Archive for December, 2016

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Silmarillion; The bigger they are, the harder they fall

Friday, December 30th, 2016

I read Tolkien’s canon every year around Christmas. So also this year.

One of Tolkien’s themes revisited in several of his works, is the fall from greatness.

In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf tells us that “Nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.” The all-evil Sauron, the big foe of the world, started out as a good guy, one of the sevants of Melkor. And in the Silmarillion it is told that his master, Morgoth, the black enemy of all elves and men, was once Melkor, the mightiest of the Mayar, the angelic beings of Eru Illúvatar. Instead of serving and building, Melkor rebelled, and in his pride, wanted to rule the world that the Maiar achieved. So Melkor, He who arises in might became he that fell to darkness.

The greatest of the Noldorin elves was Fëanor, for he was “made the mightiest in all parts of body and mind: in valour, in endurance, in beauty, in understanding, in skill, in strength and subtlety alike: of all the Children of Ilúvatar, and a bright flame was in him.” Fëanor makes great works. Tolkien, with his love for language, shows the greatness of him by telling how Fëanor bettered the runes, and created the letters for writing with pen, that were still used by elves and men in Middle-earth, thousands of years later. Even Gandalf recognices Fëanor’s gift for craft, when he feels the desire of the palantír, which he presumes was made by him: “to look across the wide seas of water and of time to Tirion the Fair, and perceive the unimaginable hand and mind of Fëanor at their work, while both the White Tree and the Golden were in flower!” And he even made the silmarills, greatest and most beautiful of all the gems of the World. But Fëanor turns to madness and evil. By his might in words, he turns the Noldor against the Valar, and sets them marching out of the blessed realm of Valinor. He fights and slays his kin at the Swan Havens of Alqualondë. He leaves his followers to shame or a terrible and dangerous march, when burning the stolen ships after crossing back to Middle-earth. He, the greatest of all the Noldor falls, and his fall is great.

Of the Ístari, the wizards, Saruman the White, is the chief and leader. He is the greatest in skill of mind and of lore, and has the gift of turning all to his will by speech. Gandalf calls him the head of his order. Later Frodo will not have Sharkey killed, for “he was great once, of a noble kind, that we should not dare to raise our hands against.” But as Gandalf says, “he will not serve, only command”, and Saruman falls from his noble quest of helping men and elves against Sauron, to become a war-lord, rivaling Sauron himself.

Tolkien’s themes about the great ones who fall, resembles the story of Ikaros, who achieved the gift of flying by gluing feathers to his body by wax, but in his pride, he flew too close to the sun, so the wax melted, and he fell from the sky.

The ones with the greatest power, are always in the danger of taking too much pride of their work and themselves, and turn from serving others in humility, to seeking power and dominion over others. That is evil in Tolkien’s works.

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit, illustrated by Jemima Catlin

Monday, December 26th, 2016

I read Tolkien’s “canon”, that is, The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, every year. So also this year. There are a lot of things to say about the Hobbit, but this year, I’d just like to show off my new copy of the book, beautifully illustrated by the illustrous illustrator Jemima Catlin.

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I picked this up in a used book store, and hey, it was even signed by the illustrator!

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I really like Catlin’s style

 

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Fits nicely in my growing collection of Hobbit versions.

For Angelica’s use: The Matter of the Mirror (J.R.R Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings)

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

I read Tolkien’s “canon”, that is The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, every year about christmas. So also this year.

In chapter two of The Lord of the Rings, we find a short note on one of Bilbo Baggins’ relations, the young Angelica. Bilbo leaves her a round convex mirror as a farewell gift, and tags it with “For Angelica’s use”, and the author adds that “She was a young Baggins, and too obviously considered her face shapely”.

Now, a couple of questions arise at once: Why in Middle-earth would Bilbo own a non-flat mirror like this? Is it clown-mirror, left-over from some carneval party, or just some other old strange mathom? One might also worry about Angelica’s reaction. As a youngster, isn’t this a bit harsh from old Bilbo to tease her for her caring about her looks?

A convex looking-glass is of course a woman’s make-up mirror, as the curved surface makes it magnifying. And Bilbo being a bachelor, obviously must have inherited this from his mother, Belladonna Took. As Belladonna was of a wealthy family, and as Bilbo had taken care of her mirror for all the years after her death, it must have been quite a heirloom, and just not another mathom. I presume a frame of victorian style silver plated engravings at least.

So giving Angelica his mother’s mirror, with a tongue-in-cheek joke, would be a kind gift from old uncle Bilbo, and it was probably warmly received by her.

Deduplication of old filesystems

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Modern filesystems, and even storage systems, might have built-in deduplication, but common filesystems still do not. So checking for redundant data and do deduplication when possible might save disk space.

Once up on a a time, there was a system, were we had this 6TB spool of binary files on an production ext4 filesystem, and the volume was running out of disk space. The owner of the data thought it likely that there were duplicates in the vast ammount of files, and wanted to check this up. We checked using fdupes, and yes, there were a lot of duplicates.

Read the rest of the post at Redpill Linpro’s sysadvent blog

Bash: Random numbers for fun and profit

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

bash has many things that just works automagically. Did you know it has a built-in pseudorandom number generator? Let’s play some games! Read rest of the post here!

Jason Goodwin: Vaktenes tre

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Konstantinopel, Det Ottomanske riket, 1836: De stolte janitsjarene er borte. Først var de elitestyrker, senere en maktfaktor og en trussel mot styresmaktene, dvs sultanen. Så for 10 år siden ble de samlet, slaktet ned, og erstattet av moderne soldater i vestlig eksersis. Nå er bare minnet igjen. Men offiserer i de nye styrkene begynner å forsvinne. En blir funnet drept på et sted tidligere assosiert med janitsjarene. De militære ønsker etterforskning uten oppstyr, og tilkaller en de stoler på: Evnukken Yashim. Samtidig skjer det både mord og tyveri i sultanens harem. De trenger også en etterforsker. Og hvem kan komme og gå i haremet uten at det vekker for mye oppstyr? Evnukken Yashim. Yashim må finne ut hva som har skjedd, og hvorfor, og her spares det ikke på konspirasjonene.

Yashim er en tiltalende skikkelse. Han er matelsker (du kan lese ut hele oppskrifter av boka), omtenksom med et vennlig ord til alle, et godt øye til damene, og tar gjerne et tak når nabolaget trenger det. Han har kontakter i høye som lave kretser, fra gatejenter av begge kjønn, og helt opp på ambassadørnivå, for ikke å snakke om sultanens harem.

Riktig spennende blir det underveis. Ganske sikkert er det at Konstantinopel var ikke et sted som var kjent for høy levealder, og Goodwin passer på å holde snittet nede. Dette er bra krim. Det er mulig oversetterne hadde litt dårlig tid, jeg synes språket halter litt innimellom, men det gjør ikke noe, for det er en stor opplevelse å lese likevel. Om man liker historie kan man kose seg med masser av detaljer og forhåpentligvis tidsriktige bilder av byen der Øst og Vest møtes. Yashim anbefales både for dem som liker historisk drama og krim.

Roberto Saviano: Gomorra

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Til sommeren skal vi til Italia, nærmere bestemt Campania. Hva kan da passe bedre enn litt lektyre om hvordan det lokale livet forholder seg. Evt ikke gjøre det. Roberto Saviano sin “Gomorra” beskriver den lokale mafiaen i Napoli-området. Jeg håper jeg slipper å forholde meg til det som fortelles om her, for det virker ganske håpløst. Camorraen er ikke en klassisk organisasjon i sciciliansk hollywoodstil, med ære og dress. Camorraen er hensynsløs, brutal og rå. Den skåner ingen. Saviano gir ekte øyenvitneskildringer fra miljøer både under og over under den siviliserte overflaten, og det er ikke småtteri. Smugling og omsetning av våpen og narkotika en masse, massiv politisk korrupsjon, slavearbeid, korrupt og ekstremt farlig (evt mangel på) søppelhåndtering, korrupt byggebransje, dystre sweatshops, politisk og økonomisk rettet drap og terror. Siden 1979 har Camorraen drept flere enn IRA, ETA, og den scicilianske mafiaen tilsammen. Saviano viser elendigheten fram, håpet er mørkesvart for området, og det meste er stort sett til å grine av, selv med en og annen svart humoristisk anekdote innimellom.

Dette er sannheten og virkeligheten, og er dermed viktig lesning. Det synes visst italienerne også, som gikk mann av huse for å kjøpe boka. Forfatteren selv gikk under jorda for å beholde livet.

Anbefales sterkt.