Aug 302005

The irregularly scheduled batch of things recently popping like the weasel.

  • Jason Kottke has seen the light, and moved to embed his links in the flow of the text.
  • There are never too many pictures of cats. Even of cats in sinks.
  • Second issue of Usva is out.
  • Rod Smallwood, Iron Maiden’s manager has wise words to say about the San Bernardino debacle.
  • The story of the original Macintosh graphing calculator is nothing but amazing in its display of persistence.
  • Language policeman has been deployed to improve the use of finnish (and only finnish) in blogs.
  • A cruel list of the top cancelled games of all time. A lot of quality has clearly gone down the drain and been replaced by an endless stream of sequels.

EDIT 24.8.2008: The comments on Maiden are no longer at the old URL.

Aug 302005

Indeed, went ahead and bought new laptop. A 12″ iBook to be exact. Of the new generation (with a bigger disk, and slightly faster CPU). Of the generation that’s had some supply difficulties – so I’m not exactly in possession of the computer yet. But will, soonest. Or so they reassured me.

Why a mac?

Take your pick of the following, or mix together well in a blender before consumption.

  • Had my fill of struggling against Windows in its various guises.
  • Desired to try out whether OS X is worth its rep.
  • Had my fill of struggling against Linux on desktop.
  • Just plain wanted to try out something new.
  • I like the design of the macs.
  • Wanted a well-designed GUI with a proven CLI.
  • Palm has had its day and been replaced with Moleskine.
  • It isn’t going to be the primary computer of the house anyhow.
  • You can use a multibutton mouse.

I think the nonsense-list of OS X apps will come in very handy.

Aug 302005

The old backpack had started to show its years, so it was time to retire it with full honors and upgrade to a new one.

Turned out to be far from trivial effort. There’s dozens of variants in the market. Most of a bad shape, lacking a large enough number pockets, plain unergonomic and fragile, or festooned with an unsightly number of straps, clips and drawstrings for some undescribable extremesporting purposes.

Finally settled on yet another Dakine pack. Sturdy, seemingly waterproof and comfortable. A separate laptop-pocket was definite evolution from the previous model, as is a cord port for the ipod. Good backpack, horrendous website – all done in flash, and proudly breaking majority of design rules at it…

Aug 302005

Finished Mikko Rimminen’sPussikaljaromaani the other day. It’s quite unlike any book I’ve read in a long time, and as such deserves further examination.

Nothing much happens in the book. People walk and talk, and meet characters even odder than themselves, but in the end it’s just another day in the life – nothing spectacular, and clearly nothing to get enthusiastic about.

So it’s not the story that makes the book, but the language. And considering that this is the author’s first novel, that’s quite an accomplishment. The language indeed flows, twisting as it goes – most sentences containing some element that slightly pokes out, but does not annoy. Adjectives are seen in unorthodox places and uses, the colloquial speech is peppered with unnaturally fitting agrarian and academic terms, and nouns are mercilessly verbed to maintain a tone that never gets stuck on an inappropriately chosen word.

Indeed, this is art, and art that could me interested in poetry – if Rimminen can write prose this well, his poems (two collections published thus far) are bound to get out of the left field.

The book was a contender for the annual Finlandia-award, but did not win. It was also overshadowed by another debut of a novel, Helsinki 12, but beats that in comparison by a mile. This is literature, the other merely pulp carefully packaged into a branded wrapping.

Recommended, without hesitation. Translation of the title? Brown-bag novel comes close, but does not fully hit the mark. Pussikalja means beer that’s bought from a store and drunk outside (usually in a park or other public location).

Aug 282005

Went shopping to buy trousers, but bought a laptop instead.

Stockmann’s fault clearly, they do know that it’s been ’501 – dark indigo – 34″/32″‘ for at least the last five years.

And yeah, it’s an iBook.

And no, this does not happen often.

Aug 282005

A category 5 hurricane is approaching New Orleans. Leading to mandatory evacuation of the city.

Compared to that threat, the bit of suboptimal weather we’re having (the usual rain, with a very unusual small tornado added in) is pretty much a walk in the park.

The outlined worst case scenario is bad indeed. And one that would probably alter the city, if not the entire southern Louisiana beyond recognition.

Aug 272005

Did a bit of shopping, being the saturday after payday after all.

No V for Vendetta available in any store. Turns out that an “anniversary edition” will replace the current one. Soon, I hope.

So bought Vertigo’s Lovecraft (well-painted and surprisingly previously missed) as well as the Planetary multi-crossover album instead. And fiddled with the first Powers-album, but decided against it for the time being.

Also bought my first ever read-from-the-back-towards-the-front book. Indeed, it’s my first manga album (perfect placement of the book – was already at the cashier when noticed this). The subject does not concern doe-eyed schoolgirls in uniform or battles with humongulous robots. No, this is a retelling of the Nightmare Before Christmas. Any good? I’ll let you know.

Also bought the first Monsieur Jean-album. It’s a pleasantly well-executed slice of life-type comic. At least the first album went down painlessly. And like its teammate (at WSOY, the finnish publisher) Jussi Jänis, the series will extend to four albums this fall.

Another well-known, but not yet confirmed arrival is the new hardcover-collection by Don Rosa (it’s an odd-numbered year).

Finished reading Jysäys 2/05, the magazine keeps getting better. Although it seems to be shedding a lot of stories without even approaching their halfway point. Praedor is pleasant, Sillage something nice I haven’t been exposed to earlier, but it’s Lewis Trondheim‘s Kaput & Zösky that takes the first prize here. Let’s just hope the magazine can reach a regular publication schedule, right now it’s thoroughly unpredictable.

The very last album read today was a ~100 pager celebrating the first 75 years of Disney comics. With samples from each decade. Very variable quality, as expected. Barks and Rosa emerge as clear winners among the selection. Kari Korhonen’s work (the sample from this decade) is very good also, with Marco Rota handling the art. The most surprising tale is from the fifties – Paul Murry‘s Mickey Mouse in the south seas has aspects that cause suspicion of suboptimal medication during the creation.

Aug 272005

New contender “paha maa torrent” now supersedes “taivas lyö tulta lyrics” as the top term. No I haven’t got either. Haven’t even seen the former.

Behnford’s shop gets at least some hits. And they’ve now got vanilla and lime variants of diet coke, the equivalent real thing mutations still held up in customs.

Aug 262005

Finished watching the 1981 BBC version of Hitchhiker’s Guide. Good show, but definitely on the dated side. In a quaint fashion – bad models are always better than bad CGI.

This is in anticipation of the movie, which I still haven’t seen. Time to check it out next week.

And here’s an answer to a baffling trivia question: David Prowse, the man inside the mask. The question? Ah, which actor has a role in both Star Wars and Hitchhikers…

The 21st century update to the old Infocom classic does not look immediately repulsive either, though new content is confined to graphics I suppose.

And time to grab the original radio series as well as the utterly brilliant finnish version as well on cd. Soon.

Aug 262005

Unidentified slug
A week that’s had its slow and fast portions. Not in optimal ratio.

So sighting this guy on the way home was quite appropriate, and yeah, as you can see from his horns – it rains, has rained and will rain.

The picture is not perfect, the 6680-camera is not exactly the best piece of macro photography equipment I’ve tried.

And while the slug has a yellowish tint to its body, it’s unfortunately quite far from these newly recovered priceless gold dollars.

Aug 262005

Approaching sunset on Mannerheimintie
Broke several years abstainment and joined in on the festivites of the annual Helsinki Night of the Arts.

Weather wasn’t perfect, but rain very much remained in the background. A complete rainbow formed across the sky during the busride and remained for quite an extended period of time. Unfortunately the phone camera didn’t quite capture it right. The sunset on Mannerheimintie turned out better, but there’s disconcerting amount of toppling buildings in that one.

Didn’t do much downtown. Saw Alamaailman Vasarat on Esplanade Stage. Were in good form, and had appropriately inane raps: “let’s all say ‘TAIDE’ now!” and “is cauliflower, in your opinion, bad?” Could have listened longer to them, despite the drizzling rain. And would definitely have bought a t-shirt, if they’d been available as advertised.

Rainbow over railwaystation
Skipped a visit to the official neppis-competition at Makasiinit due to high cover cost. Eight euros is kinda high for a drop-in visit – right? Especially when the activities all around town were completely gratis in contrast.

Saw the thus far only ladybug this summer. Inside akateeminen kirjakauppa, of all the places. Of the smaller two-spotted species, and not the real thing. Pleasant encounter anyway, and one that proves that summer is far from over. Despite the rapidly accelerating nightfalls.

Took a look (and a Corona) in Stockholm, a new nightclub downtown. Supposedly the opening night, with free drinks – but must have missed them by just minutes. No cover charge, ok prices, excruciatingly loud volume. Don’t anticipate a quick return.

Aug 252005

Upper half of a Muppet-stamp sheetSpotted a familiar green face in a very odd place the other day at Stockmann’s magazine department. Kermit, on a stamp (on the cover of some provocatively displayed philately magazine).

Being a lifelong Hensonite, had to dig out more information about the subject. And the news is good – they’re indeed US stamps and will be released in september. And while Scooter is missing from the list of characters, Beaker is fortuitously present.

And the first season of the eponymous show is now out on dvd – so my previously snubbed chances of finally getting the coveted Alice Cooper episode are definitely increasing…

Aug 252005

The constantly improving Escapist-magazine has not one but two extremely interesting articles in its newest issue. One on the current state of interactive fiction, the other on Planescape: Torment, still one of the best-written games there ever has been.

Slashdot (from which the previous was nabbed as well) provides a review of this year’s GenCon. However, it’s very shallow on content, and a lot of the named games have already been released. The ever-reliable GamingReview provides much better coverage.

Gamespot has a nice, albeit short, review of easter eggs in gaming. Ranging from classic to obscure, via the ego-stroking variant, it’s an interesting read. But the attendant forum just fails to work.

Dennis Detwiller’s ransomed Insylum is out. And the fund for the next one is open, and progressing towards the goal. The surprising success of the model has evoked a largish thread on the fora. To a mixed response: the actual ratio between freeloaders and interested patrons is thus far unresolved. And yeah, I’m a card-carrying pledged member of the latter caste.

Aug 242005

Google has gone on a regular release spree lately.

Haven’t yet given their desktop a spin, but will at work where the disk (and especially Outlook’s myriad folders) are just cluttered with hard-to-find nuggets.

Google Earth is nothing short of fabulous, and an incredible timewaster. Even though I do think that the Golden Gate pylons are upright as opposed to reclining on the surface of the bay…

However, the most immediate impact is felt from their brand-spanking new (and still beta) Google Talk, their interpretation of IM. Eschews bells and whistles and concentrates on what’s really useful, talk itself.

Of course, such a closely spaced bunch of releases (though Earth is old news) always raises questions about where the company is heading. Jason Kottke crafted a well-thought out piece on potential future of no less than the entire operating system domain. His analysis preceded the talk-release, but is thought-provoking to say the least. And despite the hopelessly speculative nature of the article, it’s an enjoyable read – and a head and shoulders above the site’s usual fare. While the remaindered links are interesting – the capacity for thorough analysis on various matters is definitely more to my taste.

And while on topic of these next-gen desktop thingamabobs, I finally got around to checking out konfabulator. And nifty it is indeed. Coding-wise as well, so it’s probably time to hoist the sleeves and get cracking. Even though it’s in javascript which I don’t really like – but the choice of an interpreted language means that any interesting widgets can be dissected to atoms. Which bodes well for shallowing out the learning curve…

Aug 212005

While the age of micropayments has not yet arrived, interesting payment models continue to surface.

A recent concept is the use of ransom model. In it a sum is named by the author (around the expected costs to generate the product), and contributions are calculated (with money kept in escrow) until the sum is reached. At that point the product is released for free (under an appropriate license, of course). If the target is not reached within a specified period, the funds contributed thus far are returned.

So what this really means is that the model is actually patronage in a distributed form. Where the distributed part effectively removes “you’ve got to be this wealthy to take this ride”-requirement, now anyone can contribute.

Meatbot Massacre by Greg Stolze was the first ransomed product that I know of. Was aware, wasn’t interested (it’s a “tactical miniatures game”), haven’t even looked at the final product.

However, with the arrival of Greg’s second ransomed game: …in spaaace!, the model saw a lot of discussion in the fora, and Dennis Detwiller jumped into the game. Indeed, Dennis Detwiller, apparently the sole remaining Pagan Publishing guy. And he promptly kicked off not one, but two projects – both related to Delta Green, still one of my favorite shared halluc^W^W game universes. So from my perspective this looks to be a very interesting development indeed. seems to be the biggest player of the game, but by no means very big at all yet.

And for added value, NPR interviewed Greg Stolze (though there’s not much more exposure in the interview).

And gaming isn’t the only niche for ransom-model, as it’s used by at least one novelist as well. And there’s been funds and drives in the software industry. Probably the most famous was held for blender in 2002 to raise no less than 100000 euros.

There’s no wikipedia article on the topic yet. And in my quite sleep-deprived current state, I’m definitely not going to start one now.

Aug 212005

Went to two good friends’ wedding in Suitia, about 60 kilometers from Helsinki.

The party was hovering on the edge of perfection for 10+ hours:

The resurgence of summer we’re currently undergoing hit perfectly. Daytime temperature up to 24, with enough of a breeze and cloud cover thrown in to ease the heat.

The old castlehouse of Suitia, was a truly well-chosen location – high halls, a verdant garden, a patio lit by the evening sun, and a big cellar for the nachspiel.

The ceremony itself was short, pointful and surprisingly touching. Clearly a big margin over the “by the numbers”-occasions so common. Soap bubbles replaced the ubiquitous rice, which was an unexpectedly bright idea.

Food and drink were liberally dished out from a virtual cornucopia.

And most of all, the attendees were in good spirits. This was definitely a warm wedding – where people were loath to depart. Partly due to distance, but the mood was also a big contributor.

Last wedding of the season, it appears. Managed to forget about the tie clip three times out of three, and now’s an appropriate time for dry cleaning the suit.

EDIT 24.8.2008: The Suitia manor is privately owned these days, and no longer available for occasions. URL changed, status sadly noted.

Aug 192005

Figured it’d be good sport to buy a firefox t-shirt. Got dissuaded quickly, as the Mozilla Store, is nothing but expensive when it comes to shipping stuff out. The freight charge for a single shirt is a staggering 54 dollars. Luckily, the organization is opening an European location this year. I’ll be keeping my money until then.

Seems that Christopher Walken’s bid for 2008 presidency is sadly false. Too bad. Compared to the other actors-turned-politicians Walken seems to be head and shoulders above them intellectually. Probably just the reason to be avoiding the DC circuit…

Even more SVG brouhaha. Looks interesting – and with Mozilla browsers moving to include support by default, now’s an appropriate time to get familiar with the technology. Proceedings not out for this year’s conference, but bound to appear.

New blog on the roll (mine, definitely not quick on the uptake): Life with Alacrity. Quality over quantity.

Greg Costikyan has released Violence under Creative Commons-license. A gag game that applied the “kick in the door and slay the inhabitants”-style with fully automatic weapons and dropped the characters into a housing project. Well-written and laid out, provocative to the extreme, and bound to throw anyone with a conservative mindset into dramatic convulsions. And sure, the Wednesday Emperors will try this out. Once.