Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I Wouldn't Be Who I Am Without Yhtenäiskoulu

They are planning to close down my old school!

I cannot fathom how they can even propose such a thing? They tried to do it while I was in elementary school, but they couldn't do it, the school was too strong. I can still feel an unreasonable hatred towards Arja Alho for representing the desicion to close our school down. And I can still remember the misery of falling ill right when there was going to be a night demonstration in the school yard. How I wanted to stand there with a candle in my hand!

A Hesari article on the plans of closing down schools in Helsinki with a picture from my school yard with the current math teacher (he did't teach me).

And about my school in particular in Hesari.

And the website of my school, Yhtenäiskoulu. There is also something in english there in case any non Finnish speaker (any bizarrely weird non Finnish speaker, that is) is interested.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Angles on Ankle Treatment

Comparing the Finnish and American Health Care Systems

I sprained my ankle. It hurt for a week and then I went to see a doctor last Tuesday just in case. I walked in and did a "walk in" as they say: First one has to swipe the Yellow Card (the one that gives you hUMan rights) and enter something on a computer. Then one fills in a form and waits to see - a Patient Representative, I think they were called - who then reserves an appointement for a doctor.

Before the appointement one's Medical Files need to be transported to the right check in desk. Since it's important to keep the Private Medical Information safe at all times, this is managed as follows: The Patient Representative puts the files in a big flat red case, zips it up and seals it with a yellow plastic slip. Then I get the red case and carry it to the other end of the corridor to the right desk. The woman there cuts the yellow slip, opens the case and takes the files out. She then takes the files and puts them in the box outside the doctors office so that the doctor can retrieve them before my appointement. You see, this way my Private Medical Information was safe all the time, erm, from me.

First I was really happy about the treatment I got, then later Kevin pointed out that the real difference between the Finnish treatment and this one was the fact that I got some tape. For which I have to pay 81 dollars a month. But I guess the difference really was in how I was treated. They are really good at it here. I guess I could sue them if they wouldn't make me feel happy. In a Finnish health clinic I probably couldn't have seen a doctor and a nurse would have said: "Oh, your ankle is hurting? Take some ibuprofen and give it some rest. If it's still hurting after two weeks, come back". And here I got to see an ankle specialist on the same day!

But anyway, I guess I rather take crappy health care for everybody than great health care for the rich and none for the poor. And my ankle is feeling better and that's the main point really.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Relatively Chubby Squirrels

Everything is bigger in America – even the squirrels. This one lives with its fellow scholars on the Diag.

Juha liked my suggestion to call our sets “relatively chubby”. So don't you laugh at my naming attempts there in Helsinki. I've got authority to back me up now. (Well, strictly speaking Juha only commented on the Finnish version “suhteellisesti pullea” (tuttavallisesti tietenkin “suhteellisen pullea”).)

An open bounded set U in a metric space is relatively chubby if the following holds for some constants R>0 and c>0: For every ball B(x,r), r<R, with distance (proportional to) r from U one can find a ball B(y,cr) inside U with distance (proportional to) r from B(x,r). In other words, if there is a lot of room just outside of U, there should also be room inside U at that location, but on the other hand if there isn't much room outside U, U can be thin as well. Accordingly, U is relatively chubby.

(What we really want to say above is: For every sufficiently small Whitney cube Q in the complement of the closure of U there exists a proportional Whitney cube inside U and close to Q.)

Currently I'm debating whether this really is the right concept or not.

More squirrels here.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Intricacies of Finnish Languish

One good reason for loving Ann Arbor is the fact that there are so many great used book stores in the town. Here is one of them. Valitettavasti sisäpuolelta ei löytynyt yhtään suomenkielistä kirjaa.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Badass Fucking Fractal

This just has to be my new favourite song. Thanks to Marko for the hint. By the way, Marko has also some badass fractals, here's my favourite.

Geometry succeeds where others fail!

Sunday, March 11, 2007


I think that I have finally unravelled the mystery of my disappearing food.

The portions in restaurants here are so large that I usually eat only half of my lunch and take the leftovers to the math departement fridge. Sometimes I eat them the next day for lunch, and sometimes I take them home. Usually I save two half luches for weekend, though, since that way I don't ever need to cook anything. But often on Fridays I don't go straight home from the department and since I don't want to carry my lunches around the town, I leave them in the fridge. Then on Saturday I get hungry and walk to the department to pick up my weekend food only to find it disappeared. This has now occurred three times.

I don't think anybody is being mean. I think somebody is in fact being nice and cleaning the fridge always on Friday evenings or on Saturday mornings, and the lesson of the story is to take your food home on Fridays.

So today I had to pick up take out food from Raja Rani's, since when I walked back home our favourite grocery store the White Market had already closed. And I felt really American walking home carrying my mug of mango lassi in my hand. Not that mango lassi is American, but the take out mugs.

But walking to the department wasn't really a total waste of time since I saw this in front of the math departement. Imagine the University of Helsinki having its own cranes...

The real reason for not minding the walk today was, however, the fact that the spring finally arrived today. I imagine that on the Finnish scale it had actually already come some time ago, but today I felt happy and laughing just because of the sun and all the people on the streets and the fact that I had to open my coat.

As much as I like snow, it doesn't really fit here. Everything melts away right away. And I really would prefer to hear the snow crunching under my shoes and not the salt that they seed all around.

The salt makes the snow especially miserable when there is a lot of it. It will melt from the bottom and everything will be wet dirty slush. And all the store owners and janitors hurry to place a “Caution! The floor might be wet” stand just inside every door to make coming in and going out more difficult.

The only fun snow here are the occasional snowfalls that come with such strong wind that you see the snow flying horisontally along the streets. But they always only last for a short while. And the snow always melts away.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Real Creatures

We had a party on Monday to celebrate the birthdays of Laurent Schwartz, Milt Schmidt, William Oughtred, MC Solaar and Rosa Luxemburg. We served hand painted pulla, weirdly chosen beer and surgically operated grapes.

Monday, March 5, 2007

On Chocolate

I have finally exhausted my emergency supply of Finnish chocolate. Well, actually I still have some but it's ment for special fancy occasions (which I'm certain will arise sooner or later).

There are some stores, though, that sell actual chocolate here. Not the usual one they sell in most places: the one with “chocolate” written on the cover but something too dark, too dry, too sweet and too odd inside with an unmistakably artificial taste.

But as I mentioned earlier, I have found my new favourite chockolate. And since you're all dying to hear about it, I'll tell you. You can get it from the People's Food Co-op, which is a great place.

(By the way, have I mentioned that americans have a different attitude to shops and stores than "we" do. It's kind of hard to explain: stores and chains are treated more as persons or attractions or as – and maybe this is the closest to what I mean – concepts of some kind. It's infectious, you can notice it in the way I talk about the People's Food Co-op or Espresso Royale or NoThai! (and by the way NoThai! was closed this week because of the spring break and I'm really beginning to be desperate already). A funny example of the hubris over brands, labels and buying, is the fact that most bars sell their own T-shirts.)

Anyway, back to my new favourite chocolate. It's called the Endangered Species Chocolate. It's REALLY good. And you can feel good about buying chocolate since 10% of the profit is donated to “help support species, habitat and humanity”. And there are pictures of cute animals on the wrapping!!! My favourite is the sea otter: smooth milk chocolate with 52% cocoa.

Also, I was catching up on my Viivi ja Wagner. Check out Wagner starting up his own research unit on Feb 19th and Feb 20th. I won't even try to translate. Or how would you translate: “Wagnerin tutkimusyksikkö, EVVK”?