Back at work, creeping dread

I went back to work today, though really not for much more than half a day.

On the way in, I traded in for some new comic books at the media union.

I've also started Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go". As usual the narrator is unreliable, and the important information never seems to be where they tell you it is. In this case the book seems to have some kind of dystopian science-fictional premise which is being revealed as slowly as possible. It's very creepy, and the idea of eventually discovering what's actually going on fills me with dread in the way that Lovecraft stories are supposed to but never manage to.

Epilepsy, Bollywood, Shaolin Soccer

Continuing through the Media Union's Comics collection, I read through the five volumes of David B.'s "L'ascension du Haut Mal". It tells the story of the author's childhood, and in particular his older brother's epilepsy.

The story is largely taken up by descriptions of the stuff that his parents go through in an attempt to find a cure for the brother: catholocism, macrobiotics, alchemy, voodoo.... They try prayer, exorcism, various diets, and of course doctor-proscribed drugs, but they all seem equally useless. By the end of it you're not sure whether they're really still focused on epilepsy--they have to have given up hope at some level--or whether exploring fringe philosophies has become some sort of family hobby, maybe one that takes their mind of their problems.

All this stuff gives lots of wonderful grist for the artist, of course. The intricate black-and-white panels are stuffed with fantastic creatures and symbols.

Sara and I saw the bollywood movie "Devdas" on a friend's recommendation. It's sappy and melodramatic, of course, but the songs and dances are great. The language is a bit poetic, and the subtitles not really well done, so it's hard to follow the dialog at times. The sets are sort of crazy--stained-glass windows, huge sweeping staircases, endless corridors for the heroine to streak down dramatically at the appropriate moment.

Tonight Sara and I started "Shaolin Soccer." It's fabulous.

I've been home from work with a cold the last couple days, sniffling and feeling a little thick-headed, but getting a little work done anyway. Tommorow I think I'll probably make it back to the office.

eating, talking, and reading

Saturday night there was a going-away party for one of Sara's lab mates, who has taken a job elsewhere (though she's still living in Ann Arbor).

Our host made Dosas, Idlis, Sambar, and lots of other great stuff. People brought some good appetizers and desserts, too. I left full.

Then Sunday Sara happened to get a dinner invitation from a neighbor while doing her laundry. Score! Even more good food.

When I was a kid a party would mean food, games, and toys. These days it means food and talking. I'm not sure if I'm quite up for it. Maybe I should start bringing lego with me to parties. ("Oh don't mind Bruce", Sara would say. "Let him go play while us grown-ups talk....")

I've got lots of good reading these days. I picked up Richard Dawkins "The Ancestor's Tale" recently; I've had this copy lying around for a while--Sara's parents gave it to me last christmas--but just haven't really sat down with it till now. The book is a huge reversed-time human-centric survey of evolutionary history; it first covers early humans, then chimapanzees, then the next group of primates to join (gorillas), etc., all the way back to bacteria, with a chapter for each point where a group of still-living ancestors broke off from human ancestors. The various organisms mainly serve as examples for more general discussions of evolution. It's very interesting.

I also discovered recently that the media union's collection includes some french-language comic books. Probably not too exciting to anyone else, but to me it's like turning a corner and suddenly finding that your home town of decades has some marvellous thing that you'd never till now been aware of. So I brought home a few last week.

The one I've completed so far is volume 3 of Fabrice Neaud's journal. It was hard going: the vocabulary and grammar are difficult for me, and it's also angry, depressing, and times a little tedious. But interesting; maybe I should give it another try. I skimmed large parts rather than trying to look up lots of unknown words or puzzle out difficult sentences.

monarchs, musicians

Weekend before last Paul and Sara and I went to point Pelée to see the monarch migration. It turns out we'd missed the peak by a week. But there was still no shortage of butterflies.

It's very odd thinking that they could travel so far with such a seemingly haphazard flying technique--they flutter and zigzag like any other butterfly.

Tuesday I saw a "masterclass" at the music school given by the Indian guitarist Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya. I expected it to be something like what Wikipedia describes as a masterclass, but it ended up just being a long lecture demonstration. It was great fun in any case.

So I dragged Sara along for the "real" concert Wednesday night, which we both enjoyed immensely.

alice coltrane & co

Saturday night I saw Alice Coltrane play Hill, with son Ravi on saxaphones, Roy Haynes on drums, and Charlie Haden on bass. The latter three were amazing, and worth the price of admission on their own. I'm still not much of an Alice Coltrane fan, though. Every solo sounded a bit the same to me. I think the one piece I sort of liked was the second they played, some Indian song I didn't know, where I could at least hear her treating the melody a little.

Roy Haynes is 81, and extremely energetic, tasteful, musical, precise.... Maybe playing the drums every day is the secret to eternal youth. Charlie Haden also sounded wonderful when I could hear him; Mrs. Coltrane's habit of leaning on bass pedal points tended to drown him out a bit. And Ravi sounded great too. It's obvious that he grew up listening to a lot of Cotrane records....

testing, eating, drinking, listening

Last week was the CITI-hosted NFSv4 "bakeathon", so was hectic for me. In particular, I'd promised a brief presentation on Wednesday, and had very little time to prepare; so I gathered my small amount of data for the presentation last Sunday, then put together the presentation Tuesday and Wednesday--I was still writing slides as Andy was driving me to the meeting.

Monday and Wednesday night both I went to the Arbor Brewing Company with bakeathon people. Thursday I went to the Corner Brewery to see Dave's brother Robin play with Jenna Mammina. The music was fun. I think Robin is an amazing accompanist. It was also good to see Jenna's brother Nino there singing--last time we saw him he was in a wheelchair and not talking.

People from work showed up a little later. Between Dave's family, and Jenna's family, and work people, and Murph, who was chatting with people at a nearby table, it was sort of fun to be surrounded by people I knew for different reasons.

The Corner Brewery has beer but only allows ordering out for food, so after a beer I left with Trond and company for the Sidetrack. Dave and Robin joined us a little later. It was all very pleasant. But Friday I was too tired to do much.

I stopped by juggling Saturday but wasn't too motivated, so went back to work for a while, then went to a birthday party. I still was feeling a little low on energy, though, and didn't talk to people much.

Sunday I worked some more at the Media Union.

I've been listening to Miles Davis's version of "Someday My Prince Will Come". My favorite moment is the start of the first trumpet solo, where he plays three eighth notes that kick off the chorus and temporarily give it a really distinct rhythm.

I also hadn't noticed before how they add an extra 8 bar pedal point before and after Coltrane's solo--it's as if they're saying "watch out! Here he comes!"

I have too many CD's; any one of them could last me a year if I listened hard enough.

NFS, NFS, and more NFS

I recently read the 1985 paper "Design and Implementation or the Sun Network Filesystem", but didn't find much in there that was interesting to me.

Sunday, in a quest to figure out how chmod is actually used out in the wild, I went through log output we've been getting from a kernel patch of Andreas's that logs uses of the chmod system call. I also grepped through the entire filesystem looking for scripts that call "chmod".

Why are there so many programs that create a file and then immediately chmod it? Why couldn't they just get the umask and the create mode right?

Today was the first day of the Bakeathon here in Ann Arbor. I did a little more ACL work, some debugging, tried to help people set up a little, and talked with Greg Banks a little.

Several of us went out to the Arbor Brewing Company afterwards. It was pleasant enough, though a little noisy.

suicidal panniers

I was rolling down East Medical Center Drive at a pretty good clip this afternoon when my steering suddenly went a little funny and I heard a little "wump" and some metallic klangs.

Looking back confirmed my suspicions: the pannier hung on the left side of my rear wheel had thrown itself off onto the street.

Fortunately, the closest car was far enough back to have plenty of time to drive around my stuff. And all that had actually scattered out of the pannier was my keys and the two halves of my bicycle lock.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened, though it's probably the worst. Some day I'm afraid I'm going to lose control of the bike, or my laptop is going to slide into the next lane and get run over.

So I need to figure out some better way to carry stuff. Or maybe these panniers just need some more adjustment.


Kleiman's "Vnodes: An Architecture for Multiple File System Types in Sun UNIX" describes a basic architecture that's pretty familiar at this point.

One design goal I wouldn't have thought of:

All file system operations should be atomic. In other words, the set of interface operations should be at a high enough level so that there is no need for locking (hard locking, not user advisory locking) across several operations. Locking, if required, should be left up to the file system implementation dependent layer. For example, if a relatively slow computer running a remote file system requires a supercomputer server to lock a file while it does several operations, the users of the supercomputer would be noticeably affected. It is much better to give the file system dependent code full information about what operation is being done and let it decide what locking is necessary and practical.

Linux's VFS doesn't really work that way--the VFS operations are too fine-grained. But that does mean we end up having to do special things for distributed filesystems (e.g. the intents stuff).

Note that VFS described in this paper has no common inode lock, for example; that's left up to the filesystem.

Demolition Derby

Monday night we want with Paul, Dave, and Bill C. to the Saline Community Fair for the demolition derby. Well, it seemed like one of those things that's worth trying once.

The basic idea is really simple: 10 cars, give or take, all start at once. The last car still moving wins. Referees may disqualify cars or stop the whole thing if (as happens once or twice) it looks like an engine fire might get out of control. Then I guess there's a whole bunch of rules about how the cars are prepared. The one obvious rule was that the doors all had to be welded shut.

I think there may have been five rounds altogether, the fifth featuring winners (well, survivors anyway) of the previous four. That tried my patience a bit. But it was still pretty funny.

Paul described it as like an action movie but real, and with all the in-between non-action parts removed. There was lots of noise and confusion. It's suprising how completely the body of a car can be mutilated without stopping it from running. Even the occasional missing wheel or shredded tire didn't always stop them.

So while I don't think I need to see another, I definitely don't regret going.


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