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 20 January 2003

In Memoriams:


I guess in quite a lot of ways I grew up just like you 
A bolshy kid who didn't think the way they told him to 
You kicked over the statues, a roots rock rebel star 
Who knew that punk was more than just the sound of a guitar 
And I'll always remember that night at the Rainbow 
When you wrote a soundtrack for my life, Commandante Joe.

So many bands back then were like too many bands today 
A bunch of blokes who made a noise with bugger all to say 
The Clash were always out in front, you put the rest to shame 
Your words were calls to action, your music was a flame 
You were our common Dante, and you raised an inferno 
And you wrote a soundtrack for my life, Commandante Joe.

Reggae in the Palais Midnight till six! 
Rockin' Reds in Brockwell Park! 
Sten guns in Knightsbridge! 
Up and down the Westway 
In and out the lights! 
Clash City Rockers! 
Know Your Rights!

I guess in quite a lot of ways I grew up just like you 
A bolshy kid who didn't think the way they told him to 
Like you I always knew that words and music held the key 
As you did for so many, you showed the way to me 
Although I never met you, I'm so sad to see you go 
'Cos you wrote a soundtrack for my life, Commandante Joe.


lyrics to a song which will be on the next Barnstormer album in memory of Joe Strummer 1952 - 2002


Mount Stromlo astronomical observatory in the suburbs of Canberra, Australia was destroyed by bushfire yesterday. 

Thought for the day:

I'd rather die while I'm living than live while I'm dead.

Jimmy Buffet

Current Listening:

Jimmy Buffet -- Volcano


Tuesday 21 January 2003

You won't see The Git and his House of Steel in any of those TV broadcasts about the tragedy of bushfire. All of the trees bar two sheltering our house are exotics that require lots of water to keep their leaves nice and sappy. Water we harvest and store ourselves if you must know. Unlike natives, they won't burn and are a useful trap for flying embers. The two flammable suspects, small pine trees, are to the south and west where the hot northerlies that prevail in a bushfire won't carry any flames or burning debris toward the house.

Canberra on the other hand was designed to burn as it has the past few days. The houses are intermingled with native eucalypts that burn fiercely. Just to make really sure, there's a huge pine plantation to the north of the city where the fire came from. And of course the politicians charged with protecting the citizens of the city and sprawling suburbs ensured there was only enough budget for twelve fire trucks*. The bureaucrats are already hysterically finger-pointing instead of planning for sensible co-existence with a fire-prone environment.

While some worship "the natural environment", some of us are sceptical of that religion and ensure that there is a safe distance between it and our hard-earned possessions. In truth, our non-native, fire-protective, enclaves around our houses are "natural" too, but The Git wouldn't expect eco-religionists to understand that.

We have known for a very long time what fire in our environment does. We know how to protect our houses from fire. Over 100 fires started on the 16th of February 1983, a day now known as Ash Wednesday, leaving 76 dead. A year or so later, The Git attended a seminar to learn what had been revealed by analysis of those fires.

There was no difference in likelihood of burning between timber and brick homes, or steel versus tile roofs. The only significant factor in home survivability was whether the owner was present to save the house, or not. Just one home failed to be saved by its occupants in that horrific fire season, a very elderly couple at Macedon if memory serves.

What we know works:

The pleasant and knowledgeable young man leading the seminar was no mere armchair theorist. He showed us the before and after aerial photographs of his partially completed home at Cockatoo. It survived because he and a visiting fireman from California were there to save it.

What we know doesn't work to save houses is compulsory evacuation. And budget-cuts to fire services. Presumably the strategy in use serves some bureaucratic purpose, but that purpose is decidedly not in the interests of home-owners.

* ABC Television News broadcast 21 January.


Yesterday, the smoke around the valley was thick enough that visibility dropped to less than 1,000 metres. Fortunately, the fire wasn't close. Ivan dropped by to tell me that there was a button-grass plain alight quite a long way upwind of us. The gale-force wind had brought down an electricity power line in New Road, but the fire it started was put out very quickly. The Git finds extreme heat (mid-thirties) very tiring and little got done during the day.

Dinner consisted of adding some minced steak and peas to the remains of yesterday's soup to generate yet another soup. This to avoid firing up the wood-burning cookstove. Taking a bath afterwards revealed that there's plenty of hot water left in the cylinder after two days of no fire. We can turn on the electric element in the cylinder if and when needed, but that costs a lot more than an hour's worth of firewood that cooks a meal simultaneously. Today looks like it will be significantly cooler, so we will have a nice roast of beef this evening.

Thought for the day:

It makes no more sense to plan the total quantity of sheet metal an economy should produce than it would for a chess team captain to plan to have his team move twenty bishops by an average of three squares. The reason both of these plans are nonsensical is that they treat aggregate summaries of detailed decisions apart from the context of the decisions themselves.

Don Lavoie

Current Listening:

Bob Marley and the Wailers -- Catch a Fire


Wednesday 22 January 2003

A day spent recovering from an excess of wood-splitting. Codeine makes The Git very lethargic and he slept most of the day away, secure in the knowledge that he can keep the home fires burning for many months.

The Git watched Nigella Lawson's cooking show: Forever Summer and thought: "Cooking as a fashion-statement... Crap!"

Give me Jamie Oliver, or Rick Stein any day -- cooks that Elizabeth David would have respected.

Thought for the day:

The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.

Stella, Lady Reading

Current Listening:

Spectrum -- Part One


Thursday 23 January 2003

A curious press release from CSIRO:

Long-lost records confirm rising sea level

The discovery of 160 year old records in the archives of the Royal Society, London, has given scientists further evidence that Australian sea levels are rising.

Observations taken at Tasmania's Port Arthur convict settlement 160 years ago by an amateur meteorologist have been compared with data from a modern tide gauge.

"There is a rate of sea level rise of about 1mm a year, consistent with other Australian observations," says Dr David Pugh, from the UK's Southampton Oceanography Centre.

"This is an important result for the Southern Hemisphere, and especially for Australia, providing a benchmark against which Australian regional sea level can be measured in 10, 50 or 100 years time," says Dr Pugh.

Working with Dr Pugh on the three year project were the University of Tasmania's Dr John Hunter, Dr Richard Coleman and Mr Chris Watson.

In 1837, a rudimentary tide gauge was made by the amateur meteorologist, Thomas Lempriere and probably installed in the nearby Port Arthur settlement.

In 1841 Lempriere cut a benchmark, in the form of a broad arrow, on a vertical rock face on the Isle of the Dead, which was used as a cemetery for the Port Arthur complex.

The discovery of two full years of carefully recorded measurements (1841 and 1842) of average sea level was the start of a scientific quest through early European history in Tasmania.

CSIRO oceanographer Dr Bruce Hamon, researching Lempriere's work in 1985, concluded that the surviving benchmark would not be of scientific value today.

"The position of course would be different if Lempriere's original observations ever came to light," Dr Hamon wrote.

In addition to discovering the 'lost' files, the project involved analysis of 19th century sea level data, and a suite of modern measurement and analysis techniques.

Dr Hunter said that scientific and popular interest in possible rises of global sea level, with attendant increased risks of coastal flooding have emphasised the need for a long time series of sea level measurements.

"Unfortunately, few records exist from the nineteenth century, and even fewer have well documented benchmark information against which changes can be monitored.

"At Port Arthur we have a unique series of sea level measurements.

"Our research during this project has shown that the work of John Franklin, James Clark Ross and Thomas Lempriere generated a significant benchmark long before any effect of global warming was apparent.

"The scientific interest at the time was the question of vertical motion or uplifting of the continents rather than changes in volume of the oceans.

"Our observations are consistent with the lower end of estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and with records from Fremantle and Fort Denison," Dr Hunter said.

Contrast this with the following:

The "Isle of the Dead" Zero Point of the Sea?

by John L. Daly

The continued reluctance of the scientific institutions involved to release meaningful public information about the 1841 benchmark on the "Isle of the Dead' finally prompted me, as a resident of Tasmania, to investigate the benchmark independently. After all, the IPCC in it's 1995 report claims that sea levels have already risen 10 to 25 centimetres this century alone, so an even longer time span back to 1841 would show the full impact of sea level rise caused by global warming.

So, hiring an aluminium dinghy from a local fisherman, I went, accompanied by my wife, to the "Isle of the Dead' on Sunday 29th August 1999, to find the benchmark, timing the visit to the two days after full moon, and at the expected time of mean tide. According to the NTF, the tide would be at mean level at sometime between 1.00 pm and 1.20 pm, based on tide gauges at Spring Bay to the north and Hobart to the west. Some difficulty was expected in locating the benchmark, due to it being immersed in the now higher sea levels. The air pressure was noted to be 1026 hpa (using a cheap domestic barometer only). Hopefully this higher atmospheric pressure would depress the sea sufficiently for me to snatch a glimpse of the benchmark.

While watching and searching amid the ebb and flow of water around the base of the cliff, I heard my wife shout; "I can see it!". "Don't take your eyes off it until I get a fix on it too!", I called back. I followed my eyes to where she was pointing and saw the Ross/Lempriere mark for the very first time. Without further thought, I quickly began to take timed photographs every two minutes of the cliff face and the mark.

Being preoccupied with taking the photographs and controlling the boat in the groundswell, the real significance of what I was looking at did not immediately sink in. But then it finally struck me...

Because, the 1841 benchmark, the mark which Captain Sir James Clark Ross clearly stated several times marked "zero point" or the "mean level of the sea", was actually standing about 30 centimetres above the mean level of the sea as it exists today.

The Git notes that the CSIRO press release refers twice to Lempriere as an "amateur" meteorologist. Why the emphasis? There were no professional meteorologists in Lempriere's day. He was a skilled surveyor, as was Ross, his collaborator in the project to strike a mark to indicate the mean level of the sea. The press release refers to the tide gauge as "rudimentary". Since the tide gauge no longer exists and its location is uncertain, how can we know whether it was rudimentary, or not? The same way perhaps that Pugh "knows" that Ross returned from his Antarctic exploration a depressed alcoholic without one whit of evidence...

Thought for the day:

In the end, science as we know it has two basic types of practitioners. One is the educated man who still has a controlled sense of wonder before the universal mystery, whether it hides in a snail's eye or within the light that impinges on that delicate organ. The second kind of observer is the extreme reductionist who is so busy stripping things apart that the tremendous mystery has been reduced to a trifle, to intangibles not worth troubling one's head about.

Loren Eiseley

Current Listening:

Laurie Anderson -- Strange Angels


Friday 24 January 2003

The Chain concert was even more amazingly amazing than the previous one. Matt Taylor noted that in The Guinness Book of Australian Records, there are only two Number One blues records, "Chain's single: Black and Blue and the other one". The "other one" was Blackfeather's album, "Boppin' the Blues" and it stayed at number one on the album charts for far longer than Chain's single. The Git's great friend, Paul Wyld wrote and performed all the tracks. Mysteriously, Matt didn't know that Paul was now dead and we talked briefly about Paul's brother Wally (The Test Pilot) who also committed suicide. Thankfully, the blues is all about overcoming the sadnesses that are part of life. [4/2/03 Paul's sister Megan emailed to say: "[Paul] died of a rare lung disease that he had had for many years".]

The food as usual at The Republic was scrumptious. The Git had the char-grilled octopus and Mrs Git fresh mussels -- both with a green salad with fetta cheese.

Unusually for this time of year, we had a cool, misty start to the morning morning before the heat became oppressive. Having spent the morning and early afternoon slashing the last of the long, dry grass, The Git sat on the front deck with a glass of shiraz and water and contemplated the smoke in the valley while listening to the CD purchased from the band last night.


The Year The Music Dies

Record labels are under attack from all sides - file sharers and performers, even equipment manufacturers and good old-fashioned customers - and it's killing them. A moment of silence, please.

By Charles C. Mann

The industry rightly believes that if it can make file-swapping more difficult, and legitimate online services easier and less expensive, it can turn the kids on Kazaa into paying customers. Pursuing this two-pronged approach, the companies are spending millions on their own Internet services (pressplay from Universal and Sony; MusicNet from BMG, EMI, and Warner), on lawyers to chase away pirates and peer-to-peer networks, and on anti-piracy ads featuring the likes of Britney Spears.

But this won't be enough. To survive, the industry will need the active assistance of friends it doesn't have. The labels may be able to kill Kazaa, but they won't be able to stop even more decentralized networks like Gnutella without help from Internet service providers, cable operators, and telephone companies. All their efforts to get DVD-like protection for CDs ultimately depend on the goodwill of hardware manufacturers and Capitol Hill. The online subscription services will flounder without cooperation from performers, songwriters, and record stores. And the ability of Britney to change the hearts and minds of music fans depends on public sympathy.

That sympathy is in short supply. Rightly or wrongly, record companies are detested by politicians (for corrupting youth), by webcasters (for demanding royalties), and by their customers (for inflating prices). Musicians and songwriters are famous for loathing the labels, and many have resisted licensing their songs to MusicNet and pressplay. (Both are under investigation for possible antitrust violations.) Radio and MTV aren't in the industry's corner; the labels, through "independent promotion" programs, effectively have to pay them to broadcast music. And the electronics industry's attitude toward the labels is summed up by an Apple slogan: Rip. Mix. Burn. Which, a music executive once told me, translates into "Fuck you, record labels."


For years, the safest path to success in the music business has been to hunt the teen market. But by ignoring career artists at the expense of the latest trends, the labels have lost touch with wide swaths of society. Ultimately, Timothy suggested to me that night, the industry as we know it could vanish not so much because of technology but because few people over the age of 30 would care if it did. "I can't believe that the business I've spent my life with could be about to disappear," he said. "And I also can't believe it's happening so fast."

Full story

And for The Git that final paragraph he quotes tells the story. If the music industry won't sell him the music he wants to buy, there appears little choice other than piracy and/or purchasing music made by the artists. He notes that Chain's first album, Towards the Blues, has been continuously available since its release over thirty years ago and has gone gold twice. How much of the crap the music industry currently tries to force us to buy, by deleting back-catalogue, will survive that long?

Thought for the day:

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.

Berthold Auerback

Current Listening:

Chain -- The First 30 Years


Saturday 25 January 2003

I've never had so much email as the last few days! Many from overseas from people who have lived at Franklin or passed through.

Later today, the chances of a really severe bushfire here are around 90% and that will likely take out our communications for a while. If that's so and you hear TV/radio reports like there were for the 1967 bushfires: "Tasmania was evacuated by the British nuclear submarine Nautilus" -- DON'T PANIC!

The House of Steel is NOT surrounded by eucalyptus trees -- the closest are over 100 metres away. We have LOTS of water and the only flammable parts of the house exterior, the decks, have a couple of buckets of water each as well as hoses and stuff. Sure am glad I'm not in the fire brigade any more!

Thought for the day:

One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on. And when you do find somebody, it's remarkable how often his picture turns up on your driver's license.

P.J. O'Rourke

Current Listening:

Phil Manning -- The Back Shed

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Jonathan Sturm 2003