A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

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Monday 24 February 2003

The garden show on Saturday was a spectacular display of mainly dahlias, but a smattering of roses, fuchsias and other blooms. Considerable effort was put into the event by SWMBO and others, particularly to encourage local flower enthusiasts to exhibit, who had never previously exhibited. Quite a few potential exhibitors who had declined, regretted not having done so, including The Git. The section he was judging had few entries: fruit, vegetables and eggs. This made judging quite easy -- not to say, painless, much to The Git's relief.

The judge of the photographic entries, Kevin Manderson, will be lecturing in the usability aspects of computer software interface design at the university this year and The Git hopes he can attend some of his lectures. We had a fascinating chat before we commenced our judging duties.

The weekend was another scorcher leading to considerable enervation for those of us born adapted to a cooler climate. Of course the heat is bringing on the tomatoes a treat and we look forward to eating the first fruits some time in the next few days. The downside to the heat is needing to irrigate, though we have lots of water unlike many of our neighbours.

-oOo-

Matt Beland at Factory55 informs me that the server changes will be going ahead on Tuesday on his side of the dateline, Wednesday on my side. Since The Git plans to reinstall the OS on his workstation the following weekend, he is unsure whether this will allow sufficient time to begin the Movable Type experiment. We will see. He is also unsure whether he will revert to Win2k, or attempt another XP install. Some feel the ongoing problems The Git is experiencing with the latter OS are down to some corruption occurring during the installation on the previous occasion.

-oOo-

Mark Zimmermann wrote:

You wrote:

... when a bunch of acid-dropping university students at Berkley invented Unix ...

uh, Ken Thompson & friends, Bell Labs, New Jersey ...

and:

... Ctrl-A, Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V ... just like the Mac equivalents ...

uh, invented/defined/designed by initial Mac user interface team, 1984 --- deliberate choices governed by location on keyboard rather than by letter ...

And you left out the most important shortcut of all time --- ^z = Undo! (or, in UNIX, "interrupt"; in MS-DOS, "end-of-file marker"; etc., etc.)

Best, ^z = Mark Zimmermann = http://www.his.com/~z/ ZhurnalWiki = http://zhurnal.net/ AIM screen name = zhurnal

P.S. pls devote a proper amount of time to your studies (and not just studies of coeds) ... I salute your gitty matriculation (^_^) ...

Unix comment very tongue in cheek -- an awful lot of Unix came out of Berkley, though you are correct that it wasn't invented there...

yep... my point was that MS implementing its own shortcuts for those functions was stupid, but they had the sense to change. I hadn't actually forgotten ^Z, (or ^Y for redo for that matter) -- how could I forget the End of File marker in DOS? I can't believe I learnt Edlin ;-) Actually, Ctrl/Command-Z,X,C,V are the first keyboard shortcuts I pass on to all my trainees, followed by the mnemonics A, S, O and P. For a right-handed person, the combination of the mouse and Ctrl-Z/X/C/V is very powerful when editing.

Funny thing -- my body remembers most of the Wordstar keyboard commands: Ctrl-Y to delete a line, Ctrl-Q-Y to delete from the cursor to the end of the line... Makes using vi troublesome, though I suspect that if I spend long enough at the *nix command prompt I will eventually prevail.

We have been repeatedly warned during orientation about burn-out from working too hard and the necessity for recreational activities. While The Git is tempted by the coming week of free hamburgers and sausages, and cheap beer, he's more likely to relax by watching the passing parade :-)

Thought for the day:

The marvellous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.

Helen Keller

Current Listening:

Audience -- House on the Hill


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Tuesday 25 February 2003

Yesterday was HOT! And that was perfect for what The Git spent most of the day doing -- sitting and watching the pretty young girls parade past the coffee shop at the university. Mind you, getting there was an exercise. The Git is going to become quite exasperated by the buses. First up, the bus driver at Huonville explained that he couldn't sell The Git a discount weekly ticket because he didn't know how much it cost. Pointing out the cost on the bus service issue timetable was to no avail. More on this anon.

Thomas and The Git managed to arrive at their first lecture with five minutes to spare. To The Git's delight, the philosophy lecturer, Phil Dowe starts on time and makes a point of doing so. There is nothing quite so galling as seeing the latecomers rewarded by the presenter of something waiting for the stragglers. Phil's a self-confessed epistemologist and since that's what The Git is at the university for, this makes him worth listening to. While it was an introductory lecture full of mostly administrivia, The Git got the message that passing the course requires lots of thinking and thinking that doesn't make your brain hurt means you're not thinking very hard. And he has to keep a journal of his thoughts. The Git's had lots of practice at both over the last few years.

After the rush to get to that first lecture, there's a very long wait until the philosophy tutorial times are posted and the opportunity to put one's name on the appropriate list. This began with an excellent black coffee at the smokers table outside the coffee shop. Apart from signing up for the philosophy tute, The Git had a five hour wait until the journalism lecture in the afternoon. Usually, The Git has a book or two for such occasions, but today is one of the red lettuce variety and requires careful attention to the passing parade. Not just admiration of the often thinly clad bodies of girls younger than The Git's own daughter, but conversation with fellow students.

The various people who arrive and sit briefly around the ashtray, jostling for shade under the umbrella are returning students rather than freshers. The Git, having been a fresher in 1969 is cheerfully accepted as a non-fresher. Indeed, there's a system here of mentoring whereby freshers can be assisted in learning how to get around. Two of The Git's friends are wearing the Mentor badge, but tell him to fuck off when he asks if they will be his mentor. "Getting around" consists of reading maps, timetables and information sheets and even on occasion asking someone for directions. The latter was essential for finding working toilets since approximately half of these are "out of order" for maintenance. Apparently the other half will be out of order in the latter part of the semester so that they can all be fully functional during the between semester break.

Sadly, the new Union Bar is also out of order, with expected completion at least a month away. The Git in any case is feeling very short of cash and decides that water and wench-watching is better than cheap beer. This also pays off in a big way as a friend's son stops to cadge smokes and offers The Git books for two of his courses for free. The Geology books he wants returned at year's end, but that's a significant cost saving.

The journalism lecture was nowhere near as much fun as the philosophy lecture at the beginning of the day. The afternoon was considerably hotter than the morning and consequently, so was the lecture theatre. Since the air-conditioning is out of order, the doors are left open to allow the ingress of air and very loud, boring music, so The Git has difficulty hearing what the lecturer has to say. Fortunately, this is the age of handouts and Internet, so everything is available on paper, or through recycled electrons. The Git notes with some amusement that while the philosophy lectures become available the same day as high and low quality sound files, the media school "lacks that technology". The Git is expected to keep a journal for this course also. Hmmm... there's a pattern emerging.

The heat makes racing to the bus at the end of the lecture a struggle, but The Git makes it just in time. However, upon arriving in the city, his energy flags and he misses the Huon Valley bus by less than a minute. That leaves thirty five minutes to drink a very refreshing chardonnay and soda at The Vic. These days, the late bus terminates at Huonville, rather than continuing south, so The Git debouches with his neighbours. Garry tells me that when this bus is late, the connecting bus departs without its passengers these days. Apparently this is the government method of achieving efficiency. Oh for the days when it was still private enterprise, the buses ran on time and mostly the bus drivers cared about the passengers.

Thought for the day:

If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you. If you really make them think they'll hate you.

Donald Robert Perry

Current Listening:

Emerson, Lake and Palmer -- Pictures at an Exhibition


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Wednesday 26 February 2003

Tuesday started off well. The Git awoke after sleeping twice as long as usual and managed to complete his blog, prepare a cut lunch, perform his ablutions and so forth with fifteen minutes to spare before catching the bus. The bus driver initially tried to refuse The Git's cheque, because he "hadn't made a prior arrangement". The Git politely pointed out that paying for his bus tickets by cheque for twenty one years was the "prior arrangement". Angry murmurs from the other passengers made the bus driver realise perhaps he was making a mistake and he reluctantly accepted the cheque. But there was no discount for the previous evening's one way fare from the city to Huonville.

Clearly, the government having taken over what was previously a private bus company, is in the process of demolishing the service. While the buses still leave their point of origin on time, they arrive at the final destination ten to twenty minutes later. The earliest bus leaves thirty minutes later than when The Git was a regular commuter. The one bus driver remaining from the old regime we thought possibly the worst bus driver in the world. Now we know that it's possible for all bus drivers to be abusive and stupid.

Unfortunately, while there are some advantages to owning a vehicle for the commute, there are several downsides:

On balance, the current situation favours bus over the acquisition of a second vehicle and driver's licence.

-oOo-

On arrival at the campus, The Git's first thought is of coffee, but instead he heads to Student Admin as he made an error on Friday. After his photograph was taken for his ID card, he said: "Is that it?" and was assured: "Yes, that's it!" Unfortunately, he failed to observe that the second person behind the desk in the Robing Room was making up the cards on the spot and he left his behind. Student Admin informed The Git that likely the card was still there, so he hied off to discover that yesterday's several kilometre long queue has reduced to a mere two, or three students. The lady behind the desk recognises The Git and hands him his card instantly and with a smile. "Readily recognised by his ugliness," he opines, but is told that no, he is far from the ugliest person on the campus. Such excellent cheer after the surliness of bus drivers is very refreshing. The discovery of a five peso coin on the ground also delights the child within.

On this day (and Thursday) there is but one lecture -- History -- and The Git is hopeful that this will be a most rewarding course. He's also hopeful that he can avoid attending the lecture on this day and Thursdays as that will leave him free to do useful things at home, such as attend to the vegetable garden and keep Rickie the Wonderdog amused by being there. Sadly, while the Philosophers have rapidly posted high and low bandwidth audio files available via the Internet and the Journalists have discovered the ancient, but serviceable compact cassette, the Historians believe that there's no substitute for attending lectures and taking notes <sigh>. The most sensible thing to do would be to drop history and choose a subject that has no lectures on Tuesdays and Thursdays. However, The Git is determined to enjoy himself and if it wasn't for the necessity to do a science subject as part of getting a degree in philosophy of science, would be doing two history units, rather than one.

The great news is that the History Department has a $A17 book of all the required reading matter, so that amount, plus a small amount of photocopying of the readings for journalism, will be the total cost. Certainly well south of $A6-800 The Git was expecting to need to spend. 

After a pleasant chat with his new friends and an acquaintance who doubtless doesn't remember giving The Git a lift when he was hitch hiking some thirty years ago, The Git removed himself to The Vic Tav for a refreshing spritzer before catching the bus to Huonville. Mrs Git drove him home only to find a neighbour walking up the hill on the way. Peter lives considerably further up the road than us, so we dropped him off there where an invitation to partake of cold home-brew was irresistible.

Peter and Sonja are relative newcomers to Braeside and after some chit-chat about The Git (unknowingly) awarding them a prize for their vegetables in the weekend flower show, we commenced to discuss matters intellectual. The conversation was even more refreshing than the beer. It's so boring hearing second-hand, left wing cant, or the regurgitated opinions of the mainstream media. Perhaps more about this later as the clock is ticking around to 5 am and there is much to do before another busy day.

On things computerish: For those who seem to believe that emailing me with endless facts about why my decision to purchase a Macintosh is wrong, forget it. To The Git, computers are tools, not a religion. For the next three years he will be working in a mixed environment of Macs and PCs and it makes sense to become as familiar with Mac as with the PC. Adding a Macintosh to the menagerie of machines at home will not cause the sky to fall in and the downfall of Western Civilisation. That's the Prime Miniature and Mad King George's job.

Thought for the day:

One of the chief obstacles to intelligence is credulity, and credulity could be enormously diminished by instructions as to the prevalent forms of mendacity. Credulity is a greater evil in the present day than it ever was before, because, owing to the growth of education, it is much easier than it used to be to spread misinformation, and, owing to democracy, the spread of misinformation is more important than in former times to the holders of power.

Bertrand Russell

Current Listening:

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young -- Celebration Copy


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Thursday 27 February 2003

The Git is truly blessed! Yesterday, an acquaintance who was a very pretty young girl indeed when he first met her back in 1978 has turned into a most handsome woman. Apart from the sheer joy of meeting her once more, Jill has offered The Git her history reader. The only book The Git must purchase is his geology lab-notes workbook!

Mrs Git had a problematic day. The pain she was suffering the other day is potentially gallstones and she had to be blasted with ultrasound today in order to determine if this is indeed the case. She is not the best when confronted by unknowns and still has a day or two in which to worry about the results.

On Monday, The Git must have been suffering from a brain-fart. Someone pointed out that he had missed his first Geology lecture. It might have something to do with the fact that the class timetable is printed in minute type. When The Git presented to the Geology office, he was conducted to the professor taking the class who informed him that he was far from the only one who missed it. Thankfully, nothing important was missed. A brief conversation elicited a common interest in the history of science, something he referred to in the subsequent lecture. "And there's someone in the front row who knows far more about what I'm talking about today, so he will keep me honest!" Maybe, maybe not. His lecture was a brief overview of cosmology from the Greeks to the present and there was plenty I could have added and/or amended. No doubt the opportunity will arise for us to discuss such things and we will both learn from the experience.

John Dominick writes:

Or similar Aussie expressions (I was once told "Good on you cobber" was a reliable compliment - times change).

Many years ago, one could bash a Mac and guarantee a few things. Shitpots full of nasty notes, commentary, and the like, usually, plus one or two "yeah, you hit the nail on the head" jobs. Now the converse seems possible.

Is it perhaps the sign of those subsisting in marginal areas that they feel necessary to bash them that leave the margins? I dunno. I don't think the PC is heading off any time soon, but the increasingly high-handed actions of Microsoft are leading me to believe that Microsoft is going marginal...

Maybe, maybe not, but the nasty comments brigade have still not answered a fundamental question: "How do I run Mac-specific software other than by utilising a Mac?" The fact is that I am now in an environment that was dominated by Apple for many a long year and the effects still persist. There are proportionally far more Macs at the university than in the rest of the world. The Git cannot ever recall hearing: "Oh, I wouldn't read that! It's set in Palatino and I never read anything unless it's set in Times Roman. It makes so much more efficient use of space on the page."

The Git met one of the oldest, if not the oldest student on campus. He has no idea how old Robin is, though he has been told that the oldest student is in her nineties. The Git is a gentleman and gentlemen never ask ladies such things. She is doing first year geology also and by happy coincidence was brought up in Franklin, the village The Git has called home for twenty one years. Robin is also passionately interested in history, particularly that of Franklin, so we anticipate some fascinating discussions in the year ahead.

At the other end of the age spectrum, Thomas, who was so angry at being required to study a non-computing unit, is enjoying Philosophy as much, or even more than his father. This is very much down to Phil Dowe's witty and entertaining lecture style. The Git is most gratified by this.

Also gratifying is the fact that EYO finally refunded the overcharge they made on the CD burner purchased in early November last year.

Thought for the day:

I am often amazed at how much more capability and enthusiasm for science there is among elementary school youngsters than among college students.

Carl Sagan

Current Listening:

Paul Simon -- One Trick Pony


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Friday 28 February 2003

No post today. The Git slept in :-)

Tomorrow he will summarise his impressions of his first week at university since 1969. And philosophise a bit.

Thought for the day:

It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honour him for what he is.

Hermann Hesse

Current Listening:

Shel Silverstein -- Freakin' at the Freakers' Ball


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Saturday 1 March 2003

From Tim Gadd:

Firstly, to those who might perceive this article as being unpatriotic, or lacking in the proper ANZUS spirit, please take some solace in the fact that before I had blown off considerable steam in other fora, I had intended to write a piece called "Why I Hope You Get Your Arses Kicked". And I would like to add that, despite what you might infer about me from that title, probably most of my best friends are Americans; I like America, I have been there somewhere between 5 and 10 times; I was there on 911; and until certain personal circumstances changed in recent years, I had actually intended moving there. I still think that the USA, with the exception of parts of central Oregon, which smell of dirty socks for some reason, is a great country.

Alright, that's the arselicking out of the way.

One goes through the days with a mounting sense of incredulity. The pronouncements coming out of Washington, and reiterated by Blair and Howard, seem increasingly surreal and farcical. Sometimes it feels like we're living the script of some 21st Century Dr. Strangelove.

Does anybody remember a war where the enemy was chastised for not disarming before they were invaded?

There are about a quarter of a million US troops surrounding Iraq, under the command of a leader who will invade with or without UN approval (most probably without), and while Iraq prepares to engage an enemy who hopelessly outclass them in all respects, the UN demands they destroy some missiles which supposedly can fly about 20 miles further than they're supposed to. I think Iraq could probably be forgiven for telling Blix "This is not a great time to bring this up."

We have a President who, after refusing to rule out pre-emptive nuclear strikes, attempts to take the moral high ground with an unsupported claim that the enemy will defend themselves with lesser weapons of mass destruction if attacked.

We have a nation which has been badgered into allowing intelligence flights by spy planes, and detailed intelligence and logistics gathering over its territory by a force which will certainly use that intelligence to help plan its invasion.

Basically we have a "How dare you defend yourself?" mentality towards Iraq.

Try to disengage yourselves from ideas about who is in the right for a moment, and see this in purely pragmatic terms. What nation on Earth would fall over itself to disarm immediately before a war? What leader would tell his people "In order not to annoy the invaders, we must render ourselves unable to fight back"?

The rhetoric "only Iraq can avoid this war by fully disarming" doesn't convince me, and I'm sure it doesn't convince Baghdad, if Baghdad somehow weren't already outraged at the idea of being told by a hated enemy to completely disarm.

Does anyone believe that any level of disarmament on the part of Iraq would be sufficient to avert a war: that any level of disarmament would, in fact, have any effect other than to make it easier for Bush to win that war? President Bush, probably rightly, has consistently refused to believe Saddam when the latter claims there are no WMD's in Iraq. If Saddam suddenly produced a whole bunch of WMD's and turned them over, does anyone believe Bush wouldn't say "Aha! Now where are the rest?"

Do you see any way out of this dilemma, this farce? No disarmament by Iraq is going to avert an invasion. In fact any destruction of previously undeclared weapons will only produce the ironic if accurate observation that anybody who would lie for so long about not having WMD's is undoubtedly still lying, and that Iraq is just 'stalling for time' again.

To be blunt: can you imagine a scenario in which Bush would not invade Iraq, come what may (short, perhaps, of Iraq revealing that it has an orbiting space platform with death rays capable of destroying Texas)?

On a closing note, I saw a broadcast a week or so ago where Texans were interviewed about the impending war. Unsurprisingly, they were staunchly pro-Bush. "There's no place in the civilized world for people like Saddam", declared a beer-drinking cowboy at a country music gig. With respect, and with a tip of the hat to Kinky Friedman, what would Texans know about civilization?

Tim Gadd

Not pro-Iraq, just anti-Bullshit

Tim I think sums up the cynicism about the forthcoming war with Iraq that The Git hears nearly every day.

-oOo-

Something The Git hasn't referred to at all yet this week is that he is suffering from a pinched nerve in his neck. The cynics will point out that the most likely cause is whiplash from gazing at too many passing pretty young girls on campus. It would be silly to deny this possibility. The outcome of the pinched nerve is intense pain in his left elbow, shoulder and upper spine -- pain as intense as any The Git has experienced in his long, misspent life. This is sufficient to make using the computer keyboard all but impossible. Fortunately, it has mostly occurred outside lecture time so far and the doctor assures me that "this too shall pass".

Lying down helps enormously and while that's preferable to codeine, it mitigates against writing very much. Since there's lots of reading to do, that's OK for me, though perhaps disappointing for my readers. Disappointing for The Git, too as there are several ideas floating around that he suspects will only be pinned down when converted to recycled electrons.

-oOo-

Canberra Firestorm 

Thursday, 27 February 2003

Can we prevent such infernos? In this summer of fire, one tragedy stands out - the Canberra bushfires. In a single day, four lives were lost and more than 500 homes were destroyed in and around our national Capital.

Within days of the tragedy, fire experts from the CSIRO were searching for answers. Catalyst followed their investigation into a fire that has re-written the rules of how bushfires behave. The story weaves together the graphic accounts of the fire victims, with the investigative teamís analysis of why the fires defied all expectations.

The story investigates why so many homes were lost, how a bushfire could strike deep inside a suburb, and why this fire developed into an uncontrollable wildfire. Find out exactly what went wrong, and discover what we can do to be better prepared next time. The results tackle one of the big questions - should people leave their homes or stay and fight the fire. Full story.

The tragedy is that The Git learnt from this story that we already knew these many long years ago how to prevent the enormous loss of houses since he had attended a seminar in the wake of the Cockatoo and Macedon fires (Ash Wednesday). There were some interesting, unexpected events during the firestorm, but the techniques that worked on Ash Wednesday worked equally as well in Canberra. One properly prepared homeowner managed to save not just his own home, but four others as well.

Thought for the day:

Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.

Franz Kafka

Current Listening:

Genesis -- The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway


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