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 21 October 2002

Being confined to indoors for the weekend wasn't very much fun. Like The Git, Mrs Git is a very keen gardener, though she leaves the growing of food to me and gets her kicks from flowers, shrubs, trees and culinary herbs. When you can't be doing it, the next best thing is planning what will be done where and when. Growing living things is only partially susceptible to planning -- being alive the subjects have a strong tendency to either want to take over, or weaken and die because of local conditions. In the process, during twenty years of this, we change the landscape while it also changes us.

Thought for the day:

Autumn to winter, winter to spring, Spring into summer, summer into fall -- So rolls the changing year, and so we change; Motion so swift, we know not that we move.

Dinah Mulock Craik

Current Listening:

Roxy Music -- For Your Pleasure


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Tuesday 22 October 2002

Looking at the statistics for page-reads at this website, it would appear The Git has new readers. Welcome aboard. If you arrived following a Google search, The Git apologises for any disappointment you might have. Here are some of the search terms that found this site:

Why these search terms found this particular website is one of life's mysteries. The first and second search strings account for over 25% of the searches! If you are suffering from kernel stack inpage errors, you either need a better computer operating system, or your hardware is faulty. Searchers on pompous grass need to buy a dictionary. Desperadoes in categories three and four need to get a life!

-oOo-

The Git's gardening notes and other records are kept in Filemaker Pro databases and with the return to gardening, it became necessary to reinstall that application. Record keeping of the building of The House of Steel were kept in Excel, since a simple flat-file was all that was needed. Somehow, the FileMaker Pro 4 CD went missing and The Git hadn't made a backup copy. He had transferred the FileMaker Pro 3 diskettes to CD, but they were useless as he has mislaid the card with the Registration Number. Yes, The Git records such numbers in a text file on backup CDs of his other software. He just forgot with FileMaker Pro.

Of course, this is only an inconvenience if you are a legitimate licence-holder. Pirates use cracked versions of the software, so backing up and reinstalling are much less of an issue. Unfortunately, The Git couldn't find a crack for either version three, or four -- either would suffice as both versions give all the needed functionality and use identical file formats.

The obvious solution was to download the latest version, six, from the Apple website and apply a crack to that. There appear to be no obvious benefits in this latest version for my purposes, though there's one big disadvantage. The file format changed with version 5 and presumably FileMaker Pro 3, or 4 will be unable to read any files I create, or alter with version 6. Piffle! It seems The Git must wade through the many boxes of paper to find his original FileMaker Pro Registration documents that have become separated from all the other similar documents. He has no intention of upgrading to version 6. It's certainly not worth rewarding Apple for making life so inconvenient.

For those readers with who are unfamiliar with FileMaker Pro, it's simply the best relational database for the casual and small business user. The Git imagines that the only reason it's not more widely used is Apple's stupidly high price for the developer edition. And that stupid necessity to unlock the software with your personal code.

Thought for the day:

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.

Anais Nin

Current Listening:

Tracy Chapman -- Crossroads


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Friday 25 October 2002

Spring is springing. Despite being relatively cool, the daytime temperatures hover around 15C, the cloud cover and constant moisture provides optimum growing conditions for grasses and weeds. The Git works for an hour, then rests for an hour for the pain in his back to subside. The periods of useful work done decrease, while the rest periods increase. Then there are days like today when it's mostly rest.

This is reminiscent of an earlier period in our lives when we had the market garden. People ask me questions about current affairs, the petrol bombing of the hotel at Kermandie, the Bali massacre, the Washington sniper... I confess to knowing little, nor desire to know. Most accounts and analyses ignore as far as possible historical causes. "Experts" with no apparent understanding of the issues prescribe "solutions". 

I did watch Quantum last night, the ABC Television science show. There was an account of the increasing problem of obesity and the current thinking that the cause is not dietary fat, but excessive consumption of carbohydrates that stimulate insulin production. This leads not just to obesity, but adult-onset diabetes and possibly several cancers that characterise the developed world.

The Git noted many years ago that eating a breakfast of cereal led to increased hunger and hence increased food consumption during the day. Bread, butter, onions and cheese on the other hand provided long-lasting satisfaction of the stomach. When the farm was a full-time occupation, The Git's consumption of animal fat was at its highest, especially in winter, and he was at his slimmest. The ideal diet for someone working hard all day is presumably considerably different than one for a sedentary worker.

The Git notes that it's hardly likely that evolutionary pressure adapted us for a sedentary existence, eating foods out of season and discarding a large proportion of that food as "suitable only for animals". He has always found the dieticians' obsession with total calories and net utilisable protein as the only important measures of food, laughable. The difference in effect on livestock between theoretically equivalent diets can be quite dramatic. There is no reason to suppose that human diet should be different in this regard.

As William Albrecht, one time head of the Missouri Agricultural Research Station wrote: We are prone to destroy the beast when it aborts, when it gives midgets, or when it contracts a disease common to ourselves. Destroying the evidence is apparently a more common practice than diagnosing it to find the cause of the abnormalities.

Thought for the day:

If you see a whole thing -- it seems it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But close up a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern.

Ursula K. LeGuin

Current Listening:

Ry Cooder -- Chicken Skin Music


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Saturday 26 October 2002

From today's New York Times:

Study Finds Storm Cycles Etched in Lake Beds By ANDREW C. REVKIN

Four times since the last ice age, at intervals roughly 3,000 years apart, the Northeast has been struck by cycles of storms far more powerful than any in recent times, according to a new study. The region appears to have entered a fifth era in which such superstorms are more likely, the researchers say.

The report based on an article to appear in Nature, goes on to include the fact that past severe storm episodes in the Holocene are correlated with periods of global cooling. The Git notes that the worst storm in European history occurred in the depths of The Little Ice Age.

The Anthropogenic Global Warming protagonists say the opposite. Storm severity will increase as the planet gets warmer. There's probably a word to describe people who claim that because two things were correlated in the past, in the future the exact opposite is true.

-oOo-

The Register has a potentially useful piece on Fabulous Fonts in Linux. The Git finds it endlessly amusing that the "better desktop than Windows" still requires hours of arcane chandelier-swinging to enable acceptable font-rendering -- something the Mac got right a decade ago and Windows managed to catch up with in 1995. If Linux does displace Windows on the desktop, will we see workers spending endless hours getting it to do what we currently take for granted instead of playing Solitaire?

The first step is to download and install the MS TrueType core fonts. These used to be available from MS but are no longer, though they can be had now courtesy of SourceForge here, along with detailed instructions for downloading and installing them. You'll have to download a source RPM and then build a binary RPM.

...

Now, merely having TTFs or anti-aliasing isn't enough.

...

Once it's unpacked you need to edit a file in the FreeType directory: go to freetype-2.x.x/include/freetype/config/ftoption.h and open it in a text editor. Now find the line in ftoption.h which reads #undef TT_CONFIG_OPTION_BYTECODE_INTERPRETER and change it to #define TT_CONFIG_OPTION_BYTECODE_INTERPRETER. Save your change.

Now bust out a shell and find out where FT should be installed with the command freetype-config --prefix. This will tell you where it's installed on your system, if you have it installed. Install the new version in the same directory with the prefix command. For example, assuming it's in /usr/local, you would start with the command ./configure --prefix=/usr/local and so on. If you don't have FT installed, it defaults to /usr which is fine. Now just run ./configure --yourprefix, then make, then make install and you're almost home.

There's a little issue with XF86 version 4 which makes it prudent to do the installation again in /usr/X11R6, following the steps above. When you upgrade FT, you'll have to install in both directories again.

...

That's all there is to it. Re-start X again, and all your apps should be able to exploit the new fonts, except OpenOffice.org, which needs an extra step... For OpenOffice.org you need to install the fonts again manually. Go to your OO.o directory and execute the file, spadmin. Go to Fonts, Add, and choose the source directory, /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/truetype. When the fonts are visible in the window, click on 'Select All' and then 'OK'. You'll then be given a choice of copying the fonts to your OO.o directory or linking to them. Either will work.

...

Note, several readers have pointed out that this technique seems to break anti-aliasing. It does, but not universally. Some fonts will have it and some won't. However, merely disabling anti-aliasing definitely doesn't work as well as enabling the bytecode interpreter.

Thought for the day:

All are lunatics, but he who can analyse his delusions is called a philosopher.

Ambrose Bierce

Current Listening:

Roy Buchanan -- You're Not Alone


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Sunday 27 October 2002

When The Git was not much more than a tadpole, he was taught how to use guns on a school friend's farm. There were, he was told, four simple rules:

  1. Treat every gun as if it's loaded
  2. Only point your weapon at what you intend to shoot
  3. Keep the safety catch on until you intend to fire
  4. Leave your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire

These rules were somewhat rigorously enforced by dint of painful physical violence, which led The Git to believe that they were of considerable importance. The purpose of those guns was to kill vermin, mainly crows and rabbits, not each other.

Watching some American news footage on TV, The Git was struck by the fact that the police were pointing their weapons at apparently innocent civilians. Certainly no arrests appeared to be made. Presumably, if the police received the same sort of training as The Git, they intended to shoot those innocent civilians. Law enforcement officers are the people, we are told, who are to be trusted to protect us from terrorists and criminals. Ordinary citizens, on the other hand, are not to be trusted with firearms.

The Git was also struck by Prince John Howard crowing about the success of the gun control laws introduced in Australia following the Port Arthur Massacre here in Tasmania. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the gun murder rate hasn't changed, though other violent gun crime -- abductions and rapes -- have more than tripled. Clearly, if this is success, then the intent of the law is different to what we were told.

Thought for the day:

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

Groucho Marx

Current Listening:

Family -- Only A Movie


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Jonathan Sturm 2002