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Diary, March 2003


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Monday, March 3, 2003

03-03-03

It is one of those special dates again. This was also noted by the The World Prayer Team. They wrote:

Washing the car

No rain this morning. After twenty days without rain, which is very exceptional for this time of the year around here, we got some rain again on early Saturday. During the day there was no rain, and the weather was very nice. In the afternoon, I spend some hours washing the car. One side was splashed with some unknown substance that would not wash away with some water. I also went to a wash box to clean all the salt from the bottom of the car. This morning it was dry and about 6 degrees Celsius. Good biking weather, I would say.

Text message language

Student writes essay in text message form. Text messaging has lead to the development of a new "short hand" language, which bears the characteristics of a real languages. I think the experts are wrong in stating that literacy has gone down. They should have said that the literacy of the traditional spelling of the English language, which hasn't changed for almost two hunderd years, is losing grounds among todays teenagers. Literacy should be defined as the ability to make use of written language for communication. One could even argue that due to the development of text messaging, literacy has actually gone up among young people in the past five years.

Artificial lights

I feel rather depressed at the moment. I am thinking about going to bed really early this evening. Maybe the invention of artificial lights was a really bad idea after all.


Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Immediately going to bed

I did go to bed immediately when I arrived at home without taking any meal. I did lay on bed half asleep half awake till around ten o'clock. I thought about the expansion and the size of the universe. The part of the universe we can see now has a radius of more than 13 billion light years, but the total universe might be a billion times bigger. It might even be of infinite size. I also thought about the consequences of why an excelaring expansion. Then just before ten I got up and ate some cumcumber, a piece of bread and some "kwark". Till eleven I watched the news and then I checked my email. This morning, it was 2.2 degrees Celsius with an almost clear sky. It is really getting light earlier again.

4:29 PM

The whole day we are disturbed by strange noises coming from the AKI, a local art college.


Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Martin Medema

I got up around five o'clock this morning and I took some time answering emails. It was 7.5 degrees when I left the house around half past seven. Yesterday evening, while biking over the Campus I passed Martin Medema and his dog. He walks bare feet for more than twenty years (also in winter time) and designs games. He designed an alternative Risk game called Fanaat Risk. Christian Freeling, another game developer, wrote something about him as well.

(follow-up)


Thurday, March 6, 2003

BIJmagazine (Cont'd)

About every two months sinze the Bijenkorf opened, we received a BIJmagazine again. The theme of the last issue is inspiration (inspiratie in Dutch) illustrated by the face of a beautifull girl with dark red hair and green plants. However, the cover displays her in a provoking manner. Inside the magazine there is even a less revealing picture. These kind of images always leave me with mixed feelings.

(follow-up)

Getting up early

I got up at five again this morning. I went to bed around ten last night. I did not check the temperature. It was not very cold. We had a grey sky, but luckily no rain.


Friday, March 7, 2003

Bush address

This morning, some fragments of the Bush address of yesterday evening were on the news. Although I seem to agree with the statement that Saddam Hussein is not really cooperating with respect to the disarment, I find certain statement made by Bush rather shocking. First of all he is giving the impression that America is under attack by Iraq. He said: "Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country, to our people, and to all free people" and "I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons". And in his answer to a question by Terry Moran he said: "I believe Saddam Hussein is a threat -- is a threat to the American people" and he suggest that American security is at stake. I am afraid that in the end Bush is going to use this argument (the safety of the American people) as a justification for a war against the regime of Iraq in case the UNSC is not going to saction a war resolution within the coming week. What worries me most, is that there is no proof that Iraq at this moment is causing any real threat to the United States. Iraq lacks the ability to attack the United States. There are no indications that Saddam Hussein has been supporting Islamitic Fundamentalistics terrorist groups, for the simple reason that he is not a very faithfull moslim himself, as it is known that he drinks wishky. It is possible, seeing the size of the country and the various ethnic groups, that terrorist cells are present in Iraq, but that does not mean that these cells have access to weapons of mass destruction (if present), and that they would be actually able to deploy them inside the United States.

Another thing that is worrying me that it seems that Bush is implying that any one voting against the war resolution is not really against Sadam Hussein. In reply to a question by Elizabeth, Bush said: "We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It's time for people to show their cards, to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam."

I am afraid that if the United States together with the military support of Great Brittain and the political support of some other countries as well, will start a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein, it will increase the amouth of hate against the United States, which in long run might only increase the risk for terrorist attacks.

(follow-up)

The Big Rip

The Big Rip. Seems I am not the only one worrying about the increasing expansion of the universe, like I wrote a few days ago.


Saturday, March 8, 2003

Japanese puzzle

This afternoon after we arrived home from the city, I decided to write a program for solving Japanese puzzles as the are called here in the Netherlands, which are also known as Nonograms elsewhere. Programs for this has been written before, and there is even a Java applet that can do it online. It took me about two hours to finish my progam, which has last weeks puzzle from Intermediair hard encoded in its source. I had already solved the particular puzzle by hand, and felt that the number of steps that the program needed to find the complete solution was rather low. It roughly followed the same pattern of finding the solution as I had did by hand. (The next time, I should write down order in which I found the solution.) The algorithm used to solve the puzzle is rahter simple. You pick a row or a column, which still has unknown squares and try all possible solutions taking in account the known squares. If there are squares that get the same value for each of the possible solutions, you color the squares accordingly. You continue this process until no improvements can be made. Most of the time, the complete solution will be found, otherwise you have to guess the color of one unknown square and see if you can find a solution with this. Of course, a program is very good at checking all possible solutions. As it is possible that a row or a column has over a hunderd possible solutions, we as humans have to do some reasoning instead, and pick the order in a clever way. This made me think about an algorithm which follows a human strategy, and tries to do as less a possible. With such a program one could evaluate how difficult it is to solve a particular puzzle.

(follow-up)


Sunday, March 9, 2003

Exibition of Billy Foley

This afternoon, I went to look at an exibition of some work by Billy Foley in the Kunstcentrum Hengelo. I took Annabel and Andy with me. It took me some time to find the building, and then it looked close, but it was not. There was just one big room with his big paintings. Andy only made short screams apparently enjoying the acoustics of the room. I did not find the paintings as impressive as my favourite painting, which I secretly had hoped to see again. There was only one painting coming close to my favourite.

Formalization of Havannah

Last week, I came across the game Havannah. It is a game with unexpected depth, and the inventor thinks it is very hard to write a program that could win against him. I am ready to believe this. Yet the rules are simple enough to formalize them. A long time ago, I made an attempt to formalize it. This afternoon, I looked into it again, and came up with an improved formalization that only makes use of first order predicate logic and finite sets.


Monday, March 10, 2003

War on Iraq

This morning it was 8.8 degrees Celsius. I had put on my cap and gloves, but took them off when I was about half way, simply because they felt too warm. At one point one of my gloves drop out my pocket, and I had to go back to catch it. After I had turned left on the next road, I was taken over by one of my former bosses saying hello. We talked a little until I had to turn in the direction of the University. (Had I not dropped my glove, I won't have met him.)

BTWR on Slashdot uses Afterwards, when all the Iraqis talk of Sadaam's horrors, no one will admit the US was right all along as a sig. Very true indeed. Although many people agree that Sadaam is an evil man, that does not give them the right to sentense him. If the United States start a war against Iraq without the consensus of the United Nations, then they are the one (and no one else) who have damaged international law, and are causing world wide instability. It's like going back in history for fifty years. And that is why no one will admit the US was right all along.

Contiki

David Cary has a very messy site. Adam Dunkels developed the smallest web server and web browser running on 6502 processor. It runs on Contiki, the worlds smallest Internet-enabled operating system.


Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Elections

I went to vote this morning. Today are the elections for the provinces. These elections are not very popular also because the political influence of the province government bodies is rather limited. They mainly deal about infrastructure and related subjects. Their only political importance is the fact that they elect the members of the "first chamber" (the senate). Reason enough for me to vote.

It rained a little this morning. Enough to put on my ponchoo, but I did not put on the hood all the time.


Friday, March 14, 2003

Emporte Moi

This morning, it was 1.6 degrees Celsius when I went outside. It seems we are in a high-pressure area again, just like some weeks ago. Yesterday evening, I accidently came across the movie Emporte Moi on a German channel.

Reaction speed

Test your reaction speed. On my first attempt, my slowest response was 0.245, my fastes 0.209 with an average of 0.228. On my second attempt my fastest response was 0.187. I get the idea that if I concentrate too much, e.g., I want to response fast, that my response is slower, while the fastest response were when I just let my "brain" do the work. I have noticed that over the years my ability to catch dropping object has increased. Sometimes, I get the feeling that I catch something before I have consciously decided that there is something I should catch. As a boy I was rather clumsy.

Mosaic web browser

Today, it is ten years ago that Mosaic was released from NCSA. You can still download it from evolt.org. And if you want to see how a search engine sees this blog, look here.


Saturday, March 15, 2003

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

SARS, a disease without a real name, that is either being controlled in the next five days, or going to disrupt our global economy totally. At the moment its cause is unknown, but it is very likely that it is caused by an unknown virus. The question is how many people are already affected by it in Asia. Even if we are able to control it in the western world, I am afraid that it is going to cause a lot of casualties in Asia. It might soon become a hotter news item, than the war on Iraq.

Second swimming diploma

Today, Annabel got her second swiming diploma. It went much like the first, except that the distances were a little longer. I took a picture right outside of the swimming pool with her holding the diploma. I forgot to check the batteries of the video camera, so I did not get much on video. I did take two pictures with our "normal" camera. I had to watch over Andy most of the time. He joined in the counting and enjoyed it very much, except at the right end when he got into a bad mood. I had to carry him to the car and struggle with him to get him into his car seat. Also at home it took him some time to calm down.

(follow-up)


Monday, March 17, 2003

Moment of truth

It was -0.1 degrees this morning at our home, according to the temperature sensor that is hanging out of the window in our back garden. Today, the "moment of truth" has come. We will see what this day will bring. The war is going to start any moment now. (Actually, I am more worried about what SARS will bring us the coming four weeks.)


Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Attack is coming

This morning it was 0.9 degrees Celsius, but I biked so fast that I decided to take of my cap and gloves after fifteen minutes. Now it is clear what the US will do. Before the end of the week we will hear reports about Bagdad being bombed. The big question is, what will Sadaam do? Will he bomb Quwait before that time? I also wonder how long it will take the US to capture (or kill) him. They are still looking for Bin Laden.

Dasher

I just down loaded dasher to give it a try i wrote this text with it i amgaing speed only slowly some times it works very fast but at other points i get lost

As you can see, I did not figure out how to add punctuation, and how to make capitals. Could it not do it by itself, I wonder. At least it is a funny little tool to play with.

I have been playing with it so more, and I have to say that I am getting faster all the time. I can imagine that you can write very fast with it. I think it is a great tool for people with certain disabilities.

Written in blood

A few days ago, I saw a documentairy that showed the version of the Quran in the Umm al Maarik ("the mother of all wars") mosque, which is written with the blood of Sadaam Hussein. It is said that he donated the amouth of 24 liter of his own blood over a periode of three years.

48 hours

At this moment, most Americans are asleep, except those that wait around Iraq to be deployed in the war. Last night, Bush addressed the people of the United States of America. In this address he said: "The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security." Finally, the US have done what everyone feared. The have decided that their sovereign authority is more important than the authority of the United Nations Security Council with respect to international matters. Bush said that Iraq has uniformly defied Security Council resolutions. But now the Bush administration itself has decided to start a war that has not been sanctioned by the Security Council. They did not call for a vote, as they had promised to do March 7, saying that France would use its veto to turn it down anyway. However, it seems that the real reason is that France, and for the matter, also Russia, would not have needed to use their veto right, because they nevertheless would not have gotten nine countries to vote for the resolution. I feel that the Bush administration can no longer use the argument that Iraq has defied the Security Counsel, because now Iraq has an equal right to state that they have defied the Security Counsel as well. And if the US has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security, then Iraq has this same right. Because the Bush administration has decided to start this war without the sanction of the Security Counsel, it has become an ordinary war between two countries. (Yes, I know, there are some more countries on the side of the US, but it seems that the US is taking the lead.)

Another thing that I would like to remark is that Bush said that war crimes will be prosecuted. My question is: "by whom?". Not by the international court of justice that the US does not want to acknowledge, I hope. Does that mean that the US is going to judge them by themselves, just like they are doing with the many Taliban? Is the US to start their own international court of justice now?

The decision of the Bush administration is already causing many problems, even with its allies. It seems likely that Tony Blair will have to resign after the war is over. His own Labour party is very much divided over his decision. At this moment only 40% of the people in Brittain support Blair's decision. I figure that this percentage might drop significantly when the first casualties occur.

Formation of the new coalition

Even in the Netherlands it has caused political problems. At the moment the Christian Democrats are still forming a new coalition with the Labour party. The Labour party had said yesterday that they did not want the Netherlands to join in any military activity. (In a sense, we are already doing this, because there are Dutch Pattriot's in Turkey, and Dutch F16 are flying above Afghanistan to free the Americans from that responsability.) The current government however, consists of parties that are in favour of a war against Iraq. This morning the Jan Pieter Balkenende, our Prime Minister, made the statement that the government is not going to support the war with military means but does support it politically. This statement has raised many questions with respect to its meaning. Collin Powel declared this afternoon that the Netherlands is one of the countries that support the war. This did not make the Labour party very happy, and they have said that they do not even want the Netherlands to support the war politically. To me it looks like this is going to cause great trouble in the formation of the new coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Labour party, and that it might well end it.

This whole thing also starts to become damaging for our Prime Minister. Last week there was another national matter (related to the monarchy), which has been rather damaging for Jan Pieter Balkenende. The final consequence might well be that he has to resign, or at least will not be regarded as being suitable for the next Prime Minister. At least the whole Iraq issue does not contribute to the political stability of our country.

(follow-up)


Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Foggy

Rather cold this morning, although the temperature was only a little higher (1.3 degrees Celsius). But it was foggy and the wind was blowing from the East, right in my face.

Julie & Herman

Yesterday night, I saw a fragment of "Julie & Herman" made by Riba Filmproductions B.V. on the third Dutch public channel. It is a type of movie that is not very likely to be shown on a public broadcasting networks around the world, except for the Netherlands and maybe some other Northern European countries.

(follow-up)


Thursday, March 20, 2003

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Operation Iraqi Freedom has started. Some interesting comment of half a milion children having died in the past ten years due to the lack of chlorine. (But reference to facts supporting this, are missing.) I am not in favour of this war, but also not against it, for the simple reason that I think I am not in the position to make a judgement. Firstly, I do not have sufficient reliable information to make a good judgement. Secondly, I am not in a position of power. I regret that the Dutch government is politically supporting this war, because I think that the United States should not have put aside the United Nations Security Council in the way they did.

A problem with STL iterators

The Standard Template Library (STL) is one of the most successfull attempts in what I would call "generative programming". By a clever use of C++ Templates, code is "generated" when templates are instantiated. And although, I would not call myself an STL expert, I feel that the way iterators are defined, makes it hard to define your own iterators. The data structures used by STL are defined in such away that each iterator can be represented by a single pointer in a data structure. This is not strange, once you realize that the design of iterators is based on the concept of pointers.

I often have encountered the situation in which a complex data structure is being queried and a collection of elements is constructed. If one wants to check if the collection is empty or not, or if one wants to count the number of elements, this is a waste of work. So, what one really would like to have is an iterator that would traverse the complex data structure. Converting such a query algorithm into an iterator in itself is not very straight forward, especially, if recursive methods are used (see Machine independent implementation of Cooperative Multi-threading in C for some ideas how it could be done in a generic way), but the way in which iterators are modeled in STL does not help very much. A piece of code for travering a collection looks like:

    Collection& collection;
    for (Collection::iterator it = collection.begin(); it != collection.end(); ++it)
For this to work, the Collection class needs to implement the begin and end methodes returning a Collection::iterator object. And the Collection::iterator class needs to implement the assignment operator ("="), the dereferencing operator ("*"), an increment operator ("++"), the equality operator ("==") and the different operator ("!=").

If you have to keep some administration of where you are while traversing the complex data structure, the implementation of the assignment operator and the equality operator pose the greatest problems. Often one has to resort to hacks to avoid these problems. Also if one wants to add filter conditions, there is a problem, because one would have to define a wrapper collection, because part of the "traversal" is defined in the collection. Actually, if you think about this, this is really bad design, because it breaks the concept of locality, e.g., a certain function should be defined in one class, if possible

A better interface would be one that does away with the begin and end methods, and the assignment and (un)equality operators. One could even do away with the increment operator, if one is willing to add an explicit "initialize" state to the iterator. Below an example is given, where we also add a filter condition.

    Collection& collection;
    Collection::iterator it(collection);
    it.filterOnColor(Colors::red);
    while(it.more())
The conclusion seems to be although STL is build around the concept of iterators, it does not promote it as a programming technique, because it is rather difficult to define your own iterators.

Flower

In the entrance hall of the KCT building, where our offices are, there are always some fresh flowers standing. The flowers from this week produce a destinctive fragrance, which you smell everytime when you enter the hall.


Friday, March 21, 2003

Rose en Witte

I have a box with Rose en Witte Muisjes standing on my desk. In the Netherlands we have this tradition to hand out "beschuit met muisjes" whenever a child is born.


Monday, March 24, 2003

Beautiful spring day

It's going to be a beautiful day. When I left from home around half past seven, it was 3.3 degrees Celsius outside. The forecast is that temperatures might get as high as 19 degrees Celsius, and when I just look outside of the window, I can image this. I see many people walking and biking without coats. Yesterday was the first real spring day we had. I did some gardening in our back garden. But all this seems to be overshadowed by the war that is being fought in Iraq. It looks like this is not going to be a very "clean" war. It would not surprise me if fights will continue througout Iraq even after the central government has been overtrown.

Last weekend, I saw (parts of) the following movies: Eddie, Beowulf, and The Glimmer Man.


Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Something decent

Some commercial Dutch TV station is running an ad campaing with the Dutch title "Eindelijk weer iets fatsoenlijks op TV", which roughly translates to "Finally, something decent again on TV". Every morning, when I bike to my office, I come along one of their bill boards, which shows from left-to-right, a burning man on a motor cycle, two girls touching their tongues, an electrical chair, a girl picking her nose, a woman in a bikini, and a bird doll with large genitals laying on its back. Should this be considered as an example of the statement that money is the root of all evil?


Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Boring Blog entry

Yesterday, it was 8.3 degrees Celsius, and I decided to put on a summer coat. It was great. This morning the temperature was 7.7 degrees Celsius, and it looks we are going to have a nice day again. I wonder if anybody is interested in this, but I think that this is true for most blogs anyway! At the moment, I simply do not have anything to tell.


Thursday, March 27, 2003

New American Century

I came across the statement of principles of New American Century. It is also interesting to see who are supporting this. The United States is becoming the empire of the twentyfirst century. Yesterday, I was reading how the Coalition was complaining about how the Iraqi's violated the rules of warfare. As if a war is played with fare rules. I wonder what American citizens would do if they were attacked by a foreign nation when their army was to weak to fight against the evil aggressor. I hope that the war will be over soon, but it seems that this will not be the case.

Fortuyn murder trial

Fortuyn murder trial opens noisily CNN reported.

Null pointers

This afternoon, I discovered that in C++ you can test whether "this" is 0, at least in Visual C++ this is possible. That means there is actually a way for methods to deal with the situation that they are called from a pointer that does not point to something at all (a so-called null pointer). In code you often find expressions similar to this:
    int val = (obj != 0) ? obj->getValue() : 0
If in every place the value 0 should be returned, one could modify the method getValue() by adding the following two lines of code, right at the start of the method:
    if (this == 0)
        return 0;
Now the above invocation can be simply rewritten as:
    int val = obj->getValue();
Another well-know solution to the problem of null pointers is to introduce the concept of null objects that are assigned to the variable. This only solves half of the problem, because it still does not provide a water thight solution for the problem of methods being called on null pointers, except of course, if one make use of smart pointers, that take care of this.


Friday, March 28, 2003

Comments on the war on Iraq

This morning, I read this "Re: Talk about counting chickens" posting on slashdot, which I found insightful with respect to the war on Iraq. In another posting, the author also gives some interesting statistics about US foreign aid. The whole thread is worth reading.

Eye Q

We have been giving Andy some Eye Q for about a week now. It is a supplement that contains some essential fatty acids (EFA's), that during clinical test have produced positive effect on children with certain types of development problems. We already have been giving him some omega-3 EFA's since October 9, 2001, and we think it did contribute to help him start walking. The Eye Q supplement also has one omega-6 fatty acids, but what seems more important, the ratio between EPA and DHA is four to one. So far, the only effect we have seen is that Andy often wakes up early in the morning, between five and six o'clock. Often he just switches on the light, and start "reading" his books. (Dutch article)

Wav to Midi

Yesterday evening, I downloaded a trial version of TS-AudioToMIDI 2.00, a program that can translate sounds to Midi files. I had read several possitive reviews about this program. The interface looks great, although it took me some time to figure out how to make it work. It looks promising, but is far from being complete with respect to its abilities to recognize sounds. We are perfectly capable to recognize individual instruments when being played together. Apparently it is hard to create a program that could do the same.

It made me think about what I wrote before about snare spectra. Actually, these snares act like very narrow band filters. The interesting thing is that they run in sync (with a certain delay) with the strongest frequency in the band. I read somewhere that the spikes generated by the nerve cells attached to the snares in our ear, actually run in sync. So apparently our brain uses fase information (at least for the lower frequencies). I understand that we do have some hard wired parts for detecting the direction from which sounds are coming, and that young babies already know where sounds are coming from.

From my attempts to recover data from old computer tapes, I already know that analyzing signals is far from easy.

(follow-up)


Sunday, March 30, 2003

Signs of the spring

Today, I noticed that one of the small chestnut trees in the from garden, which I planted last September, started to sprout with green leaves. The magnolia in the back garden also starts to blossom. I haven't seen any open flowers yet, but that will be a matter of days.

(follow-up)


This months interesting links


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