Search Results: "serpent"

01 April 2017

Russ Allbery: Review: Two Serpents Rise

Review: Two Serpents Rise, by Max Gladstone
Series: Craft #2
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: October 2013
ISBN: 1-4668-0204-9
Format: Mobi
Pages: 350
This is the second book in the Craft Sequence, coming after Three Parts Dead, but it's not a sequel. The only thing shared between the books is the same universe and magical system. Events in Two Serpents Rise were sufficiently distant from the events of the first book that it wasn't obvious (nor did it matter) where it fit chronologically. Caleb is a gambler and an investigator for Red King Consolidated, the vast firm that controls the water supply, and everything else, in the desert city of Dresediel Lex. He has a fairly steady and comfortable job in a city that's not comfortable for many, one of sharp divisions between rich and poor and which is constantly one water disturbance away from riot. His corporate work life frustrates his notorious father, a legendary priest of the old gods who were defeated by the Red King and who continues to fight an ongoing terrorist resistance to the new corporate order. But Caleb has as little as possible to do with that. Two Serpents Rise opens with an infiltration of the Bright Mirror Reservoir, one of the key components of Dresediel Lex's water supply. It's been infested with Tzimet: demon-like creatures that, were they to get into the city's water supply, would flow from faucets and feed on humans. Red King Incorporated discovered this one and sealed the reservoir before the worst could happen, but it's an unsettling attack. And while Caleb is attempting to determine what happened, he has an unexpected encounter with a cliff runner: a daredevil parkour enthusiast with an unexpected amulet of old Craft that would keep her invisible from most without the magical legacy Caleb is blessed (or cursed) with. He doesn't think her presence is related to the attack, but he can't be sure, particularly with the muddling fact that he finds her personally fascinating. Like Three Parts Dead, you could call Two Serpents Rise an urban fantasy in that it's a fantasy that largely takes place in cities and is concerned with such things as infrastructure, politics, and the machinery of civilization. However, unlike Three Parts Dead, it takes itself much more seriously and has less of the banter and delightful absurdity of the previous book. The identification of magic with contracts and legalities is less amusingly creative here and more darkly sinister. Partly this is because the past of Dresediel Lex is full of bloodthirsty gods and human sacrifice, and while Red King Consolidated has put an end to that practice, it lurks beneath the surface and is constantly brought to mind by some grisly artifacts. I seem to always struggle with fantasy novels based loosely on central American mythology. An emphasis on sacrifice and terror always seems to emerge from that background, and it verges too close to horror for me. It also seems prone to clashes of divine power and whim instead of thoughtful human analysis. That's certainly the case here: instead of Tara's creative sleuthing and analysis, Caleb's story is more about uncertainty, obsession, gambling, and shattering revelations. Magical rituals are described more in terms of their emotional impact than their world-building magical theory. I think this is mostly a matter of taste, and it's possible others would like Two Serpents Rise better than the previous book, but it wasn't as much my thing. The characters are a mixed bag. Caleb was a bit too passive to me, blown about by his father and his employer and slow to make concrete decisions. Mal was the highlight of the book for me, but I felt at odds with the author over that, which made the end of the book somewhat frustrating. Caleb has some interesting friends, but this is one of those books where I would have preferred one of the supporting cast to be the protagonist. That said, it's not a bad book. There are some very impressive set pieces, the supporting cast is quite good, and I am wholeheartedly in favor of fantasy novels that are built around the difficulties of water supply to a large, arid city. This sort of thing has far more to do with human life than the never-ending magical wars over world domination that most fantasy novels focus on, and it's not at all boring when told properly. Gladstone is a good writer, and despite the focus of this book not being as much my cup of tea, I'll keep reading this series. Followed by Full Fathom Five. Rating: 7 out of 10

08 September 2015

Russ Allbery: Review: Dark Currents

Review: Dark Currents, by Jacqueline Carey
Series: Agent of Hel #1
Publisher: Roc
Copyright: 2012
Printing: October 2013
ISBN: 0-451-41483-7
Format: Mass market
Pages: 399
This is another much-belated review. Hopefully I can remember the book well enough to do it justice. Daisy Johanssen has normal urban fantasy problems: her father was an incubus who (somewhat unsurprisingly) didn't stick around, she has to keep careful control of her own demonic side, her father occasionally tries to tempt her to invoke demonic power, and it's possible that she could breach the walls protecting the world from demons and bring about Armageddon. The typical sort of thing. Also, there's an unexplained murder in her home town, a mid-western US resort town whose image does not go well with eldritch murders. Daisy's only official role with the town police department is as a part-time file clerk, but this is urban fantasy, so you know the protagonist is going to be hip-deep in some sort of crime investigation. In this case, that's because the Norse goddess Hel (as distinct from the origin of Daisy's father entirely different thing) also lives here, in a manner of speaking, and Daisy is her liaison. In this case, Hel decides she's the one who should dispense justice. Carey previously has primarily been an epic fantasy writer, and this is her first foray into urban fantasy. (Well, arguably Santa Olivia and its sequel count, but those felt closer to superhero fiction to me.) The language and tone of her epic fantasy is far different than the conventions of either urban fantasy or superhero fiction, and I thought Santa Olivia was somewhat awkward in places. (None of the profanity quite worked, for instance.) Dark Currents felt smoother and more comfortable, aided by a charming mid-western feel. A few of Daisy's first-person narrative quirks wore poorly, such as every reference to "the Seven Deadlies," but Carey did a solid job with a typical out-of-her-depth urban fantasy protagonist. I'm pretty tired of the standard mythology of urban fantasy, and that is a bit of a drawback here: vampires and werewolves both feature, and I think I could happily go ten years before reading another story about vampires or hunky werewolves. Carey adds her own take on ghouls, but it's still pretty similar to lots (and lots) of other series. Thankfully, there's a bit of Norse mythology, a bit of fairy, and one extremely memorable lamia (of the serpent-tail-below-the-waist variety, at least some of the time). Lurine, a reclusive, retired starlet, a friend of Daisy's mother, and Daisy's childhood babysitter, is the lamia in question. She absolutely steals the show. The dynamic between her and Daisy is perfect: Carey resists the urge to ruin it with dark hints or falling-outs to increase tension. Instead, she lets it be a bit quirky, a bit complicated, but full of the reliability of a deep friendship. And Lurine is a wonderful character, the kind that only works as a supporting character because she's best seen through other people's eyes. Daisy's mother just makes the dynamic better. The reader can believe she's the sort of person who would have an ill-advised fling with an incubus, but also the sort of person who could raise a daughter like Daisy without many resources other than sheer grit. She never loses her optimistic outlook on the world, but has enough backbone behind it to make Lurine's friendship with her entirely believable. The plot here is nothing particularly special. Daisy unravels various clues, gets deeper into complicated relationships between various factions, occasionally finds herself in serious trouble, and relies on the help of friends and allies. I would have enjoyed the book more with a lot less Cody and more of the less typical mythology. But the relationships between the female characters, and the sheer persistence of mid-western normality and ordinary life challenges in the face of so much supernatural meddling, help this book stand out from the crowd. Dark Currents is different from most of what Carey has written, and you may be a bit disappointed if you were hoping for the epic sweep of the Kushiel series. But I found myself charmed by it, and will be reading the next book of the series. Followed by Autumn Bones. Rating: 7 out of 10

01 January 2015

Russ Allbery: Review: Three Parts Dead

Review: Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone
Series: Craft #1
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: October 2012
ISBN: 1-4668-0203-0
Format: Kindle
Pages: 336
Tara Abernathy was a student in the Hidden Schools, learning Craft, until she was expelled. Literally expelled: thrown from the floating schools to crash painfully to earth in the Badlands, left to return to her family and village and a life of small workings of Craft and contracts on behalf of local farmers. She had largely resigned herself to that life until raiders started killing people. Tara is not the sort of person who could stand by and watch that, or someone to refrain from using Craft to fix the world. The result was undead guardians for the town, perhaps unwisely formed from the town's risen dead, and only a job offer saves Tara from the ungrateful attention of her neighbors. That's how Tara finds herself employed by the firm of Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao, in the person of partner Elayne Kevarian. Provisionally, depending on her performance on their job: the investigation of the death of a god. It's possible to call Three Parts Dead urban fantasy if you squint at it the right way. It is fantasy that takes place largely in cities, it features the investigation of a crime (and, before long, several crimes), and Tara's attitude is reminscent of an urban fantasy heroine. But this is considerably different from the normal fare of supernatural creatures. In this world, magic, called Craft, is an occupation that requires a great deal of precision and careful construction. Small workings are described similar to magic, although with an emphasis on metaphor. Larger workings more often come in the form of energy flows, contracts, and careful hedging, and the large Craft firms bear more resemblence to mergers and acquisitions specialists than to schools of wizards. This means that the murder investigation of the god of Alt Coulumb involves a compelling mix of danger, magic, highly unusual library investigations, forensic accounting, hidden Craft machinery, unexpected political alliances, and an inhuman police force. Rather than the typical urban fantasy approach of being beaten up until the resolution of the mystery becomes obvious, Tara and her companions do quite a lot of footwork and uncover a more complex political situation than they were expecting. And, in keeping with this take on magic, the story culminates in a courtroom drama (of a sort). I really enjoyed this. It combines the stylistic elements of urban fantasy that I like with some complex and original world-building and a great take on magical contracts. I prefer worlds like this one, where any source of power people have lived with for a long time is surrounded by the controls, formal analysis, and politics that humans create around anything of value. Tara is also a great protagonist. This is a coming of age story in a sense, and Tara is sometimes unsure of her abilities, but it's refreshingly devoid of worry or angst over new-found abilities. Tara enjoys her work, and approaches it with a well-written mix of uncertainty, impulsiveness, and self-confidence (sometimes warranted, sometimes not). I've read some good stories where the protagonist gets dragged into the story against their will, and some of them are quite good, but it's refreshing to read a book about someone who takes to the story like a duck to water. This is a believable protrayal of a character with a lot of native ability and intelligence, not much wisdom (yet), but a lot of thoughtful enthusiasm. I was disappointed to learn that she isn't the protagonist of the next book in the series. The biggest flaw I found in this book is that Gladstone doesn't stick reliably to his world conception. At times, Craft collapses into something more like typical fantasy magical battles, instead of legal procedure and contract made concrete. I suppose this makes parts of the book more exciting, but I would have preferred a plot resolution that involved less combat and more argument. This isn't helped by the utterly hissable villain. There's a lot of complexity in understanding what happened and who was going to benefit (and how), but there is absolutely no doubt who the enemy is, and he's essentially without redeeming qualities. I would have preferred more nuance, given how satisfyingly complex the rest of the world-building is. Three Parts Dead also occasionally suffers from the typical first novel problem of being a bit overstuffed. The world-building comes fast and thick, and nearly everything Tara does involves introducing new concepts. But the world does have a coherent history, and quite a lot of it. It used to be a more typical fantasy world ruled by gods, each with their own territory and worshippers (and Alt Coulumb is a throwback to this era), but an epic war between gods and Craft is in Tara's past, leading to the defeat or destruction of many of the gods. She lives in a time of uneasy truce between human and inhuman powers, featuring some very complex political and economic alliances. There's a lot of material here for an ongoing series. This is a great first novel. It's not without its flaws, but I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and will definitely keep reading the series. Recommended. Followed by Two Serpents Rise. Rating: 8 out of 10

06 September 2014

Russ Allbery: Accumulated hauls

I haven't made one of these in a long time, so I have some catching from random purchases to do, which includes a (repurposed) nice parting gift from my previous employer and a trip to Powell's since I was in the area for DebConf14. This also includes the contents of the Hugo voter's packet, which contained a wide variety of random stuff even if some of the novels were represented only by excerpts. John Joseph Adams (ed.) The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination (sff anthology)
Roger McBride Allen The Ring of Charon (sff)
Roger McBride Allen The Shattered Sphere (sff)
Iain M. Banks The Hydrogen Sonata (sff)
Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending (mainstream)
M. David Blake (ed.) 2014 Campbellian Anthology (sff anthology)
Algis Budrys Benchmarks Continued (non-fiction)
Algis Budrys Benchmarks Revisited (non-fiction)
Algis Budrys Benchmarks Concluded (non-fiction)
Edgar Rice Burroughs Carson of Venus (sff)
Wesley Chu The Lives of Tao (sff)
Ernest Cline Ready Player One (sff)
Larry Correia Hard Magic (sff)
Larry Correia Spellbound (sff)
Larry Correia Warbound (sff)
Sigrid Ellis & Michael Damien Thomas (ed.) Queer Chicks Dig Time Lords (non-fiction)
Neil Gaiman The Ocean at the End of the Lane (sff)
Max Gladstone Three Parts Dead (sff)
Max Gladstone Two Serpents Rise (sff)
S.L. Huang Zero Sum Game (sff)
Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson The Wheel of Time (sff)
Drew Karpyshyn Mass Effect: Revelation (sff)
Justin Landon & Jared Shurin (ed.) Speculative Fiction 2012 (non-fiction)
John J. Lumpkin Through Struggle, the Stars (sff)
L. David Marquet Turn the Ship Around! (non-fiction)
George R.R. Martin & Raya Golden Meathouse Man (graphic novel)
Ramez Naam Nexus (sff)
Eiichiro Oda One Piece Volume 1 (manga)
Eiichiro Oda One Piece Volume 2 (manga)
Eiichiro Oda One Piece Volume 3 (manga)
Eiichiro Oda One Piece Volume 4 (manga)
Alexei Panshin New Celebrations (sff)
K.J. Parker Devices and Desires (sff)
K.J. Parker Evil for Evil (sff)
Sofia Samatar A Stranger in Olondria (sff)
John Scalzi The Human Division (sff)
Jonathan Straham (ed.) Fearsome Journeys (sff anthology)
Vernor Vinge The Children of the Sky (sff)
Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan Demo (graphic novel)
Charles Yu How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (sff) A whole bunch of this is from the Hugo voter's packet, and since the Hugos are over, much of that probably won't get prioritized. (I was very happy with the results of the voting, though.) Other than that, it's a very random collection of stuff, including a few things that I picked up based on James Nicoll's reviews. Now that I have a daily train commute, I should pick up the pace of reading, and as long as I can find enough time in my schedule to also write reviews, hopefully there will be more content in this blog shortly.

18 January 2013

Russ Allbery: Review: Soulless

Review: Soulless, by Gail Carriger
Series: Parasol Protectorate #1
Publisher: Orbit
Copyright: October 2009
ISBN: 0-316-07165-X
Format: Kindle
Pages: 357
Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster in London society in the time of Queen Victoria. She is possessed of a hopelessly overwrought and society-focused mother, two half-sisters whose only thoughts are for fashion and gossip, a mixed Italian heritage, an unpopular body shape and complexion, and a secret. In a world in which vampire hives, werewolf packs, and the occasional ghost are out of hiding and openly participating in society, and where the Bureau of Unnatural Registry (headed by a particularly intimidating werewolf who is also an earl) keeps track of the undead, Alexia is something still rarer, and not entirely acceptable. She is preternatural, able to draw the supernatural out of the undead with a touch. She has no soul. In Carriger's Victorian urban fantasy, laced with a gentle helping of steampunk, vampires, werewolves, and ghosts all have similar conditions. All three are undead; even the change for werewolves happens after normal death. But the change doesn't happen to everyone killed by the corresponding type of undead. The requirements are quite exacting and include the quantity of soul in the person being changed. Only those with a surfeit of soul, too much to stay dead, can be successfully changed. Vampires and werewolves both are surrounded by hopeful humans, called drones and clavigers respectively, who hope to be transformed and gain immortality. But no one can tell in advance how much soul someone has. Alexia is the precise opposite of the undead. Rather than a surfeit of soul, she has none at all, a condition inherited from her father but unknown to the rest of her family. Her kind, the preternatural, make up the vampire and werewolf hunters of legend, called soul-suckers, curse-breakers, and exorcists by the supernatural set. She's viewed with great suspicion by most, but with fascination by some for her ability to revert them to humanity with physical contact. Not that this has been helpful in finding a husband, or, really, for much of anything else in her life. Soulless opens with Alexia being accousted by a rogue vampire in the library, where she went for refuge from a private ball. Not only does he not know who she is, despite every hive in the area telling all of their new vampires about her, but he doesn't seem to even know what a preternatural is, and she has to kill him with her parasol. That is the first unusual occurance in an escalating mystery involving new vampires appearing from nowhere, loner vampires and werewolves disappearing, and a truly prodigious use of chloroform. Not to mention quite a few encounters with Lord Maccon, Earl of Woolsey, the Alpha werewolf who runs the Bureau of Unnatural Registry. The start of Soulless feels a bit uneven and stilted until the story gets moving and the reader gets used to Carriger's voice. It's written in the style of a comedy of manners and takes delight in long words and a semi-formal style. For example:
The vampire recovered his equanimity quickly enough. He reared away from Alexia, knocking over a nearby tea trolley. Physical contact broken, his fangs reappeared. Clearly not the sharpest of prongs, he then darted forward from the neck like a serpent, diving in for another chomp. "I say!" said Alexia to the vampire. "We have not even been introduced!"
Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn't. The frequency with which it works seemed to me to increase as the book went along. The best thing this book has going for it is the character of Alexia Tarabotti. Rather than the typical kick-ass female protagonist of a modern urban fantasy novel, Alexia is not cynical, battle-hardened, or courageously sarcastic. Her attitude for most of the book is something closer to bemusement crossed with exasperation. She sees herself as an outsider, has largely given up on fitting into any sort of proper society, and has little use for the expectations of her family. But she's still embedded within her culture, still shocked (at least momentarily) by breaches in etiquette, and quite able to fit in, if a bit uncomfortably. Her delightfully logical tone and constant open-minded self-analysis is what made this book for me. The plot is fairly straightforward (and has a bit too much anti-science flavor for me). The romance angle, which is reasonably obvious from early on in the book, was entertaining mostly in Alexia's combination of thoughtful analysis (based in part on her father's extensive and not entirely acceptable library) and runaway physical reactions, although I thought the latter was slightly overdone. But all the elements of the story improve noticably towards the end of the book. I was unenthused by the halfway point, but by the time I finished Soulless, I decided I would probably read the sequel. This is more in the enjoyably fun reading pile than a book that I would go to great effort to acquire, and it has a somewhat rocky start, but I enjoyed it and would mildly recommend it. Followed by Changeless. Rating: 7 out of 10

13 January 2012

C.J. Adams-Collier: The Very Model of a Poster to CLPM

So, in 2002 I attended my first SPUG meeting. Also in attendance were Randal, Tim, J.P. (I think) and quite a few of the other usual suspects. The guest speaker was the inestimable Dr. Damian Conway. This night might be the single most important event in my career as a builder of the internets. I was already set in my ways regarding my operating system, and I knew enough perl to get by, but I wasn t in touch with any users groups until then. The crown jewel of the night was Damian s recital in full of his poem, I Am The Very Model of A Poster To CLPM (sung to the tune of that song from Pirates of Penzance). I must admit that I d never heard of CLPM and that it all sounded like gobble-de-gook at the time. If I recall correctly, this happened just after he took about 10 minutes to teach us all to pronounce the name of then-Pumpking, Jarkko Hietaniemi. This was the same year that the following video was made <iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420"></iframe> With that in mind, there s one more thing I need to share with you before disclosing the lyrics. This piece was developed during a time when it was common for members of the perl community to flame one another on news feeds, take their anger and frustration out on newbies and generally be the bane of most of the internet. I like to think that it helped to shape me into a kinder, gentler perl programmer, debian user and general netizen over the years. I would also like to think that it will do the same for future members of our communities. And so, without further ado, Damian Conway s
I Am The Very Model of a Poster to CLPM Now everything I need to know about the Perl community
I learned in kindergarten when I was a little lad of three
And in these next few minutes I ll relate those five apothegm
For I am the very model of a poster to c.l.p.m. The first truism I was ever taught upon my mother s knee
Was that our dad s a better dad than their s could ever hope to be.
His name is Larry Wall, and that s determinism nom native
Since of the mural attributes he demonstrates proof positive. He s eight feet tall and ten feet wide; of granite-like solidity.
He wards us from the serpent s tabs and coffee bean s stupidity.
He guards us from that Gallic tower s B&D urbanity,
And makes sure we don t see sharp code that might cut loose our sanity. He watches over each of us, like Odin of the Norse belief
The stern All-Father figure and, at times, the comical relief.
So, if you vaunt our patriarch s supreme linguistic acumen,
You are a model sychophantic poster to c.l.p.m. The second tenet that I learned concerns, of course, the fairer sex
And why they are in short supply, while geek-boy JAPHs are multiplex.
As every schoolboy knows each conversation has single aim:
To raise one s own significance, whilst razing others down in flame. And thus good men and true who hold this principle as sacrosanct
Will all pursue beligerence as though they were from Mars. Or tanked.
It is the tenor of your newgroup posts that she from Venus flies:
Because most threads devolve into comparisons of ..meanness, guys. When every post affronts their own collaborative sorority
It must exasperate them, for it renders the majority
Of female Perl geeks absent, till we re forced to rename blonde Dutch men
To act as female models of a poster to c.l.p.m. The third grand aphorism that was drummed into my youthful head
Was: if you can t say something nice about someone, you should instead
Say every nasty thing you can impart, imagine, or invent
In any public forum that it happens you should both frequent. This goes especially for the young, and new, and shy, and innocent.
To flame a newbie is a joy, t will make you feel omnipotent.
To watch them squirm and bleat and bleed and scurry back into their hole,
The surge of ecstasy it brings is worth the way it eats your soul. So never hesitate to turn the wrath of your vocabul ry
Upon the hapless supplicant for Perl epistomology
And if you flame each FAQ, and every question that s beneath you then
You ll be the very model of curmudg nly R.T.F.M. The next point I should like to make s the obverse of the previous
For while it s true that to be newbie is a sin most grieveous
It ain t as bad as being old and greyed and staid and tedious
And sitting at the keys all day dispensing thoughts invidious. What right have you to tell me not to ask about my CGI???
I thought that Perl was all about website development, and I
Expect that you d extend to me the simple human courtesy
Of dropping everything so you can do this homework now for me. The Internet exists so I need never read the manual
And so my inane questioning can form a stream continual
While pleading for an email since I never read this group, as well
As posting them in jeopardy, in caps, and in HTML. The rule I learned in kinder that explains where this approach springs from
Is fundamental to a certain class of Gen-X hackerdom
The single principle that guides their Internet activity
Is: me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, ME! So if you are prepared to treat the Net as your god-given right
And suck the newsgroups dry like some goodwill-devouring parasite
And use them as a help-desk and a perldoc substitute, well then
You are the very model clueless poster to c.l.p.m. The final precept that my pre-school inculcated in my head
Is one I would commend as antithetical to all I ve said.
It is a noble concept that once used to garner more elan
The idea that, when I grow up ..I want to be a fireman. The fire-fighter s job s to help, despite the inconvenience
And spare the inexperienced the cost of their own ignorance
And put out fires when the flames ignite the common living space
And through it all maintain an air of competence and skill and grace. And this, my friends, I recommend to all of our community
That rather than a careless match or carefully lit incendiary
You spray out knowledge, patience, and a gentle stream of good advice
And save the newbies from themselves, and oldies from their prejudice. And be yea more as Larry is, a fire-Wall against the threat
Of ignorance and arrogance, with both of which we re still beset.
For if you choose to help your fellow JAPHs instead of scorching them,
You ll be the next burnt offering we spit-roast on c.l.p.m. ;-) [edit]

13 October 2011

Alastair McKinstry: #### [WATER FRACTIONS IN EXTRASOLAR PLANETESIMALS]( #### Jura & Xu, #exoplanets, #water, #phd > Abstract: With the goal of using externally-polluted white dwarfs to investigate the water fractions of extrasolar planetesimals, we assemble from the literature a sample that we estimate to be more than 60% complete of DB white dwarfs warmer than 13,000 K, more luminous than 3 10 3 L and within 80 pc of the Sun. When considering all the stars together, we find the summed mass accretion rate of heavy atoms exceeds that of hydrogen by over a factor of 1000. If so, this sub-population of extrasolar asteroids treated as an ensemble has little water and is at least a factor of 20 drier than CI chondrites, the most primitive meteorites. In contrast, while an apparent excess of oxygen in a single DB can be interpreted as evidence that the accreted material originated in a water-rich parent body, we show that at least in some cases, there can be sufficient uncertainties in the time history of the accretion rate that such an argument may be ambiguous. Regardless of the difficulty associated with interpreting the results from an individual object, our analysis of the population of polluted DBs provides indirect observational support for the theoretical view that a snow line is important in disks where rocky planetesimals form. Ok, so we now have a way of estimating how wet planetary systems *were*, at the time they fell into the white dwarf star. Not very representative of the time they before the planet got roasted to a crisp by the stars Red Giant stage, however. Recovering the hydrogenation state of serpentinized minerals might be possible and useful.

#### [WATER FRACTIONS IN EXTRASOLAR PLANETESIMALS]( #### Jura & Xu, #exoplanets, #water, #phd > Abstract: With the goal of using externally-polluted white dwarfs to investigate the water fractions of extrasolar planetesimals, we assemble from the literature a sample that we estimate to be more than 60% complete of DB white dwarfs warmer than 13,000 K, more luminous than 3 10 3 L and within 80 pc of the Sun. When considering all the stars together, we find the summed mass accretion rate of heavy atoms exceeds that of hydrogen by over a factor of 1000. If so, this sub-population of extrasolar asteroids treated as an ensemble has little water and is at least a factor of 20 drier than CI chondrites, the most primitive meteorites. In contrast, while an apparent excess of oxygen in a single DB can be interpreted as evidence that the accreted material originated in a water-rich parent body, we show that at least in some cases, there can be sufficient uncertainties in the time history of the accretion rate that such an argument may be ambiguous. Regardless of the difficulty associated with interpreting the results from an individual object, our analysis of the population of polluted DBs provides indirect observational support for the theoretical view that a snow line is important in disks where rocky planetesimals form. Ok, so we now have a way of estimating how wet planetary systems *were*, at the time they fell into the white dwarf star. Not very representative of the time they before the planet got roasted to a crisp by the stars Red Giant stage, however. Recovering the hydrogenation state of serpentinized minerals might be possible and useful.

23 May 2011

John Goerzen: Baptism

Today I was baptized and joined the Mennonite Church. I imagine this might surprise some of you for various reasons, so let me provide a bit of background. I ve had a lot of people, both in person and in comments responding to my blog post, express surprise with statements I have made. The view of Christianity that many people have is of a group that devalues scientific inquiry and places a lot of emphasis on things like opposition to gay marriage, evolution, and abortion, and enjoys political leaders that say bring it on. While I know some Christians that fall into that mold, there are quite a few that don t as well. Some churches, such as the one we attend, have a surprisingly diverse set of people and yet still function and get along well. Today they accepted me with joy. Nobody was concerned that I started my statement with a reference to ancient Greek philosophy, wound up suggesting that the church ought to make sure to make illegal immigrants, gays and lesbians, and prostitutes feel welcome, and embraced both religion and scientific inquiry, feeling them complimentary. Mennonites practice adult baptism rather than infant baptism. A traditional age for people to be baptized is during high school, though emphasis is placed more on the individual than their age, so it s not unheard-of for someone to do so a bit later in life as I have. Part of the baptism involves the candidate sharing their faith story. These are typically intensely personal, widely varied, heartfelt, and honest. Some people s stories involve struggles with depression, physical disabilities, or the place of religion in their lives, while others reflect little struggle at all. Mine involves letting go of a lot of things, and also seeing some things, such as serious intellectual inquiry or existential questions about God (such as is there a god? ), as a positive rather than a negative feature of a Christian life. But it also involves a recognition and deep respect for those that don t approach things in this way. Though given publicly in a church, baptism testimonies are rarely published or shared more broadly. But I m going to share mine here. I have edited it only very lightly to remove a few local references that wouldn t make sense out of the context of this community. This was delivered in front of a rather different audience than is likely to be reading this post, so if you have questions, do feel free to ask in the comments. But before I begin, I just have to pass along a joke a friend told me: John, you picked quite a day for your baptism the day after the rapture. Baptism Testimony John Goerzen May 22, 2011 Those of you that know me well will probably not be surprised that I will begin my Christian baptism testimony with a story about an ancient Greek philosopher, and also touch on the philosophical nature of truth. These are key parts of my story. As legend goes, Socrates famously said, I know that I know nothing in other words, he believed that nothing could be known with absolute certainty. The Greek Oracle thought to be infallibly wise said that Socrates, the man that thought he knew nothing, was the wisest man in all Athens. An interesting paradox, and one that sheds light on my own religious story. My story involves coming to grips with the understanding that I know very little, that no person can ultimately know much about God, and finding a way to make peace with that situation. Growing up in this community, I thought I knew some things about faith and Christianity. At a certain age, it all seemed so simple. We took the Bible to be literally true. We marveled in Sunday School at how the apostles could sometimes appear so blind. And, modeled both implicitly and explicitly, was this notion: the stronger our faith, the fewer inner questions or doubt we have about the nature of God, the literal accuracy of the entire Bible, or our relationship to God. Those I perceived held up as examples never seemed to question any of these things, and showed outwardly, at least complete certainty about them. Moreover, holding certain intellectual beliefs was key to Christian identity, and even more importantly, to eternal life. This model has quite obviously worked well for many people for many years. The good that has happened, and continues to happen, from people that have that kind of certainty is manifest all around us. And yet, it didn t seem to work out for me. I m not the kind of person that accepts a lot of things at face value. It is helpful to be able to examine and challenge ideas and even more helpful to have other people challenge my ideas. From well before I was in high school, I was questioning some things about the Bible, God, and religion in general. My thoughts ranged from the impact of evolution on religion to the apparently vengeful God of the Old Testament to the very existence of God. In the Christian context, I perceived having these questions as a personal failing, something that I ought to repress. The more I tried to repress them, the more troublesome they became. Why, for instance, should a loving merciful God decide whether to let us into heaven based on whether we hold certain intellectual beliefs? In high school, I participated in the catechism class here at this church, and was frustrated because it didn t tackle deeper meanings or the kinds of questions I had. I wasn t yet able to articulate all my thoughts and questions very well, and I probably had an overactive case of teenage cynicism. As a result, I didn t get baptized like most others my age did. As I learned more about the early history of Judaism and Christianity, I only found more reasons to question the model of faith I thought I had received the one in which Biblical literalism and a divine guarantee of sorts was key. More recently, I gradually became aware that the model of Christianity I had in mind was one of many views. Christians, Mennonites, and even this church are incredibly diverse groups, and in retrospect, I am surprised that it took me so long to realize this. Three major steps led me to baptism. The first step was the realization that, whatever our understanding of the literal accuracy of the Bible, literal truth is often inferior to metaphorical truth. As an example, many of us have read the works of Shakespeare. They are fictional, but the reason they have been revered for so many centuries is that they are true. They teach us things about ourselves and our world in a way that no history book can. By placing such an emphasis on literal truth in the Bible, I was missing out on the message right there for me. By concerning myself with creationism or evolution, I missed out on thinking about what the story in Genesis meant for the Jews, and what it could mean for me. Evolution ceased to be a threat to religion; it became simply a tool for learning about a different sort of truth than we get from religion. N. T. Wright mentions an incident that illustrates this point. A woman attending a religious conference asked the speaker, a prominent theologian, Is it true that the serpent in Genesis actually spoke like you and I speak? The theologian answered, It doesn t matter whether the serpent could speak. What matters is what the serpent said. The second step I took towards being baptized was realizing where the real core of Christianity lies. It s not some debate about Genesis, but rather the death to one s old self, and the rebirth and continual remaking of oneself in the example of Jesus. Given that, a lot of questions seem unimportant or even irrelevant. Good can be expressed in many ways, and if one person achieves a remarkably Christian life via a literal understanding of the Bible, and another via a more metaphorical reading, then it is my place only to affirm both and say that they both got it right. If we say that the task of remaking ourselves is like climbing a mountain, then what matters is not how we are climbing the mountain, but simply that we are climbing it. I used to equate faith with an intellectual belief. I have come to see that was a narrow view. Faith, to me now, is more about vision: do we see the world like Christ did? Where do our loyalties and our trust lie in God or in human institutions? What are our goals in life? We humans have failed to understand God, and probably always will. I too share in that incomplete understanding, but I have come to accept that it is OK. I know enough to know that I want my loyalty to lie in Jesus, to know what kind of vision of the world I want to have, and I have learned to accept that intellectual questions can even be a form of meditation, enlightenment, and prayer. The third step toward baptism was moving past my own shortcomings. For a long time, I thought I didn t believe the right things, didn t believe them strong enough, wasn t certain enough about God, didn t pray enough, didn t read enough, didn t understand enough, didn t love enough and ultimately, that I wasn t good enough. I request baptism today understanding that, despite the various imperfections I still have, and we all have, everyone is good enough and deserving of love and peace. God s love is for everyone. No exceptions! Following Jesus boils down to this: I too must be an agent of love and peace to everyone, without exception. My vision must be centered around the fact that we are to emulate the God that loves the entire world, sinners all, and therefore I should as well. I hope I can show others the kind of love that has been shown me. I hope, too, to share with this congregation and the global church in the vision of love. I hope that we can continually strive to re-focus on Christ s vision. As an example, we all know that many different viewpoints about whether homosexuality is sinful exist in Mennonite Church USA. These opinions are deeply held and personal for many, and have been discussed over and over and over. But ultimately, they aren t terribly relevant to the church s mission. The example of Jesus unites us all: he embraced everyone. He accepted criminals and prostitutes and showed them love and kindness. Our difficult task, which is also my difficult task, is to show this same love to absolutely everyone, regardless of our varying opinions about them and their conduct. The forgotten and repressed of our day perhaps criminals, homeless, Muslims, addicts, gays and lesbians, illegal immigrants, ethnic minorities, and still prostitutes deserve the love of Christ s church and all its members. My hope is that any one of the earth s 7 billion people could step through the doors of our church, or any church, and immediately feel Christ s love, and the unconditional, non-judgmental, welcome and love of Christ s followers, no matter what. This prayer from Ephesians 3 sums up my hope and my vision, for myself and everyone:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. I pray that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. And I pray that you will know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (3.16-19)

20 February 2011

Andreas Metzler: license incompatibilities

GnuTLS has recently made Nettle its prefered crypto backend. I think Debian will need to continue to use libgcrypt for license reasons. While GnuTLS+libgcrypt and its dependencies are LGPL-2.1+ nettle itself is LGPL-2.1+, except for small GPL-2+ parts (serpent and blowfish). But these are being replaced by LGPL-2.1+ implementations currently. However nettle's public key library (libhogweed) uses and links against the GNU Multiple Precision Arithmetic Library which is LGPL-3+. Afaiui this is a deal-breaker, GPL-2 (without the "any later version" clause) and (L)GPL-3 are incompatible. A nontrivial number of GnuTLS using applications and libraries are licensed (L)GPL-2. I started checking but stopped at "j" after finding cherokee-1.0.20, cluster-glue-1.0.7, cups-1.4.6, drizzle-2010.09.180, echoping-6.0.2, elinks-0.12~pre5, gtk-vnc-0.4.2, inspircd-1.1.22+dfsg and jd-2.8.1~beta110214.

04 October 2010

Iustin Pop: ICFP 2010 short report

I've recently returned from ICFP 2010 (International conference on functional programming). This was the second time I went there, and like last year, it was a very interesting conference. This year, I've even managed to do one keysigning with a fellow Debian Developer (hello Sylvain!) While there were many talks, I only mention a few key ones, that I have found very cool. Note: I'm a layman in this field. The text below is my own interpretation of the talks and contains many errors and wrong facts corrections are welcome! Workshop on ML I wasn't present at this workshop, but other people pointed me to this very cool talk: Mirage project The abstract, to be found at (search for Mirage), says:
Our framework, dubbed Mirage, extends the Objective Caml language with I/O extensions and a custom runtime to emit binaries that execute as a paravirtual operating system directly under Xen. The custom run-time is significantly simpler than a general-purpose operating system, with a static single-process 64-bit address space, and "zero-copy" I/O that works directly with the OCaml garbage collector. As a result, Mirage applications exhibit significant performance speedups for I/O and memory handling versus the same code running under Linux/Xen.
It's extremely interesting, IMHO. You write your code as a more-or-less normal OCaml program, but you compile it with this special tool-chain, and you boot it directly on ton of Xen, as a domU, without the intermediate OS. The project Git repo is at, and that links a bit older presentation ( which IMHO is a required read for anyone interested in cloud-related stuff. ICFP proper ICFP, the main conference, is as usual, full of math, designed to scare people away. Err, I mean, designed to tell about new developments in this field. The papers are gathered in this reddit post: XenServer The paper describes the XenServer project, and more specifically the management interface, which is written entirely in OCaml, by a team of ~10 people. They also have a bit of bin-packing code (, but much simpler than the ganeti-htools project on which I'm working (no balancing or similar). On the other hand, it is interesting to see that they committed themselves to write the entire management suite in OCaml, as opposed to our Python plus just a few bits of Haskell. I envy them, very much so ;) The fun tidbit was how stable they found the OCaml tool-chain. In three years, they had just one bug related to this (the tool-chain), a segfault due to wrong formatting code in the handling path of a seldom-triggered Python exception, which led to a %s to be translated as is to C code, which meant printf got the wrong specifiers. So in an OCaml project, a serious bug was due to lack of type checking in string formatting in a Python component :) Overall I have found interesting parallels between their experience and my own with Haskell; from is this language/tool-chain stable enough for use to concerns about using FP for a significant project (but of course, orders of magnitude difference between their case and mine). Super-compilation There were two papers on this topic; one at ICFP proper and one at the Haskell symposium. If I understood things right, super-compilation is the opposite of lazy evaluation. But let's start a bit back. First, programs written in a functional languages contain many pure function. Pure functions, being side-effect-free, exhibit many interesting properties, and one of them is that they permit decoupling of the computation of a value from the declaration of such computation. One technique derived from this is lazy computations. Lazy computation means that even though you write y = sin(x) + 1, the actual call to sin and the increment is not actually done until you need the actual value of y (not just for storing it in y, that is). Super-compilation is the opposite of this. While laziness postpones doing a computation to as late as possible, in the hope it won't be needed at all, super-compilation runs the actual computation way ahead of time, even before the program starts, that is at compile time. Since programs use input data at runtime, which is not known at compile time, the trick is to pre-compute as much as possible at this stage, given incomplete information; and the papers showed that it's possible to pre-compute much more than you'd usually believe. Optimising compilers already do some form of CAF (constant applicative form) optimisation, but the techniques presented in both papers are going beyond simple CAFs. The details are in the papers, and are complicated, but one simple example is converting this:
ones = map inc [1..]
(note that is an infinite list, and you don't want to fully compute that at any time, neither at compile nor at runtime), into:
ones = [2..]
The details on how this is done depend on the exact super-compilation implementation, and not all implementations can do the same optimisations, but in the presentations at this ICFP the idea was to split things into static/non-static parts, and build on that, or to do partial evaluation, etc. The result is that super-compilation shows significant increases in speed (in some synthetic benchmarks up to 80%), with a few benchmarks not being sped up at all, but most are. The downside is an explosion in code size, as many more things are pre-computed. Still, as a research topic, this is very interesting. My own paper Surprisingly, it seems I survived giving my talk (just an experience report, not actually fancy stuff like the rest). Either the people actually found it interesting (less likely), or they were very polite (more probably). Anyway, the paper is on the papers page (shameless self-promotion) (if you care). Haskell symposium This is co-located with ICFP, and is more practical than ICFP (which is, as I said, way too much math). The papers are again available on reddit: Orc: Concurrent Orchestration in Haskell How to easily write code for synchronising concurrent work? As an example, how complicated is to solve this problem:
[from the Orc literature] we might wish to contact two airlines simultaneously seeking price quotes. If either quote comes back below a threshold price, say $300, then let's buy a ticket immediately. On the other hand if both quotes exceed the threshold, then buy the cheapest ticket. Additionally, buy a ticket if the other airline does not give a timely quote, or notify the user if neither airline provides a timely quote.
Now, in my experience, this would require manual management and synchronisation of threads, and for example in Python the early abort of querying the price from airline B if airline A returned a good price would be non-trivial; in addition, adding two extra conditions would be again not a simple composition of rules. In Orc however, it takes all of 10 lines of code to do this, safely. I won't copy the code here, see the paper for details, or the API docs. And the best part is, this is just a cabal install orc away! I'll be very interested to see how I can use this in practice, as it is seems indeed a very powerful library. Nikola: Embedding Compiled GPU Functions in Haskell Interesting project. Using almost 100% Haskell code, and it marshalls the data to/from the GPU; in the example given, the performance is as good as hand-written CUDA code of course, this doesn't happen in all cases. It it's interesting how they manage to compile the GPU-related code to actual object code at Haskell compile time, which makes it transparent for the user. Given the prevalence of high-speed GPUs, this could be a nice way to utilise them without learning yet another language (or two, since NVidia and ATI have different stacks). They've also developed some interesting techniques (e.g. manual control of sharing, to prevent inlining) as part of their project. Scalable Event Handling for GHC This is a paper co-authored by Johan Tibell of Google Switzerland and Bryan O'Sullivan of Real World Haskell fame. Very interesting serving 20K QPS from a Haskell process while having 16K+ idle clients connected:
[ ] the performance of the epoll back end does not begin to fall off significantly until we have 50,000 idle connections open.
The talk started with the idea that we're on the path to serving 10 clients from a single machine, and how to improve Haskell's I/O manager to achieve (almost) 10 concurrent clients. The slides (which I don't have a link for) were a bit more cool on numbers than the paper. Oh, and this will come with GHC 7.0, for free :) An LLVM Backend For GHC The eternal fight to get better than the C backend in other words, to not have to translate Haskell to C It is interesting to see how many languages target LLVM nowadays, as opposed to plain old C via gcc. A fun trivia item was that, according to the author, there are many features in LLVM that are not actually used by 90% of the languages targeting it (e.g. the garbage collector) (if I heard correctly in the talk). The results are interesting, although not too much overall speedup is gained; this seems to be due to the hard-to-optimise Cmm intermediate language inside GHC. In any case, a few benchmarks get more than 10% speedup, even in the current form. This will also come in GHC 7.0, although not enabled by default; probably needs to mature some more Conclusion I've enjoyed this conference a lot, and I've learned a lot from it. Given that many of the talks are about research topics, it's harder to apply them in day-to-day work, but I think the pay-offs will be long term rather than immediate.

13 June 2010

Petter Reinholdtsen: Lenny->Squeeze upgrades, removals by apt and aptitude

My testing of Debian upgrades from Lenny to Squeeze continues, and I've finally made the upgrade logs available from I am now testing dist-upgrade of Gnome and KDE in a chroot using both apt and aptitude, and found their differences interesting. This time I will only focus on their removal plans. After installing a Gnome desktop and the laptop task, apt-get wants to remove 72 packages when dist-upgrading from Lenny to Squeeze. The surprising part is that it want to remove xorg and all xserver-xorg-video* drivers. Clearly not a good choice, but I am not sure why. When asking aptitude to do the same, it want to remove 129 packages, but most of them are library packages I suspect are no longer needed. Both of them want to remove bluetooth packages, which I do not know. Perhaps these bluetooth packages are obsolete? For KDE, apt-get want to remove 82 packages, among them kdebase which seem like a bad idea and xorg the same way as with Gnome. Asking aptitude for the same, it wants to remove 192 packages, none which are too surprising. I guess the removal of xorg during upgrades should be investigated and avoided, and perhaps others as well. Here are the complete list of planned removals. The complete logs is available from the URL above. Note if you want to repeat these tests, that the upgrade test for kde+apt-get hung in the tasksel setup because of dpkg asking conffile questions. No idea why. I worked around it by using 'echo >> /proc/pidofdpkg/fd/0' to tell dpkg to continue. apt-get gnome 72
bluez-gnome cupsddk-drivers deskbar-applet gnome gnome-desktop-environment gnome-network-admin gtkhtml3.14 iceweasel-gnome-support libavcodec51 libdatrie0 libgdl-1-0 libgnomekbd2 libgnomekbdui2 libmetacity0 libslab0 libxcb-xlib0 nautilus-cd-burner python-gnome2-desktop python-gnome2-extras serpentine swfdec-mozilla update-manager xorg xserver-xorg xserver-xorg-core xserver-xorg-input-all xserver-xorg-input-evdev xserver-xorg-input-kbd xserver-xorg-input-mouse xserver-xorg-input-synaptics xserver-xorg-input-wacom xserver-xorg-video-all xserver-xorg-video-apm xserver-xorg-video-ark xserver-xorg-video-ati xserver-xorg-video-chips xserver-xorg-video-cirrus xserver-xorg-video-cyrix xserver-xorg-video-dummy xserver-xorg-video-fbdev xserver-xorg-video-glint xserver-xorg-video-i128 xserver-xorg-video-i740 xserver-xorg-video-imstt xserver-xorg-video-intel xserver-xorg-video-mach64 xserver-xorg-video-mga xserver-xorg-video-neomagic xserver-xorg-video-nsc xserver-xorg-video-nv xserver-xorg-video-openchrome xserver-xorg-video-r128 xserver-xorg-video-radeon xserver-xorg-video-radeonhd xserver-xorg-video-rendition xserver-xorg-video-s3 xserver-xorg-video-s3virge xserver-xorg-video-savage xserver-xorg-video-siliconmotion xserver-xorg-video-sis xserver-xorg-video-sisusb xserver-xorg-video-tdfx xserver-xorg-video-tga xserver-xorg-video-trident xserver-xorg-video-tseng xserver-xorg-video-v4l xserver-xorg-video-vesa xserver-xorg-video-vga xserver-xorg-video-vmware xserver-xorg-video-voodoo xulrunner-1.9 xulrunner-1.9-gnome-support aptitude gnome 129
bluez-gnome bluez-utils cpp-4.3 cupsddk-drivers dhcdbd djvulibre-desktop finger gnome-app-install gnome-mount gnome-network-admin gnome-spell gnome-vfs-obexftp gnome-volume-manager gstreamer0.10-gnomevfs gtkhtml3.14 libao2 libavahi-compat-libdnssd1 libavahi-core5 libavcodec51 libbluetooth2 libcamel1.2-11 libcdio7 libcucul0 libcupsys2 libcurl3 libdatrie0 libdirectfb-1.0-0 libdvdread3 libedataserver1.2-9 libeel2-2.20 libeel2-data libepc-1.0-1 libepc-ui-1.0-1 libfaad0 libgail-common libgd2-noxpm libgda3-3 libgda3-common libgdl-1-0 libgdl-1-common libggz2 libggzcore9 libggzmod4 libgksu1.2-0 libgksuui1.0-1 libgmyth0 libgnomecups1.0-1 libgnomekbd2 libgnomekbdui2 libgnomeprint2.2-0 libgnomeprint2.2-data libgnomeprintui2.2-0 libgnomeprintui2.2-common libgnomevfs2-bin libgpod3 libgraphviz4 libgtkhtml2-0 libgtksourceview-common libgtksourceview1.0-0 libgucharmap6 libhesiod0 libicu38 libiw29 libkpathsea4 libltdl3 libmagick++10 libmagick10 libmalaga7 libmetacity0 libmtp7 libmysqlclient15off libnautilus-burn4 libneon27 libnm-glib0 libnm-util0 libopal-2.2 libosp5 libparted1.8-10 libpoppler-glib3 libpoppler3 libpt-1.10.10 libpt-1.10.10-plugins-alsa libpt-1.10.10-plugins-v4l libraw1394-8 libsensors3 libslab0 libsmbios2 libsoup2.2-8 libssh2-1 libsuitesparse-3.1.0 libswfdec-0.6-90 libtalloc1 libtotem-plparser10 libtrackerclient0 libxalan2-java libxalan2-java-gcj libxcb-xlib0 libxerces2-java libxerces2-java-gcj libxklavier12 libxtrap6 libxxf86misc1 libzephyr3 mysql-common nautilus-cd-burner openssl-blacklist p7zip python-4suite-xml python-eggtrayicon python-gnome2-desktop python-gnome2-extras python-gtkhtml2 python-gtkmozembed python-numeric python-sexy serpentine svgalibg1 swfdec-gnome swfdec-mozilla totem-gstreamer update-manager wodim xserver-xorg-video-cyrix xserver-xorg-video-imstt xserver-xorg-video-nsc xserver-xorg-video-v4l xserver-xorg-video-vga zip apt-get kde 82
cupsddk-drivers karm kaudiocreator kcoloredit kcontrol kde kde-core kdeaddons kdeartwork kdebase kdebase-bin kdebase-bin-kde3 kdebase-kio-plugins kdesktop kdeutils khelpcenter kicker kicker-applets knewsticker kolourpaint konq-plugins konqueror korn kpersonalizer kscreensaver ksplash libavcodec51 libdatrie0 libkiten1 libxcb-xlib0 quanta superkaramba texlive-base-bin xorg xserver-xorg xserver-xorg-core xserver-xorg-input-all xserver-xorg-input-evdev xserver-xorg-input-kbd xserver-xorg-input-mouse xserver-xorg-input-synaptics xserver-xorg-input-wacom xserver-xorg-video-all xserver-xorg-video-apm xserver-xorg-video-ark xserver-xorg-video-ati xserver-xorg-video-chips xserver-xorg-video-cirrus xserver-xorg-video-cyrix xserver-xorg-video-dummy xserver-xorg-video-fbdev xserver-xorg-video-glint xserver-xorg-video-i128 xserver-xorg-video-i740 xserver-xorg-video-imstt xserver-xorg-video-intel xserver-xorg-video-mach64 xserver-xorg-video-mga xserver-xorg-video-neomagic xserver-xorg-video-nsc xserver-xorg-video-nv xserver-xorg-video-openchrome xserver-xorg-video-r128 xserver-xorg-video-radeon xserver-xorg-video-radeonhd xserver-xorg-video-rendition xserver-xorg-video-s3 xserver-xorg-video-s3virge xserver-xorg-video-savage xserver-xorg-video-siliconmotion xserver-xorg-video-sis xserver-xorg-video-sisusb xserver-xorg-video-tdfx xserver-xorg-video-tga xserver-xorg-video-trident xserver-xorg-video-tseng xserver-xorg-video-v4l xserver-xorg-video-vesa xserver-xorg-video-vga xserver-xorg-video-vmware xserver-xorg-video-voodoo xulrunner-1.9 aptitude kde 192
bluez-utils cpp-4.3 cupsddk-drivers cvs dcoprss dhcdbd djvulibre-desktop dosfstools eyesapplet fifteenapplet finger gettext ghostscript-x imlib-base imlib11 indi kandy karm kasteroids kaudiocreator kbackgammon kbstate kcoloredit kcontrol kcron kdat kdeadmin-kfile-plugins kdeartwork-misc kdeartwork-theme-window kdebase-bin-kde3 kdebase-kio-plugins kdeedu-data kdegraphics-kfile-plugins kdelirc kdemultimedia-kappfinder-data kdemultimedia-kfile-plugins kdenetwork-kfile-plugins kdepim-kfile-plugins kdepim-kio-plugins kdeprint kdesktop kdessh kdict kdnssd kdvi kedit keduca kenolaba kfax kfaxview kfouleggs kghostview khelpcenter khexedit kiconedit kitchensync klatin klickety kmailcvt kmenuedit kmid kmilo kmoon kmrml kodo kolourpaint kooka korn kpager kpdf kpercentage kpf kpilot kpoker kpovmodeler krec kregexpeditor ksayit ksim ksirc ksirtet ksmiletris ksmserver ksnake ksokoban ksplash ksvg ksysv ktip ktnef kuickshow kverbos kview kviewshell kvoctrain kwifimanager kwin kwin4 kworldclock kxsldbg libakode2 libao2 libarts1-akode libarts1-audiofile libarts1-mpeglib libarts1-xine libavahi-compat-libdnssd1 libavahi-core5 libavc1394-0 libavcodec51 libbluetooth2 libboost-python1.34.1 libcucul0 libcurl3 libcvsservice0 libdatrie0 libdirectfb-1.0-0 libdjvulibre21 libdvdread3 libfaad0 libfreebob0 libgail-common libgd2-noxpm libgraphviz4 libgsmme1c2a libgtkhtml2-0 libicu38 libiec61883-0 libindex0 libiw29 libk3b3 libkcal2b libkcddb1 libkdeedu3 libkdepim1a libkgantt0 libkiten1 libkleopatra1 libkmime2 libkpathsea4 libkpimexchange1 libkpimidentities1 libkscan1 libksieve0 libktnef1 liblockdev1 libltdl3 libmagick10 libmimelib1c2a libmozjs1d libmpcdec3 libneon27 libnm-util0 libopensync0 libpisock9 libpoppler-glib3 libpoppler-qt2 libpoppler3 libraw1394-8 libsmbios2 libssh2-1 libsuitesparse-3.1.0 libtalloc1 libtiff-tools libxalan2-java libxalan2-java-gcj libxcb-xlib0 libxerces2-java libxerces2-java-gcj libxtrap6 mpeglib networkstatus pmount poster psutils quanta quanta-data superkaramba svgalibg1 tex-common texlive-base texlive-base-bin texlive-common texlive-doc-base texlive-fonts-recommended xserver-xorg-video-cyrix xserver-xorg-video-imstt xserver-xorg-video-nsc xserver-xorg-video-v4l xserver-xorg-video-vga xulrunner-1.9

04 October 2009

Stefano Zacchiroli: RC bugs of the week - week 5

RCBW - week #5 RC bugs squashed this week by yours truly: This week has been quite though to deliver: I was traveling (actually I still am) during the week-end, starting Thursday afternoon, to go back to Italy (for a scientific/family event) and then back again in Paris. I mostly entirely caught up with the (self-imposed) RC back log in a couple of hours today and Thursday on the train. See? it is doable :-) Interestingly, the RC bug graph is going sharply down this week. Of course it has nothing to do with RCBW (most likely a big transition went in or something such), but it is a huge morale helper!

14 April 2008

James Morrison: Niti days

I don't think any of these are mine, but this needs to be published to the general public (at least until it rests on AlumNit).

Poo Alliterations
- The Earl of Excrement
- The Duke of Dung
- The Prince of Poop
- The Sultan of Shit
- The Father of Feces
- The Matriarch of Merde
- The Steward of Stink
- The Dignitary of Dangleberries
- The Grand Poohbah of Grand Poo
- The Tyrant of Turd
- The Shogun of Scheisse
- The Baron of Bowels
- The Cardinal of Crap
- The Director of Dump
- The Surveyor of Stool
- The Lord of the Log
- The Crown Prince of Cow Patties
- The Royal Archbishop of Road Apples
- The Duchess of Droppings
- The Princess of Poodie
- The Legionnaire of Loaf
- The Supervisor of Stinkers
- The Pharaoh of Floaters
- The Magnate of Manure
- The Tycoon of TCPDumps
- The Czar of Czesspools
- The Mogul of Bowel Movements
- The Ruler of the Runs
- The Dean of Diarrhea
- The Royal Ringleader of Rump Raisins
- The Denizen of Doo-doo
- The Emperor of Evacuations
- The Headmaster of Horrible Odors
- The Titan of the Trots
- The King of Klingons
- The Big Boss of Bum Beans
- The Taskmaster of Turtleheads
- The Supervising Sovereign of Sewer Serpents
- The Colonel of Colon Cobras
- The Nobleman of Number Two
- The Top Dog of Toilet Twinkies
- The Kingpin of Keester Cakes
- The Shepherd of Sea Pickles
- The Head Navigator of Heinie Nuggets
- Rectal Representative
- The Commander of Cow Pie
- The First Mate of Fecal Matter
- The Creator of Cloth Touchers
- The Protector of Porcelan
- The Theologian of the Throne
- The God of Grunts
- The Small Insignificant Yodeling President of Shit in your Pants
- The Diaper Destroyer
- The Loader of Loincloths
- The Pontiff of Plum Pudding
- The Daiymo of Dysentery
- The Master of Montezuma's revenge
- The Squire of Squirts
- The [Weaver] of [WvLog]s
- The Primary Contact of Pudding Cookies
- The Best Producer of Brown Puddles
- The Senior Partner of Steaming Piles
- The Fine Baker of Fudge Brownies
- The Sheriff of Stench
- The Don of the Deuce
- The Torrid Putrid Tainted Pervert of Two-Ply Toilet Paper
- The Sacred Monarch of Skid Marks
- The Main Scientist of Microfeceological Studies
- The G.I. Joe of Gastro Intestinal Journeys
- The Premier of Polyps
- The Brigadier General of Bedpan Gold
- The Plunger Pilot
- The Specialist of Splashers
- The Foreman of Fake Farts
- The Ambassador's Under-Secretary of Astounding Unearthly Scents
- The Old Man and the Sea of Odiferous Monsters in the Sink
- The Bafflingly Blunt and Blasphemous Bearer of Big Bad Beastly Booty Burdens
- The Crisp Pungence of Chain Pooping
- The Goddess of Groundhogging
- The Burly Bobby's Brief Battle with Brim Blasting Bowel Bombs
- The Nasty Neighbour's Noisy and Nefarious Neglect of Normal Nasal Niceties
- The Judge Jury and Executor of Jolly Jumper Excrement
- The Forwarder of the Forwarded
- The Wizard of the Water-closet
- The Grunting Lobber of Great Logs
- The Annoyingly Arrogant Architect of Awful and Abhorrent yet Amazingly Aerodynamic Anal Atrocities
- The Dark, Dangerous and Delusional Dealer of Death-Defying Doses of Disturbingly Decadent Dung
- The Shakespeare of Sinfully Smelly and Supremely Scary Scripture with Soggy Stains and Screaming Splashes
- The Wise but Weakened Warlord Whose Willful Wrath Was Wholly Wrought With Wicked and Wretched Winds from Within
- The Languid and Lackluster Legend of the Little Log from the Loo and its Lavish Life of Luxury in a Lasagna
- The Kahuna of Kaka
- The Emergency Evacuator of Enraged Entrails
- The Squire of Sultry Stinknuggets
- The Deadening Discomfort of a Dearth of Dumps
- The Far From Favourable Fragrance of Four Fragments of Fantastically Fresh Feces
- The Principal of Prodigiously Putrid Pellets
- The Markedly Morose Maintenance of Maniacally Mounded Midden Movements and Mostly Meaty Meals Mysteriously Made Mushy
- The Crass and Cranky Coroner Connecting Clues Concerning a Cornucopia of Casualties Caused by a Crude Cluster of Completely Contemptible Colon Concoctions
- The Thinking Thoughts of a Thinker
- The Horrible, Hubristic Heathen Hoarding Hoary Humps of Hideousness Hailing from His Huge Hairy Heinie in His Harmfully Heady Hovel
- Inane Writings on Irritated Wreathing of the Incubator of Wrath
- That Special Numbness from Sniffing Noodled Stink Nougat
- The Moral Sanctity of the Mystery Shit
- The Ornery Opressor's Opulent Outpost Overseeing the Ordinary Occupants' Outrageous and Ongoing Observance Of an Occasional but Offensive Orgy Of Offal
- The Rector of Relief
- The Rectal Regurgitator
- The Shit Squat
- The Smelly Surprise
- The World Wide Wisdom
- The Slayer Supreme of System Shock

16 January 2007

Lars Wirzenius: Random thought: Honya budo

Honya budo is the martial arts skill of visiting a bookstore without buying a book. It is an arcane art, practiced by secret masters in obscure parts of the world for several centuries. During the 20th century, when literacy went up in the western world, and people from every social strata started frequenting shops selling books, this venerable art has begun to rise in popularity. The first level of honya budo is the "Way of the In-Out". It consists of going into a bookstore, looking around to see that they do indeed have many books for sale, inhaling the intoxicating smell of new books, and then immediately leaving the premises. This way, a novice learns to use the door and gains the right to use a plain white bookmark. The second level of honya budo is the "The Feeling of the Touch". This consists of the novice doing the "Way of the In-Out", but before leaving, actually taking a book off a shelf, opening it, caressing it with gentle hands, feeling the texture of the spine, and enjoying the exquisite sensual smoothness of the paper. When the novice can do this, and put the book back on the shelf and leave the store without buying anything, the novice has achieved enlightenment of the second level and becomes an apprentice, and gains the right to use a colored paper bookmark. The third level of honya budo is the "Path of the Randomly Hopping Rabbit". The apprentice enters the book selling establishment, visits every department therein, and looks for a book they have previously shown a special desire to have, which may not have been published. When they can't find it, they then speak to a salesperson, inquiring about the book. When the apprentice can do this and leave the establishment, without making the salesperson annoyed, and without buying anything, they have achieved enlightment of the third level and become an adept, and gain the right to use a leather bookmark. The fourth level of honya budo is the "Stretched Leg of the Giraffe". The adept visits a bookstore with another adept, and spends an afternoon there, wandering from book case to book case, taking out books and discussing them with each other, commenting on their good and bad points, and recommending especially good books to each other. When an adept can recommend a book that the other will happily buy, but they themselves do not buy anything, then they achieve enlightenment of the fourth level and become a master, and gain the right to use a bookmark signed by the author of a book. The fifth level of honya budo is the "Flight of the Serpent". When the master can visit a bookstore, and get given books for free, they have achieved enlightenment of the fifth level and become a supreme grand master, and can use any kind of bookmark they wish.

09 August 2006

Evan Prodromou: 21 Thermidor CCXIV

We had a great trip up from wt:Boston yesterday and today. Monday morning, after Wikimania had ended, I went to visit the Cambridge offices of Let's Go publications. Let's Go is a travel guide series researched, written, edited and published exclusively by Harvard students. It's an amazing feat, and I've always liked the quality of the guides and the depth of coverage. Let's Go is far from the most prolific of travel publishers, but they have good writing and high-quality listings. I spent about an hour talking with the publicity manager, editor-in-chief, and publisher, mostly about Let's Go but also about Wikitravel a bit. It was a good time. Catching back up with Maj and Amita June, we had lunch at the Barking Crab, a clam shack on the harbor in Boston. Amita June loved the clam chowder; Maj ordered crab legs, and cracked them open with a big rock. Sated, we headed out of Boston on Massachusetts highway 2, through wt:Concord (Massachusetts) and a few other towns to the Connecticut River. It took a while to get out of Greater Boston, but once we were out it was beautiful country, still very wild after almost 400 years of Europeans. We drove up through wt:Brattleboro to wt:White River Junction and then called it a night -- the baby was wailing something fierce. We got a calzone and a Greek salad delivered by Ramunto's Pizza in wt:West Lebanon (New Hampshire), right across the border. It was a great addition to the otherwise so-so wp:X-Men: The Last Stand that we watched on the hotel movie channel. tags: ramunto's pizza

Today This afternoon was even better. We got up this morning early and were on the road before 9AM. That's always the best time to drive with the baby -- before she gets too crazy. We whizzed past wt:Burlington (Vermont) and up into the Lake Champlain Islands -- a really nice string of communities that reminds me of wt:Prince Edward Island. The baby started wailing around noon, so we stopped at North Hero State Park and waded in the lake a bit. Lake Champlain has a lake serpent like Loch Ness, but this one is named "Champ". I held Amita June carefully to make sure she wasn't swept away by this fossil reptile. After a two-hour nap on the grass (!), we had some delicious sandwiches in wt:Alburg then crossed the border. Maj had to renew her work permit -- she sent in a renewal by mail a couple of months ago, but she hadn't received the permit by the time we left, so she had to re-apply at the border. Once we got through with that, it wasn't long before we were back in Montreal. Home again, home again, though. I guess there was some pretty nasty weather last week in Quebec -- there are huge tree limbs, 3-4 feet in diameter, on the ground across the street in Parc La Fontaine. My lawn out front is positively glowing green, though. tags:

19 May 2006

Aigars Mahinovs: Debconf6 day 4: The Daytrip + some hard liquor

May 17th. Just before the daytrip an idea to go for a breakfast came, so at around 8:30 a small group went off to the local market in search for some food. We were seated by a counter and the food was prepared on a large coal heated metal sheet just in front of us. Learning from the last experience of such kind I ordered two tortilias, but I barely ate one of them - it just did not feel right. (Later I was kind of glad that I didn't because my stomach felt a bit funny until the next morning. I guess the body can feel what is good for it.) After we came back to hotel, the buses arrived - large, metallic buses of the GMC (General Motors Company, I assume) that looked like they came straight from 1960s - 1970s. I expected that they will fell like frying pans in the hot midday sun, but in the end the buses turned out to be very nice and comfortable. A half an hour before the leaving time people started to group up. Some took the time to chat, some took the time to take random group photos. The drive to the place was two hours long. The guide told us a bit about the region where we are and its history. I do not remember much of it except that this state has always been the rich farming valley that provided food to many other regions. We also found out the name of the volcano whose picture I took earlier - it was the active Popocatepetl. I have heard that name before. That is the first name that I know here. On arrival to the Xochicalco archaeological site we left our buses and wen into the on-site museum. The museum was built in a barren place without electricity and any water installations, so it was decided to make the museum to be very ecological - sunlight is used wherever possible, electricity is gathered by solar panels, rain water is gathered, collected and purified using natural treatment methods. ALso the building materials are very strange - the buildings look very green. The museum was of the classical site with texts and scenes and bunches of artifacts and a "no flash" requirement. That kind of impacts the pictures. Additionally the glass behind which the artifacts were was way too reflective. After we were done with the museum we went on a 5 minute walk under the midday sun to the site itself. It was really, really hot. People got sunburns later But the view was great. On the site there were some kind of containers that were masked as stones. They might be local trash containers or something else. The whole excursion on the site took around two hours and was spent slowly walking from one shade to another while listening to the explanations of our guide. There were 6 groups in total, our group (the Pink 3) had around 20 people. The ancient city was a well protected multilayer city where people of certain social status were basically locked inside on of the levels and people of the higher level governed them. At all levels there were pyramids and temples and places for parties. Our guide said that having a party almost every week is traditional for people of this region, it is a tradition derived from calendars of the ancient times. There were several ball courts on the territory. Very fascinating game (judging from the available data). The winner was seen as becoming closer to godliness. We have no idea what happened to the loser. But there was a sauna where players went before the game. The excavations at Acropolis section (the rich people section) is still going on. But the main religious place - the temple of the feathered serpent was restored magnificently. It is relatively small (compared to my previously visited pyramids), but very well preserved and restored. Most of the carvings were fully visible. In the end the site was nowhere near as impressive as Teotichuan. Not even close. The final temple was a nice piece, but the rest ... After that we went for a lunch at an all-you-can-eat Mexican buffet. They were obviously notified of our arrival because seating and feeding 300+ people otherwise would be very hard. We sat in our seats and then went for the food at table by table basis. Th food was nice and simple. I had a lot and really considered skipping dinner when we came back. There was also some local fauna at the place: a extremely friendly and lovely chameleon, a meat eating parrot, a hamster, a dog and a pair of pigeons. Apparently all of them were up for adoption. A lot of cuteness ensued. After lunch we drove for an hour to the capital of the Morero state and went to the local market for souvenirs. The shopping was fast and productive even despite the soft rain. In the evening after the daytrip and after the dinner there was a hard liquor party. Hard liquor from multiple countries was presented. I could not evaluate it properly, but I could evaluate the properly prepared Japanese green tea. It was really magnificent. This party was slower then the wine and cheese party - you can't rush with hard liquors. In parallel a pancake party was also taking place in the hotel's kitchen. I looked very nice but I was very full by then.

10 May 2006

Aigars Mahinovs: Debconf6 day -4: The Pyramids

Yesterday it became clear that the daytrip during the conference will not go to the Teotihuacan Aztec pyramids as it is too far, which is a shame. For that reason a small group of people organized a separate trip to Teotihuacan ("the Pyramids" from now on). 11 people boarded 3 taxis which we hired for the whole day for a price of 1500 pesos per taxi per day (~150 USD) which averaged to 410 pesos per person. Before we left I managed to climb a stadium wall and take a couple of nice shots of a local vulcano and sneaky picture of Gunar running laps on the stadium at 7 in the morning with his wife. No wonder he looks so much better this year. (Comparison pictures will be put here) I also managed to notice that we do not have Internet again. Manyana. We ordered the taxis to arrive at 8:30, so when we gathered at the place at 8:40 we were expecting to have to wait a bit, but to our surprise the taxis were already there and waiting for us. The drive took three hours. On a taxi. No wonder it was too far for a daytrip. There is a lot of cars and a lot of roads in Mexico. People here are not too worried about fuel consumption here and it is not too surprising to me - the gas here costs between 6 and 8 pesos per liter. That might also be the reason why cars here are so incredibly loud - when a truck goes by on the road that is a couple kilometers away from the parliament tower in the hotel it sounds like a small plane is flying by nearby. Also the number of road is so huge and the structure is so chaotic that even taxi drivers did not know the route - they had to stop and ask for directions multiple times. Even when going back. Trying to stay on the same route. We got lost more then twice. Along the way to the Pyramids we stopped for breakfast in small roadside place somewhere. It was a family owned place where you have cactus tortillas with different fillings heated up on a big metal plate that is heated up by burning wood. there also was coffee in large cups and soft drinks. Tortillas and soft drinks were 8 pesos each, coffee was 5 pesos and the beer that the girls went to get for us from other cafes along the road were 10 pesos each. Wonderful food for incredibly cheap prices. After we all ate we threw money in the pile according to how much each of us wanted to pay and gave it to the owner. She looked at them money and started protesting that is is much too much, but we insisted. Very heartwarming place. We bought large bottles of water and moved on. It is quite hard to take good photos of the Mexican landscape because of two reasons: first there is huge number of large power lines going in all directions all across the land. And the other thing is the smog - you just can not take clear pictures of distant objects, the smoke or fog or something is covering the whole place. I suspect that it is related to the number of cars here, but I can not be entirely sure about that. I do not to intend to trash Mexico, but the fact is that Mexicans do. Along the roads near the Mexico City all roadsides are littered with all kinds of thrash - bottles, plastic bags, metal pieces, tires, ... On the other hand I have noticed that Mexicans do like IT - in every small town I noticed a computer shop with Internet. Some shops even promptly have Tux painted on their walls. It is quite strange to see that every wall is used for some kind of announcement or advertisement. Even a barely standing wall in the middle of the field between towns was used as an advertisement platform for a hotel in one of the towns. After long wondering around we finally arrived at the Pyramids. There was additional tickets to buy there - a 150 peso ticket for the car and a 45 peso ticket for each person. Each of three entrances to the Pyramid area has a range of souvenir shops and also there is a huge lot of private sellers walking all around the place and trying to sell you the same stuff for double or triple the price. The standing advice is to go to shops and negotiate prices there. We went in the entrance number 1 (which is how I would recommend anyone to do) which is at the south end of the Alley of the Dead. We started the excursion by climbing the small pyramid of the temple of the serpent god. The excavation was still going on there and it was interesting to watch. And it also was a warm-up for the other climbs. After that we moved on along the Alley of the Dead. After crossing the "river" (it was like 5 cm wide at this time of year) we were distracted by a sign pointing sideways that said "Museo (800m)". It sounded like a nice idea, so we went along. Unfortunately the road curves to the north and in the end the museum itself is almost next to the sun pyramid. So if you happen to go there I would advice you to go along the Alley of the Dead to the Pyramid of Sun and go to the museum from there. There is also a toilet and an ice cream shop next to the museum. After visiting the museum I went back to the "river" so that I could walk along the alley. There are several overwalks across the alley, so you either have to walk up and down the stairs a lot or walk up on the wall there. Then we came to the Pyramids. They are huge. Huge. Several millions of tons of rocks. Hundreds of meters of steep stairs going up. And a rubble on the top covering the temple site. The view is phenomenal. There will be a lot of photos from there including one of the traditional tourist type where I am sitting on the top of the sun pyramid with the moon pyramid in the background. Some of us did not make it the top of the first pyramid. It was quite hard. Coming down feels even more scary as the stairs are very steep. In front of the main Moon Pyramid there is the main square of the ancient city. In the center of it is the sacrificial altar. If you stand in the center of it, you can almost feel the sea of blood that was spilled onto these stones during the golden age of the Aztec civilization. It is a powerful feeling that could have gotten a bit scary if there were not so many people around. The climb to the Moon Pyramid was much harder then to the Sun Pyramid, it could have been because it was the second one or because it is more steep and with a higher pile of rubble on top (where there are no stairs). After a few stops most of us did climb to the top and took even more wonderful photos of the view around us. I must say that this was well worth all the effort, time and expense. After coming down from the pyramids, we went out via the exit number 3 which has the largest number of souvenir shops and did some shopping there. It was 15:30 by then and the souvenir shops were starting to close down. We were recommended a restaurant near the pyramids for our lunch, so we went there. The restaurant is located in the south direction from the pyramids and is almost on the continuation of the Alley of the Dead. The pyramids are still well visible from the windows. Just as our meals in the hotel, this meal was very nice and very Mexican - mashed beans in every dish, meat and the hot green stuff which is actually called "the green sauce". The way back after that was longer, but uneventful - we did get lost a bit more then usual, but it was the drivers problem. Altogether the trip took 12 hours. We really were exhausted after that.

07 January 2006

Martin F. Krafft: Unstable Linux

One thing I will never understand about this Linux hype are the operating system's miserable failures in the wake of hardware problems. Coming home from dinner, I find this all over my consoles:
Message from syslogd@piper at Sat Jan  7 22:53:35 2006 ...
piper kernel: Oops: 0002 [18] 
Message from syslogd@piper at Sat Jan  7 22:53:35 2006 ...
piper kernel: CR2: 0000004000000004
Since then, I cannot start new processes anymore (though apache2 and old processes work just fine), which means I cannot SSH into the box (which is far away from where I am right now), and thus it's become useless. The problem could be anything: corrupt memory, a broken CPU, a harddrive with bad blocks in the swap area, etc... since Linux obviously seems to be able to wall in response to a problem, I would only wish it wouldn't pout as a consequence but handle the event more gracefully. If only I had the time and energy to finally wave goodbye and choose NetBSD... Update: I managed to get a dmesg output:
<1>Unable to handle kernel paging request at 0000004000000004 RIP: 
<ffffffff80152c54> find_get_pages+36 
PGD 72cee067 PUD 0 
Oops: 0002 [18] 
CPU 0 
Modules linked in: rfcomm l2cap ipv6 af_packet ipt_REJECT ipt_state
iptable_filter iptable_nat ip_conntrack ip_tables deflate zlib_deflate
twofish serpent aes blowfish des sha256 sha1 md5 crypto_null af_key usbhid
hci_usb bluetooth raid5 xor dm_mod sbp2 ide_generic ide_cd eth1394
snd_seq_dummy snd_seq_oss snd_seq_midi snd_seq_midi_event snd_seq
snd_via82xx gameport snd_ac97_codec snd_pcm_oss snd_mixer_oss snd_pcm
snd_timer snd_page_alloc snd_mpu401_uart snd_rawmidi snd_seq_device snd
i2c_viapro soundcore i2c_core ehci_hcd via82cxxx ohci1394 shpchp pci_hotplug
sk98lin uhci_hcd ide_core ieee1394 rtc parport_pc parport floppy psmouse
pcspkr serio_raw evdev xfs exportfs sr_mod cdrom sd_mod sata_via
sata_promise libata sg scsi_mod raid1 md unix fbcon tileblit font bitblit
vesafb cfbcopyarea cfbimgblt cfbfillrect softcursor
Pid: 136, comm: kswapd0 Not tainted 2.6.12-1-amd64-k8
RIP: 0010:[<ffffffff80152c54>] <ffffffff80152c54> find_get_pages+36 
RSP: 0018:ffff81007f90dcc8  EFLAGS: 00010002
RAX: 0000004000000000 RBX: ffff81007f90dd08 RCX: ffff81007f90dd10
RDX: 0000000000000001 RSI: 0000000000000002 RDI: ffff81000289f678
RBP: 0000000000000000 R08: 0000000000000000 R09: ffff81007113f670
R10: 0000000000000040 R11: 0000000000000000 R12: ffff8100705e54e0
R13: 000000000000007a R14: ffffffffffffffff R15: ffff8100705e55f8
FS:  00002aaaab730d70(0000) GS:ffffffff8040f940(0000) knlGS:0000000000000000
CS:  0010 DS: 0018 ES: 0018 CR0: 000000008005003b
CR2: 0000004000000004 CR3: 0000000072925000 CR4: 00000000000006e0
Process kswapd0 (pid: 136, threadinfo ffff81007f90c000, task ffff81007f906760)
Stack: ffff81007f90dcf8 ffffffff8015bca7 ffff8100705e54f0 ffffffff8015c905 
       ffff810001172200 0000000000000000 0000000000000000 0000000000000000 
       ffff81000289f678 0000004000000000 
Call Trace:<ffffffff8015bca7> pagevec_lookup+23 
           <ffffffff8015c905> invalidate_mapping_pages+245 
           <ffffffff8018a403> shrink_icache_memory+259 
           <ffffffff8012d144> recalc_task_prio+324 
           <ffffffff8015ca01> shrink_slab+193 
           <ffffffff8015dcaf> balance_pgdat+623 
           <ffffffff8015df37> kswapd+295 
           <ffffffff80144e00> autoremove_wake_function+0 
           <ffffffff8010f0f7> child_rip+8  <ffffffff8015de10> kswapd+0 
           <ffffffff8010f0ef> child_rip+0  
Code: ff 40 04 ff c2 48 83 c1 08 39 d6 75 f0 fb 5b 89 f0 c3 66 66 
RIP <ffffffff80152c54> find_get_pages+36  RSP <ffff81007f90dcc8>
CR2: 0000004000000004
Now, how does a mere mortal diagnose this? This was the third in a series of oopses, the others occurred in a find process... the machine runs a software RAID5, so it really could be anything, right?