Friday, 31 December 2010

All is quiet...

U2, the heart and soul of Ireland, wrote this beautiful, emotion-loaded song.

Twenty five years ago, when Ireland was still torn apart by "The Troubles" and the IRA atrocities, the Irish band produced their third album. The album was called simply "War", and contained two of their most powerful songs, both directly related to the problems their country was experiencing at the time. One was "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", and the other was "New Year's Day".

Few people outside the UK will know too much about the origins of these songs, which are seen now as just 1980's pop songs. For those who care about the origins, "the poignant words of "New Year's Day", point to a time when the country would no longer be torn apart by civil war, and people could walk in safety. It is important to point out here, that as a band from Eire (Southern Ireland), U2 may have had totally different views on this to some in Northern Ireland ,- wishing for a united Ireland which many in the North did not agree to.
With it's catchy refrain of "I will be with you again", and soaring guitar, most people now see this song as a love song. A story of new hope, new beginnings, and lovers' reunited. However, the middle verses tell of it's true meaning, - the story of a country mired in bloodshed and fear, and people who look forward to the new year, not with hope, but with fear of more death and destruction, and yet, with their human spirits still hoping for the miracle that "though torn in two, we can be as one".

All is quiet on New Year's Day.
A world in white gets underway.
I want to be with you, be with you night and day.
Nothing changes on New Year's Day.
On New Year's Day.

I... will be with you again.
I... will be with you again.

Under a blood-red sky
A crowd has gathered in black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspaper says, says
Say it's true, it's true...
And we can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one.

I... I will begin again
I... I will begin again.

Oh, oh. Oh, oh. Oh, oh.
Oh, maybe the time is right.
Oh, maybe tonight.
I will be with you again.
I will be with you again.

And so we are told this is the golden age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to be with you
Be with you night and day
Nothing changes
On New Year's Day
On New Year's Day
On New Year's Day



If you realise this song is a wish to live in peace , and reunite the two Irelands, you look at it in a totally different way.

Happy New year, everybody.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Wasting time

We are closing in to New year, just a few days left, so  I suggest we waste as much of this time untill the New Year. I think you'll agree that's a funny way to end the year.
After all, If you did not fulfill last New Year's resolutions, it's too late to start with them, isn't it? You might consider making up a full list for the next year. You will not keep your promises after all, and end up like this year...And that's a perfect waste of time.

But for all others, I love to make a few suggestions of time wasters. Here we go.

1. Filler

Time Wasters
Filler has got to be one an all time favorite time wasters. The goal of the game is simple, you need to click to create filler balls so you can fill up 2/3 of the screen before you can move on to the next level. Avoid the bouncy balls because they will pop any filler balls that you're filling up.
This time waster is so much and I guarantee it will get you through a slow afternoon or a boring evening.



2. Totem Destroyer

Time Wasters
Totem Destroyer is a challenging and fun time waster that uses physics as a big part of its game play.
See if you can keep the idol from falling as you destroy the required number of blocks. Warning - the levels get more and more challenging and sometimes you'll need to work very quickly.




3. Magic Pen

Time Wasters
Magic Pen is a very fun time waster for adults that might remind you of your childhood days because your weapon of choice is a crayon. With your crayon you'll need to draw lines and circles on the screen to help your ball touch all the flags on the level.
This time waster is a physics game as well so keep that in mind as you're trying to solve the levels.



If you like to waste more time, I'm glad to help me out. Let me know.


Friday, 24 December 2010

Disaster weather

This snow (we got +20cm today, which is abnormal in this region) made me think. Which are the disasters that are the most devastating to humankind?

Let's devide in two categories:

Natural disasters:
1. The worst I can remember in my lifetime was the Tsunami that hit the far east / Thailand/ Sri Lanka/... and caused hundreds of thousands of deaths.
2. Earthquakes: In fact, a Tsunami is an effect of an earthquake, so being numbers one and two make this the top natural killers.
3. Epidemics/pandemics. I don't know if this is a natural disaster, because you could argue that our way of living, our involvement in the world is partially cause to the spread of deseases. To name a few: The flu in Europe in 1918: killed 18 million. AIDS killed 25 million. Still counting.
4. Tornado's, hurricanes and typhoons kill several thoiusands over the whole world, every year.
5. volcanic eruptions killed hundreds of thousands in the past centuries, and may still kill many in the future. They are ticking time bombs.

Man-made disasters
1. War. By far the most deadly action of mankind.
2. Health policies of governments, and I mean mostly the lack of it. Providing basic health care, vaccinations, food, medication, invest in research, ... I don't know for how many deaths some governments are responsible, but it must count up to in the millions per year.
3. Traffic.How  many people are killed in traffic accidents yearly, worldwide? We pay a huge price for this.
4. Crime / terrorism / civil disorder/ ... I can't choose one of these being more important. I think they are a huge factor together.
5.  Industrialization. I mean, the impact of our industrialized world on health, stress, heart diseases. I know, it's vague, but I think our way of life is asking a price.


Am I wrong? Did I forget something more important (except aging... but hat's a conditio sine qua non for life, not?) Let me know.

Meanwhile, forget about the misery for a few hours, and have a

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

I got my 100th follower!. I'm happy about this. I never thought I could get this.

Still, blogging on a daily base is a hard task, I want to concentrate more on writing and the blog seems to loose when I have to make a choice. Especially having a cold, anything I do seems to take double time and extra effort.


I found some helpful advice to keep my writing up to an acceptable pace: it's here.

Now, stick to the plan. Write some more.




 

Monday, 20 December 2010

Why do they fill childrens jackets with feathers, anyway?

My second son convinced that his little sisters winter jacket is 'full of dead chicks' because it's down feather filled. She was really upset, kind of wearing fur while not knowing.
So she was screaming: "No I'm NOT wearing dead chicks" and came to me to find the truth.

(At least, I seem to be very truthful to her. But she's only four. I know it will change, in about 10 years or so)

I convinced her that her jacket was indeed filled with feathers, but the chicks did not die, they grew new feathers and became healthy, grown-up, adult chickens. My second oldest of nine, standing aside and listening to my reasoning, was in a quite fascist mood.

Didn't stop.

He stated that: "All chickens were killed and slaughtered now, and in the fridge, and one of these days, would end up on her plate."

I sent him to his room.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Meanwhile in Russia...

Some people are mad. Or is it just Darwin's law of natural selection? I found this, watched it twice, and could still not believe my eyes...
 


I can't get over it.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Google fun.

I didn't know this, it's funny. In earlier times, applications were full of jokes and fun, hidden in code between the lines. Later, One could only find funny things in games. But here's Google, with some fun. Easter eggs still exist.

  1. Type "where are my socks" in a new search page, hit "I'm feeling lucky".
  2. Google maths is an integrated part of the google search engine. If anèything can be calculated, or has to do with numbers, it will go there. Besides normal search results.

    Type "What is the loneliest number" in the search box, hit enter.
  3. Google exists in amazingly many languages. But did you try these?

    Type "google pirate" , or  "google bork" , or "google Klingon"
  4. Some mods that are really funny:

    Type "google Elmer Fudd,"
    "google pig latin,"
    "google gothic,"
    "google weenie"
    and its big brother, "google epic."
     
  5. An amazing one is the mirror of google:

    type in "google elgoog"
So, have fun. I hope nobody blames me for yet another few hours of productivity lost....

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Winning from the machine

 I don't know if this kid does this really on purpose. For me, it's a win from the machine.



How To Beat The Claw Game - Watch more Funny Videos

Pity she didn't take her price out.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Happiness

What's the most important in life? Being happy?

or being just?

I'm think over this for about two decennia now. Can it be that we are not supposed to be happy, but we should fight injustice, even it brings suffering to us or around us?

I've experienced that pursuing happiness does not automatically result in happiness. And pursuing justice always leaves a trail of unfulfillment, and you can at most claim:" I've tried. I have at least tried." Doesn't make totally happy either. You're allways left with a bitter left-over that clearly shows it is not finished, not yet. It needs more effort, more dedication, more sacrifice.

Difficult to live with.

When is enough?


Thursday, 9 December 2010

Busy....

I've been busy.I don't like to keep my blog not up to date.

But hey, I'm back. Not on maths today, but on education. I am asking myself the last few months what's going wrong with education and school these days.

I assume a few of you still make your way to school / college / university/... every day. Well. I was a teacher, once. I quit, because my students hated learning. It was so disappointing that I stopped. I can't force young people to work if they don't know what purpose it has.

It's different with adults. They want to learn something, they are motivated. They have a purpose, and they go for it.
So what is this thing: motivation? Why is a 14 year old not interested in acquiring new knowledge, but a 30 year old is willing to spend his free nights, aside from a family life and children, in a classroom, after a full shitty day of work? It's a strange thing. I don't know how it works. I know, once motivated, people can move a mountain. Students even two at a time!

What I noticed, is that my students were interested if the learning had to do with novel things, new stuff, so I liked very much to tell stories about recent discoveries, recent technologies, about the world. That's interesting stuff.

So, is there something wrong with the students (read: society in general) or with the schooling system?

Any thoughts?


Monday, 6 December 2010

More on maths...

People won't believe where you can find maths. Like this:

"It's a fern leaf" you think.

Yes it is, but no, it is not. It's just the result of a recursive formula.





Look at the next one:




Every leaf of the fern is composed from smaller leafs that are the same, but rotated, shrinked and placed sequentially on the stem.

See where this is going?

The whole leaf is composed from smaller leafs, which are, in their turn, composed of even smaller leafs, which are, in their turn, composed of even ....

--> The previous sentence is the iteration process. How many times you want to compose something from smaller parts that look the same, but are rotated and translated, is called the iteration depth.


Computers are very happy to do the same thinover and over. They are our top iterators. They like it, because the need the instructions just once, and then they will repeat it to infinity. Or breakdown, if you're using XP.

So, recursive use of the same formula will lead us to some amazing effects:



A broccoli?
Nope.
A recursive computer drawing. A fractal.

Look how a snowflake (Koch's snowflake) is formed by
  • dividing every side of a triangle in three parts,
  • Removing the middle part,
  • replacing the empty line with two triangulated parts,
  • repeating this over and over, on any scale.




Gotta close with some really interesting fractal art impression...










 There's more on fractals and recursion, So if you like it, let me know.

Courtesy to Wikipedia for most of the pictures.

Friday, 3 December 2010

OK, it's a violent death for a gummi bear, but it's worth it.

It's like the poor bear is trying to escape...



Now think about the possible consequences:

- Gummi bear powered cars
- Gummi bear survival torches
- Gummi bear fobia therapy
- Gummi bear dirty bombs (like: "Look there, a nice full bag of delicious gummi bears!!! Let's..." *explosion. Creepy violent burning sounds. napalm bombardment-like scenes and people screaming*)


I'll warn my children tonight . Sugar is BAD.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

SNOW !!!!!!!!!!!

It's full of snow here! I can't remember it snowing this early in winter: normally it starts snowing (if it ever snows) around New Year, or even later. Even White Chrismasses are uncommon.

But it's nice, I have no big travels to do right now so I'm cosy and warm at home. Just picking up the kids later will take some extra time. But that's only about 4 km. I could even walk (But the kids won't really like that.).

I hear on the news that the whole of Europe is in a colf front. Brittain got it badly. People freeze in Poland. That's bad.

In Belgium, there's a big political discussion about the refugees that are living on the streets of Brussels, and where the government is failing to give them shelter. And that's outrageous. While they are saying all over the news that "It might take another 14 days to provide shelter and hire the people for this" Thos people have to sleep on the streets in -10°C.

They have little kids with them, goddammit.


Monday, 29 November 2010

I could get sick...

...but I won't get broke from it. We have health insurance in Belgium. I have additional insurance for hospitalization. I have car insurance, fire insurance, ... I'm covered (and my family too) for most of the disasters that are likely to happen to people. It's normal here in Europe: You won't get kicked out of your house easily, because you can't pay. No one will refuse to give you medical attention because you can't pay for it.   

I can't really compare. I know most of my readers (you) are U.S. , and I'm always confused when I read their blogs - is the world we live in that different? Here in Europe, we are used to medical insurance - it's not an option, to say so. You are insured, because you have to. It's a serious amount on the national budget, but it takes care of the weaker and unlucky ones, and it holds. We are not going to crash the system. Not yet, at least.
So I can't understand the reluctance of our U.S. friends to a social network that covers for the weak and the poor. Isn't that some responsibility any government should take for granted anyway? I can be mistaken, but in the end this helps everybody. (As long as nobody starts to profit from this system.)

Let me know, because I don't understand why the health care insurance in North America is being so difficult to establish.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Chainsaw massacre wake-up

I laughted so hard. One day I will wake up my kids like this:



There might be a few disadvantages, however. Cleaning up shitty pajamas, for instance. Or having them crying in their beds several times during the next 100 nights...

Hmmmm. Maybe I have to keep it healthy and responsible.Who knows what they might do to their children....




Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Chaos (more maths)

In the nineties, there was a major breakthrough on the maths scene. It was found that, besides the classical mathematical approach, there was also something like chaotic behavior in systems. Moreover, it was discovered that these systems, although chaotic, obeyed some basic laws.

As an engineer, I always learned at university that chaotic was bad. Uncontrollable. (Engineers are a kind of control freaks, in the end) Never go there, it damages your systems.

But
What if you need oscillations?
What if the wind blows against your bridge or building in the most unpredictable way?
What if a process uses it's data from the outcome of the previous process, and it then starts all over, just with a minor shift in amplitude?
I followed some courses about this. It was high-level mathematics, I'm not going to start the morning with formula's, but you can find more here (Thanks Wikipedia. You are my source of inspiration!)

Turns out chaos is everywhere (not just our minds. LOL):
Mathematics: recursivity generates chaos, deterministic chaos. Topology uses fractal dimensions (not 2D or 3D, but 2.5D for instance)
Economics: markets fluctuate in an unpredictable way, depending on the index values of the day before, and influenced by hundreds of parameters straight out of the real world.
File:Airplane vortex edit.jpg
This vortex. Describe it mathematically. LOL
Programming: programmers will acknowledge the problem with e.g. generating randomness, recursivity and mimicking real-world behavior.
Biology: the population dynamics (the amount of members onn the next generation) is a typical example.
Meteorology Predicting the weather is only accurate for the next 4 to 6 days. Why? Because it's chaotic. The certainty margin diminishes rapidly after 6 days. Also, predictions of trajectories of hurricanes, long-term forecasting....
Engineering (my thing): unstable systems, predictions of behavior that is non-stable but also not a regular oscillation. (eg. a bridge can oscillate in a regular way. That's fine, because its perfectly simulateable.) An electronic circuit can start oscillating, but there's also a component that is chaotic: e.g. noise in the circuit.
Physics: What happens e.g. on the edge of a fluid freezing to a solid is a chaotic process.
quantum dynamics....( this is a nice one. It links two novel theories to each other!!!! ) The orbits of electrons around the core, the prediction of the position or energy of particles inside an atom,...

File:TwoLorenzOrbits.jpg
Lorenz strange attractor.
Also:

politics, 
philosophy, 
robotics, 
magnetic fields, 
laser behavior, 
neural behavior (medicine) 
ecology, 
relativity theory, 
...

So I still have a lot to write about. But anyway, those with a technical-academic mind reading this, did you ever learn anything about this at school?

Because this is 21th century stuff. Fundamentals of contemporary science.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Maths.


I like maths.
Now you all think I'm a nerd. (I'm not.) I'm just amazed by the way mathematics can mimic the real world.
 If I could study all over, I would choos maths. And philosophy.
Take this, for example:

1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89 144 ...

natural spiral
Books have been written on this series. Its the Fibonaccy sequence, where the next number is always the sum of the previous 2 numbers. So, whats so special about them?

Except for their mathematical properties, where they seem to occur in numerous other theories, they are found back in:







- Behavior of financial markets
- computer science (compression techniques, data structures,...)
- music (tunings)
- nature(structure and arrangement of leaves,...)
- architecture
- ...
You should read about them, if you're interested, becaus in almost every field of study , they appear somewhere.





They define the golden ratio.
In the Renaissance, many artists and architects used the Golden Ratio to produce their art or buildings, because it gives a natural feeling to follow this measurements. Now, enough theories, what about this:

Convinced?




Sunday, 21 November 2010

New layout.

Trying some new layout. Hope you like it.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Building a clay oven.

 Today we did a very nice thing. My two oldest kids did a project at school"how can we organize a pizzeria?" so the last 2 months we were busy building a clay oven. Not easy. Never done before. I got involved, even too much, so I spent a lot of free time with the kids at school. Building that oven.
The dome is ready. Inside is still filled with sand.

We built it in clay, mixed with sand, in three layers. Every layer needed drying time... But in october and November, in Belgium, there's not much drying. So we started to dry it out by firing it up, on the pic you can see we put a party tent over it.

The tent didn't make it... Beginning of November the wind decided to take it. Lost a tent, but it didn't collapse the oven.


Heating up to +325°C
Then we fired it up to do the real thing, bake pizza's in it. It was amazing. We reached a temperature insite beyond measurement (I had 2 thermometers, one going up to 300 °C, the other, an infrared, to 325°C Both went off limits.)



Three minutes baking time, slightly burned at the bottom and sides, but delicious.... I was tired as hell, after 6 hours of baking and 80 pizza's later. The whole school had pizza.


This was a project that will last long in the memories, I'm sure. Check out the building plans at:  clayoven.wordpress.com
I will set up a blog on wordpress with more pict on this. I'll keep you posted.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

I love winters....

OK, I overreacted yesterday when I wrote that flaming article about how much I hate winters. Truth is, I hate coming out of bed, I guess. Especially when I didn't get the necessary amount of sleeping hours.

I must say, I LOVE skiing. I love taking a hike when there's enough snow, take the sled and start off for a nice trip with the kids. Drink some hot chocolate halfway. Build an igloo.

We don't have that much snow in Belgium, and it's flat as a pancake here. To ski, we need to drive to the Alps, France, Germany, Switzerland, or Austria. It's always well worth to make the trip.

Next winter, I want to take the kids to learn to ski. It's an amazing feeling of freedom, just gliding off the slopes and taking it as it comes.

And once you get hooked ... You go back. I will always go back.
I might even pick up snowboarding... Who knows.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A hate winters.

They're too f*cking cold. Too wet. Too chilly. Too slippery. For instance, take this morning: You get out of bed, but it's cold. I go outside, it's all misty and foggy, you don't see a damn thing further than 50 meters away.
And this will go on for the next 4 months. Except it will also rain. And freeze.

I want to move.

Remind me not to blog again early in the morning. I'm NOT positive with mornings. I hate them. Every day.