Sunday, December 27, 2009

Looking good and getting the girl

In India I realized that it is my surfacial skills which are the bottleneck. Doing microeconomic analysis about the situation at hand went fine; connecting with people by talking to them did not.

Most people develop these surfacial skills as young adults. Unfortunately, you can't skip the development of social skills. If you fail to complete this developmental task as a young person, it will continue to haunt you and drag you down until you solve it.

My current diagnosis is that the root cause of problems is constant losing in the Game of Talking. The best way to solve this is to get exposure to new social situations. Going alone to bars is lousy practise, since I've failed to get much positive reactions that way. Sports courses on the other hand look promising, since they offer an abundance of natural conversation fodder without any need to ponder ways to open up talking. Besides, as a side effect they produce better physical condition while bars only produce hangover.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Body as a mute create

In this poetic and insightful piece Megan compares your body to a mute create. Your body knows what it wants, but can't speak it, so it sends signals. These signals are reliable. They need to be interpreted correctly though, for example aching from new kind of training does not mean "go to bed and don't do that ever again" - it means "stretch the aching away".

Your poor body. It is mute and it is trapped there with you. It can't say what it means. It can only send you signals, sensations that your bossy, dominant mind can ignore. Your mind wants other things, like information to chew on or distractions. It will find them while your body tries to get attention. It sends lethargy or a pounding heart to tell you you didn't eat what it needs. It sends an ache to ask you to please twist and bend and lengthen it in more directions. It sends joint pain to say that you've gotten out of alignment, please come back to your spine and work from there. It gets weak when it wants you to know that you should fight your limits. As soon as you do, it will rejoice by pushing those limits away and teaming with you to charge down the new limits.

As soon as you are moving in the right direction, you have no greater cheerleader than your body. It LOVES you. It is SO EXCITED to do things with you. ...

My other natural instincts don't guide me well, nor do they give reliable "raw" information which just needs to be interpreted. Concentration instincts tell me to get immediate satisfaction, like playing World of Warcraft. Social instincts mainly tell me to withdraw from conversations. But signals from my body are exceptionally reliable.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Yoga and stretching

Last weekend I was in an elementary yoga course, where I learned the sun salutations, the deep ujjayi breathing and some asanas.

First, a quick description of Ashtanga yoga for those who don't know (like me 2 weeks ago). In yoga you do a precisely defined series of stretching movements and light gymnastics. They are called asanas. Each asana also defines when you inhale and exhale. If yoga was a state machine, then "states" would be the stretching postures while "transitions" would be inhalations and exhalations.

Yoga is primarily a meditative exercise, secondarily a breathing exercise and only then a physical exercise (although meditative component emerges only after you are so familiar with the asanas that they "empty your mind"). Lots of emphasis is placed on breathing and recruiting all the muscles below stomach for deeper breathing.

Now, back to the main topic.

Parapara stretching

Parapara is a dance for hands. The hand movements are quick and simple. The aesthetics concentrates on 45 and 90 degree angles and big, symmetric hand motions. In parapara, choreographies are song-specific. Everyone dances the same way. Professionals make choreographies for popular Japanese disco songs and distribute them as DVDs.

When I was in India, after I came from gym I danced at least 15 minutes of parapara as a form of stretching. 30 minutes wasn't exceptional. The big circular motions ensured that every part of my hands got stretched.

Parapara stretching was effective, since I didn't have much soreness or snapping, even though I had only begun strength training and therefore my technique was lousy and my body was unprepared.

Traditional stretching

Shoulder snapping started only after I returned to Finland. Gym was far away from my flat, so I did final stretching in the gym with the traditional movements they teach in school, for example:
  • grapping some wall corner with your hand and strethching it backwards,
  • putting your hand behind your neck,
  • pushing the wall, or
  • trying to reach the ground while keeping your feet straight.
These are solid movements to aid recovery, but they didn't quite cut it. First of all, I had some serious shoulder snapping, which forced me to stop exercising for some weeks. My weightlifting book says that most people's shoulders are woefully unprepared for strength training. For a beginning weight trainer, the question is not if you will have shoulder problems but in which specific lifts they emerge for you.

Nor did these stretches increase flexibility. I still couldn't reach the ground while keeping my feet straight despite having done that particular stretch after every gym workout for almost a year.

Yoga stretching

So parapara worked well and traditional stretching didn't. Yoga combines the best of these two so my hopes are high.

In parapara, you do lots of movements but each single movement is light and easy. Similarly in yoga, you don't lock your feet and don't try your flexibility limit, as the next breath takes you to the next posture quite soon.

In traditional stretching, each stretch is easy and everyone can complete them. In yoga, each asana has a posture which no beginner can complete. You do it as far as you can while focus on breathing keeps the stretch light.

Parapara has the weakness that it only stretches hands and needs videos. Yoga seems to provide equally efficient dynamic stretching system for the whole body, enabling me to avoid soreness and increase flexibility.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

I can barely walk now.

Went to rope skipping group exercise at gym. Lacked both the technique and the aerobic fitness. In addition to just jumping, the girls did one-leg jumping, double-speed jumping, running rumping and moving sideways while jumping. I had more than enough trouble with just jumping.

It was preceeded by gradual warm-up and followed by stretching, so all the soreness and stiffness hit only 24 hours afterwards. Before that, nothing but normal tiredness. Seems that stretching really works.

It's a long time since any exercise hit my weaknesses so surgically. A rope cost 4 euros, so price is not an excuse to not own one.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Miss Pole Dance 2009

The difference between the gymanst's bar and the dancer's pole is that one is horizontal while the other is vertical. The versatile sport of pole dancing combines striptease-influenced sensual dancing and gymanstic circus acrobatics. Next I'll present videos from three pole traditions - striptease-influenced pole dancing, mallakhamb and Chinese circus.

This is a good combination of acrobatics and striptease influences:
  • At 0:15, she's first doing a split and combining it to striptease-style leg-waving.
  • At 0:32, more split variations follow.
  • At 1:15, she's doing a cartwheel and some handstand walking.
  • At 2:10, leg-waving upside down (!)

Mainly women practise Western pole dancing. In contrast, Chinese pole acrobatics needs so much strength that you only see men doing it. The aesthetics is about quick, explosive transitions and grace instead of cute sensuality.

The Hindi word Mallakhamb means "pole gymanstics". The influence of yoga is visible, when the man puts his leg behind his neck in Sirasana style.

Women do Mallakhamb with ropes.

This last video is from an American pole dancing competition. It is the most striptease-minded, but what I've seen in strip clubs is nothing like this. In theory, I'm all for sexually explicit dancing. In practise, the few times I've gone to strip clubs the strippers have mainly rubbed themselves against the pole and done a few swirls. They rely too much on naked skin. If I want to watch sexy dancing, I'd rather go to some electronic music event, where some girls put effort into dancing well. Wearing stylish clothes enables them to stay in relaxed mood and put up much better show.

In Friday, I was in a pre-Christmas party and Miss Pole Dance 2009 was held next door. I expected something like in these videos, but the overall level was quite low. The venue, Be-pop, was the tackiest nightclub I've seen anywhere. In general, pole dancing in Tampere seems to be about tattooed prole girls doing striptease gestures and basic gymnastics in 15cm tops and 10cm pants.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Satanic mass@Klubi, Tampere

Cavus, Behexen and Mayhem played a gig at Klubi yesterday. It's disturbing how much I liked it. I mean, satanic metal is for the schizos and adolescents who think it's cool to be bad, right?

First, Behexen lit up some candles and started an intense ritual of witchcraft, enchanting the audience under their spell, creating a serene atmosphere to get intoxicated and ponder fundamental questions like Why do I want to live instead of killing myself? or Why doesn't this show just stop in everyone bursting to laugh at it, and are the same tricks used to delude us every day?

Something in the evening created a whole which immersed like nothing before. Maybe it was black metal's fast, monotonic drumwork and its novelty. The dedicated audience. The witchcraft theme taken first to its logical conclusion and then over the top.

Mayhem is a good showcase of what happens when spirituality starts to wag the dog. The band had five members in the beginning of the 90s. One committed suicide, another was murdered by a third band member who went to jail, the fourth one resigned and only the fifth one was left to reinvent the band with new musicians and more professional attitude.

The old band's antics were so batshit crazy that they cross the parody horizon, and then some. Here's Panu's feeble failure to parodize metal:
Zombie Metalissa sun pitää niiku osata olla zombi jo eläessäsi. Zombi on niiku pystyynkuallu ihminen joka kulkee hei sillai niiku ropotti-rops eikä oo niiku missään kontaktissa niiku todellisuuteen. ... Zombiuteen kuuluu vittu että sun pitää olla vittu lähellä kualemaa, niin lähellä ku vaan voit.

One of Mayhem's dead band members was called Dead:
He (Dead) didn't see himself as human; he saw himself as a creature from another world. He said he had many visions that his blood has frozen in his veins, that he was dead. That is the reason he took that name. He knew he would die.

Wow, he could see into the future!

Before the shows, Dead used to bury his clothes into the ground so that they could start to rot and get that "grave" scent. He was a "corpse" on a stage. Once he even asked us to bury him in the ground - he wanted his skin to become pale. During one tour with Mayhem he found a dead crow, which he collected and stored in a plastic bag. He often carried it around with him and would smell the bird before performing, in order to sing "with the stench of death in his nostrils."

Now you may say "But yoga-style new age spirituality is different, because it aims to heal people!" The harmful beliefs of new age spirituality, like homeopaths opposing H1N1 vaccinations, are masked under the veil of healing. Should this mask make large audiences to buy their lies, the lies may cause more damage than the openly repulsive satanists.

Mainstream music is by definition something that you hear from many channels. This familiarity breeds boredom and contempt in me. Nowadays all the good and original stuff is made by bands on the fringe that I've barely heard about. By the way, this good fringe is not just metal, here's a sample of twee by When I Was 12.(Hat tip to 1000 Sparks.)

Hopelessly Romantic Harmonies from Kate Kell on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Liberating the consciousness with yoga

A Finnish couple living in Vancouver used to write a blog named Dragon/Kolibri. Dragon was the male. He wrote rarely but well, mainly about weightlifting. The blog is now offline.

The woman was an active yoga practicioner. She took steps towards becoming a yoga teacher. She also had a mild psychiatric condition and medication for it. The final entries of the blog were about a pang of anorexia nervosa which was decimating her appetite - apparently quite seriously, since her mother flew to Vancouver and the couple stopped blogging. I haven't heard anything about them since.

Yoga has a reputation for attracting superstitious people for some of whom it becomes "religion lite". This emphasis on spirituality and healing is visible also on the web pages of various yoga schools in Tampere.

Tampereen Astangajoogakoulu has a list of moon days in which energy levels are low and practise should be lighter. In other respects they have the best pages. They even list specific asanas for the courses. The elementary groups are guided, while in the last "mysore group" each practicioner trains his own asanas and teachers introduce new ones when the old ones go well.

Om Yoga presents yoga as just another group exercise. I can already exercise in groups at my gym, so thanks but no thanks. They have lots of mild spirituality/energy/healing references dispersed around the pages. Somehow, I find this more scary than Astangajoogakoulu's honest division, where some pages have spiritual tint while others treat yoga as a physical sport.

I'm not freaked by spirituality in itself, but by people who can't identify and reflect their own spirituality enough to turn it off when talking to non-spiritual people. Clear division to between spiritual and physical content sends a message "We are stating these spiritual facts because we believe in them. You are free to follow the advice and traditions taught by our yoga masters, or to follow the Western tradition of ignoring them as superstitious."

Tampereen työväenopisto offers the best prices, and good enough courses for all but the most active enthusiasts.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ashtanga yoga and gymnastics

Some sports train juniors into top athletes, while other sports enable adult hobbyists to stay fit. In team ball games, ice hockey is the serious sport while floorball is the sport of choice for amateurs. Many schools and companies have a floorball field reservation for their students or employees. In martial arts, wrestling trains young professional athletes while krav maga, kickboxing and various schools with Japanese names train adults.

For gymnastics, the closest matching adult sport is Ashtanga yoga. Yoga covers those parts of gymnastics which are realistic for adults, and which are not better trained at gym.
  • Flexibility exercises - included in Ashtanga Yoha
  • Static strength positions - included in Ashtanga Yoga
  • Pulling and pressing - better trained in gym
  • Dynamic acrobatics - out of reach for adults
Many static positions are part of both gymnastics and Ashtanga yoga, with different names:
Alexandra Kroha in a split.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Twice this year I've used the kind of approach recommended by Janka - highly personalized one - to open up conversation with a woman and both times I got a good reaction.

The first time was in an electronic music event. I saw a girl with 3 Chinese characters tattooed to his arm, and recognized that the middle one was 佛, which means Buddha. So I told her that I can recognize one of the characters and asked what the other ones meant.

The second time was in gym. A woman older than me had 2 Chinese characters tattooed to his arm, and I recognized that the last one was 火, which means fire. I didn't open that time, but memorized the first character and later tried to search it from dictionary without success. The next time I saw him I started with line "I see you have a fiery tattoo". She told me that the tattoo is a Chinese horoscope, fire horse.

Both conversations lasted for solid 10 lines, and were very much limited by my own approach anxiety. I saw the fire horse woman third time, greeted her and she greeted back, so there is reason to believe that it was a positive experience also for her.

Few girls have Chinese character tattoos, so I didn't consider these relevant from the seduction point of view. Thanks to Janka for pointing out a way to generalize these success stories.

Monday, November 09, 2009

A clarification

At some point in my life, I got bored of drinking beer and went to the dancefloor, gradually developing a way to move my body to unknown rhythm, especially at electronic music events where dancing is the main thing and dancing alone isn't creepy as in discos.

Then I found the parapara style, and it was love at first sight. It is a Japanese dance form where the emphasis is on simple and fast hand movements, there are ready choreographies for songs and everyone dances in the same way. It is one of the few dance traditions that can be directly applied to the modern dancefloor.

In India, my standard daily routine after work was to go to gym and stretch hands by repeating parapara videos. When I returned to Finland, I taught myself improvisation with any music by just playing something on Winamp and doing some parapara moves.

Nowadays, I got zero inhibitions to go to the dancefloor with confidence. I wasn't making just any pick-up attempt, but trying to find a dance partner.

There was a time when "Saanko luvan?" was a standard opening. But judging from the really repulsive vibe that I got from the evening, and the complete lack of positive reaction on their behalf, this approach is by today's standards too enthusiastic and crude and has to be preceeded by complex and unintuitive things like personalized negging.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Why I don't usually go to bars to chase skirt

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
- Albert Einstein

The Way of the Pickup Artist would be to just go and get repeatedly rejected until you get comfortable with the appoach anxiety and find some working methods to start conversation.

My take is that it might perhaps be beneficial for me to repeat last night's attempts once a month to benchmark possible progress of social skills. It would also aid in conquering approach anxiety (a big factor which made me fail last night's surprise opportunity to witness seduction.)

However, Game is not very relevant when the issues I'm dealing with are the lack of eye contact and 2-line conversations.

The Lost in Music night was fun. Last night wasn't.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A different kind of bar evening

Today, I went to Inferno nightclub, a heavy metal disco. I went to pick up women (anticipating mainly rejection) as opposed to dancing (the main thing in electronic music events) and drinking beer (the main thing in non-discos.)

So, my plan and goal was that I'll propose to 3 groups of women, get rejected and leave the bar.

My first proposal didn't count, since the girl just ignored it, probably not hearing it.

The second proposal was to a group of 2 women with jacket (jakkupuku), as opposed to some rock/metal-spirited garment. Naturally their clothes were black, after all this was a metal nightclub. A song started which they liked and they went to dancefloor. I asked one of them if she wanted company for dancing. She said generally that this dancefloor is free-for-all. I said "great". Then I started to dance, trying to make eye contact with her, but she rejected me by moving opposite to her girl pair and dogmatically maintaining eye contact to her. I exited dancefloor after 3 minutes.

In the third case, there was a pair of girls. One of them got picked by another man, and one was looking bored. I went to ask her if she didn't feel bored to stay in place while others danced. While doing this, I noticed that she was probably older than me. I didn't hear what she answered, but she didn't raise from her chair.

The third case was again with the other girl from the jakkupuku group. She was dancing alone in the floor while the second girl was already sitting at a bench. I went to dance in front of her, trying to establish eye contact to start some chat ("You need company for dancing?"). She looked the other way and after 30 secs I went away.

Having reached my quota of 3 girl groups, I went to toilet. A man there started a chat. He asked how my evening was going, and I told that 3 groups of girls rejected me as a dance partner and after further inquiries that I was bored and open to suggestions. He suggested that I should join him and he would introduce me for some of his friends. After me showing enthusiasm he emphasized that I should behave smarter and less enthusiastic and talk less. I followed him.

Then the bad luck stroke. He went to talk to the same 2 jakkupuku girls which both had rejected me. When this tall, handsome man went to their table and laid his hands on the table, smiling, the girls returned with eye contact and the interested smile which I see in photographs all the time but which is never directed for me.

Now I had the opportunity to witness seduction by a natural alpha, but I failed even that. I said that I got rejected by exactly both of these girls, and I probably should leave. This violated his explicit instruction to act more smart and talk less. So I exited the bar...

Despite lack of success, this was a better result than my earlier bar evenings. When me and the natural alpha exited the toilet, a man entered it. This man had been dancing alone in the dance floor, trying to dance opposite to the girls, oblivious to their rejection and lack of reaction. The natural alpha laid some insult towards him ("idiot") probably for his dance floor behaviour.

This bar evening was the first time someone noticed I was making a conerted attempt to pick up girls, and enlisted my support for his own efforts, although I failed at giving this support due to drunkenness and situational factors.

Earlier, that alone-dancing idiot would have been me.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Hardcore gymanstics book

"Gymnastics for ironheads" sums up the spirit of the book. The goal is the same as in weight training - to develop strong and functional muscles. But it only uses bodyweight exercises from gymnastic tradition.

Gymnasts are famous for superhuman acrobatic feats where they fly from pole to pole or do multiple cartwheels and aerials on a narrow beam, but this book is nothing like that. It deals with dips, pull-ups, headstands, handstands and other strength exercises. The main claim is that gymnasts who start by systematically developing a strong body will also find acrobatic movements easier.

I ordered it based on this article, and got what I wanted. My old weight training book classifies exercise to 8 categories for different parts of body. A good program covers all categories to achieve balanced development. This new book has bodyweight exercises for all the categories. (The categories are knee dominat, hip dominant, core, vertical/horizontal push/pull, and explosive force.)

So if pig flu strikes, I can stop going to gym and get full exercise with my bodyweight using just walls, mats, a pull-up bar and rings.

The funny thing is that the author is a coach for a national team of young gymnasts. So all the pictures are about 9 - 15 years old boys. It also classifies the moves with 5 stars. I can currently only do 1/2 star movements and hope to progress some day to 1-star moves. Luckily, it lists much more exercises in the easy end. It ends with a motivational story about the benefits of strength training for gymansts.

A gymnastics based workout of the day
After a four hour workout and completing their ring strength training, the general physical preparation assignment was to complete, in 15 minutes, as many rounds as possible of the following: 10 muscle-ups followed by 20 pause-jump squats. The winner would be the one who completed most rounds in 15 minutes.
The pause-jump squats were simply a jumping squat with a 2-3 second pause at the bottom with hips parallel or slightly below the knees. I placed these here primarily to provide a break for their upper body before the next set of muscle-ups. (As a side note, towards the end of the workout, one of my athletes became bored with the pause-jump squats and began adding a back flip to the jump portion.)

The results were as follows: Chris and Greg chased each other throughout the entire fifteen minutes, completing 12 rounds each and were begining a 13th round when the clock ran out. Chris was crowned champion as he finished his 12th round of muscle-ups one rep ahead of Greg. Greg was, needless to say, quite annoyed to have been defeated by one rep. ... They were not extremely fatigued and would have been fine had I extended the time of the general physical preparation to twenty minutes.

Allan and Zach were tied for third with 10 rounds apiece for 100 single bar muscle-ups and 200 jump-squats. As an interesting aside, Allan ... had only recently turned 9 years old that March.

We finished off our workout with 50 flairs on the pommel horse. ...

So if you want to be able to do 100 pull-ups in 15 minutes once you reach the age of 9 years, this book tells you how!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lost in music

Waltari played at Lost in Music festival in Sputnik. But the best band once again was a semi-unknown one, Pitbull Terrorist. My reaction to Waltari itself disappoinment, the same as for most bands I last heard and liked when young.

Pitbull Terrorist is the Cause For Effect of black metal. Both PT and CFE have very short songs which game the listener's expectations - first forming expectations and immediately breaking them. They sound extremely fun when drunk - still able to analyze how they break patterns but not disturbed by their lack of own message.

Cause For Effect was the warm-up band for Canatata Sangui, a band which actually has things to say. Social constructionism had a big effect on my worldview when I was younger, and Cantata Sangui is one of the few bands that sings about constructionist themes. It's the one band whose lyrics I like most. (There are other bands which make greater music, and still others which strike a good balance between music and lyrics, and still others which are not that good by any standard but which successfully express their original message with the skill they have.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One year of training diary

The first entry is dated 22.10.2008. Now it spans exactly one year. During this year I've trained 120 times, once every three days. Achieving this regular habit is the greatest sports achievement in my life, so sorry beforehand for the masturbatory tone.

It began in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. We lived in an apartment block which was 45-minute car ride from center because of horrible congestion (local newspapers call Hyderabad "the city of the traffic jam"). This made the gym next door an inviting choice, especially since most of us had earlier exposure to this sport.

In the beginning, I increased weights until I could just barely do 10 reps. Marking this highest weight was enough, since progress was fast. Nowadays I mark all sets and reps. It adds motivation to see that despite glacial progress my training weights have in fact increased.

Gym log is also very profound health data. Making progress requires that you eat right, sleep right and train right. For example, when I just came back to Finland and didn't yet use recovery drink nor extra meals, I was recklessly hungry after training and didn't make any progress. A progressive gym log is definitely a better measure of health than mere body mass index.

Measured progress is also an important factor in other hobbies. In go, you have the go rank. If your game genuinely improves, it quickly shows in the online game rank. In Chinese, Clavis Sinica's character test serves the same role - although as a multiple choice test it tells little about your actual skill, it is definitely sensitive to progress.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bodyweight training

Lately, I've gained enough strength to add dips and chin-ups to my gym program, and ordered a gymnastics book which should contain more bodyweight moves.

In weight training you adjust the weight to suit your strength. In bodyweight training, you have variations. Bodyweight training requires some initial strength, so not everyone can start with it. But you won't face the upper limit ever. Here are for example some pull-up variations:
  • Chin-up. Heavy on biceps (hauis). The lightest of all pull-up variations.
  • Pull-up. Hands have overhand grip unlike in chin-up. A little heavier. I expect to have enough strength for this when I get bored with chin-ups.
  • Mixed-grip pull-up. One hand has underhand grip while the other has overhand grip. It is good for endurance that you can use a bit different muscles between series.
  • Muscle-up. You raise above the bar by doing a dip after the pull-up phase.
  • False grip pull-up. A component move for the muscle-up. It enables you to switch to dip after the pull-up phase.
  • Front lever pull-up. It is extremely heavy on your core and shoulders to even get to the static position.
  • One-handed pull-up.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I'm in the mood for crazy things, let's cross the line

Update: Public service announcement for googlers: The title is from a song named "Can I Get A Witness" by Cascada and Rob Mayth. It has a fine parapara dance routine:

Now it's my time, I'll buck you up, come on feel fine
I'm in the mood for crazy things, let's cross the line.
I got the drums to make you move, got temper flying!
You look so shiftless, can I get a witness?

Bought a new bag, the old one was breaking down after 15 years of service.

After breaking many bag zippers, I prefer bags with rope closing mechanism. You can overpack a rope back and pull it close without fear of breaking it. They didn't sell rope bags, but these supersize zippers look robust enough.

Update: The old bag had a drawstring with cord lock.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

BB: Esa S left the house

Esa S the hothead engineer was the second flamboyant character in the house, but his flamboyance was much more refined and entertaining to watch than Nino's.

His strengths are most visible in the video clip "Esan kyökkikoulu pilteille", where he makes a parody of TV cook genre while cooking tunafish pasta. His showmanship skills produce first-class tech frat humor. His style of speaking in the show oscillates between "army style" shouting and teaching style for children. He's inserting mock abstractions ("cup-shaped object" for a cup) and generally being witty ("kurjalainen perinneruoka"). He may not be Mensa-level, but is pretty smart anyway. Making not just imitation but actively polarized parody as well as cracking witty, topical jokes on machine-gun fire requires well over average mental capacity.

His dark side was hotheadedness. His outbursts were probably scary for those who didn't see the reasoning behind them, and irritating for those who had to listen them, but the outbursts always had some justification, even if sometimes childish. He wasn't a loose cannon about to assault people on whim. They say that squeaky wheel gets the grease and in some other environment his habit of mentioning his discontents again and again may (or may not) bring better outcomes.

Regarding his realtionship to Minna, Roissy would probably say that it's hard to get better proof that you are preselected by women than by fucking in a popular TV show and having newspapers tell all about it even for non-watchers.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Eppu Normaali: Urheiluhullu

The lyrics in this Finnish pop classic are so true. I'll explain it line by line.

Punttisalin hämärään toisten lähdettyä jään ja huokaan
Kuinka kummia ajatuksia päähäni tuokaan

Often I exit the gym near closing time...

Tuo toiveeni ainoa että olla saanpi
Nuorempi ja laihempi ja lihaksikkaampi

Most people on Pakkotoisto are younger, and most people start doing sports at earlier age than I did. And active training makes you compare your own muscles and fatness to others.

Vaikken sitä julkista, katson lätkää ja pelaan sulkista

I don't watch any competitive sport, but I like to watch skillful sports videos on Youtube.

Must on tullut urheiluhullu
Must on tullut urheiluhullu
Must on tullut urheiluhullu
Must on tullut urheiluhullu
Elävästi muistan kuinka velttoilin silloin
Nuorempana aamuin sekä päivin sekä illoin

I used to jog when I was younger, but still have pangs of remorse when thinking how much easier it would have been to become fit had I started younger.

Luin Sartrea, Nietzscheä, Hegeliä, Kanttia

Replace by tech/math books.

Se oli kyllä tavallaan kovin intressanttia
Että toiset vei naiset
Oli jokaisella heili, ne näet urheili

All current talk about game claims that your character is the main tool of seduction, so I have very little proof that a good-looking body will help me much. The effects that training has on personality may be just as important as the better looks it provides.

Must on tullut urheiluhullu...
Ennen uskoin älyn voittoon
Oli tapanani lueskella filosofiaa aamunkoittoon
Kunnes paikalle tuli, kas, sulkapallokuningas
Sanoi minulle: huhuu, se on liha joka puhuu
Ja se meidät yhdistää

I've become more fascinated by unifying culture that bridges the gap between different tribes and provides food for conversation with strangers. Quality be damned. For example Big Brother or sports...

Kerran menin ravintolaan
Sieltä naisia saa
Mut ne katsoivat vain yhtä jääkiekkoilijaa
Silloin minäkin päätin pakaroistani näistä
Tehdä niin isot että silmät putoilevat naisten päistä
Must on tullut urheiluhullu...

Well, I wish this was true, since training is anyway going to give me a better looking body, and if it "makes eyes drop from women's heads", that's great. But I'm not counting on it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

BB: Social commentary in BB

In BB, the house is divided to Paradise and Slum. Slum has the same food all the time, cold-water tap for a shower and work tasks in the beginning of the week.

The slum work tasks provide the best long, unscripted conversations that the show has to offer. The tasks are so simple that there is no need to talk about the work, and take so long that the slum residents start to talk to fend of boredom.

As if slum/paradise gap wasn't enough social commentary, this time they were disassembling electronic trash late in the midnight while the paraside resident were having a party. Its clearly a metaphor for Third World workers doing long shifts to process our trash while we are having a conspicuous consumption party.

The irritating thing is that they cut the show to maximize the social commentary impact. This meant quick cuts (opposite of long conversations) between paradise and slum, and choosing soundbites where politically correct attitudes were expressed.

If there's one reason I'll stop watching BB, it's probably dumbed-down social commentary and manufactured drama destroying the "reality" factor in this reality show.

BB: Nino got kicked out

The most popular story now in Helsingin sanomat is that BB-Nino got kicked out for sexual harassment.

Nino is an extroverted homosexual with mild attention deficit disorder. He seems to be well liked, although I found him irritating because he was talking all the time and steering conversations to frivolous direction. I didn't find his humor witty.

They showed one clip of mild sexual harassment in TV show, where he was playfully groping a male resident. Based on what other residents talked after kicking, they considered it a non-issue.

A more serious clip showed provoking a fight. There was a pair in sauna, Ragnar and Minna, and Nino started to blame Ragnar for seducing Minna. Luckily Ragnar didn't get provoked.

Sexualily is a barrel of gunpowder, so the producers probably decided that it's better to kick him out in time and get blamed for overreacting, rather wait and deal with assault charges.

They hit a jackpot by managing to create lots of spectacular drama and publicity in the press, although I'd prefer to watch less scripted and dramatized clips.

BB: Why am I watching Big Brother?

A friend of a friend is in Finnish Big Brother. In Facebook language, he could appear in the "potential friend" widget but wouldn't be a friend since I haven't met him. Both me an BB-Esa A. play go, and many go players know both me and Esa A.

So I watched a few episodes and noticed a few merits in BB. The characters behave according to human psychology, and the dialog is realistic. This is not the case in most TV series, where dialog needs to advance plot, develop characters, entertain with humor, express emotions clearly, etc. That's the main reason I don't follow any TV series.

BB is at its best when they show long pieces on unscripted and uninterrupted human interaction. It puts the responsibility of quality for the watcher: it's just you and your interpretative repertoires making sense of reality. The director is not inserting uplifting ideas, but he's not dumbing it down either (although in practise BB is dumbed down by too heavy cutting and scripting and drama selection).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dumbbell wisdom

Iron has taught me much about my body during the last year.

To avoid hunger, I eat smaller meals more often. It is definitely better for ability to concentrate. Weightlifting theory books emphasize the need to control insulin level. You must not let your insulin level spike by eating big meals with lots of fast carbohydrates. Nor should you go hungry, since it puts your body to catabolic (muscle wasting) state.

Avoiding biochemical anger has forced me to recognize that my mood is a physical state. Daily social events have effect on it, but not nearly as much as food, rest, training and supplements. I've already explained the effects of training. Taking the supplements reduces "low energy days" when I feel like I don't have energy to do anything.

I'd say that mood is 40% physical thing, 50% "macro-social" thing (dependent on your feeling that life is taking you where you want to go) and only 10% dependent on daily events, even if people always mention daily events as root causes for their mood swings.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

北京美女 - The beatiful women of Beijing

That is the title of the first Chinese-language book I've started to read, usually one page a day at bus. It seems to be Harlequin-style romantic book, and that's exactly what I need. Shallow plot is good if you don't understand every sentence. Easy topics like love, sex and success are good for maintaining interest despite slow reading speed.

I chose it, because it was the first book in the shelf for which I recognized all the characters in the title. The second such book was 告诉我你的梦 - Tell Me Your Dreams by Sidney Sheldon. When this Chinese reading binge is over I'll know chick lit really well.

If some girls asks what I'm reading I'll say it's a classic of zen buddhism, since 2/3 of Chinese character tattoos I've seen on girls have included such references.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gym-induced personality changes

The cutest girls in Tampere train at my gym, but it's not only about trained young bodies, tight shirts and short gym pants. Pumping iron puts chemicals to my blood, which make me horny among other things. I don't act on it though since it would be too easy to scare them.

No matter how much make-up the disco dolls spread on their face, they don't get near the level of sexiness, especially since alcohol inhibits horniness. When I'm really drunk, I may look at a girl and notice on intellectual level "She has all the features I consider sexy" while wondering why looking at her doesn't invoke any biological reaction which it usually does when I'm not drunk.

  • Adrenaline is emitted well before you start exercising when you know you are going to experience stress, making you feel totally awake.

  • Endorphins are body's internal opiates. Exercise makes your body ache and endorphins balance it so that healthy exercise feels good while too sternous one doesn't. These opiates make you addicted to good stuff.

  • Testosterone increases making you feel aloof and healthily indifferent about the small slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

The dark side of personality change comes the following day. Exercise tends to keep me awake, so I'm tired the next day. Endorphins are no longer balancing the soreness of the body, making me grumpy.

On bad days I have certain kind of "biochemical anger" where I feel angry even if there is no one to be angry against. My mind seeks explanation for the biochemical state of anger by browsing through various small slights that people experience daily and enlarging them.

Overall, gym-induced personality changes feel good. Nowadays I know not to train too hard and to keep enough days in between to avoid biochemical anger. The aloofness makes me just shrug off insults, drama, rejection and embarrassment which would have paralyzed me earlier for weeks or months.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How strong is strong?

In India, 3 of us went to gym to benchmark our bench press max.

I lifted 50 kg in this unfamiliar move. I had started to train 3 months earlier twice a week.

Samppa lifted 70 kg. He was sporty in his youth, without specializing in any single sport. Was.

Juha-Matti competed in Finnish championship in weightlifting when he was young, but now at the age of 31 he had been drinking, smoking and eating greasy pizza more than the others combined. He still lifted 85 kg.

Pasi had not trained at any point.

Later Jani joined us. He was the most fit of us. Sports is his lifestyle, and it means gym and skiing in the winter and jogging and cycling in the summer. He didn't bench press, but he would have surpassed all of us - and if not, his total fitness was undeniably the best because he practised regularly. He convinced me that life is a maraton when it comes to staying fit, and good lifestyle choices produce good fitness results. Having "good genes" or identifying as "athlete" as teen is good for you, but your own lifestyle choices trump them at age 30.

So here's my scale for judging strength, based on this very small sample. The scale is for educated office workers - if you get any practise in your work, or lack the middle-class healthy habits, your game is different.

Bench press max:

  • probably below 50kg: You are in the bottom 20%. Train a bit. Begin with some non-scary individual sport like jogging. Listen to your body.

  • Over 50 kg: You are weaker than average. Find a sport which you like, and practise it regularly.

  • Around 70 kg: You are smack in the middle 20%. You know what suits you and how to stay fit. Don't stop like Samppa did.

  • Around 85 kg: You are in good shape, either because you have good lifestyle or good sports history. Congratulations!

  • Over 100 kg: You are strong enough for all practical purposes. Your marginal benefit from more weightlifting is going down sharply. Switch to some other hobby where you learn new things - or good luck for competitions, if that's why you train.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recovery drink

When I returned from India, I could bench press 40kg for 10 reps. For the next 3 months, the result varied between 6 and 12 reps. Then I bought a weightlifting book. The diet advice in it restored slow but steady progress.

My most important new habit was recovery drink. It contains juice and whey protein, and is based on the following advice from my weightlifting book. I drink half of it before exercise and the other half after exercise.

Whether it is Gatorade or orange juice, active people have been fuelling their workouts with carbohydrates [my take: juice is just fine, I prefer it to gatorade since it contains unresearched good stuff]. Carbohydrate consumption before, during and after your workouts is very important as these carbohydrates will help blunt cortisol release, stimulate insulin release, and replenish your muscle glycogen stores so that your body is ready to go for its next training session.

While consuming carbohydrates is better than just drinking water, new sprots nutrition research consistently shows that adding a small amount of protein or amino acids (the molecules that make up protein) to your workout drink will make a huge difference in your progress. A recent study examined the effects of a carbohydrate workout drink vs. carbohydrates + amino acid drink over the course of a 12-week training period. At the end of 12 weeks, both groups lost approximately 4 pounds of body fat. However, the carbohydrates + amino acid group gained 5 pounds more muscle (for a total of more than 9 pounds) than the carbohydrate group.

Recovery drink also abolished reckless hunger which I used to suffer during and after training, so I could train longer while feeling better.

To sum up, the recovery drink was recommended by theory books, removed hunger and improved results. What more can you ask?

In addition, I take magnesium, zinc and fish oil. Fish oil, whey and maltodextrose are recommended in this Pakkotoisto thread as basic supplements, but in my case juice replaces maltodextrose. Magnesium and zinc are recommended in this thread about rising testosterone levels. Fish oil also contains lots of vitamin D, which is recommended by pretty much everyone nowadays.

Taking supplements is cheap and convenient, so the burden of proof is very light for taking them. The reason I don't take more of them is that some of them may have unresearched downsides as told in the previous post about vitamin C. It's a bit scary idea that one wrong kind of supplement can abolish the effects of endurance training.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Unintentional anti-ad

Today, I saw a foolish ad for a recovery drink. First it showed a banana. Then it said that banana is for apes, drink Gainomax instead after exercise. What's so foolish in it?

My magnesium container says "Ravintolisä ei korvaa monipuolista ruokavaliota." (Nutritional supplements are not a substitute for a versatile diet). This is true since only a fraction of effective compounds in foods have been researched, and new results are emerging even for age-old compounds like vitamin C. One study found that too much vitamin C abolishes endurance training effects, so it is not recommended to eat too much vitamin C if you want to make progress in athletic training. Here they say that although training causes oxidative stress, dulling it by antioxidants like vitamin C is no good. Fruits and vegetables are still healthy despite the fact that plain vitamin C is not that good, but nobody knows what makes fruit-C better than supplement-C.

There is absolutely no reason to believe that Gainomax is a substitute for fruits and vegetables like banana.

Besides, what's wrong with apes? An alpha male gorilla thumping it's chest is a known symbol of masculine strength. In more refined circles, "parkour ape" is a title of honor for those who demonstrate prowess in climbing, hanging and jumping.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Budapest: Bought a flute

This time they had an English-speaking salesman. A flute fits my life situation well. I don't have time nor energy for real instruments like keyboards or guitar. I can carry the flute anywhere in my backpack, since it's small and durable. As a solid piece of wood it won't break down.

Thanks to portability, I can practise anywhere. If I practise it for 15 minutes a day for a year, that should give enough speed and songs to have some fun with it (that level or practise with keyboards or guitar would only get me frustrated at not getting the tunes I want).

I didn't just trust my own judgement when buying it since I can't play flute. A couple bypassed the vendor stand and the man picked this model of flute and played it for a while, obviously pleased with the sound although he didn't need it. Also this chart was necessary for proving that it could play enough notes to be useful. They actually gave a phone number and email address for asking any questions about the flute, which highlights the importance of trust when selling musical instruments.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Budapest: Good place to get some pussy

A review says "smoky, loud, small, crowded - and unapologetically so."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Clothes shopping

There was a free music festival at Chain Bridge. Lots of people, some musicians and some street vendors. One vendor was selling flutes. I ask how many notes a flute can play, but the seller didn't understand the question. He turned to another person on the vendor stand who at least got the question, but her English accent was so thick that I gave up.

I know only 2 truly profound mottos, and saw a T-shirt today with one of them. All other mottos are "ironic" humorous shit, or simple rules of thumb that require immense situational judgement before application. Here are the two mottos. A blog post could be written about either of them.

Watch your thoughts, they become your words.
Watch your words, they become your actions.
Watch your actions, they become your habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

God give me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to always tell the difference.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Budapest: Drum'n'bass

Just came from Corvinterö, a nightclub. They had a drum'n'bass event named "Breakbeat Massive vs. Deaf Company".

In Finland, people go to drum'n'bass parties to dance, and dance they will unless the police stops them. In Hungary, good drum'n'bass DJs are such a commodity that it's more like normal disco.

Corvinterö had two floors, a disco floor where drum'n'bass was played and a roof floor. Dancing started only after it came dark and people on the roof floor went down. Dance floor percentage was about 1% before the last 3 hours of the evening, during which it went up to 33%.

Expecting dance, I was there from the very beginning. Unfortnately, I couldn't make speech contact with the natives even if they were extroverted enough to make dance contact with me in the beginning when there was just one group of people on the dance floor. Even young people here don't speak English, so speech contact ended up in confusion despite 2 attempts with 2 different groups. Fortunately I could order drinks in English instead of pointing the menu with finger.

It was so much like Finnish events it's almost depressing. I'm getting bored here in Budapest as I'm alone in the middle of non-English-speaking people. It's too hot to be comfortable and the air is somehow bad, I've had flu symptoms the whole time I've been here.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Fever & zen buddhism

Small flu makes it feel immensly relevant to walk on kitchen floor's tiles without touching the tile borders. My sister's boyfriend recommended a book about zen buddhism before leaving, and it fits this mood exactly.

It started with an attack on language and conscious thought. Standard language-philosophical stuff in "the map is not the terrain" style about how all abstractions leak. What happens to a fist when you open your hand? It emphasized that conscious sentences are just small part of everything that goes on in our heads, and zen buddhism aims to work in intuition and thought without subjecting it to concepts.

The second part is about the history of buddhism. They tell that in Indian society there is a tradition for men who have served their role in society (raised kids out of the nest, etc.) to withdraw from life and caste and concentrate on meditation and elightenment. Sounds appealing, there are just a few practical tasks to complete before I'm ready to go, namely, learning to seduce women, marry one, pop out some kids, and raise them.

If some sane person recommends me some specific meditation course, I'm ready to try it out of curiosity with an open mind and without expecting anything, since I have a time gap to fill after stopping one hobby. Sane doesn't include Hare Krishna monks selling religious literature.

The book reads like a pale shadow of true Zen, so I'm not linking to its Amazon page.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Heaps of old crap

Now that Bunker'44 set new standards for a truly good exhibition, today's museums felt lacking. Piles of objects, only glass cages setting them apart from high-class handicrafts.

Rath György museum was the wierdest. I'm interested in China and went to the museum to see their Chinese and Indian collection. I was the only guest surrounded by 5 members of staff. Only one of the staff spoke English, the others pointed things while speaking Hungarian. Luckily there were English guide papers (in the zoo there were no English explanations whatsoever).

But if I pay the ticket, then the lack of other visitors is their problem, not mine.

The image below shows Weituo, the defender of Buddhist monasteries, wood, lacquered, gilded. This is all they told about the statue. Simply copy-pasting the wikipedia page about Weituo would have added so much depth.

In the age of abundant information, organizing it is the key. Go to China and buy handicrafts of all Eight Immortals you don't yet have, put them to the same shelf and stick Wikipedia page about them next to it. Who cares if they are cheap copies, as long as you get right their meaning and use in daily life. A little can-do attitude please.

In Hyderabad they sell off-the-shelf religious idols in handicraft shops, and they look magnificient compared to Rath György collection.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Megan, Vera and disco music

In the previous post I claimed that disco music is all about dancing, and that most people listen it to get a better dancing experience despite not really liking the music (but not really disliking it either). I'll count the evidence I see including Vera.

People listen disco to get more out of dancing: 6 points - Me, Miss Marketcrash, Parapara dancers, DJ Ozma, Megan, gym group exercise songs where disco is considered a neutral genre which is not strongly liked or disliked.

Some people like disco music just like some people like any other genre: 2 points - Vera, Megan

Megan describes her listening habits here. Her roommate described it as "simplistic pop", and she describe it as:

I love me some mass-produced Top Forty and Hip-Hop. The older and genre stuff I listen to was probably for mass consumption in its day.

It probably includes some/plenty of disco. Megan fits to both categories since she also likes hard dancing.

To me it seems that people who like disco music listen a lot of music but don't process what they hear that much. Megan says she listens a lot of music all the time:

But here’s the thing. I listen to it. All the time. I walk in the house and turn on music. I sing along while I cook. I put it on in the background when guests come over. I pick songs to match my mood; I turn it loud when I need energy. I know all the lyrics and look them up if I can’t catch them. I laugh at jokes in songs. I listen to music. Chris has all this complicated stuff in his library, but I have never walked in on him listening to it. I believe he likes it, but I know that he wasn’t cranking tunes the summer he painted his house. I have to prompt him to DJ. You people who claim sophisticated challenging musical tastes, I secretly do not believe you actually listen to music much.

Vera also listens a lot of music. Vera also said that she considers music equal to food in the sense that she doesn't get fed up with it despite listening many times over - this is probably also the case with Megan, as she has memorized the words and still is not fed up with music.

If the music went through a solid analysis & memorization module in Megan's and Vera's head, then they would at some point end up in a situation where they have listened all the good songs so many times that they are fed up with them, simply because of repetition, and their playlist would be filled with uninteresting songs and they would not bother to turn it on so often.

Budapest: Gellert Hill

I'm spending summer holiday at my sister's place in Budapest, while my sis is working on an exhibition at Tampere and using my place.

All who have played civilization remember that rivers give food and trade bonus and hills give 100% defense multiplier. Budapest is at river Danube (Tonava in Finnish). Gellert hill was one of the first settled positions. The Celtic Erave settled the northern slope before the Roman empire!

The hill was named after the bishop Gellert who was converting the locals. He became a martyr after the locals pushed him down from the hill to Tonava in a barrel.

Nowadays, the small fortress on the top of the hill has been converted into a museum surrounded by lush parks.

Here are great views, no wonder they chose this as a defending position.

The best museum at the hill is named Bunker'44. During the second world war, a bunker was built for air defence and command center inside the hill's small fortress. The museum is located at this wet and rough concrete bunker.

Instead of artifacts, the museum contains photographs, wax dolls and long descriptions about Budapest's fate in WW2. In the end of the WW2, Soviet forces put Budapest through one of the longest, most destructive and bloodiest sieges during the second world war. It lasted 100 days, civilians were not evacuated, and destruction was comparable to that of Stalingrad. To add to the messiness of the situation, droves of Hungarian POWs converted to Soviet side to avoid the fate of a POW. The Germans did mass executions of Jews (scale: x * 10000) while the Soviet did smaller mass executions after the war (scale: x * 100).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Memory Remains

Almost no one really likes disco music. It is a very pragmatic genre where music is suitable for the situation when it attracts people to the dance floor. This requires among other things that it is not too ridiculous, although ridiculouness is inherent in disco.

Once I went into parapara dance class. Parapara is a Japanese club dance and the music is mainly Japanese disco music. Even the long-time dancers didn't express any liking towards disco music. At car they listened other kinds of Japanese music (for example Antic Cafe, a rock group). When they said that some song is their favourite, they meant that they like to dance the choreography for that song.

The only person I know who has expressed liking disco music is DJ Ozma, and as the initials tell he's a DJ and his job is to evaluate music based on its ability to attract people to the dance floor.

Lately, I've been going to group exercise classes at the gym. Some of them are dance classes. The movements in group exercises are like rabbit-duck figures which seem ridiculous hand-waving of efficient exercise based on context. Music is part of that context. Playing classics of disco like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Ray Charles etc. links a dance class to a respectable tradition of disco dancing, while playing second-rate bands which were ridiculed as long as they have existed (Waldo...) makes jumppa movements seem especially embarrasing.

So I hope that the music of Michael Jackson lives on. Inside his genre of choice, he has undeniable musical merit which advanced the genre.

Update: Also Miss Marketcrash struggles with disco's inherent ridiculousness and empahizes dancefloor.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Heavy metal is too loud for wimps

It was too loud for me, my right ear still rings irritatingly and hears a bit less. Now you are probably gonna say "What the hell!? You went to EasterMaster without earplugs!!!???" And you are right. It's insane to go there without earplugs.

But I had earplugs; the music was so damn loud that I got hearing damage even with them. Logical deduction: I'm becoming a wimp.

There were 4 bands. Diablo and Amorphis were the big names. However, the previously unknown bands made the best performances.

Profane Omen had two musicians playing topless. The guitarist had a sixpack, something I notice and envy now after starting the gym hobby. Like this video shows, they have a sense of humor, the singer displays moonspell-scale showmanship in gestures and their songs push through all obstacles like diesel engines.

Callisto was the polar opposite. The music was quite weak (in the Portishead sense, weakness as conscious choice for self-expression) and bordering on sleepy. This made the parts with some rhythm and growling singing to stand out even more. First I was disappointed, but the band sounded the better the more I listened it.

Callisto didn't even attempt any contact with the audience, and it was sometimes even difficult to notice where one song ends and another starts, so people were clapping in wrong places.

Didn't talk to anyone nor attempt to. Went there because had nothing else to do.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Crystal ball 2012: The history of stranger chats

It all started in March-April 2009, when the first stranger chat, omegle, gained enough users to become an internet fad. The UI at the time was minimal, it just connected random people to chat with each others. It suffered from many problems: trolls, quick disconnects, drunks, people having different expectations about goals of chatting, etc. Because of these problems, many people didn't yet realize how big thing it was going to be. But some did.

Since many chatters seeked contact with the opposite sex, it was the first market which got split away. In July 2009, came online. It filtered chat partners by sex. When the user count increased, it was possible to do more fine-grained filtering by country and age, as large number of users ensured that connect times were reasonable even after filtering most people away. also had mail: after disconnecting the chatters could send anonymous private mail to those they really liked, and just as easily ignore private mail from others.

At this time, the movers and shakers of the web industry realized that stranger chats were a natural oligopoly: The more users you have, the heavier filtering you can do, and the better match you get between the conversants. There is room for only a few megachats who can do heavy filtering to match like with like. The big players started to implement their chat engines, but it took years before the effort bore fruit.

1.7.2009 - 31.12.2010 was time when many small stranger chats surfaced and different methods were tried. The major features that developed were:
  • Filtering matches.
  • Soft matching based on optimizing large amount of lesser criteria.
  • Anonymous mail after discussion.
  • Ignore features for excluding creeps and too enthusiastic private mailers.
  • Reputation points. Machine-rated reputation points excluded quick disconnecters and copy-pasters, while peer rating effectively removed overly rude talkers.
  • Option to reveal full identity during chat.
  • Visually themed chats.
Also, specialized chats for specific target audiences mushroomed. The long tail behind the few big filtered megachats surfaced.

Two business models emerged. Big chats brought ad revenue. The second model was to commodize the stranger chat engine. StrangeWays, Inc. and ConnectBox were the biggest players. They started with very simple, omegle-class engines and kept adding features as time passed, copying and integrating the most successful features which surfaced in various stranger chats. StrangeWays was an offshoot from a web design company and it specialized in flash/silverlight clients and visually impressive chats. The revenue came from customization. ConnectBox was easy to install and scaled well, and was the engine of choice for smaller communities. Also open-source chat engine development started, but as always it was years behind the commercial offering.

Just like peer-to-peer networks beat video stores by instant gratification, stranger chats started to beat traditional dating sites when users got fed up with writing 20 mails without a single response. Stranger chats were a way to ensure that the other side was at least minimally interested.

Nowadays, all big dating sites have stranger chats, but true to their roots they are a bit different. has the biggest user base. The user chooses a set of strict criteria (sex, age, country) and further soft preferences (hair length, eye color, hobbies) from traditional dating criteria. also has strict criteria, but it uses keywords in user's profiles to do soft matching. puts once again quality over quantity: They use exactly the same algorithm to calculate compatability, and the users tell the server how much they are ready to wait. If they are ready to wait 10 minutes, they can expect pretty likeminded company.

All big webhosting companies offer stranger chats as extra service for any customer, just like they have offered web stores for ages. Smaller chats are commodity, and the open-source engines do the basic service well. Some big companies have tried stranger chats to promote common company values, but fears about spreading trade secrets and rumors have made them rare.

Once again the big companies which integrated the new innovation into their basic business model collect the biggest bucks, and a few quick entrepreneurs got rich during the time it took for engine commodization to run its course.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I'm getting married

At eight o'clock, the doorbell rang. Behind the door were 3 dark-skinned men. When I instinctively pulled the door shut, one of them put a shotgun in the gap. Boy was I frightened! But when they said "You're getting married." I realized it was something worse than a robbery or a quick death.

In India, there was a girl named Smita in the next cubicle. Pretty face, young body, the stress of working a long shift in the middle of an alien culture in an officially certified shithole country, lack of other things to do; all these factors combined into an volatile coctail which made me to stupid mistakes, and now I'm going to pay full price for them. She's now pregnant.

Her relatives knew people in Finland, and they made it clear that they won't hesitate to use force against me to maintain her and the family's reputation. So I'm not sure how much longer I'll be here in Finland before going back there. The ultimate threat is not what happens to me but what happens to her if this is not solved.

Initiative of the day

Being untrained in quick talk, all I could say was "Oh, they started this kind of campaign!" when I entered gym and noticed a new "exercise 30 times in 90 days" campaign. Two girls were recording their gymgoings to the public tables.

It took some time to find the humorous angle. After exercise I went to sauna and commented to the other person there "Now they have started a public humiliation campaign! If you don't come here for 90 days, they are going to write your name on the table: Simo, 0 times." The other person expressed disbelief, after which the conversation quickly petered out.

Last week was tired and uneventful.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Advanced forms of the Game of Talking

In groups of 5 - 20 people, it gets more complex:
  • Usually there is some social organization, which gives people specialized roles.
  • Groups of that size usually fill some purpose. This brings "subject matter" element forward more strongly. This may make the game easier or more difficult.
  • Time becomes an issue: In a group of ten, not everyone can talk 10% of the time. Game of Talking is partially shut down. This does not mean that you can stay quiet: often Game of Talking is restricted to certain periods between "real talk" and you win or lose the game during these intervals which sometimes require quick thinking to even spot if the game is being played or not.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Impulsive initiative of the day

15 seconds before exiting bus, a man in front of me took a dvd for "History of Violence" to show it for the woman by his side. They talked something. When I went past I said "That's a great movie!" Should have added "because it probes the dark side of relationships between men and women", since that's why it's such a great movie for couples to watch and discuss, but invented that line 60 secs too late...more practise needed.

I'll keep logging these to remind that I'm on a training program.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A better "bar" evening

This evening I achieved two conversation openers, and wasted only one hour.

Timeline of events (skip if you're in hurry)

After a lazy day I went to gym until it closed at eight. After eating at the Chinese restaurants which has replaced Atig Pizza (the meals are big and cost about 9e but it is not as fast as fast food. Overall, a good place if you're genuinely hungry, you get a big and healthy meal for a slightly bigger price.) I went to a party. I had talked with the organizer before and wanted to try my new social skills with him. I also wanted to dance to stretch my hands after gym training.

I entered at the same time as a man and a woman. After ordering I opened conversation:
me: "Have you been in this kind of sweg events before?"
he: "No, we just came here to wait for bus."
me: "Good way to spend a few mins...anyway, they don't usually have it here, it's usually at vastavirta or klubi."
After this the talk ended and they went to a table.

I waited for an hour for the dance to start. It didn't. After sipping the beer for one hour I left the bar.

In the bus stop, timetables had been torn away. I commented to a girl near the time tables "Of course _Saturday's_ time tables have been torn away!". She replied "Nii." Then I noticed that the electric display showed that bus would arrive in 10 minutes - enough to walk to the next bus stop. I realized that having opened the conversation I could ask the girl to accompany me in walk to the next stop, but 30 seconds has already elapsed, so the opening had "closed".

Initiative and implusiveness

Both conversation openings were exercises in making implusive initiative based on context. I want to practise impulsive initiative.

The two big differences between me and the men in relationships in India were exactly that they talked more and made more initiatives. If I become fluent in the game of talking and in making impulsive initiatives, the gap between me and them becomes much smaller.

Also, they say that impulsiveness is attractive to women.

I also missed one opportunity to impulsive initiative. When dancing didn't start at bar, I should have simply walked to some group and asked them if they want to dance to drive boredom away. A polite "no" or silence would have been the worst outcome, since in a dance music event the proposition would have been reasonable.

Didn't you just say you don't like bars...

I achieved the conversation opening in the first 2 minutes and just wasted the next 58 mins. The bottom line was positive only because I cut the losses, not because the bar gave much value for money and time spent. Stretching hands was necessary anyway, so having failed to do it at the bar I did it with some pp videos at home.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Game of Talking

My late big realization, of once-in-ten-years scale, is that there is a Game of Talking going on all the time when people meet. You always participate in it even if you don't register it consciously. I believe that in the last 10 years most of the unexplained shit I've received as well as almost total failure in human relationships were caused by too frequent losing in the Game of Talking.

The Game of Talking requires 2 - 4 players. The basic rules are simple:
1) You win if you talk more than anyone else.
2) You lose if you talk less than 20% of the utterances.
3) Your result is decent if you neither win nor lose.

In addition there are extra rules which make the game complex. The first extra rules ensure that conversation keeps flowing:
1) You get minus points if you shout, insult or say inappropriate things.
2) You get minus points if your comments are neither relevant nor funny.
3) You get plus points if you remove an obstacle which distracts someone else from playing well.

Too many minus points lose the game. Plus points can change a decent outcome into a victory,
but usually they are an extra game for someone who is already winning.

In addition, there are context-dependent rules, especially the balance between
sheer amount and relevancy varies wildly in different situations.

Losing too often spells serious trouble.

Signs that you are losing

There are two main punishments, which are usually meted out by the most extroverted person
in the group.
1) Insults.
2) Being treated as a child or otherwise helpless. This is more common among adults, where direct insults are often considered too game-breaking.

Earlier, I used to get punished for losing the game. I could analyze people's despise far too well, but couldn't figure out why I was being despised. After all, I didn't do much anything! I didn't realize I was participating in a game and losing hands down, every time.

Need for speed

Unlike in go, in the Game of Talking you don't have time to think. Quite the contrary, the aggressive players are all the time talking on each others, switching topic and even distracting with stuff that leaves you speechless if it catches you by surprise.

Earlier, I couldn't have played the Game of Talking because I wasn't quick enough in generating talk. It would have helped to know the factoid that to avoid despise, the amount of talk beats quality any day. However, the Game of Talking is not a factoid but a much deeper attitude.

Nowadays, if my talk percentage goes too low enough, I get a physical emotion of disgust, anticipating all the bad things that may happen if I don't open my mouth very soon. Since my natural instincts don't give much help, having the Game of Talking in the physical/emotional level is the only way to react quickly enough in deteriorating speech position, when I have nothing to say.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WOW: First raids

It takes about 30 raids to get used to the basics. These first 30 raids increase your self-knowledge by putting you under new kind of pressure. The pressure goes away when you log off and is totally harmless.

My first raid was to Shadowfang Keep in a group of 5, and it was pure chaos: I used wrong spells and had trouble with targetting and camera. I got lost twice and finally couldn't return to the group after a death. (Death in wow is a mere delay.) Then I left group, and got angry comments because the remaining 3 persons couldn't kill the last boss. Talking was out of question, since everything else took too much attention.

When your raid count increases you see how practise makes perfect and how panic and fear is replaced by routine. Also your knowledge about raiding increases: this includes especially the basic roles (tanking, healing, damage dealing) and rules of good raid behaviour (pulling, aggro, mana breaks, ready checks).

Brats who shout at you in a way you don't see among adults, as well as players who don't know anything about raid behaviour increase the stress and novelty of the first 30 raids.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Better body language and the new purpose of this blog

During the last 1.5 years, two events have notably improved my social skills and body language. At least Tommi commented once that he saw the difference, so it's not just in my head. For the first time in my life I see light at the end of the tunnel in getting a normal social life, including relationships with women. However, the base level was so low that there is still a long way to go.

In the first event I became a de-facto tech lead for a subproject of 3 people, being the only one who had earlier experience about the technology. For the first time, I had some responsibility for other people's work. Naturally, I didn't do it very well.

I had mental block against telling other people what to do, even when they expected it from me. (It wasn't born out of thin air. I remember quite well when there was Kanpai's meeting in Konttori. I was standing in the doorway. When it was time to choose a chairmain, Tarvainen jokingly said that at least not Simo, and everyone laughed at the idea of me being a chairman. I expected that mere hint of me in a position of responsibility would be answered with a sea of insults for years. It was surprising for me to notice that this didn't happen.)

Secondly, the abrasiveness of my interaction became visible in an ugly way. One person went into a kind of failure mode, where he let out helpless sighs of an oppressed victim daily. It irritated the hell out of me, but also made me realize that he probably expected me to debug the problem, but I couldn't really do anything about it. When I looked at other people around me they were surprisingly confident, encouraging at each others, and relaxed. Their pressure-relief skills and mechanisms would have solved the problem before it started.

Overall this experience made me smile more, made my interaction style less abrasive and removed many mental blocks.

During the trip to India two things happened. First of all, I noticed the importance of talking much. In small groups, talking less than 20% of utterances spells serious trouble, but this is a topic for a whole new post. Secondly, I was able to see how other people spend their days. Normally people keep their work/school, hobbies and chores so separate that I had very little idea how people of my age and social class live.

As a result, I saw that I'm not such a hopeless case, although the difference between the men in relationships and me is large in a few areas. Secondly, I talk more nowadays, and I've seen it have a positive effect.

Now it's a tight race between improving social skills and aging, which is going to cripple my ability to learn new social attitudes as well as my body. It's possible that I've already lost: they say that if you don't have sexual experiences by age 25, you are doomed. However, since there is a lot at stake (living alone 50 years without purpose vs. achieving middle-class happiness of an apartment loan, spacious car, 2.5 kids, and let's not forget the golden retriever) and since I'm seeing slow but steady improvement, I'm not ready to give up just yet.

The latest renaming of the blog is a sign that I'm raising the cat on the table and fighting to reach the end of the tunnel before the approaching train of aging hits me.

If I successfully solve this practical crisis, then I can again concentrate my blogging on technology, culture, politics, economics and philosophy like the rest of you. But before that I'm going to be anti-intellectual and keep both feet on the ground and blog about myself and practical daily life.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My neighbour's wireless headphones

Bought Philips wireless headphones from Clas Ohlson. Now I can practise dancing pp in the middle of the night without waking up neighbours.

One of my neighbours must own similar headphones, since twice I've heard his/her music when my receiver is on but sender is not. First time some rap, second time some finnish rock.

So I won't watch porn with these headphones on...

BTW. I'm totally uninterested in his taste for speech & music and expect the same from him.
BTW2. Wireless keyboards can do the same. (Source: a stopped Helldesk blog.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Things I hate in bars

Last night was both unusual and usual. It is unusual for me to go to bars (go & pool with male friends don't count). When I do go it always reminds me why bars suck.
  1. Going there alone. Boring. Dancing makes it a little fun.
  2. Hangover. The next day is lost.
  3. Remembering all the little drunken mistakes.
  4. Watching how everyone else seems to know something about bar behaviour which I don't.
  5. No contact with the opposite sex (eye contact, for example). This is the advertized benefit of going to bars and bearing with the downsides, but in fact it never realizes.
  6. Vague feeling that clever advertizers are manipulating me out of my time and money and giving back nothing but frustration.
After staying away for a few months I forget these and conclude that it must be better to spend the evening in the middle of the middle of opportunities...which never realize.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Signs of low market value

Today, I started the evening by drinking with a friend. Then he went home, and I continued to a disco (no proper band was playing, and I wanted to dance instead of just sitting and sipping bear alone, which is boring).

One woman made eye contact with me and danced as my counterparty for some minutes. She was over 40 years old, clearly past her reproductive age.

No younger woman made eye contact with me during the evening, despite the fact that I spent a lot of time in the dance floor and in some cases the imbalance between men and women was big to my advantage. There are 2 possible implications:
1) My sexual market value is very low, and women instantly see it or
2) I have no idea how to make contact with the opposite sex in drunken bar situations, and this lack of skill is crippling my ability to start relationships.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

WOW: Easy social interaction

In WOW you can only win by aking others in the game world to join you. As long as you have manners, the worst result is a polite "no" and at the best is that you have company and you advance faster.

I'll talk about raids/dungeons tomorrow, but outside them you complete quests to advance your character. There are plenty of them open simultaneously. The quests become repetitive after intial novelty. Some quests are too hard to complete alone, so you ask others if they also need to do the same quest.

Then you notice that there is plenty to win. It's faster, you die less and you have company. You may even have fun discussion about some topic outside WOW, but that's quite rare, since most players are too young for that.

Group play also has it's problems, especially new players. The other seems to do everything fast, needs no pauses and talks all the time even in the middle of tight fight. Then you make some mistakes - get lost, die many times etc - or get pissed at someone hurrying you .

Then you notice there is nothing to lose. The following day you probably don't even meet that character, and there are plenty of other players.

The game structure puts incentives to cooperation while enabling you to exclude harm. I've never seen a place where it is so easy to talk to strangers.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

In the beginning

WOW is a fun game to start. Each race in the game world has a background story and the quests you complete and the discussions you have with the non-player characters play together well. The graphics were also quite good for me, not having played any 3D game for ages. The lush forests, small cities surrounded by hostile populations and constant quests about war and struggle create a good atmosphere, and there is sense of wonder in stepping onboard a zeppelin for the first time.

When the novelty wears off, other elements fill the void.

Monday, March 02, 2009

HOW-TO: Get sick with WOW!

Simo' WOW guides is a new series of high-quality playing guides which help you achieve what only the most experienced and talented players used to! Today I tell you how to get sick with WOW!
  1. Season must be winter, the colder the better.
  2. Do some light exercise in the room where you play WOW, like jumping on a dance mat. Turn off heating to avoid excessive sweating.
  3. The next time you have a free day, use it entirely to play WOW. You should be able to log at least 16 hours when you play WOW with only food & toilet breaks in between.
  4. Repeat 3 until you get a cold!
Also other games which are immersive enough to make you not register cold will do.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

No more WOW

WOW is so damaging to real life that you can actually collect statistics about it. When I was in India and missed stuff (didn't go to some event where some others went) it was always due to playing WOW to early hours. Other people missed stuff by drinking too much and by disease.

Here are some gym statistics about the 6 weeks I've been in Finland:

WeekHow many times to gymDid I play wow
Week 45no
Week 53no
Week 64no
Week 74no
Week 83yes
Week 93yes

In the last two weeks, I've done nothing but WOW and gym in my leisure, a fact which is hidden by the statistics.

Today I cancelled my WOW subscribtion.