Friday, September 05, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pävämäärä ja päihdeongelma

Ensin sanottiin 1.7. silloin lähdetään
sitten sanottiin 1.8 lähetetään muita ihmisiää
sitten lähtö "varmistui" ensimmäinen yhdeksättää
sen jälken ei edes ilmoitettu päivämäärää

älkää kysykö missä loppuu uskottavuus
älkää kysykö milloin loppuu suomessa-asuvuus.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The assignment to india realizes, in cancelled, realizes, ...

Now it seems that I'm going to India anyway, with 90% probability. They say around 1.9.2008, but there are reasons to believe it in fact happens later.

I've learned to hate the phrase "nothing has been signed yet". Last year, 2 people (not me) were going to be sent to India for a 2 months. That assignment was cancelled one week before it was about to start. Also this assigment has been postponed twice, and once they told me that they're not planning to send me even if it does realize. Due to this uncertainty I've been reluctant to announce the trip here.

Meanwhile, I've been playing World of Warcraft to get my mind out of the biggest change in life since military service.

Friday, August 01, 2008

EGC: My Final Results

My rank is 4kyu. The games ended 4k- 5k- 5k+ 4k+ 4k+. This is a solid 4kyu result. I expected that not playing much for a few years would have weakened me, but it didn't. I managed to avoid most 3-4 josekis, which I wouldn't have remembered anyway.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

EGC: Foreign Languages In EGC

First of all, I want to tell two stories that underplay the importance of language skills. First of all, Tommi said that learning foreign languages is mainly a hobby for the leisured. Secondly, a relative (mother's sister) told that she was visiting China as part of a tourist group, and the one person who had the best contact with the Chinese didn't even attempt to learn or speak Chinese - instead she used gestures. She was a nurse by occupation, so she was exposed to huge amounts of human relationship training in her work.

Here, I've met Swedish, German, British, Japanese, Korean and Chinese persons. I bought a Swedish novel (Kafka On The Beach) and to my surprise understood most of what I read. Despite that, spoken Swedish is producing problems: I couldn't understand anything announced on the train, nor anything spoken by the organizers. Reading the written notes poses no problems, though.

I've read the mandatory 6 years of Swedish, voluntary 2 years of German, and one course of Russian. In addition, I'm making good progress on Chinese (level of knowledge: 1500 - 2000 characters, while uneducated Chinese know 3000 - 4000 characters and educated ones 5000 - 6000). Also, I've banged through Slime Forest Adventure, a teaching game for Japanese. Being fluent in these these languages would give quite good coverage of the languages used in EGC (except for Korean), but I've noticed that even spoken English is quite difficult to understand when spoken by totally unknown persons with whom you haven't got a second of communication before, and on the other hand that most communication can be done with very little simple speaking. And English is fine for that little simple speaking.

There were some lectures where the lecturer couldn't speak English at all and all content was translated. (A Chinese speaker read straight from written notes which were also displayed on screen and immediately translated, which was great for me who am studying Chinese.) Translation slowed down the lectures and drew attention away from the content (which wasn't interesting at all in those translated lectures anyway).

Also I've spend most of my leisure among the Finns, and when people gather up, they usually gather according to their language group. Exceptional are mainly the British, who can go anywhere and be understood in their native language.

To sum it up, EGC underlines the importance of knowing well a few languages, so that you can actually understand what is spoken, the unimportance of hard-to-develop foreign language skills, the fact that the most widely teached and spoken languages really do cover the languages you'll meet, and the fact that mutual effort to be mutually understood by any language (gestures, speech, prices) easily overcomes language barriers when there is need.

Life Around Lake Siljan

Yesterday, I was on a tourist bus trip. The trip took whole day and we visited towns around lake Siljan.

Half of the participants were Japanese. They're a nice group of people to go to tourist trip with, since they're unashamedley conformist, which is usually good when visiting totally new places.

Pretty much the whole region is full of houses which are similar to the picture below. They are made from wood, and painted either red or black. The corners are painted either white or black. The guide told me that that in many places they don't give permissions for other kinds of houses anymore, and also that many families build the houses from their own forests.

red house

What do people around Siljan do for living? Very, very few get living from farming, the tourist guid told that Leksand has about 10 farmers. Even if you add part-time farming and animal husbandry, it doesn't do much.

The guide told a lot about tourism, probably because she knows the industry inimately. In Rättvik, pop. 12000, there is an old car event which brings 30000 people there for one week. And the go congress of 1000 persons for two weeks is quite big event for Leksand, pop. 6000. He told about a village with pop. 200 and 6 hotels.

We also visited a Dalacarlian horse workshop. The horses are 5 - 50 cm high. The factory makes a rough cut with a bandsaw, sends the rough horses to carvers who work in their own houses, and then to painters. They have about 50 carvers making these dalacarlian horses.

Dalacarlian horse

Naturally there is also a lot of services which are essential for maintaining modern standard of living and industrial base, but the guide didn't tell about any specific big export industries apart from tourism, hadicrafts and forestry.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

EGC: Europe: An Emerging Market For Go Education

It's funny and scary to see how others take dead seriously something that is only a hobby for me.

AC Nielsen is a big market research company, which collects market research data by web panel, among other means. The web panel works so that about once a month they send a web questionnaire, which takes 5 - 30 minutes to fill.

Typical market research questions include:

  • Brand recognition: They list a set of brands and ask which of them are familiar.

  • Brand image: They ask what kind of associations some brand brings into mind (quality, price, user group, etc.)

  • Advertisement coverage: They ask if I've heard about a specific campaign.

  • Buying habits, needs, preferences

Well, some players from Korean Myongji Baduk University were collecting similar information about go teaching. The brand recognition part was replaces by asking people to compare Japan's, Korea's and China's influence and contributions to go.. The need part was directed at gauging how much demand there is for professional teaching either face-to-face or over the internet, and what attitudes people have towards go and teaching.

Some questions were quite far-fetched: Since in Europe we use a mix of local language, English and Japanese, unification of go terms and concepts couldn't be less meaningful - it's such a small part of the whole body of knowledge. Also material is widely available. Therefore I guess it does produce new information for those who do it, and you are going to make your living as a go professinal, this kind of market research is the things to do.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

EGC: Trust And Social Condemnation In The Countryside

Greetings from the go congress. Arrived on Saturday, will spend 7 days playing go, meeting foreign people and idling. This is also my first trip to a foreign country, so I'll use this to decide if I like travelling or if watching TV has brainwashed me to believe that I MUST travel, MUST travel, MUST travel...

I grew up in Pinomäki, a farming area near Pori (pop. 80000). The go congress is at Leksand, which is very similar to Pinomäki. Big, spacious farm houses and crop fields everywhere. The distances (1 - 5km to everywhere) are also pretty similar.

What really sets small town apart from cities is the high level of trust among citizens and the power of social condemnation. I'll tell you an example. When I arrived at the Bed & Breakfast accommodation house (3k from center), there was nobody present. The door only had a note announcing opening hours and a phone number to call outside opening hours. When I called the number, a female instructed me to just open the door (no lock!), to take the room key from reception and to mark my name from the list of guests. They trusted that the person who came there will act according to their assigned role (hostel customer) and won't do any damage, that is, they'll use their common sense.

The rooms and public spaces also had lots of notes. You shouldn't take soap from the toilet, because it will prevent other guests from using it, said one. Another told that you can use the kitchen facilities as long as you leave the dishes washed where they were. I've never seen so many notes in urban premises. Basically, they believe that people will to what they are told.

This works in the countryside: They know that the people who come to the house are go players, they know their names, and should there be "rotten eggs" then the group of go player would probably get forever socially condemned. They save huge amounts of works by not keeping the house manned, and most people know how to behave, so it is economically rational to trust to the power of social condemnation.

Next, I'll compare the experience to Queen's Hotel in Stockholm, where I spent Friday night. It was in the main walking street in Stockholm (Drottingsgatan) so huge amount of people walked past, certainly containing some rotten eggs. To get inside the building you just needed to open the door, which was not locked in the first place ... no!!! you had to use a doorbell and talk with the receptionist, which opened the door. They had few instruction notes, they offered the basic hotel services which everyone knows.

The price for a night in Queen's Hotel was ~80e. In the guesthouse it was ~35e, so trust clearly makes transactions cheaper. The service is essentially the same.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Potential Offshore Assignment To India...

...didn't realize. My life continues to be pathetic and insignificant in a mediocre way.

Preparing for it was nice though; I would never have read travel guides about southern India nor God of Small Things without the looming trip to another country. It kind of made me realize how boring my life is.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Drunk: The Essence Of Social Life

Lately, I've noticed the importance of social skills. They didn't matter a year ago, when I was just expected to do what I've told and to apply a little proactive attitude in it. But then I had a worldview-changing experience: Having a little responsibility about other people. That made many things click, especially the motto "Judge talent by its best, character by its worst." Social skills still don't matter in the leisure, since social skills don't produce much fun in the leisure, and the marginal benefit of being more skilled is very small.

The two things I realized were:

  • Social skills matter, since there is a process which tends to put me to a position where I run into trouble if I don't have enough social skills. The process has repeated thus far two times. There are valid reasons to believe both that it will repeat itself and that it won't repeat itself a third time .

  • Having your shit together goes a long way. Even without social skills, you may become a one-eyed king in the land of the blind.

So, here are a few posts about getting a rich social life.

Mostly, we thing you're boring.

Loud for sure. Less reckless than you might think.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Joining karhukerho

Bought a skiing set for 90e: Karhu planks, sticks, skiing shoes and a connection piece between skis and skiing shoes. Walked home carrying them (no snow left), but no one looked at me in a strange way nor commented anything.

Monday, March 24, 2008


It captures well the frustration that I have with approaches to life that require IQ and wide reading.

It also blames others for my own faults, which is not a good thing. The disclaimer shows that I was aware of it but couldn't formulate the thoughts in a proper way which would have avoided it.

It ignores the notable entertainment value of hanging out with go players, concentrating on utility.

It could be more focused.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Drunk: Can't Stop Blogging

First, a disclaimer. This post is not about you, it's about me noticing that the approach which has evidently brough much happiness for you is totally useless for me, and about formulating an alternative.

Being the attention whore that I am, can't stop blogging. The problem with blogging is that it brings indifferent kind of attention. Not good attention - the attention of new people in general and women in particular. Not bad attention - the attention of people who are waiting to use the info against me. Just indifferent attention - attention which does not have even potential significance to my happiness now or in 10 years.

There is something peculiar in the circle of people who read this blog and who I've seen face to face. I'm referring to the go player demographic. Their talk seldom touches relevant and important things, but always lingers around and teases enough to have kept me in their company for years. Here are a few examples.

1) Market value talk.
This talk peaked in the Habsburger days when finding girlfriends was a timely challenge for them. They talked about it in very abstract terms, using evolutionary psychology for justification and quoting the behaviour of apes. Maybe they were able to draw links between everyday behaviour and the high theory, but for me, something way more concrete like Rules of the Game would have much better.

2) Despite many of them working in the same profession, not once have I heard them tell their pay. Yeah, thanks a lot for the help in pay negotiations. Instead, there is an unwritten rule to avoid discussion about work-related topics.

3) Political crap. Talking about it is a fun pasttime, but who cares?

One important exception is programming, a topic which is both practical and where their talk is on the same level, at least as long as no one mentions category theory.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Warnings (2003)

This cheap thriller is in my opinion a masterpiece, but most people hate it deeply. I can't recommend it to anyone, since most people have the same taste as most people.

The atmosphere is really thick, and keeps the viewer in suspense all the time. It starts in Stephen King style with an extremely intense scene. There is a man living alone in a farm house. He's drunk, carrying a gun and scared as hell that aliens are coming to get him, proclaiming loudly that he's ready to take them. There's a psycho-style scarecrow in a sofa, and he's talking with it all the time. Then there are noises and strange lights and the man starts to chase them, but it's not clear if he's just lunatic or if he's after something.

The main events start when a cousin of the man in the farm house hears that the he's dead. He goes on to clear the house with a group of his friends. The suspense stems firstly when they discover various signs of lunacy, secondly when they start to see inklings of the phenomena that caused the lunacy, and lastly about aliens themselves.

The strength of the film is that it relies on dialog and instead of showing the beast, it describes people's reaction to the signs left by the beast. The second strength is the intense atmosphere, which is created by skillful play with viewer's expectations, good soundtrack and massive but controlled onmarch of pretty much every suspense trick you have ever seen in any thriller.

On meta-level, the film works even better. The director is showing off and making a challenge to others. He's saying "I'm showing you how thrillers should be done! I can make this good film by concentrating on storyline, atmosphere, social interactions and other things that matter! Keep your special effects, all I need is 12 days and a budget under one million!" Here are the observations that support this:

  • He packs all known thriller effects to same film - haunted house, scarecrows, traces of something big and scary, tarot cards, beasts that are not seen, claustrophobic corn field, not knowing what is lunacy and what is real, kitchen utensils that cut, sudden appearances that are sometimes other people and sometimes the beast.

  • When the beast is finally shown, it is almost anti-climax, as if he was making a tribute to films that are free from supernatural forces.

  • The film is very consistent. By consistency, I mean that it doesn't contradict itself, doesn't invoke "people just don't behave that way!" reaction and sticks with its assumptions. Consistency usually means that the person making the film knows exactly what he's doing.

Talking about assumptions, it makes one big assumption (which is spelled out in the end) and sticks with it. On my own thriller consistency meter, Wicker Man and Witchfinder General score the highest level. Everything is explained by personalities, situations and social dynamics, no supernatural beings are assumed and large-scale consistency reigns to the end. Warnings gets to the second-highest level: it makes one assumption and sticks with it, and pretty much everything is explained by that assumption and its lemmas. I'd put The Excorcist to the same consistency level.

If I had to choose one film that captures the spirit of Stephen King's novels, this would be it. The intensity structure is the same. It starts with a short, intense scene that gives foretaste of what is to come. Then it does a series of "speed tests" that start out in normal, sane and peaceful conditions, increase intensity gradually and end up in a panic. In the end, there is long uninterrupted mayhem. When it ends, the whole film ends - there is no clean-up. And did I mention the atmosphere, skillful assembly of standard building blocks and emphasis on people's reactions?

Here's one review from IMDB which explains why I like the film but others don't:

"I saw this movie on the sci-fi channel, and I was suprised how good the story line was. I was enjoying the movie until the pitiful cartoon computer generated looking aliens showed up. They should have had men dress up as the creatures, at least they would have looked more realistic than the cartoon looking creatures. The storyline gets a 8 out of 10, but the effects get a very lousy 1 out of 10! Overall the movie I would give it about 4 1/2 out of 10!"