Mar 292005

But this pretty much qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment all by itself. But, as stated multiple times in comments, the college probably is going to cop out, and not going to follow through its own plagiarism guidelines [Nabbed from kasa].

Me? I cheated in university only once, and that was by accident. Dropped a pen in Algebra I, and whilst picking up happened (your honor, clearly you can perceive my client’s good faith and lack of intent) to see the the graph of the guy sitting in front of me. And the graph was different, way different. Doublechecked mine, and quickly figured out that I had plussed instead of minusing at one key junction of the calculation. Fixing that, I was a couple of points richer. But got the same grade from the class I’d gotten even if I’d had the wrong answer. Karmic balance (or something) was probably maintained by happening to fall into a very involved group in the Software Special Project-class, and ended up working pretty much double the median amount of hours to pass that.

EDIT 19.8.2008: Sadly, the article referred to is gone.

Mar 292005

Yeah, despite the grace of one extra day due to easter, transition to summer time wasn’t made any easier. Odd, how tired you can be after a four day weekend of just chilling out.

Good old wallet seems to be on the brink of disintegrating. Though this replacement made of duct tape seems to be a credible contender, it’s probably better to aim for a real leather one instead. Oh well, this would make a good conversation piece if nothing else, and would be yet another show of the power of duct tape. Maybe I need both…

Mar 282005

Via some site, not that anyone cares: a new way of approaching classical songs.

The originator of the idea deserves a reward.

And here’s the best of the bunch, to give you a quick idea what
it’s all about.

Pink Floyd: another brick in the wall (parts one through three [inclusive])

  • Things across which Daddy has flown:
    • the ocean
  • Things which Daddy has left behind for me:
    • a memory
    • unknown
  • Things which we don’t need:
    • no education
    • no thought control
    • no dark sarcasm in the classroom
  • Conditions in which teachers are requested to leave them/us kids:
    • alone
  • Things the having of which is dependent upon the eating of meat:
    • pudding
  • Things which I don’t need:
    • no arms around me
    • no drugs to calm me
    • anything at all
  • Things which I have seen:
    • the writing on the wall
  • Things which, all in all, are or were just bricks in the wall:
    • it
    • you
Mar 282005

Upon buying the newish Mötley Crüe collection (Red, White & Crüe) on cd I felt a hankering to recap on a couple of key paragraphs of their fabulous autobiography. But was utterly unable to. The Lavonardo HQ library seemed no longer to not contain the epic saga at all.

Of course, the shelves have been unsorted with a cunning algorith even old Donald K. would be proud of, so it took considerable time to ascertain that the said book was not present on them at all.

Bah. It was time to resort to heavier artillery, so the hoover was rolled out of its stables. And man, did it have its work cut out for him. Such an abundance of dust bunnies were hiding out below the bed, that you could have sworn the instrument of cleansing was actually whimpering with joy whilst vacuuming up the sad remnants of a couple of weeks’ neglect.

However, it was not only the merciless elimination of clinging dust that the vacuuming brought out, but the lost book as well. Indeed, instead of anyone scurrying out with the volume under his/her jacket, the elusive epic was discovered behind the computer desk, being carefully propped up against it.

There must be a moral to this story. Lemme think…

Got it, got it. I need a maid.

Mar 272005

‘s been boring. Missed a lot of things over the first three days of easter. And probably gonna miss some more still.

As roklintu states, there was a retro-esque grunge-cover night at Nosturi. Could have been good fun, after all, I managed to miss all four of the original bands anyway, and thus’d been unable to lean back with rock-police attitude and dis the coverer.

And I was kept utterly in the dark about a pinball tourney in Helsinki, of all the places. Well, now I know where the playas hang out, just wait for next year.

Noted on sunday that Cousin Bill was playing at Molly. The last time was good fun, but just couldn’t drag myself out of the sacred sofa of comfitude. Watching the season three of Shield was a far more attractive proposition.

Mar 272005

Well, it’s here again. The scourge of mornings, the envoy of caffeine overdosing, the delayer of dawns.

At least it hit on easter, so I’ll have one extra day to adjust before work. Right. As if. And other quiet retorts of disrespect.

Mar 262005

Exhibit A: Sapattivuosi, a finnish Black Sabbath-only cover band. Finnish as in: also the lyrics are in finnish. Their second album is out now, bought the first one today, since the price has been now significantly reduced. No Paranoid on either record. Haven’t seen them live, so don’t know whether that’s part of the repertoire at all.

Exhibit B: Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar by Neil Gaiman. No, no, no. I’m not trying to claim that the creator of Sandman is a finn, honorary or otherwise. This Lovecraftian tale is illustrated by one, Jouni Koponen, a fan who sent his pictures to Neil, and here they are immortalized in book form. And as further homage to Finland, the protagonist is seen prancing around in a very traditional Jussi-shirt in some of the images. Locally available, but not that cheap (14 euros for twenty-odd pages), but at least part of the cost goes on to an excellent cause.

Did the not-periodical enough update to the record and movie listings.

Mar 262005

University of Utah Running Utes are now 0-6 against University of Kentucky Wildcats in the whole history of the NCAA basketball tournament. So, no trip to the final four this year, not even the elite eight.

Well well, let’s hope Andrew Bogut decides to remain in the team and refrains from turning pro before his senior year. Unless it’s Jazz that picks him up in the draft, that is.

Mar 262005

Or to be more exact, very low grade smoke tricks and ventriloquism.

Had the third quasi-monthly game night at Pekka’s place. The pinball machines were not the mainstay of the evening, four man Ghost Recon 2 was. Managed to suck at that, too. And in the meantime (once dead, there ain’t coming back until the mission’s finished, one way or the other) played a somewhat respectable score (392M) on the almighty Twilight Zone. The third ball gave out whole 17 million points, and drained immediately after the grace period ran out, so there indeed was potential for a vastly better score.

Mar 252005

Added a couple of links to previous entries.

Also added a paragraph on the lack of whale watching possibilities in the New England Aquarium. Definitely have to look for a cruise the next time in Boston. Missed the whole thing while writing the original entry. Which is kinda ironic, them whales being biggest creatures on the planet and all.

Mar 252005

AK-47 breaks his left wrist in a loss to Washington.

Well, the iron men-era is now over in Salt Lake – and Sloan badly needs depth. Previously it could pretty much be taken for granted that #12 and #32 were on the floor, creating havoc with their never-excelled pick and roll move. But then, Stockton and Malone never really broke any bones, just endured scores of sprains, bruises and hurts, so comparison is actually not very fair.

Time for a good lottery pick, come draft in the summertime. Nay, it’s time for an excellent pick, as the Jazz currently hold the third-last position in the standings.

Mar 192005

Full plane from Logan to Frankfurt. Bad food. Finding Neverland on communal screens that experience severe hiccups (I don’t think fifteen minute blackouts are a part of the film, anyway). Thankfully I’m packing a decent book instead, Dennis Lehane’s Prayers fro Rain. Not a great book, the irish-Bostonian tale contains too heavy über-criminal elements for comfort (shades of bad Patricia Cornwell novels abound). But decent enough to tide over the boring flight.

Frankfurt airport at 6 am is not that fun a location, considering that there’s still almost four hours of quality layover time left. And the local Diners Club lounge is closed on sundays. Very few places open, even fewer of any interest. Segafreddo cafeteria provides comfort and shelter from impacting daylight. But not for long, time to embark on the last leg – a daytime shuttle to Helsinki.

An old Airbus without much comfort, but not any discomfort either. Good enough for two and a half hours. Luggage arrives slowly on carousel, but without any visible impact from TSA, which is always a good sign.

Mar 192005

Met Matti for the third time on this trip. Had an enjoyable kickdown of the winter semester, travelling through several MIT pubs towards the Barking Crab restaurant. Great lobster dinner, good dialogue with Matti & Kössi.

And tomorrow morning allows for a lazy breakfast, and photos around Harvard before leaping onto the plane back to Helsinki (via Frankfurt).

Mar 172005

Yah, after a quiet hour or two at the hotel, it was time to venture out and see what the famed St. Patrick’s Day really holds.

The T is surprisingly quiet – quite unlike Mayday back home, though a lot of the people are wearing green.

Upon reaching downtown the party has certainly started. The homeboys near the station are wearing ethnically appropriate, but still green clothing: Celtics jerseys or shirts by fubu and the like. However, moving towards the Quincy Market, the true partiers become visible. Pretty much everybody has decked on more and more green. Shirts, hats, jackets, whatever. Some adventurous individuals are wearing kilts, which is probably not a good idea when the temperature has decreased from the no-so-balmy heights of the noon. And especially since the lines in front of any quasi-irish bar are huge. Roisin Dubh, McNally’s sport lines that curve around corners and seem not to be moving at all.

Cruising around the area, I settle down in front of Ned Devine’s. Where the line is a little bit shorter. But slow. Very slow. During the twenty-odd minutes of waiting something like ten people get in, and the line moves less than twenty feet. No good. I retreat to Cheers, already visited during the day, where a semblance of an irish celebration is ongoing.

But not a very good semblance. They run out of Guinness immediately. Everything is sold in plastic cups. And music is loud, very loud. And very non-irish. Unless Peppers and Snoop Dogg have lately been granted citizenship without me noticing. Clearly I’m not the only one with culture shock, in a neighboring table a midwestern couple wipes barbecue sauce off chicken fingers with napkins before devouring them. NCAA basketball, ubiquitous during the whole week keeps playing on all screens in the bar. Looks and feels chaotic, but really isn’t, the lines work and people remain reasonably polite well into the night. Me? Cut my losses before midnight and hopped on a red train back towards Harvard Square.

Quick clue: What not to wear on St. Patrick’s Day:

  • Anything orange (irish-irish rivalry).
  • Anything with Yankees insignia (boston-new york rivalry).

Nope. Wore neither, and only a very few brave individuals wore the latter, none the former. Had a green t-shirt (with spindly yellow Dali-elephants on it).

Mar 172005

Another well-slept night. Looks like I’m adjusting. Bought Globe, in hopes that it’d state where the St. Patrick’s day parade is. Nope. No information. Probably it’s common knowledge for everybody else. Well, I’ll bump into it or then I won’t.

Back to Long Wharf, to see Cameron’s new movie and to visit the aquarium.

The latter first, though I buy a combo ticket that includes the movie as well, since the shows have been steadily sold out lately. The New England Aquarium is a largish cubical building, that houses a huge seawater tank at its center, flanked by four penguin enclosures at the bottom, and the sides lined with smaller tanks.

Unknown species of jellyfish

In addition to the regular inhabitants, there’s a temporary exhibit that concentrates on jellyfish, ie. medusas. A dozen or so big tanks filled with nothing but water and the creatures themselves, as the fragile animals don’t really co-exist that well with static decorations such as corals and rocks. The display is nothing short of magnificent, the subdued light of the aquaria brings out the colors of the creatures, and their undulating movements tend to be on the hypnotic side. This is the first time I’ve seen so many species in one exhibit, and the view is indeed captivating. Too bad the place is invaded by schoolkids, whose noise pretty much shatters the tranquillity of the place immediately. But apart from the noise, they’re pretty well-behaving bunch, and refrain from the usual tricks of tapping the glass and suchlike. Anyway, based upon the released images of the Aliens of the Deep, there’s plenty more jellyfish yet to come…

The building is indeed dominated by a huge sea tank, whose 200000 gallon capacity and contents can be viewed from three levels, as well as from directly above. It contains around 120 species, from sharks, rays and turtles to way smaller creatures.

Expectant penguin

The penguin pool is divided into three separate enclosures, each housing a different species. The birds were being fed, one herring at a time. The male (I assume) rockhopper penguins were making quite a
noise, hooting and hollering and filling the big hall with sound. Before witnessing the source I was pretty sure it was a loud seal instead. According to descriptions on the pools, all penguins can make loud noises, a fact that has escaped my notice utterly thus far.

The rest of the building is filled with smaller tanks. Their contents range from traditional (a bored electric eel, couple of reefs, Amazon recreations [piranhas, a sleeping anaconda]) to the expected (several local biotopes from the New England coast and rivers) and a couple of more novel displays (bioluminescent animals). Missed sea otters, since signage in the building was not really of the optimal kind.

The “biggest creatures of the Aquarium” are not available for viewing before april. Too bad, would have been a very interesting afternoon. Took a smaller scale whale safari in Victoria, British Columbia (like, Canada’s west coast), and that was a great experience. Saw a few Orcas, two Humpback Whales (a mother and her calf) and a couple of dolphins during the three hour zodiac-cruise in the Juan de Fuca strait. Especially the humpbacks up close were an awesome display of animal power. And the sea is just so much closer when you’re sitting in a rubber boat as opposed to a ship or an airplane.

Not so small reef

On to the IMAX-theatre next door. Where there are even more kids. A lot more kids. Noise dies down when the Aliens of the Deep movie starts. And what a movie it is. Even the conditions are unorthodox. The screen is IMAX-sized and the movie is shot and shown in 3D, with blue/red-accessory glasses handed out to every viewer. And it is indeed nothing less than breathtaking, after it overcomes the surprisingly slow start. But once the stars of the show, the critters of the deep (fish, invertebrates, and all kinds of weird animals), enter the picture the mood changes. The movie just celebrates the ability to view the animals – in scenes that seem to be a glorious mix of Jacques Cousteau with Timothy Leary. Towards the end the movie strays from deep sea exploration to pure science fiction, and is capped by a very over the top scene. But all in all, the 45 minutes or so contain so much distilled sense of wonder that such shortcomings (odd ending, too many mugshots of the director himself) are overcome. Yeah, this is a four star movie, but I expect the inevitable dvd to be both longer and deeper in content.

Had lunch at Cheers, though not the original, but replica conviently located in Faneuil Hall. Decent burger, good clam chowder for appetizer, but worrisomely the Sam Adams from tap is served in a plastic Bud Light mug.

During the aquatic exploration the city has slowly been filling out with people celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Most are wearing green, in either subdued fashion (t-shirts) or leaning towards the extreme (fake bright green afros). Even the ever-present japanese tourists milling around have been clued in to the day, and display token shamrocks on their clothes. The crowd seems to be pleasantly sober, but according to all reports, this will be changing as the day progresses.

One more new record store on the way back to the hotel: Strawberries. Five floors, which are small. Seems to be like Rasputin Music in San Francisco, albeit this is better organized. Pick up a couple of cds: Death Angel’s Act III is a steal at ten bucks, and Dropkick Murphys seems to be the locally worshipped irish band – a live album is probably a good way to get to know them. Manage to instantly nullify my meager street cred by asking the clerk what’s the music they’re playing in the store (nicely aggressive poguesish melody mixed with rough vocals), and he wordlessly points towards the Murphys cd I’m holding… Well, live and learn. And there was no-one else at the same counter anyhow.

Mar 162005

The phone book indicates that there’s an HMV-store on campus. However, on closer inspection they’ve moved out and been replaced by an outdoorsy-type clothing store. Too bad, would’ve probably had something interesting on sale.

Nearby mini-mall proves very interesting shops-wise: a good comics store, a game/book store and yet another record store are almost next to each other. The first has an ample supply of new comics: the first four Sin City albums have been reprinted, the new Fables collection is out, and there’s at least half a dozen more Hellblazer albums than I thought. The game store has a surprise on its bookshelf – a new book by Norman Spinrad. The title is even more surprising: Druid King – the king of new wave is embracing historical fantasy…

The restaurants of the area, especially the interestingly vietnamese Pho Pasteur, are packed to the gills.

Mar 162005

First day of my three day holiday in Boston, and to celebrate that I’m actually able to sleep until six a.m.

Leisurely breakfast, accompanied by the complimentary USA Today. It’s not the best newspaper in the world, but it’s good enough.

.22 bullet meets an Apple

Set up a meeting with Matti at MIT for early afternoon.

Walk the intervening four kilometers or so along Massachusetts Avenue. Drop by the MIT Museum, initially to kill some time, but end up staying for the better part of two hours, enthralled by the collection. Which is not that vast, but quality massively outstrips quantity here.

First up, the Flashes of
gallery, a collection of split-second artwork from Harold Edgerton. The shredding of the apple is probably his most famous image, and badly reproduced in a photograph of a photograph to the left.

Kismet, mischeviously

The fruits of MIT’s long-enduring robotics program at the famed Computer Science and Artifical Intelligence Lab are fascinating as well. Some of the droids are familiar from media, but the stories behind them usually are not. Some of the robots are interactive, but the most historical Kismet, pictured to the right, is the most visual of the robots on the show. Able to mimic facial expressions upon
deducing the mood of the person it is communicating with. Haptic sensors (used eg. in surgical training) complete the collection. The collection housing autonomous underwater exploration equipment is available at another location, so the full range of the robots is not shown here. But the selection seems to enthuse visitors of all ages, from babies sitting in laps to oldtimers.

A kinetic sculpture by Arthur Ganson

The next gallery contains kinetic sculptures by Arthur Ganson. Spindly Rube Goldberg-style chainreaction-machines that twist and churn around
multiple axes. Constructed mainly of wire, and often viewer-driven (some do have electric motors instead). Neither words, nor still images can do justice to Ganson’s work, hence his homepage has movies of some sculptures.

A couple of more ordinary showcases fill out the museum: history of holograms, visualization of physics, young engineers and finally, the history of the university itself.

Two hours well-spent.

Run into Matti well ahead of schedule and grab lunch from one of the stalls outside the main building. I join him, and a bunch of his classmates in a lecture on Apollo space program, an elective course (class code ESD.30J, if you insist on knowing). Given by two members of the program, the two hours are filled with both first-hand knowledge and interesting anecdotes. Clearly, these two old guys can
captivate the audience. The two hours go by very fast, and the session ends in deserved applause. One of the best lectures I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing, given by true heroes of the engineering domain. I don’t think the engineers responsible for the space shuttle will receive as much enthusiasm, when they eventually replace the Apollo crew.

Matti needs to get back to studying for last few papers before spring break (starts in two days), so after a quick roundabout he drops me off at the metro stop. I drop in to the MIT Press bookstore, and (again) come out a few books richer and with a slightly thinner credit card. Twisty
Little Passages
, the definitive history of interactive fiction is out in paperback as well, but bought that as soon as it came out, last year.