Apr 302006

It being almost spring, various bits of nature have started to make themselves apparent while walking past them this weekend.

  • Concrete pigs are milling about, some dented by the marauding snowplows during the hibernation in the snow.
  • Several species of non-traditional ducks swim in Pikkuhuopalahti. Goldeneyes and Wigeons (that’s telkkä and haapana for finns) have been sighted.
  • A Larger Beer Finch exhibited its common passing out during daytime-behaviour in downtown Helsinki.
  • A Mew Gull (that’s kalalokki) hovering in the strong winds, circling around my head – must have been very attractive ice cream.
  • An actual Rabbit shuffling about the reeds around Töölönlahti. And yes, it was a genuine rabbit and not a hare – small, with rounded ears.
  • Saw a quick Tern nimbly catch a small silvery fish just a meter away from the shore.
  • An escaped Foil Moomin, rapidly disappearing into the blue sky. Curiously not accompanied by the anguished cry of the previous owner.

Yes. Images would be cool to illustrate the entry, but they ain’t available – some of these were too far, some were too quick.

But I’m sure that some of these may put in repeated appearances and thus get paparazzied. Stay tuned.

Apr 292006

Nuevo. Very good. Not very fast. But a complimentary dessert easily avoids any hard feelings. Will return. Probably repeatedly. And also sample the tapas-patio once summer properly kicks in.

La Famiglia. Decent – pasta was on the limp side, but the sauce all right. Fast. Will return. But likely to their cellar, whose menu has five times more pizza varieties than the upstairs establishment.

Apr 272006

Saw King Diamond in Tavastia yesterday.

Was quite a bit delayed going in and thus missed the first warm-up band (Loch Vostok) entirely, and most of the second one (Secret Sphere). The latter wasn’t bad based one the three songs heard, shamelessly derivative power metal in the Helloween-vein, with classical bits mixed into the music.

The main attraction took to the stage after a lengthy intro, and proceeded to play an abbreviated version of his best album to date. Indeed, Abigail, from 1987, was compressed into six songs played consecutively. Not a bad start for the concert at all. I went in without having heard the last four or so of his albums, and quite a few songs turned out to be completely alien. And boring, which was quite unexpected – the previous albums have been quite well-stocked with interesting songs. In addition to featuring material from most of King Diamond albums, two Mercyful Fate songs got played as well – Come to the Sabbath was quite expected, but Evil as the second encore was not.

The vocalist had a bad night sound-wise, and the high notes were not as easily reached when the band played on. No idea whether this was a bad mix, impending flu or a combination of multiple factors. Didn’t really matter – I wasn’t expecting an exact copy of a studio experience.

No setlist this time – as I said, pretty much half of the material was unfamiliar, and anyone with a craving for the list can dig it up in imperiumi.net.

No pictures either. Spent most of the gig near the rear bar, and the audience seemed unusually packed with tall guys. Does the band have some special appeal to basketball players?

This was the second time I saw the band – the first one in Kulttuuritalo back in 1990 on the Conspiracy-tour was one of the loudest concerts I’ve ever been to. And one after which I took to using earplugs.

Two classic eighties bands in a week, but now the well of tickets has run dry, and there’s nothing on the agenda until Metallica’s show in Tallinn.

Apr 262006

Today, it’s twenty years since the worst public nuclear accident in history: Chernobyl.

Unlike such big news as the murder of Olof Palme or the sinking of Estonia, there’s no clear “where were you when you heard”-moment in connection to Chernobyl. Nope, there was no single moment, the ugly truth of a cover-up in the soviet union and profound cluelessness by the local authorities took a long while to sink in. And Finland being pretty thoroughly finlandized back then, it really wasn’t appropriate to hint at incompetence in the eastern neighbour.

So it wasn’t until the ugly truth dawned in West Germany before the magnitude of the event was made public. Cementing the name “Chernobyl” forever as the symbol of nuclear folly. Or of incompetence. After all, it wasn’t the fission reactor itself that failed, but the operators that took it far outside the realm of stability. With well-known results.

The above’s as much as I remember of the thing, but being an impressionable junion high student at the time, might just be plain ignorant of what actually was going on. Somehow, the Challenger-accident struck me deeper than this – being an immediate disaster and not a slowly creeping one.

Apr 252006

No squinting required, just a sharp click.

  • Russell Beattie quit blogging. His notebook was usually only mildly exuberant about things sighted near the horizon. Critical when needed. And well-written to boot. Will be missed. Now I need another source of Valley Optimism.
  • Mobygames put up a semi-decent introduction to interactive fiction. Especially good is their concise history of things post-Infocom on page seven.
  • A big list of free programming books.
  • Al Gore is back? According to this article in Wired, he is. Or may be. Who knows with these fickle democrats.
  • It’s not hard to guess who’s the worst president ever, according to the Rolling Stone.
Apr 252006

First up is Philips, who have chosen to sponsor a campaign to put the table of contents of a magazine where it belongs. In the very beginning, on the first page. This is not too much of a problem with the locals, but on some this is so far beyond norm that it’s bordering on the ridiculous (case in point: first page with editorial content in the march issue of GQ [US version] is 72).

According to some enterprising airlines, a guaranteed seat may soon be history, and the cattle section will feature stand-up harnesses for the cheapest tickets. Most of the article concentrates on the real issues – trying to fit more passengers into the cattlewagon, but the very beginning of the two-parter is so absured that it’s hard to concentrate on the content. (And yeah, I did double-check the date on the article, and it’s NOT dated the first of this month.)

Apr 252006

Ok, so the proposed Absolute Sandman is known to be expensive.

Real expensive.

But a seventy-five issue monthly comic cannot compete with the full thirty-year collection of the output of the greatest Duck artist of all time, Carl Barks.

A thirty volume series called Carl Barksin Kootut is launched in Finland this fall (to be completed in 2009), and the expected cost of the full series is estimated to be a nice and round nineteen hundred euros. Yes, that’s a one and a nine, followed with two zeroes. No decimal points in sight.

That’s a plenty of money. But also plenty of good tales. Colour me tempted, sorely tempted.

Apr 232006

The Stockholm Pinball Open 2006 is organized in late may at the KTH in our western neighbour’s capital.

And the program seems to be a little more ambitious than that of the finnish tourney. But then, they have the multiple luxuries of tradition, sponsorships and multiple day-duration on their side.

Some of the mini-tournaments (like Tommy-play – where parts of the playing field are covered) do sound exciting, and are by no means confined to a real tournament.

Haven’t browsed the other competitions’ pages, but I’m sure the likes of european championships (to be held in a couple of weeks) and big tournaments in the states outshine our neighbours. But it’s always better to have something to aim for than slowly topple from the top of the heap.

Apr 232006

It’s slowly getting warmer, so lessee which traditional criteria are fulfilled already. If any.

  • No frost on the ground a couple of hours after dawn. Nope, there’s still snow on some spots.
  • First ice cream cone eaten outside. Nope, the kiosks are not even out yet.
  • Skateboarders assume control of Kiasma frontside. Check.
  • Seagulls’ cries dominate other birds. Check.
  • First miniskirt sighted. Nope, might be just bad recon, but it’s been plenty cold lately.
  • “Perhaps I need new sneakers”. Nope, barely out of hiking-shoe season right now. But I’m sure the hankering will arrive.
  • The color of grass is closer to green than grey. Nope. Color?

So nope, we’re in the gray zone between late winter and early spring right now, but let’s check again in a few weeks.

Apr 222006

Saw Anthrax on Cursed Earth-tour in Nosturi.

The band is back to the classic lineup, with both vocalist Joey Belladonna and lead guitarist Dan Spitz brought in, and according to Scott Ian’s statements this is the lineup that shall go to studio soonest.

As shown by the setlist below, the band played nothing but Belladonna-era material (technically the second song is from the Neil Turbin-fronted debut album), concentrating on their biggest hits and fan favorites.

Among the Living
Metal-Thrashing Mad
Got the Time
Caught in a Mosh
Skeletons in the Closet
Be All, End All
I'm the Man
I am the Law

Stood way back, just below the rim of the rear balcony. Saw enough, and avoided the at times frisky pit activity.

The band was in good shape, played well and not too loud. Belladonna reached both screams and growls, proving that he’s not exactly been slacking since leaving the band in early nineties.

Saw most of the set of the warm-up band, Beyond Fear. Which seemed decent. Lead vocalist Ripper Owens included material from his old bands (Judas Priest and Iced Earth) in the set. Didn’t really concentrate on watching, but definitely wouldn’t mind hearing more of this.

Shirts were available, expensive, and not really of designs I’d like to wear. MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball (which seems to be a MTV Finland-exclusive these days) had something to do with the gig, but the connection was never made explicit.

This was the second time I saw the band. The first was at Tavastia, in mid-nineties on the Stomp 442-tour, with John Bush on the vocals. Then the spectrum of songs was much wider – considering that they had two more albums to draw material from. And there’s quite a difference between the cartoony thrash from the early works and the tight songs including grungy and industrial bits from the Sound of White Noise.

And noted that I don’t actually own the classic Among the Living-album, from which a big chunk of the show was drawn. Time to head out to the better record stores once again – the garden variety ones likely do not have this in stock.

Apr 212006

Corruption dinner at Saaga.

The gamebird broth appetizer was good, if a bit bland. The amount of meat was not very large, and had the misfortune of discovering two bones in the portion which meant that the rest of the soup was eaten carefully…

The main course, on the other hand, was nothing short of excellent. Reindeer steaks with laplander potatoes and caramelized onion was indeed what the doctor ordered.

A surprise bit of entertainment in the cabinet was had when a waitress dropped by dressed in traditional leathers and some unexpected face paint, playing the witch drum and doing some minor augury for one of the foreign guests. Been to Saaga three times I think, and haven’t seen this happen. Interesting and non-invasive, and a good way to pass the time between the appetizers and the entrees.

So, once again, quite liked the food and will be back.

Apr 212006

Won the final in the Yahoo-hosted virtual basketball league. And thus the league championship is mine, all mine.

As the final tallies for the regular season and the playoffs show, the Hakkapeliitat team was formidably strong. Behind Shawn Marion, the number one all-around player of the league, there were lots of good later round draft picks – some intentional (Chauncey Billups), some just a matter of serendipity (rookie of the year Chris Paul, Luol Deng).

In the NHL equivalent ended up receiving the bronze. Some key players (Forsberg, foremost) had injuries in some key moments, but the two finalists’ teams were head and shoulders above the rest.

Apr 182006

In the very irregular series of weird terms explained (part 1 was old school, back in march), part the second-most: a rubegolberg device.

A term that sprang to mind from the nether reaches of passive vocabulary when watching the fascinating machinery from a Japanese kids’ tv show (totally safe for work, not an errant tentacle in sight).

Rubegolbergian. Quite a mouthful. And not something that’s defined by accident. I think my first exposure to the term were a couple of game reviews from the early nineties (such as that of Dynamix’s the Incredible Machine. Games in which the player constructed machines consisting of everyday objects that perform duties in a very non-traditional and convoluted way.

So the term was clear, but who is Rube Goldberg, and what has he got to do with these clever contraptions? A mad inventor, with a slew of perpetuum mobiles in pat. pending state? One of the forgotten animators of old Tom and Jerry cartoons? Or just somebody that got tagged with a concept?

As usual, wikipedia came to the rescue. He’s a cartoonist, and obviously a famous one. One whose output never reached Finland. One whose machinery is destined to live forever in movies, cartoons and comics. Engineering students have an annual contest to construct a machine to perform a simple task in a very complicated fashion. The most famous recent contraption (apart from those sighted in the adventures of Wallace and his canine companion) is Cog, a Honda commercial from 2003 – in which the elements move according to the laws of physics, not to the whims of CGI.

So yeah, probably not a term for everyday conversation, but one that’s good to know and be able to pound people over the head if need be (such as when confronted with a needlessly complex program for some trivial task).

Apr 172006

Ate mutton. Chilled out. Read magazines. And books. Ate salmon. And eggs. And a wee chunk of chocolate. Chilled out some more. Played with cats. Refrained from thinking about work. Persistently. Caught up on sleep.

These religious holidays should last as long as they did when I was a kid.

Apr 172006

Yes, such a monstrosity has now been sighted. A book (by the guy who seems to write all the CSI novelizations) based on the Bones-tv show, which itself is “loosely based” on the Temperance Brennan-series of books authored by Kathy Reichs.

Saw an episode last night (103 – boy in a tree, for those keeping the score at home), and it wasn’t an utter disaster. Story was OK, and did have more than a single twist in it which is always a boon. The characters, apart from the leading duo, seemed to be nothing more than cardboard sideshow, and in-your-face-annoying at that. But there wasn’t anything that half a season of experience wouldn’t cure, and the liberties taken with the original material are not too distracting either.

I’ve read a single book of the series (which seems to grow at a rapid pace). The debut book didn’t flow very well, and on the whole seemed to be nothing more than a pale imitation of the then-reigning forensics-chick, Kay Scarpetta. Since then, the quality of Cornwell’s books has sunk to grave depths, and I’m not really looking forward to her new novels. Predator is out in paperback already, and even the usually positive reviews at Amazon are lukewarm at best, and downright hostile at worst. So perhaps, when the hankering to read about post-mortem analysis comes knocking again, I’ll turn to the apprentice as opposed to the dethroned queen…

Apr 172006

The official results of the Sörkka Pinball Open 2006 are now out. And they confirm my earlier analysis = I didn’t play very well on saturday. The high score and corresponding 54 points from Cleopatra were a nice surprise, the score wasn’t that high and I was certain someone would blast by it (and a couple of swedes came quite close in the waning minutes).

And some random pictures of the event as well.

In other news, flipperitutka reports that there are now TWO copies of World Poker Tour in Helsinki, both located in movie megaplexes. Time to pick some single euro coins and go exploring.

Apr 162006

As shelled out at subsonic speed by a psychedelic rabbit dressed up as a giant rooster:

  • You can find everything on the web. Everything. Including a site that specializes on tying shoelaces.
  • Comics-sites are common fare – and interesting when they are as complete as the Tintinologist.
  • Sloppy Seconds attempts to collect 4800 of the very best one-second sound snippets. Good luck, and enduring fingers for whoever types the contents to cddb.
  • Haven’t yet played with many applications on OS X, but it seems that installing fink opens even more new doors by lowering the threshold to include non-native programs as well.
  • Worth1000 strikes again – this time with a cornucopia of works satirizing art classics as drawn by children.
  • Mosaic Maker, time to go hunting in flickr for a perfect 5×5.
Apr 152006

Safecracker and friends

As opposed to “wizardry”, that is. Participated in the annual Sörkka Pinball Open-championships, and didn’t exactly excel. Placed ~40th out of 54 participants, which is not really cause to celebrate (haven’t seen the official results yet).

The competition was indeed organized in Sörnäinen, in an industrial building put to better use. Filled with pinball machines, out of which six were chosen to select the champions out of mere mortals. Three electro-mechanical games and and three solid-state games. Managed to suck in both.

First up was a definite old-skool game, Williams’ Strato-Flite, whose simple layout didn’t exactly give clue what combos (if any) would lead to decent scores. As a result, the pickings were on the meager side.

Harlem Globetrotters, another old game was next (I’m not 100% sure whether this is indeed the game linked to – the playfield seemed to be plainer). Mechanically rather simple, but unforgiving nonetheless – this was the game where I began to experience very fast drains, something that didn’t really let up during the competition. In other words, no big score here either.

Scared Stiff was the first modern game to tackle. Never played it before, so in the face of a zillion combos I definitely had a disadvantage over more experienced competitors. Had a decent outing, and came away thinking that this would be near the top of the “Pins to Own”-list – which is to say that I quite liked the board.

The crowd was surging near the remaining two recent-ish games, so retreated to the world of mechanical pinball. Cleopatra was the first game of the day where I managed to play well, laying down the high score among the forty or so first players (no idea whether it remained to the very end). Definitely a simple game, where target pickup succeeded remarkably well. Second ball drained almost instantly, but the other two racked a very reasonable score.

The last two pins, Sword of Fury and Bram Stoker’s Dracula exhibited disturbingly similar pattern of quick drains. Did have some decent moments on both, but as a whole, pretty much sucked – lack of practice, especially specific and but also general rearing its ugly head. The former had an interesting extra playing field on the top right corner, which turned out to be hard to control – on the latter a powerful center shot was a bad choice indeed, since a head-on collision sent the ball back towards a certain center drain.

So, the competition didn’t go that well, but fortunately that was not the whole width of the excursion. More and more games of the collection were opened for free gaming, and they were put to good use. Had never seen Pat Lawlor‘s pinball/boardgame-combo Safecracker, and managed to score unexpectedly high on that. Another completely new game was Bally’s Speakeasy, that proved to be very generous with awarding of extra balls (at one time I had no less than four). Those extra balls didn’t however score well-enough, and despite a formidable surge on the first two, it was Matti who got the top honours in the game. This was one of the must-pay games, where scores were indeed tallied – between the three of us (yours truly, Matti and Lemmy) we got six replays, which, after a fifteen minutes or so of intese play didn’t feel like spending, so they were left in the machine fo others to enjoy.

The finale of the tournament was played on Banzai Run, another Pat Lawlor game. Would definitely have wanted to have a go at this odd two-field game (the backboard is used as well), but that’ll happen some other time. Not all of the machines were available, unfortunately, so I still haven’t tried out the likes of Guns n’ Roses or Baby Pacman.

Definitely a good competition, and one I shall attempt to attend next year as well.

Apr 142006

Sampled the brand new glow-bowling alley located in Kamppi with the rest of the Wednesday Emperors.

Good fun, tossed the ball for two solid hours – three lines, since the four of us were sharing a single lane. The floor seemed more slide-y than usual, but that’s not an excuse for low scores. Broke the hundred on two of the three lines, but was woefully inconsistent – and managed to waste a couple of spares pretty bad.

The place is clean, very centrally located, offers rapid services and machines that never got stuck uprighting the pins. And the variable music played throughout (from CCR to Metallica via Public Enemy) wasn’t distractingly bad or loud either. Thus, it’s just a matter of time before we’ll show up here again.

Meant to snap a picture or two, but got caught up in the game and thus the sports night goes undocumented in images.

Exiting the place turned out to be challenging, since the escalators deposited us in an abandoned mall, behind solid glass doors. Running up the downwards-zooming escalator was the only feasible way to reach a path out.

Apr 122006

Again in Tampere, this time on an overnight trip.

Swamp music was again irresistible, but this time confined purchases to mere four discs. Two old Peter Gabriels, Cathedral’s debut album and Blackfoot’s No Reservations. Great discoveries all, especially when considering that only the last was at full price.

Skipped Plevna this time, and had dinner in 2h+k (Salud, unfortunately, is undergoing some renovations). Decent pasta, and definitely have to remember for any upcoming visits that their toasts give Teerenpeli’s offerings a good run for the money sizewise.

Apr 102006

Recently unsuspecting surfers have arrived here on top of the following waves:

“stamp’n go shanty”
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Any band that interjects theme songs from seventies swedish kids’ tv shows into irish classics is a friend of mine.
spinrad viral or distribution or shareware he walked among us
Still haven’t printed out the book, still haven’t even sought for a print-yer-own-book-service in Helsinki.
No reason to smile. Do you find that fun?
Random torrents and subtitles.
Which they won’t find here.
Occasional image searches.
mainly concentrating on PSP and Muppet Stamp.

Missed out a couple of entertaining ones, since sitemeter lists only the last hundred for free. But like I said: bo-ring. Go view Lotta’s list (in the right sidebar) – much more fun, right?

Apr 102006

Gromit the laptop now has a full gig of RAM onboard.

And while it’s indeed noble to depend on the kindness of friends, this needs to be paid in full.

Not in money – that would be vulgar. Nothing was actually given as barter, but I think a pig-out at Koto accompanied with an inordinate amount of sake would be a fair enough trade.