Ephemerides

A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

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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 18 June 2001

A bit of humour to start the week:

Colin was bragging to his boss one day, "You know, I know everyone there is to know. Just name someone, anyone, and I know them." 

Tired of his boasting, his boss called his bluff, "OK, Colin how about Tom Cruise?" 

"Sure, yes, Tom and I are old friends, and I can prove it." So Colin and his boss fly out to Hollywood and knock on Tom Cruise's door and sure enough, Tom Cruise shouts, "Colin! Great to see you! You and your friend come right in and join me for lunch!" 

Although impressed, Colin's boss is still sceptical. After they leave Cruise's house, he tells Colin that he thinks Colin's knowing Cruise was just lucky. "No, no, just name anyone else," Colin says. 

"President Clinton," his boss quickly retorts. 

"Yes," Colin says, "I know him, let's fly out to Washington." 

And off they go. At the White House, Clinton spots Colin on the tour and motions him and his boss over, saying, "Colin, what a surprise, I was just on my way to a meeting, but you and your friend come on in and let's have a cup of coffee first and catch up." 

Well, the boss is very shaken by now, but still not totally convinced. After they leave the White House grounds he expresses his doubts to Colin, who again implores him to name anyone else. 

"The Pope," his boss replies. "Sure!" says Colin. "My folks are from Poland, and I've known the Pope a long time." 

So off they fly to Rome. Colin and his boss are assembled with the masses in Vatican Square when Colin says, "This will never work. I can't catch the Pope's eye among all these people. Tell you what, I know all the guards so let me just go upstairs and I'll come out on the balcony with the Pope." And he disappears into the crowd headed toward the Vatican. 

Sure enough, half an hour later Colin emerges with the Pope on the balcony but by the time Colin returns, he finds that his boss has had a heart attack and is surrounded by paramedics. Working his way to his boss's side, Colin asks him, "What happened?" 

His boss looks up and says, "I was doing fine until you and the Pope came out on the balcony and the man next to me said, "Who the hell's that on the balcony with Colin?"

-oOo-

The House of Steel is progressing quite rapidly now. The end of the day, quite early as we approach the winter solstice, finds me exhausted and enjoying a quiet beer in The Great Hall. Marshalling my thoughts to say anything of significance is difficult. Finding the energy to read is difficult, so I listen to great music instead. I can recall no other period in my life when I have been so contented. Perhaps interesting writing is inspired by discontent.

Thought for the day:

Happy the man, and happy he alone, he who can call today his own; he who, secure within, can say, tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.

John Dryden


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Tuesday 19 June 2001

The average Joe user has no concept of the security issues involved in running an Internet connected PC and installs Norton AntiVirus and Symantec Personal Firewall, neither of which is really worth a damn. If Sub7 doesn't have the correct signature, or NAV isn't updated with the latest signatures (and what happened to perpetual free updates?), it readily infiltrates a Windows PC. My son has demonstrated this to me. Personal Firewall does nothing to prevent any file named as a standard Windows file from sending outgoing network packets!

Given the relative ease with which the security of MS OS's security is breached, one might become paranoid enough to believe that this has been a deliberate strategy. The average user might welcome subscriptions and automatic updates as the only way out of the mess.

Thought for the day:

One has to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying.

Morris West


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Wednesday 20 June 2001

Today I am off to the city to purchase some requisites for The House of Steel -- steel battens for attaching the plasterboard to the ceiling and a 3.6 m (12 ft) tall aluminium stepladder. Yesterday, Marguerite was using the 3 m (10 ft) wooden stepladder the electrician left here the other day. It's too heavy for her to move without serious risk of injury and it's not tall enough for The Great Hall.

Thought for the day:

I admire people who are suited to the contemplative life. They can sit inside themselves like honey in a jar and just be. It's wonderful to have someone like that around, you always feel you can count on them. You can go away and come back, you can change your mind and your hairdo and your politics, and when you get through doing all these upsetting things, you look around and there they are, just the way they were, just being.

Elizabeth Janeway


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Thursday 21 June 2001

According to the calendar, today is the solstice, the day the sun stands still. From here on, the days will grow longer for the next six months. This is a Good Thing as yesterday morning I took several photographs around 7:30 to 8:00 am and even though I used a fast film, most were terrible due to the poor light. Even though the days will lengthen, the next 6-8 weeks are generally the worst as far as winter weather is concerned: wetter and colder.

It's time to sow onions, White Spanish and Pukekohe. Both varieties run to seed without making bulbs if they germinate before the shortest day. I will lay some scraps of clear plastic over their seedbed to ensure a quick germination. White Spanish are the best for frying and Pukekohe, a New Zealand variety is the best keeping.

It's also time to think about potato planting. Even though that's not until August for the earlies and October for maincrop, I haven't tilled any ground for them. Instead, I will spread some cow manure from under the pine trees near the dam over a grassy area that will eventually be planted to grapes. Over that I will place some heavy black polythene to exclude the light and kill the grass. The black polythene also warms the soil slightly, to the delight of the earthworms who will gladly eat the decaying grass and weeds, as well as till the soil for me.

We Tasmanians are rather passionate about our potatoes. Most places I have been, the variety is unimportant; here, variety is everything. The earlies are called Pinkeyes, a locally bred variety that has a very yellow waxy flesh with outstanding flavour. It's also the only variety that can be deep frozen raw without destroying the quality. I grow two maincrop varieties: Up-to-Date, a turn of the century variety that makes the best baked spud and Tasman, a Victorian variety bred by the Department of Agriculture. It has a pale pink skin with very white flesh and is the best all round variety I have grown. Much better than Kennebec.

-oOo-

Time to take the piss out of my neighbours across the Tasman Sea:

Subject: NZ to be Disbanded

Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 10:36:09 +0800

NZ to be Disbanded: PM claims "Nobody's using it anyway" 

AUCKLAND, Tuesday: Following the successful disbanding of the armed forces the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, has unveiled a new bold plan to total disband the entire nation. . In a statement to the worlds press, Prime Minister Clarke unveiled her "Great Step Nowhere" plan.

Launching the plan, Clark suggested that reports that their armed forces had been forced to say "bang, bang" during war exercises had been the final nail in the coffin for the once-almost-proud nation. "For years now we've been doing nothing of value. All our really profitable industries have gone overseas. Music, kiwi fruit, Russell Crowe. After that it's basically just a bunch of sheep and a once proud rugby team. Even the Cricketers are poor by world standards," Clark said. Clark went on to outline the timetable for disbanding the nation following the sale of the Navy's two dinghies and after the Army gives its shotgun back to the British. In a sometimes emotional presentation, Ms Clarke outlined the difficulties facing the former country. "Every nation has it's problems but, as the leader, you can always look at some other loser nation and say, "They're worse off than us". We finally realised that we could no longer do that."

The final nail in the coffin came last Monday when the New Zealand treasury tabled a report that found that Adam Gilchrist's new contract with the Australian Cricket Board had him earning more than the entire New Zealand GDP. "When that hit us we realised that the ship of state was pretty much gunwale deep in sediment and it was time to turn off the bilge pumps and move to a real country," a treasury spokesman said. All industry and businesses are expected to have left the Islands by the end of June and all Government responsibilities will cease at the first of July. Any farmers wishing to remain will do so on a purely subsistence basis with the possibility of a feudal system developing by the end of September. The All Blacks will maintain a training facility near Otago until the end of August after which time New Zealand in all its forms and pursuits will cease to exist. When asked how the loss of the entire nation of New Zealand will affect the region, a World Bank spokesman called for an atlas.

And in the interests of fairness:

From the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In case you wondered why Australians have a reputation as they do, read on:

3 people die each year testing if a 9V battery works on their tongue.

142 people were injured in 1998 by not removing all the pins from new shirts.

58 people are injured each year by using sharp knives instead of screwdrivers.

31 people have died since 1996 by watering their Christmas tree while the fairy lights were plugged in.

19 people have died in the last 3 years by eating Christmas decorations they believed were chocolate.

Hospitals reported 4 broken arms last year after cracker pulling incidents.

101 people since 1997 have had to have broken parts of plastic toys pulled out of the soles of their feet.

18 people had serious burns in 1998 trying on a new jumper with a lit cigarette in their mouth.

A massive 543 people were admitted to casualty in the last two years after opening bottles of beer with their teeth or eye socket.

5 people were injured last year in accidents involving out of control Scalextric cars.

AND FINALLY, SURPRISE, SURPRISE...

8 people cracked their skull in 1997 after falling asleep (passing out) while throwing up into the toilet.

Thought for the day:

Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.

Elbert Hubbard


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Friday 22 June 2001

She Who Must Be Obeyed is off to the dentist this afternoon and wants me along for moral support. Last time she managed to get an appointment, she cried off at the last minute. And it reminds me of the following doggerel from this morning's Inbox:

Jon, I received this from 'Silk'. Don't think he wrote it. Kind regards, Robert

The Many Moods of a Woman

An angel of truth and a dream of fiction, 
a woman is a bundle of contradiction, 
she's afraid of a wasp, will scream at a mouse, 
but will tackle her boyfriend alone in the house. 
She'll take him for better, she'll take him for worse 
she'll break open his head and then be his nurse 
but when he's well and can get out of bed 
she'll pick up the tea-pot and aim for his head. 
Beautiful and keenly sighted, yet blind, 
crafty and cruel, yet simple and kind 
she'll call him a king, then make him a clown, 
raise him on a pedestal, then knock him flat down. 
She'll inspire him to deeds that ennoble man, 
or make him her lackey to carry her fan. 
She'll run away from him and never come back 
but if he runs away, then she'll be on his tracks 
sour as vinegar, sweet as a rose, 
she'll kiss you one minute, then turn up her nose, 
she'll win you in rage, enchant you in silk, 
she'll be stronger than brandy, milder than milk 
at times she'll be vengeful, merry and sad, 
she'll hate you like poison, and love you like mad.

-oOo-

Someone wants to buy my old Olivetti Quaderno. It's the A5 format, XT with 20 MB hard disk and external 720K floppy. German keyboard and the German version of DOS 5 in ROM. All manuals and carrying case, but a broken hinge, badly repaired by me. And I have no idea what to charge for it...

-oOo-

In response to yesterday's blog:

Our defence of our mother-country is as staunch as ever, and encapsulated in the saying: "If you can't join them, beat them".

My dilemma is this: should I, or should I not speak of my brother-in-law -- who, once a good Kiwi bloke, is now a naturalised Australian and lives in Adelaide.

/Mike

======================================================= Visit my web site and daynotes at http://www.icarus.gen.nz

and...

Just had to say thanks! That NZ piss take - funniest thing I've read in ages! No doubt you saw what some smart-alec put together for the US during their election farce, but in case not... :

NOTICE OF REVOCATION OF INDEPENDENCE

To the citizens of the United States of America,

In the light of your failure to elect a President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy. Your new prime minister (The rt. hon. Tony Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium". Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary". Using the same twenty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up "interspersed".

2. There is no such thing as "US English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf.

3. You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard.

4. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys.

5. You should relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after fully carrying out task 1. We would not want you to get confused and give up half way through.

6. You should stop playing American "football". There is only one kind of football. What you refer to as American "football" is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays "American" football. You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies). We are hoping to get together at least a US rugby sevens side by 2005.

7. You should declare war on Quebec and France, using nuclear weapons if they give you any merde. The 98.85% of you who were not aware that there is a world outside your borders should count yourselves lucky. The Russians have never been the bad guys. "Merde" is French for "shit".

8. July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 8th will be a new national holiday, but only in England. It will be called "Indecisive Day".

9. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

10. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.

Thank you for your cooperation.

ERII

-------------------------- 
Mat Lemmings email : mail@matlemmings.com web : http://www.matlemmings.co.uk daynotes : http://www.matlemmings.co.uk/scribbles

Yes, I read this and posted it to a listserv populated mainly by Merkins. Their responses were just as hilarious as the post!

I enjoy your blogs BTW. They often remind me of just how great it is to be on the opposite end of the planet to England's green, unpleasant land ;-)

Thought for the day:

Every writing career starts as a personal quest for sainthood, for self-betterment. Sooner or later, and as a rule quite soon, a man discovers that his pen accomplishes a lot more than his soul.

Joseph Brodsky


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Saturday 23 June 2001

Of course someone took Mat's bait from yesterday's post:

> look up "aluminium". Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

As I think I've pointed out before when this thing was going around, "aluminium" (both the spelling and the pronunciation) are a British affectation. The name is and always has been "aluminum". Sir Humphrey Davie discovered and named aluminum (as "aluminum") in 1809. That's the way he spelled it, and that was the only form used (including by the Brits) until about the 1920's, when someone decided to use the "ium" ending rather than the "um" ending to bring the name into conformance with the names of other elements.

Many of the rest of the remarks show an equal ignorance of the facts.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson mailto:thompson@ttgnet.com http://www.ttgnet.com/rbt/thisweek.html

On the issue of ignorance, I proffer the following American beliefs about Australia:

Kids ride kangaroos to school
It snows in the summertime
Tasmanian devils spin around at great speed
Kangaroos are an endangered species (there are more kangaroos than when Captain Cook arrived)
All Australian women are called Sheila
Australians aspire to be more like Americans (we don't; just because we like Americans more than most other nations doesn't mean we do)
Australia is rather like Texas 50 or 100 years ago (we are more urbanised than the US)
We are called Awzies; the correct pronunciation is Ozzies (though we'd rather you Yanks dropped the dumb pseudo-intimacy altogether and just called us Australians)

Of course I am sure that you are far too erudite to share those beliefs, but when one worships in the Church of Comedy, nothing is sacred -- especially pomposity ;-)

-oOo-

And while on the topic of Americo-centrism, some months ago I left a message at yet another website that wouldn't allow non-Americans to order their product:

Dear Jonathan:

Thanks for bringing the web site flaw to our attention. We've asked the webmaster to fix it to allow alphanumeric postal codes, and he has been slow to fix, though he intends to.

I went to the house of steel site and learned a lot. Good stuff. I think this will help a lot of people.

Best regards,

Mark Smith

-oOo-

This week's read of the columns in Byte were a bit harder than usual. Their weekly newsletter was late and the column blurbs weren't hyperlinks. Had to go to the home page and hunt! Dr Pournelle's column was as entertaining as it usually is. Maybe Australia and the US aren't that far apart culturally.

Thought for the day:

Humor is always based on a modicum of truth. Have you ever heard a joke about a father-in-law.

Dick Clark


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Sunday 24 June 2001

I walked into my office last night to discover that my workstation (Win2k Pro) had blue screened. Rebooting resulted in a reboot just before the machine got to the login prompt. There was a suspicious pause shortly before that, indicating it was a possible driver issue. Rebooting into Win98 found the source of the problem; the Micronix NIC was misbehaving. This morning I replaced the 100 Mb/s NIC with a 10 Mb/s RealTek NIC and the 100 Mb/s hub with the old Alloy 10 Mb/s hub and all was well. I didn't even have to restart the server, also running Win2k Pro. Time to buy a new 100 Mb/s NIC, probably a D-Link.

-oOo-

From Robert Thompson:

Well, I don't think the US was settled by religious idealists. Certainly the first settlers were seeking religious freedom, but even then there were significant other aspects. Many people aren't aware that prior to the opening of Australia for transportees, England used the Colonies in a similar fashion as a dumping ground for undesirables, many of whom arrived as bond servants. And then, of course, there were the huge numbers of Africans who were involuntarily transported as slaves.

As far as tennis, it was an upper-class sport in the US as well until the 50's and 60's, when public courts became much more common, which allowed middle- and working-class kids to begin playing it. Before that, it was largely limited to the country clubs, but beginning in the 60's it was common to see kids from lower- and middle-class families on the public courts. About the only expense beyond a racket was balls, and the better-off kids usually supplied those. The Aussies dominated the sport then, of course, and I and many other kids grew up trying to emulate Laver, Rosewall, Emerson, and the other great Aussie players. Which I think was a good thing, because the Aussies were gentlemen to a man.

I'll never understand the impression that others have about medical coverage in the US. The simple fact is that in the US anyone can walk into a hospital and receive treatment, regardless of his ability to pay. In effect, we have universal medical coverage here. It's true that not everyone has health *insurance*, but that's immaterial. Those who can't afford health insurance are cared for anyway, and the costs are paid by those who do have health insurance in the form of increased premiums and higher hospital charges. But no one is denied treatment.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson mailto:thompson@ttgnet.com http://www.ttgnet.com/rbt/thisweek.html

Yes, I was aware that a certain number of ne'er do wells were transported to the American colonies. Nevertheless, many free settlers also left England for a better place. For a considerable time only felons and their keepers were sent to Australia and it was a some time before they learnt to farm adequately enough in Australia's harsh climate to stave off starvation. Free settlers only arrived in any significant numbers decades later to a colony rife with vice: drunkenness, homosexuality, violence... The slaves in Australia were white convicts, rather than Africans. Starkly different to American settlement. I highly recommend Robert Hughes' Fatal Shore for an understanding of many of the issues. And if you want to pursue Australian history in greater depth, I commend Geoffrey Blainey's trilogy: The Tyranny of Distance, Triumph of the Nomads and A Land Half Won.

Australia resembles America in only superficial ways. No war of independence was fought here. The Australian Constitution was and remains an Act of the British Parliament. The myth is that it was entirely written by Australia's colonial masters in Britain. It was in fact 10 years in the making based on a comprehensive submission by Tasmania's Andrew Inglis Clark. There were many delegates from all Australian colonies involved in its development and three from New Zealand.

The Notice of Revocation of Independence that stimulated this dialogue was intended purely as humour. In reality, the British Parliament, or the Monarch are in a position of being able to legally revoke the independence of Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Possibly several other ex-colonies as well. This situation is not a subject for polite conversation (or impolite for that matter) with Australians. It brings back unpleasant memories of the last time the Monarch's powers were exercised in Australia in 1975. The democratically elected parliament of Gough Whitlam was dismissed by the Queen's unelected representative, the Governor General, Sir John Kerr and replaced by Malcolm Fraser. There are some who believe that this was fomented by the US Government who were concerned that the Whitlam Government was about to impose restrictions on its Australian based spying activities at Pine Gap. This location remains an essential part of the US spy satellite system.

Our jaundiced view of the US medical system is based on media reports, mostly of British origin. My personal view of medical systems is that they all seem to be rather deleterious to our health.

-oOo-

Not all my readers perceived the Notice of Revocation of Independence as an opportunity to improve American/Australian understanding:

Jon -

Re repeated put-downs of "Merkins" on your pages: "All in fun", of course. Not really very funny, IMO. It displays a regrettably childish ego problem. This is not atall necessary.

Face it. America is a World Power. Australia is, as yet, not. Nevertheless - the world needs Australians (including the outlying islands such as yours) and your POV. You "Think Different." You do things "Different" - and often much better, the House of Steel, par ex. Could we not live and let live, appreciating each other's valuable contributions to the World that we share? I, for one, do not feel it necessary to put down "Strynes" at every opportunity for their lovable peculiarities (bean sandwiches, Vegemite, etc.). Can we declare a truce and cease-fire on this stuff?

Regards,

JHR

Having perused my writings for the last six months, I find that I have taken the piss out of Americans on just three occasions. This is the same number of times I have taken the piss out of my Australian comrades and one more than my neighbours across the Tasman. Maybe the "childish ego problem" is yours.

While Australia may not be a World Power in the sense that we could nuke everyone on the planet several times over, it's a source of people that influence world affairs in many interesting ways. Where would your Hollywood actors be without The Alexander Technique? The movies of the late thirties onwards without Australian invented noise reduction technology? Hi-fi loudspeakers without the work of Thiele and Small? A world without penicillin?

It's a fact that America imposes its culture on the rest of the planet. If that leads to some very occasional, gentle leg-pulling, live with it. While you may not feel the need to put down Australians, your compatriots often do. Especially your political leaders!

No truce and cease-fire until America ceases its cultural and economic imperialism.

So be it - Until you get over your childish insecurities and 'Strynes in general accept that they are a second-rate influence in the World at large, however vocal they may be. Too bad. Until recently, the Australians I have known have been good people to have by you - in a fight or a frolic.

Sincerely,

JHR

Sigh!

-oOo-

Fellow DayNoter Matt Beland put me onto the following story:

The Very Secret Battle of Bob Kolody vs. Coca-Cola

Extract:

"But, in a move that took even Sherman Skolnick by surprise, Manning also proceeded to rule on the 60(b)(6) motions identifying her own judicial perjury and fraud upon the court.

You see, it is a fundamental precept of Anglo-Saxon law that no person shall sit in judgment of their own crimes. Thus, Sherman Skolnick contends, if Judge Manning were not corrupt then she would have stepped aside and allowed an impartial representative of the judicial society to rule on Ivy's allegations. But she did not. In fact, she denied the motions with prejudice and ridicule."

A very interesting read, albeit long. If you enjoy John Grisham's stories, you'll likely enjoy this (apparently) real-life drama. OTOH the message is a bit grim.

Thought for the day:

One should never risk a joke, even of the mildest and most unexceptional charters, except among people of culture and wit.

Jean De La Bruyere


 

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Jonathan Sturm 2001

t.com/franklinfriends">Franklin & Friends, a website devoted to the village where the author lives: its culture, inhabitants, and more.

The DayNotes Gang for more daily musings on Life, the Universe and Things Computerish.

Jonathan Sturm 2001