Sep 292005
 

Greg Costikyan, one of the loudest critics of the state of the game industry, has taken his own medicine; quit a steady job as a game-evangelist for Nokia, and founded a company to resuscitate the rapidly fading PC gaming scene.

The scratchware manifesto quoted on the new company’s front page originates from 2000, and is available at the underdogs’ abandonware site. However, it was pretty much nothing but a breath of hot air until this event.

In a year when the charts have been dominated by sequel after sequel, and the news extolling the virtues of yet more photorealistic graphic abilities of the next-gen consoles, it’s a duo of brave men that believe in the power of originality over established IP and the attraction of gameplay over visual wizardry.

I will be keeping an eye out for the company, and not only because Greg is a good and provocative blogger (and do read his two-part article at the Escapist as well).

Sep 292005
 

Finished Michael Crichton’s newest techno-thriller, State of Fear.

It’s the most conspicuous literary defense of Björn Lomborg‘s theory of global non-warming. And also the first airport novel, that has more footnotes than plot.

And while the story is definitely biased, preachy and recycles an over-used genre cliche, it’s not a totally awful book. And while the author points out that the environmental movement has twisted data to fit their needs, the same story applies to the opposition as well. Occasionally reads like an amateur lecture, and occasionally lapses into narration so clumsy you wouldn’t expect from an industry veteran. And the main storyline is not resolved properly, and that’s a severe demerit.

And despite the extremely opinionated viewpoint, it’s by no means a black and white book (like eg. Tom Clancy’s tend to be), one truth is not rubbed in at every possible occasion. The reader is rather encouraged to question the common wisdom, with some great examples strewn among the dialogue. The book ends brightly – with couple of chapters on fearmongering as a prevalent state of mind in the post-9/11 world and an appendix describing the author’s views on politicized science. And that appendix, and especially the list of political/scientific figures who believed in eugenics as a social strategy is clearly worth third of the price of admission.

Not a bad book, but definitely not very good either – and I’m sure no-one will pick up the movie option on this one.

Sep 262005
 

A lot has been said about the subject, a lot has been pointed out about the general cluelessness of it all. But the finnish government just wants to be more pope than the pope himself.

Indeed, a lot has been said, and I’m not going to try and rephrase it here. Let the following serve as a good selection of what/why/how things are going:

  • A good summary of the situation is provided by Herkko Hietanen (and his blog has multiple entries on the subject) and EFFI (multiple entries as well, in finnish only).
  • The “I’m a criminal blog”, proudly supported by the Lavonardo HQ as well.
  • Merten’s well-worded statement to the unheard part of the equation: the finnish artists.
  • Ministry of Information’s attack on bold (and stupid) words by the powers that be. (The last paragraph has the clue.)
  • The story’s been picked up by the likes of boingboing, slashdot and ars technica. Which probably downgrades Finland’s undeserved 31337-status a few notches.
Sep 252005
 

Well, at least the festival ended with a good movie. Finished the season with Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes.

A vengeance tale from a surprisingly lawless town somewhere in the not so good parts of England.

Done on a smallish budget, with a minimal cast and a lot of the action occurring off camera. But the lack of a budget is not enough to offset a good story (must be a quite controversial twist to Hollywood), and it indeed manages to move along like a well-disciplined soldier. Exactly who the protagonist is, on a highplainsdrifteresque-mission.

Occasionally humorous. But those moments just contrast the pervasive grimness of the story.

Best movie of the foursome, and a decent cap to the festival.

Sep 252005
 

Takashi Miike owes me two hours. Spent them watching his Izo, and that just managed to secure a slot as one of the worst movies I’ve ever had the misfortune of watching.

A vengeance drama of sorts, the story consists of a slowly deforming swordsman hacking apart pretty much everybody he encounters. The bloodshed is done amongst the banalest dialogue this side of mexican soap operas, and even that may be insulting to the latinos…

Even within Miike’s very unpredictable filmography, this really was a low shot. A surprise appearance by the almighty Beat Takeshi was quite clearly the only highlight of the movie, and even he is hopelessly under-used.

Not worth it, and impenetrable. Steer clear.

Sep 232005
 

As the second movie of the festival, saw Michael Mayer’s Home at the End of the World.

And came away seriously underwhelmed. Kept waiting for the story to kick in and the characters to appeal. With the exception of Sissy Spacek in a great role, they never did. The movie has got some great moments, but it’s a very front-loaded experience. After all, it’s hard to top off a scene where a seven-year old kid drops acid in a graveyard…

So, it’s not a bad movie – by no means, but just utterly failed to cross my interest-threshold.

Sep 232005
 

As the first film of the R&A-quad, saw Immortel. It’s a filmatisation of two Enki Bilal graphic novels: The Carnival of Immortals and The Woman Trap.

An interesting movie – contains both live action and animated bits. Where the latter are of a very uneven quality. Some of the characters cross the border of ridicule, whereas some of the scenery shots are nothing short of amazing.

The story is as strange as the albums themselves, and rather simplified to fit into mere 90 minutes. But that does not really detract from a good movie experience.

Sep 222005
 

Was again a late arrival to the R&A festival. Picked four movies out of the ones shown on the second week. One known to be good, one suspected of being weird, nothing to say about the rest beforehand.

And the Tears cancelled their gig in Tavastia. Or apparently their whole european tour. Like Aaro notes, this is yet another failure to the Koff 1st Warning series. Now 2 out of 4 bands have abandoned their tours before reaching Tavastia.

Sep 212005
 

Well, SAS called. The luggage is delayed. But will come in the 22-00 tour. Must. Stay. Awake.

Time to stand up and be counted in the meantime. And do yet another meme to pass the time.

Stole the translation from Janne. Haven’t seen the original.

YOUR OWN BLOG

0. How would you explain blogging/blogs to a friend who knows what Internet is, but not about blogs?
It’s my nook (or cranny) of the net, where I comment whatever I want. It’s personal, it’s done by me as a private person as opposed to a corporate who^W entity. It’s just me, nothing more, nothing less. And bad XHTML, let’s not forget that.

1. When did you start blogging?
29.3.2004.
Did experiment with the medium in the fall of 2002, but never published anything.

2. Why do you blog?
Many reasons, of which none really stands out.
Writing in english is fun, especially when it’s just informal convesationary english.
It’s occasionally therapeutic.
Way to stay in touch with friends.
Very occasional informational entries (I promise, the OLS2005 report will be completed, one day).
And world domination, you can’t really argue with that as a goal…

3. How often do you blog?
Aim to do daily. Often fail, often put in multiple entries on a single day.

4. Do you feel guilty, etc. if you don’t have the time to blog? Why?
Nope.

5. Bloggaatko vai blogaatko, miksi?
This makes sense only in finnish. And yeah, with two g’s, please.

6. Which counter do you use? How many daily visitors (not page views) do you get on the average?
Sitemeter, the server hotel has its own stats as well. They usually agree on 15-30 visitors per day. Usually, sometimes the gap is disconcertingly big.

7. How many readers do you have according to blogilista.fi?
TWO! Make yourselves known, guys, and I’ll buy you a beer.
And yeah, that’s a pretty low number indeed. But I’d write about knitting or screwing if I was looking for higher numbers.

OTHER BLOGS
1. Do you read other blogs? If yes, why?
Usually due to the subject matter. Occasionally for the humor factor, intentional or not. Occasionally because I know the author, but that’s very occasional indeed. There may be other reasons, but these are the big ones.

2. When did you start reading blogs?
2002, I guess.

3. How many blogs do you have on your blogroll?
On blogilista.fi, the list has some 40 entries. Of which some don’t get read very often.

4. What kind of blogs do you most like to read?
Many. Technically insightful. Humorous. Opinionated (even when the opinions are wrong, if the reasoning is good).

5. What kind of blogs do you read the least?
Don’t know. Is there a definite categorization available somewhere?

6. Do you read blogs that you know to be irritating?
Some. But rarely. Either for the argumentation-value, or because the author is guaranteed to make himself look like an idiot on a regular basis. These two are not fully orthogonal.

7. Do you read mostly Finnish or foreign blogs?
More finnish. But the language ratio is pretty much 1:1. On an eight-mile-view.

8. Are the foreign blogs you follow similar to the Finnish ones?
Not really. Foreign blogs are usually way less personal.

9. How often do you read new blogs to find new favourites?
Occasionally. Either via links, or just random browsing.

INTERBLOGISTICS
1. Are you on the Finnish bloglist?
This blog is. None of the others are.

2. If it’s not, then why? Did you ask it not to be added?
One is a project blog at work, another is for information exchange in a very limited group of readers, and the last is pretty much on hiatus.

3. If it is, why is it there?
No better place to list it.

4. How often do you follow your blog’s ranking on top- or hot-lists?
Never. Based on previous year’s performance, it’s not going to end up on either.

5. What do you think / how do you feel, if your blog has gone up on top- or hotlists?
I don’t. See previous.

6. What do you think / how do you feel, if your blog has gone down on top- or hotlists?
I really don’t. See above.

7. Do you ever comment other blogs in their comment sections?
Occasionally.

8. Which blog do you comment the most in?
That’d be Matti’s blog.

9. What kind of entries/matters do you comment the most?
Erm. There’s no pattern. Really.

10. Do you comment other blogs in your own blog? In which situations?
Very rarely.

11. Do you feel that there’s an “inner circle” in the Finnish “blogoslavia?”
Not one but TWO: the knitter’s circle and the real cabal.

12. Do you feel like a part of an inner circle? Why / why not?
Not really.

13. Do you go to blog meets? Why?
Thus far I haven’t, and it’s always been due to decent reasons: flu, jetlag, gig, you pick it. But that’s by no means a guarantee that I wouldn’t show my face in one.

Sep 212005
 

Took a muppet-test to prevent sleep from intruding and here’s the results: I’m Kermit!

kermit the frog
You are Kermit the Frog.

You are reliable, responsible and caring. And you have a habit of waving your arms about maniacally.

FAVORITE EXPRESSIONS:
“Hi ho!” “Yaaay!” and “Sheesh!”
FAVORITE MOVIE:
“How Green Was My Mother”
LAST BOOK READ:
“Surfin’ the Webfoot: A Frog’s Guide to the Internet”
HOBBIES:
Sitting in the swamp playing banjo.
QUOTE:
“Hmm, my banjo is wet.”
[ via Eating Muffins in an Agitated Manner. ]

EDIT 24.8.2008: The link to the test no longer works.

Sep 212005
 

A day earlier than expected, but I’ll promise to properly enjoy Icelandic hospitality at a later date. A ninety minute stopover is not enough. Though I got to sample the local flatbread in the Keflavik cafeteria, and that was indeed an excellent breakfast when comboed with smoked lamb and a frosty coke.

With less luggage than expected, but SAS promised to deliver them as soon as they get here from Copenhagen. Got paged at an airport for the first time ever, and that conveniently cut down the time of unnecessary waiting at the carousel.

With the amount of sleeping in planes as expected. Ie. close to zero. Catnapped a while on the Boston-Reykjavik leg, but that does not qualify as restful sleep. Had an intrusive neighbor, otherwise the seat was excellent – you can’t really disrespect an exit row seat on a transatlantic crossing.

With way less queuing than expected. Logan had a humongous security check line (easily 100+ meters), so decided to have dinner on the landside. Which turned out to be a decent choice indeed – as the queue had vanished by the time the clam sandwich and the last Sam Adams had, as well.

Sep 192005
 

When in Boston, you do not eat steaks. Or at least they ought not be the first priority. This is an old fishing town, and the amount of seafood restaurants reflects the fact.

Went to Barking Crab. A low-key restaurant hidden in the middle of a dead urban zone, next to a sprawling parking lot. Skipped their trademark lobster dishes, and chose to have King Crab legs instead. Delicious, and not too fiddly a dish. But fiddly enough to require the provided bib and a sizable collection of napkins. Key lime pie was a shoo-in for dessert, and didn’t fail this time around, either. A clear late evening showed off Boston’s skyline on the way back to the hotel.

Sep 192005
 

Did a tour of the mandatory Harvard Square shops.

Tower Records never fails. Picked up a couple of Dropkick Murphys albums, as well as the new Opeth and Coldplay’s debut from sale. Chose not to obey the Heikkuri-doctrine, as I did not try out any new local band – the Murphys are an old comrade. However, on the standup-comedy front the shop did not have any Steven Wright material, and had to settle for Bill Hicks instead.

Harvard Bookstore had a paperback edition of Susannah Clarke’s Mr. Norrell, but it was such a hefty volume that decided to pick it up somewhere and somewhen else. They had also ran out of Moleskine notebooks, but fortunately a nearby stationary shop (where we were to hunt for air mail stamps, in vain) turned out to have a more than decent selection.

Sep 182005
 

Boston harbor

Took an early-morning whale-watching cruise from the wharf at the New England Aquarium.

And quite a ride it turned out to be. The tail end of hurricane Ophelia was still churning somewhere down to the south, and the waters were occasionally choppy. However, keeping the eyes on the horizon and facing the wind as much as possible kept seasickness at bay. Barely.

The ship was quite big, a catamaran ship that could seat probably 100 people comfortably. With viewing decks on all three levels, it allowed pretty much guaranteed visibility for all participants.

An unidentified whale
Rode in the uppermost deck, which was a cold choice. Temperature dropped steadily after leaving the dock – and wearing a hefty fleece became mandatory quite soon indeed.

The ship made good progress to Stellwagen Bank, about 50 kilometers from Boston, where the first critters were sighted. The ship cruised slowly for about an hour – during which four different whale species appeared. The headliner of the show was Humpback Whale (ryhävalas in finnish). A couple of individuals were seen, some of them surfacing very close to the boat, with the requisite finslapping and tail-waving performances. A Finback Whale (sillivalas in finnish) was also seen a couple of times, but it behaved in much more timid fashion. A shoal of Harbour Porpoises (pyöriäinen in finnish) followed a fishing boat encountered on the bank, looking for an easy meal. I missed the sighting of a Minke Whale (lahtivalas in finnish), yet another member of the baleen group. Had seen a couple of humpbacks before in British Columbia, and their antics were indeed the highlight of the trip, but the finback was the biggest animal I’ve ever seen (and it clocks in as the second biggest mammal – only the blue whale is bigger than it).

Two humpbacks just below the surface

Decided that I need a better book on whales than the six-pager available on the ship. Time to scour bookstores for decent volumes on the subject.

Ambled back to the hotel after a bit of random shopping: cranberry tea, lonely planet calendar for ’06 and a cap of the local baseball team (the first one fit tried out perfectly and was a steal at 10$).

Humpback tail
Humpback fin

Sep 182005
 

In Boston for a couple of days.

Eventless flights. Had a bit lengthy layover in Stockholm, but a very conveniently placed diners club lounge made the wait a lot more bearable.

First time ever on Icelandair. The Keflavik airport is on the small side, and the planes a bit long in the tooth. But nothing to get too excited about. The earphones for in-flight audio take the cake in being the worst ever, ones that you’re supposed to hang onto your ears as opposed to be supported by a metal strip. Painful. But the movie, Guess Who?, is not enough to entice me to wear them.

Accommodation is in trusty old Sheraton Commander on Harvard Square. Very nice room in a corner on the fourth floor, with views in two directions and a bigger bed than the length of my spread arms.

To combat jetlag, I took a cab to seek out Matti in the Boston Beer Works, a more than decent local brewery/restaurant. And quite a quest it turns out to be. Decided against public transportation, and grabbed a cab. With a cabbie who was pretty much clueless as to where the place is. After two fruitless rounds in the neighborhood, and mistaking left for right, I decided to bail. After paying, of course. And reminding that the extra bucks are not a tip, but a pointed exhortation to get a map. Now.

The food (two appetizers split) is sufficient, the beer doubly so. Finally got to taste their Pumpkinhead Ale, brewed for Halloween. The eponymous vegetable is indeed present in the taste, as is a rich selection of spices. Definitely something to try out, but a single pint is definitely enough.

A brief walk to the metro station, and a quick trip home prepare for a night that is bound to be cut short by an early wakeup. Some things just never change.

Sep 152005
 

Time for the semi-quarterly season-change analysis again.

Is it really fall already? Let’s let the symptoms decide.

  • T-shirt seems too light attire for a lunch trip within campus. Check.
  • You talk about the summer in past tense, as in “man, it was a sucky/great summer”. Check.
  • It rains. A lot. Check, though this is by no means confined to just a single season.
  • Fantasy sports start to pick up steam. Check.
  • It’s actually dark in the evenings. Check.
  • No pants no more. Time to invest in a new pair of jeans. Check.
  • “It’d be cool to pick up a new hobby. Or return to a ditched one”. French, capoeira, something.
  • Finnish soccer season turns into the beginning of the hockey season. Check.

Yah, all but one checked.

It’s fall all right. Hope it snows soon.

Sep 152005
 

Even the leader of the free world needs to visit the loo, but he’s uncommonly civil about determining when to go…

Or it’s an elaborate fake. But it’s on the Reuters site, and that ought to account for something.

EDIT 24.8.2008: Sadly, the link to the photo no longer points to anywhere sensible.

Sep 152005
 

Bought Pohjannaula‘s new album Tätä kaikki kaipaa. And am not thoroughly pleased with it. Call me a luddite, but I preferred the band when they were definitely acoustic and agrarian – clearly the electrical discoveries made on the third album have not suited them perfectly. And Samuli Mäkisalo, the vocalist, sounds very much like Ismo Alanko. So much that at times it feels like a pastiche.

However, as Aaro notes, the band is still killer live. Never seen a bad gig by them, and definitely intend to see them later this year to check out whether turning away from acoustics has hurt their live performances as well. Doubt that.

Sep 132005
 

Chapter four in my favorite vehicular mayhem-series seems to be on the verge of release. At least in the states, the official EU-date is the 22nd.

The rubberband AI is bound to be present, but the uncommonly addictive high-speed hijinx are usually enough to keep the suspenders of disbelief from snapping. At least until I get overtaken on the goal stretch for the umpteenth time in a row by a competitor last seen as a smoking wreck in the inbound chicane.

Sep 132005
 

A random selection of things that have tickled my fancy one way or the other.

  • The collective death of the angry young man as a concept has indeed been misreported.
  • The uncyclopedia entry about Finland is chuckle-inducing, but only if you can spot the references. Or at least the majority thereof, quite a few are on the obscure side.
  • V for Vendetta is out in finnish. Quite a nice hard cover edition. Ought to get, just to entice the publisher for continuing the good work.
  • Never knew there were so many Taschen books around. Will get the “Movies of the $DECADE” one of these days. After the bookshelf-capacity has been increased.
  • PopOut Maps rule as a tourist accessory. The official site manages to suck in several interesting ways (like the utter inability to provide a decent catalogue of the range), so it’s better to check amazon for the locations the maps are available. Collection thus far: Boston, Dublin and Barcelona. All bought on location, used and appreciated.
  • Surprisingly vocal endorsement of the 770. Which has its own watchblog, so there’s clear pent-up interest. And the release ought to be imminent, with 3Q/05 ending in just two and a half weeks.
  • A big collection of Hello, World-programs in tons of different languages.
  • boingboing has been wallowing in post-Katrina-Bush-hatefest, but still occasionally contains gems. Like this scrabble-set in 1337-speak
  • Perspectives on the inevitable Google vs. Microsoft battle: Phil Wainewright, Tim O’Reilly.
Sep 132005
 

The Complete Inspector Morse is not the only desirable huge collection of a very good tv show.

Buffy‘s seven seasons will be released in one 40 disc set in november. Thus far I’ve borrowed the show from friends, and have only one season on disc. Now would be a good time to catch them all.

The Cracker clocks in at a lighter 10 discs, but content-wise it’s hefty stuff indeed. Robbie Coltrane’s star turn as overweight and problem-ridden psychologist would indeed be mostly pleasant to watch again. “Mostly” because some of the stories cut a bit too deep for comfort.

Sep 132005
 

NFL started last weekend, and so did the relevant fantasy football leagues.

Still have a basecamp at Yahoo.

Did not get as good a draft position as last year, and thus missed out on the obvious #1 pick. And no big QB indeed made it to the roster of Hakkapeliitat, unless you count Michael Vick – whose star has definitely been declining lately. Did manage to draft the controversial T.O. from the Eagles – no touchdown catches in the first game, but decent numbers nonetheless.

Too early to say whether the choices pay off, but by far the biggest overachiever of the first week was the Colts defense. Strong show at the expense of Ravens (whose defense I also drafted, coincidentally) – lessee if this D is finally enough to overcome the Patriots, an away game on the ninth week is a major watershed for the season.

A new week, a new game. This will be interesting.