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 29 January 2001

A day spent mainly drilling holes in steel. Fran taught me how to sharpen drill bits and I'm not too bad at it. Lisa from Stramit (the steel supplier) phoned to get details of where we want the holes punched in the purlins and asked what sort of ends did we want on the bridging. Since Fran hasn't done this before either, we are visiting a building with the sort of roof we are building on the way to talk to the Stramit people tomorrow. On the way back, we will be picking up 20 sheets of structural plywood and a few other odds and ends.

Thomas returned from his visit to the mainland to see The Big Day Out concert. He had a lot of fun and managed to shop for discount CDs at various record stores. He discovered the big attraction of living in a big city -- low prices for retail goods. He's not stupid though. He said he thought the prices at the market probably meant the goods were stolen (they were below wholesale). It's good to see him back in one piece, especially as we'll need his muscles to help lift wall framing into place later in the week.

Bob Thompson has an interesting idea for reimbursing performing artists. Along this line I had already emailed Tom Rapp, though I have yet to hear back. The last half dozen CDs I bought were at the performers' concerts.

Thought for the day:

Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.

Mark Twain


Tuesday 30 January 2001

At the risk of turning into the Bob Thompson Appreciation Society, he has some controversial but sound advice regarding virus checking. The Electronic Cottage has been computerised for over 12 years and for quite a while we have run 3 computers full time connected to the Internet 24 hours a day. In Lord knows how many computer years we have been invaded by virus just twice. 

The first came on a floppy from the primary school Thomas attended. He knew to check the disk for virus before using it, but the Junkie Boot virus wasn't in the signature list of the virus checker. The second time, the virus arrived on a commercial CD. Again, the virus wasn't on the signature list of any of the major virus checkers. We downloaded an Israeli product to remove it.

Most viruses arrive as attachments in email. I regularly receive viruses as email attachments, I just don't activate them. If you send me an email with an attachment I wasn't expecting, you will receive an email from me asking about it if it's an executable. I inspect macros in Word and Excel documents before I allow them to run.

Boot viruses like Junkie boot are easily prevented by turning off the option to boot from the floppy drive in the BIOS. The only time we enable a floppy boot is when we need it and then we turn it back off.

Most virus infections occur before the virus makes it onto the antivirus software makers signature lists. When the outbreak occurs, it's almost impossible to log onto the antivirus sites. The time that virus checking and signature downloading consumes on most computers we spend backing up data and shifting copies of that data off-site. The antivirus companies want you to feel afraid. The best antidote to that is a solid backup routine.

Very occasionally we update our virus signatures and run a virus check on our systems. Thomas runs Norton AV and I run Computer Associates Personal Edition. And very virtuous we feel when we remember to do so. So far though we have never found a virus that stood a chance of infecting our machines!

The Linuxen regularly crow about how it's only Mac and PC users need to worry about viruses. Even if a virus succeeds in infecting a Linux box, it only gains the permissions of the current user. Talk about living in cloud cuckoo land! That yet to be released virus gains permissions to access your data! And it's your data that needs protecting, not the underlying OS.

Rob Rosenberger has lots to say on this topic and I highly recommend you read his words of wisdom if the virus hype from the antivirus software companies and the media worry you.

Thought for the day:

The tendency of an event to occur varies inversely with one's preparation for it.

David Searles


Wednesday 31 January 2001

Fellow Daynoter, Dave Farquhar has a piece on girlfriends, or how to get one, or how to cope when you don't have one. I remember well my misspent youth and the amazing success I had in this area once I realised that males and females think about this situation in a completely different way. A girl isn't interested in the guy per se, but his relationship to other people. A girl will be far more interested in having a relationship with you if you already have a relationship with a girl. Sounds like a Catch 22 because you need a girl to start with. 

I had a willing collaborator called Amy. We were good friends, but never attracted to each other in the deep and meaningful way that courting couples are. However, by socialising with Amy I immediately became attractive to other girls that had never shown the slightest interest in me before. All they wanted was to prove they were more attractive than Amy by going out with me. Then other girls wanted to prove they were more attractive than whoever and I ended up with 4-5 girlfriends at any one time.

The 1970s were an interesting decade for me. My favourite occasion was when a very pretty girl started work in the same office I worked in. Her first day, all the guys hung around here desk admiring her. I didn't; I ignored her. Five minutes before finish time, I walked over and said: "I have a terrible reputation that will be ruined if you don't go out to dinner with me". "How about tonight?" was her reply. She was far too empty headed though to maintain my interest beyond that evening meal. I remember the filet mignon better than anything she said.

The only girl back then I had a real interest in was forbidden by her parents to have anything to do with me. She was a Roman Catholic and I wasn't. So she turned to drugs instead as her relationship with her parents was more important than her relationship with me. It was a bitter blow.

Of course had I succeeded in winning Kate, I would then have followed a different course than the one where I found the delectable Marguerite in 1980. 

Thought for the day:

The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are. And if our words and our actions come from superficial human relations techniques (the Personality Ethic) rather than from our own inner core (the Character Ethic), others will sense that duplicity. We simply won't be able to create and sustain the foundation necessary for effective interdependence.

Stephen Covey


Thursday 1 February 2001

I made a strange error when working out the dimensions of parts of The House of Steel. It was a big glaring error and even though I instinctively knew it was an error at the time, I still deferred to my interpretation of the architect's drawings. It was my third error so far. Not a huge number, but enough to make me cringe a little. My excuse is that it's the first house I've ever built. And different drawings are to different scales so it's easy to forget when shifting attention between drawings that 10 mm on this drawing is 15 mm an another. Luckily we caught the error before it became serious.

The architect's drawings have numerous strange errors. One we discovered yesterday is that he specifies 100 by 50 mm framing in one small load bearing wall. Elsewhere the specification is for 90 by 45 mm framing. Which is what I ordered. I'm not about to have non-standard framing lumber cut for a small wall that bears only a small load. You'd think after discovering these many errors I would be trusting my own instinctive feelings more. The problem is, we are trained to trust the experts.

Even when you consciously set out to think your own thoughts and do your own thing, the conditioning you received as a child lurks continually in the background. It especially exerts its influence when you are doing something unfamiliar.

The good news is that despite the errors, The House of Steel is shaping up nicely. Building a house where every wall is either sloped or curved at the top is difficult, but it sure will look pretty. It's more like building a boat than a house.

Thought for the day:

Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied.

Pearl Buck


Friday 2 February 2001

A very hot day. Rectified the error on The House of Steel which wasn't as difficult as I thought. I used the brushcutter to knock down the long grass, probably for the last time this summer. Spent the afternoon obtaining, more accurately, attempting to obtain quotes for the remaining parts for the house.

Thought for the day:

I feel like a micro cog in a macrocosm.

Mary Guyette


Saturday 3 February 2001

I spent the morning talking to suppliers for The House of Steel. Another hot day coming and I feel like socialising (drinking beer and telling lies) for a change.

Thought for the day:

In conversation, humour is worth more than wit and easiness more than knowledge.

George Herbert


Sunday 4 February 2001

A little cooler today so I decided to get serious about the vegetable garden. It has been sadly neglected this season after a poor early start. Then a late sowing of carrots was devastated by a searingly hot day. The bed I prepared was for broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.

I took a break to roll a cigarette and sit under the front of The House of Steel where there is some shade. For a while I thought about the shape of my future office that will be there and the view I will have.

View from the front of The House of Steel

Not in this picture is a short expanse of bare soil, then a strip of grass before one's eye meets the vegetable garden. The picture shows the other side of the road. Between the bare earth and the grass is a large pile of rocks; stones in landscape garden parlance. They vary in size from around a metre (3 feet) across down to 15 cm (6 inches). The pseudo-random nature of the rock heap, they were just carelessly thrown together during the excavations, offended my aesthetic sense.

The following picture was taken some weeks ago; there's a partly completed house there now. The rock heap grew to around twice this size and twice as ugly.

Rock pile

The following picture will give you a sense of what I was trying to achieve. Imagine another rock balanced atop this pair and sometimes yet another balanced atop that.

The rock Malcolm accidentally balanced on another rock when he thre it with the excavator.

Several of the rocks are considerably longer than they are across so I stood them on their ends like teeth. I ignored any I could not move and made more or less vertical piles from smaller rocks. Balancing rounded but irregular rocks atop one another like beads on a string takes some perseverance.

There are several smaller heaps of rocks in the vicinity of The House of Steel and some of those received the treatment too. Bizarre? Yes! But lots of fun. If anyone asks, I'm going to say it's a cult thing. The cult of Things on Other Things.

Thought for the day:

Creativity represents a miraculous coming together of the uninhibited energy of the child with its apparent opposite and enemy -- the sense of order imposed on the disciplined adult intelligence.

Norman Podhoretz


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Jonathan Sturm 2001

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Jonathan Sturm 2001