Saturday, 24 November 2007

Free Rice

Funny how simple ideas can be so interesting. Like guessing the meaning of words and making a miniscule donation every time you get one right.

Free Rice is just that. Every time you know the meaning of an English word right, the organisation donates 10 grains of rice to the developing countries. Doesn't sound that much, does it? But just yesterday the total was about 150,000,000 grains of rice - that's in one day. Total number is now close to 3,5 billion grains, which is quite a lot considering the site opened October 7th.

The game is surprisingly addictive because it adapts to your level, so it's not just random numbers, rather it pushes you to your limit all the time.

Here's how it works: First you get a few random words. Your result with these define roughly your level. Levels are simply decided by how many people get each word right, so the fewer know a word, the higher it's level. Every time you get a word wrong, your level drops by one. If you get three consecutive words right, you rise a level.

My level seems to be about 30, fluctuating between 26 and 35. The only gripe I have about this site is it doesn't "remember" you between sessions, so you can't see you totals. Apart from that this is a great way of having fun, learning AND donating something to the poor. Not a bad effort at all.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

War in Iraq: The Scam

You thought the US war in Iraq was going badly? It is actually going far, far worse than that. I knew money was being stolen and everything but I never thought it quite as bad as what this article by the Rolling Stone magazine describes. The worst part is that the Bush administration knows about most of this and they refuse to do anything - in fact they actively try to stop people from exposing it.

I bet Fox News is in no hurry to tell about this...

On a lighter note, I just finished Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and I think this fellow is pretty much bang about his appraisal.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

The Paradox of Moving Houses

Looks like another Everton-related post...

There is an old Greek paradox about a ship that goes on a long journey. During that journey, every piece of the ship is one by one replaced by new parts.

When the ship returns back home, is it still the same ship?

The paradox lies in the fact that if those parts were used to construct a new ship, it wouldn't obviously be the same as the existing one. So how could the rebuilt ship be the same as the old? In essence, we would have two ships that are the same which is obviously a crazy idea.

Everton is in a similar situation. What exactly defines Everton Football Club? How many parts can we change and still be able to say it's still the same club? Some people think that moving outside Liverpool is a step too far for them to perceive the club as still being the same entity they have grown to support.

One problem is this wouldn't be the first bad idea to come from this board. A lot of fans who have been with the club through thick and thin are completely fed up with the way the board treats the fans. Some have realised there are far more important things in life than a football club that treats them with contempt. Some are on the edge.

I personally think the most defining thing about Everton Football Club is the strive to live up to the motto. It's not always possible to be the best, but once the club gives up on that, it can't be considered in the same context as the club's illustrious past (Dean, holy trinity, mid-80's team etc). Kirkby is very much against that motto. It is not an attempt to be something special, something unique, Nil Satis Nisi Optimum. It's just like any other identikit retail park stadium built in the last decade or so. Reebok, Madjeski, Ricoh etc. How can anyone say that accepting to be the tenants to Tesco lives up to that motto?

Monday, 23 July 2007

Location, location, location

This article was published in Toffeeweb on 23/7/2007.

Any business-owner knows location is the key. You want to have your business in a place where people want to come to. Of course this has to be offset by the costs of buying or renting the space but location is still a critical factor.

It is said that that's why the McDonald's restaurants didn't use to go bust. They are always located in prime locations. Of course these days the company is in a different kind of trouble with people being made aware of the poor quality of their offerings but they managed to go for decades without a single restaurant going bankrupt. The first one, allegedly, in Germany was closed because the council built a new major road in a location that drew the customers away from the restaurant.

After this prologue I'd like to ask if Kirkby really is such a great place for a football club? I can see several problems:

1. Logistical issues

There will only be 1000 parking spaces for match-goers.

There is only one rail going to Kirkby, it will not be nearly enough.

People leaving the area by car will mostly use only one road, which will certainly be congested. The number of roads is much less than around Goodison Park and there's isn't a big shopping centre next to it.

2. Business issues

Will Kirkby really be a location that will draw the business-people? Would you take your clients to a stadium in the outskirts of the city located in a giant shopping centre?

How will it affect the match-goers? The whole area is totally different from Walton that you won't be going to the pub before the match and walking in just before the kick-off. I know many find these "non-match" issues important.

3. Image/Brand issues

This is the difficult one: how will it affect the club in the long run that it is not located in the City of Liverpool any more? You can say all you want about Kirkby being the Merseyside, but this is an issue our dear neighbours will ram down our throats from the point a decision to build the stadium to Kirkby is made. And they will make sure everyone knows Everton is not in Liverpool any more, with great glee. Will you enjoy reading articles starting like “Everton Football Club has severed it's ties with Liverpool where they played for over 120 years by moving to the small town of Kirkby...”? That's what every Reds supporting reporter will write, even some that now are writing pro-move articles in the local papers.

That's the business side of things. Then comes the really scary part.

Our Board.

I know a lot of people think they are doing a great job. I don't. These are just some of the things I wouldn't expect from a competent board:

- Quadrupling the debt while selling every saleable asset the club had and getting 20+ million for Rooney, 8 million for Jeffers, 6 million for Michael Ball and so on. In fact the club has spent something like 10 million net in players over the past five years. And to blame it all on Goodison Park is ridiculous. GP is hardly the worst stadium in the country.

- The NTL fiasco.

- The FSF fiasco.

- The failure to deliver the King's Dock stadium.

Managing to make a loss on merchandising and not being able to fix it by themselves, but rather outsourcing the whole thing to JJB. I find it completely incomprehensible when you think a shirt cost £5 and they sell them for £50 and should have a good idea on how many shirts they sell every year – they have the data from past years.

Without the miracles David Moyes has produced I fear where the club would be.

And now the information we hear about the new stadium is vague at best. The stadium has cost £50 million, £75 million, £100 million and £150 million. It will have 55,000 or 50,000 seats. There will be 4000 or 1000 parking spaces. It will create maybe up to 10 million extra revenue while the fittings might cost as little as 10 million and the club needs to take maybe only 10-15 million more debt.

The last point is a major sticking point. The cost to the club depends on how much the sale of Goodison Park will generate and how much the club can gather from naming rights. Wyness has stated that the sale of GP will create 15 million pounds. To me it sounds an awfully lot in Walton. Naming rights should generate 35 million, which also sounds quite a lot considering Arsenal got about 50 million from Emirates.

If the club can't make that much money from those two sources it means it will have to take on more debt on top of the existing one, which is somewhere around 50 million. I think Wyness is deliberately playing down the numbers. Also, I can't see how revenue would increase by ten million in the new stadium, and neither does Wyness, or so it seems. The club finds it hard to sell all it's 11 corporate boxes currently, how will it sell 40 in Kirkby? And considering a number of fans will stop going to Kirkby, it will require an awful lot of new fans to increase the capacity by any meaningful numbers. And will this increase be long-lasting? And what makes the club think they will be more attractive to out-of-towners after the club moves to Kirkby? No doubt revenue would increase some, but is it really worth moving for, say a 4-5 million increase?

But it wouldn't sound so good if extra revenue was only 5 million while the club had to increase it's debt by 25 or 30 million and that's why we get these vague numbers.

I also have an issue with the land value. The value of the land now is pretty much nothing. That's because its not in a good location. Just because it might be surrounded by shops won't make it worth 50 million to a football stadium. It could make it worth that to some other business that benefits from those shops but I can't see how a football club could. So adding the 50 million to the total costs to make the deal look bigger is quite dishonest in my opinion. The actual cost of the stadium is quite low and that's why Wyness wants to use tricks like these. £75 million is not a lot of money on a new stadium and that's why our "world-class stadium" is now merely a "high-class stadium". And what will it actually look? The Ricoh Arena looks nothing like the original sketches, for instance.

There are a number of questions I'd like to have answers to:

1. What is the REAL cost of the stadium to Everton Football Club?

2. What is the business case for the move? Where and how much will extra income come? I want more detail than just "up to 10 million extra".

3. Is it really apt for a club of Everton's pedigree that a construction company designs the new stadium instead of an architect? Archibald Leitch and all that.

4. What is the role of Robert Earl, who was recently promoted to the Board, in all this? How much will he and the other Board members benefit personally from the move? As far as we know, his only input to the club so far has been to bring Sylvester Stallone over for a match. Now, on the eve of the biggest decision this club has done for over a hundred years he is suddenly elected to the Board.

5. How on Earth can Tesco get Barr to give a 25 million discount on the building costs? It would be hard for a construction company to get that sort of money back because in effect it would mean taking a loss on the project.

Don't believe the hype. There are always alternatives. The Board blew the first one (King's Dock). Others will come.

And don't believe the spin. Just today there was an article in Liverpool Daily Post by Mark Thomas which ended with the sentence “Would you rather watch a Riquelme in Kirkby, or a Brett Angel in Speke?”. That is an absolutely ridiculous statement. Almost parody-like. The new stadium isn't a magic wand that suddenly allows the club to sign the best players in the world.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Helsinki / The Who concert

I visited Helsinki last week to see The Who in their last concert during their 06/07 tour. It was a great gig, unfortunately people weren't allowed to take pictures, but I later took some when walking around downtown Helsinki.

I also wrote a short review of the gig to RYM.

An absolutely brilliant gig. So many highlights that I don't know where to start. "Behind Blue Eyes", the acoustic stuff by Townshend alone and with Daltrey, brilliant version of "Won't Get Fooled Again" before the interval and the Tommy stuff after the short break. The Who played a few songs from their new album, "Endless Wire" but mostly this was a greatest hits collection, and with this band, it's no problem filling two hours with absolutely fantastic songs.

This was easily the best gig I have ever been to, and judging by the comments I heard from people afterwards (and in various music shops the next day) I wasn't alone in thinking this. The stories that The Who is in great live form are absolutely true!

I have to say I was mightily pissed I didn't manage to get category A tickets but in the end I think I might have gotten the better deal. The people at the floor level all stood up so I suspect anyone under six foot two couldn't see much while I had a very good view, although I could have been a bit closer to the stage.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

The Clash: Give 'Em Enough Rope

I wrote a short review of the rather mediocre Give 'Em Enough Rope by The Clash to RYM.

Give 'Em Enough Rope is a bit of a waste of time, really. It's not a bad record, there's just no reason to listen to it rather than the fantastic London Calling or The Clash. Even Combat Rock has "Rock the Casbah" (note: I don't own Sandinista! at the time of writing). There's not a single track on this album that would make it on the first two, and generally speaking Combat Rock has distinctively better tracks even though I don't rate that album that high either (3,5 stars). Not one of the tracks on Give 'Em Enough Rope catches your ear. They just roll along without anything you haven't heard from other Clash albums. Granted, this was their second album, but they perfected and improved so much for their next one that this feels like a scetch or rehersal.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Silly Season

(This article was published in Toffeeweb 05/06/2007)

It's the silly season again in football as the transfer window opened 1st June. This time I was bored to death about it even before it opened. It's completely ridiculous that newspaper and other places basically just invent transfer rumours to fill up pages. Even more ridiculous is the way some people believe them.

Take Everton. Some hack hears that David Moyes might be interested in a player (or, more likely, just invents the whole thing). He then comes up with a figure, say "4 million pounds" which is a nice number as far as transfers go because it's a hefty sum, but not quite massive yet. Evertonians read this and jump and rush to fill the forums about messages on how Moyes is crazy to pay 4 million for a shitty player like that. You can get literally hundreds of messages of this kind about one invented transfer link. It also works the other way, if some journalist decides to add "Everton" to a list of teams that might be interested in a certain decent player there will again be hundreds of messages speculating what position that player might play, if he worth the price mentioned, and should we sign X instead. In any other situation people would laugh stuff like that off but not when it comes to transfer rumours. The most ridiculous part of this all, however, is the way fans invent prices for players. "I would only pay X million for him" is a very common comment. I'd like to see the catalog that lists prices for players.

This summer is particularily problematic because of two factors. Firstly the Premier League has signed a new TV deal with Sky which increases TV revenue and prize money considerably, teams can expect to increase this money by 10 million or more. Secondly several teams are desperate to strenghten their teams and have the money to do so. So values and wages will be hugely inflated this summer. It has already started with reports that West Ham United will pay Scott Parker 72,000 pounds per week. Parker is a good player, but that money is completely ridiculous. Even the 60k he was getting from Newcastle was a lot. Tottenham Hotspur paid ten million for an 18-year old fullback with no experience at the top level (although I guess quite a lot of that sum is made up of incentives only paid if the player plays enough matches for Spurs etc). West Ham, Spurs, Portsmouth, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Wigan all have money to spend and WHU in particular is desperate to spend heavy after a season that very nearly ended in disaster. Sunderland are recently promoted so they want Premier League quality players to stay up and Wigan also had a poor season but money to spend thanks to the owner of JJB Sports backing them up. On top of that all the top clubs seem to have nice warchests to work with with Arsenal reportedly "only" having 20 million. So money will be splashed this summer and wage demands will be high. I wouldn't be surprised if some players hold their decisions on where to move until quite late. I bet their agents are telling them that teams will get more and more anxious as the transfer window draws to a close. I wouldn't be surprised to see a few ridiculous signings (as per fee and wages) come August.

It has been reported David Moyes has some 15 million to spend on players. Problem is the squad is thin on numbers so he needs to buy several players just to cope with next seasons fixture list. Even without the UEFA cup and with poor domestic cup runs the team was strained to it's limits this season. Next season should see quite a few matches more. I counted only 1 senior goalkeeper, six defenders, five midfielders and five forwards that played any significant part. And two of the forwards (James Beattie and James McFadden) hardly had an impact, except for James McFadden's last minute winner against Charlton Athletic. And two of the strikers are 19. The team should have 2 keepers, 8 defenders, 8 midfielders and 4 decent forwards. Possible 15 million in the pocket, inflated prices and need to get at least 5 or 6 players is not an easy formula.

So how will Moyes cope with this? I think I can see a pattern emerging. Moyes is first of all after players who can play in several positions such as Sheffield United's Phil Jagielka. He is young (25), athletic, strong and extremely quick and can play across the defence or midfield. And he wants to move to Everton. Not the most exciting player and a lot of fans are against this but that's mostly because he's not the flavour of the month. But it's easy to see the appeal. With a thin squad you'd like to have a few players who can fill in at several positions in case of injuries.

He will obviously also be in the look for good value players but so is everyone else. That's probably the biggest reason behind his interest on Joey Barton. Thankfully that didn't go through. Barton is obviously bad for team spirit, something that has been one of Everton's biggest strenghts in the last few seasons. Barton is a useful player but hardly good enough to offset possible bad blood in the team.

Fans demand top-class signings as if getting into the UEFA cup suddenly gives the club a big pot to spend. That is not true, any serious money requires the team to get at least into the semis. Rather than chasing pipe-dreams I would rather see Moyes make solid signings. The core of the team is already good. Howard, Yobo, Lescott, Arteta, Cahill, Johnson are already good players are Stubbs, Hibbert, Neville, Carsley, Vaughan and Anichebe are all useful players with the last two, Vaughan in particular, offering promise of better things to come. So the core is good. Hopefully Moyes can find one quality player to remove some of the burden from Arteta's shoulders as his role as the creative spark is too big. If he struggles so does the team. Moyes is trying to sign Manuel Fernandes on a further year's loan. I wouldn't mind that. He is not the Messiah some fans are making him but he definitely has class. He showed flashess of brilliance but also does have the habit of drifting in and out of matches.

One of the interesting things is that even though Moyes has deployed the 4-5-1 system quite succesfully in the past years he will need to deploy 4-4-2 more. Some teams will simply try to stiffle our game and playing the same game will make it hard to win matches. This season the number of losses was good, ten, only three teams (Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal) lost less games. It's the draws that stopped us from pushing to fourth. The problem with 4-4-2 is it opens up the midfield if the central players don't have the required pace and positioning. If they don't the opposition will simply run through. That's why the defensive midfielder is so important in todays game. Every top team has a very good player in this position. Alex Ferguson just spent a massive amount in Owen Hargreaves and a lot in Michael Carrick last year. Chelsea has spent heavily to find the right guy in recent years and so on. Arsenal has struggled ever since Patrik Vieira left them for Juventus. The magic is that this player allows the creative players more freedom to their stuff and can also support in attack if needed. Vieira wasn't a great scorer but he did score many important goals.

Everton can't unfortunately afford a player of this calibre. And as it's a very tough position to play many players who look promising fail to live up to the expectations after moving to England. The pace is still much more relentless in England than in the continent, Spain and France in particular and this makes the position even harder. Concentration has to be 100% all through the match. Jagielka, however, has many of the qualities that make a good defensive mid. He is very quick and strong and apparently has a good range of passes. He has also been selected player of the season for Sheffield United for the past three seasons. Whether he can grow in stature to be a backbone of a team like the top players are remains to be seen.

Pace will also be important in Europe. That's what cost us the last time, in autumn 2005. Our players struggled to keep up with their continental opposition. This time the team is better prepared, however with the acquisitions of Joleon Lescott and Andrew Johnson. Couple more players with pace would be valuable, however. The three most important abilities any player can have are footballing brain, pace and technique. The first one is the most important because without it most of his other abilities are not realised to their fullest. A player with a good footballing brain can offset lack in other areas. I personally try to look at this when evaluating players. The method is simple: how often does the player do or at least try to do the correct action versus how often he takes the wrong option? Whether a certain pass is succesful is not so important than whether it was the right one to make. Some players can offset a lack in footballing brain by being brilliant in other respects and by relying on these abilities. A very quick player who is a good dribbler can just use those skills rather than try to be a play-maker, but an average player trying the same would just keep loosing the ball. But if the otherwise average player has a good footballing brain he knows when to try to dribble and when not to. The average player might not be so flashy but he can be just as valuable to the team. The trouble is that in order to evaluate this you need to watch the player quite a few times. The flashy player you can just check in the weekly highlights programme.

So what do I think Moyes is planning? I reckon he will want most of the signings to be ones with good brain rather than flashy simply because the latter tend to be more expensive. He will also want to maintain the team spirit. Pace would be nice. And because of the limited funds he will need to try to find a few loans or cheap signings. Hopefully he can pull a rabbit out of the hat like he did with Cahill and Arteta who both cost just over 2 million. In todays prices that's not much. Unfortunately I believe the 2 million players of a few years back are now 3 million. It's hard to find decent Championship players for 2 million, let alone anything better. Hopefully he is as succesful in the transfer front as he was a year ago. If he can find three players of that caliber plus two or three decent ones we should cope ok no matter what the others do. Some of the other teams have a lot more team building to do, Moyes will be able to build on a solid foundation. The teams that generally do well in the Premier are settled sides and it takes a team a season or even two to settle. That's one of the reasons why clubs who keep changing the manager often rarely do well. Each new manager starts the building process over again. Everton doesn't need to do this which is a big bonus. Of course Moyes has had his misses on the market as well, so fingers crossed. At least he doesn't act on a whim and sign anyone who is available.

So I'm bored about the silly season, yet I can't help myself looking for all these useless gossip and rumours. There's just something that tickles the football fan in all this. So it's not just the hacks to blame, they just write what we want to read. C'est la vie.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Traveller's Dilemma

Most people who have any interest in economics, game theory or even human psychology have heard of the Prisoner's Dilemma. PD is a big problem for free-market libertarists, because it undermines their claim that left to their own devices, people will always make rational choices and therefore state intervention is Evil. Problem is, when people do make rational decisions in cases involving the PD the result is far from optimal to most, if not all, concerned. There is also a thing called the Free rider problem which is closely related to PD. Things like social security and nature conservation are FRP's. People are unwilling to take part because they know it will take a lot of people to participate to make any difference. So there is the danger that their sacrifices are useless, thus it's better not to participate. And this is where the state is needed - to make everyone pay benefiting everyone in the long run.

I just read an article on the Traveller's Dilemma which is a variation of the Prisoner's Dilemma. What the studies mentioned in the article prove is that people are not rational beasts, required to make free-market society function better than one that is controlled to some degree by the state or other bodies. I don't believe in too much control either, but there needs to be something to control the worst outcomes that free-market libertarism could come up with.

Funny thing is, these dilemma's are more or less intuitive in nature, yet many refute them. This, in my opinion, proves that for some economics isn't a science but a religion. If reality clashes with theory, reality is wrong. This is actually one of the main separating factors between science and religion. The former is prepared to change it's theories, latter is not. Of course the other major difference is is that science requires that results must be repeatable.

That's why it's usually so hard to have a rational discussion with libertarians. It's just like trying to argue a believer that his belief system is wrong which is completely impossible. Well, ok, you can try to argue but it will never lead anywhere.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Kärpät the champions, again

Well, well. I wasn't too confident earlier about Kärpät's chances of winning the championship, but it's occasionally nice to be wrong. In fact, not only did Kärpät win it, they did it in some style. 10 games in the playoffs, 10 wins. And even though some matches looked even judging by the score, Kärpät was clearly the better side.

It will interesting to see what the team will look like next season as rumours are taking most of the star players elsewhere. Mika Pyörälä, first line left winger has already signed a contract with Timrå of the Swedish Elitserien and it is almost certain the playoffs' MVP Janne Pesonen will go to Anaheim. It is also quite possible that team captain Jari Viuhkola goes to Chicago and Viktor Ujcik moves back to Czech. Rumours are also abound that Kalle Sahlstedt might quit icehockey for good as his sone has been diagnosed with cancer and the very skillful Juha-Matti Aaltonen might also be headed for the NHL, to St Louis Blues. New crowd favourite Ross Lupaschuk's situation is also interesting, some sources claim he has already signed a contract with HIFK Helsinki, that is unless he moves to the NHL as he was excellent, especially during the playoffs.

So the CEO Juha Junno and the rest of the background staff need to work hard building a good team for next season as at least some of these rumours are bound to be true.

But for now it's just time to enjoy.

I had my camera with me on Thursday and managed some pictures. I actually took a lot of them but the lights etc. made it hard to get decent pictures. With shutter speeds of more than 1/100th of a second moving things get blurry. And the camera had trouble focusing on some shots. But thankfully with the so-called shotgun style (shoot loads) some pictures came out ok, at least after some post-processing. I had to do at least some minor adjustments to pretty much every image, at least adjusting the brightness with the Curves tool because the camera left most pictures quite dark.

I have to give the thumbs up for JAlbum once again. It has improved a lot since I last downloaded a version and has some new excellent skins, like the one I used (Chameleon). It doesn't get any easier than this. Some of the default settings are stupid, like the one where JAlbum wants to readjust my pictures and with the settings it uses (jpg compression rate etc) they end up looking quite horrible. So it's best to tell it to use the original pictures if you have already done the post-processing.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

3D Sounds

The Virtual Barbershop is quite an interesting experiment on how we perceive sound. David Heron has managed to create a real-sounding environment for headphones. I'm just left wondering why this couldn't be used more. Games tend to have poor 3D sounds if you don't have multiple speakers, especially feeling of distance seems hard to create. Yet many game types would benefit immensly from better sounds. First person shooters come to mind first. Just listening to that demonstration is enough to make you wonder what could be achieved. I can't think of many games that have anything resembling a believable sound environment. It feels like that part of gaming is lagging ten years behind the rest.

Processing power might of course be a stumbling block. The games should consider echoes and obstacles, for instance. My main gripe in Deus Ex - my all-time favourite game - is how you can hear sounds coming from behind walls just like if the wall wasn't there. You can hear footsteps through ten feet of concrete which is completely ridiculous.

Game developers are heading down the road of physics and improving the graphics more and more. Both are nice things, but trying to create a realistic experience requires a realistic sound system. As a matter of fact, it should be quite high in the priorities list because one would think it's much easier to create a good 3D sound environment than to create 3D images on a flat screen.

Of course the demonstration is much easier to make since the head doesn't move and the sounds have been made static - you can't do anything to change how the sounds play. Just the ability to be able to shake your virtual head would make the demonstration a lot harder to pull off. But surely it must be possible, maybe by trying to simulate a human's hearing, i.e. calculating the sounds created in the environment twice with that small difference in location. Echoes etc are a different things altogether, though but maybe a similar system to how lightning is calculated could be used. It could be a lot simpler.

I'm thinking of splitting the sound spectrum into parts. Say 20-80Hz, 80-200Hz etc depending on what a meaningful split is. Then you would have to define how much each part dampens when it hits each material in the gaming world. This is something similar to how lightning is calculated already. The general rule is, of course, that the higher the sound, the more it dampens, but if this was based on material, the sounds would sound very different in a jungle than in inside a subway station.

But I'm no expert on this so I can't possibly calculate how much processing power even a simple system would require. It could be an interesting experiment in itself, though.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Kärpät 2006-07: Evaluation

Below are my estimations on how the Kärpät players did this season player-by-player. The evaluation is obviously completely subjective.

Regular season stats

Play-offs' stats


#1 - Jaakko Suomalaien 7
Second-choice keeper. Didn't play an awfully lot, but did ok when ever called to step in. Never really looked like becoming the first choice. Has a contract for next season.

#32 - Tuomas Tarkki 10
Perfect season. Arrived from nowhere and ended up the best goalie in the league. Was also selected the best goalie for the playoffs'. What else could a player no-one knew anything about before the season do? Has apparently signed a new contract with Kärpät, even though it has not been published yet.


#2 - Oskari Korpikari 8-
I don't know what the problem was but Oskari did not get that much icetime despite playing pretty well whenever he did. Was usually the seventh defenseman. When Josef Boumedienne was injured in the first final match Korpikari stepped in and did a good job. Needs more icetime next season, be it at Kärpät or elsewhere to develop. Has the potential: big, skates well, has a physical presence, has a decent shot. Makes the odd mistake in the defensive zone, if he can get rid of them has the potential to go far. But he can't waste another season.

#6 - Ilkka Mikkola 6
Mikkola had a poor season. He is supposed to be the other defender in the first lineup, but he was too often the worst defender. Poor decision in the defensive zone and despite getting a lot of icetime in power-play didn't do much. Points tally wasn't bad but that was because the rest of the lineup around him was so good.

#9 - Topi Jaakola
Nothing much to say about the regular season, but improved drastically when the play-offs started. Jaakola is a stay-at-home defenseman but he needs to start to make things happen, too often he expects someone else to do it. More aggresiveness, especially in front of the net. Sometimes the defender needs to be prepared to bite the the forward in the leg if nothing else helps, Topi hasn't been prepared to fully commit himself.

#16 - Ross Lupaschuk
Good during the regular season (he only arrived mid-season) but was superb during the play-offs. Generally regarded as the best defender during them. Was third best points scorer (1+9 in 10 matches). Scored the winning goal in the final match. Strong, skillful, excellent shot, good vision. Fantastic signing. NHL-bound?

#29 - Jouni Loponen 8
Loponen was surprisingly good, a big improvement over the previous season. If this was his last season it wasn't a bad one.

#71 - Jukka-Pekka Laamanen 8
Going forward was one of the most important players, especially in power-play. The opponents had to account for his excellent shot. Scored a nice points tally. Was in trouble defensively, especially earlier in the season and took a lot of penalties for hooking and such. Improved this part of his play as the season progressed although at the same time his points tally in the play-offs was a bit disappointing (0+4).

#78 - Josef Boumedienne 9
Arrived quite late in the season after a long lay-off with an injury so it took him a while to get things going. Didn't quite reach the heights he did during his previous stay at Kärpät but him and Ross Lupaschuk was the best defensive duo in the league during the play-offs. Has a contract with Kärpät for next season unless some NHL team wants him.


#8 - Hannes Hyvönen 7+
Unfortunately Hannes only managed 15 games during regular season thanks to a nasty injury. Managed well over a point per game, however. Didn't play too well during the play-offs either, rumour has it he was suffering from injury. Still did enough to warrant a decent mark.

#11 - Viktor Ujcik 8
Viktor was a bit disappointing during the regular season. Improved a lot for the play-offs, however. Showed what experience means. Strong, able to hold the puck seemingly forever when under pressure. Points tally wasn't that impressive compared to the other players in his line (Bros, Pesonen). Doesn't have the speed and misses too many open nets. Still he has been a favourite player of mine because of his never-say-die attitude.

#12 - Teemu Normio 8
Normio didn't have such a great regular season either but he proved his worth in the play-offs. He is one of those players you don't necessary notice until he is missing. This was proven in the second match in the final series when he was shown out. Normio creates space and time for other players but isn't completely without skills either. Has decent speed and can deliver decent hits. Needs to score more points to make a break.

#17 - Mika Pyörälä
Excellent regular season. The thirty-points per season player scored a total of 45 points and was one of the top-scorers in the league. Slight disappointment during the play-offs, though. Looks like going to Timrå of the Swedish Elitserien, hopefully he returns to Kärpät after that.

#18 - Mikko Alikoski 7
Alikoski was poor during the regular season and I was prepared to send him packing. But he improved in leaps and bounds during the play-offs. Definitely worth another season if he can keep progressing. Despite his small size, doesn't give up easily. Vision and skill have always been his strengths, so he needs to start producing, 0+1 next season won't hack it.

#20 - Janne Pesonen 10
Top points scorer for the team, scored two winning goals in the last three matches. Massive confidence all through the season. Skillful, quick and greedy in the right way. NHL beckons.

#21 - Tommi Paakkolanvaara 9+
Excellent season from Paakkolanvaara. Very important when playing short-handed. Has vision, skill, strength and size to play in the first two or three lineups. Scored an impressive 22 points for someone who played most of the season in the fourth line. And not a single penalty during the regular season and still ending up with +14! Breaks through next season? Was given the gentleman award even though usually it is given to someone with a higher profile.

#22 - Jyri Junnila 6+
Junnila doesn't seem to hack it in Kärpät. Has already signed for KalPa Kuopio.

#24 - Jari Viuhkola
Missed almost twenty matches during the regular season through injury and still finished with third highest points tally. Second best points tally in the play-offs. Still, I don't think Viuhkola's play-offs were that great, he has played better in the past. Team captain and leader who can improve others around him. Most valuable player in the team whether playing five-on-five, power-play or short-handed. His vision is second to none. Doesn't look that strong, but taking the puck off him is almost impossible. Possibly NHL bound, depends on if he gets a satisfactory deal.

#36 - Michal Bros
I expected a little more from Bros during the regular season. But during the play-offs he was superb, many think he was the best forward during them. The goal that won Kärpät the third semi-final will be remembered for a long time. Top points scorer in the play-offs. A player who can both score and create goals.

#41 - Kalle Sahlstedt
I can't really give a mark to Kalle. He had such problems at home - his son was diagnosed with Wilm's tumour - that it's impossible. Was an important player during the play-offs. Fine player, fine individual and I hope him all the best if the quits hockey after this season.

#43 - Antti Aarnio
Aarnio's season didn't get off to a good start but he improved during the season. Should have scored more points, but Antti's main contribution is not goals but giving a buzz to his team and the spectators. He isn't physically big, but his hits are powerfull and he likes to dish them out. Managed to keep himself out of the penalty box during the play-offs which was a bonus (only four minutes of penalties).

#50 - Juhamatti Aaltonen 8+
Aaltonen is the most skillful player to come out of Oulu since, probably the now head-coach Kari Jalonen. A very atypical Finnish player. Bags of skill, can beat any defender in a one-on-one. Has improved his all-round play significantly. Is surprisingly physical given his style. Should score more, misses far too many easy chances. He had enough chances to easily score 25 goals, ended up with 11. Might be AHL-bound, although I think he should stay in Finland for one more season. Having said that he gets more exposure in the AHL.

#83 - Tomi Mustonen 6
Poor regular season and was dropped out of the playing staff for the play-offs. Looks like Mustonen is off. Speed and decent shot just isn't enough.

Sunday, 1 April 2007


Since I picked my website name from some ancient Greeks I suppose it's a good idea to explain what the name means and why I picked it.

The name is the Greek name for the group known in English as Sophists (see the Wikipedia entry for an in-depth explanation) from the 4th century B.C. Why I went Greek was simple: I run out of ideas and I was in a hurry to come up with a good domain name because I was about to loose my old ( or, rather, it would have cost too much to keep it. I had toyed with all sorts of ideas from books and music I like to all other sorts and just couldn't come up with a good name. Finally I picked up Svante Nordlin's book on history of philosophy ("Filosofian historia" / "Filosofins historia") which is a very enjoyable and easy reading book on a very complex and difficult subject. I browsed through the part on Greek philosophy because I had figured it would be the area to focus on writing down potential words to use. I came up with a short-list and removed all that were already reserved. Out of the ones not reserved I liked the implications and semantics associated with the word "sofistes".

Sofistes were originally a group of men who taught the art or science of wisdom and knowledge. Originally the name simply meant "teacher of wisdom". Sofists were generally considered people who questioned existing paradigms.

But picking the name based on that would seem rather pompous and that's not why I chose it either although I have to say I feel I would have been at home among the sofists as I like to argue and question things as well.

However, the reputation of the sofists isn't quite as nice. Their methods of argumentation weren't always spotless and the image that has been portrayed to us was mostly written by their critics such as Platon who had a strong dislike for the group. He basically called them conmen among other things. This was partly because Platon disagreed with their philosophy and partly because of the way they argued others which was quite annoying. The classical "Have you stopped beating your wife yet" originates, I believe, from sofists (and the correct answer is to that question is, naturally, "mu", unless you really do beat or used to beat your wife ). No wonder a lot of people got annoyed.

Then again, I sometimes like to ask annoying questions from people, especially from pretentious, smug and/or self-loving people. There are lots of people who are very certain they are right and go to any lengths to argue their viewpoint without as much as consider any alternative viewpoints.

So, the domain name can be read in two different ways and everyone can make their own mind up on whether I occasionally write sense or if I'm just an annoying git. But I do think it's important to question paradigms because they can be dangerous. Wars have been started because the people in charge or in position of power have managed to plant certain paradigms in peoples minds. For instance, once people have been convinced something nasty simply has to be done a lot of people will go lengths to defend those actions which they never would have done before. This can include using weapons of mass destruction on others, something which seems to be boiling below the surface. Little by little a lot people have been convinced it might be necessary to drop a nuclear weapon in Iran, for instance. All of the actions taken to fight terrorism is another example. Some things done in the name of the war on terror are way over the top and still relatively few people complain about them.

People should simply ask more often if what they believe in is the truth or if there are alternative viewpoints that might be at least as truthful or even more so. One of the most common is how entire races or other groups of people are labeled. This is easy because people are naturally at least a little xenophobic. So telling them that people of a certain nationality are dirty and dishonest goes easily down on lots of people at least if you repeat it often enough. Anti-semitism is a perfect example of this behaviour. Contemporary version is to label all Muslims as crazy fanatics who only want to kill all Westerners. Unfortunately there are lots of people who believe there is no point in having a dialogue with them and as there are Muslims who feel the same about us Westerners there are clashes and people get killed. What we should do is to have a dialogue with the moderates and marginalize the extremists but this is hard because the extremists are prepared to do anything to stop it. What you should ask is whether you want another global war just sixty years after the previous one that cost tens of millions of people was waged.

As an anecdote a student of Protagoras argued that he would only pay for the teachings once he had won his first court case. Protagoras replied by saying that in that case he would take the student to the court. If he wins, the student would have to pay because the student lost and if he looses, the student has to pay because he won.

Friday, 9 March 2007


I recently found a funny article about the concept of 'Sisu' published in the Washington Post. Of course it's not completely true and has it's hilarious exaggerations, but it does have a ring of truth in it.

I found this article through Wikipedia's article on Sisu, which is a lot less funny but catches the concept well.

Anyone wanting to understand us Finns should check them out because it also helps explain some of our quirks. We do have problems communicating with foreigner cultures, especially ones that require smooth small talking. Small talk is not something that comes naturally to us. There is a joke about a Finn and a Norwegian (two nationalities that share a common dislike for all things Swedish) drinking.

They sit on a table drinking shot after shot of raw vodka. This goes on for several hours. After they have downed a bottle each the Norwegian says:

"Coud you fetch me another bottle?"

The Finn does as asked. Couple of hours later both have downed another bottle. Suddenly the Finn asks:

"Are we here to drink or to do small talk?"

Maybe not completely true, but the small talk that angloamericans in particular are so fluent in we find difficult even in our native language, never mind in a foreign.

So on behalf of all of my fellow countrymen: I'm sorry we sometimes appear rude when talking with you. We don't do it on purpose.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Free will?

What is "Free Will"? Does it even exist?

I recently argued against a viewpoint that no such thing exist. That all we are is the sum of our genes and experiences.

I don't like this particular viewpoint because it leads to the idea that we really don't have free will. Everything we do has already been determined by our past, in other words we couldn't really choose differently. But to me this smacks too much of Laplace's Demon and that one was deemed a faulty idea some hundred years ago. The universe simply works chaotically why wouldn't we?

Let's assume we have two choices to make but can't make up our mind. So we flip a coin. Depending on how the coin falls our life could end up very differently. Chaos theory says the universe does these coin flips all the time and since our brain is in that universe, there are lots of coin flips going on in our brains all the time. You could of course argue that events at the quantum level "even out" in the same way as even though you can't predict when an uranium atom splits you do know the half-life of uranium. But at the same time it is impossible to determine what consequences this radiation has on other particles.

But does this randomness equate to free will? First you would have to determine what free will is. And to determine that you would first have to determine what "self" is. What mechanism makes us conscious of ourselves? Self-consciousness very obviously is a prerequisite for free will. How can we say there is no free will if we don't even know what makes us what we are? From a tightly scientific viewpoint we could arrive at the conclusion I'm arguing against but the problem is science hasn't provided the answers to even these fundamental questions.

And just to add another twist to this: I recently saw a documentary on epigenetics. This is a recent new idea that has gained popularity quickly in the scientific world because there are several problems in genetics that it can solve. Firstly, there are some diseases like diabetes or the enigma of Angelman syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome that doesn't seem to make any sense from a genetic point of view. The latter two syndromes are caused by the same genetic change but which one the patient gets depends on which parent he inherited it. This doesn't seem to make any sense, because genes do not have a memory. So how do they know which parent they came from? Diabetes also doesn't seem to follow any genetic rules. The second big problem is that now that the Human Genome Project project has been finalised scientist realised there simply aren't enough gene sequences to explain everything.
The interesting part of epigenetics regarding genes is that it looks like you could inherit events from your ancestors' past. There is evidence that if your grandparents suffered from famine at the right time you have a much higher risk of getting diabetes. Also, there is evidence that children whose parents or grandparents suffered a great trauma have a greater chance of suffering from depression. Think about it: some elements of your psyche could be down to something your grandparents experienced.

Of course you could group epigenetics into the same category as genetics but my point is that there is just too much randomness involved to make the original claim. Free will, I believe, is mostly created by randomness. We are the product of random events right from the beginning of the universe and what we do, what actions we take and decisions we make are partly random. Whether this randomness is just the same randomness inherit in the universe or if it is something more than that can't be determined before we know who we are. But with this amount of randomness and the fact we are self-conscious (as proved by Descartes with his famous "I Think Therefore I Am") we can safely say that even if we don't have free will it is damn near impossible to tell the difference. And without any evidence suggesting otherwise I rather believe I am really able to make choices rather than just working like a computer.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Another year, another regular season win

My local team, Kärpät Oulu, for whom I have a season ticket, won the regular season in the Finnish Elite League for the third year running, easily. Of course this didn't mean squat last season when the surprise package of Ässät Pori beat us in the semi-finals. This was largely down to the fact that the team never really got into the playoff gear. Sadly, lately it has looked a lot like last season in this respect.

This worry didn't stop me from buying a playoff ticket that lets me see all the home playoff matches for 267 euros. So hope they get into that gear. There are still two matches to play in the regular season even though the last home match was yesterday which is a good time to try to improve the game. One of the matches is actually against Ässät who haven't been doing nearly as well as last season. In fact this season has been a total disaster for the loosing finalists as they are languishing second-to-last in a fourteen team series and have lost the chance to make the playoffs a long time ago. At least their victory against KalPa Kuopio yesterday meant they won't have to face the humiliation of finishing rock bottom after their dream season.

Incidentally, run a very good article on Kärpät on their website just recently.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

How to upset libertarians

Having had my share of discussions (or, rather, "discussions") with libertarians I found this article quite funny and pretty spot on. Some of the comments are also extremely funny and/or spot on. I had to add my two cents worth to them:

As has been proved above, one good way of shutting up a libertarians mouth is to ask them to explain what makes property a "right". It is just a social contract, very much like taxes are. Just as well there are people who do not believe in property (communists), what makes them more wrong than anyone who thinks property is more than just a contract? Both are (silly) belief systems.

The most common argument given is the one about land ownership: if you cultivate and improve a piece of land it gives you the right to that land. This might have worked back in the days when the West was conquered (although Indians might have a say on that) but today a lot of land and property is just owned, not cultivated. What gives people the ownership to them? A social contract, nothing more. We have agreed that someone who buys a lot owns it regardless of what he does with it (within limits, of course).

There was a case of a factory in Argentina, where the owners just basically disappeared and left the factory and workers because the factory wasn't making any money. The workers took over the factory and eventually it started to make money again. Then the owners came back and stated the factory is theirs. Is it? They clearly abandoned it, although not in the same sense as you abandon an empty bottle by throwing it into a bin.

But if that give priviledge to property it leads to rather interesting questions. If someone owns several apartments and keeps some of them empty can anyone move in and claim it theirs? If someone owns several vehicles but never uses some of them, can someone just take them? If not, why not? Again, we have just made a pact that it can't be done, nothing more, nothing less. Just as we have made a pact that part of the money you get goes to this common pool used to provide different kinds of benefits and services to all of us.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Favourite music

There is a bit of challenge going on at RYM and I decided to take it up. Here's what I came up with. It was quite a task!

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

The Who concert

The Who is having a concert in Finland in July for the first time since the 60's and - remembering that both Townshend and Daltrey have quite a few miles in the clock - possibly the last so naturally I was at Lippupalvelu's website at 9:00am this morning.

I had the a ticket for the best places (in front of the stage) all but paid up when - bam - the bank system refused connection and I couldn't pay. So I had to start over the process and guess what? All the best places were taken. Now I have crappy seat I paid almost 80 euros for thanks to the bleeding bank.

Note to self: never trust a bank again. Pay with VISA.

Just to show how bad the seat is, here's an image of the arena:

My seat is in section 108 (stage is where it says "Lava"). My seat is in row 19, seat 11, see section 108 seating map (this image is too big to fit to this page). Almost top row and as far to the left as possible which means the angle is as small as possible.

I was so angry in the morning I nearly smashed my LCD screen.

EDIT: It turned out the place wasn't so bad after all. The view was pretty good, certainly better than most people on floor level.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Something Else by The Kinks

I just finished writing a short review of the fantastic Kinks album Something Else for RYM which contains one of the greatest pop songs ever.

Something Else might fool people to think this is some of in-between or conceptual album by The Kinks, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Something Else is in fact one of the groups best albums. B-side in particular is superb. Only "End of the Season" might sound out of place until you realise it's Ray Davies's way of giving the finger to the whole summer of love thing. He has never been one to follow suit. The album is of course capped of by one of the greatest pop songs ever written, "Waterloo Sunset" but "Afternoon Tea", "Love Me Till The Sun Shines", "Two Sisters" and "Situation Vacant" are great pop songs as well. The only song I would swap out from this album is "No Return".

This album was released almost simultaneously with Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band so it's interesting to compare the two. Sgt Pepper's is an excellent album as well but I think Something Else shades it. Overall quality is better and this sounds more like an album rather than a collection of songs. And this album has a more universal sound to it. If someone made an album that sounded like Sgt Pepper's it would just sound old or odd. An album sounding like Something Else wouldn't sound out of place. This isn't a dig at Beatles, White Album and Revolver are superb albums, Sgt Pepper's just is a bit over-rated and shades some other contemporary albums for no reason.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Deep Purple: The Collection

I bought some albums from a local shop and wrote a review for one of them to RYM.

Not exactly the best possible Purple collection but well worth the 5 euros I paid. Purple isn't exactly a difficult band when it comes to making a collection. They have a distinguishable sound and Blackmore's riffs are great so it's almost enough to just throw enough tracks together to fill an album and it sounds great.

Well, almost. This compilation has 9 tracks, two of them live and I do find some of selections maybe not ones I would pick. Easily the best pick of the lot is the live version of Smoke on the Water where Blackmore plays that world-famous riff with great power and strength. Sound quality also varies among the tracks and the tracks sound very different, some sound like they were recorded in a large open area, some lack clarity and so on. So it sounds like the tracks really were only thrown together and the publisher didn't try to match the tracks to make this compilation sound a whole. It's a problem with many collections, and very much so in this case.

Still, sounds like a good album to have in your car. Purple is great music for car journeys, it's easy to imagine your right foot pressing down.. not an ideal starting album for Purple but the live version of Smoke alone makes this worth picking from a sale basket.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

DVD Collection

I just tested out a nice Firefox extension called DVDProfiler Companion (there is also a stand-alone version available). It creates a website from your DVDProfiler collection. Intervocative Software (makers of DVDProfiler) does offer you a place to keep your collection but unfortunately you only have about two different choices for the look (the one I selected is the better one..). The trick with the Companion is you can use the skin you use in DVDProfiler and there are lots of skins available at the Intervocative website.

I used a skin called Darkskin - English by story_teller I picked up from the DVDProfiler webpage and I think the result is pretty nice. There are a few small issues using the Companion, like the need to click each individual image that is part of the skin (totaling to quite a lot in this case) but overall it was smooth going. The images look crap because the unregistered version of DVDProfiler only support low resolution images. I really should register it as it's only $29,95..

Doug, the creator of the Companion has also written a nifty little application for DVDProfiler with which you can download IMDB cast and crew information directly into DVDProfiler, called DVDFolks. Makes entering those long lists a lot easier!

There are other interesting applications and even PHP enhanced skins available on Doug's website for DVDProfiler, maybe I'll try them out at some point.