DIARY 2004















Wed, Sep 29

<00:06> At some time in early Sunday morning, one of my computers completed the 1000th SETI@Home work unit. I was strangely unmoved, though I knew it was coming. It was not exactly the highlight of that weekend.

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Weekend started with a mucho pleasant birthday surprise from my lovely .so — soon it was apparent why she'd been unavailable on Thursday which was the actual date for my age-induced mummification. (In fact, waking up from a trippy dream this morning I had an illusion of a sarcophagus in my room, but I digress.)

Friday was the premiere of an Asimovian SF movie starring Will Smith. This had been something of a brainfuck to me. It could not be possible. Even with a direct Asimov story, which this film was not based on, I thought Will Smith as the maincharacter could ruin any serious attempt at SF. I was wrong. The outcome was a lot better than I expected.

The solution to the Smith-Asimov paradox is that WS is not trying to play anyone else but himself. Even if it glitches with the rest of the cast and the overall SF atmosphere, Smith's performance is oddly natural. There are still problems, lots of them. For one thing, this is basically an action flick, and this relaxed hip-hop guy doesn't quite cut it.

My main problems are with the script. It is neither dramatically satisfying nor does justice to Asimov. It's pretty standard Hollywood stuff.

It seems the further I get from the movie experience, the more I dislike it. So what was good about it? Despite the problems described, there is a rather convincing SF atmosphere overall. That is one thing that makes the film an enjoyable experience, even though it doesn't haunt you with open questions or affect your world view.

It also tackles the basic problem about the Laws of Robotics quite well. More importantly, this issue is made a central part of the final battle (which, btw, leaves a nice open ending), instead of focusing too much on the action heroes.

Tue, Sep 21

<21:22> This morning I finished reading a piece of very real sci-fi, though there are probably some who will strongly disagree. The novel Anilin by Karl Aloys Schezinger tells the story of chemical industry in the 19th Century, mostly in Germany, based on true history. It was a Finnish translation from 1942 that I came across in my parents' bookshelf.

It's been hard to tell the line between fiction and reality in the book. It's possible it is all true, except for some fast action dramatizations. The story paints a nice chain of events that begins in the indigo plantations of India — a large fraction of the book focuses on the quest for artificial indigo — and returns there in the end, when the story has taken a turn from dyes into drugs. Despite not being a proper novel, the book has a few very inspiring passages which I think are pretty accurate descriptions of the way scientists work.

<21:37> The past weekend has been quite satisfying in many senses, not all of which are fit for noding ;-) I went to see Teak on Sunday to buy him the pizza I owed him for the trade of two graphics cards. I lost the two games of chess we had, but probably learned something, as I beat Rigorist yesterday. At Teak's place I noticed an electromagnetism exam, and felt an urge to solve the questions. Which I did, and felt pretty good about myself :)

<23:45> During the weekend I watched a movie I knew would have a special impact on me. School of Rock was a perfect comedy, but it had many many serious overtones going on; hopefully not just for me, a substitute teacher who likes to ROCK. There were several moments that were probably supposed to be funny, but I felt pain for them knowing how difficult those situations actually are when you're thrown into the front of a classroom. I also felt bad about the main character using the schoolkids to boost his ego, even though it was consistent with the overall idea of the film.

On the plus side, I loved the sheer amount of attitude, despite how dumb it was at times. It's the kind of film that makes you feel good for a while, and for such a film this is surprisingly realistic.

Sat, Sep 11

<15:09> Wednesday was a juggle between meetings, and I was already tired after staying up late watching Fahrenheit 9/11. For the last scheduled event that day I went to check out the Maahinkainen dance group. Given my affinities towards dancing and anachronism, it was not surprising that I enjoyed every second of what was actually my first dance lessons, not counting school events. It was a nice balance of physical and social activities, not too strenuous for something you do after a day of work. It was utterly refreshing in many respects.

On Thursday I got some "new" furniture and I've been rearranging the compound with Rigorist. The kitchen is much like a living room now, with comfy chairs, and my room looks quite different now. It feels much more like home for some reason :)

Tue, Sep 7

<00:29> Been reading fantasy for a change. Robin Hobb was one of the honorary guests at Finncon back in the summer, and a number of my friends started to read some of her books. So I too have now read Assassin's Apprentice, the first volume of the Farseer trilogy.

Now I remember why I don't read that much of fantasy in general. It must be said to Hobb's credit that the book is one of the better works of fantasy I've ever read. Nevertheless it's a piece of generic fantasy, a label that it fails to escape despite several interesting and original ideas.

On the positive sides of being fantasy, the writing style was very enjoyable most of the time. This also made for an enjoyable overall reading experience. But even though it's the beginning of a trilogy I don't feel compelled to continue further. A good story should always leave the reader in a state of certain instability regarding either the story, or even better, their own life.

Mon, Sep 6

<11:06> This intriguing article on everyday logical fallacies reflects my thoughts exactly, but to a much more refined and justified level than I've ever imagined.

Sun, Sep 5

<18:48> My EPIA machine has been freezing unexpectedly in the past few days. Two of the motherboard capacitors have bulged and leaked a bit; the system boots OK, but I'm keeping it offline for now to prevent further damage, and will probably send it away for a warranty replacement. It would be a very minor job do replace the caps myself, but it might be a problem if I some day need the warranty for real.

In the meantime Hoo's hard drive is running in Prkl. The system works surprisingly well even with the same kernel; it's compiled for Pentium 3 so there are no instruction glitches. It's a good thing I've kept tuning Prkl for a quiet media station even after acquiring the EPIA; only the picture quality is limited to 16 bpp with the old Rage card, there's no OpenGL acceleration, and the power supply has a fan. Which are all pretty minor problems.

Sat, Sep 4

<00:08> A discussion on /. about nukular (sic!) energy has led me into new arguments against coal power. An article is one of many to detail some surprising facts. Apparently the list of nasty impurities in charcoal doesn't end at sulphur (a major cause of acid rains) but involves radioactive elements like uranium as well. Even to the extent that the uranium that gets from coal plants into the atmosphere, would provide more energy via nuclear pathways than what the combustion of the coal does. This also means there's more radiation around coal plants than nuclear ones.

Fri, Sep 3

<00:18> It's exam week in Voionmaa and I've felt pretty worn out and undernourished. Thursday afternoon I thought I'd go and browse some vintage hardware/cases (see explanation below) in a nearby thrift store, but I felt exhausted already and I had the day's physics exams to mark.

After getting the noiseless Morex PSU, I've switched back to the completely passive heatsink for Hoo. Meaning the hard drive is the only source of noise. Man it clatters and whirs in comparison. (duh, anything is infinitely more than nothing :)

Prkl's CPU sink was also passivated some weeks ago. It's a very temporary solution as I just strapped a military-surplus heatsink onto the P3 with a kind of belt. It works, and it's quiet. Prkl has one remaining fan in the PSU, but in fact its hard drive is more of a problem.

It would still be great to get Hoo into a decent case. It should be a self-heatsinking metal thingie, and in any case (pun intended) I imagine it'll be difficult to arrange the heat conduction. I'm sick enough of stupid and noisy designs; the EPIA has a slight problem with the lack of space around the CPU, though overall it's a right direction of things.

As a slight extra benefit and literal kewlitude, the Nehemiah CPU has a software-variable multiplier, like the K6-3+, though the Linux driver mechanism is different. Everything is included in the vanilla 2.6 sources, and controlled via files in /proc.

Risto A. Paju