DIARY 2003















Tue, Dec 30

<23:27> It's been a pretty enjoyable and relaxing holi-day. I managed to meet up with Antti R. and Judy as he has family here in JKL. Judy and I had a lot to talk about as she is also teaching secondary school sciences. There was not much time, but it was great to see some of my Cantabrigian friends again.

Other activities today included brewing beer, it should be ready for bottling next week, and hacking on comms. I switched the interface from the hacked-up xmmsctrl to pyxmms, which is well maintained and included in distributions (at least Gentoo :). The coding was a breeze, which is not surprising because these are simple wrapper functions, but there are real changes as well. Here's to hope that this will bring more people into using/developing comms :-).

Thu, Dec 25

<03:35> Gradually getting into the holiday mindset where one doesn't have to work all the time. It's a pretty abrupt change after the past few weeks. Incidentally I'm having a flu so there's a double excuse to chill out for a while.

Gotta mention the movie Mies vailla menneisyyttä. Watched the DivX on Saturday night, and loved it, just like most Aki Kaurismäki films. The only thing I want to comment on is the kind of progress that I'm noticing with AK films: the style is starting to lean slightly more into the absurd. While this does not break the usual AK style, I think there is the danger of diluting the important societal messages if the going gets too weird. Mies vailla menneisyyttä just about holds it together, but I'm getting a little wary thinking about future movies. Not that I would not like them that way, but I believe they also have strong messages to convey. The case in this one hits pretty hard: do you need to have a name, a social security number, a bank account, etc. in order to qualify as a person?

Mon, Dec 22

<00:17> I'm almost sick of typing, after working for the whole of Sunday. I wanted to get most of the term's work done before the holidays — I'm off to Varkaus this afternoon. But a man's gotta node what a man's gotta node, this time about Friday. That day was full of expectations and regrettable technical glitches, but overall was not really disappointing.

For the morning classes I had planned to show some relevant Futurama episodes for my Energy & Environment class. For this purpose I had compiled MPlayer on one of the computer room machines (the one with a decent video card, of course), copied the AVIs into my ~, and checked that it works with the data projector. Alas, when I got to school, I was informed of installation work that prevented us from using the computing classroom. Ironically enough, they were installing new data projectors — previously there was only one in the school that had to be roamed around. I had no contingency plans, so I just let the students go, as the course had already finished. Of course they did not oppose, but man did that suck.

I spent my newly relieved hours making an OpenOffice installation CD, which turned out more or less a coaster. I think the combustion software might be to blame. This was all on Windows 98, so I'm not hugely surprised.

In the afternoon it was my first gig as a bassist, playing schlagers and related dances. It was part of the retirement party for two of our teachers. Apparently, the people there were not prepared for dance, or they were in a hurry to leave for somewhere else. We completed about half of our program. This time though there were no technical glitches; I'd been afraid of the third in a row. I also doubt that they were scared of our playing ;-). Anyway, it was one experience being a bassist and a roadie for once. Let the jokes begin, fortunately I no longer have long blonde hair.

Wed, Dec 17

<22:29> It's probably fair and2 that my maths students also got to sing Funk-tioita today. After all the lyrics were inspired by that particular course and the associations I got between the original song (as performed at the ID6 ball) and some of the students. This is strange as there are several other math/science topics that I could have used with that melody, but now this seems kind of stuck and it's not bad. And even though it's purposefully limited to highschool level terms, it probably appeals to more educated people too.

In today's band rehearsal I got to play the bass. This was yet another staff band with a little different music to be played on Friday: tangos, schlagers and waltzes. Not exactly my cup of ale, but an interesting change. It also feels like a good way to start playing the bass (something I've not done much before) because of the relative simplicity of playing required.

I'm finding the instrument quite alluring already. In some way it feels like halfway between the guitar and the drums, something that probably takes a little more explanation. IMHO the guitar is easy to make noise with, but takes some analytical practice to do anything meaningful. Drums on the other hand take a while getting used to basic techniques (e.g. how to hold the sticks) but after that it's easy to improvise in a way that sounds great.

Compared to the guitar, the bass feels a little easier on the left hand, mainly because no chords are used. The increased fret spacing doesn't seem much of a nuisance. On the other (i.e. right) hand, it is a little harder. Perhaps I'm too used to the guitar, but there are absolute differences as well. For example muting the strings is something you don't think that much with the guitar, but are a must with the bass. Part of this relates to dissonance theory which also explains why chords on a bass are a bad idea. (Basically, dissonance means that two frequencies are too close to distinguish, but too far to be recognized as one. It's due to the limitations in the human ear, and consequently the hearing process is confused.)

Tue, Dec 16

<15:55> The world premiere of Funk-tioita was rather unexpected but certainly fun. The song is actually the well known Pop-musiikkia with mathematical lyrics. This morning I realized I could sing it with my physics class, although I originally thought of a maths course when writing it. It turned out pretty fun, though I didn't feel thoroughly prepared. A nice ending to the course, IMHO, with my guitar accompaniment referring to our topic of wave motion.

Sun, Dec 14

<05:35> Maisterit koulussa opettaa ja juo ja juo.

<20:34> That timestamp marked my coming home last night, and it refers to a drinking song which may have a grain of truth in it. I had a proper night out with the other young and temporary teachers, starting with a dinner at Henna's place. Someone suggested we should quit talking about work, but of course that did not hold. Fortunately we did find other topics later into the night. For example Henna's husband Tomi was a friend of whisky and a R&D engineer, which was nice.

At sometime around 23:09 (I'm seeing illuminumbers everywhere) we were discussing the options of going out in the city center, and Anu came up with a majorly insane suggestion. A friend of hers was working in Yölintu where Janne Hurme was going to perform that night, and she could VIP us in there for free. I mentioned my preference for more technical music, but I also recalled some of the Finnish gatherings in Britain where we played songs by Hurme, most notably Kirje. So I supported the idea for its sheer madness, and off to dance we went.

It was a little surprising, but not negatively so, that Mr. Hurme and his band mostly played an odd mixture of rock and older hits, often in the same piece. For example he did one medley starting with some oldies and finishing with Living in a Prayer. I danced with Anu through most of the live performances. Finally, in the end, came the beloved Kirje and Tinasormus. It was the fulfillment of some unexpected dream. Life had not ended with the conclusion of The Matrix.

As the night went on, we were fewer and fewer. In the end there were only me and Tarja, just like in a previous teachers' night out, and we finished off the night at her place. I was getting majorly intoxicated, feeling the world waving around me. Tarja was not much better, though it was impressive considering the others who had left.

Today has been a great day with virtually no signs of hangover, and I've spent a lot of time picking up chords for a number of pieces I'm going to play. In addition to Dingo pieces I've naturally examined Janne Hurme's Kirje as well. The task is getting very easy now, for example Dingo's Levoton Tuhkimo gave its chords away almost by magic even before I listened to anything today -- though it's a rather simple song. But real work remains as I need to prepare a maths exam for tomorrow morning :-).

<23:46> E2 is up again! w000t! It's had about a month of downtime as the servers were moved across the States. Now all is well and good.

Should also mention the game of chess Antti and I had on Thursday evening. We played pretty evenly, as the game took 2.5 hours and we both made two new queens. Finished with the canonical stalemate of two kings and nothing more on the board.

Mon, Dec 8

<22:35> Busy busy busy. Don't even mention the Whatsup dilemma. A recent highlight was arguably the somewhat Soviet spirited retro-elektronic gig of Aavikko and Messer Chups in Lutakko last Wednesday the third. The place and performers were just perfect, which brought the atmosphere far higher than anything I've experienced in clubbing nights, save for a handful of exceptions. I was particularly awestruck by Aavikko's drummer Tomi Leppänen who was, to give a grave understatement, a cyborg and a matrix operator. The bass player of Messer Chups was also under my close radar, and this was natural as my main instruments these days are the drums and the guitar. It was all very impressive and massive fun, so I won't describe it to death here.

Thursday was the Independence Day Ball at the school. I was majorly disappointed as our staff band was not going to perform there. I had to go anyway because it was working hours for me. I don't even have a suit or anything here in my JKL apartment, so I was pretty much paled in comparison to the students in tuxedos and evening gowns. On the other hand, it was the night for students and us teachers were playing it low. I did participate in a few dances with students and other teachers, which was great fun.

Saturday was ID6 which I spent with my parents at my sister and her man's place in Tampere. Nothing exceptional there, just plain old family fun with a little singing. After coming back on Sunday I had a little jam session with Antti, and I managed to checkmate him later that evening.

Overall the weekend went pretty fast, and it's a little daunting to get back to work. I have a six extra lessons per week now, and even if I get paid accordingly, it's not always fun. Also, it seems that I will continue working at Voionmaa for a couple more months. I know I should be glad to have the job, but I'm not all happy happy joy joy over it. Partly because I don't really have an alternative, and also because this changes nothing, it only postpones my future plans. On the other hand I'll be getting my hands on some sysadmining, with a little less teaching to compensate.

Tue, Dec 2

<01:48> Gentoo on Prkl is chugging along like the famous locomotive restroom. I've actually used Portage (Gentoo's package management system) to build MPlayer and w3m, which I've previously made manually. The MPlayer is not a very recent version, and I keep a hand-rolled bleeding edge variant as well, but I had a similar dichotomy before. Another package I've had to compile by hand is Mesa/Glide for my Voodoo2. It seems to work now, despite minor glitches. For example the Mesa package has no respect for the CFLAGS variable, forcing me to do the Makefile replacements separately. I got the Glide portion here which seems to be more alive development-wise than the usual legacy versions.

Mon, Dec 1

<16:26> But what comes on top of the cherry? Do hacks always come in threes? Or is this an ongoing binge? For today I happened to fix a major Samba server problem at our school. I had planned to go home for the two idle hours in the middle of the day, but I got into a chat with our IT guy. I guess the problem seemed sufficiently interesting, so I started digging. Now printing from Windows machines works again, which is a pretty major thing for students and teachers alike.

Technical details: Our Samba server had been switched from Mandrake to Fedora a few weeks ago. The config file was carried over, but suddenly the "nobody" Windows user was not accepted. It turned out we had to run the command "smbpasswd -n nobody" to enable the blank password for nobody, in addition to having "null passwords = yes" in smb.conf. Interestingly enough, Windows 2000 and XP machines were working all the time, but they probably used the passwordless guest account, while older Dozers only had the regular used named nobody. And there we were, thinking that nobody's perfect!-)

Another event today was a demonstration at the town hall, against education budget cuts. Nothing fancy there, except the number of participants was quite impressive. It was all pretty tame compared to the SW6 demos of February ;-). I'm probably not affected by the outcome as I'm soon finishing at Voionmaa, but I'm generally pissed off at the way we are treated (e.g. my degree recognition glitches) so I got there anyway. At least it gave a feeling of doing something worthwhile.

Risto A. Paju