DIARY 2002















Tue, Nov 26

<03:50> Love the smell of electronics in the morning. Fixed the bathroom lamp that had its bulbs intact but something piscy about its connections. Turns out one fo the mains leads was not screwed on at all, just leaning against the connector. Sparking marks for proof. Not good.

Willow now running Linux 2.4.30-rc3 for increased stability of the USB network. Might be due to the lack of the low-latency patch. It's a well documented fact that the lowlat patch, while reducing the time to switch between applications, impairs the performance of individual processes. As I'm not constantly switching between apps (it's a workstation, not a desktop!) this means a better computing experience even if the patch is aimed to improve typical userland stuff (definitely not servers).

Another hackish surprise is that w3m finally has background downloading. Before this I accomplished roughly the same with a wget hack, but this is somehow better -- even if it means w3m forking.

I keep having nice ideas for the 486 I call Prkl. Too many considering the situation: It's where these pages are now hosted. One rather solid plan is to swap the harddisks, once I get the PCMCIA-IDE adapter. That would mean I could run Willow 24/7 as the other HD is quiet and reliable enough. Then Prkl would be left as a pure toy, possibly running a version of DOS (don't laugh!) or a custom Linux distro.

Sun, Nov 24

<01:31> Having come across Marko Ahonen's columns in the City magazine and some other papers, I was quite keen on reading the book Ensimmäinen askel (The First Step) that I found in the /lib. Part of the reason I liked his writing was something similar to my style, which he was taking further; a strong attitude towards taboos is one of the points. His choice of language often reflected the enormous attitude -- let's just get to the point and quit this academic buzzshite.

The language of this cyberpunkish novel was a disappointment. It was too sleek and generic, like a translations. Only at a few points was there a mark of this Finnish attitude.

In a way I understand it, because of the ambitious cocktail of classical SF with cyberpunk. The chromed-up language is probably more credible for the plot, but it doesn't give the surprise effects I would have liked.

The bifurcated plot goes on quite well along this chr0med p|pe and the result works. Let me say again that it's a working combination of classical SF and cyberpunk. That's one of the truly impressive ideas. It's also nice how he makes subtle references to many other pieces of scifi without seeming unoriginal at any moment.

There is one continuing meta-cliché I've encountered in classical SF that I wish would end. It's when a character says something along the lines "I can't believe this is happening, it's like from some lame old Sci-Fi story." I can think of several reasons why a writer would like to include it, for example trying to make it realistic (of course the point tumbles over itself). A strong possibility is a kind of self-irony or undermining: "I may be a great author but this is still shit, and I'm a worm." Again this idea is self-defeating and only serves to make the author look stupid. If they honestly thought the work was crap, why write and publish it at all?

Well anyway, I did enjoy the book and there aren't yet too many proper SF writers in Finland so it's not bad. However, the ending particularly gave me a somewhat ambiguous feeling about SF in general. The end scenes had a nice atmosphere in the spirit of Clarke, Kubrick and the like, but it made me wonder if it's possible to do something radically different and stay within SF? In fact, going beyond literary values, my sense of the world is getting more and more unified, but it's not always a good thing because it sometimes underestimates originality and differences, the Delta itself.

Thu, Nov 21

<00:36> Watched Tom Tykwer's (of Lola Rennt fame) Winterschläfer, excellent stuff which I'm too tired (or something) to elaborate further. My sleeping pattern which is usually not the conformist type, has gotten stranger. I half deliberately started the change on Monday night as I wanted to stay up and catch some Leonid meteors. Of course the sky was thick with clouds and the town center was flooded with industrial lighting. I thought the cloudiness in itself was not so bad, so I went to the Southern edge of Varkaus, to the area known as Tyyskä where the railway bridges are. The view towards South could have been great as there weren't any excessive light sources, but the clouds were apparently too thick to see anything. I did get one nice picture of the bridge though.

Last night was also quite short, as I fell asleep around 11pm and woke up around 3..4am. Thus the day has been quite long and tiresome. Well I guess the natural urge to hit the sack will come eventually.

On the other hand I've enjoyed the early quiet moments in the house before my parents have gotten up. It's the best time for yoga and meditation, even though the joints and ligaments can be quite stiff. These experiences have strengthened my view of how the day should be started: quietly gathering your thoughts, instead of immersing into the media noise which unfortunately many people seem to be doing.

Mon, Nov 18


Lipton Cockton in the Shadows of Sodoma

Siberpunk. I think that word sums up the environment of Vladivostok in 2037. The plot isn't really the point, although it too gets quite surreal and intense. The initial setting where Mr. Cockton is assigned to investigate the strange human explosions is intriguing and demanding, and doesn't quite go where you'd expect, which is probably expected in a movie like this. The props is what I really loved. It goes with the Russian atmosphere that this looks occasionally more like 1960s space junk than street credible cyberpunk. But I didn't say it was cyberpunk anyway. So, plot-wise I'm a bit disappointed but for everything else it sure kept me glued to the seat.

Pentti Haanpää: Noitaympyrä

One of those pub philosophers started to rant on evil capitalism on my last visit to Kuopio, ruining a good conversation for a while, but as he urged us to read the aforementioned book, I thought why not. This week I took the time to read it. I must mention I was surprised by the writing style, which was so close to mine. Plus the 1930s language wasn't annoying at any point; those few words that one wouldn't use much today were the best you could have there. They did give a lot of insight into the atmosphere. The topic is hardly scandal material in this "future" of the 21st century (remember when people thought there would be something magical in the space age of the 2000s :) but it goes to show that the evil force of capitalism goes back a long way.

Sun, Nov 17

<20:37> Switched prkl to use Boa; rewrote the photogallery into a Bash CGI script, which was quite trivial and didn't take too long. TMTOWTDI :-). In fact I'm not sure if it's much faster now.. it has to call Bash and the script everytime the gallery is viewed. Apache+PHP is more unified and even caches the pages, but this takes memory and in the worst case might get swapped.

Seen Lipton Cockton and read Noitaympyrä. Loved both.

Sat, Nov 16

<02:15> I'd almost given up hope on running Apache on Prkl. It was easy to get the simple and fast Boa running, but my homepages needed PHP. Eventually, the problem with Apache was that the default install was 2.0.x for which there wasn't a PHP readily available. Compiling large things was out of question. For the kernel recompile I'd waited for more than a day, then switched temporarily to Willow -- it was much faster than a typical Linux compile, but of course there were fewer features.

But it's working now. It's only to host these homepages for now, but perhaps more in the future.. unfortunately my huge /media/ directory is in ReiserFS so I'll need a Linux to serve the files. After this brief experience with a traditional Unix, I might give Slackware a try.

There are some potentially annoying things about the *BSD as it's not a GNU system: for example the make command is different and you need gmake (GNU make) for most source-distributed applications. But once you know this, it's no problem.

I also needed a lean editor (not vi, for pete's sake) on Prkl and the name of Zile rang a bell. Zile Is Lossy Emacs and lighter than Pico, so I've started to use it on Willow as well -- though for serious writing you still do need Emacs.

Wed, Nov 13

<02:26> After eating some young elk's heart, I proceeded to install NetBSD on my old 486-33 laptop. Then it all felt like magic as I watched the Maleeni episode of X-files.

Thought that would be a reasonably light OS but it's still painfully slow. Man, it hurts to see that little thing suffer when merely the basesystem eats up its 8 MB of memory.

I wanted to set it up as a simple webserver after went down, and I found a way to net up both Willow and the oldie (now called Prkl) without buying any extra hardware. The cable modem has both Ethernet and USB sockets and I can use both at the same time. Naturally Willow gets all the fun of using USB for netting. It's not bad at all -- I've had a couple of glitches but at least some are due to Sonera's "service." Naturally I also get an Ethernet class connection between the two laptops.

It would be cool to get that webserver running. After all, that machine ran my first webserver back in 1998. Naturally I'm quite pissed that it only takes rare, poropietari (sic) memory modules, otherwise I'd upgrade immediately. You can still get those but the 32 MB or so that I'd like would cost over a hundred bucks.

Well, even if it doesn't work out, at least I've had a brief NetBSD install experience. It was a charm compared to most Linux ones -- of course it's a very basic one and many applications need to be installed separately. For that, the automatic package system is another charm. pkg_add zile is enough to install a decent light editor (it only has vi now )-:) but even that binary install takes ages and ages, probably due to constant swapping.

Not kidding about the elk's heart. Dad has friends in hunting circles.

Mon, Nov 11

<03:48> Major rewrite of diary script. Ditched the old list-based kluges in favour of string-based regular expression functions. I had somewhat mixed feelings for this, because I thought the list system (each line is an element) is more advanced and therefore better than the string-based one. However, the new system is shorter and faster code, not that the speed matters in these scripts; more interestingly, it reflects my intentions more clearly. I guess regexps and Python are not a bad combination after all. Although I did get a reminder that it's possible to do horrible Perl-like obfuscation in Python as well, which of course I avoid as far as possible.

Sat, Nov 9

<21:52> Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity is one of my 'milestone' readings and deserves a special place in this reality and timeline. The novel deals with many of the topics I've been pondering lately: Free will and determinism, a special frame of reference, and the Matrix with its glitches. Most notably, it poses the problems that arise from humankind's desire to maintain old habits and limitations: Comfortably Numb in a Closed Shell of Comfort; or how superficial happiness keeps people away from real spiritual and technical development.

Written in 1955, I found it somewhat irritating that the meta-future computers still use kinds of punchcard. This is a mistake that several other SF authors have made. From today's perspective it is quite obvious that new storage methods come up every now and then. Disregarding that minor detail, reading this book gave the sense of awe you only get with great masters of writing (the kind I can't imagine ever becoming). Details, storylines, characterization and style that reflect an absolute mastery of the subject.

On another note I must mention Asimov's chemistry background and his wide use of nuclear decay for several different purposes, which surprisingly work well. This was a central part of another top Asimov novel, The Gods Themselves, and I can't help drawing an analogy between this and the punch cards. Enough of the details, go on and enjoy this wonderful piece of Real Sci Fi.

Mon, Nov 4

<17:10> A refreshing piece of cinematography last night in the form of Out of Sight. Excellent plot, characters and acting, but I particularly liked the small details of photography and cutting. Reflection of natural textures on shiny surfaces (such as cars) was a captivating effect in dialogue scenes which otherwise would have looked quite dull. Brief stills were occasionally used to highlight the ending of an intense scene, and while it brought to mind some 1960's agent series, it worked well here. Plotwise the film made great use of nonlinear time with flashbacks -

not the kind of occasional acid flashbacks mentioned in The Big Lebowski that I watched again one day, as I had the DivX. I'd seen it before in a morning-after party so I thought I wanted to get another chance and pay attention to the details and finer plot lines. In fact I'm a bit disappointed because there wasn't much new to find. Granted, there were a number of great moments and ideas, but nothing in the grand scale of things -

but then again Out of Sight wasn't a deep philosophical treatise either. It just worked, although I'm a bit annoyed about the leading idea of the special forces woman having a crush on the main villain. But I guess if you have to take everything seriously there isn't much point in watching these kinds of film at all. Because this film's success boils down to its well balanced stereotypography.

Sun, Nov 3


Truth I seek and I find in you
Everything2 for something kewl
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Never care for what they do
never care for what they node
but I node!

That should explain that in addition to noding I've learned Nothing else matters with the guitar. The basic stuff, excluding the solos and all, but it's still fun.

As there was a Halloween quest in I decided to translate and node one of my short stories, The late visitor. I'm still not happy with the English translatio, because I tried to maintain the rather short-sentence style of the Finnish original.

And guess what? A Python one-liner addition in my diary script converts the E2 bracket links to proper html.

<19:08> Just testing.. by the way the regexp stuff I've learned today has found use in some other scripts of mine. Perhaps I'll even make a Python module for it ;-)

Risto A. Paju