Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sudden changes in personality

Recently, Ilkka has apparently had a sudden change in personality. When I still lived with my parents and siblings, my brother also had two sudden changes in personality. I'll describe them in order to provide perspective to Ilkka's case. Markku seems to know more, but doesn't want to tell.

Before the first change, my brother listened to metal (he had at least one Sepultura's record and Moonspell's casette) and had wrestling as his hobby. He was very hostile towards me and my parents. Once he spoke about a potential fight: He said that if the other party initiates it, he will be looking forward to beating the other person.

After the first change, he started drawing. He attended a drawing school, switched from normal class to a dedicated artistic class (there were 4 normal classes and one artistic class at each grade) and listened to electronic music. He related to the past personality with shame and embarrassment: Once when Metal Union started in Radio Mafia, he quickly closed the radio: "But it's metal!". He was still hostile towards me and my parents, so I have no idea what caused the change.

This continued until the second change. The first change happened in comprehensive school; the second change happened when he was in high school (in an artistic class). He switched from high school with an artistic class to the same high school where me and my sister went. He started to be interested in math and natural sciences, and spent much more time with homework. It culminated in him applying and getting to the the same math-oriented highscool which I described earlier.

Again, he condemned his past. He despised artists and art. At this time, my sister was going to study graphical industry, and he also expressed his dislike towards my sister's choice. As far as I know, the seconds change had a lot to do with personal chemistry; he got fed up with the strongly religous person that was running the drawing school.

He described as liberating the experience of leaving the drawing school for the last time and knowing that he will never again step there, which reminds me of Ilkka's comment that he is finally free.

Nowadays, the only trace from the wrestling period is his attendance to karate classes; but I'm sure he has a very different attitude towards the activity. The despise towards graphical art has also dissipated, which is most visible in his interest towards fractal art (here is his first production). The changes were genuine, but they were partially reversed, and the old traits and skills took a very different form.

He probably had a third change between high school and university, but I don't know about that since I didn't see him often.

Friday, September 22, 2006

EU: A federation based on rule of law

poliisi EU2006-kokouksen edeesä

Lately, the city center of Tampere has been full of policemen because of the EU2006 summit. I don't know what they decide; hardly anything that has a visible effect on my life. Certainly they have power to change significant things, but it is pretty much rendered insignificant by disagreements between different factions and the behind-the-scenes nature of EU regulation for those who don't work at administration and don't run a company nor a farm.

Even with its mild excesses, a society based on rule of law is infinitely better than one based on rule of mob and corruption.

That's why asylum seekers are queueing at our gates. That's why immigrants risk drowning to get here, and that's why new countries are constantly willing to join EU.

(What this is all about is providing an alternative interpretation against the baseless association of EU with a police state.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What worries me ...

... is that Lovelacen Testi and Danimal Archive are also gone. It would have been so nice to advertise Finnish Annotator as means to read a blogger censored by the feminists.

It's also a sign that the problems may be quite severe. Hopefully we'll find out what happened behind the scenes.

Disagreeing with Ilkka on many aspects, I have to admit that I feel a bit of the same schadenfreude that colored his writings so much.

Update: Answer to The Scientist: Yes, it was wrong for the reporter to do what she did, since she knew from the case of Lawrence Summers that such publicity can have dire consequences.

Finnish Annotator

Here's a webalized version of my old flashcard program.

The system includes:
1) A Finnish annotator,
2) a Chinese flashcard program,
3) exercise for drawing Chinese characters.

The annotator is the weakest part and barely functioning, but the other parts are quite ok.

PS. I'll remove the open registration in one week.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Should write a private biography someday.

The autobiography would consist of two parts: Firstly, authetic documents (diary notes, emails, blog posts) from the time. These documents would not be inteded to be read completely, but you could dip into them to get a better idea of past way of thinking.

Secondly, it would describe and analyze past events and worldview in the wisdom of the hindsight.

This kind of biography would enable to learn from past mistakes and get more invaluable life experience out of the same period of time.

It would be a monument to stupidity, silliness and embarrassment: The authentic documents would serve this purpose in "show, don't tell" style, and the hindsight part would be a constant ridicule of past me.

That kind of document would be too embarrassing to show for anyone else, which also decreases the motivation to write one.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Technical Skill And Maturity

Summary: Gifted young sometimes show a peculiar combination of high-level technical skill and low-level maturity. The lack of maturity is no excuse to belittle or dismiss their technical skill; it can and should be harnessed by methods that compensate for the lack of maturity.

Lately, Finns have discussed special education for gifted children. Since I went to a very ambitious math high school, I want to offer my view on this question.

The school was called Valkeakosken aikuislukion matematiikkalinja. It was located 10km from Toijala, a town with 8400 inhabitants. The students lived in the school.

I found out about the school, when they sent me a letter of invitation after I had done well in a competition. I entered the school in the summer 1997. The summer was a "probabtion period" where they checked if we were correct material for the school and prepared us for the following two years. The days were filled with math education, where we went quickly through a lot of material. We were not supposed to learn it, but to get a good overview which would facilitate more thorough learning later. Typically, every other week was education in Toijala and every other week was summer holiday in our homes.

There weren't that many applicants. If I remember correctly, there were 25 applicants for 20 places. Some of them didn't even want to continue after the summer. Rather than being a hypercompetitive pruning game, it was a test of whether we were prepared to leave our homes for fast-paced math education.

We also had a programming course in that summer. It was some kind of "Introduction to Programming", and it was lectured by two teachers from Tampere University of Technology. This programming course prepared us for internship in companies; that internship would pay our living costs. All students eventually passed the course, although many people had to return the exercise works several times.

With the fall of the autumn, we moved there permanently and started also part-time work. I was paired with Jarno, and we were given a work task by a nearby vocational school. They had a drilling machine, which made holes to chips in places where components should be inserted. The drilling machine took a list of (x, y) -coordinates and drilled the appropriate holes on an empty chip. Our task was to make a program, which would take a scanned picture of a chip as input. The program would identify the holes and output a list of coordinates for the holes.

They didn't just throw the assignment at us, but ensured that we would know what to do with it. Fortunately, I had done some simple graphics programming earlier; otherwise we couldn't have done it. Those past skills were put to good use in this programming task.

We didn't know enough math to rotate the scanned picture of a chip, so a student from the older class wrote a texture rotation code. Also, me and Jarno didn't have Windows programming experience; after we had done the basic algorithm, an experienced Windows coder from our class added a graphical UI to it.

The experienced Windows coder was one of the two persons in our class (2 our of 20), who had already developed almost industrial-strength coding skill before coming to Päivölä. What they had in common was that their parents could also code and gave them advice on their hobby. In addition, there were at least 3 persons (inclding me) who had had some earlier programming experience.

The vocational school headmaster knew how to extract productivity out of immature souls. He gave us a clearly defined technical task, and made sure that we knew where to start. We didn't need to do those parts that require maturity, experience and human relationship skills - negotiating conditions, choosing partners, finding out what needs to be done in the first place, etc. And frankly, I couldn't have done anything that required maturity. I had never had a summer job, my capability to take responsibility was low and my social skills were nonexistent.

The newspaper article ends with a sentence where the Finnish Minister of Education, Mr. Heinäluoma takes a stance against this kind of education by saying that "little Einsteins" would only be damaged if they were to be separated to their own caste.

First, I'll deconstruct the phrase "little Einsteins". The diminutive "little" can imply two things. Firstly, it can imply that these people are little mommy's boys, who do everything their mothers and teachers say and are in general spineless. This implies that they deserve to be insulted and bullied until they grow up to become sullen teenagers. Secondly, it can imply that these people only have "play" skills that are appropriate for children. As I have already explanined, the coding skills which I saw in Päivölä were very real, just waiting to be applied to the easy end of the industry problems.

The word 'genius' has two meanings. First of all, it refers to a person with extraordinary mental ability. Secondly, it is an insult against people who think they are smarter than they are.

We can conclude our deconstruction by saying that both "little" and "Einstein" can be considered as negative testimony against the character of the people involved, and as encouragements to insult and bully them. You wouldn't call a 25 years old fresh collage graduate a "little Einstein" who would be better off vandalizing, shoplifting and drinking himself into a gutter compared to using his skills in a productive way. Why is it completely appropriate to say such things about teenagers? Is it because our society so extremely low expectations about young people that doing something useful while you could just leech your parents has become a sign of profoundly un-indivualistic wimpyness?

Now, let's look at the claim that these people would be damaged by special education. I really don't think that the programming course, work intership, improved math education and likeminded company damaged me. If I was immature after it, that's only because I was even worse when I came there.

In short, Mr. Heinäluoma's comment demonstrates complete lack of understanding about the nature of giftedness; about the division to technical skill and maturity development, and about effective ways to harness giftedness in ways that are economically productive and good for the subject's development.