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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 28 January 2002
I created a page devoted entirely to pictures of The House of Steel from the initial excavation to finished here. Following that is an economic analysis of building The House of Steel.
Mark Zimmerman's journal is almost always a fascinating read. His piece on Alternative Medicine has a rejoinder from Judy Decker, herself an interesting writer. Her short synopsis of memes has some excellent food for thought!
Thought for the day:
Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us. We are not the only experiment.
R. Buckminster Fuller
Nico -- Chelsea Girls
Tuesday 29 January 2002
One major project and lots of little bits to do this week. The major project is finishing the stainless steel chairs that Tony Dunshea  made for me. I had been waiting for him to come and trim the chair and table legs to a more sensible length. The chairs needed 13 mm (1/2 in) removed and the table almost 50 mm (2 in). Rather than measure a standard table and chair, he had made them to suit his own unusually gangly frame. Tall people suffer little discomfort sitting in chairs that are slightly low, but short people have difficulty when their heels are raised and there's excess pressure on the backs of their upper legs. Trying to eat at a table from too low of a chair means your wrists are cocked, rather than straight. More discomfort.
We live in a world where it's expected that humans should adapt themselves to our too often ill-designed artefacts. I hope that Tony wasn't too disappointed with my changes -- they weren't a criticism of him, or the overall design of these pieces. The chairs are a particular masterpiece in terms of comfort. I had made a prototype, but the myrtle slats were not quite long enough. Had at some future time a grossly fat person sat in one, they would have suffered some slight discomfort. Making the seat slightly wider removes that possibility. It's most unlikely that the grossly fat person will ever notice the change I have made (unless it be me), but that's not the point.
There are two sorts of measure in the world, human measure and machine measure. Standard table height is 30 inches, or 762 mm. Rounding the machine measure down to the more readily memorised 750 mm results in a table too short, rounding it up to 800 mm, it's too high. It is true that machine measure makes certain calculations simpler, but human measure has its own benefits. The twelve inches of the foot are readily divided into thirds of 4 inches each, quarters of 3 inches, sixths of 2 inches... A third of a metre is the rather horrible decimal fraction 333.3333... And it so happens that we often divide space into thirds for aesthetic reasons.
There is no doubt that human measure made doing science unnecessarily difficult. By the same token, there seems to me little point to introducing a similar difficulty to issues that are not addressed by science. Human measure: feet, pounds, pints, acres, were developed on an ad hoc basis to solve immediate problems. Machine measure was developed to unify measurement for the purpose of science. These issues came home to me during the construction of The House of Steel. True, it's a machine for living, but it's also intended for the comfort of its human inhabitants. During its construction, I found myself swapping freely between the metric and Imperial units on my tape. Sometimes, it was more convenient to take a stick and make a mark, inventing a unit of measurement on the spot.
 Tony is not usually a furniture maker. He was commissioned by my friend Michael Henrysson to make the chairs he had designed. When I saw the prototype, I fell in love with the basic design and commissioned a similar set so that I could finish them.
Thought for the day:
There is only one sin: disrespect for life.
John Cale -- Paris 1919
Wednesday 30 January 2002
Twenty years ago today, Marguerite and I moved to our farm at Franklin. That summer couldn't have been more different to this. While this summer has been cool and wet, 1982 was the depths of a drought. The February dragon [bushfire] came out of his lair early that year. The day after we moved our belongings, I walked to the next door neighbour's house 180 metres up the road and knocked on his door. After introducing myself to Ivan, I told him that I was available to help fight fires if need be and the following day we drove an hour and a half to reach them.
The area we drove to is one of beach shacks, occupied weekends by townsfolk. They sat in their beach loungers watching the furious activity of the firefighters, much as they watch TV back at home. A motor bike gang had stopped to render assistance by beating out spot fires with their leather jackets. I learnt a lot that day; not just the technology of fighting fire, but about people.
By late afternoon, we were hot, sweaty, covered in soot and the sweat was making the small burns sting. The driver of our truck drove into the yard of one of the shacks. He led us straight past the surprised owners and we walked into "their" cool sea. Wayne said, in a voice loud enough for anyone to hear as we passed, "Just let one of those f**king c*nts say one word!"
Thought for the day:
As a rock on the seashore he standeth firm, and the dashing of the waves disturbeth him not. He raiseth his head like a tower on a hill, and the arrows of fortune drop at his feet. In the instant of danger, the courage of his heart here, and scorn to fly.
The Beatles -- Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Thursday 31 January 2002
In case you hadn't noticed, there's a lunatic game called GoogleWhacking sweeping the Internet. The basic idea is to find two words that produce a single unique result: for instance "spoudleaker Scrobbesbyrigscir". An added wrinkle is to multiply the occurrence of the two words together. "Rubzen cum" produces my best score yet: 689,000,065. Much better than "menseful cars" for a mere 396,800,000. The bastard who invented this game needs to be horsewhipped.
DingoBlue is definitely a superior ISP to iPrimus. I can stay connected for far longer and data transfer rates are much better. Sadly, they are having trouble with their mail servers. Their POP3 was out for several hours yesterday and now it's back up, their SMTP server's down. Hold your horses -- it's not their SMTP server that's out! Email to a particular address hangs the queue in my outbox (OL2k). It doesn't matter whether it's new mail, or a reply. Hmmmm.
Thought for the day:
Why is it that wherever I go, the resident idiot heads straight for me?
Syd Barrett -- The Madcap Laughs
Friday 1 February 2002
Yesterday I accompanied my son Thomas to the city where he had a minor operation to have a mole removed from his upper lip. While he has waited many months for this, we were out of the hospital within a couple of hours. The chances of the tumour being malignant are remote, though we await the results of the tissue being tested with some nervousness.
We took the opportunity to do a little shopping: a rivet gun, screw-in eyelets to tie the tarpaulin to shade the front deck during the party, a hasp to hold the wood box lid closed from inside the house, a spindle of blank CDs... We could only get 700 MB CD blanks; there were no 650 MB blanks to be seen in the store. The price was the same as I paid for a spindle of 650s a couple of weeks ago.
There's an amusing story about Australia's drunken revelry last Saturday here. I wonder if there will be anything similar after the housewarming here this coming Saturday! Hey, ho! Time to make sure everything is in fine fettle for the celebration.
Being the first day of the new month, I checked the web page stats and January was a record month for page reads.
Matt Lemmings thinks the Internet is shit and has a cogent argument here.
Thought for the day:
The intellectual man requires a fine bait; the sots are easily amused. But everybody is drugged with his own frenzy, and the pageant marches at all hours, with music and banner and badge.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Chick Corea -- Return to Forever
Saturday 2 February 2002
Groundhog Day and the official housewarming for The House of Steel. Still some last minute tidying up to do...
Thought for the day:
Like other parties of the kind, it was first silent, then talky, then argumentative, then disputatious, then unintelligible, then altogether, then inarticulate, and then drunk. When we had reached the last step of this glorious ladder, it was difficult to get down again without stumbling.
Sunday 3 February 2002
Managed to drag myself out of bed two hours ago -- four hours after my usual time of arising. Slightly hungover. Garry arrived 1/2 hr early with the webcam, but I was still doing some last minute grass and weed cutting with the brushcutter. By the time I was out of the bath, the promised thunderstorm arrived, but the rain was mercifully brief and by mid afternoon, the day was sunny and mild. The cool SW change held off until the evening.
I decided that since this was the first social occasion, for many a long month, I had spent with many of the fine people who attended the celebration, they deserved my undivided attention for a change. I took only two photographs, but I noticed several guests taking pix, so I will track them down for later posting to the website. It's the largest gathering I have ever hosted, so I had only a few brief moments to converse with each of the hundred or so guests.
There were several lawyers and a barrister, though we refrained from putting them in the spit roast :-), a consultant to the UN, a doctor of ecology, an engineer, several crazy owner-builders, the architect and his wife, clerks, farmers, a biologist who spends several months in the Antarctic most years, several artists and craftspeople, a gourmet chef, a retired ship's captain, a maker of hi fidelity loudspeakers, teachers... people from all walks of life. The cooks among us were delighted by the kitchen and its ability to accommodate so many people working in it to make a range of extra dishes to accompany and follow on from Tony's spit roast.
Several guests ignored the request not to bring a gift, though we weren't about to turn down several bunches of beautiful cut flowers, bottles of fine wine, potted house plants, wine glasses, coffee mugs and a book by Paul Hawken. I managed to remain relatively sober through the day and early evening despite having my glass continually filled with a range of delightful, delicious and occasionally unusual wines.
Everyone agreed that it was a delightful house and that it feels far larger than its actual size. The acoustic with the room full of people was fine with everyone emitting sound as well as absorbing it. Steve Price's suggestion that I put a fat, naked woman in each corner when I want to listen to the hi-fi would definitely work! The thermal performance impressed, the heat generated by the stove in The Great Hall generates a draught through the central corridor, obviating the need for AC. We didn't even need to turn the ceiling fan on. I suspect that will come into its own during the colder winter months.
Tony Dunshea's spit roast provided an excellent feast of beef, chicken, lamb and pork. There was more than enough for everyone, though several guests wanted to barbecue meat they had brought with them. Given the possibility of more rain, we barbecued on the Bosky cookstove rather than the steel plate set on rocks with a fire underneath that I had planned.
This is the latest in a long line of spit roasts that Tony has made, and as usual, this one has a buyer. It's fired with butane gas and has a 12 v electric motor to drive the spit. The carcase is made from a tin plated 44 gallon drum. There were early teething problems with the friction drive, but I found a suitable piece of garden hose to place on the spindle of the motor. The disk that the spindle drives is an old ploughshare from a disc plough. Originally, Tony wanted to start a business doing spit roasts for a living, but the cost of licensing put him off. So he does them as a method to sell the machines he makes instead. Since they are made almost completely from recycled materials, he makes a decent profit from them.
There were several toasts to absent friends: the musicians who all seemed to find earning money at weddings this weekend a higher priority and who can blame them, my Internet friends, my mother and and siblings, too many to name.
To cap the evening off, the SW change cleared the clouds and we had a great view of the Aurora Borealis! And to crown the week, we have a WOOFer from Holland to come and help with the garden! I cannot recall a happier day in my life.
Willing Workers on Organic Farms. They work 8 hrs per two nights' stay and meals. While we haven't been officially on the list for a couple of years, we have people referred to us by previous WWOOFers that have stayed with us anywhere from an overnight to three months: students, soldiers, architects, artists, computer programmers, engineers, farmers, gardeners, nurses, once a belly dancer from Montana... of almost every nationality except French. I suspect it's time to get on the list again.
Thought for the day:
Forgive us our hangovers, as we forgive those who hangover against us...
Eric Clapton -- Behind the Sun
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© Jonathan Sturm 2002