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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

Playing with Flonix

A Lin­ux dis­tro in my USB key­chain. I will do a write­up on it in a day or two, prob­a­bly, since the plan to work less is work­ing (tues­days and thurs­days off al­ready :-)

Time passes, things change.

I have been think­ing a lit­tle about be­ing rel­a­tive­ly old in IT/In­ter­net/­dog-year terms, and some things have changed. A lot.

When I was a kid (say, 8 years old?) there were on­ly two TV chan­nels where I lived. And I lived in a rather lar­gish city (350K peo­ple). In fac­t, it was more like 1.5 chan­nel­s, since one on­ly worked from 6PM to mid­night.

Now, I could have 300 chan­nel­s, if I had any time free to watch TV.

Of course, it was black and white TV, col­or TV was still 2 years in the fu­ture. Hel­l, our TV still had vac­u­um tubes. Now I can watch DVDs with Dol­by 5.1 sound. I on­ly saw my first _movie_ with Dol­by sound when I was 14.

At that time (although I had not heard of those things yet), the uni­ver­si­ty where I would lat­er study and work was buy­ing a com­put­er. That mod­ern mar­vel had 64KB of main mem­o­ry, and sup­port­ed up to three si­mul­ta­ne­ous users on tele­types (yes, tele­type­s), but at the time they on­ly had punch­card­s. My phone has more com­put­ing pow­er than that.

Even­tu­al­ly, I used that very same com­put­er to learn For­tran II­I+ us­ing a line ed­i­tor and a line print­er, al­though it on­ly had one tele­type, since it had been up­grad­ed to glass ttys (wyse60s, IIR­C). I still have some glass ttys at home (re­al wyse60s, nice toys).

Phone lines were so hard to get that a house with phone cost­ed rough­ly 50% ex­tra. To make a phone call to a town 60KM away, the pro­ce­dure in­clud­ed call­ing an op­er­a­tor, and wait­ing two or three hours for the op­er­a­tor to call back.

Now, peo­ple get mad at me be­cause I am not in MSN mes­sen­ger all the time, and I have lost 5 phones in two years, but it's on­ly a mi­nor an­noy­ance. In those days, the idea of los­ing a phone was about as bizarre as los­ing a doorstep.

Bills (pow­er, phone, wa­ter, etc.) had to be paid on spe­cif­ic banks, on spe­cif­ic dates, and usu­al­ly there were lines of a block or two on the last avail­able date. Now I have them au­to­mat­i­cal­ly paid from my bank ac­coun­t, and I get in­formed via email to au­tho­rize it.

Since I was 5 years old, I took a bus (not a school bus, a plain city bus) to school ev­ery morn­ing and noone found that too weird. Now I am the on­ly per­son I know who takes ran­dom cab­s, be­cause it's safer to call one by phone.

Ev­ery coun­try in ev­ery di­rec­tion, in­clud­ing my own, was un­der a re­pres­sive and crim­i­nal mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship, and half the world was com­mu­nist.

But... the last time a man had gone to the moon was with Apol­lo, the coolest-look­ing and fastest plane in the world was the SR-71, Ema Peel looked great in The Avenger­s, sum­mer was hot, girls on bathing suits made the heat bear­able, girls make any­thing bear­able, any­way, so _some_ things nev­er change.

I had just fin­ished read­ing The Count of Mon­te­cristo, and I thought it was a great book, and it still is, al­though I ap­pre­ci­ate all the sex and drug abuse of the book more now!

I was a chub­by kid, I am a chub­by adult. I was a skin­ny teenager, though, but that did­n't last ;-)

So, just be­cause I can now buy a re­al laser beam for the cost of a ham­burg­er (which was a nov­el­ty food when I was a kid), while it was be­fore the stuff Bond vil­lians with lots of mon­ey played with, are things re­al­ly dif­fer­en­t... well, yeah! ;-)

Ramping down

I have de­cid­ed I am tak­ing a month off (from work, not the blog, not hob­by pro­gram­ming). And if I still feel tired, I am tak­ing an­oth­er week or two.

I have the mon­ey, busi­ness is al­ways slow in Jan­u­ary (sum­mer va­ca­tions here), and not that good in feb­ru­ary.

Add to it that main­te­nance can be done via ssh from any beach on which I hap­pen to be drink­ing caipir­in­ha, and that's it.

I in­tend to shut down teach­ing slow­ly, take no con­sult­ing gigs start­ing next week, and slow­ly reach a point, around de­cem­ber 17, where I have noth­ing to do.

Late movie review: Matrix Revolutions

Al­though it opened here (Buenos Aires, Ar­genti­na) at the ex­act same time as al­most ev­ery­where else, here's a late re­view of the movie.

I liked it. I have read the crit­ic slam it, and you know what? I un­der­stand them. But I liked it any­way.

Now, why is that, and why don't I slam it as well? The prob­lem crit­ics had with Ma­trix: Rev­o­lu­tions is one of ex­pec­ta­tion­s.

They ex­pect­ed it to be a movie that lift­ed Ma­trix: Reload­ed in­to a mean­ing­ful and wor­thy se­quel of the orig­i­nal film. That is of course im­pos­si­ble for many rea­son­s.

The main one is that it's 2003, not 1998. In 2003 lame movies like Bad Boys II have spe­cial ef­fects that are about as good as The Ma­trix's were. We are jad­ed to them.

In fac­t, we are not on­ly jad­ed to spe­cial ef­fects that were spe­cial five years ago, we are jad­ed to sur­prise it­self, like if show­ing us some­thing new was an old thing it­self.

So, even when there is a se­quence that should awe us (like, say, the slow mo­tion punch in­to Smith's face, look how you can see the fist push­ing in­di­vid­u­al rain­drop­s, the face de­form­ing un­der the pres­sure, the de­tail of the im­pres­sion of the knuck­les... do you know how that was done? I don't!)... well, awe is old news.

So, I went to the the­ather ex­pect­ing a movie that would be a fine ac­tion movie, with im­pres­sive sight­s, lame act­ing (not a de­cent ac­tor in the bunch, ex­cept Lawrence Fish­burne, and he was ap­par­ent­ly di­rect­ed not to ac­t, but to look se­ri­ous and im­por­tan­t), some sopho­moric bab­ble, and some kung fu (I want­ed more ser­aph, though).

In that lev­el, it work­s. In mak­ing us all be five years younger, it did­n't.

And to those who said the end­ing just drops the ball of the sto­ry thread­s, well, guys, this was a chris­tian para­ble, Neo died for the sins of the pro­gram­s, he was not the christ fig­ure of the hu­man­s, but of the ma­chines.

The ro­bots in the city are the ro­man­s, the or­a­cle and oth­er "good bot­s" are is­raelites, the ar­chi­tect is Herod, Smith is the ro­man le­gions op­press­ing the is­raelites, and Neo's mes­sian­ic "death" (he did­n't die, but he is shown in a cru­ci­fic­tion-­like pose, and does­n't move) is the sec­ond com­ing an­nounc­ing the rais­ing of the new tem­ple, by turn­ing the ro­mans against their own le­gions and ush­er­ing peace on earth.

And the hu­mans in Zion are ver­min in Jerusalem's sew­er sys­tem. Just ask the Merovin­gian (He, I have no idea who he is in the anal­o­gy, I just thought this as I was writ­ing, be hap­py if it holds for an­oth­er 30 sec­onds ;-) Ok, he is Mary Mag­dalene's pim­p.

See, that's the kind of thing the Ma­trix tril­o­gy does, it in­duces oth­er­wise rea­son­able peo­ple in­to try­ing to shoe­horn ran­dom da­ta in­to pat­terns it does­n't fit (at least I tried to make a slight­ly orig­i­nal one).

That not spe­cial­ly cool qual­i­ty is shared with oth­er up­per-me­diocre­-crust en­ter­tain­men­t, such as "Catch­er in the rye". While amus­ing, its pro­duce is, of course most­ly pedes­tri­an.

The trick here, I think, is one used by peo­ple like Berl­itz, writ­ing about the mag­ic pro­por­tions of the pyra­mid­s. If you have a large set of num­ber­s, and al­low your­self some free­dom to tweak, they will match some of the hun­dred of "im­por­tan­t" num­bers in na­ture.

My height * 1000000 ~ the dis­tance to the moon. I must be re­al­ly im­por­tan­t!

The Ma­trix movies have dozens or hun­dreds of nuggets of things we rec­og­nize from some­where else, usu­al­ly on­ly slight­ly veiled, so we can feel smart about un­veil­ing them, and smarter still about con­nect­ing them.

Well, like the size of the stones in the pyra­mid­s, you can plug those nuggets in­to al­most any struc­ture you wan­t, as long as you are will­ing to stand a few holes and forced fit­ting... and man, did that get old quick af­ter the first movie or not?

So, that's why it did­n't work on the philo­soph­i­cal lev­el: we are tired of it, we on­ly had gas for one of those movies.

Add that to the spe­cial-­ef­fect­s-are-not-spe­cial-any­more syn­drome, and you have a recipe for a movie that, while ok, can't work.

And that, friend­s, is why it did­n't.

Small break

It should be ob­vi­ous that it is not pos­si­ble to have a job, a girl­friend, a hob­by and a blog.

So, I have been ne­glect­ing the blog ;-)

Ex­pect more up­dates now, since I am scal­ing down the job thing a bit.


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