DIARY 2003















Fri, May 30

<15:11> Watched The Matrix Revisited. I'm pretty amazed because of all the difficulties and physical injuries that affected the making of part one, and they still pulled it off quite spectacularly. Another important bit is the integrity and attention to detail by the W brothers, which includes the choice of training the actors to do most of the stunts themselves. I felt I just had to see this, being a big fan of the whole Matrix world, and it was a very pleasant and even touching surprise. Enough of this as I'm soon (pun intended) off to Tampere for the weekend.

Thu, May 29

<04:51> This one day, during some meditation, something suddenly occurred to me, concerning my desire to move into a more diverse/artistic/urban environment such as Jyväskylä or Tampere. In fact it was a distillate of many previous ideas of me, even quite banal ones, but it did provoke some further thought.

As I've lived most of my life in a small town with relatively little provision for entertainment, I've been forced to make up things for myself, either by myself or with similar minds around. That is how I've become a geek. Even if my parents sometimes tell me that I was a tinkerer and explorer by nature, not because of environment or upbringing. Both factors are probably quite valid.

I've come to think about this because I've noticed I spend much less on music, movies and similar things than people my age usually do. It might be because I've been fortunate enough to know what I enjoy, and make it my main pursuit (as opposed to a dichotomy between boring work and enjoyable free time). At least until now that I've completed things like IB and Cambridge Master. Not that those titles ever meant anything, it was the student/scientist life itself that was worth it all. But now I'm lost again, without a dream to fulfil, and you can see it from the number of film reviews I've posted here.

This naturally makes me wonder if I'll become something different if I find myself making a career in a big city some day. Well, of course it will be different, and change is always a good thing, but there's the possibility of degrading into a wage slave and consumer. Now that would suck.

Suction was also the effect that some reviewers associated with The Avengers, yet another movie based on a 1960s agent series. I happened to enjoy it as simple and honest fun. Antti would probably agree, as one major element of the humour was the thoroughly British style and accent. It was in the same spirit of what the two of us do now and then: talk and act like a traditional English gentleman while doing something completely modern, controversial and even anti-British.

For tonight's geeking I returned to my bad old AST laptop as I had nothing better in mind. Installed FreeDOS and tried to get online with the Arachne browser. I managed to set up PLIP and ping over it, but did not get any further. *sigh* will I ever give up tweaking that utterly hopeless machine.

Wed, May 28

<02:22> After reading reviews from people who had been Reloaded multiple times, I'm getting increasingly sure of the point I've already mentioned: Part of the problem with the movie's flow and editing is that there's so much information and so many twists packed into it. Which, unfortunately, makes it increasingly hard to understand why they put so much fighting action in the movie.

Anyway, this means I'll have to watch it again. All of the copies I've found online are of the lowliest possible pirate format; you could see from the geometry distortions that the video camera had been on the normal viewing level in a theatre. In addition the colors were slightly off. Even if I want a copy for frame-by-frame geeking, I won't do it with such sacrilegeous techniques. Probably will go and see it again in a theatre, then wait for the DVD rip come out.

On with more Sci-Fi: Fred Hoyle's The Black Cloud. This classic starts convincingly enough in Queens' College in the year 2020, and proceeds into a pioneering example of a disaster tale backed up with the rock-solid scientific background of the late astronomer Hoyle. It also features interesting sociological remarks and reflects a desire to spread the gospel of open scientific thinking, and how it conflicts with political goals.

For some time I must have been a little wary of SF written by real scientist -- probably when I got into writing formal scientific papers myself -- until I tried another book by Hoyle, which turned out a beautiful and powerful piece of literature. The Black Cloud was not a bad exception, and it clearly deserves its classic status. There are some minor quirks, for example the use of paper tape for data storage, which seems to plague many other stories too. I think today's writers should be used to the rapid evolution of storage formats and be able to extrapolate it better. However, there are no obvious glitches in the flow of the story, and there's nothing to complain about the whole.

Sun, May 25

<23:57> Ooh, such a PLURious weekend at JKL: Peace, Love and Unity Reloaded

Initially, I was mainly going to Jyväskylä for two reasons: to watch Reloaded with Antti, and to meet up with Tuomo and check out some of his truly geeky hardware, which includes a 16-bit Zilog Unix server vintage 1979. I turned out enjoying the most on Saturday night, which was Yläkaupungin yö (similar to Taiteiden Yö). I was on the move from 3pm Saturday to 8am Sunday, about 17 hours on my feet.

I shouldn't spend too many electrons on Reloaded as the E2 link above has many fine reviews. Besides, if you're a hc fan of the Matrix world, you will watch this second part of the trilogy no matter what. You won't regret it, albeit there may be minor causes for disappointment.

First, the outright mistakes in editing/directing that should not be there: Many of the action scenes are too long and even boring, and sometimes out of context. There are enough Hong Kong style films if you want more of that, I just want the SF, mam. This goes in hand with the rather on-off style of interleaving fight sequences with philosophical discussion. 'I believe it is our fate to sit down and ponder upon the ontological ramifications for five minutes until we go and kick ass again.'

Not surprisingly the flow of the movie is suboptimal, at least when the natural contrast is the first Matrix. It's partly due to the introduction of Zion and many new characters and technicalities, and I can understand it as this is the middle part of a trilogy. On the other hand, it's easy to recall and miss the classical character development aspect of the first part, of which there's no trace in the second. This also puts high hopes for Revolutions, the conclusion.

But as long as you can follow the movie, there's a lot of revelation of the nature of the Matrix multiverse. To spice things up there are more than two sides, not only humans vs. agents. And many hints for explaining some of history as we know it. In short, there's a lot to digest for a single movie, and I'll definitely want a copy for some frame-by-frame geeking. Especially for the SSH exploit hack.

After the movie, Antti and I went to a bar for some intense digestion and discussion. (Digestion was also in place for the Chinese octopus meal I'd had prior to the movie, and I was quite full.) Then suddenly I saw Emilia, not having expected to see her in that town at all. She said she'd been out with her friend Sanna -- also an acquaintance of Antti -- and Sanna had mentioned seeing 'the Matrix man'. Emilia had instantly recognized me in that phrase. How cool was that. And it wasn't the only Matrix-related comment for me that night, properly dressed in The One leather coat, oval shades and a sleek hairdo.

And now for the PLUR. During the Uptown Night I saw several performances of Finnish folk music, which was a refreshing 'cd /' change in my musical experiences. At least one band, Alusvasara, had composed new pieces, and you could tell it from the rather contemporary Ultra Bra style melodies, but they fit surprisingly well into the medium.

Antti's performance that night was a monologue of a businessman gone slightly mad. The premise was not that far from American Psycho, but it went almost hauntingly close because of Antti's resemblance of the actor Christian Bale.

PLUR started to ooze in as it was finally 1am and we were in Ilokivi waiting for some dancable music by Rikos Records, Tero et al. Just imagine dancing to C=64 arpeggios on some house/jungle beats. It was almost sacred. This was also the moment for me to reveal the camou kilt under the Matrix coat and go pistachio with electronica.

That was nice two and a half hours of raving, but there was more to come. We had to wait 1.5 hours until the ambient breakfast event would start. Our trip meandered through the town center in quest for decent barbecue, including vegan burgers, and we had so much fun at that phase of general fatigue and intoxication that we barely noticed time pass. In fact there were many moments that weekend where time seemed to go way fast. Probably software glitches. Or, more likely, excellent company.

5am at Vesilinna restaurant turned out an anticlimax: It was quite expensive, they were not licensed at that time of day, and the music was appalling. Well, it wasn't really music. This guy called Sir Mr. Taf from Pieksämäki (the center of Elvis worshipping in Finland) was pure camp as he couldn't really sing and he didn't know the music too well -- for instance, he just hummed through The House of the Rising Sun, explaining it as a semi-instrumental performance. It could have been funny under some other circumstances, but it was between 5 and 6 am, the PLUR was temporarily lost, and we had come all the way looking for pure hack value disguised in the form of ambient.

Around 6am it happened. Unfortunately much of the ambient crow had run away scared, so there was only a handful of us really focusing on the music. It was live noise ambient by Avarus & Mental Alaska soundsystem, with only a few electronic instruments. For example, the trumpet with the valves pressed in halfway was something I could recognize and enjoy instantly. The music was sheer bliss and I escalated into rather meditative levels. After the show I started to chat with one of the other fans, and it turned out she had been in Cambridge, working in the Pickerel Inn (one of my favourite pubs there) during my first year. She's from Tampere where I'll be going next weekend. If that wasn't synchronicity I don't know what is.

The walk back into Antti's place was a good, quiet phase of afterglow. PLUR was still in the air, but once in the flat, Antti was getting fairly unconscious, not the least because I was explaining him some Unix fundamentals, but at least later on Sunday I converted him into using Mozilla's Firebird/Phoenix browser or whatever it's called this week. Coming back to Varkaus in the same trains with Emilia was another neat coincidence. So now you see, this was a weekend when Peace, Love and Unity were undoubtedly Reloaded.

Thu, May 22

<02:52> After a little email discussion with Antti the Rigorist, I thought I'd share the second thoughts I'm having over the ongoing project/plan of growing a longer hair. It might be just a natural thing to think at this stage, remembering the last time I shaved completely (bar the delta) was late October 2002, when it's not that fabulous a length. But as I recall the maintenance efforts around 1996 when I had proper long hair, and Antti's opinion on how hot it is when not ponytailed, I can start to imagine what it will be like when it's 'ready' and whether I'll like doing it again.

Not surprisingly I've been reading some related stuff on E2, for example The philosophy of long hair, only to have an increased confusion with more and more conflicting arguments both ways. For instance, having had it very short for years before (though not constantly!) I can reinforce the practicality (i.e. shaved) argument by the idea that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

My main concern for the change is that I don't want to be defined by my looks, and some people seem to associate my ways with the almost shaved head, so I want to break the cycle and find out what it is that defines me. On the other hand, my looks are definitely defined by what I am, and I'm not experiencing any radical personality change which I'd like to reflect by the looks. I did go through some eye-openers last year, but it was not a diversion from my ways, in fact on the contrary.

A completely different reason for the hair project is that I've found a style of beard that really works for my face, accentuating my jawline. It wouldn't work if I shaved my head again. And I also like not having to shave my face so much. The sharp jawbone corners are a bitch to shave.

Perhaps it boils down to the question: is it me, or is it my hair that is having an existential crisis? ;-)

Tue, May 20

<03:38> Having now watched the full Animatrix set, I want to restate a point I've probably made before but nevertheless might be interesting. The premise is that the amount of unexplained phenomena like magic, witchcraft and haunting has gone down as centuries have passed. I'm not even sure if that's a valid premise, but it's quite credible after all.

My favourite explanation is the increased understanding of nature via sciences like physics (lightning is just electricity, not some divine power) and neurochemistry (some of the people once considered possessed were in fact tripping on ergot alkaloids). This idea includes the lessened importance of religious arguments for natural events. However, the Matrix-style explanation is that the unexplained events are glitches in the program, and as it is being debugged and improved, they are becoming less frequent.

Interesting as that might be, I still favour the first option, as it is consistent within a single level of reality. It has the apparently conflicting flipside that people have come to question things that were once considered fixed and fundamental. Chaotic systems have been found in nature -- although it has little to do with the ancient notions of chaos -- and even the fundamental constants of physics are being reconsidered. Therefore, it is easier to accept the reality of events that don't yet have a full explanation.

Sat, May 17

<02:39> The fatigue due to a 14-hour day at the construction site can't stop me posting these obligatory (and potentially annoying) notes on movies (-:

American Psycho: way cool and interesting, and gets to the socio-philosophical point. Unfortunately after seeing the film there isn't much left to chew on, because the same questions and open ends were already posed in somewhat related pieces such as Fight Club and A Clockwork Orange. Still worth the while. I imagine in 1991 when the book was written it could be considered a good satire of the soulless market-driven comformist 80s, but it is more disturbing and accurate in this noughties' instant-profit-seeking economy. And despite some people's problems with the splatter scenes, I maintain that the most disgusting and disturbing thing in the movie was the yuppie lifestyle. Of course it's a simple interpretation to make that the point of the story is a Pavlovian association between that lifestyle and the disgust, but that would just be an insult to splatter horror in general.

Star Warp'd: A plasticine CGI fanfiction comedy merger of S. Trek and S. Wars, and many other SF classics like 2001. Good for the laughs and brings to mind (not surprisingly) earlier Star Wreck. I especially liked the music, which combines themes of the two almost seamlessly, adding little variations for reasons you'll probably be wondering too. There's nothing deep here and the comedy is sub-par to SW -- probably only because it's rooted in Anglo-American culture, whereas the SW comedy is very much based on Finnish. Still, not a bad way to spend a half-hour if you can get a copy.

Wed, May 14

<23:59> It was raining today, so I decided to donate a little money for a non-profit organization.

I'd planned to do this for a long time. This completely unselfish act was directed towards where I already have an account, and the donation would give me some extra powers. With those I can finally/once again host my website in a safe place, outside my own machines. Of course there are tons of 'free' web spaces around, but I don't want any commercial distractions on my site, and I need a proper shell account to rsync the files.

You may be wondering about the rain logic. The weather was showery and when my folks warned me to disconnect as there was a chance for lightning, I actually took it seriously, having fried a modem and Willow's power supply last summer in such weather. I had to leave Willow on, but disconnected the mains power so the only possible lighting route was from the cable modem, which I though would buffer any surges. In that situation crystallized my frustration with having to host my pages at home.

Mon, May 12

<03:16> After three days of physical outdoor work I'm getting some interesting and somewhat positive effects. For one change, I'm feeling the fatigue in my body, and this makes for increased sensitivity and meaning in my yoga practice. In addition I'm recalling the pleasures of art and music, for instance when listening to Avaruusromua. On the other hand it's not like I'm going through any fundamental spiritual renaissance, so I'll proceed to my usual matters electro-mechanical and cinematic.

I've written about the 5x100Mhz limit on Prkl's motherboard, how it has multiplier settings from 3 to 5. I've started to question it. The multiplied frequency only applied inside the CPU, so why should the mobo know about it? And how can the mobo settings affect it in the first place? What's the deal with adjustable multiplier setting when the CPU has it fixed?

In principle there should be a clear dichotomy between externally adjustable and internally fixed multipliers. For instance my laptop Willow has a K6-III+ with a software controlled multiplier, which works on the fly. Prkl's mobo setting should be roughly the same idea, though with less flexibility.

Apparently, Intel came up with multiplier locking sometime during the reign of King Pentium the II. Prkl's mobo caters for those older P2s without the lock, leaving the enthusiasts to balance themselves between speed and cooling. From this angle it's understandable that fixed frequencies are easier for the non-tinkerers, especially considering warranties. While my P2 is of the newer locked type, it will only work with the mobo set equal to the locking value. I believe this is to ensure some P2 compatibility issues...

..because my current P3-450 does not care about the external multiplier setting. This is where the limit breaks; I could install a gigahurts monster if one was available for 100Mhz FSB, and I'm pretty sure there's at least a 10x100MHz model out there somewhere. It's ironic that I only discover this having purchased the 450MHz one. On the other hand, the faster option would require much more cooling than I like to hear, so my current system is probably better this way. Plus, faster P3s have, not surprisingly, less bang for buck.

On to a brief movie review. On Saturday night I was profoundly tired and marginally intoxicated after a great dinner following the day's construction work. So when I saw Deep Impact starting on the TV I got exceptionally absorbed into it. Even now I think the premises were really good, something that could equally be from a Clarke novel. Then quite soon I got mildly annoyed, for the movie seemed to not work for some reason. At some point I realized why it was so, and it started to seem slightly better, but still not as good as I expected from the premises.

It was a proper sci-fi idea, ruined by the decision to make it into a sentimental drama. I still finished watching, waiting for a little coolness and sense of wonder to emerge, but with little success. Of course, there's nothing wrong with sentimental dramas, but you can make a similar story of love, loss, despair and hope with more mundane ingredients any day. One could use the film's premises for an intellectually moving (giving the sense of wonder) and stimulating experience, but less likely so with some everyday kitchen-sink life. That's why this film is a waste of good story material, unfortunately.

Sun, May 11

<01:11> Hey, there are probably many many movies that I've seen and left uncommented here. Probably because they weren't worth the nothingness that is my words. However, it must be due to the recent days' haste that I've left out Djöflaeyjan aka Devil's Island that was on telly the other day. It's remarkably similar to 101 Reykjavik that I saw while at Cam, which is not necessarily surprigin as both films describe young men's life in relative poverty in Iceland, and there are some common denominators in the film teams, but the stories are in fact quite different. These are the kinds of movie that don't fit in my stereotypical geek/SF style, but they just have that little something. Possibly a case of {f}nordic empathy.

Sat, May 10

<00:43> About the upgrade, the amount of memory being 352 MB might seem a little funny, but it's simply 256+64+32, only three slots on the mobo. Another issue is the one I'm having with the processor cooler. The CPU came with a nice, 'golden' Thermaltake fansink which doesn't work that well with my case. The CPU is next to the case intake fan, meant for a passive sink on the CPU. Using both fans would be a fluid-mechanical disaster, and I've currently disabled the case fan, but it won't work with a closed case; there needs to be some intake. One solution is to install the old passive sink for the CPU, which would need some metalwork. Another is to make an intake hole/tube for the new fan. Both options mean some hacking which is of course nice.

But I'll have to wait until later, and keep my desk nice and geeky with an open case for now. (Obligatory pun: when I finish that cooler issue, I'll be able to say 'case is closed' :-). There's a lot of construction-related activity (again) at the summer place, and of course some Mother's Day visits coming up.

And now, for yet more movies: Hackers is, not surprisingly, misleading in its title and several technicalities within, but nevertheless a rather good geek movie. I guess the title can be justified by the story/message where the 1337 young people are the good guys, and the bad guys are working in the veils of a huge company. In addition, the movie is visually quite cool, at least comparing to the 1980s when most of the geek movies were made. And despite the great Hollywood tradition of having überhackers use Macs, there are actually many proper technicalities which the mundanes will miss and the geekier ones enjoy.

Fri, May 9

<15:49> Prkl is stronger than ever after some CPU+RAM upgrades as you can see here. It's nearing the practical limit for the machine, in fact, 500MHz/768MB is the hard limit but I think I'll stop here. There's enough memory for most things I imagine doing here, and the 500MHz proc would be lot more expensive (having paid 25€ for the P3-450).

Of course, with human perception being more or less logarithmic, there's no huge speed increase in most cases. Except in "realtime" stuff which for me means movie playing and sound recording/processing. The raw MHz was probably not worth the price, but with P3 I also got SSE which is a great boost at least for MPlayer.

In total I've paid 50€ for the upgrades, which is more than the price of the machine in the first place. However, it's equal to my monthly cable net fee, in which context it's not bad at all. More interesting is the consideration that since I'm looking for a job, I should not collect too much stuff here at home. Of course I'll move my stuff depending on the permanence of that future situation, but for some odd reason I still feel I'm tying myself to this one location too much. On the other hand I'm playing a reverse psychology against the Universe; by building up attachment here, I might just increase my chances of finding a job somewhere else. :-)

Tue, May 6

<02:19> The Mad stages of unemployment: denial, anger, depression, acceptance. No, I don't think they really apply as such; the sequence originally comes from a stereotypical reaction to the death of a close person, and it was later used in the Mad magazine for other distressing situations such as being lost, stupid, or fat.

Yet I'm feeling as if there were similar stages to unemployment as well. I recently described to Antti how I'd reached a (local) trough in the wavefunction of my life, and of course the only way is up. However, it is important to notice that a simple waveform does not tell the complete picture. Physically, low potential means high kinetic energy. Of the many mental images I use for periods of time, I have a wavelike picture of a year: high potential in the winter, and low in the summer, and vice versa for kinetic energies. For some reason I had this picture way before I knew formal physics, but it makes quite good sense. At least with the academic year.

For these reasons it's natural for scientists to use an exponential helix instead of simple sinusoidal waves. It makes it more apparent that a trough is equally valuable to a crest, yet they are different in nature.

While it's true that I might appear externally somewhat apathetic these days, I find it easy and enjoyable to think about things deeply. Not meditate in any rigorous sense, although I still maintain a practice of yoga.

The Matrix was on telly again tonight, and while I maintain that it was a sacrilege, it was also good exposition. Too bad I didn't get my parents to follow it. I watched the latter 2/3 or so, and I could tell it did suffer from cramming into 4:3, but the effect of the story hasn't faded one bit. Although for me the film has reached saturation after several viewings, just like Fight Club. Nevertheless those two are genuine classics and I wouldn't mind seeing either of them once again, if it wasn't for all the other fine movies I have yet to see. :-)

Sun, May 4

<19:11> I may have found the film that's on par with The Matrix. Dark City is the name, and it has just the right balance between similarities and creative differences to M. At many points in the film I thought it could be the prototypical Matrix ripoff, if it wasn't for the fact that it actually predates M, being in 1998. This is close enough that I can't imagine a reverse ripoff either.

It's visually ambitious in large scales, which is more difficult to cram into a TV than the fighting scenes for which Matrix is so (wrongly) famous for. It's on the top of my list of movies I've seen but want to see again on big screen. The plot leaves a bit more to be desired, but it's equally compelling a philosophical dilemma as that of Matrix, and doesn't even require multiple levels of physical reality, but instead works more on the 1984-style 'official realities'.

It's a neat coincidence that I came across the film's spiral symbolism and 'tuning' in a book about Utopian visions. Perhaps the spiral had something to do with auras, like I pondered some time ago.

<20:12> Another recently viewed film that calls for noting: Real Genius, a prototypical geek movie. It has a touch of the all-too-many fraternity life descriptions, but it's more centred on a single scientific project with some philosophical overtones. Val Kilmer's character works quite well as it's only 1985. The film may not appeal to the mundane masses, but even for the non-geeks it conveys the important idea that there's a lot more to geek life than academic work.

Risto A. Paju