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 June 2002

I have now read The Oceans and Rapid Climate Change -- Past present and Future edited by Seidov, Haupt and Maslin and come to some conclusions.

  1. They are badly in need of proofreaders
  2. I believe that the writers were trying to set a world record for the use of the word "might" as in "could"
  3. There are more hypotheses about past climate than there are authors on the subject

Of considerably greater importance is the fact that current supercomputers cannot model the behaviour of the oceans to any great degree of accuracy -- they are just not powerful enough. The main consequence of this is that the models need to treat the atmosphere as static, something it manifestly is not. It must be noted that the converse is true -- the atmospheric circulation models treat the oceans as static. (I have been told that there are coupled models and I knew that. But they assume, for instance, that there is no vertical circulation in the atmosphere or oceans and use a coarser resolution.)

It seems likely that what is happening in the oceans is vastly more important to earth's climate than what is happening in the atmosphere. The heat capacity of water exceeds that of air by many orders of magnitude and it's changes in the transport of heat between the various parts of the planet that count in climate change.

So, what do we really know? What we know best is the surface temperature record and the most important thing we know about that is that it's seriously flawed. What we know next best is the sea surface temperatures since 1979, but understanding of the Thermohaline Circulation (THC) relies on deep sea temperatures/consuming illicit drugs [delete whichever is inapplicable].

So, what do we do while we await the arrival of bigger and better supercomputers? Well, the Pompous Git has taken what he believes are the very bestest bits of the two models: the static ocean and the static atmosphere. The model consists of a level teaspoonful of salt in a jam jar half full of water and a Dick Smith electronic thermometer. The prime virtue of the setup is that the components are The Real Thing: salty water, air with the exact same chemical composition as the earth's atmosphere, real sunlight -- not just a bunch of hokey electrons whizzing around inside some recycled sand!

A touch of reality happened yesterday when an unexpected minor earth tremor shook The House of Steel. What effect this will have on the outcome, only time will tell! Early observations of the model were severely disrupted later in the day by Ricky the WunderDog pissing in the jam jar. Hopefully, the relocation of the experiment will not adversely affect the results. To be... continued...

-oOo-

I have been threatening for some time to resurrect my magazine articles on small-scale market gardening and expand on them. The process started today. I have published my booklet: Clove Encounters -- Garlic: Its Production and Use.

-oOo-

Yesterday's earth tremor was from an earthquake some 20 km north of Oatlands in the middle of Tasmania. It reached 4.4 on the Richter scale. The shortly to be decommissioned equipment at the University of Tasmania was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the tremor, the reading having come from monitoring equipment elsewhere. Apparently the reasoning is that since we never have earthquakes in Tasmania... SWMBO thought the house was shaking because Ricky the WunderDog was scratching himself on the front deck!

-oOo-

Last night's TV was interesting for a change -- Shackleton -- the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic expedition of 1914.

This is a photograph of Greenstreet from the actual voyage. Photographed by Frank Hurley.

-oOo-

Make sure there are no sharp objects on the floor near your computer. Now browse to The University of the Bleeding Obvious and prepare to fall off your chair laughing.

Typists of the Kalahari

The average African bull elephant can type at speeds in excess of 120 words per minute. This is a little known, yet proven fact. Similarly, the Bengal tiger has command of three forms of shorthand, and the giant panda has a thorough working knowledge of double entry bookkeeping. These facts rarely get reported in wildlife documentaries, chiefly because these creatures' astounding prowess in the office rarely makes for good television. Nevertheless, it is precisely for this reason that many of these species are now endangered - hunted not for their pelts, tusks or meat, but for their secretarial skills.

Thought for the day:

The satirist who writes nothing but satire should write but little -- or it will seem that his satire springs rather from his own caustic nature than from the sins of the world in which he lives.

Anthony Trollope

Current Listening

Frank Zappa -- Apostrophe(')


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Tuesday 18 June 2002

In his usual "hands-on rather than take the experts word for it" approach, the Pompous Git purchased the Grove Research Station (very rural) temperature dataset from the Bureau of Meteorology for the princely sum of $A8.00. I could have downloaded a dataset from GISS for free, but it doesn't include the last few years. Here's the five year moving average:

Five year running average of temperature at Grove Research Station, Tasmania

Plant growth is dependent on accumulated heat during the growing season. It's calculated as the sum of degrees above 10C between first and last frosts. The pink line is the deviation from the mean and the black line is the 5 yr moving average. Accumulated heat and season length is what counts for crop production.

Heh, heh... One of the things The Git used to warn prospective visiting market gardeners about: the problem with the average season is you don't get very many average seasons. You can certainly see that here:

Growing seasons at Grove Research Station, Tasmania

The year tick marks refer to the beginning of the season and encompass September to April.

Clearly, the seasons here are cyclic with a period a little longer than a decade. It's also clear that over the last forty years, there is a slight warming trend. The Git will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

-oOo-

The Git regrets moving from FrontPage 2000 to FrontPage 2002! When you use the autothumbnail option, the code is XML instead of HTML 4.x. The online help says FrontPage respects the DocType in the header, but it doesn't. The question now is, whether to give up the nice tabbed multiple document interface that is so useful and hand-code thumbnails or leave graphics full size, or revert to FrontPage 2000. Grrrrrrrrrr!

-oOo-

Mrs Git wasn't the only one who thought our earthquake on Sunday was caused by the dog scratching himself. It seems all the women she works with thought it was their dog! Mrs Git and her friends also couldn't work out why a quake that registers 4.4 on the Richter scale causes devastation overseas, but nil damage here in Tasmania. The remoteness from civilisation of the quake centre apparently is meaningless to the female mind.

-oOo-

From The Git's Inbox:

Subject: Re: Gnomes and Such

Just had a look at your Ephemerides pages. Didn't realise you had given me a plug . Thank you. Greatly taken with MRML but why stop there? What about XSML which combines Xtra Sensory Markup neatly with XS Markup? Haven't thought this out quite but it seems to me that with XSML you could have coordinates in up to eleven dimensions, and thus bring Superstring Theory into web design. The idea that (say) your neatly drawn Word Art header was able to: a) resonate through many different universes at once and b) communicate (albeit randomly) with all other consciousnesses in any of these Universes could have a lot of appeal for Bill Gates, for New Agers and other megalomaniacs. Additionally the XS Markup aspect would be able to cope with essentially limitless redundancy, which could also suit Gates a lot. Well, it's a notion.

Bill

Bill? Beryl the Gnome is called Bill? I thought I was plugging Beryl... Let me rephrase that... Shocked! Shocked, I am! Still, this is the Internet and so I should have gnome... ;-)

Thought for the day:

When a woman behaves like a man why doesn't she behave like a nice man?

Dame Edith Evans

Current Listening

Roger Daltrey -- One of the Boys


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Wednesday 19 June 2002

I spent some time today contemplating the best way to use up leftovers from The House of Steel cabinetry to build a workbench and shelves in the office. There's also a considerable amount of chipboard and such I will purloin from shelves in the office at the cottage. I designed them to be easy to pull apart against the day we built our new home. This is conservation in action.

Thought for the day:

Tomorrow do thy worst, I have lived today.

John Dryden

Current Listening

The Electric Flag -- A Long Time Comin'


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Thursday 20 June 2002

An article in The Atlantic on my favourite photographer, Ansel Adams:

My peevishness startled me. I was finding fault with the exhibit before I got in the door. Curious about the source of my reaction, and reading further in the handout, I rationalized myself like this: There is a language for terrain, just as there is a language for art. Szarkowski knows the latter but not the former. Ansel Adams's photography is about both.

Aspens, New Mexico 1958

-oOo-

There is an insurance crisis in Australia. A large number of doctors and builders can no longer get insurance. Many small volunteer and non-profit organisations can't afford the price hikes being asked for premiums that can exceed income. Very often, the law states that no insurance means you are not allowed to operate. Various factors are to blame for this unsatisfactory situation and several are canvassed here at ON LINE opinion.

The headlines beggar belief: Insurance giant collapses; Doctors driven to the brink of bankruptcy; Amateur sporting clubs forced to close; Builders' insurance premiums rise by 150 per cent. The cause: absurd liability payouts for "negligence" which have driven up public liability premiums. The proposed solution: a no-fault national injury compensation scheme.

But this "solution" may well be worse than the problem. Businesses and individual taxpayers will end up paying compensation for injuries for which they are not responsible. Genuine plaintiffs will be denied adequate redress, while genuine malfeasants will be rewarded. And the culture of victim-hood, in which we're led to believe that someone else is always responsible for anything bad that happens to us, will be exacerbated. The only true solution involves radical reappraisal of negligence-based liability, combined with a shift towards self-insurance for loss.

Thought for the day:

The thing is plain. All that men really understand, is confined to a very small compass; to their daily affairs and experience; to what they have an opportunity to know, and motives to study or practice. The rest is affectation and imposture.

William Hazlitt

Current Listening

Emerson, Lake and Palmer -- Pictures at an Exhibition


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Friday 21 June 2002

Office XP turned out to be too painful to tolerate long enough to overcome its idiocies! For reasons best known to Microsoft, FrontPage began converting links to files on my website to links to files on my hard drive. As well, I had begun to tire of the stupid taskpane/clipboard popping up over where I wanted to paste the contents of the clipboard! 

The initial attempt to uninstall Office XP generated: "Error 1404 Setup cannot delete the registry key... verify that you have sufficient permissions to access the registry..." while I was logged in as Administrator! A pox on Microsoft! I told the installer to ignore the registry. Now I am back with Office 2k/SP1 and hoping all is well.

-oOo-

Dan Seto writes:

Thanks for the link to the article on the Ansel Adams traveling exhibit. I was going to say I was sorry the exhibit will not be coming to Hawai'i but given the review, perhaps it is just as well that it doesn't. In either case, I already have the book of selected photos that is sold at the exhibits so I know of what they speak.

I can only agree that there is an East Coast bias against the work of Adams. And they are the poorer for it. When I think of words to describe his work, I think of majestic and luminous. But those from the East Coast think in terms of Art, where words like decay, freakishness, and even perhaps, accidental are revered.

No matter. The work of Adams will live on well past the time of his detractors. In fact, opening this month at the Honolulu Academy of Arts will be an exhibition of Adams images of Hawai'i. Adams came here several times in the late 1950s and early 1960s, from which he created two books (Islands of Hawaii, 1958 and An Introduction to Hawaii, 1964). The exhibition will show some of the images from these series as well as other images he took while here on his other visits.

Below is the information for the exhibit:

ANSEL ADAMS IN HAWAII

June 27 through August 4, 2002 Henry R. Luce Gallery

The influential landscape photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984) was a conservationist and nature lover who specialized in interpreting the American landscape in the purest and most direct manner possible. He was deeply impressed with the expressive possibilities of "straight" photography and attempted to reveal the poetry of external reality through the optical objectivity of the camera and meticulous printing. Although best recognized for his photographs of Yosemite and the California Coast, Adams also created stunning, but little- known photographs of Hawaii. Adams traveled to Hawaii in the 1950s, commissioned by the Bishop National Bank of Hawaii (founded 1858) to photograph the islands and its people for publication in The Islands of Hawaii (1958), a special commemorative centennial photo-documentary book featuring his work with commentary by Edward Joesting. Adams returned to the Islands a few years later and published a second volume of Hawaii photographs, An Introduction to Hawaii (1964), again with commentary by Edward Joesting. The Academy's exhibition will bring together and present to the pubic for the first time a selection of vintage and modern prints of Hawaii by Adams. The exhibition will feature prints from the collections of the Honolulu Academy of Arts and other organizations. The prints, including stunning images of Hawaii's untouched landscapes; its thriving urban environment; its commercial, agricultural, ranching, industrial, and military activities; its historic and cultural resources; and its diverse population, will not only reflect the land, face, and spirit of Hawaii at mid twentieth century, it will showcase the dramatic beauty, technical excellence, and expressive power of Adam's work. Anne Hammond, a scholar in the history of photography and an Ansel Adams specialist, will guest curate the exhibition and prepare an essay, the first ever published, on Adam's work in Hawaii. A lecture by Hammond in the Academy Theater will further expand on the exhibition as will a film series devoted to Ansel Adams. Jennifer Saville, the Academy's Curator of Western Art, will serve as project director.

-oOo-

Also from the Inbox:

Not to mention the cost of "crying wolf." Make too many outlandish and wrong predictions, and people are going to ignore their warnings, even if they turn out to be right. That's one thing that bothers me about the global warming debate. I actually agree that we need to consider at what point too much CO2 is in circulation, but getting hysterical and demanding action without thinking is just plain counter-productive.

A good example is the whole SUV debate that raged here a week or so ago. I don't think it's very efficient having one person driving an SUV to work, but then again, what's the bigger picture (no pun intended)? Page 17 of the book Emissions and Air Quality by Hans Peter Lenz and Christian Cozzarini notes that total global CO2 emissions by passenger cars is 5.5% of all anthropogenic emissions. In decreasing order, the sources of man-made CO2 are:

  1. Power stations (commercial electric generation) 25%
  2. Residential burning 23% 
  3. General industrial activity 19% 
  4. Biomass burning 15% 
  5. Trucks (commercial trucking) 6% 
  6. Passenger cars (includes light trucks/SUVs) 5.5% 
  7. Air traffic 3% 
  8. Other traffic (railroads, etc) 2% 
  9. Open sea traffic (ships at sea) 1.5%

Given the percentage of all privately owned vehicles that consist of SUVs, and the total percentage of man-made CO2 sources that private transportation is responsible for, exactly what are we gaining by discouraging SUV usage? I'm not against cutting down the use of fossil fuels, but surely we can agree on the bigger picture? Why waste time and money fiddling around at the margins when there's plenty of bigger fish to fry?

My $0.02 worth, Joe

Thought for the day:

The older I get the more wisdom I find in the ancient rule of taking first things first. A process which often reduces the most complex human problem to a manageable proportion.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Current Listening

Family -- Anyway


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Saturday 22 June 2002

The office is transformed with a set of shelves 2.2 m (7 ft) tall, 1.2 m (4 ft) wide and 450 mm (18 in) deep. This supports one end of a 2 m (6 ft) long , 750 mm (2.5 ft) deep bench that has a short return on the far end to make it an ell shape. Underneath the foot of the ell is another shelf. Lots of storage space and room to set up another PC or two for Linux experiments.

I decided to attempt recovery of one of the several keyboards around the place. This one, a Honeywell, has an intermittent spacebar. I rinsed it with lukewarm water and mild detergent before thoroughly rinsing the detergent off. The Acer I am typing on has an intermittently sticky left shift key. If the Honeywell survives, I will clean the Acer, too. The Mitsumi attached to the server works fine, but feels like typing on nothing it's so mushy.

While sorting through what to store and what to throw, I discovered that 32 MB of RAM in the old 486 was 72 pin Fast Page Mode. If the P75's remnant 32 MB is Fast Page Mode instead of the original EDO that was stolen, then it can be boosted to the more useful 64 MB again. Testing this awaits the drying out of the keyboard. There's not much useful left now in the 486 except the PSU and ATI video card.

-oOo-

I have posted some of my drawings here. They are scaled for printing rather than on-screen viewing.

Thought for the day:

Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don't have brains enough to be honest.

Benjamin Franklin

Current Listening

Genesis -- Nursery Cryme


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Jonathan Sturm 2002

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Jonathan Sturm 2002