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Diary, March 2001

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Thursday, March 1, 2001

Cause of the firework disaster

On May 16, last year, I made some statements about the cause of the fireworks disaster. It appears that the main problem was with how the firework was labelled. There are four catagories of firework, namely 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4, where 1.1 is mass explosive and 1.4 will only burn. Yesterday, the final report of the Oosting Committee was made public ( press release). In this report, it states that the company had a permit for 158.5 tons of catagory 1.4 fireworks, or 136.5 tons of catagory 1.4 with two tons of category 1.3 fireworks. The fireworks were labelled for transport by the (mostly Chinese) companies producing the fireworks. Analysis of experts revealed that 87% of the fireworks should really be labelled as heavier than 1.4, of this about 3% labled as 1.2, and about 1% of the fireworks should be labelled with catagory 1.1, the mass explosive category! The table below gives the figures as mentioned in the report:

catagory permit without 1.3 permit with 1.3 actual
1.4 very minor explosion hazard 158500 Kg 136500 Kg 16308 Kg
1.3 fire and considerable radiation hazard 0 Kg 2000 Kg 153731 Kg
1.3 fragmentation hazard 0 Kg 0 Kg 5310 Kg
1.1 mass-explosion hazard 0 Kg 0 Kg 1660 Kg
total 158500 Kg 138500 Kg 177000 Kg

Also fireworks of catagory 1.3 become mass explosive when placed in the neighbourhood of denontating fireworks. Because how the 1.1 fireworks were stored with the other categories of fireworks, the report states that possibly an amouth of 40000 Kg of fireworks could be considered as mass explosive, and that a large part of this was not stored in storerooms suitable for this kind of fireworks. It might well be that during the last big explosion more than 40000 Kg of fireworks denontated in an explosion that was equivalent to an explostion of between 4000 and 5000 Kg TNT. The forlast big explosion, a mass denontation of about 800 Kg TNT with a fireball of 85 meters in diameter, probably damaged the structure of the bunkers containing the rest of the fireworks, and thus making the final explosion possible.

(Of course, the usual disclaimers about the correctness of the above statements apply!!)


Big snow flakes

Half past four in the afternoon. Big snow flakes are falling down, but they dissolve as soon as they hit the ground.

A quarter past six. While driving home from Almelo to Enschede the world slowly turns white. But a few hours later the white is gone again.

Saturday, March 3, 2001

New computer

Two weeks ago, we ordered a new computer. This morning, I went to the shop to ask if it had arrived. And it had. So, in the afternoon after we had done out usual shoppings, I went to catch it. One of the first things I did was opening the machine to see what was inside. It started up without much problems. But then I did not know what to do. Starting to work with a new computer is almost like making a new friend. Each computer has its own characteristics. The first step in coming to know it, is study all the documentation. I did already read through the booklet that came with the mother board. An empty computer still needs a lot of software to be installed before it becomes usefull. And we also had to think about how we were going to deploy our three computers. We decided to keep them all down stairs. Some furniture had to be moved, and some things needed to be cleaned. As usually this led to much more objects to be moved around then I had thought at first. I even ended up rearranging some things in the room of Annabel.

Finally, at the end of the evening, I could start doing something with the computers. I decided that I would move the 1.2 Gbyte hard disk of our oldest computer to the newest computer. But before, I removed it, I decided to make a last backup of some data on the other hard disk. When I started the computer, it failed to boot. It was complaining that the hard disk would not start. Now, this made me feel very terrible. One of the reasons for buying the new computer was to be able to make backups of our data on CD-ROM's. And now the old computer failed, just before I wanted to rescue the data. Of course, I tried to fiddle around with the hard ware, by disconnecting the hard disks and trying all kinds of other things. As a last resort, I pushed against the IDE controller, and when I switched it on, it started to work again. There must have been some loose contact because of me moving it around. Quickly, I made the backups, and removed the hard disk making sure that the system would still work okay.

Then I build in the hard disk in the new computer. Which involved the usual fiddling with IDE cables, because they never go as you had expected. But the operation was successful. It was getting close to two o'clock in the night. (For some stange reason I always end-up performing these kind of hardware modifications in the night.) The last thing I did was copying the backups I made to the 30 Gbyte hard disk of the new machine. Maybe I burn a CD-ROM from it tomorrow.

Monday, March 5, 2001

An intellectual nightmare

I was visiting my old boss on the University. He showed me some paper, and told me that my algorithm did not work. I studied the paper, and concluded that it was a performance problem. Then many students entered the room, and I was requested to solve the problem working together with these students. Before the students I explained that luckly the problem with the algorithm had only to do with the performance. Then, when I tried to find the description of the algorithm, it turned out that non of the students had the right book. When after some hours of fruitless looking through books, someone said that I should solve it, I remarked that I was only visiting, and that I was nolonger working at the university. But where was I working?

Then I woke up, and realized I had been dreaming all the time. I also noticed that I had a slight headache. I wondered whether it was caused by the nightmare, or vice-versa.

Wednesday, March 7, 2001

Watching the trains

From our office we look out onto some grass, which stops after about 10 meter/yards with a fence. Behind this fence there are some bushes. Since this morning they started removing these bushes. The reason for this is unclear. The few trees between the bushes are left alone.

As a result of removing the bushes, we can now see the field behind the bushes. Also the road at the end of the field and the railway track from Almelo to Amsterdam are visible now. So, we can start watching the trains again.


Friday, March 9, 2001

Andy's progress

Yesterday, we had a meeting with some people from the "Klim Op", the place where Andy stays now during the week. A lot of good news. Andy is doing great and showing progress. He now sometimes starts to play with some of the other children. And he also seems to listen quite well, and does not react very emotionel when corrected. Whenever there is a new person around, he starts to play his tricks again, finding out how far he can go. But, this can only be seen as something natural, which all children do. We have set some goals with respect to his eating problems. Now, at home we are also going to have him "eat" with as less physical force as possible. Lately, his eating has improved again, and I have good hope that we may see some progress in this area before the end of the year.


Monday, March 12, 2001

Terminal connection

Yesterday, I realized that I still might use our
oldest PC, (named annabel) now that it does not have a monitor anymore. That monitor is now attached to our newest PC, (named ester). Long ago, on February 28, 1995 to be precise, I managed to hook an vt100 terminal up to it under Linux. I remembered that Susan had used her laptop to login into the campus network, and that it must thus have a terminal emulator on it. And yes with some fiddling around, I managed to get it working. Now I can use the T1900S laptop as a terminal of our oldest PC. It does beep three times when booted without monitor, but who cares about that. Because the serial line is so long, I can virtually everywhere in the house work on our oldest computer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Spring snow

When I came down last Monday, Annabel shouted that it was snowing. Indeed it was snowing, but it was too hot for the snow to stay. Today is the first day of the spring. Around noon there was some snow flowing through the air. Now, a few hours later, snow has covered most of the grass outside. The roads are still black, but for how long.

Wednesday, March 28, 2001

Ploughing the field

Around three o'clock in the afternoon there came a Turbomatik Favorit 512LS tractor to plough the area of the field from which they removed the bushes on
March 7.


Friday, March 30, 2001

Alexander and Máxima: announcing their engagement

I too watched the announcement of their engagement on Dutch television, as did fifteen million Dutch people. The news that their engagement was going to be announced already leaked out yesterday. At six o'clock our Queen made the official announcement. Then the prime minister said something from his working room (nicknamed "the little tower"), followed by a statement to the press about the father of Máxima who has been involved as a civilian in the military government ruling Argentina for almost 15 years. The father of Máxima has decided to be absent from the wedding, which is to take place at the beginning of next year. At seven o'clock there was a press conference with Alexander and Máxima, which started off with both of them reading a statement. Everybody seemed to be surprised with how well Máxima already knows the Dutch language, which is definitely not an easy language. Also when the people from the press asked their questions they gave very open answers to my surprise. It was obvious to me that they are truely in love with each other, and have very seriously thought about their relationship. At a quarter to eight they went outside and shaked hands with the croud waiting outside the gate.

Although the majority of the Dutch are now supportive of the marriage, there is still a small group having its doubts. Those against can be divided in two groups, namely, those that still feel that our crown prince cannot marry someone from a dubious background, and those that believe that the marriage will not stand. Many from these two groups feel that they should marry, but that prince Willem-Alexander should give up his claim on the crown to live a happy life with Máxima.

Seeing the kind of trouble they already have gone through, it looks like they have really thought through all the consequences of their marriage. They look very much in love with each other, but also two intelligent people who seem to be well aware of the consequences of their decision. Of course, they did get some media training, and they must have talked through all the questions they could expect during the interview, but from some of their reactions you just know that they were speaking from their heart instead of giving a pre boiled answer.

And for those who are against the marriage, I think that they will remain a minority. You cannot hold a child responsable for the actions of its parents. And also to me it looks like Máxima was very sincere in the statement she made about her father. I also think that not everyone understands the sacrific that she and her family have made for her father (and probably also her mother) not being present at the wedding. In the culture she is coming from this is a very important issue.

I wish them all the luck.


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