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 18 November 2002

The files for this website are now all in place at the new server. All that remains is for the Internet domain name servers to be updated to point accesses to www.sturmsoft.com to the newly assigned IP address.

-oOo-

Holden Aust writes:

Jonathan,

I find to my amazement, that nearly two months have passed since I promised to send you a CD of the SuSE 8.1 LiveEval Linux, once it became available, and copies of Open Office for Windows and Linux.

Well, anyway, I've now got the LiveEval 8.1 version downloaded and on a CD and the other CDs ready, but I'm not sure how I should address the package?

The only address I've found on your website is : PO Box 73, Franklin, Tasmania, Australia 7113

Is that the address I should use, or is there another one?

I concur in your choice of the AMD Athlon processor for your new PC upgrade. As I said in a previous post, I've been using AMD and Cyrix cpus for a long time, and you indicated that your preferences had been much the same. I've had very good luck with AMD (and earlier Cyrix) cpus and they have always seemed like a much better value than the comparable Intel chips (plus I guess I'd rather root for the underdog, rather than the bully). It purplexes me that some people, like Bob Thompson, say how important AMD's competition is in keeping Intel's prices down and then go on to say that, of course, AMD is doomed, so you shouldn't buy their cpus? It is as though he says that it is vital that AMD doesn't go out of business and then he recommends a course of action that will help put them out of business?!? If he really think that competition is important in microprocessors, shouldn't he be encouraging people to buy the underdog's products, especially if they are a better value? The way I look at it, even if AMD goes out of business tomorrow, the AMD Athlon or Duron I buy today will give me good service for years to come, whether or not AMD exists or not - although I certainly hope they do make it through this recession.

Please let me know what address I should use to send you the CDs. Thanks.

--- Holden

Holden, the postal address is correct and unlikely to change -- ever :-)

I disagree with Bob Thompson over a number of niggling issues and this is one of them. He has had far more problems with Win2k than I have and it's certain that neither AMD, nor VIA are to blame. It's very easy to convert one's personal computer experiences into Universal Truths and when that happens, I find it very sad. The Git has found no significant differences between his Intel and AMD machines attributable to the CPU -- ever!

The only machine in use that is currently misbehaving is the 200 MHz Pentium MMX. It's running Win98 SE and it suffers from the shutdown problem, despite applying the shutdown fix. It's a problem that's entirely liveable with.

I believe Bob is correct that Intel make the best chipsets on the planet. In the best of all possible worlds, I would still be able to buy MoBos with an AMD CPU and Intel chipset as I did four or five years ago. I hold out hopes for VIA, SIS and ALI producing better chipsets down the track. No doubt if the pace of innovation were not so frenetic, they would be better now.

Some would have it that AMD CPUs dissipate more heat than Intel, but this is far from certain. The latest crop of 3.06GHz P4s dissipate "a whopping 81W of power, a number that could theoretically climb as high as 105W". The latter figure is for an application written to take full advantage of the new hyperthreading technology built into Xeon chips for some months and now available on the P4.

I suspect that we could all benefit from a slowdown in the pace of development at this point. I'll be posting from another reader relating to this point later.

The delay on the CDs has caused me no hardship whatsoever and it only occurred to me 2-3 days ago that they hadn't arrived. Our lives are full and hopefully, yours is too :-)

-oOo-

From Peter Long:

Hi,

At work we have been using PIII/celeron boards using VIA chip set and these have been very reliable. We don't run many with Windows so I can't really vouch for the Windows drivers but under OS/2 they are very fast PCs. We tend to use Celeron 1.3Ghz because of the price. Our main supplier is AwardOne in Melbourne. The motherboards which we use are:

MSI 6368-LAN-T - This has onboard AGP video (very reasonable), sound and 10/100 NIC but has only 3 PCI slots and 1 ISA slot and no AGP slot, but at $137.00 is great value. Together with a Celeron 1.3Ghz at $129, it is hard to beat. We have bought a few of these as 'spares' so we will not have to replace PCs when a motherboard/processor fails. This board will take ECC SD RAM up to 1GB (2 memory slots).

AOPEN AX34-U - This has an AGP slot, 4 PCI slots, an ISA slot and has 3 SD RAM memory slots. Will take up to 1.5GB RAM. I believe this board costs around $150. AwardOne doesn't have it on their Web site but they can get them in.

GigaByte GA-6VTXE-A - This is similar to the AOpen board but can use ECC SD RAM. We have just started to use this board with Celeron 1.3Ghz processors. Cost is similar to the AOpen.

The Gigabyte is the most recent of these motherboards so you would expect all the bugs in the chip set have been ironed out. We have some PCs using the 1.4GHz PIII processor but these are only marginally faster than the Celeron 1.3GHz and much more expensive.

Any of these boards with a 1.3 processor is very fast, though I think the AOpen and the Gigabyte seem marginally faster than the MSI board.

We have several P4 processors up to 2GHz but they don't perform any faster than our 1.3Ghz Celeron processors in day to day work. Expensive waste of time for business applications. I'll probably wait until the 3GHz P4s come down in price before I venture back into buying P4s.

AwardOne has been very supportive. The principals John Taylor and Geoff Bull are very helpful. As they are based in Melbourne and we are in Brisbane, they must be doing something right to keep our business.

Regards,

Peter Long

When The Git built a 1 GHz Celeron/A-Open solution for a friend recently, he was suitably impressed that for the vast majority of users' needs, it was more than good enough. It was also incredibly inexpensive considering it included photo-realistic printing and 17 inch monitor.

Of course a computer has to be specified in the light of the use to which it will be put. Thomas's machine is primarily for software development and 3D game-playing, so a fast up-to-date video card in the AGP slot and a second card in a PCI slot are mandatory. The primary video card is more important than having the fastest possible CPU, but having a CPU with a great numeric co-processor and well supported instruction-set is important. The AMD CPUs provide all this and save money as well.

The Git mostly does 2D graphics at high resolutions, never 3D, so the CPU is of less importance than plenty of fast RAM. There really is no substitute for Matrox video cards for 2D acuity these days, though it's possible that some of the players we used to read about, such as Miro, are still out there somewhere. This might be a tad cynical, but all games seem to be less stable than the mainstream applications The Git uses, so stability is of less importance in a games machine -- was that crash due to the machine, or the software? 

But for The Git, stability is important. There's nothing quite so annoying as the tedious wait for an application (or OS) restart to discover what has been lost. Running Win2k on this 700MHz Slot A AMD has been remarkable in that respect. The only complaint, an intermittent video artefact problem that occurred infrequently, has not recurred since applying SP3 to Win2k, so likely it was an obscure aspect of the OS.

If The Git had money to spend on his system at this time, he would purchase an APC UPS, a decent SCSI adapter with a pair of 10k, or 15 k SCSI hard disks, and a 22 inch Mitsubishi monitor in that order.

-oOo-

While The Git has yet to fully recover from Friday's long walk, the day will be one of mainly physical work. The grass needs cutting, the last of the potatoes need to be planted and the tomato plants planted. When The Git mentioned gardening for fun and profit again in the pub on Friday, he was assailed with requests for his garlic. Sadly, there is no garlic this season, but certainly there will be next year. All the available garlic until local harvest-time is imported and not of good quality. The Git used to lift a significant portion of his crop in December to be used fresh. It won't keep, even when dried lifted so early, but it's fine for a fortnight of kitchen use. And The Git received double the price for it.

Also as usual, he was asked by home gardeners how to tell when it's ready to harvest. First, there are two main sorts of garlic: hard-neck and soft-neck. The hard-neck varieties produce a pseudo flower that is in fact a cluster of tiny garlic cloves rather than flowers. This must be commencing to open out before you harvest. For the soft-neck varieties, the pinch test works well. When they are ready, the stems become very soft and the tops will eventually fall over. You want to lift the bulbs just as, or a day or two before the stems fall over.

For both sorts, it's critical to not lift too soon, or the cloves will shrivel. Commercially, it's important to not lift too late as the skins become stained, but for the home gardener, this is a mere cosmetic defect and not so critical.

Garlic must be stored in a dry environment where the temperature is constantly below, or constantly above about 10°C. The Git's early harvest was achieved by putting the garlic for that crop in the refrigerator for six weeks, then planting it out. The garlic had been fooled into thinking winter had passed and sprouted quickly in the warm early autumn soil, putting plenty of growth on before the real winter slowed growth. The onset of the following summer produced a crop of larger than normal plants that were harvestable earlier than the main crop sown in mid-autumn.

The old wives' tale to plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest makes about as much sense as believing that bombing the crap out of Muslims will reduce the number of fundamentalist Muslim terrorist attacks!

Thought for the day:

Multitudes of people, drifting aimlessly to and fro without a set purpose, deny themselves such fulfilment of their capacities, and the satisfying happiness which attends it. They are not wicked, they are only shallow. They are not mean or vicious; they simply are empty -- shake them and they would rattle like gourds. They lack range, depth, and conviction. Without purpose their lives ultimately wander into the morass of dissatisfaction. As we harness our abilities to a steady purpose and undertake the long pull toward its accomplishment, rich compensations reward us. A sense of purpose simplifies life and therefore concentrates our abilities; and concentration adds power.

Kenneth Hildebrand

Current Listening:

Leo de Castro -- The Johnny Roco Band


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Tuesday 19 November 2002

The replacement MoBo, RAM and CPU arrived today, Tony the Postmaster having ordered the carrier to deliver it to its proper destination. Thomas undertook the task of replacing the old MoBo and only called for occasional, very minor minor help. He did well considering that it was his first time at the task. Certainly much better than the sysadmin at the college he attends for the last time this week. That ladmin installed a MoBo with the conductive packaging foam between the board and supports! He said he thought it was to "stop the vibration". Warning! Do not try this at home. Motherboards and CPUs do not take kindly to such maltreatment.

The Git, having spent the day remastering old Leo de Castro recordings while transferring them from tape to CD and  mowing grass, took to his bed before seeing the machine go through its paces. The Dr Thermal heatsink and fan was certainly impressive, both for its size and the noise the fan makes while the case is open.

-oOo-

The Git received an email highly critical of Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist, taking him to task for his misuse of data to show that far from things getting worse, they are getting better. How then, to explain the following?

From Century of Science by Sherwood Taylor, 1940 
CHAPTER III THE WAR AGAINST DIRT 
THE PUBLIC HEALTH IN 1840

In the England of 1840 the average age of death was twenty-nine, today it is fifty-eight. This does not, of course, mean that in 1840 the majority of people died at or about the age of twenty-nine, which, then as now, was one of the healthiest periods of life. It meant, rather, that the babies of 1840 suffered an appalling mortality. Today one child in seventeen dies before it is a year old, but in 1840 the figure was about one in six, and about a third of the children born died at or before the age of five. This massacre of the infants was not the only cause of the high death-rate of that time. At every period in life, the risk of infectious and contagious diseases was much greater than it is today, and the prospect of being cured of them was less.

What did men die of in the forties? It is not easy to be precise, because the classification of diseases was very different from that which is now accepted, and the power of diagnosis much less. But even the most superficial study of the Registrar General's reports makes it clear that, in addition to the ailments from which we die in I940-pneumonia, a stroke, cancer, and the like -- there was a huge death-roll from diseases which we now regard as infectious or contagious, and which have become far less common than they were a century ago. Chief of these were typhoid and paratyphoid fever, typhus, smallpox, scarlet fever, diphtheria, infantile diarrhoea, and tuberculosis. To these, the killing diseases of the time, must be added cholera, which caused a heavy though intermittent mortality, and a large number of internal conditions which today are remedied by surgical operations, but at that date were usually fatal, since the prevalence of hospital gangrene and. other septic conditions prevented any extensive surgical treatment.

Infants died of convulsions, diarrhoea, and atrophy, the latter being a polite term for starvation. The total result is expressed by a total crude death-rate for the whole country of 23 per 1,000; this figure, which is slightly more than that for India to-day, we have now reduced to 11.5 per 1,000.

A mortality rate of 23 per 1,000 is today regarded as appalling, but it did not appal any but the most enlightened men of the time. The majority gave no thought to the matter: had they done so, they would have regarded these numerous deaths as a natural condition of man's existence. The fact that in 1937 some twenty-six thousand English people died of tuberculosis will no doubt seem appalling to our descendants, but only a small minority of the people of to-day, whether through ignorance or indifference, allow themselves to be troubled by it, especially as the position has long been steadily improving. The attitude of the men of 1840 was similar. The general death-rate did not seem at all shocking, for it was probably better than it had ever been. The discovery which did, in fact, arouse the indignation of an enlightened few was that the death-rate of the workers in the great cities was very much higher than that of the well-to-do; for this showed that people were dying as the direct result of the conditions in which they lived. The death-rate in the slums of 1840 was prodigious. In some overcrowded towns such as Edinburgh the general death-rate reached 39 per 1,000. In the undrained slum areas of some industrial towns the average age of death was thirteen, and from 50 to 60 per cent. of the total deaths were those of infants under five. The proportion of such deaths for the whole country is now about 9 per cent. and only in the large towns with the heaviest infant mortality does the figure rise as high as 14 per cent. The pauper population dwelling in the undrained and overcrowded areas of the cities were subject to devastating epidemics of typhoid and cholera. In. the year 1838 about one in five of the pauper population suffered from "fever" and about one in sixty died of it. Cholera also was far more deadly to the poor than to the rich. Those who dared to face them saw that the facts proved slum conditions to be the cause of this mortality: just as those who face facts to-day may deduce that poverty is the chief cause of tuberculosis from the fact that the death-rate from the disease in 1937 was 397 per million in Hampstead, 600-700 in most large towns and 1,148 in Gateshead.

Generally speaking, then, the people of a century ago died from contagious diseases which today they do not contract. We know, as they did not, the channels through which these diseases reached them. Typhoid fever and cholera are nearly always acquired by drinking water contaminated by the excreta of a typhoid or cholera patient-or sometimes of a carrier who harbours and excretes the bacteria of these diseases without experiencing their symptoms. A high mortality from tuberculosis arises from overcrowding, which makes infection easy, and from general bad health due to overwork, underfeeding, and lack of sunlight. The infection of surgical and other wounds is due to living bacteria carried into them on the things with which they come into contact or by saliva-droplets in the air. Generally speaking we realise that the spread of all epidemics is accelerated by overcrowding and dirt. The would-be reformer of the eighteen-forties knew nothing of these channels of infection. He only knew that there was something about the way in which slum-dwellers lived that predisposed them to disease. To those who did not avert their eyes, it was obvious that the poor were inadequately fed, that they drank vilely contaminated water, that they were insufficiently clothed, verminous, and dirty in their persons, that most families lived in one horribly overcrowded, airless, damp, dark room, which was part of a house without any means of sewage disposal.

Thought for the day:

At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope that it can be done, then they see that it can be done--then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.

Francis Hodgson Burnett

Current Listening:

Robert Wyatt -- Little Red Record


Top

Wednesday 20 November 2002

Television in Australia has warnings about potentially distressing content for viewers so that they have the opportunity to change to another channel, or (Shock! Gasp! Horror!) read a book, step into the garden, fornicate, or whatever takes their fancy. Yesterday evening, The Git and Mrs Git were struck by the preamble to A Big Country, a remarkable series of ABC Television documentaries made in the 1970s bringing viewers up to date on the lives of those depicted back then.

Warning: the following program contains depictions of traditional agricultural practises!

The involuntary rictus this caused quite ruined the first ten minutes of the broadcast, but of course stimulated The Git to thinking about this website. On Saturday local time (late Friday in the US) this website will be making its anticipated move to the new host. In deference to the sensitivities of potential readers of The Diatribe and so forth, you will henceforth be presented with the above warning. Also:

Contains graphic and explicit descriptions of seed-sowing, cultivation of the soil and weed control!

-oOo-

AVOIDING THE HARD QUESTIONS

By Graham Strachan

Writing about the student rebellion in American universities during the sixties, novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand observed that, "in all [the] mass of comments, appraisals and interpretations... every possible question was raised and considered, except: What are the students taught to think? Not one word was said about the content of modern education, about the nature of the ideas that are being inculcated. This, apparently, was what no one dared discuss" [Cashing in on the Student 'Rebellion', Ayn Rand, in 'The New Left: the Anti-Industrial Revolution' (1971)].

Rand's words came to mind when The Australian newspaper (18 November) reported that, "Assaults on police and a series of stabbings -- one of which has left a teenager fighting for his life -- occurred on Queensland's Gold Coast this week." The violence erupted as 20,000 revellers, many of them drunk, converged on the area and forced police to make more than 50 arrests. One police officer was treated in hospital for concussion incurred while trying to arrest a youth; an 18-year-old man was in a critical condition in Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital after being stabbed in the chest; and three other knife attacks were reported.

According to a police spokesman, the 50 arrests were mainly for street offences such as drunk and disorderly behaviour and obstructing police, while one motor vehicle was impounded under recently introduced 'anti-hoon' laws. Apartment and motel managers said guests were loud and boisterous with a lot of shouting coming from balconies, but were generally 'well-behaved'. A co-ordinator of five 'chill-out' zones, said the opening night crowd was bigger but not as rowdy as last year. The Queensland state government was on standby, at least for information -- a spokesperson for the Health Minister stated that a report that officials were handing out packets of morning-after pills to female revellers celebrating on Magnetic Island, off Townsville, was false [Fights mar start of schoolies week By David Nason, The Australian: November 18, 2002].

What was all this about? A flashback to the end of World War II? Man on the Moon? Millennium Celebrations? Not at all. This was the start of what is referred to locally as 'schoolies week' -- a euphemism for a week of drunkenness and debauchery carried on by teenagers to celebrate the end of their secondary schooling. In their tens of thousands they descend upon Queensland's Gold Coast and other popular tourist destinations for a week of binge drinking, recreational drug taking and random sex.

Since most of these 'schoolies' have not yet had a job, and since a week's carousing on the Gold Coast or Magnetic Island doesn't come cheaply (I encountered some [from] as far afield as Nadi, Fiji this time last year), this activity must necessarily be funded, or at least supported, by parents. Parents must actually fork out hard earned money so their teenage sons and daughters can go away for a week of grog, sex, drugs, rock-n-roll and fights - an activity requiring police reinforcements, detoxification centres, counsellors, 'morning after pills' and possible hospitalisation for stabbings or drug overdoses.

The main question that concerns the media seems to be whether or not the crowd this year was better behaved or noisier than last year. Nobody ever wants to ask the hard questions, like how this annual mindless display of youthful degeneracy came to be socially acceptable. What about the much lauded 'self esteem' which seems to preoccupy modern educators? To see young girls (which I have) drunk and dishevelled, sitting in gutters sobbing at 7 in the morning while friends try to console them over some incident the night before, doesn't say much for any sense of dignity they might have acquired. More importantly, what has happened to the values of a society which teaches young people that this sort of self-abasing activity is the way to 'have a good time'? These are the sort of questions Rand referred to, the questions that must never be asked.

One reason they can't be asked is that this week-long display of sleeze brings 'much needed revenue' to local businesses on the tourist strip. In other words, "Who cares if the kids are drunk, we're in the grog business," and in this age of corporatism one is forbidden to question the legitimacy of any activity that generates profit, regardless of the damage it does to public property, the participants themselves, or the inconvenience caused to the broader community.

In this case that broader community includes overseas visitors who have to put up with this raucous childish behaviour for the duration of their stay. What impression they get of Australia will probably never be known, because nobody is going to ask that question either. It's generally assumed they think it's just as big a hoot as the locals do. Meanwhile, so that businesses can reap the profits, the taxpayer has to fork out for extra police and for cleaning up the mess, much of which consists of empty beer cans, smashed glass and vomit.

It is not a case of banning the activity -- provided the schoolies don't break the law they are entitled to do what they do. But that is not the point. What has happened to a society that condones behaviour by young people that is mindless, raucous, socially disruptive and personally degrading? What has happened to parental responsibility that this sort of activity is not only condoned but funded? And what has happened to the values of young people who have come to believe that blotting out one's senses and waking up with strangers is the way to have a good time?

If the truth be known, most of their parents probably wish they were down there with the schoolies, staggering around in drunken mobs yelling four-letter words at passing traffic. It's a worry.

Speaking as an Australian parent whose son, Thomas, finishes his secondary education this week, it is a great relief that he will not be a participant in schoolies week, and that he has no wish to do so. Some two years ago, while under my supervision, he managed to drink enough grog to, as he put it, "remind me not to do that again!"

Thomas will be attending several parties, no doubt some of them with drunken revellers. He tells me that at such events he assists the incapable to avoid the worst of their excesses. Most of the parties he attends are similar to the one he organised at our home recently. My wife remarked, after looking into his room, that it reminded her of the NASA Control Center as depicted on TV -- they were all far too taken by the network computer games they were playing to be interested in grog, sex and drugs. I'm not at all sure that it's not a source for a different worry, though ;-)

-oOo-

Thomas is more than pleased with his new CPU/MoBo -- it has provided the grunt necessary for playing several recently released computer games that refused to run adequately on a mere 700 MHz CPU! While the Athlon Palomino XP1700 (1.47GHz clock speed) is far from the fastest available at this time, The Git deemed it wise to team it with a Dr Thermal cooler in the interest of removing the heat from where it's not wanted. While Dr Thermal makes The Git think of underpants, he knows of no underpants that make as much noise as this device! Nevertheless, this is an expected side-effect of one of the most efficient heat-removers available.

While until now Thomas always had the side off the case, this is now back in place and we went on the hunt for drive bay covers. While we turned up far more 5.25 inch ones than we needed, there remains a 3.5 inch one missing. Thomas decided that the noise reduction was sufficient for his purposes, though it remains considerably louder than the dual fans were on the previous processor.

-oOo-

Dangerous Days for the Internet by John Bottoms

The EU's hook into internet control is "hate speech." Buried in its prohibitions on racial prejudice is an attempt to outlaw sites which "deny, minimize, approve or justify crimes against humanity," which could easily include critics of the US War on Terrorism.

The Chinese government is using a deadly fire at an underground Beijing internet café to enforce the licensing of such establishments, including identification of all users and records of which sites they visit. Of course, the dangerously limited egress and locked doors of the café were only needed to allow the patrons to momentarily escape the prying eyes of the government, which may have started this most convenient of fires.

The Saudi government, probably the world's leading internet censor, has spent the last two years ensuring that all internet traffic flows through state-controlled bottlenecks, where they can deny access to "unsuitable" websites.

Responding to the recent Moscow theater hostage crisis, our Russian "allies" have implemented a policy of shutting down news media which don't tow the party line "during terror crises" like the recent incident.

Meanwhile, our Australian friends continue their journey to the dark side, now threatening to block their citizens' access to websites used to organize political protests, part of a major national crackdown on internet "crime."

And what of the US in these days of Ashcroftian zero tolerance?

Here too, there are signs of growing government impatience with internet freedom. Back in early 2001, our government's interests leaned toward using the internet as a tool of freedom, funding "Triangle Boy" software to help Chinese users bypass their government's restrictions on internet access. But times have changed, and funding for the project was cancelled shortly after 9-11.

Full story here

Thought for the day:

If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

John Stuart Mill

Current Listening:

King Crimson -- USA


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Thursday 21 November 2002

Some years ago, Bill Gates had a problem: unwanted telephone callers. Yes, that Bill Gates. Now that's got your attention! The Git's willing to bet you never thought you would have something in common with The "Evil Emperor" ;-)

BillG maintains a telephone number purely for private calls from a Trusted Few. Of course the Trusted Few probably numbers in the hundreds. While that's surmise, BillG was lamenting the logistics of the phone number change whenever it "leaked" and became public knowledge. He would briefly be inundated with unwanted calls and that would be followed by a period during which the trusted few could not contact him until they had received the new number from him.

"Wot's that got to do with me?" The Git hears you asking. Well, The Git thought about the similarity to his own situation the other day when he received several telephone calls, all asking him for his money in one way or another. Note that we have a directory listing for both Mr and Mrs Git and that calls to the mobile are automatically switched through to the house phone, so any organisation telephoning at random calls three times. The number of these calls is increasing rapidly, not to mention a veritable flood-tide of email, but more on the latter later.

BillG, while having a justified reputation for throwing hissy fits that make more than mere maidens blush, not to mention diving head-first down stairs while under the influence of marijuana, also possesses a fine mind. When he talks about solutions to a problem, it does well to listen to a man that some of us remember as the underdog -- the Mouse that not only roared, but eventually sent IBM scampering in fear and donned the discarded Lion's costume.

The nub of BillG's proposal for the unwanted caller problem, which he rightly perceived as a problem common to many, if not most of us, was to erect a minor barrier between the caller and the recipient. To make the exposition clearer, and in deference to the originator of the idea, The Git will refer the receiver of calls as His Majesty. The caller will be simply The Caller

When a Caller phones His Majesty, one of several things may happen. If the Caller's phone number is on The List of the Blessed, the call just goes straight through to His Majesty. If the Caller is one of The Great Unblessed, he or she is presented with a recorded message:

Be aware that in order to be connected to His Majesty, you will be automatically billed $X. His Majesty apologises for any inconvenience, but if your message is of sufficient importance to be worth listening to, He may choose to cancel the automatic payment. Please press zero then hash to continue. To terminate this call, just press hash, or hang up. Thank you for your time and patience.

When His Majesty picks up the phone, one of several things may happen: 

His Majesty has a conversation with a regular Caller -- no new action required. 

The Caller is a chancer trying to sell penis enlargement, videos of teenage girls having sex with barnyard animals, shares in non-existent American companies etc -- His Majesty hangs up and is content in the knowledge that his next telephone bill will be $X smaller! 

The Caller is the girl with pigtails from high school -- the one who used to play with His Majesty's willy in history class. His Majesty keys his PIN on the numeric keypad of the phone and presses hash to cancel the debit to Ms Willy Tugger's account, while fervently hoping Her Majesty will be home late from the PTA meeting.

This basic idea, embellished a little here by The Git, was proposed by BillG before most telephone exchanges were run completely by software. It might even have been before Al Gore invented the Internet! If implemented today, OK tomorrow then, His Majesty would have access to his List of the Blessed via the Internet, making updating it a simple matter. There could also be some variables for the treatment of Callers. For instance, Australian Majesties could have the option to make $X be $10X, or even $100X for stupid wankers calling from the US of A at 4 am in the morning!

The Git knows that the bright among you (and who apart from Anonymous Idiot is not?) have raced ahead to The Git's thrilling extension of BillG's Master Plan for making Nice Ordinary People a little richer, and Anonymous Idiots a little poorer. Of course, The Git is referring to email and The Problem of Spam and Other Unwanted Messages.

The Git notes that implementing the email solution will require a system called micropayments -- backgrounder here. There's a rumour afoot that BT is considering something remarkably similar to micropayments and has several DayNoters scrambling for their keyboards to assist the decision-makers to realise that a full-blown micropayments system would be A Great Money Spinner, not just for the hoi polloi, but also whoever collects and disburses those payments. What better organisation than a telco, who already has the infrastructure in place for creating bills from hundreds of tiny debits?

Given BillG's remarkable prescience about a situation affecting His Majesty eventually affecting us all, it surprises The Git that he has never followed the idea to its logical conclusion. Too busy attempting to create a Worldwide Monopoly, I guess :-)

Thought for the day:

Why weep or slumber America 
Land of brave and true 
With castles and clothing and food for all 
All belongs to you

Ev'ry man a king ev'ry man a king 
For you can be a millionaire 
But there's something belonging to others 
There's enough for all people to share 
When it's sunny June and December too 
Or in the winter time or spring 
There'll be peace without end 
Ev'ry neighbor a friend 
With ev'ry man a king

Randy Newman (after Huey Long)

Current Listening:

Randy Newman -- Good Old Boys


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Friday 22 November 2002

How to Oppress Wimmin

Antonia Feitz once wrote: "Feminists have no interest in the truth. They even deny it exists. Objective truth, logic, standards of evidentiary proof, linear thinking are all dismissed as the 'White Male System' of rationality which is in no way superior to other ways of knowing." That definitely means all the characters in today's Diatribe, alive, dead, or merely coughing up blood, are coincidental and should not be construed. 

One of The Git's friends is apparently oppressing his wife. The evidence for this is that he is a fundamentalist Christian. While nominally an evangelist, he has never in all the years he has been The Git's friend, tried to impose his views on anyone. Discuss them, yes, but he is an individualist and respects others' rights to their own point of view. Even though he apparently believes that refusing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as your saviour condemns you to die for ever, rather than being resurrected into a life of eternal bliss, it's your choice. End of story.

Let's call my friend Tony and look at how he came to be an "oppressor of wimmin". When The Git first met him some fifteen years ago, Tony was a Sensitive New Age Guy. He even met his Sensitive New Age Wife at Findhorn. Tony and his SNAW created two lovely young girls, whereupon his SNAW bolted, leaving him to bring up their two baby girls. The rumour among the SNAW-brigade was that he had murdered her. The Git phoned the bus company and the driver mysteriously recalled Tony's SNAW catching the bus after she had been murdered, and that fact caused the rumour to eventually die down after it had been milked for all it was worth.

Tony preferred to hand-rear his two children, rather than farm them out, so he gave up work to become a house-husband. Australia is a welfare state, so Tony went to the appropriate government department who said that they could grant him Unemployment Benefit, but not a Deserted Wives' Pension. The reason given was that he was not a deserted wife and while that was nominally true, it was an indubitable fact that he had been deserted and left to care for two young children. The UB required him to actively seek work and Tony would undoubtedly have found work almost immediately. He is an exceptionally honest, hard-working man of manifest practical talents. So, UB would require him to either cheat, and that is not in his nature, or farm the children out to what is laughingly known as a "carer".

When the bureaucratic idiot became adamant that there was no way Tony was going to receive the Deserted Wives' Pension on the grounds of him having been born male, Tony excused himself. He carefully explained to the older of the two girls that he would never, under any circumstances, ever desert them, but that what he was about to say and do might make it look like he was. Tony then announced that he would accept the bureaucrat's decision and started to walk out the door.

The bureaucrat called out that he was forgetting to take the children with him. Tony replied that was certainly not the case. He had accepted that since he was clearly not entitled to the additional income of the Deserted Wives Pension, he was more than a little sadly leaving his daughters to be cared for by the bureaucrat! He couldn't possibly care for them adequately on the UB, nor was he prepared to leave them at home to care for themselves. To cut this part of the story short, Tony succeeded in obtaining the income he needed to keep himself and his daughters fed, clothed and healthy.

A period of many months -- likely more than a year -- passed, and Tony's SNAW returned. Except she was no longer a SNAW, she had become a Born Again Evangelical Christian. The solution to their marital problems, she announced, was for Tony to become a BAEC as well. As instructed, Tony got down on his knees and prayed to God. While The Git wasn't privy to that conversation with God, he suspects it went something like this:

Tony: If I accept Jesus as my saviour, will I get to play hide-the-sausage with my wife?

God: Tony, if you don't accept Jesus as your saviour, I'll make sure that you don't get to play hide-the-sausage with anyone for a long time to come!

Call The Git a cynic if you will, but in his long experience, most men, most of the time, are willing to do almost anything a woman they desire demands in order to play hide-the-sausage with her. And no! The Git is not accusing Tony of hypocrisy -- it's not in his nature. He dutifully became an avid reader of The Bible and threw himself wholeheartedly into the local church community. Sadly, The Git saw little of him for some years during this period. Mrs Git was, according to Tony's wife, an Evil Manipulator of some sort and The Git may well have been, too, though he has no evidence for this.

Tony returned to work, but he continued to be as frugal as before, preferring to milk his own goat, bake his own bread, hew his own firewood... to the expensive, though inferior store-bought stuff. He carefully worked only the necessary hours to earn what the family needed to eat well, be comfortable and pay for the bits and pieces to complete the renovation of the house he owned. Tony believes firmly in the idea that life with the family is far more important than earning money to merely keep up with The Joneses. The Git notes in passing that Tony is an avid reader, a habit his daughters have come to share, not to mention enjoying music, fishing, learning useful mechanical skills etc.

Since Tony and The Git have become close once more, it has become clearer and clearer that his marriage is... well... not working well. His wife is most unhappy with her lot, while he is happy with his, though he fervently wishes he had a wife that shared his life in a more meaningful way. To be completely honest, The Git would have thrown out Mrs Git long ago had she behaved even half as badly as Tony's wife! But Tony takes his marriage vows incredibly seriously. Here is a list of how Tony "oppresses" his wife:

In all fairness to Tony's wife, The Git must say that she provided home-schooling for the girls for the first few of their school years. When the girls commenced attending the local school, they were both considered to be well above average in their scholastic achievements.

The Git had thought through this long tale of fifteen years while conversing about Tony's wife's "oppression" with Mrs Git. Prefacing his remark with: "Don't take this as volunteering for extra duties, but..." The Git said: "You work a full-time job and manage to do more household chores than she does! How come if she is oppressed, you're not?"

Much to The Git's relief, Mrs Git didn't accuse him of being a White, Anglo-Saxon-Protestant, Male, Oppressor of Wimmin. But the look in her eye told The Git that when it comes to a comparison with Tony, he falls considerably short of Tony's heroic achievements in the household chores line.

Thought for the day:

An ideological movement is a collection of people many of whom could hardly bake a cake, fix a car, sustain a friendship or a marriage, or even do a quadratic equation, yet they believe they know how to rule the world.

Kenneth Minogue

Current Listening:

The Ovarian Sisters -- Beat Your Breasts


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Saturday 23 November 2002

Due to circumstances beyond our control, this service is to be interpreted -- in other words, possibly down for a day, or so. That being the case, The Git's taking a break until Monday local time (Sunday on the USian side of the International Dateline).

While the decorators are in, you might want to read some of Graham Strachan's pithy commentary on matters global and Australian. There's also a page of links here.

The Git is mindful of being short of ideas to write about of late, a sure sign he hasn't been reading enough. And that's what he plans to do for a couple of days...

Thought for the day:

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity.

Christopher Morley

Current Listening:

The ABC Orchestra -- A Symphony of Australian Birds


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Sunday 24 November 2002

See Saturday's post!

Thought for the day:

 

Current Listening:

 


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