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Diary, January 2003


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Wednesday, January 1, 2003

New Years day

Yesterday evening, Annabel was allowed to stay up. I remember how when I was young, it was always very special if we were allowed to stay up till midnight. The evening always looked like without end.

The first thing I did in this new year was going to the bathroom. Annabel and I went out to watch the fireworks of our neighbours. Andy just slept through all the noise.

Kara and Erica

Lately, I am often receiving emails from single women looking for a contact. These emails look very genuine, except that they have very weird email address from hotmail or AOL. Also the body often mentiones yet another weird looking email address. I haven't replied to any of these email addresses in fear that they are being send by a company creating "verified" email lists for spammers.


Thursday, January 2, 2003

Train

Yesterday, Li-Xia had been talking about the fact that Andy never went on the train, and so I suggested that we maybe could take the train while going into the city. A number of years ago, a new railway station was build halfway Hengelo and Enschede near the University and besides the new soccer stadium (to keep the hooligans out of the city center). So, Li-Xia had been talking to Andy the whole morning that we were going to take the train into the city. When this afternoon I put on my coat, just to check something in the back garden, Andy started to shout and being very happy. From that moment, he could not be stopped again. Luckily, we were about to leave.

It had been dry for some hours, but when we left it started to drool a little. While driving to the railway station the rain got stronger, and once we were on the platform the rain came down really strong. I had bought two tickets for adults (€ 2 each) and two railrunner tickets for kids (€ 1 each). We had to wait some time, before the train arrived, but it promptly arrived on time. (It was a half hour service.) When it stopped, it became clear that it was very crowded. We drove Andy in his buggy inside while Li-Xia and Annabel followed. We simply stayed at the corridor. I weaped the steamed-up windows of the doors on the other side so that Andy could look outside. Although there was not much to see, he was making shouts of joy all the time. When we arrived at the central station, the platform was on the side he we were watching. So, I could simply drive the buggy out.

It kept on raining all the time while we were in the city. We first made it to the McD. We ordered the usual. We were rather surprised to find a railrunner ticket with the happy meal. We should have got it earlier.

On the way back with the train, we managed to find an empty appartment for ourselves. It was the type of apparment with only seats along the sides and with a lot of empty space in the middle. Actually, they are intended to be used by people who take their bike with them, which is common practice here in the Netherlands. Of course, it was also appropriate for Andy's oversized buggy. Again, Andy enjoyed the ride to the fullest.

After we arrived home, I discovered that some water had got into my bag and that even my diary had become wet. Luckly, none of the writing was affected.


Saturday, January 4, 2003

Snow in the air

Around eleven it started to snow. It snowed for about two hours, but because the temperature was above zero, the snow did not stay on the ground, except for some places.


Sunday, January 5, 2003

Reading old diaries

This weekend, I spend a lot of time reading through some diaries (nr. 5 to 8) from 1978. It was a very interesting and relaxing experience. I also updated some of my web pages according to the fact recorded in these, namely My life as a hacker and Movies I watched. I could also create a Books I read page.


Monday, January 6, 2003

Lasting snow

Yesterday around eleven in the morning, it started to snow, and because temperatures were below zero, the snow remained. In the afternoon Annabel played with the snow in the back garden.


Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Pattern 187: Marriage bed

The essense of this pattern is not architectural but behavioural. It argues that couples should build there own bed, because it s the center of their life together. I wonder whether this holds for every couple. I think we lack the mood, the energy, the time, and the craftmenship to even start thinking about doing this.

Pattern 188: Bed alcove

This pattern starts with the statement: Bedrooms make no sense, and continues to say that the space around the bed is good for nothing except access to the bed. But a little later, it states that the space around a bed alcove should not be too tight. Because it should be comfortable to get in and out and to make the bed. In the past alcoves (called "bedstee" in Dutch) were used a lot in farm houses. But I get the idea that the main reason was for keeping the bed warm during the cold winter nights. It is also not very pratical if you want to make use of the bathroom during the night. If you want to save space there are other good alternatives.


Thursday, January 9, 2003

Fire alarm

Around a quarter past eleven this morning, we were informed that there was a fire alarm, and we were requested to leave the building. No this was not an exercise they told us. We left our room and went outside and on our way out we saw many man with orange shirts and hats, but no single sign of a fire. We also had not heard any fire alarm. Shortly after we came outside, a fire truck arrived, but it could not get close to the building due to some illegally parked cars. We also noticed that most people were still inside the hall. We decided to go in again. There we saw how some fireman took the elevator (yes, not the elevator!) to go to the fourth floor to check for a fire. Then we were told that coffee was served in the CC building. (An exercise drill after all?). Only then I realized, I had kept my bag with everything in it behind in the building. We, the people of our company, decided to have an early lunch in the CC building.


Sunday, January 12, 2003

Connecting with the past

Yesterday evening, I attended a reunion of K77, a youth club, which I attended for some time at the of the seventies. At the start it was held in some building belonging to the Roman Catholic church in Woerden. When I arrived there around eight o'clock there was but one person I knew, a father that was there at the start. It was only arround ten that it became a little busier and just before I wanted to leave at twelve, I met with the last person I was hoping to see. Among the people I met, was a boy that I knew from kindergarten and highschool, and a girl I knew from primary school and highschool. And also some I only knew from highschool. It was very interesting to hear about their stories, things you could not have imagined twenty years ago when we were still in highschool. There was one girl with whom I could associate quite well because she too married someone from abroad. While with others I felt that there was not much we had in common anymore. It also surprised me that many who had lived outside Woerden for some time, had returned.

It was around one o'clock that I finally left for Enschede, and during the one-and-half hour drive home, I thought about everything that had happened. I also noticed that for the first time in my life, I was thinking about the idea of going back to Woerden. I have more ties there, than I thought. Now it looks like that after highschool I lost contact with everybody that I knew. But I guess that happens a lot with people.


Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Two Towers

I just came home from watching "Lord of the Rings: Two Towers". A really great movie, I think. I have to admit that the graphics were astonishing, especially for the Gollem/Smeagol creature. Another three years, and animating humans should be no problem.

(Seeing part one and three)


Wednesday, January 15, 2003

SAX sucks!

SAX is the abbreviation stands for Simple API for XML. (API stands for Application Programming Interface, and describes a way in which a certain application can be used from outside.) On the SAX home page it mentions that there are two major types of XML APIs, namely Tree-based APIs and Event-based APIs. SAX is the defacto standard Event-based API. An event-based API generates events for each lexical element that is being encountered in the input file. To use it, you have to provide it a handler that can process the events. At first sight, this may seem a simple interface. But, from the view point of building parsers, it is a rather unusual approach. The most common used type of API for lexical processing is a Stream-based API. Such an API consists of the following methods: Traditional file reading methods work like this. You open a file, which returns a file handle. You use the End-of-file method to check if their are more characters in the file, and you have a method for reading the next character from the file (a combination of the third and fourth method). Also scanners used in compilers have a stream-based API. And in a sense a SAX XML parser is equivalent to such scanners, because its interface is on the level of lexical elements rather than syntactical elements. (Although on the inside it also does syntactical checking when an XML stream is validated against a DTD.) So, technically speaking, we should conclude that SAX is an API for a XML scanner.

If you want to implement a XML scanner (with DTD validation) it is easier to implement it as an event-based API. However, if you want to write a program (parser) using a XML scanner, a stream-based API is to be prefered. The Simple in SAX thus refers to "simple to implement" not "simple to use".

In a sense it is rather shocking that of all the people that contributed to SAX there never has been someone to suggest a stream-based API (or that person was silenced by the crowd). More shocking, because I have never heard of a event-based API for reading text files, or being used in a compiler. That would be very akward.

Only recently, I had to look into a program that was using a SAX like API for processing a XML document. It was totally unreadable as it was full of large switch statement and used a stack of states to keep track of where it was. In a sense it is worse than the use of goto-statements. That is the reason why I used SAX sucks! as the title of this story. SAX is a nice piece of software, except that it choose to implement the wrong kind of interface. An interface that was easy for the implements of SAX, but hard for the users of SAX. They should have chosen an interface that is easy to used, and a little harder to implement, because a XML scanner only needs to implemented once, while there are many potential users of a XML scanners.


Friday, January 17, 2003

SAX sucks! but not always

I just discovered that the Xerces C++ SAX parser from the Apache XML project does support progressive parsing in the SAXParser class with the methods parseFirst and parseNext. The method parseNext parses the XML file and stops as soon as it comes across a XML token (as defined in the XML specification). Relevant callback handlers are invoked as required by the SAX specification. This is sufficient to implement a stream-based API which can be used in a recursive decent parser for processing an XML document. (BTW, the use of 'XML token' in the above description again supports the idea that although it is called a SAXParser, the methods parseFirst and parseNext basically implements a scanner interface which reads XML tokens one by one from the XML file.)


Monday, January 20, 2003

Recovering data

Last weekend, I finally managed to recover some data from an ancient computer tape that I used to store some Acorn Atom programs. I think it is more than four months ago, that I made a recording of the tape using a very cheap cassette player (from Annabel) using the Philips webcam. The easiest step was to find out how to read the WAV files. I wrote a simple program to convert the stereo 16 bit WAV file into a mono 8 bit stream. Then I spend many hours figuring out how to analyse the signal and recover the data. Over the months, I spend many left-over hours thinking about the problem. (I my bag there always sheets with drawings of signals and algorithms with them.) I think, I made about six or seven false starts. Last week, I got the idea to look at the maximum of a simple square deconvolution. Last Friday, I discovered that this was the right way to go. The rest of the weekend I needed to figure out how to link the maxima together. The program waves4.cpp analysis the waves, and tries to recognize bytes of data. If found, these are printed as zero's and one's on a single file (including the start bit), if not I print out the short and long waves as "_" and "* " strings. With a text editor, the mismatches can be changed into zero's and one's. Then a third program, called convert.cpp can process this file into readable output. Tonight, I eddited the output file into a web page.

(follow-up, other hacks)

Elections

This evening, I received an email from a woman called Melissa from the USA. She told me the following story. I was rather surprised by this email, because next Wednesday, January 22, we have general elections, which are rather exciting, because there are two parties that could become the largest. Of course, I replied to her and explained that our political system is different than in the USA. We have a many party system, meaning that no party is ever strong enough to get half of the votes. This means that always two or three parties will have to form a coalition. This coalition will then form a government consisting of a number of ministers and a prime minister. It is the custom that the prime minister comes from the largest party (the party that got the largest number of votes). It is also a custom that the largest party is the first party that may try to form a coalition.

Whenever a coalition breaks up, new elections will take place after three months. Last year May we had elections that were over shadowed by the murder of Pim Fortuyn, a right-wing politician whoes party was the LPF. The LPF formed a coalition with the Christian Democrat Alliance (CDA) and the liberal party (VVD). Our prime minister was Jan Peter Balkenende. The big losers during that election was the labour party (PvdA). The coalition broke apart about three months ago because of internal struggles in the LPF (simply because their strong leader was killed). The popularity of the LPF has dropped dramatically, so they are not expected to play any role in this elections. And to everybodies surprise the popularity of the labour party (PvdA) is on the rise. And the last days it becomes clear that there will be a close match between the PvdA and CDA about who will become the biggest.

If the CDA wins, Jan Peter Balkenende will likely become the new prime minister. He will first try to form a coalition with the VVD, if they have enough votes. If that does not work, he probably will have to form a coalition with the PvdA. Jan Peter Balkenende is a church going Christian.

If the PvdA wins, then Job Cohen will likely become the new prime minister. At the moment he is the major of Amsterdam. Before he has been an "under" minister in a previous coalition. During that time he was responsable for the Gay Marriage law, which was effectuated on April 1, 2001. During the first ten minutes of that day, he married four gay couples in Amsterdam. He says that he does not have any religious believes, and thus can be considered as an atheist. If he would become our new prime minister, he would be the first Jewish prime minister outside Israel, according to an interesting article in the Ha'aretz Daily. In that case, a coalition between the PvdA and the CDA is also likely. It is possible that in this case Jan Peter Balkenende will not be part of the government. If the largest party loses, it is usually considered as a defeat of their political leader. And these usually resign.

Besides the parties I have mentioned so far, there are another 12 other parties joining in these elections. (Many are so small that they will not get a single seat.) Amongh them are some socialist parties and two small Christian parties. Not everybody in the CDA is a church going christian. Actually, they even have some moslims among their members. (There is no seperate moslim party.) These small Christian parties have about 6 seats.

There is much at stake during this election. Before the previous elections our country was lead for eight years by a coalition of PvdA, VVD and D66 (now a very small party). This was called the "purple" coalition, a mixture of labour (red) and liberals (blue). And during that time, many Christian values were destroyed with the introduction of the Gay Marriage law and the euthanasia law.


Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Earth as a companion of a gas giant

Some article on Space.com made me think about the idea of Earth being a "companion" of a gas giant, not orbiting around it (as I suggested last month), but in a horseshoe orbit like asteroid 3753 is around Earth. That would mean Earth would be alternating in trajectories closer and further from the sun, which are exchanged during encounters with the gas giant. Depending on the relative speed of the Earth compared with the gas giant these periodes could be roughly between two and ten years. Each encounter with the gas giant would also cause extremely high tides, possibly inducing variations on the length of the day as well. It would be very hard to imagine what would be consequences for the climate on this.

A planet turning around a gas giant would also experience huge tidal fources, if it would be rotating. Such tidal forces would reduce the rotation speed over time, as we have seen with our moon. Again this would produce a climate with very strong (short term) variations, if it were only for passing behind the gas giant.


Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Election day

Li-Xia and I, went to vote around half past eight. We were number 110 and 111 to vote in our district.

Of course, we followed the life report of the result in television in the evening. Enschede was again the first of the big cities (more than 100000 inhabitans) to present its results. They did so in less than half an hour after the voting ended. That is the nice thing about using voting machines.

The outcome was that the Christian Democrats won with 44 seats out of 150, closely followed by the labour party (PvdA) with 42 seats. The liberal party (VVD) got 28 seats. This means a coalition between CDA and VVD only gets 72 seats, which is three too less. It would be very unbelievable if CDA and VVD would form a coalition with the LPF again, which lost 18 seats and only has eight seats left. It looks like the CDA will be forced again (just like last year) into a coalition that they do not prefer.

(follow-up)


Sunday, January 26, 2003

A new bed for Andy

So far, Andy has been sleeping in a cot (size 70 by 120 cm). Now it is becoming too small for him. For a child of his age it is not very common to sleep in a cot, but we have felt that it was the best option for him so far. Yesterday, we looked at many shops to see if we could find a bed that he could not easily get out, but we did not find anything meeting our requirements. We did consider a Flexa bed. At home, we looked at the old bed of Annabel. It has a border around it but it is quite high. Looking at it, I noticed that I could easily make it lower. The rest of the day, I spend making it lower. Which involved some sawing by hand. Annabel enjoyed helping me the reconstruction work. I was quite satisfied with the result.

Although Andy had become a little ill this morning, we decided to change his bedroom. His bedroom is not very big, about two by three meters. We had to move some things out, and it took me some hours to put the bed together. And because I made a little mistake, I had to do some part over. When we showed it to Andy, he was not very happy (as expected). And although we put all his cuddles and books in the bed (it is 200 by 90 cm), he was not very happy, and only slept around ten o'clock in the evening.


Monday, January 27, 2003

Coalitions

Last Friday, Mr. Donner was assigned the task of consulting the parties about a possible coalition. He is a member of the Christian Democrats, but takes an independent possition for this task. (He did so also during the last coalition forming.) Today, he announced the following coalitions to be examined: Strangely enough, Mr. Donner did not consider some other likely alternatives, namely coalitions of the Christian democrats and the liberal party with either D66 or the small conservative Christian parties. D66 already expressed that they did not wanted to be part of such a coalition. (They lost again some seats compared to the last elections.) I do not know the response of the small conservative Christian parties. Maybe they are not considered as realistic partners in any coalition, just like the small left-wing parties.

(follow-up)


Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Looking for Leo Dekker

Yesterday evening, I received again an email from Deia Cavalcanti telling me to look for this Leo Dekker. I received an email before, but regarded it as spam. I checked telephone book and discovered that there is a person with that name living at the given address, but that it only has a mobile phone number. Maybe I should try to phone some of the others with the same surname and see if any of them is a relative that knows more. The email was send to some others as well. I wonder how many people have taken action. (My greatest fear is that Leo did fly to Brasil but got into some trouble after arriving there. His mobile phone probably is worthless in Brazil.)

(follow-up)

Wet snow

There was some wet snow falling down, almost like rain, this morning. The weather report says that we should get some real snow later this week. We will see.


Thursday, January 30, 2003

Snow

This morning there were patches of snow on the ground. By noon most of the snow was gone because of the sun. Then later in the afternoon it started to snow very strong. It completly disrupted traffic in the whole country, and the rest of Europe, as I heard later.

Collapse

Today, I came along game called Collapse, which seems to be a combination of Clickomania and Tetris. Where Clickomania is a type of logical puzzle to solve, Collapse is a reaction game like Tetris.

(follow-up)


This months interesting links


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