Petri Wessman's weblog

Pretty good year

So this is the new year
and I don’t feel any different
The clanking of crystal
explosions off in the distance

so everybody put your best suit or dress on
let’s make believe that we are wealthy for just this once
lighting firecrackers off on the front lawn
as thirty dialogues bleed into one

– Death Cab for Cutie, ”The New Year

pretty good year

– Tori Amos, ”Pretty Good Year

We don’t stay out late all that often nowadays, but thanks to a very good New Year’s party it was close to 6am when we finally staggered home. People, fireworks, bubblies… and a white chocolate fountain. Stayed in bed until 3pm or so, yesterday was a lost cause.

It’s been a pretty good year. Nothing major has happened, but we’ve slowly settled into our new house, traveled a bit, been more or less happy. No formal new year’s promises here, but (like most people) I do intend to exercise more and improve small things here and there. We’ll see how it goes.

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What I did this Christmas...

Well, let’s see. Ate tons. Drank quite a bit. Admired my new hypnotic lava lamp. Watched Flight of the Conchords and 4th season of Prison Break. Read a book on jQuery and did some Rails and Javascript coding & testing. Started reading A Storm of Swords, which is proving worthy of all the praise heaped upon it. Played with the cats. Watched some Hal Hartley movies. Ate some more.

Tomorrow: more laziness.

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Lost weekend

It’s official: I’m not young anymore. T’was a time when I could party until the morning, and then just keep on going the next day. Now, doing the same results in the next day being spent in something akin to a coma. Still fun, though. First we went to Janne’s “big round years” birthday bash at Dante’s Highlight, which was a lot of fun (much due to the guests being a random assortment of people from various different social groups). The drinks and snacks helped too, of course… and Ahma was pretty good on stage, the guys have actually learned how to play at some point, and they have nice stage presence. After that we hopped into a taxi and went to a friend’s pre-Christmas party, where we mingled until.. 5am or so. Then a (long) taxi line and home.

So, yesterday was mostly spend in iguana mode (lie around in a random position, roll eyes). Watched some TV, read a bit… nothing all that constructive. I had intended to do some weekend coding and/or play some EVE, but that proved too demanding.

My dad was nice enough to drop by with a Christmas tree for us (from our summer place), so now we have a tree thingy. The cats eye it with suspicion.

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Life wins, slowly

Spent Sunday at the salle, Ilkka held a seminar on Bolognese sidesword and dagger techniques. Was a lot of fun, once again, and it’s really nice to be back to normal health (if not good shape, yet). I had a really long-term flu / throat infection thingy, and since that carries a small but non-zero danger of heart injury it you exert yourself too much, that meant a month+ of no exercise for me. Which was doubly nasty because the flu wore me down and the lack of exercise did the same. Finally felt well enough to come to the salle last Monday, but a month’s pause in training shows. Oh well. It’ll come back, it always does.

The training, I mean. The flu can stay away, as far as I’m concerned.

I’m also slowly waking up to the fact that Christmas will soon be here. I’ve only begun to think about presents, and only have a few taken care of so far. So… some shopping this week.

Work has been really interesting (if very busy) during the last month or so, since I’ve managed to convince my bos(ses) that doing a certain new app with Rails, with a REST datasource in our Java/JBoss main server end, is a good idea (and I honestly do think it is a good idea). This means that I’ve been coding Ruby/Rails a lot, and also tinkering with some lesser-known aspects of it like ActiveResource. It took a while to puzzle out the HTTP/XML format Rails expects and to duplicate that on the Java side, but once it’s in place it’s pretty impressive: the Rails app can now get a data feed from our server with just a few lines of code, and that feed behaves in many respects like a normal ActiveRecord database object. Cool stuff. I’ve also dived into testing with rSpec, with heavy use of mock objects and dynamic fixtures (since I want to keep the tests independent of server data). Figuring out HttpMock took a while, but now that also works.

Rails rocks, it’s by far my favorite wep app framework nowadays. Nothing else comes even close.

Added later: …though I do have to say that some of the lesser-used facets of Rails (like ActiveResource, especially with nested resources) can be pretty poorly documented, or not at all. I’ve quite often had to resort to hacking the Rails core code to figure out what the hell is going on. Today has mostly been spent in figuring out how the hell I can actually create nested REST resources. Finally figured it out, but it wasn’t exactly documented anywhere I could find. Today’s headaches also include puzzling out the exact XML format for server-side validation errors (no, it’s not what the docs claim it is) and in working around the fact that the XML formatter wants to turn all underscores into dashes in element names. Sigh.

Rails still rocks. But prepare to enter “Here There By Tygers” territory if you use some of the more bleeding-edge facets of it.

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Burning sand

A discussion on the Delta Green mailing list led me to read about chlorine trifluoride. Impressively scary stuff, one is not used to chemicals which can cause rocks to ignite. Very suitable for placing into roleplaying scenarios as a very nasty trap or “toxic chemical”. In real life, if encountered you need to run. Fast. In opposite direction.

Oh, and as it’s burning up that rock and sand it also releases lethal byproducts. Charming.

As the last comment on that blog entry says:

“Suitable extinguishing media: None.” Says it all, really,

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Where's my damn towel?

Woke up this morning with the knowledge that I now should be aware of the meaning of life, the universe and all that jazz. So far, illumination has evaded me. Maybe it’ll arrive in the pub this evening. Assuming the whole damn planet isn’t demolished before I manage to finish my first beer.

“It’s amazing how much ‘mature wisdom’ resembles being too tired.”
– the late great R.A.Heinlein

The connection between all these bits is left as an exercise for the civilized reader.

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Election hour of the wolf

You know… this is stupid, and probably shows off my distorted sense of what’s important and what’s not. But I mostly ignored the recent Finnish election, just reading the results from the web the next day…. and here I am, it’s 1:50am and I can’t go to sleep before seeing at least some preliminary data on how the U.S. election is going. I’m so hoping Obama will win, for a wide variety of reasons (amongst them the fact that I quite admire the man). Not “hero worship” admire. Just admire. He’s the sort of man that (I feel) deserves to lead the States. Not a dim-witted, powerhungry (ex)alcoholic like the one who has been in office during the last 8 sad years.

McCain was looking reasonable until his choice of Palin as running mate and the angry, shrill and ugly turn his campaign took in the end. Asshole.

…so here I am, half a globe away from the States and awake, sipping red wine and reading John Wick’s bizarre, intimidating and awesome Houses of the Blooded, hoping for the best. Maybe because I was partly raised in a sort-of U.S. cultural environment, I’ve always had a soft spot for the U.S.. Not the politics. Never that. The people, the attitudes, the way of life. There’s a lot of good stuff there, a fact that gets lost sometimes in the general U.S. hatefest you tend to see over here (which is mostly deserved, of course). A lot of bad, too.

I’ve said it before, but I think a lot of the things I admire most about the States can be summed up by Burning Man. Many folks in the U.S. would probably find that a scary statement, but for me it’s just the truth. For whatever it’s worth.

So here I am. A glass of red wine. An open book. A web page that tells me “no results yet”.

Here’s to hope.

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The Wages of Sin

…are a flu, apparently. We watched some movies on Saturday and then made our way to a party – which proved to be a hell of a lot of fun. Lots of alcohol plus my introduction to the evil gizmo “SingStar” made us stay there until something like 3.30am. The next morning I woke up with a killer hangover… and sometime in the early afternoon I figured out that it can’t be just a hangover. Took my temperature and found it to be 38C. Duh.

So Sunday was spent mostly in the horizontal, as was Monday, I was in no shape to go to work. Still feeling shaky this morning and I had a robust fever last night, so I’m staying home today, too, and hoping to be ok tomorrow.

Funny thing, when I was a kid staying “home sick” was mostly cool. Now it’s mostly annoying, especially since there are lots of things that I’d like to do since I’m at home but all I have the energy for is… curling up on the sofa and reading, trying to ignore a small headache. Annoying.

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Green Brother Wants to Watch

Sigh, yet another reason to not vote for the Finnish “Green” Party… their latest brainchild is an Orwellian control horror designed to curb driving and to force people to use public transport. There are so many things wrong with it that I don’t know where to start… so I’ll just refer you to a blog entry (in Finnish) that outlines some of the problems.

Also have to love the “newspeak” of calling it a “traffic jam charge” and having it be active a) for the full day, 07:00 to 18:00 and b) in the whole Helsinki/Espoo/Vantaa area. Umm, what? That’s a “tax”. At least be honest.

Maybe Green party members just don’t ever leave the center of their city, or maybe it’s just blatant “let’s call it that so we can avoid calling it by its real name of ‘tax’” word manipulation. Whichever, the fact remains that outside the (very small) city core, there are traffic jams only during peak rush hours and only on certain roads. I’m at work right now, watching the Ring I road (one of the heaviest-trafficed roads in the whole area). It’s now 10:41, and the road is practically empty. Also, most parts of the greater Helsinki area are empty of traffic pretty much all around the clock. Collecting a “traffic jam” fee from some grandpa driving on some empty Vantaa country road at 07:15 in the morning is… pure greed. Or a mix or Orwellian desire for control and hatred of people who drive cars. Whatever.

As is, it’s a pure (almost 1,000 euros per year?) extra tax for people who drive cars in the greater Helsinki area. I thought we already had a kilometer-based heavy tax on that? It’s called “gas”. Driving over here is already ridiculously expensive, few people do it “just for fun”.

I’d support something that limits people from driving directly in (or to) the center of Helsinki during the peak rush hours — because that is a problem. Set up toll booths. Switch more streets over to “pedestrians only”. That sort of thing. There’s pretty good public transport to and from the center from most places, at the worst you’d need to drive to a “connection parking area” and switch from car to bus/train. But “cross traffic” in Espoo and Vantaa in a quite different matter. I’d like to see the idiots behind this proposal do some cross-Espoo travelling, preferrably with some baggage and in a sleet storm.

Stuff like this has always been the problem with the Green Party, and the reason why voting for them is hazardous. For every good idea they have, they have 3-4 really obnoxious ones. The same seems to apply to their candidates, for every smart one you get a bunch of morons I really don’t want to see in office. All parties have this problem, of course, but for some reason the Greens have it the worst. Maybe it’s the fact that the general party line attracts the worst sorts of “ekohörhö” wandwavers, or maybe it’s something in the (organicly grown) orange juice they drink.

You know, I’m basically a fairly green-minded person; not to the extreme extent that some people I know are, but generally… yeah. I love the outdoors and part of the reason we moved to the backwoods of Espoo was the need to have living green things around us instead of asphalt and concrete. However, stuff like this really makes me want to buy a Hummer that runs on baby seal oil and drive up and down Helsinki streets, as a way of saying “well fuck you too” to stuff like this. Well, not really. But the line between “eco-friendly” and “eco-fascist” seems to be quite thin, nowadays.

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Teaching VTES to newbies

We have regular VTES (Vampire: the Eternal Struggle) games every week, alternating between Wednesday and Thursday. The schedule is here and the site is the pub “Kaisla” near the Helsinki railway station – they have lots of room and a good selection of beer.

From now on I’ll be bringing along a bunch of basic “demo” decks to the games, and if some newbies show up I’ll be teaching people the game; if we get enough new people we can run a separate newbie game table. We usually start playing at about 5pm, but play typically continues until 10pm or so – people are welcome to show up whenever.

So… if you want to learn the game, show up tomorrow (or some other game night) and join up. You don’t need to bring anything or know anything, an interest in learning the game (which is quite complex) is enough. The learning curve is well worth it. And hey, there’s beer available from the bar, always a good thing.

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