A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

A Sturm's Eye View

A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.

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Monday 20 November 2000

The arches for the sullage and septic trenches arrived today. Later this week will see holes in the ground and the appropriate officials inspecting my holes. The House of Steel will occupy much of my time in the coming weeks. In fact, it swallowed today and I find it's now tomorrow!

Thought for the day:

Until we can manage TIME, we can manage nothing else.

Peter Drucker

Tuesday 21 November 2000

Today Fran and I marked out where the piers for The House of Steel are to be augured on Thursday. More on The House of Steel page.

I have quite a lot computerish I want to write about, but my time is swallowed by the needs of The House of Steel. My thoughts on service packs that work/don't work, PostScript working/not working and a change in the behaviour of my slide scanner come to mind. These will appear in the Wednesday post.

In the meantime, there's this email from Warlock:

Jon -

What is this Popup I get telling me my browser is too slow?? - Too slow for you? Works just fine for me. As you may gather - I rather resent the impertinence - and it is really surprising to find such on your pages. I'm somewhat shocked.



I have no idea what you are talking about! Lacking details, I presume you mean you get a popup window using NS. OS? NS ver? sturmsoft.com? franklinfriends.com? Which pages?

Since I started using W3C, I haven't been checking my changed pages under different browsers. Just IE 5 and the W3C check.

Thought for the day:

Time = Life, Therefore, waste your time and waste of your life, or master your time and master your life.

Alan Lakein

Wednesday 22 November 2000

The other day I mentioned that Service Pack 2 for CorelDRAW! 9 would not install because it only installed under build 387 even though that was the build I have. Having rebuilt the software install on Tarquin, I installed CorelDRAW! 9 under Win 98 SE and wouldn't you know it! It works just fine. The problem appears to be a Win2k issue, but there's nothing on the Corel patch page about it. I will investigate further.

I checked out several places for new device drivers and patches immediately before the rebuild. Canon had a new driver for the Canoscan FS 2710 slide scanner and now include a warning about needing a revised Adaptec driver for Win2k. The Win2k drivers for the Hollywood Real Magic DVD card are now out of beta and seem to work fine. Matrox seem to have released G400 drivers frequently as I leapt from .00x to .022.

I also installed PageMaker 6.0 under Win98 and the PostScript error I was having in Win2k did not occur. Fortunately I use PageMaker infrequently so I will not need to be in the loathsome Win98 very often. While I was at it, I finally got around to installing a 30 day timeout demo of Corel Ventura 8. Sadly, it refused to run. This was under Win2k and Win98. It used to store publications as multiple files, rendering it useless for word processing. It occurred to me that if it had changed to the single file format of PageMaker/FrameMaker etc, it would make a worthwhile poor man's FrameMaker. PageMaker is almost worthless for word processing.

After installing the new driver for the Canon slide scanner, it no longer performs its auto calibration on start up. The scans are streaky and unusable. The Canon scanning software comes with a diagnostic utility and that gave the scanner a clean bill of health, after which the scans were normal. The issue repeated itself under Win98 where I installed the driver that came with the scanner. This leads me to suspect either a fault in the scanner, or the new Win2k driver has made some change to the firmware in the scanner. I must investigate further. Last time there were issues with the scanner, Canon had no email contact, only long distance telephone!

At last my Internet phone line is working again! Happy, happy, joy, joy! God Bless DingoBlue and all who sail in her! Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch's One.Tel can go to Hell! After massive losses, the executives of One.Tel awarded themselves massive pay rises! Am I the only one who finds this senseless?

Thought for the day:

To have joy one must share it. Happiness was born a twin.

Lord Byron

Thursday 23 November 2000

Absolutely, utterly and completely exhausted from working on The House of Steel. More on this when I have recovered.

Thought for the day:

My advice is to look out for engineers. They begin with sewing machines and end up with nuclear bombs.

Marcel Pagnol

Friday 24 November 2000


Thought for the day:

Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labour does the body.


Saturday 25 November 2000

This week has been somewhat of a blur! The excavator didn't turn up on Thursday, but there was still plenty of preparation to do. 

Peter arrived Wednesday with an ordinary slasher to cut the long grass where the tractor slasher was too big. It looks like a domestic lawnmower, but has two wheels the size of a bicycle. The drive is through a belt and pulley so the operator can quickly cut power to the slasher blades when required without shutting off the motor. Peter used the power of his ute (truck) to pull the old sheep fence out and cleaned up the grass that had been growing through it. 

Everywhere looks very neat and tidy!

Fran and I had carried the power pole near to it's final position. and Tony the electrician comes on Thursday to pre-wire it. The steel pole is 8 metres long and very heavy! The electrical cable runs down the inside of the pole and the electrician attaches conduit to the outside for the telephone cables (4 pairs).

Tony asks about Stan, the plumber and I realise I forgot to tell Stan that the excavator was arriving a day later. I call Stan and it turns out he forgot about me, so that's all right. I remembered to call the engineer who needs to be on site for the augering of the first hole and the council inspector couldn't make it until Friday anyway.

Friday morning I am up at 3 am to get some office work out of the way. Stan the plumber arrives at 7.30 and we walk over the site. Stan notices that the septic tank would be on the same level or slightly below the trenches it's to drain into. This was where the health inspector wanted it. The architect had it positioned on the same level! Water only runs uphill on paper! We find another location on the other side of the house that's better all round. Stan also recommends a change to the positions of the sullage and septic trenches to minimise the amount of earth to be excavated. The bottoms have to be absolutely level so the soakage is even. He lends me a pocket size laser level to help in this. It's very neat.

Stan asks if I have ordered the gravel for the septic trenches and when I say no, phones the quarry and orders a truckload for me. I make a mental note to get my mobile phone and later do so. Amazingly, the signal here is much stronger than at the cottage only 50 metres away!

Malcolm the excavator driver arrives and we walk the site trying to organise the way things are to be done. Everybody involved wants their bit done first! We decide to go with the trench for electricity and telephone first as the electrician is supposedly arriving around midday. While the trench bucket is on, we decide it's best to make the water supply trench too. Of course the council inspector arrives expecting to see our holes for the piers and says he will return late in the day.

At the morning break, the engineer who needs to see the first pier hole made arrives. I give Malcolm time to finish his tea by taking Mark the engineer to the cottage for coffee and a look at the house plans. He only has one of the drawings. This takes around half an hour and we return to find Malcolm has the auger on the excavator.

The piers are to be 450 mm (18 inches) across and 2 metres (a little over 6 feet) deep. The engineer wants to go deeper in case there's something other than clay at that depth. This takes around half an hour. We find a few small rocks on the way, but nothing like what's to come later in the day. The engineer inspects the clay every so often and at 2 metres we find a small amount of very fine gravel in it. The engineer leaves to return on Monday when we have finished the holes. As he leaves, the gypsum for the sullage and septic trenches arrives, but not the water pipe. They have no 1.5 inch, 1.25 inch or 2 inch in stock! I order the roll of 1.5 inch we are to use from another supplier!

One of the reasons it's so slow is that the clay sticks to the auger. I clean it off between bites with a shovel and this is hard work. I get my son Thomas who has finished school for the year to come and help. We take turns doing this arduous work with Thomas getting most of the turns.

The architect had made light of my suggestion that rocks were likely to be a problem. He claimed the auger jostles smaller rocks to one side, medium sized rocks jostle the auger to one side and if it's a big rock, well you let the pier finish on that. Problem is, we find many rocks. Also, they are very hard, so they aren't broken even though the auger is diamond tipped.

Several pier holes were very trying. One we had three rocks hemming in the auger and to get past them, we had to crowbar one out. Luckily one was small enough! We found one large rock only 15 cm down. Malcolm thinks he can shift it with the bucket on the excavator, so we leave that until later. By the end of the day, we had only 11 of the 23 holes done. So much for the estimate of half a day for the original 31! 

In the middle of the afternoon, a little after the electrician was supposed to arrive, the gravel Stan ordered arrives! We have him dump the gravel somewhat further away than is ideal, but the area around the house now looks like a bomb-site with spoil all over the place. Hot on the heels of the gravel truck is the builders' skip (for rubbish) Marguerite has ordered. If the electrician arrives now there will be a traffic jam!

The electrician arrives around 3.30 and we tie the power pole to the excavator to lift it into place. This is not trivial and it takes half an hour of jostling by the four of us to get it into place. Three ropes finally hold the pole in place and Tony mixes the concrete to place around it in my wheelbarrow. This is only just enough to hold it lightly. We will top the concrete up above surface when we pour the piers. We don't want water accumulating around the junction of the steel and concrete.

The power pole we will be connected to on the other side of the road has a pronounced lean toward the east as does the tree slightly further down the road. This makes our pole look like it's not vertical. Actually, we gave it a very slight tilt to the south east against the strain the power cable will put on it.

After a welcome beer, Malcolm leaves at 4 to go to one of his part-time jobs, that of pumping shit from septic tanks that are full. Despite a partial overcast, the day was very warm. Tony declines a beer, but I enjoy mine too.

The ensuing 3.5 hours sees Thomas, Tony and myself pulling cable through conduit and setting up the power box where we will be using it during construction. I must admit to some sitting down in the last hour or so. My legs are very sore from the unhealed sunburn and unaccustomed running around.

We backfill around the power box mixing sand with soil to make digging it up easier when it's shifted onto the wall of the house. Thomas finds he's too light to manoeuvre barrow loads of sand so I do it. I remember when I was young and fit having the same problem with barrow loads of concrete. I was strong enough, but didn't have the weight to pull the barrow back upright when it lurched.

I managed to shoot most of a roll of 36 photographs including a panorama during the morning. Some of this is for recording where things are buried in trenches, not just for interest's sake. I hope to get to town next week and have them developed for posting here.

Maybe a few computerish words tomorrow.

Thought for the day:

If you can't go over, you must go under.

Jewish Proverb

Sunday 26 November 2000

The electrician working on The House of Steel asked me which Internet search engine I prefer and I told him that Google was my favourite. Like many, I find what I am looking for quicker with Google than any other general search tool. And this set me to thinking I'd have a look at how many of my readers were finding my pages through which search engines. One reader found me through Yahoo and the search terms were: "sexy, arab, hidden, camera". My page was number five on the list! Needless to say, those terms produced the expected porn with Google. I wonder if renaming Ephemerides to Sexy Arab Hidden Camera would get my regular readership up from the current 50 or so per day?

Readership OS use continues around 52% for Win9.x and 47% for NT/Win2k. This is quite different from the 81% and 10% for Internet use generally. Clearly my readers are atypical. But then so am I.

Having written that I have 50 or so readers per day, this week's stats also show double that for yesterday. That's Friday in the US and a public holiday to boot! Usually one of the three quiet days. A little investigation reveals that Charles Kessler mentioned this site in his Cool Tricks and Trinkets newsletter. Thanks Charles. And welcome, new readers, to an eclectic mix of the thoughts that dance around what I laughingly refer to as my mind.

Yesterday, I marked out where the trenches for the sullage (greywater) and septic effluent for The House of Steel will go. They are 15 metres long by 2 metres wide and 0.45 metres deep with 2 metres between. The total area is 150 m2 or somewhat more than 1600 square feet. Nearly as much as the house! The laser level made the job much easier. This is not a high end surveyor's instrument; it's just a pocket-size spirit level with a red laser diode. I set the instrument on a peg somewhat above grass level pointing in the direction I wanted and allowed the beam to play on my hand as I walked 15 metres toward the point where the trench would finish. Measuring the change in the height of the red spot above the ground allowed me to determine what if any fall was involved.

The idea here is to set the bottom of the trenches dead level so the water fills them up evenly. Naturally, this is much easier to do if the run of the ground is already level end to end. The original paper plan didn't bear much resemblance to yesterday's reality. But then I had Malcolm spread some topsoil removed from where the house is to go over part of the area of the sullage field. Sullage trenches work best when they don't go too far into the clay subsoil. An extra layer of topsoil would help to avoid this.

Greywater (from the bath, shower, hand-basins and laundry) tends to have lots of sodium in it from the soap used. This makes clay denser and stickier as the sodium ions displace calcium and magnesium ions on the surface of the clay particles. Sodium being much smaller than the other metals means the clay particles pack closer. To reduce the impact of sodium on the soil structure of the trenches, I am applying gypsum (calcium sulphate) to the trench bottoms. 

Along the middle of the trench bottom are placed perforated plastic arches about a metre wide. The trenches are then backfilled with crushed rock screened to a size of around a centimetre or a little less than half an inch. Over the rock is placed a non-decaying cloth and over that topsoil to the level of the surrounding soil. The cloth prevents the soil particles washing into the stone and displacing the air.

The purpose of all this is to create an environment of an appropriate mix of air, water and bacteria to break down any toxic organic materials in the effluent such as e. coli bacteria. A well maintained septic tank and effluent trench works far more efficiently than any municipal sewage farm at far less cost. Why we are expected to treat bathwater in the same way escapes understanding. The volume of water is much greater and the system soon becomes overloaded even where two trenches are used alternately as we are expected to do. We will plant moisture loving plants there to increase the rate of water loss from the soil.

The inhabitants of the nearby village of Franklin were forced to have their septic systems removed in order to have their effluent pumped by pipeline to the municipal sewage farm at Ranelagh several kilometres away. The net result of destroying some truly beautiful gardens and spending $5 million dollars or so to pump the excreta of some 500 people a long way, was to enrage the inhabitants of Ranelagh. The municipal sewage farm cannot cope with the extra load and consequently smells awful. An excuse to spend even more millions of dollars to placate even fewer people than live at Franklin. The original purpose was to placate a few Greenies who didn't like the idea of the breakdown products of human shit and piss eventually reaching the river.

I plan to build a bridge over the septic effluent trench. It will be called the Bridge Over Shitty Waters.

From USA Today comes this:

HP to pay antipiracy fee for CD burners 

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Computer giant Hewlett-Packard has become the first company to be snagged by a German law requiring firms to pay fees for making CD burners that are being used to illegally lift the latest hits off the World Wide Web.

The case sets the stage for other European countries to possibly adopt similar rules to stem an epidemic that cost the music industry an estimated $5 billion last year. But analysts blasted the agreement reached Thursday as another example of Germany's notorious thatch of regulations.

The other day I speculated that Corel Ventura 8 might make an excellent poor person's FrameMaker and lamented the fact that the 30 day trial version I have wouldn't work under either Win98-SE or Win2k.

Hi Jonathon ...

PLEASE persevere with Ventura. I have had a long acquaintance with the beast, from V5, and have recently completed a family history of 200 A4 pages with multiple indexes. Also use it for Asthma Society info newsletters. You are correct in your assumption that all is contained in one file -- the above book runs to about 4.5 meg in size. There are two SPs for V8 which got rid of most of the inevitable bugs. One of the strengths of Ventura is that everything is controlled by tags -- page tags, frame tags,para tags, and character tags -- which makes it dead easy to do major global changes. The Ventura world is still waiting patiently for V9, which Corel put on the back burner to work on WP and Linux, but we are still hoping.

Cheers ... Mike

======================================================= Don't anthropomorphize computers. I'm sure they hate that, and will seek revenge.

To which I replied:

I have Ventura 5 and preferred it to PageMaker for certain jobs. Were it not for the multiple files, I would have used it for word processing as well as page layout. As I am mainly a trainer of computer users, I inevitably use the tools my clients use and I only ever had one request for Ventura training. I'll try to lay my hands on a copy of V8 or create a Virtual Machine with the clock set back to see if this eval copy will run then.

Have a look at www.runaware.com 

They have a setup whereby you can download a java applet which hooks you into their server while it runs the product. The applet must send keystrokes, so you can actually do things like typing in text and drawing objects. It's painfully slow, but with perseverence you can get a feel for what the program does. They have all the Corel stuff plus others. Worth a try, anyway -- it's free.

Cheers ... mike

Downloading the Java applet took forever and as you noted, the applet runs slow. Whatever I tried to do with the virtualised Ventura, I received the following message:

"This operation has been cancelled due to restrictions in effect on this computer. Please contact your system administrator."

Later, I will try upgrading my Ventura 5. Meanwhile, The House of Steel calls...

Thought for the day:

The two most abundant things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.

Harlan Ellison


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Jonathan Sturm 2000


Jonathan Sturm 2000