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 15 July 2002

On Saturday The Git and Mrs Git went to a friend's place for lunch. Kon had invited us without mentioning that it was his birthday party and we had the opportunity to meet lots of new people. Mostly, it was fun until I was quizzed about building our House of Steel. One of Kon's friends is a builder and he said we shouldn't have been allowed to build it as only qualified tradesmen are capable of building houses properly. When I asked why I should have spent the extra $130,000, he declared that he could have built it for half the price we paid. Needless to say, The Git wasn't too impressed with someone who believes he could have built THoS for less than the cost of materials! Perhaps he's a thief...

-oOo-

The Git has found plenty to think about over the last few days and rather than add those sites to his browser's bookmarks, he has started a new page of links to websites with food for thought

Thought for the day:

Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think.

Niels Bohr

Current Listening

Sparks -- Kimono My House


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Wednesday 17 July 2002

A couple of years ago, The Git did one of those pop-quiz kind of things that the Internet has so many of. This one was called Brainworks and purports to measure left brain/right brain and visual/auditory balance. Whatever it is, it gives consistent results. The Git apparently has a perfect balance between visual and auditory perception and almost perfect balance between left (47.6%) and right (52.4%) hemispheres of his brain. As in all things, this is both good and bad. It's good because I can see both (or more) sides of an issue, but I find it difficult to make decisions. There always seems to me to be a spectrum of appropriate choices.

The left hemisphere of the brain is associated with verbal skills and rationality. The right hemisphere is associated with non-verbal or intuitive skills. It seems that our Western civilisation values rationality, or left brain function more than right brain function. The terms verbal and the slightly pejorative non-verbal say it all. People who dwell more in their left hemisphere function are valued more highly than those who dwell in their right. Or so it seems. Consider the ball games so many of us enjoy watching and playing: soccer, baseball, tennis, cricket and so on. While it's true we can analyse the flight of the ball using rational thought, it's only the right hemisphere function that can cope with physically dealing with the ball in play. Rational thought is far too slow.

Let's consider a list (after J. E. Bogen):

intellect intuition
convergent divergent
digital analog
secondary primary
abstract concrete
directed free
propositional imaginative
analytic relational
lineal non-lineal
rational intuitive
sequential multiple
analytic holistic
objective subjective
successive simultaneous

Looking at the list, it seems to The Git that they are all complementary, rather than exclusionary traits. When we weigh things for instance, we use a weighing scale. It can be analog, such as a spring balance, or it can be digital as in a beam balance. Looking closer, we see that the beam balance isn't quite a pure digital device using only fixed weights. We need to judge the point at which the needle indicates that the pans are balanced. And the needle's an analog device. Similarly, when we judge the weight using a spring balance, we digitise the result dependent on the tick marks on the scale. The properties of being digital and analog are entangled.

Just so with rational, versus irrational. While we tend to think of irrational as bad, this is a hangover from the Greek philosophers who were upset after theorising that all numbers could be expressed as the ratio of two whole numbers. They discovered some numbers, such as Pi and the square root of two, steadfastly refused to comply with their philosophical theory! While we no longer consider irrational numbers to be in some manner evil, we still use the word to mean, as The Oxford English Dictionary puts it: "unreasonable, utterly illogical, absurd".

Consider the other axis of brain function: visual/auditory. There are few among us that would argue for the exclusive primacy of vision over hearing, or the reverse. I think most of us would agree that Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli is a complement to Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, rather than a rival.

The Git's brain, occupying the middle ground, is panoptic. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. While he has been described as "the only true polymath I ever met", he has also been described as "completely lacking focus" and "Jack of all trades, yet Master of none". In return for a taste of what it's like to inhabit all four quadrants, he appears doomed to never experience passionate conviction.

Thought for the day:

There seems to be one quality of mind which seems to be of special and extreme advantage in leading him to make discoveries. It was the power of never letting exceptions go unnoticed.

Francis Darwin

Current Listening

Wayne Jackson -- Sweet Medicine Music


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Thursday 18 July 2002

Following on from yesterday's thoughts, consider the following diagram:

kolb cycle

The diagram is known as Kolb's cycle and is usually used following a Learning Style Inventory. This then allows you to plot where between the two axes your personal learning style lies. This particular version is from Jim Wilson's "An Introduction to Systems Thinking: Changing Agriculture". Jim points out that problem-solving (research) entails moving from the upper right hand quadrant in an anti-clockwise direction from diverging, through assimilating, converging before accommodating our findings into our concrete experience. Often we repeat the process several times and Jim calls this The Hawkesbury Spiral.

Clearly, there are parallels between left brain/right brain preference and the Kolb diagram. Problems arise when one part of the cycle is declared more important than another. For instance, much scientific research these days is funded on the basis of "getting practical results" so we can "do something meaningful". Global Warming, for instance, is seen purely as a problem of CO2 emissions, so all we need to do is reduce them. No research needed.

It's well known that CO2 has a fertiliser effect, plants grow more vigorously when there's more available. Decreasing CO2 to pre-industrial levels would almost certainly reduce tree growth and crop yields. Various studies have shown that rainfall is related to forest-cover -- more forest means more precipitation. Consequently, reduced CO2 would likely lead to lower crop yields, not just by reducing the CO2 fertiliser effect, but also limit water availability for crops. We also know from our experience of the 1960s that lower temperatures then led to lower crop yields, particularly in the underdeveloped nations. Is this really what we want to achieve?

James Hansen et al pointed out in Global warming in the twenty-first century: An alternative scenario (2000) that methane, CFCs and nitrous oxides make a significant contribution to global warming and it's these gases rather than CO2 that have been responsible for the recent rapid warming. Unlike CO2, there is no known beneficial effect from these gases, rather the reverse. It makes more sense then to take steps to ameliorate their effect, rather than concentrating solely on CO2 emissions.

IPCC continues to base its Global Warming Scenarios on a predicted increase in CO2 levels of 1% per annum. Here's the chart I made of the numbers from Mauna Loa -- 1960 to the end of last year:

CO2 at Mauna Loa

The average is 0.38% per annum!

Thought for the day:

The way we imagine ourselves to appear to another person is an essential element in our conception of ourselves. In other words, I am not what I think I am, and I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.

Robert Bierstedt

Current Listening

Kevin Coyne -- Politicz


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Friday 19 July 2002

The most common search term people use to find The Git's website is "pompous grass". Presumably, they are searching for pampas grass, a species of grass native to South America. In Tasmania, it was planted mainly as an ornamental, but in the 1970s, farmers with sandy soils planted many hectares for stock-feed and shelter for newborn lambs. This was a costly exercise as the plants were all clones from female plants. Since there were no male plants, no fertile seed was set.

Some newcomers to horticulture of the Permaculture persuasion decided that the cost of the female pampas grass clones was a rip-off and imported seeds of the plant. Some of these were inevitably male plants, so all those decorative garden specimens and paddocks planted out at great expense by farmers became a source of viable seeds. The pampas grass seeds germinated hither and yon, having a particularly unwanted effect on forestry, as the pampas grass out competes young trees for water, light and nutrients. Needless to say, it's very good at out competing many of our other native plants species.

This led to declaration of pampas grass as a noxious weed and occasioned enormous expense for farmers and gardeners to remove the plants, mainly by a combination of herbicides and burning. Neither alone will do the trick of eliminating these hardy plants. There is of course a distinct possibility we will now never completely eradicate this pestilence. A pestilence created by an organisation dedicated to "care of the environment".

This situation should have been an obvious outcome to anyone giving more than a moment's thought to the issue. Australia has a history of suffering environmental problems caused by the importation of exotic species: horses, prickly pear, camels, pigs, goats, water hyacinth, mission grass... Having the right intentions is not enough.

Thought for the day:

Hell is paved with good intentions, not with bad ones. All men mean well.

George Bernard Shaw

Current Listening

Jethro Tull -- A Passion Play


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Saturday 20 July 2002

Yesterday was one of those days! Fran came by and we removed the water jacket (wetback) from the Bosky cookstove for Tony to either repair, or duplicate. There appear to be no Bosky distributors in Tasmania any more, so purchasing a replacement wasn't an option. Most wetbacks consist of a rectangular vessel in the rear of the combustion chamber. This one is a rectangle enclosing the lower part of the combustion chamber on four sides. For reasons that are unknown, it was welded in place in six locations and Fran had to use the angle grinder in a very confined space to cut them through. This took somewhat over an hour due to the awkwardness of reaching into the lower part of the stove and the hardness of the stainless steel. The whole process took some 3-4 hours.

When we had the wetback out, we filled it with water and stopped off the water inlet and outlet with plastic screwcaps. The leaks immediately became evident -- there were three fatigue cracks, invisible to the naked eye, but obvious from the water seeping through.

While we have an electrical convection heater we needed for supplementary heating while we were in the cottage, we have only an electric frypan and grill for cooking now. Hopefully, Tony will manage to finish our replacement wetback soon.

-oOo-

Today is state election day and as usual, we had to vote for politicians! The Git voted one each for the Greens, the Democrats, the Labor Party, the Socialist Alliance and the Liberals for the least likely candidates to be elected. Then it was on to Huonville and Mitre 10 Zero. We purchased a two burner gas stove and gas bottle to cook with while we await the repair to the cookstove. I asked whether there was anything else we needed and was assured that we had everything. Of course, when we arrived home, the hose has a 3/8" female connector and the outlet on the gas bottle valve is female and somewhat larger. A telephone call to the store confirmed that they don't stock the necessary item, but another branch might.

A phone call to the Geeveston branch confirmed that they had what we needed, but they were closing at the exact time we called. Fortunately, the person on the phone was driving to within a short distance of THoS and Marguerite met him, paying $A13.65 for a brass adapter. The cooker cost only $A45.00!

-oOo-

On a brighter note, Robert D. Whitson writes:

Had the same problem and ended up upgrading Windows Installer. Fixed the issues. See Microsoft SEARCH:

Windows Installer Redistributable for Windows NT 4.0 and 2000

The Microsoft® Windows® Installer is an application installation and management service. Instmsi.exe is the redistributable package for installing or upgrading Windows Installer. Version - 2.0 Release Date - 25 Sep 2001 Estimated Download Size/Time @28.8 - 1,780 kb / 9min System Requirements

Windows Installer 2.0 Redistributable for Windows NT 4.0 and 2000 supports Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 6 or later and Windows 2000. Windows XP contains Windows Installer 2.0 and therefore can't be installed or upgraded by this redistributable.

For Windows 95, 98 and ME see "Windows Installer 2.0 Redistributable for Windows 9X", available at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/release.asp?ReleaseID=32831

Operating System - Windows NT 4.0 & 2000

Download Now InstMsiW.exe - 1,780 Kb <http://download.microsoft.com/download/WindowsInstaller/Install/2.0/NT45/EN-US/InstMsiW.exe>

IMPORTANT DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS

Double click instmsi.exe. - Select "Run this Program from its Current Location" to start the installation or upgrade immediately. - Select "Save this Program to Disk" to copy the download to your machine for installation at a later time.

For complete information on installing or upgrading Windows installer, including command line options, please see the Windows Installer Software Developers Kits (SDK), available at http://www.microsoft.com/msdownload/platformsdk/sdkupdate

What a pity there wasn't a link to this from the page I found! Thank you Robert.

-oOo-

My son Thomas had an interesting computer problem this morning. After fiddling with the CMOS settings on his machine (A-Open AK72 MoBo), he chose Turbo Defaults. This reset the memory to CAS 2 instead of CAS 3 and it refused to revert to CAS 3 no matter what he or I subsequently thought of and tried. My inspired guess was to flash the BIOS with a later version and that worked. Phew! My ASUS K7V automatically reverts to conservative memory settings if manual settings cause a machine problem.

-oOo-

Thomas suggested we would get a lot more benefit from his DVD reader and Hollywood card if it was in the P200 and attached to the TV for viewing. This also made me think about the entertainment centre design and setting up for transferring my vinyl records to CD. I suspect I will incorporate the computer monitor in the top facing upwards so we don't have two screens displaying images. I have decided to use the myrtle boards for this, so I'd better get onto Glen Newbon and have him put them through his thicknesser.

Thought for the day:

Don't believe in miracles -- depend on them.

Laurence J. Peter

Current Listening

Jefferson Starship -- Spifire


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Sunday 21 July 2002

In Tasmania's State Election yesterday, the Greens had a remarkable 12% swing at the expense of the Liberals (= US Republicans) and Labor (= US Democrats) also gained at the expense of the Liberals. It's very rare for an incumbent government here to increase its vote, so congratulations to the Australian Labor Party.

Even more remarkable was the swing to the Greens. They went from four representatives down to one at the last election as a result of changes to the parliament clearly intended to reduce minority party representation. Mostly, the result appears due to opposition to clearfelling old growth forest by the majority of the electorate.

Premier Jim Bacon said "The record Greens' vote has changed Tasmanian politics. It has redesigned the political landscape. There are clearly now two opposition parties in the house and I congratulate Peg Putt and the Greens who out-campaigned the Liberal Party. I have no wish to lead a government without an effective opposition and I'll make sure sufficient resources are available to all." 

Tasmania's Hare-Clark electoral system has five electorates with five seats in each. Electors must vote preferentially for at least five candidates. The Git voted for Labor, Greens, Democrats, Socialist Alliance and Liberals ;-)

The time-consuming cut-up of preferences in the Hare-Clark system means it will be several days before many candidates know their fate. While the two major parties try to maintain the delusion that Tasmanian electors vote for political parties, this result is the clearest indication yet that they vote for candidates. A great day for democracy! :-)

-oOo-

The Git forgot to mention that on Friday evening, he and Mrs Git were taken out to dinner at The Wrest Point Revolving Restaurant by Mrs Git's employers. It's several years since we dined there and as on previous occasions, it was a mixed experience. The Git's first course was pork medallions with an unusual pot of what he took to be semolina and a colourful sauce -- clear, streaked with green and black. Some of the green was clearly due to fennel leaves and the brown, soy sauce. 

For the main course, he had twice-cooked pheasant, accompanied by couscous, dumplings and yams. The latter we call "ockers" in the Huon Valley. They are tubers of a member of the oxalis tribe of plants and an unusual, bright pink when raw. They look vaguely like baby turds and have a pleasant, somewhat earthy flavour. On this occasion, there was more to the earthy than expected as there was grit on the skins. The pheasant was slightly dry and stringy, though the sauce was delicious. Rather than dessert, The Git contented himself with a selection of Tasmanian cheeses and a fine French Cognac shared with Mrs Git. Roger balked at paying $A80 for an Armagnac and I can't say I blame him. The waiter mentioned serving a gentleman five at lunch earlier in the week.

The wines were excellent: a delicious, lightly oaked Chardonnay and a hand-picked, not over-sweet Riesling. The Git for once failed to take a notebook and cannot recall what the wines were, apart from Australian and expensive. Despite the small number of diners, the service wasn't extraordinary, though the waitress was the most beautiful black girl The Git has ever seen, not to mention the blackest! Fortunately, Mrs Git was sitting at an adjacent table with her back to The Git so she couldn't see me drooling.

Conversation was mainly with Roger Baker and concerned itself mostly with growing fine food. Like The Git, Roger is a keen gardener and we like to buy pork and bacon that he and Rosie grow and cure themselves.

We were to have dined at The Grand Chancellor, but they wanted to serve a Prix-Fixe with a choice of chicken or steak only for the main course! Far from acceptable when there are vegetarians and fish-lovers dining. For what you get, Wrest Point remains over-priced and my favourite restaurant in Hobart remains Mit Zitrone.

-oOo-

We are hoping that we do not have to wait too long for repair of the cookstove! The 2400 watt convection heater managed to warm The Great Hall to only 20°C, some 2-3°C lower than comfortable, despite our wearing warm, woolly sweaters. The new gas cooker performed well for a very cheap device. The Git likes cooking with gas. For dinner, The Git cooked a Gulyas, though it was made with beef alone, rather than a third pork and a third veal as he prefers. It was delicious anyway, especially as the potatoes were pinkeyes.

Mrs Git is inordinately fond of porridge for breakfast, and we have only fired up the cookstove in the morning on weekends, so she has to make do toast. Now that we have the gas cooker, she can have porridge every day. We always intended purchasing one, albeit a better one than this. I will be happy enough if it lasts two years. By then, we should be able to purchase something a little more handsome and functional. It was difficult to lower the temperature for a slow simmer.

Thought for the day:

Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are -- chaff and grain together -- certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away...

Dinah Mulock

Current Listening

Family -- Anyway


 

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© Jonathan Sturm 2002

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