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Sunday, July 1, 2001
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.
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?
Monday, July 2, 2001
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!
Wednesday, July 4, 2001
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
Thursday, July 5, 2001
Last day with Philips Analytical
Today is my last day working with Philips Analyitcal.
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.
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.
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
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 Philips pen set.
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.
When I was taking pictures, I could not mind looking straight
up, and take a picture of
our tree in the sunlight.
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 Philips Analytical.
(follow-up on playing Go)
Wednesday, July 11, 2001
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
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.
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").
Wednesday, July 18, 2001
Contacting my former colleagues
Today, I exchanged some emails with my former colleagues
Philips Analytical. 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 Philips,
and put it in his own machine to give himself 256 Mbytes of
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.
Saturday, July 21, 2001
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
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.
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.
more seemingly trivial problems)
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
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.
For some reason, the Magnolia in our back garden started
for a second time this year. The first time was in
I think that the most likely cause is that Li-Xia
pruned the tree around May.
June 2001 |
August 2001 |