I received a package from Amazon a few days ago, containing the following
- "Trisector", the new cd by Van der Graaf Generator
- two Rebus books written by Ian Rankin, "The Falls" and "Exit Music"
- one book written by Brian Viner about his life in the countryside
- one book about cognitive therapy, called "Feeling Good" (or similar)
I am slowly working my way through the package for I have several activities competing for my spare time, to wit:
- writing and updating programs for my occupational psychologist
- taking the dog for long walks
- writing important letters
- watching films which have accumulated
Last year on the way to Santorini, I bought a dvd machine which records as well as plays, and so I've found myself recording several films a week. One ridiculous weekend not so long ago had me recording 6 films over 24 hours, as the satellite company showed good films in the run-up to the Oscars. I've had a look at this week's schedule, and there are "only" five films in the entire week which I want to record. Anyway, the machine has been fritzing for quite some time: I can record properly and finalise the discs, but when I put them back into the machine in order to watch them, the machine refuses to recognise them (even though the discs are readable on the computer). On Saturday the machine stopped initialising and so I knew that it was time to take the machine to be repaired. I had taken it a few weeks ago when it started acting up, but the technicians said that there was nothing wrong with it. This time there was no argument, and the laser within the disc drive was replaced. So far I've managed to watch 45 minutes of "Shirley Valentine", and today the machine will have its first real test when it is supposed to record "Local Hero" (one of my top films; my wife can't watch the bought version because it doesn't have Hebrew subtitles) via timer this afternoon.
Anyway - I have all these films taped - but I've only seen part of them. One needs personal time to watch and enjoy them.
Israel moved onto Summer Time on Thursday night, which means that it doesn't get dark until after 7pm. As a result, I can now take the dog for long walks after I get home from work; previously there were days when we could only manage a swift walk around the block before darkness fell. These walks take between 45-60 minutes, and whilst they give me physical exercise and a chance to unwind, they also take time.
I've been working very long hours this month writing programs for the occupational therapist. One exam has been converted for use externally - that is, we put it on the Internet, from where companies with which we are in contact can download and then administer the tests in their environment, sending us the raw results. The first thing which I did with the program was to convert it from using the BDE to using a resource stored stringtable, in which are stored all the questions, as well as various strings which are displayed on the screen. We are hoping to have the questions translated into different languages (Russian is the major target), and now the program can easily support this. Another problem which we encountered the other day was that the program cannot be run on a mobile computer (well, of course, it can be run, but the user interface depends on pressing keys on the numerical keyboard, and a mobile doesn't have these keys). Letting other people run this program tests it properly.
We are also developing an aptitudes exam, which has caused me to learn new things (like how to store a JPG image in a database and then display it) as well as looking at these programs in a new, more abstract, light.
Our flagship product, the program which reads and evaluates users responses, is continually undergoing changes. The output is becoming more and more sophisticated, and now we are tailoring it for the specific needs of external companies. These results, simply put, give a psychological profile of the person sitting the exam; initially they were used for communal settlements wanting to check whether prospective candidates would make successful settlers, but now we are trying to move into the business market, and so are trying to tailor the results so that they fit into a business orientated mode. We have added - on the basis of existing data - filters and aggregates to check how a candidate does in specific areas of management. Whilst the base of the program - and the exam - remain unchanged (and have to, in order that the statistic analysis which resides at the bottom layer is unaffected), I am constantly adding new tables in order to handle new ways of looking at the data.
I also realised the other day that I could combine several tables, each of which contains only an id and a name, into one table, containing id, name and type. I can't do it now, as those ids are not unique and of course are scattered amongst other tables, but if I find myself having to add a new table with an id/name tuple, then I will extend one of the currently existing tables. This is the approach which I used in the aptitude test, when we decided to store each examinee's occupation and educational level. Keeping a separate table for five or six entries has a high overhead.
So now it becomes apparent how little time I have for reading books. More about them later.