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 4 June 2001

A day of measuring and calculating insulation and plasterboard for The House of Steel. Thank goodness for Excel! 

Thought for the day:

When we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something, not that it is a pragmatic necessity for us to have it, but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble.

Joan Didion


Tuesday 5 June 2001

Yet another busy day working on The House of Steel.


And a long letter from my friend Tim Marshall. Tim has a long involvement with the organic production movement and now works for IFOAM (The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements). While we have moved apart politically, we still share some common goals and remain friends even though we see each other seldom. He is a gifted writer.


An interesting factoid has come out of the OneTel collapse. Apparently, the staff were paid 25% commission on revenues they raised. This would appear to explain why I wasn't able to cancel my telephone and Internet accounts, and why when I stopped using my Internet account, it mysteriously continued to be used. Nevertheless, I have paid the money they claim as I am still liable and cannot afford the cost of defending myself in a court thousands of miles away.

I find it interesting that if a large company steals from me, it's a civil matter; if I steal from a large company, it's fraud, a criminal offence!

Thought for the day:

A man needs to know his place. A woman needs to move it around.

The Oracle


Wednesday 6 June 2001

A day spent with the electrician wiring The House of Steel. Most important, the Cat5E cabling. Tony has more questions than answers, so I have to finalise the light fittings purchase early next week while She Who Must Be Obeyed is on vacation.

Thought for the day:

Is it a fact -- or have I dreamt it -- that, by means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time?

Nathaniel Hawthorne


Thursday 7 June 2001

Another busy day working on The House of Steel. I had asked Thomas to light the fire in the stove in the early afternoon so that there would be ample hot water for a lovely, pain-relieving hot bath. He lit the fire and let it go out as I discovered when collecting the beer for beer o'clock. So I lit the fire and waited as long as I could before taking my bath. While not tepid, the water was far from hot enough for a proper relaxing soak.

Marguerite was out having dinner with friends and I was supposedly making a soup for Thomas and myself. There were no potatoes and no frozen peas or beans for greenery in said soup. A trip to the garden in the rain and darkness was less than appealing. There were only the beginnings of a home-made stock, onions and pasta. So I made myself a fry-up of tinned Roma tomatoes, eggs and fish fingers instead, leaving Thomas to forage for himself.

To add insult to injury, there were no clean underpants in my drawer, or anywhere I looked, so I resorted to my swimming shorts. Not a happy ending to an otherwise satisfying day.

Thought for the day:

There are few human emotions as warm, comforting, and enveloping as self-pity. And nothing is more corrosive and destructive. There is only one answer; turn away from it and move on.

Dr Megan Reik


Friday 8 June 2001

I've ranted here before about the shortcomings of computer filesystems. Finding data I have created over the last 13 years or so can be a frustrating experience. It seems that the Reiser filesystem for Linux may contain some solutions to the conundrum, as Jon Udell points out here.

Hans Reiser:

"Information owners tend to think of the cost of access as only subtracting from the value of their information, but it does much worse, it divides it. Three seconds rather than 1/3 second of access time means that the same information will spread to an order of magnitude fewer people, be used by them an order of magnitude fewer times, and be an order of magnitude less useful to the organization as a whole.

...time spent accessing rather than reading information detracts from our ability to wander speculatively after information that might be useful. The quality of the namespace design determines these costs.

... most of the time the employees ... store most of their data in flat files in the semantically impoverished filesystem: the greater connectivity pulls them there.

We must avoid adding structure, or guarantee the user will be informed of all structure relevant to his partial information...What's needed is a naming system intended to reflect just the structure inherent in the information, whatever that structure might be, rather than restructuring the information to fit the naming system."

Thought for the day:

With so much information now online, it is exceptionally easy to simply dive in and drown.

Alfred Glossbrenner


Saturday 9 June 2001

Since yesterday, I have had time to read Hans Reiser's excellent white paper on the future of ReiserFS. Considering the subject matter, it's amusing that I cannot give you a direct link to the paper. Instead, you will have to click here, then choose Future Vision from the menu. Since dealing with large amounts of heterogenous data has been a bee in my bonnet for over a decade, the paper certainly struck a chord. A loud and melodious one. 

Most people in the computer industry I have discussed these issues with have dismissed my concerns with "Oh, you can do that with "appname". But the problem is, I use appname1, appname2, appname3... And they almost never communicate with each other in meaningful ways. 

I find it interesting that MS has been addressing this issue, albeit slowly. (Read my previous comments on the topic here). Learning that Hans Reiser is also attacking the problem is refreshing and will hopefully accelerate progress. Jon Udell occasionally writes about the issues and of course was the source for my finding the Reiser white paper. His comments here are worth a read, too. Here's an extract:

Raymond Yee:

I've been wondering for a while if there are any generalizations of this concept. What I'd really be interested in is an operating system in which every document (and parts of documents) can be addressed, kind of like URLs for everything on a machine. I've been wanting a way to refer to anything on my own machine (whether it's a cell in an Excel spreadsheet, a specific entry in my BibTeX database, a specific bookmark in a PDF file, or any part of an HTML document -- whether something tacked on an anchor to it or not.)

What systems are available to provide such fine-grained naming of documents and their parts?

I responded with a few examples I'm aware of. In Zope, when you parse an XML document into the object database, every single element is URL-addressable. This is also true in Excelon.

When you fully generalize this, you end up with Xanadu -- a non-erasable storage system that remembers (and versions) everything. But a practical UI for dealing with such a thing seems almost impossibly elusive. In practice, I'd happily settle for the kind of granularity that gets you, in the case of documents, things like tables, paragraphs, subheads, and links -- the major features of the landscape -- but not every table cell or word.

It would be very helpful for these features to carry natural names, e.g., a leading fragment of the paragraph, or the text of a title, or the label of a link -- rather than a parser-generated name like Zope's http://my.zope/doc/memo/e3454.

It's hard to overstate the importance, and the difficulty, of naming. When I write at any length nowadays, I tend to write in XHTML. And I tend to create an invisible namespace, within the doc, that supports references to chunks from both inside and outside the doc. An authoring tool that prompted with candidate names for these chunks, while allowing me to override if needed, might be very useful.

... I've always believed that a document is an engineered artifact, and that part of the engineering job is to assure usability. External and internal namespaces are, in fact, the primary APIs of documents. They need to be designed so that people and machines can effectively make use of them.

Thought for the day:

The reason for the slow progress of the world seems to lie in a single fact. Every man is born under the yoke, and grows up beneath the oppressions of his age. He can only get a vision of the unselfish forces in the world by appealing to them, and every appeal is a call to arms. If he fights he must fight, not one man, but a conspiracy. He is always at war with a civilization. On his side is proverbial philosophy, a galaxy of invisible saints and sages, and the half-developed consciousness and professions of everybody. Against him is the world, and every selfish passion in his own heart.

John Jay Chapman


Sunday 11 June 2001

Today I'm off to help my friend Kevin Collidge of Victoria Tavern fame celebrate moving into his "new" house and the fact that he turned 32 on Wednesday. 

Thought for the day:

If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris


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Jonathan Sturm 2001

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Jonathan Sturm 2001