DIARY 2003















Sun, Nov 30

<01:59> As I noted before it's been one busy week. For Thursday Antti and I had planned a jam session (since we don't have an entire band to play with :) and there were some students still playing. I suggested we play together, and it was great fun to have some female singers and a bass player in addition to our simple lineup of guitar and drums. Of course we didn't play anything like Juice's Pilvee (=weed) while the girls were around ;-).

My fatigue shows as I've left unused two recent party options. On Friday it was the teachers' pre-Xmas party (pikkujoulu) and on Saturday an experimental music gig. I've been rebalancing my sleep budget while compiling Gentoo on Prkl, which is probably geeky enough an activity for the weekend.

I've been fascinated by the Gentoo philosphy for some time now. I actually gave it a shot early this year, just after getting Prkl, but the obligatory compilation of almost everything was a huge letdown. I still think it's against unix philosphy, not to mention general sanity, to compile a package if someone else has already done it with the same settings (i.e. the way it is with most distros). The optimization argument is a huge catch-22 because slow machines that need it most, spend too much time compiling. I did get some important binary packages (like XFree86) from the CD ISOs, which are only slightly outdated.

On the other hand, I feel it's nice to do something like glibc compilation once in your life. It's a notch up in one's geek factor. But I'm also hoping that binary mirrors are set up some day, after all the Portage system does handle them.

Despite the compilation issues, I've been very satisfied with the system so far. I've got X and Apache (still waiting for mod_php compile though) up and running the way I want them, with minimal fuss. Of course it helps that I can use my existing /home, XF86Config, kernel etc. but given the same premises I've had much more trouble switching distros before.

Which brings us to the obvious point that my Mandrake partition remains intact. I'm sharing /home and /boot and copying certain files. Mostly I try to set up configs from scratch to keep things clean (and because of distro-specific differences). So I can go back to Mandrake whenever I want, and probably will do that a few times, but my intentions are to go Gentoo full-time. In any case it's an interesting experience; a mixture of sleek automation and doing from scratch that actually works.

<16:17> Gentoo is doing pretty well on Prkl, though I almost booted back into Mandrake today :-). Yesterday I faced some strange annoyances, for example when getting mod_php the system decided it requires QT, the GUI toolkit. This was utterly unacceptable and I had similar problems with some other packages. However, this led me to recall the use of USE variables (pun intended), which quickly fixed it all.

I actually recall using these when I last tried Gentoo. Now I remember that the Gentoo way of compiling everything is not just about optimized code. More importantly, it's about compile-time options. For example, I'm currently emerging DirectFB with the setting for Matrox cards, so I don't need to bloat it up with other drivers. Cunningly enough, there are global USE options: the default was to use QT for everything where it's allowed, which made the mod_php compile in QT bindings. Naturally I've now disabled it. I think some day I might be able to emerge MPlayer with these settings, instead of my custom scripts.

The unfortunate side effect is that binary packages are less useful, because of the myriads of possible options. Still, I believe they would be nice for certain things like OpenOffice which on my machines would take geological periods to compile, and are not so performance critical.

<23:46> A cherry has landed on the hack-cake of the weekend. This afternoon I received a patch for my great opensource project comms. OK, it's not a hugely important project and the patch only added a simple (though helpful) function, but it's a good sign: Other people are using my software, and contributing to it in a proper opensource manner. I feel like a true hacker ;-). Credits go to Kim Poulsen in Denmark.

Tue, Nov 25

<00:06> Monday was one hect of a workday. For the first time, I did a full teaching day from 8 to 16. My usual day contains four hours of teaching, this time I was covering for an absent teacher and I'll probably do another two hours of generic substitution tomorrow. Frankly, those replacement lessons did not involve hardcore teaching, only supervising of project work. But there was enough to do anyway, helping the students with OpenOffice and related stuff.

Because of all this, it has been a weird day, I've felt quite empty for the whole time afterwards. The effect is compounded by the lack of perceived sunlight: it was dark when I got to work, and in darkness did I return. I've tried to sleep a little to cover for the four hours of last night, but with no success. I guess the workload and winterly gloom have mucked up my sleep cycles quite thoroughly. On the other hand, I'm not feeling depressed or pissed off at all. But I still need to do something to unwind before hitting the sack. Yoga and washing up have helped a little though.

Mon, Nov 24

<01:18> Nothing particular to do on Saturday night, went through my movie collection and picked Johnny Mnemonic. Being written by William Gibson and starring Keanu Reeves, I already knew it should be a kewl piece of cyberpunk. I was quite satisfied with what I saw, both the storyline and the visual style were just right. Of course Keanu's acting was not very impressive, but it conveyed nicely the idea of a man-machine with deleted memories.

Like so many others, this film begs for a big screen. In addition to the general kewlitude, it was nice to see that proper cyberpunk need not be situated in total darkness. The overall impression was very colourful, yet conceptually very dark, resembling the Fifth Element in many ways. Naturally there were some Matrix pointers too, besides the obviety of Keanu playing 'the one' for the nth time. There's not much more to compare as this was a compact short-story adaptation instead of a grand epic, but as such it worked really well.

Sat, Nov 22

<20:11> Since DXM had been on my mind for a while, I decided to perform a first-plateau experiment last night. Took 35 ml of Resilar which amounts to 105 mg DXM, or 1.5 mg/kg. I ate some crackers and drank some water to alleviate the possible ill effects. There was just barely some nausea from the glycerol and sorbitol of the cough syrup, and my yoga+meditation probably helped as well.

After about half an hour, the main effects started to kick in. Music was getting enhanced, just like on LSD. It was wonderfully vivid, though not exactly in a concert hall sense. Distorted guitars of rock sounded more tinny and harsh, which was a little unpleasant, but most of the music on my trippy playlist was schpongling very nicely.

Another effect associated with mild psychedelics was the increased sensitivity of vision: bright lights almost hurt my eyes. At some point colours seemeed mslightly more vivid, but there was not much in the visual realm to brag about. I watched an episode of Ren and Stimpy, which turned out quite boring, except for the sound effects. Later I thought I should have listened to some classical music, better keep this in mind for future experiments.

In summary, this was all following the advice from the DXM FAQ, to start out with a small dose to see if there are any really bad side effects. I had none of those, though the positive effects were not too impressive. A second-plateau trip is next on my list.

Thu, Nov 20

<00:18> Got Spirited Away on Monday night. This Miyazaki masterpiece was no disappointment, though it probably suffered a lot from the small screen. The story seems to be very well balanced between compactness and open complexity; the main plot is fairly simple and comes to a proper conclusion, but at the same time you are left to ponder the backgrounds and futures of many characters and entities. For a movie that was heavily marketed to bring anime into the mainstream, it is a very nice piece. Though I still think nothing beats Mononokehime.

Mon, Nov 17

<01:39> No fever since Wednesday and I'm definitely feeling better; had pizza and a few games of chess with Tuomo today, walked back from his place (an hour of outdoor activity, that was). On the other nostril, I'm not quite back on track with my life, and a level of depression seems to remain. This also has to do with the brevity of my remaining work, which lasts until the end of the year. I really don't yet know what to do next, even if there's another vaguely potential research project available at the local physics department.

Of course I should make up my mind, given the possibilities. Going abroad again would be certainly fun, but it also has its limitations. I haven't even settled into anything in Finland, and I feel like I should have a few years' 'project' here before doing another one abroad. It's like I haven't experienced Finland properly yet, as ridiculous as it may sound. I'm a bit surprised by what I just wrote, so I'll leave it here and try to get some sleep before a very early morning -- I'm starting a new maths course at 8 pm ;-).

<22:53> Ob film review: watched Disney's Treasure Planet on Saturday night as I didn't have anything better do wo with my declining flu. The movie had some nice ideas, but overall was WAY too predictable. I can't attribute this to the general audience of Disney cartoons because many of their animations have been a lot more intriguing. On the other hand there are some rather groundbreaking visuals, which my tiny CRT didn't really expose in their full goodness.

Wed, Nov 12

<00:05> The flu goes on, though I've been to work just like usual. My appreciation of the fact that I can 'work from home' to some extent has definitely gone up, now that I want to minimize socialization.

I've been reading about DXM as the cough syrup got me thinking about what it actually does to me. It was a little daunting to learn that the cough-suppressant function works via blocking certain pathways in the central nervous system. Though it's not surprising based on what I've read on its recreational use, it just feels so stupid. It does not really cure the disease, it only switches off the cough reflex. What it something gets stuck in my throat and there's a genuine need to cough? I also wonder how specifically the drug can work, so that it won't affect any other nerves. This feels so bad and wrong.

Interestingly enough, last night I had a strange dream which involved a complex geometric/mechanical system, and a kind of infinity or immortality. I can't describe any real details. Later I read from the DXM site that such hyperabstractions are in fact common to DXM trips, though they probably have something to do with fever as well. Again this begs the question, why the heck should I use a dissociative drug in such a condition?

<20:11> I've probably read enought about DXM for now. I had my last hit yesterday around 5 pm, it was a standard 30-mg dose of Resilar. It was quite fun to notice just at bedtime that I started to feel irritation in the back of my mouth and throat. I'm not sure if this was an effect of falling asleep, or perhaps a psychological one, or if the drug had just then stopped working. In any case, it was enjoyable to feel the nerves come back to life.

Quitting DXM turned out a good idea because I then found that my throat and lungs contained about one metric shitload of mucus that had to be coughed out of there. The DXM effect was only making it worse.

As for other drugs, today I've had a fairly bad case of fever, and while 500 mg of aspirin didn't help at all, 300 mg of dexibuprofen did. Of course the latter is also more expensive, and it cannot be chewed. (Chewing aspirin is not only fun in some twisted sense, but it allows the chemical to be absorbed partly via the mucous membranes, and you don't need to drink anything.) One bit that slightly worries me is that the fever has its reasons, but I don't really have a choice these days.

Sun, Nov 9

<20:37> Been half asleep in fever for the whole day. After the intense socialization of the past week, this is not really surprising, but it does suck nevertheless. Interestingly, I already feel a little dissociated, so I wonder how the DXM-based cough syrup will help ;-).

Saturday's training/meeting day (veso) is probably to blame, as the teachers from three different schools were gathered there. The session of physical exercise, done with alternating pairs, while fun, must have been way too virus-friendly. It makes me think about the positive sides of being a geek hermit. Wonder if people in the Matrix ever had flu, even if their real bodies were healthy all the time?

Friday night was also a case of unexpected socialization. After a teachers' meeting that lasted until about 5 pm, some of us decided to proceed for further chat over drinks. I only had some dinner after 10 pm when we'd finally called it a night after several pints and shots. But it was kewl anyway.

Sat, Nov 8

<22:49> A massive intense busy week of exams, Revolutions, socialization, a liquid-phase teachers' meeting, and Soviet Russia where guitars tune YOU!

Wednesday was of course the day we'd all expected. I will try and get to the point of Revolutions without too much analysis. First of all, it was an awesome feeling to think about all the other Matrix geeks watching the premiere in synchronicity. There were disappointingly few people here in Jyväskylä dressed up properly, but at least I wasn't the only one.

In short, Revolutions is a worthy ending to the story of Neo and Smith, the humans and the machines. Once again the movie is slightly different in style from the previous parts of the trilogy. Like some SF novels that do this, it shows genuine talent that the makers could handle different styles well, whereas anyone can learn to master just one thing.

Interestingly enough, not everything is solved. There are enough open questions to keep up the mysticism, and to leave room for other stories in the Matrix world. The Animatrix has already shown the potential in going beyond the core trilogy, which was after all a rather constrained story involving a rather limited number of characters. While Reloaded made things seem a lot more complex, things are neatly brought back together in Revolutions. Along with some massive kewlitude of Mech fights and the like. And an ending of sufficient surprise.

To put it another way, Revolutions makes it very obvious that this is a trilogy, a single story divided into three volumes for convenience. It should also make Reloaded more comprehensible. I'm looking forward to see the entire 'trinity' in a row, if only for stylistic comparisons.

I should have started writing this on Thursday, but my fingertips were absolutely dead from some guitar playing. I had another practice session with Antti that day at the school. In addition, I've got new nylon strings for my other guitar. It's one that my grandparents brought from Soviet Russia and has been deemed unplayable at some point. The neck needed some serious adjustment, and I wanted classical strings instead of the original metallic ones. I like to keep my fingers functional while practicing, and save the real scorching for the rare moments I get to jack in an electric axe.

Risto A. Paju