Jul 312008
 

Knol is now open to public.

But it will have a long way to go to pull even to sighting distance to wikipedia. The initial barrage of articles seem to be heavily geared towards medical matters and (perplexingly enough) DIY sanitary tricks. And some of the articles seem to have been released at a very early and persistently unedited state. When compared to a couple of quality articles (say, the ones on William Gibson and the mysteriously named T206 Honus Wagner) featured in wikipedia recently, the gap seems long indeed.

Jul 292008
 

Spent a couple of hours around noon walking around Tampere and catching two museums I’d long planned to visit.

The Lenin Museum was smaller than I thought – basically two rooms packed with paraphernalia (letters and documents mainly) on the life of the first soviet leader.

The Spy Museum was a slightly bigger affair, and packed with lots of information and goods. The museum in Tampere claims to be the very first establishment on the subject in the world, but the vastly bigger one in D.C. has surpassed this. Though here photography is not banned, it just costs extra.

Rounded out the trip with a visit to Swamp Music (new Alice Cooper and Blackfoot’s Flying High amongst the loot) and a lunch at Plevna (excellent mutton sausages accompanied by stingingly hopsy pale ale).

Jul 272008
 

The first session of sunday had been quite singnificantly altered from the original program. What’s next, after Harry Potter? was transformed into a generic panel on fantasy fit for young adults. Some of the books described sounded interesting, but backlog being lengthy enough as is, I figured it’s better not to take any chances.

The second presentation was an interactive hour between the Energia guys (yeah, the producers of Star Wreck) and the audience on alternate history where Finland stayed a monarchy. Precondition of course being a german victory in the first world war. A couple of audience members provided lots of good ideas (and the most vocal participant was pulled to the stage for the final half an hour). Interesting, definitely, but would definitely needed more time to complete.

Illusion of Change described a couple of crises endured by the superhero comics industry during the last decade or two. The main topic was the “event”-style comics – typically crossovers spanning multiple magazines over months and months of continuity. But typically comics that end without upsetting the status quo too much – after all, these days Marvel is much more about licensing its IP portfolio rather than selling its output on paper. Best in show, easily – with a clear plot through the 40 minutes and not just a set of slides thrown haphazardly together.

Missed the first half of the presentation of science fiction and games. Which turned out to be a good show indeed. It didn’t concentrate on the obvious games, but pulled in examples that were new to a good chunk of the audience. The slides sadly don’t seem to be available on the web (based on a cursory search).

The panel consisting of finnish movie directors was quite topical. Iron Sky was very visible in the halls, Sauna will be released in october and Dark Floors is still selling. Based on numbers the genre is thus faring better in Finland than ever.

The last slot of the day was the introduction of the hosts of the next years con. Finncon 2009 will be in Helsinki, in Kaapelitehdas to be exact. The location is once again vastly bigger than the previous year’s – but the rapidly multiplying anime-kids have always filled the halls no matter how much extra space there’s been. The two thus far revealed guests of honour are higher profile than this year’s. Especially George R. R. Martin‘s name (writer of the best ongoing fantasy saga: Song of Fire and Ice) ought to be attractive. And it’s always good to see that good old hard science fiction is not neglected either, with Alastair Reynolds on the playbill.

Jul 272008
 

The first day of the annual science fiction convention was filled with decent panel discussions, odd generation gap-related moments and running into friends in the halls.

Indeed, the biggest (and free) covention provided a good show this year as well.

Missed the opening ceremonies, on account of not taking the very first train in the morning and started the day with a trio of gaming-related presentations. Attraction of MMOs was all talk, without any samples on the screen, and as a complete newbie in the subject, quite a few of the nuances of the games discussed (especially Uru) were not immediately obvious. Obeyed rule #2 (don’t forget to drink) and missed the first half of the presentation on Eve online. The science fiction game seemed interesting, a massively multiplayer take on Elite can’t be all bad. The panel on scriptwriting for videogames was packed with finnish luminaries of the niche, and hence the level of discussion was both topical and high. Hideo Kojima’s MGS-series (especially the last part) got righteously trashed. I kinda expected an example or two on the state of the art of gamewriting, but none materialized.

Wandering the halls of Tamperetalo inbetween presentations was more than a little bit challenging initially. The building was just absolutely packed with kids attending the co-located Animecon. Most of the participants were in more or less full cosplay regalia, and I couldn’t but feel sorry for those in the warmest clothes (like the guys dressed as bears – for them the 26C weather must have been even harsher than most of the others).

Originally I planned on having lunch around two, but managed not to find anybody to eat with, and decided to follow through the entire day and have a dinner only. Hence, slowly ambled to the most interesting session amongst the ten or so available. Tits Ahoy! concentrated on the dubious female images and characters of movies and comics. And true to form, a lot of the pictures presented contained people in seriously impractical, but seriously revealing garb.

Panel on translating comics was interesting, even though I don’t really read any in finnish. The sample sentences given proved that the work is far from trivial. And sometimes requires an iron stomach to withstand the relentless assault of cliches from every direction.

Running in parallel with the more traditional shows was a set of more scientific presentations – the one on house of the future strayed from underneath the subject immediately, but was interesting enough to warrant sitting the full time. Though the style, where the slides were pretty much read aloud verbatim, started to grate in minutes.

For the the last session of the day I chose a panel on translating fantasy literature, a topic that actually carries weight these days with a couple of interesting players in the game. The finnish market is no longer totally filled with mass market fantasies and D&D-novelizations – publishers like Vaskikirjat and Kirjava have introduced quality to the market overflowing with nothing but quantity. Vaskikirjat was the only publisher present in the panel, and the one man company gave good insight into the dynamics of the industry – thus far their books have been chosen from the classic (and reasonably priced) end of the market, but even still the numbers needed to break even per book are rather high. The Tähtivaeltaja-award won with I Am Legend ought to help, though.

Had dinner in Coyote on Hämeenkatu, on the way to the hotel. Despite an odd delay in providing the tuna-steak burger the dinner was good indeed.

The official evening program was held in Telakka. Spent the evening outside. Indoors the temperature reached towards unbearable numbers (unofficially: above 50C), and the warm dusk was much better experienced outdoors.

Didn’t take any pictures, spent very little cash at vendors’ booths (Hannun Basaarissa was pretty much the only thing bought today).

Jul 252008
 

Ate a Berlusconi-pizza the other day, voted the best in the world earlier this year. It’s a partially rye-based pie, with chantarelle, red onion and reindeer as toppings.

And it’s by no means a bad pizza, especially when compared to the usual fare offered by Kotipizza.

But “best in the world”, that’s a stretch…

This isn’t even the best in Helsinki, as both Virgin Oil and the cellar of La Famiglia beat this hands down.

And definitely not best in the world, that honour is still carried by a forgotten pizzeria somewhere in or reasonably close to Genève, whose Volcano (avec tout as toppings) still reigns on the very top of the list.

Jul 252008
 

Hasbro, the owners of the Scrabble trademark, has sued the creators of Scrabulous.

The numbers are definitely on their side – the twin official Scrabble applications (due to other copyright reasons, the players United States and Canada have to use a different game than the rest of the world) get some tens of thousands users daily, whereas Scrabulous pulls in at least half a million players every day.

As the defendants, the Agarwalla brothers, are Indian and there are no tangible assets in the states, it’s pretty unclear how the case will proceed.

Jul 242008
 

The ABC Wednesday has started its third round, and now’s a good time to jump aboard.

The alphabet starts with the “A”, obviously, and the for the subject I’ve chosen the piece of Amazon in the corner of my living room – a 190 liter aquarium.

ABC Wednesday - 3rd round:  A - Aquarium

And based on the image, it’s rather clear that the aquarium needs a bit of redecoration, de-algaeing of the front glass and a couple of bigger fish.

(And while this is an ABC wednesday image – I’m still missing the magic dust needed to be able to include it on the original blog. Maybe this will happen in time for “B”. Maybe not.)

Jul 232008
 

Tabloid headline:  inebriated moose bites girlThe temperature is finally moving upwards on the scale, and we’re inconspicuously moving into the deep summer, as evidenced by the symptoms:

  • The annual Viivi & Wagner album is out.
  • Raspberry season has begun.
  • The tabloids are full of non-news (as shown in the attached snippet about an inebriated moose biting a kid.)
  • The first oppressive thoughts of impending end of vacation appear on the horizon.
  • Breakfast on the balcony is the norm, not an exception.
Jul 232008
 

Watchmen teaser posterThe long-troubled Watchmen movie has matured enough so that the first trailer has been released.

And it looks good, good indeed. This time Zack Snyder definitely has not gone for the “copy the graphic novel panel by panel”-route as in 300, but taken lots of liberties with the original. Ozymandias’ suit looks very eighties indeed, and Silk Spectre’s seems to be victim of budget cuts. And naturally the length of the original (400 pages) has forced serious abbreviations plot-wise.

True to form, Alan Moore has requested that his name not be used in the marketing of the film.

Jul 222008
 

It’s rather hard to think why Finland would rob itself of one of the very few potential medal-winners in the Beijing olympics. Then again, most things attributed to malice are actually due to plain old stupidity.

Jul 212008
 

As noted in yesterday’s macro-photography posting, spent a couple of hours today in Korkeasaari, the Helsinki Zoo.

Snowleopard

The weather was pleasant – cloudy but warm, but not warm enough to cause the animals to go lethargic.

Which was good, since I aimed to take plenty of photos on the island.

Exercised the telezoom mostly, and used the macro lens only in the couple of buildings housing terrariums.

On my previous trip two years ago the tigers and leopards were the stars of the show, both growling in their enclosures while walking around lean and hungry. This time they both were extremely sluggish, both of them confined to just lying around in the rear regions. Fortunately the lesser cats put up a good show instead. Korkeasaari is famous for its program that’s provided lots of snow leopards for other zoos, and the himalayan cats were quite active – walking and pouncing in the cliffs of their large cage. Lynx is another cat that’s usually well-hidden, happened upon a trio of them in plain sight.

Poison arrow frog

The other highlight of the visit was the selection of frogs in the Amazonia-house. This year being dedicated to amphibians, it was nice to see multiple species up close and personal. While the south american poison arrow frogs can’t be beaten in their color scheme, I was quite impressed by the camouflagy abilities of the vietnamese moss frog.

Eurasian hobby falcon

Didn’t spot any major new arrivals amongst the animals, apart from an eurasian hobby falcon (that’s nuolihaukka in finnish) that was being nursed to health. The body of the bird was surprisingly small, and it seemed to be not thoroughly enjoying its confinement.

All in all snapped more than a hundred photos, which will be flickred in due course, this post has just a skimming off the top of the animals mentioned – there was plenty more available: including a very playful otter for the lutraphobic, an icecream-eating squirrel and a kangaroo in quite an inappropriate pose.

Jul 202008
 

Been playing with my brand new 100mm macro lens on a couple of days, but haven’t yet had a perfect photography moment.

Usually the wind is to blame, while the autofocus mechanism of the lens is indeed good, it cannot cope with rapidly swaying flowers and especially insects in them.

The attached shot of a bumblebee is perhaps the finest thus far. The bug itself is nice and sharp, the flowe it is walking on is pretty much in focus as well, and the background nicely blurred by the narrow depth of field.

Bumblebee

Tomorrow the lens ought to get a lot more exercise, as it’s time for the irregularly scheduled trip to Korkeasaari.

Jul 182008
 

BriljanttiWoo, this blog just got its very first award. Thanks to skrubu for the recognition.

And while I’m not a big fan of chain letters and such, not listing seven yet unrewarded blogs would be rather antisocial. So here goes: Katuoja, /var/log/orava, ylitalot.net/com, Überkuul, Symbiatch, A Heartbreaking Blog of Staggering Genius and ButtUgly. And obviously all the blogs on the roll in the sidebar (some of which are on summer hiatus) come highly recommended as well.

Jul 172008
 

According to an article in ComputerWorld, CAPTCHA, a credible weapon against the legions of spammers has been broken.

With all three big free e-mail providers’ protection torn wide open with readily available toolkits, the threshold to engage in unfriendly practices on a massive scale is lower than before.