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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 24 December 2001
This year has not been a particularly computer-centric one for me. The last beta testing I did was with FrameMaker for Linux and IIRC, that expired around this time last year. I have found a few moments recently to return to working with SuSE 7.1 Pro, but the lack of antialiasing of fonts kept driving me back to Win2k for my regular work. I decided to visit the website where I purchased SuSE and much to my surprise found there had been two upgrades since I purchased 7.1. While 7.3 will upgrade 7.1, purchasing an upgrade 7.3 does not appear to be an option -- it's full price or nothing! In any event, this story makes me more than a little wary of 7.3. So I am purchasing the 7.2 upgrade and expect to have antialiased fonts on my Linux desktop RSN.
Neither myself, nor my family are particularly Christmassy. I purchased the full set of C S Forester's Hornblower novels for my son, Thomas. Marguerite is likely expecting a new watch to replace the one that died. She has been wearing my "dress" watch the last few months. So I purchased her an authentic, Italian pasta machine with all attachments. This will either delight her, or do the complete opposite. I have no way of telling.
The weather continues to be abysmal -- this is the coldest start to summer on record for Tasmania. We have had only two or three days of T shirt weather since the beginning of spring! We have had to purchase peas for Christmas when they are usually ready from early December. I suspect that my first crop of Chardonnay grapes will fail to ripen. It's probably no coincidence that we also have a plague of rabbits. The promise of their complete elimination by the calici virus appears to be a pipedream. They are eating Marguerite's flowers and she is now urging me to purchase a gun. This after years of being vehemently opposed to my owning one!
Had I been licensed before the new gun laws, this would be no great problem. But following The Port Arthur Massacre, we now have to go through a particularly involved process. One locates the exact gun one wishes to purchase, then applies for a permit to purchase it. If, in the meantime someone else purchases that same gun, you have to apply for another permit for another gun. And so on! Probably simpler to acquire one illegally -- there are plenty about as these stupid laws merely increase the amount of criminal activity.
Thought for the day:
One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on. And when you do find somebody, it's remarkable how often his picture turns up on your driver's license.
P. J. O'Rourke
Tuesday 25 December 2001
It's cold, wet and Christmas. As anticipated, I received Civ 3 as a gift from Thomas and Marguerite. As is usual with such things, it's a mixed blessing. Having become used to Call to Power's interface during the several years that Civ 2 was unplayable on Win2k or NT, I struggled a little at first. Then some email came in and when I Alt-Tabbed to Outlook, its window was in displayed in 1024 by 768 and only the top left hand corner showing. It was so far below the resolution of 1280 by 1024 it looked like 640 by 480! Needless to say, this kind of behaviour by a game in this day and age is inexcusable. Haven't the developers noticed that Call to Power 2 allows switching between tasks without fucking up the display? It looks like I will have to install Win95 OSR2 under VMWare and run it from there.
Breakfast at Jane's was a very quiet affair this year and we stayed not very long. The breakfast of scrambled eggs with ham and hot English mustard was very refreshing. It's quite a while since I ate ham with mustard and it nearly blew my ears off! The mustard was spread a lot thinner on the next few mouthfuls.
I had a very restless night's sleep. I suspect that paint and varnish fumes, day after day, all day for some weeks hasn't been too good to my wellbeing. It certainly has a noticeable narcotic effect by the end of the day.
The pickled pork we were looking forward to eating at lunch turned out to be plain pork. Presumably somebody else had a very salty roast! A pity that SWMBO hadn't noticed that the meat hadn't been salted before boiling it. Turkey for dinner -- not my favourite poultry, but it seems obligatory to follow US traditions these days. Sadly, due to the incessant bad weather, it will not be accompanied by peas from our garden, but peas purchased from a shop! This hasn't happened to us at Christmas before!
Thomas has come up with a solution to the Civ 3 problem! It seems that adding the line "KeepRes=1" to civilization3.ini allows you to run Civ 3 at the same resolution as your system. And Lo! Switching windows now enables paying attention to other things while a game is in progress. As a true "Civ" fanatic, a typical game will occupy a couple of tens of hours. Just hope I can find the time. I wonder why the fascists in charge of the game can't have that kind of advice in their FAQ. "You vill run Civ 3 in the resolution ve decide, pig dog! How dare you attempt to run any application other than that decided by The Masters of the Universe."
Thought for the day:
We human beings do have some genuine freedom of choice and therefore some effective control over our own destinies. I am not a determinist. But I also believe that the decisive choice is seldom the latest choice in the series. More often than not, it will turn out to be some choice made relatively far back in the past.
Wednesday 26 December 2001
I was rereading Richard Feynman's The Meaning of it All. Feynman repeatedly makes the point that a scientist can never be absolutely certain of the truth. Ninety five percent certain, perhaps, but there's always some new discovery to be made that will change the way we see things. Einstein's Relativity supplanting Newton's Classical Mechanics for instance. The scientific point of view is one of true humility.
Of course, true humility is supposed to be the attribute of the followers of any number of religions. Rarely do we see that. We see the absolute certainty of Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists etc that their way is the only True Way.
Absolute certainty does not allow personal development since that requires change; a belief that tomorrow one can be a different person with a different view of the world. In a society that values personal development, there are winners and losers. No-one is a winner at everything; one need not be a loser at everything.
Elinor Burkett in Another Planet: A Year in the Life of a Suburban High School says theories she had previously bought into about the unfairness of distinguishing among students based on academic ability, for example, were countered by her observation that in classes where students of all abilities are thrown together, the less able students simply rely on the smarter students to do all the work, and the more precocious students become bored and alienated. It also struck Burkett that today's rhetoric about using new curriculum requirements and testing programs to raise standards are beside the point when adults, both inside and outside of schools, prioritise the protection of teenagers' self-esteem over challenging them to achieve. They are being denied the possibility of personal development.
Dr David Viner from the Climate Research Unit in East Anglia, writing in Spiked-Science said: "Those who still believe... (there is no Global Warming) are in a way removing themselves from serious scientific debate, and as a result should be ignored and pilloried." Apart from the obvious contradiction of ignoring someone and torturing them at the same time, we see here the same absolute certainty exhibited by religious fanatics. This attitude's not confined to climatology; we see it also in cosmology and belief in The Big Bang. Science has taken on the attributes of religion.
It seems to me that a healthy society is one that values personal development, the changes wrought in a person by lifelong learning. I admit to considerable prejudice in this as it's been the way I have lived my life. In return for the small discontent that necessitates continual change, I have a large measure of satisfaction in my life. My thanks to my friend Hughie for this. Hughie has a very strong conviction about the God of The Book. The other day, a "friend" insisted that he have a cup of tea when the last thing he wanted was a cup of tea. The extremity of the insistence went so far that the "friend" took the keys from the ignition of Hughie's car. "That's when I realised that the whole thing is all about free will," said Hughie.
And it was thoughts about free will that led to this Blog. It seems to me that the only sin is disrespect for another's free will.
Thought for the day:
What you are is God's gift to you. What you do with yourself is your gift to God.
Thursday 27 December 2001
She Who Must Be Obeyed has taken to playing FreeCell on my workstation (Win2k) and apparently this is causing it to lock up. This never happens while I am in the vicinity, but Thomas confirms that the machine become inaccessible and he restarts it. This is more than a little frustrating to me as I regularly have several web browser windows open at various pages I am reading. I usually play a hand of FreeCell while awaiting FrontPage to upload my DayNotes and House of Steel update, but the machine fails to lock up for me. Perhaps it's Marguerite's technique, or The Critical Need Detector. We actually have two spare machines, a 486 and a P75 that she could use, but until we move into our new home, lack the space to set one up. Even the P75 laptop.
Today the linoleum layer is due to arrive to cover the floors of the bathroom, laundry and toilet. So is the plumber, to install the toilets and kitchen sink, and connect the stove to the hot water cylinder. If the linoleum layer fails to arrive, that means the plumber won't be able to install the toilets. And in turn that means he probably won't be back for several weeks. I loathe being at the mercy of these people.
Thought for the day:
It seems to me that the god that is commonly worshipped in civilized countries is not at all divine, though he bears a divine name, but is the overwhelming authority and respectability of mankind combined. Men reverence one another, not yet God.
Henry David Thoreau
Friday 28 December 2001
Thought for the day:
OK, so Descartes walks into a bar and sits down on a stool. The bartender comes up and asks him if he would like a drink.
Descartes says: "I think not," and disappears.
Saturday 29 December 2001
Yesterday's strangeness was due to my posting the update inadvertently. I meant to just post The House of Steel update. Before I had a chance to add to my daily rant, the telephone was cut off! Full story here.
Thought for the day:
All's well that ends well.
Tim Buckley -- Grace
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© Jonathan Sturm 2001