Year: 2010

Kiltit tytöt

Posted by – April 29, 2010

Lehdessä kirjoitettiin että poikia ei enää pääse “tarpeeksi” ammattikoulujen tietyille linjoille koska koulussa paremmin pärjäävät tytöt ovat keksineet kiinnostua ko. opiskelupaikoista. Oletus ilmeisesti on, että tytöistä ei näiden alojen tekijöitä kuitenkaan tule (vaan kaiketi päätyvät kotiäideiksi tai tekemään jotain muuta). Aika sikaa! Facebook-ryhmien perusteella tyrmistys ja vahingonilo oli melkoinen: patriarkaatin puntit tutisevat kun paljastuu että miesten ainaisella etuoikeutettuudella ei enää pötkitä pitkälle vaan tytöt menevät ohi. Ja tämä on muka ongelma!

Olen ilman muuta asiassa kilttien tyttöjen puolella. Parhaat valittakoon maalarilinjoille ja muualle. Sanon tämän kilttinä, valtaväestöön kuuluvana, suomenkielisenä poikana. 18-vuotiaana kiltit pojat komennetaan vankeusrangaistuksen uhalla pakkotyöhön, muut jatkavat normaalisti. Tämän jälkeen saa yrittää yliopistoon, jossa ruotsinkielisillä on omat kiintiönsä. Yliopiston jälkeen voi hakea vaikka kaupungille töihin (toivottavasti se ruotsi tuli kuitenkin opeteltua jossain välissä!) siinä toivossa ettei ole tehtävään yhtä pätevä johonkin etniseen vähemmistöön kuuluvan henkilön kanssa, sillä tällaisessa tapauksessa sovelletaan positiivista syrjintää. Muistakaa että negatiiviseen syrjintään ei tule koskaan syyllistyä! Meillä Suomessa on paljon ongelmia syrjinnän kanssa, mutta onneksi sitä kannattaa vain merkityksetön vähemmistö.

Lumberjack school

Posted by – April 21, 2010

Some guys in the cafeteria decided to mess with my head:

The digital zoom on camera phones is great for ruining image quality.

Recoil in disgust

Posted by – April 14, 2010

One downside of living near nature again (see previous episode of this blog in which we moved back to my creaking childhood château) is the nature. Ants… fucking EVERYWHERE. They discovered the pre-compost bucket we keep in the kitchen and went crazy about pear peelings. Moving the bucket around doesn’t fool them for very long. I guess I’d have to kill all the bucket-outbound ants to accomplish anything.

But I can deal with ants. They’re not really disgusting.

One thing I hear people disgustedly complain a lot about is stupid opinions. Sometimes they’ll even lament in their Facebook statuses that they’ve been reading the reader comments in web-newspaper (eh?) stories: the comments are like soooo ignorant and they totally shouldn’t have done it because now their head hurts and they feel bad.

I reckon this is because people like to cheat themselves about the world. They like to think that their social reference class is normal and everyone who’s different is either evil or ignorant. I get that, everybody hates diversity. But this convenient psychological defence can really blind you from what’s coming. If you find other people’s opinions so offensive that you have to protect yourself from them, you’re not going to have a very clear view of the world.

This phenomenon has been rather poignantly replayed in about every European country in recent decades with regards to immigration and multiculturalism. For a long time politicians and newspaper columnist took it as given that on this topic, 99% of everyone agrees and 1% are loser racists who nobody cares about. As time passed and the world kept changing, the loser racists became more and more relevant and suddenly it’s more like 40% – 60%, the politicians are scrambling to change their opinions and the columnists just can’t believe what happened because everyone they know is still right-thinking.

By the way, something similar is happening with anthropogenic global warming, although of course that’s not just a matter of opinion.

Anecdote: when I was a kid, I had to turn away from the tv when there was kissing because I found it to be extremely disgusting and unsanitary. I had to be told when it was over so I could look back. My mother was the same way about violence. Now both seem about as silly to me, although I guess the kissing aversion is really worse. Opinion aversion is probably even worse than that.

Spelling struggles

Posted by – March 19, 2010

I just went through my old posts changing instances of “particularily” to “particularly”. I don’t think I’ve ever spelled that word correctly. A while ago I had to do the same with “mathemathics”, I still catch myself making that mistake all the time. I also used to write “pronounciation” and… God, the shame, I can’t go on anymore (now my stupid spell checker tells me there’s no such word, but I just don’t care). It’s like someone suddenly telling you that “apple” should be spelled “appel”. The brain doesn’t accept it right away. So please alert me to any relapses.

Surprising trickiness of partitions

Posted by – March 19, 2010

I had to bang my head against the keyboard for a long time to get through problem #76 at Project Euler. It’s a deceptively “easy” problem: In how many ways can you write 100 as the sum of at least two positive integers, disregarding different ways to order the summands? (Writing integers as a sum of positive integers is known as partitioning.)

For example, 7 =
6 + 1 =
5 + 2 =
4 + 3 =
5 + 1 + 1 =
4 + 2 + 1 =
3 + 3 + 1 =
4 + 2 + 2 =
4 + 1 + 1 + 1 =
3 + 2 + 1 + 1 =
2 + 2 + 2 + 1 =
3 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 =
2 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 1 =
2 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 =
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1
so there are 14 ways, not counting writing it as 7.

100 is such a small number that I figured even a stupid solution would work, but my first naive method of overgenerating sums and throwing them all into a set was too slow (it was ok up to partitioning about 15, but 20 took over a minute already). I was sure early on that some sort of recursive solution would work, but I must have had a stupid day because it took me ages to hit on a suitable idea (recurse by partioning the greatest summand into two partitions every way possible until you get to a sum of ones). The forum for discussing the solution was quite interesting; many people had thought of cleverer dynamic algorithms, finding the solution in a couple of hundredths of a second. But it turns out that there’s a lot of real number theory behind this as well. There’s a good article on MathWorld. I think the “simplest” formula people used to get solutions in something like a millisecond was this recurrence relation:

which apparently comes from a generating function using a q-series, discovered by Euler. I don’t really know what that means.

Amnesty and Greenpeace suck

Posted by – March 14, 2010

Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Finnish Red Cross and UNICEF are probably the most popular charities among people I know. I happen to think the first two choices are no good, at least in their Finnish incarnations.

AI and GP suffer from the same fundamental problem: while their broadly stated objectives are commendable, they are run by people who divert the organisations’ money and (more importantly) mind share towards pet issues that are peripheral or even irrelevant to the really important goals.

Amnesty international

AI was originally formed around the idea of international solidarity towards people who are persecuted for their opinions or beliefs. The idea of a common front in support of all oppressed political oppositions, religions, investigative journalists and conscientious objectors regardless of ideology was and is a powerful idea and, in my opinion, extremely worthy of support. Those groups are as badly in need of help and attention today as they have ever been.

Two things are especially important to effectively fight persecution by mobilising public opinion:

  1. Having no ideological bias, so that when you report an abuse, people will believe that your statement is not politically motivated
  2. Focusing single-mindedly on this core objective, so that people don’t dismiss you as “just another” activist organisation

I think Amnesty has essentially abandoned both of those critical assets. Between 1986 and 2000 it issued more press releases regarding the United States than any other region, with Israel in second place. Finnish Amnesty’s recent campaigns have dealt with eg. domestic violence and Finnish sex crime legislation (it’s too easy on the rapists, they say). It’s one thing to expand Amnesty’s scope from freedom of opinion, speech, association and religion to “human rights” in general, but quite another to get involved in the details of criminal law in one of the safest and most rights-respecting countries in the world. Amnesty has become yet another organisation for people who are vaguely leftist, want to feel good about themselves and don’t like America.


Greenpeace doesn’t care about nature so much as “naturalness”. Science, engineering, artificiality and human progress are its enemies. While the last two are debatable (I happen to be for them), science and engineering are precisely the ways humans can be of benefit to nature.

Correspondingly among its most famous campaigns have been opposition to

  • DDT (a minor environmental problem, extremely important in fighting malaria [edit: turns out that Greenpeace doesn’t mind DDT when used to fight malaria])
  • nuclear power (a safe, practical and abundant energy source)
  • genetic engineering (I can only attribute this to latent Gaianism)

I hasten to say that they have had many excellent campaigns as well, and have done more to raise awareness about environmental problems than any other organisation. Still, I wish they were overtaken by a more scientifically minded and realistic organisation – in any case, they’re far too flaky and unpredictable to get my money at the moment.

Art hour

Posted by – March 13, 2010

I did something extremely uncharacteristic and bought a fancy new smartphone. It’s very neat! One of the things it has is a resistive touchscreen, so you can control applications by touching the screen. One application is for drawing sketches:

My current wife

My current wife

It must have awoken my artistic side, because some time later I saw a watercolour paint set in a shop, bought it and had another go at the same subject:

Then I realised that painting from life is really second-rate, and I can just paint directly onto it:

I think shes watching tv

I think she's watching tv

It’s so convenient having a wife. A++, would marry again!

Communication density mismatch

Posted by – March 6, 2010

Richard Feynman on attending an ethics conference:

“I had this uneasy feeling of “I’m not adequate,” until finally I said to myself, “I’m gonna stop, and read one sentence slowly, so I can figure out what the hell
it means.”

So I stopped — at random — and read the next sentence very carefully. I can’t remember it precisely, but it was very close to this: “The individual member of the social community often receives his information via visual, symbolic channels.” I went back and forth over it, and translated. You know what it means? “People read.”

Then I went over the next sentence, and I realized that I could
translate that one also. Then it became a kind of empty business: “Sometimes
people read; sometimes people listen to the radio,” and so on, but written
in such a fancy way that I couldn’t understand it at first, and when I
finally deciphered it, there was nothing to it.”

Merely perfect

Posted by – February 20, 2010

I saw a brief interview with a middle-aged academic woman who is unemployed and angry about it because she “did everything right”. On reflection, an odd thing to say. If you do everything perfectly by the book, the best you can hope for is the best the system can do, which is nothing special. By the time you’re ready for employment you’ll represent what people born 50 years ago thought would be a good thing to produce. Not only will you be unremarkable, you’ll be obsolete.

Also, it strikes me that people who choose exactly what is offered must be severely lacking in imagination and passion for their subject, not to mention disturbingly in awe of authority. The world hasn’t reached a state of perfect equilibrium, the right thing keeps changing. If you decide to be perfect, you abandon your duty to improve things.

By the way, I suspect this tendency towards faux perfectionism instead of excellence is a particular psychological burden of female academics.

Don’t walk in the masters’ footprints. Seek the things the masters sought.

Daylight diagram

Posted by – February 4, 2010

I tried to find a diagram with the distribution of daylight over the course of a year in Helsinki but couldn’t, so I made my own. Shockingly, my little Python script worked the first time I ran it:


Tragediary VII

Posted by – January 30, 2010


Funeral day.

Tragediary VI

Posted by – January 30, 2010


For some reason I check my phone in the middle of lifting weights at the gym and see I’ve missed two calls. Calling back I realise right away something bad has happened, but I’m still very confused to hear it’s happened to my mother.

Tragediary V

Posted by – January 30, 2010


Going to the hospital together so much has me feel even more like we’re a family, so I suggest that we get married. She accepts.

Tragediary IV

Posted by – January 10, 2010


My phone rings, silently, and I go on sleeping. A bit later someone else’s phone rings, and soon she will be waking me up telling me my mother has died.

Tragediary III

Posted by – January 10, 2010


I decide to go to work anyway. To continue life as normal? To get out of the house? Who knows.

Tragediary II

Posted by – January 9, 2010


The dining table is covered in flowers and mourning paraphernalia, there’s no room to eat or read the paper on it.