Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Throat Of Ashes

In case you don't recognise these screenshots, they are from Breath of Fire. Since I don't really have any games here in Finland, I ended up playing some ROMs that I have on my PDA, using a SNES emulator. Because of the difficulty in playing on the PDA, I'm only able to take on RPGs. Breath of Fire is the first one I tackled.

Breath of Fire was developed by Capcom in 1993 and the English version was released by Squaresoft in 1994. I have been playing this game since I got here (though not very much, I have to admit it) and finished it two days ago. It was a pleasant experience. It is a classic game, and worth playing by RPG enthusiasts. Let me tell you some about the game.

The plot is simple and well paced. The characters are pretty well individualised, mostly because of their abilities. Each character has a special skill that they can use on the world map, if they are leading the party. For example, Ryu can fish, Bo can hunt and walk through forests, Mogu can dig holes and so forth. You need to use these skills at specific locations in order to progress through the story, however using them independently will yield you rewards (even huge secrets). NPCs are somewhat even more dull than in most RPGs. They mostly have those typical single-sentence roles, that are completely out of context with world events. One interesting thing however, is the day-night transition. While travelling on the world map, days pass, and when you enter a town, the time of day is reflected in the NPCs' activities. Combat is pretty monotonous, all you have to do most of the time is activate auto-battle, except during boss fights, where you have to buff yourself up with spells first, and then activate the auto-battle. Some of the secrets are pretty interesting, though you have no really big thingy at the end of the long chase after side-quests (e.g. Ruby Weapon). The menu system is poor and unintuitive, which coupled with the fact that the names of items are limited to about 8 characters, makes you want to spend as less time on the menu screen as possible. Add in the fact that the effects of certain items (such as accessories and special armour/weapons) isn't visible, and you've got yourself one hell of a headache.

Besides all the bad parts I've pointed out, the game was pretty enjoyable overall (maybe I see it that way because I have no other games to play here). Some parts were unexpected, and even though sometimes it wasn't clear where to go to progress through the story, I pretty much had fun all the way, except through the battles for the most part, since they became boring. But I ended up playing till the end, since I was curious how the story would unfold. Like I said, RPG enthusiasts should try it (though I'm pretty sure you've all finished it by now), hard-core gamers should beat it (since it's a classic), but everyone else, you might want to think twice before sinking your teeth into it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Because 5 Is Better Than 1

Well, I experienced my first Magic: the Gathering prerelease today (actually yesterday, since it's 1:29 AM right now). It was an exhilarating experience. Let me tell you all about it.

Let me start with my journey to Tampere. I was down in front of the store by 7:44 AM, 26 minutes before opening. I spent the time listening to music and wondering if they'll open on schedule. They did. I bought myself a couple of sandwiches and a bottle water for the road. I was in the bus stop by 8:06 AM, 14 minutes before the arrival of the bus. Again, I waited listening to music. Now comes the fun part. At 8:18 AM, a strange bus appears. It was green on the sides, and I didn't recognise the company. So I was wondering if that's the one I should take. While I was wondering, it passed by me. Here in Finland, you have to wave for the bus to stop, even thought if clearly you are waiting for it in the station. After it passed, I thought to myself: "What if this was the bus I was supposed to get on and I missed it?" I had the jinkies for the next 4 minutes, till I recognised the ExpressBus coming. I waved, and... surprise! the guy just showed me to back up, and passed me. I was shocked! I realised that I wasn't standing at the correct stop. Now I was really sure that I had missed my bus, till the Valkeakoski Liikenne bus came, not a minute later, I waved, it stopped, I got on, and was on my way to Tampere. After having reached Tampere, it was an adventure finding the right bus to take me to Hervanta, where the university campus is, and once I got there, the hassle to finding the place where the tournament was held. However, when I saw all those people gathering, I just followed them, and I got there, eventually.

I was surprised to see so many people. There were more than fifty participants. It was all so exciting. Enough with the introductions, let's get down to the tournament.

Shards of Alara is a set which story-wise revolves around a plane, Alara, which for some reason got torn apart into five shard-planes. The proportions of the five colours of mana differ from plane to plane, which resulted in the divergent evolution of these planes. Mechanics-wise, this means that each plane is represented exclusively by one of the colours, and it's adjacent "ally" colours. Brings back memories of Invasion. However, unlike Invasion, here each shard-plane has it's very distinct feel. Bant, the white-centred shard, has many small creatures that buff each other up. Esper, the blue-centred shard, has coloured artifacts and each creature is an artifact creature, with many effects that affect or care about your artifacts (I realise I just used the word "artifact" three times in that sentence). Grixis, the black-centred shard, is all about undead, reanimation and creature kill. Jund, the red-centred shard, is all about small goblins and big dragons (so typical), with mechanics which involve feeding the small to the big to make them even bigger. Naya, the green-centred shard, is all about big creatures (with power 5 or greater) and small mana-producers or synergy creatures that buff your gargantuans even more.

After opening the tournament pack and the three boosters, I came down to two options. Either playing an Esper deck or a Naya deck. After drawing Spearbreaker Behemoth, a 5/5 indestructible for 7 mana, and also some pretty good biggies (5/5 vigilance, haste for 6 mana; and 5/4 vanilla for 3 mana), as well as a very good mana base (one tap-land, one obelisk and two panoramas), not to mention that crazy Titanic Ultimatum (a sorcery which for 7 mana gives all your creatures +5/+5, trample, first strike and lifelink until end of turn), I just couldn't resist playing the Naya deck. The Timmy in me was crying out from the bottom of his lungs. He got the best of me. I ended up losing my first two matches because of it. After that, I switched to the Esper deck. I didn't have any real solid card in that deck, but all the small cards worked very well together. My mana curve was highest in the 2 and 3 cost range. I also had a ton of removal, ranging from 2-mana, to 4-mana, as well as some powerful card-drawing. I won the following three matches, and lost in the sixth round to a solid Grixis deck (and an experienced player).

Overall, I had a great time, and can't wait to play in next week's, release tournament.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


A couple of days back, I witnessed a strange event. On my way to school, I have to pass an important road (it's the one you drive on as you come from Tampere towards Valkeakoski city centre). I call it an important road, because it's a lot wider than the ones you saw in earlier photos (the ones that go through the "T: Add {G} to your mana pool."). I don't know about roads in other countries, but compared to Romania, the roads here are extremely wide. This one had just one lane for each way, and a whole lot of space on both sides (to pull over, I guess).

So, now that I've set the scene, this is what happened. There were some logs on the side of the road, in this "pull over" section. Now, when I say logs, don't get me wrong, they weren't sequoia trunks, in fact, I hardly noticed them. Then, comes this bus, which suddenly stops, the driver gets out, pushes the logs off the road, gets back on, and drives away.

The fact is, there was plenty of space for the bus to pass, the logs weren't even on the actual road, so to say. I was shocked. I didn't know how to catalogue this event. Should I say it was considerate? Responsible? Freaky? You decide...

Monday, September 22, 2008


Today was Sergiu's birthday (actually, it was yesterday, since it's 2:06 AM right now). It was pretty spontaneous, so we went down to the store, bought a pack of Karhu beer and celebrated.

Even Steiger joins the party.

Friday, September 19, 2008



~ Box ~

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sight-Seeing Through Valkeakoski

After yesterday's blunder, when we decided to go shopping and found all the stores closed (even though they were open two Sundays ago, when we arrived... odd), we agreed to go on a little outing today and do the shopping while we were at it. After all, there were some special offers at Lidl, which we couldn't pass (pair of salami pizza at 5 euros). So, I've decided to show you some photos I took on the way. Let's go sight-seeing through Valkeakoski!

This is what the road looks like, from the dorm to the centre of Valkeakoski:

It looks pretty much like something out of Lord of the Rings. On the sides of the road, all you see is:

Now, when you get to the centre of the city, there is this nice fountain, and next to it, three pyramid-like structures, which I believe represent the Egyptian pyramids, though I have no idea what the connection is with Finland, in general, and with Valkeakoski, in particular. Anyway, it's there, and of course you can't overcome the urge to climb it and take a snapshot:

On our way back, we admired the peculiar architectural design of Finnish homes. They tend to blend in with the environment. Here are some photos, you'll understand what I mean:

It pretty much reminds me of this:

About 10-15 minutes from the city centre, there is Lidl, the place where we get our stuff. Blessed be Lidl, except on Sundays, when it's closed, then I curse it:

We ended up buying too much stuff, so I followed my brother's example and kidnapped a cart:

Also, there are some weird statues here in Valkeakoski, like this... something, which I have no idea what it represents, and this other very communist-looking worker with a pick:

Also, Finnish people have a great sense of humour:

This sign says it all, though I can't really find the humour in that, only after relating it to something I saw on the net:

As a sidenote, in the whole time during our way to the city centre and back, 22 good-looking girls passed us on bicycles. I think you have to be really special here in Finland not to look good. I just love this place!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Dogs... More Like Pussies"

One of the most hilarious movies I've ever seen is a flick called Cemetery Gates. Not because it would be a good comedy or something, no, but because it is probably the worst movie I've ever seen. It's supposed to be a horror movie, but you'll burst into laughter after the first few minutes and end up laughing your ass off by the end of it. My friend, András, made a pretty good review of it here (in case you don't understand Hungarian, all you need to do is watch the trailer, it's pretty self-explanatory). I pointed you to this review, because I'm not going to redo it. However, as András himself explained, the trailer points out "From the producer of 'Dog Soldiers'", so I thought I'd take this chance and check out if it lives up to the awfulness of Cemetery Gates (and beat András to doing the review).

I was deeply disappointed. Dare I say it? Dog Soldiers is a good movie. It might not be good, but it is above average and deserves at least an OK. How else can I put it? You won't regret watching it. Seriously. This isn't some kind of scheme to make you watch a horrible movie. Believe me. You might not want to stop reading this review in mid-sentence and go watch it, but you might want to finish reading the review and then watch it.

All right, maybe it's just me, since I was expecting a shitty movie, but I really thought it was nice. The thing is, what they say in the Cemetery Gates trailer is a trap. Indeed, the producer (hell, it's actually only co-producer) is the same, however, neither the writer, nor the director are the same. Just goes to show you how having the same producer may result in such different movies.

Now, on to the review. First, let me give you some details about the film, taken straight from Wikipedia.

Dog Soldiers is a 2002 British horror film, written and directed by Neil Marshall and starring Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee and Liam Cunningham. It was a British production, and although set in the highlands of Scotland, was filmed almost entirely in Luxembourg.

Moving on, let me outline the plot: a group of British soldiers conduct a simple training exercise in Scotland, and come across a pack of werewolves. While trying to escape, they lock themselves in a house, and have to survive until dawn, while being besieged by the werewolves. I know, it sounds crappy. The first scene is actually pretty stupid (though not as stupid as in Cemetery Gates). When I saw that, I was getting ready for the fun. However, it soon turns good. The first sign of this is the music. I thought it was very appropriate, they didn't exaggerate with it, and it just feels right.

After the first scene, you may also notice that the camera movement is worthy of a professional movie. It has fast zipping changes when needed, the panorama shots are also very good, and there are some very nice circle-arounds, as well as good close-ups during conversations.

And, speaking about conversations, here comes the best thing in the movie (in my opinion). The dialogue is witty, realistic, and expressive. It would be hard to point out what was the worst thing in Cemetery Gates: the plot, the acting, the costumes, the dialogue, the effects... anyway, I still remember the lines being pretty incoherent (much like the plot). In Dog Soldiers, the dialogue is amazing. First of all, since it takes place in Scotland, the characters have very good Scottish accents. They talk like real soldiers, meaning no censorship on the "shits" and "fucks". And some of the puns are amazing. I'll spoil one of them for you. One of the soldiers is called Spoon. When the werewolves get him, he is downstairs, with no one around. When the others come down, they see his remains, and exchange the following lines: "Where is Spoon?" "There is no Spoon." I thought that was hilarious.

Now, don't get me wrong, by no means should this movie be considered a military movie (too little trigger discipline for that), nor a horror movie (not enough suspense), nor an action movie (not enough effects). It has some of each of these three. It is a weird combination, I have to admit, but the proportions are really well balanced. For example, it doesn't cut back on the gore, but it isn't gratuitous. I thought it was well paced.

So, if you've seen Cemetery Gates, and wand something similar, Dog Soldiers will be disappointed. If you have some free time, and want to see a decent movie, I recommend it. Here's another bit of info, from Wikipedia.
It is considered by fans to be a cult classic due to the writing, direction, cinematography, chemistry of the cast, strong performances and the nearly complete lack of computer-generated imagery used for special effects.

As an ending, I have to add, that there was a 2008 projected sequel, entitled Dog Soldier: Fresh Meat, however it will not have Neil Marshall in the director's seat, and will involve American soldiers... sounds dumb off the bat. But don't panic, it doesn't show up on IMDb, and if it really were to come out this year, we would have heard about it by now. They probably cancelled it, which is good.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


It is a good thing to know about your neighbours. I remember, that in many movies, the plot revolved around ordinary people (usually youngsters like myself) getting mixed up in all sorts of drug-dealing gun-slinging blood-gushing plots due to their neighbours whom they thought were ordinary people like themselves but turned out to be nothing of the sort.

I'm telling this, because, until recently, we always took the elevator. We live on the third floor, it's not a big deal, but we were so comfortable and pleased that the elevator worked (considering that it doesn't, back at the dorms in Cluj), that we decided to use. The odd part is, it's soooooooooooo slow, that we would be better off using the stairs. So, one time, I decided to actually do use the stairs. Now, everyone's name is written on the door. So when I walked passed one of my neighbours, and saw the name plate on the door, I froze.

Now, I remember thinking about the names in Frank Herbert's Dune, and it occured to me that Corino sounds Italian, Atreides sounds Greek, but I could never really put my finger on Harkonnen. I never thought it would be of Finnish origin. I know it's not the same, but it is damn similar. I should worry, having to live next to someone bearing the name of a javelin thrower (it's olympic javelin thrower... but it still implies sharp things).

Other people whose surname is/was Härkönen include:
- Anna-Leena Härkönen (b. 1965), Finnish writer
- Arto Härkönen (b. 1959), Finnish javelin thrower
- Esko Härkönen (1930–1992), Finnish member of parliament
- Jorma Härkönen (b. 1956), Finnish runner
- Kari Härkönen (b. 1959), Finnish cross country skier
- Kirsti Härkönen (1972–2003), Finnish human rights activist and saxophonist
- Paavo Härkönen, Finnish composer and artist

Friday, September 12, 2008

This Is The End!

I saw this on a post, where the guy said: "Here's what scientists say probably won't happen when CERN's Large Hadron Collider becomes fully operational." I laughed my ass off. I can't wait for 21 October.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Vigilante Coke

My brother has this habit of writing about products with weird names (such as Titan matches and Laban milk). I've discovered that Finland is not without its own products with weird names. Come to think of it, "products with weird names", they should have a special word for that, or abbreviation.

So, here comes Finland's own:

I think it's very strange. I mean, I knew Finland was the home of Santa Claus, but Batman?! If it were Santa Claus Cola, I could understand it (or is that already taken by Coca Cola and Pepsi?), but this is pretty ridiculous. Maybe if you drink a lot of this, your voice becomes all hoarse and shitty like in the movie. I'm pretty sure the Dark Knight wouldn't appreciate having a soft drink (and more so cola) named after him. However, I have a remedy for it: Wayne Enterprises Cola, now that's a horse of a different colour.

However, besides all these PWWNs, there are also some really good products here in Finland. One of my favourites is:

Yes, that's right, stracciatella flavoured yoghurt. Some of you might know, that my favourite ice cream flavour is stracciatella. This yoghurt is heavenly for me. I remember hating yoghurt a few years back. Even after starting to like it, I only enjoyed the ones with different flavours of fruit. But this, this is just great. I can hardly wait to try out other Finnish foods here. I'm looking forward to going to Hesburger one of these days.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Notorious L.H.C. in the Hood!

My brother brought it to my attention that they will be firing up the Large Hadron Collider in a couple of days. So, looking around, I came across a video which I believe even non-physicists will appreciate.

Simply Bad...

I wanted to write about something else today, but I remembered this review, and I just had to share it with you all. Credits go to this guy.

So, without further ado, here's the review of America's 10 Most Wanted! Enjoy!

Monday, September 08, 2008


Do you guys remember those old cartoons where something happened between too characters, which at the beginning started out small and ended up really big? As an exemple, I remember this one with a cat and a mouse, I believe, who are both starving. And the cat wants to eat the mouse, but it is skinny, so it gives it some growth pills, and the mouse ends up bigger, wanting to eat the cat. In response, the cat swallows some pills himself, getting bigger, and so on and so on...

Another good exemple is that episode from Dexter's Laboratory, entitled Monstory, where Dee Dee wants to tell Dexter a joke, and he doesn't want to listen, so he ends up giving Dee Dee some kind of mutating agent, and then he takes some, and so on and so on...

All these cartoons are meant to give you some insight into important aspects of life. They shouldn't be laughed at... ok, maybe they should, but they should also be taken seriously because of their valuable teachings. But you can't really relate to those cartoons and transpose them into real life. Unless you see them in real life... (well, sort of)

Which brings me to today's post. At the advice of a friend of mine (thank you, Irina), I watched a French movie yesterday, entitled Jeux d'enfants (English title: Love Me If You Dare). It is a romantic story (obviously, since it's French), about a little boy and a little girl playing a game of dare. It starts out small, but as they grow up, it pretty much gets out of their hands. It's a really interesting movie. You can't even imagine, when it all starts out, what it will lead up to...

First of all, I remarked the very good directing. Typical of modern French (maybe not just French, but European) movies, it has a fast change of scenes, which are sometimes very artistic, lacking a sense of reality and delving you more into the emotional part of it all. (THIS IS AN EDIT: the directing is awesome. I didn't stress this enough in the original post. It is very very good.) The acting is very good and the dialogues are well thought up. They all seem very natural. My French isn't that good, and in the first part of the movie, the narator keeps spitting out words like he was auditioning for the part of machine in a sound-only anime, so I was in need of subtitles. Try to make sure you get your hands on some good English subtitles, because mine sucked pretty bad. Thankfully, what the subtitles left out, I was able to understand from the original voices.

It is a very good romantic movie, a very good slice of life movie, a very good French movie, and overall a very good movie. I recommend it to all those French-loving romantics out there (hope you're reading this, Adela).

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Yesterday, I "enjoyed" the aftermath of Tursajeiset. So, after shaking off the hangover, today I get to write about Thursday's initiation party.

Tusajeiset is what they call it here. There were premonitions of it Thursday morning when we left the lab and asked the people there at what time we had to come in the next day, and they said: "Oh, no, today is the Initiation Party, so enjoy yourselves!" That was a subtle hint that everyone would be too drunk to come to university the next day.

At four o'clock we gathered at an amphitheatre. We got split up into about 8 groups, with about 12 people in every group. These were most of the first year students. I noticed many of them had backpacks, and after sitting down, they started taking alcoholic drinks out of them, mostly beer and vodka. It was very strange, when the organisers said that the student insurance isn't valid throughout the day. So, then it got me thinking... what's going to happen? I was very excited, as can be seen in the photo.

In the end, it was a very long station game that took us all throughout the city and ended at the Onnala, the biggest club in Valkeakoski, where we had the after-party. However, at the stations and during the walks between the stations, our student tutors kept saying: "Drink! Drink!" Indeed! The whole Initiation Party was about drinking! (I like the way these Finns think)

So, from the start of the Tursajeiset until the end of it, I drank the following:
- liquorice schnapps
- beer
- vodka
- pear cidar
- some kind of cocktail, I don't remember the name, since I didn't order it
- initiation party special (another cocktail, don't know what it contained)
- tuica (yep, one of the Romanian guys had a stash of it)
- bacardi breezer
- vodka-battery (vodka + energy drink)
- lonkero

The club was amazing. It had two halls (both had bars). The larger one had a dance floor, and played all sorts of dance music (house and whatnot). The smaller one had a lot of chairs and tables and played rock music. Smoking was only permitted in the smaller hall, so it wouldn't bother you if you wanted to dance. I loved the place. Here is me in front of the club, out for some fresh air (I already had some alcohol in me by that time):

Before that, we also got to have a dip in the lake. It was awesome. The water was a bit colder than the air, so when you got in, it was a bit unpleasant, but when you got out, it was warm. I thought I would catch a cold because of it, but it was just right. Oh, forgot to tell you, we took a dip the hard way:

Yes, it was one hell of a day! I love Tursajeiset!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

School Days, Work Place, Office Space

I previously said that I would be writing about university and what I do here. Today was an exceptional day, so it's the perfect opportunity to tell you about it all.

The degree programme for Automation Engineering in English only started this year, meaning that the university can only provide courses for first year students. Being third year, most of these courses are obsolete for me, so we cannot attend them. Instead, to earn our credits, we are doing some projects in the fields of the courses we should have taken. This is very cool, since we get to stay with the research personnel, have our own computers in the lab, and finally do something, instead of just writing notes during boring classes.

Here are some photos showing the three of us (Ioan, Sergiu and myself) at the office. The place is pretty cool. An amazing fact was that we found Counter-Strike on one of the computers. Ha ha...

One of the projects we're working on is hooking up a slot car track to a logical circuit and give different command through that circuit. We want to plan out the acceleration times of the car, maybe even programme it to optimise speeds and so on. Today, we fixed the track, fixed some cars, installed the sensors, arranged the wiring and just had a jolly old time. Here are some photos to your enjoyment.

After we finished the job, we just fooled around. It was great. Here is a video:

After that, we had a party for all the exchange students. It was great. I tasted good Finnish company (though I would have liked to taste some of them a bit more...), I tasted some good Finnish sausages (try to find that in your dictionary), and I tasted some good Finnish sauna. Yep. I have to tell you one thing... It's hot in there!

So, yes, I'm having the time of my life here. Also had a discussion with Laura from the Student Office, and she filled me in on the good life people have in Finland and about the problems they are facing. Thanks a lot for the info, sorry if I was a bother.

So, yes, life here is good. All of you readers out there, you are welcome to try it out!