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 17 December 2001

Stan the plumber arrived today and completed most of the plumbing. Only the kitchen sink and toilets left to install, but that won't be until a few days after Christmas. We should be in The House of Steel before the New Year.

I'm too tired to write much about my thoughts, so here are a couple of pages I found interesting this last week. The Karl Popper Web promotes the philosophy of Karl Popper and has an ongoing publication, The Critical Rationalist. I was particularly taken by Jack Cohen's "Content, Context, Fungibility and Disproof". A very interesting read.

The Extropy Institute "acts as a networking and information center for those seeking to foster our continuing evolutionary advance by using technology to extend healthy life, augment intelligence, optimize psychology, and improve social systems. Through its networking function, the Institute brings together the finest critical and creative minds to challenge conventional thinking about human limits and to develop, critique, and implement new ideas about the use of technologies of all kinds to improve the future. As an information center, the Institute acts as a repository and portal for detailed information on advanced technologies, their positive potentials, their challenges, and their possible dangers." 

Thought for the day:

There was never a war on poverty. Maybe there was a skirmish on poverty. 

Andrew Cuomo


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Tuesday 18 December 2001

I received a phone call from a friend today. He told me I likely had a virus as the email I sent him was flagged as "possibly infected" by his new anti-virus software. Since the message I had sent him (and several other friends) was plain text, I was somewhat surprised. Here is the text of the message, the subject was Season's Greetings:

The Politically Correct Twelve Days

On the 12th day of the Eurocentrically imposed midwinter festival, Significant Other in a consenting adult, monogamous relationship gave to me:

a. TWELVE males reclaiming their inner warrior through ritual drumming,

b. ELEVEN pipers piping (plus the 18-member pit orchestra made up of members in good standing of the Musicians Equity Union as called for in their union contract even though they will not be asked to play a note)

c. TEN melanin deprived testosterone-poisoned scions of the patriarchal ruling class system leaping

d. NINE persons engaged in rhythmic self-expression

e. EIGHT economically disadvantaged female persons stealing milk-products from enslaved Bovine-Americans

f. SEVEN endangered swans swimming on federally protected wetlands

g. SIX enslaved Fowl-Americans producing stolen non-human animal products,

h. FIVE golden symbols of culturally sanctioned enforced domestic incarceration. NOTE: after members of the Animal Liberation Front threatened to throw red paint at my computer, the calling birds, hens and partridge have been reintroduced to their native habitat. To avoid further Animal-American enslavement, the remaining gift package has been revised.

i. FOUR hours of recorded whale songs

j. THREE deconstructionist poets

k. TWO Sierra Club calendars printed on recycled processed tree carcasses, and

l. ONE Spotted Owl activist chained to an old-growth pear tree.

Merry Christmas. Happy Chanukah. Good Kwanzaa. Blessed Yule. Oh, heck! Happy Holidays!!!! *

*Unless, of course, you are suffering from Seasonally Affected Disorder (SAD). If this be the case, please substitute this gratuitous call for celebration with suggestion that you have a thoroughly adequate day.

Thought for the day:

Fear has many eyes and can see things underground.

Miguel De Cervantes


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Wednesday 19 December 2001

The House of Steel is delayed yet again. I hate tradesmen!

Ah well, we had a day of summer weather at last. A return to overcast and periodic showers interspersed with rain for the next few days is predicted.

Thought for the day:

And oftentimes excusing of a fault doth make the fault the worse by the excuse.

William Shakespeare


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Thursday 20 December 2001

One of the greatest joys in my life is to soak my old and weary bones in a hot bathtub. As it cools, I add some more hot water to keep it nice and hot. I just did a little experimenting and I tend to keep the water pretty much around 45C. The hot water that I top up with is around 80C. A long way from boiling, but certainly hot enough to give you a bad burn if you were stupid enough to leave a body part in water at that temperature.

But the law says that people are so stupid that new hot water supplies can only deliver water at a maximum temperature of 55C. A device limiting the water temperature at the hot water cylinder to that temperature has been fitted at The House of Steel, $A85 plus some labour cost. My somewhat rough and ready calculations seem to indicate that I would have to use 3-4 times as much water to loll for an hour in my hot winter bath and the bath doesn't hold that much. Oh, it's a big bath, but they don't call me "that fat bastard" for nothing!

The cost of energy for the hot water is pretty low -- close to free since some of the wood we burn is from trees I planted some 15 years or more ago. I didn't even buy all the tree seedlings, most came from seeds I gathered locally for myself. Water usage is an issue though. We collect our own from rainfall and store it until we need it. Rainfall is fairly erratic and sometimes we go for quite a while, especially in summer, between significant falls. The rainfall generally begins in earnest in early winter. Cold weather, hot baths -- luxury!

But some self-satisfied, moronic prick in government doesn't want me to enjoy those long hot soaks of a winter evening. I doubt I will empty and refill the bath 3-4 times, even if we could afford the water. While this strategy is undoubtedly intended to drive me to watch television like a good little citizen, fuck the bastards. I'll likely become a criminal and remove the water tempering device so that I can continue enjoying my hot baths and She Who Must Be Obeyed can presoak the greasy dishes in water that removes the grease without requiring a bucketload of detergent.

Thought for the day:

Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done.

Josh Billings


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Friday 21 December 2001

Yesterday, Fran and I went shopping for some more bits and pieces for The House of Steel. Fortunately for my composure, the amount I spend on these occasional trips is decreasing and I spent around $A500. On the way back from the city, we stopped by the local Mitre 10 2.5 hardware store to pick up a couple of small items we either couldn't find in the city, or we forgot. One of the staff became chatty and chided us for treating his shop as a convenience store. We pointed out that we would purchase more there if the prices were more competitive. His response was that they stocked different brands than we were comparing prices to. I agreed, pointing out that I paid around $A6/pair for Blum hinges and he was charging $A15 for cheap plastic hinges. His rejoinder was that it wasn't worth travelling to the city to save money on $A30 of purchases. My response was that my purchases over the last twelve months amounted to $A100,000 and it was well worth four trips to the city to save an amount equal to, or more than that!

One of the purchases in the city was a couple of 3.6 m (12 ft) lengths of chromed steel tubing. One is for hanging clothes in the walk-in wardrobe and the other is for making a couple of towel rails. I also purchased end sockets on pillars that came with the screws required to fix them. Mitre 10 2.5 has a 600 mm (2 ft) towel rail to sell for $A69.95. If I were making a towel rail as small as that, my raw materials cost was $A7 or a little less. Admittedly I have to saw the tubing to length, but I also have the advantage of not needing to dispose of a sheet of cardboard and plastic!

Huonville Mitre 10 2.5 is owned by John Clennett Sr. John Clennett Jr has the timber yard where I purchased my floorboards. The original order was for 22 mm (7/8 in) boards, but they delivered 19 mm (3/4 in) boards as they didn't have any 22 mm boards in stock. So I would be getting select grade 19 mm instead of standard grade 22 mm. Regular readers will recall that John Clennett Jr visited The House of Steel to confirm my complaint about the quality of those boards and agreed to replace 28% of them. The replacement boards were 22 mm thick and consequently incompatible with my 19 mm boards. They were replaced with 19 mm boards. When we ran out of sufficient offcuts for making the doors, I ordered 30 m (100 ft) of 19 mm boards. Of course John Clennett's Sheltered Workshop translated this as 157 m of 22 mm boards.

But that's enough complaining! I suspect my dyspeptic mood is caused by Christmas -- the false jollity and drunken stupidity of the Silly Season as it's called here. I'll likely write something more amusing when it's past.

Thought for the day:

Stick yer Christmas up yer arse, ho, ho, fucking ho!

Kevin Bloody Wilson


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Saturday 22 December 2001

My friend Roland Seidel wrote: 'I draw a clear distinction between things that belong to Science and things that don't and the instrument I use is "Science tells us about the Natural World and Everything Else tells us about the Human Experience".'

To which I replied:

But does it? Robert M Persinger [1] has been experimenting with feedback between parts of the brain and has discovered that it's relatively trivial to create an experience of God [2] indistinguishable from similar experiences attained through the more traditional routes. (Experiencing God is done using the metaphors of the culture the person doing the experiencing.) So, is this just a chance artefact of the development of the neocortex over the amygdala, is it real or unreal? The experience feels real -- as real as the taste of the coffee I'm drinking right now. It certainly feels more real than electrons, or the other "fundamental" atomic particles I was taught about in the classroom we once shared. A lot more real than the statement that water is H2O! [3]

As I write this, there appear to be two classes of experience: those that are perceived directly in my mind and those I create in the same mind based on communication with my fellow creatures. But in a little while, when I go over to my House of Steel, I will sit for a time quietly on the front deck and I may be able to recreate the state of mind that Persinger's machine creates. Whereupon I will be unable to distinguish my thinking self from the welcome swallows that have taken to feeding their chicks on that deck.

I could, as you appear to be doing, label one class of experience as "real" and the other "imaginary", but I can't. These are all experiences that are apparently made with the same gelatinous piece of grey material [4] in my head. No doubt when the human race evolves into another species, the quality of those experiences will be different. The stories we tell each other will be different. And I have no doubt that the stories we are telling each other now, if they remain preserved, will be as fascinatingly un-understandable as the scratches our ancestors were making on bones 10,000 years ago.

I continually remind myself of Karl Popper's most important insight. Nothing can be scientifically proved. We can only admit ideas that can be falsified. Isn't it fun to be a live, thinking human in the 21st Century?

[1] There was a fascinating website created by one of Persinger's students, though sadly it no longer exists. He was selling instructions on how to create the feedback that Persinger was doing using a standard PC/Soundcard and magnetic pick-ups applied to one's head. He also listed many of the traditional techniques -- meditation, fasting, mantra etc.

[2] I use the term "God", but "oneness with the Universe" and a variety of other terms could equally well substitute for it.

[3] Some bits of water may well be H2O, but there's always lots of other combinations of H and O. Not to mention that the "vacuum" between the Hs and Os consists of electrons and photons and other fundamental particles winking in and out of existence.

[4] The most important signals buzzing around the brain appear to be electromagnetic, rather than the slow chemical/electrical ones. When we get beyond Persinger's primitive manipulations and hook directly into computers will be fascinating!

Thought for the day:

What our eyes behold may well be the text of life but one's meditations on the text and the disclosures of these meditations are no less a part of the structure of reality.

Wallace Stevens


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Sunday 23 December 2001

 

Thought for the day:

 


 

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Jonathan Sturm 2001

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Jonathan Sturm 2001