DIARY 2004















Sat, Aug 28

<01:32> Fun thing or blasphemy?-)

Thu, Aug 26

<20:05> Just as I'd returned from work, the doorbell was rang by a UPS delivery guy. I didn't even know that my order from Mini-ITX.DE had taken a packet-switched route of that kind. Anyway, it was the Morex 80 W noiseless PSU that I expected. The machine Hoo is now realllly silent, except for the hard drive noise and the hugely underclocked CPU fan.

The only problem is that there's only one single power connector for hard and optical drives, so I'm currently running with HD only. The PSU should have enough oomph to handle two drives, given its wattage and the lack of other power-guzzling components. So I'll probably solder an extra connector or two there, once I get some spares.

Sun, Aug 22

<16:51> Jim Carrey is one strange actor to me, because I used to diss him a lot for starring mindless comedies, the plots of which were based on funny expressions on his inhumanly elastic face. (I happened to like The Mask though, probably because it was so consistently OTT.) Then came something completely different in the form of The Truman Show. It was serious SF of a kind, in the same philosophical realm with The Matrix, except with a completely different starting point.

Last night I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which could be said to continue Carrey's work on the genre of 'SF drama'. For a summary I'd say it's quite on par with The Truman Show, which means pretty good. But like the Show, this one is somehow lacking a final punch.

For starters, this movie implements one canonical definition of SF, by studying the effects of a novel scientific discovery on people and the society. And it does it well and compactly, like a short story. I'd even say that there's slightly too little material, too few dramatic turns, for a full-length movie. The main revelation emerged at or before the midpoint, after which there was a little too much rambling. But a lot of what seemed like extra sub-plots did come back near the end for the final surprise.

The fundamental plot device of purging people of certain memories was curiously similar to that used in Paycheck. It didn't bother me, quite on the contrary; besides the movie was much less focused on the technological tidbits, and more on the psychological. In a way it was SF with a human science. The most SFish moment/idea of the film to me wasn't about the technology, but pure human mind(s) instead.

For these reasons the film doesn't present itself as a very striking piece of SF, but in fact it's a careful balance of many worlds. I was genuinely fascinated by the analysis of emotions and relationships in a SF way.

Wed, Aug 18

<22:12> Yesterday's viewing of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was one of the better movie experiences in a while. I still haven't read any of the HP books though; it was an admirable position according to some of my friends, to watch the film without spoilage.

Compared to the first two, the third film is a lot darker and deeper, and overall a much improved movie. While the books may have improved in succession, the director was also changed for the third movie, and it too seems to have had a positive effect. Curiously enough, a lot has been left out from the story, according to my more literate friends. From the general sense of depth it becomes apparent that the book promises more.

As of some opinions, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment, until the scenes where the plot converges rapidly, into what seems like a nice and smooth conclusion. To my great surprise and delight, another passage begins, a final quest with a heavy SF element, which also happens to answer a lot of riddles posed during the main run. It's an amazing progress from the first movie, and fortunately in a my kind of direction.

Fri, Aug 13

<17:01> Feeling strangely energetic after the first partial week of work. On Wednesday I went to a free movie viewing by 42, to see the mildly disturbing SF/horror piece Bubba Ho-tep. As a lo-fi SF comedy taking place in a retirement home, it was a refreshingly weird experience, no matter how off-putting that may sound.

Finally updated Mozilla Firefox on Willow to the 0.9.3 version that fixes the libpng vulnerability. It was tough because I needed the GTK1 version; GTK2/XFT sucks on Willow for a number of reasons. So I emerged my own version with the proper compile-time options; it took hours. The new default theme was taking too much of precious screen real estate (800x600) so I also installed a new theme, the LittleFirefox. Themes are installed via Tools->Themes. It looks quite tight and retro, reminds me of Arachne that I loved to use under DOS; might give it another try on my low-end machines :)

Tue, Aug 10

<00:30> It's hard to start writing now that I need it most. The summer holiday is over. Work is starting (gasp) today and students are returning to Hog.. I mean Voionmaa on Wednesday. I'm pretty depressed and baffled about it, and I feel like one of those less enthusiastic students who'd rather stay home and play with their friends than waste away at school.

After a little introversion — something I think I've lost to some extent during the past year as a teacher — it seems I'm not so much opposed to the actual teaching, with just me and my students, as to the rest of the working environment with colleagues and other staff. I can't think of anyone particular I'm looking forward to meeting. The band members are an exception only because of their function; even my position as the drummer is threatened because of another returning teacher.

Of course, most of my time at Voionmaa is probably spent in the classroom doing Right Things. But there's always some of the inevitable idling away numbly in the teachers' lounge with people I hardly identify with. It's a neverending dilemma, because when you're comfortable there is no desire to change things. I want to change the way education is done, but I also want to enjoy my work, dammit.

<01:04> Couldn't help almost referring to Harry Potter there, after watching the first two movies, Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets. I think they're quite cool for stories aimed primarily at children, but I guess that's not necessarily an exception in the realm of fantasy fiction. After all, the HP world is a big recycling ground for common fantasy devices, to put it cynically.

Nevertheless it's interesting how much they've inspired me; I watched both films twice in about a week's time. (If/when I start reading the books, I'll probably ignore the first two. The stories seem to work so well in the movie format, though it's obviously impossible to decide without reading any of them — I'm relying on a friend's opinion here.) It's interesting as a social phenomenon as well, given its ubiquity, and the fact that I generally avoid anything of such massive hype. It's not necessarily that I'm an elitist, it's merely an observation that I don't usually agree with the majority on what's cool.

One undeniable factor in my Potter fascination is the number of parallels between Hogwarts and Cambridge. For example the houses are basically colleges, you can pair them up by the colour schemes ;) I might write something more comprehensive on this some day, so I'll leave the topic for now.

<01:56> Going on with the back-to-work angst, I had this perverse idea that a holiday of over two months is too long. I've forgotten a lot of my routines, and perhaps more importantly, motivation for the work. I think it would be much easier to cope with a long holiday if I had a new job waiting in the end. Alas, I'll be teaching basically the same courses I did last year.

It's probably a feature/bug of the teaching profession. In a research-oriented work there are always new challenges to deal with, even if the project framework stays the same. Now I know better about my desire to get back into research.

One general problem with a long vacation is the lack of a sense of achievement. I'm the kind of person that needs some discipline to get things done, and I often feel somewhat depressed during holidays. I remember feeling terrible last Christmas holiday, which was something like two weeks long. But that had a lot to do with the whole idea of Christmas I seem to have issues with, and the scarcity of sunlight, in addition.

With research work, I think it's a lot more likely to be able to dive into a problem completely for a few days or weeks, and then enjoy the achievement and relax for some time before tackling the next challenge. It takes a different kind of discipline from the sausage-factory approach that many jobs, including my present one, seem to require.

I really don't know what to do, as it seems so hard and unlikely to find a research-type position that I would like. And I need to get out of this mess of a job I'm afraid I'm getting stuck with.

Thu, Aug 5

<01:40> Moving on with the kernel driver issue, a moment of DUH! occurred as I recalled that the in-kernel PCMCIA drivers are also available in the Linux 2.4 series. Thus I could compile a more stable NIC driver without going to 2.6 which otherwise is pretty flaky on Willow. I've also converted X on all of my machines from X"Free"86 to the server.

Risto A. Paju