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Diary, February 1997

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Tuesday, February 4, 1997

Birthday of Wout

This morning, at a quarter past seven, my eldest sister phoned me, with the news that last night, around half past two, she delivered Wout. Weight and length were still unknown. It had been a very fast delivery, just like her first.

A Chinese Joke

A friend of us mailed us a number of Jokes from Beijing University. They did not make me laugh, but I am not a Chinese. Here is one of them:

Friday, February 7, 1997

Year of the Ox, 4694

Happy (Chinese) New Year


"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." What does man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.


Xiao Xia

We have decided to invite Xiao Xia, Li-Xia's sister, to visited us this summer/fall for about 3 months. This means she has to get a Chinese passport and a tourist visa for Holland.

To get the visa, the following things have to be done:

  1. We have to get a pre-printed invitation letter (including a statement that I am willing to pay all costs) from the town hall, and fill it in. (Done)
  2. Bring this letter to the town hall, and have the signature authenticated. (Costs 13.50 DGL) (Done on February 10)
  3. Send this letter to her, including some more papers. (Done on February 10)
  4. She has to get a birth certificate from a local government.
  5. Then she has to travel to Beijing to request for a tourist visa at the Dutch Embassy. It seems she has to do this in person, and travel about 6000 Km for doing so, as my family-in-law lives in a remote area of China. (Expected travel costs: 500$) She has to bring the following things: (Update)
  6. She has to get a Chinese passport. The following documents are needed for this:
  7. Then after she after she has received a letter from the Dutch Embassy, which hopefully says she has was granted the visa, she can go to get it in Beijing, showing her Chinese passport after having paid some money. If it is rejected, she might have to travel to Beijing again to provide additional papers.
Of course, this is only the out-line, not mentioning all the details. We might also ask her to get a legalised/authenticated birth certificate for Li-Xia.

It seems that the Dutch Embassy has an email address with International United Online Ltd. But they do not have a web-site, it seems.


Monday, February 10, 1997

Empty battery

This morning our car did not want to start. The dashboard lights were only barely visible, and were gone when I tried to switch on the head lights. The obvious conclusion was that the battery was empty. Yesterday, I also had noticed something strange when I wanted to start the car, which might indicate that the battery was low.

Instead of trying to fix it, I decided to bring Annabel by bike to the day care centre. Which went fine. But at the end of the afternoon it started raining and it got windy. I ended up biking through the rain with her. First I kept her under my poncho, but about half way, I decided to put it over her head so that she could see where we were going. (Maybe, I should look for a transparent poncho.) When we came home, I discovered that her cap was lost, so I decided to go and look for it. So, I biked all the way back to the day care centre but did not find it back. When I had given up the hope for finding it, while biking home again (against the wind), my eye caught it by accident.

Dinner was ready when I came home. When I checked the car again after dinner, none of the dashboard lights gave any sign of life. I phoned my father for advise, and he mentioned that I might have left the trunk open. When I checked this, it turned out that the trunk was locked, but not completely closed. Then I remembered having heard some noise yesterday. The trunk light must have exhausted the battery completely.

Xiao Xia

Li-Xia got my signature legalised today at the town hall, using my driving license (O, that is why that car broke down :-), and she send the letter with all the papers. I did send an email to the Dutch Embassy in Beijing to ask about some details with respect to procedure for applying a tourist visa. I wonder if (and when) I will receive a reply.

(follow-up and reply)

Thursday, February 13, 1997

Jigsaw puzzles

Lately, I am into jigsaw puzzles, because
Annabel is good at them. Tomorrow she will be two and a third years old. She can finish a 24 (big sized) piece puzzle all by herself. Last week we gave her a 50 (average sized) piece puzzle. We make this together. I hand her pieces that can be fit to one of the laid down pieces. Sometimes, she picks a piece by herself. She often knows where to fit a piece, but has a tendency to put them upside down. I have noticed this strange behaviour before, with other kinds of puzzles. Even if she already has the piece in the right orientation, she sometimes still turns it upside down. We wonder how long it will take her to make the 50 piece puzzle all on her own.

Gaps in prime numbers

The table below contains pairs of primes with strictly increasing distances, such that there are no other primes between the pairs.
          prime:    #of non-primes till next prime
 1             2     0
 2             3     1
 3             7     3
 4            23     5
 5            89     7
 6           113    13
 7           523    17
 8           887    19
 9          1129    21
10          1327    33
11          9551    35
12         15683    43
13         19609    51
14         31397    71
15        155921    85
16        360653    95
17        370261   111
18        492113   113
19       1349533   117
20       1357201   131
21       2010733   147
22       4652353   153
23      17051707   179
24      20831323   209
25      47326693   219
26     122164747   221
27     189695659   233
28     191912783   247
29     387096133   249
30     436273009   281
31    1294268491   287
32    1453168141   291
33    2300942549   319
34    3842610773   335
35    4302407359   353
36   10726904659   381
37   20678048297   383
38   22367084959   393
39   25056082087   455
Original question was posted by Dan Stubbs to comp.programming.contests. He gave the first 24 entries. Frank Pilhofer found them upto 30. Travis found them upto number 25. Mark Kambites found them upto 32. Franz Mauch found them upto number 39, and needed 6 hours on a Pentium 100. Eric Laroche found them upto number 34.

Monday, February 17, 1997

Xiao Bing, Shirley Ice-cream

Yesterday morning, around 7:30, I was dreaming about a telephone, when I woke up, and realized a telephone was ringing. I jumped out of bed, and ran to living room to catch the phone. (I always run for incoming phone calls at odd times, assuming that there must be an urgent need.) It was Xiao Bing, the daughter of
Uncle Lin which we visited last summer. She was calling us for no apparent reason, which is kind of typical for her. We exchanged some confusing conversation. The connection was very clear, but had this typical blanks of a long-distance connection. Li-Xia appeared in the door post, and I asked her to continue the conversation. Li-Xia did asked her whether she could find out some more about applying for a tourist visa.

Xiao Bing calls herself Shirley Ice-cream for foreigners. `Xiao' means beautiful (a common name for Chinese girls), and `Bing' means ice, because she was born on a cold winter day. That explains the `Ice-cream' part. `Shirley' is just a name she picked. I usually call her Xiao Bing, because that is what Li-Xia calls her.


Xinjiang Environmental Protection

This morning, I found the home page of Xinjiang Environmental Protection, which contains the following two pictures:

Thursday, February 20, 1997

Deng Xiao Ping died

This morning, I heard on the news that Deng Xiao Ping died yesterday. A six day mourning period has been declared.

Wednesday, February 26, 1997

Dutch Visa

Today, I found a letter with instructions for Chinese on how to apply for Family Visit Visa for the Netherlands which is valid for 90 days, which was send to me from the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Beijing, as a reply to my request made by

Visa applications must be submitted by the applicant in person. (In case of grandparents or parents of age, the application may be submitted by their child.) The Embassy does not accept applications by mail. An application should contain:

After submitting the application, applicants are requested to await a notice by mail which will normally be sent after approximately two months. The Visa Section will not give any information by telephone regarding the status of a visa application.


Orthodox AnXi WuLong Tea

I have been drinking some AnXi WuLong Tea, which according to the description on the back of the box: can reduce fat and beauty.


Just when I was preparing to leave, it started to rain and storm outside. This morning, the sky looked so friendly that I found it silly to bring an umbrella.

Friday, February 28, 1997

Window cleaners

When I was reading something very intensely on my computer screen, I suddenly saw something move in the corner of my eye. It was a window cleaner, cleaning the windows of the building outside. I was surprised by the fact that I had noticed this movement in the corner of my eye while I was concentrating on what I was reading.

I also realized that window cleaners have to endure being watched very often, while doing their work.

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