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 19 February 2001

I was asked by a friend to quote on supplying a computer. My initial guess was that it would cost around $A2,000. Logging onto EYO, I selected a 750 MHz AMD Duron, ASUS A7Pro MoBo, Global Win FNP50 CPU cooler, Matrox Millennium G200 video card, Seagate 20 GB UATA 100 hard disk, 128 MB of Kingmax memory, A Open HQ45 midi tower case, A Open 50 x CD ROM drive, A Open AW200 sound card, Viewsonic E70 17" monitor, A Open external V 90 modem, MS Optical mouse, A Open keyboard and a pair of reasonable speakers. It's slightly faster than the machines I purchased for Thomas and myself last April and a lot cheaper.

My friend is sight impaired, so I will try to persuade him to go with a 19" monitor for an additional $A300 or so. The OS will be Win2k for its stability and built in aids for the sight impaired. If I was purchasing this machine for myself, I'd get PC150 RAM instead of PC 133 and twice the amount for an additional $A165 and a Matrox Millennium G450 dual head for an additional $167 so I could run two monitors. And that would be the machine I'd actually be buying if I needed another today.

But my friend doesn't need the extra, faster RAM for the kind of multitasking I do, or two monitors. He tells me he's been quoted less than this, but that entails compromise. A cheaper monitor/video card combo would drop a couple of hundred off the price and a cheaper CPU cooler, ordinary mouse, cheap case/psu and generic RAM a few more. But my friend's vision is already impaired. Adding another layer of blurriness seems to me counterproductive. A cheaper CPU cooler would raise the temperature of the CPU making the system less stable. Cheaper RAM and power supply would definitely compromise stability. An ordinary mouse would need regular cleaning and my friend's eyesight isn't up to that.

Australia

We, the people of the broad brown Land of Oz, wish to be recognized as free nation of blokes, sheilas and the occasional boong. We come from many lands (although a few too many of us come from New Zealand) and, although we live in the best country in the world, we reserve the right to bitch and moan about it whenever we bloody like.

We are One Nation but we're divided into many States. First, there's Victoria, named after a queen who didn't believe in lesbians. Victoria is the realm of Mossimo turtlenecks, cafe latte, grand final day and big horse races. Its capital is Melbourne, whose chief marketing pitch is that it's "liveable". At least that's what they think. The rest of us think it is too bloody cold and wet.

Next, there's NSW, the realm of pastel shorts, macchiato with sugar, thin books read quickly and millions of dancing queens. Its capital Sydney has more queens than any other city in the world, and is proud of it. Its mascots are Bondi lifesavers who pull Speedos up their cracks to keep the left and right sides of their brains separate.

Down south we have Tasmania, a State based on the notion that the family that bonks together stays together. In Tassie, everyone gets an extra chromosome at conception. Maps of the State bring smiles to their faces. It holds the world record for a single mass shooting, which the Yanks can't seem to beat no matter how often they try.

South Australia is the province of half-decent reds, a festival and bizarre axe murders. SA is the state of innovation, where else can you so effectively reuse country bank vaults and barrels as in Snowtown, just out of Adelaide (also named after a queen)? They had the Grand Prix, but lost it when the views of Adelaide sent the Formula One drivers to sleep at the wheel.

Western Australia is too far from anywhere to be relevant in this document. Its main claim to fame is that it doesn't have daylight saving because if it did, all the men would get erections on the bus on their way to work. WA was the last state to stop importing convicts, and many of them still work there in the government and business.

The Northern Territory is the red heart of our land. Outback plains, cattle stations the size of Europe, kangaroos, jackaroos, emus, Ulurus and dusty kids with big smiles. It also has the highest beer consumption of anywhere on the planet, and its creek beds have the highest aluminium content of anywhere too. Although the Territory is the centrepiece of our national culture, few of us live there and the rest prefer to fly over it on our way to Bali.

And there's Queensland. While any mention of God seems silly in a document about a nation of half-arsed agnostics, it is worth noting that God probably made Queensland. Why he filled it with dickheads remains a mystery.

Oh yes, and there's Canberra. The least said the better.

We, the citizens of Oz, are united by the Pacific Highway, whose treacherous twists and turns kill more of us each year than die by murder.

We are united in our lust for international recognition; so desperate for praise we leap in joy when a ragtag gaggle of corrupt IOC officials tells us Sydney is better than Beijing.

We are united by a democracy so flawed that a political party, albeit a redneck gun-toting one, can get a million votes and still not win one seat in Federal Parliament while Brian bloody Harradine can get 24,000 and run the whole country.

Not that we're whingeing, we leave that to our Pommy immigrants. We want to make "no worries mate" our national phrase, "she'll be right mate" our attitude, and "Waltzing Matilda" our national anthem. So what if it's about a sheep-stealing crim who commits suicide.

We love sport so much our newsreaders can read the death toll from a race and still tell us who's winning in the same breath. And we're the best in the world at all the sports that count, like cricket, netball, rugby, AFL, roo-shooting, two-up and horse racing.

We also have the biggest rock, the tastiest pies, the blackest aborigines and the worst dressed Olympians in the known universe.

We shoot, we root, we vote. We are girt by sea and pissed by lunchtime. And even though we might seem a racist, closed-minded, sports-obsessed little people... at least we're better than the Kiwis.

Thought for the day:

The compromise will always be more expensive than either of the suggestions it is compromising.

Arthur Bloch


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Tuesday 20 February 2001

An interesting bit of reading to start the day:

THE DARK SIDE OF MAN: Tracing the Origins of Male Violence, by Michael P. Ghiglieri; Perseus, 1999.

"Chimp social structure would be unique were it not for humans acting similarly. This is no coincidence. By most taxonomic criteria, chimps and humans are sibling species. Overall, chimp society is not only extremely sexist -- with all adult males dominant over females -- but also xenophobic to the extent of killing all alien males, many infants, and some old females who enter their territory. To some readers, my use of the word war may seem too strong to describe what male kin groups do. But systematic, protracted, deliberate, and cooperative brutal killings of every male in a neighboring community, plus genocidal and frequent cannibalistic murder of many of their offspring, followed by usurpation of the males' mates and annexation of part or all of the losers' territory, matches or exceeds the worst that humans do when they wage war.

"Wild chimps reveal the natural contexts of territoriality, war, male cooperation, solidarity and sharing, nepotism, sexism, xenophobia, infanticide, murder, cannibalism, polygyny, and mating competition between kin groups of males -- behaviors that have evolved through sexual selection. Also significant is the fact that none of these apes learned these violent behaviors by watching TV or by being victims of socioeconomic handicaps -- poor schools, broken homes, bad fathers, illegal drugs, easy weapons, or any other sociological condition. Nor were these apes spurred to war by any political, religious, or economic ideology or by the rhetoric of an insane demagogue. They also were not seeking an 'identity' or buckling under peer pressure. Instead, they were obeying instincts, coded in the male psyche, dictating that they must win against other males." 

"The central 'truth' of sociologists is that nature, especially that of humankind, is nice and that people are designed to do things that, all in all, favor the survival of their species. Hence people could never be equipped by nature with instincts to kill other people. This idea comes from the Bambi school of biology, a Disneyesque vision of nature as a collection of moralistic and altruistic creatures. It admires nature for its harmony and beauty of form and for its apparent 'balance' or even cooperativeness. It admires the deer for its beauty and fleetness, and it grudgingly admires the lion for its power and nobility of form. If anything is really wrong with us, it explains, it is a sociocultural problem that we can fix by resocializing people. It is not a biological problem.

"Nature, however, is actually a dynamic state of recurring strife of relentless competition, dedicated predators and parasites, and selfish defense. The deer owes its beauty and fleetness to predators such as mountain lions, which kill the clumsiest and slowest deer first; to competitors for food; and to competition between males to mate. Without predators, deer would not only lack fleetness; they would lack legs altogether. They would be slugs oozing from one plant to another. Yet even if these deer-slugs were the only animals out there, natural selection would favor the evolution of faster and more aggressive deer-slugs and would favor any other trait that made them superior competitors against each other. This would include the killing of one deer-slug by another in situations where it boiled down to kill or die.

"Moreover, the power and noble visage of the lion (or of the family cat or dog, for that matter) rest entirely on natural selection having shaped not only a fleet predator and efficient killing machine but also a very violent competitor against its own kind in situations where the options were narrowed to exclude or kill, or else kill to survive or reproduce."

Thought for the day:

We must learn to tailor our concepts to fit reality, instead of trying to stuff reality into our concepts.

Victor Daniels


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Wednesday 21 February 2001

I didn't get to finish yesterday's post as I was laid low by my own stupidity. Fran and I decided to lift a wall that was a tad heavier than we could manage and I pushed a bit too hard. My back and left shoulder are hurting. Stupid.

Mike Barkman writes regarding Monday's post:

Bloody beaut, sport. As a riposte, how about a couple of Kiwi retaliations:

How do you tell if an Aussie is on the level? He dribbles out of both sides of his mouth.

Regarding NZ migration to Oz: it raises the average IQ on both sides of the Tasman.

And Aussie success at sport is the result of having honest referees -- an honest Aussie ref is one who patriotically stays bought.

And did you know that NZ was a full participant in the original c1900 conferences on Federation? All we have to do is ratify it. But Canberra would be too scared to allow it, because Kiwis would take over the whole political apparatus. If you don't believe me, there are Kiwis running *everything* around the whole world. You can't see them -- but believe me they're there.

/Mike

A note for overseas readers: the Kiwi is a short sighted, flightless bird with a penchant for shoe polish.

kiwi shoe polish

The reason Kiwis are "running *everything* around the whole world" is that as in Oz, it's impossible to be successful in the Land of the Long White Mediocrity without doing so overseas first. Dame Kiwi Te Kawana, Fred Dag and Shaun the sheep come immediately to mind.

Thought for the day:

Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.

Leonard Cohen


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Thursday 22 February 2001

Having mentioned the extremely famous New Zealander Fred Dag yesterday, I intended to point my readers to relevant websites. Imagine my amazement when a Google search produced a nil result! Fred's alter ego is John Clarke and in this persona has made some of the most hilarious television Australia has ever seen. His satire on the Olympics, The Games, went one better than the acclaimed British series, Yes Minister! and Yes Prime Minister by including some of the actual people involved, not just actors.

John Clarke's years of research has revealed that most of the world's great poetry was written by Australians (rather than New Zealanders as was once thought). Using sophisticated computer analytical techniques to verify the source material, Clarke has established beyond doubt the veracity of his claims regarding this thesis.

The names will be familiar to many: Arnold Wordsworth, Gavin Milton, Fifteen Bobsworth Longfellow, Alain Frost, Emmy-Lou Dickinson, Very Manly Hopkins, R.A.C. Milne, Kahlihliji Bran, b.b. hummings, Dylan Thompson, Robert Bowell and others. His book, The Even More Complete Book of Australian Verse, Allen & Unwin 1989 is a masterpiece. My personal favourite is Anne Bonkford's Where Was JFK When He Heard That I Was Shot and a close second is Bob Herrick's Upon Julia's Speedos.

Whenas in Speedos Julia goes,
Their fabric seemeth to expose
The wonders it doth juxtapose!

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see,
That lycra stretching each way free,
Tumescence overtaketh me!

Thought for the day:

Laughter -- An interior convulsion, producing a distortion of the features and accompanied by inarticulate noises. It is infectious and, though intermittent, incurable.

Ambrose Bierce


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Friday 23 February 2001

One of my fellow DayNoters believes organically grown food is an oxymoron. An oxymoron is self contradictory statement, such as cruel kindness. Why food grown without the use of dangerous, or potentially dangerous biocides is an oxymoron escapes me. Perhaps it's because some people insist that since chemists define one branch of chemistry, that of carbon compounds (excluding carbon dioxide) as organic, no other definition of organic is allowed. I'm sorry, but the English language is far more flexible than that.

Organic farming is that in which the farm is treated as an organism. That is, all its parts are related. The waste of one part is the input of another. For instance, cereal straw instead of being burnt is used for animal bedding, then composted and used as fertiliser. This contrasts with factory farming where such things as animal manures and other wastes are a problem needing a solution.

Factory farmers have taken the simplistic notion of recycling waste and created a disease -- Mad Cow Disease. Because the cattle production factory is isolated from the cereal production factory, which is in turn isolated from the vegetable production factory etc, they decided to feed the waste bits of cattle to their cattle. Such a thing does not happen on an organic farm because the farmer understands the need to keep the food chain as long as possible.

So, people are turning to food produced by organic farmers as a way to avoid unpleasant diseases. In the process they discover that the food tastes better. And tests by chemists show higher levels of essential nutrients such as vitamins in these products.

I find it interesting that stock food must have its nutritional contents clearly stated before it can legally be sold while no such demand is made of most food sold for human consumption.

This state of affairs is a direct consequence of the superstitious belief that everything can be expressed in monetary terms. Only when you assign everything a dollar value before manipulating mystical economic equations can you do such things as violate the second law of thermodynamics.

Thought for the day:

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.

Richard P Feynman


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Saturday 24 February 2001

Pictures of progress with The House of Steel are posted here.

Yesterday we were told that we cannot mortgage The House of Steel to finance its completion because we are owner builders. If we were registered builders, skimping on bracing, using clouts to hold strapping instead of the proper fasteners, cutting every corner to increase our income rather than building  a quality house, then we could mortgage it! Not being able to mortgage The House of Steel is no great problem. We will mortgage the cottage or take out a personal loan if need be.

Building houses is addictive. As we progress I find myself thinking of ways we could have improved on the design and execution. Unlike many, this does not mean we are going to build two or three until we get it right. The House of Steel will be more than good enough. Nevertheless, I talked yesterday with a potential client to design and build a House of Steel for him.

Thought for the day:

Entrepreneurship is the last refuge of the trouble making individual.

Mason Cooley


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Sunday 25 February 2001

 

Thought for the day:

 


 

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Jonathan Sturm 2001

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Jonathan Sturm 2001