This blog is a way for me to collect interesting stuff into one place. I'm not planning on making this a confession booth of any sort, just post random interesting web sites if I feel the need to comment on them (otherwise I just add them to my page) and comment on other stuff that is worth it (books, TV programs, games, CD's etc).

Knowing myself I doubt I will be updating this too often but we'll see...

3D sounds

Rest of the WebPosted by Marko Poutiainen Tuesday, May 01 2007 16:49:33

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 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.

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Kärpät 2006-07: Evaluation

Deep Thoughts and Shallow RamblingsPosted by Marko Poutiainen Sunday, April 22 2007 18:44:06

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.

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Kärpät - 2007 Finnish icehockey champions

Other content in sofistes.netPosted by Marko Poutiainen Saturday, April 14 2007 20:18:53

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.

Blog Image

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.

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About sofistesPosted by Marko Poutiainen Sunday, April 01 2007 19:01:42

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.

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Deep Thoughts and Shallow RamblingsPosted by Marko Poutiainen Friday, March 09 2007 22:44:59

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.

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Free will?

Deep Thoughts and Shallow RamblingsPosted by Marko Poutiainen Saturday, March 03 2007 18:36:15

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.

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Another year, another regular season win

Deep Thoughts and Shallow RamblingsPosted by Marko Poutiainen Friday, March 02 2007 23:23:57

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.

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How to upset libertarians

Deep Thoughts and Shallow RamblingsPosted by Marko Poutiainen Sunday, February 25 2007 16:24:26

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.

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