Ephemerides

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 27 August 2001

Aaargh! Not a great start to the week. Front Page 2000 has started to insist that the index page doesn't exist in my local copy of this web and wants to delete it from the server! Early last week, I started to get strange artefacts on my display, so I uninstalled the latest Matrox G400 driver and installed the previous version. To no avail. The previous install of Win2k Pro didn't have these problems and this is fresh from after I had my hard disk woes. The replacement for the offending hard disk arrived Friday, but I have yet to install it. Fortunately, I used Partition Magic to make a clone of the base install, so I should be able to roll back to that.

My friend Niels is stable and appears to have avoided the infection the surgeon was afraid would ensue from the knife wounds to his gut.

Thought for the day:

However far modern science and techniques have fallen short of their inherent possibilities, they have taught mankind at least one lesson: Nothing is impossible.

Lewis Mumford


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Tuesday 28 August 2001

Found in my inbox:

GOD'S TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT QUESTIONNAIRE

God would like to thank you for your belief and patronage.

In order to better serve your needs, [S]He asks that you take a few moments to answer the following questions.

1. How did you find out about your deity?

__ Newspaper
__ Bible
__ Torah
__ Television
__ Book of Mormon
__ Divine Inspiration
__ Dead Sea Scrolls
__ My Mama Done Told Me
__ Near Death Experience
__ Near Life Experience
__ National Public Radio
__ Tabloid
__ Burning Shrubbery
__ Other (specify): _____________

2. Which model deity did you acquire?

__ Jehovah
__ Jesus
__ Allah
__ Krishna
__ Buddha
__ Father, Son, & Holy Ghost [Trinity Pak]
__ Brahma, Vishnu, & Siva [Trimurti Pak]
__ Mawu/Olorun & Obatala [Vodun Loa Pak]
__ Zeus and entourage [Olympus Pak]
__ Odin and entourage [Valhalla Pak]
__ Satan
__ Gaia/Mother Earth/Mother Nature
__ God 1.0a (Hairy Thunderer)
__ God 1.0b (Cosmic Muffin)
__ None of the above, I was taken in by a false god

3. Did your God come to you undamaged, with all parts in good working order and with no obvious breakage or missing attributes?

__ Yes __ No

If no, please describe the problems you initially encountered here. Please indicate all that apply:

__ Not eternal
__ Finite in space/Does not occupy or inhabit the entire cosmos
__ Not omniscient
__ Not omnipotent
__ Not infinitely plastic (incapable of being all things to all creations)
__ Permits sex outside of marriage
__ Prohibits sex outside of marriage
__ Makes mistakes
__ Makes or permits bad things to happen to good people
__ Makes or permits good things to happen to bad people
__ Looks after life other than that on Earth
__ When beseeched, doesn't stay beseeched
__ Requires burnt offerings
__ Requires virgin sacrifices

4. What factors were relevant in your decision to acquire a deity? Please check all that apply.

__ Indoctrinated by parents
__ Needed a reason to live
__ Indoctrinated by society
__ Needed focus in whom to despise
__ Needed focus in whom to love
__ Imaginary friend grew up
__ Hate to think for myself
__ Wanted to meet girls/boys in church
__ Fear of death
__ Wanted to piss off parents
__ Wanted to please parents
__ Needed a day away from school or work
__ Desperate need for certainty
__ Like organ music
__ Need to feel morally superior
__ Thought Jerry Falwell was cool
__ Thought there had to be something other than Jerry Falwell
__ Shit was falling out of the sky
__ My shrubbery caught fire and told me to do it

5. Have you ever worshipped a deity before? If so, which false god were you fooled by? Please check all that apply.

__ Baal
__ The Almighty Dollar
__ Left Wing Liberalism
__ The Radical Right
__ Amon Ra
__ Beelzebub
__ Bill Gates
__ Barney The Big Purple Dinosaur
__ The Great Spirit
__ The Great Pumpkin
__ The Sun
__ The Moon
__ The Force
__ Cindy Crawford
__ Elvis
__ A burning shrub
__ Psychiatry
__ Other: ________________

6. Are you currently using any other source of inspiration in addition to God? Please check all that apply.

__ Tarot
__ Lottery
__ Astrology
__ Television
__ Fortune cookies
__ Ann Landers
__ Psychic Friends Network
__ Dianetics
__ Palmistry
__ Playboy and/or Playgirl
__ Self-help books
__ Sex, drugs, and rock & roll
__ Biorhythms
__ Alcohol
__ Marijuana
__ Bill Clinton
__ Tea Leaves
__ EST
__ Amway
__ CompuServe
__ Mantras
__ Jimmy Swaggert
__ Crystals
__ Human sacrifice
__ Pyramids
__ Wandering around a desert
__ Insurance policies
__ Burning shrubbery
__ Barney T.B.P.D.
__ Barney Fife
__ Other:_____________________
__ None

7. God reputedly employs a limited degree of Divine Intervention to preserve a balanced level of felt presence and blind faith. Which would you prefer? Circle one below:

a. More Divine Intervention
b. Less Divine Intervention
c. Current level of Divine Intervention is just right
d. Don't know.
e. What's Divine Intervention?

8. God also reputedly attempts to maintain a balanced level of disasters and miracles. Please rate on a scale of 1 - 5 your opinion of the handling of the following (1 = unsatisfactory, 5 = excellent):

a. Disasters:

1 2 3 4 5 flood
1 2 3 4 5 famine
1 2 3 4 5 earthquake
1 2 3 4 5 war & holocausts
1 2 3 4 5 pestilence
1 2 3 4 5 plague
1 2 3 4 5 Spam
1 2 3 4 5 AOL

b. Miracles:

1 2 3 4 5 rescues
1 2 3 4 5 spontaneous remissions
1 2 3 4 5 stars hovering over tiny town & previously unknown hamlets
1 2 3 4 5 crying statues
1 2 3 4 5 water changing to wine
1 2 3 4 5 walking on water
1 2 3 4 5 coincidence of any sort
1 2 3 4 5 getting any sex whatsoever

9. From time to time God reputedly makes available the names and addresses of His followers and devotees to selected reputedly divine personages who provide quality services and perform intercessions in His behalf. Are you interested in a compilation of listed offerings?

__ Yes, please deluge me with religious zealots for the benefit of my own mortal soul

__ No, I do not wish to be inundated by religious fanatics clamouring for my money

10. Do you have any additional comments or suggestions for improving the quality of God's services?

(Attach an additional sheet if necessary)

Hope that made your day.

Thought for the day:

Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.

Karl Barth


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Wednesday 29 August 2001

I have been saddened and angry. Mark Anning who attacked his next door neighbour, my friend Niels, last week with a knife appeared in court on Monday charged with attempted murder and aggravated burglary. He currently has a suspended sentence for beating his father-in-law to within an inch of his life and is on bail for attempting to burn his father-in-law's house down. The magistrate, instead of remanding him in custody, gave him bail.

Thought for the day:

Of all the characters of cruelty, I consider the most despicable the one that cloaks himself in a garb of mercy.

Fox


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Thursday 30 August 2001

Merkins are sensitive creatures at the best of times and The Pompous Git has aroused the ire of yet another of that calling. Apparently, since I "live in a Third World country on American hand-outs", I am not entitled to comment on items in the American news. Apart from making me laugh, the "Third World" epithet got me thinking...

There are several generally agreed upon criteria for 3rd world status:

1. Water quality -- I'm happy to report that my water supply is squeaky clean -- no significant content of ions (electrical resistance is equal to distilled water according to my own measurements), scale build-up in our stainless steel kettle is around .01 mm after a 15 years. Note that this sits on the stove simmering most of the afternoon and evening. Bacterial content = nil. Californian visitors are surprised by this as they tell me they have to buy potable water in bottles. We just turn on the tap (faucet).

2. Electricity supply -- we have a power outage of around a couple of hours duration maybe once every 3-4 years, generally a Darwin Award candidate driving into a power pole. Tasmania pretty much relies on hydro electricity, but we have a thermal power plant that gets fired up if the water storages are low (about once very 10 years). Some of us suspect that they only fire it up to check if it's still working. Mostly we have a large surplus of electricity and we are negotiating selling that interstate. For some reason my Californian friends envy us.

3. Literacy -- pretty well every kid gets to learn how to read. My American friends tell me that it's now considered "acceptable" in the US to achieve 50% literacy by 6th grade.

4. Last I heard the number of personal computers per head of population was higher in the US and Australia was around 2 years behind. Bummer!

5. Agriculture -- Australia is a nett exporter of food and fibre. Agricultural export subsidies fell below 0.3% in 1998 as agreed with the US government and there are no other significant subsidies available to Australia's agricultural producers. Compare that to the subsidies US farmers "need" to remain "competitive".

6. Poverty line -- percentage of population below poverty line US = 12.7%, Australia = 11.5%. Probably not statistically significant. Poverty line defined as 50% of median income.

7. Health -- infant mortality -- US 6.82/1000 -- Australia 5.04/1000.

8. Benevolence -- Dollars donated to aid other countries in $US/head population. US = $25 Australia = $80 (Hint: genuine 3rd world countries take money, not donate it)

Of course statistics don't tell the whole story, and I'm the first to admit that the CIA (source of most of the numbers) might be exaggerating in the US's favour just a wee bit. What I do know is that almost *all* our overseas visitors express envy for the way we live. And a small, but significant percentage seem to find their way to be able to live here in our "third world" country. And more than a few of those are, or rather were, US citizens. For some reason they are much happier when we call them Australians.

Thought for the day:

Accuracy of statement is one of the first elements of truth; inaccuracy is a near kin to falsehood.

Tryon Edwards


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Friday 31 August 2001

There's considerable fury in the overseas press about Australia refusing a boatload of illegal immigrants. The illegal immigrants are called "refugees", but that's far from clear. Australia is a popular destination for immigration and like most countries, we have rules about the sort of people we allow in. For example, we are not particularly fond of murderers and rapists.

Australia has established procedures for people wishing to migrate here. I am a migrant myself. Illegal immigrants are kept in isolated locations while the procedures a legal migrant would need to go through are undergone. This annoys some of them to the extent that they have burned down the facility they were being kept in. They believe that they are entitled to special treatment since they have successfully arrived here. The government, wisely I think, has decided that rewarding criminals who have broken Australian immigration laws would be a punishment of those who follow proper procedure.

Indonesia's role in this is to provide a haven for businesses selling passage to illegal immigrants. That is what happened in this instance. The vessel that sank was an Indonesian ship coming from an Indonesian port. It sank closer to Indonesia than it did to Australia. How that makes Australia responsible for the passengers and crew of that vessel is not entirely clear. Why Indonesia provides a haven for businesses trafficking in human lives is an easier question to answer. Obviously, the government profits from it, too.

Germany has a problem with illegal immigrants. If an immigrant is found to have come via a country where they were safe from persecution, they are sent back there. It's my firm belief that Australia should adopt a similar law.

Thought for the day:

To punish a man because he has committed a crime, or because he is believed, though unjustly, to have committed a crime, is not persecution. To punish a man, because we infer from the nature of some doctrine which he holds, or from the conduct of other persons who hold the same doctrines with him, that he will commit a crime, is persecution, and is, in every case, foolish and wicked.

Thomas B. Macaulay


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Saturday 1 September 2001

For the Henrysson's going away present, The Progress Association decided that one of Margie's photographs of Franklin, mounted and framed would be nice.

Franklin at dawn looking south down the Huon River

I scanned the 35 mm transparency at 2,720 dpi and used the clone tool in Corel Photopaint to remove the inevitable dust spots. Having the photo shop make a print from the file saved on CD is somewhat less expensive than making a conventional print from the transparency. This is the first time I have done so and I am interested to see what the result will be on Monday.

I spent the rest of the day putting undercoat on the walls and ceiling of the spare bedroom in The House of Steel.

The evening was the usual, eating crisps and watching The Bill. We eagerly await Don Beech getting his come-uppance, though we know that's some time away as that occurs in Australia where the episodes were recently shot. 

Thought for the day:

It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.

James Baldwin


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Sunday 2 September 2001

I spent most of today painting The House of Steel. After a quick bath, it was off to a friend's place for a barbecue. As we went out the door, my son Thomas thrust the ABC TV two DVD set "Long Way to the Top", stories of Australian and New Zealand rock and roll. I guess there wouldn't have been much painting done had he given me my Fathers' Day present earlier in the day.

On the way to the barbecue, we stopped by Henrysson's shed; Michael wanted to discuss the dining table finishing with us. The tiger myrtle top does not need the contrasting fillet of celery top pine around the edge we had asked for. The figuring is complex and needs nothing to supplement its beauty other than a high gloss finish. Michael had also held off on the curved ends and middle. That aspect of the original design we wish to keep and will require the addition of some timber to the edges of the two long sides.

Originally, the table was to have had curved wooden legs, rather than the stainless steel it now has. But ten months ago when we first discussed the table, we couldn't decide on a design for the dining chairs. Choosing the Henrysson/Dunshea stainless steel framed chairs altered the table design. Fine furniture, fine houses, fine lives -- a nip here, a tuck there, continually adjusted to approach an ideal, never quite reaching it. Hand-made lives, not a cookie cutter or vending machine in sight.

On to my friend Peter Marmion's barbecue. Peter is the principle of the local primary school where my son Thomas was so excellently schooled in the basic principles of life. Peter has an aversion to text books, preferring his students and staff to find resources for learning that interest them. His purpose is to teach a love of learning.

It's perhaps five years since I was in Peter's garden and it has grown considerably. Peter is a bird enthusiast and it is a haven for other wildlife as well -- wallabies, quolls, wombats... The excuse for the barbecue is to bring the staff, students and committee of The Wooden Boat School together to just relax and enjoy themselves. All are instructed to leave their politics at home.

We returned home to view the second and final episode of Longitude -- the story of John Harrison's development of the chronometer and accurate navigation. A nip here, a tuck there, new insights, ideals -- a hand-made life.

Thought for the day:

Can you tell a plain man the road to heaven? Certainly, turn at once to the right, then go straight forward.

B Wilberforce


 

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Jonathan Sturm 2001

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Jonathan Sturm 2001