Jan 312005

First movie of the year. Richard Linklater’s sequel to the excellent Before Sunrise from 1995.

It’s talky. It’s very talky indeed. With events progressing in (almost) real time.

It also looks good, exploring nooks and crannies of Paris on street level. Not touristy (though Notre Dame gets a nod), not squeaky clean, but an everyday metropolis, that just seems to be famous the
world over. I visited the movie’s starting location, Shakespeare & Co. bookstore last may, and would have circled the area for much longer if I’d known it was this nice. The store itself is an experience, and has probably the most dangerous staircase ever for access to the second floor.

It tells a good story. Which kind of loses its point if exposed beyond the basics (which have been told over and over in the media), so go watch the movie.

Me, I’ll wait for the inevitable dvd-doublepack. And for Linklater’s rendition of almighty Philip K’s A Scanner Darkly.

Jan 312005

Suits me right for playing with an alpha release, the engine froze during a well-zoned game of Funhouse. Oh well, perfect hits are not as rare with the virtual thing as with the real one.

And my moans about the ancient technology used in visual pinball seem to have been heard… As long as Future Pinball delivers its promises. Looks excellent. And here’s looking forward to fiddling with the demo, when easter bunny comes knocking.

Jan 272005

Get Visual Pinball. Right now.

That is, of course, if you care for the noble sport at all. If not, this is not going to convert you… In a nutshell, visual pinball is an editor that allows the creation of pinball tables. Which is pretty much the smartest move in this area since the classic Pinball Construction Set by Bill Budge in the early eighties.

Supplemented with PinMAME, which offers emulation of actual pinball machines’ ROM chips, it provides means to play virtual pinball on user-created tables. And many of those have indeed been created. Sampled a few: Twilight Zone, Addams Family, Alien Poker (the very first pin I ever played back in ’81). And as the size of Internet Pinball Database indicates, there’s plenty more to come.

Of course this ain’t a perfect product. The ball movement is not entirely natural, but very convincing nonetheless. The tables are not truly 3D, so you cannot scale the tables or look at details from
different angles. And the engine is visual basic, which means that the game experiences occasional hiccups. And the controls… Sure, they are nothing like real pinball, but then again, who’d expect a
similar haptic experience from a measly keyboard.

Jan 262005

No, it’s not an oxymoron.

Some italian rec.*.int-fiction regulars have founded a company to produce and distribute their games.

In the era of ever-flashier graphics and shorter attention spans, this is a gutsy move to say the least.

EDIT 18.8.2008: The link works, but there isn’t much to see…

Jan 242005

Amplifier is out of tune, heavy distortion on the center and left front speakers. If it fails to submit to reason via vacuuming and general slapping around, it’s time for more extreme measures. This is no fun, especially when the box sometimes happily plays for hours on end without a slightest hint of aural discomfort, whereas on other occasions it mangles even spoken word almost beyond recognition.

iPod battery is fighting a losing battle. Nowadays the charge barely lasts two days worth of walking to work (~one and a half hours, in total) before sloping below the halfway mark. This is not what Apple promised. But fortunately they did promise a worldwide warranty… Just need a short day at work to be able to have a serious chat about getting a replacement battery at a local dealer.

Jan 242005

Lessee, we might be actually entering a true winter for a change.

A foot of snowfall in just two days. Check.

More snow on its way. Check.

Five consecutive days of below zero temp in Helsinki coming up. Check.

Silly ideas about going snowshoeing on saturday. Check.

Yah, it’s winter all right. Had gotten tired of the slush and vertically flying sleet already. It’s actually nice and pearly white outside. Albedo is good when the length of the day is still six hours and some minutes.

It’s quite something else in Boston, where Matti reported half a meter of snow in a single day.

Jan 242005

Unsurprisingly, the Patriots clawed their way to Superbowl once again. Third time in four years. Well, they aren’t the most boring team ever. Or even right now. But would have preferred Steelers.

Only watched the first final yesterday, and a decent game it was. Despite seriously averse conditions (cheerleaders in thick jackets, sacrilege!), McNabb managed to throw the requisite amount of yards and Brian Westbrook (the second half of Haagan Hakkapeliitat’s running game) put on a decent one-man-show in the third quarter.

No finnish commentary whatsoever, that’s gonna change for the worse by the actual bowl. Too bad the commercials are not shown, there’s bound to be wheat among the chaff within the most expensive seconds of the year.

Go Eagles. Or Pats. Don’t really care, just put on a good show.

Jan 232005

Yes. My next phone will be one that has an automatic keylock.

No less than three accidental calls this week from an unlocked phone in a pocket. One to Tampere, one to Geneva and one to Phoenix, AZ (maximally sorry, Tim – hope didn’t wake you up).

To prevent further embarrassment I’ve now retreated to neurotically checking the keypad state before depositing the phone to a pocket.

Jan 222005

Travel fair was OK. Picked up a bunch of brochures. And bought a quarter of a pound of reindeer salami from the domestic travel department.

Finally purchased Ministry’s Psalm 69, which has been conspicuously absent from collection. Too bad it contains the shorter version of the classic Jesus Built My Hotrod-song, but fortunately I’ve
got it in its full eight minute glory on a cd-single. Maybe should get House of the Mole ASAP as well, since Jourgensen & company seem to produce their angriest work when working within the confines of a
Bush-administration. Also bought the new Apocalyptica, based on the strength of their gig on monday. At least two versions out of the latter – got the one with “three” extra songs.

And the third book (actually split into two volumes) of George Martin‘s Song of Fire and Ice: a Storm of Swords. This is an excellent (and mature) fantasy series, whose quality just runs circles around the by-the-numbers efforts by the likes of Eddings and Jordan. Got the first two books in finnish translation (by Kirjava, a tiny publishing company), and figured that it’ll be a while before this 1000+ page monster sees the light of day translated. So far the finnish editions have been excellent (some inconsistency in names, but that’s a minor gripe), and I sure hope the company flourishes – thus far the critical reception’s been good, but you never know how that correlates with sales.

Couldn’t hold off picking up the remaining two add-ons to Carcassonne. The Inns & Cathedrals seems to be a simple addition, but the other, Traders & Builders significantly adds to the complexity of the game. The small expansion King has already been rolled in, and won me a game handily. The newest, the Count also seems to be a significant addition, and thus far has been held off from inclusion. Grapevine reports that the basic game gets boring after a while, these additions should stem the tide of boredom for a long time.

Noticed that SchizoBlog, too, has opened a side-blog, on games. Decent links, go and have a peep.

Noted that I really like Altoids, which do not seem to be on sale in Finland. Have to look for a bunch of tins (real metal, no wussy cardboard boxes, please) the next stateside trip. Perhaps there’s an unofficial, grey-import, supply (like with Vanilla Coke and other thus far unintroduced sodas), but haven’t run into the distinctive boxes yet.

EDIT 18.8.2008: More non-functional links.

Jan 222005

Indeed. No details, but it was considerably tough week at the office. No politics, just traditional hard work.

Went for a quiet piece of toast and a pint of a decent stout at Teerenpeli with Jytky to cap off the week.

Figured that it’d be stupid to turn in too fast, went to see if there was anything going on in neighboring irish classic. Sure was, Cousin Bill was playing. Probably from Ireland (vocalist has an appropriate accent at least). Hung out for three sets, of pretty uniformly high quality. Nothing but cover songs. And the selection ranged from the blatantly predictable (U2′s With or Without You) to highly unexpected sources (4 Non Blondes, Green Day, Metallica).

Good fun, not exactly the caliber of Stamp ‘n Go Shanty, but then again, very few bands are.

Off to the annual Helsinki Travel
now to scope out some action for winter vacation.

Jan 192005

Finally got Green Day’s American Idiot. Which, upon a few rounds through, is a serious contender for the album of ’04. Punk opera. Does not seem a likely combination of genres, but it works. And the title track just oozes the optimal qualities of punk-pop.

Why didn’t anyone clue me in on this sooner? Does this mean that I actually have to start listening to radio?

On a completely unrelated note (watch me not bother to create a new entry) the beloved IE got some accidental bad press in the finnish teletext-service (or there’s an appropriately placed fifth columnist working within the system).

EDIT 18.8.2008: The IE-link seems to lead nowhere.

Jan 182005

Yhteinen Asia-concert logo

Saw five decent (or even good) finnish bands in the Red Cross benefit concert. As far as could be understood, the participants played free of charge and all profit goes straight to aid the victims of the Asian earthquake.

Arrived late. And missed our president’s speech. And all but the last 30 seconds of Negative’s set. Seemed to be decent glam rock, with the obligatory bits of teen hysteria added.

The 69 Eyes played a surprisingly subdued gig. The sound was not optimal (and continued to plague the other bands as well). No evolution since their gig at Tavastia. Short selection of songs (all bands were restricted to ~30 minutes or so). Two go-go girls during the Chair, which was new.

Surprisingly, the bands did not play in popularity order. Expected Apocalyptica next, but got The Rasmus instead. Predictable gig, with the necessary hits. The guitarist’s short speech was the only one during the night that did not seem like a publicity stunt. Clearly not a planned effort – voice broke, and the story of his vacation of tsunami-struck Maledives (got home a day before the disaster) was not the most coherent. Good show, been at least three years since I saw them last.

HIM took the stage next. Familiarly enough, the set was on the predictable side like with all others. Sound was worse than for the other bands – you could hardly hear the vocals at times.

The last band of the evening was Apocalyptica, who got famous for their cello-renditions of Metallica’s classics. Played the requisite covers (Master of Puppets, Nothing Else Matters, Hall of the Mountain King), before being joined on stage by the vocalists of the two previous bands for Bittersweet. Which put an appropriately melancholic end to the concert.

All in all the occasion was very well-organized – bands came on stage on minute-sharp deadlines, and the breaks were filled with amusing DJs. Darude violated several rock’n'roll classics with his renditions – Nirvana’s smells like teen spirit, Bon Jovi’s living on a prayer and Pink Floyd’s another brick in the wall (part 2) were all segmented and reassembled almost beyond recognition. No drunken kids at all which was a welcome change from the usual concert-fare in the Areena.

And considering the rarity with which the two biggest acts have lately performed in Helsinki, this concert was more than a good deal.

Jan 172005

The Indianapolis Colts continued their quixotic campaign against the New England Patriots. And got trounced once again. Thus, yet another early exit from the playoffs. The frozen Foxboro air clearly isn’t doing good things to the best throwing arm in the league, his collective statistic from the Partiots home field is zero wins out of seven games.

Jan 162005

Blogwise, that is. Otherwise, not really. Too busy week at work and a decent number of lengthy extracurricular activities prevented real entries…

Restaurant Koto in downtown Helsinki serves killer sushi. And the literate version of that shall be available soon, when the soon-to-be-opened Raku-ya
employs a fugu-certified chef.

Pinball is still fun. Had a lengthy game night at Lemmy’s place. Sucked at both Twilight Zone and especially Star Trek. Scores way lower than previously. Both Carcassonne and WarioWare proved to be amusing as well.

Finns continue to pester Arsenal. This time it was Jussi Jääskeläinen’s goalkeeping that kept the gunners from scoring against Bolton. Chelsea thus widened their margin on top of the standings.

Addictive, yet utterly mindless flash-games, part n: Tobby.

Hyugens landed on Titan. And is able to transmit images
and sounds.

EDIT 18.8.2008: Tobby seems gone.

Jan 112005


In bothnian. Thus, only in finnish. Very, very impressive.

S’oli komia päivä ku Pussiaasen vanahalla isännällä oli
syntymäpäivät. Koko kylä oli kökäs rakentamas pitopöytää
Pussiaasenloukon kaks’fooninkisen pihamarkille. Pilipo-isäntä itte
touhas kyökis tarkistamas, notta onko sahti valamista. Ihimemiäs
Kanralffi rakenti kovalla tohinalla kokkua illaksi, ja kylän kersakki
oli hupulaasina; ei sitä ny joka päivä känäänen sataayhtätoista

It probably gets old fast, but the beginning is good fun. And consistent.

Jan 092005

Hooray! MTV3 is going to show not only the bowl game itself, but also the conference finals.

Lost the bowl in Yahoo’s fantasy league. Too bad, the team played decently, but the other guy’s RBs outmatched them easily.

49ers took the lowest position in the whole league. Now, with a #1 pick in their hands they can really start to rebuild.

Indianapolis, the one of the whipping boys of the league for so many seasons (next to Cincinnati) is maiming the Denver Broncos something fierce in today’s wild card game. Never expected anything less from Peyton Manning, after he retired the twenty year-old touchdown record this season.

EDIT 16.8.2008: The first link is superseded by bowls of later years, the second ought to work still.

Jan 092005

Helsinki Harbor, slightly flooded

Erwin the storm has wreaked havoc across the northern parts of Europe, Finland has been spared the worst effects thus far.

The only noticable effect is the sea level, which is quite a bit above normal in the Helsinki harbor (five feet). Normally you can dangle your legs from the edge, today you sure couldn’t. Not much water on
the market square, but quite a lot of preventive materials, like huge bales of paper to staunch the potential flood of seawater.

But still, it was the top item in the half-past-eight news and quite a bit of people were on an evening stroll on or near the square, such displays of mother nature occur so rarely on these latitudes as to always be interesting.

[ The very first photo-blog entry. One that has revealed yet more CSS nastiness in the stylesheet. A maximally crude hack allows sensible viewing of this entry, but a proper floating behavior must be installed ASAP. Looks like the whole style model needs seriour refactoring. Well, that's what you get when you learn as you go. And prototypes were always meant to be tossed and replaced. ]

Jan 092005

Bought an aquarium on friday. Crafted an additional blog to document setting it up as well as its life once the occupants settle down. So, fish-averse readers can now browse this stream of consciousness safely, without constantly stepping on slimy flounders and other scary critters of the deep.

EDIT 16.8.2008: The link works, but there’s not much content. I so need to pick up writing about fish again.

Jan 092005

Dear friend,

Hope your communicator still works even when the Nazguls have been tearing down the base stations in the westerlands.

Anyway, noted that you failed to grab your riding directions to Barad-Dûr from the printer.

Cheers to the whole Fellowship, take care


Jan 092005

roklintu has announced the 2004-poll results.

No big surprises. Franz Ferdinand reigned supreme in the non-finnish category, whereas the local categories had were dominated by Y.U.P. even though they were pretty silent during the year.

Jan 092005

Carrying on the dvd-backlog reduction as the weather continues to amaze with its lack of quality. Two movies that turned out to have a lot more in common than I originally thought. Two movies that I really should have seen on the big screen instead.

First up, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie, worth of good 4 stars. So, I was probably the last to see this movie, and quite a hole it had been. Showing a mythical late-spring Paris, where concierges still reign supreme and small corner-stores live on as opposed to Carrefour hypermarches. Audrey Tatou fits her eponymous part perfectly, representing a weirdly believable paragon of naivety. The cinematography matches the faery tale atmosphere, the colors are vibrant and play off the contrasts well.

Well, she didn’t change my life (to quote the poster tagline), but sure provided an amusing two hours. And a reason to catch up Jeunet’s a Very Long Engagement (starring also Tatou) when it appears.

And next up, Tim Burton’s Big Fish, that with the force of full 5 stars shows that his previous planet of the apes was just a brief hiccup on his career. Anyway, this is yet another modern faery tale, and even stronger story than Amelie. The main element is the power of a good story, and it is indeed told via both fantastic and mundane elements. Actors fit their parts well – Billy Crudup’s lack of emotions fits his character well, Ewan McGregor hits a perfect southern twang, and both Jessica Lange and Albert Finney as the elder Blooms seem moulded for their roles. The images are, again, worthy of a dozen positive adjectives, Burton’s attention to detail pays off. And the soundtrack, both Danny Elfman’s composition and the hand-picked tunes (loved Allman Bros’ Ramblin’ Man on it), seems purchase-worthy as well.

Besides, how could a movie that begins with a tracking shot of a huge catfish be anything but absolutely brilliant.

Anyway, go watch these movies. They’ll do their best to make a better person out of you.

Jan 092005

Fiddled with the title/date definitions, since they were overflowing a little. And as a side effect internet explorer (win/6.0) is now actually able to display the page in somewhat sensible fashion. The elements in the sidebar do not obey the font-sizing rules for some unexplainable reason, but that’s a minor loss compared to the original layout catastrophe.

Anyway. You really ought to use a real browser instead: firefox, opera, safari, konqueror, whatever. Yada yada.

Also updated the record and dvd lists for the first time in a way too long while.

Further comments
about misbehavior (with attached screen dump for clarity) welcome, of course.