Year: 2009


Posted by – December 15, 2009

I noticed something unusual in my server logs today: a bunch of people had arrived at my blog from I’d heard that domain name before: it’s a notorious “white pride” / neo-nazi forum. What on earth have I said to raise their ire? I followed it back to the source, and I shit you not:

Race mixing movie director Neil Hardwick oddly happens to have curly hair and odd nose. He claims that he is noble Englishman from England, but he looks like Krakow ghetto rat. My instincts tell me that when you have Woody Allen type film director promoting race mixing and “young love”, then chances that he is Jew are like 100%.

It’s about my dad’s movie which has a black leading man and a white leading lady. But this doesn’t explain the blog traffic…

His son has a blog. A bit non-PC and an anti-gay remark in the top right. Perhaps he should be reported. I can’t find out if the family are Jews from the web – but I bet they are with this getting Finnish girls to go with Blacks propaganda.

Shit, the Nazis like me! The anti-gay thing is probably a reference to the random quote element, one of the quotes it can serve up being

Anyone who can’t visualise themselves walking in a beautiful field of wild flowers in a state of mental and spiritual well-being is a faggot

I can’t believe it, I’m too subtle for someone! Too bad they have the verbal reasoning skills of a boiled potato. At least I’ve found my audience.

For the full experience, the thread is here. Oh, and don’t go read it if you’re upset by that sort of thing or are at work etc. Or at least don’t complain to me about it.

Syllable counts

Posted by – November 25, 2009

I learnt on Wikipedia that the intro to Whipping Post is in 11/4 time. 11/4, what the hell? Eventually I figured out how that goes, and also noticed that Finnish is no good for counts that go above 10. Till then most numbers have natural one-syllable abbreviations, but 11 doesn’t. Its unabbreviated form has 4 syllables, one more than in English. Hmm. Long story short, I made a graph of the syllable counts of the counting numbers up to 100 in 9 languages (thanks to Zet@#aspekti for many of them):

(click to see large version)

Some observations:

  • French is most compact, except in the 80-100 range where English (which is quite consistent overall) is best
  • Finnish really is verbose
  • Northern Sámi is most boring
  • Estonian is quite interesting
  • Everybody counts in base 10
  • 3-4 syllables is a sweet spot
  • Graphs with too many lines in them are difficult to read

Btw, a good solution to the Finnish problem: go hexadecimal. Yks kaks kol nel viis kuu see kaa yy aa bee cee dee ee äf.

edit: oh, and code to languages:

Suomi = Finnish
Français = French
Svenska = Swedish
Eesti = Estonian
Davvisámengiella = Northern Sámi, spoken in Lapland
Magyar = Hungarian
Afsoomaali = Somali
Komi = Komi, a Uralic language

Trading hierarchy

Posted by – November 25, 2009

Labour is the least legally restricted property, money second, everything else third.

Money is less restricted than houses: HS reports that some guy was convicted for declining to sell his house to a Roma person, ie. for declining to trade a house for money. However he would (I think) be allowed to refuse to buy a house from one, ie. to decline to trade money for a house.

Labour is less restricted than money: it is illegal to refuse to hire someone because he’s a communist (decline to trade money for labour) but it’s legal to refuse to work for one (decline to trade labour for money).


Posted by – November 17, 2009

Let W be my confidence that global warming of several degrees celsius is really occurring or about to occur

Let D be my best estimate of consequences, given the warming

Let H be my confidence that given the warming, it is mostly due to human activity

Let P(C) be my confidence that this human activity can be nullified or sufficiently mitigated at a global cost of C (given everything previous)


W*H*P(C) < 0.5 for values of C that are realistic As C increases, C becomes greater than D before W*H*P(C) becomes greater than 0.9 (and D could even be negative!)

Orson spiral

Posted by – November 13, 2009

There appears to have been a prolonged hiatus on this blog. It is mostly due to personal tragedy: a serious (and ongoing) illness in the family first made blogging feel somehow improper, then got me depressed and minimal-minded. I only just realised that’s what it is – I haven’t been feeling particularly sad, it’s more that everything is so difficult to get done and unpleasurable. It’s almost a relief, I can just mope out now. Projecting from current trends, in five years I’ll be an extremely fat, lonely alcoholic with no job or girlfriend and mounting imported beer -related debts.

Maybe that would open up a career in standup comedy. Somewhere deep inside me is a Space Moose -type dysfunctional, offensive psychopath that needs to get out. (There was an interview with a songstress in the paper today; she had their typical way with words and termed a question she refused to answer “unpolitically correct”. That’s me all over.)

One way I know there’s a Space Moose inside me is that people keep disagreeing with me. It used to be that I’d say something insightful and people would mostly agree with me and start exploring the glorious vistas of understanding I had just revealed. Now they say things like “I don’t think you’ve understood this at all”, “That doesn’t make any sense” and “What are you, eleven?” Then I say “I hate you! I hate you!”, run back home and start eating something.

The outer limit is where you learn

Posted by – September 27, 2009

It used to be that beyond major newspapers and television, the main exchange of opinions happened with people you knew personally, who in turn mostly used the same newspapers and tv to form their opinions. People who travelled a lot and met a lot of people were in the best position to encounter whatever was excluded in the local discourse. Like everything you don’t know the alternative to, this seemed perfectly normal. But with the advent of the Internet, all that has changed: now you can actually learn about different people for real and in their own words, not just the filtered caricatures you get via mainstream media.

Strengthening this trend, I find the blog/opinion -type stuff I read on the web has become more and more “far out” lately. Now that I can read what all kinds of people have to say, it’s less interesting to hear things I more or less already know / agree with already.

Btw, I would like to take this opportunity to say that when I link to a site, in a post or in the sidebar, that should not be taken to indicate my endorsement or support of whatever the link points to. I link to things that interest me for whatever reason, and often they’re “far out” to me as well.

One of my guilty pleasures (although far from the guiltiest) is Feministing, where people’s thought processes are so different from my own that I am starting to wonder whether the postmodernists might actually be right and people really do live in their own reality. In fact, my inspiration for mentioning the whole thing was this post about Wikipedia’s gender gap:

This week’s Time magazine shed more light on the fact that women make up only 13 percent of Wikipedia contributors. Sue Gardener, Wikimedia Foundation’s E.D. noted:

The average Wikipedian is a young man in a wealthy country who is probably a graduate student — somebody who’s smart, literate, engaged in the world of ideas, thinking, learning and writing all the time.

It should go without saying that if women make up 51 percent of the population, 13 percent representation at Wikipedia is a DISGRACE!

I probably sound stupid for saying this, but at this point I was thinking “gosh, are they really blaming women collectively for failing to contribute to Wikipedia?” No, the point of course is that this disparity is prima facie evidence of sexism. No other possibility is entertained. The author specifically mentions that Wikipedia, being a large and complicated organisation, takes a lot of “wikilegalese” to grok. She continues:

When I think of the demands of graduate school, plus the unique challenges that I face as a woman of color, becoming fluent in Wiki-speak so that I can post something up at Wikipedia is low on the priority list.
Shame on Wikipedia for not even attempting to address these issues.

As someone who doesn’t have the time/energy to contribute to Wikipedia, this person could either

a) feel grateful that so many others have been able to create such a wonderful thing, or
b) feel angry and offended that others haven’t somehow engineered her participation in it

The people who go for b) every time make me sad. They’re doomed to feel angry and cheated about everything, and we don’t even get anything productive in exchange for their mental anguish.


Posted by – September 26, 2009

I get the impression this is fairly accurate about the US these days (the part about low expectations applies to Helsinki as well, but people here just want to pass, not to be praised). One of the many reasons empires tend to crumble? Branford Marsalis on student attitudes:

The empirical way of word-usage

Posted by – September 26, 2009

(seen on reddit)

Extinct joke type

Posted by – September 23, 2009

I haven’t the comedic vocabulary for the various joke types the Goons used to do, but most of them seem to have gone extinct. Audio-only comedy these days means narrative, not conceptual sight/sound -gags. Here’s a very identifiable joke type, done twice as the same basic gag:

  • Grytpype-Thynne dictates a letter (basic joke)
  • The 4th armoured thunderboxes negotiate with the Japanese (a more elaborate version of same)

Life as an IQ test

Posted by – September 20, 2009

I’ve heard dismissals of the concept of measurable intelligence on the basis that “IQ tests only measure the ability to take IQ tests” or “intelligence is such a multi-faceted concept and everyone is intelligent in their own way, IQ is just one part of it”. I suspect these arguments (which are, btw, misunderstandings of what is meant by general intelligence in this context) conceal another objection which I happen to agree with.

The objection concerns organizations like Mensa having people take tests and telling them “this number is your intelligence”. That is stupid! If I took an IQ test and it told me something wildly different from what I expected, I’d only change my beliefs a little. In other words I wouldn’t believe the test.

(Sidenote: many of the same people who discount the concept of intelligence would consider this to be arrogant. One moment they’re saying how stupid it is to believe in intelligence, the next they’re laughing about how low George Bush’s IQ is. Or saying that race doesn’t exist and laughing about James Watson, who believes that black people have lower intelligence than the global average, being 1/6 black.)

What does an IQ test tell you? It’s an inaccurate measurement of a non-constant quantity that correlates with intelligence. Does that mean it’s meaningless? No, but it’s still a good way to quickly get some information about someone you don’t know much about. This is like armies choosing all the men and rejecting all the women: not perfect, but better than randomly choosing half of everyone.

But it’s not a very good way to find out your own intelligence, because you already have a ton of information about that. Almost everything that happens in your life has something to do with intelligence, so it’s hard to avoid forming some kind of an idea of your cognitive abilities. Similarily for people you spend a lot of time with. As the danimal said,

A smart person doesn’t need to hear how smart he is, any more than a pretty girl needs to hear how pretty she is. Anybody with an obviously outstanding attribute has been hearing about it their whole life.

People don’t want someone telling them how intelligent they are. It would feel like being told who to be (another false fear). The good news is that nobody can “tell them how intelligent they are”. The bad news is that everybody already knows.

Communion breakdown

Posted by – September 20, 2009

Holy shit, someone just explained to me what radical Islam is all about:

The history of religions sometimes resembles the history of viruses. Judaism and Islam were both highly virulent when they first broke out, driving the first generations of their people to conquer (Islam) or just slaughter (Judaism) everyone around them for the sin of not being them. They both grew more sedate over time. […]

I have a theory that “radical Islam” is not native Islam, but Westernized Islam. Over half of 75 Muslim terrorists studied by Bergen & Pandey 2005 in the New York Times had gone to a Western college. (Only 9% had attended madrassas.) A very small percentage of all Muslims have received a Western college education. When someone lives all their life in a Muslim country, they’re not likely to be hit with the urge to travel abroad and blow something up. But when someone from an Islamic nation goes to Europe for college, and comes back with Enlightenment ideas about reason and seeking logical closure over beliefs, and applies them to the Koran, then you have troubles. They have lost their cultural immunity.

(emphasis mine)

It seems so obvious now, as always.

The interesting thing is that most people’s response to this isn’t “beliefs which lead to immorality/absurdity when consistency and logic are applied to them are immoral/absurd” but “you shouldn’t apply too much consistency and logic to your beliefs”. Go figure!

This also happens with other things than religion. The other night I was talking about politics with someone and was reminded of how different our respective attitudes are (in caricature):

  1. one should formulate a consistent set of principles to decide everything with
  2. one should try not to break anything and to gradually improve things that seem particularly broken

I suspect 2 contains the idea that you shouldn’t be “too” principled because society is too complicated to be consistently improved by your preferences. To me that sounds like giving up. (Maybe giving up is the correct move here, but I’m not convinced yet.)

OP continued:

The reason I bring this up is that intelligent people sometimes do things more stupid than stupid people are capable of. There are a variety of reasons for this; but one has to do with the fact that all cultures have dangerous memes circulating in them, and cultural antibodies to those memes. The trouble is that these antibodies are not logical. On the contrary; these antibodies are often highly illogical. They are the blind spots that let us live with a dangerous meme without being impelled to action by it. The dangerous effects of these memes are most obvious with religion; but I think there is an element of this in many social norms. We have a powerful cultural norm in America that says that all people are equal (whatever that means); originally, this powerful and ambiguous belief was counterbalanced by a set of blind spots so large that this belief did not even impel us to free slaves or let women or non-property-owners vote. We have another cultural norm that says that hard work reliably and exclusively leads to success; and another set of blind spots that prevent this belief from turning us all into Objectivists.

A little reason can be a dangerous thing. The landscape of rationality is not smooth; there is no guarantee that removing one false belief will improve your reasoning instead of degrading it.

Sad but true.

Sketches of self

Posted by – September 7, 2009

There’s a subreddit (subsection of called DoesAnybodyElse where people ask each other whether someone else does a particular thing the same way. It turns out that people share a lot of quirks, which means that people aren’t as quirky as they think. For example, the following DAEs pretty much sum me up:

  • DAE listen to a song or watch a movie with a friend that you have highly recommended, only to keep looking over at them and hoping beyond hope they like it as much as you do?
  • DAE isolate one section of food when eating, so they can have one final, perfect bite?
  • DAE randomly remember embarrassing things and then physically, involuntarily wince?

Hell, world!

Posted by – September 3, 2009

I am supposed to learn enough libtool and autotools to package our current library and utilities in a “do it right” way. Some of my favourite things about this task so far:

  • From the libtool manual:

    But of course, that would be too simple, so many systems require that you run the ranlib command on the resulting library (to give it better karma, or something)

  • There’s a libtool demo of a trivial Hello World program & library packaged with autotools. and are about 250 lines put together.
  • The program part of the demo is called “hello”, but the library is called “hell”

Hobo antics

Posted by – August 31, 2009

Someone told the following story on reddit:

After an extended morning sex session with my girlfriend it was decided that I was the one who would be going to the store for food. As I’m walking down the street this black homeless guy smiles and asks if he can have a drag off my cigarette, I just give him the whole thing. He takes a puff, smiles real big and yells really loud: “This man right here has just been eatin some fine pussy!”

This brought to mind a time I was on the metro on a weekend morning and a drunk started talking to me, opening the conversation with “Näytät siltä että oot saanu PILLUA!” I wonder is this some kind of standard homeless guy opener to put people in a disconcerted but jolly mood?

The other degrees of drunkedness freedom

Posted by – August 31, 2009

Sometimes when I’ve had enough to drink and lie on my back I get the sensation of drifting down (or everything else drifting up) and gently rotating around an axis that goes through my belly. It’s like being in a deep pit that’s swirling around – according to my dad it’s known as the “swirling pits”. I wonder is this a particular experience alcohol brings on; I’ve never felt a rotation any other way when drunk. It would be nice to rotate around the axis that goes through the hip, or the one that goes through the top of the head.

From browsing catalogues of psychedelics I know that it’s possible to have surprisingly precise sensations with the right chemicals (“this one makes you lose the ability tell different-pitched sounds apart”), so if alcohol only provides this one rotation, I’m sure someone’s found a way to get the other degrees of freedom too.

edit: now that I think about it, I’m not sure is the swirling pits sensation so much rotation about the belly as rotation about the head. I’ll find out next time I have the opportunity. For science!

Only an expert

Posted by – August 31, 2009

Went to see Laurie Anderson & Lou Reed tonight. Everything was very tight and thought out, pretty much the opposite of what I’d worried might happen. Laurie Anderson in particular is such a master of effects and synthetic sounds, using them to put together an entire real-time soundscape at one moment and dropping back to normal-land the next. Lou Reed was constantly clacking away at guitar pedals; they sounded like a faint gun-cocking sound effect to his Clint Eastwood New York aging badass demeanour. All in all it was great, especially for Laurie Anderson’s stories (especially especially the monologue she delivered in the character and voice of a huge black man) . And as for Lou Reed – maybe he’s an old fart, but he sure doesn’t stand still. Artistically he’s somewhere between Neil Young and William Burroughs: not afraid even of being boring. It was kind of sweet to see how impressed he was by Laurie’s stuff.

A couple nights previous was Iiro Rantala (“this one was going to be on a film soundtrack… the first Swedish cowboy movie, actually… they were going to call it Brokeback Malmö…”) and Paquito D’Rivera. Iiro was brilliant but brief, Paquito was groovy but don’t have much else to say about it.