A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

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Monday 31 March 2003

Much is being made by some Americans of boycotting "French" products, such as Jacobs Creek wine (Australian), Motown Records (American) and Chivas Regal scotch whisky. Of course many Americans long ago banned the wisdom of French philosopher René Descartes who famously said: "I think, therefore I am". The American substitute is perhaps: "I don't think, therefore I am American".


In that vein, it appears that some American states are in the process of banning, of all things, firewalls and network address translation (NAT). "The states of Massachusetts and Texas are preparing to consider bills that apparently are intended to extend the national Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (TX bill; MA bill)... Similar bills are on the table in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alaska, Tennessee, and Colorado."


The airwaves seem saturated with "Reality TV" -- the ongoing fight between David and Goliath in the land of Abraham -- even the ABC getting in on the act with Frontier House: The Promised Land. The Git saw the first episode, but declined to watch the second, preferring to sit on the front deck of The House of Steel in contemplation...

Frontier House explores the reality of everyday life in 1883 at a level of great detail. The experience of the families is at once dramatic, entertaining and educational. A June snowstorm, unanticipated weight loss, encounters with bears, rigorous hard labour to survive and a family sneaking modern cosmetics into their 1883 experience, make for great television. The worst of human nature prevails even in 1883 and competition erupts between the family groups, spawning corruption within the new community.

Modern cosmetics in 1883 and hunting on the frontier not allowed appears to be part of Modern American Reality. Being attacked by the inhabitants of a foreign country while invading their home evinces surprise. Do we conclude that if the forces of Great Satan invaded the US with superior force of arms that its citizens would immediately surrender?

As Tom Rapp once sang: "I don't want to escape from reality, I want reality to escape from me."

Thought for the day:

The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.

Omar Bradley

Current Listening:

Tom Rapp -- These Things Too


Tuesday 1 April 2003

A busy day spent scanning a document for an ex-Huon Valleyite living in Chile. HP's scanning software leaves a lot to be desired -- it's what came with my ScanJet 4300C. Some pages are text only, so I'm scanning those pages to 1-bit TIFF files. Some are text and greyscale pictures, so I'm scanning those as 8-bit JPEGs -- all at 300 dpi. Unfortunately, the scanning software wants to OCR the text scans and scan the pictures in full colour. When I tell the software I want to scan them as greyscale, it wants to do so at 200 dpi and I have to change the resolution. There appears to be no way to set defaults for the way I want to do things.

This is the first intensive use made of the scanner. Most of the scans I have made have been 35 mm transparencies with the CanoScan FS2710. The software that came with that scanner is a country mile ahead of the HP software for useability.


Died for Empire

The image above is a list of inhabitants of Franklin who went away to war in Europe some eighty years ago, but never returned. There are few now living who can remember the Empire that they died for. Empires are like that.

Thought for the day:

Both tears and sweat are salty, but they render a different result. Tears will get you sympathy; sweat will get you change.

Jesse Jackson

Current Listening:

Moody Blues -- A Question of Balance


Thursday 3 April 2003

Some days it's possible to truly hate the Internet. For some twenty four hours The Git couldn't resolve the sturmsoft.com domain: no email, no FTP to post The Diatribe. Then it occurred to me to use another nameserver other than the one provided by my ISP. Bingo! Problem solved. Then the ISP's SMTP server started to reject email (again) with a "relaying not allowed" message. The Git doesn't fucking well relay! A restart of the computer fixed that.


A Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Press Release:

20th Century Climate Not So Hot 

Cambridge, MA - A review of more than 200 climate studies led by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has determined that the 20th century is neither the warmest century nor the century with the most extreme weather of the past 1000 years. The review also confirmed that the Medieval Warm Period of 800 to 1300 A.D. and the Little Ice Age of 1300 to 1900 A.D. were worldwide phenomena not limited to the European and North American continents. While 20th century temperatures are much higher than in the Little Ice Age period, many parts of the world show the medieval warmth to be greater than that of the 20th century.


"For a long time, researchers have possessed anecdotal evidence supporting the existence of these climate extremes," Baliunas says. "For example, the Vikings established colonies in Greenland at the beginning of the second millennium that died out several hundred years later when the climate turned colder. And in England, vineyards had flourished during the medieval warmth. Now, we have an accumulation of objective data to back up these cultural indicators."

The different indicators provided clear evidence for a warm period in the Middle Ages. Tree ring summer temperatures showed a warm interval from 950 A.D. to 1100 A.D. in the northern high latitude zones, which corresponds to the "Medieval Warm Period." Another database of tree growth from 14 different locations over 30-70 degrees north latitude showed a similar early warm period. Many parts of the world show the medieval warmth to be greater than that of the 20th century.


The Git is amused by a potential new pandemic, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, being virtually ignored because of the Important War Against Iraq. It's worth recalling the last Great Pandemic of 1918:

The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster.

...In the two years that this scourge ravaged the earth, a fifth of the world's population was infected. The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. This pattern of morbidity was unusual for influenza which is usually a killer of the elderly and young children. It infected 28% of all Americans (Tice). An estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in the world war. Of the U.S. soldiers who died in Europe, half of them fell to the influenza virus and not to the enemy (Deseret News). An estimated 43,000 servicemen mobilized for WWI died of influenza (Crosby). 1918 would go down as unforgettable year of suffering and death and yet of peace.


The effect of the influenza epidemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years. The influenza virus had a profound virulence, with a mortality rate at 2.5% compared to the previous influenza epidemics, which were less than 0.1%. The death rate for 15 to 34-year-olds of influenza and pneumonia were 20 times higher in 1918 than in previous years (Taubenberger). People were struck with illness on the street and died rapid deaths. One anectode shared of 1918 was of four women playing bridge together late into the night. Overnight, three of the women died from influenza (Hoagg). Others told stories of people on their way to work suddenly developing the flu and dying within hours (Henig). One physician writes that patients with seemingly ordinary influenza would rapidly "develop the most viscous type of pneumonia that has ever been seen" and later when cyanosis appeared in the patients, "it is simply a struggle for air until they suffocate," (Grist, 1979). Another physician recalls that the influenza patients "died struggling to clear their airways of a blood-tinged froth that sometimes gushed from their nose and mouth," (Starr, 1976). The physicians of the time were helpless against this powerful agent of influenza.

Full Story

Note that the mortality rate for the Spanish Flu was considerably less than that for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. As well, air travel gives such diseases a much better and quicker chance of spreading worldwide nowadays than ship travel offered in the early twentieth century. The Git also notes with grim amusement that the outcome of most wars throughout history were influenced more by disease outbreaks than military prowess and strength.

Thought for the day:

I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.

Florence Nightingale

Current Listening:

Kevin Coyne -- Heartburn


Friday 4 April 2003

An aspect of ancient warfare was that an army would besiege a city and the inhabitants be given the opportunity to surrender. If they did, it was all over. Should the surrender not occur, then the battle commenced and usually wasn't finished until every single inhabitant was dead. Everyone understood this and there were very few complaints.

Modern warfare, in its pretend avoidance of killing, seems more like watching a cat play with a mouse. The goal appears to be to inflict the maximum possible amount of suffering on the enemy -- torture on a mass scale. Of course the "bang, boom, bang and it's all over advocated" so frequently by the likes of Bob Thompson provides no photo opportunities, or reality TV. You can't sell advertising for something that's clean, final and relatively painless.

The other reality-inversion is that of calling suicide bombers "cowards". It used to be that someone who sacrificed their own life for the sake of their fellows in warfare was Brave and often received a medal. These days, the "Brave" are those who kill from so far away they cannot see who, or what has been killed, if anybody. One wonders if, in the name of Political Correctness, that the recipients of medals in previous wars will have their honours removed for having had the bad taste to actually make physical contact with the enemy.

Of course true understanding of this war requires some religious insight. It is a war between the Children of Abraham and the... er... Children of Abraham. The Git has been assured by several Americans that the True Children of Abraham live in America and that the Children of Abraham actually living in the Land of the Children of Abraham are not really Children of Abraham. It's a mystery that these "facts" do not appear in the Bible, or the Q'ran.

Thought for the day:

We are heading into an expansion of the American relationship with that complex of religion, culture and geography known as Islam. There are two things to be said about this. One is that no part of the world is more important to our well-being at the moment -- and probably for the foreseeable future. The other is that no part of the world is more hopelessly and systematically and stubbornly misunderstood by us.

Meg Greenfield

Current Listening:

Radiohead -- Hail to the Thief

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© Jonathan Sturm 2003


© Jonathan Sturm 2003