Sunday, May 24, 2009

Summer is Here

Finally the nature is alive, this year a little bit later than usual.

One of the first blooming in the garden is Chaenomeles. It has beautiful flowers which are many but hidden behind the leaves. The fruit from this bush make good marmalade.

This is my Plum tree. The flowers appear very suddenly, all at the same time and the petals are already flying away with the wind. The tree actually grows plums which are very sweet.

This is a meadowsweet. It belongs to a big family of Spiraea, this one being Spiraea 'Grefsheim'. That one I did not find in the Wikipedia. We call it the Norwegian meadowsweet but I don't know the reason for that either. It is also on full bloom now and when the flowers are gone, it will grow very much and I have to cut it down occasionally. The flowers have a very strong scent and our garden is like a perfume shop now.

This is the scene from the parking lot. We call this type of houses "row houses". There are six apartments attached to each other. We live at the other end.

This is our part of the house from the other side.

This is the lawn of the two houses which together form a housing company. The Finnish housing companies are almost all limited-liability companies and the difference to a separate house is very small. We have the benefit of sharing the expenses and the gardening of all this. The area our housing company owns is very large compared to others with the same distance from Turku. On summer time the trees almost cover the houses.

The very annoying flower is the Dandelion which is beautiful in this picture but totally ruins the lawn! It also spreads so fast and getting rid of it is a real pain.

This is definitely the most beautiful time of the year. Later my garden suffers from too much heat (or rain) and my flowers don't do so well. I prefer plants I don't have to water all the time.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Funny Math - Integral Joke

I was looking for a suitable video for my students about Integrals. It is not as simple as it sounds even though the net is full of videos about integrating various functions. My problem is that I can't seem to find ones which use only the methods we have been using during the classes. While searching I found this joke about math. For people who understand integrals it is hilarious but I think others will miss the point.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fun Searching with Spezify

From the mathematics point of view I have been very thrilled with the new search engine, WolframAlpha. I just wrote some basics about it in my Finnish blog. Then miraculously I found a totally different search engine yesterday named spezify. It is still in beta and to my surprise located in Sweden.

Here is part of my search for "japanese logic puzzles". As you can see the results are shown visually. The results contain Twitter messages and for some reason Conceptis was very well represented. Someone called the results messy but I liked it in some weird way. I had the urge to click and check the results and with Google I try to avoid clicking any extra links. Browsing the results was hard in the beginning using the mouse, but when I realized the arrow keys work the best I had fun!

Before opening a link you can check where it came from. One click on the picture gives black frames with the basic info.

The results with even Finnish search words are mostly in English.
Now I have to start playing with the mathematics links. So many fantastic looking pages!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Cutest Kitten

I received this video from a friend on StumbleUpon. This is probably the cutest thing I ever saw

Too bad they grow up...
I am definitely a dog person but kittens are cute!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tested On Humans First

I heard about a funny slogan yesterday. The story was told by my daughter. It seems that the young people of the family want to be trendy and order their hair products online and they are using Tigi. There are Finnish pages also selling it, but the link here is to the products' home page. Here is one example, Tigi Bed Head Superstar spray (I am not sure what my children are using)

Tigi Bed Head Superstar spray 300ml

My daughter had visited a pet shop and told that they had created a line for pets also

Here are two examples I found on the net:

Dirty Talk; Experience the magic! This magical spray neutralizes and eliminates odors on contact! Best for applying between baths

Dirty Talk

Poof! Asian Pear Fragrance:


Frankly I don't know why Piitu should smell like Asian Pears, but I usually don't much like perfumes on humans either.

The reason I had a good laugh was that there was and ad at the store saying:
"These products have been tested on humans first"
Tigi makes it clear on their pages that the hair products are not tested on animals. I did not find that slogan on the net, but at least in our family they really have been tested, in case we try these for Piitu or Lulu :)

I also found out that they are not the first ones using that line. According to several sources the slogan has been invented by John_Paul_Pet. Also these products are sold here and the human hair products seem to be available also.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

First of May

I wrote about the traditions on the First of May in Finland last year so I am not going to repeat that now. Instead I am adding photos from this year's celebrations. The weather has favoured us. I don't even remember the last time our summer start has been so warm and sunny.

On the 30th of April we start the celebrations by putting our student caps on. Here is a picture of the overalls the students currently studying are wearing. The colours and design depend on the faculty

The good weather brought plenty of people to the event

The flags of faculties and student associations were carried to the Lilja statue and the crowd followed them eventually

We did not follow to the statue but were left at the market square which was filled with sales booths. This year no covers were needed.

This is a must if you have small children. The helium filled balloons are made of foil. The prices are from 8€ to 15€ depending on the size.

We bought food which was probably Turkish; rice and kebab and shrimps along with vegetables.

We went home after that but most of the people left for partying and drinking either outside or in the restaurants. Basically drinking outside in public is forbidden but this is an event where the rules are not followed.

Some people are partying over night and the next morning people are having brunch on one of the hills of Turku. The top of the hill does not have apartments but an old observatory and its surroundings. The place was really crowded. We went there quite late, not eating brunch but just walking around.

We met the children there with the dogs.

On one side of the hills we have the "old city", one part of Turku which survived The Great Fire of Turku in 1827. The area is nowadays the Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum.

I hope you can imagine the scenery on summer time. The weather has been cold so far and the trees don't have leaves yet. Turku is a very beautiful city divided by Aura River. Part of the people were celebrating on the restaurant boats, some were walking along the banks of the river.

I have to take more photos when the summer comes to show the real beauty of the city.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Finally - A Good Book with Calcudoku

I got mail last Monday. I had a card in my mailbox telling that I could collect a package from the post office because it was too big to fit in through the hole in the mailbox. I don't quite understand why Amazon has to pack everything in big boxes. The book inside the package would have fitted very well. I already knew what was inside before I went to get the package Thursday. The new Conceptis CalcuDoku & Sudoku book has finally been published. I made the pre-order a long time ago.

The book has 300 Calcudokus and 144 Sudokus. I have played the Calcudokus online on Conceptis website where I can choose to see the possible combinations and use pure logic. Solving them on paper was actually fun. I can write my partial conclusions to the margins. These are some of the easier ones.

The biggest are 8x8 squares and they demand more conclusions. Here is my start for one of them:

Here is the link to and This time I would have got the book cheaper from UK. With the current rates the price is lower not to mention the lower postal fee in EU. I think it is not totally out of the question that I could get the book from Finland eventually but the cost would probably be more. I always have to buy puzzle and math books online. There just is not demand here to make bookstores willing to keep the books in their supply.

Calcudokus are totally indentical to puzzles named KenKen created by a Japanese teacher Tetsuya Miyamoto. According to Times Online:

Tetsuya Miyamoto has vowed “not to teach children”.What he does instead is to set them a puzzle which, he says, transforms the brain into a vigorous problem-solving engine. The puzzle, of Mr Miyamoto’s own devising, is called KenKe*, which translates as “cleverness squared”.

Mr Miyamoto’s theory is that the brain – of a child or adult – is failed by conventional teaching. By concentrating on a “third way” of problem-solving, he believes that the mind becomes a more potent tool for dealing with the rest of life, from main-stream education to the challenges of the workplace.

The article is quite long and I suggest you read it all. The article ends:
Because of Mr Miyamoto’s rigid beliefs about the importance of the “personal pattern and style of learning”, he is careful not to offer any advice to readers of The Times. Successful solvers often seem to start with the higher-value number clues and to focus on the numbers, particularly the primes, where possible solutions are naturally limited. Beyond that, he says, it is up to you. “Nobody can tell you how you should do it.”
*KenKen ™ Puzzles are used with permission of Gakken Co., Ltd and Nextoy, LLC. Puzzle content © 2008 Gakken Co. Ltd.

I have the first KenKen book that was published with The Times puzzles. The foreword of the book, written by Tetsuya Miyamoto, states very similarly:
"I teach you nothing; I will only give you problems. Try hard or go home. There is no right way to the solution. Your way is the right way. Just keep trying and, through trial and error, you will get there."
As a mathematics teacher I am not really sure if this really is advantageous in teaching mathematics. The students eventually develop the skills to solve the puzzles but do they have the ability to transfer that skill to the theory of math. According to the article his classes are very popular and it is hard to get in. I am horrified about the idea that some teacher would use this technique to all children. The fear of mathematics would surely get immense.

Well obviously the publisher of the book does not believe in the trial and error method because the next nine and a half pages contain detailed solving methods written by David Levy, the President of International Computer Games Association.

These puzzles are lovely and I could see them as rewards for those students who have finished their usual assignments before others and need some extra problems.

Is KenKen the Next Sudoku? asks Time (CNN). I think it could have been but the mistake was to trademark the puzzle. Now other puzzle creators can't use the name KenKen and these puzzles are provided by names like Kendoku (also this has been trademarked since has this warning now: Nextoy, LLC, the co-owner of KenKen® in conjunction with Gakken Co. Ltd., has informed me that they are also the trademark owners of the KenDoKu™ brand name). was changed to Also names Square Wisdom and MinuPlu are used. One of the reasons of Sudoku getting all the publicity was because all the puzzles were Sudokus regardless who made them!
The Finnish Conceptis publisher could use the name Numeroku. It sounds so Finnish.

The registration of a mathematical concept is against the mathematician in me. How would the science develop if scientists registered everything they come up with? I see lots of bigger mathematical questions in these puzzles regarding solvability and lots of things only a mathematical mind develops. From the educational point all I can say is: Use these for fun! Don't force anyone to solve them.

If you want to try solving, the Conceptis Widget is on my sidebar.