Archive for December, 2006

2007. Bring it on!

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Happy New Year
So it’s 2007 already. I think I’ll spare everyone a recap, but let me just share these two last things I learned in 2006.

One, do not force open a sparkling wine bottle with your bare hands. It was bothersome noticing how I’d smeared blood on people’s glasses! It doesn’t hurt, but yes, I did get those scrapes all across my index finger and palm just by twisting open a sparkling wine bottle’s cork. The champagne we had opened so easily – don’t settle for substitutes!

(Edit: the cork was a problem because there was no pressure in the bottle to help it come off. Faulty bottle, then.)

Champagne Hand
Two, if you want to get somewhere by midnight on New Year’s eve, do call a cab well in advance. The cellular network was busted and the cab service was clogged up. I thought half an hour for the less than 2 km trip would be sufficient, but I was dead wrong. I was on time to kiss my wife only because a cab accidentally picked me up instead of the customers next door. Lucky, seeing that there were already quite a few people waiting for rides on the street when I came out to wait for mine. I don’t actually know why the cab chose me, I didn’t wave him down or anything. I was around five minutes late to my wife from seeing friends, but well in time for fireworks. Too bad the other customers had to wait the extra ten minutes or so!

Over the evening, we played with the Nintendo Wii and re-learned chess. I sucked at Wii. I was actually rather intrigued by chess, which I didn’t expect at all. I haven’t played since junior high.

Coffee

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

My wife got me a Krups coffee grinder and some fair trade espresso coffee beans to play with. Beans are actually scarce in Finland, which seems odd to me. Surely there are enough coffee aficionados around to support some beans in specialty stores? Anyway, this fair trade foodstuffs store sports some beans, but you get no selection: it’s the regular or the espresso brand, that’s it.

Luckily, I have no qualms over the bean quality. Good stuff! I do not consider myself a coffee elitist, but man, the on-demand grinded coffee is such a big thing. Of course it is simply a very fun ritual to get some beans and grind them yourself, but the aroma of the grinded beans… mmm! I’ve drank quite a bit of store-packaged espresso grind and dare say it’s a whole different thing.

I’ve used the self-grinded coffee both in an espresso machine and a drip-feed coffeemaker and it works both ways. Recommended! The basic grinder does not cost much, I don’t see much use for the fancy version with adjustable grind coarseness and whatnot.

(It was a good christmas, by the by. Can’t wait to try out the pasta machine next!)

Bookshelf: Pattern Recognition

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

William Gibson may need no introduction for the average tech-savvy people, but the cyberpunk movement’s creator’s outings since the famed Neuromancer (anyone remember the videogame?) have been lacklustre. So it was with interest that I noted his latest novel in Edge magazine’s typically noteworthy book pickings.

Pattern Recognition covers a lot of ground. It’s set in the world of the highest calibre marketing, in the contemporary world, with no science fiction elements of any kind. Almost every scene could be straight from his cyberpunk novels, highlighting how far we’ve technologically come in twenty years.

Not surprisingly for Gibson, the characters remain a bit sketchy. The protagonist, CayceP (by her internet handle) , is good, but the others don’t convince. I couldn’t get any grip on the mysterious Bigend, for instance, and the documentarist Damien with her vain Russian girlfriend is too much of a caricature.

Nevertheless, the plot remains highly interesting. It ends abrutply and in an unsatisfactory way, but this is clearly the intention. The themes and issues at hand are thoroughly contemporary; it feels very much a novel of the day. There is guerrilla marketing, jet-lag, memes, global branding, Apple, the emerging eastern Europe and vintage computer hardware.

I read it some years after publication, which may explain why some details feel a little pasted-on, if charming, like the way the characters are introduced by what you’d come up with if you googled them. On the other hand, had I read this when No Logo was still fresh, maybe it would’ve felt too much like a copycat work of what’s hot. Maybe the central theme of the 9/11 terrorist attack’s wake will feel too anchored in its own time in the future, but right now it feels suitably in the history and enough in the world of today.

Gibson has always been a brilliant moodsetter and this work is no exception. Every single location evocates a strong emotion and a vivid snapshot. The writing is always fluid and I’d say more refined than in his earlier work.

Some far-fetched elements aside – like the Russian sisters – Pattern Recognition is a very believable, very humane work. Yes, its cast is cut from the same fabric as the cyberpunk heroes were (apart from CayceP) and yes, it throws money, travel across the globe and technology around at wild abandon, but it never loses focus. Very much recommended.

Better living through technology

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Sports, or the lack thereof

I regret to say I’ve slacked off on sports. With first snow I stopped running and while the snow has melted away, I haven’t been to the track since. I’m not sure why. Partly because of being tired and stressed out at work, partly because I just can’t bother myself. With that said, I realized the situation last week and decided to go running again. We’ll see how it goes, I’m hoping to do a run three times a week. That way it would maybe become routine and not something extra I have to bother myself to do after a tiring day at work.

Delivered

I’ve been a little active in other ways. I set up a forum for my class from 1999, as I promised. I chose BBPress, which isn’t really that suitable for us, but I’ll see if it’s worthwhile to tinker with it. I do like it how it’s very stripped down.

I’m not posting the URL because the forum’s not closed to outsiders and I rather wouldn’t have to deal with spammers.

Bakkanaalit

I set up a forum for my friends, too. We’ve spoken about it many times, but now it felt like a good idea, with the hosting already available. I don’t really know if we’ll learn to use it, but it’s there, now. There have been quite a few times I’ve felt like posting about something, but not really considering it worth an email or a call. I chose Simple Machines, which initially feels alright. There are troubles with updating it, though.

If I know you, especially in real life, you’re likely welcome on the forum: bakkanaalit.mcmuumio.net. It does require registration and activation by a member.

I’m not really active in any other forums these days, apart from my roleplaying association’s rather active forum. I do post in the comments of Kotaku and Eurogamer, but they’re not societies like forums are.