Friday, December 29, 2006

Need for Speed™ Carbon

Today, I bought a new gamepad with analog triggers, to cure my lead foot. You could say it's a belated Xmas gift for myself. I've been playing Need for Speed™ Carbon for a while now, and using a digital button for throttle just wasn't cutting it anymore. It was nearly impossible to hit the sweet spot and get a perfect start, or even to accelerate out of a curve. The wheels would just spin like crazy, and my car would end up in a frontal collision with the nearest obstacle.

Still, I think I did pretty well. Above is my first car, an Alfa Brera. The cars in Carbon are divided into three tiers, where tier 1 consists of cars that are merely cool, while tier 3 has the insanely awesome cars. As you play the game, you gain cash rewards and unlock better cars. I decided to scrimp and save on my first car, only spending money on upgrading its performance. The idea was to have lots of money to buy a good tier 2 car. Besides, I really like the look of Alfa Romeos; they're so simple, distinguished and yet slightly terrifying.

The game started out by piquing my interest with some full-motion video. Yes, apparently I missed the return of FMV. It still bears a slightly awkward stigma from the 90s, but it's pretty well executed and I daresay rather engrossing this time around. The intro makes references to the previous game in the series, Most Wanted, which I should admit to not having played. Apparently it too featured FMV with the same stylistic flair, but took place in the daytime, while Carbon only has nighttime levels, much like the Underground parts of the series. Since I didn't understand the references, the plot felt unusually non-patronizing in assuming that I would be smart enough to catch the names of the characters and follow the rapid turn of events. Learning that this is merely a sequel and not an "after the fact" mystery inspired by Agatha Christie was actually somewhat of a disappointment.

As it turned out, I didn't have to save up for a new car; I won the tier 2 car of a defeated boss. The world of Carbon is divided into territories owned by rivaling street racing gangs. The car above is an Aston Martin DB9 that belonged to Wolf, the boss of the TFK gang, until I rolled into town, took over their territory by beating them race by race in their own backyard, and proceeded to defeat their boss in two one-on-one races. To cement your domination over a territory, you first need to win a regular street race against the boss, and then defeat them in a canyon duel. The duels are both frustrating and exhilarating, and involve tailgating the boss as best you can without falling off the canyon, and then trying to shake him off as he tailgates you in the second round.

My third car, a Mazda RX-7, is the result of overtaking Kenji of the Shinobu gang in a canyon duel, a move that leads to a near instant win. The Aston Martin just flew past like a cannon ball; the only problem was actually slowing down and not flying straight down the canyon wall. At this point, I was still using my old Logitech Wingman, and the game felt rather easy; the way I like it. I actually didn't race the Mazda at all. The Aston Martin became my mainstay, and I used it to beat the third gang, 21st Street, and their boss Angie. As you can see above (skip the Mazda), I decided to pimp it by painting it gold chrome. It ended up looking like an autobot about to transform, or maybe the steed of a modern day paladin. Either way, I think it's awesome.

The fourth territory is where I ran into trouble. Suddenly everyone's racing around in tier 3 cars, and you have to beat them to unlock tier 3 and get something raceworthy. Suffice to say that this is where morale takes a big hit. Sure, my golden autosteed looks cool, but it handles like a refrigerator. Was that a curve? Bam. OK, now that's a wall. Lost again.

Luckily, I had already ordered a Thrustmaster with analog triggers and force feedback, and with it I finally managed to unlock a Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda. This is a muscle car, by which they mean something that acts like it has a rocket up its behind and flails wildly all over the road. By racing the muscle car, I miraculously unlocked a tuner, a small Nissan 350Z that has great potential and handles like a god. This car in turn immediately left a few racers in the dust and unlocked the current love of my life.

Behold, the Lamborghini Gallardo. It's an exotic, which means its speakers blare hip-hop (as opposed to the tuner's trance and the muscle's stoner rock), and it's a real racer. It handles really well, although not as well as the Nissan, and it accelerates with a roar. I found a great body for it, and I settled on a dark purple chrome. The only problem now is to keep out of trouble, as the heat is high in the fourth territory. This means there's a lot of police activity, and they keep butting into every race, chasing me around after I've won. I usually shake them off, but even I got busted once, which means my poor Gallardo has incurred an impound strike. Three strikes and the car is lost. The heat is rising and those cops really seem to be after my ride.

Oh well, if they take this one I can always sell my crappy and ridiculously overpriced Plymouth and buy something even better. I must say, this game really got me hooked, and that's not an easy feat.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Nobel day

Today my brother, Y and I were walking across central Stockholm, seeking out an Asian grocery store, when we found that the entire square in front of the opera house was cordoned off. Police were patrolling the area, and people were standing around taking pictures. Apparently something big was happening, but I had no idea what. Conveniently enough, I was on the phone with my mother at the time, and she promptly told me that we were outside the very building where the Nobel prize ceremony is held.

I jumped on the bandwagon and snapped a photo. Admittedly, there wasn't much to see; I bet it was much more exciting on TV.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


I've been pondering why I tend to turn down party invitations, and I think I've come to a conclusion: Rollerblades are no fun because they hurt my feet.

My older brother enjoys rollerblading. I don't. He asked me why once, and I told him I think it's pretty fun to go fast and stuff, but the rollerblades really hurt my feet. After a while, the amount of pain surpasses the amount of fun, and what started out enjoyable ends up being unbearable. It's no fun since it hurts so much. I asked my brother if his feet didn't hurt, and he said they did but that he didn't notice. It doesn't hurt since it's so much fun.

Putting aside the possibility that we may be wearing the wrong size rollerblades, something strange seems to be happening.

Every decision boils down to comparing the cost to the reward. If I invest money in a stock, I want the payoff to be higher than the investment. Otherwise, why bother? However, you can't always base your decisions on monetary value alone, especially when you're deciding whether or not to go rollerblading. In my example, rollerblading only costs time and pain, and the reward is fun. This is when you try to gauge the so-called utility of your decision, by assigning a utility value to each factor involved. This assignment is usually called the utility function. When you sit down and plan your investments, you have to build your utility function consciously, but when your brain tells you if something is fun or not, you're dealing with a subconscious utility function.

So you could say that the difference between my brother and I lies in our subconscious utility functions. Our brains could be wired so that whizzing along on rollerblades is assigned a utility of, say, 10. However, his brain only assigns a -5 to hurting feet, while mine gives it -20. Thus, my utility sum for rollerblading is -10, while his is a cool 5.

At this point, it may sound like I'm simply a wuss. In truth, hurting feet don't bother me; I once walked 3.5 kilometers to take the bus to work, with a sprained pinky toe on one foot and a blister on the other. I don't think I did it because I loved my job so much that I assigned some magical utility to it. Remember, I'm not necessarily talking about monetary value; I'm talking about utility values wired directly into my brain. If my job were really that fun, or if I really associated my pay with a high subconscious utility, I would have been happy at the end of the day. I wasn't. No, I think people have a varying threshold for discomfort in different contexts. That means the subconscious utility function doesn't just differ from person to person, it also differs from situation to situation.

This context-sensitive utility function is readily apparent in every undertaking of mine that is supposed to be fun, like a game or a party. When I'm supposed to be having fun, I have zero tolerance for boredom, failure or discomfort, and I don't want to invest too much time or money. That means if a video game has a steep learning curve and doesn't give me instant gratification while I'm learning, it's out the window before it can say "Game over". I have no interest at all in exploring tech trees, collecting experience points or memorizing jump puzzles. If the game involves tedious repetitive tasks, it's not a game anymore, it's work.

Unfortunately, parties tend to involve investing quite a lot of time and money, and in my experience they end up being quite boring, if not downright discomforting. On a good day, the sum utility is a big fat zero. It doesn't help that some people respond to hesitation with coercion: "Come on, don't be a bore and ruin it for the rest of us! Everyone else is going!" Do people really believe they can force someone to have fun? Frankly, that sort of behaviour appalls me; it's borderline mobbing.

In closing, let me put all this decision theory mumbo-jumbo in a way you might more easily grasp: I'm lazy.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Opera + BitTorrent = Sweet Lovin'

In the internet world, time is measured in microcyberpixelseconds, which means time moves very fast. It has to, otherwise your megabits won't get to your computer in time and then your JPEGs would load backwards. What all this means is that whatever I say in this blog is old news, and you can safely ignore it. Like this: Opera now has a built-in BitTorrent client!

Cool Opera kids

Look out, only the cool kids (and a Dungeon Master) use Opera now. Oh, targeted ads, how you amuse me with your silly ways.

Glossy ads aside, the BT integration works surprisingly well right out of the box. I googled for some legal torrents and ended up at - lo and behold! -, where I found some nice stuff that creative people have released under the Creative Commons license. Click on a torrent link, and a dialogue pops up with a message warning you about sharing the file with other people. Click OK, and the download shows up just like all your other downloads in the Transfers window, with kBs and whatnots whizzing away without a care. If you're behind a firewall, you don't have to open any ports if you don't want to, but it helps.

Speaking of legal torrents, take a look at the short film about trusted computing (ignore the unfortunate grammatical errors in the film, it has a nice message), and prepare to be amazed by Studio Trophis's The White Chamber. It's a scary point-and-click adventure with fairly simple puzzles and nice graphics. I downloaded an old version from LegalTorrents, so I have no idea how the new voice acting sounds. I might get back to you on that one.

In the mean time, have fun with BitTorrent. Looks like P2P is getting some well-deserved attention. They could have picked a less crappy protocol than BT, I guess, but oh well.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sweden Day

Today was the national day of Sweden. Nothing much happens in our town on this day, partly because it was only recently made a holiday. People aren't sure how to celebrate it, or if it's even worth celebrating, although apparently some people in Gothenburg and Stockholm really welcome this holiday, judging by what I saw on TV just a while ago. Still, the reporters never seemed to find anyone who could explain the point of a national day, even among the people who wanted one.

Anyway, it was a sunny summer's day, and there were people on the streets doing watchable things. That's pretty much all I need.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

More animals

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No need to take a stroll in the forest to see small animals anymore; the squirrel is visiting us now.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Eurovision Song Contest Winners

In case you missed it:

Quite simply the best winners ever.

Edit: I found the video, and I'm still wiping away tears of joy after watching it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Console inflation

I made a diagram that shows how much consoles actually costed; all prices are adjusted for retail inflation. Maybe I'm just weird, but I think it's actually pretty interesting. You can see how Nintendo just keeps dropping in price; according to my calculations, consoles will be free by 2012. Until then, a special deal: Trade in your old Atari 2600 for 3 Wiis!

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Edit: It turns out that the graph I based my adjusted version on already has a sister graph showing the exact same data I calculated. D'oh.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


This is a nice wholesome video I remember fondly from my misspent youth. If you've seen it before, prepare for some nostalgia. If you haven't, prepare to be shocked. Either way, it's brilliant.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cats and dogs!

No, it's not raining, it's just a bunch of photos of pets that I wanted to upload. So here we go!

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Guest Starring

Here are a few video clips I've collected, where some of my favourite stars make surprise appearences in some of my favourite TV shows. The first one is Marilyn Manson in Clone High. The second and third shows are the Colbert Report and Leno, but I'm not spoiling the guest star surprises. Either you'll recognize them, or you won't care.

On a side note, I'm experimenting with Photobucket's new video player. I'm hoping it'll work better in Opera than YouTube's now overly cluttered player. Blech.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mobile Office

I sat in the very back of the bus today, in the middle seat, or as I like to call it, "the bouncy office". The very bouncy office. Sitting right above the back wheels, you receive nearly all the force of the uneven Swedish roads directly into your spine, delivered via the not so subtle undulations of the shock absorbers. It kind of sucks, and it can make you a bit nauseous if you're reading a computer screen. Also, thanks to the wonders of adolescence, the ventilation on the left hand side has been cracked open and is now spewing ice cold air into my face. So make that "the ice cold, very bouncy office".

But still! Finally somewhere to completely fold out the old lap top, stretch the old legs and use the old grey matter for something not very useful, such as writing this blog post. In Notepad, of course; I still dream of the day when the bus fare will cover the price of wi-fi. Imagine each bus having a wi-fi uplink to, at the very least, a 3G/EDGE internet connection. How hard can it be? As hard as sticking a wi-fi card and a 3G SIM card reader into a lap top? Heck, the bus fare is already kind of expensive, so why not throw in some extras? What am I paying for anyway? :P

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Links & Conspiracy

Here are a few funny/awesome links.

  • Minesweeper and NP-completeness If you like Minesweeper, logic gates or math, check it out. This article proves that they are all intricately connected. It's pretty awesome if you're slightly nerdy.
  • Titanic 2! It's the sequel to the blockbuster Titanic! Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) is back! Very exciting, even to me (who haven't seen the first movie). Plus, I would probably be a bad blogger if I didn't link to it.

And here's the conspiracy. I was looking at the episode guides for Lost, Medium, and Alias. I was looking because both Medium and Alias have been on hiatus, and I wanted to see when they were coming back. I suddenly noticed something weird: All three series are airing episodes with the same name, "S.O.S.", all within a week! Two could be a coincidence, but three?! After careful deliberation, I'm fairly certain it's a hidden message from enslaved writers who are locked away somewhere in the labyrinthine catacombs of the once pure and beautiful Angel City, where the peaceful inhabitants - who once lived in a utopian society free of sickness, death and evil thoughts - are ever fearful of their tyrannical occupants from the dark and twisted Holy Wood. I bet that if you play all three episodes simultaneously, something will appear...

Saturday, April 15, 2006


During the month of March, we had some really crazy weather. Snow came pouring down like there was no tomorrow. Or a day after tomorrow, if you'll excuse the cultural reference.

One day, my younger brother and I were outside during a futile attempt to move the snow around so that it wouldn't completely cover our house from roof to foundation. In the face of such a blatantly Sisyphean task, we felt like two little ants trying to move the Atlantic.

It was only a matter of time before my poor brother went crazy. Shortly thereafter, he collapsed from exhaustion.

My attempts to rouse him failed, and the rapidly falling snow began to cover him like a white cold blanket of oblivion. I tried to wrest him from the cold maw of King Frost, but he was entirely inhumed in the blink of an eye. I dug into the snow, searching for him, but with the white water crystals stretching from horizon to horizon, erasing every landmark, disorienting me completely, I lost my place and couldn't find him. It was a miracle that I ever made it back home.

My brother hasn't been seen since. I can only hope that he will turn up when the snow thaws in the spring, joining asphalt, spring flowers and cartoon birds in a great celebration of the renaissance of life.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Whoops, I see now that I haven't updated this blog for over a month. Bad!

Let's kick this off with another toy commercial. I discovered one that is "in tune" with the younger population. I'm picturing a board meeting with a self-proclaimed expert informing white old men about a new and exciting music genre called "hip hop".

The toy does seem cool though, and the chick is hot. I'm sold.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


IndatwaYesterday was the International Women's day, which usually means there are a number of interesting events (plus some boring stuff) at the library. Ah yes, I was at the library again; the hub of cultural activities in this town. I watched an all-female band called Kraa perform, but I didn't dare take any photos because I was sitting dead-centre in the front row. It would have been disruptive just getting my phone out of my pants. (In case you're new here; all these photos were taken with my mobile phone.) However, I do have some photos of the african dance troupe Indatwa. They were kind enough to perform dances indigenous to Rwanda and Burundi.

Indatwa dancers

This was apparently a girls' dance, although I'm pretty sure there's a guy with long hair in there too. He seemed to have a prominent role in the arrangements, so I can only assume that he's a choreographer/teacher.

At the end, two of the girls had a dance-off! Cute and awesome!

This children's dance had the most action and dialogue of all the dances that the troupe performed. It certainly seemed like a fun dance. Kind of reminded me of Mora Träsk's Tigerjakt, a children's song about hunting tigers. I'm not sure that's what this song is about (maybe I just didn't listen to the announcer), but I'm picturing a tribe teaching their young ones to hunt by using song and dance, the ultimate teaching tool! I use it all the time to teach programming. Jokes aside, I'm pretty sure passing on wisdom is what culture and religion is all about. Feel free to flame me all the same.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Olympic singers

I'm usually not interested in sports at all. Football is boring, be it European soccer or American football. Indoor bandy is too frantic. Outdoor bandy is too cold. Handball is stupid.

However, the Olympic Games this year were kind of interesting, even to me, although the skiing was boring as usual. The curling, however. That was riveting. I like watching people excel at a certain skill, using weird tactics that I don't understand and strategizing about stuff that I don't have a clue about. Team sports usually seem to boil down to either chance, stamina or violence, none of which excite me in the least.

I watched the Swedish women's team win their gold because I thought it was actually fun to watch. That's a first for me, even though I have sat down to watch ice hockey before and found it only mildly boring. (Actually, ice hockey can be fun too, but also tends to have too much violence and chance for my tastes.)

So now, when the team came to visit their hometown (where I happen to live) to play in the Swedish curling tournament, I was at the town square to greet them and sing along in Hammerfall's Hearts on fire. Fun for the whole family!

Now, why in the world are they singing a heavy metal song? What does that have to do with curling? The short answer is: Everything!

With a video like that, how would they not win?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"Earthquake! Look out!"

Yes, it's another toy commercial! I can't get enough, and really -- who doesn't love toy commercials?

Each Cube World has a motion sensor and buttons that let you play with the stick person living in the cube. The really cool feature is that you can connect cubes and let the stick people interact with each other. Apparently, they can cross the Cube World boundaries by their own volition. Could have been a nice setup for teaching kids a wholesome message of world peace, if it weren't for the constant fighting (as featured in the commercial). I know I'm not kidding anyone, of course fighting is fun!

I bet that if you connect enough of these together, they'll develop a hive mind and start disobeying you and ultimately take over the world. Well, one can only hope.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Pixel Chix

I'm fascinated by toy commercials; they're happy and funny, and of course the only interesting commercials out there. Now I think I need one of these Pixel Chix toys, and apparently a friend with his/her own Pixel Chix to play with.

Look! A crystal LCD embedded in a toy house! It's genius.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cyril Takayama

I've discovered some excellent Japanese magicians thanks to the internet. One example is the Yamagami brothers (山上兄弟) who currently hold the Guinness world record for youngest magicians. The age thing is kind of gimmicky, but they're just so cute and great at what they do that you can't help but adore them. (In contrast, there's an extremely gimmicky magician who insists on pretending to be French, manhandling the language in the process: "Torés biaan!") My favourite so far is probably Fujii Akira, a skilled magician with a very amusing and entertaining act, who works almost exclusively with playing cards.

However, my latest discovery in japanese magic is Cyril Takayama, who strictly speaking is an American of japanese descent, born and raised in Hollywood. Despite only being Japanese on his father's side, his Japanese is perfect, which apparently made him eligible to appear on several japanese TV shows, where he goes by the nickname Zero (セロ), since Cyril is probably the least pronounceable name ever. His image is somewhere between David Blaine and David Copperfield, and he does a good job of adapting his tricks to the japanese audience by conjuring up food out of thin air. (I don't know about you, but at least I get the impression that japanese TV shows are always about food.)

Luckily for you, dear reader, a lot of his tricks are available for easy watching on YouTube, a service you might recognize since I use it myself to post videos here. The following is a list of clips I found, from which I've excluded one or two repetitions of the same trick.

That's all folks!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Powerball Techno

I have one of these. It's awesome. :)

This is just the demo message ("new nsd power ball"), which is the easiest one to get and thus the one we used for demonstration purposes. If you rev up the powerball to higher speeds, it shows the RPM you achieved as it winds down. In short... Best. Toy. Ever.

P.S. Managed to get a nice shot of the RPM display. Enjoy!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Flash links!

OK, I'm going to make a link dump post and no one can stop me because it's my blog. Seriously though, some of these flash animations are pure genius, and I simply had to share them. It didn't feel right to just hoard all these links. I guess you could say I'm doing my part and giving something back to the world (NB: you'd be wrong).

All links in this post open up in a new window. The first two are on Newgrounds, where you'll have to click "Watch this movie!" to actually see the animation.

  • Walk-Smash-Walk This is a delightful music video of sorts. The creator, Sakupen, apparently made both the music and the animation. I found it both exhilirating and relaxing in a Zen kind of way.
  • Dad's Home The very same Sakupen also made this humorous animation chronicling a father's chaotic homecoming (i.e. "Dad is home", not "Home of dad"). I laughed out loud, and I loved the moral of the story.
  • Nightmare City This is a masterpiece of animation, although the story and the music could both use a bit of work. Still, a must-see.
  • 十一月 (November) Excellent art, animation and music, and even a little plot twist. As opposed to most other animations by Maru Production, this one requires no knowledge of Japanese.
  • Magical Trevor, parts one, two & three It's more of those zany looped songs from Weebl's Stuff! (You know, like Kenya! What do you mean you haven't seen Kenya?!) My favourite is without a doubt Magical Trevor 2; I only included the others for completeness.
  • The Child That Smelt Funny Very strange, long animation (9 minutes) by David Firth, but also very amusing social commentary. The British accent makes it very reminiscent of Aardman animations; I'm especially reminded of Rex the Runt's chaotic style of storytelling.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dairy diary II: The customers strike back

Loyal readers will already have instantly recalled my previous post entitled "Dairy Diary", wherein I lamented the new design of the fil packages. Well, guess what? The customer is always right! (Especially when said customer is me!)

Granted, it looks kind of weird to just change the colour of the top and back of the package, but it's definitely a step in the right direction, and a much more functional design. Also note the "fil" in big clear letters on the side, as opposed to the smaller "filmjölk" they had earlier.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Wrecking crew

We went to work on the gingerbread house today. It was a tough job to bring the house down, but someone's got to do the dirty work, eh?

We haven't eaten it all yet; it's quite a lot of gingerbread, and the sweetness of the sugar and icing is a bit too much after a few mouthfuls.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

Inspecting some icicles before going on a kicksled ride.

Holding a sparkler against the cloudy night sky.

Happy New Year, hope we'll make it a good one.