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A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.
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Tuesday 6 May 2003
My friend Tim Marshall's visit has been quite exhausting, embarrassing on occasion even. We travelled to Liffey to visit old friends The Git hadn't seen for a decade. For several years prior, visits were frequent enough that finding their out-of-the-way farm required no thought whatsoever. On this occasion, The Git's memory wasn't quite up to remembering the last few twists and turns, so we had to give up and telephone for directions. Mrs Git later asked why we didn't stop and ask someone. As it happened, we did, but the directions were incorrect! The Git is learning that his memory is more limited than it once was...
Much of what occurred the last couple of days would be too boring to relate to those outside organic farming, so it's a short post today. If you are a keen organic gardener, you might want to check out Tim's new book: Recycle Your Garden: the essential guide to composting available from ABC Shops everywhere. Only if you believe your compost-making is beyond perfection will you find nothing to learn from this expert compost-maker. Tim's book is concise, very informative, accurate, well-illustrated and a great read. The Git is particularly pleased with the inscription in his copy: "From one rotter to another. Hope you like my composition on decomposition".
The Git's other Tim-friend, Tim Gadd, has a remarkable auction on eBay:
Due to space restrictions, I am selling the word 'and'.
And The Git foolishly left his reading glasses behind in Liffey <sigh>.
Thought for the day:
You know you are a real gardener when you think compost is a fascinating subject.
Leonard Cohen -- The Future
Wednesday 7 May 2003
Many thanks to all the readers who have subscribed and those who have subscribed to DOMAI. You have all earned The Git's undying gratitude even though he only knows the identity of one of the DOMAI subscribers. If you don't know what you are missing, there are new pictures posted here. Be warned, they are tasteful pictures of nude girls and if you object to seeing them, you know what to do.
The computer that The Git set up for his neighbours last week has become infected with an email virus already. He was careful to explain the dangers of opening attachments and installed AVG Antivirus, but it is unable to disinfect the machine, nor can the machine's owners tell The Git the name of the virus. <sigh>
In return for the computer installation, The Git is being well-fed on eastern European cuisine and red wine, so he can't complain overmuch. In addition, their old machine becomes an impoverished friend's machine. It's a 100 MHz Pentium, so it's likely The Git will install NT4 Workstation on it.
Also on the current agenda is cottage renovation as a prospective purchaser is coming to view the property in about ten days' time. "Busy" doesn't begin to describe The Git's life at the moment.
Thought for the day:
To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds and watch their renewal of life - this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do.
Charles Dudley Warner
The Beatles -- A Hard Day's Night
Saturday 10 May 2003
This is really turning into The Week from Hell! At yesterday's Geology Prac, The Git discovered that the Geology Field Trip is on this weekend with a choice of Saturday, or Sunday. For The Git there is no choice. Today, there's a visit from a real estate salesman to value the cottage, a complex task as it has a value "as is" and an end value based on the renovated article and a guess at how much the price will rise over the next few months. The real estate boom in Tasmania shows no sign of abating.
Late in the day, Tony and Tanya arrive to look at the cottage and over a cup of tea we discuss the various options. We are willing to forego some, but not all of the profit that our completing the renovation will bring if they want to buy now. They went away to think about it, but seem surprisingly enthusiastic about the cottage. While it's a mess at the moment, it's far less of a mess than twenty years ago and certainly will be more comfortable with less work than we needed to put in back then.
The Git's elation receiving a cheque from the US earlier in the week was tempered by the reality of banking here in Australia. The bank charged $AU20 for depositing the cheque and there's a 28 day clearance before the funds can be used by The Git. That is, the bank gets to earn a month's interest on the amount and simultaneously charge me for the privilege! Bastards!
Mrs Git's sister is visiting and had a number of old photographs with her of family. The Git attempted to fire up the scanner, but no window opened. WinXP's task manager showed the executable was running, so he shut down the computer for the first time in some weeks. Once more, the program, HP Precision Scan managed to launch without displaying a window. To cut a long story short, there's just a very long delay for this to happen -- something of the order of 2-3 minutes.
After scanning the photographs, The Git decided to dump a copy onto a Zip Disk as we are out of CD-Rs. The first disk is formatted for Mac. WinXP says there's no disk in the drive, so it can't be reformatted! A quick search finds a DOS formatted Zip Disk and so all is well.
Two Misses Thompson, one of whom is Mrs Git's ancestor on the maternal side.
Before taking The Git to task for being so singularly stupid as to be using WinXP, bear in mind that there are two reasons for doing so. The most important is that this machine has an Epson Stylus Pro attached and the Win2k driver for it sucks dead rodents. The driver provided with XP is dramatically better. The problem of printing to the Postscript printer on the network producing text compressed into half the page under Win2k has not occurred.
Mrs Git wants The Git to participate in a two year drug trial. The drug is rimonabant and is apparently very helpful to quit smoking tobacco. The Git agrees that quitting smoking is a Very Good Idea, but recalls previous attempts with considerable horror.
Thought for the day:
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.
Pearls Before Swine -- City of Gold
Sunday 11 May 2003
The Geology field trip proved interesting, exhausting and at times frustrating. The Git didn't quite catch the name of the leader of our little expedition to the hills surrounding Hobart's waterworks. He has the habit, when addressing a group of people, of looking from one side of the group to the other while speaking. In the absence of walls to reflect sound, this meant that when he had the back of his head toward The Git, he was inaudible. This was very frustrating at times as the words "Jurassic" and "Triassic", for instance, cannot be told apart when all you hear is "...assic".
The excursion was a mapping exercise to create a map of the rock types in the locale of the Hobart waterworks. We were to make notes and sketches in our notebooks, and locate and number the geological features on the working map we carried with us.
From an earlier lesson, The Git had been led to believe that we would be equipped with a geological pick, goggles to protect eyes from flying rock fragments, geological compass and safety vest. This latter is the bright orange sort that makes it easier for drivers to avoid running into you while you are standing at the roadside, the usual locality for showing students profiles cut through the layers of sedimentary rock. The equipment was not issued apparently for "occupational health and safety" reasons. In lieu of the geological pick, we flung loose rocks at those more firmly embedded in the ground, sans goggles. How this improved our safety is unclear to The Git.
The jaunt included a fairly long, steep walk up a hill. Long and steep when you suffer from osteoarthritis anyway. The youngsters had a much needed rest while The Git laboured up the incline and we took off very smartly as soon as he had arrived at the top. By this time, The Git's ankles, knees, hips and lower back were afire, so he took a couple of codeine tablets and not long after that he was surrounded by the usual fuzz that codeine brings forth.
Strangely, The Git's fellow student, Robin, who is in her early 80s, was driven up the steep bit by a fellow student. It was neither her idea, nor the fellow student's. Apparently, our leader thought that since she is so old, she must be unfit. The Git suspects that she is considerably fitter than he, but then she likely led a rather more sedate life. She told The Git the fellow student who was summarily roped in to drive her was very put out and made her feel very upset. He was unwilling to leave his vehicle at the point where we took the walking track descending towards the starting point, so he missed out on that part of the excursion.
After the descent, we stopped briefly for lunch and then proceeded to transfer the information we had gathered from the working map to the finished map. While The Git had little trouble with which rock formations belonged where, he had misunderstood the leaders brief verbal description at the beginning and made descriptions of each site he had numbered on the map, rather than generic descriptions for the three rock types. Being shown a visual example would have saved the misunderstanding, but The Git suspects that lecturers are far more fond of the sound of their own voices than efficiently conveying information. An example of this is our current Prac lecturer. So far, she has failed to answer any of The Git's questions. She responds to questions, but her words rarely seem relevant to the question and once she starts one of her prepared speeches, there's no stopping her. The Git is far from alone in this observation.
The Git had been told at the Friday Prac that the field trip was to last until 5pm, but it seems that he was misinformed and it was all over well before 3pm. The Git expressed some disgruntlement at the late notice and inaccuracy. He was told that no other student had any problems remembering the handout at Wednesday's lecture, but The Git's neighbouring student at the Friday Prac hadn't remembered it either. The Prac instructor had told The Git to refer to the handout from the very first lecture in February, but that merely referred to the 9am start at the Waterworks. The Git suggested that perhaps there should have been an email, or something on the school Intranet, but he was told that students complain about not having access to a computer for such things. (The university provides many excellent computer labs and there's never a problem finding one to work at if one is prepared to use an iMac). The lesson to prepare for this excursion was viewing a movie made by the school and handed out on CD-ROM some months ago. Viewing it and completing a test on the school Intranet was compulsory preparation for the field trip. The Git suspects that a more recent viewing of the movie would have been useful for obtaining more from the field trip, but the CD-ROM had to be returned many weeks ago.
The Git telephoned his brothers-in-law to inform Mrs Git of the change in pickup time, but to no avail. She was touring Hobart's art galleries and museums. Fortunately she telephoned at 3.15 and we were off home by 3.30 for The Git to prepare a hearty peasant soup for our dinner. While stirring the soup, The Git pondered the day's lessons. He had learned that sandstone at two separate sites were "dramatically different" when inspection with a hand lens and comparison with Geoscience Australia's pocket sediment chart indicated the grain size to be ~125um in both samples. Another case of theory trumps data? Most important, first year university students are a necessary evil -- tolerated only because one has to in order to hold down the job.
Thought for the day:
The average American college fails... to achieve its ostensible ends. One failure... of the colleges lies in their apparent incompetence to select and train a sufficient body of intelligent teachers. Their choice is commonly limited to second-raters, for a man who really knows a subject is seldom content to spend his lifetime teaching it: he wants to function in a more active and satisfying way, as all other living organisms want to function. There are, of course, occasional exceptions to this rule, but they are very rare, and none of them are to be found in the average college. The pedagogues there incarcerated are all inferior men -- men who really know very little about the things they pretend to teach, and are too stupid or too indolent to acquire more. Being taught by them is roughly like being dosed in illness by third-year medical students.
The truth is that the average schoolmaster, on all the lower levels, is and always must be... next door to an idiot, for how can one imagine an intelligent man engaging in so puerile an avocation?
Pink Floyd -- The Wall
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