Dec 312005
 

After a lacklustre season, a bowl victory was definitely a surprise. Utes finished unranked, but took the Yellowjackets on for a ride. The struggling offense found its pace, and the passing attack decimated the Georgians.

And this time there doesn’t seem to be a danger of losing the quarterback to the NFL early. The hype’s seriously centered on USC’s Reggie Bush. With the lowliest half a dozen teams clamoring for the first pick in the lottery. Last year’s #1, Alex Smith didn’t turn out to be an immediate hit for the niners. Thus far he hasn’t completed a touchdown pass (but hasn’t started in all games).

Dec 312005
 

Curses!
Grey skies, +2C, sleeting rain, slippery streets, snow puddling into overflowing drains.

Not what is expected from a new year’s eve. Or beginning of january in general.

Feelings are adequately summed up in a snow-graffiti discovered nearby. Curses, indeed!

This is NOT what’s it supposed to be.

Dec 262005
 

Picked this up from the usually non-informative TV-maailma: Mark Frost (David Lynch’s partner in crime) is considering a return to the scene of the greatest show of the early nineties.

Yeah, it’s not really a credible rumor at all. And the revealed amount of material slashed from the extremely under-performing Fire Walk With Me is quite shocking – I’m sure the extra ninety minutes would have mattered.

Dec 262005
 

“Sure, Wayne, let’s field an aged squad and use the most hated man in the sport instead of the boy wonder, who’s actually been worth the pre-sesason accolades.”

And the bastard (and that’s Bertuzzi, not Gretzky for the slow-witted) has the audacity to contest Moore’s claim. Let’s hope he tries to pick a fight with Zdeno Chara or some other guy with a short tempter and a long arm.

Dec 262005
 

The prolific australian thrillerist has yet another book out. Seven Ancient Wonders is out in hardback format (supposedly in january, but held a copy in Akateeminen on friday).

Haven’t yet read even his previous book: Hovercar Racer. It was originally released gratis in the web, but disappeared when the book came out.

Reilly’s deteriorated since his sophomore book, Ice Station. The novels are still decent, yet thoroughly vapid entertainment. The one-upping style that relies on constant cliffhangers gets old quickly, however. Hence the lack of hurry to grab his new books.

Dec 262005
 

It’s a threepeat: Haagan Hakkapeliitat lost the third bowl in a row.

With a comfortable margin (provided mainly by a workman-like effort by Santana Moss), so that no amount of second-guessing (“should have played Evans instead of Porter”) can turn the loss into a victory.

Some of the changed picks worked out all right: Denver’s defense stifled Oakland to the point of just a single field goal, and Indy’s Peyton Manning played just a single quarter.

A loss is a loss, but the team came a long way – especially considering its humble beginnings in the first six weeks.

Dec 262005
 

First mystery novel of this christmas season was Harri Nykänen’s Ariel ja Hämähäkkinainen (Ariel and the Spider Woman), a followup to the first novel of the new series published last year.

Continues using the almost trademarkable style of the author. It’s laconic, but not to the extremes of his Raid-series. It’s set it Helsinki, but does not assume that the reader has a full geographic recall of the scenery. Characters are effectively sketched with a broad brush, while giving them more than enough personality to stave off cardboard cutout syndrome as well as rendering them in pure caricatures. The Helsinki jewish community that featured quite boldly in the first novel is barely touched in this one.

The tale bears quite a bit of resemblance to Neil Hardwick’s mini-series Musta Tuntuu from the mid-eighties. Both concern themselves with the Uneasy Seventies, when misbehaving powerplayers, national interests and international intrigues clashed in Helsinki. (And yeah, pretty, pretty please get the Hardwick classic on dvd ASAP. If nothing else, it had an entertaining storyline and introduced Taneli Mäkelä as an actor.)

The story is effortlessly told. The pace is quick, the characters believable and the almighty Suspenders of Disbelief are not too violently stretched by the plot. Subplots take a distant backseat to the main storyline, and are resolved painlessly. I’d say that the book is a bit on the short side – an additional 50 pages or so would have filled out some details better and allowed the subplots to flourish, but that’s hardly any major criticism.

Especially when considering the success that Raid-saga has received in both big and small screen, it’s just a matter of time before Ariel appears on either.

The biggest surprise of the book is a sudden bout of intertextuality. Jarkko Sipilä’s (another finnish mystery author with a background in journalism) protagonist Kari Takamäki puts in a brief apppearance. No idea whether the favor is returned in Sipilä’s latest. However, the act is not spotlit in any fashion, and the presence of the character seems natural.

Dec 262005
 

Fazer, all 900g of it
Got a white one despite the scaremongering in the preceding week.

Spent the weekend in the hinterlands of Vantaa, enjoying copious amounts of food, daily saunas, and general atmosphere of extreme relaxation.

Had multiple sessions of cat-stretching therapy (which both parties seemed to thoroughly enjoy) and even partook some woodworking moments.

Lots of mystery novels were given and received, which is par for the course in the Lavonius clan. Expect reviews to trickle in all through the winter, already finished two (remember the bit about “extreme relaxation” above?).

Two days without surfing, e-mail and altogether modern connectivity (apart from ubiquitous SMS) only added to the chilled-out factor.

Beeswax candle shedding light
Weather was quite agreeable, apart from persistent flurries on a neighborhood-inspection hike on christmas day. Thankfully no household really had trespassed the borders of sanity in the annual “pimp my yard”-contest. Multicolored lights were in a very small minority.

Never been a ritual in the family, but I’m sure someone got miffed when It’s a Wonderful Life had been bumped to 23rd…

Continued the adventures in introducing commercialism into the medieval Carcassonne. Time to buy at least the second expansion set soon, the potential of the first was quickly assimilated and put to good use.

Dec 232005
 

Yet another annual just-before-christmas movie with a couple of high school friends just went by. Chose the Narnia movie on a hunch, and while wasn’t exactly thrilled by it, wasn’t really disappointed either.

A lot of the reviews concentrate on the biblical allegory in the film. This one won’t touch the subject after the following sentence. Yes, Virginia, it’s a re-telling of the gospels – get over it.

It’s a good fantasy film, taken from the first novel of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. And unlike the previous fantasy blockbusters (LoTR and Potter), the book is short – and thus the story is told uncut. Or actually it’s told in a bloated form. Some scenes have been added (I think, it’s been ages since I read this), as well as characters (or how else is the constant presence of semi-annoying beavers explained). Pace is kept slow, with just a couple of crescendos.

Visually the movie is excellent. The final battle is given a lot more time, space and especially rendering power than in the book, but in a post-Jackson world the treatment is worthy. However, it’s the first scene after transition between the worlds that’s the highligh of the whole two hour epic: a winter forest lit up by a flickering streetlight, with a faun trudging through the snowfall with an umbrella and a lapful of packages.

The child actors succeed in being bearable, Tilda Swinton is appropriately icy as the eponymous Witch, didn’t recognize Liam Neeson as her main adversary at all until the credits rolled in.

While this has not been a total box-office blowout (nor a flop), there’s decent potential for a franchise. After all, there’s still six books left in the series.

Noted that Teerenpeli’s toasts are far more pleasant when the pickle-relish is left out. It ought to be an add-on option, and not the default. Especially when most of the topping-combos are in direct conflict with that, tastewise.

Dec 222005
 

Whoo! Despite an off-key performance by Mr. Manning (TWO interceptions) and his Colts, made it to the superbowl in the yahoo! league by beating a good rival (split the series during regular season) in the semifinals.

For the third year in row, as the brand new fantasy sport profile-functionality shows.

Thus far it’s always been a loss in the bowl – raging seahawk Shaun Alexander neatly took care of Hakkapeliittas’ ambitions this year. And with Colts persistently stating that they will rest their key players now that they’ve secured home field advantage through the playoffs, the QB position is definitely shaky.

And as the games are played on christmas eve, I’ll check the results post-facto, not live through the nfl.com.

Dec 222005
 

As clued in by Lemmy yesterday, Cathedral is coming to Helsinki. And they will bring friends, two other doom-genre bands that I’ve never heard as far as I know: Electric Wizard and Grand Magus. Cathedral’s newest is not up to their best, but I’ll definitely grab a ticket to this trio of smile-less slow grind.

Dec 202005
 

One more corruption dinner – it seems that when it rains, it really pours. This time it’s russian food at Saslik. The poshest of the many russian restaurants in Helsinki. One that I hadn’t visited before. But will, again, as the experience was pleasant indeed.

Had a set menu. Started off with borscht soup, which was good as the borschts go, but never been a big fan of them. Main course was Ivan’s sword, which was sadly served with the actual melee weapon removed. A huge loaf of sliced meat accompanied by potatoes, onions, cabbage and delicious tomato sauce. Gave up after a third refill. And was looking for something small for dessert, perhaps accompanied with a sliver of sharp digestive. Was proven wrong, as a quartet of huge baked alaskas sailed in.

Left early, or so I thought – the meal had taken more than five hours at that point, and most of the group remained inside. This russian way of food is definitely something to check up again. Perhaps soonish, when Lasipalatsi’s blini-season opens.

Dec 182005
 

Up, like the albedo after snowfall:

  • Decided to join Ursa, the finnish astronomical society in 2006. For the membership fee you get a good magazine, discount on books and the ability to visit the observatory. Here’s hoping for clear winter nights.
  • It’s now official, Big Boys like bloggers. Lessee how this affects the salary negotiations in the spring.
  • The years are now back in the RSS feed.

Down, like the temperature:

  • Skipped the Helsinki bloggers’ christmas party. All work and no play, you know the rest.
  • There’s a distinct shortage of calendars in Helsinki shops. Proper calendars, that is, like the ones by National Geographic. Amazon, thankfully, is able to fulfil the hankering for great scenery on the cubicle wall for the next year.
  • SiteMeter seems to be undergoing some hiccups.

EDIT 26.8.2008: Not all the links have survived.

Dec 182005
 

You know the drill. Clickety-click.

  • A functional visual puzzle.
  • There’s NEVER too many cute animals around. Especially on a bleak snow-less december day when meetings pile up.
  • Yahoo has rebranded Konfabulator (it’s Widget Engine now), and updated it to version 3.0. Had a bit of a hiccup-y upgrade on XP, but turned out all right in the end. There’s still some bad blood between konfabulator and apple’s dashboard. Still prefer the former. Even on Tiger.
  • Still haven’t gotten my hands on a 770, as they seem to be persistently sold out. Ars Technica has a decent lengthy review of the gadget, and have a good list of both pros and cons. Which is good, since there’s something to address in the inevitable product upgrade.
  • Despite the Register going ballistic against Wikipedia once again, it seems that in a head-to-head comparison with Encyclopaedia Britannica the free alternative comes out quite all right.
  • An interview with Jimbo Wales, the head honcho of Wikipedia.
  • The finnish wikipedia is not quite close to the original. Content is sparse and most of the time written not exactly fluently (try some music articles for a grammar-grimace). This has been noted by digitoday, who ran a similar experiment that guardian did a while back. Unsurprisingly some of the selected articles are noted to indeed suck.
  • A nightstand that doubles as a shield and cudgel. On one hand this is worrisome (what actually goes bump in the night in London?). On the other, good old-fashioned melee-weaponry is still preferable to the arms borne by the americans.
  • Roklintu has started the annual best of the year polls. Go and vote. You’ll have more impact here than on 15th of january.
Dec 172005
 

Re-watched the third installment of the Harry Potter saga. Saw it in a plane a long while back, and decided to give it a second look in anticipation of seeing the Goblet of Fire.

And quite a decent movie it is. The script concentrates on the main story and does conveniently away with the Mandatory Book Bits (quidditch, comptetition between houses) to a large extent. That’s only to be expected, as it’s quite hard otherwise to squeeze a 400+ page book to two hours. The next book will be even harder, and as such the movie extends to 160 minutes.

The movie has gotten slightly edgier than the two previous kid-friendly episodes – but not much, apart from a couple of bloody hells peppering the dialogue, there’s not much to distance them. However, the visuals have been improved: Hogwarts has apparently been moved to Scotland, and the scenery is thus much grander.

Gary Oldman and Alan Rickman shine in supporting roles. The trio of protagonists remains good and non-annoying, but bland. Timothy Spall puts in a brief appearance, and is still as good as he was back in the days of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

The pace of the movie is odd – most of the movie is just an extended setup for a very action-packed finale, but that’s how it happens in the book as well. However, as noted abovem the book is interspersed with details and sub-plots, which have been quite thoroughly streamlined out of the celluloid version.

Dec 172005
 

Two grouping-lotteries were performed recently.

First, Heidi Klum (whose finest hour is the impersonation of Jessica Rabbit in GQ), divided the World Cup contenders into eight groups. Some of which seem easy (France and Germany got off with lightweight opposition), whereas some certainly aren’t (Argentina and Netherlands face each other in the so-called group of death). Well well, 170-odd days and counting…

In the second phase of the Champions League, a repeat from last season’s goal-fest is brewing when Barcelona and Chelsea clash. Too bad that one of the exciting teams will have a quick exit from the competition.

EDIT 26.8.2008: The links no longer work. But Heidi Klum as Jessica Rabbit is easily googlable. Who cares about the old lotteries, anyway.

Dec 162005
 

Had corruption dinner at Ravintola Pörssi. And quite a dinner it was. Pörssi was by no means the first choice, but fortunately had to settle for it as pretty much every other was booked solid.

Enjoyed the christmas buffet. Which was mighty indeed, and left gastronomically very sated. All three parts of the meal reigned. Spent most of the time on appetizers, who filled out a seven (or thereabouts) meter long table. Fish, fowl, pork and higher animals all laid out in exquisite sauces and other accompaniments. Only had beef and sauteed root vegetables for the main course, as the previous guy in the line finished up the whitefish. Failure in cutlery protocol robbed me of the utensils and never went back for more. Which was probably wise, since the desserts would’ve been left without room.

No idea what the a la carte holds, but based on the quality of the buffet this is definitely a place to recommend. That is, if the meal can be expensed. On your own this is best spared for wallet-draining special occasions.

Been a long long while since I’ve been this full. And should’ve taken something less filling than a pint of Hoegaarden at the post-dinner event.

Thankfully no-one was around to offer wafer-thin mints.

And had a 100% increase of my “caches located”-stat, with a shared discovery of a well-hidden cache in downtown.

Dec 142005
 

Read the newest incarnation of Pauli Kallio’s perennial comic, Kramppeja ja Nyrjähdyksiä. This time drawn by Mika Lietzen.

And was very very disappointed. The characters seem to have grown up and grown bloated. Their lives are boring, and it’s hard to tell them apart. They seem to have totally lost the edge they had in the earlier stories.

Not good. Even at 48 pages the book was a chore to finish. Especially when compared to the older stories (drawn by Sami Toivonen & Christer Nuutinen), this was as close to the biggest comics-related letwdown of the year as you can get. Not even Kingdom Come comes close, and that’s pretty bad.

Dec 122005
 

Pointered by Matti, went and peeked at the site he suggested.

And was quite surprised by the vigour of the worldcan’twait-group, who have no less a goal than ridding the US of its current regime.

Seems like an extreme standpoint, but the group contains some of the usual suspects (Martin Sheen, Jane Fonda), so it’s not surprising that they’ve been able to purchase full-page ads in the biggest newspapers.

Dec 122005
 

+

  • Watched my first ever “salatut elämät”-episode. For a very good reason (an old friend was acting in it) and mostly on fast forward.
  • Queensrÿche’s 1990 album “Empire” is as good as I remembered, and the remastered version has a couple of songs originally available as obscure singles’ B-sides.
  • All in all, not many things sucked this week. And otherwise would have been worrisome – a proper extended weekend and all.

-

  • Hello? Ms. Gaia? We really could use a winter here.
  • Got reminded that Serenity did not make it on big screen here.
  • Not that many things that were really good with sugarcoating on top, either.

EDIT 26.8.2008: Timo’s web presence has been extinguished.

Dec 112005
 

It’s not often when a company utterly muffs an advertising campaign.

Hartwall miscalculated the amount of money people would have to spend to get a laptop or another technocratically appropriate prize. After all, for a thousand bottles of Pepsi MAX you get a decent computer. And 400 gallons of soda. For which every penny you receive as payment is pure gain.

Turns out that they’ve opened the book of dirty tricks to spoil the game for late arrivals. Absurd timeouts have been inserted to the code-entry system and originally unnecessary receipts for purchases and actual bottle labels are now needed.

Not like this, dudes. This is going to soil the good name of pepsi for a long long while.

Me? Never been one to buy pop in industrial quantities, and am reasonably happy with max as is, and with the cappuccino variant especially. Though I’m sure its good taste is some infernal plot to finally get me to drink coffee more often than once a year.

EDIT 26.8.2008: The original story is gone.

Dec 102005
 

Yahoo acquired del.icio.us, a collaborative link exchange. Where google seems content in hiring high caliber people (PhD not really optional), yahoo has gone on a shopping spree lately (flickr, konfabulator and now this). Of course the situation’s not as black and white as that (google did buy Urchin), but it seems that Yahoo is more interested in snapping up newcomers. And if I were a betting man, I’d give 2:1 odds on “google bookmarks (beta)” appearing before the end of Q1/06…

Dec 102005
 

Been a long time since the last.

  • Top 10 bookstores of the world. Have visited two of the nine that are still open. City Lights in San Francisco multiple times.
  • Wikipedia proves its worth again: a list of films ordered on the count of rudest english swear word. The Devil’s Rejects comes out on top with an amazing 5.13 f*cks per minute…
  • Typographic Style Applied to the Web, continuing on Bringhurst’s classic book on the subject. Very much a work in progress, but interesting content thus far.
  • A great spoof of Jakob Nielsen. Repurposing his classic “Frames are bad, mmmkay”-column for the AJAX-era.
  • A selection of movie posters with colors rephrased appropriately. The Kubrick one is the best of the bunch, the others are kinda bland.
  • Despair has its 2006 collection of demotivators available. The idea has been neatly retargeted on Linux distributions – with the prejudices played out well (debian’s elitism is snubbed in the bud, and you just gotta love the term “metric assload”).
  • Cthulhu Plush Slippers.
  • Misused metaphors. Haven’t used a single one, but a couple have been close calls.