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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 23 April 2001
The House of Steel was inspected and passed by the local council today. Another milestone passed.
I'm heavily immersed in Brian and Tom's Linux book. Excellent as one would expect from these two fine writers.
The two lockups of my Win2k workstation have not repeated since leaving the side cover off the case. Of course this makes the intermittent grinding noise from one of the CPU fans even louder and more annoying. Hopefully, the new cooler will arrive tomorrow.
While page reads for Ephemerides are down around 50%, the House of Steel page reads are rising at around 100% per month and exceeding them in popularity. The Franklin and Friends website had over 150 page reads in a day for the second time last week, despite the lack of recent material. Everyone promises, no-one delivers and The House of Steel takes priority for me. After that's finished of course I will be busy turning the house notes into a useful book.
Rereading the material in the House of Steel pages reminded me of much that I had forgotten. The adventure has taken far longer than optimistic me anticipated, but it's so much fun that I suspect finishing will lead to a feeling of loss. The book, I have decided will first be published in HTML format via this website and will not be copy protected, though of course it will be copyrighted. Payment will be by what we call locally the honesty box. Along the sides of the road here you will find stands containing fruit, flowers, vegetables, seedlings and mounds of bags of various animal manures: cow, sheep, chicken, horse, goat etc. alongside the honesty box for the money. People using this method of selling tell me that while people occasionally fail to leave the money expected, never has the honesty box been stolen. This in a district with 25% unemployment in the under 25 age group! My honesty box will be a PayPals account.
Just for laughs:
IN ORDER FOR THE ADMISSIONS STAFF OF OUR COLLEGE TO GET TO KNOW YOU, THE APPLICANT, BETTER, WE ASK THAT YOU ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTION: ARE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD, OR ACCOMPLISHMENTS YOU HAVE REALIZED, THAT HAVE HELPED TO DEFINE YOU AS A PERSON?
I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.
I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.
Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I'm bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.
I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don't perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat .400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.
I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.
I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.
But I have not yet gone to college.
Thought for the day:
It is the mark of great people to treat trifles as trifles and important matters as important.
Tuesday 24 April 2001
Today was a day of almost constant, drenching rain. Fran is still too ill to work, so it doesn't make much difference to The House of Steel. I felt weary so I read about half of Margaret Wertheim's The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace. It's an account of how changes in scientific and religious thought were dependent on each other over the last few hundred years. I'm looking forward to her conclusions.
Thought for the day:
I can see only one safe rule for the historian: that he should recognize in the development of human destinies the play of the contingent and the unforeseen.
Wednesday 25 April 2001
Today, the 25th of April is the anniversary of the battle at Gallipoli where many Australians  and New Zealanders lost their lives in the First World War. In Australia we remember all our war dead on this day and those of the nations we fought alongside.
It is also my (now deceased) father's birthday. So I remember him also. Imprisoned by the Germans in Auschwitz at the age of 14, he escaped when working on a gang outside the camp. Dad managed to be shot down by American soldiers while in a plane he hitched a ride on. After many months of recovery from that, he eventually made his way to Jugoslavia  where, he was informed, he was to be arrested and shot for "collaboration" with the Germans. Fortunately, he managed to make it the UK where he met my mother and they made me. For that I am eternally grateful.
It is the 36th anniversary of our arrival in Australia from the UK. Rats that left a sinking ship!
It's also my first wife's birthday. Happy birthday Susan. I hope you are happier than when we last met. I know I am!
And last, but not least, my friend Garry Paige will have his song, In A Field In France, about his great uncle Russell Pasisto's death at 21 in the Great War, broadcast nationally today on the radio following official ceremonies. The official release is still some months away, but thanks to my CD burner, we have succeeded in having it broadcast on many local stations around the country, shaming Festival Records into releasing it.
An interesting day.
 Austrians according to my copy of MS Encarta! The Austrians were actually fighting with the Turks, not against them.
 The border into Jugoslavia was a narrow bridge guarded by a Scottish soldier, so my father approached him. In broken English he asked the soldier if he would dance the highland fling for him. The soldier did and my father slowly edged his way to the Jugoslavian side, thanked the soldier and entered Jugoslavia to go find his Aunt.
Thought for the day:
There is a history in all men's lives.
Thursday 26 April 2001
Not much to report I'm afraid. Except on legal advice I've decided to pay the OneTel bastards the money they are extorting for their alleging my continuing to use their pathetic excuse for an Internet service after I wrote and told them I no longer wanted it. The court would be interstate and require my lawyer to brief a lawyer there who would be charging me at least $2,000 a day. It's cheaper to just give up.
Thought for the day:
Justice is a concept. Muscle is the reality.
Friday 27 April 2001
A laugh for you all while I am gallivanting in Hobart. The most popular brand of matches in Australia is Redheads.
Thought for the day:
It is not from ourselves that we learn to be better than we are.
Saturday 28 April 2001
The House of Steel pix are up.
Chris Ward Johnson writes:
Interesting what you say about Onetel, we're having similar problems here. We signed up for their 149 francs a month 'unlimited' service last August, which required us to use them as our long-distance operator. Fair enough, they were cheaper than France Telecom anyway. Then they started billing us for every single phone call we made, including those to access the internet. We protested, they ignored us. I protested repeatedly, including sending e-mails to every single person listed on every one of their worldwide websites. They dropped their 'all you can eat' service and we cancelled all our accounts with them, verbally, by fax, by e-mail and snailmail. They ignored us.
Now they still send us bills for all the phone calls we make every month. They reckon we owe them thousands of francs. Yesterday someone called, as they do every two or three months, saying they're concerned about our unpaid bills. I asked yesterday's caller what he thought of all the letters I'd sent and he said he hadn't read them, he just wanted us to pay January's bill. I told him to call again when he had read the letters, but added that I didn't expect him to since people seem to get very fed up working at Onetel and leave after a few weeks, and I have no doubt that his replacement will call again in a month or two and try to start the whole thing over again.
It seems they've got big and successful by using those old corporate favourites; present a friendly, almost hippyish face of the little guys battling the big Telcos, then just threaten people into submission with crap bills. Bastards.
Chris Ward-Johnson Dr Keyboard - Computing Answers You Can Understand http://www.drkeyboard.net
Purchased two books yesterday: Windows 2000 Pro: The Missing Manual and Apache: The Definitive Guide. Sadly, The Missing Manual was sadly lacking in useful information on managing Win2k tape backups, so I will need to decipher MS's cryptic Help pages myself. There's plenty of useful information though, such as one not needing to reapply Service Packs when updating a Win2k system as we needed to with NT4! Also handy was the advice not to run Ethernet cable too close to a nuclear reactor, but Crawford doesn't specify the distance. Since Jerry Pournelle's advice is that nuclear power is far more economical than wind power, I have persuaded my friends over the ridge to replace their wind plant with a nuclear power plant and we need to know the safe distance for Ethernet. Also, we are having problems locating a two kilowatt nuclear power plant and there appear to be legal issues as well. Any advice on this will be most welcome.
Thought for the day:
Honesty is the most single most important factor having a direct bearing on the final success of an individual, corporation, or product.
Sunday 29 April 2001
Yesterday turned out to be a lot of fun. Many years ago, there was an annual apple harvest festival in the Huon Valley where I live. Yesterday saw it revived in the form of a folk music, poetry and the putting on of a play. Marguerite and I decided to walk down to the village of Franklin to participate. Our car died on Thursday night, the day after being serviced by the vendor. This was at the insistence of the vendor who told us that the warranty would be void if anyone else worked on the car! Since Roger Dance's garage is much closer than the vendor's, it's he who is replacing the dead clutch. Fuck the warranty if the vendor's too stupid to notice the clutch needed replacing!
Back to the festival. We had only walked for ten minutes when a neighbour stopped and drove us the rest of the way. Although events started in the morning, this was mid-afternoon, both because Thomas is away at a kayaking camp for the weekend and we were enjoying the absence of a dyspeptic 16 year old and wanting to be still in a fit state to enjoy Gail Galloway's poetry in the evening. Her performance was up to its usual standard -- witty, literate and funny, especially my favourite about Barby dolls with their huge tits and a complete absence of such essential anatomical parts as a clitoris, vagina or anus.
And that reminds me of one of my all time favourite jokes. The little girl is sitting on Santa's lap and tells him she wants a Barby doll and GI Joe for Christmas. Santa tells her that Barby comes with Ken, to which she replies, "No she doesn't! She just fakes it with Ken!"
Bob Thompson writes:
As far as running Ethernet too close to a nuclear power plant, I know Sharon Crawford, and I'm surprised that she would perpetuate this old myth. You can run your Ethernet right inside the nuclear power plant without having any interference problems.
As far as the legal questions, it's easier to get forgiveness than permission. Build the nuclear plant, I say, and worry about all the permits and stuff later.
-- Robert Bruce Thompson
But we need plans -- all we can find on the Internet are for nuclear bombs!
For a little over a year, some friends and I shared a server with two 64k ISDN connects into the Telstra backbone. We each had a telephone line and modem at the office to dial into the server, running MS Small Business Server 4.0. We became addicted to 24/7 dialup, but sadly the economics of being your own ISP didn't work out. Also, we had problems with being listed by ORBS as an open relay, a problem we couldn't fix until the release several months later of SBS 4.5. Even after closing the relay, ORBS seemed disinclined to remove us from the list. Perhaps we were being punished for running MS software.
MS had in fact given us a 50 user full Back Office with Exchange 5.5 that would allow closing the relay, but the full Back Office is a pig to set up on a single server (if it's even possible). SBS is almost ideal for our purposes as we are a small business. Needless to say, I continue to pursue a reasonable Linux solution for small businesses.
When we abandoned the idea of being our own ISP, a friend suggested OneTel as ISP as they had 24/7 access at a reasonable rate. Unfortunately, they required taking over local call and long distance telephone billing for this. Their service was very unreliable, with disconnects happening several times a day, so the average of one local call per month with our own server went up to several locals per day into OneTel's coffers. Also, the 300 MB limit allowed only limited Internet browsing even with graphics turned off. Email was atrocious with sent emails not arriving and inbound being bounced with a "user does not exist" message.
So, I went with Telstra Big Pond (our national telco that owns the backbone). While Internet access was superb, much faster than OneTel, email reliability was if anything worse than OneTel. Shortly after switching back to Telstra, OneTel responded to my written request to revert back to Telstra for my telephone charges and terminate my Internet account. They refused both as they do not accept such requests in writing, only over the telephone! And of course phoning the telephone number provided puts you into a message queue and eventually the call drops out before you ever get to speak to a human being!
I contacted Telstra and they told me that while the independent vendors could take over a Telstra account, Telstra was not allowed to do the same at the request of the user -- permission for this must come from OneTel -- who, needless to say weren't about to let go!
Then one of the guys who I shared the Internet server with discovered DingoBlue and apart from mounting bills from OneTel for the non-existent use of their Internet service, things went swimmingly for a change. Eventually, OneTel disconnected my telephone and the bills ceased to mount. I paid the telephone portion, but refused to pay the Internet usage. I also asked DingoBlue to take over local and long distance calls on my Internet line and eventually (8 weeks), this happened.
The moral of the tale is that independent vendors can be both better and worse than the old government monopoly days. Whoever coined the term caveat emptor was probably bleeding from the rectum!
Thought for the day:
Tasmania is the testicle of the nation. It infuses it with vim and vigour. What a pity there aren't two of them!
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© Jonathan Sturm 2001