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 23 July 2001

From Don Armstrong:

On the subject of spreading stuff in dams: do you have ready access to a canoe or small rowboat (even better if it has a small outboard motor)? A little bit of boating would put you much closer to where the stuff (e.g. gypsum) you were throwing needed to end up, thus relieving the strain on the throwing elbow. Also whatever your motive source, throwing the stuff where you were about to apply power (paddle, oar, propeller particularly (unless you were punting, of course)) would get it dispersed more easily and more effectively.

Also, have you considered cement as a flocculant? It works (says he who actually had to use dam water for washing clothes and people during droughts in his childhood). Gypsum may not be ideal in a dam. I don't know here, but gypsum is used to break up some clay soils and improve permeability, which may not be a good thing in a dam - if it works that way in your dam, of course. Cement ought to be more of a help in sealing the dam bed, and of course gypsum has gone into the manufacture of cement. Might even be cheaper, particularly if you've got some leftovers from the building process.

Regards, Don Armstrong

The boat will be delivered later -- a gift from Michael who is leaving for Tenterfield in September. The dam isn't huge, so throwing the gypsum wasn't so bad. My elbows are sore from months of unaccustomed physical labour -- the gypsum throwing just aggravated them.

There are several flocculants for clay and they all work on the same principal. The clay particles carry a negative electrical charge so they repel each other. The calcium in calcium sulphate, or calcium hydroxide (in the cement or as builders' lime) carries a positive electrical charge that neutralises the charge on the clay, so the particles clump (flocculate) and fall to the bottom of the dam. Of the available materials, gypsum is the cheapest and bulkiest. Alum (aluminium sulphate) has far less bulk than the calcium compounds, but I want to keep trout in the dam and I do not wish to increase their aluminium content.

The use of gypsum and other calcium compounds to make clay more friable works for a slightly different reason. Clay is much stickier when sodium ions are attached to the clay particles than when calcium is. Calcium ions are much larger than sodium, so the clay particles are not so tightly packed. The addition of a thin layer of loosely packed clay to the bottom of the dam should not make any significant difference to the permeability of the dam wall.

Keeping the dam clean should just be a matter of fencing the dam off from the stock and providing them with a water trough. Hopefully at the expense of the neighbours who agist their cattle on my property.

More later perhaps...


Thought for the day:

Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.

Benjamin Franklin


Tuesday 24 July 2001

You may recall that last week I found some interesting physics websites. What I didn't mention was the reason that prompted my search. Hughie, the chap helping with The House of Steel mentioned in passing what a scoundrel James Clark Maxwell was. My recollection was that he was well regarded in the physics community and I said so. Hughie said he had read an article saying his work was entirely derivative and he had stolen the work of Gauss and his young protégé, Weber. My research failed to find anything negative about Maxwell. His only "failing" was the lack of  the intuitive leap that Einstein made based on his field equations.

Hughie duly presented me with the article in a magazine I had never heard of before, called 21st Century Science and Technology. The article in question concentrated mainly on the work of Ampére, Gauss and Weber, though mostly the latter. Weber, it appears, discovered some aspects of what was to become quantum electrodynamics in the following century. The work, mainly mathematical deductions from his empirically determined equation called Weber's Law, gave the charge to mass ratio of the electron and the proton and the distance at which the Coulomb force changed from repulsion between like charges to attraction. Stirring stuff when you realise this was several decades before the discovery of electrons and protons by experiment.

The editorial of the magazine was a diatribe against the teaching of modern physics and the massive conspiracy to bury the work of Gauss, Weber at al. It extolled the virtues of the Platonic/geometric approach to physics exemplified by the former and contrasted it with the mere empiricism of the likes of Maxwell, Newton, Einstein, Galileo etc. Oh dear! As an avid reader of the history of science, I knew that the Platonic/geometric approach to science had progressed to almost nowhere before the likes of Galileo, Newton et alia. To paraphrase an unknown Greek of Plato's era: "Thinking is for the master, experiment is for the slaves".

My suspicions aroused, I did a Google search on the writer's name and holocaust. Sure enough, the world-wide conspiracy to bury Ampére, Gauss and Weber is the very same Jewish conspiracy to bring about world-wide communism! Oh dear! Perhaps the writers haven't read too much of modern physics in several areas of which I am afraid Platonic/geometric thinking appears to be in the ascendant. 

Thought for the day:

When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity.

Albert Einstein


Wednesday 25 July 2001

While I rarely watch television these days, I caught a news story earlier this week about the illegal tobacco trade in Australia. The government has passed a law allowing itself to confiscate the property of anyone involved in any way whatsoever. In this instance, they have confiscated a truck belonging to a transport operator, even though it's clear that neither the operator, nor the truck driver knew that there was illegal tobacco in the truck. Neither have been interviewed by the police, nor charged with any crime. The transport operator has been forced to close down his business as a result of the loss. How this is supposed to deter the criminals involved escapes me. But I am reminded that an accountant told me that the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax was intended to put 10-40% of small businesses out of business.

Thought for the day:

If he who breaks the law is not punished, he who obeys it is cheated. This, and this alone, is why lawbreakers ought to be punished: to authenticate as good, and to encourage as useful, law-abiding behavior. The aim of criminal law cannot be correction or deterrence; it can only be the maintenance of the legal order.

Thomas Szasz


Thursday 26 July 2001

Yesterday I received snail mail from Australian Consolidated Press. The last snail mail from them was my reward for an article I wrote, so I eagerly tore open the envelope. Disappointingly, it was a request to consider resubscribing to one of their computer magazines. The editor asks for feedback in the event I don't resubscribe, why not. It occurs to me that this is silly! In the Internet age, three month old computer news isn't. Anything worth reading in a computer magazine is available at minuscule cost via the Internet, and it's not stale!

Also in the IQ of a Fencepost category, my son Thomas has an examination at college today. It finishes 15 minutes after the school bus leaves! The commuter bus that leaves an hour and a half later arrives locally while She Who Must Be Obeyed is in an important meeting. SWMBO was going to take time off work to drive into the city and pick Thomas up, but fortunately Thomas's friend Ben's mother will do the ferrying. One wonders about the sanity of educators who see nothing wrong with dumping a bunch of adolescents with raging hormones into the cold city streets for an hour and a half.

Thought for the day:

It can be helpful simply to make a written or mental list of the things you do each day. Then give yourself a mental credit for each of them, however small. This will help you focus on what you have done instead of what you haven't gotten around to do. It may sound simplistic, but it works.

David D Burns


Friday 27 July 2001

Another day working on The House of Steel and a longish post there. And some email:


I have enjoyed your daily diatribes since stumbling upon the Daynotes site.

Your mention of confiscation of equipment, regardless of guilt, strikes an unhappy chord with many in the States--a charter aircraft (a Learjet, I believe) was confiscated and held, essentially permanently, because some people had chartered the aircraft and made a flight to distribute illegal drugs, or to collect money from drug dealers.

The owner was put out of business, even though he was not involved in the drug trade. As the charter service was probably a common carrier, the aircraft owner would have been afoul of the law had he refused to transport the people who had hired his aircraft.

It is sad to see this type of law spreading to other parts of the world. I have no desire to further the trade in illegal drugs, but punishing the innocent without trial, or indeed any recourse, seems to me more odious than the offence.

Mark Thompson

Sadly, Australia seems doomed to copy the worst aspects of the US and ignore the good. And yes indeed, it's easy to see politicians as being worse than criminals.

Thought for the day:

Whatever is not nailed down is mine. What I can pry loose is not nailed down.

Collis P Huntingdon


Saturday 28 July 2001

Last night I went to our local book discussion group, while She Who Must Be Obeyed went to a staff dinner paid for by her employers. The unaccustomed late night and a glass or two of dry red too many has left me feeling somewhat weary.

I think I will take Ricky the Wonderdog for a walk to the dam and see if my clay flocculation has had its desired result.

Thought for the day:

If the riches of the Indies, or the crowns of all the kingdom of Europe, were laid at my feet in exchange for my love of reading, I would spurn them all.

Francois FéNelon


Sunday 29 July 2001

Well, the dam has yet to respond to the application of gypsum. The instruction was to wait a fortnight, so there's a week yet to go before a second application. The weather has improved slightly with cold, frosty mornings followed by mild and sunny conditions. This is what we usually get, not the prolonged fogs of last month. The wattles are in bloom, the daffodils not far behind and the elders have shot their first leaves. Spring is around the corner!

It's Income Tax Return time and because I have spent the year as a househusband while building The House of Steel, Margie is entitled to a tax break as I am a dependent spouse. In the new "simplified" tax regime, this requires the filling out of a whole new form, rather than filling in one box with the spouse's income as was required when she was my dependent spouse. I went fairly loopy trying to understand the booklet accompanying the taxation return -- God knows how others coped! Nevertheless, I am glad that I took over completion of my returns from the accountant as the cost saving is considerable.

My income this year consisted mainly of bank interest on our savings. Mysteriously, I am not entitled to claim the government charges on this account as a deduction. To do this would require the account to be for the sole purposes of business. But if it was a business account, I would receive no interest!

Dr Pournelle pointed his readers to a new, ambitious website, the Nupedia aiming to become the largest encyclopaedia repository on the Internet. There's also a complementary Wikipaedia, where contribution is of the free-for-all Wiki type. Both are seeking competent writers an any number of topics.

I finally got around to reformatting some of Farming for Fertility

Thought for the day:

Indoors or out, no one relaxes in March, that month of wind and taxes, the wind will presently disappear, the taxes last us all the year.

Ogden Nash


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© Jonathan Sturm 2001