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! 

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Monday 14 October 2002

The Git has been using CorelDRAW! since he owned a 286 (a long time!) and has managed to preserve most of the files he created with it. Unfortunately, the latest CorelDRAW! won't open those old files, so he needed to install an old version of CorelDRAW! Unfortunately, old versions of CorelDRAW! don't like recent versions of Windows. Crap! That means he has to install CorelDRAW! 6, the buggiest version of CorelDRAW! ever released. Double crap!

-oOo-

If you have tried the Paying for this website link before and it didn't work, I have fixed FrontPage's fuckup. It had decided to convert a relative link to an absolute link on my hard drive. Presumably this was the execrable FrontPage 2002!

Thought for the day:

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

Leo Tolstoy

Current Listening:

Paul Simon -- One Trick Pony


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Tuesday 15 October 2002

The Git is finding regaining fitness a little fraught. The unaccustomed outdoor exercise (when it's not raining) saps his intellect. So, here are two excellent pieces of writing:

Aesthetics is important to The Git. Life without beauty, and more importantly appreciation of it, would be a hollow mockery. Fred Reed writes about A Surfeit Of Piety:

I'm trying to figure out environmentalism and why everyone hollers about it. I'm having a hard time.

My own environmental prejudices: I like back-country camping. I don't see the advantage in having a trail covered with beer cans and styrofoam. Maybe there is a benefit, and I'm just slow, and don't understand. But I don't want to look at the stuff. Nor do I want a four-lane highway through the Grand Canyon, five malls, and a gooberish theme park. I'm sorry. I'm just primitive that way.

Eolake Stobblehouse, webmaster of DOMAI, a website devoted to aesthetics, wrote this excellent essay recently:

About Innocence

An important part of the philosophy of DOMAI is our affinity for innocence. This is a subject that is much misunderstood, so I figured I better explain what I mean. I think there are two big misconceptions about innocence. One of them is that it has anything to do with sex. The other is that it is a thing that is easily shattered, and once it is gone, it is lost forever.

One of them is obviously based on the old moral idea that sex is very important, very dominating, and very evil. I don't believe that sex is very important, and I don't believe that it is inherently sinful. And if it isn't, then innocence surely has nothing to do with it.

My definition of innocence is "without evil".

And in practice, a good concept of an innocent person or behavior is "without hidden motives". This is of course limited, for if you are working with or against something evil, it can be necessary to hide your motives, at least temporarily. It has some application, though, for in general with good and innocent people you can trust that what you see and hear is what you get. Which explains for instance the distrust many of us have towards the advertising industry. For they are all the time saying things they know are not true, and they are all the time selling us stuff while trying to make us not notice that they are doing so. Advertising is becoming more and more hidden, as seen in "product placement" in movies. Worse still, they try to make it look like they are selling solutions where they are not. For instance, there is a veiled, but strong message in many ads that if we buy their product we will be young, sexy, popular, and successful. And this seems less than likely just from drinking soda or using brand-name running shoes. The fact that this is business as usual merely illustrates how bad the situation is.

So of course this is an effect of innocence. If you have good intentions, you have nothing to hide, and what you say and do can be open and free.

So how do you "lose" innocence? Well, the ordinary idea about it is that you lose it when you discover how evil the world is. What I say is that it is perfectly possible, if perhaps not easy, to keep your innocence in the face of any evil the world has to offer. The only thing necessary is that you don't compromise your own ideas and intentions just because you discover that a part of the world has less than pure ideas and intentions. You just keep your own heart pure, and you will stay innocent. I also say that it is perfectly clear to be perfectly aware of all the evil that is present in the world, and still be perfectly innocent in your heart. This means that being innocent is not the same as being naive. You can deal with the world exactly like the circumstances demand, still without letting any evil in the world rub off on you.

Well, what if you have lost your innocence? What if you have become cynical, and you find yourself with a complex mind, and with complex, hidden intentions, doing complex actions in an impure life? I claim that it is never too late. While war criminals and most journalists may have a long road ahead of them, I say that if you yourself wish to be innocent and pure, you can become so. You need to work up to taking full responsibility for what you are doing, and you need to take full responsibility for what you have done in the past, and you need to move on with a pure heart, and with pure, good actions, towards pure and constructive goals.

And I believe that it is worth it.

Eolake Stobblehouse

Thought for the day:

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.

J. R. R. Tolkien

Current Listening:

Bo Hansen -- Lord of the Rings


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Wednesday 16 October 2002

The grass The Git cut on Thursday needs cutting again! Yes, it's that time of year when mild weather and plenty of soil moisture make lawns the complete waste of time that they are. Quite a large area is devoted to the soakage trenches for the septic and other household effluent. Council Regulations forbid the grazing of livestock in that area, though it's beyond me how they plan to prevent the rabbits doing so. Any fencing The Git is planning in the near future is around the vegetable garden.

Some friends, who recently built their little house of steel, installed a special septic tank that uses a pump to oxygenate the material and speed up its decomposition so that the resultant liquid can legally be used to irrigate pasture. In retrospect, the high initial cost of the system is not so great as The Git originally thought. The huge trenches full of crushed rock we had to make did not come cheap. The ongoing electricity cost is small as the pump runs only once a day for a very short time.

It is galling having to spend so much time cutting grass when its proper use is as food for livestock. Mrs Git, of course, has planted shrubs and other plants that will eventually mean no grass to cut. As well, they will transpire some of the excess water that is currently pooling on the surface.

-oOo-

Of course one of the things about our friends' electrically operated septic system is that while a supply of electricity is taken for granted, it's not always available. That's one of the reasons we did not install a demand-pump for our water supply.

Life Sciences: What the world needs now is a reversal of the earth's magnetic poles

With war between the United States and Iraq imminent what the world needs now is more than Burt Bacharach's "love, sweet love" as the old song said. While it might sound a tad desperate, what the world needs now is a sudden reversal of the earth's magnetic poles! Why?

Just look at the effects as predicted by Ian Plimer: "There would be no television, no radio, no telephones, no computers and no satellite communications. Methods of accurate time keeping would not exist, electricity could not be transmitted and none of the comforts of modern life would work. There could be a mass collapse of Western society. In fact, if there were a geomagnetic reversal, the large affluent population centres would be far more affected than places such as outback Australia and third world countries." (Ian Plimer, A Short History of Planet Earth, ABC Books, 2001, p.15)

Yipee! With a geomagnetic reversal the US's and every other nation's military technological might would be rendered useless. If they wanted to fight they'd have to do it the old fashioned way and it's highly unlikely any modern army would have the skills - let alone the stomach - for slogging it out in long campaigns of face to face combat. Killing Iraqis from 30,000 feet via remote control from Tampa, Florida, is very different to killing Iraqis face to face.

According to Ian Plimer such a geomagnetic reversal has previously happened in as few as 15 days though they may take up to tens of thousands of years.

There's hope yet.

Antonia Feitz (from The News Report)

Professor Plimer is a geologist and the author of Telling Lies for God

Like most dedicated scientists he is a passionate advocate of analytical research and the scientific method.

His discoveries have convinced him that the earth is old -- about 4 and a half billion years old -- old enough to accommodate the evolution of the world as we know it today.

But that presents a problem for those who take the teachings of the Bible literally. Creation scientists believe that god created the world and all its creatures just a few thousand years ago.

-oOo-

Of course it's not just evangelists who set out to misinform us. We live in a time when being lied to is part and parcel of daily life. 

-oOo-

A Southern Perspective On Modern Day "Yankee Empire" Aggression 
by Dr. Michael Hill, President of The League of the South

A special statement from The League of the South 

Saddam Hussein, you ask? No. George W. Bush.

Thought for the day:

I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means -- except by getting off his back.

Leo Tolstoy

Current Listening:

Wild Pumpkins at Midnight, Kokonuts, Diet Tribe, Jungle Radio, Hogweed, Friends, Aurauco Libre, Havoc of Finn -- Music for Forests


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Thursday 17 October 2002

Bob Thompson wrote

As I recall, Linux in general and some Linux apps in particular have problems rendering character sets which some consider Microsoft-proprietary, but which in fact are so commonly used that they should be considered standard. I don't like it any more than anyone else when Microsoft creates proprietary "standards" and then uses them as a competitive weapon against OSS or competing closed-source software, but come on. A character set? Why not just accept it as a done deal and display the damned symbols? Maybe I'm missing something here, but I don't think so.

Back in October 2000, I wrote:

After several hours of research and reading some very obscure documents on the Internet, I think I know how part of the above mess was created. There's a Standard called ISO 8859 that is in reality several standards. [Aside: that's the nice thing about Standards, there are so many to choose from!] The one we are concerned with is ISO 8859-1, the Western European Character Set. When it was in a late stage of development, Microsoft, Lotus, Digital Equipment Corp and Commodore (for the Amiga OS) adopted it. Subsequently, characters 0127 to 0159 were eliminated from ISO 8859-1.

I am not going to speculate on why this happened, but it seems certain that far from Microsoft adding these characters, they were part of a late draft. One story has it that the removal of the oe ligature was due to the French committee member being absent on the day the decision to remove it was taken. Does this mean that the Belgian and Swiss contingents sufficiently loathed the French to ignore their own needs? The removal of six of the most important typographic marks seems more than a little peculiar. Was the intent to hand over desktop publishing to the Mac, Windows, Amiga and DEC?

Of course the "Windows" ANSI adopted by Microsoft, Lotus, Digital Equipment Corp and Commodore has become the de facto standard and there's certainly an argument for ISO 8859-1 being redefined. But of course that would damage the fragile egos of the Linuxen and that would never do. Continuing support for an antiquated/neglected standard is one of the defining features of True Linuxhood and like "persecuted" minorities everywhere, the Linuxen will never relinquish their adherence to the Only True Standard. For some reason this reminds me of Claudius' attempt to revise Latin ;-)

-oOo-

Bob wrote also about the Bali massacre at Kuta, a place that like many Australians I hold fond memories of. When The Git visited in the 1970s, it was far from being the tourist Mecca that it is today. No doubt the tourist dollars that transformed the Kuta in my memory will now dry up and that saddens me. The Balinese are a truly beautiful race and almost everyone I met was an artist of one sort or another.

The Git's reluctance to write about the Kuta massacre is because he wonder who benefits most from the tragedy, apart from the news hacks who are in a shark-like feeding frenzy. Could it be that the draconian anti-terrorist legislation agendas of Mad King George and the equally insane Prince John Howard benefit more from this than any as yet unidentified Islamic terrorist organisation? There! Now The Git has said it and expects howls of protest for refusing to believe what his political masters demand he believe.

Nor do I believe Bob when he writes:

The problem is not "Islamic terrorists" however one defines that. The problem is Islam itself, and it is time we recognize that and act accordingly. Islam is a religion of hatred, intolerance, and terror toward all of us that Islam regards as non-believers. Islam has been at war against the West for more than 1,000 years now, and it is an implacable enemy.

My reading of history would indicate far more tolerance of Christians (and Jews) by Muslims than Christians tolerating Muslims and Jews. It certainly wasn't a Muslim regime that sent six million Jews to an untimely death in one decade of the twentieth century! Was Prescott Bush, one of that regime's financiers, a closet Muslim?

Ever have our political masters demonised followers of differing faith systems and inhabitants of other countries. They do it in the full knowledge that they will almost never have to face the consequences. Perhaps the people should rise up and emulate the Italians more often:

Mussolini and his mistress Clara Patacci were arrested, but communist partisans broke into the jail that held them. They dragged them through the street and publicly lynched them, to the cheers of the populace.

Story and photograph here.

-oOo-

If you didn't read The Git's Important Announcement, please do so now.

Thought for the day:

Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.

Thomas Jefferson

Current Listening:

Blood, Sweat and Tears -- Child is Father to the Man


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Friday 18 October 2002

My Internet friend Jack Gallemore writes:

I just purchased a PowerMac 6100/60 for $85US and went over to SonnetTech and got a G3/400 upgrade for $200US. For $50, I'm going to get a bunch of peripherals (monitor, kb, mouse, external CD-ROM).

Hope things are well for you and if things get too crazy over here, you might find me on your doorstep!

Jack N. Gallemore, TSGT, OKANG Network Manager

Aaah! That brings back memories. My first experience of the World Wide Web was using a 6100. Andrew, a young friend, who has since sadly committed suicide, took myself and son Thomas to the local university for this experience. We were entranced. Up to that point in time, the Internet had been limited to text: newsgroups, email and ftp. Also, The Git is embarrassed to recall, he hadn't used a Mac for some time and consequently committed a faux pas. We had taken some floppy disks with us, file leeches that we are, and The Git pressed the eject button next to the floppy drive slot. Except, of course, Macs have no eject button -- that's the power switch.

Another possibility for The Git's Mac aspirations is to turn one of his current machines into a Mac with an emulator. Emulators can be software and in truth, modern machines can outperform the original hardware. What The Git lusts after, though is something capable of running OS/X and that will require a decent hardware emulator. And, it seems, at least one is in the offing

Now that the grass is under control, today will be the first day for several weeks that The Git has been capable of undertaking the renovation of the cottage. Hopefully, when the substantial amount of money the cottage represents becomes available, one of those emulators will be available too.

As for coming here to avoid the craziness in the US, that may be illusory, though as ever, you and your fellow countrymen would be welcome in this Land of Under. The massacre in Kuta indicates that nowhere is safe from crazy terrorists, and Mad Prince John is equally as crazy as Mad King George. How else can you describe people who think that the way to fight fundamentalist Muslim terrorists is to wage war on an enemy of fundamentalist Islam? And "coincidentally" an opportunity to introduce legislation that must have the shade of Adolf Hitler smiling with fatherly approval?

Of one thing The Git is certain -- that while the Kuta massacre was an attack on (mostly Australian) western tourists -- it was also an attack on a Muslim country. While American egocentricity (and the received texts in most people's heads) demand that all such attacks are attacks on "US democracy", it seems to me that the enemies of fundamentalist Muslims include everyone who is not a fundamentalist Muslim. And that includes such countries as mostly Muslim Indonesia, that are embracing western democracy and its accoutrements such as TV and Levi Strauss jeans. Other obvious targets are countries that are decidedly not embracing democracy and western values, but nevertheless, like Iraq, reject Islamic Theocracy.

A short essay on Theocracy here.

And some amusing self-critical insight from The Atlantic here:

This is not all bad: in this segmented world everybody gets to be successful. If, like me, you believe that human beings are motivated primarily by a desire for recognition, rather than a desire for money, you have to applaud, at least a bit. Unlike money, grandiosity is in unlimited supply; we can all feel tremendously significant. As a journalist, I naturally believe that those who spout their opinions in magazines and on TV -- contributing to public discourse, we call it -- are leading worthier lives than those whose passion is casino design. The casino designers no doubt think that pundits are pathetic. I recall a Hollywood starlet who remarked at the White House correspondents' dinner a few years ago that it was cute to see all the nerds trying to have fun.

In some ways the health of a society can be measured by how many avenues to self-importance it opens up. In America, which is a successful society, we can all be celebrities in some little sphere, and we are very impressed with ourselves. During the most recent presidential election a Time magazine-CNN poll asked voters whether they were in the top one percent of income earners. Nineteen percent reported that they were, and another 20 percent said that they expected to be there one day.

-oOo-

A STATEMENT OF CONSCIENCE

Not In Our Name

Let it not be said that people in the United States did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression.

The signers of this statement call on the people of the U.S. to resist the policies and overall political direction that have emerged since September 11, 2001, and which pose grave dangers to the people of the world.

We believe that peoples and nations have the right to determine their own destiny, free from military coercion by great powers. We believe that all persons detained or prosecuted by the United States government should have the same rights of due process. We believe that questioning, criticism, and dissent must be valued and protected. We understand that such rights and values are always contested and must be fought for.

We believe that people of conscience must take responsibility for what their own governments do -- we must first of all oppose the injustice that is done in our own name. Thus we call on all Americans to RESIST the war and repression that has been loosed on the world by the Bush administration. It is unjust, immoral, and illegitimate. We choose to make common cause with the people of the world.

We too watched with shock the horrific events of September 11, 2001. We too mourned the thousands of innocent dead and shook our heads at the terrible scenes of carnage -- even as we recalled similar scenes in Baghdad, Panama City, and, a generation ago, Vietnam. We too joined the anguished questioning of millions of Americans who asked why such a thing could happen.

But the mourning had barely begun, when the highest leaders of the land unleashed a spirit of revenge. They put out a simplistic script of "good vs. evil" that was taken up by a pliant and intimidated media. They told us that asking why these terrible events had happened verged on treason. There was to be no debate. There were by definition no valid political or moral questions. The only possible answer was to be war abroad and repression at home.

In our name, the Bush administration, with near unanimity from Congress, not only attacked Afghanistan but arrogated to itself and its allies the right to rain down military force anywhere and anytime. The brutal repercussions have been felt from the Philippines to Palestine, where Israeli tanks and bulldozers have left a terrible trail of death and destruction. The government now openly prepares to wage all-out war on Iraq -- a country which has no connection to the horror of September 11. What kind of world will this become if the U.S. government has a blank check to drop commandos, assassins, and bombs wherever it wants?

In our name, within the U.S., the government has created two classes of people: those to whom the basic rights of the U.S. legal system are at least promised, and those who now seem to have no rights at all. The government rounded up over 1,000 immigrants and detained them in secret and indefinitely. Hundreds have been deported and hundreds of others still languish today in prison. This smacks of the infamous concentration camps for Japanese-Americans in World War 2. For the first time in decades, immigration procedures single out certain nationalities for unequal treatment.

In our name, the government has brought down a pall of repression over society. The President's spokesperson warns people to "watch what they say." Dissident artists, intellectuals, and professors find their views distorted, attacked, and suppressed. The so-called Patriot Act -- along with a host of similar measures on the state level -- gives police sweeping new powers of search and seizure, supervised if at all by secret proceedings before secret courts.

In our name, the executive has steadily usurped the roles and functions of the other branches of government. Military tribunals with lax rules of evidence and no right to appeal to the regular courts are put in place by executive order. Groups are declared "terrorist" at the stroke of a presidential pen.

We must take the highest officers of the land seriously when they talk of a war that will last a generation and when they speak of a new domestic order. We are confronting a new openly imperial policy towards the world and a domestic policy that manufactures and manipulates fear to curtail rights.

There is a deadly trajectory to the events of the past months that must be seen for what it is and resisted. Too many times in history people have waited until it was too late to resist.

President Bush has declared: "you're either with us or against us." Here is our answer: We refuse to allow you to speak for all the American people. We will not give up our right to question. We will not hand over our consciences in return for a hollow promise of safety. We say NOT IN OUR NAME. We refuse to be party to these wars and we repudiate any inference that they are being waged in our name or for our welfare. We extend a hand to those around the world suffering from these policies; we will show our solidarity in word and deed.

We who sign this statement call on all Americans to join together to rise to this challenge. We applaud and support the questioning and protest now going on, even as we recognize the need for much, much more to actually stop this juggernaut. We draw inspiration from the Israeli reservists who, at great personal risk, declare "there IS a limit" and refuse to serve in the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

We also draw on the many examples of resistance and conscience from the past of the United States: from those who fought slavery with rebellions and the underground railroad, to those who defied the Vietnam war by refusing orders, resisting the draft, and standing in solidarity with resisters.

Let us not allow the watching world today to despair of our silence and our failure to act. Instead, let the world hear our pledge: we will resist the machinery of war and repression and rally others to do everything possible to stop it.

Amen

Thought for the day:

If you were designing the sort of information-processing system a brain is, it would be extremely impractical to store memories permanently in their original form. You need mechanisms for transforming and recording them; for "chunking" information into categories. Is your memory a phonograph record on which the information is stored in localized grooves to be replayed on demand? If so, it's a very bizarre record, for the songs are different every time they're played. Human memory is more like the village storyteller; it doesn't passively store facts but weaves them into a good (coherent, plausible) story, which is recreated with each telling.

Judith Hooper Teresi

Current Listening:

Otway and Barrett -- Gone with the Bin


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Saturday 19 October 2002

A wild and windy night last night, the gale coming from the north west, rather than the more usual south west at this time of year. The House of Steel has been shaking, but then it's designed to do that in such winds. It's a Taoist  house, bending like the reed, rather than a brittle one, collapsing in the face of adversity. As I write this, the wind has swung around to the south west, but it has not abated. Another Tasmanian spring. Had the weather been less intimidating, The Git would have been out sowing sweet corn and that prince of salad vegetables, rocket (a,k.a. roquette and arugula). The king as far as we are concerned is mizuna, a Japanese salad green. This member of the brassica tribe is much more toothsome as well as delightful to look at than the insipid lettuces, though we grow those too, mainly the looseleaf sorts, coral and oakleaf, for their colour rather than flavour.

A major purge of the seed collection last year saw us somewhat short of some seeds. While when kept in cool, dry conditions, many seeds will last considerably longer than the expiry date on the packet, the germination rate declines and it's a bootless exercise sowing a hundred seeds of which only ten will germinate. An exception must be made here for rare varieties from which you plan to save seeds. Sadly, due to oversight in the prior season or two, The Git sowed the last of his Savoy King (Carters Improved) at such a point and the whole lot were destroyed in an accident! Alas, my favourite cabbage and not a sign of it being anywhere available these days.

Two crops that The Git will be saving seeds from this season are his favourite peas and broad beans. The peas are mange-tout (eat pod and all) and called Molly's, the broad beans are Windsor, the best for remaining tender when mature, as well as fine flavour.

The seed order we placed with our favourite seed merchant, New Gippsland, via the Internet for the first time. The ordering interface leaves a lot to be desired, but the seeds will no doubt be up to Pete and Sue de Vaus's usual very high standard. The company is some 79 years old, but The Git has only been ordering from them for 20. The Git was in two minds whether to grow a new asparagus bed from seed, or buy crowns in the winter. He decided to go with seeds of UC157, a hybrid that commences cropping a year earlier than the Mary Washington we currently grow. That bed has been somewhat neglected and is really not ideally located, so bringing along a replacement is the order of the day.

Thought for the day:

We should not sow when the ground is too cold for the good of the seed, and are less likely to do so if we are told we must be naked when we do it.

Maureen and Bridget Boland

Current Listening:

Judy Bailey Quartet -- Colours


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