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 25 December 2000

Well, I got what I wanted for Christmas: Civilization: Call to Power II. The only fly in the ointment was that my DVD drive could not read the CD! The CD drive and CD writer at the server read it just fine. So I broke the license agreement and made a copy using Nero Burning ROM. Take that Activision. I do feel sorry for anyone else with the same difficulty, but no access to a CD burner, or only Adaptec's software that won't duplicate copy protected CDs. The CD needed is an 80 minute, not 74 minute, too by the way. There wasn't time to play it yet, but I will write about my impressions in a day or two.

I also received two Hawaiian shirts (made in China of course) and wore one to Jane's famous breakfast. That and my now quite long grey beard aroused considerable comment. "Long hair suits you" and "Santa with a surfboard" come to mind. Sadly, there were no eggs Benedict this year, just delicious croissants, fine Tasmanian cheeses, cold chicken, fresh cherries etc. And excellent company.

There was some discussion of a TV program that had aired on SBS this week about Jesus' brother and the fact that there were at least two early Christian movements, not just the Pauline that we hear about most often. I hadn't seen it, but the story of Jesus having had descendants (possibly his brother) old news to me. There's a little about that here. You will need to click on About Dagobert II; it's one of those loathsome framed sites that makes linking difficult. At this site, you will find some matter on the conspiracy to place a descendant of Jesus on the throne of Europe.

Of more interest to me are the spiritual beliefs of the anti-Pauline faction. They believed that Jesus was the son of Joseph, rather than the son of God and were consequently persecuted by the Pauline faction. More about that here.

Of course most of the conversation wasn't so "heavy". Nearly everyone there was content with what I think of as "empty" chatter. I think this latter to be somewhat akin to the grooming behaviour of our primate cousins; necessary for emotional reasons, but completely devoid of intellectual content. In other words, boring. Annoying rather than boring was Margie's comment that I had done no work on the new house for a week! Wheelbarrowing nearly 25 tonnes of soil and stone is "nothing" to an office worker I suppose.

And so home for me to cook the afternoon meal I described yesterday. As expected, Margie's brother, Phil, brought the cheapest bottle of wine he could find. He works in a bottle-shop and so presumably gets a discount. At least Queen Adelaide Riesling is far better than a lot of more expensive French catpiss I have had the misfortune to drink. Yes, the French do make superb wine, but they also make a lot of rubbish. At least most cheap Australian wine is much better than cheap French or Spanish muck.

We took a walk to the building site and to my chagrin, Margie re-iterated her earlier statement that I had "done nothing" on it for a week! She did volunteer to pick the broad beans, but chose to harvest the very mature ones, rather than the young, tender ones from the second sowing. This and the cheap wine rather detracted from the meal. As did Phil's diatribe against his and Margie's sister, Lou.

I went early to my bed. Christmas... bah, humbug!

Thought for the day:

...a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure? Will she still believe it when he's dead? Ah girl! Girl!

Lennon and McCartney

Tuesday 26 December 2000

Civilization: Call to Power II takes a while to get used to when you've been playing the first version for the best part of two years. The method of interaction with units has changed to a click and drag rather than click the unit and click where you want the unit to go. The control panels for diplomacy, cities and empire allow finer control, but are scattered hither and yon in a confusing mess. I guess I will become accustomed to it eventually. Missing (or I haven't found them yet) are the number of turns until a city is due to increase its population and the granular control over which of a city's resources are being worked. This latter is offset to a degree by the addition of the farmer specialist. New city improvements include the trading post and shopping mall and there are new units and several units are renamed. Diplomacy is much enhanced, though the ability to trade scientific advances has been removed. You can only give them away, or demand them. Trade routes now require a variable number of caravans to establish and there are new goods. A new victory, world peace has been added and the creation of the alien has been replaced by the building of the Gaia Controller.

I started playing at the beginner level to gain a feel for the changes. By the time I got to around 500 BC I had lost my early overall lead, so I need to get a feel for the new balances between commerce, science and military might. These are now all available as individual graphs showing the relative performance of the competing civilisations as well as the overall score. I was doing superbly in science, moderately in production and appallingly in military strength. This is no doubt a reflection of my style of play. Despite the changes, welcome and unwelcome, I have no doubt that this will keep me interested for at least a year.

Voice/Fax Modems issues update. I quite forgot to report on this. The Smith Micro software installed just fine under Win2k and initially seemed to work fine. The built in microphone and speaker worked well, as did using the mic/headphone sockets. The fly in the ointment is that it can't dial, seemingly because it can't take the phone line off hook! Aargh! It can do this to connect to my ISP using MS's dialler!

DingoBlue replied to my forward of Don Armstrong's email:

Dear Jonathan, Thank you for your inquiry.

Please allow me to make comment.

The fact that the credit for Breeding referrals is allocated to the appropriate accounts 30 days after the referred person has finalised their first monthly tax invoice with dingo blue is clearly stated in the Terms and Conditions for this procedure - located in the members section of the dingo blue website.

It is most unfortunate that we were not able to continue to be able to provide service to the person you quote, however it is simply not possible that dingo blue guarantee the provision of service to rural and remote areas of the country, as dingo blue are reliant upon Optus network and infrastructure for internet service and are limited to the availability and functionality of Optus POP's.

All members dialling into the 1300 number for internet access were advised either by e-mail or by telephone contact personally. Dingo blue Solutions Consultants were advised of the de-commission of the 1300 dial up facility when members began asking why service was no longer available.

The $2 capped National call offer is clearly provided as being for calls made between the hours of 7pm and midnight (was 10pm). That is to say, between those hours. National calls made between the hours of 7pm and midnight (was 10pm),are charged at a capped rate of $2. Any call started in this period, but concluded after midnight (was 10pm), shall be charged the full national STD rate for the time accordingly

By providing Credit Card or banking details upon registration, the member provides sufficient authority for dingo blue to deduct the sum total of the month's tax invoice automatically from the account nominated..

It was indeed most unfortunate that for a period, members were receiving invoices a number of times, and payments were prone to issue, however this matter has now been resolved.

Please be aware that dingo blue do appreciate members comments and suggestions and we very much look forward to speaking with you again.

On a personal note, may I applaud you on the content of your website, and the style with which you write. I find it most refreshing and inspiring.

If there is anything else we can help you with, please email us again.

Alternately, we can be contacted at http://www.dingoblue.com.au or on 1300 551 455.

Kind regards,

Danik Stevenson @ dingoblue

Again, no comment.

I really like the Warlock's gift wrapping story.

Thought for the day:

There are certain books in the world which every searcher for truth must know: the Bible, the Critique of Pure Reason, the Origin of Species, and Karl Marx's Capital.

W. E. B. Du Bois

Wednesday 27 December 2000

My computer supplier, EYO Technologies used to be insanely great. Now they've gotten big, they are not so insanely great anymore, but today I got a taste of the other side so I'm a little less anxious to find an alternative. Against my advice, a friend decided to shave a hundred dollars or so off EYO's prices to buy a white box PC. He ordered an 800 MHz AMD Thunderbird, Gigabyte MoBo, 128 MB PC 133 SDRAM, 10 GB Samsung HDD, TNT2 video card and a Targa 15" monitor. This went firmly against my advice to purchase a decent HDD (fast Seagate), get a Duron rather than the Thunderbird, decent monitor and choose a reputable supplier. He brought it by today to install an OS and software and transfer the data from his old HDD.

The first thing I noticed when we unpacked the machine was that the front of the case had an impact fracture, like it had been hit with a hammer! The case was actually quite decent; not one of those with the U shape cover, but slide on sides. When we booted the machine, the splash screen cheerfully informed us that rather than the Thunderbird paid for, the CPU was a Duron. The mother board was a Soltek SL-75KAV rather than the Gigabyte referred to in the order. This is a brand I had never heard of before. Gigabyte I've heard good things about, but never had the privilege of meeting. I prefer ASUS and A-Open; I particularly appreciate the well written, comprehensive manuals. The Soltek manual was written in the standard Taiwanese style where an occasional sentence ends with "the" and every third word is misspelled. Nevertheless, the Soltek looks to be an interesting motherboard for overclockers, something my friend is not interested in at all.

After some discussion, we decided to go with Windows 2000 Professional rather than Windows 98SE, even though there were some potential problems with drivers. In particular, I was concerned about his Plustek 4831 scanner. The install went smoothly enough and I took the precaution of making sure to let Win2k know it was a Standard PC rather than ACPI compliant. The monitor amused me no end. rather than a Targa (whatever that is) the monitor is a LiteON and definitely not designed to get anyone's juices flowing. Except at 60 Hz, the image was quite smeary and worse as the refresh rate was increased. I set it to 70 Hz as a compromise. God knows what it's going to look like after a year or so if it looks this bad now!

The machine performs quite smartly. Win2k Pro likes 128 MB RAM as a minimum and the 800 Mhz Duron is plenty fast enough to run all but the most demanding applications. The Win2k driver for the Plustek scanner my friend found does not work. He'll have to use it with the old machine until he sells it and uses the money to purchase a decent USB scanner.

I had some fun getting the data off the old hard disk. Initially, I tried it in the new box. I was going to use Partition Magic to copy the data over, but Partition Magic saw the partition as blank! So, I put the disk in my machine while the install on the new machine took place. Then I copied the data to two CDs for later transfer to the new box. When the drive was set to master, my machine absolutely refused to boot. Touching the power switch produced a flicker of the front panel LED, but no more. Returning the disk to slave and replacing the master IDE device off the chain worked fine.

I note that John Daly has moved the Still Waiting for Greenhouse page.

The weather remains monotonously wet and windy! I'm starting to get cabin fever.

Thought for the day:

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.

Warren Buffett

Thursday 28 December 2000

My friends in the US suffering from freezing conditions in the <sarcasm> hottest year of the century </sarcasm> want to hear about warmth and outdoorsy type things here at the bottom of the planet. Well, I'm sorry, but the weather here continues cool, wet and windy. Tasmania has a maritime climate which means it's not given to extremes. It rarely gets very hot, nor do freezing conditions last long. On the other hand, it's very variable. It's not unknown to have summer days that are colder than the warmest of winter days. Sometimes these conditions last for some time as they are under the control of very large weather systems generated over the Southern Ocean. Right now, that's the case. Yeuch! Some days the weather can go through wild swings. You start off with a high temperature and muggy conditions followed by a tropical downpour; then the temperature drops 10°C in half an hour and you feel like you are freezing to death.

Thought for the day:

Today the nations of the world may be divided into two classes -- the nations in which the government fears the people, and the nations in which the people fear the government.

Amos R. E. Pinochet

Friday 29 December 2000

With the end of the millennium fast approaching there's a tendency for writers everywhere to indulge in synopses of the past and predictions for the future. The Pompous Git is no different. A decade ago, the computer industry pundits were predicting the rapid demise of Windows: "If I wanted a slow, expensive computer, I'd buy a Mac". Linux was new born and nobody in their right mind would have predicted its phenomenal rise in popularity. Why, even a year ago Judge Penfield Jackson was denying the existence of rivals to Microsoft's Windows hegemony. But I will leave others to cover these minutiae. There are bigger pictures to contemplate.

Global temperature over the last millennium

A millennium ago, the world was about to enter a 300 year warm period that engendered a population explosion as crop yields improved under optimal conditions. Starvation was no longer a brake on human survival. The improved efficiency of food production enabled a middle class to arise, people who could trade luxury goods and services since they did not have to produce their own food. While the ruling élite had never needed to produce their own food, with few exceptions they had never been particularly interested in the sorts of things that interested this new class of society. This period saw the introduction of scientific research (Bacon), the curbing of monarchical power (John Lackland forced to sign the Great Charter) leading eventually to democracy, and improved farming methods. The latter enabled the middle class to survive the ensuing Little Ice Age.

Ordinarily, the period following the three centuries of optimal crop conditions would have seen a complete collapse of society and indeed many places this happened. Greenland became completely depopulated as did many villages throughout Europe, but the Church and the State (often amounting to the same thing) were no longer in complete control. The newly born middle class responded with a period of furious technological innovation that continues to this day. The enabling technology that staved off collapse was improved communication.

Until the invention of the printing press, books were the domain of the ruling élite, worth in today's terms millions of dollars each. While Johannes Gutenberg invented the press that broke the élite's stranglehold, it was Aldus Manutius, abandoning a career as a teacher, that saw the potential for populist literature. Relatively cheap, popular books led to an increase in literacy and an explosion of letter writing. New ideas travelled faster and further than they ever had before in human history. "Chinese" whispers were replaced by pamphlets and eventually, newspapers.

The explosion in human thought and its communication we call the Renaissance. While most historians focus on the leading innovators: Johannes Gutenberg, Leonardo da Vinci, Nicolaus Copernicus, René Descartes, Galileo Galilei etc, it was Aldus Manutius and his ilk that fuelled the fire. It is he that gets my vote for Man of the Millennium.

Portrait of Aldus Manutius

Aldus Manutius

The change in communications that blew Europe from the Mediaeval into the Renaissance period is mirrored today by the Internet. Just as an élite controlled communication prior to the proliferation of relatively cheap printing presses, the media moguls today are seeing their grasp on the communication of ideas eroded by the cheapest form of communication yet invented. Just as the Church and State fought cheap mass communication at the beginning of the Renaissance, the Media Barons will fight tooth and nail to do the same this time around. We do live in interesting times.

Thought for the day:

The causes of events are ever more interesting than the events themselves.


Saturday 30 December 2000

Today the weather improved. While the morning was overcast, there were no showers and the afternoon was clear and sunny. I took the opportunity to finish some barrowing of soil and gravel for The House of Steel and split some firewood.

Following on from yesterday's thoughts of Aldus Manutius revolutionising communication, let's see where the trail of my thoughts leads us. Up until the Manuti (he had brothers), nearly all books were under the control of the Church. They were, apart from the State, the only group with sufficient financial resources to publish. Suddenly, middle class merchants of ordinary wealth could finance books and other publications. One of the earliest books of the new literature was the Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio and concerned itself with, among other things, sexual dalliance.

Today, the Media Barons control print and the newer media of radio, television and cinema. While the computer loosened their grasp on print media (one no longer needs a huge bank balance to typeset a book) distribution remains problematic. I have helped aspiring authors in this regard and managed to more than cover costs. Profits remain elusive however unless a major publisher takes up your book. The Internet removes the necessity for expensive publishing media: paper, tape, CD etc and it makes a writer or performer's work immediately available throughout the civilised world. Suddenly, everyone's a writer, or believes they, are and Pandora's Box is opened. The Media Barons will try to close the lid, but one suspects that's impossible.

Most writers write, not because it's a well-paid occupation (it's not) but because of an inner urge to write. Nevertheless, writing takes a considerable amount of effort (time) and most non-writers will be surprised to learn it's a team sport. Most written work requires the assistance of proof readers to eliminate errors and improve readability. Few writers have the time, patience or ability to adequately proofread their own work. A writer  might be happy to write merely for the sake of it, but there are precious few competent proofreaders prepared to work for nothing. While the medium of the Internet is free, or so close to it it's not worth worrying about, financial reward is the conundrum facing the writer of today.

Many thought the answer lay in advertising and for a while it worked for some. One of the best kept secrets of the Media Barons was the fact that most advertising doesn't work -- except for the Media Barons that is. When the big advertising agencies refused to do Internet stuff for their clients, most went ahead and did it themselves. And when they got around to analysing the cost against return (very easy when it's all computerised) realised that conventional advertising does not even pay for itself, never mind return a profit.

In Boccaccio's day, sponsorship was the go for the starving artist. The problem with that financial model is that potential sponsors want their pound of flesh and one is always suspected of exclusively pushing the sponsor's barrow. Most of us know that one is suspected of pushing barrows for sponsors when we aren't even being sponsored!

Micropayments have been suggested as a solution. Few readers of the DayNotes Gang would object to paying a few cents per page read, but so far nothing much has come of this excellent concept. While computers should make it readily workable, presumably the potential financiers of such a project do not think so. The truly paranoid will believe that since the Media Barons control finance, they are blocking it in order to retain control. They may even be correct.

To be... continued.

It appears that America has passed the Americans With No Abilities Act. Some of us thought it already had been :-)

Thought for the day:

Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.

Albert Einstein

Sunday 31 December 2000

Laid low by pain from sciatica, then mentally fogged by the analgesia. A full post tomorrow.

A happy new millennium to all.

Thought for the day:

It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.

Julius Caesar


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© Jonathan Sturm 2000

© Jonathan Sturm 2000