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Diary, February 2003


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Saturday, February 1, 2003

Year of the Goat, 4700

Happy Chinese New Year! Today, the Lunar year 4700, according to the Chinese calendar, started. It is the year of the Goat, which is not high valued. This has lead to a small baby boom in the past two months, in certain parts of China, because many Chinese rather have their child born in the year of the horse than in the year of the goat.

Snow

This afternoon, it started to snow again. In the evening their was a nice layer of snow. By the end of tomorrow, most of it will be gone again, because a low presure system is approaching, which will bring warmer air from the Atlantic Ocean.


Sunday, February 2, 2003

Looking for Leo Dekker (Cont'd)

Today, I received an email from someone informing me that he has been seen here in the Netherlands, and that he seems to be in good health. Apparently, he did not fly to Brasil, and nothing serious happened to him.


Monday, February 3, 2003

Status report of Andy

Today, we went to "Klim Op" to talk about Andy's progress. We watched some movies about his eating patterns. He has made some substantial progress. Now he can drink his liquid food all by himself from a special cup. Also eating the baby food usually goes with almost no resistance. Sometimes, you do have to encourage him with the prospect of an interesting activity. He is definitely one of the smartest in his group. But his behaviour is still of that of a young toddler, if things do not go like he wants he throws himself on the ground and start crying and mocking. His speech is still very weak, although he does make considerable efforts to make clear what he wants. He is still teachable and is showing a constant progress. This gives us good hope for the futher.

Space Shuttle Columbia

With respect to the crashed space shuttle Columbia, I would like to make the following predictions:

Visiting the queen by bike

At the eight o'clock news their was an item about Mr. Donner, our minister of defence, visiting the queen to inform her about the progress of the formation of a new coalition. They showed how he biked up the lane to one of palaces of the queen. At the bottom of the stairs leading up to the building, a servant takes his bike, and we see him go in. The next image is about him descending from the stairs, accepting his bike from the servent and riding back to his office. The Netherlands must be the only country where ministers take bikes to visit the head of the state, which proves we are the only real biking country in the world.

At the moment the Christian Democrats are working seriously with the Labour party to form a new coalition.

(follow-up)


Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Dreaming a thriller story

This morning, I dreamed about a thriller story. It started with the scene of a woman entering a hotel being approached by some kind of investigator saying: "Be carefull, this year I am going to nail you". She replies: "Be carefull, or I will drag you into court". It appears that every year some crime happens in the hotel on the same day that many years ago a famous magician died under suspicious circumstances. Then it is revealed that the woman is the daughter of this magician. The plot thickens, and on the particular night the investigator has an encounter with the woman, where she tries to kill him with a crossbow and some explosive. He throws back the explosive, and kills her. Finally, it seems that everything is solved, but the next day, he sees the woman amongh the crowd, unharmed. Because it is a dream, I forgot which parts I actually dreamed, and which I filled in later.

Snow again

By yesterday evening, all the snow that fell on Saturday had melted away. This morning, to my surprise there was a fine layer of snow again. Then by noon this was mostly melted away, when it started to snow again. At first the snow did not stay, but it simply kept on snowing, and an hour later, there was a layer of snow again. (We call this kind of weather "kwakkelweer" in the Netherlands.)


Friday, February 7, 2003

Royal Standard Has Given Way To a Royal Pain

March Fisher, wrote an article in the Washington Post with the above title about the problem that software is not getting more user-friendly. I think that his analysis that software is made by nerds that do not understand the average user, is only confirming existing stereo-types and not really pointing at the real causes. The real cause lies in the fact that making software is simply still very expensive, and that because of this user-friendliness is not always a major requirement. Marketing still plays a very important role in the development of software, and often software developers are not given the opportunity to develop user-friendly software. Most often they are not given the chance to communicate with the end-users.

Genealogic research

There are many people interested in doing genealogical research and the Internet is used as a means for exchanging information. With the help of general searching engines one can find a lot of information. But there are also many databases which are not cannot be indexed by these because they require a login and sometimes even a fee. Yes, there are companies building databases just to make profit.

Another problem is that most amateur genealogic researchers are most of the time only publishing the results of their findings, and often do not give much details about how they arrived at these results. If you really want to do serious genealogical reseach than you have to at least document your sources and how reliable they are. Luckily, more and more genealogical societies (both privated and subsidised by governments) spend time in digitizing their archives.

What really is needed is a standard for publishing sources (such as birth, marriage and death registers) such that they can be indexed by specialized search engines. I am afraid that this might still take some time.


Saturday, February 8, 2003

Collapse mania

Yesterday, I managed to get game Collapse to work off-line. Which was simply done by saving some files from the "Temporary Internet Files" directory and changing the code base directive of the applet in the source of the page.

Since than it seems some people got a little addicted to the game. Annabel has reached a high score of 197669. My high score is 284220. I have not told it to Annabel, otherwise she would have continued playing the game until she had broken it. Even Li-Xia has been playing it, but less than Annabel and I.


Monday, February 10, 2003

Billy Foley

Today, I found the home page of Billy Foley. He is a member of the Cork Artists' Collective (CAC). To my surprise, I noted that the first painting on his page (no longer available) (with the title "Billy Foley - 6/2/99") is my favour painting as well. I also found some other links:


Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Becoming enlighted

Yesterday, I read an article with the title "De steentijd van de informatica" (The Stone age of computer science) in De Automatisering Gids, which is an interview with Henk Barendregt because received the Spinoza Reward for his scientifical work on Lambda Calculus.

I also happend to read his online paper Mysticism and beyond Buddhist phenomenology, part II, a good "scientifical" description of enlightment, I think.

Yesterday evening, and old friend of me visited us together with his fiancee who is from a third-world country. They would like to marry here in the Netherlands, but this is made very difficult because they cannot get the right documents (a birth certificate and a statement of not being single). It seems that the only possibility is to find a country that would allow them to marry, and that marriages in that country can be made "legal" according to Dutch law. And, yes, suprisingly those kind of countries do exist. Talking about incosistencies in international law. Later on the evening, I also received an email with respect to a family that were turned down when applying for asylum here in the Netherlands and that are facing some problems right now. Just two random examples of people living in a reality that is different from those born Western countries.

In Luke 9:23 it writes that Jesus said:

Someone that took up his cross, was someone that was going to die on that cross. It literally means, considering yourself as someone that has been sentenced to death and has no hope in itself. These are difficult words. But besides denying oneself, Jesus also calls us to follow Him. And that means more than simply following His example, it also means sitting at His feet.


Wednesday, February 12, 2003

WMAP results

Yesterday evening, I downloaded the Maps and Basic Results article from the first year result page of the WMAP satelite. This morning, I changed my computer background to this image. My age is about 3 billionth of that of the universe.

Symmetrical Ant

Today, I discover that some one already solved the riddle with respect to a surprising feature of certain extensions of Langton's Ant which produce symmetrical patterns. The paper Futher Travels with My Ant explains this behaviour and proofs the observation I made. For more information about this subject and the paper see page Generalized Ants.


Thursday, February 13, 2003

The war on Iraq

It becoming more and more obvious to me, that the Bush administration has wanted a war against Iraq from the beginning, and that their decision to work along the United Nations and the resolutions of the Security Council only has been a decoy. The most shocking aspect of the presentation of Powell before the United Nations Security Council on February 5 was that it attempted to destroy the credibility of the inspectors by showing that they were being fooled all the time by the Iraqi government. Then, the next day, President Bush demanded a new resolution for a war against Iraq suggesting that the evidence that has been provided by the United States is already conclusive, and that their is no need to wait for the inspectors report. Now it even looks like the United States purposively have not provided detailed intelligence information to the inspectors in Iraq, as to ridicule their activities. Probably this is done to give the message that inspections will never be sufficient to stop the production of mass-destruction weapons in Iraq and to argue that only solution is to overtrow the current Iraqi government.

Just before the weekend France and Germany (with the support of Russia and China) presented an alternative plan that with the help of UN peace-keeping forces would do more intensive inspections in the years to come. Yesterday, I heard some British spokeman declare that even if their is not going a UN resolution, that the United States together with the British could start a war against Iraq, if they felt that their was enough reasons for.

I personally do not feel qualified to decide whether this plan is better than the plan to have a war against Iraq. However, I feel it is not fair that the Bush administration on one hand states that it wants to follow the United Nations Security Council, but on the other hand just continues to execute its own plans outside of that of the United Nations Security Council. By doing so, I think, that they are actually invalidating the credibility of the Security Council.

(follow-up)


Friday, February 14, 2003

Autism and Theory of Mind


Monday, February 17, 2003

First Blog entry

Finally, I have become a blogger, after being a diary writer for a very long time. This morning, I drove along a TW/RC building, which partly went up in smoke on November 20 last year. The part that was damage by the fire, has been flattend almost. I did take a picture with my digital camera. There are almost no clouds today, but the temperature was -5.6 degrees Celsius this morning. Rather cold. I heared that there is a lot of snow in Washington, DC. We never get so much snow over here.

Tao Haidong

I just heard the news that Tao Haidong was sentenced with seven years of imprisonment by a court in Urumqi because he published some pessimistic views about the economical situation in China.

Movies

Last Saturday, I watched the BBC documentairy Fragments of Genius in which Professor Allan Snyder from Center for the Mind makes a case for an interesting way of explaining the savants. It shows Stephen Witshire and Derek Paravicini.


Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Man vs. Machine

This morning it was -6.2 degrees Celsius. A little colder than yesterday. I just read Man vs. Machine an article by Garry Kasparov about his match against Deep Junior, in which he says that his match against Deep Blue was a mere marketing stunt.

JavaScript

I completely agree with the excellent article Using JavaScript Libraries to Increase Performance by James Dueck. Seems I am not the only one, who discovered this.

Tides

Again it is a sunny day without any clouds. You would almost forget that it is cold outside. And that it will be dark by the time I bike home. I just read this page about tides. I stumbed along this page after a discussion about putting strings around the earth and such.

Troubles

I just heard that our wash machine has some troubles. The water does not go out any more, meaning we are going to have some fun this evening.


Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Blogging

On Monday, I decided to create my own Blog on www.blogger.com. Now it looks like that site has become unreachable for some unknown reason.

Wang Tile

It looks like my problem with the triangle grids is related to Wang tile. As I noted before, each triangle grid is related to up to three square grids. In the past week, I have been thinking ways to determine the properties of square grids. Today, I came across the page about Wang Tile. With the Wang Tile the sides of each square have to match, where in the square grids the corners must be matching. It is obvious that each square grid can be mapped onto a certain Wang Tile, but I am not sure about whether it is possible to map each Wang Tile on a square grid. If that is the case than Wang Tile is a richer structure. An interesting question is whether there are also square grids (using more values than just two) that only have irregular (non-repeating) infinite tilings given a set of available tiles. I am almost sure that they exist. The questions is of course is what is the minimum of values needed. My intuition tells me that two colours is too less.

(follow-up)

Blogger

The whole day, I could not access blogger. So, it is only now that I can write something. I should be go to bed soon. When I came home yesterday evening, I went upstairs to look at the wash machine. When I switched it on and pushed some buttons, it started to pump the water and after that it started to spin. I guess, it simply needed a reboot. This morning it was -4.7 degrees Celsius and there was not much wind. Excellent I would say. The rest of the day it remained sunny. When there are no clouds it stays lighter much longer than if there are clouds.


Thursday, February 20, 2003

Science Toys

This morning, it was -3.9 degrees Celsius outside. Although the temperature was higher than yesterday there was more frost due to a higher humidity. For some fun science experiments, have a look at Science Toys. It brings back some memories from the past about attempts to build a simple radio (I never succeeded in doing so) and similar things.

LISP

Yesterday, I came across of the home page of Paul Graham who is an expert on LISP. The LISP code page has a link to John McCarty's Original LISP code, a LISP interpretter written in LISP. This is really a proof how strong the concept of LISP is. Graham also is working on a new LISP like language called Arc. I do not find his attempt very convincing. It seems more like a collection of syntax adaptions. I think it is very hard to improve on LISP's brilliant idea of making lists of everything.

Hall of Mirrors

I often find myself in the Hall of mirrors when I am confronted with a software engineering problem. In order to solve the problem, I try to understand it, and by doing so I arrive at a more abstract way of solving it. And when I think deeper about it, I suddenly see another abstraction, or a more generic way to solve it. And then I see an abstraction of the generic way to solve it. Ad infinitum. This is like what Teg Miles refers to as the Hall of Mirrors in Chapterhouse Dune a book by Frank Herbert.


Friday, February 21, 2003

Mora

I had to scratch the car this morning, because my wife needed to bring my daughter to school. Normally, my daughter bikes to school. But yesterday she fell on her knee, and now it hurts when she stretches it completely. Nothing serious, I think. It was -2.9 degrees Celsius this morning. Yesterday, I discovered an electronic versions of Frank Herbert's Dune novels when googling. These must be illegal. I could not resist the temptation to download them. I do have some paperback copies, so, I do not see why it is illegal to own the electronic copies as well. Everyday, I come along some advertisments of a snack ("frikandel") by Mora, on which they now "print" their brand name. A very smart idea, if you realize that most of these snacks are eaten in snackbars (half a billion in the Netherlands) and not at home. They also have a tv commercial where two girls walk into a snack bar in which a Dutch celebraty is eating. You see the girls look at the person and talk with each other. Then one of them walks over to the celebraty and looks at the "frikandel", and exclaims: "Yes it is the real one".

Theory of evolution

It is a mistake to believe that although the theory of evolution explains how life is evolving on Earth that it is also the explaination of the cause of our existance. From this one could conclude that most of the evolution versus creation debate is not within the realm of science.


Monday, February 24, 2003

Earthquake

This morning it was -1.2 degrees Celsius. The sky has remained clear over the weekend due to a very persistent high pressure area above Northern Europe. There was an earthquake in Xinjiang this morning that killed about a hunderd people. In some news item ended with the sentense "Separistic Uygur are fighting for an autonomous Xinjang." I do not know why this sentense was added. It gives the impression of an ongoing civil war, which is far from the truth, I would say.

Dutch Blogs

The two best Dutch blogs at the moment are Merel Roze (my style) and Retecool (totally not my style) according to some poll.


Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Dune 7: Advent

This morning it was only -0.6 degrees Celsius. Yesterday evening I scanned through the fanfiction novel Dune 7: Advent (an attempt to write the 7th Dune book). It is quite good at mimicking the writing style of Frank Herbert, but for the rest it is not very good. It lacks a lot to make it a real good novel. It has many good ideas, but fails to glue them together in a consistent manner. It has some highly unlikely twists in the plot. There is not a good story line, and almost no suspense. The author also thinks that by making certain things vague (e.g., you do not know if something is a dream or reality) he can make the story interesting. I do not believe that this novel is coming anywhere close to the novel that Frank Herbert had in mind. I think we will have to wait for the book that Brain and Kevin are going to publish to get some idea of what he had in mind. (And although they say they will be based on his notes, there is no way to verify to what extend, or even if the notes are real, because they were only "discovered" long after his death.) It was very quiet this morning. There is a school holiday, and it looks like many Dutch are on a ski holiday in France, the Swiss, or Austria. I am amazed at the number of people that still go on holiday now that the economical situation is getting worse. Holiday is no longer seen as a luxury but as a neccesity. One could say that at least money is spend, which is good for the economical condition.


Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Square grids

Yesterday evening, I continued working on a program for establishing minimal requirements for a set of tiles to be able to tile an infinite square grid. When doing so, I discovered an interesting property of a certain set of tiles. It is the set of four tiles where each tile has three corners with 0 and one with 1. It is rather obvious that the infinite grid can be tiled with this set of tiles. Take for example the grid where (x,y) has the value 1 if both x and y are even, and otherwise the value 0. However there are infinite many other ways to till the grid, because there is room for shifting a whole row or column of 1 up one place. The interesting thing is that it is never possible to shift a column and a row. It is one or the other.

(follow-up)


Thursday, February 27, 2003

Mient Jan Faber

Yesterday, I saw Mient Jan Faber Faber, who is associated with the Interchurch Peace Council Netherlands (also know as IKV), express some interesting ideas about the coming war against (the current regime in) Iraq. (Listing to the last speaches made by the Bush administration, a war seems inevitable by now.) Mr. Faber has recently visited North Iraq (already called Kurdistan by some of it inhabitans) and spoken with people from all over Iraq. According to him, the people will revolt agains Saddam Hussein as soon as his military communication infrastructure has been destroyed. Only a small fraction of his army (from the area around Tekrit, where Saddam Hussein comes from) will remain loyal. The Turkish are very afraid that the Kurds in the North will take hold of Kirkuk, that is rich in oil. That would allow them to declare an independent Kurdistan. He also mentioned that for this reason the Americans already have agreed with the Turkish government that they are allowed to send an army of about 70.000 Turkish soldier to Kirkuk to prevent this from happening. The Turkish are very afraid for an independent Kurdistan in Northen Iraq, because that would give strength to the Kurdish majority in the east to join with this independent state. But also in the South of Iraq there are groups wanting to have an independent state. So the biggest problem might not be to overtrow the reign of Saddam Hussein, but to remain the unity of Iraq once he is gone. Mr. Faber also expressed the fear that Saddam, knowing that he is defeated will try to take as many people as possible with him in his death, and that he would not hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction for this purpose.

War on Iraq

Yesterday morning it was -1.4 degrees Celsius, but this morning it was 4.0 degrees Celsius. There is also a thin layer of clouds for the first time in two weeks. They expect that temperatures will rise up to 14 degrees Celsius in the afternoon. It is more and more becoming clear that there is going to be a war in Iraq. Yesterday evening, I watched a program where someone suggested that the biggest problem will not be to overtrow the current government, but keeping the country in one part afterwards. Turkey is very afraid that the Kurds in the North will call out an indepedent state, and that also the Kurds in the East of Turkey want to join them.

Shopping night

I wanted to go into the city, because it is shopping night (in the Netherlands shops are usually not open in the evening), but when I phoned Li-Xia she told me that she was cooking. She had forgotten that I wanted to go shopping. Maybe I will go after dinner (not very likely).


Friday, February 28, 2003

Birds

This morning, when I got my bike out of the shed, I heard some birds fly over. When I looked up into the sky, I saw several linked V shape lines of birds (goose) fly over. It must have been a few hunderd birds all flying to the North-East. When I thought about making a picture, it wa already too late. It was 7.4 degrees Celsius this morning.


This months interesting links


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