Tuesday, January 31, 2006


The vases on the left are two priceless and stunningly colourful Qing-dynasty vases from 17th century. These Chinese treasures were displayed on a windowsill in a staircase in the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge until last Wednesday.

Now they are in gazillion tiny pieces. A visitor, whose shoelaces were untied, tripped over and fell over the vases, which fell on the marble steps. (BBC News)

I just can't believe this could happen. I remember seeing these vases when I visited the museum in December. They are a part of the university museum's fine collection of oriental art and artefacts. There are two unbelievable things in this incident. First, how can anyone fall over to his own shoelaces, and what are the odds of this happening in the museum? Second, why weren't these vases in a glass cabinet or behind a protective glass?

The museum has announced that they'll try to glue the vases back together. They describe this incident as a "most unfortunate and regrettable accident", and say that they don't want to overreact and make their collections less accessible. Well, I do agree, even though I also think they are more accessible behind a glass than in small pieces on the conservation table.

This reminds me of an old ad by a Finnish mobile phone operator. In a tv-spot promoting their roaming services (that allow people to make calls when they travel abroad), a guy stands in a museum, calls home, and asks his friend: "How would you formulate the following sentence in Chinese: It was already broken when I got here". Zoom in to the floor, where a porcelain vase lies in small pieces...

(picture BBC)

Monday, January 30, 2006


Mondays... Please abolish them. Or at least, don't expect me to get too much done at work. On the other hand, Mondays are peak seasons for procrastination. And therefore, on yesterday's topic of movie previews, I give you this: Five men, one limo, one destination...

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Movie trailers

Ever been disappointed in the comedy you decided to see because its trailer was funny? It seems to be more of a rule than the exception with b-class comedies that all good jokes in them get picked to the trailer, while the actual film is dead boring. Of course, we expect "more of the same" rather than "that's it, really" when it comes to content.

So, people make viewing decisions based on trailers. Therefore you need to convince them that your film is great. Nothing's more convincing than a deep, low voice. Welcome Pablo Francisco. One man, one destiny...

A great twist to the trailer-scene (trailerpark?) are the remakes of trailers that have been cropping up lately. My favourites in the categories of romantic comedy and horror are Shining and Sleepless in Seattle, respectively. No, wait...

Sometimes it would be better just to squeeze the whole film to the usual 30 second duration of the trailer. This is exactly what the Bunnies' Theatre Troupe has done. This is one of my very favourite sites in the whole wide web.

Of course, sometimes films should end differently, not just earlier. These guys are putting forward some proposals. I tend to agree with the LOTR-case, even though I generally think that people who go to see fantasy films with their logicality-hats on, should stay home and watch Newsnight.

(Picture from www.gsa.gov)

Tabula rasa

That picture is my PhD so far. Well, of course there's more, but that is where the writing-up process starts. I got this flipchart yesterday. I was looking for a proper flipchart on a tripod, but Staples only had them in two sizes, 'massive' and 'huge', and since my room doesn't get along well with things of either description, I decided to go for a lighter model. These are essentially A2-sized post-it notes, with the sticky strip on one edge, so when you tear it out of the pad, you can easilly stick it up on the wall .

I need to visualise things. My PhD has theoretical luggage from many different fields of research, and binding them together to a coherent package is going to be a challenge. At the moment, I mostly have these "clouds" in my head, shapeless blobs of ideas that "I must discuss in the thesis". I need to link them together to a readable story. When I was drafting my research proposal in the first year, I had a similar feeling, where everything just about started to make sense, and everything seemed connected, if only I could know how... So I decided to do a mindmap. After having mapped about 1/3 of the things I had first listed, everything was clear enough for me to start writing. I'm hoping this would happen again. Of course, now my problem is a bit different; I understand the connections, but actually need to focus only on some of them to have a good structure rather than bouncing from a topic to another.

Today I will go and buy felt tip pens that I can use with the chart. Ahh, I'm making so much progress so fast... :-)


It's been too long since I went to see contemporary dance. And I'm very glad I did today. Two of my friends, a colleague of mine, and my next door neighbour, danced in the new production of the Cambridge University Contemporary Dance Workshop (CUCDW), called "Touch".

"Touch" is the fourth annual show of CUCDW, and the ADC was sold out. I have known for long that the quality of student music and theatre productions is very high here, and this show confirmed that this also goes for dance.

"Touch" is "an evening of eclectic and original dance which explores the importance of contact at all levels of life". As an annual showcase of the various workshops and classes of CUCDW, the show presented a whole range of acts, from exquisite flamenco to hiphop, breakin' and ballet. To tie it all together, the show was loosely bound to five groups, Isolation, Surroundings, People, Cultures, and Finale. Between each there was a small interlude. About 30 dancers, ranging from former professionals to relatively novice performers, 20 choreographers, and a minimalist stage with beautifully orchestrated lights made up the "machinery" behind the event.

To me, the best thing about dance is the energy. Of course the grace and aesthetic pleasure of it are important, but there is something in the intensity and passion of it that really captures me. Seeing a performance can bring a lot of positive energy for a long period of time, if it is good. This was. And even though the theme of the show, touch, or contact, was only very loosely holding the components together, there was still a nice flow to it. Because more than about contact, to me it was about interaction. And this is what I mean by intensity. At the best acts, you could almost see the energy flow between the dancers, being stretched, snapped, then recaptured. Touched me.

P.S. But not everyone agreed: I overheard two guys in the loo on the interval, the discussion was pretty much to this effect:
"How are ya?"
"Yeah, so boring."
"Well, gotta suffer."

I hope your dance-loving girlfrends leave you idiots soon. :-)

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I didn't know it existed, until today when I was checking for the 134995th time which one is the forward slash (/) and which one backslash (\). I would write both with an up-down motion, so the names are confusing to me, even though the naming in general makes perfect sense.

So, Martin Speckter in 1962 decided that instead of using the exclamation mark and the questionmark separately, you could have one mark that would combine both. Why on earth?!

It hasn't really picked up, has it? I couldn't find it in Word's seemingly exhaustive menu of symbols, so it probably just exists in the more professional software. You'd get a great question for a trivia quiz, though, but that's about it. I wholeheartedly support the campaign to get rid of using multiple punctuation marks (or in some occasion the _people_ who use multiple punctuation, like teenagers!!11!!?!), but this is just complicated. Plus it loses the sometimes important distinction between !? and ?!.

And what about the name, interrobang? Sounds like a sexual perversion to me, more than punctuation. Or at best it is something from a Monty Python movie or Victor Borge comedy routine. Then again, with the right twist in your mind, you can make pretty much any punctuation mark sound dirty: "Hey babe, how about some hyphenation back at my place?" (Anyone still wondering why it's been so quiet for me lately on that front... :-) )

If this punctuation mark is to get any mileage, it should be called WTF. Because it's more concise, and precisely what it means. (For a great guide to the usage of WTF, see the End of the World).

Happy birthday, Mr Burns

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect sconner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

Robert Burns 25.1.1759 - 21.7.1796

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Science Museum

The Science Museum in London is one of the coolest places on this planet. Its seven floors are packed with fascinating stuff: from a huge, operational, factory-caliber steam engine to cars, computers, airplanes, model ships, satellites and rockets.

For an eternal little boy like me, it's a paradise on earth. I could spend days in there, just looking at the machines, learning how they work. The stories behind great inventions are also fascinating, and the Science Museum has succeeded in showing how these great inventions came to be. As we learn at school, there have been dedicated individuals who (sometimes demanding great personal sacrifices) got the brilliant ideas and developed new things. True at part, but the Science museum goes deeper than just showcasing these individuals and their work. You can actually see how each step of technology was based on the work of the previous generations, and how scientific breakthroughs involve teamwork and collaboration. And also, how development is driven not only by the individual scientists and innovators but the needs and values of the society, the funding bodies and the zeitgeist. And how some great innovators are so much ahead of their time that it is up to us, the posterity, to give them the recognition they would have deserved in their lifetime.

In this age of digital technology, technology is "everywhere and nowhere". We all use it all the time, but the actual machinery is too tiny to be seen and it is usually behind panels and inside grey boxes. And you can't really see what an electronic component does. Churning numbers is clinically clean and unsexy. All this makes you really marvel and respect the extremely high standard of mechanics, mechanical engineering and manufacturing of the "good old times". One machine per function, developed to perfection, built with shiny metal and brass. The early calculators, for instance, were all mechanical, and sooo beautiful.

The most impressive of these machines is the Difference Engine by Charles Babbage. He designed the impressive apparatus but ran out of funding and never completed building it.

Babbage studied in Cambridge, started a war against street musicians, got various government grants to develop his difference engines, invented numerous other things in the process (including uniform postage fees), founded a number of societies, got elected as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics (position earlier held by Newton and currently held by Dr Stephen Hawking), never got around to giving a single lecture in that position, was widowed at an early age and dated Lady Lovelace, and finally divided by zero in London in 1871, when he had already fallen to virtual obscurity, and was buried with modest ceremonies. He has now been called The Father of Computing.

At that time, there were maths books full of multiplication tables, logarithmic tables etc., so that those who needed to make complex calculations could refer to those. Unfortunately, these books were all full of mistakes, and as a result structures would fall down, machinery not work properly, ships have accidents etc. Babbage knew that as long as the tables were calculated by hand, there would be mistakes, since humans tend to err on exactly these kinds of things. He was therefore determined to design and construct a machine that would not make mistakes, and he could then use the machine to make error-free tables.

In his lifetime, he only managed to make smaller models and parts of his difference engine. However, using his blueprints and sketches and notes, his machine was constructed in the 1980's and it is now up and running in the Science museum. At the moment, there's a workshop set up in the second floor of the museum, where they are building another difference engine. It will eventually be placed in a museum in the US.

The DE2 weighs 2.6 tons and has more than 5000 parts. Therefore it's not too portable. It has a printer, though, so what ever you are calculating you will get the results printed for you. It is a very beautiful machine, and has a mesmerising quality to it. Just looking at all those shafts and dials and numbers and springs, all made out of shiny metal and connected to each other with such precision... Beautiful.

That was the kind of aesthetics that pleased Babbage himself, as he hated music and especially street musicians, or "street nuisances" as he called them. There's a crater in the moon called Charles Babbage. Probably a suitable place to send all the street nuisances to.

(all pictures © NMSI)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Stardust mission a success

The NASA Stardust-mission I talked about a couple of posts back seems to be a success. The capsule returned safely home, shattering the previous records of re-entry speed by manmade objects, when it hurtled towards the Utah plains at 13km/second. The parachute systems worked as planned, slowing the capsule down before impact, saving it from crashing down and mixing the invaluable interstellar dust and comet-tail material with terrestrial dirt.

That's exactly what happened to Genesis, NASA's previous attempt to collect particles from space and return them back to earth. Luckily not all was lost when Genesis dug a crater upon its landing, after parachutes and a daring stunt involving helicopters and oversized baseball mits had failed.

The mission scientists estimate that Stardust collected thousands, possibly more than a million particles, most of them from the comet Wild 2 (in the picture, © NASA). I'm looking forward to the start of Stardust@Home...

New term

Lent Term 2006 started on Tuesday. In the space of a couple of days, the sleepy campus turned into a rush hour hub. The undergraduates are back in town.

Undergraduates live and breath in synchrony with the rhythm of the terms. Their rooms are leased and rent paid on a termly basis (while graduate students usually stay all around the year, make yearly contracts and and pay per month). The first day of full term is the day they need to be in Cambridge, and they will be kicked out when the full term ends 8 weeks later. During full term, they will have lectures, supervisions and all their deadlines and exams. Work doesn't necessarily end when the term does, but teaching does.

Why all this migration to and fro? Well, the first reason is that kicking the undergrads out of the way gives the fellows (and graduate students) some peaceful time free from teaching obligations. This can be used for furthering science, unburdening the world of some of its uncertainties and ignorance by bringing about new knowledge. In other words, we are supposed to do research. In theory, at least. In practice we first try to catch up with the admin and rest of the teaching, comment and correct essays, submit reports etc. Then we take a break ourselves, and finally get bored and "lose the rhythm" since there's nothing happening. And when the undergrads are back in the beginning of next term, we start cursing them again for distracting us, being fully aware that we've just lost another opportunity to do our own work uninterrupted. You never get as much done between terms than you initially expect to. Partly, because you need interruptions and some stress to function. And for the fellows, because the graduate students pester them.

Secondly, all undergraduates need to be in residence, or reside within the Precincts of the University during the terms. The Precincts are defined as being "the area within a boundary defined as extending three miles from Great St Mary’s Church, measured in a straight line" (University Ordinances, Chapter II). So, you go to the Cambridge city center, find Great St Mary's Church opposite the University Senate and diagonally opposite King's Chapel, take a three mile long ACME Residence Ordinance Compliance Tape Measure®, attach it to the church fence, and then just walk home in a straight line and hope to get to your house before you run out of tape. Most undergraduates escape the hassle by living in college accommodation, which are either within the precinct or if not, simply defined in some book of exceptions as being within the Precincts (I love the way they alter reality so that it complies with the rules, rather than changing an archaic rule). Graduates are given a wider bubble to reside in, the grad version of the tape measure is ten miles long.

When measuring the intensity of the field of wisdom, generated by the accumulated intelligence of the fellows, and transmitted via the beacon in the belfry of the university's church, some talented Cambridge scientists (was this Ernst Rutherford's doing?) at the dawn of time determined that at the distance of three miles the field is still strong enough for an ignorant undergraduate to absorb the radiation with visible (or at least measurable) sublimating consequences. Since graduate students radiate some wisdom themselves, through interaction the connection can be maintained over longer distances, and so they are allowed to reside within 10 miles of the beacon of enlightment, and for a "grave cause" even further away.

This must be the logic behind the statute and the ordinance, since the gravest punishment university can give to misbehaving students is to rusticate them. Send them out of the Precinct and deny them the podcast of intelligence. Human rights, you say? They can't tell me where to go? If 3 million turists can visit Cambridge every year (who comes to the same place every year?), why can't Adolescent Johnny even if he was saying all those vulgar words to the dean? While dancing naked on the chapel roof. Well, of course they can't stop you from entering Cambridge. Which doesn't mean the don't try to. A couple of years ago a group of student squatters were evicted from the derelict house they had taken over, and since property is sacred even for the proudly leftist King's College, they handed down heavy fines and rusticated the bunch. After a lot of noise in the local press and heaps of turmoil and spilled port in the chambers of the college and the university, the sanctions were reconsidered, fines dropped and rustications cancelled. So we didn't get to see if the university ordinances stand the test of the courts of law. They went crumbling down already in the front court of the college.

And if graduate students are not counting the days of term, we are synchronised to the breathing of the university on a larger timescale. PhD students need to spend at least 6 terms in residence, and have completed 9 terms of studies, before they can submit their thesis and apply for the degree. By this time, they've absorbed enough radiation to be incurably mutated. After 9 terms, 6 of which in residence, graduate students are finally reduced to a state where they can only talk about their research, but can go on for hours and hours without stopping to breathe. Since the university authorities are rightly worried that this might be contageous or at least merit a public hazard, they've decided to issue a label of warning, "Dr", to be attached to the graduates' names. Probably short for "drowsiness-inducing".

Monday, January 16, 2006

Procrastinator's Creed

This viral can already be found on several corners of the web, but I'll post it here as well, since it's sort of on the topic of this blog. I especially like point 4, since it seems to hold very well in my case.

Procrastinator's Creed

1. I believe that if anything is worth doing, it would have been done already.

2. I shall never move quickly, except to avoid more work or find excuses.

3. I will never rush into a job without a lifetime of consideration.

4. I shall meet all of my deadlines directly in proportion to the amount of bodily injury I expect to receive from missing them.

5. I firmly believe that tomorrow holds the possibility for new technologies, astounding discoveries, and a reprieve from my obligations.

6. I truly believe that all deadlines are unreasonable regardless of the amount of time given.

7. I shall never forget that the probability of a miracle, though infinitesimally small, is not exactly zero.

8. If at first I don't succeed, there is always next year.

9. I shall always decide not to decide, unless of course I decide to change my mind.

10. I shall always begin, start, initiate, take the first step, and/or write the first word, when I get around to it.

11. I obey the law of inverse excuses which demands that the greater the task to be done, the more insignificant the work that must be done prior to beginning the greater task.

12. I know that the work cycle is not plan/start/finish, but wait/wait/plan.

13. I will never put off until tomorrow, what I can forget about forever.

14. I will become a member of the Ancient Order of Two-Headed Turtles (The Procrastinator's Society) if they ever get it organized.

(Pic from www.kinggalleries.com, bowl by native American artist Corn Moquino)

Sunday, January 15, 2006


I like the "feel" of this song by Nizlopi. And the animation is brilliant, as is the rest of the site. I like the doodles, some people have really spent time and energy to create them. The song is somehow very easy to sympathise with, and it seems very honest. Daddies are superheroes for little (and bigger) boys.

Pic © Nizlopi

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Things to Do to Avoid Work I

In procrastination, the most difficult challenge is avoiding the guilt. You can't escape it, but you can push it to the background, and cover it with a sense of doing something as/more important.

Some procrastination is simply loitering, with no productive results whatsoever. The Art of Procrastination, however, is to make the non-work feel important, necessary, unavoidable. Like when you spend an hour trying to find the link to the article you once saw and now think your friend might be interested in. Surely helping a friend is more important than analysing your data? It doesn't really matter that the friend it totally oblivious about your effort and probably will just curse you for sending a distracting email when trying to get work done by a looming deadline. It's the thought that counts. Your thought, that is.

There must be a reason why helping out in someone else's research project is always more interesting than doing any work in your own, but I'll have to return to that issue later. Because now I'm meta-procrastinating, trying to delay writing about the real point of this entry, which is a superb way of spending countless guilt-free hours not doing your work!

In many ways, looking for a speck of dust in interstellar space sounds like a thing someone might want to do to avoid proper work. Now you can help them in the project!

NASA's Stardust Mission is looking for volunteers to help them sift through the millions of microscope images of the gel that was on board of the Stardust capsule. Stardust has been flying near comets in our solar system and a few dozen dust particles have hopefully been captured by it. Stardust will return to earth tomorrow, and the scientists are keen to find out if their fishing trip was successful. Pre-registration for Stardust@Home is now on.

This is a perfect academic procrastination activity, since the managers of the project have promised that anyone who finds a grain of dust, will get to name it, but more importantly, will be included as co-authors in the article announcing the discovery!

(at this rate, my chances of getting published through Stardust@Home are astronomically better than with my own work... Yes, I registered.)

(pic ©2005 UC Regents)

It's over...

Check out this hilarious short film. Hands up, how many of those have happened to you?

Best procrastination-material in a while... Unfortunately it lasts only 90 seconds, 3 minutes including posting this, and so now I must get to work. Not BACK to work, since I haven't started yet. But I will. Any moment now, unless there's a new phd-comic...

Historical victory!

Today, Jarkko Nieminen became the first Finn to ever win an ATP title, when he won the final of the Heineken Open in Auckland, NZ. Jarkko beat Mario Ancic of Croatia in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2. This was the 5th time Jarkko reaches the final in ATP tournaments. After winning a number of titles on the Challenge Tour, having recovered from wrist injury, and reached 29. position in the ATP entry list (2 below his career best, 27), Jarkko finally deliveres the long-awaited trophy. Great stuff, a big day for Finnish tennis, a wonderful achievement for Jarkko, and brilliant news to kickstart my weekend! (which will be a working one...)

Things are looking good for Jarkko regarding the first Grand Slam of the year, Australian Open, that starts next week. Jarkko's opponent on the first round is Australia's 22 year old Marc Kimmich, currently 312. in the entry rankings. Go Jarkko!

Saggy boobs, dodgy science

As a PhD student, I of course try to follow the latest science news. Today, BBC shocked the world with the boob-scoop: women's breasts bounce. And it might be a bad thing.

So, the bra manufacturer had commissioned a study to show that breasts bounce more when the participants run without a bra than when wearing the Shock Absorber sports bra they make.

The study had been conducted in the University of Portsmouth, under the auspices of its Department of Sport and Exercise Science. Yes, the same cradle of innovation that has been in the news for their "Bachelor of Surfing". This for many has been the epitome of plummeting quality of higher education and research in British universities. It has been difficult to start a discussion about standards, scientific basis and relevance of higher education without referring to the BSc of Surfing or "beckhamology", as this general field of studies has also been called.

Citius, altius, dodgius?

This research also continues the proud tradition of corporate-sponsored pseudo-research that is either to provide us with the knowledge that the product gives your eyelashes 38% more volume, or it is carried out for the sole purpose of getting 15 minutes of government-sponsored BBC fame, like the "formula for perfect toast" or "how to dunk a biscuit" did. No wonder people still have archaic stereotypes of mad scientists... In the end, these are all for mostly harmless fun (and to keep scientists in mascara, toast and biscuits), but this tit-study is somewhat more dubious.

I'm of course fascinated to learn that when participants run on a treadmill, their bouncing nipples draw a figure-of-eight trajectory. The 'bounco-meter' also showed that in the course of one mile's run, the distance they bounce was about 135 meters. (Usually people stick to either metric or Imperial measuring units and don't change from one to another mid-sentence, at least when reporting results of a scientific experiment, but I'll let that pass.)

Collar bone and nipple trajectories (pic © Uni of Portsmouth)

Never have point-light technology and movement tracking been put to a better use. Since the study was sponsored by a bra-maker, the final result that breasts bounce less when wearing the right bra was not a huge surprise. What was worrying, though, was that at least according to the press material provided by University of Portsmouth, the study was simply a measurement of breast movements, yet the press release and the following news focused on the adverse effects running without the research sponsor's bra might have. According to the researchers, skin and the so-called Cooper's ligaments are responsible for supporting the structure of the breasts, essentially keeping them uppy and happy. And these, the researchers claim, may be irreversibly damaged and stretched if you exercise without a proper sports bra.

There is no mention in the press release, nor in the more detailed pdf, about how these conclusions were reached. According to the release, they just measured the bounce, not the stretch of Cooper's ligaments. Also, there's no mention about how these long-term effects were estimated or studied, and whether the running-induced stretch is greater than the normal wear and tear caused by aging. Of course, no statistical analysis or tests for significance were reported. (it's relatively difficult to find relevant information on this, try googling "breasts" and you know what I mean... :-) )

Is this just bad reporting or totally bogus science? At least it is very close to being unethical marketing, I think.

Also, I find it a bit strange that the coordinator of this study, Dr. Joanna Scurr, who "carried out the research at the University of Portsmouth", isn't actually a member of their faculty, at least not listed on the website. Google doesn't return any hits on her either. Maybe she works for the company making these shock absorbers. That, by the way, are endorsed by the cooper's ligament-wise very talented Anna Kournikova, but this brings us back to the googling problem...

Well, money talks, and while some researchers aim for the Nobel prize, some others go for the Ig® Nobel...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Laws of Planet Procrastination

By the ruler of the Planet P, TH to it's only, but loyal subject, TH...

Don't take it too seriously. You don't need any new obsessions or addictions right now, just keep it casual and update the blog when you have free time or need / deserve a break.

In fact, don't take it seriously at all. No need to check the email every minute or hit F5 to see if someone has commented.

It's anonymous. OK, you don't need to hire Matlock to find out who TH is in real life, but somehow writing in a more general tone and without a face should emphasise the therapeutic function of the blog.

It's anonymous. So don't analyse the visitor stats of the site too deeply, even though StatCounter provides all sorts of information.It's just to see if anyone reads this...

The PhD thesis must progress faster than the blog. If there's more text and chapters in this blog than in the thesis, there will be punishment. No boreme.com tonight, mister!

No looking back, no censorship. Typos and obscure sentence structures may be edited but the tone of entries not.

Don't start other blogs. Sure, there's a lot to say about things, but if they can't be said here, then unfortunately the only option is to graduate first, then run for a political office, and then say those things.

Write in English, mostly (see 10§). I'm thinking and working in English, so I'm also writing this one in English. A blog in Finnish would be nice, but unfortunately I just wrote §7.

Keep it clean. This means no swearing or foul language. Mum or dad might be reading this.

10§ If you really need to swear, swear in Finnish. This is completely illogical, since my parents know Finnish... But, in Finnish, you get the same "effect" with "nicer" swearwords. Thus, it's better to drop the English four letter word for a Finnish seven letter word.

11§ No more rules, this is getting too serious. See §1-2.

Sleeping in - again

It's 10.30 already. And I just woke up a while ago. I was planning to get up at 8.30, but as so often before, I comfortably slept through my alarm system.

I have an alarm radio, which is supposed to wake me up with Q103 Big Russ and Helen Morning Show, and even though I have the volume turned up high, I've learned to reach for the remote and turn it down without needing to wake up to do it. My genious plan is that the alarm in my mobile phone goes on 5-10 minutes after the radio, when I've had enough time to wake up and would then get up and start my day. That's the theory, anyway.

Should wreck the theory, it clearly is no good. I've gathered loads of evidence that contradicts it. On most mornings I unconsciously turn off these alarms and only wake up when I hear the cleaning lady in the corridor. When I hear her approaching, I jump up like a flash and dress up in a second so that I'd be "decent" when she knocks on my door. She empties the bins in our rooms every morning, and depending on which dormitory corridor she starts from, this alarm goes on between 9 and 11. Today it was just before 10. Thanks Marcie.

Not that I was ever the one to get up in the morning. I would drive my parents nuts by being on the edge of being late for school every morning by trying to get yet one more minute of sleep. For some reason, I didn't mind having to run or cycle like mad to school, as long as I could linger in bed for that all-important minute... So, I was doing things on last minute already when I was a kid. Didn't know then, what a career in procrastination that started. :-)

Perhaps I should get myself one of these? Or start hiding the remote control of the radio.

I am OK...

I just read again what I wrote last night, and realise the impression I gave of my situation might have been a bit too dark. So, before sending the link of this blog to my mum, I'll need to list some positive points.

I do have money. Don't send more. I actually just got a nice grant to get me through this final year. What I meant was the next grant I'm likely to get is for post-doctoral work (if I decide to go that way in my career), at least I wouldn't give myself anything more for the PhD. The point of this was to say that the work will actually have to finish this year, and listing and overdramatising the facts is my way of self-motivation. All deadlines need to be enforced with threats of physical consequences.

In case my supervisor finds out about this blog, I also need to say that I might have exaggerated the statement about how little I have written. While it's true that I have very little text, there's a lot of raw material and experimental results as a basis. I have been working...

OK, no more apologies or explanations. If you misunderstand something or get the wrong picture of what's going on, I will regard it as a feature of this process, not a fault. (hmm, I think it's time to set some rules for this blog...)

Beginning of the end

Here we go. Last year of my PhD, not much of it on paper yet, not much money left, and not the slightest idea of what to do next.

But, I am pretty sure I will pull through, I always have so far. I have this weird sense of optimism and self-confidence that seems to emerge when things look bleak to the casual observer. They'll probably engrave "It's going to be OK" to my tombstone, as well.

I'm not sure about life after death, but there will be life after PhD. And this blog is mostly going to be about me getting there. Project 'Get A Life 2007' here we come!

For me, producing anything worthwhile on paper takes time. Idle time. Procrastination in between drafts. Reading stupid stuff, writing funny stuff. Since I also wanted to leave a trace of the write-up process somewhere, I thought I could combine the two things and write a blog about my last year as a student.

(Actually, I've been reading my friend's blog and have wanted to start my own for a while now, and the bollocks above is just me rationalising and making up fancy-sounding "proper" excuses for spending all this time on writing a stupid blog rather than working. Well, at least I didn't claim I'm writing this for academic purposes...)

Day 1, sanity status: self-sarcastic but optimistic

(Photo © Mike Sandells, www.mikejs.com)