22 February, 2011

Cheer for career nondevelopment!

In our TU, we are often told stories about careers, both previous and prospective. Pretty often managers and engineers come to visit, hold a guest lecture, and answer questions of students. One of the most common ones is the question of career development: students are keen to hear what the person in question has done to enhance his career, what he has studied and so on. All fine and well, but sometimes I get the feeling that the people giving these guest lectures just make their career seem too smooth.

Quite commonly those people either have very direct careers with few sidesteps - or at least that's how they make it seem. It conveys a sense of determination and target-mindedness, whether that is meant or not. I believe that this is not in the best interest of students. Most students grapple with quite common fears: fears such as "Will someone hire me?", "Am I working hard enough?", "Is working in student organizations sensible or not?". I feel very strongly that these fears will only get worse, if the picture presented to students is that of a target-minded career rocket. Most of the business people I have met actually value free time activities and personality highly, but this is rarely very explicitly conveyed in the lectures held to students.

Personally, I don't want to see students abandoning their hobbies just to favor ones more valued in business circles - unless there is actually an interest per se in those. Optimization of hobbies may help, sure. It's just that the chain better hobbies -> better job - > more happiness is affected by a lot of factors. There's so much ambiguity about a future career, that sacrificing five years of satisfaction in hobbies to create a tiny effect in the equation is not worth it. After all, every employer values motivated employees best. And the happier one is, the better the motivation. Oh yeah, and I've heard that happiness brings positive results outside the work environment, too!

13 February, 2011

NFIMBY: No Finns In My Backyard!

Lately there's been a lot of talk about multiculturalism. There is, however, one group that has been wholly forgotten: the notorious Finns. Forget about the Turkish, the Chinese, or any inhabitants of your favourite Islamic nation. Here come the biggest and the meanest - enter Finns.

I'll start with their unsocial nature. Whereas a representant of a more civilized nation would be happy about the daily meet & greet, an invitation for a cup of coffee, or just some stress-relieving small talk, the Finns are from the Down Under in this respect. Don't expect to be greeted by them. Actually, more likely the Finn will just avert his gaze and avoid eye contact completely. Even though their language skills are better than average, their inclination for discussions with any weird people is limited. And to a Finn, everyone but himself is a Weirdo.

Which brings me nicely to my second point: complaining. In a world filled with weirdos, the Finn can always conveniently find a source of unhappiness, discontent or just general annoyance in someone or something other than himself. And as a rule loving nation, they are quite adept in picking the most diminutive details in anything. Also, they seem to have a knack in knowing the rules of anything inside out, visible especially due to the aggressive way they relate to breaching them. So you'll be hearing about what's wrong. All the time.

As inhabitants of a cold, northern land, Finns seem to have get stuck in an era way back in some ways. This holds true especially for alcohol and aggressive behavior. The aggressive behavior has been somehow integrated in the Finnish gene, and it still is to this day held up in their society. There's even a famous song where they sing "työttömyys, viina, kirves ja perhe" (joblessness, booze, an axe and a family) and the song goes on to tell about how the father drives his family out to the snow with an axe while being completely wasted. Does that sound like normal behavior to you?

The consuption of alcohol in large amounts is also related to the unsocial nature of Finns. They can never talk without a drink. That would be fine, if the Finns wouldn't overdo this too. To them, one drink is nowhere near enough, and throughout the night consuming even a 12-pack per person is quite normal. This means that if you really want to talk to a Finn, you have a time frame of two drinks - he has already the courage to open his mouth, but isn't too drunk yet. Naturally, as they get ever more drunk, the Finnish parties get real loud. And if you, dear reader, happen to make a comment about this, you'll just be blown off and told to mind your own business. But if other people have parties when the Finns want to sleep, well, that's just wrong! Have some manners! Think about the sleeping people! So, welcome to a world of double standards.

I remember this one politician advertising, how an inhabitant registry of a building would look like, if it was full of Arabic people. Well, with Finns it gets equally bad. It'll be a building full of people, whose last name you will not be able to pronounce, ever. Just try it with "Kämäräinen" or "Pääskysalo". Yeah, I thought so.

To sum up: if you'd like drinking and complaining socially incompetent people with incomprehensible names in your neighborhood, fine. Otherwise, join the Basic Foreigners front against Finns!

11 February, 2011

Morning thought freeze

It's morning. I clamber myself out from bed, eat breakfast and start to work. Or so it should happen. Most often my breakfast is very short, a yoghurt is all there is to it, really. And since my "workplace" for my projects happens to be in my room, the travel to work is not a very long one. Meaning the "recovery time" from wake up to work is short. So, I sit in front of the computer and - nothing happens. My brain freezes.

No thoughts at all. Nothing. Njet. Nichts. Nada.

The cogs and flywheels inside my head are stuck. There's no oil to facilitate interactional movement. This situation can, unfortunately, last for a while. According to previous experience - anything between 10 minutes and a full day. One solution is to restock with coffee. It certainly helps, but I'm hoping to avoid this problem mentally, and not just cheat my way out of it.

I'm most definitely not a morning person, so I've never had the advantage of waking up with my brain buzzing at full speed. My brain is not an early bird - it's more like a snake, which hardly moves if you look at it daytime, but strikes like lightning when you least expect it. Once I get the cogs rolling, my thoughts zip around fast enough to make the laptop's AMD processor sorry for its performance. If I don't, however, even a snail would beat me, even with hands tied behind its back.

Naturally, there is always the possibility of helping my neurons by designing my schedule to be more evening-focused. That works, but more commonly there's always the problem, that evening hours are when all the main social stuff is. That's when people go out to eat, drink and discuss the stuff of the day. I don't want to be stuck with my computer/books and miss all the social fun!

Well, I know there really is no perfects solution to this. One good tip is to avoid procrastinating and just brute force the brain to output. With most stuff that works. 90% of work (in my field, at least) does not require full levels of creativity, so it doesn't pay off to wait for the peak hours. Reading articles is possible without making new connections to previous knowledge. It may even be better to read first and think later.

Tomorrow I'll focus on a better start to the day. It'll help. It must help.

03 February, 2011

Are movies and books competitors?

I'm a book geek, no doubt about it. I love learning new things and getting new points. Often they come from books. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just that I have started to develop this quality common to many book enthusiasts: I criticize movies and TV, and sometimes my arguments rest on a level of "I think most of it is just crap." Even I know that's not an argument, that's stupidity! All this got me thinking that maybe I just don't get it right. I've always felt that books and movies are somehow each others' competitors or replacements. Are they?

If we stick to fiction for a while, a book is a story with the structure attached, but the details missing. So, one ends up filling in the details and picturing the landscapes on the go. This makes it easier (at least for me) to mentally transport myself into the story and hop into a character's shoes. That way, I learn better and can learn easier to the emotions of a character. Due to the relative freedom of imagination in visualizing the book, I can always imagine myself into the story.

With movies, the situation is quite different. What's written in the script is played on the screen, and there's no way of denying that the story is situated in the Rocky Mountains, if that's what one sees on the screen. I have to enjoy a movie as it is, whereas a book I can enjoy more just as an idea creator.

That was the familiar part, me displaying movies as somehow "worse" than books. I shall now dive into the part how they are also "better".

I've been to many movies, which I've enjoyed thoroughly. The best ones have been always been able to create a wave of emotion at some point. I even remember crying, or at least almost, in some movies. The wave of emotion is something I've never been able to achieve with books. Books can be exciting, to the point that I spend a night reading instead of sleeping. But at best, they stimulate my intellectual brain parts.

Also, not many books make me laugh like a maniac. That's why I love comedy so much. A good episode of the Simpsons is really all I need to get over a bad day. It would be almost comedy just to video me watching the episode alone, laughing like I'm crazy. How often does that happen with books? Quite rarely. So it's not just about the deep messages. Hear what Mike Royko said:
“I never went to a John Wayne movie to find a philosophy to live by or to absorb a profound message. I went for the simple pleasure of spending a couple of hours seeing the bad guys lose.”
All in all, I guess I have to admit that these two forms of entertainment are not from the same sphere. Both tell stories but with a different focus. And they both have their uses. Seems like reality bested my literature-biased sense once again. Maybe, one day, I'll write a book about it!