A Sturm's Eye View, Guaranteed Free of Harmful, or Potentially Harmful Chemicals -- but Watch Out for the Ideas! Some of them are Contagious!
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 26 March 2001
Spent the day in the city for the first time in a while. My regular hairdresser was closed so I went into a flashy looking place in one of those shopping arcades. The Beautiful Young Thing first shampooed my hair and gave me a scalp massage. There's a first time for everything, even when you're almost 50 years old! Then BYT made me a mug of plunger coffee -- almost as strong as I like it. She suggested a glass of chardonnay would be in order if I called in the afternoon next time.
After ploughing through my beard with a Number 3 comb on the razor, BYT cut and then blow dried my hair. During all this the phone rang fairly constantly and clients walked in to make bookings. BYT apologised each time, which became a bit wearing so I suggested that since I assumed she hadn't arranged for the phone to ring etc, she had no need to apologise. BYT was much relieved by my comment.
At $A28 the haircut was no better nor worse than my cheap and cheerful $A12 cut. And I'm not sure whether the "free" coffee and scalp massage was worth the extra $A16. The timing was perfect, though. The cab I took had me at my potential new client's premises bang on 10 am.
I quickly ran through the main things they need to pay attention to in their web pages. Luckily they have a Compaq Proliant server running NT4, so I could demonstrate that the pages that look so good on the Mac are shite on a PC. The main problem of the broken search function (they are using IIS 4) I refused to look at. I suggested I'd find a colleague who was already up to speed with IIS and he/she would be in touch later. This latter turned out to be harder than I thought as most candidates have fled to the mainland or further in search of fortune and fame (mostly the former).
Kevin, the licensee of the Victoria Tavern phoned a likely prospect and handed the phone to me. The Bright Young Man with a reputation for getting the job done is in the middle of a rollout, but promises to help out once that's finished. He's certified in IIS so he gets full marks for bravery admitting that in these MS bashing times. I'm the only MCP I know who wears the pin and it gets me quite a ribbing from my colleagues. It has also been responsible for me getting a lot of work by starting conversations with strangers who say, "Oh, do you work for Microsoft?" and I reply, "No, I'm an independent contractor... Please take a card."
Of course this is pure marketing stuff (AKA common sense). I've lost count of the number of people who whine because they have their MCSE (PhD or whatever) but can't find work. Suggest knocking on a few relevant doors and they say, "Oh, I could never do anything like that!"
Thought for the day:
An optimist may see a light where there is none, but why must the pessimist always run to blow it out?
Michel De Saint-Pierre
Tuesday 27 March 2001
The weather today was showery so Fran and I decided too dangerous to be climbing ladders with heavy steel purlins. Fran asks how difficult it is to set up and maintain a web page, so I briefly discuss the issues before asking that most important question of all: "Why?"
Fran is a seriously great inventor and improviser. His simple dowelling jig doesn't just take a few minutes off the time to make a chair, it reduces the time by more than 90%. When he discovered that oars for his recently acquired dinghy were going to cost far more than he was prepared to pay, he invented a way to extend his lathe to make his own. In the course of renovating houses, he is often given broken down lawnmowers and other tools that are "too expensive to fix". He fixes them cheaply by improvising with whatever he has to hand and sells them.
We both deplore the throw away, canned solution approach to life and Fran wants to share his discoveries with the world. What better way than the Internet? I originally set up Franklin & Friends to showcase such talents as Fran's. It's been a bit moribund of late due to my obsession with The House of Steel. Hopefully, when that's finished we will have Fran's work and that of my many friends and neighbours marketed to the world -- music, art, writing...
Late in the day, most of the missing steel arrives. The all-important bridging has to come from the mainland. In the meantime, there's the 1.5 metre wide gutter to build, the roofing over The Great Hall and spare bedroom, and the front deck to finish.
Thought for the day:
An inventor is simply a person who doesn't take his education too seriously. You see, from the time a person is six years old until he graduates from college he has to take three or four examinations a year. If he flunks once, he is out. But an inventor is almost always failing. He tries and fails maybe a thousand times. If he succeeds once then he's in. These two things are diametrically opposite. We often say that the biggest job we have is to teach a newly hired employee how to fail intelligently. We have to train him to experiment over and over and to keep on trying and failing until he learns what will work.
Charles F. Kettering
Wednesday 28 March 2001
As usual The House of Steel occupied much of the day. First we moved yesterday's steel delivery from the side of the road up to the house. Then Fran and I finished putting the purlins over The Great Hall. We could only place the purlins adjacent to the central gutter after that, pending the arrival of the bridging. We managed to place about half the curved gutter supports before our tired bodies declared beer o'clock. At times the lengthy process of building such a difficult house has led me to wish I had insisted on a more straightforward design, but seeing the roof purlins in place has changed all that. The soaring ceiling of The Great Hall is perfect for such a large space.
Tomorrow I will ask the building inspector if he can do a partial inspection of the framing so we can start the roofing of The Great Hall and putting the marine plywood on the gutter framing.
This financial year in Australia the government instituted a new business taxation system. Part of the package was the introduction of quarterly returns for assessing tax liability, called Pay As You Go, rather than estimating next year's income for Provisional Tax. The main purpose was to suck liquidity out of the business sector and drive an estimated 10% of small business to the wall according to the accountant who led the seminar I attended. While frequent form-filling for the government is a small impost on a large business, on a small business where there is often only a sole proprietor, it's a major burden.
Knowing that there were likely to be considerable pains associated with the new tax regime, especially since it coincided with the replacement of wholesale sales tax with a broad consumption tax (GST), I decided that this was an excellent year to take a holiday from business and build our dream home. So far this financial year, my taxable earnings have been zero and you have no idea of the joy it brings me to know that none the dollar value of all the work on The House of Steel I have done is destined for the government to squander on useless schemes.
Needless to say, there has been much disquiet in the community as businesses have gone bust, or small business people (mainly tradespeople) have shut up shop. This being an election year, the government, seeing that it faces considerable retribution from the electors, has decided in its wisdom to make changes to the new tax scheme for small business. Today I saw the result of those changes. The Taxation Commissioner sent me a bill for $A2,317 based on their estimate of what my earnings for Quarter 3 "should" have been based on previous years, rather than my income so far this financial year of $A0. I anticipate another bill for a similar amount for Quarter 4.
Having squeezed all the cash out of small business it could, the Taxation Commission is now levying tax on non-existent income from those it presumably deems able to pay!
165-55 Commissioner may disregard scheme in making declarations
For the purposes of making a declaration under this Subdivision, the Commissioner may:
(a) treat a particular event that actually happened as not having happened; and
(b) treat a particular event that did not actually happen as having happened and, if appropriate, treat the event as:
(i) having happened at a particular time; and
(ii) having involved particular action by a particular entity; and
(c) treat a particular event that actually happened as:
(i) having happened at a time different from the time it actually happened; or
(ii) having involved particular action by a particular entity (whether or not the event actually involved any action by that entity).
Australia's Goods and Services Tax
If a chicken is uncooked, then GST does not apply. When the chicken is cooked, GST must be paid. Unless the chicken is at room temperature, when GST no longer applies. Yes, a tax on temperature! Only a politician could describe this as "simplification" when chicken, cooked or uncooked, hot, lukewarm or freezing, was previously tax-free.
Thought for the day:
It is the duty of a good shepherd to shear his sheep, not to skin them.
Thursday 29 March 2001
It seems I owe the Taxation Commissioner an apology of sorts. The bill I received yesterday is optional apparently. I can either accept the Commissioner's estimate of my tax liability, or calculate it myself. Why the letter explaining this came two days after the bill, I have no idea!
For those curious about how as a computer professional I can be occasionally looking after people's computer problems without making money, the small jobs I accept are quid pro quo. Usually a gourmet meal (preferably home cooked) with fine wine is a sufficient bribe. Anything major, especially if the client is unknown to me, I pass on to a colleague.
Both Fran and I have the dreaded lurgi and after three hours, finish for the day. The council building inspector said it was OK to go ahead putting the roof on without a framing inspection providing we have cyclone straps in place. When I ask Fran about cyclone straps he shows me one. They are for bonding wooden roof trusses to the top plate. I suspect we'd have trouble driving nails into high tensile steel, so I'll ignore the inspector's advice for the moment.
Thought for the day:
A man's health can be judged by which he takes two at a time -- pills or stairs.
Friday 30 March 2001
A difficult day suffering the effects of cold/flu virus. To add insult to injury, a bumble bee stung me when I put my hand in my pocket. Over a period of years keeping bees, I became allergic to all hymenoptera stings, so I applied vinegar to the sting site and took homeopathic apis. While there are many excellent reasons why homepathic doesn't work, I prefer the allergic reaction to be localised rather than involve the whole limb, which is what happens when I don't take it.
Despite the inauspicious start to the day, Tony welded up the purlins for the front deck of The House of Steel and Fran and I worked at getting the curved beams for the gutter finished. This entailed installing the laminated wooden post and beam to support the front. I sanded the beams while Fran made ready and as usual, Fran devised a simple arrangement of timber to locate the post correctly.
Swinging around the structure 5 metres (16 ft) above the ground amplified the flu induced vertigo. Nevertheless I managed to apply a thorough coating of epoxy waterproofing compound while Fran and Tony packed their stuff for the weekend.
Walking down the driveway, I stood and turned to look at the day's work. The house is stunningly beautiful -- like a great ocean wave! Part of the effect is caused by the repetitious elements of the roof purlins, the curved gutter beams and the way they catch the late afternoon sunshine.
Photographs are more than a week away I'm afraid. I'm shooting Fujichrome transparencies with my old Pentax SLR -- my budget doesn't stretch to a reasonable digital camera and I'm not about to buy a low end digital. The transparencies are scanned with my Canon FS2710 scanner, currently on loan to a friend. In return, I get a rack mount SCSI box filled with 10,000 rpm Seagate Barracudas. You know, the original ones that sound like a helicopter taking off. I guess that means I'll be building a server closet when I finish the new office.
My favourite computer writer is celebrating his birthday. Happy birthday Tom Syroid, you young whipper snapper :-)
Thought for the day:
The only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.
Saturday 31 March 2001
What a day! There's been a flurry of visitors (6) to ogle The House of Steel and all were suitably impressed. The owner-builders agreed that owner-building resulted in a much better outcome than just paying someone to do the job, mainly on the grounds of quality workmanship. One of the visitors had Fran as worker over several years and regretted having once engaged someone else. Fran's wife was also a visitor, and she told us that Fran has had some fervent prayers to God over some of the issues we have faced. While Fran has absolute faith in his God, I have absolute faith in Fran's abilities to come up with the creative solutions we have needed.
Nevertheless, I managed to build a Win2k Pro box for file serving and Internet connection sharing for a friend. It's a 233 MHz K62 with 128 MB of RAM and I installed a 20 GB Seagate Barracuda III. The first two attempts at installing resulted in a BSOD. Erroneously, I took this to be a disk geometry thing, but partitioning the hard disk had no effect. Resetting the BIOS to Defaults, then resetting the BIOS to forget about APM did the trick.
At the friend's house, the main workstation is a Packard Bell! (Hawk, spit!) I finally managed to enter the bowels by removing the front of the box to access the screws that allow removal of a side panel. Since I'm used to looking at boxes from the rear, I initially removed the incorrect side panel! Installed the NIC and started it up. Win2k didn't find the NIC and setting it to do so worked, but disabled the USB printer interface. Time to dive into the BIOS. Del, Esc and F1 all had nil result. I should have persisted -- a Google search revealed it was F2! Mysteriously, the electronic documentation on CD does not appear to contain this vital information.
Once in the BIOS, I reserved IRQ10 for the NIC and the USB printer worked once more. All this took far longer than I have described, but the important thing here is that BIOS settings appear to have a dramatic effect on Win2k's ability to play ball.
Sadly, the expected gourmet meal failed to materialise. My friend's son had invited twice as many people around as did Dad, so the son was asked to cook a meal. Over-barbecued steak, sausages and hamburgers, accompanied by fresh tomatoes, fried onions and bread. Sigh! It was a Thai green curry last time. And I missed The Bill. Speaking of which, they are shooting a movie length episode in Australia at the moment. It seems we Australians are even more fond of The Bill than the Brits. I still remember the pilot for the series, Wooden Top, with fondness. I imagine there are viewers who weren't even born when that was made.
Thought for the day:
Amateurs built the Ark; professionals built the Titanic.
Sunday 1 April 2001
All Fools Day is here and this fool is off up the road to the old church to fix an Internet connection problem. I'd rather be working on The House of Steel.
Thought for the day:
Indoors or out, no one relaxes in March, that month of wind and taxes, the wind will presently disappear, the taxes last us all the year.
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© Jonathan Sturm 2001