Ephemerides

A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

Who is that fat bastard? 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 9 April 2001

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me! I am half a world away from where I was born and that makes me happy.

My birthplace was the heart of the industrial midlands of the UK, or UKland as I am wont to call it. Fifty years ago that wasn't a particularly pleasant place to be. My good fortune was to be born to a war damaged Jew from Austria, my father and a truly eccentric Englishwoman. Surrounded by people who believed that the world owed them something by their mere existence, my parents worked an endless round of part time jobs: selling seafood in pubs on Friday and Saturday nights, collecting football pools coupons door to door... 

They managed to save enough to own a car and we holidayed by the seaside every summer in a decrepit army surplus tent. Our neighbours used to say: "They're lucky!" surrounded as they were by glitzy artefacts purchased on the never-never. While they were obsessed by new things, ours were mostly second-hand.

My fondest memory is of mountains of books, purchased from a stall at the Saturday market and the corner of the covers torn off to comply with some stupid law. Both my parents were passionate readers and my mother was particularly fond of science fiction. My favourite authors were Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clarke, John Wyndham and Isaac Asimov, though I read with delight many books from the previous century.

I remember a little girl visiting to play with my younger sister and my mother offering her a slice of bread and butter. The little girl had to be persuaded to eat it as she had never had butter before. Food was terribly expensive and despite my father's vegetable growing in the back yard, I cannot recall eating to satiation until we voyaged to Australia on the Italian ship Aurelia.

A return trip to UKland has never appealed to me. The material poverty was bearable (just), but not the poverty of minds steeped in class division and bigotry. We always thought of ourselves as rats leaving a sinking ship.

-oOo-

Joke time:

English comedian John Cleese, of Monty Python fame, was asked to describe the difference between British and American people. In reply Cleese said that there were three basic differences from the British viewpoint: 

1. "We speak English and you don't." 
2. "When we hold a World Championship for a particular sport, we invite teams from other countries to play, as well." 
3. "When you meet the head of state in Great Britain, you only have to go down on one knee."

-oOo-

And my Linux adventures continue:

Today was too wet for working on The House of Steel, so I decided to bite the bullet and install SuSE Linux 7.1. I chose the Default with Office install and everything proceeded smoothly to the choosing screen resolution and colour depth point. The default choice of 1280 x 1024 was fine, but the Matrox G400 is capable of much better than 16 bpp. The screen refresh of 68 Hz chosen for my Sony G400 was none too impressive either. I changed to 24 bpp, but there appeared to be no way for me to change the refresh rate, so I decided to soldier on.

Sadly, the machine hung at this point. I let it sit for an hour, just in case, but the wristwatch icon was still in evidence when I returned. So I switched to a console and executed a shutdown -r now. The installer returned me to the screen resolution chooser and this time I accepted the defaults. The installer hadn't found my printer, a LaserJet 5 MP, but clicking the button to select a printer found it OK and the test prints worked. Since printing has been a major PITA in other Linuces, this was very heartening.

The installer had found my NE2K compatible NIC and I configured it. Clicking the button to save changes resulted in the network being unable to start. I tried a couple of times, but it didn't want to budge. Ditto for the sound card. Mandrake had no difficulty with these devices, so I imagine I'll be able to configure them later.

Finally, after two hours I was logged onto the new (for me) KDE2 desktop. My first priority was to update the installation with the two update CDs that were supplied with SuSE 7.1 Pro, one miscellaneous patches and the other to update to KDE 2.1. I found the Updater in the Administrative tools, but it refused to believe that the CD drive contained any updater files and anyway, it was read-only. I mounted the CDROM and inspected it. It's loaded with RPMs, but no ReadMe that I could find. Ditto for the other CD. Attempting to run the Updater applet with the CDROM mounted produced an error message that it was in use. Umounting the CDROM, I tried once more to use YAST2 to run the update utility, but again it refused to admit that the CD contained any useable files, nor would it let me navigate to any of the directories containing RPMs. And I wouldn't have a clue which RPM to choose among the 719 available on the two CDs. Perhaps I'm supposed to run each one individually!

I think it's time for a long soak in a really hot bath.

Thought for the day:

I guess I don't so much mind being old, as I mind being fat and old.

Peter Gabriel


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Tuesday 10 April 2001

It's 2:58 am as I commence writing this. No, I haven't been slaving over a hot keyboard for hours, I just awoke early. I figured that the 719 RPMs on the two CDs I had Cetus Technology bundle with SuSE 7.1 were the equivalent of MS's Hot Fixes for NT. Except unlike in Hot Fix Hell, the RPM tells you if it has dependencies before it will let you install -- a nice touch. Problem is, how do I find the optimum path through 719 Hot Fixes? The short and obvious answer is, I don't bother.

What I am going to do next is reinstall SuSE and this time do a more manual configure. Accepting the defaults installed the ex2 filesystem instead of ReiserFS. Also, SuSE hangs at random points in the boot process, most recently trying to load the at daemon. Lastly, it recognised my RealTek NIC, but can't start the network. Mandrake had no problem with it, so I have no idea at this stage why that's so.

-oOo-

Well, it's now later, even though it's still only 6.45 am. The SuSE reinstall went smoothly and the network came up OK. Instead of assigning an IP to the NIC, I told SuSE to use DHCP and all went well. (Yes, Dorothy, it was an unused and valid IP I used last time). I ran XF86Setup to tell the system I have a monitor capable of better than 70 Hz refresh, but failed to get any higher refresh rate. While doing this, I inadvertently changed the keyboard to German, causing some momentary confusion later. Mysteriously, the system accepted "zes" as "yes", so the wizards at SuSE obviously know a thing or two about rank amateurs like me.

YAST2 enabled me to tell the system to use the IP of my server for a gateway and I input a couple of name server addresses for good measure. Then I fired up Konqueror to have a quick look at how my web page looks in that browser. The default font at 1280 x 1024 is tiny, so I went into the KDE Control Centre to change the default font size. Browsing Brian Bilbrey's web page revealed that he and Tom have posted their eagerly awaited Linux book -- well, part of it anyway.

Initial impression is that this is a faster, smoother Lunix than I have experienced in the past, no doubt due to the combination of a more recent XF86, the new kernel and KDE2. It's also pretty kewl being able to install from a DVD instead of playing the CD shuffle. The real test is going to come in a couple of months' time when I install FreeCisc on the old 486 and convert the server currently doing Internet connection sharing to SuSE.

Thought for the day:

The solution to a problem only changes the problem.

Anonymous


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Wednesday 11 April 2001

It's raining so I'll be spending part of the day working with SuSE Linux, the most promising Lunix distro I've found so far. Today's project is to discover how to persuade SuSE to see the updaters on the CDs provided by Cetus Technology. The easy way for me to update my SuSE would be via the Internet since I can see the Internet from the machine running SuSE, but I'm practising abstemiousness with regards to downloads since DingoBlue has placed a download limit on accounts. In any event, not every machine running Lunix I come across in future will have Internet access, so I'm learning things now for future reference. And in the great tradition of the DayNoters, sharing my discoveries.

I have noticed that page reads for the Daily Diatribe have fallen somewhat over recent weeks while I have been working on The House of Steel. I keep a counter on the index page to this web, but check the stats for that less frequently. Much to my surprise, the hits for the index page have risen about as much as the hits for the daily Diatribe have fallen. I guess that the lesson for me is that many of you visit this page expecting more computerish stuff and the newcomers through the front door are finding other interesting stuff to read.

Be that as it may, this page, my daily journal, is as much for me as it is for my readers. I started it to get back into the rhythm of writing as I have several books planned. Books don't happen without a lot of daily sweat and good writing doesn't happen without writing lots of words, then deleting most of them on a re-read. After almost 30 weeks of this, my writing muscles are back in tune and some of that is due to the forty or so daily readers I don't want to disappoint. Thank you. I'm sorry if you find less computerish stuff these days, but The House of Steel is my first priority. When it's completed (hopefully June), there will be more in that line and more thoughts about Life, the Universe and Everything.

Meanwhile, there are two new members of the DayNotes Gang: Greg Lincoln who knows lots about Lunix and Mat Lemmings who thinks Revolver was the best Beatles album, an opinion I heartily approve. Matt Beland is back after a long absence and he's another Lunix guru. His piece on Tom Syroid explains why so many of the DayNotes Gang are pursuing Lunix solutions.

-oOo-

And then I receive a phone call from the steel supplier explaining that the reason they haven't delivered the bridging is they were waiting for a call from me. To tell them how much bridging I needed. The fool has forgotten that I have already paid for this! Since what I paid for is a specific quantity of material, how can they not know what that quantity is? Do not deal with Stramit -- they are incompetent idiots. Now I have to go out in the rain to make some measurements.

-oOo-

I phoned the manager of Stramit to complain about his sales idiot, though not in those terms. I told him that I didn't like being treated like an idiot and could he quickly organise the missing bridging and purlin. Some time later, the sales idiot phones and explains that the manager didn't understand what I'd ordered so I told him, barely controlling my anger at his ineptitude. Some time later again, he phoned because the measurements and quantity differed from what he had calculated back in March. The measurements and quantity he said he didn't have this morning because he was waiting for them from me! How does this company manage to remain in business?

-oOo-

The update to SuSE didn't exactly work out. I copied the relevant directories of updates and patches to the hard disk and again tried to use YAST2 to point to those directories. YAST2 flatly refused to accept that these were the correct places to look. It occurred to me that YAST2's idea of an update was to make changes to the system from the original distro and confirmed this by putting the install DVD in the CD drive. Sure enough, the menu of what kind of install I wanted to perform was there, but no option to point to a patch disk.

So, using Konqueror, I clicked on what seemed to me to be the core of the KDE2.1 update RPMs, kdebase and it offered me the option of installing, updating, replacing files etc. I clicked on the install button and it informed me that there were some library incompatibilities. So I located the library RPM and clicked that, whereupon it informed me that there was an error: package moving.html not listed in file index. The next RPM on my hit list, kdesupport failed to react when I clicked it, so decided to restart X. And X refused to restart. I changed to a console and executed a shutdown -r now and found myself in the YAST2 installer at the "choose your language" stage. Obviously I've hosed SuSE and need to reinstall, but that will have to wait until later. I'm going to read the documentation from cover to cover before the next foray, looking things up in the index having failed miserably to allow me to achieve what I need.

Map of the World according to Merkins

Thought for the day:

Cherish your visions; cherish your ideals; cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow delightful conditions, all heavenly environment; of these if you but remain true to them, your world will at last be built.

James Allen


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Thursday 12 April 2001

Bob Thompson takes umbrage at the use of the word hero by sport commentators. I am bemused by his surprise at their inept use of English:

GREAT SPORTS COMMENTARY BLUNDERS

"One of the reasons Arnie (Arnold Palmer) is playing so well is that, before each tee-shot, his wife takes out his balls and kisses them -- Oh my God, what have I just said?" (US TV commentator)

"This is a really a lovely horse, I once rode her mother." Ted Walsh -- Horse Racing Commentator)

"We now have exactly the same situation as we had at the start of the race, only exactly the opposite." (Murray Walker -- Formula 1 motor racing commentator)

"He's pulling him off! The Spanish manager is pulling his captain off!" (RTE's George Hamilton on Spain manager Luis Suarez's substitution of Butragueno during their world cup qualifier with Ireland in Seville,1992)

"The black players at this club lend the side a lot of skill and flair, but you also need white players in there to balance things up and give the team some brains and some common sense." (Crystal Palace chairman Ron Noades, speaking in 1991).

On the difficulties of adjusting to playing football and living in a foreign country: "It was like being in a foreign country," (Ian Rush -- ex Liverpool and Wales footballer)

"Bill Frindal has done a bit of mental arithmetic with a calculator." (John Arlott -- cricket commentator)

"Hodge scored for Forest after 22 seconds -- totally against the run of play." (Peter Lorenzo -- football 'pundit')

"We actually got the winner three minutes from the end but then they equalized." (Ian McNail -- footballer)

"I've never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body." (Winston Bennett)

"The lead car is absolutely unique, except for the one behind it which is identical." (Murray Walker)

"I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father." (Greg Norman -- golfer)

"Sure there have been injuries and deaths in boxing -- but none of them serious." (Alan Minter -- boxer)

"The racecourse is as level as a billiard ball." (John Francombe -- jockey)

"If history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing again." (Terry Venables -- ex England football team manager)

"We'll still be happy if we lose. It's on at the same time as the Beer Festival." (Noel O' Mahony, Cork City boss before the game in Munich)

"I would not say he (David Ginola) is the best left winger in the Premiership, but there are none better." (Ron Atkinson -- football pundit)

"He dribbles a lot and the opposition don't like it -- you can see it all over their faces." (Ron Atkinson)

"I never comment on referees and I'm not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat." (Ron Atkinson)

"It took a lot of bottle for Tony (Adams) to own up." (Ian Wright -- commenting on his team mate's alcoholism)

"Ah, isn't that nice, the wife of the Cambridge president is kissing the cox of the Oxford crew." (Harry Carpenter -- BBC TV Boat Race 1977)

"Here we are in the Holy Land of Israel -- a Mecca for tourists." (David Vine -- BBC commentator)

"Morcelli has four fastest 1500-metre times ever. And all those times at 1500 metres." (David Coleman -- athletics commentator)

"Julian Dicks is everywhere. It's like they've got eleven Dicks on the field." (Metro Radio)

"...and later we will have action from the men's cockless pairs..." (Sue Barker -- sports commentator).

"Her time is about 4.33, which she's capable of." (David Coleman)

Dennis Pennis (interviewer): "Have you ever thought of writing your autobiography?" Chris Eubank (boxer) : "On what?"

"Sex is an anti-climax after that!" (Grand National winning jockey Mark Fitzgerald.)

"Well, you gave the horse a wonderful ride, everybody saw that." (Desmond Lynam -- (then) BBC commentator)

"To play Holland, you have to play the Dutch." (Ruud Gullit -- Holland football team manager)

"Well , either side could win it, or it could be a draw." (Ron Atkinson)

"For those of you watching in black and white, Spurs are in the all-yellow strip." (John Motson)... the all time classic!

"Strangely, in slow motion replay, the ball seemed to hang in the air even longer." (David Acfield -- footballer)

"What will you do when you leave football, Jack -- will you stay in football?" (Stuart Hall -- Radio 5 live )

"I'd like to play for an Italian club, like Barcelona." (Mark Draper -- Aston Villa footballer)

'There goes Juantorena down the back straight, opening his legs and showing his class." (David Coleman at The Montreal Olympics)

"And for those of you who watched the last programme, I hope all your doughnuts turn out like Fanny's." (Fanny and Johnny Craddock)

"...and Ray Illingworth is relieving himself in front of the pavilion." (John Arlott)

"These greens are so fast they must bikini wax them." (Gary McCord on the greens at Augusta)

"Moses Kiptanui -- the 19 year old Kenyan, who turned 20 a few weeks ago." (David Coleman)

-oOo-

^Z recently wrote:

Optimization

Jorgen Sandberg writes engagingly in the March 2001 Harvard Business Review about "Understanding Competence at Work". (No, the HBR isn't on my normal reading list; a friendly librarian (LK) who knows what I like forwarded the article to me.) Sandberg identifies three types of people whom he terms:

Customer optimizers turn out to be the most competent and effective workers ... but according to Sandberg, few people whom he interviewed could explain why that third group was so good. Sandberg then asks: "And if people don't recognize or value the attributes that really determine success, how easy will it be for them to acquire those attributes?" That's a good question --- one which applies much more widely in life than merely to one's employment.

I frequently find ^Z's posts stimulating.

-oOo-

At 2:00 am this morning, I started a fresh install of SuSE and returned to my bed. When I awoke it had hung during the kernel sources install. Ah well, back to trying a Default plus Office install.

-oOo-

And DingoBlue has a break in their fibre-optic cable -- time to repair unknown, so I'm using my (expensive) BigPond account. Off air for a while.

-oOo-

Reinstalled SuSE again and running the KDE Control Centre causes a hang. Tom Syroid has promised to investigate exactly how the update using YAST2 works. My reading of the paper documentation and searching SuSE's site hasn't elucidated a solution yet. I haven't given up -- it's just that there are so many documents to read that might give me a clue.

Perhaps feeling jaundiced by Stramit stuffing me around for weeks over the steel order for The House of Steel has munged my ability to think straight. I've collated all my House of Steel jottings regarding Stramit into one report. It's depressing reading!

Thought for the day:

There is a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.

Edmund Burk


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Friday 13 April 2001

If you value your sanity, you're better off not reading today's post.

Like Mat Lemmings (I promise not to make any more silly jokes about your name) I am not superstitious. But all around me people I respect are behaving in a most irrational manner. Last Saturday I went to a barbecue to meet the new intake of students for the Wooden Boat School, supposedly a social event. It turned out it was political -- about taking sides in a battle between the ex-owners of the school and the new manager. Piffle! And that started a week of witnessing other people I respect having at each other! Double piffle! And then there's my problems with Stramit bringing the building of The House of Steel to a standstill. Extra, double piffle. And I can't get SuSE to run stable. Every time I apply an updater, I destroy its ability to boot! Even when I dangle my magic healing quartz crystal over the computer! I'd nail myself to a cross except every time I try, I can't get the last bloody nail in!

They say I'll be all better if I take the recommended medication.

-oOo-

Scientific Environmentalism -- an interesting read.

Thought for the day:

What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?

Ursula K Le Guin


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Saturday 14 April 2001

 

Thought for the day:

Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us -- and those around us -- more effectively. Look for the learning.

Eric Allenbaugh


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Sunday 15 April 2001

Gone fishing.

Thought for the day:

Why was the human race created? Or at least why wasn't something creditable created in place of it? God had His opportunity. He could have made a reputation. But no, He must commit this grotesque folly -- a lark which must have cost Him a regret or two when He came to think it over and observe effects.

Mark Twain


 

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Jonathan Sturm 2001

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Jonathan Sturm 2001