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Diary, August 2002


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Thursday, August 8, 2002

Edsger W. Dijkstra

Today, I read that Edsger Dijkstra has died from cancer. In a short autobiograpgy (EWD1166), I read that he constructed the algorith for finding the shortest path in a directed graph without paper and pencil. As far as I can recall, I also found the algorith (independently) without paper and pencil. I vaguely remember that I was sitting in the train. I implemented it in LISP. When searching for his name, I did find an interview that appeared in a Dutch newspaper.

(He died on August 6)


Sunday, August 11, 2002

An overflow in the attic

When we bought our house, we were very happy with our large and empty attic. Next Tuesday our new bed is going to arrive. We decided to give our bed to Annabel. Yesterday, I took apart the two beds that were in her bedroom. One of the beds was used by my mother-in-law earlier this year. Then we discovered that there was not much room in the attic. Yesterday, Li-Xia also decided to empty some of the cupboards on the sides of the attic to see if we could put in some other things. So, this afternoon, I found myself in a completely full attic with the assignment to store-away some stuff and to make room. I have to admit, I became a little depressed not knowing where to begin, and what to keep and what to through away. On top of that I also found some boxes with old letters, bringing back many memories from the past. After about six hours of hard work, we managed to clear away most things and to put our bed in the room of Annabel. To night we will be camping, sleeping on the matrasses on the ground. How romantic.

(follow-up and giving Annabel's bed to Andy)


Monday, August 12, 2002

Lord of the Rings

Saturday, I bought the video of Lord of the Rings: the fellowship of the ring. After having watched the first half that evening (till the fellowship left Rivendel), we watched the second part yesterday evening. In bed I read through my copy and found several inconsistencies, and I wondered how many there are. Today, I found a page describing many differences. I also found a page with the script of the movie.


Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Students

This week the freshmen students have their introduction period. Yesterday, we already saw some strange vehicels pass by out office. This morning, we saw many students collecting some kind of wooden pallet, which they might need for the pond race. The weather looks okay for this kind of event.


Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Scaffolding

Yesterday, some people build up a scaffolding in the hall of the KTC building (where my office is). Today, I heard it was because some lamps in the ceilling needed to be replaced. It seems it is not tall enough for that purpose as you look at the picture on the left that I took this after noon. Nobody has been doing anything today with the scaffolding. Should I send this in as another "How do .. change a lightbulb?" riddle?


Friday, August 16, 2002

Personality tests

Yesterday, Li-Xia received the results of some personality test she did. It was a Holland's personality test, which recognizes six different types of people. Each of the six types matches up with a certain type of job. Looking at the types, I think that I would score high on the investigation type. I found some other intersting personality tests. A very simple one, I encountered consisted of picking a image from nine given images. I selected this.

Of course, I also looked at the world famous sixteen. Myers-Briggs personality types. I think, I fit the INTP type the best, although, I also might be a INTJ. I did not find a table comparing the Holland's personality types with the Myers-Briggs'. I did find a page about the Five-Factor Model of Personality, which simply states that the traditional Myers-Briggs division in sixteen personality types is wrong. Looking at these, I think, I am an O+, C+, E-, A+, N+, although I also could be in the middle for the C and N factors.

Spider

This morning, Annabel said that there was a spider on the wall of our living room, "a big one" she added. And indeed, it was not a very small one. We tried to catch it, but it escaped under the sofa and I did not want to continue the search. Late this evening, I spotted it on the wall again and was able to catch it. I am not very afraid of spiders, but the idea that a big one might be creeping on me while I am in watching television is a bit scary to me.


Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Pattern 83: Master and apprentices

Again an example of a social pattern rather than an architectural pattern. Only when learning goes by the manner of master and apprentices, the workplace needs to be organized as such. One can raise the question why nowadays learning and teaching is mostly done in specialized institutions (such as universities) rahter than as part of work. I agree that each working experience should also be an opportunity to learn, but I do not think that a master-apprentices relation is always needed for this. People working in pairs can learn from each other, even if the are on equal level.


Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Boring fractals

Fractals are known for their unlimited amouth of detail. No matter how much you zoom in a fractal, it will always show more details. Some weeks I ago, I installed JuliaSaver as my screen saver. The parameters I am using are: And although this produces very interesting moving fractal images, it slowly becomes more and more boring.


Thursday, August 22, 2002

Artificial brain

Last week, I came across some articles about home made robots. This made me think about a selflearning robot with an artificial brain. Today, I found a good introduction to neural networks. I also found some detailed description and visualization of the Nervous System of the Drosophila Melanogaster.

A lot of research has been done with respect to neural networks, but most of the research deals with simplified neural networks and how to teach these to map certain given input signals to desired output signals. This kind of neural networks first go through a training periode, and once they have been trained they are put into execution, during which they do not "learn" anymore. This can hardly be called selflearning, as with selflearning the network itself would decide when it needs to learn and when to execute previously established patterns.

There can only be learning, in case there is stimulus for change. In case of an artificial brain on a small robot, there need to be sensor. The signals from these sensors are the input for the neural network. The output of the neural network should control the motors that make the robot move around. There should be some kind of judging function whether the input signals are pleasant, and the neural network should be stimulated to change itself when the signals are not pleasant. Examples of unpleasant stimilii are bumping against something and having a low battery power. These could be compared with pain and hunger signals. A hunger stimilii is only interesting if there is also an opportunity to eat, e.g., to have the batteries recharged. And, of course, the feeding place should be recognizable in some sense. Being recharged should be a pleasant stimilus as long as the batteries are low. To motivate the robot to move around, one could define something as boredom: not sensing any changes in it visual sensors and not hearing any sounds.

(To be continued.)

Pattern 107: Wings of light

I do agree with the conclusion of this pattern, but I do not understand the reasoning behind the difference between natural and artificial light. I think, that the main reason why people feel more comfortable in rooms with windows, is because it gives them the (potential) ability to look outside. In the Netherlands there is a regulation that offices were people work, should have windows. I remember that in one of my previous working places we had a meeting room with no outside windows. It was called the "white room" because its walls were white. Funny that it was called like that.


Friday, August 23, 2002

"The Three Sirens"

In my search for the application of neural nets in selflearning robots, I came across "The Three Sirens", a group of music making robots. Sounds very interesting, but I could not find any information about the exact algorithms being used, except that it is a "variant of the so called Self Organizing Maps (SOM)".

(follow-up)

S-Spline

Sometimes, I come across programs that I had thought about myself to write. Today, I found one. It it the program S-Spline that can enlarge pictures without loosing sharpness. Check it out, it can do some amazing things. Sadly, it is a little expensive, and they claim to have patented the technique.

(follow-up)


Sunday, August 25, 2002

Lost in the past

There were still some things to be rearranged in the attic. And that meant moving out some things first. By doing so, I came found some old papers, and decided to throw away some of these. Instead of throwing away, I found myself reading through all those old papers and remembering many things from the past. And, of course, I felt like keeping all those letter, documents, and such, instead of throwing them away.

I have been considering to scan them and only keep them in digital form. But, I haven't found a good way to quickly scan documents. A traditional scanner is too slow and the quality of a cheap digital camera is too low.


Tuesay, August 27, 2002

The Jedi Faith

It seems 70,509 people have reported to be followers of the Jedi faith in Australia. However, by the Australian Bureau of Statistics they are categorized as "not defined". Those people must be disappointed, and they could be charged a fine.

A painting

Andy made a painting for Annabel.


Wednesday, August 28, 2002

New worm provides sad snapshot of virus writer psyche

The succes of any virus (biological and computer) greatly depend on the opportunities that the host gives for spreading it. A virus that is not succesful will die before it will have become broadly known. In this sense the success of a virus says a lot about the host. This is also true for computer virusses. SO the title should have been "New worm provides sad snapshot of the average internet user psyche". I could well be possible that there is a large group of virus writers who create very unsuccesful virusses. One could also conclude that there are some virus writers that very well understand the pschy of the average internet user.

Why do they hate us?

On September 5 and 6 the State Department of the U.S.A. will held a secret conference (according an article by Salman Rushdie in the Washington Post) is being held to find out why so many people in the world hate the United States. What strikes me about this conference is that they seems not to know why. First of all, I would like to remark that they are also the most loved country in the world. Many people all over the world dream about immigrating to the United States. And also would like to say that there are many good and honest people living in the United States.

I think it is rather obvious why so many people hate the United States. They are the most powerful and richest country in the world. But that alone would not be enough reason. They are also wanting to be the boss over this world. Just recently a law, nicknamed "The Invasion of The Hague Act", passed the congres stating that it is okay to have a military campain against our country in case any American soldier would appear before the International Court of Justice, which is seated in The Hague, and was established by the United Nations. We are a friendly country often supporting the United States because they help liberating our country from the German occupation during World War II. Why are they against an international court? What are they afraid of? That others would judge them? And why then, can they judge others?

In the past years there have been some other international treaties that they have cancelled. They are the country consuming the most energy in the world, yet, they do not feel an urge to reduce their oil consumption. They are importing about 55% of their oil from abroad. Almost all their military campains in the past decades, including the last one against Afganistan, were also related to securing their supply of oil. The U.S. government has been supporting the Saudia Arabic government to secure some of the best oil contracts they have. They want peace in the middle east, otherwise the steady flow of cheap oil would dry up, and ruin the economical success of the United State.

Yet, although they are the richest country in the world, many people are poor. About 3% of the population is in jail. (That might be the highest rate in the world.) Most of those in jail are from the poorer parts of society. They are maybe also the country with the highest homocide rate in the world (not counting those countries where there is an ongoing civil war). Yet, the Americans view themselves as the best country in the world. And because of this they have a hard time understanding how the rest of the world is viewing them. I know from first hand experience that the average Americans has a rather limited knowledge of the rest of the world. They see themselves as the biggest country in the world, but are forgetting that they have about 4% of the world population. Yet they are using about half the world natural resources.

I should comment that the Netherlands is also amonght the rich Western countries. But their are not many people who hate us. We are known for our openmindness and our knowledge of the rest of the world. Most Dutch people speak one foreign language. At least three foreign languages are being taught in highschool. It is not without reason that one of our former prime ministers is now the head of the UNCHR, and that one of our former ministers is a leading figure during Johannesburg summit on sustainable development, where also our crown prince plays an important role in one of the smaller conferences on water management. Yet, president Bush does not find this summit worth a visit.

I am afraid that the Western world will be shake on its foundations when the global oil crisis will hit us.


Thursday, August 29, 2002

Why do they hate us?(cont'd)

This morning, I told my boss about the above mentioned conference. His reply to why some many people hate the Americans is because they ask themselves the question: "Why do they hate us?".

(follow-up)


Saturday, August 31, 2002

De Bijenkorf

This week a new establishment of the shop "De Bijenkort" (The Beehive) was opened in Enschede. Today, Annabel and I went to have a look. At the third floor there was an exibition of some Dutch photographer including some nude pictures. One showed a squinting woman and a woman from the side that is standing bend forward so far that you can see some public hair. Another showed an almost naked "punk" girl with leather boots and a leather collar around her neck standing on hands and feets on a stool. Although these images are not very explicit and maybe a little playful, some people still may experience them as very erotic. What surprised me most about it, is that a "high-class" department store is putting such pictures on display.

(follow-up)

Finding a lost friend

Then at McDonalds, the Happy Meal had a small Ieoor doll in it. I asked Annabel to go and ask if the might have a Winnie-the-Pooh doll. She went back, and to my surprise, she came back with the same type of Winnie-the-Pooh doll that Andy had thrown out of the windows on Sunday, June 9. Annabel also told me that it was the last one they had. They gave these Winnie-the-Pooh dolls about a year ago, when there was a related movie being shown in the theaters. Apparently, they have been finishing some stock left over from last year, in lack of any current running theme. When we came home, we showed it to Li-Xia and Andy, and we all felt very happy about it.


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