среда, 24 июня 2015 г.

Greenfest - 21.06.15

Three days ago the annual festival "Greenfest" took place at the Petrovsky stadium in Saint Petersburg. That was the tenth time the festival had been held, and (probably in honor of that anniversary) the organizers invited the most starry groups for the whole history of the "Greenfest".

Let's look through the festival lineup step by step.

The opening act was performed by the Russian band "Jack Action". I intentionally decided to skip their performance as the whole concert was too long even without it, but I've heard sounds of their songs while going to the stadium. Anyway, my friends told me that I haven't missed anything interesting. When the first band had already finished their performance, I was still in the queue watching how "non-progressive" men (i.e. those who bought an ordinary ticket but not the electronic one) are entering the festival venue without any need to wait because there were separate entrances for e-ticket and ordinary ticket holders, and the latter group was much less than the former one. Nice to see so many people who understand that many things are easy to do without going out from home, not nice at all to see how the organizers treat them.

Ten minutes before "Poets of the Fall" performance I managed to squeeze my way through a crowd of spectators (luckily, not too thick at that time) to where my friends were standing. I wasn't familiar with Finnish band works well enough, so I've heard most of them as if for the first time (probably even without "as if" part). To reproduce my impressions, I should share with you my notion about Poets' songs. I subdivide them into two groups: lyric songs like "Sleep" or "Where Do We Draw the Line" and the other ones with a lot of drum sounds. I enjoyed the first ones and didn't hear much sound other than the drumming while listening to the second ones. Quite familiar impression thanks to club concerts. In contrast to them, my ears didn't suffer so much from the loud noises in the open air. It is a perfect difference but I still can't understand the purpose of making the drums sound so loud as if they are the dominant part of the music. The last thing I'd like to say about the Poets' performance refers to the emotions on their faces. Thanks to the great operators' work, all of us have an opportunity to see the musicians' faces in all details on the huge screens on both sides of the stage. Marko Saaresto proposed us to "get ready to be mesmerized" (wow, the new word in my vocabulary learnt during the concert :) ) just before switching from "too-much-drumming-for-me" songs to the famous "Sleep, sugar", but in my opinion the most mesmerizing part of their performance was the face of the guitarist Olli Tukiainen. It reflected indescribable emotions!

The next band to come to the stage was the Icelandic "GusGus". I don't like the electronic music, that's why I can't say anything exciting about their performance. Just some notes:

  • Sometimes their songs reminded me of "The Sisters of Mercy" compositions, and the latter band, as I see it, has something in common with Russian "Piknik". But don't try to apply transitivity to these analogies: in my view, "GusGus" and "Piknik" have nothing similar :)
  • It's hard to comprehend why Icelanders were invited to the show where all the other participants, including the headliners, are too different from them, but it is evident why they appeared on the stage just between "Poets of the Fall" and "Muse". Otherwise, a lot of spectators (for example, myself) would come only to these two groups. 

The crowd became more and more thick. And, finally... one of the greatest live bands of all time, British "Muse" walked out on the stage. They are not frequent visitors to Saint Petersburg: their previous performance in our city took place for about four years ago, so that was a great luck to watch them live. "Punctual" british men occured to be the only band who didn't observe the time that evening. They were late for as much as a quarter of an hour. Quite agonizing suspense... And they were the only band whose arrival to the stage wasn't specially announced. So the "Drill Sergeant" appearance on the screens was all of a sudden, but soon his shouting voice was completely lost in the crowd buzz.

After an hour and a half of their performance I came to the conclusion that from the esthetic point of view their show looks much better if you enjoy it sitting in comfort at home and watching the good quality show recording. For example, check this one. But from the emotional point, there is nothing comparable to being just in front of the great show within a crowd of many thousands of Muse lovers. That's one of the reasons why now, several days after the festival, I can say that I was happy to attend it.

A lot of Muse fans don't like their new album "Drones". I was agree with them before the show, but I tend to disagree with them now. Actually, I changed my opinion after just a couple of songs. So... if you love "Muse" but dislike their last album, that means that you just haven't jumped to the accompaniement of their songs (or you jumped not briskly enough) ;)

The operators' work this time was beyond me. I have never seen such impressive combining of the real-time videostream with the elaborate effects.

I wouldn't have noticed one of them but our company consisted of attentive people ;) The effect, I'm talking about, revealed itself as follows: at some moment Matthew Bellamy's guitar was burning blue. At the same moment he was shown on the screen but the instrument in his hands wasn't glowing. It's interesting whether it was done intentionally or not.

If I visited the show without the company, I wouldn't notice one more interesting effect: you needed only to bend over a bit, and the sound suddenly would become dull. Although the effect seems to be easy explicable, I have never encountered it before.

Some of the videos accompanying the songs reminded me of the above-mentioned "Piknik" by their mystique filling. And watching the video for the "Knights of Cydonia" (attention to the screen on the right around 2:00) I recalled the landscapes we created in the OpenGL study group at school 5.5 years ago. Curiously enough, almost half of our company visited that study group :)

There was a lot of causes for smiling that evening. For instance, going out of the stadium we noticed that someone took one of those big black balloons, which were released near the end of the concert (see the photo), with himself (or herself). Just wondering, how to carry such a souvenir home and what to do with it there :)

Another case is connected with the quadrocopter which shot the concert flying above the stadium. We got used to its frequent appearances above us so much that the seagull flying over us provoked the joke about "the gull which is a quadrocopter at heart"

More than four hours of standing in the crowd and jumping together with it, night passages from Petrovsky stadium to Chkalovskaya metro station and from Ozerki station to my house (for about 5.5 kilometers in total) made me feel much more tired than I may be even after my habitual 10 km jogging. Thus, I came to the conclusion about the necessity of doing a warm up before going to a concert as well as I always do it before jogging :)

The impressions of the evening didn't end up with the end of the concert. Achievement "to be in time to interchange the underground line approximately one minute before it becomes impossible" unlocked :)

Being already in the underground, we noticed that the Greenfest attribute in my hands lost the little finger, thus turning from the sign of the horns into another symbolic gesture.

Such attributes serve as useless but funny identification signs. You return home carrying this huge green glove and see another people with the same thing. These people are unfamiliar to you but now not completely unfamiliar: at least you know where they were just an hour ago, and they know the same about you. So you are not so faceless to each other as unfamiliar people usually are.

Well, it was the fascinating evening. I was very happy to be in the company of those of my friends, whom I see too seldom, and to become acquainted with some of their friends as well. All of you are great, thank you for those several hours! :)

вторник, 2 июня 2015 г.

Germinal (March 21 - April 19) overdue summary

I had to deviate from my initial plans to write three posts a month as the workload in April and May increased drastically. But now, when one of the reasons to switch to English here approaches, when I have a bit more time and when I am a bit less tired, it is perfect time to get clear of debts.

Two 30-day "months" have already passed, so, first of all, I am going to summarize these periods.

To begin with, here is my TOP 5 of events/achievements/impressions/etc. for Germinal:

5. I haven't written anything in my French language blog on lang-8 since last summer. And that is really bad as I don't have any other sources of writing practice in French. The good news is (and special thanks here to the Muse's "Megalomania" song as only remembering its lyrics and the line which starts exactly the same way I recalled that "news" is singular) that the first step was made. On the other hand, the first step was not followed by the second one due to the above-mentioned issues with the workload. The current goal is to start writing in French on a weekly basis.

4. This semester programming in the university was amazing and not only because of the glance at the functional paradigm about which I have already written, not only because of the work on the project about which I will write soon, but also because of the half of a single lesson in the middle of the semester. That time our prof returned from the design hackathon where participants' teams tried to create the new models for different components of TRIK robotic set (for physical components as well as for software and even for packaging). He showed us lots of wonderful slides created by the participants. I really enjoy familiarizing with design concepts. Firstly, they show the unlimited potential of human creativity. Moreover, they are very useful as being slightly transformed they may be successfully applied to another fields. I can't draw well and I'm not going to learn to draw either on paper or using the computer tools, even though I dream of a skill of drawing sketches which will be able to express my impressions or memories. But ideas live not on the paper but in our imagination. And you may draw almost anything in your imagination. That is why you can't say that ideas are not the things you may take advantage of. And that is why it is so essential to review other's sketches, to extract the ideas underlying them (of course, in your own interpretation which may have nothing to do with the original one) and to combine the ideas by means of creating your own sketches in your mind.

3. I have took part in several chess competitions during this period. The most memorable was the last one, the qualification for the Spassky Cup, which is the annual personal tournament for Saint Petersburg State University profs, staff and students. Qualification group in which I have to play is the strongest one (4 out of 5 strongest SPbSU faculties participate in it) but, thanks to SPbSU programming championship which was held exactly on the qualification day, I was unable to qualify according to the rules. So I was allowed to play in the simplest group. After my unconvincing win in the first round, the most part of the following games reminded destruction more likely than struggle. Thus, before the last round I was with the full score (having won 7 games out of 7). But I was not the only person who was in the lead. And I was not the only person who participated not in the proper qualification group. Luckily, there was no need to get the first place in order to proceed to the final stage. And my resulting second place was natural due to the fact that in the last round I played against the Woman Grandmaster from psychological faculty (by the way, the only grandmaster for the whole university). The title wasn't the only thing I knew about her. Last August Chess Olympiad was held in Tromsø, and she played there for Croatia women's team on the first board. Being defeated by far more experienced opponent is not bad at all. Learning nothing from your loss is not good at all. Unfortunately, that is the case. So, why is it here, why is it on the third position? Just because of the impression encountered for the first time. Because of the impression of being beaten in calm and cold-blooded way starting from the elegant tactic strike (which I refer to the ones which are almost impossible to notice in blitz chess for my current level and which surprised me a lot. In fact, I even estimated the position as slightly better for me merely a couple of moves before the strike) in the middle of the game and finishing with the endgame where my opponent might simply win due to her extra pawn but decided to make me run out of time taking the advantage in that component formed in the middlegame and making very fast moves.

2. VK Cup 2015 became the first programming competition for me in which teams of two were allowed to participate but not ordinary teams of three. Before the competition announce I was came close to abandon competitive programming. So that was quile a logical step to invite to participate with me my former teammate who had abandoned algorithmic competitions more than a year before that moment ;) We haven't expected much of our results. And we made, at least, not less than reaching the summit of our dreams advancing to the third round, the last online contest and the last but one stage in the whole competition. Putting the card before the horse, I should say that it was our last success. Next month we didn't proceed to the final stage. But the main thing was that after a while I felt the joy of team competitions once again. My partner's jokes (which irritated me before so much but which, I suppose, were the important part of our competitive spirit), absense of any responsibility for the result, last minutes accepted verdicts for quite easy problems - everything of that made the experience really cool! No matter, is it good or bad, that feeling of joy gave me back ambitions and desire for training. And three summer months are ahead which makes me think that everything depends on me. I won't have plenty of time but I believe that regularity overcomes duration, and to check that is the question of discipline. I believe that the set of vital exercises overcomes fanaticism, and I have a great opportunity to check if my notion of vital exercises have anything to do with reality. Ninety one day is ahead.

1. During summer between the last school and the first university year I tried to write app with GUI in Java for the first time (note, that I have no experience of coding in Java before that, even programming simple console apps). Well, Far Manager was not the best IDE for that purpose :) As you may suspect, I didn't succeed that time. And I had hated Java since then. In both cases when I couldn't avoid the usage of that language (i.e., while preparing Codeforces round and while translating some Codefights code snippets into Java) the code was pretty simple. When I invented the idea of the semester project for myself I hoped that Android app may be developed in some Python framework or another not-Java-tool quite easily. The fact that development with Java is easier, doesn't contain hidden dangers on every step (in contrast to the other options), etc. was frustrating... But it was late to abandon the project after several unsuccesful attempts with the other languages. Moreover, that was my own idea and my own dream to have the app I was going to create, so I wouldn't abandon it even if the possibility existed. But it would be hard to begin (and maybe I would have made another tries to start development in the other language) without our curator. He underestimates his contribution to our work but his persuasive words about Java helped me to make the first steps, which were the most important ones as I was afraid to commence erecting the huge building with the unfamiliar instrument in hand. And his estimation of our possibilities (I say "our" as I didn't work alone on the project), which was much closer to reality than ours, made us reformulating our May goal in the proper moment. The impossible goal (as it became evident after some weeks of work) was changed to the reachable one, And was reached, but that's another story for one of the following posts.

Only the "strike" part left. I've tried to return to the habit of watching one TED talk per day. The attempt wasn't as great as you may expect: I've watched six videos during Germinal and the best "strike" contains only four of them. Hope, I will perform longer "strikes" during the following months. Anyway, this part of the summary exists only in order to make habits of some of these strikes.

As usual, I will be glad to read your comments concerning my English, my writing style and the content. And note, it's not the cliché to conclude. Believe, you really help. Believe and comment ;)