Ephemerides

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 4 December 2000

Fellow Daynoter, Tom Syroid has complimented me on my clean and simple page layout. While it's nice for the ego to do things because they are possible, it's also important to remember that those things can impact the readers' experience. My design goal was to keep complexity to an absolute minimum in order to keep the page load time at the readers' browser to a minimum. Not all of us are blessed with high bandwidth. At least one of my readers is still using a 14.4 kb/s modem! I still find many pages on my web wanderings with unacceptable load times with my 38 kb/s connection. My usual response is to go elsewhere!

-oOo-

I am in great pain, so today will find me visiting my doctor for the first time in many months. Despite taking the weekend very easy after 8 days of unaccustomed hard physical work, I awoke to intense pain in my hip this morning. Having taken a strong analgesic, I can hobble along slowly. I can think of no cause for this. Hopefully I will see my customary doctor -- one of his partners accused me of eating far too much junk food! Since I discovered the cause of my migraines was chocolate, I eat only a small amount less than once a year. No other sweet appeals to me, so I never eat candy, ice cream or drink cordials. Very occasionally I eat a slice of fruit cake, but no other sort. The food I eat consists mainly of fresh meat and vegetables. Almost the only processed foods that appeal are cheese, bacon and salami and I eat very little of those. Doctors! My regular doctor isn't too bad. Many of his patients resent being told to take an aspirin and rest up for a few days while Nature effects a cure. They'd prefer a Magic Bullet, even if it kills them. 

-oOo-

A Computer Programmer, a Biologist and a Physicist are sitting in a cafe in the middle of Dublin, which has one of those nice big glass windows, so they decide to pass the time by watching people going in and coming out of a house on the other side of the street. First they see two people going into the house. Time passes. After a while they notice three persons coming out of the house.

The Physicist concludes: "The measurement wasn't accurate".

The Biologist decides: "They have reproduced".

And the Computer Programmer: "If now exactly 1 person enters the house then it will be empty again."

Thought for the day:

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.

Hans Hofmann


Tuesday 5 December 2000

I did get Dr Rush rather than Chow! She insisted I have X Rays taken in case I had fractured my hip -- in my sleep. The third friend to stop me in Huonville to ask if I needed assistance offered the use of her son to drive me to Hobart for the X Rays. Sheryl also gave me a smoked salmon and salad roll for lunch. The prescribed painkillers had already taken effect so I could enjoy it. Yum! 

In the afternoon, the weather changed from warm-hot to cool and showery. I was wearing only a cotton shirt having not anticipated being away from home for more than a couple of hours. I purchased a light cotton summer jacket and the idiot sales assistant kept on selling it to me after I'd made the purchase decision. I was reminded of Mark Twain's story about the sermon for raising money for the starving Chinese. His initial decision was to donate $10. As the preacher droned on, the amount decreased to $5, then $1... When the collection plate finally made the rounds he stole a dollar from it! I would cheerfully have stolen the jacket, but of course it was protected electronically and I would have been easily caught as I shuffled toward the door!

Despite the analgesics, I risked a couple of slow chardonnay and sodas at the Victoria Tavern. The consensus was I have sciatica, an apparently not uncommon complaint. 

Despite the mental fuzziness caused by the analgesia, I tried to read Gribbin's Schroedinger's Kittens, one of my all time favourite books. It deals with various interpretations of quantum mechanics and includes Gribbin's own at the end. Only a God with a rich sense of humour could have devised a Universe with such a stark contrast between everyday experience and quantum electrodynamics. At the local pub the other day, someone told me that Relativity and QED were mere theories that had never been proven. The reality of course is that every experiment devised to falsify either has failed to do so. I find it bewildering that these days the result of a "good education" includes complete ignorance of science.

I went to bed on a half dose of the painkiller and a full one of anti-inflammatory. An expensive day with $A205 of medical expenses and $A70 for the jacket.

Thought for the day:

The sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise, and of all the exercises walking is the best.

Thomas Jefferson


Wednesday 6 December 2000

A new Gail Galloway story at the Franklin and Friends website. This one is about forcing the Mayor of Franklin to wear chains in public!

There are now a whole lot of pictures of the excavation and concreting stages of The House of Steel.

Virus Alert

Reader Jan Sporri writes:

I haven't checked this on antivirus sites, but there is no need. The evidence speaks for itself and a timely reminder NOT to open files from strangers. At first I thought it was from one friend's mail list, but my daughter just received it also and she is in no way related to that list.

There is a dude called hahaha@sexyfun.com (false addy) who is sending mail usually with Snow white and the seven dwarfs as the subject and includes an attachment of some kind - to date is dwarf4you.exe. midgets.scr and jokes.exe and they have a virus which the updated antivirus programs pick up, thankfully!!!

The text with the message is (excuse his/her spelling):

"Today, Snowhite was turning 18. The 7 Dwarfs always where very educated and polite with Snowhite. When they go out work at mornign, they promissed a *huge* surprise. Snowhite was anxious. Suddlently, the door open, and the Seven Dwarfs enter..."

I assumed it was yet more spam and had it marked for consignment to /dev/null

Might hang onto it instead. I haven't found very many viruses in the wild yet. Better update my AV sigs.

Thanks

Now I note that I have yet to install AV software following my recent OS reinstall, so I grab Norton Internet Security 2000. I have been asked to evaluate it for a client. My evaluation is -- it's useless. It won't even install on Win2k! The installer asks a few questions and fails on the final screen where it's supposed to start copying files. Since it installed OK on Win98-SE, my guess is it's a Win2k issue. 

I browse the CD and discover there's a NAV folder. I run the Norton Antivirus installer and it informs me that there's an error in the uninstaller and the installer terminates. 

I can't be bothered pursuing this and grab the latest version of InoculateIT from Computer Associates website. It's free and I like that. I launch Outlook and discover that Symantec's installer has clobbered my email accounts information, changing the POP 3 addresses and usernames.  I HATE SYMANTEC!!!!!

After installing InoculateIT I run it and it gives me a clean bill of health. No surprise really -- between the two of us, Thomas and I have been infected just twice in somewhat more than 12 years. Then I save the dwarf4you.exe to the desktop and scan it. Sure enough, it contains the Win32.Hybris.B worm. Since I only open attachments from people I am expecting them from and I always scan attachments, it was never going to infect me anyway.

Since we are back on full-time Internet access and I can't use the Intel iStation without clobbering Thomas's ability to play certain Internet games, I download Zone Alarm. Meanwhile, I visit Steve Gibson's Shields Up site to test my security. Everything's cool except Port 25 (SMTP) is open!!! I have bad memories of MS Exchange 5.0 running on SBS 4.0 and no patch for this problem. We got caught relaying spam and blocked from accessing various Internet domains! MS eventually released SBS 4.5 with Exchange 5.5, but by then it was too late!

When I check the Advanced settings for ICS, SMTP is not enabled. When I look at the running services, there are several I do not recognise. I really don't want to bring down my server, so I install Zone Alarm and everything checks out hunky dory with Shields Up. Problem is, I can't access my email from my workstation. Online help says that Zone Alarm is compatible with Win2k Internet Connection Sharing, but the release notes say it isn't. I disable Zone Alarm to access my email to find Richard Booth has sent this:

Dear JPS,

Your redirect page ( http://www.sturmsoft.com/Writing/current.htm ) is broken, in as much as

- it doesn't work with at least some versions of Netscape; because

- it's not valid HTML (despite the tick sticker, bad boy; of course, I've never accidentally invalidated a page with that on and forgotten to check it, nooo... <g>)

Anyway, the problem is that the META REDIRECT tag is never closed (the > is missing). Oh, and the </head> appears twice.

A whole mail without Linux advocacy... wow, I'm improving!

Hope that helps,

- Rick

Thanks for the alert Rick! This is obviously not my week. I can understand accidentally deleting the closing META REDIRECT tag, but not how the duplicate </head> got there. I am sure I checked the validity of the HTML when I first implemented the redirector. Obviously more care called for on my part <blush>. 

Back to the open Port 25 issue, I find SMTP running under Services, Stop it and Shields Up confirms that Port 25 is now closed. I change it to Manual instead of Automatic start.

I think I might head outdoors and see what yesterday's rain has wrought!

Thought for the day:

The only nice thing about being imperfect is the joy it brings to others.

Doug Larson


Thursday 7 December 2000

Our temporary heat wave has passed and the days have been overcast, but little rain. Rain would be welcome right now, both to water the garden and top up the household water supply. The House of Steel will have double the water storage and a larger roof catchment, so we will be a little less anxious when a month without rain goes by.

Yesterday the electrickery was connected to the temporary power box on the building site for The House of Steel. The supply company refused to connect it for me because the building site hasn't been assigned an address by the Huon Valley Council yet. The cottage is at number 18 because it's 180 metres from the main road our lane connects to and on the right hand side. The new house will presumably become number 20. Margie told the electricity company it was number 4 and that was that! Number 4 because it's the fourth house to be built in our lane.

Thomas and I spent the afternoon with the portable radio plugged into the power box while we tidied up a few things. (Australians note that we listened to JJJ and it was better than usual). He shovelled sand from next to the carport, returning it to the stockpile. I removed the formwork from around the concrete slab and hoed some sand into the soil of a garden bed. This will be planted out to cauliflowers, cabbages, swede turnips (rutebagas) and broccoli for the winter. Another bed will be used for carrots that we dig over winter.

While almost every garden book I ever read says that "carrots like sandy soil", I am sure that is wrong. Even people that usually dislike carrots enjoy those I have grown in our silty clay. I hope that my efforts to improve the workability of the soil don't unimprove the flavour of my carrots. Or anything else I grow.

My hip pain is gone, the anti-inflammatory drug having worked its miracle. I take no analgesic today and monitor myself carefully for pain while working. Obviously the doctor's theory about breaking my hip while asleep was wrong. Could it be that she has shares in the X Ray clinic? I notice that one of the partners shares her surname.

Nothing much computerish to report today. Very occasionally Tarquin hums and vibrates for a few seconds. I suspect one of the two cpu fans has a problem. Ball-bearing fans usually last longer than 6 months! If I move the box to the opposite side of the monitor, I can remove the side panel that will allow me to see the fans as I work. The office light is a fluorescent, so I should be able to see any difference in fan speeds due to strobe effect.

Thought for the day:

The people who vote decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.

Josef Stalin


Friday 8 December 2000

My mobile phone is a NEC Spirit. The claimed standby time is 200 hours; reality for me was around 25 if I was lucky. Initially, I thought it might have been a duff battery and the dealer arranged for a fully charged one to be available on my arrival in another city. Full marks to Dick Smith Electronics (The Electronic Dick) for that one. However, a full charge of the battery still only lasted for around a day on standby and considerably less if phone calls occurred. NEC had not made spare batteries available "because a phone with such a long standby time didn't need spares"! A replacement charger made no difference, either. I took to carrying the charger around with me and borrowing a quick charge from clients and friends. I was reluctant to part with it because it works better than others in very low signal areas and I live in a very low signal area indeed.

The other day, the power cord became entangled around the phone and antenna and the phone had slid off the pile of paper it was on so it was suspended by the cord. I grabbed the phone and went about my usual business. On that day, I made and received more than my usual amount of calls. To my surprise, the battery level indicator remained on full. When I returned home, I forgot to put the phone on the charger, but when I picked it up the following morning, the indicator still showed full charge!

It appears that the connector from the charger does not make good contact with the phone. Low voltage is reduced dramatically by resistance caused by poor contact pressure and is a prime cause of computer problems. Slight sideways pressure on the connector is sufficient for full current flow, but too much and the connector pops out. I have yet to hear back from NEC (no surprise there). If you know anyone with a NEC Spirit with the same problem I had, you might want to let them know. 

Today I purchased myself a Christmas present! My old garden spade, and I do mean old -- it could easily be as old as I am -- had its finely sharpened edge damaged while knocking clay off the auger used to make the House of Steel's pier holes. The blade was shorter by almost 10 cm from continued use and keeping it sharp. Its replacement is a Dutch spade (Hendrik) with a stainless steel blade and I also purchased a matching garden fork. I am not too sure how I will take to the Dutch preference for a "T" handle, rather than the English "D". I can always purchase a couple of D handles if need be. They sure look beautiful! They were only $A64 each, not all that much more than the garbage in most hardware stores.

In the evening, I attended the Franklin Christmas Parade. Various organisations and individuals decorate their trucks and parade from Huonville to the Franklin Tavern, dispensing sweets to the children (and adults with a sweet tooth). There followed the usual barbecued sausages and hamburgers, accompanied by much beer and revelry. This year was different. Lurch invited me into his in-laws' disused shop. Virtually undisturbed since the 1970s, there is a bewildering variety of unsold goods, sweets, bras, magazines, old fashioned record players, second-hand things of every variety... a treasure trove of history. A most vital part is missing though, Lurch informs me. It seems Happy Salmon was a very keen photographer and photographed everything of significance that happened in the Huon. Unfortunately, his wife discovered that he also enjoyed photographing young ladies without their clothes and ordered the complete destruction of decades of historically significant photographs. 

And while speaking of things historical, here's a photograph of Russell Bosisto.

Russell Bosisto -- The Unknown Soldier

Some years ago, an unknown soldier who died in the First World War was found in a field in France. Through his belt buckle, it was discovered that he was South Australian, Russell Bosisto, my lyricist friend Garry "Matchfist" Paige's grandfather. Matchfist and John Vallins wrote a very moving song, In a Field in France and Kevin Johnson, who ordinarily records only his own songs, made an excellent demo recording. Unfortunately, Kevin is notoriously difficult to work with and has no current recording contract. Eventually, the song was recorded by the Australian Aboriginal singer, Jimmy Little, in England earlier this year. Jimmy's rendition is even more haunting and moving than Kevin's and should be a huge hit when it is released next year. On my birthday, April 9, I'm told, so the record will be available on ANZAC Day, April 25. I'm not a sentimental person, but Jimmy's rendition of the song moved me to tears when I first heard it.

-oOo-

Hello Jonathan,

Glad to hear your hip is better.

FYI, my mother had a slight fall and subsequent pain. Her doctor visited twice, could see no evidence of a fracture. However, after a very uncomfortable week or so, it became apparent that there was a break, and she had to have a hip replacement. I'm sure that doctor always insists on an x-ray now. Perhaps yours had a similar experience.

I enjoy reading your pages. Good luck (if necessary) with the house!

Peter Smith

Perhaps the X Ray could have waited 24 hours to see what effect the anti-inflammatory drugs had. It would have saved me $A150. I am reluctant to part with another $30 in order to be told that I am now fit and well. As well, I have a general problem with the medical profession; they have a vested interest in your continuing ill-health. I have been told that in China, you pay the doctor to keep you from falling ill. When you become ill, the Doctor pays you!

I expect the house will work famously. It is close to impossible to completely visualise a "house that works" on paper. Being intimately involved in its realisation, we can make necessary changes as we go. 

Thank you for your kind thoughts.

Thought for the day:

How long after you are gone will ripples remain as evidence that you were cast into the pool of life?

Grant M Bright


Saturday 9 December 2000

A mild to warm day spent leisurely splitting firewood. Thomas filled in the trench carrying the water pipes between the new house and storage tank and as they run past where the wood is stored, talked about his passion: computer gaming. In the evening, he goes to an all night LAN party in Hobart. I watched George Cole in An Independent Man. I saw the series, about local politics in London, the first time round and find it enjoyable this time, too. This is followed by The Bill, the only TV program I regularly watch and even that is regularly displaced by a good book or good company.

Our evening meal was a simple one: pickled pork, peas, beans and pinkeye potatoes. The pinkeye potato is unique in the world: waxy, flavoursome and a rich yellow in colour. Until recently, it was found only in the south of Tasmania, mainly the Huon Valley. I have often wondered why we did not develop it as an export crop. It is a gourmet's potato and sells for three to six times the price of other, more prolific, spuds. This year the price is high because of a late killing frost.

Thought for the day:

When he who hears does not know what he who speaks means, and when he who speaks does not know what he himself means, that is philosophy.

Voltaire


Sunday 10 December 2000

Today, I took Leonardo's advice below.

Thought for the day:

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.

Leonardo Da Vinci


 

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Jonathan Sturm 2000

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Jonathan Sturm 2000