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 16 December 2002

The Git was persuaded in 1970 that becoming vegetarian, as well as being better from a spiritual point of view, was better for his health and wellbeing. After a year of vegetarianism and no apparent change in his health and wellbeing, The Git returned to a more normal diet. The Git notes that a normal diet for him consists of plenty of fresh garden vegetables: potatoes, carrots, brassicas, onions, garlic, peas and beans, as well as pulse, cereal and meats.

The Git was thinking about this as he is reading Our Stolen Future: A Scientific Detective Story -- Are We Threatening our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival? co-authored by Dr. Theo Colburn, Dianne Dumanoski and Dr. John Peterson Myers. The basic thesis of the book is that organochlorine pesticides, PCBs and dioxin are more of a threat as hormone mimics than as carcinogens.

There's an overview of the book's themes and excerpts here.

"Hormone Havoc examines the tragedy of what can go wrong if the hormonal control of development is disrupted. It explores the classic case of diethylstilbestrol, or DES, a synthetic estrogen invented in 1938 and subsequently used by physicians to manage difficult pregnancies. Research ultimately revealed that not only did DES not help pregnancies, it did cause severe damage to individuals exposed to DES when their mother was treated while they were in the womb. Some of the impacts involved rare cancers, deformed fallopian tubes, and increased risk of endometriosis. In most cases, the DES impacts were not detected until after the victim had passed through puberty, even though exposure took place in the womb.

The DES case is particularly instructive because it proved definitively that the human body could mistake a synthetic compound for a hormone, with tragic results. It is also important because it reinforced the value of animal experiments in understanding human vulnerability. Time and again as scientists explored the impacts of DES on animals exposed experimentally in the laboratory, the results of these experiments anticipated human impacts.

Fifty Ways to Lose Your Fertility explores key aspects of the ways that hormones work to control development, particularly the interaction of a hormone with its receptor. This interaction is crucial to understanding one of the best understood forms of endocrine disruption, when a hormone imposter like DES or DDT binds with the estrogen receptor. It was once thought that hormone-receptor binding was very specific, like a lock and key. Research has now shown that hormone receptors not nearly as discriminating as this old perception indicated. Many synthetic compounds bind with human hormone receptors.

Building on this basic information, the chapter then examines what is known about the impacts of various hormone mimics on reproduction and fertility. It describes work by Dr. Earl Gray (US EPA) who has studied how some synthetic chemicals disrupt male development by interacting with the receptor that normally binds testosterone, the androgen receptor. An important lesson from Gray's work is that hormone disruption is not limited to the estrogen system. Virtually every hormone-receptor interaction is vulnerable. If a disruptor hasn't yet been found for a particular hormone system among the 70,000-odd chemicals in modern use, it's probably because no one has looked very thoroughly.

How much of a synthetic chemical does it take to disrupt hormone levels and do lifelong harm? This question is at the heart of the debate over the potential risks inherent in endocrine disruption. Research on dioxin summarized in this chapter indicates that an exceedingly tiny amount, so small and so brief that it defies the imagination to contemplate, is enough to alter the course of development, if exposure takes place in the womb.

The Git recalled that soya products contain rather large amounts of phytoestrogens. Did these materials pose a similar threat to health? Sure enough, there seems to be plenty of evidence for this:

Twelve years ago, I visited an alternative health practitioner with some non-specific health symptoms. I'd hardly sat down before he told me that my diet needed radical attention - I had to cut out all dairy, wheat, alcohol and caffeine, and substitute protein in the form of soya milk and tofu instead. Nowadays this kind of advice is routine, but at the time, it seemed glamorously radical: I had to trek to Clapham's one health-food shop to stock up on soya milk because Sainsbury's certainly didn't have their own brand (as they do now) and veggie/soya sausages were just a glint in Linda McCartney's eye.

In the event, I lost a stack of weight and felt immensely rejuvenated. So much so that, four months later, I started eating normally again. Just as well, because it has now been found that soya - far from having the magical, health-giving properties that the alternative medicine brigade endlessly bangs on about - can actually be bad for you. Its reputation as an anti-cancer, cholesterol-lowering, osteoporosis-fighting, low-fat all round good egg of a product is based on bad science and superlative marketing by the powerful soya industry.

Worldwide, the evidence is starting to stack up against soya. In this country, MAFF is so worried about the possible health problems of phytoestrogens in soya that they are funding a rolling programme of 19 separate research projects, due to end in 2002. Preliminary findings by Professor John Ashby of AstraZeneca Central Toxicology Laboratory in Macclesfield, for example, confirm that soya infant formula (currently the sole food of 6,500 British babies) has an oestrogenic effect on rats. According to public health minister Yvette Cooper, no new advice will be given on soya until the independent COT (Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment) has reviewed the programme's findings.

This could take several years. Meanwhile, if you've been seduced by the message that soya is the healthy 21st-century superfood, read on...

Is soya bad for you?

It contains high quantities of various toxic chemicals, which cannot be fully destroyed even by the long cooking process. These are: phytates, which block the body's uptake of minerals; enzyme inhibitors, which hinder protein digestion; and haemaggluttin, which causes red blood cells to clump together and inhibits oxygen take-up and growth. Most controversially of all, soya contains high levels of the phytoestrogens (also known as isoflavones) genistein and daidzein, which mimic and sometimes block the hormone oestrogen.

Article by Jane Phillimore in The Observer here.

The human fertility rate for Australia is projected to fall to 1.6 by 2008 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This is significantly below that necessary for replacement. "Based on the present likely trends in fertility and mortality, a net migration level of 80,000 per annum is now required to achieve long-term zero growth of the Australian population." (Population Futures for Australia and New Zealand: An Analysis of the Options -- Peter McDonald and Rebecca Kippen). Is this primarily caused by a reluctance of Australian women to bear children as some pundits would have it? Or is it a symptom of the chemical assaults described by Dr. Theo Colburn et alia: 

"What does the future hold? The science of endocrine disruption is uncertain. Animal studies identify many plausible risks. Some data on people support them. For the most part, however, the crucial human studies have not been carried out. To do so carefully and definitely will take decades. We must ask, nonetheless, whether a series of disturbing social and behavioral problems have their roots in the impacts of contamination on human development. Are falling SAT scores linked to intrauterine exposure? What about global declines in sperm count? Or increases in societal levels of aggression. All these endpoints--cognitive, behavioral, reproductive--are shown vulnerable in animal studies to exposure to endocrine disruption. What can we conclude for people?"

The science fiction that The Git enjoyed so much as a teenager and young adult: Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein etc, never prepared him for this scenario. Will our womenfolk and select male breeders need to be kept in special isolation from the environment in order for the human race to survive?


From my friend Tim Gadd:

I very much liked the British column you quoted, re. Bush and the Iraq situation. Apart from making me laugh several times (which isn't easy to do these days) it echoed many of my own thoughts on the topic.

For a contrast, here is a rather more worrying editorial, from yesterday's Washington Post:


Everyone is entitled to their opinion of course, but this isn't how I'm used to thinking of The Washington Post. Don't they have a reputation for independent thinking? Weren't they the blokes who uncovered Watergate? I have intelligent friends in the US who speak highly of them, and read the online version of TWP every day, so it bothers me a lot when I see a supposedly free-thinking newspaper banging the war drum, and sounding decidedly jingoistic.

I've seen something like the same pattern among some US friends. Someone who I consider to be one of the most objective, clear-thinking and non-partisan people I've ever known told me recently that, though he could see that Bush's behaviour over the whole Iraq situation was cynical and hypocritical, he wasn't sure that he could fault him on it. Ordinarily I'm sure this friend would fault anyone who they suspected of being cynical or hypocritical. Are intelligent Americans being sucked in by war propaganda, or am I being an obstinate malcontent who can't see the woods for the trees, or the bushes, or whatever?

Bush Jr. is the first American president I can remember who scares me.

Not even Reagan scared me when he was sabre-rattling against the Soviets, because I don't think many of us, during the Cold War, really thought that either superpower would actually be insane enough to initiate a nuclear exchange. We generally thought that a third world war, if it happened, would come about accidentally (this thinking obviously prevailed throughout the Cold War, as evidenced by films like Fail Safe and Dr Strangelove (1963) right up to War Games (1982)). GWB is different. He scares me not necessarily because he's madder than Reagan, but because the world situation has changed sufficiently over the past 10 years that someone that mad might think they could lob Nukes around in the interests of Imperialism and actually 'get away with it'.

I gather for instance, that Bush is ready to nuke one of our neighbours if, let's say, someone unleashed smallpox in Sydney. This is very nice of him, but I'd hope he'd at least ask whether we minded first. It's less than clear to me who he would nuke, in any event. It's not like a Malaysian airforce jet is going to fly over Sydney harbour crop-dusting the stuff. It would take quite a long time to work out which government, if any, were directly or indirectly involved with such an action. What would this entail? Would the US hold off nuking Malaysia until it had sifted through 12,000 pages of intelligence reports, and would the Malaysians sit back and trust them to reach a fair conclusion? Actually, more likely Iraq would just cop it, since it was almost certainly something to do with Iraq (this reminds me of Atilla the Stockbroker's 'Iraqi Invaders From Hell', which was actually written during the first Gulf War, but still strikes a chord)

"If your telly goes wrong or your car won't start 
You can bet your life that we played our part 
If your team doesn't win or you miss the bus 
Then ten-to-one it's all down to us 
If a dog runs off with your copy of The Sun 
And brings it back with the crossword done 
If someone smacks you in the head 
Or you find a terrapin in your bed 
We we did it! And everything else as well 
'cause we're Iraqi Invaders from Hell"

(In fact that song originally dated from 1985, when it was called 'Libyan Students from Hell'. It seems very durable)

Sad to say though, as an Australian, if there's someone who scares me more than George Bush, it's John Howard. This is a rather bizarre concept. It's a bit like being scared by Winnie the Pooh. Nevertheless, through a combination of his excruciating forelock-tugging to the USA, and his monumentally ill-advised sabre-rattling against our neighbours* (which I believe to be easily the worst foreign relations catastrophe to befall Australia in my lifetime**), we are left feeling rather insecure. A bit like you're sitting in a bar in Harlem, congratulating yourself on getting on ok with the locals, and some short, fat white idiot with an Australian flag T-shirt walks in and calls the bartender 'boy'.

* In fact, though he didn't back down from his statements, Howard did clarify that they weren't directed against our neighbours. Beats me: perhaps they were directed against Denmark.

** For the record, this includes Jim Cairns' and various cabinet ministers calling Nixon and Kissinger 'mass murderers' and 'maniacs', and Whitlam reading the riot act to the American ambassador who was sent to make him apologise for telling Nixon off about the bombing of Hanoi. I suppose this upset the Nixon administration rather a lot, and certainly got them more interested in getting Whitlam booted out than they already were, but it's hard not to look back on the incident with affection.

Say what you will about Whitlam, but his three years in power were certainly a colourful interlude during our century of forelock tugging to Britain and America.

I can't think of anything to add to that!


I recently wrote to my sister:

Much to my horror, I just realised that I don't know our grandfather's Christian name! Is it my memory, or that our Grandmother never referred to him in any conversation I can recall and our mother only referred to him as our grandfather or as her father? I'm shocked! Shocked I tell you! ;-)

She replied in today's email: "It's Arthur you silly git!"

That's one of my cousin's name, and since there's no link in my memory between the two, my surmise is that I had never heard my grandfather referred to as Arthur! He died some years before The Git was born.

Thought for the day:

What luck for the rulers that men do not think.

Adolph Hitler

Current Listening:

Kraftwerk -- Ralf and Florian


Tuesday 17 December 2002

One thing that amuses The Git is the perceived need by some to invent reasons to hate Microsoft. It's not as if there were any shortage of valid reasons these days. 

When The Git purchased his first PC, it came with MS DOS 2.1. He wanted to upgrade, or purchase MS DOS 3.2, at that time the latest version, but couldn't. The fact is, MS didn't sell OSs to the public and the only alternative, purchase of an upgrade, was impossible since the manufacturer of the 2nd hand PC was no longer in business.

The choice was to either purchase DR DOS, which is what The Git did, or pirate a copy of MS DOS. His third machine came bundled with MS DOS 3.3, but having been spoilt by the better OS, The Git ran DR DOS and JP Software's 4DOS command processor.

Of course most people just pirated their OS, just as they pirated most of their applications. There were more computers than total applications sold, which gives some indication of how much people preferred outright theft to purchasing software! Quite how MS is to blame for this state of affairs, The Git remains unsure, but blaming a company that refused to sell to OSs to Joe Public for the demise of rival OSs doesn't make any sense.

MS DOS 5 doesn't count by the way as it was only sold to the public as an upgrade and you couldn't upgrade DR DOS to MS DOS 5 (in Australia anyway). In any event, it would have been more of a downgrade than an upgrade, so The Git can't remember being at all upset.

While (almost) everyone raved about how wonderful MS DOS 6 was, those of us using DR DOS were bemused by all the fuss over what we had enjoyed for years. And this was the first version of MS DOS that Microsoft sold to Joe Public.

If anyone is to blame for the demise of Digital Research's fortunes, it's the stinking thieves who preferred theft to legitimate purchase. Maybe those who so vehemently accuse Microsoft of immoral conduct should look to their own conduct during the first decade of pervasive personal computing! And no, the fact that you "couldn't afford it" is no excuse. The Git can't afford a new Toshiba 22 inch monitor, but that doesn't legitimise his stealing one!


The power supply pack for the flatbed scanner died. The transformer is open circuit. Ascertaining the latter is The Git's excuse for posting a day late. That and virtually the whole of the day being spent with a friend he rarely sees using the transparency scanner. We had a great chinwag and The Git got to admire his friend's Minolta Dimage 7i digital camera. Sadly, his friend forgot to bring along the cable, so there are no pix to show you.

Thought for the day:

History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten.

George Santayana

Current Listening:

Mark Gillespie -- Only Human


Wednesday 18 December 2002

"Born April, 1987. Died Dec. 10, 2002. Cause of death: neglect. Place of death: Armonk, New York. Next of kin: none. Attending funeral: nobody. Official announcement appeared on IBM Website." Thus quoth John C Dvorak.

As is usual with The Git's experiences, they are different to a lot of other people's. With OS/2, it's the fact that until recently, the only OS/2 installation that he had success with was on a true blue IBM PS/1. Nothing remarkable about that, he hears you remark. The remarkable thing here is that OS/2 came preinstalled on the machine, something the pundits declare never happened. That machine was a 33 MHz 486 with 4 MB of RAM, and far from OS/2 being stable, it crashed badly from time to time, each time necessitating a complete reinstall.

Being charitable, The Git is prepared to admit the slowness was largely down to the lack of RAM and an especially slow hard disk. The OS probably could have been repaired by someone more experienced with OS/2 and that's where The Git had real problems. On several occasions over the years, The Git would attempt to install OS/2 on one of his own machines. Not, he hastens to add, the copy that came with his client's IBM PS/1, but his very own copy of OS/2 Warp. It never worked! It was a complete waste of money!

Some time ago, The Git acquired a free copy of OS/2 Warp 4, and with the assistance of a reader of these pages, finally succeeded in installing OS/2 on one of his own machines. This of course was several years too late for him to make any contribution to reversing the inevitable demise of an interesting OS that was far ahead of its time. If nothing else, it presaged the arrival of what for a long while seemed like an endless series of uninstallable Linux distributions.

Rather than rehash the reasons for OS/2's demise, The Git leaves you to follow the Dvorak link should that interest you.

Yesterday, The Git wrote of the silliness of some blaming MS for the many ills that have beset its rivals. Yes, Microsoft is evil/stupid [delete whichever is inapplicable], but its rivals were even more stupid/evil [delete whichever is inapplicable] and it's difficult to lay the entire blame for that at Microsoft's door. Conspiracy theories aside, why did Microsoft succeed with an arguably inferior OS to its rivals?

It's an incontrovertible fact that, with very few exceptions, people do not purchase a computer to run an OS. They purchase a computer to run applications. A command prompt may be fascinating to some, but the rest of us want to process words, do our sums and keep lists. For most, the opportunity to do that arrived with copies of the IBM PC.

IBM's stupidity in not patenting its first foray into the personal computer market set the stage for the proliferation of affordable and ubiquitous computers. Despite manifest shortcomings, the OS they chose, DOS, was easy to program for and those apps ran readily on most machines. Lotus 1-2-3 led the charge and was quickly followed by a huge number of available productivity tools. In the late 1980s, personal computers went from being techie toys to truly useful in a rush.

There were three major flies in the ointment and it's clear that almost everyone knew what they were. Only Microsoft took the longer view and did anything significant about all three.

The first major issue was that nearly everything we did in those days was output to a printer. DOS had no provision for printer drivers -- they came bundled with your application. When The Git purchased his HP DeskJet 500, before his word processor could talk to it, he had to write a printer driver! His word processor, Borland's Sprint, came out before the DJ500 and Borland in its wisdom told The Git he couldn't expect them to write a printer driver for every tin-pot printer that came out. The Git is adamant that he is not a programmer, and the driver he wrote was, in a word, crap! It worked, but only just and took considerable effort to create. Eventually, he discovered one written by a Frenchman, using French dialogs, but in the days before ubiquitous Internet access, finding such things was difficult. 

The second major issue was task-switching. If you were word-processing and a query came in on the phone requiring access to your database, or spreadsheet, you had to quit the application you were running and launch the required application -- a time-consuming process. There were workarounds: DesqView for instance. But it was expensive and many applications misbehaved badly under it.

The third major issue was lack of a uniform command-set between applications. The command to print in one application might be the command to quit without saving in another. This severely limited the number of applications anyone had time to learn and become truly productive with. The Git remembers people word processing with a spreadsheet as a better solution than attempting to learn Word Perfect. He knows people who spent more on Word Perfect training than they spent on their computer, printer and Word Perfect combined. Still, they had difficulties coming to grips with it though this was partially a result of the sheer power available in Word Perfect.

All of these issues were readily solved by purchasing either an Amiga, or a Mac. The Amiga never attracted serious productivity application programmers, though it made up for this by pushing the envelope for games. The Mac was a serious solution for many, BUT it required a serious amount of up-front money. When The Git purchased his Zenith 286 for $A3,000, a decent Mac cost two, or three times as much. The alternatives were a PC with legitimate apps versus a Mac with pirated apps. There was a golden opportunity here for Apple to either have boosted its sales volume by dropping the price of its hardware, or developing a cut-down version of Mac OS for the PC. The latter would certainly have driven many to reconsider purchasing a Mac once they realised the productivity gains to be made.

Microsoft's release of the first halfway decent version of Windows, version 3.0, changed all of the above. It provided printer drivers in the OS, releasing users from the necessity of writing their own printer drivers, or upgrading an application to obtain a printer driver. It provided a uniform method for using applications and it allowed not just task-switching, but multi-tasking as well when that was required. The downside was that it required a substantially more expensive hardware investment to run at all well, it was buggy, crash-prone and there was a dearth of applications written for it.

Almost to a man, the pundits roundly jeered at Microsoft Windows. Indeed, I seem to recall John C Dvorak writing that if he wanted an expensive, slow, crash-prone machine, he might as well buy a Mac. Windows, it was declared, was a nine-day wonder. Like most people, programmers believe what they read and staunchly refused to learn the new programming techniques required to write Windows applications. Microsoft, to give it due credit, gave the Software Development Kit away for free in the thousands. Nevertheless, it was only Microsoft's own programmers who initially wrote applications for Windows and BillG himself has admitted that was only because they were given no choice.

The Git remembers being scoffed at for running Windows 3.0 with WinWord 2, PageMaker 3 and Excel 3. By today's standards, or the Mac user of the day, it was only barely adequate, but within a remarkably short period of time, it was a rare machine that wasn't running Windows for Workgroups on a "free" network with virtual memory for those too stupid, or poor to invest in an adequate amount of RAM. Microsoft, the programming language company had by default, become an applications programming company.

To be fair, The Git would like to point out that Word Perfect went to some lengths to provide printer drivers for its flagship word processor. The downside to Word perfect for DOS was its arcane keyboard commands. There was a perfectly good set that WordStar used and live on still in various editors The Git uses from time to time. Word Perfect Corp's big mistake was releasing the worst application The Git has ever used -- Word Perfect 5 for Windows. It crashed regularly when attempting to print, or spell check. It ignored the letter-spacing information in font files and substituted its own in order to produce the ugliest printed output he has ever seen! Word Perfect 6 was a dramatic improvement and for some time, it was The Git's word processor of choice, but it was too little, too late..

Despite its manifest record of overly aggressive business tactics, Microsoft did something that none of its rivals chose to do. It provided users with a good enough user interface, good enough apps and the right price.

Sticking his neck out, The Git is willing to surmise that the main reason for Microsoft's success was because from around 1982, the company had a simple, unifying vision: Windows on every desktop computer. While Jim Manzi at Lotus was giving himself a $5 million pay rise, Steve Jobs was creating a second insanely great computer company, Apple was obsessed with its share price, Commodore failed to notice the potential of the Amiga and IBM believed it owned corporate computing, Microsoft kept its vision. The corollary to this is that now Microsoft actually has Windows on every desktop computer, it has failed to come up with a new vision. It shows! And Microsoft seems intent on repeating most of the mistakes of its lost-in-the-dust rivals.

Thought for the day:

Every man who accomplishes things sees first in his mind what he wishes to do. He puts away all doubt. It makes no difference how small or how large the thing you want to do may be; if you have an unlimited confidence in your ability to do it, you will do it.

Charles Fillmore

Current Listening:

Brian Eno -- Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy


Thursday 19 December 2002

The Git is most gratified that the growth in readership of this site has been around 10% per month for several months now. Paradoxically, some of my newer readers are old friends and quite a few of my regular readers have become friends. Some days, the amount of correspondence seems almost overwhelming, but it's frequently thought-provoking and often moving. Very little of that correspondence makes it into these pages, not because it's uninteresting, far from it, but The Git respects confidentiality. He publishes nothing he receives privately without permission.


One new reader calls herself by the intriguing name: The Weedy Lady, and she has her own website devoted to creating email greetings. Correspondence with The Weedy Lady stimulated me to think of something a bit beyond a greetings card as a Christmas gift for my readers. Here, you will find three of my drawings of Tasmanian historic sites formatted for printing on any run-of-the-mill laser, or inkjet printer. They are unadorned with copyright notices, but please exercise some common-sense and contact me if you think you can make commercial use of those images. The Git is far from greedy and understands that his share from any commercial use is going to be smaller than an entrepreneur who puts the major effort in.

Thought for the day:

To usurp property legitimately acquired is logically the same as cutting off so many hours from its producer's life.

Herbert Spencer

Current Listening:

J J Cale -- Naturally


Friday 20 December 2002

Heh... Wednesday's post brought out the usual ratbags in their droves. The Git will not bother to reproduce their nonsensical drivel, but rather incense them some more.

When The Git began computing, there was less than one legitimate software package per computer in the whole of Australia. (For the US-centric among my readers, Australia was second only to the US in its eagerness to adopt computers.) That is, most computer users were nothing less than thieves. Those thieves want to have us believe that Microsoft, by overcoming computer users' reluctance to pay for what they were using, were somehow immoral. Personally, The Git believes theft is immoral, but then he's a little old-fashioned.

The "immoral" act that Microsoft did was to persuade some, but by no means all, computer manufacturers to pay a licence fee per computer for MS DOS, regardless of whether the manufacturer supplied a copy, or not. Note that these thieves do not complain that every Mac, every Amiga, every NexT and every BeBox came with a bundled, non-optional OS. The fact that some PC clone manufacturers bundled MS DOS was supposedly, somehow, "immoral". Microsoft's success at obtaining payment for some, but by no means all of its software in use was "immoral".

Suggested experiment: Go to your local car dealer. Make sure you look the part: greasy overalls, wrenches in pockets etc. You are the car equivalent of the computer nerd. Tell the dealer you insist that he sell you a brand new Porsche without a motor because you have a perfectly good enough motor at home that you just happen to have lying around/built yourself.

Consider what might have happened had Microsoft not hit upon their strategy. Where do the thieves think the money to develop Windows and eventually worthwhile applications would have come from? Clearly, the thieves intended it to come from anyone's pockets other than their own!

Please note that The Git believes installing a copy of software to evaluate it before purchase should not be considered in the same light as the piracy referred to above. While Microsoft and other software companies believe, quite correctly, that this loses them some sales, it also gains many more than it loses. This is a lesson that AutoDesk learnt when it introduced copy-protection and saw sales for AutoCAD plummet, the inevitable result of making life easier for the pirate and harder for the legitimate purchaser. It's a lesson that Microsoft will undoubtedly learn in due course, or become a footnote in history. The same applies to the recorded music industry that seems just as intent on self-destruction as Microsoft.

And once more for the terminally stupid, The Git has just as frequently been called anti-Microsoft for insisting that their software has inexcusable, long-term bugs, for using Lotus Word Pro, Word Perfect, Borland's Sprint and FileMaker Pro. Not to mention DR DOS and 4-DOS. Get a life folks. Computing's not worth getting religious about! Computers are more akin to refrigerators than temples of worship. Sometimes The Git needs a refreshing beer, other times a dry martini before dinner followed by chardonnay to go with it. You can stick your politically-correct diet coke/pure spring water [delete whichever is inapplicable] where the sun don't shine :-)


Today The Git is to be thrust into a long narrow tube inside a machine to be bombarded by electromagnetic energy designed to reveal the fine structure of his bones. The purpose of the exercise, apart from making the owner of the machine richer, is to ascertain whether there are any fractures in his spine that might be the cause of the slow return to a relatively pain-free state.

Naturally, The Git is hoping that there will be the opportunity for some bending of the elbow at The Victoria Tavern with friends he hasn't seen for many a month. A little Christmas shopping is called for, but in typical male fashion, that should not take very long at all.

SWMBO decided to take the day off work, so it's unlikely that The Git will get to sit on The Judges Bench today. Pity! The weather is perfect for it!

Thought for the day:

A whore should be judged by the same criteria as other professionals offering services for pay -- such as dentists, lawyers, hairdressers, physicians, plumbers, etc. Is she professionally competent? Does she give good measure? Is she honest with her clients? It is possible that the percentage of honest and competent whores is higher than that of plumbers and much higher than that of lawyers. And enormously higher than that of professors.

Robert Heinlein

Current Listening:

Moody Blues -- A Question of Balance


Saturday 21 December 2002

The Git turned up at the hospital for his spinal bone scan: "I'm here to get nuked!" he announced to the pretty, young girl behind the counter. She laughed as though receptionists in the nuclear medicine department never heard that before. "So much more cheerful here than the public hospital," The Git mused.

The doctor commenced his reassurance speech, so The Git informed him that low-dose radioactive compounds held no fear for him and we turned to more pleasant things, such as our mutual interest in growing wine grapes. The Git got nuked and after a pleasant bacon and eggs breakfast, did some shopping. Thomas already has his Christmas present: the replacement MoBo and CPU he needed some weeks ago. For Marguerite, it was a mint condition copy of Australian Plants for the Garden by Thistle Y Harris, Angus & Robertson 1953. There was a copy of her 1938(?) book, Wild Flowers of Australia there as well, but insufficient funds to buy that classic.

The Git was expecting to be thrust inside of a cavity as in MRI scanning, but it was merely a huge doughnut shaped device. The two scans took some 30 minutes each and the radiographer congratulated me on managing to remain still enough that they did not have to do any repeats!


It was The Git's first visit to The Victoria Tavern for many a month and the new publican, Samantha, cuts a very fine figure of a woman indeed. Upon making his entrance, The Git very nearly fell over however. Set in the floor behind a piece of glass is a violin! Quite why this has been done, apart from frightening patrons like The Git who would be very upset indeed to trample upon a musical instrument that has brought so much pleasure from such an unlikely material as catgut, is beyond The Git's comprehension. Perhaps he shall ask on a less busy day than the last Friday before Christmas and the 20th anniversary celebration of the Centrelink computer staff.

One of the computer department staff is just as incensed with Telstra stupidity above and beyond the imagination of mere mortals as The Git. Guy shares my distaste for driving, preferring to be able to enjoy a drink and be safely transported homeward by public vehicle. When he attempted to sign up for ADSL to replace his ISDN connection at home, he was given two options: either supply his driving license number, or his Australian Business Number. Apparently, if you are not in business for yourself, or a driver, Telstra doesn't want your business! You can just jolly well fuck off!


On Monday the plug pack on my ScanJet 4300c went open circuit, so The Git purchased a generic, switchable, multi-voltage plug pack while he awaits the replacement from HP. The only problem is, there is no indication on the scanner what the polarity of the supply should be. HP refuse to say -- stupid fucking bastards! -- who wants to buy equipment from a manufacturer that refuses to help you use their equipment? Anybody have a clue, or do I have to smash open the old plug pack and try to work it out?

TIA for any help.


The Git's Internet friend, John Harris, moves into his new home Monday. It's a double octagonal edifice on stilts to keep it above the high water mark during hurricanes. Well worth a look if you enjoy unusual architecture. The Git would give very much indeed to be there in person on Monday!


How Perl Powers Christmas by Alex Gough December 18, 2002

You know, it's not easy having the happiness of billions of children around the world resting with your organization, and it's even harder on the IT department. The incorporated elves and pixiefolk of the North Pole, under the direction of their jolly old leader, have to deal with massive quantities of data, huge manfacturing flows and what is possibly the strictest delivery timetable in the world. Despite these challenges Santa and his reindeer have been able to meet their tight deadline and achieve one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in industry.

Thought for the day:

Most "scientists" are bottle washers and button sorters.

Robert Heinlein

Current Listening:

J J Cale -- Really


Sunday 22 December 2002

Thanks to reader John Kopp:

The label on the plug pack may show the polarity of the output connector. I have a 3300C scanner and the label on the power adaptor indicates that the center conductor is positive.

The diagram on the label was very small. The Git had looked in the, to him, logical place -- at the input on the scanner.


From The Atlantic:

In Search of Mr. Right

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, the author of Why There Are No Good Men Left, discusses the challenges facing today's single women, and argues that the contemporary courtship system needs to be transformed

Odds are that the pulled-together young woman you encounter riding up in the elevator, emerging from the gym, or riding the subway wearing sleek professional attire but no wedding ring is struggling to meet someone to spend her life with. The thirty-something woman of today is three times more likely to be single than her counterpart of the 1970s. Indeed, both women and men--particularly those with high levels of education--are staying single far longer into their adult years than in previous eras. For both groups this delayed search for a spouse is a deliberate choice, but the effect of that delay on the two sexes is dramatically different.

For men, the change in timing is merely an incidental matter with few repercussions. For women, however, the delay makes the search more difficult, fraught with anxiety, and shadowed by the possibility of ultimate failure. It is this pervasive anxiety on the part of unmarried young women that explains the current popularity of such movies, television shows, and books as Bridget Jones' Diary, Sex and the City, and Cowboys Are My Weakness, all of which feature thirty-something women struggling to find men.


And from Murray Ball's The Sisterhood:

Murray Ball cartoon

Murray Ball cartoon

Murray Ball cartoon

Murray Ball cartoon


From the Inbox:


From http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/currentview.html#Friday.

<snip>One of those is the Internet: An Australian Court holds that Americans can be sued in Australia under Australian Law for views expressed in the United States and published on the Internet. Australian libel law is stricter (and possibly saner) that US libel law. I say possibly saner because US law does permit one to say some pretty outrageous things, skirting right up to the edge of reckless disregard for the truth -- indeed, crossing that line with the right legal weaseling -- and I have long thought that a bit much. On the other hand, the English and I presume Australian restrictions are too severe: surely I ought to be able to say that the Mayor of Los Angeles seems like a politician and the governor of California is ruthless in his money raising without being afraid that my house will be attached in a libel suit. And of course both those statements, while true enough, would be expensive to "prove" in court.</snip>

Are your politicos so nuts to think that a comment made in the US could be actionable down under? I wonder if Jerry has some bad info here or your leaders are as bad as mine.


The US set the precedent that actions legal in the country where they took place are actionable in the US. This was true before Sklyarov , I believe, in that you could be legally married to a girl that was deemed underage in the US and face statutory rape charges when you entered the US. This in a country that had the age of consent at age seven a century ago in Delaware!

Australian (and British) libel law is an instrument of oppression for the wealthy. I do suspect though that it is not quite as bad as you believe.

Of course our politicians, like yours, are completely insane -- how else could they become politicians? They are also immune to libel actions under what is called "parliamentary privilege". Since their liberal use of this privilege has never yet destroyed those they libel, it exposes the libel laws for what they truly are: a convenient way of silencing one's social inferiors and also making a bit of extra cash.

Hope that helps :-)


Yesterday, SWMBO and I picked walnuts for making walnut pickle. If this year's recipe works well, we might have to think about making a commercial quantity next year. The trees are dripping with nuts now that they are beginning to mature! There are problems with leaving the nuts to ripen. Last year, either parrots or rats got the whole crop just as they ripened. The trees are seedlings rather than a variety selected for nut quality. One of the trees, the larger, has nuts that are difficult to extract the meat from. Better methinks to value add.

Thought for the day:

If [women] understood and exercised their power they could remake the world.

Emily Taft Douglas

Current Listening:

Jessye Norman -- The Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde

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