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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 7 October 2002
The weekend was warm and dry, so The Git spent a lot of time outdoors doing garden things. Because his back is still giving a lot of pain, only tasks that minimised backwork were the order of the day. Despite that, it was still slow and steady as she goes, with lots of weeds slaughtered. Adding sand to the silty clay soil last year was a grand idea. The soil is drier and warmer. Previously, it would have taken another week for the soil to dry out sufficiently to do any tillage at all.
Eliot Coleman's Gung Hoe has really come into its own. Unlike a conventional hoe, the blade is only an inch front to back and six inches in width. The shank is spot welded to the face of the blade such that the angle is about 60° to the handle. In use, the blade runs just below the surface of the soil with the blade parallel to the soil surface. Both edges are sharp, so it works in either direction.
Working the blade back and forth uses shoulder muscles, rather than weaker wrist muscles. The handle is long enough that I can keep my back straight and not twist it causing pain.
From Mike Pepperday:
I have come to the reluctant conclusion writing in a complicated way is a talent. It's one I don't have and, of course, do not aspire to. In my view the main purpose of mysterious writing is to mask the fact that you actually don't have anything to say, the implication of the complex writing being that the concept itself is very complex. Occasionally (for example when I think of how many people take Habermas, Foucault and Derrida and their ilk seriously) I experience a few nanoseconds of self-doubt while I wonder if I am a very literal-minded person who is incapable of recognising subtlety. In political science, I have read (or perused) whole books full of words which seem to say nothing. Indeed, this may hold for most of them. I am reassured, though, by the fact that the recognised top authors - the stars of the academic establishment (mostly Americans) - do write plainly and in good prose too.
No, in general I find complexity is not in order to rule but to obfuscate. Plato, the paradigmatic ruler, himself wrote quite plainly. I have read - in part intensively - Vol 1 of Popper's Open Society in which he shoots Plato down in flames. He persuades me. I think that he copped criticism because Plato is sacred text and Popper is irreverent (and he really does do a hatchet job). It is worth saying that Plato is sacred not only because he offers comfort to the born-to-rule set but also because he said original things at the dawn of civilisation.
To which I really have nothing to add. Thanks for your thoughts again, Mike.
Thought for the day:
Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Ry Cooder -- Bop 'Til You Drop
Tuesday 8 October 2002
Yesterday, the temperature climbed to 23°C -- real summer weather -- almost tropical compared to last year's so-called summer. Of course it couldn't last and we were lashed by a gale with rain of tropical intensity and a thunderstorm over the hills not too far away. The prediction is for snowfall on the mountain peaks and a cold spell to bring us back to reality.
The Git is glad he overcame yesterday's pains to do some garden preparation while the fine weather was occurring. There's an old saw about farming:
Question - What's the difference between a good farmer and a bad farmer?
Answer - About two days!
And just to be different today, a couple of my favourite jokes:
A biker stops by the Harley Shop to have his bike fixed. They couldn't do it while he waited, so he said he didn't live far and would just walk home.
On the way home he stopped at the hardware store and bought a bucket and an anvil. He stopped by the feed store/livestock dealer and picked up a couple of chickens and a goose. However, he now had a problem: How to carry all of his purchases home?
The owner said, "Why don't you put the anvil in the bucket, carry the bucket in one hand, put a chicken under each arm and carry the goose in your other hand?"
"Hey, thanks!" the biker said, and out the door he went.
In the parking lot he was approached by a little old lady who told him she was lost. She asked, "Can you tell me how to get to 1603 Mockingbird Lane?"
The biker said, "Well, as a matter of fact, I live at 1616 Mockingbird Lane. Let's take my short cut and go down this alley. We'll be there in no time."
The little old lady looked him over cautiously then said, "I am a lonely widow without a husband to defend me. How do I know that when we get in the alley you won't hold me up against the wall, pull up my skirt, and ravish me?"
The biker said, "Holy smokes lady! I am carrying a bucket, an anvil, two chickens, and a goose. How in the world could I possibly hold you up against the wall and do that?"
The lady said, "Set the goose down, cover him with the bucket, put the anvil on top of the bucket, and I'll hold the chickens."
A Scotsman, an Italian, and an Irishman are in a bar. They are having a good time and all agree that the bar is a nice place. Then the Scotsman says, "Aye, this is a nice bar, but where I come from, back in Glasgee, there's a better one. At MacDougal's, ye buy a drink, ye buy another drink, and MacDougal himself will buy yir third drink!"
The others agree that sounds like a good place.
Then the Italian says, "Yeah, dat's a nica bar, but where I come from, dere's a better one... In Roma, dere's this place, Vincenzo's. At Vincenzo's, you buy a drink, Vincenzo buys you a drink. You buy anudda drink, Vincenzo buys you anudda drink." Everyone agrees that sounds like a great bar.
Then the Irishman says, "You tink dat's great? Where Oi come from in Oirland, dere's dis place called Morphy's. At Morphy's, dey boy you your forst drink, dey boy you your second drink, dey boy you your tird drink, and den, dey take you in de back and get you laid!"
"Wow!" say the other two. "That's fantastic! Did that actually happen to you?"
"No," replies the Irish guy, "but it happened to me sister!!!"
Thought for the day:
I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities.
Frank Zappa -- Sheik Yerbouti
Wednesday 9 October 2002
While The Git rarely plays computer games, he passionately enjoys the Civilization series. The reason he rarely plays is that it's so addictive. It's nothing to suddenly realise that 4-5 hours have flashed past due to immersion in the game, somewhat as happens when writing. Except that there's nothing to show at the end of it. What rekindled The Git's interest is Mad King George's passion for making war on Iraq, regardless that the consequences are likely to be unpleasant for nearly everyone. Playing certainly takes The Git's mind off his back-pain.
Apolyton is the website for all useful information regarding Civ games. The Git prefers Call to Power 2, even though his son Thomas gave him Civilization 3 for Christmas. You will find Apolyton's add-on makes CTP 2 the game that Activision should have released, fixing several niggling bugs and poor AI. Cradle is an add-on for those addicted to early play and there's another called MedMod that seems to be in a constant state of flux. Unlike many computer games, a decent Civ is good for many playings as no two games work out the same. And there are several ways to achieve victory. It should be no surprise to regular readers that The Git prefers the Science victory above annihilation.
Thought for the day:
Kill a man and you are a murderer.
Kill thousands and you are a conqueror.
Kill all and you are a God!"
Eric Clapton -- Backless
Thursday 10 October 2002
In some ways, spring being a month behind this year has been a blessing. Usually, the grass around The House of Steel would have needed several mowings by now. The ground is far too rough for an ordinary lawnmower, so The Git uses an industrial-strength Stihl brush cutter. The lawn around the cottage was as small as can be, and he mowed that with a scythe. With several times the area and having passed the first flush of youth, mechanisation seemed an excellent plan.
From when he acquired the machine until today, The Git used the whipper-snipper head. There were two reasons for this. First, there are several areas where there are rocks and other hard snags that would damage a spinning blade. And being hit with bits of fragmented spinning blade is not something The Git desired. Second, the machine came without instructions as to how to remove the whipper-snipper head. The cardboard packaging on the blade has instructions for fitting it.
Fran is the man when it comes to these things, particularly as he used to work part-time in a small shop that maintained Stihl chainsaws and brush cutters. But The4 Git always forgot to ask when he was around. Using that wonder of modern communication, the telephone, Fran explained that there's a hole at the business-end into which you poke the locking tool that comes with the brush cutter. This allows the head to be unscrewed.
Sure enough, The Git found the hole, and in the absence of the special tool, used a thin bladed screwdriver as a locking pin. An appropriate diameter drill-bit would have served equally as well. Unfortunately, the head moved very little and the screwdriver had a tendency to fall out, so The Git called on teenage-Thomas for assistance. Thomas, due to inexperience with screw-threads, immediately began turning the head clockwise and it came off with ease. Is there a reason for this being a reverse-thread? Is there a reason that the hole you poke the locking pin into faces downward when the brush cutter is in the best position to remove the cutting head? <sigh>
Mrs Git asked The Git to work out how to remove the burner from our new el-cheapo gas barbecue, so she can cook her porridge again. Investigation indicated that the gas bottle was empty! No, The Git didn't disassemble the device before making that discovery. Detaching the gas bottle required using a wrench to undo the connector, another reverse screw-thread. It must be reverse screw-thread week!
And how did The Git's back hold up? For just one tank of fuel. Only four more tanks to complete one round! One a day should be enough. For those who wonder why all that grass, Mrs Git is making great inroads with perennial flowerbeds requiring nothing in the way of maintenance once established. But half an acre takes a long time and a lot of effort.
WAGING WAR ON THE LUNCHBOX By Graham Strachan
The problem with 'post-modern' society is there are too many people with nothing meaningful to do, building 'careers' around controlling the lives of others and generally making social nuisances of themselves. They justify their meddling by discovering social 'problems' and getting the media to magnify them out of all proportion.
The latest example in Queensland concerns the 'discovery' that schoolchildren are in danger from their own lunchboxes. While millions of members of former generations ate lunch out of lunchboxes and lived to tell about it, it seems today's mummy-chauffeured generation is at risk. A recent lunchbox survey at six Queensland schools revealed that 70 per cent of students came to school with an unhealthy lunch, according to 'nutritionists' from the Griffith University School of Health [The Courier Mail: Lunchboxes targeted in war on obesity, 07 October 2002].
The nutritionists want lunchboxes banned because they ''may encourage youngsters to graze on snack foods.'' How could a lunchbox encourage kids to graze on snack foods? According to nutritionist Shawn Somerset, ''The lunchbox is a bad system, because it makes it difficult for parents to provide a healthy mix.'' How could a lunchbox make it difficult for a parent to provide a healthy lunch? It seems that from the very fact that a lunchbox is a lunchbox, ''It's not surprising that the easiest food gets thrown in.''
Aha! But this is not a problem of bad parenting, or of working mums more concerned with the career than providing healthy lunches for their children. This is a lunchbox problem. The lunchbox is not only a menace in Australia. So bad is the situation in Tony Blair's socialist paradise, that schools in Britain have begun confiscating unhealthy lunchbox items. One supposes there are people actually employed as 'lunchbox inspectors' with the power to 'confiscate'. One can be sure Australia's nutritionists would like to see similar measures adopted here, if only to bring Australia into line with growing international practice.
The nutritionists want to see Australia adopt a cafeteria system, whereby a government-funded full lunch is provided for each student. This will presumably overcome a particular problem with the lunchbox - revealed by an examination of lunchboxes at the start and end of the day - most healthy items such as fruit and vegetables were left untouched. Right. But why kids would eat with relish in a cafeteria, things they leave untouched in a lunchbox is left unexplained. It's clear that logic is not part of the nutritionist course.
As usual, with every case of social meddling, there is the 'growing social problem'. This time it's 'Australia's growing obesity problem'. Always the scheme is justified by wildly optimistic estimates of huge cost saving somewhere else in the system. This scheme is no exception: ''Obesity is expensive. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year in the health system treating diseases related to obesity.'' As usual the problem is on the increase: ''This is a problem now, and it's going to be an even bigger problem in the future. The cost of putting decent meals through the school system has got to be cheaper in the long run.'' Got to be, you see.
It seems a cafeteria system would also reduce the risk of another problem: according to a senior nutritionist at Nutrition Australia, there are concerns about bacterial infection when food is left to sit in a hot lunchbox. ''In the Queensland climate, a chicken or meat sandwich kept at room temperature has a risk of bacterial growth.'' One supposes that would apply to picnic hampers too. Is the next step to make picnic hampers illegal and force picnickers to go to cafeterias? Has nobody ever been poisoned in a cafeteria?
Lurking in the background to all this is something far more sinister than obesity: a thing called Agenda 21, adopted illegally by Australia at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, never debated in any parliament, and being implemented in Australia by stealth. One stage of that programme concerns the regulation of 'Patterns of Human Consumption' - controlling what people are allowed to eat. As in all United Nations social programmes, the targetting of women and children is emphasised. Expect more of this type of activity as funds flow into universities for projects of this nature. Absolutely nothing human beings do is to be left uncontrolled.
Graham Strachan Buy his books at www.grahamstrachan.com
Thought for the day:
Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.
Justice Robert Jackson
Robert Calvert -- Captain Lockheed
Friday 11 October 2002
A day lost to playing Civ :-)
Thought for the day:
It is characteristic of all committee discussions and decisions that every member has a vivid recollection of them, and that every member's recollection of them differs violently from every other member's recollection; consequently we accept the convention that the official decisions are those and only those which have been officially recorded in the minutes by the officials; from which it emerges with elegant inevitability, that any decision which has been officially reached would have been officially recorded in the minutes by the officials, and any decisions which is not recorded in the minutes by the officials has not been officially reached, even if one or more members believe they can recollect it; so in this particular case, if the decision would have been officially reached, it would have been recorded in the minutes by the officials and it isn't so it wasn't.
Sir Humphrey Appleby
Miles Davis -- In a Silent Way
Saturday 12 October 2002
From the Inbox:
The Rambouillet factor
Many European diplomats fear the US is deliberately engineering a breakdown in diplomatic negotiations between the UN and Iraq because Bush wants his war against Iraq. The Europeans have complained that the US-British text of a proposed new UN Security Council resolution is so aggressive it has been "designed to be rejected" (Australian, 30/9/02).
Alarmingly there has been a successful precedent for this tactic: the Rambouillet Accord was also designed to be rejected and its rejection was the justification for the illegal 'NATO' bombing of Yugoslavia.
In light of President Bush's new, unilateral, 'pre-emptive strike' policy - illegal under international law - perhaps it's time to reassess the Kosovo conflict. Was Milosevic really the evil butcher as portrayed by the mainstream media, or was he simply an unfashionable nationalist who had to be bombed into submitting to the new world order?
(In passing isn't it astonishing that only a few years ago anybody who used that phrase - new world order - was universally dismissed and abused as a conspiracy theorist. Now it's mainstream, freely used in editorials and opinion pieces all over the world. Tellingly none of the abusers has ever apologised.)
Demonstrating exemplary candour a US columnist called Charles Krauthammer wrote, "In some senses [the looming war against Iraq] is a demonstration war... The Bush administration can't really articulate it because it looks too cynical and cold-blooded, but we can't go into this century where these weapons are going to get into a lot of hands unless we've established a new policy of deterrence against getting them. And that's what this war is going to be about."
Demonstration war? Obviously the US wants to attack Iraq both to demonstrate its superior military power to the rest of the world and to 'encourage' nations to fall into line. After the 'demonstration' in Iraq, any nation that dares resist the United States had better watch out.
The interesting question is why weren't Krauthammer's frank words front page news? Even American Al Gore is horrified by what's happening saying, "What this doctrine does is to destroy the goal of a world in which states consider themselves subject to law, particularly in the matter of standards for the use of violence against each other. That concept would be displaced by the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the president of the United States."
Right on, Al. If the US unilaterally bombs Iraq there will be no law, only might. Back to the jungle. We will live in a new Dark Age.
And from Andrew Duffin:
I suspect the cutter head on your trimmer has a LH thread so that in normal operation the nuts (or whatever) tend to tighten rather than loosen. Which brings me to a question. Rolls-Royce cars used to have LH threads on the wheel nuts on one side of the vehicle and RH on the other side, "so that they tighten up in use". Really? Wouldn't there be as much tendency to loosen on braking as there would to tighten on acceleration, or vice versa, given that the car always comes to a halt in the end, and conservation of angular momentum being what it is. Or is all this an Urban Legend anyway?
When I was a chemistry student - oh gosh how long ago was that - flammable gas cylinders (Acetylene e.g.) always had LH threads and non-flammable ones (Nitrogen e.g.) had RH threads on the regulators. I suppose it was some sort of hardware code. It's still true today for Butane and Propane, in the UK anyway. No doubt the French ones are the other way round, just out of cussedness, and no doubt they'll pass a little-noticed EU regulation which will force us to change all ours over at vast expense and the cost of a few deaths and explosions. Such is life.
Sorry to take up your time. A quiet Friday in the office.
Thanks Andrew. When I was a boy in UKLand, we were being driven somewhere by a friend. "Oh look", said the friend, "Someone's car wheel has come off!" A few minutes later, we discovered it was a wheel off the car we were in!
The Git had a most enjoyable afternoon and evening at a friend's birthday party. Ninka loves music, so Penguin Café Orchestra's Broadcasting From Home seemed an appropriate gift. Looking through her record collection for the first time was fascinating. Many of The Git's favourites mixed with albums he has never heard seem to indicate musical adventures to come.
Thought for the day:
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dory Previn -- Mythical Kings and Iguanas
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