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Diary, April 2001

   Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
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Sunday, April 1, 2001

Devaluation of my marriage

A Picture of the first lesbian couple that was married a few minutes after 12 this night.
Today, because of a change in the Dutch marriage law, the meaning and value that the law ascribes to my marriage has changed. Long ago, a marriage was a life-long commitment of a man and a woman. In the mid seventies, many people did not like this idea of making life-long commitments. Instead of getting married, they simply lived together. Then at some point there was a need for formalizing this kind of relationships. The law was changed, that if people signed a certain "registered partnership" contract, then this in many ways gave the same rights as a marriage. Not so long ago, the marriage law was changed in the sense that people no longer had to vow "until death departs us", and at the same time divorce was made easier. In a process of many steps, the marriage by law and the "registered partnership" have been growing together. One of the difference that remains is that people with a "registered partnership" could not adopt children, like married couples can. Now, of today, yet another difference between a "registered partnership" and marriage was removed. From today, the Netherlands is the first country in the world were couples of the same sex have right to marry. Until now they could only have a "registered partnership".
Married homosexual couples now have exactly the same rights as hetrosexual couples, thus also the right to adopt children. For the homosexual community this is a major victory. But from a different point of view, you could also conclude that the moral value of the marriage has eroded over the years, and that it no longer has that exclusive value that it used to have. It is quite fair to conclude that the meaning and value that the Dutch laws assigns to a marriage has changed to such an extend that it no longer resembles the concept of the Christian marriage it was once based on.

Already at the time we got married in 1993, I felt that the value of the legal marriage deviated substantially from the Christian marriage. For this reason we exchanged our wedding rings in the church and not in the townhall. (In the Netherlands, the legal marriage can only be established in the townhall, not in a church as in so many other countries.) Although we did not get married for the law in the church, it was there that made our vows (again) and exchanged our wedding rings.

With respect to homosexuality. Now that I have touched on the subject of homosexuality in relationship with Christianity, I feel that I should say something about it. I am aware that this is a very sensitive subject for some. Some hold the opinion that homosexual feelings and Christianity are excluding each other. The Bible clearly restrics sex to marriage, which is defined as a life-long commitment between a man and a woman. With this it prohibits many sexual activities that are considered as normal in many societies. The Bible also states that God created us and that He loves us. He loved us so much that He sent His son, that we could be saved and receive eternal life. It was because of His love for us that He gave us laws to obey in order to reach our purpose. What about those who want to obey God and feel attracted to people of the same sex? For those holds the same rule as for those who are single. Is that easy? No, it is not! Is it good in the long run? Yes, I believe so! (Of course, those who do not want to obey God, they may do what they want. But if they will be happy with it in the end, I don't know.) (I am aware that in some churches they think differently about this.)

Should a government prohibit people who by choice live a homosexual life-style to do so? I think the answer is no. Governments should not enforce a certain religion, view, and such on its inhabitants. But governments have the duty to protect the rights of the weak. From this point of view, I am not convinced that governments should grant homosexual couples the right to adopt children. It is my firm opinion that for children it is the most ideal situation to be brought up by a man and woman (preferable their father and mother) living together with a life-long commitment. I am also aware that we do not live in an ideal world. Anyway, it is clearly that I live in a country whoes government is becoming more and more atheistic.

(follow-up on becoming atheistic
follow-up on the consequences of this law
One day divorce)

This night, a few minutes after midnight the first four homo couples were married in Amsterdam by the major of Amsterdam, the previous minister of Justice, one of the persons initiating this modification of the law.

( follow-up on the major)

Tuesday, April 3, 2001

Chestnut tree

This morning, Annabel and I saw that our little chestnut tree started budding. Of course, it is still about 40 cm high. On Saturday, Annabel did something in the front garden, and I was afraid that she had damaged the little tree, but now she had right to say that she had been careful. I would have felt sad if she would have killed the little tree.


Saturday, April 7, 2001

Loose tooth

Last wednesday, Annabel told us that her left front tooth on the bottom was loose. Indeed it was loose, and I felt I could pull it out if I wanted. But as all children that was the least thing she wanted. This morning she told us that the other bottom front tooth was also loose.



Today is his three and half year birthday. Lately, he is very interesting in his video tapes. He often goes to the cupboard to get them out. He knows the names of most of them. Not really, but he can indicate to which serie the belong to. Of some he can not really say the name, but he can "sing" the tune. But at least he can recognize them. He seems to be so enthousiastic about that he knows the "names" of the tapes, that he want to show it all the time. He also wants us to put on a new video tape every five minutes.

Reverse engineering the Quark Xpress format (Part 6)

Some weeks ago, I already figured out how to find the start of the text. I had discovered that the rest of the file used the same linking method as used with the data for each text fragement. When wrote some code to follow this linking, I discovered that is did jumped right over the text. In the files I have, it seems that all the text is right inside the jump. I also had tried to figure out the meaning of the binary data before the start of the text. It obvousily contains information about the defined styles and such. And although I did find some repeating patterns, I did not discover a general structure by which I could parse the data.

Yesterday, I decided to check the text I retrieved from some file, with a print out of the file. I also wanted to know how much time it would take to verify the correctness, as there are many more files which might need to be converted. With the first file I tried, I concluded that indeed all the text was in there. Then, when I checked the second file, I noticed that some text were not in the right order. At first it did not look so serious, but then I came onto some part where there was the text was in many small boxes, I discovered that there was no logic in it, and that the program I wrote so far, would be useless.

I decided to study the data following the text, hoping that it would contain some information about the boxes in which the texts are placed. Soon I discovered what looked like the binary representation of doubles. I had hoped to find some regular repeating structure. I did some find some general mechanism for which the data was divided up into blocks, but I did not find it. I did find some repeating patterns, but they did not repeat at regular intervals. So, we have to do with variable length records. There are several mechanism to represent variable length records. For this it is important to find the start of the records, which I failed to do so far.

This night, I continued my investigation. Again, I have been studying the binary data. I found some more structures, suggesting that there are variable length records. I still did not find the start of the records. But, I have some strong indications that booleans are used, to indicate whether additional data is available or not. With this, I at least could explain some things with this. Actually, this does give some information about where the start of the records is not. Once you know the mechanism that is used for indicating variable length records, you can see if it is used elsewhere as well. The people designing the routines to store data into files, usually stick to one method of representing the data.

(Previous and next part)

Sunday, April 8, 2001

Chestnut Tree

Today, I took a picture of the little chestnut tree in our front garden. Since last week, it did not grow much. Probably because the weather is still too cold.


Monday, April 9, 2001

Three months to go

Yes, I am on the move again. Three months from today,
I will be working with a new company. Still seems to be such a long time, but I have no choice because Annabel is still going to school in Almelo. After the summer holidays she will go to school in Enschede again.


Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Heavy day

I wanted to go to the "
XP-NL 5" meeting, so I went home early. I left at 15:30 from my office, and picked-up Annabel from school about ten minutes later. When we drove on the highway from Almelo to Enschede, there was a traffic jaw going into Almelo. Only when I saw that the highway going to Amsterdam was closed due to an accident, I realized that this was not a normal traffic jam. Immediately, I realized I had to take a different route going to the meeting.

Confusing letter

Around ten past four we arrived at home. There was a letter from the police department about the temporary residence permit that we are applying for Li-Xia's mother. Because the letter asked for some additional documents, which we had not anticipated, it gave rise to some discusions between Li-Xia and I about how we should continue from this point.

(the details, follow-up)

Driving over small roads

It was only around five o'clock that I left, after Li-Xia had phoned with some Chinese friends. I decided to take the "Twente" route to avoid the traffic jam on the highway from Enschede to Amsterdam. But because this route is not a highway and leads through many small places, it was not particulary fast. Actually, there were several traffic jams on it caused by traffic lights. It was almost an hour later when I was finally driving on a highway and could make some progress.


While I drove to the west on the highway it started to rain while the sun was shinning. Because the sun was right above the highway, the wet surface of the road reflected the light of the sun, creating a rather special effect. Suddenly, I realized there must be a rainbow behind me. I looked back, and indeed saw some fragement of it. Because I had to watch the road, and could not look at it. A little later the rain stopped.


About ten past seven, I arrived at "the "XP-NL 5" meeting. There were still some pizza left over. The whole evening was a little bit an unorganized discussion. At one point we decided to talk about pair programming, but we ended up talking about completely other subjects, like project organisation, pressure, and source code management techniques. All very interesting things. The meeting was over around 10 o'clock.

Going home

I left around 10 past 10. I had expected my trip home to go very smooth, but on highway 27 from Utrecht to Amersfoort there was a traffic jam, caused by the fact that the left lane was closed for cleaning purposes. But once this was over, we could drive at normal speeds again. And then just south of Amersfoort there was another serious traffic jam. (I had to stop several times for almost a minute before there was some movement again.) At a certain point, I noticed that all cars were going to the left lane. I too followed this example, only to discover that a few hundreds of meters (yards) the traffic jam disolved in the middle of nowhere and soon we were driving fast again. There had not been any obstacle on the right lane except in the mind of the people. I have to note that the road was making a slight turn to the left, so you could not see if there was indeed some obstacle or not. Rather funny, if you think about it.

About half way, I realized that I had driven around my fathers grave as a result of the detour that I took earlier this evening. It was a little over midnight that I arrived home.

Living in the first atheistic country

A long time ago Albania declared itself as the first atheistic country in the world. Although the Netherlands does not declare itself as the first atheistic country in the world, today, another steps was made, which truely makes it the first mordern atheistic country in the world. Earlier this month, on the first, the Netherlands was the first country in the world to allow homosexuals to be married, and have the same rights as hetrosexuals. Today, the Netherlands is the first country to sanction active termination of life under medical supervision when people are terminally ill, which is defined as "unbearable" suffering. Of course, the law prescribes a number of requirements, but some of these are open for interpretation and not always easy to verify.

Euthanasia till today was not allowed by law, but already for a considerable number of years it has not been actively prosecuted. This a typical Dutch thing, to explicitely state that although some practice is forbidden by law, it will not be prosecuted when certain conditions are met. The law was accepted by a large majority of the senate ("Eerste Kamer"), because they felt they were only instutionalizing a practive that was already accepted by normal by society. During the meeting in which the vote was held, a crowed of 11000 people, mainly Christians, gathered outside, and was singing songs like "Create in me a clean heart, o God" and the second verse of our national anthem. What I know of Albania is that they did not accepted this kind of laws even at the time that they called themselves the first atheistic country in the world. From this, I must conclude that because the Dutch government accepted these kind of atheistic laws, the Netherlands truely has become the most atheistic country in the world.

(follow-up on the pill and atheistic country)

Saturday, April 14, 2001

Flowers turning orange

When I looked outside this morning, I saw that the flowers on
the Magnolia in the back garden had turned orange even before opening. This must be because of the unexpected cold weather we had in the past week. This is the first time we had this.


Boiled Eastern Eggs

Almost every Saturday we go to the open air market in Enschede, which they say is one of the best in the Netherlands. Once in a while the companies present on the open air market organise something special for their customers. On the Saturday before Eastern, this is typically boiled eggs. So, we eat some boiled Eastern eggs this morning.

Buying bread

We always buy our bread at the same stand on the market. I noticed that one of the girls that served us, had been gone for several weeks. When I made some inquiries about this, I was told that she was now working a maternity nurse. My first reaction was that that fits her very nice.


As usual I looked at some books in
a bookshop. When I was just paging through some computer related books, I was very surprised to find the email address of Peter Apers in a list of example email addresses on page 472 of The Art & Craft of Computing written by Steffano Ceri, Dino Mandrioli, and Licia Sbattella, published by Addison Wesley Longman Ltd., written in 1997, ISBN 0-201-876981.

Frames for Monet posters

We found some cheap frames for the
Monet posters we bought last year in Decemeber. At home, I tried to cut one of the posters to the right size by putting the glass over the poster and cutting along the sides. I discovered that it is not very smart to put you knee on the glass to fix. In other words the glass broke, and I had to bring it away.

Really, really, last snow?

At the end of the afternoon, it started to snow once more. Although it was rather warm, some of the snow did stay for some time on the grass.

The pill of Drion

a few days after the new euthanasia law passed the senate, the Minister of health, welfare and sport told in an interview that she would not have any problems with introducting the pill of Drion for old people who are tired of living. This is a suicide pill named after H. Drion, who suggested it for the first time when he was the vice-president of some important advisory counsel in the Netherlands.

About the passing of the law, the minister used the same Dutch words that Christ had used when He gave his life on the cross ("It is finished"). Although it is not clear whether she used this phrase on purpose, it was rather painful for the Christian parties who were amongh those opposing this law.


Eastern Monday, April 16, 2001

Small accident

In the morning, I visited a PC Discount market to look around. The only useful thing I did discover is that you can buy refill packages for
Cannon BJC-250 inkjet printer. When I drove of the parking lot (a field with some gravel and a lot of holes) I took a turn a little to short making a fence scratch the car. It made a horrible noise, and I had expected that half of the car would be damaged. It did not look to bad. The back bumper was half of and their was a scratched. I felt quite depressed about it, realizing that it might cost a lot. The visit had become a very expensive one.


Reverse engineering the Quark Xpress format (Part 7)

The rest of the afternoon and some part of the evening, I spend looking at the binary code. I think, I finally am getting some grip on the problem of where records begin and end. I also have discovered a number of records type. Earlier this day, I felt like I was never going to find any structure. The break through came, when I tried to put all the data of on record on a separate line. Some of the lines became very long, but that is not a big deal. It was also a good idea to collect as much as possible data. I did a lot a stupid editting, but I think I made some substantial progress. I also came to the conclusion that what I had labled as pairs of doubles before, more looks like four long values specifying a box. Maybe tomorrow I have time to start writing a program that can parse the data according to the structure I found, in order to verify my ideas.

Thursday, April 19, 2001

Winter weather

We had typical winter weather today. There was some snow, some hail and some rain the whole day. I cannot qualify this as a snow day, but it was comming close.

Rational Unified Process Fundamentals course

Yesterday and today, I attended the Rational Unified Process (RUP) fundamentals course. With XP in the back of my mind, I could not stop evaluating RUP against my ideas about software engineering.

The pill of Drion (Cont'd)

Today, in the congress the minister of health, welfare and sport declared that she would not used the words "It is finished" if she had realized the meaning it has for Christians. I think we should believe that she is speaking the truth. Still, it can be expected of some one in such a high position to be aware of such things. It should be noted that she belongs to the political party that is very strongly pushing the separation of religion and politics, and turning our country into a truely atheistic country.


Error 403

I discovered that my home pages are not accessible anymore. When you try to open them you get the message '403 - FORBIDDEN'. This must be a problem with the server. Looking at the NedStat counter on the Kabuki Syndroom Netwerk page, I see that it did not report any hits since April 6.


Friday, April 20, 2001

A new fence

Today, they started making the new fence just two meters behind the fence we are looking at when we look outside the window. This fence indeed is put up in the middle of where the bushes once were, the ones that were removed
last month.

Saturday, April 21, 2001

Retrospective dream

This morning I had a kind of retrospective dream. I do not remember a lot about the details. I was standing close to a coffee machine (or something like that) in the hall of some office, when someone said: "From you acts, I notice that you still have some emotions towards your father, that you have not dealt with." The next thing I remember is that we walk back, and that I am thinking about how he came to this conclusion. Then just after we went through some doors, I say, quite loudly: "My father is dead". I think, I used this expression and not "
My father has died" as a way to defeat his statement about my emotions, as if you cannot have emotions towards someone who is dead.


This morning, I went to collect the four monitors that I bought from the yearly PC-sale of my employer to its employees. In the afternoon, I checked the monitors, and after this I brought three of the four away to be sent to the Ukraine comming wednesday. The fourth monitor, a Philips Brilliance 15A12TA, I kept for myself, with the purpose to hook it up to our annabel PC if needed. Of course, I could also use it in combination with the Thoshiba laptop.

Reverse engineering the Quark Xpress format (Part 8)

In the past weeks, I worked on a program which can parse the record structures I had discovered so far. This evening, I worked on this, solving some of the last problems, and the program is now able to parse all the records in the file that I had analized. Of course, at the end it ran into some rubish. When I looked at this, I could not find something indicating the end of the records. This means that there must be some counter in the binary segment before the text segment. When I looked there, I discovered that the record structure already started there. In a sense this is bad news, because it means I have to figure out the start of the recors, which requires that I have to analyse the binary data from the start of the file.

Sunday, April 22, 2001

Chestnut Tree

Today, I took a picture of the little chestnut tree in our front garden. Since two weeks ago, it did not grow much, which is not so strange with the kind of weather we had in the past weeks. It also looks like the central bud has dried up.

Monday, April 23, 2001


One of my colleagues in the office remarked that there was a bumble-bee outside. This is indeed the time for the bumble-bees to fly around. I looked around on the web and found some interesting pages. The most informative page was a
Dutch page by Henk Merts. I concluded that it must have been a Bombus Terrestris of the super family Apoidea, which is of the suborder Apocrita, which belong to the order Hymenoptera.

Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Reverse engineering the Quark Xpress format (Part 9)

This evening, I started studying the first part of the binary data looking for a pattern. I spend some hours searching, but I think I did have some success. I found a chunk of data that is preceded by a long (4 bytes) value indicating its length. The next thing is to verify if this is a repeating pattern. I have to look backwards into the data.

Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Arranging spoons

While we were having dinner, we noticed that
Andy was playing with the kind of measuring spoons that come with baby milk cans. He was putting them one by one in a slit of a table. To our surprise, he put them all in the same way. The definitely shows that he is not really stupid.

Thursday, April 26, 2001

Reverse engineering the Quark Xpress format (Part 10)

This evening, I verified my hypothesis that chunks of data start with a field indicating their length in the first part of the binary data. This indeed looks like to be the case. I traced it back to the almost the start of the binary data. Now, I extend the program to check if I did my maths correctly.

Saturday, April 28, 2001

Very small flowers

This morning, when we were getting ready for going into the city
Annabel and I were waiting outside. And because we had nothing to do, we decided to pull out some weed. While doing this, I discovered some small orange flowers on a little bit of moss on top of one of the little poles that serve as a border of the front garden. Then later on, I discovered even some smaller flowers, barely visible as little dots on another pole.


Annabel wanted to play a game of memory this evening. We must have not played it for over a year. I was very surprised when she won the game with easy. Sometimes she just knew were certain cards were, while I could not even recall having them seen. Or it must be that I am getting a bad memory. No, some children are just very good at this kind of games. I can also remember that in the past, I often won, simply because she was not paying attention. It still wonders me, that while she doesn't seem to have any trouble with playing this kind of game, reading is still difficult for her.

Sunday, April 29, 2001

Reverse engineering the Quark Xpress format (Part 11)

This morning, before we went to church, I quickly switched on the computer to verify a hypothesis that I had come up with last night in bed. It proved to be correct. Sometimes when you are reverse enginering something, there can be radical changes as how the different parts are related to each other. While analysing the records describing the boxes, I had found that some boxes had some extra piece of data following it. In my program I have a procedure called parse_tail that will process this extra part of data. The first thing that I did last Friday, was verifying my hypothesis about the chunks of data being preceded by four bytes specifying their lenght. After fixing a bug in the low level reading procedure, I concluded that if I would skip ten such chunks of data starting from byte 840 of the binary data, I would arrive at the first piece of data with respect to the records describing the boxes. I also discovered that the first thing I encountered there was not a record describing a box, but a "tail" like data structure. So appearently, there were two kinds of records, namely records describing boxes and records describing something else. The letter could be records describing the page dimensions or something like that.

Next, I decided to write a routine sorting all the coordinates of the various bounding boxes that are stored in the various records. Looking at this, there were many boxes on the same place. From this it seems obvious that the coordinates are given per page. It seems as if the other kind of records, contained information about the pages. This hypothesis was affirmed when I sorted the boxes per page. I also discovered that some bounding boxes were inside other boxes, which seems to fit with what I saw inside Quark Xpress. It is good news, if it is indeed the case that all boxes are represented as such in the binary data.

Then yesterday, I an attempt to discover the linking between the boxes and the fragments of data, I decided that I wanted to look at a page where the order text fragments differs from what one would expect it the text would flow from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. The first thing, I discovered that the that page was not in the file I had been working on in the past weeks. So, I needed to read another page. I also decided to reorganize the code to reflect the idea that there are two kinds of records for the boxes and the pages. I had to adapt the parsing a little, to accomodate some alternatives which I had not seen before. Then I discovered that my method of differentiating between the two kind of records did not work. But then it was time to go to bed. In bed, I got the idea that the maybe in the records containing the information about the page layout, might also contain some number indicating the number of box records. Then I remembered having see several values for the last four bytes in these records. The hypotheses was that this is the number of boxes on the pages. When I checked this, it indeed proved to be true. So what I labeled as the "tail" of a record, now appears to be a the header under which the records fall. This kind of reversals often occur when you get a better understanding of the structure of a binary file, while you are reverse engineering it.

(Previous and next part)

Monday, April 30, 2001


Today is a national holiday in the Netherlands on which we celebrate the queens birthday. It is really the queens mother birthday. The mother of our queen became 92 today. This morning we went into the city. There are always a lot of people selling theirs left over things from the attick on this day.
Li-Xia found a Maxi-Cosi for just ten guilders, which we need for Andy. His current one broke down some weeks ago.

In the afternoon, we visited my mother for the first time since last year after Christmas. We went to visit the grave of my father (where his ashes are buried), and placed some plants and a small plastic heart that Annabel made for her grandfather. His ashes were buried there on February 28. I also took a picture of the grave.



Just before we wanted to leave, Andy wanted to go upstairs. My mother explained how he walked holding his hands to the stair, and then would release them, so you could lift him unders his arms. He was quite persistent with wanting to go upstairs. He had not been upstairs yet. Suddenly, I realized he was looking for his grandpa. It was upstairs where he had seen him for the last time in the coffin. So, I carried Andy upstairs to show him that his grandfather was not there. When I came down, I explained what he had wanted to my mother and Li-Xia. We were all a little amazed that he had wanted to see his grandfather.

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