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diverging since 2008

Entries from July 2008

2008-07-13 22:00

I'd been looking for a lighter alternative to my 3-year-old 15.4" Dell Inspiron for a while. Wanted: something small and cute for ircingtaking notes on lectures that doesn't need a laptop bag for transportation.

Long story short, my Lenovo Thinkpad X60 Tablet from lapstars (with a student discount!) arrived this friday. I'm in love. Let me list the salient features:

  • Under 2kg
  • 12.1" SXGA+ (1400x1050) tablet display (not a touchscreen, requires a stylus like a drawing tablet)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo L7500
  • Battery life up to 8h with 8-cell battery

It's charming how everything worked basically out-of-the-box on debian. Power consumption dropped from 17 to under 10 Watts (w/o wireless) just by letting laptop-mode-tools control everything (data from PowerTOP, great tool). The only thing still unconfigured is the integrated fingerprint reader. Thinkwiki has been a great help in all this.

My other machines are named meta, pseudo and omni so the tablet became endo. In related news I made some excellent italian meatballs today, yum.

Tags: conf.
2008-07-20 20:40

(Written 2008-07-17 22:00)

Attended Pori Jazz in Pori, Finland. Highlights: Return to Forever and Bob Geldof.

Return to Forever split up 25 years ago and this gig was part of their reunion tour. The quartet played very solid traditional fusion jazz (strange, shouldn't that be an oxymoron?), improvisation interleaving seamlessly with unisonous vamps. There was tangible synergy between Stanley Clarke (bass) and Chick Corea (keyboards) during the jamming; observing the professionalism, the playfulness, the ease of it all and the joy on their faces was a pleasure. The gig wasn't a performance, it was great musicians having fun together. It was, however, a shame to see guitarrist Al DiMeola shunted into a side role in all this. It seems everything can't be healed after 25 years of growing apart. As a whole, the performance was great. I love fusion jazz and here was one of the best lineups playing it live.

I found a new friend in Bob Geldof. Firstly, I fell in love with his style the moment he entered the stage. Secondly, when the music started I immediately knew what I was looking at: a heir of the same British music tradition that spawned The Clash's reggae-punk, David Bowie's detached and angsty country glam rock, David Gilmour, Syd Barret and Ian Anderson. Bob is a punk star grown old and tired, a rock musician who found folk influences (like Anderson), and most of all, a blue storyteller. Needless to say, the gig hit me hard.

And now to the posterior part of my titular juxtaposition: modules, i.e. tracker music. I've been composing a soundtrack for a short movie project for the past few weeks. The movie itself was filmed a few months ago and edited in one all-nighter a few weeks back. First, a few words on music software:

Years ago, during my first foray into making music, I used Jeskola Buzz on windows. Buzz was an all-in-one solution: sequencer, mixer and loads of software synthetizers all in one sweet package. I've searched for a replacement that would run on linux for years -- to no avail. A few reimplementations exist nowadays but they tend to be young and flimsy, not ready for production. BEAST is just inadequate. Running soft synthetizers and a sequencer separately is just too much of a bother, but the best method I've run across. I've never digged sample-based stuff so trackers were pretty much out of the question. In the end I just stopped making music for lack of time, tools and motivation.

The soundtrack project provided me with the proper motivation so I just needed to find the tools. We needed something very acoustic and decidedly non-electronic, so I turned to the numerous freely-licensed sample libraries on the internet. I managed to cobble together an adequate set of sounds and fired up Schism tracker. I had played with Impulse Tracker years and years ago and tracker software on linux while searching for a Buzz replacement. Schism was the best of the bunch and also a reimplementation of IT so it was a natural choice. I started working and soon the tracker started feeling very natural. After a long pause I was channeling creativity into music once more. It felt great. How typical: to get over the angst and procrastination all that was needed was the proper motivation. You'll hear about the movie when it's released, which will hopefully happen at the Assembly '08 Short Film Compo.

Update: 2008-07-17 22:50 grammar

Tags: conf, culture, travel.
2008-07-26 12:00

(Written 2008-07-25 10:30)

I'm writing this somewhere above Warsaw, halfway through our flight to Budapest. From Budapest we take a connecting flight to Sofia, after which a bus will take us 100km to the town of Blagoevgrad, where the American University of Bulgaria at Blagoevgrad is hosting the International Mathematics Contest for University Students 2008 for the nth consecutive year.

IMC is an indivitual competition but contestants are divided into teams originating from universities. We have a three-man team representing the University of Helsinki, whose participation has been intermittent at best. I wouldn't even know of the event if I hadn't overheard an acquaintance of mine talking about forming a team.

A word about my history with competitive math. I did pretty well in the national math competitions during school, often placing in the top 10 or 20. During high school I attended special training that aimed to produce a finnish team for the prestigious IMO (International Mathematics Olympiade, a high school level contest). In the process I attended multiple nordic and baltic competitions, but never did make it to IMO, partly because I attended the coaching only for two years while most do it for three or four, and partly because of seriously underperforming in the final selection tests.

Well anyway, I'm kind of looking forward to the competition. The problems are very different compared to IMO: gone are geometry and number theory, instead the problems focus on (basic univariate) calculus and linear algebra with some algebra hiding in the nooks. The competition requires only the very basics of undergraduate math but the problems offer opportunities for applying advanced techniques. Here's an example problem:

Let A and B be real nx_n_ matrices such that AA+BB=AB. Prove that if BA-AB is invertible, then n is divisible by 3.

On the other hand I fear my analysis and linear algebra have fallen into a state of disuse as I've mostly been meddling around with logics and algebra for the past year.

I'm finishing this at the airport in Budapest waiting for the connecting flight. Keep tuned for follow-ups.

... finally got an opportunity to post this. It seems our accomodation's all "IT services" are down. A kindly local internet cafe let me plug my laptop in. Rates are pretty low, 1 local currency unit (about 0.5€) per hour.

Tags: math, travel.
2008-07-28 14:30

The last of two competition days is over. Can't say I'm satisfied with my performance. Day 1: spent too much time banging my head on problem 2 (concerning polynomials), I had a slightly wrong approach that lead to some tricky special cases in an otherwise simple inductive proof. Starting from scratch probably would've gotten me on the right track, as the solution really was pretty simple. After all this hassle all the points I got were 10 (out of 20) from a solution to problem 4 that I cobbled up in the last 15 or so minutes.

On day 2 I was close to the solutions of three problems but just couldn't make it, mostly because of spending too much time on problem 3. I somehow managed not to spot that the combinatorial sum in prob 3 was just the binomial expansion of the analytic solution to the fibonnacci reccurrene, a fact that would've instantly provided the solution.

Also, I didn't look too closely at the geometry problem as geometry tends not to be my forte. I however did manage to spot that the points in question must lie on a hyperbola. This fact combined with the obvious symmetries of the situation would've given that the points actually lie on a line, yielding the solution.

Guess it's just been too long since I've solved any real math problems.

Tomorrow: excursion to a monastery. The day after that: prize ceremony. We're arriving in Finland on Thursday night.

I'll link to the problems when they hit the interwebs.

Tags: math, travel.

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