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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 20 August 2001
What an interesting start to the week. My mobile phone died. It's an NEC Spirit and has been troublesome since I purchased it. The battery charge has always lasted far less time than claimed. Recently it took to turning itself off when attempting to make a phone call. Today it took to turning itself off when receiving calls also. Sadly, NEC's less than stellar support for its monitors appears to be mirrored with their telephones. I had to pay $38 for a diagnosis and that will take 7-10 days. Any repair will be a charge on top of that.
When my Philips phone's on/off switch died, it cost somewhat less for a two hour turnaround on the repair. When my Philips monitor was damaged by being dropped, the turnaround on repair was a couple of business days. Luckily, I don't need my mobile for much until The House of Steel is completed.
The phone died while Fran, Tony and myself were helping Michael load a shipping container with minor species timber for transport to NSW where Michael will be setting up his furniture making business. There was Huon pine, myrtle, King Billy, celerytop, blackwood, sassafras and a considerable amount of hardwood of the not-so-minor sort. The minor species are going to become completely unavailable fairly soon. The green push to have them locked away from use by all except the anointed few appears to be a reality .
Of course this is an opportunity for people with cash to make some more. I am hoping the proposed legislation is delayed long enough for me to purchase some when we sell the cottage. A stack of celerytop and sassafras under The House of Steel will be a better investment than money in the bank.
Most of the small sawmills rely on minor species for their income, so I dare say they will be upset by the expected changes to forestry activity. The furniture and cabinet makers who consume most of the minor species will also have to either change to major species or shut up shop. The multi-national woodchip industry won't be affected, nor the major milling operations of Clennet and Risby. Only the little guys. When is Green rhetoric going to match the results of their activities?
Loading the container took us quite some time. The rain was heavy, though a few kilometres away it was falling as snow on the slopes of Mount Wellington. For lunch, we went to MacDonald's. It's 25 years since I ate a quarter pounder. Before the pretty young girl had a chance, I said "and I'll have fries with that". The joke went completely over her head. While the coffee was OK, I suspect it will be another 25 years before I can be tempted to eat what our American friends fondly imagine to be food. By that time, I may very well be dead of course, and that might be a Very Good Thing. Death versus having a MacDonald's hamburger bought for me that is.
Upon our return to Franklin we decided to celebrate beer o'clock at The Lady Franklin hotel. This created a logistical problem. Michael is allowed no alcohol in his bloodstream because he "blew" the breathalyser some time ago. Despite being able to prove that he had drunk insufficient alcohol to exceed the blood alcohol limit, he was guilty of exceeding the limit on the breathalyser, and that is the offence. There is a myriad of substances to which the breathalyser responds: acetone, acetic acid, benzene, menthol... many of the substances are the sort that furniture and cabinet makers like Michael work with all day.
Fran only ever drinks one stubby of beer, so he drove us all back to the cottage where he had parked his van this morning. I attempted to phone Marguerite at work without success. When she arrived home, we had her drive to Michael's home and pick up his wife, Gail. Of course in theory we could have picked Gail up on the way to the cottage, but we weren't thinking all that well by then. Our excuse was that despite Gail's small stature, there was really insufficient room in the back seat of the Saab between two very burly men.
After Gail and Michael's departure, I attempted to log onto the Internet, but both phone lines are out. So I don't know when you are going to be reading this.
The day ended with the consumption of cold pork from Fran's excellent pigs. And that gave rise to two thoughts for the day, both from Cobbett's Cottage Economy, well worth reading if you can find a copy these days. His Rural Rides is also enlightening for anyone whose understanding of history comes from text books.
Thought for the day:
But about this time it is more than possible that the Methodist parson will pay you a visit. It is remarked in America that these gentlemen are attracted by the squeaking of pigs, as the fox is to the cackling hen.
Every farmer will understand me when I say, that he ought to pay for nothing in money, which he can pay for in anything but money.
Tuesday 21 August 2001
Yesterday's thoughts of William Cobbett led me to think on why Marguerite and I first moved to the country all those years ago. Our city-dwelling friends think of us as "alternative lifestylers". And the term "alternative lifestyle" conjures all sorts of thoughts in many people's minds: Hippies, dropouts, communes etc. Not too long after we moved here, the federal government of the day published a report they had commissioned to enable them to "do something" for unemployed youth. They had fondly imagined that "alternative lifestylers" were young people forced into that predicament by unemployment and poverty.
Much to their surprise, and for all I know chagrin, they discovered the following:
That last point wasn't in the report, but it probably should have been.
Confronted by insufficient income to pursue life, love and the American Way one has two alternatives: "work hard, study hard, get ahead, kill" or reduce your monetary needs by producing much of your own "stuff", often referred to as "self-sufficiency". We chose the latter course.
One of the great myths of modern society is that being a peasant is a life of unremitting labour and misery. I'm sorry, but that's bullshit! Yes, there are periods when there is much work to do and yes it's hard. Like loading Michael's shipping container yesterday. But the hard work is readily shared among friends and accompanied by cheerful banter. "Which one of you is going to New South Wales in the container to save the airfare?" "Gail," says Michael.
Fran refused payment for the 20-30 kg of pig that he gave me on Friday. He knows that when I have something surplus to my needs that he needs, I will give him whatever that is. Or the pig might be a gift saying thank you for the money income I have provided him while we built The House of Steel. There is no firm, clear cut answer to questions of value in a peasant economy. Sometimes it's direct barter, sometimes it's just goodwill. A sort of peasant bank, if you will. Deposit now, withdraw at some later date.
The problem with money is that it attracts what Cobbett calls "the tax-eaters". These are the bottom feeders usually referred to as "the government". Income tax, sales tax, excise, call it what you will, is used not just for useful services, like hospitals and schools, it's also used to pay the tax-eaters to really do nothing more than... eat our income.
When we moved here 20 years ago, the local farmers made their living from the land and grew much of their own food. The alternative lifestylers grew much of their own food and made their cash either by selling their services locally or to nearby town and city dwellers. Today, most of the farmers rely on their spouse's income from work done in the towns and cities, there being insufficient income from the farm. The tax eaters have turned the farmers into "alternative lifestylers".
I note in the news that the government is complaining of a shortage of nurses. They have recently closed the hospital at Dover having closed the one at Franklin some years ago. Presumably, this was intended to force the nurses to go where the important people live. But they didn't, preferring to live where there is room for pigs, geese, turkeys, chickens and vegetable gardens.
Thought for the day:
A couple of flitches of bacon are worth fifty thousand Methodist sermons and religious tracts.
Wednesday 22 August 2001
I don't know when you are going to be able to read this. My telephone lines are still out due to:
Choose one of the above.
Last week, Telstra sent a message to its mobile phone users' message banks touting a new service for its customers. Listening to the message consumed some 49 seconds to be paid for by the customers. This angered consumer groups and Senator Alston, Minister for Communications famous for his idiotic Internet laws. Telstra backed down and is refunding customers for the 49 second message bank call.
Once upon a time, we had possibly the best telecommunication system in the world. Telstra had a monopoly and was owned by the government (i.e. the electors of the government). Then the government decided that it would be more efficient if Telstra was downsized. Thousands of Telstra's employees were offered tempting redundancy packages that most promptly accepted. More than a few of the more competent were hired back on consultants' rates when their expertise was found to be lacking in the new and improved Telstra.
Having yet again shown that it wasn't competent to even run a chook raffle, the government decided to introduce competition to Australian telecommunications. Knowing that this would severely impact the government's own income from Telstra, half of Telstra was sold off to the electors. How anyone could be stupid enough to purchase what they already owned is beyond me.
Competition, as expected, drove prices and quality of service down. The cost is now below that of providing service and the inevitable consequence, bankruptcy, has already hit one provider, OneTel. There appear to be two players left capable of fighting this out to the death: Telstra and Optus. As Telstra's share prices continue to fall, it appears that Optus currently has an edge. Of course the survivor of all this stupidity will have a monopoly and need to recover the vast amounts of money currently being spent to create "customer loyalty".
Having virtually killed its own cash cow, the government is now talking about doing what it promised to never, ever do: sell the remaining 50% of Telstra. How's that for a vote of confidence?
Thought for the day:
You can fool some of the people some of the time and just jerk the rest off.
Thursday 23 August 2001
Thanks to John Dominick for reminding me that yesterday's thought for the day was a Robin Williams quote. I meant to do an Internet search before posting when my telephone lines were restored (a day earlier than promised), but I forgot. It's easy to forget when your email inbox has two days' worth of spam to wade through.
Last night was the third episode of Long Way to the Top, ABC TV's chronicle of rock music in Australia. Having been part of the particularly exciting period of the music scene in Melbourne from 1968 through the mid seventies, it wasn't surprising to see a much slimmer Pompous Git at the TF Much Ballroom in Carlton getting off on Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band, the loudest jugband in the world at that time, perhaps all time. I hadn't recalled the event, but that likely has something to do with the fact that Mick Conway, the lead singer of Captain Matchbox, liked to share his herbal cigarettes with me before the performance.
There was mention of Ross Wilson's band Party Machine. While still in high school, John (Matt) Miglans and friends booked them for a gig at Gisborne, beating Mike Browning to the punch. Being almost completely incapable of keeping a beat, I was relegated to helping with such things as sound balance. Sound? LOUD! Balance? I fell over frequently, but then so did everyone else smoking that funny tobacco. Matt went on to become bass player in Lobby Lloyde's Coloured Balls after he quit Billy Thorpe's Aztecs. Matt, like so many of my friends who were musos those days is dead now. Not in this case from drugs AFAIK. He went on to become a hotel manager in the UK. He returned to Australia some years ago and phoned to say he was coming to visit me at Franklin. He never arrived as he was killed in a single vehicle accident the following day. Perhaps driving in the congestion of UK roads impaired his driving abilities on Australia's open roads.
For a brief period of the mid seventies I lived in Melbourne, taking over my friend Paul Wyld's flat in South Yarra. He went off to the UK in the pursuit of love. I used to really enjoy the pretty young girls who visited, asking if Paul was in. I never told them he was in London and instead asked them to come in and wait. I recently heard that Paul, like his brother before him, had committed suicide. I used to think that Paul had it made: the girls loved him (literally and figuratively), he was one of the most talented writers and performers in the world, and was a great friend. [4/2/03 Paul's sister Megan emailed to say: "[Paul] died of a rare lung disease that he had had for many years".]
We all thought Thorpy and Lobby were destined for an early grave, but they continue to rock on. Perhaps they are made of sterner stuff than those whose involvement in the music industry appears to have caused their death. More than a few of us made our escape to Tasmania where we occasionally reminisce about the good old days. Matt Taylor eventually left the refuge and returned to the scene; you can download I Remember When I Was Young here.
The highlight of Long Way to the Top for me was Billy Thorpe reminiscing about his many arrests for saying "fuck" on stage. He quoted a police sergeant who said: "If that cunt says fuck on stage again, I want that fucking cunt arrested!" It made us laugh then and it makes me laugh still!
Thought for the day:
I hear what you're playing and I know it's the blues. But it sure don't sound like any blues I've ever heard before.
Albert Collins (speaking of Matt Taylor)
Friday 24 August 2001
One of my best friends, before his health began failing, a very talented musician as it happens, is fighting for his life in The Royal Hobart Hospital. We have been expecting his imminent demise for quite some time. His heart is giving out and on a bad day he has two strokes. To add to his burden, his next door neighbour blamed him for his wife bolting and in one of his regular bouts of drunkenness, broke down my friend's door and attacked him with a knife. Now he has lost a kidney. I can only name this man as Niels Peterson, a pseudonym insisted on by his Presbyterian minister wife. Niels is one of the stalwarts of the BBS and FidoNet systems of old. I shall miss him when he has gone.
Thought for the day:
Though it be in the power of the weakest arm to take away life, it is not in the strongest to deprive us of death.
Sir Thomas Browne
Saturday 25 August 2001
Found in my inbox:
How many of these jobs are already filled at your place of employment????
E-commerce consultants. (3 months, extendable to 12 years)
Experience in e-commerce not required. The successful applicant will have no experience of any of the following: Commerce, computers, the internet, good taste. A lack of design skills and a fixation with style over content will also be important. You should have current experience in gross over-charging and hoodwinking scrupulous clients. You will work with a bunch of other opinionated irritating wankers, constructing a series of web-pages with as many 'broken links' and loose ends as time and money allow.
Bullshitter (3 month contract)
Bullshitter required. You will have at least three years experience of doing jobs for which you have no skill or aptitude, ideally in a Unix environment. Skills to include bullshit, ideally to politician level, and waffle in a technical capacity. Arse-covering skills will be an advantage. CBE (Certified Bullshit Engineer) qualification essential.
Liar (6 month contract)
You will be working for a prestigious, high-profile company. You must be able to claim a degree with first-class honours, preferably from Oxford or Cambridge, and own a car which (although impressive) does not actually exist. You will also be required to make up stories or explanations on the hop, so experience of police work will be considered favourably. Ties and/or certificates are provided to add convincing "colour" to the successful applicant's statements.
Unix Guru (Rolling one month requirement)
Candidates must have at least three of the following qualities: (1) a stupid and unusual hairstyle with goatee beard (2) fashion taste which stopped somewhere in the mid-60's (3) a lifestyle quite unlike anyone else, or (4) a habit of wearing sandals with or without socks. The ideal applicant will also have a Californian accent. Unix experience not essential, but some keyboard skills may be useful.
Inexperienced timewaster wanted - urgent contract.
Candidates (under 21 years of age) must be able to fill out at least six pages of a C.V. with claims of experience and knowledge totalling a minimum of 150 years. In addition, they must also be able to claim involvement with hobbies which nobody in their right mind could possibly fit into a lifestyle which included, for example, sleeping or eating. The successful applicant will have no real skills in any category whatsoever, but candidates will be considered providing they do not know anything about C++ programming or Project Management.
Destruct testers required. (3 month contract, extendable to 6 months)
Clumsy, careless oafs of a naturally foolish nature must demonstrate their ineptitude with several, briefly-held, positions. The successful candidate will be asked to break something during the interview, preferably in a way which the interviewer will never have thought possible or remotely likely.
Scapegoats. (One month contract with bonus on completion.)
Conscientious and hardworking individual. Experienced in customer support and maintenance, you will have several demonstrable skills which can be used to show why the interviewers were right to employ you, coupled with a complete lack of awareness regarding arse-covering. You will work with a close-knit team of temporary contractors and will travel from project to project tasked with the job of tidying up the loose ends to ensure customer acceptance and satisfaction.
Timewasters, timewasters, timewasters.
Six timewasters are required for an urgent contract in the Far-East of Scotland, to start immediately. Skills must include six months coffee machine, three months photocopying and general administration and a minimum of one year "between assignments".
Unskilled slapheads required for six month contract.
Must have own suit (preferably brown). Own desk, and hatstand is provided for suitable applicants. Lazy good-for-nothing with multiple chronic illnesses sought to assist busy, interfering manager. Must be idle and shiftless. A bad memory and/or dyslexia will be advantageous.
Noxious beancounter required.
Must interfere constantly and construct meaningless lists of serial numbers and other pointless documentation. Numeracy/Literacy not a requirement, but an interest in train spotting is essential. Bad-breath and BO advantageous. Contract is for an initial three months and may be extended indefinitely.
Thought for the day:
Please don't lie to me, unless you're absolutely sure I'll never find out the truth.
Sunday 26 August 2001
This has been one of those weeks where I shouldn't have got out of bed! When my mobile phone died on Monday and the telephone lines went down due to bad weather, I put my "I'm a superstitious git" hat and said to myself everything happens in threes. Then in the early hours of Friday morning Mark Anning attempted to murder my friend Niels Peterson. Niels is a harmless old man we have expected to die RSN for several years, but he's a tough old bastard. He has "died" on the operating table five times. If he lives through the removal of a kidney, his spleen, part of his bowel and the damage to his liver it will be a miracle. And the miserable aspect of his life likely to be more miserable.
There have been days when he could not get out of bed. For days like that, we set up a PC alongside it with the monitor on its side so he could maintain contact with his friends via the Internet. The PC became an essential part of life for Niels some time ago. The drugs that keep his heart going exacerbate the short-term memory problem he already had form the brain damage caused by numerous strokes that were destroying his hearing and sight. An old DOS PIM reminded him with a loud chime every time he needed to take the next lot of pills.
On a couple of occasions, one of his Internet friends phoned me when Niels stopped responding on IRC or email. Niels Peterson is my friend's nom de plume as insisted on by his wife. Only a few of us knew the "real" Niels and I just happen to also live not too far away and have my phone number listed.
Yesterday, Margie and I drove to Hobart for the purpose of purchasing some sealer/undercoat for the plasterboard in The House of Steel. The motor in the Subaru developed a very nasty knock and we pulled to the side of the road opposite the showroom of the dealership that sold it. We gave up our RAC membership years ago when a call-out resulted in the arrival of a young man without tools of any description. He borrowed my pocket knife to temporarily fix the problem, but at the expense of a significant portion of the blade of my knife.
I walked to two nearby service stations only to discover that mechanics don't work weekends. So Marguerite decided to walk across the road to Performance Automobiles. When they serviced this Subaru last, it broke down with a major fault later the same day! They informed Marguerite that since the vehicle is still under warranty, they had RAC cover and duly arranged for them to look at the vehicle. A well equipped van arrived about an hour later and the pleasant young man arranged for a tow truck to pick up our seriously defunct car.
While we awaited the arrival of the tow truck, Marguerite returned to Performance Automobiles and asked if they could lend us a vehicle while our under warranty vehicle was immobile. They were adamant that was not possible, but they let Marguerite use their phone to check on car rental. Not one of the car hire firms could rent us a vehicle at their advertised rates! $390 for ten days is NOT $20 per day!
Meanwhile the tow truck arrived at the same time as the Performance Automobiles mechanic who would be opening the service centre. Marguerite and I travelled there in the tow truck, while the mechanic went ahead. When there, he informed us that he did have a loaner we could have, a ten year old Daihatsu, and he filled the tank with fuel! So, we had wheels at least. I was careful to refrain from telling him that Marguerite and a friend who owns a brand new Subaru are organising a protest to Subaru over Performance Automobiles underhand practices when it comes to servicing vehicles. More on this in a later post.
It was now well past time for getting the sealer/undercoat from the paint shop. The store had closed two hours before. I wanted to drop some film in to be developed and that just happens to be opposite my favourite pub, the Victoria Tavern. Sadly, Kevin doesn't open up that early on Saturdays, so we hied off to The Republic, my second favourite pub. We had already eaten a couple of gourmet pies with real coffee from the take-away in South Hobart, so we didn't feel like eating any of The Republic's first class cuisine and settled for a couple of glasses of Ninth Island chardonnays.
The Republic is renowned for far more than its fine cuisine -- it's primarily a music lovers venue. We perused the gig list for the coming weeks and noticed that Leo De Castro singing with Phil Manning soon. I asked Tony, the publican, if we'd need to book. He said that while Phil manages a good crowd with his solo act, the place is packed when he gigs with local acts. So we will have to arrive early for dinner before the performance at 10 pm. It's about a month away. He's playing at The Republic on 27 and 28 September.
I haven't seen this scion of Tasmania perform for many a long year and chatted to Tony about "the good old days". Tony missed Long Way to the Top on TV earlier this week and was hoping to borrow a tape of the broadcast, so I told him that the ABC are selling video-cassettes and DVDs of the series. Marguerite suggests that Thomas could buy me the DVDs for Father's Day. We shall see :-)
Saturday night is "watching The Bill while I eat crisps" night and hate it being interrupted by phone calls. This Saturday night's phone call was different. Steve phoned to ask about me transcribing all the 1970s recordings of Spectrum. It appears the fan club has "lost" them. I point out that I don't have the last -- Terminal Buzz, but Steve has that. I ask why they don't just purchase them 2nd hand and Steve tells me how much they are selling for. Wow! I should really arrange special insurance for my record collection as it's probable worth as much as the rest of the contents of my electronic cottage put together. It makes me wonder how much Little Stevie Wonder's first album, The Twelve Year Old Wonder is worth.
I suggest to Steve that we meet at the Leo De Castro/Phil Manning gig. He agrees and tells me that the day after Phil's last performance, Tony phoned him in Melbourne. "How much do you think we'll get for your Fender?" He'd left it on stage.
How was your week?
Thought for the day:
Memory is the thing you forget with.
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