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 6 January 2003

Apparently a DNS problem has been preventing some people from accessing this website. Thanks to new reader Brad Austin for pointing out the problem so that we could fix it.

One thing I meant to write about last Wednesday is that December was another record month for page reads. Usually, readership drops off markedly during public holidays and weekends, so months like December are below average. The conclusion is that we have gained more readers, so welcome aboard.

Sorry about the lack of posts the last couple of days -- the new gardening book is occupying a lot of my time and we really need to sell the cottage to finance Thomas and The Git's university education.


A correspondent on one of the Lists The Git Subscribes to said regarding The Political Compass

...the US, arguably one of the most right-wing of modern countries is probably the most libertarian as well. So what is the meaning of a test which shows leftists to be libertarian and rightests [sic] authoritarian? I submit it's a preconceived way of scoring which equates things like the death penalty with authoritarianism...

The Git replied:

It's arguable that the prison population of a country is the most convenient measure of liberty given that a fully libertarian country must have, by definition, a prison population of zero.

"More than 8.75 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world, mostly as pre-trial detainees (remand prisoners) or having been convicted and sentenced. About half of these are in the United States (1.93m), Russia (0.96m) or China (1.43m plus pre-trial detainees and prisoners in 'administrative detention').

The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, some 700 per 100,000 of the national population, followed by Russia (665), the Cayman Islands (600), Belarus (555), the US Virgin Islands (550), Kazakhstan (520), Turkmenistan (490), the Bahamas (480), Belize (460), and Bermuda (445).

However, almost two thirds of countries (63%) have rates of 150 per 100,000 or below. (The United Kingdom's rate of 125 per 100,000 of the national population places it at about the mid-point in the World List. Among European Union countries its rate is the second highest, after Portugal's 130.)"


The prison population where I live, Tasmania, was 346/470,000 in 2001, or 74/100,000, considerably less than the national average of 110/100,000.

The correspondent replied:

I don't think you know much of anything about US politics given your other statements. Yes there are both lefties and righties in the Libertarian camp. But we're not talking capital L libertarians here, but the general tendencies. And almost all conservatives want the government out of their lives as much as possible. But protecting the public from criminals is another story. Catching, punishing and if necessary killing criminals isn't an indication of libertarian vs authoritarian tendencies and that's one of the points I've been trying to make...

Perhaps Roy Halliday isn't a US politician, though he certainly makes himself out to be. From Enforceable Rights -- A Libertarian Theory of Justice:

Do we have the right to punish criminals? 

Theories of punishment have been devised, in part, to make criminals "pay for their crimes." According to most theories of retribution, after a criminal has been appropriately punished for his crimes, the slate is wiped clean and he regains his rights. This avoids the problem of people losing their rights forever by setting limits to the number of rights and the kind of rights lost by criminals and by providing a means (punishment) whereby criminals can regain their rights. The general right that underlies punishment can be stated as follows: 

Everyone has the right to his own body and other legitimate property unless he has deliberately violated someone's rights without having been appropriately punished. 

This right allows us to defend our rights against criminals, and it provides a means for criminals to regain their rights, but it lacks clarity. Before we can use this right as a guide to moral action, we must know what punishment is appropriate for each crime, and we must know the history of each person that we deal with, so we can determine what rights he has now and what punishments, if any, are due him. If we don't know these things, we can't know how to deal justly with people in many crucial situations. 

For example, suppose we witness an apparent mugging or rape. We cannot be sure whether we are witnessing a crime or a punishment. If it is a crime, then we can come to the defense of the victim. But if it is a legitimate punishment, it would be wrong to stop it.

If individuals have the right to punish criminals as they see fit, without having to follow easily recognizable procedures, then we cannot distinguish between crimes and punishments when other people do them, and we cannot know when we have the right to intervene. We would have the same problems that we would have if criminals lost all their rights forever: No one would dare risk losing his rights by being a security guard. Only criminals could unite. Criminal gangs would take over, and noncriminals would lose their freedom to be moral agents.

The usual way to solve this problem is by making the punishment of criminals an exclusive right of the state. The agents of the state can wear distinctive uniforms and follow recognizable procedures when they punish people. This allows everyone to tell the difference between crimes and punishments, which, in turn, allows us to know our rights and duties and allows us to cooperate in fighting crime and preventing criminals from taking over society. The general right that underlies state punishment is as follows:

Everyone has the right to his own body and other legitimate property except when he is being punished by the state according to its procedures, after having been found guilty of a crime. 

This solves the problem in the example of the apparent mugger or rapist. Whenever we witness such an attack, we can know that if the attacker is not an authorized agent of the state acting in accordance with the state's rules for punishing criminals, then we are witnessing a crime, and we have the right to come to the defense of the victim. However, this right implies that some agents of the state have the right to punish criminals and that people who are not agents of the state do not have this right. 

A state is an organization of individuals. It is not a moral agent, so it has no rights of its own. The only rights that a state can have are the rights delegated to it by its individual members who are moral agents. Therefore, the state cannot have the right to punish criminals unless its individual members had this right before they created the state and then delegated this right to the state.

If individual moral agents have the right to punish criminals, but they can only exercise this right by proxy after delegating it to an organization that uses distinctive procedures, how can we guarantee that they will all agree to delegate this right to the same organization and follow the same procedures in exercising their right? We can't.

What actually happens around the world is that people are forced to submit to the punishment procedures of many different states, depending on where they happen to live. The different states have different rules for punishing criminals. The kinds of punishments, and, therefore, the rights of criminals, vary from state to state and from time to time. This is not compatible with basic rights, which must be independent of place and time. No theory of punishment that relies on variable state-defined punishments can be compatible with basic rights. Therefore, we must reject the right that underlies state punishment.

Because state-defined punishment is not universal, consistent, and unchanging, any hypothetical right that depends on it cannot be a basic right. And because enforcing punishment privately makes it virtually impossible to distinguish between crimes and punishments, prevents moral people from cooperating to defend each other, and dooms them to live in a society controlled by criminals, we must reject all theories of punishment and look for another solution to the crime problem.

Thought for the day:

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out...without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable. 

H. L. Mencken

Current Listening:

Marc Bolan and T Rex -- Zip Gun


Tuesday 7 January 2003

Yesterday, The Git had to attend the Pre-Enrolment lecture for his university course. It was a barrel of laughs! The first five minutes were spent watching a lecturer unsuccessfully attempt to drive the projection unit with her laptop computer. The next five minutes, we spent watching her attempts to log onto the university computer network with the computer built into the podium. Then we watched her spend five minutes on the telephone while she attempted to contact the computer sysadmins to get a valid login name and password. The Git noted that some 50% of the new students arrived after the start time. Presumably, they are wiser in the ways of the modern education system than us older folk.

Finally, the lecturer decided to give up on the computers and use the whiteboard. Unfortunately, none of the whiteboard markers worked particularly well, so we had to take her word for what she wrote on the whiteboard. In any case, she seemed unable to work the lights that illuminate the whiteboards. My career as a university student could be quite interesting based on my experiences so far.

My good friend Tim Marshall sent me the following amusing email:

OPEC INCREASES PRODUCTION - Petrol prices rise. This is based on a fundamental tenet of our market economy. The heightened demand for tankers disproportionately increases transportation charges.

OPEC DECREASES PRODUCTION - Petrol prices rise. Again, economics at work. Undiminished demand for a scarcer product means prices go up.

THE MIDEAST IS TEMPORARILY AT PEACE - Petrol prices rise. Peace has to be illusory, so storage tanks are filled in anticipation of the worst. Heightened demand raises prices.

THE MIDEAST IS AT WAR - Petrol prices rise. Hoarding increases demand, which means prices go up.

CONSUMERS CONSERVE - Petrol prices rise. Reduced consumption means the refineries are operating well below capacity. This means the unit cost is raised - an increase that must be passed along.

CONSUMERS SPLURGE Petrol prices rise. Oil companies are rendering society a signal service by raising prices in an effort to curb consumption, thereby reducing Western dependence on oil.

CONSUMERS TURN TO SUBSTITUTES - Petrol prices rise. This proven petrol substitute, disturbs the refining process, which means higher costs for all distillates.

THE DOLLAR IS UP - Petrol prices rise. All oil prices are measured in dollars. It doesn't take long for the impact of a stronger dollar to be felt.

THE DOLLAR IS DOWN - Petrol prices rise. Not all contracts sealed on the spot market in Rotterdam are in dollars. Furthermore, it takes a while for wholesale costs to work down to the consumer.

STORAGE TANKS ARE FILLED TO CAPACITY - Petrol prices rise. Large inventories have a depressing effect on profit margins. Oil companies make an enormous contribution by volunteering to store such quantities for potential emergency use. It is only natural that consumers bear some of this cost.

STORAGE TANKS ARE DRY - Petrol prices rise. Huge storage losses were formerly carried as a debit by the oil companies. That is no longer possible.

THE AVERAGE NET PROFIT OF THE OIL COMPANIES ROSE 300 PER CENT OVER THE PREVIOUS YEAR - Petrol prices rise. The figures don't tell the whole story. Actually, the market situation was a bit gloomier, with losses here and there that had to be carried by other divisions.

THE AVERAGE NET PROFIT OF OIL COMPANIES IS ON PAR WITH THE PREVIOUS YEAR - Petrol prices rise. In a free-market economy an entrepreneur can survive only if he maintains an appropriate profit margin.

AN OPEC NATION CUTS ALL EXPORTS BECAUSE OF INTERNAL UNREST - Petrol prices rise. There is less oil in the marketplace, which means prices rise.

AN OPEC NATION THAT HAD BEEN OUT OF THE MARKET RESUMES EXPORTS - Petrol prices rise. The companies, contrary to all free-market laws, had absorbed the inflation this caused. That cannot go on forever.

NEW OIL RESERVES ARE DISCOVERED - Petrol prices rise. To insure future oil supplies, enormous investments have to be made. Production costs are soaring.

SOME OIL FIELDS RUN DRY - Petrol prices rise. It is getting ever more expensive to keep up with demand, which keeps increasing even as oil reserves dwindle.

TWO OIL COMPANIES MERGE- Petrol prices rise. The merger is proof that present prices are an insufficient incentive for companies to go their own way and still survive.

TWO OIL COMPANIES DO NOT MERGE - Petrol prices rise. In stopping the merger the Government has prevented certain economies that joint operations would have entailed. The consequences must be borne by the consumer.


A single, seemingly powerless person who dares to cry out the word of truth and to stand behind it with all his person and all his life, ready to pay a high price, has, surprisingly, greater power, though formally disfranchised, than do thousands of anonymous voters - Vaclav Havel

Then one of the recipients sent the following:

Dear Tim and everyone else

Oil is quite simply running out. We are, in 2003, at, or just past the peak production that the world will ever see.

When something starts to get short, it gets more expensive. All the 'headlines' on your email are true, but are only deckchairs on the sinking Titanic.

I know at least three farmers who are planning on having to pay 4 times more for deisel/petrol within 10 years - their who enterprise is based on this scenario.

David Holmgren's website used to have some useful links to mainstream research on us beinbg past the oil peak . His new websit3e address is www.holmgren.com.au

The links may still be there, haven't looked recently, but David would tell you them anyway.


The Git replied:

Attached graph of known oil reserves versus amount used [source Simon et al EIA, 1997]. 

Known oil reserves versus usage

Note that known is not equal to all reserves as there undoubtedly remain undiscovered reserves. Dr Thomas Gold believes that the estimated amount of undiscovered reserves is at least an order of magnitude greater than current estimates. Interesting paper of his here:


Presumably, you have been reading Dr. Paul Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb" (1968). According to Ehrlich, apart from running out of oil, coal, gas, copper, intelligence etc etc, during the ten year period from 1980 to 1989, four billion people were going to starve to death in the world. Perhaps you should take his advice instead of regaling me with your paranoid fantasies!

Perhaps that was a little harsh, but there's only so much stupidity a Git can take. It didn't help finding this email in the Inbox:

But that's just the point, most of those are things which conservatives are far more likely to support elimination of than liberals. It's the leftists who love the nanny state.

Dave D

----- Original Message ----- From: "Pompous Git" 
Sent: Sunday, January 05, 2003 12:45 PM Subject: RE: Measure of liberty

I don't consider most state-defined crimes to be crimes. Quoting Claire Wolfe:

Still think you're not a criminal? .... Really.

So you've never:- 

... Ever?

Remember, these days you can be convicted of "conspiracy" for crimes you don't even know about, or for buying legal items that might be used for illegal causes. Some acquaintance gets in trouble and needs to snitch on a friend to get his own sentence reduced - and you're toast.

You can even be convicted of violating laws that don't exist - as plenty of "tax criminals" have been. Ask the IRS for copies of the laws you're allegedly breaking and they'll respond with legalistic gobbledegook. I have a friend who once testified as an expert witness in a tax case. Her expertise? Grammar. On the stand, she diagrammed a mega-monster sentence from the tax code and proved the alleged regulation couldn't be obeyed - because it literally had no meaning in the English language. Still, people get arrested for disobeying it.


Jonathan Sturm www.sturmsoft.com The world's most famous Pompous Git according to Google!

The Git was thinking of tying these concepts together when his good friend Tim Gadd sent the following:

For as long as I can remember, whenever budget time rolls around, or whenever governments need to find some money to fund some unusual enterprise, the axe falls with monotonous reliability on three things: health, education and welfare.

My political memory stretches back about thirty years. Although I was nine at the time, I remember Whitlam's first election campaign. I particularly remember that song, It's Time. I'm sure that's why he actually won; he had the best song in the history of Federal politics. I mean, can you remember the Liberal party's song from the last election? I can't. It's Time sounded like something out of Jesus Christ Superstar or Hair. It made me want to vote for him. I thought it was nearly as good as some of the Master's Apprentices stuff.

Anyway, starting the clock from 1975, it seems to me that reliably, every year, out come The Razor Gang, and down go the health, welfare and education budgets. Liberal governments do it savagely, Labour governments do it caressingly, but basically those three areas get hit, year in, year out.

I admit I may have a selective memory in this regard, but no matter how hard I rack my brains, I can't remember a time when a government threw a lot of money at any of these things -- except I've got a vague memory the Tasmanian government in about 1989 might have given some money to the private schools, so St Virgil's could afford a new statue of God or something. But I have to trust my memory: these three areas get hacked -- and they've been hacked relentlessly for as long as I've been old enough to pay attention.

So I got to thinking... back in the 70's, can you imagine how much money must have been tied up in health, education and welfare? They must have been rolling in the stuff. What other interpretation is possible? If you can cut money from a school system for 27 years, and still actually have a school system, what must it have been like in the first place?

I've attempted to reconstruct an image of health, education and welfare in the early to mid 70's.

Education: The average public school student is woken by special government-appointed time-keepers, who then escort them out of their house, where they are collected in a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and driven to school. In this school, the teacher-student ratio is 25 teachers to each student, plus a variety of ancillary staff who juggle coconuts, walk about on their hands, and various other things deemed educational by the Department of Wasting Money. Most of these staff are in fact PhDs from Caltech or Oxford. The school is centrally heated by a vast and inefficient furnace which will only burn money. Wads of $20 bills are continuously shovelled into it. They would have shovelled $50 or $100 bills into it, but these hadn't been invented yet.

School excursions are a favourite with students -- however, instead of putting dozens of children on a bus and driving off to some local attraction or facility, the object of interest is brought to the school. For instance, in 1974, an entire village of Laplanders was brought over to Geilston Bay High School. A huge machine had to be invented to keep 950 acres of ice from melting, and special counsellors were appointed to the reindeer for no apparent reason. Later the same year Rose Bay High School sent several students to The Moon, after a plan to pull it out of its orbit and bring it closer to the Earth was deemed unfeasible, because the only machine capable of doing this was being used at the same time by Sorell Primary School to drain the Pacific Ocean.

And of course who can forget the school dances, where bands like Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin would keep us entertained? In fact The Beatles got back together in 1975 specially to play the National Anthem at assembly one day at Lindisfarne North Primary School. Bear in mind, this was at a time when impoverished private schools like Friends or St Virgils had to make do with an 8-track tape of Sister Janet Mead singing The Lord's Prayer.

Health: Back in 1975, they would pay you to get sick. The base rate for someone with the flu was equivalent to the salary of the entire board of directors of BHP. The more tests, operations and consultations you had to have, the better off you were. For someone who was chronically ill, this would become such a financial embarrassment that they would need some elaborate money laundering scheme to dispose of it all.

Public hospitals were amazing, grandiose things. Some of them were bigger than Sadam Hussein's palaces. A few were bigger than Iraq. When you got better, they insisted on keeping you in hospital for weeks or months, feeding you crayfish and caviar, and checking the growth of your fingernails with a machine that used so much electricity that it was powered by a quantum singularity attended by a team of scientists from Geneva. Also, rather than waiting lists for elective surgery, government employees would come around to your house every morning to see if there was anything you wanted operated on.

Hospitals were so over-staffed that they could only fit a minute fraction of their workforce into the building at any one time, and generally surgeons and nurses and orderlies and janitors worked in two or three minute shifts, after which they would be sent home by Learjet. They would have lots of specialised staff. For instance, some doctors could only say pronouns, others could only say transitive verbs, and you would generally need about 12 or 13 of them to be able to say things like "Good news, Mrs Davies -- the boil we lanced on your right foot is considerably smaller this morning, and we think you might be right to go home by about 1995."

Welfare: Welfare was of course the biggest rort of all back in the Whitlam Era. I can remember when my dad was on the dole for a few weeks in 1973, the government sent around dozens of naked African women to fan him with palm fronds.

If you were lucky enough to be unemployed and sick at the same time, they would usually buy you an island near Vanuatu, name a suburb of Canberra after you, and present you with a card which entitled you to rob banks and perform illegal sex acts. There was none of this "work for the dole" stuff, either, and you didn't have to prove you were looking for work. I saw a dole form from the mid 70s, and there were a couple of spaces where you had to put down that you'd masturbated at least twice that fortnight, and that was about it.

The dole was worth a lot more back then, too -- especially if you were married and had kids. There was an unemployed family of seven living near us in 1974, and they made so much money that The Reserve Bank based its financial policy on their spending patterns, and they were invited to join Bildeberg and OPEC.

It's amazing to think back on those days, isn't it? Imagine all the money that's been saved over the years since then, though. I wonder where they're spending it now?

After that, my ribs ache too much to write anything!

Thought for the day:

Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of government. The history of liberty is the history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.

Woodrow Wilson

Current Listening:

Jefferson Starship -- Welcome to the Wrecking Ball


Wednesday 8 January 2003

Britain wakes up to iciest day of winter

Sarah Hall Tuesday January 7, 2003 The Guardian

Britain was waking up shivering to the coldest day of the winter so far this morning after a night in which temperatures were forecast to plummet to -20C (-4F). Parts of East Anglia, the south-east and the south coast will be coated with flurries of snow and frost after temperatures as low as -6C in England and Wales. In Scotland, the mercury will have sunk even lower, plunging to -7C in some populated areas and -20C - the lowest temperature for two years - in the northwest glens. As parts of Britain struggle to recover from last week's floods, the cold snap will persist through today and tomorrow, with daytime temperatures unlikely to rise above 1C in most areas until the end of the week. The bitter cold will bring snow, sleet and icy winds, and yesterday left thousands of commuters stranded as cars failed because of the weather. The AA dealt with 2,000 breakdowns an hour - 500 more than usual - sending out 300 extra patrol vehicles. For the majority, however, today's problems will be caused predominantly by the sheer extent of the cold, exacerbated by a harsh wind-chill factor. "Tuesday will be the coldest day of the winter so far, with temperatures over England and Wales struggling to reach one or two even in large cities, and remaining at between -3C and -7C in populated parts of Scotland, and down to -10C or -12C in areas like Aviemore", said forecaster Michael Dukes of the Press Association Weather Centre. In the Scottish glens, temperatures in the snow-covered areas will plummet to -20C. "We had a cold spell earlier in December, but this is the first time that a lot of places away from the coast will struggle to get above freezing," he said. While parts of the southwest could see the mercury rise to 3C, the "raw and biting" south-easterly wind - which will sweep across England and up to the north-west - will make the temperatures feel far harsher, and lead to sleet and snow in south Wales, Devon and Cornwall. Temperatures will only begin to rise when tropical air makes its way over Britain from the Atlantic on Thursday, but even then temperatures will only rise gently. "On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, temperatures could still be below freezing at night, but won't be as severe in the day - perhaps 2 or 3C," said Mr Duke.

The Git gets great pleasure from reading these things as he sits in his underpants at the keyboard in the early hours of the morning. Yesterday, the temperature indoors at The House of Steel rose to 30C, the highest yet since completion. He probably should have recorded the temperature outdoors for comparison, but his brains were fried by the heat and the recovery from drinking too much alcofrolic beverages yesterday.

Thomas decided to cut the speed on his computer to reduce the operating temperature of the CPU, "just in case". Unfortunately, the computer then refused to reboot. Being a MoBo of very recent vintage, there's a very useful set of LEDs on a slot cover at the back to diagnose whatever is ailing the machine. In this case, the CPU was failing to start up. Clearly, Thomas had made an "illegal" change in the CMOS settings. Unfortunately, resetting the BIOS to defaults didn't have the required effect -- the CPU steadfastly refused to initialise.

Thomas returned to reading Lord of the Rings for several hours, when suddenly he was inspired to pull the power cord from his computer and reconnect it. All is well. It appears that when resetting BIOS defaults, this is something one must also do, but does not appear in the instructions!

There are at least two things we can do to lower the running temperature of The House of Steel. One is to install a fly-wire door at the rear and higher end of the house so that air is drawn from underneath where it's cooler. Leaving the door open without protection from blowflies is not a particularly good idea. The other is to paint the roof and possibly the exterior walls as well, white. While the amount of reflected heat doesn't change, the steel doesn't heat up so much and consequently reradiates less heat into the house.


Some time ago, as a result of an internal dispute, The Daynotes Gang ended up with two portal pages: www.daynotes.org and www.daynotes.com. The differences between the two listings was very minor until recently, but there have been major changes in the last few days, some sensible, some not so sensible. IMHO of course. The current kerfuffle is over some Daynoters being offended by being called bloggers and others being offended by the penchant of some of us to write about things other than computers. Worse, some of us don't even use the sophisticated tools that "real" bloggers use to generate pages set in 7 point type so that old farts like The Git can't read their pearls of wisdom without making greasy marks with their nose on the computer monitor!

To be fair, as usual in any difference of opinion, The Git has learnt something. Some of the blogging tools out there include sophisticated tools for finding stuff within the blogger's web. That's a neat idea, especially if it works as advertised. In the meantime, Google has an advanced search where you can limit your search to a particular website. Google even has an API that allows web page creators to create a Google search dialog into a page. Given the general familiarity with Google, this seems to me a better approach than some unfamiliar proprietary interface.

Thomas has downloaded all 666K (Mark of the By(s)te?) of the API and expects to have something working in the not too distant.


Who are the terrorists? 

By Raff Ellis January 02, 2003 

Ever wonder how the government goes about deciding who is a terrorist, or which organizations are terrorist ones? The State Department, which accepts recommendations from the Justice Department, designates who the terrorist organizations are. It uses several laws and rules among which are citations in the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Foreign Relations Act and the U.S. Code. It's not easy to follow the trail because the various pieces of legislation that come into play often refer to each other with definitions that are, at the very least, often subject to interpretation. There are currently 35 names on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations.

In order to earn a spot in the terrorist directory, the offending organization must be foreign (sub-national groups or clandestine agents); must have engaged in premeditated, politically motivated violence against noncombatant targets, or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity; and finally, its activity must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or economic interests) of the United States.


The word "terrorist," it seems, has replaced "communist" as the pejorative nom du jour in these times. Accusations of aiding terrorists have become epidemic, not only in the U.S. but also worldwide. Scanning the headlines around the globe, one finds among those accused, in news stories at least, are foreign journalists, the government of Pakistan, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, national passport centers, UNRWA and a variety of Internet web sites. But some obvious candidates have escaped both press notice and the far-flung net of American justice.

Recently, Israel's Defense Forces (IDF) killed Iain Hook, a British U.N. official along with two other Palestinian United Nations workers, in the West Bank. A U.N. resolution condemning this act was vetoed by the United States. Well, you may ask, isn't this a violation of our own rules governing terrorist activity? Clearly it was but not only does our State Department turn a blind eye, it tells its ambassador to veto the resolution condemning it!

There are many acts, such as the murder of journalists and photographers, committed by the IDF that would easily qualify it to be placed on our terrorist list along with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But that would anger Israel's supporters, most of whom in Congress can't wait for the signal to give Israel an additional $10 billion or so (also easily construed as giving material aid to a terrorist organization).

Full story.

Thought for the day:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded -- here and there, now and then -- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as "bad luck".

Robert Heinlein

Current Listening:

Bob Dylan -- Blood on the Tracks


Thursday 9 January 2003

The Git gets several hundred emails daily, falling roughly into the following four categories:

Usually, The Git manages to ignore the latter and by far the largest category. Unfortunately, some weeks are worse than others and The Git bites back. 

Some times The Git receives well-intentioned advice and one occasional piece is to acquire some proper blogging software, like Moveable Type. The image below is an illustration of snippets from two web pages created with Moveable Type compared with some of The Git's "inferior" home-made HTML at bottom.

Text size comparison

None of the three images has been resampled and the bottom window has the text appearing at 12 points (1/6 of an inch) on The Git's screen -- it may well render differently on yours, but the proportions will be the same. The text on the left is the correct size for ease of reading, but the leading is screwed so that the ascenders and descenders on adjacent lines overlap. The text on the right appears at 8 points and would be completely unreadable but for the superb crispness of The Git's display and Matrox video adapter. The screen's New Year Resolution is 1280 x 1024 pixels, the same as last year, and the monitor is a 19" Sony G400. The Git has been told it's his fault for using an inferior browser/wrong display resolution [delete whichever is inapplicable]. It is possible to prevent IE 5 from obeying the font size instruction contained in the MT-created pages, but that merely allows making a page that looks like the one on the left look like the one on the right, or vice versa. And it mangles lots of other websites.

The issue appears to be one of control-freaks versus allowing the reader to choose whatever is comfortable. If you don't like the text size that you see here, just use the font-size control in your browser and you can make it as small, or as large as the browser controls allow. The Git has no idea why he should want to prevent you from doing this, or make it as difficult as possible. Indeed, he has no idea why making a reader's life difficult should be considered superior and professional. But then The Git is an overweight, rude, uncultured, anti-authoritarian boor. And he eats garlic.

It's true that the design of these pages could be improved and The Git is open to any useful suggestions from readers. Of one thing you can be assured though, he will not intentionally lock out any readers based on their using computers/browsers/displays of which he does not approve. Computers are tools, not a religion!


There has been a moderate amount of feedback about Roy Halliday's Enforceable Rights -- A Libertarian Theory of Justice referred to earlier this week. For some reason, some readers have fixated on the word "rape". Try reading the context. There is a word occurring before it called a qualifier: apparent. From The Oxford English Dictionary:

Appearing to the senses or mind, as distinct from (though not necessarily opposed to) what really is; seeming. Contrasted with real. (The commonest sense now, but treated as novel in 1645.)

Roy Halliday, not The Git, has merely asked you to imagine a context where there is an apparent mugging or rape occurring. If you have so little imagination that you can't conceive of such, or let go of your preconceptions, you have a problem that needs either medication or psychiatric help. The 150,000 word book is not about rape, it's about a theory of natural justice. Reading it does not condone rape. I am certain that Roy Halliday does not condone rape. No rape has occurred. My quoting the book does not "reflect the continuation of a warped self-image created in a destructive childhood environment" though that comment leads to speculation about the inhabitants of the country whence these comments originated!


From Felix Mendes:

Dear sir,

On today's "Diatribe" you wrote:

"There are at least two things we can do to lower the running temperature of The House of Steel. (...) The other is to paint the roof (...) white. While the amount of reflected heat doesn't change, the steel doesn't heat up so much and consequently reradiates less heat into the house."

Well, the standard practice where I was born, in Mozambique, was to paint the roof with aluminium paint. The reflected radiation (including, I suppose, heat) was significantly higher than with similar (corrugated steel) roofs painted white. On one occasion, on similar huts, only one with white roof and another with aluminium painted roof, under the same set of circumstances, a difference of 7C was measured. In... aaah... winter, (or what passed for that :-)) the difference was insignificant. Perhaps that would be another solution.

Best regards,

Felix Mendes

Felix, please call me Jonathan, Mr Git, or something. I have yet to be knighted! :-)

I purchased a publication by Cutter Corporation called "Radiant Barriers, Air Barriers and Vapor Barriers" prior to building THoS. Mostly it's about research conducted in the US and it definitely states that I should expect a substantial benefit from white paint versus unpainted, shiny steel, or aluminium. Maybe it's time to conduct a few tests :-)

The coating on the steel is called Zincalume and is almost as shiny as aluminium paint. We used a can of aluminium spray paint to disguise some unsightly scuff marks.

Thought for the day:

Every man is free to do what he wills, provided he infringes not upon the equal freedom of any other man.

Herbert Spencer

Current Listening:

Smashing Pumpkins -- Vieuphoria


Friday 10 January 2003

More on The Blogging Front

Regular reader Robert Morgan wrote:

Dear Git,

Not wanting to wade too deeply in the blogging fray, I nevertheless have my two cents worth. I would be happier if your site did use blogging software as I use a piece of software that aggregates new content in blogs I read. It is then very easy to see new updates, and the content can be read in the aggregator, in a clean and consistent format. The software I use on my Mac is NetNewsWire, and in the past I used Radio on my pc (although not recently).

Having said that, your site is clean, consistent and updates generally appear overnight, so, so much for the benefits of the aggregator! As well, I haven't been victimized by font size / format issues on web sites I frequent. Many thanks to Chimera/Mozilla for sane web page displays, pop-up removal, and tabbed browsing!

Cheers - Robert


I note that the first link takes me to a site that uses tiny almost unreadable fonts, so I skipped to the second site. That seems to be a content creation tool and I don't think I need a new content creation tool. The reader that integrates new content from various sites sound interesting, but why can't that happen with the content I am creating right now? Surely it just grabs an HTML page based on its save-date. Aaaaah.... Would it help if I updated my redirectors daily?

I don't know why the fonts are too small when you visited NetNewsWire's site and I hesitate to encourage you to use Mozilla (!); it appears readable using both Mozilla and IE 6.0 on my pc. At any rate, it is Mac only software so of no use to you until you build that Mac which you threatened to build last year, and only then if you build a Mac that can run OS X.

The second site, Radio, is a web log creation tool, and I fooled with it as such, but found that it has a blog aggregator in it which was more useful to me than the creation tool, and I ended up using it until NetNewsWire came about.

The software doesn't aggregate web pages per say, as every web site uses different layouts and styles. However, the blogging software packages have standardized on a content format in XML called RSS. I'm by no means expert in this but I understand that a separate xml page is maintained on your site in tandem with your html content page, and it is this that the aggregators read. For more information on RSS there is <http://backend.userland.com/rss>. I suppose one could create RSS pages for a web site like yours by running it through a template (which would be the reverse of what the blogging software does). Such software presumably exists, now that I think about some of the aggregated pages available to NetNewsWire and Radio which came from non-blog sites.

An interesting quick page read that echos my feelings, found while having a quick (unsuccessful) search for html to rss convertors: <http://daringfireball.net/2002/09/feed_me.html>



The fonts appear too small because the HTML for that page (or the associated style sheet) tells the browser to render the fonts so many pixels or points in height. That number of pixels happens to be a much smaller distance on my monitor than yours. In other words, the creator of the page has made certain assumptions about the monitor, resolution and OS I use.

The Mac Standard is a very sensible idea as type size is expressed in points and there are 72 points to the inch. Standard typewriters when we used them made text 12 points, or one sixth of an inch in height. This is somewhat smaller than is comfortable reading for the average adult 40 years of age, or over, if the text is printed on paper at 300 dots per inch!

A Mac designer who sets type at 12 pixels will see the type at 12 points on his/her monitor. A "standard" PC user will see that text at 9 points (72/96*12). The Git sees it at a tad over 7 points! This is half the size on paper required for easy reading for the average person in my age group.

The question arises then as to why The Git uses such a high resolution. The short answer is more pixels per inch means sharper pictures, sharper text and less eye fatigue. The latter is very important to me as I spend many hours per day looking at the display.

It's interesting to note that Ben Rota's popular website, Ars Technica conducted a survey of readers last month and the most popular screen resolution is the same as The Git's -- 1280 by 1024, presumably on a 19 inch display.

One way around this conundrum is to tell my browser to ignore the font-size commands in the HTML, but as you will see from yesterday's picture, this interlaces the ascenders and descenders of adjacent lines of text. Incidentally, the top two images were captured at my current display resolution and other settings. The creator of the web page on the left wants me to increase my screen resolution, the one on the right wants me to decrease it.

Another alternative is to install a second video card and monitor on my system, but my budget does not stretch to that at this time. There are other reasons to do so, but the ability to comfortable read web pages that currently are difficult, or impossible to read would be a side benefit.

Yet another alternative is to use another web browser. Another is to purchase a Mac to browse the Mac-oriented web pages... But all of this is me spending my money and time to boost the fragile ego of the tyrants who design these web pages! The real solution to the problem is for web page designers to acknowledge that while they can dictate that a reader use a particular browser/monitor/OS/display, it does not mean that they should.

The HTML Standard allows web page designers to leave all control of font size under the users' control where The Git firmly believes it belongs. One of The Git's readers cannot read anything less than 36 point type and prefers 72 points!

RSS sounds interesting, but it seems that a considerable investment in time, money and additional real estate on my server's hard disk is called for, not to mention additional complexity and The Git is a great fan of the KISS principle. He's willing to be convinced, but would need overwhelming feedback from his readership to make such a change.

It's also worth bearing in mind that any time devoted to managing a more complex system would be time taken away from content creation. Which is more important to my readers: content, or how that content is displayed? Should I contemplate anything that could conceivably disenfranchise my blind readers? Feedback welcome.


Some new Essays on Consciousness from my good friend Robert Stonjek posted today.

Thought for the day:

With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men, I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.

William Lloyd Garrison

Current Listening:

Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem


Saturday 11 January 2003

Well, The Git downloaded Radio blogging software and discovered that it's about as useful as Moveable Type. The tyrants of web page design even restrict what the Help Page systems in their software display -- 7 point type on The Git's system! If these morons understood how HTML works, at the very least they would put the instruction: 

body, td, p { font-family: verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; }

in a Cascading Style Sheet where it could be amended and change every page based on that Style Sheet. But no! The command, overriding whatever is in the Style Sheet, occurs at the beginning of every page. In other words, if The Git wants to be able to comfortably read the Help Pages, he needs to edit each and every one to remove the command: font-size: 12px. That's assuming he could find them! Radio seems to generate its HTML on-the-fly!

Do I really want to spend $US40 on software written by people so brain-dead they don't understand the basics of HTML and display issues? Do I want to investigate whether their software does the same thing at the beginning of the pages I create with it? Do I want to get rid of the on-the-fly spell checking that most of us take for granted these days? Do I want to poke myself in the eye with a sharp pencil while I listen to Tony Greig's cricket commentary?

Answers on the back of a plain brown envelope and addressed to anyone but The Git!


The Git posted the above to The Daynotes Gang backchannel and received a variety of interesting responses. Implementing blogging software could provide a number of useful service, but then those services, at least some of them, can be provided through other means.

Here's what The Git can provide:

How much of this stuff is important to you, my readers? Please let me know. I know from the increasing number of readers that many of you are unknown to me, but don't let that inhibit you from sharing your thoughts and feelings. The things uppermost in The Git's mind are that content is king and he will do nothing that prevents the users of older/non-standard equipment from being able to access this website. Another issue is that the Content Management System The Git is using right now is all in his head -- it's really, really simple and basic. A more complex system that breaks would be much harder for The Git to fix.


Last night, I believe I came up with the reason why some believe blog to be an ugly word. I was sitting on the toilet, commonly known in the English speaking world as "the bog". When you get to my age, after one has successfully used the bog, there's an immense feeling of satisfaction -- accomplishment even! There's a lot in common between having a good bog and having a good blog :-)


For those of you who enjoy my friend Tim Gadd's occasional posts here, the link to his website has been updated.

Thought for the day:

Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skilful execution. It represents the wise choice of many alternatives.


Current Listening:

Steve Hillage -- Motivation Radio


Sunday 12 January 2003

"Oh noooooo..." The Git hears you cry! "Not more about blogging..." Well, it's The Git's website and he writes what he wants, though you will be relived to know that Decisions Have Been Made. The good news is that there should be absolutely no degradation in what you have come to love or loathe about The Diatribe. In fact, the ultimate goal is to make things much better for a wider range of readers.

Fellow Daynoter Dave Farquhar suggested The Git read the following:

Dive Into Accessibility 30 days to a more accessible web site

This book answers two questions. The first question is "Why should I make my web site more accessible?" If you do not have a web site, this book is not for you. The second question is "How can I make my web site more accessible?" If you are not convinced by the first answer, you will not be interested in the second.

While Mark Pilgrim's book deals with HTML and CSS issues that lead to so many sites being unreadable by The Git, it's also a hands-on manual for applying that to real-world software -- mainly Movable Type and Radio. The Git has plumped for moving this website over to Ben and Mena Trott's Movable Type during the next few weeks.

What this means for you:

What this means for The Git:

There's more to it than the above of course, but I believe that the above addresses the core issues. Wiki was a consideration, but implementing as a part of this website is still on the cards. The clincher for The Git was Mark Pilgrim's immediately accessible, practical advice. What a pity that the original Movable Type advocate's response to The Git's complaint about being unable to read his web, or the MT documentation, comfortably was: "Why don't you get a proper computer?"


Another excellent piece of advice from Dave Farquhar was to download Off By One, a fast and tiny web browser that ignores Ben and Mena Trott's stupid style sheet for their documentation. While a tiny web browser that fits on a floppy disk has its limitations, it also has its advantages, not the least of them being immunity to so many of the ills besetting the behemoths of IE, Netscape, Mozilla etc.


It's time for another moan about Telstra, The Git's telco. Regular readers will remember that he cancelled his dedicated telephone line when he discovered that Telstra had been billing the Internet line on the account for the voice line as well. The latest bill arrived showing a credit sufficient not just for the current account, but the next as well! There's also an item of $5 for late payment of the last account, even though they owed us money, not the other way around! Chiselling bastards! Internet access that used to regularly be around 36-40kbps is now occasionally below 20kbps! Think about that before sending me those "amusing" multi-megabyte attachments that I never open! Spam Assassin converts many of them to ASCII files anyway and I really can't be bothered to figure out how to turn them back into JPEGs that I probably never wanted to see anyway.


Hamming it up is a nostalgia piece about amateur radio by ^Z who as usual manages to say twice as much with half the words The Git uses.


Why I don't listen to cricket commentators:

Bill Lawry and Tony Greig during today's commentary, Australia v England at Bellerive. Michael Bevan is struck in the helmet by a bouncer.

Lawry: "Oh! If that had knocked the bails off, he'd have been out!" 

Tony Greig (patiently): "Yes, Bill, but the thing is, it didn't."


And why I'm glad I don't live in Amerika:

Life & Times

Kathleen Parker 

Rape California-style is a woman's prerogative 

Published January 12, 2003

I'm going to try to keep this clean, but the recent California Supreme Court ruling that a woman who changes her mind during sexual intercourse qualifies as a rape victim tests one's commitment to decorum.

Yes, you read it right. The 6-1 ruling changes the definition of rape so significantly that a man who doesn't withdraw immediately upon his partner's shift in attitude can go to prison. One young man already has.

A 17-year-old -- John Z. -- served six months in a juvenile detention facility on a rape conviction following just such an encounter. He and Laura T. were having consensual sex when Laura decided she needed to get home. She didn't say, "Stop." She didn't cry out or struggle.

She merely said, "I should be going now" and "I need to go home," according to her testimony.

Because it reportedly took John Z. a full minute and a half to cease and desist -- an act of rare self-control among the primate known as a 17-year-old male -- he was convicted of rape. I don't know who was holding the timer during this intimate act. Was the rape victim monitoring her watch's second hand?

With its ruling Monday, the California Supreme Court affirmed John Z.'s conviction.

Although Justice Janice Rogers Brown agreed with the rape definition, she dissented on whether the boy had been guilty of rape. She noted that he might have had an "honest and reasonable belief" that the girl didn't waive consent, a defense recognized by California courts.

Honest and reasonable? That sounds right. Given that the girl wanted to have sex, or at least said she did, then proceeded to have sex, and only then said she needed to go home, one could leap to the wild conclusion that the young man may not have divined her intent that he retreat.

I'm sorry, but when did girls get so stupid? In the old days -- when girls were apparently both smarter and tougher -- a girl who didn't want to have sex didn't have sex. She said no thanks, grabbed her purse and walked out the door. The boy may have been disappointed and frustrated, but he wasn't confused. "No" meant "no."

And "yes" meant yes to the finish line. If you want a guy to stop midway through the first act, pick an older boyfriend. Say fiftyish. Speaking of which, I keep coming back to this: Where's Daddy? Who didn't teach this girl the rules of engagement?

Once upon a time, fathers taught their daughters better. You don't take a boy to bed and then say "no." In a similar vein, as my father taught me, you don't pull a gun on someone unless you intend to kill him. There are certain things you don't kid around with, and hormonally charged teenage boys and loaded guns are among the top two.

I'm not suggesting that girls get what they deserve. So stifle the swoon, sisters. Nor am I suggesting that there aren't times when boys and men fail to listen carefully when girls and women speak. In my vast experience, they mostly pay close attention when food is involved.

But I am prepared to defend males against the sort of insanity that makes them criminals for not being able to read a girl's mind. Who exactly will bear witness to these "he said-she said" debacles? What words will suffice to mean "Stop," if "I need to get home" is enough to convict a boy of rape?

What if she'd said, "Oh, gosh, I've got to buy cat food." Would that do? "Clearly my heart wasn't in it, Your Honor. He should have known I meant stop!"

And how quick is quick enough for the man to cease his foul play? A minute? Thirty seconds? The court didn't say.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, fellas, but the gelding of the American male is nearly complete and the message clear: You can do nothing right. As a friend's world-weary 15-year-old son correctly summarized the zeitgeist: "Women good, men bad."

John Z. wasn't guilty of rape; he was guilty of being male. If I were a guy, I'd find another country.

Thought for the day:

There is a certain relief in change, even though it ebb from bad to worse; as I have found travelling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one's position and be bounced in a new place.

Washington Irving

Current Listening:

Stevie Wonder -- Original Musiquarium

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Jonathan Sturm 2003

DayNotes (com) Gang or The DayNotes (org) Gang for more daily musings on Life, the Universe and Things Computerish.

Jonathan Sturm 2003