DIARY 2003















Mon, Mar 31

<00:01> More WM experiments. Right now I've (again) got Fluxbox running on Willow, and it's smooth even with maximal underclocking. Incidentally, after some Googling I even found Hackedbox which, as the name might suggest, is Blackbox without the extra clutter of toolbars etc. (Remember that Fluxbox is a slight extension on Blackbox.) However, FB's toolbar is not that bad, considering it's usually covered by applications anyway.

<02:49> Found this kewl article titled Abolition of Work via E2. There's the idea that has bothered me and many others for some time, namely that work/job/occupation is an ancient system that once had a purpose, and is being maintained forcefully. Real, useful production has been almost completely automated, so artificial jobs are being created in the service sector.

The answer to the new distribution of wealth is rather vague, but it hinges on hacker ethic in that everyone has something they enjoy doing, which is also productive to some extent. The problem is to tap into this unorganized pool of resources. And it can't be done by overly organizing it.

The idea was discussed from another perspective in a book by Esko Seppänen and Antero Honkasalo: Eläköön elämä. It was a very conflicting reading experience, because the writing was really bad. I mean really bad. No fluency. But I read most of the book -- skipping the general physics I already know -- because the topic made me burst with fascination. The authors were examining life, evolution and the working society as a physical system, mainly using thermodynamic arguments.

The degradation of the concept of work was described as a decreasing efficiency of society. For example, counting the energy used by an average American per day, while noting how little utility is obtained. It is a healthy sign that the authors don't try and solve these problems directly, because it is useful and surprising in the first place to note their existence. And it again comes back to the generalization that people's insistence on traditional values is √(evil).

<03:08> About the WM switching. I'm now using Fluxbox on Prkl as well, it's good enough here, and hasn't got the popup focus bugs of E. Anyway, I now remember using Fluxbox for a longer period before, but it had a glitch with the Opera browser. At that time it was my favourite browser and I was constantly talking with the developers about the bugs. The bug didn't come up with other WMs so we decided it's Fluxbox's fault, and I went back to Sawfish. But for now I hope Fluxbox works, I need to get a life besides testing WMs compulsively ;-).

Sat, Mar 29

<22:10> As if my experiments in retrospectroscopy hadn't gone far enough, I've switched back to Enlightenment as my window manager. I can't remember the exact reason why I switched away from it. I didn't have any major problems with Sawfish that I used for some time, but it was broken with a recent release, and there was also a discussion on WMs on /. or somewhere. So I started to look for alternatives and for now I'm settled with good old E.

It's a rather strange choice because I only want something simple and clean for window managing. I can use xsetbg for the background image, for instance, and I don't want to see anything but the application windows on top of that. Enlightenment is known as the most eye-candy WM. Problem is that the 'simple' WMs have some annoyances that cannot be turned off or changed easily. E is just damn configurable. Even if E17 gains bloat in the form of file management, I'm pretty sure I'll be able to turn it off.

I started my Linux journey with Gnome and Enlightenment, and quite soon got rid of the former as I didn't need the damn panel or icons to take up valuable screen real estate. At some point I started to optimize the system quite heavily, for instance I'm still using aterm because it does what I need at a lighter payload than even rxvt, not to mention xterm. So I though I could find a lighter WM as well. While Sawfish looked like a proper compromise between lightness and configurability, it's not faster than E; this is partly due to the extensible, interpreted nature (even the config files are in LISP).

In fact I'm not 100% happy with Enlightenment, it has some focus glitches, but overall it's good enough. From I found a nice and small theme called Style, works great on Prkl.. but I'm not that happy with it on Willow when it's on low power mode. PRKL!

Thu, Mar 27

<17:33> This morning I woke up with my head full of serotonin. No shit. I had a breathtaking dream of enlightenment, and I awoke with the realization that there is a light shining in my mind, a precious and rare thing that I must put into good use. Once again I had something to write down, something not worth disclosing here until I manage to write a more complete story around the idea.

I wonder if this was due to me watching The Blair Witch Project last night. It was not a great movie overall, but it has the outstanding point of being minimalist. Just like in music of that style, your mind is given more freedom to fill in the gaps. In the form of this 'horror' film you get a substrate for bad tripping, as there is nothing directly scary there. For this reason TBWP has a potential of being a major scare, because it utilizes the most frightening things ever -- the dark corners of your own mind. On the other hand, the film doesn't leave you in a prolonged fear, as many proper horror movies do. Because once the substrate is gone, so is your bad trip.

In addition, other people have also noted that the shaking amateur camera work is hard on your eyes to follow. It really distracts from the point, no matter how much realism it is supposed to convey. Also, I agree with many others that it might have been an order of magnitude more scary, if you didn't know it was fiction.

Tue, Mar 25

<02:50> Can't stop writing now that I'm feeling very much alive for a change. I could feel my heart running against the insides of my thorax as I speeded with my bike on my way back from the cinema. Before the viewing I had already tuned into thriller mode by executing a couple of perches -- my mother had bought the raw fish for dinner, and some of them were still barely alive, so she asked someone to let them out of their misery before proceeding -- and there was a dropful of Shock And AweTM when I held the poor sucker in my left hand and cut its neck with the knife in my right, and I felt the very moment of death. I felt death herself in my hands.

It's not that I haven't slain a bignum of fish before, but this moment reminded me of one reason why I'm a vegetarian: It's hypocritical to eat something that you couldn't face to kill yourself given the power. Or at least that's my completely worthless opinion. There's probably some counterargument about the specialization in our society, and that in primitive cultures there are no vegetarians. Then again, we don't live in a primitive society and we have a choice over our dinner. Needless to say I didn't eat the fish that time, but I probably wouldn't have anyway, and I was already rushing for the cinema.

Mon, Mar 24

<17:53> Yesterday turned out a nice day overall. I woke up early to watch Formula One, and it was great to see the Finnish Iceman, also known as Kimi Räikkönen, win the race. He's about my age and it's his third year in F1, so it's quite an achievement. He did well (third place) in the previous race so there's a definite chance for him to win the total championship this year.

I didn't get much done in the day, because of the short night's sleep. I went to sauna and enjoyed it quite vigirously, with long and strong hot/cold exposures. I was looking forward to see The Truman Show on telly, and it turned out an excellent, even profound film experience.

During the film I thought it was probably the most matrix a film can go without being The Matrix. This feeling didn't quite hold until the end, but it was still a very inspring experience. I wouldn't really compare it to The Matrix because it is different in many ways, but there were some striking similarities. The following are some of the important philosophical points:

Aside of the reality paranoia, the film portrays quite effectively the dangers of living in a Closed Shell of Comfort. I also wonder why it wasn't until Truman's 30s or so when he really starts to discover how fake the world is. Then again, it shows the power by which he has been conditioned to accept the world as they want it.

Oddly enough, some critics like to bash Jim Carrey no matter what he plays, but I think he is the perfect actor for the Truman role with its fake sugar-coated exterior.

After the film I was naturally in the mood for some meditation. I had recorded the night's Avaruusromua radio show (available in prkl's media for those with access) which was good accompaniment. With that and some E2 writeups I came to realize one essential thing about minimalist music: it leaves room for your imagination. It's like the lightly patterned wall that can act as a tripping substrate. I turned on my UV mood lighting, and after some good meditation I was able to see some interesting patterns on my carpet. Natural serotonin high.

I also got into discussions about "the poor man's surround sound system" on Slashdot, and I decided to node what I know. Here is the writeup, it even made it to the front page after being cooled quickly after submission. :-D

<22:03> Machinae Supremacy | Anything Box

Found these two bands via Slashdot stories. They have a number of songs freely downable. The common thing is that while I'm not a huge fan of the genres, I find some of their sounds and melodies really nice. For instance M.S. has a rock cover of Bomfunk's Freestyler which gave me a strange sense of déjà entendu until I noticed it's called Sidstyler. I guess part of the fun in MS's melodies is that they draw a lot from classic computer and console games.. OH FUCK, I'M HEARING A SPEED METAL VERSION OF BUBBLE BOBBLE RIGHT NOW!!!!!! That song is Sidology Episode 3, Apex Ultima which has other familiar tunes as well, at least I recognized Arkanoid :-).

About the previous E2 writeup, it made me notice how many great writeups I've just written in a breeze, and those that I've really planned I have rarely even finished. I wonder if this attitude works more generally in life. At least it's happened to me with fictional stories and music composition before, like with the last piece. Sure it has that one old melody (meaning I've used it in my music before) but most of the other melodies were just improvised for the mood. Yeah, I really shouldn't plan things too much. But some things seem to like some planning, like job and studentship applications that I can't avoid these days.

<22:51> Today I saw 28 Days Later which I feel like commenting on, before watching any more films. It's been portrayed as a horror movie, but I'd rather see it as a scifi thriller in the same league with a couple of Stephen King novels (not his typical stuff, BTW). It's also a very English film in that the location is made quite apparent, and there is some slightly twisted patriotism oozing through.

I won't spoil the plot here, so I'll rather praise the cinematic excellence. It's really enjoyable to watch, even the rather gory scenes. At some brief moments the scenes verge on splatter, but IMHO the line is never crossed. The crisis and military disintelligence is something especially worth watching these days. I found the starting scenes particularly bothering, because it happens in a Cambridge laboratory that has gained lots of negative publicity in real life. But enough of this, it's a very good film overall. It makes you appreciate the small things in life we take for granted. Plus it features Finnish heroes as well :-).

Sat, Mar 22

<17:07> After mounting Prkl's new harddrive in a different way, it's totally silent (except for fans). It might sound surprising that I mounted it directly instead of using the original rubber washers, and the result is quieter. Apparently the rubbers were necessary for the IBM drive. However, my background with systems theory gave a hunch that the direct way might be better.

It seems the Samsung is tuned to eliminate noise when it's directly mounted. But when you add some extra damping, the tuning frequency will change. The drive boasts some fancy NoiseGuardTM and its 5400 rpm are clearly designed for quietness over speed, so I'm sure they thought of the mounting issues. In fact the instructions recommend using the screws that came with it, but they could have been clearer about the reasons behind. The idea of a tuning frequency is apparent because I can hear the motor only at spinup/spindown times, but not at normal operation speed. :-)

Fri, Mar 21

<23:37> Space is big and space is quiet. As we say in Finland, Hiljast' on! This big n' quiet space of 120 GB is a Samsung harddrive I got today. It's replaced the two loud, whining IBMs in Prkl. And there's plenty of excess space. Sure I don't need it all at the moment, but this 120 gig model had the best bang/buck ratio and it'll be good for my future computers as well.

Curiously enough, I was about to buy a Maxtor online on Wednesday night, but decided to postpone it until I'd checked the local stores. Then all hell broke loose in Iraq and I thought not to buy a US product :-). Well in fact, individual US people and producers have little to do with Mr. Bush's insanity, so I don't see any good reason to boycott them. However, this Samsung drive had such good price and warranty (3 years) that it was a clear winner.

There are still two cooling fans in Prkl, but on the whole the machine is much more tolerable to use than before. If I'm very close I can hear the motor, but no seeking noise at all.

And since I have some priorities, I already bottled my ale before getting the drive. It'll take a few weeks of further conditioning before reaching absolute quaffability.

Tue, Mar 18

<03:35> My mention of the Tommy Hellsten book "Saat sen mistä luovut" was a bit hasty, considering it did actually have some interesting points. Besides the overly Christian tones, it was unsatisfactory as a personal reading experience, as it was more of an ego trip than a humble learning experience. So not that bad on the side of hell-stones.

Fear can be a key to positive development, some of us already know that. But Hellsten went further by noting that fear can in fact be a representation of one's hidden dreams and aspirations in itself. By overcoming a fear you can do something heroic and step closer to enlightenment. Incidentally, this was discussed today at Tom's Cafe, which is a men's fashion freedom site. I admit I was bloody scared before my first skirted outing, but the wonderful feeling of liberation was certainly worth the effort. I guess it could be generalized that if you're genuinely scared of doing something, it's a sign that it's really something important and worth doing, no matter how contradictory that might sound.

This idea of heroes in our time took an interesting turn when Hellsten suggested that the individual heroes could somehow be creations of the collective society; when the society is getting really stuck with its old ideas, there is a hidden pressure for some creative, open individuals to spring forth. I'm not sure how literally this should be taken, but it does resonate nicely with the ideas in Holdstock's Mythage Wood.

The ego-trip side of my reading experience should be apparent, as I generally identify myself as an open, rather creative individual struggling against the mentally locked-up masses of society. But there's still room for some hulimity. I genuinely feel an obligation to help out the society (seeing how fucked up it is), although I have no idea if I have a specific mission here on this planet. Like I've said already, we are parts of something bigger (the Universe) that might hold some pretty mindblowing plans for me and you in the future.

Mon, Mar 17

<17:45> Reading through an anthology of African philosophy I ran into rather intriguing thoughtlines in Kwasi Wiredu's essay "How not to compare African thought with Western thought". He points out that the so-called development in Europe and Northern America (henceforth called the Western societies) has been rather one-sided. Whereas production and other technologies have undergone the scientific revolution, most people's spiritual life has not advanced one bit from the medieval superstition. In Wiredu's opinion this conflict between external and internal development is one of the reasons why Westerners find their lives miserable, despite the apparent bliss of science.

While this is not a solution, it's something interesting to consider. It's taken time for people to accept new technology, but it has happened partly because of apparent benefits, and partly because of marketing. I'm sure there have been attempts to similarly revolutionize the way people think, but so far it has not been succesful. I'm constantly amazed how a person can learn to use things like the Internet quite naturally, but insist on arbitrary limitations such as wearing a suit and tie as the way to gain respect. On the other hand the Net can be a valuable medium in spreading the ideas of a Conscious Revolution, which we can see in places like Tom's Cafe.

This brings me back to a column I wrote to a local youth magazine in Kuopio in 1997. (The paper was called Pulu and AFAIK only that one issue was ever published. :-) It was about the conflict between material and spiritual development, including the idea that history has seen cycles where either one has flourished at a time. My totally unscientific conclusion was that it takes an advanced material foundation to enable spitirual development: for instance, man developed a bigger brain by some accidental mutation millions of years ago, and its full potential is still to be harnessed. In other words, you need to make the hardware before you can run any advanced software. Now I think it's not as strictly one-way a process, but there might still be a grain of truth.

Fri, Mar 14

<13:37> It's Friday the Pi day, the sun is shining, and I'm releasing a new song piece of music. Head for the music download page for Guitar Forms. I didn't have any particular name in mind, well, in fact I didn't have much about this piece in mind when I started it earlier this week, after finally finishing my Geometric Article. I did have a couple of different song ideas, but eventually this one came out of it.

It goes quite well with my green choice in the elections that this is a recycling song for some melodies. At least for the one which I've been obsessed with previously, which was described as 'jazzy' by a friend in Queens' and brought into daylight in the Tranciskite piece. But this one has other melodies as well, recycled and relooped in a rather Shpongled fashion in different aural environments. There's probably a lot more to explain, but I'll finish by noting how satisfied I am by having used mostly original samples :-).

{The release is an Ogg Vorbis even though the original is an XM module. Reason being the subtle differences between module players. And while I've used Ogg for myself for a long time, I've been hesitant to give out Oggs because of uncertain support in various players. Of course it's been pretty lame to make mp3s and not practice what I preach.. but lately people seem to have picked up Ogg on the Windows side as well. It's probably less obscure than XM anyway :-). And incidentally the ogg file isn't much bigger than the xm, because of huge samples.}

<19:15> Brewed some barley. Twenty liters of dark ale should be ready for bottling in a week or so. This year I have a good excuse for making the stuff, because of a study about the positive health effects of moderate beer drinking, which are even better than those of red wine -- which I'm apparently allergic to. So, it definitely feels like I've accomplished things this week.

It's also been a while without book reviews, even though I've naturally had the time to read stuff. Brief recaps here:

Lee Smolin's Three Roads to Quantum Gravity. I've enjoyed Smolin's writing before (Life of the Cosmos) and this wasn't too bad either. As the name suggests, it's refreshing to see some new theories besides string theory in public. There's the rather wacky idea, well argued though, that the area enclosing a space represents the maximum information contained within. I wonder if geometric algebra could further this idea, considering how well it handles area and volume elements.

A Finnish philosophy anthology called Me in the year 2000 (Minä vuonna 2000), edited by Timo Airaksinen, borrowed from Antti. Nothing really exceptional, but it went to show for instance that I'm not among the first or only to argue how arbitrary our gender system is, and has very little to do with physical sexes. Also agreed that one's gender and sexuality can be developed in very rich ways without tampering with the physical sex; something to consider for the transgender folk.

Tommy Hellsten's book Saat sen mistä luovut (You get what you give up) is one of the better written books I've read lately, but nothing really spectacular still. He claims it's a book about the paradoxes of life, whereas his points are not really paradoxes (such as "I am a liar") but old and wise ideas that seem to go against the grain of today's hectic info-industrial society. The natural problem with this kind of book is that those who need the ideas will probably not read it thoroughly.

I'm particularly pissed off by the numerous Christian monotheistic references he keeps making, despite having noted that he's not been satisfied by the institutionalized Lutheran church. I think he actually misses some of the points as he uses these authorities and Biblical anecdotes to explain the eternally changing Nature. In fact I found it more sensible to read when I mentally processed the text with s/God/Universe/.

And it's not just something for laughs, I'll explain more. Universe is everything that exists anywhere ever, so it certainly has God as a 'subset'. Furthermore, consider that Universe has created you, and at the same time you are a part of Universe. It governs your life to a big extent, but you also have some effect on it, and you can develop that relationship quite far (consider enlightenment). It's certainly possible (though we may never know) that Universe is a conscious being, so it's OK to personify it if you like.

Sat, Mar 8

<00:11> It hurts me physically to know that Tangerine Dream has just this week played a gig in London. Well, it would probably hurt more if I'd still been in Britain and missed it so close. If there only was a way of knowing these things in advance, they don't seem to give out much info beforehand. Time for some "reverse mantra" meditation. I came up with it when I was about 15, it's basically TM with your object of disappointment as your mantra. A little like the negative-person stage of Metta meditation :-).

Fri, Mar 7

<03:34> Sync of Thursday was seeing the movie Dead Zone -- where politics and elections play a key part -- on telly after having just voted my green candidate for the Finnish parliament. I didn't check this before voting -- the elections are on for more than a week, I could have chosen any day. Whatever the sync, it was a pretty good story even though the Stephen King background was obvious. It's probably a good thing I haven't read this particular book of his, it might have been too much repetition but the film is a welcome change of medium.

<23:04> Hacked around to get MPlayer play Animatrix episode 2. Basically I had to decode the sounds separately.. fortunately MPlayer can use a separate soundtrack when playing. Put it together into a DivX AVI which you can find here.

Wed, Mar 5

<20:02> After last weekend's pardeying my sleeping patterns have been quite weird.. I'm slowly on my way to some regularization, of course it doesn't mean conformance to the prevalent bourgeois styles but still a Fourier peak at more or less 24 hours.

The weekend was nothing really extraordinary, more like a relaxing change from the usual and a chance to catch up with the natural philosophy discussions between me and Antti. Most of the time we were simply drinking tea and whiskey and talking, but we had some excursions into the nightlife as well. Overall the nightlife in Jyväskylä was not as great as I'd expected, but there were nice surprises like Vakiopaine (Constant Pressure :) which was the hub for alternative lifeforms. The atmosphere was much like Clowns of Cambridge, except that the interior was more reminiscent of Soviet Russia than continental cafés. On the other night we looked for some clubbing, Domino was all hiphop and we got into NuNu which turned out a lot nicer overall. Music was oscillating between hiphop and house, so at least half of the time there was something to dance to. There we ran into Antti's philosophy colleague Kari who asked us to join him for some beer later at his place. Olvi Doppelbock tasted pretty good for a Finnish lager, but at the expense of 8.5% alcohol. We left the place around 7am on Sunday morning, and later that day I got back home really tired, but it had definitely been worth it.

Risto A. Paju