.

<01:53> As you've by now read about Robo Sapiens I'll just briefly present some of my impressions. Upon arriving at the art museum I was very eager to get some Real SF experiences, not so much in the mood for real art. I also could have used more time, as I had the theatre appointment coming up. After wondering about the technicalities of the two robots for some time, I gradually sank into the art, which was nice. The music was well composed to complete the effect, along with the surrounding room made of plastic pipes. In adjacent rooms there was a huge amount of legos which beckoned to build some more robots. In my limited time I fashioned a fairly simple type, partly based on my cyberdog trousers, with the tabs cunningly facing front instead of up.

The website has an interesting essay on robotics, and besides the multitude of points that I'm already familiar with, there was an intriguing feminist idea: that women are closer to being cyborgs than men, because they are more inclined to change their identities. This has important ties to my Delta philosophy, the pursuit for change in life. Seeing that this way of life may have a higher degree of femininity than the average male does, is not at all surprising.

<02:06> And now for Astoria. Being a musical written by a poet from Varkaus, I knew I had to like it to some extent. It was a positive surprise to see how much more there was to the tragic wartime love story.

The stage was well used, divided into about five different areas. On occasion the plot was going on in two or three places simultaneously. It was of course carefully timed to make it followable, quite impressive. Put another way, this enabled switching/alternating between two scenes much faster and more naturally than what's possible on film. It made the relative complexity of the story much easier. Special effects were used sparingly but well when needed, for example when artillery or machine guns were at work.

As an interesting political theme, the play made a rather strong parallel between today's refugees and the ethnic purifications of Nazis. It was a refreshing change from the usual Nazi stories in that this took place in Budapest and instead of Jews the main target was Romany people.

<21:51> My left hand fingertips are utterly ground beef after a few hours of jamming with Antti at the school. Most of the time I played the guitar (I'm still not quite used to electric guitars with metal strings) and Antti did the drums. All we need is someone for the bass :-).

Tue, Oct 14

<20:36> The two performances I enjoyed on Saturday in Lahti are Robo Sapiens and Astoria. Comments on these will follow, but do check the links for some info.

Sat, Oct 11

<04:15> Illumination 2 @ νν. Joooy. Just a few hours left before I hit the road to Lahti. The autumn holiday of one week is starting, and my teaching work is at its halfway. Wonder what this city will look like when I'm not hopelessly busy for a change.

Thu, Oct 9

<19:47> The stains of AgNO3 are finally starting to fade from the skin of my hands. However, the desk in my classroom does not renew its surface quite so often. Which is kind of problematic because it was also stained by the same incident.

So, on Tuesday I searched for some cleaning information. First I should use KMnO4, making the stains even more apparent, but a subsequent treatment with NaHSO3 should clear it all up. It worked, but it was painfully slow. I spent almost an hour, repeating the procedure over and over, using a brush as well. The stains are still barely visible, but it's nothing serious compared to the general looks of the science classroom equipment. After all this was not the kind of impression I want to leave on the school ;-).

<20:34> Yesterday there was finally some free time for both Antti and me, and we had planned to watch the new film about Sibelius. It turned out considerably less grand than its main subject. Of course Antti as an actor and me as a musician were keen to pick up flaws from a movie like this, but there were still too many of them.

The film did have some great scenes and it was well staged, with nice period costumes completing the external milieu. But the main character was left somewhat hollow, and there were many other disappointing performances.

As the film was very much about music, the producers had chosen the Lahti symphony orchestra to deal with that, and it was of course superb. Unfortunately the music was not always used properly. There were several scenes of the three Sibelius siblings playing together -- with some different, orchestral music being played on top of it. Even in places where the music was meant to coincide with the screen events, it was occasionally out of sync. On the other hand, Suosalo managed to fake playing the violin fairly well. But overall there was too much of background filler music, which should have been replaced by the actual music corresponding to the 'live' scenes.

The Germany scenes were sometimes ruined by Finnish actors playing German-speaking roles, when their accent was too apparent. That was rather disappointing, even if it's not a major concern. And I probably shouldn't even start to remind of Antti's opinion how the film was a somewhat incoherent collage with no solid backbone to follow. It was certainly a good time, with the occasional history lessons even, but I think the great composer would deserve something more. Perhaps we expected a little too much from Martti Suosalo and Timo Koivusalo. They did well portraying Irwin Goodman (and possibly Reino Helismaa, though I haven't seen the film) but the same pattern of moviemaking doesn't quite lend itself to a real artist and composer.

<20:54> After the movie we tried the new Lebanese restaurant. It was a refreshing change from the Chinese and Indian styles that we're quite used to. The sour vegetables were an interesting surprise: so exotic yet so Finnish. But there were many more tastes which we'd neveer encountered before. For about 7 € there was more than we could eat, great value for money.

Tue, Oct 7

<23:13> How silly of me to start journaling now that I'm in the middle of planning exams. But there have been a couple of noteworthy events. Chronology it shall be:

Friday night was, due to the following Saturday being a workday, not particularly conducive to anything too intense, and besides the social level of my work makes me want to spend time alone. So I selected a movie for my viewing pleasure, this time Gattaca. I had quite high expectations on it, and they were not quite fulfilled.

There was something fake about it from the near beginning. I think this has happened in other movies as well, where the main actor is playing someone who is playing someone else. In these cases it's hard to judge the actual level of acting, because it is made to look slightly amateurish in order to emphasize the role within the role. Then again it's the end result that matters, and if the story requires it, so be it.

Portrayal of the genetically conformist society was the part that worked well, quite a traditional SF device of warning our present society about the possible future directions. Too bad the SF spirit didn't quite last throughout. It was amusing in an almost Plan 9 sense that the space cadets wore their suits (not spacesuits, but these) all the way to the spaceship. That selection of garments was very apt in conveying a sense of ultra-conformance, but that went a bit too far (in fact, up to Titan ;).

From a less technical point of view, it was a rather nice story of dreams and aspirations, with some neat symbolical touches. However, the SF was not well utilized. Obviously the producers should have steered clear of the SF extensions as they didn't know what to do with them, and make something more mundane instead ;-).

Fortunately Sunday night was time for some proper acting. It was the premiere of Ten Little Niggers where Antti was playing, and he had got me a free ticket. Situated in Ilokivi the staging was not extraordinary, but it turned out surprisingly well for the whole of the play.

More important were the people, of course. Almost everyone was neatly balanced between professional credibility and caricature, clothed in the early half of 1900s style like they should. Antti as the butler Rogers was no exception, after all he does have experience faking stiff-upper-lip English pronunciation and manners. I was especially stunned by the scene where he realizes he's in big trouble, with cold sweat of terror and all. I guess good actors need a ninja-like control of their low-level bodily functions.

The play made some impressive use of sound effects and lighting, or lack of it. When suddenly everything gets totally dark and you hear a scream, you forget it is just an amateur play. While the effects occasionally escalate the atmosphere from a cozy mystery into psychological horror, they also have a more general result of absorbing you into the story. Things don't just happen in the stage in front of you. The voices in darkness extent the world to embrace the audience more closely.

Of course, being a classic Agatha Cristie mystery, the solution does appear in the end, and unlike some horror stories it does not leave a disturbing feeling. But it's probably not a fair comparison. It's hard to imagine getting much more out of the original story. Like the acting, the entire adaptation was a very careful balance between the personal and the loyal. And now I must end this analysis. It was simply excellent.

Sat, Oct 4

<23:56> Hi-ho Silver Nitrate! The dark spots on my fingers that came from a chemistry experiment on Monday are still there. At least it's a nice way of seeing how fast the skin is renewed.

The week has not been particularly inspiring, with extra work sessions on Monday night and today. Infrastructure at home has improved slightly as I bought a used table/desk from a thrift store. I'm still considering getting a vacuum cleaner as my MS-free computers are not providing enough suction.

Risto A. Paju