Archive for October, 2009

Back-and-forth

October 31, 2009

Earlier this week, after one more busy day of looking all academic and such, left the university and went to the city center to buy socks. The shop lady being pretty and persuasive, I bought ten pairs.

Then on the trusty bicycle, and squeak-squeak towards the place where I live, with a stop at the shop closest to that to (leaving the socks in a locker) buy something to cook. (Er, microwave. My cooking is on the “No diarrhea? No problem!” level usually; on the Akane Tendo level, if that rings a bell.)

Then to the dread apartment. A piece of paper told the postman had visited, and had been unable to jam a package through the mail slot; nice he hadn’t forced the matter; not so nice that this meant more cycling around.

So squeak-click-click-whirr the bike went back and to the post office; and the package was received. (And left in a locker for a while as I checked the magazine rack, and found a new volume of Bleach. One could ask why I buy it in Finnish when I’m 25 or some volumes ahead in the English translation; but something so sweet is worth paying for twice, if for nothing else then for seeing how different languages and translators juggle the Japanese original. Or maybe it’s just abysmal impulse control; could be that, too.)

Then back to the apartment, full of anticipation for the package’s contents — namely, a copy of “Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics“, of whose contents the work of Randall Munroe of xkcd would not be the most curious one. (Brief review based on the first fifty or so pages: half is wonderful, beautiful, and/or clever stuff; half is hateful, vacuous pap where the mathematics is as deep and as integral as the smile of a used car salesman.)

And, as I got back home and peeled off the heavy-duty outside-wear extreme trousers, there was the jingling noise of something falling out of a back pocket.

Oh, great. The key of the socks’ storage locker.

Squeak-curse-squeak-grumble; then back with the socks.

Best of all, during this odyssey I’d managed to walk around with the locker key, momentary even having a second key in the other back pocket… and I hadn’t noticed a thing.

I must become a mathematician; this practical real-life stuff is utterly beyond me.

Or I’ll just blame listening to a podcast of a Call of Cthulhu RPG game; went through a good two-hour chunk of that going through the moves above. (No end in sight; each episode is some 2 hours, and there are over thirty of them in this game alone; that translates to a buttload of time, metric.)

Soon again: NaNoWriMo

October 30, 2009

So: the day after tomorrow it will be NaNoWriMo time again; the glorious November of the National Novel Writing Month; and I’ll be trying my damnedest to wring out 1700 words or more daily to get to the total of 50 000 by the end of the month.

If you say to yourself “Why, that sounds like an abhorrently masochistic exercise!” — why yes, exactly. But as I am a tad masochistic (helps with studying mathematics, it does), and derive uncomfortably uncritical pleasure from reading my own words, it’s something I’ve done three times already.

(S/Gl)adly the results are in Finnish; I suppose they wouldn’t much enlighten the average net-users even if I posted them here.

Instead, I’ll post snippets of my blog posts that referenced the last two bouts, 2008 and 2007 — the first was before this blog — so you can get a keener appreciation of why you don’t want to read them there dogs.

* * *

If I had to give a few keywords for the novel, something like this would do: conspiracy nuts, jumping at shadows, smallpox, woo, Scottish fold cats, and unspeakable hamster things.

This mood of suspense was heightened, I think, by the fact that most of the time I had no idea what was going to happen.

* * *

One of the pieces was actually a giant repeated and repeated joke: my main character had to chase a maniac through a sales fair of various CAM woo-woo people, and I churned out some 800 words of woo advertising that, sadly, was only half made up. And if you think “Aww, repeated CAM jokes aren’t so bad” — well, this was. The ad was for a shady business selling all kinds of, erm, flavored enemas.

Including coffee-based ones and ones with intoxicating alcohol in them, which are actually real. To continue this idea of stimulants, I made up (I hope) the contraption whose effects, uh, simulate smoking for that particular orifice.

Old vices for new (back)ends!

* * *

I guess I’ll know the title when I get the last strands of the story together. There’s still a bit of uncertainty there, but once I know the beginning and the end, the name should be easy to choose.

If it ain’t, I’ll call this one “Novel 3″ and let the reader puzzle over it.

Or then “When Blind Mole Rats Attack!” — that would be a nice bit of misdirection by creating false expectations.

Wait; I’ll squirrel “When Blind Mole Rats Attack! — A Tale of Blind Love and Gnawy Teeth” away for a potential subject for next year…

* * *

NaNoWriMo at 21 000 / 50 000 words after 11 / 30 days, slightly ahead of schedule. A conspiracy nut has proposed reality TV as the psychologists’ successor to the Milgram experiment (“They couldn’t do such an experiment now… or could they?”), and a man has declined to answer the question “Where’s that hamster? Where did you put it?”, and the answer, even if should it be forthcoming in the future, doesn’t seem to be anything except icky.

* * *

Currently a Satanist is trying to find a man she’s never seen before all Hell breaks loose.

Er, figuratively. And though I’m writing the thing I don’t know whether any breakage will happen — I’ve killed off most of my characters already (always a chancy thing after writing just a fifth of your novel, unless you do zombies) so maybe I should wipe out Helsinki as well.

“Virtual carnage is fun!” he cried with a demented leer.

* * *

Also, NaNoWriMo novel at 4500 words out of 50 000 after two writing days. Now with fratricidal cannibalism!

* * *

When writing comes and flows, it is the greatest drug and the most amazing ecstasy. When it doesn’t, your mind feels like your hind parts do after spending a night redecorating the toilet with traces of explosive diarrhea and spent rolls of t-paper.

* * *

By the way, the NaNoWriMo novel ‘2050 : A University’s End’ is at 37 950 words of 50 000, and has been possessed by a sinister storybook character, a reverse ex-student Santa, and a lot of gun-waving and PR lying. I have only a good guess of where the story’s going, and no idea on how it’s going to end.

* * *

Further technical details: TeXnicCenter to edit the raw text (err, tex?), and MiKTeX 2.5 distribution (guess I should update — 2.7 is apparently out) and associated applications to crunch it into nicely typeset PDF — or DVI, or PS, or whatever.

* * *

And what will the novelish abomination of 2009 be about? Well, I haven’t quite decided yet; which is half the reason I’m thinking aloud about the matter like this. The top contenders (ideas are easy, bad ideas easier still, as the saying says) are:

a) a fake nonfiction book about the sad case of the Mars mission of 2035; first an explosion killed all but two of the returning crew, and then one of them went insane; not nice space-trippy insane but brooding oh-god-what-next cannibal insane; and soon the NASA-equivalent had its hands full censoring his official Twitter-equivalent messages, and worrying how the ship would come crashing down and where, and how and when the truth would leak out;

b) something set in an alternate reality where ghosts are real beyond all doubt, though still an elusive, unexplained thing and a mystery to science, and an acute embarrassment to religion; and where a group of academicians with unclean desires learns that one doth not copulate with the spirit world, and a graduate student learns that universities have secrets that one might not want to know; and by the way of exchange students and staff, the Japanese school ghost story of Toire no Hanako-san or Hanako of the Toilet features, as does my favorite of the peculiarly enchanting Japanese ghosties, Kuchisake-onna of fleet feet and wide grin;

c) something set in the Finland of 500 years ago, with bandits, skulking academicians, familiars, and weird Cthulhoid powers at work;

d) something set in the present day, where a girl whose hobby is to cause chaos and befuddlement (that is, to do terrible psychological pranks, and no harm) ends up applying those skills against Generic Plot Device (Threat) C;

e) something pretty much like fantasy; though my mind being what it is, it would be the story of a boy that’s the last survival of an ancient and noble breed — the ancient and noble breed of the rabble-rousing Lords of Evil, that is; barely concealed and badly constructed snark would follow, and also struggle against a shallow, misguided and homicidal Standard Troupe of Heroes.

f) something where a student says “I’ve had enough! I’m going to get to the bottom of this shared-flat disturbance” — and soon discovers those are deeper deeps than he thought; they contain loose apes, walled-up chambers, physicists up to no good, and a linguist (or a biologist?) who has gone beyond all supervision and all ethical guidelines in investigating the “bekos” matter.

Why yes, I like my stories weird.

So many ideas; so much laziness.

Revenge instead of rehabilitation

October 29, 2009

The time, place and persons surrounding this dialogue out of memory are purposefully left vague. Let’s say ten years ago, in a city and place far away from me; and let me say I have seen things that would have spurred a less lazy man into reifying the acts below.

Person 1: Gawd, the other people in this shared flat are pigs.

Person 2: Me too?

1: No, not you. But the others — sheesh, wouldn’t surprise me to walk to the common room some day, and find one of our dear companions snoring on the floor, naked, surrounded by drops and nuggets of his ejaculate and excrement.

2: Would surprise me; I’d expect that, with no trace of the person… and no intent to clean up. Just the nuggets and drops, slowly gathering dust.

1: Sometimes I get this urge… this supremely satisfying idea: that if the sink is full of dirty, stinking dishes that have lain there for days, I’d slam open the window, and let them all fly, arc away, three floors down, away, plate after plate and fungoid frying pan after phlegmy fork. Fight fire with fire… and inconsiderate loutish behavior with the same. Let them have a penalty for their lack of consideration.

2: I know the feeling.

1: And then, when one of our happy fellows slouched out of his room into one more day of shirking all washing and housekeeping… he would step into a puddle of something yellowish, still dripping down his doorframe. Because even a patient man has to leave his mark, the sign that this is his territory too, from time to time.

2: Satisfying, yes; likely to solve the problem, eh, no. Be a Finn. Just walk out of your room full of towering black rage, a murder in your eyes, an axe in your hand, and slam it into the table, Sword in the Stone-deep, and say it is the warning. Not a warning; the warning. Then turn, and return to your room without another word. Things will improve.

1: Ah yes, the good old “partystopper” idea.

2: Works better than the passive-aggressive yuck cup trick, anyway.

1: What’s that?

2: A sign that says “MY CUTLERY, MY CUPS MY PANS. Do not use. These are mine. Hands off. I can use eating utensils that have been peed on, okay?” And the next day there’s a scrawled postscript: “Well, we’ll see.”

Horrible

October 28, 2009

Dear empty heavens, I’m a horrible person.

Was going through Audible’s selection of audiobooks, and came across a title by Stephen Hawking.

Thought: “Read by author?”

* * *

And, later, still going through what Audible has to offer, found they have George Carlin’s CDs for something like four pounds each (downside: no feckin’ track division; none); I hope this explains my brevity, as there are a few of the older ones I haven’t heard, and this, listening to St. Carlin, is the one supreme human urge that cannot be bypassed or denied.

As ending with a Youtube video of him would be too easy, here’s music from a movie instead: Tina Turner and We Don’t Need Another Hero.

(But we do need another Mad Max movie — and having checked before speaking, that might be so.)

Just so you know

October 28, 2009

Some searches that have recently led people to this blog: “grotesquely insulting words”, “random flailing images”, “nature sighs”.

The blog-writer sighs, too.

Edit: But worry not; all is not facetiously horrible. Some things are just vaguely horrible without any need for facetiousness; say the news that naked mole rats have anti-cancer superpowers.

A recommendation: 7th Son, Descent

October 28, 2009

J. C. Hutchins is a nice guy, a writer. His 7th Son: Descent is a good book, the first of a trilogy. It’s out today — and the reason I drop this heavy-handed hint (hint, hint; poke, poke) is that I know it to be good, smart and entertaining and surprising and quite cliffhangering, and with one of the best first lines I know; and this I know because it was originally podcast as a free audiobook by Hutchins himself, and it was the book that convinced me that such a thing could actually work. (“Why, an audiobook for free? And author-read? Why, my monocle! This does not sound so… wait, where did the last three hours go? And why’s the next episode still loading; I cannot wait!”)

So, dear random reader: I most highly recommend. Amazon beckons. And the plug ceases.

(Oh, and the first line? “The president of the United States is dead. He was murdered in the morning sunlight by a four-year-old boy.”)

(And don’t take my word for it; be as Dunning says, go to Hutchins’s site, and take a glance at the text, or the sound, of the thing.)

You do not know the power of the mathematical side…

October 26, 2009

Was talking to another graduate student; one with a dark secret in his past: in the days of the dim past, he began as a major of an inferior type (i.e. not as one of mathematics), but then switched, beguiled to the Dark Side by the power of functions, which he had underestimated.

Which naturally led to me remarking that it would be really interesting to see a certain different saga of human life reworked: namely the story of the young, idealistic graduate student Anakin Skywalker, a child prodigy of many job offers and great successes in the world outside, seduced by the twisted old Emeritus Palpatine to become one of the Tenure Overlords of the Sith; and his latter days as the raspy-voiced husk of a man called Professor Vader.

And the story of his son, of course, much tempted to follow a similar path —

“Luke… I am your thesis advisor!”

“Noooo!”

(And, in the end of the third installment, the Revenge of the Sin(x); Vader’s own report to the knowledge that he will not graduate this year either, and his girlfriend has left: “Noooo!”)

Also featuring the hairy biology student W. Chewbacca, the dashing frat boy Han “Kegger” Solo, and the university administration official-drones C-3PO’d and R2-XPSP3. (And the eccentric Ben “Book-Learnin'” Kenobi, much distrusted by the earthy common folk of the Tatooine Unincorporated Township.)

So,

“It is a period of academic reorganization.
Rebel docents, striking
from a hidden base, have won
their first victory against
the evil Dept. of Maths.

During the battle, Rebel
spies managed to steal secret
plans to the Department’s
ultimate weapon, the TENURE
STAR, an armored work
station with enough power
to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Department’s
sinister agents (pay grade 4D), M.Sc.
Leia O. races home aboard her
bicycle, custodian of the
stolen plans that can save her
people (the undergrads) and restore
freedom to the university…”

* * *

“Mudhole? Slimy? My office this is! You big-city university people, hmmm, some serious respect lack. Now the worksheet complete, while I on your shoulders sit.”

* * *

“There is no escape. Don’t make me destroy you. You do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me and I will complete your Ph.D.; with our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the university.”

“I’ll never join you!”

“If you only knew the power of the dark side. (Function theory, that is.) Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.”

“He told me enough! He told me you killed him. You were his thesis advisor; you worked him to death.”

“No. I am your father. And I will be your thesis advisor.”

Shocked, Luke looks at Vader in utter disbelief.

“No. No. That’s not true! That’s impossible!”

“Search your feelings. And look in your mailbox. You know it to be true.”

“No! No! No!”

“Luke. You can destroy the Emeritus Emperor. He has foreseen this; it in on the intranet. It is your destiny. Join me, and we can rule the university as father and son. Come with me. It’s the only way.”

Luke drops; Vader looks down in disbelief.

“Maintenance!”

* * *

“Use the forc— wait, is this the physics problem sheet, or maths? Oh! Use partial integration, Luke!”

* * *

Dear empty heavens, there’s no end to the bad jokes one could perpetrate.

I started with GeoCities

October 26, 2009

Wrote this a few months back; today (October 26th, 2009) being the day GeoCities shuts down, I thought it would be topical.

* * *

So, I heard GeoCities is coming to an end — it will disappear some time later this year, taking with it thousands of home pages, many of them no doubt long abandoned — and one of those home pages is an old one of mine.

Back in and around the misty year 1998 (dear life, 11 years? Can’t be!) I was sixteen, approaching seventeen. I was also in school — those were the last stages of lower high, and the first years of high school, thereabouts. Both schools — in opposite ends of the same big building — happened to have a few computer-classes, and one exercise that cropped up with some regularity was “making a home page”.

This I did with some regularity, and sometimes with plentiful use of my own time — and with heaps-loads more enthusiasm than self-critique. Doing a home page was freeform — you could have any content you wanted, since only the structure counted! And, since that made the thing somehow more “official”, most home pages made this way (or so I remember) found a free nook in some neighborhood of GeoCities, the free home-provider. (Or maybe the reason was that that was the easiest way for the teacher to check them…)

Well, as any content went, the half that I cobbled together in English included a list of “books I have readed”; the lesson there is that though I at that point, sixteen and feeling like I knew everything, had read dozens and dozens of books in English, my writing skills weren’t yet anything comparable. (And it was hellishly frustrating.)

The half that was in Finnish — well, more enthusiasm than skill, self-critique and content combined. An ugly but rather lovable manic sugar-rush of a homepage. (“Wull, couldn’t find a pic of my little bro, so here’s a pic of a chimp” — and then some net-robbed ani-gif of a nodding ape. And this went on for a dozen screenfuls.)

The total came eventually, after at least two home-page making classes and hours and hours of demented free time, to something like three megabytes, over fifty pages, and some two hundred images.

That was eleven years ago; eventually I forgot about those pages, never really caring enough to take them offline. I knew they were out of date, listing a president out of office, schools I was no longer in, ages I no longer was; but by that I thought I had to have something to replace the darn thing with, and I didn’t get any further than a few sketches and a few howls of “Content! My kingdom for some cool, original content!”

That’s the problem with suddenly becoming all self-critical. (Later, I got rid of that trait and started this blog.)

Then, after a few years of forgetting, I remembered the old thing, and tried to sign in to look around — well, I couldn’t quite recall the password. I shrugged, then did something else. Maybe some other day.

A few more years passed, and this same spark struck my brain again. I went over to GeoCities, found I still didn’t remember the password (all physical notes were long lost by then); but, oh joy, there was a password recovery prompt, and —

Well, I found I still couldn’t get back in. See, right now GeoCities demands a Yahoo ID to sign in — I don’t have one. And to go about recovering passwords one would use the e-mail address given when registering the homepage. And that address that is a spam-filled HoTMaiL mailbox whose password I’ve forgotten, and which may have already ceased to exist.

That’s the problem with going to the university and getting a new, shiny mailbox — you drop the old one, and after a while don’t even check it as there isn’t ever anything in except spam… and you forget.

Internet’s a graveyard of blogs with three posts and home pages made when sixteen, all locked to perpetual silence because the passwords are lost and the mailboxes are dead and snowed in with spam.

So: it would have been too much hassle to go about taking the pages down — “I don’t need all the hassles!” — and now GeoCities is closing down. With it goes my lost little complex of pages, with their bad English and worse jokes, stolen graphics and exhibits of creation without aim or skill, writing even when the jokes didn’t come and the content wasn’t there.

I’m kind of relieved, but… well, since nostalgia’s such a nice feeling, I spent an hour or so saving all the content by the slow, save-page-as, save-image-as way. It’s about 5% good stuff, 10% groan-worthy shame, and the rest is schlock.

And no, I shan’t link you there, or tell what to look for on the Internet Archive — “books I have readed”, dear empty heavens!

Audible!

October 26, 2009

So. The day before yesterday mentioned the Illuminatus! trilogy, and my thought that it really was a shame there wasn’t an audiobook (especially unabridged) version of it.

And then I was proved wrong: Deepleaf Productions had done an unabridged version of the trilogy, and that same version was on sale at Audible.co.uk which seemed approachable, though DRM-infested.

Below’s the chronicle of the next few hours.

* * *

  • Boggles.
  • Picks jaw off the floor.
  • Says “Eww”, wipes the jaw with a cloth, considers sweeping the floors, and goes to Audible instead.
  • Googles for “Audible DRM”; laughs evilly.
  • Becomes 13-and-so pounds lighter; sighs, as this is a matter of money, not weight.
  • Shakes fist at Audible; invokes Yog-Sothoth; installs iTunes; installs Audible Download Manager; dies a little inside; clicks “Download”.
  • “Estimated download time 1 h 33 min”; the rate, and one’s mood, improve a bit after that.
  • Sees iTunes works, and the downloaded file (part 1/2 of Eye in the Pyramid) plays; says “Righty-o!” and downloads the other.
  • Downloads something that promises to (legally!) strip away the asinine DRM with no fuss; sees that the program doth indeed do so, but being shareware only with the first 60 seconds of the file. The file being over six and a half hours in length, this does not improve one’s mood. Uninstallation, careful bug-sweeps and further invoking of Yog-Sothoth follow.
  • Plunks in a blank CD; mutters to self that “A-ha! We’re in the same old spot again, old chap! And while blank CDs cost a bit, they’re cheap, and they’re nowhere near the price of one’s sanity, which be what DRM cuts into!”
  • After six CDs and some maniacal giggling (first half of the Eye in the Pyramid done! Tee-hee!), begins ripping those from the newly made pure-audio CDs into the computer as mp3:s; reconsiders using some more hi-tech solution, but thinks the existence of these CDs as a back-up is… well, idiotic given the possibility of mp3 backups, but an excuse anyway. Most often any excuse, no matter how stupid, will do to shirk away from installing yet another program.
  • Besides, by now the awareness intrudes that various podcasters have then and again mentioned something called “reviews on iTunes” and giving them; and now that one’s only real excuse has evaporated, something clearly needs to be done about the matter.
  • But, before that, some listening; and tomorrow, a purchase of more blank CDs, and the other volumes of Illuminatus!. (Dang, the exclamation-mark and dots in various names really uglify one’s punctuation.)
  • Finally, this thought intrudes: given the narrative eccentricity of the trilogy (and didn’t that sound high and mighty!), and the fact that iTunes decided to burn the book in eight-minute chunks, one could get not altogether unpleasant results by enabling shuffle…

* * *

Well, now. The Lord of the Rings, the Watchmen, Spider-Man and even (in an irritatingly deviant a way) Transformers and G.I. Joe have been turned into movies, and A Song of Ice and Fire is turning, it seems, into a TV mini-series. This (and a host of other Marvel projects) means most of my favorites of that sort from childhood and youth have been made into movies; even things like the Lord of the Rings and the Watchmen that I’d always thought utterly unfilmable (and in those cases, the results were the best!).

Well, all, with one significant gap.

Now, only the Illuminatus! trilogy remains. (Peter Jackson, do you have anything on the horizon?)

Logo talk

October 24, 2009

There’s one thing that should be that still isn’t.

An unabridged audiobook version of the Illuminatus! trilogy.

Just sayin’.

* * *

And here’s a logo:

MOE sketch(Came out of sketching — turns out you can churn out a whole lot of designs and variations from just the titular letters M, O and E, especially when you note that many variants of M and E are just ninety degrees (pi over two radians?) away from each other; and when you then start to add other elements, well —

Elaborate MOE sketch

— well, things escalate. Decided to ditch this avenue of illustration when one particular creeping thought-line intruded.)

(“Well, Masks of Eris, okay — Eris is the name of a female goddess of chaos. I’m not female, but so what — I’m not Greek either. Or a goddess. (Yuch, the day someone calls one as rotund, hairy and male as I a goddess without giggles I’ve either met my match or found a perfect peculiar enough person to love.) Or am not a god, either. Thought my brother called me a demigod of mathematics; wonder how that ranks compared to a goddess of chaos, Greek or otherwise. And name-wise, surely people discern that the mention of a person or a character in a longer name does not suggest self-identification with that; say Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, or Holford Watch, don’t hint the persons behind them are rotund presidentine characters or medical duckies. And as for why Masks of Eris, maybe I blame a conjunction of a thought of Eris-Loki-Anansi-Coyote as the most likely (that is, not at all likely) god of all given mankind’s follies, and the state of recently having read Masks of Illuminati, which was a good one, but as a title was a) already a taken spot of name-space and b) sounded like the work of someone who thinks his postman is Richard Nixon is a reptilian alien in disguise in disguise out to poison him by focusing mental waves on his fillings. Graah, should I have gone with ‘Blind Pitiless Indifference’ instead? Probably not; not a good idea to a) again, claim an already taken spot of name space, and b) to take something unoriginal to be the title of your (hopefully) a bit original scribbles. But what about ‘You’re Here, You’re Finnished’? Then again (and recircling to the original thought), who cares what people think my sex is? The about page has a picture, and if people have doubts after that, well, I’m as willing to be taken as a crossdresser (cross-bearder?) than as a man. Doesn’t bother me; and doesn’t bother me it doesn’t bother me; though I’m still undecided about the next level; and isn’t this a particularly disturbing example of a stream of consciousness narrative — imagine having things like this going through your head every waking moment.” That one. There’s such a thing as reading too much into things.)

Oh, and for more pictures you can always go to look at Lemmata.