Saturday, December 31, 2011

Review of 2011 and goals for 2012

Review of past year's goals

Lose weight to 55kg (BMI 20.7): Failed. The weight bottomed at 56kg. Then I moved to Helsinki, fattening to 60kg during the 2 months I travelled 5 hours a day, leaving little energy for exercise and gulping beer on evenings to wash out the "can you be so pissed off you die" feeling.

Main events:

  • Got fired.
  • Got a new job from Helsinki.
  • No longer working with a dying technology.
  • Bought an apartment.
  • Got cynical, noticing that the only effect from 4.5 years of work was the balance on my bank account.
  • Studied investing to find out how to increase the balance without working.
  • Made progress in pole dancing during the 3 non-work months.
  • Had fun during 3 summery non-work months, and unparalleled amount of social interaction by participating in The Club's event. No new social skills milestones reached, though.
  • Wrote a very early prototype of a teaching game for Chinese, and an unpromising business plan for productizing it.
  • Noticed that I'm too lazy punk to develop it while holding a job, abandoning it.

Overall, I'll remember 2011 as the year I studied investing, it is the only change which will still have effect in 2021. Nothing much lost or gained in other fronts.

Goals for the next year:
  • Diet to 55kg.
  • Re-establish social life in Helsinki.
  • Start a regular sports hobby to stay fit.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Drum'n'bass evening@Venue

The biggest difference between Tampere and Helsinki rave parties are in security arrangements. At Venue, there were 4 security guards present, one of them huge freezer-refridgerator combination with tattoos. They had radio phones. At one point in the evening, one of them pimp walked into the bar room, shoulders wide, his whole body language screaming "I guard here!"

In Tampere, there were less guards, they tended to be regular guys - just taller, they didn't have special equipment and they mainly stayed on the background.

When exiting the bar at 03.45, police patrols and guards were visibly present around Kamppi. I took a taxi home, since the night routes of buses were cancelled for Christmas. When I mentioned the taxi driver about tighter security at Venue, he first emphasized that in his opinion any conflicts should be solved primarily by talking. Immediately after that, he played his part in reifying the badass violent reputation of security guards by telling how the steroid beasts have very short fuse, how a customer died in the hands of a security guard, and how he the taxi driver himself had 4 years of karate training.

Probably Helsinki night is more dangerous, as all night shifters feel the need to emphasize their capability for violence. I have to admit that I don't like Kamppi and railway station late at night. I wonder if it is due to diversity, or because larger density of people directly means larger amount of scum per square kilometer.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The move to Espoo is now complete.

The most important piece of furniture has been erected:

The picture is blurry, because using lightning is not possible in front of a mirror. The room had supersize, 230cm x 170cm mirror already installed to living room wall.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

6.66%, the number of the Italian 10-year bond yield

Story thus far:

- Italy amassed public debt 120% of GDP
- Berlusconi focused on organizing bunga bunga parties
- Feeble attempts to balance the budget were met with mass demonstrations and political opposition

Market mechanics:
- MF global went bankrupt because their Italian bonds lost too much in mark-to-market value (value, which someone is ready to pay if they sold the Italian bonds now on market). MF used criminal ways and took reckless risks, so without Italian bonds they would have eventually found another tree to hang themselves.
- Jefferies, a financial firm, was suspected to be fatally exposed to Italian bonds. They disclosed information about their Italian bond ownership and also sold them. They turned out fine.
- Fire sales of Italian bonds to avoid scrutiny. Nominal Italian bond yield explodes. At least temporarily, yields are past the point of no return, after which savings and cuts no longer solve the problem, as interest accumulates too fast.

Rejected solutions:
- Italy balances budget - if they could, they would have already done that
- EFSF: European countries just don't have enough money to bail out Italy while staying solvent

Next steps:
- ECB prints money and causes high inflation
- Eurozone turns into nineties depression historical re-enactment society
- Italy converts debt to liras and devaluates

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Simo jumps out of burning platform

Got a job from Helsinki. Death cab for Qt now chugs on without me. I travel to work on rails (=by train) to work on Rails (=a web programming stack.) Now I have provable regular income to get a mortgage and actually move to Helsinki.

Finally, a picture of Ruby:

Sunday, October 02, 2011

A true story of grit in education and life: The complex analysis class of 1999

Summary: Grit is the character trait of persisting in the face of hardship. My high school class faced an unintentional test of grit. Life outcomes differ starkly between the 4 who passed and the 12 who didn't.

The grit scale

Duckworth's grit scale is a short self-assessment quiz for persistence, with questions like "I finish whatever I begin" or "I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one." It has been tested to work immensely well in the military:

Duckworth and her collaborators gave their grit test to more than 1,200 freshman cadets as they entered West Point and embarked on the grueling summer training course known as Beast Barracks. The military has developed its own complex evaluation, called the Whole Candidate Score, to judge incoming cadets and predict which of them will survive the demands of West Point; it includes academic grades, a gauge of physical fitness and a Leadership Potential Score. But at the end of Beast Barracks, the more accurate predictor of which cadets persisted and which ones dropped out turned out to be Duckworth’s 12-item grit questionnaire.

(HT: Steven Hsu, Aretae)

The complex analysis class of 1999

Päivölä is a math-oriented high school. Before entry, candidates are screened for mathematical aptitude. The special sauce of the school were university-level math courses. Initially all 16 of us attended unimath. The school was still in formation: We were just the second boarding year-class there. Teaching was a bit shaky and there were few exercise sessions. Consequently students kept dropping out of unimath. The school was designed to teach the top as much as they could handle, so little was done to address those who dropped out. It was an unintentional test of grit: persisting despite woefully inadequate background and few exercise sessions.

In the last spring, there were 5 people in unimath: me, Vesa, Tuomas, Mikko and Jussi. The final course taught complex analysis. I was the last one who dropped out of unimath. At that point, 1/3 of the course had passed and I was completely dropping out of cart at lectures, not understanding much anything.

It was preceeded by 6-month limbo of linear algebra and calculus. During the limbo, lack of preliminary knowledge and mathematical maturity meant increasingly severe dropping-outs (not understanding anything about the taught topic). The first lecture where I completerly dropped from cart was about QR decomposition and numerically more stable way to solve linear equations, so complex analysis dropping-out was anything but surprise or whim.

This divided the class into 4 who passed the grit test, and 12 who didn't. It was not just about talent, because everyone had been screened at entrance.

The wall of abstraction

CS lore describes programming students "hitting the wall" during teaching. Some understand the subject swimmingly, while others struggle even after explanations. Some consider this "IQ in action": Either you have innate ability to get it, or you don't, in which case you need a lot more exercise to learn it.

Little research has been done about this. Dehnadi and Bornat assumed that setting a variable is one such wall. They measure one's grasp of variable assignment with questions like below.

The students had not yet been taught programming, so it was enough to use any consistent mental model. For example, the mental model "assignment moves the values from left to right" produces answer "a=10, b=10". The consistently wrong need to learn just one thing to get all correct.

44% answered the test consistently, and the test predicted well if the students would pass or fail their first programming course(*):

(*) Some attempts to replicate failed to find correlation, and a meta-analysis with improved test protocol found clear but weaker correlation.

Hitting the wall

The first time I hit it was at a physics lecture. A visiting Russian lectured about mechanics. Unlike in earlier lecutres, there were no numbers involved: the masses of the objects were m and M. I had all the required background (high school mechanics; math problems without numbers) but still couldn't answer a single exercise. Afterwards, I heard others commenting happily that at last someone was lecturing things properly. Before that, I had always been on the other side of The Wall, delighted to skip slack.

Life outcomes

Out of the 4 gritty and talented ones, 75% are now in managerial roles. Vesa is a vice president at Pohjola Insurance. Mikko has worked for 6 years in various managerial roles in Nokia. Tuomas is an assistant professor and has 30 publications. The only remaining professional is Jussi, but he is quite short (under 160cm). Jussi still has a PhD degree, so he is not a total loser even by the yardstick of this group, unlike me.

Only 25% of the remaining 12 ones have done well in career. Jani already had industrial-strength programming skill when he entered the high school at age 15, so he was right to ignore the class. Tarmo and Tommidefy the complex analysis cutoff limit.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Too lazy to work, too chicken to steal

Summary: This post tells a formula for deciding when to quit your day job.

First we define Enough money. It is the monthly sum, which allows you to buy most things you want, so that not working increases your standard of living more than extra income from your day job.

Mortgage is such a huge factor that we exclude it from Enough and account it separately as Debt Costs. It covers both interest and repayments.

Secondly, we assume that investments are the basis of your new income. Investing is the only way to pay once and get money back for the rest of your life with minimal effort, either as dividends, interest or rent. Historically 4% withdrawal rate has proven robust. Even after you spend 4% each year, your pot still grows enough to resist inflation. We also assume 25% tax rate, which is the average of dividend and capital gains tax rates.

You can quit your day job when:
Debt Costs + Savings / 12 * 0.75 * 0.04 + Side Income >= Enough
Debt Costs + Savings / 400 + Side Income >= Enough

Notes about the formula:
  • You need to own 400 euros to get 1 euro of monthy income. 400 comes from multiplying the constant factors. Only with compound interest and lots of waiting is it realistic to get these kinds of multipliers.
  • To get there quickly, you need side income schemes. For example €100 of monthly ad income from a blog corresponds to €40000 of savings. While writing interesting content is hard, it is probably easier than to save €10000/year for 4 years.
  • Side income schemes also provide cover, if you have to explain, what you did for the past few years.
  • Cheaper apartment speeds up the plan by years. There can be €100000 difference in apartment prices between Helsinki and Oulu city centers. If you value big city life, you probably prefer working to idle life in Oulu. Debt Costs depends very much on your lifestyle.
  • If you are near retiring, you can withdraw more. Multiply your monthly pension by 400 to see how much less you need to own at retirement.
  • If side income raises the sum past Enough, you should save the difference to gradually phase out the necessity of side income schemes. Otherwise, you either are not lazy enough for this plan, or have set Enough sum too low.
  • Enough sum raises with inflation.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Work and idleness 4/4: Individualist take

If it's not personal what you do for 40 hours a week, then what is? Individualism has two sets of attitudes towards work.

The ideal condition is to do what you love. This is based on the idea that you should express yourself and reach your potetial. Your unique life is an identity project, where you work towards reaching your highest potential.

For the rest of us, work is just a way to earn money. Self-actualization is pushed to leisure, for example holiday trips. Work is a little despicaple sign of slave mentality and lack of wealth, visible in phrases like "office drone" or "grease monkey". It is the opposite of life. How tough guy you are is measured by how much money you get, how much ass you kick and how little you give to others.

For both earners and self-actualizers, the impact of work on others is irrelevant.

Individualists admire people who have found "cheat codes of reality" and don't need to work, for example poker professionals, and also people who game the system to distribute income to them.

Problem: Free riders

Societies embracing individualist attitudes run into problems, when having a work ethic becomes contemptible. Not everyone can be idle.

Most people seem to follow individualist work ethic. Citizens vote governments, which allow them to free ride on social benefits, which are never high enough. Governments take debt to fund social spending. Sovereign debt crisis follows.

Work and idleness 3/4: Transhumanist take

During the last 200 years, technology has lifted the Western masses from rags to affluence. The logical end of this trend is Iain Banks' Culture, where robots do all the work, but we are not there yet. Work should maintain and improve the standards of living and guard against risks like nuclear war, which may stop us from reaching singularity. Workers can be classified based on whether they advance this goal.

Maintainers keep the system running at current level. For example postal workers maintain capability to send packets, and soldiers guard against foreign army burning down the nation. We would notice very soon if these people stopped working.

Improvers make technological and political progress happen. For example researchers may develop a cure for cancer, or a politician may remove a wasteful regulation. We would notice big difference in 20 years if these people stopped working.

Leeches neither maintain or improve other people's standards of living. This includes not just people who live on income transfers (it doesn't matter if it comes from state or from dividends of inherited wealth) but also workers who have little impact. We wouldn't notice any difference if these people stopped working.

In the long run, more and more people can neither maintain nor improve standads of living better than robots. In that case it's ok to relax and take it easy, but anyone reading this blog can't use stupidity as an excuse.

Virtues: Efficiency and enlightenment

Technology enables "hard" efficiency, for example food production no longer requires 50% of the workforce to labor at farms. This frees resources also to "soft" wants and needs, like better human rights, social safety net, education, healthcare etc. No matter if your values are hard or soft, efficiency powered by technology delivers it. (But it doesn't deliver relative wants, like being wealthier than the Joneses.)

Politics must ensure that greater efficiency does not translate into more efficient slaughter in gas chambers, etc.

Enlightenment and knowledge help spot opportunities to organize things differently.

Problem: It's not possible to be the only transhumanist around

It is practically impossible to talk with most people about transhumanist impact of work. It is too abstract topic for someone who usually talks about cars and apartments. Also most people only care about how much they and their ingroup get, making it heresy to talk about outgroup's interests. People with a mortgage and a family to provide for couldn't care less if a project produces nothing and it is clear from day 1.

Nowadays transhumanism is to me mainly quiantly naive idealism of the youth.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Still haven't bought any stock

Summary: This post tells a formula for deciding if you should postpone purchases in times of a looming crisis.

Update: Added a paragraph on probabilities.

After I finished reading Saarion sijoituskirja, the Arvopaperi OMXH index showed that Finnish stock prices had moved -10% since 1.1.2011. I postponed purchasing stocks because of the following calculation. It had two scenarios:

(1) Greece crisis becomes acute with probability P(crisis).
(2) Orderly recovery happens with probability P(recovery) = 1 - P(crisis).

Let the change in stock prices be C(crisis) or C(recovery). We should postpone purchases if

P(crisis) * C(crisis) + P(recovery) * C(recovery) < 0

When Lehman Brothers collapsed, the prices decreased by 40%. Let C(crisis) = -40%. By contrast C(recovery) = 10% - 20% since recovery is usually slower.

Avoiding probability estimates

We can pick stock price changes from historical data. Regarding probabilities, let's look at the equation at 0 when it doesn't matter whether we postpone investment or not.

P(crisis) * C(crisis) + (1 - P(crisis)) * C(recovery) = 0
P(crisis) * C(crisis) + C(recovery) - P(crisis) * C(recovery) = 0
P(crisis) ( C(crisis) - C(recovery) ) = - C(recovery)
P(crisis) = C(recovery) / (C(recovery) - C(crisis))

With C(recovery) = 15% and C(crisis) = -40%, the equation gives P(crisis)= 15% / 55% = 27%. This means that we should postpone investment, if we estimate that P(crisis) > 27%. We should invest now if we estimate that P(crisis) < 27%. It doesn't matter if we invest or not if we estimate that P(crisis) = 27%.

How it turned out

What in fact happened was that Greek crisis materialized but it was an orderly restructuring and prices collapsed only by 20%. The debt and the budget deficit are still simmering.

The situation now is almost the same, but the 'risk scenario' is 2008-style banking crisis. Only this time, goverments are part of the problem and no longer part of the solution. I'm still postponing investment.

If stock prices recover from current -30% to -10% in the next 3 months, then I suck at predicting and am better off investing to index funds. Stock traders divide profit to 'alpha' and 'beta'. 'beta' is the profit from market. You get beta profit from index funds, because stock prices on average rise with economic growth. 'Alpha' is the profit from skill. It is negative if you suck at predicting. Finding your own alpha by making successful and failed predictions is called alpha discovery.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

S&P lowers US credit rating

Now Kaalimato has higher credit rating than US.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Prize for screening out mass killers

Legal weapons were used at Jokela and Kauhajoki school shootings and Oslo attack. The shooters had to get gun license first. The permitting process provides a checkpoint for screening out potential mass killers. Currently no effective screening exists to separate mass killers from the responsible and sane; therefore a prize is neeeded to give psychologists, criminologists and medical professionals incentives to create a test to screen out mass killers.

The prize would be based on pessimistic assumptions:
  • There are going to be more mass killings. Ways to prevent mass killings are not known.
  • Special brain function is needed for the monstrous lack of empathy which enables mass killings without war trauma, or delusionality where the murderer thinks he is an action hero tasked with saving the world by killing masses of nameless goons.
  • This brain damage may show up in hormone levels, genes regulating brain function, etc.
  • Shooting back is an effective way to stop an ongoing mass killing, for example Hyvinkää shooting stopped after the police returned fire. Effective screening paves the way for responsible and sane armed population. Should mass killers move to illegal guns (most regular gun kills are already done with illegal guns in Finland) then damage control through concealed carry permits is the only effective measure.
Genetic information already improves estimates about propensity to violence. The Finnish permitting process already screens out 2/3 of the criminals who would kill.

Update: The author of the linked article got his statistics wrong. He compares people with gun license killing with guns they own against kills by people without gun license using all methods. Gun kills are just a fraction of all kills, so it is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Rules for the screening tests:
  • The tests can be based on any set of physiological measures like blood sample, genetic profile, saliva, urine, body height, etc.
  • The tests consist of a scoring algorithm for calculating pass/fail and a list of physiological measurements.
  • The tests can announce false positive for at most 10% of the population.

How prize money would be distributed:
  • After a mass killer is caught alive or dead, available physiological measures are taken. This enourages tests, which can be performed on the dead like blood samples, genetic profiles etc.
  • After each killing incident, 20% of the prize money is given for the tests which were positive for the killer. 80% remains in the fund for future killings.
  • The number of false positives is inversely proportional to the prize money. For example, a test flagging 0.01% of the population earns 100 times more than a test flagging 1% of the population.
  • Because of moral hazard, any research team with any links to the killer can't get prize money.
Here is an example of prize money division. Suppose that after a mass killing incident, two tests flag the killer. One of them flags 1% of the whole population, while another flags 0.01%. The price pot is 100000€, so 20000€ is awarded. The test flagging 0.01% of population earns 19802€, while the test flagging 1% of population earns 198€.

The institute administering the test would have to be international to get adequate sample size. It would also publish all physiological measures about the mass killers, and preferably also from other violent criminals and some voluntary controls without criminal record.

Without trying arrangements like this prize, we'll never know if modern psychology can screen out potential mass killers. What can be lost by trying?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

About The Book

Summary: Breivik's book contains several fabricated statistics. This casts doubt on the truthfulness of his autobiographical claims.

ABB did not just reach wrong conclusion - namely, that political terror works. It doesn't. Even the Soviet communists who fought a civil war to gain power found terror strikes counterproductive.

His book is also worthless as a reference on the state of Islam and moral decay in Europe, as it is full of fabrications and factual errors. This is a pity as I'd very much like to see a well-researched "big picture" overview without liberal "don't worry, everything is ok" head-patting. I cross-checked some statistical claims about Finland.

The first claim which caught my doubt was the claim in p. 1173 that 35% of Finns get a sexually transmitted disease in their lifetime. Turns out that 15% of Finns had contracted an STD in their lifetime in 1992. Chlamydia was just as high in 1987 as in 2003, gonorrhea almost vanished and others are too small to meter, casting doubt on that 35% figure.

At p. 564, a table lists the Muslim share of the population for various European states. It claims that in 2009, 2% - 3% of people in Finland were Muslims. Wikipedia puts the estimate at 0.8% in 2006. This is a horrible mistake, as the whole book is about the Islamization of Europe

At p. 719, there is a discussion of social capital and trust, and claim that Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland top the list. This claim is true.

At p. 735, there is a table quantifying the levels of multicultural indoctrination in each country. The chapter doesn't tell how the numbers were calculated nor cite references. Conclusion: fabricated.

In p. 923, they put the level of Muslims in Finland at 2% - 4% of the population rather than 0.8%.

In p. 972, there is oil production amounts in different countries. The figure
is in line with an online source. Also other figures in this chapter seem factual.

At p. 1190, he claims that the "historic concentration of the Nordic genotype" in Finland was 85% at 1900, 75% at 1950, and 55% at 2010. Again there are no references or description of what is "nordic genotype". I seriously doubt if the genetic makeup of Finns has changed by 30% in 100 years. We haven't had that much immigration.

At p. 1223, there is a table listing countries in order of GNP. While the list seems genuine, it is interpreted wrong. He says "The International Monetary Fund ranking of the countries with highest GNP shows that the top 10 list is dominated by countries with an exceptional degree of social cohesion." The real conclusion from the table is that there are many ways to get high GNP per capita. 3 couuntries have oil. 3 countries have high social cohesion. Good capitalist economy has brough US and Singapore to the list. US is the antithesis of social cohesion and still on the list.

Conclusion: 2 figures don't match with official ones, 2 figures seem outright fabricated as there is no methodology mentioned, 1 is true but sloppily interpreted.

Social proof

What about his autobiographical claims? In his communication tips, he emphasizes the need for social proof and looking good: " should be a priority to appeal to a broadest selection of European males. Resistance leaders/cell commanders or individual cell operatives must prioritise to arrange and book a professional photo session prior to operation for one or all involved. Resistance leaders of larger networks should also arrange photo sessions with female patriotic models to use in online marketing/recruitment campaigns."

And he sure looks good himself! It reads like straight from Mystery Method. He was a leader of men, running a software company in early 2000s and a distinguished WoW raiding guild in 2005. But the guild he named was actually established only in 2007.

His tribe was also preselected by women: "Although I have had a change of mentality a majority of my friends have not. My stepfather Tore, one of my best friends Marius and my more distant friends Kristoffer, Sturla and Ronny are all living manifestations of the complete breakdown of sexual moral. All five have had more than 300 sexual partners (two of them more than 700)."

Finally, he's protecting us, his loved ones, from the threat of Islam.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Work and idleness 2/4: Conservative take

Someone needs to keep the wheels of modern society running. In conservative ideology, work is a burden and everyone has a duty to carry their fair share. This is achieved by (1) stigmatizing free riders and social bums, (2) exalting work and and by (3) making work tolerable and pleasant with institutions (for example work regulations enforcable in court) and social norms (for example 40-hour work week).

Warning Against Idleness in Saint Paul's 2nd letter to Thessalonians illustrates (1) and (2) perfectly:

... keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. ... we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone's bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. ... Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers.

The problem with the conservative position is that it no longer matches reality. The Finnish employment rate - the percentage of people aged 16 - 64 who work - was 69% in 2010. Let's assume that nobody under 16 or over 64 works, and that all age brackets contain just as many people, and that the average lifespan is 80 years.

We get that [ 16 * 0% + (64 - 16) * 69% + (80 - 64) * 0% ] / 80 = 41% of Finns work.

It is bullshit to claim that 59% of Finns can't work. My sister was getting paid for watching children as a young teen. I got my first IT summer which included some programming at age 18. But if you ask the credentialists, both work tasks absolutely require a college degree. Also in the countries where pensions are low, old people sure find stamina to work for some supplementary income.

People have made a collective decision to work less as most people get a nice standard of living anyway.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Work and idleness 1/4: The story of AZ

In Soininvaara's blog, alias "AZ" poked a beehive by admitting that he bums on last resort income out of his own choice, without any sickness or attempt to become employed. When reading this, my first reaction was "why in the hell am I slaving away at the company for 40 hours a week, when he gets for free 960e a month, which is less than I sometimes spent in the most busy months!? What's in it for me in being employed?"

In June, the housing benefit + last resort income was 959,11 euros. The rent 540. For spending 419,11 euros remain. The electricity bill is fully paid by social service agency. Water is included in rent. There are no medical costs, but they would naturally be fully compensated.

With 119 euros you can eat well foodstuffs like porridge, rye bread, carrots, pea soup, soy sauce, pasta etc. If I want to save for something, only those are necessary. It only costs a few euros to buy soap or bags for the vacuum cleaner. What could possibly be necessary expense for those extra hundreds of euros? What's so superhuman in saving them? In my opinion it would be alarming, if a healthy person couldn't live like that for a few months. I'm not addicted to cigarettes. In two months I saved 600 euros. That's a royal sum for example for wandering in Lapland, as I already have equipment from the previous trips.

I have so much experience on what it means to live on the above mentioned benefits and even with reduced benefits down to 250 euros a month that without some specific health issue which the state refuses to refund I simply cannot sign the claim about extreme material poverty of those who live on benefits. It simply isn't true.

The last resort income requires that you don't have significant property, for example a house; however, you can own a house. This is a possible lifestyle choice for someone who has paid his house already, and wants to drop out and commit hikikomori, expecting that life won't offer many opportunities anymore, for example for me if I fail to up my seduction skills by age 40.

Az says he has Asberger's syndrome and his explanations about philosophical research task reek mild crazines; this tunnel vision phenomena is familiar to me from the days of Finnish Annotator. Watch carefuly for it's cunning, devious bite if you ever become idle for extended periods.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Simo the unemployed

The writing was on the wall since Elop's announcement. Back then, the number of projects had already decreased. I had plenty of time to sketch scenarios. The only surprise was timing: the customer was still paying my salary when I got laid off last week.

Plan A: Get a Java programming job from Helsinki

Why Helsinki? My brother and sister moved there within a year. There are 10 times more open programming positions in Helsinki than in Tampere.

Why Java? It was already going strong in 2007 when I was searching the previos job. It is likely to stay relevant also to 2015. Even if Java becomes obsolete, the whole web stack from SQL servers to browsers won't change in one punch. Java is my second strongest language after POSIX C / Symbian C++. The wanted skills in the job ads are suprisingly similar as in 2007 - SQL, Hibernate, Spring, JSP, JSF and various application servers are still going strong - and only Liferay and jQuery are completely new.

Actions taken: Sent job applications, got some books on jQuery and J2EE.

Plan B: Play time by starting a company

The basic idea is to warm up some leftovers from the website I developed in 2005-2006, but with much clearer goals and much better focus on what I am going to sell and to whom. The software would be distributed as an applet which runs in browsers.

The first phase is to develop a free prototype with limited content, to put it online and advertise it a bit. This way, I would find out the number of users a month. With reasonable assumptions about the conversion rate (how many visitors would buy the full version) this gives an estimate of market size and income potential. Is there enough demand for me to make a living out of it?

If there is no demand, then I would get a real job. If there is mediocre demand or the data is ambigous (most probable scenario) then I could spend 6 - 12 months developing the full version. The upfront initial investment would be paid back over many years as a trickle of side income. This way, I could play time until the Finnish IT job market clears out after 1500 laid-off Symbian engineers from Nokia and comparable amount from subcontractors.

Because of Plan B, I have almost no incentive to get a new job quickly. The only thing I want but can't do on income-based unemployment benefit is to buy a house in Helsinki.

Actions taken: I've been unemployed for 4 days and have been developing the prototype in 3 of them.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Important announcement

I have nothing to say, and I'm drunk saying it.

I am also self-centered as I write mainly about things concerning my own life and myself, probably a mild narcissist or a mild psychopath.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

True satanic black metal

Although this video proves the worst nightmares of Ironmistress, these guys are our last, best hope against the imminent coming of Islamic theocracy!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trip to Norway

A fountain in a park near National Theater.

A street in Oslo.

A haunted soul was trapped to the wall of National Theater subway station.

Flytoget between Oslo and Airport was new and shiny.

When I arrived at 01.00 AM to Oslo railway station, the demographic I saw around me was 50% non-white, mainly young middle eastern and black faces. Why would any country opt to let in such amounts of immigrants from Africa and Middle East, when they are known to increase crime, welfare payments, white flight and in the worst case neighbourhoods where the police can't enter? Especially as demographic changes can never be rolled back once they have happened.

In the daylight it was a beautiful Nordic city, with lots of scenic spots I had no time to tour because the schedule was very busy.

The oil money was visible everywhere. The prices were expensive: The train from Oslo Airport cost 22e, and a tram ticket cost 5e, which is quite much. The train had screens displaying news and stock prices. The train seats had misleading investment ads, where a silver vendor told that silver has produced the highest return on investment during the last few years. There are many investment banks in Oslo.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Compound interest

Early retirement is not my goal, since I don't have these kinds of sums to spare. However, it is a common goal in many investment blogs and a fun scenario to speculate.

This calculation is from Coder's investment blog. You save 10000€ each year and get the historical stock market average return of 8%. It doesn't take inflation into account.

1. year: 10 000,00€
2. year: 21 600,00€
3. year: 34 128,00€
4. year: 47 658,24€
5. year: 62 270,90€
6. year: 78 052,57€
7. year: 95 096,78€
8. year: 113 504,52€
9. year: 133 384,88€
10. year: 154 855,67€
11. year: 178 044,12€
12. year: 203 087,65€
13. year: 230 134,67€
14. year: 259 345,44€
15. year: 290 893,08€
16. year: 324 964,52€
17. year: 361 761,68€
18. year: 401 502,62€
19. year: 444 422,83€
20. year: 490 776,65€

Notes about the series:
  • In the end, the yearly gain is 40000€. The tax percentage is about 27% (assuming 1/3 dividend income with tax percentage 20% and 2/3 capital gains income with tax percentage 30%.) This is quite well-off.

  • In the beginning, savings dominate. The faster you can save the first 100000€, the better. Speed up the process by living with austerity for some years.

  • In the end, interest dominates. Around year 10, interest and savings provide equal boost to capital. At year 15, you might just as well stop saving and concentrate on researching means to increase interest.

  • If you take inflation into account, you have to wait a few more years. A comment in the original blog suggests 2% inflation, which would require waiting 4 more years to get the same real income.

  • After 10 years, you can already live on 1000€ a month. Then again, social benefits allow that much faster at the next round of layoffs if that is what you want to do with your life.

  • At around year 15, getting laid off is a lottery jackpot. With income-based unemployment benefit and stock-market gains together, you earn the desired yearly sum much earlier while waiting the compound interest to work its magic a little slower.

  • If you plan to retire to a low-paid meaning-of-life work, the right time to switch is around year 12. At that point, the main thing left to do is to wait. Saving has little effect. You might just as well start the lifestyle adjustment, as long as you don't touch the capital.

  • If you are near retirement, you need less. After retiring, you only need to make (desired income - pension). Before retirement, you can eat on capital as long as you still have enough at the point of retirement.

Why this is not my way

Social deprivation and lack of externally imposed structure would drive me crazy. I experienced some of it during the two summers spent writing my own website. I talked to other people once a week and went to sleep at 6am. I am the kind of dog who needs a little whip sometimes.

This calculation horrifies me and falls to the category "be careful what you wish for, since you might get it."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Riches and bitches

Summary: This post investigates myths and anecdotes, which link male wealth to sexual market value.

Suppose I found a way to get wealthy, but it required huge amounts of work.
Would it be worth it? Would it be progress towards my long-term goals in life?

Mere correlation is not enough

Ice cream doesn't cause drowning despite both being common during hot weather. Similarly tallness and good social skills help both popularity among women and promotion prospects to better paid jobs. Instead of correlation, we need to find out the mechanism through which wealth affects marrigeability. That are better described in anecdotes rather than statistics.

You can buy status symbols with wealth

The traditional claim is that wealth enables you to buy status symbols and status signals attract women. This does not stand much closer scrutiny.

On the small scale, signaling wealth by buying women drinks in a bar labels you as an exploitable dupe. I have noticed it myself that I am instantly dubious towards people who insist on giving things away, asking myself "What does he want in exchange? Am I now in an unwritten agreement, where he expects something unreasonable from me, starting drama when he doesn't get it?" Ritualized, reciprocal giving like a house party host making food to guests is an exception.

There is some evidence that big houses are beneficial. Years ago there was an article in NY Times where women rejected potential boyfriends after seeing their apartments. In a later chapter there is a personal anecdote about deriving benefit from a summer cottage.

Regarding cars and watches which lose half of their worth the moment you walk out of the shop we have another type of signaling problem.

Do you signal wealth or future time orientation?

People have different financial future time orientations (FTO). On the one end are the spendthrifts who live from hand to mouth. The other contains millionaire-next-door types who save most of their income and never spend it in their lifetime. Jantunen described the shades of grey last year.

According to research, couples with similar financial FTO have least arguments about money. Although short-FTO and long-FTO persons are attracted to each others as they remedy each others' weaknesses, their marriages are unhappy. If you become wealthy by being a tightwad, it is stupid to signal wealth by flashy cars and expensive clocks, since it attracts attention from wrong kinds of people.

Short FTOLong FTO
What to signal?WealthFuture time orientation, since wealth comes to the working thrifty in the long run.
What new cars, iPhones, etc. signalThe person is wealthy as he can afford it.The person will not become very wealthy, if he wastes mediocre income on expensive consumption.
Used car, using coupon codesThe person is too poor to afford a better car.The person is not wasting money when just as good cheap alternative is available.
Company having headquarters in run-down areaThe company is not doing very well.The company uses its money productively rather than on shiny surfaces.

This chapter concluded that signaling wealth by buying expensive items and services is a sucker's bet, so striving for wealth for this purpose is useless to begin with.

Personal experiences about the wealthy

Once I was in a meeting of relatives, where about 30 persons from three generations gathered for a weekend in a summer cottage. There were two millionaires present. Self-made man was an entrepreneur who had found a company and grown it organically to over 100 employees. His wealth was measured in tens of millions. Nokia millionaire had had a hard life when young. During post-war poverty he had learned the motto "Don't buy what you need, buy what you can't do without." Millionaire-next-door lifestyle enabled him to get into Hymy (a Finnish scandal sheet) list of Nokia millionaires in 2000. He wasn't a fool who puts all his eggs into one basket, so he probably owns a million euros now.

The self-made man also had alpha personality; he hosted the meeting in his cottage, and showed various expensive items in there (which he could well afford, as they took so small % of his income) and was also one of 2 skilled musicians in gathering. Before getting introduced to his wife, I first though she was one generation younger, so much effort she had seen to stay slim and good-looking.

The Nokia millionaire didn't seem to use his wealth to buy anything you couldn't get on average industrial worker's salary. His wife is fat and their relationship is not that good.

It seems that wealth increases sexual market value if you use it to play yourself into higher status positions, for example by hosting a party. Having wealth to put into apartments and summer cottages is an advantage, but we still have no evidence that non-real-estate spending increases male attractiveness. Without social skills, wealth is useless.

Wealth as an abstract measure of human worth

OkCupid Trends is a blog which posts data mining articles about the dating site OkCupid. They showed a correlation between male income and unsolicited contacts. Also in this Feissarimokat article high income in itself is an argument for male fitness. ("Mika tekee yli 100 000e vuodessa plus Nokian bonukset. Kummatkaan eivät olleet mitään tyhjäntoimittajia toisin kuin pari lusmua joita en nyt nimeltä mainitse...")

This is a genuine riddle: Women seem to value high income in itself, while not valuing "beta providers" who use that high income to buy them things.

Maybe what women really value is "millionaire personality" which is characterized by learning alpha behaviour from young age and working at management jobs which both pay well and signal high social skills. This would mean that wealth has to be accumulated at young age in order to have any effect on personality. This is in line with my personal experiences about the wealthy.

You can buy sex with wealth

This post is about attracting a spouse into a long-term relationship, so buying sex for an hour doesn't count.

According to Roissy, paying for sex because you can't get enough for free signals low attractiveness. Done regularly it definitely is a huge waste of money.

However, women's preference for preselection complicates the picture. Married men are twice as likely to visit prostitutes than singles. (Sources: A Finnish prostitute wrote that 75% - 80% of her customers are married while only 56% of men aged 30 - 65 in 2006 were married) It is possible that some character trait both makes men visit prostitutes and also makes them better at attracting spouses.

It definitely isn't wealth, as married men always say that family takes all their money. The character trait may be a well-developed dark triad. Or maybe not being fully dependent on wife for sex makes the husband less needy, making the marriage last longer.

Millionaire couples

Thomas J Stanley gathered statistics and interviews from American millionaries for his book. He found out that 90% of them are married. Marriages have lasted on average for 28 years.

This research is the polar opposite of Roissy. The couples co-operate to accumulate wealth and the men say that they couldn't have amassed the fortune without help from their viwes. It also confirms that the truly wealthy have long-FTO lifestyle rather than need to signal wealth. Instead of dumping the loser, the women tough it out with their men in times of hardship, leading to success in the long run. This is so different from what I hear from other sources that I doubt the honesty of this source.


The link between male wealth and marrigeability is highly muddled. Character traits which enable high earnings seem more important than the money itself. Different signaling systems for short and long FTO compilicate the picture further. Becoming a millionaire seems to get you married with 90% probability, but the anecdotes sound too good to be true, casting doubt on the reliability of the source.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

We have cookies

Before entering corporate world I thought that programmers build the systems of the information society. That the software I develop would have users. This way, my skill and work would have a positive impact on society. It wouldn't be glamorous but it would be meaningful.

Looking back at the last 4 years, only for 4 months did I worked on systems, which were delivered and had reasonable usability. Other projects were discontinued, kept going on and on without shipping date or were prototypes to begin with. One 8-month project was delivered, but with so lousy usability that people probably used other means to access those features.

This means that on average 1 month each year was spent on productive work. The only trace from the remaining 11 months are the numbers on my bank account.

Work with no external impact produces a nasty ethical implication: The duty ethic where you get paid for doing your job becomes meaningless.

Since I am a leech on society's resources anyway, I might just as well leech for maximal personal advantage: raising the generous Finnish unemployment benefit, learning how to transfer logical talent (talent in the biblical sense: advantages which God gave to you at birth for implementing His will on earth) from value-creating positive sum skills into zero sum stock market gambling while listening to satanic black metal and blowing the dividends on frivolous and inappropriate pole dancing hobby. This way, I would become one of those sinister "market forces" which make your life miserable with demands for efficiency, privatize gains and socialize losses, destroy the environment, spike your food with E-codes, make the police shoot demonstrators in Spain and worsen your salary and working conditions in the race to the bottom.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Summary: This post compares stock investing to mortgage.

This week I've been reading Saarion Sijoituskirja and considering investing into stock market.

First some background. I can't buy a house now for two reasons. Firstly, I expect to be laid off during the next year into a tight job market filled with 1500 Symbian programmers from Nokia and a comparable amount from subcontractors. This may mean a move to another city or country, creating a "push factor" away from Tampere. Secondly, there is a "pull factor" as my two siblings have recently moved to Helsinki.

My first lesson in investing

In September 2008, HEX index had collapsed 35%. I was going to an offshore assignment. I decided to buy stocks when they are cheap and moved a small apartment nest egg to a stock fund. The next week Lehman Brothers crashed, wiping away 40% of my nest egg.

I concluded that stocks are too volatile way to invest a nest egg, no matter how great average ROI they offer in 20-year timeframe.

In the hindsight, I made the right move for the right reasons, and the nest egg has recovered most of the melted value. Only timing was wrong: I should have spaced the purchases in 6 month intervals instead of trying to guess when the downturn is at the bottom.

Comparing stocks and mortgage

The biggest revealation I've learned from the book is emphasis on dividends. In the long run, the value of the stock is the time-discounted sum of dividends (price is something completely different). Companies pay on average around 5% of their share price in dividends. Dividend perspective also catches growth companies; they typically pay increasing dividends each year. This changes the picture in the following ways:
  • You don't have to sell the stocks to use them to pay mortgage. Instead, you can use dividends for mortgage payments. Typically you want to buy a house during downturn and sell stocks during boom. Dividends can bridge the time gap.

  • Temporary nest egg wipeout is not catastrophical. Debt-free companies continue paying dividends. Others resume after recession. Prices recover. In fact, selling stocks is strictly optional for a long-term buy-and-hold investor who is in for dividends and mortgage-length (20-30 years) timeframe. Of course, it is great for your wealth if you can sell high and buy cheap, outsmarting seasoned professionals, but don't count on it.

  • Both houses and stocks "pay dividends" and "increase in value". In house, the 'dividends' come from lower living costs. Value increases typically in pace with inflation, at good locations faster. Statistically stocks produce a little more in the long run; then again, in the long run we are all dead.

Additional factors attracting me to stock gambling are:
  • They have cute little numbers you can play with. Simple back-of-the-envelope calculations are a second nature to me. I do them almost instinctively. For example I "annualize" all costs by estimating, say, how many times a month I eat out and what is the cost per meal and how large % of monthly income goes to eating out.
  • It is a game of skill and luck. It is possible to raise your net worth faster than the statistical stock market average. For example for J it gives good profit per hours spent researching. Then again, J can invest in companies he has visited in his water engineering projects. I don't visit customer companies. It is unclear if there is any game of skill for me. The only way to find out is to try.
  • It is more leniently taxed than salary income. For dividends, 70% of dividend income is capital income for which you pay capital gains tax. The final tax is 20% of dividend's value. This is less than half my marginal tax rate on salary (if I would get 100e more salary, the tax man would take over 40e). Now you may say that there is double taxation on dividend income: the company paid taxes and you pay taxes. However, there are also side costs for employing people. As a rule of thumb, salary + side costs = 1.6 * salary. The 26% corporate tax is smaller than side cost percentage.
  • It makes you a better writer and person. Both J and Mangan invest, and their investment posts are consistently high quality: betting money on being right makes you consider your opinions. Investors have personal interest to know what happens in the world as it impacts their lives.

Money is a huge taboo, for example not a single person has ever told me his monthly salary. Outside immediate family, only two persons have ever admitted owning stocks. I am aware that writing about money is not necessarily wise in Finland, will be careful about not disclosing anything, and will stop as soon as I start to notice strange remarks in face-to-face discussions.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The funniest royal wedding video

This dance video uses some principles I described in Visual style of parapara:
  • Moves are synced to the rhythm.
  • Dramatic peaks in dance routine are synced to dramatic peaks in music.
  • There is a priorization choice to use only easy moves. Only the jump at 2:10 is demanding. In parapara, this "easiness leeway" makes the dance accessible to masses of people at clubs. This video harnesses easiness leeway to focus on body language and role acting.

There are also two explicit signs of parapara. At 1:24, there is a full sweep. At 00:30 - 00:45, the girl group performs "girlified parapara" - instead of doing symmetric X:es, they only do only one line of X. Instead of doing a straight, geometric lines as far as their hands reach, they keep hands bent. This makes the move smaller in size and more relaxed, resulting in more feminine and less dominating body language.

Status signaling

There is a clear hierarchy among the 4 young men. In the very beginning, the two young men display alpha devil-may-care attitude by throwing away the speech papers and by unharried pimp walking. Faster speed expresses higher relative status: higher-status men run circles around others.

There is just one explicit dominance/submission scene at 2:10. Elsewhere already-high-status alphas voluntarily and autonomously carry out their roles to serve even-higher-status ones.

In the end, the groom softens his touch with some vulnerability game. At 1:54, he hurries to his princess to save her from the sternous effort of walking, but backs off at the last moment with a mischievous slap on vaginal area.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

No posts for April

Nothing to write and several things keeping me busy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

PUAs and discursive social psychology 1: Speech acts

In my early twenties I read some social psychology to improve social skills, which I already knew to be a problem. The books didn't aid me, as they were very abstract or focused on leftist goals of dealing with social problems, for example by analyzing interactions between a government agency and a victim group. However, they made me familiar with social constructionism, a postmodern sociological theory guiding modern social psychology.

Back then, this blog was named Rakentumistyömaa, a construction yard for the social construction of reality. (In Finnish, the work rakentaa means physical construction of buildings and the word rakentua means the social construction of reality.)

One thing that appeals to me in Roissy's writing is that it fits perfectly to this earlier understanding of social life. I can leave my fundamental ideas unchanged and merely supplement them with extra chapters on how women behave and what I should aim at to get where I want to go.

Austin's theory of speech acts [1, s. 14]

The parts of the long quote that matter have been bolded.

Words as deeds: speech act theory
It is important for a clear understanding of Austin's ideas to have some indication of the situation in phiolosophy which he was both reacting against and commenting upon. His main target was the logical positivist view that sentences which cannot be verified, that is sentences for which there is no way of checking whether they are true or false, should simply be treated as meaningless. From this view points, for instance, the statement "God does not exist" should be treated as nonsensical since the truth of the statement can never be validated. In addition, Austin's argument was directed at a wide swathe of views of language which take it to be an abstract system whose central function is the description of states of affairs. What Austin set out to do was to undermine the notion that an understanding of 'truth conditions', states of truth and falsity, is central to an understanding of language.

Stating versus doing

Austin began with the observation that there is a class of sentences which are principally important for what they do, not because they describe things. For instance, the sentence

I declare war on the Philippines

is not a description of the world which can be seen as true or false but an act with practical consequences; ... Austin called sentences of this kind performatives. ... Austin contrasted these kinds of sentences with others whose primary role did appear to be the description of states of affairs, naming them constantives.

The general theory of speech acts

The general theory does not distinguish between sentences which do things and sentences which say things, between performatives and constantives, but casts this distinction in a different way. The fundamental tenet of the theory is that all utterances state things and do things. That is, all utterances have a meaning and a force. In fact, Austin suggested that with any utterance a speaker is simultaneously doing three sorts of things.

First, the speaker is uttering a sentence with (1) a specific meaning - it has a certain sense and may refer to specific events, persons or objects. Second, the sentence is uttered with a particular force. We know what the words 'shut the door' literally mean, but they can be used with (2) the force of an order, a request or even a question. Force is thus an element of utterances which is dissociated from their meaning, although it is often indicated by the use of a certain verb: promise, order, state, and so on. The third feature refers to (3) the effects or consequences of the first two. The sentence 'shut the door' may be uttered with the force of an order but it may have the effect of making the hearer shut the door or it may simply make the hearer annoyed.

Speech acts in seduction

For example, Roissy recently wrote about The "I can leave you if you want" shit test. He met a girl at a nightclub and teased her about her accent. The girl feigned indignation and asked "Do you want me to return to may friends?".

According to speech act theory,
  • The meaning of the sentence is to ask about his mental state; whether he prefers her to return to her friends or not.

  • The force of the sentence is either a question or a show of indignation

  • The effect of the sentence is to execute a shit test. If he is eager to keep her close, then he considers her presence an exceptionally good deal and he has a weak negotiation position. If he eagerly advices her to indeed return to her friends, then he is used to the company of girls like her and has a strong negotiating position.

In Roissy as in discursive social psychology, all utterances are speech acts. What matters are the deeds and effects people want to achieve with them.

[1] Potter and Wetherell: Discourse and Social Psychology: Beyond Attitudes and Behaviour

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Methane blasts in Pakistan coal mine kill 6, trap 46


A methane gas explosion in a coal mine in southwestern Pakistan killed at least six miners Sunday and trapped 46 others, a top mining official said.

The mine, which is located in Baluchistan province, was declared dangerous two weeks ago, but the warning was ignored, said Iftikhar Ahmed, a top mining inspector. The mine is owned by the state-run Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation but leased to a contractor, he said.

Rescue workers were trying to reach the trapped miners, but methane gas was hampering their attempts, Ahmed said.

"We are trying to make a path, but the presence of gas is restricting the rescue effort," he said.

The mine is located some 25 miles east of the provincial capital, Quetta.

If gas explosion collapses a mine, would it have withstood a 9.0 magnitude earthquake?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tampere Film Festival: My Village in 2007

Village Documentary Project distributed filming equipment to 10 rural villages for amateur filmmakers, including Zhang Huangcai, a 50 years farmer at Shijiazai village. His third documentary My Village in 2007 shows what life is like in a very backward village. What makes the film special is that the storyteller has lived there his whole life apart from doing odd jobs in cities. The lifestyle is normal for him, while being utterly alien for Westerners viewing the film at Tampere.

The village was so backward that the film had just 3 motor vehicles: a car, a harvester and a motorcycle. They still collected hay by raising it manually to drying poles. In the scene where they went to a city to sell handicrafts, they walked. By contrast, in rural India motorcycles are widespread.

The villagers subsisted by farming corn. The houses had big bunches of corn drying on their walls, suspended with ropes. Apparently they were well nourished, as there weren't any excessively short people in the film.

My father lived his youth in Tuupovaara, a settlement in Eastern Finland in the middle of forest and tens of kilometers from the nearest city. He said that they lived practically in subsistence economy, by fishing and farming, rather than in money-based economy. Logging and construction were ways to get some income. When he visited Haiti, he was a bit shocked from seeing how life was there and said that in no situation would their life in Tuupovaara be that bad. Getting basic needs met does not depend on technology, it depens on how people organize their lives. In Shijiazai as in Tuupovaara, poverty does not mean malnourishment or exploitation. Rather, it means hard manual work, little education, shoddy houses and thrift.

Talking about education, the film didn't touch literacy directly, but stacks of books and magazines were nowhere to be seen. Another factor which hinted at low reading fluency was lack of imagination. All topics discussed in the film were very concrete and practical. There were some memories from cultural revolution and a few mentions of work gigs in the cities. Other than that, they only talked about things that happen in the village.

Social porn does not turn on healthy people. This film managed to pull off the hard trick of describing backward life as normal. The film had low technical quality - it was more like a collection of home videos without plot, exposition of background etc. It was still the best out of 4 films who described rural workers in China, because it had insider's perspective.

Overall, about half of the films in Made in China series were designed to raise awareness of various social issues. It mirrored Western mass media's bias of seeing China primarily as a collection of human rights violations, third world poverty and totalitarian oppression. This bias nowadays irritates me after seeing what overseas Chinese write about their country themselves.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Nothing happened, except for news artificially fabricated by media contained two eyewitness reports about scheduled jasmine strolls. The main news in Shanghai was that 15 foreign reporters were arrested for 3 hours. One of them reports that "The actual scale of the movement is very small. At the door of the cinema there were some tens of people, they didn't carry slogans or loudspeakers, only calmly stood there."

In Beijing, a reporter went to a nearby bookstore and saw nothing but a lot of policemen and a few foreigners who looked like they were waiting for something to happen.

An eyewitness said that the commotion two weeks ago was basically about foreign reporters gathering to a busy street after hearing the rumors about jasmine strolls, and curious people who flocked around the foreign reporters, expecting something to happen.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Ye Xiaowen calls jasmine strolls "performance art"

CPPCC's yearly conference started on Wednesday. In one symposium, Ye Xiaowen emphasized that the Communist party has nothing to fear from jasmine strolls, because 30 years of economic development demonstrate the superiority of Chinese institutions. This is notable, since elsewhere all things jasmine are censored.

"Jasmine? What a joke. China has developed rapidly in the last 30 years, and the common Chinese people support this development, no? If the want this jasmine revolution and starve, are they going to take jasmines to their coffins? Unlikely to happen. What a joke! This is all basically just performance art."

This matches international opinion: Bai Xia, a French sinologist sent a similar message in a Deutsche Welle interview:

"Many international observers believe that the 'jasmine revolutions' in Middle East can't reach China, because the economic development has been fast, recently China's economy became the second biggest in the world. Therefore social contradictions and unrest should not cause too many legitimacy problems for the regime. But Chinese officials are not that confident after discovering that some factors of jasmine revolutions, like corruption, unemployment of univesity students, people's rights being violated etc. exist also in China. Therefore the most outstanding feature of jasmine strolls is the tense insecurity of Chinese high-level authorities."

Chinese officials have arrested over 100 human rights lawyers, democracy activists, dissidents and intellectuals in an attempt to "kill one and scare hundred".

To avoid giving authorities excuses to suppress rallies violently, china.molihua advises participants "not to shout slogans and not to carry signs or torches". China.molihua compares jasmine rallies to East Berlin's Monday demonstrations in 1989 which started with a few hundreds of people and expanded during several months up to 320000 people, ending in the collapse of Berlin wall.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Chinese documentaries at Tampere Film Festival

A collection of modern Chinese documentary films.
One each day 9.3 - 13.3.

Schedule (in Finnish)

I'll go there with the attitude "let's see well-chosen movies I would never have heard about otherwise", and will not read movie descriptions in advance.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A foreign reporter was beaten at Wangfujing, diplomatic commotion ensues

Bloomberg news agency says that one of their reporters was beaten by 5 plain-clothes policemen last Sunday in Wangfujing. His camera was taken away and he was detained in nearby store. Afterwards, he was taken to the police station and subsequently released.

White House press secretary Jay Carney commented that "we have heard reports about foreign reporters being detained and treated roughly. These reports cause us worry. We request Chinese government to respect foreign reporter's right to work, and urge law enforcement to guarantee their safety against illegal harassment and threats."

Yu Jiang, The spokesman of Chinese foreign ministry, turned tables by blaming the reporters. She asked why so many reportes gathered in the busy street (there were mainly foreign reporters and Chinese policemen present), and asserted that the policemen were only carrying out their legal duty by clearing the way. She also asked who gave the reporters instructions to come there, implying that it was an anti-Chinese conspiracy.

In Japanese newspapers, this was compared in ridiculousness to Gaddafi's statement that Libyan opposition consists of Al Qaida terrorist cells.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Third wave of rallies scheduled for 6.3.2011, but by whom?

Original article published 1.3.2011 by

China.jasmine calls for rallies in hundred cities, is asked to identify himself

Mingpao newspaper reports that the scent of jasmines is spreading to China. Someone calling himself "the originator of jasmine revolution" put a new announcement online that the third wave of rallies will be next Sunday, covering over 100 cities. He also asserted that "we will reveal our identity at suitable moment." At the same time, account names like "Jasmine Revolution News Center" and "Operation Jasmine" emerge in overseas websites like Facebook and Twitter. This indicates that the number of netizens answering the call is increasing and the scale of rallies will expand.

The Chinese "jasmine revolution" rallies have continued already for two Sundays and gained international attention. French News Agency reports that the self-titled originator of the movement announced that on last Sunday, in up to 100 cities people took part in rallies, far more than the previously announced 27 cities. "Our local organizer can already feel that it is the season when jasmine blooms".

Accusation: Hunderds of thousands of people attack overseas websites

The announcement claims that Chinese authorities are mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people to attack foreign websites in order to stop the smell of jasmine. Boxun site already stopped forwarding rallying places etc. information, because it couldn't endure attacks. Proponents therefore opened accounts to sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Blog and so on which are stable and secure. The spokesman said that the third rally will be codenamed "Two Conferences" [Note: this is a tactic to prevent the use of Great Firewall, as the real Two Conferences - the yearly meetings of CPPCC and NPC - are held at the beginning of March.] and also asserted that he will reveal his identity when the time is right. Little after this announcement, a list of rallying places for 35 cities circulated online. The place of Bejing rally moved from Wangfujing to another vibrant suburb, Xidan. The list also included Shenzhen, Lhasa in Tibet and Hohhot in Inner Mongolia.

Some people call 6.3.2011 "Three chuckles"

At the same time, the number of "jasmine" accounts increases. Some of them forward news about rallies, while others are suspected pranks. A Google Buzz account named "Jasmine Revolution Information Center" called the 3.6 meetings with code word "three chuckles", calling citizens to participate in rallies by "taking a walk, standing in circles and laughing heartily three times". Some people worry that it is a honey trap, while others supect it to be a practical joke which puts people in danger.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Jasmine revolution in China

The Chinese jasmine revolution has thus far been quiet shadow boxing. The protesters shout their calls for action through open social networks, enabling the government to anticipate and counter them with surgical countermeasures and displays of force. There is little action but a lot of tension - about 10% of articles in are about the Chinese jasmine revolution.

Original article

Wangfujing selead with plates, jasmine revolution unable to blossom in Beijing

According to "Apple Daily", the netizens called for the second wave of "jasmine revolution" for today. The local officials heard the enemy coming and even dispatched extra guards to parts of the city. One of the central meeting ares, the gates of McDonald's in Wangfujing [a suburb in Beijing], were sealed with plates because of "sunken earth holes". When netizens shifted the place to Wangfujing's Kentucky Fried Chicken, even the word "Wangfujing" became a sensistive word in, impossible to search.

As online calls for protests have expanded to 23 cities, local officials hear the sound of the horn and are making preparatory moves. Reports indicate that Beijing has already brought troops to the city and increased the surveillance of communications. "Red armbands" are guards, which consist of voluntarily patrolling citizens. Earlier, they have only been used during the Beijing Olympiad and the "Two Conferences" (the yearly meetings of National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee.) Many patrol cars of Ministry of Public Security are stationed in the main street of Wangfujing, and anyone who takes photographs is promptly questioned.

Boxun [US based] website, which for several days has been the news platform for jasmine revolution, announced yesterday evening that it has difficulty operating because of intense pressure and repeated attacks. Because of current conditions, "Boxun unfortunately has to stop publishing related [to jasmine revolution] information."

Online reports indicate that domestic officials have intensified pressure on anyone who might participate in gatherings. Dissidents are being taken away, and a retired professor of Shandong Univeristy, Sun Wenguang was escorted away by Public Security. Some netizens claim that merely saying the word "jasmine revolution" will bring Public Security to the doorstep.

In the biggest domestic social network,, it is still impossible to search with sensitive words "jasmine revolution" or "meeting". Yesterday also "Wangfujing" became prohibited, producing announcement "Because of certain legal stipulations and policies, the search result can not be displayed."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

If I chose my sport according to what appeals to women in general, I would train martial arts.

Mystery says that to appeal to women in general, you should project an image of being a leader of men, preselected by women and protector of the loved ones. Martial arts push the "protector of the loved ones" button.

Many online dating announcements call for a traditional, real man. Training capability for violence is consistent with that. Also romantic fiction contains a lot of protector figures.

However, only once in my adult age have I been in a violent situation. The skill would be practically useless, therefore I have no interest for it.

By contrast, the effeminate undertones of pole dancing are likely to be a big turn-off for many women, so it definitely isn't something to be done to appeal to women. However, since I'm practising it anyway, it's reasonable to ask how to present it in a light which is consistent with my goals in other areas of life.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More doom and gloom

Talking about bad scenarios, one I want to avoid is living 50 years alone. Many friends have reached the middle class bliss of having a wife, a mortgage, a spacious car, 2.5 kids, and thou shalt not forget the golden retriever. I want it in the same trivial sense which Jane Austin meant with the opening sentence of "Pride and Prejudice": "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." The only question is how to actionalize the goal - what series of steps to perform to make progress towards it. Here's my current actionalization:
  • Participate in events of The Club to develop social skills and meet people.
  • Answer personals in and OkCupid in the rare instances when something interesting pops up (my sister and her husband found each others through and have since reached middle-class bliss.)
  • Read seduction material like Game for Omegas or Roissy or Mystery Method.
  • Practise pole dancing in order to have a hobby which appeals to the target group.

The pole dancing part needs a little explanation. Dance classes are definitely not places to meet women - rather they are places where girls team up to invent cruel and unusual shit tests to poke at your weaknesses. In fact, I've only had one 10-lesson card (and won't buy a new one until I finish dieting.) Going to those lessons was always a little disturbing.

However, dancing is currently my only interest with any appeal to women, and since I've decided to exercise regularly anyway, the time investment is quite low.

If I ever get to a level where I can make videos or performances without embarrassment, it should increase the number of first contacts that start with positive expectations. Avoiding embarrassment means, among other things, grounding the style in some visual tradition which is not feminine or gay. In that case, the skill is quite comparable to Mystery's magic tricks.

From the perspective of my goals, it doesn't matter if pole dancers are hot or not. What matters is how the target group, non-pole-dancing plain Janes, react to my hobby. At best, pole dancers can be a useful test group or act as social proof, giving me preselection points when I mention them.

Among men, the dominant view is that social skills are like poker: you should hide your goals and intentions while reading other people for their weaknesses. This way you gain or lose advantage from asymmetric information. Many years ago I broke it by mentioning desire for more friends in this blog, and The Scientist metioned privately that he wouldn't admit such things. After that I have been a good boy and followed this principle. Now where is my fucking prize?

The more I look, the more I see signs that relationship are almost a perfect-information game like chess or go for the sharpest females that matter most. For example Roissy's seduction performance didn't drop from describing openly what he did as he did it. Here is how Aretae describes his wife:
Sickness by skin color variations, 3 days ahead of time ("Start superdosing your vitamin D now, you're getting sick"). 10:1 she knows more about what you're feeling than you do, if she can see you (even if your back is turned, and you're wearing a heavy coat). And if she hears you [not me] say "hello" to your wife over the phone, she knows if your wife is ready to cheat -- by means of emotional echoes in your response, whether or not you do. Still pictures of popular trial defendents tell her whether they're guilty.

In the pole dancing school, at least one teacher is really perceptive. For example, once I had difficulty getting a series of moves right. The first time I got it right, she noticed it from the opposite end of the class, probaly without looking at me. Thinking that you can hide your sexual thoughts in a dance class is as foolish as hoping that in a go match, the other player won't see a move. At least some of them can read everthing that matters from your gestures. If you assume otherwise, they will confuse and startle you by showing you your own reflection in snappy comments. But there is one thing they can't turn against you - self-knowledge and confidence that comes from knowing why you are there, what you want out of it and acting consistently and decently.

Currently, none of the 4 actionalizations produces results. The best they can provide is general practise in social skills and a diagnosis of what I need to do differently to find an approach which works.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Päiväkäskyni viimeinen: Kusessa ollaan!

Now that Nokia has decided to use Windows, the question for Finnish IT industry is: Who will do the work?

Ominously, Nokia Finland is not recruiting Windows, C# or Silverlight programmers (Silverlight is the plaform for making 3rd party applications to Windows Phones). In, Silverlight jobs are either in the non-mobile industry or in the multiplatform field, where all mobile platforms are listed.

For example Abhinaba Basu in Hyderabad, India works in a team with Windows Phone and Silverlight competence.

In the past, Finnish developers moved between Series40, Symbian and Meego. There is no sign that they will be moving to Windows except for Elop's words.

Moving phone OS development out from Finland would be a tectonic shift in the Finnish IT industry. A HS artice mentions 3100 Symbian and Meego developers in Tampere and Oulu. There are more in Salo, Helsinki and in Nokia's subcontracting chain. Quick layoffs will create a glut of unemployed, resulting in hundreds of applicants for each open position until the industry has restructured, which would take years.

Mauri Pekkarinen uttered the unfamous words "we are from the government and we are here to help." He talked about managed handling of the structural reform. Based on what I have heard about TEKES projects, I hope that they will do as little as possible and stick to existing mechanisms like income-based unemployment benefit and start-up grant. Finnish state financed with debt 25% of its costs last year. We don't need more of that.

Technology perspective

Symbiatch raves about the high quality of C# language and Microsoft tools in Desktop. But Windows Phone is not a desktop OS.

A colleague recently investigated porting a multiplatform client to Windows Phone. The application runs in the background. He found out that WP7 didn't allow background operation to 3rd party applications, making the port difficult and maybe impossible. Also the first comment to Symbiatch's raving is the lack of socket interface, a fundamental low-level network technology necessary for many serious applications. If Microsoft refuses to give enough levers to pull, easier programming is useless. Angry Birds may be a lottery win for Rovio, but it is not a business application and the hype hides the long tail of apps producing nothing.

WP is just one of Microsoft's many income sources. If Nokia demands improvements to WP OS, they can afford to say "Stop whining, boy! Nobody forces you to use WP if you don't accept the terms." Let's hope that Nokia is big enough player to pressure Microsoft into necessary changes.

Economic perspective

Symbian proliferated years ago as a counterstrike to Windows. Mobile phone manufacturers feared they would become Dell-style commodity hardware manufacturers with tight competition and thin profit margins. Simultaneously Microsoft would reap profits from just copying bits after the initial development effort. Since Microsoft holds iron grip over WP and 3rd party applications, these old threats resurface.

Another force working against Nokia are network effects. Silverlight is not popular outside WP. Java midlets are popular in many different mobile platforms. Meego is compatible with Linux kernel, enabling vast amounts of Linux applications to be ported to N900 with reasonable effort. It depends on Nokia's ability to open WP whether the network effects will be positive or negative. At best, Nokia will get Windows developers into more open WP. At worst, obstacles around WP will make it as isolated as Symbian was before Qt and C API.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tomorrow at 12.00 is popcorn time for anyone interested in Nokia's future

Last year I wrote that Symbian has so fundamental issues that the platform is unlikely to produce hit software anymore. Thus far data has supported my predictions. Nokia's share in smartphones (where Symbian is used) decresed 6.7 percentage points despite the publication of flagship N8. Nokia refused to publish the sales figures for N8, which hints that the figures don't support the narrative of dramatic recovery after a new broom swept clean the sins of the past.

Against my predictions, Nokia lost market share also in stupid phones.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Bits are eternal

Last week I mentioned Kari and Esa, two informatics medalists interested in Haskell and category theory. This week Kari started a blog. His topmost science fiction story is an accessible summary of those themes.

The key paragraph is this:

Long ago, the program logic for computers was saved in monolithic ways, which made it difficult to reuse existing functionality for new purposes. Companies rationalized it with the need to protect their source code. On the other hand, computing capacity was also billions of times more scarce, forcing people to meticulously design all kinds of algorithms. Ancient software nowadays qualifies as a kind of art, when you looked at their painstakingly polished details and routines fine-tuned with clocksmith's precision, aiming to save every cycle and every bit of memory. Uki sighed while trying to remember what those primitive days felt like.

The Loom of Culture was a method to extend imagination as far as possible without breaking the sense-muscle interface [Note: The character, Uki, is embedded in a virtual reality where digital input fills his senses. His muscles also move him virtually. The sense-muscle interface connects his "body" to the virtual world.] All logic in the loom consisted of separate, abstract construction rules and restrictions as well as metadata, which made it possible to automatically combine the rules and restictions. The user could create contexts on the fly and combine, inherit and duplicate them. Each context had a set of objects it was working on and building. The user could add or remove assumptions, modifying the end result while the loom automatically reached logical conclusions based on type information, pruning impossible branches with restrictions. If the loom couldn't deduct some necessary feature from assumptions, the model offered the most probable default value in the same way as human vision fills blind spots with the best guess based on available information.

The loom had a basic context of general knowledge. The user could add more contexts from trusted sources. Typically each user started with a standard environment, supplementing it with libraries of his own hobbies as well as personal adjustments. The power of the system was its ability to make the knowledge in the models interact and build a massive amount of possibilities by combining simple, relative rules and pruning them with restrictions. Using it was much easier than you would think from this description, since the standard context could interpret thought, movement and speech to guide the loom. The difference to an artificial intelligence was that the loom didn't have its own intentions and it didn't act automatically, it only extended the imagination of its user.

Uki gestured to open the standard context, looked at the empty space ahead of him and said in his thoughts "Open the music library and let us assume Devil's Sonata by Tartini and the memes of popular music in the 1900s." The composition memes were made of functions. Some of the functions took other compositions as parameters, producing new compositions. For example "repeat" might be a function A ↦ AA and fade(X) produced a verion of X, which faded to silence in the end. These building blocks operated mainly on notes and concepts like "pitch", "volume", "duration" and "instrument". The memes themselves had been filtered with a genetic algorithm. The compositions were located at a timeline, and were "phenotypes". The genetic algorithm searched for the shortest set of functions to generate a composition. This program was the "genotype" of the composition, which generated the "phenotype". The idea of searching for the shortest composition was that it distilled the essential and abstract structural ideas from the compositions, relative to the current meme pool. In addition, whole compositions contained a kind of conceptual network, which described how often each block had been used as input for another and how long various patterns typically last. In addition to building blocks, the library contained information about harmony. The algorithm also increased the score of the composition if it contained several short genotypes, making it a kind of compact crossroads for several ideas. This could not completely model creativity, but it approximated it reasonably, as ideas interacted in the composer's head with other areas of life.

The next paragraphs explain what this has to do with programming.

Programming as meaningless, aimless busywork

Once I presented the character drawing software for N900 for a person in the company I work for. He commented that it was a nice competence development project. This represents a mindset where programming is meaningless, useless activity which aims to get money from the customer. Competence development is the only other imaginable reason to code. Programming to implement features is unheard of alien blasphemy.

For those people, programming as a kind of schoolwork assignment. It is impossible to talk with them about programming in any higher level of abstraction than which function call does what, since only losers talk about homework assignments unless they need hints to complete one. In school, the primary goal of reifying the status hierarchy goes far ahead of learning. Similarly at work, there is no debate about the purpose of writing software. Consequently, people are often as alienated about the nebulous goal of programming as they were in school about learning specific course content.

Making machines obey human will

In Kari's (and my) opinions, programming is all about making machines obey human will. Non-programming methods like creation wizards and cofiguration files are just as fine, but rarely enough. The short story shows programming without writing code and calling functions. The loom of culture is likely still Turing complete.

In the hierarchy of low-level and high-level languages, the loom of culture is the highest imaginable one. The programmer to expresses exactly the core requirements. The machine generates everything else by logical deduction and reasonable default values.

Programming languages are becoming more and more abstract, enabling the programs to shrink. Languages typically improve by placing low-level restrictions. This allows more guaranteed abstract features on higher levels. For example C language does not allow direct stack manipulation. This enables modular function calls.

Haskell is the current peak of this trend. Despite several attempts to learn it, I can't code in it myself. But Haskell has the reputation of producing the smallest implementations for various features. It also has the strictest low-level restriction in any language - namely, that you can't set a variable. This restriction makes it mainly an academic language which little industry adoption.

The loom of culture also has an interface which matches human intuition. Kari once described writing Haskell as the closest thing he has seen to writing what you think. Languages development requires insight into human intuition, and there is some empirical evidence that setting a variable is unintuitive.

Category theory is a branch of mathematics which is relevant to understanding Haskell and a source of inspiration for improving the state of art. I didn't understand the content of Esa's and Kari's debate at the time, and now Kari moved to Helsinki, but it was about developing even better languages. Esa says that type system is at the core of the effort, and indeed type-level restriction are mentioned in the loom of culture. Usually the word "abstract" is a rhetorical device ("This is like, totally abstract and general!") but in language development they must face it head on.

Kari and Esa are both talented, experienced and driven people, and they understand programming on some higher level that is inaccessible for my IQ and programming experience. The loom of culture is just one glimpse of it.