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 16 April 2001

Yesterday started at 4 am, an hour or so before I usually awake. Under the auspices of our local publican, Betty, some thirteen of us were off tuna fishing. We arrived at Pirates Bay around 8:30 and loaded the Eskies of beer aboard. Said Eskies were already somewhat lighter than when we left Franklin at 5:30. Actually, it was nearer 6:00 while some were awoken from their drunken stupor! 

The boat made its way through the one metre swell of the remnants of a storm toward Tasman island, dropping a couple of craypots on the way. The cliffs are spectacularly beautiful and when my slide scanner returns, I will post some pix. The cliffs rise almost sheer out of the water and where the slope is less than 45°, the "evil" seals congregate and fight for space. I say "evil" because to the south of us is Heard Island where volcanic activity Global Warming has led to many more fur seals and 25,000 king penguin pairs compared with only 3 pairs in 1947.

We trolled five lines with imitation squid lures as we made our way to the first shelf for a spot of handline fishing. All we caught were a few small Guernots that we cut up for handline bait.

For a while, we motored south into the Southern Ocean through sunny seas of around a metre and a half, trolling for tuna between shelves where we continued to catch only small Gurnots on the hand lines. The Southern Ocean is a belt of water almost unobstructed by land, so storms that form here are the most ferocious in the world. The worst are called Southerly Busters and their speed easily exceeds that of a powerful motor boat.

From windless, the weather turned Sou' Westerly, the direction of killer storms and the skipper heard over the radio that the largest tuna of the season (70kg) had been caught back at Tasman Island. So, that's where we headed and by the time we arrived, the sea was calm with hardly any swell. By 3pm we still had caught nothing worthwhile, so we headed for an islet for a spot of rock fishing with handlines. 

Betty almost immediately caught a Stripy Trumpeter as long as my forearm. With only six handlines between thirteen, most of them by now staggeringly drunk, we caught a few more Guernots and Savoury Perch, before we had to return to Pirates Bay. My ambition to catch a Southern Bluefin, or even a Marlin remains unassuaged.

Unlike most of my companions, I didn't drink much. I have a theory that falling overboard sober is safer than doing so drunk. One stubby at mid-day and my fifth back at the pub at Franklin at 7pm. Reminder to self: next time take earplugs against the din on the bus returning!

At least I managed to forget, for a few brief moments at a time, the events of the first week of my second half century of my life.

-oOo-

The myth of global warming endangers the planet

So says Melanie Phillips of the UK Sunday Times. Perhaps the mainstream press has decided to publish the opinions of the many, rather than the few.

-oOo-

I remember Earth Day 1970. The following from the Nando Times:

Earth Day 1970 provoked a torrent of irresponsible predictions. "We have about five more years at the outside to do something," ecologist Kenneth Watt declared. "If present trends continue, the world will be ... 11 degrees colder in 2000 ... about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age!"

Full story here.

Thought for the day:

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.

Carl Bard


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Tuesday 17 April 2001

Chris Bell Removals just phoned to say the windows for The House of Steel have arrived. Of course we can't install them until we have the purlins finished and the framing inspection. I have arranged to have the windows put in storage. I am angry and depressed.

-oOo-

I think that the old adage that it's the squeaky hinge that gets oiled works. I faxed every branch of Stramit in Australia about my problems with Stramit Tasmania and lo, the manager commenced to treat me as a valued client instead of an enemy. We were still having a nice little natter when the bridging was delivered -- with considerable bad grace according to Tony who's welding some steps for me today.

Leon's originally a local (born half an hour's drive south of here) and an ex-scientist to boot. Looking forward to his visiting The House of Steel now that we can talk in civilised terms. Oh, happy day!

Thought for the day:

There is no twilight zone of honesty in business. A thing is right or it's wrong. It's black or it's white.

John F Dodge


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Wednesday 18 April 2001

A good night's sleep for the first time in a week has me feeling quite chirpy despite a slight overhang from a little too much celebratory wine last night. My son Thomas and several of his friends camped out overnight up near our dam. Much beer was consumed and no doubt many lies told -- my son is no longer a child. 

House of Steel update here.

I had my second lock-up of Win2k yesterday, the first was last weekend. The first could be attributed to random cosmic rays, but the second more likely means a problem. As Win2k has behaved near perfectly since I installed the first release candidate, my first suspicion is hardware. I removed the side cover from the case, blew some accumulated dust and fluff out and left the side off the case. We will see what transpires. One of the two CPU fans is now quite noisy and heat could well be the cause. Time to order in a new CPU cooler I think.

-oOo-

The green lizard logo that SuSE uses reminds me of the following doggerel:

A habit obscene and unsavoury,
Holds the Bishop of Wessex in slavery.
With maniacal howls, he deflowers young owls
What he keeps in his underground aviary.

But the Prior of Dunstan St Just,
Consumed with erotical lust,
Raped the Bishop's young owls, those precious small fowls,
And a little green lizard what bust.

-oOo-

Slackware Commercial Distribution Left in Doubt as Developers Are Laid Off. Story here.

Thought for the day:

Just because nobody complains doesn't mean all parachutes are perfect.

Benny Hill


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Thursday 19 April 2001

My contretemps with Linux has reached a watershed. As a desktop system, I think it's a washout! KDE is unstable, WordPerfect is unstable, Netscape is unstable, Star office is unstable -- if I wanted an unstable system, I could just use Win98 like the hoi polloi, or a Mac like the élite. Win2k/Office2k remains my desktop of choice for stability and ease of use. At this point in time, Linux has nothing to offer that I either want or need. BUT...

I haven't given up on Linux for the primary purpose for which I have been learning it. That is, it's obviously a fine server OS with a number of advantages over NT/Win2k as well as some shortcomings. Before I get to them though, I would like to make a comment about security. The Linuxen make much of Linux's purported inherently better security. I'm sorry, but any machine connected to a network is susceptible to attack. If MS's share of server space declines and the gap is filled by Linux, guess which OS is going to become the focus of cracker attacks. Don't just point at the number and frequency of security fixes MS releases. Go look at RedHat's as well. RedHat is the most popular Linux server distro and could well be one of the few remaining in a year or so's time.

Yes, you can delve deeper into Linux, to lock down things tighter and even recode to close holes. But I'd want to be damned sure the rewritten code hadn't opened up more security holes than it closed. Such programming expertise costs good money. Also a cost is the extra time required for setting up a Linux box so that it runs secure and stable. I know I'm going to become more efficient over time as I come to grips with Linux, but somebody is going to pay for my investment of time and it ain't me. I'm not a charitable institution; I'm in this industry for the money. Oh yeah, fun too, but the money is important.

NT/Win2k's chief advantages are ease of use and a huge cottage industry of support when you luck out on TechNet. And MS isn't always to blame when TechNet doesn't appear to have the answer. I'm amazed at the number of so-called MS Certified Professionals that wouldn't have a clue how to query TechNet efficiently. Or know about Andrew Baker. The relative ease of problem-solving translates to low ongoing costs. There's lots of expertise out there and reasonable quality professionals are not outrageously expensive. 

NT/Win2k's chief disadvantage is MS, the software company everyone loves to hate. Apart from that, the up-front costs can be huge, both for licenses and the hardware to run that easy-to-use GUI. It's here that Linux shows its main advantages -- virtually free OS, no licence tracking hassles and lower hardware requirements for similar performance. Another Linux advantage is that it can be administered through a Telnet session from anywhere on the planet.

Linux's chief disadvantage is that it takes considerable learning to become proficient. Where a single place (the MMC)  in Win2k allows you to do damn near everything, on Linux there're config files all over the place that need attention when making changes. If you make an error in one, it's hell on wheels tracking down your mistake. Documentation? There's a huge amount of badly conceived, badly written, out-of-date shite. For every Tom Syroid and Brian Bilbrey out there, there appear to be a hundred dickheads that will call you all the names under the sun if they even get a hint that you might have used some version of Windows at any point in your computer career. In comparison to them, Roland Dobbins is a gentleman! And this problem solving takes time, therefore money.

Which brings me to my final and related conclusion. There is a great shortage of Linux expertise out there. And high demand faced with shortage translates into big bucks. I can teach basic MS Small Business Server management to a Windows power user in one or two three-hour sessions. It's going to take considerably longer than that to teach the basics of Linux admin. Will businesses really be better off using Linux financially? It looks to me like the money will just shift from MS into the pockets of admins and trainers, and that's no bad thing in my humble opinion.

Thought for the day:

You know you have the Linux bug when your son buys you a vi reference mug for your birthday.

Jonathan Sturm


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Friday 20 April 2001

After yesterday's efforts on The House of Steel were washed out by rain, today saw the final roof purlin in place. Not without a lot of cursing and swearing from me -- I was a right fumble fingers all day. Fortunately my expensive new electric screwdriver survived a fall of 4 metres into sticky mud. Only one of my fumbles resulted in injury, a bloodless cut in the first crease of my right forefinger that stings whenever I flex the finger. Eventually, I realised it was time to give up and just watch Fran finish off the day's work.

The day ended on a fine note though. Leon Williams, the local Stramit manager offered to make good on the final discrepancy between what I'd paid for and what I have received. All's well that ends well as Billy Shakespeare noted.

An insane story at The Register captured my attention. Given that we have no idea how to predict future performance from interviewing job applicants, how the hell were the computer algorithms worked out? Back in the 70s a guy I interviewed came across as almost totally lacking in redeeming personal qualities. Despite this, on instinct I hired him and he went on to become my best salesman and is still a very good friend.

Thought for the day:

Off the rack solutions, like bargain basement dresses, never fit anyone.

Francoise Giroud


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Saturday 21 April 2001

A cold and frosty morning. Our first frost generally occurs around this time of year, though we had a winter a few years ago with no frost. A recent paper titled "Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations over the Last Glacial Termination" by Monnin et al. appeared without fanfare in Science (Science, vol.291, p.112, 5 Jan 2001). While it has long been known that there was a correlation between CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and temperature, there was controversy over whether CO2 caused the temperature to rise, or vice versa. The paper analyses ice cores from the Antarctic and reveals an 800 year lag between CO2 changes and changes in temperature over a 1,300 year period. I wonder why I can find this at John Daly's website, but nowhere in the mainstream press.

-oOo-

The frosty morning bodes well for the barbecue we are attending today. Tony, who welded the steel together for our house has a newborn son and that calls for some celebration. He's spit roasting a pig and a turkey or two. Of course this is technologically backward compared to what our Merkin cousins would do to cook meat. Apparently they use some sort of high frequency electromagnetic radiation. And it's meat that was freshly killed in Tony's backyard in a country free of FMD (as well as several other loathsome diseases), rather than France where all the best food is produced, or so I am told. In fact, it's so backward here that we leave our money on the bar when we drink at the pub. Even when we go to dispose of our used beer. We are so primitive it wouldn't occur to anyone to steal from his companions. 

Thought for the day:

When we are born we cry that we are come... to this great stage of fools.

William Shakespeare


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Sunday 22 April 2001

Another cold and frosty morning. Yesterday's barbecue was a lot of fun and illustrated one of the biggest mistakes of owner-builders: moving in before the house is finished! When it is finished, Tony's house will be quite striking. The upper level is clad with sawn, oiled timber boards. The lower storey is covered with Villa Board (fibrous cement sheet) that will eventually rendered with concrete. The render will be applied by spraying to produce a more attractive finish than the smoothness of the Villa Board. The ground floor is tiled with slate and looks very nice, though Tony has trouble maintaining its appearance. None of the expensive finishes tried so far work at all well.

-oOo-

At Stramit's request, I have removed all links to their website. I now have an intermediate page that redirects anyone interested in steel building products to BHP's steel website. Unfortunately, it's a lot slower than Stramit's, but has the advantage of providing more useful information. There's even a special page for owner-builders. The Free Membership offer doesn't noticeably speed up access at all.

Thought for the week:

It is not who is right, but what is right, that is of importance.

Thomas Huxley


 

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© Jonathan Sturm 2001

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© Jonathan Sturm 2001