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Diary, July 2001


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    29  30  31


Sunday, July 1, 2001

Glenn Doman

In the afternoon, I accidently saw a program about
The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential®". The program related how through a special training program normal children can gifted, learning things at a very early age. What drew my attention was the remark that the program was initially developed for children with mental handicaps. Watching the program, I felt I should have known this some years ago. Annabel will be seven next October. Her reading skills are not very good, although she has been to first grade for a year. Her teacher states that she has a very short attention span, and often is found day dreaming instead of doing her work. We have decided to let her repeat the first grade, also because according to the official rules she should only have started first grade this year anyway. Andy is a child with mental handicaps. Currently, his development age is somewhere between two and three years depending on what you are looking at. He is making some progress lately. The television program did not say much about the mental handicapped children.

When I though about the program, I pondered about the claims being made. Some examples of children were given, that indeed did remarkable things. But the immediate question was, if the training program would work for all children the same. I got the impression that the parents of the children were both wealthy and rather intelligent. It might be the case that the training program was only highlighting the above average inteligence that this children already possed.

The training program mainly consisted of the parents, mainly the mothers, go through a very extensive training program with their children throughout the day, sometimes even into the late evening, showing them cards with pictures, all the time stimulating their brains as it seems.

On the otherhand, one should also ask oneself what will become from this children when they grow older. It might be the case that they are just early, but in the end not more intelligent than their peers.

(follow-up)

Discrimination

The Netherlands is known as a very tolerant country with very liberal laws.
Three months ago, the marriage law was changed such that same sex marriages now have the same status as man-woman marriages with exactly the same rights. In the Netherlands, a legal marriage is performed by a civil servant of the city in which the marriage is conducted. Most cities have several civil servants, from which the people who want to merry can choose. Because of the new law, a city cannot refuse to marry a same sex couple. It is obvious that not every civil servant would like to marry a same sex couple. Of course, the new law does not imply that every civil servant has to marry same sex couples. At each city there should be at least one civil servant willing to perform the ceremony. Now, the Dutch organisation for defending the rights of homosexuals, the COC, has written letters to many town halls, insisting that all civil servants should be willing to perform same sex marriages, and that those who refuse this should be fired. This may sound like a rediculous idea, but the city of Leeuwaarden has indeed fired a civil servant for this reason, namely, Mrs. Nynke Eringa-Boomgaardt. She refused to this on the basis of religious convictions, as far as I understand. As Leeuwaarden is a big city, it is without doubt that there must be enough civil servants willing to perform a same sex marriage. Now it seems that a law that was supposed to prevent the discrimination of people with respect to their sexual orientation is now being used by a group of people to discriminate people who for their religious convictions. I wonder what will come from this. Are this the first signs of the start of the prosecution of Christians?

(follow-up)


Monday, July 2, 2001

Debuggers wisdom

In the past weeks, I have been looking at some nasty bug, which appears once in a while, and lead to a crash. When I was debugging it, I also saw some other strange behaviour, but I simply worked arround it. Then this afternoon, I looked at it more careful, and discovered that this strange behaviour was a serious bug, and might even explain the nasty problem. So the moral of the story is: Whenever you have to debug a nasty problem, solve everything else that goes wrong as well!

( follow-up)


Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Glenn Doman

Today, I did find some more information about the television program that I saw
last sunday. It was the combination of "Profesionel mothers" and "Doman" that I found the page of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential®" founded by Glenn Doman. Of course, I also searched for "Glenn Doman" now that I knew his ful name. And I did find some negative comments, pointing to a book called "No time for Jello". Also found some references to NACD. I did have a look, and noticed that this organisation was founded by another Doman, but I could not find any information about their relationship.

I send Li-Xia an email, and she saved many of the pages from these two sites on disk, and during the evening I spend some time reading the material. There are indeed some interesting things described, but also a lot of success stories. I still have my doubts, but some of the ideas sound very interesting, and also applicable to both Annabel her reading and learning problems, and Andy his development problems. We are considering to buy some of the books, and see what we can learn from it. At least I am motivated about thinking harder about how I can teach them more.

(follow-up)


Thursday, July 5, 2001

Last day with my employer

Today is my last day working with
my employer. The day started with a "Town meeting", which is a meeting where all people of the company in Almelo gather to hear about the lastest financial figures and the plans for time.

Solving my last bug

Between all the things I did today, I also tried to solve my last bug. It was a random occuring runtime error, which simply makes the software crash. The nasties kind of bug that you can have. Earlier this week, after I made some changes, I could no longer reproduce the bug. Yesterday, I discovered that some of the changes did not really solve the problem. Today, I discovered that a logging statements, that I had added to find the cause of the bug, prevented the bug from appearing. Although I was not very charmed with the idea of calling this the fix for the bug, there was nothing better I could do on my last day.

( follow-up)

Farewell party

At three o'clock in the afternoon, a farewell party was organized. I had ordered some eggrolls from a local Chinese restaurant. My project leader gave a short speech. He mentioned that I do have a good feeling for the needs of customers, and that I am good at estimating efforts needed to implement certain functionality. It's not that I want to brag about this, but funny thing is that during my application procedure, some of the managers had expressed doubts about my "commercial" feeling, being afraid that I would be too "academical". Of course, my interest in eXtreme Programming was mentioned. Also did he wonder why I often carried my backbag (a can hardly call it a backpack) with me, if I needed to do some testing on the other side of the building. (I explained that this was because I carried my diary, my apples and such in it.) He also said that he never had understood why I had put "Mr. Floppy" behind the name of my computer on the network. (I explained that it was because I would often carry a floppy with me with some debug tools, and to collect communication logfiles from the spectrometers of course.) As a fairwell gift from the software development group, I got a Philips ToUCam PCVC 740K Webcam. From the company, I also got a pen set.

Breaking down our fence

Tomorrow, we are getting a new fence in the back garden, which means I had to break down the old fence. The first stage was to tear it down. Now this was done within ten minutes, as the wood was rotten in many places. Then I spend some time in taking the door apart. Because the remaining pieces of wood were too long to fit in the car, I tried to saw them in mid. But, this was less easy then I had thought. As an alternative, I tried to simply break them in the middle. I made to stacks of the pieces, laid one piece with both ends on one of these stacks and jumped in the middle. After some tries this did work. I noticed that you could simply stand in the middle making the piece bend, and then crack with a loud bang. Annabel was watching me doing this. There remained some thicker pieces that I still needed to saw in the middle, but that was not such a big problem.

Finally, we tried to put everything in the back of the car. Li-Xia was convinced that everything would fit in the back trunc. It did indeed. There was even some space left. In the mean time, she and Annabel cleaned all the mess.

The tree

When I was taking pictures, I could not mind looking straight up, and take a picture of our tree in the sunlight.

Rest

After everything was done, I took one of the garden chairs and set down to rest and enjoy the nice weather. Annabel sat with me, and while we ate some watermelon we played a game of Go, which she won without much trouble. I did have a real holiday feeling. I don't know whether it was because of the nice weather, the breaking down of the fence or because this was my last working day with my employer.

(follow-up on playing Go)


Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Meindert

A strange day again. First the news that Herman Brood had commited suicide by jumping from the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam around half past one this afternoon. It was a big news item on the eight o'clock news.

In the evening, I went visit Meindert to celebrate his birthday. His German girl-friend and her friend also visiting him. They could understand some Dutch, so I just spoke Dutch, while the others spoke German. To understand German for me is no problem at all.

Because I never had heard Meindert's new loudspeaker, he played some music on it. He has two B&W 801 studio loudspeaker boxes with a Sphinx project two amplifier. It indeed sounded impressive. A pity that he has neighbours. With this kind of equipment you really need to have a free standing house with the closest neighbour at least a hunderd yards/meters away.

Of course, I could not stop from paging through many of his interesting books. He has numbered all of them, and is spending some time entering them in a database. So I am not the only one making Useless lists.

We also remembered the time that we lived together in a dorm on the Campus of the University of Twente together with 10 others. I could not stay too long. He invited me to visit him soon. Yes, indeed it has been too long ago that we have talked. I think that after we visited him in 1996 for his birthday, I only have been to his place once or twice. We did meet in the city several times, and of course, we also phoned each other at least twice a year.


Saturday, July 14, 2001

One hour without glasses

The coating of my glasses was wearing of. Last week I went back to the shop. They said they would replace them. Today we went to check if the glasses had arrived. They did. We accepted the option to have them put in right away. So, I had to walk around without glasses for one hour. I am not blind, but as soon as I enter a bookshop, I feel terribly handicaped. We decided to go to McD. And there I decided to write this.

Afterwards, I went back to the shop. They had tilted my glasses a little more so that my eye brows were not touching the glass so strong any more. It was because of sweat that the coating was wearing of. I had to get used to this again. But this time it did not take so long as last year when I got my new pair of glasses.

(follow-up)

Books

I bought thirdteen little books at De Slegte today. Upstairs in the second hand department I found this box with thirdteen books from the Bible, each with an introduction of some famouse person. (This seems to be a translation of "The Pocket Canons Series 1"). These are:

Book Introduction by
Genesis
Exodus
Job
Provebers
Ecclastiastics
Song of Salomon
Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Mark
Gospel of Luke
Gospel of John
Letter to the Corthians
Letter of James
Revelation
Nicolaas Matsier
David Grossman
Louis de Bernières
Geert van Istendael
Doris Lessing
A.S. Byatt
A.N. Wilson
Nick Cave
Mgr. R.Ph. Bär
Blake Morrison
Fay Weldon
The Dalai Lama
Will Self

(follow-up)


Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Contacting my former colleagues

Today, I exchanged some emails with my former colleagues at
previous employer. I heared that fix for the bug did not work. Although I could not reproduce it in the development environment of VB, it did appear again in the compiled executable. At least they have some method of getting some additional trace information about when the bug occurs, which might help in solving it.

I also heard that one of my colleagues took the 128 Mbytes of memory from the Dell OptiPlex GX110 that I used when working with previous employer, and put it in his own machine to give himself 256 Mbytes of memory.

This same colleague told me that he finally started on redesigning some code, right after I had left. When I started working in April 1999, I was told that I would have to work on some redesign. But instead, I spend almost all of my time fixing bugs. I did write some plans about how to do some redesign, but I never came doing any at all. The funny thing is also that I never touched on the part that is being redesigned right now. For some reason, I being a computer scientist was never allowed to touch the core of the application, the analytical routines maybe because I did not have a background in physics or chemistery. This seems to be rather typical for the company, that they think you can beter hire a physists and teach him to program, than to hire a computer scientist and teach him some physics. And indeed, I was one of the few people having a master degree in computer science working for the company.

(follow-up)


Saturday, July 21, 2001

Langton's Ant

Today, I came across some pages about Langton's Ant, a certain type of "cellulair" automata that generates interesting patterns. It must have been around 1982 that I wrote a program implementing Langton's Ant on an Acorn Atom. Because at that time I did not know it was known as Langton's ant, I called it Turttle. Later on, I wrote a little C program for MS-DOS, which would run a Langton's Ant specified by a string from the command line, such that each letter would specify the direction to turn to if the cell that have the maching value. The original Langton's Ant is specified by the string "RL". This Ant will produce some irregular patters rather soon. I discovered that the Ant with the string "RLLR" generates a pattern that becomes symmetric over and over again. It seems that there are many such Ants. And the surprising thing is that their strings also look kind of symmetric. I have never been able to find some proof why this is the case.

(follow-up and
more seemingly trivial problems)

Balance in software development

It seems that most companies producing software have a problem finding the right balance with respect to the software development process. I have seen companies that are technology driven. Usually these are start-up companies, where a new technology is the driving force in the software development. Often they produce very high quality software, but which is too sophisticated for what the market is expecting. These type of companies have a big problem selling the product that they are making. On the otherhand, I see companies that are marketing pulled. These companies only add features too the software that are demanded by the market, and nothing more. Their software product usually are large, using technology of about three to four years ago, and the code becomes increasingly difficult to maintain. Often the developers are shouting for a redesign, but these request are silenced by what seems to be an endless list of bugs and change requests coming from the many customers. Usually, you find this type of software development in large and old companies.

Why is it so difficult to find the right balance betwee technology driven and marketing pulled? It is obvious that companies that fail to establish a balance are doomed to fail in the end. Either because nobody want to buy their product, or because their product is dropped in favour of a better product. I think that one of the answers in maintaining a good balance is an honest evaluation of cost and benefits.


Saturday, July 28, 2001

De Waarbeek

Today, we brought our anual visit to "De Waarbeek", a rather simple amusement park in Hengelo, less than twenty minutes by car. Again the little train was Andy's favourite. We lost count of the number of times we took him on this ride. Annabel tried almost everything. It was rather quiet, so there were almost no waiting lines.

(next visit)

Magnolia on blossom

For some reason, the Magnolia in our back garden started to blossom for a second time this year. The first time was in April. I think that the most likely cause is that Li-Xia pruned the tree around May.

(follow-up)



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