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Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

July 24
And back to Dublin: we were away in London for the last week. Highlight of the trip was seeing Mr. Van Gogh's Sunflowers at the Tate, along with a bunch of other stuff (other paintings and sketches) not all of which I'd have recognised as being by the same artist. Also there was a painting by an Irish artist in the collection which was so much a homage to Van Gogh that the guy had even signed his name in roughly the same way as "Vinnie" did (same shade of red, similar angle to the painting he was "homaging", etc.)

July 23
Last of the "it's on so we'll watch it": Arrival, which is still as good the second time around when you know the gimmick, although it doesn't hit quite as hard and I spent some time looking for what I may have missed the first time around (there were a few small things, but nothing major).

July 22
Star Trek: Beyond was a rewatch; it's fine. There's nothing terribly brilliant or awful about it. Which I think was approximately my opinion of the first time I saw it, too.

July 21
Independence Day: Resurgence: a bit of a stinker. I mean, they couldn't get Will Smith, so they made up a crap story to explain his absence. Jeff Goldblum basically plays Jeff Goldblum, and noone challenges him at the critical point, which was a key part of what made the first movie interesting. Precocious kids and Goldblum's "dad" introduced for no reason other than to be put in immediate peril and to ham up the dad/son bit briefly. Action sequences that just... fell flat. Discontinuities - if the queen could take over control of the alien spacecraft, including the hijacked ones, why didn't she do that when they were shooting at her? It's sort of like they missed most of what made the first one any good, then took the slightly goofy elements and turned them up to eleven because more goofiness is funnier, right? (spoiler: no). And Bill Pullman gets to make a heroic speech to noone in particular? The more I think about this the more bits I remember as being Just Wrong. Anyway. Don't bother with this, just go back and watch the first one again.

July 20
More take-whatever's-going movie-watching: we watched The Martian again. Such a great movie, really keeps the feel of the source material even when it diverges from it for the sake of run-time or whatever.

July 19
Ah, the joy of restricted channel choice and no on-demand viewing: The Last Witchhunter was ... not terrible. It had plenty scope to be awful, and there was certainly mockable stuff in it, and dear GOD the giant THERE WILL BE MORE hook at the end, but no, I actually kinda enjoyed watching Vin Diesel indulge his D&D habit in movie form. How they got Michael Caine into this I have no idea; maybe he owed Vin a favour or something. And of course Elijah "I'm not a Hobbit" Wood was playing, well, Not A Hobbit.

July 18
The Brother had recommended Moneyball to me ages back, and my reaction was probably "Meh, baseball movie". Turns out it's actually very good, and mostly based on reality (in fact, reading between the lines on IMDb it seems maybe that proposed departures from reality might have been partly to blame for the replacement of the original director, but who knows). Most importantly for the based-on-reality part is that, spoiler, it doesn't have the happy ending / endings you expect, exactly, which would have been so easy for the creators to do given the more-or-less fairytale nature of other parts of the story. Good one, see it.

July 12
I read a bunch of Len Deighton some time ago, mainly sort of filling in blanks in the "Classic Spy" genre. I knew Michael Caine had starred in a couple of film adaptations, and when a few showed up on TV I recorded them. So this evening we watched Funeral in Berlin which was pretty good, but which also was obviously taking cues from the Bond franchise which had just kicked off - Caine's Harry Palmer is more of a goofball, there's the obligatory romance, and even the Walther PPK makes an appearance, but that's to be expected - if there's anything you can say about Hollywood, it's that they prefer making 300 variations on the same movie to making 1 unique movie - and to be honest it doesn't really take away from what is, at the end of the day, a fairly solid spy movie. I had forgotten a good deal of the details so the twist, when it came, was a bit of a surprise. Good movie, will watch the other one I've got recorded and look out for the rest.

July 8
I bought a GoPro HERO+ (which is about 2014 vintage) because I wanted to play with one without spending several hundred euro on the latest model, and I gotta say, the quality of this really doesn't make me inclined to spend any more on it. The USB connection seems incredibly flaky, and I've found a bug in the firmware whereby it creates files that are too large for the internal web server to transfer; the camera periodically gets wedged in some weird state where random iterations of power on/off, wifi on/off, plug out/plug in, etc. eventually return it to operation; the wifi occasionally fails outright and requires similar abuse to get it functioning; on the whole, this makes me wonder how the hell the brand got so popular if this was their top product four years ago. Tonight's new trick: there are 8 files on the camera. Or 2, if you believe the front panel. Or 9 if you believe Image Capture. It doesn't matter, though, because you can't download any of them via USB.

July 7
I had to renew my driving license, so visited the centre in Santry on Friday. As I've somewhat inured myself to spending two hours a day on the bike, it seemed obvious that I'd use the same means to get to Santry particularly given that the bus trip took about the same length of time. So this is how I discovered the (as yet incomplete) Royal Canal Greenway; essentially it's just the old towpaths repurposed to provide a mixed-mode route for pedestrians and cyclists. The surface varies wildly depending on where on the path you are and, sadly, how affluent the surrounding neighbourhoods are; there are also a few bike-unfriendly (and, I might note, wheelchair unfriendly) gates along the route I took; but on the whole it was a pretty nifty way to travel from Dublin 15 to Dublin 7 without having to deal with too much traffic. Of course, once I got off the towpath in Dublin 7 I was straight into the more usual cycling-hostile infrastructure: bike lanes which swerved into unmarked pavements, bike lanes which disappeared, an absence of bike lanes right where they'd be useful, and finally, at the Omni centre, a row of Sheffield stands installed too close to the adjacent wall to be properly usable.

But that was Friday, and today is Sunday, and today we had no agenda for hitting much of this same route other than to go for a bike ride somewhere where we wouldn't feel threatened by traffic at every turn. So we ran the slightly scary gauntlet from Castleknock village to the nearest canal path entrance (includes one roundabout, and a narrow road over a humpback bridge with no crossing point right at the entrance to the canal) and made our leisurely way down the path for half-a-dozen lock gates and back again. One of the bridges we passed is William Rowan Hamilton's graffiti spot, commemorated with a plaque above the towpath. We stopped in Ashtown on the way back for something to drink, then moseyed on home. Altogether a pleasant trip on a Sunday and something we'll probably do again if the weather favours it while we're still living in this neck of the woods.

Speaking of cycling... Phoenix Park, Castleknock Gate to Parkgate Street: (loosely based on watching my GoPro clips of this run, which I've been doing 4-5 days a week since May; the pedestrians, Lance Armstrongs and wrong-way cyclists are a daily feature, the OPW trucks pop up periodically to remind you that it's their park, not yours.)

July 6
We've started watching Clooney's Catch-22 and mostly I realise I don't remember much about the book beyond the absurdity (which is sort of the point, I guess), but it's very good so far.

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And that was the first half of 2019