Oct 312005

Woo, first mac-related entry here in a long long while. It’s not that I have nothing to say about the subject, but nothing has exactly broken the surface yet.

Anyway, turns out that I seem to be incompatible with iPhoto. It just seems to be too constricting to work as an image-editing solution.

The best OS X software guidance site (snadiomena) I’ve located thus far features a wide array of alternatives.

And now’s the time to pick and choose… Ought to be cheap(ish) (so photoshop CS is out), should have a decent interface (so GIMP is definitely at risk here), ability to deal with a decent swath of image formats (so getting an ancient version of photoshop is not an option) and altogether be more of an image manipulation program than something that attempts to organize my photos every chance it gets.

Have played with adobe’s Elements, photoshop’s kid brother, and it satisfies most requirements above. And its eagerness to reorder and tag photos can be curtailed by forcing it to work in a pure edit mode. So that just might be it, or not. I guess I have to bite the bullet and try out a couple of others before settling down.

Oct 312005

Eddie emerging behind the body-tag

And on halloween of all the days.

How could it be anything else but something on classic old school heavy metal. And what would be more essential than a celebration of Derek Riggs’ art, the man behind Iron Maiden’s image (until recently, that is).

And if anyone knows whether it has been collected anywhere, make yourselves heard in comments or via mail – would very much like to own a definitive collection of the images.

Maestro’s own site is closed due to excess use of bandwidth. Which does not inspire too much confidence.

Oct 312005

Surprised myself by not liking Rammstein’s new album much at all, thankyouverymuch.

No deeper musical disagreements, the music just seems to be boring.

A couple of good songs (Mann gegen Mann, Rosenrot itself and Hilf Mir), Te Quiero Puta which seems to be an overgrown joke and the rest just nondescript.

Opinion’s bound to change as time goes on. But this is the first time that I’ve been so disappointed on a Rammstein record.

Externally the record’s good. Nice production values. Pretty cover, and a three song preview of a live-dvd “to be published later.”

Oct 302005

A bunch of fancy-ticklers from a couple of last days:

  • Fox News is definitely not the first channel I turn to for information. However, every once in a while, it’s refreshing to view news from a conservatively jingoistic perspective. Fox News has not been around for more than nine years, this site attempts to recreate old news with a definite FN-slant.
  • Grand Theft Auto retrospective, just in time for the release of the newest game in the saga. Sadly, it’s PSP-only, at least for the time being.
  • The entire Llamasoft back catalogue is available for download (in emulated form in most cases). Mm… Ancipital.
  • A quarter of a million superballs let loose in the streets of San Francisco. All’s fair in love, war and advertising. Long (3 minute) version of the ad not yet out, but will check back. Sometime.
  • Urban decay modelled in the HO-scale. Definitely better than the statically happy scenes on traditional model railroads.
  • Just in time for Halloween:
    White pumpkins and LED-equipped Jack-o-lanterns.
  • Photoscoping, the art of interfacing cameraphones with telescopes. With very presentable results.
  • Just amazing how much trivia is available if you know where to look, like on the twice-filmed James Bond story, Thunderball
Oct 302005

Worth1000′s contest on mashing monsters and classic art turns up some very good entries. My favorite is the Hellraiser-originating Pinhead rendered as Mona Lisa. Too many Predators in the gallery for my taste, but the occasional facehuggers do serve their purpose.

The site serves up good set of reality-challenged art, able to brighten a rainy day or a meeting that goes on and on. The level of goods is not consistently good, but the site fortunately allows viewing only the highest-ranked entries per contest.

Quite liked these recent contests as well: Hockey 4 (the “mighty duck” out of Anaheim alone is worth the check) and What if Goths Ruled?. And don’t forget Digital Blasphemy or Deviant Art either.

Oct 292005

Sigur Rós behind a curtain
Saw Sigur Rós on their Takk-promoting tour in Kulttuuritalo.

Seppo scored tickets long past the sold-out date and set me up with one. Nice going.

Was very very unfamiliar with the band’s output before the concert. Had heard the new album once, and occasional older songs. But was definitely an amateur member of the audience.

Arrived just before Amina, the warm-up band, got started. Ambient soundscapes conjured with instruments ranging from wineglasses to powerbooks via more traditional strings. First song lasted 18 minutes; got bored well before the half-way point. Watched a couple more out of politeness, but joined a thickening stream of crowd walking out of the hall. Might have worked better from a seat, standing up in meaningless (albeit technically adept) stream of ambience has now been proven not to be my cup of tea.

Ran into Aaro & J. during the break. Their “visually sub-optimal” seats turned out to be pretty good indeed. No-one minded descending down to the floor, and you were guaranteed a seat if legs got sore.

Main act played for almost two hours. And was occasionally – during prolonged and pompous crescendos – nothing short of brilliant. But for the most of the time it definitely teetered on the edge of boredom. The stage presence was quite well up to the standard of 22-pistepirkko (ie. non-existent), and the chilled out feeling was replicated by a very static audience – definitely no mosh pits present tonight.

Purchased a decently-priced shirt, 25 euros was not too bad a price. They had handmade t-shirts available as well, but prices were not listed out, and there were no ATMs in the place anyhow. Coupling that with the fact that the bar refused to let you overcharge drinks on your card by more than 5 euros, there were a lot of miffed people left shirtless.

Was interesting – both from a musical and social perspective. The music was long-winded and incomprehensible, but pleasant overall. The audience definitely a more mixed crowd than a normal gig.

Oct 292005

Visited the annual Helsinki book fair in the exhibition hall in Pasila.

The fair’s pretty much three separate things thrown together: big publishers and stores looking to hook people with (sometimes sizable) discounts, small publishers just displaying their production (usually well-hidden in stores) and second-hand shops expecting people to troll their shelves and boxes for missing items.

Visited stands from all three kinds, and spent an appropriate amount of money. Surprisingly mainly on comics, the only book I bought was Suom. Huom., a non-fiction anthology about the pains of translating things into finnish. Comics bought included the new Don Rosa anthology, fourth album of Jean’s life, a surprising continuation of Kramppeja ja Nyrjähdyksiä. Received the current issues of HBL and Reader’s Digest as freebies – the latter looks scary, with ms. Karpela on the cover and middle class content padded between the covers.

Halls were packed with people, making browsing at times quite uncomfortable. Being kicked in the shins and elbowed relentlessly does add a moment of challenge to the experience, but I prefer my literature-browsing to be more tranquil experience.

Dropped into the gratis stamps-expo held next door, and was quite suprised by the nature and colors of the new finnish stamps. Yeah, it’s quite obvious that I’ve sent less than five items via snail mail this side of the millennium-change. The newest finnish stamps (a two-stamp mini-sheet, actually) turn out to feature the priceless Winter-Egg by Faberge, and has been covered with both silver and gold foil. Which looks nice, and probably will end up being collected as a curio by thousands of philatelists domestic and foreign. The atmosphere in the stamps-hall was way more polite and quiet, as befits one of the slowest-moving’ hobbies on earth… Which was much appreciated.

Oct 282005

It’s not often when you hear that one’s hobby has been declared dead (finnish only, but it’s a weakly argumented attack on the publishing phenomenon).

But it must be true, since the statement is by a real journalist as opposed to somebody who just publishes drivel in the web.

And this must be news indeed for the millions and millions of blogs out there. And multiplying by the moment. Let alone locally, when tomorrow’s monthly supplement of hesari will be concentrating on the topic. And the newspaper just launched yet another wave of blogs, and there’s again wheat among the chaff: 5G, which looks like an interesting technology blog.

Oct 252005

Nelonen started showing HBO’s Carnivale. Watched the first episode way back, but got mightily confused due to nodding off several times, and getting the flashback material mixed with the actual main storyline. Missing episodes 2 and 3 entirely did not help making sense of the tale. Did not fall asleep this time, and quite enjoyed the show. Suitably mysterious (with an appropriate of selection of circus inhabitants), and with enough setting/era trappings (a mid-west dustbowl sometime on the first half of the century) not to snap the suspenders of disbelief immediately.

Flipped through the november program of canal+. The fourth season of the Shield finally starts. As does NBA, but with only a single game per week. Shown live on friday night. Time to start looking into a HD-equipped digibox, it seems.

Oct 252005

Määrääkö Pupu?

Pupu Määrää!

Indeed. Saw the claymation feature by Nick Park’s aardman studios.

And laughed out loud for dozens of times. Yes, the movie is so good. It’s an old-style horror movie, as acted by fast-moving and extremely expressive (witness Gromit’s silent communication with nothing but his brow) clay figures. Full of gags (both verbal and visual), rubegoldbergian devices, mostly warm-hearted escapades, and great characters. And the scores of misbehaving clay bunnies do not lessen the film’s appeal a single bit.

In the era of mass-produced CGI adventures, the aardman product is a breath of fresh and human air. Instead of being a product of a massive render-farm located in an industry-park basement, this is very much a handmade film. The clay figures are indeed clay figures, not computer models with unnaturally shiny and plastic faces, moving with elementary ragdoll physics. A fact that is hammered home by the appearance of occasional fingerprints on said figures.

Watched the movie in its original voices, it has been dubbed into finnish as well. The creator of the subtitles did not take the easy way out, but has included his own jokes amongst the material. Jokes that do not stand out as annoying, but blend into the severely proper british environment seamlessly.

A masterpiece definitely – and one that is worthy of the second five star review of 2005. And quite a good counterpoint for the other, Sin City.

The movie has received rave reviews all over the world, and box office bling to match. Sadly, the studio suffered a major fire on the movie’s opening weekend. A fire that decimated the history of the company.

Oct 232005

Survived the aftermath of yet another annual crayfish fest in Korso (thanks, Kati & Miko).

The only food, whose consumption actually takes more energy than provides.

But it’s not the small bits of shellfish that make these parties so memorable, but the surroundings.

Would have included images of the red critters, but the phone camera turned out to be eh… sub-optimal in low-light conditions.

Oct 222005

Whoopsie. Completely forgot that the Feast for Crows, the fourth part of George R. R. Martin‘s magnificent fantasy series is out.

Wasn’t available in akateeminen yet. But considering the size of the backlog, there’s no need for an emergency order from foreign suppliers either.

The third part of the series has been sliced into two volumes in its finnish translation. Which is only to be expected when the book is 1000+ pages thick, and the publisher is small.

Oct 202005

Electronic Arts’ SSX-series has been one of my favorite video game franchises ever since playing a demo of the very first installment back in the early days of playstation 2.

Thus far the games have improved over their predecessors, and been a very enjoyable rendition of a winter sport I never expect to try out for real. Especially to the level of aerial acrobatics so frequently shown in the games.

The series has now evolved to its fourth chapter, and expectations were indeed high.

And after a single evening’s session I must admit that partially the magic is still present, but also that partially it has been diluted by the publisher. Not by adding skiers to the mix, but by easing off the difficulty level too much. Went from medal to medal during the play, without any real struggle. True, this is in a way pleasant, but the feeling of achievement is way less than in succeeding against more difficult odds. I’m sure the difficulty will start to peak soon, but it’s been a cakewalk thus far.

The presentation style has been changed to a more cartoony one. And the musical selection is wider than before – ranging from ancient heavy metal to catch of the day art rock. And the selection of Maiden’s Run to the Hills as the title song is a strike of genius.

And while the game has been localized to half a dozen languages, it has retained the original language as well. This was not the case with the recent update to the Burnout-franchise, that was neutered of the english version during the process.

Oct 202005

Gah. Felt definitely flu’ed this morning and didn’t get better at work. Headed home after productivity seemed to hit its lowest point this fall.

Despite chills and all around ill feeling, turned out not to have real fever (past 37.5 that is). But noted that the sofa is a much better platform for general lounging when it’s emptied of magazines, books, cds and other junk that tends to infest any horizontal surfaces around.

Oct 192005

Finally a truly interesting blog from the biggest publishing conglomerate in Finland: retromania, a cornucopia of yesterday’s technology.

Topics thus far have concentrated on retro computing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (apart from the fact that frodo seems to be buggy on my 6680).

However, the more interesting bits are about technology that’s not emulated. A new favorite time-waster is toosa, which lists the tv shows on finnish tv from yesteryear. Lots of great discoveries, but it seems to be missing a couple of key shows, like Professor Drövel’s Hemlighet (masterful norwegian nonsense). And whoever is able to provide a link to the origin of the series Villiin Länteen that was shown in 1979 in Finland. My recollections are vague to the extreme (recall a character named Luke who almost got lynched for stealing a horse, but not much else), so further pointers would indeed be appreciated.

Oh yeah, the science blog is pretty decent as well.

Oct 192005

Jacob Nielsen, web usability dude par excellence has put forth his ten theses for a maximally usable blog.

Let’s see how iconoclastic Lavonardo manages to be…

1. No Author Biographies
Got a cv on the site, but no real biography. That counts as half a sin.
2. No Author Photo
On the front page. Oldish, and too jolly summery for the season, but present, definitely. No sin here, vicar.
3. Nondescript Posting Titles
Almost the reverse. Too descript. To the point of non-sequitur. No sin.
4. Links Don’t Say Where They Go
Sometimes they do, sometimes they do not. And the addition of link titles is definitely a good idea. Half a sin, I’d say.
5. Classic Hits are Buried
They are. No “best of #10″ yet. Full sin. Vade Retro!
6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation
It is. And it’s broken right now. Another sin. This better not be catching on.
7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
But I like the irregularity. Juggling too many things already is not conducive to having a metronome-class pace. Half a sin (but I refuse to acknowledge it).
8. Mixing Topics
And that’s bad exactly how in a blog? Another sin I refuse to acknowledge, and will continue tilting at.
9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss
Nope, nothing incriminating here. The hardest hitting personal business is kept where it should remain – private.
10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service
Nope. Had my own niche of the web since the beginning of the blog.

And that counts as four and a half sins, of which three sins are ones that I intend to rectify. With perl, not a repetition of ave marias.

Oct 182005

The final episode of West Wing’s sixth season just aired. Considering that season seven has barely started in the states, it’ll be a while before the show graces finnish screens again.

The show went downhill after Aaron Sorkin‘s departure, and the fifth season was at times almost painful to watch. However, while the stories decreased in credibility and the script violated truths about the lead characters, the show never actually jumped the shark.

The sixth season, with the new presidential race (with Bartlet out of the loop) brought new intensity to the proceedings. The various campaigns split up the quite stiff roles of the characters, and brought new themes forward. And having Jimmy Smits (ex-LA Law/NYPD Blue/whatever) as the most charismatic candidate didn’t hurt either. Against him and Alan Alda’s courteous republican the others simply faded or came off as cogs in the big political machine.

A nice comeback for a good series, and the ongoing season has the big election as its focus. That ought to be good enough entertainment, even without resorting to gimmicks such as doing some episodes live.

Oct 182005

Finished first season of Lost. Had its weak moments during the 24 episodes, but held together well. And the capstone-episode of the season left the strongest WTF?-expression on my face since the almighty final episode of Twin Peaks.

The Verne-aspect is diminished in the later episodes, and there’s a definite influx from Prisoner, Lord of the Flies and especially Blair Witch Project.

Looking forward to season two. According to an interview in Empire, the team has ideas for seven seasons more.

Oct 182005

Time magazine listed the top 100 novels of 1923-2005. Quite an inspired selection it is. With comics, science fiction and pulp among the well-established classics. Have read 17 of them, and have an additional two already on the bookshelf. Considering that I liked the seventeen first, it’s definitely time to seek out more.

In a nostalgia-inducing fit, the Magazine Publisher’s Association listed the top 40 magazine covers of the last 40 years. Shamelessly american, of course, quite a few of these never crossed the atlantic. I remember holding four of the tallied issues (and have the Wired still somewhere), and am sure that I’ve seen a lot of the others for sale, and probably browsed a few of them. Have heard of a couple famous covers on the list, but dozens draw a blank.

EDIT 25.8.2008: The latter link is no longer functional.

Oct 162005

new lamp for the aquarium
150 watts of metal halide light, to be exact.

Replaced the very unergonomic (can’t see jack when you’re cleaning the tank) arrangement with a hanging light system.

Which is scarily bright. But well-reflective, to prevent major light spillage that would threaten enjoyable lounging on the sofa.

And cleaning was indeed much easier than previously, especially with the one of the world’s laziest fish in the tank, it’s good to see what’s actually lying on the sand.

Open-topped until I find a decent glass/acrylics-shop, the curving front means that dishing out an order on the phone is out of the question.

And yeah, this entry would be more appropriate in the hibernating fish-blog instead. That’ll get re-started when I get a decent chunk of free time. Or bored enough.

Oct 162005

Yet another gamenight in the Flounder’s Attic.

Continued to suck in pinball, and was not much better in Ghost Recon 2 either.

The traditional 2-on-2 Pro Evolution Soccer tournament was the highlight.

In addition to the host’s socializing bunny. That ought to have been photographed, but wasn’t.

Oct 152005

Bah. No trips from Stockmann’s bi-annual Crazy Days. Wrong alliance offered, though the locations seemed great.

Got a couple of books (my first Jeeves ever) and dvds (3 days of the Condor, a couple of animated features) instead.

Oct 132005

So, the big cat‘s out of the bag. Something that was not to be released until next year, if “some people deep in the know” were to be believed.

Screen looks small, but has a very decent resolution (240×320). And the battery life seems better again.

The biggest problem I see is not technical at all, but commercial. Considering how long it took to get iTunes to Europe (let alone Finland), it’ll be a while before tv-show episodes will be available. And then there’s the issue of subtitles – screen estate is too precious to waste, and overlays do not seem to be a possibility.

EDIT 25.8.2008: The link is obviously outdated.