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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

January 27
Bought a laser measuring thingy. Smallcat has already associated the beep the thingy makes with the little red dot he likes to chase, so when the thing beeps by itself (e.g. automatic power off) he starts running around looking for the dot.

I'm sure no good will come of this.

January 25
A Good Day to Die Hard: ugh. Even for a bubblegum movie this was pretty terrible. The audio mix meant that if you didn't want to be deafened by the explosions, you couldn't hear the dialogue, and to be honest I think that's just fine because you're not really missing anything. This movie has nothing original about it, and no redeeming fetures.

January 19
I very vaguely recall watching the TV series, but I didn't make anywhere near enough connections between it and The Equalizer - to be fair, there's a lot of obsessive detail on the IMDb Trivia page, but I didn't even remember the guy's name from the TV series which, er, is the same as the movie. So, is the movie any good?

It starts slow. In fact, it takes quite a while to get going, to the point where I was beginning to wonder if I was watching the wrong movie. Then it sort of kicks off into hyper-violence, and then we get the inevitable escalation, although for all that it's an escalation, none of it really matches the trigger scene in the office above the restaurant for sheer brutality. Even what I thought was the denoument in the Home-Depot-a-like store was... I dunno. It didn't quite punch the same way. Anyway, aside from that, it does a nice job of going from peaceful la-la-la movie to cranking up the tension. There are a few facepalms - the guy who is supremely prepared being surprised that they kidnapped his friends does not really sell well, for example - and the side trips into minor retributions, clearly ground-laying for a series, are distracting and frankly mundane by comparison to the main story. And, to be honest, the actual denoument (which is after the thing I thought was the denoument) is deeply silly. "Oh yes, I'll just take an international trip with no problem whatsoever at short notice to kill off the last guy, undetected, because that'll definitely be no problem and will definitely solve the cycle of escalation I've been dealing with".

So, it has flaws. But it is good, and I'll probably watch the sequel when it comes around.

Now I need to go and have a word with my satellite PVR about the fact that it seemed to record three fragments of this rather than one continuous recording...

January 13
How To Train Your Dragon 2: excellent. The characterisation of the dragons in particular is incredible; I kept watching them in the background while there was foreground action going on, and the animators have taken the trouble to have them do things rather than just sit out of sight while "more important things" take place. A small bit of the same complaint as for Minions: Ruffnut being all swoony over Eret's muscles is a little too foregrounded for a background joke for the adults, and is a bit off one of the core story points, i.e. you don't need to be the Brawny Alpha Male to be the hero. I dunno, I'm not the core demographic for this movie in any sense, so maybe I'm picking up on things I shouldn't.

The "fetch new data" part of the RSS toy has been producing an error from a library every time it runs, because someone out there has invalid UTF8 in their RSS feed and something in the Python/MySQL world is insisting on treating the data I'm sure I said was binary as UTF8 data, which then causes the MySQL binary part of the toy - to which I have no access - to log the aforementioned error. After judicious poking at various things I've managed to wrap the triggering code in a context handler which captures the error instead of printing it; this was complicated by the fact that the code runs on Mac AND on Linux, for which the desired hackery is trivially but critically different, and by the fact that my code was using stderr implicitly elsewhere, so capturing it and closing it broke that part of the code. But now, all good.

Well, except for That One Guy and his duff UTF8 code. But I can't help that.

January 7
Almost forgot, I saw most of The Flag over Christmas. This is one of those well-balanced movies that my Dad would describe as "harmless" or perhaps "light": it's fun, it pokes fun at things without being malicious (in this case, it's very much poking fun at Anglo-Irish relationships and stereotypes, and doing so cleverly), and it's engaging without being demanding. Summary of plot: man goes on caper to restore father's/family's good name, and the McGuffin is the Irish Tricolour flown above the GPO during the 1916 Rising. It all works out the way you'd imagine from the outset, and everyone is happy except the grumpy local barman who cast aspersions on the family in the first place. And probably the guys who lost the flag aren't happy either. And maybe the guys in the police car. But, you know, everyone else is happy, including the audience. A point of excellence in this movie: the hapless heroic paddies are surveilling their target - a British Army barracks - and how do they conceal their motives? By thickening up their accents and acting gormless. Pure genius, and of course it works. I strongly recommend this movie, although you might need subtitles and maybe some sort of cultural guide.

January 6
Helpful error message:
ip_tables: REJECT target: used from hooks FORWARD, but only usable from INPUT/FORWARD/OUTPUT
Er, yes.

(This is probably triggered by something fail2ban is doing, so I'm gonna have a fun time identifying the actual source.)

January 4
Antman and the Wasp: it's like they took all the stuff that made the first movie good and decided not to do it again. This movie dragged, it wasn't as funny as it thought it was, and really I spent a lot of time waiting for it to just move on.

January 2
In case you're wondering, I abandoned the Advent of Code thing. From the 14th to the 15th it went from "fiddly little puzzle" to "long-winded explanation of multi-mode, multi-turn battle simulation" and I read through the description and thought, "ugh, too much like actual work". And I never did figure out why my solution to the 12th was wrong. Maybe next year.

January 1
First movie of 2019: Minions which... look, minions are funny. But they're not "entire feature-length movie" funny. They work best as goofy comic relief in a feature that they're not the stars of, and I think that's the main thing that's wrong with this. Lacking children of the relevant age, I have a few questions about some of the content (e.g. the family robbing the bank with actual, rather than goofy, guns; the protagonist pointedly adjusting her top when she first appears; the presence of a torture chamber scene, even if it quickly turns into playing for laughs) - and I do get that maybe some of this is to keep the babysitter happy, but still. Anyway. I did laugh out loud at parts of it, and it was fun, but it just felt like the same sort of stretching you get when someone tries to write a book based on a magazine article.

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Once more, with feeling.