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Diary, April 2003

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Tuesday, April 1, 2003

SARS here to stay

Today, in Leeuwarden, a city in the Netherlands, a blind man was convicted of raping four women. He used a telephone chat box to guide the women to his place, and there he raped them using verbal and physical violence to silence them. During the trial he denied all alligations, saying that he did not use any force at all.

It seems that SARS is here to stay. In the past days there has been a strong outbreak in Hong Kong, which might as well run out of hand. And who knows how it is spreading in mainland China. The effect SARS has on world economics is increasing, and might soon be greater than the war on Iraq.

Thursday, April 3, 2003

Radius of a circle enclosed by three circles

Last week, I was thinking about what would be the radius of the largest circle that would fit into the area of three touching circles given their radii. Today, I found the following formulea on MathForum:
  1/r = 1/r1 + 1/r2 + 1/r3 + 2*sqrt(1/(r1*r2)+1/(r1*r3)+1/(r2*r3))
That is indeed a suprisingly nice formulea. Sadly, it does not explain how it was derived.


Biking through the rain

I had forgotten how it felt to be biking through the rain. Last Monday, it was raining when I wanted to go home. Yesterday, it rained a little. So far, it has been dry today. This morning it was 3.8 degrees Celsius when I left from home. Elène Vis has started the 'Hanky Panky School', a school for prostitutes and escort girls.

Monday, April 7, 2003

Talibanization of North West Pakistan

Non-Muslims in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan (NWFP) fear the Talibanization of the region after the Provincial Cabinet unanimously adopted the Islamic Shar'iah Act. If enacted by the provincial assembly, the Act will give Shari'ah law supremacy in the province while the Qur'an and Sunnah (the examples and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed) will dictate all future legislation and legal reforms.

As the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), Pakistan's radical Islamic opposition party, supports the legislation and holds a two-thirds majority in the Provincial Assembly, the new legislation is expected to be implmenente with minimal opposition. The new legislation will require strict adherence to Muslim practices and will comprehensively discriminate against the political, civil, cultural, economic and social rights of all non-Muslim citizens in the province.

Strange dream

It was -2.0 degrees when I went outside this morning. This is bad for all the flowers that about to open. Yesterday morning, I woke up from a strange dream. I was dreaming about checking in into a boarding school for gifted teenagers. For some reason, I was late for dinner, which was held in another building. (Except for the dinner building have a strange entrance, where you had to crawl through a very small door, and make a roll down, because the floor was lower on the inside. I asked someone if this was the only entrance, because I wondered how they had moved all the furniture inside.) The others were almost done when I started. Then they started to ask me all kinds of strange questions that I barely understood, but which implied that they knew certain things about my past and background. I wondered what they had been told about me. (I was thinking about the fact that I had not informed the office yet, and I also thought that I was really too old for staying at this school.) I felt attacked by all their questions, as if I did not belong there. (yet the woman who was the head of the school, somehow had given me the idea that I belonged there.) Then suddenly, I realized that I was being tested. At one point I felt a strange pain like a band around my head. Then came the final question asking me which church I was attending. After I gave the answer, everybody cheared, and I was thinking about how I could share with them all my ideas about whether God exists or not. Then I woke up, sweating, something that I haven't experienced in years. If was 7:17 on the alarm. It was only after nine that I got out of my bed, all the time laying half asleep trying to remember the details of this dream and wondering about its significance.

Tuesday, April 8, 2003

War almost over

It seems that the war on Iraq is almost over. It would not surprise if before the end of the week the Coalition will declare the victory and that there will be not much resistence. However, if you see some of the images of people having lost their families, one can imagine that some of these will take revenge in the years to come. So far, no chemical weapons have been found. If none are found, it will show that the inspections were effective, and that there never was any threat for world peace, and thus no legal ground for starting the war in the first place.

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Commiting war crimes

Is the U.S. army committing war crimes? Yesterday, I heard that an old man walking with a stick was shot while crossing the street. It almost seems that they are shooting at everything that is moving and making excessive number of casualties amongh civilians. Also the attack on the office of Al-Jazeera and the Palistine hotel could be regarded as such. Especially, in the Arabic world the attack on the offices of Al-Jazeera will be interpreted as such, even if it was an accident. It are these small things that enhance opposition against the United States of America.

I find the images of young children missing arms and legs, or being burned or paralyzed, quite shocking. Will they be given support from the U.S. government in the years to come? I think it would be a good idea, to held governments accountable for the costs of civilian casualties during a war. And this should include all cost, not simply paying the medical bills, but also the cost of living for the rest of their lives.

High marks in world reading tests

CNN reported that U.S. gets high marks in world reading tests. Once should read the report to understand the facts. The Dutch students are performing significantly better than the U.S. students. They are on the second place for average combined reading literacy score (where the US student are on the ninth place) and on the second place for the average informational subscale score (where the US students are on the thirdteenth place). For the average literary subscale the Dutch are just before the US on the third place. A remarkable fact shown on the seventh page, is that the Dutch worst students are the best worst students for all included countries, meaning that we are very good at teaching the less good student. The variation is also remarkable low, if not the lowest. Out best students are on about the seventh place, even behind the best U.S. students. (Figure 8 really gives the impression that the U.S. students are very good.)

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Snow on the Magnolia

On Sunday, March 30, I reported about the first signs of the spring. Up until that day, the weather had been exceptional nice for the time of the year. But, in the last weeks temperatures dropped below zero again during the night. This morning, there was some snow on the now brown frozen flower leaves of our Magnolia. I could not stop making some pictures before biking to my office. I expect it will blossom again later this year, like it did in July 2001, because in that year the flowers also turned brown (orange) due to frost.


Breach in coalition forming

Tonight, around eleven o'clock, Jan Peter Balkenende (our current Prime Minister and member of the Christian Democrats) told that the attempt to form a coalition with the labour party of Jeroen Bos had failed. A few minutes later, Jeroen Bos gave his side of the story, which gave the impression that the Christian Democrats at the last moment had come with a proposal that was totally unaccceptable even by the formation advisors. It was then that the formation advisors resigned from their assignment, and said that they would inform the Queen about this.

The Christian Democrats are holding the position that we should everything possible to reduce the dept of the government to zero by the year 2007, which means very extensive cuts on government spendings (about 20 billion Euro). That is definitely not a good thing to improve the current economical condition.

Friday, April 11, 2003


This morning, I found a note on my desk from Johan related to how to calculate radius of a circle enclosed by three circles, which I wrote about last week. The note said: Yes, that is indeed one way to solve it. But it is far from trivial, and it is not easy to see how it will arrive at the elegant formulea. I suspect that there is an easier way of derive it.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

In This Week's Lancet

Today, I received an email from The Lancet (because I once registered to look at an online article), telling what is in this weeks issue. One of the items mentioned was:
Clitoral surgery could impair sexual function for people with intersex conditions

UK researchers highlight how clitoral-reduction surgery for infants born with intersex conditions could have a substantial negative impact on sexual functioning in adulthood.

I do not know what I have to think of this, but it seems a rather obvious fact to me. I can also remember having seems documentary about people who underwent such an operation and did suffer from it.

Priceless Iraqi archeological artifacts stripped by looters

I was really shocked, when I saw this being reported on the news. Not that I am so interested in archeological artifacts, but it really is an example of the chaos in Bagdad. Why would people destroy their own cultural heritage. This is pure vandalism.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

My mothers 73th birthday

Today, we went to my mothers places to celebrate her birthday. Also some of my uncles and aunts came to visit my mother. Even my brother, who lives in Belgium, came over. All my nieces and nephews were there. In the evening we had soup and some potato salads. Also some neighbours and an aunt joined in with the dinner. The weather was very nice. The children played outside most of the time, and we could sit in the back of the garden enjoying the simple dinner. It was a perfect day, as a real family being together day can be, where there is room for others to join in. At one point the neighbour woman recalled how on December 1, 2000, she biked into the street, seeing all people outside, thought that they were their to congratulate her with her birthday. But when she saw the faces of the people, she immediately realized that something serious had happened. Then she apologized for making a joke about the day my father died. But knowbody felt it like that, and my mother immediately went to say that he would have been the first to laugh. This winter was not easy for my mother, but for the most she has picked up her life and is active as she just to be. She is still in very good health and goes to play tennis almost every week.

Encounter with a dove

Back on way home, I noticed a dove crossing the high way, when it suddenly went for a dive to the road. In a split second, I made an avoiding movement to the right, ending up halfway on the emergency lane. When I looked in the mirror, I saw it fly up. It must have missed the car by at most a feet, and probably have been pushed aside by the air flow around the car. Only then I realized that I not only had saved its life but also prevent the car from being damaged. I also realized that making the car wobble for fun in the past, allowed me to make the manoeuvre without causing an accident. But, I hope it will never happen again.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Is it because they just want our oil?

This morning it was 8.9 degrees Celsius outside. That promises another nice day like yesterday. Priceless Iraqi Archeological Artifacts Stripped By Looters. There were no American soldiers protecting the museum. Some Iraqis question the allocation of U.S. forces around the capital, noting a whole company of Marines along with at least a half-dozen amphibious assault vehicles has been assigned to guard the Oil Ministry. Many other ministries -- including trade, information, planning, health and education -- remain unprotected. "Why just the oil ministry?" one Iraqi asked. "Is it because they just want our oil?"

It looks like president Bush is about making the same historical mistake as his father, who during the first Gulf War did not eliminate Sadaam, because he was not given the mandate to do so. Now, when the coalition have the possibility to track down the remainments of the Iraqi chemical weapons and Sadaams government officials in Syria, they are hesitating again. Go for it, I would say, and save yourselves the cost of having to deploy a large army in the 2014 in the region, unless if you want to keep the opportunity to test your improved weapons systems in a real war during that time.

The Chinese government dealing with SARS

Alarm after SARS strikes 'healthy' mentions in the section about other developments: "After a near blackout on SARS coverage, China is orchestrating a media blitz to convince its citizens to adopt healthier lifestyles, warning against smoking and drinking, urging scrubbing of hands after cleaning noses, and advising keeping surgical face masks on hand just in case." It is about time that this was going to happen. Strange that they link it up to smoking and drinking. I haven't heard from any other source that smoking and drinking increase the chance for getting SARS. This could give the idea that if you don't smoke and drink, you are safe from getting SARS if you wash your hands regularly.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Het Rutbeek

Yesterday morning it was 9.9 degrees Celsius. This morning it got as high as 12.9 degrees when I went outside. Should I go to Het Rutbeek this afternoon?. I am happy to hear that Ali Ismail Abbas is taken care of. I hope this sets an example who the world (the United States of America in the first place) will deal with the many casualities in Iraq.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

The two big questions

These are:
  1. Why does there exist something at all?
  2. Why am I raising these two questions?

(the answers?, follow-up, philosophy)


This morning, I was watching the news, when Li-Xia carried Andy downstairs. Rather annoyed he said "Now?", because he is only allowed to watch TV after he has finished his drank his breakfast (yes, he still can't eat normal food). His vocabulary is still rather limited, but I was amazed how he in the way he pronounced the word "now" could say: "What are you doing now?".


There is a melody from Symphony no.7 "Leningrad" Op. 60 by Dmitri Shostakovich playing through my head all the time. I have been listing to it in the past week.


Really funny how the USA was the only country that reported the number of suspect cases of SARS, while all the others reported the number of probable cases. From April 20 they have started to report probable cases as well, but still no numbers of how many people have recovered. To get some idea of the development of this disease have a look a this SARS graph. Dave o'Brien from Hong Kong also has a collection of SARS graphs. It seems that there are some bugs in the graph software, because it shows half cases, and not being able to deal with negative numbers.

(As of May 5, 2003, these bugs seem to have been
solved. Also the graph presentation has been changed
to display the number of active cases in a better way.)

Movies and G.R. Smith

I am not feeling very well. Yesterday was a nice day with temperatures as high as 22 degrees Celsius. (In the Netherlands the monday after Eastern is a national holiday.) This morning it was 11.6 degrees Celsius when I left from home, but it started to rain a little and it has been cloudy since then. I am afraid temperatures will not be so high. I watched some movies over the weekend. I saw the latter half of Trapped in Space. It had an interesting ending, although I did not understand everything of it. Must be because I did not see the start of the movie. I also watched Dark City and The Matrix. I was surprised about how much these movies have in common. In both movies humans are put in an alternative reality by evil outsiders, and in both movies these are defeated (completely or partly) by a hero who gains some of their special abilities.

CNN had an interesting item about Gregory Robert Smith. An interesting read is also the story Bringing Up Genius. Is this boy going to be a messiah?

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Pilgrims flood Karbala on final holy day

The U.S. want to give the Iraqi people the freedom to choose their own government, but as long as it is a democracy with a separation of state and religion. But it seems that a large part of the Iraqi people (and that is definitely not all) would like to establish a Islamic state. The Christian minority in Iraq probably is not very happy with this development. I also think it is rather obvious that the U.S. is not going to allow Iraq to become like Iran.


This morning it was 8.3 degrees Celsius when I left our home. In the past week the trees outside our office (as well as many other trees and plants) have turned green. There was some sun this morning, but now it is gone.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Updated cost of the war on Iraq

Updated cost of the war on Iraq. It should have added an item: Number of childrens lifes that could have been saved, instead of things like the number of televisions that could have been bought. On the other hand, one should accept that the reality that this world would have be a chaos without the presence of powerful governments. And lets be fair, are you willing to donate half of your income to the poor, and give up all the luxury that you are used to?

Everybody in the Netherlands has its own (third level) domain with a web page. Please try the link

Friday, April 25, 2003


This morning it was 16.1 degrees Celsius. About halfway biking, I took of some clothes while waiting for a traffic light. Democracy is not grounded on the right to vote, but on the freedom to express your opinion without being bashed. Many Americans express their worry that the U.S. is becoming less democratic as a result of the war. Have a look at, an anti-anti-war site.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Chestnut trees

Annabel wanted to take a picture of the little chestnut trees in the back of our garden. One of them really has big leaves, but they are still hanging down. Of the six threes that we planted last year, five of them are having green leaves now. I think that the sixth one did not make it.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Coalition talks

The coalition talks of the Christian Democrats (CDA) and the Liberal party (VVD) for the formation of a new government for the Netherlands are in a curcial phase. Earlier on the Christian Democrats failed to form a coalition with the Labour party (PvdA). The two parties do not have a majority of the votes, which means they have to form a coalition with one or two other parties. The choice is between the democratic party (D66), which wants to modernize the goverment in an attempt to make it more democratic, and two small conservative Christian parties. Especially the liberals (VVD) have problems with accepting the positions that these parties hold with respect to women and gay. Today, they have to make a choice.


Tuesday, April 29, 2003

The answers

A week ago, I wrote the two big questions on the white board (in Dutch, of course). This morning, I found two answers written below it:
  1. To be able to raise this question
  2. Because otherwise something would exist for nothing


The neighbours are gone!

Yesterday evening, when Annabel and I came back from swimming lessions, I noticed that the house of our neighbours looked quite empty. It looks like they moved out. There house had been on sale some months ago, and I had told me that they had bought another house, but apparently the day that they were going to move has come quicker than I had expected. We might see the new neighbours next tomorrow. For technical reasons houses are usually sold on the first day of the month.

Coalition talks (cont'd)

Around noon Jan Peter Balkenende, the political leader of the Christian Democrats (CDA) announced that he had been given the mandate to continue negotiations to form a new coalition with the liberals (VVD) and the democratic party (D66). This to the surprise of the conservative christian parties. In the first place because they had not been informed yet (something the CDA made excuses about later on the day), but also because they were given the impression that they were still the first option. Later on the day, it also became clear that only one of the two conservative christian parties would have partaken in the coalition, the other (the SGP) would merely have given its support, which is important because the coalition would only have 75 votes, exactly half of what is needed. It is interesting to note that it was not the liberal party (VVD) expressing their choice, but the Christian Democrats.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003


Today, it is "Koninginnendag" (Queens day) in the Netherlands. In Enschede a "vrijmarkt" is held, which is a kind of collective garage sale in the center of the city. Everyone is free to bring things, and sell them. I went early into the city, and bought some rubbish: Later on the day, I also bought a Macintosh Performa 640 with monitor and printer for € 30 During the afternoon, I tried to do something with the rubbish I bought, but failed to do something useful with it. I thought I could build it into annabel, but it did not have the right slots. An attempt to connect it to the andy also failed. I didn't dare to connect it to ester yet, but maybe if my curriosity wins it from my fear to cause some damage. I did play with the idea of taking annabel further apart, and even had the idea of putting it against the wall in pieces. I realized that if I want to deploy it as a combined firewall webserver, I will need to buy some ISA compatable network cards. The amouth of traffic that my web site get, has dropped to about one third since last year November.

(follow-ups on modifying annabel, next Queensday, and traffic)

Although the Performa has a 500 Mbyte harddisk (at least that is what the previous owner told me), it doesn't seem to have much memory. I will try to look up the specifications. I am not sure yet whether I should be happy with the things I bought today. On one hand, I just feel I have been wasting my money on junk.

This months interesting links

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