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.

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,...

Lorenz strange attractor.

magnetic fields, 
laser behavior, 
neural behavior (medicine) 
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


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:


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:
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.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Disasters in the world....

Just nature. Nature alone can be hell.

I realized this because it's raining since Thursday now, and didn't stop. Now streets start to flood, small villages that are low have rivers as streets, Nothing very dangerous really, no death or wounded. Just misery.

I compare to what I've seen irl, the effects of the massive flooding in Southern Africa, in 1999, the remains of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines, somewhere in the nineties. Those, I've witnessed first hand.

But TV brings all these images right into our living room. Thousands of deaths, right there in my living room. Life cholera in Haiti, floods in Pakistan,  any disaster you can imagine.

I found a website that gives you kind of a God's eye:

It's creepy. I could never imagine there are so many emergencies at the same time. Right now.

Check it out here.

I'll focus at here and now. The world is too big to be my concern in all it's details.
"Auto F5 reload window" options
Default timeout*
Timeout for this page*
Add random value to timeout between 0 and*
Show and hide menu
Ignore everything after these symbols in URL(separate with spaces)  
Include the separators in the URL saved
Hide menu when clicking outside the menu
Prolong timeout on mouseclicks or keyboard input
Reload all pages with default timeout, which has no timeout set

*Format examples: hh:mm:ss, h:m:ss, m:sss, s etc. like 1:20:30 oder 500 oder 3:100

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


I was working with some kids this morning, we are building a clay-oven at school, when the conversation came to the holiday tomorrow. I decided to give them a test, so I asked why there was a holiday. (11th of November is in remembrance of the ending/the victims of WWII, but also WWI)
OK, they knew. They linked it to the second world war. They didn't know about the first one, however.
-And who was fighting who?
He's a famous guy. They know him.
-Who else?
That, they didn't know.
-Who was fighting with the Germans?
- Russia?
I lolled. So I explained to them:
-Italy, Japan. And a last one: Where did the fights take place?
-France. Germany. Netherlands. U.K. 
-That's it?
They thought so. Yes, I must have been a small-scale West-European thingy.
I started summing up: countries in the pacific, Hawaii, East Europe. South Europe, The Sahara, several colonies in Africa, ... more than 50million dead. 5 times the Belgian population. They fell silent.

I'm second generation(my father was a child when WWII broke out). They are third generation, my son is third generation. War is non-existent to them. They have never been hungry, in terrible distress, friends or family killed. They have to know.

Never let this happen again.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Building my own cheap computer

Weather is turning. We only got 5 degrees Celsius today, and  a cold drizzle. I hate this weather. I am more a summer person, with temperatures of 25 degrees or more (but preferably below 35°). But anyway, that's life.
I'll be around with my computer, did I ever mention I build a system myself? I'm quite proud of it, it's not a killer machine but buying the parts separately and mounting everything provided me wit ha middle-class machin with better-than average performance. And for about 80% of the price of a new one.

In fact, I upgraded the machine, the last time, but to be honest, I only kept 2 Hard drives, the graphic card and the DVD R/W from my old system. I bought a new case (to build a silent system), a power unit that was strong enough to meet the needs of the system, a new motherboard for a 64 bit quad core AMD, new memory (DDR3), which was cheap so I installed 4GB in one go, dual channel.
Software is mostly freeware, except for Windows (got me an OEM version) and MS Office.
Now the thing is almost silent and invisible, But almost never comes over 30% load (except for crunching tasks or flashy graphics)

Streaming movies while making a skype call. Sometimes I'm working on different things at the same time, find out I have more than 20 open windows in 10 different programs... no delays. No hiccups. Couldn't be said from my old system.

I plan to do this again every two years.It's fun, and I know exactly what the machine is capable of. And cheap.

So, if you have some computer knowledge (I mean hardware), some time for research and you are not afraid to use our hands, you should give it a try.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

about emotions

Yesterday, I went to an ice hockey game with my second oldest. Which is totally exceptional. But my son spend a week taking lessons in ice skating in the mornings, and got a free ticket for the Friday night game. I thought it was too late, but he was arguing and convinced me nonetheless. So we went.
My son skates well, after 5 days of training. Better than I ever did, so I was a bit proud and happy, and we spend a nice time while waiting for the match.

Then it started.

It took about 1 minute before I was totally absorbed in the game. I'm not an ice hockey fan, I even don't know all the rules, but it bit me. the disappointment of a missed chance, the relief when they score, ... I was hooked. Didn't want to leave before time. Wanted to support the team.

Later, at home, I wondered what got me. I'm not a sports fanatic, I would rather do sports like running or swimming myself than go watch a game. And now I understand: It's all about emotions.

It makes you feel alive, keeps us going. It bonds people, drives us to our goals. It makes us human enough to be totally unpredictable. That's what makes it so fascinating. Game of emotions.

We had a hell of a time there, me and my son.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Things that make me laugh

Whenever you feel down, this is good medicine:

It always cheers me up. Perfect medicine against depression.

I love Animal, I love the Muppets, they have something anarchistic over them, and they invented the very concept of trolling.

I wish there was some channel that started airing them again. The perfect antidote for cold winter days and general lemming behavior.