Going to note down a few things from Christmas and activities this week, particularly concerning trip to London yesterday to see Les Misérables, which was my mother’s gift to step-father, sister and myself. Great to see it performed live again (went before about ten years ago), though the fact I know almost all the words by heart probably took something away from it. They girl playing my favourite character, Éponine (“I know this house, I tell you, there’s nothing here for you! Just the old man and the girl, they live ordinary lives”), was pretty good. For some reason they cut out the song Little People, replacing it with just a few lines here and there from Gavroche; not sure why they did this. There were plenty of bits in between the famous songs that I’d forgotten, and I was particularly struck by Enjolras’ death; the barricade spins round, hiding the dead bodies of all the rest of the students, to show him alone on the other side, body hanging as loosely as the revolutionary flag hooked in with him, an image of defeat.

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Posted Sun 01 Apr 2012 20:39:00 UTC Tags:

In the week between Christmas and New Year I went to London with my family to see Les Mis, something we did before around ten years ago. At that time I started writing a post called ‘Christmas, London literary lifestyle & travelling with grown-ups’ and at the end of this post I’ve put a copy of that post that I never finished writing. The part of that post concerned with the part of its title that it shares with this post, which I never wrote anything of, was concerned with just how many people one sees reading on the tube.

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Posted Sun 01 Apr 2012 20:39:00 UTC Tags:

I just finished reading The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks. continue reading this entry

Posted Mon 02 Apr 2012 17:04:00 UTC Tags:


Time for an attempt at a small bit of self-analysis. I’m going to use the word ‘geek’ in a narrow sense and ‘nerd’ in a wider sense and neither of them pejoratively: what I am talking about is a certain set of interests combined with a set of social norms and in-jokes and memes, and perhaps to a more limited extent a way of going about things which gets associated to the same people that these terms get associated to. BREAK To be rather more specific, a nerd is someone who finds intellectual activities and really gets into them in a very determined way; a geek is a more concrete subculture of nerds who are interested in things like computers, fantasy and scifi books, roleplaying games, computer games in general.

I am surprised at just how badly I’ve been able to characterise both these terms; I thought I’d do better than that. And of course these terms must be wide and general: if I consider my friends who my mother or sister, say, would call “Sean’s geeky friends”, we are all interested in such different things that I struggle to see the commonality. But it is definitely there. There is definitely something linking these geek activities as opposed to the many nerds around me at Oxford, even if I’m not sure what it is. Of my friends I can delineate the nerds into geeks and non-geeks. Perhaps something like The Geek Test or The Geek Code gives some idea. I’m convinced both that this is a thing and that I’ve failed to describe it here. I’m going to move on hoping that people reading this have figured out what I mean.

Now, to the self-analysis. I find myself becoming quite dramatically less interested in geek stuff, and this upsets me for several reasons: (1) my friends aren’t any less interested, in fact they are perhaps even more so, and I feel that I am missing out on something they are able to enjoy; (2) while I take issue with people identifying with subcultures,[1] and in my awareness of this I tried not to identify too strongly as a ‘geek’, I am worried that I am doing something equally bad in that I’m not really losing interest but in fact rejecting it all as “I’m too cool for that”. (1) is acceptable. (2) is what worries me more. Chances are both are going on: I’m less interested and I’m subconsciously compounding this by looking at these things in a high-and-mighty way. Basically I’m still just a hipster who was interested in these things before they were cool.

[1] Have posted about this before; can’t find link right now.

Posted Mon 02 Apr 2012 17:46:00 UTC Tags:
Posted Wed 04 Apr 2012 10:53:00 UTC Tags:

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark —Michelangelo

Posted Wed 04 Apr 2012 19:03:00 UTC Tags:

Just watched the first episode of the second season of Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings. Looks like it’s going to be a great series. I’ve decided to give up on reading the books because I’ve found that it’s not enjoyable since I’ve seen the TV version and so I know what happens, and given that there are lots of other things I want to read and not so many things I want to watch, it makes sense to choose the TV series over the books. So looking forward to the next few months of episodes accompanying my revision.

Posted Wed 04 Apr 2012 21:22:00 UTC Tags:

On a whim I copied the Halo III soundtrack to my e-book reader recently and then on a coach journey started listening, and these tracks came on, and I was reminded just how good this soundtrack is; here are some examples:

Halo 3 OST - {Tsavo Highway} To Kill A Demon - YouTube

Halo 3 OST - {The Storm} This is The Hour - YouTube

Halo 3 OST - One Final Effort {Extended Version} - YouTube

Halo 3 OST - {The Ark} Behold a Pale Horse - YouTube

I remember the first time I heard ‘This is The Hour’, and I thought to myself ‘this is it. This piece of music is everything I want to be’. Xyrael’s theme.

Posted Wed 04 Apr 2012 22:08:00 UTC Tags:

I’ve spent some time this afternoon going through my bookshelves and making a list of old (mostly fiction) books to give away. I e-mailed this list round a group of friends who might like them, and pleasingly a lot have already gone to places where they will be read, and I’ve also had offers from three (!) university science fiction/fantasy libraries which will be happy to take a lot of the leftovers. continue reading this entry

Posted Fri 06 Apr 2012 17:46:00 UTC Tags:



Posted Tue 10 Apr 2012 17:00:00 UTC Tags:


Posted Tue 10 Apr 2012 19:23:00 UTC Tags:

Then the philosopher, by consorting with what is ordered and divine and despite all the slanders around that say otherwise, himself becomes as divine and ordered as a human being can. (Plato, Rep., 500c–d)

Posted Thu 12 Apr 2012 18:36:00 UTC Tags:

Last night finished reading The Russian Master and other stories, a collection of short stories by Chekhov. Extremely good; short stories are wonderful. I particularly liked The Duel, A Hard Case, Concerning Love, The Russian Master and The Order of St. Anne. Here is the full list: His Wife, A Lady with a Dog, The Duel, A Hard Case, Gooseberries, Concerning Love, Peasants, Angel, The Russian Master, Terror, The Order of St. Anne. Book’s introduction by the editor was very interesting too.

Posted Tue 17 Apr 2012 07:51:00 UTC Tags:

Things are already getting pretty depressing around here, and it’s only 0th week. We’re in a situation where third years are all hitting eight hours a day, each day now, for some people up to ten, which is good because it convinces me that I can do it too. I had a pretty worked up time yesterday and this morning where I struggled severely with a topic in philosophy and got very worried about my chances in these exams. Basically, if I stick to doing a lot of work every single day, I can do it. I’m pretty sure this is true. The work I’ve done in advance of now, over Easter, is good stuff but it’s nowhere near as useful as what’s going to happen in the next four weeks because that stuff just floats on out of my head.

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Posted Tue 17 Apr 2012 19:21:00 UTC Tags:

Over the past three or four years I’ve been slowly building a little digital empire for myself, by linking together various computers in interesting ways. I run my own e-mail, web hosting (quite independently of SilentFlame, the charitable web hosting organisation I run), DNS and Jabber, and with my friends have a private VPN, a sort of Internet of our own, where we have web addresses like http://zephyr.athenet/ for my desktop computer.

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Posted Sat 21 Apr 2012 14:10:00 UTC Tags:

Since September 2005 I’ve had a PGP key, a cryptographic identity that allows me to use PGP for purposes of (a) encrypting things to myself and others (b) digitally signing messages. I use (a) on backups and on a private notes file on my computer, and very occasionally I encrypt an e-mail to a friend that has passwords or something in it.

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Posted Sun 22 Apr 2012 16:40:00 UTC Tags:

I just got back from a showing of the film Miss Representation. It’s a film focussing on gender inequality in the US, with particular focus on the media. continue reading this entry

Posted Sat 28 Apr 2012 15:27:00 UTC Tags:

I’m moving my blog to my new webhost this evening; I will redirect RSS feed URLs until the end of August.

Old URL: http://blog.sean.whitton.me/

New URL: http://spw.sdf.org/blog/

Let me know if you find any broken links; thanks.

Posted Sat 28 Apr 2012 18:34:00 UTC Tags:

I’ve just lost 12–16 hours of e-mail, including e-mail sent to my university e-mail account, which is upsetting. If you’ve e-mailed me in the past day and I haven’t replied, please resend your message (preferably exactly how it was).

I’ve asked my mail sysadmin for a filtered copy of the mail logs for the past day so that I can e-mail people to ask for copies of their e-mails, but still, I’ve definitely lost the output of some cronjobs and other automated messages.

It’s important not to let this bother me too much. E-mail is a useful tool and it doesn’t matter that my archive isn’t 100% complete, so long as things continue to get done. If I can’t get the logs then there’s nothing to be done, and I should accept that, but it’s hard since I’ve kept every e-mail now for such a long time.

Posted Sun 29 Apr 2012 12:34:00 UTC Tags:

I just finished reading Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett. This was a good book, but I felt that the Watch stuff was getting a bit repetitive—the same old jokes and character traits. Next time I read a Discworld book, I’ll probably read one from another storyline.

Posted Sun 29 Apr 2012 14:12:00 UTC Tags:

Just learnt about afuse, a userspace automounter. It’s possible to have sshfs mounts automatic with autofs, but this is executed as root, autofs can’t pop up SSH key passphrase dialogs for you, whereas afuse certainly can. I now run this

$ afuse -o mounttemplate=”sshfs %r: %m” -o unmounttemplate=”fusermount -u -z %m” ~/mnt/

on login and then to put something on any box set-up in my SSH config I can just do cp file ~/mnt/hostname/ and it’ll connect up for me. Of course you can use scp for this direction; clearly lots of other uses. Very pleased to have discovered this useful little tool.

Posted Mon 30 Apr 2012 09:07:00 UTC Tags:

As previously mentioned I am in the process of moving all my online stuff, which basically comes down to web hosting, e-mail hosting, small file syncing and large file storage, to SDF. The main SDF server cluster is a bunch of NetBSD boxes with home directories, web directories and mailspools all mounted via NFS, with fairly tight quotas: as someone at the top level of membership, I only receive 250MB on each of the mounts.

However as of today a new cluster has been opened with an absurd amount of storage, initially offering 100GB storage for every MetaARPA member, and it’s set to rise with time:

-bash-4.1$ df -h
Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
                       50G  3.1G   44G   7% /
tmpfs                 3.9G     0  3.9G   0% /dev/shm
/dev/sda1             485M   69M  392M  15% /boot
                       51G  6.8G   42G  15% /src
/dev/mapper/ma0-rd0   4.5T  6.4G  4.5T   1% /meta

…though as you can see the disk space isn’t being much made use of yet. I imagine that eventually MetaArray will become the cluster for MetaARPA users, but for now at least, I am treating my data on the two clusters very differently and separately. Here’s a write-up of how I’m making use of my space and keeping it secure.

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Posted Mon 30 Apr 2012 22:02:00 UTC Tags: