Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Yo'av Tibon, RIP

This name won't mean anything to anyone living outside of Israel, and probably also nothing to most Israelis, but in my local regional authority, Yo'av was a force to be reckoned with over the years. I was saddened to learn that he died today; the funeral will be tomorrow afternoon. He had been ill for a long time, so his death was not a surprise. I don't know exactly how old he was, but as he was one of the founders of the kibbutz (at the end of 1948), I would put his age at 85.

As always with these obituaries, there are other people who can pay tribute much better than I can. I will only write about my personal connection.

Yo'av Tibon in the reason why I have been living in Kibbutz Tsor'a for the past 25 years. For that, he earns my eternal gratitude.

Starting around 1986, I was working one day a week as an accounting consultant for one of the first urban kibbutzim, a group of religious people living in Jerusalem who called themselves Reshit (the beginning, as in the first book of the bible, otherwise known as Genesis). I was sent by the kibbutz movement to run their accounts and to teach them the rudiments of accountancy, which I did in the offices of the regional kibbutz purchasing co-operative, also situated in Jerusalem.

Yo'av was running this co-operative, although to be honest, I'm not sure exactly what he did. Although our paths often crossed in the offices, we didn't work together. A few years later, when my wife and I decided to leave the kibbutz which was then our home, our first instinct was to apply to Tsor'a, and this we did via Yo'av. 

Unfortunately, at the time, there was no free housing (a situation which has reoccurred frequently during the past twenty five years), so we were left no alternative but to explore other options (ie kibbutzim). This we did over the coming year, but we were lukewarm about the other places that we visited. Almost by default, we enquired about moving to Bet Ha'emek, my old stomping ground (see the blogs about my gap year in 1973/4), and we even spent a week there.

One day in July 1989, my best friend (who still lives on Bet Ha'emek) called to say that her kibbutz were prepared to accept us as candidates, but that we would be receiving only a two room apartment (as opposed to the three rooms that we already had). After she put down the phone, Yo'av called (although it may have been someone else from Tsor'a) to say that Tsor'a now had a free flat (three rooms) and that we were welcome to come for a visit. Later on that evening, I received yet another phone call, this time from the absorption committee of Bet Ha'emek with their formal offer. Pre-warned, I was able to turn down their offer.

We then spent an interesting weekend at Tsor'a; as it is only about 10km from where we were living at the time and we had the use of my parent's car, we decided to drive to Tsor'a in the morning, meet people then drive home and sleep in our own home. This we did, meeting a variety of people, some of whom we had already met in other circumstances. My wife had studied to be a kindergarten teacher with someone from Tsor'a, and I knew a few people due to my regional activities as an accountant and programmer; hopefully these people put in a good word for us.

The arrangement was mutually satisfactory. At the time of that weekend, I was close to finishing a month's reserve army service, then we were due for a month's holiday abroad, so that was the only time that we had. A few days after we returned from the holiday, we packed up our belongings and transferred them via several car journeys to our new home. Our official date of joining Tsor'a was 1 Sept 1979, almost exactly eleven years after I emigrated.

So thank you, Yo'av, for being in the right place at the right time, and I wish you well in your new life.

[SO: 3562; 2, 12, 31
MPP: 396; 0, 1, 6 <- note the sudden spurt; I answered a question about bagpipes today]

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More research

I doubt very much that this series of blogs about writing my research proposal makes for scintillating reading. I readily admit that they are written primarily for myself. It is interesting for me to read which paths I took, where I made progress and where I made mistakes. I read somewhere that it's good for a researcher to keep a journal of her progress, so this is my journal.

First of all, I want to correct a mistake that I wrote a few days ago. The Myers-Briggs Test Inventory (MBTI) is not the same thing as the 'Big Five'; I confused the two because the Occupational Psychologist (OP) added a fifth scale to her version of the MBTI.

Somewhere along the way, I obtained the idea that one's cognitive style can be obtained from the MBTI solely by looking  at the S-N continuum. I had to go over several papers before I found the one which referenced the idea. Actually, I think that I got the idea from the Wikipedia page on MBTI because the given paper actually said that the cognitive style was derived from S-N and T-F.

It's all well and good making this statement, but I needed a way to include suitable questions in my research questionnaire in order to establish what the respondent's cognitive style is. I retrieved the questions which appear in the OP's version of the MBTI, but these questions were about which job the respondent would like, and seemed totally unsuitable. 

There are many questionnaires purporting to be the MBTI, but only one is the official MBTI. The end result of the test is assigning one of sixteen values (four characters from each continuum) to the person who took the test. Any set of questions can theoretically do so, but presumably the 'official' MBTI is the only one which has been validated - checking by other means to see that the results obtained from the test actually match the respondent's personality. Off-hand, I don't remember the degree of validity for this test - I think it's somewhere around 60%. 

Anyone can string together an instrument containing 60 questions, fifteen to each dimension, then on the basis of that compute an end value. But this value is worthless unless it has been validated.

Looking for MBTI questions on the Internet was a frustrating experience. There are several sites which offer an online test, but each one offers a different set of questions and there is no way of knowing which questions comprise the S-N continuum as each site performs its calculations "offline". Eventually, at 6:30pm yesterday, I struck gold when I found a document meant for "future chief residents" at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. The document contains seventy questions, a score card and then a series of explanations for each of the sixteen types. I needed only four pages out of a sixty page document, but those pages are priceless.

Looking at the scorecard, I can see that the S-N continuum is based on twenty questions, as is the T-F continuum. So I may have to add forty questions to the questionnaire, something which I very much do not want to do, or maybe only twenty. I suppose I could add ten questions from one scale and ten questions from the other scale and to hell with the validity. In any case, I don't know what the validity for this complete exam is, and as I write in the research proposal, I am not interested in making a psychological determination for each respondent. I'm only interested in the general sense of cognitive style. 

I need now to add a paragraph or two about "self efficacy", whose definition I am taking to be "the belief in one's capabilities of using a computer in the accomplishment of specific tasks". One might term this "computer confidence".  The paper which I have is very interesting and even shows a fascinating model, but it's completely out of date! The paper was written in 1995 (19 years ago) which might be a short time in psychology but a huge time in terms of computers. In 1995, the average person didn't know what the Internet was; now it is ubiquitous. There were mobile phones in 1995, but they were large and generally only business people had them, whereas today, even five year olds have mobile phones (and possibly even smart phones as opposed to the telephones of yesteryear). I shall have to see how suitable the research questions in the paper are, and maybe update them for my use. Presumably, this may be a factor only for the over 40s: anyone younger than will have grown up with computers and will feel comfortable with them.

I improved a few other parts of the research proposal: I added a much clearer structure to the section on the literature (which is the main part) and I finally figured out what my aims and objectives are. I was unwittingly helped in this by reading someone's PhD thesis; I had hoped that I would get some questions about spreadsheet competency from this thesis. The questions turned out to be of no use as they basically asked each respondent to rank herself (I was hoping for an objective ranking), but the section of the thesis which was concerned with aims and objectives was priceless. I don't mean to say that I copied the aims and objectives from the thesis; I couldn't as they are about a different subject. What was important to me was the linguistic construction of the objectives and their derivation from the aims.

My mentor underwent an operation today so he'll be out of action for a few days. I want to add some more material then send him a new, updated version next week. I also have to address some of the points which he has raised (some of the points arise from his misunderstanding, so I don't have to change anything in my work in order to answer these points).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Musical progress

All the work on doctoral research has naturally taken time and mental strength away from one of my other hobbies, namely music. Whilst I often listen to music while working on the research proposal, I haven't been creating any music. I worked on a song of mine called 'Most of these days' during December and completed an arrangement but somehow never got around to recording the vocals.

I decided to remedy this the other day and got set up for recording. After the first take, I discovered that my computer - or more accurately, one of the fans - is making a relatively large amount of noise which was being picked up by the microphone. I tried using the 'noise removal' function of my mixing program but this wasn't successful.

I realised that I could record vocals on my mobile computer - but I wasn't able to install my old copy of the multi-tracking program that I use under Windows 8. After scratching my head for a bit, I saw that I had Audacity installed on the mobile; it took some time for me to figure out how I could both play back the music and record vocals at the same time (there is a setting that enables this but I had to search for it).

After recording a few takes, I copied the vocal files to my disk-on-key and thence to my main computer for tuning, editing and mixing. To my surprise, the vocal track was out of sync with the music on my computer; this was easily fixed but I wonder how this happened. After playing with the equalisation, I obtained a vocal sound which went well with the music.

The computer was set up on the kitchen table next to an open window; the recording picked up no small amount of bird song. At first, I was tempted to edit this out, but after a while, I realised that the birds added a nice amount of realism to the vocal. This 'effect' is mainly heard in the first verse which has fairly sparse accompaniment, but it's also heard in the second verse.

So now I have two songs ready and waiting to go, along with several 'bonus' tracks. Unfortunately, I haven't written a complete song in about two and a half years, although the lesson of the song festival held in December is that I can easily write a tune, provided that I have a text. Writing the words these days is extremely difficult as I don't know what to write about.

In December, I started writing English words to one of the songs which I composed. Whilst the first four lines were quite interesting, the next four were rather naff. The opening was based on a dream which I actually had.

I dreamed of walking with the Queen 
She asked how my exams had been 
She gave ideas to follow up 
She held my hand and wished me luck

I'd be quite pleased if she would tell me how to differentiate between aims and objectives, although I'd be prepared to settle for another sixteen lines of lyrics.

[SO: 3542; 2,12,31
MPP: 376; 0,0,5]

700 blogs

I didn't notice, but the 700 blog landmark came and went. I completed 600 last June, which means that my pace has speeded up somewhat. 100 blogs in ten months is 10 blogs a month, or about one every three days - not bad. I 'blame' the DBA for that, a subject about which I have written frequently in the past year.

Unfortunately, I have no simple way of knowing how many blogs were written about each subject, so I'm going to make a table now of the most popular subjects, and I'll use this as a basis when I get to 800 blogs.

Subject Number
Van der Graaf Generator24
Office automation20
TV series20

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Researching during the Passover holiday week

It being Passover week, I've been on holiday. Unlike 60,000 other Israelis, I've spent the week at home - but I haven't been idle. For the first day or two, I had some work to do for the occupational psychologist (OP), but she's flown to Pittsburg for a few weeks, so that avenue of work closed down fairly quickly.

But I haven't been sitting around, twiddling my thumbs. For several hours each day, I've been working on my research proposal; at first, I did some extreme editing, but the last few days I've been reading more papers. Today I finally made some headway on two subjects which are very important but were seeming to be difficult to fit into the format that I wanted: cognitive style and spreadsheet competency.

One of the programs which I wrote with the OP suggests to the respondent what sort of job would be suitable based on the respondent's answers to questions; one part of the questionnaire (or as they call it in psychological speak, the instrument) is concerned with a variant of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), or as I saw it called today, the "Big Five school of personality psychology". The five scales which make up the Big Five are "extrovert-introvert", "Sensing-intuition", "Thinking-feeling", "Judging-perceiving" and "Conformity-rebellion" (very interesting: googling "big five" brings up different names). Anyway, the "sensing-intuition" (S-N) continuum describes how new information is understood and interpreted. Individuals who prefer sensing are more likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible, and concrete: that is, information that can be understood by the five senses. They tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come "out of nowhere". They prefer to look for details and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data. On the other hand, those who prefer intuition tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical, that can be associated with other information (either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern). They may be more interested in future possibilities. For them, the meaning is in the underlying theory and principles which are manifested in the data.

In other words, the S-N continuum is the cognitive style. I have to show and cite the connections between Myers-Briggs and cognitive style, but that shouldn't be difficult. Having made this connection, I can now take the twelve questions whose answers result in the S-N continuum and place them in my questionnaire. This will need a small change in the questionnaire database but that is something that will be easy to handle. One instrument which I had found for measuring cognitive style required forty questions, which seemed to be overkill in relation to the rest of the research questionnaire, but twelve questions are definitely manageable.

I've also been working on measuring spreadsheet competency. I found online exams which have some suitable questions. There are many questions which I think are irrelevant - which key press starts editing or what is an alternative name for a spreadsheet - but some of the questions, especially those concerned with formulae and functions will be useful.

At the beginning of the week, I discovered a body called the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group (EuSpRig) which maintains a website containing amongst other things, "horror stories" about financial losses caused by spreadsheet mistakes. As the Americans would call it, "the smoking gun". I discovered that this group is having its annual conference in Delft, Holland at the beginning of July and that there is a paper being presented which is very close to my area. At first, I thought it would be great to go to the conference, but the timing would be problematic, and as it will take place at the beginning of July, the airfare would be prohibitive.

After exchanging some emails which the Dutch organiser of the conference, I found a paper called 'Mining spreadsheet complexity data to classify end user developers', which is very interesting. I am not interested in following the algorithm presented (I'm sure that 99% of the spreadsheets created in my company are as simple as can be), but the lead author has promised to send me some connecting material, including his questionnaire, from which I hope to extract some questions. [The paper seemingly can't be found via Google Scholar; I must have obtained it via the Heriot Watt online library]

I notice that my mood is strongly connected to my level of progress with the research proposal; when it is going well, I feel wonderful, but when I am stymied, then I feel frustrated. I was very frustrated this morning as I am not succeeding in delineating the aims and objectives of the research. According to the text of IBR1, "the aim is the desired end product of the research whereas the objectives are the actions necessary to achieve this aim". For some reason, I seem unable to translate the meaning of this sentence into the form that I need. I have the aims, but I can't figure out what the objectives are. I probably need a simple transformation, but it's eluding me.

[SO: 3532; 2,12,31]
[MPP: 376; 0, 0, 5]

Monday, April 14, 2014

Research feedback

I received the first feedback from my new mentor today.  He admits that he knows little about IT and nothing about ERP but that isn't the problem. According to 'The craft of research', the problem is mine -

Since few people read research reports for entertainment, you have to create a relationship that encourages them to see why it’s in their interest to read yours. That’s not easy. Too many beginning researchers offer readers a relationship that caricatures a bad classroom: Teacher, I know less than you. So my role is to show you how many facts I can dig up. Yours is to say whether I’ve found enough to give me a good grade. Big mistake. Do that and you turn your project into a pointless drill that demeans both you and your teacher. Worse, you cast yourself in a role exactly opposite to that of a true researcher. In a research report, you must switch the roles of student and teacher. When you do research, you learn something that others don’t know. So when you report it, you must think of your reader as someone who doesn’t know it but needs to and yourself as someone who will give her reason to want to know it.

In other words, I haven't explained in the research proposal - at least, to this reader's understanding - why using spreadsheets in an ERP environment is a problem. Maybe this information should be in the currently non-existent abstract.

The mentor brought up an interesting point, about absorption and non-absorption. As I understand it, he is asking about companies which failed to implement ERP and whether this failure was due to EUC. There is a statistic bandied about that "50% of all SAP implementations fail", but there is a world of difference between SAP and Priority. Whilst I am not aware of failed implementations of Priority, I am aware that not checking them is falling prey to the survivor's bias. I think that this is out of the scope of my research, but would be worth mentioning in the 'further work' or 'conclusions' section of the proposal and/or thesis.

Interesting reading

I sometimes look at the website of the Harvard Business Review: whilst most of the contents don't interest me very much, there are often some interesting nuggets. I admit that I don't access this site as frequently as I should.

I have just read an interesting article entitled "How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To" by Heidi Grant Halvorson (that name seems familiar, which probably means that I read something interesting by her before). Net etiquette dictates that I not repost her article here; instead I will list the topics:

Reason #1: You are putting something off because you are afraid you will screw it up.
Solution: Adopt a “prevention focus.”

Reason #2: You are putting something off because you don’t “feel” like doing it.
Solution: Make like Spock and ignore your feelings. They’re getting in your way.

Reason #3: You are putting something off because it’s hard, boring, or otherwise unpleasant.
Solution: Use if-then planning.

I would like to think that I don't need reason #1 at all and reason #2 only rarely. Unfortunately, reason #3 appears now and then - there is someone with whom I have contact at work (he is not one of our employees) who is so unpleasant and so unable to accept what other people tell him (in other words, he thinks that he knows everything but in fact knows nothing) that I often procrastinate when I have to do something connected with him.

I have discovered that the same article appears on Dr Halvorson's own website; I am going to bookmark this site and start mining it.

The occupational psychologist gave me a book for Passover - "Brilliant blunders" by Mario Livio. The copy which she gave me was in Hebrew; although I started reading it without much difficulty, I was reading it slowly, and it only took me a few minutes before I looked for the book on the Internet. I took the opportunity to download a few more of his books. At first, I thought that the book was about mistakes that we make on a personal level - this would be suitable for the sort of material which I discuss with the OP and the book was missing its subtitle, "From Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe" - but when I started reading the original, I realised that it was about the history of science. I have completed the opening chapter about Darwin and am currently reading about Lord Kelvin. This is very interesting material which would have appealed to me at any time in the last forty years, but at the moment, I find very pertinent the criticisms of other scientists and how they affected the original ideas.

This idea of criticism and discussing several points of view about the same subject is of course connected to the doctorate. Several passages in "The craft of research" show different ways of presenting multiple points of view regarding a subject, so of course this material is very topical. Fortunately or otherwise, I have picked a topic which seems to be barely researched, so I don't have the need nor possibility of discussing ideas presented by previous researchers.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fifteen minute meals

I haven't written about cooking for a long time, mainly because there has been little change in the dishes that I cook. The few changes which I have tried in the past few months didn't receive a encouraging welcome, so I've been sticking to the tried and tested and familiar.

I discovered a few weeks ago that one of our television channels has been broadcasting a series of cookery programmes with Jamie Oliver, "15 minute meals". I enjoy his style of presenting and have been watching the programmes avidly. They are broadcast on Friday afternoons at around 4pm, which means that anything which I might learn from the programme can only be implemented the following week. Unfortunately, his recipes cannot be used in the kosher kitchen without change: he frequently uses bacon and almost always adds yoghurt to a meat meal.

I tried a few of his dishes without success: one time, he cooked salmon steaks after having spiced them with salt, pepper and green tea. As I was about to cook salmon that day, I decided to adopt his ideas (normally I cook salmon in the slow cooker in a mixture of lemon juice, butter and dill). The steaks were so salty as to be almost inedible and I couldn't detect any influence from the green tea. I may try this again, but only with the green tea!

The programme shown on Friday had steak, rice and ratatouille all cooked in fifteen minutes. The steak and the rice can easily be cooked in fifteen minutes, but I raised my eyebrows at the ratatouille [side note: this word contains all the vowels, but not in the correct order; a better example of a word containing all the vowels and in the correct order would be facetious]. When I cook ratatouille, it takes about three hours!

Jamie started by placing a courgette sliced into two lengthwise on a ridged skillet, along with slices of aubergine, no oil. This cooking method will char the vegetables. In a pot, he placed coarsely sliced onion along with diced yellow and red pepper; these were cooked with a little oil. After about five minutes on the skillet, he chopped the courgette into slices and added them to the onion/pepper mixture, along with the aubergine and a fair amount of tomato paste. This mixture was stirred then left to cook for another ten minutes.

I always make ratatouille with potatoes and probably with carrots, both of which take a longer time to cook than onions and peppers, so it's not surprising that my ratatouille takes longer to cook (I also use fresh tomatoes instead of paste). Charring the courgette and aubergine is an interesting idea, and I will try this out on Tuesday.

Yesterday I cooked a fifteen minute meal of which Jamie would have been proud: pineapple chicken with vegetables, accompanied by rice. I didn't actually cook the rice as we had enough left over from the previous evening, but I did add the juice of a lemon - an addition which didn't go down well. Jamie cooks his rice thus: one cup basmati rice, two cups water and a few strands of saffron. He places half a lemon in the mixture and lets it cook for ten minutes. 

I cubed about 600g of chicken breast and placed it in a closed container along with pineapple chunks in order to marinade; I tried to add as little pineapple juice as possible. Later I diced an onion, a yellow pepper and a red one. These I cooked in the wok for about five minutes before adding the chicken and pineapple; I then cooked for another ten minutes. I didn't stir the mixture too much at first, which caused some of the pineapple juice to caramelise. At first, I was a bit annoyed about this, but afterwards I realised that it was serendipitous as the flavour of the dish had been enhanced.

This is a very easy meal to make which is also very nutritious (protein, vegetables, complex carbohydrates) and in my opinion, very tasty. I've taken what was left over for lunch today.

I prefer to cook my meals in advance so that I can spend time with guests whilst the food is cooking. For this, the slow cooker and the oven are ideal. Cooking with a wok means that the food is prepared quickly and served directly to the table, but it does take me away from guests.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A picture is worth a thousand words


Anyone with a Kindle - or probably another kind of ebook reader - should have a copy of the excellent Calibre program. As its website states, Calibre is a free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books. It has a cornucopia of features divided into the following main categories:
  • Library Management
  • E-book conversion
  • Syncing to e-book reader devices
  • Downloading news from the web and converting it into e-book form
  • Comprehensive e-book viewer
  • Content server for online access to your book collection
  • E-book editor for the major e-book formats
I use it for converting ebooks into the format required by Kindle (MOBI); when the source is an EPUB file, the conversion is painless, but when the source is a PDF file, the results are variable in quality.

The other day, I converted a PDF file to MOBI; whilst most of the resulting ebook was readable, there were several constant errors in the conversion: for example,  'fl' was always rendered as '>'. Thus I would read about someone's in>uence and their >ight from persecution. Another error had 'ff' rendered as '?', so I would read about the e?ects of doing something. At first, I put up with this, but it made reading a painful experience. I wondered whether there was a solution to my problem.

I discovered that Calibre can edit ebooks; I also discovered that the version of Calibre which I was using didn't support this function. Updating Calibre is fairly painless, so I downloaded the latest version and ran the installer.

I then discovered that only EPUB and EZW formats can be edited; I had only MOBI (presumably I discarded the original PDF after the first conversion). So first I had to convert the MOBI to EPUB before I could begin editing. Internally, EPUB seems to be HTML, which is amenable to editing.

Calibre has a 'find and replace' function but I had to use a little care, especially when replacing '?'. After a little experimentation, I discovered that it would be best to find all instances of '?a' and replace them with 'ffa', then replace '?e' with 'ffe', etc. In other words, six searches (a,e,i,o,u,y) per error.

While I was editing, I also removed some of the HTML formatting. At some stage, a stray command caused several pages to be rendered in italics, making those pages more difficult to read. It was a simple matter to remove all the italics tags from the source. Had I more patience, I also would have removed the title string which appeared on every page, as well as improving the general formatting. These are minor problems with which I can live.

After completing these tasks, I then converted the EPUB file back into MOBI, then transferred the file to the Kindle. Reading the book was now much easier.

There is another general problem with PDF files which would require much more editing: sometimes the source is presented in two columns. This gets rendered as one line from one column followed by one line from the other column; the entire passage is unreadable. I imagine that this is easily solved but requires some time to unravel the columns.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Switching mentors

I was very surprised (and pleased) to receive this morning the following email from my DBA mentor (presented here with small edits)

As promised I have been consulting colleagues in the university about your proposed research. One of the colleagues I consulted is the Director of IT Services who commented
"This is a really interesting area of research. I can certainly think of cases .... where spreadsheets have been used at the margins of centralised systems - with all the problems (and benefits) that Noam describes. I'd certainly be interested in keeping up to date with this as the research progresses."

One unexpected turn, however, was that another colleague, Professor X, was so interested in your topic and your outline that he has offered to mentor you. I would emphasise that this offer was totally unsolicited and I would be happy to continue to mentor you, but Professor X is an internationally recognised expert on innovative behaviour by small firms and has published widely on the subject so his advice should be of immense help to you, For that reason I have agreed the switch would benefit you and we shall see about putting this into effect.

Coincidentally, yesterday I started reading an ebook entitled "The craft of research" by Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb and Joseph Williams. The book discusses research at several levels (from what might be required from a secondary school project through doctoral research); it is valuable because it presents finding a research topic (or question) in a different light from the way that the IBR courses present it. From what I've read so far, when choosing a research topic, one has to keep on asking the question "so what?". My research is about spreadsheet use in companies which implement ERP. So what? What's important is that false data presented in spreadsheets can cause companies to lose large amounts of money, so companies should take steps to prevent such false data being presented (the false data can result either innocently through mistakes in collecting the data and presenting it, or maliciously/fraudulently by the presenter inventing the data). The best way of obtaining accurate and timely data is to use the native reporting tools built into the ERP program.

I await to hear from Professor X and my new way of presenting the research proposal. Fortunately, I will have a ten day holiday starting next week (Passover), so I'll have plenty of time to rewrite the proposal in a different style.

For reasons which I won't go into, I was feeling unhappy about the DBA the other day; today's email shows that I have chosen a very interesting subject, making me feel validated.

[SO: 3517; 2,12,30]
[MPP: 366; 0,0,4]

Saturday, April 05, 2014


I've been ill for the past ten days with pneumonia, which is a good reason for not having written anything here. It started with a cough, then weakness and finally a fever; at first, I thought it was the return of the flu, but after a few days, when the fever got higher and longer, it was time to see a doctor. After pushing and prodding a bit, he listened to my breathing via the stethoscope, which is when he made his diagnosis. Apparently, the gross signs of pneumonia are the same as influenza, but internally, breathing makes a different sound. He prescribed antibiotics and continued rest.

The fever and mental confusion disappeared almost immediately after the first dose of antibiotics, for which I was very grateful. After a day or so, all I was left with was weakness - but an all consuming weakness: I could barely move. After a few more days of this, my pace improved somewhat, so that I was moving at about 50% of my normal speed. Today I felt much better and even went for my evening power walk; I intended to do only four circuits as opposed to my usual ten. After those four - which were taken at a modest speed - I feel as if I have walked ten; in other words, my recovery is not yet complete.

One wonders how I could have caught pneumonia; I assume that it comes from my many train journeys. There isn't much which I can do about this; there are people who travel every day and presumably don't fall ill with pneumonia. The only clear conclusion is that I have to boost my immune system, something which I worked on post pertussis but have neglected in the past few months.

Fortunately - but also to my annoyance - there was no contact with my doctoral mentor. Obviously I couldn't have done anything even if he had asked me to, but I am disappointed that contact can be lost for a few weeks. Maybe I have different expectations; certainly, in the later stages, I imagine that there will be only monthly contact, but it will be at specific times.

The only musical news of note is the emergence of a track called 'Reckless Jane' by Beverley Martyn (who was John Martyn's divorced wife); the song was written by B. Martyn and Nick Drake a few months before the latter's death and is unknown. "I couldn’t even think about the song for so long because it brought up so much pain. It took a while to finish after that point", says Beverley now. The string arrangement is particularly reminiscent of Robert Kirby's arrangements for Nick Drake.

I found the other songs which will comprise Martyn's new album, "The phoenix and the turtle", but didn't like them at all. I find her voice difficult to listen to and none of the arrangements were in a similar style to 'Reckless Jane'.

[SO: 3502; 2, 12, 30]
[MPP: 466; 0, 0, 4]